For some reason I always hear this sentence “well that’s one less thing to worry about” in the voice of Forrest Gump. So I looked it up:
Lieutenant Dan got me invested in some kind of fruit company. So then I got a call from him, saying we don’t have to worry about money no more. And I said, that’s good! One less thing.
I didn’t even have the quote right. But I digress. This isn’t about fruit companies or even about Forrest Gump. It is about that time we slew the dragon Velah.
It started late last year when my Gamer Girl mentioned that she’d never beaten Velah. On any difficulty. Never. I was surprised; we used to run this as a guild weekly but apparently that was before her time. Nonetheless, one must beat the dragon, at least once, the game is Dungeons and Dragons for a reason.
I mentioned this offhand during a guest appearance on DDOCast and it was quickly assigned to me as a goal for the new year. Not that I normally take assignments from DDOCast, but this one made sense. I began to hatch plans, creating weapons for the purpose, soliciting raid-running tips, getting everyone in the guild flagged for the raid.
And then it was time, except there was one more issue and it would prove one of the harder ones to resolve: we aren’t enough to fill out the raid any more. We need pick ups.
Pick-up players are like a box of chocolates…
On the first attempt, it took a long time to get through the pre-raid. We knew what had to be done but had lost track of the proper order and were totally and completely inefficient. One of the pickups was losing patience, rudely, but none of us had done this in years and some had never done it at all, this was just how it was going to be. We stuck with it and completed VON5 only to have the impatient one bail and leave us short-handed.
Clearing the bases on VON6 was lucky, really, we made it by … I don’t even know how. The Ice Flensors were killing me, repeatedly, and the pillars were reconstructing themselves as often as I was dying. I didn’t see how we did it but somehow we did. The dragon fight was a disaster, we charged in right away, failed to manage healing, forgot about the fire breath and were a pile of soul stones in a matter of seconds.
We were just not ready.
A week later, take two. We are only slightly better at the pre-raid. But we are better. Even if only barely. This time we have multiple PUG people bail as soon as they get the experience from VON5. We gamely attempt VON6 anyway, we are right there after all, but we don’t have enough people to clear the bases (I am again the Ice Flensor’s hapless chew toy) and never even make it to the dragon fight.
Failure two is squarely on the pickup players.
Another week, another attempt. We quiz all of the pickup players as they join regarding their VON6 intentions. We can’t make them swear a blood oath over the internet but I think we would if we could. By now we are getting decently efficient at the pre-raid; not only that, but we’ve got a better plan for the VON6 bases, and I in particular am ready for the Ice Flensors, having acquired potions of Fire Shield for this sole purpose.
Base-clearing assignments are typed out in advance, bases are quickly cleared, pillars destroyed in perfect simultaneity, healing assignments made. Time to charge! Things are going extremely well for the first twenty seconds, Velah is already down to 10 or 20%, but somehow no one notices her cue that she is about to breath fire. Everyone dies except one healer, Velah knocks her down with repeated Cometfalls and it is over. Failed again.
But failure three is close! So close!
Last night, attempt four.
I may not be a smart man, but if you pound me over the head often enough, I start to figure things out
There is some urgency; everyone’s characters have gotten enough experience from our failures to be coming up on level caps. If we fail again tonight we might have to start the flagging process all over with different characters.
We luck out and get strong pickup players with excellent attitudes. By now we have VON5 down to a speed run; only one mishap (a Commando fell into lava, died, and somehow ended up inside a rock and needed a GM to be extricated), and efficiency rules as we are soon facing and easily defeating Arach’s Knight.
Clearing the bases is all but routine (hah Hah take THAT Ice Flensors!). We note how important it is to call out “Fire!” during the dragon fight and emphasize that everyone is empowered to make the call: a false alarm is way better than missing the real thing.
And that is how it goes. One episode of fire breath: this time everyone is safely behind the rock. Velah is vanquished before she gets another chance at it.
And that is that, one dead dragon, several happy Commandos. We even got three pieces of raid loot. All the failures only made the final victory that much the sweeter.
Dragonslayers! All of us!