The Drinaxian Gambit: R-Maps

Peeking behind the GM screen of Pirates of Drinax using Cortex Prime.

There it is. Our situation map (or relationship map) as generated by the Pathways character generation. I’m running Pirates of Drinax, a Traveller sandbox campaign, using Cortex Prime.

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The Drinaxian Gambit Primer!
The Pirates of Drinax is a massive sandbox campaign that has heavy support from Mongoose. I have the boxed set and it is just gorgeous. Players have a letter of marque and a warship from a king of a forgotten empire. This king and his court have plans to return to power. The players are free to do whatever —it’s a sandbox. The boxed set is thr……
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The circles are NPCs or organizations. Triangles are ongoing situations. Diamonds are resources held by locations or NPCs. Rectangles are the PCs.

The R-Map Now method.

First out of my GM Lift toolkit is getting players to buy into the premise and then the setting without monologuing. I accomplished this by using the Pathways process from Cortex. I don’t have to do a Drinax setting dump to the players, they created a pretty big initial premise that they know extremely well. The GM Lift is to overlay this r-map onto the Pirates of Drinax sandbox so it’s still familiar to the players but rooted now in the setting we will play in. The Pirates of Drinax is a marvelously constructed sandbox, only my imagination could hinder this connecting step.

It is a lot of stuff. No doubt. So the street says to look for the ‘triangles’ and apply fictional pressure to those. A triangle is a place where you have three elements and ideally one of those is a PC. Like the PC Callum in the middle of the chart is connected to Prince Harrick(Drinax) to the left and Col. Jessup(Imperium) to the right. That almost writes itself… Jessup needs a mole, a spy, an inside guy, or an assassin. Or how about Princess Rao(Drinax), she’s connected to two PCs, Rada(top) and Paruk(Bottom). Is she playing one against the other? Keeping secrets? Telling lies? Drama. These maps become messy and a hassle to maintain over time for me, there’s a better way.

But first, where do we start to play? King Oleg gives the characters a letter of marque and a warship -that’s the game. Do we play that initial meeting or has that already happened and we’re somewhere past that. My players chose to play the ‘here’s the deal’ scene. Knowing that I can set up my “Now” sheet for the first session. Now sheets are described by Ron Edwards in his work ‘Champions Now’. The ‘Now’ is a document with a cast listing outline of the player characters and their ‘stuff’ - relationships, resources, motivations, reminders —whatever you need. Not an exhaustive list, just what’s happening right Now. Outline, annotate as you will between sessions on new versions of this document, always replacing the previous one —never changing it. This method has replaced maintaining r-maps for me. My first Now sheet will have enough elements on it to run a scene at King Oleg’s court. A setup scene to discover something about the MOLE at court. COL. JESSUP could be present —and not for Callum the PC. HANSA AGENTS cavorting about and we’re juggling fire.

As the sessions progress, I’ll pull more elements from the situations map into my Now sheet as we encounter them. Totally player-driven. Part of my GM prep will be to also connect each situation map node to the Drinax sandbox —roughly. This makes for a nice player-owned touchstone into the Drinax setting and lore.

The Long game

To do this again I would make the Pathways stages more like 5-7 steps. I don’t hate what we have, but nine stages produce a lot of elements on the situation map. On the upside, it’s a lot of known leads the players have to engage instead of me handing out missions. It is also a lot of connections into the Drinax sandbox. I don’t HAVE to use it all, it’s there when we need it. I think some of this is baggage from running many one-shot and short games. We want to use all the stuff generated. We’re playing a longer game here and I forget I don’t need to tie it all together or use it all right now. My instinct says some of this stuff should breathe and be left alone only to be dropped in later for that ”Oh yeah, we forgot” drama.

Next: How’d session one play out?

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-Mad Jay 💪🏾