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Perfecting Your Module

Author: 
Werelynx

DISCLAIMER: This article does not say anything about promotion of your module. Moreover it is mainly aimed at NWN1.


Basics:

- Avoid using large areas especially if you plan to make them empty, long winded and spreaded thin. Don't use large interiors for small buildings(exteriors) unless they are magical.
- Avoid repetition. Don't put the same areas, tilesets, encounters, monsters all over again.
- Use NWN Spellchecker to fix all the typewriting er rors (typos) wink.
- Set music in every area you build.
- Avoid clichee: orcs, goblins, bandits.
- Make custom critters, encounters and items.
- Make journal entries for quests, try to make one for each possible plot variation. Try to tell player what is he supposed to do via journal in case he forgets or is clueless.
- If you make a plot A->B->C->D, then expect Player to do D first! Try to make it impossible to do things out of order or make sure all the possibilites are catered for. Expect that player does a quest before he talked to the quest giver!
- Add portraits to NPCs, critters, useable placeables.
- Set loadscreens in every area. Try to avoid random loadscreens.
- Add skyboxes to every area.
- Give hints, try not to confuse palyer too much.
- Add sounds to areas to build ambiance.
- Ending: don't make it abrupt and export character at the end. Don't make cliffhangers unless you make it a module series.
- Playtest it yourself at least one time. See if you can complete it with the given level range and classes. Check for plot-breaking bugs. Try to involve some betatesters.
- Avoid adding filler doors. If a door has fake transition make it pop-up an info why it is uninteresting. If a door is closed don't make it DC100, make it require key and plot. Make it say some discouraging text upon trying to pick lock/bashing/clicking etc.
- Make all important placeables 'plot' so that AoE don't brake the game! Make important NPCs 'unkillable' (fall to 1 HP, then immortal, whilst still "taking damage") or make sure their deaths don't stop the plot.
- Make sure the conversations recognize both sexes with the use of tokens (his/hers).
- Add placeables to areas (rocks, plants, furniture etc.) even if only for visual reasons.
- Don't put containers with random treasure on a city street right next to beggar. Or anywhere else they don't belong to.
- Make sure there is enough reward/loot to buy healing potions with. While adventures in which you have to invest are fun, expect PCs to come unprepared.
- Make "consumables" like potions available in 5- and 10-packs
- Add map pins.
- Backtracking. Try to make areas easy and more important FAST to travel. Coming through an area for the 5th time just to get the loot sold is boring. Make additional ways of travel(portal at the dungeon end, world map, items/placeables/transitions launching a conversation with travel options, stone of recall etc.). Consider adding some "wandering monsters".
- Boots of speed. They do not have to have 'haste' exactly, which is considered overpowered for low levels, but one can script it so that they change PC's speed OnEquip.
- Bags of holding: while they are considered to be overpowered for low levels, they are really useful in getting all the loot back to the shop. Especially if you do not plan on allowing PC to shop often.
- Respawning encounters. They are realy nice if you use them for big battles, PCs have no chance of winning, urging them to run. If they are used in every encounter it gets boring(fighting the same encounter) and often is nonsensical - how did those survive in wilderness with no food or how many vampires can feed on small village?
- Provide henchman for those of weaker classs, if the module has heavy fights.
- If you strip players inventory at the beginning make sure you inform them about it in the readme and on the vault page.
- All the random items should be clearly stated if they will be needed in future, can be sold or just should be discarded. The same goes with stuff like fire beetle's bellies: either delete them or make use of them, but don't forget to mention it early in game or in the readme.
- Don't include in one encounter/close to each other monsters that could not live together like bandits+undead or animals+undead or cats(feline)+dogs/wolves.
- Not everyone plays with longsword fighter, try to make other gear/weapons available as well.
- Make sure you put the starting point in right place after testing.
- Don't spawn encounters onto player or behind him unless you want to stimulate surprise attack. Even then you could try to do it with more grace than simply dropping mobs from nowhere.
- Warn players if you want to strip teheir equipment or delevel them. On the module page and in readme. Many of player are angsty when they get stripped.
- Make sure that names and descriptions are displayed correctly in every language. If you use blueprints it's taken from dialog.tlk, but when you change the description or name it will differ in various languages. When player has different language of the game than your toolset has then it will read players language first!
- NWN engine makes placeables that are in the same place "clip" if they are in the exactly same height (z axis). If you move the placeables even 0.01 units above or below the glitch will disappear.


Intermediate:

- Avoid original Bioware content, substituting it with Custom Content whenever you can. (Tilesets, Monsters, NPCs, Script Systems(Death etc.)
- Death & Respawn: if respawning is possible try to provide reason why it is so. Try to avoid free respawn, unless you make a puzzle module or the death is unimportant.
- Add autosaves at crucial points.
- Add wandering monsters when resting or travelling large distances between areas.
- Add custom music tracks (CMP etc.)
- Make options in conversations to use Bluff, Persuade, Intimidate, Lore, "Insight".
- Provide a walkthrough. Provide a map if you think it's needed.
- Provide Player Character customization(wings, dyes, appearence changers). Some of the players find it really appealing.
- Add crafting materials(for traps also!).
- Try to finish what you have started (campaign, module series).
- Make sure the areas are rotated in right direction and that when you go north you actually go north and end up in the south border of new area!
- Try to make sure that your areas are all tagged differently, so that if some bug appears they can be jumped to via console.
- Same as above goes to the quest items. Tag them differently. Provide that plot item shop used by OC - it might be helpful for players that lost their items.
- When an NPC is female try not to give her a male voiceset and vice versa.
- Provide henchman with backstories, conevrsations, one-liners, sidequests. Vary them: add some unusaula races, animals, monsters...
- Make NPCs remember PC(s)
- Avoid leaving placeables that are useable(highlightable with TAB), but serve no function, nothing happens when PC uses them or there is no description that tell player anything useful.
- Fill in description on useable placeables, items, NPCs, monsters etc.
- Remove specific drops from critters, like fire beetle belly or fernberry(from placeable) if they serve no function in your module. Remember that skeleton knuckles can be used to make negative energy traps!
- Make quests solvable in few different ways.
- If you make cutscenes, then make sure thay work well with camera hacks (camera unlocking). Make sure it works with dm_mylittlepony cheat (faster speed) as well - many modules strip it upon cutscene and forget to give it back. If there are haste items, it's not a problem.
- Make NPCs wander about doing their jobs, not just stand there. However if you decide to close shops at night be sure to include means of skipping to the morning (sundial placeable is the most common one).
- Add sounds and animations to conversations.
- Enforce it, do not penalize for it. If you make a custom rule then do not punish player for trying to cheat but try to enforce it better.

Experienced:

- Add class-specific stuff: pickpocketable items for Rogues,  talkable animals for Druids/Rangers, some quests, some societies/guilds, songs and performances in inns for Bards.
- Override all tilesets with custom reskins of your choice.
- Override ugly critters with custom ones(reskins etc.).
- Add "fingered hands" hakpak.
- Avoid making a module for 1st level characters, there are plenty of those.
- Add race-specific stuff. I does not have to be racism (or specism), it can be a sidequest, different response, racial lore, some holes might be climbable only by small folk etc.
- Add horses or other mounts.
- Add alignment changing or alignment-specific options in conversations and quests.
- Make cutscenes.

 

If you want more, check those articles from old vault:

  1. Before Final - Module Creation From a Player's Perspective
  2. Designing Modules That Hopefully Do Not Suck
  3. Checklists for a Quality Module
First Release: 
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Jedijax

Great guidelines! Too bad they are a bit too late into the game! cheeky

Back in 2004-2006, if this had been actually taken into account...

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Werelynx

Well, I just wrote them cheeky

 

If you think anything should be added tell me so!

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Shadooow

Nice guide.

Though I cannot agree with the "add hand models" "and use reskins and facelifts for vanilla content". Because many players has their own reskins and grpahical improvements and I really hate when a module (last time I saw this in Aeiluiend saga I think) is replacing my colored icons with different set of colored icons that I do not like. Or when the module is replacing my worm hands with kurairyu's. Could understand this with tileset since these can help builder to create a different athmosphere in module, and perhaps also with creatures, though everytime I see that troll from worm (or baba yaga?) I get sick - absolutely not fiting NWN, anyway. Keep this in mind when adding vanilla override stuff into your module!

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Werelynx

Hands - I'll leave them.

Icons - never wrote about them and can relate: EoB2 did something like that and I hated that part :)

Monsters: I personally like that troll, but Bioware's one is good as well. On the other hand orcs reskin is gr8!

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Shadooow

Sorry I wasn't trying to imply you suggested to replace icons. Was speaking generally.

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Will Ondiron

yes that's what i was looking for - funny why i don't find anything when i look for; but i also am always shown the right direction ;)

right now i am just playing with the toolset, but what i am thinking, for doing it right: i have the german version of the game and since the vault is mostly english i think the best would be to make it english from the start. What happens now if i rename items, npc and so on- is it translated again by some file and/or could cause some funny translation issues ? Can i just write and/or rename or would it be better if i replaced the dialog files with english ones ?

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Werelynx

Problems everywhere! When I was building I had issues with languages as well: http://forum.bioware.com/topic/465556-abc-bordering-genius-poor-flock/

To make longs story short: every description and name has those button on the right side with 3 dots. Clicking it allows you to change the name/description in many languages. In theory you could make a bilingual module this way.

Now, if you have description or name that is "shaded" it is taken directly from dialog.tlk! That means that User with language X will see it in language X, but if you dare to change it then all hell breaks loose!

Couple rules I found out experimentally:

  • If in other languages there are empty spaces the only filled space overwirtes every language.
  • If there are 2 versions then the user's language is prioritized.
  • The toolset language (in which you edit) can be set at tools>options>language
  • If you use blueprint and edit it's name, then you will need to edit it in other languages as well or there will inconsistencies. It may be better to not use "german" blueprints.

In theory you could use english tlk in the beginning, but it won't change what you have already edited.

Afterwards I would ask 3 people to playtest the module in regards to languages: German Player, English Player and any other language player.

(Mine toolset is in Polish, btw)

 

Hope that clarifies things a little bit :)

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Genisys

Great guide mate, bravo! ^.^

 

The boots of speed thing was a real pleaser, cause you should either give fast rest, some potions of expedious retreat, or SOMETHING!

(Cause making me crawl big maps holding the W key all day is a HUGE SCrEw ThIs! For me. :)

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