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Exploring Eberron: Turbine is having a birthday party, Kobold-style

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

Dungeons and Dragons Online is celebrating its fifth birthday at the end of this month, and while we've assumed some sort of event was in the works, it wasn't until Wednesday that we all got to experience the details.

I spent some time with design director Ian Currie and producer Eric Boyer in a trip through an area that will be very familiar to veteran DDO players. It's a fun, fast-paced event that introduces some new features and guarantees that player groups will need to think fast, so without further ado, follow along after the jump and let's look at this new event!

Gallery: Dungeons and Dragons Online Crystal Cove | 27 Photos

A trip down memory lane

Remember Smuggler's Rest? For those of you who don't: It used to be the introductory area for new players. It's been closed down for a while now -- Euphonia and her missing necklace have been long gone. But now Euphonia is back as the owner of this area, and she's got something new for us to find: a treasure map. It's somewhere in Smuggler's Rest, and she just needs you to be a dear and run and fetch that for her.

There's a little problem: The map has been torn into pieces -- as is traditional in pirate treasure map lore, the things can never remain in one piece -- so players will need to retrieve all the pieces to find the treasure. This is a server-wide event, so when all the pieces of the map have been turned in, an event is unlocked. This might sound a little familiar. That's right, Turbine has taken the foundation of the Mabar event, tweaked and refined it, and given it a hefty dose of pirate flair.

Smuggler's Rest is now a public area that you can reach by speaking to Sailor Calatin on the Harbor docks while the event is active. Players run around the area taking on pirates not unlike the undead in Delara's. You'll be wearing a snazzy pirate hat (which I'll talk more about shortly), so the pirates in the area will take you for one of their own and continue to hang out and dance until you run up and smack them. Since they're not hostile until you engage them, you won't be able to see their levels. Thankfully, they've got a short aggro range, so you can flee if you find yourself in over your head.

The pirates of Smugglers Rest drop less grisly loot than undead, so rather than just rotting finger bones, you'll find doubloons and treasure map pieces. As in the Mabar event, these special drops will go straight into your inventory, with a distribution setup that allows backline players such as Clerics to gain just as much as those right up in melee.

Keep your eyes peeled for an extra-special drop too: a map to a treasure hoard. If you get one of these, use it to see the location of a treasure chest on the map. You can share it with those in your part, and opening the chest will deposit even more goodies into your inventory.

Pieces o' eight

So what's up with these doubloons that the pirates drop? Like I said, this event is like the Mabar event, only bigger and better. Euphonia is hanging out at the entrance of Smuggler's Rest with a barter box. A peek inside reveals an enormous list of weapons, armor, trinkets, jewelry, and more for trade. Save up the doubloons and stolen jewels that you get from killing pirates to trade for and upgrade these items.

Speaking of items, what about that pirate hat? Turbine is giving everyone a pirate hat, and the stats vary depending on how long and how often you've been playing. The pirate hat is a free item for everyone -- just get it from Euphonia's hatbox -- and loyalty is definitely rewarded in this case.

The hats give skill boosts, loot boosts, and of course, a dashing appearance, so make a visit to the hatbox your first priority. Once the big event is unlocked, the hat gives advantages there too.


Finally, the event itself. Once the 50,000 or so treasure map pieces are found and turned in (seriously, how big was the original map anyway?), the event is unlocked. I have to say that I was extremely impressed by this one. Upon entering the instance, you're given a window similar to the ones we're used to, but it includes the option to choose a specific level rather than a bracket like casual, hard, or epic.

You can choose outside of your party's average level range, and the event will scale accordingly. My character was level 12, so that's the level number we chose, and off we went to Crystal Cove. I love "race against the clock" events, and this one gives you 20 minutes to help a pack of Kobolds gather 100 crystals.

Everyone has a very specific job, and you've got to figure out your role ahead of time as much as possible. The Kobold Union Workers have barrels strapped to their backs, and they'll run for crystals, put them in the barrels, and race back to the Kobold Foreman at the entrance to deliver them. Whoever did the writing for this event obviously had a blast, because the Kobolds will shriek things like "Get in mah barrel!" and "Woo hoo! Kobold rich long time!" And yes, they are voiced, providing an extra facet of hilarity if you're close enough to hear them at the time.

Your job is to help the Kobolds deliver the crystals safely. First and foremost, it's dark down there, and the little guys won't venture into darkened areas. You can help them by picking up the torches scattered around the area and moving them strategically to light the way to crystal deposits. The torches connect to one another with red beams of light, and the trick is to keep that beam unbroken from beginning to end, giving the Kobolds a clear lighted path.

There's another hitch: The Smuggler's Rest pirates have found out about this too, and they're out to kill the Kobolds and gain the loot for themselves. You'll periodically hear Kobold shouts of "Incoming," meaning that pirates, both alive and undead, have invaded and are attacking. You'll need to kill them quickly before they kill too many of your crystal runners.

There are helpful items available, but they require a certain amount of strategy and a willingness to decide whether the trade-off is worth it. You can spend some of your accumulated crystals on things like Kobold teleporters; place one of those in an area where the Union Workers are gathering crystals and they'll teleport instantly to the Foreman to deliver the crystals, rather than having to run all the way back. It's a real time-saver, but you have to decide whether the cost in crystals will be recouped enough by the speedier delivery to make it worth it.

Another available item is a special type of torch that heals as well as providing light. When a Kobold runs along the blue beam of light (as opposed to the normal red ones), he's healed. It's a valuable asset if they've taken some damage from invading pirates. I recommend everyone try this one at least once, solely to hear the Kobolds yell "Kobold still hate you!" and "Kobold never forgive! Kobold remember Waterworks!" as they're healed.

Counting the loot

Overall, I was extremely impressed with this event. It's exciting to see an old familiar area brought back, and even more so to see the Turbine team building on everything that was fun about the Mabar event, making it more extensive. The public area was very well done and the background music lots of fun. Even if you don't regularly play with the game audio up, you'll want to turn it up for at least a little while in this area -- the music is great.

The event itself is well balanced between strategy, fast-paced combat, and humor, with the ability to choose a specific level rather than a general range making it even better and inclusive for all players. We won't know for sure until the event arrives later this month, but I'd lay money that the lessons Turbine learned during Mabar will make for a very smooth and glitch-free event this time around.

While we wait for Crystal Cove to arrive in DDO, check out the gallery below for a sneak peek, and watch Exploring Eberron next week for another round of player interviews!

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.

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