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My players are big on Character Development and have a list of NPCs they regularly interact with (they are rulers). I know there are many ways to handle my question, but I'm at a loss.

So, how do I track the way NPCs feel about each other in an organized way? I'm using a table at the moment, but that isn't very effective.... Most of the NPCs are PC-important.

A good solution will include:

  • Pen and paper techniques, not computer or electronics-based
  • Ability to track simple (general or mechanical) information, e.g., "Bonus to rolls with (some group) due to friendship with leader)
  • Ability to track complex historical or anecdotal information between NPC pairs
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related (but not duplicate, because the other is about large NPC numbers [>> a dozen] that defeat most methods): How to make large number of NPCs manageable to the GM? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 19 '18 at 17:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ What isn't effective about the table? Is it too large to update/find information? Or does it not contain enough detail? \$\endgroup\$ – Kamil Drakari Jan 19 '18 at 18:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/25504/… \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 19 '18 at 21:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you add more detail to your question? What specifically do you want to track (e.g., a simple scale metric like "hates, dislikes, neutral, likes, loves", or more complex things like "their sister killed my brother in a political spat but I have to make nice because I need their wheat")? What kind of table are you currently using, and what specifically about it doesn't work (too disorganized, not granular enough, etc)? \$\endgroup\$ – thatgirldm Jan 20 '18 at 0:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @wolf, I've edited the question. Take a look and of course feel free to re-edit along those lines if I have missed the mark. \$\endgroup\$ – Novak Jan 20 '18 at 22:04
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When I needed that (and more) I created folders.

The setting was a detective kind so it suited perfectly. Inside I mapped relationships using polaroid like pictures with cards: Had a picture of the person on the first page, on further pages I had pictures with relationships as a list of cards with stuff like "hates due to betrayal" (and stapled details in case I forgot) or "possible romantic relationship (unconfirmed)" color coded.

What You could do is a similar thing except less modern and with sketches instead of pictures.

I would keep all folders in our usual play place under a lock in my desk so whenever I needed any information I'd open it and look through.

Worked well.

EDIT: As per comment:

If You want to have access to all the characters at all times and your information amounts are relatively small, You could try making a wiki with it and use a tablet/phone as an aid behind your GM screen.

This is what I did for my SF scenario. (admittedly very short lived due to group dissolving, only three sessions) Images link to character pages and there you have a list of images with relationships.

Since it was only three sessions, it was a very small wiki and I have no idea how (and if) that scales. Theoretically should though.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, but I've been trying that method... Npc has a page with snippets and notes that get unwieldy. \$\endgroup\$ – wolf Jan 20 '18 at 9:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ If You want to have a lot of information on the character, it looks like the best way to do this. My sessions were relatively straightforward - I could put down all the new notes and prepare the 2-3 characters I would need for the next session without issues. If You want to have access to all the characters at all times and your information amounts are relatively small, You could try making a wiki with it and use a tablet/phone as an aid. I'll edit the answer to account for this. \$\endgroup\$ – Gensys LTD Jan 20 '18 at 11:43
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I have experimented with a few different way, and the best one I have found is using a graph database. There is a bit of a learning curve. Having said that if your willing to put some effort into it, there is no better solution to track relationship. The problem with things like visio or mindnodes is that once the amount of relationship grows and become complex it is impossible to find what you need.

Graph database consist of nodes with one or more attributes, and relationship between the nodes. The nice thing with this is that once you have made the database you can query it. What about finding every NPC that loves another NPC that Hates the PC?

So I have the following Graph database: enter image description here

In this Graph all PC are blue, and all NPC are green and the relationships have been added in.

In this I could search for the lover that want to impress the person he loves by twarting the PC that she hates.

match (a:NPC)-[r1:love]->(b:NPC)-[r2:Hates]->(c:PC) return a,b,c,r1,r2

This would result in enter image description here

For this excample I have used Neo4j that can be downloaded for free at this site: https://neo4j.com/

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, ironically i know an app that does the same thing (i think) and could work. If it doesn't, ill try the program you listed \$\endgroup\$ – wolf Jan 20 '18 at 9:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the app can do it I'm interested in the name. \$\endgroup\$ – Marius Jan 20 '18 at 11:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ its mindly or mindfly. Something like that. When i get somewhere with wifi im going to download it to my tablet and try it. Originally had it for world building, didnt work and it never occurred to me to try npc relationships with it. \$\endgroup\$ – wolf Jan 20 '18 at 15:02
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Subject to the requirement of pen and paper solutions, I think the best you will do is a set of 3x5 index cards or perhaps a rolodex. I've done this myself before and it mostly works, so long as you are disciplined about making updates to those cards on a timely basis, before you forget details.

Basically, try a single 3x5 for each character, knowing that some of these will have to have entries on both cards (i.e., for your example about two NPCs who hate each other.)

You might possibly want to try to emulate parts of this answer for NPC pairs with very large amounts of data. You'd want a card for NPC A, a card for NPC B, both of which say, "See Card A-B for details of blood feud." But this will get cumbersome very quickly.

If you decide to move from pen and paper to computer based, you can also consider a wiki. There are several companies that will host a small, private wiki for you, for free. There you can simply enter notes into the page for each character. Some GMs I have played with even open their NPC wiki up to their players and have the players help maintain it, but in my experience this has limited success. I do not do this because I am a control freak. (They obviously don't keep GM-only information on the player-public document.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The index card idea may work, I'll try that for tomorrow's session (thankfully the players are letting me run them on rails for a few sessions to get some broken world bits fixed). \$\endgroup\$ – wolf Jan 21 '18 at 5:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ The index card idea is very good. I use index cards for a boatload of things when playing. This idea definitely works. \$\endgroup\$ – Andrew Cooper Jan 22 '18 at 15:41
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Like I often do I like to use technology. I use a spread sheet. Each time there is an interaction it gets put into the spreadsheet. What PC is interacting with what NPC. That then calculates 2 more columns. One is the how the NPC views the PC (a numerical value where 0 indicates indifference, negative is towards hate, and positive is towards like. The other is how strong that feeling is. I then use this to make a judgement on what this latest interaction will be perceived like. For example the PC steals from 2 diffent NPCs and gets caught. One doesn't know them the other does and has a lot of good dealing with them in the past. So I might do a -10 for the NPC that never interacted with them before and only a -2 for the one that has. It gives me a guide so that I can be a bit more consistent and it is more reflective of the long term interaction.

I also have on the NPC Sheet a column for each PC where I can read a concatenated set of notes I've done.

Most of the time it is pretty solid as the players generally treat the NPCs the same over time but it is good to remember things like the last time the players interacted with the NPC they tricked them and sold something for more than it was worth and that the NPC knows about it now and remembers them.

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