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Exploring Eberron: Grouping is king

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

Wednesday night's Nights of Eberron in Dungeons and Dragons Online was fun for all, as usual. We welcomed quite a few new members into OnedAwesome, even managing to get one through some Korthos Island quests at light speed to catch up with the rest of the crew. Once we got settled, OnedAwesome descended on House Phiarlan to make our first foray into premium content: Tangleroot Gorge. As a level 3-7 Adventure Pack with a huge explorable as well as a popular series of dungeons, it fit our group nicely. Since it offered more than one method of play, each group was free to do whatever they liked: hunt down rare encounters, pursue the slayer title, or head straight for the dungeons.

It's becoming the norm in OnedAwesome for guild chat to scroll madly at the beginning of the evening as we chat among ourselves, share information about the evening's planned activities, and sort ourselves into groups. As the level of actual gameplay rises, guild chatter settles down and goes quiet as everyone gets involved in their activities. Last night's guild channel went silent very quickly, broken only by the occasional greeting as someone logged on or an announcement of an achievement -- much fun was had by all.

In the month that Nights of Eberron has been up and running, I've noticed a recurring comment among those participating. Follow along after the cut as I take a closer look at what it is and why they say it.

Over and over the past few weeks, I've heard people say "I've tried Dungeons and Dragons Online before, and just never got very far. This is the longest I've played." Many people have dabbled with the free-to-play side as well, and have made the decision to go VIP in the past month. Without exception, the new interest in the game is chalked up to being in an active guild.

Why does that make such a difference? Of course, it's due in large part to the awesome factor of the Massively guild, but it's also just the way Dungeons and Dragons Online is designed. Grouping is king in a heavily-instanced world, because running across a random person in your travels is not going to happen. Soloing in DDO is doable, but it's not the easiest unless you roll a few specific classes, and it just gets harder as you go along. Add to that many people's unwillingness to pug it, and it's easy to see why someone who is trying the game alone might be inclined to give it up.

But how things change when you have a ready group. With a well-balanced group -- and in some cases with a completely random group -- you can tear through nearly anything in the game, making it a completely different experience. Turbine has done a good job facilitating grouping within the system by bringing elements of persistence into the game: if someone shows up after you've begun an instance, simply adding that person to your party allows them to enter the same instance and join your group. As with many things, Turbine has found a nice balance here -- it goes a long way toward making the game more inviting when you've got someone to play with.

"So I hung out in the Bleeding Stump Tavern, or the Sucking Leg Wound Saloon or whatever it's called..."

The basic setup of Dungeons and Dragons Online facilitates grouping in one other important way: if a friend needs your help, you can be at their side -- or at least in the same instance -- in less than a minute no matter where you are. For a game with such a huge, ever-increasing amount of content, the game has a fairly small persistent area and they manage to make that work in their favor. If you've tried DDO in the past and thought it was an okay game with something missing, I really suggest you give it a shot on Wednesday nights with the Nights of Eberron group. It's definitely not too late to catch up -- if you've got a character on the Cannith server between levels 2 and 6 jump in and join us. If not, roll one up, knock out a few of the Korthos Island quests and you'll be all set for next Wednesday.

For those of us that are already settled into OnedAwesome, I have a few things for you to take a look at. The members of OnedAwesome are a busy bunch, and you can find their take on the group all over the place. Our very own Justin "Syp" Olivetti posted a great recap of our night in the Waterworks on Bio Break, Ethic at Kill Ten Rats took a look at Misery's Peak night back when we were still getting settled, and Tipa at West Karana recapped our latest adventure. Tipa also wins some sort of nebulous internet award for this:
"So I hung out in the Bleeding Stump Tavern, or the Sucking Leg Wound Saloon or whatever it's called," because I laughed for about five minutes when I read it.

They're not just blogging, though. One of our Choose My Adventure veterans, Craggin, had a little gift for the group: "For the 'Massive Hobbits' kinship in LotRO it has worked pretty well for us to have a shared gallery/album on Google's Picasa service. Anyone in the kin who can log in to Google and is given access can upload/edit/caption their own screenshots. It may be that someone has already created a similar site somewhere, or that you would rather do any screenshot-gathering another way, but I'm willing to donate a gallery to the cause if anyone wants." He followed up by doing that very thing, and there are already some beautiful shots in the gallery. Feel free to add your own!

OnedAwesome is truly becoming a community as it grows and time passes, and the speed with which that has happened is definitely facilitated by the way Dungeons and Dragons Online is set up to encourage grouping.

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