Game Events: Asking for Trouble or Triumph?

Not long ago I stumbled on an article regarding a remarkable event in “World of Warcraft”  in September 2005.

Well, really, it wasn’t a planned world event, but their worlds were apparently quite shaken by it.

The backstory goes like this. A new raid was added to WoW at that time. The end boss of the raid had a special infectious attack called “Corrupted Blood,” which is similar to debuffing and disease spells or effects in DDO that damage your CON and lower your hit points. The closest counterpart is the dreaded “Mummy Rot.,” only, imagine a version of this that would hit your whole party if someone infected was close enough to you.

This boss debuff was meant only for the raid. But somehow, a handful of players managed to leave the raid with the effect still within their character. These players intentionally walked through public areas such as towns, spreading the infection. As this was a raid level infection that hit for several hundred or more points of damage and was persistent, many low-level characters were struck dead instantly.

Watch the video above. Imagine that’s the Marketplace. You’re just shopping when your HP meter drops nearly to zero, and others around you drop dead. Many, many players are just dropping. You got to get away, but from what?

The WoW servers, predictably, went chaotic. Interestingly, people behaved as people would behave in real life. Clerical characters began to aid others. Many ran for their virtual lives, into the virtual countryside and out of the plague-ridden towns. Many died. A few more  tried to use their infection to spread it to others.

Eventually the WoW developers managed to isolate and scrub the disease from all characters and summoned pets that players purposely infected so as to continue the assault. But by then the damage was done. Not enough to cause WoW to close up shop, but enough to bring a cautionary tale to the virtual world.

The Corrupted Blood incident became quite popular in the scientific community. These epidemiologists studied the sociology of the players, comparing it to what people do in actual pandemics. Not to be outdone, the anti-terrorism community also turned an eye to the incident as a model for how terrorists become opportunists, causing the most harm to the most people in the most time possible.

Despite the fact that this was an exploit, it did something that’s missing in DDO. It caused a human reaction that required you to act, now.

Are Game Events a Thing of the Past?

I’ve never played WoW and don’t plan to do so. That’s because it took years of Neverwinter Nights gameplay to shake me from years of my Diablo II “crack habit,” so I knew that any other Blizzard game (yes, that includes Diablo III) would ruin my life. (Not that DDO is as light a habit for me as my obligations would want that to be, but that’s another tale.)

I wasn’t around as well for a DDO game event of 2008, where a game module update introduced a Shavarath invasion of Stormreach, the eventual destruction of the central Marketplace, and several quests for players to gather ingredients needed to beat back the invading hordes.

Sound familiar? It’s because the events seen in the Level 6 raid, “The Chronoscope,” allows players to relive that module, specifically a more wider invasion of the Marketplace as a whole, including the original Marketplace tent’s destruction.

Today, all we seem to have for game events in a more public sphere is a passive but quite prominent and repetitive drop-in of a white dragon near the Argonessen representatives (all dragons in human form) near the House Kundarak Marketplace bank. Occasionally, some special merchants appear and contests to gather coins or other items will activate in public spaces, such as the Risia Ice Games or Festivult. However, these are quite passive in that they don’t affect everybody and are totally optional to use.

So, why isn’t there a larger, more game-encompassing event going on in DDO? Something that would effect all players and (per their level or game account) strongly encourage them, perhaps require them, to marshal their efforts to the event’s goals?

Perhaps such events are dangerous to the game’s overall stability. Perhaps world events such as these would discourage general game play and turn away the free-to-play community and upset VIP subscriptions.

It’s not as if we players or the developers couldn’t think of possible storylines. I brought up a thread in the Suggestions & Ideas subforum on a Drow war, where Eberron Drow, tired of being butt monkeys to the Faerun Drow as they attempt a move on Xen’drik itself, decide to fight back. The replies generally didn’t meet with high praise. Most people seemed burned out by the Drow, with the new Menace of the Underdark expansion.

What world events we experience today are often challenges that haven’t one bit of urgency or need at all.

Some Suggestions

With the MoTU expansion, Eberron itself is being threatened with total destruction by the Demonweb. Not that anyone who just created a new character is aware of this.

And the Quori, the race that hides within the false religion of the Path of Inspiration and are known as the Dreaming Dark, have failed to invade Xen’drik long ago and are threatening to do so again, this time without the giants of old from stopping them as before. What? You didn’t know of this invasion?

And the land of Drooam has landed a massive invasion army on the outskirts, have burned down one Stormreach district, heavily damaged Lordsmarch Plaza and planned to take over Stormreach as well. Did you miss this news while you were reading the latest posts on Feydsbook on your DRUID smart-ansible by Cannith, Inc.?

I also think there’s some evil cleric that’s raising an undead horde in the Necropolis that wants to make all of Xen’drik part of his new empire, too.

I guess my point is that there are many, many world events already in play. What is lacking in the public instances is an urgency, an appearance of desperation, of fire raining down. Of some NPCs occasionally running in fear in the Marketplace while a small group of invaders slam through the city and a world event message calls out for heroes to quickly dispatch them. Of the city sky turning red and adventurers called to be alert for a Shavarath invasion–right now. Low-level players are guided to protect NPCs at their level and fight off appropriately low-level Shavarath invaders that sneak past the more fortified Epic adventurers.

And none of these events should be telegraphed or announced by Turbine. They should just show up.

These events could be tied into the quests they relate to in-game. They could form a motivation to play by leading the players to the new Sagas NPCs. I haven’t gotten into completing any of the sagas because nothing is compelling me to do so. Not loot, or experience, or even a requirement to save myself or others from harm.

The world of DDO should have a more “live” feel to it. There are limits to how much a live event can and should do, and careful attention is required to keep low level players from getting way, way over their heads and for high-level players from becoming virtual gods by giving them a serious challenge that requires more cooperation and team play. Live events should have a compulsory hold on players without fully requiring them to do them. They shouldn’t be isolated as Mabar or Crystal Cove.

World events could also be done with great subtlety and intrigue. I would love to just log in one day to find mail message that tells me to go to an NPC that wants you and others to do this and that, unlocking a chain of events that (amidst all the other work to do) requires me to save Stormreach and to guide others to do so or to safety.

C’mon. Do you think a week where a zombie plague threatens all of Stormreach wouldn’t put a spring in your step as you run to stock up on potions? In such an event there’s a chance of griefing if a live player were infected, so it would be better for NPCs to be running about doing the deed. That is, a zombiefied NPC version of you. You get infected, your character is logged out and you must log in to another character (or specially granted character given to all players) to do a specific quest to remove the affliction (with substantial rewards, of course). Players that don’t opt to play can watch the spectacle but aren’t infected.

A horde of Quori pouring out of House Cannith would make all that ghostbane weaponry useful.

The WoW Corrupted Blood event was a totally unplanned event that shook that game at its roots by its urgency. What if that Argonessen dragon suddenly started stomping down a ramp into the Bazaar? Would you call out to some guildies to try to head it off? What would or should the lower level players do? What if some evil Drow genius had weaponized Mummy Rot and was infecting the public instances? Would a world event ask others to seek out the cure? How would this Rot effect overall play? Should it?

I’m all for bringing the immediacy of adventure to DDO. It needn’t be as “oh crap” as the WoW plague. But something out of left field that all could enjoy wouldn’t be a bad thing if you just tie it in to existing adventures.

Throwing It In – A Shuriken Ninja

Inspiration comes from multiple places. After learning of the destructive magic within the throwing star wielded by a fully trained Ninja Spy, I thought briefly how it would be cool to see more use of shuriken before my attention wandered off to Quintessica and her Mystic abilities.

Somebody accepted that challenge. Forum user “Firewall” designed a build that specializes in throwing stars, and I’m shamelessly, proudly creating a version of my own.

The “Shiradi Shuricannon,” by Firewall

I love this design. For starters, it’s a pure Monk, which immediately drew cheers from me.

Firewall wasn’t trying to use the typical min-maxing that comes from multiclassing, but to utilize every racial and class ability, skill and feat to generate the strongest damage you can from the shuriken.

Firewall chose the race that gains natural proficiency and expertise feats with shuriken: the Drow.

His ability stats were atypical for any Monk I’ve played or seen, but for a good reason.

STR 8/DEX 20/CON 14/INT 10/WIS 14 with a 36 point build. Very low STR is weird, yes.

But STR doesn’t define damage when you have a Ninja Spy where DEX to damage ability now applies for piercing and slashing weapons. A high DEX, with Shuriken Expertise, also defines the percentage chance of throwing an additional star per attack.

Over the character’s training, you add in feats that improve the number of stars thrown or extent of damage, such as Point Blank Shot, Quickdraw, Precise Shot, Precision, Rapid Shot, Improved Critical: Thrown, Improved Precise Shot and Ten Thousand Stars.

To help with miss chance, he adds in Dodge and improves that further by selecting the racial ability Improved Dodge for up to a 3% additional bonus. And then he takes the racial ability “Xen’drik Weapon Training:” which adds +1 to hit and damage with shortswords, rapiers and shuriken. Being a ninja, she also gets the Shadow Veil ability for invisibility and incorporeality. She just needs a little Blur happiness from somewhere.

Firewall uses much of the Ninja Spy tree to add poison damage, stealth, dodge and agility, but also dabbles a bit in the Henshin Mystic tree to gain more DEX and passive ki regeneration. That’s an important thing since ranged/thrown damage cannot generate ki, while some throwing abilities will require ki to activate. He threw some points in abilities there that I couldn’t see the point about initially for combat, such as Negotiator.

Reading on, I realized that he wanted the extra Diplomacy for use with the Epic Destiny, Shiradi Champion, and its Epic Moment, Audience with the Queen (a special buff with at least a DC 20). He also put points in the Shintao tree to gain two core enhancements (10% healing amplification, some Tainted protections), and adds points to Ki Shout (use Concentration skill for Intimidate), Conditioning (more Concentration and HP), and points in Exemplar. That’s a weird one since the few Intimidate points given are worthless, but there is the 2 points to Heal for positive healing amplification.

For skills, a point into Tumble, some more Diplomacy, and encourages points in Hide, Move Silently, Jump, and Spot as one has the points to use.

The real challenge in this build isn’t the overall damage, but what you are able to throw at your enemies. Of all the weapons in the game, the shuriken has very few named versions. All of these have the “Returning” feature so you can use it all the time. Throwing stars seem to be in-vogue, so its harder to find loot-generated stars with Returning as its feature. You’ll pay more if they have additional effects or properties such as being Adamantine or Silver.

I’ve been hoarding a few of these long before the enhancement pass. Sadly, my crafting efforts had left some of the better ones bound to the character that holds them. This leaves me with gathering the handful of named stars I shuffle about my characters as they level and crafting a few others for tactical use as required.

  • Shadow Star: A simple star that’s easily farmed from the Shan-To-Kar quest chain. Despite having no elemental damage, its Keen property leaves quite a sting.
  • Snowstar: An improved version from the Sorrowdusk series from a recent update makes this Icy Burst star quite useable.
  • The Morning Star: A new item from “Friends in Low Places” in Wheloon and the only star I’ve seen with an augment slot. Designed to rip undead or shadow enemies apart.

In addition, I need an acid solution (trolls of any kind), a Pure Good solution (I have a couple of Silver returners that I can craft) and an Adamantine solution (golems). But there’s still the likelihood that good ol’ fisticuffs will be required. This build doesn’t specialize in unarmed fighting as well, but I can see taking one Two Weapon Fighting feat to ensure that a couple of shortswords with common DR solutions will take care of what I can’t pew-pew into the afterlife.

Items with Deadly and Accuracy can help, as well as a Doubleshot bonuses I can find on things.

Now, going the full Ninja Spy route means that the build’s throwing stars gain Vorpal at level 20. When you’re throwing as many stars as this character can do, the damage must be completely incredible.

Firewall notes that Shiradi Champion is used as an Epic Destiny for obvious reasons to support and augment thrown damage and a few Epic Feats that will finalize the damage as an Epic character.

A New Member of the Dojo

Getting home yesterday, I rolled up a new character. In celebration of the new character’s difference as well as personal tradition, she has a backstory that is quite different than others in the dojo.

“Szy Dun’Robar was groomed from birth to be a powerful leader. But, as is the way the Drow of the Forgotten Realms, competition to be the Matron Mother is fierce and deadly. Approaching her Age of Maturity, Szy was ambushed by rival sisters and huddled into the darkness of the Underdark, stripped of all gear and left to die. Thankfully, one family friend had learned of the plan and infiltrated the ambush team. The man, a Drow servant named Zhang, left a small cache of essentials and a map in a crevice, with a note: ‘Leave the world of Toril. Find yourself in the outsider world of Xen’drik. Return when ready.’ it said.

Szy made her way to the outskirts of the village of Eveningstar and to a mysterious portal, bristling with Drow energies but smelling of something less..ambitious. In her weakened state, Szy lost consciousness but was discovered and cared for by a small residence of Monks. Recovering, she learned was weaker physically–far weaker in fighting unarmed than others in this monastery. The abbess told her, “Let your inner gifts grow. Use our training to magnify what you already know. What can you do?” she asked.

Szy picked up a wooden training throwing star, like the type she’d played with all her life–and threw it squarely at a wooden training dummy, piercing the dummy with the star, wedged firmly as if the star were made of steel.

The abbess learned of Szy’s life story and warned the young Drow that justice isn’t revenge. In honor of her new teacher, Szy chose the name Szyncletica and began discipleship under Senior Teacher Ryncletica in the art of the ninja. Perhaps, one day, she’d return to the lands that people here called the “Forgotten Realms,” and to the House of Dun’Robar–not to rule or slay, but to humble them and their Matron. To let them know that Szy’s shadow would be ever haunting them and stopping their dark plans against all who simply want to exist.”

Meet Szy, newest Toril refugee.

Meet Szy, newest Toril refugee.

Szyncletica (or “Zin” for short in pronunciation) is a young Drow, so some sacrifices were made in her ability points. Thankfully I have a small supply of tomes to give her to compensate a bit.

I skipped the preamble of Korthos and zipped her immediately to level 7 to see what she could initially do. It took quite a bit of hopping from bank character to player character to find suitable gear for her, and she still lacks a bit.

But, armed with what she had, I stepped her into the Searing Heights to screw with things there.

Holy crap. If anything lasted more than three throws, it was because it was a rare encounter. Using only the Shadow Star (which has no elemental damage at all), the hits were fast and accurate. Most things died before they could come remotely close, and her high Spot allowed a ridiculous high target distance. Szy is an impressively nasty slayer, even at a paltry level 7. It almost seemed as if she had been an archer.

I can’t wait to add more ninja training points to gain poison damage. Concentration and ki regeneration are priorities since she can’t use Ten Thousand Stars with less than 20 ki without a non-throwing way to generate it.

Unfortunately, ki attacks can’t work with thrown weapons, so poison and other weapon damage will have to do. That does mean that I can focus all my feats and abilities to maximize the tiny stars in her hand.

Like Hawkeye in Marvel Comics, Szyn will work better from a distance. She’ll need to go very, very ninja in narrow dungeons and sewers to avoid attracting too much attention that she cannot handle. She’s got “scout” written all over her, but infiltration requires her to be able to fight back with more durability.

As for self-healing, it’s a double challenge. Thrown weapons can’t use Vampirism.  She hasn’t any spell-like abilities related to healing. I’ll have to see what can be done, but she’s likely going to avoid hordes unless distance gives her an advantage. As in her imagined backstory, Szyn may always be vulnerable to mobs.

"Is this how all of you clerics dress on Xen'drik? WTF were you THINKING, Flower?"

“Is this how all of you clerics dress on Xen’drik? WTF were you THINKING, Flower?”

I’ll be trouncing through the “Sentinels of Stormreach” adventures to gain access to House Deneith’s weapon supplier for partially-returning shurikens if they suit the need.

Of course, getting one of the Wheloon stars is strong in my mind.

Stay tuned. At least Teacher Firewall helped me stop my hemorrhagic gushing about Mystics, right?

(Updated to correct the misspelling of my own character’s name. That’s sad. It’s pronounced “Zen-CLET-ti-ca” as in, ‘What is the sound of one arm throwing?’)