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DM Gameplay Review

Author: 
ShaperM.C.

The DM:

The DM did a great job but right off the bat I could tell that it was his first time. The game was only scheduled for 2 hours; hence I knew that he had no idea how long players end up taking. I have tried to run players through mods in 3.5 hours before to no avail and those ones had very easy to follow plots (pretty straight forward as well). It always ends up taking longer, so I have started to plan realistically with my times. After a lot of unruly people that I have had over the past month of BETA testing I have learned one of the most important aspect of DM mod building, use a starting area.

Quoted from Shinji at NeverwinterConnections.com:

A starting area, either an ooc area or an in-game area, ideally a campfire, it creates the illusion of preparing for the adventure you can also combine those two.

 This is not where I got the idea, in fact many DM’s that I ran across when first getting NWN online used this. The best part about this area is that you can make sure that all of the players understand the rules, and mechanics of the player client (Like making sure that all PC’s have include Dungeon Master messages, very critical). A lot of the common rules that I run across are; no running, no shouting, and if not in character (IC) type OOC (out of character) at the beginning of the message (e.g. ooc Guys I got to take a break). I feel that these rules being set up in the beginning allow for a smooth game and makes sure that the players know what to expect. I also let them know, as he did, that there are very little scripted conversations and that you need to chat with them rather than talk to them (i.e. clicking on the NPC).

As far as other things go a good description never hurt. I know that I mentioned this last night but an occasional ***you enter the area and the bright light from the new day makes you squint and the flowers could be smelt throughout the forest*** after leaving a dungeon or cave never hurts. I enjoy having the PC’s react to these kinds of things. The reactions go anywhere from a simple word to an entire discussion for 30 min revolve around that. I always have a NPC around to spur on the conversation when this happens ;-) Also if it is a hostile area they stop to chat, then send enemies in (He made good use of this last night).

Another small thing is “tell messages” and cookies. He started to do these towards the end of the session, but I know that I had been sending messages through most of the game, and also praying. Gods are very alive in my world and if they hear you pray a lot they might drop you a hint every now and again in dangerous areas or even bless you with a spell or two from the DM ;-)

If you get the DM wand (which I stress getting one for every DM module) you can roll ability checks for the players. Like if a player mentions something to the fact of “I try to listen to the door.” Of course there is no way for the game to do this if there is no noise being made (in game) but you can roll the check and tell message (click on their portrait on the right hand side) and let them know that they hear goblins, a hostage, or trick them into thinking they heard something with a poor enough roll. If you message them it can turn into a game of telephone and if you have a good RPer you will sometimes watch them take your info and use it to their advantage. Cookies for me involve one thing; Role Playing. I reward good RPing with XP. If a player says something IC that makes me type poorly because I am laughing so hard, they get some XP. If a PC thinks outside the box (i.e. I try to throw a arrow at the trap to disarm it) they get XP even if they fail. I call it a cookie because it enforces the behaviors/activities that I enjoy seeing with some thing that they enjoy seeing.

Balance in the battles is one of the hardest things to do and I felt that it was done pretty well last night. I feel that balance is very difficult because I am use to the CR of D&D and the one that NWN has, seems a bit off. If I tone down a monster, it is too easy and takes too long to kill. If I just buff it up and reduce the HP it is very tough but far too easy to destroy. There was a discussion that may help you that I participated in at Neverwinter Connections.

The Module:

The effort that went into this was great. I like the city set up and how in depth it got (i.e. It was not just a town with shops, the shops had back rooms and secrete rooms). The city seemed real with all of its quirks and specific places (i.e. the red light district, the merchant district) and some of the stranger people (i.e. advertising imp). It fell short in one area, talking. No, don’t get me wrong the talking was good. It is just that there was way too much of it and sometimes the same thing was said 3 times at the exact same time. Holding a conversation between players was tough. The NPC possessions were great on the other hand. The ability to add a story was great. If I didn’t know better I would say that the plot was fed to the DM, but I was happily surprised when I found out that it was all to the DM’s credit. Aside from the mod feeling a bit unpolished it was all in all pretty good.

The land felt real when you were in it. The story brought all the characters together. And with these two magical elements, the DM and the PC’s can both be entertained at the same time. This DM Pack allows for that, and I would honestly love to see more of these. I honestly think that if more of these were available to the public then the DM client would become more used/popular. I know that I have said this already, but the DM wand, EFX Wand, and Emote wand are most priceless to add to the experience of any game. I also like to see rule sets implemented, for I feel that BioWare fell a bit short there. I know that there are good amount of these at the Vault and are easily implemented into the game. TTV and HCR both come to mind as very good, and if you know the right person they can script you your own set.

This really does remind me of Modules for D&D because it allows you free range to do what ever you want with the Land, NPC’s, Monsters, and Items that are there. It seems to me like with minimal planning time you set up a really good adventure that was enjoyed by all. I am planning on doing the same thing and upon the success of this; I will release my “world”. What I want to do is give a very large Module that the DM can take the PCs just about through every kind of adventure, or even hold an extremely long campaign, with very minimal planning.

I think that BioWare has neglected this department because the average consumer of the game thinks that the DM client is a joke and has no DMable palate to work with. BioWare knew that they did not support the DM client as much as they should have. Look at the order of the start up screen Play -> Toolset -> DM client. It is difficult to find good DMs but well worth it, and if BioWare released a mod that required a DM we would see alot more.

Migrate Wizard: 
First Release: 
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