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The First Portent

December 28, 2013 13 comments

As has recently been announced, open-world raid bosses will now be spawning in Age of Conan for one week each month, and the first one has already been spawning since December 24. It’s a Black Dragon and can spawn either in Tarantia Noble District in front of Conan’s castle, or in Tarantia Common District at the top of the cliff (where the Rat NPCs are throwing a Crow NPC over the edge). In terms of appearance it looks just like Vistrix, or like the Black Dragon that we had for the 5th anniversary event in May 2013. The current Black Dragon has 20.1 million hit points, which is a new record in AoC (the 5th anniversary Black Dragon had “only” 17.3 million HP).


(Click to enlarge.)

Encounter mechanics

The mechanics of the fight are very simple. Several unattackable Dragon Cultist NPCs spawn first, which is a sign that the dragon will appear soon; it spawns about 5 minutes later. It does crushing white hits on the aggro holder; it also has two frontal cone fire aoe attacks, Dark Flames (hits for 2-3 k) and Funeral Flames (hits for 5-6 k). Funeral Flames has a slower cast and, I think, a narrower cone, so it’s pretty easy to avoid. Even the aggro holder can avoid these cones since the dragon doesn’t turn while casting them. There is also a 360-degree aoe knockback called Shockwave (as always, doubletapping helps you get back into the fight faster), and a ranged single-target attack called Fireball, which the dragon will use on the aggro holder if it can’t reach him with melee attacks.

Hunting the dragon

The dragon spawns are fairly predictable. When the cultists appear, you can set a timer for 2:20 hours or so and that will give you the time when the next set of cultists will appear in the same instance (assuming that the dragon spawned by the first set of cultists will be killed promptly). By keeping track of the timers of as many instances as possible, you can have a pretty good idea of where to go next. Note that in the busier times of the day, instances sometimes fill up as much as 30 minutes before the next boss spawns there.

To switch between instances, you should be near a rez pad and click the yellow triangle next to your minimap to bring up the instance selection window. If the instance you’re looking for isn’t shown in the instance selection window, that’s usually a sign that it’s already full. The capacity of each instance seems to currently be limited to 70-ish players, which is an annoyingly small number (during the 5th anniversary events, the limit was much higher; as a result, the fights were more laggy but it was much easier to get into an instance, and they hardly ever filled up before a boss actually spawned). Another possible reason why an instance might not be shown in the instance selection window is because it has already reset and despawned. This can happen if there are no players in it for a couple minutes.

Note that both the Common District and the Noble District support epic instances in addition to normal ones. You can recognize epic ones by the fact that they are labelled as “Playfield” in the instance selection window, instead of with the actual name of the playfield. You can’t use the instance selection window to switch from a normal instance to an epic one or vice versa; for that, you’ll actually need to zone out to a different playfield (the Armsman’s Tavern is a good option for switching in the Noble District, for example) and then choose normal or epic appropriately when zoning back in.

If you are in a group and the group leader is in a different instance than yourself, you’ll probably get a popup message asking if you want to switch to the leader’s instance. If you try to do so, but the leader’s instance is already full, you’ll get stuck on the loading screen and you’ll have to restart your client, so don’t do that.


(Click to enlarge.)

Quests and loot mechanics

There is a quest called The Twelve Portents, given by the new Astromancer NPC on the steps of the Old Tarantia library. It requires you to kill twelve open-world bosses and gives you one of four new legendary cloaks as quest rewards. Which four cloaks you get to choose from depends on the archetype:

  • Soldiers:
    • Dragon Scale Mantle of the Living Legend: 95 str, 40 con, 38 hit rtg, 41 hate inc rtg, 5% ooc movement speed
    • Fallen Leviathan’s Mantle of the Living Legend: 187 armor, 75 con, 55 hit rtg, 43 immunity rtg, 70 crit dmg rtg, 126 protection, 5% ooc movement speed
    • Conversant Mantle of the Living Legend: 529 combat rtg, 60 hit rtg, 50 fatality rtg, 74 crit dmg rtg, 73 offhand rtg, 5% ooc movement speed
    • Infernal Mantle of the Living Legend: 52 con, 90 magic dmg, 45 hit rtg, 40 crit dmg rtg, 120 protection, 5% ooc movement speed
  • Priests:
    • Savior’s Mantle of the Living Legend: 56 con, 13.1 nat mana regen, 425 heal rtg, 50 hit rtg, 60 crit dmg rtg, 126 protection, 5% ooc movement speed
    • Beast Hunter’s Mantle of the Living Legend: 94 str, 227 heal rtg, 292 combat rtg (2hb), 55 hit rtg, 70 crit dmg rtg, 5% ooc movement speed
    • Thunder Mantle of the Living Legend: 187 armor, 75 con, 55 hit rtg, 43 immunity rtg, 70 crit dmg rtg, 126 protection, 5% ooc movement speed
    • Star Touched Mantle of the Living Legend: 42 con, 60 wis, 64 magic dmg, 60 hit rtg, 68 crit dmg rtg, 5% ooc movement speed
  • Rogues:
    • Conversant Mantle of the Living Legend: same as above
    • Slayer’s Mantle of the Living Legend: 100 dex, 274 combat rtg, 45 hit rtg, 22 hate dec rtg, 72 crit dmg rtg, 5% ooc movement speed
    • Fallen Leviathan’s Mantle of the Living Legend: same as above
    • Terminator’s Mantle of the Living Legend: 75 str, 362 combat rtg, 62 hit rtg, 62 fatality rtg, 74 crit dmg rtg, 5% ooc movement speed
  • Mages:
    • Demon Mantle of the Living Legend: 169 int, 59 hit rtg, 74 crit dmg rtg, 5% ooc movement speed
    • Infernal Mantle of the Living Legend: same as above
    • Thunder Mantle of the Living Legend: same as above
    • Ash Mantle of the Living Legend: 80 magic dmg (fire), 52 hit rtg, 48 fatality rtg, 74 crit dmg rtg, 480 combat rtg (fire), 5% ooc movement speed

The idea is that a different boss will be spawning each month, but the quest doesn’t specify which world bosses you have to kill. This means that if you miss one of them, you don’t have to wait for an entire year before that boss spawns again; you simply get a new quest update each month when you manage to kill a boss. (See the dev’s testlive forum post.) Currently killing the dragon gives you a Slayer of the Black Dragon buff, which persists through death/zoning and can’t be cancelled; my guess is that the purpose of this buff is to prevent you from getting multiple quest updates from the dragon, and that it will be removed at some future point after the dragon stops spawning for the rest of the year.

Apart from that, you don’t have to take a separate quest each time before you kill the dragon, like you had to do during the 5th anniversary events. Instead, when the dragon dies, a loot cache simply appears directly in your inventory. Normally you get a blue cache (Hunter’s Trove of the Black Dragon), but sometimes you get a purple one instead (Slayer’s Cache of the Black Dragon).

Furthermore, when you open the blue cache, sometimes a purple cache drops out of it.

I was half hoping that the purple cache would then drop a blue cache and I would get stuck in an endless loop, but unfortunately this didn’t happen 😛

So far, out of 184 kills, I got 6 purple boxes directly and another 2 purple boxes from opening blue ones.

What can drop from the blue caches?

A bewildering array of items can drop from the caches. I’m sure many things are missing from the list below, and I’ll update it as I get more information. An asterisk * marks items that I didn’t see myself, but were repoted in the comments.

Novelty animations, particles etc.

  • 3 Electric Boogie (gives you an electrical particle around your feet for 5 min)
  • 3 Bottled Spirits (gives you a drunk animation for 30 sec)
  • 3 Sticky Fresh Blood (makes your skin red for 30 min)
  • 3 Mitra’s Blessed Ointment (gives you a halo particle effect above your head for 5 min)
  • Void Essence (makes you look like a ghost — black and semitransparent — for 30 min)
  • 3 Fermented Brain Juices (makes you drunk for 30 sec and makes your skin green for 30 min)
  • 3 Cowardice Remedy (makes your skin blue for 30 min)

By analogy with the 5th anniversary event loot, I would also expect Cool Runnings (gives you a cold mist particle for 5 min) and Flaming Sanducca (gives you a fire particle for 5 min), but I haven’t actually seen anyone getting them yet.

Food and drink

  • 2 Potent Daggamalt
  • 2 Dire Sweetpressed Haste
  • 2 Ta Neheh Leaf Elixir
  • 2 Kingsmight Ale

I never got mana food or potions on my guardian, so I guess these drops adapt to your class, so classes which use mana can probably get those as well.

Old guild renown items

  • Crown of Summer (social head armor)
  • 3 Ritual Knife (makes you drip blood for 60 sec)
  • 3 Prayer Book (creates a 1-minute particle effect that looks a bit like the old Shield of the Risen — a vertical column of light beaming on the ground at the place where you stood while using the book)

These items are the same as those sold by one of the NPC vendors in your guild city tradepost (if you have a sufficient renown level, but the requirement is not very high). That vendor solds several other items, e.g. crowns of other seasons, and I’d expect that those can also drop here; but I didn’t see anyone get one of the other three crowns yet.

AA XP items

  • Flask of Completion (20000 Mastery XP)
  • Flask of Direction (50000 Mastery XP)
  • Coffer of Radiance (62500 Mastery XP)

Buff consumables

  • Elixir of Precision (+73 hit rtg for 4 hours)
  • Elixir of Invigorative Rejuvenation (+15 nat stam regen for 4 hours)
  • Elixir of Guile (+73 crit rtg for 4 hours)*
  • Elixir of Mystical Excellence (+40 magic dmg for 4 hours)*
  • Refined Philtre of Constitution (+5% con for 2 hours)
  • Refined Philtre of Strength (+10% str for 2 hours)
  • I guess that numerous other consumables of this type can also drop, I just haven’t seen them yet. Maybe it depends on your class.
  • Refined Philtre of Intellect (+10% int for 2 hours) [reported by a demo]
  • Refined Philtre of Wisdom (+10% wis for 2 hours)*
  • Minor Elixir of Resurgence (green bop; self-rez at 25% health)

Old raid items

You can get T1/T2 armor and weapons for your class. In my experience, T1 drops more frequently than T2. I got a full set of T1 armor by now, as well as a couple of T2 items.

Bag merchants

You can get a stack of 3 Traveller’s Merchant Contracts. Despite the name, this is a considerably different item than the one sold in the guild city keep (an easy way to tell the difference is by the level; the guild city merchant contract is level 80, the new one from the world boss is level 1). It can be used anywhere, not just near a rez pad, and the resulting merchant sells just one type of bag and nothing else.

The type of bag seems to be chosen at random when you spawn him; with some luck, you can even get a merchant selling the Coffer of Nullity (122-slot bag, which otherwise sells for quite a bit of real-world money in the item shop). The merchant despawns in 2 minutes, but during that time any player can buy the bag from him.

Note that the bags sold by these merchants are exactly the same as the original bags in every way, including their price and binding status. Thus, those bags which are normally available only through /claims or the item shop, and which therefore don’t have a price in gold, will be “sold” by this merchant for free (and will be bind-on-pickup). Bags which are sold by normal vendors elsewhere in the game will also be sold here at the same price (which isn’t very useful as those bags date back to the release of the game and are correspondingly small and expensive).

You can also get a merchant selling crafted bags (Soldier’s / Commander’s Haversack), which are free and bind-on-equip, so you can try reselling them to other players.

Some of the bags are very bizarre; I once saw a merchant selling a bag that was literally called [56 Slot Bag] and it cost 2000 rare trophies (yes, two thousand). This type of bag must have been dragged from somewhere deep within the bowels of the game’s item database, since no vendor hitherto visible to players has AFAIK been selling a bag with such an odd name or such a ridiculous price.

Another “bag” that you might get is a purple one called [Bank Space 50 slots]. The idea presumably is that it will give you 50 new slots in the bank, but from what I’ve heard, it’s currently bugged and overrides your backpack (inventory bag) instead, which is particularly disastrous if your previous backpack was larger than that. So I didn’t dare to use it on my character until this bug is resolved. (I suspect that even then, this item won’t do any good for people like me, who already bought 50 extra bank slots in the item shop.)

[Update: for a while, there was a warning on the patcher, advising people not to buy the [Bank Space 50 slots] bag. From the way the warning was phrased, I got the impression that they don’t intend to fix this item at all — probably it was made just for internal testing purposes and wasn’t really meant to be seen by players, just like the 2000 rare tropy bag.]

[Update 2: one of the subsequent patches disabled these traders, so that consuming the contract didn’t do anything at all. Since update 4.1.6, the contracts spawn a merchant again, but reportedly this merchant now just sells worthless social drink consumables. Apparently Funcom never intended to give away any of the decent bags at all 😦]

New social armor sets

You get an entire set (all 8 armor pieces) from a single cache. If you don’t have enough inventory space, it will go into an overflow bag on the ground. These are blue, bind-on-pickup items. See near the end of this post for a few screenshots.

  • Sanctum Atlantis — looks like old assasin armor, painted green
  • Shattered Colossus — looks like a retextured Bloodseraph’s (old-world DT dungeon level 80 set)
  • Fallen Leviathan — looks like cloth sets from Ardashir Fort, but red instead of green
  • Titan Killer — looks like the heavy/plate sets from the House of Crom
  • Hero Ascendant — looks somewhat similar to Skyshear set (old-world ToS dungeon level 80 set)
  • Slayer’s — I haven’t found an exact counterpart of this set; the chest is the same as Hyperborean Scout Harness (green social armor from the item shop), and similar to things such as Goremonger’s Harness (barbarian dungeon set) and Hyperborean Grimsword Hauberk (DT culture); the legs are similar to Grizzly Breeches (medium armor from the Iron Tower); the boots, shoulder, wrist and hands are the same as in Balthus’s Woodsman set (medium armor from the Iron Tower).

Other social armor

Some of the following items are green and bind-on-equip.

  • Atlantean Spellbinder’s Tunic (green boe) — looks the same as Alvazar’s Vest (from Atzel’s Fortress)
  • Snowskin Tiger Cloak (green boe) — looks like one of the recent cloaks from Coils of Ubah Kan, and IIRC was already available at some point in the item shop; other cloaks with models corresponding to Coils of Ubah Kan cloaks can also drop here (see below)
  • Shadowskin Tiger Cloak (green boe)
  • Emberskin Tiger Cloak (green boe)
  • Ivory Tigerskin Cloak (green boe)
  • Amber Mask (blue bop) — a face mask in the style worn by some NPCs in Tarantia Commons (you can also get similar things as quest rewards there)
  • Azure Mask (blue bop) — like as the previous one

Pets

Several of the pets dropping here are, as far as I know, new:

  • Pet: Barachan Gull
  • Pet: Charcoal Firebird Chick
  • Pet: Fat Harry — a big fat toad; I love frogs and this one looks great, but I wish it could hop instead of just walking
  • Pet: Fire Salamander
  • Pet: Frost Salamander
  • Pet: Hippo Calf
  • Pet: Topaz Comodo
  • Pet: War Piglet — to make this of any use in warfare, you’d have to duck-tape a few grenades to it and send it into the enemy lines 😛
  • Pet: Wolverine Kit

Some of the pets are also available elsewhere:

  • Pet: Black Cobra — the same that is sold by one of the NPCs in the tradepost of Stygian guild cities; it is tradable, so you can also buy it from other players
  • Pet: Field Mouse — probably the same as the one sold by an NPC in Old Tarantia
  • I would imagine that other pets from the same vendors also drop here (e.g. the cats that you can buy in Aquilonian guild cities, and dogs/wolves that you can buy in Cimmerian ones, but I haven’t actually seen anybody get these here yet.

Several dancing pets also drop; there’s one for every combination of sex and race:

  • Pet: Aquilonian Folk Dancer (Male)
  • Pet: Aquilonian Folk Dancer (Female)
  • Pet: Cimmerian Folk Dancer (Male)
  • Pet: Cimmerian Folk Dancer (Female)
  • Pet: Khitan Ceremonial Dancer (Male)
  • Pet: Khitan Ceremonial Dancer (Female)
  • Pet: Stygian Snake Dancer (Male)
  • Pet: Stygian Snake Dancer (Female)

What can drop from the purple caches?

In my experience, by far the most common drop from these caches is 3–5 Simple Relics III (i.e. same as those that drop in Thoth-Amon’s Stronghold). It can also drop an urn with 10 simple relics III instead, or a T3 Rare Relic (suitable for the recipient’s archetype, of course).

By far the most coveted drop from these caches is a new legendary pet, Mini-Pet: Black Dragon. It’s annoyingly rare, but with enough farming your chances of getting it are fairly decent. In my guild we’ve had 8 of them drop so far; I got mine from the 106th dragon kill (most of the people who got the pet so far, got it with considerably less farming than that). See near the end of this post for a few screenshots.

Additionally, I’ve also seen people linking a large number of new purple weapons and accessories (all bind-on-pickup), which can presumably drop from these purple caches. You will always get something suitable for your class, keeping in mind of course that Funcom’s idea of what is suitable might be slightly different from yours. I’ve seen the following items so far (P.S. I’ve only seen some of the items in the following list on the later bosses, but I assume they all share the same loot table anyway, so I’m just updating this list):

  • Weapons and shields:
    • Beast Hunter’s Malice Breaker (2hb): 139.5 dps, 95 str, 177 combat rtg (2hb), 80 crit rtg, 50 fatality rtg, 24 hate dec rtg, 109 crit dmg rtg, 100 protection
    • Beast Hunter’s Reaper Crossbow (xbow): 134.3 dps, 24 con, 83 dex, 93 combat rtg (xbow), 37 hit rtg, 33 crit rtg, 43 crit dmg rtg, 5 crossbow range modifier
    • Beast Hunter Barbs (bolts): 90 dex, 114 combat rtg (xbow), 56 hit rtg, 35 crit rtg, 30 hate dec rtg, 66 crit dmg rtg
    • Bounty Hunter’s Dirk (dagger): 79.7 dps, 409 combat rtg (dagger), 50 hit rtg, 48 crit rtg, 60 crit dmg rtg
    • Hero’s Clan Blade (1he): 117.9 dps, 355 combat rtg (1he), 28 crit rtg, 20 hate dec rtg, 46 crit dmg rtg, 35 offhand rtg, 45 health tap rtg
    • Hero’s Hellglaive (polearm): 145.2 dps, 664 combat rtg (polearm), 60 hit rtg, 50 crit rtg, 40 hate inc rtg, 76 crit dmg rtg, 193 protection
    • Paladin’s Baneblade (1he):* 119.6 dps, 32 str, 131 combat rgs, 56 hit rgs, 33 crit rgs, 35 hate inc rtg, 57 crit dmg rtg
    • Paladin’s Siege Shield: 939 armor, 60 con, 45 hit rtg, 34 hate inc rtg, 182 protection — uses the same model as the beloved old-world purple shield, Aegis of Five Mercies!
    • Paladin’s Widowmaker (2he): 139.9 dps, 591 combat rtg (2he), 81 hit rtg, 65 crit rtg, 55 hate inc rtg, 80 crit dmg rtg, 166 protection
    • Repressor’s Codex (tali): 35 con, 350 mana, 8.9 nat mana regen, 70 magic dmg, 18 hate dec rtg, 117 protection
    • Repressor’s Dagger: 77.6 dps, 58 magic dmg, 40 hit rtg, 26 crit rtg, 16 hate dec rtg, 50 crit dmg rtg, 45 magic life tap rtg, 45 magic mana tap rtg
    • Repressor’s Flamebrand (2he): 140.4 dps, 111 magic dmg (fire), 70 hit rtg, 70 crit rtg, 25 hate dec rtg, 100 crit dmg rtg, 610 combat rtg (fire)
    • Repressor’s Trident (staff): 67.3 dps, 71 con, 205 int, 9.4 nat mana regen, 112 crit rtg, 30 hate dec rtg, 135 crit dmg rtg
    • Terminator’s Diremaul*: 119.5 dps, 347 combat rtg, 30 crit rtg, 48 fatality rtg, 50 crit dmg rtg, 46 offhand rtg
    • Terminator’s Dreadmaul: 139.2 dps, 171 str, 30 con, 128 combat rtg (2hb), 40 hit rtg, 80 crit rtg, 20 hate dec rtg, 100 crit dmg rtg
    • Savior’s Spite Hammer (1hb): 115.6 dps, 114 wis, 40 hit rtg, 36 crit rtg, 20 hate dec rtg, 50 crit dmg rtg, 33 magic mana tap rtg
    • Savior’s Totem Pole (staff)*: 67.3 dps, 209 wis, 360 mana, 92 nat mana regen, 90 hit rtg, 60 crit rtg, 70 crit dmg rtg
  • Rings:
    • Amethyst Ring of Wisdom (ring): 126 wis, 3.1 nat mana regen
    • Asp of Mystical Supremacy (ring): 225 mana, 75 magic dmg, 18 hate dec rtg
    • Golden Ring of Dexterity: 85 dex, 195 combat rtg
    • Hallowed Ring of Divine Blessings: 74 wis, 225 mana, 186 heal rtg
    • Iron Band of Constitution (ring): 164 armor, 73 con, 52 crit rtg
    • Pearl Ring of Assault: 44 evade rtg, 55 hit rtg, 55 crit rtg, 44 immunity rtg, 120 prot
    • Ruby Ring of Strength: 82 str, 204 combat rtg
    • Runic Band of Inherent Hatred (ring): 78 con, 30 crit rtg, 30 hate inc rtg, 133 protection
    • Skull Clasp of Bloody Carnage (ring): 427 combat rtg, 50 crit rtg, 45 fat rtg, 15 hate dec rtg
    • Scorched Band of the Inferno (ring): 70 magic dmg (fire), 44 crit rtg, 440 combat rtg (fire)
    • Snakehead of Intelligence (ring): 126 int, 3.1 nat mana regen
  • Necklaces:
    • All-Seeing-Eye of Mystical Supremacy (necklace): 98 int, 3.5 nat mana regen, 50 hit rtg, 25 hate dec rtg
    • Bear Claws of Divine Might (necklace)*: str, heal rtg
    • Emerald Barbs of Subtle Striking (necklace): 80 dex, 50 hit rtg, 20 hate dec rtg, 58 crit dmg rtg
    • Ironclad Trinket of Eternal Resilience: 130 armor, 78 con, 26 hate inc rtg, 113 protection
    • Mitra’s Mark of Divine Blessings (necklace): 94 wis, 5 nat mana regen, 169 heal rt, 55 crit dmg rtg
    • Tribal Necklace of Bloody Carnage: 8.3 nat stam regen, 397 combat rtg, 28 hate dec rtg, 55 offhand rtg

A few screenshots

This is the Sanctum Atlantis set, one of the new social sets. Note that the head piece can clip very badly with your hair.


And this is the Shattered Colossus set:


Here’s the Slayer’s set:


The new Black Dragon mini-pet is in fact pretty decently sized:


(Click to enlarge.)

It has a nice fire-breathing animation:


(Click to enlarge.)


(Click to enlarge.)

And here’s that terrifying beast of war, the Pictish War Piglet:


(Click to enlarge.)

The Fire Salamander is less impressive than I expected:


(Click to enlarge.)

And here’s Fat Harry, great for frog-lovers like myself, I just wish it could hop instead of just walking:


(Click to enlarge.)

I’ll add more screenshots if/when I get more gear and pets.

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Ancient Letters

July 28, 2013 1 comment

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.)


(Click to enlarge.)

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.

Categories: Age of Conan, Quests

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 😛

Categories: Age of Conan, Lore, Quests

The Crawling Chaos quest line

January 23, 2013 9 comments

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:


(Click to enlarge.)

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.

Categories: Age of Conan, Quests

Shadow Imp Lord

October 21, 2012 7 comments

The Athyr-Bast encounter in Wing 3 of the Black Ring Citadel contains a few elements that must have either been placed there to deliberately misdirect the attention of players as they were first figuring out the tactics for the fight, or that were perhaps originally meant to play a more significant role in the fight but the developers changed their mind about that later. As is well known, the main challenge in this fight comes from the Shadow Imp Lord, who spawns in the centre of the room when you begin the fight. He oneshots people at random unless the character that is on top of his aggro list stands close enough to him; so you always need to have a tank on top of his aggro list and standing next to him. But you can’t use just one tank for this purpose, because the Shadow Imp Lord puts an unholy invulnerability debuff on any players nearby, and this debuff gradually stacks higher and higher, so that the tank standing next to him is getting hit harder and harder; thus you need several tanks, and when the current tank’s debuff stacks high enough, you send the next tank in, he takes aggro and the previous tank then moves away from the Shadow Imp Lord until his debuff expires, and so on. In principle, two tanks are enough for this, if they are reasonably well geared and if they know what they are doing; but to be safer, many pug raids use 3 or even 4 tanks for this.

As soon as you start the fight (and the Shadow Imp Lord appears), a steady stream of small imps begins spawning from all sides of the room and walking towards the Shadow Imp Lord, where they disappear once they reach him. The little imps can be DPSed and, with a bit of effort, killed before they reach the Shadow Imp Lord; but there’s no obvious reason to do so, and nowadays people very reasonably ignore the little imps altogether. In the early days after Wing 3 was open (in update 1.04), people had the idea that the little imps buff up the Shadow Imp Lord when they get consumed by him, and that this is why you should kill them (or at least most of them) before they reach him. But the little imps were too numerous and had too much HP to be killed, at least without having practically your entire raid dealing with them and almost nobody on the boss herself.

This is where the other two mysterious elements of the fight come in: the torch and the braziers. There’s a torch near the central square (where the Shadow Imp Lord appears once the fight begins), and several braziers along the walls of the room. One player can pick up the torch and then click the braziers to light them, and while a brazier is alight, no imps spawn from that side of the room (or at least much fewer than normally — it’s been a very long time since I’ve been in a raid that tried this, so I don’t remember the details). After a while, the fire in the brazier goes out, and the imps spawn normally again. So people naturally got the idea that you should assign a player to pick up the torch and then move around the room all the time, lighting the braziers so as to keep the overall number of the little imps as low as possible.

Carrying out this idea was made harder by the fact that picking up the torch generates a lot of aggro on Athyr-Bast; in other words, she’ll tend to attack the torch-holder no matter what the other players are doing to her. Nowadays some pug raids use this mechanic to reduce the risk that the main tank on her will lose aggro (e.g. because they put all guardians and DTs on the Shadow Imp Lord, leaving only conqs to tank Athyr-Bast, and many conqs have (or used to have, until the recent revamp) relatively weak aggro). But admittedly this mechanic looks like exactly the sort of thing that Funcom would implement to make the “proper” tactic, with lighting the braziers, harder to implement: if the torch-bearer is walking around the room all the time, and you practically can’t pull the boss off him, this means that the main part of the raid has to move around the room with him as well if they want to keep DPSing the boss. Additionally, it’s a challenge to prevent the boss from killing the torch-holder, because if she kills him, there’ll be no way to keep the braziers alight and prevent the small imps from spawning.

So this would be quite an interesting tactic — considerably more complex (and harder to execute) than what we have now, when we ignore the braziers (and often also the torch) altogether and just tank and spank the boss in a fixed place all the time. All that’s missing here is a reason to be interested in killing the little imps before they reach the Shadow Imp Lord. So perhaps the developers initially did intend the little imps to buff up the Shadow Imp Lord’s damage to the point where it would be impossible to tank him, even with 3 or 4 tanks; or perhaps they intended it to make it impossible to use more than 1 tank on him at all, because, from what I remember of the early post-1.04 days, swapping aggro on the Shadow Imp Lord was unusually difficult, much harder than on other mobs (nowadays swapping aggro on him is no harder than on other mobs), and perhaps the devlopers’ initial idea was that it would be impossible altogether.

But in practice, neither of these two things is the case. It is (and always was) possible to swap aggro on the Shadow Imp Lord and thus use more than one tank on him; and he never got noticeably buffed no matter how many little imps he consumed. So either they didn’t implement the missing mechanic here (to have the little imps buff up the Shadow Imp Lord), or they balanced things incorrectly, or they deliberately introduced the braziers and little imps (and TBH the torch as well) for no other reason than to confuse players.

But anyway, is it really the case that the little imps don’t buff up the Shadow Imp Lord? If they don’t, why would there be, early in the post-1.04 period, such a widespread idea that they do? (Of course it’s possible that they don’t buff him now but that they did buff him back then. I wasn’t analyzing combat logs back then so I can’t check.) And in fact, even in more recent times, I occasionally had the feeling that the Shadow Imp Lord hits a bit harder as the fight progresses. So I started to wonder if perhaps the little imps do buff him up a bit, just not enough to really make a difference (or to require a change in the tactics).

Then I remembered that I have a good way of analyzing this. A few months ago we killed Athyr-Bast with a 6-player group for fun: two tanks on the Shadow Imp Lord, one on Athyr-Bast, two healers and one DPSer. (In fact you could do it with 5 people — remove the extra DPSer and the only difference would be that the fight would last longer. Perhaps you could even do it with 4 people by removing one of the healers, but that would require a bit more care and some luck.) This fight took about 20 minutes; so if the little imps were buffing up the Shadow Imp Lord at all, surely this would be noticeable over such a long period. So I now processed the log file from that fight and came up with the following chart:

This chart shows us one point for each hit that the Shadow Imp Lord did; the x-coordinate is time when the hit occured (in seconds since the start of the fight), and the y-coordinate is how many points the hit was for. You can see the typical zigzagging shape — as a tank goes in, he gets hit harder and harder because of his stacking unholy invulnerability debuff, until the other tank takes aggro. But you can also see that there is no long-term growing trend in the strength of the hits; after nearly 20 minutes, the Shadow Imp Lord wasn’t hitting even a tiny bit harder than at the start of the fight. So I think we can safely say that the little imps don’t buff the Shadow Imp Lord at all.

P.S. This post gets funnier if you mentally replace each occurrence of the word “imp” with “pimp” 😛

White Hand Officers

October 10, 2012 4 comments

The northeastern corner of the Eiglophian Mountains playfield is a curious and somewhat unfinished place. Most people probably encounter it due to the two quests that lead there, one to kill a number of trash mobs (called Into the Fire, IIRC) and one to kill the three bosses in that area (Na’Tsu’Ko, Kamoinen, and Torumjumala). This latter quest is called White Hand Officers, from which this post also got its title.

The mobs in this area used to be group mobs, which made these quests fairly challenging to do with a level-appropriate group, especially due to the numerous patrols, the relatively quick respawns, many ranged mobs, and the fact that two of these bosses have an annoying ability to teleport around randomly during the fight, and might aggro additional trash mobs if they happen to teleport near them.

Eventually, update 3.0 changed all group mobs in Field of the Dead and Eiglophian Mountains into solo mobs, so these two quests are now quite easy to do. In a way, it’s a pity — in the previous form these quests were a nice challenge — but it was too difficult to get a level-appropriate group for them, so most people skipped them (or got a level 80 player to help them).

White drops

The curious thing about this bosses is some of the stuff that they have in their loot tables. Torumjumala always drops one item from the White Hand Master set, which is white cloth armor. It seems to consist of 6 parts: Tunic, Hood, Leggings, Boots, Gloves, Bracers. I’ve been farming Torumjumala long enough to get each item at least 3 times, and most of them 5 times, and a belt or shoulders never dropped, so I guess it’s reasonably safe to say that they don’t exist. (I found an old post on the US forum that had the same experience.) I tried checking this with a search in bebot’s item database as well, but it seems that most of this set is missing from there anyway (or maybe it’s misclassified under the wrong language and therefore doesn’t show up in searches).

Their stats are exactly the same as on the white level 60 armor that you can buy from NPC vendors (Sateen X, for various values of X):

  • White Hand Master Boots: 104 armor
  • White Hand Master Bracers: 52 armor
  • White Hand Master Gloves: 78 armor
  • White Hand Master Hood: 156 armor
  • White Hand Master Leggings: 182 armor
  • White Hand Master Tunic: 234 armor


(Click to enlarge.)

As you can see, this is a very unusual set. Technically it’s marked as cloth, but several parts of it (especially the chest and boots) look more like plate than cloth. The “hood” looks more like the sort of thing that is elsewhere called a “circlet” (an identical-looking item, Lauded Curatic Band, drops from Jan Vermis in the Catacombs; another such item is Leonid Helm, level 52 medium armor, which I suspect is one of the quest rewards in the Armsman’s Arena), and the “leggings” are the same sexy blue miniskirt that we also know as the Resplendent Tasset or Elegiast’s Britches.

There’s at least one other chest that looks the same as White Hand Master Tunic, namely Fangbreaker (level 50 green BoP medium chest), which is probably a quest reward but I’m not sure from where. As for the boots, another item based on the same model are Emerald-hide Shoes from Old Emerald in the Main System.

As we see, though other items with the same appearance do exist, they are scattered all over the game, so farming Torumjumala is an easy way to get the whole set in one place.


In addition, Torumjumala sometimes drops a white weapon called White Hand Dagger. It didn’t drop even once in 32 kills of Torumjumala in the normal instance of Eiglophian Mountains, but it dropped twice in 14 kills of Torumjumala in the epic instance; so either I had pretty bad luck in the normal instance or it only drops in the epic instance. Being a white weapon, its stats are of course utter crap, but it looks interesting; I particularly like the blue decorative end of the hilt:


 

 

 

(Click to enlarge.)

Kamoinen always drops a thrown weapon called Kamoinens Sling [sic] and a quest item called Key to Thurga.



(Click to enlarge.)

Sometimes he additionally drops a 1-handed edged weapon called Kamoinens Shortsword [sic]. Unlike the dagger from Torumjumala, this sword seems to drop just fine in the normal instance. I got it twice in 25 kills of Kamoinen in the normal instance, and once in 5 kills of Kamoinen in the epic instance. The sword looks interesting as well and I’m not aware of any other that looks exactly the same:




(Click to enlarge.)

I suppose there’s a tiny chance that some other weapons also drop here that I haven’t seen yet, but I think it’s pretty unlikely. This is the sort of thing that would be easy to check with yg.com if it still existed 😦 I can’t see any other weapons of this sort in bebot’ sitem database.

I haven’t seen Na’Tsu’Ko drop anything interesting. But he’s different from the other two bosses anyway; he’s level 59 and judging by his happearance he seems to be a cannibal native to this region, whereas the other two are level 60 Hyperboreans.

Unfinished content?

Thurga is the partly ruined temple in front of which Torumjumala stands. Presumably it was at some point meant to be an instanced dungeon and the Key to Thurga might have been needed to enter it; but as with so many other things in the game, they never actually got around to fully implementing it. Some people say there used to be quests mentioned on yg.com involving this key, though I can’t say that I remember seeing any such quest in the game itself; see the comments to one of my previous posts for further interesting information about this.

My guess is that the white armor and weapons that drop here are likewise unfinished. Even if they were intended primarily as vanity gear, the fact is that other similar sets in the game are green, not white, and their stats are at least somewhat useful (as far as green gear goes). Examples of this include the Darfari armor from Purple Lotus Swamp and the various Vanir armor sets from Conall’s Valley and Fields of the Dead. So maybe they intended to give the White Hand Master armor some more meaningful stats (and maybe even more original visual models), but never got around to finishing that either. Another thing that suggests this stuff is unfinished are the missing apostrophes from the weapon names 😛

Another odd thing is that, as far as I can see, the White Hand mobs aren’t actually wearing the items that drop here as the White Hand Master set — unlike the Vanir and Darfari mobs, which actually wear items that drop from their loot tables. I don’t think I’ve seen any mob in the Eiglophian Mountains wear the sexy blue miniskirt that drops here as White Hand Master Leggings (nor the plate-looking White Hand Master Tunic, for that matter).

There is at least one good thing about this armor being white, rather than green — it doesn’t get bound to you even if you equip it.

By the way, speaking of vanity armor worn by White Hand mobs in the Eiglophian Mountains, I’ve noticed that White Hand Witch and Warlock mobs here wear the interesting and little-known chest called Incursion Shroud, which drops from Alcippe in the Main System.


 

 

Torumjumala’s Champion

Another curious thing I noticed is that when you pull Torumjumala, another boss suddenly spawns and attacks you. This was called Torumjumala’s Champion and was level 80, even though Torumjumala is just level 60. Maybe the Champion’s level adapts to the level of the player that pulled Torumjumala.

In any case, I’m pretty sure this Champion wasn’t there initially, but I’m not sure when exactly they added him. Perhaps it was in update 1.06; this update added the guild renown system and one aspect of it were some additional quests through which you can obtain the Tarpani Stallion if your guild is at renown level 20. The last part of these quests involved the area around Torumjumala, and in fact you can now see a Tarpani Stallion in a cage next to him. Perhaps the Champion was added at that time; or if not, maybe he was added in update 3.0 when the mobs in that area were changed from group to solo mobs.

The Champion never seemed to drop anything interesting.

Epic instance

I also tried killing these bosses in the epic instance of Eiglophian Mountains. It turns out that the white armor and weapons, as well as the Key to Thurga, drop the same as in the normal instance. The only difference is that, as I mentioned earlier, I never managed to get the dagger from Torumjumala in the normal instance, only in the epic one.

As you would expect from an epic instance, each boss additionally also drops a piece of blue gear around level 60 (i.e. mostly from the level 40–69 sets), and the level 80 Torumjumala’s Champion drops a piece of blue gear around level 80 (i.e. mostly from the level 70–80 sets).

The Champion was a bit of a pain in the ass to kill, because he hits fairly hard and you’re fighting him and Torumjumala at the same time, as well as one or two trash mobs (which will likely be respawning during the fight); and you have to be careful about kiting as the Champion resets fairly easily. So I didn’t try killing him more than once in the epic instance of the playfield; usually I would just let him reset and then kill Torumjumala alone.

Old-time farming sprees in Khitai

September 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Here’s another nostalgic post, this time about the various insane farming sprees that we’ve seen in Khitai in the (relatively) early days after the release of the Rise of the Godslayer expansion. I suppose some people would consider some or all of these things to be exploits; but I consider that to be an unnecessarily ugly word. If the developers didn’t mean these opportunities to exist, they should have tested the game a bit better and fixed them before the release; and what is more important, they shouldn’t have set up the insane grinding requirements that pushed people towards (ab)using every possible shortcut to its fullest potential.

Forest of August Gloom

This is the area in the southeastern part of Northern Grasslands. One of the NPCs in the nearby village of Mei-Dianwafu gives a quest to kill 10 or so of the lotus-tainted animals in the forest, with a few Imperial Insignia as the reward.

Imperial Insignia are tokens that you can hand in to faction NPCs to raise your reputation with that faction (1 insignia is worth 200 points of reputation). Nowadays you get plenty of faction reputation simply by doing their quests, but in the early days faction quests gave less reputation than now, so insignia was more important than now. And nowadays you get lots of insignia easily as direct drops from dungeon bosses, and also from quest rewards for killing those bosses. But these things were added relatively recently; in the early days, the only sources of insignia were open-world quest rewards and (rare) direct drops from open-world mobs.

Most of the quests that gave insignia as a reward were poster quests, but in the Northern Grasslands there were also a few that you could get by talking to NPCs, and the Gloom Forest quest was one of them. And these quests lacked a cooldown back then, just like poster quests do. So in principle you could keep taking and completing a quest like this again and again, as much as you liked.

The other detail that made Gloom Forest such an incredible farming opportunity was the fact that you could do it in a group, or even in a raid. When any member of the team killed one of the animals in the forest, all other members got the quest update from it as well (if they were within range). So people would form raids of 18 or even 24 people, pick up the quest, ride en masse to the forest, round up a bunch of animals and AoE them down within seconds, often without even dismounting. Then they would ride back to the quest NPC, hand in the quest, take it again, and so on. You would get 10 insignia or so every few minutes, which was vastly faster than by doing any other insignia-giving quests. Some people would spend entire days farming this quest, though I myself found it too boring to endure it for more than an hour a day or so.

I think that for most people, the motivation for all this insignia farming was that they wanted insignia so they could raise their reputation with the Tamarin’s Tigers faction faster. This faction is present in only one playfield, so gaining reputation by questing was even slower than for most other factions; and people of course wanted to reach rank 4 quickly so they could get their tiger mounts. As a side effect of Gloom Forest farming, you also got a reasonable amount of money and AA xp from handing in the quest.

Funcom closed this glitch relatively soon by adding a cooldown of around 15 minutes to this quest (and other similar quests).

Paikang boxes

This is probably the most innocuous of the farming opportunities in this post. It’s a perfectly normal poster quest in Paikang, requiring you to collect a few boxes lying around the banks of a river in the central part of the playfield (near the island with lots of apes on it). Like all other poster quests, it has no cooldown and it gives you a few Imperial Insignia as a reward.

What makes this quest so attractive is that it’s so quick and easy to do it. You can pick it up from the poster near the entrance to the playfield (where you enter it from Chosain), ride to the river bank, pick up the boxes, ride back and hand them in to a NPC standing right next to the poster, and you’re ready to pick it up again right away. The boxes respawn quickly so you won’t have problems getting them even if several people are doing the quest at the same time. One annoying thing is that the poster gives you a random quest from probably 10 or more possibilities, so you have to keep deleting and retaking them until you get the one you want.

At some point, the quest was nerfed a little — the number of boxes you had to pick up was increased, and IIRC the number of insignia in the quest reward was decreased. But it’s probably still the fastest way of farming insignia by a purely solo activity. The reason why it’s not as popular as it used to be is, as described above, that there isn’t as much need for insignia any more, and that you get plenty of insignia easier than ever before simply from doing dungeons.

First phase of Pagoda and Palace

The boss fights in the Kang Pagoda and the Palace of Yun Rau consist of two phases; you get the loot (and the lockout) only after you completing the second phase. In the Kang Pagoda, if you wipe during the second phase, you’ll have to do the first phase again in the next try; this used to be the case in the Palace as well until they changed it to its present mechanics (where you don’t have to repeat the first phase if you wipe on the second).

In the early days after the expansion was launched, the first phase of these encounters generated AA xp, just like the second phase. IIRC you would get about 70k AA xp for each phase in the Kang Pagoda, and around 80k in the Palace of Yun Rau. This doesn’t sound like much now, but in those early days, getting AA xp was slower and harder than now; those 70 or 80k per hardmode were more or the best you could expect to get (except in Yag HM, as we’ll see below), so the only question was how to repeat this as often as possible (i.e. without too much travelling, zoning, killing trash, etc. between each boss kill and the next). So people would kill the first form of Po-Sha or Yun Rau, then deliberately wipe on the second form, and then resurrect and repeat this for as long as they wanted.

This practice was more widespread in the Kang Pagoda than in the Palace, partly because more people were familiar with the tactics for it and partly because in the Kang Pagoda, you could have one of the healers stand outside the boss room and the AoE wouldn’t reach him there, so he survived the fight when everyone else wiped and could easily and quickly zone in and resurrect everyone else. This avoided the need to zone out to the main playfield where the rez pad was located (since the dungeons didn’t have lobbies like they do now).

This was the main source of large-scale AA xp farming in the first few weeks after the expansion, before people learned how to do KK dungeons. Funcom put an end to this practice relatively soon by removing the AA xp from the first phase of these two encounters, so there’s no longer any motivation to wipe deliberately on the second phase. Later they changed the Palace fight (but not the Pagoda) so that wiping on the second phase doesn’t reset the first phase at all.

Kiting in the Coppice of the Heart

In the Coppice of the Heart, there’s a circular area where you’re supposed to fight the boss. Nowadays, if you go out of this circle during the boss fight (except the phases where you’re destroying the veins and arteries), you will get a pretty hard-hitting dot that will kill you quickly. In fact you might get the dot even by approaching the edge of the circle too closely (while still being inside it).

But in the early days, this dot didn’t exist, so in principle you could kite the boss in a big circle around the room, past the big arteries and so on. He moved slowly enough that even a caster could kite him. The key thing was to prevent the boss from ever hitting the kiter. Like many mobs, the boss seems to have an idea of what he wants to do next, and he refuses to consider doing anything else until he performs the move he has in mind at the moment. So if he intends to hit the aggro holder at least once, but the aggro holder kites him so that the boss never has the chance to hit him, this means that the boss will never consider doing any of the other things that he would otherwise do, e.g. move to the centre of the circle at 75% of health and cast his shield (where you’d then have to destroy veins and arteries to remove his shield).

So by kiting the boss around the room like that (and making sure the kiter never gets hit), you could avoid having to deal with the veins and arteries. There was also no risk that his aggro would break off — it might, if he managed to hit the current aggro holder at least once, but since he couldn’t, he just kept running after him. IIRC his heals also had no chance of proccing during this kiting (and his heals were a much bigger problem back then than they are now, since they could proc often enough that you needed two rogues with TW to remove them; and rogues in general were even more incompetent with heal removal back then than they are now).

So basically you had one player kiting the boss, and everyone else standing in the circle and hitting him with whatever ranged attacks they had. This could be pretty slow if you had mostly melee classes that couldn’t do anything else than shoot arrows with their bow or crossbow; but it was a simple and reliable tactic, unlike the intended one with killing veins and arteries and removing the heals.

In principle, a necro could even kill the boss completely alone, by kiting him while the pets were DPSing him. I wasn’t yet doing Khitai with my necro back then, so I never tried it myself, but for some people it was a nice way of farming some extra rare trophies and AA xp, especially if they couldn’t easily get a good hardmode group. Funcom seemed to disapprove of this and some people even got banned for it. As usual, it took them a nontrivial amount of time to add the dot which is still there and prevents this sort of kiting nowadays.

Den of the Crowmen

As you know, the hardmode version of the Den of the Crowmen encounter involves two bosses, Kian Lai (big bird) and the Royal Hatchling (small bird). Normally you should DPS the small bird down to 10%, at which point it becomes unattackable and flies into the air; after that you DPS the big bird down to 50%, kill some adds, then kill the big bird, then the small bird becomes attackable again and you kill it as well. The big bird drops the blue normal-mode box while the small bird drops the purple hard-mode box.

In the early days, it turned out that if the small bird’s health dropped below 10% while it was CCed, the mechanic that should have caused the small bird to become unattackable at 10% (and remain such until the big bird dies) didn’t trigger. I’m not sure if all CCs worked for this, but e.g. fear definitely did. So what you could do was fear the small bird just before its health reached 10%, then you’d keep DPSing it while it was feared, and by the time the fear was over its health was already well below 10% and it wouldn’t become unattackable. You could simply kill it and get your hardmode loot chest with AA xp, a purple armor part, and a rare trophy.

But you didn’t get a lockout — it’s killing the big bird that gives you a lockout. So after killing the small bird, you’d run away until the encounter reset (or you’d simply wipe on the big bird). After the encounter reset (and you had no lockout), you could do it again and again, thereby farming rare relics quite efficiently. What is more, since you could use the same instance of the dungeon all the time, you didn’t have to re-clear trash after each boss kill.

So in a way this kind of farming was even better than what we saw above in the case of the Pagoda and Palace — there you were getting just AA xp, here you were also getting rare trophies and loot. But you needed at least tanks with resolve for it, and it took a while before people got familiar with the Den encounter, so in the early weeks the Pagoda and Palace predominated. Funcom eventually fixed the Den farming glitch by making the small bird resistant to CCs. This made the fight a bit harder as well, since you couldn’t help the tank by CCing the small bird.

But really, in the long turn the main thing that made this sort of farming unnecessary was that they eventually increased the rate at which you can obtain rare trophies legitimately. In the early days, each hardmode gave you 1 rare trophy and that was it (with a few very rare exceptions, such as the crates of 5 rares in Pagoda and Yag HM). Nowadays you get 1 rare from each *normal* mode, and an additional 2–3 rares from the hardmode loot box, and crates of 5 rares drop from more dungeons than before.

Coconuts and mangos in Paikang

One of the Children of Yag-Kosha faction quests in Paikang (called Silent Strides) involves collecting a few coconuts (without killing any animals meanwhile). It’s a simple and quick quest and like any other faction quest it gives you a few Marks of Acclaim as a reward (as well as some money, AA xp, and faction reputation). In the early days, most of the repeatable faction quests had a cooldown of about 1 hour; but Funcom forgot to add a cooldown to the coconut quest, so you could re-take it immediately after handing it in.

Some people would spend hours and hours doing this quest again and again, mostly because they were interested in farming marks of acclaim, though the amount of money they got (either as a direct reward from handing in the quest, or from selling blue potions which IIRC were also part of the quest reward) was also pretty nice. None of the two or so characters with which I was doing Khitai grinding at the time was in the Children of Yag-Kosha faction, so I couldn’t get in on this action myself. To be honest, I’m not so sure if the rate of MoA per hour from this quest was really much better than from a traditional Kara Korum MoA farming run (if you had three factions at rank 2, plus the Jiang Shi faction), but some people seemed to prefer doing the coconut quest instead.

After some time, Funcom decided to do something about this, but instead of simply giving this quest the same cooldown that most other repeatable faction quests had, they took their usual idiotic way of responding to things they don’t like, and made the quest non-repeatable altogether.

People then started to focus on another Yag-Kosha quest in Paikang, which apparently also lacked a cooldown. This one is called Treats and Threats, and requires you to place mangos on the altars around the Yag-Kosha camp; while doing so, you have to dance to frighten away the apes that attack you. Eventually Funcom made this quest non-repeatable as well, thereby decreasing the number of repeatable Yag-Kosha quests in Paikang from 4 to 2, screwing the people who were in that faction and wanted to farm MoA in Paikang legitimately.

As usually in cases like these, the real source of this problem was that farming MoA was so slow and tedious, and Funcom eventually fixed it by massively increasing the amount of MoA quest rewards from all faction quests.

Last time I looked, there was another repeatable faction quest in Paikang that lacked a cooldown: one of the Shadows of Jade NPCs asks you to bring him the woman that he wants to marry, but while talking to her you can allow her to escape to Chosain; the quest fails and is replaced by a different one, where you just have to return to the Shadows NPC and tell him what you’ve done. You still get some MoA from this, and you can re-take his quest right away. (I’m not sure if the quest is also repeatable if, instead of failing it, you bring the woman to the Shadows NPC like he told you to.) But there’s a fair bit of riding involved to get from the Shadows camp to that woman’s house and back, so even though you could farm this quest over and over again, the amount of MoA you’d get per hour wouldn’t really be any better than from a normal quest run in KK or Paikang.

Speaking of repeatable quests in Paikang, I vaguely remember having heard something about people sharing a partly-completed quest for the Ai District and handing it in, again and again, or something like that, mostly with a view to making money. But I never knew the details of this, and I don’t have the impression that it was a widespread practice.

Celestial Necropolis

In the early days after Khitai was released, Celestial Necropolis lacked a lockout. If you got a good group for it, you could farm rare trophies and AA xp pretty quickly this way. But it was harder than it’s now, especially since most people still lacked the AA perks for it. For example, if you don’t have a priest with Steadfast Faith, and the Grieving Jiang-Shi mob manages to put the ruin on your group, this pretty much guarantees a wipe as you won’t be able to kill things quickly enough with the −damage debuff from the ruin. So you had to keep the mob chain-CCed to make sure it couldn’t cast the ruin.

You could similarly prevent the Conceding mob from putting the torment on people, or you’d have to be really sure that the player with the torment would run away on time (or that the rest of the group would run if he was rooted; but in that case you’d be deprived of a lot of DPS on the next Sentinel, so it was better to avoid getting the torment altogether).

Likewise, you could try to keep the Joyous mobs chain-CCed to prevent them from putting the healing buff on the boss. If this failed, you had to simply not hit the boss until the next pillar became active and his healing buff was removed.

In any case, after killing the boss, you had to go out, regroup, enter a new instance of the dungeon and kill some trash again, so it wasn’t as convenient as the Den farming mentioned above. But it was a bit more legitimate and could still be pretty fast if you had a good group.

There was one detail in which the Necropolis fight was easier than now: there was a rez pad in the dungeon itself, so dead people could release and run back during the boss fight. After they added a lobby and moved the rez pad there, people can’t zone into the dungeon from the lobby during the boss fight, so if they die, they are out of the fight for good.

Enigmata of Yag

The Enigmata of Yag is still a very respectable source of AA xp, especially if you kill the rare boss (Spawn of Nyarlathotep). But in the early days after Khitai was released, killing any of the bosses in Yag HM gave you a little over 800k AA xp — basically 10 times as much as any of the other hardmodes at the time. And you didn’t have to track for the rare boss — in fact it was in your best interest to avoid him, as his loot table was bugged so he wasn’t dropping loot like the other two bosses (Tetharos and X’cth) did.

What is more, Yag didn’t have a lockout in those early days. If this happened now, you could simply park your characters in the lobby and farm it for as long as you liked. Back then, the lobby didn’t yet exist, so after each Yag run you’d have to go back out to Kara Korum itself and regroup there before you could enter a new instance of Yag. To enter it, you of course needed the Crater Key buff, which expired after two hours. With a really good group, people managed to do six Yag runs with just one Crater Key buff. The key buff typically expired while they were inside the dungeon on the sixth run, but this wasn’t really a problem — you can stay in the instance without the key buff, you just had to be careful that you didn’t fall out of it (or that you didn’t release after dying).

Sadly I wasn’t able to get in on this farming myself; some of my guildies at the time did but I usually couldn’t get a spot in their group. This was probably by the best AA farming opportunity that ever existed in the game, by a wide margin. Nowadays you could probably get 1 million AA xp per hour with a reasonably smooth KK run, or even a bit more than that with two good Ai District or Ardashir Fort runs, and places like T’ian’an District and Vile Nativity have very decent AA/time ratios as well if you have a good group for them. But none of these things comes even remotely close to 3 million AA xp per hour, which is what people were getting from Yag in those wonderful lockout-less days.

Funcom eventually not only added a lockout to Yag but also nerfed the AA xp from the non-rare versions of the bosses there. But gradually they also increased the amount of AA you get from most hardmodes in the game, put additional AA xp urns to the loot tables, etc., so that a KK dungeon run is still a very good source of AA xp (if you aren’t too bored of farming it by now :}).

Categories: Age of Conan, Quests