Neverwinter: epic dungeons and end bosses

So two nights ago we decided to run an epic dungeon in Neverwinter with a new mix of characters, my partner’s newly dinged guardian fighter as tank and my long-established but somewhat out of practice cleric as healer. Not knowing where to go in particular we chose the Cragmire Crypts dungeon as we’ve done it several times before on normal mode.

Shields up and charge!

Shields up and charge!

It was an enjoyable run overall although the dungeon is pretty long with some necessary backtracking because of a weird portal section and some lever-operated gates. It also has an obligatory spider section as well.

We were running it four-man, which the game doesn’t actually want us to do, you need five to queue for an epic dungeon unless you’re happy to have random PUG people join in. We had the luck of a guildmate being able to log her absent partner’s wizard in just to fill the party to fool the queue system, so that got us in and then the wizard was logged off.

For the most part we didn’t have any major issues. It was probably the most challenging dungeon I’ve healed so far, or at least in a long while. The Competing Adventure Party ‘boss fight’ was the first real difficulty check half way through, and our first downed party member. That caused us to pause and look at ability-sets for a few moments to see if we couldn’t improve survivability and healing.

Same party with improved defenses

Same party with improved defenses

We’d started the run during the Dungeon Delve hour which gives us access to the epic reward chest without needing a dungeon chest key. It was a slow run as we were lacking one of the three dps characters in a normal party of five – it took just over an hour to get to the final boss. That’s where we hit a bit of a brick wall. Despite two good tries with the boss down to 10% or so health we were being swamped by the many, many additional monsters he summons periodically. Our tank was also taking nasty damage from the boss, either due to gear or some attack for which we were unaware of the necessary tactics.

It was getting a bit too frantic for my tastes especially as it was late and I needed to head to bed yet we were right at the very end after a long slog and to not get the boss kill and the dungeon chest would have been really annoying. We’d been in a similar situation a few months ago in the epic version of the Wolf Den dungeon, we just didn’t have the damage or good enough gear to take that boss down despite having checked out tactics and we had to call that earlier run with no end reward.

In the end for a last attempt we kicked the absent wizard from the party and the game duly filled his slot with a random player’s ranger. In we charged and after a tense but much faster battle the boss was finally defeated and all that effort and time was at least rewarded by some new gear for our tank. Typically my cleric rolled badly on the random-loot generator and got a measly blue-quality necklace. Still going in he was in full epic gear, a mix of stuff from the auction house and the Dread Ring and Icewind Dale campaigns, so it’s not likely anything from a tier 1 epic dungeon would be of any use to him. Taking pictures during a boss fight is never a priority so I’ve nothing to show for all those tries but at least I feel like I’ve had some good practice at epic mode healing in the game!

The one aspect to this that I find annoying is how the difficulty between fights in the same dungeon can vary so greatly. Clearly trash mobs shouldn’t be as much of a challenge as a boss fight. But the difficulty increase between the earlier bosses and the end boss in both Wolf Den and Cragmire Crypt is so steep. That can easily lead to a very frustrating experience if there’s no warning you’ll hit a progression block right at the very end, that’s not good dungeon design in my mind.

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