Dialog Status Update
What hasn't taken a back seat is The Maimed God's Saga. When last I updated my status on November 25th, I had completed 28 dialogs covering 17,132 words. My tally now stands at 55 dialogs and 37,967 words, and I have some work done on an additional 3 dialogs. I estimate I have 15 dialogs left (including the 3 I've already started) and about 30,000 words left in Act II. Yes, that means the big ones - Tancred, Verona, and Jellica - are still left.
I mentioned a while back that ever since reading some of the (well-deserved) criticism for the romances in MotB, I have been struggling with how to do the influence system "right." This is becoming even more important the more I weave the companions into the story. As of yet, I am still allowing the players to park the companions in the tavern and conduct the investigation in Navatranaasu by themselves, but I have to admit that the experience in that case would be so butchered that I'm heavily contemplating necessitating the companions. However, I hate companions being forced on the player when it happens to me, so I'm very conflicted.
That said, I am forced to admit that, given the situation the PC and companion find themselves in, the PC would almost have to slap the companion regularly to produce a truly soured relationship. The main mechanism I'm using to provide a plausible quick development of a relationship is the fact that the two are isolated away from civilization against heavy odds with only each other to rely on for support. As the pair pushes past certain obstacles, it is only natural that rapport would build quickly, quite independently of any words.
I'm actually in a stream-of-consciousness mode now because I really don't know how I'm going to do this. I'm easily spending 50% of the development effort on these two characters, and I can see why others opt for the "say 6 nice things and you can bed me down" paradigm, but I so loathe that that I will not cave. The answer simply must be found!
So I come back to my two-axis idea. On the x-axis is "Trust," but this will almost certainly continue to rise as the module plays out, obstacles are overcome, and enemies are defeated. If we have the x-axis on a -100 to +100 scale, maybe a word here or there would result in a +/-1 shift, but every completed stage of the quest would result in +5. By the end of the adventure, this would result in, say, a +50 bias to the axis, which would make it almost impossible for the player to be mistrusted. And that's not a bad thing; after all, the two would have been through a lot together. So if the trust will always develop, why have the axis at all? Why not make the companions get more trusting after each sidequest - i.e. plot-point dependent as opposed to influence-point dependent?
Then, of course, there's the romantic aspect. There are certainly what I've begun to call "flirt points" being written into the different dialogs, and I'm careful to make them different for Tancred and Verona. For example, there's a time where the PC may want to examine a broken-down wagon in town, and this will lead to a potential flirting session with Tancred for female PCs, though there is no reciprocal at this point for Verona, as she handles that particular investigation differently. If the player partakes, they get one "flirt point." Get enough flirt points, and a romance can start.
But the real bastard is that, if the x-axis is quickly found to be irrelevant, as I think it is for the reasons outlined above, then the flirt scale on the y-axis simply reduces back to the "say six nice things to me and you can bed me down" paradigm... AHHH!
So let's take a step back. Stream-of-consciousness here, so stay with me.
What makes people fall in love? Oh, wait. We'll make that a new heading.
Why Do We All Fall in Love?
Damn if I know. I'm going back to Saleron's Gambit...
Now, seriously. And I mean "adult love." Porn fantasies need not apply. I guess I could go for the "quick and dirty lust romance," but I kind of envisioned something better for my mod, so without further delay, here's my brain-storming.
- Trust (pretty much automatically covered).
- Physical Attraction (maybe shallow, but obviously true) - unfortunately, I don't know any way to check in-game if the PC is considered "ugly." Half-orc might be clear, but what if someone is role-playing the ugly pock-marked priest? I guess to maximize player experience, we need to assume this... or I could have the DM at the beginning ask, "is your character ugly?"
- Shared goals - obviously must be the same at least as far as this mod's concerned.
- Shared interests - Ahhh, now I have already defined my companion's interests in their character docs. I could glean the PC's interests through conversation. However, if they answer wrongly, do I quit the romance? How fair (and crappy) would that be?
- Laughing Together - I know every list puts "A sense of humor" high on the attraction qualities, and I think I've been covering this in my "flirt points" thus far.
It occurs to me that much of that is a given in this mod or must be assumed. Maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way. Maybe I should assume that the romance will develop unless something happens to stop it, like if the PC ever says, "it's not you, it's me" or "let's just be friends." Those would get "cool-down" points that would end the romance if enough were accrued...
Well, I'm in no way closer to an answer than when I started, but it's late now and I'm tired. Fortunately, there's enough plot-related dialog to write that I don't have to have the answer this moment.