Readers have brought my attention to several articles on flag framing. Basically, "flags"are all data objects on the
If you haven't done so yet, I urge you to go read these insightful articles
by experienced gamemasters.
Flags and cues
Flag usage, especially as described in the last article in the above
paragraph, does cover a lot of the ground also covered by the first
article on strategic gamemastering. Flags, however, are not limited to the
character sheet : everything on
is a valid data flag and can be exploited.
Furthermore, the second installment of the
strategic gamemastering articles goes further, by:
- providing a categorization of the cues/flags, which has consequences
regarding the manner in which said cues can and will be exploited by the
- presenting the THACO tool as a rational, and systematic management of
cues/flags, not only for designing plot hooks and/or an adventure based on
player-character data, but also for managing the evolution of said cues/flags
over the course of the game and campaign.
The THACO in comparison to other tools
The THACO tool is not a conflict web and has never been designed as such.
The THACO is a designed to represent in a
all GM mental processes
related with the Shared Imagined Space at a specific time. The successive THACO
diagrams over a campaign can show the evolution of the characters as well as
that of the setting
The THACO incurs consequences for the manner in which the GM creates his
Being a systematization tool for any game data, not limited to the use of
the PC character sheet flags, regular use of a THACO tool incurs further
consequences in the manner the GM will read adventures & NPC descriptions
created by third-parties: , and the THACO-using GM will
be decomposing said adventures and NPCs into their constituent objects
Let's try it with a quite straightforward adventure:
A herald announces that the princess has been kidnapped by a dragon,
looking for vengeance after the kingdom's armies drove him from the land many
years ago. The aging king offers a reward for whomever will rescue the princess
and return her to her sire. Unbekownst to the king, his daughter the princess
is in league with the rebel barons. They plot to overthrow the king and crown
his daughter, using this kidnapping as a pretext to approach the king in order
to assassinate him.
Decomposed into a THACO and combined with the preexisting character THACO
rows, then color-coded for obvious commonalities, we obtain this:
Note that the adventure objects are not decomposed into the Background and
Objectives rows, but into "Setting" and "Events to come" rows.
The simple color-coding of identical objects makes the "Youth" thematic
appear, which might bring some promising interactions between the two
characters of the young mage and the princess. The dragon, of course, is the
focal point of many important thematics.
For the next steps of remote linking & GM-decision linking, we've
dispensed with the links that had been established between the
player-characters, and focused on the links between the PC and the adventure.
The result would look like this:
Only a few links are required to immediately perceive which angles might be
the most effective to embroil the PCs into the plot. The assassination thematic
in PC#3's background row would normally fit the plot by the rebel barons, and
could be linked to the adventure "Political instability" theme, but depending
on how the PC approach plot, such a link presents a risk of putting the
assassin PC directly at odds with the rest of the group: this is an example of
"Opposition linking" which I described in the second installment of the
Strategic gamemastering article.
Consequences on plot hook writing practices
Let's (tamely) fantasize for a moment. What if adventures and NPCs were
already decomposed before the strategic GM begins to work on his
Nothing prevents the writer of an adventure or an NPC from taking a few
minutes to decompose said adventure or NPC into its elementary
These components would not be character cues or flags, but adventure and/or NPC
If the author were to organize these elements in a simple THACO, possibly with
a color-code for common objects, the GM could then directly add the adventure
and NPC rows to his THACO.
The point is that this simple and admittedly obvious work, since no one knows
the objects composing an adventure, a campaign and/or NPCs better than their
inventor, enable the author himself to to his setting, scenario or NPC.
These plot hooks would become readily apparent as soon as the GM :
- integrates the relevant object rows to the THACO of his own gaming
- performs the three steps (color-coding, remote linking & decisionary
linking) of THACO integration.
The only question that remains is whether adventure & NPC writers will
pick up the practice of creating a synthetic table of the THACO objects in
their own works, in order to speed up the process through which a GM gets hold
of said adventure or NPC, and makes the PC interact with the associated
I strongly hope that they do, because decreasing author effort while
simplifying the life of GMs seems to be in everyone's interests.