Author Topic: An Informal Comment on Chapter Transition  (Read 1180 times)

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on: January 19, 2019, 09:20:28 PM
Players -

Congratulations on the conclusion of chapter 4 of EFU, "Escape from Uncertainty: Revelations."

EFU4 has been our longest chapter yet, and - despite some periods of slowness - I think arguably our best and most epic in scale. It's worth taking a moment to reflect on the journey. During the past five years, we've introduced countless new systems, mechanics, and features. We've seen Sanctuary rebuild itself, experience rebellions, wars, all kinds of upheavals, and finally fall. Dozens of epic metaplots have been resolved.

 Let's take a moment to remember some portion of your achievements and plot resolutions: the early political scheming of the Council, the Workmill Rebellion, the tragic crusade of Mad Marge, the early cult of the Ascension, the Ark and Tulathek, the efforts of the Society of the Ordered Mind to understand its past and Crystal, the war upon the Dark Lake, the evolution of Lower Sanctuary, the Cult War of Lower, the campaign of the Rot, the Crystal War, the rise of the Exile Collective & Covenant of the Pure, the Bresleyan Mayoralty, the creation of Final Sanctuary, the coming of the Withered Host, the silencing of so many gods, journeys to Ymph, the rise and fall of Mouldercrest, the mystery of Castle Avgardii, the siege of Mutulakt, the Ormulax vs. Magnatz war, the end of the Unseelie infestation, the animation of Etorix, the search for Zyphaem Faussad, the story of the Revenant Court & fate of the Elves, the Quenching of Druviax the Unquenchable and miracle of the Fount, the Dhimani Rebellion and Melinda Bresley revelation, the discovery of the Jewels of Dunwarren, the destruction of Temrariel and ooze flood of the Lowerdark, the burning of the Doom Tree & curing of the Withering, the redemption of Rhiannon Kingsley and destruction of the Elder Brain of Ysinode, the great monster battles of the end, the fall of the Appetite, and at long last the completion of the Dunwarren Machine.

It has certainly been a long and complex journey.

So where are we now?

With the ignition of the Machine, you have kindled a new sun. The birth of this young star has obliterated the world: all of your characters, the Cities of the Dread, the caves of the Underdark, the isle of Ymph, the apocalyptic surface, and even the head of Dendar itself have been consumed by the expanding light and reduced to ash.

Is this the end of EFU?

It is not. However, for the first time, and for obvious reasons, it is impossible to continue the EFU story in a directly linear fashion. Chapter 5 of EFU, "EFU: City of Rings," remains in the EFU universe but takes place in a radically different time, place, and atmosphere.

There is a tremendous amount of information to convey which will be presented formally elsewhere, but I wanted to take a moment to more informally address our player-base to discuss what change you will see in tone and style. In other posts on this thread, I'll talk about some other fundamental game-play changes for EFU.

The Atmosphere

Every chapter of EFU represents a different place but also a very different atmosphere. One might consider that EFU was classic underdark "trapped beneath the world," EFUA was in an atmosphere of fantasy tropical isles of adventure, EFUM was very mysterious mist-hidden hamlet of cursed souls struggling against undeath, and EFUR has been intense post-apocalyptic survivalism with many steampunk elements and (particularly recently) a very "epic" scale.

Some of you would probably like to continue things as they have been in this atmosphere. Roaming an apocalyptic hellscape with factions based out of different lumbering animatronic carriers; scavenging the world for supplies and baublium sounds like it would be fun.

And I am sure it would be, for a few months. But I think after a while some of the luster of our animatronic friends would have worn away, the DM activity would inevitably fade, and the setting would simply be too oppressive, too dark to sustain a happy and healthy playerbase.

Certainly, we will most likely incorporate some of these more "sci-fi"/apocalyptic stylistic elements into the EFU story once again.

However - a new chapter is a big deal, and for a long time the EFU team has been eager to start with something very fresh feeling that is atmospherically highly distinct from where we've been.

Chapter 5 of EFU is not apocalyptic and far less epic in scale. The sun shines upon the City of Rings and your character is more likely to be worried about a giant beetle or lurking bandit than it is about a Dread Mindflayer. Instead of needing to be OOC'ly familiar with more than a decade of the EFU story, it is perfectly acceptable to portray standard characters from somewhere in the realms who simply wishes to find their way home. We have designed a chapter that we hope will be far, far, far more friendly to casual and new players while still rewarding to our most enthusiastic veterans.

Additionally, we have moved away even more from canon Forgotten Realms, retaining it only as a loose background possibility for some players and instead focusing on a whole new region, new possibilities of planar exploration, and even new emphasis on local faiths that operate distinctly from canon FR.

We are still absolutely presenting a setting filled with extreme risk, survivalist elements, faction conflict and intrigue, risk & consequences, mystery and setting secrets, exploration, and confronting grave dangers and true evil - however, after the intensity of the epic ending of EFUR you will doubtless find that the overall atmosphere is far lighter and the scale of dm plots far less epic.

For us, this will be a welcome break. Dealing primarily with plots involving the death of gods and collapse of civilizations has been enjoyable; but ultimately is not what EFU (which, at its heart, is a low level server) is all about.

 We have been working on developing this module for years. It is far more elaborate than any other chapter in EFU's history.

Check <here> and <here> for some teasers about some of the amazing new content we've prepared for you.

We hope you guys won't mind the change in tone, share our enthusiasm for starting something refreshingly new, and would like to welcome you lovingly and with extraordinary excitement to....

EFU: The City of Rings


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on: January 19, 2019, 09:26:26 PM
I would also like to make a few informal comments about how this chapter's playstyle will feel different than from previous chapters.

Quote from: Our Hubs
"The City" vs. Sanctuary, Nebezzdos, Mistlocke.

I would suppose that the classic model of a NWN PW is for there to be a single major city, populated with NPCs with a NPC dominated guard force, containing various districts and and surrounded by rural and wilderness areas.

I have always liked that EFU, in every chapter, has tried to do things a bit differently. Our settlements are usually smaller in population and in theme. I think it is important to have a settlement where it feels like characters matter and where the scale feels correct for the mechanics of NWN.

But I have always wanted to do a true urban setting.

Now we are. But the City is genuinely huge, and rather than thinking of it as some kind of sprawling hub - you should instead instead consider each of our three neighborhoods (Ticker Square, the Peerage, Paupers Ponds) as an individual hub. While our City  supposedly has a king, there is certainly no effective central guard force and areas in between defended neighborhoods are as dangerous as normal EFU wilderness zones: filled with roaming bandits, desperate cannibals, strange creatures rising from the canals and dripping sewers, and much more.

Quote from: Factions

Typically, factions are the life-blood of the server, the spokes upon which the wheels of conflict turn.

While this remains true, we are re-organizing things a little bit and I want to try to explain some of our thoughts about how we're setting things up.

The biggest groupings would be the hubs. We have three, each thematically distinct and separated by a lawless area called King's Commons. As the chapter begins, it would be best to describe the attitude of each Hub towards the other to be one of muted hostility - it is certainly far from war, but I we hope and anticipate that a degree of hostility and conflict will exist between those characters who associate with one or the other. The basis of this conflict is one of attitude: rigidly pro-human and hierarchical in the case of the Peerage vs. the commerce focused/cosmopolitan tolerance of Ticker vs. the  anarchy of the Ponds. With time, this conflict will hopefully blossom into something interesting.

The second biggest groupings would be our "Application Free Factions."

Most of these are "Noble Houses" that are based in the Peerage. Each of the six Noble Houses has a distinct theme, lore, and agenda. While it's reasonable to suppose that the Retainers of these Houses will stand with each other against  those who defy the common traditions of the Peerage, it is also anticipated that each House will struggle in a variety of rivalries and contests of prestige against each other. One common mechanical thread that the Noble Retainers will be working towards is the gathering of "prestige" items - think of these almost like antiques of the past, objects of art, or titles and deeds that are of value in the amorphous and non-commercial contests of status between the Houses.

 Ticker Square has one "Application Free Faction" and other app-free opportunities to find a profession or calling. Characters may aspire to join the "Stonebuilder's Guild," those tough fellows who - once common laborers - have been hired by the Merchants Guild of Ticker Square to serve as a rough peace-keeping force to enforce the will of the Guildmasters and maintain order within Ticker Square.

Additionally, there are many other professional opportunities in Ticker: working on the local newspaper, working in the Inn, working as a beggar, etc. We also hope to make roleplaying a merchant more interesting than it has ever been in the past.

Finally, we have our "Application Required Factions." We intend these to be far more elite than in the past and mostly reserved for players who have demonstrated their contributions to EFU by portraying an amazing, successful character.

It is worth noting that none of these App-Required Factions will be available at the start of the chapter.

These factions are:
The Arbiters of the Hundred Scrolls - A cult of fanatic code-enforcers who take it upon themselves to enforce their sacred Law of the Hundred Scrolls completely unsupported by any political group. They are not connected with a specific hub but rather have their own faction base and roam the Rings in search of those who break the code (hunting necromancers, infernalists, murderers... punishing and perhaps executing the nefarious and chaotic).

The Doorkeepers - An ancient, secretive organization with close ties to the city and connections spread through the Rings. While their primary chapterhouse is located in Ticker Square, they are generally a very neutral group and focus primarily on the protection of knowledge and attending to their duties to the City.

The Knaves of Ring 99 - An ambitious new thieves guild that seeks to dominate and control the spheres of all manner of crime in Ring 99 and beyond. They are not connected with a specific hub but rather have their own hidden faction base.

This seems like a lot. And it is. However, it is also true that it is no problem at all if different groups remain empty for long periods of time. We are deliberately designing this chapter to function well even during periods of low player-count so if factions are empty and under-populated we think things will still work well with interesting tension spinning between the three neighborhoods..

Quote from: Adventure, Exploration, Questing

These are all important things, and they are all being handled slightly different this chapter.

Regarding questing, we think reptition and "quest trains" are the death of the questing experience. Consequently, nearly all quests have been randomized to some degree. Sometimes this means that the enemies you will be fighting will be different every time, but it also means that nearly all quests (particularly medium/high level ones) have a randomized location in the module. Generally, we are implementing things that have been seen frequently in smaller doses in the past: quest givers that only show up sometimes, quests accessed through randoms, quest starts that are randomly located, quests that have different variations, and quests that have optional randomized side-rooms.

Instead of a sending to go out and do a specific quest, we hope that characters will simply form small adventuring bands, and head out to explore some part of the server and tackle whatever content they find there.

Exploration is also a very important part of the chapter. The City is heavily planar-linked and you will find seams (portals) in many different places that lead to planar fragments with all kinds of interesting content incorporating a variety of different atmospheres and themes. Some of the larger elemental realms are entire sprawling regions with dozens of potential quests.

Quote from: A Chapter Goal: Escaping

Finally... there are the Rings themselves. I have always loved the idea of (1) Super dungeons, (2) Labyrinths, and (3) An incredibly difficult huge challenge for characters/players that they can accomplish without needing a DM.

Here... at long last... we have this kind of challenge.

While many Rings (closer to Ring 99, the principle hub) are relatively easily accessed and contain content that characters might experience day-to-day, as you get deeper your spawn point will start to transition with you and it will (hopefully) start to feel more and more like you're on an intense, long-term campaign to get deeper. I really hope it will feel like a totally different playing experience, a genuine survivalist challenge.

We absolutely fully support characters pursuing their goals and agendas within the main hub areas just like any other chapter of EFU, but I also hope that playing a Ringrunning focused PC will be a whole new and rewarding play experience for those who enjoy that style of play.