The Gamemasters

The Gamemasters
What Manner of Game

Bruce Nielson | 6 Sep 2005 08:05
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Combat moves much faster in NWN compared with traditional PnP D&D. As a result, adventures often have much more combat than those in PnP. This can create intense excitement, but also unique challenges as well. Events can move so quickly that it is sometimes difficult for the DM to intervene before a disaster happens. For example, when a mage shoots a fire ball, she can - well, let's be more accurate - she usually will kill one of her team members if the server is set to allow friendly fire. The chaotic nature of real-time combat does not lend itself well to a destructive spell that explodes in a 60 foot radius. In NWN you'd probably never use it if you couldn't turn off friendly fire. To address this, most Dungeon Masters set NWN to not allow damage from friendly fire. (First time DMs avoid doing this because they think it's "less realistic," not realizing that disabling friendly fire actually approximates the true usefulness of a "fireball spell" from a turned-based PnP game. )

Unfortunately, real-time combat can result in death before a DM can intercede. To handle this some DMs allow "respawning" with a penalty to experience and gold. Others - myself included - play with permanent death, but have rules to make death a rare occurrence. In my story, the party is under the protection of a powerful cleric (Samuel) who "touches" them with his power. The in-game result is that each party member can return from death once per module. After that, the "power" fades, and were the character to die again, the death is permanent. (This is why CorWyn mentioned that she had died and been brought back to life.) We have worked the "one - time-respawn" rule into the fiction of the game.

You Can't Do That in PnP!
Neverwinter Nights allows scenarios and stories to be developed that are not possible in PnP. In PnP, I always wanted to let the parties split up. I tried to come up with ways to handle this, such as letting one group of people play video games while the other enacted a scenario in PnP. It just didn't work in real life because boredom set in quickly and people lost interest in the game.

NWN allows parties to split up at will if the scenario is scripted. Whether it's a party all falling into different parts of a death trap, or Kalyl the Vampire Lord kidnapping one of the characters to be his bride, NWN allows for the party to split up without stopping the adventure to play out each scenario. This trick usually shocks players with a PnP background. I often get questions like "Should I wait here?"

Later, I became intrigued at the possibility of creating a NWN mod where the good guys and the bad guys were both played by real players. I created a story-oriented PvP mod about rescuing a duchess before a vampire lord comes to take her away. Because I was new to this type of mod, I kept it mostly combat oriented. I experimented with adding story and cut scenes so that it felt more like an adventure. The mod assigns "roleplaying" motives to the players and then offers XP awards for roleplaying the part. The XP awards are policed by the other players.

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