It's interesting how many times games come back to Neverwinter. Neverwinter Nights was a great step forward in DnD computer games, and I had a great deal of fun with it. The option to play alongside others, to create your own adventures, and to play in other adventures, was a real special and rare thing for the time. With my love of the 4th Edition of DnD, I was excited when I initially heard that there was to be a computer game based upon it. That excitement didn't last a whole long time, however.
Cryptic's initial idea was to have five standard characters, each with race, gender and class locked, and to play from there. And that's about where I stopped keeping up to date with the news. It felt like going back to the Diablo 2 character choice - which, mind you, wasn't bad for D2; it just wasn't Dungeons and Dragons. DnD is about choice, about customisation, and about creating your character how you like. So, when the open beta went live, I decided to check it out again. And fortunately, things had changed.
Now, you can choose gender, choose one of seven races (more coming), and take one of five classes (also with more coming). Right there, that's a total of seventy options, a great improvement to the initial five. Plus - it's free, so I jumped in.
First of all, I'm not a big MMO player, and I've never played an MMO via a subscription (I don't have enough time, with my other hobbies, to make it worthwhile). I have played a lot of various RPG or ARPG games, the ones most similar to this being Diablo, Torchlight, Neverwinter Nights and even Fallout 3. You could even draw similarities between it and Jade Empire, or Knights of the Old Republic, if you wanted to. Like Diablo / Torchlight, it involves a lot of clicking, killing monsters, and grabbing loot. But the camera is not fixed, leading me to feel more within the game (as in Fallout, or KotOR). As I will explain later, the item / levelling system is much more similar to the ARPGs than the more role-playing games. The areas seem relatively large, and nicely populated (though, there are often congestions around critical plot points, quest givers, and doors). The setting feels "alive" more than the other games I have listed. Streets bustle with movement, even if some of that movement is another PC hopping about the place, or someone riding a giant spider.
However, what excitement of choice there was when I started playing quickly diminished when I started completing quests. I understood that, being an MMO, many of the quests would be "kill five of these", or "gather seven of those". I wondered at how they would change the action economy of 4e, especially what they would do with immediate actions, into a computing sense. I've seen them used well in a turn-based Facebook game, but how they would work in a real-time game? Well, sadly, that question won't be answered now. because they didn't.
Cryptic took familiar names, and the very general idea of at-will / encounter / daily powers, and ignored everything else. They have built up a system where a PC starts with around a thousand hit points, where AC acts as damage reduction, and where such things as "Power", "Recovery", and "Armour Penetration" are more important than our good old ability scores. The changes were evident as I levelled up - one point every level, which could either grab me a new power, or upgrade one of my current ones. Gain enough levels, and I could finally gain feats...which are not feats. Don't expect interesting perks or character changing abilities here - the feats are simple, basic, +1% or +2% bonuses to a number of different abilities.
Now - don't get me wrong - these aren't particularly bad choices, nor bad design; it's just not what I was expecting, nor what I was hoping for. I realised that a perfect electronic form of the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons was not possible, but I saw what was done with Neverwinter Nights, and I had hoped for something more than this. So as it was, I was disappointed.
When creating characters for DnD, you get a lot of choices. Even at first level, and focusing solely on class powers, you choose two at-wills, an encounter, and a daily. At the moment, for a rogue, there are 12 level 1 at-wills, 16 encounters, and 14 dailies, meaning if everything else about the character was the same, I could still have almost 15,000 different possibilities of power choices. Sure, not all of them would be great, or even viable for your character, but there was still that wealth of options and possibilities that meant that any two rogues could really be different.
Sadly, that aspect is not found in Neverwinter. The rogue gets two at-wills, and doesn't even get a third choice until level 20. In fact, by the time you are at level twenty, you have had 20 points to split between 12 powers. Each power can be increased with a second point (typically, for +10% damage), but that's it. And, considering you can only have two daily, two utility, and three encounter powers active, only nine of those twelve possible powers are worth putting points into. Not only do you not have the breadth of choice, it is most likely that every 20th level rogue is remarkably similar to each other, at least in power choice.
The lack of customisation carries throguh with 'feats', seeing as they are giving small background bonuses that are not evident in a character's performance. Who would notice a 2% difference in at-will damage in the middle of combat? Even the choice of gear is sadly not there. Rogues only use daggers / short blades, and always use two of them. There's no choice for other weapons, for bows, for an alternate weapon layout. So again, every rogue ends up looking similar, fighting similarly, and the entire breadth of customisation found in 4e is lost.
And yet, I've put a remarkable number of hours into the game so far. Because, despite all the issues above, it is a fun experience. It isn't what I hoped for - an electronic form of DnD 4e - but it is a fun Action RPG. And whilst the levelling system was not what I hoped for, it does work. Sure, I could do with more options, with a way not to waste those early points, and for bonuses to powers that wasn't simply +10% damage (how about more charges for the throwing daggers? A longer range teleport? Something to change / boost each power other than damage?), and I would feats that worked like feats, but for the system they have given us, it works. Crazy levels of hit points works, because with it, there can be smaller, more subtle variations in weapon damage. With larger numbers, there can be more items falling in between the significant milestones, and thus the eternal search for better gear - even if it is only slightly better - is maintained.
And they have the "keep going for more" aspect working well. The mini-games of levelling your professions, the come-back-every-day-and-pray aspect of increasing your divinely gifted coins, and the various other small rewards encourage you to keep coming back, keep being involved. I don't know yet how long they will work for, but they have brought me back enough to get past my initial "not 4e" disappointment. They haven't convinced me to actually pay for anything, as even the cost of expanding your bag space (~$10) is quite steep. The best mounts are about $40, and the ultimate "Hero of the North" pack is a whopping $200. But still, people are buying them, so for now, it would seem that the high-end system is working. And if that means I can continue to play for free, that is keeping me coming back!
Because it isn't 4e, but it is enjoyable.
Friday, 10 May 2013
Friday, 3 May 2013
These posts are from our DnD group's downtime chatter. The current adventure is a return to the world of Dark Sun. In the previous seasons (the first run by me, the second run by Richard), the party were involved with hunting through Kalak's pyramid, confirming if the Sorcerer-King was truly dead, and retrieving the Orb of Dust. The group is currently readying Tyr against the invading Urik army.Note to self: magic elf-thing can be useful.
There was also a large statue at one end of the room, and a whole lot of ceramic pots at the other. But that wasn't important, because Kuoroar! and Beren had already jumped down and attacked. The mul must have been eager for blood, after failing to get involved in the last skirmish. As usual, he went in too deep, without backup. Kuoroar! started working his way around the cultists, but with each fiery death, the centre of the room intensified. Before we could stop them, two cultists poured...stuff from the pots onto the trench, and fire leaps about, burning through the cultists, and bringing on whatever foul magic was happening in the middle!
Well, we fought on, as we had to, and with Paelias' helpful magic, our weapons shone brighter, hit harder, and even aided in our healing. We were rolling on through the battle. But then, the circle was complete, and the greatest beast I have ever seen was summoned into our presence. If I were not alive now, I would swear that it was the dragon himself - but this beast, though scaly and spiting fire, had no wings or legs, and had four heads!! We all cheered when Kuoroar!'s sword cut one of the heads off, and knew victory was imminent...but before we could press the advantage, another two heads had grown in its place. This happened three times before we slew the beast, and for a while, the real threat of there being no more space in the room was more than just a little concerning!
But, I step up too fast. I must make careful notes, or else I won't learn from the experiences. We didn't fight well enough - the demon-lizard was spewing fire as well as blood from axe cut, sword stroke, and more than a few nicks of my trusty chains. There were also half a quiver of arrows protruding into it, mind you. But then Kuoroar! went down, and I couldn't get close enough to revive him. Forgetting the protective boon Paelias had placed on my gear, I crumpled under the heat of the thing's saliva, coating my flesh. And even through the haze, I could hear Beren collapsing in all his armour. So - and it is hard to admit this - it was the elf-thing, the eladrin who saved the day. He must have gotten lucky, found the main head, and pierced it's eye with a bolt, or something like that. Whatever he did, it worked where our cuts and beheadings had failed, and the brute fell to the floor, before our unconscious bodies could become little more than charred remains.
So yes, the tinkerer did good. He proved his worth, and I won't hold any more grudges against the like of a thin elf-relative hanging around in our battles. We must step up our own tactics, too, or else we may not be so lucky next time. And, one of these days, I really need to get around to learning to write, so I can remember all this stuff tomorrow...
Friday, 5 April 2013
These posts are from our DnD group's downtime chatter. The current adventure is a return to the world of Dark Sun. In the previous seasons (the first run by me, the second run by Richard), the party were involved with hunting through Kalak's pyramid, confirming if the Sorcerer-King was truly dead, and retrieving the Orb of Dust. The group is currently readying Tyr against the invading Urik army.Kulo, did not like the dark. Some might even say that it made him angry...but he was already angry. The dark merely made him broody as well. And the sled ride did little to change either emotion.
The smugglers had disappeared by the time the party was well enough to continue after them, and though there was only one tunnel leading out from the cave beneath the potter's shop, it soon became two; and their paths continued to split. This was not an easy game of chasing down their foe, rather, they had to search slowly, and after their first slip-up, a little more carefully, too.
The tunnels were lined with a rickety set of tracks, most likely used by the smugglers to quickly take their stolen goods away. In all, one could say it was an impressive infrastructure, large and well-maintained, if you could look past the occasional pit-fall. How it had been built under Tyr was a mystery they didn't bother with just yet. Rather, the group grabbed some of the simple sleds, attached them to the rails, and raced off into the darkness.
Kulo, took the lead, trying to hold onto the wooden sled with one hand, and the flickering torch that threatened to go out at every turn with his other. The small sphere of light revealed all too little of the passageway, and with the others clacking their way behind him, thoughts of controlling the sled were left behind. There were a few occasions where the opportunity to catch a lever as he raced past were presented, which would have sent him down one of the other paths, but he did not want to risk dropping the torch - or letting go of the sled. Plus, he thought, if the others raced passed here, chances are they didn't have time to change the levers after they went down one of the forks!
Unfortunately, though it seemed a sound hypothesis, Kulo, had never even heard of the term "hypothesis", and they ended up sprawled over the floor of a damp cavern...without Kuoroar!. Kal'kin was quick to take the other torch around, scouting the edges of the cave, until his light went out. As he struggled to re-ignite it, Kulo,'s torch went out, and the party were left in inky blackness. And, naturally, were attacked.
The skirmish proved difficult, as none of the party excelled at attacking things they couldn't see, but once they managed to get a light back on long enough to reveal the creature, it was easy enough to finish it off. The shadowy, slimy lump left behind was curious, but Kulo, was more interested in his son, who had finally returned to the group after taking a wrong turn.
Together once more, the team back-tracked to the last turn, and continued on the descent, hoping to find their foe without another dead end. Fortune was not with them, as they were instead lead into a spider's den - spiders that were as large as a horse, and who could phase through the air as if the concept of space meant nothing. That fight was decidedly more sticky, with Kal'kin's fast-moving attacks being turned away by the creature's ability to throw its enemy through space. Even Beren struggled, his usual slow nature only accented by the webs used to catch the party.
Once more, they trekked back up the tunnels, and took an alternate route. This time, surely, they were going the right way...but they did not have the opportunity to confirm it. Underneath Kulo,'s bulk, a section of weak tracks collapsed, throwing him, Beren, Kal'kin, and Paelias (their eladrin tinker companion) down the crevice below. Kuoroar! only just managed to stop before he, too, fell down the gaping underground hole, but that stop allowed him to descend at a much more leisurely pace.
They had fallen into a collection of rooms - caves, really - connected by smaller, man-sized tunnels. Everything was, of course, dark. It took time to get the torches set up, but nothing seemed to stir - not until they had made their way through four different caverns, each with their own collection of dead husks of other lost folk - adventurers, smugglers, prisoners, or whatever they once were was unclear. What was known was that they had died down here, and not by natural causes. Their life, their bodily fluids, all had been sucked away, leaving just husks of their former selves behind. Dried husks, scattered over the floor.
As the group was starting to think that climbing out quickly was a good idea, the thrax attacked. They must have waited until the party was in the worst possible position - Kal'kin, out front and scouting, took the brunt of the attack, whilst Beren and Kulo, were trapped in the tunnel, and Kuoroar! was prevented from charging into battle. Thankfully, Paelias was ready to empower the group with his restorative magic, keeping them not only on their feet, but giving them numerous enchantments to tip the scales in their favour. The thri-kreen almost ended up being a husk a number of times, but the dead were, ultimately, returned to their proper state, and the all-but-broken party huddled together, their torch-light flickering low, and their thoughts on just how they were going to get out.
And Kulo, dwelt on just how much he hated the dark.
Friday, 1 March 2013
These posts are from our DnD group's downtime chatter. The current adventure is a return to the world of Dark Sun. In the previous seasons (the first run by me, the second run by Richard), the party were involved with hunting through Kalak's pyramid, confirming if the Sorcerer-King was truly dead, and retrieving the Orb of Dust. The group is currently readying Tyr against the invading Urik army.
Kulo, was angry. Yes, still angry. His emotions over the last few weeks had wavered between "angry" and "really angry", which, in part, was what caused the spiked chains he wore around his shoulders to change.
Magic had destroyed the world - but that was magic in the hands of people, defilers who sapped the life energy from everything around them in order to fuel their own powers. The magic hanging around Kulo,'s neck was different, as was most of the magic that found itself as enchantments in the various (but rare) items he and his friends had discovered. And thanks to his anger, to his palpable rage, Kulo,'s chains now twisted and warped in his hands far more than they once had. The links of stone, bone and leather were almost becoming an extension of his own emotions. The hate radiating from the chain was palpable to those nearby, as it wraps itself around the half-giant. If the gladiator had known of demons and their kin, he could perhaps have made the connection between what his chains were becoming, and the adornment worn by those in the abyss. Sadly, this was not the case.
With nothing left to do but wait out the invading force's arrival, Kulo, grew increasingly restless. The ex-slaves he tried to train seemed to have reached their peak, and taking out his frustrations on them only resulted in hampering both their morale, and Tyr's numbers of able-bodied soldiers. If there was more that he could teach them in the scant few days left, surely he would have stayed. But they slowly stopped wanting to spar with him, and turned instead to refining their abilities with each other.
When Kuoroar! and Kal'kin opted to help Beren out with a little down-time enforcing, Kulo, begrudgingly came along. He wasn't the best option for uncovering Urik spies or sympathisers, but neither were any of the others. Brute strength would have to do where a quick tongue and diplomatic attitude would fail. Plus, there was talk in the mission outline of hidden weapon stashes!
Algoth was a merchant, selling pots and urns from many distant cities...but perhaps a few too many from Urik. Another thri-kreen by the name of Ix'it had been spying on his operations, and so the group moved to check them out. Naturally, the shop was closed when they arrived, and Kal'kin went and unlocked the door before Kulo, could bash it in. That made the half-giant angry - angry enough that when he had dragged one of the larger, sand filled urns inside, he decided the best way to confirm there were no weapons within was to break it open. There was a great mess, but sadly, no hidden weapons.
The others discovered the clue that lead them onwards (this also angered Kulo,), which was a strange marking on the bottom of many pots. Kulo, recalled it had something to do with a house, or another city, or other power, but filled with his typical rage, he really couldn't recall much more than that. In the end, they moved onwards, out the back of the shop, and down into the warehouse. That was where they met the smugglers.
Although, "met" might not be an entirely accurate description. "Fought" would be closer, "beaten, maimed, and eventually killed" more accurate yet. These fellows were lead by another half-giant, and definitely had both strength and speed to their numbers. Fortunately, whilst Kal'kin brought speed (managing to not only harass the goods line, but take down many of their number), Kuoroar! and Kulo, brought strength. And, Kulo, might acknowledge after a few strong ales, Beren handled his own well enough.
The fight was vicious from the gladiator's point of view - if it wasn't for Paelias (the replacement Eladrin the templars had offered up), Kulo, might not have lived through it. That definitely made him grumpy! As it stood, Beren wasn't in a great position to ever seriously look at procreation in his future, after a few of the smugglers went to work on his more tender bits with their barbed, hooked whips. Kulo, was proud of his son's battle presence, though even this made him angry - why was his body failing him already? Why couldn't he be stronger, faster, tougher? And the over-grown insect, Kal'kin, had proven himself an able part of the group, as it - he - leapt about the room, stabbing here and clawing there. But ultimately, the skirmish still left Kulo, angry.
Some had escaped. Kulo, had managed to catch the last smuggler who tried to leap through the trapdoor, his chain digging into the soft flesh about his neck, and the smuggler's own weight snapping his neck as Kulo, held the other end of the chain firmly. But there had been others working beneath the warehouse, others who had taken the goods passed down to them, and who were all gone, by the time the party was in a state to follow. And so, back in the warehouse, Kulo, fumed.
Friday, 15 February 2013
Should smell...something something...DnD Online Games, the site I have been playing, running and discussing DnD and role-playing in general for over 8 years, has had a recent name-change. After much consideration and thought, we've emerged as RPG Crossing, an attempt to welcome and support players from a range of games, editions, systems, and so on. Much as I'll miss the old familiarity of "DnDOG", the new name has already proven fruitful, as it came along with a new server, and without a whole lot of old, tired site errors.
What is in a name?
But this is more than a post about where to go for your play-by-post gaming needs (www.rpgcrossing.com, remember! :) )! The change of name got me thinking about names in RPGs in general. I have often found the hardest part of character creation is the name. Choosing appropriate, meaningful names for characters has always been a challenge, a task almost as hard as choosing names for my children! Although, that example in itself shows a big difference between roleplaying and real life.
Most of us haven't chosen our own names, in our real life. Sure, some of us may have chosen to take on our partner's name when we were married, or perhaps created our own names if we weren't fortunate enough to be born already awesome. But I would guess that a majority of us haven't really changed our names that much since our parents decided on them, and had it put on our birth certificate. That's a big difference between our experienced lives and our role-playing stories. Maybe we should ask the DM what our parents called us? Or turn to random name generators for advice?
Family TraditionsI know some folk stick to certain methods for their character's names. Some might only ever want to use hidden puns or cryptic meanings within them; others name them after famous chess players. One might elect to use a foreign language to translate a word that has special meaning, whilst another may look about the room, choose an object at random, and then add a "K" to the front. There are players who only want to play characters called the same name as themselves, or possibly some other name that each of their characters shares. Maybe a character's name includes their occupation, their race, or even their notable characteristics.
Writer's BlockSo what do you do? Do you go for a quick and easy name, or do you think about making it appropriate for the setting and the history of your character? Do you name them based on what they will do, or have done? Or is their title given to them by their parents, with no knowledge of who they will become? Does their name stick out amongst like a sore thumb their peers, or has it been adapted to fit the setting? How do you choose your character's names?
Friday, 8 February 2013
These posts are copies of my emails from our DnD group's downtime chatter. The current adventure is a return to the world of Dark Sun. In the previous seasons (the first run by me, the second run by Richard), the party were involved with hunting through Kalak's pyramid, confirming if the Sorcerer-King was truly dead, and retrieving the Orb of Dust. Whilst effort was taken to follow Dark Sun canon, there are undoubtedly bits where our story strays or contradicts stuff. We're aware, and not playing to create new canon, but to have fun. So, read on and enjoy!
Kulo, was angry. He seemed to always be angry, but after returning from the pyramid, he had anger on top of anger, and his company became hard for the others to put up with. By the following morning, he was gone, leaving their reclaimed Shom-warehouse without notice. Not even Bundaberg had awoken to Kulo,'s gathering of his few belongings.
Kulo, didn't travel far; he headed directly for the one place he knew best in the city, and the one place he thought he could let off some steam without bringing undue attention to himself. Whilst they had searched the markets the other day, he had heard rumours that some slaves had returned to the fighting pits. Unlike Beren's insane allegiance to his former master, these gladiators returned, not to be slaves once more, but to excel at what they did best - at the only thing they knew how to do. To fight.
Fortunately, the rumours were fruitful, and he found more than a few able bodies sparring back and forth in the arena. There was talk about getting another competition running - one in which people chose to fight, that battles weren't to the death, and that victors won the spoils for themselves. It could be a great way to earn a living, if organised well. For now, no one had stepped forward to organise it - at least, no one that a majority of others agreed upon. The hopeful contestants simply sparred, practised, and hoped to make enough to live by from those spectators who felt generous enough to part with some ceramic.
The group was welcoming enough to see Kulo,, though it was hard for him to work out who seemed the most timid: those that knew him from his gladiator days, or as Ulruun the Repugnant's bodyguard, or as one of those who had braved Kalak's pyramid, and returned with the Sorcerer-King's head. Still, for every would-be gladiator who seemed to step gingerly around his shadow, another two simply saw a heavy-set half-giant, who wore viciously barbed links of chains around his shoulders.
Kulo, didn't return to the warehouse over the next week, electing instead to sleep at the barracks and spend all his waking hours training with the other fighters. Part of him just wanted a return to a simple life, but he hated that part, almost as much as he hated Beren's obedience to his old master. The rest of him knew that there was a mess coming his way - coming all their way - and he wanted to be prepared for it. He wanted as many people around him prepared for it. So what if they thought they were merely training for fun and profit? He was refining their edge, just as they were sharpening him, making each other stronger, faster, and more equipped for repelling whatever Urik was sending their way. By the end of the week, his skill had improved such that he could add a few links to his chain. He could now successfully, and repetitively, hit a target standing fifteen feet away from him, and had worked up quite a bit of skill in knocking and shifting people around the battlefield to where he wanted them. He was impressed, and those that faced him also seemed to be wary of his lashing chains that could drag an escaping opponent to his feet, or could throw away an aggressive foe and leave them standing on their own.
Kulo, was happy with his training, with the new tricks he had learnt and mastered...but that happiness was more of a reluctant acceptance, compared with the anger that still stewed within him. There was work that needed to be done, further preparations that needed to be made, and stolen items that needed to be retrieved. And so it was, after a week long absence, that Kulo, finally returned to the warehouse, to his son Kuoroar!, and to the others that he had fought alongside. Hopefully, they had some ideas as to just what they would do next.
Friday, 1 February 2013
These posts are copies of the summary emails I write for our DnD group. The current mini-adventure is an Eberron tale, set in the jungles of Xen'drik, where the party are taking the roles of drow (and one dwarf). Whilst I take great effort to follow Eberron canon, there are undoubtedly bits where my story strays or contradicts stuff. I'm aware, this is my story, and we're not playing to create new canon, but to have fun. So, read on and enjoy!
The journey was simple and fast - just like any good teleportation trip should be. The party arrived on the plateau they had seen from the Azure Tower, and thanks to their invisibility, had some time to look about themselves. The large plateau stretching out before them was carved out of the mountainside. It's formation was not natural - it had been cut into the mountain, the displaced rubble tossed down the ravine to fall many miles below. With a sharp cliff dropping away to their east, and the rest of the mountain towering overhead to the west, they were left with but one other feature: a large, twisting path spiralling up to a peak some hundred and fifty feet above their heads. Nearly a hundred feet up the path was a large door, leading into the thin, twisted tower, but they couldn't get to the door immediately.
Between the tower and drow were two groups of five individuals. Standing around rune circles, arms held high, they muttered strange words, the wind carrying the indecipherable blabber carelessly across the mountainside. In the middle of them, a lone crystal stood, about five feet wide and nearly twice that tall. It pulsated with hues of purple and orange magic, and was clearly the focus of their ritualistic chanting. Other, similarly focused groups were standing around the tower; with his newly enhanced vision, Quayanorl counted five in total.
None of them noticed the invisible drow approaching; not, that is, until Brenna decided that it was best to leap straight to the point. Fire flew from her outstretched hands, even as her party members ran and scattered, wanting to put as much distance between themselves and the now-visible sorceress. But even as she regained her visible form, those she attacked winced, but continued with their chanting.
The SeekersQuay naturally saw him first, as the shadows held no power over his sight, but he had never met the Umbragen seeker before, and so didn't know the relevance of his presence until Curra's snarling voice came from behind him. "Ek'ann!"
Ek'ann Torkak looked at her with a nasty smile. "Yes, my dear", he responds, "Delightful to have you join us at last." As he speaks, two more drow, similar in dress to those they had fought in the giant's ruins (right down to their lacking of legs), appear from the shadows and trail along behind him. "I do hope you are here to help us, yes?"
It was never really an option for the group to side with Ek'ann, no matter what nonsense he spilled before them. D'Jhudi'it knew this best of all, but also wanted to know just what was at foot, and so tried to play along. "We are here to open the portal to Dal Quor, the Region of Dreams, of course...hasn't Curra told you this? That was, after all, the purpose of our visions!" The assassin told them of their plans, eagerly enough, though even he suspected their ultimate decision. "The arrival of the Quori is inevitable...but if we aid them, if we open the door and welcome them in, we will have such power as to make all of the Sulatar's magic seem like mere children's tricks!"
None were convinced - at least, not enough to make them join his side. In a last ditch effort at persuasion, Ek'ann asked "Curra, you know that the vision we shared showed the Quori's inevitable arrival and victory, and great power to those who would help quicken their coming. Why fight what has to happen? Why play for the losing side?" But still, they chose to fight.
The Portal OpensRyltar in particular took a beating that day, his body being knocked to the ground time after time, only to be raised up by whatever strange spirits Kami kept whispering to. At times, it might have seemed that the pirate was playing out some sick desire of hers to watch the scorrow suffer so much pain, not letting him ever quite slip away into Dolurrh's cold embrace. But Kami, just like everyone else, was fighting for her life.
At first, the party seemed to be winning, taking down Ek'ann's lackeys quickly, and disrupting the rituals at the same time. but when they though they had the assassin beaten, he showed his final play. For just as each of the individuals chanting around the crystals was inhabited by a quori spirit (which was released upon the vessel's death), so too did Ek'ann have an other-worldly visitor sharing his physical body. With a final cry of defiance, he raised his arms and shouted, "Minharath, take me now!". As blood poured from his wounds, a dark presence seeped from his very body. A shadow formed, surrounding him and towering over the others, as the quori beast found a way into this realm.
Around the battlefield, some rituals were faltering, whilst others seemed to be working as intended. Two of the crystals grew dark, as more of the shadow-portals ripped open above them, and more figures stepped through. Eladrin with blades of mist stood before the crystals to offer defence, even as Brenna destroyed the first crystal, in a backlash that killed the remaining vessels attached to it via the ritual. But still, a dark loud was forming atop the tower.
The Quori GeneralIt was Bel'Tarayne who took off around the tower, moving solo in order to take out the crystals and cut off the connection to Dal Quor. Sure, the others had suggested as much, directed him to move that way, but ultimately, the decision was his. If only they had sent another to aid him, the party's losses might not have been as steep.
As it was, whilst Kami and Ryltar worked at sending Minharath's incorporeal form back to the Region of Dreams, Bel' took down another crystal. The unleashed quori were too much for him, though, and he fell to the ground, hard. D'Jhudi'it moved carefully to his side, but despite her best efforts, the mage could only be stabilised, not woken. And then, as the fourth crystal erupted under deluges of fire and lightning, the creature known as Tras'nhilya broke through realities.
The creature flew swiftly into battle, a nightmarish mass of limbs, tentacles, and teeth, and brought great pain to those nearby. All those who experienced its attacks would have visions of it disrupting their sleep for years to come, and many of the wounds it caused would never heal properly. Still, together they stood, trying not to defeat, but simply survive, the monster's attacks.
It was Brenna who started the battle, with her frantic and spontaneous attack; but in many ways, it was Brenna who ended it, too. Sneaking around the tower, she faced a wave of quori, and fought through them to destroy the final crystal. As it shattered, it cut off Eberron's connection to Dal Quor, closing the portals, and trapping the quori in their home plane. But what had passed through did not instantly return.
Tras'nhilya cried out in anguish, not yet fully manifested, and clawed frantically at the fabric of reality. Its form wavered, losing the structure and substance it once had, but even as a wispy shadow creature, it was still dangerous. Once more, it moved to rip through them, but this time, with the encouragement from the portal's closure, they fought back with vengeance. Even as D'Jhudi'it's mind succumbed to the overlapping nightmares from countless quori attacks, Quayanorl and the others moved forward, and destroyed the general's last remaining hold on their realm. With relief, they watched his dream-like form dissipate into the air.