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Friday, 21 December 2012

The Scroll: An End of Year Round-Up

As another year draws to an end, I have to resign to the fact that The Scroll will not be released this year. However, God willing, I hope to finish this module in the coming months and if all goes to plan have it released before the end of next year.

For this week's post, I thought I would take a look at all those things I have been working on for the module since its beginning. So, when I say this is an "End of Year Round-Up", I actually mean a round-up of everything to date for the end of this year, as opposed to only those things I have done this year. Consider this an overview of The Scroll showing some of those things it will have to offer. And while I have taken the liberty to linking to some posts you may have already read, I hope to some people it may be fresh reading, while to others, a reminder of what they have been waiting for.

We All Have To Die: The Death System

Having come from a pen and paper (PnP) background of playing Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), I have always found the "death system" of many RPGs to be rather weak. Yet, I must immediately add that I can understand why; because dying in an RPG is so much easier and quicker than in a PnP game. With that in mind, I wanted to design a system that kept the immediate threat that death brings, and yet also make it easier to manage at the same time. Thankfully, my PnP campaign (prior to porting it over to the NWN game) was working towards a new era, and I had already in mind the makings of a new magik concept called the Life Essence. This turned out to be the link I needed to help bring about a unique death system to the world of Althéa. For with the new essence, the PC may not meet death as quickly as they could do without it.

Builder's Note: Designing this unique death system was one of my first goals, and it turned out to be much more difficult than I first imagined. Not only were there issues with timing how the Life Essence actually worked during combat, but also what to do if a companion died. The system became more complicated when I accounted for companions being removed from the party bar upon their death and not accessible again until raised from the dead. To enable the player to still be able to access equipment they may have been carrying, I had to introduce the "Tombstone System". Later complications included coding for a player potentially abandoning those fallen companions, and making sure plot items were never accidentally discarded.

Time To Rest: Vigour, Resting & Time

Another issue I wanted to address with the official setup was the passage of time and how often PCs could recover their spells. I found the official campaign's (OC) ease of spell recovery extremely unbalanced, and it seemed to rob the game of its original tactical and careful use of spells, potions and scrolls. For instance, the idea of Scribing Scrolls or Brewing Potions ahead of an adventure was part of the planning that a good player would consider to complement their spells. When time and resting were no longer an issue for any reason, including learning new spells, then it weakened these other aspects of the game as well. So, to help redress the effects of time, I introduced a couple of more ideas adapted from original D&D rules: The hunger and vigour System and an amorphous time system.

Builder's Note: This was another one of those first ideas that I had, which turned out to be more difficult to implement than I first hoped. The problem was complicated further because I wanted to use my world's own calendar system. Add to this the concept of overland travel and quick travels (which still assume the passage of time like on an overworld map) and you have many different alterations to time and all its impacts on the PC, including spell times! Furthermore, due to the nature of the way spells work in time compared to the game world time (i.e. 15 minutes real time equalling 1 hour game time), you can see why all aspects surrounding time had to be very carefully managed, and is why the gaming concept for The Scroll called Time Warped Spells was introduced.

What's An Adventure Without Travel: Maps

As you can probably tell by now, altering or improving gaming aspects of the NWN engine that helped to bring back the same feelings as a PnP game were top on my list of improvements for my campaign. Even from the very early days, maps and their management was one of the first things to be given an overhaul, including having the ability to link between overworld maps. But when the overland map was introduced with Storms of Zehir (SoZ), it introduced a great gaming tool for maps, but one that I needed to make work with my own time systems. Then, finally, as my knowledge of XML coding slowly improved, I was able to develop that golden grail of mapping, the fog of war system, which until this time had not been available to NWN2 - and a reasonable map pin system to complement them.

Builder's Note: I do love maps and the exploration of them. My only regret at this time is the inordinate amount of time it takes me to design an area, which limits my own world and the amount of areas currently available to it. Don't misunderstand me, there are certainly enough to explore, but I don't think I will be happy with the amount until the entire campaign is finished, which means finishing modules two and three. Working with the new SoZ overland maps turned out to be quite a difficult process too, mainly because of timing issues and making new GUIs work as they should. Furthermore, I had to consider attrition due to accelerated overland time travelling. What happened if a companion died while travelling on the area map due to starvation? Finally, I also edited many of the "goodies" and associated scripts and 2da's with the overland maps to make sure only the treasure drops and monster encounters fitted my world design. e.g. The updated crafting system for the World of Althéa uses different quantities of ore/planks/skins that can be found, etc.

New and Exciting: New Challenges, New GUIs

For me, being able to introduce the player to a puzzle or a new way of playing the game was one of my main goals. However, I wanted to make this integrated in such a way that a player could use or NOT use as much of the new material as they wanted to. For instance, when I played PnP D&D, some players enjoyed the puzzles, while others just wanted to simply pursue combats, or concentrate on crafting! Some enjoyed reading background from tomes they would find, while others wanted to pursue a little looting and perhaps capture a spellbook! However, with the ability to craft ones own GUIs in NWN2, a whole raft of events has been opened up to us. So, whether you only ever use the Main Menu, or do take up the challenge of a few puzzles, I hope you enjoy the new look and challenges all the same.

Builder's Note: Being able to code one's own GUIs must be one of the biggest additions to come with NWN2. Not only does it allow the builder to alter many of the OC GUIs to personalise the look, but it also allows the builder a way to introduce many of their own gaming ideas. For me, the way to make a NWN2 game look new and refreshing is to take advantage of this coding system and really make your module come to life in ways unexpected to the player. If you need a guide to know where to begin, then take a look at my own guide. Furthermore, if you like the look of some of these systems, some are already available to download from the Vault. Look at the left hand pane in this blog for further details. For other systems, you will just have to wait until I finish the module! :)

So, that's probably going to be the last post for this year, but I intend to keep doing what I can do to the module until I next write. As a Christian, I do not celebrate any of the seasonal festivals, and so there will not be any "delays" for that reason. And know that I always hope for the best for my readers no matter what the time or season my be!


Master Changer said...

Lance, thanks for doing this roundup! You've accomplished quite a lot, including some things I wasn't aware of! For example, the list of active spell effects wasn't something I had picked up on. It's potentially the key to some many other issues, including things like voluntary magic dispelling.

In PnP, if I understand correctly, you can auto-succeed on dispel checks against your own spells as a way to voluntarily end them. In NWN2 this only works when you cast (low-level) dispels on the ground against your AoE effects. While this is still valuable to do sometimes, it doesn't help against your effects cast on characters. This means that spells with downsides, like Tortoise Shell, become a lot less attractive since you can't decide when you want to put them away.

Anyway, great stuff all around! You should be really proud of yourself. 8^) Happy New Year!


Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi MC,

Picking up on some missed topics was something I had hoped this post would achieve. The Active Spell list is one of those items that I like to see myself in games, and is why I designed it. It has been a while since I worked on that part of the system, and I know there are some bits that need finishing before release. For instance, I believe I had to edit the spell scripts for some (if not all) to have it work. Although, I also believe many were also handled simply by the pre-spell firing script if I recall correctly.

As it happens, I did not look too closely at dispelling spells, but, as you say, maybe it is still something that can be achieved if looked into.

I will be content when I have been able to release this module to the world! So many people have helped over the years, that it would be a way of thansk to them too.

And a very Happy New Year to you too!


Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...


It looks like there was a typo in that post you refer to as well, for I had the time ratio wrong.

It should have said 1 minute real time equals 4 minutes game time, instead of 15 that it originally said.