Randomless Narrative Tools - Myriad and Marauder

I’ve been working on systems to enable asynchronous roleplay on and off the table. The ultimate goal is to create an Asynchronous Narrative System where player characters can easily be in different places and times without the need for a gamemaster.

When playtesting these systems with my group, it was really important to the players to always know what their options were and to be able to plan ahead.

Myriad

Myriad is my attempt to create a diceless oracle system. You can find the itch page for the project here. It’s free.

It looks like this:


Starting on Rest, the player has four options available to them - Focus, Keys, Wild, and News. To reach Trove, the player must conjure Keywords for the scene.

There is also a hex-flower version:

Why diceless? As a facilitator, I want players to always be aware of the narrative options they have available to them, but I also still want it to be a game and for the players to work for a reward. With this system, players spend the time between turns thinking about what they will do next.

Marauder

Marauder borrows terminology and functions from Graph Theory. A Marauder map consists of Vertices, Edges, and Weights. A vertex can be any narrative focus and the map is used to measure relationships between vertices. You can find the itch project here. It’s free.

It looks like this:

Edges connect vertices and weights detail the strength of the relationship between them.

The placement of the vertices on the map doesn’t indicate the physical or actual location of the node as in a traditional map. A town and city on opposite sides of the world could sit next to each other on a Marauder map, with a distance weight of “200 miles”.

Using the Myriad and Marauder together to play asynchronously.

Key & Token works well with Myriad and Marauder, although you could use any narrative roleplaying system.

Players use the Myriad to determine what they will create and add to the narrative. A player decides to move to ‘Focus’ on the Myriad and they create the capital city of the world. On the Marauder map, the player places a vertex with the capital city symbol and gives the city a name. From here, players could add leaders, organisations, and structures as connected vertices.

On the next turn, another player decides to do the same. They move to Focus on the Myriad and create a town on the Marauder map. The player adds an Edge to connect the town and city, then adds a distance Weight to indicate that the town and city are 20 miles apart.

As the Marauder map grows, the player characters can use tokens to place their characters in different places and move between them.

What’s next?

I’m developing a night and day system. A progress clock might do, but I have considered using a Lemniscate graph for this. The idea here is that a player could move their character token to the capital city on the marauder map, but while they visit the city in the dusk, another player is there at noon.

I’m very interested to hear people’s thoughts on these proposals, especially how these work in play. Thank you for reading this far, I hope you have found it useful.

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Hi, I find your research interesting.
Here’s a thread it reminds me of Structuring rules? .I wonder if “randomlessness” is what you want. Predictability maybe ?
In universe rules (maps and if->then = level / dungeon design), full knowledge, open secrets. But add in complexity (a door opening under certain conditions) and predictability depends not only on knowledge, but also computation…
Player input and predictability are also at odds.
Maybe you have other things you like you don’t tell. Is your ideal for this research some sort of FKR?

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Thank you for this, DeReel. I will need to join your discussion on structured narrative. There is a lot that TTRPG design can learn from AI pathfinding and procedural generation.

You’re absolutely right. Free Kriegsspiel would be a good fit for this. The biggest influence is Belonging Outside Belonging which shares a similar ethos. I created the system Key & Token as a very distilled version of BoB mechanics. Myriad and Marauder were designed to give more structure to games like this. My group and I would sit to play and sometimes it wouldn’t be clear what was possible within the realms of this radical narrative system. Saying “you can do anything you like” is daunting to some.

There is still much more to do. There is the basic version of the Myriad, but the concept could be used to structure collaborative dungeon creation, or even a wild magic system.

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Wish i understood this better. Looks super interesting!

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Sorry to hear! When I first posted this I was limited to just one image. I have added some more now. Hope that helps. I’m hoping to publish a complete example Marauder map soon.

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Myriad is actually a great template for “adventures” in play to find out games.

You could write a path network with branching choices.

I really like the hex-flower version for dungeon delves. Same thing, you could write themed prompts for each symbol. Say, the base map is the same, but the prompts table is different depending on what kind of location/event you’re exploring.

An extra system to manipulating the dice (for random hex crawls) would be nice too, such as “danger” or “momentum” or something.

Have you seen the ladder tables? I think you’d like it and I’d love to see what you’d make with it if you did.

https://mindstorm.blot.im/2021/08/26/ladder-tables

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Cool!
I don’t know much about dungeon design. But you may find something useful in this very thorough article by Thomes Munier about adventure matrixes :

I will also drivel on old memories once more (Oh, the things we’ve seen… We’ve heard the chimes at midnight) :
Rickard’s Fishtank articles (here and there ), Eero Tuovinen Prydain chronicles railroad game , also there

Did you update the tables and drawings in OP ? Or maybe it’s because of your feedback. Anyway, now it seems much clearer!

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Thank you for this. While I was developing Myriad, I had thought it could work as a hex-flower. I read The Goblin’s Henchman’s hex-flower cookbook and I love his ideas. The ‘cross-over on opposite hexes’ mechanic is borrowed from this. I have updated the itch project page to reflect this.

Goblin discusses the use of a hex-flower to determine weather, and his supplement Into The Heart of the Unknown is a procedural dungeon creation engine using dice and a hex-flower. Myriad Hex is indebted to his work. I hope to explore these concepts and more in their diceless forms.

Mindstorm is absolutely correct that both hexflowers and graph networks like Myriad rely on either the use of symbols or sparse text to explain the contents of a hex or node. Myriad has a page explaining what the symbols mean, but at first glance, it’s probably very confusing. It’s a system that requires some onboarding and time for players to learn what the symbols mean. It’s important to make this information clear and a ladder table could be adjusted to make this easier.

Mindstorm uses weather as an example in his article and this ties into your suggestion for Danger and Momentum. This is a great point. The basic Myriad doesn’t include anything inherently negative.

So the question is, how could negative consequences be included in a Myriad, which is a diceless narrative network graph. This is something I hope to address in a satisfying way.

Weather is also a core component of any future Asynchronous Narrative System. You arrive at the capital city at dusk, but how do we determine what the weather is. The weather will also be different for different characters. A character arrives at the town on a sunny afternoon. The next player arrives in the evening, but it is raining. The players are together in real-time, but their characters are in different times in their world. My preference is to approach this problem without using a random input.

Ladder tables approach this nicely with the reset function. This isn’t something that’s necessarily inherent in a Myriad or a Hexflower weather engine, aside from starting at rest. We want to maintain the memory to a degree. A simple solution would be for the weather’s arc to be determined at the start of the day. However, I have an idea for how to use a graph to represent a ladder table. I’ll play around with this and present it here.

For anyone looking into this, I wanted to note my reasoning behind the number of symbols in the Myriad.

Myriad has ten symbols/concepts. This is because ten felt right and each of the concepts feel distinct. They don’t overlap with each other.

Happily, there has already been a huge amount of work to determine all of the ways you can arrange ten vertices (nodes) without overlapping edges (lines). It was even the subject of a film: Good Will Hunting. It’s the problem that Matt Damon’s character solves. Here’s an article that explains this more. An example of the ten possible arrangements is near the end.

https://www.cantorsparadise.com/the-math-problems-from-good-will-hunting-w-solutions-b081895bf379

This is fantastic, DeReel. Matrix scenarios look exactly what I’ve been looking for. I will read this article today. Thank you for the resources, there is a lot to look through here.

I’m glad the original post makes more sense. At first, I could only post one image due to being a new user.

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Let me just rephrase one thing: I’d replace the word danger, which is charged and makes assumptions about play, for the word tension, which can mean many things in different scenarios. Just thought of that.

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The article was recently updated to include 4D matrixes, says Thomas Munier in my earpiece.

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Could be of interest in this thread to know that I based the relationship diagrams on ER models from database theory. I’ve been discussing of how to convey dungeons without using a map, but instead placing nodes/vertexes on a map and connect them with lines/edges.


I’m having a question of how the async would work while playing. When I see “async” I think “not at the same time”, but I could be wrong in this situation.

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Oh, interesting. I thought async:“Play by Post” without a doubt. But now I want to know.

In matrix scenarios (see article), irreconcialable times and events are prevented from interacting with the use of “one way arrows”. You’ll find “logical” arrows used in @Nickwedig’s Medical Bay 3’s Quade diagrams.

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Thank you for joining in with the discussion, Rickard. Your articles are very much in line with what I have in mind.

Marauder could be adapted to work with a dungeon. It would work the same, but needs a bit more nuance. I’m working on drawing up some example maps in different scenarios at the moment.

You’re right, when people usually refer to Asynchronous Play, it means things like play-by-post. What I mean by Asynchronous Narrative is that the player’s characters exist in different places and times, while the players are together in real-time. This means that a group of players could explore something similar to a Game of Thrones style narrative - one player’s character is in King’s Landing in the morning, while another is in Essos in the evening.

Marauder was designed as a way to easily track the character’s locations.

So we have place, what about time? Yesterday I released Watchkeep, a small tool to track the time of day. The idea is that every player would have a Watchkeep, or the group would have one with different tokens representing characters. Here’s the link: https://gwyllgi.itch.io/watchkeep

Bear in mind that this is designed for storygames without dice. It looks like this:

I’m working on a weather system that doesn’t use a random input. I think the combination of tools gives the player lots to work with.

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I’m steadily making my way through these articles. I’m drawing up some thoughts on this - the 4D matrix is essentially what I’ve been working towards. I’m so glad to see someone also looking into this.

I am sure Thomas Munier would be glad to get a commentary from you. He reads english no problem.

Please pass on my compliments to Thomas, I really enjoyed reading the article on his matrix scenario method. I’ll link it again here for others to see here.

In the translation I read, Thomas uses the terms Zones, Sticks and Gauges in the same way Marauder makes use of Vertices, Edges and Weights.

I love the idea of using arrows and dotted lines to differentiate between one-way passages, secret locations and one-use items (like the drug required to induce a prophetic dream needed to pass through a secret tunnel). This is something that I absolutely will make use of with proper credit. This also demonstrates a good reason to use the mathematical term Edge over Line - an Edge can be a line, arrow, dotted passage or any other connector.

Crucially, Thomas notes the need for secondary vertices/zones in the situation matrix. These are vertices that connect to a major, or primary vertex. For example, in Marauder you would create a Location vertex - a Capital City, then you would add a Person vertex - the city’s Mayor. The Mayor isn’t a location, or a Zone that the players travel to, but is something they can interact with. This is the same as in a dungeon.

In the 4D Matrix section of the article Thomas discusses the problem of different scenes occurring in the same place at different times. This is something I am actively exploring. I would like to know what his thoughts are on Watchkeep - does it accurately solve the problem of tracking disparate scenes, occurring in different times but in the same location?

Thank you, DeReel!

Thank you for giving me the opportunity!
You can contact Thomas via his blog (Outsider) or Discord channel (Millevaux). I am sure you two exchanging will make sparks.

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You know what else would be great? A kind of ready to play scenario or a supplement showing the game loop using all of these tools.

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Great idea. You could approach prepared scenarios in a couple of ways. Most of the world building could be in place and the scenario could begin with a narrative powder keg, like a turbulent political event. I’ll look into this.

The scenario could state that there are necessary events that need to occur for the scenario to conclude. The players are provided with these prompts and determine how they occur in the narrative.

For example, the players could explore the followingin any order that feels right:

  • An uprising begins in a city, who is involved? What do they want?
  • There is an ideological shift across the continent, what is happening?
  • A leader rises to lead the people against the establishment, who are they?

Once the weather system is in place my focus will be to build guides, examples and tutorials for the asynchronous narrative system.