Sunday, 17 August 2014

How I learned to disregard the canon and enjoy the game; Neverwinter edition (I)

Special thanks to R-6 for being along for the ride via screenshots, 
hearing out my lamentations on the way, and inadvertently 
inspiring this write-up. 

It is no secret that I am not that into Dungeons and Dragons. So much so, that I considered it quite an achievement when I was able to ignore some of my biases and thoroughly enjoy a game set in  D&D-verse. (Watching some webseries that feature paper-and-pen-folk in action has also somewhat softened my cold, joyless heart. Notable culprits include "Tales from The Table" and "Dorkness Rising".) And now, Neverwinter Nights 2.

Shall we?

(Clicking the images should display them in full glory.)

Oh, and the whole load of playthrough notes turned out too voluminous to wrestle all at once. I'm dividing it into a series of shorter posts instead.  So, uh... shall we?

Part One. Building character.

One of my favourite themes to contemplate with nearly every aspect of every game I play is how "playing it correctly" and "just playing it, dammit" might diverge. Character creation is no different. Thing is, when I try to make calculated decisions in D&D, based on stats and whatnot, just one glance at the info makes my eyes roll back and my brain go: "Whoooa, text! Lotsa text! Numbers; shitload of numbers... more text, more numbers, text mixed with numbers, numbers mixed with text! Numbers-numbers-text-numbers-gotta-I-cannot-even...-more text-more-numbers-lalalalala".

"Huh? Oh, I wasn't listening. That's my brain-shutdown face."

This time I wasn't even going to try the calculating part; instead I gave myself to the mercy of copywriters. Basically, I went on combing through the descriptions, working from more general towards more specific, and noting which ones seemed to provoke a stronger emotional response. I don't even remember what the "feel-right" descriptions said specifically, but from each category one stood out, if even just by a margin. Character optimization-wise, some of those choices would later prove useless or even complicating things - and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Once I had stopped worrying and started playing, I eventually developed some literacy and even intuition in the skill distribution, which choices worked (or at least - worked for me), and so on. Here are some  highlights of that process. (I also think the gradual changes in HUD management and tool-slotting illustrate the overall learning curve and getting a grasp of the game's tools.)

Clueless salad days.
Baby steps in confidence.
My neutrality is slipping.
Choices have pretty much solidified at this point.

Initially I had intended to steer clear of anything to do with ingame alignments. (More on that later.) Very soon it became apparent that the fervent attempts of maintaining the N/A took disproportionate amount of my attention, and didn't make the gameplay any better. I figured that putting all that effort into *avoiding* alignments, actually means equal amount of obsessing over alignment logic as *sustaining* them. So, in a flurry of inner monologue (I know who I am and what I am; if  the game wants to slap the label of nominal "good" on me, I can live that) I decided "screw the alignments!" and just kept on playing.

That's where I ended up by the end of two campaigns.

Stay tuned for Part Two

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