Realms of Despair – Tricking you into learning for over 25 years …

Well, you think that all you’d need to do is open up Rodpedia and follow the blocks on the pictures along until you got where you were going. Who knew that you should stop at each one of those blocks and read that spam that has been scrolling past?

I think we’re all guilty of it at some point. The author aside, is anyone willing to confess that they’ve read every room in the Forgotten Woods? Ok, ok, well you’re exceptional, I on the other hand have been known the odd time to look at the pretty picture and move my butt from A to B with config +brief on.

Back at Christmas we held a quest in Ringbearers. 12 actually. The 12 Quests of Christmas. We picked items for people to go get that would help them build up their skills and maybe help take away some of the apprehension of trying something new. I really enjoyed it and I think it went over well, the feedback was pretty good.

For some of our guys it kindled a desire to get a new hat for their vampires. It turns out that scrapping black brimmed hats or barrik’s helmets wasn’t their idea of a great time. Sure, we could have gone after the Devil but instead we sought out the elusive Maniacal Tendencies. Which is what you need to earn one, so well named!

If you ever spent time talking with Sylphain about Lascivias’ areas at some point the conversation turns to Sesuad’ra Rift. I don’t know if anyone has ever completely solved that area or if Sylphain was over analyzing things but there is definitely an intricacy to the area and its relationship with other Lascivias areas, notably Abishai’s Morgue.

What do the two thoughts have to do with each other? If I’m recalling things correctly, around the time of the Shattering Lascivias was working on the overhaul of the Underworld. For reasons completely unknown she was unable to finish it and Selina and Kinux stepped up and worked on completing it.

There is a very intricate story tangled into the area with one seemingly glaring problem. While most of the area is the Greek underworld, Satan is the ruler of the area. To be fair while the area is called the underworld Satan’s domains are referred to as Upper and Lower Hell. Within the Realms of Despair things have been reimagined … I suppose using Tartarus might have worked but for whatever creative decision it was not. This isn’t a criticism, just an observation.

Satan is re-imagined as female and wears a Corselette of the Furies. The help file weaves together the story of this Underworld with Olympus, who sent the Furies to discover if Hell had been cut off from the Realms or not. Once reporting on the discovery of an entry way to the Lower reaches through Sesuad’ra Rift. Then they disappeared. The help file warns that Hell has no fury like a woman scorned. One question to ask is which woman has been scorned and by whom.

In playing through the area you will be confronted with many puzzles. In trying to find clues to the next steps you might, as I have done, read ancient plays about Athena and Apollo and the stories of Orestes. You might think about the Underworld in Olympus, more properly called Hades, and wonder about the stories of the gods presented there. You might spend hours with friends pouring over room descriptions, making lists of keywords to try “the next time we’re there”.

So far it’s been a blast. This difficult area is very well written and contains lots of intricacies and hidden surprises. Even if I knew the answers to the final puzzles I doubt that I would feel like I’d have understood everything within the area, something that would keep me coming back for more as the Tower of Despair still haunts my imagination so many years after the Shattering. Thank you to the builders who have worked on this area for the many hours of fun and frustration trying one zany idea after another. A top notch work of art.

Around the Realms in Twenty Questions

A new Vast Horizon feature, for the regular readers of Ceirana’s Window to the World is a new noteboard for a game of 20 Questions.  For those not familiar with the game the basic idea is that the host will pick something and you have 20 questions to figure it out with your guesses at the answer counting towards the 20 questions.  For this incarnation the question has to be a yes/no question.

I managed to figure out the first mob (yay) was Weeping Willow in The Keep of Mahn-Tor by a process of elimination.  A couple hours of running around looking at mobs and maps.  All in all it was pretty fun, I encourage you to look for it the next time you’re out telescanning.

Some hints for players:

  • keep your questions simple… yeah you want to get the most out of it but if it doesn’t give you info in both the yes and no it’s not so good (example: is it a male? Good!  is it a male or a horse? Bad! a male dragon isn’t a horse, of course!)
  • try to use your question to narrow the field … we had every mob in Realms to pick from, narrowing it to non-male non-humanoids who wore no equipment and were aff sanc or who could cast it made the list so much more manageable
  • be specific: the question “Is it in the Forgotten Woods Geo?” could mean the area that when you type where you see the Forgotten Woods or it could mean any of the areas IN the Forgotten Woods
  • don’t be too specific: asking a question that applies only to a very narrow field of choices doesn’t help.  If you get a yes then you’re golden, but it’s more likely you’ll get a no.  “Does it have brown hair?” is perhaps not as good as “Does it have hair?”

Ok … happy adventuring.

Greetings Silvermoon Outpost

Silvermoon Outpost is one of the new areas imported early today and I’ve had a little time to explore it, warning, the below may contain spoilers.

As some of you know I don’t rush into new areas because I’m in no hurry.  Things will stay there waiting to be found another day.  I went to find Silvermoon Outpost because I’ve been mapping west of Darkhaven and I wanted to see if I had to modify my map or if I was ok as-is.  Turns out I’m okay as the Outpost has been located in the extreme southwest of the area.

The area I’ve explored thus far is fairly small, the main floor and a cave but is overall well written, lots of small details such as the paintings and doilies to examine.

It doesn’t take long to understand the meaning of the paintings and in short time you find yourself fighting a flame blasting red dragon.  The dragon goes down fairly smoothly but the flame blasts are non-trivial, lots of hitpoints.  Your reward for dispatching the red dragon is a key to the cave and the red bands of the ancient, an interesting looking evil only sorcerer/shaman armwear.  The 55 mana and 2 str on it makes it particularly attractive since the next nearest alternative is the Sleeves of Power with 15 and they’re anti-druid.  Not too many people have spare sleeves of Kahl for the 25 mana and 1 str from them, so this item surely has a place.

The key is a poof on use key, a rather annoying anti-staking feature because if you have a hard time killing the black dragon you have to restock/cr quickly or else face the red dragon again.  I imagine this will be less annoying in time as we get a little better at the kills but for now it’s just a minor annoyance.  If you kill Khisanthal, the black dragon you may be rewarded with a Dagger of Entwined Hearts, a very excellent evil sorcerer weapon that is clearly targeted at nephandi with a bonus of 5 to damage of qlip.  I say may because I don’t know if it’s a pop or not at this early stage of things.

We were unable to kill the black dragon a second time due to 300-500 damage lightning blasts every round in the subsequent attempts.  Since the mob was purged after repop (and has not purged since) we were wondering if someone had upped the mob after our first kill.  To be fair the mob was pretty straightforward the first time but now the blasts make it a royal pain.  I survived 7 of them back to back using single heals and found myself soloing 😛  So more quaffing power is needed! 🙂

Beyond that I noticed what I perceive to be a couple of Dragonlance references in this area.  Mithian blood ale from the Isle of Mithas, the home of Dragonlance’s minotaur race, I had hoped Dagarak Singlehorn would respond to it but alas.  Bupu the gully dwarf, the rescuer of a spellbook of Fistandantilus from the black dragon’s hoarde who also takes on a few characteristics of the gully dwarf who goes to live in the Inn of the Last Home in the second generation’s adventures, likewise didn’t respond to the ale, even when emptied on the floor 🙂  A blind mage fits a reasonable interpretation of the description of a post-Legends Raistlin Majere.  The name of the black dragon in the Dragons of Autumn Twilight where Bupu appeared wasn’t Khisanthal, but it was Khisanth which is close enough 🙂   I’ve got nothing regarding the inspiration for Talinka or Matthias.  Talinka is the name of a town in Russia, a modification of the name “Tika” who was a barmaid in the Inn of the Last Home, the name of the lead character in a series of children’s adventures (Tina Talinka) or maybe just something from the mind of Romani.  Similarly the best I could come up with for Matthias is that aside from some fan fiction, google tells me someone named “Matthias” is currently reading one of the Dragonlance books, according to his profile :>

Regardless of the inspiration, it has been put together in an original and entertaining area.  Thanks Romani!

Mapping the Realms of Despair

Lots of people set out to do this and many of them choose to make a link between areas so that each one appears in it’s own graphic. There’s good reason to do that, it makes individual areas easier to find and helps to modularize the mapping process. One thing it doesn’t represent well is how the areas fit together on the continent.

I have previously mapped a lot of the Realms using zones but for my currently project on I want something different. Having only taken the time to map New Darkhaven I’ve already come across a number of challenges. I’m sharing them with you because if it’s your first time trying to map the Realms, I think these issues will crop up regardless of which software you choose.

A map of Darkhaven
New Darkhaven

As a bit of background to SMAUG a room is the basic unit of measure of space.  There is no way to specify the size of a room though there is some limited support for expressing the size between rooms.  More on that later.  Rooms are the places the action takes place and exits let us move between rooms.  I will assert here that there is no established coordinate system in Realms that we can tie into to make our life easy, so we have to come up with our own.

I want to point out 4 particular difficulties that will pop up before you’ve finished Darkhaven.  There are more but that’ll give us something to talk about later.

  1. Either the distance between rooms varies or the rooms aren’t the same size.  You can’t rely on just counting off the steps in a direction and evenly spacing your rooms out.  Proof: As soon as you enter the game you can move up 1 room to get to ground level for Darkhaven.  If you move east you’re in a small shop.  Now if you move west, north, east, south and west you might expect to be in that same shop but you are actually in the bank.  This is the simplest example of this but you better get used to it.  Try squeezing the Warehouse into the map without accepting it 🙂
  2. Diagonal directions cause some tricky geometries.  To get things to line up “just so” you will either have to accept that every link is not going to be perfectly straight or you need to be prepared to fuss over moving rooms around until they click perfectly.
  3. There is an implied terrain grade that has nothing to do with up and down exits.  What?  It means that you can walk and without moving up or down anywhere you can be looking up or down at a room you were previously in.  Proof: Exiting Darkhaven’s southern gate you can follow the trail northwest until you eventually reach the Crumbling Bridge.  If you had instead gone northeast and followed the Darkhaven River you would have followed a path that lead to a spot below this bridge.  Simply move up and down yet stay on the same map level.  This is one of the most difficult discrepancies to reconcile … most maps can visually represent it but if we’re going to try to apply good mapping techniques we have to understand what sort of physical reality might cause this situation.  In fact it’s not a problem of a real representation but rather it’s a problem that crops up in computer science all the time.  We’re trying to assign discrete, fixed, defined levels to something that were it real would be a continuous reality.  So once again, wha?  Up and down exits are jumps in elevations, not some unusual change in level.  The terrain itself may have some grade that imperceptibly slopes upwards or downwards in a way that isn’t so drastic that climbing is required.  In this case the river slopes downwards or is even beneath the regular grade and when our characters travel it they gradually travel below the street level of Darkhaven.  Eventually it becomes noticeable enough that you’d have to climb up to the bridge to get back on top.  Thankfully this is a short stretch and it peters out, but it sheds a light on the fact that you can’t assume that because something has the same number of ups and downs, or has no ups and downs at all, that you’re on the same level.  Street level in Darkhaven is a different altitude than the ground level in the Southern Mountain Range … or is it?
  4. Paths will irreconcilably cross one another.  Try as you might to keep your map nice and neat and clean, paths will cross one another.  Proof: The first occurrence we’ve already discussed.  Go directly south of Darkhaven to the bridge.  There is no up and down exit here, so no direct path down to the river, yet the river’s gonna pass right under it.  Okay, maybe we’ve explained this one already.  What about the path from Miden’nir to Moria crossing with the one from Darkhaven to the Southern Mountain Range?


Hey, so that’s enough for now, stay tuned for more exploration and additional maps.  You will be able to follow my progress on but first I need to settle a couple of technical questions about how to display them.  I’m pretty happy with the early test setups but it’s not quite right yet haha.

Merry Christmas!

The Busy Idler

So it’s been a while since I’ve been out and mkilling or adventuring much at all, yet it’s been a busy couple of weeks on the Realms of Despair. All of us are probably aware that there have been a couple of houses sold, a couple of apartments are up for sale. We’ve seen some code fixes come in to address some bugs that have been causing crashes and also to add at least one new skill for the followers of Tempus. There’s been some new eqsets added and a new area has found its way into the game. I have had absolutely nothing to do with any of these projects, yet I’m delighted to see these outwards signs of activity in our game.

What have I been up to? To my great delight I have completed my role in the creation of the Guild of Origin item quest. I undertook this project after the guilds were ported and decided to make it fairly elaborate on the programming side. The quest plays out reasonably from the user side, the extra programming was put in place to give the thing a little bit of replay value and so that each of the different classes in the guild will experience it slightly differently. With some luck we’ll see that come in before the end of the year, assuming that my code is actually reasonably correct (if it’s not, {RusselPetersVoice} somebody’s gonna get hurt real bad {/RusselPetersVoice}).

My RL has been fairly busy so I’ve shied away from adventuring too terribly much, I haven’t spent a lot of time chasing down clues to the new eqsets, from the response on avatar it seems that many people have been frustrated in their attempts. One clue we saw was that the pieces may not be fixed to specific mobs in the same way that previous sets have been. We will have to see how it plays out, I don’t think I have a Drow character, so there’s a bit of investment required to get into this.

Some people have gotten through The Wilds rather efficiently and I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the gear coming out of the area, I must say it seems like the items are quite worth the adventure. I have deliberately avoided the area because there’s too many people flooding it right now, but as it cools down a bit I look forward to checking it all out (I have also been attempting to avoid discussions about any puzzles … I’m not just sitting back to have the puzzles handed to me).

I have been doing some leveling, it’s nice to be able to pick it up and put it down. For those of you who have been involved with Syldir’s Rolling Project (what I call “Stoli Rollers”) it has provided me with a plethora of level 2’s to go work on. I have spent some time during this leveling to “smell the roses” by experiencing a surprisingly growing list of pre-avatar quests. If you haven’t gone looking for them I encourage you to try.

I have also been doing a fair bit of building when I’m around and I have been really pleased by the help and support of the immortal community, especially Gonnil who has endured my questions with great patience. Gonnil is visible most of the day, which opens him up to spam from all sectors, yet he is really quite good about replying if he’s not busy. Thank you Gonnil.

So that’s a bit of the news at this hour… I’m sure some of you noticed I brushed up recently, I will continue to work on that as time permits. Certainly I need to get my item database reworked (it is very technically correct but also exceptionally slow and unnecessarily rigid) so that we can all start to use the “Mr. Dressup” code I’ve enjoyed in my local application. If any of you are experienced at database design I’d love to bend your ear a bit and come up with a reasonably efficient way to solve this problem.


Expert explorer? Huh!

I wanted to write a quick post telling you about my first day back on the Newbie Council.

As I’ve written before I first applied to NC when I was level 15 on Tharius and was encouraged to give Guild of Rangers a try for a while instead :-). I was eventually accepted as a member under Julie and Stoney as co-heads and then continued as a member under Sarah. I don’t recall if I was a member under Loril and Stoneheft when they first took over, but if I was it was as Cready, the mage I swapped into NC when Tharius immed.

Things change. Pre-auth and the academy are radically different from when I first joined. Those of you who have seen the stock SMAUG setup know what I’m talking about. I was part of the project to revamp it way back when and if I search hard enough I could probably find the packet of paper that Sarah mailed to me when it was in progress.

Of course even those changes are gone, about 10 years ago Loril and many contributors set about revamping it into what it is today.

I spent my first day on NC going through pre-auth with a fine tooth comb and while I found a TON of stuff I’ve never noticed before it’s distinctly possible that I missed even more details. I tried very hard to come at it from the point of view of someone who was new to the game and I must say that it is very well written and doesn’t assume knowledge of commands. Everything you need is presented to you to get you through the area. My only long time beef is the wall of text that is help start 🙂

So dear reader, perhaps you are an explorer of great renoun, expert at spotting all the little details. Here are a few things I wonder if you know:

  1. How many dragons are in pre-auth and what colour are they?
  2. What 3 players are immortalized by having their stories recorded in pre-auth?
  3. What is it that keeps shooting sticky fluid and capturing that poor bat??

There’s lots more.  I really encourage you to take an hour and go through the Sunless Sea and absorb the detail in the area. I had more fun adventuring the area than I’ve ever had creating a character 🙂

Oh I did field questions from new players during this adventure through pre-auth … you know the regular [NC-ON] lifestyle, though as a thief I plan to avoid an addiction to those funky blue potions.

Wandering in the Forest of Despair

Since someone mentioned this forest in conversation the other day I decided to go have a wander about, especially seeing as I’ve been putting off gathering a few dispel amulets for some of my alts.

I used this little side trip as an excuse to go ahead and adept detrap on Tharius before I headed out.  After a visit the the vineyard, a number of ugly orange sweaters and viewing the world through rose coloured glasses I was good to go.

Where is the Forest of Despair?  It’s located to the north-east of the City of Salburg an area built by the team of Kinux and Selina based on an original concept by Thoric.

I’ve visited Salburg before with Vladivostok when we came to beat up on Edonea’s hellish creation and pick up some blood of the innocent.  During that trip I noticed that the place had a creepy vibe about it and that’s during the daytime, never mind lingering about to encounter all the strange things you’ll encounter at night.  It was during this trip that I learned that falcon sight is still useful even if you have a your detects on, because you get detect traps as part and parcel, which is otherwise a bit of a bugger to get.  You’ll need this detect in many places during the area.

A you might expect in a town that has started to rot from the inside out there are a number of dangerous locations, you should be vigilant about watching for DTs, there are at least 5 easy to find ones.

Witches, swamp beasts and sentient trees all stand in your way but so too does a silent trans maze, a slog through a swamp maze, lots of pop items that need to come together in certain ways to form new and exciting items … but if you overcome all these hurdles you may walk away with generous rewards.

It’s one thing to walk in Thoric’s foot steps, it’s another altogether to wander off with his boots 🙂

Is this Twilight Calling or do I have the wrong number?

The Guild of Origin runs a program called Assassin’s Mark which is roughly a mob of the week type program designed to get people out and about, learning lots of stock mobs and filling up the donation room at the same time.

The participation rate is pretty decent and I myself frequently go run mobs for gear I’ve had for years but never run for (see my previous post about Belkira’s Hunt).

This time my adventure took me into Kontaur to find Carnifex Castle and hunt down the priest for some adamantium armor. This item is still a tanking standard due to it’s outrageous amount of AC. A new item with this sort of AC would probably have to be restricted to drow paladins or devout nephandi and even then would only be wearable on Tuesdays with a full moon visible at noon.

One nice thing about this adventure is that there is NO map on Rodpedia for Carnifex Castle, though the entrance is noted on the Kontaur map … and yes, I looked.  I looked because I was focused on the end goal of grabbing some plates and not enjoying the exploration of the area, not every day is a smell the roses day for me, I admit it … and sometimes, just sometimes, I find something I wasn’t expecting.  While googling to see if there was a classic map on some forgotten Realms website (and yes, I have found DOZENS of old Realms web sites out there) I tripped over what I believe to be the original author’s inspiration for the area: TSR’s Dungeon’s and Dragons module M3: Twilight Calling.  Rather than take Wikipedia’s word for it, I laid hands on this module and I can say this for sure… if this isn’t the original inspiration for the area, then perhaps a D&D writer stole from Realms!  Nearly all the elements from the Realms area exist in the module, but the module does contain a fair bit more than I’ve discovered in the Castle … so it’s certainly not a complete module rip off, I am by no means implying that.  I enjoy etymology … and this idea of rediscovering inspirations tickles that same fancy.

On my first foray I entered through the front door, warriors, mages and cleric in tow and had a tiny bit of a look around.  I encountered the guards who have some neat new avatar quality items, the chaplain, the mage and finally the priest.  For those who don’t know there is a small bonus to going to find an adamatium plate … a staff that casts room fireshield that can be used by a warrior.  It has a pathetic number of charges, often only 1, but if you are lucky enough to get one that has at least 2 charges on it you can start playing the recharge luck game and try to double up.  This is something we used to do a fair amount of to create jade cameos with hundreds of charges and so on … but that’s a different topic.

Just a short time fighting in the area taught me a great deal.  I found at least 1 dt on my way out (without hitting it … yeah, I know, whodathunk it) and an easy trip back to Darkhaven.  Since there is an abundance of use of the norecall flag in the area I’ll give you a hint, bring pass door and scry 🙂

Happy adventuring!