alt="Echoes of the Dead Instance Cluster Part One: the 3-Man Instances"
new instance cluster, foreshadowed as far back as January 11, is a
nice, juicy addition to the Lord of the Rings Online. They are a part
of the overall story, picking up just as the rangers of the Grey
Company embark on a mission to aid their leader, Aragorn, leaving a
dangerous power vacuum in their wake. Sauron, sensing an opportunity
for greater power, has dispatched his five Gaunt-lords, cruel and
powerful undead magic-users built to directly oppose the five Istari
(Saruman the White, Gandalf the Grey, Radagast the Brown, and Alatar
and Pallando, the two Blue wizards who do not feature in the story).
Each of the new instances is governed by one of these Gaunt-lords, and
the battle to lay these evil things to rest is a story arc all its own,
called "In Their Absence." This new quest arc is related to the epic
line but separate from it. This means there are several reasons to run
the new instances: for the loot, for the barter tokens for the new raid
armor, or for the story.
All stories have their beginnings, and
"In Their Absence" starts in the northern part of the Shire, near the
village of Oatbarton at North Cotton Farm.
NORTH COTTON FARM
For these instances, I used my Hunter, who is my most
"complete" character. I could have gone with a different toon, but the
Hunter is my main and I do all my exploring with him.
things first - head to Oatbarton, head west and find the entrance to
North Cotton Farm just up the hill. Some hobbits have gone missing
since the mysterious relic appeared in Bungo Grubb's pipeweed field a
short while ago, and North Cotton Farm is where you find them.
The instance starts with several groups of spiders hanging
around the roads. These "trash" fights are not terribly difficult
and the poisons are easily-managed with potions. As you kill groups of
spiders, and other mobs later on, your progress will be marked by the 4
hiding hobbits, who will present you with "keys" which unlock gateways
along the paths. The first one is in the very first area and will
unlock a gate once you kill all the spiders menacing him at the base of
his tree. Follow the path around the village until you reach the lair
of a giant spider, Legbarthil, who is waiting by herself in the middle
of a big
alt="Legbarthil, first boss in North Cotton Farm"
This fight takes some endurance, and
the buff from the Hunter's Purge Poison skill will be a huge asset
here. There are a couple of things to watch for in this fight; the
first is when she releases a cloud of corrosive poison - similar to
Hwandrin in Skumfil, but with a less-obvious animation. Get out of the
poison cloud as quickly as possible when it drops by moving a few steps
backwards. Don't get her too close to the door, though, or she will
reset. These puddles drop quite often.
The second thing to watch
out for is the big, pulsating egg sack she will periodically lay. When
this egg sack hatches, it spawns several small spiders, which don't
usually attack the players, but which are food for mama spider and heal
when she eats them. When the egg sack drops, destroy it immediately
before the spiderlings hatch.
Also be aware that she will use a
web attack to root players in place. She mostly uses this on secondary
targets, not on the tank, so the DPS and/or healer may find their
mobility severely hampered.
she is killed and the chest is looted, the hobbit hiding nearby will
give you a key that opens a gate back the way you came from. Head there
and continue on to the next fight. The mobs blocking your way this time
are wolves, and again they are not terribly difficult. At the end of
that path, you will have your first encounter with Thadur the Ravager
and his giant cauldron of evil.
His plan is diabolically over-complicated, like any proper
super-villain: he has baked a batch of poisoned pies
and laid a fiendish trap near them, luring hobbits out of their homes
with the spellbindingly-delicious smell. You have three jobs in this
fight: 1) destroy the cauldron, Umheryn; 2) keep the noxious fumes from
concentrated in one spot; 3) smack some sense into the hypnotized
hobbits before they eat the poisoned pies.
style="width: 396px; height: 530px;"
alt="Overhead Map of the Umheryn Fight"
fight is kind of a mad-house scramble. We used the positions on the map
- Hunter took the Ranged Attacker (RA) position, Burglar took the Melee
Attacker 2 (MA2) position, Captain took the Interceptor (INT) position.
Thadur will randomly target
players for the poison cloud debuff, indicated by a glaring green eye
over the character's head. When you get the eye, step away from the
cauldron and find a secluded place to spread the poison around (the
dotted blue lines).
Eye-marked characters need to keep moving, as the debuff causes a cloud
of poison to spawn every few seconds. Everyone will get the eye at some point during the fight. Two guys will have the eye and one guy will not. No one person will be excluded from Thadur's attention, and everybody will get a turn to attack the cauldron, so use the MA1 and RA positions as "clean" spots where poison clouds are not to be dropped. Whoever doesn't have the eye can stand in the "clear" spot while the other two run around slapping hobbits. The poison clouds dissipate fairly quickly, so there shouldn't be a
lot of running through the dropped clouds.
While this is
happening, a steady stream of hobbits will come marching slowly out of
their houses, heading towards the pie table near the entrance to the
area (the dotted red line). These hobbits must be slapped with a
targeted /slap emote to wake
them from their hypnosis. This is the task of the guys running off the poison eyes. If
too many of them reach the pies, they will die
and the group fails the challenge. To make this easier, players can give themselves a clickable slap skill:
- Clear a spot in your quickslots. I usually temporarily relocate the skill in the "1" position (the first box on the left of the main toolbar), and will use that spot for reference.
- Type the following in chat: /shortcut 1 /slap (If you are using a different quickslot, use that number instead)
- Move your new /slap clicky skill somewhere usable and drag your "1" skill back to its home. Target someone and test out the new skill to make sure it works.
On Tier 2 difficulty, the group has a limited amount of time
to destroy the cauldron. There is a glowing bucket on the porch of the
nearby house, which can be used to douse the flames causing the
cauldron to boil (thus removing the time limitation), but if you use it
you fail the challenge.
Once the cauldron is smashed, Thadur will shake his fist
angrily like all the great super-villains and abscond to the end of the
him down after looting the chest, fighting boars and goblins along the
way. The goblins have an interesting poison attack that makes the
target very, very drunk for a few seconds, so these fights can be
slightly more challenging than the other trash pulls.
you finally reach Thadur at the end of the instance, he is standing in
round-ish courtyard in a low-ground area. When he is engaged, he will
have a poison aura surrounding him much of the time, and he hits like a
freakin' monster. If the group gets split up, Thadur will unleash some
devastating attacks, and if the group stays together it can get
murdered by damaging auras (which are removable corruptions - he will say something about the poisonous vapors granting him strength). All in all, it's best to stay grouped.
style="width: 557px; height: 712px;" alt="Thadur the Ravager"
When Thadur raises his hands and shouts (see image), he is
unleash a special brand of hell on anyone standing in front of him -
get behind him quickly and avoid the blast. And when he drops
the poison clouds (he will invite you to behold the power of Blackthorn), move away immediately but stay in a tight
formation - the group that gets split up gets murdered. Occasionally, he will hit a character with a fear attack, which will cause the character to flee in a panic. For this reason, try to keep the fight contained in the little round courtyard and away from the door at the top of the hill - a fleeing character can cause the fight to reset.
This fight is
generally less madhouse than the fight against the cauldron,
provided the group has solid healing, and he's the last guy in here.
Kill him for great justice and claim your prizes.
The next stop on the instance tour is in the
North Downs, just up the hill north of William
Peake's burned-down husk of a farm. This is the handiwork of another of
the Gaunt-lords, who has taken his show on the road and done a number
on the town of Stoneheight, an area that has been closed to visitors
until now. The Gaunt-lord does not make a personal appearance here.
Before heading into this warzone, make sure you have an ample
supply of Steeped Healing Draughts. Wounds are a major factor in this
instance - note that the color of the markings on the mysterious relic
at William Peake's farm is red.
you first go in, you'll note that the town has clearly seen better days
- the sky is red and smoky from the burning buildings, and the streets
are littered with rubble. There are a few trash mobs just inside the
door, and these are easily dispatched.
The first boss fight in
here is quite challenging. It's a group of three goblins, a big one and
2 smaller ones. The small ones are linked and cannot be effectively
crowd-controlled - applying a mez to one and then attacking the other
breaks the mez on the first one. And the big one has a powerful
corruption that absorbs most incoming damage. Removing this corruption
will make the fight go much easier, but will cause the group to fail
alt="Gundul and his minions"
This is a bloody and difficult fight. The big goblin, Gundul,
doesn't hit very hard, but he takes almost no damage from the powerful
corruption he wears while the little ones are alive. Gundul can be
tanked fairly easily by Wardens and Guardians, but Champions and other
classes whose threat-generation is DPS-based will have a hard time
holding his aggro.
The strategy here is divide and conquer - tank wants to grab
and hold Gundul and one of the little ones, and DPS wants to tear down
one of the little ones as quickly as possible. The little ones drop
caltrops during the fight, and the caltrops are deadly - when you see
them on the ground at your feet (they look like little spiky stars)
move to a new position and pot off wounds. Also, Gundul will call out
targets during the fight - "Kill that filthy Dwarf, (name)!" When he
does, the little guys, Pizbur and Pizurk, will focus fire on that
target. The targeted character will want to kite them for a few seconds
until this focused attack ends, and then resume fighting as normal.
A good setup for this fight is Guardian, Minstrel and any DPS
Guardian will shield-wall the DPS guy, and the Minstrel will bubble up
with Lyric of the Hammerhand. Also useful is the top-tier morale and
power potions from the LotRO store - the heal-over-time is not big, but
can be enough to offset the damage from a bleeding wound when pots are
on cooldown, and the cooldown timer for store-bought potions is
separate and much, much shorter than the one for regular, crafted
course, if you're doing this on Tier 1 difficulty to advance the story,
you can simply remove the big goblin's corruption. You don't want to do
that on Tier 2, but it's allowable on Tier 1.
Once the goblins are down and the chest is looted, the hard
part is over and it's time to head deeper into the town.
There are several trash pulls on the way, including a very large group
of wolves that can easily overwhelm the group. You will see the first
wolves sleeping near the foot of some stairs beside an aqueduct - be
prepared to fight around 12 of them at once if the pull goes badly. In
other words, if you pull them at all. The trick here is to step lightly
and flit past them without disturbing their slumber by not stepping on
them. This can be done without stealth of any kind, just watch your
footing and don't kick any of them in the face. If you wake one of
them up, the whole pack comes alive - a good dozen 10k-morale wolves
with slows and bleeds.
alt="IT'S A TRAP!"
The next boss is an uruk, Bubhosh-Grat in a walled-off,
down-sloping area. This fight is not terribly difficult - particularly
when compared to the goblins - but there is one thing to watch out for.
He has an attack similar to Commander Tarsh
in the School at Tham Mirdain - an area-effect "storm of blades" that
shreds anyone standing nearby. Like Commander Tarsh, he announces his
intent before starting this attack, saying he wants to show you a
trick, so players have time to get a safe
This guy is an abject coward and will bail before
you have a chance to end his miserable life, dashing off to go tattle
to his boss. Loot the chest and chase him down.
There is one more trash pull before the last fight and an
vignette when you reach the final stage. The uruk runs in to inform his
superior that he was unable to defeat the intruders and is executed for
his failure. Woot!
alt="Bubhosh-Grat conferring with Dale Truitt"
HA! You wish. That's Tier 1, son. The Tier 2 big boys roll
hardcore and fight 'em both. Dale Truitt and his trusty sidekick Bubba
This is a gnarly kite-fest and will push healers to their
limits. The fight opens with a stun on one member of the fellowship,
and it's usually whoever strikes the first blow. In the event that the
group has a Rune-keeper who is attempting to pre-build healing
attunement, it will usually be the Rune-keeper.
For this run, we had a Hunter, Warden and Rune-keeper. The
three of us stood near the entrance rather than getting up close - the
mobs are attackable from a distance, and getting in close may make
aggro management more difficult. When the fight starts, Dale Truitt
turns invisible and unattackable, and Bubba will run after whoever
started the fight. The
Hunter tagged Dale Truitt with a hard opener (Heart-seeker works, or
Improved Swift Bow) and took the stun like a man, and the Warden
grabbed Bubhosh-Grat. The Rune-keeper held off building up his
attunement until the fight started - if he gets stunned right off the
hop, the group is completely without heals for 10 seconds, which can be
disastrous early on.
kited Dale Truitt around the courtyard, running a wide circle around
the perimeter and occasionally pausing to refresh
his threat buildup when the Rune-keeper's healing threat built up over
time, and turning to attack Bubhosh-Grat when Dale Truitt did his nifty
disappearing trick. The Warden held Bubba for the whole fight and was
primary DPS on him as well - something Wardens can pull off respectably
but which can be somewhat beyond the abilities of some other classes.
Keep in mind that Bubhosh-Grat goes through his full repertoire in this
fight, including the "trick" he shows you earlier - this is not some
watered-down rehash, but the same as the earlier fight.
Bubba goes down first, then turn attention to Dale.
He has inductions that can and should be interrupted, and will
occasionally make targeted attacks against the healer or DPS, but once
is out of the picture the fight is not especially difficult. Remember,
though - do not remove corruptions. Not on any boss fight.
Once Dale-Bob and Bubba are slain, loot the chest for
medallions, runes, relics and killer jewelry, and rejoice in the fact
that you have saved the town of Stoneheight, though it continues to
burn around you.
These strategies work with the specific groups described, and
running with a different group makeup will require some tweaking.
For example, running Stoneheight with a Guard and Minstrel
rather than a Warden and Rune-keeper will have slightly different
results - big instant spot-heals and forced aggro as opposed to long
HoTs and building gambits. Whatever the group makeup, everyone will
want to bring their A-game.
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