The Story Behind TKL

Out of character discussion about anything related to The Known Lands and NWN2.

The Story Behind TKL

Postby Deider » Mon Nov 19, 2007 9:34 pm

I started "seriously" roleplaying in high school - some neighborhood kids and I experimented with 2nd Edition AD&D, Mechwarrior, and Marvel Superheroes. While I enjoyed the latter two, I became hooked on AD&D, to the extent that I acquired and read almost every resource TSR published when I was a high school student.

When I went to college in 1997, I joined a fantasy and science fiction club, and through that club I met a handful of people like me. By "people like me" I mean "guys who would rather spend their weekends playing D&D and Magic: the Gathering than troll frat houses and bars trying to find women to have casual sex with." Yes, I know - what were we thinking!? :wink:

Anyway, we gamers managed to play the same campaign for four years, run by a great DM. (During that time I met two crack addicts known here as brockfanning and liephus.) That campaign, and lessons learned from it, inspired me to develop my own D&D setting. This took up most of my senior year; somehow I also managed to crank out something called a "thesis" and graduate.

I spent my first year of graduate school looking for a roleplay group without luck - until I stumbled upon a bunch of grad students playing D&D in my own department's lounge! They were DMed by a PhD student and former Speedo model known here as Lasher. I joined the group, and soon after Lasher let me know that he was looking for someone to take over as DM so he could be a player again. I pulled out the setting I'd developed in college and told him I'd give it a shot.

My campaign ran for two years, until, despite all efforts to the contrary, I graduated. In 2001 I moved to Japan and started working. Despite finding some Japanese roleplayers in the nearest city, the conditions were not exactly ripe for me to play or DM (to this day I still don't know how to say "make a fort save" or "I fireball them!" in Japanese). Not ready to give up roleplaying, I contacted the players I knew from college and grad school and fielded the idea of starting a play-by-e-mail (PBEM) campaign in the setting I'd DMed in grad school. Many people were willing to try it, and so the campaign continued, with all-new characters but in the same setting. Lasher, brockfanning, and liephus comprised some of the players in the PBEM group.

The PBEM game lasted for about three years. Just as it was petering out, brockfanning sent me a copy of a game that had become his new crack addition - Neverwinter Nights - and told me of something he called a "persistent online roleplaying world." Intrigued, I visited the Avlis forums ( I became a player in May of 2003; two months later, I became an Avlis DM. Eventually both Lasher and liephus joined us on Avlis, and both eventually became team members as well.

Avlis taught me many things. I dabbled in the toolset, realizing I was a decent scripter and an absolutely horrible builder. I ran DM plots big and small, worked with liephus to design one of the new servers, created a few adventuring areas and scripted some systems. I joined teams on a few different other PWs of smaller size to see how they ran their worlds, dealt with their players, and created their systems. In general, I learned how to run these crazy things called PWs - and in some instances, how not to run them.

Soon after NWN2's release was announced, Lasher and I were chatting about the upcoming game, D&D, and PWs in general. We had both recently quit the Avlis team - for various reasons we needed a break from that scene. Avlis is in many ways a great PW - truly the "big leagues" of the NWN1 PW scene - and I'd recommend it to people who like NWN1, enjoy dungeon-crawling and/or crafting, like playing with lots of other players, and don't mind seeing a DM only occasionally (that's not meant to be an insult, just a statement of conditions - it can't be helped when you have only a dozen DMs running things for hundreds of players). So Lasher said to me, "Why don't we take the Third Age setting you ran in grad school and make it into a PW?"

He outlined his idea: to make a PW that was as close to old-school pen and paper (PnP) gaming as possible, in every sense. Adventuring parties, with weekly events run by a regular party DM. A friendly atmosphere, where players are treated as friends, not customers. A place that trusts its players and as such has as few rules as possible. In other words, a PW that is friendly, fair, and fun - just like our campaign sessions back in that graduate school lounge.

My reply was as simple as it was quick. "Are you bloody crazy?" I had seen many NWN1 PWs rise and fall. I told him we would never get enough team members, and even if they did, they'd all shank, leaving us to fend for ourselves. I told him the party system wouldn't work, that the DMs or the players - or both - would shank. I told him that while people say they want RP, the truth was that they wanted to kill shit while chatting and receiving the occasional DM-gifted phat loot, and when given the option of a true roleplaying world, they'd pass it by.

Lasher did two of the things that great leaders do to get people to follow them. First he stroked my ego ("Deider, your world lore is magnificent! It alone will bring in all the players we'd ever need!"). Then he blackmailed me ("Remember that night you and your roommate got drunk at the Halloween party and had that softcore homosexual experience in the back room? Remember when I promised you I didn't take any pictures? I lied.").

Given an offer I couldn't refuse, I became the second member of the TKL team. At that time, I told him we'd never have more than fifty players. And Lasher said, "I can live with that." And then I realized, so could I.

From there Lasher used his ego-stroking and blackmailing skills to form - and I say this without hyperbole - The Dream Team of NWN2 PW staffers. As a DM - someone whose skill set is comprised solely of funny accents, fast thinking, quick typing, and compulsive lying - I am continually amazed by the creative, technical, and artistic skill with which the TKL team is blessed.

The year 2006 was spent coding systems and testing them in a beta mod made in NWN1. The world lore used in the original PnP and PBEM settings was modified to fit the races and classes offered in NWN2. Many of the characters played in the PnP and PBEM campaigns became famous NPCs in the world lore (most are members of the Companions of Justice, which is the actual name the players gave their adventuring group in the grad school PnP). We launched in April of 2007, and have been running ever since.

At the time of this writing, we have more than fifty active players. I have never been so happy to have been so wrong about something.

Game on! :D

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