Harp & Chrysanthemum
Mod of the Year 2007
: Harp & Chrysanthemum
: Maerduin (aka Zach Holbrook)
: 12-05-2007 / 03-05-2008
: Single Player
: Dramatic, Dungeon Adventure, Epic, Forest Adventure, Puzzles, Roleplay, Romance
: I started playing this mod, while the voting on the Mod of the Year was still open. The first time I played it, I used a Level 8 Sorceress, but that made it too easy, so I started over with a halfling rogue, but for reasons stated below (see Companions
), I abandoned this character pretty soon and then finally played the whole mod with a Warlock.
I don't like low magic worlds and p&p conformity, but even so, this mod is still fun to play.
: From the mod's excellent documentation, which is available both in plain txt and pdf format: “The story begins in Drawn Swords, a tiny settlement on a crag between the Backlands and Sunset Vale. You had come here with Vroman Horner, an amiable treasure-hunter of about one year’s acquaintance, in order to meet with his brother Manfred; the three of you were to seek adventure together after meeting up. But when Manfred fails to arrive on time, adventure finds you before you can find it.
Aided by a stern and lovely paladin of Sune, the good folk of Drawn Swords, and the diffident Vroman, you are soon drawn into a drama of religious conflict, military stakes, and esoteric mystery…only to find yourself, quite unexpectedly, the drama’s key player.”
: The mod imposes some limitations on the player, namely that you can only play good and neutral characters. While this is legitimate and ties well with the story the author wants to tell, it is nevertheless a limitation that reduces the replay ability of the mod. Furthermore, the game world is a low magic world. At level 4, the best gear is +1 and rarely +2, and crafting by the player is not supported.
You will get an invitation to join the Harpers after solving some quests for them. You can accept or refuse and opt to stay a friend of the Harpers. I opted for the latter; I played a Harper once in SoU and wasn't impressed back then.
A backwater hamlet in the middle of nowhere in a low magic setting. Though the village of Drawn Swords is very small, a lot of attention has been paid to details. For example, every commoner in the inn has a name, and despite the small size of the settlement there are nevertheless five shops, including the inn, and one of them sells a lot of unique books that explain a lot about the area, the history, the lore etc. Unique items have unique names, e.g. a Ring of Protection +1 is called a Ring of Merry Revels, and a unique design.
: This is in my humble opinion the mod's weakest point. Since crafting has been excluded (there is one exception, where an NPC crafts a weapon for you), your only option, except for quest rewards, is selling loot, but the income from the loot and the rewards is too little to buy decent equipment for you and
your companions and
of healing kits, scrolls, potions and flasks.
: You can start with a new character or import an existing one. If you start with a new character you will be provided with enough experience to level up to Level 4 and with enough gold to buy some starting gear. All classes and races, except evil ones, are acceptable choices, but I would not recommend playing it with a Rogue. The reason is that there is already a low level rogue companion who tends to die a lot, and if the player is one himself, too, then there will be two low level Rogues dieing a lot and it will be a really, really tough game. Looking at the companion choices (see below), the best class to play would be probably any arcane caster, a fighter or a warlock.
: There are three companions available. Two of them, a human rogue and a paladin, are forced and one, a halfling Cleric, is optional. There are also two romance options included, I suppose one for each gender, but I somehow missed out on it. Overall, the companions are well written, have side quests of their own, and there is appropriate party interaction throughout the mod.
Resting and death
: Both follow the standard NWN2 rules, but the mod rewards players who do not rest out in the wilderness, but return to the inn and pay for a room to rest, with bonus XP.
Note: Area transitions do not replenish spells.
: The mod includes a Cheat Sheet page in it's documentation, which lists all quests available and where to get them, but does not reveal how to solve them. I did not use it, because I wanted to find them on my own, and there was one side quest I never found and some quests remained unsolved for me.
: Combat is tough and challenging for the most part, but there are some fights that seem to be unbalanced (some Zentarim encounters, some troll fights, some ghast fights). Another example is the final boss fight, which I only could win with the god mode cheat. It seemed to me, as if me and my party were fighting a Level 20 wizard with 5 or 6 Fire Elementals assisting him. Some people may think combat in D&D is only fun, if you have to reload a dozen times to get past a certain fight. I'm not one of them.
It seemed to me as if the author had improved the enemy AI and dumbed down the companion AI a lot. The companions' AI had mainly path-finding problems, especially while using marquee selection. Often one of the companions would just not find a position to attack the enemy, because either the Paladin or the Cleric's Animal Companion was in the way. I had the feeling that the mod was best played in puppet mode, which I don't like particularly.
: The scenery is just beautiful, well done and with a lot of original artwork.
: The dialog is well written, without any errors, and most of it happens in beautiful cutscenes. Also, conversation skill checks in dialog are marked in differing, distinct colors, and so is Sleight of Hand, which also happens in dialog.
: I believe both generic (I recognized some battle tune from NWN 1 in some battle) and original music was used. It's atmospheric and changes according to areas and whether the party is in battle or not.
9 out of 10. Excellent
Overall the mod gives the impression of a very professional mod, in fact the only thing missing to make it indeed professional are dialog voice-overs. I would have given it a perfect ten score were it not for the reasons stated above under Gameplay
P.S.: The part with the final battle bugged me, so I opened the mod in the toolset and no, it's not a Level 20 Wizard. I won't spoil it here; anybody who is interested to know can look it up for himself. I'll just reveal as much, he is 3 Levels higher than the player and his party and he is slightly tweaked.
Then I went back to a save and replayed, managed to find the one quest I was missing and to solve all unresolved quests. This allowed me to gain another level, so at the final showdown I was Level 7, instead of 6. This time I won fair and square without any cheats, but just marginally.
As usual, the Rogue went down pretty early, and soon after the Cleric followed. So, it was me and the Paladin left. I was spamming Eldritch spears at the fire elementals and managed to kill two of them, before an other rushed to me. I had that one down to near death, but got careless and it killed me, before I could finish it off. So, that left only the Paladin standing. I took control of her and concentrated on bringing down the remaining elementals first, then turned to the final boss. I had him down to near death, then he healed himself up. Took him down to injured, but meanwhile the Paladin was badly wounded and running out of healing means. So, I decided to run away as far as possible from the fallen comrades, which got her killed, but meanwhile my warlock had revived, so I healed him up, and proceeded to fight the final boss. We were both on near death, when I got lucky and landed the killing blow. So, it was a really close call.