Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Casting Hostile Spells On Neutrals

I was going to leave posting a new blog for another week in case the holiday season had kept people away and not given them time to catch up with what is already written. However, I was caught up in an interesting topic raised by Matthew Rieder (of The Wizard's Apprentice module) about an age old issue I have also looked at regarding targeting "neutrals" in a game with direct hostile spells. E.g. It is impossible to target a "neutral" NPC (considered friendly) with the Magic Missile spell. While on the surface of things this may not appear to be a huge problem, it can be argued that such a system is railroading the player into who they can or cannot consider a foe and attack if required. While there is a setting in the Campaign Options to allow a PC to physically attack neutrals, it still does not allow the PC to target them with hostile spells until after they have turned "hostile" (normally after the initial attack from the player's PC).

Therefore, this week, I decided to come up with a system that would overcome this problem. Initially, I tried to overcome the problem by directly implementing a new cursor system as proposed by 0100010 (Edward Beck), but this turned out to be rather unwieldy for my own purposes and so I decided to go about the problem a different way and came up with the following system. As usual, all your comments, questions and suggestions for improvements are welcome!

Before I go into more detail, however, I would still like to receive feedback from last week's blog and the for the current poll: Will You Be Crafting? Even if you have nothing more to say about the topic, I would be interested to see what the general consensus is regarding crafting. Please find more detail in this post about Increased Spell Power.

Know Thy Enemy

In the end, I decided that simply targeting a neutral with a hostile spell was against the spirit of the game anyway. After all, why would someone simply cast a magic missile at a neutral? OK, all chaotic evil players need not answer that. Even so, there is normally a little more reason to attack a neutral than just as something to do. In most circumstances, the player will have a little idea of who the NPC is before they attack them. At the very least they will examine them to read a bit about them (if available). With this in mind, I determined that it could be via the examine window that the player could decide whether they wanted to attack the NPC in question or not.

Goodie Or Baddie?

To this end, I added a new button to the examine GUI that allows a player to switch the hostile/neutral status of the NPC they are examining. Switching the NPC's status this way does not affect the hostile settings to other creatures in the area, as the NPC simply turns hostile to the party by using an Anti-Party faction setting. At the same time, the player's party AI is switched off to prevent any party members automatically starting to attack the new hostile NPC. Once turned hostile, the player can target the NPC with their PC's hostile spells without any further problems. If the player changes their mind about attacking this NPC, then the same toggle switch can be used to turn the NPC back to a neutral. Note, however, hostile creatures or those factions already Anti-Party by default cannot be turned to a neutral faction.

Consequences

Attacking a neutral in an area of other neutrals comes with consequences. After all, people are not going to stand around and allow one of their own to be attacked, physically or with spells, if they are close enough to witness the event and can help. Therefore, a player must use this facility with due consideration for the consequences of their actions. Using it to attack a villager in a village of people may not be such a good idea, whereas suddenly attacking an evil NPC in their home to avoid greater bloodshed later on may be a wise move.

Other Information

The new examine window has been modified to give "live" distance to target as well, updating the GUI four times every second. This can be useful if you are preparing to use a spell that is restricted to a range and you only want to release the spell when the target is within range (and to avoid your PC from running forward to cast the spell). Furthermore, the range has the category of spell range within parenthesis after it (Touch, Short, Medium, Long) to help easily work out what spell range the target is within.

Now follows some composite screenshots giving an idea of what the system will look like in action:


1) We are examining a neutral NPC villager, currently at 30 feet (short spell range).


2) Note how the villager has moved closer and the range has dropped to 7 feet, now at Touch spell range (for the campaign).


3) When choosing to turn this villager hostile to the party, all party AI is disabled to prevent unplanned assaults. Chat window gives feedback. If "Pause On Hostile Sighted" is enabled, auto-pause will also start.


4) Faction settings prevent "hostile" villagers reacting to any other creatures until actually attacked.


5) Re-examining the villager shows it now as hostile (has a red ring) and updated range.


6) Player has chosen to revert this NPC back to a neutral. The chat window is updated.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Increased Spell Power! (And More Stats) POLL: Will You Craft?

Some of the things that I feel are most underused in the D&D game in general are disposable items such as wands, rods and staffs. Maybe this is just my own personal experience, but for the purpose of this blog, I will assume not. To some degree, I have found this surprising, especially when a spell caster can create a wand from 5th level of any fourth level spell or below (when capable) and then have that spell available while the charges last (normally 50). Then I looked into the feat a little more closely and came to the following conclusions why such items are not crafted as much as they could be. (In the following, I have discussed crafting wands, but the same argument can be used for rods and staffs if ever implemeted in any way.)

1) GOLD COST: First and foremost (and assuming the PC has the abilities in the first place), I could see that the cost of crafting a wand is considering high, even for the least of spells. In the D&D 3E rules, wands start from 375 gp for zero level spells and raise to over 20, 000 gp for a 4th level spell.

2) XP COST: Although not a factor in NWN, a spell caster was also expected to sacrifice XP when making an item. I mention it here just for completion of info.

3) DISPOSABLE: Most rules assume wands are disposable. Once the charges are used, the wand is destroyed. Therefore, a crafted wand has a limited life.

I know such items are supposed to be rare and special, but I believe the rules have made the construction of such items so unattractive that most players would simply avoid their crafting, thereby making such feats pointless to have in the first place. This is not something I want to happen in Better The Demon and so I have taken steps to encourage players with spell casters to take their crafting of such items seriously - and if they do, it will considerably increase their potential spell power. Here is how Better The Demon will handle crafting wands:

1) GOLD COST: Every spell level will have a base value at which it costs to add to a wand. A player can choose to increase the amount they pay to increase the spell level at which a spell will cast, but if it's just the basic spell they are after, it will be possible to craft at base values. (See table below.)


2) XP COST: There will never be an XP cost for crafting items in Better The Demon.

3) RECHARGEABLE: Regular readers will know there will be an item that can be acquired quite regularly according to ones abilities: The Life Essence. This item serves a number of purposes throughout the game. It will also have the ability to recharge a wand with (10 - spell level) charges as long as the wand has at least one charge, as it is still destroyed if the last charge is used.

Will This Affect Balance?

I know one of the first questions raised will be "will this affect game balance?" I believe the answer is "no". After all, crafting a wand still requires the PC to pay for its creation in the first place. The main difference is that its creation becomes a real viable option as something to spend gold on and with the ability to keep it charged, becomes a more useful item to help supplement the spell casters spell ability.

Overcome Frustrations

I actually believe that this system will also go some way to help overcome the frustrating position of a low level spell caster casting their couple of spells in an eight hour period and then being unable to do much more in the way of helping with spells. Now, they can craft wands of spells that will be of most use and have the ability to help maintain the wand with Life Essence they might find. The party's wizard could craft a wand of magic missiles and the cleric a wand of cure light wounds for only 350 gp each! No longer will the spell casters be forced to rest after the first combat of the day.

Other Items: Scrolls & Potions

This system is all well and good for spell casters of 5th level and above, but what about those of even lower levels? Well, Better The Demon wants to help encourage item creation right from the start, and to this end, has also reduced the costs of scroll scribing (and potion brewing for 3rd level casters) to help allow the party create items that will prepare them for the adventure ahead. While these remain truly disposable (as they cannot be recharged), the costs and ease of their making should help encourage their creation all the same. (See table above.)

Note, each basic crafting item has a basic cost of 1, 1 and 5 gp for scroll, potion bottle and wand in the first place (UPDATED), but thereafter, the costs above reflect the basic minimum price a PC pays for the spell placed on the item. As mentioned above, if the PC can afford it (and has the ability), they can choose to pay more at time of crafting for the spell to cast at a higher level when used from the item. Note, scrolls work in a special way in Better The Demon, in that their power scales with the PC's own ability. E.g. A scroll of Magic Missile made at first level will cast more missiles if saved and used at a higher level at a later time, or if a higher level PC picks up and uses the same scroll. However, a scroll with a power higher than the user will take priority.

As scribing scrolls requires nothing more than the feat, some gold and the ability to cast the spell in the first place, then I believe the above costs go a long way to encourage the player to prepare a collection of scrolls ahead of time, and especially knowing they scale with the PC's own ability. When the PC reaches third level, they can acquire the brew potion feat, and continue to prepare useful potions for the party as a whole at relatively low costs - and especially cheaper than any that might be available in the market.

POLL: Will You Craft?

I decided to add a poll this week, with respect to whether these "improvements" and changes will encourage you to consider crafting in your adventures. As usual, any feedback (on any article mentioned in a blog) is most welcome.

Improved Statistical Feedback

After some feedback from readers last week, I have further developed the statistical information that will be available to players in the game. The latest GUI now:

1) Sports new colours (for ease of reading).
2) Gives a PC's highest CR (Challenge Rating) kill.
3) Gives a PC's overall percentage input for the party as a whole.
4) Gives the PC a title of "competence", ranging across a number of levels.
5) Shows the party total kills and how they comprise according to type. (*)

(*) Note, I have gathered the various humanoid groups, such as orcs, goblins, etc into a single "Humanoid" group.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Statistics

I have to admit that I love statistics ... well, especially in games. I suppose that is why I enjoy playing RPGs that allow you to change attributes that affect play. Weighing up the odds of using one weapon over another, or cogitating which attribute or skill to increase all add to the excitement (in my opinion). In recent years, I have seen how games have also introduced other statistics, like the number of kills or deaths, etc. These too, have an element of intrigue, and is something that I want to include in Better The Demon.

Knowing which kind of additional statistics to include can be a difficult thing to govern. After all, I don't want to turn an RPG into a number crunching exercise. That said, I do like the idea of keeping track of the players own number of deaths (for each PC) and the total number of kills each PC may have attained. To this end, I have included a simple statistics GUI that keeps track of exactly this. To access it, the player must use the game's Main Menu. Thereafter, the player is presented with a simple GUI for the list of PCs being played. (See composite image below.)


There are a couple of things to note regarding the new GUI:-

1) The GUI highlights the PC in the list that the player is currently controlling.
2) The death tracking is broken into the three styles of recovery that will be available in the game: Raising (via spell), Rebirth (via Life Essences) and Respawn (via the console).

Hopefully, this kind of information will appeal to other players as well. There may be other possibilities for statistical feedback for this GUI, but that is all I have done for the time being. However, if you have an idea for some feedback you would like to see included, then let me know. If it is possible to include, and does not require too much backward coding, then I will consider including it.

In other news, I have continued to write conversations and start to design another interior area. As describing any of this would be a spoiler, there is little more I can add.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Path Is Clear

I have just managed to put the finishing touches to a letter (report) that I need to help sort out my current situation at home. It has taken a good three weeks to do and taken pretty much most of my time to prepare, which is the reason why I have not written a blog for the last few weeks. Not that there would be much to update you with, as the report took module writing time away as well. :( As I say though, that is now done and hopefully I can resume my slow progress of creating the module.

A couple of other events have occurred in the last week as well: "Honey", my wife's (Jennifer) and my upstairs rabbit had another issue with her teeth. (She had an operation almost a year ago.) Poor thing has had ongoing issues ever since we "rescued" her from a neighbour. The neighbour's previous poor care (neglect) has left her with dental problems, which we have had to have treated ever since she came to live with us. Last week she had to have another operation and a harrowing time was had as we waited to see if she would both survive the initial operation and recover after coming home. Thankfully, she is now beginning to eat much better and looks as though she is clear for another few months (hopefully longer). When we took Honey to the vets, we had to drive through snow. Exactly the same thing happened last time she had teeth problems: It snowed heavily both times we have had to take her to the vets about her teeth. Thankfully, the vets were open, even though it took us over an hour to get there ourselves!

Talking of the snow, Jen and I went for a local walk near to where we live to take some photos of it. Just a couple of minutes from where we live there are some fields that made some great photos. Here are some, but you can find more at this link. The snow has now begun to melt and will probably be gone in the next day or so.




What About The Module?

Hopefully, now that the path is clear .... no more report writing .... no vet emergencies .... no more snow ... I will be in the position to start writing for the module again. I can say that I have had some ideas that will be making it into the module, and which I may (if all goes to plan) have some simple screenshots in the next blog. This includes:
  1. A simple statistics feedback GUI. (Only deaths and kills.)
  2. More side quests (using a new system).

Anyway, I will definitely include a screenshot of the statistics GUI if completed, even if I do not give any for the side quests (don't want any spoilers).

I must also mention again that Hoegbo has done some outstanding work over the last few weeks and sent me a number of areas for me to look at and use. From what I have had a chance to see, this work will be a great addition and has gone a long way to help bring this project nearer completion. He has also said that he would add some more finishing touches to these and other areas if need be nearer the time of release, subject to any final observations and requirements.

That's all for now. Sorry it has been a little more personal/vague than usual, but unavoidable circumstances have dictated.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Party Poll Results

Personal circumstances are still affecting me at the moment, which means less time to spend on the blog. I am still doing what I can when I can for the module, and Hoegbo has been outstanding in his continued work on the areas for my module. Thanks to him, I currently have around 75% of the areas that I will need. One thing I can quickly report on is the last poll that has now finished, asking readers about their preferred party size. Here are the results:


There was a reasonable number of voters (30), and the results show a clear preference for 6 PCs making up a party, with 4 coming in second place. One of the "Other" results did vote for 5 PCs in the party, so I think it is safe to say that the standard recognised party size of between 4 to 6 PCs is the expected style of play. Regular readers will know by now that Better The Demon caters for any number of playing styles, leaving it up to the player to decide how many PCs they wish to take with them. Playing with a smaller party would be more difficult I imagine and I would be interested to hear from those players who eventually play the module with less than 4 PCs in the party.

Hopefully, in the coming weeks ahead, I will be in a better position to give a bigger update on the project. For now, however, I will sign off saying I will report back when I can - most likely in a couple of weeks.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Music

It's been a difficult couple of weeks for me since I last blogged. Personal circumstances have impacted on my health and time, which means work on the module is affected. An ongoing personal issue has robbed me of being able to do much more than the occasional conversation line for the module. On a positive note, however, Hoegbo is close to completing the areas he took on board to do for me, which means quite a bit of work has been done "in my absence" as it were. Furthermore, Deflektor has kindly put together a couple of music tracks for the module for me. The first track (as it currently stands) is the main title track for the campaign, while the second is one I have reserved for an area. I won't give you its title as it would be a spoiler. He said he would like to do some more in the future. Hoegbo has also said he would like to do the tracks for the areas he has created if he gets the time between doing his own module.

I have quickly put together a simple video of a few screenshots (all previously shown in this blog) as back drops to the new music tracks. To save space, I have had to drop the quality a bit, but I hope the quality remains good enough to hear the tracks: (EDIT: Having seen the video playback, I can see that Blogger downgrades the video even further than my original upload. Fortunately, the music is still clear enough to appreciate.)

MAIN THEME:




AREA PIECE:



Subject to how my personal circumstances play out over the coming days and weeks, blog updates may affected until I am back to a more stable environment. Rest assured, I will continue to work on the module as and when I am able, but I must prioritise this current personal issue until it is resolved.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Monsters! (UPDATED)

I decided to take the plunge and incorporate some elements of Pains Monster Pack this week. I already had quite a number of these creatures added to my module, but felt that it may be easier for the player if I organised the new creatures as hak packs rather than being incorporated within my campaign. In theory, this also allows for possible future updates to the haks. However, due to the size of these haks (when combined) I may rearrange it again so that I incorporate only those creatures I actually end up using. Time will tell. The important thing is that I will use Pains appearance.2da to help ensure consistency for the creatures.

UPDATE: I decided to remove this hak in the end as it did change a number of humanoid creatures (as also pointed out by Kamal). Instead, I will look through the additional creatures I may use and add them as required. This does also mean the file size drops considerably, which can only be a good thing.

Area Design Progression

In the meantime, Hoegbo, of The Demon Melody module, has been working hard to create new areas for me. He has worked incredibly fast and has managed to do more exterior areas in one month than I have done in 3 years! And they are far superior to my own! Matthew Rieder, of The Wizard's Apprentice module, has also contributed an outstanding interior area for me, and I can't wait to start writing more towards the quest that uses it. Eguintir is also working on both an interior and exterior area for me, and reports he will be updating me once his own module gets released any moment now.

With the current help, module 1 of the campaign has most of its areas completed. Hoegbo is currently working on the last external area for the module, and I have a few interiors to complete, and then all that remains is to finish writing the quest code. In theory, I may even have a working beta of the first module by the end of the year. It all depends on my own health and what the future brings.

Other Stuff

I am slowly working my way through the quests, writing conversations as required, and even adding the odd small cutscene. I am not very good at managing cutscenes, as they take me a long time to get right. I always worry whether the effect they bring to the game will be worth the time they take to do. There is even a chance that the cutscene will not be seen if the player does things differently to the way expected.

I am also adding to the Readable Books selection in the module one format or another: scrolls, placeable and item books. I feel they are a good way to give the player background and depth to the story in a way that is more appealing to the eye.

On a more humorous note, you may recall a while ago how some of my NPCs kept ending up in the tavern due to some error in the code. Well, this week I was working on my own version of the ActivetFleeToExit function and I ended up having a dog end up at the tavern as well! What is it with this tavern? Must be something in the ale. ;)

Monday, 11 October 2010

Trade Skills (More Skin Problems)

A short while ago, I discovered that using a skin in a PC's creature armour slot caused problems when the PC later equipped or unequipped armour: The armour penalty figures would eventually start to miscalculate and give errors with skill scores. At the time, I thought I resolved the problem by using an adapted creature bite object instead. Unfortunately, only this week, I discovered that this adapted item also caused problems, but this time with unarmed combat: If a PC with the adapted bite item on them attacked an object with unarmed combat, then only bonus strength damage would be applied. This was obviously not going to work and I came to the conclusion that skin items did not work anymore with NWN2.

Gaining Feats With Skill Benefits

Thankfully, many of the ideas I had that involved using a skin can now be coded using new functions allowing us to directly alter attributes. One aspect that did still need consideration, however, was if a new feat altered a PC's skills in some way. The problem is that while it is possible to alter PCs skills directly, the same process leaves small icons showing the changes as spell effects, which is not wanted.

In the end, I opted to design and include a new item: The Trade Skills tome. This tome is a non-drop item that now keeps track of all skills altered by new feats. This method is also quite useful for players to be able to see how their newly acquired feats are boosting their skills, which can be helpful when determining what skill-boosting items to keep or trade. I feel it complements other feedback methods used in the module well. Here is an image of the book being examined by a PC that has acquired some such skills.


New Colour Font For Time Warped Spells

As a response to popular demand, the text colour for Time Warped Spells feedback has been changed to something more visible:


Ideal Party Size

Don't forget to vote in the poll on your ideal party size if you have not yet done so.

Friday, 1 October 2010

... And Time Again!

You may recall in this post, I said this about Game Time Keeping, "In most NWN modules (my own included), time is scaled in such a way to allow it to pass quicker than in real life. For example, in 'Better The Demon', 1 minute real time equates to 4 minutes game time. However, this is not the case where combat or certain spells are involved, which can be confusing if not recognised."

Now, after giving this some more thought, I decided to come up with a system to help the player understand what is going on with respect to those spells that cause this anomaly with time due to their duration. This still requires some concentration to grasp, but I hope this helps.

Active Spell Effects
To begin with, I decided I wanted an easy way to give the player information about the spell effects that their PCs had on them. Perhaps it's just me, but I always find it frustrating not knowing exactly what spells are still active (by name) and just how much longer a spell has to last. So, to this end, I made a "Spell Effect" GUI that presents itself to a PC when targeted with a spell. It looks like a scroll that simply lists all the spell effects that are currently on the PC in question. (See screenshot below.) However, this GUI also gives further information about the duration of the spells in question. This information is presented in two formats: For short (rounds) or long (hours) duration spells I use a black font and show the time the spells have been active; and for the intermediary spells (lasting minutes), I use a yellow font and show their time remaining. It is these intermediary duration spells that cause us the problem with time and which I will now refer to as Time Warped Spells.


Let me first explain a little more about the GUI layout in the screenshot above. For ease of use (and coding), I decided to show spells that last only a few rounds or those that last for hours per caster level in a black font and how long they have currently been active. This is because for these duration spells the time element can usually be ignored. Why? Because spells that last only a few rounds (or a few minutes at best) are normally cast for the immediate effect and current situation only, and will quickly expire and drop from the list; and spells lasting hours really need only say how long they have been active in a number of hours without a need for so much accuracy. Also note, in both these situations, the existing spell code works fine with respect to time within Better The Demon, because by definition a) No short duration spell lasts longer than a game hour (15 minutes) and b) The HoursToSeconds function used in spells lasting hours already translates the time to work within the module's adjusted time frame. It is true that short duration spells could be argued to last four times longer (using Better The Demon settings) than they say due to this time shifting but, when actually playing the game, this will not be noticed, as the player's mind will interpret short duration spells as immediate timed spells. NB: There is a problem with short duration spells if a module's time settings are set to a much lower setting (which I think they are by default), as this would then mean that spells lasting a couple of minutes could, potentially, appear to last an hour of game time. Thankfully, with the time setting used in Better The Demon, the number of spells than fall into the "Time Warp" category are minimised, and with the system I am about to explain, are properly managed.
Time Warped Spells

I will now discuss those spells that cause the problem with game time, how they are managed and how their duration time remaining works. The first time a PC receives one of these spells, the module updates the in game rules to explain the nature of these spells and their working within the game. (See screenshot below.)

As this screenshot explains most of the mechanics involved (and can be viewed and read by clicking on the image), I will only add a few more details to emphasise a couple of the points here:

Varying Duration: The most significant difference between this type of spell and all others is the fact that their duration alters when looking at the GUI remaining spell time. However, this is not exactly the case. What is actually happening is that the code is altering the figure to show the relative time remaining according to the game time. Let me explain the kind of thing that is happening with a Pen and Paper D&D example of a similar thing: A player tells the DM that their 12th level cleric is casting an Aid spell on themselves. This spell lasts 12 minutes according to the rules. The player then says I walk to the centre of town and attack the mayor. The DM determines that the walk will take the PC 10 minutes, leaving 2 minutes of the spell remaining. In a sentence that takes less than 10 seconds to explain that the PC is walking to town and attacking the mayor, the spell's duration drops to 2 minutes, even though only a few seconds have passed since the player said anything to the DM. Hopefully, this next screenshot will help demonstrate some of the in game feedback:


The 30 Min Rule: To begin with, take a look at the first screenshot again, and note the remaining durations for each spell. We are only interested in the Time Warped spells now, so ignore the spells in black (apart from Resistance, which I will touch on in a minute). You will notice that prior to taking the journey along the North West Road that Threska had the following remaining spell durations: Aid 56 min; Resist Energy 60 min and Blindsight 56 min. Now, however, after taking a journey lasting approximately 30 minutes, Aid and Blindsight have dropped to only 7 minutes remaining, while Resist Energy remains at a higher value of 32 min. This is because when Time Warped spells have more than 30 minutes remaining, time is deducted in 4 minute chunks (for every 1 minute real time) to reflect the module's time setting of 15 minutes real time equating to 1 hour game time. However, once they drop below 30 minutes remaining, the GUI updates to reflect Non Warped Time, and time is now only deducted by 1 minute for every minute.

Why 30 minutes? The answer is simply because this is the smallest amount by which time will ever be jumped forward in the game. Therefore, this same time span (30 min) acts as the governing factor in how Time Warped spells react with time. You will note that even though the remaining duration values currently differ after the travelling by 25 minutes, that in either of the following circumstances this system still works because:

a) If the player does not travel any further (and does not jump forward time), then within a few more seconds, the Resist Energy spell (which was cast just a few seconds behind the other two) will "catch up" with the Aid and Blindsight spells as it drops by 4 minutes to what would have been 28 minutes, which now translates to 28/4, which is 7 minutes, to display the same as the other two spells. All three spells now have approximately 7 minutes remaining. If they did travel again (taking 30 minutes), then all spells would be removed as they only had 7 actual minutes remaining.

b) If the player quickly turned around and did the same journey back (and jumping time forward by another 30 minutes), all the spells would still end simply because of the time for travelling. The Resist Energy spell might show as less than 1 min remaining upon arrival, but would quickly end after the same amount of time it was cast after the other two had been (within seconds).
Short Duration Spells: You will note that Resistance had disappeared from the list after the first travelling. This is because it only lasts a minute and so quickly dropped off as the PC travelled. All short duration spells will only ever show ACTIVE less than 1Hr, and is merely a courtesy comment to show them as active.

Long Duration Spells: By contrast, long duration spells will remain on the GUI for as long as the spell duration, and give a rough idea of how long they have already been running. Below are a few snapshots of the GUI showing the spells active and how long they have been running. Note, the Mage Armour spell was cast a few seconds after the other two, and so shows a slightly different time remaining in the middle image. Within a few seconds though (the time difference between the castings), the GUI updates to show the new time, which is similar to the other two spells.

The Differences: The bottom line is, the players will not notice the duration differences simply because the game adjusts according to the style of play. For even if a PC stays within the same area for a period of time greater than 15 minutes, an hour game time will pass thus ending any spells that may, at first, appear to be greatly improved by the system. When all the sums are done, it is possible that some spell combinations give slightly longer durations, but on the balance of things, I believe this gives a much more accurate system than the default.

Friday, 24 September 2010

New Area Designers & Modules To Play

I decided to take the plunge a couple of weeks ago and advertise for area designers to help create areas for my module, Better The Demon. Limited health and poor design skills on my part forced my hand if I wanted to bring my module's release time forward to any time in the near future. Thankfully, I was blessed with a great response from three well-known established module writers. Already, they have been at work creating both interior and exterior areas, and from the screenshots I have seen already, with some amazing results! All of them have created something in a matter of days compared to my months or even years. Furthermore, all of them have understood my requirements very well and brought life into visions I have only had on paper for some time. So, in no particular order, I will introduce you to them and point you towards other work they have already done or are doing:

To begin with, there is Hoegbo, who has just finished an exterior for the first module (of three) and has also begun work on another selection of exteriors for the second module. Find out more about him and his own work at his blog, The Demon Melody. Next is Matthew Rieder, currently working on an interior for the first module. He has recently created his own module, The Wizard's Apprentice, which can be downloaded from The Vault. Last, but not least, is Eguintir Eligard, who keeps a blog about his up and coming Islander module, which is very near completion.

All of these people are very gifted and talented at designing areas and are bringing a great deal to my own module. Their work is inspiring and has even helped me consider new side quests relating to their designs. Although I cannot go into detail about the work they have done (so as not to give spoilers), I can say that their designs are among the best I have ever seen in any module I have played. I look forward to all and any work they can continue to contribute and hope that I may be able to return the favour to each of them one day.

While they have been busy designing the areas, I have had time to continue looking over plot material, including books, monsters, conversations and that sort of thing. As a result of the added help, I have revised the current status of the module to 30% complete. I would like to point out that if the current rate of support continues at the rate it is, then this figure may continue to jump from week to week. But, I don't want to count my chickens just yet .... ;)

Time To Play?

There have been a number of NWN2 modules released over the last couple of months or so, and although I do not play much, I do like to take a look and play some when I can:

Path of Evil: Kamal released the beta version of this some time ago, and I was fortunate enough to have some time to be able to take a look. At the time, there were one or two minor bugs still to be ironed out, but even from the small part I played, I could see it was going to be a big game. You can find out more at this forum post. If you want to play this one, you will need to have lots of spare time. I have earmarked this one to play after I have finished my own module.

Risen Hero: Shaughn has recently just released the first chapter of his module, Risen Hero. I have been following his work for some time and am eager to give this one a try when I get some more time. From Vault results to date, it has already been received very well. This is one module I definitely intend to play.

Legacy of White Plume Mountain: Wyrin, who always seems very productive to me, has released his LoWPM, available at the Vault. This is one of the very few modules that supports multi-player play and so I am trying to play it with a friend when time allows. (We like to get together and play a computer game when we can.) While we have encountered one or two minor bugs, I know Wyrin is already sorting through them. If my friend and I manage to finish this one, I will write a comment and cast a vote.

The Maimed God's Saga: Tiberius recently released this cleric only adventure, which has a good air of mystery about it. It's a module I keep going back to from time to time as I like to play the cleric class. Tiberius says TMGSII is "unlikely to see the light of day", so this module is complete. If I ever finish it, I will cast my vote.

Live Forever: This module was actually released some time ago by Azenn. I have downloaded it to take a look at myself, but have not had much time to do so. It's high score on the Vault suggested that it may be a good one to play. Download from the Vault. If I do play and finish it, I will leave a comment and vote.

File Storage & Download Facility

In my recent correspondence with Matthew Rieder, he pointed out a useful website called MediaFire, which allows files to be uploaded and downloaded for free! There is a maximum file size of 200 MB for the "free" version, but if you need or want more, you can pay for it with a subscription. I find the free limit of 200 MB sufficient for my own use. I will be using this facility to manage files between area designers and myself.

Party Size Poll

Don't forget that the Party Size Poll is still up and running. (Left pane.) Please vote for your ideal size and leave a comment if need be!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Definitive Crafting System

This week, I decided to try to finish the tome Crafting With The Greater Essences that helps to describe crafting methods when using the Greater Essences. Like its predecessor, Crafting Recipes From The Past, it is a fully comprehensive guide on many recipes available in the game, all compiled into one easy reference tome. Both of these tomes use my Readable Book format with a dedicated contents guide and are designed to make crafting much simpler! As I started to work on the tome, however, I decided I needed to update the crafting system one more time, to make it much more streamlined than I had currently made it and even more user-friendly. I did this, because I believe that most of the problems and dislike from people when using a crafting system is because of the many differences and complications normally entailed. Here are the opening pages of the two tomes in question:


Cost 5gp and obtained (when available) from any good alchemist.


Cost 5gp and obtained (when available) from any good alchemist.

All Recipes Rolled Into One

The first tome, entitled Crafting Recipes From The Past, covers every crafting recipe that came with the first official campaign, with many recipes covering the lesser essences and gems. Not every recipe included in this tome requires such, but if it was a recipe that was detailed in a book from the first official campaign, then this tome has it covered. The second tome, entitled Crafting With The Greater Essences, does the same thing of amalgamating all the recipes into one book, but for those recipes that were found in the second official campaign, Mask of the Betrayer.

The beauty of this, is that the player no longer has to hunt around trying to locate the recipe they need among the many books, or struggle to recall what it is they need to have to qualify, as all the details have been carefully laid out in such a way to make finding a valid and useful recipe reasonably quickly. It is even possible to easily consider a plan of enhancement or creation ahead of time because the crafter has all the relevant details to hand.

Finally, with the introduction of Storms of Zehir, the player was introduced to a third recipe system. Thankfully, this system introduced recipe books straight away, and so the newer recipe system complements the two described here well. However, I have made one distinction of the newer recipes, and that is they act more like magikal pages that are used up when they are used to help enhance or create an item. Therefore, the modern recipe books can hold more than one copy of the same recipe, simply because you need a separate copy of the recipe for each time you wish to carry out its formula.

Crafting In Practice

The entire crafting scripts have undergone comprehensive changes to help iron out many of the differences and inconsistencies between them, which I will mention in a minute. I have also edited many cost related 2da files to ensure crafted items do not upset the economy of the world and reflect sensible values between ingredients used and final product. I have even fixed one or two broken recipes along the way.

First off, I would like to show some screenshots of some of the items, tools and recipes involved in crafting, to help demonstrate how much easier working with crafting will be in Better The Demon. The first collection of tools for the crafter involve bags, the primary one being the Crafting Satchel (cost 2gp and readily available from any good alchemist):


This bag is invaluable for anybody who wants to keep their crafting items in order. Any crafting items found are automatically moved into this bag if carried, making searching for specific crafting items much easier when required. (See description.) The next screenshot shows us examining a couple of the items inside the Crafting Satchel:

Notice creature items that can be distilled into essences say as much in their description and even tell you what skill rank is required to recover the essence from the creature part. Notice also, how the mold name makes it clear what minimum Craft Weapon skill is required to work with it. The next screenshot shows a closer examination of the essences within the bag:

Notice how the essence description is not the source of the information for what it can do. To find this information, you simply look up the recipe you wish to follow within the Crafting With The Greater Essences tome. The logic is you look for and plan what you want to create from reading the tome (or any tome) and then look out for the ingredients required. You decide what to make rather than see what can be made from the essence. As an important aside, you must carry a copy of these tomes to be able to use any of the recipes within them. In other words, you cannot meta-game the recipes by referring to them outside of the game and then playing them out in the game.

As well as the Crafter's Satchel, there are a couple more satchels that a crafter may find useful to have in their inventory. That is the Alchemist's Satchel and the Enchanter's Satchel. Take a look at their descriptions in the images below:

The Alchemists' Satchel (cost 2gp and readily available from any good alchemist) is more useful to PC's who have the skill to determine creature parts that can be used in modern recipes (as opposed to creature distillable parts used to create the lesser essences). If the PC has taken the time to increase their alchemy skill, then any creature parts they find that can be used in modern recipes will be instantly recognised and placed into this satchel if carried. These parts are automatically used if and when a PC uses a modern style recipe.

The second bag is the more expensive Enchanter's Satchel, costing 100 gp and obtained (when available) from any good Alchemist. Once the crafter has established themselves and gold becomes less of an issue, then purchasing an Enchanter's Satchel is the way to go to avoid having to go back to a known bench location whenever they need to do some crafting involving a magician's workbench. It does require the power of Life Essences though to help enable its magik in the field.

Next up are the Mortar & Pestle and the Smith's Hammer: two very useful tools of the trade for any would be crafters. If alchemy is more your craft, then the mortar & pestle will be your first tool of the trade, costing around 4 gp and obtained from any good alchemist or local sundry store. On the other hand, if working with molds to create your own armour and weapons is more your thing, the you will need to pick up a smith hammer, also costing around 4 gp from a smith or local sundry store.

The most expensive tool a crafter is likely to purchase is a Shaper's Alembic; a tool designed to convert, combine or divide essences, costing around 320 gp and normally only one or two available at a time from an alchemist due to their expense. They become a much more viable tool at higher levels and when the crafter really needs to work with essences more effectively.

Note from the description, however, that all the information about skill ranks is known ahead of time and that the tool handles all essences that can be found at much lower levels than any previous campaign has allowed, making the whole system easier to get into.

Finally, take a look at some of the modern recipes available in the screenshots below. Notice (like the molds name) that these recipes include a number in their name title if the PC needs to meet a minimum caster level (for enchanting) or rank in a skill (for creating). This makes it it as easy as a glance to quickly look at the recipe name and determine if you are of high enough ability to even be able to attempt the crafting without having to look at the further details. Scrolling through the recipes available in a book will be all it takes to quickly work out if you have anything within your capabilities. You can even see from the names in these examples, that the Amulet of Health (+2) does not have a minimum figure, which means only the feat is required.


(TYPO: Longbow recipe should say Blacksmith Bench required.)

Among many of the objects you may find along the way to help with creating other items are things like ingots. Once again, any item like this that you find in the game will be clearly marked as to what type of item it might be used for. This helps remove the nagging questions or doubts about what items you need for the type of crafting you may be following:

Item Properties

One of the major problems with the different crafting systems was that they all had their own idiosyncrasies about how to add properties and what would or would not count as a property already. For example, in some systems adamantine weapons counted as having enhancements already, whereas in another, they did not count. In Better The Demon, all this has been ironed out and it a very simple case now of all weapons and armour can have a maximum of 4 magikal properties - excluding any material benefits! (*) Therefore, whether a weapon is made from adamantine or iron, both weapons can have four more properties added. The added benefits of an adamantine item are just that - additional benefits! Therefore, the system does not penalise for characters improving items created from the more exotic materials, but even enhances them further! This maximum is across the board for items, be they weapons or armour, etc. The only exception to this maximum is if the weapon is of poorer quality (a new gaming system in Better The Demon), in which case, a weapon may only hold one or two properties, or the poorest quality weapons none at all! Furthermore, it is possible for weapons to degrade if not cared for, and if they drop a level in quality, they could potentially lose a magikal property as well. Note, however, weapons cannot lose their material properties, which adds value to weapons made from exotic materials, as even the poorest quality weapons of such materials can offer benefits.


(*) Items other than weapons and armour are also set to four, but are subject to any restrictions they may have in the official rules.

Furthermore, all items can have a property upgraded even if all four property slots have been filled! In previous systems, property slots had to be "left open" to allow a property to potentially be upgraded if a higher value magikal property recipe was found. Now, for example, if you have an item with all four slots filled and you find a recipe that can improve a weapon's AC protection from +1 to +2, you can replace the old property without any problem.

This maximum number of properties and ability to upgrade an existing property is valid across any and all systems of crafting. Therefore, irrespective of which crafting system you may have adopted and used in the past, you should find it very easy to fit within the new single amalgamated system, using whichever recipe formula you have available to you at the time: be it acquiring and working with the lesser essences and gems, or obtaining the greater essences or even finding modern recipes - all of them work together to either improve existing items or allow you to create better ones. To keep track of the number of slots available, the information is given to the player as a message each time they acquire, equip or unequip the item.

Brewing Potions, Scribing Scrolls & Crafting Wands

Finally, I would like to just mention (as a side topic to crafting) that these three creation feats have taken on greater strength and ease of use in Better The Demon as well. The PC now has much more control over the power of such a creation, being given the option to upgrade the power of the item at time of creation. Scrolls, in particular, have the added benefit of automatically increasing in power along with the strength of the user. e.g. If a PC found a Magic Missile scroll at 1st level and cast it, it would release a level 1 missile. If, however, the PC did not use the scroll until they had reached 5th level, then the same scroll would cast as a 5th level Magic Missile. The idea of all these additions to the existing systems is to a) Make it easier for the player to use the system and b) Make the feats worth learning and using. As an addition, it is cheaper for a PC to create their own potions using the Brew Potion feat (or scroll or wand using the appropriate feat) than purchasing one. Therefore, they are immediately rewarded for their new found feats and could, potentially, even earn a few gold creating and selling these items along the way.


Blank scrolls cost 1 gp, potion bottles cost 3 gp and bone wands cost 10 gp where stock is available.

By the way, I never got around to finishing the tome. ;)

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Creating A Party (POLL: Your Ideal Party Size)

I have been making slow but gradual progress over the last week or so, mostly to do with the main quest. This includes trying to design an interior area as well as do a little scripting to help generate specific random items in particular circumstances based upon PCs statistics and attributes. The results are exciting to see and I look forward to hearing how players get on with this aspect of the module.

On a more unsettling note, I appear to have lost contact with Hosa, who was going to be designing some exterior areas for me. The last email I had from him was over a month ago now, and even though he seemed quite positive at the time, I have heard nothing from him at all from all my last emails trying to contact him. I have not given up hope totally, but the lack of response is disheartening.

I also had the opportunity to play a little of Wyrin's White Plume Mountain with a friend of mine. We don't play for long, but in the little time we did play, we managed to get our party together and equip ourselves. We did discover an error in the scripts that prevented players (apart from the main PC) and companions from acquiring the required XP and gold on start up, but it was easy enough to fix and I sent Wyrin an update to help him fix it. The error would not have affected anybody playing a SP game, but only those playing a MP game. If we discover any more MP bugs, I will be letting Wyrin know.

Party Creation

It was after playing Wyrin's module that I thought I would explain how my own module, Better The Demon will work with respect to party creation; especially as my module is geared towards MP play as much as SP. So, without further preamble, here is how it will work:


As soon as the host player (SP or MP game) has finished reading the introduction to the module and established the background for the party, they will be introduced to the Party Creation Rules for the campaign. This information GUI basically explains which classes are not supported in the World of Althéa and therefore not permitted to join. If a PC is imported or created with any of these anachronistic classes in it, then they will be prevented from entering the world.

The same GUI also explains that party creation is not a requirement, but merely an option. To begin with, if the player decides to take up the opportunity of rolling a party at the start of the game, then they are restricted to 3 additional PCs (to a maximum of 4) at this stage. This figure is reduced by one for each subsequent player that enters the world in a MP game.


The screenshot above shows the current party at the start of the game with the main PC already within the party (Adarkin Bundais) in a SP game. The player now has the opportunity to add 3 more PCs now, or wait to see if they find and recruit companions from the world instead. Subject to whatever the player decides to do, they will begin the game either as a single PC or a party of 4, or somewhere in between. Later on in the game, the player will be given the opportunity to increase the party again. (See next.)


Whatever the player decided to do at the start of the game, later on in the game they have the opportunity to extend their party further. This can be done by going to the local tavern and climbing the soap box stage to rally some troops, which basically brings up the Party Editor GUI again. Depending upon how the player responds to the options and whether the game is a SP or a MP game determines what happens next. In most circumstances, the current party members will be automatically temporarily dismissed (allowed to wonder the tavern) while the leader of the party "gives the speech". Basically, the player is able to create more PCs for every blank slot remaining. In a SP game, this will be another 3 PCs. In a MP game, it will be 4 minus the number of players. In other words, if there are four players joined at this stage (the maximum number of players supported), then no more PCs will be able to be created this way and only companions can be added.

The bottom line is, the party size can grow to a maximum of 6 PCs. This can comprise of any of the created PCs the lead player cares to spend time creating each time they use the soap box to rally troops. In other words, if they believe a previous created PC in not good enough for the job, then they can choose to create another one to take its place. Of course, the player does not have to use created PCs at all, but can use a complement of any companions they may find along the way to bring the party size to 6 as well. The best combination would probably be a combination of created PCs and companions. (Henchmen can be added over and above the maximum of 6 in the party. The 6 maximum is for created PCs and companions only.)

POLL: Maximum Party Size

This topic brought me to a poll I have been wanting to run for some time: What is the optimum party size in your opinion? Please cast your vote on the poll and then tell me in a comment your personal class combination in the following two circumstances:

a) What classes would you play if the party size was a maximum of 6 PCs?
b) What classes would you play if you could play any party size (if not 6)?

And tell me anything else about your party that would be interesting to know!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Death & Recovery

Sorry about the lack of a post last week, but personal situations prevented me having the time. (No deaths, thankfully.) This post is still a couple of days later than I hoped to have it done by, but as I was testing the code I was going to blog about, I realised I was not content with the way it was written and so spent a little time rewriting it so that it worked more efficiently. That is now done and I am much happier with the way it works. So, without further ado, I now present to you the Death System and explain how it will work in Better The Demon.









Dying Is A Drag

For players who invest time and energy into building a PC, the worst thing that can happen to them is to see their PC suddenly come to an untimely death. Whether it comes during battle, from a trap, or simply attrition, there is always that sinking feeling when you see your PC's HPs plummet to zero and they keel over dead. In NWN2, a system was introduced that meant a PC was not actually dead if someone in the party survived a battle. At the end of the battle, if there was a survivor in the party, all the PCs who had "fallen" would get back up as if they had only been knocked unconscious. While I have a degree of respect for this system, I do feel it robs the game of the impact of death, which became a lot harder to meet. For Better The Demon, I wanted to introduce an idea I had in mind since my early pen and paper days that helped in this sort of situation. This idea, however, could not be introduced until after the heroes had finished the Soul Shaker module, which is where this module begins.

Multiple Situations

Part of the complexity with the Death System for my campaign is that I have introduced a couple of gaming elements that replace the standard system. The first and most complex element I have added is something I call the Life Essence. The second element is because, unlike SoZ, when a PC dies in my campaign they remain dead! Add to this that it also has to cope with a MP game (and overland maps) and the system becomes quite involved.





The Life Essence (Soul Protection)

I have written about this item even before this blog began, and have continued to write about it on and off over the course of this blog. (I first mentioned it three years ago in an old forum post on 30th August 2007, which I reposted in this blog here.) It is probably one of the most distinguishing elements introduced in the campaign that helps mark the new era. To begin with, the PCs will not know what this item is, but not too long after they begin their adventure, they will be introduced to an "understanding of life" and the Life Essence. I won't go into any more details about this in particular (I don't want to spoil the story), but will, instead, explain a little more how this new element helps alter the way the game plays. If, however, you would like to read a little more about the Life Essence, then also read this blog.

The bottom line is that one use of the Life Essence is that it can be used to help protect a PC from untimely death, by offering Soul Protection. It also has some other very useful applications and so a player must decide on how they want to use this item in the game. As they collect more of the Life Essence, so they may be more flexible with its use, but there is always a balance to keep. By default, Soul Protection is activated from the moment the PC understands its concept. From that moment on, when a PC dies, if they have enough Life Essence on them, they will immediately be reborn with full hit points and without any ailments. In combat, a PC will not even fall to the floor as the Life Essence sustains their life and keeps them from death. In game terms, one Life Essence is required for each level the PC has acquired. E.g. A first level fighter who dies carrying three Life Essences, will have one of them used up to enable rebirth, leaving them with two. Once the PC has run out of Life Essence, they will die in the normal way. NB: The term "rebirth" is used when a PC is respawned using Life Essences, as opposed to being "respawned" using the Main Death GUI.

Resisting The Rebirth

Because the Life Essence is valuable in other ways, the player has the option to determine if their PC resists the power of the Life Essence to have them be reborn or not. Resisting is more likely to be the case if somebody in the party has the ability to raise the PC from the dead in other ways, or can pay somebody else to do it. As the PC increases in level, the Life Essence may be better saved for uses other than Soul Protection.

A Party In Action

Here is an example of how a combat might unfurl in a single player game with a party of three PCs. Hopefully, it helps to explain how the system works. A MP game plays the same way as described for the SP game except when a player's Main PC dies (and who carries insufficient Life Essences for a rebirth) then they may only continue to control another companion (not possessed by any other player) or wait until a fellow party player comes along and revives them. If all the players eventually die through lack of Life Essences, then the assigned leader for the group of players will be offered the chance to reload only. There is no respawn option available in a MP game. (UPDATE: There are some circumstances where a respawn option will be given in a MP game, such as when changing modules, or when leaving an encounter area.)

Some of the following pictures have been edited for ease of demonstration.

Brent dies without carrying any Life Essences. (A tombstone is created alongside him.) Notice Brent is no longer in the party member bar on the right hand side.




Clicking on the tombstone reveals Brent's body (that can be carried) and any items he was carrying(none in this example). It would not show "plot items" he carried, as these would have automatically have been transferred to the Main PC upon his death (in case the player had chosen to abandon the companion).



When Adaur dies carrying Life Essence, there is no tombstone - and because the player chose to have auto-rebirth turned off for this PC, the player must now stand next to the corpse to be offered a choice of Life Essence rebirth or to leave him for the time being. Notice, Adaur is also removed from the party member side bar when not using auto-rebirth. He will also have had any "plot items" he carried moved to the player's Main PC upon his death.



When the Main PC dies (Adarkin in this case), he will automatically be offered to be reborn if he carried sufficient Life Essences. The player can choose to either rebirth using some of the Life Essences Adarkin carries or reload a game. If the player had had auto-rebirth enabled for Adarkin, then the PC would have kept automatically respawning until he had run out of Life Essences.





If the Main PC had died without any remaining companions to take control of or Life Essences to be reborn with, then the player is offered the Main Game Death menu and have the option to Respawn the Main PC, but with an XP penalty.



Above are some examples of the feedback during combat, including the turn counter. In the first window, it shows the combat being initiated (the establishing round, which may not be a complete round of actions), followed shortly after by Brent dying. (He had no Life Essences on him at all and so just died leaving a tombstone.) The second window shows a combat where Adaur did have auto-rebirth enabled and lost a Life Essence on a rebirth situation. The last window shows Adarkin "apologising" to stop all further combat that had been initiated. The "Sorry" option can only be used with "good" aligned NPCs who have been attacked "by mistake". The facility can only be used after a 30 second cool down period and there are also consequences for killing innocents "by mistake" or otherwise.


Overland Travel (Death By Attrition)

In Better The Demon, an unprepared party can also die through attrition, especially in the early days when they do not have spells to support them. Even then, death by attrition is most likely to occur when the player decides to take his party on a long distance journey. There are circumstances when a party member will refuse to travel in the first place (when there is no means to supply food/water for the journey), but if travel is started, then the leader of the party (or the chosen leader for a group of players in a MP game) has the sole responsibility for all the PCs in the party.









When a party enters overland travel, it is the leader who controls where the party travel, and it is only the leader of the party that the player directly controls. (In a MP game, only the lead player controls the direction of travel for all the players, just like SoZ.) It is possible for companions to die along the way through lack of food/water, and in such circumstances if they do not have Life Essence to revive them for a short while longer (and before they die again from lack of food and water), then they will die just as if they had in battle and leave a tombstone on the map that contains their body and items. The leader must then decide for the group if they intend to take the fallen companion with them or not.



If the leader themselves dies, and they carry Life Essence, they will be revived automatically if set to do so or given the option to be reborn using Life Essences or reload a game. If they do not carry Life Essences, then they will only be given the option to reload a game at the official Death GUI. Basically, on an overland map, if the leader dies and does not have sufficient Life Essences to be reborn, then the party is considered "lost" and if there are any surviving companions at the time, then they are also considered dead. On an overland map, it makes sense to ensure the leader stays alive the longest for the sake of the party!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Time ...

I thought I would talk about the topic of "Time" this week. It is an especially difficult topic with respect to D&D (or any CRPG that involves time for that matter) simply because in almost every gaming situation the process of passing time varies from one action to another: From combat rounds to spell durations and even to timed events over days, weeks or even months. In D&D, the passing of time is handled by the DM who determines how much time passes in the world after each player action. In a CRPG like NWN, however, managing such events (in modules that do not have a DM at the helm) are not so straight forward without a robust time system being in place that can cater for the various player actions. As an aside, I found it interesting to read how the D&D rules regarding time have changed over the years: In the 1E rules, time was considered "of the utmost importance"; in the 2E rules, the importance of time became "decided almost entirely by the DM", and by the 3E rules, there is no index reference to it at all. In fact, the 1E DM's Guide even stresses in capitalised letters that, "YOU CANNOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT." So, one question is, just how important is time and its keeping?

Party Time Keeping First of all, however, I want to ask the question just how do our party of intrepid adventurers keep track of time for themselves? The passing of a day is fairly obvious, and so tracking periods of time in days, weeks and months should be considered straight forward enough, but what about more intricate time tracking? Our guide for this comes in the form of equipment that the PC can purchase from a merchant according to the D&D Player's Guide. In the 3E rules, a PC can purchase an Hourglass (25gps) and a Water Clock (1000gps); the latter not being portable. There is also the possibility to refer to a sundial on a sunny day. However, I think it may also be assumed that some ingenious gnomes will have produced a better time piece at some point in time (if you pardon the pun), but, like the Water Clock, this would be well beyond the basic adventurers need considering its cost. The bottom line is, in general, the adventurer does not need to keep track of time to the minute. For the adventurer, the most critical time they will most likely need to observe is when a ritual might be planned to take place, like the midnight hour on the first day of the year. In such circumstances, the adventurers would normally lie in wait at the site until the event occurred, thereby avoiding the need to be too specific. In my own module, Better The Demon, the recognition of a new hour is also handled by magik(*): Towers with enchantments placed upon them will chime at a new hour without the need for interaction. (*) Magik with a "k" refers to objects containing magic, rather than magic with a "c", meaning from a creature.

Game Time Keeping Most CRPGs will not track time from minute to minute, and even if they did, they would normally have a means of fast-forwarding time when required. In most NWN modules (my own included), time is scaled in such a way to allow it to pass quicker than in real life. For example, in Better The Demon, 15 minutes real time equates to 1 hour game time. However, this is not the case where combat or certain spells are involved, which can be confusing if not recognised. For example, a spell that lasts 1 minute per level will last for 15 minutes for a 15th level wizard. This spell would actually last 15 minutes real time, which equates to 1 hour game time. How one interprets this time difference is a matter of perspective during play. (See Amorphous Time below.) Furthermore, when a PC rests, time can be moved forward or not, according to both where they rest and how they rest. For example, in Better The Demon, resting at an inn will always assume 8 hours game time moves forward (regardless of when resting was started), whereas if the party chose to rest (to pass time by waiting until dawn or sunset), then only the number of hours to the specific time will pass. If there is only one hour to dawn, then only one hour will pass when rested. Better The Demon also introduces the concept of Personal Time, which I will discuss next and answers the question of how they rest.

Amorphous Time & Personal Time I have mentioned this before, but will mention it again as it is an important feature to grasp with respect to the passing of time in Better The Demon. To keep the game running smoothly and to prevent a "resting every few minutes to regain spells", resting to regain spells works around a Personal Time frame. Basically, the assumption is made that a PC can rest to regain spells once every 8 hours, and as long as they do not regain them more frequently than this, then they can rest at any time without moving time forward for the rest of the group. I call this Amorphous Time, because time effectively shifts according to the individual player's perspective. I go into an example of how it works in this post: Resting & The Passage of Time. You can also read how time affects party attrition in this post: Hunger & Vigour System.



Is Time Important? I suppose the answer to this question depends upon your own gaming background and just how much of a stickler you are when it comes to such things as resting, spell recovery, timed events and its effect with respect to travel. For me, all this is important, and so I like to make sure time is well catered for. This is why in Better The Demon any form of overland travel will be counted; all resting will be monitored and spell learning periods will be adhered to. (Time for item creation, however, will be instantaneous in Better The Demon compared to time taken in D&D.) Some may argue that adhering to these time elements is superfluous to the story and that time can be moved forward according to the stage the player is at. However, I have always seen D&D as a "free environment" in which the player can immerse themselves and follow events as they see fit. They may wander into new events and quests that demand their time, which in turn may apply time constraints when trying to complete other events. The point being, using time in this way adds a dimension of urgency to the game and causes the player to consider their actions more carefully. For example, if a cure for a poison is not found for the princess by midnight, then she dies. In this case, any form of travelling would quickly add time and so it forces the player to work within the limits that the remaining time offers them. Basically, using time in this way helps remind the player of their own limits, even when they are playing the hero.

Date System Every campaign world with a decent background and ecology usually has its own date system based upon its own historical world events. Toril (of Faerun fame) has its own unique date system and Better The Demon also has one. The problem with a world having its own calendar with different days and weeks has, thankfully, been solved by a great piece of custom work by Edward Beck's (aka 0100010) and his Custom Calendar GUI. Depending upon just how involved you want your calendar system to be, this custom content may require more coding. The personal touch it adds to the campaign, however, is well worth the effort and is very rewarding. You can see a screenshot and more info about the date system in this post: Keeping A Date.

Time To Conclude It's obvious that not every module needs a solid time system in place to allow a fun time. However, if a builder intends to present their work as a campaign (with events occurring over time throughout the world), then I do think there is a strong argument for the case of having an established time system in place. It also depends on your approach to the game and whether you prefer what is now referred to as "hard core rules" that include items and conditions that are affected by time like some of those I mentioned earlier. Yes, it involves more effort to make work, but I believe if done correctly, it can add a great deal of depth to a module transforming it from a good module into a classic module. It's true that playing with the added element of time is more difficult, but I believe the rewards for succeeding with it included are also that much more satisfying.

Time For You That's my take anyway, but what about you? Builders: How do you handle time? Do you stick with the default system or have you altered it in any way? Builders/Players: Does being allowed to rest, heal and relearn spells at any time appeal to your style of play, or do you prefer a stricter setting and background to play? Players: Do you keep track of the date at all? Do you believe timed events are important or not? Basically, tell me what you think about time in the modules you build or play!

IMPORTANT INFO: Any time constraints I use will NEVER stop the player from finishing the game. They are not to be included to frustrate the player, but to add a different slant to the game. Time constraints will have a biggest impact on when a player can rest and recover HPs and spells. Otherwise, time constraints that cannot be circumvented in any way will only appear in side quests. This gives the player a reason to choose a different path to play on a potential replay.