When was the last time a leveling dungeon whipped your behind with some real challenge? In a lot of MMORPGs dungeons below the level cap are pretty easy – especially if you have a half-decent tank and healer in the party. Exceptions do exist including The Secret World (not Legends so much) and some of the Elder Scrolls Online’s dungeons.
Yesterday included a bit of a DDO binge for me, we’d decided to swap two of the three characters in our leveling static group out to change around trinity-roles somewhat. I dropped my Paladin for an Artificer; my husband abandoned his Wizard/Rogue to swap in his Paladin. Our two new characters were a bit lower than the remaining Cleric. So I had to do some solo grind to catchup with the new Paladin and we both then wanted to catchup those remaining ranks to get to level 6.
Playing as a trio already represents a kind of self-inflicted “hard mode” in the game since the nominal party size is six characters. We’re very used to under-manning dungeons in MMOs, but half strength is probably pushing it a bit.
Our problems began when duo’ing later content, without a dedicated healer, and assuming wrongly that we could approach content as though we were a full trinity-group. Running the two Waterworks quest chains on Hard mode turned out to be a sobering experience, it turns out even Kobolds can kill!
The shame of dying to the yipping ones is mitigated by circumstance, if your character is swimming they cannot use most abilities, so landing in a large pool of water and being blasted with fire-bombs and spells while trying to climb a ladder out of said water presents a sticky situation.
Other than carefully arranged ambush situations, the monsters were tougher than we expected and with only two characters it was taking longer to kill things than expected. Also their shamans can do really nasty damage with their spells on harder difficulty modes. We had selected Hard difficulty rather blithely simply because we’d already done the dungeons on Normal and wanted to get the faction rep bonus of redoing the dungeons on a harder difficulty (repeat runs on the same level do nothing for rep). Undermanning to this extent, with only a pair of characters, and with no healer meant some pretty strong spikes in difficulty, however.
If we setup fights and new rooms carefully, e.g. Paladin tank gathering all the melee opponents so I could mass daze them with Lighting Sphere, we could take on large numbers without too much trouble. But dungeons in DDO are often setup deliberately to challenge the players and to spoil obvious tactics – monsters do not always wait in the open in regular sized groups waiting for their impending doom. You will face ambush groups appearing out of nowhere, there may be multiple staggered waves of opponents and there could be ranged or caster opponents in high up, hard-to-reach places.
We did prepare somewhat for the worst of the encounters, using fire resistance spells or potions, using “corner pulls” when possible. The kinds of tactics that as veteran MMORPG players we have known about for years. That genre knowledge can easily make you underestimate challenges in this game, realistically we shouldn’t be running dungeons as a duo on Hard mode – we’re not that overgeared and lack the vast array of buffs that some have access to. So the lesson is learned, kobolds can be deadly if you underestimate them!