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Literary references in the Crawling Chaos quest

March 2, 2013 4 comments

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.

H. P. Lovecraft: Nyarlathotep. Online text.

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”.

H. P. Lovecraft: The Haunter of the Dark. Online text.

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.”

R. E. Howard: The Shadow Kingdom. Online text.

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.

H. P. Lovecraft: The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. Online text.

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.

H. P. Lovecraft: At the Mountains of Madness. Online text.

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.

Zealia Bishop, H. P. Lovecraft: The Curse of Yig. Online text.

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

The Tempest of Set’s “May the Great Serpent shows you marvels strange and terrific” is an allusion to H.P. Lovecraft’s The Festival (“their marvels are strange and terrific”). The player’s character also mentions “sights both strange and terrible” in a conversation with Ankh-Ausar.

Tiandal’s “followed fast and followed faster” is of course from Poe‘s The Raven.

Ankh-Ausar’s “I am a man who likes to talk to someone who likes to talk” is from The Maltese Falcon; certainly it appears in the movie, I’m not sure if also in the book as I haven’t read it.

Commander Achillas’ “Something slithering this way comes!” is from Macbeth (“something wicked this way comes”).

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!”).

The names of two Slithering Chaos quests, “The Origin of Species” and “The Descent of Serpent Men”, are of course allusions to two books by Charles Darwin.

I guess there are others that I haven’t noticed — let us know in the comments.

Maya language

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 😛

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Categories: Age of Conan, Lore, Quests

The T3 that never was

August 6, 2012 16 comments

T3 before release

Thoth-Amon’s Stronghold, Age of Conan’s Tier 3 raid dungeon, has had a curious and checkered history. You can find an old Youtube video “from the community event Jan 2008”, where a developer says quite plainly that “we will have 8 different raid dungeons when we launch the game; there will be 19 major raid encounters” (1:33), “the raids are divided into 3 tiers” (1:58); “tier 2 consists of three dungeons” (3:01).

So it would seem that at that time, less than five months before release, they still thought they would really be able to launch with all this raid content; and yet we know that not only was T3 not available at launch, but neither was the last part of T2, namely Wing 3 of the Black Ring Citadel; and that several of the earlier encounters were heavily bugged in various ways. Wing 3 became available in update 1.04, nine months after release, and T3 was open only in 1.06, one year after 1.04.

T3 at release

Well, in fact it isn’t entirely true that T3 was not available at launch. If you tried clicking its door, you were told that you couldn’t use that item at that time; but the playfield was there, probably in some partly finished form, and at some point it would seem that some player managed to hack into the communications between their client and the game server deeply enough that they got the server to port them into Thoth-Amon’s Stronghold such as it existed at the time. This was shown in a Youtube video from January 2009. We can see a player sneaking through a couple rooms with lots of trash mobs, but he doesn’t get far as the trash mobs soon spot him and kill him.

What is more, at least some T3 raid armor seems to have been in the game practically from release. Patch notes from 12 June 2008 say that the Champion of the Honorguard will now correctly drop T1 PoM shoulders instead of T3 ranger shoulders; and a couple months later, the notes from 28 August 2008 mention that some clipping issues on assassin T3 armor have been fixed — an odd thing for developers to worry about, considering that no players would have access to T3 gear for another year and a half.

The late, lamented yg.com also included a few T3 items well before the 1.06 days, namely the guardian armor set and the ToS mace (Maahes’ Crackling Spite), so at least these must have been present in the game files from which yg.com was ripping their data. The yg.com pages for these items showed the pre-1.05 heroic rating stats even in the post-1.05 period, so either they were based on an old rip of the data or Funcom didn’t bother updating their stats during the 1.05 update as they knew that players couldn’t yet get these items anyway.

Change of plans

But what I find even more curious is how T3 as it was finally released seems to differ from their earlier plans, and how thoroughly it seems to have changed relatively shortly before its release. For starters, let’s look at the numbers mentioned in the above developer interview; we have three T1 dungeons (Kyllikki’s Crypt, Yakhmar’s Cave, Vistrix’ Lair), three T2 dungeons (BRC Wing 1, 2, 3), and Thoth-Amon’s Stronghold; that’s 7 raid dungeons, but the developer said there would be 8. Perhaps they intended to divide TAS into two wings, the way they eventually really did (in update 3.3.5, June 2012).

And there’s a small discrepancy in the number of bosses as well. We have four T1 boss encounters and nine T2 boss encounters; if the total is to be 19, that leaves just 6 T3 encounters, but we know that T3 as it was actually released contains 7 encounters.

So I guess these are some small ways in which T3 has changed between their pre-launch plans and the release of T3 in 1.06; but even bigger changes are revealed when you look at the text of T3 quests. At the launch of the game, very few T3 quests were available; there was certainly the Defense of Asgard quest, from Wulfhere in King Conan’s Castle (see below); and there might have been another one, though I don’t remember exactly which (probably from Hashima), but that was pretty much it. (Of course, picking up such quests didn’t do you much good as you couldn’t even enter TAS.)

It was during the 1.05 update cycle that they added several more T3 quests. One imagines that at that time, less than half a year before T3 was released, they had a pretty good idea of what the final T3 would be like, and the quests would presumably reflected that.

The truth, however, turns out to be very different. The text of these quests reveals a very different T3 from what was finally released in 1.06; it would have contained bosses with different names, perhaps fewer of them, and it would contain lots of trash mobs of many different kinds (in this respect it would have been more similar to the BRC than to the T3 as it was really released). If you had any of those 1.05-era T3 quests in your journal, they were deleted when 1.06 was patched on the live server, and you could now pick up new T3 quests (the ones we’re all familiar with now), most of them entirely different from the old ones. (If you had the old Defense of Asgard quest, it wasn’t deleted during 1.06, but its text changed; see below.) In fact the 1.06 patch notes contain a list of removed quests.

Fortunately my then guild was doing a few raids on the testlive server while 1.06 was there but not yet on live, and I therefore noticed that the quests on testlive are different from those on live. This excited my curiosity and I took screenshots of the old quests in my quest journal. So let’s take a look at these old quests and see how they compare with the T3 as it was really released:

Pre-1.06 versions of T3 quests

Apostates of Acheron

I. The Traitorous Legion

Hashima, a strange mystic devoted to Set, has had visions of evil events in Thoth-Amon’s stronghold.

A blasphemous legion of Acheron has gathered in Thoth-Amon’s stronghold and I have agreed to do battle with them and wipe them from the face of Stygia.

  • Kill Acheronian Enforcers (0/20)
  • Kill Acheronian Aegis (0/20)
  • Kill Acheronian Deathguards (0/20)

Here we already see plenty of T3 trashmobs; three different kinds, and we’d have to kill 20 of each. Unless they intended us to complete this quest over many weeks, there would have to be lots of trash mobs in T3, similar to the BRC.

There is no comparable T3 quest now. The only mob whose name resembles the ones mentioned in this quest is the Eldritch Aegis, which is one of the adds in the Keeper of Artifacts encounter.

Appeasing Crazed Demons

I. Legion of the Dead

Sudi asked me to go to Thoth-Amon’s stronghold and destroy several archers, fighters and warriors of the Leagion [sic] of the Dead. The stronghold is in Kheshatta city, on the top of the hill.

  • Kill Fighters of the Legion (0/20)
  • Kill Archers of the Legion (0/20)
  • Kill Warriors of the Legion (0/20)

Three new kinds of trash, and another quest to kill 20 of each! Sudi, incidentally, is the slightly crazy NPC that stands on the northeastern side of Kheshatta city; she is mostly known for giving you quests for the deeper levels of Onyx Chambers. IIRC a new Onyx quest was added to her during the 1.05 update cycle, namely to kill Neptummon, Nefru, and her guard Imp (“Punishment Fit for the Damned”); this quest is still available.

I also seem to vaguely remember having the impression that her T3 quest cited here was a followup to these Onyx quests, as I wasn’t able to pick it up on some of my alts. In any case, Sudi doesn’t give any T3 quests now.

The Renegade Legion

I. Faithless Followers of Set

A high-priest of Set has offered me a rich reward if I hunt down and exterminate a legion of mutinous Stygian soldiers. They have betrayed Set and Stygia and their lives are forfeit.

They hide within Thoth-Amon’s Stronghold.

  • Kill Stronghold Watch (0/20)
  • Kill Stronghold Guard (0/20)
  • Kill Stronghold Defender (0/20)

The third trashmob quest, again with three new types of trash and having to kill 20 of each. Taken together, these quests suggest there would be at least 9 different types of trash, all present in plentiful numbers.

Incidentally, the early-2009 video that we discussed earlier seems to be showing some of the mobs mentioned by this quest; it’s hard to read their names due to the low resolution but the two mobs at the end of the video seem to be Stronghold Guards.

T3 as it has been actually released has a much smaller number of trash mobs, and also just 6 different types of them: Grim Blade, Grim Curate, Grim Lancer, Grim Demonic Lancer, Blood Magus, Storm Magus. If I’m not mistaken, there was a total of 22 trash mobs in the entire TAS at its release (not counting the Grim Demonic Lancers, which spawn randomly while you fight other trash mobs); and a few of those were removed during its recent conversion into two floors in 3.3.5.

The “high-priest of Set” mentioned by the text of this quest is probably Kerim-Thes; see the “Traitors to Stygia” quest below.

Defense of Asgard

I. Evil Allies

King Wulfhere of the Aesir is offering weregild for the deaths of the Vanir King and his Hyperborean ally, a sorcerer of the White Hand. They are both mortal enemies of the Aesir.

Whatever alliance they have must be put to the sword.

They plot together in Thoth-Amon’s Stronghold in Kheshatta, under the watchful gaze of Set’s disciple no doubt.

  • Slay Vanir King Hiemdul
  • Kill Isanta Surmako

This quest has been available in the game ever since launch, and you could even pick it up without doing any other raid quests, without being attuned to T2 or T3 etc. In the 1.06 patch, its text has been changed a bit: all mention of the Vanir King has been removed, and Isanta Surmako has been renamed into the Favored of Louhi, but apart from that he’s still a sorcerer of the White Hand. The new version is:

I. An Evil Ally

King Wulfhere, of the Aesir, is offering weregild for the death of a sorcerer of the White Hand. The Favored of Louhi is a mortal enemy of the Aesir, and whatever alliance he has formed with Thoth-Amon must be put to the sword.

  • Kill the Favored of Louhi

Where do all these names come from? Ultimately, like many names in Conan lore, much of this is borrowed from the real world. Wulfhere and Heimdul (AoC’S ‘Hiemdul’ seems to me to be a misspelling) are mentioned briefly in Howard’s Gods of the North alias The Frost-Giant’s Daughter. (This story, incidentally, has also been the inspiration for much of what goes on in the western part of Ymir’s Pass. For more about it, see this excellent series of posts: 1, 2, 3.)

Wulfhere was an established Anglo-Saxon name, and you can find king and a bishop of that name on the Wikipedia. As for Heimdul / Hiemdul, I guess this was inspired by an old Norse god of a similar name.

Hyperboreans are mostly Finnish-inspired, and the Favored of Louhi is no exception, as Louhi is a powerful witch in Finnish mythology. According to her Wikipedia page, Louhi isn’t mentioned in Howard’s stories but does appear in some post-Howard Conan material (e.g. The Witch of the Mists). As for Isanta Surmako, I can’t find any non-AoC related mentions of this name in google. According to Google Translate, the word isäntä means “host” in Finnish; I can’t find anything about who or what Surmako might be, though.

So Speaks Mighty Set

I. Sorcerous Ingredients

I have asked Hashima the oracle of Set to share her secrets with me.

It requires potent oils, elements and herbs such as dust from the tomb of a boy Pharaoh, salt gathered from the tears of a thousand angels or fat from a lamb killed under a red moon. I should look out for similar items in chests stored within the stronghold.

I can find such components in Thoth-Amon’s Stronghold in Kheshatta.

  • Get Sorcerous Ingredient

I’m not aware of anything of this sort in the current T3; my guess is that the idea was that we’d have to click a quest item somewhere in the dungeon, similar to one of the BRC Wing 3 quests (The Cursed Treasure of Constantius).

The Keeper of Artifacts

I. The Artifact War

I have agreed to aid Hashima, a strange oracle. She says a man known as the Keeper of Artifacts, who lurks within Thoth-Amon’s Stronghold, possesses ancient relics of unimaginable corruption.

Hashima has promised me great rewards if I deliver these relics to her, so that she may dispose of them and end their corruption.

  • Find and kill the Keeper of Artifacts
  • 1st Acheronian Artifact
  • 2nd Acheronian Artifact
  • 3rd Acheronian Artifact
  • 4th Acheronian Artifact

This quest is similar to one that we actually got in the post-1.06 world. Hashima still gives a quest, called “Keeper of Artifacts” (now without “The”) and with a slightly different text. You still have to pick up four artefacts, but now the quest also gives their names:

I. Corrupted Relics

I have agreed to aid Hashima, a strange oracle. She says a man known as the Keeper of Artifacts, who lurks within Thoth-Amon’s Stronghold, possesses ancient relics of unimaginable corruption.

Hashima has promised me great rewards if I deliver these relics to her; so that she may dispose of them and end their corruption.

  • Pick up the Azurite Turtle
  • Pick up the Ruin of Drozem
  • Pick up the Dirk of Yinshala
  • Pick up the Obsidian Hawk

I didn’t find any non-AoC mentions of these relics on the web, so I guess that Funcom made them up by themselves.

Another change from the pre-1.06 version is that the new quest doesn’t require you to kill the Keeper; you can simply loot the relics while he’s patrolling on the other side of the room so you wouldn’t even have to aggro him.

Heretics of Acheron

I. Death to Heretics and False Gods

Hashima, a strange mystic devoted to Set, has had visions of evil events in Thoth-Amon’s stronghold.

She says two powerful followers of Set have renounced the snake god and worship a pair of Acheronian fiends. She has tasked me with destronying them all. They roam the basement of Thoth-Amon’s stronghold.

  • Death to Ehedunes the False God
  • Death to Amunosis the False God
  • Death to Overseer Nepthammon the Heretic
  • Death to Warden Theptah the Heretic

I find this quest to be extremely fascinating, as it mentions four bosses of whom there is not a trace in the T3 such as it actually went live. This is just a speculation, but perhaps they were meant to be encounters where you fight two (or even all four?) bosses at the same time, and gradually evolved into the Kharon/Daimone/Ixion fight that we now have on live?

There isn’t any obviously comparable quest to this one now; Hashima only gives the Keeper of Artifacts quest (see above).

Incidentally, I wonder if they got these names from any particular source or simply invented them out of thin air. I did a bit of googling but didn’t come up with anything useful. They are obviously meant to sound Egyptian, like most Stygian names, but the closest thing I actually found to them was a high priestess named Enheduanna, who is actually from early Mesopotamian rather than Egyptian history.

There is also still one reference to ‘Enhedunes’ (not Ehedunes) in the game: Nephturi, the NPC west of Kheshatta that gives you some of the Onyx Chambers quests, introduces herself as “apprentice to the great mage master Enhedunes”.

As for Nepthammon, two NPCs with similar names already exists — there’s a Stygian man named Nephtammon standing in Old Tarantia near the tradepost, and a level 20-ish quest there requires you to win a debate against him (with the cunning and clever approach of always pressing the ‘1’ key, of course); and there’s a boss called Neptummon in the Black Ring level of Onyx Chambers (Sudi in Kheshatta gives you a quest to kill him).

Traitors to Stygia

I. Delivery of Set’s Punishment

I have agreed to help Kerim-Thes, high-priest of Set, by executing two wayward priests. He is certain they have betrayed Set and serve a new master.

I will find them hiding in Thoth-Amon’s Stronghold.

  • Get Overseer Nepthammon’s Head
  • Get Warden Theptah’s Head

This is another quest for Nepthammon and Theptah, whom we’ve already seen in the previous quest, Heretics of Acheron. Kerim-Thes doesn’t give any T3 quests now.

Mizra’s Lost Child

This quest is mentioned in the list of deleted T3 quests in the 1.06 patch notes. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of this quest before 1.06; thus I don’t have a screenshot of it and I have no idea what it was about.

Presumably the Mizra mentioned in the quest is the NPC that stands in the Oasis of Rahotep in the northwest of the Kheshatta playfield; currently he just gives various levelling quests in the 70–80 level range.

From 1.06 on, there is a new T3 quest given by Nadir, a NPC standing nearby Mizra; her quest requires you to kill Kharon, Daimone and Ixion. I have no idea if this quest is in any way related to the deleted “Mizra’s Lost Child” quest.

The Fall of Thoth-Amon

This quest is listed as changed in the 1.06 patch notes. I didn’t pick it up before 1.06, but I know that for a long time after 1.06 the Thoth-Amon quest existed in two versions, and you could have them both in your quest log at the same time; so I suspect that they didn’t really change the old pre-1.06 quest but simply added a new one.

The two versions differed in quest rewards; the now normal one, which you can pick up by talking to Conan and then hand it in after killing Thoth-Amon, has Amra’s Pride (a cloak) as a quest reward. The other quest is probably the pre-1.06 version and had the choice of 5 weapons as quest rewards; this other version was bugged in the sense that it didn’t update when you killed Thoth-Amon, and the quest reward weapons from it were obviously unfinished as they hardly had any stats yet. You couldn’t get this quest from Conan after 1.06, but players who had it in their quest log could share it with you. However, lately I haven’t been able to find anyone with this quest at all, so I’m beginning to suspect that Funcom deleted it completely in their recent revamp of T3 (in update 3.3.5).

Unfortunately I didn’t take a screenshot of the quest text or rewards from this pre-1.06 quest, but the quest rewards were all named along similar lines: Thoth-Amon’s Destruction, Thoth-Amon’s Demise, Thoth-Amon’s Fall, Thoth-Amon’s Fate, Thoth-Amon’s Oblivion.


Many thanks to Atallanti for the help with Thoth-Amon’s Fall!

Even the appearance of these items seems to have been unfinished, as most of them look identical to various other weapons: Thoth-Amon’s Demise looks the same as Jagged Cut (quest reward from Armsman’s Arena); Thoth-Amon’s Fate looks like the Pavis of Fealty (T1 PoM shield); Thoth-Amon’s Fall looks like Spinegrist (from the Acheronian Warlord in the Sanctum of Burning Souls); Thoth-Amon’s Oblivion looks like Mindraker (old-world BoE blue drop). I can’t think of anything that looks like Thoth-Amon’s Destruction, however.

1.06 T3 quests

For comparison, let’s just briefly list the T3 quests that were (and still are) actually available after T3 has been released:

Betrayal: the quest to kill Hathor-Ka, given by Moulay, a NPC standing in the Temple District of Kheshatta. This NPC was added in 1.06.

Master of Blades: the quest to kill Master Gyas, given by Ettivel the Artful; just like Moulay, he stands in the Temple District of Kheshatta and was added in 1.06.

Guardians from Beyond: the quest to kill Kharon, Daimone and Ixion, given by Nadir, a NPC in the Oasis of Rahotep in the northwest of the Kheshatta playfield. This quest is new to 1.06, but Nadir herself isn’t; she has always been there and also gives an early-70s levelling quest (“Slayer of Snakes”).

Keeper of Artifacts: as we already saw above, this is an old quest that has changed just slightly compared to the pre-1.06 version.

The Face of Evil: the quest to kill Arbanus, given by Scipio in Old Tarantia; this NPC is new in 1.06.

The Fall of Thoth-Amon: the quest to kill Thoth-Amon, given by King Conan. The change here has been in the quest rewards; see above.

The Four Sent: this is a quest to warn people to whom Thoth-Amon’s urns have been sent; you pick it up from a poster inside TAS, so it of course wasn’t available in the pre-1.06 days.

The Phoenix Sword: the quest to gather dancing steel from adds (Eldritch Arms) in the Keeper of Artifacts fight. You get it from Dexitheus in Conan’s castle; AFAIK it wasn’t available in the pre-1.06 days.

Conclusion

So, what do the pre-1.06 quests (most of which were introduced in 1.05, around half a year before T3 actually went live) tell us about Funcom’s earlier ideas for Thoth-Amon’s Stronghold?

For one thing, we saw that it would most probably be thickly infested with trash mobs. This suggests that the very layout of the dungeon would have been considerably different than it’s now. In the BRC, boss rooms are separated by long hallways and intermediate rooms, which is where trash mobs are stationed; in TAS such as we have it now, most boss rooms are separated by nothing but a door and there really isn’t enough space for a hundred or more trash mobs. Indeed the video from early 2009 that we mentioned earlier shows several rooms with plenty of trash mobs, more in the style of BRC than of the TAS as it was really released.

And the list of bosses would look very different than what we have now:

  • Vanir King Hiemdul
  • Isanta Surmako (now Favored of Louhi)
  • Ehedunes the False God
  • Amunosis the False God
  • Overseer Nepthammon the Heretic
  • Warden Theptah the Heretic
  • Keeper of Artefacts
  • Thoth-Amon

Of these bosses, the Keeper of Artefacts and Thoth-Amon are still with us, as is Isanta Surmako (though renamed into the Favored of Louhi); but all the others are gone and replaced by bosses that weren’t mentioned in the pre-1.06 quests.

This would mean a total of 8 bosses. But as we saw from the developer interview linked at the beginning of this post, there should be 6 boss encounters; so at least one if not two of these encounters should involve two bosses (similar to how the first encounter in the actually-released T3 involves three bosses: Daimone, Kharon, and Ixion). Of course it’s also possible that their plans regarding the number of encounters changed between that interview (January 2008) and the release of early T3 quests in 1.05 (June 2009).

It’s tempting to speculate whether some of the bosses from the above list have slowly changed, during the design process, into some of the bosses that we have now. The cases of the Keeper of Artefacts and of Isanta Surmako a.k.a. Favored of Louhi are obvious, but what about others? Vanir King Hiemdul sounds to me like he should be a strong melee warrior, so he might have evolved into Arbanus. I don’t see anything in the above list that would obviously correspond to Hathor-Ka, or to Master Gyas, at least not his second form. As for Ehedunes, Amunosis, Nepthamon and Theptah, perhaps one or the other of these couples — or all four of them — eventually evolved into the Kharon/Daimone/Ixion fight that we have now.

P.S. If you have any information about the “Mizra’s Lost Child” quest, or about the old bugged version of the “Fall of Thoth-Amon” quest (especially the screenshot of the quest text), or if you are aware of any other item that looks like Thoth-Amon’s Destruction, please let me know.

Categories: Age of Conan, Lore, Quests

The Story of Karutonia

July 29, 2012 2 comments

In Ymir’s Pass, there’s a long quest chain that starts with Niord in the Aesir camp; you have to go to their shaman Aevar, kill the Son of Ymir, break the seals of Karutonia, talk to Bellona and finally go to the Amphitheatre of Karutonia and kill the last boss there. The final quest reward is a choice between two purple cloaks which are very good for their level, so it’s a fairly popular quest chain.

Well, I’ve done that quest chain probably at least six times or so, and I also read what the NPCs are saying at least the first time around; and yet it was not until very recently, when I was tinkering with this chain on the testlive server, that I realized that was the point of the step where you have to break the seals of Karutonia. (The quest is called “The Sins of Karutonia”. The seals are 7 easily destructible objects near the road that leads towards the eastern end of Ymir’s Pass.) I guess that on pretty much all earlier occasions, I was doing the seals part of the quest while being in an impatient group for the Son of Ymir and the Amphitheatre, so I was always in a hurry to do the intermediate steps of the quest chain as quickly as possible so we could start doing the Amphitheatre soon.

So anyway, as I noticed recently, the seals actually tell you a nice bit of background information about the downfall of Karutonia, the ancient Acheronian city whose ruins lie in the eastern part of the playfield. The problem is that you don’t get popup windows with the text of the seals when you break them (this is how you get lore information in e.g. the Celestial Necropolis) — instead, you’d have to open your quest journal and read the text there at each step of the quest. And you can’t conveniently go back to (re)read the story at a later point — After you’ve completed the quest, the completed quests tab of your journal summarizes the whole thing with just one sentence: “I traversed Ymir’s Pass itself, stopping to break the seals of Karutonia and discover the dark history of that city.”

Thus I thought it might be interesting to include the full story here, in case someone else has (like myself until recently) never thought to look in the quest journal and read it there:

The First Seal

Let this record serve as a testament to the glory of Set and the might of the Empire of Acheron. Behold, Karutonia, might of the north and bulwark against the pitiful barbaric tribes that worship the false god, Bori.

We are ruled by three kings and beneath their wisdom, we prosper. A great and secret construction occurs in the heart of the city, and few know the true purpose of what is being built. Soon it shall be unveiled, and the glory of Karutonia will shine to rival even Python itself!

The Second Seal

Today our kings revealed the full extent of their magnificent wisdom — they have built us an amphithreatre without rival in the world.

Games have begun, pitting entire tribes of the barbarians against one another in bloody mortal combat. Their women and children go to the altars to feed the gluttony of our priests.

An orgy of glorious blood flows in Karutonia and we, her grateful citizens, can do nothing more than praise Set.

The Third Seal

The barbarians have increased their raids against our walls and our rulers have demanded more troops for the city. We continue to slaughter any prisoners we capture — and there are more than ever these days.

The priests of Set tell us that the increased attacks are a trial and that we must endure. Every holy day they butcher thousands of prisoners in the great amphitheatre and praise the name of Set. They assure us that Set will lead us to victory.

The Fourth Seal

The rumors are true — Ixion the Devourer is coming to Karutonia! He comes with troops to reinforce the border and all of the power that his sorcery brings.

If the most powerful sorcerer of our age cannot drive back these barbarians, then nothing will.

I have heard that the three kings are preparing a magnificent sacrifice for his arrival — some five thousand barbarians await execution in the amphitheatre. This will be a spectacle beyond anything that has gone before.

(Ixion is also mentioned in connection with the Sanctum of Burning Souls; see one of my previous posts.)

The Fifth Seal

The three kings are overthrown, by order of the Devourer. He used his magic to trap their souls within a grove of trees, forever alive but never free.

Ixion now rules the city with an iron fist. By his edict the amphitheatre has been closed and the sacrifices have been ceased. If Ixion is trying to placate the barbarians, I fear it is too late. They test our walls daily and it will not be long before they breach the city.

Great Set, what have our people done except follow your laws?

(You can find the ghosts of these three kings wandering the road through the swamp west of the ruins of Karutonia. In some of the other quests in this playfield you have to kill their ghosts and restore the trees in the grove.)

The Sixth Seal

The walls are breached and the streets run red. The barbarians stalk the streets, wicked swords in hand. They do not have the mercy of the civilized man and they slaughter without remorse. Men fall beneath their blades; women and children are shackled and led off to be sold on the slave blocks of the south.

Ixion has fled with his troops. We are abandoned. Karutonia is dying.

The Seventh Seal

A few of us have fled to the relative safety of the swamps. Our city is destroyed, razed by the barbarians. In the grim march of that immense horde, I saw the end of an empire.

Let whoever finds this remember Karutonia. We lived as we believed was right and, despite our faith, our god abandoned us. Perhaps such is the fate of all civilization

P.S. Having already typed all this stuff in from the screenshots of my quest journal, I did a bit of googling and found that someone else has already done the same thing like 3 years ago 😛 So here’s a link to that page as well.

P.P.S. Incidentally, each seal of Karutonia seems to have 500 HP.

Categories: Age of Conan, Lore

Who was Dhurkan Blackblade?

April 17, 2012 9 comments

Recently I finally managed to win the Aegis of Dhurkan Blackblade, the beautiful guardian T3 shield, in a T3 semi-pug raid. I never had much luck with this shield; it dropped rarely, more often when I was there with alts than with my guardian, and I foolishly passed for several of these shields in the past, in favor of juggernaut guardians and DTs (my guard being polearm specced). (All of those people have quit the game meanwhile, except one, who no longer plays his guardian; which has led me to conclude that maximizing one’s own lootwhoring without regard to other players is the only reasonable policy.)

As a result, this shield grew into somewhat of an obsession for me, and I couldn’t help being intrigued by its name. So, who the heck was Dhurkan Blackblade?

Melkar, the NPC standing in the Sanctum of Burning Souls, mentions him briefly:

Melkar: Look around… you stand in the City of Burning Souls. Pyrrophlagalon, we called it, and if Python was the capital of Acheron, then we were the dark heart of the empire. Ixion the Devourer ruled this place, with his sons, Xaltotun and Dhurkhan Blackblade. Now the empire is dust… and Acheron is forgotten.

And Ixion the Devourer is IIRC the guy whose soul has been reincarnated in the demon called Devourer in the Amphitheatre of Karutonia; he is mentioned by an NPC that gives you one of the quests for the Amphitheatre.

Googling the new spelling mentioned above, Dhurkhan instead of Dhurkan, led me to a mention of Dhurkhan in the Gazetteer at hyboria.xoth.net, which says much the same things as Melkar the NPC, but it also cites a source:

Pyrrophlagalon: Also known as the “City of the Burning Souls”, this lost capital was the very black heart of Acheron. The city was the seat of the House of “Ixion the Devourer” and his two sons, the dread sorcerer Xaltotun, and Dhurkhan Blackblade, the Supreme Warlord of Acheron. The city’s location is not known. (Conan and the Grim Grey God) [link]

The reference seems to be to a 1996 novel, Conan and the Grim Grey God, written by Sean A. Moore. See also its page in the Wikipedia and on amazon.com, the latter of which also includes a few pages of text from the beginning of the first chapter. There’s also a passage mentioning Dhurkhan on yet another old AoC wiki, which doesn’t mention the source but my guess is that it’s from the same novel. Anyway, in all these other sources he seems to be consistently referred to as Dhurkhan, not Dhurkan, so the name of the T3 sword seems to be a bit of a misspelling.

Incidentally, according to another old page at wikiaoc.com, Dhurkhan Blackblade was at some point intended to be an actual boss in the Sanctum of Burning Souls. Presumably he eventually evolved into the one we now know as Acheronian Warlord.

Categories: Age of Conan, Lore, Vanity Gear