Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Module Review: The Aielund Saga I - Nature Abhors a Vacuum

I'll never get tired of that castle.
It's been a while since I've posted, but the reason is that I've been playing Aielund 1.  It's a pretty long module compared to the others I've been playing, and is plenty challenging.  And my play time has been reduced to a few nights per week these past weeks because of the demands of my teaching load.

In any case, I finally finished it tonight.  It was a thrill.  Here are my comments.
My vote: 9.5 - Excellent, Recommended to Anyone
My character: lv 1 dwarf fighter, reached level 8 by the end of the module.
I voted on this module, under a different name (Brandiles), back in April 2005.  I just finished playing through a second time, which allowed me to experience all of the new updates to the module.  These include the fantastic tilesets that debuted with Darkness over Daggerford, as well as a bunch of new touches and features.  It's been long enough that I remembered very little of the module, so I felt like I was able to experience it all again for the first time.
Wasn't expecting to find you guys down here...

The strengths of this module are numerous.  Combat is engaging, challenging, but feasible--especially if you pay attention to your usable items.  The story is well delivered, though is a bit railroaded at the beginning before opening up considerably.  The ending is more or less on rails too, but the story compels this and it seems natural.  The characters, and especially the henchmen, are real delights, with well-defined personalities that add flavor throughout the module.  And the module's final chapter really cranks up the intensity, and ends in a dramatic final encounter against a principle enemy that was staged well and was gratifying.
In the end, any critiques I can offer are pretty minor.  I wish I somehow had more opportunity to learn about the main villain in this module, because named foes are pretty rare in this module and it seemed as though he was interesting (though I vaguely remember him coming up again later in the series).  I also wish there was a bit more choice in the early goings.  In particular, it seemed like there should have been an option to circle around the town once you gain access to the exterior.  I understand the design reasons for it, but I don't think this was well articulated.
Overall, it's just an excellent module, and is a tremendous kickoff for the series.  I'm looking forward to rediscovering the next one!

Some other screenies after the jump:

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Playing: Aielund Saga

I opted to start playing through the Aielund Saga again. The plan, I think, will be to walk through Saleron's Gambit, The Prophet, and Aielund more or less simultaneously, switching off at the end of each chapter of each series.

I never finished Aielund, though I played through at least the first several chapters and enjoyed it. Going back, I've been surprised to see it's been given a major facelift. Many of the areas have been reworked to include placeables from Darkness over Daggerford, and it fits beautifully.

Furthermore, I'm really enjoying how well it plays. My first two sessions were pretty linear, but as I ended tonight the sidequests were piling on fast! I'm not really sure what I'll do next. It's lots of fun, as many involve new areas to explore.

I'm also playing a fighter. I often look down on fighters, but there's no denying that it's fun to play the badass tank now and then. I love that he gets so many feats--makes me feel free to explore several weapon types (bastard swords!), feats I rarely take, etc. He's pretty smart, but unlike many of my characters, he (a dwarf) has a penalty to his charisma, so he misses many of his persuade checks. Somehow, that makes it all the more fun.

Anyway, more later. Time for play has been more rare since the semester started, so I cherish these rare chances..

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Review: Heart of the South I - Kaer Mulden

What is her deal?
My Vote: 8 (Fair, solid yet unremarkable...but with a lot of potential)
My character: lv. 1 fighter, did not reach level 2 by end.

I'm a sucker for anything Planescape.  Or even planescapeish.  This module, while not set in the planes or the City of Doors, and while never referencing the Lady of Pain, does a great job in the early goings of evoking the feel of Planescape: Torment.  Flaws and all, P:T is still among the better games I've ever played, and from a story and atmosphere standpoint is second to none.  You begin this module with absolutely nothing, and all the equipment and supplies you find throughout the adventure are below the quality of what you typically start with as a NWN1 character.  There are quirky characters who seem to want nothing more than to manipulate you for their own sick larks, there is poverty, and there is a feeling of desperation in this module that is difficult to experience.

Unfortunately, beyond the atmosphere, the execution is poor.  The story is very open ended, which is fine.  But it does lead to one feeling rather lost at times, and while exploring randomly I happened upon a key event in the module that lead to what would be the next chapter.  Combat is extremely difficult, and pretty frequent, so I have no idea why it's rated as combat light in the description.  My fighter was hopelessly outclassed, and I ended up using a spoiler to figure out how to get a henchman to proceed in the module.  Even then, I ended up dying frequently.  In desperation, I started respawning...and discovered that there is no penalty for it.  So, I ended up respawning every other encounter until I finally finished the thing.  It was ridiculous.  I think a dex-oriented fighter type might do ok here (?), but otherwise I'd recommend starting around level 3 or so.

It felt like the author had a very clear vision for the world he wanted to create.  But when it came to the actual module, it just didn't come together.  The story is mostly non-existent, combat is way over the top, and you never have the slightest clue as to what is going on.  I enjoyed some aspects of this module, but I can't give it a solid recommendation.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

First pen & paper session tonight

I tried my hand at DMing tonight. I've spent the last week+ prepping for this, but somehow when the time came I felt pretty unprepared. I had my tokens all separated in baggies per encounter, pre-rolled monster initiative, notecards to hang on the screen for the turn order, etc. But when it was time to play, I couldnt find anything, I couldn't remember how certain powers worked, found myself rushing through monster turns, etc.

One thing I'm finding is that it's hard to run a PC--even one that's effectively a henchman--and DM at the same time. I wanted to have a third party member, and I like the character...and they badly need the cleric. But it's hard to use him effectively while simultaneously focusing on the monsters. With more practice I might do better, but if he dies it will be tempting to not replace him.

That all said, I had a lot of fun tonight. My nephew really enjoyed it, so hopefully we can continue this for quite a while during our visits.

In other news, I'm completely stumped on what to do next in Forbidden City. I left the author a note, but I'm about ready to hang it up and move on. I'm already probably 10 hours deep into this mod, and I feel like I've pretty much done the interesting stuff. I would like to get back to The Prophet series, but I'd also like to just play as a killing machine fighter for a mod or so. We'll see if anything strikes my fancy on the vault tomorrow.