ViO#9rlKQ|^ T>tF=U\w0% $I!F<ۛ)蚹^1E!P*5Ӕl%qL7D2'THl.>UA]!Ɍ >^B~J:i-ο +tWOa0{ˋ Xh!c۳MǦ9+"+c7z̍JIY#oKWT$~ p++nSp )(̛*Yu@FSo!'w&>qFx u+ 3QB=Č,ŧQJ=3S: |8!,lc}&.5ҩcV^ڵF"³:< ur+_0 C FYF& OZS `ƸFꖵ,9Ybh4eBMkѴ2_cmB[N-$LM>7SNcXB69T^2%i¨jYpgK\2.JҪei b z·,p̡zyZK}L$;1h^NKAz]; RL!8ChV|>&@C 9RwEBoCF K5)нbʲPȉ65N9urH?dy@N*!OVݩ¬Xd3QtMKg^(@}9>/1F^\7Tql5Yπ{6LZQ[3cm2nVrl`ʦ4XZC" QZ!q˥>:9+j4뒵oy?p\xbD!Ż>1e{^&eiWIo]VzYze1jާؑiQkUtSpC*Mb:sh6(8Krz1>ܤkY';E/cSQ&;;DL{ ?L6x98v@Q_rw IO=|v8a݆*^z\WsU|-ʈE^Ͱ{XZyLvX&mȦZ^Shpe)n3{\4T?)];}\gWl+hP

Firesparks

Mastering the Matrix

by Sam Chupp
Nov 05,2003

 

Mastering the Matrix

By Sam Chupp

'mA-trik-s&z/
Etymology: Latin, female animal used for breeding, parent plant, from matr-, mater
Date: 1555
1 : something within or from which something else originates, develops, or takes form


Contrary to certain Wachowski Brothers action movies, the Matrix has not always been about a virtual universe. The Matrix is the beginning of things. That creative, fertile ground where the unexpected crops up. Curiously enough, it is also considered to be a chart of two or more dimensions.

I have been working on world-building and story-creation since I was 8 years old. One of the things I've learned about creating for games is that it is important to create only that which you truly need to create. The trick is knowing what you will need to create and what you can leave behind. Sometimes having just a name or a tiny sliver of an idea is enough to get you through the game session.

In this column, I intend to first talk about my Matrix method and then apply it to several possible world-building and story-creation tasks to demonstrate the strength of this method.

What is the Matrix?

The central idea of the Matrix is that everything is related. Because of this, you can take a very sketchy amount of info and, using what you do know, more easily create what you do not know.

Structure

The Matrix I'm going to discuss first is two-dimensional. Think of a gridwork of ten rows by ten columns. Along the columns we have a list of the common descriptors for each entity we're going to be describing. Down the rows is each entity. So, if we have a set of characters, for example, the columns will contain information that will be common to each and every character. Each row will be a character in and of himself.

Those of you who use spreadsheets will immediately recognize this structure. It's true that spreadsheet software makes for an excellent Matrix tool. Those of you who happen to play with databases on computers will recognize each Row as a "Record" and each Column as a "Field" in database parlance. Those of you familiar with recipe card boxes will recognize each Row as a recipe card, and each Column as an Ingredient or Instruction for that recipe.

Get Yourself a Spreadsheet or Buy Some Index Cards

In order to properly use the Matrix, you're going to need to have some way to manipulate the information easily and quickly. In my opinion, the best way to do this is to utilize a spreadsheet program. If you don't have Bill Gates' expensive one, then you can download a nice one from the people at OpenOffice.org.

But let's say you're a tactile / kinesthetic kind of person. Index cards are a great way to go, and they have the benefit of being eminently portable. You can even two-hole punch index cards and get an index card binder for them. They work pretty well, although it is a lot of handwriting to do!

Using The Matrix

You can use the Matrix to:

  • Create an entirely new fantasy world campaign.
  • Design a set of characters, each of whom have their own motives and desires.
  • Generate a set of religions.
  • Create a timeline of history for your game.

These columns will explore just these uses, but I'm certain you can take it and run with it well before I get around to exploring them.

Matrix One: A Fantasy Campaign

The first Matrices we're going to do is for a fantasy world campaign. I'm going to go step by step here: you advanced game masters can talk amongst yourselves or go for some Jolt Cola while I take the beginners by the hand.

Fundamental Campaign Structure

A Campaign is two parts: Milieu and Narrative. The Milieu is the hard data on the world in which the narrative takes place. The Narrative is all the story elements of the Campaign. A good fantasy Campaign will spend equal time on the Milieu and the Narrative, in my opinion.

So, the first Matrix we're going to create is a Milieu Matrix.

Start by asking yourself what commonalities would exist for each part of the world in which your game will be set. Just off the top of my head:

Region Matrix Columns
GM's Name for Region
Climate
Minerals
Waterways
Flora
Fauna
Terrain


The important thing here is the first one, "GM's Name for Region." This is because I always like to make the first column in my Matrix a unique identifier, or "Key." There may be many regions that have similar Climates, Minerals, Waterways, Flora, Fauna and Terrain, but you will not find any two regions that will be given the same name.

Of course the GM's Name for Region is not meant for player's consumption: this is because it is just an easy identifier at this stage. It would be impingeing on the Narrative to go ahead and name these regions for something in the Campaign whole. Now we're ready to start filling in our Matrix. It is a good practice to create a common set of choices for each column, so that you can standardize things a bit. For example, instead of having a "River" and a "Rivers" Waterway choice, why not just settle on "Riverways" as meaning both single and plural rivers in a region.

You can decide later to subdivide them if it is really important to you. What creating common choices for each column means is that you will have to brainstorm the possibilities for each type. Don't worry about getting it perfect, the idea is to create something that you can later on go back and fine-tune or correct.

So, for example, the choices for:

Column Name
Choices Possible
Climate Hot, Warm, Cool, Cold, Complex
Minerals
Very Rich, Rich, Average, Poor, Very Poor
Flora
Coniferous, Deciduous, Jungle, Rainforest, Grasslands, Tundra, Scrub
Waterways
Ocean, Coastal, Marsh, Lake, Riverways, Groundwater, Arid
Fauna
Deserted, Sparse, Uncommon, Declining, Common, Diverse, Thriving
Terrain
Plains, Hills, Mountains, Wetlands, Coastline, Desert


Notice how I didn't repeat the same descriptive word in each category. Now, whether or not this is because I've got lingering programming superstitions, I would think that having each descriptor be unique would enable you to keep the columns apart. If you say, "This is an Arid place" then you are clearly referring to its Waterways column, not its Terrain or Fauna column. If you had the word "Desert" in all three columns, you wouldn't be able to tell whether you were talking about Desert Fauna, Terrain, or Waterways.

One test of your Matrix is that you can simulate real-world data. For example, the choices for, say Death Valley, California would be:
Hot, Average, Scrub, Arid, Sparse, Desert

And Atlanta, Georgia:
Warm, Rich, Coniferous, Riverways, Diverse, Hills

Realize that these categories are by definition abstract and not exact. You could probably break Climate down further, for example. The point here is that we are not trying to complicate things with the choices: we're trying to keep them within a manageable set. You'll be surprised at how much diversity we can create by using just a few choices for each region.

Now we're ready to start building a Matrix!

GM'S Name
Climate
Minerals
Flora
Waterways
Fauna
Terrain

Here's the header row. Now, we have to decide what the Backbone to the Matrix will be.
The Backbone is best described as "the Column or Columns  which exhibit a data pattern which will dictate other choices"
For example, let's say you know you want to play an Arabian Nights-style game. You could begin by using Climate as your Backbone,
filling in that column with Hot and Warm. Or you might decide to use Flora and Fauna together as backbones.
The trick here is to have in mind an overarching concept, something which will guide your creation efforts.
Since my main goal in creating this Fantasy Campaign is to give a diversity of roleplaying environments, I'm going to decide to use as my Backbone a pattern I like to call "The Bell Curve" on something which will definitely have an impact on any Fantasy campaign: Minerals.

As you probably remember from AD&D 1st Edition's Dungeon Master's Guide (or your school math class) a bell-shaped curve has a low end, a fairly average middle section, and a high end. Watch what happens when we apply the Bell Curve pattern to the Matrix for the column Minerals we've chosen.

GM'S Name
Climate
Minerals
Flora
Waterways
Fauna
Terrain


Very Rich






Rich






Rich






Average






Average






Average






Poor






Poor






Very Poor





Now we have something to hang the rest of our choices on.

Here's what it looks like after a little bit of work:

GM'S Name
Climate
Minerals
Flora
Waterways
Fauna
Terrain

Complex
Very Rich
Tundra
Arid
Sparse
Mountains

Cold
Rich

Lakes



Hot
Rich

Riverways



Warm
Average

Coastal



Cool
Average

Groundwater


Cool
Average

Lakes



Hot
Poor
Jungle
Riverways



Cold
Poor
Tundra
Riverways



Complex
Very Poor

Arid



I've completed one row, just about, and I filled in all of the Minerals, Climate, and Waterways columns. I was trying to keep a bell-curve like structure in them, although it's not easy to do always and still make things seem "right." Despite the possibility of magical intervention in the environment in our campaign world, we will be better served to create "logical" regions. People have a hard enough time suspending disbelief for the big things: I don't tend to like to make them sweat the small stuff.

As you can see, we have both ends of the mineral spectrum represented on the first and last region and I've decided that BOTH of them will be very similar to each other. The only difference is going to be Flora, Fauna, and Terrain. Let's do some more work on the Matrix:

GM'S Name
Climate
Minerals
Flora
Waterways
Fauna
Terrain
Lonely Mountains
Complex
Very Rich
Tundra
Arid
Deserted Mountains
Coldlands
Cold
Rich
Coniferous
Lakes
Common
Hills
Pacifica
Hot
Rich
Rainforest
Riverways
Diverse
Wetlands
Bayline
Warm
Average
Deciduous
Coastal
Uncommon
Coastline
Expanse
Cool
Average
Coniferous
Groundwater Diverse
Plains
High Lakelands
Cool
Average
Deciduous
Lakes
Declining
Mountains
Wildtrees Hot
Poor
Jungle
Riverways
Thriving
Wetlands
Riviera
Cold
Poor
Tundra
Riverways
Uncommon
Hills
 Greensea
Complex
Very Poor
Grasslands
Arid
.Sparse
Plains

Now we've finished. As you can tell, I've named each of our regions with a unique descriptor to tell them apart. Now I have a lovely milieu structure that I can use to build a map and use the structure to tie together the narrative elements of the campaign.

TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

Go to forum!\n"; $file = "http://www.rpg.net/$subdir/list2.php?f=$num"; if (readfile($file) == 0) { echo "(0 messages so far)
"; } ?>

Previous columns

Other columns at RPGnet

TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg