I was only recently shown how to find this quest, and since it doesn’t seem to be widely known, I figured a post about it might be useful.
The patch notes for Update 3.2, in January 2012, contained this tantalizing item: ‘There is a new quest available in Ardashir Fort called “Ancient Letters.” ’ Until recently, however, I had no idea how to actually get this quest. I remember that relatively soon after 3.2, I was looking around a cleared instance of Ardashir Fort but didn’t find any way to obtain it; I also saw at least one forum thread in which others were also wondering how to get this quest (and/or giving up after much effort trying to find it), but none that would actually explain how to get it.
To get the quest, jump on the boxes near the wall in the harbor area, where you fight Arman and Sodabeh. You’ll see an Ancient Book; clicking it gives you the quest. (Note: the boxes are blocked by an invisible wall until you kill Sodabeh.)
The quest itself is simple; you have to talk first to Kheradmand in Ardashir City, then to the Stygian Archaeologists near the arena, and finally to Ankh-Ausar in the Dragon’s Spine. In 3.2, when this quest was introduced, Dragon’s Spine of course didn’t yet exist, so I guess the quest text must have been updated at the time when Dragon’s Spine was launched. IIRC Ankh-Ausar stood in Khemi originally,* before the Dragon’s Spine was released, and the quest probably sent you there.
[For some definitions of ‘originally’. I first became aware of him in connection with the scrolls quest in Ai and T'ian'an Districts, so it's possible that he was introduced into the game only in update 2.2, when those two dungeons were released.]
You might wonder why Funcom would bother introducing this quest in 3.2, five months after Ardashir Fort was released. The reason is that 3.2 also introduced the House of Crom, and Ankh-Ausar gives you some hints about the House of Crom when you’re handing in the quest to him:
It [i.e. he book you found in Ardashir Fort] appears to be a history . . . of a sort. By gods, friend, it would seem that a contingent of Atlanteans tried to colonize the mainland after the sea swallowed their civilization . . . perhaps in what is now the Pictish Wilderness or Cimmeria. It would have to be a place of high elevation . . . maybe even Mount Crom. . .
It is a history, but it is written in the form of a tragedy. They built a grand temple and. . .something went amiss. Yes, a tragedy in five acts. But I will tell you what is even more curious.
This book has only four acts. It would seem the author was — hmmhmm — interrupted. The opening of a door . . . the Threshold Lurker . . . curiouser and curiouser. . .
Apart from that, the quest reward is a Phial of Tranquility, which gives you 1 Expertise point.
A farmer’s tale
When the House of Crom was released and I realized there were 15* sets of armor dropping there, I was impressed by this sudden abundance of new gear; usually we are accustomed to gear being doled out in much smaller amounts. For example, Ardashir Fort and Arena have 6 sets; Ai and T’ian’an District don’t even have sets, just a few odd bits and pieces that are mostly copies of previously existing Khitai armor items; the unchained version of Amphitheatre contains 5 sets; and more recently, the Sepulcher of the Wyrm has just 3 sets, and parts of 7 Dragon’s Spine sets (the rest of which is partly from vendors and partly presumably forthcoming in the new Coils of Ubah Kan dungeon).
[* As a commenter on one of my old House of Crom posts pointed out, there is in fact also a 16th set, but it drops only from PvP in the Threshold of Divinity, so it's unavailable on my PvE server.]
Anyway, 15 sets seemed quite impressive to me, though it eventually turned out a bit less impressive as I realized that many of the sets were just copies of each other with slight variations in color. Still, 15 sets is a lot and initially I didn’t even dream about trying to collect them all. I would have considered such a goal to be sheer madness; after all, this isn’t epic Field of the Dead that you can farm by yourself whenever you like. Initially I farmed a full-plate set for my guardian and was content with that.
Gradually, and without specifically meaning to farm any other sets, I picked up various parts of the PoM/ToS sets on my ToS, the demo/necro sets on my necro, and the heavy DPS set on my DT; eventually I figured I’d make a moderate extra effort to complete those sets as well, just so I could take screenshots of them. Still later I similarly noticed that I could complete the HoX and Excavator sets without too much extra effort, so I eventually posted screenshots of those as well.
Soon after writing that latest post about House of Crom armor screenshots, I came to realize that between that and my previous efforts, I had by then collected as many as 8 out of the 15 armor sets from the House of Crom. That’s more than half of them; and this observation inspired me to think of collecting the remaining 7 sets as a realistic and reasonable goal as well. If I might paraphrase the observation from the end of one of my old posts: if a certain amount of farming is reasonable, then twice as much farming is also still reasonable. (Well, I guess this is one of those situations where it wouldn’t be a good idea to apply the principle of mathematical induction :P) And in fact, just as we saw in that old post, farming for multiple sets is in fact easier if you’re farming for them all at the same time, with the same character. So if I do it all on one character, the goal of farming for the 7 remaining sets, while ambitious, isn’t in fact all that extreme compared to the farming I’d already done before. I decided to use my DT for the purpose, partly because she had lots of bag space available and partly because everything is so much easier to do if you don’t have to rely on finding someone else to tank for you.
And the farming effort turned out to be less extreme than I had imagined. My main worry was how to get people to help me farm the unpopular bosses: the Arcanist, Jotunrodull and Shryke in the Threshold of Divinity, and the Sentinel and Queen Cao-Polyphya in the Vile Nativity. The Arcanist was easily enough taken care of by starting my own Threshold of Divinity rare farming groups, and thus being the group leader; this put me in a good position to tell people to kill the Arcanist as well, and it usually turned out to be no problem. As for Shryke, I wouldn’t dare to try killing him with a pug group from global, but fortunately you don’t need a whole group for him; he can be killed just fine by 2 people (a tank and a healer) as long as they know what they are doing. With a bit of prodding and nagging, I was often able to find one or two guildies willing to help me, and we could even go and kill Jotunrodull while waiting for Shryke to respawn.
For Vile Nativity I mostly relied on forming semi-guild, semi-pug groups, and again being the group leader puts you in a good position to get people to kill the Sentinel and the Queen, even though the vast majority of Vile Nativity groups skip them. In earlier times I had some unpleasant experience with puggers there who preferred to quit the group rather than come kill those two bosses, but this time I didn’t encounter any such uncooperative people. I did, of course, still encounter a fair share of incompetent, drooling morons, but that’s inevitable when you team up with people from global. Anyway, in the end the boss that caused me the most trouble wasn’t Shryke, as I had expected, but the Sentinel of Defense — it took probably more than 20 kills to get the last item I wanted from him, which is a bit of bad luck since he only has 6 different armor pieces in his loot table.
Incidentally, throughout all this Vile Nativity farming, we never saw the Royal Atlantean Gown drop even once — another sad proof of its unfortunate, excessive rarity.
Anyway, without further ado, here are the screenshots. Since my earlier posts took care of the soldier, PoM/ToS, demo/necro, and HoX sets, the sets in this post are for barbs, sins, rangers and BSes.
Wells of Night
Many House of Crom armor sets come in pairs, and the assassin sets are no exception. The Wells of Night is the one with HP and stamina, but low DPS:
In terms of appearance, both sin sets are very similar, except for the color; and they are also very similar to the HoX set (Bedlam).
Most of the sets in the House of Crom have names based on the theme of madness and incomprehensibility, inspired by the idea familiar from H. P. Lovecraft’s stories, namely that the Lurker at the Threshold and similar entities are so far beyond the scope of our normal world that dealing with them will drive you insane. In the case of the Wells of Night, the connection to Lovecraft is even more direct, as this exact phrase appears several times in his work (e.g. The Horror at Red Hook, The Whisperer in Darkness).
This is the more offensive-oriented sin set: it has plenty of DPS and critical rating. On the other hand, it has much less hit rating than the Wells of Night set, and no constitution.
The barbarian sets also form a natural pair along similar lines. Ichorous is the one with lots of HP and stamina, but little DPS:
All the barbarian and medium sets are very similar in terms of appearance, again differing only in color. Their trademark feature are the extremely horny helmets, which provide excellent GPS reception even in the darkest depths of the House of Crom.
This is the other barb set; it has no constitution but plenty of strength, which provides not only DPS but also armor.
Also note the classy skull on the left shoulder.
That’s from the last person that tried to make a ‘me so horny’ joke.
Bear shamans and rangers, unlike barbs and sins, don’t get a pair of armor sets each; instead, each gets a separate offensive set (with strength for BSes and dexterity for rangers), but they both share a defensive set, which has generic combat rating (with low overall DPS) and plenty of constitution. This defensive set is called Membranous:
This is the BS-specific set; it has plenty of strength, which makes it uniniteresting for a ranger, while to a BS it provides not only good DPS but also more armor than the other two medium sets. One thing that strikes me as a bit unfair is that there’s no heal rating on this set (or any other medium set here); unlike PoMs and ToSses, which do have a heal rating set here in the House of Crom, the bear shamans don’t.
This is the DPS-oriented set of rangers. It relies on dexterity, which makes it uninteresting for bear shamans (or indeed any other classes):
Many thanks to people who helped me farm Shryke, especially Mel and Volo! <3
Atzel’s Fortress is a 6-player dungeon in Cimmeria, containing about a dozen bosses, including Atzel himself. The bosses are connected by an interesting mechanic that is not often found in Age of Conan: Atzel himself gets buffed by the presence of some of the other bosses in the dungeon, and you can therefore weaken him by killing those other bosses first.
This general idea is well known nowadays, and pretty much everyone who goes to Atzel’s Fortress kills all the other bosses first (except possibly Rorik) and leaves Atzel for the end. But the details of this mechanic aren’t widely known; in fact, a number of misconceptions float around concerning them, e.g. that you have to kill all the other bosses first, or even all the ‘named mobs’, i.e. trashmobs with non-generic names (such as Strabus the Advisor, Proxo the Physician etc.). This last idea is particularly bizarre when you consider that very few groups kill e.g. Raze the Medic (unless they accidentally pull him while looking for Talon in the sleeping quarters on the ground floor), let alone Chef Ravenkiss (many people don’t even know he exists*).
[* Which is a pity since he's one of the funnier mobs in the game. How can you not love an NPC with casts named “A Pinch of Salt” (
which doesn't seem to actually do anything, at least not anything that would end up in the combat log update: see Caudilloo's comment below — if you are below 41% HP, A Pinch of Salt gives you a debuff of the same name: -40% evade chance, +50% hinder movement for 15 sec), “Bowl of Hot Soup” (fire damage) and “Buffet o' Pain” (poison dot)? :P]
And these misconceptions aren’t necessarily new; you can already find ideas along those lines in some very old forum posts from just a few weeks after release (1, 2). I suspect some of the claims there are simply over-hasty generalization and over-confident speculation; or perhaps some of that was actually true back then but has been changed in some of the subsequent patches.
Anyway, I decided I’d investigate this in a bit more detail, and organized a few Atzel’s Fortress runs in which we were killing various bosses one by one and pulling Atzel in between to find out if and how he changed.
Adds from Lieutenant Ulf
Most players are only familiar with the Atzel fight the way it is after you’ve killed most (or all) of the other bosses; I’ll refer to this as the normal version of the encounter. Now, if you fight your way directly to Atzel’s throne room and pull him, without having killed any other bosses first, probably the most obvious difference you’ll notice in comparison with the normal version of the fight is that Atzel will spawn a pair of adds (Nithing Bodyguards) every 30 seconds.
It turns out that this is caused by Lieutenant Ulf (the boss on the topmost floor of the dungeon) being alive. As soon as you kill Ulf, the adds will no longer be spawning, regardless of what other bosses are alive. In one run we killed Tainmic, Talon, Amunhoten, the Widow, Suth, and the adds were still spawning in the Atzel fight; then we also killed Ulf and the adds stopped spawning. In another run we just killed Ulf without any other bosses, and the adds stopped spawning as well.
Incidentally, after we killed Tainmic, Talon and Amunhoten (but not yet Ulf or any other boss), I had the impression that the adds started spawning every 32–33 seconds instead of every 30 seconds. But it’s hard to be sure about this sort of timings.
Evasion from Amunhoten
Now, suppose you got rid of Ulf and therefore of the annoying add waves, so that you can actually fight Atzel instead of just desperately kiting the adds. Perhaps the next thing you’ll notice is how unusually often he parries your attacks, even if you have a decent amount of hit rating — at 15% hit bonus chance, you might be set for most high-end raid encounters, but a buffed Atzel will parry you like a madman
It turns out that this evasion buff comes from Amunhoten being alive. As soon as you kill him, Atzel stops parrying. Similar to the Ulf buff above, killing other bosses didn’t have any effect on Atzel’s parrying.
Arrows and shield from Osithmes
While fighting the buffed Atzel, you might notice a strange ability that you don’t see in a normal Atzel fight: a bunch of arrows lands on the ground around you; in the combat log this appears as an AoE attack called Atzel’s Arrow. Admittedly, it doesn’t hit hard, compared to his other attacks; if it wasn’t for the animation, you might not even notice it.
But now that you’re looking at the combat log, you can notice another curious ability: he has a retributive damage shield. Each time you hit him (melee attacks as well as spells), he hits you back with 137 shield damage. Fortunately, a combo finisher seems to trigger just one tick of retributive damage, even if the finisher consists of multiple hits.
By killing bosses one by one, you can find out that these two abilities exist until you kill Osithmes, then they both go away. This is one of the least significant buffs in the whole Atzel encounter; in my experience, the arrows and the shield account for barely 10% of the total damage done by Atzel. This probably explains why, in the early days when Osithmes was very hard to kill, people would sometimes skip him and still be able to kill Atzel just fine in the end.
Damage buff from Menhotep
You might also notice that the buffed Atzel hits kind of hard; even with a well-geared tank and a well-geared healer (and by well-geared we mean ridiculously overgeared for what is after all meant to be one of the easiest level 80 group dungeons :P), you might have to resort to kiting him. I was looking at the damage done by Atzel’s various abilities as we were killing more and more of the other bosses, and none of it seemed to affect Atzel’s damage output — until we killed Menhotep. Then his damage went down by around 55%, making him extremely easy to tank. You can see this change very dramatically in the charts below.
In practice one usually kills Menhotep and Awar together in the same fight; but during the testing here, we deliberately killed just Menhotep and let Awar reset, and it turned out that this was already enough to remove Atzel’s damage buff. We haven’t tried if killing Awar without Menhotep would have the same efffect.
Other bosses and other abilities
As far as I can tell, the other bosses (Brokk, Tainmic, Talon, the Widow, Suth, and Rorik) have no effect whatsoever on Atzel, and neither do the named trash mobs. His other abilities remain unchanged no matter how many of those other mobs we kill, as does his damage output. The amount of damage he takes from players doesn’t seem to change either, i.e. killing other bosses does not affect his mitigation, nor does it affect his overall HP (he always has around 238k hit points).
Incidentally, the remaining abilities used by Atzel seem to be the following:
- Rend, Beat of War: typical abilities of conq-style mobs: a sizable hit of slashing damage, followed by a bleeding effect (a slashing dot). But the dots are quite weak.
- Crush: despite the name, this is actually a hit of slashing damage :P, without a dot afterwards.
- Defiant Strike: a particularly big hit of slashing damage. It feels as if this one was particularly likely to be followed by a knockback, but it might be just confirmation bias.
- Knockback: a long-distance AoE knockback, followed by some sort of aggro reset. You don’t see anything related to the knockback in your combat log or on the cast bar. I’m not sure what exactly triggers it, if anything; in one of the fights the KB was coming pretty regularly every 20 or so seconds. I’m also not sure how exactly the aggro behavior works, but at times it felt as if he swapped the top two people on his aggro list, similar to the adds in the Sodabeh fight in Ardashir Fort.
- Lifetap: judging by the combat log, this gives him 33% health tap for about 25 seconds. You don’t see it on his cast bar, but it appears in the combat log; he seems to cast it a random intervals, usually around 10–40 seconds apart. One doesn’t usually notice this healing during the fight: if you’re there with a full group and his damage isn’t buffed (i.e. you killed Awar and Menhotep), the amount of healing from this tap will be negligible compared to your group’s DPS on him.
- Stamina Drain: he puts this debuff on the aggro holder; according to the tooltip it drains 10% of your stamina at start and then another 5% every 2 sec, for 8 seconds. He does this fairly often; the tooltip says the recast time is 30 sec but IME he often recasts it much sooner.
The following chart illustrates how Atzel changed as we killed more and more bosses in one of the Fortress runs. You can see how he stops parrying (green dots on the chart) after we killed Amunhoten; how he loses his retributive shield (red dots) after we killed Osithmes; how his damage done (white hits are shown by blue dots, and his Defiant Strike is shown by orange dots) remains basically unchanged until we kill Awar and Menhotep, at which point it drops dramatically (the occasional outliers before that are due to Cunning Deflection and Stall the Advance). You can also see that the damage taken by Atzel (from my guardian’s white hits; represented by pink dots) remains basically unchanged no matter how many bosses we kill.
And next we have another similar chart from a different run. This time we killed Amunhoten, Osithmes and Ulf right away, thereby depriving Atzel of all his buffs except the damage buff. Then we killed just Menhotep, but not Awar; as we can see from the chart, this was already enough to remove Atzel’s damage buff. After that, we killed Awar, then all the remaining bosses, and finally all the named trashmobs, but as you can see from the chart, there were no further changes in Atzel’s DPS or mitigation or indeed in any other aspect of the fight.
Many thanks to Blas, Schu, Thaan, and Mel for joining me on experimental Atzel’s Fortress runs on which this post is based! <3
I thought I was done farming the House of Crom armor sets after my previous post with screenshots of some of them. However, recently I decided I’d dust off my HoX (which had lain in virtual retirement since mid-2009 or so) and do the Khitai grind and rare farming with it, and in the process I ended up picking up most parts of the Bedlam set that drop in the Vile Nativity. I then noticed that that Bedlam is easier to farm than most other House of Crom sets, since none of its parts drop from bosses that people usually avoid, such as Shryke or the Arcanist. So it didn’t require too much trouble to finish it and post a screenshot. I also ended up collecting the Excavator set on my necro, since it all drops from Olik and Narvi and thus doesn’t require any special effort to farm, you just pick them up along the way during various House of Crom runs. So here are screenshots of these two sets, though I also appended them to my earlier post.
Most classes can choose between two sets in the House of Crom, but HoXes get only one. I guess we should consider ourselves lucky — in Ardashir Fort/Arena there is no HoX armor at all.
Bedlam is a fairly aggressive set, lacking constitution but with a decent amount of magic damage (463 magic damage; for comparison, the Brittle Blade purple set has 581 and the T3 raid set has 416) and critical rating (178 crit rating; the BB purple set has 205).
I’m intrigued by the style of this armor, which seems to cast the HoX as some sort of feathered savage witch-doctor — not something that is typically suggested by other HoX sets in the game. I might actually end up wearing it as vanity gear on my HoX.
This is a social set and can thus be equipped by all classes. Unlike other sets, it drops from only two different bosses: the helmet, wrists, hands and shoulders drop from Overseer Olik in the Vile Nativity; the belt, boots, chest and legs drop from Rune-Caster Narvi in the Threshold of Divinity.
It’s a nice looking set, but in hindsight, collecting it on my necro may have been a mistake. It has such a clearly northern look (somewhat similar to what the Vanir in Conall’s Valley and the Field of the Dead are wearing, and unsurprisingly since it’s named after the (Vanir) excavators in the House of Crom I guess) that it can’t help feeling kind of incongruous on a Stygian character. I suspect it would fit a Cimmerian barbarian better :}
Not only the ideas behind the Crawling Chaos quest chain, but sometimes entire phrases of what the NPCs are saying, are based on various well-known pulp stories. Here are the ones I’ve noticed, though I’m sure there are others that I don’t know about, since I haven’t read *that* much of Lovecraft and Howard yet, and nothing of the other authors of the Cthulhu mythos.
This is the basis for the Messenger in the Dragon’s Spine; Tiandal borrows from this story when describing the Messenger as being of “old native blood”, “swarthy”, “slender, and sinister”, when he talks of having knelt before him although he could not say why, of “the great, the old, the terrible city of unnumbered crimes”, of the “choking room” and the “stifling night”, of how the Messenger’s “words took something from us, something that had never been taken before yet which showed only in our eyes”. The Messenger himself borrows from the same source when he talks about exploring his “uttermost mysteries”.
This story is the basis of the Shining Trapezohedron and its history: when Ankh-Ausar tells you the Trapezohedron was made on the alien planet of Yuggoth, and that it was later seen in Valusia, Lemuria, and Atlantis, this is the story where it all comes from. (He also mentions the land of Lomar, which is from various other HPL stories.) The Messenger also alludes to it when he speaks of possibly seeing you “in a place called Providence, in a chapel where pilgrims seek starry wisdom. We will haunt the dark.”
This is another major source of the Dragon’s Spine content. In this story, Kull, originally from Atlantis, is now king of Valusia and finds himself threatened by serpent men who are able to take on the appearance of any human, even his guards, his councillors, etc. He learns of the phrase “ka nama kaa lajerama” with which he unmasks them and defeats the plot against him. Alanza basically tells you a synopsis of this story in one of your early conversations with her; Ankh-Ausar’s “all men wear masks, and many a different mask with each different man or woman” is almost verbatim from this story. Note that some of this material has already been alluded to earlier in Age of Conan, in the House of Crom and the inscriptions therein.
The protagonist of this story, Randolph Carter, descends the “seventy steps of light slumber” and “seven hundred steps of deep slumber” (phrases mentioned by Ankh-Ausar during the conversation about the Shining Trapezohedron) and spends most of the rest of the story adventuring through an increasingly bizarre dream-world in search of a marvellous city that he had seen in his earlier dreams, (spoiler warning) until he finally learns that it’s really just a manifestation of his own memories of youth and home, and promptly wakes up (end spoiler warning).
Along the way, he travels though the desert plateau of Leng, complete with a vast subterranean monastery where he encounters a “high-priest not to be described”. He also finds himself in a fight against malignant toad-like aliens from the Moon; some of these even play flutes. The mini-instance where you do the last part of the Crawling Chaos quest seems to be partly inspired by these things: the instance is called Dreamscape of Leng, the first wave of mobs are toads, and the second wave are Priests Not to Be Described.
Furthermore, Nyarlathotep is frequently mentioned in this story as the messenger of the Other Gods, and near the end of the story he even appears in person, taking on the appearance of a young Pharaoh.
Leng is also mentioned in several other works by Lovecraft.
This story of Antarctic exploration doesn’t have such a direct connection to the Dragon’s Spine, but it frequently alludes to uncanny piping sounds and might have been inspiration for the way that the piping sound effect is used in the Dragon’s Spine whenever you approach an area that is significant for the Crawling Chaos quest. In any case, piping and flutes are constantly mentioned by Lovecraft in association with Nyarlathotep and similar entities. Ankh-Ausar might also be referring to this story when he talks about the serpent men pilfering “dead, Cyclopean cities that were ancient even then”; a big part of At the Mountains of Madness deals with the exploration of just such a city.
This tale seems to be the origin of the idea of the serpentmen as “children of Yig” (as they are called at various points in Dragon’s Spine content, e.g. by Ankh-Ausar). In this story, Yig is a snake-demon from Indian folklore, who regards snakes as his children and takes revenge on people that harm them; in this case his victims are two white settlers in 1880s Oklahoma. Lovecraft suggests that Yig is an earlier version of the more benevolent snake deities from further south, such as Quetzalcoatl and Kukulcan. The latter is from Maya mythology, which is another link to the Dragon’s Spine — as we’ll see below, the serpent men speak a few Maya words here and there.
A couple of minor allusions
Abasi’s “We cannot linger here. This is ghoul country!” is from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (“We can’t stop here. This is bat country!”).
I guess there are others that I haven’t noticed — let us know in the comments.
We get to hear a few phrases in the language of the serpent men: “cimil tumen otzil uinicob” and “hayal uinicob tumen katun kan”. What do they mean? A bit of googling suggests that the words seem to be from the Mayan language, but I’m not sure what exactly they mean and if these particular phrases are from some earlier source or not.
Most of the following list is from the Maya dictionary on whp.uoregon.edu unless otherwise specified:
- cimil = to die
- cimil = pestilence or death [source]
- tumen = for, by reason of, because of
- uinicob = men, people
- otzil uinicob = miserable men
- hayal = to level with the ground, to destroy
- katun = 7200 days [source]
- I can’t find kan, but there is a potentially relevant can = conversation, talk; the generic name for serpents; the number four; a gift or present; to converse, to tell stories; to teach, to impart information; to give another a contagious disease; strongly, powerfully, to tie very firmly.
So I guess it’s safe to say that the serpent men appear to be neither particularly cheerful not particularly benevolent
I take my lootwhoring very seriously, so as soon as the weapons that drop from the last two T4 bosses became known, I set up a spreadsheet to compare their stats and to plan what I wanted to get for my ToS. I was pleasantly surprised to see that range of available options is much broader than what we saw in lower tiers. Eventually I decided I’d expand the table a bit, adding T3 and T3.5 raid gear, as well as a few good faction and 6-player dungeon items, and thus the following table was born.
As is usual with these things, if you have a ToS or PoM and have been interested in gearing it up, such a table probably won’t tell you much that you don’t already know, but sometimes it’s nice to have things in a table and stare at the numbers a bit anyway.
Note: wisdom is not shown in the following table; instead, its constributions to magic damage and mana regen are included in the corresponding columns, and its contributions to holy/unholy protection are ignored. The column labelled “*” includes all the stats that don’t have a standalone column of their own; move your mouse pointer over a * symbol to see them.
The table is sorted by magic damage (including any trickledowns from wisdom), and the rows are color-coded thus: faction and 6-player dungeon items, T3 items, T3 crafted items, T3.5 items, T4 items.
|Item||Mgc Dmg||Heal Rtg||HP||Arm.||Mana||Hate|
|Hit Rtg||Crit Rtg||Crit Dmg Rtg||*|
|Collector of Blood + Bloodbane|
(faction 1hb, Amphitheatre shield)
|Left Hand of Nergal + Ward of the Arch Lector|
(T3.5 1hb + shield)
|Valka’s Woe Hymn + Impenetrable World of Valka|
(Lurker 1hb + shield)
|Samoore’s Staff of Divinity|
(T3 PoM staff)
|Collector of Blood + The End of Kings|
(faction 1hb + shield)
|Lemurian Firestick + Cabochon Azurite + Brutal Brilliant Royal Onyx|
|Collector of Blood + Relic of Dark Blessings|
(faction 1hb, Amphitheatre tali)
|Rod of Righteous Might|
(T2 quest reward for Seruah)
|Staff of Kwan|
(blue from the Palace of Yun Rau)
|Ell of Torment + Waning Boundary + 2 × Protective Oblique Corundum + 2 × Omnific Marquise Pushparagam + 2 × Cabochon Azurite|
(T3 crafted dagger + shield; note 584 protection!)
|Maahes’ Crackling Spite + Feretrum of Mitra|
(T3 ToS 1hb + PoM shield)
|Hammer of Lambent Fervor + Feretrum of Mitra|
(T3 PoM 1hb + shield)
|2 × Relic of the Oyster Mucus|
(Sepulcher talis; note 490 protection)
|Scepter of the August Ones + Laughing Auspices of the Celestials|
(T4 1hb + shield)
|Lemurian Firestick + Cabochon Azurite + Tempestuous Oblique Melanite|
|Staff of the Crustacean|
(blue from Sodabeh, Ardashir Fort)
|Tail of the Vaaghasan|
|Toil of Woes|
(The Devourer, Amphitheatre unchained)
|2 × Relic of Dark Blessings|
|Scepter of the August Ones + Advocacy of the August Ones|
(T4 1hb + heal tali)
|Maahes’ Crackling Spite + Coruscant Ward of Maahes*|
(T3 ToS 1hb + shield)
|2 × Samoore’s Radiant Scripture*|
(T3 PoM talis)
|Spire of the Firmament|
(T3 ToS polearm)
|Filament of Nightmare + Cabochon Azurite + Omnific Marquise Pushparagam + Brutal Brilliant Royal Onyx|
(T3 crafted staff)
|The Three Fangs of Reckoning|
|2 × Tome of the Black Gale|
(T3 ToS talis)
|The Infernus of Dagon + Tome of the Black Gale|
(T3 necro dagger + ToS tali)
|Maahes’ Crackling Spite + Tome of the Black Gale|
(T3 ToS 1hb + tali)
|The Necros of Dagon|
(T3 necro staff)
|The Infernus of Dagon + Arca of Jaggta-Noga|
(T3 necro dagger + demo tali)
|2 × Arca of Jaggta-Noga|
(T3 demo talis)
|Left Hand of Nergal + Tome of the Black Gale|
(T3.5 1hb + T3 ToS tali)
||Left Hand of Nergal + Arca of Jaggta-Noga|
(T3.5 1hb + T3 demo tali)
||2 × Mark of the Ancient Sands|
(blue drop from Ardashir Fort)
||Ell of Torment + Austere Brilliant Diamond + Cabochon Azurite + Omnific Marquise Pushparagam + Tome of the Black Gale|
(T3 crafted dagger + ToS tali)
||Ell of Torment + Austere Brilliant Diamond + Cabochon Azurite + Omnific Marquise Pushparagam + Arca of Jaggta-Noga|
(T3 crafted dagger + demo tali)
||2 × Talisman of the Ziggurat|
(blue drop from the Threshold of Divinity)
||Scepter of the August Ones + Token of the Divinity Serpent|
(T4 1hb + DPS tali)
||Filament of Nightmare + Cabochon Azurite + Omnific Marquise Pushparagam + Tempestuous Oblique Melanite|
(T3 crafted staff)
||Scepter of Ten Thousand Hells|
||Tongue of the Eight-Way Wyrm|
||Razor of the Divinity Serpent + Token of the Divinity Serpent|
(T4 dagger + DPS tali)
*Note: Coruscant Ward of Maahes (the ToS shield) and Samoore’s Radiant Scripture (PoM talisman) are missing from the loot tables in Thoth-Amon’s Stronghold and can only be obtained from the Raidmaster on the testlive server [1, 2]. They are included in this comparison only as a curiosity. We can see that compared to the PoM shield, the ToS sacrifices some constitution to gain some magic damage and -hate. And compared to the ToS talisman, the PoM talisman sacrifices hit rating and critical rating to gain some -hate and mana tap. Its clearly unfinished nature is demonstrated by the fact that it has the same model as T2 talismans, unlike all other T3 weapons, which have clearly different models than T1/T2 weapons.
†A black gem slot is more favorable to a ToS than to a PoM, as there is a black gem with electrical damage but none with holy or generic magic damage. A yellow gem slot is slightly more favorable to a PoM, who can use a gem with 26 holy damage instead of 23 generic magic damage.
‡The Staff of Kwan is a rare example of a Khitai item that is intended specifically for a PoM and not for a ToS, as it has some direct holy damage. This sort of thing was more common in old-world content, especially in pre-1.05 days.
A few observations
Faction and 6-player dungeon items
Among faction items, the most obvious choice is whether to use the staff or the 1hb + shield. The difference in heal rating is really too minuscule to worry about. The staff gives you a bit more dps and -hate, whereas the shield gives you some armor and mana tap. Buying the staff is cheaper (in terms of gold and rare trophies) than buying the 1hb + shield.
One downside of the faction shield is that it has no HP. Alternatively, you could use the shield from the Amphitheatre, which has 600 HP but no magic damage (and you’ll compete with tanks when rolling on it :P).
A stat that is notably absent from faction weapons is hit rating; this is probably Funcom’s way of increasing people’s interest in raid weapons. A nice way to get hit rating outside raids is with the Amphitheatre weapons (shield and talisman).
Compared to the faction weapons, the talisman from the Amphitheatre gives you hit rating and good DPS without sacrificing too much heal rating.
The talisman from the Sepulcher of the Wyrm is mostly notable for its protection, which is otherwise rare on weapons. For this you sacrifice all heal rating, and you’ll have to compete against mages and the occasional lootwhoring DT when this talisman drops in the dungeon.
The talismans from Ardashir Fort and from the Threshold of Divinity are extremely good blue items; they have a shitload of magic damage and good critical rating, but they lack heal rating, constitution, and the Ardashir Fort one also lacks hit rating (but it has -hate). The Talisman of the Ziggurat is bind-on-equip, so you might even be able to buy it.
I also included the Lemurian Firestick, a culture crafted staff with notably good stats for a blue item.
T3 raid drops
In T3, all weapons have constitution, whereas in T3.5, T4 and faction gear, only shields have constitution. Of course, one downside of all T3 gear is the absence of heal rating.
The T3 PoM staff is deservedly unpopular; I don’t know what they were thinking when setting up its stats. It has nice -hate and mana tap, but very low magic damage. The T3 ToS polearm is similar except that it has decent magic damage. Both of them lack things like hit rating and crit rating, which is probably the main reason why they are so unpopular.
The two T3 blunt weapons are quite similar; the PoM one has mana tap, the ToS one has health tap and -hate.
The T3 ToS talisman is very nice as it provides you not only with good magic damage but also hit rating and crit rating. One of its few downsides is the lack of -hate.
I included the T3 necro staff, necro dagger and demo talisman in the comparison since a lot of ToSses seem to be very interested in these items. I never entirely understood why. The gain in magic damage compared to the ToS talismans is negligible; the crit rating is nearly the same (slightly lower, in fact); and you’ll miss out on the hit rating. Possible advantages include more HP on the necro dagger and demo talisman, and -hate on the necro dagger.
T3 crafted items
There is of course the question of which of the many T3 crafted weapons to include in the comparison, and with which gems. I included the Ell of Torment (dagger) and Waning Boundary (shield) since the PoMs and ToSses that I’ve seen using crafted weapons usually use one or both of these. I also included the Filament of Nightmare (staff) due to the above-mentioned curious obsession with necro staffs among many ToSses.
The main feature of the Ell of Torment and Waning Boundary seems to be protection (and critical rating on the dagger), not so much magical damage itself. So they are mostly included in the table with protection gems, giving you up to 584 protection. For comparison, the protection sword and shield from Gyas (Blade of the Void, The Shield of Chaos), if you were able to pry them from the cold dead hands of rangers and tanks, would give you a total of 395 protection (and no magic damage etc.).
On the other hand, you can also get an impressive amount of magic damage and crit rating from the Ell of Torment by putting suitable gems into it (and combining it with a T3 talisman).
The Filament of Nightmare can give you a lot of magic damage if you’re a ToS and use an electrical gem in the black slot; it also has a decent amount of critical rating but is otherwise not that impressive. Just like the Ell of Torment, it lacks hit rating. For a PoM it’s even worse as you can’t put anything really useful in the black gem slot.
T3.5 raid items
The T3.5 shields (both from the Temple of Erlik and from the Lurker) have a lot of HP but no magic damage or wisdom. Basically they’re like taking the faction shield and replacing wisdom by HP.
The Lurker polearm doesn’t strike me as particularly impressive. It’s hard to see it as an upgrade at all, compared to e.g. T3 ToS talismans; especially considering how easy it is to kill Gyas compared to the Lurker.
The 1hb from the Temple of Erlik can be seen as a nice (if not exactly breathtaking) upgrade from the faction 1hb. The Lurker 1hb seems unimpressive; it sacrifices all the heal rating, while gaining only a little hit rating and mana tap.
T4 raid items
I was impressed by how much better the T4 items are compared to anything else in the game. If you look at healing gear, you can get ~1200 instead of ~780 heal rating; if you look at DPS gear, you can get ~170 instead of ~140 magic damage. All T4 items also have good critical rating.
The T4 1hb and healing talisman have very similar stats. If you use them both, you get the maximum amount of heal rating currently possible in the game. Alternatively, you can replace one of them by the shield, gaining some HP and armor while sacrificing some hit rating and critical rating.
Compared to other shields, the T4 shield doesn’t have that much HP, but it has a lot more heal rating and a still decent amount of magic damage.
The T4 staff and polearm have fairly similar stats, the main difference is that the staff has -hate and some more hit rating and heal rating, whereas the polearm has a bit more dps and some life tap. I guess a ToS should aim for the polearm and leave the staff to PoMs, who can’t use polearms. However, ideally you’d probably want to go for the dagger + DPS talisman as your DPS gear anyway.
The T4 dagger and DPS talisman give you an excellent combination of magic damage, -hate, hit rating etc.
Three social armor sets drop in the Sepulcher of the Wyrm: Shemite Exile, Shemite Mercenary and Shemite Wayfarer. None of them is terribly original in appearance, as similar (or, in some cases, identical) items already existed in the game for some time; these will also be shown below for comparison.
As far as I can tell, this set consists of just four items: wrists, feet, belt and chest. By now I’ve done more than 40 runs of the dungeon and seen each of these four items several times, but never any other parts from the same set, so I think it’s unlikely that any other parts actually exist.
These are green social items and seem to be using exactly the same models as the Shemite Exile items of the same name from the item shop. Incidentally, the item shop set also consists of just these four parts. (However, the item IDs are different and if you click the link of the item, the window that pops up is slightly taller in the case of the item shop versions than the dropped versions.)
Shemite Exile social armor from the Sepulcher of the Wyrm.
The chest piece has a curious property: equipping it not only hides your leg armor (this is not uncommon among chest pieces), but even your necklace. You might say that a necklace-like thing is incorporated into the chest itself, so hiding your necklace makes sense.
I can’t help feeling that the smaller parts of this set don’t go together very well with the chest; perhaps the combination looks better on the male models. Incidentally, the chest looks exactly the same as Kel’Avashk Robes from the Sanctum of Burning Souls. Apart from that, the two sets don’t have much in common: Kel’Avashk is cloth armor (with HoXish stats) rather than social, and besides the chest it contains feet, leg and head pieces (which go quite well with the chest IMO). So besides the chest, the only part that is present in both sets are feet, which look very different in Kel’Avashk than they do in the Shemite Exile set. Here’s a screenshot of the Kel’Avashk set from my old post about Sanctum sets (modelled by Cynara’s younger and sluttier Aquilonian cousin :P):
Kel’Avashk cloth armor from the Sanctum of the Burning Souls.
This is a blue social set and consists of all eight parts. In terms of appearance, it’s closely related to the Exaltate’s set (see below).
Shemite Mercenary social armor from the Sepulcher of the Wyrm.
Note the terrible clipping issues between the helmet and the character’s hair. Other turban-like helmets shown in this post don’t seem to have any such issues.
For comparison, let’s take a look at the Exaltate’s set. This is the level 80 old-world dungeon set traditionally associated with the Priest of Mitra class, though its stats since 1.05 (light armor with wisdom) are also suitable for a ToS. As with the other sets of this sort, its parts drop in Atzel’s Fortress, Caravan Raiders’ Hideout, and Onyx Chambers, so collecting the complete set would require an enormous effort nowadays, as it would be difficult to find people to farm Onyx rare bosses with you. The following screenshot is from the testlive server, where Fate hands out this set if you’re a PoM and ask for level 80 gear:
Exaltate’s (PoM level 80 dungeon set).
This is another blue social set from the Sepulcher of the Wyrm and it also consists of all eight parts. In terms of appearance, it’s closely related to the Shemite Stormwatcher set (see below).
Shemite Wayfarer social armor from the Sepulcher of the Wyrm.
For comparison, let’s take a look at the Shemite Stormwatcher set. This is the Bear Shaman culture armor set, i.e. crafted level 78/79 blue armor; the recipes for it drop from Kesh in Onyx Chambers. As with other culture armor sets, it consists of six parts (head, chest, legs, feet, belt, hands). The following screenshot is again from the testlive server, where any character can obtain any culture armor set from Fate:
Shemite Stormwatcher (BS culture armor).
I have no idea whether these items (or other items with an identical appearance) will still be available after the forthcoming crafting revamp. My understanding from the information available so far is that you probably won’t be able to craft exactly these items any more, as they have gem slots and the new system won’t really have the concept of putting gems into an item after it has been crafted; but what used to be the recipe for an item will now become a template for its appearance, so that if you were formerly able to craft this particular culture set you will afterwards be able to craft new crafted items with the appearance of this former culture set. At least that’s the impression I got from what the devs said so far.
What drops where?
The following table shows which of the three bosses in Sepulcher of the Wyrm drops which parts of these sets:
As we saw above, several of these sets include a turban-style hat. It turns out that a few other similar (but mostly not identical) turbans also drop elsewhere in the game.
One is the Darkslayer Hood, which drops from the Devourer in the Amphitheatre of Karutonia (normal mode, i.e. level 63). It uses the same model as the Shemite Wayfarer Turban from the Sepulcher of the Wyrm. However, other gear which is meant to match that hood looks quite different than the Shemite sets from this post; see one of my old posts for more about that.
Another similar turban is the Shroud of Vladislav, which drops from a rare boss (Olgerd Vladislav) in one of the Silk Road encounters (The Silk Road Pass). It’s fairly easy to farm it; go to Khemi, talk to the Khitai travel NPC and offer to guard his caravan; if you didn’t get the Silk Road Pass encounter, but one of the other ones, just relog and talk to the NPC again; repeat as long as needed. Once you get the Silk Road Pass encounter, pick up the quest and kill all the waves of attackers; the end boss is either Zuagir Raider Chief (common) or Olgerd Vladislav (rare — but not terribly rare, IME). If you didn’t get Vladislav, or if you did but he didn’t drop the turban, you can simply delete the quest and take it again (without leaving the Silk Road Pass zone), thereby triggering the waves of mobs again, etc. You can keep on repeating this as long as you like. See also this very interesting post on Slith’s blog about the lore behind Vladislav.
Speaking of turbans, the Headdress of the Blue Sea, which has a chance of dropping from the ape boss on the Isle of Iron Statues, also looks like a turban when worn by a male character; but in this case the turban is blue and looks quite different than the others in this post. It is worn by several NPCs in the city of Ardashir and also in the new playfield, Dragon’s Spine. On female characters this item has a completely different appearance anyway (a mostly-transparent face veil).
Another vaguely turban-like item is the Crown of Winter’s Knight from the recent (Winter 2012/13) seasonal quest, though it’s presumably intended to be a Santa-style hat:
(This post is a kind of continuation of my post about combat mechanics from a few weeks ago.)
Well, here’s at least one thing that makes sense. I measured the amount of damage done by an unarmed white hit (i.e. while having nothing in my main hand) — an ‘up’ attack to be precise, though it seems that other directions hit for the same amount anyway. The theory here is supposed to be that the amount of damage done is computed as
damage = DPS · animation_length, (*)
where DPS is the DPS number from your Attributes/General tab, and consists of your weapon damage plus the DPS coming from strength (or dexterity, depending on your weapon) and combat rating. I varied my DPS by swapping some gear around, and I also did the tests with several classes. To my considerable surprise, all the measurements match up perfectly:
We see that all the measurements lie on the same straight line; the slope of this line is the animation length of our unarmed ‘up’ attack. It must be equally long regardless of your class, since the measurements of different classes all lie on the same line.
As often with this sort of testing, we are slightly hampered by the fact that damage is rounded to the nearest integer in our combat log, even though the game internally works with non-integer amounts. (The DPS as shown in the Attributes/General tab is similarly rounded to one digit after the decimal point, but this isn’t a problem as we can compute the exact value by ourselves from combat rating and strength.) For example, at 132.2 DPS (actually more like 132.2295; coming from 1.0 weapon damage + 4803 combat rating) our hits were shown as being 164 points, so the real amount must have been somewhere between 163.5 and 164.5. And the animation length must therefore have been somewhere between 163.5/132.2 = 1.236 sec and 164.5/132.2 = 1.244 sec.
So we don’t know exactly what the animation length is, but we at least found a lower and an upper bound on it. Other measurements from the chart above give us slightly different bounds. The highest lower bound I could find was 1.24107, and the lowest upper bound I could find was 1.24154; between these two, we have estimated the length of this particular animation with an accuracy of less than half a millisecond!
So as we can see, the formula (*) above isn’t some sort of approximation; it’s the real thing. For any of the measurements shown on my chart, you can take any animation length from the range [1.24107, 1.24154] that we’ve just established, multiply it by DPS and round the result to the nearest integer, and you get exactly the amount of damage that really appeared in my combat log. (Of course, if we made more measurements at still different values of DPS, we could perhaps narrow down the range of possible animation lengths still further. But the current range is already very narrow.)
These measurements also demonstrate that when the tooltip says you got 1.0 weapon DPS from your unarmed main hand, it isn’t joking. If you subtract 1.0 from the DPS in all my measurements, you can no longer explain the amount of damage done in each hit with a linear function of the form DPS · animation_length — you’d have to add a constant term to it.
Among other classes, my tests in the previous section included two soldiers (guardian and DT) in neutral stance. But what happens if we switch to defensive stance instead? The tooltip on defensive stance says, among other things, “−10% damage multiplier”. This multiplier seems to affect nothing more or less than the DPS value shown in the Attributes/General tab; in other words, the formula for DPS is actually
DPS = (weapon_damage + combat_rating / 36.6) · damage_multiplier.
By default, the damage multiplier is 1 (or 100%), but there might be various buffs or debuffs that modify it. Switching from neutral to defensive stance brings your damage multiplier to 0.9 (or 90%), due to the −10% damage multiplier on defensive stance. If there are several things affecting your damage multiplier, they stack additively rather than multiplicatively. For example, the death penalty debuff includes −1% damage multiplier; together with defensive stance this brings your damage multiplier down to 100% − 10% − 1% = 89% = 0.89, and not to (100% − 10%) · (100% − 1%) = 0.90 · 0.99 = 0.891.
So, here are some measurements of hits made in defensive stance. For the x-coordinate, we used the DPS as shown in the GUI during defensive stance, so it’s already been multiplied by the 0.9 damage multiplier.
Now, here’s an odd thing: the measurements in defensive stance still all fall on a straight line — but it isn’t the same line as in neutral stance (or on non-soldier classes for whom stances don’t apply at all). For example, in the previous section we saw that when our DPS was 132.2 (in neutral stance), our hits were for 164 points. Switching to defensive stance brings our DPS down to 119.0, which is good, as this really is 90% of 132.2 (rounded to one digit after the decimal point). But if you now plug this DPS into our formula (*), and use the same animation length that we established in the previous section (around 1.241 sec), you’d expect the resulting hit to be around 147.7 points. So the combat log, where things are rounded to the nearest integer, should show us hitting for 148 points; but it actually turned out that we were hitting for 150 points.
This anomaly, where our hits in defensive stance are slightly stronger than we expected, was present in all my measurements in defensive stance, both on my guardian and my DT. I’m not sure how to explain it. One way is to imagine that although the GUI (in the Attributes / General) tab shows our DPS exactly as we would expect it given a −10% damage multiplier, it’s actually lying to us and the game actually uses a slightly higher DPS when calculating how much we’re hitting for. It’s as if, instead of having 90% as much DPS as in neutral stance, we actually had around 91.6% or 91.7% as much; i.e. as if the damage multiplier stat on defensive stance was not −10%, but around −8.3% or −8.4%. But this idea, that the GUI shows one thing but internally the game uses a completely different amount when calculating damage, seems a bit too bizarre and improbable to me.
Another explanation that comes to mind is that animation length is different in defensive stance than in neutral. We can calculate bounds on animation length from our measurements in defensive stance, just like we did in the previous section for neutral stance. The result is that the animation length in defensive stance should be between 1.26395 and 1.26463 seconds — about 0.02 sec longer than in neutral stance. Now, this doesn’t strike me as completely implausible; after all, the character’s hands etc. are in a slightly different position in defensive stance than they are in neutral, so it might require a slightly longer animation to perform the hit.
I tried to test this explanation in the following way. If each hit is 0.02 seconds longer in defensive stance than in neutral, then a sequence of 100 hits should be about 2 seconds longer. The combat log shows the timestamp of each hit to within 1 second, so we can perform 101 hits and compute the difference between the timestamp of the first and the 101st hit to estimate the total duration of 100 hits. We’d expect this duration to be around 124 or 126 seconds, since we’ve seen above that the animation length should be around 1.24 or 1.26 seconds. What actually turned out is that the duration of 100 hits was slightly longer — around 134 seconds — which suggests that there’s a small gap of about 0.1 seconds between each hit and the next. I doubt there’s any way to avoid this gap, since it was there even though I always pressed the button for the next attack before the current attack was finished.
If we repeat this several times, the duration of 100 hits will not be exactly the same each time; this is probably partly because it depends on where within that one whole second our first hit fell, and partly because the tiny gaps between hits are perhaps not all equally long. If we want to compare the results for neutral and for defensive stance, we’ll have to assume that the gaps are on average equally long in both stances. Under this assumption, a sequence of 100 hits should still take about 2 sec longer in defensive stance than in neutral (if it’s true that the animation length in defensive stance is 0.02 sec longer than in neutral). But is that really the case? I repeated this test 100 times in each stance and the following chart shows how often I got which duration:
As we can see, the durations in defensive stance aren’t really 2 seconds longer than in neutral stance. On average they are about 0.58 sec longer; I’m not sure if this difference is just a random statistical artefact (I did a t-test and it clearly showed that the difference is statistically significant) or if it really suggests some underlying difference in animation length, but in any case, the difference isn’t big enough to explain the anomaly in the amount we hit for.
So, to sum it up, I don’t have any good explanation for why the hits in defensive stance are stronger than you’d expect. Either the game is lying and using one damage multiplier in the GUI but a different damage multiplier when computing the actual damage of your hits; or the animation is longer in defensive stance but the uncontrollable gaps between hits are shorter and so cover up this increase in length; or there might be some other explanation altogether.
The Crawling Chaos (CC) is a long quest in the Dragon’s Spine and is closely connected to a number of other quests in the playfield. Completing other quests will progress your CC quest, and this in turn will make yet other quests available. Along the way you get to learn a lot about the lore behind the playfield, enjoy numerous references to the work of Lovecraft and Howard, and finally get an epic flute as the quest reward:
Doing the CC quest is actually very easy: you just keep doing quests in the Dragon’s Spine and revisiting the various NPCs to check if/when new quests have become available. Sooner or later you’ll get the various parts of CC quest done as well. But judging by the amount of questions both in global chat and in the forums, the quest is giving enough people enough trouble that I figured a post about it might be useful. If you prefer a guide to this quest in the form of a 50-minute youtube video, one has recently been posted by Civilix: link. (See also a forum thread about this quest.)
You get the Crawling Chaos quest by approaching the area around (1116, 839); a cutscene appears and a window pops up with the initial quest description. It seems that some other quests are a pre-requisited for this; I didn’t get this cutscene after completing A Foreshadowing Encounter, but I got it after I also completed The Snakes Who Walk (but no other quests besides these two). In any case, it makes sense to do both of these quests as they explain the story, so I’ll describe them below:
A Foreshadowing Encounter. To get this quest, speak to the dying camel that lies very near to where you ported into Dragon’s Spine from Khemi. The next step leads you to talk to Arch Lector Tiandal nearby (1229, 1289), who tells you about a mysterious swarthy man whom he has been chasing all the way from Tarantia.
The Snakes Who Walk. You get this quest from Alanza at the northern dig site (1266, 1204); the next steps are to look at the captured serpent man in a nearby cage and then talk to Captain Achillas nearby.
After these two, you can pick up the start of the CC quest, as described above. The first step is to speak to the Messenger at (1203, 826), who tells you to start looking for lies in the desert.
A quest named Deception in the Dunes now becomes available from Jamila in the tent at (1271, 1209). She asks you to find a missing excavator named Tawar; he is at (1310, 1051). As you talk to him, illusions of naked women appear to float around him; this is the first lie of the desert and will move you to the next step of the CC quest. To complete the Deception in the Dunes, go talk to the Tempest of Set nearby.
The Tempest now offers you the next quest in the chain, A Shattered Truth. He believes that the strange behavior of excavators such as Tawar is due to the influence of two recently excavated stone tablets, and asks you to destroy them. You’ll find the tablets in a tent in the southern dig site (1063, 258).
A nearby NPC, Khaa (1068, 280), now asks you to cut some wood for him, in a quest named The Axe, the Tree, the Bloom that Could Not Be. Pick up the axe nearby at (1063, 264) and go cut the withered tree at (467, 386). Flowers spring up on the dead tree, which is the second lie of the desert and will update your CC quest. Go to Abasi at (929, 413) to hand in the wood.
Now you can get the next quest, The Double-Walking Tempest, from Tachus in the northern dig camp at (1204, 1042). He needs poison for the anti-serpentman traps and asks you to fetch some poison from the Tempest of Set, who has apparently been gone for some time now. You’ll find the Tempest in a tent near the Palace of Cetriss at (799, 864). The Tempest doesn’t remember talking to you before, which is odd considering you’ve spoken to him several times in some of the previous quests, while he was standing at the edge of the northern excavation camp! Anyway, he gives you a poisonous plant, which you can now carry back to Tachus.
A new quest, Lies, Lies, Crawling Lies now becomes available from Jamila. The next step is to talk to Alanza, who is angry about the tablets you’ve recently smashed; after that you complete the quest by talking to the Messenger, who hints that you will find your answers from a fool rather than from wise men.
You can now talk to the Excavation Guard at (1342, 503); he turns out to be just the fool you’ve been looking for — he got himself caught in a serpent man trap. During the conversation he transforms into a serpent man and becomes hostile. This is the next lie of the desert, updating your CC quest, and it also gives you a new quest, Unshrouded Secrets. Complete it by killing the serpent man and carrying his head to Ankh-Ausar at (1070, 271). He tells you about the serpent men’s morphing abilities and how they can be unmasked by the phrase “ka nama kaa lajerama”.
From Ankh-Ausar you get a new quest, The Serpent Beneath the Skin, in which you will use the magical phrase on Khaa, on the Messenger, and then on the Tempest of Set in the northern dig camp; unlike the first two, the Tempest actually turns out to be a serpent man in disguise (presumably the one you’ve seen near the Palace of Cetriss is the real one). This is the next lie of the desert and updates your CC quest. After killing the false Tempest, you can complete the Serpent Beneath the Skin quest by talking to Alanza and then to Ankh-Ausar.
The resulting conversation with Ankh-Ausar tells you a lot about a mysterious artefact called the Shining Trapezohedron, which updates your CC quest again; you can also get from him a quest to find the Shining Trapezohedron in the Sepulcher of the Wyrm (group dungeon located south of the southern excavation camp), but you don’t need to do this quest to complete your CC quest.
Now you can get the next quest, The Seals of Cetriss, from Alanza. Remember those two tablets you smashed earlier? Turns out that there is a third tablet which could be reconstructed from several pieces that are currently scattered around the playfield. Go pick them up at (1274, 1211), (1148, 919), (1196, 1137), (1007, 364), and (1072, 272). Now you can click the Third Seal of Cetriss at (1159, 410) and be teleported into the adjacent room containing some curious murals and a mysterious flute.
You should have cutscenes enabled for the next step. Click the flute and you’ll see a cutscene showing how the Messenger presented a Serpent Man King with the Shining Trapezohedron; at the end of the cutscene, the CC quest updates again. Apparently the quest fails to update if you had cutscenes disabled. You can now complete the Seals of Cetriss quest by talking to Alanza, but you can actually proceed with the CC quest without doing so.
Now you can approach the Messenger again, but before reaching him, around (1201, 836), you get teleported into a miniature separate playfield called the Dreamscape of Leng. This teleporting mechanic is sometimes bugged and you might need to switch to a different instance of Dragon’s Spine and try approaching the Messenger in that instance again to get ported correctly.
There you will first have to kill several waves of minions, followed by about 10 normal mobs called Priests Not To Be Described. These all have the same name, but they actually seem to be of two kinds: about half of them have very low HP, others have normal HP, so it might be useful to kill the ones with low HP first.
After this a boss named The Spiraling Worm spawns; it has twice the usual amount of HP for a level 85 boss (i.e. 50k instead of 25k). The main thing to watch out for in this fight is his Phosphorous Sand spell, which spawns AoEs on the ground; move out of them quickly to avoid taking damage.
During the worm fight, you can click the flute on the nearby altar to get a damage buff. Some people reported having problems with the flute as they get interrupted before the cast is completed. In any case, depending on your class and gear, chances are good that you won’t have to bother with the flute at all.
At some point during the worm fight, another Priest mob spawns and effectively offtanks you: the worm loses interest in you until it kills the priest; this can give you a welcome opportunity to heal up a bit. (Some people say that this priest is spawned by clicking the flute, but I think this is a mistake; he spawned for me even if I didn’t use the flute at all.)
After you kill the worm, a portal appears and you can walk into it to be ported back to the Dragon’s Spine. Now you can finish the CC quest by having a long conversation with the Messenger, in which you’ll find out who he really is (as if there was any doubt by this point :P) and finally get your Otherwordly Flute as the quest reward.
There’s another quest as a postscript to this whole affair. Having completed the Crawling Chaos quest, move a few steps away from the Messenger (1198, 838) and a window pops up, giving you a quest called One Chance at Redemption to warn Tiandal about the Messenger’s true nature.
There’s one tricky part in the resulting conversation with Tiandal. At some point, Tiandal becomes exasperated with your initial and rather incoherent efforts to warn him: “Seize thine tongue!” etc. You then have several options to continue the conversation: option 1 is “There’s no hope then”, option 2 is irrelevant (you just get the other two options in the next step) and option 3 is “Very well, Tiandal”. Now, in most conversations in Age of Conan, option 1 is always the right choice to take; but here, if you choose option 1 at this point, the quest completes at once and you miss out on a lot of the lore-related conversation.
You should take option 3 instead. This will not only give you more lore information but will complete the quest in a more satisfactory way. (Technically, there’s no difference, of course; in both cases, your quest will be done and you’ll get the same reward — a blue ring with constitution, which might be valuable to a poorly geared character but is otherwise unimpressive.) The point of this quest is to warn Tiandal against pursuing the Messenger, and if you chose option 1, Tiandal remains stubborn in his zealotry, so your effort to warn him off has basically failed. But if you chose option 3, he agrees to give up the pursuit, admitting that he has himself already experienced some curious examples of the Messenger’s abilities.
This is the new 6-player dungeon in Dragon’s Spine. The entrance is in the southeast of the playfield, below the southern excavation site. It contains three bosses and various puzzles along the way. Almost all of the damage you’ll be taking here is physical; the last boss crits quite a bit, the first two not so much. You don’t need archetype-specific perks (resolve, TW, FH, UC, SF) anywhere in the dungeon. You should have two tanks in the group, preferably also two healers but it’s doable with one.
Jarl-Kosh the Lotus-Haunted
He does poison damage. It’s mostly a tank-and-spank fight, with the following exceptions:
Corruptive Blitz is a channeled spell, during which green circles spawn on the ground under random people. Standing in a green circle (or moving through it) gives you a poison dot called Paralytic Toxin; it can stack up to 5 times. What’s even worse than the dot itself is what happens next (see below). So people should spread and keep moving around the room during Corruptive Blitz to make sure they won’t stand in the green circles.
Catalyze: comes after Corruptive Blitz. People that formerly had the Paralytic Toxin dot will now get stunned (Lethargic; the duration of the stun depends on how many stack of the Toxin you had: 4 seconds per stack). Additionally, being stunned like this will also restore some of the boss’s health, which is another good reason to avoid getting the Toxin in the first place.
Consume Lotus Powder: he casts it every now and then, usually after Catalzye; this gives him another stack of the Energized buff, which gives him +30% magic damage modifier per stack. So it’s like a soft enrage timer — at first he’s easy enough to tank, but if you let him reach 3 stacks, he hits quite hard.
After this boss’s room there’s a pair of gears (Illuminating Apparatus), which you’ll need to click to proceed to the next puzzle (see the section on steam puzzles below); but after you kill the second boss, clicking these gears will teleport you to the latest completed puzzle. This will shorten your way back if you wipe on the third boss or die on one of the puzzles between the second and third boss.
Violent Swipe is a frontal cone attack. The tank can move out of the cone, others should be behind the boss anyway.
Ground slam = AoE knockback. Move a few steps away (but not very far, as it isn’t a large aoe).
Cave In usually follows Ground Slam. During this spell, the boss targets a random player and will spawn an AoE on the ground (looks similar to Trembling Rocks from Jade Dugout) on the location where that player stood at the end of the cast. Thus the targeted player can control where the rocks will spawn by moving suitably before the cast is done. The rocks will stay there for the rest of the fight and will do damage to anyone who steps into them, so you don’t want to fill the whole room with them. IME it’s best to try to get the rocks to spawn near the walls and keep the middle of the room clear for fighting the boss.
Seeing Red: the boss targets a random player, runs towards him and hits him. After this he casts Pulverize, which is a self-centered AoE attack. The strength of Pulverize depends on how long the targeted player has managed to avoid beind hit, so if you get targeted by Seeing Red, you should kite the boss for a few seconds (around a pillar — take advantage of the fact that the boss is too big to go between the pillar and the wall) before you let him hit you. You can observe a buff called Marked on yourself during this time; it gets a new stack every 4 seconds and the more stacks you have by the time you get hit, the weaker the boss’s Pulverize will be.
If you let him hit you right away, the resulting Pulverize will be very strong and might even oneshot squishies. So you really should kite him long enough to get at least a couple of stacks of Marked. You can also avoid Pulverize by breaking line of sight with a pillar, or by standing sufficiently far from the boss (like on the opposite end of the room). In fact this hints at a possible alternative way to deal with Seeing Red: get the boss behind a pillar and let him hit you there and do his Pulverize there; you can also run to the other side of the pillar before the Pulverize cast is done; if you positioned the boss well, the pillar will block his line of sight to all the players, so nobody will get hit and it doesn’t matter how many stacks the boss had.
The main thing in this fight is to control where the rocks are spawned (by Cave In) and to kill the boss before you run out of space.
If you try to be upstairs during the fight, he kills you with very strong ranged attacks (Paroyxsm); IME this often happens when a healer runs back after a wipe and tries to resurrect people (and inadvertently triggers the boss), so be careful.
Custodian of Yoth
This fight consists of two phases, and in the first phase the players will be divided into two subgroups of 3 people, one downstairs and one upstairs..
At the start of the fight, 3 players (two tanks and a healer) click the crystals on the corpses (Doomed Tomb Robbers) downstairs and get ported upstairs. There they fight the boss (Supernal Custodian of Yoth). This boss is just tank and spank, but he hits hard and they will need to swap aggro.
Supernal Custodian of Yoth, the upstairs form of the boss. (Click to enlarge.)
The other 3 people downstairs are meanwhile killing adds which will be spawning there (Forsaken Child of Yig). These are sufficiently easy to kill that you don’t require a tank in the downstairs part of the team; or, if you do have a tank, you don’t require a healer. Killing the adds will slowly charge the three colored orbs and eventually make them clickable. Clicking the orbs will CC the adds; the red (i.e. middle) orb even oneshots them. The adds will be trying to attack the Doomed Toom Robber corpses and every time an add hits a corpse, someone in the upstairs team will also take some damage (Tether), so the downstairs team should make an effort to prevent this.
When the boss upstairs reaches 75%, three adds around him activate (Spectral Child of Yig) and start doing ranged attacks on the players upstairs.
The people downstairs should click the red globe (Globe of Ruin — the middle one) very quickly, in order to deactivate these adds before they kill someone upstairs. But make sure they click after the adds appear, not before. [See the historical note below for more.] By default they hit the player who ported upstairs first before the fight, so you should always make one of the tanks port first. They don’t have much HP, so you should kill them quickly; meanwhile one of the tanks can kite the boss. The adds can be stunned.
We got another such add wave a little after killing the first wave; IIRC the boss was around 60% HP at the time. After killing this second wave, no further adds spawned upstairs.
When the boss upstairs reaches 25%, he runs to the portal and disappears. The players upstairs should click the portal as well, to get ported downstairs.
The boss now appears downstairs under a slightly different name (Custodian of Yoth) and at full health. This second phase of the fight is just tank and spank, but the boss quickly buffs himself up to +100% damage (Yuggoth Risen), so he hits really hard.
If you’re really desperate, you can try to kite him a bit, but that generally doesn’t work too well — he runs quickly and he has frequent ranged attacks (Censure Outsider). Another idea that can help in desperate circumstances is to use the globes to break his line of sight during Censure Outsider.
By the way, if the upstairs team wipes, there’s no need to release — their corpses will get ported down and the fight will reset, so the downstairs team can rez them.
The upstairs boss spawns a door-like “mob” called Yoth-Gate; we tried killing it at various times but this didn’t seem to have any effect; the boss simply spawned a new one soon afterwards.
Note on the history of this encounter
This fight is one of those notorious situations, all too common in AoC, where Funcom “fixed” something that wasn’t broken to begin with, broke it in the process of fixing it, and then left it broken for ages afterwards. The dungeon was released in update 4.0 and was initially quite popular. The upstairs adds in the third boss fight (Spectral Children of Yig) were hitting extremely hard, but you could oneshot them by having one of the players downstairs click the red orb as soon as they spawned. There were no further add waves upstairs after that, so it was a pretty straightforward fight.
Apparently, killing the upstairs adds with the red orb wasn’t intended, so in 4.0.1, Funcom “fixed” this. This made the fight impossible as the adds upstairs were hitting too hard and took too long to kill now that you couldn’t oneshot them with the red orb any more.
In 4.0.2, they tried to fix the situation by nerfing the HP of the adds upstairs considerably, but they were still hitting just as hard as before. My tank was getting hit by about 1500 piercing damage from each add every 2 sec. My estimates of their HP from the combat log have unusually high variance from one add wave to the next, but as a rough estimate, each add seems to have had around 20k HP. Due to this relatively low HP, it was now possible to kill them before wiping. However, they would respawn very quickly afterwards, and we always wiped before killing the second wave.
In the 5th anniversary downtime (23 May 2013), they finally fixed the fight by nerfing the HP of the adds still further (they now seem to have about 10k HP each) and also nerfing their DPS by 60% (so they are now hitting me for around 600 instead of 1500). This makes it easy enough to kill them. Eventually a second wave spawned, we killed those as well and there weren’t any further waves after that. The health of the boss upstairs (Supernal Custodian of Yoth) also seems to be a bit lower than before 4.0.1 (around 458k to get him from 100% to 25%; before 4.0.1 it was around 545k).
This is initially a rectangular array of tiles, but some of them will collapse a few seconds after someone steps on them. The screenshot below shows which tiles are firm:
There is a gear on each side that needs to be clicked to open the gate at the other end of the room.
This is a circular arrangement of pads around a pillar. If you step on a pad, it activates for a few seconds (you can see a smoky particle effect). (Note that if you keep standing on the pad, it will still deactivate after a few seconds, just as if you stepped off.) To solve the puzzle, you need to get all the pads to be activated at the same time.
Note the jet of steam on the left, and the particle effect indicating
that we stepped on a pad and activated it. (Click to enlarge.)
One way to do this is to have 2 people start on adjacent pads and then sprint along the circle in opposite directions. By the time they meet on the opposite side, all the pads should be active and none should have deactivated yet. Of course you could do the same with more people, so that each of them would have to run an even smaller part of the circle.
Be careful around the jets of steam, which will knock you into the abyss if they hit you. Some of the jets are positioned between two pads, some on a pad. The jets move clockwise around the pillar.
This puzzle consists of four pillars, each with a clickable gear (Illuminating Apparatus) in front of it. Each pillar can be either active (with a light beam shining out of it) or inactive. The goal is to set all four pillars into the active state, as shown in the below screenshot:
We’ll number the puzzles (and the gears) 1, 2, 3, 4 from left to right. I’m not yet sure if I completely understand how the gears work, but my impresion so far is that each gear toggles the state of a few pillars (i.e. changes those pillars into active if they were inactive, and vice versa):
- gear 1 toggles pillars 1, 2, 3;
- gear 2 toggles pillars 1, 2;
- gear 3 toggles pillars 1, 3;
- gear 4 toggles pillars 1, 4.
IME the initial state is pretty much always such that only pillar 2 is active, and the others are inactive; so you have to click gears 1, 2 and 4 to solve the puzzle.
Someone posted a script in global with instructions on which gears to click depending on the initial state of the pillars, though I suspect there might be one or two errors in it: link.
Once you start clicking the gears, adds will start spawning, coming from the area of the previous tile puzzle. The add will keep coming until the puzzle is solved. So you should have one person doing the puzzle and the rest of the group standing on the stairs, grabbing and killing the adds. It helps if you have two tanks in the part of the group that deals with the adds, so that they can keep them under control more reliably.
Warning: sometimes the gears get stuck (and you get an on-screen message saying that). This seems most likely to happen if you click a gear while the mechanism hasn’t yet finished moving from your previous click. So don’t do that — in the worst case it all gets bugged so that you have to go out, regroup and start from the beginning in a new instance of the dungeon.
There’s a quest (A World of Doom) from Yaqub-Har, to kill the first boss (Jarl-Kosh), as a followup to the quest chain involving the nomad tribe in the southwest of the playfield.
There’s also A Shard of Madness, a quest from Ankh Ausar to get a shard of the Shining Trapezohedron from the ground after killing the last boss.
There might be another quest involving this dungeon, but I can’t remember it now.
You might have noticed the NPC vendor in the northern excavation site in Dragon’s Spine, selling (purple) shoulders and belts from six new armor sets. It appears that at least some of the remaining parts of these sets drop in the Sepulcher of the Wyrm. The first boss drops feet, the second drops wrists, and the third one drops legs; all of these are blue items. The third boss also drops a purple item, which can be either hands from these sets (purple) or a purple weapon or accessory. AFAIK no chests and helmets have been reported so far. See also the Stygian section on the AoC > TV armory.
Purple weapons/accessories I’ve seen so far:
- Necklace of Wormfire: 62 hit rtg, 515 combat rtg (fire), 111 protection (fire)
- Ring of the Vampire Squid: 74 con, 60 hit rtg, 54 crit rtg, 20 immunity rtg
- Relic of the Oyster Mucus [talisman]: 60 magic dmg, 56 hit rtg, 50 crit rtg, 45 immunity rtg, 60 crit dmg rtg, 245 protection
They also drop items from various social armor sets: Shemite Exile, Shemite Wayfarer, Shemite Mercenary.
I’ll post more details about loot tables once I’ve collected enough data.