Tag Archives: Dungeons & Dragons

Backwards in Time to Forgotten Realms

As I mentioned at the end of the last month in review, the more pen and paper focused wing of our Saturday night group, Potshot, was looking into more small party adventure-centric options for our group.

And so he headed to GOG.com to grab Neverwinter Nights 2, a game first published in 2006.  It is the Obsidian Entertainment second version of the BioWare original.  For $20, you get the whole package including expansions all wrapped up, updated, and ready to download and install.

Neverwinter Nights 2

Neverwinter Nights 2

The download is 6GB, so that part was an over-nighter for me, but otherwise things went smoothly.

NWN2 is based on Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, which pretty much means nothing to me at this point.  I still think of 2nd Edition, with its THAC0 and such, as “the new stuff,” so anything after that is strange.  But it is also based in Forgotten Realms, which is the D&D setting nearest and dearest to my heart.

Potshot has grand designs for NWN2.  It comes with a tool set that lets you be the dungeon master and design adventures through which your friends can play.

But before you can run, you have to walk.   And before you can walk, crawling is often advisable.

And so this past weekend was spent trying to get the basics going.

I had downloaded the game and run through the tutorial, most of the information from which I promptly forgot once I left the game, when Potshot and I started to work on playing together in the same game.

Which is where there were some issues.  A meandering narrative after the cut.

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I am My Character, and He is Mine

There was an AD&D campaign that we started way back in the neolithic age.  This was the version 1.0 AD&D era.  Our Player’s Handbooks and Monster Manuals still looked good, the dungeon master’s screen was a new and exciting item, and strange philosophies, like the cult of THAC0, were still years in the future.

I still have these three books

The older brother of a friend of mine was going to run it.  He was one of those very smart and very creative types… and a college boy at a time when we were all in the pre-driving stage of high school… who could generate a campaign out of thin air that would get you excited to play.

So we sat around the living room of his parent’s place, rolling up characters and arguing as to whether characters from other campaigns could be brought in.  Arguments broke out over some powerful weapon that had no back story and how in the hell Spit the Spellbinder gained so many levels and whether or not that guy who always had to play a female role would be allowed to bring his character “Bodacious Ta-tas” along or would have to roll up something new that actually fit in a goddam fantasy setting outside of his wet dreams.

The usual stuff.   Many a campaign has died a quick death after a session like this.

In the midst of all of this I quietly rolled up, named, and equipped a ranger.  It wasn’t a bad class back then.  And, of course, I was under the influence of Tolkien at the time, and we know what his rangers are like.

Surprisingly, once a rule lawyering argument wrapped up about the relationship between experience and gold (The rules, as I recall, assumed that gold came with experience and getting experience should always be accompanied by a specific gold payout. Our DM didn’t hold with that, declaring that each was its own reward, but then insisted on holding to the rather steep fees required by guilds to level up a character.  It was a more complicated time.), the party actually started to come together.  Spit was in, Bodacious was out, and we actually looked like we might get past this first hurdle.

When the call came for my character sheet, I handed it over.  The DM glanced at it, tossed it back at me, and said, “No rangers.”  Being the only person in the room at this point who had not engaged in a heated discussion with the DM, I began to wonder if an argument was a requirement to join in.  I asked why not and the DM said he did not like rangers.

Had I been a more experience player at this time… or at least not a surly teen… I might have accepted that for the flashing red light warning that it was, crossed out ranger, wrote in fighter, and just got on with things.

But, dammit, I wanted to play a ranger.  A brief argument started in which it was declared, among other things, that rangers do not go under ground so he couldn’t come along in any dungeon or some such.  But the weight of the room was on my side.  Everybody else was ready to go and a lot of people were annoyed by the demands of the DM to that point, so I had support for my cause.  We just wanted to get on with it.

So with a huff, my ranger was allowed on the list with all the grace of Darth Vader accepting the failure of a subordinate.  My ranger would be made to suffer.

Not that it really mattered.  It was a diverse group that had not played together as a whole before and, as fate would have it, would never sit down together in the same room ever again.  It was the simply the amazing optimism of youth that set us down that path to another failed campaign.  And even if we had managed to get the whole group back together, things were not going well.

The DM made one of the classic blunders of campaign starts.  He put us all in a small town with an inn and expected us to go where he wanted without being totally strong armed into it.  One of the issues with this sort of free form campaign is that many holes come up in the environment, which is the sort of thing that attracts players like moths to a flame.  It is like handing the players a map with a town, a castle, a dungeon, and a blank area on it.  We will go to the blank area, thinking that the DM is hiding something cool there, never considering it is blank because the DM didn’t finish that bit.

We managed, as a group, to make it to the inn.  But we never left.   Things fell apart in all the expected ways.  For example, our DM was worked up about having a ranger in the party, but didn’t care that an elf and a dwarf were on the list and failed to take into account that Mr. Bodacious, who was now playing the elf (of course), would role play dwarf/elf enmity for all it was worth just because he was in a pissy mood at that point.

And part of the reason that things fell apart was that the DM decided to take over my character.  Not literally.  But every time my ranger did anything he would roll some dice behind his screen… rolling unseen dice is a DM method of validating whatever the hell he wants to do… and would call out what actually happened, as opposed to what I was trying to do.

Essentially, my ranger became Stomper from Bored of the Rings If he grabbed his mug of mead, he would knock it into somebody’s lap.  If he managed to pick it up, he would spill it on himself.  If he stood up, he would knock over his chair… or the table… or both.  Other patrons would ignore him or laugh at him.

The DM decided to make a very amusing tale for himself by overriding stats and skills and turning my character into a bumbling oaf.

Most of the details from that day are pretty blurry some 30+ years later.  I do not recall how the game broke up, just that we never resumed.  I got in a fight with my friend a couple months later that lead to a parting of the ways.  I never saw the older brother DM again.  Spit never played again that I know of, joined the Army after high school, and ended up on a farm in Montana. (Thanks Facebook.)  Bodacious fled the valley for San Francisco after graduation, while another player’s family moved to Minnesota shortly thereafter.

It was a minor moment in my life, a few hours were spent together in a room with this group, after which we were scattered to the winds.  Literally.  I think of the group, I am the only one who still lives in Silicon Valley.

Yet to this day, I remember this session.  It was one of dozens of games played during high school, most of which have been lost to the mists of time.

I remember this session because it represents something I really do not like in games, which is the game putting words in my character’s mouth or otherwise dictating what they do or say.

It was a defining moment in gaming for me, and forever has it dominated my destiny.

Which leads me back to MMOs.  And quests.  And that sort of thing.

I hate it when games start to dictate how my character behaves, when they try to impose a personality apart from my own upon the game.  I will go along with the flow of your story or quest chain, but I will do it on my own terms.  That for me is the essence, the “role playing” part of a “role playing game.”  If I cannot have at least that, my connection with my character becomes weak.  And it is often that connection that keeps my playing.

Beyond my moaning about bad blaster based combat in the game, this was the other big failing for me in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I found their fourth pillar, their dialog wheel, quite alienating.  About half the time I wanted a “none of the above” choice for my response.

I much prefer being left to my own devices.  And I think this gets reflected in the MMOs I choose.  Rift, which presents quests very much in the WoW model, offers up a take it or leave it choice.  Accept the mission for whatever reason or don’t, it is up to you.

And in EVE Online… well… nobody even pretends to understand your motivation.  You do what you will in the universe for what ever reasons you find.  In fact, finding reasons to do things is part of the trick of playing EVE.

Even Lord of the Rings Online, which ostensibly  is a very story driven game, doesn’t spend much time ascribing motivations to your character.

Meanwhile, it used to annoy me that once in a while EverQuest II would attempt to put more than bare minimum dialog in the mouth of my character.  SOE seemed to start off with dialog based question interactions as a goal, but then quickly reverted to basic “I’ll take your quest” or “Screw off, I’m busy” options most of the time.

But, as always, that may be just me.

How about you?  How much do you want a game to dictate your characters motivations and actions?

Question of the Day from My Daughter…

On the way to drop her off at school yesterday morning she asked, “What is Dungeons and Dragons?”

There is a step back in time from her last set of questions.

How do you cover that topic in the five minutes left before I drop her off?

The question came back over dinner, as my wife watched our local Sharks lose to Detroit in the NHL playoffs. (One more game to decide the series.)

I started explaining it with World of Warcraft as my initial reference point, but that wasn’t going very well, except as a minor history lesson in game design and how we cannot escape from what Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson wrought almost 40 years ago.

Then I got out my 1978 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook, however that was not the best illustration either.  “Not user friendly” doesn’t even enter into it.  I’m not sure how we figured out how to play with those original books.

Actually, I recall a lot of improvising and “making it up as we went along.”  And then a good chunk of rule book lawyering when “making it up” didn’t go the way somebody liked.

While she was pondering the book (after being admonished to “Be careful! It is more than 30 years old!”) I went looking for my dice.  They are around here somewhere.  I’ll find them.

So I then handed her a copy of David Hargrave‘s The Howling Tower dungeon module, just so she could see maps and room descriptions.

My copy looks just like this!

She wanted to play “tonight!”

She was on her computer and printing out 4th edition character sheets.  Oy!

I can see patience is going to be an issue here.  I remember gaming sessions going late into the night and never leaving the Inn where we started off… or never even getting started off, there being enough rolling up and accounting to be done to get started.

Eventually I got her to let things go to the weekend, but the original AD&D might be a bit too arcane… for even me at this point.

I might have to go pick up a copy of the 4th edition Player’s Handbook, which should be interesting.  I hear the rules have been streamlined quite a bit.  I still think of 2nd edition as being “That new stuff.”  The whole d20 system came along nearly a decade after I last rolled my own saving throw.

Then again, maybe I should just get out my copy of Tunnels & Trolls.  That was always a bit easier to get your head around, and I only need to find a pile of standard, six sided dice.

Daggerdale – Atari has More Dungeons & Dragons Coming

Last August, Atari and Cryptic announced a new non-MMO, single-player/co-op multi-player was being produced.  It was titled, ever so originally, Neverwinter.

Neverwinter
By the way, I would like to throw out a few other Forgotten Realms locations that could have games based around them, thus avoiding more repetition of Neverwinter. (Or Baldur’s Gate, for that matter.)

Waterdeep maybe?  Zhentil Keep?  Calimport even?  The elves of Evermeet perhaps?

All fine locations.

Anyway, I received a note today about another Dungeons & Dragons game, again not an MMO, but featuring single-player and co-op multi-player action.  This time Atari has teamed up with Bedlam Games to create Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale.


And the first thing going for it is that at least it isn’t named Neverwinter. (Or Baldur’s Gate.)

But otherwise it sounds… well… a lot like Neverwinter.

Solo or Co-op Play
It’s up to you! Whether you choose to do battle in the mines of Tethyamar or skirmish on the Tower of Rezlus, you can fight solo, join with up to three friends online, or battle alongside a partner locally.

Questing
Explore Daggerdale’s main questlines to reveal its intriguing backstory, mysterious characters, and the richness of its world. Extended depth and experience reward exploration and side-quests.

Immersive Combat
Battle a wide range of enemies by engaging in intuitive pick-up-and-play melee, tactical ranged combat, or powerful spell casting.

Develop Your Character
Select a class, build your ultimate hero, collect loot, and earn experience! Select powers and feats to enhance and customize your hero as you level up.

Stunning Levels and Deep Exploration
A wide variety of perilous quests encourage you to explore Daggerdale’s richly detailed environments.

Multiple Game Modes
Unlock new areas and challenges in Campaign mode, or hone your skills and discover powerful new items in Freeplay mode.

Authentic D&D Experience
The detailed world of the iconic Dungeons & Dragons franchise has been painstakingly recreated for a rich, complex, and thrilling game experience.

It also includes the usual claim to be true to the spirit of the 4th Edition rule set, though it lacks some of the heavy-hitter name that Cryptic mentions prominently; R. A. Salvatore. (He wrote the story on which the game is based.)

Oh, it does have one more thing going for it that Cryptic’s Neverwinter does not.  Daggerdale is supposed to be out before Summer.  Cryptic is still living up to its name and still saying just “2011” on the Neverwinter site.

Anyway, it is clear that Atari is big on Dungeons & Dragons of late.

Daggerdale is slated for Windows, XBox 360, and PlayStation 3, though my experience so far in cross platform is that PC players get the short end of the stick.  And Daggerdale’s latest video doesn’t exactly have me wetting my pants in anticipation.

Not that it looks bad, but there wasn’t anything that really stood out either.

How about you?  Have you heard anything good about Daggerdale?

Or have you heard anything new about Neverwinter?

Cryptic Calls My Forgotten Realms Bluff

If you didn’t like the IP idea in my last post, why not just go with Forgotten Realms?

Is Forgotten Realms good for everybody?

(Quiet you Dragonlance weenies!)

As noted over at Massively, Cryptic announced their next project, Neverwinter.

Neverwinter

This is what Cryptic has to say about the game so far:

About Neverwinter

100 years have passed since the Spellplague consumed the world of Faerûn. Neverwinter, a once majestic city of magic and adventure upon the mighty Sea of Swords, is still being rebuilt from near total ruination. Even as new wonders of stone and iron rivaling ancient works are being raised by the hands of man, dwarf and elf, dark powers beyond reckoning vie for control of the land…

This is a world that promises death for the meek, glory for the bold and danger for all. This is the world of Neverwinter.

Neverwinter Nights Reborn

Continue the critically acclaimed adventure! The #1 best-selling Neverwinter Nights series of PC RPGs returns with an epic Dungeons & Dragons storyline, next-generation graphics, a persistent world, and accessible content creation tools.

Immersive, Imaginative

Enter a world ravaged by the Spellplague. Wrest victory from the claws of darkness and battle the greatest of civilization’s enemies in and around Neverwinter, a storied and ancient city upon Faerûn’s Sea of Swords.

Challenging, Complex, Classic

Epic gameplay and action rooted firmly in the best traditions of the RPG genre await those heroes courageous enough to brave the Spellplague and all that it has ravaged.

Build a Fantasy

Easy-to-grasp adventure creation tools empower users. Bring compelling quests to life and build challenging levels! Share creations with the entire world in-game. Become a part of the existing Dungeons & Dragons universe… Then build a new one.

Play Together or Die Alone

Encounter dangerous foes and perilous environments. Work with others, strategically, to overcome nightmares, demons, monsters, and beasts of legend.

World Without End

Neverwinter features co-operative multiplayer in an ever-evolving, persistent world where Dungeons & Dragons adventurers quest alongside thousands of other warriors, rogues, wizards and faithful avengers.

New D&D, Beloved D&D

Neverwinter is a true Dungeons & Dragons experience based on the acclaimed 4th Edition rules — a first of its kind!

A Legend Arises

Unprecedented character customization as only Cryptic can deliver. Imagine a hero, make a hero, become a hero.

Neverwinter is based on the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons rule set and set around the Forgotten Realms location of  Neverwinter.

This is pretty much what I have been asking for.

I was just commenting on a post the other day regarding DDO and how Eberron doesn’t thrill me, but Forgotten Realms… now there is an IP!

We’ll see how the D&D 4th edition rule set gets translated… that is always a leap of faith… but it couldn’t end up that bad, right?

And now, here we are.

Certainly, there are aspects to this concept that interest me.

  • Forgotten Realms

My favorite D&D campaign setting ever!

He’s the man for Forgotten Realms fiction… but doesn’t he work with Curt Schilling?  How do you explain that one to the head man?

  • Cryptic Studios

If nothing else, I want to see the fantasy RPG version of their character creator.  That should practically be a stand alone game in and of itself.  And if they’ve learned other lessons, so much the better.

  • Content Creation Tools

Yes, there is the 90% crap rule, but if they can figure out how to promote the good stuff so we can find it, this could be worthwhile.

  • Did I say Forgotten Realms already?

Oh yeah, still excited about that!

  • Not an MMORPG

Interesting.

Jack saysI wouldn’t say MMORPG at all — Neverwinter is a cooperative RPG.”

So where will Neverwinter stand then in the grand scheme of things?  And how does “not an MMORPG” fit in with their statement under “World Without End” I quoted above?

Is this just positioning, a “Neverwinter is not WoW” message?

Will it be “not an MMO” the way Guild Wars and Dungeons & Dragons Online are “not” MMOs, lacking as they do the shared, persistent world?

Will it be a step closer to the Dragon Age segment of the fantasy gaming world?

Or will it fall closer to Diablo III and Torchlight II?

And how will we be paying for this game, whatever it ends up being?

I will certainly want to keep an eye on this new game.  We’ll see if my calls for a real Forgotten Realms MMO were a bluff or not.  And, if nothing else, I always like to see how the game that ships lines up with the first press release.

Meanwhile, the last time I was in Neverwinter, it looked like this:

Neverwinter Map – TorilMUD

Not exactly impressive, but that was the way things were back in the day when I played TorilMUD regularly, and I enjoyed it immensely at the time.

Farewell Dave Arneson

Just last week I noted in my month-in-review post that a year had gone by since the passing of Gary Gygax.

Now, this week, we heard that Dave Arneson, the co-creator, with Gary Gygax, of Dungeons and Dragons, had passed away. (news report here)

The duo who launched the juggernaut that is D&D are gone.

The two of them together made an indelible mark on fantasy gaming and its players.  The influence of their work will be felt for many years to come.