DDO Update 10 Hands-On Preview

Update 10 for Dungeons and Dragons Online features the Reign of Madness adventure pack and a crafting update. Jeffprime risks his sanity to venture into Xoriat and preview Update 10.

Turbine continues Dungeons and Dragons Online's descent into madness with new content with Update 10, which (conveniently) goes live today. Offered the chance to get a hands-on preview, I jumped at the opportunity and was run through the first adventure in the Reign of Madness adventure pack in addition to learning of the crafting update heading players’ way. My tour guides were Ian Currie (Design Director), Erik Boyer (Producer), and Fernando Paiz (Executive Producer).

Reign of Madness

Update 10 is primarily the Reign of Madness adventure pack. This series of adventures (level 17 and up) continues the madness-themed adventures, Harbinger of Madness, from Update 9. As we were starting up, I told the DDO team that I was looking forward to the new adventure as long as there were no beholders as that my entire party had been wiped a few times by a bad-ass beholder the night before. (We were eventually victorious). The response from the DDO team was a great deal of laughter and I was informed that not only would I be facing beholders, but there were, in fact, three new beholders in this adventure pack. Sighing with the certainty of failing my saves, I plunged into the adventure.

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You'll find yourself facing a ton of beholders like the new Fleshmender Beholder.

The overall theme of Reign of Madness is that the Tower of the Twelve is overtaken by forces from Xoriat, the plane of madness. To free the Tower from the grip of insanity, you’ll have to travel to Xoriat itself and turn powerful Xorian lords against one another. The quest begins with the Acute Delirium adventure.

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The evil mindflayer who possesses the scepter.

In Acute Delirium, the goal is to recover the Scepter of Belashyrra, a powerful artifact that can open portals between the world of Eberron and Xoriat. The hapless Rorry Malcanus has lost it somewhere in the Sleeping Spell Inn and it is up to you to recover it. Overall, this adventure is broken into four distinct parts and is incredibly imaginative.

First, the players look and attempt to recover the scepter. Once you enter the inn, you'll begin your search. Eventually, you’ll find the scepter within the grasp of a mindflayer, who you’ll chase throughout the inn. Poor souls who have been tainted by chaos will assault you. If you take too long in dealing with them, hideous floating eyeballs will erupt from them and attack you. After dispatching those doomed souls and killing the mindflayer, the scepter is there for you to take, but….

As soon as you go to grab the scepter, a treasure chest in the corner comes alive, rushes over, and swallows the scepter. This is no mere treasure chest, it’s a mimic! A mimic is a creature that can change its shape and disguise itself as an inanimate object, which is usually a chest. This marks the introduction of the mimic to DDO. You will then be forced to chase the mimic throughout the inn as he capers about taunting you as you chase him. You eventually corner him in the laundry room where he activates the scepter, which opens a portal to Xoriat. Your screen changes with an eerie red tinge to it and the perspective becomes slightly warped. As you look up to the ceiling, you see the ceiling break apart and the portal to Xoriat becomes clear. Next, a huge beholder comes down and swallows the mimic whole and returns to Xoriat.

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The mimic taunts you worse than the French guy in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

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The mimic is a cruel, taunting creature.
Thus begins the second stage of the adventure. You have to travel to Xoriat, but the portal is high up past the ceiling. What to do? The voice of the DM informs you that you need to build an airship…an airship built from the materials from the inn. Since the properties of Xoriat are now flowing into the inn, natural law no longer exists.

Your goal now is to construct an airship by using the beds and bookcases in the inn. To do so, you’ll go up to the various beds and bookcases and talk to them. They will then animate and begin to march their way to the laundry room. However, since the portal is open, minions from Xoriat are entering the inn. You’ll have to keep them from destroying the furniture as they march. Here you’ll get your first taste of the Frost Beholder. This is my favorite part of the whole adventure and I found it incredibly entertaining and imaginative. Watching the furniture march through the inn was like seeing Fantasia mesh with Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Once the furniture reaches the laundry room, they swirl together high in the air until you assemble enough components. I was reassured by the DDO team that you can never run out of furniture. If furniture is destroyed, it will respawn. If the furniture is destroyed several times, it will respawn as hardier furniture and will be more difficult to destroy. Once you have enough components, they will form a giant airship and you’ll find a ladder nearby to climb up and enter the portal to Xoriat.

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Furniture on parade!

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Swirling furniture.

Once aboard the airship, you’ll enter the third stage of the adventure. Here you’ll race after the beholder that ate the mimic while attempting to keep hordes of beholders from boarding your airship. The airship has a rest and resurrection shrine and the look of the airship is damn cool as you see the beds and bookcases that comprise its construction. The beholders you’ll face during this stage include the Chaos Beholder introduced in Update 9, plus the new Frost Beholder, Beholder Fleshmender, and Armored Beholder. These fights are extremely brutal in that the beholders can push you off the airship with telekinesis. If you’re pushed off, and you probably will be, you’ll plummet to your death back to the inn. You’ll have to rez in the inn and to get back to the airship, you’ll have to climb an impossibly high ladder in the laundry room.

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Your makeshift airship.

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Bookcases and beds = airship.

Once you’ve beaten off the beholder hordes, you’ll find the beholder that swallowed the mimic, but now he has grown huge. Luckily, he is asleep so to retrieve the scepter from the mimic, you’ll have to jump into the beholder’s mouth and go into his innards.

Once inside the nasty innards of the beholder, you’ll see several chests and other creatures swallowed by the beholder. Some of the monsters are free and they’ll attempt to free the trapped monsters. The best strategy of a group is to target the free monsters first to keep the number of monsters manageable during the fight. Once you’ve dispatched the monsters, you’ll have to determine which chest is the mimic. You have the option to break open any chest, but if the chest isn’t the mimic but a real chest, the contents of that chest fall into the stomach acid of the beholder and dissolve. There are a number of ways to determine if a chest is real or the mimic, such as a rogue using their abilities, using skills like Search or listen, or having a high enough Wisdom or Intelligence. Once you find and defeat the mimic, you can grab the scepter and keys that will open the other chests.

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Inside the beholder's stomach.

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Making the beholder vomit.

You now have the scepter, but you’re still inside the stomach of the beholder. To get out, you’ll have to destroy some glands within the beholder to force him to vomit you back out and onto your airship. Once you’ve destroyed enough glands, you’ll be vomited back out onto your airship and you’ll see the beholder reduce in size. After you destroy him, you can use the scepter to open a portal back to Eberron.

You’ll then reappear back in the laundry room of the Sleeping Spell Inn. When you use the scepter to try to close the portal to Xoriat, something bad happens and another portal opens. Appearing before you is the Lord of Eyes, a lord of Xoriat and a being of incredible power. He will demand the scepter from you, and while you have several dialogue options, the end result is that you’ll be forced to hand the scepter over to him. He takes the scepter and decides not to kill you, but instead closes the portal and disappears to begin his plan of taking over our dimension. This ends the Acute Delirium adventure.

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The powerful Lord of Eyes.

The following adventures in the Reign of Madness adventure pack (The Lord of Eyes, the Lord of Stone, and The Sane Asylum) find you helping out everybody’s favorite respect NCP, Fred the Mindflayer, helping out another Xoriat lord to help you against the Lord of Eyes, and then the final showdown with the Lord of Eyes to free the Tower of the Twelve and the Sleeping Spell Inn from his dominion.

Playing through the adventure was a blast and the design is extremely inventive. You’ll face many dangers, and the fight on the airship is hard, but cool. That first step is a doozy! There is also a tremendous amount of voiceover content in the adventure from the DM script to the mad ranting of the mindflayer. Players should definitely enjoy this latest adventure pack.

Crafting, New Armor, and Tower of the Twelve Changes

Crafting gets a boost in Update 10. The crafting level is being raised from 75 to 100. In addition, players can now create unbound shards so you can buy, sell, trade, auction, or just plain give them away if you wish. There is also one new item that will become available in the DDO store and that is a new docent for Warforged called Cog Armor. Lastly, the Tower of the Twelve gets a makeover emphasizing the magical prowess of the Tower’s denizens. Turbine was never enthusiastic about the original layout, so they thought it seemed a good time to give the Tower a makeover seeing as it features in the adventure pack.

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The new Tower of the Twelve.

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The Tower of the Twelve's spiffy makeover.

Future Updates for 2011

After the adventure was played, I asked about future updates for the rest of 2011. I was told that there were 2 more planned updates (Update 11 and Update 12) for the year and that Update 11 was going to be the biggest of the year. The Turbine team mentioned that their focus was to increase the end-game content for the level-capped players. When I pressed for more details, they hit me with a Ray of Paralysis, so I stopped asking.

Overall, Update 10 for DDO is essentially the latest adventure pack with an increase in crafting levels. If the remaining adventures in the Reign of Madness are half as good as the first one, Acute Delirium, then players will be very happy. You can tell the DDO team put a great deal of effort into crafting these adventures and it shows. My only gripe is that I always seem to fail my saves! Update 10 launches Monday, June 20th, for VIP members and is available in the DDO store for other players starting Wednesday, June 22nd.

My thanks to Ian Currie, Erik Boyer, and Fernando Paiz for taking the time to give me a hands-on preview of Update 10.

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