Midnight in the Garden of Blood and Weevils

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.

I Came Here To Be Podkilled: Ataraxia’s Kingdom Edition

Ok, ok, there aren’t any pods in DDO. I didn’t get podkilled. I did get TPK’ed, though. Wiped, if you will. “PK” could stand for “player kill” or “pod kill”, after all.

This happened last week, in Ataraxia’s Kingdom. And in the spirit of ICHTBPK, I resolved to blog about failure, just so that you, dear reader, will get some fun out of my misery.

It happened last week. Yours truly, he of fabulous crimson follicles; Lobilya, trap-mechanic and general back-stabber, Cheeves, a Paladin 6/Rogue 3/Confused lots, and Vironet, Ranger 9.

It didn’t end well. It didn’t even start well. Our hirelings (level 9 clerics), were very aggressive and pulled too many mobs. And at other times, they would go inactive and do nothing until given a command, even though they were set to “guard” or so on. Summoned creatures were similar. This was the overland zone in Ataraxia’s Haven, before we ever got to the dungeon. We also had a kind of “scatter in many directions” issue, and a few deaths. I learned, much to my irritation that in spite of being called “Wildmen”, they aren’t, in fact Persons, and are not susceptible to Charm Person. Charm Monster wasn’t working all that great, either.

The Duergar also swarmed us, but at least they could be charmed. However, I was somewhat slow to target and cast, that didn’t help. But we struggled by, helped enormously by having cleric hirelings who could raise dead, and finally made it to the dungeon.

The first part consisted mostly of killing Scrags, a kind of sea troll. That wasn’t too bad, but I was running very low of spell points. We had decided to do the dungeon on hard. After all, someone (Vironet?) had done it before, and thought it wasn’t too bad. I ran very low of spell points. There was only one rest shrine in the zone, and it being Hard, I could only use it once.

But we managed the Scrags, and we managed to get the two keys that would get us into the lighthouse to where Ataraxia was being held prisoner. That’s when the truly horrible stuff happened. In the next room, we got swarmed by Duergar. Including a named. I charmed several of them, but had trouble picking out the enemies from the friends in the melee. It didn’t help that several of them both had very good sneaking ability, and a very good ability to see through our invisibilty/sneak/etc.

Vironet started backing off and kiting a Duergar Assassin, or so she thought. To me, she was kiting the named. Unfortunately, the named caught up to her and offed her, then went snuck. We had a discussion:

Me: “Did that named get you?”
Her: “I wasn’t kiting the named, it was an assassin.”
Me: “The named ran right past me after you.”
Her: “I never saw him.”

So, we were all dead, but some of us were close to the rez shrine. Like me. I rezzed my cleric hireling. I made myself invisible, then went to look for Vironet. Something like the following happened. I told the cleric to rez her, and an assassin materialized, saw through my invis, and one-shotted me with a backstab. I’m dead now, out of reach of the rez shrine. Vironet gets raised and the named appears in similar fashion and offs her, I don’t think it was a one-shot, nobody is quite as wimpy as Elf of Paper. Quoth she, “Oh, there’s the named.”

Now we’re all dead, and too far from the rez shrine. So we declare a wipe and recall. A short break and we want to try again. This time on Normal difficulty.

It isn’t quite a replay, we get a little farther. In fact, we wiped when we entered the final room, had the door close behind us, and get swarmed by Duergar, including many Flamestrikes.

Ok, the mood of the group is getting a little sour. So we look for something else. Cheeves says, “Hey there’s a quest we can do in the Harbor, something about outsiders invading. It’s way over our head. Beholders are everywhere. Ice Flensers and Blood Reavers, too.

There were some fun aspects to it. Opening the first door, a troop of Fiendish Kobolds comes running down the hall at us, turns and runs through the door and disappears. They had no concern for us, they were fleeing in terror. My reaction was, “Dangit I can’t target them, dang, dang, dang, HEY! Hahahahaha!”

The other fun bit is getting shot at repeatedly by Beholder eye-beams that had NO EFFECT ON ME WHATSOEVER! Muahahaha! I had my saves buffed, and my Deathblock robe on, and was bouncing around getting shot at repeatedly while others were actually shooting it. It all ended in tears, though, when I rolled a 1 or something on my save and was disintegrated. (By the way, I dinged 11 last night and can cast disintegrate now. And I’m just itching for some payback!) We mostly ended up dead and watching Vironet kite things around until one of the dungeon’s tricks spawned a crowd that she couldn’t manage on her own. Third wipe of the evening.

I won’t say we were undaunted, there was some serious daunting going on. But we wanted a win now, pretty bad. And we got it by doing The Church and the Cult in House Phiarlan. We investigated the Temple of Vol, and discovered a horror at the end, a vampire! Our battle with him was epic, he’d turn into bats and disappear for a while, and then reappear elsewhere. He also blinded me. But it didn’t matter, I could tab target him and shoot him anyway.

My biggest damage spell is Lightning Bolt. I have a hat that increases it’s damage by 40%, and it usually hits for about 70. Unfortunately, Adran ir’Karsmore (the vampire) has rogue levels and Improved Evasion, and even when he failed to evade, he has some giant damage resistance, so even when I hit him, I did maybe 10 points of damage. So I went with the tried and true standby – Magic Missile. That did a little better. But we got him, and our feelings were saved, if not our honor.

*************

This week we redid the Ataraxia quest and were successful. But the party composition changed. Cheeves swapped out for Jonnson, Cleric 9. And we added Special Guest Star Jaliera, red-headed high elf Paladin 8. (She looks so much like me, you’d almost think we’re related or something.) And we rocked it. I did much better targeting and charming, etc, because I’m using a new keyboard setup. More on that in a later post.

The main difference was control of engagement. We did much better at letting mobs come to us. With one fewer hireling and a person doing healing, we were much more solid on that front. So, we rocked the joint, freed Ataraxia, and then climbed to the top of the lighthouse to enjoy the spectacular view of the island, and do a little victory dance. Later, we did the other dungeon in Ataraxia’s Haven, with similar success. What a difference a week makes.

Haywire Disco!

This week our instance group took on Haywire Foundry, the last normal quest of Vault of Night.

The usual suspects were there again from last week – my fighter/thief Marty, the thief thief Lobilya Sackfill, Mr. “Have reapeating heavy crossbow, will travel” Worstof, and the incomparable Karayasama.

Karayasama’s usual sorcerous tricks had be modified this week since the Haywire foundry has almost nothing that qualifies as a “person”, being populated mostly by warforged, and mechanical dogs, in this mithril defenders. With the occasional ooze and elemental. So “charm person” and “dominate person” are out.

Instead, we had an attack of dance fever. More than once, we’d get 15-20 seconds into a combat and all the warforged attacking us would be dancing. I believe this is an application of Otto’s Resistable Dance, but it seemed pretty irresistable when Karayasama was playing the tune. Do you know how easy it is to beat the crap out of someone who is doing a fairly awkward version of “The Twist”.

But the warforged got their licks in. A couple of times, it seems that I felt tired, and just took a little nap, right there on the foundry floor. Mmmm, that felt good. Do you suppose those mutterings and gestures that warforged was making had anything to do it. I sure felt tired.

Nevertheless we got deep into the foundry without too much trouble. We defeated the three iron golems (with mithril defender companions) in the locked puzzle chamber by kiting them around and slowly eliminating them. Given that we are about level 9 now, there were a few deaths, but they weren’t really a problem.

But then there’s the destruct button.

Once you hit this sucker, it’s hell-for-leather to the exit. Well, the real problem is, it’s not actually to the exit, though it’s near the exit. So you can’t use Dimension Door to solve this problem. Such a pity…

No, you have to climb up pipes over lava, fend off maybe 20 Mithril Defenders, run down corridors, not fall into the collapsing pit and make it through the blast door before it closes. I did not make it. I was the first to climb up the pipes, but I waited there for the others, when I should have been tanking and killing a few mithril defenders to clear the way some. But I first waited, and then ran through them. Their damage plus the traps I hit did me in about 2/3rds of the way through.

Lobilya had a floor collapse into a pit of lava beneath her. She could perch on a rock, but the “Grease” spewed by the Mithril Defenders meant that she kept slipping off of it into the lava and taking damage. She died.

Worstof was slower than me, but made it through to the blast doors. Which had already closed. Either because of time, or because Karayasama had gone through them already. When the countdown expired, he died.

Karayasama made it through the blast doors, but got singed by all the fire elementals that spawn during the explosion. Her pet was able to eventually kill them all. But we were all dead, and with no rez shrine nearby. Cleric hirelings had succumbed, too.

Now as it turns out, the final chamber, where Karayasama had died was in the same large chamber that we entered through, after fighting an earth elemental and a couple of fire elementals. To finish the dungeon, you must cross this room on a high catwalk and grab an item in a small room.

So, this is what we did: Lobiliya recalled, and hired a level 9 cleric. Worstof dismissed his to make room. Lobilya re-enters and goes to the big chamber below where Karayasama’s ghost is. Karayasama drops down (in ghost form, you get feather fall for free, what’s going to happen? You might die?) and gets Raise Dead cast on her. But Karayasama does not confirm the rez until she is pulled back to her soulstone – up high above the chamber. Then the rez is in, the item is grabbed and the dungeon is completed.

Now that’s winning ugly.

We don’t really have enough people to do the raid that comes next, so this was probably the last we’ll see of Vault of Night for a while. Though Lobilya suggested that if we each bring a hireling that will be 8 characters … Maybe with a few more? (I have no idea what raid content is like in DDO).

Next we’ll probably start on Ataraxia’s Haven.

How Do You Spell Death? B-E-H-O-L-D-E-R

Monday we challenged the third adventure in the Vault of Night series in DDO. I was playing Martinier de Pasolai. Marty is a split fighter/thief who first started out as a character in the obscure tabletop system known as Throwing Stones. That game represented your character as dice. Each side had one of three colors – red, silver or gold. Each color was worth one point in a stat – Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence. The idea behind Marty was that he was a melee fighter but his stats were balanced. I started with four dice, one each of a highly imbalanced and one balanced. So I had the same score in all my stats. Intelligence was used for initiative, so he had good initiative. After that, when I leveled up by gaining a new stone, I only added dice that had two sides of each color.

So he had a bit of rogue and even bard (mostly just persuasion) in him. I was surprised to find that, in that system, he was really good at counterattacking, and knocking people to the ground or disarming him. A typical fight would go thus: Marty would hold off three guys, Patrick (a caster) would befuddle, paralyze, or otherwise drop other opponents into a pit, and Lucy would charge around the battlefield, leaving grease spots behind her.

Often, when those three guys attacked Marty, they would all fall down. This was fun. But Marty’s personality was fun, too. He was a “gladiator” – think professional wrestling done with armor in an arena. Some of the fights were fixed and Marty was the guy to “make sure the public had a good time and didn’t cotton on to the idea that the outcome was, er, predetermined”

Anyway, this doesn’t translate to D&D or consequently DDO very well, but I have gone with – highish INT and CHA, split fighter/thief (5/5 after last nights ding!) . In DDO he is a trap mechanic with no spot whatsoever, and is good with Bluff (bluff pulling rocks!) He has Combat Expertise, which he loves, and Improved Trip, which he also loves, and Improved Feint, which seems less useful.

Also, he’s dabbling in Use Magic Device, and he has the Least Dragonmark of Finding. So he often picks up wands in dungeons that he can use.

All of this stuff is probably way off the “power curve”. He has very low hit points for a plate tank of his level, for example. If he was keeping and holding aggro, the sneak attack dice he gets wouldn’t be as useful. However, it is all to frequently the case in DDO that whatever target “cannot be influenced”. Say, all undead, for starters.

But Marty has multiple “attack modes”, and this came in useful last night, as we were doing The Jungle of Khyber, quest 3 in the Vault of Night series. With Marty were Karayasama (she who dominates), Lobilya, halfling thief, and Worstof, Phritz’ ranger (he of the repeating heavy crossbow).

The Jungle of Khyber isn’t a jungle at all, but a cave (the opening to it is in a jungle, though!). Our mission is to track down, and rescue Veil, a drow rogue who is being pursued by a construct from the plane of Law, an Inevitable. Last week, we wiped when we pulled too many of the drow at once. This is a problem the encounter intends to give you, as the drow wander around a lot, and the archers among them love to retreat back up the corridor, leaving you to chase them or be filled full of holes. Meanwhile their casters will drop Flamestrikes on you.

But we got through that stuff this week, with a little more care, a little more caution and some better firepower. Marty is very effective against casters, but he has to go into “caster mode”. He switches out his normal +2 adamantine plate for some studded leather with spell resistance. He sneaks up on said caster, trips him with a sneak attack, and proceeds to beat him mercilessly (sneak attack damage applies while they are prone!). This works pretty well. Also, I get my evasion, so some of their area attacks miss me altogether.

The next area brought us beholders. Ugh. We see a beholder up ahead, buff up and I charge. I engage it, but I’m dropped by a disintegrate thrown by the SECOND beholder who was down a side passage. Karayasama gets one of the beholders charmed, and it kills the other one. Since we have ninth level cleric hirelings along, I am rezzed and all’s right with the world. With the help of a minor globe of invulnerability, we circle the remaining beholder and drop it quickly when the charm comes off.

We manage the beholders in the next cavern pretty well, mostly by “popup” missile fire. My cleric hireling threw in a flame strike or two for good measure.

After that there were more drow, and those were pretty much ok as we avoided the worst of the swarming. Next is a giant chamber with a waterfall and a high cave with extra mobs and experience. I missed the jump to the extra stuff so stood below and watched as my comrades first killed one mob, then got slagged by the other. Fortunately they were able to get rezzes even as I had to take an paniced phone call from my daughter who is college regarding finances. It seems her first of the month deposit hadn’t showed up yet.

Five minutes later, we take a ride on a geyser and fight some more drow, and I get another phone call from said daughter to the effect of “never mind, the money just showed up.” Evidently, these things post at 11pm PDT.

The penultimate chamber (sadly, there’s really no way to score “penultimate” Words With Friends, is there?) is a killer. There’s a main chamber with a few drow guarding it. No problem, right? There’s a small room to the right with a rez/rest shrine. Onward, to the left is a door, behind which and around a corner lie three nameds: a drow caster, a troll, and a beholder.

The caster was easy. I bluff pulled him ran back around the corner to the main chamber. He chased me, fired a lighting bolt which seems to have missed everyone, and died to our combined fire.

The rest was not so easy. I attempted a bluff pull of the troll, but the beholder joined him. What ensued was 2-3 minutes of chaos as we battled the beholder and troll, died and rezzed at the shrine to do battle again. Sometimes the deaths were immediate. One time, I was hit for 200 points of damage, which I presume was from a Disintegrate. Under tabletop rules, we calculated that this meant that the caster level of that beholder was at least 17th. Or else there’s some kind of spell critical hit rule. This little intermezzo often resulted in the beholder sitting in the room with the rez shrine. Bad, but we managed to get him a little farther away.

The action hit a pause when we were mostly all dead and wondering what to do. Lobilya was back in the chamber where the nameds had started, at negative hit points. But the troll had followed her. We thought he might be camping her, but when she hit -10 and died for real, he didn’t move. So we had managed to split the two of them, after all.

Ok, we can get this now. We all rezzed and mobbed the beholder, who went down – after dealing out just a few more fingers of death, negative levels, and disintegrates. We then waited for all the death debuffs to expire. I had six, I think. For a minute after you rez at a rez shrine, you lose a “level” – hit points, and base attack bonus and saves, mostly. These don’t count concurrently, so I waited 6 minutes as each one expired and my hit point total slowly climbed back up to its normal, anemic (for a plate tank) level.

Then we fought the troll, who was also pretty easy by himself.

After that, The Inevitable was anti-climactic. Some of us had done it before, and knew enough to bring weapons that could actually damage him. I tried to hold him in his starting room with a shield wall, but after pausing briefly, he squeezed around me and started chasing … someone. Probably Karayasama. We kited him. Nobody died, I think. At one point he turned on my cleric hireling, who did not have the sense to run away and kite him. He hit her with some kind of area effect stun where he hit the ground. But she didn’t go down and he soon got bored and went back to chasing someone else. Meanwhile we are chipping away at him getting “glancing blows” often. Since he ignored me (Intimidate does not appear to influence him). I turned my Combat Expertise off, and just chased him like a wild man, poking him with my brand new +1 Anarchic Rapier.

Eventually he fell, and we gave a cheer, and logged off. It’s a long dungeon.

Martinier de Pasolai

Monday we challenged the third adventure in the Vault of Night series in DDO. I was playing Martinier de Pasolai. Marty is a split fighter/thief who first started out as a character in the obscure tabletop system known as Throwing Stones. That game represented your character as dice. Each side had one of three colors – red, silver or gold. Each color was worth one point in a stat – Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence. The idea behind Marty was that he was a melee fighter but his stats were balanced. I started with four dice, one each of a highly imbalanced and one balanced. So I had the same score in all my stats. Intelligence was used for initiative, so he had good initiative. After that, when I leveled up by gaining a new stone, I only added dice that had two sides of each color.

So he had a bit of rogue and even bard (mostly just persuasion) in him. I was surprised to find that, in that system, he was really good at counterattacking, and knocking people to the ground or disarming him. A typical fight would go thus: Marty would hold off three guys, Patrick (a caster) would befuddle, paralyze, or otherwise drop other opponents into a pit, and Lucy would charge around the battlefield, leaving grease spots behind her.

Often, when those three guys attacked Marty, they would all fall down. This was fun. But Marty’s personality was fun, too. He was a “gladiator” – think professional wrestling done with armor in an arena. Some of the fights were fixed and Marty was the guy to “make sure the public had a good time and didn’t cotton on to the idea that the outcome was, er, predetermined”

Anyway, this doesn’t translate to D&D or consequently DDO very well, but I have gone with – highish INT and CHA, split fighter/thief (5/5 after last nights ding!) . In DDO he is a trap mechanic with no spot whatsoever, and is good with Bluff (bluff pulling rocks!) He has Combat Expertise, which he loves, and Improved Trip, which he also loves, and Improved Feint, which seems less useful.

Also, he’s dabbling in Use Magic Device, and he has the Least Dragonmark of Finding. So he often picks up wands in dungeons that he can use.

All of this stuff is probably way off the “power curve”. He has very low hit points for a plate tank of his level, for example. If he was keeping and holding aggro, the sneak attack dice he gets wouldn’t be as useful. However, it is all to frequently the case in DDO that whatever target “cannot be influenced”. Say, all undead, for starters.

But Marty has multiple “attack modes”, and this came in useful last night, as we were doing The Jungle of Khyber, quest 3 in the Vault of Night series. With Marty were Karayasama, she who dominates, Lobilya, halfling thief, and Worstof, Phritz’ ranger (he of the repeating heavy crossbow).

The Jungle of Khyber isn’t a jungle at all, but a cave (the opening to it is in a jungle, though!). Our mission is to track down, and rescue Veil, a drow rogue who is being pursued by a construct from the plane of Law, an Inevitable. Last week, we wiped when we pulled too many of the drow at once. This is a problem the encounter intends to give you, as the drow wander around a lot, and the archers among them love to retreat back up the corridor, leaving you to chase them or be filled full of holes. Meanwhile their casters will drop Flamestrikes on you.

But we got through that stuff this week, with a little more care, a little more caution and some better firepower. Marty is very effective against casters, but he has to go into “caster mode”. He switches out his normal +2 adamantine plate for some studded leather with spell resistance. He sneaks up on said caster, trips him with a sneak attack, and proceeds to beat him mercilessly (sneak attack damage applies while they are prone!). This works pretty well. Also, I get my evasion, so some of their area attacks miss me altogether.

The next area brought us beholders. Ugh. We see a beholder up ahead, buff up and I charge. I engage it, but I’m dropped by a disintegrate thrown by the SECOND beholder who was down a side passage. Karayasama gets one of the beholders charmed, and it kills the other one. Since we have ninth level cleric hirelings along, I am rezzed and all’s right with the world. With the help of a minor globe of invulnerability, we circle the remaining beholder and drop it quickly when the charm comes off.

What Has Tolly Been Up To Lately?

Posting has been sparse, but gaming hasn’t. I thought I’d give a quick once-over of the gaming I’ve been doing.

  • I’ve been playing a little City of Heroes on Mrs. Darkwater’s account. I kind of don’t want to start a paid account when they are so close to launching a FTP feature. I have made two characters. One is a ninja named Kenji, who is a 15th century Ninja brought forward in time by the Nakamura family to battle a grave threat to humanity. Natural based katana user, with the defense/speed powers, and he’s a good guy.

    The other is a mage who uses Domination powers and has fabulous red hair. Figuring out his name is an exercise left to the reader. This has been fun, since the control aspects are a kind of gameplay I like. Fighting multiple opponents this way is a lot like juggling.

  • I’ve continued to play DDO. Most recently, this Monday, Phritz, Lobilya, Karaya and I ran through Stromvaulds Mine and Stormreach Outpost. Phritz, Karaya and I did it several months ago with different characters. This run was a lot easier, even though we completely forgot how to deal with the final encounter of Stormreach Outpost. So there was a wipe thingie there, but we figured it out and rebounded victoriously. I love this sort of thing, as I’ve said before. Lobilya (aka Mrs. Darkwater) finally unlocked the Drow race on her account, and she’s now working on leveling one up. Or maybe two. Even Spawn of Tolly 2 is getting back into DDO after a long hiatus.
  • I’m finally giving Civ V a rest. I managed to win a game on Immortal difficulty and a duel map. I was the Ottomans, my opponent was Catherine. We each had our own continent. I used the Ottoman’s ability to recruit barbarian ships to build a navy that gained absolute sea mastery, and then managed to take Catherine’s capital for the win. I love Janissaries.

    I tried several times to win a game with Rameses that focused on building wonders more than killing everyone. I did not find this to be possible. I’m taking a break from this now.

  • Instead I downloaded from Steam the Sid Meier Track Pack, consisting of Railroads, Railroad Tycoon II Platinum, and RR Tycoon III. I’ve started in on Railroads and it’s a whale of a good time. I love watching the trains run all over the place. Just today I found out about a game called OpenTTD (based on Transport Tycoon Deluxe). That game looks dangerous.
  • There’s been the usual assortment of tabletop RPG. Game systems include 4e, 3.5, Pathfinder (a new purchase for us) and Hero Systems.

It’s pretty clear that it’s going to continue to be difficult for me to play much Eve Online, despite how much I like it. As an economic building/trading/selling game, it has no equal. But it requires a lot of time in predictable chunks, and my time does not seem to come in predictable chunks.

The Xorian is Deciphered

Last night we tackled a DDO quest called The Xorian Cipher. It’s described as level 8, very long, and extreme challenge. We played it on Normal difficulty.

In attendance were Karayasama (Sorcerer 7, Thief 3), Profundo (Bard 9, played by Phritz), Thio (Fighter 6 or 7, played by Lobilya), and your favorite 3000-year old (Wizard level 10). I brought along Tower, a level 8 fighter hireling, and Profundo brought a level 9 cleric hireling to fill out the group. Tower is warforged, so I can heal him, and I’ve focused some enhancements and gear on doing that well. Profundo’s healer gave us the ability to raise dead during the heat of battle. This was quite useful.

I died a lot. In this dungeon there are maybe a dozen rifts, which spawn these strange black glowing energy globes. They wander around aimlessly, and if they touch you they cast a random spell on you. And I do mean random. We got Bull’s Strength, Enfeeblement, giant heals, Polar Rays for 100 hit points (that was one death for me), and Stone to Flesh (another one, after something else beat the crap out of me).

There are runes near each rift that allow you to close it, activated by either high Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma. We had all three available. But finding the runes and getting them turned off while there are cultists and undead chasing you isn’t the easiest.

The craziest fight came late in the dungeon where we were forced to split up, standing on each of four pedestals to proceed further. Karayasama and I went one way, and Profundo and Thio the other. Karayasama and I managed to clear through a couple of encounters without too much trouble – making a few opponents switch sides at the beginning of battle can do that – and found ourselves in a high arched opening overlooking a giant hall with skeletal archers, a rift, and four named undead who shot lightning bolts.

Profundo and Thio had made it to this hall and were having serious trouble. Thio dropped early. Profundo had survived, with the help of his healer. I summoned my teleporting devil, hoping he would jump down and join in. But he was reluctant. I stood in the doorway as close to the edge as I could, trying to get him to engage. The archers evidently had arrows that did a sonic with a stun, or one of the nameds could do that. I stood there like a fool while they drilled me. Well, I stood there like a fool before that, too, but never mind. I died and the demon did not engage. Quoth Karayasama, “Tolly, you have to dodge in and out, don’t just stand there!”

Now that I’m dead, I jump down into the chamber and order Tower to engage. He’s doing ok, but he can’t manage by himself and eventually he dies.

Ok, things are bad. I think at some point maybe Karayasama got tagged too, I’m not really sure. But it turns out that down a long hall leading from the big chamber is a rest shrine and a rez shrine. The first time I try it, I am tantalizingly close, the cursor even changes to the correct icon, but I’m recalled to my soul stone before I can click. The next two tries are not as close. The fourth time I make it, and my hair is once again red and fabulous. (Rezzing is great for split ends!) I rest and recharge all my mana, too. I call Tower back and he rezzes. I get another summoned creature (another devil, in fact). Profundo, I think has stayed alive, or rezzed himself. We push back down the hallway, killing skeletons, but avoiding the nameds. I grabbed someone’s stone, maybe Karayasama’s and run it back to the shrine. Profundo grabs the other one.

We’re all back in the game, and I start putting up electrical resistance and protection. Which is good because the nameds have decided to chase us into the shrine area. But the resistances are enough to turn the tide and we prevail. However, the orbs from the rift claim another victim – Thio – and we pause to turn off the rift before we recover Thio’s soulstone.

When the dungeon is cleared there is jubilation. That was sloppy, to be sure, but we pulled it out, turning what seemed to be disaster into success, though success with a high repair bill.

The last fight went easier, though I died due to stupidly throwing multiple lightning bolts at the named hellhound right from the start. Doh! Fortunately nobody else was so stupid, the hireling raised me, and we grabbed the loot and did a victory dance!

This is how I like to dungeon. I don’t demand that stuff be completely fresh – Karayasama had done part of the dungeon before, and helped us speed things along. But it’s the polar opposite of what running instances in EQ2 had become: Pull all the mobs in the room and burn them down. No real danger or risk. Any puzzles or lore are completed by someone else that had done the instance dozens of times before I can even read them.

I understand the mentality, and if I had ground through an instance a dozen times or more, I’d be in a hurry. Because I would be farming them for drops or points or whatever, and feeling impatient. But I don’t play D&D or RPG’s to farm, I play them for adventure. Running something for the fiftieth time and concentrating on efficiency is kind of the opposite of adventure.

Not that there isn’t a place for that. That’s more the realm of economic/strategy gameplay. Such as mission-running or ratting in EVE. Of course you’re repeating it, the mission itself isn’t the adventure.