Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Christmas (and generally any holiday) season gets busy for me. I tend to get more work during this time and try to juggle in as many family events as I can fit in, which doesn't leave a lot of time for play. Not as much as I'd like, anyway. So I haven't done much of note around the Realms...

Happily, however, one of my ordermates reached avatar on his first character. He hasn't gone on too many runs as of yet, and I didn't know if he'd tanked or just hit, so I brought him out to Dragon's Pass for the Dragon Claw of Legend. The DCoL is a good claw (sadly, you can't wield more than one).

For reasons I can't explain, I wasn't able to portal through to DPass...so we walked it. Not a big deal, just odd.
Object 'The Dragon Claw of Legend' is infused with your magic...
It is a level 50 clawing weapon, weight 35.
Locations it can be worn: wield
Special properties: glow magic metal
Alignments allowed: good neutral evil
This weapon has a gold value of 1000000.
Damage is 6 to 48 (average 27).
Affects mana by 120.
Affects hp by 120.
Affects hit roll by 12.
Affects damage roll by 12.
Affects intelligence by 2.
Affects constitution by 2.
Affects luck by 1.
To make the claw, you need to kill each of the seven coloured dragons that live in the southern zone of the pass: gold, silver, topaz, crystal, white, red, blue. Each drops a single hide (used to make various pieces of equipment that vary in terms of their worth/usefulness), and a single claw.

The dragons can be nasty if you're inexperienced, but with a bit of help, they're a piece of cake. I used my mage to immobilize the dragons while my ordermate, Gill, tanked and hit. All in all, it was a smooth run; we stayed an extra pop to kill the crystal dragon a second time as his hides make good bracers. The only hitch was when the silver dragon aggro'd onto me and instantly wiped out my mage...but other than that one time, the dragons went down quick.

You then head over to Dundin McDougal, and with all seven claws in your possession, give him the white claw. He takes the set and then fashions you a good old DCoL.

This was a good experience overall. I tried to give tips and advice to Gill as we went, and I learned a bit myself, what with the dying and all. It makes me wish more runs could be done in this fashion - not necessarily immobing everything that walks, but the kind of...dual-class kill, where each member does a different task. In our case, the ranger was the wall and soaked the damage as well as dealt it, while the mage was the backline support that kept the enemy suppressed. It's a very traditional setup that I think Realms lacked for a long time, when spellcasters (mages/clerics) where pretty much buff and healbots, and you simply needed one tank and then as much DPS as you could pack.  The empowering of spellcasters feels nice!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Justice - first blood, part two

I was in need of another devout scale, so I went back to justice armed with 800-900 heals, a few tanksets, and high hopes that I would be able to pop more than one. My plan was to kill as many times as I had heals for, keep one devout scale, then donate the other devouts to the Arcanes.

Refer to previous post on general run notes for Justice.

A pattern I noticed over the course of my run a pattern that emerged with Justice: the bulk of her damage was through her blast of flame. Her second largest source was her quantum spike. So you can have a really easy kill if her blast of flame never manages to hit you straight on...but if she happens to spam it on you, and it lands square on your face, it drains your hp quick. I did have 10% suscept to fire, but I also had 10% resist on fire as well. I'm wondering if I should switch to a different body plate that gives a fire resist...

But she seemed to do a lot of burst at the beginning of the fight, around "slightly scratched" to "a few bruises". If I could ride it out until somewhere about "sum cuts", it would go into a lull where she wouldn't seem to cast very many damage spells often, and I could easily throw in round after round of shieldbash for favourable trades. Once it was down to "bleeding freely", she seemed to ramp up her damage again, but nowhere near the levels of the beginning of the fight. Interesting she went in a sort of peak/valley/recovery pattern in terms of damage.

I had enough heals to do 8 kills, and only the very last one surrendered a devout scale. One was evil, the other six were neutrals.

Getting a bit more confident in tanking!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Zeus kicked my butt :(

Well then...

After my success with Justice, I tried to go for Zeus.

1) Zeus does a lot more damage than Justice. But the damage was fine. I only HAD to flee out once because I mistimed a shieldbash and ate a lot of damage during combat lag. I fled out a couple times to recast shockshield and stuff, but other than that...I'm fine tanking Zeus' straight up damage.

2) Zeus does a LOT of eq damage.

3) Because of point #2, I lost a danny ring.

I noticed I was taking a lot of equipment damage and was starting to strip my eq off, but then my danny ring took a hit and fell to pieces....argh. I should have paid much more attention to my equipment during the fight and stopped, recalled to repair, then continued the fight. I was whittling Zeus down and had him to "bleeding freely", so the kill itself was fine. I just need to learn my own limits, and this was, in the end, a lesson in being overly optimistic/hopeful/borderline arrogant about it all. This definitely knocked me back into line.

Back to golding I go...

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


So Maall had suggested I solo Justice and Zeus to get a feel for tanking/solo runs because they're very good starter mobs that help you get a feel of the flow. I have to say, this was extremely good advice, and I would recommend it to anyone else who wants to pick up tanking/solo mobkills. I haven't done Zeus yet (he'll be my next solo target), but today I did a pair of kills on Justice using my paladin.

She drops a junky weapon and eyewear (sword of equilibrium and blindfold of clarity...the blindfold isn't bad for immob mages, actually), but the main thing people go after is the scales of alpha and omega. The neat thing about the scales is that they pop a different alignment on each kill. Devout is the rarest (and thus most expensive to buy, around 20-25m), evil is uncommon (~2m?), and neutral is the most common and generally considered trash (often less than 1m....and you get 1m if someone is feeling really generous/desperate for neut scales for some reason; they midas for 400k themselves). But the devout scales are a pretty solid neckwear!

Object 'scales of alpha & omega' is infused with your magic...
It is a level 50 armor, weight 2.
Locations it can be worn:  neck
Special properties:  glow hum magic
Alignments allowed:  good neutral evil
This armor has a gold value of 1000000.
Armor class is 40 of 40.
Affects mana by 75.
Affects hp by 50.
Affects damage roll by 2.

So from Darkhaven Square, you head into DAG. 4s, w, 2n, give 5k coins receptionist, un n, open n, 2n, e, ne, nw, 2ne, enter (Mists at End painting). Cast invis on your party here.

At this point, the general instructions are to portal straight to the hanged man (keyword: hanged). I couldn't get it work, though, even when I moved one room over. Instead, I had my mage astral walk over to hanged, and then portal back to my party.

From there, 3e, d, 2w, and Justice is north. Justice is not aggressive to devout or neutral alignments, but she will aggro onto evil align characters. So just spellup in the room south of her, and have a devout/neutral character put a spring in her room.

I have to say, I was expecting much worse from Justice.....but after tanking Ben weeks ago, and running Yeti yesterday...Justice was sort of a pushover. I did set a trigger for true sight, but I found I still had to keep a careful eye on the timers as Justice would often gouge when my true sight was running low, and the blind would outlast my true sight. The lowest I got was probably 600ish hp, when I was caught in gouge-spam and was forced into a lag timer multiple rounds in a row while she spammed spells. But I had my wimpy set at 500 anyway, and when I found myself caught in lag spam and dropping to about 1000, I would start fleeing out so I could recuperate and go back in. I imagine if you've got 1500 hp, it can get a bit dicey at times, but you'd still have a couple hundred hp during those moments to flee out. My paladin had 1750ish hp for this run; normally over 1800, but the only non-magic weapon I have access to is sword with the king's crest, which gives much less hp than the Maul of Stone does (what my pally normally has equipped; according to rodpedia, you need non-magic weapons for Justice).

Otherwise a really easy, straightforward run. I think my backwear scrapped at some point, which is a bit of an annoyance, but not the worst thing in the world. I was intending to try one kill using chokeflee on my barbarian, but after doing two kills, I realized going solo burns a lot of heals. I think I used about 400ish heals over two kills...I think. I popped neut scales on my first kill, and devout on my second, yay!

Next time, Zeus!

Oh yeah, I'm going to start using labels on my posts. More for my own organization :)

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The fear of death...

After I hit avatar on my barbarian hitting avatar on my barbarian (hurray! 928 base hp, so it's not half bad, either), I was kindly invited by Jessyl to hunt down the Yeti of the Plains. Yeti pops a hand, and if you use a barbarian and skive (skin) the corpse after the kill, you have a chance of procuring a hide.

Object 'the gnarled hand of the yeti' is infused with your magic...
It is a level 2 trash, weight 1.
Special properties:  organic
This trash has a gold value of 0. 
Object 'the fur covered gauntlets of the plains wanderer' is infused
with your magic...
It is a level 50 armor, weight 5.
Locations it can be worn:  hands
Special properties:  none
Classes allowed:  Barbarian
Alignments allowed:  good neutral
This armor has a gold value of 235327.
Owner:  Playername
Armor class is 15 of 15.
Affects damage roll by 5.
Affects hp by 50.
Affects resistant:cold by 10%.
Affects resistant:slash by 5%.
Affects strength by 1.
Affects constitution by 1.  
Object 'the stripped hide of the corpse of the Yeti of the Plains'
is infused with your magic...
It is a level 0 treasure, weight 1.
Special properties:  none
This treasure has a gold value of 0. 

Object 'the fur lined cloak of the plains wanderer' is infused with
your magic...
It is a level 45 armor, weight 3.
Locations it can be worn:  about
Special properties:  none
Classes allowed:  Barbarian
This armor is layerable.
This armor has a gold value of 150000.
Armor class is 15 of 15.
Affects strength by 1.
Affects dexterity by 1.
Affects hp by 10.
Affects damage roll by 4.
Affects resistant:cold by 2%.
Two hands make the gauntlets, four hides make the cloak. So it takes multiple kills on Yeti just to make one of the items, although on the plus side, you could potentially get both a hand and a hide in one kill. Conversely, you could get neither and have ended up spending gold on heals and repairs. At one point when I was levelling one of my characters, Maall was busy beating Yeti down in order to equip his own barbarian crew....2-manning Yeti now with Jessyl has given me all that much more respect to Maall for doing it solo.

Yeti wanders the Northern Plains: nw, 2w, 4n, e, l painting, open north, n (from Darkhaven Square). You have to be wary not to run into the Shadow Stalker or Julajimus since they can throw a wrench into your plans if they interrupt your fight. Otherwise, Yeti seems to be a standard chokeflee run. After spelling up, including true sight and setting wimply to max, you choke, flee, log out/in, heal up, then scan around for Yeti (he moves around), then repeat the process. Once he gets down to "DYING" (the final ~10% of his hp), you stop chokefleeing and wear longblades and proceed like a normal mobkill. Jessyl and I only had time for one round on Yeti, but I found that last part to be the hardest. Since we're no longer avoiding the brunt of his damage by fleeing, you just have to quaff like mad and wait for your basic melees to finish him off. The one scoring the killing blow supposedly has to be a barbarian in order to pop a hand, so you can't just chokeflee to DYING, then switch to different characters.

I was a little surprised when I was at full hp (1493...my barbarian is pretty shabbily equipped!) and had all my spells on, I got one-shot. Yeah, it was nasty. Ran into Julajimus on the way back...died about 4-5 times total and was about to die one extra time when I was caught in bash lag, but when I had 40 hp remaining, Jessyl scored the killing blow. Unfortunately, no hands popped, and even though I have skive adepted, no hide was found either. But I think the most valuable thing I gained was a bit more experience going into these sorts of things. Yeti hits hard...he bashes, punts you into other rooms, does a whole lot of damage in a short amount of time...I died a lot, and I felt bad because I didn't want to be slowing Jessyl down...but in the end, we got Yeti down! It helped me get over my death-anxiety a bit, since the CR was fairly simple (and often, heh)...dying isn't the worst thing in the world. And when you go into a run like Yeti, maybe a death or two (or four/five) should be expected.

Again, all in all a good experience overall. Thanks, Jessyl!

*Jessyl's blog can be found in the sidebar (vilexur.blogspot.com). He's a pretty awesome explorer. Give his blog a read!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Whew, it's been a while since my last post...because I haven't been doing much besides building up my gold and then quickly spending it. On the plus side, my paladin is pretty well stocked. I'm starting to reach the territory where the next tier of upgrades are the big, big purchases (350 million to several billion). So for now, I think I'm fairly satisfied with where she's at, which means my next project has been preparing for my barbarian. Levelling up a barbarian has been...interesting.

Barbarians cannot use magical equipment. For levelling, this sucks. I've realized a whole lot of my standard levelling gear is magical. So it's definitely been an exercise in patience and perseverance, because trust me, I've tried to find ways to weasel out of having to keep at this character. But barbarians seem to have become pretty essential...plus, after hitting the level 30-35 range, it seems to have gotten a bit more tolerable.

But this all got me to thinking about the necessity of barbarians: why have they become part of the standard? From what I understand, in addition to being extremely strong melee hitters and serviceable tanks due to their unrivalled base hitpoints/constitution scores, their standard skill attacks, chokehold and rend, are based on their constitution, not on their damroll. So if you can just stack your constitution as high as it can go, along with piling on HP, you can begin to take things on that normal things might have a bit more trouble with by taking advantage of a simple tactic: choke, flee, heal up, repeat. In other words, "chokeflee".

Chokeflee has given barbarians a mechanical niche. It's what makes them different, and what makes them desired. If the imms made a game-wide change to cripple or otherwise remove chokeflee, I would imagine barbarian usage would drop. They'd still probably be used due to their superior melee combat, but they settle into a more toolbox sort of role, pulled out only when needed.

So with this in mind, I started to think about other classes and how things have changed since 2004, starting with my paladin because hey, I love my paladin. Yet in 2004, I had no taste for paladins. Why? Because they didn't really seem to do anything special. Maybe I'm wrong and I was simply misinformed back then, but I felt like anything a paladin could do, another class could do better. Need a meatshield? Why not a warrior? Need a healer? Got clerics for that. Need a hitter? Thieves could circle around nearly any problem back then, with vampires as backups. Need a meaty hitter for stuff like Bahamut? .....Why not a warrior?

Again, paladins might have always been like this, so I may be wrong, but I feel like in my time away, paladins gained both a thematic and a mechanical role - they went from being "warrior's little brother" to slapping on their helmets and shields and becoming proper "knights". Techs like shieldbash and shieldblock, along with equipment like Pauldrons of Mortality and mastery over polearm weaponry really gives them that flavour of being nitty-gritty, all up in your grill, I'm going to cram my shield down your throat, knight. And I like that motif! It gives them a different feel rather than just being "subpar warriors playing dress-up as look-at-me-I'm-a-holy-knight-angel-fighter". It's turned paladins from being my least favourite class to now my most favourite!

I don't want this post to get too long, so I'll just cover one more well-transitioned class and cover some others in the future. Today's second class is the nephandi. Back in '04, nephandi were pretty much just thematic. They were "evil mages". Like I stated with paladins, I may have been way off about this, but this was just my perspective from back then, but basically as I saw it, nephandi were really only used to a) skinmask corpses and claim the skins as trophies of stuff you'd killed, and b) look/feel cool as a mage from hell. Unfortunately, they were all show and no substance.

Now, however, nephandi have found their place. Granted, they're in a toolbox state, only pulled out in certain situations...but that's still more than before! Nephandi seem to be more about debuffs/spelldowns - which, thematically works. Mages are usually used as either magical hitters, or as support units for spellups. Nephandi turn into "reverse"-supports; instead of making your party stronger, they make the enemy weaker, more susceptible to things like immobing. Now, regular mages/clerics can still debuff with things like razorbait and ill fortune, but it gives Nephandi a mechanical space to exist. A tiny space, but a space nonetheless. For example, Zeus. Zeus usually can't be immobilized easily, but if you introduce a Nephandi and throw on some debuffs, Zeus can then be immob'd and thus easily defeated.

I think one of the problems Realms used to have with their classes was the fact that you really only needed a few. Thieves could be used for almost every run, vampires and warriors filled in the blanks, and mages/clerics existed as supports. Paladin? Use a warrior. Ranger? Use a warrior. Nephandi? Use a mage/cleric. Druid? Use a mage/cleric. Augurer? Use a mage/cleric. Fathomer? I don't even know what fathomers were designed to do, to be honest. And I still don't know. But that's for a later post. Most of classes were superfluous/unnecessary to have because you could do the work with one of the more popular classes, at either an equal rate or a better one.

I'm generalizing a fair bit, but unless things were used for very, very specific cases, you could casually get by with whatever class you wanted to main, then have a thief and warrior alt. And you could probably skate by on a lot of runs using just a thief and contributing with circles. It's nice to see the Realms have changed in this aspect.

Besides some reflection on the class differences between the past and the present, I'm hopeful that I'll have some run-related posts in the near future. I want to try and solo Justice on my shiny paladin at some point. Maall has recommended Justice and Zeus as good solo practice, to learn the nuances of tanking, how much damage I can absorb at certain rates, when I can risk actively throwing out damage, and when to flee out to recuperate/re-engage. So there'll definitely be a note on that because I am expecting to die at LEAST once. Along with that, Maall and I are planning to smash some stuff in Lamech's Mansion, an area that I don't believe existed in 2004. There is some neat paladin equipment in Lamech's, like the pauldrons (which we probably won't pop...Maall has done 83 kills and still hasn't gotten a single pauldrons to pop) and the bishop's staff.

And ha, my post went on way too long again. Brevity is something I'll need to work on :P

Until next time!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The death of icing

Arcanes donations was out of Ice Girths (a very useful piece of equipment due to the many saves it grants you), so I decided to try something truly solo: Icingdeath! How convenient that this mob is categorized as a dragon, now that I have a (measly) bonus of +3 damage to dragons with my fighter set, haha.

The most important thing was the girth.

Object 'the Ice Girth' is infused with your magic...
It is a level 41 armor, weight 3.
Locations it can be worn:  waist
Special properties:  glow
This armor has a gold value of 175000.
Armor class is 12 of 12.
Affects armor class by -15.
Affects save vs spell by -8.
Affects save vs breath by -9.
Affects save vs poison by -9.
Affects save vs rod by -9.
Affects save vs paralysis by -9.

But the Arcanes also accept the earrings and the arm guards. I also included the Ice Orb (they scrap really easily during the fight against Icingdeath; perhaps casting armor on Icingdeath before the fight will help shield it?) since they can cast a handy sanctuary if you're in a bind. It's only a level 42 sanctuary, but it's better than nothing!

Object 'the Ice Orb' is infused with your magic...
It is a level 43 staff, weight 1.
Locations it can be worn:  hold
Special properties:  glow
This staff has a gold value of 1000000.
Has 5(4) charges of level 42:

Object 'the Ice Arm Guards' is infused with your magic...
It is a level 41 armor, weight 4.
Locations it can be worn:  arms
Special properties:  glow
This armor has a gold value of 200000.
Armor class is 12 of 12.
Affects armor class by -10.
Affects strength by 1.
Affects damage roll by 6.

Object 'the Ice Earrings' is infused with your magic...
It is a level 43 armor, weight 1.
Locations it can be worn:  ears
Special properties:  glow
This armor has a gold value of 150000.
Armor class is 12 of 12.
Affects armor class by -5.
Affects mana by 50.

Low tier, junky sort of equipment. But hey, I got my start using this sort of equipment, so it could help someone else down the road!

Icingdeath is located in the Darkhaven Art Gallery. Starting from Darkhaven Square, as always:
4s, w, 2n, give 5k coins receptionist, unlock north, open north (and drop the key if you're feeling kind to the next person coming through), 2n, ne, nw, 2ne, north, enter (re-cast invis here to avoid pesky, though ultimate inconsequential, mobs), d, 2e, open crack, e, d, 3n, u, d, w

There is a deathtrap close by Icingdeath, so definitely take care when inputting directions! The above route will lead you just outside the dragon's room - he is aggressive, so make sure you're properly spelled up before entering. Save vs breath, inner warmth, eldritch sphere, and dragonskin are all handy to have, as well as any extra save vs breath and resist cold you can stack on top. Make sure you've got inner warmth; I assumed the bots had cast it on Arstotzka before starting the first fight...but I think they had actually failed the cast because my pally did not have inner warmth on her for the initial two kills. Oops! I need to be more thorough in my spellups and making sure I have everything essential. I'm fortunate that Icingdeath wasn't too tough and couldn't punish me hard enough for my mistake.

The fight itself is really simple, and you can even immobilize Icingdeath with a mage to make the fight even easier. Icingdeath has no IP check, but keep an eye on your mage's health in case he takes an errant breath attack.


In between kills, a newer player, Menard, asked for help on a public channel. He had entered into the Wasteland painting inside Darkhaven Art Gallery and was stuck in a norecall, nosupplicate maze. I was in between Icingdeath kills, so I logged on Curt and Grayson to help fish him out. The maze is pretty simple and I will probably make a post on it in the future as I do want to take down Dracolithos to put a few of his rings in donations at some point, but I need to think things through carefully before executing. My plan was to use Grayson to accompany him and track him out, so at the entrance of the maze I tracked him, and then had a brainfart that went along the lines of:

"Okay, he's in the maze...so........let's go with the vampire, then my thief can help track them out."

So I used Curt to step into the maze, then instantly realized my lapse in common sense. I should have entered with my thief to find Menard, then track my way out using Curt as a marker, instead of using my vampire (which can't track as effectively) and having my thief stand by uselessly. Thankfully the maze is really simple...a combination of marking visited rooms with 1 coin and scrying around for new areas brought us past Dracolithos (thankfully not aggro), and to the safe recall spot.

Lessons learned, and mob killed!


Alright, so my last post (despite being already super long) was shorter than I had originally intended it to be because my wife and I had to rush out the door to attend our church small group. But now that I've got some time, I want to revisit some topics that I think are important to this blog...mainly: what is the purpose of this blog to begin with?

The reason I created this blog is because I was inspired by Jessyl/Vilexur, the man who is currently the Number Two of the order (vilexur.blogspot.ca - give it a read!). I found his blog absolutely fascinating because it made me really appreciate the mind, the thought processes, and the sheer tenacity a veteran explorer possesses. I'm a bit jealous of how his brain works because he figures things out in places I would have been stumped ten paces back. It's a very methodical, rational approach to things, and while I think myself a somewhat analytical sort of person, I tend to get stuck in my own trains of thought and end up running mental circles. Like the character Bean says in Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Shadow": the brain rarely surprises itself. External stimulation can be really refreshing and helpful in helping you turn a corner...

So I decided to start a blog to record my own travels in my second sojourn into the Realms. I didn't want this to be a straight up diary, though. I wanted this to have purpose...so while this blog might have posts that simply describe what I did during one session (ie. my last post about running Ben for the visor), I want this also to be a place where I can reflect on aspects of RoD that I wasn't capable of seeing before. Taking a (admittedly long) step away and then coming back has helped me refocus on areas I think that Realms could have done, and could be doing, much better on. I'm pretty much a newbie once again, which in my opinion gives me a different perspective than the grizzled veterans who have become satisfied with the status quo because that's just what things have come to.

First on the docket: the travesty that is the traveling cloak.

The traveling cloak is a pretty good item for low level characters. They're found in The Sentinel, which can be found by heading in the following directions from Darkhaven Square:
9w, 2nw, n, w, nw, w, nw, w, 2s

Object 'a traveling cloak' is infused with your magic...
It is a level 2 armor, weight 10.
Locations it can be worn:  neck
Special properties:  organic
This armor has a gold value of 250.
Armor class is 3 of 3.
Affects constitution by 1.
Affects hp by 25.

They're carried by the mobile Finnock.

To put this into context, The Sentinel can only be entered by characters level 20 and under, so if you die in this area and aren't able to CR for yourself, all you can do is hope someone else has a low-level character and can help you, or that you have enough favour with your deity to supplicate. There are a fair amount of aggressive mobs in here, including the gang Finnock hangs out with (Lavinia, Redec, and Prakrit). Now, with all that said, back to the cloak.

It's a neckwear, so you can wear two of them for a total of 2 constitution and 50 hp. At a range of level 2-4ish, that's a pretty solid boost, and I use them as a staple item for my own new characters.

So what's the problem with traveling cloaks if they're so great? The problem is that obtaining the item is a newbie-trap. They're great for low level characters, but it's not safe for new players to get on their low level characters. They need to be prepared to obtain it, and even then, it can be risky. To get the traveling cloak requires knowledge and preparation that shouldn't be expected of a new player; the area itself, with all of its aggressive mobs, aren't kind to new players in general, despite seeming like a "new player" sort of area with its level cap.

In actuality, I think The Sentinel is an area that is designed for players with experience, but the reason it has a level cap is so that it doesn't get farmed out by high level characters. What this creates is a conflict between its presentation and its purpose/reality and, in my honest opinion, is pretty poor game design. You've got this item that is fantastic for low level characters, in an area that is capped for low level characters...to a new player, this seems like a good deal, right?

Wrong. If they manage to make their way past the aggressive bandits near the beginning of the area, and navigate their way through the hidden doors, they are then jumped by Finnock and co., who hit fairly hard for new players. What you're doing is punishing new players for trying to explore and get this item; it's not a rewarding experience because you've stashed away this great item, an item that is seemingly purposed towards lowbies and new players, behind all these walls that either require a ton of trial and error (and remember, when you die, you lose EXP), or previous knowledge/sufficient preparation. And let's face it, most new players don't walk around with a sack full of purple potions ready to quaff.

Granted, some of this is alleviated by the fact that dying below level 10 doesn't require a CR because you keep all of your equipment, but that doesn't not address the problem that the traveling cloak, and consequently The Sentinel as a whole, was designed poorly from a game design perspective. The idea behind it was noble, but its execution defies its concept.

So why does this matter?

It matters because the design philosophies behind a game really make it or break it. It's why some people like Dota2 and can't stand LoL. It's why some people love certain FPS games but can't get behind others. The design philosophies a company takes on when putting together a game create the backbone of its mechanics and principles. What makes LoL so enjoyable for the mass market is because Riot Games chooses to design their game for a wider audience; they're not interested in niche, extremely knowledge-specific cases. They chase intuitive principles and themes, arguably sometimes to their detriment, but it's something they strive for. Valve and dota, on the other hand, understand their own demographic and purposely design more intricate systems that aren't so obvious to newer players and require a base of knowledge to be able to deal with. Neither is incorrect, they're just different approaches.

What the traveling cloak symbolizes is a mishmash between the two at its worst: everything about the traveling cloak and how to get it screams intuitive and easy for new characters to pick up. "Hey, this item is extremely low level and is in an area capped for low level characters.....so I, as a new player, should be able to get it, right?" Cue probable death and imminent frustration, because the truth behind the cloak is far from what it seems to be.

Anyhow, I think I've hashed this one out to death. I plan to run some Icingdeath later today and will probably end up posting a log of it as well. But my next reflection post will likely be centered around the idea of lore, which is inspired by a conversation I had with Ashetaka, the current Number One of the Arcanes.


Note: I know that I've made a few assumptions in this post that people may gripe about. Mainly:
- Traveling cloaks are still relevant as a lowbie item - whether or not they are, however, is not the issue. Bad game design is bad game design. The cloaks are just the example I'm familiar with.
- The premise that low level character equates to a new player, which is pretty false in reality. If low level characters are hunting for cloaks, it's likely the character is just an alt and that the player knows what they're getting into/is capable of handling it. But going back to the purpose of this blog, I want to look at Realms with the eyes of a new player, so that is the basis of my premise.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Beginning of a new story

So I've started playing RoD again! After 8ish years away from the game, I found my way back to a shiny new pre-auth area (the Sunless Sea). But let's backtrack a bit...

I started Realms of Despair in 2000 (approx.) because my friend played it and I decided, after some persuasion, to try it out. I was immediately hooked, but most unfortunately, sucked really, really badly. Every time my character died (which happened inevitably because I was too curious to foray into naga/Asp caverns), I was unable to CR, and thus abandoned that character.

Eventually a character stuck: Rentuke, the half-elf mage. Terrible stats. But for whatever reason, I kept with it. I was a terrible noob who didn't know much and didn't learn well, but with some help from Minevra, I was able to join GoM. There I got to know a lot of folks and, after an embarrassingly long amount of time, reached avatar. I enjoyed a good stint in GoM, joined the Newbie Council at some point, avatar'd a thief, moved from GoM to Baali to follow after my MUD-family (the Starsword-Belforte family), avatar'd a few new characters/sold some of those characters, and ended up with a mage (Rentuke), thief (Vedenyx), vampire (Curt), ranger (Adalia, storage character), and a warrior (Riathamus). The characters I sold were my first thief (Arystle), druid (Finnbarr), and nephandi (Trey).

However, when I went for my first year in university, I found out I couldn't really MUD. Any command I typed it had an unbearable amount of lag...at least 15 seconds. Which means I can't really help people in need, I can't join runs because I'd be running minimum 10 rounds behind, and I couldn't really chat. So I quit MUDding.

Every so often I'd check in with Rentuke and Curt (I sorta mained on both of them...I was online on Curt most of the time, but I could never give up on Rentuke because he holds a very dear place in my heart). Once every half year...once every year...once every two years..........MUDding faded from my mind. Even though I was able to MUD again, I wasn't even a thing in my brain anymore. I moved on to different games. Not WoW, haha. League of Legends, Dota2, random Steam games, etc.

I got married back in August. I love my wife, we have a great home life, and I pull in relatively steady work as a freelancer. So things are going pretty well. But I was getting bored.....so one day, while at work, I decided to check out Realms one more time. I wanted to roll a new character and try my hand at a fresh start. I wanted a character that would be self-sufficient for a newbie (ie. not nephandi, not bladesinger (I've never been into pkill...nothing against it, and I do play games with pvp in it...but I've simply never been interested in pkill on Realms), not cleric, etc.) I didn't want a vamp because I still had Curt...so I decided on a strong melee type: a warrior, thief, ranger, or paladin. I decided against thief because I figured I could level up and then later roll a thief if I ever got around to running things. I decided against warrior because I wanted something that could cast spells (I'm a bit of a caster at heart!)...and back in 2000, paladins weren't exactly the hottest class around. Then again, neither were rangers. But I just had this poor mental image of paladins in my head, so I made a ranger: Foraker!

I was fine for the first few levels, and was about level 10 and in Shattered Refuge levelling up off gnomes and hobgoblins when Sarakin struck up a chat with me, out of the blue. Sarakin is currently the leader of the Order of Arcanes (which brought back memories due to my friendship with Woodruf, an old member of Arcanes and the root behind why I started Realms in the first place, years ago). He said that if I was interested, I could join Arcanes - eager to get into a welcoming group who could help me learn the ropes again, I got my characters outcasted from Baali (thanks, Romani!) and into Arcanes.

Sadly, most of them were gone. Adalia, Vedenyx, and Riathamus had all auto-deleted and could not be restored. And that hurt...my storage character with a lot of decent to high gear (plus levelling equipment and sentimental items), my above-average gear neut thief, and my above-average gear warrior, were all gone. I was left with a mediocre mage and a slightly above-average vampire...the latter of which can't be inducted into the Arcanes because the theme of that order is mana-using spellcasters, and vampires utilize bloodpoints instead of manapoints.

But I was in Arcanes! And I got to meet some fantastic new people and learn the game again. After reaching avatar on Foraker, I tried to head over to Dragon's Pass to make a Dragon Claw of Legend. I killed one dragon (the red one), then got my butt whooped. Iantine then offered me a helping hand by using his mage to immobilize the dragons. Dragon Claw of Legend was obtained shortly afterwards. I received a lot of help in general beyond that, from a free pair of Ring of Kings, to a free pair of devout scales, to a free Mark of the Beast...along with tons upon tons of advice.

Then I created and leveled up an augurer, Charis. The reason I chose an augurer is because I wanted to be able to join runs, and some people in Arcanes were saying augurers could be useful due to spiral blast dealing nonmagic damage, therefore hitting a lot of enemies and not being reliant on circle. Then I leveled up a cleric, Graham, and made Graham my new main character. I want to re-join the NC, and I think a cleric will make helping newbies a lot easier than being a ranger. Dunno, could be wrong, but I like Graham. Annale, who is still around (and has risen to become the leader of Ascendere, yay!), was adamant about the power and awesomeness of clerics, heh.

After Graham, I leveled a thief, Grayson. Unfortunately, I got terrible, terrible luck with his base hp. I got a single 17 in 50 levels, a pair of 16s, about eight 15s, probably twelve-ish 14s, and the rest were 12s and 13s. In the final ten levels, one was a 16. One was a 13. The other eight were 12s. So I ended up with a legendary base of 698.......definitely will have to roll a new thief and hope I get better luck next time.

I was frustrated with leveling up due to Grayson's crappy base. It was really demotivating to see 12 after 12 after 12 on levelup, no matter what I did. I tried changing luck, changing equipment, trying to level up while ip2, ip3, or ip1...no difference. So I felt fed up with levelling....but then I started a new paladin anyway because Maall seems to be absolutely DESTROYING things solo with his paladin....and I reached avatar in 3.5 days. Which is unheard of for me. Other people can do it faster...but for me, this was new ground! Paladins were really, really easy to level, despite needing a lot of exp in the later levels.

But I stripped some of the better equipment off of Foraker (a partial storage character now, anyway), and slapped it on my shiny new paladin, Arstotzka. And now I'm ready and eager to learn how to kill things again!

Today my target was Ben. One of the changes during my absence was the concept of "eqsets"; pieces of equipment that belong to a set that, when several pieces are worn, grant an extra bonus. I decided to get the fighter eqset because the Arcanes donations already had the shield. There are four pieces in the fighter eqset: the shield, the boots, the visor, and the (layerable) body mail. With the shield in my possession, I moved on to the boots. It was a simple enough fetch-quest out in The Mire, which I've never been to before. But this is where I realized something about myself, which I'll outline later.

Now with the shield and the boots, I only needed one more piece between the visor and the mail; even though the set has four pieces, it only requires three to be worn in order to gain the bonus. I inquired about the mail to see how tough it would be (as it is generally the better piece of equipment), but found out the mobile that I'd have to defeat to get it is currently way out of my league. So I settled on the visor, which was on a wandering mobile that is probably low to somewhat below-average difficulty. The mob in question is Ben, who spawns in the Town of Solace.

Directions to the Town of Solace from Darkhaven Square:
nw, 2w, 4n, e, look painting, open north, n, 23w, 4n

My first real mob-run since returning! I looked Ben up on Rodpedia for some advice on how to best take on Ben. First, I would have to disarm him using my thief or vampire, then steal the weapon from his inventory. The reason for this is because if Ben is wielding his sword, Dragonslicer, he would regenerate hp faster, land more melee hits, as well as activate his damage program more often, which can get really nasty. His damage program ranges from a simple 100ish damage hit to a 700ish damage hit. To put this in context, my paladin has 1500 hp. So yeah, I needed to get his sword off him.

I used my thief, Grayson, to disarm and then flee out. I slowly logged out/back in to reset Ben's aggro, then moved in to steal...only to find out, just before starting the fight, that he had re-wielded his sword. Cue another disarm and flee, then a quick log and voila, a successful steal! Now that I had his Dragonslicer, all I needed was for him to be..well, dead.

Ben is IP1 (not sure what the consequence is for multi-IP, probably just hits a lot harder/heals a lot faster), so I switched over to Arstotzka, made sure my spells were all up, and then started the fight. It was still surprisingly tough at first; a few other random mobs of no consequence joined the fight, but I got into a rhythm and it was no big deal. I was slowly chipping away at Ben and was feeling good about it...until something invisible entered the room and attacked. I still don't know what it was because it remained invisible during the fight, meaning it's likely mobinvis/wizinvis. Sadly, I was gouged and then quickly dispatched.

I waited for a while to see if Ben would leave Solace, so I wouldn't have to risk the invis mob again...but I was short on time, so I asked Maall if he could hit for me while I tanked, to speed it up. Fortunately he had some spare time and, with his help, Ben went down! The visor is now mine and I have three pieces of the Dragonlord equipment set, and more importantly, my first real mobkill under my belt!

I have to get going, but here's the two things I learned:
- I have an irrational fear of exploration. Even in The Mire, I felt apprehensive walking around, afraid I was going to die at any step. I need to get a grip. Dying isn't the worst thing that can happen in the Realms.
- I need to prepare more for fights. I tried to manually manage my true sights during the fight with Ben, but still messed up a few times and was lucky to survive despite getting blinded a few times. I need to do more preparation pre-fight, starting with true sight triggers to make sure I have virtually 100% uptime on trues.

Anyhow, that's about it for my first post! Glad to be back and running around the Realms again!