Category Archives: Neverwinter

Weekly Wyrm ~ Sept. 25, 2013

Tonight, I read an article about Neverwinter on Massively. I saw “lockboxes” in the title. I haven’t even thought of a lockbox in a couple months. I feel dirty, like my brain has been invaded.

The hardest-hitting bit in the article:

“What isn’t going so hot, he (Velasquez) admits, is communication with the playerbase as to what the team is doing to fix Neverwinter on a week-to-week basis. News releases regarding flashy new store sales or lockbox packages have overshadowed the regular Thursday bug fixes..”

There’s all the reminder I need of why I’m not playing LotRO or Neverwinter. Instead, I’m writing a snarky ex-MMO player blog post.

I’m going to hit 60 in Rift. I miss my LotRO characters though. The story in Rift is missing. I hardly know what it is.

I notice the Neverwinter additional classes haven’t appeared either. When Cryptic promised the extra classes would be free, they were doomed. We’ll probably see them packaged in some sort of expansion pack to sneak around the issue.

Speaking of which, Turbine is carrying on their glorious tradition of how they handle promises to their players. Now it’s the main story, which was promised to be free to play, and was through Rohan, now no longer. Sauron says: use your credit card.

Yolari brought Dragon’s Dogma over for me to play on PS3. Yolari and her hottie both enjoyed the ride and finished almost simultaneously.

I’m transforming uber-slowly into a web developer. I’m seeing the light on CSS3/HTML5/Javascript instead of Flash, which everyone says is eternally doomed. I don’t believe it. Flash will make some sort of comeback. The corporate maneuvering and power plays that comprise the history of web development is depressing. Yes, Adobe can annoy, but Microsoft, well.

Actionscript 3 (Flash) was annoying to program with. I’m now working through my second Javascript tome. I love Javascript. I love Javascript. I love Javascript. I’ll keep telling myself that while my frontal lobe slowly implodes.

So I plan to work on my own RPG. I have ideas. I have art. I have writing. Maybe I’ll talk about them when I have a coding implementation strategy.

Until then, I’m playing an online game that is inspiring me a little bit, as in “yes, I think I can strive to make a better RPG than that”. The game is called Corruption of Champions. Don’t Google that unless you are an adult (really adult) and like such things as being “defeated” and impregnated by a giant insect with versatile appendages.

I saw insect stuff when I was a teenager, and it became a very vivid fantasy for me. I’m not kidding. The movie was called Galaxy of Terror, if you need a preview.

And I think that’s enough information on what the kitty has been up to. Happy gaming. Hoping to be back in Rift as soon as I’m fluent in Javascript. Hahahahaha.


Neverwinter Impressions

(Editor’s Note: this is a contributing post from Wumpus, a long-time Kitty commenter. Wumpus has emerged from the dark labyrinths of Neverwinter to give us his veteran gamer impressions.)

WARNING: The following review was made while the game was still in open beta. This is not Jackie. This is wumpus, a guy crazy enough to like DDO and LOTRO. Reviewer may have strong opinions on D&D that haven’t been current since 1984. Objects in the Mirror Of Opposition may be closer than they appear.

Creating your character:


Once you’ve created your account, downloaded and patched you need to create a character. This is where you first run into 4e (Fourth Edition D&D). You have a choice of 5 “classes” (technically 4 classes and 5 builds, “builds” are a name of official sub-classes in 4e). Classes/Builds (at time I tested them):

Greatsword Fighter: Name says it all. Oddly enough, he does less damage than a dagger wielding rogue (early in the game, at the time of this writing). Supposedly strong in attacking multiple foes, I got bored quickly.

Cleric: Has offensive spells (and presumably some buffs later) and alleged healing spells. Bring plenty of healing potions, because you can’t heal thyself (I’ve heard you can heal others if you have the video game skills to target them in time. I failed at this in DDO until I learned about the F2-F6 keys, so I didn’t try here). Forum chatter implies they still are aggroing everything in sight. Limited to about 5 spells available at any one time. Dumped and made a rogue.

Trickster Rogue: One hobbity ball of fury. Recommended if you want a more powerful character. Centers on single-target, although an important encounter (stunning) attack can hit more than one attacker if they are close together. Trapping abilities appear to be an afterthought. My hobbity ball of fury no longer feels overpowered at level 33.

Control Wizard: designed for crowd control (in solo cases can control at best one mob while you whittle down his hit points). Some attacking spells that almost all appear to target single mobs (regardless of what the text boxes say). Limited to about 5 spells available at any one time.

Guardian Fighter: Didn’t try. My thoughts on tanks are that they belong in groups only and forum chatter isn’t kind. If they can pry aggro from clerics, they can’t pry aggro from tank companions.

Eventually (level 30) you will also choose a paragon path. You have a bunch of “feats” that mildly alter certain minor abilities as well. I held off these completely for a long time (I figured why spend $10 if I was already overpowered), but eventually chose a few things.

Right here DDO and Neverwinter diverge. DDO follows the D&D 3.5 ruleset and allows more freeform classes (and if you don’t closely copy a known good build on your first few characters you will be doomed to playing a gimp).

Neverwinter plays a basic class clone that you really can’t screw up (although they will happily charge $6-10 to change things around). Neverwinter excels in other places like absolute gobs of content made professionally and by users (even if it all seems a bit repetitive).

Races:


Looks like plenty of races (no gnomes, but does have tielings. Drow may or may not cost $200). Races don’t appear to change your stats much but do wonders for your appearance. Some quests appear to be tied to races: my halfling was looking for hobbit holes for my fellow halflings. Tielings in the same area got different quests.

On story:


I’m probably not the one to review the story. I’ve caught myself clicking through the story line with no way to go back. As Jackie mentioned, there is no “Smiling Jack” or anybody else to show you around Neverwinter. Storytelling within quest chains is fairly helpful. It starts with the given quest and is told further in scrolls you pick up and enter text in your journal. This lets you dig as deep or as shallow as you please.

Combat:


Looks like you will only have one bar, ever (maybe if you pay to win enough). D&D 4e strictly limits which powers you can use, and power slots slowly become unlocked by level. I wouldn’t hold my breath on another bar. Color me underwhelmed. Combat consists of a few things:

  • Spam your “at wills” (the “I swing my sword power” in pen & paper).
  • Use shift or double tap a direction key to dodge outside of an incoming attack (helpfully colored red in the HUD). This will likely hold most of you attention. You are rooted until your attack finishes, so don’t always count on being able to dodge. Dodging may well be your most important survival skill in Neverwinter.
  • Your “encounters” cooldowns to babysit.
  • Your health unless you add a healing companion (level 16). After that, you will only need to watch it during boss fights. If you need them, start spamming healing potions (don’t bother watching your health, just spam them as the cooldown ends (maybe regeneration would make more sense, but I doubt I’m sticking around long enough to find out).
  • Your action points/dailies: I’m not sure they are safe to use outside of boss fights (if you need them, that’s when you will need them). This fills up an icon with orange until you can pull off one of your biggest powers. Then wait a long time to fill it up again.

Overall, combat feels more like a traditional MMO than some people claim. Movement is effectively one dimensional (dodge away). It appears two dimensional, and some quests can force it (at least one foundry quest loves cliff-side battles), but in general you just move back and forth while babysitting your cooldowns.

Claiming this MMO has anything to do with Dungeons and Dragons is quite a stretch. Jackie already had an entire post about how different 4e was, and this game appears to take plenty of liberties with that. After about a half an hour my wizard was tenth level with 700+ hit points. Somehow that shouldn’t be in any edition of D&D.

It doesn’t get much better when they stick to the rules. Get some levels on your wizard or cleric and expect to have a whole slew of spells to pick from. Try 2 “at wills” and 3 “encounters”. You might also get a couple of “dailies” but as the name implies you can only use one of them without doing a great deal of other stuff before you can choose between the two of them again.

I don’t think I’m blowing my NDA (Hasbro has stated as much) by saying that D&D Next (aka 5th edition) looks like D&D in a way that this simply doesn’t. I have a load of magic items that I can’t begin to figure out (all other editions have items with pluses and specific effects: apparently that unbalanced D&D and now every character has to be exactly the same).

Between the set “encounter 4 orcs” and the one buttonbar, there really isn’t much choice but to simply run through your sequence of encounter powers while spamming your at wills. This can make for a game that gets boring fast. Animation is limited. I find the overenthusiastic HUD destroying the “realism” and making the whole thing look like an arcade/console fighting game.

Quests And The Foundry:


Quests often have a public zone (with mobs and quest objectives) and private instances inside dungeons. Dungeons consist of long indoor ribbons of a rail fencer/caster (but side rooms often can have goodies and nifty sights) with encounter after encounter of fixed enemy groups.

A word about 4e “encounters”. Encounter is a 4e keyword that describes a set battle between player[s] and a group of mobs (you can aggro more than one group if you are sufficiently foolish). This appears baked into 4e and exposed in the foundry: plunk down “gnoll group 4″ to include a specific array of mobs. You can expect to see the same encounter groups over and over, in basic sewer tunnel sequence (or crypt sequence, dungeon sequence, or sometimes large house sequence).

A basic idea of what the maps and encounters will be like can be had by examining the foundry. Players seem to be finding ways to make fancier maps, but so far you just get “encounter set #n” in “basic dungeon #m” over and over. I suspect that endgame may include a random dungeon generator. It should be pretty easy to add, and you’ll see why if you open up the foundry.

One thing that shouldn’t be forgotten with “yet another dungeon #23″ is that since they are easy enough for a player to lay down, there are a lot of them and you won’t be (supposedly you can, but I didn’t bother to find out how) repeating quests (certain ones are: you can kill #x of bandits for example, but not most of the other kill #x).

Some of the Foundry quests are at least as impressive as any recent DDO quest (although I wasn’t able to tell if they were using generic dungeon bases or not. Custom dungeon maps consist of placing prefabbed rooms one after another.

Presumably you could even construct a labyrinth, although that may get you banned since it sounds similar to already banned dungeon practices (missing encounters in missed parts of the labyrinth is cheating).

On setting:


The setting is supposed to be Dungeons and Dragons, Neverwinter (a major city in the north of Faerun, the main continent in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting). The city is represented with fairly detailed static areas, and in a realistic style.

The first thing that happens is you wash ashore on a beach. It’s a cliché start for a cliché MMO, but DDO players will wonder if they found themselves in Korthos. After playing more I concluded that it must be a homage as there are no other hints of DDO influence.

Neverwinter might be correct for 4e. Hasbro purposely rocked the whole place with a cataclysm to get players to buy all new books. Some of those effects play out in quest chains (the spellplague one is obvious). As a sometime Baldur’s Gate player (I played AD&D before the Forgotten Realms ever started), I got a kick out of meeting a flaming fist mercenary and was trying to place Helm’s Hold when I got there.

It’s likely the most popular setting for D&D, and trying to build a MMO in Sigil (Planescape setting) would be non-trivial. I won’t question the accuracy of Neverwinter, but those who aren’t tied to 4e might question some of the changes.

To someone who’s never read Salvatore or Greenwood (I got all my angsty fantasy hero from Moorcock’s Elric series) this all looks like generic fantasy #2584, but it is important to remember that Gygax nearly shaped what “generic fantasy” looks like almost as much as J.R.R.Tolkien.

Beyond that, Greenwood and Salvatore have filled out the details of that generic world so much it leaks back to places like LOTRO (current D&D halflings live in wagons. Hobbits live in houses and holes. Greyhawk halflings live in houses and holes.

Somehow LOTRO has a whole bunch of wagons for hobbits to live in who never leave the shire and rarely go beyond the next pub (all main characters save Bilbo were weirdos even before going on adventures).

Game Currencies


One thing that isn’t wildly overinflated is the in-game coinage. They’ve changed it (part of 4e?) so that 1 gold = 100 silver, 1 silver = 100 copper, and that 20th level character might wonder where they are going to scrape together 5 gold for a horse. It looks even less rich in gold than LOTRO. Note that Gary Gygax himself strongly recommended the “wildly inflated” gold system.

D&D (and more so in an MMO) may have loads of adventurers descending on dungeons and pulling out untold riches. This tends to wash out the economy with gold and bring about an inflation similar to a gold rush (an analogy pointed out in great detail by Mr. Gygax). Note, once I have bought both the horse (5 gp) and a spare companion or two(2 gp a pop), I have no idea what I will do with the gold anyway (healing potions aren’t that bad, class kits don’t seem to scale).

Real things need to be bought with zen (i.e. real money), astral diamonds, which are dribbled out as shinies for hitting your skinner bar, (see below), but I think you can’t have many without buying them with zen, and Lion Seals (earned unbelievably slowly and I suspect simply bought with cash if you ever plan on turning in enough green stamps).

I’m not kidding about the Lion Seals. You need a ton of them, and I have to make an effort to keep killing the local baddies just to get one seal per area. You need about three times the number of areas to get any one thing through Lion Seals, meaning either an horrendous grind or pay2win.

Lets put it this way: if you had a problem (like Jackie) with the pre-hobbit lottery box LOTRO, you don’t want to download this MMO. Pay2win is plastered all over this game and seeps into the core.

Fee Based Economy and KoboldKlicker:


So this MMO is Free-to-Play with a Fee-Based Economy. Of course it’s free–just ignore that fee, and that one, and of course that one, and this other fee of course, and that one over there… The worst part of this fee based game (beyond mere aggravation) is to completely obscure the cost of this game.

All I can say is that if money is an object to you and you haven’t coughed up for the $160 sword of pwnage yet, you probably want a game you can figure out the cost. This one you can’t. If you don’t know, you will find yourself spending money. You could have bought much better games than this generic fantasy # 2584 MMO, and not spend nearly so much hitting the bar for your shiny (see below).

Fee based payment is more of an impression than a rigidly proveable assertion. It’s that just about any option seems to have a Zen cost to it (the store currency), and I’m not certain I will ever find out what services I will need, what I won’t, and what the total cost will be. It’s a slimy tactic in all the other industries in which I’ve seen it, and it’s a slimy tactic here.

I also have stayed away from the skinner box/Koboldklicker hijinks (except for the hourly prayers–they just seem too easy). I had thought that there were more a beta/new player training thing, but apparently that is how you rake in the astral diamonds (the more important non-cash currency in this game). Another slimy tactic, this one is borrowed from Zynga.

Pay2Win


At the levels I have reached so far (30s, and getting bored with), I have no idea which fees are “tickets to play the game” and needed, which are pay2win (obviously the $160 items are), and which are sucker bets (I’m guessing the revival potions are at low levels, but might just be needed with tougher bosses). I think they know that they will lose players with clerics who can’t raise dead and expect to get paid beyond what those players would spend.

If a fee based economy was tolerable, the other great innovation they bring are Zynga-style skinner boxes: hourly prayer, daily skirmish, daily pvp, daily foundry, all to get your shinies. Note that my rogue has run out of the overpoweredness he started with.

If I were to get serious, I should fix the gear, possibly pay for a respec, and likely find myself stuck in a skinner box pecking the bar for my shinies. This has been steadily infiltrating Turbine games (see Jackie’s rant on LOTRO and DDO seems to be going full steam). No thank you.


F2Pocalypse 2013

So let me get this straight. In the news in the last few days:

LotRO added a patch with Hobbit Presents, a new gambling-style lockbox that they spam daily at players. Why bother with giving lockboxes a chance to drop from a monster? Just shovel them at players and try to rake in the cash. And LotRO added a literal in-game store shopping mall in Bree.

SWTOR’s new patch supposedly adds nothing but store items.

And Rift today announced that it’s going Free To Play. But it will be fair with no tricks or traps–they promise. Bill Fisher says the stigma of F2P is going away, but if it is, then why do they have to make that promise in the first place?

This is probably the main reason that Hartsman left Trion. It’s because the man is a god of integrity, like I always said. He’s really cute too. Can I say that without being reverse-sexist? I’m not sure, but I did. This is the way of the kitty.

So. I said I’d never blog about LotRO again, but since I quit the game, I feel like I can make an exception to say that I hope it dies in a fire. I hope they pull the license. I hope it shuts down ASAP so I never have to hear about it again.

My elves have diminished, abandoning the world to the greed of men. And women, in this case.

I made my goodbye post. I updated my LotRO Interface page to say that I will no longer be supporting those 14k downloads. I’m leaving my LotRO boxing guide up on my blog. It’s top post today, I think from some press it got in the forums.

Boxing is kind of a rebellious activity. It’s also a way for players to get as much from F2P as possible without paying. It’s okay with me.

I’ve almost condemned Neverwinter also. I’m still on the fence. I was reading the 1500+ post F2P-complaint thread in the forums until the mods closed it down and ejected it with no explanation. I heard about the Orwellian world chat spam whenever someone wins the lottery. I heard about the high prices for basic things. The double-diamond earning weekends or whatever.

To be fair, I don’t just assume the whiners are right. Neverwinter might be the most smokin’ deal going in an MMO right now. Once you wade through all of the currency exchange rates and calculate out a monthly estimate of what you mind need–it might well be fair. (A degree in accounting or a genius IQ is useful for playing a F2P game.)

F2P is just not a game I want to play. I want immersion, not a meta shopping experience where I buy things for my characters like they are barbie dolls. F2P is a symptom of the sickness that is pervasive in American culture.

So the kitty is now left with WoW, Guild Wars 2, Skyrim, and Dragon Age 2. Guild Wars 2 is double-dipping, but it’s non-obtrusive. I haven’t really needed the store yet. The store will move forward, though. The corruption might be inevitable.

On a positive note, I’m working on a fun new comic strip titled “The Forsaken Inn Of Unplayable Races”. It’s a place where races go when they aren’t wanted in an MMO. It’s cute. I’ll have it posted soon. A new strip is needed in the yonder sidebar to replace the one about SWTOR.

More Reading:

TAGN on Rift F2P


A New And Beautiful Torment

Some amazing and great RPG news happened this week. No, it wasn’t the announcement of Neverwinter’s open beta date, which is scheduled to be April 30th. This is also a great thing, but when I think of Neverwinter right now, I don’t really think of an RPG.

Contrast that to the coming Torment: Tides of Numenera RPG, which VG247 reported yesterday hit $4,028,412 in funding on Kickstarter, not including additional funding on Paypal and internal donations. This is supposedly a new Kickstarter record for funding.

This is fantastic, and proves a solid demand for a real RPG. Well. It either proves that, or it proves that discriminating RPG fans are starved for a good game. The only relief coming that is on the kitty radar is Dragon Age 3 in the fall. The jury is out on Elder Scrolls until we learn more about roleplaying elements. What are those? Just go to the Torment: Tides Kickstarter page and look at the laundry list.

Torment: Tides is of course the spiritual successor to the great RPG, Planescape: Torment (the image above). My favorite feature is one of the first in the stretch goals: choose PC gender, with gender having an impact on dialogues. That wasn’t available in the original game. Fantastic!

Look at the “cults”, too. I like the “Order of Flagellants”.

Those look like some strongly written factions, which were also a hallmark of the original Planescape: Torment. It’s amazing to me how professional “RPG” writers manage to fall short, and this is one of those areas.

Rich, well-written factions are an imperative component of world immersion, and every faction should have a nemesis or other political position, just like main characters themselves. You have to exaggerate these things, also. Look at the success of Game of Thrones.

Your decisions will impact the game world in Torment. You have companions, and if they are like the Planescape: Torment companions, they are going to be amazing. One listed is named “The Toy”. Your first companion in the original Planescape: Torment was a talking skull named Morte, and the next was a Tiefling named Anna.

I completed the original PS:T, one of the relatively small number of games (i.e. Max Payne I and II, and Mafia I and II) that I’ve completed as a male character. The stretch towards the ending was memorable.

The only questionable issue is that Torment:Tides Of Numenera will use a unique new fantasy setting and not the Planescape campaign from Dungeons & Dragons. I was skeptical of the Dragon Age setting when it first released, but it has slowly grown on me. Hopefully the Numenera setting will be rich with goodness and weirdness.

So, Neverwinter. Open beta in three weeks, and no character wipe, supposedly. I’m still on the fence about the game for all sorts of reasons. I’ll definitely play it, but I’d prefer to wait for more classes and races. And ideally hairstyles. Also, I chose the dog for a companion in beta, but I need to check out the human companions, who might be more interesting in their audibles.

Also, I wanted to design adventures in Neverwinter, but I don’t think the F2P aspect will work for me. I’ve already been through this as a UI designer for the Tolkein MMO, which went from an MMO I believed in to a F2P train wreck with lockboxes falling out of orc pockets and $5 charges to color your horse. Per color set.

Having to pay real money for the privilege of letting someone else profit off my efforts (in Neverwinter) would be completely unacceptable to me, and I don’t see how that won’t happen.

Also, the whole point of my writing and design efforts would be to compensate for what is missing in the first place. I’m not complaining, or anything. I just suspect that I’d rather be working on my own Flash game, which will be for me and not for Cryptic/Perfect World.

More Reading:

Escapist Magazine on Torment funding record.
Rock Paper Shotgun article.


Old D&D Dinosaur Looks At Fourth Edition (4E) D&D For Neverwinter

I’ve written a lot about Neverwinter Online lately after playing two weekends in the beta. A few nights ago after getting frustrated by the cleric in Neverwinter, I researched the topic online and found that the Cleric class is widely considered nerfed in 4E for various reasons.

I had been too lazy to spend hours studying 4E before playing Neverwinter. Clerics don’t raise dead now. Anyone with the heal skill can pay 500 gold and raise almost anyone from the dead by waving their hands around and pretending to be pious in something officially called a “Ritual”. Who knew?

“You bend over the body of your slain comrade, applying
sacramental unguents. Finally his eyes flutter open as he is
restored to life. Level: 8 Component Cost: 500 gp”

I don’t think I’m alone in being ignorant (and skeptical) about 4E D&D. A lot of players, and maybe the great majority, are going to be confused when entering Neverwinter and seeing this new version of D&D that looks nothing like what they are used to, much less in previous Neverwinter campaign games.

I almost wonder if Cryptic should call their game “Neverwinter 4E” or “Fourth Edition” to make it more clear where all of my beloved cleric and mage spells went. It’s also the fourth Neverwinter CRPG, I believe, so that works two ways.

In this post, I want to take my research further with a survey of the D&D 4E game manuals with notes-to-self from a complete 4E newbie. I do want to enjoy this game. It’s a must-play. I have played only up to 3E through the original Neverwinter and all expansions, and Neverwinter 2.

I also played the original D&D books briefly, then advanced D&D with pencil, paper, and friends. Those days were also the dawn of computer games. Speaking of 2E, I purchased the Baldur’s Gate:Enhanced Edition tonight for $19.99 on Steam.

I want to support Beamdog and Overhaul Games (they are looking for an entry-level graphic artist in Edmonton, by the way) for their work on BG1 and the coming BG2 re-release, and I really want to support the possibility of a Baldur’s Gate 3, but this is a topic for another post.

My first impression is that BG:EE is no joke hard. My level one party wiped three times to random encounters on the very first road we took, using the second-easiest game mode. Save games–hello old friends!

Monsters

I quit playing pencil and paper D&D in 1986. According to Wikipedia, that was before 2E when supposedly “references to demons and devils, sexually suggestive artwork, and playable, evil-aligned character types – such as assassins and half-orcs – were removed.” (Wikipedia).

That statement conflicts with the fact that the first Manual of the Planes was published in 1987. Yes, we had lots of trafficking with demons and devils in those days, but I see that even the newer Monster Manual has no such qualms about demons.

Moreover, there was the Planescape setting published in 1994 that further elaborated on the cosmology put forth in Manual of the Planes. Today this manual looks wonderful, with lots of information on the Astral plane, the Feywild, planar travel, and Sigil, City of Doors, which featured in the great RPG Planescape Torment.

I frankly love planar adventures. I have been hoping that Rift (the MMO) would take advantage of its cosmology to take adventurers to other planes, but so far they have only hinted that it might come at some point.

As an old timer, I have one reservation about these reams of detailed information. Back in the day, the information was very sketchy, so there was lots of room for creativity. The Astral Plane was almost a total unknown prior to the Manual of the Planes. You could make things up and use your imagination.

These days you have to be a lore scholar to run a campaign. You need to study the canon. It’s a whole different ball game. It looks like a lot more work to be Game Master. If anyone is actually reading this, here is a quote from the Dungeon Master’s Guide that a lot of MMO and RPG writers should pay more attention to:

“In a campaign, the DMs work together to maintain some continuity from session to session and make sure that adventures advance the larger story.”

In the Neverwinter beta, the story seemed to go around in all directions. Save everyone. I’m not sure why this is suddenly my character’s goal in life. So. It’s a golden rule of writing long fiction (novels), and I believe MMOs too, that all subplots should relate to the main plot in some way.

Gear And Mounts

Reading the Adventurer’s Vault book, a compendium of arms of equipment, I was surprised to see “slots” featured prominently. That’s how old my D&D is. We never used to use the word “slots”.

“Masterwork” armor has become a big feature, which I like because it adds realism. I remember first seeing basic Masterwork armor drop in Icewind Dale in 2000. This has been expanded into lots of special names like “Stalkerhide” and “Rimefire” armor.

Neverwinter is offering a spider mount (video–welcome to advertising), which is actually an official listed mount in the Adventurer’s Vault book. I would have thought spider mounts to be an exclusive mount for Drow. Or something.

But no, go ahead and jump on that there spider, ye halflings, half-orcs, and everyone else who wants to hand over $200 before the game launches. I’m waiting for the plain brown Camel, personally.

The only other observation is that I found it strange that there is a price tag on everything, or even a bunch of tiered values depending on the level of the item in question. Apparently buying items, selling items, and accumulating enormous quantities of gold is important to D&D players these days, like in MMOs.

Gold accumulation was non-existent back in the day. It wasn’t relevant unless you wanted to build a castle with it. Magical items were very rare and were found off big bad guys, almost never purchased like they are today for astral diamonds or whatever currency in Neverwinter.

Characters in 4E

This is the big one, so it has to be sketchy. There are three players’ handbooks for 4E. PHB1 is the main release edition for 4E. PHB2 is an expansion players handbook including mostly primal classes. PHB3 is a second expansion PHB offering mostly psionic classes, and the Monk finally makes an appearance. Significant features include:

group role: 4E has introduced group roles, which are controller (wizard), leader (cleric or warlord), striker (rogue, ranger, warlock), and defender (fighter, paladin), which represent the classic four-member party of wizard, cleric, rogue, and fighter. These roles are meant to define which classes can stand in for each other.

These new role things seem a little pointless and overly video game-oriented to me. A good pen and paper D&D game should not really need these.

power types: D7D classes now have “at-will” powers, “encounter” powers, and “daily” powers. These work a little differently in Neverwinter the MMO, so there is no point in discussing in depth.

power Source: Every class also has a power source. Arcane (drawing on magic energy that permeates the cosmos), Divine (magic that comes from the gods), and Martial (sheer physical training and dedication.)

PHB1: I was curious to see that Dragonborn and Eladrin (Fey) are considered PHB1 races alongside dwarves, halflings, humans, tieflings. Whether these races will feature in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting of Neverwinter may be another story.

I was surprised that Eladrin were considered needed since we already have a variety of elves. I did not see any mention in the 4E PHB of sun-elf or moon-elf, etc., like in 3E., but apparently they still exist.

The 4E PHB1 classes are fighter, paladin, ranger, rogue, cleric, wizard, warlock, and warlord. The Warlock and Warlord are apparently new to 4E. The Warlock looks a lot like the stereotypical World of Warcraft warlock who throws curses and summons demons. The Warlord sounds like a Rift Warlord soul combined with a battle/buffer cleric.

PHB2: The expansion player’s handbook offers five more races and eight more classes. These latter are more Fey oriented. For example, the druid, shaman, barbarian, and warden are grouped as classes that draw power from a “primal power source” having to do with the spirits of nature, which in turn relate to the Feywild (plane of existence).

The PHB2 offers a nice cosmological explanation for these powers, so if you play one of these classes in Neverwinter you might want to read the PHB2. (These classes are not currently in Neverwinter.)

The remaining three PHB2 classes are Invoker, Bard, and Sorcerer. The sorcerer can choose either Dragon magic or Wild magic. I am disappointed that the druid is a controller role and not a leader. On the other hand, a Bard is considered a leader, which is interesting.

The PHB2 expansion races are goliath, gnome, shifter, half-orcs, and devas. These are considered more rare races. Gnomes are apparently identified mainly with Fey. shifters are indeed lycanthropes, which are apparently playable races these days.

The PHB2 also describes “racial paragon paths” for all races in 4E, which apparently are how you are going to be a werewolf and a mage at the same time, for example, and get some more level-up based dragonborne powers.

PHB3: I won’t touch on these, since they are a medley of more exotic classes I’ve never heard of, except for the monk. Here is an overview of 4E character classes.

Neverwinter the MMO is simplified from these rules. For example, the PHB explicitly says every elf can use a longbow. That will not happen in Neverwinter. Also, Neverwinter makes no use of “alignment”, i.e. chaotic, lawful, good, or evil. I believe there are no dialog options for roleplaying your character that I have seen, either.

Starting up Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition tonight, I took the time to read every alignment description when making my character. The game warns the player that alignment will be important and have potential consequences depending on the dialog decisions you make. Lovely.

There are normally 4-5 options for each dialog, and they are not always obvious what alignment they are, like they would be in Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic, for example. I’m liking the game reboot so far.

It could be noted that Neverwinter does use the dice-rolling style of creating your character attributes, like in the old Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale 2E D&D games, which I actually like and appreciate.

Conclusion:

I remember having few problems picking up the 3E rules when I sat down to play Bioware’s Neverwinter Nights in 2002. 4E seems simplified, but not really less obtuse. I liked the old wizard/sorceror/bard classes being related by arcane magic and having spells divided by schools instead of each class being distinct now.

I also noticed that my level one wizard starting Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition tonight had over 20 spells to choose from. I feel sure my level twenty cleric in Neverwinter probably had less than that, including the Divinity shift that modified and empowered all of her spells for a short time.

Neverwinter does seem to following the 4E D&D rules much more closely than I would have expected, being totally unfamiliar with said rules. Now that I am more informed, I feel like I’ll be able to cope, although the cleric will still not be for me. I liked my old cleric too much.

This post just scratches the surface of 4E D&D. I just sat down for this evening to look at these things. I might add to it later, but I want to get back to some actual gaming. For more information, Google more or do we did back in the eighties: visit your local bookstore.