Saturday, 8 February 2014

Builder's Journal: Entry #1

*Ding* Journal Entry Added...

It's been an enjoyable few weeks just recently. A chunk of work has been completed on the first of the three modules comprising the campaign that will be the next chapter in our series. We have learned a lot during our work on The Indanthrine Prince which is allowing us to be much bolder with the new offerings and give the content a much better finish.

The premise of the next chapter is already plain to those who have completed IP. Things are going to be pretty grim at the beginning, resources will be scarce and that will call for some resourcefulness on the player's part. I love games that do this; those breaks in the game where the usual norms of gameplay are suddenly changed and require the player to make every decision, resource or special ability count. I like games that make me think - I don't need a brainteaser or be made to feel that I'm a contestant on University Challenge; I want something that makes me stop and consider my situation and allows me to formulate a logical way through. Naturally, this little interlude will come to a close and normal service resumes. It has been fun to kick off the next chapter with something a little different, rather than charging on as things were. The final part of IP had a lot of action in it, right from the go of Act 3, so I felt it was important to slow things down, change the environment and allow the story to catch up and basically set the stage for the rest of the game as we will be raising the stakes...

So I thought of how we can change things up for players at the beginning of the next chapter to facilitate this little diversion. The first choice was obvious and also made perfect sense, given the ending of IP. We confiscate all of the party's equipment! Easy. They'll hate that, all gone. Gone forever. All that work and time invested in IP, all washed away. Haha, idiots. Alright, alright, it hasn't gone forever, but I won't help you get it back. You'll have to do that when you play. So right away there is a lack of resource for the party. But no lack of experience; this under-equipped, level 12-ish party has to call upon every trick they have, and that's a good thing. Perhaps some of those abilities and skills you didn't get to use much towards the end of IP will get a chance here. Conversational skills especially can help a great deal, providing tangible benefits. Your History Feats also step in at times to influence the direction of a plot and even to provide one-off bonuses in certain combat situations; your reputation is a weapon too.

Another choice ties in with the introduction of crafting and trade-skills in the next chapter. This is a very broad system and does not simply involve turning components into items. We have our own in-house system written up and ready for action which includes so far; Weapon Smithing, Armour Smithing, Leather Working, Mining, Smelting and Repairs. Repairs is the topic of interest here. Using Craft Weapon/Craft Armour skill, the player character or their companions can restore a damaged item back to it's normal properties. Damaged equipment will be common to begin with; weapons with penalties, armour with vulnerabilities or reduced AC. Repairing basic items is a simple process, with even the untrained having almost a 50% chance of success. Ah; you didn't take crafting skills or feats in IP because we didn't support crafting? Not a problem. It will be possible to re-assign your characters feats and skills in the new campaign, along with those of your companions. Exceptional circumstances can change people, so it seems justifiable to let you guys tinker with your team. The Repairs system suits the start of the new campaign well, but we will maintain it's usefulness throughout the series. For instance, why is it that every "ancient"/"lost"/etc piece of equipment you find is always in mint condition? I see a dynamic here to introduce a few items which are in a bit of a sorry state when you find them - functional, perhaps, but not at their full working-best. Pull out that repair hammer and get to work! Or alternatively, pay someone to do it for you. I'll talk at length on crafting another day - very proud of this system.

Other choices I made to encourage this resourceful-mindedness was small touches, but all offering the player some advantage or access to things they otherwise wouldn't have. For instance, utilising the search skill to reveal hidden objects, allowing taunt to be used before certain fights break out, to get an immediate advantage. Crispin will be overjoyed, his head gleaming with delight. Making basic conversation with background NPCs and doing the occasional favour will yield useful information and support.

I think I've emptied my head of thoughts on this subject for now. The start of the next campaign certainly does not solely rely on your tactical acumen in battle. Players need to be resourceful, they need to explore to have the best chance. But most importantly, think.

Think on your next move...

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