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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Princes of the Apocalypse - Tomb of Moving Stones

Yesterday we returned to the game store to play some more of the new D&D Encounters adventure Princes of the Apocalypse. Our store is having a problem in that there are too many players and not enough DMs. We have four tables and each one was either at the max of 7 or over the max. I ended up with 8 players. I have repeatedly offered to run a Thursday game for some of these excess players, but for whatever reason it is not happening.

In my opinion, the best number of players in D&D is three. Two players and a DM can also be fantastic, as it is a very intimate and comfortable setting. Once you hit five players and up, there is a lot of cross-talk and waiting for your turn, and it really slows things down.

Rules Stuff

I read up on a few things prior to the session. I re-read the Adventurer's League rules on being evil, as I have a rogue who last week literally wanted to rob a little kid. Zhentarim can be lawful evil only, so I read to him what the Zhentarim believe and gave him general guidelines on the lawful evil philosophy.

I also read up on polearm mastery. There is this variant human rule where humans can get a feat at first level. The paladin used this and took the polearm mastery feat, which allows him to take a second attack with the butt-end of his halberd each round. He can also make an opportunity attack when an enemy enters his reach if he chooses!

The whole thing felt a little overpowered at first level, but the butt-end only does a d4 and frankly 1st level was still very deadly for the PCs anyway.

Thoughts So Far

I haven't written a review of Princes of the Apocalypse because I feel like I should wait for the book to come out. I am definitely underwhelmed with this adventure so far, though.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen started out with a dragon and an army attacking a village. This one starts out with the adventurers in a (dull) town aimlessly stumbling on adventuring hooks. It feels very generic and uninspired.

The Players
  • Elf Rogue: Played by a 4th grader, her character's name is Lucky and she has a black cat named "Bad Luck".   
  • Dwarf Cleric: In real life, played by Lucky's dad. He has a scottish accent.
  • Tiefling Sorcerer: Middle Schooler. His character is apparently a jester.
  • Drow Rogue: Middle Schooler. Wants to be evil, but Adventurer's League rules restrict this.
  • Goliath Barbarian: Middle Schooler. Really nice guy.
  • Human Bard: The player is about 25 years old, knows the rules pretty well. 
  • Human Paladin: Played by the bard's dad, who played old D&D and is new to 5e.
  • Human Rogue: The new kid. Taking to the game very well.
Necromancer's Cave

We left off last time with our heroes exploring the cave complex that is home to a necromancer who calls himself the Lord of Lance Rock. They'd just survived a trap where zombies dumped rocks on them from a ledge.

They went through a tunnel and came upon a room with three zombies dressed in weird costumes: A bear suit, a lady and a jester. They sort of capered a bit. An odd encounter:

The players thought there was some kind of gimmick to the area (there should have been, IMO, but I couldn't think of anything good) so the bard started playing his flute and the tiefling sorcerer began to dance. The zombies attacked.

The adventurers killed them and explored a side passage that contained two iron chests. The Lord of Lance Rock watched them through a peephole, pulled a lever and activated a falling rocks trap. Most of the heroes made their saves. The chests were empty. Curse you, Lance Rock!

The heroes then made their way to a vast area where the Lord of Lance Rock does his necromancy. It's a big room with a lot of monsters - zombies, crawling claws and skeletons.

A battle broke out. A few PCs dropped and nearly died.

Once they were victorious, the heroes made their way to the necromancer's personal lair, which contained a pedestal made of severed arms (awesome), a hovering driftglobe and a floating symbol of elemental evil... which is an illusion (?). According to the .pdf:

"The significance of this sigil is explained in the full adventure of Princes of the Apocalypse".

The necromancer had 3 skeletons with him. Even though I had 8 players, I actually didn't add any monsters in this dungeon and it was still deadly. The necromancer fired off a pile of darts from his wand of magic missiles. He outright killed the Zhentarim rogue and dropped another PC.

The heroes rallied. The dwarf cleric called out to his god. He said: "Guide my bolt into this foul necromancer's lap!". He fired his crossbow. He rolled a natural 20.

I said, "Right in the lap!".

The new player rolled a critical on a skeleton, destroying it, which cleared the way to the necromancer, who was slain.

The heroes returned to Red Larch and rested for a few days. The Zhentarim raised the slain rogue.

I should mention that they faced off against one of my home-made earth-based random encounters on the way back: A groundhog emerged from the earth and stared at them intensely.

I know, my game is stupid. But it makes me laugh.

The players leveled up to level 2. One nice thing about this edition is that it literally takes 2 minutes to level up. Then we began part two of the adventure.

Tomb of Moving Stones

The set-up for this is really cool. A sinkhole opens up in Red Larch. A bunch of kids fall into it. The sinkhole reveals a dungeon beneath the town that some of the Town Elders have been secretly visiting.

The Town Elders secretly call themselves The Believers. There's these floating stones down there in the secret dungeon beneath Red Larch that they think predict the future. Recently, a weird priest showed up down there, who The Believers are scared of. His name is Larrakh, and he's secretly a member of the earth cult. So we're finally getting into the actual Elemental Evil stuff slightly.

So I run the sinkhole thing and I read the flavor text. A few of the Town Elders suspiciously try to keep anyone from going into the sinkhole. The new guy makes an impassioned plea which gets the Red Larchers behind him. Lucky and a few others go down, get the kids and bring them up to safety.

The Town Elders nervously discuss the situation. Lucky creeps around and eavesdrops on them, and eventually The Believers are confronted and the truth is revealed. The heroes decide to explore the dungeon.

They go down there, go through a door and come to a very long hallway with a ceiling that is very hard to describe. Here is the flavor text:

The deal here is that there are cages in the ceiling with plaster bottoms. If the PCs traverse the hallway and don't call out the password, a half-orc in a room on the far side of the hallway pulls a lever and drops some cages on the PCs. The bottom of the cages are plaster, so the PCs will explode through the plaster and wind up stuck in the cages.

It's a very cool trap, but it's tricky to describe. Art of it would have helped a lot. I knew this going in so I was ready to use the store's ceiling as an example (it has tiles).

Lucky decided to sneak down the hallway alone. Two cages dropped, but she dodged both! The half-orc ran, and she flung a dagger in his back.

The rest of the party ran to catch up, but the cages blocked their way. The goliath was able to lift each cage so the PCs could get through the hallway.

Lucky didn't pursue the half-orc. The room with the levers also had a poor kid tied to a stone. He was hungry and thirsty.

We were out of time! I like this scenario quite a bit. Even with eight players we were able to keep things moving.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Princes of the Apocalypse - Alarums & Excursions

This week, we begin a brand new Dungeons & Dragons storyline in the game store. We finished The Rise of Tiamat last week, and now we begin Princes of the Apocalypse as part of the Elemental Evil storyline.

The book isn't actually out yet. A .pdf of the Encounters version of this adventure was released just a day or two ago. I promptly prepared about 25 pages of it with hand-written notes. Honestly, I wasn't overly-impressed with this adventure, but I still have a lot more reading to do.

I wanted to complete part one tonight, which contained three scenarios:
  • A single bandit encounter
  • A very short tomb scenario
  • A small dungeon of a necromancer
The adventure kicks off in a town called Red Larch. The PCs are just kind of plopped there, with no real event or story. The idea is to let the PCs roam and explore and come upon the hooks naturally, but my players don't do well with that (they're young, so that stuff ends up a bit chaotic).

What I didn't expect was that my group of 7 players ended up at a total of 9, which is way too many and not even legal for Adventurer's League play. One new player was a friend from school of another player. How could I turn the poor kid away? The other player is in a group that took a break this week. He is around 50 years old and.. well.. you'll see.

The Party

  • Elf Rogue: Played by a 4th grader, her character's name is Lucky and she has a black cat named "Bad Luck".   
  • Dwarf Cleric: In real life, played by Lucky's dad.
  • Tiefling Sorcerer: Middle Schooler.Likes to make puns.
  • Drow Rogue: Middle Schooler.Seems to be interested in playing evil characters.
  • Goliath Barbarian: Middle Schooler. He rolled poorly tonight.
  • Human Bard: The player is about 25 years old, knows the rules pretty well. 
  • Human Paladin: Played by the bard's dad, who played old D&D and is new to 5e.
  • Human Rogue: A new kid. He was a very nice guy.
  • Human Wizard: A middle-aged man who usually plays in another group in the store.
"Bad Luck" Has Bad Luck

We began in Red Larch. I dropped the hook on them almost immediately - Constable Harburk wants the PCs to check out some bandit activity. Our heroes head to the south.
 
The adventure encourages you to use random encounters. I cooked up some of my own, mostly because the random encounters in the book that I liked involved cultists, and I wasn't sure if it would be wise to introduce the cultists this early. This adventure slowly reveals the cultists. They are lurking beneath the surface of things.

Bursa Steel

So, since these early stories end up with a link to the earth cult, I created a number of flavor-encounters involving weird earth happenings. For example, there was a tremor that knocked the heroes prone if they failed an easy DEX save. They also ran into a dwarf who was looking for ancient mines, allowing me to drop some lore about these Ironstar dwarves that are relevant to a later scenario.

I named this dwarf Bursa Steel. A few weeks ago, I had the NPC name "Bursa Sac" pop into my head. I could slowly introduce his relatives - Aunt Nap (Sac), and build up to the debut of his crazy cousin "Crap" Sac. Stupid? Yes. But it makes me laugh. I realized that this was not appropriate for young kids, so I just kept the name Bursa.

The Bear

When preparing, I was worried we'd get through all of this too fast. But with nine players, we got through much less than I'd hoped. Nine is way too many, although they were remarkably well-behaved.

The bandits have a bear in a cage. The heroes jumped the bandits. The bear burst out of its cage and attacked the nearest creature - Lucky and her cat!

The nine-year old who played Dark the Dragon Sorceress last season now has a rogue named Lucky. She owns a black cat named "Bad Luck". Poor Bad Luck got murdered by the bear. Lucky got revenge by "putting a dagger in its' eye", killing it.

Raise Dead on a Cat

The heroes returned to Red Larch, victorious. Lucky really wanted the harpers (she's a harper) to raise her dead cat. I immediately got a vision of a D&D version of the Pet Avengers but I haven't figured it all out yet. She also suggested that the cat has nine lives, which is a really fun idea.

I did have the harpers raise Bad Luck, I'll have to mull it over and figure out how I want to handle this. The factions are supposed to only raise PCs, not their useless pets.

The Lost Tomb

The heroes then dove into hook #2, a scenario involving a lost tomb. There's bandits near the tomb, a fun duo - a goblin and a half-ogre. I had the goblin ride the half-ogre, and decided they were the best of friends. I used the new elemental evil ogre mini, which impressed everyone.

The heroes made their way into the tomb, triggering the noisy trap the duo had set to alert them. As the PCs battled a specter, the duo burst in from behind and did some serious damage. Lucky was dropped by the specter and the bard was dropped by the half-ogre.

New Guy Doesn't Play Well With Others

It was during this battle that the new guy pulled a classic jerk move. He decided to cast thunderwave, a spell that hits everyone within 15 feet of him. The players were taken aback as this guy set it up and they realized it would hit two PCs. He was semi-apologetic but I detected no small amount of glee in his explanation as well.

I let it happen for a few reasons. I'm not sure what the league rules are about this kind of thing, so I didn't want to tell him no if there isn't a specific rule in place (I think there is, but I didn't have the guide handy). Second, I wanted my young players to experience this kind of player, both as a deterrent and as a springboard for me to talk about it with them next week.

The worst part here is that this guy could have risked an attack of opportunity and moved to a position on the map where he'd only hit the half-ogre and not his own allies. That would have been daring and heroic. But instead he acted like his only recourse was to, "regrettably", hit everybody. Risking an attack of opportunity would mean he might take damage! Better to damage other people's characters, I guess.

He was quite dejected when everyone made their saves and he rolled minimum damage: 2 points. This is a grown man.

The heroes survived and healed their fallen allies. They then proceeded to leave the coffin alone and failed to find the treasure hidden in the tomb (I hate missed treasure but we had to keep things moving).

Lance Rock

The next day, the adventurers checked out the weird happenings at Lance Rock - a really tall, mysterious stone. There's signs warning people to stay out of a cave, signed "The Lord of Lance Rock".

Inside the nearby cave tunnel/complex, the heroes battled a zombie. It's funny, one 22 hit point zombie is not too shabby.

Then in the next room, there's two zombies poised to drop stones on the PCs from above, but the heroes were cautious and avoided the trap. They killed the zombies, and then we were completely out of time.

We just had too many players this week. Next time, we'll finish the necromancer's dungeon and start a pretty cool excursion into caves beneath Red Larch.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Rise of Tiamat - Tiamat's Return

Tonight we finished The Rise of Tiamat at the game store and had the big battle with one of the most famous D&D villains - The five-headed dragon, Tiamat.

Going in, I was keenly aware that even with reduced stats, Tiamat might be too much for my group which is comprised of 8th graders, a 9-year-old and a few adults. I had a bunch of fail-safes ready as I wasn't interested in running a slaughter (although sometimes fate just doles out a TPK due to dice rolls and player decisions). It turned out to be an incredibly deadly final battle.

I modified the final chapter greatly. I tossed out the entire lava tube dungeon from the book in favor of a bunch of mass combat encounters. I also completely overhauled Tiamat's Temple.

In the book, Tiamat's Temple is quite odd. There are red wizards enacting the ritual in 5 areas, each pertaining to a different chromatic dragon (red, blue, green, etc.). More red wizards are hovering 50 feet in the air above them, also enacting the ritual. Floating even higher still is their leader, Severin. I switched it up completely and used one of my favorite maps from the 4e Book of Vile Darkness.

Vorpal Squirrel?

I got to the store early and was given a most warm welcome by other players from other groups. They told me about their games (They are in episode 1 of Rise, about to battle Arauthator). They have a "vorpal squirrel" (??). It sounds pretty fun.

When the fighter's dad showed up, he had a gift for me - a massive stein depicting a knight battling a dragon. It is incredibly awesome.

I also picked up some Elemental Evil minis, just to see what they are like out of the box and to get the Neverwinter code (I am still playing the game quite a bit). The minis are OK. I enjoy using "official" things but it's hard to say that the 4 minis are worth $16. There's something about getting a duergar mini in a box that makes me never want to buy a box again.

The Rise of Tiamat: LeBron's Mix

For a Limited Time Only!
A player at the table was drinking Sprite: Lebron's Mix. I can only assume Lebron James spent months locked away in a laboratory with flavor-ologists to concoct a drink that truly tasted like Lebron. I really hope that the future will bring us more celebrity-flavored drinks. How about Charles Manson Premium Choice flavored Cherry Pepsi? Maybe some iced tea with a twist of Kim Kardashian?

The Party

  •     (Harper) Elf Sorcerer: Played by a 4th grader, she is Dark the Dragon Sorceress   
  •     (Zhentarim) Elf Rogue: In real life, played by Dark's dad.
  •     (Zhentarim) Gnome Rogue: Middle Schooler. We joke that his character lives in a garbage can.
  •     (Zhentarim) Elf Rogue: Middle Schooler. Often does "combo moves" with the gnome, throwing him at stuff to get Inspiration.
  •     (Order of the Gauntlet) Half-Elf Paladin: Middle Schooler. Oath of the Ancients.
  •     (Order of the Gauntlet) Half-Elf Fighter: The player is about 25 years old, knows the rules pretty well. 
  •     Mezzoloth: Played by the fighter's dad, who played old D&D and is new to 5e.
The Well of Dragons
Tiamat's Temple
We jumped right into it. Last time, the heroes had killed Rath Modar and acquired the Draakhorn. A silver dragon tried to bring it to Skyreach Castle, which was hovering above the battlefield, but a red dragon attacked her. The heroes fended off the dragon with ranged attacks and even avoided being pushed off a cliff by zombie Azbara Jos.

The adventurers led a force of dwarves through the lava tubes, encountering a lone prisoner and some drakes fighting over humanoid meat. They emerged in the caldera. There were dragon bones everywhere. In the center of the area was Tiamat's Temple, freshly risen from hell. The picture I use here seems to be official, but never got used in the Neverwinter MMO or in The Rise of Tiamat (perhaps due to space issues?). 

Cultists and devils lurked here, the final line of defense. Chromatic dragons were in the air. The heroes charged in, accompanied by a host of dwarves, a frost giant, Music the tiefling bard, Leosin the Harper monk and a limping Sir Isteval (wielding Lawflame).

The heroes made quick work of some dragonfangs and devils, with the aid of a brass dragon. They entered Tiamat's Temple.

There, five red wizards were working altars to summon Tiamat. Tiamat's heads were not quite tangible yet, but she was becoming solid in a prismatic whorl. The deal here was that the PCs needed to shut down the altars, destroying the orbs on each one. Severin, his aide Galvan, and the red wizards tried to stop them.

Who is Galvan?

I added Galvan in. Galvan seems to be something of an odd trivia note in Tyranny of Dragons history. From what I understand, he's an NPC that had art made for him, but he got cut from the book. But just a week or two ago, wizards posted this blurb about him as if he is part of the storyline. This article series also called Varram (the white dragonspeaker) "Varramzord".

This battle worked out fine. The heroes tried to spread out, which didn't go so well. They messed with the altars and killed wizards.

Scaling Tiamat
 
They shut down the altars but Tiamat tried to force her way through the portal before it fizzled out. The idea here was to run a battle where the PCs need to keep Tiamat at bay until the portal peters out.

I had used the de-leveling guide in the book, but I had to further modify her stats to give the PCs a chance:
  • I gave her 3 legendary actions instead of 5, so she could only breathe once per round.
  • My Tiamat had 315 hit points, which seemed low (a pit fiend has 300) but this was almost too much.
  • I dropped the static damage of the fire breath to 56 damage.
  • +14 to hit is plenty! I was worried it was too low (for the big bad guy) but I don't think I missed a PC once.
Once the fight started, Tiamat dropped the fighter right away with three attacks. Then, at the end of the gnome's turn, Tiamat breathed on the party (who were mostly clumped together) and dropped the mezzoloth and the paladin.

For the rest of the battle, the players hid behind altars and frantically healed each other with potions. The frightening presence royally messed them up, as the save DC is so high (even when scaled down). The paladin's ability to handle that probably saved the whole party.

Dark decided to have Sparky fly up and breathe on Tiamat. Tiamat took one look at Sparky,  a baby black dragon infused with positive energy/blessed by Bahamut and was enraged at the sight of this "abomination".

Tiamat breathed poison gas on Dark and Sparky. Dark's dad is a rogue. He originally wanted to kill Sparky when the party found him. Over time, the heroes taught Sparky to share and freely give treasure to those in need. A few sessions ago, Sparky was able to impress the metallic dragons by giving them his "hoard" of beer coasters and trinkets.

Dark's dad ran over, jumped on Sparky, and took the poison damage, saving Sparky's life.

The fighter had been dropped right at the start of the battle, and since then had been healed with a measly potion of healing. He spent a few rounds huddled behind an altar, quaffing potions. Then he charged Tiamat and unloaded on her... and rolled at least one natural 20! He did a pile of damage, crossing the 315 hit point threshold, and thus forcing Tiamat to retreat into Hell.

The players cheered! They'd survived a ridiculously deadly battle. I read to them things that happened after it was all over. The hoard had to be divided up with the metallic dragons. The chromatic dragons fled, but tried to take some treasure with them.

I asked each of them to tell me what became of their heroes after this was all over. Here's what they said:
  • The Fighter: Established a manor for his family. I think he is going to make other characters related to this one.
  • The Gnome: He moved in to the hunting lodge from Hoard and retired.
  • Daring Elf Rogue: He and Music the tiefling bard became mercenaries. They also stole some items from Tiamat's hoard and fled.
  • The Paladin: He returned to his home village. He had been made fun of a lot while growing up. Now he wanted them to see who he'd become and rub it in their face a little. Then he wanted to sleep for a long time.
  • The Mezzoloth: He went to live in a sewer (??) and ditched his tridents. He hated using those things.
  • Dark: She went on a quest to find her parents (she told me Dark's secret origin!).
  • Dark's Dad: After Tiamat died, he slipped away and left the party for good. He left behind one thing - a trinket that was all that he had left from his tragic family past. He put it in Sparky's hoard.
Pretty awesome, right?

The Secret Origin of Dark the Dragon Sorceress

Remember, Dark's player is 9 years old. This is her character's story: Dark's parents were named Jason and Allison. One day, they were riding horses in the woods with Dark (who was 4 years old at the time). There was "something in the bushes, wiggling". It scared the horses, who ran off. Dark was separated from her parents and was lost. A black dragon found her, and decided to raise her (maybe he sensed her dragon sorcerer blood?). Years later, a band of adventurers came and killed the black dragon, thinking Dark was it's prisoner. These adventurers might be Harpers. They took Dark in and raised her as their own.

I think that's a pretty well thought out backstory, if I do say so myself!

It was a great final session with a great group. We're starting Elemental Evil next week. I'll try and finish up my guide to Tyranny of Dragons, now that I have run the whole thing,

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Rise of Tiamat - Mission to Thay

These columns are being "syndicated" on a new site: Dungeon Channel. Dungeon Channel has all sorts of resources for Dungeon Masters, including maps, a dice roller and links. Check it out!

I had scheduled a bonus session of The Rise of Tiamat at the game store today. I could be wrong, but from what I understand, Elemental Evil starts on March 18th. So today I wanted to get through everything up to the final battle of the campaign. We will do that Tiamat fight on this coming Wednesday.

I honestly didn't feel like coming in to run this today. Today was daylight savings, which meant I lost an hour of sleep and I was exhausted. Also, the last few sessions haven't been stellar and my enthusiasm has waned.

It's funny, it's the times when I don't really want to go but drag myself in that end up being good ones. We've had horrid weather for months now in New York, but it is suddenly getting warmer and it put everyone in a good mood.

The Party

  •     (Harper) Elf Sorcerer: Played by a 4th grader, she is Dark the Dragon Sorceress   
  •     (Zhentarim) Gnome Rogue: Middle Schooler. We joke that his character lives in a garbage can.
  •     (Zhentarim) Elf Rogue: Middle Schooler. Often does "combo moves" with the gnome, throwing him at stuff to get Inspiration.
  •     (Order of the Gauntlet) Half-Elf Paladin: Middle Schooler. Oath of the Ancients.
  •     (Order of the Gauntlet) Half-Elf Fighter: The player is about 25 years old, knows the rules pretty well. 
  •     Mezzoloth: Played by the fighter's dad, who played old D&D and is new to 5e.
Dark's dad, a rogue, couldn't make it in today. His character was sent on a "special mission" by the Zhentarim.

Today I wanted to fly through episode 8, which is a nothing-chapter where the heroes go to Thay. Then we'd spend the majority of this session on the well of dragons (which is episode 9). In episode 9 according to the book, the heroes go through what looks like a really boring dungeon while a mass combat rages between the factions and the cult outside. I said "nuts to that" and revamped this final episode so that our heroes are out in the middle of a mass combat chopping their way toward the Draakhorn and the caldera where Tiamat's temple awaits. It went extremely well.

Fake Masks


Dark and another player were arguing last week about who got to keep the (fake) blue dragon mask. When they got back to Waterdeep, I had it so that a bunch of adventuring groups had found fake masks. This way, the PCs could each claim a mask and we could move on.

Gnome Treasure

Bahamut
I decided that since the gnome had pleasantly offered to give his dagger of venom to one of the metallic dragons (which is especially generous of him when you consider how rare magic items are in this storyline), I decided that the dragon would send an item to him as a thank you and an aid in the upcoming battle at the Well of Dragons. I looked through the DMG before the game and couldn't figure out what to give him. So I just had him tell me what he wanted at the table. He got a +2 bow.

The Polychromatic Dragon

I decided that word had spread among the metallic dragons that the PCs had a baby black dragon that was not evil. I did a thing where one of Bahamut's 7 gold dragons, Sonngrad the Wing, came and brought Sparky and some of the PCs to the plane of positive energy, where Sparky went through some morality trials and was infused with positive energy. Sparky is now half-black, half-gold. I did this partly because Dark asked me last week if Sparky could level up (his stats are pretty shabby now compared to the PCs, aside from the breath weapon that does 22 points of damage).

Thay
 
Rath Modar
The heroes then were teleported to Thay to meet with the Red Wizards. The Cult is allied with a splinter group of the Red Wizards, with the idea that Tiamat will help the splinter group oust the current leader of the red wizards, Szass Tam. The heroes tried to recruit the red wizards, which led to a few PCs being interrogated in their dreams, though they didn't remember it due to tough saving throws.

I added in a detail from the Neverwinter MMO. Each PC stayed in a room that had a ten foot tall statue of a red wizard holding his hands out. If a PC messed with it, an imp would have appeared and asked the PC what they wanted. The imp could keep an eye on them, and the whole thing is a way to show the PCs that messing with statues or stuff in their domain could have consequences.

The entire Thay chapter is a big nothing as written. I decided not to expand on it. We had stuff to do!

The Final Council of Waterdeep

I had Skyreach Castle show up, hovering over Waterdeep. It was time to decide who was going to attack the cult, and who the PCs had failed to win over.

Really there was only one faction with a beef. Going by the council scorecard, the PCs had scored a ton of points with almost every faction. But logic dictated that King Melandrach and the elves were out - the PCs had made them apologize to the metallic dragons for a past event, and most notably the heroes killed the King's son and chucked his severed ear at the King when they got back.

I also hinted that the heroes, half of whom are elves and actually grew up in the Misty forest, would not be welcomed back there by a large segment of the population.

The heroes had the key to Xonthal's Tower, and every faction wanted it. The PCs decided to just keep the key for now to avoid tension.

The Well of Dragons

That's Tiamat's Temple in the distance.
And with that, a great army was assembled and gathered far to the south, near the Well of Dragons. There were giants, treants, griffons, metallic dragons alongside soldiers and wizards from all of the different factions.

I had Laeral Silverhand give a quick speech - I stole a quote I love hearing from the Neverwinter MMO that I say out loud in a lady voice because it makes me laugh: "Diligence, vigilance and tenacity. This is the key to victory".

The cult is massed at the Well of Dragons, a caldera full of dragon bones. Tiamat's evil hell-temple has risen in the center. Outside the caldera are thousands of cultists and devils. Flying above the whole thing are dozens of chromatic dragons.

Our heroes spontaneously chose mounts to ride into battle:
  • The paladin summoned a spectral elk and readied his lance that he'd bought long ago
  • The gnome rode Sparky, the baby black/gold dragon
  • Dark rode a gold dragon (!)
  • The mezzoloth rode on a treant
  • The elf rogue rode a griffon
  • The fighter rode a warhorse
Their steeds chosen, they let out a shout and led the charge, kicking up a cloud of dust as they rampaged toward the evil cultists.

My idea here was to run some encounters amid the chaos of war. I rolled initiative for the bad guys, and also made a separate roll for a 'special' encounter. Each round, when I got to 'special', I'd consult my list of special things and picked one. The list had things like:
  • A chromatic dragon swoops down and breathes on the PCs
  • Leosin (the monk from Hoard episode 2) jumps into the fray and kidney punches one of the PCs' enemies.
I also had Music, the tiefling bard from Merric Blackman's group, with the heroes. I had her use a special song to allow the PCs to take a short rest in mere moments.

I had five encounters prepared. The idea was to hack through the enemy, to get to the caldera. The PCs need to pass through a tunnel to get to Tiamat's temple. But they see the red wizard Rath Modar with the Draakhorn, and of course they need to take him down first.

The Warm-Up Fight

The heroes battled 3 dragonclaws, 3 dragonwings and one dragonsoul amidst the cacapony of battle. I re-flavored them so that they were like the cultists from the neverwinter MMO - there were green cultists with bows that shot energy arrows, blue cultists with lightning shields, etc.

Also in the middle of the first round, the first "special" moment kicked in: A red dragon swooped down from overhead and breathed on the heroes!

As the battle raged, Dark cast animate object and brought ten broken weapons to life. I had no idea how cool this spell was. Her weapons chopped up bad guys left and right.

I was worried that this fight and the other fights would be too easy or too hard, but they weren't at all. It was pretty perfect, thanks in part to my failsafe NPC bard healer with them.

Once the PCs had killed the cultists, I ran a quick type of semi-encounter that I used to do in 4e all the time. Basically, they'd roll initiative, I'd give them a situation, and they'd say what they wanted to try. They'd roll and their die roll would determine how it went.

So there's a mass of enemies in front of them. Dark has the gold dragon breathe fire to trap most of them in a ring of fire. Some other enemies, black dragon-armored cultists, began reading from scrolls. This is also from Neverwinter - they read from the scrolls and become giant-sized.

A PC threw alchemist fire into the fire circle and torched the bad guys while the PCs killed the scroll-readers.

Naergoth Bladelord

In this chapter, there's an undead warrior named Naergoth. He is affected by sunlight, so I set this whole scenario at night. Basically, once the battle started, Rath Modar told Naergoth to hunt down the PCs and kill them. Rath created some spectral mirror images of himself to accompany Naergoth (special monsters I took from Neverwinter - they are monsters that look just like Rath Modar, but they are made of spectral purple fire, hover and cast spells).

Rath's mirror images sneered at Dark. She'd somehow charmed him in Skyreach castle way back when, and he vowed revenge. As this encounter got underway, a green dragon flew by and breathed on the heroes.

The adventurers took down the bad guys. They were hurt pretty bad, so Music played her song. I used this opportunity to have Dark's gold dragon go fly after the green dragon. As their wounds sealed themselves up, a new enemy came after them...

The Red Dragon

Yep, a red dragon swooped down for a full-fledged combat. The frightening presence really throws them for a loop. The paladin has some power that protects him and people close to him from it. Still, it was a good fight that felt deadly.

One thing that happened was that the mounts of the PCs were killed. The griffon dropped from the breath weapon. The treant caught fire. Sparky even almost died (he would have if he hadn't "leveled up" earlier).

Once they had slain the dragon, the heroes closed in on the wall of the caldera. They saw a path that led up the wall to a landing, where the draakhorn was placed. By it was none other than rath modar. To get to the path, the PCs would have to pass over an infernal summoning circle. As they heroes got close to it, Rath activated it. It summoned a...

Pit Fiend

I was worried that this would be too tough, so I had a frost giant pop out of the combat to help the heroes fight it. The fiend really did a number on the heroes, but overall it felt challenging yet not overwhelming. It's funny, AC 19 is hard to hit, even for 14th-level PCs.

Rath Modar

The adventurers made their way up the path. Rath Modar had ten, yes, ten spectral mirror images of himself, each able to cast magic missile. They formed a wall, stopping the melee PCs from closing in on Rath. Rath pelted the heroes with a fireball, but that spell doesn't work too well on my group.

The elf rogue took an epic leap over the line of images and hacked into Modar. It was a harrowing battle with magic missiles flying around like crazy. But thanks to the daring rogue, Rath was slain and his mirror images vanished.

They could secure the Draakhorn and then proceed toward and into Tiamat's temple where the ritual to summon Tiamat was taking place....

After The Game Was Over

I got to meet Dark's little brother. He's a fun little guy. He did one of those wacky things that I think only little kids do. He somehow dropped a school library book through the gate of a closed deli in the mall. And of course, the book needed to be in the school tomorrow.

I used to lock these gates all the time at one of my old jobs. You can lift them up a few inches off the ground. So I lifted it, he stuck his tiny hand through and got his book.

All in all, it was a good session and I look forward to the final battle on Wednesday.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Rise of Tiamat - Xonthal's Tower

We played another session of The Rise of Tiamat at the game store last night as part of the Dungeons & Dragons Adventurer's League program.

Something is happening to the group. Ever since that week where the substitute DM ran the game (the session where, I was told, "everybody argued") the players have very little patience for each other. Tonight's game started off very free and fun, but by the end I was really working to keep things moving.

With a home game, you're playing with people you know and that you've invited, presumably because they will make a good group. At a game store, it's just a bunch of people who show up. I got supremely lucky with group, as I really like them. But the age difference between the players seems to be causing problems.

The Party

  •     (Harper) Elf Sorcerer: Played by a 4th grader, she is Dark the Dragon Sorceress   
  •     (Zhentarim) Elf Rogue: In real life, played by Dark's dad.
  •     (Zhentarim) Gnome Rogue: Middle Schooler. We joke that his character lives in a garbage can.
  •     (Zhentarim) Elf Rogue: Middle Schooler. Often does "combo moves" with the gnome, throwing him at stuff to get Inspiration.
  •     (Order of the Gauntlet) Half-Elf Paladin: Middle Schooler. Oath of the Ancients.
  •     (Order of the Gauntlet) Half-Elf Fighter: The player is about 25 years old, knows the rules pretty well. 
  •     Mezzoloth: Played by the fighter's dad, who played old D&D and is new to 5e.
Last week we went through the hedge maze. This week, our heroes had to make their way through Xonthal's tower, a weird and magic place. They are trying to find a cult defector who apparently has the blue dragon mask. They had spotted him on the tower balcony, who told them he'd wait for them in the dungeon and waved an hourglass key that they'd need.

The heroes come before a room with a teleport circle and a metal wall panel adorned with 9 symbols. Each panel has a different symbol: rectangle, a chair, fire, an hourglass, etc. When you press one, the teleport circle glows and teleports you to a room in the tower.

The adventurers all stared at it (I made a handout), and Dark immediately pointed out that the bad guy was waving an hourglass key, so they should probably press the hourglass button. She just sees right through the game a lot of times. Most people get lost in the details, but she is very sharp.

Pressing the hourglass is locked - you need to touch it with the hourglass key.

The heroes ended up pressing the star, and going right to the bad guy with the hourglass key. His flunkies had just 33 hit points. The heroes tore through them. Jorgen managed to get off a fireball, but most of the PCs have some way to mitigate or negate the damage completely. They killed the dude and got the key.

They used the key to go right to the dungeon.

Dungeon Teleporter: The room they appeared in had three dead bodies. Their defector, Iskandar, had killed them and fled further in.
 
Elemental Checkpoint: This is an area guarded by 2 earth elementals and a fire elemental. The deal here is that there's a locked box that has scrolls of protection against these elementals. I'm not really swure how the PCs could get them without battling the elementals. Invisibility, I guess, but not many people sneak in, grab the loot, sneak out, then kill the monsters.

They had no problem taking out these enemies. The adventure seems scaled way too low for my PCs.

Laboratory: This is an awesome room with a whirlwind that has 8 elemental gems floating in it. The adventurers decided to leave it alone.

Cosmic Hallway: I love this area! Basically they have to cross a bridge that passes through the cosmos! The heroes did a lot of testing and throwing things into space. Then they tied a rope to Dark and she crossed. A tiny meteor swarm came out of nowhere and she almost got knocked over the side, but she made her saving throw.

The heroes would come back here a few times, to throw green goo into the cosmos and for Dark, with a rope tied to her, to float out into space for a minute.

Storage Closet: Old, moldy spell components. Xonthal's been gone 100 years.

Time Chamber: The come upon Iskander's dead body. He has the blue dragon mask. Also in this room are two giant hourglasses. The heroes take the mask and try using it. They start to suspect it's a fake and begin debating what to do about it.

Dark really wanted to wear the mask but another PC had claimed it. She got a little upset about it and this is where the group started to unravel a bit.

Using Hazirawn's detect magic ability, the fighter saw that there were magic diamonds in the hourglasses. These are really cool consumables that let you teleport 30 feet. Handy!

The party debated more: Should we shatter the hourglasses? They didn't.

Taraz the Fair: This room has a fire genie in it. He is trapped in the room due to magic. A thin line of salt keeps him bound and he is desperate to be freed.

He has a chessboard and claims that Xonthal told him he could be freed when Taraz beats him at a game of chess. Dark was nice enough to play him in chess and lose on purpose. She really wanted to force the genie to be her servant.

Basically, Taraz will lie his face off to convince the PCs to free him. He hints stuff about granting wishes.

The group pretty much came apart at this point. Dark wanted him to be her servant. Others wanted to kill him. Others wanted to just leave the genie in the room.

Ultimately, they freed the genie. Then, for some reason, a rogue tripped him as Taraz walked out. The genie flipped out and the party begged Taraz not to attack him. The genie was allowed to throw the rogue around a little to regain his honor.

Taraz ultimately ditched the party with plane shift. I just wanted him out of there because this whole thing completely grinded the game to a halt. At that point I was in almost emergency mode, as the group had grown somewhat frustrated with each other and I wanted to get things back on track.

Also, while I had spent an hour or two making handwritten notes, I had gotten mixed up and confused a number of times while running this scenario. It was loud in the store and I was off my game.
 
The Dragon

The heroes exited the tower. A blue dragon was attacking the village outside the maze. It was Lennithon, the dragon they'd run into in the very first episode of Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

The heroes got to the village, climbed on rooftops and fought the dragon. They lured it down by promising to hand over the dragon mask, and then unloaded on it. The dragon got off frightening presence and nearly dropped the fighter with a claw/claw/bite. It used wing attack to scatter and injure them. But when it tried to escape (it was bloodied quickly) the heroes finished it off.

We Are Almost Finished

The mask is a fake. This is the thing I hate most about these adventures - the masks keep getting dangled in front of the PCs but they can't actually get them.

This session started out awesome but kind of came apart as it went along. The tower itself is very cool. They missed a bunch of rooms that I really wanted to run - there's these black dragon bone. I was going to say they were the bones of Sparky's mother and have her ghost appear and tell the heroes the secret of Voaraghamanthar.

We're going to play on Sunday, and then we should finish the campaign next Wednesday!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Tyranny of Dragons - Neverwinter MMO

 
I normally write about tabletop D&D, but today I'd like to write about the online MMO known as Neverwinter, which came out a little over a year ago. I tried it and liked it when it came out, but I moved on pretty fast (tabletop D&D takes up a lot of my free time).

Recently I realized that Neverwinter has released two Tyranny of Dragons expansions for the game - "Tyranny of Dragons" (not "Hoard of the Dragon Queen") and "The Rise of Tiamat". I thought about it for a minute and realized that I had to see if I could actually play through a version of the tabletop adventure online. How cool would that be? At the very least, there's probably new material in it for me to steal for my game.

I've played it. It really isn't a conversion of the adventures at all. But there are some elements and NPCs that overlap, which I really get a kick out of.

First, I am going to talk a bit about the actual Neverwinter game. Then I'll get into the Tyranny stuff and we'll see if there's any ideas we can use for the tabletop.

Playing Neverwinter

Neverwinter is an MMO - you run around killing monsters and leveling up alongside other real life people. It's an "action" game, where you control every swing of your sword. I use a guardian fighter, which means when I want to block an attack I hit the shift key to hold up my shield.

Once you hit level 60 (which is the highest level in the game, at least until next month when it is increased to 70), then you get into this whole thing where you try to acquire better suits of armor and weapons. You have a "gear score" which is a mathematical expression of how powerful you are. In some of the newer content, you need a certain gear score to even go to a specific zone (like Icewind Dale - I can't even go there yet. The pirate dude who is in charge of who gets to go keeps insulting my gear).

Freshly minted level 60 characters will have a gear score of around 9,000. The highest gear score I've seen is 24,000!

Seeing D&D Lore on the Screen is Fun

This is set in the Forgotten Realms, which is very cool. The city of Neverwinter itself is awesome. There's hovering earthmotes (an inn literally floats above the city) and a volcano is seen in the distance (Mount Hotenow, site of the first D&D lair assault - Forge of the Dawn Titan). It is so fun to play in a realm you've read about in the tabletop game.

Certain zones are pretty awe-inspiring. The first time I went to an underdark drow city, it felt really special. Drow cities are such an iconic part of D&D, I loved getting to creep through one with it's weird spires and purple light. When you fight a drider, it takes it to a whole new level.

Heading to the mind flayer realm
There is also a mind flayer zone. I felt like they didn't get it quite right. There is a cool feature where, to get to it, you have to pass through quasi-dimension with odd geometric shapes in it. But the place itself doesn't use enough actual mind flayer lore for my liking. I would have liked to see more of the concepts from The Illithiad in it like the illithid touch-script (qualith), brain golems and vibrissa-gauntlets.

I haven't gone through all of the content yet, but I'd also have liked to see more use of the Elder Brain and tadpoles. It seems like the developers just took some basic 4e mind flayer stuff and left it at that. Frankly it feels under-developed. You can't skimp on mind flayers.

The Economy of Neverwinter

A lillend, one of the coolest companions you can buy
The game has an utterly ridiculous economy. In order to stretch things out and keep you playing, you are supposed to spend your time trying to upgrade your weapons, artifacts and equipment. I find the whole thing a little insulting, but I do understand that there is only so much content and they need to find a way to keep people playing.

Neverwinter is free to play. In theory, you don't have to spend a dime. But they sure do try their best to get you to throw down some cash to circumvent their ludicrously time-consuming gear grind. There are literally dozens of types of currency. I am not kidding. Every module has about 4 types of currency. One type of currency sometimes buys another. Then that currency is used to buy module-specific gear. There's three main types of currency in the game:
  • Zen: This is bought with real money. You can use it to buy the best mounts (who come in three speeds), companions (sidekick NPCs who are pretty essential, IMO) and assorted gear.
  • Gold: You'd think gold would be the main currency, but it's not. It's got it's uses, but quickly you learn that the real main currency is...
  • Astral Diamonds: These are not like the 4e AD, which are worth 10,000 gold each. When you buy stuff in the auction house, it's with astral diamonds, not with gold. NPC vendors sell the best gear for AD, not gold. There's even an astral diamond/Zen exchange, where you can spend vast amounts of astral diamonds for a tiny bit of Zen. I think it's usually about 400 astral diamonds for 1 zen. In the zen store, most things cost anywhere from 700 zen to 3,000 zen.
I spent some time reading up on "how to make astral diamonds" and there are these gigantic guides. Just glance at this one and you can see just how insane it all is. People have spent inordinate amounts of time on figuring out how to make a profit on a fictional currency. At some point when reading it through, you will likely ask yourself "why aren't these people putting this kind of thought into making money in real life?" Who knows, maybe they are. But it becomes very apparent that this all takes an awful lot of time.

Just as an example as to how you can make astral diamonds, one method is to create a bunch of characters (careful, you have to pay zen for more character slots), log in with each of them and "invoke". Invoking is basically praying to your god, who rewards you with stuff - mainly astral diamonds. It's the game's way of rewarding you for playing. You can make, I think, 2,400 astral diamonds per day, per character, just for invoking. All of this money can be shifted to your "main" character's bank account.

So there are people in real life who spend a half hour a few times per day, every day, who just log in with each character, invoke, and log out. You may think they're rich, but most of the good gear costs around 700,000 astral diamonds each in the auction house.

Astral diamonds are so important to your character that the game sometimes takes on a "stock exchange" feel. I spent a few hours playing through the same limited-time event "skirmish" (mini-adventure) because every 8th time or so, I'd be rewarded with a druid companion that I could sell in the auction house for 13,000 astral diamonds.

I'm also hemming and hawing because apparently once this event "skirmish" ends, the price of the druid may skyrocket. It did last year (apparently each one sold for 100,000 astral diamonds). Also, with a new module on the horizon, a lot of returning and new players/buyers will hit the market. Do I hold on to my druids for a few weeks to get a shot at a massive profit or do I sell them now for a quick turnaround? Fantasy adventure at it's finest!

Enchantments

You can acquire gear through adventuring, but it takes a very long time to get it. A lot of gear and items can and should be upgraded in the massive time suck that is known as refining and enchantments. Most gear has "slots" for you to put in magic, enchanted gems. These enchantments give you stat bonuses. Enchantments have levels, or "ranks". The weakest enchantments are rank 1. The best are rank 10.

If you want a rank 10 enchantment, you have to level it up. Usually you can find a rank 5 enchantment on a dead monster. Then you have to dump weaker enchantments into it, which slowly levels it up to rank 6. But to get it to actually level to rank 6, you need refinement stones and a ward and even then there's a percent chance that the attempt fails unless you use a coalescent ward which costs around 500,000 astral diamonds. It is ridiculous. To me there is nothing less heroic than going on quests to make money to buy a stone which might help my magic gem be ever so slightly more powerful.

But again, this is a way to make the powerful items feel truly special and it keeps us playing. By making certain items so difficult to attain, it gives them a lot of social worth.

Also, the idea of magic enchantment stones is something that might be cool to add to your 5e D&D game. You've already got the rules for making magic items in the 5e DMG, you might be able to come up with some cool enchantment stones to embed into your PCs' items. When you consider that magic items are much rarer in 5e (at least, they are in the published adventures), this might be a really fun way to work around that while staying true to the spirit of the game.

The Modules


Since the game has been released, there have been expansions, called "modules" (an appreciated nod to D&D):
  • Fury of the Feywild - Yep, you get to go to the feywild in this game. The NPCs there have a mix of great and hilarious voice acting. There's a guy who starts off his speech with "Lady Winterwhite..." and the way he says it makes me laugh out loud every single time.
  • Shadowmantle - This is a cool undead area teeming with Red Wizards of Thay, including Rath Modar from the tabletop adventure! I will be stealing the dome of Underwing and using it somehow in my Rise of Tiamat game for sure. There's also a quest to destroy a sphere of annihilation by throwing a rod of cancellation into it, which is very usable, too.
  • Icewind Dale - This area is still locked for me, until I progress further in the first two modules.
  • Tyranny of Dragons - The Cult of the Dragon is spread out over a bunch of zones. Each one has a dragon for you to fight.
  • The Rise of Tiamat - You actually go to the Well of Dragons and fight Tiamat!
I am still progressing through the Tyranny storyline, although I have actually fought Tiamat, which was insane. I am far too under-geared to do anything but get mauled utterly by the horde of rampaging devils that accompany Tiamat.

The Well of Dragons
The Well of Dragons in the game is depicted as a barren desert teeming with cultists and red wizards. The desert is pretty dull. Periodically, five "dragon heralds" of tiamat appear there and there's this huge train of heroes that races across the desert and slaughters them all (and I mean... slaughters).

Weirdly enough, my favorite thing about this zone is the use of the red wizards. One thing I really like is how the red wizards have different flunkies. They've got Thayan Infiltrators (mooks who throw daggers) and Thayan Iron Golems, which are big clanky monsters. The red wizards are also often accompanied by legion devils, who teleport on either side of you as the red wizard pelts you with spells.

I especially like how the red wizard illusionists can create mirror images of themselves. These mirror images are their own monster, that can exist permanently away from their creator. They are made of purple fire and they hover above the ground. I think that in the tabletop game, battling purple fire mirror images of Rath Modar long before actually meeting Rath is a great way to build up the fact that he is an important and anticipated figure in the game.

The Cultists

The cultists are utterly fantastic in this game. Neverwinter handles them like the hack and slash blog did - the cult is split into colors, and each color has their own power/gimmick. They are awesome and you should definitely steal this! The cultists in the game:

Blue: Knights in blue armor with swords and shields. They can conjure these lightning shields for a few seconds that are impenetrable to harm. You have to run around behind the lightning shield to harm the cultist. Frequently these shields are used to protect their drake allies. Might make for a cool mechanic in the tabletop game.

Green: These ladies give me a lot of trouble. They have bows that fire off spells. They can create these roots that stick me in place, and then they fire off these charged green beams of energy that do a ton of damage. Basically, she sticks me to the ground and then the other cultists rush in and pummel me. It's horrible.

Black: These guys look quite like the cultists in Hoard of the Dragon Queen, except they can read these scrolls that enlarge them. Once enlarged, they do a lot of damage and are a real pain to defeat.

White: These knights have a really wacky attack where they spin and hit you over and over. As they spin, they emanate these ice orbs that freeze you in place if they hit you. I'd take out the spin but keep the orbs.

I assume there are red cultists, I just haven't met any yet.

The Dragons

The dragons in the tyranny of dragons module are awesome. At the very least, you can steal the names. The dragons look and sound really cool, and give you a great feeling as to how a D&D dragon fight can look and sound like. It makes sense to me that I end up always trying to get at the dragon's side to hack into it. You do not want to be by the tail or head!

In the game these dragons are fought in "heroic encounters". The dragon shows up every 20 minutes or so, heroes assemble, and usually a group of 10 or 15 adventurers rush the thing and have this epic battle. It's a lot of fun.

Steal the names: Charthraxis (Green), Merothrax (white), Venfithar (blue), Vartlingorax (black) Vilithrax (undead?)

NPCs We May Be Familiar With

Elminster
They could have used a lot more NPCs from the adventure and I wish they had. Maybe there's more, but so far I see no sign of Rezmir, Talis the White or Neronvain the Green.  Also, now that I think about it, Skyreach Castle would have been incredibly awesome in this game.
  • Severin: He is the villain of the D&D tabletop Rise of Tiamat adventure, and he's in the MMO, from what I understand (cultists frequently shout "For Severin!"). I haven't faced him yet. He might have been in the Tiamat fight - I don't know, as I did that fight once but it was utter chaos and I was in way over my head.
  • Sandesyl Morgia: This vampire is in your camp at the Well of Dragons. In the tabletop, she's in the final episode of Hoard of the Dragon Queen. My heroes made relatively quick work of her. In this MMO, she's aiding you against Tiamat. Whoever did her voice deserves $50,000. I could listen to her talk all day.
  • Elminster: Elminster is at the camp! I don't think he's voiced by Ed Greenwood, which is an utter crime against humanity. Apparently the inclusion of Elminster is in response to player requests - they want to see more "famous" D&D NPCs in the MMO. This brings up the question as to why Elminster isn't just dealing with all of this himself, as he is insanely powerful and, if you recall, in one novel his girlfriend took down four pit fiends with her many hair-wielded magic wands. It's cool to see him in the game, I guess.
I would have liked to see more NPCs from the published adventures in the game. For example, in the MMO, harper quests are doled out by "Harper Windle". It seems like it would have been pretty easy to use Remallia Haventree from the adventure instead.

It also would have been nice to see the Council of Neverwinter, or in particular the metallic dragons. How cool would it be to get to meet a gold dragon in the game? As far as I know, the evil sword Hazirawn isn't in the game, either. That's a bummer.

Not Too Shabby

All in all, it doesn't seem like the MMO took advantage of the material in the tabletop version. I am guessing this kind of thing sounds easier to implement than it actually is. It's too bad though, because I think it would have helped create more cross-interest. At least, it would have for me.

It also doesn't help that the Neverwinter link page on the official D&D site is so dry. The first sentence puts me to sleep. Sell me on it, people! I can fight Tiamat in a computer game for free, why wouldn't I want to try that?! I should have the opportunity to adventure alongside Mike Mearls and Chris Perkins' characters. Heck, DMs who run the game in the store should get special loot in the MMO, am I right? Anybody?

If you are thinking like this game is worth a try (it is, in my humble opinion), you should know that in a month they are launching the Elemental Evil module in conjunction with the new D&D adventure! How cool is that? It's a great time to be a D&D player.

If you want to know more about Neverwinter, Sly Flourish has a great review of the game here.