Drama on the IRL server continues, but at least in-game, things have been wonderful this past week.
Firstly, Gorruk my fighter – and one of the last two remaining classes for my “take every class to 20 on a first-lifer” challenge – broke his way into Epics! Woot! I was afraid it was going to be a lot more of a grind than it turned out to be, mostly due to using the same techniques I do on multi-lifers (and I see nearly every veteran do, as well), which is skipping taking level 19 entirely. If you’re not absolutely desperate for the slight power jump 19 brings you, stay away from it unless you’re mere points from twenty. The vast array of level 16 content which you can run or re-run at 18 with no penalty provides a much, much larger pool than is available at 19. But I digress.
Now, all that’s left on that challenge is Varjek, the necro-wizard, who finally squeaked into banking 17. As excited as I was with him recently, I dabbled a bit more into my typical “divine warrior” playstyle, came back, and was reminded once again. you sure do make for one hell of a lousy spellthrower. But he’s holding seventeen to keep playing with Socks’ sorceror. Or, more accurately, whimper, beg, and moan while Socks does all the work and Varjek turtles up in his firewall. (Which is, at least, quite potent.)
The biggest source of squee over the past week, however, has been with Bholgrin – in the roleplaying element, Tholgrin’s slightly-younger brother – who was my first attempt at a “super-toon” many, many months ago. He’d been sitting at 20 forever, and in all honesty, I’m not sure what precisely prompted me to pick him back up. At first, it was just a little bit.. a touch of “I’ll cap out Unyielding Sentinel and put him back on the burner again.” Round about US level 3, I’d been re-bitten by the bug that made me love the idea in the first place. The concept for his build – which I freely admit isn’t perfect – is a centered 12 paladin, 7 monk, 1 rogue, dual-wielding longswords primarily. Easily able to drop back to wraps as the need arises, or fling around shuriken when ranged is required, he hasn’t had any problems trapping on Epic Hard. Between the various monk and paladin self-healing capabilities, he’s pretty darn self-sufficient. His DPS is passable, much better now that he’s packing a pair of Thunder-Forged Tier 1 longswords, but by no means a brutalizer. On the other hand, he also doesn’t have the reduced mobility that most of the brutes have.. and wrap everything together with some pretty solid saves for a first-lifer (nothing is below +45), he’s a pant-load of fun.
In the course of three nights, he screamed from 20 to halfway through 25, which also happened to be the first time I played a large number of quests I’d never before set foot in.
The House of Rusted Blades was one I’d heard a great deal about before – mostly on forum posts where people would farm the bejeebers out of it very rapidly for massive amounts of XP. After having done it myself – on Epic Normal the first time, after all, I didn’t really know what I was doing – in just under six minutes, I see why. Apparently, what I did was the “quick” way, but even still it was remarkably easy, and can pretty much be reduced to one (1) fight with a red-named Drow and possibly a bit or two of trash. In a strange twist of odd, the Blademaster for the uber-military House Dun’Robar at a significantly higher CR is a little kitten compared to the lower-level Karas. In short, this quest was fast, easy, and worth a boat-load of XP. Definitely worth adding to the “daily rotation” of quests working towards an epic TR.
The House of Broken Chains was a great one, in my book. Not so much in the “XP per minute” zerg book, but as a gaming experience. Freeing the hordes of slaves and trying to kill the slavemasters without injuring the poor drow crying and apologizing for being made to attack you was a very trying thing. (Of course, I did it later on my Bladeforged with no real way of freeing them, and just mowed them down like the lawn. That was fun, too, but not nearly as moving. –Ed.) Bholgrin’s trapping ability and self-healing to soak damage from the slaves really shone here. My first time through, there had been too much collateral damage and I was one slave shy of liberating all of them, but still felt like I had accomplished something for the good of the… um, wait, aren’t those drow trying to kill everyone in Cormyr?
The House of Death Undone.. wow. It may have been that it was after four in the morning, or that I had been up for an ungodly length of time, but I got so bloody lost in here the first time around. I typically have a fairly good sense of direction and don’t get turned around easily, but holy wow that complex was… complex. The good news was that getting lost and wandering about meant I accidentally finished every single optional while just trying to find the way to the boss so I could wrap it up and head to bed. I really dug the “horror movie” vibe where drow that you kill – if they’re in range of a necromancer – automatically get back up as zombies and start fighting you again. This lends a feeling where you stop and watch the corpses to make sure they don’t’ “turn” and resume the onslaught after you walk off. Some of the necromancers in the King’s Forest have a similar mechanic, but those are in isolated pockets, and not on a whole-quest scale – it makes for an interesting time. Did I mention I got lost?
The Portal Opens was the last quest in the “House Of” arc, and after the three flagging quests, was really kind of disappointing in layout. The story was great, though. As a quest, it’s little more than “go left, get item, go right, get item, kill mini-boss, kill final boss” with almost zero possibility of getting lost. There are a few ambushes, which are to be expected at this point in the game. More importantly, however, this quest is the one that opens up the Demonweb for exploration and the next arc, which makes it worth a quick run-through. At this point, I’m just typing words so that it doesn’t seem like I’m glossing over this quest, because I don’t really have anything more to say, and the other quests might get jealous. It’s really that unmemorable from a gameplay perspective. Oh, except that chalks up yet another time where Elminster just sits there like a d-bag while you fight a miniboss and [redacted to prevent spoilers]. Oversorcerer, my rump.
There was supposed to be an order for the next arc, but I was having too much fun just wandering about the Demonweb to worry about which came “officially” first.
I landed on Trial by Fury quite by accident, and promptly made a fool of myself by botching the first puzzle before realizing you only got a limited number of moves. Oops. At least Operation: Kill! Kill! Kill! was still an approved method to get through to the end. I love the idea of this quest essentially being a cakewalk if you could puzzle your way through it, as that lends a rather unique twist to doing an either/or/both/mixture of combat and puzzling as you see fit to the quest. I found that to be quite a nice breath of fresh air. Well, assuming the “air” in the Demonweb is fresh. Something tells me that it might smell a bit… spider-ey.
The primary reason I started working towards the Demonweb in the first place – after Bholgrin had worked his way into my current play-slot – was to try and score a Spider-Spun Caparison, which is, of course, a staple for high-level monks. (Uncle Tubbs, my “secondary main” and primary monk, got lucky and nabbed his on the Shard Exchange, already set-up to be part of the Sun Soul set! SCORE!) The ones available on the Orien server as of late have been commanding absurd prices that I wasn’t willing to pay. After a bit of wandering and completing Trial by Fury, I found myself in front of the entrance to The Deal and the Demon and slid on in.
Let me tell you what for free – this quest is quick. If you thought House of Rusted Blades was fast, this is right up there. After completing it the first time, I re-acquired the quest and ransacked the heck out of that chest trying to get a Caparison. Sadly, I had no luck. (Pro-Tip courtesy of the wiki: If you’re just looking for loot, you can get all the way to the final chest, loot it, and recall without touching the Orb to be able to turn right around and come back in without hoofing it back to Eveningstar. You lose out on XP with this method, but it speeds loot runs up by exactly 10.2 zillion billion times.) There are three signs you have to disable, but even on Epic Hard, the “penalties” are laughable. I’m sure they’re significantly worse on Epic Elite.
Reclaiming the Rift had me a little teensy bit nervous, to be honest. That little aspect of “sacrificing your life force to heal the rift” doesn’t sound terribly bad until around the sixth or seventh round, when you start glancing from the number of waves left up to your hit points and back to the number of waves left with increasing alarm. By the time I had exhausted the boss’ toys and faced the glabrezu toe-to-claw, I had been dwindled from over a thousand hit points to just over three hundred. Sure, I’ll take on an Epic boss with over a 70% reduction in maximum hit points, no problem! Luckily, the boss is little more than an over-glorified regular glabrezu with a name and a ton of HP, so it really wasn’t that scary. Just play a little more cautiously than normal and constantly remind yourself that “heal at 60% health” is no longer the standard operating procedure, and you’ll do fine. I have a feeling the biggest threat in soloing this quest is to get psyched the heck out and let that rattle your strategies. Forgetting that “the red bar is half full” means you only have 150hp left (“PANIC!”), not 600hp left (“still groovy”), could easily prove fatal.
After that, I took a break and ran through some quests with Aapex Predator, my Bladeforged Paladin, in an attempt to score – you guessed it! – a Spider-Spun Caparison that I had ransacked with Bholgrin. In the process of rolling through all the pre-quests, he made level 27 and is now a good third of the way to 28. Woo-hoo!! More cheers! Except for the fact I didn’t get the loot. Crap.
So, naturally, I brought in my level 25 favor farmer*, Felldar the Roguificer. His (very) long-term goal of cranking from 3,002 to 5,000 favor has been on pause for so long that the dust has dust on it. He was already flagged with the Battle for Eveningstar, so I just had to start with the “House Of” arc and open up the Demonweb. No problem, right?
WHY IS THIS GUY MY FAVOR FARMER?? HE’S ABOUT AS SELF-RELIANT AS A GRAPE.
At least, that’s what I started yelling at my computer circa 10pm on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 27th, for those outside the U.S.). Sure, he can lay down some insane amounts of pain with Needle, Quill-Slinger (yes, from the Raider’s Reward Box), multiple imbues, and Endless Fusillade, interspersed with near-unstoppable force damage from Lucid Dreams. That’s not the point. The point is that when everyone finally gets mad at him, he takes punishment about as well as a marshmallow. Wait, no, that’s not fair. I apologize to any marshmallows reading this for insinuating you’re as squishy as Felldar. He is very much a rear-line artillery character; add to that he’s (almost) completely reliant upon external healing, and my patience ran out. I completed through one run of The Deal and the Demon and came to a final decision over something that had been bubbling at the back of my brain all week.
Bholgrin was officially taking over as my favor farmer. No more doubts.
Yes, that required “backfilling” on some of the arcs and quests he’d skipped over in his leveling progress, including re-doing some of the quests that I absolutely loathe (The Pit, anyone?). But it all boiled down to survivability that Felldar had hit a wall on in his own run. And I’m not ashamed to admit that Felldar’s saves are atrocious. Srsly. Bro. I’m going to have to LR you one of these days and fix you up proper-like, because a +10 Will save at level 25 is just plain pathetic.
So I’ve been spending time here and there between “real” questing to pick Bholgrin’s favor back up. Didn’t take long, actually – in just a couple of days, he’s sitting tight at 2,987 and one solid quest away from blowing Felldar’s hard-worked run out of the water without so much as a bead of sweat. (I lie. The air venty entrance to Spies in the House still tries my patience to the breaking point.)
There was also something about The Haunted Halls of Eveningstar at this point, but that deserves its own post.
It was at a random time while checking the Adventure Log to see “what’s next on the list” that I just decided to pop open the Social panel. Lo and Behold, there was a posting for Elite Reaver’s Fate, which I needed! Awesome!
Well, it would have been, had I not been blown through the ceiling with only five skulls lit. Deciding to make the best of it, I ran through the spikes with full intent to be in position for the lever-pull. And then promptly pulled it early, without thinking. Or, at least, that’s what several of the vets in the raid said – and I, having only done the raid once before, checked the wiki to see if I’d screwed up the entire run. It didn’t say, so we continued on – the good news is, the Reaver’s Fate is not an auto-fail if you pull the Western Lever early. Once all nine skulls are spinning and he’s dropped, the barrier comes down just as usual. I don’t know if this is a recent change or not, but as of Monday, December 1st, 2014, it is accurate. 😉 Thanks, Mister Oopsie!
Sticking around for a few minutes after the raid revealed that the group fully intended to take on another raid, and yet another quest I’d never done before – Caught in the Web! This particular raid almost never shows up in any of the Orien LFMs. Not never-ever. Of course, before last week, it wouldn’t really have mattered that much, since I wasn’t flagged, anyhoo, but that’s irrelevant! So we trot off to Eveningstar and head on in. After, of course, I make sure everyone knew I was a “virgin” on the raid – althrough there was one other, which made me feel a little bit less like the black sheep.
The raid was led by two well-known members on the Orien server (who shall remain unnamed unless they choose to be otherwise) who were very friendly and polite, and explained each phase of the raid as we went. In between joking on each other, of course, particularly when one individual kept getting repeatedly knocked off the first platform. Lolth really, really didn’t like his outfit, apparently. Aside from a little bit of coordination problems with the Portal Keepers at the end – which I’m pretty sure was due to language barriers, as at least two of the members would often type in what I’m assuming was Brazilian Portuguese – the raid as a whole went nice and smooth. The casters only needed one shrine, almost all of the melees didn’t use any at all (Bholgrin included), and at the end we pulled not just one, but two named items! Twilight, Element of Magic went to a heated roll I did not take part in (see: I make crappy arcanes), and nobody was interested in Needle, so I rolled and won it on a 6. Out of 100. No, Bholgrin has no plans to use it at this point, but that was a legitimate pull from Caught in the Web! Score! On the other hand, there was only one Commendation of Heroism in the whole group, so that was a bummer. I didn’t even go near that roll.
Perhaps I’ll TR Bholgrin into that “palificer” build I’m having so much fun with on Orsyn? It’s something to think about. In the meantime, it’s sitting pretty in his bank account.
In other, semi-related news for “new” and “celebration,” Uncle Tubbs recently finished his 3rd Paladin past life, and is embarking on his “semi-final” character life – currently sitting at level 4. I say semi-final because he has reached the point where I’ve glossed over the heroic past lives, and none of the past lives he hasn’t finished hold any real value to him (with the exception of counting towards Completionist). And I have no intentions of going through that kind of a grind – at least, not right now. He has one or two more Epic past lives to crank out, but this should be his final-ish 16 monk/4 cleric heroic life for the foreseeable future. At least, until some other bug worms its way into my brain and decides to go for the gold.
All in all, the start of a semi-final-ish character life, loads of Epic progress, tons of new (to me) content, and now only THREE WHOLE LEVELS remaining before my personal challenge is met! Varjek the Wizard, you will make 20! Even if I have to drag you kicking, screaming, and crying behind an owlbear, a hireling, a summon, and a skeleton to do it! Only 525,000 XP to go, and then one of every pure class on first-life characters will have been taken to heroic cap! The fact that all of them were dwarves is not racial bias! EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!one!!