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Octavo

1 Character Party with 4 People In

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Here's my problem. To my knowledge, the party may be 4 li'l images walking around on screen, but to all plot purposes, they are only 1 character. This is true in even the greatest scenarios I know of.

 

One-character-ness is fine for Geneforge, where all your party is made by one person anyhow. But in Avernum, each should have the potential to be very independent characters.

 

How does one get around it? Things I've tried in my mind:

 

A, my favorite: Pick a character, treat them differently. Example.

 

Have a little something near the start check for the trait Divinely Touched. If it exists on one character, perfect. If more than one, or none, possesses it, break ties with Wisdom, then Priest Spells, then random. Store the number of this character.

Then have someone run up to the party, yelling 'Holy One', or something. In conversations throughout the game the player will have chances to agree or deny that this character is some sort of divine person. Responses in conversations can be labeled by which character is to say the response. In cutscenes the character can be used independently. Also, Split Party can be useful.

Then, in a climactic scene, Charm can be used to have the character turn on the party for a major final battle.

 

Advantages:

1. Nice plot capability!

2. Could theoretically be extended for different behavior toward all characters.

3. Nice & compatible with any party you bring in.

 

Flaws:

1. I don't believe that there is the tag to get a party character's name. You'd have to refer to this character always as Holy One.

2. This has no meaning at all if the player brings in an abnormal party, or changes/rearranges their party during the scenario.

 

B: Party Storage

Use Avernum 1 - style character adding and storage to make the party store their characters at the start, then use real characters for the middle of the game, and finally take away the scenario characters and return the original ones, bumped up in XP's by whatever the other characters collected.

 

With this one could make Final Fantasy 6.

 

Advantages:

1. Complete control of characters, names.

2. Control of entry levels and equipment.

3. It really makes a very nice plot, with as many characters as you want coming and going.

 

Disadvantages:

1. Ya can't do it until/unless this character management is added.

2. You would need short areas to make the player exchange the characters, that happen in no plot-time, unless the tools are really good.

3. Ya can't do it until/unless this character management is added!

 

C: Use the built-in 5th-6th slots party management only, or use Doom Moon style extra character.

 

Ick. The 5th and 6th are fine for somebody you found who is helping you for one quest, but not for major plot characters.

Doom Moon style characters, managed through scripts: this is Avernum. We should really not have to resort to that.

Besides which, neither one levels up.

And the party 4 characters are still only one personality.

 

So, my favorite to use in near ability is A, or ideally B. We currently must resort to C.

 

Am I right here, or am I more crazy than usual?

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As for leveling with th 5th/6th characters, you could just have multiple versions of the same character that, certain points in time, switched from one to the other. I can't explain this script-wise... but I'm sure it is plausible.

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There is another solution, and it's one that gets quite a bit of use in BoE. Premade party. See Election, Emulations, Quintessence, Echoes: Assault, Zankozzie's Big Mistake, and Chains. They only use one-PC parties, but there's no reason you couldn't get them to have more than that.

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Premade parties don't completely address the issue here. First off, no one HAS to use the party you supply. They're perfectly free to play the scenario with any party of their choosing.

 

Even if they DO use a party you supply, it might not REALLY be the premade party. Players can change PC names and graphics at any point, making your burly male named Fred a lithe female named Wilma, for example. So your NPCs can't really assume the party will have the names/genders your provided.

 

Sure, you can warn against doing that in the Read Me, but you're going to lose some players who happen to hate, for one reason or another, the makeup of your premade party--or just happen to hate not having the ability to customize the characters to their liking. After all, that ability to make the PCs "yours" is a big part of the draw of RPGs in the first place...

 

-spyderbytes

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If you include a premade party, it's reasonable to assume the player is using it more or less as is; that's what it's there for. If they choose not to, it's their loss.

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In my experience, players can always find ways to cheat if they want to. I've come to the frame of thought to make no attempts to stop them anymore. If the player chooses not to play the way the scenario was intended, it is to their loss alone.

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*sigh!* I should keep my mouth shut. I know I should. But having taken up a crusade against designers arbitrarily limiting player initiative, I find I can't.

 

The issue I'm talking about is not cheating by bringing in a more powerful party than the one supplied--it's just bringing in a DIFFERENT party than the one supplied. I might (for example) just prefer to look at four female avatars for the hours I'll be playing your scenario, rather than the four male ones you provided. I might be xenophobic and refuse to play any non-human characters (or vice versa). I might have deep-seated psychological reasons for it, or I might just think they're prettier graphics. It doesn't really matter one whit WHY, it just matters that the designer arbitrarily limited my ability to do that when s/he has the NPCs blindly assume that the party is exactly the provided party.

 

You don't think it matters? Look at the boards of any RPG that only allows certain genders or races to be particular classes. You'll see plenty of complaints about it, I assure you. People play RPGs to develop their OWN characters, in large part.

 

A game, to me, should be a cooperative effort between a designer and his/her players. That means, to me, at least, giving the players as much initiative as I can within the limitations of the engine. JV's engine doesn't place any limits on the player's race or gender, so I find a scenario that won't let me choose those as I please unacceptable, as a player. I wouldn't at all mind a scenario that PENALIZES me for being a particular race (if the penalty was integral to the story--say people in these towns discrimate against humans or sliths or whatever as the scenario's main plot element). But I DO mind a scenario that won't play correctly if I choose to be a different race or gender (or even just have a different name!) than what the designer arbitrarily decided I should be saddled with.

 

And I totally fail to see how it could be "my loss" to refuse to play a scenario that I wouldn't find entertaining because it has so boxed me in that I have no initiative remaining. If I want a story "told" to me, I'll watch a movie or read a book. I don't have to interrupt my "couch potato-ism" to click buttons, that way. wink

 

I play RPGs to cooperate with the designer in forming a story. Sure, when it comes right down to it, I might have very little input in determining the ultimate outcome of the story; but a talented designer can make me FEEL I'm having an impact on the unfolding storyline. But not by taking away my ability to choose such details as even my race, gender and name.

 

-spyderbytes

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Is there any way for information such as genders/names/species/talents could be manually entered at the start of a scenario?

 

As simple as a window asking for info with radio buttons and a text box for the name?

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spyderbytes, if what you want to say is that it's morally wrong for scenarios to make the assumption that a player is using a certain party which has been provided and/or specified by the designer, and that SW shouldn't support scenarios which do this, stop beating around the bush and say it. If you're simply saying that you'd prefer not to play such scenarios, then don't play them.

 

Many of the BoE scenarios that assume a premade party simply could not be the sort of scenarios they are without doing so: look at Quintessence or Emulations, for example. The stories these scenarios are trying to tell rely on the PC being a specific type of character. If you think that such stories shouldn't be told at all in the Blades medium, then you're free to hold that opinion, and I'm free to hold the opinion that restricting the pool of ideas available to designers is much worse than restricting the kind of party the player is expected to have in some scenarios (scenarios which often could not have been made at all if their designers followed your advice).

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Thuryl, you're coming close to putting words in my mouth with your first paragraph. You'll find I'm not one noted for beating around bushes. There's no moral issue about it. The point is simply that a designer limits his/her playerbase (I think more than you might realize) by making a scenario that insists on referring to a female PC as "he" or vice versa (as an example, though extend that at least as far as race and name as well).

 

I've never played BoE, so enlighten me... in what way would the scenarios you refer to have really suffered if the main PC(s) had been male if they were female, or vice versa? Or if the designer had made them slith instead of human, or simply changed their names? If they depended that much on such incidentals, it would seem to me they depended entirely too much on stereotyping in place of "real" story development. Though as I said, I haven't played them, so I could be wrong.

 

I can see where the odd scenario might, with validity, depend on the class of a character (though certainly not as the norm); but not name, race or gender.

 

And for the record, I do pass by almost any RPG/scenario/whatever that doesn't offer me choices as to what my PC will be. You might consider that "my loss", but I consider it my preservation of actually enjoying the time I spend playing them.

 

-spyderbytes

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The romantic parts of Quintessence are unusual and trippy enough without having to be homosexual as well. :p

 

EDIT : Generally, the strongest scenarios plot-wise make SOME assumptions about the party. For example, the leader of the party in Redemption has a brother who was McNemier's apprentice.

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My apologies for my harsh words; they were born of frustration, as your post reflects an attitude ("don't tell me who my PCs are") which I believe would be harmful to the scenario design community if widespread among designers.

 

Both of the scenarios I mentioned were made by respected designers. Both centre around the development of the player's character. Both are viewed highly by the BoE community in general; Emulations, in fact, won the most recent BoE scenario design contest.

 

I'd argue that this is evidence enough that such scenarios are not alienating a large section of the community. Perhaps this is simply a reflection of the fact that unless forced to do so, most players do not really put much thought into their characters as people. Certainly there is a case for this outlook; questions asked on these boards about what choices to make in a scenario with a branching plotline inevitably seem to degenerate into debates about which side gives the better rewards.

 

If you are the exception to this trend, and you have very fixed ideas about who your characters are and what they would do in a given situation, perhaps Quintessence and Emulations are not the sort of scenarios you would enjoy -- but keep in mind that many other people do enjoy these scenarios.

 

Remember also that there are degrees of player control and degrees of designer control over the party in every scenario, and all scenarios force the party into decisions to some extent.

 

Is telling the party that they are a group of soldiers who have spent the last few years at a remote Exile fort an unjustifiable intrusion on the player's freedom to use the characters they like? The party is in this situation at the start of Nephil's Gambit, a highly regarded BoE scenario.

 

What about Redemption, regarded by many as the greatest BoE scenario of all time? In this scenario, the family of your party's leader plays a critical role in the plot, and in fact much of the text in the scenario sounds rather strange if played with anything other than a 1-PC party (even though the scenario was not designed for any particular party, and the scenario's author has in fact expressed a dislike for 1-PC parties). Should scenario designers not tell the player what relatives their PCs have?

 

Be cautious when telling designers what they should do; for the most part, they know what their audience is, and they know what works.

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Quote:
Originally written by Imban:
The romantic parts of Quintessence are unusual and trippy enough without having to be homosexual as well. :p

EDIT : Generally, the strongest scenarios plot-wise make SOME assumptions about the party. For example, the leader of the party in Redemption has a brother who was McNemier's apprentice.
So flip the gender of the party member's romantic interest--what have you really lost? I realize JV hasn't given us tools to determine gender of any of the PCs, but you could always just pop up a dialog asking the player if they want a male or female love interest. Much more work for the designer, but you broaden your (potential, anyway) playerbase.

I don't know who McNemier is, but couldn't anyone, of any race, gender or with any name, have a brother who was his assistant? Or are you saying the brother was part of the PC party? And if so, couldn't it as easily have been a sister if the designer had set it up that way?

As far as the engine is concerned, name, race and gender are completely irrelevant. If your scenario arbitrarily makes them NOT irrelevant, all you've really accomplished (as far as I can see) is alienating a portion of your playerbase.

Anyawy... 'nuff sed (by me at least) on this subject. smile

-spyderbytes

EDIT: Thuryl, I don't universally turn down scenarios that give me a starting character I need to use... if they character is interesting enough for me to want to roleplay. smile I just find that I can generally come up with a more interesting PC (to me, at least) then pre-supplied ones.

And I don't have any problem with relationships/family or forced situations... you'd be awfully hard-pressed to design an RPG/scenario without them. You have to have backstory, or moving forward becomes pointless. I just want to be able to "personalize" my character by choosing my own race, name, gender and toon. That doesn't seem to me to be too much to ask, considering the tools to let me are already in the engine.

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There are still things that can't be dealt with so easily as gender, such as the PC's social status, which may be essential to the plot of the scenario. Who's to say what any given player will consider indispensable to their image of their characters? Best not to bother second-guessing audiences at all.

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spiderbytes - Realize that different people have different tastes and as a designer it is impossible to please everyone. Some people prefer to be given a set character and play the set storyline. Others may not want to be boxed in. That's fine, don't play it.

 

Am I limiting my audience? Perhaps, but I really do not care. I'm not going to change a good idea involving an expression of artistic style just because some people may not like it. Imagine if every artist tried to please everyone. We would have no art, would we?

 

Here is why there are limitations to a specific PC in Emulations:

 

1) Primarily plot reasons. I wanted to make something more personal to an individual character. Having a party would really diminish the effect of the storytelling, which is not something I am willing to compromise just to please people.

 

2) The combat balance. You do not get priest spells (or a bunch of other skills) in this scenario and that's part of the challenge. Since you get the really cool "skill drain" attribute in the middle of the scenario, this allows me to direct what skills you "learn" allowing to make more interesting combat.

 

Refusing to play with the suggested party will make the plot not as appealing and will really make the combat too easy. You can do this, I really do not stop you. I'm just saying that you will probably be unsatisfied with the scenario on a whole, because you did not play as directed. Since I inform you up front in the read me, your lack of enjoyment in this respect is solely up to you. If you decide, "I don't want to be restricted." Then do not play it, simple as that.

 

We can argue all day about what Blades should be about. I feel that it should be about good storytelling. (If you disagree with this, this is a philosophical difference with no resolution so we must disagree.) Since I believe telling a good story is the most important part of a scenario, I feel that anything that will improve the flow of the story is a priori over anything else, including things that may make some players unhappy.

 

The final point I keep repeating is this. I always inform players up front of any limitations. If they want to box themselves into the tradiational RPG style and not try new experiences, they have every right not to play these scenarios. However, if they want a different experience, then I suggest they give it a try.

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Quote:
Originally written by spyderbytes:
So flip the gender of the party member's romantic interest--what have you really lost? I realize JV hasn't given us tools to determine gender of any of the PCs, but you could always just pop up a dialog asking the player if they want a male or female love interest. Much more work for the designer, but you broaden your (potential, anyway) playerbase.
Having a woman save a man from being raped just isn't the same.

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i*, I, personally, certainly wouldn't have any problem with the designer telling me I need to play with a single PC and not a party, and that it shouldn't be a healer. I already conceded that class restrictions can be valid, and I can see party size as a valid restriction as well. Those things affect the scenario's balance.

 

However, from there, my argument is that you should let ME pick my name, race and gender, which are things that won't mess with your carefully balanced scenario in the least. Don't have your NPCs call me Fred (or whatever) just because you supplied a character named Fred I can play the scenario with. That'll just tick me off and make me stop playing, when I might be thoroughly enjoying the scenario playing it with my Xena (or whatever).

 

-spyderbytes

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You make some good points, but I'd argue that allowing you to keep using your PC's old name only encourages you to keep identifying with the PC that you've always used, whereas a large part of the impact of these scenarios relies on taking you out of your comfort zone and making you see the events of the scenario through a completely different character. Of course, the fact that this is a character of the scenario designer's choosing is pretty much the essence of the problem you seem to have with scenarios of this type.

 

Many designers and players do in fact see scenarios as stories with puzzles in them more than they see them as true RPGs (after all, there isn't any direct interaction between designer and player, and there are fairly restrictive practical limits to how well scenario-mediated interaction can be done, even with the best of intentions.)

 

Others do share your opinion to an extent; many of the criticisms of Quintessence revolve around the scenario repeatedly telling the player how they're supposed to be feeling, and Emulations only avoids such criticism by providing an in-scenario justification (mind control) for the PC's actions.

 

There are other scenarios which come with a suggested premade party, but they generally don't make such a big deal of who the PC is, and so you are less likely to find them objectionable.

 

However, I still see premade-party scenarios as a legitimate subgenre, with plots that often can't be done (or can't be done as well) by any other means.

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Quote:
Originally written by Thuryl:
...but I'd argue that allowing you to keep using your PC's old name only encourages you to keep identifying with the PC that you've always used...
One final point, and then I really will hush and work on my own scenario (which I've been avoiding because I haven't come up with a good enough puzzle for the spot I'm at wink ): That's not generally what I do, especially if there's an easy way to get a new character to the recommended level (as in the built-in character editor in BoA smile ). I create a brand-spanking new character/party that, from what I know (based on reading the designer's description and Read Me), fits into the scenario's premise. I just want to be able to choose name, race and gender when I do.

As a player, that doesn't seem too much to ask for my end of the contract of trusting you, as a designer, to provide me with adequate enjoyment for the hours' of attention I give your scenario. smile

-spyderbytes

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Got busy spewing another of my endless nothings, but there's no point saying anything besides: Thuryl is, as usual, very very right. Well, that, and also: I'd play a learning-disordered marmot with serious Mommy issues if that's what *i had required for me to witness Emulations change-up everything he did previously as a designer. That's far more interesting than any attachment I might have formed with Tongue or whoever the fighter is who's in the party I use for high level scenarios.

 

It wouldn't be shabby, however, to let designers do more with PC names than dump them into the text area -- or am I missing the calls for dialog boxes, etc.? Not a big deal, I guess.

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Exactly how important is race, sex and name, given that nearly every player will have played many, many different combinations? If I have a male slith called Joe (why not?) in one scenario and a female Nephil called Frank in another (my choice, remember?), is it really going hurt my playing experience that much if I get asked to play a young human male apprentice mage called Jonah? I really don't think so.

 

In Blades, there are so many scenarios and opportunities to create your own characters that one or two scenarios that ask the player to step inside a pre-established one really don't hurt. I find it very telling that not one person who has actually played BoE has raised the complaints you have.

 

Besides, in Quintessence, the plot simply would not have worked if the genders of the two principals were switched. To allow for choice in PC gender would require essentially two different scenarios. If you want to be a slith, the love story would be truly bizarre unless everyone else were sliths as well. Another scenario, with no real difference. And another one for Nephilim. Name? Well, I suppose you could have called him whatever you wanted, but it would mean that your beloved would never be able to call you by name. Is all of this worth it, just so you can choose name, race and gender yourself?

 

Also, I cannot think of a single scenario in BoE that uses a pre-made party that would be better without it - but I can think of two that don't and would be better with it (Redemption and Brotherhood of the Hand).

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... wow ...

(staring wide-eyed at the screen)

 

This is so incredibly different from where I come from.

I fall asleep and miss a day and my carefully-watched-for-a-single-post technical topic explodes into a 20-post, fairly intellectual philosophical debate.

 

OK. 1st thing: I admit that I forgot another carefully-pondered option, the premade party. Its advantages and disadvantages are probed more deeply here than I could hope to do. Now I will not get involved as to whether pre-made parties are better storytelling, but I believe that both options should be supported possibilities for BoA.

 

Am I to assume that because nobody contradicted me, my assessment of available functions is correct?

 

If it is, here's what I think is missing for the any-party storytelling.

 

Item 1: %pc1% tags or something to that effect to get a name.

 

Item 2: Something similar, but applying to any string. I just want to get a string from somewhere, and be able to have it expanded in all text. I could use this to simulate Item 1 functionality, or I could make one equal to each pronoun (she/he, his/her, etc.) to simplify storytelling when gender is unknown.

 

Item 3: A way to test if the party is 1, 2, 3, 4; maybe even to force a number. This goes in the 'maybe' pile.

 

With this, you could tell this story:

A party is brought into the scenario. 2 pre-made parties are provided to choose from, or it can be a party brought in. It is tested that the party is at least 2 in number; extra following characters make up the difference. The most divine character is found by the scenario and their name, gender, etc. are divined. (ok bad pun) These are stored in quick-access strings.

Then someone near the start runs up calling one member holy one etc. The status 'enlightened' is applied to this character, just for fun. Geneforge-y alignment is kept, based on what you say to people.

If by a point your replies are more towards accepting you are a divine messenger, eventually this party member turns on the other 3 and you have your epic battle, Divine One and minions versus 3 Ones and the old order. The player chooses a side.

On the other hand, the other final battle is more straightforward: party vs. this dark deity's minions, complete with alternate messiah.

(Naturally this would require tweaking to be a real scenario; it's just an example, after all.)

 

On the other hand, for telling with a premade party:

 

Item: Calls to manipulate the party, as in Avernum 1. At least as powerful, although there are areas that could be made even better.

 

This would allow you to tell Final Fantasy 6.

In FF6:

You begin with a character named Terra. (All names listed here are default; there are name change options available.) She has lost her memory, having spent the past who-knows-how-long as a mind slave of the Empire. Then a character named Locke joins your party, followed by Edgar and Sabin. Your party is now full at four.

Locke splits off to infiltrate the captive city of South Figaro. An NPC named Banon joins in his slot- I'd use Slot 5 to implement him, personally. Shortly after, your party is split, and you can choose in which order to follow the stories of Locke, Sabin and the group of the three others. Party management continues in this vein until you acquire a base of operations, where all your characters wait except a group of up to four that you select to go on your mission.

Am I the only one who sees a strong correlation between this and the potential Avernum 1-style party management could provide?

 

Either, in conclusion, has its uses, and its potentially enabling features.

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Jeff has said he'll be adding some more advanced string management utility (see this thread ). That won't address pronouns, but they can often be sidestepped (even if grammatically uncorrect) with 'them'. If that's too awkward, you could always ask the player for genders at the beginning of the scenario and stuff them into SDFs.

 

I think it's unlikely we'll see changes to character management. That being the case, I personally think your option A, Octavo, is the best approach, especially now that we will soon be able to single party members out by name. And yes, I think your original post covers the available options quite well, unless there's something else I just haven't thought of yet. smile

 

-spyderbytes

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As a wise man once said, "Yay-a-lujiah!"

OK! with append_char_name, my Method A becomes possible, with relative ease. You can refer to characters by name in dialog, and perhaps even better, you can state who is to say a response, yes? example:

 

Bear Chase Man

Help, Hercules! I'm being chased by a bear!

1. (Party) (Help him)

2. (Hercules) Come again?

3. (Xena) ... Why should we help you?

4. (Conan) Stop, Bear!

5. (Conan) Stop, Bear Chase Man!

6. (Merlin) Alakazam! Bear-disappear-o!

 

... except less illogical.

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Assuming I'm understanding the intended implementation, yes, that should be possible (if somewhat "messy")... the caveat that springs to mind being that you'll eat up your available dialog nodes very quickly if you do too much of that. smile

 

Used sparingly, however, I think it could be quite effective.

 

-spyderbytes

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