Author Topic: Making solo adventures an option  (Read 5307 times)

Ceronicous

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Making solo adventures an option
« on: July 20, 2012, 11:22:32 AM »
Gonna be frank here and cut things short; we need to make some dungeons solo-able for similarly-leveled characters.

Back in the days I agree it wasn't neccessary in order to encourage player interaction and partying but with the low number of players left(even if it is remarkably high for a game that ten years old) it's not really the same situation. Back in the days you could find a number of equally leveled characters to group up with and do a run or three in an evening. These days, if you are not at epic levels, you'd be lucky to find one or two.

To make it even worse there's still some of us that actually doesn't have a single epic character and since we can't level by ourselves when there's nobody else on we can't catch up with the others which snowball the entire experience into two groups; those that can have adventures together and those that cannot.

I do not mean we should raise the XP per kill or stuff like that, just that some dungeons maybe should have their spawns prepared for solo adventures too. In my personal experience I'm pretty boned when I grind since I either have to solo an impossible dungeon or join people five levels above me in a dungeon where half the mobs can oneshot me with a well-timed critical.

So my question is; is this possible? And if it is, is it likely to happen?
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Sakes

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Re: Making solo adventures an option
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2012, 01:54:23 PM »
Short Answer: While I don't speak for the entire DM staff, I would like there to be solo options, but its hard to implement.

Long Answer:

First of all, understand the dungeons in LOTN are sort of a mish-mash of random enemies and mechanics.  Stick around awhile and you'll learn House is an exp bonanza and no one can clear the end of the minotaur lair at a low enough level to actually get xp for doing it (And it wouldn't be worth doing even if they could).  Anyway, the idea that the encounters are well designed and that we intentionally arrange things to prevent solo adventures isn't true.  It's more like that's just how things happen to be.

The CR system is a mess, and not terribly accurate.  Often it's entirely arbitrary.   We do our best but CR certainly doesn't equate difficulty perfectly.  The net result is a huge variance in difficulty in different zones.   Next is the spawn system which was designed for a single player RPG not a PW which loves spawning loads of effortless stuff... The net result is even for characters with a combat build you can be down to 1 to 2 viable hunting areas at any time.  And characters without a combat build....

Next there is a huge difference in what is and isn't a combat build.  An optimized wizard or sorc is different from a cleric/7 level WM, which is different from a ranger/rogue.   Undead make things easier for paladins and clerics and harder for rogues.  Elementals suck for everyone. 

And the final icing on the cake... how exp works in NWN.   EXP scales very gradually compared to mainstream MMOs because DnD was not designed as a mainstream MMO.   Getting 40xp per kill is just as good at level 1 as it is at level 24, so that makes it very hard to create a lower exp lower difficulty hunting option.

One last niggling problem: How fast you level up is mostly a factor of how much you are willing to grind.  It didn't take years for Rafferty to go from 23 to 25 because of anything other than I simply never bothered.  If you wanted to, you could probably go from 21-25 in a day, if you were willing to just grind over and over.   So... how do you balance exp so that the RPer who spends most of their time in camp and hunts once a day is equal to someone who decides to grind out exp for 8 hours?  Mostly, you don't.

All of course is to be expected when you take a poorly designed and barely functional single player RPG that almost didn't even release and then try to shoehorn it into some type of MMO.


Now, I'm not saying these problems can't be overcome... they surely can.  They just can't be overcome -easily-.  I had the idea of balancing out all the dungeons but it was such a massive undertaking I gave up after the goblin cave.    I only have so many hours in the day and I didn't want to spend them staring at spreadsheets about how many encounters are in a given area and the CR ranges of those encounters and the hit dice, AC, and attack values of the creatures in those encounters... etc...

The bounty system was an attempt to help solve this by giving solo players a way to get exp and cash, but there are a lot of things about the bounty system I'm not satisfied with.  I've considered changing it to two 'tiers' of bounties, one of which would always spawn outside dungeons and provide lesser rewards, the other which would always spawn in dungeons and provide greater rewards.   There is another system I've mulled over in my head as well but again... the question is finding the time and effort to put them all in.

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machmoth

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Re: Making solo adventures an option
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2012, 05:33:20 PM »
Short addendum: There's room for improvement, but soloing in NWN will always suck.

Long addendum:

Indeed, a lot of it has to do with how NWN regards a character or party's power as much as any CR troubles.

Just as an example, if a level 8 trips an encounter, the game will try to generate a CR6 encounter ("try to" being a friendly way of putting it).  If two level 8s do it, it's a CR7 encounter.  Three level 8s make a CR8 encounter.  So, the difficulty difference in terms of enemies generated for a solo character and a burly three-member team is a piddly two level difference.  Like Sakes said, CRs aren't going to be dead-on and no two characters are created equal.  It's pretty likely that in all reality, a solo player is going to be facing challenges almost identical to what a party would face.  It's just how the hard-coded spawn system works.

There's definitely room for improvement in LotN encounters.  Builders have shown growth over the years.  They've moved away from setting the max spawn of everything to 8 and know how the "unique" checkbox works.  They've realized that CR does not mean a Level 8 should be able to solo a group of CR8s (the problem the House currently has), but rather a party of 3 level 8s should be able take on just one CR8.  But many dungeons in LotN are very, very old, and many markers of those old habits still remain.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 05:36:44 PM by machmoth »

Shanra

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Re: Making solo adventures an option
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2012, 08:07:42 PM »
This is why I stick to building pretty areas and no doubt encounters.

As a supplement, maybe we could consider raising the frequency of rp xp, and/or the amount it gives you. This way,  at least,  ring feels more like a viable option than going nowhere.

HazNpho

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Re: Making solo adventures an option
« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2012, 12:22:05 AM »
Thought I'd add some input. Mainly because this came up a week or so ago...

Anyways, as it stands, the current XP system makes it pointless to group with people x levels above you, this I assume is to prevent powerleveling. However... It also hinders RP... As a NEW-ish player, trying to relearn the world, a guide would be a godsend. Downside is, that NO individuals that are level appropriate exist.

On my old server I had a custom scripted XP system that altered the XP given based upon CR of the mob, and your current level. This may not be an exact match for this server, but the idea was this;

x = Calculated XP based on CR of creature vs Player Killer + Group, etc...
y = Minimum XP Gainable (Mainly because LOW level creatures ended up granting 1 XP or less based upon variables such as multiclassing)
z = Maximum Attainable, based on 3x character level at the time of my server going down.

If(x<y) then(x=y)
Elseif(x>z) then(x=z)

This allowed a level 25 to group with a level 5, without leveling them so fast that they were powerleveling.

I know a lot would need to be adapted to the above equations, especially seeing as creatures here net 20-140 as far as I've seen. I just thought I'd throw this out there and see what the thoughts were.


I  also had a custom spawn system that prevented the spawns from appearing behind you, and the spawns increasing in number based on your level. It included a random chance boss, or a dedicated boss creature, as well as Extreme Chance spawns. (Our kobolds could spawn a dragon on like 0.05% chance)

Anyways, that's the end of my two cents, feel free to tell me to keep my nose out of it >.<

HazNpho

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Re: Making solo adventures an option
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2012, 12:40:05 AM »
The CR system is a mess, and not terribly accurate.  Often it's entirely arbitrary.   We do our best but CR certainly doesn't equate difficulty perfectly.  The net result is a huge variance in difficulty in different zones.   Next is the spawn system which was designed for a single player RPG not a PW which loves spawning loads of effortless stuff... The net result is even for characters with a combat build you can be down to 1 to 2 viable hunting areas at any time.  And characters without a combat build....
Custom spawn systems are an option, but tedious to implement at this point in a modules life. But like most of the game, it was designed around single player as you said, and has screwed a lot of mechanics and settings up.

Next there is a huge difference in what is and isn't a combat build.  An optimized wizard or sorc is different from a cleric/7 level WM, which is different from a ranger/rogue.   Undead make things easier for paladins and clerics and harder for rogues.  Elementals suck for everyone. 
Agreed, and so far the world is good with equal opportunity dungeons, such as the goblins, undead, forest creatures (be it a small population) etc...

And the final icing on the cake... how exp works in NWN.   EXP scales very gradually compared to mainstream MMOs because DnD was not designed as a mainstream MMO.   Getting 40xp per kill is just as good at level 1 as it is at level 24, so that makes it very hard to create a lower exp lower difficulty hunting option.
This is possible to alter with a custom XP script vs NWN's default, much like you have done the loot system. And this also goes back to your first statement of the design of the game, it was built around single player.


The bounty system was an attempt to help solve this by giving solo players a way to get exp and cash, but there are a lot of things about the bounty system I'm not satisfied with.  I've considered changing it to two 'tiers' of bounties, one of which would always spawn outside dungeons and provide lesser rewards, the other which would always spawn in dungeons and provide greater rewards.   There is another system I've mulled over in my head as well but again... the question is finding the time and effort to put them all in.

While I like this system, especially since my character was ORIGINALLY designed to be a bounty hunter... As a rogue it is like a kick in the teeth for some of these bounties. The ones that are out in the open, I can take, but when I have to crawl a dungeon, I may as well be taking down a tree with a nail file.

My cleric is another matter, he can in most cases make it to most of the bounties, I just don't know where half the areas are, and the few times I have tried to find out, I have been given directions that eventually got me lost, or politely told that they cannot help me because they are too high of a level. Which is slightly disheartening.

Ceronicous

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Re: Making solo adventures an option
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2012, 08:51:00 AM »
So a solo system would then be infeasible to make at this stage of the module's life? Damn. =/

Also, raising RP XP is good but only a stopgap solution since the problem still arise frequently when there's three 20+ out of four players on the server and the fourth dude is left at the camp.
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HazNpho

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Re: Making solo adventures an option
« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2012, 09:24:29 PM »
A solo system is feasible, it is the revamp of the current system that would be a kicker. However, that means room for dungeons would be needed, and I don't know that much about the map sadly.

AelrynBloodmoon

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Re: Making solo adventures an option
« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2012, 10:11:09 PM »
While I like the direction this thread is going in because I'm a big fan of progress in game worlds, both with regards to story-wise continuity and mechanical growth, let me take a quick step backwards, and address Cero's direct problem if I can a little bit.

I've got three epic level characters- a wizard, a cleric, and a ranger/rogue/assassin. Beyond that, I've got a level 14 weaponmaster type and a level... 13? sounds right, bard.

The level of suck in soloing on this server varies based on your class, but in my experience, there are DEFINITELY solo-able zones that will present a challenge to you but still be manageable with most all of the varying classes and roles you might elect to play unless you specifically build a character DESIGNED to be helpless. I won't deconstruct the entire server's leveling methods or algorithms or anything like that, but here's a general guideline for places you can solo with some special notes about things that can be done to make them significantly easier on you in the event you're soloing or areas you may want to specifically pursue based on your class.

Levels 2-5
Realistically, for this level bracket, everyone on the server can do fantastic simply by wandering around Neverwinter Forest and skinning pelts- when badgers stop being worth enough gold, you go and look for wolves- and run from the bears if you're a stealth type or a cleric without summons, cause they'll eat you.

Good stops for loot at this level is the bat cave and near level 5, the ant cave. Avoid the kobold cave unless you have a CHEAP, REPEATABLE method to deal with poisons. 5-10 healing kits at this level will consume up any profit you make from hunting and then some, so healing kits do not qualify. (Hint: Find some cacti.)

Special note: A level 5 cleric with protection from negative energy has a special bonus for himself and his potential party- go find the shadows/wraiths in the forest- you'll make a killing on each one, and you'll be immune to everything they can do- they continue to be good xp well into level 6 or 7, IIRC.

A similar xp rocket for this level stage can be found by fighting willo-wisps if you can find a reliable way to prevent small amounts of electrical damage, and they likewise are decent until around level 6 or 7.


Level 6-10

Choices, choices, decisions, decisions. Right about now, a first time player is starting to feel a little braver. You might want to go hunting for as many wolves and bears as you can find for a while, the pelts are good gold and the fighting isn't too hectic- add a friend into the mix and you've got some relaxed banter while you level up. Lipalli island isn't a bad place to go for cat pelts around level 8+ either for some decent gold with minimal risk.

The bugbear fort isn't a bad option- just remember to pick up an archer's belt on the way there. Every group of bugbears you spawn will have archers that will start shooting you from across the screen, usually from atop platforms. If you run around the battlefield carefully you can break their line of sight and minimize the danger, but it's still better to have that belt. Make it to the end and you'll find some decent loot. Breakdown of the difficulties by archetype.

Stealthers: You guys are still pretty weak against large groups at once- minimize this weakness. Get your stealth high enough so that you can sneak up onto the platforms where the archers are. When you drop out of stealth for that first attack the first archer should drop almost immediately, and the second one is drawing attacks of opportunity for every arrow he shoots at you. As soon as the archers on the platform are down, run into the corner provided by the walls of the platform and stealth out of sight. Start kiting the melee ones up the ramp with sneak attacks and use the corners to hide. Knockdown will greatly help you and should be picked up as soon as possible to repeatedly inflict sneaks.

Fighters: You guys probably have the least problem here. Beef up your AC, get an archer's belt, break line of sight as often as possible when travelling through your encounters with the archers- you want to get to the platform ramps as well. Plunk down on the ramp and knockdown anything that tries to run up it after you kill the archers. You won't be able to stealth, but they won't be able to swarm you because there will be prone bugbears block the path up the ramp the whole time.

Mages, Druids Druids (and clerics, really, but you should be leveling on the wraiths or the tomb if you're a cleric) act like a fighter that doesn't need healing kits- with a summoned meatshield. Mages want to make sure their familiar as well as a summoned servant of some sort is up to soak as many arrows as possible. Prioritize the archers first with your spells because the summons will buy you any time you may need to retreat from the melee types until you decide how to dispose of them.

Bards: Sorry guys, you're a little screwed here without a party until level 8, but the truth is that's misleading in that it's true everywhere ever. Follow the same basic line of sight and high ground positioning strategy a fighter follows, and use any summons you have available at this level to soak the arrows on the way there. A sling or bow for kiting from the platform to minimize your own exposure and lure the enemies will help a lot, and don't forget to take that healing spell when you level up. Curse song is an amazing bonus, especially at level 8 onwards, DOUBLING the impact of your bard song on each fight for twice the music charges and at later levels inflicting free damage.

Tomb outside of Llast

Stealthers: Don't bother without a party.

Fighters: Load up on healing supplies before you come here. Expect to spend most of your profits on staying alive unless you have a regen item.

Mages: Open EVERY fight with a fireball- pretty much every single encounter can be mostly handled (or rendered easy mop-up for your familiar) by patiently waiting for the mobs to chase you (or walk of their own accord while you're invisible) into a choke point and throwing a single fireball. Nothing here is resistant to fire damage. If you're soloing, set your pride aside and hurl flames.

Cleric: ...you know, on second thought, if you NEED to read this, I'm not sure it will help you. You're a cleric surrounded by similar level undead. Just in case you weren't aware, there's this neat feature called "Turn Undead!"    But if you insist on doing things the hard way, you can always act like a tankier mage.

Druid: Like a mage, but more HP, and "Call Lightning," which only requires you to be standing in the middle of a screen of enemies for you to basically kill EVERYTHING you can see.  If you want to do things the "hard" way, however, there's a special trick for you to be aware of. Druids can have THREE "pets" at any one time- their companion, a summon, and any monstrous animal you might've found a soft spot for that you can Empathy... (you'd be surprised what you can Empathy on this server... there is even a non-hostile dire-bear floating around somewhere just waiting for a friend...)

Levels 10+

There is a dungeon called the House Forgotten. Some classes can solo this much easier than others. Sakes wasn't kidding. It's possible to traverse levels 9-18 here. The loot is fantastic, and makes most other dungeons you might consider going to in this level range obsolete if your intention is to solo/grind.

I disagree with Sakes about the Minotaur lair- it's a difficult trip, but Zato & Testament (as well as both solo) used the zone for quick xp and decent loot when we couldn't be bothered to try to traverse the whole underdark associated with the House (as well as the fact that we hated having to run back out because we weren't strong enough to finish the whole underdark for a while.)   However, it IS true that certain classes are committing either literal or financial suicide by trying to solo the minotaur lair.  Sneaks can get by assuming they have a reusable source of invisibility and/or darkness, but those lucky axe crits are still going to hurt a lot more than you're gonna want to deal with.

Mages, clerics, druids, and even bards however, can do alright in the minotaur lair. (Minotaurs are very vulnerable to will save spells, and confusion is a low level spell for a bard that can cause the enemy to tear themselves up while you sit invisible and pick them off as they separate from each other.) Strong melee types with a good AC will also do fairly well up until about midway through the second level when the firebrand minotaurs start showing up.


Hope this helps!
« Last Edit: July 21, 2012, 10:21:20 PM by AelrynBloodmoon »
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TheMadPoet

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Re: Making solo adventures an option
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2012, 04:22:50 AM »
I'm probably the slowest leveling player in LOTN history... but I can say that it isn't terribly hard to solo. Karena, my full wizard character, has probably partied 4 times between 2-20th level. Utilizing the right summons as a wizard let me transverse most dungeons well. The variety you can summon helps a lot in areas like the Harpies where summoning undead lets you avoid nasty will saves, and throwing mage armor on almost every summon grants them a +4 AC to soak up attack rolls while you pelt the enemy with spells. House was almost a joke for my mage with that tactic and a few spells to increase my earth elementals AC and AB.

I found the biggest hurdle was finding which dungeons to attack by yourself at what level. Harpies were simple with a high damage summon... AC wasn't too much of an issue and worse case a Protection from Evil fixed that. House was great. Best to carry multiple summons though. With an elemental with enough DR the warriors and rogues can't even hurt them, but the clerics and hammer of the gods cause gradual damage.

Though I found that upon reaching 18+ levels any place that gives good XP is HARD alone without relying on a lot of Greater Sanctuary, Summon Monster 9 or BBoD, and empowered firebrands. Without a real fighter PC, or at least something with great AC and AB like a buffed priest most areas are death sentences for a wizard alone. If anyone has suggestions let me know... but it hurts up there along @_@

I think what I'd love to see are more repeatable quests like the bounties. Deliveries, find an item in random loot, kill an NPC (not a bounty, but assassin contract type), and maybe even Forgotten Realms trivia quests for those of us willing to search lore or something. Might break up that 'Slaughtering Chitines again.... how wonderfully droll...." feeling one can get. It also makes those higher and really low levels, or those times where it's hard to find a party for dangerous dungeons, more manageable.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2012, 04:33:30 AM by TheMadPoet »

AelrynBloodmoon

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Re: Making solo adventures an option
« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2012, 05:46:31 AM »
Poet: From levels 15 onwards as a solo wizard, particularly if you didn't give up access to conjuration (although really even without it) I'd recommend mount frostbite.

Creative use of darkness spells, darkvision (or truesight if it's part of your standard buff line-up as it tends to be mine) and some well placed firebrands will do the job nicely. Add some stilled and empowered versions, and some delayed blast fireballs and some regular fireballs. Horrid Wiltings for the shamans with elemental resistances up, empowered delayed blast fireballs for when you're strong enough to make it up to the yeti- you're going to want an extremely well buffed summon, else you'll want to stand next to it in Greater Sanctuary and heal the daylights out of it. The yeti is a pain- you might be better off burning the wand to recall to camp before that last room, since ninja-looting is illegal and you may not be able to burst him down quickly enough depending on how he rolls for saves.
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Anoran

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Re: Making solo adventures an option
« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2012, 10:03:20 AM »
Aelryn: The yeti is missing now, actually. I've been trying to recover it, but apparently it's gone. I may recreate it (though I have no idea what stats it had, since I've never fought it).

Poet: There are courier quests now. Check the server updates book when you login :P

As for my two coppers on soloing dungeons... It's very well possible for many characters, but unfortunately it often relies on the same tactic over and over again, which can get rather boring. Then there are some particular builds that can't handle soloing at all, but that's rare. The real problem is being able to solo dungeons at higher levels (particularly epic) when you're not a strong melee fighter. It's a tricky thing to do, to design monsters that are challenging for a party and yet at the same time not too difficult for a lone adventurer.
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AelrynBloodmoon

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Re: Making solo adventures an option
« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2012, 05:07:25 PM »
Neutral: Hmm... weird. Let me find some time to set aside for a run and I'll see if I can proc him for you. It may be that he's a group spawn only? I know some of the spawns on the server change a bit depending on the strength of the group.

MadPoet: Given Neutral's input, since you mentioned you were 18+, there's another decent farming zone for you if you can pull it off, on the way to Mt. Frost- the Duergar Caves.

You will NEED a level 9 earth elemental summon or possibly a BBoD to survive this place, because as a mage you're going to explode if they run up to you in a group and start sneak attacking you for any length of time- Premonition drops fast with epic level sneaks.  Horrid Wilting is your best friend here- Ice Storms and empowered/maximized versions are also good. Missile Storms (lesser and greater) are AoE group blasting spells now, so those are also decent selections. Do NOT rely on spells with a reflex save. If you're really really lucky you might be able to dominate one of the duergar warriors to help tank for you.

XP is decent and the loot is amazing. Dungeon length is also short. This is one of the two locations where Zato & Testament found most of their prime arms to sell to other people- including paladins- the proceeds of which went to building a temple of Myrkul....  ;D
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Anoran

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Re: Making solo adventures an option
« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2012, 02:45:26 AM »
Aelryn: I've checked the spawns and the palette, Aelryn. There's no Yeti to be found - it's not in the module at all. The last time the yeti was still in the module, if I recall correctly, was around early 2010. If anyone has a copy of the module from then, zip/rar it up and send it to my email.

Poet: Careful with the duergar. They're not too much trouble for a summon-tanking wizard... Until you hit level 21. Then you start spawning epic level duergar. Those guys are nasty. Only way you can really deal with them then, is by going greater sanc and summoning BBoD after BBoD (I recommend making scrolls, since this can take a while.).
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Alec Stann: Yes, it's through an arcane process I like to call 'Selling the Lead'.

tsunami282

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Re: Making solo adventures an option
« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2012, 03:33:41 AM »
The Great Yeti has been on extended vacation, visiting his cousin the Great American Skunkape. I've heard from him recently and he wants to assure all his fans that he'll be back very soon, don't you worry!
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