Technical / Grand Fromage's NWN2 Toolset Guide For Noobs Like You

This guide assumes you read the toolset documentation. If you didn't, go read it. No I don't care how much time you built with NWN1, just go read it. You'll thank me later.


Section A: Land Section B: Water Section C: Placeables Section D: Critters Section E: Items Section F: Tips and Tricks Section G: Area Walkthroughs Section H: Screenshots

It may be helpful to read section G first, it is the most detailed about the basic techniques of making a good looking area.

Section A: Land

Subsections: 1: Height 2: Texture

Subsection 1: Height

- Height adjustment tools should be used in moderation. Don't go dragging around a bunch of land at once, click smaller areas to avoid losing control of your slopes.

A short description of tools: Raise/Lower - Self explanatory Noise - This tool makes little bumps in the terrain, very useful for making realistic eroded terrain. Smooth - This creates slopes. Drag it around between two areas to smooth it out and get a slope. You can also round off any peaks. Walk/Non Walk - For marking walkmeshes. Flatten - This tool is your friend. If you want to create a whole bunch of raised terrain, use the flatten tool. Choose the average height of your raised terrain, make the brush huge and have at it. Once you have this done, you can use the other tools to detail it and make it look good. Color - Allows you to color the ground. This will be discussed more under textures.

PROTIP: Turn on the surface mesh option when adjusting height. This allows you to see the vertexes and more easily determine what kinds of slopes and such you're getting.

- Remember that most land is pretty gradually sloped. Don't go crazy with these tools unless the situation calls for it. An area with several gentle rises and valleys looks more natural than one with all sorts of skyfjords and such.

- If you need to raise or lower a whole lot of terrain quickly, use the flatten tool. If you use raise or lower you have to wait a while, but with flatten you can simply specify the height you want and get it in a single click. Then you can use smooth, raise, and lower to make it look natural.

Subsection 2: Textures

- The color tool allows you to color the ground, which can help tinting textures. Use this tool to make variations in large areas with the same texture, for a more natural feel. You can also buff out any areas of geometrically repeating patterns with this, without using up one of your six textures.

- Layer textures for better results. Also experiment with pressures. You can often effectively make a custom texture through layering, pressure variation, and colors. One good technique is to lay down your base texture at full pressure, your blend texture at half, then spray on the base one again at a very low pressure to mix it in.

- Textures apply within the vertexes of the mesh, so they will stretch out along cliffs. You can actually use this to your advantage, because the amount they stretch can make them look quite different than they do when flat.

- Don't get too absorbed in the names of the textures. There's a tendency to only use cliff textures with cliffs and that sort of thing, but while they are designed for specific functions and look good that way, you can also mix them up to great result.

Section B: Water

- Always make sure the water clips under the land. This is very important, otherwise you will get a gap at the edge which looks terrible.

- Each metatile can have a different water level. If you want to have a stream flowing downhill, you'll have to make sure the flat portions of the stream are on different metatiles, and the downhill portions are on edges. You can then use a water placeable to simulate the downhill portion, along with a vfx if you're making a waterfall.

- You can do a lot of things with water other than water. The fact that it reflects can be used to great effect on shiny marble floors, for instance. Make an interior and tint it to look like marble, then place a very thin layer of water on the floor, then alter its movement settings so it is completely still.

- Among other things you can do with water is color it, to make lava flows and the like. Experiment for great justice.

- Remember that you have to lower the land where you're placing water, or raise the water level above the ground, otherwise the land and water will clip together and look terrible.

- Watch how deep your water is and remember to remove the walkmesh in deep zones, unless you want PCs to be able to walk around underwater.

Section C: Placeables

Subsections: 1: Buildings 2: Trees

- Placeables can now be tilted. Look for the orientation box in the properties. The first number controls left and right, the second forward and back. Use decimals, whole numbers tilt them too far.

PROTIP: Many placeables, particularly buildings, can be placed inside and attached to one another. In this way you can, for example, stitch together several buildings to make one large one, rather than having to get a new model for it.

Subsection 1: Buildings

- Buildings can be made into rows easily. Simply place down the buildings and move them together so their walls touch. They actually look quite good like this, and you can turn them into prefabs for use later.

- Make several prefab rows of buildings, with the buildings shuffled around. That way you can quickly lay down rows of buildings and if you space out your use of the same prefab, along with some single buildings in the gaps, you can make it difficult to see that any building patterns are being repeated.

Subsection 2: Trees

- You don't have to use a lot of seeds to break up your forest. Space the trees out and layer them, incorporate one with a radically different size and one with a radically different color than the rest of the trees, and you can break it up enough to look fine while maintaining performance.

- Remember that forest floors aren't grassy, they have all sorts of junk lying around. There's a twig texture, and a couple grass textures that can be mixed together to make a good forest floor.

Section D: Critters

- To place multiple VFXes on a creature, you will have to use an OnSpawn script. You can only apply one in its properties.

- Don't overlook the “assign class feats” and “assign racial feats” buttons in the feats screen, this makes assigning feats go much more quickly. You can also sort the list using the drop-down box above the list.

- Scaling creatures is totally awesome and everyone should make a fifty foot tall flaming goblin at least once.

Section E: Items

- You can use the mouse wheel to scroll through models.

- To preview a weapon, you can open a second properties window and set it to preview.

Section F: Tips and Tricks

Subsections: 1: Making Beaches

- When making multi-floor interiors, remember that interior tiles can be laid down on top of old tiles without having to delete. You can simply wipe right over what you have, so an easy way to make multiple floors is to simply copy your ground floor area and go to town. That way, you can lay stairways down right where they should be and ensure the floors are exactly the same size.

Subsection 1: Making Beaches

Making a beach is a bit complex, as it involves a lot of blending and you have to take into account the way the water refraction will change your textures. Fortunately it's easy to get a hang of.

First, you'll need to create the slope. I'll not go into detail on it since you should know how to do that, if not refer to Section A, Subsection 1 on working with height.

Once you have your slope, you'll need to apply the beach textures. I have selected three that I like for my beach, but you can play around. In general, you will want to have darker textures the further you go out from shore.

Beach example one, without water visible. The textures used are noted.

Now for a detailed look at this. Grass_12 was my shoreline texture, Dirt_03 is sand, and Dirt_30 is deep underwater. I have applied Dirt_03 at 100% pressure along the slope of the beach itself, and for several feet extending both underwater and up the shore. You can extend this as far as you like to make a more sandy shore, here I have kept the beach relatively narrow.

Next, I have applied Dirt_30 at 100% pressure underwater, leaving a gap between it and the edge of the Dirt_03 section. This gap is very important, as you will see momentarily. Next, I sprayed down Dirt_30 at about 80% pressure, filling in the gap. After this, I switched back to Dirt_03 and sprayed it down at about 40% pressure over the Dirt_30 gap, and over the shore on top of the Grass_12. This produces the bands of blended textures, giving a natural progression from one texture to another.

The above doesn't look very good on its own, but let's see it with water and its associated refraction.

Much better, and quite natural, don't you think?

This beach could use improvement on the linearity of the various texture layers—it has formed into bands which are noticable. This is easily corrected by spraying textures down as described in various formations, in order to break up the outline. You can also add more layers at various pressures to further the blending between the textures. All in all, the techniques are solid and correct for making a beach. If you can replicate this effect, you have the essentials down and can begin the artistic side of the build.

Section G: Area Walkthroughs

Subsections: 1: Rural river village 2: Interiors 3: Continuous areas

Subsection 1: Rural River Village

This walkthrough describes the making of a small river and village, somewhere in the wilderness, and goes through all the associated techniques.

The first thing to do is define the shape of the land. I will start with the river, since it's the primary feature in this scenario—the reason the village was built where it was built was because of the river, so the river will be the central build of the area. To make the river, we will use the lower, flatten, and smooth tools.

I have turned on the “Surface mesh” option in order to better see the contours of the terrain as I carve out the river. You can use the flatten tool to make the basic level of the river, then lower and smooth to detail it and make it look natural. Once you have your river, it's time to put in some water.

The important thing to note here is the size of the brush I am using. It is much larger than the river for a good reason. In order to have the water clip properly with the slopes of the riverbanks, the water must go under the land, as illustrated here:

Also, if you decide to widen part of your river later, the water is already there. Now since this is a river, it flows, so we have to work with the water some more to make the appearance of flowing. You must choose the direction it will flow. I have decided to make this river flow generally right to left across the area.

The ripple effects change how rough the water is, as does the smoothness. You shouldn't play with refraction for regular water, the default looks fine. The important controls here are the three water layers. They contain sliders for scroll direction and rate, which is what we manipulate to make the flowing effect. I believe the tool names are self explanatory. Just play with them until the river appears to be flowing the correct direction at the correct speed.

But wait you say! The flow is only happening in one of the metatiles! That's correct little Jimmy, the water options are for a single metatile, the same space in which your textures are counted. After setting it up hit export to save the settings, then you can change the other sections in one of two ways. Either select the metatile and import, or you can use the water brush again, as it will use these settings until you change them. You will probably have to adjust the flow directions some in various tiles unless your river is mostly straight and in a single direction.

PROTIP: Make all stream bends at the edges of the metatiles, so you can adjust the flow directions to look correct without screwing up other parts of the stream.

After you have your water, hide it and head for textures. Your streambed looks like crap with just grass on it, let's fix that.

Here I have selected TT_GG_Grass_35 at 100% pressure. Yes the texture name is grass and yes it looks like rocks, don't worry about that. I'm painting this down all along the streambed and up to the shoreline, though I'm not taking much care to make sure it matches the shoreline. Nature isn't nice and neat about this, so neither should you be. Now if you're thinking of skimping on this step, check out the following image:

This is a comparison between the stream as it was and with the new streambed texture. Looks much better, doesn't it? Textures are important.

After I've laid out this one, I'm going to use a second texture to represent fine silt and to weather the first texture a bit. I've selected TT_GD_Dirt_06 at 50% pressure for this job.

This removes the clean-cut nature of the previous texture. After all, how many streambeds have you seen that were nice and tidy? This looks like it's had sedimentation, which is what we want. Again, don't be too neat on this.

Now for a little PROTIP for extra realism. Think of how your stream flows when you lay down these textures. Deposits will be thicker where the stream changes directions and pushes more material against a bank, and thinner on the opposite bank of where this occurs. Like so:

As you can see, I've laid down the dirt silt texture heavier on the outside of the curve, which also illustrates a changing water level—stream floods from rain and such. The other side is bare.

From here you can tint your textures a bit with the color tool. Darkening them somewhat around the water's edge will make it look muddy, or just randomly changing the tint can help break up any patterns that have emerged. I am not going to go into this since it's a matter of your own asthetics, and there's no real technique to it. It's just another layer in your texture manipulation.

The river isn't finished—we need some vegetation along its banks and such—but that will wait for later. On to the land!

As we all know, water seeks the lowest point, so your land should all be higher than the level of the river. Basic yes, but keep it in mind. I'm going to make the river in the bottom of a shallow valley, with some gentle hills on each side. Nothing too extreme.

I've chosen raise tool at 50% pressure and a very large brush. This will allow me to make large, gentle hills easily. I'm also going to turn the mesh back on, and bring the camera down to a shallower angle to get a better look at the terrain height as I shape it.

There we go. Nothing too extreme elevation wise, but it looks pretty natural. I'm not going to do any real fine elevation details here, since this looks about the way I want it. You don't have to get crazy with your elevation editing. I would highly suggest just walking around and taking a look at your local land formations, and reading some geology texts online to get a feel for how land is formed. Expertise is by no means needed, but a general sense of rock formations and erosion is helpful. Now let's do some buildings. This is only going to be a small village, so a small number of buildings is in order. I'm going to use the rural building type since it has the character I want in this village, with maybe a few swamp buildings to add variety. I'm going to cluster the buildings around that fork in the river, and put in a few bridges to connect it all together. The bridges will go first, then the buildings, then I'll add in paths.

Being that this is a little backwater of a village, I'm not doing anything fancy for the bridges. You'll note it's slightly underground at the edges, that is intentional. When I put in the dirt texture for those paths, it will look like dirt has gradually been kicked over the edges of the bridge over the years, which gives it a nice weathered effect.

PROTIP: You noticed that there's a little crease when you change river flow directions. You can place your bridge over that crease and hide it, making the illusion of a seamless river. And remember that you can scale the bridge if it doesn't quite fit.

With the bridges in place I begin to put down buildings. Now, I prefer to do buildings first then add the roads after, some prefer the opposite. It doesn't really matter, it's up to your tastes. I will do it my way because I'm writing the guide, so there.

hay whats going on here

Hills can do that to buildings. Sometimes it's okay, just use alt-drag to put it at the level you want, but here I want it flat. Select the building, go to the terrain tab, use flatten under, and that will flatten your terrain under the building. You'll need to shape this a bit, otherwise it looks very artificial.

Here's our nice little village.

Next step is to put up a wall, and fill in the paths. The wall is just a matter of finding the pieces and putting them together as you wish, and the paths are done with texture sprays. I am using TT_GD_Dirt_30 at 100% pressure for this one.

PROTIP: Pay attention to where light would fall, and consider how that would effect the growth of the grass. Under visible blockages such as decks, you may want to change the grass texture to dirt as thus:

It's a small thing, but adds some good detail. Here's our village now.

There will be a few more paths added, a couple things missed, but this will do for now for the purposes of illustration. Now, the path textures look a little flat. I'm going to layer some gravelly textures along with the dirt in order to make them look more real, and I'm going to very slightly lower the ground along the paths to represent the wear of the ground by all the traffic. TT_GR_Rocky_01 will do for this, at various pressures.

I keep the gravel closer to the middle, as happens to real dirt paths. That looks much better than the flat texture we had before. This may be becoming a pattern too—two textures layered can often produce a very nice effect. The six texture limit is to be watched carefully, but don't be afraid to use your textures.

Now I'm lowering the terrain slightly. The pressure on the brush is only 18%, and I'm only clicking once. The mesh mode is especially helpful here, you can actually see the individual vertexes you're lowering.

The results:

Now that path looks like it's gone through some use. With paths and walls completed, I'm going to do the detail placeables for the town. First I'm going to add a couple wheat fields in the empty area I left near the windmill. The grass tool has wheat, and I'll change the ground texture in the fields to a dark dirt. While I'm there, I'm going to add grass all around the area.

The wheat fields, with paths added. Note that I used texture coloring to darken the dirt texture that I put under the wheat even further, to give the appearance of plowed up dirt. I'm going to use AG_Tall_Grass_01 for the grass itself. For water plants, I'll be using the various reed types.

At this point I start putting up more placeables. Anvils, shovels, plows, et cetera. I'm not going to go through it all since it's too much and it's all a matter of personal taste. I'm sure you know how to detail an area with placeables, it's really not any different than it was in NWN1. I'm also putting some trees in the town, not too many but enough for flavor. We'll discuss tree fun in the wilderness in a bit. Here's where the village is now.

At this point I think the village is about complete. There are a few other things to be done later, but we'll get to that. Right now, we're moving on to the poor neglected wilderness surrounding the village.

Trees! Trees trees. Yes trees, you need trees, trees are your friend. Unless it's a treeless wilderness. Obsidian reccomends no more than five unique trees per area for performance reasons. I've found you can get away with more than that, but we'll stick to five for the purposes of this, and to show how mixing and layering your trees can give the impression you have far more. First, our suspects.

These trees will form our light forest, and the forested horizon.

The actual matter of placing trees isn't much different than NWN. Note that you cannot rotate trees, but you can change the seed value to get a different looking tree. The variety is truly huge, do spend some time looking at different seeds. Each seed value counts as a unique tree, by the way, so if you have five oaks with five different seed values, those are your five trees. Fortunately, every tree of the same speed counts as one tree (don't ask me the specifics, I imagine just because it only has to render the one), so you can have a huge number of them with little impact on performance. So pick your trees and start dropping. I'm going to keep the trees a bit away from the village, figuring that they would have logged out the woods nearby and kept it cut back for defensive purposes.

My method is to place them one tree type at a time, in order to make sure they're mixed up enough to look natural. Remember that you can create prefab clumps to use if you wish. I've stuck with just the walkable area for this, next we'll do the border.

And a closer look:

Now, obviously, if you look at it carefully enough you can tell that the trees are all clones. But the illusion is good enough to look good, and there's really nothing else you can do. For the borders, just grab some patches of your forest and start cutting and pasting them outside. Shuffle them around a bit and it's unlikely it'll be noticed.

At this point you can further decorate, using grasses and such for groundcover, shrub placeables, forest floor textures, et cetera. There's nothing really new in those techniques to show, so I won't bother with it. The final step here is going to be the walkmesh.

Right now, the river is totally walkable. Let's see how that would look if Jimmy the tester decided to cross the streams (I have turned off visible trees for simplicity's sake in these screens).

hay wheres jimmy

o there he is drowning under the stream

Simply, I'm illustrating that this stream is far too deep to reasonably walk across, so we're going to mark it unwalkable. Terrain tools include a walk/non walk brush, which allows you to manipulate the walkmesh. I turn off water to see what I'm doing and start marking the stream non walkable.

Don't worry about being too precise here. I'm just clicking in the middle of the stream, if people can walk into it on the edges that's just fine. Better, in fact.

But wait! How are you going to cross the bridges? Simple my man. Set all the space under the bridge as unwalkable except the edges, make sure the bridge is set to IsWalkable=False (counter-intuitive, yes, but it's the way it works), then bake the area. This will make your bridge work. If you have any parts of the area that PCs can't access, go set them as unwalkable. The less walkable area, the smaller the file size.

And that's it for this walkthrough! We've covered streams, forests, dirt paths, foliage, bridges, and walkmeshes.

Subsection 2: Interiors

Interiors pretty much work exactly like they did in NWN. If you've used the interior tilesets like Velmar's, where you have to assemble it one tile at a time, that's how it works. You can mix tiles up freely as well, and add water inside.

... and, uh, that's all. There's really nothing for me to do, it's all tiles and pretty easy. Enjoy.

Subsection 3: Continuous Areas

In NWN, continuous areas were made by carefully counting and noting the tiles at each edge, so they could be replicated on the other side. In NWN2 this is no longer possible, but it's actually even easier to make a continuous area now.

Let's set up a basic area to demonstrate.

This small 12x12 area has a big ridge and some trees and buildings thrown around randomly. I have indicated the playable area with the black box for ease of viewing. Now what we're going to do is make the area directly south of this one, the same size, and have it match up perfectly.

First we need to duplicate the area.

Open up and rename your duplicate area to whatever it should be. Now what we have to do is shift the map down using the resize tool. To illustrate further (I have changed the ground texture for another reason):

The area within the black box is our current playable area, the rest is the shelf. What we're going to do is shift the map, so the area within the blue box becomes the new plaable area, and the area in the red box (which is playable in the area directly north of our duplicate) is the new shelf of the duplicate. This way the areas match up perfectly, and you can actually see what's in the other area before going there.

Next step is to delete all the placeables north of the new shelf, otherwise they'll shift around and screw everything up. The shelf is two metatiles wide, so everything north of that goes.

Now for the resizing process. To do this we increase the south size by twelve tiles, and decrease the north by twelve (for this 12x12 area, adjust for the area size of course). Again to illustrate more clearly:

The area will then resize, and this is the result:

Here's our final area. The formerly playable area that has become the new northern shelf is in blue, the former shelf that's in the new playable area is in red, and the playable portion of this area is in black. You'll notice the texture of the new one is back to the default, and naturally the edge of the raised terrain is just a cliff, but it's all there and ready to continue. Perfectly continuous areas.

Section H: Screenshots

This section's just some screens showing off a small number of things you can do with the toolset.