[updated] Freemind for Roleplayers

Posted in english, Roleplaying Games on February 5, 2009 – 9:00 pm
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Update: This has been announced before in the comments, Johnn of roleplayingtips.com and campaignmastery.com has posted his behalf of useful tips and helpful tricks with freemind. Make sure and have a look at what he’s got to share. (by the way, campaignmastery has just received a complete category revamp that looks pretty useful if you’re searching for all kind of advice over there). Johnn’s Freemind Tips for Gamemasters.

Using mindmapping tools is something rather common in project management and meetings nowadays, but why shouldn’t we use it for the preparation of our games as well? I have to admit, I like the program freemind a lot, it has a user-friendly interface and once you know how to use it, you will probably not think about using something else – and another merit that makes it attractive for personal use – it’s 100% free. You can download it from the Mindpage at sourceforge.


You start by creating a new file (File -> New) and have a single root in the center of your screen saying “New Mindmap”. Get used to have more than one mindmap for your planning since you only have the option for one main-root and you should try to keep everything clearly arranged. When you’re working with a larger tree, use the left mouse to drag the whole tree and navigate easily to the part you would like to be. If your tree is getting larger you might want to use ESC (escape) to recenter it on the core, as the easy way back. Ok so you got your basic navigation working let’s get you a step deeper into the details.

Now you can start adding information to your mindmap. To get started you press INSERT with your mouse on the core and on the right side there will popup a new bubble / fork. Insert some text (npcs for example) and press enter. You’ve created your first fork/bubble to use, when you press INSERT again, you create the next information level and can start (again for example) a few npcs – just names or titles will suffice so far. You can achieve everything so far mentioned easily by clicking with your right mouse button on existing forks or the core and you’ll get a menu to popup with a lot of selections. Repeat the previous steps with insert from different starting forks and expand your mindmap henceforth. Everything else should be more or less intuitive, I hope.
You can do a lot of things with the mindmap to make it easier of use. I suggest you use colors and the bubble vs. fork design (both from the Format menu). Fork design looks a bit opener and the edge colors will help you to group particular topics together. I’ve tried to show you on the example chart the short result of a brainstorming like I would use the colors. It’s just a virtual thing without real campaign background in this case, (I’m a bit secretive with sharing my future plans here, since a few of my players read this blog every now and then)… You start with the campaign name and several main topics, I’ve chosen npcs, regions, events and traps since those four will be of regular use in most campaigns – you might extend the tree endlessly with other things, and the more you expand it, the more important it will be for you to use colors and perhaps font-types to keep everything for quick access. A single click on a fork will expand or collapse it at anytime, so it’s useful to keep a smaller tree always visible and expand the characteristics and special notes when you need them. (I’ve started working with a laptop as dungeon master a few months ago and I have to admit, it has clear advantages).
I don’t think you’ll use the time management tool that comes with Freemind but you might want to use other features it has. First you have clear icons on the left side toolbar, if you select one or more of your forks/bubbles you can add icons with priority numbers 1-7 or several other symbols to it (very useful if you want to make sure you don’t forget about several things), and if you’re getting into extensively using the mindmap, you might want to use clouds to mark things that belong together. It’s like the edge-color tool for your own use, but it draws a cloudline around the whole selected fork – once again very handy to keep close track of everything on the sheet without mixing things up.
Freemind mindmap extended

Freemind mindmap extended

I hope you find this short tutorial useful for your own planning and design steps. If you have further questions, please never hesitate to ask, I’ll answer to the best of my abilities.

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  1. Wavatar Viriatha posted on January 30, 2009 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    hey, this is great, thanks! I’ll be trying it out for certain 🙂

    Viriathas last blog post.. – Game Masters and Leadership Skills: Part 3

  2. Wavatar Joshua posted on January 30, 2009 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    I tried using mind mapping software for RPGs a couple times (TheBrain, instead of Free Mind), but I ended up finding that TiddlyWiki worked better for my style of campaign notes and planning…

    Joshuas last blog post.. – What’s Normal in Savage Worlds?

  3. Wavatar TheLemming posted on January 30, 2009 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Glad you like it, hope it turns out to be useful for you!
    Hope you’re looking forward to Johnn’s posting in this as well, I’m pretty sure he has more useful stuff on mindmapping.

  4. Wavatar TheLemming posted on January 30, 2009 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    I have to admit, I do like wikis in general as well, but more as a status update and reminder of what has happened and who is around. I think that is what it’s good for but do you update a wiki regularlly just for yourself, or are there most pages for your players as well and only a few just for the planning process.

  5. Wavatar Joshua posted on January 30, 2009 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    I generally create a campaign wiki, but I’ve been disappointed in player contributions to it (they hardly ever update it, even with their own character info). Lately, though, I’ve been creating a personal wiki just for campaign notes, planning, etc. using TiddlyWiki–the nice thing about TW is that it’s a single page of HTML & javascript, with no back end. You can put it on a thumbdrive and always have your campaign notes handy.

    Joshuas last blog post.. – What’s Normal in Savage Worlds?

  6. Wavatar TheLemming posted on January 30, 2009 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Looks like you experience a similiar problem like we did with our wiki, the only advantage was, that actual three of us are dungeon master on a regular base, therefore three were updating as much as possible.
    Thanks though for the suggestion, I didn’t know of a backend-less wiki – and will have a look at it.

  7. Wavatar Johnn Four posted on February 5, 2009 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Hey dude! As discussed, my cross-post Freemind article is up at campaignmastery.com

    Johnn Fours last blog post.. – FreeMind Tips for Game Masters

  8. Wavatar TheLemming posted on February 5, 2009 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    Hey Johnn, thanks again for sharing – I just updated my freemind article. Thanks for sharing the tips!

One Trackback

  1. […] Sonst bediene ich mich den einfacheren Kreativutensilien (ich arbeite z.B. gerne mit Mindmaps), gehe Problemlösungen auch mal mit einem Fischgrätendiagramm an und erschaffe Charaktere aus dem Nichts. Letzteres mache ich wirklich gerne, mittlerweile zeigt sich bei mir mehr das Problem keine Bindung zu den Charakteren zu haben und Charaktere für einen Zweck zu erstellen und diese Distanz einfach auch sehr stark spürbar zu haben, sodass eine Langzeitmotivation selten über meine Charaktere kommt sondern nahezu immer über die anderen Spieler bzw. wenn ich nicht SL bin auch über den Spielleiter. Ich hab mich in diesem Blog ja schon zur Genüge über Abenteuerplanung mittels Mindmaps ausgelassen… Wenn ihr neugierig seid findet ihr die Details dazu: hier. […]

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