What kind of modding did you have in mind? Author your own fantasy adventure, something smaller, or something more ambitious?
My experience is mostly in custom art assets, but I did have to attain some level of proficiency with the toolset. Modding for NWN2 is actually fairly tricky, I’d have to say. It’s far more complex than the toolset of its predecessor, but on the upside, also much more powerful, and capable of producing professional-looking results.
Some quick advice…
If you go into it thinking that you’re going to create something on par with Obsidian’s professional work, you’ll want to reevaluate your goals. A good twenty hour module could take years to build. Try to start small, tight, and focused.
I didn’t do any modding on Quake2, but compared to other games I have modded (like Oblivion), NWN2 is pretty easy. If you’re talking mods in the conventional sense, like implementing the optional spell-point system from table top, you’re going to be dealing with scripts, 2DAs, and possibly a custom .tlk file. Scripts are written in a simple C-like language that’s event-based. If you know C, you’ll pick up NWScript without a problem. If you want to mod the GUI, you’ll also need to know a bit of XML. The XML isn’t terribly complex, but it’s not well-documented either, so it can be a bit of fishing around.
One important thing to know is that the game creates two directories when you install it. You generally don’t want to modify stuff in the install directory (typically C:\Program Files\Atari\Neverwinter Nights 2), as it will mess up your ability to patch the game. The game also creates a directory in your My Documents folder that mirrors the install directory’s structure. Stuff in the My Documents folder overrides stuff in the install directory, so mods will usually go there.
NWN2Packer is a good hak pack manager. Haks are toolset sanctioned method of distributing mods.
If you’re talking creation of campaign story modules, then you’re going to be dealing more with the toolset that shipped with the game. It’s again, easier than something like Oblivion, but it’s definitely more difficult to learn than NWN1 was. Nabbing some haks off the of NWVault can spruce up your module. The RWS stuff that Kunikos mentioned is really good.
I gave up modding for FPS games when the geometry and 3d skills you needed to make a level progressed to beyond what I was capable of.
It’s just something to see how one or two of my ideas would pan out. Nothing overly ambitious at all. If one of my ideas turns out to be fun I might look at making an hour or two adventure to play.
One of my ideas is a premade level 15+ bard kept in a cage in a Sigilesque city populated by demi-god type demons and characters. One of them releases you out of pity one night and you need to use your stealth and charisma,etc. to try and escape and make your way to out of the tavern and town and to a portal. Obviously direct confrontation will get you killed.
Ideas are like assholes though, and I’d like to see if I can’t make something playable out of one.
I can tell you that NWN2 doesn’t require a lot of complex 3d modelling like most FPS toolkits. It does use a sort of terrain “painting” system to produce outdoor environments, but it really is more like painting or sculpting than polygonal modeling.
Do you have much experience with scripting? It sounds like you’d have to do a fair deal of it to make a lot of the persuasion and stealth stuff work. If you just plop down a bunch of NPCs and monsters into an area, they typically just start smacking the crap out of one another. . . which is fine if you’re doing a hack & slash, but clearly you’re thinking of something a bit more sophisticated.
Your idea sounds cool though, and pretty feasible to me!
What Kunikos mentioned about prefabs is spot on. There is some awesome stuff on Neverwinter Vault, and for my campaign I probably build 1 area of my own for every 3 prefabs I use (heavily modified sometimes, though). My scripting is limited, since I DM everything live and can do a good bit in the DM client.
If you’re looking to build on your own, I’d suggest checking out some of the tutorials on the Vault, and check out the plugins that Schazzwozzer linked to. They really speed things up tremendously. Biggest tip - BACK UP often. I back up, and then move backup files onto a separate drive (sometimes even to a remote server) just to be safe. A new plugin (Safe Save or something like that) makes that much easier.
Building does get faster as you get comfortable with the toolset. I actually find the toolset very easy to use now, albeit time consuming, and my only previous experience that even resembled modding was with the NWN toolset.
One other thing that really helped me was my Logitech G5 mouse. I mapped the tilt wheel so that I can tilt to the left and drag to pan, and tilt to the right to swivel the camera. It makes jumping around a map really easy.
Start small. Any project will invariably take longer than you expected.
The basics are like any old school cRPG, dialog trees and encounters. What makes a mod neat is the stuff you figure out how to do along the way. Scripting is reasonably powerful, but anything outside of the talk then kill pattern will require some extra hard work and creativity. It’s certainly possible to do most ideas, but don’t go in with any expectations that a certain thing should be easy to create.
Stealth, for instance, is a rather black and white option in NWN. Either they are trying to kill you, or they have no idea you’re there. To make a more tense Thief-like experience, the easiest approach would probably be to do as much as you can in dialog trees. Set triggers for a DM narration and ability checks, and only activate the enemies when checks are failed. Make another trigger to deactivate a hostile enemy to simulate an escape. A more ambitious option would be to script a behavior routine for creatures, maybe hijack the default scripts with a more sophisticated awareness routine, but that’s real work. On the plus side, if you design it in a generic way that other can use, the community will love you for it (in the way that online communities show love by taking your stuff to make other stuff and never mentioning your name. :)
Personally, I’m waiting for the Witcher SDK. I like that engine better than the NWN2 engine. I have no idea how the tools will be to work with it and the support from the community in general will be smaller, but I’m still horribly unimpressed with the NWN2 engine. And the toolset was a total beast when they released it (that’s the last time I looked at it).
I’m intrigued by the upcoming Witcher toolset too, but without a GM client, I can’t really see myself doing more than just tinkering with it. I’ll be curious whether somebody can mod it to add GM functionality. There’s just so much more that can be done in an RPG when there is live human reaction and provocation that can go on behind the curtain.