Weekly Foundry Reviews — February 18, 2015

Based on a suggestion last week in the forums, I went through the 159 quests that we have reviewed (we played many more before I first thought to write about them) and compiled them in a spreadsheet based on the one I kept for the Cult of the Dragon foundry contest.

With that information, I’m able to suggest quests similar to the quests we review :)

The link to the spreadsheet: http://goo.gl/XbV9hj

And… onto this week’s reviews.

Hallow’s Thicket by @scmiller

You might remember, when you were a child, the stories your parents told you to keep you scared beyond any ability to scream, about “the demon who steals, Diagoraith, and the raggedy puppet Gorrot”. I’m not sure telling your kids about a monster who will kill them if they don’t go to sleep will have the desired effect… but then, I wasn’t a Neverwinter kid. Even so, I think I’d prefer the other bedtime story Neverwinter tells its children, about the wish-giving temple of riches far beneath the city streets.

But, that’s not the quest we’re playing. We’re playing the one where we confront our childhood fears… and kill them for xp and loot. Well, this is a foundry, so just xp. Well, this is a foundry, so just…. 

With the map to Diagoraith’s home, Hallow’s Thicket, in our possession, we set out to find the reality behind the scary stories… and it was a little different than we were told.

This was a fairly decent quest, nothing too special. We enjoyed the whole confronting childhood fears aspect, and the NPCs were nicely askew. We didn’t particularly enjoy the constant zoning. For such a short quest, it really got annoying. The English was okay, with a few misspellings and some weird funnies — wolves run in packs, not herds, leading us to wonder if maybe they were were-cows or something… We ended up giving it three stars.

If you enjoyed this quest, you might like to try “Horror in Halavar” by @juravian.

Pros: Nice backstory and an interesting concept.
Cons: Too much zoning, misspellings and grammar issues mar an otherwise excellent story.

Save the Theatre by @mochakimono

It’s the same story, again and again. Someone wants to open a community theatre, but the actors are divas, the orchestra are bleeding to death, the crew have been replaced by monsters, and the public just isn’t showing a lot of interest in your avant-garde interpretation of Lathander and Lace.

All you can honestly hope for is that some dim adventurers will stumble in the door and fix all your problems for peanuts. Except, maybe they have a nut allergy, so better not get ahead of ourselves here with promising them peanuts.

“Save the Theatre” is a cute, short adventure with a refreshingly weird premise and the most bizarre NPCs I’ve had the pleasure of being attacked by in a long time. And, Guard Frinko FINALLY shows his true colors!

Unfortunately, the maps are kind of basic and need a little polishing and better set dressing. I loved the terrified orchestra. Kasul loved having to go out and coerce people into coming to the show opening. And we both loved beating the crap out of Guard Frinko.

We felt it came in just short of four stars. It’s also short in another way — at an average playtime of 14 minutes, it just misses being eligible for the Daily Foundry credit.

If you liked this quest, you might enjoy “The Frosty Proctologist” by @labmouse43– an equally bizarre little adventure.

Pros: Actually funny. Bizarrely weird.
Cons: Better maps could really improve things.

ILT1: Newly Bought Home by @Alaynia

An interesting concept — a home built for roleplaying has a double purpose as the starting point for an interesting excursion into the past of the Underdark. After spending an enjoyable few minutes looking around the exquisitely decorated home, we took the suggestion to head into the attack, discover the home’s deed, and come face to face with its owner, an illiterate drow.

Once upon a time, she eventually reveals, she was a nobleman’s daughter, when her House was wiped out by a rival’s attacks. Only she and her faithful slave made it out alive. Her faithful slave… was you.

Fifteen years ago, she begins… and then you’re in the story.

The problem with flashback quests is that they really take the agency away from the player. Can’t say I enjoyed playing the slave, and it felt creepy when the little girl drow told me to take my pleasure with another slave of my choice as a reward for doing her a service. And there was no refusing.

For all that, it was a decent story. The maps were incredible, the story well-told, and the English was perfect. The author, a non-native speaker, got a native speaker to clean up the language, and it turned out great.

Kasul and I both gave it four stars. If you enjoyed this quest, you might enjoy “The Bone Idol” campaign by @Kithlis.

Pros: Great maps, stories, and NPCs.
Cons: Story flashback takes control of your character.

Watcher’s Grounds by @topwicz

This is the direct sequel to “Sharandar’s Defense”, winner of a “Judge’s Choice” award in last year’s Cult of the Dragon foundry contest. In the previous quest, you climbed an incredibly tall tree, among the branches of which was an elvish city under attack, to defeat a powerful, undead dragon. In Watcher’s Grounds, we learn that that dragon was survived by five even more powerful progeny.

We were summoned to continue our fight against ancient dragons by the usual method of handing important messages to random street children. It’s a mystery to me that nobody ever trusts the actual mail.

Soon we were whisked away to a small village outside Icewind Dale, that had become the unfortunate home of the dragon Anashaa, who had adopted a human form in order to more completely bring the area under her power before anyone could really suspect she was there.

The quest has stunning NPCs and @topwicz’s trademark super-detailed maps. The final fight against Anashaa was truly epic. However, the English was terrible. Kasul and I felt that it needed more work to rise to the standard set by Sharandar’s Defense, so I rated it 4 and he went for 3, to average out at 3.5. We would love to play it again once it’s done. It currently sits in the For Review tab and needs just one more review to make it onto the New tab.

If you enjoy this quest, and have already played the previous one in @topwicz’s“Return of the Dragons” campaign, you may enjoy “The Road South” by @echelon31

Pros: Great maps and characters
Cons: Terrible English, plot is fairly standard.

#Neverwinter   #Foundry  

Weekly Foundry Quests — February 11, 2015

After running into Ian Darksword entirely by accident (Guard Frinko will back me up on this!), he agreed to help us run through a few foundries this week. Bringing some much-needed insight into Forgotten Realms lore to our lore-less duo :)

The Redcap Snatchers by @hustin1

Who doesn’t still wake up in cold sweats with “WITHER YOUR LIMBS!” ringing in their ears after finishing that Sharandar campaign? I know I sure do. It’s why I hired a powrie companion to follow me around, hoping that familiarity and the sudden draining of all my action points at random times will dull the pain.

It was with a little trepidation that we accepted the quest to go see why those little Redcaps were still dying in such numbers, long after adventurers had moved on to killing purple-adorned kobolds in more lucrative zones.

Because — just what sort of life are we giving back to these malicious little fiends? It’s like saving a cockroach nest from a nest of hungry birds. Whoever’s taking these redcaps is probably doing those Sharandar elves a solid. But, for some reason, they’re growing concerned.

Kasul, Ian and I set out to find the problem and fix it, so we could just turn around and kill them in vast numbers once again.

Nobleman Butthead sent us to a small Fae village well off the beaten path where we found the Redcaps in a panic — ‘twas goblins! We want to kill goblins, even more than redcaps, right? 

We sure did!

The redcaps were hilarious, the maps custom, the story — well, it’s a story about saving one group of pests from another group of pests, so that’s it. There was a lot of running back and forth that none of us really enjoyed that much. And with all these custom maps, there didn’t seem much reason to have it. That was probably the only flaw in this quest. Kasul and I both gave it four stars. Not sure about Ian’s rating.

Pros: Surprisingly good writing, characters, and maps. Adjustable difficulty in spots.
Cons: Lots of running. Third map is particularly bad with this.

Skullport (Trial By Fire) by @redrickking

Skullport, Ian Darksword told us, is a city in the Underdark, deep beneath Waterdeep, which, I guess, makes the river that flows past Skullport, Waterdeeper…..

Seriously? Nobody? Fine.

A particularly inept pickpocket accidentally placed a note INTO our pockets while we were handing a quest in to Sergeant Knox. Following the directions in the note, we made our way to Next Map, a small trading establishment with a direct connection to Skullport in its basement. Despite free access to this portal, the proprietor, “Arr Bromwin Greenglade”, has never once been to Skullport. However, via mysterious means, the mayor of Skullport has indicated to her that he wants to meet with us, so we head into the basement and soon find ourselves in the underground metropolis of Skullport.

The author considers the sparkly trail a crutch that, besides, doesn’t work in a completely hand-crafted map such as Skullport. Most of the challenge in this quest lies in figuring out where to go.

The actual plot deals with collecting components in order to help some dwarves re-open the Moonstone Mine, which forms the economic backbone of Skullport. Mayor Nillsing feels we could help. Because… Skullport is a major center of smuggling and filled with dark magic and generally evil stuff.

Well, we saved all those evil redcaps. I guess the Mayor must think that we have no moral objections to ANYTHING anymore.

The maps were the real high point of this adventure. Unfortunately, the “wall of text” dialogs, full of run-on-sentences and scarce on punctuation, were difficult to read. NPCs who start their sentences with a conversational “Arr” just got a chuckle from us. Kasul and I gave it three stars. Ian agreed that the maps were amazing. As our resident Forgotten Realms loremaster, he would know.

This quest is followed by two others that expand on the story of the Sword Coast’s most mysterious city.

Pros: Great maps, a real explorer’s quest.
Cons: Dialog is hard to read.

Never all in One Basket by @qualinaar

Alrica, the Pie & Bread Lady in the Seven Suns market, is in a panic because her precious black dragon eggs were stolen from her caravan in the deadly Brachenfell Fen. Could dragon cultists have taken them? It’s up to us to get them back because….. the world needs more black dragons? Or something?

Why are we continually helping the bad guys lately?

Alrica mentions that the caravan had a sole survivor.

Guard Frinko.

FRINKO!!! CURSE YOU!!! The ONE TIME he gets off his duff and leaves the city, he bungles the whole thing up.

Frinko brings us to the Fen, then scurries like a scared little redcap back to his do-nothing post in Neverwinter.

What follows is a fairly straightforward romp that ends abruptly. Kasul enjoyed playing it, I was hoping for a little more than I got. Between us, we gave the quest 2.5 stars. There wasn’t really anything wrong with it. It was just a short adventure with a little story, a little combat, and Guard Frinko.

Pros: Perfectly serviceable quest.
Cons: Fairly short.

Pt 1: Answer the Raven’s Call by @trishani

The first quest in the “Threads of Fate” campaign, though there is no follow-up quest. This quest was featured a year and a half ago; we opted to play the original, mindful of the issues we had with an undead featured quest that had been killed by foundry changes yet couldn’t die because it had been featured.

A young girl has been attacked by a pack of werewolves, and will soon succumb to their dark curse. The third quest in as many weeks that doesn’t know that lycanthropy is hereditary in Forgotten Realms. This is the ONE PIECE of Forgotten Realms lore I know, and gosh darnit, I’m going to bring it up every time I can.

A luckily nearby orc shaman is willing to help; all we really need to do is to kill the werewolf pack leader and poof! She’s better! So, like vampires now? Maybe? Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to kill the werewolf leader, because we’re not strong enough.

It’s at this point that I felt we should be given a chance to fight the werewolf leader and be defeated, and THEN go on a quest to become stronger to meet and beat him (or her, who can tell) and save the girl. But, the orc sized us up, pronounced us weak, and sent us on a quest to make a potion and get the blessing of a spirit raven in the spirit planes.

And… it’s at THIS point that I want it explained why, if ghosts are ghosts in the material plane, would they still be ghosts in their home plane, the spirit plane? Not sure what lore says about that. Seems to me they’d be substantial in the spirit plane. Anyway, maybe it was someone who died in the spirit plane, because we discover at least one ghost there whose grave is right there, in the spirit plane — and it had been robbed! By adventurers! Who were selling the gear in a cozy little market there in the spirit plane! Capitalism WILL follow you into the afterlife, it’s clear.

Anyway. The maps were decent, with a few moving parts. The plot was fairly linear. We went with the hard mode when we had a choice, but didn’t really feel challenged by any of the combat. Combat, though, wasn’t really the point. Kasul and I both gave it four stars.

Pros: Nice maps, custom encounters, and characters
Cons: The story was a little weak. Was weird when the orc shaman cursed by Veeshan’s breath. Isn’t Veeshan… EverQuest? Maybe this was actually a “Pro” ;-)

Thanks again to Ian Darksword for accompanying us Monday night!

#Neverwinter   #Foundry  

Weekly Foundry Reviews — February 5, 2015

Well, this week the Foundry wasn’t being kind to us. First I, and later Kasul, couldn’t open the final chest for two of the foundries, so we couldn’t both leave reviews. And one of those foundries refused to finish at all! And another foundry, previously featured — twice! — had clearly been broken by some foundry change and couldn’t be finished.

Still, we did what we could.

Part 1: Silver Thieves by @waldo79 (***)

There were so many versions of this quest. If you just search for “Silver Thieves”, you’ll get two featured versions. If you search for “Part 1: Silver Thieves”, one of the featured ones will drop off, and you’ll get the original, unfeatured version. That unfeatured one is the one that works. However, that’s not the one we played.

A wererat has stolen a serving girl’s prized silver mirror. She needs heroes to help recover it for her, though I just have to imagine hiring heroes to get her mirror back would cost her more than the mirror itself. How she might pay us — we never really got into that. Our only reward: a trip into the sewers.

Where is the Sewer Cleric around to show this serving girl how to do it?!

Journals with meticulous descriptions of their owners recent actions right up to the point they were killed were legion. Again, it’s nice of people to be so diligent. “With the monster’s breath filling my lungs, and its teeth on my neck, I write these final words to you, who find these few sentences next to my corpse and wonder how I came to this end. Funny that, this wasn’t the first time I found myself in this situation. Twenty years ago….” and the words end there, punctuated with splattered blood. Maybe if these NPCs spent less time writing, and more time escaping, they’d still be living.

After a few runs through long corridors filled with static encounters, we noticed things were starting to go a little weird. Traps floating in the air. Teleporters that didn’t really go anywhere. There was a boss of sorts, and then an inaccessible interactable. Couldn’t get to it. We were forced to abandon the quest.

Note to self: Never play previously featured quests. Always look for the original, the one the author can keep updated when the foundry breaks it.

We would have rated this quest three stars if we’d been able to finish it.

Pros: Difficulty slider adds more trash mobs if you like that sort of thing.
Cons: Lots of boring static encounters. Featured versions are broken.

The castle gates by @reiwulf (****)

The ominously named town of Duskshore (or Duskshire, depending who’s doing the telling) has been having a bit of trouble lately with mysterious disappearances. Could it have something to do with the local lord’s dabbles with dark arts? Or the dank Cathedral of Silence? Or the wolves which threaten to tear apart anyone who dares leave the thin safety of the village?

The guard who cheerily greeted us as we arrived didn’t think so! Was he the killer? Talking to the villagers gave us a better picture of what went on. Didn’t need a journal to tell us the backstory! When vampires attack and burn the town down, though, it’s clear that things have taken a turn for the occult. This is a job for heroes! And could there be twists in this plot? There could be! If you find the right items while exploring, you can change the rather dreary outcome.

The maps in this quest were entirely custom, with multiple houses you could enter, unique terrain. It reminded me very much of those old Castlevania foundries, which is high praise. Since we knew we were supposed to explore for extras, we were able to get to places (with a lot of trying) that we weren’t supposed to get to. Not sure if that screwed up anything — after the big battle, I couldn’t loot the chest, so I couldn’t leave my review.

Kasul and I both loved the custom village map, the evil lord’s castle, and the intricate boss fight at the end. If it hadn’t been for the inconsistent spelling and capitalization, this would have been a five star quest. Still well worth playing.

I felt the second map, headed to the castle, was a little too complicated for its own good. It’s supposed to be railroading you through set encounters, but it wasn’t hard at all to get up on one of the walls and go pretty much everywhere from the moment I entered the map. I thought that’s what I was supposed to do, actually.

Second quest in as many weeks that has lycanthropy as a contagious condition, when it isn’t in Forgotten Realms. Also: Vampires turning people into Werewolves? Years of Twilight and Underworld make me skeptical :)

Kasul gave this quest four stars, and I would have done the same, if I could have left a review.

Pros: Amazing village map. Great plot. Well-made NPCs.
Cons: Just minor issues.

Act 1: Wounded Tiger by @prettycelt (***)

One of our favorite authors, Kasul was interested in trying the very first quest by this award-winning map maker. (@prettycelt won a dev’s choice award in the Cult of the Dragon foundry contest for “Turtle Soup”).

We’ve all spent many hours sharing blood, sweat and tears with our good friend Shard. Well, no — neither Kasul nor I knew who she was. A Google search turned up nothing. When the quest giver asked us if we knew Shard, the choices were “Yes”, “Ha! That bitch?”, and “No”. Both of us chose “No”, and that was it. We eventually guessed we were supposed to pretend we knew her in order to continue along with the quest. Our pretend close relationship with Shard would continue throughout the quest, and it just continually puzzled us. Not apparently famous enough a part of Forgotten Realms lore to make it into any Wiki, and this is the first chapter in a campaign… who was Shard supposed to be?

It was a puzzle we couldn’t solve.

Once we admitted that Shard was a close and personal friend, the quest giver explained that Shard hadn’t picked up her favorite bread this morning. We promised to look into it and… again, we were left hanging. The story goal was “look for Shard”. We eventually went to a gate and looked around until we found an icon for “Serene Lake” up near the corner of the world map that belonged to the quest. Not sure why we decided we needed to look for Shard there. Maybe if we were friends, we would have known this was her vacation home.

I’m replaying the quest right now as I write this, and it does seem we were supposed to know that this is where Shard lives. It seems a longish trip every morning to buy some bread in the Neverwinter market…

Shard had somehow gotten herself mixed in with a feud between the Black Lion ninjas and the White Tiger monks. After we killed a lot of them, we rescued Shard and brought her home, where she put a negligee over her lush curves and went to bed to recover. And the story continues in the next chapter.

This is a tough quest to rate. Not knowing anything about Shard, except that we were supposed to be fantastically wonderful best friends who would go tearing across Faerûn because an old friend had not picked up their bread that morning, kinda put a damper on the quest. A quest centered more on introducing us to Shard would have been welcome. We killed a lot of ninjas. We did note that the Asian-themed NPCs in this quest were not the bright yellow of “Turtle Soup”, but had more normal complexions.

Kasul and I both rated this three stars.

Pros: Unique NPCs, set in a little-used campaign setting.
Cons: Shard is this quest’s Keyser Soze.

Gathering Shadows by @xetmk24 (***)

Gather around as the storyteller tells you a story of old Baldur’s Gate…. (screen goes all wavy).

Yes, this quest uses a framing device to put you in an adventuring party, the first of many (many) map transitions in this quest. But that’s pretty okay, because the maps are just incredible! Authors have really been showcasing their map skills lately.

You play a hero returning to your home in Baldur’s Gate, when a sudden invasion from the Underdark puts Baldur’s Gate on high alert and sends you and your best adventuring friends on a mission to learn more about the reasons behind this sudden, unheralded attack.

As in White Tigers, Black Lions, the adventure will continue as if you knew who these people were and were great friends with a lot of shared memories. Unlike the other quest, the author included a little down time to introduce you to your crew (and, naturally, you’re a character in someone else’s story, so it makes more sense).

Some color coded wizards are riling up the orcs, and there are werewolves.

We were given an adventuring party that followed us throughout, despite our best efforts to get them killed. We would honestly have been more invested in the quest if we hadn’t had to stop all the time to discuss things with the party. I felt like I was inside one of those D&D novels. Which, admittedly, could be a real draw for a lot of people.

English is not the author’s first language. Consequently, the language was pretty hard to read sometimes. But I’m certain they speak English better than I speak their native tongue, so who am I to talk about it? This is precisely where the ability for more than one person to work on a foundry would come in handy — to help with translations. That said, pre-flighting the language in a word processor set to English would have helped quite a lot.

I gave this quest three stars. The quest was very ambitious, with amazing maps and quite a lot of story. However, I didn’t feel connected to the annoying adventuring party I had to drag around, and the poor English made me unsure at times what was happening. Kasul wasn’t able to finish the quest — same bug I had with the first quest.

Pros: You are literally playing within a D&D novel!
Cons: Lots and lots of map transitions, annoying mandatory companions, and a poor English translation.

Neverwinter: First floor of Newfallen to 80%!

First floor of Newfallen to 80%. I deleted the old story and the old maps. Now, the only way to go is full speed ahead. Floor 2 will probably only have two encounters (floor 1 has five, three of which are optional). There is enough room on floor 3 for as many additional encounters as I can think of reasons for. My one rule in foundries is: each encounter must have a reason to exist.

#Neverwinter   #Foundry