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If Xzar were to have a romance...


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If Xzar were to have a romance, how would a writer begin? Do you have to know all of his ingame statements intimately and then just do your level best to capture his personality and intelligence and mix it with (if I am correct in my assessment of him) how one deals with persons with multiple-personality? And of course how the person with the disorder functions?


I don't know that I would have the remotest capability of creating any sort of mod at all, but I can write, somewhat, and have written a lot of fanfiction on Fanfiction dot net that has been received well, tho not in the BG Universe.


So as a writer, I'm not top notch, but I'm not bad. I do pretty well, well enough to perhaps try my hand at how a mod writer would go about writing for a NPC and attempting to expand on him and hopefully not stray too far from his character.


I know people will likely be very biased against the idea, but no worries; I doubt I can ever pull this off. However, even for myself and practice at writing, I'd like to give it a shot.


Writing stories is vastly different than writing for a mod, I'm guessing. How do modders start?


I mean, I know Kulyok has tutotials somewhere, and I have seen some of her Branwen notes, but so far that is for coding. For now I wonder how a writer begins with a pre-existing character? What sort of mental exercises do they do? Where do they really begin?


I hope this makes sense and isn't in the wrong place. I've always wanted to ask and I'll probaly regret it the moment I hit the "post new topic" button. Still, I hope to be forgiven, if not understood. :)


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The great difference to writing is that for a mod, you should / have to consider all sorts of players' reactions, reactions you would never chose yourself (I don't know how much reactions of Ajantis I coded to insults and evil doings of the PC probably no-one ever played - because they are at romance stages where I cannot really imagine anyone to insult him like this, breaking up the romance, but if I hadn't included the reply options, the choice would have been too limited.).

Meaning, you not only have to provide these player reactions, but also the NPC's reaction to them, making it sometimes hard not to lose focus as to what the lovetalk was actually about, originally.


For starting, I would read all material that there is, yes, because I tend to overlook things and it's not good if you encounter an original NPC statement contradicting one of your own after already written out in lovetalks.


(I am not a Xzar fan, myself, but good luck with this! It will most definietly be interesting to see your concept, as Xzar is difficult to comprehend, for me.)

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That is very helpful, Jastey, thank you! That's just what I needed to begin to see if this is even feasible. Did you plan your storyline first, or did you basically begin with conversations about the pc and the main quest, and then let it take off from there? I guess what I mean is, I've never really written anything terribly long so I've never had to plan out every detail like some aspiring writers do. I generally have an idea, begin to write, then pretty much let the story begin to "write itself," in a way.


I wonder if it is best to plan more first, and if so, what to center on, and then go from there, or begin more by trying to determine how I see his character, how others would react to him, and THEN go? Like I wonder if I really need to know and understand all the D&D lore and all the Faerun lore. I don't know that much, but I do think I know many of the characters well enough. I wonder if that's enough to go from, or if I'd need to become a Faerun and D&D expert. Gah...I don't even know if that part if possible for me! I could try, tho.


Regardless, thank you so much for your response! It gives me a starting point. :)

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Everyone has his/her own style of developping a romance track, I would say. If you aren't scared the story goes somewhere you never wanted it to be (I would, in my case), then just starting somewhere and developping from there is perfectly fine. Me, in this case, wouldn't trust myself with this, as I tend to write myself into dead ends if I try this. But I also had certain ideas for dialogues beforehand I then integrated into the main track.

For the game flow, it might be useful to think beforehand about the main occurrences and how your NPC would react. For Ajantis, in BG1 the Bhaal heritage revelation is *the* game event, but also the accusations of murder later in the game, etcpp. He also uses different levels of praise for the PC depending on her reputation etc.

And it definitely helps if you know where your NPC comes (origin, etc.) from and how much of it he would tell the PC, but also what you want the PC to definitely know about it (in these cases you have to make sure the player sees the info no matter how he clicks through a love talk).

In short words: Prepare as much as you think you need until you have a feeling of survey/summary/clear view (don't know the right term in this context) and then start writing. :)


As to Faerûnian lore: For the Ajantis BG1 romance I indeed searched the web and asked for info to the topics that are raised (Order of the Radiant Heart, star constellations... don't laugh!). Maybe I overdid it a bit, but I wanted it to match, and why invent tings if they're already designed... (but mostly I didn't want people to complain, or me to look silly). But in my quest mods I also invented potions and other magic that result in outcomes probably not canon.

For Xzar, in your case I would seak for lore info about the hidden organisation he and Montaron are in (forgot the name), for example. One, it also might give you ideas for dialogue topics, and Two, if a player knows about the canon material concerning this, it would give a moment of wtf if you'd invent the info. If there is no info to be found, well, then write away. :)

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Way back when, I spoke to Hendryk, BG1NPC Czar for Xzar about working on his romance, because we needed an Evil Romance. Hendryk I think gave as thought to a couple of flirts, but he was never a 'romantic' writer (though one of the strongest writers I had an honor to mod with), and he saw a couple of obstacles in the way he wrote the character. First was the fear of physical contact he wrote in, second was the mummy/mommy issues. Hendryk always worked off the madness issues with Xzar, building in that unique humor and dread about the character. Xzar iirc did have moments in the dialogues when he saw clearly (I can't remember off hand with which NPCs).


My personal 2 cents are: overall, Xzar could make a completely original romance, if the author is willing to embrace those issues and the crazy talk style, and not try to 'correct' them through 'love conquers all' track.


Technically, I always lay out the whole track in 'topics' and key interactions (the Aww! line) before fleshing out each dialogue. Normally, I have a few of those Aww! moments that I want to write so badly, I will keep writing everything else (some of those lines I can still quote by heart because I turned them over in my head so many times). It helps out with not writing myself in a corner when I suddenly run out of the important things to say in Dialogue 15, and I need 25 or 30 or whatever the 'full romance track' is nowadays per game (my normal ratio is 10-15 Friendship + 10-15 romantic only). Then there is the Flirting grid, that makes me feel good about quitting modding.


I also found it that it helps me to create 3 or 4 consistent voices for the PC that I will target the responses to (I.e an Honorable Maiden or Playful Rogue), and mix in a couple others that do not fit those voices.


I am also against multiple branching of the dialogues. Coran taught me not to. I still feel apologetic to the team who has to work with it.

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You both have such helpful and insightful advice, thank you! I definitely need to come up with an overall plan. I do have some ideas that I think are fairly solid, but for now have mainly to do with Xzar's character. I do know and live with some of his issues, tho how each person is with them can still vary. I do not have any personal experience with multiple personality either in myself or anyone I personally know, but I do have a friend whose mother suffers from this disorder, and that is the root of my fascination with Xzar. The "mommy issues" he has seem to be extremly like my friend's mother. She has those issues for her long-deceased mother and when she is "Barbara" she behaves a bit like Xzar, and when she is "herself" she is lucid, well-spoken, and competent, much as Xzar is when he is lucid.


No, a "love conquers all" sort of track would not work for a person like this, imo. Not only does it seem trite, but it would not address how it is to live and care for someone who has this disorder, probably for life. Love and trust are hard-earned, if they can be earned by this person at all, and they must be made to feel safe, and also prove to this person (well, if he is at all like "Barbara") and show this person how she can not only make him feel safe, which is paramount, but also how she can be of benefit to him in his life. She also doesn't like to be touched when she is "Barbara" but doesn't mind it when she is more herself. Any occurrence that throws her off or is too much out of her control are her triggers to relapse from Jean to "Barbara."


"Barbara" has a close friend who reminded me of Monty, (tho not a killer, obviously!) who is her protector and her advisor, and who helps keep her life as balanced and ordered as it can be.


Yes, and it would have to be an evil romance, mainly. I can't see Xzar being interested in certain types of women so some classes are probably out at the start. He needs a sense of kinship, imo, and someone too "good" would not be someone he can trust. I have to think on this part more. He also would likely stop at almost nothing to get what he wants and needs and a pc who would not be able to understand that would also be out of the picture for him.


The Zhentarim, I need to learn more about, but probably not to the Nth detail. They apparantly think highly of Xzar and his intelligence and skills are valuable. I'll need to determine if they have more use for Xzar than he does for them, or if it is mutual, or the other way around. And also how much of his life the organisation consumes.


And yes, topics. Jastey, I'm not laughing about the constellations! I loved that part of the romance track! Iirc, the pc wanted to determine if Ajantis could appreciate something other than Helm. He loves the stars. Xzar loves his creations and his morbid collections and the possibilities they contain. Ajantis loves Helm and the stars and they keep him centered as a person. I think Xzar loves and trusts things that not only appeal to a morbid part of him but that can also protect him, serve him, and overall be useful for his own survival.


I have a lot now to begin considering and working on. You two have helped so much!


And yes, multiple branching of the dialogues is something I'm very afraid of. I'm glad to know it is for a good reason. I think I'll avoid that. It would become far too complex for an already complex undertaking that I don't even know yet if I am capable of.

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This is certainly a .. unique romance to consider. Sadly not something I can get excited about because my interest in Xzar as a man is nil. The portrait alone makes me kick him from my party as quickly as possible. Though maybe that's where I've missed out on getting to know an interesting character.

Something to consider, and not only for my own selfish reasons... Why not make your first mod a character from your own creation? That way you have very little fact checking to do as nobody has any preconceived notions of what he should be like. Then when you're more comfortable with the process you can tackle (literally? perhaps not) Xzar.

Either way, I wish you luck with your project!

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MissBehave, you rock! :D


I have actually never thought of an original character! I've always been fascinated by Xzar (but his portrait...agreed...it's...UGH-ly!) and I've been interested in exploring him.


You have a good point, tho, about nobody having preconceived notions about a new character. That's true. And whatever I do, if I'm even remotely capable of it, would be mainly to please myself because I doubt anyone would be able to enjoy anything I create (I'm no Jastey, berelinde, Kulyok, et al) but I'd love to do my very best and hope someone would be able to enjoy Xzar, or someone else I create, at least a little bit. :)


That all said, there's no reason I can't consider someone very like Xzar, but without all the Zhentarim baggage. A relative, perhaps? Just someone who happens to be somewhat similar to him? But damn...I LOVE his voiceset! That "Your voice is ambrosia" always gets to me in a good way!

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If you love Xzar, go ahead. :) I'd just caution you against sharing the developing process/ideas/dialogue/discussion with the community, as it sometimes tends to go poor for introvert writers, plus the feeling of pressure/unwanted coauthorship. Domi's given great advice, though. Just go ahead and write it, if you've a mind.

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Thank you, Kulyok. You are absolutely right in bringing those points to my attention. Those are very real concerns and you are right that I am introverted. I've already begun writing down some possible talks using Domi's advice and her advice is definitely good. :)


I may not have to struggle with my tendency to sometimes overshare since I doubt that anyone besides myself would be interested in this idea. I may later need advice on where to go after I write some talks, statements upon joining and leaving, and attempting to write them "in code" as I go. Well, when that point comes I can return and then ask which tutorials I should turn to and in what suggested order.


For now I at least have a starting point.

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