New digs!

I’ve just moved the blog and forums to the dev server I’ve been running NWN from. It had me pulling my hair out for a while, but things seem to be working smoothly for now.

You’ll have to excuse any momentary instability in the blog. I’m changing the appearance as I go, and am occasionally breaking things in the process.

Posted in News | 24 Comments

Ruleset, part 1

Hi all, Sherincall here..

Seeing as we haven’t been around for a while, it is only fair that we show something good when we come back. That something is our new ruleset. Unfortunately, it is not finished, so we can let you play with it just yet. Until such a time comes (soon!), I’ll just give you a quick overview of it.

There are no classes in the Shadows and Silver ruleset: everyone plays as a generic PC class. Sounds dull? Not really. Rather than limiting a character to three strict classes, we allow seamless customization for all character types. If you want to play a sword master who is interested in the arcane, and also obsessed with locks, you needn’t be a fighter/wizard/rogue. You will simply increase the skills you want. In order to achieve this, we had to modify most of the skills, and add many new ones. Here are the skills present in the S&S ruleset at the moment:

There will be a detailed explanation for all of the skilled listed above, but for now let’s just say that the Arcana skills will be used to perform actions similar to spellcasting in NWN, combat skills will increase your battle prowess, such as attack bonus, armor class, damage and even attacks per round. Most other skills are self-explanatory.

Another novelty to the NWN skill system is that skills can now be progressed without gaining a level. So, if you want to train your marksmanship skill, you can either gather experience and put a point in the skill at level up, or you can pick up a bow and practice. This goes for every skill, and those cross class skills can only be perfected this way.

That’s it for now. Next time I will explain how feats work in the new ruleset. After that, you will get a chance to try it for yourselves.. I’m eager to get some feedback.

Posted in Ruleset | 5 Comments

The Role of Fantasy in Fantasy

While reading this post over at the Borders Sci-fi blog, I was reminded of the role of fantasy in fantasy. It is not, as Mark reminds us, simply escapism. It’s a mirror that we hold up to reality. Living behind our eyes as we do, we need to see our selves from outside our bodies in order to truly know what we look like, and the same is true of reality. The difficulty is that, to cope and survive in a world of daily horrors, we become desensitized to reality. Thus, the beauty of fantasy is that it skews reality in such a way that it can be seen even while we wear our blinders, and that it shows us reality better than we could have hoped to see it on our own.

The work of the author (or DM), then, is to show the reader (or player) that the fantasy is, in fact, not fantasy at all, but a symbolic representation of reality. Now, that doesn’t mean we need to beat folks over the head with heavy-handed moral lessons. Rather, the object is to stimulate the mind through the power of abstraction and imagination.

Consider the world of Richard Mitchell in his book The Gift of Fire:

The strange power that we call imagination is at once a form of thinking and a useful aid to more thinking. Imagination can be understood as at once a kind of intelligence and a kind of poetry, which we ordinarily think of as something not at all intellectual but “creative.” A bad mistake. Poetry and intelligence have one tremendous power in common. Each is a way of discovering, and of revealing, that things very different from each other are also like each other, and that similar things are very different from each other. Metaphor is in the heart of each, some way of language that can treat a city seen at dawn in the distance as though it were a sleeping creature and a girl as though she were a rose.

It is mind that does such things, of course, and if that way of understanding is to be called creative, then we might better understand human “creativity” not as some unaccountable and maybe emotional urge within, but as thinking. As such, it is remarkably useful in the mind’s work of knowing itself.

My mind to me, a kingdom is, says the poet. Well, that’s nice. It is hardly one of the great, sonorous lines of mighty verse, but it does stay in the mind. And we can think about it, which might be better than “appreciating” it, whatever that might mean. It would be fun to have the poet here, to ask him some questions about his curious assertion, and even to consider whether or not he has gone a bit too far. Can it be that what he says is simply a truthful description of some might and majesty, or is he perhaps boasting a little about his independent, sensitive, poetic mind? And, an even more important question: Is he doing his proper duty as a poet, and casting light on some universal by example of the particular, or is he just “expressing himself”?

So, your mind is a kingdom, eh? What sort of a kingdom is it? Are the borders open or jealously guarded? Do the citizens rejoice in their king, his just laws, and his kind governance, or do they have to console themselves with the thought that someday they will get to die and escape all this? Are the king’s officers arrogant or cordial in the execution of their duties? Do they take bribes?

And how about the politics of your little kingdom? Is there a perpetual feud going on between the conservatives and the liberals? Is the king himself the king of all, or is he the leader of one of the factions? Is he in secure possession of his throne, or is he beset by pretenders? Is there any danger of revolution? Which side would you be on?

As I look back on the world that I have been constructing, I sense that I have not done my poetic duty, casting light on the universal by example of the particular. My dealing with sexism or racism is an attempt to illustrate how the universal principle in our world applies in my world of fantasy. But the thing that should be happening is the freeing of the mind to wander, and to wonder:

What does the fantastical in this world symbolize? What does it say about the world? What does it say about me? And how can I better understand how it is with us humans by examining the implications of the symbolism?

Posted in Rant | 2 Comments

Custom Content Spotlight: NWNCQ

If you’ve been living under a rock, you may have missed the latest awesome custom content. Well, I say latest, but it’s been around for a while, steadily picking up steam. It’s called NWNCQ, and it’s an overhaul of stock BioWare tilesets. There’s some other goodies like reskinned placeables, but most of the fun comes from seeing old gross areas that looked dated even in 2002 suddenly looking new and wondrous again. I decided to test it out on my all-time favorite server, Nexus: the City Between Worlds.

The screenshot above was taken in an area designed with using the standard Rural tileset. Oh, and you’re only seeing two or three placeables (the campfire and the mushrooms) in all of that. While you pick your jaw up off the floor, lemme say this is because the idea of NWNCQ is to create environments that look incredibly detailed without the builder having to crowd it with placeables. You can get a thick, tangled forest using only the features included in the stock tileset. Additionally, since the detail is confined to the tileset, you don’t have to worry nearly as much about pathfinding lag as you would have with a horde of placeables.

Probably the greatest thing about NWNCQ is that it’s available in both hak and override form. This means you can incorporate it into your module, or have it incorporated into any module you play. Hence why I can hop onto a running server and see the beautiful content without having to get the admins to install it.

chico400, creator of NWNCQ, has incorporated some good design into the project to make it painless to use. First, override versions of the tilesets make it possible to walk through trees, rocks, and other added details, so you don’t have to worry about places formerly accessible now being unreachable. The hak version doesn’t do this, since you’re planning on building with it and can work within its constraints.

Second, he includes a batch utility to selectively activate or deactivate overrides. While you could just delete the files of a particular tileset that you don’t like, chico’s utility puts it aside in a special folder. This is particularly good if, say, you want the updated look for one module but not another. Activate it before you play the first module, then deactivate it when you want to play the second.

Performance is very smooth, even with shadows and anti-aliasing, and chico has tried very hard to ensure that fading geometry works well. The end effect is that you have very organic areas that still run well and are a pleasure to play in.

Other features of the package include pseudo-bloom…

…pseudo-bumpmapping…

…animated lens flares…

… and nicer textures.

In short, it’s easy, it’s painless, and it brings old yucky areas back to life… whatever module you play on. Try it out!

Posted in Promotion | 1 Comment

Which sucks more?

NWN2 or HP computers?

I got to test run Casa’s Middleforest module and it’s coming along nicely. The lighting is beautiful, and the city has a nice variety of pretty and grungy. I can enjoy it more now that I’m getting a little more used to getting the camera to do what I want, and I was actually able to get around Rungholdt without getting stuck this time. However, I did get a pretty bad problem after playing for a while.

My wireless card got uninstalled!

What? Well, it turns out the system board got so overheated playing the game that the soldering holding the wireless card onto it melted, and it detached from the board. Wow! So is that NWN2′s fault for having obscenely poor performance on minimum settings? Or is it HP’s fault for making their computers out of stuff flimsier than cardboard? This is the second time this has happened to me, but now the extended warranty I bought has lapsed and I can’t send it in to be repaired. The real kicker: I managed to fix the issue by playing NWN2 some more. It melted the solder back and so now I am using a wireless-capable computer once again.

Posted in Promotion, Rant | 6 Comments
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