We all know of many great players in the game that do the seemingly impossible.
This post isn’t about them. It’s about us. The average player. We don’t spend ungodly days and weeks on one character to make them godly enough to go into an Epic Elite quest alone. We don’t necessarily tune our characters for maximum damage or defense with hard calculations, seeking out the finest gear and running and re-running quest after quest, raid after raid.
(I’m not disparaging these Godly gamers, by the way. If making virtual gods is their way to have fun, go for it! None of us play DDO for our health. )
That said, we average players aren’t inexperienced. We grind long enough to get good Challenges gear. We gather Green Steel ingredients and build very powerful weapons and items. We know our way around Epic quests and have learned through our personal networks (guilds, forums, the DDO Wiki) of good gear combinations. We use the DDO Character Planner and other fine tools. We maximize our Epic Destinies and tool about with enhancements to make solid, if not Godly, characters.
And once all that’s done, we “average players” go off to show our mettle.
But what places aren’t so often visited by many in the game? These areas might be spurned by the Godlys because they might hold no loot or challenge to them. The Godlys aren’t typically “flower sniffers” (players who enjoy the aesthetics of an adventure, complete some or all optionals, and/or collect ingredients).
And there are places that are outright tough. Perhaps the Godlys ignore them because, unlike adventures and raids, these areas have a certain unpredictability and diversity that their characters cannot withstand.
And if the Godlys don’t care to visit these places, why on earth would the Average care to go?
Maybe, just maybe, we Average go to such places Because It’s There. We want to see everything.
We become Tourists of the Damned, taking screenshots of the most dangerous and obscure locations, just to say that we managed to get there (if not return).
Often, the developers put small visual treats in these remote locations, just to see if crazy tourists like us would be so nuts to venture out to find and report our discoveries on the forums in appreciation (complete with a photo album).
The stern bumper stickers of your guild ships might say, “Let me show you pictures of my trip into the bowels of hell.”
And perhaps there is some loot that we might find while we make the trip.
Let’s begin this series of exploration, appreciation and interpretation of little-explored and dangerous areas in the game (from my perspective, anyway) with The Subterrane.
The Birth of the Subterrane
If you’ve played “The Chronoscope” raid or were around in early 2008 when the events of the Chronoscope occurred in real time, you know that a Shavarath invasion of Stormreach occurred some time ago that (among other things) destroyed the original Marketplace tent.
The devils invaded Stormreach through the use of massively expansive ancient giantish catacombs, deep under the Marketplace and spreading out under some Houses, known to us as the Subterrane.
The “Sub” is the game’s only raid-enabled wilderness area. (UPDATE: DDOMicki and FuzzyDuck81 reminded me that that portions of the Cannith Manufactury are also raid zones.) That alone should ring bells. You cannot take hirelings there, limiting many of us Average to maximizing our self-healing options or avoid travel there altogether.
The place is filled with some of the nastiest foes in the game. The moment you jump off from the entry point (you did wear your feather-fall item, right?) you’re greeted by several Living Spells that try to snuff you immediately. Think of the names of the nastier spells and put the word “Living” in front of it. Living Meteor Swarms. Living Disintegrates. Living Fingers of Death. Living Delayed Blast Fireballs.
As I said, that’s just the entrance.
Most players or groups have four and only four reasons to enter the Sub for any regular purpose:
- Gather players to Greater Teleport them to Meridia for a “Shroud” run. These players are already in a raid party, and you cannot enter Meridia or any other non-raid instance while in a raid party.
- Gather to venture as a raid party to the raid, “A Vision of Destruction.”
- Gather to venture as a raid party to “The Hound of Xoriat.”
- Enter to reach Garamol’s Lair in hopes of finding the Icy Raiment outfit or other gear.
To enter the Sub for any other reason seems suicidal, right?
But where Godlys don’t go, we Averages go, even to say that we went just to say we did.
We make up for our Averageness through our versatility. We use anything and everything we know to survive in places like this. We don’t necessarily relish the idea of going in alone but we might take time to study to see if it is possible. In our studies, we might find a secondary reason (and rationalization) to go.
In my case, I do like to explore. Now, exploration requires you to either (1) be able to kill anything that sees you or (2) avoid being seen. I use the second option, as many Averages do. Godlys don’t care if they’re seen. In fact, they expect to since they aren’t the types to add points to Hide and Move Silently, I fear.
The Insane Tourist’s Guide to Spectacles of the Subterrane
So, aside from the bragging rights of going, what obscure things might you find in the Sub that can be useful later?
Here’s one: Planar Shards.
Sure, we’re encouraged to pick up these “t-bags” often as our raid groups kill things as we make our way to “Hound.” But what are they for?
The DDO Wiki points out that these shards can be exchanged for some very useful emergency items. With the change of Rise of the Phoenix in the Shintao class tree to a self-only Resurrection effect, my dojo has become very interested in gathering Planar Shards to make emergency Raise Dead trinkets. It takes only 10 to make 1 single-use trinket, and 25 for a 2-use trinket. (UPDATE: Be warned: These are Exclusive bound-to-character items, so you can make one, store one in your personal bank, and then carry one and one only. Better make it the 2-charge version.)
That’s worth the price of entry alone. Where else, outside of a hireling or divine player, or running all the way back to a shrine, are you going to find a way to help a fallen player? The Ring of the Ancestors isn’t exactly easy to get, and not all of us are Clerics or Favored Souls. These items are certainly easier to farm.
The Next Stop: Garamol’s Lair.
I make it a point to periodically take Lynncletica the Tanker out to chat with Garamol to farm for the Icy Raiment outfit, especially now that they are no longer bound at all and have improved Dodge numbers after recent Updates.
The path to Garamol, through the Central area of the Sub, follows the same path to “Hound of Xoriat.” It’s comparatively safer, as well. Your primary enemies are (after avoiding two Living Spells) ancient giant skeletons. There are three opportunities to enter using portals. There’s a special glowing stylized “G” that indicates which of three portals will take you to the cylindrical lair.
The first portal (noted on the DDO Wiki map as “Portal B,”) always goes to the path to the Hound, never to Garamol, no matter what the “G” shows in the floating glyph there. The next three portals are “Portal C” opportunities where Garamol rests. You hope that the first portal C location, not far from B, shows the “G” for a quick entry. If not, your second opportunity is near the Halls of Lunacy. Standing guard there is a Elder Beholder that you cannot avoid easily. If there’s a G glyph, you can head to your right, off the bridge, down to the ground, defeat several Reavers and Mind Flayers to reach that portal.
If there is no G glyph at the second location of Portal C, you must continue forward, across the bridge, open the door to encounter very aggressive Tieflings and Bearded Devils.
A good stealth artist can open the door and sneak past most of the enemies here to the last portal. The good news is that Garamol’s Lair is always accessible. One of the Portal C locations must be active to reach Garamol. If your first two locations aren’t marked, this portal will send you to Garamol.
Note that Garamol’s portal is green in color. All other portals in the Sub are red in color. When in doubt, activate the portal using the nearby rune.
A good tourist always packs for the trip.
Before you venture into the Sub, bring these items to freshen up, as well as stay alive.
- Protection from Energy potions or spells, as well as your best healing potions and spells, resistance items, and anything else to avoid trap damage. Once you enter the portal to Garamol, you’ll fall from the top of the cylindrical lair to its bottom. In between are several layers of acid, electrical, fire and force traps. You need to survive these traps before you even hit the ground (alive, anyway). There is no shrine in Garamol’s Lair. (You can find a shrine near the 2nd and 3rd Portal Cs to recharge prior to entry.)
- Your best undead giant beater. If you got this far, you likely have something that works well against them. Garamol himself is a 20,000 HP red-named giant that (like many other enemies in the Sub) resist banishing or disruption.
As you fall, look down and orient the throne of Garamol as the “12” on a clock face. You want to land you and your tourist friends on a rock outcropping at 3 o’clock. You do not want to land on the gold or venture much about the lair. To do so spawns additional giant skeletons and ghosts that will make your job harder. These guys don’t disappear when Garamol is slain. If your group of tourists have the moxy to end Garamol and his friends, you can loot the piles of gold there afterward.
You’ll find two chests after dispatching Garamol. One has the chance of giving you the Icys as well as several other unique named weapons.
You can leave the lair by recalling out, or use a rune nearby that activates a portal that will take you elsewhere in the Subterrane. Be sure to take a photo of the area, just to show you lived long enough to do so. Gather your friends around the throne and take a seat and some memorable photos of the halflings doing a jig. Always a hoot, that.
See the Lovely Altars and Fortresses in the Central area
The lesser-known areas require a bit more fortitude for you to reach. You’ll find several opportunities for rare bosses that might casually give you some history of their invasion of Xen’drik as they slay you.
After you thank them for the history lesson by slaying them back, some chests may appear with hopefully useful items. Remember to keep gathering the Planar Shard treasure bags throughout the area.
Again, photos of your trip, or it didn’t happen.
The Vistas of the East area
If you were to backtrack and take the first portal eastward, Portal B, you can see some Shavarath and Xoriat natives milling about, looking for tasty tourists like you. Be sure to greet them back with the ugliest, deadliest weapons you own. This area is generally one-way if you go so far as to unlock the final portal that leads you to a harmless zen beholder that chills near a shrine and the entrance to the “Hound of Xoriat” raid.
Next time on the Insane Tourist: The Underdark.