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Being a DM Has Never Been So Fun

William Murphy Posted:
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One of the absolute highlights of E3 2015 was finally getting hands on with n-Games upcoming multiplayer RPG Sword Coast Legends. You’re likely following this one already, but just in case you’re not: it’s essentially the second coming of Neverwinter Nights, and it looks and plays gloriously. What’s more? It’ll let you build your own campaigns from scratch and lord over four players as a benevolent (or in my case, sadistic) dungeon master.

This year was my 6th E3, and I’m getting more than accustomed to the fact that developers show us the parts of their games they want us to see. So while the jury’s still out on the game’s overall campaign and feature set, we can verifiably say that the dungeon master mode is probably the closest thing we’ve ever had to a full table-top D&D experience in videogame form.

I didn’t get a chance to actually play with the player characters, as being DM is something more like multiplayer Dungeon Keeper or some sort of RTS than a typical RPG. Before the hands-on portion, Dan Tudge and crew walked us through a quick build of a custom campaign. And while the actual building is probably going to take more than the 10 minutes or so n-Games spent showing us the layers, we can safely say that it looks very intuitive and incredibly deep.

You’ll be able to tweak everything about every NPC, every sconce, every monster, and every part of the campaign’s quests. It reminded me a lot of Cryptic’s Neverwinter, and for those who dabbled in creating content there, you know that to be a good thing.  But in SCL, not only do you write and create your own campaigns, but you can record voice over, and then add live voice when you’re hosting other players taking on your custom-built missions.

You can watch Hive’s impressions below for a good idea of what he thought of playing the actual adventurers, but for this article I want to focus on the joys of being Dungeon Master.  And they are many.

As I mentioned before, your controls in DM mode will be akin to an RTS. You can move the camera with WASD, drag boxes to select multiple monsters at a time to issue orders, and you have a hotbar for the DM loot that comes your way. That’s right, Dungeon Master loot. As your foes work through your campaign, your slain monsters have a chance to drop items that the DM can use against the players. Consumable things like spawns of vampires, or spiders, buffs to monsters. They’re supposed to be few and far between, but I was getting pretty lucky and kept getting more and more monster spawns. Needless to say… I was kind of an a-hole DM. 

The game makes it so that you can’t just drop monsters on top of players, but I think some balancing still needs to happen as it felt a little too close when I dropped the vampires within 20 feet of my poor unsuspecting party.  Needless to say, they died a lot. What’s really cool is that you can watch as they become more and more cautious based on what you throw at them. Watch the party sneak or search for traps after a fateful near death experience. 

But more than just toying with monsters (some of whom you can take direct control of, like the bosses or major monsters), you can adjust the dungeon on the fly. Drop clues on where to go next if your party seems stuck. Bring an NPC in and have them create a new mission on the fly as you can take control of them directly as well. Maybe drop some item or another into the dungeon as they retread their steps, giving them something new to happen upon and explain your lore even more.

The possibilities are endless. Heck, you can alter (raise or lower) the power of monsters as they’re fighting if you want. There was a time in our demo towards the end of the session where I tried dropping campfires in a line to where the party needed to go next just to try and help them reach the final boss… so I could control him and decimate my adventurers.

I’m already daydreaming about the unlimited adventures we can go on, create, and share when Sword Coast Legends goes live in September. We’re even toying with the idea of a regular live-stream show here at MMORPG where the staff builds and plays campaigns. SCL may not be “massive”, but it sure has the potential to one of the best online RPGs in ages. We can only hope the official campaign is as engaging as this brief demo.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.