No pictures, only text this week ... and that reflects the theme for this week's post: Conversations! I have posted on conversations before, which touched upon styles, but as I have been writing more conversations for NPCs since my last post, I thought I would touch on the topic again.
Observing Boundaries: Protocol
There is no doubt about it, next to area design, writing conversations must be one of the hardest parts of creating a module for me. That's because I like a module to reflect a depth of realism about it with respect to character (NPC) boundaries. i.e. An NPC would not normally allow a PC to wonder around a building (or personal space) without paying them some sort of interest if the PC is not normally expected to be there. So, if the PC is spotted, and the NPC's immediate response is not to attack them on sight as an intruder, then isn't the next normal response to speak with them?
Of course, there are some circumstances where this would not be the case, such as a PC wondering into a public area like a tavern or a shop, but unless a PC has been acknowledged as a guest in some way, then, in my opinion, an NPC ought to confront the PC and ask them why they are there.
I have come across this issue when designing the NPCs and events/conversations possible at a Guildhall (designed by Matthew Rieder by the way). As a public building, my first thought was that such conversations would run their course quite naturally, but then I considered the organisational structure of the building and recognised that boundaries had to be set in place to conform to real expectations. e.g. A PC could not expect to simply wonder through the building to meet the head man simply because they wanted to. Protocol had to be met.
Protocol In Practice
So what started out to be a design choice of one NPC and a conversation, has turned into a number of NPCs and all their associated conversations too. The upside is an expanded adventure with a more realistic challenge. The downside is it takes more time.
The design parameter of maintaining good protocol is closely related to logical flow, and regular readers of this blog will know how much of a prime goal that is of mine regarding adventures that I write. As always, the trick is achieving this goal without damaging the flow and pace of the story as a whole. And to get the balance right between meeting sufficient levels of realism as opposed to putting the player through unnecessary steps.
When the time comes for Beta testers to check over this module, conversations will be the most important area that I would like feedback on, as I believe it can make or break a module.