Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Whispers And Shadows

Shadows of Luclin is one of my favorite EverQuest expansions. Blood of Luclin is one of my favorite EverQuest II expansions. Luclin is my main EQ server. I've been Team Luclin for quite a while.

I don't believe I've ever met the goddess Luclin herself before, though, face to face. 

I have now.

The EverQuest games are hardly exemplars of good writing, even good genre writing. The plots meander and sprawl and mostly make no sense. The characters have names that can barely be read, let alone pronounced. Try saying Ssraeshza without swallowing your front teeth.

The dialog swings wildly between overblown hippy twaddle that would embarass even Jon Anderson and anachronistic slang that sounds suspiciously like someone got their teenage kid to write it. No-one could possibly take any of this preposterous stuff seriously.

And yet it works. It just does. If you've been playing the games for as long as I have, anyway. 

The latest Game Update (#117 if you're keeping count. Looks as though the expansion was #116)  brings the two-year Luclin storyline to a conclusion that I found quite unreasonably satisfying, even after the multiple problems I had getting started. I was expecting a letter or some other form of lead-in to the new Signature quest but no, there's nothing.

To save anyone else the trouble I had, all you need to do is go to Shar Vhal and speak to Head Scholar Nabihan. It is in the patch notes... right at the very end. The problem is, right at the very start of the self-same notes it tells you to "Travel across Shadeweaver's Thicket to the citadel of Vex Thal". 

Don't do that. You'll only have to come back.


There's some good stuff in the update other than the questline, including a bunch of class revamps that appear to buff a number of melee classes quite significantly. There are a host of quality of life improvements, the best of which to my mind is the updating of the Fast Travel map to add a number of very welcome locations:

  • Obol Plains
  • Tranquil Sea
  • Phantom Sea
  • Thalumbra
  • Zek, the Scourge Wastes
  • Obulus Frontier
  • City of Fordel Midst [Luclin]
  • The Blinding [Luclin]

Then there's the third Overseer Season, which takes us to the Kingdom of Sky, making me wonder if the plan is to go through all the expansions in order, something that, at the rate we're going, could take longer than the game might be around. I'd give chapter and verse on the new season only it involves levelling up your Overseer account before you gain access to any of the new quests, traits, agents or rewards and at the rate it's going I estimate I won't open the new content for a week or more. 

To start the new Signature quest you do, of course, need to have completed the one that came with Reign of Shadows. At first, when I couldn't find the questgiver, I wondered if perhaps I hadn't done that. It seems a ridiculously long time ago that I was working on it. Much, much more than a mere three months.

Once I got myself sorted out it turned out I had finished it. (I knew I had, really, but doubt creeps in). Nabihan brought me back up to date and off to Vex Thal we went.

Probably might want to skip this next part if you plan on doing it yourself. It's a bit spoilery.


It's a simple enough adventure, solo. It all takes place in a new zone, Oscuris, the Plane of Shadows. The small area we get to see is little more than a series of platforms hanging in the void but it's a haunting, rather lovely place. Dark, as you'd expect, but luscious with it.

None of the fights were particularly hard although one sub-boss did take me from almost full health to a couple of percent in what felt like a single hit. And I had almost a billion hit points at the time.

I've heard numerous reports since the expansion landed about soloists having terrible problems with their mercenaries not being able to keep up with the healing like they used to but I have to say I've seen none of it. Zel`Kriaz, my merc of choice, hasn't let me drop any more than he ever did and, as I mentioned a while back, he seems to have gotten a lot better at remembering to rez me when he does. 

There were no rezzes needed this time. All the bosses seemed to be tank and spank, which was just as well because there as yet no walkthroughs or guides available. The quest content wasn't in the beta for reasons of keeping the story reveals under wraps, which might explain it, although I've noticed the once-exemplary record-keeping at the wiki has tapered off somewhat since RoS.

When I got to the final room and stood facing Emperor Ssraeshza himself and realized he was rated Epic 2X I was a little taken aback but then I remembered that's something the devs like to do in solos nowadays. I set about him with my greatsword and... he ignored me.

It took me a while to figure out why. I thought I'd been following the plot but I'd missed the part where it says only a Phantastic weapon can damage him. It doesn't mention he'll completely ignore you as though you aren't even there if you don't have one but he will.


After a good, long search through my bags I found I did have one after all. A Phantastic Gaffi. Whatever that is. It looks like a lump of rock tied to a stick.

One thing it wasn't was adorned. And it was a one-hander. My berserker's been using a two-hander for years.

I ended up having to leave the instance to go first to the bank, then to the Panda vendor and finally to the box on the floor in the Nexus just so I could scrounge up a shield and enough adorns for both of them. It does break the flow when you have to make your excuses to the arch-villain and ask if he wouldn't mind waiting while you go sort yourself out before the battle begins.

It also doesn't help when something you can neither see nor hit keeps attacking you while said arch-villain monologues at interminable length. It was the big climax and there was even voice acting but I can't tell you if it was any good because I couldn't hear much of it over the crashing and banging. I think the Godslayer has an American accent, though, if that helps set the mood.

Even when he was finished and the Goddess Luclin burst out of his slumped body like a dark Marilyn Monroe out of an evil birthday cake, something was still trying to bite me. It stopped as soon as she started talking so I think that part might have been intentional. Maybe it all was. Who knows?


And who cares, really? Despite all the things that went wrong, I loved it. It's Luclin, ffs! It's Luclin and she's talking to me!

She was pleasant enough, too, but she did make it quite clear I probably shouldn't come back. So I took a couple of selfies with her before I left. Who knows if I'll ever get another chance?

It's all a load of nonsense but it works for me. Or on me. I thought it was a pretty solid ending to a pretty solid story. That's Luclin (the moon, I mean) done with now, I'd imagine. Next expansion (always assuming there is one) I'd expect to be heading somewhere new.

Meanwhile, there's a new mission in the update I'll have to get to sooner or later: Vex Thal: Den of Shadows. It's the one from the top of the patch notes. I still don't think they really made that clear...

The reward for completing the Signature line, by the way, is a Mythical quality cloak. It hugely upgraded the Ethereal one I had from last summer, although I hadn't fully upgraded that one. The gear ladder in EQII is pretty much a gear sheer cliff face these days, which has its up sides. If you miss out on something that looks unmissable, just wait a couple of months. Something better will come along.

Looking at you, Overseer Season 3.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Under The Mountain

I didn't want to skip a day's posting but I really don't have much to offer. 

I spent almost all Sunday playing Guild Wars 2, sorting my banks and answering call-outs in world vs world. It was a whole lot of fun but not something that makes for much of a blog post. 

I was hoping I might get a post out of Jenn Chan's latest Producer's Letter for EverQuest II but having read it. it's so vague and lacking in detail it looks as if I'll have to wait and actually play Whispers of Tyranny before I find out what's in it.

There is some news on the Overseer front:

Overseer Season 3 includes:
  • Five new traits!
  • New achievements!
  • New adventures!
  • New agents!
  • New rewards!
About what I expected. The interesting part will be the rewards. I'm not sure anyone plays Overseer for the stories or even the mechanics. More on that when it happens.

Yesterday it looked for a while as though I might go a whole day without logging into Valheim. I think that would have been the first time since I bought the game, had it happened. In the end I did finally succumb at about eight in the evening.

Of course, as soon as I got started the fever took hold. I'd been thinking about relocating now the focus is moving to the plains. I have several decently upgraded bases and two places I'd call homes but none of them is in a good spot for what I'll be doing next.

There's one medium-sized island I know that has all of the biomes close enough together for convenience but far enough apart for safety. I had a portal there but no base set up. I'd already been all around the island looking for somewhere I liked but I wasn't really feeling it. 

Then last night I found a spot on a steep, meadowed hillside below the mountain and it occured to me I could tunnel into the slope to make a comfortable homestead with secure, underground storage, panic rooms and an attractive, open terrace overlooking the sea.

I've spent all day doing that. Pretty much literally all day. I'm probably about two-thirds done. Maybe. 

By sheer good fortune, this is what the half-buried runestone has to say.
The thing about picking a nice location to build in Valheim is that it predicates a lot of running. Construction takes industrial quantities of stone and wood and you can't source them locally because that's going to leave your perfect home surrounded by acres and acres of smoking wasteland.

I did clear a lot of large stones from the long hill leading up to the mountain and I chopped down some trees that were beyond the draw distance from the sundeck but mostly I've been taking portals to other islands and desecrating the environments there. It's quite exhausting. Well, after eight hours it is.

On the plus side, I did find forty scraps of iron in one chest I'd left in the entrance to a crypt further down the coast and sixty pieces of silver ore in a hut right above where I'm building the new house, so that saved a load of time. All I have to do now is dismantle one of my upgraded forges and ship it across. I think that will be quicker than making a new one from scratch but maybe not. We'll see.

The next few days are supposed to be some kind of mini-heatwave here in the U.K. which almost certainly means some longer walks. Then I have to pull  my monthly music roundup together. That usually takes me at least a couple of days. Put those two things together and add in finishing the house and I'm not sure I'll get much else done before Friday. And I have two zoom training sessions to fit in somewhere as well, now things are starting to move in the run-up to going back to work.

Perhaps this would be a good time to step off the daily posting bandwagon. I guess it all depends on whether I have anything to say or not.

Hmm.... should have saved that last line for Thursday.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Center Of The Social Scene

There was a post at Massively:OP last week that I confess I didn't read in full. It was something about whether it would be a good idea to replace mmorpg social hubs with a menu system. It was so obviously clickbait I didn't read any more than the couple of sentences that showed up in Feedly but oddly enough I'd been thinking for a while about a post of my own on social hubs.

This is that post, such as it is. It's going to be short, for once.

What started me thinking was the visit I made a week or two back to the Eye of the North in Guild Wars 2. I was there for one reason only: it's where the latest chapter of the Icebrood Saga begins. I think I'm right in saying it's where every chapter of the Icebrood Saga begins. 

Ostensibly that's for lore reasons. Jormag's stronghold is in the far north. The various Charr factions were contending for control of regions to the North of the Eye. Most importantly of all, Aurene has chosen to make it her home.

All of that make sense from a narrative perspective, although I can no longer remember why Aurene picked a frozen cavern to live in. She's a dragon. She can fly. She could live anywhere. Why there? She's not even an ice dragon. I'm sure there was a reason. I've just forgotten what it was.

The real reason we're all stuck with the Eye, however, seems to have a lot more to do with giving people something to do. Anet has form on this sort of thing.

Over the lifetime of the game there has always been a dominant social hub. A place where players gather in numbers to get their chores done and shoot the breeze while they're doing them. It's where the bank and the trading post, the crafting stations and all the important vendors can be found, all within a convenient distance of each other.

Even though GW2 began with five very impressive, fully-functional starting cities, all of which had every facility, from early days players chose the one major non-racial metropolis, Lion's Arch, as their hub of choice. Dedicated WvW players tended to use their own team's citadel and sPvP players had a cramped little mini-hub of their own but L.A. was the undisputed gathering place for just about everyone else.

I honestly have no idea if this is a real thing or just fan service.

Whether by co-incidence or design (it was obviously by design) Lion's Arch was famously disaster-prone. It had already been destroyed and rebuilt between the original game and the sequel and within weeks of launch it was overrun by giant crabs, the karka, who knocked down the lighthouse

After the Karka came Scarlet and her armies. They knocked down the replacement lighthouse and went on to do a much more thorough job of destruction, leaving more than half the city a smouldering ruin.

While repairs went on, which took a couple of years as I recall, the social center of the game moved to the human starting city, Divinity's Reach. Again from memory I seem to remember this beganas a player choice that was swiftly taken up by the developers.

Even though Lion's Arch was eventually rebuilt in a glossy new version that ressembles nothing so much as an out-of-town business park, it never really regained its pre-eminence as a social hub. Partly it was that people didn't really like it as much as the funky pirate port it replaced. Partly it was the way ANet insisted on making Divinity's Reach the fun capital of Tyria.

If you choose to host nearly all your major holiday events in a single city it's going to tip the scales. In lore terms, Queen Jennah has run a gloriously successful hearts and minds campaign to raise her city-state's profile above all her regional competitors. Where the money comes from it's probably better not to ask.

It did seem we were set to keep Divinity's Reach as the game's de facto grand plaza. And then something shifted. Most of the holidays still happen there and every time the calendar rolls around to a new one the place fills up to bursting. When there are no festivities scheduled, though, it's a very different story.

I have to pay to use the gates and now you want me to pay to build them?

All of the racial cities except D.R. are close to dead most of the year round. Rata Sum fills up for Super Adventure Box and there's one festival that happens in Hoelbrak (I forget which one) but other than that you can pretty much count on having the streets to yourself.

And it's much the same in Divinity's Reach now, too. There are more people around the bank and the mystic forge in Lion's Arch again than you'll see in Queen Jennah's city. But you'll probably see even more in the Eye of the North. 

It's a weird place. There's nothing there apart from a plethora of vendors. It's a hole in the ice. What's more, if you want to use anything more than the basic facilities you'll have to pay.

Not in the way you've always had to pay for the elite clubs of Tyria, the luxury lounges that hide behind armed guards and literal velvet ropes or in luxuriant airships that hover high overhead. You can buy tickets for those in the gem shop and sometimes you get them as rewards for anniversaries and events. I tried one once, on a freebie, but it was so cramped and claustrophobic I never went back.

No, the Eye of the North employs a peculiar new form of "content", where the player has to earn credit and spend various currencies to install facilities like banking or crafting for their personal use. It's not a unique idea - I had to run a couple of quests in EverQuest II before I could use the bank in the Bazaar, for example - but I can't recall seeing it implemented as ferociously as this before.

I don't object to it in principle. It's just another of the myriad time-fillers mmorpgs like to throw into the mix to keep people busy. It does make me wonder just what ANet think they're up to, though.

Developers often seem nervous of players gathering in large groups. Over the years I've seen such gatherings moved on many times.

Yak's Bend Citadel - supplying all my banking needs since 2012.

In EverQuest the social hubs used to be North Freeport, Greater Feydark and the East Commons Tunnel, all chosen by players. Then SOE added the Nexus, Shadowhaven and the Bazaar with the Shadows of Luclin expansion and after that Plane of Knowledge in Planes of Power and all activity moved to each of those in turn.

Why devs always seem to feel the need to centralize services in a place of their choice rather than let players find their own gathering spaces I'm not sure but they certainly do. It might have some technical benefit of which we're not aware, I suppose. It might be genuinely intended to improve the overall experience for customers. Or, as I suspect, as with most things, someone just can't leave well enough alone.

Whatever the reason, you can pretty much guarantee that when Guild Wars 2's third expansion, End of Dragons, finally appears the Eye of the North will become a ghost town. Oh, sorry, ghost cave. Because if there's one thing it's not it's a town.

I suppose there's an outside chance the expansion could use EoN as a hub but it's looking very much as though we'll be done with Jormag before then. The caravan will move on, I'd bet on it.

So I don't think I'm going to bother filling out all those gaps on my service card. I bought the basics - the vendor, the bank, the things I could pay for out of pocket without making a dent in my savings. The rest I can do without.

I'll keep doing my banking in World vs World and my crafting in the Black Citadel. In a game with instant travel it seems pointless to worry about a couple of extra clicks.

I do miss the chatter in the background but it hasn't really been the same since Scarlet came. Lion's Arch chat really was a social scene. Nothing since has come close.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Sure To End In Tears

Let's begin at the beginning, just this once. Or what passes for the beginning, at least. 

It had been the longest journey. Moder's altar lay somewhere in the high mountains ahead. It must. There was nowhere else left for it to be. 

I'd sailed my longship almost all the way around an island whose center was one towering peak and whose shores showed nothing but plains, down to the rolling sea. Fulings in their ricketty towers cackled and waved their spears whenever I drew close to land. Deathsquitos skimmed across the waves to try their luck. 

It took me two full days to find a cove where black forest came down the mountain slopes to the ocean. It was on the northern shoreline, as far away from where I'd started as it could be. From the deck I could see a half-ruined stone tower just beyond the littoral. The wind was fair for once. I edged the longship gently in.

For a miracle, nothing came to greet me. Not even a greydwarf. I took the tower for my forward base, fortified it quickly. It was small, scarcely large enough to hold a portal, but it was secure.

With my return assured I set off to explore. Through the forest and onto the mountain. The trees stretched away in every direction. No plain or swamp in sight. It had been a long, eventful journey but I'd found what I needed, at last.

The mountain was overwhelming. Higher and steeper by far than any I'd climbed. Every few moments I had to stop and rest. Moder's marker on my map showed to the east. Not the highest but high enough. I found it, finally, on a small plateau barely wide enough to hold the low stone circle. There wasn't going to be much room to maneuver, that was clear.

I had one last preparation to make. I was going to dig out a cave in the rock below the plateau, fit it with a fire and a bed, make it my final base camp for the assault. So close that, should I die, I could be back in the fight in seconds. 

There was another ruined stone tower at the foot of the crag. I could have tried to fortify it but drakes shred wood like paper and even stone walls crumble fast when a golem strikes. Only hollowed rock holds fast. Or so I thought. 

My tunneling soon attracted the attention of a golem. As it raged and crashed outside my half-dug cave night began to fall. Wolves were howling somewhere in the darkness. It all seemed suddenly too much. Would I want to wake to this, naked and defeated? 

Better to wake up safe in my bed far away and return through the portal with time to plan. I abandoned my cave-making, dodged the golem's clumsy swipes and headed back down the mountain.

I ported back to rest and resupply. Five hundred arrows - poison, obsidian, frost -and just twenty made from the sharp needles I cut from the few deathsquitos I'd killed along the way. Cooked lox meat from the two giant beasts I'd taken down from a great distance as they battled with something I couldn't make out. An opportunity taken. Meads to restore my health and stamina. And, in case the fight should go badly wrong, frost resist potions to store in a chest nearby so I could recover what I'd lost.

No putting it off any longer. Time to wake the dragon. On my first trip to the altar I'd planted two eggs in the hollows made to take them and left a third lying by the side. I'd worried putting the last in place would trigger the mother drake to come before I was ready. In Valheim nothing ever moves from where it falls. I was sure the egg would be there when I returned.

It wasn't. I had to trek through the snows looking for another. By the time I'd found one it was later than I'd planned. I wasn't feeling as well-rested as I had been. It was a risk but I took it. I placed the egg. Nothing happened. 

I focused my will on the altar. Then, the sky turned red. Moder had come.

After all that it wasn't much of a battle. Moder was big and she made a lot of noise but her attacks were easy enough to avoid even in the tight space. When she came down to earth she seemed disoriented. She turned around and around like a cat trying to settle. She stayed for a long time, each time. 

I stood well back and fired arrow after arrow into her thick hide. She weakened. I became confident. Too confident.

When Moder was all but dead she managed to put herself in a place my arrows couldn't reach. I ran around to gain a vantage point and she spat blue fire at me. I was standing on the edge of the plateau just above the cave I'd dug. Moder's fire ripped through the rock beneath my feet and sent me tumbling into air.

Falling damage in Valheim is brutal. I died, falling into my own cave. 

After that it was a living nightmare. Back at base I grabbed a frost potion, drank it and ran back naked. By then night had fallen. Miraculously no wolves found me as I struggled up the endless slopes, stopping to struggle for breath again and again. 

As I neared my corpse the sky turned red and Moder swooped down. She was was gaining back her health, I saw, just before I died the second time.

Coming back through the portal to try again, I felt the ground shake. You have got to be kidding me. Trolls were attacking my base camp. Two of them. I ducked back through the portal and waited. Came back. They were still rumbling outside the frail walls. 

The attack went on all night. I slept and came back and they were still there. Finally they left. By then there was no point hurrying.

I put on my my iron armor and made it all the way to my first corpse, Moder harrying me all the way. My marker was caught on a jagged shard of rock, halfway between the flat ground and the plateau rim. Dodging Moder, I got stuck in another hole I didn't see. Moder pounced and I died again. One cairn piled next to another.

Now I was back at base with no more frost potions. I had to stop and think. Moder was recovering. My best armor and my reserves were lost. No more headlong rushes to disaster. I needed to start over.

So that's what I did. I set some more frost potions brewing but then I remembered I had stacks of wolf pelts stashed away so I made a new cloak. I dressed in yet more spare armor, ate food, rested, went back.

Moder was gone. The skies were blue. I could see my grave markers. I managed to make my way to them and recover all my things. It took two trips.

Now I needed more arrows. And food. And three more eggs. I was beginning over again.

It was when I was looking for eggs that the sky turned red again. Moder hadn't left at all. She'd been away, flying her domain. 

Once again I'd been caught out. It was past mid-day. The terrain was treacherous. Moder hadn't spotted me, yet. I could retreat, set up again, start anew tomorrow. 

Or I could take another chance. Who knew where Moder would be, next time? And now I knew her patterns and her powers. As she flew over I put an arrow into her and so it began again.

It's all a blur, what happened next. The fight went on and on. Moder swooped and shrieked and kept landing in places I couldn't reach. I had to move and move and move, trying to find places I could see her and still find secure footing.

As we danced, the darkness came down around us. Wolves darted in. I drew my silver sword and struck them down. Drakes rallied to their mother's defense. I downed them as they flew. Once a golem came by and I had to clamber over rocks in the dark to get away. I fell. I very, very nearly died. 

But I didn't die. I crouched and waited and drank a healing potion. And I came back.

We fought on, Moder and I. We'd been at it so long my Draugr Fang broke. I pulled out my Huntsman's bow and carried on. 

Moder was weakening. If it had been just her and me, in a wide open space, it wouldn't have been a battle. It would have been an execution. But my fight was never with her. It was always with the mountain and with the weather and with the world.

When Moder died it was full, black night. Her tears lay like blue diamonds on dark snow. I would have grieved for her if I'd had any strength left. I had none. I was spent. 

I gathered up her tears, took my trophy and set off, back down the mountain. Her great head hangs in the grove beside the others, now. Next to Eikthyr, The Elder and Bonemass. I'll have her breath in my sails if I go to search for my final challenge, the fuling lordling, Yagloth.

The plains call. I don't know, yet, whether I will answer.

Friday, March 26, 2021

How We Got Here

Yesterday, twelve days after I killed the third of Valheim's current roster of five bosses, Bonemass, I finished Moder, the fourth. Nearly two weeks and almost all of it in one way or another given over to the search, the preparation and the fight itself. Hours and hours and hours of my life.

Was it time well spent? I'm still not sure.

It's been six weeks since I bought Valheim. The title of the post I wrote after I'd played the game for the first time asked the question "Why Am I Doing This?" and I'm not sure I have an answer yet. It's compulsive, that's for sure. Addictive? Possibly. Healthy? I'm doubting it.

I guess I sailed too far north. So these are the Mistlands. Doesn't look so bad. Don't know what all the fuss is about.


An odd aspect of playing Valheim these past weeks has been the community that's grown up around the game. It's been supportive. Inclusive. Some might say enabling.

A slew of bloggers have been documenting their adventures. Some started earlier, some later. Some seemed enthusiastic, others reluctant. Some burned through the biomes so fast they were all but done with the plains before others were out of the meadows. Some started late and passed the pack as though it was standing still.

And everyone told their stories and all the stories were the same and yet none of them were. We all explored the same biomes, fought the same battles. Mostly in the same sequence. Even the outcomes all went the same way. And still, everyone's stories were decidedly their own.

Hmm. Got dark fast. I'm getting a bad feeling about this...


In a strange way the whole endeavor resembles some ad hoc art project; the seed of an idea passed around and iterated on until the results compile into a collage of impressions and experiences. The game is single player or it's co-op yet it feels like it's massively multiple because everyone's playing it at the same time. It's like some arcane experiment in asynchronous congruity.

And as with any experiment, everyone seems to feel the need to document what they've done. Normally in a post like this I'd link to all the people posting on the theme but by now everyone reading this knows who they are. We've all been talking about this game for weeks and it looks like most of us won't stop until we get that fifth and final boss down. Okay, I will link to that one.

The need to journal the experience is far from unique here. Every so often a game blows up, a lot of people play it, a lot of people write about it. What's rare is for so many to choose to write about it in such similar ways. And for the stories to stitch together so well.

Turn the boat! Turn it around! Now!!


I've learned a lot about playing Valheim from reading other people writing about playing Valheim. Their stories have made me think. Made me reassess my own experience. Made me change my mind.

My plan for today was to sit down and write a novelistic account of my fight with Moder. It started out mundane and ended up being epic. It would make a good tale. The Norn in Guild Wars 2 would absolutely love it.

Then I read Syl's post on her Moder kill and it made me rethink what I wanted to say. Yes, I still want to tell the story of the fight itself. I've been journaling my adventures in Valheim and the details need to be recorded if only for my own future nostalgic interest. This blog is a form of diary, after all.

Before the fight came the journey. I'd planned on skipping that part. I felt I'd already written enough of the preamble when I posted complaining about how long it was taking. Did anyone really need another lengthy description of a series of difficult sea voyages, where I got lost, blown off course, stranded, died a couple of times, nearly died a lot more?

Thank Odin! Daylight!


Probably not. And I wasn't sure I wanted to write all that, either. Between playing Valheim and posting about I'm starting to feel like I've lived little but that world these last few weeks and it's getting to me. In a couple of weeks from now or even sooner it looks as though I'll be back at work again. Do I really want to spend the rest of my time in lockdown trapped in Viking purgatory?

And yet it would be painting a false picture of how things went if I jumped straight to the fight. There's a dragon, of sorts, at the end but I'm beginning to understand that this isn't really about the big bosses at all. It's about the land and the sea and the journey.

I don't know a lot about vikings. How they lived. Just enough to understand it wasn't very much like the stories. I know something about those stories, though, and so do the people who made Valheim. They want us to live in the world of those stories, where everything is against us but we overcome through force of will and the occasional, capricious assistance of the gods. 

That's got to be it. Come in close to the coast and we'll find somewhere safe to land.


And like the heroes of those stories what we have to overcome, more even than the monsters and mythical creatures, is the world itself. The true bosses of Valheim aren't stags with antlers that hurl  lightning or huge conglomerates of slime. They're the elements, the wind and the waves. The fogs that roll in out of nowhere, hiding all. The storms that whip a placid sea into a chaotic maelstrom. The bitter cold that eats away all will.

I've fought four bosses so far and none of them was really all that hard. It was the world that made it so. The night that fell when Eikthyr was summoned. The forest around The Elder, filled with trolls and falling trees. The unbearable, fetid, infested waters of the swamp, where Bonemass feasts on withered bones. And for Moder the bleak, vertiginous, fatal grandeur of the mountains.

Between them all lie countless miles of uncharted ocean, fathoms deep and deadly. The true test of the viking doesn't lie in set-piece duels with summoned foes. It rests where it always did, with the weather and the land. 

Okay... I'm just going to stand on this rock until it gets light. Fulings can't swim this far, can they?


It's exhausting. Let's look at it clearly. It's harrowing. It's hard. It can be repetitive. It can feel frustrating. It can even turn into something close to a routine. If it's a challenge, as often as not it's a challenge to our patience as much as to our skills. Determination sees us through.

Is it entertainment? Maybe. Have I had enough? Perhaps.

There's still the story of Moder to tell. I'll get to that. Maybe tomorrow.

For now, let's celebrate the journey. It's all about the journey. We often say that but this time, for once, it's true.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Lost Cat

Remember the big cats? They're back.

In fact, if you believe the patch notes, they're multiplying:

New cats, visible while under the effect of the Chatoyant Elixir or similar effects, have been added to each major city.

The patch happened on Tuesday but I didn't get around to reading the notes for a couple of days. By the time I dropped into the forums to see what might have changed there was an additional note:

We have temporarily disabled the additional visual effects of the Chatoyant Lens while we address an issue.

 Lens? What lens? 

Ah, that lens!

I went to Hooligan's Row to get one. All the holiday event vendors are hidden away down there. I'd completely forgotten about them. Why they're tucked away in such an obscure spot beats me. You'd think ANet didn't want people to find them.

The vendor is a cat, naturally. All the cat sells are chatoyant elixirs and the lens. The lens costs ten elixirs. The elixirs cost five tiger's eye pebbles and a beryl orb each. At current prices, as this reddit thread points out, it's much cheaper to buy the ten elixirs on the Trading Post than it is to buy them from the cat.

I didn't need to do either because I had fifteen chatoyant elixirs in my bag from last year. See? I said they'd come in useful.

The lens is a rare quality accessory with appropriately feline stats. The rubric tells you it "causes you to see extra cats while equipped".

I slotted it and went looking.

I couldn't see any new cats. I couldn't see any old cats. I went to a few of the places I remembered the giant cats from last time and there was nothing.

Maybe it was the temporary disablement. Perhaps it disabled all the cats even though that's clearly not what the note said.

I left it for the while and went to do something else. Then this morning when I logged in I thought I'd try again.

Bingo! Big cat sighted in Gendarran Fields!

Only one of the old ones, though. I wanted to see a new one but not so much that I wanted to run around all the big cities searching for them. The patch was a few days old. Someone would have updated the wiki. Someone would have posted a list. With screenshots, most likely.

Yeah, you'd think. But nope. Nothing. Nada. Not a sausage.

No-one cares for cats any more, it seems. I tried all the obvious places - the forums, the wiki, reddit. I asked google. I searched "giant cats" and "big cats" and "new cats" and "gigantic cats". No-one's saying anything about any of them.

Even that reddit post on the lens only went up this morning. The patch was Tuesday. It wouldn't be like this if Dulfy was still around, that's all I'm saying...

So I went and looked for myself. I tried Lion's Arch first. The cat in the water was there. No-one was looking at him. I was the only one there. Last year there was a crowd but I guess giant cats are old news.

I did a lap of L.A. looking up at the sky. I got a crick in my neck but I never saw another giant cat.

Then I tried Divinity's Reach. Found the one in Melandru's Plaza right away. Did another circuit of the city: no joy. Opened a few new waypoints, that was all.

Finally I tried Hoelbrak. It's probably the most compact of the main cities. Last year's cat was there. Couldn't see another.

It wasn't that the Lens wasn't working. Not if you trust the patch notes:

Thank you for your patience while we addressed this issue. The content has been re-enabled.

It might be me, of course. It occured to me the patch note says "new cats". It doesn't say "new giant cats". Last year's event included a load of normal-sized cats that appeared around you now and then. You could touch them and get a temporary buff. Maybe it meant there were new ones of those?

That would be... unexciting. And come to think of it I haven't seen any of those cats either. Not even the old ones.

I'm calling off the search for now. Maybe there are new big cats and maybe there aren't. Maybe that's the April Fools part of it all. I wouldn't put it past ANet. They've done worse.

If someone does post a list before the event ends in a couple of weeks I'll add it here. Then I'll go round and take some pictures. Otherwise, I think I'll let sleeping cats lie.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Can't Complain

Gamers can be a superstitious bunch. In the glory days of EverQuest inumerable charms and rituals were passed on from guild officer to new recruit when a rare spawn was proving to be rarer than expected. Or, in the case of the Ancient Cyclops or Quillmane, exactly as rare as expected

Of all the supposed cure-alls, perhaps the one that I've heard invoked most often of all across many games, is the cantrip of complaint. The theory is this: that only when you finally snap and humiliate yourself with a tirade of self-pity over your terrible bad fortune will the damn thing finally pop, purely to embarass you.

The trick of it is to hold off until the frustration genuinely boils out of you, uncontrolled. Faking it won't fool the rng gods. 

Maybe it was that

Or maybe, as Argent Defender and Wilhelm both dropped into the comments on yesterday's post to point out, it was the change Iron Gate made in today's patch:

* Missing Moder spawn location in some worlds fixed (NOTE: For existing worlds "genloc" command needs to be run manually in a local game with dev commands enabled to generate new locations, this is only needed if your specific world has this issue, this is not very common)

I spotted that before I logged on a few hours ago. The patch was described as "small" but it had quite a few interesting changes, several of which related directly to posts I've made over the past few weeks.

Inventory didn't get a boost but storage did, with the reinforced iron chest increasing in size to a couple of dozen slots. I'll be making a few of those to reduce the chest clutter that's already out of hand in my more popular homes.

The entrance to the sunken crypt was tweaked "to stop tombstones getting stuck", which was exactly what happened to me. And the console commands I used to fix my own problem when it did are being pushed out of general view behind an optional "launch argument". 

I knew what one of those was. I've used them in EverQuest and Guild Wars 2. I had to google to find out how to apply one in Steam. I thought I'd better do it even though I had no idea whether my difficulty finding Moder was down to the "not very common" bug. It seemed worth a try, at least.

Of course, after I'd done it I was none the wiser. I checked what the "genloc" command does before I applied it and although the explanations were vague it seems it just resets all the data. It doesn't add anything to your map. Clearly you need to run it to add a spawn marker that never existed in the first place but it doesn't solve the problem of finding it. You just know now that it is there. Somewhere.

I suspect that particular bug wasn't the cause of my problems anyway. As this reddit thread explains, the problem people were reporting was that when they found the vesigir it didn't add a location to their map. I just couldn't find the vesigir.

Still, I did it anyway because why not? I was happy the devs changed the console code from "imacheater" to "devcommands". Makes the whole thing feel a bit less uncomfortable. Not that it could be construed as "cheating" when the patch notes tell you to do it, but still.

With that out of the way it was off to carry on with the search. I'd made a deal with myself that I'd give it no longer than today and tomorrow. If I still couldn't find the vesigir after that, I'd use the trick that opens the entire map (not in your actual game). I'd squint at the screen and put my fingers over my eyes and hope to spot Moder's spot without spoiling anything else.

Luckily I didn't need to take that chance. After a couple of false starts, one or two more unsuccessful mountain trips and several distractions along the way, I found myself sailing along the coast of yet another island. In the middle was the biggest mountain I'd seen yet. It was huge. If that didn't have a black tower then sod it. Nothing would.

I only found it by mistake, naturally. I was heading for a different island entirely, one I'd just clipped in a previous voyage but hadn't investigated. Everything was going well. The wind was with me. Visibility was good. And then the fog came in.

Fog in Valheim, like every weather condition, is no joke. I couldn't see anything. I slowed down so as not to run aground on an unseen shore. Land would probably mean either plains or swamp and both would be deadly in thick fog. And then the wind swang around to the west.

By the time I could see where I was going I was a good way from where I'd meant to be but there was land ahead so I changed my plan. Flexibility is important. As the longship flew across the waves I was stunned to see a giant mountain peak looming out of the distant haze. Better yet, it was just the tallest of a range that went on further than I could see.

All along the shore were plains. I ran parallel to the coast, looking for a patch of meadow or black forest but the plains stretched on and on. Finally, just as I was reaching the southernmost tip of the island, I spied a tiny patch of green. Meadows!

Of course, there was a massive draugr village right where I beached the boat because why wouldn't there be? I did consider clearing it out and making it my base but I'd already spent enough time on displacement activities for one session. (Did I really need to dig out an underground bunker for the portal on that last island?). 

Throughout the whole of this very, very long search I've been extraordinarily careful. Being so far from home makes corpse runs a truly terrifying prospect. I've been assiduous about establishing beachheads, planting portals before exploring, staying well-fed, not going outdoors at night. 

I've even taken to carrying a spare boat since the time I stepped through a portal and came out the other end to find a troll trying to smash it with a tree-trunk. You can never get totally stranded because if worst comes to worst you can destroy your bed and get yourself killed to force a respawn back at the big altar on the starting island. 

But who wants to die? Not me. And by taking proper precautions in this whole lengthy enterprise I believe I've only died two or three times in about a week. And all of those were when I kept pushing on far longer than I should have. Mostly I haven't done that, which is unusual for me. Maybe I'm not too old to learn new tricks after all.

Once I was set up in a house the draugr weren't using, with my portal installed, secured and working, I set off to find the mountain. It was big enough. You'd think it would be easy enough to see. 

Yes, well, it wasn't. It seems to be an oddity of Valheim that you can see the heights from the ocean but not from the land. All those trees get in the way. 

There were only a couple of choices. One of those was through the plains so I took the other. I was expecting more plains to appear at any moment, or if not plains then swamp, but the country remained joyously forested as I pushed further and further north. And then there it was, looming majestically ahead. The big mountain.

There was a tiny strip of plain to cross but it was empty of life. In moments I was leaping up the snow-covered slopes in the peculiar bunny-hopping fashion that passes for mountain-climbing in Valheim. Wolves came at me from all directions but wolves stopped being any kind of threat long ago. When you've climbed as many mountains as I have you learn to swat them down without breaking stride.

Drakes are even less of a threat but a lot more of a nuisance. If you ignore them they just keep coming and all that screaming and blue lightning is distracting. I stopped and potted them as they arrived. Their frost glands I left where they fell. I have stacks of those back at home.

Night was begining to fall and I was still in the foothills. Wooden shelters are worthless in the snows. Drakes and golems destroy them in moments. I looked for a solid rock face and took out my pick. A cave is both safe and comfortable. One day I'm going to dig myself a really big one and make a proper mountain retreat.

The next moning I set off again, onward and upward. I was almost at the summit when I thought I saw something unnatural. Something made

At last! A black tower. Only the second I'd ever seen. It was small and in bad shape. There were figures moving around near the base. Draugr. 

That threw me. I was under the impression all the towers were populated only by skeletons. They own the tower franchise in Valheim or so I thought. Some people even refer to the black towers as "skeleton towers". 

Draugr it was, though. Two of them. I popped one with a single arrow. His companion, around the corner, didn't even notice. When he wandered back into view I popped him as well. So much for them.

I scree-surfed down to the tower. Even before I slid to a halt I could see the tell-tale red glow inside. A vesigir. Yes!

I was so determined to record the event I took a screenshot before I even clicked on it, which was tempting fate. Imagine if a golem had arrived just then and chased me off before I'd used the stone to mark my map. Imagine if I'd died.

It didn't happen. I didn't die then or on the way back to the cave, where I spent another night, or on the journey back through the black forest, although a deathsquito did chase me into the trees. (I turned and blapped him with my silver sword and that was the end of him). 

Before any of that I explored the mountain range some more, curious to see if there were any more black towers. I found one. It didn't have a vegisisr.

Looking at it in the round, I'm sure I wasn't bugged. I just had very bad luck in the number of towers my seed generated. And in the vegisirs in the few there were. I agree with Asmiroth that it's a weakness in the design.  I don't mind the exploring. I enjoy it. But you can have too much of a good thing.

Now it's on to the fight itself. Well, once I get there. It's another long journey but that's okay.

Moder's altar is further to the north again. Further than Bonemass was. Further than I've ever been. But at least I know where I'm going, now. That makes all the difference.

Monday, March 22, 2021

I Search In Vain

Islands With Mountain Ranges Found : 7 

Mountain Ranges Searched: 12

Black Towers Discovered : 1

Vegvisir Runestones Revealing Location Of Moder Found : 0

The Search Continues.

But for how long?

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