Category Archives: Instance Group

Tales of the Twilight Cadre instance group in Azeroth

We Make Death Knights

As I noted last time around, the group managed to get our main characters to level 68.  That means they have hit the minimum level requirement to head to Northrend once Wrath of the Lich King Classic launches next week.

Feeling chilly?

Having done that, we decided to give something else a try.  Blizzard had given us an incentive to roll up Death Knights, so we decided to give that a go as a group, heading into the Death Knight starter area.

It has been many years since I started a Death Knight, and I am pretty sure I only did it twice back then, so my memories of it are vague to say the least.

Anyway, we got together over the weekend and all rolled one up and jumped into the DK starting zone, where you meet the Lich King first thing.

Welcome to my expansion, can I offer you a quest?

Names were difficult this far down the line, but we all came up with something.  I went with Irondam, straight from the name generator, while Ula kept up with her usual theme, rolling with a gnomish DK named Krula.  Potshot went with Nordwink while Beanpole rolled a Dranei DK named Leiderhoser.

So named we went about the tasks of learning the DK trade, having swords issued, the whole runforging thing, and then having to fight somebody on our side to prove our value before we were allowed to fight the enemy.

Dude, that describes literally all of us

Then we were set upon the locals down the hill, who seemed to have had the bad luck of picking a nice little valley in between Light’s Hope Chapel and the landing zone of the Lich King.  Time to go slaughter the innocent… not that I ever turned my nose up at a murder for hire offer in Azeroth before.

Don’t make this awkward

The nice thing is that early on you get a quest to go steal a horse that becomes your very special DK mount… special in that every other DK you see has the exact same mount… but other classes don’t get it.  So there!

After some running about you get to one of the bedrock features of the Wrath expansion, the vehicle interface that lets you man guns or fly mounts that have special attacks.  We’ve all seen it a million times by now, but this was hot new stuff back in 2008 and Blizz was going to show it off to us.

Woohoo, eat cannon balls Scarlet Crusade!

It was actually a pretty decent addition to the game, and one of the big things that made Wintergrasp as fun as it was.

Of course, it was not without the occasional glitch.  For whatever reason, the second time we got the UI for a quest, it completely failed to function for me.  I was flying around on a great big dragon thing and couldn’t incinerate the hapless victims below or shoot their ballistas off of the tower tops.

I clicked the button harder, but it still wouldn’t work

Fortunately, since we were grouped up, we all shared quest progress on most quests, so as long as I stayed close to the rest of the group I ended up getting credit, bypassing my issue.  I still don’t know what happened as I had no problems in the UI before or after that during our session.

We also had to run back to the stronghold to train up skills and look into spending skill points as we leveled up.  Another Wrath feature is the ability to preview your talent points before you commit, but you have to turn that feature on in the settings, and you have to do it for every character.

A very important feature

Leiderhoser ended up going Frost spec because he forgot to turn that feature on.  It should be on as an account-wide default, but Blizz will be Blizz.

So there we were, out and about, killing stuff, routing the Scarlet Crusade, and basically living the DK lifestyle.

Outstanding in their field

And then we got some tasks from our old nemsis, Prince Keleseth.  We’ll be trying to deal with him soon enough in Northrend, but here he wanted us to go out and beat some Scarlet Crusade members to try and get information out of them.

This turned into a pretty long quest, and all the more so because it was one where you do not share quest credit with your group.  You have to run around beating them with special weapons, hoping the RNG will make them confess.  I was the last to get a confession, and I must have hit two dozen mobs before I got it.

Ka-ching, confession received

There was also an amusing run in with the town’s mayor, whose name is Quimby, a nice Simpsons reference.

But there was also some foreshadowing, a bit of a “Are we the baddies?” moment in the quest chain as you run into some prisoners taken by the Lich King’s forces, once of whom knows you.

Why does everybody make being bad feel awkward?

Interestingly, because we were different races in the group, we got to see that everybody’s old pal was of the same race.  The gnome knows every gnome who comes by, the dwarf all the dwarves, and so on.

There was some more running around, including possibly my favorite bit from the whole DK starter story, and probably the only part I ever remember, the apple tree disguise.

At one point you must waylay a messenger, and you do so by hiding behind some wood painted up like a tree.  I got us all to deploy our trees at the same time just to get this screen shot.

We have a small orchard here

After wrapping all of that up, it is finally time to head off to the grand finale of the who quest chain.  You are sent off to meet up with the rest of the forces of the Lich King who are set to attack Light’s Hope Chapel.

There is a big setup for it, and when you arrive you have to wait around until the timer runs down and the battle can commence.

The battle will commence in three minutes

There is a tally up at the top of the screen which shows the defenders vastly out numbered by the scourge.  And then the time comes and you launch into the event and a bunch of fighting appears to be going on, but in reality the outcome is preordained.

The forces of light prevail and turn the DKs to their side even as the Lich King and Tirion Fordring play out a bit of their own foreshadowing here at the start of the expansion.

He did not have our best interests at heart

And so the disgruntled DKs became the Ebon Blade and we ran off to Stormwind to join the crusade against the Lich King.  You have to do that walk through down where people boo you and pelt you with things, then talk to the king who tells everybody to be nice to you, and then you’re in the club and can hang around in downtown Stormwind with everybody else.

All on our special mounts by the fountain

The whole thing was mostly an enjoyable lark.  We managed to go from level 55 to almost level 60 during the events.  Not bad.  Now we’re stuck getting through Outland before we can actually join in with the war on the Lich King, but that is the way it goes.

More importantly though, we were all able to claim our special mount in retail WoW for finishing the DK starter zone.

That guy on the mount

I don’t know if any of us will use our DKs much more.  I went out and did enough to get mine to level 60, so he could buy flying and a mount if he had the gold.  If the expansion wasn’t next week, the current xp bonus might hurry us along.  But with only a few days left, that seems unlikely.

Sixty Eight in the Blade’s Edge Mountains

In coming into last weekend there was a question as to where we ought to carry on in our run towards Northrend.  After a few weeks in Nagrand we still had a couple of quest lines remaining, but not much.  As nice as a zone as it is, it was starting to feel like Nagrand might be spent when it came to our needs.

I did consider jumping in on the scourge invasion event and even flew out to Light’s Hope Chapel in the Eastern Plaguelands to see what that was about.

Departing Ironforge with a scourge thingy hanging over the gates

Out in EPL however, it didn’t seem like a very profitable venture, being a mix of randomness and a need to kill the right mobs at the right time with no sharing between groups.  That is the way of classic.

That set aside, it looked like the next stop on the zone list was the pointiest zone in Outland… and possibly the pointiest zone in the game overall… the Blade’s Edge Mountains.

Their favorite album here is The Point

Even the map tries to represent the abundance of sharp spikes that make up the zone.

The Blade’s Edge Mountains

I remembered that there was a quest in Zangarmarsh, in Orebor Harborage, that sent you up to the Blade’s Edge Mountains.  I stopped in there, picked it up, and took my flying mount over the spiked ridge and into the zone, wanting to avoid what I recalled was a trek through some caves with mobs to slay.

I mean sure, there was also a quest to slay those mobs, but the only thing the expansion has that matches the number of spikes in the zone is the number of quests overall.  We could give that one a miss.

I flew up there and was soon joined by Beanpole and Fergorin.  We just needed Ula, who was back in Stormwind working on something.  Beanpole being a warlock and all, we had the option to bring her to us via the ritual of summoning or whatever it is that warlocks do.  We either haven’t used it very often or it changed with the Wrath pre-patch, because it seemed different to me.

First we had to join in with Beanpole to bring forth his spell.

Starting the ritual

After that there is a portal of some sort that shows up, which I gather any one of us could click on and summon the person in our group that we had targeted.   I think.  It is hard to tell because we all did it at once.  However it worked, Ula appeared with us having made the direct flight from wherever.

Ula arrives with a pop

Then we were left standing there with the summoning thingy, like a fifth Beatle.  So we stepped away to distance ourselves from it.

It goes away after a while, right?

Together in Sylvanaar, we ran around and vacuumed up the quests, which were focused initially on the areas south and east of town, with a list of creatures to kill and drops to gather.

The neighborhood

The Blade’s Edge Mountains are in the back half of the zone list, a bridging zone between the Nagrand and the grand finales of Netherstorm and Shadowmoon Valley, and as such there were any number of re-used mobs to slay.  So there was the local cat species, the lynx in this case, and the Arakkoa, whose feathers we needed as drops, and then the ogres.  So many ogres.

Stop… its ogre time!

Seriously, at this point we’re deep enough into ogre killing that even Hemet Nesingwary is probably thinking, “Who there, maybe give the whole ogre thing a rest now.  Like, what did they ever do to you?”

And, of course, there were wolves.  The iron law of early 2000s MMORPGs is that in every zone you must have a quest to slay either bears, boars, or wolves… and usually two from the list.

On the bright side, since the pre-patch unlocked flight for us, and everybody in the group finally got on board the flying mount idea, we were able to navigate around the various obstacles and packs of aggro mobs rather than having to schlep our way on ground mounts like losers.

Also, for reasons unexplained, three of us chose the white griffon as our flying mount.

The group in some sort of formation

I always go with the golden griffon on my main because it looks like the default flight point griffon and I have it in my head that there is some mischief or deception that I could pull off by pretending I am not controlling the mount.

It has never happened… but it could!

Anyway, we carved our way through the various wildlife, Arakkoa, and ogres, wrapping up the whole quest series around Sylvanaar, after which we were sent off to Toshley’s Station, to the east.  It will be time for some Gnome adventures if we carry on again.

But who knows if we will?  Because the primary goal of the pre-patch time had been achieved.  Our main characters had all made it to level 68.

The group at level 68

I actually forgot to take a screen shot of that with us all online, so I did it from a lower level alt and fiddled the brightness and contrast to look like we were all online.

Anyway, we could carry on to level 70, but there are some arguments against that.

First, at level 68 we are able to get into Northrend, so we’re set.  Furthermore, since we’ll be going in as a group, it might be at list a little more interesting to be only 68 rather than 70.

Also, the xp bonus that is part of this pre-patch run won’t last.  It will be gone by the 26th, and it might be wise to use it on some alts.  Maybe even some Death Knight alts… and all the more so because Blizz is offering up a special mount in retail WoW is you run through the Death Knight starter zone before Wrath launches on the 26th.

What would I do for another mount?

Anyway, something to decide for next week.  We have at least hit our base goal for the pre-patch, we are ready to go to Northrend.

Still some Quests to be done in Nagrand

The group returned for another run in Nagrand this past weekend, still having some tasks to complete.

Once more in Nagrand

Of course, before we could get stuck into Nagrand we first had to figure out what was going on with our characters.  There were specs to be looked up, talents to be researched, skills to be trained, and the need to figure out where our mounts and pets went.

I had forgotten that Wrath took pets and mounts out of our bags and gave them their own tab.

Actually, I might not have noticed since paladin mounts were summoning spells back in vanilla rather than mounts that sat in your bag.  But then I bought a flying mount, clicked on it in my bag, and it went away.  Then I had to go find it.

The mounts tab on your character sheet

We also had to talk about flying mounts and whether or not we wanted to invest in them as a group.  I already had, as noted earlier this week, but not everybody was sold on the idea.  The problem was that buying flying right before Wrath meant losing it the moment we showed up in Northrend.  That has been a problem with about every expansion since too… except Cataclysm.  We got flying right away in that, didn’t we?  Or am I mis-remembering?  I have been doing a lot of that of late.

Anyway, flying mounts were not going to be mandatory for the group.

We would be riding old school

We did, however, all need to be 67 to get onto the same set of quests.  Fortunately, only Beanpole was shy of the mark, and only by a sliver of xp.  We went out of Telaar and hit the first mob we saw, which was enough to level him up.  The group was all on the same page again.

67 across the board… and on an alt as well

That allowed us to share the quests he was missing, then it was off around Nagrand once more.  We stopped off at Forge Camp: Hate for a few quests against the invaders.

It is one of the dark patches in Nagrand

Then it was up to Warmaul Hill for the final rescue of Corki.  We fought our way up to the cave he was in, updated the quest, then had to go find Cho’war in the cave across the way.  We ended up in a bit of a chase with a Horde group clearly on its way to the same destination.

Running up to Cho’war

This led to a bit of comedy as the two groups managed to get mixed up and both groups ended up having members fall off the upper ramp on the way to Cho’war and getting turned around and lost.

Ula and I ended up at Cho’war on our own and managed to take him down.

There is Cho’war

Then we had to run back down to find where Fergorin and Beanpole had ended up.  Meanwhile, the Horde group was also running around trying to collect its members.  Ula and I ended up jumping down to the lower level and we all ran back up together.  Somehow, some distant memory of doing this years ago stuck with me and I remembered the route.

We arrived back at Cho’war, who is on a fast respawn, so were able to engage him again… only to find that we didn’t need to because the corpse from the first fight was still there.  We killed him again anyway, collected the key, then dropped down to the lower level and ran back across to Corki to free him for the final time.

Corki let loose again

There was, however, some strange lag going on, and only three of us got the update right away for releasing him.  As we sat around trying to figure out why Fergorin was left out of the update, it suddenly arrived, having been delayed somewhere, and updated him.

Fergorin’s fashionably late update

Then it was back out of the cave and… well, it would have been a perfect time to have a flying mount to just head off to the next quest… but instead we schlepped along on the ground.

The last quest on the list for the day was Gurok, and we had some trouble getting together on that one.  Fergorin had the quest to go get him already, but the rest of us did not.  We had to figure out where the quest came from, which turned out to have a pre-requisite quest, which the three of us had to do before we finally got ourselves caught up with Fergorin.

And then we had to find Gurok.

After some mis-direction at the Laughing Skull Ruins, we found out he was actually up on Warmaul Hill.  So we rode back on up there again to find the place to summon Gurok up on the peak of the hill.

Summoned, he was handled in rapid fashion.

Gurok summoned and slain

We turned that in, and that was the end of the road for me for the day.  But we still have a couple more possible quests in Nagrand.  I am not sure if that will be enough to get us to our goal, level 68 for the whole group.

But if it isn’t, then we’ll be off to the Blade’s Edge Mountains.

Nagrand before the Wrath Pre-Patch

As I wrote on Tuesday, it had slipped my mind that the pre-patch for Wrath of the Lich King Classic was going to hit then.  So when we met up this past Sunday, I didn’t realize that it was going to be our last run in Burning Crusade Classic.

Once more in Nagrand

Not that Outland is going anywhere.  We still have a few weeks to go before we can move on to Northrend, and plenty of work to do in order to be prepared.  But with the pre-patch on Tuesday so much in the game changed… I had forgotten how much stuff came in with WotLK.

But I’ll get to all the changes next week.  For us it was another afternoon in Nagrand where we still had quests to finish… and ogres to kill.  So many ogres.

The main quest we had involved slaying 50 ogres, 25 warriors and 25 shaman.  In addition, there were ogre warbeads to collect.  Then there was Corki to find again… a series of rescue quests in the zone.  And there were also some elementals to be hunted down.  We met up in Telaar, where the flight point is.

Hanging out in central Telaar

We had a quest to turn in up at the Throne of Elements that got us all on the same page quest-wise, so we rode up there first.

From there it was a ride to find some ogres.  I recalled that the ones we wanted were down in a valley somewhere because, back in the day, I had spent a lot of time slaying them and collecting the warbeads for faction in order to be able to buy the talbuk mounts that the locals will sell you once you are exalted with them.  A lot of ogres died for those mounts.

We found them and, in doing so, actually ended up in a bit of a sweet spot.  There are two ogre caves, one at each end of the valley that runs below Halaa.  And, in the space between, there were groups of the elementals we needed to hunt.  So we set about going up and down the valley.

Ogre run around Halaa

We found plenty of ogres at each end of the run, both outside and in the caves.  The caves are, of course, identical in layout.  There is probably a ID number for that particular cave structure.  But there were ogres there, and that was what we needed.

Some dead ogres

We killed ogres at the south end, then elementals in the middle, then more ogres at the north end.  The northern cave also had Corki, who we freed once more.

Everybody confirms Corki

Then it was back to the elementals.  One set needed just five cores to drop.  But with four of us, that meant 20 total, and with TBC quest rules, the lower the number of drops you need, the more annoyingly low the drop rate is.

Still, we persisted and made it through.  Then it was back to the the Throne of Elements to turn the elemental quests in.  Then we made an arc around to Sundering Post, where we had some further elementals to clear out of the nearby lake.  There was also an escort quest for us in the middle of the town.

While the NPC did the usual routine of marching straight through town rather than skirting around danger, they at list didn’t go full Pengail on us and run straight towards every hostile within line of site.  (LOTRO is my baseline for escort quests, Sara Oakheart and Pengail being the slow and overly aggressive parameters.)  And we didn’t have to get the NPC very far before we were done.

Sure, sure, but will you stamp our book so we can redeem our coupon?

From there we made our way back around to Telaar and some more quest turn ins.  Along the way Ula and I both hit level 67.  Our levels at the end of that run will now stand as our high water mark for Burning Crusade Classic.

Where we stood at the end

The next time we get together… well, we will have some work to do.  Specs to work out, skills to buy, and perhaps some new mounts to purchase.  Northrend isn’t available to use yet, and we still have a set of quests to work through in Nagrand, but we’ll have a different view of the zone soon enough.

Flying unlocked

I was worried about how much expert riding and flying mounts would cost.  As it turns out, base flying isn’t all that much.  We can afford it.

Around Nagrand to Durn the Hungerer

This past weekend once again found the group together out in Nagrand.

Hanging out in Nagrand

As somebody pointed out in the comments last week, it really is the nicest zone in the expansion in a number of ways.  And, not the least of those ways is the quests, their organization, and quality.

Beanpole and I were on first and were eyeing the quest up the road from Telaar that has you grabbing an egg out of a tree for a hungry NPC.

Promise me a bit of gold and it is yours!

Wazat there wants one of the eggs up in the tree behind him there.  He also has the Jump-a-tron, a typically goblin device, that will bounce you up in the air and then let you slow fall down into the giant nest where the eggs are.  In theory.

In practice, the Jump-a-tron is kind of all over the map as a delivery mechanism.

Too far past the eggs again…

It is also a bit of a hazard if you aren’t paying close attention.  The Jump-a-tron gives you a three minute slow fall buff, which doesn’t refresh when you use it again if the buff is still active, so it is quite possible to get thrown in the air, have the buff expire, and come crashing down and die.

Saw it happen even as we were futzing around trying to figure this out.

I had not done this quest in so long that I had no real idea how to land in the nest, but a passing druid in flight form shouted, “no no no, jump off the cliff” at us, then flew on to where ever they were headed.  But the druid was right.  You get the buff, run up to the cliff that overlooks the tree, and ride on off.  If you do it right, you will land in the tree.

In the nest at last

It took a few tries, and I rode my charger off the cliff at least twice after the buff expired, but I managed to survive.  Once up there though, I wasn’t going anyway until Ula and Fergorin logged on.  I didn’t want to do that twice.

When the did log on though, they confirmed that they had done the quest already, so I grabbed one of the eggs, which summons the mama bird, which we then fought and defeated.  You get a nice cloak as a reward.

That got us all together and we rode back to Telaar to vacuum up all the quests there, which required a bit of quest journal management for some of us.  Our group was:

  • Ula – 66 mage
  • Fergorin – 66 paladin (holy)
  • Wilhelm – 66 paladin (protection)
  • Beanpole – 65 warlock

There had been a little bit of extra-curricular activity to get some of us to 66.  Ula got there last week and Wilhelm and Fergorin ran around in Zangarmarsh doing some now down-level quests for the cash and the xp, which still isn’t bad with the current buff.  Beanpole was still 65 and had been on vacation all last week, so was a bit behind.  But we had a sack full of quests and a free afternoon to work on that.

So we started on Telaar and moved clockwise around the map, hitting one target after another.  We found close by.

Tusker waiting for us

Then there was Gava’xi across the way.

All in on Gava’xi

There were some things to collect and mobs to kill around there before moving on around the map to Sunspring Post where we cleared out more mobs and set others on fire.

Questie sings out for us all

As you can see, I decided to load up the Questie AddOn, joining the rest of the group.  I actually got through all of vanilla without any quest AddOn help.  But then I was doing some quests in Zangarmarsh and got tired of trying to find things on my on and gave in.  I am more trying to get through Burning Crusade than experience it at this point, so it isn’t ruining my experience or immersion.

Then we had trolls in the hills, elementals around the Throne of Elements, then more trolls… and more trolls… and then some other guys whose taxonomy I cannot quite recall.  I only remember they were dropping marks of Kil’jaden.

And after all of that we were back at Telaar for the big quest turn-in.  I think I had 23 quests in my log when we set out and 7 after we cashed in and got fresh quests.

One of the quests we picked up was for Durn the Hungerer, who marches around in a great circle around Oshu’gun, just west of Telaar.  The quest said it needed five players, but we figured that meant five normal slackers, not advanced slackers like us.  So we decided to go out and do that as our last quest of the day.  It was right there.

Ready to waylay Durn

We got out there and found Durn and got him to a fairly open spot in his circuit, where adds didn’t seem to be a problem.  It was, “There he is, get him!” and off we went.

And we wiped.

But we were kind of just winging it, and we didn’t do too badly.  So we decided to give it another go.  We waited for Durn to walk all the way around again then, having buffed up and come up with a plan, went after him again.

This time it was close.

Working on Durn

I was out of all healing options by the time he got under 10% and died.  But the group carried on, getting him down to 3% health before Fergorin was down.  We had wiped again, but we were so close it felt like we could do it.

So we sat and waited for Durn to come around again.  As we waited, a level 67 hunter rolled up to us and wanted to join in.  We were fine with that.  We sat around, got ready, and killed off any mob that got anywhere close to us until Durn showed up once more.  In to battle once more.

I died once again, but Durn was almost down… and then he began evading, reset, and was full health again.  That sucked, but only I had died.

So it was time to wait yet again.  The fourth time we managed it, we brought him down.

Questie announces Durn is down

But we had a little help, a group of three had shown up as we were fighting and joined in, helping us bring him down.  That was fine with us.

The helpers around Durn

They asked if we could stick around and help them get Durn.  They had helped us and, even though the evening was wearing on and we thought we were done, we opted to help them, waiting for Durn to respawn.  We had picked a point where Durn shows up, so that was easy.

The next fight went well and we killed Durn again.  Happy days!

And then it turned out that Beanpole did not have the quest.  You need to be level 66 to get it and he was only 65.  I’m not sure why this didn’t come up before, but by this point he only had to kill a couple more mobs to hit 66.  So we asked the group that showed up if they would wait and help us kill Durn just one more time and they agreed.

So we waited for Durn to spawn then all went after him for a final go.  He went down with no complications.

Durn has had a busy day and is down for a nap

That done I thanked people for hanging out.  It is good to find nice people willing to help out in the game.

Hail and farewell

And then it was back to Telaar to turn that in and call it a day.

We still have some quests to do in Nagrand… there are still many ogres to be killed… so I suspect we’ll be back to finish them off.  We’re on a roll and the next zone on the list, the Blade’s Edge Mountains, isn’t anybody’s especial favorite, so why not stick around where it is nice.

Meeting up with Hemet Nesingwary in Nagrand

We decided we had had enough of Terokkar after our second visit.  We were a bit ahead of the curve in levels and wanted to move along to some place where we could do something simple, like some straight up kill quests, because we were a bit tired of things like the worg tail quest.

And next on the list of zones in Outland was Nagrand, and we all know who has set up camp there!  Yes, our fauna murdering pal Hemet Nesingwary.  So we set out to ride to Nagrand, which we approached through Zangarmarsh.

Leaving the fungus behind us

Just over the boarder on the road from Zangarmarsh is where the Nesingwary Expedition… or Safari or whatever they are in this iteration… has set up shop.

Hanging out in Nagrand

Hemet’s camp was, of course, tied up with the quest objective inflation that seemed to grip Blizzard with this expansion, so rather than the three quests of ten kills each for three different species… 90 kills total… we had two quests of 30 kills each for three species… 180 kills… waiting for us.

More is better, right?

But at least it was a simple set of goals, kill quests that we should be able to work our way through… if we could find enough mobs.  The thing with upping the count is that you really need to up the population as well.

The first round went pretty well.  They are all the closest to the camp and, fortunate for us, there were not many other people working on the same quests.  The population was adequate for us and a couple other people, but much more than that and we would have had to go pretty far afield to find enough mobs to fill out our sizable quota.

For the next round, which are not in the immediate vicinity, we ended up roaming far around the zone in search of our 90 kills.  That got us far enough out that we stopped in Telaar and got the flight point as well as picking up the one quest available to us there.

That got us side-tracked for a bit, but eventually we found our way around and picked off the last of the 90 mobs we needed for the second round.

When your group mates are all running Questie

Then it was back to Hemet’s camp for the final round, the named mobs, Gutripper, Bach’lor, and Banthar, who all lay in an arc along the road around the map.

We got slowed up a bit because one of the groups running the same set of quests started out on that arc just before we did, so we caught up to them just as they were slaying Gutripper.  But he respawned again soon enough.

Then it was around the map to Bach’lor, who we caught just as he respawned.

Questie lets you know when everybody has looted

Finally, it was on to Banthar, who wanders the area around the Oshu’gun mound.

Here we had a bit of trouble.  We had loaded up on quests from the Consortium along the way, so when we found Banthar’s corpse, we went off to do one of those other quests.  But Banthar respawns fast.  As soon as we saw him we ran over to tag him.   However, we ended up with a bunch of adds, and Banthar himself was no slouch.  The old freeze and burn AOE trick turned on us and Ula went down.

We fought on for a bit, and managed to get Banthar down, but we still had a some adds to deal with and I ended up dead on the ground as well.

Out in the Oshu’gun field lay Bathar

Fergorin, a paladin, ressed me, but there were still hostile mobs running around, including Banthar respawned.  He ended up stomping Fergorin down as Beanpole and I ran around trying to stay alive.  I barely had any health left before I finally was out of combat and able to sit down to drink and eat and get a ress onto Fergorin.

We got ourselves back together and out of the clefthoof traffic circle and back to camp, where were collected our various rewards.

Back at Hemet’s camp

With a little bit of time left, we went over to the Throne of Elements and picked up some of the quests there, including the poop quest.  Pro tip:  Turning down the ground cover density in the settings will make the poop piled much easier to find.

Look, poop! Also, compare the grass density here with the pic above

That all took us a few hours, with an interruption here and there.  We did all end up well into level 65, so we made progress towards our goal.  But at the rate of a level a week or so, we might be skirting it kind of close in our attempt to get to level 70 before Wrath of the Lich King Classic shows up… though we will get to play with the new talent trees when the pre-patch hits on August 30th.

Fast and Slow in Terokkar Forest

The group picked back up again on Sunday in its quest to get to level 70, carrying on from where we left off in Terokkar Forest.  We left off last week with the quest to head on down to Allerian Stronghold, which is the big quest hub for the zone.

Terokkar Forst so far

Allerian Stronghold also has a flight point, so as we straggled on to the game we rode on down and met at the flight master to make sure everybody clicked on that.

Meeting up by the flight master

After that, it was time to roam around the place to vacuum up the quests available.  This was the era of peak quest hub density and I think we must have had a dozen quests before we headed on out to start completing them.

Some of our quest choices

There was some variety in the mix.  We had to find somebody, explore something else, slaughter some minions one place, slay some named in another, and collect things… Olemba seeds, which are on the ground and worg tails, which are attached to the worgs that wander the forest.

There were four of us as usual, though we had a change out.  Moronae the druid, who ran with us last week, got swapped for Beanpole the warlock as we continued to try and work out what group we should take into Northrend.  So no druid buff, but we did get health stones… once Beanpole remembered how to make them.

I don’t think I have done anything in Terokkar Forest since I was going for the Loremaster title back in 2014.  It is very much of the mold of the expansion, which I have complained about in the past.

The odd thing is that, in doing it as a group, some aspects get smoothed over.  For example, we had to meet up with Private Weeks (no relation to Honeysuckle), who sends you into a hot spot to first scout while in disguise, then to go in and slay various mobs.

Our man Weeks

I recall doing this solo, as a paladin, back in the day and that it was a pain in the butt.  A somewhat constrained space with lots of mobs not very well spaced out, with some walkers roaming about to keep things interesting, meant that it was easy to get in over your head inadvertently.

But with four of us grinding things down it was a snap.  Or was a snap when we could remember to stick together.  We have a bit of a habit of wandering off and getting into trouble.  It makes life hard on the healer.  We were able to get through that fairly well and without loss.

Other quests though, they are made worse by the presence of a group.  For example, the worg tails mentioned above.  Those are drops and we all needed 12.  However, they don’t drop as often as one would hope.  I would estimate less than 50% of the time a tail came up.  So we needed 48 tails but probably killed a lot more worgs than that while we were on.

More worgs

I didn’t even get all my worg tails before we were done for the day and logged back on during the week to collect the remaining four.  I just wish one of us had been a skinner.  There were a lot of worg corpses to clear up.

The Ombra seeds were not so bad, once we realized they were in the little blue pod on the ground.  They were scattered all over and we seemed to take it in turns to focus on grabbing them, so one person would finish then somebody else would take over.

We also stopped to catch Beanpole up on the quests he missed last week, which meant slaying the moths again.  Another very low drop rate.

Die moth, die!

Overall though we managed to carry on and made some decent progress with the xp boost in effect.  Ula was the first of the group to hit 65, and the rest of us are pretty close behind.  We managed to get through most of the first round of quests and picked up some of the next round, which sent us into the Bone Wastes for a simple kill quest.  That was incentive enough.

So we’re carrying on.  I remain mixed on the whole expansion.  Also, I had forgotten what Khadgar looked like

I met Khadgar in a later expansion and… he didn’t look like that

I have been mostly holding off and trying to level with the group, so when I have a bit of time I get out my hunter, who is level 63 at this point and… well… I remember why a hunter was my main alt back in the day.  Send in the pet, stand back and shoot, let things sort themselves out… it is relaxing compared to the paladin, and the paladin is stronger in Outland than he was back in vanilla.

Of course the hunter is still short a bag in order to hold ammo and has to keep food around for his pet, so he is always short of inventory space.  But he is much easier to play over all.

First Impressions of Solasta

I mentioned last week that my one purchase from the Steam Summer Sale was a copy of Solasta: Crown of the Magister.  It was very much a last minute purchase too.  While it was on my wishlist already and was available for half off during the sale, it wasn’t until Potshot mentioned he was interested that we both went in there and purchased it.  That was the day before the sale ended.

Solasta splash screen

Even then I had some doubts as to whether or not it would be a good purchase.  It has very favorable reviews, but they are often couched in apologies for some of the shortcomings of the game.  If every other review you read goes on how you have to get past the character models, the voice acting, the stilted dialog, and the stiff and linear story… well, it can raise doubts.

And the goal of the game to bring a 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons experience into a video game wasn’t a huge selling point either.  I don’t know 5th edition from anything as I fear my tabletop RPG experience tapered off when TSR was still a thing.  D20 rules and Wizards of the Coast still represent the “new stuff” to me almost 25 years down the road.  It took me a long time to get used to 2nd edition and things like THAC0.

Then there is the camera, always a sensitive subject with me.  It doesn’t have a follow mode or anything, so you have to keep wheeling it around and scrolling along to see things.

Anyway, as it turns out, for me at least, these issues ended up being largely irrelevant.  Yes, the character models look odd and the voice actors all seem to be trying to imitate one UK actor or another… also, why are UK accents the default for fantasy still?  You also don’t need to know anything about 5th edition, the game holds your hand and lays out options for you.

Potshot and I both grabbed a copy, as noted, and tried it on our own, running through the tutorial, creating characters, and fiddling around with the game.  I will say, even up to that point the game wasn’t an obvious sell to me.

But on Saturday we got together to try and run a multiplayer campaign, and that is where the game began to shine for me.

Getting ourselves into a multiplayer game wasn’t too hard.  It isn’t a persistent world game like Minecraft or Valheim.  Somebody has to host the game and you join them, putting your characters into the campaign that is created.

Going multiplayer

You have to have four characters in the campaign.  When you play solo you control all four.  With two of us, we had two characters each.  We both brought one we had created (Skronk the cleric and Blain the ranger… it is a character flaw of mine that I always make rangers in D&D) and then grabbed one of the pre-made characters each (Anton the rogue for him and Nialla the wizard for me) in order to round out the party.

From there it was into the campaign, which starts off with some more introductions to the world as you run around town and learn about what is going on.  You have to listen to some dialog as the town council bends your ear about this or that and makes you deputies to go out and do some work for them.

Everybody has a quip

Then there is the trip to the inn and the shops and the scavengers guild and blah blah blah, all the groundwork goes on for a bit as you visit various points on the map.

People to see, places to go

It takes long enough that even your characters get sick of it eventually.

My character role playing me

Soon enough though we were off on a first adventure into the badlands and were waylaid by bandits at night, which introduced the pace of the game.  Everything else is kind of window dressing around the combat element.

When combat commences, everybody rolls for initiative automatically.

Need to get the dice in there somehow (this was later in our run)

That stacks everybody up into a turn order for actions, which is displayed at the top of the screen.

Here is our initiative ordering for the bandit fight

And then you go down the order… the bandits did get a free turn to start due to surprise… and play each character in turn.  When it is your character, you can see the options as to where you can move and what actions you can take, and when it is not your turn you get a somewhat annoyingly large banner telling you who is up.

Potshot is, in fact, playing

But playing with somebody else is where a key bit of the magic of the game is for me.  If you play solo and are controlling all the characters, then they tend to act in a unison that would be unnatural in the real world.  They focus on the same targets, split tasks, heal, and otherwise follow the directions of a single mind.

When playing with another person you don’t get that and there is some randomness injected into the game if you don’t communicate effectively… and Potshot and I failed on that front hilariously.  I mean, occasionally we would go after an obvious target together.  But at other times we would run in odd directions, get in each other’s way, attack random and changing targets, and generally fumble our way through encounters… all of which gave it an organic feel that would be difficult to replicate solo.

Not that the solo game is bad.  I think 12 to 25 year old me would have gone nuts with this game solo.  But late 50s me finds that a bit stale and predictable.  I need a bit more chaos than simple RNG gets you.

We carried on to our destination, the Caer Lem outpost, where we found all was not well.

On the way overland

There we made contact with the locals and teamed up with them to get away to safety as things went bad.  We each got one of the locals to control, giving us three characters each to manage, as we headed into the caves and ended up in a series of fights where we were tested.

Both of my characters incapacitated

We learned about short rests and long rests and a lot about healing and potions and how maybe having more than 20 arrows might be a good idea… though honestly I had a couple left at the end.

The end came for us long before the story was done.  We got in over our heads in the caves in a fight where we split targets, got in each other’s way, and opened ourselves up to repeated attacks of opportunity until we were all down.  Game over.

Everybody was down

I think one important thing to describe about the game is the pacing.  We spent about three hours getting to the point where we all died and it was game over.

If this had been in World of Warcraft, three hours would have seen us through something like the Deadmines at level with time to spare to go do something else.  I think, even as a group of four, running it in WoW Classic, we didn’t need three hours.

If I count the fights we were in and the number of mobs we killed in our first Solasta run, that was maybe the first half dozen groups of trash mobs in the Deadmines.  I think it was a total of six fights for our run, plus all the dialog in between, and we wiped on the sixth.

In some ways Potshot and I might have been an ideal pairing.  We were both new to the game, were willing to press on and learn as we went, didn’t get too invested in things, and took every setback in stride.  Ending as we did in failure was kind of funny, though not as funny as when my wizard missed with a spell for the fifth time running and Anton shouted “You suck!” in the middle of a fight.

The dialog isn’t original, and the voice acting is just okay, but the interjections in fights do liven things up a bit.  There appears to be a wide range of responses and retorts queued up for everybody.  As for the character models… well, you don’t spend that much time up close where they look awkward.  In combat nobody cares if your beard looks like it was formed out of Play-Doh.

So my initial response to the game, at least as a multi player venture, is pretty positive.  It does recreate, in its way, some aspects of real table top RPGs, including the player coordination and slower pacing.  We shall see if we can wrestle the rest of the group into joining in and how four of us will interact.  The one bonus of just two people is that you aren’t left waiting nearly as much as you would be with four.

Returning to Minecraft

With the latest update to Minecraft, which I posted about previously, I was reminded that it had been a couple of years and a few updates since I last really dove into the world of one meter blocks.  So I decided to see what The Wild update… and the other two since The Nether update… had brought to the game.

The Wild update arrives

I wasn’t really ready to commit to a rolling up a whole new world, but I didn’t want to play solo either.  So I went and played on the AOKayCraft server, which is run by one of what I consider the extended family of our corner of the blogesphere.

I have, in fact, see the giant recycling center and the hospitality center shown on the site.  I even claimed a room.

And running around there helped get me back into the mood for Minecraft.  I was able to fiddle with the field of vision settings to get it to the point where it wasn’t causing instant motion sickness on my 34″ monitor every time I turned around quickly.

Meanwhile, we were taking on the plains in Valheim and slaying Yagluth and kind of reaching an end to our journey there.  There were still things to do, and I am not pulling down that server quite yet.  There is still some slim hope that the mistlands biome might show up some day soon, given how much the devs have been teasing it. (And because they’ve also got the game on XBox live for PC and XBox… which Microsoft did the dev work for… so they will have even more customers eventually hitting a wall after Yagluth.)

I will have more to post about when it comes to Valheim, but it really felt like we might need to find another title to occupy us.  Of course, there is a promise of Wrath of the Lich King Classic, but Blizz has not been forthcoming with dates on that.

Meanwhile, we all knew Minecraft and there isn’t a co-op server world easier to roll up than doing one on Minecraft Realms.  At least not one that I know of.  So I put that in motion quickly enough.

The main delay was that I wasn’t interested in a random world.  I kind of wanted something good, something with some resources nearby that we could dive right into.  So I went Googling around for the best 1.19 Java Edition world seeds.

I came up with one (seed 5636173029472278327) that starts you near a village that is next to a ravine with a large mining complex in it.  It was also close to an ocean, so boat exploration was an option.  I figured that would be a decent start.

But them I went over to the Chunkbase to their seed mapper to see what else was close by.  There were warm oceans and badlands biomes not too far away, easily reachable by boat.

The map based on the seed value

So I fired up the Minecraft Realms account, created a fresh new world with that seed, and the group joined in.  The village is nice.  I still have to get used to the earth opening up right next door.

That is a heck of a drop

I wasn’t in early on the Minecraft thing.  I didn’t play until Father’s Day seven years ago.  But the game has actually changed a lot since then.  People were worried about Microsoft taking over, and I was worried at one point that they were going to dump the Java edition, which doesn’t have a cash shop like the Bedrock edition, but things are still moving along.

Anyway, that is our home for the moment.  A fresh new world is always fun.

Frost Caves in Valheim

In my writings about our most recent run through Valheim, I skipped right over frost caves.  Though, to be fair, as a group we skipped right over them as well, leaving the mountains and heading for the plains at the first opportunity and never really looking back.

We got up there, made an outpost, found some onion seeds, grabbed a bunch of silver, killed Moder (twice), collected a bunch of wolf pelts and meat, some obsidian, and a few other items we needed, the went to our plains base and didn’t really look back.

At least we didn’t look back until we started trying to maximize comfort.  Ula’s hot tub was a step on that journey.

I went to the wiki to find the different things that could boost your comfort number and found the red jute carpet listed, the ingredients for which come from frost caves.  So we got together and headed back to the mountains.

I had marked a few on my explorations, so we had a couple near to hand.

Frost caves are essentially the mini-dungeon content added to the mountain biomes since we last played, the equivalent of the crypts in the swamps and the burial chambers in the black forest biomes.

They are, however, much more scarce than either of those.  I found two in the one big mountain biome where we fought Moder, and one each in two other mountain biomes.  It is possible I missed some, the can be hard to spot from any direction besides the front.  They either blend into a cliff side or they look like rock lumps, like troll caves, from behind.

Anyway, once we heard that frost caves held something we wanted, we spent and afternoon digging about in them.

Into the frost caves

As with the crypts and burial chambers, they are dark, with some lighting here and there.  It is advisable to have a torch to hand.

They are divided up into areas of rough hewn caves, covered in frost with icicles hanging down, and finished stone areas where the residents of the caves hang out.

We’re into the cultist area now

The caves look pretty good.  There is a lot more vertical going on in them, though that isn’t always all good.  Leaving aside when Ula fell down the middle of one of the rough hewn spiral stair cases, the random nature of the frost cave generation means you can go down and down and down various descents and end up in an empty area, making the trip pointless.

Ula went down the hole there

And then there are the creatures.  Bats are the most annoying, but least deadly.

Bats all over

They are just a pain to hit, behaving a bit like deathsquitoes, fluttering about, going in and out of melee range, but without the big damage.  They are also a bit tougher than the deathsquitoes, though they still died with one solid hit.

Then there are the Ulvs and the Cultists, neither of which I managed to grab a screen shot of.  Ulvs are kind of wolves, down on all fours… while the Cultists are like werewolves, up on their back legs.  Also, the Cultists have flame throwers, which is part of the reason I don’t have a screen shot because we were all busy trying to kill them or not get torched.

As for why to go to the frost caves, there are the resources, including red jute.  I am still not exactly sure where the red jute comes from, as it was dark and we were just knocking the crap out of everything and then some appeared.  It might be a cultist drop.

There are also crystals, which are the same crystals that stone golems drop when you kill them.  These are much easier to gather, so if you want to make that crystal battleaxe that is now in the game, this is the quicker path to that.

And then there is fenris hair, which is hanging all over the place.  If you collect enough of this, and you need a lot, you can make the fenris armor set.  I made the hood with what we collected, which actually looks pretty cool.

Glowing blue Fenris eyes

In hindsight, the fenris set might have been useful for our Yagluth fight.  While it doesn’t have the outright protection of the padded armor set, it is lighter, so you move faster, and it comes with fire protection, which would have been huge against Yagluth.

The fenris hood stats, with set bonus listed

Fast and fire resistant seems like a good plan.  We’ll have to remember that for next time.

Overall, they look good, even if the random generation does end up with some awkward layouts.  A decent addition to the game.

And, of course, we got our red jute rug.  That was the point of the expedition, to raise out comfort level up another notch.