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View from the Vault - A Matter of Character


Every now and then I am going to write an article about my observations as site manager of the Neverwinter Vault. While we have many types of spotlights and entries that are requested by community members, these articles will be based solely by my feelings, observations, and slightly askew perspective. Because of this, take them at face value. Articles about Pale Masters are not slights against clerics or people who love to play them, they are merely articles about Pale Masters. Articles about NWN2 are not slights against NWN1, they are simply NWN2 articles.

In many of the gameworlds I have been exposed to, and in many modules, a lot of the experience is character based. I know, no revelation there, but I think that there is something here that bears discussing, and perhaps expanding upon.

Let's look at NPCs. In NWN they are static unless possessed by a DM. They are an icon, a description, and dialog. Pretty narrow, but a talented dialog writer can make up a lot of ground. But what happens when the NPC is run by another human being, capable of realtime reaction and interaction? High Definition character. A DM can create a persona that goes beyond the simple "Hello. Would. You. Like. A. Drink?" that most NPCs offer. Companions and NPC party members are also an area that can really shine. If you've ever been on a ride along with an overpowered NPC or companion you know that you quickly lose interest. "Yes, I saw you cast horrid wilting, again, and kill everything in the server, again. You're just so powerful. *yawn*" After pondering this I wanted to discuss it. I am going to offer some views and opinions from my experiences, try to be somewhat concise, and see if we can expand the character section on the Vault from mere erf's with stats, hit points, and gear to entries without attached files but instead descriptions that fuel others to use the persona, modify it, or inspire them to their own creations.

My first online gaming experience of any note was NWN. I started on a gameworld randomly, and was lucky enough to meet a fellow named Hephaestus. Years later I can still verify one thing with no pun intended; Heph is a craftsman. He played the role of his namesake on the server when DMing, but I wasn't going down that road with my character, and I wanted something a little more sinister. That need was also covered. Hephaestus has also created an alternate persona to Hephaestus the crafting god in a being known as Ember. Ember was a counterpoint without being a simple black hat to the crafting gods white hat, she was more. She was vibrant, beautiful, and bent on destruction. Her enemy was a cripple, a mangled beast to her that was a fool to craft weapons of power for good. For a being of chaos, such as my character, items could be created to sow discord, grab power, and harness authority through the destruction.She was not a god, she was simply a power on the server that gave balance. She was a polarizing figure for the "good" side of the server, and served as a plot figure to struggle against. She was similarly effective for the baddies, gathering a cult of creative destruction that plotted in a deep forge far from the sun and urging them on.

I can't really do justice to the character or Heph, but he is what caught me up in NWN and changed my gaming experience forever. I imagine all of you know a DM like this. It's not easy to create something that is not cookie cutter for an NPC, and he did so with a simple premise with great effect.

After starting a server with some friends, I discovered what a truly daunting task it was to create a character for all the NPCs walking around the server. I would like to think I met the challenge with success, albeit varied. I am proud of a few of the characters the team made and would like to share some of them with you.

One of the first NPCs we crafted was a being known as Kaldt. In our unique Norse setting, Kaldt is a Norn. She is a hearth spirit (Shadowrun folks will see the tie in of this term) that lingers in the woods outside of the pivotal settlement on the server. She is the embodiment of the strong human, demi-human, and animal spirits that persevere in the cold climates. Kind and benevolent, she offers aid to weary travelers where she can, most often in the form of wisdom, warning, or healing. She also seeks to preserve wildlife from wanton destruction. Kaldt is in tune with the natural lands, embracing the frigid clime. She understands that it is a harsh, brutal region in which to live. She does not interfere with nature taking it’s course, whether it is an orc tribe hunting elk or a fox hunting a hare. She does however strive to prevent suffering. While she plays a somewhat typical role of friendly ranger type in the woods she has the added mystery of being a spirit. You can find the full description here.

We also had a haven for baddies on the server. Since someone had to keep an eye on the place we created Ignatious Mortimer, a flesh golem. "Iggy" had all the manners of the most congenial British Butler figure. He was extremely polite, you could rip his arm off and hit him over the head with it only to have him ask you "Will that be all Master Rok?" He was popular with the players as the most vile of beings was treated with the utmost respect, even if it was by Frankenstein's Monster.

We had a companion created by a fellow by the handle of Cayle. He did some truly amazing code work and brought to us Thorkul. Thork was a companion in town you could hire, simple enough. But as you wandered around with him, he would talk, on his own. The wonderful thing was the randomness Cayle assigned Thork. He would emote leering at nearby females by their names. He would bellow things out. But there was no schedule to it all, and it was wonderful to have him in the party when you encountered new players, who thought Thork was another player or possessed by a DM because of how original and varied he was.

Lastly was the priest of the local temple, a powerful figure that was handcuffed by all around him. I imagine many of us know a man that has heavy shoulders and a quiet demeanor. Ever wonder why they carry themselves so? Ryche was a wise man with a minor military background that found himself in the service of Odin. Even more importantly to the characters and NPCs, Ryche was a sounding board and influential NPC as his word carried weight in town. That being said, it was a frontier town beset outside one wall by a constant menace and inside by all manner of antics. Extremely powerful adventurers terrorizing both the townsfolk and the guard were among the issues he faced, and he was loathe to act at any time because he knew he was perpetually in a no win situation - anger the locals or anger those that could decimate the town.

I have found that it is the individual, remarkable characters that help define the experience. Many people react not to what you can do, but who you are. If you peak the interest of a player with an NPC then it's much easier to weave a story, to lead them on their adventure. If you get a moment, post a character on the Vault. Not an erf, not a build, just describe someone. Send in a short description that has openings that can go places depending on the whim of an author. Contribute a detailed description and have your work become an important part of something.

Why do they avoid candles and torches? Do they talk about a certain member of royalty out of adoration, lust, or something more sinister? Isn't that golem with the burning hatred for birds entertaining? Why does that warrior clean that short blade all the time and let his other weapons fall into disrepair? If you share your story, maybe someone else will be able to use it in their adventure. If you read another's ideas or description, maybe you'll be inspired?

Thank you for taking the time to peruse the View from the Vault.


Site Manager

Neverwinter Vault

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