Reworking/Revising The Sceptre of Fire

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nemaara
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Reworking/Revising The Sceptre of Fire

Post by nemaara »

So after some discussion with @celticminstrel and @doofus-01 today on discord, we're thinking of looking at revising The Sceptre of Fire. I'm opening a new thread here so we have a clean place to more permanently track comments/ideas for this revision.

First, I'll say that the actual plotline of SoF is reasonable to me. I think it is close to an appropriate length (possibly a touch long), and the general premise is both relevant to other campaigns (it's about making the Sceptre of Fire after all!) and isn't just a generic storyline about beating some "evil baddies".

Now, specific areas where I think it needs improvement:

1. I think SoF needs some help diversifying its gameplay. While the addition of runesmiths/masters is somewhat helpful for unit diversity, using the base dwarvish units (mostly slow dwarves with no specials, just plain axes or spears and the occasional thunderstick) means that the campaign feels a bit boring to play after a few scenarios to me. This is compounded by most scenarios being dwarves fighting against elves in straight battles (granted that's not the strict objective of the scenario, but the de facto gameplay is that you end up fighting a lot of plain army v army battles).

We could look at adding more RPG elements or reworking some scenarios to put less emphasis on army fighting. With dwarvish units, however, fast maneuvering isn't really an option, so we'll have to find other ways to change up the gameplay (or just offer more and faster units). Reducing it by one scenario (especially where you fight against elves) is also an option.

2. I would like to see the dialogue polished up. It would be a healthy change to have some of the characters speaking with dwarvish accents and given more personality. Right now, most of the characters are somewhat one dimensional, so we should look at improving that.

3. There is quite some lore in THoT regarding Thursagan's hammer. It would be nice to make a stronger connection to the lore there, and put a greater emphasis on that artifact.

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Re: Reworking/Revising The Sceptre of Fire

Post by Celtic_Minstrel »

Adding more RPG elements does sound like it could be interesting…
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Re: Reworking/Revising The Sceptre of Fire

Post by skeptical_troll »

Is there a particular reason why ulfserker are not in the recruitment roster for this campaign? They might add variety to the gameplay, they are a mainline dwarvish unit (which doesn't get much campaign attention, I don't know why), and I believe any player would be happy to have some at hand when facing elves shamans/druids.

As for RPG/abilities, perhaps they could address the issue of dwarves' mobility. Perhaps one of the main characters could make adjacent units (at the beginning of the turn) move faster, or grant an extra MP under some conditions.

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Re: Reworking/Revising The Sceptre of Fire

Post by Celtic_Minstrel »

There's also a dwarvish scout unit, I don't know if it's used in SoF but if not it could be.
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Re: Reworking/Revising The Sceptre of Fire

Post by doofus-01 »

I've started SoF, these are my thoughts for now. I just want to get them out there, they make sense now, but I could easily be talked out of them:
As far as the dialogue, the elvish leader in the first scenario could be a recurring character as the elves harass the dwarves. Killing him should not be possible in that case, so the caravan migration strategy can be focused on.

As for mobility, the scout unit is the simplest solution. We could also do something with the train-track terrain, use some sort of handcar where it makes sense for the area to be dwarvish turf. For the outside world, it could be a chance for campy comic relief if we put the dwarves on donkeys or something like that.
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Re: Reworking/Revising The Sceptre of Fire

Post by BTIsaac »

Here's a suggestion on my part. Do something about Rugnur. The way he is now, you could have him completely removed and lose nothing. Not ideal for someone who's supposed to be the player stand-in.

Krawg's lines appear to be really contrived, and on more than one occasion, end up really breaking the moment. Also, at least give him a reason to be intelligent. A couple of custom AMLAs could help with that.

I'm expected to believe the dwarves spent "several years" in a mountain doing nothing while one of them worked on a scepter, and even after several years he's not done with it, but then they relocate to another place constantly chased and he finishes it in no time. what exactly is it about that scepter that requires years to work on?

At least two characters are introduced with a massive fanfare and one of them appears once and has like 6 lines of dialogue. Either give the jewler a more important role, or he doesn't need to be his own character at all.

Phrases like "Next in our story...", "I must tell you of another character in our drama", "I do not want to give the impression ... thus I present ..." and the like are filler phrases and have no reason to exist. These aren't the only instances of poor writing that needs a complete overhaul. The narration for one of the scenarios goes like this:
"There was no exit from the caverns of Knalga. They had reached the realms of the orcs, with the elves hot on their trail. And there was no exit from those caves. So the dwarves had no way out. They could not leave the caverns that they had entered."
Oh geez. It might just be me, but I'm getting the impression that there was no exit. If only the narration made that more clear.

Regarding more mobile units, I believe this might be the perfect time for me to mention that this exists. Maybe replace "Knockback" with something like "Slow" or do some other adjustments for balance. Frankly, I'm not sure why this unit hasn't been mainlined. Dwarves lacking variety is always the number one complaint.

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Re: Reworking/Revising The Sceptre of Fire

Post by Celtic_Minstrel »

A bear rider is certainly intriguing, but I'm not sure how well it fits. That said, if "Shorbear" is a canonical clan name, it's probably worth considering. (And just noting that while there's no lore or technical reason to remove knockback, another option would be changing it to stun.)

An aside: I glanced at the other units in that campaign, and… what the heck is a "rokr" (in rokrserker)? The "ulf" in "ulfserker" is a wolf, and the "ber" in "berserker" is a bear, with both words meaning something like "one who wears the skin of a xxx"; but from Wiktionary it looks like "rokr" isn't actually a word? (Or it's a very obscure word.)
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Re: Reworking/Revising The Sceptre of Fire

Post by lhybrideur »

Concerning mobility there is also the Griffon Rider than could be used. Maybe only outside but still. It might need to be explained how dwarves came to ride griffons though.
It would be better than a bear rider that doesn't exist yet at least.

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Re: Reworking/Revising The Sceptre of Fire

Post by Tad_Carlucci »

Going a litte off-topic here ...

Seems to me like we might consider a number of different riders with different advantages and disadvantages.

Griffin riders move fast and far. I'd suggest they should, however, have difficulty with forested terrain for attack and defense.

Bear riders sound like a good option for caves and forests. But I'd think they'd be a good target so would have problems with archers, especially on open terrain like plains. We might consider a penalty (like negative leadership) when used in groups: bears don't like sharing their hunting grounds.

Wolf riders would probably do well, moving fast through forests and over open plains. They might get some defensive bonus from forests and, perhaps, bonuses (sorta like leadership) when next to another unit of the same type, or penalties for not being used in groups.

All these probably need some lore, perhaps campaigns introducing them which show off their strengths and weaknesses.
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Re: Reworking/Revising The Sceptre of Fire

Post by Caladbolg »

For movement, Dwarvish Scouts are probably the best option if you prefer sticking with units already present in mainline. Ulfserkers could also help diversify the gameplay. There are also Dwarvish Witnesses (from The Hammer of Thursagan) - lorewise, their job is to observe great deeds of dwarves, preserve their lore and history, and function as mediators between tribes. Having one as a loyal/quick ally would totally make sense considering this campaign's plot, and their abilities could add some flavor (inspire on lvl1, + unpoison on lvl2, + heals+4 on lvl3) without requiring a lot of rebalancing.

TSoF is already one of the most diverse campaigns in terms of scenario objectives. However, as nemaara mentioned, scenarios often devolve into plain 1v1 battle. I think the priority should be on fixing this, and capitalizing on those scenario objectives. If you have an escort scenario, put enough pressure on the player to force him to treat it like an escort scenario. Deny him the opportunity to just kill an enemy leader and move unhindered.

If you're planning on adding RPG elements, I think they should be small, difficult to use, and fit in with the lore. A unit that can make adjacent units move faster would be a bit much imo. How about making it so that Runesmiths can set up runes that give special abilities? It would make sense lore-wise, and there is mainline precedent for stepping on runes granting something special.

So, for example, if a Runesmith stands still for a turn or two, he can set up a rune of your choice, and a unit that steps on it would be granted some bonus. The difficulty here is in obtaining Runesmiths and in the time needed to set up runes. Bonuses can be things like healing a unit by X(%) hp, slightly modifying stats, or (and I prefer this one) granting an extra trait for the duration of the scenario. Not overpowered, not easy to get, but can be a neat and useful addition to lore and gameplay. It would also give a bit more reason to get Runemasters, considering they are largely inferior to Steelclads.

EDIT: Dwarvish Miners could also be given a digging ability: allow them to enter cave wall hexes at a full mp cost, and the ability that triggers at the beginning of the turn if they're on a cave wall hex, turning it into a cave hex. "Gathering materials" scenario could be made more interesting with this, and you could also open up some new tactics in other scenarios.

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Re: Reworking/Revising The Sceptre of Fire

Post by skeptical_troll »

just to clarify, both the scout and the griffon rider are actually available in the campaign, although the latter only from a later scenario.
I personally feel the lack of abilities/special is more of an issue than the mobility, at the end dwarves can move through bad terrain without troubles, and maps are quite small in the campaign. If you want to redesign scenarios to make them more about maneuvering, you can take advantage of this fact, make more use of terrain where dwarves are fast and elves (or whatever) slow.

Besides the ulfserker, adding a support unit with some ability (somebody mentioned the witness from THoT) that can diversify the gameplay could be a good solution.

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Re: Reworking/Revising The Sceptre of Fire

Post by Celtic_Minstrel »

lhybrideur wrote:
November 26th, 2019, 2:11 pm
Concerning mobility there is also the Griffon Rider than could be used. Maybe only outside but still. It might need to be explained how dwarves came to ride griffons though.
skeptical_troll wrote:
November 26th, 2019, 8:32 pm
just to clarify, both the scout and the griffon rider are actually available in the campaign, although the latter only from a later scenario.
Huh? I thought the dwarves canonically didn't tame griffons until HTTT?
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Re: Reworking/Revising The Sceptre of Fire

Post by BTIsaac »

There's one issue with adding the witness. It's basically a unit with a bunch of abilities and specials that dwarves don't usually have, all piled up on it. It made sense in the campaign he appeared in because he's a hero unit and kind of unique like that. Having the ability to recruit them is ridiculous, unless you plan on greatly nerfing them. And frankly, stripping them of any of their abilities just feels like it may as well be a different unit altogether.

If abilities are needed, Thursagan could be given leadership or something similar (lore-wise, this can be attributed to the hammer), while something like a herbalist unit could both fight well in forests, heal, and have a ranged poison attack (i personally never found poison to be useful when I'm using it, but there are trolls in the campaign, and poison helps cancel out their regeneration so...). The bear riders have the knockback ability, the reason why i recommend replacing it with slow or stun is because of the way knockback works. A weapon special that pushes a unit to a different hex feels too convoluted for mainline.

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Re: Reworking/Revising The Sceptre of Fire

Post by Celtic_Minstrel »

BTIsaac wrote:
November 27th, 2019, 7:05 am
A weapon special that pushes a unit to a different hex feels too convoluted for mainline.
I disagree, honestly. Knockback isn't even all that weird an ability.
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Re: Reworking/Revising The Sceptre of Fire

Post by BTIsaac »

Celtic_Minstrel wrote:
November 27th, 2019, 1:44 pm
I disagree, honestly. Knockback isn't even all that weird an ability.
Of course the word i was looking for was "gimmicky" but if you say it's okay for mainline then I'm going to take your word for it.

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