Sunday afternoon I was given an opportunity to reverse a route, to replace the sting of defeat with the thrill of victory.
18 months ago when our Saturday night instance group decided to take a trip to Middle-earth, we got kicked in the teeth when we tried our hand at the Great Barrow.
There were many things wrong with our attempt, which is documented in the post Defeat at the Great Barrow, and once we left, we never went back to that instance.
So it was with some satisfaction that I was able to return to the Great Barrow on Sunday afternoon.
I logged on with Tistann to clean up a couple of dangling quests. Primarily I wanted to find that orc messenger that is part of the Weathertop quest chain. I spent some time searching for him previously and failed, but was able to find him at last.
As I went to the next step of the quest, there was a group of five looking for one more person to do the last stage of the chain, Retake Weathertop, which Gaff and I had done just a month back on Windfola.
I was on the stage before that, which requires a run from Weathertop to the fields outside of Bree and back, but asked if I could join the group if they still had an empty slot when I got back. Their leader said okay, and off I went.
I recalled to Bree, ran off to the right NPC, headed back to Bree, took a horse to the Foresaken Inn, and finally headed back across country to where I had started from. As I approached Candaith’s camp, I asked if there was still a spot in the group. The answer was an invite.
And as I got there, I noticed that much of the group was the same team from the Sons of Durin kinship that had been blazing a trail for me the night before outside of Trestlebridge.
We got rolling and did Weathertop about as well as you could have wanted. I gathered from their chat that they had failed at it earlier in the day with a short fellowship, so it was doubly good that it went well for them.
After wrapping that up, somebody in the fellowship asked if anybody wanted to go do An Ancient Story of Evil.
The Great Barrow! With a full group!
It was Sunday afternoon, my wife and daughter were out and not due back for hours, so I threw my lot in with them.
We shared out quests to make sure everybody was set then ran through the Barrow-downs, ending out run at the Great Barrow with a huge train of wights behind us. We jumped into the instance and got ourselves squared away.
First there are the spiders. Big spider. Scary spiders.
Fortunately, our tank, Dorr, was scarier.
The fights through the barrow went smoothly at the start. It was nice to be able to use some of the group support skills that the captain has. I also got to use one of Tistann’s new level 22 skills, shield brother. It let’s Tistann designate somebody in the party as his “shield brother” and gives Tistann an attack that, when used, raises the morale of the designated person. Dorr, our tank, was the designated person, of course.
We pressed on, deep into the barrow. I still like the fog effects in the zone.
The only mishap came when Tistann got out a bit ahead of the party and got himself defeated. We were on a ledge over some wights and everybody else was just using ranged weapons to attack. Tistann, who only has a shout for a ranged attack, jumped into the fray with his halberd and ended up with a couple of adds.
Tistann needs a longer handle on his pole arm.
We made it all the way to the fight that defeated the instance group 18 months back and handled it without issue. We stood there with the left half of the key, the first of two quest items to obtain, in very short order.
Then we ran into a few issues.
Trying to work our way across the barrow to the second half of the key, we ended up in a fight way over our heads and had a wipe. It was the wight Sambrog and his retinue. Not a party to go into uninvited.
That at least put us back at the entrance to the instance, which actually made it easier to get to the second half of the key.
Then a member of our fellowship had to leave. She was the other “pick up” member of the fellowship and, as happens, wasn’t planning to stay on quite so long.
So we idled for a while as we cast about for another person to fill out the final place in fellowship.
Eventually we picked up a level 30 minstrel that Dorr knew and headed out again.
We ran into some spiders along the way. Bits of the barrow seems to respawn, but not all of it.
We pushed on fairly well, arriving in the biggest fog covered room I have seen in the barrow. It looked like a concert venue.
The room had groups of two or three wights scattered about along with a couple of patrolling wights. We picked off the walkers, than took the fight to each to the groups individually until we had cleared a path to the door we needed.
We walked through the door, around the corner, and wiped.
That meant another run back through the barrow. Fortunately we managed to kill at least one of the group of wights that slammed us, so the next time around it went our way.
And then we stood looking at the wight that held the second half of the key, Thadur the Ravager, minion of misery. Just slay him and we would be done.
Of course, nothing is ever that simple.
The fight was interesting. You beat down Thadur until he has lost about a small chunk of his morale, then he runs away and summons some non-elite wights to tackle you.
You slay them, then he comes back fully refreshed. You knock down about even more of his morale, and he flees again.
After a couple of rounds of this, he finally sticks it out until the bitter end.
However, I messed up our first attempt. When we were attacking Thadur, I was usuing my usual solo routine of just laying down as much DPS as I could. This turned out to be enough to pull aggro off the tank at a couple of points, which got Tistann defeated.
Tistann down was just enough to tip the balance against the fellowship. One of the minstrels went down, got revived, then the other went down. Slowly it turned into a wipe.
Nobody pointed fingers, but I knew I had screwed up the attempt.
We ran back for another attempt.
This time around, I concentrated on the shield brother attack which kept a small but steady stream of morale boosts hitting the tank and kept Tistann from pulling aggro. With everybody focused and knowing now how the fight would play out, things went very well and soon we all held both halves of the key.
I called for everybody to line up for a victory screen shot. This is one thing that the regular Saturday night instance group is well trained at. This group, however, meandered and faced in all different directions as I panned the camera around, trying to get a shot. This was the best I could get.
At least we’re all in the shot.
And then it was time to collect the rewards, the fruits of our labor.
For Tistann, it was a big upgrade to his weapon, a nice new halberd.
All the better to pull aggro off of the tank! I’ll have to go look up what Beleriand damage is however. Some sort of serious second age whoop-ass I hope.
Some people had to head out so our fellowship broke up. Then it was time to see about the repair bill.
When Tistann first checked, it was 80 silver to repair. Aiyee!
Then I realized that I needed to sell some items from my bags first. Things you carry get damaged when you are defeated, and I did not want to repair a pile of stuff that I was just going to vendor. So out went all of that, including the old halberd.
That got the repair bill down to 60 silver. Still a lot to me, but better than before.
At the end of all of that, Tistann stood very close to level 23. I am still disappionted at how little experience the elite mobs in an instance like the Great Barrow yield, relative to how difficult they are. That still seems out of balance.
Still, the few quests and all of the mobs killed in the barrow added up to almost a level of experience.
So I ran Tistann back out to the Lone Lands, to Ost Guruth, and started in on one of the quests from there. That got him to level 23 in short order.
So another level in Middle-earth, another step closer to Moria, some new things seen, and a honking new pole arm!