Another unnecessary rambling encouraged by my having a week off.
So, our 4e Temple of Elemental Evil campaign is officially over, even though we didn't quite make it to the end. We finally called it quits after too many cancelled sessions, combined with some of the group's dissatisfaction with 4e. I also finished the computer game and the novel a while back. Just for closure reasons, I thought I'd post a few afterthoughts on all three.
The tabletop campaign:
It's probably our fault, but I was expecting more plot. Based on my meta-knowledge of the campaign, we missed a lot of opportunities to interact with the villains, and instead opted to systematically take out each room one by one. The difference between being in town and being in the Temple itself was like playing two different RPGs; you could almost hear the *click* as the players switched from roleplay mode to fight mode.
Still, I had fun. It was a little off-putting at first, but once I realized how it was going to be, I embraced it whole hog. I even switched to a more front line character so I could get the most out of the action. But it also made me realize that I needed to try a few other gaming systems.
The book was nothing to write home about, it's just your typical cheap paperback. It had the usual assortment of party member stereotypes, but few characters I actually cared about. It didn't always follow the same path as the module or computer game, but it was always neat when it would describe a familiar-sounding room and I'd think, "Uh oh, watch out for the skeletal gnolls!" It was brief, but fun to read, and I will probably read more module-based novels if I find them. But it didn't have any particular writing style, and it's the kind of book you immediately forget about once you finish it.
The ToEE computer game is a bit dated by today's standards... Okay, fine, it was pretty ugly five years ago. It's easy to see how rushed it was - it was released in 2003, a full year after the much superior Neverwinter Nights. While NWN features 3D environments, for some reason ToEE uses pre-rendered static backgrounds and feels like a throwback to older computer games like Baldur's Gate. Sometimes I don't realize how spoiled I am until I get frustrated over my inability to rotate the camera to see behind the house.
I really wanted to take my time with this one, talk to every NPC, find all the subquests, and pick up all the plot we skipped with the tabletop version. But that got boring after a while, and I kept screwing things up and/or running into quest-breaking bugs. For example, I might attempt to join one of the temples and do some jobs for them, but sooner or later a faction script would mess up and the wrong NPC would attack me. This would either break the quest sequence entirely, or cause the entire temple to go aggro. So eventually I just decided to kill everything and make my way to the end.
Towards the climax of the game things got really frustrating. The visits to the elemental planes used SFX that would frequently lock up the computer, so I had to save often. Keep in mind, my computer is several years newer than the game, and way more powerful than ToEE should require. Even so, I had to turn down a lot of the graphical settings just to complete those areas. Also near the end I discovered a Good Bad Bug that I couldn't resist. Basically, each of the four elemental bosses drops one of the four gems you need to get to the final boss. Those gems can also be used to summon monsters to help you... but some of those summoned monsters drop additional gems if they get killed. So you can end up with multiple copies of each of the elemental gems, allowing you to summon lots of crap and cast several of additional spells during the final battles.
But other than a little Save Scumming and Level Grinding, that was the only time I really cheated my first time through. I beat the final boss, watched the underwhelming ending, and reloaded to try some different options. There's some choices you can make towards the end that change the ending slightly, but all the endings are equally boring.
Now that I'd played it through semi-legitimately, I decided to go back through and smash the world to bits. I built a party of five destructive cheaters. I named them War, Famine, Pestilence, Death, and Cindy. I used some cheat codes to raise all their levels to 10, set all their stats to 50, unlocked all the spells for the casters, and made them rich. I used the crafting skill to make some ungodly powerful items, weapons which would often cause instant death, wielded by characters who attack several times a round. I had them make some uber armor as well, but I quickly discovered that even the best armor couldn't come close to their DEX bonus, so my evil party rampaged au naturale.
I made it my goal to kill every single NPC in the game. Making sure I first spoke to enough people to unlock all the locations I'd need later, my five horsewomen of the apocalypse left a bloody trail of naked horror all across the kingdom. I actually managed to kill everyone in Nulb, and I probably got about halfway through Hommlet before I got bored (that's a lot of ground to cover).
Yes, I have issues, why do you ask?