Guest Post: DDO Masterminds of Sharn review (part 3)

Today’s guest post is from DDOCentral’s Matt, who wanted to give Bio Break’s readership a deeper look into Dungeons and Dragons Online’s Masterminds of Sharn expansion. Thanks Matt!

Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO) released its fourth paid expansion on May 14th, 2019 titled Masterminds of Sharn. The three previous paid expansions for DDO are Menace of the Underdark, released on June 25th, 2012, Shadowfell Conspiracy, released on August 19th, 2013, and Mists of Ravenloft, released on December 6th, 2017.

Masterminds of Sharn is the first paid expansion for DDO set in the Eberron universe, which was the original DDO campaign setting when the MMORPG launched in early 2006. After thirteen years, DDO finally leaves the small frontier settlement of Stormreach on the southern jungle continent of Xen’Drik where the adventure began for the great metropolis of Sharn, the City of Towers, located on the central continent of Khorvaire. Sharn is not only the most populous city in Khorvaire, but is also notable as the seat of power for the racially-affiliated Dragonmarked Houses. The Dragonmarked Houses enjoy a near-monopoly on many crucial business activities, both magical and mundane as well as legal and illegal.

This article is the third in a series of three articles on the Masterminds of Sharn expansion. The article will review the expansion’s two Legendary-level raids, ‘Too Hot to Handle’ and ‘Project Nemesis,’ both of which take place in the subterranean Cogs explorer area, cut off from the airy world of Sharn many miles above.

Too Hot to Handle

The first raid, ‘Too Hot to Handle,’ is bestowed by the NPC Grem Alcorin in the Alcorin’s Forge – Arcsteel Foundry public area of The Cogs. Too Hot to Handle may only be attempted after completing the quests in both Part 1 and Part 2 of the Masterminds of Sharn expansion story arc.

Grem Alcorin wants the party to eliminate the Forgewraiths before they destroy his Forge – and then consequently the City of Sharn in the catastrophic explosion that would follow. The party must enter the Arcsteel Foundry and confront the angry spirits who have overrun the place seeking revenge on the City and defeat them before it is too late. Grem explains that Forgewraiths are naturally drawn to locales emanating intense heat, and that huge, burning lava flows power his Foundry.

With nearly all the Foundry employees evacuated, the Foundry’s control system is no longer being maintained so this hot spot keeps getting hotter and hotter. The only worker still inside the Foundry is Nava, the chief engineer. Grem asks that the party find Nava, either alive or her remains if she is dead. He mentions that elves from The Undying Court of Aerenal have cast wards at the entrance to the Foundry to contain the Forgewraiths, holding out hope that reinforcements would arrive soon.

The party enters the Forge and requests that the elvish NPC High Priest Mayne Jhaelian drop the magical barrier blocking the way to the Foundry so that the party may confront the Forgewraiths. After dispatching the first group of Forgewraiths, the party finds that their essences flow out of their defeated shells and into the still animate forms of other Forgewraiths nearby. These Forgewraiths then grow larger, invigorated by the eldritch lifeforce of their defeated kin!

After clearing the remaining Forgewraiths, the party takes an elevator to the Foundry itself, deep inside the underground facility. Entering the Foundry area, the party sees an elderly woman in singed clothes squatting close to a complex crystal display. The woman exclaims, “By Onatar’s tears! Is that help arriving? About time!” She continues, “I’m Chief Engineer Nava. Now quit gawking and come help me!” The party needs to help Nava reset the furnaces powering the Foundry.

Legions of Forgewraiths rise from the heated floor of the Foundry, ready to consume the party in the agony of their flames. Levers and gears lock into place as the party restores the furnaces to their proper configuration. A low rumble is heard, and the flows of the furnaces’ lava pools begin to ebb. The Forgewraiths recede into the shadows, their whispers obscured by the churning sounds of the Foundry’s heavy machinery.

Nava sighs with relief. “Well, that wasn’t so hard!” she says with a grin. Yet as soon as these words leave her parched lips, the entire cavern of the Foundry begins to shake. A massive shape stirs deep within the lava pool, and the whispers of the Forgewraiths return. A gargantuan Forgewraith Titan now towers over the party, majestic in its fiery visage.

The giant turns its gaze toward the party. The countless souls lost to Lucian Vaunt’s greed which comprise the Forgewraith Titan abruptly cease their cries and shrieks to then speak in one terrifying, inhuman voice, “Burn,” they say, “burn with us.”

New Forgewraiths swarm the party as Cogs Fanatics devoted to the Forgewraith Titan pour into the Foundry from the elevator shafts. “Hear us, broken ones! Come to us!” they chant in unison. The Forgewraith Titan hisses, “You may fight us, but you cannot extinguish us. The fire is everywhere. The molten heart of The Dragon Below feeds us. Her blood nourishes us. Let it boil up so you may join us!”

“Lava’s rising!” cries Nava. “By the Six, the furnaces are down again! The coolant tanks popped, too. Better get busy!” Once the party has brought the furnaces and the coolant tanks back online, the party assails the Forgewraith Titan yet again. Defeated, the Forgewraith Titan tries to deny its end in a thousand anguished voices. “We cannot be…extinguished. We…will…” The raid ends, and the surviving Forgewraiths fade into the flames of the furnaces with the destruction of their master.

Project Nemesis

The second raid, ‘Project Nemesis,’ is granted by the NPC Lieutenant Zaira Dane in the Alcorin’s Forge – Arcsteel Foundry public area of The Cogs. Lieutenant Dane is a member of the King’s Dark Lanterns, an organization that serves the crown of Breland as its intelligence and counter-espionage branch. The Lieutenant explains to the party that House Cannith has many facilities in Sharn, most notably an arcane research lab known as the Hazardous Prototype Repository.

The Hazardous Prototype Repository is mainly used as a storage facility for projects that are currently in development for Breland’s defense department. The City of Sharn is in danger as the facility has been seized by some unknown, invading force which might now use these militarized prototypes for its own purposes. Lieutenant Dane requests that the party confronts the mysterious invaders who are attempting to release one of these prototypes only known as “Project Nemesis” into the world of Eberron.

The party must head to the Hazardous Prototype Repository to prevent the interlopers from opening its sealed vault which contains the high-risk prototypes. Following Lieutenant Dane’s instructions, the party navigates its way through the lower Cogs and arrives at the destination. The hidden Cannith facility and its many secrets await in the darkness ahead.

The corpses of warforged and human guards, garbed in House Cannith uniforms, litter the entrance to the facility. Through the wreckage of the Repository’s security forces the party spies a Magic Mouth mounted on a nearby wall. A portal opens to an observation room overlooking a laboratory below that is filled with strange, glowing equipment as well as Helma, the Gnome Artificer.

Helma is working on the north wall of the laboratory to unlock the massive bands on a huge vault door, behind which lies the Hazardous Prototype Repository itself. If all bands are released, the party has only moments to act before the vault door springs open and the entire raid fails as the facility’s last line of security will have been completely comprised. Lieutenant Dane is found in the observation room, looking down on a familiar foe from earlier in the party’s Sharn adventures.

Lieutenant Dane activates the Magic Mouth, allowing access to the laboratory below. The Mouth states in a hollow voice, “You will find the way open behind you. Enjoy your visit.” The party must now destroy automated constructors who are working on solving the power source puzzles along the laboratory walls as well as defeat a team of Lucian Vaunt’s former mercenaries, led by the Radiant Idol Qaspiel Mistwalker.

Obedient to Mistwalker, the Sharn quest bosses Gish Helion the Gnoll, Rudus Caskrage the Minotaur, Zulkis Crowspire the Tiefling, and Irk the Goblin return to once again to face the party in combat. To eliminate an individual boss, his elemental essence needs to be extracted with the use of a laser on the ceiling of the laboratory. Once the boss’s corresponding elemental is destroyed in its adjacent elemental room, the party has disabled the boss’s elemental battery successfully and its corresponding puzzle is now out of power.

One by one, the monstrous henchmen fall to the party’s blows, leaving behind characteristic elemental mists which cover the immediate area of the laboratory floor surrounding their corpses. “They got the last battery,” cries Helma in frustration. The Gnome Artificer steps away from the gate controls. “This gig is blown, boss. I’m out!” She reads a scroll and then vanishes in a shimmer of blue light.

Mistwalker falls to his knees, a puzzled frown marring his chiseled features. He looks up and addresses the party: “Noble mortals, I do believe you are winning. I have indeed fallen from my divine origins.”

With Mistwalker’s words, darkness and fire then churn together around him. A swirling portal tears open in front of the fallen Angel, and a horned figure steps through and speaks, “Your call has been answered, Celestial. We come at my Lord’s behest.” A massive Pit Fiend, flanked by legions of Orthon Shock Troops, Bearded Devils, and winged Abishai, then assails the party under Mistwalker’s command.

Mistwalker calls to his infernal ally. “Emissary! Your aid is not enough. I know your Lord commands great power. We need more here!” The Emissary replies, “Recall my Lord’s offer. Accept it in full. Then the power to smite these pests will be yours.”

Mistwalker nods solemnly. “I understand. This will be a dark day – but it may lead back to the light in the end. Emissary, I accept your Lord’s offer. Do you hear me, Dark One? I accept your conditions. I, Qaspiel Mistwalker, seal our pact!”

Dark purple flames erupt from Mistwalker. They unfold into a pair of flaming skeletal wings. He laughs, “For such a foul thing to be done to me, it feels…good.” Mistwalker then exclaims, “Fallen! Drink from this new power and return to me! Now to finish this.” Mistwalker’s four slain henchmen reappear and then battle the party yet again, diabolical magic bringing them back to life once more.

Following a pitched battle, Mistwalker falls to his knees for the last time, his remaining power finally spent. Even in defeat, the exiled Angel has a grace about him. “I am undone, mortals. I only ask you to spare my servants. They are evil wretches, to be sure. Yet they served a greater purpose, in their way.” With those words, the Outsider’s form dissolves before the party’s eyes. The raid ends, with House Cannith’s weapons of mass destruction safe from espionage…for now.

The DDO Universe Keeps Getting Bigger

The Masterminds of Sharn expansion showed the DDO player community the possibilities of a fully realized urban environment, something which had been previously missing from the game. Combining the best elements of quests and explorer areas found in House Cannith, Stormreach, and elsewhere, Masterminds of Sharn revealed to DDO to an entirely new world and story found in the Eberron universe. Future updates and adventure packs should continue to focus on the City of Sharn as there are so many more stories to tell in this rich, imaginative setting.

Seeing no reason to stop, Standing Stone Games (SSG) has a fifth expansion planned for the end of 2020, placed in the Forgotten Realms’ Plane of the Feywild. Also known as the Plane of Faerie, the Feywild exists as an “echo” of the Prime Material Plane as does its sister plane, the Shadowfell. The races of The Fey originated in the Feywild – hence its name – as did many fantastical beasts and other beings. What SSG has in store for us in the Feywild, we will find out soon enough…

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