Continuing my series on quests that favor a stealthy approach, we explore tactics to use against a very formidable Gnoll stronghold in “Chains of Flame, ” one of the three flagging quests in the Sands of Menechtarun series.
“Chains” can suck on so many levels, literally. Like “Spies in the House,” “Chains” is a multi-level adventure where your quest map is mostly worthless. Being pelted by gnoll archers, fried by elementals or sliced into bits, pelted and fried by numerous traps is the name of the game here. And you’ll need to free at least 15 slaves by speaking with them.
But a stealthy approach will help you infiltrate the fortress where you can better control when and how you attack, and especially control if you’re attacked. Beefing up your ranged attack options isn’t a bad idea for careful use in a few locations.
“Chains” comes in a Heroic and Epic version. The pathing is identical.
With a recent update, “Chains” offers a boatload of XP, making the trip very worthwhile.
Soloing this adventure bites with all the inevitable fighting. Stealth Team Six mode is recommended.
Even with an experienced party hacking everything to bits, “Chains” is a very long quest; set aside at least 1 hour. With an experienced guide, it takes about 15 minutes from the Sands desert entrance to make your way to the quest entrance alone.
As with most stealth adventures, hirelings and summoned creatures draw unnecessary attention and may get you killed more than helping you. Be as self-sufficient as you can with self-healing options. Keep any hirelings on passive mode and stationary at all times, and take advantage of their new instant-teleport ability to skip them over deadly places if you’re using them as a healerbot or Divine Vitality fountain.
There are only two distant and hard to access shrines, so resource management is critical. Most importantly, carry Feather Fall, always wear Deathblock for frequent encounters with gnoll mages, and Death Ward when facing superior mages and for the end-fight.
Also carry plenty of Remove Curse and Disease solutions, have at least some Lesser Restoration options, but most importantly carry Fire Resistance and Protection from Fire solutions at hand by the end-fight, as original guild ship amenity fire protections wane after 1 hour if you haven’t a Ranger or other mage in the party.
An optimal stealth party has a Rogue Assassin (assassinations/trapping) or Rogue Mechanic (superior trapping), Ninja Spy (tactical kills, ranged thrown attacks), Ranger (Resists and Camouflage, ranged missile attack) and Bard (buffs, especially Invisibility, Blur, and Haste, charms or Domination, and in the worst case, crowd control). Fewer party members can be more beneficial in some places, but more members naturally help in the expected firefights.
Don’t enter this quest with a weak ranged solution. To lower your resource consumption, you may find that eliminating some attacks from above will make your mission easier before you reach that level. Or, if your party is a mix of agile and non-agile characters, ranged support is essential to save non-agiles from excessive damage.
It’s All About Keys, Slaves and One Lever
Take advantage of the quest article on the DDO Wiki. It will save you time and grief. Maps will detail the proper path that avoids unnecessary backtracking or fighting.
To avoid being redundant, I’m only noting special tactics you can use at certain locations, rather than discussing the pathing. I like to use the wiki’s block diagram map, shown here.
Your primary mode in stealth ops here is infiltration. You will be seen. But you want to minimize your exposure to snipers and mages at all times while transitioning outside of the fortress, along bridges, catwalks and outer paths.
Before opening that first door at quest start, buff up. There aren’t very many “safe” areas (at least, until you clear them), and spells can make noise that attract attention. Park and make passive any hirelings here; most of them cannot sneak and will draw fire that will reveal you. Using uncontrollable summoned creatures is a very bad idea that might increase your aggro and waste resources.
On every door, always stand to its side to avoid being seen by others ahead of the door.
Your mission begins over a long bridge over a big pool of lava. All above you are gnoll snipers with high Spot, ready to pincushion you. In harder difficulties and certainly Epic play, the bridge may be trapped and may have mephits. Stay in Sneak as you move across this first bridge. Halfway across, gnolls will burst through the door ahead. Sneak back to the start’s interior as they’ll stop at that halfway point. Then launch a ranged attack to pull and slay the gnolls inside the start area while keeping the archers outside unawares.
The first section requires you to go to the left doors several times to gain three keys before you can enter the locked door at the right of the first intersection. From there, the path is generally hard to mess up. If you can’t open a door, you’re missing a key.
Treat every exterior path as a sniper kill-zone. There will almost always be snipers above you. As you rise up the fortress, mages and snipers will appear on your level. Never exit without being in Sneak.
If you have one in party, keep your Rogue out in front, not your kill team. There are several deadly fire, spike, spinning blade and swiping blade traps in a few locations.
Many intersections will have cul-de-sac doors where other Overseers (holders of keys) reside with guards and some prisoners. Often these levels will have archers and fighters and mages, but also more backup above you, raining down death.
After eliminating Overseers, freeing prisoners and gathering keys, be sure to search out any levels that open paths ahead in the cave. Chests may also be found in these cul-de-sacs, but one will be locked and require a Rogue’s handiwork or a Wizard’s Knock spell.
Shrines, Slaves and Optionals
There are only two shrines. The first you’ll find on your path after opening locked door #1 at intersection #1 on the wiki map. The second requires you to lower a drawbridge and clear enemies guarding it around intersection #9 on the wiki map. Because of this, casters must be careful not to power-cast and have mana reserves if you choose a higher aggressive posture.
Saving Gaspar the Dwarf near intersection #2 requires a high Bluff to cause a fight. If you haven’t a Bluff option in your dialogue with the ogre mage, you can’t save Gaspar. Provoking the mage gives you two keys; one to the Stolen Treasury Key and another door key. Don’t save the dwarf and you’ll still get the pass key but lose the XP and the Stolen Treasury Key. Paradoxically, a Rogue with a high Bluff also likely has a high Open Lock and doesn’t need the Treasury Key.
By intersection 6, you can rescue a minotaur from his fire elemental guards for XP and a chest.
You will certainly find 15 slaves on your path, a required objective, but it’s the 16th slave (whomever your party finds next) that gives you the required Royal Firebrand Key, which opens the chamber of the boss at the very top. So always free the slaves, but remind your party that the 16th slave will give that Firebrand Key to one member of your party, and they have to live long enough to open the boss door. If that party member gets separated or, worse, dies in the lava pool, that key may be irretrievable and the quest must be restarted.
Observant stealth teams might take it as challenge to find every slave. This requires patience, stealth insertion, jumps to areas off the path, even a quick swim through lava if Dimension Door isn’t handy. Without D-Door, I’d strongly recommend that only a Monk at character level 12 perform this, as they will have Abundant Step. An agile Human with the Dragonmark of Passage can whip up a D-Door, too. Otherwise, don’t try to complete this or rescue is impossible.
Getting access to the second shrine near intersection #9 isn’t required, but there are slaves nearby it.
The last locked door has Erath the Blinded. Any party member with Blindness Immunity equipped can take the halfling’s curse, where it will have no effect. If you have a cleric hireling in your party, they’ll likely to remove the curse permanently. Remove Blindness potions, however, do not work against this special curse.
There are two red-named bosses to slay. One is an efreet that enjoys frying anyone he sees. Kill him first if you have non-Evasion members in your party. The gnoll boss is mostly a fighter with Displacement ability, a Stunning Blow attack and a few other divine attack tricks, but is mostly a bag of HP. He’s often guarded by two Firebrand mages.
Unload all the damage you have throughout this fight. A chest or two awaits you. Picking up the Orb of the Efreet from the left side of the throne ends the quest.
On returning to town, you must speak with the quest giver to gain the Orb of the Djinn (not the “Orb of the Efreet” as noted incorrectly in the video–that’s what you pick up), which is your flagging item for Zawabi.
Grab some popcorn; it’s going to be long. Click on the CC to show the captions. I switched to a less-restrictive caption tool, so these should be easier to read.
Ryncletica had the advantage of Poison damage to dispatch the bosses with relative ease.