Sword Coast Legends: adventure creator or battle simulator?

I only came to know about Sword Coast Legends a while back, but as I catch up on whatever’s been released about it so far, it’s clear the prize bull being shown off is not the game itself – it’s the game’s DM Mode.

I felt déjà vu at first. Because Neverwinter hyped its Foundry as well, and the fruit of that hype sprouted rather low on the tree. User-generated content is great, sure, but there’s only so much you can do in an engine designed for pure combat.

Is SCL heading down a similar route?

Oh, I’ve seen the promises. But before I drink the kool-aid, I want to know a few things.

Well, just one. How big is the DM’s role here, really?

Can I design custom maps, and modify them on the fly to engineer, say, large-scale devastation?

There’s talk of design tools on the menu, so as long as that’s not a pay-gated feature, I’m good. Personally, I like to doubt it will be – it’s hard to imagine the Warcraft III map editor being sold separately!

And co-op? So the party cap is 4. The flexibility to add more would be nice, but fair enough. Now how do we hook up? Steam? Open lobby? TCP/IP?

I’m just wondering how we are going to find each other. DMing with friends is not really the same as DMing with random strangers. Though, that opens up an interesting challenge: creating maps/dungeons with stories that can accommodate any old Wild Bunch of characters. I can practically see the portal where SCL roleplaying enthusiasts pitch and evaluate games.

Speaking of that, what about storytelling? Will I be limited to environmental manipulation, or is there a layer of control for narration and flavor lore as well?

Challenging my ‘guests’ with a dark chamber that I can fill either with light or with hungry ghosts sounds rad. But I also want to be the voice of the deity rebuking them for their theft of the sacred chalice in the middle of the room. Or the last scrawlings of the long-dead spelunker who apparently died a mysterious death within yards of the prize.

If such control exists, is it real-time as well? Or limited to pre-written text blocks, delivered either manually or automatically?

This is the one thing I care about. Without native support for storytelling, this vaunted DM Mode doesn’t create adventures – it creates matches. Absent the story element, this is nothing but Diablo III crossed with the tower defense missions from the Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing games.

(I might even go as far as to say it would be just a deviant type of MOBA, and a crystallization of everything wrong with modern tabletop players!)

RPGs inspired by and aspiring to the genre’s golden age seem to be the new in-thing, what with Pillars of Eternity, Shroud of the Avatar, Underworld Ascendant, and so on. And each seems to be making a play at a piece of the old-school pie.

In this case, however, that’s a piece Neverwinter Nights already ate and digested over a decade ago. SCL is not only very late to the party – it’s got shoes stretched and pulled by a generation of true-blue roleplayers to fill. For the sake of that peerless tradition, I wish it nothing but the best.

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