I posted a while back about a particular quest series that drove me away from DDO not long after launch (about four years ago, Happy Birthday DDO!) I’d blotted out the precise details, just remembered it was in one of the Houses off the marketplace, and that it involved running through an outdoor area to get to a dungeon, then going in and out of that dungeon six or seven times, delving slightly further in with each iteration.
In the now-Unlimited DDO I’ve been keeping an eye on “Today’s Deals” in the DDO store, and bought several discounted adventure packs of roughly the right level when they popped up. One of these was Tangleroot Gorge, which experienced DDOists will instantly recognise as the aforementioned hokey-cokey-esque in-and-out dungeon, but it hadn’t sounded any alarm bells when I bought it, so when Melmoth and I were looking for a bit of an adventure I casually said “oh, I’ve got this pack called Tangleroot Gorge I haven’t tried yet…” Turned out he’d run it a few times but was game for another, so we trotted along, got out of the Inn into the jungle, and…
… when I came back around I was lying in the hotel room, hands bleeding, the mirror was smashed, I could just remember something about napalm and “The End” by The Doors playing. Serious flashback, man. I almost hit the “unsubscribe” button as a reflex action, though not being subscribed in the first place made that a bit tricky. I needn’t have worried, though, the Return to Tangleroot Gorge was a textbook example of several areas of DDO’s improvements over the years.
It wasn’t *just* repeated runs through Tangleroot that made me give up back at launch, that was just the final frying pan that made the plastic donkey buck. A more significant problem was the need for a group to do anything, with the attendant overhead of forming or finding a group, then constructing an elaborate single transferable voting system with weighted alternatives to decide what to do. With variable difficulty levels in the dungeons now and hirelings to pad out your party it’s now far more flexible; being DPS types, Melmoth and I packed a couple of Cleric contracts for mobile Cure Serious Wounds dispensers and set out.
The first part of the adventure is a fairly large (for DDO) open jungle zone, big enough that a couple of wrong turns could land a laggard in a big enough pile of hobgoblins to cause trouble, and with sufficient canyons and ravines for people to poke their noses over the edge exclaiming “I wonder what’s down thaaaaaaAAAAARGH”. On the plus side, an excellent opportunity to exclaim “He’s fallen in the water!” in the river below, but a trifle annoying, especially if you land on a pointy rock at the bottom without the benefit of feather fall. So far as I can make out this bit hasn’t changed at all, but having a guide with uncanny navigational memory (to the point of being able to talk a guildmate through entirely by memory on voice chat: “you should be seeing a ruined temple coming up on the right, you’ll want to hang a left just before reaching it or the hobgoblins will get cross; if you get to the petrol station on the roundabout you’ve gone too far”) saved a good half hour or more of blundering that dragged things out the first time around, especially on top of the half hour of forming a group up.
At one point inside the dungeon itself, my Spot Sense tingled, indicating a nearby trap, and I got another flashback. The traps around launch seemed to be geared towards a pure rogue of the level of the adventure (if not higher) who hadn’t skimped on Int, put all available skill points into Spot, Search and Disable Traps, taken feats and enhancements to further boost those skills, was wearing Goggles Of Searching and Gloves Of Trap Disabling, had drunk a potion of trap detecting, and never rolled less than 15 on a 20 sided dice. The first run through the place back around launch was carnage, blades flying everywhere, flames shooting down corridors, an occasional cry in party chat of…
“Wait! I sense a…”
*CLICK* *fwooooooosh* STABSTABBURN
One of the advantages of revisiting the same dungeon seven times in a row was that the traps were in the same place each time. You would’ve thought that would make things easier for the rogue, as everyone halted, remembering previous spiky death, expectantly waiting for the trap to be disarmed. I’d boldly stride up to take my place in the spotlight, put on a deerstalker, pull out a magnifying glass and begin the elaborate pantomime triggered by activating the Search skill, to discover… nothing. Strange. Maybe there wasn’t a trap there on this iteration after…
*CLICK* *fwooooooosh* STABSTABBURN
… all. Or maybe I’d just missed it. Oops. Take three, and after the initial search didn’t turn anything up, I activated my limited use Skill Boost ability to perform a more thorough search, and eureka! I managed to find the control panel for the trap! Out with the thieves tools, I’d soon have this thing disarmed and made…
*CLICK* Critical disarm failure *fwoooooosh* STABSTABBURN
… safe. Oh dear.
I swear I only managed to disarm about one trap per twenty attempts, the others resulting in a fairly even mix of plain old failure and pointy-death critical failure. I’ve only got a couple of levels of Rogue this time around (though I’ve been dutifully keeping up Spot, Search, Open Lock and Disable Traps on the Ranger levels as well), and Turbine seem to have ratcheted things back to a rather more sensible level so there’s a very occasional critical failure, but by and large I’ve been able to detect and remove traps without divine intervention.
Anyway; over the course of a couple of nights, with various Waifs coming and going (quite easily, thanks to the flexibility of party composition and guest passes) we looped through Tangleroot Gorge two or three times, and rather than the hideous slog of years back it was a crazy romp. A couple of more experienced players have been bringing a dangerous hint of competency to the Friday night group; most of us can now hold the blunt wooden end of a weapon and stab the enemy with the pointy metal end with only gentle reminders, and we wound up clearing the entire chain on Elite.
Ctharsis: it’s like catharsis, but with more tentacles. (c) Melmoth