EQ2: Icy Keep: Retribution

There's "snow" time like raid time!
There’s “snow” time like raid time!

Why has Tipa’s storage room been transformed into a skating rink? Because she went on a raid. Yup, after many years, my ex-raiding troub who was abandoned when I quit the raiding life was back in raid chat once more. Sure, it wasn’t current content, and Tipa is not yet max level or AA, but all they really needed for the raid were warm bodies… or more accurately, warm _hands_.

Tipa finished the Withering Lands quest arc, still somewhat short of the magic level 92 that grants access to Chains of Eternity and Scars of the Awakened, the two current paths to level 95. With a good half level to go, I did a quick Chelsith run — _sans_ mercenary so I’d get the full xp — and then I ran out the xp potion in Sebilis. There were surprisingly few people in Sebilis, for a weekend. The entire lower Sebilis was mine for as long as I wanted it. I had a chance to finish a few quests I’d had sitting in the quest journal since 2007. Chasing some nameds I saw on track, I clashed with another soloer in upper Sebilis, but I got what I came for — level 92.

Vrrrewx
Vrrrewx

I wasn’t really eager to start on Chains of Eternity _or_ Scars of the Awakened. My berserker, Scatter, is so stupidly overpowered for all the solo content in both areas that I’ve seen all of both that I want to see. Nonetheless, I started on the CoE access because Tipa’s got to get to 95 somehow. She’s aided somewhat by all the level 92 gear Scatter’s been farming for the past several months, which instantly boosted her to > 42K health when she leveled. Hence the change from the comfortable clothing she was wearing to the bad-ass outfit she now wears. Also, note the flamey sword she wields? That’s a Soulfire blade — _another_ quest finally finished, with help from a couple guildies. Hilariously, none of the Soulfire quest rewards have scout stats, since the stat readjustment awhile back made agility and stamina the only important stats for scouts. None of the scout-ready rewards had any agility at all. INT or STR, sure. No AGI.

The Withered Lands dragon
The Withered Lands dragon

Anyway, was starting on the CoE access, and reading on 80-89 chat where someone was trying to get a raid together to finish Icy Keep: Retribution. This is the raid at the end of the Frostfell winter content, taking players through a variant of Permafrost where you are to rescue a baby dragon from evil forces seeking to control it. The solo and heroic versions end with the dragon recaptured; the story finishes in this raid. Since this raid cannot be soloed, and requires at least six actual real players to complete, nobody does it anymore. The raid leader had been trying to complete the achievement for years. He was so desperate that even a level 92 dirge would be welcome.

All I would have to do was pull a switch at the right time.

That worked out pretty well. He shared the quest for the warm gloves necessary to allow the switch pulling, though I missed out on the larger quest through the zone itself. We worked through several bosses with a couple wipes as we learned the encounters, and our lack of any sort of heals (the healers had gone link dead, which is how there came to be spots opened up for Hamal and I) wasn’t a real disadvantage — until we met Vrrewx once more, and watched him transform from a cute baby dragon to a vicious killer intent on eating halflings, and anyone else.

This was not a fight that worked well without healing. I switched from dirge to inquisitor, and a kitty warden who’d gone link dead suddenly returned. With two healers, it was over fairly quickly. I combined the Epic E’ci tokens won both by Tipa and Dera and bought a lot of ice-themed stuff for Tipa’s inn room. And that’s how her storage room became Zamboni Land.

For those about to die...
For those about to die…

I was going to catch up with DCUO and Neverwinter in this same post, but I’ve rambled on too long about EQ2 for that. I’ll have to post about THOSE adventures another time.

EQ2: The Sad Fate of Tserrina Syl’Tor

This isn't how it went....
This isn’t how it went….

We had a bunch of people hanging out in the Lunar Wolves guild hall last night. We’ve been threatening to, someday, form a group and go DO something for months now, but with everyone on their own real life schedules and our vastly differing levels of gear and skill, we just never seem to be on the same page at the same time.

But the desire was there, and soon enough we found ourselves at the bottom of the Tower of Frozen Shadow in the Great Divide. We were going to take on the Vampire Queen herself, Tserrina Syl’Tor. I was on my mage, and… wait… no… just had an EverQuest flashback. I used to camp Tserrina with my mage again and again, trying to get her robe. Even though Tsuki has a Plane of Fire robe, I’ve just always wanted to wear Tserrina’s.

And it’s more a flash-forward than a flashback, since I logged in to EverQuest this morning to take her on. Having not played an EQ1 mage for five years or more, it was a learning experience. There were deaths. Some of them, mine.

She didn’t drop the robe. But, we were talking about EverQuest II.

An Accursed Wedding
An Accursed Wedding

With most everyone possessing several capable alts, it took awhile before we found a combo that worked for everyone. I volunteered to heal the instance with my inquisitor. Ejay was barding, Treadmill tanked with his pally, Weej was on his swashbuckler, Malforia on his necro, and Hamal being stabby with his assassin.

We didn’t really expect the tower to be any real danger, but it was worth the trip to finish some quests, get some more gnomeskin for our wardrobes, and just have some fun.

The wedding was wonderfully done. Oh, wait. Backing up.

At some point during the lower floors, Tread, the tank, succumbed to exhaustion and went to bed. Nobody else wanted to play tank, so I offered to switch to Scatter, my crap geared berserker, and we would use a mercenary for healing. Healing is pretty easy when you’re in a good group, but tanking — for a good group — is incredibly challenging.

Nonetheless, this isn’t the hardest zone in the world, and we worked up to the wedding without too much trouble. Now, the wedding back in the original ToFS was just a wedding being endlessly replayed by the hapless wedding party and guests for centuries for the amusement of their vampire masters.

The story is a little different in the EverQuest 2 version. In this one, the undead wedding is interrupted by the vampire queen Tserrina Syl’Tor who is continually angered by this wedding while her love goes unrequited. Her love, Mayong Mistmoore, soon shows up to banish Tserrina once more to the top of the tower.

Saved by the Dain
Saved by the Dain

After the wedding were a couple floors of topsy-turvy where we fought vampire nobility and collected mirror shards. We placed them in a particular way at the very top of the tower, where they opened the portal to Tserrina’s lair. She is a two group fight, and this is usually where tower runs end.

Not this night. With a crap geared tank and an NPC healer, we decided to give it a shot. The merc died midway through our run. Scatter has a lot of self-heals and death saves, so I could hold Tserrina and her advisor at bay while Malforia rezzed the dead. The end of the fight, though, has a fully-healed, invulnerable Tserrina and there was nothing we could do but to wipe and try again.

Someone took a cheat peek at the wiki for the fight. Turned out we were doing everything pretty much as it should happen, except that the missing Dain, whom Tserrina has imprisoned in her tower with her for some reason (probably explained through the Coldain Ring quest) would take care of the vampire queen if we’d just bring her close to him at the correct time.

We replayed the scenario, except without so many deaths. I figured out when annoying adds were going to pop and managed to gather those before the dying started. The healer merc stayed alive, and when the advisor was about to aggro again, we dragged him to the Dain and killed the advisor at the dwarf king’s feet. A furious and fully-healed Tserrina swooped in to finish us off, but was instead trapped by the Dain’s power.

All that was left was to loot and gate back to the guild hall… and have a little chat with the mender.

There’s so much older content in the game that is just every bit as much fun as the day it was released; we’ve seen that in our Emerald Halls run and last night’s Frozen Shadow adventures. When you’re with friends, almost anything is fun.

EQ2: Wuoshi Must Die

Can you find the tank in this picture?
Can you find the tank in this picture?

The real slap in the face came when I won a Fae Wing Cloak. How is this even a THING? I suppose I should weep for all my unwinged brothers and sisters who now have to walk on unfamiliar ground because their wings have been turned into outerwear, but for me, a Fae, to wear one… that’s like wearing human leather boots with babyskin gloves.

Afterward, I respectfully declined lottoing any other Fae Wing Cloaks.

We were in the Emerald Halls for several reasons. First, to pick up a unique appearance weapon for Hamal. Second, for the nostalgic fun of duoing an annoying raid that used to take several nights, back in the day. And third, because Wuoshi just really, really wanted to die.

I’d forgotten everything I ever knew about the raid; even which guild I was in when we did this raid. (A look through the archives of this blog reveals our first kill was in December of 2007, and the guild was Eternal Chaos on the Befallen server). A lot of the mobs in Emerald Halls stun, leading to a few fights were we could only watch helplessly as our hit points dropped to zero. We broke off the first night after making little headway against the Farstrider Unicorn, whose adds kept us helpless.

Throughout the next day we texted strat ideas back and forth, got back in game and Hamal offtanked the stun adds while I whittled down the unicorn. Things broke free toward the end, but we managed to get the win and to go on to finish clearing the second floor.

Wolves and Debauchery
Wolves and Debauchery

Third day was the third floor, and we got a little help from members of the Debauchery guild, whom I’d just helped click statues for the Assassin epic. We all chrono’d down to level 80 and headed in to kill the dragon.

But first, we’d have to clear the level of everything EXCEPT the dragon, without aggroing the dragon. We’d already lost the chance to clear out some of the lesser trash by not having a mage to accept the challenge fight at the beginning of the level. We hadn’t had a player priest for the first level; Hamal easily won the scout challenge for the second level, but the problem with duoing raids is, when a specific class is needed, probably that’s not going to happen.

After a couple of accidental aggroing of Wuoshi that summoned every mob on the third floor to kill us, we became VERY paranoid and respectful of the creature. And oh my god, there’s a bunch of trash up there. I remembered why nobody liked this raid very much.

When we’d killed every other mob, we pulled Wuoshi to the island in the middle of the zone. I vaguely remembered us kiting her around that central pillar. And when she popped two adds, I vaguely also remembered that we used to offtank those somewhere far away while the rest of the raid killed the dragon. When I got teleported into a river, I had nothing. I didn’t remember that at all. But I was a troubadour then, and my actual connection with raid mechanics was minimal at best. I was there to make mages look good and that was pretty much that.

I had solid aggro, though, thanks to some recent shuffling around of abilities such that the super aggro ability, Adrenaline, was way more available. With that running, it is impossible for any non-fighter to pull aggro from something I want paying attention to me.

Wuoshi Whacker!
Wuoshi Whacker!

We were all pretty pumped about the kill. Raiding this old stuff is FUN. No longer require a full raid, there’s not the endless cycle of death and discovery that comes with doing raids at level, it’s raiding with all the frustrating bits removed. I know there’s people out there who could solo the zone in three pulls, fifteen minutes tops, but speed and loot was never the real goal here.

It was always and ever about having fun with friends — that’s the hidden heart to any MMO. Grouping up with friends and going off to kill a dragon is what keeps me logging in, running solo instances again and again so that I am geared well enough to be the tank for whatever anyone chooses to do.

Now that we have a group, we can do a lot of the old school stuff that it’s impossible to do these days. Finish my Soulfire quest. Kill Trakanon. Hamal mentioned the Djinn Master. Soloing these things is pointless, but chrono-ing down, grouping up, working on strat and moving in for the kill — this is the stuff from which stories and memories are made.

Sure, I’d love to work on current content, too. Who knows? That could be a thing that happens someday.

EQ2: Scars of the Awakened: Part 4, The Completening

The Field Marshal and I go a-hunting
The Field Marshal and I go a-hunting

I really have finished the Scars of the Awakened storyline, all the tradeskill quests, all the adventure quests, gotten the titles, loot and achievements and picked up a couple upgrades from my innumerable trips through the Siren’s Grotto solo adventures. I’m going to try and describe the zone’s story, as I’ve come to understand it.

Velious was the place where the planet-sized mother of all dragons, Veeshan, clawed Norrath to claim it as her own. The Great Divide, Wakening Lands and Cobalt Scar were all wounds left by her monstrous claws. She left her draconic brood to grow and thrive on Norrath and then went to the Plane of Sky where, after many centuries, her long-imprisoned descendant Kerafrym the Sleeper, found her, killed her, and started his war against the dragon faithful that united the warring Claws of Veeshan (CoV) and the Ring of Scale (RoS) against the Sleeper’s faction, the Awakened.

In EverQuest 2’s timeline, the Awakened have recently rampaged through the CoV city of Skyshrine. Skyshrine’s king, Yelinak, has fled and claimed sanctuary in the dwarf city of Thurgadin. Having left Awakened forces behind to hold Skyshrine, the dragon rebels moved on to Cobalt Scar, the source of an immense, evil draconic force.

The Combine empire, forced back to Norrath from their home on Luclin after Kerafrym destroyed that moon in his rage, has forged a path through Velious from the Great Divide through the Withering Lands and over the protected sides of the immense plateau that the CoV dragons made of Skyshrine and its surroundings to save them from the Awakened (a trick that didn’t work at all, clearly). With the path open, the Combine forces discover that their worst fears were realized; Kerafrym is establishing a beachhead on the Skyshrine plateau from which to conquer the lower world. The Othmir who were stranded in Velious when the plateau was raised entered Cobalt Scar with the Combine, but ran off to find their long-lost brethren without waiting for the Combine to clear the way, and have not been heard from since.

That’s where we players come in.

Kelorek'Dar
Kelorek’Dar

The Awakened Forces

The Awakened are based in the Drakelands in the west of Cobalt Scar. They are led by Kelorek’Dar, an epicx2 whose position is marked in the tactical map the Grand Marshall is examining in the main Combine camp at Scarstone. (It was by looking at the map that I knew where to find the drake lord). SOE loves anagrams, and Kelorek’Dar’s name re-arranges to Drake — something. Klore? I dunno. They need to wipe out the Combine forces in order to continue their assault on Norrath.

The Fina’s Retreat Othmir

Most of the Othmir that accompanied the Combine forces from the Great Divide are stranded on a large rock down toward the beach from the Combine supply camp. They are penned in on all sides by the walrus-like Ulthork, some of whom are insane, and all of which are hostile. The players here will fight the Ulthork and help Osh, the Othmir Speaker, connect with their god, Prexus, the god’s avatar, Lodizal, and with the Othmir left behind in Great Divide and the Eastern Wastes.

The Undead Othmir Camp

The remaining Great Divide Othmir continued searching for their lost cousins, and found they had all been killed and re-animated as undead. With the help of Osh, the player will discover the ancient evil that lies beneath Cobalt Scar. It is the evil of a powerful, long-dead dragon (that doesn’t correspond to any EQ1 dragon that I remember; the one dragon in Cobalt Scar, way back when, was a water dragon). When disturbed by an inquisitive Othmir High Shaman of old, its evil power killed the all the Othmirs and re-animated them as undead. The player will put the spirit back to rest, but its evil influence will continue to be felt for years.

The Supply Camp

This is the first outpost of the Combine Empire in Cobalt Scar, and is where players will enter the zone until they unlock the travel point in Scarstone. They are in occasional communication with Scarstone, but have lost contact with a camp of Outriders who had opened a path through the forest maze to allow travel between the camp and Scarstone.

The Kelethin Outrider Camp

It’s not clear what happened to the Kelethin Outriders, who apparently were taken from the camp without fight or struggle. The quests I did leave the question up in the air, but hint that the forest itself rose up one night and took them, Huorn-like, to their dooms. The forest spirits and other, normally benevolent, forest entities are violently enraged and have risen up against Scarstone, though this may be because the forest has been partially cleared to build the Scarstone camp. Scarstone is protected against the forest, but the Kelethin Outriders were not able to place their wards in time to prevent their own destruction.

Scarstone

The main Combine Empire camp, the focus of the defense against the drakes, and the direct entrypoint to Cobalt Scar, once unlocked via the adventuring or crafting timelines. Both timelines deal largely with fortifying the camp against drake attack and making sorties into the Drakelands. However, they still have questions about the rise of the undead on the eastern and northern shores, and the mysterious sirens to the northwest.

Howler’s Cove

These undead are the risen remains of sailors whose ships were called to smash themselves on the shoals and reefs by the Darkwater Sirens. They have been re-animated by an evil power emanating from Siren’s Grove.

Fighting mindflayers in the Tavalan Abyss
Fighting mindflayers in the Tavalan Abyss

Siren’s Grotto

Initially asking for help from the Combine forces to save them from the undead, the player finds within the Alluring Embrace instance that the sirens have been capturing and enslaving Combine soldiers. It’s possible but unlikely that the sirens were responsible for the abduction of the Kelethin Outriders, as the ones you can save say they are from the main camp. When the queen of the sirens is defeated, she calls upon the Tavalan mindflayers to grant her sanctuary as she escapes to their lair in the Tavalan Abyss.

If you follow her through the portal to the depths of Darkhollow, you’ll eventually find the Queen in her sanctuary. Defeating her lets you confront the Lord of the Tavalan, whose power of fear and mind-control had corrupted the siren queen.

The adventure timeline ends with you and Field Marshall Vishra entering a special version of the Tavalan Abyss, the Tear in the Grotto, to discover that the source of the queen’s power was a fragment of the necrotic dragonbone that had killed and corrupted the Othmir and raised the undead in Howling Cove.

Scatterfall the Not-a-Fae
Scatterfall the Not-a-Fae

That’s my understanding of the plot behind the new Game Update. This would have been a really slick Adventure Pack back in the day, but now it’s just a free update. The amount of new lore is amazing; it advances the Velious storyline and sets up more stories (a return to the Undershore, maybe?). There are all-new armor sets with new looks and equivalent to the Chains of Eternity sets, the solo zones are first rate, and I look forward to someday seeing the group versions of those zones.

Careful readers of this blog may remember Scatter as a Fae. Well, one day, call it Saturday, I was waiting for my timer to expire so I could re-run the Daily Dreadcutter, and noticed that with the Blessing of Xegony flight power running, my character was being dwarfed… BY A DWARF. Every time I do get into a group, it’s hard for people to keep track of where I am because, too small. Frustrating, especially if you’re a tank.

I looked through my illusion collection and found a wood elf illusion. I dropped my Fae flight power, cast the illusion, and summoned the mount I got from spending the Dungeon Maker marks back when I was powerleveling myself in those, back when that was something you could do.

The Once and Future Fae
The Once and Future Fae

I actually really like the look. Probably not quite enough to pay real money to make it permanent, but there’s something to be said for looking normal once in awhile. I bought some raid boots, and when I ported in to collect them, I was happy to look like a proper tank, with glowing shield and a very cool sword I got from the Tavalan lord, a look sure to inspire any group that would take me as their defender.

I haven’t been sword-and-board with Scatterfall for ages, preferring the slow but astonishingly damaging swings of a greatsword. But, until I can pair my new sword… sec, lemme drop a better picture of it… it’s so swordfishy, the folks in the auction channel wanted to buy it from me….

Swordfish: The Movie: The Game
Swordfish: The Movie: The Game

Anyway, until I can pair my new sword with a comparable sword, I’m using a weighted cazicite shield with the appearance of an aetherplate shield from the CoE timeline. This allows me to use a power from the shield AA line to improve hate and just make me more tank-y. In my Daily Dreadcutter runs, instead of being able to slice down the nameds before I kill the adds (and go dragging them with me), I kill more slowly and the adds are typically dead by the time the nameds are. On the other hand, I take so much less damage that my death prevention trigger spells don’t even fire.

All this is getting me closer and closer to being able to tank for a group. Inching up on 60K health unbuffed, my haste is near the 400 target, and my multi-attack near the 600 target, so getting close. Granted, these are the targets for a melee dps, but I don’t know what the target stats are for a tank yet. Probably should be working on hate and block. But, I do end up soloing 99.9% of the time. And my zerker AAs give me huge boosts to hate and block as it is.

These are the uncertainties that keep me from grouping :P