BEGIN SOCIAL AND GETTING AHEAD
While there are plenty of experienced players who will often solo a quest, and a few who are able to solo raids, there are some quests and raids where you must have at least one player in more than one location simultaneously in order to complete an objective and advance. Also, DDO is derived from a Pen and Paper game (PnP) that was meant to be a social activity. It is often more enjoyable to form a party to complete an adventure or maybe several in a row. In this post we’ll go over all the basics about party composition.
One of the major objectives of playing DDO is leveling. To do this requires that you earn Experience Points (XP). If you are unfamiliar with how your character’s level, the quest’s level, and bravery streaks operate, you may want to read the wiki pages http://ddowiki.com/page/Experience_points and
http://ddowiki.com/page/Bravery_Bonus. Just realize that when you are in a party, or deciding on who to look for to be a member in your party, XP is determined by the member of the party that has the highest total character level. Be sure to pay attention to the part about power-leveling mentioned in the first wiki page. If the highest member is 4 to 6 levels higher than you, you will have a progressively larger penalty on the XP your character receives. At 7 or more levels of difference, you will receive no XP. You will however receive credit for completion if the quest is finished (even if you are dead at the time of completion). Remember that the level of the quest goes up one from the normal base difficulty when you enter it on hard, and two when you enter it on elite.
So who should you have in your party? That depends on your playstyle. Are you rushing through a quest to get to the end to complete it, or having someone scout around corners and report what you will face next? Do you like fully exploring the map? Do you want to get all the optional treasure and experience points that might require finding a secret door, picking a mechanical lock or activating a magical rune lock? If you can’t do everything yourself or are uncertain, you will need other players to join you and help out accomplishing your goals.
A few quests and raids absolutely require that you or someone in your party be an adequate trapper (sometimes called a mechanic). This person will have to have at least one level of Rogue or Artificer and sufficient tools, equipment, and skill levels to be able to find and disable traps, and possibly pick the lock on doors and/or chests (although there is the alternative of having a player in the party with a powerful enough Knock spell instead for those locks). But in some quests, traps can either be timed or bypassed, if you know the trick on how to do so. Other than quest specific needs for a trapper, most quests can be accomplished by almost any mix of players, but are generally accomplished quicker and easier if you have a “balanced” party. This can be especially true for raid groups. (Raids are special quests that allow a party of 12 people to enter it, instead of the standard 6). Some solutions to some raids will require one or more players to fill specific roles in order to be able to survive the fight at the end.
So what makes a balanced party? To understand that, you need to understand the roles (or if you prefer, jobs) that people play/fill. At least one person in the party is probably going to need to be able to kill some of the monsters you encounter quickly. While you might encounter a single or small group of wandering monsters, there will be plenty of large groups that will spawn in your dungeon, wilderness, etc. Sometimes called a mob or a crowd, this large group will eventually wear out your resources, or possibly kill the entire party (called a party wipe), if you have to slug it out toe to toe with each group you encounter. The person who can kill quickly is sometimes referred to as a tank (although that term is usually reserved for a different role). But the most common term for the person who kills mobs quickly is DPS. DPS is an acronym for Damage Per Second. When people do the math that calculates in the average damage they do per attack, and how fast they attack, they usually end up with a single number that represents the average damage they do each second they are in combat. Thus the name DPS.
The usual role of tank is someone who can acquire and keep the attention of the enemy, often called aggression, or agro for short. This can be done through the intimidation skill, the ability to incite hate, or just plain doing more damage than anyone else. The tank should have a large amount of Hit points as he or she will either be getting hit by many enemies at once, or a powerful boss monster. Often times the tank will have a way to mitigate or even avoid some types of damage.
Another role that is useful to the party, especially in higher level quests and raids, is Crowd Control (CC). Anyone who can temporarily prevent a portion of the mob from attacking anyone in your party can fulfill this role. Usually this is a spell caster who has a good chance of making his or her opponents fail their savings throw on an incapacitating spell. The spell itself should affect any monsters in the area the spell is targeted. (Such spells are often referred to as Area Of Effect spells, or just AOE). This member of the party will also need to know about the opponents you are facing at any given moment, and what their weakest savings throw will be (Fortitude, Reflex or Will). Bards also have access to magical songs that can temporarily incapacitate on a large scale.
If your character is of the Warforged (WF) race, then you will need to be repaired. But most people will still say healed, since in a pinch positive energy spells, such as healing spells, will give a WF at least half the normal benefit of restoration of Hit points. Whether you call them Hit points or health, when your red bar reaches zero, you become incapacitated and just lie down wherever you are. Once you reach negative ten or more, you die. While melee characters like fighters, barbarians, etc. can carry potions that can heal them, they may not be able to afford buying enough of them to make it to the end of the quest if they have just started playing DDO. And in high level quests, they can’t drink them fast enough to stay alive. Thus you need a healer. Typically this role is embodied by a Cleric or a Favored Soul. However Bards, Druids, Paladins and Rangers can also have healing spells. Monks have access to finishing moves that also heal. And divine scrolls of healing spells can be used by anyone with a high enough Use Magic Device (UMD) skill. The ability or not to self-heal, the ability to absorb and/or avoid damage, and the ability of being able to “kill them before they kill us” of each member of your party, can be used to figure out if you need a healer and what type might suffice. If you do have Warforged in your party who cannot cast a repair spell on themselves, just keep in mind that a heal spell may have as little as 50% of its normal effect, which will cause a healer to use more spell points. Having a party member able to use a repair spell, even in wand or scroll form will be helpful.
Buffs are anything that benefit you. Anyone can get potions that will last a short to medium length of time if they have the platinum pieces to purchase them. You can also visit the shrines and certain crew members on guild ships to receive buffs that last an hour. But guild ship buffs disappear if you die. And some buffs are only available as spells or songs. And some will stack with guild ship buffs. So while a party member might also contribute in some other role as well, it is often handy to have at least one member of the party who can buff you, boosting your abilities and/or protecting you from damage. This is the buffer. And you can have more than one. Healers will often have buffs in addition to their healing spells (and possibly even some offensive spells and/or limited crowd control).
A debuffer is just the opposite. Instead of beneficial effects, they are able to cause harmful ones. Instead of affecting party members, they affect enemies. Some debuffs even border on being Crowd Control.
There is a separate post on hireling basics. Just be aware that although they are often more limited in their ability to perform compared to a lot of experience players, hirelings can often fulfill some of these roles. Especially if you manage them correctly.
SOLO, PARTY, RAID AND ELITE
Earlier it was mentioned that some people often or exclusively solo most content in the game. How is this possible? If you read the wiki page, http://ddowiki.com/page/Dungeon_Scaling , you will discover that Turbine makes an attempt to dynamically customize most DDO adventures to the individual or party that is tackling it at any given time. Just be aware that this does not happen in raids. Except for the difficulty chosen when entering a raid, no other factors affect how it scales very much, if at all.
Familiarity with a quest will help you a lot. You can turn a corner, walk past an alcove, or go through an archway that has recesses on either side, and suddenly be in the middle of a mob, or face to face with an orange min-boss or worse. There are also mobs that will spawn right next to you, out of thin air. when you reach a certain location, open a chest, etc. If you don’t know the quest at all or at least fairly well, a larger party might be prudent. You will have more chances that one of the party member is a more experienced player to help guide you, and will at least have the advantage of still being effective if one or more members die in the encounter.
Having said that, parties of less than six, and even of just two, even composed of just you and a hireling, do have a chance to complete quests. But you do want to be careful if you are entering a quest on the elite setting. Not only are mobs that spawn likely to be larger in number, but they will definitely be tougher to kill and do more damage to you and other party members. This difficulty shows up when you target a monster as its Challenge Rating (CR). When going from normal difficulty to hard difficulty, the CR of most mobs will only increase by one. When going from hard to elite difficulty, the CR will increase by at least two. That is to say that the difference between the CR of mobs on normal and the CR of mobs on elite difficulty will be at least three. As for mini-boss and boss monsters, they go up a lot. A whole lot. Trap damage also goes up a whole lot on elite difficulty, making some completely unsurvivable, even by a character with a lot of Hit points. (Although a high reflex save will give you a chance to avoid all the damage from some traps).