DDO: Inferno of the Damned

Is something ... missing?

Having spent the last month or so running errands for lazy journalists in the Harbingers of Madness module, we all felt it was time for a little change. Thus we were soon returning to our old haunts (heh heh) in the Necropolis, looking for a little adventure in the Orchards of the Macabre.

I can just imagine what the Stormreach zoning board thought when they got the property proposal for review. “So, you wish to build an orchard along the northern border of the city? Well, I see no reason to object… Hold on. An orchard of the _macabre_?” “Well, yes. Don’t you think apple trees look really scary? I know I do.”

We should totally do this in real life. My apartment complex? My apartment complex will now be known as “The Demesne of the Damned”. My car? “Hellwagon of Oblivion!”. My CAT? “Apocalypse Demonspawn”. It’s like the Stormreach city leadership doesn’t even care any more. They aren’t even trying. “Orchard of the Macabre, sir? Very good sir.” (Sound of rubber stamp hitting parchment). “There you go. Please exit through the Gate of Garrotting and give this deed to the Clerk from the Nether Planes.”

I originally wrote “clerk from the nether regions”, but that might have been misinterpreted, and I imagine the guardians of the Inferno of the Damned feel really sensitive about jokes about their smooth, featureless “nether regions”.

As usual when we first reach a new adventure area, we just wandered about killing creeps and looking for exploration points until we reach something interesting. The dungeon known as the Inferno of the Damned. The first dungeon we’ve done, as far as any of us could recall, with a woman narrator.

The dungeon exists in two planes; the normal plane and the “inferno” plane. We quickly started calling these the “ice and fire dimensions”. Stuff killed in the ice dimension is resurrected in the fire dimension, so each of the four guardians (North, East, South and West) has to be killed in ice and then killed again in fire.

Travel between the dimensions is accomplished by destroying an altar of damnation (to be transported to the Inferno) or by destroying an altar of benediction (to be transported back to the prime material plane). The guardians are summoned by setting torches aflame with fire spells in the normal world, then travelling to the inferno and extinguishing them with ice spells. The quest tracker helpfully tells you in which dimension your next objective is.

The dungeon is mostly the same in both dimensions. Mostly. Some paths are blocked off by fire or ruin, and it is necessary to pop between dimensions frequently in order to progress. This split of the dungeon into parallel realities left behind some quirks like a shrine with the resurrection stone in one dimension and the rest stone in the other.

We stumbled through the maze and eventually managed to kill all the guardians and return to the center room in the normal dimension all at the same time to confront and kill the final boss in what turned out to be a really trivial fight. The gear from Harbingers of Madness makes a real difference. Plus, Gleek has been grinding out the House of Cannith challenge dungeons for even more uber items.

No loot of real note dropped for anyone. I received two parts to a Sigil Frame somewhere along the way; I don’t know what this is for. If past experience is any use, the pieces will be difficult to complete an entire set, and in the end result in gear nobody will need by the time we have done these dungeons enough to get them. I’ve dragged a lot of quest items to the trash just because why bother?

Dinged rank 74 (level 15.3) on slayer rewards during our romp in the Orchards of Madness. By the time we returned to the Necropolis, I was about 3/4 through the rank. Closing in on level 16. The Inferno of the Damned had traps, but I was ready: I’d bid on and won some Clever Goggles of the Eagle +11 — +3 INT and +11 Spot. Not one trap got past me. Hello 15% intuition experience bonus!

The trash mobs in the orchard proper often immediately resurrect as undead, sometimes ghosts which require ghost touch weapons. Additionally, some were skeletons requiring blunt weapons. I was switching weapons madly until I got bored with that, and just stuck with my short swords for trash mobs.

For the final quest reward, I chose +5 DEX boots of tumbling +3. These replaced my +3 DEX boots of jumping +5. I jump more than I tumble, but I need the extra DEX more than both. I also got a +1 Tome of Constitution in a random chest. My first tome! I “ate” it and my hit points jumped from 226 to 261.

My original build prior to any respecs had me at about 90 hit points. By way of comparison. I never even really noticed (nor did anyone else) until a patch had the UI start showing real numbers for health and mana. Everyone was just as shocked as I was at how poorly I compared.

Not blaming the game, just blaming me. Every other modern MMO takes you by the hand on all important choices, leaving you free to screw things up only in things that are easily changed. DDO is happy to let you fail. That might be one of the most notable things ABOUT the game, actually.

DDO: Buying Time

Auraxyllon

None of Team Spode much liked working so hard on In The Flesh and failing it Sunday. We were so close, but we were just out of time. We decided to meet mid-week and try it again — on normal mode — to finish the quest series and get the rewards.

We grouped up on time, went into the instance, summoned the clerics, and thrashed the instance — Yaulthoon for sure, and even the undead beholder that thrashed us again and again a few weeks back. First try. My respec definitely helped, but these instances have raised our level of gear, and they’ve also taught us how better to work as a team. It’s a lesson we desperately need — because there’s no reason we can’t win every instance we come across on normal mode. Losing a normal mode instance means we failed.

Anyway, we didn’t fail tonight. I’m sure we would have succeeded as well on hard mode — and maybe we’ll have that chance. Spode missed talking to an NPC and missed out on the final quest arc reward so it might be worth another run.

I got the armor, though, AND the bow, so that worked out well. Now all us stabby slashy types have the Parasitic Breastplate. Spode thinks this would be a great fashion show. I think it would make a really boring one :)

With the instance out of the way, Gleek wanted to show us some of the Cannith quests. Yeah, okay. But there’s a DRAGON!

That’s all it takes!

There’s also a lot of experience, too. We did the Extraplanar Mining: Buying Time challenge adventure twice. The first time we tried it at level 17; Ulan and I, the lowbies, couldn’t really do much to the mini bosses and so we died. We still got credit for finishing the first challenge of the adventure, though — 8,121 xp. We went in again at level 14, completed it like a boss, met and killed the dragon, got nearly 12K xp. Plus some of the mephit wings we need to buy some of the faction gear, in particular some weapons with decent stats but procs like you wouldn’t believe and pretty substantial elemental resists.

Gleek has been gearing up with this challenge gear and it’s easy to see how much it’s improved his DPS (Sunday when I think he almost killed hard-mode Yaulthoon by himself).

Tonight I learned the drawback of my respec into the Assassin line — we came to the trapped entrance to the undead beholder’s lair, and I hadn’t spotted the trap. Yeebo mentioned that he’d had to keep a lot of +Spot etc gear around. I took some time before we started this evening to make a couple extra hot bars with all the swappable gear I thought I’d need. I hit the hot key for my +10 Spot goggles and the trap popped right up. Disabled it no problem and on we went.

I have some bids in the auction house for +Spot gear that also contains useful stats — +6 clever goggles with a +3 spot, and some +11 goggles for when I just really need to know about traps before Spode the Human Trapfinder gets to them :)

DDO: It’s a Hard Night…

In the Flesh?

All we wanted to do last night was finish The Harbingers of Madness quest for the second time, this time on Hard mode. The quest on Normal mode the week before last had kicked our butts; the Ghost of Pyzjyn slaughtered us, and Yaulthoon the Mind Flayer walloped us several times until we found out his trick.

In the time between then and now, though, I’d respecced into a damage build instead of a fairly useless trap-focused build (though I am still able to find and disarm traps). I wondered if this new focus on damage would let the group take on the hard content we really should be doing when we can. Normal mode is for solo and small groups; we head in with four PCs and two dedicated cleric hirelings. And Gleek and Spode have devoted a lot of time outside of our weekly gaming toward making their characters utterly uber.

Fact is, we rocked at the entire quest… mostly. We did get overwhelmed at one point and had Xorians camping us at the shrine. My hireling cleric kept using the rez stone to come back to life. Where she’d be instantly killed. It was kinda funny. We eventually released, cleared that nest, rested and moved on to Yaulthoon.

The final fight on Hard mode requires a little more care. Normally we run around, attacking monsters and dragging them back to the central spot where Ulan and Gleek have set up their blade barriers and fire walls. That wasn’t working. We worked on our strat, kept close together where possible, and after a few tries finally had Yaulthoon in a good place. I hit my triggered attack and haste buffs and together we sliced the massive mind flayer down to a fraction of his health.

We were all focusing on clearing another wave when the Mind Force blasts started. We’d all forgotten to clear the fleshy nubs at his feet in order to complete his destruction. I had no idea he was so low on health…

It was too late for one last try. We failed the quest, but I nonetheless think we did really well. There’s no reason we can’t do things in hard mode, once we know the encounter.

DDO: How to gimp your character

Drow in Spaaaaace

My first Dungeons and Dragons character, I had no idea about. She was a dwarf cleric, a Hobbesian cleric — solitary, poor, brutish, nasty and _short_. Healing was more fun when hirelings would do it, so I picked up a fighter level and made her into a melee cleric. I put points into whatever stats seemed good at the time. I had fun, but she was a horrid healer. No idea what I was doing.

When we all restarted, we decided to keep letting hirelings be our main healer, and I switched to rogue. Again, I just put points — wherever. Took a level of fighter. I had fewer hit points than anyone, my dps was crappy, couldn’t find traps well. I decided I was too stupid to level my character on my own, so I bought a +1 Lesser Heart of Wood (the +1 to remove the fighter level) and started over as a Rogue on the Mechanic Path — a trap disarmer. Every time I went to the trainer to level, I’d just click “stay the course!” and the trainer would make all my choices for me.

A LITTLE better, but I still had fewer hit points than anyone, I couldn’t hit monsters unless they were below my level, was usually killed in the first AE in boss battles. I proved to myself for the third time that I am too stupid to level a character in DDO on my own.

This weekend I went to the DDO forums, looked for a Drow Two Weapon Fighting Rogue build, bought a Lesser Heart of Wood (each time with real cash, of course, no free respecs in DDO) and followed the plan to the letter.

I now have comparable hit points to everyone else and did well on the dungeon score cards as we re-did the first three quests in the Harbingers of Madness line — on hard mode. I actually was able to damage a boss. Wow. Also it turns out my previous build didn’t have Two Weapon Fighting. So I was only hitting with my main hand weapon. I am slightly less able to find traps, but the build should keep me able to do that job, as long as I augment my character with Tomes of Stats that permanently raise your characteristics.

In DDO, it is required that you “eat” tomes to raise your stats. There’s a sale now on a Tome that will raise ALL stats three points — but it costs $35 and I just don’t think it’s worth it.

So anyway. I am too stupid to build my own character in DDO. I liked, in Rift, that I could experiment and try new things. DDO’s F2P model requires that they get money from you however they can, and thus, players cannot experiment with different builds, and like me can end up with a horribly gimped character.

Team Spode has carried me for months, and I just felt sick at how little I contributed to the group. On normal mode dungeons, traps rarely hit hard, so the group would run straight through them to get to the next fight while I’d hang back disarming the traps nobody stopped for. Why should they? But since I couldn’t fight or buff or do anything else useful, I could at least get the group 15% experience bonus for removing traps.

The only other game that has made me feel this stupid is EVE Online.

If you’ve played DDO, it’s likely you’re better at it than I am. But maybe you see some of yourself in my mistakes. Don’t trust the game to lead you on to a good path. Don’t trust yourself to figure out the best option. Just let someone else drive the car.

For those who asked, this is the build I used to remake my Drow rogue: Drow TWF Rogue Build.