DDO – Dungeons and Dragons Online 2018 New Player’s Guide

A beautiful land with many choices

Dungeons and Dragons Online is a 12-year old MMO set in the plane of Eberron (although other places have been added over time). It is based on the 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons ruleset. As a longtime Dungeons and Dragons AND MMO player, I was surprised at the overwhelming amount of options, flexibility and amount to learn.

Should you play this game? If you enjoy Dungeons and Dragons, I would say yes. I couldn’t find a local group to meet and play with on a regular basis. I wanted an alternative and looked into Neverwinter Nights 2 (but ran into complications) and stumbled across this. I had heard about it a long time ago from a friend, but never had played it myself. I thought it was time to change that.
It is an action RPG that uses the Dungeons and Dragons Mechanics. Fights happen in real time. There is no autotargeting, but it feels closer to the tabletop version more than many D&D games that I have played in the past. Especially since there is a narrator in every section describing the world to you as you move through it.
This is a beginner’s guide to explain what I have learned here in 2018, just stumbling upon it for the first time.

1. Find a good guild and server. By the time you are reading this, things may have changed. I settled on the Ghallanda server, because I found and applied to a clan online (Tyrs Paladium) and that was their server. Also, I’m not going to lie, most of the folks that are in a guild that’s lasted have been playing between years and over a decade. If you’re nice, willing to learn and group often, more often than not they will help with many Quality of Life issues. Be nice, and polite, don’t ask for things and usually folks will offer. MMOs are about building communities, and these folks want new players as much as you want to play. Just keep that in mind.
Why is it important: Server population after 12 years is low. Your best bet is to find guild members to party with. Otherwise the game becomes sort of expensive to solo.

2. Wait, you can solo an MMO? Yes! DDO is a bit of a weird animal, and several games that came after it (Neverwinter coming to mind) took elements from it. One of those elements is the ability to get hirelings to party with you. Hirelings are hired NPCs that you can control (or let them do their thing, your choice). They have a timer and stay with the party for one hour (this is a little flexible, see the ProTips section).

There are two types of hirelings: Gold hirelings and regular hirelings. Regular hirelings are just as useful as the Gold versions, but you can only have one of them in your party, and you can only summon them at the entrance of an area. This is something I didn’t know until about level 6, and I will explain why momentarily.
Gold hirelings are awesome, but they cost TP, the in-game DDO currency (which is more expensive than just about any other MMO out there). Gold hirelings can be summoned anywhere, at any time and you can have up to four of them in your party.
Thieves, which are integral parts of dungeon running for spotting secrets and disarming traps, can ONLY be purchased in Gold versions (which is brutally smart on the dev’s part, because they make you spend that TP gold if you want to solo).
So theoretically, you CAN solo this game. Some quests/dungeons will be difficult.

3. There is a *grip* of content for sale. Do I need to invest in any/some/all of it to start playing? Here’s the deal that I scoured the net for HOURS before making the plunge that I simply couldn’t find anywhere:

a. I want to play for FREE, can I do that?:
I’d say no. Yes, technically you could, but to be honest, you’re going to want to access content packs that cost real world money (TP). Especially starting as a level 1 character on your first life, you’re going to need to spend a little money. Technically, there is a way to earn TP for free in-game, by making a new character on every server and playing the free content until you get 200 Favor, but I’m still on my first main character and can tell you this would take you a while. I’d say your better option would be:

b. I want to spend as little as possible, what can I reasonably get away with?

You WILL need to spend a minimum of $15 on this game. VIP status costs $15/mo (cheaper if you do longer stints, 12 months is $100). What VIP does for you is (like many other MMOs) removes money caps from bank/mail/etc. It also gives you access to all content packs except three expansions (Ravenloft, Shadowfell and MotU). It also gives you access to all playable races, so you can create any character type you want. Even if you just buy one month’s worth of VIP, it gives you ample time to get a character pretty far underway, get decent gear, make some platinum on the Auction House and it also nets you 500 TP per month you are subscribed to VIP to spend on what you want once (if) you decide not to VIP any longer.

c. Money isn’t an object, call me Mr. / Ms. Whale
Alright, Professional Bob/Jane, money isn’t the object, but time is. What should you do? Well, what I ended up doing (because I am exactly in the same boat) is the following:
Go to the DDO website’s marketplace. (not in game)
Buy the Legendary Shadowfell Conspiracy (buy the Collector’s Edition and then it will give you the opportunity to upgrade to legendary. Total price: $99. Then add the Menace of the Underdark pack for $17.49. Lastly, I’d recommend at least 60 days of VIP ($29.99) Total spend: $147.46.
Why it’s important: Well, the Shadowfell Conspiracy will get you a Greater Tome of Epic Learning; which translates to a permanent increase of 50% XP when doing dungeons over level 20. It also gives you 25% bonus XP to quests for finishing them for the first time and a 10% boost to all other XP. THIS IS A BIG DEAL because these bonuses never go away, even if you choose to eventually reincarnate your character and start over. “But wait, I’m level *1*!” you say. Right you are. But here are the other things/reasons I recommend this pack: you get 3 new characters that START at level 15, 3 additional character slots and 2000 TP points
When you upgrade to legendary, you a permanent Gold owlbear hireling set that can be summoned at lvl 15 and 24, you get a lesser Tome of Epic Learning (25% XP for dungeons over level 20) that you can give to another character, and 5 Sovereign I XP Elixers per game world. This is useful, because you can use them at any level and they give you 50% bonus XP for 3 hours. That’s fifteen hours of 50% extra XP at low levels. (and you’ll get them every time you make a new character on a different server)
Both the Collector’s Edition and the Legendary Upgrades come with some skill books that permanently raise some stats of your choosing, but they aren’t the main draw.
Now, if you followed my advice and added on the Menace of the Underdark Standard edition for $16.99, then you got a plethora of other things to make your life easier.
Included, is a level 3 Gold Cleric hireling (to heal you), a Greater Tome of Learning (which gives you the same bonuses as the Epic Tome listed above EXCEPT it’s for levels 1-20!), gives you Epic Destinies for when you choose to push past 20, unlocks the Druid class type, and makes it so that new characters start at level 4 (instead of 1). Plus you’ll get 1000 TP. That means you have 3000 TP in your account at level 1.
What should you spend your TP on?
This really depends on your play style. Are you a hoarder? Than buy bags, shared bank slots and inventory space. Ditto if you’re a crafter.
Ravenloft (the only expansion you don’t own at this point) costs 2495 TP.
I would recommend setting a small pool of points aside for Gold hirelings in case you need them. Or to buy revival cakes off the store.

4. What should I play?
This could easily be a 10-20 page read, but let’s keep it simple. Look through the classes, figure out which ones sound the most fun to you. Then go on the DDO forums and Reddit and look for builds. Most people don’t do this (especially with first characters), but let me tell you – you can really gimp yourself in D&D and end up creating a character that is not fun to play. Look at the existing builds on the forums (even if you don’t use one) to get some ideas of what is working for the class you want to play. (You can even combine multiple classes!)

5. Ok, I’ve chosen my pay level, I’ve picked my server (and maybe joined a guild). Now what do I need to know?
You’re finally ready to take your first steps into the game. After you create your character and choose your race, you’ll go through a tutorial town and area. Here is what you need to know, as soon as you step outside of the town:
a. Slayer
In every area, there are XP rewards for just killing everything that moves. Kill as much as you can. The XP rewards go up for each set of kills.

b. Exploration
Run around! Fill in the map! It’s easy, cheap XP. You’ll want to do this with every new area you venture into.

c. Rare Encounters
As you explore the area, you’ll invariably find Red-named creatures. They are stronger than other creatures in the area, and are rare encounters. Kill one and a chest will spawn. Loot. Repeat.

d. Shrines
The resting system in DDO is unlike any other Dungeons and Dragons videogame, ever. Sometimes in the wilds, most of the times in dungeons, you will run across two shrines that have a sun and moon on them. Click the moon shrine and your character will sit down and rest, restoring all HP and MP. Right click on the shrine and click the gear icon in your hireling’s action bar and they will do the same.

e. Hirelings
…are not too bright. Learn to use the ‘stay put’ and ‘teleport to me’ functions on their hotbars quickly and often. Otherwise they will run right into traps, stand in them and be chopped to bits. Repeatedly. Healing hirelings (like clerics) should probably be on the ‘Protect Me’ setting, otherwise they will heal you for the most minor scrapes possible. Also, if it seems like they aren’t healing you when you want them to, try running towards them. Seriously. I think they all have poor eyesight. I’m not kidding. It works!

f. Dying
You’re going to die eventually. Dark turn for a new player’s guide, amiright? Seriously, tho, you’re going to die – and most likely to a trap in a dungeon. Here’s what you need to know. When you die, something drops where you died called a soulstone. You can’t get too far away from it or it will boomerang your spirit form back. But for the love of God, if you’re in a party and someone is raising you and you died on a trap – MOVE AWAY FROM THE TRAP before you accept the raise. Unless you want to die all over again. I’ve seen this happen and immediately just start humming the Benny Hill tune. (ask your parents or google it) It’s a great way to piss your party off because they only have so many spell points to raise you with. You CAN buy shards from the DDO store to buy cake to raise. I would recommend against this. (It is expensive.)

g. Grouping
With the player population being a little low (because the game is 12 years old), unlike almost every other MMO, you need to hit the O button, look at who is partying at your level and send them a private tell asking to join. There is no matchmaking system. You need to do it manually. And you need to tell them you are new. Noone is going to make fun of you or treat you poorly because you are new. My experience with the community is that they are a patient, good group of players. It’s probably why the game has lasted this long.

h. Guilds
I know I already made the pitch for a guild at the beginning of this guide, but to be honest, you will get far more out of Dungeons and Dragons Online being a member of a community of players than without. People generally are more than happy to go out of their way to show you how to run a dungeon path, answer your thousands of questions and give you access to probably the most important resource in the game: The Airship. The Airship is a special door in most of the maps that lets you board the in-flight airship. On this airship are a myriad of free buffs/resistances, quick access to bank, repairs, the auction house and normal hirelings. Just don’t go into the room on the airship with the exploding barrels. Seriously.

i. Enchantments
Ok, I’m getting a little in the weeds with this one, but it’s actually incredibly important to know, and NOWHERE IN THE GAME DOES IT SAY THIS: Enchantments do not stack. Sort of. Let me explain. You just finished a quest chain and got kickass boots of Dexterity +2. Hooray! You put them on. Time passes, and you get a helm of Dexterity +3. You put it on, but only see a bonus of +3. Shouldn’t it be +5? In every other incarnation of D&D, yes. But in DDO; it doesn’t work like that. Because they are named the same (thing of Dexterity), those bonuses do not stack, and it is taking the highest modifier (from the helm).
If you want multiple bonuses, find differently-named bonuses. So in this example, you’d have kickass boots of Dexterity +2 and if you were to find an amulet that has an enchantment on it called Uncanny Dexterousness +3, THEN it will be +5 total.

j. Challenges
By pressing the letter P and then choosing the Challenges tabs, there are quests that you can run to grind out some amazing gear. BUT it is level locked. Which means that if the challenge is level 4 to 15, you *cannot do it* if you are higher level than 15. So if you aren’t sure what to do next, you might want to grind some of that gear out. Also, any valuable gear you really like? Stick it in your bank instead of selling/auctioning it. It may not be useful now, but it could be useful later.

k. Reincarnation
How zen of you! Here’s the deal. When you hit level 20, you can choose to reincarnate. Depending on the materials you use, you can reincarnate into any class you want. You go back to level 1 (oh look, that lvl 3 Gold Cleric Hireling is useful again!) and begin anew. You also get some permanent increases to your character for having reincarnated. This is called True Reincarnation. But there’s more. You can ONLY TR at level 20. So what happens if you go to level 30? The answer is once you hit 30, you can ER, or Epic Reincarnate. These give you even cooler permanent buffs, but when you ER you only go back down to 20. At that point you could level to 30 again OR TR. Do you have to reincarnate? No. Should you? Probably. There some sweet bonuses for having done so, and some amazing rewards for having reincarnated into every class.

l. Currencies
Ok, so this isn’t necessarily for outside town, but here’s what I’ve learned to help you.
a. Platinum – this is the most common currency; used on the Auction House and with vendors.
b. Mystic Remnants – these are special coins you pick up in the field after killing a champion. You need about 5000 to 10,000 for some really awesome stuff. The vendor is in the Hall of Heroes; look for a teleporter or your Guild airship to get you there. ALWAYS pick these up.
c. Dragonshards. There are a couple kinds of these. Save up a few thousand of them (three to be exact).
d. DDO points / TP points. These are the real-world money points (you pay real money to get them). You will earn some of them as you progress for free.

m. Towns
a. Eventually you’ll need to go back to one. Make sure you visit the tavern and set your respawn point for if you die and have to release.
b. People will refer to the different Houses (maps) as House P, House C, House D. Learning what all those mean is helpful.
c. Teleporters are your friends. Find them on every map you go into.
d. House P (Pharalian) has a bunch of guild vendors. Find the potion vendor and stock up on cure serious wounds potions as soon as possible.
e. The maps are complicated. Don’t get discouraged. Wander around and you’ll eventually get used to where everything is.

6. ProTips: These are a couple things that I’ve learned to help you do better than I did my first life:

a. Hireling abuse – There are several zones in the game (Restless Isles and others) where there is an overworld that still counts as a dungeon, even though it has town-like aspects. If you summon a hireling here, his or her timer will still count down per normal, but they will NOT disappear, even as you go into/come out of dungeons. As long as you do not go into a tavern, your hirelings will stay with you. So if you DID buy some Gold hirelings, summon them all and do the whole quest chain solo; take as long as you want. I went 3.5 hours on one set of hirelings.

b. Auction don’t sell. Vendors, even when you’ve got your God-like barter on, don’t pay jack for your items. When you go to post on the Auction House, it will give you a recommended starting point to sell. If you’re hard up for cash, starting price is half the suggested with a buyout of 1 platinum more. If you’re doing ok, try the suggested price with a buyout of 1 platinum more.

c. Tell people you are new. It’s ok. You’re going to have questions. People will want to help. They’ve run these dungeons thousands of times, and you never have. Let them know up front and they will generally be nice and show you how to do your job.

d. Thieves are essential. Around probably level 5 or 6, you’ll die to a trap. Thieves to find and disarm traps are a must. Make friends with one (especially if you have a guild).

e. Look for enchantments of ‘striding’ and ‘fortification’ as quickly as you can. The former makes you run faster, while the latter prevents you from being slain by a critical hit.

f. Range seems to be better Meta at the moment from my observations. That doesn’t mean you can’t play a melee, it just seems like range is super OP right now. I’m sure there will be a LOT of people that disagree with me, but when I can six-shot (or less) a beholder from 200 yards away (and it never has an opportunity to engage me), that seems… good (for me).

Those are my observations and advice. I hope it helps someone. Did I miss anything? Let me know and Happy Hunting!

Baltharial Brinjairrand, brother of Torm, servant of the Raven Queen.