The Role-Player's Guide is intended to introduce new players to multiplayer Neverwinter Nights and give some suggestions and tips for how to get the most out of the experience. Ideas on character creation, how to be 'in-character', some multiplayer 'no-no's and more. Great for 'newbies,' but even experienced role-players may find a helpful hint or two. Not designed to be 'rules' for how to role-play, just some collective thoughts on things that make the experience rewarding and enjoyable.
There are a number of abbreviations you will see in this document and in common parlance around the Neverwinter Connections and Neverwinter Nights communities. Here are some of the more common ones:
|CRPG||Computer Role Playing Game|
|IC||In-character (distinguishes character speech from player speech)|
|MotB||Mask of the Betrayer Expansion|
|OC||Official Campaign (the module delivered with original Neverwinter Nights game)|
|OOC||Out of character (distinguishes character speech from player speech)|
|PnP||Non-computer-based, “pen and paper” role-playing|
|SoZ||Storm of Zehir|
When you join any Neverwinter Nights game for the first time, you must create a character. This is the most critical point in your character’s existence. The “seed” of your character is whatever personality and background you think up, combined with the various abilities and feats that you select in the game. We’d like to help you grow that seed and create characters that come across as living, breathing entities, and that are fun to play as well.
So, the next few sub-sections will give you some recommendations on how to create just such a character.
Understanding Your Adventure
A very important aspect of character creation that is frequently overlooked is to research the game you will be joining. Many times, games or campaigns provide a background for you. This is particularly true when you are starting from 1st level. It’s crucial to do this for two reasons. First, your character will fit much better in his or her environment with a background that matches the campaign setting. Second, building a character that doesn’t match the campaign can hurt the campaign, or hurt your character’s ability to merge seamlessly into a group.
You create Bob the Wizard, a young man who has spent his life studying magic on a remote island with a secret coven of witches. Then you join Bob with a group of players who want to go through Teiwaz’s “Parthenon” series of custom NWN modules. However, Parthenon has explicit background that tells you that you are from farmer’s stock, and you grew up in a town called Greenvale together with all of the other characters in the party. This causes a conflict between your character background and the setting in which he will exist. Similarly, there may be modules or campaigns where wizards are frowned upon or even forbidden.
So, before you start developing your character, make sure you know how he will fit in with your game or campaign. What is the best way to find this out? Ask your DM, or if you don’t have one, download the module you will be playing ahead of time and review the “read me” file, which usually will include some background. Most games on NWC will also have a posted “game description” that you should always read carefully before signing up for the game.
Character Background and Personality
Perhaps the most important idea around character creation is: Develop your characters before you create them in the game.
Occasionally players start by bringing up the character generation screen in NWN. This can cause people to be a slave to the desirable skills or ability bonuses that result from selecting certain options on-screen.
Try to write a paragraph or two about your character first. It is important to note that we are not talking about the character description you will type into NWN at this point! We are just generating ideas for your character. Some of the questions you can try to answer include:
- Where did your character come from?
- Why have you chosen the adventurer’s life?
- Why have you chosen your profession/skills?
- What are your character’s hopes, desires, and goals in life? Why?
- What are the physical characteristics of your character?
- What are some of the personality traits of your character?
- What significant “turning point” events occurred in your character’s life until now? What were they?
Another good idea during character creation is to create detail. Quite frequently, the smallest details about a character are the things that make a character really stand out. And remember, flaws can be just as important as assets when creating an interesting character. Many famous characters from movies have these critical flaws.
In the movie, “The Princess Bride,” Inigo Montoya has scars on each cheek. Count Rugen has six fingers. Luke Skywalker loses a hand. Stephen Donaldson’s “Thomas Covenant” has leprosy, and so on. Those are physical flaws, but other non-physical flaws can be great too. Captain Kirk was too much of a cowboy, Han Solo was a greedy rogue, and so on.
Consider some of these sample backgrounds for a NWN character:
Weeltin is a strong fighter. He grew up in a military family learning swordplay. He is anxious to prove himself and become rich and famous.
It’s a start, but we really haven’t learned a whole lot about him. In fact, he could be any of a thousand fighter-types.
Weeltin is a very strong young man. Tall, even for a human, Weeltin is quite muscular. As the son of the local Captain of the Guard, Weeltin grew up around swords, armor, and military personnel. As a result, he is quite familiar with most weaponry, and he is anxious to prove himself to his father.
As you can see, we have learned a lot more about Weeltin. Now we know that he is taller than most humans, is related to the Captain of the Guard, and has a need to prove himself. Let’s take this one step further:
Weeltin is a very strong young man, with blond hair and blue eyes. Tall, even for a human, Weeltin is quite muscular. As the son of the local Captain of the Guard, Weeltin grew up around swords, armor, and military personnel. As a teenager, he was injured badly when he was roughhousing with some friends in the barracks. As they wrestled, they knocked over a rack of armor, which fell on top of Weeltin, crushing one leg. The leg never quite healed properly, and as a result Weeltin is ponderously slow and walks with a pronounced limp. During the time he was laid up with the injury, Weeltin spent much time reading texts on military strategy. As a result, he is quite learned, and probably a good deal smarter than most of the other military conscripts. But, his father never forgave him for his irresponsible act. As a result, Weeltin is still desperately seeking his father’s approval. Perhaps if he accomplishes something great as an adventurer, his father will finally approve.
As you can see, we now have a very good understanding of Weeltin. He has physical characteristics, including a noticeable flaw. He has a reason for adventuring, a reason for being a fighter, and he has at least one notable personality trait – that of needing approval. This is a great start for a character that has some depth and will be memorable to other players. Yet, Weeltin still has plenty of room to grow.
You don’t need to detail every last thing about your character. You want to have room to evolve fluidly depending on how your adventure proceeds. If your personality or background is too stifling, it may make role-playing difficult or ruin your enjoyment of the game. Similarly, DMs and other gamers expect other characters to be at least of moderate value to the party, so don’t go so far overboard on the flaws that your character is helpless.
There are several links in the section on Additional Resources that can help generate ideas for character traits.
Creating the Character in the Game
Once you have your background done, it’s time to go into the game and create your character. Many of the decisions here become much easier once you have a background created. You should already know the gender, race, and initial class of your character at least.
When you assign points to your abilities, use the background you have written to make your decisions easier. For example, we might do the following for Weeltin:
|Strength||17||We described him as very strong, plus he has military training.|
|Dexterity||8||His leg injury makes it difficult for him to move quickly.|
|Constitution||16||He is probably physically fit from his military work|
|Intelligence||14||A little smarter than average, per the description.|
|Wisdom||10||Average, maybe not so great – we know he did at least one really unwise thing as a child.|
|Charisma||12||We did not describe much about Charisma, so we can probably assume he’s fairly average.|
Of course, these numbers could vary widely. Just use the background to give you a general idea of where the abilities should be.
One method of character building is to make your feat and spell selections strictly based on your character’s personality. This results in great character depth, but it may also result in you selecting feats or spells that may not make you the most powerful character possible.
Your 1st level mage defeats some fire beetles. He role-plays examining the beetles to determine where the “fire” comes from and happens upon an idea that leads to the Burning Hands spell when he gains another level, despite the fact that Magic Missile may be more useful in the long run.
If you want to take this approach to character building, don’t be afraid to take a feat that may not be especially useful. For example, let’s say you’ve elected to create a wizard who is nearly blind. Perhaps taking the Spell Focus feat for a certain spell school would make you much stronger. But, the feat Skill Focus: Listen might be a better role-playing choice because of the fact that a blind person might be better at hearing. You don’t always have to take the skill that makes you most powerful!
Finally, once you have assigned ability scores and selected feats, you will eventually have to put in a name and description for your character. For names, just don’t put anything foolish in unless the game calls for it. Players who are trying to enjoy a good role-playing experience don’t want to see names like “Bob the Jerkhead” or “Brittany Spears.” The character description will be visible to the other players in the game if they right-click on your portrait and select “Examine.” Therefore, many players prefer that their description only include information that other players would readily know about you, such as your appearance, or obvious character traits that would quickly become apparent in a simple conversation. Don’t include character background here – how could another character possibly know all that? It’s your job as a role-player to teach them about your character through your actions and words, not to give them a homework assignment to read your bio.
Note that your description can be cut and pasted from any Windows application, which is handy. Compose your background in your favorite editor, or even Windows Notepad. Highlight the text and copy it (ctrl-c). Start up Neverwinter Nights, and create your character as normal. When you get to the Customize Your Character step, and select your voice and name, you can also edit the default description. Highlight all the text in the description, and hit ctrl-v to paste over it with the text you copied.
Developing Your Character Further
You are about ready now to begin playing. A few quick thoughts about how to develop your character further:
- While playing the game, be your character. Everything you say and do should be something that your character would say and do… not what you the player would do. See the Common Conventions for more discussion about this.
- Stay true to what you have created. For example, if you gave yourself an intelligence of 6, don’t go solving that riddle the party just encountered, even if you (the player) know the answer. Of course, you could have him foolishly trip the lever that opens the locked gate, or something similar. If you have a crippled player like Weeltin, try not to have him run – he would have a very hard time running with his injury, especially if he is wearing heavy armor. Or, if you have him run, throw out some “emotes” or have him say things like “Friends, you must slow down! I cannot keep up . . . my leg!”
- Role-play your experience. Level one characters are assumed to have a certain amount of training, but no “real-world” experience. However, as your characters gain experience, levels, and new feats and spells, consider whether their personality should also change. A first level fighter may be uncertain, nervous, afraid of a real fight, and so on. But the same character at fifth level may be more confident, perhaps even brash or cocky. There are plenty of variations, just consider how you might want to change styles as your character progresses.
- Take notes! Players who play only once a week, or play in multiple campaigns, sometimes have trouble remembering how their character has changed through various sessions. It can be very jarring to your other party members if one session you role-play your deep-seated fear of water, only to dive to the bottom of a pool to fetch a diamond in the next session. In addition, you can also use your in-game Journal. Even if the module you are playing doesn’t use the Journal to record quests, you can still use the tab on the far right to type in any notes you wish during the game. The Journal is a .txt file saved along with the character .bic file on the server in the servervault directory. If you perform a ‘Save Character’ it will export your character from the server, into your localvault directory. This means you can view your journal between games. Finally, if you edit your nwplayer.ini file and change the value of ClientChatLogging to 1, each time you play the entire in-game chat will be recorded in a file in nwn\logs\nwclientlog1.txt. This can be a great tool for referring to later.
Speaking and Emoting in the Game
OK, now that you’ve created a character and gotten into a multiplayer NWN game, let’s talk about some of the conventions around role-playing in-game.
Much of the role-playing you will do in-game is going to take the form of typing into the on-screen chat box. NWN has a limited range of “emotes,” physical motions and voice excerpts that your on-screen avatar will perform. These are discussed a bit in the sub-sections on “Emoting” below.
A key part of the NWN user interface is the chat box, located almost at the bottom of the screen. Text typed into this box will appear in the game once you press Enter.
Note: You can activate the chat box by clicking on it or by hitting the Enter key. The enter key is a toggle; so if you want to get out of chat mode (to allow I for inventory, J for journal, etc), just hit Enter again.
NWN also has a number of different “chat channels” that determine who in the game sees what you type. You can select most of the channels by clicking on the currently selected Chat Mode. In the graphic above, you would click on the word “Talk”. The graphic shows what displays when you click. You can also access all of the channels with command-line switches. Here’s a list of the available channels, and some recommendations on why you should or should not use them while playing in a game of NWN multiplayer centered around role-playing:
|Channel||Seen By||Color||Command||Used For|
|Shout||All players in the game||Yellow||/s||Strongly discouraged, used sparsely in single-party games as long as it’s in character.|
|Talk||All players in the general vicinity of the speaker on-screen||White (no prefix)||/tk||Used broadly in non-DMed games.|
|Party||All players who are in the same party as the speaker, regardless of location||White w. “Party” prefix||/p||Used broadly in DMed games so that DMs can follow the conversation. While DMs can hear “Talk” if they are nearby, they are often in other parts of the game setting up encounters ahead of the party. If using Party Chat, you should not exploit it (speaking to a scout 100 meters ahead of the group, for example).|
|DM||Anyone logged in as DM||Green for DMs, does not display for players||/dm||Sending a message to the DM, always out-of-character, such as “My character listens at the door, do I hear anything?”|
|Whisper||Everyone within about 1-2m of the speaker||Dark Gray||/w||In-character whispering to another player.|
|Tell||Only the player specified||Green||/tp “player name”|
/t “char name”
Quotes optional if the name is a single word
|Telling another player something in private. Usually reserved for out-of-character comments. Can also initiate by clicking on the character portrait on the right side of the screen, or the tiny character portrait in the chat window.|
Some examples of using the command line switches:
- “/s To arms! To arms!” (result is Shouted)
- “/dm Do I hear anything” (asks the DMs the question, they will usually respond with a Tell)
- “/w I can’t believe he wants us to attack a dragon.” (whispers the phrase, could be overheard by anyone nearby)
You can also store spoken commands in your Quick Slots. This is particularly handy if you have a certain phrase you wish to be able to say repeatedly. For example, if you are a cleric, you may want to make a slot of your favorite prayer, like “May the Lord Grolm’s mighty hand guide me!” You do this by right-clicking on the Quick Slot and selecting Custom Text Macro at the top of the Radial Menu. Then you give the Quick Slot a label, the text that appears on the Quick Slot, such as “Monsters!” in the example to the right. Next, enter the command. The command should be the text you want your character to say when you click on the Quick Slot. By default these come out as “shouts”, so be sure to use the switches listed above if you want your Quick Slot to be in Party chat or Talk.
Emoting with your Avatar
While it’s nice to be able to type things to make your avatar speak, it’s also nice to be able to make gestures with your avatar. There are a number of animated gestures that can be performed by any avatar. These are accessed by right-clicking your character and using the Radial Menu | Emote option. Emotes include such things as bowing, saluting, nodding your head, and more. Using these actions can add another dimension to the portrayal of your character. Another handy thing is that these “emotes” can be dragged into your Quick Slots for easy one-click access.
|Beg||Makes a begging gesture. No sound is associated with this emote.|
|Bored||Stretches deeply, as if yawning. No sound is associated with this emote.|
|Bow||Bows, or curtsies if female. No sound is associated with this emote.|
|Cheer||Pumps a fist in the air, and speaks the cheer sound from the voice set.|
|Goodbye||Waves a hand, and speaks the Goodbye sound from the voice set.|
|Greet||Waves a hand, and speaks the Hello sound from the voice set.|
|Laugh||Throws head back and speaks the Laugh sound from the voice set.|
|Look Far||Raises a hand to shade eyes, as if looking into the distance. No sound is associated with this emote.|
|Nod||Nods head. No sound is associated with this emote.|
|Poisoned||Sways unsteadily, and speaks the Poisoned sound from the voice set.|
|Salute||Salutes. No sound is associated with this voice set.|
|Scratch Head||Scratches head. No sound is associated with this voice set.|
|Threaten||Raises a fist angrily. No sound is associated with this voice set.|
|Tired||Stretches and speaks the Tired sound for the voice set.|
Emoting with Text
The NWN-delivered emotes are fun, and it’s always neat when your avatar actually does or says something, but if you stick with only those emotes, your role-playing is going to be rather limited. Therefore, most role-players use another convention:
Describe actions (called “emoting”) by typing text into the chat box with a * on either side. For example:
- *leaps into the air to duck the sword*
- *raises his sword angrily*
- *cringes in terror*
- *frowns at Elyssa*
- *winks at the ladies, playing a jaunty tune on his lute*
- “Feh!” *spits on the ground* “An elf? How can a bloody elf help us?!” (combines emoting and text in one line)
These sorts of descriptions have become a NWN mainstay. Use them whenever necessary to add flavor to your role. However, it’s important that you only emote things that another player could see! For example, despite the misleading term “emote,” you generally should avoid internal emotions or thoughts that would not be readily apparent to other characters:
- Willem: *wants to get some ale*
OK, so that’s a noble sentiment, but how do the other players know that? Are they reading your mind?
All NWN characters are assigned a “voice set”. Most of the voice sets for PCs that come delivered with the game include over 50 sounds/phrases for different occasions. Some of these sounds are generated automatically when you use a Radial Menu Emote. Custom modules available on the Internet also allow you to use NPC or monster voice sets for variation, although these have fewer phrases. Some of these are involuntary, such as the various sounds your character makes when struck in combat.
NWN also has a system called Quick Chat that can be used to activate the various voices in your set. You can activate Quick Chat by hitting the ‘V’ key on your keyboard (as long as your cursor isn’t in the chat box), followed by a letter code for a category, and a third letter for the actual Quick Chat command. The available commands are:
|W Combat||E Exploration||D Tasks||S Social||X Feelings|
|E Attack||E Follow me||W Pick lock||S Hello||X Thank you|
|R Battle Cry||W Look here||E Search for secrets||D Yes||W Laugh|
|D Heal Me||D Group up||S Go stealthy||W No||C Cuss|
|W Help||S Move over||C Can do||E Stop||D Cheer|
|A Enemies Sighted|| ||X Cannot do||C Rest||S Something to Say|
|S Flee|| ||A Task Complete||X Bored||A Good idea|
|T Taunt|| ||A Goodbye||Z Bad idea|
|X Hold|| || ||E Threaten|
For example, to have your player use the “Thank You” sound, type ‘vxx’. (V to activate Quick Chat, X to select the Feelings category, and X to select the Thank You sound.) Note that the chat box must be inactive in order for this to work. Otherwise, your character will end up saying “vxx”.
It’s a good idea to keep this chart handy during play, at least until you have memorized some of the more common Quick Chat options that you use most frequently. It’s also smart to test the sounds in your character’s voice set before trying them in a game. Some of them may not match your character’s personality or the situation effectively.
The DM-Friendly Initiative
One group of NWN gamers has formed a group known as DMFI (the “DM Friendly Initiative”). This group has created a number of custom tools that can be implemented in modules to make them more DM friendly. One tool that they have created is a wonderful “Emote Wand” that gives NWN players access to a number of gestures that are not normally available through the Radial Menu. This device appears like any other magic wand in your inventory, although it has unlimited “charges,” and can be placed into a Quick Slot for fast and easy access during play. For example, you can make your character fall over onto the ground, bow in worship, or meditate. These tools enhance your ability to role-play in game, and I highly recommend them. At this point, many DMs on Neverwinter Connections use the Emote Wands, but be aware that a number of varieties of these devices besides the DMFI package exist, and you may see variants in different games.
Additional DMFI tools include a “dice bag” that allows you to roll skill and ability checks in 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons style and scripting that allows you to “kick off” one of your avatar’s physical gestures just by typing an emote inside asterixes using keywords.
So, with these tools installed, if you typed:
- Antonio: *sings a little song*
Not only would those words appear above your head, but also your character would also automatically play the bard’s “singing” gesture. This can be done even if you are not a bard!
For more information about DMFI, see the Section on Additional Resources near the end of this document.
Moving in the Game - Walking vs. Running
You accomplish most things in NWN by clicking on things and moving your avatar around the screen. In single-player, there’s really no reason not to run everywhere you go. In fact, running is the default action when you click on anything more than a foot or two away.
A common multiplayer convention is to walk most places, and only run when it is in character.
As a player in a multiplayer game, there are a number of good reasons to walk:
- It doesn’t make sense to run everywhere you go, from a role-playing perspective. How far can your paladin in full plate really run, anyway?
- It’s difficult to have a conversation when your party is all running full speed.
- Walking makes it easier to keep the party together.
- Walking makes it seem more dramatic and in-character when you are actually forced to run by in-game circumstances.
- Walking is easier for the DM, who may be ahead of the party setting up encounters on the fly or preparing key events.
- Running is more challenging for the game engine and can exaggerate the effect of “lag” and impact the smoothness of the game.
- DMs may mangle a party who runs everywhere carelessly.
It is generally acceptable to run when:
- you are trying to catch up with other party members.
- someone urgently asks you to come over to his or her location to examine something.
- you are going to die horribly if you don’t run, or you are role-playing abject terror.
- you are playing in a game where all parties have agreed that running everywhere is fine, such as a Player versus Player (PvP) game.
- it is part of your character’s concept somehow, and doesn’t disrupt the game for the other players.
So how do you walk in game? There are a number of different ways. The default in NWN is that if you click on an object that is more than a few feet away, you will run to that location. The exception is if you click on an “actionable” object such as a door. In that case, you will walk to the door, and then open it.
Here are the other ways of walking, some of their pros and cons:
|Method||How Do I Do It?||Comments|
|Shift-Clicking||Hold the Shift key and click on your destination.||This is probably the most straightforward way to walk around, but it can get very tiring for your hand.|
|'Hold Down' Arrow||Click on your destination and hold the mouse button down. Your character will move at a rate of speed that is proportional to the distance between the cursor and your character. So to use this to walk, just click and hold down on your mouse in the direction you want to walk, but then keep the cursor very close to your character at the same time. This will cause him/her to walk in the desired direction.||A good option if you’re a really mouse-driven person. But, if you click a little too far away, your character will run. Also, as Essobie mentioned, “your index finger will fall off and DIE after a few hours of play.”|
|Detect or Stealth Mode||Click on the Detect or Stealth Mode icon in the Radial Menu, or add them to your Quick Slots. Activating either will make you walk. Detect Mode may be preferable because you won’t go invisible if you have the Hide skill.||Moves extra slow if you turn both on. Elves are always in Detect Mode at normal running speed, so if you’re an elf, you’ll have to go with Stealth. Also turns off automatically if you get attacked.|
|Drive Mode||Use the keyboard to move your character. (See the manual -*gasp*- for the specific keys, and instructions on how to customize them.)||A little clumsy to maneuver compared to the mouse, but gives a little sharper control over your speed. Just click on the screen if you want to run. This allows for 'realistic' bursts of running, like during combat.|
Role-playing Outside of the Game
Some gaming groups encourage role-playing outside of the game setting. Normally, this takes place in the form of players posting “in-character” journals or messages in a pre-arranged location. There are three commonly used locations for these sorts of things:
- Neverwinter Connections Role-play Forum – Players or DMs can easily start a thread here for in-character posts. Some NWC DMs also have their own Campaign Forums located at the NWC Forums.
- Bioware Guilds – Many groups create “guilds” on this site, which gives you the ability to essentially have your own bulletin board
- Neverwinter Connections Game Page – Each scheduled game in Neverwinter Connections has an associated message board on the right-hand side of the screen. Many gamers use this message board to post in-character comments
See the section on Additional Resources for links.
Many people enjoy role-playing outside of the game for the following reasons:
- Gives players a chance to “spend more time” with their character when the actual games may be days or weeks apart
- Gives players who do not type quickly a good opportunity to role-play things that they can’t in game due to their poor typing skills.
- Gives the group a chance to settle issues and decide on actions in-character, but without spending in-game time doing so
- Before the first session of a game or campaign, gives a chance for the players to assemble and converse before the session starts
- Allows players a chance to develop an in-character reason if they have to miss a session Role-playing outside of the game is not for everyone. Talk to the host, DMs, or other players in your game to get their take on it. Many times, if one or more party members are not interested, then this doesn’t make sense because there cannot be full participation.
Common Conventions for NWN Multiplayer Games
Most of what we have discussed so far covers character creation and some of the game mechanics. From here on we will be talking more about conventions.
Caveat: This guide is not attempting to define the “right” way to role-play, because there is no “right” way. Not following conventions in this guide does not mean that you are a bad role-player, or that others will necessarily criticize you. This is merely a list of conventions for multiplayer games that many, but not all, players feel contribute to a fun and rewarding role-playing experience. When players discuss the pros and cons of their various gaming sessions, failure to adhere to one or more of these conventions is frequently mentioned as a source of frustration or intra-party conflict.
These are not in any particular order:
Be a “Team Player”
By and large, the whole point of multiplayer gaming is to be part of a team of adventurers. To that end, try hard to keep the party goals in mind while gaming. Nothing frustrates a group more quickly than a player who has his own agenda and tries to force the entire party to follow it.
The most common expression of party “togetherness” is to stay together physically. This is especially true in DMed games. It is very difficult for a DM to organize and handle a party effectively if they split up into different groups. This can also make managing the plot difficult; because some party members may be in different areas when critical events or conversations occur. Sometimes this also results in cumbersome repeating of plot elements once the party has reunited.
Even without DMs, it can be frustrating for players who are trying to role-play a conversation if one party member constantly goes off into different areas and gets into combat, or talks to key NPCs without the rest of the party.
As with most of this document, this is all very subjective. But, here are some general ideas around “togetherness”:
- It’s always a good idea to at least remain in the same “area” of the game.
- If you must split up, it helps if only one group is on the move. For example, one group may be waiting in the tavern for another group to return from a trip to the temple. This allows the DM to concentrate on those that are moving, and not having to worry about keeping an eye on the others.
- If you have a DM, just DM message them if you want to split up, and let him or her make the call. Some multiple-DM teams may be able to handle a split party more easily than a single DM would.
“Metagaming”, in the pejorative sense, is exploiting knowledge that only the player should have for the benefit of the character.
Some common examples of metagaming include:
|Dungeon Clairvoyance||Using knowledge of things the player can see on-screen, even though the character can’t see them. Ex. Despite the fact that the party is an entire screen away, a player notices that there is a click-able fountain across the room, and shouts “There’s something in the fountain!”|
|Map Vision||Making assumptions based on the map. Ex.“No, the secret door can’t be here, there’s not enough room on the map for another room there.”|
|Mod Knowledge||Using prior knowledge of a module to guide the party. Ex. “Um, we should probably rest here and buff up, this next room is tough.”|
|Party Chat Abuse||Party chat allows every member in your party to hear the conversation, even if all the way across the game world. Responding to someone out of hearing range is out of character, and should be avoided. Try to be careful with Party Chat and only assume you “heard” it if you are physically near the speaking character. A visual aide to help with this is found right in your chat window. There are miniature portraits of each player in front of their names, and the text they spoke. If a character is out of hearing range (talk range), this portrait will show up as the default ‘bald guy’ portrait instead of the normal portrait used on the right side of the screen.|
|Game Mechanics||Using knowledge of the game mechanics to make decisions in the game. Ex. “No, this can’t be the guy we’re supposed to kill, he’s set to ‘plot’.” |
Avoid OOC and Other Speaking “No-No”s
Playing NWN online is great because it can relieve you of inhibitions you might have role-playing in front of other people in a room. However, with that comes some responsibility to the group. Saying something that is out of character can really kill a good role-playing mood for everyone involved. This even includes saying things that are related to playing NWN. Here’s a great example from Essobie’s article (see Additional Resources):
Ritan: Scrolls are for bookworms… my power comes from within!
Olaf the Mysterious: Put a sock in it, sorcerer, before I pull a rabbit out of your backside.
Horak: How do I put dual wielding weapons into my Quick Slots?
That was going well until the bit about the Quick Slots. Some conventions about speaking “out of character” include:
- Prefix any out-of-character comments with “OOC” (ex. “OOC – How do I put dual wielding weapons into my Quick Slots?”). This helps players separate the out-of-character comments from in-character comments. But, even the use of the OOC prefix can be jarring to some hard-core role-players. Here are some other options.
- Use the DM channel to ask the DM the question. If it’s something that the DM feels needs to be published to the group, like “OOC – Jim’s having a heart attack, so we have to stop”, then the DM can make that call. At least if it’s a quick question, the game hasn’t been disrupted for the other players.
- If there is no DM, send a private Tell to one player if you have a question. Again, you can get your question answered, but you’re only jerking one player out of their role-playing mood.
- Avoid “OOC – I leveled.” Yes, we all know it takes a few minutes to process a level-up. Well, either wait for a break in the action, or role-play it! “Excuse me, friends, I need a moment to ponder something” or some such. (This point is one on which people have widely different opinions. Many people who consider themselves heavy-duty role-players still prefer to use “OOC – I leveled” so that others will know why they are not responding.)
Another convention related to speech is to avoid modern slang and abbreviations. Some of the “no-no”s include:
- Using “l33t sp33k” or other Internet jargon. “w00t! That wuz a phat treasure!”
- Using abbreviations. “BRB Korak, Need to rest 4 a while.”
- Using “emoticons.” “Oh, nice kill (^_^).”
The general sentiment is that these things tend to break the mood of the game and remind players that they are just people typing words into a game. There are a few abbreviations that show up all the time in OOC comments. Most of these are abbreviations that are frequently used in the world of online chatting. Here’s a few of them, just so you aren’t entirely lost:
|AFK||Away from keyboard|
|BRB||Be right back|
|LOL||Laughing out loud|
|ROFL||Rolling on the floor, laughing|
Keep Control of NPC Interaction
NPC interaction can be a big source of conflict and frustration in multiplayer. When several players attempt to interact with the same NPC, or even multiple NPCs, at the same time, the result can be aggravating for other players and DMs alike. So, a few thoughts on how NPC interaction can be handled to minimize frustration:
- If appropriate, elect a single character as “spokesperson” to be responsible for NPC interaction. Many times, this would be the player with the best ability to persuade.
- Wait for everyone to be ready and on the same game screen before starting a conversation with an NPC, especially a scripted one. Nobody likes to miss plot-related information because someone couldn’t wait for the others to catch up.
- Even if you are a fast reader, go through scripted NPC conversations slowly enough to give everyone ample time to read. Some players may not be native English speakers, and others may just take longer to read than you do. I’m not suggesting you get confirmation before proceeding, just don’t fly through ten screens of text in a matter of seconds.
- Don’t start a conversation with an NPC while one is already underway between a party member and another NPC. Not only is it distracting, it can be very difficult to follow the on-screen text when two different subjects are being discussed.
- Keep emoting and other role-play to a minimum when others are interacting with NPCs. Again, it can be very distracting to try to follow a key plot discussion while others are typing things like “Hey, do they have ale in this place?”
- In non-DMed games, try not to repeat scripted conversations to get at a dialog option you missed because you failed a Persuade check. It’s a big mood kill. Think about it – in real life, if you try to persuade someone of something, and it doesn’t work, would it work any better if you tried again and again with the same argument?
Respect the DM(s)
The DM is doing his or her best to arrange an exciting adventure or campaign for you. In most cases, all he or she will ask in return is that you follow the rules laid out for the campaign or adventure. If you aren’t going to follow those rules, then you should go play something that doesn’t require a DM.
If you do have a problem with how the rules work, don’t make a fuss about it in game. You’ll only succeed in annoying the DMs and the other players. Instead, take a breath and count to 10. Most DMs are happy to discuss the rules they use, as long as it’s done in a sensible, friendly manner. The middle of a game is not really the best time to do this. Wait until the end, and send them a message outlining your problems with it.
Typically, most DMs will set the stage ahead of time by posting the rules that they would like to see followed. In many cases, these are most of the conventions we are talking about in this document – no running, stay in character, talk in a certain channel by default, and so forth.
Respect the Other Players
In general, we don’t know the people we’re gaming with. You may wish to explore a subject or situation that makes others in the party uncomfortable, for example, a relationship with another character in the party. Another player may spoil your in-game plans by upstaging you, mistakenly or otherwise. Give them the benefit of the doubt. They probably didn’t mean to upset you, the player. If you have a concern, try talking to them out of the game about your concerns.
Ultimately, it’s all about respecting others’ styles of play and finding a balance as an adventuring group. If you find that you are teamed with players whose style differs from yours, don’t try to get blood from a stone, look for a new group! There are certainly plenty out there. And if you’re in a party where roles are duplicated, and you’re the stronger one, look for opportunities to give your counterpart some room to shine. Have your fighter feign an injury and ask the other to hold the front for a night, for example.
In a typical multiplayer game, the overall process of scouting usually looks something like this:
- Party chooses a direction (i.e. “Let us head north, and stick to the road”)
- Scout moves ahead, perhaps just far enough that they can no longer see the rest of the party (assuming top-down view).
- Whether there was anything interesting or not, the scout then comes back a few paces and “reports”. It may just be “It’s all clear up to that building” or “Bandits ahead, they've set up an ambush! Looks like four or five of them.” Don’t shout the information back to the party from halfway across the screen, unless you want the DM to bring down all of the monsters on you!
- The rest of the party moves forward to the point marked by the scout, and the process repeats.
Some other scouting conventions:
- If at all possible, the scout should avoid engaging in combat until they have notified the party and described what enemies are there, in what numbers, so the party can set a strategy. Of course, if you’re spotted, you won't have a choice.
- Scouts should not enter a new area until asked to do so by the party. This is one of the prime things that aggravate other players, when the scout goes ahead before the rest of the party is ready. Most DMs frown on scouting across areas, because many area transitions are intended to represent long travel.
- A scout shouldn’t start scouting ahead until the party agrees they should scout ahead. It can be frustrating when you are busily role-playing with the rest of the party and the scout goes wandering off. Stick around and role-play!
- Scouts generally shouldn’t open chests, pick up items, or otherwise interact with placeables until they have brought the party into the area. This is both good “looting” practice and safer in case of traps, monsters, and key plot points.
Big caveat: this is one of the more subjective sections of this document. Please read the section on “Breaking Conventions” for further discussion.
Like with scouting, there are some common conventions related to looting as well:
- When items of interest are picked up, and the setting is appropriate, place them on the ground for the rest of the party to examine. Party members can examine items on the ground by right-clicking on them. There should be no need for each person to pick up, and then drop the item. This is particularly important for plot items, like secret messages and journals, which everyone should see. If you find such an item, place it on the floor and draw the attention of the other players to it.
- If you are opening various chests and cabinets, and finding nothing of interest, or petty treasures like a few gold, make sure you mention it to the party. It’s frustrating for the other party members, because for all they know you’re picking up tons of good items. That can lead to people thinking you’re trying to keep all of the good stuff for yourself.
- Role-play your findings! Consider the difference between:
“OK, who needs a +1 flaming longsword?” and
“Th . . . this blade, flames leap from it when I grasp the hilt! What sort of sorcery is this?”
- Role-play the identification of objects too. This is a great opportunity for characters with a high Lore skill. Again, consider the difference:
“Varak, can you ID this for me?”
“Yep, it’s a ring of protection +1” and
“Varak, look at this ring. I’ve never seen it’s like. Can you tell what those runes are?” “Interesting . . . very interesting. *runs a finger around the band* This ring is enchanted to protect the wearer from harm. Perhaps not a very potent enchantment, but it may be beneficial to one of our party.”
Big caveat: this is one of the more subjective sections of this document. Please read the section on “Breaking Conventions” for further discussion.
Thoughts on Breaking Conventions and “Pushing the Limits”
The last section talked extensively about conventions. I’m sure a number of readers bristled at that, thinking, “There are any number of in-character reasons why you might not follow those conventions!” Well, you’re right, there are. As I said, this is just a guide, not a set of rules. But breaking these conventions, even in-character, can definitely cause conflict in a party. The same can be said for creating characters with certain, extreme personalities. Here are some thoughts on those topics.
Breaking conventions is fine, for the most part. But, if you are going to do so, my suggestion is, be sure to role-play them explicitly. This, more than anything, will prevent player-to-player miscommunication, hurt feelings, and disappointing results. Some examples:
You’re the party rogue, and you want to steal some of the better items for yourself. As you loot various chests, a number of party members are asking what you found. You don’t say anything, because you don’t want them to know.
Potential result: The other players can’t tell whether you are in-character, or just being a jerk about the treasure.
Alternative: In the same situation, add some emotes in there to make it clear that you are role-playing and NOT just being a jerk. For example:
Aldrak: Janice, what did you find in that chest?
Janice: *studiously ignores Aldrak and moves to the next chest* (or)
Janice: *hurriedly stuffs something in her jerkin, then turns to face Aldrak* Why, nothing, Aldrak! (or)
Janice: Oh, it was empty.
You’re the party scout, and while the party is camped and talking about next steps, you head off to scout the next area, thinking it will save time and be helpful.
Potential Result: The party misses a chance to role-play with you, and may not know whether you are in character, or just wandering off because you are bored with the conversation or anxious to move on.
Alternative: Add something in there to make your intentions explicit, for example:
Moragor: Ilya, where are you going?
Ilya: I thought I heard a rustling in the bushes. I’ll go check it out. Be on the ready if I shout! (or)
Ilya: I’m sick to death of you people. Leave me alone with my thoughts for a moment! (or)
Ilya: Bah! I can’t stand sitting around here any more while our families are dying! I’m leaving now, and you can stay here and rot for all I care!
As you can see, there are numerous alternatives to following the convention precisely, but the key is to make an extra effort to role-play in these situations to prevent miscommunication between players. That will help stave off hard feelings. Adventuring parties frequently survive conflict between characters, but not between players. This can be particularly important in multiplayer NWN, because on many occasions you may be playing with players who you have never met before, and therefore who don’t know your style or tendencies. This would be a helpful time to go OOC to discuss what you’re up to, or to clear things up with ‘tells’.
Pushing the Limits
Another thing that can kill parties is a character whose personality is so extreme that it causes hard feelings. At the end of the day, there needs to be a reason for the party to stick together. You may need to temper your character’s personality to allow the party to continue to function. Some examples of “extreme” characters could include:
- The rogue who constantly steals from the party and steadfastly refuses to give up the loot or stop stealing
- The “hot-blooded” fighter who refuses to consider any tactics and constantly rushes into combat
- The “loner” who always goes off into different areas without the party
- The paladin who will not stand for any non-Lawful Good activities in the party, despite the fact that the plot instructs you to break into a crypt
- The chaotic evil wizard who is only out for himself.
These are all viable personalities, but it takes a little extra role-playing skill to pull it off. It’s quite possible to play a character that everyone hates, but is just useful enough to keep around. So, just keep the role-playing going. If you’re that thief, grudgingly give up a key piece of loot (but perhaps don’t tell them about all of the loot). If you’re the fighter, work out a deal with another party member to role-play him or her physically restraining you from rushing into combat. You get the picture. Don’t forget to really listen to feedback from other players and DMs, particularly when you are playing one of these tricky character types. After all, it’s more important for the group to have fun than for you to be fanatically true to your character.
What we are talking about here is having respect for the other players, regardless of what your character thinks of them. No matter how incredibly well played your character is, this is a game people play together for fun. If the other players don’t find it fun to have your character in the party, it just doesn’t matter how well played your character is. Ultimately, you as a player are responsible for how your character affects the game. No one will want to play with you if you push it so far that it isn’t enjoyable for him or her. Even if you have an extreme character, be willing to meet the other players somewhere in the middle, or you’re likely to find yourself looking for a new group.
Advanced Role-playing – Thinking “Outside of the Box”
The NWN game engine limits what actions your characters can perform. This is one of the great weaknesses of CRPGs, compared to pen-and-paper role-playing. However, there are ways to role-play “outside of the box” in NWN. Here are some ideas that we have come across. Some of these were real eye-openers for me. Most of these, however, require a DMed game.
The ideas in this section are designed to get you thinking. However, it largely depends on your DM whether he or she wants you to do such things. Most DMs will generally approve, because it can get players thinking more creatively and make the game more interesting for the DM too. But, be sure to check with your DM(s) first.
Talking to Scripted NPCs
Having a DM in NWN can really add a lot to an adventurer. However, it is also very common to play multiplayer games without a DM. In these cases, you will usually be running through a module that was custom-built. These modules will have primarily scripted NPC conversations, like the Official Campaign, where you click on an NPC to run through a conversation tree with them.
One interesting role-playing technique in these types of games is to “talk” to scripted NPCs without actually clicking on them. Of course, the NPC won’t respond, but you can use this technique in interesting ways.
A party made up of townspeople is going to visit the Mayor’s house to find out about a quest. Outside of the door, there is a guard (scripted NPC). Roknurst speaks these lines without ever clicking on the NPC:
Roknurst: (to guard) Good day man, is the Mayor in? Roknurst: *nods thoughtfully* Do you think he would mind if we interrupted for a moment? We’d like to talk to him about his rat problem. Roknurst: Oh, he’s been expecting us? Wonderful. Well, we won’t take a minute. And do tell your wife we said “Hello”!
As you can see, the conversation is a bit one-sided, but it also has a much better role-playing “feel” to it than clicking on an NPC whose script is most likely something standard like “Move along. I’m on duty right now.” It’s just another idea for improving the atmosphere in a scripted game.
Using Skill Checks
Using skill checks really requires a DM to pull off smoothly. Using something like the DMFI toolkit, players can be provided with the ability to roll ability or skill checks at any time. This can be done at the DM’s request, or initiated by the players. This also makes the game a lot closer to the pen and paper version. Some examples:
- You come upon a riddle that you personally can’t decipher. But, you are playing a wizard with an 18 Intelligence. Roll an Intelligence ability check, and ask the DM if you can figure out the riddle, or at least a clue.
- After a furious combat, you are forced to flee back to a small chamber. A horde of orcs is not far behind. Your big brute of a fighter throws his shoulder against the door. Roll a Strength ability check to see if you can keep the orcs from bursting into the room.
- You are on a mission to steal a gem from an evil baron. Inside the house, you come up to the baron’s room. Your thief steps up to the door. Roll a Listen skill check to see if you can hear anything inside.
The opportunities here are nearly limitless. Even without DMFI, your DM could always have a good, old-fashioned set of dice at his or her PC to handle such things.
Doing Things Not Allowed by the Game Engine
Again, playing with a DM allows you to do all kinds of things outside of the game engine, that helps make the game more realistic. Players should be encouraged to do things that their on-screen avatar is not capable of. Some ideas:
- You are in a mine room filled with barrels and crates. Goblins are attacking from a corridor to the north. Even though you can’t really move objects in the NWN game engine, role-play that the two strong fighters are going to carry barrels over and pile them in front of the corridor to block off the goblins.
- You are stuck on the other side of a chasm with an open drawbridge. The lever to close the drawbridge is on the wall opposite from you. Role-play an attempt at a heroic shot from your ranger’s bow to knock the lever into the “down” position.
- You are stuck in the dark with no torches and no Light spells. Role-play breaking up the nearby wooden chest, and having your wizard using his Burning Hands spell to ignite the broken planks as torches.
Other Suggestions and “Tricks of the Trade”
In addition to the conventions and tips listed above, many contributors have submitted great ideas for how to improve your role-playing. I have included a sample of those here:
- Learn to type. If you want to play a role-playing game over the Internet without voice communication, you have to be able to type. Probably close to 90% of the role-playing aspect of multiplayer NWN is expressed through text. If you just can’t help being slow, learn to use “stop phrases” like “Wait!” or “A moment, please, my friends!” in your Quick Slots. These can get your fellow players to pay attention while you hunt-and-peck out a thought or two. It never hurts to mention to the other players that you type slowly, and set the expectation that you may need a few moments longer than most to respond.
- Try to use correct spelling and grammar. OK, NWC has a large community of non-native English speakers, so they get the benefit of the doubt. But still, it’s a little bit of a mood kill to read, “run their going to kill the cleric,” as compared to “Run! They’re going to kill the cleric!!”
- Let others have a chance to talk. If you type 70 words a minute, it’s easy to drown out other players in the game. This is especially true when someone is trying to further the plot with an NPC, and you’re emoting away constantly or yammering with the other players. Unless your character really can’t stop talking for some in-character reason, know when to give it a rest! Even if it is in-character, know when to give it a rest!
- Role-play your stats. Really think about your ability scores, and try to match your in-game actions with those. Would your INT 8 dwarven fighter really be the one to solve the wizard’s puzzle, even if the player knows the answer? Most people are good at role-playing extreme strength or extreme stupidity. It’s the other areas that are more challenging, such as role-playing wisdom and charisma.
- Read the manual. Although there are plenty of people out there willing to help out poor newbies, it can be frustrating to constantly answer questions about how to possess a familiar, set up Quick Slots, or do emotes. These questions could be answered by reading the manual, which also comes in Adobe Acrobat format on your NWN CD.
- Don’t use spell names in the game. You’re Kethrid, Master of the Arcane Arts, a student of magic for some forty-odd years. Krok, the dolt half-orc fighter in your party, lumbers up to you and says “Next time we fight giants, use Horrid Wilting.” Enough said.
- Practice! It’s quite possible to enjoy NWN multiplayer right out of the box. But, like most things in life, it takes patience, understanding, a sense of humor, and a willingness to accept constructive criticism to improve. Particularly on Neverwinter Connections, there is a mechanism in place for providing players with feedback. When you get it, internalize that feedback and try to improve. In most cases, the negative feedback is going to offer more opportunities for improvement than the positive. Practice makes perfect. Try out a number of different character classes, races, genders, and personalities, and expand your mind!
- Role-play urgency. When you are under time constraints or a deadline the character should act like it. “Quick, the town is under attack!” “OK, hold on, I have to rest so I get my spells back…” Meanwhile, the town burns to the ground. You see what I mean.
- Try to make your avatar “behave”. If you are talking to player A whose character is standing next to you, don’t have your avatar facing the wall behind you. It totally destroys the atmosphere.
- Don’t complain about lag and connections. Hey, it happens to all of us. But, complaining isn’t going to help, and it just generates more OOC conversation. If you get booted and come back, say something like: “I’m sorry, I was lost in thought back there. You were saying…?” Or maybe, “Got turned around back there, sorry I was absent.”
- Respect death. Follow the rules set by your DM regarding death, and try to role-play death. If at all possible, avoid respawning, even if it means you have to wait a few minutes to be resurrected. If you are resurrected, give some thought into how someone might react if they had just been brought back from the dead, particularly if it’s the first time.
- Store plot-related items centrally. In a multiplayer game without a DM, give all plot-related items to one player at the end of each session. The host is preferable. It’s very frustrating to continue your next gaming session, and find out that the player who can’t make it this week was holding the Master Key that you need to proceed into the next area.
- Don’t allow Hasted items in your games. This one is for DMs. The Haste spell is fine, since it has limited duration. But, if you want players to stick together, any object that has the “Haste” modifier without limiting usage is just a bad idea. Those darned monks are hard enough to keep up with.
- Don’t be afraid to quit. Remember, this whole thing is all about having fun. Almost everyone has been stuck in one game or another with a player they just don’t see eye-to-eye with. (This does not mean one player is “good,” and the other is “bad.”) If conflict with another player is ruining your enjoyment of a game, quit! What’s more fun – arguing game-in and game-out with a player about who’s right and who’s wrong? Or finding a new game where the styles all match? There are plenty of other fish in the sea, so to speak. Yes, it’s disappointing to have to leave a promising game for that reason, but sometimes you just have to let it go.