Springy Situations | 04.17.15

Warm Time Ahead!

I am the worst blogger! Good thing these trickled updates aren't on Facebook, otherwise it would be even worse - there wouldn't be any.

I've been helping a lot over at http://neverwintervault.org/ and it picked up over the winter as Rolo Kipp moved to a new state, and is on his way to getting married! Congratulations my good fellow!

There are a bunch of us who maintain the site, review new accounts, migrate content and otherwise keep it up to date, clean and safe from spam.

Actually, too much of my time was spent knocking off spam accounts, running them through IP filters to check if they were blacklisted for posting spam, and deleting accounts through the entire user base. Instead of posting, bots were inputting spam links in their Bio field, and it was a constant battle. Another admin, Akin, who has Drupal experience, was able to install bot catchers and honeypots, which helped greatly.

With the migration of data from the old Neverwinter Nights Vault to the new one, I just realized the links to Almraiven and Shadewood on the blog are bad. For those stumbling here who attempt to direct themselves to the modules via the old links, the new location can be found by clicking on the module image below.

I am sorry for the lack of updates too. My intentions are good, but I'm not sure how many more times I can continue to show the same old areas while testing with your characters, or mention I've knocked out another area and marked it as complete.

If there is an update to give, I should say, the 16k issue was resolved by not including the uncompiled .nss scripts into the module. So, when I do need to modify an old script, I simply copy it back into the module/temp0 directory, make the changes, and return it to a backup directory. That alone, saved lots of space! I am bad when it comes to scripts because when I started to learn how to build, I never understood the shortcuts one can make use of, such as variables on placeables, or on NPCs, or using the TAG of an NPC + "q1" to set a variable that the player has asked that specific NPC question one in a list of conversation choices.

So over time, all these little scripts that do exactly the same thing, are created, but with different names. If one NPC has seven conversation choices a player can ask, that's seven individual scripts, and across a number of NPCs in-game, well, that's a lot of little scripts. Unpack Shadewood or Almraiven in the toolset, migrate to the modules/temp0 directory and see for yourself all the .nss scripts there are.

Sticky Situations | 11.30.14

A 16k Question?!?

So the summer flew by, more so than the last few, and I'm not sure if I'd even call it a full summer with how cool the weather was during the warm months of June, July and August. As mentioned in the previous entry, I did some traveling in July with the family to warm water and sandy beaches, and upon my return soon realized how inefficient Fate of the Auren had become.

Conversation scripts had started to take its toll on the module, with every single option available to the player having a script associated with it, so the option would be removed once the dialog was read.

Venturing downwards from The Stonelands. . .

With a number of NPCs already in the module, and still many more to write dialog for, Fate of the Auren reached this 16k resource limit, that once over, really messes up any module. Instances of this can be found on the Bioware forum of Dungeon Masters unable to log-in to the PW, to items being in the palette but not able to spawn in-game even if the tag was correct.

So one day I'm writing more conversations and enter the module to run a test on the dialog and the available options, when I realized none of the wandering filler NPCs that walk the city streets were there. The same started to happen with filler NPCs that fill common rooms of taverns and inns! Even areas I had marked as completed and fully fleshed out experienced these problems.

A serious foggy bug in the weather system!

I was shocked that Fate of the Auren had become larger than Almraiven and Shadewood combined. Getting some pointers from the Bioware forum on the situation, and deleting all .nss files from the /temp0 directory while the module was open in the toolset cleared that limit away, and things returned to normal.

Then I stepped away from Fate of the Auren completely.

From late August to the end of November, I avoided working on the module. That time I would have used working on Fate of the Auren was instead spent helping with neverwintervault.org, relaxing to play Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition, as well as creating areas for a PW when an area was requested. The break was a welcomed one as I organized notes and created better direction in my own workflow for when I felt it was time to resume the module.

Venturing through the Farrow Flatts. . .

During development of Almraiven and Shadewood, I took breaks all the time, but never because the module reached its 16k resource limit. That's why I've taken a realistic look at Fate of the Auren and its scope.

It's huge.

As a player, you can venture off the beaten path and explore the many wilderness projections in the Land of the Dead, go one way and arrive at some little village that has no bearing on the main plot, or follow the recommended direction of those events tossed your way. A player can stumble upon a city before ever learning of its location -break into homes, shops and inn rooms as well- and that scope is something I really felt confident in creating when Fate of the Auren started to become a reality. I still do, but ...

Wovenweb Wood - a fitting name indeed. . .

... I can't. It's no longer realistic to continue creating so much for a player to do, when there's a high possibility they'd never experience it.

In Almraiven, you couldn't go to a locked door and weave an Acid Splash or Knock spell to unlock the tumblers and go inside. Doing so is fun, but then there is the designing of those rooms, or that house, and the people who are inside, and their reactions, and your conversation dialog reactions. Each idea builds on the last, and it's exhausting to test, to tweak and keep track of for a one person team.

That's the true reality of the module and its current situation -pure distraction of these little systems I've made available- that I'll have to start cutting back on as development continues.

Although one can break into any home or locked shop in a town, it will have to be toned down to two houses on a city street rather than all houses. There are about three new wilderness areas I'd like to create for a player to explore outside of the main story arc, but development now is completing incomplete areas (item creation, filler NPC conversations, and continued plot development of major NPCs and plot regions) required to tell the story.

A high trail leading into the Farrow Flatts. . .

Everything you've just seen as an in-game screen, has no bearing on the plot arc at all. These areas do tell their own tale of the events that have transpired in the Land of the Dead in relation to the main arc of the story, but it's not essential to the arc of the story to visit.

In darkness. . .

As much of the time spent creating these areas, I'm glad I did because even I enjoy roaming and trying out different routes to get to locations mentioned in the journal to move the story forward. No more though. I've finally had to draw a line, otherwise I'll end up losing focus on the real reason of Fate of the Auren - it's story!

. . .let there be light!

So, the second half of the story arc will be very linear in nature. Areas already designed for a particular region won't be expanded to include four other areas you can wander through and explore, and it will also drive the focus of the story to a smoother conclusion.

Before signing off, let me add that it's on purpose with all the test character entries of the past, the majority of in-game screens are of wilderness regions to avoid major spoilers. It's why there have been no in-game screens of Shayla Shay, Annex or Falis Goodmane, their dialog or their specific regions.

Night descending. . .

Whispers in the Darkness! | 11.27.14

Something shifts within the surrounding shadows...

Yikes! Been awhile, far too long indeed. Summer, a break away from Fate of the Auren, helping out at Neverwinter Vault, and now it's almost December ... and 2015!

I'll get an update out on the weekend from the High Tower itself!

Illustre Dusterwald | 07.08.14

Exploring the footsteps of the Auren Society of Weavers!

Illustre Dusterwald, the Auren Society of Weaver's second Elf, following in the footsteps of Delolad Senocen except that our Elf has also been studying the darker tomes he's come across during his training, having 5 levels in Wizard and one level as a Pale Master. Illustre did well enough, slightly more cautious than others, which took him across many projections in this corner of the realm. The ability to animate the bones of the extinguished without requiring summoning, is a big boost as a Pale Master in this realm.

Arriving into the Land of the Dead, Illustre projects what he was wearing upon death in the Land of the Living, his first spark in this new realm of existence, and the gear that will compliment him during his early travels to the projections beyond.

- Auren Society of Weavers Gold Ring [Almraiven]
- Auren Society of Weavers Robe [Almraiven]
- Auren Society of Weavers Staff [Almraiven]
- Cloak of Undead Protection [Shadewood]
- Chipped Silver Ring [Shadewood]
- Stonewall Boots [Almraiven]
- Ruby Set Belt [Shadewood]
- Hands of the Fire Demon [Shadewood]
- Old Pot Helmet [Shadewood]
- Wizard's Companion [Almraiven]
- Shiver Arrows [Shadewood]
- Wooden Bolts [Almraiven]
- Acid Covered Stones [Shadewood]

A storm is brewing. . .

So off Illustre went, shifting alone through the foliage of scattered projections. As the wind picked up and the rain began to fall, he wrapped his cloak tightly about his frame. Despite the vast wilderness before him, the Elf stuck to a winding trail rather than explore. He knew there would be plenty of time for that later, but first, Illustre would resupply.

What do you need besides a miracle? Scrolls. Lots of scrolls.

When Illustre made his way into populated projections, his ability to persuade those he was speaking to really began to shine. Alongside of a high grade in spellcraft, his intricate knowledge of the woven bind proved very useful when, at times persuasion failed, and spells were required to shape the needs of others into his own. A silver tongue was what kept Illustre on this path, seeking information rather than distant treasure.

Illustre warming up his tongue.

Although when it was time for combat, Illustre held his own with a variety of spells he learned over the course of Almraiven and Shadewood, dispatching the more common encounters he faced. Yet, dark places in the depths of the projected wilds, where strange creatures dwell, still caused a level of concern and equal caution. But how cautious was Illustre in the Land of the Living from which he comes. Or helpful? Let's take a look at his footprint.

- Illustre Dusterwald traveled along with Shayla Shay.
- He summoned forth Unuwen as a laboratory assistant.
- Members of the Shadowed Pangurk at The Shed were taught a firm lesson.
- The Elf took the time to help out three dead spirits and return their troubled souls to the Land of the Dead.
- And even helped out the Midnight Alley Ghost on The Strip.
- As well as Magnus Magicus, from Arra's Haunted Home on Horseshoe Lane.
- Gutted the Werefolk Captain on his way to save Wundra.
- Completed the Nightshade hunt of Vampires on the streets of Almraiven.

And in Shadewood. . .

Recorded footprints from the Land of the Living.

Despite his quick persuasion and woven bind unable to assist him all the time, and getting into some local trouble, Illustre Dusterwald did quite well for himself. He was proud for attaining Level 7, bringing him to par with Mara Sheringal, and Perthrowilo Ithil who as a reminder, arrived to the Land of the Dead at said level.

You're right. I shouldn't have done that!

I'll try and sneak one last update before I leave the country, as I am traveling again and will not have access to do any updates until my return.

Mara Sheringal | 02.18.14

Exploring the footsteps of the Auren Society of Weavers!

Mara Sheringal is a very unique member of the Auren Society of Weavers, for her studies favored her time with the Clergy of the Velsharoon Church, rather than the Weavers of the High Tower, and this makes for an interesting journey in Fate of the Auren. Now Mara arrives in the Land of the Dead as a Level 4 Cleric of Velsharoon, Level 2 Sorcerer and a Level 1 Monk, surpassing Perthrowilo Ithil in experience points.

Her arrival changed a lot of what she was taught by the priests of Velsharoon, for those healing spells she prayed for, would now be those of inflicting damage as her spirit shifted from positive to negative. These additional spells from the Cleric's Spell Circle became a true source of power, just as they did in the Land of the Living, now reversed. Mara Sheringal also brought a collection of gear from one realm to the next, her journey in the Land of the Dead ready to begin.

- Auren Society of Weavers Gold Ring [Almraiven]
- Auren Society of Weavers Robe [Almraiven]
- Cloak of Undead Protection [Shadewood]
- Ring of Classification [Almraiven]
- All Business [Almraiven]
- Stonewall Boots [Almraiven]
- Ruby Set Belt [Shadewood]
- Hands of the Fire Demon [Shadewood]
- Hand Crafted Arrows [Almraiven]
- Bolts [Shadewood]

Resting and sorting through her spells.

Now also having some training as a Monk, Mara's fists gave off a lot of punch in combat, but even so, it didn't take long to find her a weapon she could use easily enough where other members of the Auren Society of Weavers would have certain difficulty. The additional bonuses that the Auren Society of Weavers Robe offers via magical runes as one gains in level, helped add to her overall damage output, and she came in the same high bar as Circe Steel in combat.

Mara had an unexpected guest drop in...

Mara's journey started out just as well as other members of the Auren Society of Weavers, until it was time to select her spells, which due to being multiclass, introduced many more choices than a Wizard or Sorcerer would have normally. Bless, Virtue, Endure Elements, Divine Favor and even Bull's Strength as a priest, turned Mara into a combat machine. Along with a high armor class (AC) of 19, getting up close and bloody wasn't much of an issue at all. Mixing it up with Negative Energy Ray and a slew of Inflict Wound spells, healing kept Mara and any companions ready for the next wave without needing campsites to rest until absolutely necessary.

...and then dropped in herself!

With more power up front, Mara soon found herself exploring many of the odd projections that make their home in the Land of the Dead. Such projections created from the memories of spirits sorted through the Well of Souls help shape the realm and make it what it is, and her tasks set out by the Auren Society of Weavers took a back seat to the strange projections she stumbled upon. Now what of her journey in the Land of the Living? Was she so carefree there as well, or did she have the potential to focus when called upon?

- Mara summoned forth Halav as a laboratory assistant.
- Members of the Shadowed Pangurk at The Shed were taught a firm lesson.
- She took the time to help out three dead spirits and return their troubled souls to the Land of the Dead.
- And even helped out the Midnight Alley Ghost on The Strip.
- As well as Magnus Magicus, from Arra's Haunted Home on Horseshoe Lane.
- Gutted the Werefolk Captain on her way to save Wundra.
- Completed the Nightshade hunt of Vampires on the streets of Almraiven.

Stumbling upon the Valley of Moon Mountain.

Exploring with Mara Sheringal as a priest of Velsharoon caused some in-game issues during the early stages of testing. The most glaring was being able to use healing spells as such, without any damage done to Mara by positive energy. Wizard and Sorcerer spells were taken care of, so one could cast Negative Energy Ray on themselves and heal their wounds now that they exist in the Land of the Dead, but I never thought of doing it for Cleric spells.

Time for some rest and reflection.

So ... the modifications to all healing cleric spells now cause damage, and all inflicting cleric spells now heal wounds. This change added a lot more to Mara Sheringal's personality, as well as maturity with her Velsharoon faith. It also let me know that someone who took the time to play Almraiven and Shadewood, can now complete the trilogy with Fate of the Auren using their character while learning the dynamics of what it's like to be a spirit in the Land of the Dead, and the changes that will bring to their spell selection.

Delolad Senocen | 12.29.13

Exploring the footsteps of the Auren Society of Weavers!

Delolad Senocen, a young elf by their standards, comes to the realm with a lot of experience as a member of the Auren Society of Weavers. Much like Feradach Findlaech before him, Delolad arrives as a Level 6 Wizard. Only 1,097 experience points behind Feradach, Delolad still ran into some unpleasant trouble during his travels.

A good number of helpful Auren Society of Weavers gear was left behind when Delolad was ripped apart by the explosion of the portal, a much needed destruction to return the Darkness back to the Land of the Dead. Although he arrived with a fine stitched robe, it was not that of the Auren Society of Weavers. His choice of weapon, a Wooden Branch, which offers no additional spells like that of his Auren Society of Weavers Quarterstaff. Thankfully, Delolad died wearing his Auren Society of Weavers Ring, which assisted in storing a few extra spells for the journey ahead.

Bakadah might not be very pleased to learn his most trusted pupil during the course of an investigation through Almraiven and Shadewood, wasn't wearing all of his gear. Just what else did Delolad bring to the Land of the Dead? Let's take a look.

- Auren Society of Weavers Gold Ring [Almraiven]
- Rignald's Band [Almraiven]
- Carved Boots [Shadewood]
- Wooden Branch [Shadewood]
- Black Stitched Robe [Shadewood]
- Carved Bolts [Shadewood]
- Rusty Spiked Helm [Shadewood]
- Hands of the Fire Demon [Shadewood]
- Amalin's Cloak of Lurking [Almraiven]
- Wild Looking Boots [Almraiven]
- Golden Amulet [Shadewood]

Looking south to the vast projections beyond.

Despite all of this, the journey forward was a positive experience, and Delolad made use of his renowned skill in Persuading those he came across. When parlay failed, the young Elf had a good assortment of woven binds to change the course of the conversation toward his own goals and desires. With a lack of additional spells, damage and protection from not arriving with his Auren Society of Weavers Robe and Quarterstaff, Delolad met and travelled the realm with Ahlias Nox. An extra hand in battle would be helpful.

Investigation? But there's a boat here!

This, you see, is where things took a turn in another direction. Delolad really enjoyed exploring the vast wilds of the Land of the Dead, despite knowing his investigation loomed above him. Ahlias Nox wasn't much help to deter him, loving the wilderness just the same. So off did the two go, a journey that took them away from the road with little to show for supplies, reduced protection and a smaller spell selection.

Ahlias, what do you mean there's a trail hidden here?

Let's not forget though the path Delolad Senocen took in the Land of the Living, and his impact on that realm of existence before arriving in the Land of the Dead.

- Delolad Senocen has a close companion in Falis Goodmane.
- He summoned forth Halav as a laboratory assistant.
- Gutted the Werefolk Captain on his way to save Wundra.
- Members of the Shadowed Pangurk at The Shed were taught a lesson too.
- But Delolad did take the time to help out three dead spirits and return their troubled souls to the Land of the Dead.
- And even helped out the Midnight Alley Ghost on The Strip.
- As well as Magnus Magicus, from Arra's Haunted Home on Horseshoe Lane.
- Ventured to Shadewood and met the spirit of the Mountain Pass in Myth Unnohyr.
- Put an end to Razormaul and his Kobold crew.
- But ended up losing Tyner to spiders in the Spider Cave.

Perhaps we should have stayed on the road. . .

Sadly, Delolad Senocen never did make it in the end. Exploring such wet regions exposed him to a lot of rain, which made putting a good campfire together difficult. Not to mention, finding dry wood to ignite so he and Ahlias Nox could rest their wounded projections. Once Negative Energy Ray was spent, and a lack of fire to brew potions, stumbling through the wilderness on such low supplies, one encounter after another was soon to be their last.

Scrambling through the wilds of the Farrow Flatts.

Once Ahlias Nox was extinguished, Delolad Senocen soon followed. In a cruel twist, they both died once they found the road again, only six hours away from the safe haven of a nearby town. This journey does bring into question on whether a few more interior campsites should be included out in the wild, or does one leave it as is and allow the risk of venturing off the beaten track be the experience? More tweaks might be in order.

On a related note, Delolad Senocen was extinguished by the same encounter as Circe Steel.

Feradach Findlaech | 09.15.13

Exploring the footsteps of the Auren Society of Weavers!

Feradach Findlaech is one of few smiles, and even then they look more like a snarl on his scarred features. Clawed at a young age before arriving to the High Tower for his apprenticeship, it has hardened him, and the lack of a friendly demeanour allowed him to focus solely on his studies. Don't let the street-side look fool you though, for Feradach is quite intelligent and arrives to the Land of the Dead as a Level 6 Wizard of the Auren Society of Weavers.

The going was tough at first, for Feradach Findlaech did not arrive to the Land of the Dead with any of his Auren Society of Weavers gear - a quarterstaff which offers extra spell slots; a gold ring to store two spells within; a robe that pulsates and grows in power as one levels - all left behind in the burning ruin of the One Copper Inn in Volothamp. Even being naked in this realm is not safe, so the grumbling Wizard had to splurge for some extra protection early on.

His training took little care in the linguistic arts. A man of few words, Bluff, Persuade and Intimidate do not mix with his style. Rather, Feradach has his woven bind do the speaking for him, using Scare, Eletric Jolt, Ray of Frost and Acid Splash to pull out the information he requires. If that fails, he pulls out their teeth before extinguishing their spirit.

Startled, Feradach readies himself!

But what else did Feradach bring to this realm of existence? Surely he didn't get as far as he did as a member of the Auren Society of Weavers being naked all the time.

- Shimmering Dagger [Shadewood]
- Ruby Set Belt [Shadewood]
- Golden Amulet [Shadewood]
- Whispering Wind Cloak [Shadewood]
- Sinkers [Almraiven]
- Hands of the Fire Demon [Shadewood]
- Rusty Spiked Helm [Shadewood]
- Faded Copper Ring [Shadewood]
- Small Granite Ring [Shadewood]
- Wooden Bolts [Shadewood]

Like Perthrowilo Ithil, Feradach Findlaech opted to remain wearing Aunt Aries Small Granite Ring as well. Based on arriving with the Shimmering Dagger, his movements in the Land of the Living brought him to sneak through Colir Loomstalk's private chamber for a few extra goodies. Another interesting choice is wearing the Whispering Wind Cloak from Maraba Slingtoss' crew. It's not even magical, but having it could certainly prove more interesting in the Land of the Dead where some are waiting for their revenge. With that said, let's look at what other dasdardly deeds Feradach Findlaech did in the Land of the Living.

Feradach enjoying some alone time with his thoughts.

- Feradach Findlaech has a close companion in Shayla Shay.
- He summoned forth Unuwen as a laboratory assistant.
- While searching the Spider Swamp, Feradach Findlaech killed Maraba Slingtoss.
- Put an end to Razormaul and his Kobold crew.
- And had little patience for Colir Loomstalk, putting him to the dirt as well.
- But, Feradach Findlaech did have the time to visit the spirit of the Mountain Pass in Myth Unnohyr.

Grumbling loudly, Feradach is reminded why he wears boots in the first place!

His footprint in Almraiven is quite tiny, obviously keeping a low profile through the bustling streets and backstabbing city dwellers. It's when Feradach gets to Shadewood, does he seem to become more involved, surely from growing into his role as a member of the Auren Society of Weavers!

Lost in the wilderness, Feradach curses ever leaving the safety of the road.

Sorry to the player of Feradach Findlaech, and to those who waited for the next update. Matters during the summer took precedence.