Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"I never win anything"

I remember being at a friends party when i was a kid, and sitting through all these party games where they were giving out prizes, and I got nothin'. After complaining that I never won anything (I was pretty morose as a child too) I was promptly award a prize for the best dancer for shaking my butt in time to Madonna.

Not sure what the moral of that story is. I don't think I've won much since, certainly not on the lottery. Did win runner up prize with a scientific poetry competition based on my PhD, but that's the closest I've come. Anyway, last weekend, I actually won tickets to see Naruto: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow at a special showing in a swanky cinema in the centre of London (it had ice in the urinals! Simple things please simple minds...). I'm a fan of anime, and Naruto is such a great series. It follows a group of young ninja going through training, each with their own abilities (and their own backstory, which usually amounts to them being outcast/ostrcised/ridiculed as a child and struggling for acceptance). Naruto the main character is a bit of a clown but has a nine-tailed fox demon trapped within him, which grants him great endurance to make up for his lack of skill. It's all great fun, and that's what I love about anime.

Watching the film got me thinking. I find a lot of anime is great inspiration for D&D - their heroes and villains often have great abilities that are fun to mimic - and Naruto is full of these. Ninja that control puppets to attack foes, one afflicted with a disease whose bones can grow out of his skin to attack people, a ninja bound to his dog companion who can share a human-dog hybrid form with his pet. All fun to base characters on in D&D, and to provide unique memorable challenges.

Something I've been thinking about is trying to make some of the boss fights in Dark Avenger more distinct along these lines - something to bring in new tactics. Chapter 2 has the PC confront a military fort, where all the best warriors are stationed, so I'm keen to make some memorable enemies with abilities different/beyond that standard class ones. And maybe something to throw a players usual tactics back at them - it's always great when your standard attacks don't work, and there's that little bit of panic as you desperately try something new to counter this.

In D&D, dragons are a good example of this. You fight through lower critters, where your tactics matter less, and all of a sudden you're faced with a huge monster, with many, varied attacks, that need different resistances. It offers something that toe-to-toeing with a lvl20 fighter doesn't. Prestige Classes go someway to offer the standard humanoid villain something like this. But I'm going to have to look into scripting something....

So - people have their favorite memorable villains - in D&D or in film? Any exciting encounters to regale us (me) with?

EDIT: Woohoo - as I post, just topped 5000 downloads for Dark Avenger - got there eventually!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Back from hols

...and very relaxed (or I was until I snuck a peak at my work inbox...). Mexico and the Yucutan peninsula were great fun, and got to visit some amazing Mayan ruins, as well as cycle, abseil, zip-line, and kayak through the jungle and swim in an underground lake or cenote. I loved the latter, as it got me thinking about dungeons and caves in the D&D setting (especially ropers, given the stalagmites there). Particularly as I'm working on a flooded cave section at the moment.

Results of the Companion poll are in:
  • Contessa (14)
  • Black Death (8)
  • Seich (7)
  • Gork (3)
  • Briars (1)

As there's more focus on Contessa in Chapter 1 (and she's a feisty teifling) it's more or less the order i was expecting at the top. Only one vote for Briars is a little sad - true he's not cut of the heroic cloth and he's very deferrential to the PC. Hoping the backstory plot I'm working on now will flesh him out a little and make him more appealing - it will bring in more confrontation with Gork too if he's in the party. I'm thinking about another companion to add (a paladin/fighter) but worried it will bring too much work at this stage. Could be done if I write out one of the existing companions (Gork) for the full version of the campaign.... will need to think on that.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

On holiday for a few days...

Off to Mexico (first time, and somewhere I've wanted to go for a while) for a bit so no building for me. Tho am taking my notebook to sketch out some areas and draft conversations. Hoping to get to Chichen Itza so will see if it compares well with Tomoachan ;)

Module update of the day has kicked off on the forums so looking forward to reading those on my return (have posted a brief update myself in advance that will go up whilst I'm away.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Compromises and companions

When I started on Dark Avenger I wanted to create something that felt like a story with D&D elements rather than a D&D mod with story elements... if you see what I mean. I put the comment 'this is less about killing rats in basements' in the description to try and convey what I intended... the rats in the basement type quest was back in the gorund of Candlekeep and is used in several mods to provide some quest based xp and items usually to get a character on their feet and maybe with an extra level or two. But scripting can do those things too...
You don't get those kind of starts in heroic fantasy - Rand al'Thor isn't driven from his village by rats as a boy, Conan doesn't long to crush some mice, see them driven before him, and to hear the lamentation of the little baby meeces... True, the Dread Pirate Roberts did combat rats, but they were Rodents of Unusual Size, so I think thats the exception to prove the rule*
...But after all that, I do find myself working on a 'Someone's in my fruit cellar!' quest at the moment that is essentially more rats in the basement, but hopefully with enough of a twist to add something different. But it is a departure from the story driven mod I planned and more traditional D&D dungeon adventuring. I'm hoping it will add something for those who found chapter 1 too linear and by tying it in with a companion's back story it shouldn't feel too out of place. It's compromising what I had in mind slightly (as was the H&S bandit approach in chapter 1, which I know I didn;t pull off as well as I'd hoped), but I'm trying to focus on atmosphere to help this feel right in the story.
*(apologies to all those reading who have used rats in basements! I am of course exaggerating the issue here!)

Speaking of companions, thanks to all who've filled in the poll so far. I'd been toying with adding a new companion but an wary of the additional workload it includes. I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts on the companions generally, and what could be changed or added. I always think it's a little sad when you read comments on modules, and the companions are referred to as 'the dwarf' or 'the cleric' - it kinda means that the immersion and story telling has lost something, and as a writer, you'd want to have the players thinking of the characters by name. Reading the forums, it's obvious companions are such an important thing to so many players, it's key to get them right.

Off on hols to Mexico at the end of the week. Will post some development screenshots before I go.