Software for diagramming branching campaign plotlines

I'm looking for something that simply allows me to connect nodes for different progression paths throughout the campaign, and that will let me connect them in arbitrary ways so that I can connect two nodes even if they are on two entirely separate plot branches. Many software only allow diverging branches, without converging interconnections or connections that circle back to earlier possible paths that were bypassed the first time.

So far I've found nothing – the closest is Masterplan and it's a far cry from what I'm looking for. The currently most effective method is simple pen and paper, but it can't magically adjust itself as you try to squeeze in another progression path in-between two others, and you end up having to draw in very small texts, and then you run out of paper…

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Related, and searching for the notation systems' names might lead you to software for them: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/2825/… – SevenSidedDie Feb 1 '13 at 4:31
Related, more general question: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/267/… – SevenSidedDie Feb 1 '13 at 4:35
What platform/OS are you looking to run this on, or does it need to be browser based? – Rob Feb 1 '13 at 9:09

It just occurred to me you could use yEd, if you want simple diagrams.

It's designed to draw flowcharts and other sort of ordered diagrams, but it allows you to add labels to connections (called edges) and it has a very nice auto-arrange feature.

And it's free!

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I think what you're talking about is a classic "mind map" situation. There are a number of tools that can help organize something like this, many of them free, though of varying capability. Since you're mapping a campaign, you'll want something that supports cross-linking of branches, so that will narrow things down a bit. It's been a while since I was actively using tools in that space so I'm afraid I can't help you winnow that down some.

Another useful tool for organizing disparate information that you may find useful is Trello. It's free and web-based so if you're frequently connected it can help immensely. It's mostly geared towards organizing lists of things, though, so I'm not sure how well it'll fit your need. You can cross-link your lists, but that'll take acquiring some proficiency and it may be frustrating gaining that familiarity.

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What you're describing is called a graph by computer scientists. A collection of nodes, with edges between them. In your case, the nodes are possible things your characters might do, and the edges are choices.

Scabard, a web-based campaign manager I helped develop, is graph-based, and could probably do what you want. There are 5 types of items, one of which is an event (the others are character, group, item, and place). Like all of the five types, events come in various categories: battle, birth, death, etc. In your case, you'd want to use Plot Point.

You can even connect these Plot Point events to other types of things in your campaign. For example, the plot event might be for your PC's to use one of their magic items to learn something new, as is done here. The "Goggles of True Seeing" is the magic item, and it is the "prop" for that plot event.

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You might want to check out a new product called Realm Works. It's going to be releasing soon and has a Kickstarter associated with it as well. The video shows off features that sound like what you're asking for. Here's the link to the Kickstarter, which also has a link to their website with more info. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/610004753/realm-works-streamlined-rpg-campaign-tools

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You might want to add a bit of description of the feature in question, for future reference. – Simon Gill Feb 2 '13 at 2:43

UMLet is a free UML editor that allows you to create state, sequence, class diagrams and flowcharts. All these can be combined in any way you want and customised with a little bit of learning. Completely new elements can also be added.

You can drag stuff around the "paper" and print things out as you need, the arrows bind to elements and adjust as required, there is also some pathing options for tidyness.

It's quick and easy to use and runs on any java supported platform; I've used it for all sorts of diagrams in and out of work.

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Diagram Designer is free and lets you make various types of diagrams. You can add connections however you want, which would allow you to connect your faraway nodes. One issue is that it does not auto-adjust everything, so you would have to rearrange things by hand.

Freemind is also free and might work for what you're trying to do. It's all about branching elements and you never have to worry about readjusting anything, it's automatic. It can link faraway nodes together, though the way it's done is not perfect for every situation.

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Freemind won't work, it only allows for divergence. – Simon Gill Feb 1 '13 at 10:30
Ah, true. It does allow custom linking of nodes, but it might be a pain to simulate convergence through this. – leokhorn Feb 2 '13 at 13:44

If what you wanted is a graph, then graphviz is ideally suited.

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graphvis is excellent at rendering and visualising graph data, but IME it's terrible for maintaining a living document. – SevenSidedDie Feb 1 '13 at 8:15