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MoonHunter Sayeth 20170809


Game Guru-Thread Shepherd
RPGnet Member
Validated User
GM Tools: Data Maps

Data Maps combines the use of the Human abilities of handling spacial positioning (distance and location) and finding patterns and relationships to help people explore connections between ideas and things and find new ideas that emerge from the relationships.

Wow that was a mouthful and I wrote it. I am having issues imagining saying it.

Data Maps are a tool to help people see ideas and things in a new way. A map of sort is created on paper. By looking at the map you can find new ways to “get to things”, that certain ideas and things are actually similar, if not connected by something. Data Maps help you explore things in an easy way.

When you see these you might think they are Mind Maps. Well that is true. Mind Maps are the hip and trendy child of Data Maps. If you want to call them Mind Maps, you can… the cognitive meme police will not be rounding you up in the night to take you to room 13 if you do. Though they may be watching you if you do…. I am just saying.

Data Maps can be used for gaming in a number of ways. These are ways that most people will see.

Location Maps Maps are handy things to reference in a game. Again, people like to know where things are in space (and time). Making maps, especially scale maps, can be a time consuming. If you want some artistry or superior accuracy, the time increases by quite a factor. Put a “starting location” down on the map. It is a box with the name of the location in it. Draw a small line and put another box. Label it as a location near by. (Castle Gate with a line to Court Yard). Begin to put locations that your foresee being important, each with a box and a name. Connect them. Label the lines as what they are and if you want to be careful how long it takes to go along that path. By setting things up you might see other paths that could exist (short cuts through a field or maybe there should logically be stairs there.)

Look at the locations, try to figure out how things are positioned. Once you have ideas in your head, draw a new map that makes more sense in terms of spaces and relationships and pathways. Look it over, make sure it makes sense. See if anything new pops out.

You can make a location map for the places in a session, or a general location (map a town), or all the locations related to a plot line. Once you have places that you can think of, you might see maps or pathways that you will need or might need.

Fate Players might think of these as Zones. That is the new term (that is very useful). You can use the terms zones or the location without fear of the Cog-Memes (just saying).

Plot Maps If you know what might be happening (perhaps planning a story arc, a story or plot line, and some subplots or fillers) you can put down various scenes (and options). You can move from left to right from start to finish. By looking at the scenes you can see what can be combined, which plot lines can be braided together, what might be an option, what might need an optional path, and how things might better fit together.

Plot Maps help the GM combine the various story lines together, show them where weaknesses in the flow of things are, and helps determine what other things might be needed. Session plot maps are the flow charts we create for each session, if you are doing it the MoonHunter Way.

Time Map: A time map is a list of what happens (and the order that they happens). This is an organizational tool for the most part. The GM could use it to show where branches in events might occur. If the players don’t engage the story arc/ core story line, this is where the plot goes. The time map is good to keep track of arcs and other event.

Character/ Relationship Map: This is a map that lists all the important characters (protagonist or non protagonist characters). Each one is its own box. Each one has a line connecting it to every character they know. The lines has two sides. The top of the relationship line is one character’s relationship to the other, the bottom has the other character relation to the first. Some important locations and organizations might have their own boxes. That way their relationship can impact the characters. The Relationship Map helps the GM truly understand what is going on with the characters; it also helps you explore other possible relationships. The Map is a useful understanding tool.
Smallville was the first time I saw a relationship map in a game. It was a great validation of what I had been doing.

I have used Data Maps to improve my games. I have used data maps to create parts of the setting (ensuring that there is something for everyone). I have used data maps to determine what the other NPCs, not engaging the core plot line, are doing while it is continuing on (this spawning their story arcs/ lines for the chronicle while the rest of it runs.). I have used it to map conspiracies, politics, religions, and so on. Once you start playing with the data map tool, you will find other uses that fit your play style and needs.

Oh if you come up with a cool use for a data map, post it in the comments


Linguistics 5
Validated User
I love data maps. I use them extensively for my game prep. Location and relationship maps have proven to be particularly useful for my chronicles lately.

A really good data mapping tool that I like (and is free!) is cmaps. If you aren't already familiar with it here is a link to their website:

Good blog post, MoonHunter. Really enjoy your blog.

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