Being a game, Dungeons & Dragons Online is designed to challenge a player character (and, by extension, the player) with immersive and chaotic dungeon designs, puzzles, hordes of enemies, mini-bosses and dungeon bosses.
When any of these items are multiplied, you get that quest. You know what I mean. That quest that almost killed you the moment you stepped inside. That quest that caused so many deaths in party that the kill count is almost lower than the party death count. That quest that has haunted your dreams. That quest that becomes part of lore, whispers and murmurs of caution and dread, of confusion and resignation.
That quest that can turn your party’s “Aragorns” into “Brave Sir Robins” in moments.
Surprisingly, I’m not necessarily speaking about quests where dragons show up. Dragons are so well-known in their ferocity that most DDO players are often more equipped to handle dragons than what they may encounter in several quests.
Recently, I’ve decided to begin discussing these quests, perhaps over a series of posts, to try to clear the air, give players more information on what to expect and to prepare than what you might find even on the venerable DDO Wiki.
And, of course, provide a personal insight on why some quests are just pants-soilingly terrifying.
I’d like to create a general series of ratings, each from 1 (low) to 10 (highest) on specific issues of each quest. For now, let’s break it down to
- Navigation: Does the quest require many switches and keys to use to progress? How hard are they to find? How linear is the adventure? Are there traps? Are there quest-required puzzles? How much resistance is encountered to find objectives? Is the quest just plain confusing due to its sheer size?
- Enemies: How many? What’s the dominant race? Do they respawn? Do they attack with effects that are harder to resist or avoid? Are there one or more kill zones where they’d likely entrap you? Does their nature limit your fighting ability?
- Bosses: How many mini-bosses? What damage resistance do they have? What special attacks do they do? How do you escape from it if you cannot kill it? How large is their entourage?
My ratings are totally subjective, based on my experiences in party or solo.
Let’s start with a few low-level ones in memory in this first installment. Here, preparedness is the solution to most woes. But just wait, I’ll bring up “Foundation of Discord” and quests where cunning is critical.
Proof is in the Poison (Level 4)
Navigation: 8, Enemies: 7, Bosses: 5
Of the many Coin Lords favor quests, this one is thankfully not part of the Sharn Syndicate chain. The name of the quest says it all. You begin with many a locked door where acid and poison are dominant. Traps are few but in well-placed locations where death is sure to players who like to zerg about, starting at a bridge where a fire trap will roast you. Should you fall down to apparent safety under the bridge, spinning blades will appear to chop you to bits. Throughout the area are mobs of sneak-attacking Quickfoot fighters and mages that threaten to overwhelm you.
Few players seem to enjoy this quest because the layout can be maddeningly frustrating for people who don’t pay attention. The area is surprisingly linear, but if you wander off and fail to stay in party (especially when running at-level), death is swift.
Each major progression is sealed by a door that requires a specific key. You’ll need to run down many hallways, burst open many doors and kill many enemies to find what you need. This place has only one shrine, and it’s not found until you reach the halfway point of the adventure. Players who love to smash breakables will love and hate it here, especially with the newer stealth AI and its stronger Listen checks for the mobs. They’ll easily find you if you smash so much stuff that you’re practically aggro-ing half of the dungeon.
A good Jump skill is handy here. Good healing management, with acid and poison resists are essential. Many parties die often here because they rely on their hirelings (who often recklessly run into danger themselves) or live healers too strongly since curses, poison and acid damage are so frequent here and resources can become sparse if you’re a stingy player that doesn’t carry some items of your own. “HJEAL MEH” types get a name in here in my parties: “He Whose Stone We Carry.”
The end-fight isn’t very challenging in that the scorrow boss isn’t terribly powerful. He does have a sizeable entourage guarding him, so pull as many of them away first before jumping the boss. Also, if you haven’t hit all the breakables, the boss room has quite a lot that you can crush to get your Ransack bonus.
Freshen the Air (Level 4)
Navigation: 3, Enemies: 9, Bosses: 5
For some reason, I enjoy this one, which you’d think would ensure that the quest would not make it to this list. Perhaps I like it for the schadenfreude of the thing when I join a poorly-prepared party.
Unprepared parties will forget that the many, many troglodytes that inhabit this place emit a stink attack that slows your attack and movement speed, among other things. Kill them quick, don’t loiter about them, but don’t run madly through the area to attract more than you can handle.
While there’s no one significant boss (there’s only a queen boss that is easily slain), the place is filled with trog shamans with potent magic attacks. For that reason, the shamans are one objective: Kill them all.
The place where things can go pear-shaped is the central room where shamans and kobolds rain death from above from perches you can’t reach.
This is a classic kill-zone because those in your party who go all “Ooooh! Shiny!” at any breakable they see will charge headlong into the room and get quickly killed by said death-from-above, as well a few roaming trog fighters. Better to use ranged attacks to systematically remove trogs and kobolds (who are on unreachable platforms for your level) before going in to destroy the several large crates that are part of your central objective.
There’s only one shrine, which is guarded and at the halfway point. If a party dies too early here, a wipe is almost assured since the mobs ahead will prohibit rescuers from reaching the shrine safely or with sufficient time to complete.
Things are quite linear here so it’s essentially impossible to get lost. Do laugh at the players that do, please.
Irestone Inlet (Level 4)
Navigation: 2, Enemies: 10, Bosses: 6
Here’s another clusterfrak quest in the making for the unprepared. Pirate hobgoblins respawn quite a bit here, so wondering solo players can get ambushed instantly.
The objective is straightforward in rescuing several hostages. However, each are guarded by many, many enemy mobs with very nasty hobgoblin mages, who enjoy using Ray of Enfeeblement on you. As a Monk, getting hit more than once by this spell immediately uncenters me and inhibits all Monk skills, particularly fighting. Others might fare worse. Always carry a generous supply of Lesser Restoration and Remove Curse potions into this area.
Also not to be underestimated are the ogre fighters with (at-level) devastating slash damage that seem to cleave robe/outfit wearers in two.
Often, Scartongue, a mini-boss kobold that appears, can give parties trouble with his AOE concealments and magic attacks, confusing a party while his compatriots take advantage.
After killing one ogre mini-boss, Dinks, you’ll learn that you need to carry several powder kegs to use to blow up the pirate’s nearby ship. Each weighs 20 pounds and can tax low-STR players. Get hit by Rays of Enfeeblement while carrying several of these and you may be left helpless, hardly able to move and unable to fight.
There are a couple of shrines but they are spread across the island. The respawns will become daunting to stone-carriers if they aren’t close to either shrine.
Yaaryar, the boss, appears shortly after you blow up his schooner. It’s still quite an impressive explosion to watch–but not too close! If you are on the ship when it blows, your soulstone may be permanently blocked in the water and no one will be able to retrieve you. The boss always appears while heading in the direction of the schooner’s remains. He’s not hard to kill but has a moderate entourage.
The Crypt of Gerard Dryden (Level 3)
Navigation: 1, Enemies: 11, Bosses: 3
Yes, I know my rating scale was 1 to 10. This one deserves special mention.
This fourth adventure in the Catacombs quest chain is impossible to get lost–making it easy for party members to find your soulstone should you get too cocky and wander off. Skeletons and wrights are thick in this place, ambushing you often and fast. Many, many sarcophagi are here, often bursting open to flank your party.
The unprepared forget that some quests are resource intensive. Mobs will come that quickly deteriorate your weapons and deplete healing options. Skeletons require bludgeoning weapons to be most effective, but many players will bash them with swords anyway and damage them. You also need a Good-aligned weapon for best effect. That cool looking Frost greatsword you have there will do little against the cold-immune skeletons. Light Monks will have it easier here with a good pair of Pure Good handwraps or quarterstaff, since ki can be renewed quite well here to buff and heal a party. The wights can be taken down with slashing weapons but aren’t bludgeon-resistant. Thankfully–no zombies, but there are a few non-undead things like spiders, if I recall.
Did I mention the mobs? There are four rooms where a required lever rests, all but one room filled with a couple dozen sarcophagi and dozens of enemies inside that zerg-rush you. Crowd control (even if only bottlenecking them using their entryway) is critical or you’ll get surrounded.
There is precisely one shrine. If you clear everything you find before someone dies, getting their stones to a resurrection shrine isn’t a problem. The challenge is to the trigger-happy spellcasters in party who don’t remember that Hard and Elite rest shrines cannot be used more than once. Worse, the casters could be using ineffective spells or power-casting unnecessarily.
Oh, and just when you’re done with the first four level rooms, you’ll get another four with similarly nasty mobs.
I did mention the mobs, right? To get Conquest, you’ll need to kill about 232 enemies. If you have a good ranged fighter, they might crack open more sarcophagi before they explode to destroy 222 breakables for the Ransack bonus.
More quests to come in a later installment. Stay hungry.