There _are_ some ways to cheat. Especially when most of the point of an LT is to give the NPC a chance to make some point or some statement or set up some action, you basically just need the player to feel like they're part of the conversation, while the NPC babbles on.
One method I employ quite regularly is what I call the "looping branch." It preserves the illusion of choice for the player without requiring that you write 32 different permutations of every LT.
Take a very simple example, an LT which has one section of narration at the beginning, then has a set of PC choices, then will have a set of narration at the end. You could do what Bioware did in the TOB romances and just write things generically enough that the exact same answer could be given to any reply, but that's pretty weak.
If you drew out a tree, it would look like this.
Â A--#2 Â / #1--B--#2 Â \ Â C--#2
#1 is some bit of narration. "My, <CHARNAME>, aren't the stars lovely tonight?"
Each of the three branches represents a potential PC reply. Let's say they're
1. Gods, yes, but not as lovely as your eyes.
2. I have never been much for stargazing. Enjoy them, though, if that is your wish.
3. I hate stars.
A is a unique response to PC reply 1, B is a unique response to PC reply 2, C is a unique response to PC reply 3.
A: Why, thank you, <CHARNAME>.
B: It is. I can't keep my eyes off them.
C: What a pity, <CHARNAME>.
But A, B, and C all lead to #2, which is
"I find myself yearning for the sun to fall each and every day. And they say the stars hold our destiny. Blah blah blah, I'm gonna want to bag you in a few LTs, just so you know."
By creating your main "plot points" at #1, #2, #3, etc., you ensure that you're telling your story with a minimum of hassle. But by providing a unique response to each possible reply, the player knows that even if you're leading them down a path, they're getting some sort of conscious effort, and have some replay value as well.
Note that I will have a LT go off in two or three totally unique directions at times and I do encourage it so that not EVERYTHING looks so linear, but especially for "intermediate" LTs where the NPC and PC are getting comfortable with each other through sharing experiences and views, this "looping branch" method can save a lot of time.
Edited by Idobek, 12 April 2004 - 11:39 AM.