Impractical Applications (With a Huge Cast)

I’d originally been going to talk about relationship mapping and how it applied to my game, as I have an exceedingly large cast of characters and spend a lot of time having to deal with them and keep them straight. But then I sat down and sketched out a partial relationship map, just detailing existing connections between characters and not including any of the canonical characters, and I got, well, this. (Linked due to size; the thing’s enormous.)

Loose Threads Relationship Mapping

Yeah. ‘What a tangled web we weave’ is a bit of an understatement—but I do manage to keep that entire collection relatively straight.

How? One of my most successful strategies has been the use of color and type modification to differentiate between them. It’s been a trick I’ve used ever since the very beginning, when one of my players asked me to color the text of the two NPCs I was using and set it as bold so the color would be more clear. As the game went on, I started differentiating the characters further. Ones that were about on a level power-wise with the characters were bold. Standard mortals were plaintext. (Those midway between them tended to be underlined.) The inherently supernatural—or the particularly powerful—were italicized. Gods more powerful than the characters rated bold-italics. Occasionally I’d switch fonts, but only on special occasions. Then within those categories, I tended to color by further things—subtype, dominant element, color often found in the location, astrological sign, primary association, whatever seemed appropriate.

It helped that many of them were strong personalities whose initial introductions I greatly enjoyed, and who came well-remembered by the PCs as well. Sometimes it was an entire attitude, as Luath’s snarky sister demonstrated during the offscreen incident in which she was introduced. At other times it was just one line I could guide to, as when minor character Rian responded to a fellow in wasp-demon form who introduced himself as Tooth with “Shouldn’t that be Mandible?” Essentially, if I managed to make myself and others laugh—or have strong reactions of any sort—I could keep the character in mind.

And of course, there’s the wiki; I started it about two years in, and while I haven’t been as good at updating it as I could have been, it’s helped me to keep many of the bigger names on the right track.

I also made a point of giving just about everyone a narrative anchor of some sort; the web of relations I pictured earlier partially approximates it. Some characters were innately easier to bring to mind—Ruby and Lirit due to their presence throughout the series, Kestrel and Kiara due to their early introductions, Jalil due to being both the first arc’s primary antagonist and quite possibly the most entertaining character I have ever played. A lot of my characters are anchored either to them or to the PCs. Some even have multiple layers of connection—Solada, for instance, was created through her anchor to Lirit, but quickly acquired a lateral anchor to Farren (it’s not quite clear which of them is anchored off of whom at this point, though, as Farren is quite memorable to me in her own right) and further anchors off of Kiara, Nandin and Shadow. As a result, I’m being reminded of my more minor characters regularly, which helps to keep tabs on them.

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