Monday, August 13, 2012

A Return to Faerun

As I mentioned on Herculine's blog the other day, her post about OHS for Neverwinter Nights sufficiently tempted me that I had to download and give the game a try with my girls.

I created the necessary portraits from the latest decently-lit set of Skyrim shots I had -- assuming Skyrim to be more NWN friendly than one of the Fallouts -- and created them as PCs, then converting to companions via OHS' instructions.

It's literally a five minute procedure. Create the character as a PC as normal, rest, enter a command in the chat window, select a couple dialogue options, and that's it. They'll be ready to call in another game from then on.

Once into the main campaign I rested to get the "link boy" on my own character, and then summoned my companions. I was expecting to have to pay a fee to hire them based on the OHS documentation... but my girls were apparently having none of that and asked for no payment to accompany me.

Mystery-chan continues to scare me, even in NWN. She got Great Cleave at level four or five, and has become the fist of an angry God. Her record thus far is seven kills with one attack.

I had hoped to install better heads; but almost immediately remembered what a pain NWN is to mod the official campaigns. It refused to acknowledge the HAK unless it was added to the module in the toolset... which while possible is a bit of a pain. So I extracted the HAK into the override directory... and they still didn't show up. At this point I remember how many hours I had to fight with the game to get such things working before, and decided that with as shitty as the camera in NWN is, I wouldn't be looking that closely at their heads anyway; and just picked default ones. Natasha got a ponytail (albeit a short one) and Maeva got horns... and elf ears. Fucking D&D.

Sadly, they never updated the original campaign to sell metal and cloth dye... so we're pretty much stuck with whatever Pride Parade colors the armor comes in. Since we're at the start of chapter two and haven't done any quests yet, I'll probably export my character, pop into another module, and pick up a few items like that.

Playing with them along is fun; but I have to admit I'm developing serious ambivalence for OHS itself. There's no variation. Both Mystery-chan and Maeva are fighters, and both get the exact same feats -- thus far they're being shoehorned into longsword specialization and focus. This irks me, as Mystery-chan is supposed to use a bastard sword (and got the exotic weapons feat during character creation) but is having feats wasted on longsword. Maeva is supposed to use a greatsword, but is similarly being shoved directly into genericville. If they were taking divergent paths -- one going longsword, one going warhammer or something -- I could accept it as just the way they were evolving in that game... but they're going to be totally identical apparently, as OHS only has one advancement path for each class.

It's been awhile since I scripted in Aurora, but I remember the thing having random number generators or something similar, so I would have thought something more like "if #=1, path 1" "if #=2, path 2" et cetera. Something so that multiple followers of the same class wouldn't level up as clones of each other. Then again, as I said I haven't scripted in Aurora in years, so that may not have been feasible.

There's no method for manual level up from within the campaign. Your two choices are autolevel and get cookie-cutter perk lists, or don't level at all. If you don't have them level at all, they save up the experience; and you can convert the character from a follower back to a player; take them into another module, level up with your choice of feats, and then re-save them as followers. I didn't know the method off the top of my head, so I just let them autolevel to see how it went. Clearly, I am going to have to familiarize myself with the manual level up procedure -- even if that means removing and re-adding them as followers every level. Which will be a pain.

Natasha is a sorcerer class (since I didn't even want to think about the automated mechanics of learning specific spells and such) and while the spells are going okay... she for some reason got the "Brew Potion" feat awhile back. Which would be okay I guess except that I can't find any way to have her brew potions... so it's a complete wasted feat -- and I wouldn't have thought sorcerers get enough to waste. Gods apparently forbid she get combat casting or maximized spell or spell focus or something else actually useful. Also, for the life of me I can not find a way to get her to summon her familiar. I remember being able to do that with normal game henchmen.

So, much like in other games, the existing companion systems just aren't doing it for me... but I suppose I'll have to learn to deal with it since I don't want to learn how to script in Aurora all over again. Hopefully, exporting, leveling, and re-importing the girls every level won't be a huge pain in my ass.


  1. The inability in OHS to micro-manage the leveling-up of one's cohorts is the only major flaw I've found with the system as well. I'm assuming that such is intended to emulate that the characters are being run by someone else and thus one would have no control over such things anyway. Like you, I have yet to try the great conversion ritual as it would mean doing a lot of switching back and forth between modules. Since each of my cohorts is of a different class (I've had no need for redundancies yet) I did not notice that their progression is so limited. But OHS is the only real companion system I've found for the game, so as you say unless we create our own system it's likely the best we're going to get... ever.

    Also like you, I've not bothered with installing any extra heads. My camera is always at such an altitude that such things are irrelevant. As long as I've given them unique portraits and names that I'm satisfied with, the animated avatars are just placeholders like ceramic figurines on graph paper.

    And how did you get your girls to join you for free? Mine always ask for a fee without fail. That ghost in your machine is really starting to worry me...

    1. "The inability in OHS to micro-manage the leveling-up of one's cohorts is the only major flaw I've found with the system as well."

      I don't necessarily want to micromanage... I'd be okay with packaged skill point choices and such; but making EVERY fighter a longsword devotee is beyond annoying. How many great longswords do you find in the game? I only remember three or four; and they're mostly earlier game, and not epics (bastard swords have some great epics in the latter parts of HoU). Making every fighter follower use the same exact setup just makes it harder to outfit them, and makes the whole group less versatile.

      I'd have skipped fighter on one or the other, but I couldn't find another class that fit either companion. They're fighters. Weapon Master, maybe; but that's a prestige class and not something you can start with. Barbarians aren't big on armor or shields. I guess I could make one a Ranger or something; but that's not really heavy armor and tank type. So the only option I can see is to set them up myself every level.

      "And how did you get your girls to join you for free? Mine always ask for a fee without fail. That ghost in your machine is really starting to worry me..."

      Yeah, it weirded me out too. Like I said, I was expecting a fee; but when I summoned them into the campaign for recruitment, all three spoke to me like they had already been hired and were just set to wait. "Need me to come with you again?" or something to that effect.

      It was kind of screwy... but I'm used to such things. Their AI has raped more than one game into submission now. NWN never stood a chance.

  2. Since we are on the topic of companion systems in NWN, have either of you played NWN 2? The second expansion pack for it, "Storm of Zehir" has a system similar to OHS built in to it. I am just not sure at the moment if it is "backwards compatible" with the original quest or not.

    1. Never played NWN2. As I heard it from a friend who did pick it up, it was more of the same as NWN; just with worse writing and more bugs. Which is saying something.

      Also by that point I was firmly engrossed in Oblivion, so it took a lot more than a crappy overhead camera and Bioware's horrid companions to get my attention.

      I also wouldn't bet on it being backwards compatible. Nothing seems to be in that engine -- after they added cloaks to NWN1 it was months before they patched it into the original campaign; and over a year before they could be bothered to put colors on the cloaks. Most of the stuff in NWN/2 seems to be module dependent; so unless they patched it to be retroactively active, I wouldn't get my hopes up.

    2. I've got NWN2 laying around someplace, and at one point indeed had it installed. It looked like it was going to be more demanding on my system than the original (it visibly ran slower) so I just haven't gotten back to it. I'm sure that, like any other game, there will be ways that I can find to improve the performance and I'll likely get back to it, it's just not on my immediate list of things to do (though we all know that can change like the weather).

    3. I didn't find it overly buggy/glitchy myself, but I did find it hard on my fps when I had in initially installed on my laptop. It has been a while since I was playing it on the current system (going through the Icewind Dale port), so I can't remember how it was on the current video card. I am currently bouncing back and forth between Oblivion and Mass Effect 2 at the moment, so I am not sure when I will get back to playing through the IWD port and checking on frame rate.

      That said, despite all the issues I am having with Oblivion, I am inclined to try and port much of my D+D modules into Oblivion and see how well they work. That is assuming I can actually find the drive to open up the CK...