In retrospect, we should have chosen this week to review Christmas-themed foundries, of which there are a few. Opportunity lost. Maybe next week?
Temple of the Elements by @marrowyn
The Cult of the Dragon is up to their new tricks again. Tiamat has risen, and her minions are fanning out through Faerûn, looking for sources of new power for the Scaléd Queen, coming at last to the ancient Temple of the Elements. Tiamat will surely appreciate the additional elemental powers the temple can grant.
Oddly, though, it was our mission to STOP this. All Hail the writhing heads of our Dread Monarch, of course, but quests being what they are, we must stop the cult.
The temple is split into many wings, each housing a certain elemental power, eventually leading into a maze and a final confrontation with the powers of all elements at once, along with the cultists also vying for the final prize.
The map was pretty well done, with a lot of thought into making each wing look elementally distinct. The encounters are mostly generic, which can partially be explained by the variety of pre-built Cult encounters already in the toolchest. Still, the recent Cult of the Dragon foundry contest showed how those same elements could be used to far better effect. There are no important NPCs or plot; it’s a dungeon crawl and nothing more. This isn’t a bad thing.
Kasul and I both gave it three stars. It was impossible not to draw parallels between this quest and the legendary Temple of Elemental Evil, and I was a little disappointed the quest didn’t acknowledge its influences. It also used the tired chestnut of the quest giver being the quest villain. We’ll see that again pretty soon.
Pros: Decent mapmaking
Cons: Vanilla encounters, no plot to speak of, surprise plot twist used in almost every quest (and is no longer surprising).
Jade Tower by @neoexdeath99
“DO NOT SOLO THIS DUNGEON!” was enough to get Kasul and I hooked on the great plot and characters sure to be inside.
After about half an hour of pointless deaths, Kasul called Jade Tower a “troll quest” — placed there purely to troll the player.
First map is about thirty stacked Corrupted Dwarf encounters from Icewind Dale, and once defeated, the other twenty allowed Corrupted Dwarf encounters lead to the exit — which opens to another map, filled this time with a bunch more stacked encounters, so many that they glitched, and, as my video card struggled along at 1 FPS, managed to glitch to the next exit. I don’t know how many more maps of this stuff we suffered through until we got to one that was filled with traps, making it impossible to get away from the stacked controller encounters. Kasul bailed, but I kept trying to make it through until I had max wounds and had used up the two scrolls of mass life I got from the Simril event. But it wasn’t going to happen. I don’t know if even a full group could have done this. The quest has one review (it’s in Review Hell), and I can only imagine that review got in before the quest was in its final, punishing form.
Neither Kasul nor I finished this to review it. However, if I could have reviewed it, this is what I would have written: “A decent quests for new characters, though my level 12 cleric found it a little boring, and she could not use all the T1 armor that dropped. Good RP farm. Works well as a prequel to the Hobbit, as Erebor has been exquisitely brought to life in Neverwinter.” Kasul contributed: “Really makes you feel like the Balrog assaulting the Mines of Moria”.
Jade Tower does not take the crown of “Worst Foundry We Ever Finished” from Cat Scratch Fever, since we didn’t finish it. It doesn’t rise to the level of “Culling the Cultists”, since that quest we just chose not to finish, we weren’t entirely unable to finish it. Maybe it will just be, “why did anyone bother making this quest?”
Pros: An epic odyssey worthy of JRR Tolkien
Cons: None, I hope to see this featured, since by all accounts the Cryptic devs can’t find any new quests to feature. They should try this one.
The Menagerie of the Mad Mage by @GetSway
A magic carpet swept us into the Menagerie, leaving us suspended high above a forest crawling with creatures. A Mad Mage (like, there’s any other kind) brought together a bunch of monsters who are soon to threaten Neverwinter itself, though on the map, it’s nowhere near Neverwinter. I suppose they could travel from the Well of Dragons, where it appears to be located, over the Sword Mountains, through the Mere of Dead Men, past the desolation of Helm’s Hold and then into Neverwinter, but… the danger does seem a little remote.
The Keeper of the Overlook, the glass-bottomed structure suspended above the menagerie, tasked us with clearing the Overlook, then finding the mad mage in the forest below and saving the creatures of the menagerie, largely by exterminating them. Which seemed a little extreme, but when you’re dealing with existential threats to Neverwinter, like Valindra, Lostmauth and some toothless animals half a continent away, no force is too great. So we killed them all, found the mage, found the true source of the discord, and were done and done.
A very basic quest. The Overlook was a nice idea, but could have been vastly improved by such touches as adding some white, cloud-like mist to the invisible walls comprising the floor. The menagerie itself was just encounters placed more or less randomly. It was an okay quest, neither bad nor good. Kasul and I both gave it three stars.
Pros: Some interesting map ideas. The character designs were decent.
Cons: Generic plot.
Rise of Corruption: Revelation by @idiotamongus
Guard Frinko, Neverwinter’s Laziest Guard, had a letter for us. He didn’t know who sent it. Couldn’t describe the person. He didn’t know where they were from. He didn’t know anything. But he felt we should drop everything and do whatever it asked us to do. Neverwinter, I present to you Guard Frinko.
Once we traveled to the place Frinko indicated, a mysterious, hooded man handed us a letter, which seemed a little sketchy, telling us that we must travel to another place, Spire City, capital of a lost civilization that was undergoing some sort of crisis, probably under attack from animals escaped from the Mad Menagerie.
The airship to Spire City was under attack by elements of The Corrupted, a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Spire City and all who would travel to it by airship. We stood back while the NPCs aboard handily disposed of most of the attackers, leaving just a few out of range for us to clear.
Turns out we, or the NPCs, killed the brother of the ruler of Spire City. We were admonished by the Hooded Man, who eventually capitulated and acknowledged we had little choice. Kasul and I were going, “who?”. I think this person was killed by NPCs before we even got on deck, so not sure how we were really involved. Well, it turns out that our Hooded Man is actually the ruler of Spire City. I thought the ruler was supposed to be the Archlord, but that would mean the Hooded Man was actually the Archlord, which would be crazy.
We finally get to Spire City and kill the Hooded Man/Vesirus’ son, Prince Vincant, for him. Vesirus apparently wants us to rule Spire City in his stead, but first we have to… well, I’ll stop with the plot recap here. There is a surprise plot twist you will never, ever see coming, and I would not want to spoil it.
I just get the impression the plot to this foundry was thought of on the fly, as in the end, an NPC has to spend pages and pages explaining what the plot was. Well, I dunno, spread it out a bit. Also, it’s clear the part the player is supposed to play in this scheme evolved as the quest went on, with the end backing away from some of the assertions earlier made.
The maps were largely bare, with doors and other elements standing away from walls and so on. I’d suggest the author take the story, find a more compelling way to weave the player into the plot, and remove the inevitable plot twist which was trite when Tolkien did it. Explain the player’s special destiny right up front? That would be something which could explain why the player’s help is necessary in the first place.
I gave it three stars, Kasul gave it two.
Pros: Story is nice, but could be integrated into the quest more evenly
Cons: Bare maps with poor element positioning, numerous spelling and grammar errors
I hope everyone is enjoying the solstice celebrations in whichever way they like best!