Thursday, October 29, 2009

Plot Refinement / NPC Intros

Been working a lot in Word, finalizing a lot of the plot details, and how conversations will unfold in my module. Jumping directly into the world editor is cool if you're just poking around, but it's better if you have an idea beforehand of how things work together.

I have a previous post about plot, already, but this one is kind of the 'final' version. More detailed interactions are included, and who knows, you may even recognize some of the NPC names ;)

Passing through Lorren

A Neverwinter Nights 2 Module by Richard Ericksen


The most basic premise of the module, in a single sentence, is to gather enough funds to take a boat back to your homeland.

You are an outsider in these lands, and are on the way to the eastern port to book a trip back home across the sea. You intend to do odd jobs at the dock until you can scrape enough money together for passage, or see if you can come on as hired help on the boat itself.

Passing by Lorren, on the way to the docks, you’re confronted by a man named Hatch who comes running up to you from the town gates. He notices your skin color is different, and can’t believe his luck at finding someone like you just waltzing past the gates. He wishes to ask a favor of you, and wonders if you have time to help.

Thus begins your forray into Lorren.

Town History

There’s a sad story attached to Lorren, that the villagers will tell from their own perspectives. Removing people’s emotion from it, it basically unfolds as such:

A virus is discovered, primarily infecting those working in the mine in the northern town of New Brill. It spreads quickly, and immediately Doctor Tesh sets up a quarantine to keep it from spreading across the river to Lorren.

Many die, or are dying. Tesh finds that he is immune to the virus as he is a Drow, his half-Drow son also appears to be immune. His human wife is one of the first to die, however. He works day and night to find a cure. One day, he and his son travel across the quarantine to Lorren to grab fresh supplies, and inform the mayor of Lorren, Tobold, of his progress. Tobold decides that New Brill is a lost cause, and detains Tesh and his son. Tesh will work in Lorren from now on, much to his dismay at the thought of abandoning his neighbors to the north.

Tesh discovers his son is not immune, and is in fact infected as well. He struggles to find a cure while his son begins to wither. Eventually Tesh finally solves the puzzle, but his son died that same morning. Devastated, he shuts himself in his new house, refusing to see anyone. He eventually resurrects his son, and administers the cure, then collapses in exhaustion.

His undead son wanders outside, and is struck down by a warrior named Spinks. Tesh gathers his body and flees to New Brill, where the townspeople can’t chase him for fear of becoming infected themselves. Tobold orders Spinks to burn the village remotely with flaming arrows shot across the river at night. This is done in secret, and many in the village suspect that it was Tesh who started the fires in his madness.

When you, as the player, arrive in town, there is a new outbreak underway in Lorren. It’s a different strain of the same virus, that works much slower, and is less contagious, but is still just as deadly. It’s actually a mutation that Tesh’s son carried into the village while people thought he was immune.


There are a few main cast members that will be making appearances in the story:

Yourself – You are a non-human Drow, and an outsider in these lands; your blue skin stands out readily. You are returning home after a year of traveling these lands.

Doc Hatch – the “new” town doctor. He’s trying to fight the new outbreak of the deadly Miner’s Virus that previously struck the sister town to the north, completely wiping them out. People are still afraid to venture across the bridge for fear of becoming infected themselves. He’s interested in getting the old doctor’s notes to further his research.

Doctor Tesh – The “old” doctor. He was also a Drow, with blue skin like yours. He lived in the northern mining village with his local wife and their young son, and tended to the people of both towns. When the infection began, his wife was one of the first to fall victim. Eventually, Tesh realized that being Drow granted him immunity to the virus. The source of the Miner’s Virus is unknown, but –as its name implies– its first victims were workers in the mine to the northeast. Although Tesh lived in the north, he was forcibly detained with his son in the southern town once things became clear that New Brill, to the north, was a lost cause.

Ysharros – Tesh’s dead wife. She was a local girl, whose father was the foreman of the mining operation in town. She contracted the virus from her father, and fell quickly. She and Tesh had a single son:

Mordiceius – The half human son of Tesh and Ysharros. His was an especially unfortunate fate. His father worked day and night to find a cure for young Mordiceius, once he realized that his own immunity was not, in fact, passed on to his son. While Tesh struggled with his research, Mordiceius grew weaker. His being half outsider gave him longer to struggle than most, but in the end he fell victim as well. Tesh finally found the cure mere hours after losing his son. In a fit of madness, he resurrected Mordiceius from the dead, and administered the cure to him, then collapsed in exhaustion. Mordiceius, now undead, wandered outside only to be struck down by Spinks. Tesh went into a furious rage when he realized what had happened, and fled with his son’s corpse back across the river to the north, never to be seen again.

Spinks – The local law. Lorren is a small town, and Spinks mostly is just there to break up bar fights, or keep outsiders passing through in line. She’s a retired warrior, and usually finds the direct solution to any conflict to be the most elegant. As a soldier, she follows orders from Tobold without question.

Tobold – The mayor. He’s able to separate emotion from what must be done for the good of all. It was his idea to have Spinks assist in ‘abducting’ Tesh and his son when they came into town for supplies. He realized that New Brill was beyond help, and only wished to save the remaining people of Lorren. He also ordered Spinks to burn the northern village in an effort to cleanse the area.

Larisa – The innkeeper/ owner of the Pink Pigtail Inn. A spunky little woman with pink hair. She’s the town gossip, as she overhears everything in her establishment. She can be counted on to give the ‘uncut’ (but perhaps biased) version of any story.

Elnia – The bartender of the Pink Pigtail. In contrast to Larisa, Elnia is a realist and more of a quiet observer. While people might be hesitant to talk with Larisa within earshot, Elnia doesn’t seem to pose a threat. She may have valuable insight in some situations.

Syp – The blacksmith, and local honest merchant. Will provide people with what they need, but frowns on bending rules. He suspects Gevlon is a theif, but can find no hard proof.

Gevlon – The money grubbing goblin merchant. Loudmouthed and generally obnoxious. Willing to do anything for the bottom line, though, no matter the cost. Can be counted on to come up with any item that may be needed.


Again, the basic plot is to get enough money together to board a boat across the sea, 100g.

In an effort to appeal to a wide variety of player types, I’ll be leaving the ‘how’ wide open. There will be three general ways to go about securing that much money, all ranging from ‘helping others’ to ‘good hard work’ to ‘kill em all’. Mixing and matching is good, too (kill half of em, just not the ones that don’t mind if you kill others, etc).

The good: Help the town cure the virus. Through doing only good deeds, you can find the cure, and the town will reward with with your hard work: a pre paid ticket. The mayor has a brother who is captain of a ship, and will guarantee you passage if you rescue the town. It isn’t a pile of gold, but it’s exactly what you were looking for. This is where the meat of the conversation options will take place, and where the unfortunate story of Tesh and his family will be revealed.

The bad: Menial labor. Kill 10 rats. Loot 15 flowers. The boring path, but at least you aren’t rescuing some noobs from some virus you couldn’t care less about. The neutral path requires very little in quest explanation; it’s mostly just a bunch of errand quests branching off of the ‘Whatever lady. I’m just looking for work in the form of odd jobs, got any?’ dialog option.

The ugly: Get a blunt object and just whack everyone in the head. Loot all their little golds and ride off into the sunset. Obviously the ‘bad’ route requires very little in the way of quest writing. Just a way of flagging yourself as hostile once you begin killing people. You’ll also need a weapon, which can be found or purchased. Gevlon and Tobold (to a lesser extent) offer various ways of completing ‘bad, but not genocide’ paths. Gevlon can be killed outright, and has more than enough money, or he can be persuaded to pay you for ... ahem... services rendered in eliminating competetion. He doesn’t want the entire town wiped out, as that would leave him with no customers, but would have no problem if a certain blacksmith were to take a dive.

Tobold, as always, is looking out for the greater good, even if it means handling the threat of the infected villagers while maintaining the health of those who remain uninfected. He doesn’t like the idea of getting his hands dirty, but an outsider such as yourself could certainly do something terrible, then disappear along on your way...

Alternatively, you can just whack Tobold, and take his ‘free ride coupon’.


The conversations themselves aren’t going to be typed out here, word for word. But a general outline will explore the various exchanges, and where they lead.

Hatch – The first meeting. He wants help getting the notes from Tesh’s home across the river. He’s generally a nice guy, but is new in town. He doesn’t know the whole history, and is just trying to get settled in this new area. When we go across the river, we find undead walking around, and we mention this as we bring the notes back to Hatch. He’s perplexed, and mentions Larisa or Tobold as possible avenues for information.

If we only wish to perform odd jobs, he can have us collect certain species of flower that grow in the northern areas for his medicines, etc.

Tobold – Initially welcomes us to town, and if talked to before we see undead, points us in the direction of odd jobs (should that be our inclination). Later, once we’ve encountered undead across the river, he tells the story of the virus in more detail, and how he made the decision to hold Tesh against his will for ‘the good of the people that remained’. He offers us passage across the sea with a ship operated by his brother, if we can help with saving the town from another outbreak, by any means necessary.

Should we be interested in odd jobs, he can send us to collect signatures for certain town paperwork, or round up artifacts from New Brill across the river.

Larisa – A chatty woman who is more than happy to fill us in on the general ovewrview of what happened in the past. She had no part in the good or bad deeds that took place, and has nothing to restrain her from telling what she imagines the whole story to be. Her knowledge all comes second hand, and she basically just glosses over major points, giving only a rough outline of events.

Should we be interested in side jobs, she can have us fetch some items for her for the inn/bar, or collect on tabs.

Elnia – the quiet observer. She isn’t as chatty, and must be prodded to tell her understanding of the plot. She reveals the darker side of things that Larisa chooses to gloss over, such as how Tobold sent Spinks on a mission to burn the northern village once the inhabitants were dead, in an effort to cleanse the land of the virus.

If we’re looking for odd jobs, she directs us to Larisa.

Gevlon – A goblin concerned only with money. His rambling is hard to follow, until he siezes on a scheme to have Syp eliminated. Doing this job for Gevlon will earn you a large chunk of gold, but not enough to be cover the entire cost of a ticket. He also reveals in his ramblings of a special shop open only to outsiders: stolen goods he has for sale.

Gevlon is uninterested in odd jobs. He’ll purchase anything you bring to him, no matter where it was “found”, though.

Syp – Is annoyed by Gevlon’s constant hounding, but weathers it. A noble man, he’s distressed by the loss of the town to the north, but has no idea (or doesn’t want to believe) that there was anything that could have been done. He believes the fire across the river was caused naturally, and has faith in his fellow neighbors --minus Gevlon, whom he supects of stealing things from his shop. He’s brought it up with Spinks, but she found nothing, so it’s an impasse. He had tremendous respect for Tesh’s hard work, but doesn’t know the whole story concerning his son.

He would love some help in proving Gevlon is a thief, and would pay a modest sum for such information. He also is feeling the pinch of being cut off from ore supplies to the north, and would pay for any raw crafting materials you can provide.

Spinks – A restless woman. She battles her inner demons, but in the end continues to stand by the idea that everything she has done has been following orders. Tobold ordered her to burn the village to the north when it was deemed a lost cause, and it was she who struck down young Mordiceius when she found his reanimated corpse wandering the streets that fateful morning.


At this point, I have the topography of the land laid out, and am starting to bounce back and forth between writing conversation trees and creating interior areas. Lots of naming doors and connecting transitional areas... creating invisible triggers, and having NPCs run up to you and start with their conversation trees. I'm horribly close to having one version of the module be a HaXXoR version where every break in conversation presents you with choices like


It's hard to stay so focused on making something so serious 100% of the time, but it's all good practice in the end :)


Anonymous said...

That is hilarious!

Hatch said...

I like the character names. :D

I think the plot is neat, and I like the realistic approach where no one is blameless and no one is entirely evil either. The "villain" has understandable motivations and good intentions, while the "good guys" did some pretty bad stuff in their pursuit of safety. And I like that the player meets unreliable narrators along the way until the objective truth can be pieced together later.

My only worry is actually game-mechanic-wise: it seems like it's too easy to win by killing either Gevlon or Tobold. What are the repurcussions or downsides, besides never finding out the real story?

Larísa said...

OMG @the cast! You really know how to keep keep me spellbound!

Cheers Ixo and thanks! I feel honored.

Yuka said...

am i right in guessing the "haxxor" version is taken straight from experiences from Cho'Gall >< lol

Rich said...

as for the "cheating path" of just whacking NPCs, i'm going to have to find a way to not make it easy. Place a few guards or just strong friends nearby, so that it's at least a struggle... past that there isn't much to say.

You guys have the added benefit of a peek behind the curtain. Obviously, without knowing ahead of time, you'd have to take a swing and see if it worked out.

A lot of these posts are going to be the accompanying documentation provided with the presentation of the module, so there will be spoilers attached. I'm not sure how intently someone will actually PLAY it that it's presented to. They may walk around in town, then open up the toolset and just browse the included scripts or conversation trees, without activating them.

Once I type a bunch of this stuff up, I tend to think 'meh, i'll throw it up on the blog, too', so you're going to be seeing the direct solution to more of the puzzles.

MLW said...

This looks cool, and that it could go in a lot of great directions. The idea of circumstances providing the opportunity to be a hero, rather than guaranteeing it, is just a great starting point. I agree with Hatch though there would need to be some very big barriers to killing Tobold or Gevlon (as indulgent as it may be).

Aso, isn't Elnia a dude?

Rich said...

oh snap!

Rich said...

lol the NPC for Elnia is a blond chick with a flower in her hair :P

I'll make it a guy, but my first line of conversation once he tells me his name is 'isn't elnia a pretty girly sounding name?'

(then again.... I'm ixobelle, so who am I, right?)


Anonymous said...


Elnia is a female. The person who plays here is a guy. But the character Elnia is female NE.

Valdas said...


MLW said...

Another gender-bending mystery solved by Ixobelle!

Jong said...

"Also, isn't Elnia a dude?"


"I like the realistic approach where no one is blameless and no one is entirely evil either."
^^^ I like hatch's analysis.

Tobold said...

Alternatively, you can just whack Tobold, and take his ‘free ride coupon’.

I find myself strangely opposed to that alternative. Given that it seems to be the path of least resistance, I'll end up getting whacked a lot.

Mordiceius said...

Look ma! I'm an NPC!

Tesh said...


You all scorned me, now I get to put on my Halloween costume and plot your downfall!

*rubs hands together*

(I see whut you did thar... first, you convince me to play a Forsaken Prot Warrior, now I'm a Drow necromancer... I'm almost afraid of what's next. Is it bad that I'm enjoying this?)

River said...

Aww could I be the village drunk or something, spouting random things as people pass by...

Like, "Oy, you smell good!"

Tesh said...

Quick question: (Hatch) is looking for the notes from the other side of the river, but (Tesh) actually found the cure on the south side, if I'm reading that right. Did he not have notes there in the south?

Rich said...

yeah, but at that point he was on the verge of figuring it out....

He was coming into town for supplies and got nabbed, and then figured it out and ran back off. I could even say 'he stumbled out of the house with his notebook in hand, saw spinks standing over his dead son, and rushed over to scoop him up'.

...or that night he escaped back across the bridge with the corpse of his son, etc etc...

At that point it's details.

Ysharros said...

HAH, me and Tesh? That'd never work. Thank god I'm dead!

Oh wait, maybe that's WHY I'm dead...

Tesh! WTF did you do?!

Tesh said...

Sounds good; I should have read a bit more. Yeah, it's just details, but these are the sort of questions I come up with. I'm weird that way. (I do that with novels and movies, too. It's the bane of working on the production side of these things; it's reflexive to poke at the edges of these things. I mean no disrespect.)

Ysh, I think you nominated yourself merely by being a rather stylish corpse. Beyond that, who can fathom the mind of a crazy doctor?

*cocks eyebrow in Mirror Spock style*

Copperbird said...

You know what I really like about this (apart from the zombies, and Spinks being a badass? :) ).

It reminds me a bit of Casablanca. I wonder if that's something you could build on a bit. Have other people in the town who also need their travel passes, that sort of thing.

Kromus said...

Thats really cool background idea, but it certaintly made me laugh hard when I saw a lot of names I know 8-)

I mean, have you ever been playing a game and thought, "gosh, how do they think of these names.." maybe this is one method, because everything seemed to fit so perfectly, Such as Tobold as mayor, seemed a mayor like name.

Was a great read mate.

Anonymous said...

What no Green haired Fire Mage Gnomes...

I take back my request for your job at Blizz ;-)

of course maybe that's just because we haven't been introduced to the boss mobs yet...

Nice work as always Ixo!