Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO): an MMORPG based loosely on the D&D 3.5 rule set, set in the unexplored continent of Xen’drik within the Eberron campaign setting and the Kingdom of Cormyr within the Forgotten Realms campaign setting.
For anyone who knows me even a little bit, or has picked up on the references peppered throughout The Long Shot, i am a huge D&D geek. While i’ve discussed the genre and the pencil and paper (henceforth to be called PnP) version of the granddaddy of the game, it wasn’t until just the other day when my friend and most fervent follower – and fellow blogger - suggested a Long Shot look at our shared mutual obsession for the last 7 years. As i told him then, whenever i’d considered it in the past, it usually led to me jumping on my server to do some gaming (why write about it when i can DO it?!); nevertheless here you are, reading about it. So i guess in the end my buddy’s persistence paid off in results. i’m not embarrassed to say i’m thinking about logging on at this very moment, however.
First of all, i’d like to sweep all my gaming regrets out of the way right off the bat. There are not a lot, so this shouldn’t take very long. Normally i don’t go in much for lamentation, but in retrospect i wish i’d had the foresight to find this game just a couple of months earlier than i did. Back in 2006, we were looking for something we could play online together. If i recall correct, we stipulated that it should be free (otherwise i’d likely be sitting here tapping away about World of Warcraft *shudder*). We tried a few of the Korean MMOs for a minute, and i can’t speak for anyone else but they weren’t doing it for me. On X-Mas eve of that year, i was holed up at home, looking for something to do, and what to my eyes does Google beseech but “Dungeons and Dragons Online: Stormreach.” What’s this? An action-combat online version of my beloved PnP game? Like, for real online, massively? i mean, not to take anything away from Neverwinter Nights (which you can bet i played the hell out of as well), but this was like mind blown. My friend was more than happy to excuse himself from the in-laws umpteenth holiday tradition get-together to take the phone call wherein i salivated over the then-currently-downloading game client. Unless i’m mistaken, he took a breather from the party to pop back to his place and start the d/l himself. i should note here that, at the time, DDO did not follow the Free-to-Play (F2P) model that it offers now. But we’re talking D&D here, so we were both willing and eager to make an exception and pony up the monthly subscription fee (i’m still VIP).
So why would i regret not finding the game just a little sooner than i did? We were just talking about that last night as a matter of fact…over the built-in voice chat while we were gaming. Two reasons actually. The first is, like is standard fare in the gaming world, the pre-order bonus items. In DDO’s case, it is the Founder’s Helm.
Kinda cool looking, effects not uber by any means – but a status symbol nonetheless.
The second reason is thus: all characters created during beta have their names inscribed on the Founder’s Fountain, a largely-ignored monolith in the former starting zone The Harbor. While pretty much everyone passes it by without every stopping to click on it, it would be pretty sweet to know i had an indelible mark in the game world somewhere. i should clarify that – the original starting zone was called Smuggler’s Rest and had some tutorial quests. The zone has since been repurposed for the recurring Treasure of Crystal Cove special event.
Hmmm…screenshots come out pretty small. Go ahead and click it. As a bonus you can see my main toon Schir Gold, currently on her 4th reincarnated life. She’s probably thinking “I wish my name were inscribed here.”
That being said, i had a pretty serious case of alt-itis since i first created my account up until about 2 years ago, so whoever’s name might have been inscribed there would likely long ago have been deleted (it would have been Ogdu – elven ranger/rogue/fighter).
Sometimes i wish i still had that original gimp toon – regret #2.
And you know what? That’s it! All other experiences with the game hold nothing but good vibes for me. In fact, i think there may have been one other thing i my mind when i started tapping away, but since i can’t for the life of me bring it to mind it must not have been very important and, therefore, not worth mentioning.
So what’s kept me playing all these years? What, indeed, since i’ve come and gone from several PnP gaming groups, a slew of PC and console games, and one or two CCGs? Persistence. Not on my part, although it is important in these sorts of games to keep up the grind. But i’m talking about the persistent world here. Just a week or two ago there was a discussion on the forums, a site i frequently haunt. Someone suggested they create a special server that would more closely follow traditional PnP rules. The replies were, as expected, mostly detractors and those piling on. i’ve gotta admit my own less-than-enthusiastic support for the poor guy. A good portion of the DDO playerbase are old-school tabletop gamers like me, and while we’ve all felt like the OP at one point, most of us realize something like a massive virtual online PnP environment just ain’t gonna happen – at least not for another couple of computer generations.
Despite whatever shortcomings keep DDO from being “just like the real thing,” i’ve got to say, it’s a fairly close approximation if you use your imagination…which has always been the core hallmark of RPG gaming since Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson and crew started exploring the depths of the dungeon ‘neath Castle Greyhawk and stuff. In the spirit of PnP, DDO has DM narration by various voiceover artists, including a popular quest chain narrated by Gygax himself, and a *not-so-popular one narrated by Arneson. And while the limitless number of options available in a PnP game aren’t feasibly included in DDO, i will say that the active combat system sets it apart from every other MMO i’ve tried, and keeps me firmly planted in my VIP account.
DDO is also touted as having one of the finest and most customizable character creation systems out there. Now, for someone who has seen the editions come and go, with all the splatbooks and supplements and campaign settings and on and on and on, i’m of the mind that there is still so much material that Turbine can plumb and add to the game. Psionics, for one thing, i would love to see. Yeah, yeah, i know “it’s just like magic,” people will say. And, while mechanically that may hold some water, so what? Maces are like morningstars too, but they have both of those. But anyway, there’s still room for a ton of variety in character building. Maybe not as much for the min-maxers and optimizers who will boot you from a party if you don’t have the current popular build or whatever. Nevertheless if you want to make that halfling wizard throwing hammer specialist in full plate armor that you daydreamed about then by golly DDO has the means.
*by the larger community. personally i enjoy The Ruins of Threnal, even with the PiTA that is Coyle Lovell.
You’re welcome, every game since.
Another thing about the persistent world that us long-time veterans probably find more appreciation in as well, is recognizing the growth that occurs over time. For instance, i mentioned the old starting area and it’s subsequent repurposing. When Crystal Cove comes ’round, there’s that bit of nostalgia for the old days of muddling through the tutorial so you could reach Stormreach Harbor. Upon arriving, green adventurers were greeted by a boastful fellow expounding on his great adventures outside the nearby tavern – one Lord Gerald Goodblade. One of the updates in 2008 revamped the whole area and Goodblade was no longer there. However, observant heroes will notice him mingling about a party in another quest, as well as making a return to his original area, now called The Inspired Quarter, where he hands out another quest for higher-level folks. A rather good one at that – it’s a typical strategy to farm the hell out of the IQ quests and make the jump from level 18 straight to 20. And, lest you think ye olde starting quests are gone forever, they’ve just gotten a facelift and been transplanted to the new starter zone Korthos. And thank goodness for that – The Low Road always had a special place in my heart. As a bonus, you no longer have to wait until making the level cap (at least at the time it was) to actually see a dragon – there’s one at the culmination of your starting quest chain.
There’s a lot of little things like that in the game to make it enjoyable for vets and observant players. NPCs mentioned in low level quests crop up much later on for example, and woven throughout the entire experience is an ancient prophecy involving the Stormreaver. If i’m honest, i really don’t understand the details of the storyline all that much. But his name gets dropped very frequently throughout all levels of play so i know he’s pretty integral to the plot.
The Stormreaver. i think he’s like some powerful ancient dude with prophecies swirling around him?
i suppose this is as good a place as any to interject a little gripe, one that people like the dude who wants a virtual replica of PnP would agree with. It would be nice if your in-game actions had more of an effect on the environment. For example, after you save the city from attempted invasion by the monster nation of Droaam in the Attack on Stormreach chain, it would be cool if the Summerfield district were opened up. On the other hand, there are events which alter the world around you. Like the great Devil Invasion of ’08 that resulted in the destruction of the Marketplace Bazaar. Don’t worry – it’s been fixed up except for that hole leading to the deadly Subterrane area.
i miss the old Marketplace tent. At least we can go back in time and see it in The Chronoscope. i wish they’d bring it back though.
Earlier i mentioned that i had alt-itis. If you’ll notice i use the past-tense there. That all changed in September, 2011 when Update 11 was released. The biggest thing to come out of that was a new class – the Artificer! Up until that point, i had never really accomplished much in DDO despite playing on-and-off for 5 years. Never capped a toon. Never ran a raid (well…Tempest’s Spine, but does that really count?). Boy i’ll tell ya, i fell in love with the artificer right off the bat. They had new, unique magical abilities (infusions - not spells)! They had a robotic dog! They used exclusive weapons (rune arms)! They got free repeating crossbow use! They could detect and disarm traps and pick locks! They might as well have just said “Hey you – you like to play solo? Then pick this class!” And guess what? Everything i’d never done in the previous 5 years i’ve since done and much more. Including bringing my first toon to cap.
1.9 million XP. Wow! That used to seem like soooo much. Then i started riding the TR train and that’s like chump change.
For a short time, i even had my own airship. There was a time when i played strictly solo for several years, and started my own guild called Adventurers of Adventure, and eventually worked my way up to airship access. While i love the name, i have since passed guild leadership on to a friend of mine who has since stopped playing. But that’s only because i was invited to join a much larger and active guild called Sacred Flame Guardians that is led by an Iraqi War veteran named Wolfie, a very cool dude who fought for our country and was seriously wounded while doing so. If i’m not mistaken, the guild grew out of a merger with another guild, all of whom play Battlefield 3 together in a guild called Special Forces Group. i am very grateful to Wolfie for being a great leader and teaching me the ropes of a lot of different things like raids, challenges, and in general for leading a great bunch of people who are always ready to put a group together or come help do whatever. My buddy IRL who’s been gaming with me for years is also a member of SFG. So if you ever get the itch to try DDO, look up Schir Gold (me) or Wrongside Redd (him) on the Sarlona server and we’ll be happy to do some adventuring with you.
There’s gotta be better shots of Wrongside out there. This is the best i could do at the time. 1st life noob.
So anyway, that’s my experience with DDO in a nutshell. As anyone who works with me and Wrongside could attest, i could go on at great length about minutae and waxing intellectual about game mechanics, or simply geek out about how much fun this game is. But if i’ve accomplished anything here, it’s enticing you readers with just enough information to make you at least consider following that link to download the client and check on DDO for yourself. Happy adventuring!
See what i did there?
Thanks for visiting!