Besieged By Drow

And their legion of malevolent creatures.

The citizens of Waterdeep stood valiantly against the onslaught to no avail, with their hearts gripped by naught but despair, and their famed adventurers butchered by beasts, they sought divine intervention in their darkest hour. And there before them stood a shining beacon of hope, righteousness, and questionable decisions. Hordes of the Underdark is a surprisingly content-dense expansion pack for Neverwinter Nights, which (loosely) follows on from the events of Shadows of Undrentide by hurling you into the abyssal depths of Undermountain.

Perilous as they may be.

Infested with creatures heard of only in the hushed whispers of drunkards. Creatures that you’ll need to form tenuous allegiances with, who are easily swayed to your cause, and can certainly be trusted, because they definitely won’t be swayed by an even better offer in the future.

But, had Kaelan not delivered the mirror to them, they would’ve pierced his skull with their tentacles and feasted on the juicy brain within. Which would’ve been unpleasant. Avoiding this grisly fate only required the acquisition of an ancient relic, which was offered to- and absorbed by- a giant brain. Undoubtedly making the entire species even more powerful. But that was a fair trade. No man nor creature is going to penetrate the orifices of my Half-Orc Cleric. Not all of his decisions were questionable, though. He dismantled a false religion that participated in human sacrifice. He also freed a species of winged creatures that were caged for their hubris, and for using the same mirror that was absorbed by the giant brain. Which was shattered so that no-one could use it again. But I’m sure that they were just being unnecessarily cautious.

Surely nothing terrible will happen as a result of this…

However, it is, in my experience, an expansion pack marred by flaws. Combat quickly became unbearable when characters refused to act due to the sheer number of things happening at any one time. Even Kaelan himself was helpless. I’m not sure whether the mechanics (or 3rd edition rules) were ever intended to be used in these kinds of scenarios, but it was obvious that Neverwinter Nights wasn’t handling them well. Which is unfortunate, as I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the different regions of Undermountain while completing the quests found therein.

Combat was just a slog.

Most likely because you were developing an established character, who, with each new level, encountered increasingly unbalanced combat. Until it simply ceased to function. As is often the result of exponentially increasing statistics, as the numbers become too high to handle.

Not that my criticisms should dissuade anyone from experiencing Hordes of the Underdark for themselves. Rare is it that I’ve enjoyed exploring an environment as much as this inhospitable cavernous expanse. The subterranean societies were meticulously designed which reinforced their isolationist existence, as different races formed fragile bonds to survive the harsh conditions of Undermountain. They couldn’t rely on help from the surface. It was also great seeing old friends from past conquests, and being able to bring two of them along with you. I’m just hoping that the issues that I encountered were due to some kind of a glitch. Because this is a wholly satisfying campaign that perfectly concludes my time with Neverwinter Nights, and would be an easy recommendation were it not for the absurdly frustrating combat.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Smitier Than Thou

Blessed be thy axe.

An enchanted armament set aflame with righteous vindication, striking at those who would prey on the weak and the helpless. Lending aid to those who have lost everything. And desperately trying to redeem its wielder for their questionable actions. Let us look upon Kaelan, brave Half-Orc Cleric, and former student of Master Drogan, as he seeks to uncover the truth behind a simple theft. Shadows of Undrentide is the first expansion pack for Neverwinter Nights, which introduces numerous new mechanics and affords the opportunity to begin your adventures anew.

And so begin anew I did.

Far from the plagued city of Neverwinter, nestled deep in the mountains of the north, in a house under the tutelage of Master Drogan, before he was besieged by kobolds and adventure was afoot. One fraught with danger, suspense, mysteries, and delightfully smooth progression.

No longer shall I wear the same armour for nearly two chapters. Nor shall I wield the same weapon until it dulls from overuse. I’ll find increasingly more interesting halberds and completely abandon two-handed axes, and then I’ll enchant those halberds with Darkfire to deal a cacophony of elemental damage with each swing. Then wonder if this is something that a man of faith should be doing. And struggle despite casting many beneficial spells, because I’ve entirely ignored using a shield, and Dorna is currently dual-wielding, but feel satisfied when enemies are reduced to giblets. Then really wonder if this is something that a man of faith should be doing. It probably isn’t. It better suits the lust for battle that a Barbarian is known for. But I’m really rather fond of my Cleric, and I don’t want to take levels as anything else.

Smitin’ in the name of Master Drogan.

Of the notable differences, and there are a few, Shadows of Undrentide has meaningful exploration, and will reward your curiosity with enchanted equipment or useful items. You can (finally) share your equipment with companions, too. So I’m no longer hoarding (and eventually selling) useful equipment. I’ve found exploration to be ludicrously satisfying as a result, and that is such a contrast to how I felt for the majority of the main campaign. Which sometimes felt sluggish. With experience points being eked out rather than earned for completing various quests.

Experience points are now plentiful.

And they can be earned from interacting with NPCs, uncovering hidden quests, discovering secret locations, and by exploring the world. Allowing you to rapidly develop your build, but also introducing challenging encounters far earlier than you’d expect them in the main campaign.

Hordes of the Underdark, the second expansion pack, concludes the events of the first, and intends for you to import your existing build. Which is exactly what I’m going to do. I have no idea how far I’ll be able to develop this build- or how powerful it will become- but I’m curious to see how it fares with even higher level content. I’m also looking forward to seeing how Hordes of the Underdark introduces its own subtle differences to established mechanics. I’ve been looking forward to Shadows of Undrentide since I purchased it, but this experience has exceeded every prior expectation. Hence why I’d highly recommend this expansion pack. It’s an absolutely brilliant departure from the main campaign, which has the same complexity and challenge that you’ve come to expect. Along with all of that CRPG goodness that you’ve come to love.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Returning to Neverwinter

A bustling city with the slightest hint of plague.

It’s been roughly fifteen years since I first experienced Neverwinter Nights. At the time I had very little knowledge of the different Dungeons & Dragons rules, and so all of the characters that I built were probably malformed clunky failures that were based on my experiences in other RPGs. I remember being fond of Clerics and Paladins. Which is hardly surprising as I usually build self-sustaining characters, as they’re often viable in all kinds of content. But I doubt that they were built correctly or had any combat proficiency. Even my recent attempts at building a Rogue have lacked combat proficiency.

But that’s mostly resolved once they get dual-wielding feats.

Weapon Finesse is arguably the feat that defines this build, though. Given her naturally high Dexterity, her attack rolls have been substantially increased by using its modifier. I’d likely be more successful were I to be a Ranger or Fighter instead, but certain skills that I’d like to invest in would be considered cross-class for those classes.

It’s an unorthodox build for me as I rarely build sneaky characters. However, Dark Souls was the exception to that rule as well. I tended to favour high Dexterity builds focused on rolling and that seemed to work out just fine. I’m also noticing that the 3rd edition rules have an absurd amount of flexibility, in that I could easily take a level or two in another class and immediately gain significant bonuses. At the moment I’m leaning towards Rogue/Cleric. I had considered Wizard or Sorcerer, but wearing armour incurs an Arcane Spell Failure penalty, which doesn’t really make sense when I’d prefer to wear armour, as I’ll primarily be dual-wielding in close quarters combat. Regardless, I am curious as to how Sorcerers actually work.

Not much of a test for someone so skilled in thievery.

I’m undecided as to whether it would be preferable to build as a Cleric and then take a level in Rogue or to do the opposite. I think the decision would affect the number of spells per day available to the character. As I do believe that building as a Rogue and then taking a level in Cleric reduces the number of spells per day by half, but the lack of spells per day could also be due to the average Wisdom that this build has. These are details that, due to my inexperience with the 3rd edition rules, are still somewhat confusing. I believe that I still acquire the same number of class skills were I to build the character either way.

Which is the most important aspect of being a Rogue for me.

That said, this build may not be entirely viable. I don’t see any significant reason why I couldn’t finish the campaign with it, but I’m still quite confused as to the implications (and severity) of the experience penalty incurred when choosing additional classes. However, I’ve taken the safe option of being a Halfling to negate the penalty entirely.

It’s also fun being a tiny, stabbing, thieving machine who dual-wields weapons with great finesse. It’s a strange build but one that I’ve been endeared to as I’ve tinkered with every aspect of it. I’m not sure if this will be the final character that I’ll choose or if I’ll find another idea to build around, but I’ve greatly enjoyed the flexibility and freedom of the 3rd edition rules. I’m also not sure if I’ll be seeing Neverwinter Nights through to the end or not. I’ve mostly been enjoying toying with different builds and trying to do something unusual. The easier default option for me would be to choose a Fighter or Barbarian. But I would prefer to try something new as there are many neat mechanics you can utilise in these rules.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie