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.