Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Heroes of Neverwinter (Beta!)

I've been playing this DnD Facebook game for some time now, and I'm quite impressed with what it represents, even if I am not overly impressed with the game itself.

Straight up - it is a Facebook game, so we shouldn't expect much from it.  After all - it is free...if you don't count all the items they want to sell you via "Astral Diamonds" which (as you can probably guess) cost Facebook credits, which in turn cost real money.  The graphics are pretty simple, the story lines are not terribly involved, and the only real choices are what mission to do next.  Each adventure is linear, with the occasional  "bonus room" (bring a rogue to unlock the door!) thrown in to give the illusion of choice.  You can replay missions, and try them on three difficulty settings, but you will find yourself returning to certain lower level missions many times over, as certain levels require certain items to attempt.  Even if you fail, the item is typically removed from your inventory, and thus you will have to redo an earlier level.

The worst of these is the "Heroes Commendation", which you need a backpack full to complete every mission, but you can only find in a few levels.  Here, having other friends helps, as they can 'gift' them to you, but you will need a lot of friends, and to be quick, to get enough!

So - why has this game taken so much of my time?  Once you have finished the levels, there is very little replay value, and even changing characters doesn't offer a lot of difference.  You need a cleric to heal, a wizard to do mass damage, and a rogue to unlock all those locks, and to get past those traps.  (A fighter is good, but I found doubling up on the cleric was more useful.)  Replaying with different characters gives you a little customisation (choice between two options at most levels only), but your party make-up will generally look the same, and thus the play-through will be very similar.  It's usually not even an option to turn the AI on for these replays (either team mates or everyone), as the AI is universally poor!  They charge throguh traps instead of going around, even if they have the ability to disable them; they never focus fire; they use area attacks on single targets (even when with positioning, it could hit multiple ones); they waste healing on mere scratches; and they automatically assume a higher power is better...all the time, in every situation. 

No, what has caught my attention with this game (apart from a desire to encourage the makers to continue with what they are doing) is two-fold.  First, it's 4e, on the computer.  There was a lot of talk about how 4e couldn't be represented properly in a computer game, and whilst I admit that this is not a 100% copy of the ruleset, it is a pretty good job (especially considering that pricetag!).  Clearly, for a proper, marketable game, you'd want to have feats, many more powers, and other core rules (healing surges, OAs, double moving, and the proper implementation of effects) implemented.  But given what they have so far, none of this should be very difficult.  Even such things as forced movement and triggered actions wouldn't need much more work.  There could even be an option for AI-guided actions for them, to speed up combat.  (At the moment, the few powers that push do so automatically, but it wouldn't be hard to offer the option of moving an effected enemy.)  All this gives hope for an eventual, larger, 4e game to arise.  Hopefully, long enough before 5e...

Secondly, like most Facebook games - it's dangerously addictive.  Even when I reached level 10 (the maximum you can get to) with my first character, there was still more to do.  I could play through those adventures I had completed again, and gain three stars in each.  I could work at completing all the various awards offered.  My almost obsessive need to complete things has kept me coming back time and time again, which must say that, despite the apparent grievances I have above, the game still has a lot right! I've stuck with it long enough to slowly earn enough diamonds (through awards - I'm not buying credits!) to unlock a further three character slots, and I am still struggling to complete everything with that first character.  I don't think I will be that diligent with my other four, but Rivet, my halfling rogue, will continue on to grab every one of those stars!

Ultimately, the game is fun for what it is - a free, flash-based game, that requires little thought or time...well, time at any one point.  I look forward to seeing just what will change by the time they get out of beta, and where they go with it next.  What will it inspire?  What interpretation of 4e DnD will we be offered as a result of what was learnt through designing this game?

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

New Beginnings!

Welcome to something that could well be interesting... or may well be me just talking to myself!  I've thought about starting a blog for some time, but only now have I actaully started on that path.  It's a big day today - I now have to use two hands to count my age, I am anxiously awaiting the birth of my second child, and I just had a lot of sugar in the form of an impressive "Enchanted" black forest cake.  So what better way to add to the stress than starting up a blog?

I'm not promising anything at the moment - I may well follow Richard's idea, and post some recaps of  campaigns; or just throw my own ideas and opinions into the ring.  Maybe I'll use this to bounce ideas around from other bloggers I follow!  Who really knows*?

For now, I will leave all (any?) of you in suspense, as I ponder just what will come next!


*if you are from the future, have only just found this blog, and thus have a few extra years of reading on the rest of us, that question is not directed at you.  It wouldn't be fair, after all!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Dark Sun Marauders (Season 1, Chapter 8)

These posts are copies of the summary emails I write for our DnD group.  The current adventure is a return to the world of Dark Sun.  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!

The dust cloud approached too quickly.  Knowing they were unable to escape their pursuers, the group turned and prepared to meet them.  There were three assassins, armed with long knives and crossbows, the leader of which had ample poison spread over his bolts, which Garidias seemed to take a liking to.  They all rode Crodlu, each bearing down upon their foes with a thirst for blood.

Kuoroar! and Tak-tha charged in, with Garidias close behind, and as they moved between the enemies, Gretchan teleported two of the riders off of their mounts.  Even though they were still strong and dangerous, without their mobility, the tables turned in favour of the caravan.

Thanks to his resilient skin and the uplifting words of the eladrin warlord, the barbarian shrugged off three mortal blows, and kept harassing the would-be assassins, and by the time Gretchan picked up one of the beasts and used it to club the leader to death, the remaining Crodlu's realised their problem, and turned to flee.


The skirmish had been hard on everyone, even (somehow) the caravan drivers, but Rhotan Vol did not want to pull over just yet.  The assassins, clearly part of the Tsalaxa household, were most likely scouts - when they did not report back, Ulrunn would definitely assume the caravan was the cause.

After some deals were made for what little water was left, the decision to move at a forced march towards Tyr was agreed upon, the group made their last decent rest, and then charged, head first, into the harshest five days of their lives.  By the end, the Kanks were barely able to pull the caravan, and one driver had not woken since the previous night.  All but for Garidias had succumbed to the Sun Sickness, and many were ready to collapse from exhaustion.

Tak-tha, being the only one without a slave marking, entered Tyr with Rhotan; the caravan leader promised rewards, if the party would come and visit him in a few days time.  Until then, the thri-kreen purchased much needed supplies, and returned to the others...whilst being trailed by someone short, and fat.  He thought.

The shadows turned out to be elves (at least he managed to get the "someone" part right), and they turned out to be more scouts for Ulruun.  Hiding behind a crop of rocks, the exhausted party waited to see what would happen, the psion's invisible eye allowing them to watch without being seen. 

Soon enough, Ulruun arrived, bringing with him two slave-gladiator-bodyguards and another axe-crazy dwarf.  The fighting was vicious and one-sided, so much so that Ulruun watched from a rock.  Until, that is, Kuoroar! convinced one of his slaves to turn against him, and join their rebellion. 

His remaining men quickly dispatched, the dwarf ran for his life away from the battle, being trailed only by Tak-tha.  At first, he tried to keep the monk at bay by tripping him up with his cane; when that didn't work, Ulruun fell back to more basic methods: a dagger deep into Tak-tha's side.  By the time the others caught up with the badly-bleeding Kreen, Ulruun was long gone.


The slave, who was still wearing his helmet (made to obscure their identity, prevent them from talking, and make it a whole lot harder to run away), was eventually freed, even though Gretchan burnt a sizeable chunk of skin off of his neck as she broke apart the magical lock.  It was then that Kuoroar! could finally get a glimpse of the face that surrounded those familiar eyes.  In a raspy voice, Kulo, looked at him and said "Kuoroar!! I am your father!", before embracing his shortly-lost son.

Kulo, went on to explain how his manifested psionic ability had allowed him to fake death long enough for the gladiatorial 'execution' to have passed, and how his craftiness had caught Ulruun's attention.  Having lost his prized gladiator, Ulruun thought it humorous to keep his father, and force him to do what he had planned for the son.  In truth, he had not expected Kulo, to make it this far, but the half-giant had proven his worth, once the desire to reunite with his son and see Ulruun defeated was there to fuel his training.  "Together, we will take him down, Kuoroar!, and we will put an end to his torment!"

Friday, 1 April 2011

Dark Sun Marauders (Season 1, Chapter 7)

These posts are copies of the summary emails I write for our DnD group.  The current adventure is a return to the world of Dark Sun.  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!

Moving up from the ankheg nest, when Tak-tha motions for silence, and the torches are doused.  Ahead, past the room of eternal conflict (where the undead remains of dwarves continue their fight every now and then), silhouettes are seen.

Carefully, the group approaches the cave, and realises that one of the figures is Beren - being held between two bulky individuals, and roughed up by a third, an assassin like the one confronted almost a week ago.

A few more blows were given to the mul, as he refuses to answer the assassin's question, and the party start to creep forward.  Despite his stealthiness, Tak-tha alerts the ruffians of his presence before they can all close in, but the party, fighting from the dark, still have the advantage.

The assassin quickly dispatches of Beren, as combat is met.  Two more thugs lurk around outside, along with three elves armed with swords and bows.  Rhotan Vor and his men have already been subdued, but Rhotan hired the team for this very purpose.  Tired, worn out, and near exhaustion though they are, they make short work of the would-be assassins, and although one escapes to warn Ulruun, the rest are eventually killed.  A new name is heard, as the leader is slain (for the second time); with his dying breath, he lets out a curse upon Kuoroar!, crying "Tsalaxa take you!", as he falls to the sandy floor.

The rest of the day is spent hurriedly moving all the remaining goods from the treasure room to the carts, before Ulruun and his soldiers can catch them.  Strangely, Zadusic was no where to be seen.

They rested briefly over night, and left early the following morning - instead of returning to the Silver Springs, where Ulruun was most likely still stationed, they made a wide arc around the area, adding a day or two to their travel time, but hoping for a whole lot less angry, treasure-hungry guards.

The next days passed slowly, as the drivers fought to keep the heavily-loaded carts from sinking too far into the shifting sand dunes.  The heroes helped out where they could, with Garidias and Gretchan seeing to the kanks injuries and inevitable tiredness.  It was not until late on the second day of travel, when the road to Tyr was once again visible, that the wildlife fianlly grew tired of their trespassing. 

A large silk wyrm, along with a number of her offspring, assaulted the caravan, trying to gain some tasty humanoids to feed upon.  once her attack was repelled, and her kin slain, the wounded beast retreated to the wild, hurt and seeking shelter.  Although some wished to hint it down, the knowledge of the more pressing danger - Ulruun's scouts - took them to the road.

Throughout the next night they moved, foregoing sleep in order to put more distance between them.  But though they sacrificed much, as the sun rose, so did it reveal the dark cloud of running crodlu on their trail.  With the kanks already slow from their pricey loads, their need for rest was dropping their speeds to a slow crawl - the crodlu and their scouts would be upon the caravan within the hour...

Friday, 4 March 2011

Dark Sun Marauders (Season 1, Chapter 6)

These posts are copies of the summary emails I write for our DnD group.  The current adventure is a return to the world of Dark Sun.  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!

Toramund had provided you with good information, for you had found your way through the Canyon of Gothay to the vault of Darom Madar easily enough, and though the restless dead within it were not happy with your presence, you persevered, and discovered the hidden treasure - Rhotan Vor would be pleased, his life searching could now end!

As Gretchan undid the last arcane sigil binding the protective wards to the silver wall, it slid downwards into the ground, revealing a short passageway which in turn lead to a small room. Via the flicker of torchlight, you can barely make out chests, racks of weapons, and other amazing valuables piled around the chamber.  The glint of gold - real gold! - drew the party into the chamber, and almost too late did they see the final guardian.  Standing in the middle of the vault, was a withered, ragged figure in rotting finery, it's gaunt features dreadful and unearthly.

Tak-tha and Kuoroar! charged forward, leaving Gretchan and Garidias to face the wight's other attack: Zadusic possessed.  From behind, the tiefling fired down arrows upon them, quickly sending the young girl to the floor, bleeding badly.  Her eladrin companion of so many years didn't stop for her, instead charging in to confront the cause of the ranger's betrayal.  The battle there was fierce, Darom being as focused in death as any dwarf was in life, and playing with the minds of the others - especially Beren, with whom he shared some blood.  Turning the party against itself was not his final trick, though!  As he was destroyed, the party moved to rest, electing to leave those unconscious that way, and not waist their magic on them...and then Darom returned, with a vengeance!  At less than half strength, and with some of their number still down, the final fight was very fierce, and the treasure of the Madar Dwarves was almost lost again...but they managed to prevail in the end.

Not wanting to leave the treasure just yet, everyone started sorting through the great wealth - even their smaller-than-desired percentage of this wealth was still a small fortune each, more than they would have ever thought possible to set their eyes on.  Only Gretchan had seen anything approaching the wealth she now wore on and held in her hands; but that had never held the magical power that her gloves and staff contained.

Electing to rest there the night, instead of moving out and alerting Rhotan, Zadusic watched over them.  The tiefling still felt uneasy around the party - especially Garidias, who had not forgiven his magically-caused betrayal - and wanted to prove his worth.  He had no sleep that night, and remained behind the next morning, as the team moved off to search out more of the vault.

Apparently, not only Darom had been so strong to remain behind with a vengeance; his wife, Dynera Madar, and their two children, Lyos & Taran, still clung to a semblance of a presence.  All three were now phantoms, wraiths lurking around a Sorrowstone, which was itself a trap for those who might happen across it's path.  Many fears and sorrows were met that morning, and a lot of crying was done amongst all, until the stone could be destroyed, and the wraiths all dispersed back to wherever they were meant to rest.

The final stop before returning to the surface was the tunnel under the main hallway's floor.  Feeling that it would not be a difficult challenge, and that Rhotan and his men really should be alerted soon, Beren returned to the caravans, whilst the others moved into the tunnel.  It lead into a cave, mostly natural, but with enough scratch-marks to cause them to think that their earlier suggestions of ankhegs were going to be correct.  Indeed, they wandered right into a brooding next, with a pair of adult ankhegs trying to protect their young.  After Tak-tha was dragged away, Garidias made a valiant stand, giving Kuoroar! the time and courage to take out the dangerous pair of overly large burrowing creatures, even as the warlord was himself dragged away.  Gretchan narrowly managed to save him, and remove him from the male ankheg's pincers before it retreated down a hole, and the threat was dealt with, ensuring safe passage for the workers to remove the remaining treasure from the vault.  All that was left, now, was to go and meet with Rhotan Vor.  And, at some point, have a rest!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Dark Sun Marauders (Season 1, Chapter 5)

These posts are copies of the summary emails I write for our DnD group.  The current adventure is a return to the world of Dark Sun.  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!
 Silver Spring oasis has long stood as a vital stop on the trade route between Urik and Tyr. Its longevity in a desert filled with dangerous monsters and brutal bandits is a testament to the skill of the Silver Hand elves who have guarded the fortified oasis for generations.  Rhotan Vor believed that their chieftain, Toramund, could tell them much about the dangers that infest the nearby canyons, as well as give advice on what areas may hold such things as the vault.  This information, he hoped, could prove invaluable to them, and aid their search greatly.

Unfortunately, the party were not the only ones trying to get an audience with Toramund.   Kuoroar! was initially mistaken to be another slave of Ulruun the Repugnant, who was currently camped on the northern side of the oasis. Fortunately, the elves did not know that Kuoroar (as well as Gretchan) was indeed one of Ulruun's slaves - an escaped one, at that.  Whilst they do not like or wish to trade with the slavers, they would also not harbour escaped slaves, lest that bring the wrath of Ulruun and his men down upon the oasis.

Garidius was eventually able to win them some time with the elven chieftain, and with a lot of bartering, displays of endurance and skill, and a considerable amount of smooth talking, Toramund was won over to their cause.  He even let them know of their hidden psionic potential, with which Garidius and Gretchan immediately displayed ability.

That evening, as the sun set and the desert cooled to merely uncomfortable levels of heat, the team set out for the Canyon of Gothay. Although in part an actual canyon, a natural rift many centuries ago resulted in half of the canyon to fall a hundred feet or more, throwing the other half up just as far.  The resulting terrain was not only dangerous, but riddled with numerous caverns that needed exploring. 

After numerous hours of searching, and a few near-misses with what appeared to be ankheg lairs, a large cavern filled with dead bodies was discovered.  These bodies included the fairly recent dead, other natural predators that had died over the years, and two teams of dwarves from decades ago.  It was the oldest dead that attacked.

The undead soldiers of Madar, as well as what was once an assassin of House Tsalaxa, were still fighting, though their lives had long since ended.  Something in this area had destroyed the natural order, and their conflict seemed eternal...even if it were stilled at times.  With the dead defeated, the party moved into the vault proper.  Rhotan elected to stay outside with the wagons and his men.

The inside of the vault was carved stone, and aside from a large crack in the entrance chamber (through which Kuoroar! dropped, and decided that the continuing tunnel was clearly not part of the vault, and thus wouldn't lead to the treasure), the place looked quite untouched.  That was, until they reached the Ancestor Hall....and discovered that they were the ones disturbing the tomb.

Wisps and skeletal soldiers leapt at them, whilst arcane glyphs on the tombs caused creeping, incorporeal hands to lash out at those who strode too close by.  And by the time Tak-tha had discovered the hidden compartment beneath the stone throne, Zadusic was unconscious.  Not even Beren's expert healing skills could revive the ranger before he had taken serious damage.

Once the glyphs had been destroyed or deactivated, the compartment and it's strange door could be further examined.  A huge slab of smooth, dark, smoky-coloured material stretched across the recessed wall, charred bones and small heaps of ash rested at its base.  There was no visible means of shifting, raising, or lowering it, leaving Tak-tha to wonder if it was a door at all.

The monk tried to approach it, but a blast of energy knocked him back.  Garidius and Gretchan moved up and together disabled the traps and spells protecting the silver wall, finally allowing it to slide downward into the ground, and reveal a short passageway that leads to another room.  Even from the small alcove, chests, racks of weapons, and other amazing valuables could be seen piled around the chamber.  The treasure of Darom Madar had been found!