Wednesday, January 10, 2007

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. :)

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