Choose My Adventure: Sludging through the Saltmarsh of Dungeons and Dragons Online


This week’s Choose My Adventure episode was all about heading to a new-to-me area in Dungeons and Dragons Online: Saltmarsh. Trust me, it would have stood out, and not just because it was a marshy, swampy area. Generally speaking, this kind of biome is not really my favorite in video gaming, but the setting wasn’t the sauce for me so much as the story line.

As I mentioned in last week’s column, I decided to actually slow down and read through the quest text as they came up, which definitely enhanced the experience of being told what was happening by the DM’s narration. Better yet, the story missions that I played through in Saltmarsh were extremely diverse and surprising, starting with a haunted house, moving through some sizeable dungeons, and ending with fighting an enormous gator.

I genuinely wasn’t expecting there to be a haunted house plot at the start of the story here, but then again it ended up that the hauntings were just a ruse that kicked off a smuggler plot that became my natural pursuit. After a few missions following those threads, I found the plot began to ramp up as I learned the truth of just what the smugglers were moving: weapons.

Shortly after that, I chased down the leads to learn who asking for the weapons, which drew me into a sub-plot related to the lizardfolk, the sahuagin, and a power struggle between the two that was going to threaten Saltmarsh. This leap was definitely one of the more involved, as the rest of the missions were primarily about working through the sahuagin – but not before I had to liberate a lizardfolk outpost and form an alliance to stop the fishmen.

This portion of the mission chain definitely stood out the most because it was easily the most harrowing. By this point, I was mostly trying to complete every single main and side objective that was put in front of me, which did end up making missions a lot longer, but I was having too much fun following the mission plots, getting acclimated to my class abilities, and of course racking up the XP. But the reason that this stood out the most to me was because of its length and the events that occurred within.

At this point in the mission chain, I was not only walking into a coup among the lizardfolk, but I was also the arbiter of an alliance that was forming to stop the sauhagin. If all of that sounds like a lot on paper, well, it pretty much was, and during one of my side excursions to complete an optional objective, I was drawn in to a hunt for treasure that ended up with me losing my primary weapon.

And I took that personally.

See, the feats I have chosen for my class are almost all entirely predicated on using a weapon chosen by my character’s deity, the longsword. When I was following this side objective, I ended up fighting some grey oozes, which have a penchant for ruining weapons. I didn’t have any other longswords on hand, so when my sword was damaged to the point that it was unusable, things got significantly more challenging.

To be fair, I had set up a couple of other weapon loadouts, but those were mostly focused on attacking threats from range – maybe fight off one or two foes that I couldn’t reach from melee range. They certainly weren’t intended to be my primary weapons for a main story dungeon encounter, but since I was out of options, I whipped out the crossbow that I had, ran around like a maniac, and pelted the oozes from short range with crossbow bolts and the one ranged spell that I had.

Eventually, I did find a treasure chest that had a bastard sword in its loot pile, which is not a weapon my character is proficient in. So while I was back to using melee attacks like I intended, I still wasn’t using a favored weapon and was using something my character was bad at using. Mechanically, this meant that my character was missing her strikes a lot. Luckily, my AC was also pretty strong, I had a lot of HP, and I also had a pretty good healing spell to shore me up if things got bad. I finally did end up beating this step in the quest chain, but it was not easy. And that, in turn, made it a lot more memorable and ultimately more fun, especially since the whole thing once again brought to mind how much like a tabletop game DDO is.

Now to be fair, an MMO using D&D-like mechanics isn’t exactly earth-shattering – in fact, it’s arguably the bedrock of many MMORPGs – but the way these D&D-like mechanics were applied in DDO brought to mind the intrinsic, semi-chaotic, and absolute mad occurrences that can happen when playing a TTRPG with others.

Something about the medium of tabletop encourages some absolutely insane plots and plans that would otherwise defy logic and reasoning (if you’ve got a fun and flexible DM anyway), and this whole excursion in the lizardfolk’s den felt a lot like that. It brought to mind failed rolls and their consequences, soaring successes in spite of those, and snatching victory from the jaws of generally bad planning and foresight.

Also, it all ended up being really rewarding. I’ve gotten to level 4 now and am maybe about halfway to level 5 by the time all has been said and done. Also, Saltmarsh is safe. Or at least safer than when I arrived. Yes, I know this is a plot that literally everyone has played before, but I’m allowing myself a heroic pat on the back here.

With Saltmarsh in my rearview mirror, it’s now time to look ahead to the next adventure series. It seems that I am once again somewhat spoiled for choice, but I also have to concede that I might be in this weird in-between space in terms of level, since some of the adventures that I start off in at level 4 move into levels 5 and 6 apparently, and while I have a lot of missions awaiting in Eberron proper, it also seems as if those are just a bit below my level. Still, it’s worth another poll.

Which area should my questing continue in?

  • The Harbor. Pluck away at all of those exclamation points (11%, 12 Votes)
  • The Market. Pluck at some of those exclamation points here. (6%, 6 Votes)
  • Shan-To-Kor. Take on the Giants. (27%, 29 Votes)
  • Tangleroot Gorge. At least do a few things here. (18%, 19 Votes)
  • The Catacombs. Help the Sanctuary. (39%, 42 Votes)

Total Voters: 108

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As usual, polling will close up at 1:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 19th. Whatever gets selected, I genuinely am looking forward to what’s next; the leveling in this game might not come as quickly as I’d like, but I am having a blast so far.

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Chris each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures – and you get to decide his fate. Which is good because he can often be a pretty indecisive person unless he’s ordering a burger.
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