30 September 2011

Yeah! Finished Reading The Shard Axe!

Last night I finished up reading Marcy Rockwell’s Dungeons and Dragons Online / World of Eberron book titled The Shard Axe. I actually took the book after reading the final page and yelled “YEAH! FINISHED!” and playfully hurled the book at my wife and kids' feet when I was done. They thought this was hilarious and the two-year-old even followed my bad example and chucked it right back at me. Haha! I think they understood I felt good about finishing this book I’ve been reading the past few weeks because, honestly, this is no small feat to try and get some casual reading in when you have three kids and a wife needing your attention, but I got it all read and done eventually.

I barked at my family during the final 30 pages or so because I was totally into the final battle scene and kept getting interrupted. ARGH! The middle child wanted me to recover a password from his ToonTown account out of freaking nowhere. I mean, it’s been a good year or two since we fired up ToonTown. What? Why tonight? Then a dirty diaper bum slid past me from the 2-year-old. OH MAN! That totally kills this awesome battle scene (although a few pages earlier Ms. Rockwell was detailing a sulfurous smell accosting our heroes—so somewhat apropos). Luckily my oldest child had acting classes to attend earlier in the night, and I was able to squeeze in an hour of reading in the car while waiting for her to get me within that final 30 pages.

Reading like this that spans over a few weeks really makes giving a fair review of a book like The Shard Axe almost impossible (not that this is an official "review" or anything mind you), but I will say that I enjoyed it. The book is easy to read (unlike the stacks of technical documents I’m paid to edit at my day job), and the time I've spent in DDO helped center me in the world for the first half of the book. I’m familiar with the houses in Stormreach and the sewers below. I’m familiar with the Marketplace and a couple of the taverns mentioned. I’m familiar with the odd reference here or there to Three Barrel Cove or the Menechtarun Desert. I liked this fact of it.

I also think the book makes a good sell for someone like me to find out even more about the world of Eberron, which was not a creation solely made for Dungeons and Dragons Online. As to be expected, there are many books of lore for Dungeon Masters who play the pen and paper version, which involves a world with much more breadth than we have in DDO, including the lands of the Mror Holds and all their dwarven goodness. As far as I know we never get to visit those areas in our game, which seems to be isolated to the Xen’drik continent. There were even encounters with a few monsters in the book that I don’t believe we get to see in DDO as well . . . namely the yrthak, a blind dragon with a devastating sonic scream. After reading the book I want to fight one (heck, even ride one) in DDO now! Make that happen, Turbine! ;)

The last half of the book deals a lot with these unknown-to-me areas where Sabira (the main character of the story) received a lot of fame and recognition as The Shard Axe, a law officer (a Marshal to be specific *cue western fantasy crossover music*) for House Deneith. She’s an interesting character that reveals her battle prowess, her flaws, and her wits to the reader, and (as a good book should do) we get to see her growth throughout the book and a gentle change in perspective for a woman who’s powerful enough to fling my halfling sorcerer the length of a football field.

I think Ms. Rockwell had a lot of respect for her characters and the rules surrounding the game of Dungeons and Dragons. Healing potions and resurrection were accounted for, and when Sabira was lying through her teeth you could almost hear the DM rolling a bluff check to see if it was successful. She did her research well! She treated Sabira well! It was a good book that was a fun read.

What was missing from the book? Well, for me, the game of DDO is about grouping up with my 4 to 5 friends and tackling a mission as a group. For many others, the game is about grouping up with their 11 to 12 friends and hitting bosses as a raid unit. Hirelings to fill a group are also a dynamic. This large grouping dynamic isn't accounted for much in the book. Sabira likes to solo, duo, or trio her way through the book . . . and that's fine. A good majority of players do that in the game of Dungeons and Dragons online, but it's just something that I have to mention because with the DDO tag on the book, someone might be expecting some dynamic that isn't there. There are plenty of Eberron themed books (none of which I have read), but only one DDO themed book. If you don't have those expectations going into the book, then you'll never miss it. I was one that didn't have those expectations; it was more an afterthought. Snarky forum posters might have that expectation. ;p

You never know! Perhaps in the next book Ms. Rockwell can expand Sabira's grouping habits a bit and show us the dynamic of a cleric, sorcerer, rogue, artificer, and monk backing up Sabira playing as the meatshield while battling something big and nasty. Either way, I look forward to a resolution to the book's cliff hanger. :) Nicely done!

Happy dueling!

26 September 2011


Last Sunday Team Spode repeated content that we did two weeks ago since Ophiga and Lessah were missing. Lessah is still afk, but Ophiga was ready for some quick catch up work. So, basically, I don't have much that's new to add to this post. It's all already been written.

Knowing this, however, I decided to let X-fire run while we did the Feast or Famine and A Cabal for One quests and put together a hyped up YouTube FO' Y'ALL!

Check it out!

If you didn't notice, I'm sporting a new look btw.

The yellow pirate hat just wasn't gelling well with my new robe, so I opted for the goggles look. Uber wife (I've affectionately called her "uber wife" since April 7, 2010) said I looked like I belonged in U2 . . . halfling version of course.

I'm not sure if Ophiga is going to write up a post of her own like last week, but I'll be sure to link it if she does.

Happy dueling!

20 September 2011

Ophiga's Perspective

Just a quick note here because Ophiga has written an excellent post on her blog that fills in some of the blanks and adds a new perspective to our adventure on Sunday.

Click me!

She's awesome btw (Despite all that talk about flinging halflings ;)).

Happy dueling!

19 September 2011

Prison of the Pains . . . I mean "Planes" "PLANES"

This week Team Spode took our second journey into the purple crags of Gianthold--this time with Ophiga in tow. Lessah was unable to make it again this week, and that was fine.  We miss her, but it also allowed us to be complete newbies and stumble around a bit throwing caution to the wind.
This shot here is definitely for one of the Stormreach Sentinel’s readers, Ekeiram:

Team Spode in front of the purple dragon statue! 
Throughout our run, Ophiga and Spode kept mentioning they thought they saw that “statue just move.” I think it was a head nod to either Dr. Who or Harry Potter.  I don’t know.  I wasn’t batting 1000 with my brain or my metaphors last night.  Ulan had lost his “push to talk” functionality, and I started saying something like, he’s being Gandhi . . . yeah, that was peaceful resistance that Gandhi was known for not silent resistance.  Although from what I understand, Ulan is silent but deadly.
Eventually we got things underway and ended up at Eberron’s coolest skate park.

This fancy place is known as The Prison of the Planes.  Our buddy Nimbus here let us in on the 4-1-1 about this place.

Basically the giants found a cozy little dungeon that somehow holds portals to all the planes.  For a second I thought we might be in Everquest’s Plane of Tranquility about to step foot into a massive raid to take down Gryme in the Plane of Disease.  Sorry about that . . . once an EQ addict, always an EQ addict. 
This dungeon comes in basically three acts. Here we go . .
ACT I — of giant skeletons and the Attack of Dopey
For the first act, you run all the way up to the top of a spiraling ramp around a central chamber that is locked by magical lightning.  On your way up you have to slaughter many magical dwarves on your way to the Wicked Witch’s house where she is keeping a poison apple.  Whoops.  I did it again.  Sorry about that . . . once a Disney addict, always a Disney addict.

Basically you kill your way up to the top of the tower where there’s a big locked door that you either break into or con a rakshasa into giving you a key.  Once inside, you fight a giant skeleton!  Just in time for the Halloween season!

Once Mr. Bojangles there is dead, you’ll have to mess with a series of levers that you have to arrange “just so” and pull a switch, which unlocks the center chamber.  This center chamber is where the puzzle of this dungeon really begins because you have to take a couple of the double AA power receptors out of their slots at the bottom of the dungeon and begin Act II.
ACT II — Prison brutality
In the second act, you run back through the dungeon from the beginning, but this time you’ll be placing a Double AA battery (or “orb” if you’re feeling like a steampunk) at the entrance of each prison (Daanvi, Dolurth, Fernia, Lamannia, Mabar, Risia, Shavarath, and Xoriat).  Everybody piles into the prison block save for one person who will be acting as the warden.  We felt free to role-play this as a bad prison movie where all of Team Spode’s males had been naughty naughty boys and Ophiga was our domineering female warden. /blush  Ok, that didn’t happen. But eventually we did have Ophiga playing that role since the NPCs tended to suicide themselves on the resulting electrical door that hums to life, trapping your party members into the prison.
The first prison seemed gentle enough.  It was simply a fella who wanted to talk to a lawfully aligned character.  Spode dispatched of the challenge easily and we moved on to the remaining prison blocks. 

Here’s where things started to go south for Team Spode.  We took a few a deaths in the prison areas here as we were pretty unprepared for some of the damage output that we were up against.  We were playing a bit sloppy too and hadn’t fully buffed ourselves up for each challenge, e.g., no fire resistance buffs for dealing with the Djinni.  To save ourselves some time, Ulan and Spode each simultaneously downed a spirit cake and we were back up and killing.
Although it wasn’t really necessary, we finished out all the various prison cells and gathered all the AA batteries along the way.  We had plenty of batteries by the end of ACT II, which were definitely needed for ACT III.
ACT III — Wrap it up SPODE
The third and final act of this instance is where you place all the AA batteries you collected into the bottom floor of the center chamber (that’s the Dal Quor Chamber for you technical types) and then throw the switch up top so that the center chamber becomes active.  Once you do this you face the biggest and the baddest of the entire dungeon, Mr. Cochitlehua. WOW THAT’S A MOUTHFUL, RIGHT?!  He’s a warforged who likes to summon up creatures from each of the planes to attack you.  We didn’t really have too tough of a time with Mr. Cochitlehua as it turns out and TEAM SPODE WAS VICTORIOUS!
At the end of this escapade I was happy!  Like just really happy!  I had honest to goodness FUN in this instance.  Those 16 deaths or whatever didn’t matter in the least. :) 

“I’d do that again!” to quote Gandhi . . . I mean Ulan. We all agreed and as it turns out we all became honorary members of the Storm’s Eye Brigade for it.  That’s one down and two brigades to go until we’re flagged for The Reaver’s Fate raid (which happens to be another raid that we probably won’t complete, but good times getting there regardless).
See you all next week!
Happy dueling!

12 September 2011

Of Orcs and Hobgoblins--The Original Trifecta of Powa in Gianthold

“Hey, it’s just like old times,” cheered Spode as we raced across the metallic purple vastness of Gianthold’s landscape. It all kind of dawned on us that the only available static group members last night were Spode, Ulan, and myself.

It's the original tri-fecta of powa!

Lessah was dealing with a death in the family (condolences again!) and Ophiga was asleep on the couch due to an exhausting day of whale watching.

Well, we had a whale-of-a-good-time ourselves in Gianthold, but our group mates were truly missed. Spode pegged it though with the feeling of old times. The only thing that was really missing was Spode’s old sputter in his voice from Teamspeak lag mixing with his dialup connection and Guildwars (and Spode’s old boss “Mark” from the first year of our Guildwars adventures). If you haven’t read the beginning of our article, you’ll possibly not know that we’ve been together for years playing these games. I never really wrote about our adventures back then except for little congratulatory e-mails back and forth between us as we conquered challenges each week.

I can hear you asking, "What's that a picture of, Gleek?" Why that was the final screenshot I ever took of our group in Guildwars. Big, nasty, and dead giant Dune-esque worm in the background there. That fight took us nearly a month to conquer. We threw ourselves against that challenge over and over and over until we got it right. It was truly a trial in patience. Finally we got our strat down and won. We’re good for that. For the most part, Spode, Ulan, and myself are extremely patient gamers who don’t mind dying 100 times as long as we win in the end. Easy wins are awesome too, mind you, but I’d call us “weathered” or “resilient.” Kind of like a few old leather shoes that the dog finally gave up on . . . only with fresh and shiny faces. *shine* :p (Oo! Lailat! We'll be back!)

Anyway, last night’s exploration in Gianthold was our first “toe dip” into all that Gianthold has to offer. Kill counts were coming quickly to us and we didn’t have much trouble making it to the orc camp for our first instance.

Orcs? In a place called Gianthold? Where’s the giants, Team Spode? Yeah, here’s the thing about Gianthold. It may be owned and operated by giants, but all the littler races want to stake a bit of real estate of their own here since, you know, it’s good to be buddies with giants ever since the giants’ own empire was crushed.

There were a few giants to be killed out in the open last night, and we did in fact do our best to accommodate. I also did a little standing on the heads of giants as well. PHOTO MAGIC!

The commercial for Gianthold kind of lays it all out as to why a DDO player would want to hunt here. Lava flows, Dragon scales . . .

Wait wait wait . . . there was a blue dragon there in that commercial! HEY! We want to kill THAT for sure. :)

Unfortunately there weren’t any dragons to be killed last night. It was all about orcs . . . orcs and hobgoblins. Both were paying for us to off the other so we obliged both.

The orcs came to us in an instance known as “Feast or Famine.” Orcs apparently like to be compartmentalized in little caves behind locked doors or doors with giant levers. They also like to trap said doors with swords that swirl around them mechanically and poke you in the leg or maybe in the brain. Either way, they’re verrrry poke-y door traps with much poke-itude. They’re so poke-y that the NPCs won’t move past them unless you click the HURRY UP AND MOVE IT button (note to reader . . . help me tie in a pokemon joke here would ya?).

We ended up finishing this instance in no time flat, but had a weird feeling that we hadn’t quite seen everything. Our instincts were right come to find out. In reading on the wiki, you have to wait 30 minutes in the instance until an Orc hunting party comes along in a back hallway. If you win against these fellas, you will THEN get to enter the strange hole in the wall that you can’t move through. We were wondering why you couldn’t get back in there.

The orcs had their traditional worgs with them as well. It was nice to see a worg again . . . long time since the good ol’ romps through Three Barrel Cove.

Here's how it played out in the end:

The second instance we hit was just a hop, skip, and a jump or two to the side of the Orc encampment as we made our way through the hobgoblin instance known as “A Cabal for One.” Early on in this instance you run into a Hobgoblin named Gardak Bruntsmash who professes himself to be a traitor to the hobgoblins of sorts. You’re presented with two options from Gardak: 1- spare him and let him disable a good chunk of the traps in the instance for you or 2- kill him.

Well, since we were without a rogue, disabling all the traps sounded pretty darn good to me, and we went that route. For a moment we were all stuck next to Gardak as we tried to follow him through his secret passageway. I almost had to use my /stuck command, but luckily we all popped out and Gardak flew into his secret compartment and closed the door so we couldn’t follow. OHHHHH. We weren’t *supposed* to go in there. Got it.

Gardak somewhat lived up to his promises, but unfortunately Gardak didn’t disable the one trap that Spode died in. From further reading on the wiki, people will often choose to kill Gardak so they can get a lot of extra bonus exp from disabling the multitudes of traps in the instance; furthermore, this instance features the hardest trap to disable in the game. It’s a super-trap with blades criss-crossing and slicing and dicing around a very alluring chest . . . so alluring that Spode wondered if he could just take the trap damage while looting it. Um, no.

At the end of the instance we were rewarded with a bonus chest because we chose to have Gardak betray us. I’m ok with betrayal from a hobgoblin as long as it means extra loot. Right? Totally!

Here's how we were looking at the end of that one:

It was good to kill a few hobgoblins again . . . long time since the good ol’ romps through Cerulian Hills or Tangleroot Gorge or what have you. Much like the orcs had their worgs, the hobgoblins were palling around with their Glacial Wolves.

At the end of the night, we were a couple Ancient Elven relics richer and had some good times. Can’t ask for much more than that.

Happy Dueling!

04 September 2011

What does a demon queen with six arms do to Team Spode?

Allow me to veer a bit here and just ask, Have you ever had a really frustrating day of gaming? That's my day today.

1- My son is replaying Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door for probably the fifth time. Somehow this game resurfaces about every six months and every single time he gets lost in its puzzles, which means dad has to play through a good chunk of the game for him to get up to the exciting battles. It's kind of a frustrating experience remembering how to work your way through its puzzles and even worse when you're son has no patience to read quest text.

2- I've been playing Magic The Gathering: Tactics on the side. I finally reached a wall in the game that just seems impassable for me. Chapter 3 is a complete bish. Dying over and over again in that game is making me antsy.

3- and then there's Against the Demon Queen Part 1 . . .

Ok, so here's the story for you all. The mission started innocently enough. We really have no plans for finishing the raid for this unless a miracle happens, but Team Spode was up for part 1, right? right!

So Against the Demon Queen Part 1 starts off with a poem . . . quaint!

The poem here is actually the key to the instance, and it will be different every time you visit the instance. Definitely check out the strategy guide over on DDO Wiki for more information on decoding that.

Basically, you have to know which room to go to in which order or else be transported to a cage holding several nasties that want to kill you.

◦Poisoner: Scorpion
◦Devious: Snake (Troglodytes)
◦Hungry: Wolf (Gnolls)
◦Grasping: Octopus (Mindflayers)
◦Mockery: Monkey (Wildmen)
◦Night: Bat (Mephits)

Our path, based on our poem was: Mindflayers, Wildmen, Troglodytes, Gnolls, Mephits, and Scorpions. That all went off pretty much without a hitch save for a couple nasty traps.

There's some good ones in there . . . like these spinning blade traps underwater.

I think Dungeon Engineer would be an awesome job, don't you? Too bad Dungeon Empires doesn't capture more of the sinister trap building part of being a dungeon engineer . . . I digress.

At the end of each of these alcoves full of nasties, you get to fight a raksasha. Raksasha are fond of spouting poetry themselves. Like: "Starvation is death, yet a ravening wolf is stronger than a pampered hound."

. . . OH OH OH . . . how about this one: "The sword of the Octopus has an iron grasp."

Those Raksasha are friggin' NUTS, man. THEY MUST DIE! And die they did . . . no sweat for Team Spode.

Eventually we got to the Demon Queen herself after solving the riddle and killing a good number of Djinni and aforementioned poetry spouting Raksasha.

She even poses for screenshots!

quaint . . . again.

Of course, the real photo ops happen when she's bearing down on you slashing you to bits with either a freaking nasty blade barrier or her own personal six-armed blade barrier of death.

She's definitely rocking my world right there.

The strategy that we attempted was to kite her through firewalls and bladebarriers of our own. We failed miserably.

We gave it two shots before calling it a night. The first time we got dear Lailat down to 50%. The second time we got her down to around 30%.

. . . Frustrating. Spode was none to happy about our defeat, "I HATE LOSING!" Ahhh, Spode. I'm so with you. We all are.

The group consensus was that we're going to head to Gianthold next week and put this quest on hold until everyone is Level 15. We'll be back, Lailat . . . we'll be back.

-signed, Team Spode

p.s. I did find a tip though thanks to the C.L.A.W. forums! Next time we should try using the spell "Waves of Fatigue" to slow her slither down . . . it'll make for easier kiting.

Happy Dueling!