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!


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!

DDO: More Night Revels

Once more, our Dungeons and Dragons Online group returned to the many quest offerings of the Halloween content. It’s actually pretty impressive to see just how many special missions — nine, in fact — have been added to the crypt. I don’t get why the studio has locked them behind this unnecessary and largely un-fun key gathering mechanic, but oh well, we had enough for four or five runs apiece, and so we went in.

The first one, Eternity Unleashed, had us running around some dragon crypt trying to get to the middle. This involved less combat and more puzzle-solving and stealth. These spinning purple skull heads showed up midway through and kept us on our toes (and looking over our shoulders!) as they whizzed up and down the halls. A couple of hits with those, and we’d be toast.

Grave Work took us the longest, since it was a “kill everything that moves but you’ve got to find them in this giant maze first” type of affair. Someone in our group said that this was a recent addition, since it incorporated some scarecrow enemies and art assets that the Ravenholt expansion introduced. It did look more modern, especially when I was running through a field of long grass/wheat that parted around my character as I passed through.

The minotaur fortress here was pretty disorienting and slightly annoying to comb through, since enemies could be hiding in any nook or cranny. If you were a ranged DPS, you were at a severe advantage.

Then there was the two-room affair of Haverdashed, which was a quick-and-dirty boss fight followed by two lootable chests. We ran this twice. I don’t think I got any good upgrades during this entire night, but I won’t complain about the number of chests that we got in total. Must have been a dozen when all was said and done.

The Snitch and the Lich has my nomination for “Best Quest Name Ever.” By this point of the night I was almost falling asleep — not from boredom, just from an exceedingly long day. So I was blindly following people around, trying to stay awake enough to heal when needed, and generally soaking up the atmosphere.

DDO: We’ve danced with the devil in the pale moonlight

It’s been far longer than we all would have liked, but last weekend our DDO group finally managed to come together to party in a graveyard. The way we’re all carefully trying to stay at the same rate of progress as everyone else means that if one person can’t come to a night, we just don’t do it. Thus, we’ve had a lot of canceled nights over the past month or so.

While we had some ideas of dungeons to run, when we logged in we cast those plans aside in favor of running the Night Revels — DDO’s Halloween content. Hey, I’m down. I haven’t ever seen this, and I have yet to get my Halloween MMO fix yet.

One thing we all noticed the second we logged in were the new visible capes that came with the new update. DDO’s been out for a dozen or so years, and only now has it added cape graphics.

My general feeling on capes can be described as “ehh.” They’re not that appealing to me. For one, almost no MMO has done capes in a realistic, cool-looking way. They always look like your character is wearing a truncated triangle that clips through your stuff. If I have a choice, most often I disable these graphics. And, yes, you can do so here.

While we waited for the group to assemble, I went over to Delara’s Graveyard and attempted the standard instance. I say “attempted,” because it really is meant for groups and before I knew it, this happened:

About 40 or so screaming, moaning skeletons charge at me and laugh as my piddly sword hacked at their ribs.

The minotaur skeletons, with their pawing the ground and ridiculously oversized axes, were my favorites. In any case, I was eventually overrun and slaughtered. Taught me a lesson about poking my nose into places I shouldn’t.

Have to say, the skybox for the graveyard is magnificently pretty. Purples and pinks are an interesting choice for a Halloween adventure. It’s kind of like a good-looking sunset.

Delara’s statue here got a pumpkin makeover. Kind of juvenile, but I’ll allow it in the spirit of the season.

After taking our characters up to level 7 — hello area healing! — we jumped into one of the several Night Revels instances. I guess they’re modifications of regular dungeons with special flair. You know, moody smoke, pumpkins everywhere.

In fact, the devs kind of went way, way overboard with the pumpkins as the only Halloweeny decoration that they had on hand. Maybe there was a sale, maybe they got them wholesale, I don’t know, but there were dozens if not hundreds of pumpkins in this instance. I started speculating out loud that there’s some poor skeleton whose job it is to light all these pumpkins, including the ones in the near-bottomless shaft. Maybe he rappels.

Hey! I took a wrong turn! Is there a Tim Hortons around here, skeleton monstrosity?

Easily the worst part of the Resurrection Chamber instance was this shaft that went on and on forever. We had to climb it while dealing with horrible skeleton mages and archers tagging us every which way. You know it’s going to be bad when the game outright tells you this ahead of time via a whining NPC.

In the end we prevailed, of course, but the effort-to-reward ration didn’t make it worth it. At least there were more pumpkins at the end. Pie, anyone?

DDO: Plundering Crystal Cove

Last week we had a nice change of pace by eschewing our normal dungeon runs in DDO and spending time romping around the Treasure of the Crystal Cove event. As I’ve never, to my knowledge, done this before, it was pretty cool to see a different part of the game in action for a limited time.

Plus, pirates. Pirates always make things better, especially if they’re PIRATE KOBOLDS. Maybe I’m prejudiced, but DDO has the best video game kobolds of all the kobolds.

I was in for a surprise when I showed up to the event instance, because this incredibly nostalgic sight greeted me — the initial tutorial zone for DDO! I know this is old hat to experienced players, but I never knew that the devs repurposed this area after creating Korthos Island. I had unexpected flashbacks of going through those houses on the harbor there, learning about the game and generally feeling lost. Still feel lost, but that’s just how I roll.

I noted that out of all of the MMOs I play, DDO’s NPCs seem to talk the most outside of quest chatter. I actually love this. I love seeing random mobs, both good and bad, chatter and throw out flavor text. It’s amusing and makes me see them as something more than loot buckets.

Speaking of loot, we spent a good deal of time running around and killing things in the hopes of getting both treasure chest maps and compasses. The latter were needed to access an instance that I’ll talk about in a bit, but I greatly preferred the former, because I like my loot to be as accessible and strings-free as possible.

I gave my Druid an upgrade by purchasing the new Falconry enhancement tree! I haven’t looked into it too much, but it’s nice to have a snowy white falcon pet in addition to my wolf, and I appreciated how there’s some healing buffs in the tree.

After a while, we dove into the crystal cave to run this peculiar instance. Basically, you need to enlist the help of very enthusiastic kobolds to mine a bunch of crystals — and the more crystals you get, the more currency you’re awarded when the instance ends after 15 minutes. But you’ve got to clear out the cave of mobs, protect the kobolds from new mobs (and bosses) that arise, and guide the kobolds to the crystals using torches and teleporters. It’s a lot of running around, basically.

And a bit of fighting, too. We almost had a full party wipe on our third try thanks to a powerful boss, a flame trap, and four out of five of us hitting the dirt. His flame trap managed to kill every kobold in the place, but fortunately we staged a comeback and could rez all of the kobolds for another shot at life and endentured slavery.

Want to say that, hands-down, the best part of this instance is listening to the kobolds. There is a TON of voice acting here, and all of it is hilarious. They’re quipping, they’re joking, they’re humming little tunes, and they’re all doing them constantly, so it’s like you’re in the middle of a group of hyper toddlers. I was laughing a lot.

DDO: Life of a downtrodden kobold

Can I say that the group DDO nights have become one of the gaming highlights of the week for me? It’s something I genuinely look forward to each and every Tuesday, knowing that I’ll get to hang out with a group of fairly funny and knowledgeable gamers while we progress through this fascinating MMO. 12 years old, and DDO is still so unique for so many reasons in this space.

It was a little challenging for me to stay awake this past week, however. We’re in the throes of house cleaning and packing, and I slightly broke my body power-washing for an entire afternoon one day. By last Tuesday, I was plum exhausted and in need of a straight 12 or so hours of sleep. So that became a problem by about 10:00 p.m. during our gaming night, as my eyelids kept shutting and then jerking back up as I would frantically heal whoever was dying and try to stay with the group.

I only fell off of a platform once. Just once.

When you’re going through familiar low-level dungeons, the chatter tends to be less on strategy and more on weird observations. Like, who actually placed all of these rest shrines? Some ambitious deity? Who made the sewers of this city so big? And what is the life of a kobold like?

Speaking of kobolds, we did run Kobold Assault on Reaper 1. This proved to be one of the tougher healing challenges I’ve had to date. Everyone kept taking damage and there was no rest shrine as the waves kept coming. I did what I could, but I died at least twice and others did as well. Fortunately, we had a teammate help out with some spot-healing thanks to her wand. Victory was, in the final count, ours.

Nothing like running upstream against the current! Just don’t think about what you’re splashing through and you’ll be fine!

Our main goal last week was to get the whole group up to level 6. Since we’re trying to stay more or less exactly together in levels, this is important to catch stragglers up and not to take a level until we are all ready. By the end of the night we were, and I look forward to seeing my new spells. Group heal, please? Please?

I was hoping for some new gear, but other than a +healing trinket, I didn’t get any upgrades. I’ve been deeply hoping to get a pair of featherfall boots, because there is no piece of gear more useful in DDO than that to me. So far, no luck.

Running dungeons on Reaper can prove deadly in a heartbeat, with traps taking you out in a second and overpowered mobs suddenly springing out of nowhere. In this area, we had to retreat after losing one member to a couple of boss mobs and then whittle them down with attacks from above.

Nights above Eberron are still beautiful!

This was both bizarre and funny. We killed this boss ghost spider, and it left behind the above weird set of organs floating in mid-air. I don’t even know what those are supposed to be, but I felt like it was important to document them for posterity.

As a healer, I am very much not a fan of being crowd controlled during important fights. There was one mission where I was put to sleep (above) and blinded in short order. I generally try to hang back, but I’m not a coward either. At the very least I can swing a sword and let my pets get in and scrap things up a bit.