Choose Your Language

Thursday, 31 January 2019

The Adventure Continues .... 22. Searching For Runes (v2.45)

Last session played without any hitches or problems at all. In fact, the only reason for the latest update was to improve the Rust Monster code that seeks out metal items on PCs to "eat" ... or basically, destroy! The code was slightly off, and so I include it as a fix anyway, even though it worked reasonably well in our own session. Apart from that, I have been taking the opportunity to look over some old notes again with respect to working on module two. Some days I am better than others when it comes to doing any coding. Lately, I have had to resort to doing less due to tiredness and lack of concentration. Hopefully that will turn around again soon ... and at least looking over the notes is quite relaxing.

The List of Fixes

1) RUST MONSTER AI: A loop that determined what items to attack was not very efficient. I have now added a more direct order of preference for the creature, and it works more efficiently now. Make sure you don't get caught up close by one of these fellows!

A Dead End
Lower Caverns
An Ornate Room With Fountain
Rust Monsters!
Caryatid Columns!
The Gubriel Rock!
The Adventure Continues ... 22. Searching For Runes

Protect The Equipment!

NB: Contains spoilers for ALL backgrounds.

"It's a dead end this way," said Myara as she scouted the pathway ahead in case of traps. The path she had followed came to an abrupt end where it had fallen away, lost somewhere in the deeper caverns below. Instead, Helden led the party back towards another circular door they had seen earlier and led them to the chamber within. Inside, alongside a couple of useful workbenches, they noticed another Rune Panel, that required four runes to unlock its mechanism ... whatever that did? For now though, they decided they did not hold enough runes to risk experimenting on the lock's requirements and so left the chamber and continued their search for more runes in other areas of the crypt.

They went via another circular door they found within this chamber and discovered that it went downwards and into some natural caverns instead of the clean cut walls of the upper chambers. "I want to head back up and finish exploring the upper chambers before we head further this way", said Helden, and the fighter led the party back up and towards another section of the upper chambers.

As they went their way, they followed a mausoleum lined passage and through another circular door into a large square chamber, more elaborately decorated than the previous ones, sporting the remains of a library and a fountain in the middle of the room. The heroes wasted no time in carefully searching this chamber and were rewarded with some ancient texts, as well as the all important book containing information about the Demoncage that they were after. They also found a small magikal ring caught up in the fountain brickwork that enhanced its wearers intelligence. A find indeed!

There were two exits to this decorated chamber. One was blocked by another rune lock panel and the second by a locked door that Helden made short work of breaking down with his heavy axe. Beyond was another dark passageway, which the rogue went ahead scouting for traps. After indicating it was clear, the rest of the party caught up and Helden spied a corpse off to one side. As he went to examine it, he suddenly noticed some creatures out of the corner of his eye approaching to attack. "Rust monsters!" the experienced fighter called, and the party instantly took up a defensive stance to guard against losing any items that contained metal to these metal eating monsters.

The battle was eventually won by the heroes, but not without cost, as both helms and shields had been lost to these dungeon vermin before they were disposed of. Thankfully, however, the use of summoned creatures, Scraps and ranged weapons helped to minimise the loss, and a bigger thanks was uttered by all that no magik items were lost! The metal eating monsters now removed, the party looked closer at the corpse, and from a diary found on it, realised they had discovered what had happened to Herreta, the female cleric of the party of Dringle. The heroes relieved the corpse of its items, recognising that there was no point leaving anything that may be useful, especially as they had just lost some of their own.

The rest of the upper chambers could not be reached by the looks of it, unless they happened to have the correct runes to bypass one or two rune locks that may have offered another path. Helden was not prepared to risk this just yet and so decided now was the time to explore the lower natural caverns beneath the decorated area of the crypt. To this end, Helden led the party back to the lower caverns and began to search of the eastern section first.

The search involved taking risky narrow path ways that required extra care to pass. Once navigated though, the heroes found themselves within a mining area and were able to collect various ore and rocks, including some of the the very rare Ammonite ore, which the group had also just recently learned from the book found in the library, would be needed in the situation involving the succubus. Continuing to follow the path around, the heroes eventually discovered two exits. One linked up with a secret door back into the upper chambers, which they had discovered a short while earlier, while the second opened into a new unsearched area of the upper chambers.

Ahead was a sectioned off area of the inner room with four raised portcullis doors, within which stood a lone chest. "I don't like the look of this. Even I can see that this looks like a trap! We need to take precautions," said Helden. Then the heroes cautiously searched the large chamber, taking extra care to avoid the central section with the chest. However, after checking the nearby mausoleums for anything useful, and only finding the odd rune, a group decision was made to investigate the chest after all. So Helden, being the strongest, took the lead and stepped into the inner section towards the chest with the others close behind him for support.

Thankfully, at this point, nothing happened, and every party member was able to enter the small area unhindered. However, at the moment the chest was opened, Helden's theory was proven correct and the four statues that surrounded them jumped to life as the four portcullis doors slammed shut behind them. The battle was on! To the unprepared or lone adventurer, these statues would have been deadly, but to a well organised and fully prepared group of adventurers, these animated Caryatid Columns were no more than an inconvenience, which the heroes swiftly dealt with. The battle over, Myara was able to confirm that the chest did contain something useful ... a golden ritual bowl, something that was mentioned in the ritual for the Demoncage.

The heroes had now found about half of the twenty four runes that made up a complete set, which Helden figured was still too little to attempt any of the rune locks that required them for now. Instead, the leader of the group decided that they needed to backtrack and check the other region of the natural caves; the place where the heroes believed the succubus to be located, trapped within its Demoncage. The confrontation had to happen sooner or later, if the heroes wanted to recover the runes they needed, but every member remembered the last encounter with a demon and that could have gone better.

As they made their way west through the caves, carefully checking for traps as they went, Helden commented, "I can see a large floating boulder ahead, like the one we read about in that book we found." Sure enough, about one hundred yards ahead, a large heavy looking boulder could be seen floating and spinning slowly around in quite an unnatural way.

"The Gubriel Rock," Karasten mumbled under his breath, as the group of heroes slowly moved towards the legendary rock, not knowing what awaited them.

GAME TIME SINCE START: 42 Hours 47 Minutes.
QUESTS ACTIVE: 13 QUESTS COMPLETE: 17 (Ignoring Rule Info)

Saturday, 26 January 2019

The Adventure Continues .... 21. A Well That Wishes Well? (v2.43)

The latest session was smooth and stable, with enjoyment had by all. There were a couple of minor issues that I discuss below, but apart from that, this post will mention some latest news and updates in general. Of particular note: I updated another puzzle (the dwarf four runes lock) for multi-player support. I have also been working on encounter balancing and planning some module two areas.

The List of Fixes

1) AUTO-PAUSE FEEDBACK: In TB combat, the auto-pause would sometimes report a combat was "over" and give the incorrect message if a character fell in combat, because I had set the character check loop up wrongly. The loop has now been fixed to check all characters before reporting if needed. (Intercepted.)

2) TB SOUND NOTIFICATION: There were some instances when the sound to indicate combat was started would not sound. This was due to not being able to locate a nearby useable placeable object to play the sound. Now, I have added a check to compensate for these situations, which should prevent the lack of sound in future encounter situations like this.

3) REVIVE DISTANCE: I have now added some checks to ensure any fallen companions or henchmen cannot "revive" after a combat if they are still close to an enemy that the rest of the party cannot see. i.e. The heroes need to be able to reach a fallen companion without any nearby enemy activity within the vicinity of the fallen party member.

4) RUNE PUZZLE (PAIRS) TIMER: There was one instance spotted in our last session when a timer for a puzzle did not start. I could not see any obvious reason for this, but altered the code slightly to give the timer a priority in the code calls, which may help ensure it starts correctly. I will keep an eye open on this one.

5) SOUL CONVERSATION (LOGICAL FLOW): There was a logical flow error in Soul's conversation, where a PC could mention Soul by name, prior to them knowing it. This has now been fixed.

6) SOUL'S QUEST AWARD: The final XP award was broken, and required a fix to ensure the final XP award is granted and give the "Quest Complete" message. (NB: In the broken version, the quest did complete in the journal, but did not give the reward.) This has now been fixed. I remind my own players that while they missed out on this XP reward, that it was easily compensated on the earlier XP award issue that gave ten times the amount that should have been given then. The differences balance out. :)

The List of Updates

1) FOLLOW/STAND IN COMBAT: I have now re-enabled the "Follow" and "Stand Ground" buttons in my GUI to be useable during combat as well. They override any existing combat actions for all group members the player controls, and so must be used with caution in combat situations. However, it may be useful to use to enforce a "regroup" and prevent PCs from wondering off to a distant enemy when you do not want them to.

2) AREA MAP NAME: I have updated the code to enable a builder to be able to rename a map on the fly with scripting. I needed this for my own work with module two. NB: This required an XML change, which means all players in a MP game require the updated campaign folder to play.

3) DM SPELL FEEDBACK: I added a small debug line that gives a single DM information about spells being cast by either players or monsters.

Helden Deals With The Barricade!
A Plush Room Lies Beyond ... With A Well!
A Library Behind A Locked Door!
No Way Out!
A Battle For Freedom!
A Crypt With A View
Disturbing The Dead!
But Returning Them To Peace!
A New Passage Opens Up Ahead
Myara Picks The Locks Of Ancient Crypts
The Adventure Continues ... 21. A Well That Wishes Well?

Anything For You Masters?

NB: Contains spoilers for ALL backgrounds.

The Goblin Tower (Soul)

"It's no good. We need a specific password," said Myara as the heroes tried to open the door at the bottom of the stairway. Lacking the information they needed to open this door, the heroes decided to turn back and head back upstairs to learn what lay beyond the barricaded section instead. Upon reaching the barricade, Helden made short work of removing it with his battleaxe. Behind the barricade was another door, but this one was locked by a dwarf rune lock, which Myara was able to deal with successfully this time.

The room ahead was large and brightly decorated, much like the plush area they had seen in the tower's lower levels before. Yet one strange feature stood out: there was a well here! As the heroes approached the well, a voice from its depths spoke to them in common tongue. The well was sentient and addressed itself as "Soul". It appeared to be a unique life form, offering its services to keep the heroes (it's new "masters") as comfortable as possible.  As the well continued to chat with Helden, Myara gently whispered to Elana, "I bet 'Soul' is the password to that riddle for the door below."

Eventually, the conversation with the well was over and Helden suggested the heroes be on their guard. He felt there was something off about this inanimate being, and gave the order for the party to search the area for anything that might be useful. There had been something about the way the well had spoken of it's previous "masters" that made the group feel uncomfortable, in contrast to the well's efforts to ensure their comfort!

The heroes continued their search of the whole area, including the lower regions (Myara had been correct about the password for the door that led to the lower level) where the library and study were located. As they rummaged around books and items that had not been touched or disturbed for a very long time, the group gradually built up a picture of events that had transpired: It appeared that the builders of "Soul" had become prisoners of their own invention.

"We need to get away from this place fast!" said Helden, after he realised the implications of what Soul had done. Without further delay the heroes made for the exit, only to be stopped dead in their tracks at a large wall that now blocked the way out. "It's the work of Soul!" said Karasten.

The heroes made their way back to the well and tried to reason with Soul about letting them go free. However, Soul was not prepared to let them leave in much the same way he had not let his previous "masters" leave. There was nothing more the heroes could do now, except to follow through with a plan that they learned the previous masters had prepared (but obviously failed to deliver), with respect to destroying Soul, in the hope to gain their freedom.

After pouring the destabilisation potion into the well called Soul (that Karasten had prepared), the heroes tried to reason with Soul one last time. Sadly, however, the bond between Soul and its "masters" was too strong and if the heroes were ever to leave this tower again, then there was nothing left but to destroy the well while it had become destabilised. With a sigh of regret, Helden led the blows, which the rest of the party soon followed, that began the destruction of Soul. As the last blow brought the well to an end, magic beams shot forth from the remains of the well, animating books all around the heroes, and attacked them.

The books, although many in number, did little harm to the heroes, who quickly slashed the animated objects to pieces. The room had gone dark now ... lifeless. The entity called Soul, which had been keeping the place bright and warm was no longer present, and in the dark, one could even feel the temperature begin to drop. With no further reason to stay, the heroes made their way back upstairs, hoping the wall that had previously blocked their way had been dispelled as well.

As the heroes reached the exit level, Helden was immediately aware that while the wall had indeed been dispelled, that a number of animated beings now roamed the area where the wall had been instead. It seemed these were the last vestiges of what had remained of Soul's previous "masters", who now, lifeless, served in a twisted form as servants of the one that once served them. If the heroes wanted freedom, then they needed to get past these lifeless beings as well.

Karasten initiated the combat when he released a fireball in their direction. Unfortunately, it appeared to do little or no damage to the humanoid figures who appeared to be made from the stone wall that once blocked their way. However, it was enough to alert them and start a combat. Thankfully, Flint and Helden were positioned for the attack, and summoned creatures were already engaging with the stone-like humanoids before they could reach the spell casters. The battle, like so many others beforehand, was short lived, due to being well prepared.

The stone creatures now disposed of, the heroes were now able to see and reach the exit. As Helden opened the door, the cool pleasant evening breeze welcomed them to their freedom once again. "That's one of the three towers dealt with!," said Helden, who now led the party back out of the valley in which the tower stood, and made his way north and east, knowing only too well that this path now led to the crypt that Zak, the hermit had spoken of only a few hours ago.

The Ancient Crypt

"That's the second lock done." said Myara. Flint had already given Myara the answer to the first riddle lock: Abbathor. Now, with both locks disabled, Helden had to make the begrudging decision that there was now nothing stopping them from entering the crypt, where undead no doubt awaited, and so should enter. There was a brief hesitation by everyone though, as the entry to the crypt was not by a door, but by some sort of magik that was going to teleport them inside. Was this going to be a one-way trip? After reasoning away that fear, the heroes let Myara place her hand on the teleport activation and within a heart beat the heroes found themselves in a dark and musty chamber ... the entrance to the crypt.

For the time being, all appeared quiet, much to the relief of Helden. There was the usual dungeon debris laying around, and a gong beside a bridge that led from the entrance chamber deeper into the crypt ahead. After a quick scout around, the heroes could do nothing more than take the bridge ahead of them that spanned a large drop going somewhere deeper into the mountain, which they assumed they were now within.

As the heroes crossed the bridge, they were suddenly brought to a stop when a spirit rose from the remains of a body that lay halfway across the bridge. Helden did not know whether to attack or run, but it soon became obvious that this spirit was not going to attack. It turned out that this gnome spirit, who introduced itself as Dringle, was actually quite talkative, and not intent to do evil at all ... or so it seemed. After a long conversation with the spirit, the heroes were to learn that Dringle (and his own party) had become the victims of a curse due to a Succubus demon that now lay entrapped within these halls somewhere to the south. The curse led to their eventual deaths within the crypt.

When quizzed further, the heroes also learned that the Succubus likely possessed some runes that the heroes would need to activate the teleport to exit the crypts. It appeared that the heroes fate was to deal with the Succubus not only to help rid Dringle of his curse, but also to acquire the runes they needed to eventually escape the crypt themselves! Dringle spoke of something called a Demoncage that currently held the Succcubus captive and mentioned a means by which the demon may be destroyed. However, it involved finding a book ... and that could be anywhere within the crypts, assuming it survived at all! Having learned all they could, they bid the spirit of Dringle farewell, and the spirit dissipated. Much to Helden's relief, the heroes were alone once more.

However, Helden's relief did not last long, as shortly passing to the far side of the bridge, the heroes encountered more spirits from nearby corpses, but these ones were not friendly like Dringle, and upon manifesting, immediately attacked the heroes. Helden's nightmares had just come to life!

The fighter need not have let his fear ride too high at this time, however, as the heroes were able to successfully deal with the threat, even if Elana's attempt to turn the undead creatures appeared to have no effect (or failed due the spirits' resistances). Maybe these were not that "type" of undead after all, thought Helden, who imagined dark fingers of death sucking the life from his very soul.

"Inner crypts!" blurted Myara, giving Helden a sudden jolt from his dark thoughts. "Could be treasure ... I mean something useful in these." Helden gave the nod to Myara suggesting she crack the door locks so that they could search their contents for anything useful. Without the need for further orders, the halfling quickly went from crypt to crypt, cracking locks and searching their contents.

They had only explored a small section of the overall crypt, but already the heroes had had to deal with both violent spirits and painful traps. On the plus side they also found some unusual runic scrolls, that looked to hold some promising crafting recipes. However, these recipes, like the exit door lock, required runes ... and in their search to date, they had only found ten runes out of twenty four they knew could be found. If they hoped to use the scrolls, or more importantly escape the crypt altogether, then they needed to find the other runes. That, as already had been shown, meant the heroes would have to confront a Succubus.

TOTAL SESSION TIME (UNPAUSED): 4 Hours 23 Minutes. (Roughly speaking.)
GAME TIME SINCE START: 40 Hours 31 Minutes.
QUESTS ACTIVE: 13 QUESTS COMPLETE: 17 (Ignoring Rule Info)

Thursday, 24 January 2019

The Adventure Continues .... 20. Of Goblins and Bugbears (v2.42)

Last session went well with only two minor glitches (detailed below). In fact, I have been able to concentrate more on the second module of late. The entry code now works reasonably well on testing, and so I have now turned to updating and polishing the first area. I have been improving the ability to walk in an area and not be stopped by objects. I also pulled out all my old D&D notes, because the next module will be a rework of my previous pen and paper (PnP) modules. Incredibly, it has been over 25 years since we played those, and so I am using a little poetic licence to rehash the story and adapt it so we can play them again in NWN2. I already checked with the player who played the original and he said he was good with that. After all, it will help him remember the main plot as well. Anyway, here is what was fixed and how the latest session went ...

The List of Fixes

1) AREA ON ENTER COMBAT: There was one remaining instance of a timing of pausing the game when entering an area straight into a combat situation. Those not using auto-pause would not see the issue, which pauses the game before the player has had the "FadeFromBlack" applied. This can also cause a player to drop to desktop if left in such a state for too long. Regardless, this has now been addressed and fixed.

2) SUMMON CLOCKROACH FLUTE: I had a check to only pass "ACTIVATED" items for the script to run. Apparently, it should have been only "SPELL CAST" checks, which it now is. The horn/flute now summons the clockroach again.

A Note on Game Balance

Interestingly, in the last session my players had a "tough" battle when they encountered some bugbears. They did survive and came through victorious, but I thought I would double check the encounter in case it was in any way unbalanced. However, when I tested the encounter myself (allowing the AI to control my PCs), the combat was short and the party came through in a far better state than my players did on the night. CONCLUSION: I think a lot can depend upon the timing of certain spells and dice rolls ... and that the combat was balanced.

Bugbears Attack At Night!
Riverside Path
A Great View!
The Goblin Tower!
Goblin Evil Altar!
A Secret Passage & Trap!
A New Area Beneath The Goblin Tower
The Adventure Continues ... 20. Of Goblins and Bugbears.

Taking The Rough With The Smooth!

NB: Contains spoilers for ALL backgrounds.

"I think that looks like bugbears ahead" said Helden spying a couple of large lumbering giant types. The party responded quickly, readying their missile weapons and waiting for orders to attack or cast spells. Helden was waiting for the right moment.

"Careful, I can also see a bugbear up high, on our left!" said Myara, concerned that Helden was taking just a bit too long to take advantage of the surprise. Then, before anyone could respond, the bugbear on high ground loosed an arrow at the party, and combat was underway.

Instantly, Helden and Flint moved forward to bow the other bugbears up ahead, as Karasten released magic missiles at the bugbear on high ground. By now, however, the rest of the bugbear party on the lower ground were aware of the attack and a cleric among them summoned a beast that ran forward and engaged the heroes fighters. Karasten continued to blast magic missiles at the one on high ground, oblivious to the fact that another three bugbears had joined the combat on their level.

One bugbear broke through the ranks and made headlong towards Myara and Threska at the back of the party, causing Myara to turn tail and run. Meanwhile, Helden and Flint were suffering the brunt of the attack from the bugbear fighters. Then, Helden suffered the Daze effect due to an (unknown)  spell directed at him by the bugbear cleric and the fighter was left floundering for a few moments. Arrow fire and melee attacks did manage to bring down a couple of the beasts, and the spell casters managed to release some summoned creatures as Flint also took a pummelling.

Then Helden fell! He took one blow too many, and although just recovered from the daze effect, he had already taken too much of a beating before Elana had time to heal him so shortly after summoning her own creature. Meanwhile, Threska was desperately trying to keep Myara conscious, casting heal spells at her as the bugbear continued its attacks against the rogue. Then, there was a grunt from flint, and like Helden, he had been the target of his own enemy spell, and also became dazed.

Thankfully, the summoned creatures of the spell casters finally overcame the summoned beast of the bugbear cleric, and having defeated that, were able to break through and attack the remaining bugbears and cleric. At about the same time, Flint got over the daze effect, and managed to bring down another bugbear, but only just before he was brought down himself. Thankfully, though, he remained conscious long enough to allow the summoned creatures to finish the remaining bugbear fighter and cleric, and then turn back to head towards the bugbear attacking Myara.

As the summoned creatures reached Myara, the brave rogue took another hefty blow, and even though she had been taking healing potions, was unable to stand any longer and fell unconscious too. Now, all that remained were Threska, Elana and Karasten, the spell casters, plus their summoned creatures. Thankfully, along with their summoned creatures, they had enough resources remaining to overpower the final bugbear. When the bugbear fell, the battle was over, and the clerics could now move among the fallen administering healing.

This had been a hard fought battle, and the heroes concluded that they had underestimated the enemy. Only moments before the battle, Helden had commented how the battles of late had not been as pitched as ones of old. Now, he could not help but reconsider his words ... and determined new tactics were needed in this area, especially as the denizens appeared more powerful than any others they had encountered to date since returning from the outer planes.

After tending their wounds, the heroes backtracked to an area near to the hermit cave and rested again. It was morning by the time the heroes were ready to return to the task of exploring the region, and this time they summoned their creatures before moving onward, and cast some buff spells ahead of time to be extra prepared.

As they approached the bugbear tower, the heroes carefully navigated their way past and out of sight to avoid further combat for the time being. Helden spied a couple high up on guard, but they did not see the party ... or at least, if they did, they did not open attack.

Following a path around to the east, the heroes found themselves in another valley. It branched a couple of ways. On investigating the first path going east, they discovered it went to a cave that appeared to travel further east and out of the valley itself by the looks of it. This would lead them too far from their goal and so they turned back and checked out the second path. The second path turned south again, and into its own small valley that wound up a small path towards a dilapidated tower. Upon approaching it, Elana could discern the smell of goblin dung. This must be the goblin tower!

Readying themselves for combat, Helden pulled the large ring that opened the entranceway and led the party inside. They were right to be prepared, as at least half a dozen goblins opened attack as soon as they entered. These smaller denizens of the enclave were no real match for the heroes, however, and even the summoned wolf and larger goblin leader were no match for the heroes. As a result, the battle was short lived and the heroes quickly victorious.

The tower was obviously in a poor condition and fallen in places from the ravages of time. There was, however, a stairway leading down, which the heroes investigated. Below they encountered two more goblins, both obviously shaman, as they tried to summon creatures to defend themselves and the altar at which they had been praying. Again, they stood no chance against the larger party of heroes and were soon disposed of ... and so was their evil altar just a few blows later.

The battle over, Helden pointed out a secret door that he discovered just to the side of where the altar had stood. Furthermore, behind where the altar had been itself, there stood a large barricade blocking a way ahead. "We'll check out the secret area first I think," said Helden, the party leader.

A short way into the secret passage, Myara told everyone to hold still, as she tried to disarm a trap. This trap, however, was a little more complex than normal, and she believed the only way to deactivate it was by some nearby statues that appeared to have a switching mechanism related to the nearby trap. After pushing a spear on the statue back, she reasoned the trap was now disarmed, and Helden took the step of faith and tried it out. He ran across the ground where the trap had been pointed out to him, and thankfully, nothing happened. Either there was no trap after all, or Myara was correct. He suspected the latter.

Rounding the bend, the passage led to another stairway that descended further. Leading the party forward, the fighter descended to the area below, and discovered that the decor changed dramatically. Above the decor was simple stone and dark; now, the chambers were elaborately decorated and quite plush. It was clear that nobody had been down here in a very long time. Helden was confident that the goblins never even knew this was here.

TOTAL SESSION TIME (UNPAUSED): 0 Hours 12 Minutes. (Over 1 hour paused combat.)
GAME TIME SINCE START: 36 Hours 8 Minutes.
QUESTS ACTIVE: 12 QUESTS COMPLETE: 16 (Ignoring Rule Info)

Monday, 21 January 2019

The Adventure Continues .... 19. The Enclave of Three Towers (v2.41)

I made some important changes to the campaign after the last session, including some game combat balancing. (Please also note that there is a module update this time around too.) Some of the changes were due to things that *I* noticed during play that my players did not, which indicates how "minor" they were. I have also been looking at the second module again, with respect to players entry, irrespective of their "past". i.e. A new player, a player with a saved game, or a player with an exported Main PC. Once this section of the code is finalized, which it is reasonably close to now, I will then be able to start concentrating on the plot. Time will tell how this pans out, but it is something I would like to finish if possible. After all, most of the the areas are completed, so I would like to make use of them. Anyway, here is what has been fixed:-

The List of Fixes

1) CUTSCENE CONVERSATIONS: While playing our latest session, we came across a conversation (Blood Guard on cave exit) that did not use a cutscene, which would have worked better if it had. I believe the reason this conversation did not was because it allowed a player to switch between PCs to offer other conversation choices subject to PC abilities. However, this ability to do so is not worth the loss of the dramatic effect - in my opinion. Therefore, this conversation, as well as some others (e.g. The hermit and some others) now have been returned to cutscene types. My intention is to add PC ability checks back to these conversations via my own scripting, like I have for many other cutscene conversations. Hopefully, this will be catered for in the next release. In the meanwhile, I will make such conversations cutscene (if I find any that are not) and check their content for ability checks as I go along.

2) CHAMELEON PUZZLE TRAP REPORT: I noticed that Orechin's Chameleon Puzzle indicated that a trap may be present even when the party were given the impression it had not. There was a problem in the code, which has now been fixed, meaning the correct response should now be given for activating a Chameleon Stone which does not have a trap. i.e. "It may or may not have, but none detected" kind of response.

3) INVENTORY FEEDBACK: There was a rare occasion when a left clicking on an inventory item no longer gave feedback. This was due to a new variable that tried to prevent irrelevant feedback during loading a new game. The variable appeared to not reset when it should, so I have now added a backup at the time of calling the item description itself. This should squash the bug once and for all.

4) READBOOK PAGE TURNS: After making Readable Books MP compatible, there was a slight error remaining where a player could be left with the incorrect "page turn" arrows (forward or backward) subject to whether they started the book action or not. This has now been fixed.

5) MONTY BUGS: There were a couple of bugs related to the Monty quests. There was effectively a "double or nothing" XP award bug for the following reasons:- (a) Sometimes the Talanthians would attempt to attack and kill Monty during a battle with the PCs. If Monty died, then the XP was zero. (b) However, there was also a bug in Monty's conversation (if he survived and the heroes rescued him) where it was possible to receive the completion XP twice. Thankfully, my own players only received it once on the night, but I noticed the duplication on testing further and fixed it now. I still have not totally stopped the Talanthians from attacking Monty if combat is initiated, and may leave it as a consequence. However, my ideal goal is to keep him available to talk to after combat and so may have this "fixed" by the next release.

6) MISSING TREASURE: This problem will only affect players who have ever run the v2.12 version of the campaign, which is probably only myself. Back in v2.12, I managed to introduce a memory leak, which was quickly squashed. It caused unwanted placeable objects to be dropped in areas that contained companions. At the time, I wrongly assumed the bad code had affected only those companions the players had interacted with. Last session proved this not to be the case, but also affected the companions the players had not yet met. Therefore, while I had removed the bad placeables related to some areas, we had been left with two areas that were still affected. This in turn affected those two areas in other ways. One aspect was to cause treasure allocation to be stopped due to this memory leak. These remaining areas have now been "cleaned" of the unwanted placeables (in our game), meaning the code will now fire correctly. (NB: Players should search objects again.) As an update, I have now also removed this "placeable drop" code from happening n the first place, as I do not think it is needed any more. I will keep an eye on this to see if I do need to reinstate it (in its fixed format) for any reason.

7) GEMS NOT AUTO-ALLOCATING BAG: There was an instance when collecting gems from fallen NPCs were not auto-allocating into the gem bag carried by a PC. I believe this was related to also finding "gold coins" on the same NPC, which in turn was previously undergoing the same "consolidation" checks that other stackable items go through, which caused the code to stop before the gems could be correctly allocated. The check to consolidate now avoids this "gold coin" item, which runs its own dedicated script instead. Please can players let me know if this continues to be a problem.

8) DEATH GUI AND RESPAWNS: In checking the code, I noticed that the game may respond incorrectly if a player died and respawned using essences, in that dead companions no longer came back when they should do if the player has the correct VOL feat. The check in the code was wrong, and has now been fixed to only stop revival checks for a host PC. All other checks for companions or other Main PCs of other players should now continue to be checked.

9) PLAYER ENTER AREA BUG: This problem was only likely to happen in a MP game, as the erroneous code was checking "players" entering an area. Occasionally, (subject to timing), a player may have received the "MISSING ITEMS" GUI, which when checked proved to be wrong. This is because the code was checking the item on the entering creature rather than the Main PC, which in a MP game (where timing makes a difference) could return the wrong player. This has now been "fixed", but I will keep an eye on this in case I have missed something else. At worst, it is easily worked around, because the player can simply hit "escape" after closing the GUI (which removes the black screen) and continue play as normal. Please report if it happens to you.

10) JOURNAL ENTRY (TOKENS): I have updated a function to prevent a double call to the journal token update function. Now, rather than update the journal (first call) and then update any potential tokens (second call), the updated function now simply passes the data once, updating journal and/or tokens in the same call as required. I did this because I (as the DM on the last session) did not receive the same update as the players and considered this double call to the same function  may have been responsible. It's a minor issue (as the DM is updated in the next journal update anyway), but I applied this update to help alleviate the issue as a possibility.

11) ASSOCIATE NEW AREA FOLLOW: I have added associates to the automatic follow the controlled PC when entering a new area. For some reason, any summoned creatures (and the like), did not continue following their master after an area transition. This has now been rectified.

12) STORE STOCK (SPELL BOOKS): Store are supposed to have "blank" spell books available to purchase in the event the PC "loses" their spell book somehow. In much the same way clerics can "recover" or "acquire" a new prayer book from a sanctuary, the wizard needs to be able to "recover" their own source of knowledge. Certain stores now have these available for just such an instance. The latest campaign release (v2.41) also has some "fix" code to accommodate earlier module releases.

13) ENCOUNTER TRIGGER MOVED (MODULE ONLY): There was a trigger that the players managed to "miss" on their first arrival, which I have now repositioned for future module. The new position should make it impossible to miss.

14) OTHER FIXES: (i) There were one or two other minor TYPO fixes (Taloy about Aubrey). (ii) Fixed code to ensure any abandoned companions would either properly "run away" and leave ... as well as no longer giving a player the warning GUI about abandoned companions if they had asked the companion to leave anyway. (iii) I adjusted the code that balances an encounter, especially where a player has a large party. (iv) Prevented the cave guard repeat asking for permit after being shown once.

The Other Side of the Portal
Talanthians Defend!
And Defend Again!
The Way Ahead Is Blocked!
A Beautiful View!
A Stunning View From The Bridge!
At The Bottom of the Waterfall
The Heroes Meet Zak, The Hermit

The Adventure Continues ... 19. The Enclave of Three Towers.

A Hidden Valley!

NB: Contains spoilers for ALL backgrounds.

"I've decided. We need to rest first", said Helden, concerned that the party could be at risk if they entered the portal in their current state. Without further ado, he then led them back to the cave exit. Just before they exited, Kasandra caught up with them and they left together. As they all exited the cavern system, a patrol of the Red Guard Brigade noticed them and asked the heroes what they had been up to. Helden explained the discovery of the Talanthians and the imminent threat to the village, and Aubrey, the Red Guard leader, suggested they reported their findings to Taloy too, while he secured the caves. Helden dutifully agreed, and led the heroes back to the village (Kasandra made her own way back) whereupon they passed the news to Taloy (while picking up a permit to clear them for wartime duties) and grabbed some rest before reporting back to Aubrey.

Now fully prepared, the heroes made one last report to Aubrey and then Helden led the party through the Talanthian portal into unknown territory. Upon materializing at the portal destination, the heroes found themselves within another cave system. Nearby was a large tome and some sort of control panel. Upon reading the tome, it became clear that the control panel was the means by which the portal could be activated or not ... or even destroyed. Helden instantly knew that their new mission had to include the destruction of this portal to prevent the Talanthians from using it again. For now, however, they needed to explore their immediate surroundings.

The heroes had barely moved along the first tunnel, when a Talanthian guard, tucked into a nearby alcove called out that the portal had been breached. The heroes drew weapons and entered combat. The first guard had barely raised the alarm before he had fallen, and one that followed at the alarm shortly after went the same quick way. However, the heroes did not want to lose the advantage of surprise and so quickly continued along the passageway, after only briefly examining another strange device that the original guard had been standing next to. It had meant nothing to them at this time.

A little further into the cavern system, the heroes met with a larger entourage of Talanthians; this time supported with clerics too. The enemy clerics quickly summoned creatures to aid in their defence, but had not been expecting similar strength in the heroes own resources. A bloody battle ensued, but the advantage of surprise worked in the heroes favour, allowing them to overcome the resistance before it had any chance of an organised defence. By the time the last vestiges of the Talanthian brotherhood had called to arms, the heroes had already tipped the scales of the battle to their own advantage and within a further few bouts of combat, the caves this side of the portal were now in the control of the heroes.

The immediate threat of the Talanthians dealt with, the party of adventurers were now free to investigate the caves, and the first thing they discovered was Monty being held prisoner in a makeshift jail in the cave furthest from the portal. Needless to say, the New Edgeton villager was relieved at the heroes presence and thankful for his release - once they had found the key to his cell in a nearby desk. Happy that the party did not need any more information from him, Monty thereafter made his return to the village, leaving the heroes to continue in their quest.

Having explored the entire cave system, the heroes were now confronted with another barred door that blocked the exit from the cave system. Thankfully, Myara recalled seeing a lever in an alcove they had passed by earlier, and sure enough, when tested, it opened the way to the cave exit. Helden picked up the lead again, and led the heroes upward and out ... and to a wonderful view, high on the side of a mountain, looking across and down into a lush green valley. From their vantage point, the heroes could see what looked like three towers rising within the mist and settled between the hills. What a contrast to the confining dark caves this view offered, which only improved as the heroes followed the mountain pass onto a large bridge that spanned a large drop between the hillsides.

"This must be a valley somewhere within the Holy Mountains, many miles from our own village," surmised Karasten. The flora was definitely different, and the mountains presence did make it likely. Knowing they still had to learn more about how to destroy the portal meant the heroes did not have much time to fully appreciate the view, and so pressed ahead, making their way to the valley below. Before the heroes had descended into the valley proper though, Helden spoke, "Actually, before we go any further, I think we ought to take this opportunity to report back to Aubrey on what we have discovered so far." The rest of the heroes agreed, and so the party quickly backtracked, and used the portal to return to the caves near to New Edgeton where they were met by Aubrey, and to whom Helden made the report.

"So, the barrier problem we have does not look like it's the work of the Talanthians after all, " concluded Aubrey after Helden gave his report, backing the heroes own theory from reading some scrolls found on the Talanthians they had killed. "It's also the reason you need to go back after resting to get to the bottom of this threat." the Red Guard leader continued. Helden agreed.

A few hours later, the heroes had rested and had used the portal once again to return to the caves in the Holy Mountains and retrace their steps back to the Enclave of the Three Towers. The descent to the valley below and the walk across its first plain was relatively quiet, and eventually led to the bottom of the waterfall that they had seen from above only a short while earlier. "One of those scrolls we read spoke of somebody in a cave somewhere around here," said Threska. Sure enough, a quick search beneath the waterfall revealed a cavern exit that could be entered on the far western side. The heroes, therefore, followed the river along its route until they came to a small bridge that allowed them to cross to the other side in safety. Then, leading the way, Helden led the party back upstream and into the cave beneath the cave system they had exited earlier.

"My name is Zak, and I like living alone" said the hermit that the heroes had discovered living in the small cave beneath the waterfall. At first the hermit appeared abrupt, but softened after a little more discussion. Zak even ended up asking the heroes for help in exchange for information about the immediate area. Helden took notes as Zak explained about the history of the Enclave and the Talanthian presence, but was slightly unnerved when the hermit spoke of a book that he hoped the heroes would retrieve for him. Helden's nervousness was not related to retrieving the book itself, but was from the fact that the book to be retrieved was to be found in a crypt potentially filled with undead. Helden hated undead!

After a short while conversing with Zak, the heroes made note of where the crypt could be found, filled their oil flasks from some oil the old hermit offered, and then said their farewells for the time being. Back outside, Helden once again started to lead the heroes downstream, following the river which he knew also led to that dreaded crypt!

GAME TIME SINCE START: 35 Hours 56 Minutes.
QUESTS ACTIVE: 11 QUESTS COMPLETE: 16 (Ignoring Rule Info)

Thursday, 17 January 2019

The Adventure Continues .... 18. Dark Caves & Shady People! (v2.40)

The latest session went relatively smoothly, discounting one or two niggly points, which I have now dealt with. In fact, this blog is detailing more to do with tweaking parts of the code and new updates, rather than fixes. As an update, I did manage to include MP support for the Combination Lock puzzles and the Readable Books and Scrolls that work from placeable objects (not items). Now, when a player starts one of these objects, all other players receive a GUI too, but all they can do is observe or leave. Anyway, without further preamble, here is what you need to know:-

The List of Fixes

1) TRANSITIONS & NEW MODULES: I addressed a minor issue to do with a global variable not being correct with respect to the inventory on a new load. Having addressed this, I had introduced a minor timing issue that caused a new (minor) transition issue (which we experienced on the night), but I have now fixed both of these issues in the latest version too. See also the AI tweaks next.

2) AI TWEAKS (HENCHMEN/SUMMONS/COMPANIONS): At a player request, I took a closer look at the way henchmen (and summons) - and even the companions behave in given conditions. In particular, I wanted to improve the "obedience" of henchmen (e.g. Scraps) and summoned creatures with respect to combat. i.e. To "stand ground" or "follow" their master even when in combat. i.e. A player can now override the "seek and kill" behaviour of these creature types to act more like the way companions do, and gives the player more control of these types.

For companions, I have now made it so that they automatically "follow" after entering a new area, even if the player has the "red brain" representing the AI as disabled. i.e. Even when the AI is OFF, companions will now follow the controlled main PC (and continue to follow) after an area transition, until another "stand ground" command is given again, or the player switches PC. Furthermore, if a player now disables "Auto Pause" from the main menu, the game will now switch all followers to AI on, warning the player to turn AI back off again if they want their followers to remain in Puppet Mode.

These "logic" steps will, hopefully, make more sense for players using a combination of the AI controls available, especially when making use of the Auto Pause TB Combat system. Simply put, the "brain" icon now simply switches Puppet Mode on (red - AI OFF) or off (green - AI ON), which turns both spell-casting and follow either on (green brain) or off (red brain) at the same time. NOTE: The "follow" and "stand ground" commands (both the new GUI and the original shout commands), override the current "follow" status of either AI setting to enable quick and easy movement.

A final tweak was to companions (not cohorts, which I define as a player's created PCs), which now no longer have an influence change if a player merely "inspects" another persons property with their PC, but only when a player actually acquires "stolen goods" - and if the player is playing a "good aligned" party. E.g. A player may now try to open a chest, and the companion will stop them. A cohort does the same on the initial attempt, but does not stop the player thereafter, whereas a companion always will. If, however, the player manages to gain access to said chest and grabs the "stolen" loot therein, then the companion will react with a rebuke.

3) MONEY POUCH GOLD: This is about the third time I have addressed this issue, and after observing some debug feedback, I believe I have finally got to the bottom of the issue: The problem stems from using a function to retrieve the number of stacked items after an alteration to the original stack, even though the code looks solid. So now, I have resorted to using my own calculation code and the stack now returns correctly and the gold issue with respect to money pouches should be resolved once and for all.

4) OTHER MINOR FIXES: (i) Combination doors were giving too much XP (by a factor of 10). These have now been fixed. (ii) The White Empire Guardian now no longer has the "sewer problem" entry speech if the sewer problem has been resolved. (iii) I have increased the range of the "Gather Party" check from 10 meters to 20 meters, to help alleviate having to get too close to the transition object. (iv) Some gold loot items found on creatures were being received as "items" rather than the actual gold. I removed some old code that should fix this.

Heroes Enter A Wolves Den!
The Tunnels Continue Into Darkness
Blood Stained Remains!
Talanthian Brotherhood!
Talanthian Portal Magik!

The Adventure Continues ... 18. Dark Caves & Shady People!

The Dark Underworld!

NB: Contains spoilers for ALL backgrounds.

"It's not like I support everything they stand for", said Myara under her breath, trying to alleviate everyone's fears as the heroes entered the Thieves' Guild. The group remained silent as they passed through the foyer and up to the man in charge at the desk, who introduced himself as Travis Coldblood, and front man for Merkes.

Conversation was a little jilted, even for Myara, who tried to act confident in front of her friends, but came across as a bit of an outsider herself. "How do we become a member?" said Myara, trying to gain better influence after failing to sell any of her traps and items to Travis. The shady dealer simply laughed, but after Myara did some quick talking, Travis agreed that the heroes could go and see Merkes if they really felt they were up to joining. Helden was not happy at all with the run of events, but Myara was curious to learn more.

Merkes appeared a pleasant man, although his motives and smooth talking hid a darker side, which spoke about retrieving a gem for him (which Obi Sten had acquired from somebody else), if the heroes wanted to prove themselves as worthy to join his guild. The heroes agreed they would consider it and left the guild leader to check out other rooms within the secretive dwelling. It was not long before Helden and the rest of the heroes were turning a blind eye as the dextrous little halfling was pilfering her way through a chest she found in a side bedroom. "It's not stealing if it's already stolen. Isn't that what Merkes implied himself about Obi's gem?"

Merkes' place also had a cellar, which the heroes decided to investigate. As they descended the stairs and into the room itself, the sound of fighting could be heard. They had entered a "training chamber" where various shady types were attacking dummies to help "improve their grip", at least that is what Scar said, the man in charge of the training area who spoke with them as they entered.

Scar was no better than either Travis or Merkes ... all appearing to be of the same stock and breed ... and all with very selfish motives. In Scar's case, it seemed he had once tried to double-cross Merkes, and only just escaped with his life, and now at the mercy of his boss. Ever since the event, Scar has been trying to get back into the good books of his boss, and now asked the heroes if they were prepared to do a task for him: Search the sewers for some missing stashes of gold. In one of these stashes, there was also a small platinum statuette that was to be found. Scar was after this statuette, and if the heroes either recovered it for him, or retrieved the map from Grist (who had apparently run off with the only map of the location of the stashes), then he would reward the heroes for their help. The heroes said they would think about it and left the shady dealer to himself and decided to leave the guild for now.

"Let's get back to searching for Monty!" said Helden after putting the experience with the Thieves' Guild behind him. Everyone agreed and the heroes set off to the Shoreline Road, where they located the cave entrance they discovered earlier and stepped inside. Although lighter than expected due to some glowing flora, Helden nonetheless equipped his trusty bullseye lantern, and indicated that Myara should lead on, in case of traps.

"I smell wolves!" grumbled the dwarf, Flint. And as if to prove his point, Myara started to run back to the group claiming a pair of wolves were close behind her. The wolves followed the halfling straight into the waiting arms of the two fighters, and so their pursuit was short lived as the fighters made short work of the combat.

After the battle, the heroes continued their search along the dark tunnels of the caves. At the end of the tunnel from which one of the wolves came, the heroes found the remains of some clothing. Elana pointed out that the lack of blood on the clothing suggested the owner may still be alive somewhere. Hopefully, they belonged to Monty, and their search would not be in vain.

"There are some good sources of iron and silver ore here." said Karasten as the heroes continued to search the cave system for Monty. Then, rounding one passageway, the heroes came face to face with another group of people, who Karasten recognised as Talanthians: an evil brotherhood from the far east who followed the evil god Talan. Combat with these normally distant and evil enemy was inevitable. As the evil clerics summoned their creatures, the heroes did the same. However, the might of the heroes was too much for this small scouting party of the brotherhood, and so it was not long before Helden was left picking through their remains in search for more clues as to what brought them here ... and why? Helden found nothing, except confirmation of a Holy Book that they were the Brotherhood of Talan.

Continuing deeper into the caves, the heroes encountered a second group of the evil brotherhood and dealt with them in much the same way as the previous group. Eventually, however, as the heroes traversed another narrow passageway, they found themselves within a larger cave that had some kind of glowing portal within it. Karasten confirmed from the sigils that this was indeed some of the very rare Talanthian teleportation magik, but was unable to ascertain anything more from it. Then, as the heroes were discussing the portal, out from the shadows stepped a young female who introduced herself as Kasandra. Myara spotted somebody akin to herself straight away, and kept silent as the woman explained what she was doing here.

According to Kasandra, she had been spying on the Talanthians for a number of days, since she heard rumours of their existence. She had been unable to ascertain their business, but did work out that the ones the heroes had encountered were only a scouting group, and that as it currently stood, she and the heroes had the element of surprise with respect to checking where the portal might lead to.

Helden asked Kasandra if she might be interested in joining them in trying to learn more about it, but Kasandra, upon seeing how large the group already was, smirked at Myara and simply said, "I think your group is already large enough." Myara bit her lip and refused to rise to the bait. "However, as an alternative, maybe we should warn the authorities instead of going through just yet. After all, we don't know exactly what we will be facing."

Helden stood thinking. The group were already beginning to get tired, and even if they did try the portal now, how long could they pursue the adventure in their current state. Would it be better to get backup and inform the authorities ... or simply steel the moment and step into the portal now? He needed to discuss the options with the rest of the party, of which Myara was quick to point out that she liked the company they already had, and that they could not trust this Kasandra just yet anyway. Helden did not have the stomach to say that was not what he meant.

GAME TIME SINCE START: 32 Hours 34 Minutes.
QUESTS ACTIVE: 11 QUESTS COMPLETE: 15 (Ignoring Rule Info)

Saturday, 12 January 2019

The Adventure Continues .... 17. Not So Fair Maiden! (Henchmen Control. Transitions. DM Invis.)

Last night's session was a blast! I mean that in a good way, as the session went smoothly and we all had a great time as we brought the story of the Halls of the Goblin Kings to a timely end. The session had a couple of very minor issues, some of which I fixed even as we played they were so small; and there were a couple that added a momentary point of comment, but otherwise everything went well. In fact the worse bug of the night was at the very end when we discovered another transition bug due to trying to jump while a conversation was ending. Everything is fixed now (see below for more detail), and at the request of my player on WAN, I hope to add another puzzle to MP compatibility (Combi Chest). I am also considering adding Readable Books (and scrolls) activated via a placeable to the MP compatibility too. I will report back in the next blog update how this goes, hopefully.

The List of Fixes

1) SHOW GUI TOOLTIP: I removed a bracket from a tooltip that was preventing the XML from displaying the tip on the follow icon. (XML is very fussy about its characters allowed.)

2) FOOD CONVERSATION: Added an option to drop out of a conversation if the heroes did not want to taste the food on the top floor of the Halls.

3) SKULL TRAP WARNING: When reading the book on the top floor of the Halls, the heroes had a sudden Trap Warning message show. This was due to a check missing to determine if the PCs needed warning of a trap becoming active or not. In this case they did not and the check has now been added to fix any further potential issues.

4) QUEST FANFARE: Upon returning an item the heroes had to collect for Orechin, the quest ended and the fanfare showed (but not properly) and there was no fanfare sound. This has now been fixed.

5) CONVERSATION PAUSE: This may just have been a one-off, but I have taken steps to hopefully avoid this happening again: A conversation fired from a trigger to make Sebastion comment about a door. The conversation is supposed to pause for two seconds, but it did not return from the pause, forcing us to have to reload. Between reloading, I altered the code to have the conversation handle the pause (which had not worked before on another occasion), rather than a script. This time around the node method worked. I have since altered the timing of triggers destruction, in case that had some bearing on the pausing function in conversations, which have a pause action in them. There are a few of these, but some, the players have already played (and they worked fine), and others are yet to be played. I will keep an eye on this one.

6) MERKES' DOOR TRANSITION: The biggest issue came at the point we stopped play anyway: With Merkes' front door we encountered another transition that failed because the PCs were still in a conversation (it was just ending), which prevents the transition from firing. The script used has now been replaced with a "conversation friendly" version. Hopefully that really should be the last of them, as I did another search of the module for similar situations.

7) HENCHMEN CONTROL: My player on WAN said he was still experiencing some disobedient companion/henchmen behaviour when using the broadcast commands (my new GUI worked OK). I looked over the code and made some slight alterations to ensure the commands were being rallied more effectively and upon testing all worked fine for me. I tested a number of combinations and all appeared good. I have also tweaked the henchmen default distances to be a little farther away from the main player (6 meters) so that they do not get under their feet. Again, my own testing found this much easier to use.

8) OTHER FIXES (INC DM INVISIBILITY): Again, we found another typo and I have tried adjusting a variable for the Target GUI, which appeared to be using the wrong object (Main PC instead of oFM). That may fix some feedback that appeared slightly off in rare occasions. Lastly, I added some code to help keep the DM invisible to the players. For some unknown reason, whenever I used the DM previously, the players could simply talk to a companion and I would appear (come out of its invisibility to players). I have now added the cutscene VFX to the default effect, which now makes me completely invisible (even to myself). I do get the target circle on the ground, and can still toggle back to the DM default version to see myself and walk through doors (which was also disabled when applying the new effect).

Not A Friendly Welcome!
The Floor Just Clicked!
Helden Takes A Hit For The Team!
Another Pressure Plate.
The Guardian Of The Realm!
Pewter Statues Suddenly Animate And Attack!
What Happened To Her Looks?
The Adventure Continues ... 17. Not So Fair Maiden.

Meet My Darker Side!

NB: Contains spoilers for ALL backgrounds.

Searching the second level of the Halls for the Upper Halls key continued; the heroes carefully navigating the twisting passageways and investigating many small chambers. The search went relatively unhindered, having dealt with many of the goblins already. However, then they came across the Warden! Thankfully, Helden had heard the lumbering beast long before they encountered it. The lack of subtlety of this large noisy creature gave the heroes all the warning they needed to give them the combat advantage and initiative. Then, spying the slow moving creature at the end of a long corridor, the heroes let the onslaught begin, a primary offensive coming from Threska's summoned Dire wolf that ran up to and ripped into the bulky monster threatening to rip it to shreds in seconds.

Helden and Flint then ran into the fray, as Myara bowed from a distance, supported by the spells and missile fire of Karasten and the two clerics. The large beast that the heroes recognised as a Grey Render, took more blows than expected before it finally fell to the ravaging attacks of the dire wolf. With that adversity dealt with, the heroes really were now left alone within the level to find the key they needed to progress.

"Always in the last place you look!" said Sebastion as the Helden searched through a pile of junk, before standing victorious, key in hand. Without further ado, the heroes returned to a large ornate door they had seen earlier in their search and, as expected, the key opened the way to a staircase that led to the Upper Halls.

The heroes had barely enough time to take in their surroundings of the new level when a skull that had been sitting atop a pedestal suddenly lit up and flames began shooting from it and towards Helden. In a panic, Helden ran up to the skull and smashed it, causing it to explode and damage everybody that stood nearby. Thankfully, although badly injured, everybody remained standing, and the clerics quickly went about tending everyone's wounds.

After the healing, the heroes were able to begin exploring the new area. The decor showed a more refined design here, and Sebastion confessed he knew less of this area than the previous. Corridors, while better kept than earlier levels, still meandered back and fourth, interconnecting various rooms and chambers. In one chamber, Helden spied a large book and stepped up to read it. Yet after taking just a few steps, a large dome opened up in the chamber beside him revealing another flaming skull. The fighter immediately turned on his heels and made a quick exit, escaping the flame jets just in time.

Helden suggested they try new tactics and use missile fire to try to destroy the skull from a distance. The problem was that the skull resisted every missile thrown at it, and all the while, the heroes were still subject to its long reaching jets of flame. Standing it no longer, and realising that he had all the protection the clerics could offer for the time being, Helden threw himself at the skull with his magik sword, took aim, and smashed it to pieces, causing the skull to explode and cover him in flames once again. Thankfully, Helden was the toughest of the group, and while badly injured, it was nothing that the clerics could not heal.

Upon examining the book at last, the heroes learned that if they could find the pen, which could be located somewhere on this level, then they could alter their environment by changing the text in this book with the pen. It was a bold plan, but resorting to nothing less than the Editor had already done itself. They "simply" had to find the pen!

Click! Myara came to a sudden stop after stepping onto a circular section of the floor, which had sunk slowly under her weight and then clicked. "Stop! I may have just triggered a trap. I dare not move."

"Wait a moment then!" said Helden, and Myara stood still, frozen to the spot, daring not to even turn her head to see what Helden was up to. A few seconds later, Helden's voice sounded again, albeit obviously a bit farther away, "OK. Now get ready to turn and run back towards me." Helden had told everybody else to get back, in case there was an explosion.

"Great!" Thought Myara, thinking Helden had been preparing something a little more helpful for her situation rather than getting out of a blast radius. Nevertheless, as much as she was disturbed by the thought, she guessed she would have probably done the same. As it was, when she turned and fled the pressure plate, all that followed was another gentle click and no explosion followed. The plate did not appear to be a trap after all, but maybe some kind of switching mechanism, but for what?

This ended up not being the only plate they found as they continued their search for the pen. In other small side rooms, similar to the first, they found others, all requiring some kind of weight to keep activated. Helden determined these were important, and went about dropping abandoned items across the area on the plates they found, as soon as they came across them.

Continuing along another corridor, the heroes turned right at  junction and followed it to a dead end, at the end of which they spotted a large skull, not unlike the smaller ones that shot flames, but this one appeared different somehow. Then, before they could react, the skull addressed them in common tongue. This skull, it seemed, referred to itself as the Guardian: as in the Guardian of the Realm, in which they now found themselves. The conversation that followed was quite lengthy, and thanks to Karasten's greater intelligence, the heroes were able to learn quite a bit more detail about the realm they were now in and the Guardian itself. Most importantly, the Editor was merely a side of Sebastion's own unconscious personality, which manifested itself as his own nemesis!

Leaving the Guardian, the heroes continued their search for the pen, and found the Upper Halls relatively quiet compared to the other levels. Therefore, it came as quite a jump when passing two large pewter statues, that they suddenly sprung to life and attacked Myara and Threska who had taken the lead. The battle was reasonably tough, as the large statues resisted quite a few blows before finally succumbing to the heroes attacks. Once defeated, however, the heroes were able to see what they guarded: The Pen of Creativity. Myara read a small plaque on the pedestal atop which stood the pen ... and sighing, just grabbed the pen. "Got it!"

Relieved that a trap had not been activated (for now the heroes were a little nervous that Myara had not spotted the pressure plate previously), the "sidekicks" to Sebastion's troupe (i.e. our heroes), made a quick backtrack to where they had found the large tome and used it to edit the Editor's own edits, to bring the story back in line with what Sebastion originally wrote. The edit now made, the heroes were confident that they could now progress the story without any further hindrances by rescuing the Fair Maiden and making their escape.

"There's definitely a female crying ahead", said Myara, as Helden received healing for his burns having just run forward and "deactivated" yet another flaming skull. Everyone in the party could hear the cries now, and even Sebastion was confident that the end was now in sight.

Following the sound of the crying, the heroes eventually reached a small cell, in which the "fair maiden" sat. She acted full of charm and elegance, especially towards Myara as the one who rescued her from her cell. Then, within a heartbeat, the charms and pleasantries changed to coarse anger, as the Editor revealed itself by changing from the form of the maiden into that of its true self: a hideous shadowy dark creature. There was a scream, which Helden had insisted was Sebastion, but it was hard to tell where it had come from, as the large built artist was standing quite close to Helden when it sounded. At that point, combat was engaged, and it was to be the final confrontation of this world.

The Editor had been unprepared for such intelligence and brawn to enter its realm, and try as it might, it had been unable to prevent the heroes from rescuing Sebastion, the true "fair maiden" in this sense. After activating a fourth and final pressure plate that had been in the cell where the Editor had lied in wait, the last arm of a nearby portal lit up, and everybody knew they had found the exit to this dreadful nightmare of a world. Helden led the way as everyone stepped onto the platform.

"Thanks for getting me back!" Sebastion was truly grateful for the heroes actions and after making sure everyone had come back safely, Helden led to the matter of the missing commission, the original reason they had come to see Sebastion. The artist wasted no time in giving the heroes the work they needed to fulfil their quest, and after saying their goodbyes, the heroes marched straight over to Orechin to bring him the package and the news. Orechin thanked them as usual and the heroes were rewarded for their work.

"I need to unload some of this stuff", said Myara, who, like everybody else, had managed to acquire quite a bit of equipment from this imaginary world of Sebastion. Without further hesitation, the heroes marched off to the local market, and sold what they could before heading back to the inn for rest and reflection on what to do next.

"I need to visit the local guild really", said Myara the following morning. Everybody knew she was referring to Merkes' Place, the local thieves guild, of which she was no doubt a member. Nobody questioned this side of her character, being just grateful of the fact that she was a dab hand at cracking codes and disarming traps ... well, most of the time. Helden nodded in acknowledgement, and the heroes readied for the day ahead and made their first stop at the local guild of thieves.

GAME TIME SINCE START: 30 Hours 42 Minutes.