Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Neverwinter, The Tomb of Annihilation, and Grief

Back before the pandemic, I was running a D&D campaign for my family and Jeff Toney and his daughter. The ragtag group called themselves "The Saviors," and I had them on a ship headed toward the peninsula of Chult (as I blogged about it here in 2019). 

Unfortunately we all got busy for a few months . . . and then the pandemic hit, so we never actually got a chance to undertake the quest to reach the Tomb of Annihilation. Now, look, I'm not the best DM in the world, and taking on an epic sandbox adventure such as the Tomb of Annihilation is a bit daunting to be honest. I remember feeling that pressure and went to an old MMO named Neverwinter (you remember this game, yes?) to get some inspiration.

The colorful town of Port Nyanzaru

Back in the day, I absolutely loved Neverwinter, and especially the foundry system (RIP). Even on my last venture there back in 2019, I was vibe-ing with the game even though the foundry system was gone. Anyway, in Neverwinter, you can visit Chult and run around Port Nyanzaru and the surrounding jungles of The Tomb of Annihilation as part of a campaign. It's great this exists!

You know, I guess I've had a bit of a fascination with the Tomb since in 2021, I even played the turn-based Steam Game. What can I say? I LIKE ME SOME DINOSAURS AND LICHES!

I really did have fun playing this game.

Fast forward to last Monday, the family and I finally took a couple hours over the holiday to once again play the Dungeons and the Dragons together. In fact, everyone in the family thought it was finally time for my youngest to join in our nerd-dom and roll up his first character, and they all agreed that dad needed to step up and be the DM again. Well, since I never got a chance to run Tomb of Annihilation, guess what adventure we started playing? Yup, it's all happening!

The first session went well, they formed their party in Baulder's Gate, met the quest giving wizard Syndra Silvane, and teleported over to Chult after a considerable amount of roleplay and laughter. It was a good time. My son's Goliath Paladin named Gungaga is amazing. I think they're going to have a lot of fun playing together.

I love the book art for Tomb of Annihilation

Now (insert nervous laugh) once again, I'm feeling the pressure of taking on this epic sandbox adventure known as the Tomb of Annihilation.  Because of this, I logged on Neverwinter again and got fascinated all over with what I found there. This time I even went as far as reassigning my skills, cleaning out some of my overstuffed inventory, and ran out the doorway to kill a heard of raptors.

It took me a second to catch up to speed and then I realized . . . everything had changed once again in this game.  What?! I was now level 20, which seemed like a downgrade to where I was back when you could level to 70. The gear ratings on my gear were unfamiliar. I was in that back-to-an-old-game lost state.

A little research on MassivelyOP turned up some information about a game update back in 2021 where all the levels got squashed down to 20 to match the pen and paper RPG. 

I then took to YouTube to find a guide for returning players, and instead stumbled upon the Josh Strife Hayes Worst MMO Ever series where he talks about his ruined love for Neverwinter. I couldn't make it through the whole thing, but man . . . it's full of sadness (especially at the end of the video). This was the MMO that got him into MMOs, and you could tell there was a lot of love mixed with a lot of loss there. Long story short, the aggressive monetization practices of the game made him mourn the game he loves to play.

You know, most of the problems he cites won't affect me as an extremely casual player of the game, but I couldn't help but sympathize and understand where he's coming from. It was weird because his emotional stress made it even more difficult for me to want to log on and run around where I was already having trouble reacquainting myself with the game. 

In the end, I don't know if I'll ever really return to Neverwinter as an MMO of choice, but I am happy there are some resources there I can draw from for my game. I'll most likely queue up the Chult music on our TV during the next game. That alone will help set the mood for our game. 


I'm sorry that money ruins the online worlds we love, but at the same time I am happy the money that funds these games allow for art like this to exist. It's truly a bittersweet feeling.

Happy Dueling

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