Monday, August 25, 2014

The Black Scourge of Candle Cove

Welcome to Candle Cove, Docks District!
My character: level 10 wood elf ranger, who has played through Avendale and (some of) Misery Stone.  Advanced to level 13.
Time: About 20 hours.

A villainous sea hag and her band of ogre pirates has shut down the lighthouse of Candle Cove, and that, along with the formidable firepower of her ship, shut down all trade out of the lucrative harbor of Candle Cove.  You have just arrived in the town as a traveling adventurer, and decide to answer the Mayor's call to help out the town.  What follows is a challenging, engaging adventure that combines a fairly linear main plot (though with some choices) with a decent sampling of sandbox-style adventure in its sidequests.  Here are my comments to the author:
Dive!  Dive!
I finished last night and I really enjoyed the adventure.  It's an engaging story with a lot of great flavor mixed into the module, and more gameplay than I anticipated when I began the module.  While the adventure itself doesn't really claim to be a "pirate adventure," in that you're going after the pirates and not living as one yourself, there's a lot of those themes mixed into the setting.  A lot of the foes you encounter use "pirate speak" to great effect, especially as flavor text as you fight them.   Candle Cove is a great port town, and I appreciated the innumerable small things that were done to add depth, immersion, and entertainment to the setting (also, my daughters greatly enjoyed the names of the horses near the magic shop).  It's also a Forgotten Realms module, through and through, with a lot of attention paid to backstory coming from that setting.  The Temple of Sune is probably the most direct example of this, which was a far cry from the variety of Sune worship from Harp & Chrysanthemum (and, in truth, probably more in keeping with the lore).  Nevertheless, from the backstories of the companion characters to the items, there's a lot of other lore that works its way into the game. 
Well, hello!
Area design is spectacular.  The city of Candle Cove itself is a delight to navigate, but the most spectacular areas are unquestionably the underwater areas.  I've seen underwater zones implemented in other modules--mostly NWN1--but never as well as was done in this module.  There is also a huge, underwater cavern that you get to investigate that also has to be on the shortlist for spectacular exterior area design.  The entire module is a visual treat, and your ears get treated to a nice selection of nautical themes. 
Combat was very challenging for my two-handed ranger.  While he may have been a bit underpowered when he began the module (he was dual-wielding +1 weapons), he seemed a pretty good match for the companions that are provided in the game...and, after he finished his first small adventure near town, he was quickly able to upgrade his weapons from the more-than-ample selection in the various stores around town.  By the module's end, he was dual-wielding +5/+4 weapons, with some +6 bracers, +3 to all saves, some elemental resistance, etc. I didn't give the companion characters quite as much attention, but they were still very well equipped for level 10-11 adventurers.  Nevertheless, despite being pretty decked out, the final part of the module proved extremely challenging.  This was clearly by design, because you battle through hordes of weaker foes before being faced with a set of very challenging enemies with some key resistances.   It was always possible to survive, and I don't think I ever actually had to load from a save, but it required a lot of buffing, item use (summoning!), and consumption of healing pots and kits to make it through.
Overall, it's an excellent, polished, engaging module that definitely falling into the must have category.  Congrats on the module, and thanks for giving it a release!

Custom UI pop-up boxes!  ...although these eventually
seemed to stop working as the module
went on.
As a note to other players, the module gives you import your own part, make use of the provided companion characters, or do a mixture of both.  I opted to use his companions, but if I were to do it again I'd probably have brought my own wizard along (a pre-existing level 10 character already in my vault).  The characters definitely have some dialog, and one (apparently) has a side quest that I didn't find, but they're far from essential to the experience of the module.  If you were to use one of Tchos's characters, though, I'd definitely recommend the rogue.  She has some great dialog of her own, and knows a few people around town that you'd otherwise never get to meet.

More screenshots after the jump!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Custom Content Challenge July 2014: Dieties and Demigods

Pretty impressive stuff this month from the CCC.  Here's a sampling of my favorites:

Kali by Plush Hyena of Doom

Fenris by Plush Hyena of Doom

Egyptian Goddess by Shemsu-Heru

Malimshaer by Merrick's Dad

Selune Shiedl by Shemshu-Heru
I particularly like that shield.  It's so simple, but I love both the in-your-face symbolism as well as the more subtle half-moon border.  I think I've seen amulets like the border before.  Very nice.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ill Met in Lankhmar

Ill Met in Lankhmar is a novella in the guise of a Neverwinter Nights module.  Designed as an ode to Fritz Leiber's classic story of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, playing this module allows you to experience the story.  If you enter the module with that understanding, it makes the whole thing work a lot better.

I haven't had the pleasure of reading the original story, but I've added it to my to-read list on goodreads as a result of playing this module.  The writing is witty--almost to a fault, but not quite.  While the adventure takes on a dark tone as the story progresses, the style of the dialog, in particular, is whimsical and delightfully engaging.  I'm guessing that the vast majority of the writing came directly from the book, and I think the zeal of the module's author for the source material comes through in spades.

The areas are extremely well designed, with lots of little flourishes to enhance the experience.  The city streets are filled with a kind of unhealthy smog, for example, and the player character of Fafhrd is rendered larger than life using custom content.

The main critique is that this module is probably the most linear that I've ever seen.  There are a handful of optional interactions, including a few stops at merchants, but that's it.  There is a ton of dialog, and there were times when nearly 30 minutes went by as we moved from cutscene to cutscene.  I was just trying to get to the next down moment so that I could save, and the result was a late night.  That all said, it was a neat experience.  I enjoyed playing the module, and especially meeting these characters who have so far not caught my eye.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Humble Beginnings and Lowena

Wait, the goblins took what?
The first Neverwinter Nights 2 module featured by the Adventurer's Club at The Vault was actually a pair of modules by Jezla: Humble Beginnings and Lowena.

Humble Beginnings, by the author's description, is more of a sidequest than an actual adventure.  You happen upon a girl in the woods who has recently been accosted by goblins.  Assuming that you are willing to help her, you plunge into the caves in pursuit.  Lowena, on the other hand, is a bit larger in scope.  After accepting a caravan job, you quickly find yourself stuck in the middle of a distressing political conflict that threatens to destabilize an entire region.

Both modules ultimately bring the player to a critical, often challenging choice.  In my mind, there was no clear "good" vs. "evil" choice available in either case, which I liked a lot.  I was inspired to play a Lawful Good monk in this module after running across one of the Broken Ones as an NPC while playing Saleron's Gambit 3 the night before.  He was a follower of Ilmater, and therefore was dedicated to not only fighting evil, but taking on the pain of the masses for the betterment of the greater good.  It was this latter principle that I used to guide my decisions.

The areas were beautifully rendered, with a number of little touches to bring the world to life.  For example, a little housecat roams about in a bar, and seagulls fly overhead as you approach a sheer cliffside.  Musical choices were also superb, with several stirring pieces that I don't normally hear in modules.  I also really liked the setting: you are living in the remains of a toppled empire, with small fiefdoms (city-states?) representing the only meaningful government in the region.  It reminded me a bit of the Nentir Vale, although with far less danger of the monstrous sort...and more of the political sort.  It has a ton of potential.

Breathtaking cliffs...and I love the seagull
If I had criticisms, it was mostly just that the modules were so short!  There was pretty minimal combat, and as such a lot of the module just seemed to involve running back and forth between NPC's across areas (lots of running involved!  Thank goodness for the monk's speed boost).  This was intentional in terms of the author's vision for the module, but I still would have enjoyed something more.  I also found some of the NPC's actions to be a little forced... but it wasn't that big of a problem, and probably necessary for the story to work.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Saleron's Gambit 3

A return to the Copper Coronet of Baldur's Gate 2
Last night, I finished up Saleron's Gambit 3.  This module was one that I reviewed for the old vault review guild.  It was also one of the modules that I think really spurred the Overlooked Modules Project.  It was an early submission to that project by a player who championed it, and I don't think it's an overstatement to say that the Overlooked Modules Project as well as my review were important in helping this series gain enough momentum to really take off.  Of course, it's the quality of the modules that ultimately led to their success.

In any case, since it's no longer available except by, below the fold is my review of Saleron's Gambit 3.  It's glowing.  I think I largely agree with the assessment after this play-through, although this time I thought the dialog was occasionally written a bit over the top.  The character descriptions he provided, however, are still second to none.  

It's Alro's Curiosity Shoppe!
It was a blast to play it again; it's been long enough that I'd pretty much forgotten everything!  This time around, I'm playing as a bard, which is a great fit for the module.  Given that there is such minimal magical equipment, the bard's magical abilities--and especially his song--really gets a chance to shine.  I'm not sure he's my preferred bard design.  This one is a 14 str, 14 dex character, and wears a breastplate that he has to pull off whenever he casts a spell.  As a result, all of his casting is dedicated to buff spells, because he can't be pulling his armor off mid-combat.  I think I'll try a bard at some point that tries to just go with robes (or at least light armor) and ranged combat.  That said, in Saleron's Gambit 3, unless you can open your own locked doors, you're probably taking the rogue NPC.  As a result, you really do need to be your own tank, which makes my character fit pretty well as-is.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Adventurer's Club, Round 1

The vote are in, and the first two modules have been selected for the Adventurer's Club!  The discussion will begin on Monday, August 11th.

For Neverwinter Nights 1, we're playing ILL Met in Lankhmar by Udasu.  This module was nominated by Werelynx:
Game: NWN1
1. ILL Met in Lankhmar by Udasu
3. Pregenerated Fafhrd character fighter1/rogue1
4. About 1 hour
5. Module by Udasu, storydriven, loosely based around Fritz Leiber's epic heroes, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouse. Short for starters to try out how to orient our adventruing gears in this club.

For Neverwinter Nights 2, we're playing a pair of short modules by Jezla.  The first is very short, and they form a small series.  The modules are:
Humble Beginnings was nominated by Sir Adril:
Game: NWN2
Module Name & Author: Humble Beginnings by Jezla9
Neverwinter Vault Link:
Character starting level & info: Starting Level 1, ending Level 3-4
Estimated hours of play (if available): ~10 minutes
Why submitted: Short, with little to no combat, this module is the first in a series that is meant to be played with other adventures interspersed to bring you up to the correct level.
Lowena was nominated by its author, Jezla9:
1. NWN2
2. Lowena by Jezla9
4. Level 5 (new characters will be leveled up on entry)
5. 1 hour
6. It has the same virtues as Humble Beginnings for being short with largely optional combat.  Despite the length, it has four possible endings, some use for skills, and is (if I may say so) very polished. 

I've played all three modules, and have written up preliminary comments that I've saved here.  I'll post those here once the discussion begins on Monday.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

FRW Character Creator Update

I've updated the FRW Character Creator to version 3.0!

It's really not a big update, despite the big click in the numbering.  That's justified more by the time since the last update than anything else, as well as the reversion of authorship.

Changes in this update:
* Support up to level 30 with appropriate gold.
* Ability for level 1 characters to get *some* gold (ask Chatter to make you level 1).
* A new +4 item store.
* As you advance in levels, you can access your current level's store, as well as the previous store.  This can be good when trying to buy a few low-cost items to round out your characters.
* Traps available for purchase in all stores (thanks to GCoyote for the suggestion!)
* Removed persistent companion support.  That hak unfortunately no longer works with of SoZ.

The new module also does require MotB and SoZ, because that's what I'm running NWN2 on now.  I've left legacy files to continue support for those who might not have expansions at the Vault.

Happy gaming!