As the launch of Module 7: The Way of the Monk for Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach nears, I had the chance to take a tour of the new content with the Turbine crew. My hosts for the evening were Kate Paiz, Senior Producer; Ian Currie, Design Director; Stephen Muray, Lead

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Systems Designer; Damien Foletto, Lead Content Designer; Brent Walton, Content Designer; Jesse Smith, Content Designer; and Greg Yungman, Systems Designer.

Currently scheduled for free release on June 3, Module 7 offers a new playable class, improvements to existing areas to ease leveling, new Fog of War functionality not to mention a buyback feature at vendors. Other features include new quests in Three Barrel Cove and the 12-man raid zone under the Marketplace Tent site, and quiver bags for archers. It is a lot of new content to explore, but the folks at Turbine are expert tour guides.

Monks

We began by checking out the highly anticipated class addition to DDO: the Monk. Personally, in pen & paper Dungeons & Dragons, I was never much of a monk player; I always leaned towards the Ranger or Wizard. In DDO, however, I have to say the Monk was pure awesome fun to play.

The monk class is available to all players, so there is no need to build favor or anything along those lines. Stephen Muray gave a brief overview of how the class works: The monk is a bit different from the other classes in that he uses “ki” to perform many moves. In many respects, this is similar to spell points for a mage class, but a big difference is that the Monk’s ki increases throughout the battle and fades out of combat, whereas a mage class starts with spell points that deplete over the course of a conflict.

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With my handwraps cinched tight, I started testing out the Monk’s moves by spinning, kicking, tumbling and punching. Most crucial (or at least fun) was leaping across the room in a single bound using the Abundant Leap ability. Those Kobolds aren’t getting away from me anymore.

The Monk can follow many paths of life, such as the Ocean, Wind, Mountain, and Fire. By concentrating enhancement points in these paths, you can heal, increase protection and/or do more damage with your attacks.

Three Barrel Cove and Pirates!

After giving the Monk a test drive, we took a tour of the new, revised Three Barrel Cove area for a demonstration of the new Fog of War feature. This feature shrouds the terrain with a light fog that disappears as you explore the area, allowing you to better keep track of exactly where you’ve been. This is a big help for finding points of interest in the exploration tasks.

Part of the changes to Three Barrel Cove includes the

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adventure area quests for Slayer, Explorer, and Rare Encounters. Wandering around, we were able to check out some of the Explorer tasks and came across one of the new denizens of Three Barrel Cove, the Sahuagin. These green fish-looking creatures reminded me of a Scooby Doo episode, but of course, they pack more of a punch than anything Scooby and Shaggy ever came across. Like most of the area, these creatures are meant for parties around level 5. One thing I noticed was the art upgrades to many of NPCs and monsters in the area. Orcs and Kobolds in pirate outfits really looked great. There’s something about a Kobold shouting “Yarr, a pirate’s life for me!” that really works.

After checking out the new landscape and monsters, it was time to visit a few new dungeons. First up was Rackham’s Trial. This instance features a series of nasty tests to see if you have what it takes to be a pirate, including a rather intricate puzzle that covers every surface of the room. The object is to open a door by activating a series of levers, floor tiles and targets. Making a wrong decision can be costly. Another test – which was a blast watching the devs try to perform – was a ladder climb where one party member has to make it to the top. Did I mention that the ladders weren’t always connected and you had to jump from ladder to ladder? Feather Fall is your friend.

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Once we made it through these trials to become pirates, we headed off to help a another pirate in another quest. This fellow somehow decided to get himself trapped inside a cage surrounded by a massive puzzle that, again, encompassed the entire room. Make a mistake, and your pirate friend is shocked by rather large bolts of electricity. Needless to say, he doesn’t like this too much and yells at you if you get it wrong. While at times you start to feel that he should be barbequed for his insults and whining, you realize that you can’t complete this quest if he dies. Save the poor fellow, and experience and gold awaits you.

One detail I noticed as we transitioned between areas was the new look to several of the loading screens. Kate commented that the new lead artist was responsible for this, and I have to say he did a great job.

Hallowed Ground and Underground

It was time for us to leave Three Barrel Cove and head off

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to the next new dungeon area. Before we did, however, we stopped by Delera’s Graveyard to pay homage to E. Gary Gygax at a memorial constructed in his honor. While he may be gone, his legacy lives on.

After giving our prayers and respect, we headed off to the Marketplace Tent. Unfortunately, the tent was missing and several members of the Twelve were hanging out around an entrance to an underground cavern. Kate Piaz explained that this is a rather intricate dungeon and that multiple players are needed to open the Subterrane. Exactly how remains a bit of secret, but she assured us that they have the means to assist if it is necessary. After speaking with the Grandmasters of the Twelve, we went off to explore the depths.

The Subterrane is designed for a 12-man raid. There are three regions inside the dungeon, each with its own fun and adventure. First up was the Undead Giants, where we encountered giant skeletons with big clubs. All I can say is “tumble!” As we worked our way downward, we came across another new creature. Have you ever asked yourself where that Delayed Blast Fireball went when you failed your concentration check? Fear no more: They have been found and are right here blowing up in front of you. Don’t worry; so are Fingers of Death and other spells that have been wandering around in limbo for years. These “living spells” look and act just like you would expect.

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Making our way past these rogue spells we entered the “Treasure Room” and, of course, pulled the lever. One of these days, I will learn not to pull a lever when Jesse Smith tells me to. Straight down we went as the floor disappeared from beneath us. Luckily, I landed on a nice soft pile of gold. In fact, the whole room was filled with gold. All I could think of was, “I’m rich!” Immediately I go to grab some treasure. Of course, I felt the consequences.

The owner of the treasure decided I shouldn’t have any and proceeded to bash me into the ground with the help of some not-so-friendly specters. As if fighting this guy and his goons wasn’t bad enough, he would occasionally smash the ground so hard that we went flying up into the air. After doing this once or twice and getting the tar zapped out of me on the way down, one of the devs informed me of some magical circles which provided safe zones to help you make your way down safely. Of course, this is easier said than done.

After some luck, skill, and magic developer powers, we made it and were off to the next area. Here we were challenged by mind flayers that sucked the life out of us. We also ran into some nasty puppies and their mommy named Xy’zzy, and she doesn’t like getting hit. In fact, she

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ignores your attacks. After some searching and hints from the devs, we were able to make it past her. Of course, under pain of death I promised not to say how. As our time was running short, Kate mentioned that somewhere in this area was a secret Beholder lair.

Finally, we headed off to the last area, where we met up with a rather nasty devil. Hanging from his pedestal, he drops down, smacks you around, throws a few curses at you and then flies back up to his perch from which he sends minions at you. Kill minions, fight big devil, rinse and repeat a few times while trying to stay alive, and you can make it through this encounter.

With time running short, I asked what was in store for the future. While many of their plans weren’t quite ready to be announced, they did comment that they are working towards making DDO DX10 ready over the next few months. The rough goal is to have it finished around August/September.

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