Create Your Memory Dungeon
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0915
I recently read about a memorization technique called Memory Palace, also called Method of loci. It helps you memorize lists and facts.
Dungeons are more my style than fancy palaces. So today let’s look at how this quick memory hack can help you prep faster and run adventures better.
We Think Story
Our brains are hardwired for story. It’s how we think and learn.
To test this, start listening to your own thoughts. They form a narrative don’t they?
Your thoughts are not just fact listings. You do not go outside and think, “One lawn, one driveway, 8:34 am, cumulonimbus clouds, a light breeze from the northwest.”
Instead, you go outside and think, “It’s getting cloudy out. I wonder if it’s going to rain. Is there an umbrella in the car?”
That’s a story.
We Think Images
Another thing our brain likes is images. We are visual beings.
If shown a list of 50 things and then shown pictures of 50 other things, guaranteed you’ll recall more of the pictures, especially if shown again to you.
Your Memory Dungeon
With this technique we combo mental pictures of things and string them together into a story to vastly improve our recollection of them.
Place your story in the chambers of a fictional dungeon. Personify the facts you need to remember and have them act as characters and objects doing things in your dungeon.
Then do a mental walkthrough of your dungeon to recall everything you need.
This technique lets you remember far more, much sooner, with less repetition than other memorization methods.
What Can My NPC Cast?
Try this out.
Create your dungeon. Take a building you’re familiar with and turn it into a dungeon in your mind. Visualize the rooms.
Next, look at an NPC’s spell list.
Then run this story in your mind, trying to picture it as vividly as you can with colour and motion:
The NPC enters room one. What does the NPC look like?
The NPC confronts one of his spells as a foe or object.
I love the video game Dragon’s Lair. I can picture its character and cool cartoony scenes easily. So I’m going to copy that style.
So, my NPC enters the first room, which is a torture chamber.
He suddenly has to drop and roll to avoid a Flame Strike. As he rolls into the wall, he casts Resistance and the flames lick over him without effect.
The NPC stands, brushes off his robes, and utters a Blessing to his god. Then he opens the door to the next room, which is filled with hungry prisoners. He Creates Food And Water to feed them all.
And so on.
Now close your eyes and replay this in your mind.
How did that work for you? Did you remember all four spells?
Keep building out your dungeon, and soon you’ll have your NPC’s whole spell list memorized.
Spells Are A Good Example
I would not memorize every NPC. I just wanted to give you an example of how it works.
However, it would be very useful to remember lists of things used often in your games this way.
For example, you could turn each list of spells at a specific level into a Memory Dungeon.
Once you have seven dungeons created for D&D cleric spells, you’ll be able to build cleric NPC spell lists on the fly, with no prep.
How cool would it be to have key rules like abilities, feats, and equipment memorized for faster gameplay?
The key to your Memory Dungeon is to turn the details into interesting visual stories. We remember lists of facts poorly, but we recall stories well. Try it out and let me know how it goes.