“I do not tolerate failure,” Blofeld said. Too bad he’s not leading the party. Shit would get DONE.
In my previous installment, I entertained the majestic problems of certain quests that are not only challenging for their level, but can also be train-wrecked by a blundering party member.
Let’s dive into the meaty level 12-18 level quests that are extraordinarily difficult to play with an at-level party and/or when your party is filled with..er..colorfully bad gameplay.
Now the game difficulty ramps up the damage significantly, as well as the consequences for a party’s lack of vision. The good news is that more players you encounter in a PUG have greater experience and are less likely to cause a party grave distress.
Remember that the list is trying to note the quests where simple bludgeoning, stabbing, slicing and spellcasting just won’t do. There are many difficult quests that proper application of mana and sword will overcome. This list, while not even close to inclusive, hits the highlight reel in my experiences.
While I was going to discuss quests but not raids, I’m going to make one little exception and add the most popular raid in the game. You know why.
Let’s recap the rating system again:
- 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?
Invaders! (Level 12)
Navigation: 2, Enemies: 10, Bosses: 8
The Waterworks get an extraplanar makeover, thanks to a Xoriat invasion. Xoriat Flesh, Fire and Ice Renders, along with many Thaarak Hounds invade the area, sending kobolds running and screaming through the halls.
Your party likely ends up joining the kobolds in their panic if you weren’t prepared on entering this misty hellhole. The Renders are the last thing you’d worry about.
There are beholders. Note plural. As in approximately 10-12 anti-magic cone wielding neg-leveling beholders, ready to zap you and your party quickly into the afterlife.
This quest is extremely tough for PUGs in this free-to-play quest, whose members may not likely have some better gear found in the premium adventures that provides at least Deathblock to ward a glancing magic blow by a beholder that’s not quite trying to kill you yet.
The navigation is the easy part. It’s the same Waterworks format, although many hidden doors. rare encounters and passageways found in the original quest are not present here. The sole shrine you can use is near the end-boss’s room. Do visit there for a bit of a laugh.
Death Ward is surprisingly less important because beholders also love to strip your buffs before disintegrating you (which Deathblock cannot block). What’s really needed here is a strong, nurturing healer-type with a big pile of Restoration/Greater Restoration scrolls to keep parties from being energy drained down to toddlerhood.
Also needed is a strategy. There’s a right tool for any job, and that job is beholder slaying. Parties that scream and leap into a beach ball flotilla of these things are going to die so rapidly that party leaders may start petitioning Turbine to make Soulstone Collectable Bags.
Teacher Syncletica, in an earlier life, demonstrates how she got shit DONE.
Send in your Monks and Paladins, especially if they are Light Monks or Warforged. They are excellent candidates since they have great saving throws, spell resistances and are immune from level drain, leaving them more likely to have the prowess needed to quickly take down a beholder.
Monks and specific Paladins are designed to take down aberrations like these. Shintao Monks get Tomb of Jade far earlier than in their pre-Update 19 lives and should have a great stun attack to Jade one beholder while stunning and killing a second one.
The stealthy approach also works. I don’t mean trying to use Invisibility–beholders have a lot of eyes and see through that nonsense. But it takes them a bit longer to notice the hidden adventurer. Since Faster Sneaking is now standard equipment on Rogue Assassins and Ninja Spies, this would be a great time to hustle up there and use Assassinate or Quivering Palm to let the air quickly out of a Xoriat beach ball. Remember that the stealth AI is more vigilant. The beholder WILL see even a sneaking player–but if you time your speed right, the beholder will have less time to react.
Your party has to explore this truncated version of the Waterworks and find portals where (gasp!) Elder Beholders hold station. They simply have greater HP but are no less vulnerable to becoming monastic beach balls if you have Monks in your party. (Also remember that Bard and Monk buffs are special; they can NOT be removed by beholders.)
Humanoid minions are helping out the beholders. A few locations have chaos orbs floating about to make your adventure that much more stimulating.
As soon as your party stitches their flesh back to their faces, be sure to tally up your Outsider (Invasion) tokens. Get 25 of these bound-to-character gems and speak to an NPC nearby the quest entrance to exchange them for some decent gear. You can only get one item per life, but it’s a boon for the free-to-play character. Of particular note is the Ring of Balance. It comes with a Green Augment slot and a 100% Fortification gem that you can easily remove and place in other gear if the ring isn’t to your liking.
Frame Work (Level 12)
Navigation: 6, Enemies: 10, Bosses: 8
Ah, what fresh hell is this? Well, it’s not too fresh. Ever visited a cattle barn? It’s like this–only these cows aren’t going to let you tip ’em.
It all starts off well enough, with your party sauntering through the countryside surrounding the minotaur city, looking for ballista parts, taking down the periodic panther, wolf and spider.
And then one of your party members goes all Leeroy and storms into the minotaur city.
Frame Work requires a bit of subterfuge for most parties, by targeting the Minotaur Runts before they have a chance to ring the alarm bells. It’s not that most parties don’t want the extra kills if you’re going for the slay-everything option. You just don’t want half of the whole city to wake up at once and cause a persistent Dungeon Alert from which there is no escape for your pitiful little band. Therefore, kill off a region of bull-men, lick your wounds, find and kill the next runt, and then ring the alarm yourself when the party is ready.
If you find that your party has a griefer that zooms about ringing bells like a Christmas caroler or unnecessarily alerting more and more minotaurs, don’t follow him/her. They will die, heinously. Leave their stone alone and do not resurrect them. Sic semper stultus.
There are two entrances. Entering either one is easy enough by using the stoning wand on one of the two guards (completing a required objective) and then pulling the second guard from afar to keep from alerting others inside.
A stealthy player can literally jump over the wall at the lake entrance to open the gate, or you might want to sasshay your group up to a gate and wait for several minotaurs to happily open the gate for you so they can kick your teeth in.
The key in the quest for a typical party is not to separate, pull and isolate kills, and kill the runts first.
When Cabal Seers show up, look out. They’re often the reason why your party Hulk Smasher turned into a soulstone rapidly since these red-names use lots of energy draining and death spells. As a reward for killing those guys, chests will materialize somewhere nearby. But please caution your party to clear out the area before wandering around. There are many dead-ends where minotaur bands love to surround and entrap careless players.
Another opportunity for the impatient in your party to die without dignity is to bum-rush the ramp to the Minotaur Chieftain, which is loaded with extremely deadly one-time blades. Going up the ramp also starts the end-fight mechanic, which isn’t a nice time to have it start if you’re still neck-deep in minotaurs.
There are three bosses, to make matters worse. A final Cabal Seer might be inside the fortress, too, and shamans are busily healing the enemies while you’re running for your lives from the gods-awful clusterfrak bull rush (often with yet one more alarm sounded to bring the rest of the city down on your heads).
Foundation of Discord (Level 13)
Navigation: 3, Enemies: 10, Bosses: 10
This quest is so batshit-crazy hard at any level and difficulty that I’ve already dedicated a whole article on it. Read it and weep.
In the Demon’s Den (Level 18)
Navigation: 7, Enemies: 9, Bosses: 9
This little orphaned free-to-play quest is available in the courtyard of the Inspired Quarter. Inside, you have respawning gnolls, fire and earth elementals, fiendish felines all about. In a central room is Aurora the maralith, who laments how hard it is to find good help these days as you slay the army she sends after you. You can probably feel for her, too, if you have a bad party.
On Normal difficulty, this one’s just a bash-fest, with the marilith attacking only after you slay three fiery d’jinn ritualists that are part of her ritual.
But on Hard and Elite, your party has to bring their A-game, and probably the A-game of three of their friends, to beat this one as a team. Here, the marilith attacks immediately. You know mariliths: Why use one sword when six will do? Here’s the kicker: She can’t be killed until all three ritualists are slain. She loves to generate dangerous and damaging fog while she tries to skewer you.
It’s nowhere close to easy. If you have a tanker, they and a healer have to take the angry marilith off on a stroll and away from the rest of the party. From there, you have three tunnels filled with all manner of nastiness that you must kill to get to the ritualists at the end of each tunnel. Your remaining party needs to separate and take on legions of enemies found in the tunnels. Do the math: If two are kiting the marilith and there are three tunnels, then two people are likely to go alone into one of those dark passageways.
And your party has to coordinate. On Normal, you can slay each ritualist one at a time and they don’t come back. But on Hard/Elite, what’s left of your team, all divided in three locations, have to kill the ritualists within 30 seconds of each other or they respawn.
Once that’s done, the marilith is vulnerable and the party has to yet again cut through respawning resistance to get to the marilith to gang up and slay her without getting tossed about or knocked down or cut into six tiny pieces.
Oh, and the levers you may need to progress through areas are often trapped. Some of them wind around and confuse you easily.
Wrath of the Flame (Level 19)
Navigation: 2, Enemies: 8, Bosses: 8
This quest (and “Running with the Devils”) makes even experienced players forget some basics about damage reduction.
The place is filled with Silver Flame humans: Paladins, Wizards, Fighters and Clerics. Because they are the Silver Flame (often Lawful Stupid), they are misled by their leader (who isn’t who she says she is). Despite being gullible and easily misled, the Silver Flame are really nasty fighters as they turn on you.
But then you’ll hear messages in chat: “My weapon’s not working.” “They’re immune to my attacks.” Cue the curb-stomping of the party by the Silver Flame–a group not known for its extraordinary fighting skills–if their tendency to constantly hire adventurers out to clear out their many many tombs and catacombs is any indication.
Many player weapons and attacks don’t work because the Silver Flame (and the Eladrin in “Running with the Devils”) are Good-aligned. Many of our player weapons are also Good-aligned, making them ineffective in damage.
Worse off, the Flame’s battlers aren’t stupid. They usually and immediately cast Death Ward, too, making it harder to swat them back with Life Draining or negative energy attacks. They’re often as well-buffed as your own party.
The best weapons against the Flame are those with the Aligned property. Such weapons will hit with the opposite damage reduction of an enemy. In the case of the Flame, they get Evil damage. You can also try Banishing weapons, since the Flame comes from the same plane as you and aren’t native to Shavarath.
Players can make things even harder on themselves by the time they encounter Lightbringer (just as you reach the imprisoned Yugoloths). A massive army of the Flame surround her. Don’t attack the army–attack Lightbringer! After a moment, you’ll see that she’s a succubus that had disguised herself as Lightbringer. Once the idiots in the Flame realize the deception, they become your allies immediately–and a very good thing as a mob of Shavarath enemies pounce on you. Keeping as many Silver Flame bodies alive helps this part of the battle.
The Shroud (Level 17)
Navigation: 8, Enemies: 10, Bosses: 10
The Shroud is DDO’s most popular raid. It’s also the raid most likely to fall apart because of the complexity of objectives and the coordination required from every party member. For that reason, I’m making this sole exception in not mentioning raids, which are naturally difficult. The Shroud is run so often that you’d think everybody can do it reliably, especially when many Epic players enter in.
If you believe that, I have some beachfront property on the shores of Argonnessen that I’m sure you’ll love.
The Thirteenth Eclipse (the Shroud’s official name) requires players to complete five flagging quests as well as use ingredients you gather from each completion to create a Signet Stone that is key to completing the flagging. Some players (the ones that don’t bother to read) won’t follow instructions to complete the final flagging steps and often delay the raid’s start. Most party leaders aren’t patient and kick them out if they’re not flagged. The lesson? Read, read, read.
The Shroud has five parts. It’s amazing how much is going on and is still quite a lot of information to juggle for experienced players. The challenge is keeping the party focused on the task at hand at all times. It’s too much to go into detail, but let me summarize where parties often cause their own demise.
Part 1: Kill everything, destroy the portals quickly.
This part is typically the easiest, but it can get screwed up if a party leader doesn’t guide everyone to destroying portals in the general order that they spawn. The DDO Wiki article for the raid shows when and where the portals turn up. If parties break up, getting these portals down fast enough will be unlikely before too many portal keepers appear to ward the portals, causing the raid to fail.
Part 2: Kill off trash mobs in the maze, pull and separate 4 Shavarath lieutenants, kill them, destroy their respawning crystal over their spawn point before they return.
This part has “cluster” written all over it. You’ll see your Hulk Smashers go nuts in removing trash, and that’s good. The crazy begins if someone gets too close into the interior of the maze before all trash is destroyed that could affect the party’s bigger fight. The lieutenants have special area-of-effect buffs for each other that make them nigh-invulnerable. Having spare devils poking you makes things all the harder. If the lieutenants are out before the trash is gone, look out.
Pulling the lieutenants down the eastern side of the maze to the south side of the maze is a common tactic, but your Hulk Smashers can make things more difficult if they aren’t listening, forcing players to separate too widely within the maze and spreading healing and DPS resources too thinly.
The next part of this craziness is telling the brain-dead in your party to coordinate the kills of the lieutenants so that they all die at about the same time. If the deaths are staggered too widely, one monster might make it back to the respawn point and comes back to life to torment the party. The respawn crystal can only be destroyed while all lieutenants are ghosts and before any one of them reaches the respawn point. Destroying the crystal also requires the party leader to designate a crystal-destroyer–often a spellcaster–to loiter carefully around the maze’s center to be ready to quickly destroy the thing at the right time.
Part 3: Solve all puzzles, avoid the Whirling Blades, don’t step on the yellow wards, refresh the fountains before a prismatic wall appears and wipes the party.
This area is timed. It requires the brain-dead of the party to think as they may materialize, alone, inside a sealed room where an infamous Shroud puzzle awaits. The puzzle doesn’t have to be solved to add the purifying water to the fountain–but your party will lose 2 chests. An inexperienced player will not know where to find a Shroud puzzle solver or not care, stomping quietly and futilely on their puzzles while not alerting others that they can’t solve it themselves in time.
Again, the party leader is key here. They have to brief the party before entering on what not to do. Don’t destroy any crystals above the rooms, except the three that ward the wading pool where the water fountain resides for bottles of water.
If things are going too slow, the party leader could sacrifice the two chests, destroy the room crystals so the water can be added to all fountains. The party leader also has to keep the team on puzzle-solving status, and that everyone is running through the maze, avoiding the yellow glyphs that cast Horrid Wilting and Greater Dispel Magic to debuff you, and the invulnerable, unavoidable Whirling Blades that will kill the squishiest or careless of your group.
And heavens help you if you are running a raid with fewer than 12 players. It’s probable that one or more rooms will be unoccupied, their puzzles unsolved, its fountain dry. Happen to bring in someone with Knock or who can pick locks? Or will members in party even bother to report an empty room?
Part 4: Kill Arraetrikos.
Bad party leaders neglect warning the group only to enter this next area as a group and only once buffed. Once things start, this bash-o-thon gives parties very few opportunities to regroup. They’d also make sure that all weapons are properly readied to fight a pit fiend.
Like “The Reaver’s Bane” and “Tower of Despair,” player deaths are rewarded with a trip to a penalty box (in this case, a jump into Part 5) where you cannot be resurrected until Harry is killed.
Hulk Smashers that love to kill, kill, kill, might kill devils too quickly, sending many Whirling Blades that spawn from the deaths into your party to kill them, especially on Elite where the blades do maximum damage.
Harry appears in the room’s center and awaits the right weapon to hurt him effectively. This is where your party’s DPS makes all the difference. If melee fighters aren’t using weapons with Silver and Good properties, the fight will be slower.
Good parties on Normal and Hard difficulties might take Harry down in one or two rounds. On rounds two and later, more devils appear before Harry–and more Whirling Blades threaten to kill more party members. Then Gnoll Idolaters appear and cast healing beams at Harry. Well-prepared party leaders ask if there’s a Monk in party with an Everything is Nothing nuke ready to use at the room’s center to swat all the gnolls simultaneously so that all others in party can continue the beat-down on Harry. Otherwise the leader has casters ready to kill the gnolls.
Too many deaths and you’ll end up failing. Sometimes this part can fail even with an experienced party due to lag or misfortune.
Funny thing: My guild ran the Shroud, short-manned by two, on Elite, just last night. Many of us were Epic level; it was an ingredients run. Things went bad in part 4 but by that misfortune of many players being in the wrong place. One of our healers was killed almost immediately and our second had computer issues and disconnected twice. Harry was barely down to 75% by the end of round 3. By then, only the DC’d healer, myself (on Quintessica the Mystic in her first run in this 2nd life) and a Paladin were the last alive.
The guild party was resigned to fail but were in good spirits, rooting for me and the paladin to complete it. Quintessica dived in, trying to recharge her EiN “Death Blossom” while fending off devils, as was the paladin. For the next round, my Death Blossom wasn’t ready, so I ran about to kill the gnolls while the Paladin stood his ground against Harry for a time alone. Another round and our DC’d healer was able to reconnect to recharge us once before he was killed. I blew away almost all the gnolls with the Death Blossom in the next round before battling Harry once more by round 4.
In a notable example of the Update 19 changes to how effective poison can slay you dead, Quintessica was prepping for round 5 when she suddenly found herself at room temperature. The combat log said something to the effect of Harry’s pit fiend poison delivering a 1,000 point dose at me. Wow. So much for the old Monk immunity to poison thing (that takes care of natural stuff but not supernatural or magical now). But cheers to Quintessica, who was far more effective and durable as a Mystic. Going to look that pit fiend poison up, though.
The guild called the raid for another night. The paladin, still alive and alone in part 4, was so badass-durable that he actually had to let himself be killed to leave the instance.
Part 5: Kill Arretreikos (Again).
After your whole party dies on using the last altar (by design) and materializes in a new area, you’re revived to fight the four lieutenants from part 2 again. All buffs (including ship buffs) are lost on entry.
Separating them as before is easier with the large area but some zerging party members might kill all the lieutenants before the party can rebuff or recharge their spellpoints before Harry appears on the death of the last lieutenant. Typically, you keep one lieutenant alive while buffs and recharging goes on.
Harry is angrier here than ever, often and randomly changing his target, and moving about. Good party healing, appropriate buffs and melee teams adjusting position to box Harry in place should make this an easy fight. I did say, “should.” Thankfully players can be revived here should they die–at the expense of the healer-types having to change focus from the lead fighters to the dead.
That’s my take on some of the tougher quests to coordinate or run with an at-level group. There are plenty more but they don’t rank up to the pure evil seen in the ones I’ve listed. That’s a matter of opinion, so if you know of a quest that can really go the wrong way fast because of the quest’s sheer scope or ability to cause players to goof, then let me know about that quest so I can run it again (crap) and note the pitfalls we might find.