Thursday, May 7, 2009

Neverwinter Nights for Kids

I've gone back to playing Neverwinter Nights with my daughter. I keep stopping because I get so frustrated with the scripted quest model, but NWN really is an amazing platform to play with.

We've finished the user-generated conversion modules of the pen-and-paper B1 - Palace of the Silver Princess and B2 - The Keep on the Borderlands. The B2 caves were especially good, with some old-school respawning monsters (which is exactly how we played B2 in the first place, back in 1979).

We just started U1 - The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. We had to stop because the "haunted" house was creeping her out a bit. That was awesome to see. The environment is excellent, from creaking floorboard sounds to the unstable floor that gives way. I'm struggling to pretend that I don't know that the house isn't really haunted or that our new friend, Ned Shakeshaft will betray us at some point. It brings back a whole flood of memories from 25 years ago, when the Saltmarsh series shifted our campaign to shipboard adventures for several months.

I'm beginning to realize a few things that have helped keep the game fun.

It's hard to resist focusing on maximizing stats and having a lot of out-of-game talk, but my daughter does a great job of sticking in character and using the voice and animation emotes. It helps me that I'm playing a familiar and simple character.

I've been playing as a basic dwarven fighter, to give us a tank so my daughter's elf can cast her lower-level spells and play archer. (She's a multi-classed elf fighter-mage-thief, which is exactly what almost everyone I grew up with wound up playing as their first AD&D character.) But with this new adventure, I swapped out my fighter for a cleric version of the same character (after leveling him up to catch up). That gives me better healing and the chance to use some offensive spells. I'm thinking that a bard might be the best choice for a "helper" character like this (or multi-classing like crazy), since they get access to so many items and spells.

I built a "DM bag" that my character secretly carries. I used the DM client to connect and create a bag of holding and a collection of scrolls, potions, healer kits, etc. Then my character later came by and picked it up. Now I always have the tools to fix some things to keep the game moving, without having to drop out and connect with the DM client. Instead of constantly saving and reloading the game or respawning and hiking all the way back, I can quickly heal anything or even raise the dead. I try not to use it very often, but it's been very helpful, especially on B2 where resting is so limited.

I need to try using the DM Client but possessing an NPC henchman for most of the game. That would give me a lot more control, especially when things go wrong in the user-created modules like missing plot items, stuck characters, or just unkillable monsters.

Unfortunately, playing NWN with her so much is keeping me from a few other projects, like the One Page Dungeon entry that I want to build. I also want to recruit some of her friends to see if we can give pen and paper D&D another shot. She loved it, but it would go so much better with a couple players.

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