Ramblings

Things I Wish I Had Known, Part II: The Embarrassing Stuff

In my previous post, I covered a lot of topics that I considered to be “things I wish I had known” when I started playing DDO… even with a lot of pen and paper background.  That post was geared more towards the new player as a bit of general advice;  this one is for the vets, who I’m sure will enjoy pointing and laughing at my colossal failures as an early player.

 


 

Melees:  Pick a combat style and stick with it.

 

When I first started playing DDO, I had just finished replaying a dwarf character in Dragon Age: Origins,  who was a dual-wielder of longswords.  In DDO, I decided to go with bastard swords, because why not go big or go home?  For some reason, I had completely forgotten about the Two Weapon Fighting feat line, and without it and its associated penalty reductions, I couldn’t hit squat.  And by “squat,” I mean, “still unable to reliably hit a beholder in a level 12 quest on Normal difficulty due to the fact your paladin is suffering obscene penalties due to dual-wielding without the appropriate feats and sporting oversized weapons in both hands.”  I still, to this day, swear that he missed a barrel on a 17.  It was proper humiliating.. and after playing Invaders! for the first time and crawling away from the catastrophic train wreck, Thol switched over to Two-Handed Fighting and started swinging a great axe.  He hasn’t looked back since.

 


 

Avoid multiclassing right away… on your main, at least.

 

I was lucky enough to dodge this bullet in the sense that I didn’t do anything too crazy on my mains.. for a while, at least.  My first multiclass toons were abysmal failures – I think the worst was adding two cleric levels to my Fire Savant sorcerer so that “he could wear heavy armor and heal himself.”  Sure, he could put the armor on, but then he couldn’t cast for squat (due to arcane spell failure) or heal for squat (due to only having Cure Light Wounds and no Devotion items).  Yes, let us become lousy at both jobs!  Huzzah!

It wasn’t until I was planning on doing the Druid past life for Tubbs’ Heroic Completionist that I did something way far out.. and my TR buddy at the time did the same.  Having established a solid rapport wherein I was the front line aggro management and he was the rear line necro/support caster, some (likely heavily intoxicated) part thought it would be fun if we switched roles!  So his main became a toaster paladin and mine became a casty monk/druid and by level 7 both of us had decided it would be best if we just waited for Otto’s Boxes to come on sale and work on alts in the meantime.  Which is exactly what we did.

 


 

Demo your next build, especially if it’s multi-classed.

 

Oh, man, I can’t stress how many times this has saved my hide.  My biggest hose-up is failing to change the alignment at character creation and then suddenly being unable to level up into the class I need to pick.  Or forgetting that Single Weapon Fighting requires invested ranks in Balance.  If I were to point out the biggest failure on this part, it would be the time I was supposed to do a Bard/Fighter life for a character, and started as a Purple Dragon Knight… forgot to change the alignment, and then circa level 7 when I went to take my first Bard level, discovered I had hosed up the entire life, since Bards cannot be Lawful.  D’oh!

Or, let’s see, there’s that time I was supposed to bring some druid into my war cleric build, who was Chaotic Good, and suddenly I now had yet another cleric life to finish since I didn’t have the points at the time for an alignment change.

Most recently, I had this crazy idea for an Intelligence-based deep gnome “bardificer” which I demo-ed.. focused on using Light Hammers to capitalize on the racial benefits as well as the Battle Engineer damage bonuses.  Everything sounded great on paper, until I realized after the first demo quest trial that I’d completely castrated it by failing to include more than the bare minimum of Charisma or Perform.. which turned all of the bard abilities effectively useless.  The redeeming part is, it was a demo toon, so I can take it back to the drawing board without having to grind it all out!

 


 

Be prepared for “The Big Four.”

 

This could be an entire article on its own.  So I’ll just summarize the most traumatizing points, here:

  • That time when my dwarf maulfighter didn’t have any Lesser Restoration pots and because Charisma was a dump stat had to flee from the Quori Stalkers that were eating his Charisma in The Prisoner and slowly chip away at them one or two swings at a time while I cried into my whiskey
  • That time when my dwarf fire savant sorcerer went into the Haunted Library for the first time and the very first thing the very first Clay Golem did was punch him in the face with a Cursed Wound and while he couldn’t heal he kept trying to push through the quest until the Blackbone Skeletons that are immune to fire pointed and laughed and mocked him to death while he still couldn’t heal
  • Those half-dozen times or more where I ignored the messages from Pernicioius and Virulent Mummy Rot and said “it’s only a point or two” until suddenly I was helpless in the middle of the fight with Raiyum and his posse of Death Hex Wraiths who thought I was a right proper tasty morsel (though, truthfully, this is a combination of Resto, Curse, and Disease)
  • The first time I was in heroic Jungles of Khyber (back in the days I still PUGged regularly) and a drow Luridae Seer struck my paladin with Blindness for over ten minutes and I asked the party cleric who had ran ahead and they replied with “sucks to be you.”  So that’ll never happen again…

 


 

Immunity doesn’t always mean impunity.

 

So when I got to level 9 as a druid and saw the Venom Immunity feat granted, I was so super psyched I ran straight through a wall of poison traps like all the toasters were doing and immediately dissolved into a puddle of first-life patheti-goo.  That was when I noticed the words “damage from natural poisons,” not, “immune to poison.”  A very, very important distinction.  One which I should have known, having come from the P&P background where such loopholes are all-too-common.

On the other hand, I did get my revenge a few levels later when I ran through the walls of venom traps in Against the Demon Queen as a fire elemental who actually was immune to poison, so, there’s a small glimmer of redemption in this one.

 


 

Melees:  Have an ooze/rusty solution.

 

So back when I first started… I mean very first started, as in still playing quests on Normal the very first time and exploring every nook and cranny.. I ran into my very first ooze in Durk’s Got a Secret and in my excitement, forgot about their Corrode Metal attributes from pen & paper.  At the time, I had a handful of assorted (crappy) lootgen weapons and starter gear – remember, this is the first time through! – and watched in abject horror as they all dissolved into proto-paste and I wound up mostly-naked punching slime to death.  Yeah, don’t do that.  Even when you finally survive the fight, you’re left standing in a sewer with nothing left, scratching your head, thinking to yourself, “well, now what?”

So of course I tried to continue the quest.  Guess what?  Angry kobold shaman don’t really care that you’re effectively unarmed and trying to punch them to death.  They’ll pump you full of volts from a nasty Lightning Bolt just the same.

 


 

Hang on to that returning throwing weapon…

 

So in spite of Tholgrin being my main, my nom de plume, and the first character created on pretty much every D&D/fantasy game I’ve ever played in the past two decades, he wasn’t my first character to hit level 20 or even explore most of the quests.  That honor goes to Kiljoen Lorebringer, a sorcerer – gasp! – who was a fire savant.  And yeah, he ran crashing and screaming into a mess as soon as it came time for Shavarath and Epics.  The worst of it all was in the quest Blown to Bits, most specifically, the Iron Fire Bomber optional.  If you’re not familiar, this cat has an obscene amount of hit points, has 50% absorption to all elemental energy damage, is super-charged by fire (yay for me), and drops demolition charges that can blow you out of existence without so much as a by-your-leave.  Luckily, there’s a resurrection shrine in his room.

Me being a stubborn type, after the first… um, seven or eight deaths.. decided that it was a personal thing and that this fool was going down.  It took two hours and thirty-six minutes, during which time I was completely naked, and the only real weapon I had during that time was kiting and firing off a Magic Missile every time I generated enough spell points from Echoes of Power. The entire time, I couldn’t help but think how this situation would have been a little bit easier if I’d not left the Chill Shard in the bank because it wasn’t “on brand” for my fire savant.  In retrospect, it wouldn’t have helped in that particular fight due to his insane DR, but the scar remains.

For the record, that fight ended with eighty-six deaths.  I said I was stubborn.

 


 

So there you have it, a few of the silly things I did when I first started, and some of the reasons for the suggestions I’ve previously made.  Hopefully you got a giggle or at least a commiserating chuckle out of it!

 

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The Most Loneliest Component

Primary casters in DDO have long been used to stocking up on loads of spell components and have a wide variety of means to ensure they don’t run out mid-fight – which is always an awkward situation.  Even secondary casters are known to keep a healthy stock for the exact same reasons.

There are, however, one group of components which you can fork into the garbage can forever.  I’m looking at you, druids, with your brand-new pass that just came out (although this has made me giggle for years, now).

A full level 20 druid has enough spell slots to keep the entire level 9 spellbook prepared at all times.  And at 10pp a pop, our good friend Sprig of Sacred Mistletoe looks like he’d be expensive.  (Or she, or other, I’m not judging.)  On the other hand, let’s take a look at all of the level 9 Druid spells…

And that’s the entire level 9 spell list.  There is an entire level of spells, for which a component has been created, a use for which does not exist.  Now, it’s frequent for me, as a front-line divine who doesn’t typically cast offensive spells on my Clerics (melee Warpriests) and Favored Souls (melee Warpriests) and multi-classes thereof (still melee Warpriests) to have entire spell levels of spells I choose to take that don’t require components.  But that’s just what I am selecting, which by happenstance does not require it.

This, on the other hand, is an entire spell level where the only way to consume the components is to either throw them away, sell them, or have them blown up in a hostile Delayed Blast Fireball.  So the next time you’re at a reagent vendor and stocking up on Druid bits and bobs, skip buying level 9 components.  You’ll never need them.*

 

*Until Standing Stone reads this post and retrofits one of the spells to require material components.

 

 

Don’t Knock the Scroll (Or Do)

Recently, I went through my small army of characters in order to ensure that each of them was already in possession of a Mantle of the Worldshaper and a Voice of the Master in preparation for creating a whole slew of Master’s Gifts.  The result was a slew of running the Delera’s Tomb and Ruins of Threnal story arcs on a number of toons in a very short period of time.

In the process, I was reminded just how much time can be saved in the Abandoned Excavation (part three) of the Threnal storyline by simply having the ability to pick a mild-DC’ed lock, so that you don’t have to go hunting down the randomly-placed Silver Key, which (if you’re unlucky, and I always seem to be) can waste a lot of time and absolutely kill your speed run.

To that end – yes, I promise, there is a point! – I tracked down some Knock scrolls in the Marketplace arcane scroll vendor’s inventory.  Of course, there are wands which drop with higher Caster Levels (the most frequent one I see is 10th), but at the time, there weren’t any available on the Auction House and I was too lazy to bother looking for one in my Buy Back tab.  Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Armed with this amazing Caster Level 3 Knock scroll, I sent my Spellbuckler (or is it Swashsinger?) bard back to Threnal to try and scroll the lock… and while I was dismayed it didn’t work, I was simultaneously cracked up that the Open Lock roll for this (admittedly readily available) scroll was only +3.

Plus three!!  A well-built first-life level 1 rogue using Rusty Thieves’ Tools can easily roll triple that!  (+4 for Skill rank, +3 for Attribute bonus [only requires 16 Dex], +2 for Rusty Thieves’ Tools = +9.  -Ed.)  Scrolling +3 is a joke!

And so, it became a point of interest, a pseudo-academic exercise, if you will, in order to find exactly where the “break point” of these scrolls’ effectiveness was.  It was clearly earlier than the Ruins of Threnal’s level-10 third arc.  But where, exactly, did it fall?

So, armed with a stack of 100 freshly-purchased scrolls, I sent my bard off in search of where they failed.

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My hypothesis was that they would work on the locked door at the end of Necromancer’s Doom and not much else.  A handful of folks on Twitter seemed to agree, with the general consensus to my flippant announcement that I might make a ‘comprehensive list’ saying that it would be a very, very short list.

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Success on a 1.  This is ruining my hypothesis.

Well, Necromancer’s Doom managed to succeed on a 1.  With Knock’s +3 bonus, that means the DC for this lock is 4 or less.  According to the wiki page I literally just found while typing this sentence, the suspected DC is 1.  Supported.

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The next one that I could think of was the pair of locked doors in the “trap route” of Sunken Sewer.  This was successful on a 17;  according to the wiki information log, the break point is 16.  Which means the scroll would succeed on a 13, or 65% of the time.  Not too bad, yet.

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Success on the second door in The Sunken Sewer.

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Still.  Not.  Failing.  Ugh!

Moving up to level 3 content, the next one that stood out was the locked door at the end of The Swiped Signet.  This quest has a habit of making my right eye twitch due to the Quickfoot Casters’ obsession with casting Sleet Storm at every possible opportunity.  The wiki says the DC for this door is 8, which I succeeded with my scroll on a 9 (+3), so there you go.  Hasn’t failed yet… ugh.

Bear in mind, I’m also not going through each and every single lock, but roughly one-quest-per-level just as a silly experiment.

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Ah-HA!  Failure!

I was drawing a blank at level 4 and 5 quests with locks that were a) readily accessible and b) not already part of a multi-part quest arc, so I jumped up to level 6 with Mirra’s Sleepless Nights.  (You can already tell I’m a very thorough scholar of pointless information, can’t you?)  Unsurprisingly, the chest in the first room with undead spawning in it failed on an 18 (+3);  however, the second chest with the cold trap actually opened with an identical roll.  I went through a bunch of scrolls on the first chest to roll higher than an 18, since theoretically, a 19 would have unlocked it, but ran out of patience first.

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Darn… it worked.  On half the chests.

The second chest in Mirra’s Sleepless Nights with a slightly lower DC.

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And finally, the desired result!

Finally, I came to the next lock on my list, which was in The Forgotten Caverns as part of the standard House Kundarak Locksmith’s Square favor quest bunch.  While not technically a “real lock” since there’s a key in a box about thirty yards away, I still gave it a shot, anyway.  And failed on a 20 (+3).  According to the wiki, failed miserably, too, since its suspected DC range is 32-47 (31 failed, 47 succeeded).  Not even remotely close.

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45 Scrolls of Knock were wasted in this experiment.

So there you have it, folks, the door that finally broke the scroll.  Granted, there were plenty of locks I skipped, but this was an exercise in (mostly) silliness and real-world application and not a full-on inquiry.  In short, the take-away is that while Scrolls of Knock are not inherently useless, they do lose their functionality circa level 6 content (on Elite).

Plus, I got a blog post out of it with a bunch of pretty (?) pictures, so there.

Proposed Perversity

Lately, I’ve been finding myself making what I’ve started calling “perverse” builds.  Things that shouldn’t work, or are just plain silly, or doing things specifically for the sake of doing things instead of going for what works already and what’s proven successful.

The most recent completed entry in this list is Adipostal’s current life, as a scimitar-wielding (because I hadn’t made a scimi build yet) wizard (because I haven’t played one in ages) with a small shield (to prove my own biased opinions that small shields were pointless wrong) who could front-flip (because a buddy of mine had made his toaster arti backflip, and I can’t not one-up that) that wasn’t a Bladeforged (because reasons) that could trap (because 30% free XP and why not).  That bizarre list of criteria wound up being the Warforged 13 Wiz/6 Ftr/2 Rog speed-striking monster with a massive crit profile with shield bashing and… oddly became one of my more enjoyable toons to play, once I figured out how to make it work for me.

My current project is an Aasimar scourge, purely Wisdom-based (thanks to half Favored Soul levels), dual-wielding heavy maces, going up the Tempest ranger tree with a heavy splash into Warpriest (I refuse to call it ‘war soul’) to double-up on the deity weapon damage, and a splash of rogue to keep the trapping up.  It’s holding sixteen at the moment and thus far appears to be quite an enjoyable little bucket of what-the-heck.  However, it’s not scratching my perverse build itch, since it’s still heavily focused on Warpriest, and as War Divines are kind of my thing, it’s not that unusual.

So, lately, I’ve taken to thinking out loud about some things I wanted in this next bout of strangeness:

  • A falchion build – because I’ve never done one before, and the collection of unused ones is getting a bit ridiculous, and it should actually go Strength-based for once
  • No divines or monks – because I’ve done loads, they’re proven successful, and it needs new and twisted
  • No dwarves – I’ve only played like 10,492 dwarf lives already. (Okay, it was only 108. -Ed.)  I will never speak ill of my stumpy brethren, but it needs to be new and twisted
  • No iconics – gotta start in K-town to get the full experience
  • Don’t care about Reaper with a silly build, but still needs to be self-sufficient in Elite
  • Most importantly, it has to make someone go ‘why the..’ when they look at the build

In order to address all of these concerns, I worked in reverse.  Starting with the thought something that would immediately catch your eye, I came up with a melee artificer that doesn’t use a rune arm.  Because, you can’t use a rune arm with a falchion, as it’s a two-hander.  So that was a great start.

But self healing?  Warforged is too obvious.  There are loads of new options in the Renegade Mastermaker tree, and with recent changes to Improved Construct Essence allowing full self-healing from Repair sources at level 12, that’s an option.  Taking Artificer to 15 grants access to Reconstruct, which is more than sufficient to crank out massive repair-based healing.

So, what, then?  Clearly this line of thinking is going fleshy.  But as I’ve already set aside, my beloved dwarves are out of the question.  A half-orc with a two-handed weapon is – even though the class is wrong – still far too cliché for it to be considered perverse.  Halfling?  No, I already have a few of those.  Gnome?  Perhaps, but that leans a bit too much to going Intelligence-based in the Harper tree, and I don’t want it to be a non-standard ability score (because at this point, going standard ability score is almost counter-culture).  What about… a drow?

Drow have no racial inclinations towards falchions (bonus), they tend to lean more towards Dexterity builds in melee combat (bonus), and have little to no synergy with a front-line Artificer.  I think we have a winner!

So putting everything together, I’ve come up with…

  • Drow, possibly Envenomed Blades if enough points?
  • Front-line melee, Falchion user, Strength based, no rune arm
  • Shuriken for ranged damage solution (specifically because it’s not a crossbow)
  • Heavy Armor, but still tumbling, because backflipping heavy armor arti, that’s why
  • No Evasion because no evasion on purpose
  • Improved Construct Essence for self-healing and toaster benefits while still fleshy
  • 16 Artificer for access to Reconstruct + Deadly Weapons (both 6th level spells)
  • Artificer focusing on Renegade Mastermaker for defense and party benefits
  • 4 Fighter for Kensei bonuses and free feats (yeah, yeah, low hanging fruit, I’m cheating a little bit)
  • No clue what Destiny to go in yet

That’s what I’ve got thus far.  Well, and a whole chest full of falchions waiting to be used.  Let me know what you think.

Flirting with Insanity

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a pretty severe case of alt-itis.  And it’s not just a case of having several toons to bounce between, but having a small army of fully-geared and stacked toons that drives me to cozy up with madness.

Take, for example, the “Checklist” which I’ve been working on for two years, now.

Checklist

To the folks seeing this for the first time, this just looks like a wall of black dots.  For those that have been following along, this means that the only things preventing this particular fit of obsession from being completed are farming a Mysterious Bauble and two Shards of Supreme Power for Adipostal, the “Wizard” extraordinaire.  (In related news, Adi marked having successfully soloed The Shroud with every class.)  Which isn’t much, although the RNGezus deity of my home server appears to know this is driving me insane and keeping the drop rates out of reach intentionally.

That Checklist took a lot of farming and grinding to accomplish.  Heck, the column for pulling twenty-one Cursed Blades of Jack Jibbers alone took over two years.  But the satisfaction in knowing that any toon I log into has a safety net is quite grin-inducing.  On the other hand, it’s almost done, so what is going to take up my next flirtation with insanity?  Leveling and reincarnating alone isn’t nearly enough.

So, for the first time on this blog (and perhaps my Twitter account, as well), I present to you, dear reader (all two of you!) the Seriously EPOS Bonus Checklist!

EPOS Checklist

So what does all this mean?

MM Solution means the character has some form of counter to Magic Missiles, be it as simple as a Mystic Belt from Bring Me The Head of Ghola-Fan!  or an innately cast spell (Shield and Nightshield).  Other solutions exist, such as enhancements which provide the permanent effects of the above spells, or in the case of Occult Slayer barbarians, the level 18 core ability Force Ward.  With U38 came the option for Renegade Mastermaker artificers to emulate the effects as well with the second core, Alchemical Shield.

Teleport is pretty self-explanatory.  Can the character cast a Teleport effect, either inherently, via scroll, or does he have a clicky?  Royal Guard Masks are valid for this requirement, as is the Belt of Braided Beards, even though the latter has a pretty steep level requirement.

Draconic Soul Gem is a little more loose;  in short, does the character have a minimum of 30 elemental resistance (without guild buffs, which I still don’t use) for Acid, Cold, Electric, and Fire?  (Sonic, as the red-headed step-child of the energy types, gets a pass.)  This is most easily accomplished with the augment of the same name (hence the label) but can be fulfilled by other means.

Orcish Boots or, if you run within my little circle on Orien, “Das Büüüts,” sometimes even as simply “The Shoes,” refers to owning a pair of Orcish Privateer’s Boots.  (And no, I don’t share between toons.  Can’t stand it when I log on to a toon and someone else has Their Shoes.)  If you’re unfamiliar, they provide a massive boost to fire resistance, fire absorption, speed, permanent Freedom of Movement, and a colorless slot all in one pair of shoes at minimum level 24.  Yes, plz, kthxbai.  Head to Epic Three-Barrel Cove and start hunting some rare encounters and airships if you’d like to land yourself a pair or seven.  Or nineteen.  Whong Fei-Hung gets a pass only due to his Shuricannon pure-Dex build having Dex Boots of Dexly Dexterity Dexness which are too dang efficient to skip on.

Master’s Gift is very self-explanatory.  Do I have a Master’s Gift available for the toon?  It may not seem like much, and some folks will say switching to a Voice of the MasterMantle of the Worldshaper, Pale Green Ioun Stone, or Experienced Evil before the quest ends will fulfill the same effect.  The case more often than not, however, as these items aren’t worn full time, is that the wearer “misses out” on switching to their experience booster item for the majority of optional experience grants and many quest endings – since most quests end as soon as the boss is dead, and without much preamble if you’re soloing.  Or maybe I’m just too focused on the combat to bother switching for the last 5-10% of the bosses’ hit points.  In either case, those missed opportunities all add up when we’re stretching out a timeline of hundreds of past lives, each running between three and eleven million XP.  That adds up.  A Master’s Gift ensures that all of those little bits adds up over time without having to stress over switching to an item.  Now I just need to farm up 45 more Greater Tokens of the Twelve in order to finish manufacturing the Gifts I’m missing.

Abbot Sigil is another self-explanatory one.  Now that the Litany of the Dead sigil is no longer a per-use item, and returns one Completed Sigil which persists through all forms of reincarnation, finishing this (which I previously rarely did) in order to gain access to the Litany XP farm is definitely something to finish up.  Granted, this doesn’t work with Ascension Chamber flagging (a bug, apparently), but that’s not what I’m looking for.

And that’s all well and good, except, it’s not.  As you can see, even in the short time since I came up with the idea, there’s an awful lot of progress having been made on that front.  It’s not done by any means, but it’s certainly not the “wall of Swiss cheese” I started with on the original Checklist.  So how is one to step that up a notch?

Destinies

I think that one goes without explanation.  Time to crack some knuckles and get to grindin’.

 

 

Scrying on a Saturday Night

Okay, so this has been poking about in my head for the past week or so, and I finally decided to put pen to paper.  Or fingertip to keyboard.  Whatever.

In any case, this is a parody/filk of the (rather famous) song Saturday Night by The Misfits, so all credit is to them, please don’t sue me for a silly parody.

Saturday Night

Only partially copyrighted, but the Fiend logo is still property of The Misfits (or whomever holds the rights today).

There’s 52 ways to to snoop on anyone
One or two are the same,
And they both use a spell
I’m coming clean for Lorthazz,
Ingstold doesn’t save as well
But the intrusion won’t last all night
And so maybe, maybe I’ll be over
Just as soon as this duration ends

And I can remember when I saw her last
We were running all around and having a blast
But the back row of the grand hall
Is so lonely without you
I know when you’re home
I was snooping about you,
There was was something I forgot to say
I was scrying on a Saturday night
I was out drinking without you,
They were playing our song
Scrying on Saturday night

As the moon becomes the night time
You go groggily, quietly to sleep 
I’m sitting in the chamber,
Where we used to sit and organize scrolls
Now I’m watching, watching you sleep   (creepy)

I can remember when I saw her last
She was lying in bed with dreams of the past
But the back row of the grand hall
Is so lonely without you
I know that you’re home
I was snooping about you,
There was was something I forgot to say
I was scrying on a Saturday night
I was out drinking without you,
They were playing our song
Scrying on Saturday night

 

Okay, okay, I’m done with my parody career.  For honests.  Weird Al, I am not.  I promise some more actual content in the future.

On the Mines of Tethyamar

One need only take a few minutes on my character login screen to realize that I may, possibly, exhibit a preference toward dwarves when it comes to my character racial selections in DDO.

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The Gates of Ironvale Deep

Glancing through the files of old pen & paper characters – some from First Edition, when “dwarf” was a class – some Third Edition, and a ghastly number of Second Edition would reveal a scattered humanoid here and there, but well over 95% dwarves, as well.  One might even count the Firbolg character (2nd Edition Complete Book of Humanoids) as nothing more than an overly tall dwarf.  They sure play like one.

I confess that I have never once played an elf in pen & paper, and only did one life as such in DDO thus far.  Unless you’re counting Morninglords.  Then it’s two.

What I’m slowly getting at is that I might meet a few of the general criteria for being classified as “pro-dwarf.”  Maybe.

Which, when I first heard about Update 36’s Duel for the Underdark pack involving a lot of drow, meant I was largely indifferent from an excitement standpoint.  Don’t get me wrong – New Content!  YAY!  Although the power creep on the last few packs has been somewhat unsettling, but that’s neither here-nor-there, it’s still new content.  And that’s what’s important.  But the fact it’s drow-based?  That part I can’t see myself getting terribly excited over.

Except – it wasn’t drow-based.  I mean, sure, there are drow involved, but that’s not what the focus is on.  The focus is on the dwarves.  Especially so in Records of the Past, a quest which has one strolling through the abandoned settlement of Ironvale Deep, where everything positively screams stumpy.  The architecture, layout, the little details – such as every shrine having a statue of Moradin, the dwarven All-Father deity – is nothing short of a four-foot dwarfgasm.

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Statue of Moradin at the shrine, as it should be

That’s not to say there isn’t a shred of beard-iness in the other quests, oh-no-sir.  Each of the others has a distinctly stout element to it – be it rescuing slaves without killing them or dealing with a madman and his defiled legion of mining corpses, there’s a touch of it on every single quest.  And it’s delightful.

There is, however, a problem.  One minor issue.

No matter what you set your game audio to, Hal Stoutheart never shuts up.  Spend more than a few seconds in the public area and you’ll hear him bellowing through your speakers (or into your earholes, if you use headphones) in an incessant stream of what is clearly propaganda.  It’s an interesting and immersive touch for the first ten or fifteen seconds.

After that, you’ll start hearing your partymates saying things like “oh, no, he’s talking again, get in quest now!  Move!  Move!  Move!” and “aaaaaaaaaahhhh” and ”why does the Maker hate me so?

Please, if anyone from Standing Stone is reading this, for the love of Moradin, make Hal’s voice obey the volume sliders.  Please.  We’re begging you.  Everything else about the pack is lovely, truly, but that one thing that sends folks screaming from the public area.

And without giving away too many spoilers, there’s quite a bit of wonderful dialogue and interactions.  I’m pretty sure my favorite moment was not dwarf-related, at all, but rather offering to hold a mind flayer’s tentacles out of the way while it vomited on my boots.  Pure gold, that.  

Oh, and Oreo the Panda says hi.

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HAAAIIIIIIIIIIIII