The high cost of health care

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It never fails. Whenever I’m on with Jall for more than 20 minutes or so, I get at least one tell from a total stranger asking me to come heal their party. Some of them are very courteous, like the guy the other night who said, “Hi, we need a healer for Shroud and would love to have you come along if you’re not busy. :)” And some I just ignore, like the person whose tell said only, “hjeal shroud.” Either way, check the social tab and you’re likely to find parties in search of a healer.

You wouldn’t think it would be so hard to find clerics and favored souls looking for groups, but having sat around watching my ship buffs tick down while my group waited… and waited… and waited for a healer to hit the LFM, I know firsthand that heals are hard to come by. Probably part of it is the responsibility; it’s the healer’s job to keep the party alive, and I know I take it personally when someone dies on Jall’s watch. And healers have to deal with the idiots who zerg off out of range, get clobbered and then whine that they didn’t get a heal.

But I think there’s more to the healer shortage than that. It’s damned expensive to be a healer.  Jall healed her first ToD the other night, and to make sure she was prepared, I stopped at the House K guild divine scroll vendor and picked up 100 each Cure Serious and Heal scrolls. That set her back around 22K. She’s really more of a spell healer, though, so she tends to have a bit of a drinking problem when it comes to mnemonics. Priced major mana pots lately? It wasn’t that long ago that I could get them on the AH for around 12K plat. Now you’re lucky if you can find one for 20K.

I have a theory on this, probably not a very popular one. I check the AH for mana pots (among other things) at least once or twice a night, and I’ve noticed a trend over the last month or so. It’ll go from having four or five pages worth of pots to two or three pages, and the  next time I check, it’s back up to four or five… and nearly all of the major pots are listed with the exact same starting price and buyout. Seems to me someone is trying to scarf up all the pots and then resell them at higher prices.

I can’t help but suspect this has more than a bit to do with the “businesses” I see cropping up. Lotteries? Investors? Stock options? When did DDO become Sim Eberron? This is getting carried away. Maybe some of these DDO “companies” are legit; I know there’s one individual who always seems to have someone vouching for him. But this same person also spams blind guild invites, so he’s not anyone I’m going to trust. Besides, even if some of them ARE legit, this is just opening up the door to people looking to make some quick plat at others’ expense. How do you KNOW how many lottery tickets were really sold, and how many of the winners are real and not friends, alts or mules of the lottery holder? How the heck can you be sure that your “investment” in someone’s enterprise isn’t just being used to buy green steel ings?

There is absolutely no way to monitor or regulate any of this stuff, and what it’s leading to is a few “entrepreneurs” collecting obscene amounts of plat. That plat has to come from somewhere. It comes from the people who fall for this crap. Joe Corporate having more plat means that other people have less. And it means that Joe Corporate has the DDO financial means to have a near monopoly on just about anything he wants to.

And THAT means higher – MUCH higher – prices for everybody else, like healers in need of pots. I know everybody has their own reasons for playing the game, and I don’t begrudge anyone trying to make some plat. But now it’s affecting how the rest of us play the game as well. That’s wrong. What the heck does Joe Corporate need millions of plat for anyway (and at least one “Joe Corporate” on Thelanis has certainly done plenty of bragging about his millions of plat)? It’s not like you need any gear if you spend all your time hanging out at the Harbor mailbox looking for “investors” and selling lottery tickets (not to mention hindering the poor people who just want to get their mail) instead of adventuring.

There are lots of great reasons to play DDO – socializing, role playing, beating the crap out of stuff to relieve tension. But if you want to run a business, go play Second Life… or at least stop whining when you can’t find a healer for your party.

Oh, and forgive the crappy artwork, I’ve been in a drawing mood but haven’t had enough patience to bother actually drawing anything good.  😛

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A match made in… Xoriat

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Ah, Valentine’s Day, time to celebrate perfect pairings. I have no Valentine this year (at least not one that’s come forward, and no Valentine at all is a significant improvement over the Valentine I had last year). What I do have are a few thoughts on some of the weird gear that crops up in DDO from time to time.

Exhibit A: Our little Cannith guild has a well-stocked chest (no, I’m not referring to the way Tirae fills out her robes :P) that as of Friday contained a pair of Ogre Power +5 Gloves of Bull’s Strength. Hey, don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice item but… isn’t putting Bull’s Strength on Ogre Power gloves just a tad redundant? Since it’s the same non-stacking effect, it’s really just a pair of Ogre Power +5 gloves with a useless suffix. Not that I wouldn’t snap them up for Quiaga once she levels up enough to use ’em – +5 Strength is never a bad thing.

This belt led to one of those weird DDO conversations about weird DDO items in general and nothing in particular amongst me, Slvr and Comic, resulting in much laughter, a bit of snarkiness and utter disregard for trivial things such as “normal” bedtimes. Imagine a Charismatic Helm of Eagle’s Splendor! A Wise Necklace of Owl’s Wisdom! Clever Goggles of Fox’s Cunning!

And we didn’t stop there. How about a dwarven axe of greater dwarf bane (race restricted to elves), or feather falling boots of feather fall? Underwater action items of – well, ANYTHING! I mentioned that Even once had an Underwater Action Helm of Intimidation and idly wondered just what the heck she was supposed to intimidate underwater…

Slvr: Duh, you’re actually intimidating the water itself, which is why it won’t enter your lungs

*forehead smack*  Maybe I just need all this relationship stuff explained to me.  LOL

Even’s Guide to PUGging, Part III: There’s no “I” in “team”

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Bear with me for a few minutes while I digress from all things DDO to talk about an unrelated but relevant topic: wrestling.

No, not those pay-per-view guys who break chairs over their opponents’ heads. REAL wrestling. I spent quite a few years as a newspaper writer and editor working primarily in sports. For about five of those years, I covered the high school wrestling beat, and I knew my stuff – there’s a first-place Keystone Press Award hanging on my wall for my coverage of the 2006 Pennsylvania high school wrestling championships. Many people would probably consider wrestling to be much more of an individual sport rather than a team endeavor, but it’s really not. A wrestler who wins his match nets between 3 and 6 points for his TEAM as well as his personal victory. The team with the most points after all matches have been wrestled is the winner.

So you might think the kid who gets a lot of pins (aka “wins by fall”) is the biggest asset on the team, as a pin is worth 6 team points. The thing is, in a lot of cases, getting a pin involves taking some risks that could easily end up in having the tables turned and the OTHER guy winning the match.

Ask most wrestling coaches (having talked to hundreds if not thousands of them, I feel very confident in saying this),  and they’ll tell you that while the “superstars” who can rack up 30 pins in a season are great, the ones they really want are the kids who are willing to take one for the team. Sometimes in a close match, a coach sends a kid out onto the mat with instructions only to not get pinned, even if that means losing the match. If a team is up by, say, six points going into the last match, the only thing that matters is that the last kid to wrestle doesn’t let himself get pinned, because even if he loses the individual match by technical fall, the TEAM still gets the victory. Unfortunately for the guy in this situation, this usually means not taking ANY risks. He may well be capable of beating the wrestler he’s up against, but his job is to NOT wrestle his best individual match. It’s to get the win for his TEAM. I’ve interviewed and written about countless kids who deliberately did NOT wrestle their best match so that their team would be assured of a win – and they were happy to do so.

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You’re probably wondering what this all has to do with DDO. It’s pretty simple, really – when you join a PUG, or any other group, your responsibility is to the TEAM. Sure, maybe you can zerg solo through all the Vale quests killing everything in sight. That may – MAY – mean you’re a good INDIVIDUAL player (or it might mean you’re lucky and have great gear). It does NOT mean you’re a great TEAM player. In fact, it may mean just the opposite.

Take this cleric that Baz and I have grouped with a few times. First time was a Tor run. He zerged, didn’t listen to anything anyone said, voice or text, threw out blade barriers like crazy even when there were only one or two mobs, didn’t throw a cure or heal as far as I could tell through the whole quest. We get through it anyway and head for the optionals in hope of scales, and – though this guy was NOT the party leader – he started ordering everybody around. “I’ll solo the dragon, the rest of you take the giant,” etc. Lots more blade barriers and implosions, still no heals, he was yelling at us that we weren’t killing the giant fast enough and so on. We wiped… and then he moaned because he used two mana pots. Hey, nobody told him to blow all that mana on unnecessary blade barriers – he wasn’t getting any sympathy (or pots) from me. We ran into him maybe a month or two later in a Xorian Cipher favor run – same thing. Zerging, BBs, little or no heals, didn’t listen to anyone. And the next night, Baz and I found ourselves in ANOTHER group with him, and STILL the same deal.

So recently Baz and Mara and some Montys were thinking late-night Shroud. There was already a Shroud LFM up, with this guy leading. We chose to put up our own LFM instead of joining his. Ours quickly filled except for the last spot, and we needed a healer. The guy still didn’t have anyone joining his, so he requested to join ours. Baz, with a lot more tact than I probably would have been able to muster, declined and sent him a tell that went something like, “Sorry, I wish you the best but I’ve run with you several times and you zerg, waste mana and don’t listen.” The guy’s response: “I can solo almost every quest in this game, even a lot of the epics.”

WRONG ANSWER, dude. If I want someone on my TEAM, I don’t give a flying fig what they can solo. I want to know that they’re going to help the TEAM get the completion. Being able to solo a quest doesn’t mean you can complete it with a group. Aside from difficulty scaling, the whole dynamic of a quest changes based on the party makeup. If you head into elite Jungles of Khyber with two melees, a rogue, one healer and an archer, your strategy is going to be a lot different than if you have three melees, a rogue and two healers. When you’re in a party, you don’t just need to worry about keeping YOURSELF alive. You need to worry about keeping the PARTY alive. Just like the wrestler who’s told that his only objective is not to get pinned, sometimes it’s good to be the one who takes the fall so that the party can go on. If I’m leading a group that has six deaths in Phase 4 of Shroud, I’m going to want people who CAN’T rez others to die before the ones who CAN rez.

Too many PUGgers I’ve encountered seem to think that groups exist only to give them an audience to show off for. Instead of listening and contributing to party chat, they use it to show off their gear, brag about their kill count, talk about stuff they can solo… or they ignore party chat altogether and just run off and do their own thing.

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I’ve been planning this post for a while and just hadn’t been inspired to finish it, but last night I found myself in a PUG with the absolute worst example of a team player I have EVER encountered, and that’s saying something. Chartreusia had been in a group that ran elite Tear and had a great time, so she and the other two party members who weren’t signing off decided to do an elite Pit run afterwards and put up an LFM to fill the three remaining spots. We got Sap, a third-life lvl 7 barb who joined and immediately went into the quest even though we still had two spots to fill and the rest of us weren’t even in House D yet. We tried to tell him that the rest of us might suffer an XP penalty for arriving late and got no response for several minutes, but eventually (and reluctantly) he recalled and we reformed the group so that we could all enter together. Mini, a sorc and the party leader, was one of those rare people who can have the star and still be comfortable allowing someone else to share control. He hadn’t run Pit in ages and asked everyone to follow Char and listen to her instructions. For Flop, our healer, and Yan, our amazing monk, this was no problem. Sap was another story, and we had a fighter/ranger/sorc who was sticking with Sap.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Sap zerged through much of the quest and made things hard on Flop as far as healing went. I went through three Cure Serious wands on Char trying to help out. Mini was using wands as well. Among the three of us, we managed to keep Yan healed/rezzed through the main breaker room, as he was the only one with evasion and had a great attitude about taking a ton of damage from the electrical traps in there. Everybody died a few times; Char got critted by the force traps for 144 points (since she only had 102, that did her in), but made up for it by collecting Sap’s stone from high above Furnace Room 2 after he decided he could run through the acid traps.

We made it to the final fight with five of us left; our fighter/ranger/sorc DCed in Furnace Room 3 and didn’t make it back. Neither Flop nor Mini was very familiar with the quest, so I explained in some detail about how to trigger just a few mobs at a time so we didn’t have to fight the whole room at once. Sap immediately ran down and triggered EVERY FREAKING MOB IN THE ROOM. The ones on the stairs, the ones on the ledges, the ones by the levers, the ones at the end valve. It was UGLY. We died… we died a LOT. But we somehow got them beat down. Sap was dead down in the main room; Flop died at the top while out of mana what with solo healing and having to do a LOT of rezzing, and he’d already used all three shrines, plus he had a hire to bring in to replace the guy who DCed. Instead of running his stone back to one of the shrines and then back to the entrance so he could call the hire, I suggested that he just recall, go to Anvilfire and get his mana back, and then we’d finish off the last mobs and the Avatar. The party – well, the four of us who WEREN’T zergers – talked about it for about 2-3 minutes and were all in agreement. So Flop recalls while Mini, Yan and I wait at the top, and Sap’s stone sits in the end room.

But apparently Sap had a spirit cake, at least that’s all I can figure, because all of a sudden he was alive… and he ran right to the valve and turned it to end the quest.

With Flop still outside.

Yep. Flop went through three shrines and I don’t know how many pots keeping Sap’s sorry zerging ass alive, and what does Sap do? Completes the quest without Flop so Flop got NO XP, NO FAVOR. And Sap also looted both end chests before Flop was back in, so Flop got no loot either.

I don’t tend to show anger a lot. I hold things in and vent about them to friends later. But I unloaded on Sap. His response? “I wasn’t going to take the XP penalty for a re-entry.” Nearly TWENTY THOUSAND FREAKING XP and he’s worried about losing 10%? Flop got NO XP at ALL thanks to him.

There have been a few players who’ve tempted me to contact their guild leaders about their lack of sportsmanship, but I’ve never actually followed through. Last night I made an exception. I got this response from Sap’s guild leader:

hi char.

ty for the letter and for ur concern, its apriciated and noted.

however, i know sap in RL.. she usualy isnt like that and a decent player.

what’s more, i was around her when u were doing that certain dungeon crawl – i say crawl because to her it was as slow as a snail. now, i heard u giving out orders as to where to go (im pretty sure it was u, could be wrong) and it sounded like u’r more experienced as a tabletop DM, guiding the folks through the encounters.

now, that in itself isnt a problem, but she’s used to a faster pace…

add that to the fact that english isnt her strong side (u might’ve noticed the lack of her saying anything) as its not her mother language.

i apologize for her behavior and ill tell her to be more careful what groups she goes into next time.

a small tip as well; if u havnt specified it on the lfm, its recomended to say what kind of group ur running like ‘BYOH’ or ‘learning run’ or something… could help screen players u dont want to play with 🙂

So… *shrug* Make of that what you will, I guess, but I’m still not grouping with her.

Extra, extra!

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Now that I’ve talked several Shroud first-timers through the procedure of how to get the best chance at the extra chest, someone asked me to post some details here since there’s surprisingly little information online. So here you go! If you’re looking forward to running Shroud for the first time, I hope this helps you get that elusive extra loot.

First, why do you want the extra chest when there are already TWELVE chests on a normal Shroud run? Because you want large green steel ingredients. You might not need them YET, but believe me, you WILL. And just like the regular chests in the fourth and fifth phases of Shroud, the extra chest drops them. There is also a reasonable chance that you’ll find a +2 tome (bound to account), and a rare chance to get a +3 tome (bound to character).

Your chance comes at the end of Phase Four. As with the other phases, there is an altar at the end of the phase, and a portal appears once the altar has been clicked. If the party contains a first-time Shrouder, this portal will be just a bit different than the others – there will be a very, VERY small area that, if clicked, will transport the party to a secret room with an extra chest and another portal that will take you into Phase Five.

Remember, there is NO chance at the extra chest if there’s not at least one person in the party who’s never run Shroud before (in case you didn’t know, you can type /quest completions to see how many times you’ve run the various DDO raids), and it MUST be a first-timer who makes the jump/click effort. A few updates ago, the secret room actually appeared on the map (that’s since been fixed, it doesn’t appear now and even if you’re in it, it just shows up as a blank black space), but ONLY if the party contained a first-timer… hence how the existence of the secret room was discovered.

But you probably don’t care about the history, right? You want the best chance at LOOT! So to start, jump up on the altar and stand in the center. You’ll need to jump off the altar in order to click the portal in just the right spot to get to the secret room – it’s just high enough that you won’t be able to hit it from the ground. You do NOT need a great jump skill at all, just the little bit of extra height you get from jumping off the altar will work even if your Jump is 0. If it makes you more confident, though, by all means use a jump clicky, spell or potion.

Now, look at the portal. You want to aim for a spot just a HAIR above the exact center of the portal (the white area). Whether or not you use mouselook is purely a matter of personal preference, whatever you find easiest. Way, WAY back when, if you used mouselook, the little white targeting circle would turn red if you got it on the right spot, but that was fixed in one of the updates (think it was Update 7, can’t remember for sure). You won’t be able to target the spot with the Q key or backspace, so you can’t just do that and hit E as you jump – that would be too easy.

So take a minute or two to get a good look at the portal, and when you’re ready, jump off the altar and try to click the spot just a teensy bit higher than the exact center of the portal. If you get it just right, you’ll get some extra riches! But no pressure; if you miss it – and most people DO miss it – you’ll just get teleported to Phase Five.

One last note: don’t listen to anyone who tries to tell you that you’ll wipe the party if you don’t click the right spot. I don’t know how this got started, but it’s a nasty bit of hazing that has never been substantiated.

Good luck!  🙂

A night to remember

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It seems like just last week Even was running her first Shroud and bemoaning her lack of jump skills as she failed to get that extra chest. Since then, her little sister Acanthia has gone whizzing past her – Even’s sitting at 15 Shroud completions while Acanthia picked up her 20th last night.

Oh, how far I’ve come. I actually semi-planned it for a Shroud-A-Thon, which semi-fell through since a lot of people were either on timer or watching the Super Bowl (YAY GIANTS!) at the start of the night. But we ended up doing two runs back to back, with Acanthia taking the completion on the second one to get No. 20.

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After helping him get flagged earlier in the week, Acanthia even got to talk Drizz through the jump-and-click procedure for a shot at that infamous extra chest. He was a great sport about it, despite a few references to snipe hunts.  *grin*

Best thing was, nearly all of my favorite people were in either one or both runs, and the few who couldn’t make it because of being on timer or already in other quests sent well wishes. I kept holding up the party to read tells, but no one seemed to mind. I’d name everybody but I’m sure I’d leave someone out by mistake, so I’ll just say THANK YOU to everybody who was there whether in body or spirit, and OMG I’m still stunned by the 20th Shroud gift I got from Mara! He joked about being my quest slave for a day after I gave him a couple of GS ings – if that’s the case, I’m going to have to be his quest slave for about nine years.  LOL

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All in all it was a great night, and – though I was tempted by no less than FOUR +3 tomes in my end rewards list – I took the essence of cleansing so that Acanthia can start working on another green steel clothing item. There was much laughter and of course a nekkid dance party in the fountain at the end, complete with dancing ball, music, fog and… squelchies.

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We wrapped up the night with a romp through Vault of Night and then everybody who didn’t have to go to bed trotted through Sins of Attrition, led by Baz, who swapped me a Devil’s Keepsake for a Demon’s Blood so now Vic has all the ingredients to make Boots of Anchoring – which, being the level 15 squishy rogue she is, won’t be needed for a while, but it’s nice to have that out of the way. After that Dona and I were the only two intrepid souls still awake, so we both said we were going to bed and then hung out on the airship dancing on the strength shrine instead. Dona’s groping of Acanthia in the above pic was purely unintentional… I think.  *grin*

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Edited to add the above pic per LrdSlvrhand’s request. LOL

Slayer count?

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“HA! I kill me!”

– ALF

Ever seen that show on Spike, “1000 Ways to Die?” I’ve only seen the commercials and not actually watched it, but I’m starting to think there should be a DDO version.

Last night Slvr and I were goofing around on his airship and I managed to fall off (I’m rather good at that). Unfortunately I was on my sekrit toon, the one I tend to play when I feel like being on DDO but not dealing with stuff, and the sekrit toon does not yet have a permanent feather fall item. So I splattered my sekrit self all over the Marketplace bridge. Lucky for me a very kind soul gave me a rez, and I sent him a tell thanking him and bemoaning my stupi – er, clumsiness. This led to a short but amusing convo about silly ways to die in DDO, which in turn led to a much longer and even more amusing convo between Slvr and me on the same topic.

Anybody can go into a quest and get killed by mobs. Nothing unique in that. But if you want something more interesting, you could start with the failed teleport, and of course the infamous /death count (don’t know that one? Try it, you’ll love it, honest, I swear!).  There’s my occasional hobby of falling off airships without feather fall.

Taking that last one a step further, Even was once in a ToD group that suffered a dismal wipe. When she released, she found herself at the top of the spire in Market. Since that’s right above the airship portal, she jumped off, figuring to head to the airship and buy some Ghallanda rations… except she still had her Boots of Anchoring on instead of her Cannith Boots of Propulsion. SPLAT!

Another thing I’ve done more than once after releasing is head to a tavern or vendor and swap my haggle item in – forgetting that equipping my haggle item UNequips a Con or health item, and therefore kills me. Makes you feel silly… but if you’ve done this and want to feel better about yourself, watch B kill himself beating up the training dummy with a vicious weapon.

Slvr’s not immune either: “I’ll meditate for ki, switch from her normal earth stance to fire stance for improved healing while using Wholeness of Body… Drop four Con, and die.” And: “What I do is, I release to a tavern, then remove Envenomed Cloak in order to use Curative Cloak to speed up healing… and die.”

I know we talked about several more silly DDO ways of getting rid of one’s red bar, but those are the ones I remember off the top of my head. I’d love to hear others!