Letters From Tamriel

An epistolary gaming blog

Welcome to Letters from Tamriel

As players of The Elder Scrolls games well know, no situation in Tamriel is so dire that one cannot take a moment to jot down a few notes in a journal or letter to a loved one, perhaps including three-fifths of a puzzle solution for those who might come along later.

In this spirit, Letters from Tamriel will feature the epistolary fiction of my characters from Elder Scrolls Online, writing home with tales of their adventure and intrigue.  Those letters will be interspersed with my discussions of game mechanics, TES history and backstories, and other ESO-related topics.  Start with the Category “About This Site”, or pick a character and click their Category to read through their letters sequentially.

Pull up a chair, grab a sweetroll, and enjoy!

@Zells

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Next Chapter? (Speculation)

@Zells - sepia stone - small

The other night some friends and I were debating the focus of next year’s “chapter”, since ZOS has said a new one would be released each summer. Last year the big news about Morrowind came out on Jan 31, so we should only be 8-10 weeks away from the next announcement.  Let the rampant speculation begin!

I have no inside info but feel obligated to put all this behind a cut, in case any of you have an extreme allergic reaction to Spoilers.
Read more…

Too Many Cool Things!

@Zells - sepia stone - small

The Witches Festival is in full swing, and it’s a great opportunity to grind some World Bosses (Umbra needs a Mother’s Sorrow staff), but the Clockwork City is now open, too… I want to take a week off work and set a new record for uninterrupted hours of gaming.  (Current record: 37.  But Winter Break is coming.)  Too many cool things, is my problem.  Not a bad problem. 🙂

Clockwork City will win out, I think.  Theoretically I could concentrate on that after the Festival is over, but… it’s very shiny, y’all.  Very, very shiny.  Literally – I can’t believe the sparkle on the leaves of Sotha Sil’s brass-leaved trees – and in the Firefly sense as well.  Also: Divayth Fyr is a major character in the story so far, and as you all know, I have a thing about him.  So shiny.  I just wanna follow Divayth around and listen to him snark about “Sil” for hours.

In other Things-Sucking-Away-Zells’-Time news, I had a whole running slew of technical issues trying to find a way to first record and then edit my gameplay for YouTube videos.  And then a bunch more issues trying to do the voice-over narration.  But at this point I believe everything is solved.  I want at least a couple completely finished before I start posting them, and I’m working out a mistake in the audio for the first “Meet Zells” introduction video, but I’m hoping to have that first vid up next week.  I’ll post a link here when it’s up and running.

Totally Random Minutia:
Does it strike anyone else as funny that there’s a huge storyline in Clockwork City about how they don’t have fresh food and have to eat paste, but every crate and box has Provisioning ingredients just like normal?  I wish the loot lists had been changed; there shouldn’t be food available.  But I also have a quibble about the fact that I can enter a dungeon that hasn’t been touched in thousands of years and find fresh lemons and bread.  And how does a heavy armor cuirass drop from an ice wisp?  Why can we read the books on Ayleid bookshelves when reading and translating Ayleid is a skill only a select few have mastered?  These are the questions that keep me up at night.

It’s possible that I sometimes overthink things. 🙂  Happy Friday everyone!

9/9!! (almost)

Zellfire profile pic - face onlyTonight when I log in, I will start research on the last trait Zellfire needs for blacksmithing.  And with that, I will be a mere 28 days away from being 9 of 9 on all crafting skills.

I don’t regret splitting the crafting skills up over 5 alts in the beginning – it allowed me to focus skill points and max out the skills faster.  If I had to do it over again I would do the same thing, except I would have started ‘Fire’s research simultaneously.  As it was, I didn’t start her research until I learned how rare motifs work, so she got a really late start on wood-working and blacksmithing.

But now it’s finally at an end.  After almost 2 years I can throw away the sticky note I’ve had in my calendar that I’ve been using to track when the next research starts.  Yay. 🙂

In other exciting news, the Witches’ Festival will be beginning next week, really looking forward to that.  They’re re-releasing the Grim Harlequin motif and the Scarecrow and Pumpkin costumes are back. I like that new people are getting a shot at those items, but I’m also hoping there’s something new in the mix.  And Clockwork City will be dropping on the 23rd, which…

::babbles incoherently for 20 minutes before stopping to take a breath::

I’m looking forward to seeing it, let’s leave it at that. 🙂  It’s a good month for Tamriel.

One other update: I am still working on the YouTube channel and hope to have my first video up next week.  It’s been a learning curve – had to find and learn recording software, editing software, figure out the voice-over recording, etc.  But I think the technical aspects are mostly beaten into shape.  I’ll do another post with an announcement once there is content on the channel.

Happy Fredas, everyone!

Training Dummies: why they’re cool

@Zells - sepia stone - smallFor some reason I’ve been hearing a lot of people bashing training dummies in zone chat lately, and I feel like most of them are completely missing the point.

Here are some statements I’ve heard repeatedly:

1.”It’s a false number, actual combat is different.”

Yes, actual combat produces radically different DPS data than the training dummy due to a variety of factors.  However, the DPS stat conveyed by attacking a training dummy consistently gives your top-end DPS under perfect personal conditions – it’s a control number.  That means the environmental variables are reduced, and we can compare apples-to-apples.

If you tell me you just did 25K on a certain boss, that number doesn’t mean anything to me – was it higher because that boss was susceptible to your attack type, or because you had a perfect storm of crits and procs?  Or is that number much lower than your usual because you had to do a lot of evasion?  By contrast, if I tell you I can do 21K DPS on a training dummy, you know precisely where I am, and have a much better chance to gauge how effective I’ll be in a party.  That’s what a control number is.

2.”They don’t actually help with anything.”

Zells: Well, maybe they don’t help YOU, but…

If you want to test a particular kind of attack to see if it triggers a proc or special ability, it can be really difficult to find the right conditions “in the field” to accurately assess that, particularly if you need a large sample size for extensive testing of meta-data.  And it can take time to wander around and find the right kinds of mobs.  But with a training dummy in your back yard, all you have to do is go try the attack and see.

3.”They don’t actually help with anything”, part 2

Smoothing out your rotation is a big part of raising your DPS.  You’ll switch abilities around your bar a lot when you’re trying to improve, and having a way to simply practice going through the motions is hugely helpful in terms of developing the muscle memory for real combat.  For real.

4.”You just like it ‘cuz it’s pretty.”

Okay, not JUST because it’s pretty, see above.

But also: y’r damn right I like it ‘cuz it’s pretty.  Aesthetics and visual appeal are a big deal to me, and so is the role-play and personality aspect of my characters.  Being able to have a combat dummy in some of my character’s houses enriches the game experience for me.  If aesthetics weren’t important, we wouldn’t have dozens of armor motifs.  If the community didn’t enjoy having custom-made, personality-driven spaces in the world, we wouldn’t have player housing.  Just because something doesn’t have value for some players doesn’t mean it isn’t providing value to the rest of the community.

Lastly – you are correct, my combat dummy IS pretty, thanks. 🙂fight club

The Asylum Sanctorium (subtitle: The Tribunal Are the Worst)

@Zells - sepia stone - smallEvery time new DLC is announced, I always think this’ll be the one that gets me to log into the PTS.  Once again, however, now that Clockwork City has gone live on the PTS, I’m deciding to wait.

But I read all the press releases, watch the live streams, and the Asylum Sanctorium cracks me up:

Half house of healing, half shrine, this isolated area of the Clockwork City serves as a sanitarium for inhabitants driven mad by the strangeness of its artificial environment. It is also the permanent home of three Dunmer Saints that Sotha Sil transformed into immortal machines. The sanity of these fearsome creatures has been eroding ever since.

The Tribunal are just the worst, aren’t they?

Let’s break this down.  In the history of Elder Scrolls games, have you ever once met a hybrid construct that was NOT insane?  It’s almost like the act of shoving a living soul into a machine is not a good idea.  Go figure.

So there’s these three saints, heroes who served the Dunmeri people and are venerated by them, but Sotha Sil doesn’t care about any of that, because hey, it’s Tribunal Time now, the Velothi saints are yesterday’s news, and besides, Sotha’s got an experiment he wants to try.  It’s never in the history of Mundus been a viable idea, but he’s Sotha Friggin’ Sil, right?

Souls in the Elder Scrolls mythos are never destroyed; they just move from plane to plane.  It seems likely our genius inventor buddy would know that.  But even so, he grabs these souls, shoves them into metal bodies, and when he sees they are not handling it well (because no one ever does), he… builds a Clockwork Arkham to contain them.  He could have released them, rather than locking them in a bigger box, but he didn’t.

(The same way Vivec could just set that moonlet down somewhere, but instead chooses to leave it hanging over Vivec City as a constant threat to “his” people.  “Love me, or I’ll kill you with a rock. This rock right here.”)

In their lifetimes, these saints could have been Secretly Horrible People, but we don’t know that, and even if they were, who deserves that fate?   And even if they did, do the people who will be slaughtered by those monstrosities when they finally break free deserve that?

(Tony Stark has more ethical restraint w/his inventions than Sotha Sil does.  Let that sink in.)

Sotha Sil has to know imprisoning the Saints is not a long-term plan.  He has to know they’re going to get worse.  He has to know that when they get worse, they’re going to be “worse” forever – these are souls he’s torturing, when they break, they’re permanently broken.  And eventually, everybody escapes Arkham and causes havoc, death, and destruction, right?  James Gordan could have told Sotha an “Asylum” wasn’t a good plan.

My last comment contains MAJOR Spoilers from TES 3: Morrowind, and speculation about the Clockwork City plot, so I’m putting it behind a cut. Read more…

Maelstrom Arena: and so it begins

@Zells - sepia stone - smallFor months I have been thinking that I wanted to try MA, but I kept putting it off until I was “ready”.

Last night I ran out of patience waiting on “ready”.  Said to myself: yeah, I’m half-asleep and should log off, my gear is mis-matched bits & pieces, and I’m not sure what’s even on my weapon bar right now, but let’s walk in and at least see the place.

The first round was a piece of cake, actually made me think I had a chance, and the second round (w/the Dwemer spinning blade traps, gah) was hilariously impossible w/the weapon bar set-up I had.  So much dying.  So much Daedra trash talk.  My understanding has been that building up a false sense of confidence before getting turned into paste is the quintessential Maelstrom Arena experience, so even though I didn’t get far, I feel like I was really there, y’ know?

Never feel like I know a dungeon until I’ve died there a dozen times (per boss, usually), so the learning process has begun! And in related news: I am really tired of my armor being a mess.  I think it’s time to try farming vCoA2 again.  No need to wish me luck; what could possibly go wrong? :p

Gear / Build / Weapon Bar interplay

@Zells - sepia stone - smallI’ve shied away from writing a build guide, because I freely acknowledge I am neither a data-miner, nor a math girl, nor am I a master DPS.  I can’t analyze the raw data for you, and I can’t pump out 55K DPS and then tell you how I did it.

But I have done hella research on DPS builds, and when I listen to people talk about their builds in chat I’ve noticed some common mistakes.  For example, I’ve had convos in most of my guilds about why the War Maiden set isn’t a strong choice for Sorcerers.  This isn’t going to be a pre-fab build, instead we’ll walk through an analysis of the build you’re using so you can strengthen it.  I’ll focus on Sorcs, ‘cuz it’s what I know, but some of it will apply to other classes.  Read more…

Trait switching! zomg!

@Zells - sepia stone - smallI was excited about the Clockwork City DLC from go, because – well, you’ve met me.  The huge TES: Morrowind geek is excited about getting to see more of Sotha Sil’s clockwork city, what a shock, right?  To be fair, if you’ve been inside the Halls of Fabrication trial, or finished the Morrowind chapter’s main quest, then you know how potentially cool this is.

But let’s set aside the fun of getting to hang with Divayth Fyr and kill fabricants again, and talk for a second about this other upcoming change mentioned in the press release: trait switching.

Yeah, that’s right, you heard me.  Switching traits on gear that’s already made.  Cue the choir of angels bursting into song…

The Clockwork City DLC game pack and Update 16 also introduce the all-new Transmutation system, allowing you to change the traits on your gear, including weapons and armors.

In order to Transmute an item, you must locate a Transmutation station and have the item trait researched in your crafting Skill Line. This means if you’d like to add the Sharpened trait to your dagger, you must first ensure you have the ability to craft daggers with that trait. You’ll be able to find a Transmutation station in the heart of the Brass Fortress within the Clockwork City or acquire one for your home from a certain Master Writ merchant.

In addition to the crafting skill requirement, Transmutation requires a special new resource called Transmutation Crystals that you’ll need to collect and save. You’ll be able to earn Transmutation Crystals by completing veteran level content (such as Veteran Mode Dungeons or Trials).

That changes the end-game grind entirely.  I never expected to see this, not at all.  The devs have said in live stream chats they intend to implement jewelry crafting at some point.  I’ve wished for that, but I wasn’t sure we’d ever get the ability to improve dropped jewelry, and sort of assumed it wouldn’t happen, since it would change/diminish the end-game grind.  But being able to switch traits on gear has an even greater impact on that than improving jewelry would.

I’m a happy, happy Zells.  Now lets hope those “Transmutation Crystals” aren’t harder to get than, say, a sharpened vMA Inferno staff. :p  I know the TCs are not going to be easy, and it almost certainly will be true that they’ll come in fragments that have to be assembled into a full crystal.  Or possibly they’ll be rare drops in vet mode.  But some vet dungeons are way easier than others, and some I really find fun.  I’m okay with running a dungeon multiple times to get the crystals, if it’s one my friends and I can enjoy and not, say, vCoA2.  As a purely random example.

Sweet Divines, the gear I’ve decon’d and now wish I had back.  Not sure how to approach grinding at this point.  Do I just keep one of everything until CWC drops?  Decisions, decisions.

No release date yet; all announcements say Fall. <fidgets impatiently>

Quote of the Day

“Mortals smell better charred.”

-Ash Titan, vCoA2

Daedra got them some mad trash-talk skillz, I’ll give ’em that.

CoA2 was a pledge last Sunday, so I PUG’d it all afternoon and evening through the dungeon finder.  I killed Skoria a half-dozen times.  And yet I’m still wearing a Skoria hat with Training on it, and I did not get a single useful piece of Burning Spellweave gear, because the entire daedric population of the city was mocking me.

The last run cost me over 25 repair kits and almost four hours of my life, and no, we never did finish.  Did I mention two members of the group were in stage 4 vampirism?  In a fire dungeon, yeah.  Good times.  But that actually wasn’t the problem.

Learned a very DPS valuable lesson I can share, so it wasn’t a total wash.  I am currently doing ~20K, which is okay.  Not great, okay.  I keep driving that number up, but currently that’s where I am.  In a harder dungeon like vCoA2, where DPS is the key, that’s the bottom end of the effective range.

The raw DPS number isn’t the whole story, however.  Usually when you’re fighting a boss there’s some amount of evasion and messing with mechanics, so the number will go down, maybe waaaay down.  Knowing that vCoA2 is a tough run, I was wondering if I was pulling my own weight given the lower numbers I was seeing, so I started watching the percent of the group’s damage that I was doing.  And because I ran the same dungeon with a lot of different players, I got to see how that percentage plays out in real terms, comparatively.

In a balanced group, when the other 3 players are comparable to me in skill, I do 40-50% of the group’s overall damage.  That works out logically – together, the other DPS and I are doing 80-90% of the damage, leaving, at most, 10% each for the healer and tank.  That’s solid.  When my damage was in that range, the group got through.  Maybe not a cakewalk, but easy enough to still be fun, with minimal time wasted.

When grouped with players from my guild that I know are rock stars, my percent of the group damage fell to 25-30% – I just can’t (yet) pump out enough damage to keep up with them.  At that point, someone else is carrying the group and I’m… helping. 🙂  But as long as the dungeon is no harder that vCoA2, that’s fine.

Here’s the red flag, though: at my current DPS ability, if my percentage goes up much beyond 50%, it doesn’t mean I got Suddenly Awesome, it means the other DPS is weaker than I am.  If we’re in a dungeon where my DPS level is the bottom end of the acceptable range, that’s a recipe for disaster.

I’ve played ESO for almost two years, and I’ve never walked out on a group mid-dungeon before – I bring a hella lot of Stubborn to the table.  (Also, I was doing easier dungeons.)  But after we spent over an hour and a half on the Ash Titan, replacing two healers along the way, I finally told the group I could not pour any more time or repair kits into a mathematical improbability, wished them well, and ported out.

My friends have repeatedly told me that Stubborn does not solve all woes.  I’ve questioned that logic in the past, but maybe they’re on to something.  In the time I wasted beating my head against the wall with that group, I could have completed the dungeon 3-5 more times with other people.  So the next time I see that I’m doing 60% or more of the group damage, I’m going to stop and ask myself if I’m good enough to get the group through the dungeon.  I am not a quitter, but math is math.

In closing:

Damn you, Ash Titan!  ::shakes fist at sky::

And to Valkyn Skoria: I am still coming for you, buddy.  That light/divines hat will be mine, because that is a problem Stubborn can solve. :p

Quote of the Day

“(cursing redacted)”

“(cursing redacted)”

“(cursing redacted)”

-Zells, Tales from the City of Ash, special Multiple Party Wipe edition

Next time on Tales from the City of Ash: Will our heroic underdogs defy all mathematical odds, defeat the mighty Ash Titan, and move on to conquer Valkyn Skoria?  Is it possible to fully recover from the Sanity Point loss caused by this level of frustration?  And most importantly: does Zells get her light/divines Skoria hat?!  Stay tuned and find out!

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