Collaborative Storytelling In Pillars Of Eternity

Rock, Paper, Shotgun's Adam Smith has penned an editorial on collaborative storytelling in Pillars of Eternity, specifically focusing on the ways Obsidian has attempted to marry a tight, arguably linear script with the freedom to play a character truly designed by the player. I feel like this excerpt best encapsulate the gist of the whole piece:

By contorting itself to accommodate the player character's whims, Pillars of Eternity is attempting to mimic the improvisational qualities that are the mark of a good Dungeon Master. Behind all of the checklists and quotas, Obsidian's RPG ethos is focused on the freedom of roleplaying within a narrative. It's a game in which breadth is as important as length and depth, eager as it is to accommodate all play styles.

(Play styles) aren't limited to combat, or difficulty settings. If you want to test every conversation choice and aim for an optimal outcome, Pillars supports that. But if you'd rather take the cultural background and lore around your character to heart, and develop his/her personality as you play, the game is designed to respond to that by allowing you to stay in character as much as possible.

Of course, it isn't really responding at all. Every outcome is scripted rather than dynamically generated, and that's the thing that I've found most impressive. Sawyer told me, before release, that he didn't want the game to be like a bad Dungeon Master. As he described what makes a social pen and paper RPG session work well, I was reminded of improvised comedy you take what your partners throw at you and you run with it. Never shut the conversation down and always roll with suggestions, incorporating them as best you can.