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Checklists for a Quality Module

Author: 
Tseramed

Creating a quality NWN module is both an art and a science. This article attempts to outline some simple module creation guidelines that may help aspiring module builders improve the quality of their work. Let me make clear that this article covers the fundamentals of creating an enjoyable module. And let me say that rules are made to be broken, including the guidelines I lay out below.



My philosophy of quality gaming is that players should receive rewards with a frequency inversely proportional to the magnitude of the reward. In essence, players should get lots of small rewards, a moderate number of larger rewards, and just a few really big rewards. And these rewards should be appropriately spaced throughout the game. I call this the "Standard Reward Structure" or SRS for short.



In RPGs the reward system usually translates into "kill monsters, get treasure, level up, repeat." But another way of looking at it might be to ask "What rewards can I provide and what tools are available to create rewards"? The range of rewards you can provide in a game is limited only by your imagination. However, at a basic level, the key rewards NWN can deliver are:



- Discover something new (new areas, unfolding plot, new monsters or NPCs)

- Overcome an obstacle (kill a bad guy, solve a puzzle)



The tools you have at your disposal to generate rewarding experiences are determined by the software tools NWN makes available. The key aspects to consider are:



- Story

- Environments

- Monsters

- Loot

- Characters

- Usability



If you carefully review your module in terms of these reward-generating tools you can achieve a basic level of enjoyment for your players. Remember to space the rewards you deliver appropriately so that they match the SRS.



Here are some checklists I use when creating a NWN module. I review the checklists again and again to be certain that I'm delivering a quality experience for the players.





STORY CHECKLIST

Plot has a beginning, a middle and an end

NPCs are unique & different from each other

Story topic is something players will care about

Plot divides into meaningful sub-quests

Story enables discovery and sets up obstacles according to the SRS

Story plays through completely



ENVIRONMENT CHECKLIST

Areas are decorated with appropriate and interesting objects

Sound effects and music match the area and times of day

Lighting matches the mood of an area

Links between areas make a comprehensible map

Objects in the area are interactive where needed



MONSTER CHECKLIST

Monster difficulty overall matches expected player level

Monster variety is good, follows area themes, makes sense

Monster factions allow monsters to hate each other when needed

Encounter challenge matches the SRS



LOOT CHECKLIST

Unique items exists & enhance the play experience

Shops should allow conversion of loot to useful items

Treasure is dispensed according to the SRS



CHARACTER CHECKLIST

Players have opportunity to express the unique qualities of their characters via skills and feats

Level ups are paced properly along the adventure

Team play opportunities exist (if a multiplayer module)

Henchmen exist to support any skills PCs may lack



USABILITY CHECKLIST

Journal entries help players remember and execute quests.

Conversations deliver key information without being "tangled"

Map pins clearly show navigation between areas and key locations in each area

Puzzles are solvable and provide hints as needed

Bugs have been found and fixed





Just as important as knowing what to include in a module is knowing what NOT to include. Before you create that monster, area, item or conversation, ask yourself one key question: "If I left this out of the module, would the player experience be worse"? Another way of saying this is that you should create only and exactly the content that will maximize a player's gaming experience.

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Jimdad55

Required reading !  Module building in a nutshell . . .

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