Seth’s Fortress and the Chaos Maze (or … My Adventures in Imm CR’ing)

I’ve very recently developed a desire to relearn how to map the Chaos Maze.  This is something I used to know back in the day but as a matter of course it’s been changed over the years.  I used to take the Guild of Druids to Magus of Evil (the equipment works well on an evil druid) and to Jade (who doesn’t need a couple of strands?).  As I’ve become the Second of the Guild of Thieves getting out to Jade seems more imperative.  After all, thieves need strands to make Falcon sets, in addition to their general usefulness on their own.

So I sat down last night, thinking myself well prepared.  I had some help and notes to guide me and I set out.  I share this litany of mistakes with you in part to remind myself any time I get thinking I’m good at this game of where I’ve been and also so that you can learn from my mistakes.  Had I been a little more careful, there would have been no need for an imm to CR 3 of my characters (thanks again Romani!!).

Did you know there’s no obvious way to get a Paladin to hide?  Me either!  The chaos hound just before the maze reminded me about it.  Ok, into the maze … you know … if you forget to hide someone and switch to another window, sooner or later you’re going to have to CR the first guy right?  Off with the weathered boots and on with the moccasins.

When I’ve seen people map the maze in the past I see them come back with a bunch of charmed chaos creatures in tow, put them all to sleep and away we go.  I’d love to know how they do it because every second or third creature my dominate would fail and I’d be fighting.  Sure, just relog … oops, there goes the charm on the other mobs.  Kill it off!!  Ok, not bad but you’ve got to watch that your alignment doesn’t drift too far or zapski!  Not only that, but if you kill them, you’ll be dealing with them next repop.  Not the end of the world, but one more thing right?  Why deal with them?  Well … false fires, pick up coins and finally a private room that will stop you from spamming in the directions once you have them.

Oh and since you’re on a vampire, keep an eye on that blood 🙂

Ok so they’re dealt with at last (you got the rats too right??) so now it’s time to try and figure out the path.  There’s a lot of room at this point to spin your wheels and get nowhere.  Especially if your clues about how to solve the maze are wrong.  Over the years the solution to the maze has changed but the overall idea has stayed the same.  It’s a testament to creativity in how this maze can be tweaked and re-tweaked and yet stay so similar.

So … after 3 or so hours of using the wrong directions, assuming that I was messing something up, I found out I was using the wrong method.  Seems my notes are at least a generation too told 🙂  Oops.  Oh well.  With a different method I was at the divine protector in short order.  Bitty boppity boo and the whole crew is through.  Down the hallway, past the slavering beast (thanks hide!!) and I’m parked outside the door of the Magus of Evil.  Ok, 1 am on a work night?  I’m told it was well past time to get to bed (thanks mom … hun!  No seriously… I’d just stay up and have to drag all day long, I can be bad that way…)

Ok fresh morning, and ready to go… hey .. log in and do a quick kill, catch a repop and then I’ll have an hour to map the maze.  Let me stop you right here.  This is the first BIG mistake.  No matter how good you think you are, no matter how fast you’ve mapped the maze in the past … this is a no supplicate area with lots of multi-avatar mobs.  MAP THE MAZE FIRST!!  If you’ve successfully mapped the maze twice in the last 10 years … read this whole paragraph one more time!

Magus of Evil is not a tough kill.  I’ve racked up lots of kills here, but never multi-solo.  Not to mention my auto-quaff triggers and such aren’t set up on all my characters.  Mistake number 2, take the time to prep properly.  Being over-eager to jump in and kill will usually end badly.  When my thief, paladin and warrior all dropped I really realized this.  I was of sound enough mind to flee my remaining thief and move back into the hallway with my mage and cleric.

Ok time to CR.  Well … I have a surviving thief, so I’ll relog him so Magus will not be aggressive and then I’ll loot the corpses.  Quit … oh wait!  Do you see it?  When you quit you break your group.  This rookie move is what put me behind the 8 ball.  I had a mage and cleric standing around doing nothing and who were not in combat.  Walk them in and cr, redistribute the weight as much as possible, drop potions if need be and recall… a nice calm response.  Remap the maze, pick up the potions and start over.  Quit… damn.

Well that tears it, I’ve got to get the maze mapped post-haste.  No time for charming, if I can get a char back through grouped I can dump stuff on the floor if I have to.  I almost made it too.  With 5 ticks remaining I had the maze mapped, now I still had to get re-grouped and get back to Magus’ room without another incident.  I might have made it… 5 minutes or so… 3 corpses…  If it had been 1 corpse I would have gone for it.  If I lost it … ok.  3?  Chickened out!  Now I had already checked if anyone was around in the order who could help out and when that failed I gave Romani a heads up just in case she was thinking of going for a relaxing coffee and coming back to the keyboard in 20 minutes 🙂  I’m grateful she hung around 🙂

The cost of the cr was a maddening voices and two essences of the kundalini … a bit pricey but much better than the alternative.  Given the Nasrs, Justices, rings of the ancient gods and other goodies in the corpses it could have been worse.  Some people were commenting on how expensive it was … immortal cr’s are not a right, they’re not hard coded like supplicating is … you rolls the dice you takes your chances.  If you don’t like it, there’s still 5 ticks …  I just wish it hadn’t been the same wearloc on two dev chars … my storage can re-equip one, but I had to loot one off another character.  That’s my only beef, two of the same item can be a bother.

So that’s it.  I did get two kills in on Magus bringing home a couple of sets of low cost gear.  I gained a ton of experience, learned a lot and it only cost me a moderate amount … a lot better than the dt’s I used to hit while learning!

State of the Nations

Over the last few weeks I’ve been trying to get to know the active members of the role play community on Realms, exploring the half-elf nation and learning some of the history from forums that cover a great span of time.

I suppose I didn’t need to, I could have just jumped right in, but I thought that it might be a little more respectful of the community to take a little time to learn.  Some of the things I’ve learned include:

  • There are a lot of interested people, not all want to lead, everyone has their own level of involvement and free time
  • There’s no secrecy on hometown boards and I suppose there doesn’t need to be, but I will need to try to be careful to keep what I know and what Tharius knows separate
  • There are huge differences in how people RP on Realms … no way is best as long as it’s respectful of others
  • To paraphrase Ghandi: Be the change you want to see in the game.  If you want activity, generate it.  Nothing will draw others to you like activity and success.

So I won’t bore the people that are successful rp’ers… For those of you thinking of trying it out, start a lowbie and join in.  If you’re not a PK RP person then level doesn’t matter and you can save your main for when you really want to get your feet wet!  The two main Nations boards are NE;NE;N (current stuff) and NE;NE;N;N (histories) of Darkhaven Square.  Your own hometown will also have a board in it that will help get you up to speed.

… and Justice for all!

So after a week that’s mostly been about working on the item database (the drop downs will now update your equipment choices correctly and remove any items from your character that won’t work anymore) and trigger writing (reroller, adepting, a little levelling) a nice simple run seemed like a good chance of pace.

Juan and I went over and visited Justice for a few kills.  We did this IP1 just for simplicity shieldbashing and circling away.  We walked away with 1 devout scale and 3 neutral ones for a total of about 2m in repairs but more importantly we got off our butts and went and did something! 🙂

On our third kill I pulled a good old fashioned newbie move and walked into a fight with no sanc on.  Full tankset, no sanc.  *facepalm*  For Justice, this doesn’t matter even a little bit because she doesn’t tank swap unless you style up, but it’s a great reminder to me to pay attention!! 🙂

Starting points …

One conversation that I seem to have regularly enough to be noteworthy is summed up in the question “how do we attract people to the Realms of Despair?”, and to be fair, it’s a good question to be asking.

Certainly doing things like voting on TopMuds for the Realms helps to promote the game to people who are already interested in muds.  It strikes me though, that many of these users already have their favorite game and may shop around a little but barring some falling out, probably won’t switch.  I justify this by saying that I have tried maybe 2 other muds over the years and never stuck around long, I always come back to Realms.

I think that the java client on the website is a great way to open the door for more users to join.  I would like to work at expanding the capabilities of this client, I saw a web based client last week that strongly resembled some of the Mushclient GUI plugins that are officially supported by Realms and was really impressed by how well it worked.  There’s obviously a lot missing too, triggers and automapping most notably, but it was a good thought.

Ultimately though I think back to how I started.  I am a technically oriented person who enjoys role playing adventure games.  I was weaned on the Commodore 64 SSI Dungeons and Dragons games like Pool of Radiance or Champions of Krynn before exploding into things like the Might and Magic games and spin offs or into things like Diablo.  I did not find the Realms of Despair, they were introduced to me by Daltorak who had been playing for some time.  In turn I found Darrek playing, having migrated from BBSing (both Darrek and I ran systems in Hamilton, Ontario … Weasel’s Domain and Aces High respectively).

So plain, simple, word of mouth advertising.

When I arrived in the Realms I was impressed with the amount of helpful players around, willing to help me out.  Newbie Councillors, Immortals and many others helped me through the first few levels until I joined up with the  Guild of Rangers where I stayed and learned a lot about the game.  Since the guild was tuned to my class I never felt I had to have a second character (right away) to continue learning the game.  Eventually I did level more characters to be more efficient or to reach even further, but it was the guild runs that got me hooked and made me want to level more characters.

I hope the new guild reformation will help a new generation of Realms players have the same experience.

Given the success of the Lord of the Rings movies I would suggest that this genre has a wide ranging appeal.  Technological savvy has never been higher, in general, so long as the approach is straight forward.  I don’t even think that the text based nature is unappealing if we can make use of the technology at our disposal to present it in an appealing manner like the HUD style web interface I mentioned.

These things fail if we don’t continue to work on making the Realms a friendly space for all.  Join Newbie Council, answer questions on chat, trans a recall scroll … sure these are obvious.  Less obvious things like writing an article for the Cry, setting up a Realms fan page and posting some run notes or sharing your thoughts also go a long way towards showing a vibrant, active community worth joining.

 

A lesson in WordPerss themes …

This one’s a little off topic, but it was a matter of great personal anxiety this morning so I thought I’d share … in case any of you do something similar.

While puttering around this morning I hit the blog’s admin page and saw an update to the theme I use was available.  I try to keep things up to date, I never know what bug fix or security fix needs to be included (I don’t work on web development professionally and it’s a lot to stay on top of otherwise) so I’m pretty diligent about applying updates.

The item database page is on a separate template so that it can run the scripts necessary for querying the back end database and what not, and as some of you have seen, I have put a half decent amount of time into getting it working.

After applying the theme update, all that was gone.  Let that sink in… gone… As a work in progress I haven’t backed it up anywhere and I’ve been working through a ssh shell and writing the script in vi … no auto backups anywhere.

Did I say gone?  A quick web search revealed I had just been inducted into the “Theme updates delete the folder and install a new copy from a fresh archive” club.  Yes, it deletes the whole damn folder instead of doing some sort of selective update.  Well Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the Shepherds … who the hell designs this stuff like that without a warning??

Thankfully my hosting provider does nightly backups and I was able to restore the file from their backup … the guy on the phone used a “teach a man to fish” approach so I’ll be able to do this without the hour long panic attack should it ever happen again.

… and it will …

… because I’ll backup today …

… and tomorrow …

… but once I feel safe again, the files are on their own! :->

It *is* a journey, not a destination! :)

I have said this once prior in this blog but my experiences this time around with the Realms of Despair is very much about the journey.  I’m not sure I’m setting out to keep this in mind but it has been floating to the surface of my thoughts regularly of late.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading of reviews and other user sites about the Realms, trying to get a feel for what’s been going on over the last few years, to understand with more depth about where we are.

Some themes appear over and over and I’ve been trying to give them some thought.  I don’t expect to wave a wand and fix anything but I’d like to be part of the solution, not the problem.  Some of these beefs pre-date the Shattering and I’m certain there are no simple, satisfactory fixes that will respect the near 20 years of Realms history and open a new future.

Text-Based Game

I come from the world of BBSing, so my own migration from text based games to text based MUDs was seamless.  I know that this is a hurdle for some, however.  With that said, familiarity with technology, texting, Facebook, email, etc, has never been higher.  I don’t think that the game necessarily needs to be graphical to succeed, but there certainly needs to be an improvement in what is available client wise.

Returning to Realms one of the biggest challenges, after using the Java client was just getting Zmud or Cmud to keep me online reliably.  It turns out that this is mostly the fault of changes to Windows over the years but if this is the new reality then the client should just deal with this aggravation free… New users won’t have tolerance to this.

Especially when it turns out turning on the tick timer does the job of a keep alive just fine.  This is a lot better than setting up an alarm to save every 60 seconds for the simple reason that it doesn’t force the server to save your character to the hard drive over and over… less wear and tear on server hardware = good since we don’t have to pay to replace it.  It’s also less spammy than using look or glance or whatever.

I didn’t talk about MUSHclient or Gmud but I think I’ll talk about clients another time in more detail but I think this makes clear the case that there’s issues that can be addressed.

So even back in the day I was actively playing things like Heroes of Might and Magic, Diablo, Warcraft…  I have always thought that Realms would be incredible graphically based.  I think that there is tremendous potential for people to participate in using MSDP to improve the interface to the game even without eliminating the text based nature, without straining the server and without having to recruit a literal army of artists.

Baby steps! 🙂

Pre-Avatar Play (Levelling)

In every game I play levelling is a challenge.  In the games where you need to have multiple characters the word tedious usually floats up eventually.  If you don’t think so go check out the QQ on the Blizzard Diablo 3 forums where there are only 5 character classes.  Levelling the character to max level (60) means running through the full game 3-4 times (by the end of Hell Act 3 you’re probably done, but you can’t hit anything big until you get at least that far in Inferno).  I can do it in about 12-18 hours per character depending on the character class because I took on playing hardcore mode for fun (1 death, death is permanent) but there are wide zones of levels that are just boring grinding because there is no new content.  This doesn’t include the 100 levels of post level 60 grinding (more later).

So what does this have to do with Realms?  I remember my first time levelling, it was Tharius the half-elf ranger, sort of based on Tanis from the Dragonlance series.  I did have a bit of an advantage, I could use my friend’s avatar ranger Daltorak to follow me around invis and cast cure on me.  No levelling spell bots, no major cleric army but still it was ahead of the curve 🙂

I enjoyed the experience because everything was new and exciting.  I learned how to use my character, how to fight, how to die, how to CR by myself and so much more.

I think I applied to the Newbie Council around level 15 and got pointed instead to the Guild of Rangers.  Some of the items on my induction quest were above my level so I had to get to know other guild members to help keep them, another lesson quickly learned!  There were lots of helpful people around, people like Lopuis, Apollonia, Linda and many others.

I let myself get caught up in the idea that there were “levelling areas” and that I should get to avatar as quickly as I can so I can go on the big runs.

This discouraged me from exploring and instead I really stuck to the list of areas that people told me were the best for experience, unless I needed to side track to get a new piece of equipment.  Many of those areas are still used today … Shattered Refuge, Tull Manor, Treetops, Coral Depths, Ocean Keep, Spectrum … I would encourage new players not to buy into this idea of hitting avatar as quick as you can.  Loosing experience and having to eat and drink are all regular bothers, but the odds are, once you hit avatar you won’t ever put the same level of interest into levelling another character again.  So explore a little … there are many new areas that are tailored to lower level players, especially below level 20.

Levelling secondary characters (alts) is part of this game.  I agree that you cannot defeat all the different mobs of the game with a single character.  I have never seen Seth run with a group of rangers, for example, rangers just don’t dish out enough damage quickly enough.  They make superb tanks on other runs however.  Everyone is allowed to have many characters and to play with their advantages and disadvantages accordingly.

As a new player I’d say it’s nearly impossible to make a good choice about class and stats right out of the gate.  Tharius’ base stats still plague me to this day 🙂  I think that the help that’s available is better than it was in the past, but I’m sure that people still roll mediocre bases.  Here’s something I believe to be true: a mediocre base will not stop you from running anything and may even improve your ability as a player.  There is no doubt I’d rather play a 18 str/18 dex/18 luck thief on most runs but there is no chance that I’m not going to use whatever thieves I have in my stables regardless of their base.  I’ll make it work, even if it takes levelling spells or whatnot.  Yes, 100 extra hit points on your base helps.  14 strength on a warrior class is sometimes tough to work with.  Don’t let it stop you from doing anything you want to.  Pre-shattering I had added 2 strength to a Dragonhide Breastplate just to get over the problem for once and all.  There’s always solutions.  Maybe that glory would have been better spent adding hit points for a character that didn’t have a stat problem, but in my view I was doing the best I can with my character and I wasn’t worrying about your character having more hit points than I do.

Sit back and make the most of whatever you create.  If you’re lucky enough to find advice before you get very far into the game or if you’re lucky enough to roll good bases right off the bat, fantastic.  Reroll is there to be used.  If not, accept it as a challenge and deal with it 🙂  If you only compete against yourself I believe you will be much happier in the long run on or off Realms.  You can certainly look at your first character as a throw-away if you choose, a waste of time even if you really want to be callous about it … or you can acknowledge how much you learned in 50 levels and apply that to your future endeavors.

Post-Avatar Play (End Game)

So this is all pretty well advice I didn’t pay any attention to.  It didn’t take long before I was trying to accumulate gold to buy big items I couldn’t run for.  I’ll note that this is years before many of the helpful web sites were up to teach the soloable mobs, maps, directions and so on. Doing a run like Cern was an accomplishment, torques were not bad equipment.  Working your way up to devout scales of the alpha and omega  was an accomplishment (if you didn’t just outright buy them) … Buy them you say?  Yes, because not only was levelling a “pain” but now there were runs that were “just a pain in the ass” … you know because you might have to do them a bunch of times to get the pop item…

For a new avatar the odds are this encounter is happening in a guild, which was my experience.  Experienced players, why would you want to discourage anyone from running anything?  Where does the next generation of good runners come from?  This, if for no other reason, is why you should help out in a guild and lead runs to mobs instead of teaching how to use auction and traffic.

Yes of course, if you’re an active player after you’ve av’d the odds are pretty good you’ll have run many of the lower avatar mobs many times but … really?  You can’t go whack Bahamut or Justice for a while?

I enjoyed running with the Guild of Rangers as a newbie and probably even moreso as an experienced player with the Guild of Druids.

New players … my advice is to enjoy the growth curve.  As you get further into the game amount of effort required for each improvement certainly goes way up.  Maybe too much … but it’s a very fine line balancing a game like this and I won’t disparage the efforts of those who have worked hard to tune the game.  They’ve dealt with all the challenges that mortals have thrown at them for years and many of the changes are to respond to particular problems.

Eventually you get to a state where you really need to rely on others.  When the game is active that’s not so bad but right now it takes careful planning to get groups together.  Hopefully things rebound and it gets easier again.  Right now there’s the challenge of getting groups together so the “big mobs” aren’t being run much, so people want to have the mobs downed so that they can run them again.  Then they’ll get spammed and need to be upped again … instead let’s work on getting anyone who wants to run some better skills 🙂

So now what if you’re one of those experienced players?  What is your end game?  For most, it’s chatting and trying to hoard gold or glory or Seth sets or something.  Here’s the devil … the end game is whatever goal you set for yourself.  An open ended game like this always faces a problem with the top tier players, how do we fix it?  It used to be that the top players moved from PVM to PVP … ie: pkill.  With pkill at least you are always facing an evolving opponent, but it’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea … which is why you set your own goals.  For me, I like to go out and try to beat every area, create maps, stuff like that.  Try your hand at building?  It’s never been easier.  Submit a quest?  It’s up to you.  I would LOVE to hear some opinions on more ongoing activities that could be added into RoD.  I hear a lot of “quest for base increase” type ideas … but we sort of had this, it was stat-training, it went away for reasons that could probably use repeating.  I hear about more levels … well that hasn’t worked so well in Diablo 3 (100 new levels) … it becomes a grind.  I think there’s great potential using mptagging to create some longer term story lines and huge ongoing quests to help fill the game with more adventure but it shouldn’t feel mandatory yet it has to have a reward of some sort.  I hope to have more opportunity to discuss this with people interested in making it happen.

The Economy

First off let me say that I tend to ignore the economy as much as I possibly can.  I do this by trying to run for things that I want.  Yet, I acknowledge that this isn’t always going to work out.  Gold is worthless.  It’s been the chanted creed since before the Shattering, you can always farm more gold… always…  Yes, you can accumulate a mountain of it but the best use of it is for buying flasks for brewing so you can go adventure.  This comes back to the idea that buying your equipment instead of running for it removes hours of content from the game … Ok well, yes, the reality is that buy, sell and trade are perfectly legitimate ways of gaining equipment … but if it’s your primary mode, haven’t you missed something?

Ok well, rant mode off, this is something that could be improved nonetheless.  Outlets need to exist for lower level players to make more incremental gains.  I like the idea of craftable objects a lot.  In Diablo 2 this was a major end game outlet for a lot of players.  As a mid-level Hammerdin I was able to trade with elite players because perfect gems were a currency.  I had to adventure to get them (as did they) and they needed lots to create new items for their various elite builds.  I think this is something that can be brought into realms wholesale.  Ravenhill proved it works with Seth sets, I think it can be done at differing levels to provide a lot of stimulus.  Why run Bahamut once you’ve got a bunch of Justices?  Break his equipment down at the blacksmith for components.  Of course the rate of return shouldn’t be 1:1 or what’s the point …. again an idea that I’d love to help develop.

 

Well this has gone far longer than I intended to, I think there are a lot of ways to stimulate the the game without losing the challenge.  Let’s work together! 🙂

Hey Captain, not so rough!

After a long week of marking exams Friday morning finally gave me the free time to live up to a promise to visit Antall with my Arete ordermate Feitt.  Feitt’s a fairly new player, though he has had some family exposure to the game 🙂

Since I was on bright and early I went ahead and mapped the Shadowshark maze, and started trans’ing characters through.  If you’ve done this, you know that this can be 5 minutes or two hours and while I feel totally confident that this could be scripted, it’s a little nerve wracking to leave characters on autopilot in a shifting maze with aggro creatures (well, you know, if you move into the wrong room).  I had expected Feitt fairly early as we had made loose plans but he worked a night shift and I ended up waiting quite a while.  Turns out in all that time my main thief didn’t feel like trans’ing anyway so I used the time to start adepting things on my ranger and paladin’s slists…

If you’re waiting and you know it just spam armor, a-dept!  If you’re waiting and you know it just spam bless!

… well you get the idea …

We finally got together and got a messy kill in on McManus for a normal set and that was all I had time for given that it was pick your kid up from daycare o’clock. 🙂

Things to remember in the future … spelldowns are your friend, don’t hit McManus with a character with a heavy weapon and strength problem because poison and weaken are gonna ruin your day.

Cheers!

Copper to Cosmos … the times have changed

Though I’ve always been a technology geek and have gotten used to the idea of carrying a computer that can make phone calls, I have had a new geek moment on a bus ride home today.

I installed iMud and proceeded to log into the Realms from my iPhone.

Ok, there’s no earth shaking breakthrough here.  I had been reading up on MSDP and MushClient … and wound up installing a $1 app.  This means that my journey on the mud has travelled from dial up, copper line technology with all it’s fun to a cellular phone based login.  Perhaps I’m too easily amused.

Or perhaps I should spend the afternoon writing my triggers on my phone’s keyboard … and adding buttons … and …