Neverwinter: Cult Foundry Contest Week 3 Reviews

Wow, week 3 already. It’s been a rollercoaster so far, but this week is special. We have missions by two of the foundry’s pro builders — and the unluckiest contest entry of them all. But we’ll get to that one later. First, one of the three quests the overworked cleric who stands near Sergeant Knox gives out this week.

The Dragon's Prize

The Dragon’s Prize by sc00teR

This is the only foundry this week where the quest page is entirely taken up by a disclaimer. I think I was supposed to sign and date it somewhere. Yes, I indemnify the author against any blame for an end reward that I can’t or won’t use. Yes, I will control the mobs I pull and not blame you if I pull too many. Yes, if the sparkly trail leads me over a cliff, I won’t haul you in front of Lord Neverember.

Kasul and I had Sergeant Knox witness this Lone Adventure Licensing Agreement, Limited Application (AKA, “lalala I can’t hear you!”) and went off to see what was up with the good cleric.

Seems in ancient times, long ago, the evil white dragon Malusnix hid a great treasure in the peaks above Icewind Dale, and then had the misfortune to die. The cult has lost its taste for raising dragons, but they dearly want to see what that legendary treasure was all about.

Once at Caer-Konig, you meet with some very old friends who may occasionally help, and with members of the Cult of the Dragon who are somewhat less willing to help. And then you get to the lair of the long dead dragon and discover the treasure… and the crazed cultist who wanted more. And he’s bringing all the colors of Skittles come in to take you down.

The dragon’s lair shows an attention to detail that is a master class in level design. The quest has strong characters, a consistent plot, a sense of humor, and a satisfying final confrontation. The only flaw was the quest’s length. It was FAR TOO SHORT.

This quest got five stars from both Kasul and me. It is the first time we’ve given a quest five stars since the contest began. THIS is the bar. The average score is 4.32 stars.

Stop the Cult of the Dragon

Stop the Cult of the Dragon by raindance7

Since we were already at the cleric, and had accidentally started his quest, we elected to start right in on Stop the Cult of the Dragon.

The Cult has been seen in Neverdeath, disturbing graves and causing a ruckus. No lie; the Cult operations in Neverdeath are a major plot point in the Tyranny of Dragons expansion, which shows some impressive foresight by the author :-)

We walked through a version of Neverdeath that Kasul claimed was the Shadowfell map. Okay. Killing as we go, we get to a crypt, where the ghost of a just-killed Cleric Human sends us on our way deeper into the crypt, where a Dragon Commander awaits us. After some sarcophagus investigations and a lot more static mob killing, we arrive and kill the Dragon Commander, a demon, and that’s it.

There were no issues with this quest. The maps were competently put together, there was a minimal plot and some characterization. It was just a really dull quest. There was no excitement, the boss battle was perfunctory, the stakes seemed low. Maybe it was just unlucky to be the quest we played just after The Dragon’s Prize, but Kasul and I both gave it two stars. Average score is 3.99 stars.

A Game of Dragons

A Game of Dragons by BjornKoer

The cleric’s third quest instructs us to head immediately to the village of Breetucket, where the young folk of the village are being stolen away! After carefully asking if, perhaps, they were being made to fight to the death to distract the thirteen districts from their dystopian lives, the cleric says it is nothing THAT horrible.

They’re just being made into dragon chow by vicious kobolds.

The Mayor reluctantly sends us after a spell-scarred half elf who might have more information, but once we find her, she sends us into a pit from whence the kobolds came. Maybe we can stop this before anyone else dies.

We soon find that very little of what we thought we knew was the truth… and that the dragons we were to kill would not be quite what we were expecting, either.

I was going to give this quest three stars, but Kasul started listing off all the things wrong with it. But I just didn’t think it was two star territory. We compromised; I gave this quest three stars, and Kasul gave it two. Adjusted score 3.99 stars.

Rise of...

Rise of Ingeloakastimizilian by eldarth

Easy winner of the “least pronounceable name” reward… If there is one, this quest gets it.

We’re told a Sage Ramiel needs to see us on some important business. The Cult have been seen up around Icewind Dale… Lord Neverember himself urges us to meet with the wizard with all due speed. And so we do!

We’re teleported to a ship, whose captain gives us supplies we’ll need in order to convincingly play secret cultists. Some time in a market (complete with a literal attack of conscience!). Having extracted the information we needed, we were sent on our final destination to confront the Cult in their hidden lair.

This quest was a story — with chapters, and side quests, boundless attention to detail, and some very funny bits. It did have a little too much fascination with pop culture, but not terribly so. The lore fits in well with the Forgotten Realms, and… this quest was more like reading Dragons of Winter Night than playing a foundry.

Kasul and I agreed — this one easily deserved five stars as well. If you play no other quests this week, play this one and The Dragon’s Prize. Average score: 4.21 stars.

The Dragon Scroll

The Dragon Scroll by Denniss99

This quest didn’t have enough reviews before it was featured to make it off the For Review tab. Since featuring a quest just copies it, reviews and all, it started off week 3 still in For Review. And remains there still.

In Week 1, The Artifact started off in the same position and quickly reached the third position — prize territory — in the standings. But, three days along, Dragon Scroll is still For Review. Kasul and I thought the > 1 hour average playing time kept people away, but that wasn’t the reason.

“The Cult of the Dragon has discovered the location of an ancient scroll which is said to have the power to raise fallen dragons from the death.”

This scroll is said to be in the Chasm (who has told us this, we don’t know), guarded over by powerful cultists and… other beings. Regardless of how we came to know all this, we understood that we must obtain this scroll before the cultists get it.

It turns out that, like a quest from a week or two ago, this is really a quest about mindflayers, who have been attacking cultists and turning them into their own foul brood. This was told to us by the sole cultist to avoid this fate. He charged us to kill any cultist we found, to save them from mindflayer-dom. There were ten of them, so there were ten groups of cultists and mindflayers wandering around — as well as wandering groups of mindflayers and their friends who didn’t count for the quest and also respawned.

After we got the ten and retrieved the body parts the cultist needed, we were sent into the dungeon. Everything had respawned along the way, so we ran to the entrance and just killed everything as it came to us.

The dungeon was just an interminable slog of random mindflayer encounters, so we ran through those. Kasul had a scroll to summon two dragons, but they were more trouble than they were worth, attacking things through walls and stuff. We eventually reached a chamber with a mindflayer boss, which we killed, along with everything else in the room. A key was supposed to drop to open the way to the finish — we did get the ancient scroll to drop — but no key. The quest text said, the key will drop from an encounter in this room. We spent a good fifteen minutes looking for an encounter we missed, or this key. Unable to proceed, we quit the quest. We might have reset the map and tried again, but neither of us felt like clearing that boring dungeon of all the static encounters again.

The reason this quest is still in the For Review tab, is because people can’t complete it. Of its four reviews (so close), one is by the author himself (assuming reviewer denniss3, who praised it highly and gave it five stars, is related to author denniss99). The author also praised the quest for its good storytelling in the quest description… Well, nice to know he believes in his quest that much. But, I’d have preferred if he’d have fixed this key issue which I can only assume is tripping up a lot of people.

Aside from the bug, we were puzzled at how this quest turned into a mindflayer quest. Technically, it did involve the cult… I really hesitate to bring that up, because if you go down certain paths in my own quest, you can get the cultists killed off pretty early and not see them again (or, you can join up with them and see them a lot! Your choice! Play my quest when it is featured!). Nonetheless, I felt the cultists would want to respond to this attack on their own by the mindflayers in some other way than handing the mindflayers cultists to use for their own ends.

We weren’t able to review this quest, but we would have given it one star if we had. Kasul was getting pretty angry at it. Never a good sign. Average score is 4.00 with four reviews.

The Cult's Hideout

The Cult’s Hideout by BennH0llysword

“What’s going on here? Zed Wisdomancer the Unmatched has come to Neverwinter with his minions. There is something in the air….”

Well, if it were anyone else, we wouldn’t go. But Zed — Zed Wisdomancer — when he calls, we come running.

Meeting Senior Officer Wil Fletcher at a home, he revealed his suspicions that there were Cultists in this very house. Given that there were two cultists standing immediately in front of him, we believed there might have been something to his suspicions. He charged us with finding Zed Wisdomancer and slaying him, and we could also rescue Unaril Cooper if we found her in the dungeon. Nice to have that option.

A drow delayed our journey to the dungeon by challenging us to find things for her in the largely empty house, filled with restless residents with names like Halfling Male and Half Orc Female. Kasul introduced the latter to Half Orc Male. They hit it off immediately.

Once finally sent to the dungeon, we wandered around killing random encounters with dangerous sounding names for awhile. Went to a second dungeon and killed fifteen scarily named critters, one encounter to a room, all easy encounters. On the last map, we just pulled every encounter to the boss room and killed everything at once.

This is what I do. I’ll play along and kill a couple static encounters, but if it looks like it’s just going on and on, I’m going to drag them to a room and kill them all at once. My Guardian Fighter uses an AE build. It doesn’t matter how many I kill at once.

So, that happened. Boss was as easy as everything else, even given we were fighting the last dozen or so encounters at the same time.

The dialog seemed like it was written by a non-English speaker and translated. It reminded me very much of badly dubbed Japanese monster movies. But, unlike the botched translation in Week 1’s Ending with the Beginning, the dialog here was typically short enough that the poor translation didn’t get too annoying.

I don’t like quests with long hallways full of static encounters, but these were easy enough that I could kill several at once, which sped things up a bit. The nameds in the room were somewhat amusingly named. I thought one of them should be named Dan the Can Actually Put Up A Fight, because that would have been a nice change.

Kasul and I both gave this quest two stars. Average score is 3.81 stars.

===

Week 3 is a pretty strong week. Unlike Week 2, this week’s entries got a news post. As of this writing, The Dragon’s Prize and A Game of Dragons were rising pretty quickly in the standings, but neither looks poised to come close to the Week 1 foundries. Given that I changed my spreadsheet scoring midweek to counting up the actual stars, Week 1 has a couple extra days of rating accrued to it, but I really don’t think the positions are much affected. Who plays featured quests from the previous week? Some people do, but most will be on the featured ones for the current week.

We have two quests this week that should, in my opinion, be at the top of the charts. We’ll see where they fall when Week 4 begins. There’s a big event this weekend which will probably spell disaster for this week’s excellent entries.

And, someone do denniss99/denniss3 a favor and finish and review his quest? Even though I didn’t like the quest, it deserves an honest chance.

Categories: MMOs, Neverwinter | Tags: | Comments Off

DND 5e: A Caravan Arrives; A Dragon Burns

Entering Greenest

Entering Greenest

There’s a song I wrote once. Everyone in Elturel was singing it. They loved me there, but what could I do? I’m just that good. They love me everywhere. The song was “Get Off the Cart”… I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the gnome cities beneath the rolling hills of the Western Heartlands, and why would you? You love the sun, the wind, the trees, and why not? Gnome cities were all mines in ancient times, and some still are, with the stone brothers ceaselessly chipping.

But we gnomes build workshops where deep pools one stood in their stillness. The old minecart rails now carry our automatons through the depths on their myriad tasks. Most gnomes only go where the rails go. But some of us get off the cart.

And yet here I am, stuffed beneath this dogcart like lost luggage, trying to keep out of the sight of the noble who hired me. I remember him. I’m hoping he won’t remember me. Or the music box I left going — by accident! — outside the door to his suite, all night. And the next day. See, I have nervous fingers, and sometimes I… build little things… and this music box looked so much like an ornate hinge that I just had to see if I could make the door musical.

I have to get off this cart. Soon.

My fellow guards are an odd lot.

Dan Cain, human cleric. Does he worship a god? Nobody knows what he does in the woods, but he always returns happier than when he left. The only way you can be sure he won’t go is the way he’s headed. Maybe that’s why he joined this caravan to nowhere.

Ellryn Leafwind, one of my forest brothers. He carries no weapons and wears no armor and his eyes burn with a quiet intensity. If he’s ever sprung a clockwork in the dark beneath the hills, I’d be shocked. One to watch out for.

Gina Battlehammer, a dwarf sister. The rock grows deep within her. She says little, still too young for her beard to grow in. She hates the stare of the sun but refuses to give that daystar the satisfaction of watching her sweat. The carven sigils on her battleaxe speak more loudly than her soft voice.

Zalandrin Silverthorn wears pointed ears and a thousand yard stare. Once on this accursed journey, I saw a squirrel chasing a bird away from its nest. Zalandrin was in full sight, and I swear he moved not a muscle, but the squirrel caught a sudden case of arrow, a look of startlement frozen on its lifeless face. As the carriage passed beneath, the weight of the arrow brought it and squirrel down to Zalandrin’s outstretched hand. The bird’s joyful song followed us a good, long while.

Me? Tinda Bronzenote, at your service. My full name would fill these chronicles, but this is enough for you, who have never visited the tessellated halls of my home, have never listened to our songs.

But if you have ever sung along to “Get Off the Cart”, then you owe me a shiny piece of electrum, or at least an ale the next time we meet. Music isn’t free, you know.

After many quiet days, the caravan master said we were nearing the town of Greenest, the end of our journey. A dark cloud hung heavy on the road ahead… rising from the towers of the small keep that peeked from behind the crown of a hill. A sudden gale shook the carts as a shadow sped over us — a blue dragon cried its electric cry as it flew ahead, the slow flap of its wings rolling thunder over the besieged town as the keep sprouted another tongue of flame.

Roger, the caravan master, tried his best to calm the panicking horses. The noble I’d been avoiding crashed out of the carriage, his widening eyes taking in the devastation, yelled words I could not understand at Roger, and stormed back into the carriage. Locks were turned. The door was barred, which I thought was excessive. The carriage is, after all, flammable.

The caravan master threw our pay at our feet and left us in the dust as he expertly turned the carts around and vanished down the Uldoon Trail, back the way we came.

With no better options, we decide to see what we can see in Greenest. The dragon has clearly been careful not to cause too much damage to the homes and houses, but hasn’t been as kind to barns and bales. It’s a rare dragon that cares that much what they burn. But we see, then, that humans and kobolds are looting the homes and chasing away the people. What could they be planning?

A small copse separates a river from the town. If we go up the river… standing in water near a dragon who breathes LIGHTNING? Plus — not that good at swimming. The kind of lakes you find in the Underdark are not the kind of lakes in which you learn to swim….

I rustle along the bank while the others wade in the river. I’m not all that comfortable among them, though Leafwind and Silverthorn are instantly at home. Leafwind look better with a hat. A tall, conical hat. Red.

Through the trees, we see a group of humans and kobolds looting a home near the edge of the village. Kobolds?

I put on my kobold costume.

When money gets short, sometimes I put on a quick production of “The Kobold Princess Who Grew Too Much”, a play I wrote. Performed the world over. Kings and queens tossing gold at me. I use a disguise spell to grow during the play. Not fitting into my clothes any more. The dwarfs always laugh.

If you have a couple silver on you, I might show you. Real silver, not that southern stuff.

I whisper disguise and there isn’t a kobold in Faerûn who wouldn’t invite me to perform for their king. From kobolds, I generally get gems. Uncut, but I know people. The rest of the group gives me odd looks. I bark. They sigh.

These people are not any fun at all. We see a family coming down the stream the other way, scared out of their wits. I bark at them. They scream and run the other way.

Pretty funny, but the group is kinda upset. They wanted information, but honestly, the best thing for those people was to get out of line of sight of the dragon. Disgusted, the party strongly encourages me to scout out the village, seeing I’m a kobold and all.

I wander up near a group looting a home. They yell something at me, but I haven’t learned comprehend languages, so I just smiled and nodded. That gets most people to leave you alone. But maybe kobolds don’t smile? They aren’t buying it.

Zalandrin, creeping to the edge of the copse, makes a noise. The kobolds and their tame human, their heads jerk as if pulled by an invisible string.

One kobold deftly catches an arrow with his right eye. He goes down in a puddle of greasy scales.

The tame human isn’t taking any of that. He draws a scimitar and swings at me, one of his allies! He misses, unsure, I guess, which side I’m on.

Gina Battlehammer runs up, axe already singing. I quickly charm person a kobold and set it on the human and decide Gina would be better with me behind her. Doesn’t have to worry about which kobold is the one she wants to not hit.

My kobold friend attacks the other kobold…? He was supposed to work on the human! Oh well! Missed anyway. That last kobold snatches an arrow out of the air with his throat, and only then do I hear the soft twang of Zalandrin’s bow.

The human, confused, turns from attacking me to swing at Gina. Someone should have had an attack of advantage or disadvantage when I moved away from him and he moved away from me.

Gina slices the human in two. Do humans have souls? Must remember to ask that drunken cleric. Or maybe he’s so drunk because humans don’t have souls. Maybe it’s okay to kill humans? I’ll have to check up on the local laws. Maybe there is a game preserve somewhere where you can bring your family to kill humans.

My charmed kobold friend, nobody left to attack, smiles stupidly, so I run him through with my rapier.

“We could have gotten some answers from him,” whispers Zalandrin. “I speak kobold.”

Well, thanks for that late breaking news, elf.

There’s a lot of plates, silverware and other valuables dropped by the dead kobolds. I drop my disguise and remove the kobold costume. It’s done its job. Cleaning it is murder.

A human family — couple hatchlings, a wounded man, and a woman carrying a spear with no little familiarity, comes running out of the village, pursues by a group of at least eight kobolds.

The kobolds, seeing us, assume by our arms and lack of running away that we’re friends, bark and motion clearly that we’re to help kill all humans. I suddenly have another vision of a walled off preserve where children of all nations could gather to kill humans in a safe, family-friendly environment. I’ll have to look into that. Are humans allies? I’ll have to make sure. Don’t want to kill them without a license, or something. Might be harvesting limits. And this village does seem infested with them. Perhaps they were sent here to breed. Could these be the dragon’s free range human farm? What are the rules about this situation?

Zalandrin says the kobolds are getting a little suspicious that we aren’t killing the humans yet, and frankly, so am I. But I tell Zal to tell our kobold friends that these humans are our prey (I hope). No go. I explain that these humans killed a friend of mine and that they should let us have these… they reluctantly leave.

The family is as terrified of us as they were the kobolds, and run to the keep, slip inside a hastily opened door that slams shut behind them. We knock on the door, exchange muffled words with a guard, and are soon let inside.

The keep is crowded wall-to-wall.

We look for someone in charge. The garrison commander, a red-beared dwarf who calls himself Escobert the Red, sees us and we are brought into a room with a crude model of the village on a table, asks us what the heck we are doing here. We explain about the caravan, and, accepting that, they tell of the suddenness of the dragon’s attack that morning, followed by kobolds and tame humans invading from the forest on all sides, driving people from their homes, looting and carrying away.

These same forces are working their way into the keep. There will be no leaving it without dealing with those cultists.

With the keep stuffed at over a hundred people and humans, at least that many trapped outside and perhaps still alive, their seems to be no safe place. There could be a couple hundred cultists out there as well, looting and burning but not doing all that much killing.

Our drunken cleric seems in danger of sobering up, insists on being shown the nearest tavern. He is ignored.

Escobert the Red makes it clear that we are welcome to take refuge in the keep — but we need to pay with services. He throws us a heavy ring of keys that will let us out of the keep through hidden ways. Get outside and kill cultists, or get outside and save more humans.

Or, just get outside and stay there.

I know my vote!

Sorry this update seems more focused on what my character is doing than what anyone else’s character is doing. I have to learn everyone’s voices so I can get more of what they say in there.

DM suggests we cut down on the comedy, so… probably will be somewhat more serious going forward. Nobody wants to be cut down in the next encounter. So far nobody has stepped up to lead the group — and maybe it’s early — but the last time we played we had no leader and so we all just did whatever we felt like, and this adventure is shaping up the same way. Nobody wants to take charge.

I’m not saying I’m not part of the problem — I definitely didn’t clear any of my moves with the group, who would probably have preferred I not dress up like a kobold and stuff. But, I honestly don’t know what else to do. We’re all MMO players and it shows so much. See mobs, kill mobs, see mobs, kill mobs. Loot the corpses. That’s not D&D. MMOs look like D&D on the outside, but inside they are dead. I figure, if we’re playing like it’s an MMO, we need to do the opposite.

A kobold, er, gnome bard isn’t going to be a leader. Zalandrin might. I have no idea what kind of things Superman and Leafwind can do yet.

Categories: D&D 4E, Other Games | 2 Comments

Neverwinter: Cult Foundry Contest Week 2 Reviews

Temple of all Colors and None

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.

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Neverwinter: Cult Foundry Contest Week 1 Reviews

Relative Security

Okay, it’s finally here — the first six featured quests in the Cult of the Dragon foundry contest. The devs say this contest could take MONTHS to finish.

We start out with a mixed bag of quests… and there’s gonna be some you want to play. And some you want to avoid.

I was going to rate these things with an elaborate point system I came up with, but who cares about that? It’s the players who will decide.

So let’s get into it.

The Artifact by kanddaloor

The Cult of the Dragon threatens Neverwinter! You need to stop them!

But really… are they? They supposedly have “an artifact”, which they have hidden in a small village outside the city. Unfortunately, they fell down a well… into a sewer… I’m no sanitation engineer, but I think I would rather draw my water from some non-sewer source. Anyway, it’s all good. Guards are making sure they can’t crawl back up. So all you need to do is fall into the well……. into the sewer….. and hunt them down through several underground miles of sewer and static encounters (a surprisingly comprehensive sanitation system for a small village), and then kill the boss who drops “the artifact”, which you then destroy.

Pre-made maps, no real connection to the Cult of the Dragon, boring, static encounters that we just ran through, entirely worthless quest. Kasul and I both gave it one star. Its adjusted score has risen since it dropped last night, from 0.8 to 2.96.

I don’t know what quest those players were playing.

Shadows of Purple Wings by thrymskvida

The Harpers need you for an investigation. Could the Cult of the Dragon be involved?

Turns out that the Cult is trying to assemble a potion that will let them raise a dracoliche, as they are wont to do. The ingredients are held by a suspicious wizard in a nearby hamlet. Can you stop the Cult — or is it the wizard you need to defeat?

“Shadows” is a full adventure, with lots of conversation (usually three different kinds of responses you can give — a positive one, a negative one, and one in pseudo-old English, which I like to call “Renfaire Medieval”. The NPCs will usually react in different ways depending which response you take, perhaps telling you about a secret bookcase or a sneaky method into the wizard’s home. Maybe some optional encounters.

This quest would be a great one to play even if it weren’t a contest entry. Kasul and I both gave it four stars. Adjusted rating is 3.99 at the moment. Why not five stars? I’m not sure. I may have rated this one too lowly, having played the others.

The Pact of Luskan by reiwulf

A disease has stricken Neverwinter’s neighbor to the north, the seaport of Luskan. For some reason, you’re their only possible hope. So…. off you go.

Luskan is an amazingly well-realized city. If this isn’t a premade, then it is a masterpiece of level design. The action soon shifts into a mansion, and finally sewers (inevitably…) in a cinematic finish.

Once you’re in the mansion, you soon meet up with the Cult, who threaten you impotently, and rescue a slave, Jox, who may be more — or less — than he appears, and is your companion from then on.

For such a well-made city map, I was surprised to find that the quest spent little time there — you talk with some people, and then leave it forever. The Cult aspects seem dropped in, and the disease plot really doesn’t depend on the cult. However, this is still a quest well worth playing, and Reiwulf, the author, is no stranger to being featured. A masterpiece by a master.

Like “Shadows”, the adjusted rating is 3.99. And, like “Shadows”, Kasul and I gave it only four stars. As mentioned above, I felt the Cult aspects were just dropped in. Nonetheless, you’ll enjoy this one.

Relative Security by Sarlacc1979

Lord Neverember’s cousin, Lord Adrian, has come to town, but is strangely reluctant to enter the city until he has enough forces arrayed to come in at the head of a vast parade. Your mission is to go see why he won’t come with a more normal retinue.

Well, mindflayers, obviously.

Following the mindflayer plot takes you into a dungeon, where you first hear of “the Claw”, the leader of the local Cult who has gathered two spheres of annihilation along with some black ice and is going to see what happens when you smoosh them all together. Because, wouldn’t you?

Most of the dungeon is just killing static encounters, but the quest picks up a little toward the end, as the Cult fights back at its most fierce, and you finally meet “the Claw”.

I gave it three stars, and I think Kasul did as well. I just don’t like long strings of static encounters. My view is, if you have an encounter, how did they come to be there? Do they live there forever until someone comes by? Is that any way to serve the Cult? And what happened to the mindflayers, anyway?

Adjusted score: 4.06.

Dark Plans by Omacrowhite

“This quest will test your medle”, says the description, and our “medle” was tested.

This quest is just a bunch of stacked mobs. I don’t recall if any of them had anything to do with the Cult of the Dragon or not. We rode past all the stupid encounters on the open world that weren’t part of the story, and all the ones in dungeon, and then it finally ended.

Looking back on notes I took when I was playing it, it doesn’t look as bad as I remember. Well, long lines of static, vanilla encounters are kind of a trigger for me. Authors who don’t even care about checking their spelling are kind of a trigger. Though we didn’t encounter any particular problem with the quest, reviews point to a lot of bad things that can happen to break the quest.

Kasul and I each gave it one star. The adjusted score is 3.14 (yay, pi!). Again, I have no idea what quest THOSE people were playing.

Ending with the Beginning by Taciog

“put an end the era of dragons, do not let the Scourge Warlock Ahab with peace of neverwinter”

The trampled English is courtesy, apparently, of Google Translate, which the author used to translate from their native Portuguese. As near as I can tell, they don’t speak any English it at all. That’s fine, but there’s bunches of people on the Foundry forums who would absolutely help with the translation. None of this was used, and so, to this English speaker, I couldn’t understand much of what was going on.

This quest had little, if anything, to do with the Cult of the Dragon. Most everything was devoted to defeating Scourge Warlock Ahab. Thinking back, I can’t think of anything that dealt with the Cult, though Kasul claimed he saw something. I think some of the mobs were Cult, though they were named as minions of Scourge S. Ahab.

Okay, looking back at the screenshots I took, the Cult was mentioned. We had to defeat the Lord of Dragons — twice. And finally, Ahab himself.

The maps were custom, though poor use of some special effects made the quest hard to continue in places. Puzzling out what was supposed to be happening was hampered by the poor translation (find the three… tabernacles?)

Still, even though I think the author should just have stuck with their native Portuguese, there was some good stuff to be found. I think, with a lot of work on the translation and the maps, this could really shape up to something great. In its current form, though, it was only worth two stars for us.

Adjusted score: 3.89 stars. So, clearly, most players don’t share our opinion.

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At the end of the first week, I’m giving the crown to “Shadows of Purple Wings”, followed closely by “The Pact of Luskan”. These are the kinds of quests we want to see featured.

Until next week…!

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