It’s Spy Vs. Spies in this quest. Or, if you’re me, ninja vs. pirates.
I’m continuing my series of posts where I give detailed analysis of quests that benefit players that use stealth tactics and deliver a larger XP or resource-savings reward for doing that.
Often, these quests will likely be ones that are rather reviled by the usual zerging slasher forces or those players that don’t “read the manual.” That is, they log in, select a quest and enter, often unprepared and armed to the teeth–and fated for a long day. Or, the quest is an unusual design: multiple levels, required keys or levers, or more ambush points where your party is more vulnerable than necessary.
The details in these guides will be more detailed than what information you’ll find in the DDO Wiki articles in terms of navigation and way-points, but aren’t meant as a substitute.
Also, these posts will eventually cross-link to the Stormreach Shadows guide, where formatting limits are a bit restrictive for images and the occasional video.
Let’s start with one of my personal favorites: “Spies in the House.”
Note: Update 23 has a bug where, if you start “Spies” while you have the “Sentinels of Stormreach” quest chain in-progress, the quest chain giver will not offer you the chain end-reward loot list on completion. Run “Spies” before starting “Sentinels” as a workaround, or run “Spies” after you complete the chain. While related in the storyline, “Spies” isn’t part of the Sentinels quest chain so you needn’t speak to Taggart d’Deneith, the Sentinels quest chain-giver.
“Spies” is one of a handful of quests where the exit is straight up, over a harrowing series of climbs. Not coincidentally, several of the quests I’ll review in this series have climbing and multiple levels.
I’d argue that “Spies” earns the title for the most challenging of these climbing quests. Unlike other climbing quests, Completing “Spies” requires agility way beyond that needed in quests such as “The Coalescence Chamber.” You need at least at least +10 Jump in this place–and that’s optimally your number while you’re in Sneak, which gives a -20 penalty to that and Tumble.
Thus, medium and heavy Armored Fighters, Clerics and Paladins have a harder time in quests like “Spies” because their Armor Check Penalty works against their Jump skill. These classes as well as Wizards, Artificers and Sorcerers also have Jump as a cross-class skill where it’s cost-prohibitive to add many, if any skill points. Potions, items and spells to give stacking Competence and Enhancement bonuses that raise Jump to a useful level can help a lot for such characters.
Stealth will also be problematic for all classes who aren’t Bards, Monks, Rangers or Rogues since Hide and Move Silently as also cross-class skills. Rangers, Druids and strong-UMD Rogue can help here, too, in addition to items. (For suggestions to fix that, see this chapter and this chapter in the Stormreach Shadows stealth guide.)
A Feather Falling item or long-lasting spells is also required here throughout the quest. Falling here means falling a long way that will likely leave you very vulnerable, feeling very lost, and unable to catch up easily. Striding speed is also very important in the final levels; buy some Haste potions.
“Spies” makes every attempt to keep you from going upward using simple barriers that must be activated or bypassed before your party proceeds. In “Coal Chamber,” it’s a matter of running up and up, with no requirements to jump except down with a Feather Fall item to a shrine. In “Spies,” if you have low Jump, you’re going to have a harder time. A few places require you to leap up swiftly to grab onto something should you fall out of alignment as you make your way.
Don’t bother using your in-quest map here. Like “The Pit” and “Chains of Flame,” the multiple layers of the quest map do not reveal any information of use to navigation.
The Entry Level: “Ninja, Please!” (Or, “Why Clerics Can’t Jump“)
You start the quest next to a very high sewer shaft that drops to an underwater point. Even with Feather Falling off, it seems that it’ll take about 10 seconds for you to hit the water below. That’s a portent of your long climb back up, elsewhere. Stealth teams should buff up here and activate Sneak before dropping down since the underwater point below will prohibit you from activating Sneak.
Once you’re down, ahead is a small alcove guarded by ice mephits and water elementals. Your fastest stealth party member can move to the lever to pull it, opening a gate to swim down the sewer tunnel while others rush by the enraged elementals. You don’t have to fight these guys; simply pulling that lever and leaping into the water ahead avoids them.
The wide underwater pit ahead is filled with sonic and spike traps with fences to force your path. High reflex/evasive characters can avoid them. A Rogue can disable all the traps for bonuses. Non-evasive characters should carefully swim forward and, on returning to solid ground, stop and stay in Sneak to stay a bit hidden. In the water lies one of three valves that control an air jet that teams should use.
Out of the water and in Sneak, you’re surrounded enter a vast complex with catwalks and scaffolding above. To your relative left (northwest and southwest) in the wide-open area are many skeleton archers and a few Blood Tide fighters and mages. East and ahead from the water is a small dead-end tunnel with another couple of traps and a second valve for the first air jet.
The third and last valve of this first jet is in the northwest corner, guarded by a few humans and their skeleton charges, next to the air jet itself.
A non-stealthy team would have to make their way along catwalks from the northwest, pelted by skeletal snipers not only above but way above you, shooting where you cannot shoot back. It’s a killing field.
And even then, a non-stealthy team must make a couple of careful climbs to a valve that lowers a drawbridge for the team to climb up a series of fixed boxes to another scaffold level. Miss your mark, and you’ll fall down and back to the water entry.
For stealth teams, there’s a better way.
Lower Level: Jet-Setter
After activating the first two valves, carefully make your way to the last valve, dispatch the skeletons and mages there and activate the last valve, located next to the jet itself. If your team stays in that corner, you shouldn’t be detected by the skeleton archers to the far left, watching the catwalks and scaffolding.
With the three valves activated on the lowest level, two air jets activate. One lifts you up to a catwalk just above you, where a second diagonal jet hurls you up and to a wide catwalk across the way, above the center of the bottom level.
What you do here depends on your party composition.
Teams with strong Jump skills can simply use your Jump prowess and Feather Fall for controlled guiding, using the two jets to make your way up to the center catwalk, and then jump down or across a bit to the lower scaffolding with the closed drawbridge to climb up fixed boxes that lead up through holes in the scaffolding for a couple of levels to higher piping. Traversing this way in Sneak avoids any detection by the skeletal archers very close by. There is likely one lonely human guard here in hiding at the drawbridge scaffolding. If anyone’s stealth skills are poor, he will find you.
If your party is a mix of low-Jump characters that aren’t as agile, a lone stealthy character can make the jet leaps, then head southward and up and over some pipes to reach the valve over dead-end scaffolding to the far south, above the watery entry, that lowers the drawbridge. Unfortunately this means that your party’s walk to the bridge will likely fight the lower archers and a couple of human fighters along the catwalk and platforms to the now-lowered drawbridge as even your stealth skills will be compromised at such close proximity. Your fighting might also alert the archers much higher up. This is problematic since you’ll be fired at, but cannot target back because of your attack angle.
Once your team has climbed up at the highest scaffold via the fixed boxes, jumping is required to a pipe that’s close enough to stand on. Your team must stay in stealth here; above are more skeletal archers that will rain down arrows on you at an angle where you cannot counter-attack. The path north on the pipe leads to a puzzle wheel that controls an air jet behind and above you in the southwest corner. It’s the only way up for everyone.
One party member can sneak to the wheel and turn it twice to activate it’s second light to the right, which activates the proper southwest jet that will launch your party members to yet another scaffold above. Left of the puzzle wheel is a constantly-blowing jet that catapults your team to that larger southwest jet. Everyone’s got to traverse the northern pipe: watch out for the break in the pipe on the way or you’re going to fall. A Bard in your party that can give Invisibility to your team helps a lot here in avoiding detecting from the now-closer archers above you.
Keep in stealth throughout this entire progression, even if your Hide/Move Silently scores are poor. A stealth posture keeps you slowed and in better control while traveling on the thin pipes. You may need to stand up for the jets to launch you.
On using the southwest jet, you should land by some fixed boxes on a scaffold just below a large mob of skeleton archers, human necromancers and a couple of gargoyles. You’re going to leave stealth to attack them by making your way up the boxes to a small landing just south of the group and then charging ahead to a scaffold and up to their location. Note how high you are; if you slip without Feather Fall, you’re in for some serious damage.
Eliminate the entire guarding force ahead–specifically, 10 skeletons whose undeaths control lighted locks above a prisoner gate and a valve to the path onward. A valve set precariously on a corner edge of the area of the archers along the stone wall, near a locked gate, activates a small jet that launches you back to the center scaffolding to a level you couldn’t climb to reach. Here, another set of boxes sit below a second valve, guarded by a couple of gargoyles. This valve opens that locked gate near the first valve, where you rescue the first of four Deneith prisoners. Just inside this gate is another valve that opens the larger gate to the east entry and forward.
Depending on difficulty, there may be a trap just inside, as well as air mephits. Your second prisoner is just to your left from within this entry; a lever opens his cage.
Ahead, at the apex of this short hall, several skeletons will spawn that you should eliminate. At the end of the hallway is an electrified shaft and a ladder with more mephits. Evasive characters in stealth can likely just go up the ladder and evade the electricity trap and mephits, who won’t follow. But a Rogue in party should find a control box above to disable the trap for more vulnerable party members. Eliminate the mephits if they are a hassle.
At the top of this shaft, opposite the ladder, is a treasure chest across the shaft’s wide chasm. It’s locked, so if your team hasn’t the means to unlock it, you should skip it and continue on through the last of the skeletal guards. A hidden door near the ladder reveals a lever; it’s purpose wasn’t clear to me, even after several runs before, until now. Flip it, and it activates air jets to push your team to that locked chest. It appears to be a semi-random pulse that turns off, requiring you to flip the switch again.
At least two skeletal mages, skeletons and several skeleton archers await you ahead: eliminate them to unlock a lever in the T-intersection to the end. A third Deneith prisoner awaits rescue here, and there is a treasure chest as reward for coming this far.
That lever opened steel doors to your next adventure. The good news is that you’re done with undead guards. If you thought your trip was tough so far, just you wait.
Grid Level 1: Rowan and Friends
Just beyond the steel doors are rest and resurrection shrines, guarded likely by a one or two Blood Tide fighters. Your team should use this shrine as you’ll be unable to return to it once you proceed.
At the end of this path you’ll see several Blood Tide archers on catwalks lining a wide, very electrified grid floor. This is the first of several grid floors you’ll find that can’t be disabled and will pelt you with 30-60 damage per second, easily killing party members that stand on it for too long. If you’re missing Resist Electricity or Protection against Electricity buffs, use them now.
With a mixed party, your best tactic is to go into Sneak and drop down to the northern wall and to a path on along the electrified floor, sneaking in below the archers and to a lower catwalk. A single guard along the last part of the path could alert others if he spots you; a quick kill or good stealth bypassing is recommended. Strong archers or throwing characters might opt to remove the archer guards. Monks with Abundant Step or classes with a long-jump, instead, might leap directly from the shrine level over to the upper level catwalk–better if you’re invisible if you do this unless going immediately on the offensive.
Northward is a watery fortress sealed by a steel gate that you must bypass. Guards are all about here. Your team can go left (westward) and around, up a watery fall, where a skeletal mage awaits you to return it to inanimate bone. Left (east) of here is the base of Rowan Watzun, a red-named necromancer that loves death spells: Have at least Deathblock items equipped as you attack him and his guards.
Once Rowan is down, a lever in his lair, by a chest, opens the path ahead to the upper catwalk. You’re assaulted by backup fighters immediately after Rowan dies. Resistance here is comparatively slight; you may want to eliminate all the archers along the catwalks if your party is of weaker stealth skill. A stronger stealth team can lure any standing guards by Rowan’s lair to remove them without alerting the catwalk archers, leaving them unaware of your presence throughout this next segment.
To the south are additional pipes and valves. On a ladder above is your fourth and final Deneith prisoner and a chest, both caged. Two valves here are at ground level open the prisoner’s cell and part of the way forward; one is guarded by mephits. A stealthy character can activate that lever without waking the mephits at all. As with all stealth quests, resist the temptation of breaking boxes: the best bonus you can get is Vandal, and only with luck and a few deaths.
At the southwest corner on a ladder is another shrine; make this rest count: Your last shrine is near the end of the quest, a long way up.
At the last prisoner’s level is a pipe to the east where the third lever awaits. All party members must climb up to this pipe (via the prisoner’s ladder) and west to yet another platform and air jet to move forward. Without a Rogue to disarm it, your team will have to brave some blades that slash about around this jet. Historically, the blades don’t hit often–and the blades are the last of your worries.
Grid Levels 2 and 3: This is Where It Begins to Suck
Before your team uses the jet, buff up again with any and all electrical resists and absorption or Protection from Electricity buffs. You’ll be very glad you did. Your Feather Fall is essential here, as well. A CON and/or False Life item or spell is extremely helpful for low HP players. You’re going to have to soak up a lot of voltage.
This jet is one of two in this area that are hard to navigate as you’re catapulted upward a little blindly. You’ll be sent high up and if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a pipe to a small platform near a valve. Whoever reaches that valve should turn it immediately.
If you’re unlucky, you’ll hit your head and bounce back down and must climb back up to the jet.
If you’re very unlucky, you’ll overshoot and land on yet another electrified grid floor. If you do, run left (north) to your only safe-haven, some fixed boxes that lead up to a cross of pipes.
Once your party is up, you’ll find fire elementals and, if you’ve been unluckier, an air elemental. You must kill all the elementals that spawn here (four total) to proceed. This won’t be easy for melee teams; the elementals are often floating about, away from the pipes you’re standing on, and inaccessible.
If an air elemental spawns, your luck is terrible. It will likely blow party members hither and yon. Your best bet is to congregate by the sole group of fixed boxes to the north to avoid getting electrocuted, standing on the lowest box.
Ranged icy weaponry (Snowstar, Chill Shard and the like) or spells that hurt fire elementals are required. Melee teams will be lucky if the elementals come close enough to attack.
The fire elementals throw fireball after fireball, often floating over the grid and out of melee range. If you can hit them by direct attack, do so. Your non-Evasion party members should seek cover; they will not survive against the fireball pelting for long. An air elemental complicates your attack. Evasion characters should separate, giving the party a chance to move the aggro around as you make your attacks.
This area is where I imply how hirelings and summoned creatures are less than useful since they’ll be extra things you’d have to look after or will draw unwanted attention and jeopardize your safety. If they die on the grid, leave their soulstone. One exception for summons: if you can summon a water elemental or other thing that can float to attack the elementals, it’s worth a go.
Once the elementals are down, turn the remaining valves in this area and, carefully timing the blowing air vents that threaten to make you run the dangerous grids again, head around to another air jet. If you don’t clear the elementals, the steel door above this jet remains closed.
This jet blows you up to a marginally safe start point, but no safe destination. You must run across yet another electrical grid. High-evasive characters have a very low chance to save against the damage, but everyone should rebuff with Protection from Energy and, if needed, Electric resistance. There is a small group of fixed boxes ahead as your only sanctuary. Don’t worry about stealth here to the boxes: Run! Speed is life.
More valves above on the pipes, and this time, guarded by mephits. Just to be nasty, a valve that reduces some of the damaging steam leaks have jets that will push you off and onto the grid if you don’t time them right when using them. Unlike the level below, however, killing the mephits just makes your life easier. Once the valves are done, you’re clear to jump and run carefully to a ladder up.
The Last Floors: Daylight
Stay in stealth as you traverse this floor and to a ladder nearby some water run-offs. Else, you’ll awaken water elementals that will fire on you. A rest shrine is here on this next to last floor for those who need this final oasis.
The serious stuff is behind you. You need only to reach the last floor where two gargoyles start trolling you but end up only annoying each other.
The gargoyles guard two final valves. (Any other valves you see at this level are decoration only.) One closes steel doors ahead to form a floor as well as open steel doors just ahead to the quest’s end. The second activates a lightning trap that’s not disarmable.
Let the high-reflex member of your party turn a valve. I don’t believe you have to wait for the gargoyle chat to complete to do this. A couple of Blood Tide fighters will assault you by the last door but they are nothing compared to what you just endured.
Put on your Voice of the Master for a big XP payout before you approach the first chest you see, no matter what your difficulty. On Epic difficulties, an epic chest spawns to your right on a gridded scaffold cubby hole.
Use your Finish button rather than using the provided tunnel. Otherwise, you’ll spawn in Stormreach Harbor, rather than next to the quest giver in House Deneith.
This is a long quest that can get longer without better descriptions. So I’ve taken time to record this quest to give you a better visualization. Good hunting!