Community Interview: Kamiryn (NW Vault, Character Builder Calculator, CCOH)

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    Orion

    The [Character Builder Calculator] project wasn’t really a project at first. It started when people on the old Bioware board began to explore the possibilities of the epic levels. Lots of questions arose… how can I achieve this, how can I do that… [Compared with leveling up a character in game] planning a build on paper is easier. And it’s even easier when you use a spreadsheet.

    I had the great privilege to interview Kamiryn, who is the creator of the Character Builder Calculator (CBC) for Neverwinter Nights. This is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet which incorporates all the complex rules in NWN, and is easily the fastest way to design character builds. He is also the author of the Customize Character Override HAK, also a very popular piece of content on the Neverwinter Vault and created a CBC for NWN 2 as well.

    Designing a build with Kamiryn’s NWN 1 Character Builder Calculator (CBC). Screenshot – Kamiryn’s CBC and Microsoft Excel 2007.

    My Monk/Sorcerer character, predesigned from levels 1-40 with Kamiryn’s CBC, brought to life on the PW Server I am playing in. Screenshots from NWN:EE (Beamdog) and World of Greyhawk PW.

    Question:

    Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed! I understand you have been playing Neverwinter Nights (NWN) since its early inception around 2002. What made you play NWN back then? Was it pen and paper Dungeons and Dragons (DnD), or other RPGs such as Baldurs Gate? What was special about it that made you keep going, and continue to be involved with the game so many years on?

    Kamiryn:

    I never played pen and paper role playing games. I started playing CRPGs in the mid-eighties with ‘The Bard’s Tale’ on a C64. It was the first in a long list containing Wizardry, Ultima, Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder, Baldur’s Gate and many more. And so it was only natural to buy Neverwinter Nights when it was published in 2002.

    Question:

    One of your biggest contributions to NWN and in particular NWN character building is the Character Building Calculator (or CBC). This is a user-friendly excel spreadsheet that incorporates all the complexities of the NWN / DnD 3.0 Rules to allow players to design characters up to level 40 in advance. It received the NWN Hall of Fame Award.  How did that project start? Did you get some help from others at the beginning? How did you learn about all the complexities of Excel formulas, and did you have to upskill?

    Kamiryn:

    The project wasn’t really a project at first. It started when people on the old Bioware board began to explore the possibilities of the epic levels. Lots of questions arose… how can I achieve this, how can I do that… e.g. how to get Epic Dodge or the Self Concealment feats as early as possible. To help these people and to solve this scientific problem of course you could start NWN and build a char but that’s somewhat cumbersome – and you can’t really do this at work. Planning a build on paper is easier. And it’s even easier when you use a spreadsheet. So that’s where it started but it was still a long way from using a spreadsheet for the first time to May 25, 2005 when I released the CBC v1.0 on NWVault. Also I really hadn’t much experience in working with excel and everything was learning-by-doing.

    When you make something and publish it and even if you claim that you’re doing this for yourself only you still become happy and proud when you see that other people like it and use it (in December 2020 it reached 70,000 downloads). So of course I was happy and proud when I saw people posting their builds in the CBC output format.

    Calculation of a complex skill schedule using the CBC, which tells me how many ranks I have invested, and the bonuses to create the final skill score. The sheet also tells me (without any equipment on) how many spells I can cast / day, spell penetration, and my saving throws.

    This famous NWN character build format which is seen on many, many websites. It originated from the posting requirements of old Bioware’s Epic Character Builder’s forum and was very much popularized thanks to Kamiryn’s CBC spreadsheet. Edited with GIMP for easier viewing on a website.

    Question:

    What was it like to receive the award [The NW Vault Hall of Fame Award]?

    Kamiryn:

    At first I did not get the award. You needed a number of downloads, might be 1,000 but I don’t remember and also ten votes. While I got the number of downloads very quickly I had to wait for the votes. When I finally had nine votes I went to the CBC page every morning but the tenth vote did not come. After doing this for over a month, I voted myself :D.

    The Neverwinter Vault Hall of Fame Award. Image source: Neverwinter Vault

    Question:

    What is it like when you see players post builds online using your CBC tool and format [such as this website, or the ECB guild, or NWN Reddit]? What motivates you to continue to keep it up to date?

    Kamiryn:

    When you make something and publish it and even if you claim that you’re doing this for yourself only you still become happy and proud when you see that other people like it and use it (in December 2020 it reached 70,000 downloads). So of course I was happy and proud when I saw people posting their builds in the CBC output format. And nowadays people still using it as there are still roundabout ten downloads per day. And so I feel kind of responsible to keep it up to date or at least fix reported bugs.

    When Obsidian released the NWN2 toolset a month ahead of the game’s release I was able to write the first CBC2 beta version knowing only the 2da files that were shipped with the toolset and released it two weeks ahead of the actual NWN2 release.

    Of course nowadays the CBC2 is obsolete as there is this great online NWN2 character builder (https://nwn2db.com/)… still once in a while there is a new download but I do not know if it’s actually a human being or just a bot. Most likely it will never reach 50,000 downloads but ~48,000 downloads is not that bad!

    Kamiryn’s CBC for Neverwinter Nights 2 (NWN2). Image source: Neverwinter Vault.

    Question:

    You’ve also created a CBC for NWN2 as well, although NWN2 hasn’t quite had the popular longevity that NWN 1 had. I assume you made the CBC for NWN 1 first, then the NWN 2 CBC second? Was it pretty simple to translate your knowledge creating the original CBC to NWN 2, just a matter of learning the ruleset that NWN 2 has (which is different to NWN 1)?

    Kamiryn:

    The ruleset might be different but the logic behind these rules is just the same. So when Obsidian released the NWN2 toolset a month ahead of the game’s release I was able to write the first CBC2 beta version knowing only the 2da files that were shipped with the toolset and released it two weeks ahead of the actual NWN2 release. CBC2 wasn’t just a modification of the CBC1. I knew that Obsidian probably would publish add-ons, lots of changes and patches within the following years that would require me to make lots of changes to the CBC2 as well. To make these changes as simple as possible I decided to start from scratch and have the CBC2 contain all the relevant NWN2 2da files as excel tables. So whenever Obsidian decided to change one of these files I only had to copy them into the CBC2 excel sheet replacing the older versions without me actually knowing what was changed in that file. Also when creating the CBC2 I already had a plan what I wanted to do, what the CBC2 should look like and I knew excel much better than I did when I created the CBC1.

    So in the end I think the CBC2 was much better than the CBC1. Unfortunately NWN2 did not live up to my expectations and so I lost interest in NWN2 after a while (I never player the 2nd add-on). Still I think the CBC2 was actually a big success, in the beginning it had up to more than 400 downloads per day, receiving the Hall of Fame Award very quickly and within slightly more than a year the CBC2 download numbers had surpassed the CBC1 download numbers. But as you said NWN2 hasn’t had the popular longevity that NWN1 had and the CBC2 downloads dropped quickly and in 2011 the CBC1 download numbers surpassed the CBC2 download numbers again. Of course nowadays the CBC2 is obsolete as there is this great online NWN2 character builder (https://nwn2db.com/). Still once in a while there is a new download but I do not know if it’s actually a human being or just a bot. Most likely it will never reach 50,000 downloads but ~48,000 downloads is not that bad :D.

    The CCOH can be used in nearly any module. Usually it works out-of-the-box but sometimes some extra work is required… I don’t know about modules but I know that the CCOH is used on some PWs at least because of the questions that are asked on the vault…

    I’m working a new CCOH for a while now which among other things allows to edit henchmen.

    The CCOH by Kamiryn. Top left – modify colors of equipment. Top middle – make your helmet invisible. Top right – rename your weapon. Bottom left – turn into a Drow matron. Bottom middle – become larger in size. Bottom left – have glowing eyes. Image source: Neverwinter Vault, edited with GIMP.

    Question:

    You’ve also created a Customize Character Override HAK (or CCOH). This is a simple add-on which can allow players to modify the appearance of armor, helmets, cloaks, choose different portraits, choose different bodies, add tails, wings, glowing eyes, change the scale of the characters size etc etc… This one also received the Hall of Fame Award! What made you want to start this project? Were there any collaborators at the beginning? Was it tricky to get your head around NWScript? Can this be used in any custom module or campaigns? Do you know of any modules or PWs which use your HAK?

    Kamiryn:

    The 2nd add-on HotU introduced the possibility to modify the appearance of armor and weapons in game but you had to make a skill check and you had to pay with your hard earned gold for this. So very soon I modified the Bioware crafting dialog and removed the skill check and the part where your gold was taken. Also there was a mod on NWVault called ‘Mandragon’s Dye Kit’ which allowed you to dye your armor without buying dyes. That dye kit was an item you had to give to your character using the debug console. To make it easier I incorporated the dye kit into the crafting dialog and that was the start of the CCOH project.

    It wasn’t really a big success at first (~ 2 downloads/day average) but that changed when Bioware introduced the visible cloaks in patch 1.68. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me) in lots of modules all the cloaks had no color (or color 0 which is a light yellow brown). And so I added the possibility to modify/dye cloaks and download numbers rose quickly. Over the years more and more features were added, some were asked by the community, some were added just because a new patch had made it possible or because I felt they were missing. For example often a module expects your char to be of a certain level and accordingly equipped and so I added a cheat console with merchants, item property editor, XP, gold and alignment changer etc. In the earlier versions parts of the code were taken from the original scripts, from Mandragon’s Dye Kit and also from the CEP crafting dialog but by now they all are replaced by my own code. When I started writing the CCOH I had a lot of experience with other programming languages so it wasn’t very difficult to code nwscript.

    The CCOH can be used in nearly any module. Usually it works out-of-the-box but sometimes some extra work is required. This is usually the case when a CEP module has the CEP crafting dialog included. Opening the module in the toolset, deleting the dialog and saving the module easily fixes this. It becomes more complicated when a module has special OnEquipItem/OnUnequipItem scripts but with some scripting knowledge this can be done too. I don’t know about modules but I know that the CCOH is used on some PWs at least because of the questions that are asked on the vault.

    Question:

    Where do you see both projects going in the future? Do you have any particular future plans for new projects, whether they be NWN related, or with other games? Do you have any shoutouts for anyone else in the community? Thanks for answering these questions!

    Kamiryn:

    I’m working a new CCOH for a while now which among other things allows to edit henchmen. Other than that I don’t have any plans for new projects.

    Thank you, Orion, for making this interview. And thank you to all my users, especially to those giving feedback, reporting bugs… that is what keeps the projects alive.

    The Character Builder Calculator for NWN 1, Character Builder Calculator for NWN 2 and Customize Character Override Hak can be downloaded from the Neverwinter Vault, a community website dedicated to hosting free community created content for Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2.

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