Updated Mon, Nov 05, 2012 by jeffprime
Turbine continues to add new Forgotten Realms content to Dungeons and Dragons Online with their upcoming Update 16: The Netherese Legacy. Forgotten Realms, the most popular setting for the pen-and-paper RPG, was introduced to DDO with the Menace of the Underdark expansion and then followed by Update 15: Song of Druid's Deep. The latest update to DDO continues to flesh out the world of Faerun. Ten Ton Hammer got a hands on preview of the new content with Amanda Grow, Head of Community, Ricardo Liu, Lead Content Designer, Erik Boyer, Senior Producer, and Athena Peters, Producer.
Update 16: The Netherese Legacy for DDO contains several items: a new adventure area, five new dungeons, and a new epic destiny called Primal Avatar that is especially useful for druids. What should get old time D&D players going is that the Harpers are the center of attention in this update. For the uninitiated, the Harpers are a pseudo-clandestine organization in the Forgotten Realms that seeks to oppose evil and work for balance in the realms. They're a loosely organized group whose members tend to operate singly or in small groups.
Foremost in Update 16 for DDO is the new adventure pack, the High Road of Shadows, that contains five adventures and a new wilderness area. These new adventures have a challenge rating of 24, so they're definitely geared towards the upper levels. The theme of the new adventure pack revolves around the players working for the Harpers attempting to keep a powerful scroll out of the hands of the evil minions of Netheril.
The King's Road.
A person named Oriphaun has in his possession a Nether Scroll, an extremely powerful magical item of forbidden power. Operatives of Netheril, an evil and magically powerful nation, are attempting to get the scroll and they pursue Oriphaun down the King's Road to do so. Unable to destroy the scroll, Oriphaun manages to divide the scroll into several pieces and hides them as he flees from the Netherese agents. The players, of course, are trying to stop the Netherese and find the pieces of the scroll.
The intrigue begins when the players enter the High Road, an area to the northwest geographically from the King's Forest. Players can go to the High Road area by transporting there from Eveningstar by clicking on a cart next to the King's Forest entrance. Adventurers will have to travel through the High Road area to get to the entrances of the five dungeons (adventures) in the new adventure pack.
The High Road is populated by lots of Netherese wizards and their mercenary sellswords. In addition, the Netherese wizards can summon shadows to aid them in combat. Most shadows can drain strength from the players, but the most powerful, usually encountered as bosses, can drain levels. The look of the High Road is similar to the King's Forest, but while the King's Forest is a preserve, the High Road is a settled area with a number of small villages. Its scale is similar to the Red Fens. Most of the villagers in the area are hiding or cowering with fear as the players explore the area. The Netherese invaders have completely cowed the local populace and are rampaging unchecked. The forces of Cormyr have been pulled away to deal with the Drow menace and other border tensions, leaving the local area unprotected.
The swamp where the players square off against a medusa.
DDO continues their use of random encounters in Update 16 by having them populate the King's Road wilderness area. Random encounters are a throwback to the pen-and-paper RPG and can spawn in different areas of the wilderness. Some random encounters can be very simple whilst others can be more complex. While running around, I stumbled across two. The first was to investigate an odd tree that spawned a horde of giant spiders to drop from the branches to attack me. The second was to defeat Theodas Riveron, the bandit king. Overall, I like the random encounter system as it does remind me of the tabletop game and also that it adds some variety while running around the wilderness.
There are five adventures in Update 16 for DDO and they are reached by traveling through the King's Road wilderness area. The adventures are:
The first four adventures can be done in any order that the players wish. Once the first four have been completed, the fifth adventure, The End of the Road, will be unlocked. Once all five have been played, the players can play the five adventures in any order that they wish from then on.
The menacing locale of The End of the Road.
The Turbine team ran me through three of the adventures (A Stay at the Inn, Rest Stop, and The End of the Road) and I then go to spend some time by myself to explore the other two.
Rest Stop took place in an abandoned castle that is now being used as a resting place for adventuring parties as they travel. Inside the castle, the player will get to interact with members of two separate adventuring parties, learning of their squabbles, friendships, and other drama. The player will learn that they remember Oriphaun, but that he disappeared one night. Examining the area, the players will notice something odd about the fireplace, which has one of its torch sconces empty. The players will need to locate a torch and put it into the sconce. When done, the back wall of the fireplace will open and the players can progress deeper into the dungeon where they'll cross swords with the forces of Netheril. Enterprising players can also help a dying adventure by removing the bear trap from his leg, which can be used later in the dungeon. This quest also features a number of magical barriers that the players will need to find specific items to bypass.
My next sojourn was A Stay at the Inn, which takes place at an inn/tavern in one of the small settlements in the King's Road. This adventure had me looking through the guest rooms of the inn and then seeking a key in the inn's huge barn, all the while fighting the agents of Netheril. Umbral rats made their appearance here as the Netheril mages use them as guard dogs.
The fort where the final showdown takes place.
My last escorted expedition was the capstone dungeon, The End of the Road. Here the players have been told by the Harpers that the agents of Netheril have pieces of the scroll and have taken over a fort abandoned by the Purple Knights of Cormyr. The players must fight through a wilderness to reach the fort. Once they have reached the massive wooden fort, they will need to find their way inside the main structure.
Once inside the main structure, the adventurers will come across the wizards of Netheril disobeying their orders and deciding to put the scroll back together. Haven't they seen what happened to the nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark? Naturally something bad happens and a Glabrezu, an extremely powerful type of demon, appears. This leads to a three way fight between the players, the Netheril wizards, and the demon. The demon is particularly nasty and will knockback the players onto wooden stakes, causing them damage, and also summoning other demons to aid him. All in all, a very entertaining fight.