New content added to BG sometimes makes me feel kind of cramped. I mean, they put Dorn's necromancer Kryll in a half-empty area in the southeast - all right, had a "random" encounter with him between maps - that was clever... But there is also fan-made content. The Friendly Arm is stuffed (but only downstairs, for some reason), and putting more encounters on the old maps is a bad idea, space is the most important thing about this game. There are also too many people trapped in stone lately.
So where else to stick "new" places or just NPC? I'm putting "new" in quotes, because the areas will usually, of course, be rehashes and imports from IWD or some other game...
Some modders found smart solutions. @DarkDogg
used the abandoned house while still keeping it abandoned (which is just right), and hacked a cave entrance on another map. (It would be good to hear ideas about which areas in the Infinity games are the least known and used, by the way.) Now, I don't make areas myself, and probably never will, but I'm eager to play in them. I hate stepping on toes, too. So let me think of possible destinations for added content and ways to avoid filling up the game. Here is what comes to mind:
1) Make more caves on the existing maps, with small entrances. A cave entrance is a hole in a wall, so it doesn't clutter the map any or interfere with its theme. For instance, there are enough sand and loam banks on the lonely, muted Firewine map for one or even two holes behind a bush. New caves should also be easy enough to draw up. It is probably better not to staff caves chock-full of creatures, that looks unnatural, especially for a place like Firewine. An empty cave is just fine, it makes the game feel "roomy." An empty cave is a valuable contribution to the game, no less than a full one.
2) Open up the top of Durlag's Tower. When you walk out on the terrace, you see that there remains enough space up there, above the highest floor, for a couple of good-sized rooms. And there must be
rooms, too. It can't be just solid stone, can it? The shape of the tower is so irregular, it can probably accept almost any room. There is a also a door, next to the stairs, that is enticing.
3) Use the right river bank of AR0400 (Farmlands north of Baldur's Gate, with the zombies). For some reason the right bank is impassable. Well, there is enough space there for an encounter or two.
4) Use houses in Baldur's Gate itself. There are a lot of blanks with generic NPC. Evict them and put some interesting folks instead. Planescape: Torment had no "generics" in houses, everybody had a name and a quest, and the game was the better for it. But these NPC and their quests, of course, won't be accessible until after Cloakwood.
5) The Nashkel Fair is just what the doctor prescribed if you don't know where to put gamblers, tricksters, idlers, entertainers and wandering heroes. The Fair is, to be frank, not much fun at the moment and never has been. If you have Unfinished Business, there are two or three merchants, fat of course, who sell the same usual boring weapons... you know you want that non-magical sling... but also, let's be Fair, overpowered equipment and duplicates of weapons you thought your party has already come by... The huge gambling tents are next to empty of anything interesting, and you can't even really play. Well, if the Fair really does attract many people from distant parts, as Volo says, you can expect many unusual types there and in the tent of the lotus smokers... Or better, so as not to clutter it, put someone outside.
By the way, when a farmer comes to a fair, he usually wants to buy or sell something practical. Buy a new plow, sell a pig. He's not there to play the roulette... Ahem. If we want to keep a toehold on common sense, should the place not reflect this medieval reality?
6) Place more people on second floors of inns, including the Friendly Arm. Felderpost's is huge. There is enough space in city inns as well. It's okay to make players look for an NPC outside of the bar room. Legwork is a good thing more often than not.
7) Combine NPC. This is a trick, but it works: instead of adding a "realistic" number of servant-type NPC like guards, roaming ass-scratching peasants and so on, add enough to make the impression you want to convey. A certain mod places several merchants in the courtyard of the Friendly Arm, each with two or three guards, and the guards all have flaming swords out... Aside from making Doom Guards less impressive and just being in bad taste, this crowd throngs the map. Two-three or three-four guards would have been enough for all of the merchants. They symbolize strong security, and that's all the situation calls for. It's not like more guards can prevent the player from killing everybody, if he really wants to. It's always best to keep numbers down, this leaves more player attention for the surroundings. And a crowd of people with near-identical avatars looks ridiculous. Sorry, SoD.
8) Take over NPC. Do you see a wandering Reader with no name? A guard called Guard? A little girl called Girl? Don't make your own actors - grab and christen these, already available. You can even sign up a wandering cat if you have a mind to. Beregost or Nashkel aren't metropolises to teem with people (including the little crowd gathered to look at a monk). They are small, boring places, or there wouldn't be any adventurers.
9) Phase out NPC. So you really need a peasant woman to appear at X to answer the party's question, it has to be outdoors, and you can't take over an NPC already there. Why shouldn't, then, she disappear after the party leaves the area, or after 1 minute? Nobody will miss her, surely. She doesn't have to remain, when the only thing she will have to say until the end of the game, if the party stumbles across her again, is "Hello, how fare thee?" We fare fine, thank you, and don't you have better things to do than stand there with your one-liner and block the view?
Those are my suggestions. Obviously there are going to be exceptions, but the important part, on the whole, is to find unexplored spaces instead of jamming it all in a world not meant to hold so much magic, so many weapons, such throngs of people, in short, this amount of content.