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One of the more interesting topics on the Wasteland 2 forums was a series of posts by the community on interesting encounter ideas. I think that might also be a useful topic here, so how about it? Do you have a brief but unique idea for an encounter or a short side quest in the P:E setting? It doesn't have to be anything fancy, just something unique or memorable.

 

I'll throw a quick one out there to get the topic rolling:
 

The party is alerted to an incident when they hear a high pitched screech coming from down the road. If they investigate, the find a pair of guards stationed at the back end of a covered wagon. Based upon the movements of the wagon and the muffled noises, something odd is going on under the cover. The guards tell the party to stay back saying it's the business of the local Lord.

 

If the party is persistent, the guards will keep warning the party up until the moment that conflict seems imminent, whereupon they will back away shouting, "'We've got visitors, Ser Ederich!" The head of a dark-haired, thicky-bearded man will poke out of the wagon looking non too pleased. His arms seem preoccupied with a struggling form. The party has just enough time for one quick question before a surprisingly nimble old woman bursts out and leaps to the ground screaming, "you'll pay for this! You'll all pay!" When she cackles and runs away into the bushes, the bearded man yells, "catch her you fools!"

 

The old woman is actually the Lord's younger daughter, who is a sorceress cursed with premature aging by a witch in order to get back at her father. Her horrific form has driven her mad and the man, the Lord's steward, Alton Ederich, was merely trying to subdue her and return her to her father. When cornered, the woman is willing to fight back and will prove surprisingly stubborn and perhaps even formidable. Somehow the party needs to resolve the situation without angering the local nobility.

 

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"It has just been discovered that research causes cancer in rats."

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Snobby opinion time!

 

There's a lot of metrics by which you can judge this, but I think that by far the most important one is this: What does this situation tell me about the world I'm in? The problem with coming up with these things in isolation like this is that no matter how detailed and involved and Morally Ambiguous and Consequence-Filled you make a situation, it's ultimately meaningless without context to tie it to the larger world and campaign. Without context all you are is a DM stalling for time, and the best you can hope for is to get your act back together before the players catch on and get bored.

 

Like, here's an example from Jade Empire. What I wanna talk about is a conversation you can have with a guy named Old Ming, down on the beach in the starting town tending to a statue of the emperor. You go down to meet him as part of a side quest to get some herb you need to heal someone, but if you want you can just stand there and listen to him ramble on about various things. It sounds boring but honestly it was my favorite part of the entire game. I listened everything Old Ming had to say, then I listened to it all again, then I listened to everything he had to say a third time to make sure I didn't miss anything. I could have listened to him talk for hours without getting bored.

 

I was so fascinated with Old Ming's dialogue because it painted a picture of an unfamiliar, fantastic world, and it made me want to keep asking questions and find out more about it. Probably the best example of this is the conversation you and Ming can have about the long drought and the emperor: What this conversation painted for me was a society where the relationship between the government and the citizenry is very different from in our world: In our society people assume the folks in charge have no idea what they're doing and question their decisions without a second thought. But Old Ming completely, and blindly, accepts the wisdom of the Emperor's actions, without even knowing what they were. In another game Old Ming might have been a political strawman, there only to make us feel good about ourselves, but Ming isn't a slavering fanatic, he's a perfectly intelligent man who makes reasonable and passionate arguments for what he believes. Even if for just a moment this line makes you second-guess yourself and look deeper at your own ideas, and that makes it brilliant.

 

(Unfortunately I played through the rest of Jade Empire hoping for another Old Ming, and never found one. It was just a bunch of terrible kung fu movie plot bull****, but with well-choreographed fight scenes replaced with a clunky button masher of a combat system. Oh well. Dear Obsidian: More Old Ming, less Dawn Star. Yuck.)

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Those are very quality notions, Micamo, but I don't think anyone's suggesting that we implement completely standalone little events and happenings that have nothing to do with the rest of the game world and are poorly written. Making sure it ties into the world is a good thing to consider, so you don't mess it up, but I don't think anything about a lord's daughter being cursed with an aging disease and everyone involved having to figure out how to deal with that in real time in the game world, and the main character/party bumping into them whilst traveling, inherently fails to tie into the rest of the world.

 

I agree that it would be better for us to come up with them in the context of the rest of the game's design, and not in isolation. But, this is the best we can do. And the general structure/idea behind such quests/events can easily be carried over into the specific context of the game world. The local lord can be any type of lord he needs to be, with any type of relationship with Sir Ederech that he needs to have, and yet his daughter can still have been cursed to age improperly, and the player can still choose how to react to such a situation.

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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And the general structure/idea behind such quests/events can easily be carried over into the specific context of the game world. The local lord can be any type of lord he needs to be, with any type of relationship with Sir Ederech that he needs to have, and yet his daughter can still have been cursed to age improperly, and the player can still choose how to react to such a situation.

Actually I think the problem is a bit bigger than you may realize.

 

Let's take the example of a pretty good side quest: Dealing with Angyar in Torment. Angyar's quest has to do with the role of the Dustmen in the Hive and their philosophy. Let's see what happens when we strip this context out of it:

 

Angyar got himself into a bad deal he now regrets and wants out of. Go talk to Mortai to get him out of it, then go talk to Angyar again.

Now let's see what happens when you go further and strip out even MORE context:

 

Talk to person A, then get a thing from person B, then go back to person A.

Oh no, it looks like Angyar's quest is just a cleverly disguised fed-ex quest, straight out of World of Warcraft! What are we ever going to do?

 

 

The reason why I think context is the most important factor in judging a quest is because, without it, *everything* boils down to stupid fetch quests/fedex quests/kill 10 boars quests.

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^ You can actually do that with anything. It's the context that makes it important. If your companions were all cubes devoid of personality, you could have the exact same quests and interactions in place, and they'd be pretty meaningless. It's the fact that they're well-written, "human"-like people with virtual psyche's to which we can relate that makes helping Zerich so much more meaningful than helping personality-less cube A with the exact same dilemma.

 

I'm not saying you just insert names and go. You insert context.

 

Hell, Lord of the Rings was really just "take Item A to Location B," if you wanna get down to it. It's what item A WAS and where location B WAS and what all was entailed with everything in between that made it more than that.

 

The reason a fed-ex quest in World of Warcraft is even referred to as a "fed-ex quest from World of Warcraft" is because of World of Warcraft's lack of tying that quest into the world, not the fact that you're getting something at a location and taking it to another location.

 

I really do understand what you're getting at. You don't want these isolated things to be created, then just jammed into the world of P:E without making them fit. But that's not what has to happen. Before you fit a diamond into the setting of a ring, you've got to dig up a raw diamond. You didn't need the ring setting for the diamond to exist. You just needed it to know how to refine the raw diamond so that it properly fits.

Edited by Lephys

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 really do understand what you're getting at. You don't want these isolated things to be created, then just jammed into the world of P:E without making them fit. But that's not what has to happen. Before you fit a diamond into the setting of a ring, you've got to dig up a raw diamond. You didn't need the ring setting for the diamond to exist. You just needed it to know how to refine the raw diamond so that it properly fits.

And I think this type of design is backwards: The right way is to design the world first, then think of ways to engage the player and make them interested in that world. Meaning first, mechanics second. Making up the mechanics and then trying to figure out how to give them meaning is just plain silly.

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And I think this type of design is backwards: The right way is to design the world first, then think of ways to engage the player and make them interested in that world. Meaning first, mechanics second. Making up the mechanics and then trying to figure out how to give them meaning is just plain silly.

A) That's pretty much how all games are made. "Hey, what if there was a game in which you had to talk to people, and they'd react in different ways depending on what you said. Also, there could be maybe a cool, tactical combat system, with swords and magic!" "Yeah! Sounds like a good idea" "Cool, let's hash out all those people that you'd use that dialogue system with, 8D!"

 

B) I do seriously understand what there is to take from what you're saying, and, again, the only reason we're coming up with these in isolation from the rest of the game is because we cannot will ourselves to become Obsidian team members. But, they can still read ideas and be inspired to make up similar things in the context of all the other specifics of the actual game world that they know about and we don't.

 

It's not as if they come up with a whole world full of 1,000s of NPCs, THEN they decide who should be what. "Hmm, maybe Steve should be a merchant, since he's very merchanty." "Yeah, but he wasn't merchanty until you made him merchanty. You could've just said 'Hmm, I'll make a merchanty person who'll be a merchant, and his name shall be Steve' and gone from there."

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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There's a lot of metrics by which you can judge this, but I think that by far the most important one is this: What does this situation tell me about the world I'm in? The problem with coming up with these things in isolation like this is that no matter how detailed and involved and Morally Ambiguous and Consequence-Filled you make a situation, it's ultimately meaningless without context to tie it to the larger world and campaign. Without context all you are is a DM stalling for time, and the best you can hope for is to get your act back together before the players catch on and get bored.

 

True, but we lack sufficient information to readily fit it into the larger context so that task would need to be left to the game designers. Hence your point is moot. Now, do you have any interesting ideas for encounters?

Edited by rjshae

"It has just been discovered that research causes cancer in rats."

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I far prefer the Angyar Dead Contract quest to the exposition on the beach with the old man at the shrine, for any number of reasons.

 

One, we get a look into the lives and trials of the ordinary sigil native.

Two, we are given a quest so that we become involved rather than just listening to a stereotypical conservative caricature talking at us.

Three, we have a choice in how to complete the quest and thus affect the world around us.

Four, we are introduced to the Dustman factions interactions with the natives of Sigil, and the Dead Contracts are explored in more detail.

Five, we are introduced to a hint of our own backstory and the possibility that we might well have signed many such contracts, and that just like with Angyar there is a cost.

Six, we are introduced to a little more of Planescape weird and wonderful world through interacting with it, thus following that most important of all novelists rules show don't tell.

Seven, we become used to a few more words of the chant, though in truth being English I was allready a little familiar with many of the terms.

Eight, through my attitudes and handling of the quest I can define my own character, taking into account what Mortai Gravesend revealed.

 

This for me is what a quest should do every time, exposition is cheap and can be doled out at any point, but actual interaction and change affecting the gameworld and yourself is far more valuable. After all we're playing in an interactive medium not reading a novel, though I personally like both passtimes.

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Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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I agree: The best moments of Jade Empire are easily eclipsed by even the worst moments in Torment. My point though was that even something as simple as listening to an old man ramble on about politics can be made interesting by the context and worldbuilding involved.

 

(A caveat: While the flashback you get while signing the contract was a chilling and unforgettable moment, I don't count it as part of Angyar's quest, since you can see it without ever meeting Angyar and you can complete his quest without signing a contract yourself. It's content that you're exposed to in the process of doing Angyar's quest, but that's not the same thing as the content being a part of it.)

 

A) That's pretty much how all games are made. "Hey, what if there was a game in which you had to talk to people, and they'd react in different ways depending on what you said. Also, there could be maybe a cool, tactical combat system, with swords and magic!" "Yeah! Sounds like a good idea" "Cool, let's hash out all those people that you'd use that dialogue system with, 8D!"

An unfortunately reality, indeed. "Everyone else does it" is no excuse for bad practices, however.

 

It's not as if they come up with a whole world full of 1,000s of NPCs, THEN they decide who should be what. "Hmm, maybe Steve should be a merchant, since he's very merchanty." "Yeah, but he wasn't merchanty until you made him merchanty. You could've just said 'Hmm, I'll make a merchanty person who'll be a merchant, and his name shall be Steve' and gone from there."

That's not really what I meant.

 

I'm not exactly qualified as a writer, so here's a painfully obvious idea as an example: Project Eternity could easily use its post-medieval setting as an opportunity to explore enlightenment ideas. There's a strange dissonance between an intellectual movement based on reason and requiring evidence for claims and Fantasy settings where the assumption is that All Myths Are True. The easy answer is to dump one (this is a world where Logic Does Not Work) or the other (people believe lots bull**** and you can't trust what they say), but the interesting answer is that they can be reconciled. How? Why? A clever quest writer (that is, not me) could come up with situations that explore this question.

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One of the stated intents of the Kickstarter was to explore a fantasy world with a realistic set of consequence for the fantastic elements, surely that's exactly what you're asking for?

 

Edit: Oh and forget point five then if you wish.

Edited by Nonek

Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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An unfortunately reality, indeed. "Everyone else does it" is no excuse for bad practices, however.

That wasn't at all the point. The point was all games are made that way because it is inherent to the process of making a game. How do you even know how much world/story you need if you don't have ideas for mechanics, first? "Alright, we've got this awesome world. Now let's make Tetris!"

 

Sort of like "Hey, all things seem to be pulled toward the earth's surface." Now you decide to account for gravity. You don't say "well just because everything else is being pulled to the surface of the earth, that's no excuse for accounting for gravity."

 

That's not really what I meant.

 

I'm not exactly qualified as a writer, so here's a painfully obvious idea as an example: Project Eternity could easily use its post-medieval setting as an opportunity to explore enlightenment ideas. There's a strange dissonance between an intellectual movement based on reason and requiring evidence for claims and Fantasy settings where the assumption is that All Myths Are True. The easy answer is to dump one (this is a world where Logic Does Not Work) or the other (people believe lots bull**** and you can't trust what they say), but the interesting answer is that they can be reconciled. How? Why? A clever quest writer (that is, not me) could come up with situations that explore this question.

And that's yet another lovely idea and example. However, it's still not mutually exclusive with specific situation details. Do people in your world in which awesome writers write in these concepts not have lords and/or daughters? Is there not magic? Is there transformative magic? Do they have roads, upon which lord's daughters might travel, and might not these daughters be escorted by men trusted by the lord? Could not the main character/party also travel upon these same roads, and coincidentally encounter one of these lord's daughters, who happens to have (it turns out, but is not immediately known to the player) befallen an unfortunate, transformative magical curse? Could not the players now make a decision as to how to handle the situation at hand, all whilst everyone explores the question of whether or not everyone simply believes everything or people actually think maybe logic dictates what's true and what isn't?

 

I'm just not seeing how quest/situation ideas in this thread are incapable of inspiring in-context ideas for the development team. There is value in your words, Micamo. But "this thread is pointless and the very idea behind it is inherently problematic" is not part of that value, unfortunately.

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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