Saturday, 29 December 2007

The Tunnel to Torén Norus Beckons! (ADV)

With the New Year just around the corner, so also is the return to the adventure for the heroes of "Isil Ia Dom" (which is Elf and roughly translates to "The Searchers of the Holy Stone"). This adventure, however, is not currently a reflection of the party's name, but involves the search for a wizard called "Terrell The Red", who they hope will help them with a different problem regarding something called a "Life Orb" and some "Life Crystals". The full story can be read from the Story Background at the website, where the complete story has been broken into chapters. Alternatively, you can just download and read the last scenario which took place before this next adventure begins.

The next adventure will begin with this journal entry:

"The quest for Terrell the Red continues along the north passage that lays beyond the sealed door that has now been made accessible. This had not been an easy task, however, as first the heroes had to overcome an Ice Devil reinforced with Bearded Devils. After a great battle, the heroes were able to recover the egg of a dragon, named Keri, who was acting as a guardian to the long-dead kings of the Garad-Loon. Once the heroes had reunited the egg with Keri, they were then able to gain audience with the spirits of the kings of the dwarves and eventually learned how to overcome the lock that prevented their egress to the passage beyond. Now, only a few miles of caverns lay between them and the foundations of the tower of Torén-Norus where they believe Terrell may be being held against his will."

Today, I have made sure all the computers are ready to play the module, and that all the characters load properly. This module has been designed slightly different from previous ones, in that it is supposed to be complete, and so does not have to rely on the database to record inventories and means we can use the "Save Game" facility to easily keep track of the game state. I have also used my "PatchedScripts" hak to enable me to make fixes along the way if required, without affecting the saved game.

This scenario ("Torén Norus") and "Soul Shaker" are to be the last modules designed with NWN1 for the Althéa Campaign. If you have read my earlier posts, you will know that I am currently working on the NWN2 scenario that will be played after the heroes return from Soul Shaker ... or should that be "if" they return. ;) Furthermore, future modules with NWN2 will be designed along similar lines to "Soul Shaker", in that they will be able to be played as a single-player module (without a DM) as well as with a DM. This is so I can reach a wider audience and to help me receive more feedback about any potential problems with the programming, as well as give the writing a wider viewing.

Over the next few months, I hope to concentrate on getting to know more about NWN2 and its features. This time around, I also intend to play the official campaign before I get too involved with the programming side, just to know more of what it is capable of. This will include "Mask of the Betrayer" and any other expansion that comes along if I get the time.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Map Within Map Video

Because this blogger allows for video uploads, I thought I would demonstrate the "Map Within Map Scripts" working with a short AVI. Let me know if you can see the video alright, or if it is not worth doing in future. You may need to watch it a few times to notice what is happening. Basically, after starting the world map, I click on the top most icon directly on the map, to show the North Tear map and then I click on the bottom icon on this map to return to the original South Tear map. Next I demonstrate by using the menu and click on a NEW MAP (North Tear) from the menu on the right, and the map changes. On the map that shows, I click on the only option available: NEW MAP (South Tear) and I return to the first map (South Tear) again. Finally I exit the map. (Look out for the compass rose on the North Tear map as a guide to the change.)


Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Feat For Talking!

That's not "feet for walking", but a new "feat for talking"!

OK, my wife thought it was a bad pun as well. Anyway, today, I have been looking at how custom feats were added to NWN2. In the official campaign, you acquire new "special" feats when you reach the statues at the "Ruins of Arvhan", and so I took my lead by checking out the scripts there. During my dissecting of the code, I learned about changing the colour of text as well. And to top all this, I discovered a new NWN tool that could open and edit both 2da and tlk files for both NWN1 and NWN2.

NEW TOOL: The tool I discovered is called
TabularFramework and can be found at the Vault. It is quite impressive, and while it takes about a minute to load on the first use, it loads quite quickly on later usage. It not only allows you to edit both 2da and Tlk files, but also has the ability to open more than one file at once and compare 2da files. Also, there is a hexadecimal translator built in that can both decode and assign the confusing hexadecimal codes like the ones used for metamagic at the click of a button! I have found it reasonably stable and can say it has been a very useful addition to my toolset tools.

TEXT COLOUR: Text colour is not handled the same way in NWN2 as it was in NWN1, and during my sorting of the feat function I learned how to handle this. It involves a knowledge of the hexadecimal number for a colour, and requires a simple process of assigning the code to a simple string within a constant. I go into more detail on this web page from my website:
How To Alter Text Colours. There is a table there showing all the colours and their equivalent name within NWN2 and a brief description of some code that can be used to assign the colour.

ADDING A FEAT: This was my ma
in aim for today,and I was surprised that I managed to get it working on my first attempt! I did go on to mess it up, but by the end of the day, I achieved what I was after. :) As well as simply wanting to learn how to do it, I also wanted to give the player a way of changing some "Options" about their style of play. This involved adding a line to the feat.2da file, that also related to a new line in the spells.2da file, which contained the script that fired when the feat was used. I also had to add the constant FEAT_ALTHEA_ABILCONV so that I could use it to script the new feat onto the player if they did not yet have it. The result now, is that when the player enters the game, the module checks if the player has the feat, and if they do not, then it is added. The new feat is a "History" feat, which gets added to the drop down menu under special abilities, which when used, calls a conversation via the script named in the spells.2da file. The conversation starts with the player and will eventually offer them choices about their style of play. (This part should be easy.) I did come across a couple of issues that are worth noting:

1) To make a conversation start in the old NWN1 style (not using cut scene mode), I needed to alter a variable from the conversation properties, which was not obvious the first time around, as the properties is reached by right-clicking on the conversation file name and opening a new properties window, and not from within the conversation itself.

2) There is a column in the feat.2da that says, "IsPersistent". I thought this was to do with allowing a feat to work across a campaign, but it turned out to be with activating the feat every time the player entered a new area or the module loaded. This meant my PC Options conversation was firing every time I started the module, which I did not want. My thanks got to Kaedrin for helping me find this out.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

The New Era # 3 - The Essences of Life Magik


This post hopes to give more information about the new magik forces that will be found upon Althéa in the new era. They take the form of essences and reflect the various types of magic/magiks available. In the last post, I explained that the Colours that make the Light are more than magikal colours, they are “Life” itself. Now, I will explain in more detail what Life Magik is comprised of and how it differs from Soul Magik.

Life Magik

Definition: Life Magik is a term used to recognise and explain how all magic stems from life and the force that was once called Soul Magik. However, Life Magik (like all systems that came after Soul magik) is a "fragmented" form of Soul Magik, from which its "magic" stems. Therefore, the term "Life Magik" pays tribute to the overall "force of life" by spelling "magik" with a "k", but its own magics that come from the fragmented form are spelt with a "c" in reverence to the fact that its form is a paler reflection of what it once was. (E.g. A spell cast would be called magic, like a "magic missile", but it is part of Life Magik.)

Down To Earth: Alchemy from ages past always demonstrated that "essences" could be distilled from certain objects of the world, but their immediate connection with "Life Magik" would not be clearly known until the new age began. Since "Colour Magik" was withdrawn from the world, more attention was given to these objects and the foci that once aided spells. Gone are the days when "Moon Rock" enabled the caster with the power to cast spells. Now, the caster has to learn to understand the world about them and the relationship between the forces of magic and life once more. In this new age, the would-be wizard must build a sympathetic relationship with the world and learn how to unlock the hidden energies for their spells.

Magic Spells v Magik Items: Various coloured "Moon Rock" used to be the source of energy to help power spells for wizards. Now, the connection with energy within the colour (rather than the rock itself) has become more noticeable and to this end, alchemists and those searching for a means to power various magic practises have come to recognise that these different coloured essences can be distilled from various objects. The degree to how much a wizard makes use of this knowledge is reflected in their skills. Some will only learn enough about the "Life Magik" to cast spells, whereas others will delve deeper to learn more about the individual essences and practices to enable them to make or empower magik items. Spells cast by spell-casters are referred to as "magic" because they empower the spell through knowledge of manipulating fragmented essences, whereas items constructed using magic and pure essences are referred to as "magik" because its as if they hold their own "life". While these definitions have generally been accepted in the new age, there is still some debate about their accuracy, as determining exactly when a "life essence" is being used is still in question. (See next.)

Is Magic Still Magik?: There is much debate among the schools of wizards about what constitutes a full use of "life" in any form of casting, be it for personal usage or when constructing a magik item. The problem has arisen since recognising that any magic cast is actually a paler usage of the Life Magik since the time of Soul Magik: Whereas Soul Magik is recognised as the "single and complete" power, there is now debate as to whether magic cast from any single aspect of the Life Magik (the fragmented essences) is still a casting of the original Soul Magik, all be it in one form or another. Like all things with wizards, this debate is likely to continue until the next age, when maybe things will become clearer ... or they recognise that such things are moot.

Life Magik Essences

The Essences of Life: One thing is quite clear and agreed upon though: Life Magik is what remains of the fragmented Soul Magik, and the following essences have been recognised by the School of Wizards upon Althéa:

  • The Colour (or Elemental) Essences.
  • The Power Essence.
  • The Life Essence.
The first two essences are very well recognised on all worlds, and come in four various strengths: Faint, Weak, Glowing and Radiant. These essences are collected by those with the skills to help make magik items. (See NWN2 rules.) The "Life Essence", however, is something that currently remains unique to Althéa, and was due to an event that took place that brought the new age upon the world when Colour Magik was lost. Whereas the first two forms of essences are restricted to the realms of those skilled in magik manipulation, the "Life Essence" is an unusual part of Life Magik that can be used by all. In some ways, it is a reminder of or the part of the original Soul Magik that was gifted to all peoples. It does not give the ability to cast spells or manipulate magik like pure Soul Magik used to, but it does bring new abilities into the world.

The Life Essence: The Life Essence is the finest gift that could have come from the loss of Colour Magik. Before, it was tied into the fabric of Colour Magik, allowing wizards the freedom to cast spells from across the Colours. Since "The Changing", however, this essence has been stripped from the magik, forcing the wizard to consider their spells once again. However, now that the essence has been freed, it can now be gathered in other ways and can be used in other walks of life. But what is "The Life Essence"? It is the force that can bind all the other essences together. It is the creative intelligence of life. It gives knowledge, guides, and can be used to revive, rebuild, create or restore. It is also the essence we are forced to relinquish with each breath we take, and is why it is the most important of the essences.

Acquiring The Life Essence

Whereas only those with the skills (normally wizards) can work with the other essences, the Life Essence is, by nature, more flexible and can be collected and used by anyone. The normal process of collection, however, will come across as morbid to most people of Althéa, and will therefore, generally be reserved to the realm of adventurers or those with evil intent. This is because most of the time, the Life Essence must be gathered from the recent dead, either through combat or murder. A life that has been cut short this way has its Life Essence released upon death, which has the chance of being intercepted before it can enter the spirit world.

When a recently killed body is examined, the examiner may now notice the Life Essence still around the body. (Most of the time, the essence will escape to the spirit world before it is found, but at other times, it may have become trapped.) Depending upon the moral nature of the finder will determine what they do next. If they are good-natured, then they will help the Life Essence continue on to its final resting place. Doing this will have the helper rewarded with a portion of the Life Essence that they helped to free and move their alignment a step toward good. If the finder is of an evil alignment, then they will choose to capture the entire Life Essence for themselves. This moves an alignment fifty points towards evil, which, if they were not evil already, will definitely make them so. It is assumed a PC will play to there alignment, but an option will be in place to allow a PC to make a choice. NB: Alignment changes can affect your influence with others. The reason I mention this, is because Life Essence collected is used by the PC as they adventure. Therefore, at times they may be more "hungry" for Life Essence than at other times.

I decided that I don't want to say much more than I said last time (by going into mechanics details) because I don't want to spoil some of the mysticism and excitement of discovery when you begin the new era. Therefore, I will only say what I said last time and this about the Life Essence:

  • It acts as a protecting force.
  • It can act as a restorative force.
  • It can act as a creative force.
There will be some limitations of what you can achieve with it according to the PC class, but all PCs will gain some benefits for having collected Life Essence. Furthermore, not all the benefits will become available until you have reached higher levels.

  • 1st Level (All PCs) - Soul Protection. (The PC is protected against untimely death.)
  • 2nd Level (Craft Skill PCs) - Maintain Equipment. (The PC with the crafting skills can also maintain their equipment if they are damaged.)
  • 2nd Level (Wizard PCs) - Arcaene Lore. (PC can create "Arcaene Lore Scrolls" enabling powers similar to earlier Colour Magik.)
  • 3rd Level (All PCs) - Empower Attributes. (PC can recover lost or increase attributes. Scaling cost per point.)
  • 4th Level (All PCs) - Enhance Life. (PC can trade Life Essence for real experiences - Increase XP.)

That is all I am going to say about this list, which may change as time goes by. Hopefully, however, you are beginning to understand how "The Changing" will affect your play in the new era.

The New Era # 2 - The Life Essence


As you are aware by now, the “Soul Shaker” scenario marks the dividing point between the old and new eras, which upon Althéa will be a time known as The Darkening to some or The Changing to others. Prior to this time there was Colour Magik, whereas afterwards the peoples of Althéa now refer to something called Life Magik and The Life Essence.

The Life Essence

Without trying to give too much away at this stage, the “Life Essence” is what remains of the magik after “The Changing”, or to be more precise, it is what “Colour Magik” has become. To give you an idea how this is different (or compares), I need to give a reminder of magik through the ages:

Soul Magik: During the Age of Creation there was Soul Magik, also referred to as Pure Colour Magik, because it was magik in its purest form and anybody could use Soul Magik no matter what there “class” or “status”.

Classic Magik/Magic: During The Age of The Moons there was the Classic Magik or what on some worlds is simply called Magic. This was the magik first rediscovered through 'rituals with gods' (by clerics) or alchemy & study of the moons (by wizards). Its connection to the old Soul Magik was not understood by all worlds at this time. This is why some worlds referred to it as magic to differentiate it from the energies they had prior to the disappearance of Soul Magik.

Colour Magik: In some worlds (including Althéa) the Classic Magik was removed or changed again, and the peoples had to learn how to recall spells in different ways once again. Normally, it was these worlds that could now understand the connection between the original Soul Magik and subsequent changes to the magik, as they could see the common theme throughout the various changes that had affected the Magik: Colour or Light.

Life Magik: Then comes “The Changing” and the force behind the Colour Magik is made totally clear: The Colours that make the Light are more than magikal colours, they are “Life” itself. The original magik was called “Soul Magik” for a good reason. It was called such because the energies (represented by colours) that comprised the magik, is, in fact, the “Essence of Life”. It is Life that is the common theme throughout the forces of magik!

The Dawning of A New Era

The historians of Althéa originally thought the next period of time would be called the “Time of Wisdom” within the current era: “The Ages of Recreation”. However, “The Changing” will bring about such drastic alterations to magik and life in all worlds that it will demand the historians designate the beginning of a new Age, which will be known as: “The Age of New Life”. I will not go into details about how these changes will affect the PC from the story point of view, but we can start discussing how it will affect the mechanics of the game now, especially for wizards, who will be the most affected since the loss of Colour Magik.

That is all for now, but I will go into more details about this in my next “New Era” post, which I hope will include such topics as: -

  • Life Essence Acquisitions (Generic) (E.g. XP based)
  • Life Essence Acquisitions (Class Specific) (E.g. Fighting, Turning, Spell Casting.)
  • Life Essence Benefits (Generic) (E.g. Handling Death)
  • Life Essence Benefits (Class Specific) (E.g. Arcaene Lore Scrolls)

Monday, 24 December 2007

The New Era # 1 - Time Scale & New Spell Use


Because we will be using real-time combat in NWN2, I am considering changing the time scale into something that may be better for us to work with. This will also tie in with the way spells are recovered and the introduction of a new spell system brought about at the coming of the new era after the party return from playing the Soul Shaker module.


In NWN1 we used 1 minute real time = 1 minute game time, and I used to move forward time as required. However, personally, I now prefer to use a new method which will not only add a new dimension to the game, but also give control back to the player. As you know, the general idea for me writing new material in NWN2 is to return closer to some of the original D&D rules to reduce the amount of coding for "normal" events, and because "resting" in D&D can be done every 8 hours, this is my new proposal:-

1 minute real time = 15 minutes game time.

This will then allow me to ignore most time shifts and adjustments to allow PCs to rest as they feel fit. I will be able to concentrate on moving "large chunks" of time only, for when it comes to other issue such as long-term study or travel in some way. Furthermore, it adds an element of "excitement" or "tactical planning" required by the player, in that they will be able to judge how better to use spells and when to reserve them for possible encounters that may occur before they get the chance to rest. In real terms, it means a player will be able to use the REST button (to recover spells) every 24 minutes real time - and the player must now be aware of this fact and try to be careful not to use all spells within the first few minutes of play. If they do, then they must be ready to hide up until they can rest and recover. Note, this means the actual REST time (or night-time) is "absorbed" into the faster time scale, and means we only "play" relevant game time. In other words, time in this sense is "flexible" representation of the events the PCs can do within a given time period. This also has the following advantages:-

1) It removes "time blocks" that (in the past) have had to be observed because that was the way PnP did it. In PnP, it was immaterial and an abstract concept. This way allows play to be "continuous" and simply recognises the PC's ability to recover said spells in the given time frames.
2) Time will take care of itself and players will be able to know just how long they have until they can rest. The DM only has to work large time shifts. I believe this will also make for some exciting play.

Note, 24 minutes is *not* a very long time to wait for the possibility to relearn the spells (and rest). However, I believe that it is about the right amount of time to allow for potential "we need to rest soon!" anxiety that I believe the game requires to not make resting the "quick fix" for all issues. The idea is to get the balance right between what the rules say, what would be too easy, and what would be too difficult. If players have any preferences to make this time longer, then please let me know in this thread. Or, if any players have any questions, please raise them here for discussion.


Along with the new time-scale, I propose to introduce a new spell use concept, called "Arcaene Lore". This will be in reference to the ways spells were cast prior to "The Darkening", which is what the event is called after the PCs return from the demi-plane. In this case, Arcaene Lore is rediscovered knowledge from the "old ways" of casting magik spells. In game terms, this simply means the PCs will discover scrolls and pages with knowledge of how to cast a spell like they did prior to The Darkening. This means being able to repeat cast the same spell without having to learn it first.

How does this work in game terms?

Basically, as the PCs explore the changed world, they may come across scrolls (or simple pages) of magik written in such a way that its powers have been embedded into the page itself. Then, a PC with the right ability can mix their own powers with that of the scroll and release the magik contained within its pages. The page is *not* expired with use, because the main power to unleash the magik within the page is transferred from the caster themselves (if they are strong enough to cast the magik in the first place).

E.g. To start off with, a wizard will gain new spells in the usual D&D 3.5 rules way. If they learn Magic Missile, then they will have to specify how many times a day they wish to have it memorized to use and be governed by their choice. However, if the same wizard then finds an Arcaene Lore scroll with Magic Missile inscribed upon it, then they will be able to use the scroll to focus the power of the spell as many times as they use the scroll. However, they are still limited by their own powers, which means with each use of the scroll, the number of first level spells they can cast in 8 hours is reduced by one. The only side effect of using a scroll in this way, is that the spell lost to give power to the scroll is not known until they check their remaining spells. (There may be a pattern as to which spells are lost first, but I leave this to the player to discover.) This new system is still fresh in my mind, but please not the following:-

1) As the PC acquires more of these Arcaene Lore scrolls, so they will be able to rely less on original spells learned and arrange their pages as they see best.
2) Arcaene Lore pages can be given to any PC that has the ability to cast them, which means spells can be more easily managed between the party.
3) Arcaene Lore is not copyable by PCs, as it is lore and magik from a time past. Only Vol judges when and what pages may be found.

Again, if there are any questions relating to the topic, then please reply here and we can discuss it as a group.

Maps Within Maps!


I managed a big breakthrough today. I worked out how to have a second world map open from an icon in a first world map. This is very useful as it allows me to break up a world map into "chunks" and reveal them as and when I want to, as well as making it easier to spread icons around. E.g. If you click on a city, I can bring up a complete "world map" of the city with the various sectors within it, accessible from individual icons. It acts as though you have "zoomed in" on the location. (I feel it's better than having about four icons on the world map all around a main city representing the sectors.) There may, of course, be other benefits from gaining this knowledge, in that I can now use the code to have a picture open up other pictures or texts. Time and inspiration will determine this. (EDIT: Video demostration now added.)


There is a hook SelectScript in the world map icon editor that allows a script to immediately fire when it is clicked upon. I then added the following script to this hook:

#include "ginc_transition"
void main()
object oPC = OBJECT_SELF;
if (GetIsPC( oPC ) == FALSE){return;}
// Determine Map To Call
string sMap = GetSelectedMapPointTag();
int Length = GetStringLength(sMap) - 4; // E.g. MAP_NorthTear = 13-4 = 9.
sMap = GetSubString(sMap, 4, 9); // E.g. NorthTear.
string sOrigin = "";
AssignCommand(oPC, ClearAllActions(TRUE));
DelayCommand(0.1, ShowWorldMap(sMap, oPC, sOrigin ));
DelayCommand(0.1, FadeFromBlack(oPC, FADE_SPEED_FASTEST));

NB: The TAG of the icon that calls the map must begin with "MAP_" as referred to in the above code example.

However, alone this does not work, as the worldmap.xml UI needs a parameter added to ensure the new image is loaded from the disc rather than cache. This is achieved by adding idleexpiretime="0.1" to the top of the worldmap.xml, as follows:

<UIScene name="SCREEN_WORLDMAP" x=0 y=0 width=SCREEN_WIDTH height=SCREEN_HEIGHT fullscreen=true idleexpiretime="0.1"
OnRemove=UIScene_OnRemove_CloseWorldMap "WORLDMAP_IMAGE_PANE","DEST_LISTBOX") />

I experimented with the fastest reload times and discovered that 0.1 was the fastest time I could unload and reload a new map. However, with the use of the BlackScreen function and FadeFromBlack, I made this transition appear seemless. Now I just need to get to better grips with XML coding and I may be able to get from crawling to walking. :)

Die! Die! Die! And Stay Dead!

Before I begin to start transferring some information from the forums, I thought I would let you know what I have been up to in the time I have had over the last few weeks: Trying to script the companions in such a way that they would STAY DEAD!

As you know, the default for the official campaign is that companions do not actually die when they fall to the ground during combat at zero hitpoints. Instead, after a battle, if any of your characters are still alive, they get up and can simply be healed to be up and ready to go again. This is not how I want the Althéa Campaign to play, and I have been reworking the scripts to ensure that any PC who drops below 1 HP, dies.

This may sound simple on the surface of things, but the problem was complicated by the introduction of the new Life Essence system. Not only that, but I wanted to ensure the game remained playable and yet give the player a recognition that dying would still cost something within the game.

During my testing, however, it soon became evident that the OnDeath script on a companion (that was being possessed/controlled by a player at the time) was not executing the same way as if the companion was not being possessed/controlled by the player at the time of its death. This led to the companion repeatedly coming back to life after a battle even though my script was saying something different.

In the end, after much searching and help from Man_From_Geldar on the Bioware forums (who sent me a copy of his mod to test), I was able to ascertain that the OnDeath script has special requirements that were necessary under certain conditions. Furthermore, as I looked through the OnDeath script, it became obvious when I read these lines:
// Check for additional death script. (For adding extra actions and events.)
string sDeathScript = GetLocalString(oCompanion, "DeathScript");
if (sDeathScript != ""){ExecuteScript(sDeathScript, oCompanion);}
I had read them a few times as I was writing the script, but I did not pay them much heed at the time. It was only when I discovered that certain lines of my code were being ignored that I decided to write a separate script and attach it to the companion to fire when these lines were met instead. As soon as I did that, everything started to fall into place.
So, for anybody else struggling with companion OnDeath scripts (while being possessed by the player), you now have my experiences to learn from. :)

Sunday, 23 December 2007


Welcome All to the World of Althéa Blog!

This is the new Blog for the World of Althéa website. The World of Althéa is a fantasy world setting for my D&D campaign. For more information about the campaign, please refer to the website.

This blog was started because the forums associated with the website were often subject to junk posts and required my constant maintenance to ensure the contents were removed. Therefore, all topics from the forum will be moved to this blog as I get the time.

Hopefully, this blog will be an alternative way to give constant updates about the campaign, also allowing images and videos to be uploaded where applicable, as well as receiving feedback from any interested parties, which can now be checked before being posted.

I hope to add more soon.