Aubrey: Quick now, tell me. Which of those two weevils would you choose?
Maturin: I don’t know, that one seems larger…
Aubrey: No you must choose the smaller, because as we know, in service to the Crown one is constantly forced to choose the lesser of two weevils.
Maturin: He who would pun would pick a pocket.
Ok, I made up the part about weevils. I needed a stupid pun, sue me.
The only thing in my life more fabulous than my hair – Lobilya – has not been feeling well the last couple of Mondays, which is when we have our regular DDO night. Since the other two consistent members of the group, Karaya and Phritz, have been playing Vanguard (I blame Karaya!), we’ve been focusing on that.
I’m bringing up a Monk, named Xiaowang Chen (I named him for one of the great Tai Chi masters of our time). Meantime, Karaya has started a goblin necromancer Gruktich. We did some stuff last week with Laddie who is a Vulmane (essentially a gnoll) Shaman. (Yes, he named his dog character Laddie Goodboy. He’s such a plagiarist. That’s completely different from naming your toon after a real life figure. Srsly!) This was on the starting island for goblins, in Kojan.
Over Thanksgiving, Laddie(Phritz) was AFK, so Xiaowang and Gruktich continued. However, our ship foundered somewhat on the rocks of the Garden of Xia’Liu. This is an area (I hesitate to call it a dungeon, since it’s open air, and, like everything in Vanguard, there’s no “zoneline” to get in to it.) that is guarded by clay warriors reminiscent of the terra-cotta warrriors, along with many other strange creatures. It’s densely populated with challenging mobs – Yukionna which are a sort of humanoid spirit and are typically casters, Silvermane Foxes, disembodied energy beings known as Dancers, and ferocious killer dragonflies known as Tomba (the Japanese word for dragonfly is Tonbo, perhaps Tomba is from Chinese? Or maybe just an alternate rendering into romanji?).
The gardens are beautiful, done in a chinese style. Gruktich and Xiaowang worked their way patiently up the hill to the mountaintop garden, killing clay warriors at each Torii gate. When we reached the garden proper, we kind of started wishing that we were playing our crowd control toons, because the mobs definitely tended to swarm.
We died a lot. And so ran back. I managed to eventually remember that I had Feign Death, and thus avoided a few deaths. We didn’t manage to make it to the third pagoda where we could finish gathering the waters and activate a spiriteye medallion. But we did roll in the experience, thanks to the double exp weekend on Vanguard. (I also got Toldain through a major diplomatic arc.)
So this Monday, with Lobilya not logging on, we went at the gardens again, with Laddie. First we ran him through the quests at the Gulgrethor encampment Khenvor. This orc clan is the sworn enemy of the Martok, to whom Gruktich (and all PC orcs and goblins, I believe) belongs. But we infiltrated them, and put on workers jerseys, and discovered a horrible secret about certain undead known as Loamites.
We also discovered that mentoring is implemented in Vanguard! So I switched to Toldain, and mentored Laddie, who was level 14 to start the evening. Mentoring worked out pretty well. The mechanic seems to be that those abilities that you gained after the mentored level are disabled, and those that are upgrades of a higher level are rolled back to the upgrade you would have had at that level. However, I had no visual cue for which abilities are cancelled, so that led to some awkwardness.
Even so, completing the quests at Khenvor was easy with this group. We had healing, tanking (from the pet) and crowd control. So we marched on down to Gulkar’s Encampment and got Laddie (and Toldain) up to speed with the quests for the Gardens of Xia’Liu.
It was much easier with three of us than two. The addition of both healing and crowd control made most of the gardens run pretty smoothly. That is, it was smooth until we ran into the nasty snake people that guard the way to the third pagoda. (Their name eludes me, I think I’ve blocked it out of my mind.) These guys can oneshot any of us. Except the necromancer’s pet, that is.
Fortunately Laddie can raise dead, even if only out of combat. This saved us an immense amount of trouble. He even has rez tokens that he can hand out that allows others to raise him. After a fair time experimenting, we found that if we stayed at maximum spell range from the snake people, they couldn’t hit us with that nasty mojo. (I was killed once by two ranged autoattack hits.) They were nasty, but we made it by them.
And there we found the usual clay guardians and Yukionna guarding the third and final pagoda we sought. Except they all had an extra dot.
In Vanguard, mobs have a level (equivalent to character level) and a number of dots, which rates their difficulty. We’d been tackling three dot mobs for most of the Gardens, these had four. So they were going to have a lot more hit points, and probably hit harder (though not, it seems, harder than those horrible naga-type snake thingies.) Things were a little hairy on the first pull, as we got two, and the one I mezzed leashed for some reason. But we pulled it together, cleared them out, and gathered the water from the pool. I discovered that my Spiriteye Amulet worked in this location, but for some reason it didn’t complete the quest it was associated with. This might have been due to Gruktich starting a combat as my amulet was going, but subsequent attempts failed with me.
Fortunately, since I was higher level than the other two, I didn’t mind not completing that quest all that much. The point was to catch the others up, anyway.
I really enjoyed this run. (I really enjoyed duoing the Gardens with Gruktich and Xiaowang, too) All the classic level designer tricks were in play – there were nooks and crannies with hidden mobs and wanderers. All the skills that the three of us first learned in Everquest were still in play, and in addition, we had voice chat, which is something we never had when we played Everquest. Managing aggro and adds, developing tactics that fit your group, and just generally having to be on makes this for me.
And the use of Asian design motifs and plots set against orcs and goblins is fun, too. But there are no weevils in the Garden of Xia’Liu. None. Not a single one, not even a lesser weevil.