Author’s Note: By the time this gets posted, it will have been two days, but since I’m writing it now, I’m going to keep referring to the events as happening “yesterday.” Deal with it!
So.. last night, I had a little nagging bug in my brain which took me quite by surprise. I had launched DDO (while, apparently, I was as-yet unaffected by the login issues which plagued a bunch of folks) and was staring at my Character Selection screen when one of them caught my eye and practically demanded to be logged in.
Uldwin Skyreaver, Level 20 Druid.
Mind you, I haven’t logged into him for anything more than an occasional screenshot in probably over a year. My original plan of action was to log on as Fei-Hung, the freshly reincarnated Shuricannon, to rack up some experience points before Socks got on and we may or may not bounce back to one of our Heroic toons. That would have been a very efficient use of time, but I hesitated.
I shouldn’t have hesitated. In retrospect, I should have just yelled at the fake orchids on the dining room table which is presently serving as my Temporary Battle Desk, logged in as Fei-Hung, and gone about my business throwing more shuriken than a full game of Shinobi every quest. But I didn’t. I logged Uldwin on.
I wrote a post a while back, called OMGWWITitis, which I had defined as “the agonizing pain of looking at a build which you have not played in a lengthy period of time, while moaning ‘oh my god, what was I thinking?‘ repeatedly and clutching your soul in abject misery.” Or something to that effect. Perhaps that was just the expanded scale of the case of OMGWWITitis inflicted upon my by my formerly beloved dire bear.
Disclaimer: Yes, I’m aware that to fully optimize a melee druid, you must blah blah blah, and blah blah, and all that other crap. This was a fun flavor build, a dwarven dire bear hate-tank full of bearquakes and halitosis. I know bears aren’t optimized.
I knew, when I logged him in, that I wasn’t expecting melee ferocity of the kind displayed by many of my other toons. What I was expecting was “moderate to acceptable DPS, with acceptable survivability via Stoneskin, Nature’s Warrior PRR enhancements, bear benefits, and somewhat decent self-healing that could solo a low-level Epic Normal quest and/or wilderness area.” All in all, not exactly high expectations. In fact, that level of performance these days is what results in a character sticking at 20 and being first on my “to-be TR’ed” list.
Of course, those are for builds I’ve done before. “That monk didn’t cut it? Repurpose him or start over.” I’ve only taken one (1) druid to level 20, who is primarily a melee toon (not being an arcane doesn’t change the fact I still make lousy casters), and he’s been gathering dust ever since he finished his Heroic career.
So I had to ask myself – why? I have plenty of fond memories of being the snarling, two-ton slobber factory getting (and keeping) hostile attention with a flurry of bearquakes (Earthquake, Tremor, Alpha Strike, Great Cleave, and Cleave all mean the earth is always a-tremble when he’s around, even if the latter three are purely cosmetic). I loved the constant bellows and roars and grunts, the demonic-sounding “rumble from beyond” whenever he cast a spell with more than a quick casting time. These were great times, weren’t they?
I named his wolf pup after the most awesomest-er-est wolf/dog/? in video game history, Repede, from Tales of Vesperia. There had been a few times where Repede had earned an MVP for diving straight into a hot zone, grabbing everyone’s soul stones, and hauling us all back to a shrine before the aggro could re-establish on him too much. That was pretty awesome, wasn’t it? I still adhere to the notion that the wolf pup AI trumps the mecha-doggy AI any day of the week, based on strings events similar to that, even though I haven’t played one in ages. That’s still the case, isn’t it?
All of these thoughts flashed through my head, mostly subconsciously at the time, before I finally hovered my mouse over Uldwin’s name and double-clicked.
The first thing that caught my eye was that it had been so long since I’d played Uldwin seriously, that I hadn’t even established a UserChat window. I’ve been employing UserChats on every character I play since – as close as I can tell – June of 2014. (Or at least, that’s around the time they started showing up in my screenshots that still have the UI visible.) So at least 14 months since I’ve seriously played him. That makes Uldwin my oldest and most-ignored toon of my entire account. That makes me somewhat sad.. perhaps that’s why I wound up logging him on against my better judgement.
I say that, because that lack of UserChats also acted as a bit of a harbinger of what was to come. I say that, because as with most players, there were a few distinct “phases” of my playing evolution.. and UserChats happened long after I was rolling around in the hay with Elite difficulty.
You can get away with a lot of stuff on Hard that you can’t get away with on Elite. You can get away with even more stuff on Normal than you can on Hard. Uldwin was also my fourth toon ever… the math was not leaning in my favor.
After setting up my UserChats, I took a gander at his inventory window, and promptly got up from the table and walked away. Granted, that was for a couple of pieces of Extra Sharp Cheddar, but that’s beside the point, it sounded better with the dramatic impact before I ruined it. (Smooth job. –Ed.) The truth of the matter remains, however, that I really did want to get up and walk away. It was atrocious.
There were a few* saving graces, though. Namely, a pair of Deadly VI Goggles of Accuracy IV with Masterful Craftsmanship. Can’t ever go wrong with Deadly or Seeker on a melee, and the Accuracy helps make up for the moderately lousy BAB of +15. A Wall of Wood in the shield slot, again, can’t really go wrong with that on a front-line druid that’ll need some self-healing.
Oh, wait. It takes three to qualify as “a few.” Two is “a couple.” I suppose I should go back and edit the statement above to read “a couple of” saving graces in the equipment. The rest could pretty much have been tossed into the vendor.
While I was in the middle of this, Socks logged on with one of his bank toons who never sees any real play time, looking for some wandering pieces of his Abishai Set for a recent TR project. With only a small amount of whining, cajoling, and promises of doughnuts, we both set foot in Demon Assault in an attempt to score the new druid cloak, the Hide of the Fallen. No, the Heroic one. Because that’d have been an improvement. No, I’m not kidding. And yes, I know now that the cloak doesn’t even drop there, but rather at the end of The Devil’s Details.
This is extra, extra eyeball-twitch-inducing due to the humiliating fact that we both died multiple times in the waves of demons, and had a bit of a hiccup during the boss fight that led to an… unorthodox completion. Socks’ character has an excuse – he was on a bank toon. Uldwin was, at one point, a “main” of mine. Granted, that was back when I only had four toons, total, and none of them had ever hit twenty yet, but all of that is beside the point.
Also granted, Shavarath is known for being unforgiving and brutal. I know that. But.. you weren’t there.
It was bad, yo. Bad.
At one point, Socks said, “I’m too embarrassed to even try.” At least he wasn’t on a “real” toon! (This point is debatable for Uldwin. –Ed.)
Of course, it is after the fact that I remember a few things – most notably, the cloak doesn’t even drop in this quest. (After four rerolls’ worth of Shards….. at least I got the Pendant of Quiet Movements, so it wasn’t a total wash.) Also, all of the new loot is Bind to Account on Acquire, which means I could go and farm the cloak to my heart’s content on another toon, and pass it over.
Which is precisely what I did for a Fang of Siberys, later on. (I was too peeved at The Cloak Incident to try that one again right away.) Armed with that, I scoured the King’s Forest a few times, in the hopes of grinding up some faction commendations to get (at minimum) the PDK gauntlets – which would serve the whammy triple-purpose of upgrading his current (pathetic) Strength gloves, adding some Insightful Con, and (most importantly) healing amplification.
In the process, he managed to pull together approximately 70K XP, which bought him two ranks of Fast Healing. In the process of doing that, I learned that Celerity + Action Boost: Doublestrike + Adrenaline + Alpha Strike = ZOMG I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE THIS WITH ADRENALINE OVERLOAD. Even with his pathetically meager equipment and infantile Epic Destiny, Uldwin was hitting whole crowds for 700+ damage, triggering Reaving Roars (enhancement) and Cloudbursts (Fang of Siberys) everywhere. That… okay, I freely admit, that reminds me of the snarling bearquake of fun I remember having what seems like ages ago.
As it turns out, a bunch of my buddies were having difficulty logging on last night, which, as it turns out, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I have been known to get a teeny tiny bit obsessive (read: over the top fanatic with tunnel vision) when I get a target in mind, and my target had suddenly shifted from “goof off with low-level Heroics and/or lay waste with a Shuricannon in Epics” to “drop everything until this overweight SUV-sized furball is geared to at least meet your minimum acceptable performance levels.”
It took two tries in the Reign of Madness arc (once on Khail and once on Madfinger, because, both of them already had Acute Delirium already completed but hadn’t finished the arc) to get the Fang of Siberys. If you’re unfamiliar with that particular scimitar, it’s pretty much a Sireth Junior in scimi format for Heroic levels. And that Cloudburst ability procs very frequently from when I was using it with bearquakes – at least one or two fired off for every pack of mobs, and on several occasions, three or more triggered back-to-back in the same AOE attack. Delightful! And pretty. Pretty snarly. Bear make things go boom. Roar!
As for the rest of the gear – except the Hide of the Fallen, which I am definitely farming for – I’m halfway tempted to just tag along with “pity PUGs” or friends and just gear up along the way with things that drop.
I’m not sure yet. But I’m not quite ready to give up on the Dire Bear Freight Train, just yet… after all, Wally and Loghainn both came screaming out of left field and proved me very, very wrong before. Here’s hoping!