Another Monday, another foundry night in Neverwinter.
I know I said, last week, that I wouldn’t be reviewing any more Cult of the Dragon contest entries until the contest goes live on the 19th, but… there are just so many entries. It’s hard to find any new quests that aren’t contest entries. But, we did find one shining example.
City of the Lost by mittensofdoom
A cleric of Kelemvor has given you directions to the city of Luskan, and a mysterious holy arrow. Once arrived, we will be told more.
Our contact in Luskan turned out to be a mysterious “Wearer of Purple”. Could it be the cult? Yes! An Orb of Dragonkind is under the control of some demonic presence. The Cult may not have done you any favors over the years, but if the forces of hell and darkness keep the Orb, well, everyone suffers.
What follows is a madcap romp through nicely made custom maps to a final confrontation with the dark one. One blessed arrow later and the deed is done.
This otherwise decent contest entry was marred by a huge reliance on group after group of trash mobs covering every inch of ground. “I hate trash mobs!” was my bitter grumble throughout the entire quest. On the outdoor maps, I could sometimes speed past them on my mount. It’s too bad, too, because without all those static trash encounters, this was a pretty decent quest with good lore. And, it ties right in to MY entry!
Three stars from both Kasul and me. Adjusted rating: 2.94 stars. Sounds fair.
Bargain Hunting by epharmd
You see a flyer advertising free loot if you get to Vydic’s stall on the outskirts of the market as soon as possible!
Unfortunately, you arrive too late. Crass villains have made off with his trash loot, leaving behind only his vast collection of magical agricultural tools (the Hoe of Destruction makes short work of stubborn clods of dirt!). Actually, it turns out that maybe Vydic only gets his loot by following around adventurers who, for some reason, don’t bother picking up green items, and… well… if you could find Vydic’s lost trash loot for him, he might let you have some of it.
And you SHOULD. The intro to this quest in no way prepares you for the hilarity inside. Every NPC has deep conversation trees. Every corner has something interesting lurking inside. When you get to the dungeon, there are little set pieces in every room — and for those who just want to get in and out as soon as possible, the quest will optionally put your mission on rails in the most literal way possible. Actual railroad tracks emerge from the floor and all you have to do is follow ’em. And get gently chided for falling prey to your remaining explorer instincts should you choose to leave the tracks.
There’s a final boss that spends more time talking to you than fighting you — and watch out for a tragic case of “elf mutilation” there….
All I can add is — PLAY THIS FOUNDRY. Before it gets the inevitable featuring and tens of thousands of people see this before you.
Kasul and I both gave it five stars. Adjusted rating: 3.47 stars.
Turtle Soup by prettycelt
Speculator Zigto has an urgent sealed message for you by the auction house. He doesn’t know the contents, only the importance. Opening it, you find you are called to the far lands of Xiousing to chase rumors of strange creatures, pirates, and disrupted shipping. And what is this about a dragon turtle?
The quest departs from the standard fantasy settings and delves into the melange of Asian influences that apparently really exist in Forgotten Realms lore. Shame on me for last night wondering why Chinese and Japanese cultures were smushed together like that, or why the yakuza were prowling about. That seemed about as anachronistic as if the Mafia or the IRA were to show up. But, apparently it is, in fact, lore. Author even links to the relevant wiki pages to prove the point.
The maps were custom and complete, the encounters sometimes a little overdone with trash but not to great excess, and the set pieces in the Double Dragon Gambling Hall and at the end with a very well constructed scene which brings the entire story to a satisfying conclusion, make the quest worthwhile.
I liked the plot and the map construction, but didn’t buy the cultural mashup. Kasul admired the dragon turtle at the end (comparing it to the dragon turtle in his own contest entry, “Of Kobolds and Cultists”), but felt the bright yellow skin of the Xiousing denizens to be somewhat racist.
Kasul and I both gave it four stars. Adjusted rating: 2.81.
Cheating Death by wilbert365
You found a small note on the jobboard reading, “If You Hate Cheaters, Come And Help Me!” An adress (sic) is written underneath
With an offer that enticing, it was impossible for Kasul and I to not investigate. An NPC in Neverdeath Graveyard reveals that some dragon cultists have, through foul and illicit means, made themselves immortal! Only the gods can be immortal, and even they have their off days.
While the maps were decent (the picture with this post is from this quest), the writing was less so. Sergeant Knox makes an unwelcome appearance near the end — his second cameo, after a hilarious one in “Bargain Hunting” — but this one has a more Christopher Walken vibe. You’ll know it when you see it.
If your immortality depends upon four easily broken crystals remaining unbroken, you might not want to make any long term bank deposits. All I’ll say about that.
Though the maps were well constructed, there were numerous errors with object names and the like and object interactions that were perhaps unintended. The plot was minimal, the trash was abundant, the spelling needed work, and the ending was unsatisfying.
Kasul and I both gave the quest two stars. Adjusted rating: 2.9 stars. I think that will trend down to our rating as more people play. The quest definitely needs a lot more time to polish it up before it becomes a real contest contender.
The intention was to not play any contest entries this week, and we ended up playing three of them. The one non-contest entry, Bargain Hunting, was the high point of the night and, really, one of the best foundries I have ever played.
Of the contest entries, Turtle Soup was the best, and is already seen on the forums as having an excellent chance of winning the foundry contest. Significantly, both Kasul and I picked this quest to play, independent of one another.
The other two were similar in having decent maps, but no sense of encounter pacing. If you find yourself, as an author, just dropping in trash encounters because your maps look empty without them, the problem isn’t with too few encounters. The problem is your map.