Saturday, December 23, 2006

Pirate Cards

Before I left town, I wanted to post my comments about Adam Miller's recently-released Pirate Cards mini-game:
My Vote: 8 - Excellent, Recommended to Anyone
Like Demon Cards, Pirate Cards is a brilliant bit of scripting and a pretty fun little mini-game. I put 6-8 hours into it this week, and generally had a good time. The custom music, and especially the vocal track, is outstanding (though I'd prefer to be able to turn it off, because after playing for 6-8 hours it can get overly repetitive). The voice acting talent is pretty good, though the recording quality isn't in some cases--you hear a lot of "puffs" on the microphone, which is hard for me (at least) to ignore. I did find the playing arena to be a bit bland--not much different from Demon Cards', and that's a shame given the possibilities in the new toolset. Also encountered a few bugs (see previous post)

The game itself is very addictive, to the point that you'll tell yourself "just one more game" for over an hour --especially if you're after a particular card. It should make for a great distraction in the Dark Waters campaign. I do hope, unlike Demon, that you'll encounter more and more players over the course of the campaign rather than have all card-related activities confined to that one bar...sort of like Pazaak was used in KOTOR/KOTOR2.

At this point, while I'm sure many players could take me down with ease, my deck of elves and spells is sufficient to have a ~90-100% success rate against everyone except the elf player, who gets me around a third of the time. It was fun to optimize it, and the game in which I won that final winged elf girl was a "woot!"ing moment. My favorite NPC opponent is the dwarf, because he goes all out with the craziest cards in the game.

But at this point, I'm not really interested in pursuing the other deck options. I'm sure some players will try every combination they can imagine, but I'm satisfied until Dark Waters comes out. I do think that the online competitions that must be starting right now are probably where this game really shines...but I'm just not into online gaming. :)

Looking forward to your upcoming campaign!
Happy Holidays everybody! -B

Friday, December 22, 2006

Leaving Town for 10 Days

I'll be out of town starting tomorrow and won't return until January 1st. While I'm looking forward to visiting with family and re-introducing our daughter to her grandparents, aunts, and uncles, I'm going to be a little bummed to be out of touch from the NWN community during this time. With so many people having the coming week off, we may see some interesting releases during that time -- though I'd expect most will be after January 1st.

Leading the way of impending releases is Tragedy in Tragidor by Phoenixus. I'm very interested in this release -- its NWN1 version was (so I hear) the very first module to be elected to the NWN1 hall of fame, and still is remembered by many of the older players (lebowski/furnaski in particular) as among the all-time greats in terms of the depth of its atmosphere and setting. Nevertheless, partially because I didn't enter the community until mid-2004, I never got a chance to play it. It also, reportedly, is now fairly badly broken due to patches. Therefore, I'm looking forward to playing this module in its NWN2 glory when I return from vacation--based on what I'm reading while lurking in his beta test thread at the Citadel, it looks like it's going to be a lot of fun.

As a preview for the upcoming release, here's an interview (dated 24 August 2002) of Phoenixus on the original module, his building philosophies, etc. Here was his synopsis of the plot and setting of the module:
Actually Tragidor takes place in the Forgotten Realms in the Silver Marches. The town itself is made up, and no it doesn't have a relation to Terrible Trouble in Tragidore the module. It's northeast of Silverymoon on a backroad that slowly winds itself into an S shape and turns back upon itself before taking you to Sundabar.

The module is about the final days of this town and the forgotten heroism of its own people on the Savage Frontier. You too are a hero, but you are only one of many. You eventually will see that not all heroes are adventurers. Sometimes they are just common people.

It was intended to portray that these people have hard lives, that are sometimes brutal and harsh, and don't always end happy. But they have courage and they have heart. More importantly, they are people, just like you and me.

Sounds wonderful. Can't wait to play! :)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

FRW Base Mod Released

Lord Niah has released his Base Module as part of the Forgotten Realms Weave project.

The Base Module is a very handy set of scripts and documentation to give any builder a quick start on module construction. Here's the module description:
This module includes base scripts and items for the Forgotten Realms Weave (FRW) project, including a player starting area with a trainer and basic merchant.

Other features Include:

-- Wandering Monster and Rest tag system
-- Hardcore bleeding or OC death system
-- Chest-based Random Loot system w/ breakable items
-- Flavor text, ability, and skill check triggers
-- Demonstration companion and "Sunken Flagon" style Inn
-- Demonstration OOC (Out of Character) Start Area
-- Patcha's Sitable chairs
Even if you're not building a FRW module, this looks like a great resource for someone who is starting a new module.

Also, as a side note, Forgotten Realms Weave is one of the more interesting community projects out there right now. Their goal is to establish a unified setting for module construction by making it easier for authors who are creating modules set in the FR to maintain consistent history, characters, and rules. I'll be very interested to see what comes out of their efforts--early returns are promising.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

First Google Hit

I got my first hit from a Google today, a sure sign that I'm hitting it big. :) The keywords?
rogue dao studios nwn2 planescape
This can hardly be a surprise, because Rogue Dao Studios' Planescape series has to be considered among the two most eagerly anticipated upcoming community releases, along with Adam Miller's Dark Waters.

I have to admit, I was a skeptic when I first saw their announcement last September. Rogue Dao seemed, at first, to be a pale emulation of Ossian Studios, who were making a huge splash at the time with their recent release of Darkness over Daggerford. They seemed perhaps overly confident, and were throwing out very aggressive timelines along with bold claims about their upcoming product. Furthermore, as a group that originated, in part, as a NWN1 Persistent World team, I had doubts about whether they'd recognize what it really takes to make a quality single player module -- narrative, writing, etc. It's not just about custom content and the combat balanced, after all.

Since their annoucement, however, Rogue Dao has done nothing but build their reputation as a productive and quality community group. From the looks of their recently released trailer, they seem to be making great progress -- in precisely the right areas -- on their first module. Their forums are very active, and include a series of "developer journals " by everyone involved in their project, tutorials, and general discussion of modding and design--and that's just their public forums! Clearly, a lot of good work is going on.

I can't judge the module before its release, of course, but Rogue Dao seem very organized and rich with talent. And, of course,they have the advantage of working on a module in Sigil, which was an underutilized setting among NWN1 modules -- even given the custom content challenges that would be necessary to bring it to life..

Overlooked Module Report posted, December 2006

I just wanted to give a shout out that the Overlooked Module Project has released their December list of overlooked NWN1 modules. One of them is one I added to the list a while back, Elena's Tale: Roses for Rosa, which is an absolutely delightful short module. Here are their December selections:
* The Cup of Akbar - Act I. Big punch for only a 2.5 MB size mod - both desert and underground environments - doesn't seem to have any bugs. (rec'd by Steve Savicki) Currently 785 downloads and 5 votes.

* Elena's Tale - Roses for Rosa. It's a very charming, very short (~45 min) module, with a number of small but nice innovations. (rec'd by Berliad) Currently 1189 downloads and 25 votes.

* A Grim Fate for the King - Chap 1. If you like a challenging, good combat, surprise filled, atmospherical, well thought out mod for low level characters, this is it. (rec'd by lebowski and ericdoman) Currently 3029 downloads and 14 votes.

* Missing Persons. This mod made for a very enjoyable evening. Overall, it starts off somewhat routine, but the interweaving of the various plot lines and the way they come together at the Castle is very well done. (rec'd by El Dano) Currently 562 downloads and 12 votes.

* Wendel's Woes. A fun, albeit brief, module. Considering it was made by a Hall of Fame creator, the low number of downloads and votes is rather perplexing. (rec'd by Alklau) Currently 1175 downloads and 21 votes.

Readers who know me may remember that I was actively involved in this project over the past year. I recently decided to step down from my responsibilities in that group to pursue other interests, one of which includes operating this blog. I'm delighted to see that they (primarily caesarbear) are soldiering onward. Also, I'm sure that they'd welcome additional faces around there, both in managing the project and making suggestions for overlooked modules. So head over to their thread if you're interested in participating.


Last night I finished up Avendale. As I mentioned previously, it offers some really excellent low-level adventuring. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite keep up the momentum of the first several gaming hours all the way to the finish. Even so, it's very, very promising. I'm more and more certain that we're going to see some amazing modules in the not-so-distant future. Here are the comments I posted with my vote:

Avendale is a very promising, though ultimately somewhat flawed module. The first two hours or so are fantastic--low level adventure in a sleeply little rural town and some various minor intrigues nearby. The writing is excellent. There aren't really any obligatory quests, but instead there are lots of side quests and side areas (some of which are quite involved), which gives the module a great "explore-y" feel. Everything is low magic (though the loot does pick up a bit near the end, perhaps slightly too high), with nice "realistic" features like the ability to loot any equipment from enemies, etc. Areas are beautifully sculpted (especially Avendale!), and the author makes great use of the scaling and tinting features to create some new creatures. Also, there's a decent pair of companions that result in a pretty solid little adventuring party...though I would have liked to learn more about them.

Nevertheless, I felt the module ran out of steam after those first two hours. Open-ended modules are great, but I think it's important to have some sort of overall plotline to ultimately give the player a goal. Ultimately, while exploring Avendale and its immediate surroundings was a lot of fun, there weren't really strong, compelling reasons to leave the town save for a few minor side-quests. I don't need someone to ask me to save the world or anything, but the only reason I ultimately left Avendale for the East was that there was no where else to go (except, perhaps, to find the wizard...which wasn't really weighing heavily on my mind). The module also ends rather abruptly.

Even so, in terms of total hours of engaging gameplay for a true adventure module, this module is tops on the Vault right now. Furthermore, the author showcases some excellent skills that speak of great things to come. So thanks for sharing this, and good luck in your future efforts!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pirate Cards Released!

Adam Miller's Pirate Cards has been released! :) The module is here, and Maximus conducted an interesting interview of Adam to go along with this release.

This can probably be considered the first "major" community release for NWN2, even though it is not a "true" module in the sense that it's more of a mini-game than a stand-alone adventure. But it will give us an idea of how the leaders of the builder community will use the tools we have available in the NWN2 gaming engine (UI, custom content, etc).

I'll be particularly interested to see how the voice acting goes. A lot of groups have been talking about using voice acting (Adam Miller, Rogue Dao, etc) with NWN2, probably due to the cinematic cutscenes. It could be great if done well, but I think it has the potential to really hurt a module. I'm a bit uncertain whether the community will be able to pull this off, as even professional gaming companies seem to have a very hard time working with with voice acting talent (e.g. Aribeth in NWN1).

The only module with voice acting that I remember for NWN1 was Stefan Gagne's ElegiaEternum . Though, as I recall, it actually worked pretty well in that module. Of course, most, if not all, of that acting was of the children, which might be easier to get to sound right...?

I'll download and install it once I finish Avendale. Don't want to do that beforehand as it apparently contains some overrides that were necessary due to current restrictions with custom content. If I have time tonight to play it, I'll post some initial impressions.

Daggerford wins Best RPG Mod Award

Just thought I'd pass on congratulations to the Ossian Studios team, whose module Darkness over Daggerford won the best RPG module award at the 2007 Independent Games Festival Modding Competition. Readers may remember that Challseus's similarly groundbreaking (though for different reasons) module, Rose of Eternity - Chapter 1: The Coming, won the 2006 modding award.

Daggerford is now in line for the 2007 Best Mod award this March (hat tip to Maximus at NWVault). Also, rumors have begun to circulate that Ossian might be working on something NWN2 related for it's next project. I'll refer you to a wonderful little rumor-mongering post by Lariam for that reference. :)

I had the pleasure of writing the Vault review of Daggerford. While it may have a few faults, it really was a groundbreaking module for NWN1. It offers players the chance to explore a wide-open landscape full of intrigue and adventure to a degree that is unmatched by any other module. All I could think of as I played it was how similar it was in feel to the original Baldur's Gate. The score it received in my review is the highest I've given among the 11 modules I've formally reviewed for the Vault.


As a sidebar, I spent last night playing a surprisingly good module, Avendale. From what I've seen of it thus far (2 hours into it...I play slow), it's an extremely solid little module and makes for a wonderful first adventure for a player or party. Looking forward to finishing it up tonight.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Pirate Cards Out Soon?

Adam Miller mentioned today on his blog that he is very close to releasing his Pirate Cards game to the Vault soon. It seems to be very similar to Demon Cards, which was his Magic the Gathering knockoff that worked in Neverwinter Nights 1. It was an extremely clever bit of scripting, and, as it turns out, a ton of fun to play! So I'm looking forward to seeing his nwn version.

Like Demon Cards was in Demon, Pirate Cards will be a mini-game in his upcoming NWN2 series, Dark Waters. That series looks to be a custom content masterpiece, and hopefully the first module will be available in a few months.

Working on my NWN2 OC Review

I spent last night and tonight finishing up the first draft of my review of the NWN2 Official Campaign. It's a monster, currently weighing in at roughly 5300 words--but there's a heck of a lot to cover!

My review will be one of several that will make up the NWVault Review Guild's take on the OC. I'm hopeful that those reviews will go up by the end of the month. I'll link to it from here when it is officially released, though I'm sure those who frequent the Vault...and that should be everyone who reads this blog...will see it there as well. If you'd like a preview, a running account of my impressions as I played the OC can be found in my NWN2 First Impressions Thread on the Obsidian forums.

Also, in the interest of sending back some much-appreciated traffic, Hugie (Hall of Fame builder from NWN1 and all-around splendid chap) has released a MS-Word document on his "blarg" containing the premise for what will be his first NWN2 module, The Star Mounts. Looks like it'll be an interesting little adventure. It appears he'll use that module as an opportunity to learn the new toolset, which he'll then use to put together his larger project, The Lynncairen Saga, which is planned as a dual release for NWN1 and NWN2.

Hugie's modules are always worth checking out, so it's great to see him making plans to dive into the wide-open field of NWN2 modding!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Flight From Death

Last night I played another small H&S, The Flight From Death. Here is my vote & comments:

My vote: 5 - Fair, Solid yet Unremarkable.

I like the basic concept, which is that you've been imprisoned for a crime that you didn't commit and have to escape. There are also some efforts at the beginnings of a story here, and some basic roleplaying. For example, it seems as though one aspect of a conversation varies depending on your character's class. I also was pleased to see that a companion is available and functional -- this is the first community module I've played that uses one.

But I think this mod could be improved greatly with some adjustments. For example, the spawning design seemed a bit off. Spawn triggers were placed just past the entrance of many rooms. While functionally this works fine, the effect was that guards appeared out of thin air, which just seemed weird--not to mention was frustrating at times, because I couldn't tell where the guards were until after I entered the room. Area design might also be improved a bit. Interior areas are nicely decorated, but the outdoor areas were completely flat--and noticeably so. Granted, it's a city, but few cities have perfectly flat ground. Adding more variety to the profile -- even a small channel in the center of the street--might spice the place up quite a bit. Also, the doors in the city do not connect to anything (I'd recommend plot locking them instead with some pop-up text explaining there's nothing of interest inside), and there even appeared to be a backwards door in one of the dungeons.

Still, it's a promising first effort, and I thank you for sharing it. -B

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hero's Path Module List Updated

I was home today taking care of my daughter, who has come down with a handy pair of ear infections. She's doing much better than she was yesterday, so she wasn't napping much, which meant we spent a lot of time playing on the floor. But there were a few down periods, and during that time I was able to update the Hero's Path module list.

I've been maintaining that list for a year and a half now. Basically, it's designed to allow players to take characters that they already have and play them in other Neverwinter Nights 1 modules, thus extending their careers. As such, the list tries to identify modules for which it would be appropriate, with regards to both the level of combat difficulty and the story, to play with a pre-existing character who has already had adventures, rather than with a completely new character. I'm proud of the list. It has been very well received by both players and builders, and it seems to have also helped stimulate other sorts of player-maintained lists, such as the Themed Campaign list and the Class-Specific module list.

In fact, at the risk of being a bit (ok, very) narcissistic, I think it helped change something about how the Players-Modules forum works. When I started frequenting that forum, a lot of the discussion was actually just between builders, and often had to do more with building modules than playing them. I wouldn't say that this sort of discussion has disappeared, of course, but players seem to me to have a bit more of a voice these days in the forum. There's now a general recognition that players can contribute something positive and constructive to the community that goes beyond just giving feedback to builders on their file pages. I'm definitely not the only one who has brought about that shift in attitude, but I'd like to think my activities on that forum have helped in that regard.

Nevertheless, I think this is the last time that I'm going to update the Hero's Path List. I'm shifting my focus over to Neverwinter Nights 2 these days, and that's where I want to focus any of my organizational efforts. I am tentatively planning to start a similar list for Neverwinter Nights 2, assuming that I can get an moderator to sticky it for me. Presently, of course, there aren't any modules that would fit that criterion. But over time, perhaps 3-6 months down the road, we should have enough modules to make such a list worthwhile.

So that said, I had better go work on my review of the NWN2 official campaign for the Review Guild before QSW roasts me on a spit in her dragon cave. I finished the OC days ago, and yet I'm only in the second of 7 sections for that write-up. So, off I go!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Shadow Keep

Tonight's short module fun was Shadow Keep by Coldfrost. My voting comments:
My Vote: 6 - Good, Qualified Recommendation

This was a fun, challenging little hack 'n slash romp, just like what was advertised. After playing the OC for the past month, it feels so good to be able to focus on a single, low-level character in battle...just like old times. :) My paladin did well for herself, though she did rely on rest to keep healthy--healing pots are not abundant, which gives every successful hit from a foe an added sense of tension. For such a low-level module, the variety of foes (mostly undead) that you face is nice, and I felt threatened, though still capable, throughout the module. So kudos on getting the balance worked out so well. I also appreciated that you made the keep a bit more interesting than your generic hallway/rooms set up that you often see in this sort of dungeon crawl.

A few minor points. First, the lesser shadows (nice effect by the way) don't seem to have the unarmed fighting feat, as I kept getting an attack of opportunity when fighting them. They might have been too tough, of course, if they did have that feat. Second, the utility of this module as a "starter" module is hampered a bit by the "monty haul" nature of the items you receive. By module's end, my paladin had magical gear in every equipment slot and had gotten her AC up to 27. I will, unfortunately, probably need ditch everything and re-equip to use her in another module. Otherwise she'll be way too powerful.

Still, I had a fine time playing this. It's a great little effort, and I can see how you were able to learn most of the major functions of the toolset while creating it. Looking forward to your next work! :) -B

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

From Within: An Unknown Enemy

This was the first module I've played for the recently-released NWN2! From Within: An Unknown Enemy is more of a demo than anything, though it introduces some of the characters from this upcoming series and gives a vague idea about the plotline. Nice way to kick things off. Here are my comments that went with my vote:
My Vote: 6 - Good, Qualified Recommendation

This is a very nice little prologue that does a good job of introducing some of the characters for your future story. Not much really happens, but it shows off some good scripting and game design. I really like how exploration is encouraged through interactive items, etc. Cutscenes are very well directed, with good use of lighting and animations when appropriate--though I have to admit that watching the cinematic cutscenes without voice acting will take some getting used to after spending so much time with the OC! Also some good humor in this mod, particularly with Susanna. And you have to love a module that features Otto's Irresistable Dance. :)

I vote a qualified recommendation for two reasons. First, it's so short that nothing really happens. We'll have to wait for the actual story to begin until next module; this one essentially just introduces the characters and gives vague ideas about what the plot will be.

Second, while there is a nice flair to the writing, there is also a fairly large number of typo/grammar issues throughout the module. It is far more solid than the module description led me to fear that it might be, but I'd recommend going over all the dialog carefully (as well as your module description on this page). You might try using codepoetz' SpellPlug ( to catch obvious typos. Also, if you're not a native English speaker, I'd recommend soliciting the help of someone who is to read over and help you edit your text. Finally, I experienced one game-crashing bug.

Overall though, it's a fine early contribution to the vault. Good luck with your campaign -- I'll keep my eye out for your first real module! -B


Hi folks,

I decided to start this blog to have a central place for my NWN-related activities on the web. I plan for this blog to focus primarily on two topics: comments on NWN2 community-made modules, as well as my opinions on news in the community. Also, at this time, I'm in the very, very, very early stages of developing my own short module. If I ever get to the point that I'm prepared to commit myself to that project, I'll break news of it here. :)

This blog might be updated frequently, or it might be something where we'll go months between posts. We'll see how it goes!