DDO: Mists of Ravenloft completed!

Due to our regular DDO playgroup taking up most of my attention in that MMO, it’s been a very long time since I played my solo Artificer, who I last stranded somewhere toward the end of Ravenloft. However, I’ve been meaning to check back in with her, and since I’m twiddling my thumbs waiting for LOTRO’s progression server to unlock, I figured this was as good a time as any to get another mission in!

I picked up on the druid chain I had last left, although getting to the instance in question required a long trip through the wilderness. It was not pretty, as I kept getting ganked by all of the mobs, especially these flameskulls that would whittle me down from 200 to zero hit points in seconds. I tried to rez and run, but they dogged my every step. Even Mr. Devil up there wanted to get in on the Syp corpse camp action.

Sheesh, man. Time and polygons have not been kind to you. Also, you need a new dental plan.

I won’t lie: This quest thrashed me on normal difficulty. Oh, I was more or less fine until the final boss encounter, when I got trapped inside this circle with gobs of spellcasters and other unsavory druid types. That led to a quick death and some stern reevaluation.

It’d been a while since I last played this character, so I went back and leveled up, spent action points, got a hireling, equipped an elemental protection spell, the works. I thought maybe I had just been rusty, but no, even with all of that going and the cobwebs from my finger memory blowing away, I lasted mere seconds in the final battle. This meant either defeat or a try again on an easier difficulty. BABY DIFFICULTY.

At least I got it done. And I managed to redeem myself with a following overland trip and a blast through normal mode of Raven’s Bane. Perhaps I just needed to shake off the rust and get back into the groove of playing my Artificer, but I didn’t have any problems with this one at all. And I genuinely enjoyed going through this mission, which had me combing through a semi-sunken town full of mist, scarecrows, and wereravens (the latter who were the good guys).

It also had this lady, Mama Strahd. Don’t really know what kind of look she was going for here, but Glamour Shots she is not. I don’t think anyone would pay to use that hairstyle on the DDO store, if it ever showed up.

I was having such a good time, in fact, that I kept on rolling into the third quest of the day — and what turned out to be the final one of Mists of Ravenloft. The Abbey is a surprisingly easy romp through a small monastery. It’s almost downright tame compared to some of the sights and stories I’ve witnessed in this expansion, although the “Bride of Frankenstein” was a neat touch.

The final fight here against Strahd was pretty strange, to tell you the truth. While the Abbey was well done, this fight takes place in a fenced-in lot that looked kind of crude, like something from EverQuest circa 2003 or something. And Strahd went down easy, as long as I got him into the holy pool of water and turned on my machine gun bolts.

So with Mists of Ravenloft finished, what next? I quite like the idea of getting back into this solo character, and after looking over my adventure log, I see that I’ve missed a lot of lower level quests. Thus, the next order of business is to tidy things up and complete all of the quests from level 1 to 12!

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DDO: We’re kind of a big deal

“Hey guys,” I said, “better take a screenshot, because you’ll never see giant spiders in an MMO ever again!”

I am so full of it.

This past week’s DDO adventures took us to a relatively brand-new module for many of us — last year’s White Plume Mountain pack. We figured that it’d be a nice change of pace from doing ages-old content, especially since a lot of it was at level 6 or so. So we jacked up the difficulty levels and off we went.

Our first quest, Kind of a Big Deal, took us through a rather ugly looking canyon (seriously, it was as chunky and ill-designed as an old-school EverQuest zone) and into a cave where many enemies were oversized. The word of the day was “gargantuan,” which the narrator used a couple times before the writers found a thesaurus and added some variety.

Traps were pretty ornery in this cave, with some rooms filled to the brim with dart-spitting traps that couldn’t be turned off. So for the most part we swam under them. Felt like a cheese move, but hey, it worked.

In a hilarious twist, toward the end of the quest we were turned into GARGANTUAN versions of ourselves, which sent the kobolds into a skittering panic. Suddenly the level design of the cave made a lot more sense, especially with the extra large corridors and oversized doors.

Next up was Memory Lapse, where we went into the Memory Library of a wizard in order to help him prepare a speech. It’s the sort of bizarre weird activity that infects a lot of DDO, because D&D has a lot of oddball quests like this. If only the RPG industry that drew off of it had half this much fun.

One room was chock-full of math-related puns, as evidenced above. A dad must’ve designed it.

My favorite part was getting to ride an oversized book like an amusement park ride across a room. Then, the problems began. About 10 seconds after I took this picture, some weird critters two-shotted me with lightning bolts. Once I, the healer, was down, we were in trouble — more so because we didn’t know this dungeon very well and weren’t sure where the rez shrine was.

Before you knew it, members were dropping left and right, thanks to the high difficulty level of the instance and a lack of heals. We dead people did try to run for the rez shrine — and actually managed to get there with about one or two seconds on our “out of bounds” clock remaining. Unfortunately, the room was full of bad guys, and one or two people resurrecting with minimal health are destined for a bad end in that situation.

At least being dead gives you an opportunity to roam about taking pictures in mostly black-and-white. This manticore is one of the freakier creatures to inhabit DDO’s bestiary.

With a full wipe underway and no time left on the real-world clock, we had to call it at that point. Hopefully next week we’ll clear out all of the tales from this pack!

DDO: When the pirates upped their game

Guys, I know we all love loot at the end of a good D&D campaign, but even I have to admit that this might be ridiculous. Oh, I’m going to loot it all anyway, but still…

So there’s this thing that happens in DDO around level 10 or so when the game stops lobbing softballs at you and starts getting mean and tough. Long gone are the days of one-shotting kobolds in sewers and being lightly tickled by dungeon traps.

No, now the game makes even seasoned teams pay attention, because mobs get a whole degree more dangerous and traps can one-shot YOU. Our DDO group’s been working its way through the House D questlines — a first for me — and I’m pretty amazed at how resilient and deadly these pirates are compared to Yarryarr’s crew.

Since all of these quests are in instances, the devs have the luxury of crafting specific set pieces that are more about delivering an experience and a story than letting you free-roam all over the place. In one mission, we had a pirate fortress (of a sort) to assault. It would’ve been really dangerous to hit dead-on, but the astute adventurer might deduce that there’s a secret path behind this waterfall that leads up and down and behind the bad guys.

This demon looks ridiculously happy to see us. Aww, he’s so cute.

In another quest, we explored some steampunk-ish pipe rooms and had, ahem, “fun” with platforming. I mean, who wouldn’t find it fun to be creeping along a pipe, trying not to fall all the way back to the start, when a blast of steam knocks you off anyway?

Seriously, at this exact moment our Rogue says with a straight-face, “Guys, hold up, there might be some traps ahead.” Good to know.

The higher difficulty level has made for a few harrowing healing moments. More than once our entire team got hit by attacks that took everyone’s health down to 1/3 or less, and I’m trying to triage on the fly while I wait for spells to come off cooldown.

Between that, I’m having the time of my life letting my wolf and bear rip up bad guys (my bear seems VERY enthusiastic in this task) while I ping away at the enemy with my heavy repeater. I got a quiver for all of the bolts I’m now collecting, which is an item that I sorely wish I knew existed back with my Artificer.

DDO: Say no to orbs!

When we formed up a start-from-scratch leveling group in Dungeons and Dragons Online, I was probably more enthusiastic about just jumping into it than was prudent. Namely, I didn’t give a lot of consideration and research into my build. I volunteered to be a healer, saw that Druids healed and summoned stuff, and that was that.

But now that we’ve had months of playing together, I’m coming to a deeper understanding of what this class is like. Even while it was a quick decision, I’m very satisfied with it. I get a huge spellbook and lots of handy healing spells at my disposal, and the perk of extra combat pets is a nice one. However, I only recently came to the realization that Druids come with a really crappy set of weapon proficiencies.

Again, it’s not something I would have considered, but in the months of playing and feeling a little annoyed that I’m hanging in the back with a melee weapon, I figured I’d start to do something about it. So the Druid has the same basic set of simple weapon proficiencies as everyone else (club, quarterstaff, darts, etc.) as well as the martial use of scimitars. To me, it’s a weird combo to have a Druid use a curved scimitar, but I suppose it’s a D&D thing. So I’ve been toting around a scimitar and a shield — or more recently, a scimitar and a dorky bowling ball-looking orb. It just doesn’t scream “healer” or “backup support” to me.

As an aside, our group ran a couple of defense missions and during this one, I noted that there was a mob that somehow got impaled all the way at the top of these spikes. We debated how he got up there to begin with and then determined that when the demonic portals opened, spikes flew out of the ground and skewered this poor soul.

Anyway, at the end of our most recent session, we had all reached the point where we were ready to take a level and move up to LEVEL 9. This came with a whole new tier of spells (yay) but more importantly for me, a feat that I used to gain a weapon proficiency that would make me happy with my back row action.

That’s right, baby: My heavy repeating crossbow is back! I can’t tell you how excited this makes me. Thank you, DDO, for giving me the option to build my character to allow a style of play that I enjoy, even if it’s not always the most optimal.

DDO: Screaming idol baby

I know he’s SUPPOSED to be intimidating, but this idol kind of looks like a baby throwing a tantrum if you take the horns coming out of his chin for arms and legs. Maybe it was an ancient god that would throw a fit until he got his own way, I don’t know.

Delara’s Tomb was up for our DDO group run last week, and it went rather smoothly save for one of our party members getting a face full of trap and dying instantly. It’s scary how fast your health can plummet in this game if you’re not careful.

Wait a minute, guys… what am I supposed to do in the fire? Stand in it?

Our group is slightly unconventional in that we don’t have any frontline fighters or tanks. We’re one Sorcerer, two Warlocks, one Artificer, one Rogue, and me, the Druid. So there’s a degree of squishy going on in our makeup, but also a lot of firepower.

If we do our job right, mobs melt before waves of fire and acid and crossbow bolts. But it does keep me on my toes as a healer. Some stretches are pretty boring and only consist of topping people off, but every once in a while the whole party will get hit by something and I’ll be flinging out spells left and right while cursing the global cooldown.

Honestly, I don’t know how this game calculates all of the action that’s happening, especially with the placement and complicated skills. DDO isn’t one of those MMOs that gives everyone a handful of carefully approved, developer balanced abilities. Instead, it will overload you (especially if you’re a spell caster) with dozens of abilities, many of which are highly situational.

I try to keep my abilities focused and tight. I have a pet wolf that does his own thing and a pet falcon that gives me a few stat boosts. I don’t usually think about either. Now that I’m level 8, I’m able to cast Mass Longstrider on the whole team to give us all a running boost, but that’s the extent of my buffing. I let others buff and save my mana for heals. It’s kind of bad if I run out in the middle of combat.

So for heals I have one large chunky heal, one heal-over-time (which is the one I use most of the time), a group heal-over-time (which uses placement and is finicky), and now one enhancement ability that lets me put a protective spell on others to give them a heal if their hit points dip below 50%. Not entirely sure this spell is working, but it’s cheap and I can be proactive with it.

The only difficulty we had in these dungeons was from a lack of group coordination in rushing into new rooms. The one tomb kept throwing up bars about one second after the first person went in, so if you weren’t quick enough, you’d end up on the outside watching everyone die. Or not. Usually not, we were pretty good.

Gear-wise, I got a nice healing necklace — but I won’t be able to equip it until level 9. That’s probably not going to be for a month right now, alas.

DDO: Flying cats and other monstrosities

Any MMO that lets me jump up, grab a ledge, and then hang there like I’m attempting a pull-up in gym class is an MMO that I can get behind.

As our DDO group neared level 8 — actually holding ourselves back from taking the level until everyone was ready — we infiltrated House K and did a trio of quick quests last Sunday evening. Not everyone in our group has all of the content, so we have to work around that and pick missions that all six of us have unlocked.

As we waited to form, I played around with the cosmetic pets in my inventory. While I’m usually a big pet person in MMOs, I haven’t fiddled with them muchly in DDO. Once you collect a pet, it sticks around on a character sheet tab, along with its various “tricks.” These are basically pet emotes, and DDO smartly decided to sell additional tricks to pet owners.

I don’t know where I got it, but the above flying cat is easily one of the freakiest things I’ve ever seen. I already am not much of a cat fan, but add big fleshy wings to it and you’ve got some Syp nightmare fuel.

After a false start that involved one of our numbers insta-dying to a champion mob, we made good progress through the dungeons. Lots and lots of traps in the first one, which is where our halfling Zens comes into play. We tease him that we’re going to tie a rope to his waist and toss him over the traps and then drag his corpse back if he’s unsuccessful.

Hey! There’s an innocent-looking chest in the middle of this room, surrounded by bones and a corpse! Totally fine to touch, right? Should run right up to it. What could go wrong?

While our group wisely avoided the chest, my dumb dog Goober decided to take a shortcut through the middle of the room and trigger bars and some nasty mobs. He ended up costing us the chest in the end, and you know how that blame gets shifted — from the pet to the pet owner. Sorry, guys!

Other than the samey-ness of these early DDO dungeon designs, there wasn’t much noteworthy about these runs. Very straight-forward, and I enjoyed one piece of gear upgrade to my kit.

It did make me think that I should be playing my Artificer again and resume her solo journeys through content yet unexplored. I think I’ll make that one of my December goals.

DDO: Float like a feather fall, sting like a bee

Halloween is over — long live Halloween!

While we were finally done with all of the Night Revels action, some of us in our regular DDO group — I’m not naming names — had some pumpkin heads to toss around. That gave me this nifty giant skull head that I kind of wish I could keep forever. As I just finished playing Grim Fandango, it seemed fitting.

Instead, we got back to our regular dungeon running and looked at our adventure compendium to see that we hadn’t finished up the last two Waterworks quests. Back to the sewers it was!

As we were forming up, I had some time to look over my enhancement trees and try to figure out better ways to specialize as a healer. So I moved some points around and focused on the Season’s Herald tree. This actually netted me a few seasonal-themed buffs, one of which threw on perma-feather fall for my character! This is, hands-down, my favorite buff in the game, allowing me to leap and glide from any height with impunity. And now I didn’t have to worry about casting it or saving my one meager cloak charge for a critical juncture.

I was gonna be jumping off EVERYTHING.

Kobolds really do make for the best enemies at low level. They’re not frightening in the least, and you actually feel a bit bad crushing them. But at least they’re plucky and keep on coming for you! And they always, always have the best quotes.

Doing dungeons with a group means that whenever it comes time for a really nasty trap to be navigated — say an acid-spewing corridor — then we can all sit back and twiddle our thumbs while the rogue swears at us and gets his hair burned off.

Hey! A high jump! This calls for… FEATHER FALL!

*wheeeeeeeeeeeee*

The theme of the night was “inventory and treasure.” Several of us had packed bags that begged for relief, but before we could get back to town, we were throwing away stuff left and right to make room for all of the chests (and mimics) that we were looting.

Finishing up Waterworks meant a couple of very nice quest chain rewards. I ended up pulling out a +1 wisdom hat that will come in very useful for my cause. I also realized that the necklace that I had been wearing since Korthos restored spell points, a talent that I should’ve taken advantage of months ago. Oh well. Nobody ever claimed I was the smartest MMO player!