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domhnall4h

Keeping track of branches in the story

6 posts in this topic

'Morning, or evening as the case may be.

I'm having a bit of a problem keeping track of how my quests and NPCs end up relating to each other, according to the NPC state, and which quest conclusion was chosen.

For example, the very first 'quest', which serves mostly as an introduction and a chance to kill "one of those guys", you have three conclusions, each which leads to three branches. One opens up another branch that can go in 5 exclusive directions, then converges back into one, One leads to a different branch of quests, and the other leads to none.

Most of my quests are designed around the same way; 2 or more choice which lead to different things later on. NPCs are a bit simpler, being alive or dead, and whether or not they are innocent or guilty, for one particular NPC, and in regards to other NPCs, or at least their beliefs in them and relationship to them.

Keeping track of it all, however, is proving to be a difficult task.

So how do y'all keep track of things like this? Right now, I'm compiling a 'master list' of NPCs, with class breakdown, hit die, gear (if any), special abilities (if any), relations, and presumed innocence. As I add more NPCs, this becomes more and more difficult to look up, and more and more difficult to format clearly so it can eventually be printed and added to my binder full o' crap. I also have a compilation of quests in a similar manner, though not yet following the relationship between the various quests. Attempts to chart everything out have resulted in a confusing mess resembling spaghetti with boxes, or my extension cords out in the shed.
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I've yet to a good solution to this problem. They all involve spreadsheets, word documents, charts, and even some people have tried a wiki approach.

I like a good diagram myself that maps the flow of the different modules but doesn't contain any detail. All the details lives in linked documents.
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A tip I learned while studying for world building in creative writing is to make your own personal wiki for the game. You can break your game world down into zones/towns, list what NPCs are in what zone, link to the quests they give out, or what they sell as a vendor. You can break down quest chains, list pre-requisites. Link everything to everything, and it makes it a lot easier to figure out what is going on.

This, obviously, can mean a lot of additional work, but staying organised is something you really want to do. Especially if you're moving on to larger games and game worlds. However you do it, it's just a case of writing everything down, and organised in a way that makes sense to you. Since it'll have to be tailored to your specific game, I don't think there's necessarily going to be an 'out of the box' solution to this.
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Flowcharts and alphanumeric codes. The flowcharts are pretty selfexplanatory, but I'll explain the codes. Each digit corresponds to a branch point. So, say the first point has 3 option, lets call them A, B, and C. Then if they take branch A there are 3 more options, those get labeled A1, A2, and A3. Then if they take option 2 there are 2 more branches, those get labeled A1A and A1B. So looking at any option you immediately know what was the original choice in it's tree from the first letter of the code, etc.
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Sun, that's basically what I've been doing. I was just looking to see if anyone with more experience had something better. Thanks though, looks like I'm just going to do what I've been doing; going bald.
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Oh dear. Well, have you tried the notecards on a wall method? One notecard per dialogue exchange, you can use colored yarn or tape or marker between them to show the connections, and the cards themselves can be colorcoded. This is a technique I've seen used for plotting out one of those complicated novels with interwoven plot strands and multiple viewpoint characters.
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Right now, I really don't have the space needed to do the notecard method. I've been looking at houses, but since I don't want 17 bedrooms, 6 baths, and a goat pen, there's nothing in my area worth buying.

I hadn't thought of trying a wiki though. That might at least make the GDD easier to read on my computer, though when coding I tend to stick with the big honkin' binder that everything is eventually going to end up in when I remember to get some page covers.
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