Tag Archives: Blackburrow

The Search for an Ore with a Heart of Gold

Saturday night found us a bit short on players.

Gaff, who now prefers to be referred to as “El Supremo” in the guild hall, was on in multiple guises.

Likewise, Potshot was in game, as was I.

And Earl logged on, having been playing WoW up until our usual start time.

But Cerredwyn and Trucknut were out for the evening.

That meant putting on hold our return to Stormhold, the follow up to our scouting mission.  But we had enough people to run off and do something.

Since I was already in the heritage quest state of mind, having just finished on up, I suggested These Boots Were Made For…, the quest that starts in Antonica and yields the Dwarven Work Boots as a reward.  The quest takes you to a variety of locations and you have to face a few dangerous (at our level) mobs.

So we got together out at The Keep of the Ardent Needle to get the quest and get started.

The group for the night

Earl and I played our regular group characters, Earlthedogwo and Campell, while Potshot used one of his alts, Deneldir, and Gaff… well… he had a couple of Sarnaks in the low 80s which he had copied over and which joined in the group, mentoring Earl.

We grabbed the quest and then hit something of a wall with the first step.

The first step of the quest requires you to go out and harvest 15 units of wood and 15 units or iron ore from harvest nodes in the zone.  This of course got me to bring up how it used to be 100 units of each and it was like a Bataan death march of harvesting that would make you hate badgers before the end of it, as from a distance they look like ore nodes.

But we couldn’t start in on the mere 15 because Earl was shy of the mark for harvesting skills.  You need a skill level of 20 and he was sitting at 15 for both wood cutting and mining.

That sent us on a side trip to Oakmyst Forest, one of the low level zones in the maze of zones that make up the city of Qeynos.  That took a bit of time, but Earl got his skill up and we began to search.

The wood part of the collection is always easier.  When you harvest from a wood node, you get… well… wood 90% of the time.  And when you don’t, you get rare wood, which is always good, or material to imbue items.

It is the ore nodes that get you, and the ore nodes in Antonica are aptly named.

Indifferent to your needs

The ore is callous indeed.

Ore can yield up two different things.  You can get metal, in our case we needed the raw iron clusters that come from callous ore, or you can get loam, which is quite useful in several trade skills, but which doesn’t help a bit when you need that iron.

So all of us finished up the wood part of the collection quite quickly.  And then the search for ore began.

Antonica, like most of the early zones, also has a simple method of populating the zone with harvest nodes.  A given location can spawn any of the land based nodes.  So you might harvest wood from a spot at one point, and later some roots or sandwashed stone will spawn in that location.  The chance of anything spawning at a given point appears to be about equal.

This is in comparison to zones added in expansions, where harvest nodes of a given type cluster in locations where you might reasonably expect to find them, stone and ore near rocks, roots and wood near fertile areas with plants, and so on.

I bring this bit of information up as it leads to something of a natural selection process in harvest nodes.  People around the Keep of the Ardent Needle are often starting this quest and are therefore looking for wood and ore.  They will harvest all of these nodes within site, and only a few of them will respawn as wood or ore.   And then the next group will come through, and then the next, and soon the Keep appears to be surrounded by bushes, roots, and sandwashed stone, the harvest nodes you do not need.

Couple this with the fact that ore doesn’t always give you the item you want (it appears to be biased in favor of loam, though I only say this because I always have a ton of loam and never enough metal ore) and you can spend a long time fulfilling this rather simple segment of the quest.

As I said, it is a good thing they reduced it from 100, since even at a mere 15 iron clusters we spent more time searching for ore than any other segment of the quest.

Earl and I even died trying to reach some ore that was surrounded by basilisks.  Deneldir, a warden, had to come out a revive us.

They died mining

Eventually though, and not too long after our unfortunate deaths, we all had 15 miserable pieces of iron ore to turn in to Hwal the quest giver.

Then he sent us off to collect a few more things, though these involved just killing named mobs.  A chance at last to see new places, meet new people, and kill a few of them.

The first destination was Blackburrow, which was so quick that I didn’t even take a screen shot.  We ran in, killed a gnoll excavator, got our quest update, and were on our way within a couple minutes.

The next stop was Stormhold, a chance to show Earl a good interior location.

Of course, the community helped out in diminishing the whole experience.  We had a guy named Ignition who seemed to be waiting for groups to attack named mobs so he could tag them first, so the group would kill the mob and he could take the loot.

He tags and expects you to kill

He seemed to be quite good at his asshattery, as he got us once.  The joys of open dungeons.

And then there was the space problem.  A lot of dungeon zones in EQ2 are cramped while characters and mobs can be quite large.

A hall full of scion

And this was not helped by having a pair of Sarnaks… female Sarnaks, the big ones… in our group with one tanking.  That lead to a lot of obstructed views.

Hey, down in front dragon lady!

But there was some good as well.  Our named tagging friend didn’t follow us, and named mobs seemed to be up all throughout the zone, so there were some master chest drops for the group.

The big chest with the best loot

We picked up a few of the quests in the zone, and I shared out a few others I had, so we took a bit of a tour of Stormhold, before arriving at our destination, which was the Caveroot Horror on the second level.

Again supporting my theory that all named mobs are up all the time, there were two Caveroot Horrors and the scion that spawns down there as well, just waiting for us.  That got us the quest update and another master chest drop.

Deep in Stormhold

Then it was just a matter of fighting our way back out of the zone and heading off to the Thundering Steppes, a place with which Gaff and I have a long history.

In the Steppes, it was Bloodtalon we sought.  And he was up, of course, but we hesitated before we went after him.

To get the group all together at a level that would allow everybody to get credit for killing Bloodtalon, everybody ended up at level 21, except Campell who was level 20, which made the big bird, a level 27 heroic encounter, look a little daunting.

Still, there we were and the night was slipping away, so we cleared a couple of nearby griffons, then went after him.

Bloodtalon faces our wrath

It turned out that we did not have much to worry about.  The many group buffs each of us provided ended up being more of a force multiplier than I would have guessed.  In the picture above, Bloodtalon is almost down while the group has suffered almost no damage.

Quest update!

That completed the set of tasks that Hwal had set us, it was time to return to him.  We rode back through the Thundering Stepped to Antonica, then headed to the Keep of the Ardent Needle.

While the hunting part of the night went faster than I expected, with all named mobs being up and waiting for us, the long stretch of mining for ore ate up a lot of the evening, so when we turned in that section of the quest, we also decided to turn in for the night.

Now we have to decide what to do for the next Saturday night.  If the whole crew shows up, we could probably get them through to where we made it in this quest and then carry it on to at least the 72 minute wait portion.  But it would be nice if they could do the ore harvesting ahead of time.

We’ll see where we end up.

Scouting Antonica Dungeons

The plan for the night was to head to Antonica, a zone which is about as old school as one can get in EverQuest II, being part of the original Shattered Lands, as they are now called, back in 2004.

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.

Flying Above Antonica

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.

2 Men, a Frog, and a Rat

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.

Spiders Deep in Blackburrow

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.

Just inside 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.

Lower Level Mobs in Stormhold

Later we ran into some more challenging opponents.

The Scion of Pain is not a Toyota... maybe

But that came further down the line.

First we had to visit some of the early landmarks, like the chess board.

Chess is always BIG in Norrath

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.

We're looking pretty healthy

And a couple of the scions obligingly dropped master chests for us.

It's just a chest... just a chest... the chest you want

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.

Going to the chapel and we're gonna get ress'd

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.

SHHHHHHH!!

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.

Guardians on the stairs down

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.

To Get Rich in Norrath is Glorious

Okay, maybe we didn’t get rich, but my characters have quite a bit more money.

Thanks to some of the advice on the last post on the topic of money, we were able to redirect our efforts and end up with enough cash to catch us up on spells and the like.

Blackburrow is a bit much to two-box solo, at least where stuff is still up at your own level.  I ran in to try that and ended up leading a train to zone in under three minutes.  It was a record I think.

Since I couldn’t find Potshot on initially, I headed out to West Karana to look into bandits.

While there are a couple of spots where only two bandits spawn, they were already camped.  So I took a chance and started hitting the bandits at the farm near tower 2.

The aptly named Bandit Farm

I found that with a little luck with spawn timing, I could hold down the farm with just my bard, my enchanter, and his pet.  Not only was the experience good, but the drops and the coins looted did start adding up pretty quick.  The bronze weapons they sometimes drop are worth anywhere from 1 to 4 plat.  Serious money for somebody with only a plat to play with.

However, a bad spawn… like finding out that there were two casting bandits around the back of the barn… lead to some less successful encounters.

Bandits to Qeynos Hills!

Later on I even found out that, yes, you can still lose a level in EverQuest if you die.  Again, a bad spawn at the bandit farm did the trick.


But that came a bit later.  First Potshot got on and we decided to hit Blackburrow as a team.

Now I had been into Blackburrow a few times with my second guy on follow and seemed to never have a problem with him getting peeled off or falling into anything.  So naturally, the moment we both start into the zone with our second box in tow, both of them managed to fall into a hole within a minute.

This got us separated and we ended up spending the next 15 minutes just finding each other via vague directions and the little green Xs on the map.

Eventually though, the game could not hold us back.  We found a nice little spot and started the gnoll slaughter.

Deep in Blackburrow

Things got a little hectic at first, thanks to the joy of fleeing gnolls running off to bring back friends.  I am sure at one point we had over a dozen gnolls in play.  But most of them were far enough below our level that we managed to keep a lid on things.  Eventually, after that epic battle, we settled down into a sustainable routine.

Gnolls in smaller numbers

Gnolls were not as good experience-wise as bandits, but they all seemed to have pockets full of stuff.  We slew them until we were all heavily encumbered.  We then waddled out of Blackburrow meeting up at the entrance.

Out of Blackburrow

Then it was time for the second part of the money making plan, selling our booty to the right vendor.

For me, that basically meant stop selling to this guy.

Buy cheap, sell dear!

Yes, that is Tubal Weaver, the NPC vendor who stands just inside the gates of Qeynos.  He is the convenience store of NPC vendors; handy and well located, but you pay a price.

In my case, I found that the vendor at the guilds of either of my characters would give me roughly double the amount in coins for any given item.  I am going to have to keep a known price item with me now just to test vendors out in the field.

Anyway, after focusing on that for the weekend, I was able to accumulate enough coins to bring Thrall up to date on his spells, with a good 50 plat surplus between the two of them to cover future levels.

Now, next on my list, is equipment.  Both Tistann and Thrall are wandering Norrath rather under-equipped.  I will have heard conflicting reports on which of the newbie armor quests are in-game at this point.  Potshot has managed to finish a couple of the Paladin quests, so I will have to research the bard and enchanter quests.

Death Gains Teeth, I Learn About Maps

Potshot wasn’t around, but I had some time to play, so I thought I might fool around with the whole mult-boxing thing again.

But then as I was getting setup, I got an invite to a group in Qeynos Hills, so I decided to run with that instead.

An odd fact about me in MMOs is that I will hardly ever bother other people and ask them to group, worrying that I might be interrupting something else they have going on, but if I will almost always drop what I am doing to join a group when asked.

This lead to another educational moment.

There was no map back in EverQuest at any time when I played it seriously, just as there was no quest log, no mounts, and no avoiding running naked back to your corpse when you died.

But I knew that a map had been added.

The map SOE added in has struck me in the past as probably the best compromise one could hope to have tacked onto the game, but not exactly a feature you want to put up in a head to head challenge against maps in other MMOs.  While it accomplishes the basics, there is a drawing of your current area and an arrow that represents you and the direction you are facing, it comes across as quite primitive.  In wide open places like West Karana, you have to zoom way out on the map to even see a landmark, while in town you have to zoom way in because all of the landmarks and legends blur together.

Finding something in South Qeynos

Now, on the upside of this map interface, you can get in there and add your own notations and create your own maps.  And you have to at some point, as I recall that maps to a lot of the zones are not provided by SOE. (Though you can find maps for most locations at MapFiend.)

Anyway, enough map background.

When I joined the group I asked where they were and was told to look at the map.

Really?

I opened up the map and just saw Qeynos Hills.

Then I noticed a button over on the right hand side with the label “group.”  It was not selected, though SOE’s choice of indicating what options are selected and which are not is… suboptimal in my opinion.  I look at it, see text in yellow and text in white, and my first thought is to wonder if the stuff in yellow is highlighted because it is somehow more important.  I have to think about it for a minute before I realize that yellow is “on” and white is “off.”

Not the worst UI choice in the world, but even back in 1999 there was a huge body of work on UI design and I don’t think this would have made the cut.  But like so much in EverQuest, it is what it is and after 12 years it is not going to change.

So I clicked on group, turning it on (and yellow) and… nothing happened.

Then I closed the map and opened it back up again and there were little green Xs where the group members were on the map.

A little green X

Crude, but oh what a time saver that would have been back in 1999.  We used to sit on group chat or in tells trying to direct people by landmarks or, worse yet, the /loc coordinates.  There is a whole list of unofficial landmark names for nearly every zone, or there used to be, to help direct people and point out what is currently camped.  Only you had to have memorized that list, and the list sometimes changed… it was one of the great oral traditions of EQ, the passing down of the landmark list around the campfire.

Anyway I found the group, and in any current game I am not sure that it would come across as the ideal mix, but it worked well enough.  We had a ranger with tracking to run out an pull mobs, two shaman, and a paladin.

The paladin was invited to the group just after I got to the others and it was, hey, Stroppadin.  And he asked, “Where are you guys” and got told “Check the map” just like I did, which means that maybe I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t turned on the group markers.

We all sat at a fixed location while the ranger, Siege, ran around and pulled stuff to us.  We then took over the fight, beat up or burned down the mob, and moved to the next one he brought.  So it was puller, tank, and two healers/buffers.  We did later add a damage dealer, Samoth, a wizard who spent most of his time seated and regaining mana but who, when he was able to stand up and join in, pretty much one-shotted anything that got pulled.

Waiting for the next pull

We did that for a stretch, and things were working well enough, and then another group moved in up the way and mobs were scarce for a while.  So we decided to run over the hill and see if Blackburrow offered anything.

Behold! Blackburrow!

Of course, we got in there and nobody claimed to know anything about the place except me, so everybody followed my lead.

My usual plan for Blackburrow is to dive right in but just falling through the false bottom in the hollow tree and then spending the rest of the time trying to find my way out.  So down we went.

However, as I might have expected, Blackburrow was heavily camped.  We got complaints and moans from people as we elbowed our way through the throng, killing the occasional gnoll we could get our hands on.  Siege, our puller, chose the moment after we dropped through the tree to go AFK for half an hour.  He was killed by something aggro in short order.  I’m not sure what, since we were all wandering around lost.

Eventually we found a small spot to camp where a couple of gnolls would pop.

In Blackburrow

Siege eventually came back and wanted to know how to get to us.  Meanwhile, we decided that we had actually been doing better up where we were, so told him to sit tight and we would come to him.  Our little camp in Blackburrow had the advantage of being a point from which I knew how to get out of the place.

We ran back to Siege outside of Surefall and resumed our routine.  The other group had moved on and mobs were plentiful.  Both Stropp and I managed to hit level 6.


And lest you think that line about losing experience when you die is a bit subtle, a window also pops up to remind you that death will now cost you.


Now what constitutes a “small fraction” of my experience… we shall see.

Back in the day it used to be 20-25% of a level gone with each death, though you would get some of that back if you got a ress.

And now I suppose that, when I die, I will leave corpses laying about the landscape, like Skronk and I saw in West Karana the previous night.  Progress, in a way.

A new aspect of the game.  But at least I am now a level closer to Spirit of the Wolf.