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Emperor Tullegolar

How would you do it?

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I've noticed that bashing the plots of Spiderweb games is sort of the national pass-time around here. You all seem to hate the plots that involve plagues of monsters led by an evil overlord. While I disagree with your views, I am curious to know, how would you do it better?

 

The plagues of monsters plot is the ideal plot for the style in which Jeff does his games. Let’s assume that any good game has a variety of enemies culminating in an epic boss battle in the end, with few exceptions. Does it not make sense then to use the plagues of monsters script? You get to fight all kinds of monsters, each with their own bosses or puzzles that must be conquered in order to beat them. And then, in the end, it finishes you off with a battle against a boss worthy of legends. Few games can pull of using the same end boss twice in a row, but Avernum 3 and 4 did it. Rentar is up there with Diablo and Ganondorf as one of the greatest bosses of all time.

 

But this is just my own humble, Imperial opinion. For those of you that really don't like the setup, how would you do it differently? What plot would you create that has both a variety of different monsters and an epic final battle at the end?

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I don't think that people specifically dislike the plagues of monsters idea; I don't, but rather they dislike what they see as repetition of the same old plot. One issue with plagues of monsters as I see it is that if there's a world threatening horde of monsters, there'd also better be a darn good explanation. A3 was ok, if not stellar in this regard, but A4's justification gets too weak for my liking. A complication of this problem is that if you have and use a good explanation for a monster plague. Then if you want another plague, you probably shouldn't just give the same explanation over.

 

My answer to 'how would I do it better' with regards to A4 specifically would pretty simply be: no A4. The Avernum trilogy + blades was comfortable the way it was plot wise. However, my motivations are very different from Jeff's; he gets money for every new game he makes, while I just play them because I feel like it.

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I am curious to know, how would you do it better?
Actually have real living breathing characters rather than 1D caricatures resembling people.

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Let’s assume that any good game has a variety of enemies culminating in an epic boss battle in the end, with few exceptions.
One could make a good game with this, but there can be a lot more. Sure, you will usually have the henchmen leading up to a boss, but this does not make it a good game in and of itself. You can always add a lot of storyline along the way. Make the people outside of the player's control alive and actually do things that influence the plot in more than trivial ways.

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Originally written by Emperor Tullegolar:
The plagues of monsters plot is the ideal plot for the style in which Jeff does his games.
Nethergate is a community favorite, especially among those who complain about A3/A4. I really liked A3, and I sorta liked A4, but purely on the level of plot and atmosphere, Nethergate beats the stuffing out of the last two Avernums. (A3 and A4 do other things well, but not, as far as I'm concerned, main plot.) Nethergate doesn't have monster plagues.

A2 also fares pretty well without much in the way of the monster plague motif.

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Few games can pull of using the same end boss twice in a row, but Avernum 3 and 4 did it. Rentar is up there with Diablo and Ganondorf as one of the greatest bosses of all time.
Rentar isn't even that good a character. I mean, what do we actually know about her? She's powerful and angry. That's about as 1-D as it comes. R-I coming back was my single biggest plot gripe about A4.

However, I feel compelled to remind myself, having plot gripes about A4 means that I kind of missed the point. A4 was designed to have good combat and a passable plot that wouldn't get in the way of the hacking. It certainly accomplished that.

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Originally written by Niemand:
My answer to 'how would I do it better' with regards to A4 specifically would pretty simply be: no A4.
Wow. You think that Avernum 4 was so bad that you would rather it didn't exist? Ouch. Come on, it had new monsters, it took place in Avernum, even Rentar was a little different.

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Originally written by *i:
Actually have real living breathing characters rather than 1D caricatures resembling people.
My question was more plot related but... ah, I see what you mean!

I think Avernum 4 did have such characters! Look at Rentar. When she first finds out about you, she doesn't think much of you. Later, she is annoyed to see how far you make it. You can feel her pain and frustration as she loses battle after battle against you. You chase her across the world, taking on everything she can throw at you. She becomes your nemesis, and you become hers. By the time you have the final confrontation, she is practically a member of the party. That, my friend, is a living, breathing character.

Edit: To respond to Kelandon without double posting.

Rentar was too deep character. I am sorry you seem to have missed out on that whole element of the plot. Rentar was constantly struggling with the values of her people versus the actual consensus of them. She felt she had a duty to avenge the crystal souls, but when she realized she had gone to far, her honor would not allow her to turn back. She had to constantly deal with her new crusade, which was all she had left, while at the same time be torn up inside by the fact that her own people did not support her. What character in Nethergate is so deep, may I ask?

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A4 should have used the Darkside Loyalists as the main villians. The monster plagues should have been the out of control result of hiring allies to disrupt Avernum and separate it into regions that could be taken over piece meal instead of at once. The main plot would have been to identify the Darkside forces and disrupt their plans in each city area.

 

I suggested that a later Avernum game could be in Nethergate style with the Darkside Loyalists trying to take over areas and the Avernum or Emipire agents trying to prevent them. You could have different missions in each area and an emphasis on different types of characters: stealth versus combat.

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So you like the plagues of monsters plot, how refreshing. But how would it be like Nethergate?

 

More Darkside Loyalists would be a good idea, but if you meet and defeat them in a single game, they wouldn't be so interesting. That's why I like Rentar, she evolved a little each game. I don't like mysterious enemies so much, as I like to feel what my enemies are going through rather than not even know who they are until the end. I guess that's what made Nethergate so special: the fact that you could play from both sides of the board.

 

As for stealth versus combat situations, very Geneforge, I like it. It wouldn't hurt to merge that aspect into the next Avernum game.

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I would have actually developed the water monster angle. The fear that the shades brought was new and intriguing. But yes, I would have made those secondary to the Darkside Loyalists. Basically it would be like this:

 

Rentar's revenge creates chaos in Avernum. Darkside Loyalists seize the opportunity to finally reveal themselves. Party goes after Rentar, thinks everything will be done, and then finds out that the darkside loyalists are still there and threatening. Then needs to deal with them.

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Good points. I did half expect to fight a water monster at some point in Avernum 4 and was a bit disappointed when it didn't happen. Time restrictions, you suppose?

 

Do you really think Rentar should have been made a sub-boss? This seems a bit demeaning for a villain as great as her. How could these Darkside Loyalists stack up against the greatest mage the caves have ever known? I wonder who their leader is... Probably just some Empire jerk we’ve never even met before. If it turned out to be Prazac double-crossing Avernum, then I would be intrigued!

 

I suppose it matters not, as the plot you described will most likely come to fruition in the next game anyway.

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I think Avernum 4 did have such characters! Look at Rentar. When she first finds out about you, she doesn't think much of you. Later, she is annoyed to see how far you make it. You can feel her pain and frustration as she loses battle after battle against you. You chase her across the world, taking on everything she can throw at you. She becomes your nemesis, and you become hers. By the time you have the final confrontation, she is practically a member of the party. That, my friend, is a living, breathing character.
No, it's not. She actually has to do things and interact with the player in more than trivial ways.

You seem to ascribe a lot more to Rentar than Jeff actually did. Rentar was a barely passable villain. I understand her motivations and all that, and it's good she had that -- that's what makes her passable. Beyond having basic motivation, she doesn't really do a whole lot.

She pretty much sits in a place until the player comes and finds her, fights her, and flees. Repeat again twice in A4 except that she dies/leaves in the second encounter. You could have replaced her with Snidely Whiplash and his monster making machines for the same effect.

The problem is Rentar (and most other villains in Avernum) are passive villains. They pretty much sit in their towers and antagonize the party. They don't move around and shake the plot personally, they have thousands of minions do it for them. The interactions with the player are fairly minimal.

As for Nethergate, the point was not well developed characters, but an example of a good game that did not use monster plagues. The "villain" in the story could be the rival party that the player can use as well. That was fairly creative.

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The problem is Rentar (and most other villains in Avernum) are passive villains. They pretty much sit in their towers and antagonize the party. They don't move around and shake the plot personally, they have thousands of minions do it for them. The interactions with the player are fairly minimal.
This is something that Geneforge gets (mostly) right.

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Originally written by Emperor Tullegolar:
Rentar was constantly struggling with the values of her people versus the actual consensus of them. She felt she had a duty to avenge the crystal souls, but when she realized she had gone to far, her honor would not allow her to turn back. She had to constantly deal with her new crusade, which was all she had left, while at the same time be torn up inside by the fact that her own people did not support her.
Where does this appear in the game? One character tells us this. That's it. Our only glimpses into Rentar's motivations were a couple of characters talking about her (and it's only a "couple" when you add one in A3 and one in A4). They say these things, but they're under-emphasized (mentioned once and never elaborated). We need more to care.

In games as large as A2, A3, and A4, if Rentar is going to be the major, defining character, I'd expect a lot more information than we actually got: why does she feel stronger about crystal souls than everyone else? Why were so many of the vahnatai in apparent agreement with her at the end of A3 (disappearing), yet so few agree with her in A4? Why did it take her so darn long to start to take her revenge in A3, and why didn't she show any signs of being so angry in A2? What happened in that intervening time? At least some additional information needs to be given in order for Rentar not to appear to be a completely unsympathic and uncomplicated lunatic.

And in no way does her "struggle" over values affect the party or the plotline: in A3, the whole point was that the game would have been 95% the same if Erika, the dragons, or some other interchangeable villain had done it. In A4, surprisingly, much the same is true: very little of A4 would have to change if suddenly Garzahd was behind it instead of Rentar.

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Geneforge 1 through 3 involve mostly passive villains, too. This doesn't hurt G1 so much because there are good reasons why everything is static until the player messes it up. It's a weakness in G2.

 

In G3 the villains are only really non-static in the same way as Rentar-Ihrno is in A4: they run away, and live to fight another day. They may have acted aggressively in the immediate past, but during the game their only purposeful actions are to accost the PC and deliver cut-scene harangues. You never return to a once-friendly town to discover Master Hoge in the act of trashing it with a pack of Gazers, or anything like that.

 

This actually worked not too badly, as far as I am concerned. Even a modest level of scripted activity can give an impression of active allies and enemies, and develop relationships with NPCs.

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So, what you all seem to be asking for is an intricate plot where every detail is spelled out for you from the beginning to the end? What games do you play that give you this disposition?

 

I suppose I must be taking my imagination for granted. I saw Rentar as something more than a common villain. She was once your ally: did you forget how she helped you out with a phoenix egg that one time? If it were not for her, Gazahd probably would have been the boss of Avernum 4. Poor Rentar had all the power in the world and yet could not garner the support of her own people, for whom she believed she was fighting. You guys don't feel for her at all? I am truly sorry you all missed out on that. I didn't realize you couldn't read between the lines.

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I think there are a few things that work well for maintaining a good plot, and I use plot very loosely. An active antagonist is good, a complicated antagonist is good, and both together are very good. The easiest way to manage that is to have the player encounter the villain regularly, especially in settings other than open combat. You only really sit down and chat with Rentar once in A3, and that's before you know she's guilty. After that, A3 and A4 involve only combat encounters with Rentar-Ihrno.

 

To go along with that, factions work well. Having the Romans and the Celts in Nethergate succeeds in part because neither is the bad guys. You play as one side against the other, but your immediate antagonists are always other problems and direct confrontation only appears at the end. The final "villains" aren't even recognizable unless you've played though the other side of the story. Geneforge's sects do this too, but I'm not a Geneforge expert.

 

The other solution is to give friendly characters more personality. A plague of monsters is fine if it's not the focus of everything. Rampaging mindless evil isn't very interesting, but society crumbling and a few people trying to hold everything together in the face of rampaging mindless evil can be interesting.

 

—Alorael, who can summarize by saying that predicating a plot on killing things is a bad idea. Predicating a plot on diplomacy and dialogue is much better. Nethergate does this quite a bit, and A2 does it more than any other Avernum.

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Again I must ask, what games are you playing where the main villain sits down with you, tells their life story, spells out their motive for you, and then proceeds to meet up with you on a regular basis to catch up on things? Alorael, your description of a perfect villain brings to mind Gary from Pokemon, not a very good villain or plot, in my opinion.

 

I agree that Nethergate's Roman/Celts set up was most interesting, but it doesn't even follow your own guidelines as the two groups never really meet each other.

 

Finally, as for giving friendly NPCs more personality: were you not excited to meet up with your old friends X, Solberg, Rone, and Kelner? Those guys have all kinds of back stories and airs of mystery and whatnot. Do you want each one of the little farmers that gives you side quests to have a back story as well? I would say this is an unreasonable request, but then I realized that most of them actually do have back stories. The mayor's wife in Mertis comes to mind. Does she meet your standards for a character with personality?

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Geneforge, I think. The enemy doesn't have to be a single person. Being able to talk to the other side and its sympathizers makes it less one-dimensional. A2 doesn't do this, but Nethergate does: you play as the other side and you also meet plenty of people who having leanings or just vocal ambivalence.

 

Look at all the wizards you've named. How many have taken an active role at any time during the Avernum series? X never does anything, Solberg hangs around to give out plot advice and rewards, and Rone does the same with more senility. Only Kelner has changed at all, and even he doesn't really do anything. Yes, you are the heroic adventurers who save the world, but it would be nice to see other people doing something once in a while.

 

—Alorael, who probably shouldn't have said personality. Jeff is good at personality. Development and activity in the context of a single game is a better criterion. Erika is the only one to act, and it's always in conjunction with the party.

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So you expect NPCs to actually go out and do things. Not totally unreasonable. Erika is a good example of this, but then you say she should do more than just aid the party? You want the environment to evolve around you without the assistance of the players? That seems to most closely describe Avernum 3, not Geneforge. Also Nethergate, which I think we can conclude now had the most clever and unique story out of the whole lot.

 

You say Geneforge is a good example of in-depth characters that do things. Who? Not anyone from Geneforge 1 or 2, they all just stay where they are and wait to be killed, they don't even run away to fight you again later. As for Litalia and Hodge, they really change little from the begining to the end. The seem to exist more for showcasing the development of your own character rather than themselves.

 

Are you saying the plot should not be driven by the players? If you want to simply observe the story rather than drive it, perhaps you would be more suited to reading books than playing games.

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Why, Avernum 1 had many different enemies (Sss-Thsss, the Nephilim, the Nephar, the Bandits, Brigands, Grah-Hoth, etc etc)

And the final ¿epic? battle is against Emperor Hawthorne, of course.

 

There you are laugh

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Originally written by Emperor Tullegolar:
Are you saying the plot should not be driven by the players? If you want to simply observe the story rather than drive it, perhaps you would be more suited to reading books than playing games.
This is a silly argument. One might as well say that if you want to direct the course of a story yourself, you would be more suited to writing books than playing games.

Everyone gets different things out of a game. I am reminded of a famous quote from Graham Nelson's excellent series of essays, The Craft of Adventure : "An adventure game is a crossword at war with a narrative". My preference is for a relatively tightly-structured narrative (which, given the constraints of the medium, implies a degree of linearity), but sometimes I prefer my narrative presented in the form of a game for the aspect of tactical challenge which that form brings.

This, in fact, is the only reason I can tolerate Avernum 4: I can ignore the narrative and focus on the crossword. If its plot were presented in the form of a book (and there's no reason it couldn't be: the player's illusion of control over events is mostly just that), I wouldn't bother with it.

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Are you saying the plot should not be driven by the players? If you want to simply observe the story rather than drive it, perhaps you would be more suited to reading books than playing games.
There should be a mixture. The player should not be responsible for every major thing that goes on. The antagonists or other factions (with interests different than either the party or the antagonist) should do things in response to the party's actions.

This puts the party into a reactive rather than a proactive role. The Avernum series typically involved the player as a completely proactive entity. This doesn't mean the party should be completely reactive, but there should be a balance.

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Again I must ask, what games are you playing where the main villain sits down with you, tells their life story, spells out their motive for you, and then proceeds to meet up with you on a regular basis to catch up on things? Alorael, your description of a perfect villain brings to mind Gary from Pokemon, not a very good villain or plot, in my opinion.
No, they shouldn't sit down and tell you everything through idle chats; that is too bland. However, the actions of the villain and his/her allies and adversaries can illustrate their motives and background.

Nethergate is good because of its uniqueness. I don't think duplicating it would bode well.

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I loved Trajkov and Goettsch from GF1 - both tried to use the party for their own ends and gain control of the island. They may not have literally moved, but they tried to woo you and trick you and then kill you.

 

Geneforge 2 had the birth of drakons and then the eventual dark descent into GF3 and rebellion, which is in full force in GF4.

 

Avernum goes a different route - there is a clear hero and a clear enemy. Avernum needs a savior, and here you are. You have a motive to kill Hawthorne. You need to free and then banish Grah-Hoth. All while exploring this new setting. Great!

 

Avernum 2 is a great successor. There's the appropriate response to Hawthorne's assassination - war! And this theft of the crystal souls is brilliant! In come the Vahnatai - more exploration of foreign lands and you can bring peace to the caves.

 

Avernum 3 sees the triumphant return to the surface. A lot of people don't like the A3 plot for some reason, but I love it! The whole new surface world, people are suspicious of your pale skin, and the ultimate goal to bring your people back to the surface.

 

But Avernum 4 doesn't really do it for me with Rentar. I would have loved to see it go purely down the Darkside Loyalist road. There is a secret group of people in Avernum who want to take it down and you, as a member of Unspecified Services, need to find these people, discover their plots, foil them, and then destroy them. That would have been an awesome game!

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Originally written by Drakefyre:
But Avernum 4 doesn't really do it for me with Rentar. I would have loved to see it go purely down the Darkside Loyalist road. There is a secret group of people in Avernum who want to take it down and you, as a member of Unspecified Services, need to find these people, discover their plots, foil them, and then destroy them. That would have been an awesome game!
And, importantly, a less predictable one. One of my main complaints about Avernum 4 is that it's by and large completely lacking in any element of mystery or suspense -- once we started to see Vahnatai showing up as antagonists near the start of the game, it became almost a foregone conclusion that Rentar would be behind all that was wrong with Avernum.

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Hmm without reading through the thread. I would do it with a hockey stick in the parlour at 3:00am. Clue anyone?

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Originally written by *i:
the actions of the villain and his/her allies and adversaries can illustrate their motives and background.
This sounds like Rentar to me.

Anyway, I am beginning to understand what you all want, but just barely. You seem to want a game where NPCs and the environment evolve and change completely independent of player action. I am having trouble visualizing this. Can you give me an example of such a game? The closest I can think of would be a MMORPG like World of Warcraft. Is that seriously what you expect from Spiderweb? Be reasonable.

As for making the plot more oriented on Darkside Loyalists: this is a worthy suggestion. However, Avernum 3 left off with Rentar still holding a grudge against you, so she had to make a comeback. In a way, Avernum 4 was a bridge between two different stories and a way to test a new combat system. I am sorry you all think the test was such a failure. You don't think such experiments should be able to pass for a real game? Well, Nethergate was an experiment too, in a way.

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Rentar's comeback was lame! Water monsters instead of barriers from Avernum 2, and shades instead of plagues. If she's going to come back, she should bring fire and brimstone and massive destruction! It would have been better leaving that hanging (she did say she would plot for generations) and going with darkside loyalists.

 

And I think something really interesting could have been done between Houghton and Starrus and that potential power struggle there. Maybe civil discord would give the Darkside Loyalists the confusion they needed to strike.

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Anyway, I am beginning to understand what you all want, but just barely. You seem to want a game where NPCs and the environment evolve and change completely independent of player action. I am having trouble visualizing this. Can you give me an example of such a game? The closest I can think of would be a MMORPG like World of Warcraft. Is that seriously what you expect from Spiderweb? Be reasonable.
I do not want things to happen completely independent of the player's actions, that's NEVER what I said. I said more should other characters should do things in response to the player's action, outside of their control. I'm not sure how I can be more clear.

The worlds in Avernum are too static. They should be more reactive to the player's actions. Right now, the extent is villains run away and people change their conversation options. Nobody actually really does anything in response to the events around them.

For example, kill a bandit leader and another rival bandit leader moves his band in to take their turf. I'm sure I could think of more, but it's very situationally dependent. The party does something and a bunch of consequences, intended and unintended would happen.

Also, creativity is cheap.

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This sounds like Rentar to me.
Not really. Yeah, you hear about her from other people, but she doesn't really DO a whole lot other than sit and wait for you to kill her. After you almost do, you chase her and kill her.

Why should I care about Rentar? I really don't. She's just another architype villain with some beef and makes lots and lots of monsters. I could have interchanged her for any other villain.

Her actions are so predictably bland and senseless from my perspective that I'm indifferent about her. I don't hate her, I don't sympathize with her, she's just another enemy plain and simple. She doesn't interact with any of the other characters in the story really, she's just out to make trouble for [insert motive here].

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Fair points from Drakefyre. What is this fire and brimstone and massive destruction you suggest? She took out the Army of Avernum, didn't she? As for Houghton and Starrus, I was suspecting more political intrigue there as well. A pity that whole angle was left undeveloped.

 

As for *i, there are plenty of events driven by player actions. Rentar tries to kill you at one point, even. She does anything but just sit around waiting to be killed. And I think your example of environmental reaction, bandits rebuilding their forts, makes little sense. I suppose it would add to the overall content, but why would you want to kill bandits in the same place twice? Why not just add another bandit dungeon all together? Jeff did this many times over in Avernum 4. I really liked all those different bandit dungeons!

 

If I am still misunderstanding you, please give more examples of what you mean by the game responding to the player's actions.

 

As for Rentar, once again I express my sincere disappointment that you missed out on the true depth of that character. She really is interesting once you understand her.

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Where does Rentar try and kill you aside from the hackfest in the Sulphrous Flats? The "trap" was so contrived it makes me laugh that I purposely have to be so stupid as to fall into it.

 

I understand Rentar's character quite well. The problem is twofold: Jeff never exploits it, and she's just like Erika except on the "wrong" side. She could have been a great villain, but her actions could have been done by anyone in A4. They aren't unique to her in any way.

 

You are correct about the environmental changes. They don't necessarily have to take the same lair, just a different one in the same region. Of course, I would extend this to main plot stuff.

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Let's suppose instead of the flats battle Rentar uses her little chit-chat to convince you that she has her forces built up somewhere, say in the Abyss. You convince Houghton or Starrus, get a big army sent there, and attack Rentar-Ihrno. You win.

 

However, actually Rentar just wanted the Avernite army out of the way so she could break through Fort Remote and start rampaging through the Great Cave. Now you've got an entirely new situation because a villain did something. That would work very well.

 

It's not that things have to happen without the party being involved. Everything can still eb triggered by player actions as long as some of those things are not direct consequences of what the player wants to do. A sudden change from "Let's kill Rentar-Ihrno!" to "Oh no! Let's save the children being killed in Dharmon!" would keep things interesting.

 

—Alorael, who doesn't think A4 is a failure. He likes it. He just doesn't like it for its plot, which is like A3's only less interesting.

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There was one really good thing about Exile/Avernum 3 and that was time was important. The longer you took to get to an area and remove the plague source, the more damage the towns took. People that you needed to see would move on to new locations.

 

Jeff would hate the extra work, but having the scripts tied directly to a day counter could alter what you have to do in the game. Take too long to reach a city and you find the Darkside Loyalists have taken control. Not this secret forts where they are plotting, but have them running things. Then you would have to sneak into a hostile area with maybe some people that might help you out and assassinate the Loyalist leader to regain control.

 

The game would change with how long you took to play it. If you race to reach someplace earlier, then you would be weaker, but facing a different quest. Delay until you are stronger and now face a harder challenge.

 

Now the NPC actions would have greater importance and you would have to react to their plans. No more I died in this area so I'll come back later and try again. You would have to find a solution with what you have now.

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*i: You don't think plagues of monsters are unique to Rentar? Who else do you know who unleashes such a variety of hordes upon unsuspecting towns? I think that was the whole point! "Plagues of monsters? Oh, no! It must be Rentar!" The whole point was that you associated Rentar with the monster plagues, and that's yet another element that gave her character. As for the trap, yes, it was painfully obvious. But... didn't you get a warm fuzzy feeling when you realized she was thinking about you?

 

Alorael: Not sure I understand what you are saying. Aren't the events you described what actually happened in the game minus the involvement of the adventurers. But apparently, most people like it when things happen independent of the adventurers.

 

Randomizer: What you are describing sounds a lot like Avernum 3 with a Darkside Loyalists plot. A worthy goal. This gets my Emperor's Seal of Approval™.

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The other thing that made the game so shallow was the predictability. From Motrax's Lair, we knew the monsters were going to made by Rentar. It didn't take much to guess that she'd be a Crystal Soul (I figured this out right away just because it's a predictable step) and that we would get to kill her in some epic battle.

 

Making monster plagues is an element to her character, except that it goes with most other villains in lots of games in the guise of minions. Creating hordes of monsters are hardly unique; in fact, it's quite predictable (summoning undead, etc). Basically, monster plagues (or equivalently hordes of minions) are a cop out, an excuse giving the party something else to do rather than having Rentar do anything herself. In my book, the monster plague overreliance made her a worse villain.

 

As for the "trap", it felt too contrived for me to care. Anytime we have to resort to "stupid party tricks" (here walk right into this obvious trap for no other reason than to collect the plot coupon) it's a major turn off. It didn't help Rentar's character, it lowered my opinion of the game's plot.

 

A4 was a good hackfest game, as it was intended to be. Jeff himself said this.

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I want to reiterate, because I personally haven't done it enough yet, that I kinda liked A4. I just didn't like its plot. (Several others have said this, too.)

 

Tullegolar, you said that you felt sorry for those of us who couldn't "read between the lines." There's a very big difference between "reading between the lines" and "making stuff up." You can make up a very exciting story about Rentar and her motives on the basis of A4. So can I. However, A4 doesn't give us that information. A4 doesn't make us care. I don't want to sit down and have tea with Rentar, but some sort of exposition — a note left behind in a dungeon/fortress, a conversation with a few of her former associates, some talk with other high-ranking vahnatai — would be nice.

 

To be fair, Jeff does some of this. Rentar leaves behind a message for you at the trap. I think you have a conversation with her once or twice more. But that's it. In the entire darn game. For a main villain, she says next to nothing! If the whole game is going to be about defeating Rentar-Ihrno — one quest, not three like A1 or A2, not six like A3, with no real artifact quests to speak of — then I'd like Rentar-Ihrno to get a little more dialogue!

 

I have yet to play a Blades scenario with a really compelling villain, as far as I can recall, but they exist. Alcritas made a few, I suspect. And I have no doubt that these compelling villains get a few more lines than Rentar does, or at least a little more description of their motives, their background, and their struggles.

 

Their struggles! A really compelling villain is one with whom we can identify at least to some extent, whether you're talking about Satan from Paradise Lost or Cartman from South Park. A great villain presents a sympathetic case, a compelling argument, something that we can latch onto and say, "That could be me!" Rentar is just crazed. We can't agree with her. We have no reason to.

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*i: Plot coupon? Is that how you see it? Well then, all I can say it that I am sorry that you let your highly critical attitude keep you from enjoying the simpler pleasures of the game. Alas...

 

Even I can summon undead, that's not the point. The monster plagues were in no way like hordes of minions as you say. Hordes of minions would be like what the Darkside Loyalists have. They have a bandit fort here, another there, three more over yonder. Rentar, on the other hand, gave us the much needed variety. The Filth Factory is a personal favorite.

 

You think the game was too predictable? You must be a genius, I'll bet no one else had any idea that Rentar would return to wreak havoc once again! Except for the fact that she said she would. You were supposed to expect her. The suspense was not "who is creating these monsters" it was "were finally going to defeat our long time rival." That is what makes the plots in Avernum 3 and 4 different. We've overlooked this, it seems.

 

Of course, Avernum 4 was not meant to have a big twist plot. You are correct when you say that. Why then do you insist on judging the game by that very factor?

 

Kelandon: Perhaps I was making stuff up. Is that not the point? Do you even know what RPG stands for? If you really need a game where everything is spelled out for you, play something else.

 

Then again, was I making stuff up? Vahnatai do revere crystal souls, right? Rentar is a vahnatai, right? She was merely following her own beliefs by attacking the Empire, how is that crazy? When here people stopped supporting her, if they ever even did, she had nothing left but her hatred for humanity. It doesn’t take a psychologists to figure this out. Just because you can’t connect the dots on your own doesn’t mean I’m making things up.

 

To end this unfortunately long post:

 

Quote:
Originally written by Kelandon:

a note left behind in a dungeon/fortress

Now who’s writing the crappy plots?

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Quick point: Many of the people who complain about Jeff's games have in fact made their own Blades scenarios. If you want to see how we would do things, you could, you know, play them.

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Kelandon: Perhaps I was making stuff up. Is that not the point? Do you even know what RPG stands for? If you really need a game where everything is spelled out for you, play something else.
Frankly, when applied to single-player computer games, "RPG" is little more than a marketing term for a game with a particular style of gameplay. The practical limitations in game design today, in terms of programmers' time, computational power, and designers' ability to anticipate what a player might want to do, simply don't allow for a game designer to provide very much meaningful choice in player character development or actions. At best a game can give the player a choice between a finite number of preset options in each situation -- and the availability of those options is defined by the game designer, not the player. Games that allow for real creativity or innovation on the part of the player are few and far between, and the ones that do exist aren't RPGs as we normally think of them.

Sure, you can always pretend that characters and NPCs are doing things that aren't explicitly spelled out in the game, but then you're not playing the game-as-designed any more; you're making your own game which happens to include the game-as-designed as part of it.

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I would have preferred to see more interaction with all sorts of Vahnatai, not just the evil Vahnatai but more of the friendly Vahnatai too.

 

I also would have preferred fewer chitrachs in the Eastern Gallery and more of the "traditional" monsters of Avernum - nephilim and sliths.

 

I think that it would be worthwhile for Tullegolar to play some of the best scenarios (CSR 9+?) and see more of what people are talking about, but he also has very good points and is the first person I've seen to come on the boards and argue these points successfully. Props to you.

 

I love this thread.

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Even I can summon undead, that's not the point. The monster plagues were in no way like hordes of minions as you say. Hordes of minions would be like what the Darkside Loyalists have. They have a bandit fort here, another there, three more over yonder. Rentar, on the other hand, gave us the much needed variety. The Filth Factory is a personal favorite.
It was neat in A3, it was old in A4. I'm not the only one who had the whole plot thing figured out quite early on. Ironically, I e-mailed Jeff during beta testing upon reaching the Eastern Gallery telling him what was going to happen. After this he pretty much admitted that plot was not why he was making this game.

How did I know this? Well, let's just say I've been in the Blades designing community for a long time. The exact same plot was the tool of many failed scenario designers. Efforts I have seen were comical. Seeing the newbish plot replayed in an actual Avernum game was wrenching.

The Darkside Loyalists could be a really good villain for exactly the opposite of the reason you state. They are generally few in number so their tactics have to be shadowy. This would make a very convincing and unique villain for A5.

I think the problem with Rentar, going back to her, is not the absolute depth of character, it's what we really get to see of it. Her interactions with the party are fairly minimal. Her interactions with other characters (aside from Erika I suppose) are non-existent. That's the main problem, in terms of character interaction in the story she's passive. She may make monster machines, set predictable traps, and run away when you encounter her, but she does little in terms of storyline.

Quote:
Of course, Avernum 4 was not meant to have a big twist plot. You are correct when you say that. Why then do you insist on judging the game by that very factor?
I don't expect a game to have a huge plot twist, but it would be nice if I couldn't predict most of everything about 1/5 through the game. The Darkside Loyalists were good in this respect, I couldn't predict them nearly as well.

Things in a story should flow logically, but sometimes the player has to be presented with new, previously unknown, information and events that changes the situation. A3 does this quite well. As for A4, had Rentar started as the enemy, events happen, and you end up fighting for a common cause again due to some major series of events, A4 would have been cool.

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You both seem to think that there should have been more interaction with the Vahnatai in general and Rentar in particular. I am not so sure about this. The Vahnatai are notorious for being uncomfortable around humans. I think Jeff always intended for them to be alien in out eyes. That is why we never really get to know them or even really understand their motives.

 

In fact, could it be that this burning curiosity we were left with regarding Rentar and the Vahnatai's motives was intentional?

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Quote:
Originally written by Emperor Tullegolar:
You think the game was too predictable? You must be a genius, I'll bet no one else had any idea that Rentar would return to wreak havoc once again! Except for the fact that she said she would. You were supposed to expect her. The suspense was not "who is creating these monsters" it was "were finally going to defeat our long time rival." That is what makes the plots in Avernum 3 and 4 different. We've overlooked this, it seems.
I think it's fair to say that every SW message board regular and every Blades designer could guess the entire "Rentar" plot of A4 from this page . It's worth noting that Cavanoskus guessed immediately based on the scantest information. A4 was predictable.

Quote:
Of course, Avernum 4 was not meant to have a big twist plot. You are correct when you say that. Why then do you insist on judging the game by that very factor?
I don't know where you're getting this bizarre idea that many of us are saying that we don't like the game. Stareye said that A4 was a good hacking game. I think the same thing. It just has a garbage plot.

Quote:
Kelandon: Perhaps I was making stuff up. Is that not the point?
No, it's not the point. If I wanted to make up my own story about what Rentar's background, motivations, and intentions are, I would do that (and maybe make a Blades scenario). I play Avernum games because I want to see someone else's rendition of these ideas.

Quote:
Do you even know what RPG stands for?
I don't know what you think that the fact that you're playing a role of some sort — whether chosen by you from a list of options or chosen by the designer for you — has to do with how detailed the background about the NPCs is.

Quote:
Then again, was I making stuff up? Vahnatai do revere crystal souls, right? Rentar is a vahnatai, right?
Yes, but Rentar behaves differently from other vahnatai. Many felt that they had been wronged, but not all cooperated with her in attacking the Empire. Why does Rentar have such strong feelings about this? Why is she choosing to resort to violence? With the information we're given, it appears to be part of her personality: she's just a violent individual. That makes her a simple murderer, which makes her a cartoon villain.

Quote:
When here people stopped supporting her, if they ever even did, she had nothing left but her hatred for humanity.
Why did her people stop supporting her? When? Why did they disappear after A3? Your explanation leaves more questions than it answers.

But about Rentar's psychology: she did in fact have nothing left but her hatred for humanity. What kind of character does that make her? A one-dimensional one! She has only one motivation: the desire for genocidal vengeance!

Why, in A4, is she attacking Avernum? The Empire stole the crystal souls. Apparently her desire is to kill all humans for the errors of just a few. This makes her, again, a simple cartoon villain.

Quote:
It doesn’t take a psychologists to figure this out. Just because you can’t connect the dots on your own doesn’t mean I’m making things up.
I do realize that A4 gives some answers about Rentar's motivations. The answers that it gives seem to indicate that she's a one-dimensional evil character. I'm not saying that her actions are unmotivated; I'm saying that they appear to be motivated by pure personal evil. A4 needs to tell us more in order for Rentar not to be a simple evil character.

Quote:
Quote:
Originally written by Kelandon:
a note left behind in a dungeon/fortress
Now who’s writing the crappy plots?
Intriguing. You think that a message left behind in a dungeon/fortress is a crappy plot. What, then, do you think of exactly that in A4?

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Originally written by Kelandon:
Why, in A4, is she attacking Avernum? The Empire stole the crystal souls. Apparently her desire is to kill all humans for the errors of just a few. This makes her, again, a simple cartoon villain.
I thought this was fairly obvious - Avernite adventurers foiled her plot for revenge on the Empire. Now she's getting revenge on them for stopping her initial revenge.

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Quote:
Originally written by Drakefyre:
Quote:
Originally written by Kelandon:
Why, in A4, is she attacking Avernum? The Empire stole the crystal souls. Apparently her desire is to kill all humans for the errors of just a few. This makes her, again, a simple cartoon villain.
I thought this was fairly obvious - Avernite adventurers foiled her plot for revenge on the Empire. Now she's getting revenge on them for stopping her initial revenge.
Well, you're right. She doesn't just randomly choose Avernum. However, she wants revenge on all of Avernum because of the actions of four Avernite adventurers. She says, "My dispute is with your kind." What she is after is genocidal revenge, whether ill-placed or well-placed.

And what is this thing with R-I and revenge? It just makes her look hate-filled and spiteful. Again, a cartoon villain.

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Quote:
Originally written by Kelandon:
And what is this thing with R-I and revenge? It just makes her look hate-filled and spiteful. Again, a cartoon villain.
Interesting. Garzahd, Erika, and Rentar-Ihrno (and also a few characters and sects in Geneforge) all have failings because of their obsessions with revenge. Garzahd's and Rentar's are fatal and Erika's isn't, presumably because she's portrayed as more of a hero. Actually, Erika's is interesting; her obsession precipitates the invasion of Avernum, but then redeems herself by defending it and giving her life to stop Rentar.

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The other thing is the overuse of revenge as a motivator in Jeff's games. I think that contributes the Rentar's blandness...I've been wronged so I'll come up with some dastardly scheme to destroy all that is good in the world, ho hum.

 

Commander Groul in Nephil's Gambit for Blades of Exile comes to mind as a decent villain. He had more than trivial motives and decent methods. Stalker is not too bad either.

 

Sovereign, although we never actually see/meet him, is pretty cool in Alcritas' arc because we get to see and hear all the bad things he does to the characters in the game. Never meeting Sovereign and not knowing his identity fueled his personna in a lot of ways.

 

Come to think of it, Sovereign and Rentar have a bit in common, had she been more like Sovereign then it would have been a lot better.

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Revenge is a running theme in Avernum. Hawthorne exiled you, so you killed him, which angered Garzahd, who in turn pissed of Rentar. It was kind of the... if you'll pardon the expression... thing. It was the thing!

 

As for a dastardly scheme to destroy all good in the world... wrong. That's not what I saw. I saw a noble crusade to rid the world of evil. The Empire, with its ruthless genocide of anything non-human, surely had it coming. And then there is Avernum, who betrayed their own allies to defend their one time mutual enemy! The turncoats! Avernum and the Empire are both evil, Rentar was only doing what she believed was right.

 

I will play the scenarios you recommended.

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In A1, killing Hawthorne is only one quest and there's no real plot. Hawthorne is clearly evil, not because his evil is obvious, but because you are told. He's a terrible villain. That's okay, though, because his villainy isn't really the point.

 

In A2, the Empire attacks Avernum. That's more or less predictable. The Empire can't let itself be beaten by a bunch of exiles. Garzahd is their leader, but he's not an important leader. The plot is about stopping the Empire and being friends with the vahnatai along the way.

 

A3 is about stopping plagues of monsters, discovering what's behind them, and then stopping Rentar-Ihrno from making more. The plagues are okay, such as they are, but the game is based mainly on the mystery and on exploring a huge new world. Rentar's revenge is questionable because the ones behind the kidnapping of the Crystal Souls were already killed in A2, but she doesn't care. Fair enough.

 

A4 has A3's plot without the mystery, without any variation in enemies, really, and without a new area. Now Rentar-Ihrno has put her vengeance on her enemies on hold to get vengeance on secondary enemies who thwarted her primary vengeance, and she's happy to cause huge amounts of collateral damage to the people who also rescued the Crystal Souls. Not so good.

 

—Alorael, who is just happy that Rentar-Ihrno is out of the center of the picture. Maybe Dorikas can get some time in the limelight. Maybe new things. New and good atmosphere make up for a lot of bad or nonexistent plot.

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Quote:
Originally written by Emperor Tullegolar:
You both seem to think that there should have been more interaction with the Vahnatai in general and Rentar in particular. I am not so sure about this. The Vahnatai are notorious for being uncomfortable around humans. I think Jeff always intended for them to be alien in out eyes. That is why we never really get to know them or even really understand their motives.

In fact, could it be that this burning curiosity we were left with regarding Rentar and the Vahnatai's motives was intentional?
You can't give a race the spotlight for three games in a row while hammering on nothing but the point that they're alien and unknowable. Consider: more of what we know about the Vahnatai was revealed in A2 than in A3 and A4 put together. Small wonder, then, that in A3 and A4 the Vahnatai are starting to seem a little two-dimensional.

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