Lost Pages of Taborea: GDC 2011 chapter 4 sneak-peek

The big news is chapter 4 is on its way. Runes of Magic is getting a triple-class system -- that should help players find groups -- and more content to explore as players make their way to the new level-70 cap. Besides that and the exciting news that RoM will soon be playable in all its glory on Facebook without any need to download a client, we now know what players will encounter when they first venture into the Land of Malevolence, thanks to the Frogster folks at GDC 2011 who last week gave us a sneak-peek into the coming update!

As most veterans of RoM know, chapters have always been delivered to us in chunks, and so shall it be with chapter 4. This first chunk will introduce us to a new instance, the new area (spanning levels 62 to 64), and some interesting story -- which always makes me happy. Read on to see what new things there are to look forward to in RoM and why Mages may be smiling a bit more when this new content is released.%Gallery-116190%
The Land of Malevolence is a dark and gritty area overrun with zombies. Yes, zombies, created by a nasty pestilence. Upon entering the new area, players will find refuge in the town of Kampel, where all the typical player amenities can be found: teleport, quests and useful NPCs. While guards continuously fight off hordes of zombies at their doorstep, the locals enjoy zombie-free goodness in the form of God's Fruit that they eat from a tree kept well-guarded. The mystery of the pestilence is one story players will have to figure out as they quest through the area.

The local king, Lord Grafu, also resides in this new zone. Lord Grafu's daughter Annelia had a bad heart and she wasn't able to go out and play. Her father decided to bring the circus to her so she would always be near it when she wanted to watch a show. The Moonlight Circus was formed and is a small town housing the clowns, jugglers, trapeze artists and other performers. But not all is as it seems, for below the big top lies the Forbidden Experimental Area where lurk strange creatures and a sect known as The Hand of Truth that conducts bizarre experiments.

Dark secrets start to come to light as players enter Glimville, a city with strangely happy and euphoric people. The guards here keep the people extra-special-happy to make them oblivious to the fact that they are actually test subjects for the experimental area.

Players will also venture into Grafu Castle, which houses the first new instance for RoM. There's a dark mage on the loose, one who approached Lord Grafu with a way to save his daughter: by placing Grafu's heart in Annelia. After Annelia received her father's heart, the dark mage convinced her to place a Rune Heart inside her father's body so he could live again. However, Annelia willfully became the dark mage's apprentice, and the Rune Heart doesn't exactly give Lord Grafu his old life back -- or his rugged good looks.

The entire time players are adventuring, they may need to keep a sharp eye out for the Spider Priest, the new world boss. He or she or it isn't alone either. Players will have to contend with a bunch of smaller spiders as well.

The instance

Grafu Castle is going to see a departure from the last few instances that players have experienced. For starters, there's more focus on packs of trash mobs. In previous instances, there are more large, single mobs that can easily be taken down by Rogues or Scouts. This new dungeon will have packs of five or six mobs easily taken out by area-of-effect spells, which might provoke players into bringing Mages along. Secondly, it will be a larger dungeon. While some previous dungeons have five bosses, there will be seven in Grafu Castle. Traps and riddles are also mixed into this instance, and they will need careful attention. For example: If one of the riddles is answered incorrectly, a room's worth of mobs will launch themselves at players. Lastly, trash mobs will vary so that players don't feel as if they're killing the same mob over and over ad nauseam.

Inside the instance, Cayus the Clown will be the first boss to greet you; he will serve as your gear check. Other MMOs may let you get through before stopping you by later bosses. In RoM, essentially, if you can't get past the first boss, you don't stand a chance at the others.

The next boss is the Beast Tamer and his pet lion. You'll need an off-tank for this fight. The lion does percentage-based damage, so you'll need to draw him away and finish off the tamer first or else he'll just summon a new lion.

Getting past the tamer will allow you to meet the Siamese Twins in the torture chamber, complete with cages, nasty guillotines and iron maidens. This fight will be a big gear-check for your tank. The twins will be smacking him pretty hard, and players can be placed in an iron maiden, which is like a stun effect.

The Conjurer is up next. One of the things players will need to do upon entering the Conjurer's area is scamper around collecting rabbits from around the room. The Conjurer has a not-so-funny trick by which he can teleport players inside his hat, where players will need to defeat a rabbit in order to get out. This could put players in a very sticky situation if the party's Priest gets sucked into the hat. Adequate DPS will be needed if the Priest wants to defeat the rabbit in a hurry and get back to healing the tank and other party members.

Entering the Banquet Hall, players will find the Butler, who has a nasty addiction to some funky green-liquid filled vials.

After the Banquet Hall is the Throne Room, where the squirrely Lord Grafu with his beating Rune Heart is talking to a doll sitting on the throne.

Finally, players will have to contend with Annelia herself. Being the dark mage's apprentice, she will have formidable powers that players will need to overcome.

This first wave of chapter 4 content will be introduced in a closed beta for select players in early to mid April. With a release planned somewhere between late spring and early summer, this beta will allow for player feedback and content tweakage. Frogster also hopes to get the browser version of RoM working by this time as well. I can't wait to see the new content and find out more about what will be included in chapter 4. It's not a guarantee, but Frogster usually surprises players each chapter with unexpected content as updates get closer. Here's hoping for more crafting-related updates.

Each Monday, Jeremy Stratton delivers Lost Pages of Taborea, a column filled with guides, news, and opinions for Runes of Magic. Whether it's a community roundup for new players or an in-depth look at the Rogue/Priest combo, you'll find it all here. Send your questions to jeremy@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.