When I sat down to build my game for Sunday, I was at that point where the PC’s have just arrived into a new area. This is in some ways my favorite part of campaign building.
Dave Chalkers 5×5 Method is old news, nearly two years actually. If you haven’t read it yet, or haven’t read it lately, you need to. It will change the way you build your campaign. I’ve seen all ways of adapting the method, but in my opinion, it’s all mind-mapping.
Mind-mapping is basically drawing circles with ideas inside them. More circles branch out from each idea, with more ideas detailing the original circled idea. And so on, and so on… In the end you’ll have a page full of circles and lots of ideas running around your head. I can’t stress enough how many ideas you will generate by mind-mapping.
This is how I build my campaigns. Each locale deserves multiple encounters. If my players go to a swamp, they’ll be there for a while, not for just one encounter. Enter mind-mapping. Each locale is the center bubble (swamp), each branching bubble is a specific location (hag’s hovel, ancient tree, bog, etc.) and each branch from those locations is an encounter.
You could do all this on paper of course, but not as well as FreeMind could do it for you on a computer. FreeMind is a free to download mind-mapping application that’s super easy to use and has tons of features to help build your campaign.
Some quick terminology:
- Parent Node: The starting idea. The large locale.
- Child Node: An idea branching from a previous idea. Specific locations.
- Sibling Node: Multiple ideas branching from a previous idea. Various locations.
Like all mind-mapping, it starts in the middle. When you create a new mind map, your cursor starts in the middle of a bubble, in the middle of the screen. This is where you put your overall locale, the parent node. From there, you create multiple child nodes with specific locations. Those locations each have child nodes of their own, which are encounters within that location. Those encounters can have details as well. Really you can keep going as long as you want, getting more and more detailed every time.
Here’s where FreeMind really helps out. Each child node can be moved based upon the current distance from the players. To represent the travel time for the players, just click and drag each child node away from the parent or its siblings. FreeMind even allows you to label the lines connecting nodes, so you can label exactly how many days it takes to go from location to location. When you’re players move, you can move and edit each node just as easily, to account for their travel time and location.
FreeMind also allows you to add all sorts of icons onto your nodes (not as dirty as it sounds). I like to use “!” and “?” for quests, just like in video games. I like to add bombs to quests the players ignore; Timed quests get counters that I can track; Tied adventures can be color coded… are you starting to see the possibilities?
So, if you’re interested enough to try FreeMind, check it out. I guarantee it will help your game, or your money back. I’ll post later this week on some tips (work today was brutal), but for it to make sense, you just need to try it first.