Snowcloak, Fenris-style

Fenris
Fenris

Last time we met up, Kasul and I failed spectacularly on Odin. That wasn’t our fault — probably. I was second tank, and Kasul was the off healer. Our problem was the DPS in the group. Not a lot we could do about that. But I have to admit that the whole Odin encounter is a rush. Camera pulled back as far as possible so I could see the entire arena, just like for Leviathan Extreme. The patterns are clear from that angle. As a tank, I get priority heals, and as a paladin, I have Hallowed Ground and three other defensive cooldowns to keep me up. Sure, we failed, but I had fun. I think Kasul did as well.

But it’s nice to have at least one victory. We’ve had the Tam-Tara Deepcroft (Hard) on our “to do” list for awhile. That’s the one where the cruddy healer you meet during the early story quests — the one who let her tank die, then proceeded to carry his head around in a sack, driving away the other members of her group — decides she’s going to marry that dead head. And she’s invited all her ex-friends to play key roles in the ceremony. This was a super fun — and super funny — dungeon.

I should probably have written about those then… maybe I will, when we kill Odin for reals. I had this idea that it would be an easy fight… maybe if the DPS had been there.

About to meet the wolf. Kasul is on the left.
About to meet the wolf. Kasul is on the left.

Story night, though! Last time we met for Story Night, we ended with the death/defeat/diplomatic solutioning of Ramuh, the lightning primal of the Sylphs. We couldn’t rest on our victory for long, though. Wonder Twin (W.T.) had a bright idea that required our immediate presence in Mos Eisley.

See, there’s been a problem all along. The Scions have had to look to the three nations to supply incompetent minions for us to save. Why couldn’t the Scions grow their own crop of incompetent minions so that we could rescue people closer to home, without paying so many teleport fees? Brilliant! After W.T. got the leaders of the three grand companies to pay to make us go away, the Crystal Braves were born, and almost immediately started courting disaster that only we could avert.

W.T. graciously, almost bashfully, accepted the rank and title of Commander of this new, independent grand company. Kasul and I got no rank nor titles, but at least we were given to understand that no job was too trivial, nor too dangerous, for the Crystal Braves to completely foul up, requiring our immediate support.

Since we are now on Patch 2.4 and close to the end of the pre-Heavensward storyline, it became necessary to start preparations for the expansion. The fourth nation of Ishgard, long isolated from the rest of the Eorzean nations, had begun to open diplomatic negotiations with the Coerthan families. While unable to see their way clear to offer an alliance until Kasul and I pay $50 for the expansion, they offered at least to join forces against a new threat, the Harriers.

Iceheart. I have a wind-up doll that looks like her.
Iceheart. I have a wind-up doll that looks like her.

The Harriers absolutely loved the idea of the Crystal Braves. The Ishgardians and the Coerthans share some draconic affinities with the Harriers. Harriers will kill them if they have to, but with new Crystal Brave meat available… well, they stood no chance, and so we were called in, as we always are, to save the day.

The Harriers are led by a mysterious woman known only as Iceheart, and are suspected of hiding within a gigantic ice wall that was one result of the sudden, permanent freeze that descended on the land some time ago. Turns out Iceheart and her allies really like dragons. REALLY like dragons. REALLY REALLY like dragons. Their long-dead predecessor, Saint Shiva, had herself martyred by her ice dragon lover so that her soul and his could mingle in their descendants. That bond has weakened, and Iceheart aims to rekindle the bond by repeating the ceremony — or so I understand the plot.

I’m not an idiot. I recognized the name Shiva right away. We’re gonna have to kill her again. Seems Iceheart has stolen a bunch of ice crystals, and this is why they are so gosh-darned rare. Clearly she plans to raise Shiva once again. Shiva isn’t really a primal — she was a real person, and Iceheart’s plan is to resurrect her by using a modified primal summoning. What could possibly go wrong?

But first, we would have to find the secret way in to the ice wall — Snowcloak — and hunt her down.

Such Heroism.
Such Heroism.

We followed the trail of Crystal Brave bodies (how did we become so numerous so quickly?) to a cave where Harriers had been seen; heretofore unknown-to-be-in-the-area Yda leaped out of the shadows to show us the hidden entrance. The rest of the Scions and what remained of the Crystal Braves quickly made themselves scarce and left it to Kasul and I to gather up some random deeps and head into Snowcloak. There, we might find Iceheart…

Snowcloak is a hard-level dungeon with a few cool tricks. The first fight followed King Mog (Extreme) and to some extent Wanderer’s Palace in that we had to keep an eye on the number of debuffs we received while fighting the boss. Nothing too terrible.

Second boss was a Yeti. He was surprisingly weak to snowballs. Problem: no snowballs. Thankfully there were a bunch of rabbits bouncing around, who could become snowballs without much urging. Just get the Yeti to breathe on them. The Yeti MAKES snowballs… and yet is weak to them… When the snowballs get big enough, a quick shove is all it takes to send it into the Yeti, causing him a world of hurt.

Last fight was the legendary wolf, Fenrir. He summons icicles from the roof. Explosive icicles. Three drop at once. Two of them target players with rays as in Qarn, Odin and any number of other fights. The third shields the group from Fenrir’s howl, Garuda-like. We all messed up at least once, but Kasul managed to keep us alive, or at least rez the dead. And that was that.

Iceheart popped up afterward to explain her forbidden attraction to scaly, winged lizards. She then sent us on our way to explain things to the Coerthans and Ishgardians. We ended story night there.

We didn’t know anything about this chapter going in, but we’re pretty sure we’re going to be meeting Shiva next Monday. After that… well, we must be nearing the end of the pre-Heavensward story. I’m still quite far from getting all the Disciple of War jobs to 50. Ninja is in the early 30s; Pugilist is, I think, 26? or 21? Ninja, as a newer class, is extra, not associated with any achievements. I really should be focusing on getting Pugilist to 30, and from there, Monk to 50. I just have not yet connected with the class.

Did you forget me so soon?
Did you forget me so soon?

Who moo? Ramuh.

Moo?
Moo?

What I don’t get is why the sylph primal, Ramuh, is some old human. All the others we’ve seen so far, save King Mog, are the embodiment of primal forces. This guy looks like the Winter Wizard.

Anyway. The first chapter of this new patch jumps right in with the aftermath of the Scions giving refuge to the Domans in Mos Eisley. Seems the Ala Mhigan refugees camped outside Ul’dah feel they should get a homeland as well. The plan, it turns out, is to ship them all to the Carteneau Flats, home to the Frontline PvP arena. Carteneau Flats was ground zero for the Calamity, where the Red Moon touched down on Eorzea and exploded, freeing Bahamut. I enjoy the occasional PvP match in Carteneau, but Kasul vehemently detests PvP. We both wondered (and still do) if we’re going to have to do PvP to finish this module — it IS the one where the Frontline PvP was first introduced.

I’m more hoping that we get to see the zone outside of its PvP context. There’s a lot of ruins in there that never really get used during PvP.

That plot continued on just long enough to expose the Lalafel traitor within Ul’dah’s ruling Syndicate. We were called away then to deal with the rising of a new threat. Renegade sylphs had summoned their primal, Ramuh, in order to keep the Ala Mhigan refugees who’d wandered into the Black Shroud from taking their lands. We Scions had managed to keep the sylphs from summoning Ramuh previously, but clearly this new refugee threat had pushed things past the tipping point.

Since the sylphs aren’t inherently evil, there was still a chance diplomacy could solve this problem. Maybe we could… negotiate with Ramuh!

After some quests which let us hit Thancred a few times (always fun), we reached Ramuh’s summoning point and came face to face with the Lord of Levin. Though angry at first, when he learned of the trust we’d been given by the good sylphs, he relented. He understood, at last, that not every human came to him looking to fight him or to kill his people.

Kasul and I were shocked. NOT having to fight a primal? Diplomacy… working?

Yup. Diplomacy worked. But to seal the deal, continued Ramuh, we would have to fight and kill him.

(insert record scratch sound here).

I really need to go carefully watch this cutscene again, I think. I am not 100% sure how we got from us showing Ramuh the crystal entrusted to us by the good sylph, to having to kill him in order to establish our bona fides. So we joined a duty to kill him. Wiped once because “kill the adds” was an unfamiliar concept to some people apparently. Kasul went in as dps instead of healing because I queued us up just a little too quickly; I was a paladin, as usual, but was pretty useless as offtank. Not really a lot for the offtank to do, aside from suggesting people kill the adds on our second foray.

Ramuh thanked us afterward, as he dissipated, for showing him that we had the strength not to kill… or something… I was still a little confused. I thought we WEREN’T going to fight? The after-fight gave us a glimpse of the Ascian council becoming concerned that we mortals were getting entirely too comfortable killing primals. Creepy elf Urianger confirmed that our primal kills had given the Scions enough information to give some hope that the Ascians could be trapped, bodiless, forever, in the timeless realm between life and death.

We stopped the story there. Kasul went on to reach level 50 leather worker, and I went on to reach level 50 bard. I immediately queued up for a “Main Scenario” run. I usually do this as dragoon, but bard worked out well. The running song was a big help on the huge Castrum Meridianum map, the magic resist debuff song a decent boost on some of the larger fights (and the rain of arrows AE no slouch either). I was able to keep the missile loaders pretty safe from my perch at the last fight, and… pretty darn easy mode, all things said. I still appreciate the sheer physicality of the dragoon, though. And, right up there fighting with the tanks, people remember you and give you commendations. I was arguably more help to the raid as a bard, but nobody noticed.

The storyline quests had been pretty free with high level jewelry and weapons; combined with the ilevel 90 gear from the bard quest, and the ilevel 120 bp I had previously bought because I was capped on tomes, I didn’t need to immediately buy any new gear to make the bard pre-Heavensward endgame ready.

Kasul figures we have about a patch and a half of content before we start on Heavensward. I’m still hoping to get Ninja and Monk to 50 to get that achievement before we go. Kasul will have gotten the corresponding one for the Disciples of Magic, and probably the one for gathering professions as well.

Still loving the story. I am really going to have to unlock the Bahamut’s Coils, though — there’s weapon stuff I need there.

Leviathan!

Looking for a snack...
Looking for a snack…

What with vacations and connection issues and what-not, Kasul and I haven’t been able to get together for a decent story night for quite awhile. But we moved Heaven and Earth and got Skype going and hey, there we were, ready to save the world… again…

But only after having to do a bunch of trivial tasks… again. Us world-savers were asked to play hide-and-seek with some children, move a crate which had had its contents settling after packing, and gag some old dude with a perfume-soaked rag so he could be bundled off to Mos Eisley. Leastways, that’s how I remember it.

Kasul are in a free company, Valiant Exiles. They’re an okay bunch. I was randomly invited, but the guy who sent the random invitation was right in front of me. I said hello, he said hello, and, satisfied he was an actual player, I accepted. That stopped the random free company invites — my main goal. Since then, though, they’ve gotten a guild hall, in which I have a room which I THOUGHT WAS PRIVATE, but apparently I was wrong about that. I discovered just how wrong I was when a guildie followed me into my room. The guildmaster had warned me when I rented the room that no dogs or cats were allowed, and my little coeurl minion was begging for food…

Anyway. Occasionally the guild leaders gather everyone up for a quick extreme-level trial or a raid or something. I did Garuda (Extreme) with them once, which was a whole bunch of fun. I went as a Dragoon because a) dragoons look cool, and b) DPS jobs usually don’t require much finesse. Do as much damage as possible and stay out of the fire. The traditional job of the MMO damage class. They often get together for Leviathan (Extreme), but to go with the guild on this, Kasul and I would first have to unlock Leviathan (Hard). Just a few more quests into the story, where the Sahagin fish people, having seen the wild success the goblins, Ixali and Amal’jin had summoning their primals, decide to enforce their own claims to the sea by summoning the serpent Leviathan.

Admiral Merl is a badass.
Admiral Merlwyb is having a bad day.

Some words about Admiral Merlwyb (pronounced Merl-wyeb, FYI). She’s always been pretty intense, but… I reached level 50 armorsmith a few days ago. The final test was to create some mythral armor to decide if the best armorer in the guild was me, or this other guy who was carrying along some really serious hate toward adventurer-crafters. So for this final test, she dressed some guards in the armor we made and shot them both. My entry won, which was a blow struck for whichever adventurer had actually crafted the armor, since I’d just bought it off the market board. I could have made it myself, but I was flunking the sub-combines left and right. I eventually decided to just skip to the thrilling conclusion. Go, Adventurers!

Adventurers in FFXIV, you see, are seen as a totally separate form of life as compared to NPCs who actually come from somewhere and are connected with the real world, as it exists in game. Just one of the meta-game elements that run through the game, Log Horizon-style. Anyway, many NPCs resist having adventurers encroach upon their personal little fiefdoms. Generally the faction leaders look to adventurers to shore up their own failings, re: the NPCs themselves being so entirely incompetent that seemingly every challenge, no matter how trivial (moving, for instance, a crate from one side of a plaza to the other) is beyond them.

Fighting a godlike primal is well past their capabilities. Previous times, they had to rely upon the fabled Company of Heroes (last seen running a restaurant in Costa del Sol. They were the ones who had to clean up the mess that resulted when FFXIV didn’t have enough subscribers the first time around. (Yes, FFXIV’s lack of subs resulted in an in-game Calamity.) But they are only able to make buffets for tourists now, and are more or less useless.

Oops.
Oops.

After we’d smuggled the refugee Domans (Garlean humans lead by a masked Au Ra rogue, for some reason) to Mos Eisley, we were summoned to meet the Admiral, who suggested we might want to check out suspicious Sahagin activity. Kasul and I took along useless Miquo’te conjurer Y’shtola (pronounced Yashutola, not Eeshtola, as I’d thought) to investigate. The useless (seeing a pattern, here?) scouts sent ahead of us were mostly dead to Sahagin patrols in league with officially unsanctioned pirates, both living and otherwise. We (Kasul and I, not Y’shtola, who largely hid behind rocks and stuff, doing nothing) fought our way to the docks, where the Sahagin leader was summoning Leviathan. Well, Admiral Merl came right up and shot him. Turned out that death was no longer the end for the Sahagin, as he just possessed one of his minions.

So the Admiral shot all of them. Not so fast! yelled the disembodied soul of the Sahagin, What is dead can never die! … is what I imagine the soul would have continued to shout (somehow), except that Leviathan ate him just then.

Turns out that some Ascian (bad guys) had gifted the Sahagin with immortality via the Echo, the exact same mechanism that adventurers use to recover from sudden extreme disembodiment (ie, death). Yes — the Ascians gave the Sahagin the in-game mechanism of resurrection only available to players. Another meta-game moment. If you die during a trial in game, for instance, your Echo power has you revive with additional strength. This implies that when we die, in game, our disembodied soul takes over the closest nameless NPC, who is immediately transformed into our clone.

You can see why rank-and-file NPCs are nervous about associating with adventurers.

Y'shtola is not about to heal me.
Y’shtola is not about to heal me.

The Admiral was advised that the only possible way to defeat Leviathan at this point was to lash together two ships, cover them with a single deck, and tow that out to where Leviathan sat, working up a tidal wave with which to wipe Limsa Lominsa off the map. The captains of the two ships chosen objected, until the Admiral offered to let them come along for the ride. Minds were quickly changed.

Nope, this was going to have to be an adventurer deal. And thus Kasul and I set sail on this makeshift barge at full speed, because the Admiral wanted to water ski. Err, wanted us to save her city.

The other tank and I chose sides, and I tanked the tail. That was pretty much my involvement with the fight. I’m going to have to do it again as dragoon (or bard, I am close to 50 on bard) so I can actually experience the fight. There are fights that are exciting for tanks, but this was not one of them. Garuda is pretty fun for tanks. Last time I did Garuda (Hard), someone accused both us tanks of being incompetent because he had aggro. Which IS a tank failure, but it’s the kind of thing that happens. You get next to the tank and they taunt it off. Tanks can’t be running to save you in Garuda. My job that day was to offtank the two adds and keep them away from Garuda while somehow not dying. Little busy here. Though I DID have good aggro, so probably I was just guilty by association since I didn’t drop my offtanking duties and go save some random deeps from their overnuking.

So, that was Leviathan. We headed back to Creepy the Elf in Waking Sands to get the news that all had been for nothing as Leviathan had instantly come back, even more dangerous than before, certainly because of the immortal Sahagin Echo she had swallowed. And that was Leviathan (Extreme) unlocked.

Long-time readers may have noticed that my character is no longer a Hyur Highlander. I swear I thought I was drinking an X-Potion… but it’s okay, everything’s okay, just as long as nobody drags some yarn in front of me.

The Leviathan encounter ended Patch 2.2. Three more patches to go until Heavensward.

Oh, by the way — seems the NPCs themselves are beginning to wonder if maybe the beastmen have a point about needing primals to fight back against human encroachment of their lands from all sides. (And, I was surprised to find out that, in game, all the different player races are considered to be subraces of humanity). Y’shtola made this argument unsuccessfully to the Admiral, with Yugiri listening from hiding. I’m unsure if Yugiri feels that her Au Ra people would be considered to be beastmen by the Admiral, and this is perhaps why she remains masked. Though the horns and scaled tail would seem to give her away nonetheless.

I don’t really have any idea what happens to the story past this point. I thought we would have opened up the Bahamut Coil dungeons by now. Maybe that’s coming soon, or maybe that’s some extra thing we have to do, just as opening the Crystal Tower seemed to be. I haven’t yet raided that, but I did unlock at least one level of it. I guess we’ll find out Monday.

The Odd Kupo!

King for a Day
King for a Day

We’re used to being challenged on our FFXIV story nights, but it sure didn’t look like any sort of challenge was in the cards last night. We did start out with Ifrit (Hard), but essentially the same encounter as the normal Ifrit with double the players just wasn’t memorable. Maybe before FFXIV started shoveling great gear at new players, and people had to gear up… but with ilevel 115 gear cheap in the auction house and ilevel 120 gear easily obtainable via poetic tomestones, most of the fights that included gear checks are pretty trivial — Ifrit included.

The story continued with the preparations to move the Scions of the Seventh Dawn from Vespers Bay to Mos Eisley. It’s not really Mos Eisley. I just can’t remember the real name of the place because “IT’S A WRETCHED HIVE OF SCUM AND VILLAINY AND THE TOMESTOME ARMOR VENDOR” is stuck in my head.

Since we’ve just saved the world from the Garlean Empire and given the (omg they’re baaaaaack) Ascians a bloody nose, obviously what we need to do next is some trivial jobs like sweep a floor and clean up a spill on aisle three and ask someone if they’d like fries with that. Sure, I know you have to reset the action somewhat so you have something to build up to once more, but why can’t they at least be more imaginative about it? Ultima Weapon could have erased everyone’s knowledge of the Scions that beat it. Odin could have done it. Something.

Instead, we do some fetch quests, do some easy guildhests, run through Qarn in normal mode (we did it unsynced with a guildie)… and eventually the story comes around to something new.

The Moogles have summoned a not-really-a-primal, King Mog, who (in the old tales) held the rope that let the Moogles climb down from heaven to Eorzea. That’s a problem. We Eorzeans like our gods dead. Deicide is literally the prime mission of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn.

While waiting for the mission to start, Kasul and I unlocked Garuda (Hard), because killing the Moogle god would just be a good start. We need to be killing the Ixali god ASAP, too. Seems the Ixali are feeling that the player races are getting a little too powerful, and we just can’t be sharing the planet with any sort of empowered beast-folk. They figure they need Garuda back just to have any sort of independent existence. We need to teach them the error of their ways by killing their god.

I’m not entirely sure that we’re the good guys, here.

Pretty much as soon as we unlock Garuda (Hard), the King Mog encounter pops, and in we go.

We immediately see that the vast majority of the people in the raid are unsynced 50s, just as are Kasul and me. Usually I can chip up with the astonishing revelation that I’ve never done this content before and the other people will give advice, but here, most everyone admitted that they, too, had never been here before. Well, I did have (as I usually do) the walkthrough up on the other monitor, and there were a couple people who HAD done it, but that wasn’t enough.

I got voted to be main tank, though, so I eventually realized I had enough spare time to be marking the moogles (who have to be killed in some sort of order) for focus fire. That helped, the two healers who would mutually raise each other helped, and on our third try we succeeded in destroying the only hope of the Moogle people and congratulating the good Moogles who knelt and allowed the boots of the Eorzean people to rest gently on their head balloons.

I’m REALLY unsure we’re the good guys.