Hearkenwold

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Pongo
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Re: Hearkenwold

Post by Pongo »

Dorateen, I'm always impressed by how quickly you get content done, especially as I don't imagine copying the convos over is straightforward - this is looking great!
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Dorateen
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Re: Hearkenwold

Post by Dorateen »

Thanks! Regarding conversations, the text itself is a simple matter of copy/pasting from one program to the other. But there are some things that require manual input, such as the conditionals for characters like [Intelligence] or [Dwarf] need to be inserted by hand, then there are variables needing to be set for those lines. So it isn't that straightforward.

But I can mention something funny and a little embarrassing: as I was finishing up the Edinmoor conversion, I just learned in the KotC2 editor there are commands to Create Label and GoTo Label, which are used to call back and reference lines in a conversation, especially long ones. I guess this is standard for coding, but I did not realize these commands existed, and they will make things a whole lot easier going forward!
zach_holbrook
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Re: Hearkenwold

Post by zach_holbrook »

Dorateen wrote: Wed Sep 07, 2022 5:34 pm But I can mention something funny and a little embarrassing: as I was finishing up the Edinmoor conversion, I just learned in the KotC2 editor there are commands to Create Label and GoTo Label, which are used to call back and reference lines in a conversation, especially long ones. I guess this is standard for coding, but I did not realize these commands existed, and they will make things a whole lot easier going forward!
Nice... I'd be lost without conversation links!
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Dorateen
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Re: Hearkenwold

Post by Dorateen »

October Update

I have a big update to share, as I've started work on the continuation of the Hearkenwold module in IceBlink.

In planning out the next version to be released, I have three primary objectives:

1. I need to continue the main adventure past the climactic encounter the module presently builds up to.
2. I want to include a river adventure, with new maps along the River Astar.
3. I want to include a Psionicist themed adventure.

Advancing the central narrative will take me the longest to complete. It also means content for higher level characters, likely in the 10th and 11th level range. And of course, only players who have gone this far will even see how everything unfolds. It requires a bit more motivation to build in this direction.

In the meantime, I have been designing the river maps and encounters. These are more suitable to mid-level parties, and can be reached much sooner. The catch is, they need to discover a way to traverse these waters. Already in Hearkenwold there is a boatman, probably a good person to speak to.

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Now here is something I am excited about. I was playing around with the scripts to toggle the party token on the adventuring map. If the player is able to secure the boatman's services, and then choose to hop on the river, the token will be switched to a little river boat to move around the water squares. I love it! Here is an animated gif to give a preview:

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I have to mention, it is not exactly a smooth ride. Not all the water tiles are accessible, because those that border land need to remain unwalkable, like a buffer. The entering and exiting the river is conversation/script driven so it is not a seamless transition. This means there is a little bumping around the map as you move in a given direction. On the other hand, it also fits in with a rough wild river, requiring a boatman's help in the first place.

And I must not forget, where there are river adventures, there are bound to be sahuagin:

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For the past month, I have been setting up encounters and NPCs, which the party will get to meet as they explore the region around the River Astar. There is a little bit more to do in these areas, but I'm going to start on the Pscionist adventure in October. In Hearkenwold, Psionicists are creepy individuals who manipulate people's minds, so I am going for a horror atmosphere.

The idea to include this content actually came last year, with the release of Knights of the Chalice 2, which has its own dedicated Psionicist class (three to be exact) and the suggestion I include some kind of special guild content for these characters. Right now, I have them lumped in with arcane spell casters. But I did take that inspiration, and even make reference elsewhere in Hearkenwold to a seventh guild that was cast out because of their mind experiments. In the next version of the module in IceBlink, the party will visit a location and perhaps meet such a mentalist, who can offer an alternative path for wizard characters.

Finally, I mentioned the continuation of the overarching story arc will by far take me the longest. I do have design ideas sketched out, but it is a bit more free form. I'd like to be able to start this last part by the end of the year and going into next. If the past release schedule is any indication, I should have the new content included in the module by next summer.
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Dorateen
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Re: Hearkenwold

Post by Dorateen »

November Update

For the past few weeks, I have been working on the new Psionicist adventure that will be built into the Hearkenwold campaign. I had hoped to have this knocked out in a month, but I fell a little behind schedule. The plan is to finish up this month and then I will return to the wilderness content I had been designing around the river areas. All of this should be completed by the end of the year. That will give me a fresh start in 2023 to begin the continuation of the main adventure arc, pushing the party deeper into the mess they've gotten involved in, should they make it that far.

Here is one of the new outdoor maps. I like the height mapping used to create a crag surrounded by water.

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As I mentioned, previously, the Psionic adventure will serve as an alternate guild quest for wizards in IceBlink, and has more of an atmosphere of horror. It should be disturbing at the least.

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slowdive
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Re: Hearkenwold

Post by slowdive »

This looks great and haunting. Will you be adding new psionic spells/traits?
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Dorateen
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Re: Hearkenwold

Post by Dorateen »

slowdive wrote: Sun Nov 06, 2022 8:49 pm Will you be adding new psionic spells/traits?
Thanks! Unfortunately, at this time, I had not planned on new psionic spells or traits, although given the release schedule, I can probably work something in. I have to give that some thought. In the gameworld, Psionicists are wizards who have more of a focus in mental manipulation. In fact, there is already an order called the Mages of the Mind. So these would be individuals who take that particular study to the extreme.

In Knights of the Chalice 2, however, there is a dedicated Psionicist class, which plays different than traditional wizards, complete with their own specialized spellbook. Instead of selecting spells, they have a pool of power points to work with. It is really this adaptation, which led to some interest in creating an adventure tailored to these characters. Since IceBlink already uses a spell point system, it is not as easy to differentiate with other mages/clerics, at least in regards of mechanics.
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slowdive
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Re: Hearkenwold

Post by slowdive »

It should be interesting however you are able to fit it in to the story and within the restrictions of the engine. Looking forward to it.
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Dorateen
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Re: Hearkenwold

Post by Dorateen »

December Update

For this month’s update, I decided to write a retrospective covering the ten years I’ve been working on Hearkenwold.

Part 1: Design Blueprint

This module is a project that goes back to the earliest Alpha build immediately following the successful Kickstarter for the Iceblink engine and toolset in November of 2012. I was very interested in the idea of a 2D/Old school platform for making party-based computer role-playing games (with turn-based combat!). So of course I wanted to jump right in and start working with the program, but what to build?

From the most basic level, the concept I had was about a group of friends or companions who would be staying as guests at a Castle. In fact, I originally called the project Castle Hearkenwold, before going with just the one name. And by “guests”, I meant the characters would be seeking shelter at the fortress after fleeing a horrific attack. That would serve as the hook for this adventure.

I should mention that at this time, I had been reading the 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons supplement called “Monsters of the Nentir Vale”. This is where I first encountered the name Harkenwold, although I would change to the more archaic spelling. The name resonated with me, and felt like it fit the medieval atmosphere I would be going for. This adventure would have no connection with the 4th edition content, it was simply the name as a starting point that would take on a life of its own. The same can be said of Kelton Manor, the feudal location that was the site of the attack, which was derived from Kalton Manor, again the spelling modified to something I thought sounded better.

Also around this time, I had a copy of the Pathfinder resource text called “NPC Codex”. This would prove to be in invaluable source of ideas for characters and adventures. For example, Corwyn Klas was the name of a sample first level fighter known as a superstitious mercenary. I would take the creative liberty of altering the name to Corwyn Khas, and made him into a grizzled commander of knights at the Castle, while keeping the superstitious personality trait.

And here it is important to recognize what Hearkenwold represents: a home brewed dungeons & dragons style campaign, where players could take a party of adventurers through an expanding game world and freely engage with a variety of content. Thus I had a library of role-playing resources available to add breadth and depth to the setting. At its core, the module serves as a kaleidoscope of separate adventures, woven together by an underlying thread. The Halls of Hamhock, the assorted guild quests, even the recently included Edinmoor, are all stand-alone adventures that could be fit into a greater backdrop.

Regarding that backdrop, or the background narrative, for this I went to a fantasy novel I had written while in college. It would become another cornerstone design principle for the module; that I would create a role-playing scenario set in the fictional world I had created. But rather than use the device of linear storytelling, the player would be given a great deal of agency to explore the world and follow up content in whatever sequence they wish. This is to underscore, the story exists as a stage, something part of the scenery, but not forcing the player down a particular road. Also a core element of the group dynamic is the use of the “party chat” style conversations that would be implemented into IceBlink. Inspired by the NWN2 expansion Storm of Zehir, this interface allows dialogue options to be flagged by conditionals such as race, class, ability scores, etc. displaying for only those characters accordingly.

To circle around again, I had made reference to both Pathfinder and 4th edition material. However, the vast amount of detail regarding locations, lore, characters and events, history and even cosmology, comes from the original fiction I authored many years ago. One NPC the party meets early is the Abbot Thespar Wordsmith, a religious authority figure who rules the city of Khyn. While he has some inspiration based on Claude Frollo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the character also has echoes of Silas Barnaby from March of the Wooden Soldiers. Thespar Wordsmith was written to be a staunch legalist, a miser for power who uses the law to secure his control in the Kingdom. I think the module truly picks up once the player reaches Relmfur and surrounding areas, and the conflict with Skardale. Those dramatic episodes bring the weight of the foundational fiction to the adventure.
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Dorateen
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Re: Hearkenwold

Post by Dorateen »

Part 2: Early Stages of Development

Looking back at the actual construction of the module, the IceBlink engine has undergone many changes and versions over the past decade. Hearkenwold was started before we even had a tilemap maker, and when tile and token sizes were 50 x 50. Without many art assets to work with, I had opened up Paint Shop Pro and began playing with some of the built-in graphics. I already knew about the Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures (FRUA) hub, that would eventually become the source of almost all things art related, but at first I was only going to use the character icons. I did not even know about transparency and alpha channels at the end of 2012, although I would quickly learn how to use the .png optimizer to make proper images for IceBlink. I also had a library of fantasy and D&D pictures, which would serve for portraits.

I created the first map for Castle Hearkenwold using a 16 x 16 grid. This is because the computer RPGs I grew up with and loved often implemented uniform 16 x 16 maps. I wanted to recreate that sense of exploring a screen, searching for an exit to move onto the next connecting screen. Pool of Radiance is built this way, with the city of Phlan consisting of “blocks” or areas, which the party clears as they explore. Dungeons too, were all designed on 16 x 16 maps. Later on, the game Dark Sun: Shattered lands would feature areas that were connected by traveling from one screen to the next, not seamlessly, but by finding specific exit/entry points on the map. This approach appealed to me, and is what I have used for Hearkenwold. It makes for somewhat smaller, compact maps that can be filled with lots of content, and then stitched together to form a more massive world.

I also picked a marble border from the Paint Shop artwork, and used this as an overlay on the first map I designed. The idea was to replicate the stylistic frames that often divided the adventuring screen as part of the GUI in older computer games. Unfortunately, I did not factor in that the marble border in Hearkenwold took up 2 tiles on each side, thus rendering maps to 12 x 12 in practice. Still, those dimensions allows for a lot of content density on any given map and each one is a piece of a much larger puzzle.

The later development of the IceBlink tilemap maker was a big breakthrough for me. It allowed maps to be designed in this program first, and then imported into the actual toolset. It was from here that I started to move toward using all tiles from the FRUA (Gold Box style) catalogue, helping to create a little more artistic cohesion. As of right now, all the wall and floor tiles in Hearkenwold come from FRUA, with only a few exceptions, including some from Dungeon Crawl Soup, which also mesh pretty well with the 2d graphics. The IceBlink engine would get further refined to include “height mapping”, and animated props, even weather effects. All of this is now present in the current version of the module.

Initially, the first Alpha release of Hearkenwold was made up of three maps of the castle’s ground floor, and a few surrounding outdoor maps, including a goblin cave. The first quest of the central narrative was in place, but did not go much further. From there, I was looking to expand the map of the game world to the east. I was working from a hand-drawn map I had designed for the fiction I mentioned earlier, and the module would have the player starting in the northwest corner. The intention at this point was to add more “side-quests”, so the idea of optional content around a main story arc could start to take shape. More NPCs began to populate the slowly growing world, new monsters and a couple of new cave locations.

A year and a half after starting this project, I released a new demo, which now featured area music. I had received big help with the generous contribution from Islet Sound, who composed tracks that I would use throughout the module in wilderness areas and castles, and the familiar deep underground bass for any dangerous dungeons. Personally, I also selected a track to use in a couple of key locations, “Pat a Pan”, which is a medieval instrumental carol and has a nice adventurous flare to it. From there, I began putting together the city of Khyn and surrounding areas. When the next version of the module was released, it included a new music track by Islet Sound for the city.

Afterward, I began work on the Asherim content, a distant desert land that would later expand into a broader adventure, accessible to Paladin characters seeking guild membership. But the introductory areas were part of an abduction divergence, which would sidetrack the party. I recall at the time thinking this felt like an expansion to the module as it represented a new adventure isolated from the main quest. Of course, it would all come together as the campaign continued to grow. It was during this time that a new version of the engine was released called IceBlink 2 for the PC, while the Android version was in development. IceBlink 2 was a big step forward, bringing the module closer to its present form in terms of presentation and mechanics.

Kelton Manor followed, an important point in the narrative as its destruction was the catalyst for the entire adventure, and here the player would at last have a chance to visit this location of haunted ruins. By the end of September 2016, I was able to release an updated Hearkenwold for IceBlink 2, which included the Asherim and Kelton Manor content as well as other new scenarios. I had done a full playthrough of all the content at this time to test the new spells, character traits and leveling systems.
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