Friday, December 6, 2013

Eleanor Clark's Baldur's Gate

I just posted this on the BGEE forum, but I thought I might as well post it here, too...

Before the Baldur's Gate novelization, before the Baldur's Gate games, before D&D, there was...Baldur's Gate, the novel. It was written by Eleanor Clark and published in 1970, according to WorldCat (

There was a first edition of it displayed in a used bookstore I used to go to when I first played BG1, and I always thought the coincidence funny -- but with a lack of curiosity I now find shameful (or maybe it was fear; the bookstore owner always seemed cranky) I never skimmed it.

Anyone heard of it? Anyone read it? Anyone know of the connection, if any, between the two names? Wikipedia tells me Clark went to Vassar with Mary McCarthy and Elizabeth Bishop (both of whom are great) and was married to Robert Penn Warren.

The single Amazon review is not favorable.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Music of Harp & Chrysanthemum

I made a website a year or two ago to host the music I made for H&C and the unfinished Bron's Daughter, but I never linked to it from here (because the blog was off the air then). Here's the link -- I'll add it to the sidebar, too.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Neera and Me

For those of you who might still be checking up on me occasionally, I'm proud to say that I have contributed writing, through Ossian Studios, to Beamdog's re-release of one of the greatest games of all times, Baldur's Gate II. My contribution took the form of the new NPC Neera and the minor NPCs you meet during her quest. For those of you who aren't familiar with her, here's Neera's in-game bio:

I hope you check out BG2EE and Neera, if you haven't already. Let me know what you think.

In other news, I'm still in New York, though since I last posted here I moved away and came back again. This adventure resulted from an ill-conceived, expensive, but still educational foray into studying law at UC Berkeley. I was disabused of my legalistic ambitions fairly quickly, and I'm now teaching literature in an early college program on the Lower East Side, pursuing my worryingly eclectic hobbies, and living the pauper's life I was apparently meant to live.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Rotted Rose on the DA Toolset

If you haven't, check out Ossian-mate Mat Jobe's new blog, The Rotted Rose. His most recent post analyzes why there are so few stand-alone mods on the DA scene. Besides the well known difficulty of the DA toolset, he notes the following issues--"Dragon Age development favors specialized roles," "the toolset palette is shallow," "Players aren't that into it," and "Bioware isn't that into it." I agree with all of these, but as I say in my comment, I think "the toolset palette is shallow" is the most important issue. He mentions darkspawn and demons as the only monsters; I concur, and would add that there are also severe limitations in terms of what kind of landscapes you can make--largely becaue there are so few tree types available.

Monday, January 3, 2011

H&C Gets RPS Mention

Rock, Paper, Shotgun, covering the Steam sale of Neverwinter Nights 2, has this to say:

I was never ‘inta Neverwinter myself, let alone its huge modding community, but RPS reader Andrew “Block-Rocking” Brockert has provided us with some advice on how to get to the good stuff.

IGN’s NWN Vault is where it’s at, apparently, and you can browse all the top-rated mods right here. Mr. Brockert recommends Planescape: Purgatorio and Harp & Chrysanthemum.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

H&C Reaches 500 Votes

And here, for the sake of the record, are the two voters and their comments, one of which is very enthusiastic while the other is constructively critical:

Posted by Malak Darkhunter at 2010-12-27 21:57:22 Voted 10.00 on 12/27/10

Absolutely amazing, this is how all modules should be created, everything is custom, the armor weapons, I know how much work was put into creating this mod, having made custom items myself. I felt like I was in a story, and didn't want it to end, the music was superb to the setting. Finishing all quests was no problem to me as I wanted to stay in the module, and explore everything. Amazing peace of work, my thanks!

Thanks Malak, and while making individualized magic items is definitely time-consuming, I too feel like it adds a lot to a game. This is one sacrifice action RPGs make for more flexible and random loot systems. And I'm glad you liked the music and thought it was appropriate for the setting--that's one of the things that makes me proud of H&C.

Posted by Avo at 2010-12-26 00:32:54 Voted 8.00 on 12/26/10


Let us talk about side-quest for a minute. They are, by name, something that should be done on the side, if they meet one's style of play and/or your characters alignment, motives and class.

Side-quests should not be mandatopry. A story driver player should IMHO be able to finish a module without doing them.

This is the biggest and major flaw that led to immense frustration with H&C for me. By chance and choice I seemed to have missed the two biggest side quests (barrows & castle) and did not complete two others (plants & tomb) Imagine my surprise when I had played about 9/10 of the module and then realised that my party was at least two levels too low to even survive the first two rounds of the final fight. Two levels mean a lot in that level range where the module is set. Usually tow "Hammer of the Gods" were wnough to finish my whole party.

I had already tricked my way out of the BMT fight which I found not very in character. Only to find the final fight even harder. Since I didn't have an earlier save, I would now either have been forced to play the whole thing again or cheat. So, for the first time in my NWN2 career I resorted to god-mode. Truly one of my low points...

I am by no means a power gamer, but I consider myself experienced. I have managed most of the 8+ modules including some that are considered "very hard". Very frustrating.

So, H&C felt like this immensely beautiful race horse that left all of the competition miles behind and then falls flat on its face 5 meters before the finish line.

Awesome graphics, great companions, immersive story, well-balanced combat throughout the bulk of the module and then a hugely unbalanced final fight.

I can see why this is so highly rated, but I cannot for the life of me give it more than an 8.

Thanks Avo, and you're quite right that the mod doesn't scale well if you don't complete the bigger side quests. Creating satisfying but truly optional side quests is one of the most difficult challenges, I think, for a game designer. If a side quest is truly optional, small, and relatively straightforward, it may seem trivial (the numerous forgettable FedEx quests in Baldur's Gate are a prime example of this sort of side quest). If you make a side quest too big (and I think that Castle Joyous, while perhaps the most successful part of H&C, is also too big as a side quest), you risk making it too important and therefore not optional. To a degree, pride simply gets in the way--"Hey, player! I spent a lot of time on writing and designing this; if you don't experience it YOU WILL PAY." But there's also the more altruistic goal--having a player stumble across something totally unexpected and marvelous that's outside the main story.

The trick, I guess, is for the designer to craft smallish, interesting, but non-crucial side quests and to assume, for the sake of balance, that the player will do less than a half of them.

Anyway, thanks Malak and Avo for these excellent comments--I'm glad that, three years later, people still feel compelled to make them and to vote!