Wednesday 20 February 2013

Making a Mark on the Map

Players love their character sheets, the filling in, gearing up, gaining levels and skills and goodies. They also love maps, filling in the blank spaces of the unknown. But what if the map of a realm - like character sheets - also told a story of their gaining power, influence, and notoriety in the world?

Below is a fairly simple way to mark up the icons for cities, towns or strongholds on a map, that records what kind of legacy an adventuring party is leaving there. Here are the icons that can be written around the place's symbol on the map (shown here by a square):
Influence: This is the sway of the party with the powerful folk of the place.
  • No crosses mean they have no pull, or are even sworn enemies. 
  • One cross means they have an ally in at least one influential figure. 
  • Two crosses mean the actual ruler of the place is friendly to them. 
  • Three crosses mean the party actually rules the place, or at least can dictate to its rulers.
Fame: This is how widely known the party is in the place, by name and appearance.
  • No star means they're unknown, except to a few they've interacted with. 
  • One star means they have become known among a section of the people.
  • Two stars mean they have become the talk of the town, at least for a while.
  • Three stars mean they have left a lasting legend that will endure for many years to come.
Roots: This is their lasting connection with the place.
  • No triangles means the party has no real investment there. 
  • One triangle means a personal connection - maybe one of them comes from there, or they settled a retired henchman down in the place.
  • Two triangles mean the party owns property there and visits at least once a year. 
  • Three triangles mean the party spends at least two months a year there and takes an active part in its affairs.
Deeds: There can be up to three backward slashes representing deeds that are "bad" to the interests of the settlement or stronghold, which might actually be morally good, and up to three forward slashes representing deeds that are "good" to their interests. These deeds may or may not correspond to the party's Fame at large, but they should be known to someone. Some deeds may be controversial, earning both kinds of slashes according to whose interests they serve and undermine.
  • One slash is a deed affecting the temporary interests of the place (for example, robbing a citizen's purse, or buying the bar out at every tavern in town).
  • Two is a deed that leaves a permanent mark (for example, murdering or saving the life of a prominent citizen). 
  • Three is an act that changes the place drastically forever, or saves it from an utter calamity (for example, causing a giant purple worm to rampage through a district, saving the city from the purple worm, or building and endowing an entire magical college there). 
I suspect that leaving their mark on the map of the world in this way can be so appealing to players that they would go out of their way to earn such "achievements," pulling outrageous stunts and displays, buying real estate, yanking the strings in court. And if  the game gets to the point of settling down and establishing a domain, it's very useful to see at a glance where your friends, roots, and enemies are.

Next post: An example from actual play.


  1. The idea of achievements is interesting. But I'm more interested in the possibility of a simple way to mark and track fame/contacts. Tracking that on the map would be so much easier than per city.

    And it would be easy then to have a simple system that showed fame and infamy spreading even to places players haven't been yet (over a certain threshold of fame, then all surrounding settlements are incremented up or down one, etc)

    1. I guess a simpler system would just use the slashmarks on the left and assume they apply to fame and ruler attitudes as well. Is that what you had in mind? I'm writing about fame spreading and fading when I do my next, play example post.

    2. I don't quite see what Telecanter means, but one could assume the effects of the characters radiate out to adjacent cities, losing one mark as they do so. So the party would have 3 stars in Rogerville, two stars in neighboring Canterland, one star in Televille (which borders Canterland), and unknown after that.

  2. I was just trying to figure out how the different achievements might have distinct in-game effects other than just being an achievement (Do fame, good deeds, and influence have different results for a party?) while acknowledging a simple way to track the party's effect on the sandbox is a kickass idea.