Choose Your Language

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Episode 9: A Welcome Break?

Another week, and another chip away at module two. I dare not try to think too far ahead on what remains to be done, nor remind myself how long module one took, simply because if I did, I may falter and be tempted to give up. But, I have a number of quest lines in mind now, and the core plot line is starting to take shape within the conversations ... offering some diversions of their own. That is one of the best things about writing for me, how it can take on a life of its own and lead you along a path of the story you never first imagined would be the case.


When the story you are imagining decides to take a detour on its own account, one can either ignore its calling, or see to where it leads. More often than not, as in this case, the setting for the scene in mind for the story's new direction requires its own unique setting. I should quickly add that the area in question did already exist in a manner of speaking, but like a reinstated cutscene from a movie, it managed to escalate to having a renewed area built status. (Screenshot below.)

The good news is, however, with these three latest new areas (since reporting), it shows that the main story is beginning to take shape, and is demanding attention. Furthermore, the various directions it has taken me have been encouraging, helping to fuel my imagination along the way.

To help not venture into "content creep" though, I am considering abandoning a small area (similar to this new one) that had been scheduled, and whose outline I used as a template for the one that may be taking its place. However, as the area is partly done already, I may yet change my mind on that matter, especially as I can already see another good reason to keep it in.


As I have stated before, the Althéa Campaign would not be complete without its puzzles. And they are set to return in the next module. As in the previous module, the puzzles can be solved in more than one way, and some can be completely ignored if they are not your thing. However, if you are not prepared to use your player's "thinking hat", then it's likely to cost your PCs more in either gold or Life Essences to bypass a puzzle. The choice will be yours according to the style of game your prefer to play.

To this end, I have already created my first "ripped puzzle" for module two, which acts as a clue for the player, which they can choose to follow up immediately, or not. Like module one, the flow of the story and the direction in which it unfolds will be left up to the player to decide. It's not going to be "linear", demanding the player follow a particular path, although will remain a focussed story that the player has to decide the order in which they approach the overall game.


The latest updates to module two have had me go over some of the PnP (pen and paper) story background of late, simply because I want to ensure I have the logical flow of events that have taken place, and will take place, in the right order. And there is quite a bit of backstory to cover for the player, which needs to be done in a way that does not come across as an "info dump". Hopefully, in the coming weeks, I am looking at writing the first proper "dungeon" that has its history from my PnP days. One could compare it to a PnP conversion, but of my own material. While there has to be some compromise , simply due to missing models I can use, I am looking forward to seeing the results all the same ... and will, of course, keep you updated.


I would just like to end on a quick note to say that Module One has had fewer and fewer patches in the last week or so, and v2.77 is beginning to look like one of the last patches (possibly the last) that Module One will need. However, my wife is still playing her third play-through (with another main class and different approach) testing for anything else, and I am still eager to hear if anybody else has come across any issues (at all) with Module One. Please let me know.

A Small Quiet Tavern Where One Can Rest & Eat

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Episode 8: Thousands of Words & A Conversation Picture!

This week, I managed my first big step in a plot conversation that serves to bring the two story backgrounds closer together, and introduce a potential new companion. It never ceases to amaze me, however, just how many words add up when creating a five minute conversation that the player's PC will have. I don't think I had much change from four or five thousand words, which took place over two conversations. And that was just the first intro part of the conversation!


This week had me looking over old story notes to make sure I had my story "facts" right. I needed to do this because the conversation I worked on is going to be one of the core conversations where the player is made to refocus on the main story; and so the information had to be clear and concise. The worse thing I find when playing an  RPG, is if after having a conversation, I am left with little indication of what is expected of me. And while this can be helped along by a well placed journal entry, even these need to be carefully worded so the player can fully understand the current state of play. I recently returned to have another go at Two Worlds, but felt "lost" within the myriads of conversations I could have and the inability to fully focus on a journal event, because of unclear targets. This is something I hope to avoid without compromising on choice and depth for the player.

This week, I also had the added difficulty of writing from the two different backgrounds that The Scroll supports: those players who have played my campaign before and those who have not. So that was one reason why the wording effectively doubled for the two conversations I covered this week. However, the good news is that I have now reached a point where the two schools of players will have come that much closer together in their knowledge of the main story.

As I say, the conversations for these two characters are not completed yet, but I have reached a good point where one of them can end up becoming a companion of the party, irrespective of the players background. Now, I only have to add conversation nodes that offer additional information, which also work irrespective of the background the player had originally selected in module one.


This week also had me update one of the two outstanding main story journal entries (background one only) that the player is left with at the end of module one. For players of background two, however, this will be their first introduction to that main storyline, which they had not encountered to date. As I posted last week, this module will certainly change the focus of play for the player, and will be the most dramatic for players of background two (not played the campaign before), as it will be their first encounter with the events that background one players will already have been aware. That said, in the latest conversation, I have even made sure players familiar with the campaign will have a new pleasant experience of their own.

The Hero Learns More About Their Destiny

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Episode 7: New Companions & Quests, Same Old Story!

As the need to patch the first module lessens, I have been able to concentrate on building the second module. This week I have gone back to the main plot (continuing from the first module) and looked at some of the main story conversations I need to write to move the plot forward. As it happens, the NPC whose conversation I found myself writing for this week is known to my PnP players of old, and (if they have a good memory), they may recall some of their earlier adventures related to them. This same conversation also offers one of the new companions I hope to bring with the next module.


This week also saw me having to build another unexpected new area. The problem was due to an encounter that the PCs were going to have (in an area I was working on), which, in my opinion, spoiled the ambiance of the area it was going to take place in. So, rather than compromise the atmosphere of the area in question, the encounter was moved to its own new "prelude" area. Thankfully, I was able to rehash an existing area in such a way that it looks fresh and serves the purpose. The screenshot today comes from this new area.

The new area in place, I was finally able to start the conversation. Thankfully, existing code made the encounter conversation start quite easily, and all I have to do is simply flesh out the story. Nearby, I also started another conversation that employed my new dual conversation path system: This basically allows me to start a conversation for a MP audience when required, but fall back to a SP response when the MP aspect is over, with an ability to switch back to MP conversing if need be. I believe it works well, and means gaming atmosphere can be preserved during cutscene conversations, irrespective of SP/MP play.


From the very start, the campaign has included some items (including "sets") that I had downloaded with the intention of using at some point in time. I believe the original author was called Apep, but I have been unable to find any existing link to his original work. However, the code appeared to have been written for NWN1, and so I had to completely rewrite the scripts required for the item set system. That is now complete and tested as working, which means I can now make use of these item sets. I already have a quest in mind for at least one set. Other sets may or may not make it into the final release of the campaign, but my hope is that I will include all if possible.


As The Scroll was written for people of various backgrounds, whether they had played in my campaign before or not, the main story may not have always been obvious from the start when first playing The Scroll. Because of this, I think some players may be left with the impression that the campaign may not even have a main story. That, however, is NOT the case: There is a main story! The first main cutscene when transitioning to the village for the first time is the obvious allusion to this. (My PnP players already knew and have encountered "Morcoss" from my first ever PnP scenario back in 1989. If you want their full background story, then check out my website: The World of Althéa. Click on the Adventure Background book at the top, and then scroll or use the side menu bar to read the content.)

Many years ago now, my original intention was to wait until I had completed the campaign in its entirety before releasing it, so that I could help focus the player on this story as the rest of the game played. However, as the years passed by, and my health deteriorated, it soon became clear that I needed to break the campaign down into a number of smaller parts/modules to be able to deliver anything at all. At that point in time, I had to change the focus of the story to the PC's immediate environment, and true to D&D tradition, I made their immediate problem the main thrust of the current story ... but that was for module one only.

This next module I am writing takes the PC (and by nature the player) outside of their "bubble" they have been acquainted with, and now thrusts them into the bigger world. (Even though the first module also took the player many hundreds of miles from the village in its own way.) When the player plays module two, they will now take a greater part in the main story that my original PnP players already knew about. This plot line would also be more noticeable to players if they ever tried the first choice of background, as that opens up some events that relate to PnP days and earlier events that a new player would be unfamiliar with.

If the thrust of the first module was to introduce the player to the world, lore and mechanics of Althéa, the thrust of the second module is to bring the player up to speed with what my PnP players already know ... The Main Story! Designing the campaign and making this happen in such a way that does not go over old ground for my PnP players, and yet brings every new player up to speed is the difficulty at the moment, and was even more so probably in the first module. The plan is, that by the end of certain events of this second module, every player should be in the same place with respect to what they know about world events and what they are going to do about them. Background one and two should, hopefully, come together, so that by the third (and final) module, all players will be starting from the same place of understanding.

In conclusion, the "story focus" of second module returns to the true main story for the campaign. I hope this will help players to reflect on events of module one, in much the same way as my players from PnP days already witness familiar peoples and events in the first module that new players obviously cannot. Basically, events in module two transform the events of module one into something more momentous. Compared to a simple "barrier" problem, one may even say, epic.

Encounter Along The Forest Path!

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Episode 6: Having A Bad Were Day?

One of the advantages of starting a new module is being able to incorporate new ideas and concepts that are missing from the first designed module. One such idea I wanted to look at including was the Curse of Lycanthropy. For while the were creature has always been a staple from the first edition D&D, it has grown into quite the gaming element by the time it reached the third edition, which NWN2 is based upon. Sadly, although the OC appeared to include the concept of Lycanthropy in its world (and included such things as belladonna to defend against shapeshifters), the actual mechanics for a PC contracting the curse never appeared to make it into the game. That's where my latest additions come into play.


It is safe to say that there are quite a few interpretations of how the curse may be implemented within the game, but I like to take my lead from 3e/3.5e rules, which is quite well laid out at the D20 Resource Site. And while not every aspect of the information there may translate well for NWN2, I believe much of it can and have added the following mechanics:-

1) Any lycanthropic creature has a chance to infect a victim through its bite. (A bitten victim has a chance to save against the curse bite, and a paladin with Divine Health feat is immune.)

2) Once bitten, the victim does not know they are infected (or believe anyone telling them) unless they make another save after recovering from a transition. At which point, they gain the Change Shape feat that allows them to attempt a shape change at any time. Note, this is a chaotic and evil act, and good-aligned PCs would best avoid voluntary changes into the "beast within" or suffer class restrictions.

3) The affected PC will also involuntarily change into a were-creature on the night of a full moon (three of them in a month) or if they drop below a certain number of hit points while in combat. A PC does NOT suffer alignment changes due to involuntary changes. If the involuntary change takes place due to damage in combat, then they also suffer from "rampage confusion" until the combat is over. Fellow party members would be wise to give them a wide berth.

4) While the were-form may offer some advantages in strength and or overall constitution in a battle, the inability to access ones equipment or cast spells while in the were-form, should be a good enough incentive to try to rid themselves of the curse. That and the ever present threat of potentially killing a party member during a rampaging confusion moment of course.

5) Curing a PC from the Curse of Lycanthropy can come in a number of ways:-
  • Cleric of at least 12th level with Heal or Remove Disease within 3 days of contracting it.
  • Remove Curse during a full moon phase. (May take a number of attempts.)
  • Use Belladonna within 3 days of curse, but reduced chance as time passes and attempts made.
Note, if the person administering the belladonna is a healer, their skills are added to the chance of curing the victim of the curse. Furthermore, belladonna is poisonous and would require further treatment to remove its own debilitating effects, even if it successfully removes the curse.


Even though I may have veered off area design this week, the incorporation of such mechanics takes its own time to include, as I have had to write the scripts to work with the existing framework. Thankfully, I was able to use my spell hook script to work in the cure for the different spells, and even made the OC belladonna now have the ability to "cast" two different options: The original OC protection against shapeshifters ability, and now a second option of attempting to cure a person of lycanthropy when targeted by the user.

The hardest part was finding a place to include the Shape Change feat for the player to control for their PC, as the feat would "disable" if placed in a normal hotbar slot, due to the PC changing form. i.e. The feat would become greyed out when the PC transformed into a were-creature. This was unacceptable, as the player needed to have the option to click it while in beast form to voluntarily come out of the form (if they made the saves). Thankfully, the slots to the far right end of the hotbar (where the camera angles and the Althéa Main Menu are located) remain available at all times, irrespective of form, and so I was able to switch an existing (non-critical) statistics button into the Shape Change feat button all the while they had the curse. And although the button located this way does not show the "cool down" option (of five minutes between shape change attempts), I was able to add an On Mouse Enter callback that does a similar thing of displaying the time remaining as a notice text.

The various aspects also included changes to the spells and feat 2da files, as well as the TLK file, which holds the new feat texts. One of the most important changes affected the displays of the moon phases with the calendar GUI, which needed some subtle changes. Unfortunately, these changes mean the code is not going to work "properly" with older versions of the code, most likely because it does affect the timing. However, all version 2.70 and up will now have the correct code in place and be compatible with future updates. (Unless something critical ever pops up again of course.)


The code now in place, I have done some basic testing, and all appears to work as expected so far. I just need to finish some belladonna item coding and the "cool down" feedback and that is done. Then all I need to do is place the were-creatures ready to infect their victims with a bite! Going forward, I intend to write a scenario based on were-creatures, and then, perhaps, maybe look into that other classic: Vampires! However, in the meanwhile, I hope to get back to area building in the weeks ahead.

Were Creature Gaming Aspects In Detail