A grand design for singleplayer mainline lore

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Re: A grand design for singleplayer mainline lore

Post by LordBob » December 1st, 2019, 11:54 pm

Throwing in my two cents, hopefully not too late.

+ I like the overall goal of tightening the clusterf*ck of mainline campaigns into self-contained arcs/sagas/younameit that contribute to an overarching story of "this world will end"
+ Northerners / Knalgan can get their own arc, as long as it is tied - even loosely - with the overarching story. Which doesn't seem too difficult with a main plot as open as painting the world's end. They shouldn't get the axe, but their campaigns shouldn't stay untouched either.
+ I am in favor of painting a backdrop with gaps for UMC stories, but I don't think the proposed plan is in any way incompatible with it. As I see things, reworking the lore/campaign structure to properly articulate mainline stories doesn't mean we're closing any doors on events that are hinted (or not) in campaigns. We're not going to set every last detail in stone, Weldyn is vast, and mainline spans over several centuries (couple thousand years ?). There's all the room in the world for adding stories/adapting existing ones.

- I don't think we need to introduce demons as a recurring evil, at least not explicitly and not before the Fall of Wesnoth part. Essentially what doofus-01 says : until then, let the Ruby of Fire be this world's Plutonium. Everyone knows that it can output tremendous power (and thus various prota/antagonists seek it throughout the campaigns); all the while people dabble with it without acknowledging possible long-term complications and draw out increasing amounts of its power, until it culminates in the Third Sun incident and the Fall. Said incident can well be aided by the work of a hostile third party, but prior to that point in the timeline I think "it turns the wielder crazy" and a select few lovecraftian brushstrokes is more than enough to hint that the Ruby isn't all it seems.
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Re: A grand design for singleplayer mainline lore

Post by SigurdFireDragon » December 3rd, 2019, 7:13 pm

What Whiskeyjack, doofus-01, and Celtic_Minstrel said covers most of my thoughts on the proposal.

I agree with doofus-01's 5-minute pitch.

Whereas Whiskeyjack doesn't seem to take a position about if the things that would need be sacrificed for the proposal are worth sacrificing, I'm inclined to not risk them.
There was mention of the identity of the project and core aspects of it. The current design for singleplayer (a loose timeline containing battles great and small for the game to play the role of battle commander; with space for UMC to fill in the blanks) works with the identity/core. The proposed design will certainly have an effect on those things. Are they in alignment? That is to say, things relevant to the proposal being discussed here are a step or two upstream, and consideration of them might help the assement of the proposal.

With the campaigns suggested for removal, at least one, SotA, is being actively maintained. Also given that it was just added in 1.14 and generally well recieved (as other here have stated to its quality), I'm surprised its removal was suggested, to say the least.

Also, what about the campaigns listed for having plot/story changes if they have maintainers? One aspect of maintaing a campaign is that the maintainer has a measure of control to carry out how it fits with the overall timeline. What effects might the proposed changes have on the ability to attract and retain maintainers?

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Re: A grand design for singleplayer mainline lore

Post by Aldarisvet » December 3rd, 2019, 9:48 pm

I hope that despite a desire to save as much mainlaine content as possible you all understand that something must be done.
I really wonder why this question arose so late, after 15+ years of the game exists.
Wesnoth as 'the setting' is a very pathetic product. Is not that obvious?
A set of of barely connected campaigns with half of them of quite poor storyline quality.
If you would be asked to describe most core things from Wesnoth lore what you would reproduce? In short?

Let me summarize (Wesnoth in short):
_______________________
A civilization of humans runs from orcish invasion from the island in the ocean to the big eastern continent were old races already exist. Orcs follows them too. After that humans and old races unite against orcs which occupied north lands and from there constantly attacks other races. Also with humans the art of necromancy inflitrated that continent, so aside from orcish menace probably the real danger for human empire and other races were a constant rise of liches that were trying to devour all the living.
_______________________
Really that is all! And this global lore is extremely primitive.

Separately, there is only one human kingdom in Wesnoth called Wesnoth. This not only implausible but really constraints the fantasy of UMC creators. I would really prefer several human kingdoms with some lore about each. Yes, we have Knalga at north and Dunefolk in south but we have just 1 campaign for Knalga and we do not know anything about Dunefolk except they arrived in the Great Continent quite late in the history of Wesnoth.

I would really prefer to hear stories not about only undead and orcs attacking humans but other races too. The very idea that elves let humans to take all plains and to became dominative race in the continent is very naive. From the other side, why not humans and elder races ever tried to eliminate orcs once and for all? Actually you need not to create a campaign always of 'some race' and the same time period, you can make a campaign with different parts separated for many of years in which you can play for different sides of the conflict just to put lights on some episodes of history. Really, speaking gamewise 3-5 scenarios is quite enough to let you heroes to advance from level 0/1 to level 3/4.

In the end, Wesnoth as a setting needs something global that would make it unique. Actually I too really do not think that idea of demons from other dimension is something brilliant because shifting accents from one big evil (old invaders - orcs/undead) to another one (new invaders - demons) is something good. From the other side I think that we have a quite a blank point with what happened on Western continent (I am really interested what happened there actually). If there would be any demons/or something exotic I would prefer them being from Western continent.

The task of creating something worth and interesting is a real challenge however.
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Re: A grand design for singleplayer mainline lore

Post by Celtic_Minstrel » December 4th, 2019, 1:43 am

LordBob wrote:
December 1st, 2019, 11:54 pm
- I don't think we need to introduce demons as a recurring evil, at least not explicitly and not before the Fall of Wesnoth part. Essentially what doofus-01 says : until then, let the Ruby of Fire be this world's Plutonium. Everyone knows that it can output tremendous power (and thus various prota/antagonists seek it throughout the campaigns); all the while people dabble with it without acknowledging possible long-term complications and draw out increasing amounts of its power, until it culminates in the Third Sun incident and the Fall. Said incident can well be aided by the work of a hostile third party, but prior to that point in the timeline I think "it turns the wielder crazy" and a select few lovecraftian brushstrokes is more than enough to hint that the Ruby isn't all it seems.
Yeah, totally – the demons might be canonically around at the time of TRoW, trying to influence the world, but that certainly doesn't mean anyone knew about them at that time. Dropping a few hints here and there should be sufficient.
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Re: A grand design for singleplayer mainline lore

Post by Pentarctagon » December 4th, 2019, 4:04 am

SigurdFireDragon wrote:
December 3rd, 2019, 7:13 pm
There was mention of the identity of the project and core aspects of it. The current design for singleplayer (a loose timeline containing battles great and small for the game to play the role of battle commander; with space for UMC to fill in the blanks) works with the identity/core. The proposed design will certainly have an effect on those things. Are they in alignment? That is to say, things relevant to the proposal being discussed here are a step or two upstream, and consideration of them might help the assement of the proposal.
Personally at least, I suspect that "design" for singleplayer may be an overly generous description - as far as I'm aware, there hasn't be any sort of unified design goal for singleplayer for the last few years, if ever, beyond perhaps wanting to have campaigns giving time to more races/factions.

One of the reasons I myself haven't ever been overly interested in Wesnoth's campaigns is that they usually seem like a hodgepodge of mostly independent sets of events, more akin to chapters in a history book than something with an overall interesting and well connecting plot.

I would also say that I'm not especially concerned with UMC suddenly having less to work with. In fact, providing a more solid and interesting foundation could actually help UMC that's based on mainline lore.
SigurdFireDragon wrote:
December 3rd, 2019, 7:13 pm
With the campaigns suggested for removal, at least one, SotA, is being actively maintained. Also given that it was just added in 1.14 and generally well recieved (as other here have stated to its quality), I'm surprised its removal was suggested, to say the least.
I think it would be fine to have a separate section for stand-alone campaigns. So for example in the campaign selection dialog there could be a section for the Tutorial, a section for the main story, and a section for stand-alone side stories.
SigurdFireDragon wrote:
December 3rd, 2019, 7:13 pm
Also, what about the campaigns listed for having plot/story changes if they have maintainers? One aspect of maintaing a campaign is that the maintainer has a measure of control to carry out how it fits with the overall timeline. What effects might the proposed changes have on the ability to attract and retain maintainers?
How many maintainers are there currently though? And how many campaigns that technically have a maintainer aren't actually being maintained in practice?
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Re: A grand design for singleplayer mainline lore

Post by nemaara » Yesterday, 7:56 am

Based on the feedback and thinking about it a bit more, I think it would be reasonable to work with something functionally close to the original plan I proposed in my first post, but with different plot elements. Basically, group the campaigns into 3 story arcs each with a separate plotline, but connected by thematic elements that serve to bridge them. These would be orcs, undead, and the Ruby/Sceptre of Fire (I have an idea in mind for an orc/undead dynamic, though I'll leave that for later).

For now, I'll focus on the first arc, namely the one containing Heir to the Throne (and about Asheviere's ascension to the throne). Like before, I'm proposing this would consist of 4 campaigns. This time, I'm proposing they consist of (in order) TSG, Asheviere's ascension (AA), Liberty, and HttT.

AA, as the name suggests, would be an Asheviere focused campaign where she works with a clever orcish assassin to manipulate warlords into attacking key Wesnoth strategic locations while assassinating political enemies (namely, the King's advisors). I'm thinking she would replace them with undead puppets, slowly consolidating power from the shadows. Eventually, when she eliminates enough of the King's generals, she feels confident enough to betray him at the battle at the Ford of Abez. The nature of this campaign means that it would be mostly RPG-like, focused around just a small set of units rather than big armies (though I imagine putting in some big battles headed by Delfador to change up the pacing a bit). The difficulty would be novice tier, with the trio of TSG, AA, and Liberty being the three novice campaigns to help ease the player into the game. Length would probably be somewhere between 12-15 scenarios, enough to develop Asheviere's character without being too dragged out. I can give more details about this proposed campaign if there are questions.

To make a stronger connection between the campaigns, I'm thinking of adding Garard to TSG (being sent there with Deoran to investigate the South Guard). At the end of TSG, Deoran would be recalled to Weldyn to become one of Garard's new advisors upon his coronation, thus making a reappearance in AA. A connection between Liberty and HttT can be made with Harper reappearing when the player gets to Elensefar (not part of this proposal, but something that can be done down the road, when an HttT rework or revision becomes more relevant). The connection between AA and HttT is self explanatory since they are directly part of the same plot.

With AA implemented, I think this would make for a stronger 4 campaign plot arc, essentially focusing on Asheviere's plot to take the throne to her ultimate downfall, and a glimpse at Garard's early days using TSG. At this point, I think it would be reasonable to drop AToTB and DM, since both roles would be fulfilled by AA. Namely, DM's plot role of showing some elements of pre-HttT is fulfilled by AA instead, which has a stronger connection to HttT, and AToTB would be a no longer needed novice campaign. Then, these 4 campaigns would be (in order) the first 4 listed in the campaign list for the player to play in order, essentially being a the first big story arc that they play through in chronological order. I think that would offer a good singleplayer experience and keep them interested in playing other campaigns (as opposed to the current list, which has a rather discombobulated group of campaigns listed in order of difficulty rather than any story-based ordering).

So in order:

TSG: Deoran and Garard investigate the South Guard and are exposed to black magic and what it's capable of. A loyalist/(minorly) elf campaign, requires adding Garard to TSG (and moving it earlier in the overall timeline). Novice difficulty.

TSG/AA in between: Garard I dies and Garard II takes the throne. He recalls Deoran to Weldyn to become one of his advisors (since they're now buddies, having fought together). This is necessitated by the fact that the Orcish threat from the north has been constantly increasing over the past few years. Garard II also meets Asheviere and decides to take her as his queen at a ripe young age. She doesn't have much of a choice in the matter.

AA: Asheviere, depressed at her lack of agency in her own life and rather hateful of her husband, decides to try to find a way to act on her own ambitions. She happens upon an opportunity in the aftermath of one of Garard/Delfador's battles against the orcs. She happens across one of the survivors, a clever orc who disguised himself in human armor, and allies herself with him. They go about executing Asheviere's plan to seize power (see above), playing a game of manipulating Warlords to do their dirty work (for big battles) while assassinating some of Garard's advisors (Deoran, Lionel). She eventually betrays Garard II at Abez, where he dies. A dual orc/loyalist campaign. Novice difficulty.

Liberty: Remains mostly as is. Baldras and Harper try to find ways to save their home/people from being taken over by Asheviere's tyrannical style. An outlaw campaign. Novice difficulty.

HttT: Remains mostly as is (rework later). Konrad, Delfador, and (later) Li'sar aim to end Asheviere's reign. I think adding Harper to HttT would be nice (possibly not as an essential unit, but as a helpful loyal). A dual elf/loyalist campaign. Novice to intermediate difficulty.

Just in case it's not obvious, some comments on why AToTB and DM would be removed at this point:
Spoiler:
Spoiler:

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Re: A grand design for singleplayer mainline lore

Post by octalot » Yesterday, 10:04 am

Why wait to remove AToTB and DM? If they won't be in 1.16 then why not have one big "remove everything" event now, so that it's clear which campaigns should have mainline time spent on them?
nemaara wrote:
Yesterday, 7:56 am
The nature of this campaign means that it would be mostly RPG-like, focused around just a small set of units rather than big armies (though I imagine putting in some big battles headed by Delfador to change up the pacing a bit).
Some players want small battles, some want large battles, but more likely players are sometimes in the mood for small and sometimes in the mood for Northern Rebirth.

Putting in a big battle to change up the pacing sounds like a device from books or TV series, solving a problem which can be handled by a better device in media where the player has more interactivity. If the player is heavily focussed on the story, and the story already has two separate groups, then the story could be two simultaneous campaigns - have the characters writing letters to each other and clearly indicating the approximate expected progress on the other campaign, but leave it to the player's mood to choose which battle they play on a given day.

In TVTropes terms, I'm suggesting a variant of ArbitrarilySerializedSimultaneousAdventures instead of Simultaneous Arcs

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Re: A grand design for singleplayer mainline lore

Post by Tad_Carlucci » Yesterday, 1:54 pm

Given how quickly AOI went from "it's so poorly done, we should remove it" to a merge commit actually doing that, it makes me nervious to see someone talking about removing yet more campaigns.

Removing one campaign might be OK. Removing several sounds like a recipe for disaster. A "remove everything" event probably includes removing many (if not most) players.

AToTB is not that bad a campaign. It's only problem is it really does not connect to what else is going on in Wesnoth. What it needs is not removal but adjustment so it either advances a plot line, develops a character, or expands upon a side line. Any of those could be fairly easy to add to AToTB once we know where we're going.

To me, we still don't know where we're going with this idea. And, as I think Octalot is aluding to, we certainly don't know how we're going to get there. So it's far too early to say what should stay and what should go.

Just because Wesnoth is a small team and can't devote a lot of attention to a lot of campaigns all at once is no reason to pull out the axe. Slow down, give people time. Let's start by dropping any discussion of "by 1.16". We've already dropped a campaign for 1.16. Unless we're either going to push 1.16 off by years and make it a "rewrite mainline" release, that's enough.
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Re: A grand design for singleplayer mainline lore

Post by Aldarisvet » Yesterday, 2:44 pm

I really like nemaara's plan.
At least we will see not blatantly evil Asheviere but some motives under her actions.
Such things should have been done 10 years ago.


Still I think that adding young Garard to TSG will not save this campaign's plotline.
What it's storyline is about? Some bad guys kidnapped an elf sage and while torturing him made him a lich (how that is really possible???) without expecting it? Also I really cannot understand why they wanted an elvish sage to do a necromancy work for them? Coudn't find more unsuitable person for that?

For the very first campaign to play, it must have more compelling storyline. And more connected to the further story.
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Re: A grand design for singleplayer mainline lore

Post by nemaara » Yesterday, 9:54 pm

octalot wrote:
Yesterday, 10:04 am
Some players want small battles, some want large battles, but more likely players are sometimes in the mood for small and sometimes in the mood for Northern Rebirth.

Putting in a big battle to change up the pacing sounds like a device from books or TV series, solving a problem which can be handled by a better device in media where the player has more interactivity. If the player is heavily focussed on the story, and the story already has two separate groups, then the story could be two simultaneous campaigns - have the characters writing letters to each other and clearly indicating the approximate expected progress on the other campaign, but leave it to the player's mood to choose which battle they play on a given day.

In TVTropes terms, I'm suggesting a variant of ArbitrarilySerializedSimultaneousAdventures instead of Simultaneous Arcs
That's a pretty good idea. :hmm:

It would require writing two campaigns, one from Delfador's viewpoint, and one from Asheviere's, but given that DM already exists, there is a lot we could take from it in terms of reusing maps/code (it would be a lot of storyline rewriting, but that's it).
Aldarisvet wrote:
Yesterday, 2:44 pm
Still I think that adding young Garard to TSG will not save this campaign's plotline.
What it's storyline is about? Some bad guys kidnapped an elf sage and while torturing him made him a lich (how that is really possible???) without expecting it? Also I really cannot understand why they wanted an elvish sage to do a necromancy work for them? Coudn't find more unsuitable person for that?

For the very first campaign to play, it must have more compelling storyline. And more connected to the further story.
This is actually really fair, and something I've considered before as well. The reason I didn't want to remove or further rework TSG is that it seems fairly popular and isn't that bad of a campaign. However, I guess I'm starting to reconsider taking the lazy way of reworking things. The whole reason I've started these threads is that I'm hoping Wesnoth SP can be something outstanding, where we leave a great impression on the player right from the getgo. It takes work to do that and it also means getting rid of or reworking a lot of campaigns, but that's probably the best way to create a really strong singleplayer experience.

So I'll revise the proposal to this and give some extra information, since it's now relevant to this arc.

First, the relevant information:
Spoiler:
Now, the campaigns in order:

TSG: I rewrote the dialogue before, but this time, let's rework the plotline a little bit. In the south in province Kerlath, the magistrate of Westin has been having problems with undead at the southern border. Deoran and Garard are sent there to investigate, where they meet with Westin's magistrate and his daughter, Asheviere. Realizing the undead are an issue they don't have the expertise to solve, they go to find the elves, whereupon they discover that one of the Elvish leaders (Mebrin) has gone missing. Journeying south of the Black River leads them toward the heart of the undeads' lair, where they (expectedly) discover that Mebrin is the one behind the attacks.
Spoiler:
The end would be more or less a cutscene, where Garard sets his eyes on the magistrate's daughter and asks her to travel to Weldyn with him. She doesn't want to, but her father forces her to go, seeing an opportunity to rise in station with the prince of Wesnoth taking an interest in his "expendable daughter". Deoran would remain behind for some time, acting as a diplomat to the Aetherwood elves, but then would be recalled to Weldyn in the epilogue to become one of Garard's advisors.

Overall - still a novice campaign, a loyalist/elf dual campaign against undead (around 8-9 scenarios). The bandit branch would be removed.

AA - same as in my previous post, ending with Garard's death at the Ford of Abez.

DM - changed to occur simultaneously with AA, with Delfador leading battles against the orcs. He begins to uncover Asheviere's plot over the course of the campaign, but is too late to save Garard at Abez. The campaign ends when he gathers some of the remaining men loyal to the king and defeats Prince Eldred en route back to Weldyn.

More or less a novice campaign (maybe with the last battle being more difficult), loyalist focused against orcs. Probably about 8-9 scenarios as well.

Liberty - same as previous post.

HttT - same as previous post.

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Re: A grand design for singleplayer mainline lore

Post by Pentarctagon » Today, 1:02 am

Somewhat tangential, but would it be practical to also use this as an opportunity to make the campaign difficulty levels more consistent as well as perhaps balance the new/reworked campaigns against the ExpAI? It would need confirmation from mattsc of course, but I believe one of the main reasons for not making the ExpAI the default was the potential to greatly unbalance scenarios, which wouldn't be a problem if it's all getting reworked anyway.
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Re: A grand design for singleplayer mainline lore

Post by nemaara » Today, 1:18 am

Focusing on the HttT arc for now, I do intend to balance the 5 campaigns in question keeping in mind the order of play. For me, it's not about keeping the difficulty levels consistent (i.e. "Challenging" difficulty being consistent between campaigns). Rather, the player should have a nice learning curve when playing through the first arc, where the first couple campaigns aren't too hard, but then it gets more challenging once they get to HttT.

Regarding the AI, I have nothing to say. Since, with the reworks, a rebalancing is required anyway, I have no problem if @mattsc would like to make the ExpAI default (we talked about this on discord, I think he said he was merging everything besides the recruitmentAI, which would also potentially greatly affect the balance of UMC campaigns).

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Re: A grand design for singleplayer mainline lore

Post by Celtic_Minstrel » Today, 4:45 am

Thoughts:
  • Kinda on the fence with respect to removing A Tale of Two Brothers. I feel like there might be reasons to keep it still?
  • Placing Garard in TSG seems to create a problem - if the prince is there, why is Deoran in command? It might be an easily-solved problem, mind you, but...
  • I never played the bandits branch in TSG but does it really have to be removed? I think it's nice to have choices.
  • Is it my imagination or did you blame Asheviere for Mebrin's rise?
  • The one thing I thought was cool about DM was how Delfador summons ghosts (ie, practices necromancy) without delving into dark magic. I guess AA would be playing from the other side, but I wonder if it might be possible to squeeze that in somehow? Perhaps Delfador was her teacher at one point? (Also, would the two important elves - Kalenz and Chantal - make an appearance in AA?)
...wait, did your last post suggest you might both keep DM and add AA? That's an interesting proposal, considering how DM was supposed to be in part a source of material for AA...
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Re: A grand design for singleplayer mainline lore

Post by nemaara » Today, 5:23 am

Celtic_Minstrel wrote:
Today, 4:45 am
Thoughts:
  • Kinda on the fence with respect to removing A Tale of Two Brothers. I feel like there might be reasons to keep it still?
  • Placing Garard in TSG seems to create a problem - if the prince is there, why is Deoran in command? It might be an easily-solved problem, mind you, but...
  • I never played the bandits branch in TSG but does it really have to be removed? I think it's nice to have choices.
  • Is it my imagination or did you blame Asheviere for Mebrin's rise?
  • The one thing I thought was cool about DM was how Delfador summons ghosts (ie, practices necromancy) without delving into dark magic. I guess AA would be playing from the other side, but I wonder if it might be possible to squeeze that in somehow? Perhaps Delfador was her teacher at one point? (Also, would the two important elves - Kalenz and Chantal - make an appearance in AA?)
...wait, did your last post suggest you might both keep DM and add AA? That's an interesting proposal, considering how DM was supposed to be in part a source of material for AA...
The stipulation is that AToTB would be removed because it wouldn't fit into the story arc, the elf talks about willingly becoming undead upon being slain (direct conflict with lore), there is an issue with orcs commanding undead with later lore (hinted at in previous posts), and it doesn't leave an impression. I think the first thing players should encounter in SP is a strong story arc that leaves an impression before branching out into side stories. Starting off with side stories doesn't make sense (i.e. AToTB).

I do suppose that sending Garard with Deoran would in theory make Garard in charge, but I can actually use this as a point for characterization.

Reworked TSG wouldn't have bandits at all, so yeah, the branch would have to be removed. It would be very focused on Mebrin's corruption by black magic and more character focused as well. Also, Asheviere might have something to do with that young girl. ;)

I'll think about if Delfador's ghost summoning can work in DM. Kalenz and Chantal will probably appear in AA and DM both.

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Re: A grand design for singleplayer mainline lore

Post by Celtic_Minstrel » Today, 5:32 am

I think the first two issues with AToTB could be addressed without too much effort (would probably have to replay it to be sure though), but not sure about the lack of impression.
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