It’s hard to figure out just what people are looking for when they choose a foundry. Daily quest completion? Experience? Treasure? And don’t laugh at that, because the latest expansion lets you power up your weapons and certain armor by sacrificing treasure to it. Story? Puzzles? Jumping?
Last week, we saw a standard adventure-type foundry come in third place… while the top two spots were held by an adventure/combat hybrid, and a straight-up combat quest.
The winner of this contest is going to have to be able to satisfy both the adventure and the combat crowd… and this week’s authors are trying to find the winning combination.
Secrets of Manipulation by vandignesca
An outlying village reports mysterious miners have shown up, disrupting the peaceful life of the community. They claim to be government surveyors, but…
Guard Frinko (CURSE YOU GUARD FRINKO!) wants you to go check it out. Dunno, really sounds like this would be a job for the city guard if anything would be? Well, Frinko is fast on his feet there, with reason after reason why YOU should go, while he holds down the paving stones here in the Enclave.
Whatever, Frinko. Whatever. We know what you do.
The author walks that boundary between an adventure and a combat quest explicitly — the first half is the story, as you discover the true nature of these surveyors and ensure the safety of the community from not only these miners, but various bits of intrusive wildlife. With the villagers safe, it’s into the mines for the combat-focused second half.
Is there some sort of mindflayer/dragon cult connection I don’t know about? The story seems to dwell far more on mindflayers than it does on the cult… I would have liked to have seen more of the story, and lest of the static encounters, in the map.
I liked the story portion of this adventure quite a lot. However, the foundry is unpolished; map transitions are done poorly (and the maps are pre-mades); the connection to the Cult of the Dragon seems incidental to the plot; the final encounter felt anticlimactic.
Kasul and I both gave it three stars. Adjusted score: 3.97
Whispers of an Ancient Evil by Ian_Darksword
The Cult of the Dragon, the Red Wizards of Thay, and the agents of Lloth are up to no good. Alone, they would be a danger to the realm. Together, they’re an axis of evil. Not only Neverwinter, but the planar realms themselves are in danger.
This doesn’t imply that anyone should panic or anything. I mean, there’s YOU to defeat them all. You have Nobleman Butthead’s full confidence.
Burkhard. Nobleman Burkhard. Sorry. I wonder if he found his pen, yet?
Drizzt Do’Urden — yes, THAT Drizzt — has some info about an Ogre Mage from the Cult who is meeting up with some Thayans. Details are left behind in various manuscripts as you explore the camp. And, you meet a couple possibly recognizable folks.
I loved the story, loved the strong connection to lore, and meeting one of the legendary heroes of the Forgotten Realms. That said, I felt the final fight was unnecessarily telegraphed and so busy at the end that it was over before I really saw we were in the final fight. The adventure ends somewhat abruptly with the promised larger fights left for perhaps a later adventure. Some “new” cult encounters were dropped into this foundry in order to, perhaps, give it more combat, but I felt they were unnecessary (and avoidable).
Kasul and I felt it was just the sort of quest we love best, and we both gave it four stars. Adjusted score: 3.77.
I got an achievement (“Reviewer IV”) for reviewing 250 quests at the end of this one. I play a LOT of foundries! And it’s quests like this one that make it worthwhile.
To Rescue a Kobold by dragoness10
We last saw Alrica begging for help rescuing her pie-making husband from surprisingly lucid kobolds. Now she tells us that a kobold wants to leave the Cult of the Dragon, and we just gotta help. But, he’s trapped at the end of a loooooong tunnel full of enemies.
So…. pretty clear what sort of adventure we’re in for, here. Left unanswered: Why I would want to risk my life to rescue a kobold. I’ve killed THOUSANDS of them.
There’s a story in this quest, but it’s hidden in a series of half-hearted attempts at humor. Various NPCs pop up telling jokes, and then you fight more static encounters. The story, you come to find out, is that these cultists have taken a decidedly unusual approach to worshiping dragons. The adventure gets weirder as you go on, until finally any sense gets tossed out the window with a spork.
This quest just didn’t work for me. But, I think there’s a great quest here. I LOVED the story, what I could find of it, but the weak attempts at humor, the long lines of static encounters, and the terrible spelling blew the good bits away for me.
Kasul and I agreed on two stars for this one, which is a shame. It had such an interesting premise. Adjusted score of 3.22.
DownFall of the Dragon by psycotron510
the cult of the dragon have recruited renegade thayan necromancers to help them raise a dracolich help sgt. Knox put a stop to the ritual
I was talking earlier about the balance between story adventures and combat adventures. This is a straight combat adventure. Three or so maps of straight static encounters, one after another. We fought through the first one, then we just decided to run through all of them, fight any that didn’t leash at the portal to the next map, rinse and repeat.
Sergeant Knox followed us at one point, but I think we got him killed. I’m sure he died fighting. But then he appeared at the end, so that was nice. He made it.
Kasul was having fun listing all the ways the author misspelled “Sergeant”. That was pretty much all the fun we had in this adventure.
But hey, if you just want to kill a lot of mobs without any story getting in your way — this is the adventure you’ve been waiting for.
For me, though — this is the kind of adventure I avoid, if I can. One star from both of us. Adjusted score 3.45. Because there’s a lot of players who just want this sort of adventure.
The Errors of Our Ways by mizeryandcompany
A high-ranked member of the Cult of the Dragon has asked to meet with representatives of Neverwinter, with a note that reads only, “The error of our ways”. What could be his reason? It doesn’t matter the reason — any chance to try and negotiate a peace with the Cult — or even to get any information on their plans — must be investigated. So says Cleric Millan, as he prepares to send us into the sewer near which he stands… but not this time! Nope, this time we get to leave by a real gate.
Because usually when this NPC sends us on a quest, it starts with a trip through the Neverwinter mass transit system, AKA, the sewers.
Well, we soon find out that the cleric’s hunch was correct — we’re soon face-to-face with a highly ranked Wearer of Purple, apparently really angry that the new generation of cultists has eschewed the Purple for blue, green, black and white armor. Kids these days.
A vision of Sammaster appeared to him and revealed to him the evil at the heart of the Cult. They have strayed from the upright path of truth and raising dead dragons to rule the world and are now dealing drugs to schoolchildren, trading spheres of annihilation on the open market, and openly tossing caltrops in front of cart horses. Dragon punks.
He can’t kill his own comrades, of course, but we can, right? Sure, in fact, it’s Kill A Cultist for Kossuth Day, so what else would we be doing? In we go to the subterranean to deal with the cult… but we soon find (after a bunch of tedious static encounters) that someone has beat us to it. Drow! This is really a drow quest! With spiders and drow bosses and the cult is forgotten!
The idea behind “Errors” is first-rate — rooting out a greater evil from a more mundane evil. All the NPCs had, like last week’s Shadows of Purple Wings, three lines of dialog that let you choose your own tone with the NPC, perhaps finding out new information (and like last week, we made sure to look at all three conversation paths before completing the dialog).
Unfortunately, the quest doesn’t carry this plot. We never meet any ultimate growing evil in the cult, instead, just mundane encounters. And midway, the author apparently decided it would be more fun to feature the drow instead, forgetting entirely the entire premise of the quest. There was a general lack of polish to the entry, with un-renamed interactable objects and NPCs.
I gave it three stars for the premise and the dialog trees. Kasul gave it just two stars. Average score: 4.03 stars.
Temple of All Colors and None by valynstarfire
I gotta admit, these authors really nail the titles. With both “Errors” and this one, I read those titles and I immediately wonder what’s ahead.
“Coren has tracked down the thief of the Platinum scale and found the Temple of All Colors and None.” Kasul and I wracked our brains, but couldn’t remember who Coren was. Turns out this is the second chapter of a campaign, and if we’d played the first one, we’d know what was up. Maybe the first one should have been submitted to the contest… Anyway, we need to get the scale back, else Tiamat will use it to give her dominion over all good dragons, which would certainly be a Bad Thing.
We get there too late, as Coren has gone and gotten himself placed into a difficult situation. I don’t want to put too fine a point on it, but Egon and the boys were trying to get a ghost trap under him when we got there. He was part of the Ectoplasmic Brigade.
He was deaaaad.
Anyway, we run through the Wizard’s Tower map, the Dread Spire map, and that lava map I hate so much because I always fall in and fell in this time, too. It’s just static encounters. Some of them have been customized, but mostly are vanilla. The author places some flavor tomes in the Dread Spire map and a nod to some of the old TSR folks who worked on the Forgotten Realms, which I did appreciate.
And then it ends, as in the picture above, with an encounter with a small dragon, then the awkward moment when Coren asks for the scale and you can’t give it to him because he’s dead and who wants to be “that jerk” who tells him?
Three premade maps with limited customization, static encounters, mostly straight from the “choose an encounter” list, made this a dull quest for us. Plus the falling into lava — but that was my fault. I was trying to drag every mob in the lava map to the end so I could fight all of them at once, and one knocked me into the lava and there was no way up. After we killed the mobs that followed us into the lava, we logged out and in again and started over from the beginning of the map, killing encounters one at a time, like schmucks.
It’s not like Cryptic doesn’t do this all the time in their own missions. I just hope for more from foundries.
Anyway, two stars from both of us. We always have to judge maps by the worst quest in the Foundry, Cat Scratch Fever. Average score for this foundry is 3.96 stars.
Eldarth took me to school about the accuracy of my rankings spreadsheet, and I was happy to learn how to make it better. Grimah likewise schooled me on how I could improve my contest entry when he played it, and I was happy to take the knocks to make it better.
So, now the spreadsheet is actually totaling up the actual stars received. I’ve been updating the Week 2 totals nightly. So far, none of Week 2 has broken into the prize level, but The Artifact dropped a spot, holding out hope that a story quest could grab the third spot at some point.
Relative Security still has a tight grip on the top prize.