Neverwinter: Week 4 Cult Foundry Contest Reviews

By my estimates, we’re about halfway through the foundry contest. So far, interest seems to have been generally falling week to week. Three Week 1 entries hold their grip on the prize spots. Since I changed my scoring method to the one (I hope) the devs will use to judge the contest midway through Week 2, the Week 1 entries might have an unfair advantage in my charts… but, we’ll see. Were the best three quests all just randomly in Week 1?

Anyway, we have a whole new batch THIS week to get through.

Missing

Missing by Durtee

”Talk to Guard Frinko his missing friend”

CURSE YOU, FRINKO!

Clearly someone was trying to communicate with Kasul and I via the medium of refrigerator word magnets. But, we understand now that many authors don’t speak English as their first language, yet elect to enter the contest with an English-language entry. That takes guts, and I have to respect that.

Apparently, Frinko lost his friend in a sewer. Why won’t the Neverwinter guards close up those death drains of death?! Frinko didn’t like his friend well enough to go looking for him himself, of course, because he’s Frinko, and he cares about nothing and nobody. Anyway, said friend was investigating the Cult of the Dragon, and Frinko wisely elected to send some other sad fools to do his dirty work.

Sign us up, Frinko!

I think this was the first Neverwinter sewer system that was actually laid out like a sewer… gridlike. We were sent to hunt numbered static encounters for no particular reason. Apparently the Cult just enjoys standing in sewer runoff. Not your brightest band of terrorists.

We found mysterious items like “The sigil of blah”, an item for which we never did find a use. Fought a mini boss helpfully named “Mini Boss”. The sect leader — named “Sect Leader” — remonstrated us for wiping out the entire Cult before we killed her where she stood, so… well, I guess that ends the contest, right? We won? No more cult? And we even found Frinko’s elf friend.

The maps were simplistic, the story minimal, and the polish low. The spelling was poor. There weren’t even really enough encounters to make this a decent combat map. Two stars from both of us. Average score is 3.73 stars, and is, as of this writing, the Week 4 leader.

Unearthed Draconica

Unearthed Dragonica by ducdilimoni

Like Week 1’s “The Artifact” and Week 3’s “The Dragon Scroll”, “Unearthed Dragonica” hadn’t acquired enough reviews prior to featuring to start it outside the “For Review” tab. When I saw only five quests for this week, I went looking in the For Review tab for the sixth quest, without luck. Another author succeeded in finding it (since this week, there was no news post about the new quests to help). We wanted to be sure to play this one the first night.

The problem was clear… The note on the job board was asking for intelligent adventurers interested in scholarly research. C’mon. This is NEVERWINTER we’re talking about. The paper was already covered with obscene scribbles. Had to check it out.

The address led us to a small apartment that had been thoroughly tossed. Books and scrolls everywhere, but no sign of anyone… wait, noise behind the bookcase… a hidden room containing only a kobold sage, who puffed himself up as he saw us. There was an ancient mine some distance away said to contain items of unsurpassed historical value. The mine, however, had been flooded for hundreds of years… but the Cult of the Dragon have shown interest, and have summoned a sorcerous storm to break the rocks covering the mine.

Because it seems to have been a theme in the contest thus far to help kobolds out, we agreed to accompany the sage to the mine and put our lives at risk for a creature whose hit points can be counted off on the fingers of one hand… if you had two fingers blown off in the war.

The area outside the map looked like EverQuest, circa 1999. Kasul and I finally decided it reminded us of Kithicor, with its featureless, polygon ground, and trees poked through in places. Kinda retro. The maps picked up once we solved the riddle of the getting into the mine, turning into some sort of sodden, sunken, dripping city filled with angry fish people. Take a decent maze, some interesting map mechanics, a lot of lore, and a kobold who enjoyed using large words without quite knowing their actual meanings, and we had a fun time.

Toward the end, the map proved it wasn’t meant for more than one person as it separated Kasul and I by a suddenly rising plane of water. I was stuck beneath it, Kasul above it. We managed to complete the quest separately… but it was still a little annoying. Foundry authors — if you ever have a mechanic that blocks a path in some way, understand that you may be splitting up a group who can no longer then finish your quest. Consider one-way walls, or a map transition, or a teleporter, or something.

Kasul and I both really liked the quest, except for the getting stuck part. The final boss fight was appropriately cinematic. We both gave this quest four stars. Average score is 3.44 stars. Authors waiting for your quest to get featured — get it off the review tab while you can.

The Icy Depths of the Past

“The Icy Depths of the Past” by “SloaneTower”

“The merchant’s guild has lost its mine in the north to the Cult of the Dragon.” “There’s no way we’d want to miss that, if it means a return to the icy crater in which lay the remains of Icing Death — the dragon Ingeloakistimizilian, already the subject of a previous entry and the forthcoming subject of another!” “We’re really seeing a lot of this dragon, lately!” “I guess he, or she, is really getting annoyed at all the sudden interest in her bones!”

“In the north, we met with an elite Harper, Briggs McSplosion. We were to help him free the ten dwarf miner hostages held by a group of Barbarian Mercanaries.” “I fully expected to see small birds with fishtails, but they just ended up being common Mercenaries, so we killed them all.” “There was one particular hostage situation we very much enjoyed, a tense moment cut short by Mister McSplosion himself.” “Having solved the puzzle of proceeding into the mine itself in one of the many ways provided, we killed a mage for a magic teleporting ring and poofed the hostages out to safety…”

“Our own safety was not so well assured, as we came face to skull with the reanimated corpse of a very angry white dragon. Our only option was to recreate Icing Death’s original death… with bombs.”

“Though the maps were kind of spare, there was a lot going on, multiple paths to victory, optional objectives and things hidden in the edges.” “I feel if I’d actually read the books that all these contest entries are referencing, I’d have enjoyed it just a little bit more, but both Kasul and I had a really fun time.” “The overuse of quotes really was getting to me, though.” “We both gave it four stars.” “The average score is 4.22 stars, and I don’t have any problem with that score.”

The Stolen Dragon Egg

The Stolen Dragon Egg by Zachariah92

You’ve heard the the noble Butthead Burkhard is looking for seasoned adventurers for an expedition to the far north. Guarding a caravan? Promises of fantastic adventure and northern cities with amazing skies? Sign me up!

Seems that one or more of the dragon Klauth’s wives is selling her dragon eggs to interested buyers. This is an opportunity — and a danger, and thus the need for adventurers to keep the traders safe.

The trip to the northern city of Svanem was somewhat eventful, flirting with the trader’s daughters, snoring up a storm… Yes, this quest is one that puts you into the specific role of a male fighter who snores. There’s nothing you can do or say to change anyone’s mind about who you are.

While the traders are negotiating for the eggs with the Dragon Egg Merchant (his name, apparently), the Cult dashes in, killing everyone, and capturing the trader’s beautiful daughters. Being the manly man you are, you dive into the Cult portal before it closes and…

… and find yourself in a map filled with static, numbered encounters that must be cleared before proceeding. After quite a lot of that, you find out you weren’t the stud you thought you were, but still have a last chance to save SOMEONE… after an interminable slog through a bunch more static encounters which passes for the climactic encounter.

At the end — who will you choose? The Cult or the girl?

This quest takes a chance by putting you in a very specific role, a choice some players may not enjoy. It does give the author a little more freedom in setting the stage, by taking away a little of the player’s freedom. I didn’t mind that so much as the boring numbered encounters in the mine. You’d have to circle a room, killing mobs which weren’t actually threatening in any way, then proceed to the next room and do the same thing all over again.

So, good maps — as promised, the sky above Svanem and the city itself were beautiful, and the dungeon itself showed some real talent. However, the encounters were stale and uninteresting, and the spelling needed work. When I played this before, while it was in review, I gave it four stars because I felt it showed promise. I dropped that to three stars on this second play through because I really hate static encounters. Kasul gave it three as well. Average score is 4.02 stars.

Culling the Cult of the Dragon

Culling the Cult of the Dragon by DemonMongerChild

I could write a lot about this quest, but, I won’t. This quest is a punishment. If you feel you’ve been having too much joy in your life, then this quest — which consists of multiple stacked AEing mobs throughout — will solve your happiness problem.

We got through the first couple maps, and then decided we didn’t need this crap, so we bailed. It didn’t have the chance to take the title of Worst Quest We Actually Finished from Cat Scratch Fever because there was no point to finishing this one. No possible reward could make finishing this quest worth it to us.

Zero stars from us. Foundries should be fun. Average stars so far: 3.40.

Fire Sale

Fire Sale by Tipa

Well, I wasn’t going to talk about my quest, but what the heck. Since we bailed from Culling the Cult, Kasul suggested we play through mine once more, so we did. I duplicated the issue Bordaaron found with the auctioneer, but way too late to do anything about that now. I was rushing to get some last minute changes to firm up the plot before the deadline and didn’t test enough.

The quest is a mix of all the things I saw in other people’s quests that I wanted to try — multiple paths, lots of things going on with the map, more cinematic flourishes, and a sort of goal-driven storyline where the player would have one or two objectives, but complete them many ways.

I wasn’t totally successful with that. I didn’t want to have NPCs everywhere who would explain everything, though I did end up adding a couple.

Basic plot: There are a number of legendary Dragon Cult artifacts, among them, gems called Orbs of Dragonkind. One came up for auction in Neverwinter, shocking the nobility of the city. Speculator Zigto feels if a trusted adventurer were to put in a high bid, it would throw a wrench in the plans of other nobles to grab it. You soon find the Cult is also interested — and that Zigto has a more personal interest in the Orb than he lets on — and the Greycloaks are pretty sure they should be keeping that artifact… and then everyone’s plans are shattered when Ghaunadaur takes the stage.

It isn’t as strong a story as Tempest or Najena’s Lair, but I had fun making it and I hope people have fun playing it, flaws and all.

Current average stars: 4.04, and now that it’s featured, I can move on with my life and get to work on Crushbone Arena.

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Tipa

Web developer for a Connecticut-based insurance company that's over 200 years old! Also a bicycler, a blogger, a kayaker, and a hunter of bridges.