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Thursday, 23 June 2016

Cormyrean Nights - Commentary

   C o r m y r e a n  N i g h t s      
An adventure module for the NWN platform, by Servilan

Note: Just like my last post, this one has been sitting in my overflowing drafts section. I finally decided to post it, since it's unlikely I will treat this module in full with a recounting. Servilan wrote a great walkthrough, anyway!

Introduction 

Once the most peaceful of kingdoms Cormyr has suffered greatly in the last  two years. Orcs and goblins rose up in unheard of numbers and old foes of King Azoun IV and his family tore at the realm. Cormyr rose to war suffering defeat after defeat as the hordes were joined by the ancient red dragon Nalavarauthatoryl the Red.

Many nobles committed outright treason as the city of Arabel was besieged, eventually falling to goblin hordes. King Azoun and his daughter Alusair fought the dragon and suffered defeat.

When the crisis had finally passed many of the kingdoms finest warriors, officials, soldiers, War Wizards and highest nobility were lost, including King Azoun IV himself.

With a child king on the throne and Alusair as his regent, Cormyr is slowly trying to come to terms with its loss and regain its former glory. However many noble families are on the edge of rebellion, some see their chance to return from exile, and Sembian interests are trying to covertly take control of the kingdom.

Marsember, Cormyr's second city, was largely untouched by the war, but many remember its early days of corruption, piracy and intrigue before the Obarskyrs ended its ascendancy. It would take very little for the city to return to those far off days, and its destiny might lie in the hands of a single character, who is about to enter its gates.
- DM Servilan.

Muh Bard
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Commentary

Servilan's Cormyrean Nights (2004) is a charming, non-linear adventure set in and around Marsember, a port city in the Kingdom of Cormyr. The module is designed for good-aligned characters of eighth to tenth level, and generously rewards those who invest in the Persuade skill.

The plot passes through five critical phases, with five side quests interwoven. In addition, 22 optional quests are offered, four of which are companion-based. You may only adventure with one companion at a time (this is a 1.62 SoU module). Besides having their own quest they will interject at key moments with flavor comments and leave permanently if you piss them off. So yeah, nothing new to see here, but it's executed well.

Perhaps uniquely, Cormyrean Nights features an attempt at factional reactivity; the only one I know of for the NWN platform. The factions that I know of are Commoners, Merchants, Temple, Adventurer's Guild and Purple Dragons. There are solid consequences for not being in good standing with a few of these factions, but it doesn't really change too much in regard to how the story plays out.

Custom content. Cormyrean Nights comes bundled with two third party haks: Neverwinter Alleys Tileset Addon (this adds alleyways into the city exterior tileset) and T1RLK_Gen_Doors (this adds 18 custom doors).

Below: Dockside alleyways. Be on the lookout for muggers lurking in the shadows!


What follows is commentary on the module's initial phases.

The player begins the module in the safety of Servilan's House, a starter zone where Servilan sets their level (8-10) and dishes out a proportional sum of gold. I chose the recommended minimum level of eight, received 26,900 GP, and then used that to purchase items from the vendor in the adjacent storage room. The items are non-custom, but useful.

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Library books detail such things as chargen, the module, and its setting. Very nice.
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Stepping through the portal transports the player into the adventure proper.


Somewhere in Marsember

A brief cutscene will show you standing on the streets of Marsember and then suddenly being knocked out by a magical spell of some sort. Opportunistic thieves will run up and steal your gold before they are chased off by guards, who will then carry you off to somewhere. A street walker will be shown to have witnessed the event.


Marsember Jail

You will awaken the next morning in a dank cell with no memory of who you are or how you came to be here. A guard will notice you standing at the door, and unlock it for you (Quest: Who Am I?).


Take note of the halfling locked in one of the cells as you make your way to the Jailor. We'll be catching up with him later. Speak with the jailor and you will remember your name after some effort. The jailor will inform you that you're in Marsember, a city in Cormyr. Then a second memory will return to you: that you're not from Marsember, but that you're here for some kind of mission. You will learn that you were found by Sergeant Rogers, a patrol leader of the Purple Dragon, the barracks of which is located close-by.


Re-equip your items if you haven't already, and take your leave of the jail.

Marsember: Kings Tower Quarter

Likely the first thing to happen to you upon entering the district: a guard of the Purple Dragon approaches and orders you to sheathe your weapons in town. This becomes really annoying as the module progresses. I'm just not used to sheathing my weapons in RPGs. God, it's just a fantasy game. And the worst part is? I forget to sheathe every single time, and in battles I find myself fighting bare-fisted because I forget to re-equip!

Note the custom door in the background. This was the early days of NWN modding, when custom content was in its infancy. Still, so may modules you play these days still use the generic OC doors...


See the female halfling standing behind that guard? That's Yvette, brother of Pyke, the halfling we took note of in jail. Yvette will ask you to spring Pyke from the clink at a cost of 100 GP, but you don't have a penny in the bank thanks to those thieves! (Quest: Jailed Brother.)


Lack of funds is your first hurdle of the adventure. You can't recruit a companion without money. You can't take public transport without money. You can't even do this first quest without money. It's possible to bully commoners and merchants into coughing up coin (DC-14), but that's just chump change and adversely affects your reputation with their respective faction, upping the cost of temple services and merchant vendors, respectively (not to mention the three point alignment shift towards evil). How to cash-up, then? The easiest way is to simply flog an item to a marketplace vendor, one you bought in the starter zone. 

The city guide in the east will also give you three leads if you ask her about work: the Adventurer's Guild (of this Quarter), the moneylender at Interesting Times (of the Merchant Quarter), and the barman at the Cloven Shield (of the Docks Quarter), to whom you must give the code: I need to see a man about a dog. What's his name? Vernon. As a rule city guides should be spoken to whenever you need info. For a modest fee of five gold, they will also ferry you around Marsember, a form of "fast travel" that reminded me of the Vivec gondolas in Morrowind.

Of the three leads, the Adventurer's Guild is probably gonna be your best bet because the other two quests require MONEY. The building is located just north of the city guide; you can't miss it. Inside, Losun the dwarf will give you the lowdown on the guild and even wave the 10 GP admission fee (thank god) as he hands you the Guild Key and Membership Certificate. Pat the dwarf on the head, use the key to gain access to the guild chamber, and speak to Shara in the southeast library for your initiation quest. She wants you to retrieve a stolen book (Quest: Shara's Book). At this point you may also recruit one of the guild Henchmen, scaled to your level - either Negan the dwarven Fighter (4) Barbarian (4) or Melinda the Cleric (8). If you sprung Pyke from the clink, then you also have a Rogue (8) at your disposal. Ferek may be found and recruited later; from memory a Sorcerer (8). So yeah, you have a decent selection of companions available to you at all stages of the campaign, who may fill in for any glaring weakness your build may have.

Your main objective is to find out who you are, what happened to you and what your mission is. Main quest-wise, your first port of call should be the Purple Dragon barracks: speak with Sergeant Rogers to get the ball rolling. I think the author did a fine job in keeping the level of intrigue up, and spurring the player on to the reveal. Enjoy!

Observations & Pro-tips

• I love how, during dialogue, as certain selections are made, the NPC may voice something out loud. Even if it's just a simple chuckle, punctuating dialogue with appropriate sounds (and gestures) adds heaps to immersion. The lil' things count, too.
• Employed custom content is basic but ask yourself this: how many modules that came after Cormyrean Nights have employed alleyways? A good 80% of them just keep the generic OC doors, too.
• I'm pretty sure factional influence is not a huge concern. Well, things may spiral out of control if you bully too many commonfolk, I guess. From my limited testing, doing quests for the merchants only resulted in a 7% discount; something like a 400 GP discount on a 6000 GP item for doing a bit of debt collecting. Still, how many modules have you played that feature factional reactivity? The author deserves credit for putting some thought into this.
• The recovery of memories in dialogue is an obvious tribute to Planescape: Torment.
• The guild guide ferries may be a nod to Vivec gondolas that sailed you around the cantons in Morrowind. In fact, the guild and factions were probably also inspired by Morrowind.
• It's possible to blindly follow the plot critical path without even exploring each of the districts. You will of course miss out on content if you beeline it, though.
• DCs are given for Persuade checks. I heartily recommend role-playing a good-aligned character with the Persuade skill in order to maximize the fun and come away smiling at the end of each quest. More XP yield, too! In a single dialogue I yielded 500 XP from three successful checks. So yeah, it really adds up.
• There is lots of quest and utility experience to be harvested campaign-wide: over 20,000 XP.
• For the most part loot is not tailored to Weapon Focus feats; however, in at least one case it is (Walin's basement chest).
• Combat is generally a faceroll (this is a comfortable, casual module to play), but there are exceptions. I cite Water Elemental DC-20 drown attacks in the sea caves, hideout of the Blue Hand.
• Oversight. I'm pretty sure you can kill the vamps (Mann & Leta?) over and over again if you don't destroy their coffins.
• There are many secrets and areas to discover that are not covered in Servilan's walkthrough. This is not a criticism. Just don't expect to see all there is to see if you blindly follow it.

Below: Yep, Marsember is a pretty big place - a fun hub to explore and quest in! Note the density of some of the buildings, indicative of alleyways.
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Kings Tower, Centre, Docks, Merchant and Temple Districts
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As I said, this isn't gonna be a fullblown recounting but I hope this post gives the reader a decent taste of what the module offers - which is a lot. Give it a whirl if you're after a feel-good module that's EZ to install and play.

 EoP

13 comments:

  1. Interesting, I didn't know of this mod.
    The companion part is a big turnoff, but I'll try it anyway after I finish Resurrection Gone Wronger, sequel of Resurrection Gone Wrong: the first was really good especially for the first part when resources are scarce and combat is hard, then it become easier, with lots of powerful items and a party of five. The sequel is unfortunately a sandbox adventure (more adventure than rpg) with lots of fetch quests/exploring and few combats (party of three, but Npcs are most present for quests). Pity, because it's well written, with interesting Npcs and sidequests and really good maps.

    Anyway, this seems an interesting module for its many features, it's a pity that it was made so early and could not benefit of the many additions that came later!

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    1. I actually read about RGW a while back but was put off by MrZork's comment about combat encounter balance. That might have also been because, not long before, I played two other modules that could not make their mind up whether to be obnoxious in their difficulty, or facerolly! I'll take another look, Marco. The author seems kind, too: built a module to give newbies builders some guidance: http://neverwintervault.org/project/nwn1/prefab/area/starter-module-w-ready-conversations

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    2. I've read that comment but it's normal when you start at 1st level, I died a lot of times in The Cave of Songs... The Prophet series has some unbalanced encounters, while here I found combat always rather easy (you can also choose to respawn, but I never found anything to resurrect the companions).

      I even noticed late that you HAVE to talk to your companions make them level up and I played with 1st level companions for a lot of time before realizing this! ^^'

      Like in old games, some areas can be done from the beginning, while others (the ruins) should be left for the end, but I liked the openness and the fact that most quests have multiple solutions.

      by the way, keep on suggesting new modules! ;)

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    3. Well, at least Baldecaran warns against engagement and advises stealth in Cave of Songs. God, I love that module. And Honor Among Thieves. I have only dabbled in The Prophet because I'm not really into deep storydriven modules.

      I think Baldecaran (and Gagne and Cerutti) are great storytellers, dialogue-writers and world-builders, but not so good in encounter design and dungeonmastering in general. I think Cerutti is the best writer of the three (maybe the best for conversational dialogue), and also better at DMing adventures (if only his modules were not so plagued by bugs..)

      That's where I think Rogueknight hits the sweet spot for D&D, imo: his story and world are not as unique (FR), but his combat encounters and dungeon design; his reactivity and resource management, are pretty much peerless. Plus the polish: almost no bugs, typos, or stupid things that make no sense. I know I spruik his modules a lot but I think they are on a whole other lvl, overall.

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    4. True, but here there's only a minor combat (avoidable if you run) in which you have one henchman before you can immediately take three more followers before adventuring.

      I liked a lot Baldecaran's style and I admit that I never played the Bastard serie because of the bugs you mentioned, but now you made me curious... I've read many good things of Cerutti even of the italian forums so I think I'll give a try!
      I like long series, like Aielund...

      Rogueknight is professional... no bugs, but also well designed encounters and intelligent placing of resources. But for this reason I believe that only the experts could appreciate his work fully!

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    5. Exile of the West is a solid 8/10 even with the bugs. I would have given it full marks without the bugs. It was hugely disappointing that the 2nd installment was plagued by reload CTDs, too.

      My walkthrough gets quite a few hits, so it seems to be helping some ppl out, maybe also in avoiding the bugs. I hope oneday some of them can help me resolve my Unsolved Mysteries.

      It's surprising that, despite EotW having been translated from French to English, I consider it one of the most well-written modules. In the native language it's probably even better, since so much is lost in translation (even with the best translators). Maybe the French version is less buggy, too... one could use Google translate, but you would have to be a really keen fan to go to so much trouble.

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    6. Here I am! I've finished RgW:rtB so I started Exile on the West... storyline and dialogues are good but I don't know if I'll continue because the setting doesn't appeal me so much, also I find a bit silly that you enter a map... suddenly wolves! Then a soldier spoke to me "beware of the kobolds" ... next map... suddenly kobolds!

      CN seems very interesting by the way...

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    7. CN is well worth a run, too. Hard to believe there are only 2 comments on its vault entry..

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    8. and one comment is yours! ;)
      Well I learned not to look too much at the lack of comments, I've already heard of this module... I noticed more the absence of pictures!

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    9. Yeah, I guess that's what happens when the original author is not around to submit their material...

      Btw, Balkoth put up just one crappy pic for Act One of the Aielund Saga.

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  2. Hi.

    Sorry for the off-topic, but could you tell us if the next parts of the walkthrough for Baldur's Gate Siege of Dragospear is comming anytime soon?

    Thank you in advance!

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    Replies
    1. Hi AXspeed. Part IX has just been posted:
      http://lilura1.blogspot.com/2016/07/Siege-of-Dragonspear-Walkthrough-Part-IX.html
      Enjoy!

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  3. A lovely little review. Thank you, Lilura, your blog makes this world a bit brighter place for sure. Makes me smile often.
    Haven't heard about term 'faceroll' before, nice addiction to personal vocabulary. The combat in Cormyrean Nights was just as easy as you described, yes, though I do remember I had some trouble playing rogue - presumable with manticore in the second half of the module. At least it was about ten years ago, and I doubt my skills and experience in NWN was very good.
    This module was one of the first user-made modules I played for Neverwinter, and this one have catched my interest mainly thanks to the article in one of our popular game magazines - http://www.lki.ru/text.php?id=3369 (in russian, of course, but I hope it's google-translator friendly enough if you decide to check it).
    P. S. > This time I tried to post a comment when logged on, because my previous one miraculously disappeared leaving no notification. Maybe browser-related bug, not sure.

    ReplyDelete

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