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The Keys That Bind…

March 3, 2011

Our first week in Rift has been very eventful and doubtless a good sign is that I have found plenty of time for playing and little for blog writing…

Within hours of Headstart commencing we found ourselves involved in our first major guild decision whilst trapped in the 4 hour queues of Wolfsbane. After a short conference on Ventrilo we decided to wrap up our tents and relocate to Corthana which has turned out to be the best course of action for us. Fortunately, most of our new recruits also opted to come with us to our new server which was a pleasant surprise.

On the first weekend, TDS, having decided in a close vote to roll Guardian, convened at the portal in Argent Glade, Silverwood for two hours of closing rifts. The event went well from an organisation standpoint, we figured out how form up and edit the raid line-up and use the target marking, etc, etc.

The rifts were good fun and we managed to take down an Aelfwar Vindicator during a Life event, even though our highest level player was only 17. Many of the players were existing members but we did get the opportunity to see some of our new recruits on the battlefield (and duly noted who listens to the raid leader).

The downside was that between the conclusion of the Open Beta and the commencement of Headstart the experience gain for tackling and closing rifts has been significantly reduced. No announcement, no rationale, just players who thought that rifts would be a legitimate method of levelling up being left scratching their heads. I therefore have to retract the comment from my previous article about rifts being a viable alternative for levelling. Currently it’s Quests or Warfronts that are the Levelling Choice du Jour

Another aspect that smacks of last minute inclusion is the heroic quest-line that was introduced to both Freemarch and Silverwood. It appears that both of these have been poorly developed by comparison to the other content in these zones. Firstly, they are received too late, at a time when your character is preparing to leave the zone. Secondly, for the Changeling quest-line, which is the Guardian chain, there is a requirement to loot two items from rift invasion bosses Cinderon and Gnarladon which is akin to guessing next week’s winning lottery numbers. I have managed to obtain the item from Gnarladon and have beaten Cinderon twice without any luck. Now at level 27, and about to leave Gloamwood for Scarlet Gorge, I wonder if I might as well forget about it, which would be a shame for what should be the premium quest content for a zone.

Even though, in my opinion, Trion are 0 for 2 for things changed between Open Beta and Headstart the bulk of the game remains hugely enjoyable and of high quality. We have a healthy influx of recruits who are currently going through the voting process and the guild is getting close to hitting level 3. Realm of the Fae has taken a good pasting from guild groups as players experiment with different roles – I actually missed an opportunity to see Aainu tanking!

If you have made it this far into the article and are wondering what any of this has to do with the title of the post then you are about to be enlightened. I have been, to all intents and purposes, a ‘clicker’ in MMOs. That is somebody who predominantly uses the mouse pointer to select the skills and a spells they use from the hot-bar. For Rift I have decided to try key-binding which involves mapping particular skills and spells to specific key presses to save time. Binding keys is, apparently, the control mechanism of choice for players with u83R L33t sKiLz but I wanted to try it anyway to see if it would give me better results. I also purchased a gaming mouse with more buttons than an Empire State Building elevator to give me a boost and I am now in the process of having another finger genetically spliced onto my right hand so that I can use it.

I have adapted to it (key-binding, not the extra finger) faster than I expected and during regular play it is very easy and intuitive, especially being able to spend more time focusing on the middle of the screen where all the action is. Sometimes when things get a little frantic my mind will freeze but I am hoping it is just part of the learning curve.


Rift: Planes of Telara

February 22, 2011

Over the last month we have been preparing for the launch of Rift: Planes of Telara, which is the new MMO kid on the block. Some of us have been running around in the Beta Testing events, learning the ropes and trying to get The Dying Sun ready for the launch.

The Wimpy Dirge has not yet surfaced as I have been playing with other class combinations, but rest assured, sub-par bard DPS will be coming to a server near you soon. Although the naming policy that Trion Worlds have adopted means that we don’t know which server at the moment.

The game is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, it expands upon  a lot of great features from other games and gives players lots of flexibility. You can level equally well by questing or fighting rifts and play a multitude of different class combinations within your calling. It looks good and plays nicely with large groups of players in the vicinity.  The development team have acquitted themselves very well with their playerbase during the testing phase of the game.

From a guild standpoint the website has been moved to a hosting service so that we don’t get cut-off every time Glad reboots his PC and we have slightly refreshed the officer roles with an emphasis on early game recruitment. The key to getting a steady stream of recruits into the guild has been letting Silverpaw think that it is a competition between her and Goldenpaw…

One of the benefits of Rift is that we have a viable reason to form a raid group at lower levels, to tackle some of the many invasion events that occur regularly during the game. These usually consist of meeting some standard objectives, which if accomplished will spawn a big boss at which point everybody groups together to try and burn him down. Sometimes it is a zerg but other times, with some organisation, it can go pretty smoothly.

During Beta 5, a few TDS players were involved in a Life Invasion in Silverwood, here is Goldenpaw tanking a Preserver.


This is Terrorvox, in Scarwood Reach (level 30+) during Open Beta, this was a long fight with only 10 of us there but we managed to take him down.


Finally, here are a couple of shots of Mar’Kul in Silverwood, there were many, many people at this fight and we were very close to the resurrection point so this fight exhibited more zerg tendencies but the bad guy died anyway.



Carn Dum – Don’t drink the water…

November 23, 2010

Week 1

I have decided to start the record of our journey from this point because yesterday was the day we decided to schedule our first raid.

The last few weeks have given people the opportunity to acclimatise to LotRo and decide whether they will be able to stay the course, it is understandable that not every game is going to be enjoyable for every player. The guild still exists in EQ2, with enough accumulated platinum and status to keep everything running for about 4 years. Some people are still enjoying themselves there and we have transferred all the administration functions to them.

Back on topic…

The key two tasks have been to ensure that we have a good spread of classes, as I am not entirely sure what the best raid make-up is at this point, and that people begin to understand how to tailor those classes to groups and raids. I have been fortunate enough to find a levelling partner in Ferdibrand and with the tank / healer duo we have been able to see most of the content up to this point.

Ferdibrand getting a hair-cut, Uruk style


Frustration is...trying to find a hobbit tank in knee high grass

 With that in mind we started running through Urugarth and Carn Dum to acquire the trophies that players need to complete their respective class quests and earn another legendary trait.

Urugarth is pretty straightforward and we actually managed to complete it first time through without a wipe in about 2.5 hours. This week we tried Carn Dum (CD), the home of two Arch-Nemesis level bosses, Helchgam & Mordirith.

One of the key aspects of CD is that the water is quite unhealthy, in fact it will one shot any player unfortunate enough to dip their toes – it was inevitable that someone was going to have issues with this mechanic and we were not disappointed. Everything went as per plan until we reached the sewer and did not properly execute the area where the horn-blowers are standing on the platform and although we did kill the majority of the mobs we were finally overcome. Running back we polished off the last group and headed out to Barashal to acquire the Ornate Key. Once everybody was aware of the risks associated with crossing narrow bridges occupied by trolls with large knock-backs, we chose our tanking spots wisely and in good time we raced across and claimed our prize.

Urro - First boss in Carn Dum

Next we returned to the sewer to work our way down to Helchgam, this was the part where a couple of players (cough, cough… Proetus & Ferdibrand (Boonz & Sully)) had to restrict their natural urges to cut corners and not step in the water too often. There were more than a few curses coming over Ventrilo, followed by unsympathetic laughter from Gold (especially when Silver fell in too).

The Helchgam fight is pretty good fun if you know the script and remember to get off the pillars in time. Everything was proceeding to plan and we were burning Helchgam down from the first pillar when the call went up to jump off which we did…apart from one lone hobbit warden who was bravely battling the squid when the tentacles came up and took him and the pillar down into the depths. The remaining five of us did get into a rhythm and managed to defeat Helchgam, scoring a slime for Proetus. This left us with the problem of how to reunite with Ferdi, who is a directionally challenged hobbit at the best of times and it was suggested that we suicide into the pool and meet up at the entrance. I alt-tabbed to a map I had of the zone to check whether another option was possible and when I came back I was standing alone. Over Ventrilo I remember saying “Oh we are jumping in the water are we?” and plunged into the pool before anybody could reply. The rest of the group who had moved about 50m away around the corner started laughing…a lot. It took about 5 minutes before Gold could even speak again.

So, back together once more we retraced our steps through the sewer, came out the other side and secured the Iron Gate Key, giving us much more flexibility to do the zone in the order that we choose. We pushed into the main part of the complex and called it a night after beating Gurthul.

Gurthul – Penultimate boss in Carn Dum

As a guild we can now access and defeat all the required mobs to complete the class quests, which we will be doing over the next few weeks.

Then we will be posting our first raid, I expect we will start with something very simple, such as Bogbereth and then maybe try one of the Helegrod instances.

The Wimpy Dirge is dead. Long live the Wimpy Dirge

November 22, 2010

It may have become apparent that this blog has been inactive for a while, my apologies for that.

To cut a long story short the whole F2P debacle at SOE pretty killed the interest in the game for many of us at TDS and subsequently many accounts have not been renewed. Fortunately we have been together long enough that we decided to stick together in a new game, which is a first for me.

Our first choice was Star Wars: The Old Republic which as most people will be aware is not due to launch until Spring 2011. Therefore in the meantime we have decided to kick the tyres of Lord of the Rings Online. I cannot judge on whether Turbine did a good or bad job on the F2P conversion, all I know is that it left SOE in the dust in terms of leadership. Now I am well aware that LotRo has it’s fair share of problems including a perceived dearth of high level content. This should not present us with too many issues being newcomers to the game and by the time that SWTOR launches we hopefully won’t be too burnt out on obliterating orcs and goblins.

Although no dirges are available in LotRo, I did gravitate once again to the class with the most musical instruments which fortunately means that I can keep the same name for the blog…We are located on the Elendilmir server.

Over the coming weeks I will be documenting the trials and trevails of TDS as we try and establish ourselves for raiding in LotRo. We are now at the stage where players are starting to acquire their full set of legendary traits and getting a better handle of mechanics. I hope that it is an interesting journey both to write about and read…

The Wimpy Dirge

Raiding 18th & 19th September

September 22, 2010

Raid 1
Vernox the Insatiable, Sara Greenheart, Haraakat the Seer, Xilaxis the Explorer, Lieutenant Buldoral, Azara the Seer, Kendis Parmare, Penda Parmare, Iilsaad’s Barrier, Maalus Shadowfyre

Following the successful transition to the new web forums and the establishment of a new events database we had an improved turnout for this week.
We decided to open a new instance of PAL but there was a lockout bug for Olooche and we instead opted to continue with the zone from last week – a decision that turned out to be serendipitous.
We worked our way through the zone in our usual fashion, messing about on the trash pulls, completing Sara with only two tanks and getting eaten by the Scav…
After Xilaxis was downed we received a message saying that the instance was due to expire and we didn’t want to be booted near the end of a fight with Perah’Celsis so we moved onto PoRT and cleared the farming targets until the end of the raid.

Raid 2
Wyvernlord Tuluun, Wyrmlord Zaos, Vuulan, Ernax Heridion, Vernox the Insatiable, Sara Greenheart, Haraakat the Seer, Xilaxis the Explorer, Perah’Celsis

We decided today to start another run through the signature quest series that will unlock T2 shoulders as we have a few players who have still not completed these.
First up a flag in Paineel to drop everyone near the quest giver and then off to Lair of the Dragon Queen to complete Tending to Toxxicology. It was the first time in several weeks that we managed to clear the zone on one pull which is testament to how quickly our newer raiders are improving and obtaining some upgrades. We were even treated to some virtual ‘jelly-wrestling’ as Poly & Ruinn sorted out who was going to solo the eggs…

With part one completed we headed off to PAL to pick up Envoy Incursion and we immediately had a brand new instance to play with thanks to the problem of the previous day. I was getting some good vibes from the way we were going, not huge DPS but very focused and slick in the way we going about our business.

The Wimpy Dirge did manage a new personal best…

a twisted vindicator: (00:28) | 8,011,506 | 286,125 | [Ruinn-Ice Comet-125,898]
Sulli | 33,428
Zecc | 31,543
Ruinn | 30,457
Scarl | 27,712
Glad | 26,549
Polyn | 15,486
Archi | 15,092
Boonz | 13,735
Lliku | 13,687

We managed our best ever Scavanator attempt and recovered from a truly horrible port on Haraakat. Therefore, even without several of our regulars, we decided to take on Perah’Celsis.

It was a long fight and we had to kill him 11/2 times for over 105MM hit-points as we worked through the deaths below 45% but everybody stuck to the script and kept focused for a really good win. We can confirm that the timer changes made to the post teleport dash have resolved any issues with the adds.

Raid Update 28th August – 12th September

September 13, 2010

Apology & Update
Firstly I must apologise to the regular readers, for not having updated this page for a couple of weeks. There have been some…opportunities that we have been given to examine our crisis management skills.
The TDS website is the hub for the guild, it is our principle form of communication and organisation for events and DKP…at least it was.

During the last week in August the site decided to stop functioning, it was impossible to perform any task without the database server resetting and booting you from the site. Usually this has involved a quick call to Xav who has tinkered things back to normal again. Unfortunately this time, Xav has not been around to rescue us and we went for a week without being able to communicate properly.

Enter a new hero, Glad, to the rescue. He very kindly setup some forums on a server at home and we have been gradually recruiting people on board over the last week. At the same time Aainu has been trying to assess what we have lost and what the immediate needs are to continue functioning. Both Glad & Aainu have been immense, we would be truly lost without their effort. As I write Glad is working on restoring some semblance of an event calendar which we are so dependent on.

In addition to the technical beating, we have also been experiencing a fall away in interest in EQ2. I don’t expect the doyens at SOE to take much notice of a wimpy dirge but the recent decisions they have made concerning the game are turning loyal players away in droves. Notably the “we gave you what you asked for, not what you needed” snowjob on the F2P announcement and the undisputably smallest, most tight-fisted, unimaginative Game Update (57) I have ever had the misfortune to pay a subscription to download. It will come as no surprise then to learn that I am one of the disenfranchised players who is pretty much only logging in for raids with TDS.

What we have discovered though is that we have gained enough traction as a group of friends to go beyond the boundaries of a single game. It is very early in the scheme of things but we are exploring the options that are available to us outside of Norrath.

I finish with this little gem from a recent game developer forum…

Q. How do I create a small free-to-play MMO?
A. Take a large income generating MMO and put Dave “Smokejumper” Georgeson in charge.

Raid 1 (28th Aug)
Ernax Heridion, Vernox the Insatiable, Sara Greenheart, Haraakat the Seer, Xilaxis the Explorer, Perah’Celsis

Another breakthrough as we finally cleared all the way through PAL in one sitting.
After Ernax we let the tanks have some fun chain pulling all the trash up to Vernox, leaving a trail of chests in our wake (well two anyway). We maintained our current level of progress on The Scavanator seeing off 2-3 rounds of adds and Screech before he managed to land a frontal AoE at close range (which is consistently our undoing).

We arrived at Perah’Celsis confident of victory, having beaten him twice already and we did not disappoint – dispatching him on just the third pull. We are definitely improving on this mob. As a highlight I even managed to rezz Goldenpaw into the middle of a table and got a screenshot! We finished up about 40 minutes early.

Raid 2 (29th Aug)
Hoarfrost Pyreflyte, Frozen Statue of the Ice Maiden, Capt H’bri & Lt Thundersmash, Frozen Statue of the Snowbeast, Frozen Corrival, Tamer Nicoli, Debitino Coperilus, Wyvernlord Tuluun, Wyrmlord Zaos, Vuulan

I was unavailable for most of this raid, so Glad ably led a small (but deadly) force through Icy Keep. I did finally log on in time to beat down Debitino Coperilus and then we cleared Lair of the Dragon Queen with 15 players.

Raid 3 (4th Sep)
Lieutenant Buldoral, Azara the Seer, Penda Parmare, Kendis Parmare, Iilsaad’s Barrier, Maalus Shadowfyre, Ernax Heridion, Vernox the Insatiable, Sara Greenheart, Haraakat the Seer

This was the first raid following the website issue and subsequently we were down on numbers. We had 16 experienced players and 4 newer raiders on board and acquitted ourselves well with across the board short-handed victories in PoRT and PAL. We had a few hiccups on the barrier who required three tries but in PAL the fight with Haraakat was very slick considering that there were several players who had never seen him before.

Raid 4 (5th Sep)
Wyvernlord Tuluun, Wyrmlord Zaos, Vuulan, Xilaxis the Explorer, Hoarfrost Pyreflyte, Frozen Statue of the Ice Maiden, Capt H’bri & Lt Thundersmash

Only 18 raiders today as we polished off the regular SF targets and cleared partway through Icy Keep. In Toxx’s Lair we did experience a small but significant breakthrough when Polyneices managed to solo the eggs, single-handedly on her own ! This may give us some good options as and when we get to play with Toxxulia again.

We dipped into PAL to grab a couple of chest pieces from Xilaxis and then cleared the first level trash in Underfoot Depths for a nice jewelry drop. Finally we spent 45 minutes in Icy Keep, helping players obtain the drops that they need for the quests.

Raid 5 (11th Sep)
Lieutenant Buldoral, Azara the Seer, Penda Parmare, Kendis Parmare, Iilsaad’s Barrier, Maalus Shadowfyre, Ernax Heridion

This was the first weekend of raiding with the new forums in place. It was a pretty solid effort to even get two raids scheduled and the sign-ups were understandably low as folks migrated across. We entered PoRT with 18 players and comfortably cleared everything through to Maalus with a great Flawless & Short-handed win on the first Barrier pull. Due to the low numbers and the fact that several people needed to leave early, we decided to call the raid one hour early.

This did give is the opportunity to tell everybody about the new forums and hopefully improve the sign-ups for next week.

Raid 6 (12th Sep)
Wyvernlord Tuluun, Wyrmlord Zaos, Vuulan, Hoarfrost Pyreflyte, Frozen Statue of the Ice Maiden, Capt H’bri & Lt Thundersmash, Frozen Statue of the Snowbeast

Another raid impacted by low sign-ups, we hit Toxx’s Lair with 16-17 players and cleared the zone although there was no margin for error and some of our newer raiders really stepped up to the plate for us. Anaphylaxis was tossed in at the deep-end as MT Templar and Seashadow was really solid on the off-tanking and MA role. Zhang also played an important cameo for the Frozen Snowbeast fight.

Over the last two weeks we have been beset by technical problems and a general malaise towards the game in general. However, we have managed to continue with the raids, albeit taking it a bit easier, and have managed to get quite a good amount of Critical Mitigation and Red Adornment items to our next generation raiders.
In terms of future direction, things are unclear. Stay posted for more news.

Mandoril, Medorius & Mikla: The Three Sages Strategy

August 30, 2010

Mandoril, Medorius & Mikla: The Three Sages

This is a guide for the encounter that occurs after Maalus Shadowfyre in The Palace of Roehn Theer. It takes a while to learn the mechanics and has a punishing fail condition but a few wins should see this become a straightforward fight. In order to succeed in this fight you will need to have the Necrotic Flashpots that drop from the trash mobs on the Maalus fight, the encounter is impossible without them.

Like the Sisters in Shard of Hate and the Three Princes in the Barren Sky, this fight requires at least one tank from each archtype in order to proceed. In easy-mode only Berserker/Guardian (Warrior) can tank Mandoril, only Paladin/Shadowknight (Crusader) can tank Mikla and Bruiser/Monk (Brawler) on Medorius. As you enter the circular room Mandoril is standing directly in front of you at 6 o’clock, Medorius is at 10 o’clock and Mikla is at 2 o’clock. Each will be tanked where they stand.

The Sages will do the following:

Hit your raid with two AoEs:

Spiral of Disorientation (Arcane), wait 10s,
Fog of Lethargy (Arcane)

The first one will land 10 seconds into the fight, both are DoTs that will need curing – the damage is not terrible but they can cause you to drop target which as explained later can cause headaches. Both are on a 50 second timer which cannot be extended.

Attempt to upgrade to challenge mode:
About 10-20s into the fight you will receive a red message informing your raid that the Sages are trying to upgrade to challenge mode. We prevent this by r-clicking on Mandoril and selecting “Disrupt Ritual’. I cannot confirm at this stage whether you can r-click on Medorius or Mikla to disrupt, but I see no reason why not.

Give you the de-targeting pox:
Every 30 seconds or so Medorius and Mandoril will cast an incurable nox on three players who are standing within range of them, Medorius will only impact fighters and scouts, Mandoril will only impact priests and mages. If untreated this nox will transform into a curse which in 5 seconds will transfer to the nearest two players (regardless of class) and will keep spreading to anyone else in range. The curse will prevent you from targeting anything, all you can do is run around and give it to someone else…
Obviously the best thing to do is dispell the nox, which is done using the aforementioned Necrotic Flashpots. The Flashpots cannot be self-administered so 1-2 people at each mob who are not going to be impacted must oversee the cures of everybody in their group. The Flashpots are very easy to use, add them to the hotbar, target the impacted player and click on the button – instant cast and no cool-down.
When players are moving between the sages after each kill they must move and stay together and keep looking out for the incurable nox.
This is the single most important activity in the whole encounter, if the Medorius & Mandoril groups cannot keep themselves clear of the curse then you will fail. Technically it is possible to recover from one group getting cursed (I have the scars to prove it) but it is a right royal pain in the neck.

Cast a protective stoneskin:
After 90 seconds, the Sages will emote “We need protection” (Mikla), “It is time” (Mandoril), “Invoke the spheres” (Medorius) – at this stage they will be rooted and immune to all damage. The only way to change this is to successfully execute a Heroic Opportunity.
There are two parts to the HO, one untimed, the other a frantic dash – the HO must be started by a scout using Lucky Break, then a fighter Horn, mage Lightning and priest Chalice. This triggers the timed section of the HO which is fighter Boot, scout Cloak, mage Flame and priest Hammer, there are 10 seconds to complete this chain to break the spell and start doing damage to the mobs again. One successful HO in any group will dispell the protection from all the Sages. The next protective spell will be invoked 90 seconds after you dispell the previous one. You should expect this to require a bit of practise for the first few attempts but once you get into the groove it is quite easy…unless one of the AoEs causes you to de-target in the middle of the timed section. If you run out of time the HO can simply be restarted for another attempt.

Stun the raid if they are hit by the wrong class:
Crusaders must not attack or cast at Medorius / Mandoril, Warriors must not attack or cast at Medorius / Mikla, Brawlers must not attack or cast at Mikla / Mandoril – doing so will cause a raid-wide stun which can cause chaos. There have been reports that shaman dogs and dumbfire pets will cause this mechanic to trigger but we have not observed this in our encounters. When a particular fighter’s opponent is dead they are effectively out of the fight and need to cheerlead from the sidelines (pom-poms optional).

The pull needs to be co-ordinated or you will end up with one of the mobs running through the wall towards another tank. It took us a couple of attempts to get it right.
Nominate somebody to disrupt the ritual if you want to avoid challange-mode.
Make sure you know who at Medorius and Mandoril is handling the Necrotic Flashpots, that they have enough pots, they know who they are looking after and don’t have a squillion other jobs to do that may distract them.
We start with one group on Mandoril, one on Medorius and two on Mikla. We burn down Mikla first send everybody round to finish Medorius and then finish off Mandoril. That is our preference, there is no fixed order in which they must be killed.

Mandoril has about 62,000,000 health which is far more than the other two. Unfortunately I have always been out of ACT range on Mikla & Medorius and do not have the available information.