The Life of a Mod (Bag of Cats)

At one point or another everyone has thought about writing a mod for their game. You’ve thought of the perfect idea, with the greatest plot and the most flawless execution. You’ve made the badest of bad guys that should be killed so quickly, or you made the sweetest family just looking for a little bit of help. In your head there’s no way things could go differently. Then you one day get to make that mod, you write everything you’ve imagined, then when you hear the end results it’s nothing at all you imagined. What went wrong? Did you mess it up? Did something happen when the NPCs went out? Why did the players choose to help the evil guy?

This should answer a few things for you. The life of a mod, from conception to the moment those npcs return.

The idea:

Every mod starts out with an idea. Sometimes you have a pre-set topic, sometimes it’s whatever you want to write. You’ll pick an idea and sometimes that’s all you need to do before you write. Other times you pick that idea and change it at least 10 times before it becomes something you really like. You’ll then adjust it about another 5 times because you are trying to figure out how to phys rep it (because let’s be honest, no one wants to see a guy standing there with a little bit of makeup telling you that he is really 200ft tall with massive wings and I don’t know but you get the point).

Writing the mod:

Now it’s time to put everything on paper. So you write it down in whatever format it is you do. The you read it over and something seems off. So you go back and you change it up a little bit. Maybe change up the loot given out or the threat level of your NPCs. Then you see it, the perfect mod. It’s finished. You polish it off and send it in.

In Logistics:

This is where the mod gets its life from. Without NPCs this mod would be nothing more than a thought on paper. Here’s where the variables start in making your mod.

-          Lack of NPCs: Occasionally there just aren’t enough people available for what you imagined. You need to cut numbers and bump stats. It’s okay though, because it’s still basically the same thing. Same story, just a few less people.

-          You’re not sending it out: Sometimes you’ll be the one in charge of sending your mods out. You get to explain every detail that isn’t on the paper but in your head. When you’re not there during this time those questions will be filled in the best they can by someone else and it may not be exactly what you imagined. They will do their best to keep the spirit of your mod, but without the writer there it becomes that marshal’s responsibility to do their best with it.

-          Timing: Your mod was set to go out at 2:45am on the dot. The clock says 2:45 and your NPCs haven’t left yet. Why? Well that’s a whole other list that goes along with running logistics. It doesn’t matter why though, you need them out 10 minutes ago and now they’re going to be late and now you need a reason they’re late and just hope and pray that the players are still there. Keep them waiting too long and they’re going to leave. No one wants to wait around for an hour to find out nothing is actually going to happen.

And they’re off:


This is it. It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. Your mod has left. So far everything has gone perfectly (or we always like to hope so!) You watch as the NPCs leave and go out into the world. You’ve gone over their stats 5 times, they know exactly what to do, they look amazing, now you just wait. Anything that happens now is out of your control but your confident things will go perfectly. Sometimes it does go perfectly. Sometimes everything you predicted to happen will happen. Sometimes the mod takes on a life of its own.

-          Your NPCs: They could be as prepared as possible for this, but maybe they were asked a question that they didn’t know and had to quickly respond with an answer. That answer might not be what you planned, it may even be contradictory to certain parts of the mod, but it’s not the NPCs fault, nor is it your fault. You’ll have NPCs that might not have been right for the role, someone too shy in an entertainer role, or someone too aggressive to be a friendly neighbor. And again, this is no one’s fault but it can change the course of a mod

-          The Players: I was once told at 4am after an exhausting 17 hours of running mods that ‘players are like a bag of cats’. Yes, this was stupid o’clock talking, but it kind of made sense. Sometimes you shake up the bag and they come out hissing and yowling. Sometimes you shake it and they come out all cuddly. (Please note we did not actually shake a bag full of cats to test this theory) This does pretty accurately describe how players will react. That bag your shaking is your mod. You can expect the cats to come out angry because you just shook them in a bag! Instead, when they come out they’re cuddly. You ask why and how. Instead of being mad and attacking, players negotiate and help or vice versa. YOU CAN’T PREDICT WHAT PLAYERS WILL DO

-          The Marshal: The marshals that go out with mods are all amazing people. Sometimes they have to work under pressure to make a quick call. Just like when the NPCs get asked something completely off topic, the marshal may need to make a sudden call. Maybe there’s a skill being used in a way specific to that plot and a situation happens that they aren’t 100% sure of. Assuming it’s nothing game changing, the marshal has that ability to make that call then and there. And sometimes that call may change the course of the mod. Another instance of it’s nobody’s fault but things just happen sometimes.

So your mod has finally come back home. You ask how it went. Everyone smiles and says it was awesome. You feel great. Everyone had fun. You get back into game and suddenly you hear people talking ‘hey, did you hear this happened?’ and you’re horrified. That’s not what you wrote. That’s not what you sent out. You weren’t told by anyone anything went wrong. But it did. But players are excited about it. This unexpected twist on a mod was so cool that they can’t stop talking about it! Or maybe your mod did go exactly as planned. The players still loved it.

A mod will take on its own life at some point. It’s no longer the writer’s mod once it hits logistics. With each person included into the creation of the mod, it changes ever so slightly. So when you write a mod, be aware that nothing can prepare you for what will happen. You can plan every scenario and there will still be a hundred more. A successful mod isn’t one that followed your initial concept. A successful mod is one that people enjoyed. So go out there and shake up that bag of cats and have fun with whatever comes out :)