I wrote about Barovian hunts before. The funniest of these I've had so far was with my pet tank and two of our guildies, and with me having picked what turned out to be a very unfortunate combination of tarot (debuff) cards: The Executioner (if you die during the hunt, you can't revive and become a ghost), one of the blue cards that increase the aggro range of mobs (can't recall the number), and the third one was either The Beast or one of the damage-increasing ones, I can't remember.

Either way, what happened was that our two guildies, who were providing the dps, got absolutely swarmed by adds and died not even halfway through the hunt. Neither of us knew beforehand what "becoming a ghost" actually meant in this context, so we were quite amused to see them return and run circles around us in semi-transparent form.

As it turns out, ghosts do have some abilities, such as roots and knockbacks, but they are useless against the actual hunt target and do no damage, so what ended up happening was that me and my pet tank very slowly finished off the actual boss while our two guildies amused themselves running in circles and "playing ball" with adds.


Buggy Morlanth

This past weekend I repeated the Shroud of Souls quest line for the first time since it first came out. And whoa, was Morlanth (the last boss) ever bugged! Specifically, she didn't do anything when I attacked her - which would have been fine by me, except that this "not doing anything" also included "not dying". She just kept standing there at zero health.

When I googled the problem I only found this off-hand mention of someone else having the same issue and apparently circumventing it by attacking her really, really slowly (once every ten seconds by their own account). I Alt+F4ed to reset the fight and tried this, but without much success - if I waited too long between attacks, she would kill me (rogues aren't made to just stand around while being hit in the face), and if I tried to attack a little faster she would freeze up again.

Fortunately, after Alt+F4ing for the fifth time or so, I suddenly loaded back in to find the giant dragon that she summons at some point into the fight in front of me, and that one acted like a normal enemy, so when I killed that the quest completed. I'm just putting this here in case anyone else struggles with this bug...


Random Queues

Considering that Neverwinter had an automated group finder since its launch back in 2013, it's quite baffling that it went without any kind of random reward feature for more than four years. Blizzard realised from the beginning that this was something that was going to be needed to keep queues popping and the actual dungeons varied, back when they introduced the first dungeon finder of this kind in WoW. As it stands, Neverwinter players at endgame just ran the same couple of dungeons for years, since their daily rewards were granted for completing any dungeon, and people naturally gravitated towards what was easiest.

It was only a year ago, in the Swords of Chult module, that Cryptic introduced random queues (which are a separate thing from just ticking all the options and seeing what you get), and with Ravenloft's launch they gave them a revamp that involved a re-shuffle of the categories and changes to the rewards.

I'm still not much of a dungeon runner in Neverwinter but I'll admit that the random queue system has made me somewhat more amenable towards them. Especially for casual players it's extremely rewarding since the payout is heavily weighted towards your first run of the day per account (and as a casual you won't be running much more than one anyway). That and I'm liking the entertainment factor of the randomness. Sure, some dungeons are more fun than others, but either way it beats having your guildies constantly ask if you want to join them for their 360,867th Cloak Tower.



One interesting aspect of soloing content that I previously only ever did while duoing with my pet tank is that I actually have to learn fight mechanics properly. For example the Kabal fight in the River District (one of that zone's weekly missions) was always a bit of a mystery to me. I figured that you had to drag his ball and chain of fiery death onto him or something, and I even seem to remember doing so successfully once or twice, but other times I couldn't get it to move, and my health would just keep going down until I died, leaving my pet tank to finish off the boss on his own.

Trying to solo this fight on my rogue I quickly got annoyed with being unable to figure out what to do, but fortunately this reddit thread came to the rescue. It also mentions the "pulling the ball onto the boss" tactic that I can't always get to work, but helpfully offered the alternative of killing the third add he spawns in just the right spot so that it leaves a fiery sphere which you can then use to melt and break the chain, and then using the fourth add to bring down his immunity shield.

I still had to use several health stones to make it through but I did succeed in the end. At least I understand now why there always seem to be people looking for a group for this one in general chat.


Barovian Hunts

I wasn't too fond of the hunts in Chult, so I was less than thrilled when it was announced that the system would be included in the Ravenloft module as well.

In practice though, the hunts in Barovia are so different from those in Chult that they might as well have given them a new name. No more grinding mobs for a chance at a chance at a chance of a drop (seriously, we've spent weeks in Omu by now and apart from the Razortyrannus Spines we haven't seen a single trophy drop from the rares we killed).

All you need to go hunting in Barovia is a wanted poster - admittedly those are still random drops, but fairly common ones at that - and off you go on a fun little romp in an instance that takes 10-20 minutes. Getting higher rated wanted posters requires you to complete the basic ones first and you're not guaranteed to get an upgrade so there's still some RNG there, but it feels more natural and more like a logical progression system than Chult's randomness.

The hunt target itself again isn't guaranteed to drop much in terms of a reward either, but this is where the zone's tarot card feature comes in, as you can use them to give yourself up to three handicaps per hunt (such as decreased damage output or extra mob spawns), with each one adding a guaranteed reward at the end. Even though Ravenloft has only been live on PC for less than two months, I've already done more hunts in Barovia than I ever participated in in Chult because they are just that much more fun.


Limit or Target?

Last weekend's bonus RP event came with a twist: the now directly awarded points went towards filling up a little bar that showed that you were able to gain a maximum of 100,000 bonus RP per character during the event. I was soon questioning this limit though, because even after several hours of play on my rogue I hadn't even hit 10k. Just how intensely do you need to play to earn that many points? Why even have a cap at all then?

But then I realised: another new feature was that you could buy boosters that would increase your RP gain. So maybe this cap was less about having a cap and more about making people spend money to reach it, knowing that the ambitious would feel bad about not filling their bars. When I think back to all the agonising WoW players used to do about hitting the valor point cap back in the day, it all makes sense. Quite a clever move.



A lot of companions in Neverwinter have little voice lines that they like to spout when summoned or in combat. (The best thing about the Sylph from the Knight of the Feywild pack was that her incessant "Isn't sun wonderful?" and similarly over-the-top expressions of cheer drove my pet tank absolutely nuts.)

I've now repeatedly run with groups in which someone had a companion (but I couldn't make out whose it was) that was constantly throwing weird insults at the enemy, such as calling them "troll licker" or "knobbly knees" (not sure about that one). What keeps throwing me though is that one of his lines sounds like "Your mother was a whore!" and I'm pretty sure that's not what he says, but at the same time I can't figure out what else it's supposed to be... so I keep hearing accusations of prostitution all over.


Shifting Perspectives

Ever since I started cleaning up unfinished campaigns on my cleric a few months ago, I feel that my attitude to Neverwinter has changed in a good way. Before that, the way I played the game was much more limited: I would tackle every new campaign with my pet tank for a while, but often we wouldn't finish it, and then I never dared to go back on my own. I was somewhat afraid of pugging as well, and my solo play was strictly limited to early/easy content such as running cult dragons or Sharandar dailies.

After my cleric's recent success at finishing off old campaigns, I felt encouraged to actually push for some more progress on my alts as well - which has been nice in so far as it means that I've got some of them working on different content now instead of just running the lot of them through the same weekly quests all the time.

Repeatedly besting Tiamat also increased my confidence in pugging. I'm still somewhat uncomfortable knowing that my damage contribution is never very high, but as long as I know basic tactics for the content in question I'm willing to cross my fingers and risk it while hoping for a friendly carry. It's worked out in my favour more often than not.

Together, those things have really worked to increase my engagement with the game.



I've quite liked the look of some of the gear upgrades that my cleric got from Ravenloft, so I didn't bother to transmute them into something else and just switched to a different look for a change. What I didn't consider was that simply wearing the newest shinies would make me look identical to other people doing the same... so I was quite startled when I ran into a fellow cleric in the Barovian inn that was wearing pretty much the same outfit as me (not to mention that she looked like she was giving me the evil eye).

It's funny to think that everyone wearing whatever was the newest endgame set used to be the norm, but with the heavy focus on customising your appearance to look more unique in recent years, it actually feels strange now when you run into someone else wearing the same outfit.


Summer Festival Haul

My original goal for this year's Summer Festival was simply to re-purchase the farmer's weapon skin for control wizards, since I "lost" the old one when I replaced my wizard's main hand. Nothing says "arcane power" like fighting with a floating watering can.

So I did that. While I was there, I also decided to get my wizard the water horse. I'd never been particularly fond of that mount, but it suddenly struck me that it seemed kind of appropriate and magical.

While checking out the rewards, I realised that some of the available mounts might suit my other alts, so I also got my rogue and guardian fighter involved to earn the Sunite Steed and the boar mount respectively. Both are characters for whom I've struggled to find mounts that feel "right" for a while, so we'll see whether any of these stick.

The big disappointment came in the form of the ticket rewards from Sahha. Checking out the vendor, I had spotted a nice set of fashion gear that could be purchased for bronze tickets, the most basic currency. "Sure, I can work on that too," I thought.

However, a dozen ticket balls and more than two thousand volleys later, I realised that I was barely halfway towards being able to purchase one of the items, never mind the set. How are you supposed to ever afford this stuff? Buy loads of balls from the store? Play Sahha all day, every day? Come back to the event five years in a row? I'm used to this game being grindy, but that just left me incredulous. It's not that big a deal in the end since the fashion was never my main goal anyway, but it was still kind of disappointing. At least everyone was friendly and honest during my ball-bouncing pugs (despite of all the warnings I'd read about scamming attempts).

P.S.: It's Blaugust! If you've ever been at all interested in blogging, check it out.