Exploring Eberron: Soupdance!

Although my wife doesn't know it yet, if we ever have another child, there's now a very real chance that we're going to call him or her Brawnpits, after my new favorite character in DDO. I think our entire group became enamoured with that name, but can you blame us? I don't think you can, especially after you meet Mr. or Ms. Pits (I have a theory it's a "she") in the first quest of the new Phiarlan Carnival chain that came in Update 5.

On Wednesday night, our Massively DDO guild OnedAwesome set aside time to conquer this module, mostly because I was bouncing on the tips of my toes saying, "Can we? Please? Please? Pleeeeeeease?" until everyone capitulated just to shut me up. One of the things I love about DDO is that these newer quests are pretty innovative and varied, and I don't think you can get much different than a thespian giant, an illusionary pig, and toilets that double as rest shrines.

Let's take a quick trip through the first two chapters of The Maleficent Cabal quest chain to see if it's worth your time -- and money. I say it is, if only to experience the majesty and jaw-dropping awe that is soupdance.
A Small Problem

The chain begins right inside House P where a weird circus vibe has been struck in front of the gates. Ignoring the dog-and-halfling show, we first talked to Rouge (no, not "rogue" -- people, we need to keep these straight!), who sent us over to assist Glitter Underhill with a small problem. It turns out that crowds have been less-than-pleased with a dwarf performing the role of Stormreaver in their latest play, so Glitter wanted us to head out into the wilds and recruit an actual, genuine, 100% red-blooded giant for the part.

No problem, right? Sure. At least we can add "talent agent" to our resumes.

As we hacked our way through the foliage and fought off lions (all the while shouting "Die, Aslan, die!"), it struck us that this was an unorthodox method of actor recruitment. Couldn't House P just go to the nearest community college and siphon from the theater majors there? Or take out a want ad on Craigslist?

We came upon a camp of sleeping giants and a glowing, sparkly bag that lay between them. "Don't loot the bag!" our group leader warned. "'Tis certain death and a wipe for us all if you do!"

Now, I'm sorry, but I have that childish mentality that if someone tells me not to do something because it'll cause hilarity and destruction, I have to all but sit on my hands to resist that temptation. I've never wanted anything as much as to be able to loot that bag, but unfortunately we moved on.

It wasn't long before we came upon Brawnpits, a kindly giant who kept giving us unwarranted safety advice ("Don't jump down cliffs into shallow water! Always wash your hands before you eat!"). Because Brawnpits is a charter member of the Local NPC Union #45, he knew full well that he couldn't agree to do what we wanted until he parceled out some busy work for us to do. This included, in no particular order: Busting rocks, collecting firewood, dragging water up to the camp, and seeking the blessing of a sky spirit. As we progressed through these chores, Brawnpits' camp took on a marvelous apparition -- a pot of stew began to boil over the fire we helped to create.

And then it happened. Oh! How it did happen!

Soupdance!

There's just something hypnotic about watching a jovial giant prance about like he's auditioning for Saturday Night Fever, and we couldn't resist joining the fun. A hearty bowl of soup is as good a reason as any to dance, and dance we did.

Partycrashers

After Brawnpits -- stage name: Sobaco de Marrón -- agreed to become the latest member of the House P theater troupe, we were directed to help Cyan with a developing situation. A big social gala was being infiltrated by members of the Maleficent Cabal, and Cyan asked us to do her dirty work by infiltrating the party and getting her name on the guest list so that she could straighten everything out.

Hey, it's not saving the world, but if 80s teen coming-of-age movies taught me anything, it's that a truly gnarly party is worth protecting.

Cyan sent us in the backdoor, which isn't as simple as it sounds. In the case of House P, the "backdoor" is a terrifying trip through the Illusionarium, kind of like a murderous theme park brought to you by the color pink. Actually, the Illusionarium is pretty nifty, with each room representing a different kind of ecosystem (ice, desert, jungle, etc.). We made it through without any severe difficulties -- okay, I died once, but that's because I offered my services as a trap tester -- and poked our head into the party proper and scribbled Cyan's name on the guest list.

Once you hit this point, players have a choice to make, although it's not glaringly obvious. You can trigger a confrontation with the final boss right away, although this means for a long fight as the Cabal pulls in a few waves of bad guys. Alternatively, the smart party will complete a series of side quests that will effectively take the bad guy's "backup plans" out of commission before the big confrontation. Doing this is not only wise, but hilarious when you see the end results.

The side quests are worth doing just for the extra XP, loot and fun, in my opinion. After all, it's not every game that allows you to punk a snobby rich guy by swapping his holographic image with a giant pig. Peter Frampton would be proud.

As with many DDO quests, the truly experienced know that there are deeper layers that reward the observant and patient. At the end of Partycrashers, if you've picked up the Viceregal Office Key, you can double back through the Illusionarium and throw down with an epic boss: Inkrakos. This guy has so much AC that we ended up whiffing more than hitting, but our well-balanced and cool-headed team was able to take him down without too much trouble. Our reward? A cool thousand XP and two more chests in the back room!

While there are two more quests to the Carnival chain, we had to call it a night. Still, I was plenty satisfied with our journey; a dancing giant, holographic pig, sinister party and armfuls of loot made this run loads more fun than another trip through sewer maps.

Next week: Using your advanced calculus degree to understand BAB.
This article was originally published on Massively.