Personality Chaos 2: Order from Chaos

The iPad has a really good app for writing Mandala Charts. William Reed has an article on it as well as some others in his flexible focus series.

The Mandala Chart is also called the Lotus Blossom technique. It was developed by Matsumura Yasuo.

From the Wikipedia Page on Mandala:

In common use, mandala has become a generic term for any plan, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically, a microcosm of the universe from the human perspective.

The Mandala is great for forcing character generation in a structured way. If the GM wants to force players to align themselves with the world’s metaphysic, then the Mandala can be the tool to marry cosmic metaphysics with a character’s daily life, skills, beliefs and goals. (I have one rpg project waiting in the ideas bucket that uses this kind of system).

However, it doesn’t have to represent the world on a cosmic scale. What the Mandala Chart does is force questions on the areas that are important to the GM, and to the world.

Reed’s approach is to use the 8 frames of life to achieve work life balance. A central 3×3 grid is used with headings in each of the eight squares surrounding the central question (in this case it’s Health, Business, Home, Finance, Society, Personal, Study and Leisure). For each of these squares there is a second 3×3 grid that looks at each area in detail – he suggests headings appropriate to each area, so Health uses Food, Movement, Breathing, Sleep, Skinship, Resilience, Humour and Love

Flexible Focus #67 shows you the central (type A) and expanded (type B) mandalas.

Mandala Chart for Directed Character Generation

Reed says “proverbial wisdom comes in opposite pairs”. The implication is that the chart may be expressed as four pairs of balancing concepts.

The way I’m going to use the chart is kind of a directed mind map, with eight nodes each with (up to) eight sub-nodes. But unlike a mind map, the Mandala chart forces total focus on the nodes when working with the expanded map. When you’re working on a mind map the eye is inevitably drawn to the central premise – but since the expanded maps can be treated as eight cells in isolation, they refocus attention on each node and let the creative mind concentrate on that aspect.

This is our central mandala chart, with eight headings: Family, Profession, Friends, Ambition, Enemies, Faith, Childhood, Magic. Hopefully the headings are self-explanatory.

I’ve considered my character Kakhta from the Mind Mapping example.

F.

Faith

C.

Friends

G.

Childhood

Complete belief in the Doctrine of the Autarch

 

 

New allies in a foreign country

Raised in the holy city of the Autarch, in the centre of a massive jungle.

B.

Profession

0.

Character

D.

Ambition

Bodyguard, elite warrior and nobleman

 

  

Kakhta, Monarchorn warrior of the Grand Autocracy, Traitor to his people

To do what is right, and to return home to an honourable welcome

E.

Enemies

A.

Family

H.

Magic

His former squad-mates, and other Legions of the Autarch

 

A wife and two daughters, back in the homeland

Immune – divorced from cosmic and magical forces

Now for the expanded map, I need a template. Each of the secondary charts should be based on the same eight sub-headings. I chose the following:

6.

People

3.

Benefits

7.

Hobbies

Simple – the characters they have met in this part of their life 

  

How this part of their life benefits them (other than providing skills)

Non-critical abilities gained through this experience

2.

Obligations

X.

[Node]

4.

Intentions

Duties that arise as a result of this part of the character’s life

  

Write the name of the node here.

Actions they intend to take as a consequence of this part of their life

5.

Skills

1.

Images

8.

Crisis

Useful abilities they have been taught as a consequence of this experience 

 

Visual cues that relate to this portion of the character’s life

Things that may happen as part of the plot (the GM may leave this part blank, and write it later)

These are headings I have chosen. Other GMs might pick a completely different set of headings depending on their campaign and preference. If Magic is important, a subheading of Magic could appear in every secondary chart (meaning Family, Enemies, Ambition etc. all have magical significance). But crucially all of the players receive the same chart.

The player isn’t obliged to fill in every square for every node, but they’re encouraged to think about them. Depending on the different types of node the context of the secondary charts changes. For example Intentions based on Enemies or Family may be straightforward, but based on Ambition or Faith may take on a completely different meaning.

Of course there may well be items that span more than one box. In Amber Family spills into Friends and Enemies, for example.

For an example I filled in –

Kakhta’s Childhood

6.

People

3.

Benefits

7.

Hobbies

A cruel mentor figure who beat him and his pack-mates. A fortune teller who told him that he would one day betray his allies.

The finest equipment, well nourished, excellent physical conditioning.

Hunting giant lizards outside the city (technically forbidden for his caste).

2.

Obligations

G.

Childhood

4.

Intentions

Raised to fight for the Autarch as one of his elite warriors.

 

Raised in the holy city of the Autarch, in the centre of a massive jungle.

Do his duty, and not question orders.

5.

Skills

1.

Images

8.

Crisis

Amazing martial prowess, familiarity with a wide range of weapons.

A massive ziggurat in the centre of a Mayan-style city, surrounded by lush jungle full of deadly hazards.

His childhood allegiances may be tested when he is forced to betray his comrades.

 

Kakhta’s Magic

6.

People

3.

Benefits

7.

Hobbies

A temple priest, (forbidden to speak with him because of his status) who helps him with philosophical questions. 

Magic resistance (same as skills).

Chewing coca leaves to stimulate dreams which he doesn’t have naturally. Developed into a habit.

2.

Obligations

H.

Magic

4.

Intentions

His magical status sets him apart and above the other religious castes. He is an Angel Incarnate. As a result, he is expected to lead. 

Immune – divorced from cosmic and magical forces

Understand why he was born different one day.

5.

Skills

1.

Images

8.

Crisis

Magic resistance. 

 

 

 

Born with gold-flecked eyes indicating genetic heritage. A trial by holy fire that threatened to kill him.

[ideas?]

 

Beyond the Chart

<

p>The traditional Buddhist or Indian Mandala sacred art has specific connotations and proportions, but in a wider context Mandala Art could be used to create any pictorial representation of a character. This may particularly suit Everway. But, that’s not really the scope of this article.

There’s nothing stopping you inserting images into the mandala chart, of course. 

«
»