Fixing The Neverwinter Dungeons: Malabog’s Castle

After suggesting tweaks to the campaigns in January and February my next project is looking at some of the dungeons and skirmishes. Most of them have long been outgeared by players and the goal should be to make them slightly more challenging and interesting while not excluding too many players with a generally higher item level requirement. One of the greater misconceptions I quite frequently read is that more challenge would only benefit a very low percentage of the population, but if you make mechanics skill and not gear dependent, everyone is included.


Malabog's CastleThe first dungeon we are going to deal with is Malabog’s Castle. I like the original boss concepts, but of course nobody needs to follow any pattern any longer because DPSing works like a charm. The first two bosses have gotten so easy that adds became obsolete and the AoEs irrelevant. Decent groups in exmaple kill Fulminorax before Valindra can even enter the fight once.

I think it’s hard to tweak trash mobs, because any difficulty increase directly transfers into a higher item level requirement. And that’s what we want to avoid. But in my eyes you can enhance the bosses in an intelligent way that makes for more fun.

Krol Nightforge

Originally Krol Nightforge was a heavy hitter which spawned dangerous adds that had to be dealt with. Players also needed to pay attention to random fire AoEs that hit for significant damage. I think you don’t need to get too fancy with the first boss, but there should be a bit more spice to the fight.

Changes:

  • Outside the instance, players can interact with a fire shrine rewarding a ward that casts a protective cycle similar to the ones in the Tiamat fight. Only one player can pick up the ward.
  • The random catapult AoE impact should execute players and the ensuing fire DoT be lethal with its third hit. AoE lasts six seconds and spawns every 20 seconds.
  • The ward cast protects from both the impact and the fire DoT for 10 seconds. Cooldown 30 seconds.
  • The ward bearer constantly builds aggro throughout the fight against all adds that spawn.
  • During the two major add waves at 66% and 33%, the boss is damage immune until all adds are killed and heals up to 33% and 66%.
  • The boss gets a 500% rage damage increase against the ward holder.
  • In case the ward holder dies, the adds and the boss get a gloating damage buff of 250% for ten seconds. This also applies if the the player gets resurrected by Soulforge or another ability.
  • Adjust the boss HP to an appropriate level for today’s item levels.

We’re adding an additional mechanic with the protective ward and a more lethal catapult AoE. Any player hit by the AoE is killed and needs to make his way back from the entrance to the boss. No Soulforge, resurrective skills or other help. The ward bearer has to be aware of the situation and counter the AoEs when necessary, but can only negate every second one. While the tank has the boss, the group has to both DPS and protect the ward bearer from adds. Throughout the fight it gets increasingly harder to draw aggro away from the player that holds the ward. Even groups that decide to skip the mechanic and simply dodge the AoEs have to constantly deal with the adds to protect the ward bearer and since the fight has two forced stops, you can’t just DPS down the boss and deal with all the rest later.

This opens up a whole lot of strategic options. First of all a group has to decide who takes the ward. It can’t be the player who is on the boss because of the rage buff, so someone else than the tank most likely has to take duties. Do you let an off-tank take the ward, that is more resistant against the rising adds pressure, or a fast GWF or SW, who can reach spots faster? Or maybe the  healer, who needs to be aware of the battlefield anyway? Groups might also need to add control to deal with the adds and prevent damage from the ward holder.

King Malabog

MalabogThe second boss originally regularly triggered lightning phases, which would spawn elite adds that had to be killed while the tank kited the boss. As additional annoyance, Malabog’s dragon would help its master by spitting lightning AoEs on the battlefield. Today groups just DPS through the fight, ignoring the adds or the dragons breath. Fulminorax was avoided anyway in the past by pulling the boss and the adds towards the entrance.

Changes:

  • Outside the instance, players can interact with a lightning shrine rewarding a ward that casts a protective cycle similar to the ones in the Tiamat fight. Only one player can pick up the ward.
  • Change the dragon breath AoE to a targeted one that aims for a random player with the usual warning in advance. The impact should execute players and the AoE procs lethal damage once per second for three additional seconds. The ward bearer cannot be targeted and the dragon needs a clear line of sight on the cast. Cooldown 10 seconds.
  • The lightning phase procs at 75%/50% and 25% and the boss already goes damage immune while casting. The boss additionally heals up to 75%, 50% and 25%.
  • Instead of attacking, Witches have a ranged attack that stuns a random player for five seconds (control resistance applies). Players that are currently targeted by the dragon AoE are prioritized, otherwise the Ward bearer is the preferred target.
  • The ward cast protects from both the impact and the following procs for 10 seconds and has a 10 second cooldown.
  • The ward bearer constantly builds aggro throughout the fight against all adds that spawn.
  • The boss gets a 500% rage damage increase against the ward holder.
  • In case the ward holder dies, the adds and the boss get a gloating damage buff of 250% for ten seconds. This also applies if the the players gets resurrected by Soulforge or another ability.
  • Adjust the boss HP to an appropriate level for today’s item levels.

The second fight follows the pattern of the first boss, but adds to the difficulty bar a bit. Players are targeted directly and have to be protected by the Ward bearer constantly, especially if they get disabled by a Witch in a bad spot. If the Ward bearer is disabled himself, players can still avoid death by dodging or getting behind one of the pillars. Overall it gets slightly more challenging to protect both the players and the Ward bearer from adds and the AoEs, which should make the fight a constant adjustment to the current situation. The group can decide to fight behind pillars, but that raises the probability that a dragon AoE could hit multiple players, because there’s less room to work with.

Valindra & Fulminorax

Fulminorax

Finally Valindra and Fulminorax were a dynamic duo. The fight is disrupted by two flight phases, in which players need to dodge deadly AoEs and suck up constant damage. While fighting the dragon, Valindra would come down and either choke a random player or spawn a portal that kept dishing out adds until closed. Depending on the phase players needed to heal the choked players while simultaneously repeling Valindra or run to the portal and ideally close it before any add could spawn. Today, as mentioned, these mechanics play no part in the fight, because the are not even triggered. Add that some classes laugh up the air phase damage as it merely tickles them.

Changes:

  • Adjust the air phase at 66% and 33% AoE damage to an appropriate level for today’s HP and DR%. Tanks, defensive GWFs, CW with tabbed shield, player in Astral Shields and likewise should still be able to survive one hit for example.
  • The portal becomes a permanent feature of the fight. It switches locations every 30 seconds and cannot be closed. Instead it uses a visible timer to spawn an add every 15 seconds. A one-second interact resets the timer. The change of location should be announced five seconds prior by a system message.
  • The adds dish out a two-second stun with their jump attack. This CC can be mitigated by control resistance.
  • Portals and adds are immune to the air phase AoE and do not despawn.
  • Adjust the dragon HP and damage to an appropriate level for today’s item levels and HP pools.
  • Valindra comes down at 75%, 50% and 25% to choke a player for ten seconds. Additionally she hits for 40% of the target’s HP pool every second after two seconds that pierces normal DR%. She cannot be killed, but the more damage applied to her, the less HP% she drains from her target. The choke continues through the air phases.

The changes give the fight a completely new dynamic. You do not only have to DPS the dragon, but also assign at least one player to control the portal and burst damage Valindra to help the choked player survive. Not failing the portal becomes more important because the adds feature an annoying CC attack that becomes lethal in combination with various dragon attacks and the air phase.

A party has to define distinct roles and make a few decisions before the fight. Do you spread out to cover portal switches as soon as possible or let a runner take care of the situation? The game announcing the change of location should make it easier to reset the timer right before that and have sufficient time to reach the new location before an add spawns. A second player however has to serve as backup in case the assigned player gets caught by Valindra.

A tank has to be present to take the dragon so that the group can freely fill other duties if necessary and doesn’t have to deal with aggro at the same time. Valindra’s choke can be handled by pure DPS, heals, several sources of mitigation or damage interceptions (Knight’s Valor, Divine Protector, Astral Shield) or a combination of these. In any case players have to decide constantly whether to DPS the dragon or help with portals or the choke.

The design of the fight makes sure that any party has to at least go through three chokes and two air phases and parties have to manage dragon HP to not run into a combination of the two. The fight also scales well with power. The choke is as dangerous to item level beasts as to lowbies and more DPS only equals to a bit more convenience. Overall it’s a lot more important to position correctly, assign the roles and pay attention to what’s happening on the battlefield.


I had tons of fun thinking about boss fight designs that add to the dungeon while using the assets that are already there. If you have own ideas or just general comments, make sure to add them below or post them to our message board!

j0Shi

j0Shi

j0Shi plays the Neverwinter MMORPG since the open BETA in 2013 and is a regular contributor to the blog and the whole UN:Project. Originally a Guardian Fighter, he has built up ALTs of all classes and plays on BIS/near-BIS level.

3 thoughts on “Fixing The Neverwinter Dungeons: Malabog’s Castle

  • Avatar
    May 13, 2016 at 4:00 pm
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    Hey joshi and nwo followers.

    I personally have been following nwoun for quite a significant period of time. Glad to see folks still care about this game.

    I do like the changes. But I can guarantee something, the changes you have mentioned would be ridiculous for new players who would probably join the game as fresh inmates.

    These changes are excellent for BiS players but they would be devastative in nature for upcomimg new players (ofcourse assuming that new players are still joining this game which has been on its constant path of decline).

    Many factors affect these changes. My first suggestion would be for the developers to actually look into every class and make the paragon paths viable and then finally make all the paragon trees viable as well.

    This would bring us out of the constant phase of carbon copy builds which has totally ruined the game.

    2 paragon paths for each class with only 1 being mostly viable and then to top it off, 3 paragon trees and only 1 being viable for BiS toons, some classes are running different trees only to be trolls or with certain comps. Tbh the game lacks VARIETY.

    Sincerely,
    A concerned player. (Kingmak)

    Reply
  • Avatar
    May 14, 2016 at 5:06 pm
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    J0shi, please remember that this is a T1 dungeon, meaning, it is meant for players who have IL of a minimum of only 1.6k.

    I think you should take one of your project low-geared alts and solo queue for MC to see how the “typical” group does on it. I have been in a group that wipes several times at the second boss and really struggles to get past it, I have been in groups where Valindra teleports several times during the last boss, and only 2 people survive into the final phase of the last boss. For the typical party, I think this dungeon is about as hard as it was in Mod 1 or 2.

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  • Avatar
    December 13, 2016 at 1:10 pm
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    I am thinking that Joshi is basically applying the end game character to every dungeon, and because he is bis is bored with the lack of challenging dungeons. Solution is more dungeons. This anaysis is particularly betraying since it is for lvl 68 characters with IL 1600. Not 4k and bored.

    Reply

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