Thursday, 31 January 2008

The New Era # 4 - More To Life - New Essences!

With the release of the add-on pack for NWN2, "Mask of the Betrayer", a different Item Enchantment system was introduced to the game. The new system uses three new "conditions" for the essences that can be found rather than the previous four. Previously, there were Faint, Weak, Glowing and Radiant essences, but now there are Volatile, Brilliant and Pristine. (Refer to the previous article in this series for more background on the essence system in general.)

Each label still describes a condition for the four types that can be found (air, earth, fire and water), but the ease of use between the two systems has altered. As I develop the campaign, I hope to look more closely at both of these systems to determine the best use for them and whether to use one system or the other, or even both (which is most likely). Whatever I decide though, I hope to be able to get into the workings of the systems to be able to alter the "ingredients" required for such crafting and supply my own "recipes" in one form or another.

Althéa will have changed in such a dramatic way that working with magic to enchant items will be an art that needs to be mastered once again. Indeed, even being able to design and work with the more intricate arms and armour will require new knowledge to create - even before any new enchantments can be added!

The new era will be one of low magic initially, and one of hardship for all but the most skilled of artisans. A well-crafted weapon, shield, or piece of armour will be a rare item. No longer will merchants be able to knock out items to order (even if given the time), as most will not even know how to make them in the new era! And don't think this will mean such items will gain value because of their scarcity, as this will not be the case in the majority of instances. The problem is, people will be struggling to survive in the changed world, and it will be the basic commodities that demand value as much as anything else.

As time passes, so new items will begin to enter the market place, and maybe a merchant will buy the odd enchanted item as their business improves. Yet, the real power will be with those organisations who take advantage of the few "gifted" artisans and who can support them for their own needs without having to rely on acquiring the basics first.

Such will be the way of things within the new era. The magic of the world will have been dispersed - scattered and fragmented into essences throughout the land. Methods of collecting, working and even manipulating these essences will require new skills and new peoples prepared to learn the new arts demanded of life within the new age. Whether the heroes will choose to be the leaders in gaining such knowledge for the new crafts or simply pay others to do the job for them, only time will tell. Whatever they choose, anything eventually acquired will most likely have been born through blood, sweat and tears!

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Armour Appearance Answers!

Today I have been trying to design some armour with the NWN2 toolset to equip some NPC's. On the surface of things, this may appear a very straight forward process. However, NWN2 has an additional property set available with regards to armour: The Armor Set (sic) value. After some experimentation, this is what I have discovered to date:

The Wrong Way: I have decided that this is the wrong way to work with NPCs when placing armour on them. That is, if you access the properties on a creature and alter the Armor Set values that are on them. While this may appear to be adding or altering armour on the creature, all it actually doing is giving an armour appearance, which cannot be accessed by a player after the NPC is killed. Maybe this facility is useful in some instances, but it does remove the facility for players to pick up actual armour objects within the game. Therefore, I believe that this section of the toolset can be ignored in most cases.

I recommend that the Armor Set values are not altered in any way on the creature, unless you never intend the player to be able to pick up or have access to the armour object upon the creature. This picture shows the default values upon the same creature shown above that had had its Armor Set values altered.

The Right Way: Make the armour object first and then equip it to the NPC. This, however, invloves some more steps of which the builder must be aware:

1) Use the Armor Set options within the item properties window to design the new armour object. All aspects of the armour can be designed through this section, including armour parts and their colours.

NB: These Armor Set properties for the item look very similar (identicle?) to those with the same name on the creature. Do not confuse which section to work on: Work on the item and not the Creature.

2) Make sure the new armour is actually equipped to the NPC and has replaced any default armour that was equipped with the creature at the time of its default creation. This is done by first adding the newly created armour object to the creatures inventory. Next, remove any currently worn armour (from the right hand pane of the inventory panel) and add the newly designed armour to the right hand pane instead. (Drag armour object from the left-hand pane into the position on the right-hand pane.) Make it droppable. Then, when the NPC enters the world, they will be wearing the new armour and it can be picked up from them by the player.

3) There is one more thing to be careful about, and that is to ensure that the NeverShowArmor property is set to FALSE upon the creature wearing the new armour. If it is set to TRUE, then the NPC will have their armour appearance properties take priority (see above) and even though they wear the new armour object, it will not show in game.

There is one more thing to be aware of when using the toolset to set the appearance of creatures and that is when using the Appearance Wizard when right-clicking on a creature from the blueprint window. Its opening window can be very misleading, as it will initially show the creature wearing any armour that you have equipped on them.

Yet, if you click on the Next button and then use Back to return to the initial screen, it will then show the creature in its natural state without any equipped armour - which is how it should have appeared in the first place! I believe this wizard is to be used in the same way as the Armor Set properties that can be found in the creatures properties. (See above.) Therefore, like my initial reasoning, unless you intend to use this instead of an actual armour object that can be dropped and picked up in the game, then its usage can be avoided.

Here is a picture of the end result, with two guards with two different armour types that will drop the armour to be available in game.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Tower Lockdown! (ADV)

Week three saw the heroes exploring the lower levels of Torén Norus and having their first encounters with some of its defences. There was a minor glitch with a Golem Guardian having extra attacks during combat, but this was easily sorted during play and has been fixed in TNPatch 0.03. Two other issues raised were not problems in the end:

1) The gargoyles and elf warriors were supposed to appear non-hostile initially. This was to help demonstrate how the lockdown now in place had malfunctioned.

2) The Golem Guardian did not show XP awarded because the DM was controlling it at the time. The XP was still calculated, however, and future rewards will show as usual as the DM will no longer have to possess the Golem due to the code now being fixed.

SYNOPSIS: (SESSION XP: 1375) 17/09/1197

The synopsis is available at the website now! Here is a snippet:

"As Helden responded that the group wished to remain where they were for the time being, something appeared to affect Celad, and his response was one of confusion and a sudden recognition that an evil force had entered the tower. To this end, Celad immediately responded by placing the ancient tower under some sort of magikal lockdown. At once, all spell casters of the group were aware that their magik had been compromised in some way and other members of the group noticed glowing pentacles appear under nearby door frames where they had not been before. Then Caled was gone!"

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

The Breach of Torén Norus (ADV)

The second week back to D&D and the heroes have now managed to gain entrance to Torén Norus. There were a couple of issues in the code this week, but nothing that could not be worked around and fixed in the TNPatch 0.02:

1) The PC names were replaced by an "EMPTY" string within combat and equipping menus. This was due to the module overwriting the PC variable upon a reload and the PC not updating it again due to being in the PC's OnSpawn. I moved this to the OnConversation and all is now well. This problem only occurred due to using a "saved game" option rather than starting afresh from the database.

2) A conversation with Celad Imyn failed to give an "I give up!" option if the PCs ran out of items to give him. During the session, we had to reload and replay this section of the game. Fortunately, this did not take too long to do. I have now added the "I give up!" option to the top conversation menu if the players have offered everything to Celad. This option must be used to reach the conversation that gives the heroes access to the tower.

SYNOPSIS: (SESSION XP: 547) 16/09/1197 - 17/09/1197

NB: An extra 500 XP needs to be added to each PC for gaining entrance to the tower!

The synopsis is available at the website now! Here is a snippet:

"Grimbold paced about the outer edge of the circle, obviously anxious, while Myara was keen to find out what kind of treasures may lay beyond! Karasten tried to dispel the circle with his own magik, but when that failed, Grimbold could not contain himself any longer and decided to risk whatever magik was here for the sake of what lay beyond. At the moment he passed the circle's edge, however, the circle's magik summoned a Bodak! "

And for those players that missed the effect as they entered the tower, here it is again:


Sunday, 13 January 2008

New Areas For A New Era

I started working with the NWN2 toolset with respect to area building today. I have played around with it before, but today was my first "serious" attempt to put together one of the outdoor areas that will be used in the new era for the campaign. It was not easy, but I hope it will become easier as I spend more time using the toolset.

This screenshot shows that the area looks half reasonable, and while it is no piece of artwork, I hope it will be adequate for most people's expectations. I recognise that doing better requires a skill I don't have, and hope it does not detract from the game overall.

NB: This screenshot also shows the larger mini map in play.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Larger Mini Maps For NWN2

I recently found this very useful UI update by "fire&ice" that allows NWN2 mini-maps to be bigger than their original design. The UI builder has a number of modifications that allow for 120%, 150% or 200% increase in size with larger map pins if required. Furthermore, the mini-map can be made to double in size again while in the game simply by double-clicking on its top bar. This is a really useful addition to the game and I recommend it to all my players. And don't forget to vote if you do use it.

Read more and download it from the Vault here: Larger Minimaps

On the subject of maps, I have improved the quality and enlarged the size of the "Maps Within Maps" video. Check the new video now.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

The Forsaken Caves (ADV)

The return to D&D got off with a good start with no problems at all with respect to coding or events throughout the session. We played for about two hours, and the heroes made good progress into the next stage of the adventure. My only concern was that we could not hear many of the sounds in the game, as two of the computers I currently use have very noisy fans and they drowned out some of the more useful sounds, like rockfall noises and static for the blue crystal encountered. Overall though, these were minor problems and the game went well. Indeed, the heroes have made such good progress, that they are likely to get to the next area at the next meeting.

I was able to "save" the game and reload without affecting any data, which means I have reduced the chance of database errors. This test did show one variable was out (the player's online count), but I was able to fix this with one Quick Fix Patch to the hak on the server only, which I have found does fix the game for all players who join.
As we move closer to the new style of playing (using NWN2 within the new era upon Althéa), I will begin to worry less about details used in the earlier style of playing. An example of this is the exact timing of the events played. From now on, I will give dates for the adventure only, rather than to the hour.
SYNOPSIS: (SESSION XP: 316) 15/09/1197 - 16/09/1197
Due to formatting difficulties within this blog, the synopsis has been added to the website and can be found here: Forsaken Caves Synopsis. However, please leave comments at this blog. Here is a snippet:
"The heroes passed into the caves beyond. Immediately it was obvious that they had now entered the once lucrative mines of the Garad-Loons dwarves, as mine carts lay scattered around the caves that were once used to transport ore and equipment. There was the odd useful item like rope, but anything of real worth had been taken already. "

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Soul Shaker In The Spotlight!

I found an old article (7th June 2007) while searching the Vault, which mentioned my module, "Soul Shaker" in a favourable light. The full article can be found here. It was encouraging to read. Here is an excerpt from it:

"Tonight we have a Neverwinter Nights module in the spotlight created by Lance Botelle. Titled "Soul Shaker", this is a SP & MP module with approx 35 hours of gameplay. Set on the Demi-Plane this module sports puzzles, is combat heavy, has a Planar Skill system implemented, and tons of other unique in-game features. This really does look like an amazing module to play, offering tons of new features to give you an excellent gaming experience."

If you are a player of this module and would like to leave a comment, then please do so in the comments sections below.

Slow Start To The New Year

Unfortunately, I have not been able to do much writing since the start of the New Year, as circumstances at home have demanded my attention. Hopefully, that will change soon, and as the year progresses, I hope to be able to return to designing and writing with NWN2.

Today, I made the decision to close the World of Althéa Forums and site users are now directed to this blog to leave any comments.

Plans to play D&D were postponed from last Wednesday's schedule to allow more time for people to return to a more stable timetable after the New Year. Now, the restart should take place next Wednesday 9th January. If all goes to plan, I will have a synopsis of the evening session posted here. I used to post to the website, but this blog seems the more appropriate place now, as it allows players and readers to leave comments if they wish to.

I have managed to play some NWN: HotU with my friend, but other than that, my time at the computer has been spent with work related issues or non-D&D stuff.