Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Chronicles of Charnia - The Exile

Here are my comments on The Exile. While perhaps not as visually spectacular (though it's still quite nice), I thought it was overall a better module. Nevertheless, for the full experience, I'd definitely encourage folks to play through both modules. There's an awful lot to like about this setting that slowdive_fan has created in his two short modules.
My Vote: 7 - Very good, deserves a look

I thought The Exile was much improved over Escape from Charn. The pacing was much better, overall, with challenging combat to punctuate the story and make it feel like one really has to earn one's success. There are also more roleplaying options, with the welcome inclusion of some skill checks in the dialog as well as the chance to make decisions here and there. I also thought the writing, in particular, was much more polished. Fewer typos (in fact, I didn't notice any!), and a bit more vivid. There were some cases in which it was a bit more to the point than probably was necessary (see my comment about the jail) but overall I thought it was good. I particularly enjoyed the talking animals--even those just there for "color," like the dog who says he can't talk to you because he's too busy sniffing something. :)

The story is also a good one, though was one that probably could have been expanded quite a bit if you had wanted. I'd have been particularly keen to meet and have encounters with some of Exile's captains prior to the final fight, as they seemed like an interesting bunch. I enjoyed my companion (Randel), and honestly couldn't imagine going through the module without him (I played a fighter/thief, and hit lv. 5 by the end).

My one major suggestion has to do with the final battle, which was a bit anticlimactic compared to what it could be (modest spoilers follow, sorry!!!). Huge battles must be extremely hard to set up, but as this currently is it seems a bit too easy so long as you don't get the Exile aggro'd on you. I honestly am not sure if it's possible for the Charnians to fare poorly in that fight. In my case, the first time though it was over very quickly--probably no more than 5 rounds of combat. Yes, it helped that I was tossing fireballs, but even so, it was pretty easy.

One approach to make the battle more difficult...or at least more dramatic...would be to try to script it to have multiple waves, each led by a different captain. This was very effective in the larger battles of the OC, as well as the Wyvern Crown of Cormyr, and would allow each captain to play a more prominent role in the game, even if just at the end. You could also try to make the battle a bit more strategic, perhaps by setting up some of the town archers behind some cover and by having some hastily thrown-together fortifications for the townspeople to fight over. Finally, the end of the fight was a bit disorienting because it happened so suddenly. Perhaps you could add a bit of mock-combat as the end cutscene begins, showing the Exile taking out a few prominent town members or something before you-know-who appears to save the day.

Nevertheless, this is a fun module and is well worth playing. It also shows a lot of promise for a module creator who looks just about to hit his prime. I'm looking forward to seeing what you end up doing with your future work in the toolset. Thanks!

Chronicles of Charnia - Escape from Charn

The last few nights I've been playing slowdive_fan's pair of modules based on the Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. They're a nice little pair of modules in a potentially fascinating setting. Here are my comments on Escape from Charn. I'll post a separate entry for my comments on The Exile to try to prevent overlong-post reader fatigue syndrome.
My Vote: 6 - Qualified Recommendation

I found this to be an interesting little module with a potentially fascinating universe. I have unfortunately not read all of the Narnia books (I think the last I read was #4...?), so I may have missed some references. But this does a nice job of setting up a very interesting setting for roleplaying modules. I'm still not exactly sure about everything that happened, but I'm intrigued to learn more in future modules.

As others have commented, visually it's a very attractive module. The trailer and closing movies are wonderful, and obviously, the waterfalls are stunning (especially inside the cave). Furthermore, I found the vast rolling hills of the forest to be very dramatic and well done. I love wide open spaces--somehow it reminded me a lot of a cross between KOTOR and Kansas. :) I also really loved the animal companion--that, in addition to Elos, of course, was the element that really gave this a Narnian feel.

The writing was good overall, though I thought the module's story was a rather rushed. I had a hard time keeping up, because there is a lot to it and it goes by very quickly. Combat is very light (and, with Snowball and his(?) 27 AC, not particularly challenging), sidequests & side areas are fairly rare and very brief, and the story moves along very quickly. I ended up feeling like I hadn't done much when I finished, and yet I'd supposedly traveled across a dark and terrible forest, snuck in and out of the castle of an absurdly powerful tyrant (is she so powerful that she's Elos pack up his people and run away?), and entered a long-sealed cave with a set of precious artifacts. I'd probably recommend either increasing the number of areas through which the player must travel (perhaps the secret entrance is protected by some long-forgotten monster guardian or something), increasing the combat in each area, removing the map pins to allow exploration to play a more important role in the game, or expanding the array of things one can do in the Port Town--or all of the above.

Nevertheless, as an early nwn2 module, this is fun and worth checking out. The concept is terrific, and I'm looking forward to playing both The Exile and your future larger campaign. Thanks for the module. -B

ENoa4's new blog

New blog added to the links.

ENoa4 just wrote me and let me know that he has launched a new rpg-related blog. In addition to having a fabulous banner, as well as some wonderful sketch art by his son, this blog will also chronicle work on his upcoming NWN2 module, Keep on the Borderlands. It will be a remake of a classic PnP generic D&D setting module of the same name. I found this review of the original PnP module via wikipedia, which gives some info about the module. Here's an excerpt:
The Keep and the wilderness sections perform their duties rather well, so let's go straight to the Caves of Chaos. The Caves do have their difficulties - where do all of these groups get their food? - but these questions can be explained with a little work (they're being supplied as the humanoid's own equivalent of the Keep, perhaps?) and are not as blatant as those which appear in many other modules. There are quite a number of humanoid tribes based in the caves, watching each other across a ravine. They're not fond of their neighbors, but they can't wipe them out - no group is significantly stronger than the others, and an all-out war with one would leave them so weak that the rest would pick them off easily. Into this situation stumble our adventurers...
Sounds like it could be interesting. :)

1.04 Patch Released

The NWN2 1.04 patch was released today. Unlike the 1.03 patch, which brought with it huge performance increases (at least on my machine), this one seems to be quite a bit more of a minor issues patch. In fact, looking through the patch list, I only noticed one or two items that I'm likely to even notice. A lot of effort appears to have been put on things like user interface issues (e.g. hotbar functionality got a lot of work...and with the quickcast menu, my use of hotkeys has been reduced considerably from nwn1, to where I've never filled up the single row that was originally provided), whereas larger issues like toolset stability, PWC distribution for persistent worlds, etc, haven't yet been addressed.

I'm sure those larger issues take a lot more time and effort, though, so I'm not going to get too cranky. I frankly just think it's wonderful that Obsidian & Atari continue to support their product! Hopefully the 1.05 patch will include some more substantive fixes. This patch seems primarily oriented towards players of the official campaign--and that's fine--but I'm hopeful that Obsidian will now start to direct their efforts more toward the modding community.

Since there's not much of a reason for me to upgrade, I'm going to hold fast at 1.03 until I'm forced to upgrade to play a module. I imagine that won't be long, but this way I can avoid encountering any early bugs with the new patch that might reveal themselves over the next day or so.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Pool of Radiance Released

It is worth noting that Markus "Wayne" Schlegel has released chapter one of The Pool of Radiance Remastered, which is a remake of an early computer rpg by the same name. I have two short modules that I'd like to play before I check it out, but this probably should be considered the second major module release for NWN2, along with Tragedy in Tragidor.

Schlegel's other well-known effort, the A Hunt Through the Dark series, was a widely heralded module series for NWN1--though not one that I ever got a chance to play, unfortunately.

Tragedy in Tragidor

I finally finished Tragidor tonight. Feels good to be playing modules again. :) Here are my comments and my vote:

My Vote: 9 - Outstanding, a Must Have

Tragedy in Tragidor sets a high, early bar for what modules can be in NWN2. It's immersive, fun, and has a good, tight story that generally is told well from start to finish. I think this is a great example of what authors can do when they try to stay within themselves. It doesn't try to be too big, but it still has enough to it to make for a very satisfying experience.

Visually it's stunning, and really shows off what the toolset can do. The exterior area design also offers some really innovative gameplay, as the wooded areas require genuine exploration and discovery--something never seen in the OC. I had to rely on survival skill in exterior areas to keep on my toes, whereas before playing this module I'd decided that skill was all but worthless! I was also really impressed with the attention paid to sound. There is a haunted crypt in this module in which the screams of the dead literally will echo in your ears--it's chilling and wonderfully done.

I also just want to briefly commend you on the combat balance. My lv. 6 sorcerer found this module to be an excellent challenge, even with the able help of her companions. It was hard enough that I had to play cautiously much of the time, and I had at least one party member die in several fights, but only once did I have to reload because of a failed fight. I will say that there were a few too many lookout-they're-behind-you-spawns for my taste, but I enjoyed the variety of opponents--especially the incredible hordes of monsters you get to face from time to time. There's nothing quite like the feeling of taking out 20-some foes with a single fireball. :)

Overall, the module was well-polished, with one exception: the writing. While stylistically the writing is excellent, there was unfortunately an excessive number of typos (at least in the version I played, which was version 5), ranging from simple misspellings, to repeated words, to missing punctuation. This was particularly noticeable in the town early in the module. I'm not overly anal about typos, but in this case it was really distracting. I initially tried to keep track of them, but soon gave up because there were just too many. Therefore, if you haven't already, I would really encourage you to sit down and spend and evening or two giving the writing one last pass. You might not catch everything--and that's ok--but you'd undoubtedly improve it tremendously.

Fortunately, even with that one small mark against it, Tragidor shines as a wonderful example in these still-early days of NWN2's life. Until today, it was the only large-scale, high-quality module available thus far. With that in mind, a 9 on the new vault rating system seems to perfectly sum up my opinion on this module--it absolutely is a must have.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Forgotten Realms Character Creator Uploaded

I've just submitted the FRW Character Creator to the Vault! It will be available for download as soon as it is approved--probably tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon.

I've also added a page to the FRW wiki for the release. It's just meant to be an info page, though. The main project page will be at the Vault from now on.

The only snag is that my webcounter company, statcounter, is apparently doing some maintenance tonight, as I can't access my counters to add one for this project. I'd like to be able to keep track of hits right from the get-go. I'll try again before I go to bed.

Anyway, I'm feeling good. Obviously this thing represents nothing like the amount of work that's required to make a "real" NWN2 module, but it was a challenging (for a novice) little project--and a lot of fun to put together. Hopefully some others will enjoy it and find it useful. I'm really looking forward to adding to it over time, especially when the next FRW modules come out!

With the exception of any bug fixing that becomes necessary, I'm going to focus on just being a player for a little bit here. I still haven't finished Tragidor because I've been so excited to get the character creator out. And after that, I already have 5 modules in my to-play list, and the Pool of Radiance group is intending to release this weekend. So I've got some work to do. :D

Friday, January 26, 2007

FRWeave Character Creator - Beta Release

Work on the module went very quickly tonight, so it's with great pleasure that I am issuing the beta release of the Forgotten Realms Weave Character Creator. It is feature-complete--I just want to be sure folks are happy with it as it over at the Weave boards before I send it to the Vault.

New features added since Alpha:
* Sal the Bartender, who can give a new player the low-down on the place, sell drinks, and most importantly maintain a secondary, premium item store featuring custom items from FRWeave modules.
* Merina, an NPC from Tragedy in Tragidor, who will give the low-down on that module.
* A trash barrel, which is good for getting rid of miscellaneous 0 gp items after playing through a module.
* A strange crystal capable of transforming nodrop items into droppable items (thanks to caesarbear, who wrote the scripts and conversations I shamelessly pirated for this functionality in his module, Zorco's Keeps).

(Note, that there are a couple of items on the ground that I've used to test the crystal. I'll yank them in the final release.)


(sorry, I've deleted the download as it has been upload to the Vault)

I'll append part of the readme below, which describes the module's purpose for those that are new:

FRWeave Character Creator, v.0.4 Beta
by Berliad (
Updated: 1/25/07


This module is designed to help players create characters that are appropriate for Forgotten Realms Weave modules, though it should work well when leveling up for any module. It will level your characters and give them an appropriate amount of gold for their new level. It will also permit you to purchase a limited assortment of items to create a balanced character (emphasis on "balanced") that is ready to start a new module. Finally, it serves as a showcase for FRWeave modules, allowing users to meet NPC's from these modules, learn about the module offerings available, and purchase some of the custom items from these modules.


* Level up your character & receive an appropriate amount of gold for this new level.
* Equip your character with a limited array of supplies appropriate for your level. For low-level characters, these include silver & cold iron masterwork items.
* Meet with NPC's from FRWeave modules and learn about those modules (currently there is only one such NPC).
* Access the Bartender's Store, which contains (at a premium price) custom items from FRWeave modules.
* Sell off loot from previous modules, ditch unwanted items, and re-equip your character between adventures.
* Remove no-drop items from your inventory.

FRWeave Character Creator Status Update

I've made good progress the past two nights on the character creator. The Tragidor NPC (Merina) is in, with dialog. I've also added a new character, Sal (bartender from Sunken Flagon in NWN2 OC), who will run the Artist's Refuge (the pub where the module is set), along with his dialog. Sal also operates the special store containing custom FRWeave items. Currently it only contains items from Tragidor, but items will be added as FRWeave modules come out in the coming months.

I'm planning to hold a brief 1-2 day beta period, with the goal of uploading the module to the vault Sunday evening. To do list between now and the beta release includes:
* Add animations to Sal's dialog.
* Figure out why the area behind the bar is still unwalkable. I may have to work with the walkmesh cutter trigger thingie, not sure.
* Add a trash barrel to the inn.
* Add, perhaps through an out-of-character prop, a no-drop flag remover so users can get no-drop items out of their inventories.

The latter is by far the one I'm most uncertain about, though in theory it should be a fairly easy thing to do. Zorco's Keeps by caesarbear has a script that does this, so I'm hoping it's a fairly straightforward thing to steal that script (with credit, of course!) and install it in the module. We'll see.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Eulogy: a gamer and his keyboard

My keyboard died last night.

One minute I was sitting down to write the last bit of dialog for my character creator... The next minute, spaces were being added at random, characters were mapping onto the wrong keys, and my computer tower was screaming at me with a torrent of beeps. I blew it out with an air can, turned off everything, tried again. No avail. I let it sit unplugged until the morning and tried again, but there was no hope. My keyboard was dead.

This keyboard and I, we had a good time together. We came to be together shortly after my arrival here in Arizona, my previous keyboard having been the terrible victim of some poor packing decisions (truth be told, she was already on her way out before we took that cross-country drive...). Thinking back on it, I remember how excited I was to have a keyboard with securely-connected backspace key once again.

And what fun we had. Together, we fulfilled our promise as the spawn of Bhaal. We defeated Diablo and his brothers. We explored an alien world in Anarchy. We set out to conquer the galaxy and wrest it from the clutches of the evil empire. We were an evil genius, bent on global domination. We rescued Neverwinter from an elven maiden driven mad by love, learned the secrets of Undrentide, explored the Underdark, and ultimately even conqured death. And, of course, we saved the universe countless times over again thanks to the Neverwinter Nights community.

I'll miss that keyboard.

But today, I have a new partner. We're still in that "getting to know you" phase, so things are still a bit awkward. But, with time, I think we'll be able to do great things. Wish us luck. :)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Adam Miller's Toolset Review Online

NWVault's NWN2 Review series continues today with Adam Miller's toolset review. It's fairly concise and generally quite positive, though certainly indicates that there's a lot of room for improvement. One of the major problems he cites is toolset crashing and, much worse, module corruption. That's a major problem that needs to be addressed.

Nevertheless, he reports that "the NWN2 toolset is a nice compromise between power and ease of use, not perfect, but better than any other toolset I've worked with." That's very good news, coming from one of the most prolific module creators for NWN1.

Monday, January 22, 2007

My NWN2 OC Review is online!

I'm pleased to report that my review of the Neverwinter Nights 2 Official Campaign (OC) is now online over at NWVault. Nice to be chosen to headline this weeks' review series, though I suspect it has more to do with being sorted alphabetically than anything else. :)

By my evaluation, the OC's score came in as a 7.71 (between "certainly above average, probably worth a look" and "very good, definitely worth a look" according to our guild's standards). While the second and third acts would have received excellent ratings, the first act really dragged down the scores across nearly all categories. Here's my concluding blurb on the Fun category:
As you can see, I have mixed feelings about the official campaign. I had a great time in the second and third acts, but the first act was, at times, hard to sit through. But even the first act had some great moments, which made it worth playing. Furthermore, the game engine itself works well, offers spectacular visuals, improved rules, and the toolset provides opportunities for our community modders to take their craft to a new level. As a whole, I'm thrilled with the product Obsidian has delivered, and very encouraged by the support that they and Atari have been able to provide the community thus far. With ongoing support from a team of programmers and designers dedicated to this product, there's every reason to think that Neverwinter Nights 2 will be an outstanding platform around which our community can thrive for years to come.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Romping through Tragidor

A cold/stomach bug has knocked me back the past couple of days, so I haven't made as much progress in Tragidor as I would have hoped. I've also been working on my other blog (a baseball-related blog) a bit, as spring training is approaching and I'm behind in the news. I've been asked to write up a small blurb for an upcoming publication profiling my favorite team, so I need to make sure I'm current.

Nevertheless, I got a few hours in tonight after the wife and kid went to bed. Tragidor continues to be a lot of fun. I do think that the module would benefit greatly if Phoenixus would take a few evenings to do one full proofreading pass--or, if nothing else, utilize spellplug to catch the really glaring misspellings. And there are a few more "ambush"-type spawns than I'd prefer. But even so, this module has been both challenging and extremely fun. The story is picking up too--I'm honestly not sure what is happening, exactly, but I think I'm about to find out. :)

Quick comment about the nwn2 engine: while the exterior areas in nwn2 obviously have tremendous flexibility, I've become quite impressed with the flexibility of the interior tilesets as well. One of the powerful ways that the interiors can be modified is via tinting. The screenshot to the right from Tragidor shows the power of tileset tinting really well. This is the castle interior tileset, but two of the tinting channels are set to be entirely black, with only the cauking of the room having any color. The effect is a genuinely surreal area that looks completely unlike anything I've seen in the game yet--for a second I thought this was a custom tileset! Kudos to Obsidian for allowing this flexibility and to Phoenixus for taking advantage of it in a very creative way.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Upcoming NWN2 Reviews

Tonight QSW reported that NWVault will release a series of reviews on NWN2, focusing on both the official campaign and the toolset, the first of which will appear this Monday, the 22nd. My NWN2 OC review is among those to be released--it's exciting to be a part of such a large effort. Hope you find it interesting and relevant.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the others have to say, particularly in terms of the toolset reviews. The official discussion boards tend to be a place of extremes, be they the grumbling of the never-satisfieds or the worship of the fanboys. The names they've lined up include some of the highest-profile community members, most (all?) of whom are actively working on significant NWN2 projects. These folks will be able to offer a far more balanced, informed, and insightful set of opinions than we've seen thus far, and that absolutely includes any of the gaming magazines' takes. It should be a great week.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I'm winded

I just finished one of the most thrilling battles I've experienced in an rpg in a long time. It kills me not to talk about it in detail, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't already played Tragedy in Tragidor.

Suffice it to say that my lv. 6 sorcerer expired her spells about a third of the way through it, even though she'd already killed massive numbers of enemies with fireballs and burning hands, and had disabled at least the same number with clouds of bewilderment. She had to make a frantic retreat down a hallway and rely on a dinky wand of missiles and, yes, her freaking longsword (she's an elf) to take down those who pursued her. She got lucky and survived with 2 hp remaining, ghostly visage expiring two round sprior to the end of the sword fight with her last foe. Meanwhile, her barbarian and rogue companions waged a desperate fight against the remaining hordes, eventually reigning triumphant thanks in large part to the barbarian's great cleave.

I'm actually mentally exhausted and yet exhilarated at the same time. For what ultimately is not (apparently) a major plot-related battle in this module, that's quite an accomplishment on the part of the author, Phoenixus.

The other thing that was really exciting about this module was how the outdoor areas were used. While the OC had nice outdoor areas, there were always clear lines of sight in every direction, so you were rarely surprised. Phoenixus's module contains outdoor areas that are genuinely lands that must be explored. Trees and brush are abundant so you can't see far at all. There are also no map pins for the areas of interest, of which there are a good number. I found the new Survival skill in NWN2 to be all but useless in the OC because things were so predictable. In Tragidor, however, I'm finding myself relying on it while walking through the wilderness.

How anyone can still say that there's no future in NWN2 modding when something like Tragidor is out and available for play is beyond me. No, it's not perfect, but thus far it has shown itself to be a solid, engaging adventure that is genuinely innovative in what it offers the player. The proof is right here folks, NWN2 is the new platform of choice. I've never been as excited about the potential that NWN2 has as a modding platform as I am right now.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Finally playing Tragidor

I was sick at home today. I pretty much slept all morning long, but I started to feel well enough to sit in front of a computer around 3pm today.

The first thing I did was add an exit door to my character creator. It works nicely, giving the player the option to export their character prior to exiting the module. It's a small little thing, but it's also the first piece of scripting that isn't directly from Lord Niah's module (instead, it's from my unfinished NWN1 module. And I probably ripped it from some other community module...possibly The Black Ring Pox?). Not that it's anything special, mind you, but I was happy to see that it worked correctly the first time I tried it--except that it originally launched the nwn2 credits movie, which is not escapable! So I went and made myself a cuppa tea while the credits played. I've since revised it such that no movie plays upon exiting the module.

So at this point, here are my plans for the character creator prior to its vault release:
* Add an NPC for any available FRWeave modules. Right now, that's Tragedy in Tragidor.
* Investigate doing persistent storage. If this is something I can add relatively easily based on scripts I can pirate from other modules, I'm going to do it. If not...ahh well.
* Add some minor magical items. I don't get a lot of enjoyment from inventing novel items, so if some of you want to throw out some ideas (especially in terms of creative item descriptions) for some very minor items (e.g. girdle of courage, +2 saves vs. fear), I'm all ears.
* Assorted small polish issues.

The most important thing is to get a Tragidor NPC in the module. So, to that end, once I finished the door, I re-started Phoenixus's module this afternoon. I had a lot of fun. From a narrative standpoint it outshines anything else that's available for nwn2 to date. I might try to sneak in some more time tonight, though I'm starting to zone out again and might just go to bed.

Edit: I was up in the middle of the night after sleeping all day and did a few other polishes--added an XP-based filter on the stores (the code is spaghetti, but it works), a new conversation node so it doesn't play back the same way every time, and revised text colors to improve readability.

New version of FRWCC online

I've posted a new pre-release version of my character creator. This version includes masterwork weapons by dirtywick, Masterwork armors by me, new gold distribution tables, as well as a few other minor changes. Thanks to excellent discussion and comments by folks over at the Forgotten Realms Weave boards.

Download link has not changed (actually, it has, since I've deleted this file with the upload of the actual release to the vault)

Monday, January 15, 2007

FRWeave Character Creator - Initial Alpha Release

Hi folks,

I'm pleased to roll out the initial alpha release of the Forgotten Realms Weave Character Creator (name pending approval of Forgotten Realms Weave folks). You can read about the premise for this module in this post, but essentially it's a character creation utility module that is designed to help you level and equip your characters in a way that will not overpower them in most modules, including those by Forgotten Realms Weave authors.

This initial release is functional in that it will level you up, give you gold, and let you do some shopping, but there are a number of features that I would like to add prior to the eventual Vault release.

I'd really like to get feedback from folks on this module as it is now, especially in terms of the equipment selection. The goal is to provide a fairly minimal selection of gear to help keep people from overpowering their characters, but with that in mind let me know if there are additions or subtractions that should be made.

I'm going to take a short break from working on this module and play through Tragidor (using a character I created with this utility, no less!). Once I'm done with that I'll get back to finishing off this module and getting it on the vault.

DOWNLOAD IT HERE (sorry, download no longer available--full release is now on the vault!)

Here's the readme text:
FRWeave Character Creator, v.0.1 Alpha
by Berliad
Released: 1/15/07


This module is designed to help players create characters that are appropriate for Forgotten Realms Weave modules. It will level your character and give them appropriate gold for that level. It will also permit you to purchase a limited assortment of items to create a balanced character for any FRWeave module.

One of the problems I have often had with leveler/trainer modules is that they a) don't always give you the right amount of gold for your level, and b) have such a huge selection of items that it is very easy to tweak your character's equipment into an overpowered state. This module attempts to resolve those problems by offering gold at a level recommended by the D&D Dungeon Master Guide, and by granting access to a fairly limited array of items. The assumption is that your characters will need to use stores & loot in other modules to round out their equipment selections. This module is just meant to get them to the point that they'll be able to competently enter a module and perform well.

This module is *not* designed to serve as a trainer to help test out character builds (I have no plans or desire to include combat in this module), and is not a good choice for players who want to "shop 'til you drop" and completely optimize their characters' equipment. It is also not really intended, at this point, for characters above level 13 or so--though you can level to 20 if you wish.

Known issues:

* Subraces with level adjustments (Aasimar, Tiefling, Drow, Gray Dwarf, Deep Gnome) will not receive xp sufficient to get to the requested level. This is because those races require more xp than usual to get to any given level, and is not a bug. ... but perhaps it can be handled a bit more elegantly in future versions.
* Conversation plays the same way each time through.
* Conversation animations aren't all working yet, especially those of Burr.
* Masterwork gear is not in, yet.
* Silver and Cold Iron weapons cost the same as normal weapons. Hopefully I'll have time to update that in the future. I may set them up in a separate merchant with a higher markup.
* Some classes are a bit under-served, particularly arcane spellcasters (not that they really need much equipment). I'll try to address that in the future, though as discussed above, I'm intentionally trying to keep equipment selections a bit sparse.
* Conditional checks are not present for the stores, so characters can always access whatever store they wish. This was done to allow you folks to give me feedback on equipment selections. It was also done because it was late last night when I was finishing this up and I wanted to go to bed! :)
* No FRWeave characters are present, nor is their associated specialty item store, yet.
* Persistent storage is not in, yet.
* Equipment is essentially only suitable for characters up to ~lv. 13 or so (+3 items are the highest available). This might change in the future. Maybe.
* You can't walk behind the bar, nor can you get a drink.
* The gnome is a mildly irritating.


* Any and all scripting is by or modified slightly from Lord Niah's FRWeave Base Mod. Heck, there's very little this mod does that his example DM meeting room does not. Go check out his base module here:
* Inspiration for Burr and Chatter is partly attributable to Jay and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith's films) and partly attributable to my daughter's Dr. Seuss books.
Update: Another thing on my to-do list is to include some custom low-level items, like +saves vs. fear, poison, disease, death, and mind (no immunity items though).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Dialogue for FRWCC

I just spent a few minutes writing some dialogue for my character creation utility. ... It was fun, though I do think I've been reading a few too many of my daughter's books lately. You'll see what I mean when I release it. :)

Fianchetto's Fable

Noticed another intriguing looking module project today as I was browsing the NWN2 Modules forum: Fianchetto's Fable by Rashidi. It is set in Athkatla, which was the main city in Baldur's Gate 2, so it should at least be fun in terms of reliving some of the sights in that city. He also has some intriguing features planned, including a miniturized world map (a la final fantasy games) as well as a new crafting system involving magical cooking. I'll be sure to check in on it from time to time, and have added it to my links below.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tour of Melvaunt

Maerduin has posted a "Tour of Melvaunt" at the project blog for his upcoming module, Mysteries of the Moonsea. Maerduin is clearly an excellent artist, and it shows in these screenshots. I'm particularly excited about his use of scaling to produce the Temple of Lovitar in that first shot--very imposing. Furthermore, the design of his city also sounds excellent from the description, with a number of interesting-sounding locations. This module continues to be high on my list of modules to watch.


I finally revised my NWN2 OC review last night, and it looks to be just about ready to publish. We're just waiting on one last person to get his up in our guild preview forums, and then we'll be able to push our team set of reviews live on the Vault. ... Certainly it'll be a bit late in the game, but I think they'll be worth reading.

I'm also going to try to tear through the initial release of my little character creation module before I invest time in Tragedy in Tragidor. I think I can have a working version done by the end of this weekend, if not sooner. I'll then make it available as a beta through my google space and see if the FRWeave folks want to endorse it before pushing further. I'll post a link to it here as well.

But while it's out for evaluation, I'll use it to create my character for Tragidor and get going in that module. :) If the character creation module will be a FRWeave product, then I'll be able to incoporate something from Tragidor in the release on the Vault. :)

My New Little Project: FRWeave Character Creator

Well, I never meant to do this, but I went and got myself involved in a little project.

In response to an idea by flem1 on the Bioware NWN2 boards, I'm working on a "leveler" utility module. What's that you say? There are already a half-dozen or so leveler modules on the vault for NWN2? Well, yes, of course there are, but they, like most of the ones for NWN1, tend to have the same problem: they're designed for players who like to play around with high-level character builds, optimize their characters' equipment, etc. They are not good for producing balanced characters that are appropriate for low-magic modules, like those by the Forgotten Realms Weave group.

Therefore, I'm trying my hand at creating something that fills this niche. It will be specifically designed to facilitate character builds for Forgotten Realms Weave modules, but should be a good choice for leveling up characters for most community-made modules. The features I plan for the initial release are:
  • Change a character's level to any that you desire, 1-20.
  • Grant yourself gold appropriate for your character's level, based on the D&D Dungeon Master's Guide.
  • Purchase gear from a limited selection of supplies that are appropriate for your character's level. Gear shops will vary based on character level as follows:
    • levels 1-4: standard non-magical items, silver and cold iron weapons, masterwork weapons. Cure light wounds & cure moderate wounds potions. +1 healing kits & lockpicks. There will also be a few +1 save items vs. specific things, like fear, disease, poison, etc, but those will be the only "magical" items available.
    • levels 5-8: +1 items, silver/coldiron/darksteel, +1 AC rings/amulets, +will/fort/reflex/all save items. Cure moderate & serious wounds, +3 healing kits & lockpicks. Perhaps some elemental-resistance robes and some very meager monk equipment.
    • levels 9-12: +1 & +2 items, cure serious/critical wounds, +6 healing kits & lockpicks. A few targeted 5/- elemental resistance items, maybe. Perhaps some decent spellcaster robes and modest monk equipment.
    • levels 13+: All of the above, +3 items, adamantium gear, cure critical wounds/heal potions, +10 healing kits & picks. A few quality robes for spellcasters and monks.
The idea is to outfit a character with a basic set of equipment that would allow them to competently enter a module and perform well, even if they are a bit underpowered. The assumption is that players will need to use stores in "real" modules to round out their equipment selections. This is done to prevent players from accidentally optimizing their characters' equipment in the presence of a vast selection in the shops--something I have a tendency to do.

To this end, here's a list of things I do not plan to include in any store: items that convey immunity to a particular kind of attack or effect, anything granting +4 or better bonuses, items that add feats, attribute bonuses, spell effects, extra spells, etc.

I am also going to try to structure the module so that it is "in character" as much as possible, just 'cause that's fun and will let me write a character or two's worth of dialogues. I'm also intending to keep file size down to a relative minimum (i.e. one interior area, no custom content, etc), which might permit module authors to package a copy of this module within their distribution archive if they think it would be valuable for players to use.

Now I'm not much of a builder, though I have spent the last two evenings fiddling with area design. I tested out a few ideas for the setting, including a cool minimalist area I designed as a pocket plane encounter with a powerful being who could be Mystra's avatar or even (maybe) the Lady of Pain (remind me and I'll post a screenshot tonight). However, in keeping with the low-magic, down to earth themes of FRWeave, I've settled on setting it in a strange little pub in an indeterminate location featuring a strange pair of individuals who help you with your leveling up needs.

Much of the scripting for changing character levels, gold, and launching stores has already been done for me by Lord Niah in his Base Module, so I'm just adding context and fleshing out the stores for this initial release. It really shouldn't take much time, but I'm learning a lot about the toolset as I do this so progress is a bit slow. For example, one of the biggest discoveries I made last night was that turning down shadow intensity from 1 to 0.5-0.7 is ESSENTIAL for making point-lighting look good...took me a long while to figure that out.

I also have ideas about what might go into subsequent releases:
  • Availability, in a special store, of custom items from the various FRWeave modules. These would be sold at a premium price to prevent unbalanced builds.
  • Appearances by prominent characters from FRWeave modules, or perhaps avatars representing the builders. These NPC's could serve a variety of functions:
    • They could just be there for fun, and if they recognized plot items/variables on characters, they could perhaps react accordingly.
    • They could also serve as in-module advertisements for the various FRWeave modules, giving quick descriptions of the plot hooks for their specific module.
    • These NPC's could also level and outfit characters as if they'd played through particular FRWeave modules. Say, for example, you've already played the first module in the Tragedy in Tragidor series, but when Phoenixus releases his sequel, you want to play it with a different character. Rather than having to run through Tragidor again with this new character, a set of dialog options could help you generate an appropriate character who could legitimately have played through that that module. This character would be feature appropriate plot tokens (based on a player's decisions in the dialogs), module-specific equipment, etc.
  • Persistent storage of items and gold. I'm not sure that I can pull that off, but I really would like to duplicate what caesarbear did in his NWN1 module, Zorco's Keeps. The idea is that you can drop off items in item storage chests, export your character, play a different module, export, and then start up this module again and still get access to those items & gold that you stored.
Ultimately, I can imagine this being an open-source project in which FRWeave builders can take the module and modify it to include items or NPC's from their modules as they are released.

We'll see where this all goes. I'm not sure that anyone aside from me will use this utility, but I'm going to have fun making it. :)

Baldur's Gate 3 by J.E. Sawyer?

Maximus had a surprising post over at NWVault last night.

Word is that J.E. Sawyer, lead designer on NWN2 (at least over the last 6 months or so), is working on a personal project, The Black Hound, that may turn out to be a rendition of what Baldur's Gate 3 might have been. It will be a long time in the making, and one has to wonder whether it will actually get done given the typical workload of a game developer in his position. But this is definitely something to keep an eye on.

To that end, community member Sammael has put together a small "FAQ" website about the project. Information is a bit sketchy at this point, as it's limited to a handful of posts by JE Sawyer. The most interesting part about it is the FAQ on "Jefferson," which was reportedly the internal name of Baldur's Gate 3. It's an interesting look back. ;)

Monday, January 8, 2007

Mystery at Willowbow

Finished Willowbow tonight. It turned out to be good for quite a bit more than the 3 hours the author predicted. I'd guess it's more on the order of twice that figure. It also turns out that the author just today released a fairly major update, so I didn't vote when I left my comments...though if I had, I think I'd give it a 7 - Deserves a Look. Its visuals, the fact that it's a complete module, and the fact that it offers a fair bit of gameplay make it worthy of this sort of score at this point in NWN2's life...though it'd probably be a 5 or 6 if it were played 6 months from now. My comments:

I'm a bit hesitant to leave comments, as I played the previous version and thus anything I say is probably outdated. That's why I'm not voting. But I thought I'd be good to leave feedback anyway.

In general, this is a nice little hack and slash adventure. I thought the audio & visuals were particularly well done. The swamp is beautifully rendered, with what is obviously a lot of attention to detail in the placement of plants, grasses, textures, etc. You might consider using a different skybox, however, as the clear night sky seemed a bit out of place. I love your use of ambient sound in the swamp to set the mood. Combat was challenging but do-able for my lv. 4 barbarian, though I'd certainly recommend that non-melee classes go a level or two higher. I reached level 6 during the final fight, and found it necessary to level up in order to win it (needed that extra attack/round). It's nice to be challenged. :)

I liked both of the henchmen, though I thought more could be done with them in terms of dialog and story. I really liked how valuable the cleric was, as healing potions and kits are not abundant...and one of her class abilities was extremely handy at the module's end. The ranger's combination of a good bow and two-handed fighting capabilities were fun to use as well, and fit with the setting. Finally, I also liked how you used scaling and tinting to create some novel creatures. The troll hag was particularly cool. :)

A few suggestions for improvement. First, I'd definitely recommend an option to automatically level players to lv. 4 when they enter the module--the equipment you provide is enough to get started, but I had to use debug commands to get my character ready to go. I did find, as have others, that the dialog was a bit limited (though what's there is good), which makes the module a bit too lonely at times. This was especially the case with the henchmen. The merchants are nice, though I might recommend turning down the payout per item to help their gold last longer. I ended up leaving a ton of loot in the lost and found wardrobe when I exported my character at module's end. Finally, while artistically the swamp was beautifully rendered, the methodical placement of the caves and the structure of the area as a big loop made it feel a bit less organic than it could have been. I might recommend (in a future, similar project) breaking the swamp up into several areas, possibly with some dead ends to better simulate traveling through a huge swamp over a week's time. This might allow you to hide caves here and there in different areas, which would make them feel more like neat areas to discover rather than the next level in the dungeon crawl.

Nevertheless, it's a fine first effort and among the best of the early modules. Also, in case you're planning to do more with swamps in the future, you might like to check out this nwn1 module: Blackwall Keep by ZeornWarlock. I see a lot of parallels with his module and what you've tried to do here.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Tragedy in Tragidor finished and available soon

Phoenixus announced today that he has begun the process of uploading Tragedy in Tragidor (nwn2 version) to the vault! Hopefully it will be up later today or tomorrow. I'd think that Maximus might give him a file spotlight as well.

This is the first large-scale module to be released for NWN2! I'm looking forward to playing it.

UPDATE: Tragidor is available for download on the vault! I'm downloading it as we speak. Looking forward to playing... :)


Free time has been sparse this week with the conference happening every day. All that socializing has meant that I've been more tired than usual at night, which has meant that I've gotten in very little play time this week. I have been pecking away at Mystery at Willowbow, and will hopefully finish it up tonight. I'll probably post some comments on his vault page, though I think I'll skip voting on that module, as the author has just given it a fairly major update--and hence my opinions on it are already out of date! Sarosa is already just shy of the 25 vote cutoff anyway, and I have no doubt he'll make it within a few days.

I'm also way overdue on revising my NWN2 OC review for QSW and the Vault Review Guild, for which I apologize. I will get it done this week.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Back, sort of...

I'm back in town, but a conference that starts in a few hours and lasts through Sunday has me busier than heck. In addition to preparing for my talk tomorrow, I'm trying to catch up on 10 days of neglect of my poor research critters (fruit flies). So I haven't had much chance to play NWN2 stuff yet.

Not a huge deal, as quick perusal of the recent module uploads/updates indicates that there wasn't much that was released in the time that I was gone. Mystery at Willowbow is receiving some pretty favorable comments--hopefully I'll get a chance to play it sometime this week. Aside from that, most of what is out is either a trainer/arena module or an alpha/beta release, which I typically steer clear of.

One really encouraging thing that I am seeing are the tremendous number of module-in-progress announcements over on the NWN2 modules forum. Despite the various issues that have been present with the toolset and the game, the builder community is really ramping up. And a lot of the ideas sounds really intriguing.

While we wait for the big releases, I did receive a new game for X-mas: Galactic Civilizations II. I've long been a fan (albeit an intermittent player) of Masters of Orion-type space strategy games, and this seems to be the best in the genre right now. I've put a few hours into it and I'm having a good time. The AI seems pretty smart, even on "normal" difficulty level, which is nice. The last of these games that I really got into was Pax Imperia: Eminent Domain, but in that game the AI pretty much just researched whatever was cheapest and built the same sorts of ships within each class. It also was plagued by the existence of a type of uber-powerful weapons that pretty much were the only way to win once research progressed that far. There seems to be a lot more strategy in this new game (multiple ways to "win," multiple sorts of weapons with parity, etc), so I'm looking forward to playing it a bit on the side.

Credit for the pic goes to the galactic civ website--if I keep playing, I might post a few of my own here as well. :)