The group was supposed to be at or around level 20 by this point, and while that would put us at the upper limit of most of the overland content in the zone, there are a couple dungeons in the area that cater to higher levels and groups. We went to look into Blackburrow and Stormhold.
Unfortunately, the regular group did not come together. Earl had a house full of guests and thus social obligations to which to attend. Trucknut was also absent. And Cerredwyn still had to catch up in the Frostfang Sea and wanted to just take that at her own pace… and own time, as she called it a night not long after 9pm.
Even I showed up late, having gotten wrapped up watching Sherlock on Netflix streaming. (It is good, and streams in HD so looks spectacular on our new TV. But damn, there are only three episodes. We’ll have to wait until they finish filming more!)
That left myself, Potshot, and Gaff… Gaff of the many names. Gaff of the many alts. Gaff of the multi-box. Gaff the status patron of the guild.
We decided to carry on with the Antonica plan and at least scout out a couple of locations. I was already out there with Campell, my level 20 troubadour.
Potshot got out his alt, Deneldir, a level 24 warden.
And Gaff brought out Sixo and Chuggs, a level 81 berserker and mystic respectively, to round out the group. We met up near Blackburrow.
We had initially considered the Qeynos armor quests as a possibility, and we actually all went and grabbed our respective versions, but decided once we were on the scene to just plunge into Blackburrow.
Thanks to the miracle of mentoring, we managed to get the group all to the same level. Everybody mentored Campell so we had an all level 20 group.
Granted, mentoring is imperfect. Sixo and Chuggs were more powerful and had skills (not to mention all the alternate advancement improvements) beyond that of any real level 20 character. But for purposes of mob levels and such, they were scaled down to Antonica size.
We dropped into Blackburrow, but found that even at level 20 most of the surface level of the place was gray to us.
As we delved down a bit, eventually we ran into some green con mobs, and down at the bottom, the spider brood was blue to us.
The named spider was up and we slew her, but there wasn’t really a lot for us to accomplish in Blackburrow. We hadn’t picked up any quests to help guide our path, so once you kill the boss at the lowest level of a dungeon, everything else is anti-climactic. We went out the back door of the dungeon and decided to try something else.
We headed over to Stormhold.
Here we had an advantage. I had previously gone out with Campell to pick up as many Stormhold related quests as I could find. I was able to share these with the group so that, along with the quests available at the start of the zone, we had a decent set of objectives on which to focus.
Then I had a thought. If I ran out with Campell and knocked off these quests, I wouldn’t be able to share them with the group as a whole when we showed up at a later date. At least I don’t think I could have. In one of these games you can share not only quests you are working on currently but also pre-requisites and finished quests. But I cannot remember which one and I didn’t want to take any chances, so I made the group wait while I logged out Campell and logged in my level 20 swashbuckler, Sedgewick.
They shared the quests Campell collected with him and we were ready to plunge into Stormhold.
Certainly things were not a huge challenge when we got into the place. Almost everything was a few levels below us and our group of four chewed through any number of fights with multiple adds without issue.
Later we ran into some more challenging opponents.
But that came further down the line.
First we had to visit some of the early landmarks, like the chess board.
We swept around the first floor, visiting locations required by a couple of the quests and knocking off the requisite mobs. Nothing too strenuous.
Down on the second floor, things got a little more challenging. We made a point of seeking out named mobs, but some of them sought us out.
The four scions of Stormhold, which used to be pops that required a quest trigger to spawn back in the day, seemed to be out in force. And they appear to have a pretty vast aggro radii, as all we had to do is get line of sight on one of these beasties and they would come get us.
They used to be quite challenging, epic, multi-group encounters. Now they appear to be more analogous the automotive world Scions, nothing more that reskinned Toyotas… erm… normal named bosses.
So while the fights with them were always a surprise, we did not appear to be in much real danger when we got engaged.
And a couple of the scions obligingly dropped master chests for us.
There were no master skills dropped for anybody in the current group, though there was one berserker master skill I set aside for Earl. (Have to check if he can use that if he upgrades to silver.)
Things were going smoothly, both because we seemed to be quite powerful for our levels (I mentioned the flaws of mentoring) but also because we took care to do things right when we could, avoiding adds and pulling carefully.
For one quest we had to head down into the Stormhold chapel, a pretty thickly populated area, and a place where most of the encounters (all heroic level, as they are everywhere in the zone) we a couple of levels above us. (Sedgewick leveled up pretty quickly, even with his slider set to maximize AA gains, and ended the night close to 24, but the average mob level in the zone has a pretty steep gradient as well, going from 16 to 27.)
While we were there, carefully pulling mobs, another group, a pair a level below us, showed up behind us. They obviously wanted to get to the far end of the chapel for the quest update as well.
One of them, a templar if I recall right, seemed to be in a hurry. As we surveyed the room, deciding which of the nearly dozen encounters between us and the altar we wanted to pull, he ran past us and straight for the altar.
Everything, naturally, jumped right on him and he died about half way to his objective. I’m not sure what he had in mind, but even his partner declared his attempt as a fail.
We cleared the room in our own good time and ress’d the dead guy.
He had also run past us earlier on in the dungeon in an attempt to get at a named mob we were clearing our ways towards. He died there as well, though we declined to ress him that time around.
Proponents of open dungeons like this always mention the joy of chance encounters, but tend to overlook how much general stupidity goes on. For every fateful meeting there are a few dozen cases of trains, people camping the mob you need, and general bad behavior.
Then again, the guy we ress’d will probably tell the tale about how he got in trouble and some strangers helped him. Open dungeons worked!
I’d probably file that under “you’re doing it wrong.”
We also had to visit the library naturally, a source of both quests and quests updates… and brutal combat.
My grandmother the librarian would have been appalled.
It was also a point of nostalgia as Gaff and I got to recall yet another “how things used to be” for Potshot on Skype, even though he was no doubt full to the brim with these anecdotes by this stage of the evening.
Ah yes, you used to have to come down here to get the book for the Lore and Legends quest for skeletons. Oh, how crazy things were back in the day.
Our last quest goal for this round was down on the third level of Stormhold, in the armory.
That was a quick jaunt, and we began our way back out again. We stopped to knock off the final few scorched skeletons we needed for our final quest. Not enough scorched skeletons spawn at any given time to finish that quest without waiting for a respawn. Same as it ever was.
Then there were quest turn-ins all over and new quests to pick up, but by that point it was time to call it a night.
The scouting was a general success and we will likely hit Stormhold when we next get the full group together in EQ2.