Author’s Edit, 06/15/2016: It has now been updated to include adventure packs through Update 31! And no, Gnomework isn’t counted, due to the quests being free for all players, thereby not making it an “adventure pack.”
Anyhoo, back to the guide..
As far as I’m aware, there isn’t any definitive breakdown of each of the adventure packs available to Premium players in the sense of why they should get a given pack.. or not. The way I’ve come to see it, every adventure pack and/or quest arc in DDO can be broken down in to one of four major reasons why it’s run.
The first reason, obviously, is XP. We want our characters to level, to gain power, and generally become more awesome. That takes XP to do. Quests and quest packs worth a lot of XP are typically well-known and run frequently.
The second reason is loot. Awesome (or even good) loot can be enough to offset mediocre or even poor XP – if the loot is wicked enough to make it worth it.
Failing the above two reasons, the third is for the experience itself. Notice that I’m typing the word out to differentiate it from XP. These are the quests where, for whatever reason – lack of XP, lousy loot, absurd difficulty, whatever – the only real reason you run the quest is because it’s freakin’ cool. These are the quests you run just for fun without a care in the world that you spent twenty minutes for 3,500 XP. They were twenty cool minutes.
Lastly is one that doesn’t really have much weight to myself, but does to others, and that’s whether it has a raid or not. I know lots of folks who are hardcore raiders and a pack not having a raid at the end of it is pretty detrimental. Not my personal cup of tea, but that doesn’t change that this line of thinking exists.
So, without further ado, I give you the following semi-objective, partially subjective breakdown of adventure packs and/or arcs by whys, as I see them. Your mileage may vary. ^_^
XP: Brilliant to burn out a major chunk at lightspeed during low levels once you get the hang of it, slightly torturous until you do.
Loot: Pretty solid for young characters and low-level TRs.
Experience: Highly dependent upon how much you like slaying undead; wicked if you do, meh otherwise. For the quests themselves, it’s pretty much a straightforward Operation: Kill! Kill! Kill! mechanic. As it’s a low-level area, there aren’t too many curveballs, unless that is you try and zerg The Crypt of Gerard Dryden (odds are pretty likely that’ll end quickly, and painfully).
The Seal of Shan-To-Kor
Loot: Meh – unless you’re a Shuricannon, in which case Shadow Star is practically mandatory equipment, and a very worthy weapon for monks or drow of all sorts
Experience: This is the first time traps will nearly make you soil yourself on your maiden run.. and for that reason alone, worth it. Other than that, it’s too short to really make much of an impression – in fact, the only impression that I’m aware people have of this is the “Chamber ‘o WTF” in the Halls of Shan-To-Kor themselves, which is equal parts “holy $#!T” and “that was awesome!”
XP: Bloody amazing. Once you learn the ins and outs of the arc, you can blitz a nutball amount of XP out of this arc in no time flat.
Loot: Worth running if only for the Splinterskull Acolyte Ring for a reliable boost to Devotion or the Visor of the Flesh Render Guards for a Death Ward clicky. The remainder of the list is marginally hit-and-miss.. although I can personally confirm scoring a Guild Storage II Deed for my airship from this arc.
Experience: It’s a neat, constantly-expanding spread the first time through. On subsequent runs, it gets… somewhat repetitive (hence the nickname “Groundhog Day”) in the sense you’re covering the same fortress, albeit different aspects. Doesn’t stop me from blitzing it on nearly every toon’s life, though. There’s always something satisfying about tricking bosses into cutting themselves to hamburger on their own traps before disabling them.
The Sharn Syndicate
XP: Meh. Not bad, but not great, either.
Loot: There’s loot? Okay, there is, but it ranges from downright insulting (Burgundy Tir’s optional turn in) to mediocre (arc-end reward); the sole exception to this being Kwan’s Band, which is wonderful for low-level monks, divines, and primals.
Experience: Moderately interesting and widely varied for a low-level pack. The mechanics for the Bookbinder Rescue can make for some tense (if frustrating, at times) gameplay that’s like DDO meets Rainbow Six. As with a good deal of the lower-level content, however, there aren’t a ton of “hidden aces” against characters that haven’t really gotten their stride yet.
XP: Low to moderate
Loot: There are some pretty unique and solid pieces here; this is the “first” (in terms of leveling) arc where things have the potential to be upgraded to Epic levels.
Experience: If you’re up for something completely and totally different, this is your bag. Breaking through an illusory museum to crash a party and play Clue to disarm dozens of death threats, convincing a giant to become an actor, and making your way through a right proper Carnival-O-Death (which just screams Murderworld) to slay a half-dressed succubus, these quests cannot be contested they are unique. They also…… take forever to run, but in a way, that’s part of the charm. These are definitely “flavor” quests and not XP/min quests (except The Snitch, which is lacking in flavor, but can be completed in about four minutes and is a good “will I get slaughtered in Epic?” test).
The Necropolis, Part 1
XP: Moderate (Tombs) to Absolutely Phenomenal (Bloody Crypt). With two or three good people, you can turn the Crypt into an express pass to level 8 in a very, very short time.
Loot: There’s loot? I’m kidding, I’m kidding, there is. But nothing really worth going ga-ga over.
Experience: Again, varies highly depending on how you like undead. If you liked the Catacombs, you’ll love the Necropolis. If you hated the Catacombs, you should still do it just for The Bloody Crypt‘s XP bomb. Yeah, it’s that good.
XP: Meh (before U24), freakin’ nuts (current)
Loot: Some of the most ridiculously OP weapons available to low-level toons in the game are found here. (No, seriously. Who decided that the Scorching Wraps should be ML4? Not that I want them to change. I’m just sayin’.) In the Epic version, the loot’s awesomeness is precisely LOLWUT? level, in the best possible way.
Experience: Okay, I’m torn on this one. First off, I’m biased, because I can’t stand pirate-themed anything. The quests are different, if sometimes infuriating (I guarantee at least ten expletives on your first run of Prove Your Worth). On the other hand, the pack is worth it for the Epic Wilderness Area alone, in my opinon…. because who doesn’t love taking down freaking airships??
XP: Solid, If you know what you’re doing (all but part 2); you’d better run this at least once because omg (part 2)
Experience: Ehh, it’s alright. Since it’s one of the older packs, it’s marred a little bit by progression bugs which make speed-farming it a delicate process (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally skipped Delera at the end of Part 3 and glitched Hargo so I can’t progress to the final quest, only to start all over). Generally speaking, there are better “infestations of undeath” available… although the loot from Deleras contains probably the single most farmed item in the game’s history to this day.
XP: Once again, solid once you know what you’re doing. Otherwise, moderate to ehh.
Loot: Two of my favorite pieces of monk gear – Snowstar and the Quicksilver Cassok – both drop here. Heavies will love the Scavenged Warplate and there’s a mix of gear for young characters that is pretty wicked, too.
Experience: Taking from the Tangleroot series, there’s a bit of “revisit old maps,” but for the most part, you only do each one twice, so it’s just enough to be familiar but not enough to seem tedious. Unless you’re really good at evading traps manually – like, able to pass Gwylan’s Stand on Elite with no hassles good – you’ll want a trapper to make life tolerable in some of the quests, which brings an element of “ohh, dear” to the arc. Tons of secrets and offshoots to explore, puzzles that require a touch of thought but don’t need a wiki to solve, a nice spread of monster types, and all in all, a pretty solid variety in the pack.
XP: ZOMG YES. (Don’t make the mistake of only counting the end XP in Devil Assault – all of those optionals are worth a lot when added up at the end.)
Loot: Some pretty sick gear (Abishai Set, anyone?) for low levels, most of which transfer up into delicious Epic versions, and the ability to farm the entire array of Green Steel materials during the Epic versions while getting brilliant XP make this a tasty pack to pick up.
Experience: It’s only one quest (which is a single room) and a raid; however, the quest itself (Devil Assault) acts as a wicked XP pool as well as a bit of a crucible. The higher difficulties of Devil Assault can shred an unprepared party in seconds if their game isn’t tight, which forces you to play cooperatively. The Chronoscope is probably the first “real” raid outside of the free-to-play Tempest’s Spine which most players will cut their teeth on.. and for that reason alone, this scores a “worth it” rating.
Raid: Yes, as mentioned above, probably your first “real” one, too.
The Temple of Elemental Evil
XP: In amounts, whoa. This is a crapton of XP. However, your first time through will take you hours. I mean, seriously. In subsequent runs, when you know what you’re doing, you can cut “four and a half hours” down to “less than twenty minutes,” but you’re skipping a great deal of content to do so. This is not your XP/min grind-fest quest.
Loot: Mind = blown. So much lewtz. So much upgradez. SO MUCH.
Experience: If you haven’t played this, you need to. If you thought the almost universally-acclaimed Haunted Halls of Eveningstar was brilliant, this better be on your to-do list. Hell, do it with a retardedly over-powered character, if you have to, to learn it. Yes, yes, and yes. Play it yesterday, if not sooner.
Raid: LOLOL this might as well be a raid. What other quest has an XP-optional objective for “kill 3,000 monsters?” And yes. You’ll probably hit it. I’ve hit 1,500 while soloing more than once. This is a mob-killers and crowd controller’s wet dream.
Sentinels of Stormreach
XP: Ehh….. except Spies in the House, which is absurdly tasty.
Loot: Mostly ehh, but contains the pieces for a practiaclly-mandatory piece of monk gear, the Jidz-Tet’ka bracers. Some of the Epic-ed versions are pretty slick, too. Otherwise, nothing to write home about.
Experience: Whether it’s shutting down a black-market slave trade/assassination outfit, infiltrating and destroying a cove filled with intelligent zombies (and a few failures) which has one of the more delightful loot rooms at this level, assaulting an island fortress with multiple ingress points (and ballistae!), or re-taking Sentinel’s Tower from a hostile airship invasion, this arc certainly makes you feel badass and properly heroic.
The Necropolis, Part 2
XP: Moderate (tombs) to Absolutely Phenomenal it if you know how to do it (Shadow Crypt)
Loot: The Devout Handwraps. ‘Nuff said.
Experience: The first time through, this will alternately fascinate and terrify the living daylights out of you.. while possibly driving you completely mad. The quests each have a unique and twisted mechanic to make them… interesting. Some are loathed (the swimming segments of Tomb of the Shadow Guard), some completely sadistic (although I, personally, adore this quest, I know some that treat it as Where Angels Fear to Tread territory, with the infinite respawns of incorporeal stat-damage-dealing wraiths, shadows, and phase spiders in Tomb of the Shadow King), and some are designed to make you go completely insane (The Shadow Crypt without a guide). Nonetheless, they are a unique set of quests which makes them worth a run – at least once.
The Ruins of Threnal
XP: Totally not worth the hassle.
Loot: Totally worth the hassle. From an unblockable force-damage rune arm (Recoyle) to a ridiculously powerful divine longsword (Retribution) to the Mantle of the Worldshaper, and more, there’s something here for almost everyone.
Experience: Vastly improved now that the “defend Coyle for fifteen minutes” quest has been reworked to no longer be a fury-inducing rage-quit factory, and is pretty much an automatic success. The quests themselves are.. less than inspiring, and involve a good deal of babysitting (33% of them have “protect the toddler” mechanics), but are otherwise meh. This arc is very, very much a Quest for the Arc-End Reward. Be careful during dialog choices, however – it’s an old pack, and very easy to bug out if you try any funny business (intentional or otherwise) in conversation.
The Vault of Night
XP: There’s a reason several of these quests are in the “daily rotation” for Epics. The XP for Jungles and the VON5 raid are retarded.
Loot: Umm.. what? There’s loot? Okay, okay, the exception being the Epic Sword of Shadows… but good bloody luck with scoring that.
Experience: The Heroic versions of the quests act as a sort of “mid-level proving grounds” in the sense that, if you’re not prepared, you’ll get eaten alive. Be it by the mobs in the Arena, the beholders or The Inevitable in Jungles, traps and and a self-destructing factory in the Foundry, or stat-damage/beholders/wtf in the Prisoner, there’s a wide array of “okay, seriously?” available to test your mettle. And all of that is a precursor to the raid(s), which will crank all of that – and your teamwork and sanity on the first run – to the limits. Stir into the mix that this pack is very, very much Epic-ed, and the end result is a “must-own” pack. Who cares if the loot is… oh, here, sure, I’ll pass that shard of the Slippers of the Auburn Prophecy.. I dun want it.
Raid: Not just one, but two! (Sort of.) And both cross over into Epic.
The Red Fens
XP: No. Okay, there is some, that’s not fair, but….. eh.
Loot: With the exception of The Pea Shooter, no. The other sets and items in here are woefully outdated in Heroics.
Experience: For the first three quests, it’s… alright. One quest of “nothing special” defending a platform, one quest of “please tell me this will be over soon” with twelve point nine million scorpions, and one quest of “oh, hey, this is different” with a flooded ziggurat. The cap to the arc, however, is pretty slick – I mean, come on, you’re at the bottom of the freakin’ ocean! And, after you finish the final boss, you have an optional Extreme Challenge hezrou – heed the warnings if you are not a Certifiable Bad-Ass, for he will shred you like Play-Doh if you aren’t. If you must question whether you are, you aren’t. The final quest – Into the Deep – alone is worth giving the Red Fens a playthrough for the experience.
The Restless Isles
XP: Considering the amount of effort you’ll go through to get it, hell the eff no. I’ve never seen these even posted for in the last year, except for favor.
Loot: There’s better, easier, and more reliable loot elsewhere. The only exception being the Ring of the Ancestors which acts as a brilliant “oh $#!T” button for when the healer dies.. but this can also be replicated with Raise Dead scrolls. In short, pass.
Experience: If you’re a glutton for punishment and love torturous quest-auto-fail mechanics in Slavers of the Shrieking Mines then have at it. The other flagging quest isn’t bad, just long as heck and takes two point nine years to walk to. As for the raid(s)? Good luck with that. In short, an exercise in frustration and disappointment.
Raid: Two, but good luck filling it up.
The Demon Sands
XP: Solid (most everything) to holy cow (Wiz-King).
Loot: There’s actually a couple of pretty tasty pieces in here, including the base item for the Epic Ring of Spell Storing which is just plain nuts.
Experience: The quests here feel epic as hell, even the Heroic ones. Whether it’s fleeing for your life from a never-ending flood of drow in An Offering of Blood to exploring the enormous 13-story pyramid of horrors that is The Chamber of Raiyum (often nicknamed Wiz-King for the subtitle) to taking on an entire gnoll city’s slaving operation in Chains of Flame, each quest will leave you going “holy cow, I just accomplished something” when you finish. Five stars for the “Yippi-kay-yay” factor here.
Raid: Yes, although it requires re-running a pre-raid every time, which can get tedious. Considering the gravity of what you had to do just to get to the sodding raid, I felt it was a bit of a let-down in terms of grandiosity (it’s basically one hallway and a round platform).
The Necropolis, Part 3
XP: Moderate to unbelievable (Tomb of the Tormented).
Experience: By far the most intricate, unique, and at the same time infuriating of all the Necropolis arcs. The offerings here range from constantly juggling cripplingly debilitating diseases with limited resources of holy water, to blurring the lines between reality and death, to leading rats through a maze by leading them on with scraps of zombie meat (no, I’m not kidding). The art styles in each of the tombs is different and unique, although the whole thing can be marred by the Tomb of the Tormented and its rat-race. This quest has one hell of an XP bomb to entice you to suffer through it, though.
Attack on Stormreach
XP: Solid. Not great, but not crap, either.
Loot: There’s some tasty pieces to be had in here, most of which are made by fusing items from the first arc with its sister arc in the latter half.
Experience: The quests are fun, different, and have a bunch of unique mechanics in them – including one of the most infuriating puzzles in the game, or, at least it is until you figure out how it works (at the end of Siegebreaker), at which point it becomes a cake. At the same time, the quest has gobs of humor in it, and one of my favorite items in the game – the BUCKET OF DESTINY!!! If you haven’t run it yet, you should, if only to experience the giggles of listening to Brinky and The Pain bicker, murdering an orc chef while slipping on his bacon grease, blowing up a bunch of ships blockading the Harbor, or having fun with tricking your first Medusa opponent into looking in a mirror.
Trials of the Archons
XP: Pretty darn solid, provided extraplanar genocide is an old song in your songbook. (Sorry, I just had to use that phrase outside of Harper context. Solely so I can say it happened. –Ed.)
Loot: Some of the weapons from the Heroic arc, at minimum level 13, will blast you all the way into Epics. You might have to do some farming for them, but the return on investment for them is mind-blowing. Riftmaker, Divine Artillery, Dawnbringer, the Bleeding Edge, and Light Unending are all weapons that you can easily build an entire Heroic career out of, and their Epic versions are no slouch, either. There are quite a few extremely juicy accessories from here, as well. All in all, there are delicious bits and bobs for nearly every playstyle and class that can drop from here. In the Epic iterations, the drops from Defiler of the Just are completely off-the-wall in the best way possible.
Experience: Be prepared for quite a bit of devil- and demon-based antics, and more importantly, come equipped for such. The flood of extraplanar enemies can make mulch out of parties who are less than braced for impact, or approach the higher difficulties with carefree tactics. Having said all of that, each of the three quests in the arc pits you against mostly different enemy types (celestials, demons, and devils) to keep things from becoming repetitive. Wandering into The Devil’s Details without being prepared for the flood of Abishai elemental devastation (and/or not having Evasion) has been the cause of uncountable player deaths.
Raid: Yes, one, the aforementioned level-30 Defiler of the Just. Relatively short in duration, heavy in player cooperation, and about half a dozen fail conditions.. but some absolutely gorgeous end-game loot pieces.
The Devil’s Gambit
XP: Bit of a range here; one of the quests is quite short and doesn’t pay off as much because of it, but the remainder provide quite a hefty chunk.
Loot: Continuing in the tradition of its sister arc, Trials of the Archons, much of the loot here is oh-so tasty. It seems almost as if your build’s playstyle wasn’t represented in Trials, then you’re getting items in The Devil’s Gambit. Possibly both. From orbs to daggers, tower shields to repeaters, there’s something for almost everyone between the two arcs.
Experience: Somewhat less varied than the quests in Trials, The Devil’s Gambit has you carving your way through what feels like an entire army’s worth of abishai, orthons, and tieflings. If The Devil’s Details made you sweat, this arc will most definitely cause a small aneurysm, as each room is practically filled with elemental spell-flinging abishai, most notably those damnable Red Abishai and their thermonuclear-level Delayed Blast Fireballs. If you don’t have Evasion, move slowly and bring stacks and stacks of Raise Dead solutions. On the other hand, that level of intensity is quite thrilling and a welcome alternative to other quests in the same level range. Plus, loot.
Raid: No. Lore-wise, this actually makes sense, as it’s effectively a prelude to disaster in the expanded Vale of Twilight.
Ruins of Gianthold
XP: A must-have stop on the road from 13 to 16. No joke. It’s that good.
Loot: Serious pieces of goodness here, for almost every class and build. There is a veritable library of stuff that can be acquired, crafted, or upgraded in Gianthold – just one more reason this is a “go-to” pack for vets.
Experience: While the majority of the Gianthold quests don’t really have a whole lot of mechanics to them – the vast majority can be lumped into an Operation: Kill! Kill! Kill! group – there are a few worth some honorable mentions. The Crucible is just as its name suggests, and can be a complete murder-box for players who don’t know the maze or groups that don’t have a “swimmer.” Soloing it is a nightmare and all-but requires an absolute minimum of one hireling (assuming you’re as fast as The Flash) and hoping they don’t wig out on you. The Reaver’s Fate involves a timer and a couple of hidden fail mechanics which aren’t immediately apparent – and a Mastermind-style puzzle after everything is dead that throws a nice little monkey wrench in the plans. In short, if you don’t already have this pack…. wait, you don’t? Seriously?
Raid: One Heroic, one Epic
The Necropolis, Part 4
XP: Pretty darn tasty.. although a couple of the quests will have you working for it.
Loot: The quest loot is largely meh. There’s a couple of delightful pieces one can acquire by collecting bits and bobs from the quests and adventure area – one of which is a popular go-to helm for most classes, the Minos Legens. The Epic loot can be quite yummy!
Experience: I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but how much you enjoy this arc is going to be directly related to how well you know it. If it’s your first time through and you don’t have a guide, keep the wiki on-hand at all times – particularly in the Inferno of the Damned which will otherwise make you want to pull your hair out by the roots. And if you are in any way, shape, or form terrified by beholders, Ghosts of Perdition will elevate that into a full-on phobia. Having said that, the quests are all very unique and twisted – again, that seems to be a trend in the Necropolis – and with a group can be a great deal of fun.
Raid: Two, both Heroic and Epic. I can’t speak on either of them, however, as I’ve yet to run them. I do know, however, the Heroic version requires assembly of a Sigil with eight pieces randomly scattered about the wilderness and quests, which can be a bit of a PITA to arrange.
The Harbinger of Madness
XP: Moderate. Extremely fast farming on the first quest, if you’re into that sort of thing, once you learn how.
Loot: A pantload of fun and slightly loco items to be found here. Each one comes with its own Xoriat flavor of being halfway ’round the bend.. and some of the armors can be upgraded with a variety of effects that will leave you going “ooooh… I want that one, too!”
Experience: I LOVE THIS ARC SO MUCH!!! From collecting evidence on a demented kidnapper to massacring deranged victims who’ve already had their brains scrambled, dealing with horribly disfigured (and quite disturbing, if you listen to them “talk”) ex-humans called the “Taken” to a fashion show of misshapen limbs, everything starts off normal on the surface and rapidly devolves into outright insanity. Which, after all, is half the FUN of Xoriat! If you’re craving at-level Elite difficulty, the final quest, In the Flesh, certainly delivers with a heaping helping of bat-$#!T crazy and “what the hell is going on?” amidst waves of respawning beholders, mind flayers, and flesh renders…. oh, while you’re trying to break down Yaulthoon‘s mental probe pods by tricking his own psionic blasts into following you around (while dealing with said respawns) and blowing his own defenses up before attacking him while the whole fight takes place inside his brain and he eats you if you die. Wrap your head-meat around that one. ^_^
The Vale of Twilight
XP: Epic-level experience in Heroic-level content. No joke. The XP here is bananas. Hands-down the most LFM’ed pack and raid for that reason alone. If you own only one pack, this needs to be it.
Loot: If you’re looking for chest-drop loot in the traditional sense, there isn’t any. On the other hand, this pack unlocks the materials needed to perform Green Steel Crafting (it is possible to construct a fully fledged Green Steel item without the Vale, but it’s a major pain in the pancreas. Trust me, my first one was made that way. It took forever and was a bleeding nightmare – but it is possible). Green Steel items are ridiculously powerful when completed, and with minimum level 11 or 12 (depending on whether it’s an accessory or weapon), are often extremely sought after for TR’s. So in a sense, the Vale has both the “worst” loot (i.e. no named chest drops) and the “best” loot (try and beat a Green Steel weapon at level 12. Go ahead. I’ll wait) at the same time.
Experience: I will freely admit that this paragraph is going to be biased. I have a pretty intense dislike for the Vale quests – partially due to a series of outright-nasty and abusive PUGs (yes, there are some players who haven’t memorized every quest in the game, Mr. D-Bag), and partly due to fail mechanics that are sometimes beyond your control. Oddly, the one quest everyone else I know complains about (The Coalescence Chamber) is the one I enjoy the most – after I learned out to run it. Once you know the path, it’s a straight-forward whack-n-smack. The two I dislike the most – Rainbow in the Dark (reliant upon the “lightbearer” and hope it’s not a total jerkwad in a PUG, or, carry it yourself and induce seizures as the light source strobes for every attack in the whole quest) and Let Sleeping Dust Lie (I seriously exterminate Every. Single. ONE. of those damnable redfoot spiders at every possible opportunity, with extreme prejudice, and will continue to do so for the remainder of my time in this game, for that damned quest) are the ones most of my buds want to run the most.
Raid: One* – not just one, but the single most-run raid when it launched, and still to this day, and is probably the highest-run raid in DDO’s history of ever. This is DDO’s “Hall of Fame” raid, by a landslide. On my home server, Orien, I would find it a fair estimate that there’s at least one Shroud run every six hours. Possibly more.
*Edit: Patrick informs me that the Hound of Xoriat and A Vision of Destruction raids both required access to the Vale of Twilight pack – and according to the wiki, he’s right! Even though they’re not run terribly often (at least, not on Orien), that’s all the more reason to make this your “go-to” pack.
Vale of Twilight (Legendary Expansion)
Special Note: This snippet is referring specifically to the content changes with Update 29. Previous notes about the Heroic Vale of Twilight are in a separate entry.
XP: Quite good for the quests, to absolutely bananas for the Legendary Shroud.
Loot: Wow.. where do I begin with this one? Each of the two new quests provides both a Heroic and Legendary version; the Heroic ones can be pretty brutal in their own right and are in no way a pushover. However, every bloody new quest in this pack has gone completely garbanzo beans in the quality of loot – ranging from the Heroic items in their two quests, all the way up to the items in Legendary Tempest’s Spine and Legendary Hound of Xoriat which are nuts in their own right. Oh, and we haven’t even gotten started on Legendary Green Steel, yet… if you’re going to play at endgame, and you don’t have the expanded Vale of Twilight pack, that’s a very, very serious consideration to make. And if you don’t have the Heroic one, either, then you didn’t read my previous note. If you own only one pack, the Expanded Vale of Twilight (which now includes both Legendary and Heroic) still needs to be it.
Experience: To quote the eternal prophet Wayne Campbell, master of Zen and co-host of Wayne’s World, the Legendary content can only be described as “intensity in ten cities.” The ballistic amounts of XP most frequently end up being washed out as folks are running it at-cap, and for good reason – Legendary Elite will chew you for breakfast if you aren’t bringing your A-game. Yellow-named “strong” mobs (trolls, giants, etc.) will regularly hit you for 900-1,500 damage at high speeds, and (of special note) is Sor’jek Incanni the Cloud Giant Summoner’s sword, which can cleave for 5,000+ damage to large groups of players. And does so. Frequently. You’d do best to come correct on these raids.
Raid: Yes, a whopping three – the Legendary Shroud, Legendary Tempest’s Spine, and Legendary Hound of Xoriat.
Shadow over Wheloon (Part one of the Shadowfell Conspiracy)
XP: I’ve heard some folks theorize that this was intended to be a “Vale-killer” for the XP grind. There’s a pantload of XP to be had here, but it just didn’t take off like the Vale did; still, mad XPz, yo, and the Epic version is just plain nuts in this regard (over half a million for first completion on Epic Normal).
Loot: Some of the best Heroic gear around for focused builds, and in many cases, the only way to get +8 gear at level 15. The arc-end armors are… less than stellar, and some of the named items are little more than lootgen with a name; having said that, there are some wondrous ones, as well.
Experience: Have patience, young one. Your first run through Wheloon will probably be filled with frustration, loads of getting lost, and turned around every two seconds. The Wilderness area’s navigation doesn’t help, with a “two-tiered” approach (surface streets and roofs) that both seem to have different paths, and you can bounce between the two. The final quest, Through a Mirror Darkly, is a multi-floored, bi-dimensional mindjob if you don’t have a guide… and having said that, it’s one of my favorite quests of all time that I run daily on my Epic toons. It’s dark, it’s twisted, and the clink-clink-clink sound of a Shadar-Kai Assassin beginning to spin his chain will be forever etched in your mind with as much intensity as “GET TO THE CHOPPAH!! NAO!” However, if your machine’s graphics processing isn’t quite up to par, the Shadowfell (a.k.a. “Lagmo Bismol”) aspects of Wheloon will probably infuriate you to the point of avoiding this area, entirely.
The Druid’s Deep
XP: For the effort, weak at best.
Loot: There are some pretty nice pieces that come out of here – the Ivy Wraps for monks, Corruption of Nature for artificers, Leaves of the Forest for druids, and more. Not to mention that this is one of two arcs that gives you three guaranteed faction Commendations of your choice, guaranteed, on completion – if you’re having rotten luck, blitzing this arc on Casual can be gobs faster than trolling for rares in the High Road or King’s Forest.
Experience: Plants. Plants and animals. More plants. OKAY, WE GET IT, WE’RE DEALING WITH DRUIDS. The “twisted nature” thing of this arc is about as subtle as a hezrou with a maul. Another hammer-to-the-face is the “you must kill everything in every room to advance six feet” factor. Once you make your way to the end of Druid’s Deep, you’re faced with what is quite possibly the one boss in DDO who wins the “I Am The Cheese-King” award – Halsaime. Unprepared, his “death pit” of Earthquake/Storm of Vengeance/Ice Storm and DoTs will rip parties to shreds, and his invincible (!!!) Spirit Animal forms will (literally) eat you for breakfast. This is one arc where the grind actually feels like a grind; Red Fens has different locations and mechanics, at least, the Ruins of Threnal keeps you on your toes with traps and keys and beholders, and the Restless Isles has you on-edge the whole time with the risk of auto-fails or having your head lopped off. Druid’s Deep just feels like a whack-a-mole grind with a boss obsessed with cheap shots at the end. At least the loot is worth it… oh, hey, there’s one on the Auction House, never mind.
The Reaver’s Reach
XP: Are you kidding me? HELL no.
Loot: At one point, I’m told the Dragontouched Armor that was crafted here was some of the best in-game, once you got your Eldritch/Tempest/Soverign Runes lined up… finally. In the modern game, however, no. Just no.
Experience: PTSD-worthy. Each of the three flagging quests has some sort of ridiculously irritating mechanic (protect the dragon that’s trying to kill you from the horde of giants trying to kill you both with failure on dragon death, infinitely respawning fiery death machines in front of a kobold with Epic-level HP, solve a puzzle while a regenerating Scorrow with Epic-level HP and his infinitely respawning pool of trash tear you to pieces and/or jack your puzzle up) and that’s just the boss fights. The quests themselves aren’t much better. Stealer of Souls is just a collection of every nightmare cheap-shot and fail condition rolled into a single ball of suck – with a time limit! The frustration level here is rage-quit inducing, the XP for the effort is lousy, the loot is effectively nonexistent, and in short, only run this once for favor.
Raid: No! Thank the Maker.
Reign of Madness
XP: Kind of lousy, to be honest.
Loot: Some interesting pieces drop in-quest, but the best parts are the glops of brain, adhesive goo, and eyeballs that you can use to upgrade the Harbinger of Madness gear, as well as the arc-end rewards. Some of those are quite tasty. I won’t say this is an arc where the “loot makes it worth it,” however, as they’re pretty niche-ey.. although the Shard of Xoriat is always fun.
Experience: Okay, now this is where Xoriat shines! From the Fantasia-esque job of escorting dancing furniture to the laundry room to build an airship out of beds and bookshelves (because, duh), getting into a brawl with a kitchen key that was giving you the stink-eye, having a staring contest between a beholder and a medusa (I never have found out who won in that one, boo) to purposefully not killing elementals that you smacked around.. oh, and did I mention convincing a half-sane extraplanar demigod to help you recapture the first (completely insane) extraplanar demigod you already set free? Or visiting our favorite friendly mind flayer in an (in)sane asylum where the lines between reality and what-the-hell start getting really blurry? The quests aren’t easy – on Elite, they can be downright nightmarish – but are all warped and quite fun. Plus, you get to give Fred a hug!
The Path of Inspiration (a.k.a. “Inspired Quarter”)
Loot: The final quest drops some seriously tasty loot that is very much worth farming for. No, really. Go check it out, here. You might have to farm it a few times to get what you wanted, but trust me, it’ll be worth it… and they all unlock in a later pack to make them that much better.
Experience: I have to say, this one is kind of neat, in my opinion, but mostly because of the whole “dream sequence” quests. There are dozens of twists and hide-aways in I Dream of Jeets alone, including plenty that are in no way obvious or straightforward.. one might say “oops” is how they tend to be found, if exploring on your own… and, truthfully, I absolutely adore these sort of nuggets that you find out after years of playing the quest. Some of the quests are straightforward hack ‘n slash, and that’s fine. There’s still a good bit of silly humor in here – after all, “I don’t believe you heard me stutter, when I told you PEANUT BUTTER!”
The High Road of Shadows
XP: Low to moderate.
Loot: This stuff is straight-up phenomenal. Almost every trapper would drool over a pair of the Bracers of Twisting Shade, sword-and-board tanks would likewise go ga-ga over Bastion, and most folks would look sharp in a pair of Treads of Falling Shadow. That’s only a portion of what’s available; this is very much a place where the quests aren’t run for XP, but for the “all that and a bag of chips” loot.
Experience: The first time through, the quests have a great deal of interesting side paths and turns, tons of optionals, and a pretty wide variety of monsters ranging from half-naked tree wenches to crab-clawed Glabrezu demons from the Plane of Chaos. Oh, and a bunch of stuff in between. Varied locales from swamps to towns to abandoned castles keep things from seeming repetitive; all-in-all, a pretty decent pack, provided you walk in knowing you’re going for loot and not XP. If you go in for XP, you’ll be disappointed… but the loot’s so wicked you won’t give a crap.
Heart of Madness
XP: Moderate.. but you’re going to work for it.
Loot: While I have yet to pull any of it, myself (even after a few completions), I’ve scoped it out on the wiki, and most of it looks to be pretty darn tasty, if a little.. awkward at times. Come to think of it, I might have to go give them another couple of runs just to see if I can pull some of it, tonight. As far as whether or not it’s worth the effort – hmm. It’s still relatively new, so I can’t readily say how much it’s worth it in the long run. The Epic Four Eyes looks kind of fun..
Experience: This pack alternates between madness in a literal sense and madness in a figurative sense.. with a strange dash of “par for the course” by the time your adventurers have gotten to that level. Wandering into a museum, only to have the exhibits attack you? Meh, that’s expected by level 18. Attending a fashion show only to have a Night of the Living Dead-sized swarm of Taken pour out of every corner of Lordsdmarch Plaza? That’s more madness in the sheer scope of the mob, rather than actual Xoriat flavor. Only one of the three actually includes any sort of Xoriat fun, but what a doozy it is… returning, once again, to the seemingly cursed-by-Xoriat Sleeping Spell Inn, Terminal Delirium certainly lives up to its name. Poop on a cracker and call that dessert! My final thoughts on this pack are very simple: If you hated the Harbinger of Madness or the Reign of Madness, either one, you’ll probably want to pass on this one. If you loved either, snag this… Terminal Delirium’s absurdity alone is worth the price of admission for fans of Xoriat.
The Secret of the Storm Horns (part two of the Shadowfell Conspiracy)
XP: Loads, although the quests are rather on the lengthy side.
Loot: Once again, there are some tasty pieces from the Shadowfell expansion. My favorite is easily Thunder and Lightning, a pair of handwraps that, with a Meteoric Star Ruby, provide some heavy BOOM all the way into early Epics.
Experience: Holy Cow. The Storm Horns wilderness area itself is easily one of the most expansive – and gorgeous! – areas in the game. It is also pretty grueling with the hike leading to the last two quests taking a good long while.. and expect to get lost several times if it’s your first time through. The quests themselves lend quite an epic feel to them; What Goes Up is, in my opinion, the most “epic” feeling quest around. If you haven’t played it yet, it’s well worth it.. I won’t spoil it for you. Let’s just say it is very, very much a “multiple whoa” kind of quest.
The Dreaming Dark
XP: Low, except Raiding the Giant’s Vault, high
Loot: The only real “native” loot to the Isle of Forgotten Dreams are a large variety of Ioun Stones; other than that, its primary purpose is to upgrade items from the Path of Inspiration pack.
Experience: The quests leading up to the Dreaming Dark aren’t really anything special, primarily just hack-n-slash your way to victory. The Dreaming Dark itself, however, is a trippy gravity-warbling, high-flying daydream through “interpretations” of Stormreach, culminating in a duel to the death with the Devourer of Dreams himself. (Herself? Itself?) I have fond memories of this quest, it being the first time I had encountered a purple-named Raid-level boss in a party of… well, at the time, two! This fight is quite crazy and, on higher difficulties, can really test the survivability and sustainability of your party, particularly if the Living Nightmares are left to their own means and get a bit too uppity. With unsurpressed Ioun Stones being amazing items for TRs, and a guaranteed Ioun Stone on every third completion (with a chance on every one), it’s a good place to farm up a nice assortment of them.
Secrets of the Artificers
Loot: Some nice named pieces here, including the Cannith Boots of Propulsion, the Tinker’s set, and the Fabricator’s Gauntlets. The Alchemical Crafting items can get to ridiculously powerful proportions, but you’re going to bust your bum for them, and the raids don’t see a whole lot of traffic these days.
Experience: Alternately extremely interesting and extremely frustrating. The Cannith Manufactury quests are a nice change of environment from the typical high-fantasy setting, bringing a much more steampunk-ish vibe to the quests and enemies. The frustration comes almost exclusively from the hostile artificers and their Lightning Spheres – instant stun, and in spite of the description, there is currently no functioning saving throw. Which means you can take a capped level 28 toon in there with +60 to all saves and yup.. you’re still going to get stunned. When there is more than one in the room, they have a habit of chaining throws together to turn you into a standing pincushion. Frustration central! But the quests themselves are different and unique, most of which have multiple solutions and routes through them, and that makes them different.. and different is fun.
Raid: Yes, two, both with Heroic and Epic versions.
The Devils of Shavarath
XP: Frequent readers will know I absolutely adore this area. But I’ll be the first to admit that for the effort, experience-wise, you’ll put in on Elite, just go re-run the Vale. The XP here is whack, and even more so considering the unrelenting brutality.
Loot: At one point, the loot here was the go-to stuff. About the only pieces worth mentioning now are the Mysterious Bauble, which nearly any toon with a blue bar wants for a backup clicky, and the Shimmering Arrowhead for primary ranged characters. Granted, those two alone are pretty bloody wicked. I can haz free Major Mnemonic Enhancer every rest? Yes, plz, kthxbai. There are gobs of other named pieces (a matched two-piece set for every prestige class in the game) which aren’t bad, but they seem… too niche-ey for the current iteration of the game, at least for most builds.
Experience: Here’s where Shavarath really shines. A vast number of tactics that normally work – for example, assuming there’s actual time for enemies to approach you and using that to lay down defenses or ranged preparatory damage – simply don’t work here as the majority of enemies will merely teleport to your location.. sometimes even through walls and doors. ‘Safe spots” to stop and catch your breath are few and far between, as there are typically wandering orthons or barbazu who will aggro you and BANF! in to wreck your respite. It lends the entire pack an “on-edge” feel – add to that several quests are semi-randomized and there simply aren’t set paths to completion (Bastion of Power and A New Invasion) along with two other quests who have changing endings depending on your choices during the quest (Genesis Point and Sins of Attrition) and the replay value goes through the roof. Expect loads of brutality, punishing mobs, nearly every enemy having Spell Resistance, multiple DRs, elemental resistances, or some mix of all three (always changing!), and this pack will keep you on your toes for a long time coming. There’s a reason a bunch of folks consider The Weapons Shipment to be both a crucible-slash-rite-of-passage, as well as one hell of an adrenaline rush. Personally, even in spite of the rather limited loot usage for modern builds and (frankly) lousy XP for the effort, I still consider this to be one of my favorite packs of all time. If you already have VoN, Gianthold, and the Vale, and are looking for a challenging Heroic kick in the chops, this is a brilliant stop.
Raid: Yes, one Heroic.. which has a wonderful tongue-in-cheek lore plot twist that’s quite amusing for veterans of the Vale of Twilight.
Menace of the Underdark
XP: Freakin’ nuts. Completing the entire pack is also part of not one, not two, but three sagas to the easy tune of an extra 100K+ XP just for finishing it… which are repeatable, and you have an express pass to mad Epic XP. If you’re going to play in Epics, you need MotU.
Loot: I have only five characters to say about the loot: “AYFKM?” The loot here is phenomenal. I can’t even begin to list my favorites, because it’s practically every darn piece available. All those sick weapons from the Raider’s Reward Box? Yeah, they came from here. If you’re going to gear up a new toon for Epics, you need MotU.
Experience: While visiting the Underdark and murdering drow in their home city of Sschindylryn is a blast (and Sschindylryn is probably one of the most efficient Slayer areas in the game, IMO), the Demonweb area alone is worth the price of admission. Twisted quests, an adventure area that has convoluted, multi-tiered paths with partially subjective gravity (you might have flashbacks of the movie Labyrinth), many paths which change each instance, it will take you a looong time to really feel like you’ve got the area down pat. It’s definitely not a “one loop of the Explorers and I have the region down pat” area. The ares are huge, the environments stellar, and if you’re going to seriously take a character above level 20, this is pretty much a “must-have” pack.
Raid: Yes, one Epic, with some pretty fabulous loot. Yes, it is trumped by Thunder-Forged, but this gear is for lower levels before T-forged really takes off at 26.
The Haunted Halls of Eveningstar
XP: All I’m going to say is one (1) optional is worth 32K XP on Epic Normal. An optional. On Normal. Let that sink in for a moment.
Loot: There are some seriously sick pieces of loot here… that can be upgraded, to boot. I won’t spoil it by posting them, but suffice it to say that some of these pieces go for 250+ Astral Shards on the Exchange, and for good reason.
Experience: Old-school, pen-and-paper D&D players will nearly weep at the scope of this dungeon. There are more nods to classic P&P dungeon crawls than you can shake a stick at. Prior to the launch of The Temple of Elemental Evil, the Haunted Halls was the single largest quest in DDO by a landslide. A full, thorough run of every nook and cranny could easily take 70-90 minutes without even trying.. and yet it never feels boring, because each “region” has its own flavor and ambience… even the toilet. (Yes, you can venture forth into the sewage system of the Halls. Good idea, too, since there’s likely some hidden loot down there.) If you’re hemming and hawwing over whether or not to pick up the pack because it’s “just one quest,” do it. Pro-Tip: If you don’t have evasion, do not come within 45 feet of the optional raid boss Miior. You have been warned.
Raid: No, but there are five (5) raid bosses! And no, I’m not kidding.
Shadow Under Thunderholme
XP: Pretty solid in the adventure area, can’t really say too much on the raids which are CR 10,000,000 and you’re insane if you attempt them under-cap anyway.
Loot: Thunder-Forged. That is all. These weapons and armor will completely and utterly destroy anything you had previously, go potty on them, run it over with a bulldozer, and then donate it for terminal orphaned dolphin cancer children to play with. They’re also completely customizable. Think of them as the Epic version of Green Steel on PCP, growth hormones, cocaine, and methamphetamines. This region doesn’t even need named loot – T-forged stuff is good enough alone.
Experience: Exploring the complex of Thunderholme is pretty fun and has a very dwarven feel to it – right angles, straight lines, large stocky statues abound. Levers in the shape of warhammers, that sort of thing. As with apparently all dwarves, though, they dug too deep (again? really guys?) and unleashed hell… again. Really guys? It’s pretty expansive, and has a wide variety of monsters and lore to keep things moving.. along with the occasional puzzle (but nothing too tricky, really, just stand at the end point and turn the mirrors on the one path they can go in right angles). Although, frankly, the whole area could have been stabbing homeless Muppets and we would do it just for Thunder-Forged materials, so everything else is just gravy on top.
Raid: Yes, two Epic raids that fall under the “Epic Retarded” difficulty.
So there we have it! The semi-definitive and totally biased guide to each and every adventure pack available, as well as why you want to run it (or don’t want to). And I managed to keep it under 8,000 words!…. barely. I can’t help but notice that I got a lot more verbose as the quests get higher and higher in level – probably because the lower-level content really doesn’t have a whole lot of “experience” about it. They can’t throw tons of curveballs at you at that level, at least not without making quests that are generally loathed (Proof is in the Poison and Freshen the Air come to mind). Some of the quests that I adore at that level and that provide that “huge experience” are also not in adventure packs, so I couldn’t write about them! Gwylan’s Stand and Stormcleave Outpost both provide huge areas, multi-objective questing, and a vivid, epic experience… but, alas, weren’t in packs. Perhaps one of these days, I’ll go and do a write-up of my favorite quests… a Top List, if you will… but why stop at quests? Unleash LISTMANIA!!