Exploring Eberron: Happy Halloween, here's a giant dragon

Welcome to October. It's time for ghouls, ghosts, things that go bump in the night, and shambling undead. Halloween events are a grand tradition in nearly every MMO, and Dungeons and Dragons Online has something special this year. The developers have really scaled things up for this holiday, but how well will it work?

Fernando Paiz and the team teased us with hints of the event last month at PAX, showing off a creepy red sky in Delera's Graveyard. Unfortunately for this curious DDO fan, the tour stopped there, leaving me to wait and wonder.

Yesterday my wondering was over, because we spent some time during my tour of Update 7 to explore the event. If you were in the area Thursday and noticed a sudden spawn of pumpkins, undead, and collectors in the graveyard, that was courtesy of Fernando. He was kind enough to turn the event on briefly and give me a little tour of what the holiday will have to offer.

Follow along after the cut for my thoughts on the good, the bad, and the creepy of the upcoming DDO Halloween event. Don't forget to check the link at the very end to see what OnedAwesome, Massively's DDO guild, is up to next week too!

As you're reading this, much of the DDO population will have already been able to experience the event for themselves, thanks to last night's event preview. I saw a lot that I really liked, but there were several things that I worry about in execution, and it will be interesting to hear what you guys think too.

Once the event is live, everyone can enter the graveyard. Delera's is paid content, but for the purposes of Halloween the doors will be open so as to include everyone. Now, the actual adventure pack won't be free for all, but everyone can explore the public part of the graveyard. I like this for several reasons. First, no holiday event should exclude players, and I think Turbine has done a good job throughout of making everything accessible to everyone regardless of account type or character level. I'll explore that more later, but for now -- all are welcome in the graveyard!

I like this because of the chosen location as well. The graveyard is one of my favorite areas in DDO, and not just because of the memorial to Gary Gygax. It's a great place to explore, and it's nice that everyone will have the chance to look it over.

Once you enter the graveyard, it's trial-and-error time. There are monsters (of the undead variety) everywhere, and the AI is designed not to hinder those who are just there for the quest series. The creatures are just hanging out doing their thing, and if you want to pass by unharmed, that's fine with them. However, if you're in the mood for a fight, feel free to attack. They'll give as good as they get, and be warned: You may find yourself way outgunned. Each variety of enemy spans a different level range in order to provide a challenge for players of all levels.

All Frostmarrow Skeletal Knights, for example, are level 18. The downside of this is that it requires a certain amount of trial- and-error before everyone figures out what is what. This means that people are going to be getting killed and racking up repair bills until someone gets it on the wiki. I don't particularly enjoy this mechanic, mostly because I can see people getting pretty irritated at the waste of time and money while they figure it out. However, it's a very, very minor annoyance and won't be a factor after the first few hours. Additionally, if you find yourself outmatched, you can simply run, and the monsters will break aggro pretty quickly. Other than Turbine's putting a big floating number over every monster's head to indicate its level, I don't really see a better way to implement this part of the event, so I'm planning to just go with it and have fun.

So you may be asking at this point, why even attack the things at all? They seem like a pain, and they don't advance a quest or anything. This is where things start coming together and it gets good. The monsters have a chance to drop things such as black opals, cursed fingerbones, and other goodies.

This is done via another mechanic that I'm not a big fan of, but it's an old MMO standard, so again, I can't complain much. If you take the first swing at a monster, it's tagged as yours. Others can run in and help, but if there's a drop it goes to you.

There is a special area of Delera's opened up for the event, and among other things there you will find some special collectors. The collectors take those special drops in exchange for Motes of Night. Every time you turn in an item and get a Mote of Night, a server-wide event is advanced a little bit. The Motes can also be exchanged with a nearby collector for all sorts of special items, but the server-wide event is what excited me.

This event is a giant mega-raid in which 25 players will take on a huge spectral dragon. This is something that I thought was exceptionally well-designed, especially for such a big event. It encourages everyone to participate to unlock this event, and community participation always makes for a better party.

My first concern was that it would really stink for a level 3 player to be thrown in with a pack of level 17 players. I know in that case I'd feel a little bad for my puny contribution and nervous about their potential frustration at being saddled with me. The developers impressed me by having that all taken care of well ahead of time. When the event is unlocked, I assume there will be a server-wide announcement and a mad rush to the raid area.

You will enter the area and immediately be sorted by level. Players in the same level range will be automatically grouped with others of the same level, creating a true group effort. It's a simple solution that wipes out some of the biggest problems that could come with this event.

My only other concern here is the word "raid." Raid indicates a certain (huge) amount of preparation. Gear, party setup, checking out your foes ahead of time -- all of that is an inherent part of raiding in DDO. You can't really do much of that here, particularly since the party setup is so random. However, sometimes it's fun to just fling yourself into battle and start fighting your heart out. So in this case, I'm going to say "go with the chaos and just have some fun!"

Overall, I have a few concerns about how this will all work once it's live later this month. They're heavily outweighed by the positives, though. This is an exciting new event created to encourage the community to play together, work toward a common goal, score some nice treats, and enjoy the fun. They're all the hallmarks of a successful event and I can't wait to see for myself.

P.S. -- Dragon? Nope, I'm not going to tell you about the dragon. It wouldn't be Halloween without spooky things lurking in the darkness. You'll have to check that one out for yourself -- I'll see you next week!

Exploring Eberron is a novice's guide to the world of Dungeons and Dragons Online, found here on Massively every Friday. It's also a series of short summaries of lower-level DDO content, cleverly disguised as a diary of the adventures of OnedAwesome, Massively's DDO guild.

This article was originally published on Massively.