Using FreeMind for Campaign Building

In last Thursdays post, I briefly covered FreeMind, a free to download mind-mapping application I use quite often in campaign building.  Today I’ll go into further detail, using FreeMind to create a frozen tundra.  For the record, I have no ideas at this point for this adventure.

Creating a new MindMap with FreeMind is easy.  At first, you’re greeted by “New MindMap” within a bubble, called a node.  This is where we put the locale, in my case it’s the Bleak Fallows.  The Bleak Fallows resides within Letherna, the Raven Queen’s realm within the Shadowfell.  The new Shadowfell: Gloomwrought book details the Bleak Fallows in a single paragraph, basically saying it’s a frozen tundra where lost souls go (doesn’t even  say why).

  • Step 1:  Building the locale with locations
You can right-click a node to get a menu where you can click “create child node”, or simply press Insert.  This creates a new bubble where we will add a location one might find within a frozen tundra.  You can create sibling nodes by right clicking again, or simply pressing Enter, this is how we build multiple locations within a locale.  Brainstorm, Google, or both to build 3 – 5 child nodes branching off of the parent nodes.  Try this, type “frozen tundra” into an image search on Google and see if you get the same ideas I did:
  • Ice Plateau/Frozen Lake
  • Ice Cliffs/Caverns
  • Underground River

It occurred to me while brainstorming that weather played as significant a role as locations within a” frozen tundra” locale.  So, we need a new child node simply called “weather”, then that child has more children, and those children even more children (I know, kids these days).

On a document, filling out a MindMap would most likely look like an outline:

  • Blizzard
    • Total concealment from anything two squares away or more.
    • Speed reduced by 2.
    • Icy wind blows in random (1d8) directions each round; creatures ending their turn without cover take 2d10 + 15 cold damage.
  • Windy
    • Athletics and Acrobatics checks increased by 10.
    • Extreme wind blows in random (1d8) directions each round; moving into the wind costs two extra squares of movement.
  • Sun
    • Blinding light reflects off the snow, creatures two squares away or more are concealed.
    • At the end of an encounter, players must succeed on an Endurance Check (Hard) or become sunburned.
      • A sunburned character gains vulnerable 10 cold and fire (as if diseased).
  • Extreme Cold
    • Cold seeps into the bones, attack rolls of creatures without the cold keyword are at -2.
    • At the end of an encounter, players must succeed on an Endurance Check (Hard) or gain Hypothermia.
On FreeMind it looks like this:
The next step is to do the same thing for all the brainstormed locations.  Let’s do one together, just brainstorm and write down everything.
  • Ice Plateau / Frozen Lake
    • Iceberg Lake
      • Encounter:  A large lake surrounded by sheer jagged cliffs of ice.  The lake is spotted with enough icebergs too cross, but something lurks beneath the waters.
    • Thin Ice
      • Skill Challenge:  The icebergs begin to form land, but the crossing grows dangerous as hidden pockets of thin ice shatter beneath the weight of those above.
    • Ice holes
      • The icebergs form a singular mass of land
      • Rarely seen large perfectly symmetrical holes are void of ice, water laps at its edges.
        • Optional Encounter:  Animals often gather at these holes for sustenance.
    • Plateau
      • Barren like a desert, cold instead of hot
        • Little to no resources or cover of any kind.
          • Unable to forage.
      • Group Endurance Checks (Moderate) to fight off Hypothermia.
Ok, one location down and the ideas are starting to flow freely.  I see the PC’s entering The Bleak Fallows on their mounts and being forced to land for some reason.  They have to cross the lake, then the plateau to get to the ice cliffs and climb them.  There they will find some ice caverns they can travel through that should be easier than climbing.  These frozen caves are built around an underground river, which may escort them to freedom.  Of course, all subject to change, but remember I began with no ideas.  Now I at least have a plan, but I have to flesh out the rest of the locations.
When I’m done brainstorming, my MindMap looks like this:
At this point I have a complete adventure into The Bleak Fallows that has about 6 combat encounters and three skill challenges in it.  Perfect for the next two or three weeks of play.
Preparing for a session at this point is a breeze.  I can make it even easier for me by going in and adding icons to certain nodes, color-coded to represent encounters, skill challenges, hazards or what ever.  Here’s a sampling of the options:
Obviously myMindMap is on a small-scale.   I can’t show you yet what all of Letherna looks like, let alone The Shadowfell as a whole, but you can read it all one session at a time on my Monday post, or subscribe and read it in your email!
What do you think?  See yourself ever using FreeMind?
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About j0nny_5

Mid-thirties and work a full-time job in beautiful northern Colorado. In my free time I play D&D, video games, and walk my two beautiful Bouvier des Flandres.
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