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Article - bjlhct2 On Scenario Design pt 1: Linearity in Blades of Avernum
Member # 5048
Profile #16
Thuryl: Are you seriously saying that it is better to make a player do something they need not do for the story than to just tell them that it is there?
Posts: 33 | Registered: Sunday, October 3 2004 07:00
Article - bjlhct2 On Scenario Design pt 1: Linearity in Blades of Avernum
Member # 5048
Profile #10
I stand by my misinterpreted statement that linearity is just plain bad. Let me clarify: the linearity itself is bad, but it often enables stronger story, which is good. This article is, in part, about trying to make something with both strong story and non-linearity.
Posts: 33 | Registered: Sunday, October 3 2004 07:00
Article - bjlhct2 On Scenario Design pt 1: Linearity in Blades of Avernum
Member # 5048
Profile #0
Articles, huh? Well, OK.

Good scenarios have appropriate difficulty, have strong story, are nonlinear, involve strategy, and create progress. Balancing these is a large part of the art of scenario design.

Totally linear scenarios are boring. Totally nonlinear scenarios make no sense. Most scenarios err on the side of linearity: the best scenarios are only as linear as required by the story, and involve many choices and tradeoffs.


This is a general term here for values that change many things and get changed by many possible actions. This is a fundamental technique to prevent linearity. However, simple, predictable karma systems are boring and cliche.

Consider a scenario where you work for one city-state, and help fight the other city-state.

Option 1: Have a series of missions to attack the enemy state in specific ways in a certain order. This is bad.

Option 2: Each time you hurt the other city-state, a "has damaged enemy" value increases. When this value is high, you get better deals on equipment, tougher missions, etc. This is mediocre.

Option 3: You can choose to defect to the other state. There are a number of points where you can help either side - eg there is a battle, and you fight one or the other, or you deliver an item to one or the other, and so on. Each action makes one place like you more and the other place like you less. This is better.

Option 4: Like #3, but each state has a triad of leaders, one good, one evil, and one neutral. There are many opportunities to be either evil, good, or neutral. When your "good vs evil" value is high, the good leader likes you, when it is low, the evil leader likes you, and when it is in the middle, the neutral leader likes you. There are also good, evil, and neutral affiliated people in each city and outdoors. This is best.

Ordered and Unordered Challenges

One of the reasons most scenarios are more linear than would be most enjoyable is to keep the player taking on challenges matching their strength throughout a scenario where they gain strength. This, however, is not an insurmountable problem.

One option for keeping a player always well matched is to use impermanent items. Consider a situation where ten enemy camps, each different, must be attacked and defeated. If the camps are all easy enough to be defeated at the beginning, by the end, the player will be stronger and will find the later camps too easy. However, consider a player in the same situation, given powerful impermanent items, eg potions. The player then must use the items to defeat the camps initially, and by the later camps will have used them up. This also adds an element of strategy.

A second option to keep a player well matched is to simply make challenges that are done later more difficult. Consider a situation where the player must infiltrate two forts. The first fort infiltrated can warn the other fort, which increases its level of security, making the second infiltration more difficult.

A third option is to temporarily weaken the player between challenges. Consider a situation where a player must defeat, separately, a vampire and a demon. Each curses the player in a different way when defeated, leaving the player at the same strength they were at before defeating them. After both are defeated, a way to remove the curses is given.

A fourth option is to make challenges that strengthen the player little as they are solved. This, however, is bad, because it leaves the player with a sense that little progress is being made.
Posts: 33 | Registered: Sunday, October 3 2004 07:00
(Yet another) Failed Scenario... in Blades of Avernum
Member # 5048
Profile #5
Ehhh, I dunno about fanfic K...

Maybe some sort of passworded online scenario wiki/editor would help by making collaboration more practical - anyone?

Hey, don't look at me, I only know python.

Monk, no offense, but a whole scenario is about 10^6 x as much work as writing such an introduction.
Posts: 33 | Registered: Sunday, October 3 2004 07:00
The Scenario That Wasn't. in Blades of Avernum
Member # 5048
Profile #11
side quests:

i put a lot of effort into the side quests since it was necessary to do most of them to make it through the lich's base.

i know how this can lead to a bad scenario (za-khazi run) so i did try to make them connect with the plot, have original enemies, original items, etc.

side missions were generally available at:
--the empire base, blocking off the pass
--the large trog town, in a canyon across the valley from the empire base
--the nephil town, hidden in the mountains

there were only one or two side missions available at the original avernite town

side quests included:

the meeting between the mayor and the undead
--return to the original avernite town
--fight a few undead to get to the mayor's room
--door to it is now open
--read notebooks of officials, which describe how the mayor was the first in the town to turn undead
--read mayor's notebook, which describes his meeting with a vampire in a cave, which now becomes visible. you read that he met with undead regularly but this was an important meeting where he made some sort of deal
--if you go to this cave, and fight your way through some undead, you come to the vampire
--after killing the vampire, you can read about how he made a deal with the mayor that the undead would stay away from his town and kill some bandits in the area in exchange for him giving them information on weaknesses of the empire fort in the area, killing a certain mage (that was you) and bringing them a certain spellbook (again you). the vampire betrayed the mayor and infected him with the lich's disease, but did technically keep the agreement that the mayor made with a magical device to bind the vampire to it. however, the vampire was betrayed by the lich, who tried to kill it instead of giving it its promised position
--you get some new items and gold for your trouble, of course

find the brother
--a dervish offers a reward for finding out what happened to his brother
--tells you to talk to someone that he knows saw him
--who gives you a cryptic clue to take back to dervish
--dervish is now gone, so the clue is taken to his wife
--wife tells you it means the brother was last seen in a certain area, where a dungeon entrance now becomes visible, and that the dervish disappeared, leaving a small ash pile, a broken sword, and 10k gold pieces in his room
--in dungeon, there are some generic fights, then you meet death knight who offers you passage for information on his brother, whom you now don't know the location of
--the dervish has now appeared in the trog town, somewhat hidden
--talking to the dervish, you find out that he became a werebear recently and so he had to leave, as the empire has no sympathy for this, and he came to the trogs because of a rumor that one of the trog priests could cure this.
--so, he burned his journal where he recorded this, broke his sword to signify that he was no longer a dervish, and left the gold for his family by selling a magic painting that he had pillaged to the mage that you killed for your first mission.
--go back to the death knight, who says that you are telling the truth, but that his brother just died, and leaves, letting you through.
--a higher level party could also have killed the death knight to get through.
--past the death knight, there are some magic weapons, and then further along, a demon, a spirit, and a naga having a meeting. all are friendly unless you killed the death knight.

i may add more as i remember it - there's a ton more
on the other hand i'm getting tired of writing this crap down
wasting space on the board, whatnot
Posts: 33 | Registered: Sunday, October 3 2004 07:00
The Scenario That Wasn't. in Blades of Avernum
Member # 5048
Profile #10
monsters, again if i recall correctly, included
a trio of splitting slimes (recolors of each other)
--web touch
--acid touch
--dumbfounding touch
the aformentioned
--mid-level mages with freezing touch
--rock-throwing undead giants with disease touch
7 static, Living Crystals (recolors of each other) vulnerable only to melee
--ice lances (was light blue)
--lightning spray (was yellow)
--healing (was blue)
--haste (was red)
--summon shade (was green)
--dumbfounding ray (was purple)
--fire ray (was orange)
a gelatinous cube with 1 AP, high HP, paralyzing touch, vulnerable only to fire (D&D)
cactuars, plant type cactus looking spine throwers with no other attack (final fantasy)
trollocs, 7 AP swords-ogre/beast/things with poison touch, high health and damage (wheel of time)
a powerful death knight, which you can either try to kill or give information on his brother's fate for passage, and which has 7 AP, freezing touch, and draining touch. (D&D)
an aurak with high fire resistance, a strong attack, fireblast (lvl1) and cloud of blades (lvl1). on death, it creates an aurak with no spells and 7 AP, which creates a fire explosion on death. (dragonlance)
snarks, 7AP creatures that come in swarms, with poison touch and cloud of blades creation on death
the lich, with lots of HP
a 2AP invisible paralyzing touch thing, great for making an easy skeleton fight harder
the 1HP floating skull that triggers the lich fight, 6AP, static, casts ice lances and slow
2 water elementals, large and small, immune to melee, poison, mental, and cold, with cold breath
the assassin was an invisible monster with 1 HP and no armor with moderate damage and lots of poison that on death created a monk graphic assassin with the same attack. these would be alone early, and in pairs later.
all townspeople were undead-ified. They got extra health and attack, and one of the following: 6AP, disease touch, poison touch, slow touch, cold touch. duplicate undead versions of Empire troops were made.

and of course many of the standard monsters

the lich fight went as follows:
the party finally reaches lich's throne room, enters through portcullis
sees magic barrier at back of room, one square surrounded by walls in center, lever
party pulls lever, removing walls, exposing skull, closing portculli
skull is killed, triggering lich et al teleporting in

the skull, of course, was the lich's attempt to appear to be a demilich to scryers.

spell casting became use of only certain spells for BoA

some terrain squares would have a 16% chance or so of creating monsters when stepped on. all assassins came from these. other monsters from these would always be out of sight of the party, obviously.

[ Monday, October 11, 2004 17:35: Message edited by: bjlhct2 ]
Posts: 33 | Registered: Sunday, October 3 2004 07:00
The Scenario That Wasn't. in Blades of Avernum
Member # 5048
Profile #7
Thanks, Bob, and special thanks to everyone else for missing the point.

The items are obvious, Ephesos. The mage was aware of the lich's activity, and was trying to do his part to fight it, until you killed him. The mayor was already undead at that point, which is also why he wanted the evil-looking tome. The lich, being intelligent, knew that Sulfras was in the area and wanted this scepter. That's the point. You are the one who least knows what is going on, and you start out as a pawn and unwittingly stay one until the very end. Demonslayer, I wonder if you think that the myth of vampires also came from Warcraft 3.

The problem is not the plot. The problem is that this would be a scenario, and so making it would involve making a scenario.

IIRC, puzzles included
a teleporter maze with portculli and levers (1 portculli to 1 lever) in Sulfras' lair
activating the portal in the end - and determining how it needs to be set up to get to somewhere safe
determining which room the scepter is in
setting the demons against the spirits in the cave for the trog quest
in the insect cave, a room with a lever, then a block of runes, then a portcullis, and some jewels. pulling the lever opens the portcullis but makes enemies appear by it, and also makes the runes with jewels on them into a wall, or wall of blades, according to the rune type

[ Wednesday, October 06, 2004 21:56: Message edited by: bjlhct2 ]
Posts: 33 | Registered: Sunday, October 3 2004 07:00
The Scenario That Wasn't. in Blades of Avernum
Member # 5048
Profile #0
I spent a fair amount of time on a scenario for BoE, and (surprise!) never finished it. BoA has led to me thinking about it again, but won't be able to finish it now either.

The plot went something like this:

begin in Avernite town on surface

quest to kill goblin leader
standard cave, leader is a human mage
lots of anti-undead items for some reason

quest to get magic tome out of insect-infested cave
standard insects
tome is suspiciously evil-looking

bring tome to town leader
leader and guards attack you instead of giving reward
whole town has turned undead
at this time an empire patrol attacks the town
hopefully use items from goblin cave to do OK
take the town's money for reward
empire patrol is friendly to you

on trying to leave empire patrol takes you to empire base
mage explains that a magic disease has been turning avernites undead
discover that this large base is there to search for a powerful scepter
gigantic reward for anyone who finds scepter
more side quests available
some quests lead to a trogolyte area
one quest is to get an item (you don't know that it's asking you to steal it from Sulfras)

find Sulfras' lair (location from quest)
kill fire lizards, etc
realize that stealing from Sulfras is suicide
Sulfras explains that a powerful lich in the area made the disease
Sulfras wants something the lich has
Sulfras can't enter because of wards, killing lich destroys wards
promises reward for killing lich, describes location
lich is underground in a cavern reached through a cave
gives item that lets you see entrance

(lich is in the area to find the scepter; created disease to distract other lookers)

look at base
attempting entry deals massive damage, causes certain death

back to Sulfras
gives you exploding item to throw when past 1st part of entrance
gives you items to help kill the enemies in the base

find trog area
some side quests there
trogs also have a steal from Sulfras quest (whichever one you get 2nd, you refuse)
trogs make you kill a drake to get their trust
head shaman's quest: powerful potions and spells for bringing father's corpse to him from a dangerous cave
get corpse
get potions and spells, including invincibility potions

a lot of effort was put into side quests because they were necessary for a lower level party to make it through any of the lich's base.

use invincibility potions to get into lich base
use exploding item to destroy the rest of the impenetrable entrance
begin assault on lich's base
base is very well designed for defense
basic enemy is a mid-level mage cater with a decent attack and freezing touch
there are additional enemies that are "pets" -
-fire-raying ruby skeletons
-dumbfounding gazers
-undead giants
make your way to the back of the base where the wall is being excavated
valuable gems are around
basic enemies and giants are around, mining
killing one of the basic enemies gives you a book
book is a journal, describing how this thing has found the scepter, wants to keep it for itself, hid it in a chest in its room, think gollum
book has a key in it

make your way to the private rooms
journal subtly implies which room you want
open that room, use key to open chest, get scepter
scepter is powerful, giving spellcasting bonuses and casting a powerful party buff
go back to entrance, find a magic wall

find the room where the lich is
having scepter, kill lich
behind lich, break crystal powering the machinery of the base and the magic walls
take powerful anti-dragon items of the lich

coming back to the surface, Sulfras teleports you to his lair - he wants the scepter
use scepter, attack with lich's anti-dragon items
defeating Sulfras, he casts a tracking spell on the scepter and teleports out
says to give it to him or die shortly once he is prepared
you decide to turn it in to the empire base for the reward

get to empire base: town has turned undead, and you are trapped
fight your way to a portal
turn on portal and go through... find yourself in an empire base with all their powerful mages
you are paralyzed, tested for the undead disease
scepter and some items taken from you
this allows defeating the lich, Sulfras, etc, without Monty Haul
it's explained that most avernites are now undead from the lich's unintentionally powerful disease
rewards given for scepter, mages in tower will teach you spells, etc

wandering around tower, it becomes suspicious
find a "forbidden area"
there is an inaccessible area saying
trained avernite storage
stasis field
keep out
basically discover that the whole thing is a trick:
the portal is actually a magic based virtual reality
the empire is building up a supply of highly trained avernite adventurers
you are discovered and attacked
from "forbidden area" entrance proceed to real portals
this is the final fighting, against mages and through the "zoo" of creatures to study.
enter the portal to where you want to go and escape

This is far too complicated for me to do. It's also useless for you guys, but I felt compelled to post it here - as a warning, perhaps. Feel free to rip off any part of it, obviously.

If I find the lists of items and monsters I was going to use, I'll put them up too.

[ Saturday, October 09, 2004 22:30: Message edited by: bjlhct2 ]
Posts: 33 | Registered: Sunday, October 3 2004 07:00