Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What's on a Server?

The next time I play after my trip to the Brogendenstein (but somewhere in the middle of my mostly-solo run to level up) I decide to check out Cordor. I’m close to leveling and a little light on gold so I head over to Caraigh first. I grind out to the next level, sell a couple items I got and then head over to the boat captain to go to Cordor.

I hadn’t really given much thought to Amia A and Amia B, what the differences are and why you would play on one rather than the other. My friend said they were on B and it was generally more sparsely populated than A. That was fine with me. I was new and following his lead since I was mostly here to play the game with him and his group.

What I hadn’t expected was to be able to freely move between server A and server B (at the cost of in-game travel, of course). If I had come across that in the rules or anywhere else I either completely missed it or completely ignored it.

To say I was surprised to be notified I was being logged off the server and logged into the other server when I went to Cordor would be an understatement.

That’s certainly not a bad thing. I think it’s awesome. It allows so much potential to the world size. I just was not expecting it. (This has since been clearly pointed out on the new Amia welcome page.)

In game there is a map room that is easily found in the (two main) settlement areas (that I’ve been to). Knowing next to nothing about the island of Amia and even less about the places on Amia this does me little good this early in the game. I have no idea what levels would be appropriate for what areas, and being new I’m pretty sure I’m not the appropriate level for the better part of them.

My search fu skills are weak. I’ve always been willing to admit that. And they certainly weren’t any help to me on the forums. If there is a map of Amia outside the game I do not know where it is. If there is a listing showing what general areas are appropriate for certain levels of characters/parties I don’t know where it is. If there is a listing of what parts of the world are specifically on server A and what parts are on server B I do not know where it is.

This last has been at least partially rectified with the new welcome page. However most of these place names are still foreign to me. For the most part, I don’t know if a name I’m reading about is a region or a city. (There are six sub-forums on the Amia site showing the names of cities or towns for several playable races, at least.) Unfortunately this learning process has been made that much more difficult due to my particular situation. Trying to push and grind up to an appropriate level to be able to play with the rest of my friends has left me little leisure time (term used loosely) to explore and learn about the world.

Now that I have reached that level goal I am planning on taking things a bit slower. I can better explore and take my time. Hopefully.

First Play

The next night is my first real playing time in Amia.  I’m a little late to the party since I work most evenings.  When I arrive my friend and his companions are out and about.  They finish up their business and come back to meet me.  We role-play greetings and introductions.  Then they leave slowly as they role-play bringing in their lower-level characters to be able to go around with me.

It’s a short night as a group since I’m late so we rush around and do some things.  We do the Lord Wiltun Fed Ex quest over to Cariagh and back.  We get the rat ear quest from the dwarf trader there and go hunt goblins and rats.

Over the next week or so I spend a lot of my free evening time playing.  I’m trying to get this character up to 8th or 9th level to be strong enough to go around with the already established group.  A couple times my friend is able to join me.  Once I run into someone else from the group who joins up with me.  Once I join up with someone else I run into in a cave (more on that later).

For the most part I’m soloing and killing goblins, exploring sewers and later on killing some orcs.  And it’s slow going since I really can’t fight anything too strong – and that’s fine because this world is designed to be played with a group of people together.

My friend and I go into a swamp to kill a creature in the center of it and bring back a tooth.  We help an old lady – a retired seer – by vanquishing some spirits in a haunted town near by.  We explore an abandoned and haunted inn on the far end of the island that I discovered one night soloing.  The pirates living in the cave below it were too strong for me alone but the two of us together have little problem.

There was a strange contraption at the end of the cave.  Playing with it flooded the cave and washed us back to the entrance.  We’re not sure if there is supposed to be a quest tied to this cave.  If there was we don’t know what it is.  My friend assured me that the inn and caves are new areas that he hadn’t seen before.  We figure that any quest has not been implemented yet or is available somewhere that we missed.  Or maybe we’re just too high level?  That's a nice thing about quests I've found.  If you're too high a level you can go through the motions, but you can't actually finish (or t least get to the end) of the quests.

During one of the times with my friend we head over to the dwarven area of Brogendenstein to purchase gear.  I am impressed with the coding that takes us both there even though only my friend talked to the captain.  Most of the gear is either too expensive for me that first time we visited, or requires a level higher than I am.  But it’s not a wasted trip since it shows me more of Amia.

My friend has to leave me from there, but suggests I may want to check out the city of Cordor at some point.  There are some more shops there, there are some more beginner-type quests, and there are goblins to hunt north of the city.  I decide to do that next time I’m playing.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


My friend had told me that we would be playing on the Amia B server. The group he is in based itself out of Wiltun Fortress and that is where I’d start.  I had absolutely no idea at the time what the differences between server A and server B are.  I’m good going with whatever he already has established.

I start the game (and wait for the splash screens and intro movie since I can’t click through them without the game crashing – this has already gotten old).  I make my character – nothing new, exciting, or unexpected there – and enter the game.

I start my time in Amia in a large room.  A couple other characters pop in and run out while I'm looking around.  At first glance it is a standard welcome room similar to what I would expect on any NWN server I would choose.

I move off into a back corner to get out of the main spawning area.

I look around and see what I would expect to see.  There is an area to read the server/world rules.   (There is also a copy of the rules in my in-game journal, I notice.)  There is an exit into the main world.  There is also a place that activates your subrace if you made your character with one.  (There might be one or two other things that escape my mind at the moment.  I didn't take notes on those when I was on researching the other evening.  Oops!)

I spend a few minutes re-acquainting myself with the game mechanics.  I remember enough about the game to know that I'll want to set up my quickbars, so I do.  I open my inventory to see what I start with.  Beside basic equipment I find the following things:

  • PC Emote Wand - This is fairly self-explanatory.  The wand, when activated, allows you character to perform different movements and acts in the game that aren't normally or easily available.  Activating it opens up a dialogue box which lists your choices.  I decide to kneel on the bear skin rug I'm standing on and then I pray.
  • PvP Tool - This is a tool to allow to PvP (Player versus Player) combat in the game.  It says I can use it to set another character as hostile to me so we can fight.  If I kill the other player I can use the wand to raise them.  And I can use the wand on myself to set my PvP mode.  I have no plans, immediate or otherwise, for this wand.  I've never really been a PvP kind of person.  But that's just me. Still, it's nice to know it's there in case I ever have need of it.
  • A Wand with a really long name of numbers and letters - This is my PC Key.  It stores the information pertinent to my character regarding quests and portals.
  • Dice - An item that can be used to randomly generate numbers like a dice roll in a PnP D&D game.
  • Minor Portal Wand - I read this item description and it gives me technical jargon about charges, recharging, upgrading and what's required to recharge and upgrade.  By the name I can figure out it's used to portal within the game, but there isn't anything in the description that helps me figure out any specifics to that.
  • Party Advertiser - If you use this item on yourself you are added to a list of players looking for a party (of people to adventure with, not to party with.  Er, I think).  If you use it on the ground you will see the list of people who have advertised with it.
  • Dream Coin PC Tool - The first time reading this I kind of skim it.  It's as confusing as the information I've tried to read on the Amia website already.  There are other things to think about and right at that moment Dream Coins aren't one I'm concerned with.  (But I will get into Dream Coins in a later post.  Don't worry.)
On the initial spawn I was given experience to get me to level two.  I am actually quite relieved by that.  Level one is the hardest and deadliest level to play at. Starting off at two is going to make things at least a little easier and give more room for error.
I play around with things a little bit, level up and get my inventory and quick slots organized then head out the exit.  Upon exiting the door I am thrown into a conversation.  Being a newbie I choose the option to get the rundown of things and I read through it.  (I'll need to make a new character and take notes on that.  At the time I wasn't planning on this blog so didn't take notes.)  If I remember, it's fairly standard stuff and pretty much just an abbreviated version of the rules.  (And there is an option to skip it if you say you are an experienced Amia player and just want to go.)

As I walk out the door into Wiltun Fortress I find myself in the courtyard.  (Going back in the door puts me in a tavern or inn instead of the Welcome Room.  Nice touch.)  I pull up the minimap and look at the points of interest.  Seeing a shop owner standing outside under his little wooden stall I head over to upgrade some of my equipment.  I buy a better sword, sell my default weapon and then buy the best armor I can get and have enough left over for a helmet.  That will do me for now.

I go through my things one last time and run around a bit to look at Wiltun and not at a minimap.  When I'm satisfied (though itching to get out and really play) that I have everything ready for the next night I log out.  I'm ready to start in Amia with my friendly tour guide.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Creating a Character

I got the game installed and decided to make a character or two.  I was going to meet up with my friend the next night and I wanted to have my character ready ahead of time instead of doing it right before meeting.  Especially since it had been a while since I had played.  I wanted to get into Amia and at least look around a little bit before appearing wide-eyed and completely green the first night we were meeting.

Having played first edition pencil and paper AD&D twenty-some-odd years ago I am pretty familiar with the basics of things.  I know the races and classes.  Having picked up the core (and a few peripheral) 3e books (for gaming reference and some minor fan fic writing) I was familiar with most of those rules.  I wasn't expecting to be surprised by much, but I went to the Amia site to research.  If there were any changes to the basic game mechanics I figured it'd be good to know.

I had already read the Rules and FAQ, but I went over them again.  That lead me to the Creating Your Character topic on the forum.

Wow.  The subraces have changed since I was last playing.  I don't know if that is a new mechanic for NWN specially coded for Amia, or if that is a mechanic coded for NWN through community content that was incorporated into the final patch (1.69).  Either way, the choices are cool and my head is already swimming with possibilities.  (In fact, my main character has already had the pleasure of adventuring with a faerie-looking character I shall assume is a Feytouched since I see no other subrace in the list that would fit.  And while soloing I also ran across a goblin character who was intent of following me around - until the server crashed.)

I also learned that Amia has a level cap of 30.  I found that interesting since I knew the level cap for NWN (after the expansions) was 40, but it didn't bother me in any negative way.  I haven't seen a definite reason for it given on the forum, but I haven't searched for one either.  I'm sure somewhere it's told why 30 was chosen instead of 40.  I'm also pretty sure I can take a good guess at why.  Characters at level 30 are already pretty darn powerful.  To maintain a world for characters even more powerful would be a pain.  It would have to first be balanced.  But for a role-play server it would also seem rather silly to have those epic, super-powerful creatures and monsters running around outside cities on a relatively small island nation.

I followed that up by checking out the adjusted game mechanics used in Amia.  There wasn't much there that meant anything to me yet.  The XP and gold seemed pretty basic and what I would expect in a perpetual world.  The subrace section was a good read with some additional information but only managed to convince me that my first character wasn't going to be anything out of the ordinary in the way of race.  The portal rod section was interesting, but didn't mean a lot to me since I hadn't even been in the world yet.

The other sections there were hit or miss for me.  Some apply to my planned character, most don't.  And until I really get into the game world and gain a few levels I really don't need to know them.   But I still at least skimmed them to keep something in the back of my mind for future reference.

Next I check out the Deity system.  I find it interesting that there are bonuses offered in game for having a deity.  From my understanding of the Forgotten Realms, it is pretty much a given that everyone has a deity they pray to and consider their main deity.  And there are any number of other deities a person may pray to given certain circumstances.  Circumstances that their main deity might not cover specifically where another deity does.  For example, a farmer may have a main deity that he prays to about his crops and to have good weather for growing.  But then when it's time to travel to market he might make a special prayer to a deity who specializes in traveling.

Regardless, I find the information there interesting.  Looking back at it again now, I don't even recall seeing (or at least paying attention to) the information about the deity rings.  My character has a deity (through the second option of entering the name on creation, not the first of praying at an idol) but doesn't have a ring.  I currently have no idea where they are, how you get one, or what they do.  I'll make another entry about that when and if I ever get one.

I take a quick look at the Classes page.  A quick glance doesn't show anything that will pertain to my first, very vanilla character.  I make a mental note to look there for each character made/planned so I know if there will be any changes I need to be aware of.

The same thing goes for the Feats page.  There is nothing there pertaining to the plans for this first character so I give it a quick look and move on.

There are a few other pages I look at that don't really have anything to do with character creation.  Because they don't I'll bring them up another time.  For the most part I see there are lots and lots of options and changes to the base game rules depending on the choices made.

For not having played the game in a couple years I decided K.I.S.S. is best.  I Keep It Simple, Stupid and fall back on the character I had been planning on pretty much all along.  The same basic character I used on each new server I went to back in the day.  I know the character, the character is pretty vanilla and easy to build and I can learn the basics of the world without having a complicated character to deal with.

Beside, if I decide I want or need to change this character build it seems I just need some Dream Coins.  I still have no idea how I get them, where I get them or if they're even good for anything beside character rebuilds.  But that's something I still need to learn and write about another time.

I start up the game, sign on the server and create my character.  But what I learn then will need to be the next entry.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I finally had the free time to re-install NWN.  I was looking forward to playing again, especially on what my friend promised was a good role-playing server, but not too heavy a role-playing server.

He had told me in advance that I needed NWN, the two expansion packs - Shadows of Undrentide (SoU) and Hordes of the Underdark (HotU) - and to be patched up to the latest patch, version 1.69.  For anyone that might be reading this without the game installed and patched to 1.69, the auto-updater in the game does not work to install patch 1.69.  But you can find it here.

It took me a while to get things installed and updated.  Part of that, I believe, was installing this older game on a Windows Vista computer.  The other part was the Bioware site acting weird.  I couldn't download the patch and had trouble simply navigating the site.  I couldn't get to where I was trying to go.  But the next evening the site was fine and I downloaded and installed the patch without incident.  (I still can't click through the opening splash screens and movies without the game crashing, but if I wait them out the game runs fine.)

Many years ago when I was playing I remember having to download hak paks.  Each server seemed to have it's own custom content to some extent and you had to download the appropriate hak pak to be able to play on that server.  Remembering this I went looking on the Amia site for information about what I would need to download to play Amia.

On the Downloads page I found nothing about a required download.  There were just two optional downloads for heads and hands and feet.

This confused me because, as I said, I was years removed from being used to having to download content to play on a server.  A private message to Melf confirmed that nothing additional was needed.  The game, two expansions and the 1.69 patch and I was good.  Plus the two optional downloads if I wanted them - which I did.

Well all right then.  I kind of wish that was specified on the Downloads page that there were no hak paks needed.  It would have saved me some time and a bit of internal worry.  I couldn't find information anywhere on the forum about required downloads (you know, because there aren't any) as I searched around while waiting to get a reply to my message.

And I had the information ahead of time so I didn't think of it at the time I was looking, but it also would be nice for the downloads page to mention the game and version needed for playing.  It might be a foregone conclusion for most people, but you might also get old players like me re-installing the game after several years.  The Downloads page was the first place I went looking and the information I was looking for wasn't there.  Partly because it there was no information (about hak paks required) to put there.  But still, wouldn't it be a good idea to actually let people know what's needed to enjoy the world without assuming they're going to know (or have a good friend to ask and be embarrassed with when they get the answer)?  A link to the patch would be nice, too.

It also wasn't listed on the Rules & FAQ page, but then it might not actually be a frequently asked question.

There is one other thing to mention about downloads.  I found out while playing last Thursday that Amia does allow for custom portraits.  There is a member who creates zip files for portraits.  You send her your portrait, she sticks it in the pack, it gets uploaded each month so players can download it and see people's custom portraits.

A link to that forum thread might be something that is worthwhile to put on the Downloads page, too.

I don't have any custom portraits right now.  If I eventually make a character I have in mind I will use one.  I used to know how to make the custom portrait files, but I don't anymore.  I'll need to look up how to do that if the time comes.  (The lady that creates the paks for the portraits will resize and crop a picture for you, though she will not completely edit it.)

(Proofreading this post I realize it sounds kind of whiny and like I'm telling the developers of Amia what to put on their site.  That's not my intention, but I'm not going to change it.  I think it's reasonable to expect that information and do strongly suggest they add it where appropriate.  Whether they do or not is up to them.  I'm sure it's a foregone conclusion to everyone who has been playing the game for some time that 1.69 has enough content in it to do away with most mandatory hak paks.  But I can't be the only one who has been away from the game long enough to not be aware of that and be slightly confused, can I?)


I am relatively new to playing on the world of Amia.  Amia is a module created for the game role-playing computer game Neverwinter Nights.  It's a perpetual world.  This means that it is a module that is hosted on a server so you can log into it and play anytime you want.  It is not designed to have a beginning, middle and end of a story like stand-alone games do.  It is designed to be a world that you live in as your character and role-play with all the other players that are also there.

From about the time I started really looking at Amia, re-installed Neverwinter Nights (NWN) on my computer, started playing up to right now starting this blog it has been about three weeks.

An old online friend of mine showed up out of the blue one week.  We hadn't spoken to each other in a long time.  You probably know how online friendships go.  Real life gets in the way and you eventually move apart.  This friend and I used to play NWN frequently.  We even had dreams of creating our own perpetual world for others to play in.  I dabbled in the building tools, but since I don't know coding it was a rather silly thing for me to contemplate.  (He could do some coding, though, and had some decent stuff written up for our little world.)

But this friend, Melf, posted on an old forum we used to frequent.  He said he had found a great server to play NWN on and invited any of us old-timers to join him if we were up for a good game.  It took me a while but I eventually did.  About three weeks ago.

I have enjoyed my time there so far.  Amia is a wonderful world.  It is well-designed and very rich in details from what little I've seen and know so far.

One day while perusing the Amia forum I started reading this thread.  It was talking about how to attract new players but also started to diverge a little bit about how to keep new players.  Being a newcomer to the world I decided to chime in and mention how much I enjoyed it, but also how overwhelming it is.  There is a LOT of content in Amia.  The learning curve is steep.  There is a LOT of information on the forum and it takes a lot to figure out where you want and need to start to help get your feet under you in the game world.

In response to my post, Dev Disco, the main creator/developer of Amia asked if I'd be interested in writing a diary about my beginnings and learning curve on Amia.  So we have this blog.

I'm going to see what I can do to give an idea of the thoughts going through my head as I play and learn things on Amia.  I have no plan for any certain writing style I'm going to use.  I'm going to try to remember what I went through and was thinking over the past three weeks as I got started. I'm going to write about the things I learn going forward.  I'm just going to write what comes to mind.  Good or bad, a legitimate point or a lack of knowledge because I didn't look in the correct place to find it, I'm going to write about what happens to me as I play Amia and what I learn as I research on the forums and in the game.

Hopefully, in the long run, this will be helpful to future new players trying to get their feet under them.  And if I'm really lucky I might hit on something that will be helpful to the developers that can be changed or made more clear for everyone's benefit.

On the Amia forums my name is Tah.  In NWN I log in under Tah of White Fisher.  If you would like to contact me you can email me at my NWN name (without spaces) @gmail.com.  You can also leave comments here.  Ask me questions, point out where I missed information (I'm hopefully not the only one learning something from this blog), let me know if there's an aspect of Amia you think I should look into, learn and then write about.  Or just let me know if you're enjoying or completely hate the blog.

Now let's get started with Amia.