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Josh Sawyer on Quest Staggering and why BG2 might have had it right


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I'd personally say that the games that have you constantly reporting back to one person makes the world feel so much smaller. It smacks of laziness from the writers/developers.

 

BG2 fels so big, in part, thanks to the fact that you could pick up quests from all sorts of people. The Guard captain in the bridge district for the murder investigation, the dying guy when you first leave the walls of Athkatla then Xan.

 

MMOs are partly responsible for the concept of the convenient 'quest hub'. Useful when you're trying to guide players in an open-world setting but they do nothing to add to the lived-in feel that an RPG should be trying to create.

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what BG2 did right, was that it gave a reason to do the various side quests. you were underequiped in a foreign land and needed money for gear and information. so you had to find things to do to gather the gold. and instead of making this search for money part of the story, they left it to the sidequests to be your source of income.

in most rpgs side quests are more often than not just there for you to get game hours, loot and xp and are not part of a bigger picture. 

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As a side note I love quest timers, and I'm a little sad I appear to be the only person in the world who does. My favourite RPG structure would be an open world with a ton of quest timers with new quests appearing and old quests disappearing all the time. Do I attempt to rescue the farmers daughter from ogres or claim the lost treasure of XXXX. What if I will definitely miss out on that treasure if I delay but I might still be able to save the farmers daughter afterwards?

 

As far as realistic ideals go though I was a big fan of BG2s structure. Chapter 2 was amazing and while some of the other chapters felt a bit dry I wouldn't want to even out the curve at all. If I get 20-30 quests at once then that's a real choice, if I get 3-4 it feels like I have to do those 3-4. If I can't be overloaded with quests constantly I'd rather be overwhelmed once and then left to a linear crawl afterwards than anything else. 

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I love quest timers, in moderation. When everything's rush-requiring, you've just made a game that's one huge push-level. When only certain things are rush-requiring, those situations become that much more tense/dire feeling, in contrast to the usual "we're simply not lollygagging around, but we don't really need to sprint" pace of the rest of the game.

 

I just don't really want to feel like I'm playing a racing game, with +15 minutes added on at every checkpoint the party makes it to. If the game were to do that, it might as well go ahead and have all the dialogues be those "If you don't answer within a reasonable 5 seconds like a normal person would, the conversation automatically advances, and you can never say what you were going to say with the effect it would have had at that point in the conversation" types. And quests and events should actually take place only at specific times, like festivals in Harvest Moon. Little kid got kidnapped at 3PM, but you were out exploring a mine? Well, you just completely miss that quest without even knowing about it, because it wasn't even a situation until you were already not-present, and by the time you got back to town, time was up on the ransom, and the bandits slit the kid's throat.

 

But, yes, in moderation, they rock, :)

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Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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I just don't really want to feel like I'm playing a racing game, with +15 minutes added on at every checkpoint the party makes it to. If the game were to do that, it might as well go ahead and have all the dialogues be those "If you don't answer within a reasonable 5 seconds like a normal person would, the conversation automatically advances, and you can never say what you were going to say with the effect it would have had at that point in the conversation" types.

 

Silly example.

Such conversation appeared in games where you have basic tones or general concepts/paraphrases as answers, not actual sentances.

Nor do I particulary like "if you did X, you might as well do X+100" line of reasoning.

 

 


And quests and events should actually take place only at specific times, like festivals in Harvest Moon. Little kid got kidnapped at 3PM, but you were out exploring a mine? Well, you just completely miss that quest without even knowing about it, because it wasn't even a situation until you were already not-present, and by the time you got back to town, time was up on the ransom, and the bandits slit the kid's throat.

 

How long would it take you to explore a mine anyway?

 

With kidnappings, the kidnapers usually give enough time to let whoever they are getting the money from gather the monies.

 

Now is missing a quest such a big deal? You can miss quests based on other factors, so I don't see why time shouldn't be one too.
 

* YOU ARE A WRONGULARITY FROM WHICH NO RIGHT CAN ESCAPE! *

Chuck Norris was wrong once - He thought HE made a mistake!

 

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Actually, with regards to timed quests, since PE won't be doing a great deal of VO, they could re-appear in different locations at different times.  Instead of Billy getting kidnapped in town X at the Spring festival, maybe Sally gets kidnapped in town Y at the Harvest festival   It really depends on how long we spend in the world in game time.  the IE games always had a sense of urgency to some extent in the main questline, but PE might have a different pacing, where things don't really begin feeling hectic until the third or fourth act.

 

Of course missing quests, or quests expiring shouldn't be a big deal if there are plenty of them.  But in this case of missing documents, blackmail schemes, kidnapped children etc., surely these things will happen more than just once in a region the size we will be dealing with of the course of a year or two.

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Silly example.

Such conversation appeared in games where you have basic tones or general concepts/paraphrases as answers, not actual sentances.

Nor do I particulary like "if you did X, you might as well do X+100" line of reasoning.

I fail to see how it's a silly comparison. A racing game demands constant attention to forward momentum. too much interruption, and everything starts falling apart. But, you're totally free to think it's silly, I suppose.

 

Also, I was referring to specific games that just take the non-timed system of dialogue, WITH full sentences, then slap in a timer, to "make it more realistic," as if the actual character, in the game, would have to take the time to visually read his choices on a screen and try to figure out how well the game is going to represent the effects of them.

 

An RPG just isn't really beholden to constant forward momentum, is all. Not unless it's extremely linear (like the static journey of characters through a book's story). So, yes, if the whole thing were timed, it'd be a little like adding exploration into a racing game. "Well, you COULD keep up with those cars over there, OR you could just pull over, get out, and check out this rock formation up-close, and maybe find some cool stuff behind it."

 

It's one thing to have various choices and consequences and outcomes throughout a game, and another thing entirely to split up the gameplay features of that game, themselves. It's not about having no mutually-exclusive content. It's about not having mutually exclusive gameplay elements. "You could take the time to explore and find some really nice ancient equipment in some crypts, but, by the time you do that, all those combat encounters you would've used such equipment in are already over, as they happened without you."

 

That sort of thing. That's why I said time-sensitive content is fine, but it's extremely unlikely that having 90% of the game content be time-sensitive wouldn't be problematic in that respect.

 

 

 

How long would it take you to explore a mine anyway?

 

I dunno. We could come up with a math problem. "If the mine is 200 miles away from the village, and your party moves at an average pace of 17.3 miles per day, and the child is kidnapped at such-and-such a time..." ... OR, we could just imagine the possibility that you coincidentally go explore a mine that's far enough away from a town to have you gone from that town for several days, and for a world that doesn't wait for you to have a child kidnapped on its own time, rather than on YOUR time, and for the whole thing to be resolved before you even knew it existed.

 

"But what if the mine's NOT that far away, and DOESN'T take you that long, and the kid DOESN'T get kidnapped during your trip?"

 

Well, then that wouldn't really be a problematic situation, now would it? So it would do me little good to point out THAT possibility when expressing my concern for potential problems with the timing of things, now wouldn't it? *nods*

 

 

 

Now is missing a quest such a big deal? You can miss quests based on other factors, so I don't see why time shouldn't be one too.

 

Missing a quest isn't a big deal. Missing a quest when you don't even know how to NOT miss a quest, IS a big deal. If you decide to kill Stinky Sam because he's a scumbag, you're well-aware that anything he might have ever wanted you to do is no longer do-able for him. You're aware that's a consequence of your choice. If nothing's going on around you, and you say "I think I'll go check out this mine the people in town have been talking about... see what's up there," and, it just so happens that on the game-world day that you're gone, the whole town is attacked by bandits and ransacked, and everyone's dead, then you spend the whole game going "Well, crap, should I just walk around town and try to be there when things happen, never leaving to go investigate caverns and ruins and mines? Or, should I instead go out and investigate such things, and just hope that things don't happen while I'm gone?"

 

Again, it's one thing to know a kid was kidnapped, and simply ignore this and leave town, and another thing entirely to have the game proc situations whose sole purpose is to be interacted with by the player at random points that the player can't really figure out without completely forgoing other aspects of gameplay to figure out the chance.

Edited by Lephys
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Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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Some very good comments already. But i just thought I'd ask:

 

How many people remember that craptacular quest in Morrowind where the guy wanted first some sort of wedding gown from a bajilion miles away.

 

...and when you got back to him he demanded shoes from the same place...

 

I believe I murdered him.

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Timed quest may not be as much a problem if failure is an option. It is just hated because when time runs out, the quest is failed and the player has to redo it if he wants the reward. Now if failure just mean and alternate path plus a slight penalty but still get something else as a reward if they contonue doen the fail path. Then the player have a real option.

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So don't accept his 2nd quest. Is it that hard?

me turning down a quest? You bet it is hard.
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Josh was asked about his comments on BG2 a few weeks ago and what in particular he didn't like about Baldur Gate 2's implementation of quests and he responded,

 

 

* Being flooded with quests in Athkatla - To be honest, I don't think is a controversial opinion! I've seen many other players say the same thing. BG2 has a crazy amount of quests, which is great, but the density in Athkatla was a little too crazy. I think those quests should have been spread out or staggered in some other way. PE is going to have more of an exploration focus than BG2 (though not as much as BG), so I believe that will help spread the content out more.

 

I have been thinking about this for the past several days and while I can understand the reasoning behind what Josh said, I think that I may partially disagree with him in terms of whether it was a bad thing or not.

 

Firstly, I would have to agree with the sentiment that compared to Chapter 2, the rest of the game felt fairly linear and less complex and that this detracted from the game. The following chapters were less fun than being able to mess around in Athkatla. However, at the same time, this doesn't detract from the fact that the multitude of quests in Chapter 2 was sort of fun and kept the player engaged and in fact may show that Chapter 2 was probably doing something right and the rest of the game was unfairly juxtaposed to a well-developed chapter.

 

You had the same freedom once you got out of the Underdark, unless you suffer a serious case of completionist's syndrome and really *have* to complete every single quest before heading off to the Asylum.

 

I don't think I've ever completed all the quests in Athkatla before heading off and I doubt I even did the same quests on each playthrough (though Nalia's keep was a staple) I also didn't feel like I was flooded with quests, more that Sigil, Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter were some pretty dead cities, which might also be due to the fact that those entire cities are mapped while in Athkatla you only get to visit certain (parts) of districs, which imo worked a lot better and resulted in a city that felt much more alive.

 

On that note I really dislike it when quests are stricly tied to a chapter (well, sometimes it makes sense of course, like Telos in KotOR...), this forces you to either complete everything before furthering the story or missing out on quests because they'll be gone if you do further the story... This is what I "read" when there's talk about "staggering" quests, I don't like it, it forces me to play a certain way and pits my "omg I wanna know what happens next" against my "noooo, must do all sidequests" and that sucks :( (DA2 was horrible in this respect)

 

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Some very good comments already. But i just thought I'd ask:

 

How many people remember that craptacular quest in Morrowind where the guy wanted first some sort of wedding gown from a bajilion miles away.

 

...and when you got back to him he demanded shoes from the same place...

 

I believe I murdered him.

Mark and recall, baby. Mark and recall.

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I fail to see how it's a silly comparison. A racing game demands constant attention to forward momentum. too much interruption, and everything starts falling apart. But, you're totally free to think it's silly, I suppose.

Also, I was referring to specific games that just take the non-timed system of dialogue, WITH full sentences, then slap in a timer, to "make it more realistic," as if the actual character, in the game, would have to take the time to visually read his choices on a screen and try to figure out how well the game is going to represent the effects of them.

An RPG just isn't really beholden to constant forward momentum, is all. Not unless it's extremely linear (like the static journey of characters through a book's story). So, yes, if the whole thing were timed, it'd be a little like adding exploration into a racing game. "Well, you COULD keep up with those cars over there, OR you could just pull over, get out, and check out this rock formation up-close, and maybe find some cool stuff behind it."

It's one thing to have various choices and consequences and outcomes throughout a game, and another thing entirely to split up the gameplay features of that game, themselves. It's not about having no mutually-exclusive content. It's about not having mutually exclusive gameplay elements. "You could take the time to explore and find some really nice ancient equipment in some crypts, but, by the time you do that, all those combat encounters you would've used such equipment in are already over, as they happened without you."

That sort of thing. That's why I said time-sensitive content is fine, but it's extremely unlikely that having 90% of the game content be time-sensitive wouldn't be problematic in that respect.

 

 

Time sensitivity can be implemented in may ways.

 

And my gripe was with your (another)  Ad Extremis. Remember, it is you who brought in timed dialogue - no one else mentioned it or even wanted it.

 

A RPG isn't a race. And direct comparisons make little sense.

Individual quests may be time sensitive - that doesn't mean they all auto-fail. They might just become more difficult. OR they might fail.

So if you want to make a comparison, it more like a driving game without opponents and with a very generous time allowance, so you CAN stop and go exploring or off-roading, but if you do it all the time you might run out of gas.

 

So no, the gameplay isn't mutually exclusive.

* YOU ARE A WRONGULARITY FROM WHICH NO RIGHT CAN ESCAPE! *

Chuck Norris was wrong once - He thought HE made a mistake!

 

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Some very good comments already. But i just thought I'd ask:

 

How many people remember that craptacular quest in Morrowind where the guy wanted first some sort of wedding gown from a bajilion miles away.

 

...and when you got back to him he demanded shoes from the same place...

 

I believe I murdered him.

Mark and recall, baby. Mark and recall.

 

 

Heck even Skyrimm has its share of craptastic quest locations.   I was on one of those demon quest thing (forgot the name) where the PC got knock unconscious and wake up in another city on the other end of the map, thereby stranding all the quest I was doing around the starting city.    The quest itself is fun but it completely derail my quest scheduling.  

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A RPG isn't a race.

Alas, my point surfaces. Time-sensitivity is fine, until your characters' very existence and breath-taking is time-sensitive, so that the game becomes much like a race. Which it shouldn't resemble.

 

Situational time-sensitivity? Awesome possum. "The sun just moved 20-degrees across the sky, and now 73 situations across the world have changed"? Overboard.

Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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A RPG isn't a race.

Alas, my point surfaces. Time-sensitivity is fine, until your characters' very existence and breath-taking is time-sensitive, so that the game becomes much like a race. Which it shouldn't resemble.

 

Situational time-sensitivity? Awesome possum. "The sun just moved 20-degrees across the sky, and now 73 situations across the world have changed"? Overboard.

 

 

 

Shouldn't?

There is no such thing. There is no "one true way of RPG design" and it depends on the game mechanics, story, pacing and what hte devs want to achieve.

 

There may very well be a part of the game where you really are in a massive hurry and the game becomes a race for a short while. Which is should resemble in that case.

* YOU ARE A WRONGULARITY FROM WHICH NO RIGHT CAN ESCAPE! *

Chuck Norris was wrong once - He thought HE made a mistake!

 

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I disagree completely with Josh.

 

Athkatla was the best part of BGII. There's nothing wrong with being swamped with quests, it creates the great feeling that wherever you go there is something new to do and it makes the location seem alive and full of activity.

 

There's nothing worse than entering a city location and realizing its made with a dozen quests that you can clean out in a day. You're never ever going to visit that in game place again. Why would you, if its designed to be so disposable? It doesn't matter how good it looks, if it doesn't constantly have something for you to do, for all intents and purposes - its dead.

 

With Athkatla you never knew what a new visit would bring.

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И погибе Српски кнез Лазаре,
И његова сва изгибе војска, 
Седамдесет и седам иљада;
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Also, I don't see the problem with a game alternating between open world and linearity. Linearity is needed to tell a good story. If you allow the player to walk away at each juncture it may be realistic but that way you have too little control over the experience.

 

That's why every story in every Elder Scrolls game is utter ****, a quest like any other, and why the games feel pointless after 15 hours of gameplay.

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И погибе Српски кнез Лазаре,
И његова сва изгибе војска, 
Седамдесет и седам иљада;
Све је свето и честито било
И миломе Богу приступачно.

 

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The only problem with the glut of quests at the beginning of BG2 was that they were so obviously unrelated.

 

BG2's overall linearity has a significant cost.  Because the player (and PC) know what the main objective is so early in the game, all of the side-quests suddenly look like side-quests.  You need to do them to raise money, but they don't actually have anything to do with the main villain.

 

Contrast that with BG, where there are a bunch of quests scattered about the countryside, from Beregost to Nashkel and beyond, and there's no real way to tell whether they're related until after the fact.  Bassilus or Brage might have something to do with the iron shortage.  You don't know that until you actually start completeing plot-relevant quests.  And since it's not clear in advance which quests are plot-relevant, they are all more interesting as a result.

 

BG2's approach reminds me of how school children are often taught mathematics.  They're told math is important and useful and that they'll need it later.  That's a great way to make learning math a chore rather than an adventure, and BG2's quest distribution does much the same thing.

 

Instead, though, if quests are merely presented as being something that is fun and possible, and just imagine what you can do with it, that makes the process more engaging.  That the quests actually lead to something is good, but it's not the only reason you're doing them.  You're doing them all, eager to discover where they lead.

 

BG2's concentration of quests in Athkatla is only a problem because of the overall design of the rest of BG2.

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God used to be my co-pilot, but then we crashed in the Andes and I had to eat him.

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I don't see your point. 99% of the time in cRPG's its obvious that a quest is either a side quest or a part of the main quest. In theory you could make a hidden connection between side quests and the main quest but that's just a possibility like any other. Its hardly obligatory to make the main quest a mystery.

 

The only thing that makes quests interesting or dull is the writing and the events that transpire and that goes for all quests whether they be main or side. 

BGII is the actual proof of that, most of the quests there are by far superior to anything seen in BG1 - and they were far more interesting to follow.

И погибе Српски кнез Лазаре,
И његова сва изгибе војска, 
Седамдесет и седам иљада;
Све је свето и честито било
И миломе Богу приступачно.

 

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Shouldn't?

There is no such thing. There is no "one true way of RPG design" and it depends on the game mechanics, story, pacing and what hte devs want to achieve.

 

There may very well be a part of the game where you really are in a massive hurry and the game becomes a race for a short while. Which is should resemble in that case.

Haha. There's not a single true method of RPG design, true... but there is a line between valid and invalid. For example, an RPG "shouldn't" (*gasp*, I used that word again!) be devoid of dialogues and choices. Such a game would fall outside the realm of RPG (as, obviously, some games are RPGs, and some games are not, so something must differentiate them).

 

Also, you can bend my words all you want, but suggesting that a time limit makes the game become a "race" for a while is not the same thing as the gameplay itself mimicking that of a racing game. If it did so, then stopping to pick up items and/or talk to people at all would be bad (as, in a racing game, the ideal effective method of success is to never stop moving forward).

 

If story and dialogues and choices and exploration all become obstacles in the greater goal of your forward progress, then the game becomes self-defeating.

 

Also, I said an RPG (as in the entire game) should not resemble a racing game (as in the entire game), AND even pointed out that I'm fine with situational rushes and time limits for things. So I'm not even sure why you tried to act as though having a portion of the game require you to hurry being valid somehow contradicts what I said. *Les shrugs*

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Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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my problem with BG2's side quests was that you got almost all of them right after your sister gets taken by some unknown authority, to be brought to a place that is nearly impossible to get to (let alone back out), along with the person who has been mercilessly torturing her, and also happens to think imprisonment will just slow him down in his objective to do some unknown thing involving her torture.

 

therefore you know that the longer you wait the greater the chance that he will have done something to either kill her, torture her more, or leave to some place that is even harder to get to.  after this happens you are dropped in a place that has people with their own problems, and your task is to get a bunch of money to get taken to this place.  so far it is ok, but then you get every sort of side quest under the sun, from rescuing children, to helping to make a golem.  there is no option to demand her release from the authorities, or to even steal from the leaders who have imprisoned her.

 

in essence while your sister is possibly dying, you are running around rescuing kittens from trees for a dollar so that you can eventually amass 100 billion dollars so that you can pay for a bus ride to fort knox.  the side quests are great and varied if the plot was different, having options to deal with the problem is fine, but the plot doesn't fit the 'let's kick back and stay in the city for a bit' sort of attitude you have in chapter 2, heck you even take up a residence that requires your constant attention.  if your lawful you would contact the authorities and plead your case, and legally fight for her release (politics galore), if you are evil you may just leave there to fend for herself, and thus the whole plot falls apart.  the plot is for chaotic good/neutral only, while mechanics favor lawful good alignment.

 

the components by themselves are good, they just don't fit together.

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To be honest, the PC doesn't know Irenicus runs the Assylum.

 

As far as he knows, she is just being held prisoner, but alive and well. Not tortured.

 

The PC can talk to a Coweled Wizzard or two, but nothing comes out of it. Honestly I think more interaction with them and more attempts to get Imoen free trough proper channels should have been there.

The cutscenes showing Imoen kinda gave the player info the PC shouldn't know.

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* YOU ARE A WRONGULARITY FROM WHICH NO RIGHT CAN ESCAPE! *

Chuck Norris was wrong once - He thought HE made a mistake!

 

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help, bandits kidnaped my wife and are asking for ransom. they said they will kill her if i dont get them the gold fast. said the merchant to the paladin.

worry not good sir! i will be sure to save her. replied the paladin with confidence... just tell me where they keep her.

in a warehouse at the docks. it's a big red building with lots of shady guys around. you cant miss it. said the grateful merchant

then off we go my friends! said the paladin to his companions as they marched to the resque.

 

2 months later

we came to save the merchant's wife you vile scum. release her and surrender!

as if not a day has passed, the bandits still had the hostage and were waiting for the ransom. the paladin's group killed them all, and took the woman back to her husband, who didnt seem to notice how long it took them to go save her

 

pretty coherent way to make a quest no?

the quests should be made with or without a factor of urgency. if the quest is to change a status quo (like the quest given to you by the 2 founding families of trademeet in BG2) then it has no urgency factor. nothing can happen as long as you dont do anything yourself. however, if its a quest like the poisoned man (still BG2), you should not be able to go around for days or weeks without him dying, before you get him to the harpers.

so if the quest is made in a way that indicates urgency, it should have a time limit.

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The words freedom and liberty, are diminishing the true meaning of the abstract concept they try to explain. The true nature of freedom is such, that the human mind is unable to comprehend it, so we make a cage and name it freedom in order to give a tangible meaning to what we dont understand, just as our ancestors made gods like Thor or Zeus to explain thunder.

 

-Teknoman2-

What? You thought it was a quote from some well known wise guy from the past?

 

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We are hardcore role players... When we go to bed with a girl, we roll a D20 to see if we hit the target and a D6 to see how much penetration damage we did.

 

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