Spent most of the first day installing, updating then downloading plugins and what not. Discovered a number of plugins that I didn't even know I had and never used. When loading up the toolset I received two nasty error messages about the non-updated plugins. I decided that since I had no clue when or why I got them that I could probably do with out them.
I won't spend too much time talking about my opinion of the game since I am a month late and a number have already written up their thoughts and the debates on the vault and such. But I can say that I found some parts very interesting and others disappointing.
The biggest short fall for me is the conversations. With the right characters in the party I can pretty much do everything or at least have the option to with the first play through. I find the conversations to be shallow and unbelievable. The interjections could be nice in some areas but being able to have the main conversation with every character is difficult for me. I guess I would prefer some check on the main conversation nodes so that only the party leader could move the conversation forward and the party members could jump in with their skills/race/class/etc to help the party leader. I also miss the cutscene views with the lips flapping and the flamboyant arms waving around. The cohorts are also disappointing with their conversations. I have a dinosaur druid guy who could have been used to introduce a bit more of the land, lore and all that stuff since this is a new location but instead I can tell him to either leave or never mind. All the cohorts have this two line option and offer you very little information about their back story, history of the land or the story in general.
The overland map is fun but a little overwhelming. After a few hours of play I decided to download E.C. Patterson's SoZ Overland Encounter Reducer (BETA). I have been going with the 50% now that I am up to the Sword Coast I think I may drop down to 33%. I do like the idea of the overland map and how it is implemented, the skill checks and movement speeds changes. I see a lot of potential for the community with additions and modifications. Some of the areas off of the world map seemed slightly pointless and very small. Other then bragging points for beating the snot out of a dozen odd monster there isn't much that these areas add to the game. Most of them have no story behind them and have little effect that I have seen on the story in general. Slightly different point but why do all the jungle town's all have the same common room in their inns? I know that it saves time to duplicate an area but that little effort is definitely noticed in game play.
Some changes I have been think about while wandering the overland map are adding more factions to the wandering monsters and linking the random locations to the wandering monsters. Right now the monsters only attack the player's party and the guards walking the roads. I think it would be interesting to add in some food chain and territory battles between the monsters. Giant spiders would probably be just as happy to eat a group of kobolds as a group of adventurers. The random areas could also be linked to the monsters. If the player wipes out a couple of goblin caves there should be a noticeable decrease in the number of goblin encounters on the world map. So as you take out more bases you make the map safer to explore. While an area is still untouched by the player there should be a higher chance for that monster in the perimeter around the base. Those encounters would also protect their territory from wander monster that could be deemed a threat.
So there are some of my thoughts. I am sure that some of this could be done but honestly I haven't even looked at any of this in the toolset or any of the scripts that handle this system. I am just trying to explain why I am wiping out all these random caves and ruins while trying to provide some benefit other then just experience and some loot.
What about Risen Hero?
It will not be using the party conversation and it will remain a single character game, the additional party members will all be companions that are created for the game with hefty conversations. The world map will not be implemented in the current work but there is always the option in future stuff.
I don't have a screen shot but I have been playing with the Tentacled Horror, replacing the wraith with a tinted black/purple yuan-ti guardian. So far I have only done it in the toolset but I like the look and will need to run a in game test at some point. Once that is done I will share the results and screen shots here.
I have been slowly working on the wrapping up the conversations on the third module while trying not to get too much into the area design for the fourth module. For my news years resolution I have decided that I need to get a bit more organized with my modding, I don't want to end up like one of the Lost that appeared in my Halloween module. The week before Christmas I started to gather all my notes, spread sheets, diagrams, multiple word documents and random thoughts I haven't written down and consolidate them together. So far I have a 19 page document that is steadily growing but having everything in one place will definitely help wrap this up. If everything goes as planned play-testing should start in the summer some time, which will be about the two year mark. But there is a lot of work to do before I even get back into the toolset. I need to begin the process of updating all my 2das with SOZ and Kaedrin's PrC pack. At some point I also need to start creating HAK packs, up until now I have been using the override with multiple folders to organize everything to make updating and adding material easier. I also want to look at the death and bleeding system and possibly implement that, but I will need to check the balancing and adding raise dead stuff for the starting characters.
Well there it is my epic post.