Next in this series of posts detailing stealth options in high-difficulty quests, I’ll analyze what’s likely the most profitable quest for using stealth in the whole game in terms of XP.
“The Claw of Vulkoor” is designed for Heroic or Epic characters to demonstrate their stealth and tactical mettle as no other.
Starting Out: The Giants
You need to kill one and only one enemy in this entire quest: the fire giant warlock Sobrien, that turns your Drow entourage into scorpions before attacking you. He uses various death and fire spells. While not a terrible bother with a full party, solo players should try weapons that wound him, draining his fortitude a bit to cause a dazed effect where you’ll get the upper hand very quickly.
Once Sobrien is dead, let your stealth leader (the person who will be first on the path at all times) gather the scorpions and Ioanna’s Ancestral Staff. Don’t worry about using Invisibility spells at the moment: You’ll need to avoid some giants who have See Invisibility. Only your stronger Hide/Move Silently scores will work here.
From Sobrien’s last stand, after Ioanna dispels a barrier for you, you’ll find three doors. To your right, guarded by two giants, is a door that leads directly down a path to the first pressure plate that opens the way into the scorpion-filled lair. Directly ahead is a door to a sleeping giant and a lever that opens the door by the giants. As you’ll note in their brief conversation, the lever is trapped. To your left and opposite the doors is a hidden door to another lever and a horizontal door that can drop you down to the pressure plate on an opposite path.
Taking the right door requires a high-Evasion character, preferably a Rogue, to enter that trapped room, disarm the trap and activate the switch, staying in Sneak to avoid waking up the sleeping giant inside. The path ahead has a patrolling giant who, if he spots you, will run back down the path to activate a very nasty fire trap that fills the whole corridor with flame.
Stay in Sneak, be you Monk or Rogue, as you disarm and/or pull that lever. The room will fill with fire if the trap is still armed but a Monk can leap to safety. Move fast: the sleeping giant gets tickled by the fire inside and wakes up to investigate.
Experienced stealth teams might try noisemaker traps to lure the giants at the door, as sneaking between them is impossible. Or, just kill them–but be warned that you might trip off the patrolling giant in the hallway below, who will activate the fire trap.
High-stealth teams can do the trapped lever and sneak behind the giant (not ahead of him, as giants have high Spot and bonuses) down the path, staying left of the giant as he turns about to make his rounds back up the path. You’ll find two sleeping giants and the first pressure plate.
Taking the hidden door is better for parties with a mix of high and low-stealth characters. This way gives you a chance to find a rare that occasionally appears from a unopenable mirrored door. This path also has a regular giant guard patrolling the path and one idle giant standing guard at the end of the path by yet another hidden door, but no fire traps. It’s better to lure the giant at the lower path up, or you’ll also attract the ire of two more giants that were asleep at the first pressure plate. It is possible–but very difficult–for a small team to bypass both giants here, and open the hidden door without the giant’s notice.
Rogues being what they are, teams can pursue both options, taking the party down the trap-less path but letting the Rogue quickly disable the traps in the other path for XP bonuses.
Whichever path you complete, the leader should walk over the plate to place the Staff and open the way to the scorpions. Never forget to pick up the Staff off a pressure plate before continuing.
Pacify the Scorpion Guardians
Apply your best buffing spells, long-term Invisibility (you will, hopefully, do no fighting from here to the quest’s end), Fire Resistances and Protection, and any Ranger’s Camouflage spells.
I say this while you’re likely surrounded by a couple of sleeping giants. A wiser group did this at the start as you need to go permanently silent from that point.
This is where the test begins.
Your primary task is to avoid being noticed by the roaming scorpions to gain a XP bonus. Getting noticed also causes scorpions to erupt from the ground in an ambush, ruining your chances at higher XP (20% of total). Depending on difficulty, healing scorpions will also appear, often standing idle but turning about occasionally. As the name implies, should you find yourself fighting, these healing scorpions heal the ambushers, making your job harder. Avoid getting close to any scorpion.
Stay in Sneak throughout the entire quest from this point forward. Never make one step without being in Sneak except where indicated.
And forsake any and all rest shrines. Your team shouldn’t have a high resource cost, anyhow, save Invisibility and Camouflage spells and perhaps a Haste spell if you’re not in earshot of scorpions. All the shrines are guarded. Use them and give up on your maximum XP. Any fight from this point reveals you.
The guardian scorpions are near or patrolling by a pressure plate. To get the pacify bonus, your team needs to go straight ahead from the first pressure plate and (with Feather Fall on), drop down to the bottom-most area. Immediately ahead is a guardian.
Often there are roaming scorpions about. In fact, watch out from pressure plate #1: a scorpion will appear to your right before the drop. You can trade the Staff to your best stealth team member–somebody with high agility and invisibility. Using the pressure plates and retrieving the Staff from a plate does not remove invisibility.
The best general tactic for touching the plate, especially when a guardian is close, is to touch the plate with invisibility active and immediately retreat. You must also have good Move Silently or the guardian detects you. After a moment, the passageway clears and the guardian is neutralized. During this, you’ll still need to ensure that you’re not in the path of a roaming scorpion.
Each of the seven guardians has a different challenge. The first is generally easy as there is perhaps one roaming scorpion. The second one is a bit tough as the guardian and entourage are closer to the pressure plate by a shrine. Another has a roaming scorpion on a long patrol. The fourth has the guardian himself making a very quick patrol. The worst ones have guardians practically camped on the pressure plate.
Midway up, you’ll find a door leading to a shrine, camped by giants. Avoid it, and the roaming scorpions and continue the path. You’ll cross over to the sixth guardian that camps his pressure plate.
You have two climbs that need a little Jump. You can leave Sneak here but be sure to go back into Sneak once you’re near the end of the traverse.
Don’t Be Greedy
On your way after completing the last jumps are a bunch of nesting or healing scorpions with a door and its switch. A strong and attentive stealth party member has to time opening the door while the scorpions aren’t looking their way. The door stays open long enough for the rest of your party to enter, but don’t hit that switch inside before your party makes its way to stand atop the switch or you have your Rogue team member disable the control box of the lever on Elite difficulty. Else, that room’s door closes and fills with soulstone-generating flames.
In the door that opens is the tomb of Prince Gornard. Stealth teams out to complete this quest will not try to rob this tomb. The giant’s chest has no special treasure of value,, Gornard is a nasty hit point-bag of a giant skeletal mage, and the fight’s noise may cause the last guardian to notice you.
You must have someone with high Spot or True Seeing to find the hidden door to the last guardian, but don’t open it until all party members are far away from it and when the opener is ready to go quick-Sneak after opening it.
On Heroic difficulty, the last guardian is often alone, and is hard to lure. He’s also sitting atop that last pressure plate. In Epic difficulty, as soon as you pop the hidden, the sound lures the guardian and one or two scorpions down the path.
Heroic players may need a Rogue with noisemakers to pull the guardian off of the pressure plate. I’ve had problems in generating noises that would attract the scorpion without detection. Teacher Saekee suggests the use of Flaming Sphere. It’s not a summoned creature that might cause the detect bonus to be violated, and its high Threat tends to pull anything towards it.
In Epic, where the scorpion bolts to your location, if you are lucky, the guardian will stand at an angle where your best stealth team member can pass by him and use the Staff one last time to pacify the guardian. From there, its a matter of avoiding the sight of any last scorpions by the pressure plate to find the Claw of Vulkoor. Have your Voices of the Master equipped as you touch the last plate by the Claw to end the quest.
You can ignore spurious warning messages about roaming scorpions from Ioanna after you’ve completed.
Getting all optionals gives you 89% more XP with 7% Devious bonus for less than 12 monsters killed.
Here’s a perfect solo run of the place, done a bit ago by Kiricletica the Ninja Spy on Heroic Elite.