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Powerplay, Talk or Die


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As we tweaking the NPCs to make sure they can survive on the Savage Frontier, one thing that came up was the following:


IWD2 is quite hard on the player and almost pushes you to max out "useful" stats at creation and let others run down the drain. I've seen optimized builds for front-line characters that drained INT, WIS and CHR to 3 or 1.


I would like to compromise on the conversational side for NPCs - and use both WIS and INT when defining their intellect, but keep WIS and INT at 8 or higher for all NPCs to enable them to hold comprehensive discussions. That does weaken them from the absolute optimal performance as killing machines.


The problem is now with the Protagonist, because fair is fair....


I can do the following:


1) Level the field and put restrictions on Protagionist stats: if PC's Charisma is below 8, Friendship sequences will not fire - NPCs will not see him/her as a deserving leader. If *both* his/her INT and WIS are below 8, all they will get as the responces to each initiated talk is something like:


<CHARNAME> hears you. <CHARNAME> think you're smart.~ EXIT


2) Completely ignore the issue, excusing the low INT/CHR department, because of IWD2 specifics and let you build a character freely to compensate for NPCs' slightly weaker builds.


Thoughts, preferences?

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I've never, ever created a character with charisma or intelligence under 9 or so. And even that only if it made sense for the character concept. Who wants to play someone dumb? So it doesn't really affect me.


Note that in Icewind Dale no sane powergamer lowers his wisdom to 3. That imposes a -4 penalty on all will saves, and it hurts.


I am glad your NPCs aren't min-maxed munchkins. Don't foresee any problems with the game difficulty, except possibly with the absence of a cleric. I'm sure I'll never even notice their stats aren't "optimised."


As for penalising characters with ridiculously low stats... hmm. Someone with intelligence 3 is hardly sentient. (I mean, cows have intelligence 3 iirc.) It makes no sense such a character is able to play the game at all. You could fix that for the NPC project, but the rest of the game still wouldn't make sense, so I'd say leave well enough alone. If someone wants to powergame, let them. A blanket restriction would add nothing and only serve to annoy those who for whatever reason want to play an optimised character.

A better option would be to put in some extra options for characters with high intelligence in some dialogues. That is fun, and makes the player feel like his character design makes a difference in how the game plays.


I'm a bit more ambivalent about Charisma requirements. I definitely would not apply a blanket rule. Some NPCs would not have friendship talks with a leader with low charisma, but some might. Low charisma need not mean someone is rude and ugly, after all. A shy person or someone with a weak personality also has a low charisma. And whilst some NPCs would disregard such a person as an unworthy leader, others wouldn't. (I think.)

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When I generate and IWD2 character, I do not ever drop a stat below 8. There is no need. I usually pick a race like Assimar that gives you some decent racial bonuses, though, and just accept a slower leveling up.


If it were me, I would take the same approach as Iguana-on-a-stick: if it makes sense for the character, then do it. I can't see Therla denying friendship to someone with low stats, because I perceive her as a fairly understanding soul. Likewise, I would expect Nikosh to accept people as they are and not snub people who aren't quite stellar leaders or great thinkers. Diriel would probably have problems with someone with exceptionally low stats. I don't imagine Salomeya would go out of her way to befriend somoene with a single-digit intelligence or charisma, but she might try to use it to her advantage.


I realize that I'm saying both no and yes. That is because I do not believe there is a cut-and-dried answer.


I like Iguana-on-a-stick's option of adding dialog choices for those with higher-than-average stats. It might encourage someone to try to use those stats to advantage instead of just going for maximum damage.


As long as a couple of people in the party have good strength scores, that's good enough, especially since containers are available fairly early in the game. Too many people rely on high attributes to get through combat. I maintain that you can do it with a well-thought-out battle plan.

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OK, ok, some difficult and embarassing admissions here... but perhaps the other side of the story might help. After all, some folks who like "powergaming" also appreciate great character development.


I may be a roleplayer and usually not a powergamer, but I do like to win. I like it alot. I'm a guy. We like to win, period.


I have been known *cough* from time to time, to have a mysterious sudden random surge (called ctr-F8, or some such arcane mystic random fluctation of the ether) take place at the birth of my favorite Paladin. Yes, it makes things unbalanced, but I'm allowed to be the hero of my fantasies. I am supposed to be faster, stronger, etc. Not in PnP D&D, where it is a group of folks working together and having a group storytelling experience, but in a solo computer game, where the only person to know is me.


That being said, this kind of (Cheating) playing escapes all of these restrictions and limitations. I think many more poeple like the idea of not "cheating", but are very willing to optimize stats (even in BG1 and 2) for their own enjoyment, going for the bonuses that make combat easier. Who likes to be beat down, and lose? Not all folks who play are strategic thinkers; many a Hack n' Slasher has enjoyed IE games in spite of themselves beacuse of the in-depth opportunities for character development (and a starring role in a pretty good story).


I think that it would be more enjoyable to more players if the general options (friendship, romance, double-crossing, betrayal, theft, heck even murder) were available to characters regardless of score, with consequences of those scores lying in the quality of the encounter possibilities (like the Wish and Limited Wish spell).


I think that the true limitations of intelligence and wisdom are really on the part of a player in the solo game. I would rather play with a group of NPCs who had reactions modified by my stats in the quality of the contact then have entire avenues of plot development and characterization lopped off my experience. Then I could make choices, the same way I make chices based on alignment; and of course take the consequences. What I would love to see is the slightly more "real" experience.


Perhaps our young Monk likes brawn and does not go for brains (big n'dumb). I'm not talking romance, here, just sheer friendliness/openness in discussion. If I have an 18 Charisma, that may mean I am persuasive, but still might not be someone's "type" -



so I guess my pie-in-the-sky wish would be for "ignore it and allow all paths to be open, but have the responses and outcomes available (and perhaps the "quality" of the experience) dependent on the relative stats involved.


'course, I don't have to code it... :)

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Regarding the NPC stats, by the way, I don't think making sir Nord just as strong and just as dumb as Hildury a good idea. An intelligence 8 paladin with a high diplomacy skill? Sorry, but I don't believe some that dumb would make a good diplomat or paladin.


Prachi might have some justification for having intelligence 8 in her background, but where sir Nord is concerned I liked his old stats better. Perhaps lower wisdom in exchange for higher strength, if need be, but not this much of a change.

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The problem was that withh is previous stats Nord was useless in IWD2 environ. I am going from a tester's comments: keeping party from being slaughtered was too difficult, and left no time to enjoy anything, let alone dialogues. Hildury was the only one who could hold front-line. I don't want to force the player to create a tank in order to play the mod or have NPCs that are considered useless.... IWD2 is very, very hard, especially for someone who comes to it with BG1/2 expectations, where the starting stats were the *final* stats. IWD2 was made to add stats as you go along. Unfortunately, the initial amount you get is just not enough to make a character that can be a relatively intelligent front-line fighter.


I also have to think about Nord's 6-people party, not just a party with Protagonist + 5 joinables, where you can correct the balance somewhat by turning PC into a tank.


I think, that in Nord's, Prachi's and Diriel's case I will simply add "bonus" intelligence in order to justify their dialogue, but keep them from being killed immediately. INT is hardly a power-gaming stat, and if I am _not_ to penalize PC, I will need those extra 1 or 2 points that will make characters believable. After all, we are talking INT 8 as opposite to INT 9 or 10. It is comparable to the boons that some NPCs recieved even in BG1 and BG2.


As for PC, I don't want to additionally branch dialogues for characters with high/low intelligence. It is incredibly hard to write, and nobody does it systematically, not really. It is Hell on Earth trying to sort out which options should be available to a charater with INT 7 and WIS 11 and which - to a character with INT 8 and WIS 9. And it is taking the decision away from the player.


Plus, I am er... done writing on Friendships and I am pretty happy with how they turned out :). It addresses my goal to develop all NPCs evenly and richly as opposite to adjusting _one_ to an imitation of artificial intelligence (ie placing continuing emphasis on PC's stats/qualities etc). I place emphasis where it counts and branches the dialogue/opens new significant option - mostly with gender and race.


Friendship sequences make up the most of the mod content; withdrawing just romantic options won't be much of a penalty, and would be weird becauise it is in Friendship where you establish the relationship. I am also very much in favor of counting *both* WIS and INT as "conversational" stats, letting the leading one take precedence.


I don't like being hooked on INT so much. I loved Amber to bits, but I never was comfortable with her dismissing my blonde demi-god character with his high WIS, normal INT (10) and charisma appropriate for a paladin. He was a wise, sweet looker who was not stupid. I'd rather hook romance options on PC's interest in the romance. I think I like making it transparent to the player - hence I am in favor of either blanket restriction or no restrictions. Hidden, complex restrictions have no face value and are normally only visible to a creator and whoever decides to read the code. I am trying to maintain 3 to 3+ options, without worrying about whish one is stat appropriate. There is enough problems with making sure they do not loop or things like that.


I am not sure I agree with dismissing the importance of charisma so easily, though I know perfectly well that it always had been the stat to sacrifice. No game ever penalized PC for it, and always allowed a low-charisma character to be in charge. Again, I don't get it why people hook on INT, but are ready to dismiss CHR for all but romances and WIS.


Basically, I don't really like the idea of penalizing either PC or jNPCs by with-holding content. I think that small bonuses on NPCs (2 extra points or less, OR 1 extra feat/skill tied into background) will work as a compromise and will actually make the game playable....

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Regarding Nord's stats...


I do not believe there's such a big difference between 18 strength 8 intelligence and 16 strength 10 intelligence where gameplay is concerned. It's only +1 to hit and +1 to damage less. Which, in the early game, mostly translates as +1 to hit less as you kill most foes in a single blow.


In my last party, I only had one character with 16 strength (a paladin, incidentally) and 2 with 14. (a cleric and a fighter-rogue.) They did fine.


I agree with Berelinde. Success in ID2 does not depend on having godly stats, but on having a battle plan. (and on scouting ahead a lot to spring all the damn ambushes.) If you just charge in, not even godly stats are going to save you. But whilst the game is tough, it's not THAT tough. You can even solo it with a sorcerer if you want to.


As for branching dialogue depending on stats: I liked it in Fallout and Torment, but you're right it probably is a lot of work, won't be noticed by a lot of people, and is rather arbitrary.

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I'm keeping all versions of NPCs I am making, so whichever one plays best will be the keeper. I'll do alpha 2 with some small cheats and we'll see if it is too much.


Well, the problem is that branching dialogue for a "stupid" PC means adding at least two or three extra different options at every turn for a stupid PC, otherwise he'll see but one option that will significantly reduce the role-playing experience. That's pretty much writing a second copy of each one of the 70 dialogues.

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When I proofread, I follow each branching dialog. I know they must be a pain to code. I am not going to encourage you to make more work for yourself.


The Nord stats with the 16 str and 10 int seem good to me. His dialog suggests that he is a man with average intelligence. And 16 is a respectable strength from a combat standpoint.


If it were me, I would not bother to put stat restrictions on friendship dialogs, and save that for the romances. Given that you have both a strong desire to create the most enjoyable roleplaying experience for people and finite time to devote to gaming, it makes the most sense.


PS--Real life was a pain this week. I will not be able to send Nikosh's completed proofreading until tomorrow night.

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Yah, i agree with domi. IWD2 forces you to powerplay, because without powerplaying, you cannot finish it.

You cannot even get near the end.


Probably you could tune down on those tough scripts that make every enemy on the map flock on you.

Or make their actions more realistic, or make them a bit weaker.

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Handling battle scripts is indeed above my abilities or aspirations. There is plenty that can be done for IWD2, in terms of rebalancing and plot improvments (some encounters ask for less h&s solutions), but NPCs is what I think is the most I can do. :(

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If the characters are pregenerated can't you just give them the stats you want by editing the character rather than accepting the base that the game gives you?


This way the player gets the character as you intended rather than one limited by the engine.

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I did it for a couple of characters adding a point or two in INT, plus the testing crew has all those great ideas with the new feats. And of course it helps that Raven_Song built templates for Rizdaer and Valeero. In the end after a few test drives, I think the characters will end up both balanced and die-hards. :( They work *much* better now.

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