Too Many Combinations!
This has come to light as I reach the final stages of a side quest that included every parameter listed above. Considering how long this particular quest took me to write (and that this quest is only an optional one that a player may not even play), I have decided that the designing of future quests in a similar manner (covering every angle as per my original design remit) is no longer a realistic goal.
I do not come to this decision lightly, as the end result of the quest I wrote that does have these goals included has turned out as versatile as I had hoped for. If I could have continued in this vein for every quest I wrote, then I believe the results would have been quite stimulating for the player. However, the continued effort required to achieve this kind of open-ended play is unachievable for a single developer, which I am. At least, it is if I want the module released sometime this decade.
Note: I do not intend to do away with any of these design concepts, but to avoid the kind of problem I had when writing the last quest I have simply decided to streamline the approach by aiming to use only one of these concepts (or two at the most) at any one time. And as the ability to attack an NPC cannot easily be prevented (or changed) without it feeling like I am "forcing the play", I expect any new quests I write from now on to involve fewer NPCs or limited access to the same quest instead.
To put this problem into perspective, but without going into too much detail, the last quest involved at least 4 important NPCs, 3 of which would be considered critical. (The quest itself involves even more NPCs.) Every NPC can be killed at any time by the PCs, meaning plot points had to make sense if the PCs managed to pick the plot up at a later point. Furthermore, the same quest could be accessed at 5 different nodes subject to which NPC was still alive and/or what the PC had already learned. This required an inordinate amount of variable and quest log tracking to ensure it always made sense when played. As it turned out, the nature of this particular quest forced these requirements of flexibility of design from me. However, with hindsight, there are one or two changes I would have made to reduce the amount of work, and if I had not already gone to the trouble of coding it, would have removed them from the original design.
Future Designs (Allowing NPC Deaths)
As I intend to keep the ability for the player to be able to attack any NPC at any time (and for other builders who wish to allow the same) I recommend these design structure points for writing quests:
UPDATE: I am looking at a system that makes NPCs permanently "friendly" (invulnerable) all the while a quest is active from (and further involves) them - and if there are no other mitigating circumstances. (I.e. If there is a way to do the same quest even when killing the NPC, then they will not be made invulnerable.) While this is a minor compromise, I believe it is justified as it allows me to concentrate more on the plot than spending too much time trying to protect against unexpected play.
1) Try to avoid further quest progression with the NPC quest giver, in case
the PCs kill the NPC after receiving the quest or at any stage
2) Ensure any other participating NPCs remain unknown (or undiscovered) until
their involvement is required, in case the PCs kill them before their
involvement in the quest.
3) Ensure to either allow the quest to be continued with the death of an NPC
(by the PC gaining information another way) or end the quest in the journal (if
for a side quest only).
4) Only allow "quest recovery" options (PCs can pick up on a quest a
different route) for the main quest only. (See next.)
Player Freedom (Poll results)
From the results of the "Player Freedom" poll to date, 28 out of 37 voters are happy with at least "minimal plot help", with half of those ready to accept "no plot help" and suffer the consequences of their actions. With this in mind, it would appear the builder does not need to be overly concerned about covering every angle of play (or a player's style of play). It also suggests the player is prepared to co-operate ("play along" with an obvious plot line) and not be upset at failing a quest if they have not done so. To put it another way, as long as the builder protects the player against "accidental" failings on their part (like destroying a critical plot item with a stray fireball), then the player is ready to accept that any antagonistic action they may take with their PC has the potential of ending the quest early (like if they killed the quest giver rather than helped them).
Therefore, rather than always allow a quest to be "recovered" if the player stumbles onto a path of the quest after having killed the quest giver (point 4 above), some quests would simply not be offered in such circumstances.
There are only 5 days left to vote in this poll if you want to have any more say.
Here is an updated list for the altered spells for Better The Demon:
- Virtue (D4 Temp HPs & longer duration.)
- Ray of Frost (D3 Damage)
- Divine Favour (Can scale to 6)
- Endure Elements (Increase Resistance To 3 Change Amount to 0)
- Summon Creatures (Duration 1 hour per level)
- Expeditious Retreat (Duration 1 minute per level)
- Magic Missile (Missiles increased to max of 10)
- Ray of Enfeeblement (Duration 1 minute per level)
- Resist Elements(Decrease Resistance To 12 Change Amount to 0)
- Ability Spells (E.g. Cat's Grace) (30 mins per level. Max 10 hours. d4+1 alter.)
- Invisibility (10 mins per level.)
- Knock (No scaling but line of sight required.)
- Animal Trance (Corrected range and caster level.)
- Barkskin (10 mins per caster level.)
- Aura of Glory (CHA from 4 to 2. Save Fear from 6 to 5.)
- Protection From Energy (Duration 10 mins per caster level. Resistance & Amount 12 x caster level.)
- Animate Dead (Permanent until destroyed. Scales with level.)
- Bestow Curse (Decreased effects to 2 as per description.)
- Magic Circle v Alignment (Changed to turns per level.)