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“You could say it was a perfect storm” - How a Baldur’s Gate 3 modder who’d never played a "known" roguelike ended up turning Larian’s RPG into one

"There is still a lot that hasn't been done with the current tools."

Characters from Baldur's Gate 3, Hades, and The Binding of Isaac.
Image credit: Larian/SuperGiant/Edmund McMillen

“I was at a point where I didn't know what game to play and Baldur’s Gate 3 came to mind,” modder Hippp0o tells me.

“I already had more than 500 hours in [its] story mode and didn't really feel like starting a new campaign. I really only wanted to treat it like a turn-based combat simulator with my custom/modded characters. I knew a bit about the possibilities with [the] script extender and Lua isn't new to me. So, I quickly made up and coded the basic concept, which is still used in today's version of ToT - maps, scenarios and enemies. That was the original plan.”

This little bit of early concepting would eventually morph into Trials of Tav - ToT as Hippp0o referred to it there - a pretty huge BG3 mod that adds an entire standalone roguelike mode to the game, aimed squarely at those who, as the modder did, just fancy taking on wave after wave of foes with their party. After all, you can only take in so many deep camp conversations with Gale or head off on a charming little quest with Karlach so many times until you’re overcome with the desire to kill a bunch of stuff - preferably in a fashion that requires a bit less planning than your average dark urge puts in.

Though, the path Trials of Tav ended up taking to get between these simple beginnings and its complex present is an interesting one. As alluded to, Hippp0o didn’t take the path most expensive mods like this seem to. Rather than kicking things off with a big, lofty goal and gradually refining that idea into a more practical and focused thing that’s more achievable, Hippp0o did the opposite, taking their specific, stripped-back vision and building upon it based on the feedback they got.

“I initially didn't associate it with a roguelike game, because I just made it as a combat simulator,” the modder admits. “When I released a first version named ‘Just Combat’, which included just the basic concept, people commented on it and compared it to a roguelike.

Some combat in the Baldur's Gate 3 mod Trials of Tav.
The battling foundation was there, but more was needed to make the mod really sing. | Image credit: Hippo0o on Nexus Mods.

“The mod didn't get much traction, as the user interface was non-existent and there was not much to it for users to play with,” they continue, “after joining the Larian Studios Discord and another modding-related [server], I tried to consult people and they helped me shape the roguelike features we have today.”

There was one big hangup when it came to this process of shaping the mod into something that better resembled a full-on roguelike - Hippp0o hadn’t actually played any of what they class as the “known” roguelikes on the market. The closest they’d gotten to the likes of Hades, in their estimation, were ARPGs like Diablo and Last Epoch. Though, a bit of serendipity made it clear that this path was the best way to help make Trials of Tav’s core combat element into something more enjoyable to jump into.

“What also played a big role in the result we have today,” the explain, “is that [modder] Norbyte coincidentally implemented IMGUI for custom user interfaces into [the] script extender at the exact same time I was looking for ways to make users interact with my combat simulator mod. You could say it was a perfect storm.”

Melinoe in Hades 2.
There's always time left for folks who've yet to try the Hades series. | Image credit: SuperGiant Games

Hippp0o worked on and coded the project “for at least two months” before releasing the version of Trials of Tav that you can currently find on the Nexus. “The biggest challenges were definitely the feeling of it never being good enough and the seemingly never ending feature creep coming from suggestions,” they say of this time.

“Another challenge to overcome has been the vanilla game itself,” the modder adds, “I use [the] Script Extender as my main interface to the game's underlying systems. It isn't always easy to get the game to a state I want it to be in. Norbyte has done a lot of work to make it all possible, but there are certain limitations. Thankfully, solving the UI/UX problem for the mod turned out easier than expected, because of the newest feature of Script Extender coming out at the right time.”

Following a brief respite just after they initially got the mod out of the door, Hippp0o says that “the feeling of it never being good enough became stronger again as more and more people started giving their opinions and suggestions.” “I manage it,” they explain, “but I have to say that I'm sometimes not motivated to read comments. The positive feedback is great nonetheless and it's for sure rewarding after spending so long working on the project.”

The main art for the current version of Baldur's Gate 3 mod Trials of Tav.
Trials of Tav's out now, but its creator certainly isn't done adding to it. | Image credit: Hippo0o on Nexus Mods.

That feedback is something they plan to keep incorporating into the mod as it continues to evolve, too. “The list of things to add and improve is long. I will definitely be busy with it as long as I have the motivation to do some,” Hippp0o reveals, “One of the most requested features is to add a vendor in camp, which will come at some point.” They also have some ideas for other mods they’d like to “take a pass at” in the future, with some of these being “tied to character customisation or making dm tooling tied with Trials of Tav, and [adding] PvP [to it].”

Given that Baldur’s Gate 3 is in an interesting place mod-wise at the moment, with the highly-anticipated official modding tools Larian’s been working on set to emerge from beta and alpha testing with Patch 7’s arrival in September, I also asked Hippp0o for their perspective on where the game’s currently at modding-wise.

“While modding tools are coming, the modding scene has been thriving with ideas and talent since release,” they tell me. “A lot of tools have already been made by the community, such as, of course, Script Extender (SE) by Norbyte, but also [the likes of] frameworks [and] VScode extensions.

An evil Dragonborn character in Baldur's Gate 3.
Patch 7 might be getting closer on the horizon, but it's not the only reason to be excited about BG3 modding. | Image credit: VG247/Larian

“I don't think people who would like to start modding should refrain from doing so because of Patch 7 looming on the horizon. The way [they] have been presented [to us], it seems like modding tools will just make the endeavour a lot more accessible, without needing to acquire specific knowledge. They will also open new possibilities for players on consoles. This doesn't mean [they] will enable a lot of things that aren't already possible now.”

“There is still a lot that hasn't been done with the current tools [at the community’s disposal],” they add. “[The] script extender in particular is very powerful and a lot of people are still working on exploring the vast possibilities it opens. Trials of Tav is an example [of this] and, as such, will not benefit much from mod tools. This is also the reason it will very likely never come to console or Mac: because it is so reliant on SE.”

So, if you’re like Hippp0o and have put enough hours into Baldur’s Gate 3’s main story since the game released that you’ve started coming up with ideas for mods that could help transform it into something fresh, you’ve got two options. You can wait for things to get just that little bit easier for newbies, or dive in and get a head start by trying to get to grips with all the fantastic tools already out there.

Just like trying to pick the right party member to share a tent with, the ideal answer probably depends on how comfortable you are with certain things.

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