I have been feeling somewhat demotivated over the last couple of weeks, for obvious reasons if you have been following the blog. I have also just learned that one of my regular players can no longer make the sessions, which is always a shame, but he had important life issues to deal with and must prioritise. There are other issues as well, not least my health, but the bottom line is, they all take a toll on my ability to concentrate and motivate myself to do anything creative.
So I thought I would make a post that might encourage people to make comments about what they like or dislike in a module. I know I have asked this kind of thing before, but time has moved on and there may be new readers of the blog who have something to add or say, as well as any regular players who might wish to post comments. I want to be able to concentrate my efforts in the right direction and try to focus on events and plot lines that players enjoy. To this end, I have chosen a few areas with my own questions that may inspire comments. If I have anything to say about the questions myself, I have added a Bard Comment.
Durations: Assuming the term campaign stands for a chapter of a story, which itself is made up of several scenarios, please comment on the following:
1) How long do you like a scenario to last? (How many minutes or hours?)
2) How long do you like a chapter (campaign) to last? (How many hours?)
Bard Comment: My current working is to have most scenarios last many hours, but I recognise how this may detract from the overall pace of the main story. As time appears to be a low resource for many players, I am now considering reducing scenario times to only a couple of hours at most, so that one may be fully playable in one or two play sessions.
Resolutions: Some people may like short stories, whereas others may prefer epics. While scenarios help define short sections within an overall larger story, some people may still prefer to reach a resolution before others. Therefore, along the lines of the previous questions:
1) How long are you prepared to follow one story line before reaching a resolution? (Months? Years?)
2) Do you prefer many campaigns = one story or one campaign = one story? (*)
(*) NOTE: The difference is that the world and PC being used can (if preferred) remain the same, but a different story line would be used.
Bard Comment: The scale of the main story is a hard one for me to judge. As a builder, I quite like "epic" story lines, but hindsight has proven not all players have the stamina to see it through to the end. Part of the problem in the past was my preference to have the PCs develop their full number of levels over one story line. However, this goal meant more scenarios were required to develop a PC before the final outcome was met. And the higher the level the PC, the bigger a scenario would need to be to give the PC enough experience to develop - unless the DM wanted to artificially exaggerate XP rewards to compensate, which I was not prepared to do.
However, NWN (compared to PnP), allows a quicker PC development simply because of real time combat. It is far easier to have more combats and generally move forward in an evening session (and gain more XP) than when played in PnP and, consequently, PCs can develop more quickly in a shorter span of real time. This, in turn, means scenarios can be more focused and allow pacing to be more easily controlled. In such a case, it can be argued that it would be better to have one campaign be a complete story and allow the same PCs to move onto a new story in the same world, even if it is at a new location.
Previously, slower turn-based combat and my desire to have the PCs fully level over the course of the entire story required the story to cross many campaigns, which I now believe has had a negative affect on its overall pace. For this reason, I am proposing a change to one campaign for one story, which would mean players would reach a resolution at the end of a chapter (campaign) irrespective of their level, which would, in turn, then allow me to add new dimensions and stories for their PCs to encounter within the same world. However, I await comments.
Design: Scenarios and campaigns come in all shapes and designs, but each player has their own preferences. Some prefer wilderness, some cities, others dungeons and some prefer other planes of existence. Each design affects the style of play and experience for the player. While a campaign will often come with a mixture of these, it is good to know what people like about each.
1) How much NPC interaction do you like or expect in each environment?
2) Which type of scenario style do you prefer and why?
3) How important is "eye candy" and "prettiness" for an environment?
Bard Comment: Here, I am trying to determine what attracts or excites players about a module "visually". Does every detail need to be included for every environment, including every NPC? How much does the player like to have to "work" for their information, and how much do they like to be based on what they actually see.
Companions & Other NPCs: Some players like to have companions, others don't. Some like them to be an independent personality with things to say, while others prefer them to keep silent. Some like NPCs to ramble on about the world about them, while other players like them to stick to the point.
1) How interactive do you like characters? (Often have something to say, sometimes, never?)
2) Do you prefer background chat or just to the point? (Verbose or plot points only?)
3) How many companions is a good number to have? (None, one, as many as possible?)
4) Does it matter to you if a village has "static" characters rather than wandering or changing?
Bard Comment: In the days of PnP, all NPC interaction would be an on-the-fly response by the DM to any player comment. While this is still manageable when a DM is at the helm and is what makes a DM'd game more enjoyable, there are still some minimum's that I believe should be automated for the player. It is these minimums that I am asking people to comment on ... or more if they expect more.
Mechanics: Some players like the NWN mechanics unchanged, exactly as they come out of the box, whereas others prefer the House Rules tweaked to resemble PnP rules, where such things as resting, attrition, dying, potions and spells all have to be carefully considered.
1) Which House Rules are important to you? (None, some, as many as possible from PnP?)
2) What is your opinion towards mechanics or rules? (They add to your experience or not?)
3) Are there any rules or mechanics you really don't like?
4) Are there any mechanics you believe should always be in place?
Bard Comment: I know most players probably like rules and mechanics to appear as little as possible in a game, preferring more of a role-play style of game. However, D&D is based upon stats and rules and therefore must make reference to them, even if it is behind the scenes most of the time. It is with this in mind, I have asked the above questions and how would you like certain "rules" or "mechanics" to have an impact on your game. Once implemented, of course, these types of changes are not made reference to until they have a direct impact on the PC during play. Then, have they become a nuisance or a fair state of play?
The Story: Players fall into different categories according to the style of gaming they prefer. Some like to see their PC develop in their attributes and skills, while others like to develop different characteristics of their PC in other ways, like their personality or having a specific goal in mind. Whatever the player prefers to do will change their approach to the main story and affect the type of story they like to follow. With this in mind:
1) What style of story do you prefer? (Quick and simple? Long and complex? Mixture? Other?)
2) Do you like stories that allow long conversations or succinct ones?
3) How would you like to have an impact on a story?
4) How would you like a story to have an impact on you?
Bard Comment: No matter if a story is complex or simple, some players may be expecting a different end result from it to what the builder had in mind. While plot twists can be exciting, they may also be off-putting to a player if they feel the effort they put into the module still did not compensate them in some way. For some, it is the story alone that drives the player on, but for others, it may be the desire to improve their PC's skills and attributes, or to another player, a different aspect of their PC. These questions are trying to discover what it is players like to come away with after playing a scenario (module) or reaching the end of a story.
I invite all visitors to this blog to comment where they can so that it may help me focus on some of my own ideas and, hopefully, give me motivation to get involved again. While I am reasonably certain I will become motivated again without any comments, your input may be what I need to start again sooner. Thanks.