Flowcharting, is that even a word? Perhaps not but since we're playing a game of fantasy I'll allow it.
Not long ago I tried an alternative to mapping out a maze dungeon: a flowchart. While creating maps is enjoyable I've found various reasons to go about it another way. One reason was the theatre of the mind, a common concept in role playing games. When creating a traditional grid style dungeon I was often tempted or even encouraged by the players to draw this out for them during play. As soon as the players could see the environment I'd created on the eraseable battle map that covers our table, their minds' eyes were altered. The esthetic of their imagination destroyed. No good. Yet this is only one of a handful of reasons I decided to give this technique a go.
So I started creating a flowchart style map with MindNode Pro (see links section). The step by step process of creating such a thing is too weighty for this article so I'm hitting only the highlights of my process. I can say that creating this first flow-chart map took a long time, a very long time. This had mostly to do with initial setup and learning what works. The next time will go far faster I'm sure.
In the case of this particular map I had a definite starting and ending point in mind. So I created these two nodes a good deal apart from each other in MindNode Pro and began fleshing out everything in between. Here's some things to look out for:
- A shifting maze works well with flowcharts, be sure though to build a frustration counter (see below).
- Loop Counters are helpful, perhaps the most important kind is a frustration counter so your players don't get frustrated in maze-style dungeons.
- If possible, use an iPad or equivalent. Zooming in & out quickly makes life far easier than a laptop would.
- If you don't have an iPad or equivalent, consider a reference index beyond the flowchart itself so you can fill in the details more thoroughly.
- Styled Nodes and Lines are your friend, they can give you fast visual clues to details we take for granted in a grid maps.
- Making notes on your map is invaluable, being able to markup your map during game play will keep you from becoming frustrated.
- If possible, play test your first Flowchart map with someone. They'll quickly reveal holes and potential pitfalls, no pun intended, you can fix before the game.
- Keep your original Flowchart, as it'll be invaluable during your next attempt.