I /facepalm every time I open the Social Panel and see an LFM for Chronoscope with a level range of 10-20. All this tells me is that people want to press the easy button to get loot to pass to their lowbies. This is all well and good. There's nothing wrong with that. But this means that newer players often don't get the opportunity to run Chronoscope with an at-level group and actually learn something about how raids are run in DDO and get XP and helpful loot in the process. And the XP for Chronoscope is nothing to discredit. It is nearly 10k for a first-time completion on normal when you include the optionals. So how do you get Chronoscope done for XP and get loot your lowbie toon can actually use? It's not as hard as it sounds. I have successfully led a number of Chronoscope groups (PUGs even!) for full XP, always including at least one or two players who were completely new to the raid.
When the raid first came out I remember hearing about how difficult and challenging it was from someone in every group I ran. Some even went so far as to claim it wasn't even worth trying to run at-level. And while it was a rather difficult raid at first glance, I soon came to find out that it was mostly blowing smoke. The truth is, Chronoscope is only difficult if players take a casual attitude towards it. It's a tough quest, but within the quest itself are countless tools at your disposal to help you weather the devil storm. The following guide will teach you how to lead this raid with a group of at-level characters, succeed, and get full XP plus loot you can actually use for the characters running the raid!
Before You Enter The Raid
Chronoscope is conveniently located right by a guild airship tower. I don't believe for a second that this is coincidence. A number of guild buffs are extraordinarily useful for Chronoscope, especially considering that your at-level Chronoscope group might not be very well geared out yet. Guild buffs aren't necessary for this quest, but if there is at least one person in your at-level group with airship access, it makes sense to ask that person politely to provide everyone in the raid with an invite.
If you don't have access to guild buffs, it still makes sense to prepare. Everyone in the group should carry some method of mitigating damage from energy attacks, namely acid, fire, and sonic. But all energy resistances are useful. A stack of 10 pots of each will be more than sufficient (you could probably get away with 5) and any level 6 character should be able to afford these, which can easily be obtained by visiting the potion vendor conveniently located a hop, skip, and a jump away from the raid entrance.
And while you're at the potion vendor, don't forget a couple others. AC actually matters in Chronoscope for most characters because most of the monsters and even the purple-named bosses don't have attacks that are so high you get hit on a 2 or higher regardless of AC. An AC of about 30 on normal, 33 on hard, and 36 on elite will help you avoid the vast majority of attacks is actually fairly obtainable with a little bit of effort. Quaffing a barkskin pot and shield of faith pot right before a boss encounter can really help any melee who isn't a barbarian. Even if you can't quite hit the target numbers, getting as close as you can will really help reduce your incoming damage and make things easier on the healers.
Finally, make sure you bring the following:
-at least one bard
-at least one caster with haste
-at least two healers
This might sound like a no-brainer to anyone familiar with raid party building but it is absolutely critical for building a reliable no-fail at-level Chronoscope group.
Just As You Step Inside
This is where I have seen Chronoscope groups often fall apart. The very first skirmish of the raid is easy and doesn't require too many resources. This can lead groups to grow overconfident, especially those with players new to the raid. Point this out! Make sure people don't go running off through the portal and into the marketplace with reckless abandon because the rest of the raid will not be as easy. This is especially important because right after you complete the first skirmish and step into the marketplace you are presented with the opportunity to equip yourself with two game-changing advantages.
1) Just inside the Rusty Nail there are vendors who sell all sorts of things, from wands and potions to flametouched iron weapons. If any of your tanks do NOT have holy, pure good, or flametouched weapons already they NEED to get one of these weapons because at level 6 it is practically guaranteed that bypassing devil damage reduction is going to give them better DPS than whatever they are using (this is even more true at hard and elite where the devils have improved damage reduction). And if your tanks do have holy, pure good, or flametouched iron weapons make sure they are using them at all times. Devils teleport and can be on you before you have a chance to swap weapons. Better to be swinging as they port in than have to scramble to change your weapon and wait for the 1 second weapon swap cooldown. And the tieflings don't have so many hp that having another weapon is vital against them. Also make sure the healers grab a couple of wands if they do not already have their own supply. Healers should be using their wands for spot healing along the way and save their SP for emergencies and purple-named bosses.
2) Inside the Rusty Nail is a dimension door that leads to a roof high above the marketplace where an NPC named Veheer is standing. This is where the leader will come to advance the quest, but there is a great boon to having ALL your party members pop up here for only a moment. If a player talks to Veheer and asks him for aid he will cast a suite of buffs on you that virtually any level 6 player can take advantage of. His buffs include aid, bull's strength, bear's endurance, owl's wisdom, and eagle's splendor and they last for 30 minutes!
The mobs respawn in Chronoscope. Because of this I have heard leaders urge their party members to avoid the mobs and run from each primary objective to each primary objective. This is actually a terrible idea. First of all, fighting the trash mobs on the way and sticking together as a group is a good lesson to teach new players. Teaching them how to split into effective teams to deal with objectives faster is even better.
Divide healers up between groups, better yet, instruct healers to watch each other and split themselves. Instruct the rest to divide along relatively even numbers. Doing this, most of the optional objectives can be cleared in a matter of minutes. A simple way to do it is have one group go straight ahead from the Rusty Nail (towards the area where there are pawn brokers) while another group goes right (towards the Catacombs). Make sure your players know to take their time and control their aggro. Taking a few minutes to work on the optional objectives is a great team-building exercise and it will also help a raid leader get a feel for his team and make tactical adjustments if necessary. Noting things like squishy rangers or rogues and advising them to use ranged attacks against the purple-named bosses will help them to contribute to these battles without dying. Once each team has made it around to the bank, the leader should instruct everyone to wait inside (without moving) while he advances the story by talking to Tremas in the Phoenix Tavern.
Your First Purple
Bloodplate is an intimidating opponent. He has massive hp compared to what you have already faced in getting to level 6 and he does an extraordinary amount of damage in area attacks. If you paid attention to the first part of this guide, you already know you should have sonic resistance. This is about the time you need to be advising your tanks to drink their sonic resistance pots if you didn't get it from guild buffs. Doing this alone will prevent your tanks from dropping like flies. Next, make sure that everyone understands you have to kill the armorers first. Bloodplate, like many purple-named bosses, fights in waves and the trick to this battle is understanding that his armorers will heal him between waves. The mechanic behind boss wave fights differs from raid to raid but learning that there is a pattern will be incredibly helpful to new players down the line.
Your Second Purple
Razor Arm is a kitten compared to Bloodplate, at least in my experience. So defeating Bloodplate is akin to getting over the hump. However the trash mobs in the fight against Razor Arm are no joke. Those incredibly tough bearded devils seem to be ever more common in this fight and given the cramped quarters you have to stress to your tanks the need to protect your healers. Archers are also incredibly useful here since they can damage Razar Arm when he teleports out of melee range. Just make sure they understand that this might get them aggro. His elemental damage type changes. You can watch him closely for clues but its best to have any energy resistance available to you up for this fight.
Before The Tent
Before you enter the tent, it is advisable that you now complete any optional objectives that you didn't complete from your first time around the marketplace. If not, you might find yourself coming up short on the devils needed to earn all three chests.
Enter The Tent
Now you are ready for the final battle. The good news is that if you succeeded in getting here without undue difficulty you have an excellent chance of coming out of this fight relatively unscathed. The combined abishai can be tough, but somehow it seems to lack the punch of Bloodplate, especially if you have your energy resistances ready. Perhaps the most important part of this fight is to keep the combined abishai as stationary as possible to prevent overruns. Second of all, make sure your healers are defended from the bearded devils who port in from time to time.
If All Does Not Go According To Plan...
Take heart. The raid isn't over. Sometimes you might get unlucky. The healers die early in the fight and there are no elf paladins to raise them; it happens. But one of the most important lessons you can learn is not to quit, especially in this raid because the devs have given you a free mulligan! That's right, if your party wipes you will all be teleported back to the Rusty Nail where you can resurrect and regroup. Just make sure if this does happen you remember to visit Veheer again to refresh your buffs. So aside from losing the 10% bonus to XP for no deaths, which can happen anyway (and is nothing to be ashamed of), you don't have recall out and redo the raid all over again. And you can even do repairs inside the Rusty Nail at the vendors if you need to. No other raids currently give you this redo opportunity, but it is there so you might as well take advantage of it if worse comes to worst.
In summation, challenges can be rewarding. The loot is fantastic for a lowbie. The XP reward for Chronoscope is impressive for its level and that alone is likely to entice well-geared TRs to join you, which will (probably) improve your chances for success. And in addition, you contribute to expanding the knowledge and experience of new players in the DDO raiding mechanics. New players aren't going to learn anything by having a group of level 20s power them through this raid just so they can get loot. But they will learn an immense amount from taking on a challenge headfirst and learning how to use the tools available to them to succeed at a daunting task. They will also learn from failure. This raid is very forgiving. There are shrines everywhere and even on a wipe you get a do-over. Use these opportunities to learn from your mistakes, adapt your tactics, and succeed where you failed before. It builds character, literally and figuratively!
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and run your at-level Chronoscope group today!