With a nod to Natean's post: Crystal Cove 200 Crystals [General Guide/Tips] (http://forums.ddo.com/showthread.php...t=crystal+cove), which I will try to avoid duplicating, I have some more specific suggestions on how to maximize your Crystal Cove runs.
I'm revisiting this since I note that it hasn't received major updates since before Epic Crystal Cove was added
First... background assumptions (some unproven or unprovable):
I. Updated based on other ppls info: there are 2 colors of crystals, green and purple. Green are worth 1, Purple 10. GO FOR THE PURPLE.
Epic CC adds a 'Colossal Crystal' in one of the furthest parts of the map, which is worth 100. Most epic runs are thus all about reaching this crystal, for obvious reasons.
II. The areas nearest the Entry tend to have fewest purple crystals. Farming short runs is less productive.
This has proven to be untrue. Purple crystals are pretty randomly distributed, though there ARE some locations that seem more or less likely to have them.
III. Crystal Cove contains 2 shrines. DDOwiki indicates that there is always 1 shrine at the Entry, but that there will be another, whose location will vary among 5 or so possibilities (mostly in the 4 corners of the map).
IV. LOS (Line Of Sight) seems to matter. The bigger and flatter the area, the more leeway you have in torch placement. When things get tight or uneven, you need more care.
V. Healing torches are NOT path torches (Kobolds may follow a path with them in it, but will probably do so because they see the next incense torch). If you place 2 healing torches in a row, Kobolds will almost always turn around or stall. Healing torches are mostly a waste of time and resources. In the path, they just slow Kobolds down. I believe Kobolds can be healed. If you have a radiant burst cleric, have him heal them in groups at the harvest site.
Healing torches sometimes work, and if you get'em free for killing a redname, by all means use'em. Even so, try to never put two in a row and try to use'em in straighter spots if possible to reduce risks. Kobolds can be healed and buffed and anything else you want. Hasting them is particularly helpful.
VI. Kobolds are stupid AND they pause at every torch.
VII. Kobold AI.. best I can determine it: A Kobold has only a few imperatives.
a) Kobolds will tend to head in a given direction down a torch line (Go Newton!). Attacks can stop them and even make them temporarily reverse, but AFAIK, they will eventually return to that direction. Sometimes, they will simply stop moving and Stall. (Occasionally they may be chased completely out of sight of your torches, never to be seen alive again).
b) Stalled Kobolds will start moving again if you click (double-click?) them.
c) Empty handed Kobolds (also Kobolds who still have some empty barrels) will head for the nearest crystal outcrop. If no crystal outcrop, they will head for the next path torch. If an empty-handed kobold hits the last torch in a row and cannot see another torch or a crystal outcrop, it will turn around and head back.
d) Kobolds with full barrels (loaded Kobolds) will head for a teleporter if one is in sight. If no teleporter, they will head for the nearest torch on a path back to the Entry.
e) Kobolds who cannot see any torches or teleporters are lost. If they are empty-handed and see crystals, they will load up, but if they still cannot see torches or a teleporter, they will simply stand in place forever (best I can tell). These I'll call Stranded Kobolds. More observation of Stranded Kobolds may give additional insight, but AFAIK, all you can do is put a teleporter near them or build a line of torches to lead them back to the live path. Clicking on them as if they were simply Stalled will not get them going with no clear destination, IME.
Often Stranded Kobolds will simply return to the Foreman. NOTE: If you have the screen resolution to keep your map open, you can see where all the kobolds are at all times. More on this later.
f) Stupid tho they are, Kobolds will follow a torch run that drops off the side of the ramp successfully by traveling to the bottom of the ramp and then to the first torch at ground level. In contrast, if you run a set of torches to the bottom of the ramp and then East alongside it, each torch will connect not only to the torch ahead, but also to the ones on the ramp, confusing the Kobolds, who WILL MAKE A CHOICE OF PATH AT EVERY INTERSECTION.. frequently returning up the line to the foreman empty-handed in this particular case.
g) Empty-handed Kobolds will only use a teleporter if they can't see any torches or crystals. I'm told they will use DDoors; I assume the AI is the same.
Kobolds will indeed use a Dimension Door just like a teleporter.
VIII. You can either Drop items (drag them out of inventory) or Set them (double-click them). Settable items include Torches, Teleporters and Barrels. These do not disappear when dropped; they simply sit on the ground. Trading items takes longer than simply dropping them and having the other person pick them up.
IX. Torches attract mobs. Can't prove it, but I think they are attracted to the light. To maximize spawns, maximize torch paths
Given these assumptions, here are my suggestions for how to have the best possible runs:
1. Assign tasks. There are a few approaches, but not many. Here are the ones I know of, along with my suggestions:
a) Torch Layer. This is the key task and for best results, only 1 person should have this job. If other ppl collect torches from mobs, they should bring them to the Torch Layer and drop them at his feet (and let him know so he notices). A good torch layer is the difference between failure and 300 crystals.. literally.. very little else actually matters for success (with the possible exception of proper teleporter management). Torch Layer needs to learn exactly how far apart one can place torches and have them connect, and maximize that every time. Count seconds or paces or whatever works, but put them as far apart as possible. This minimizes torch use and maximizes kobold travel speed. (It has been pointed out that connect is not always necessary, depending on LOS, but it's still the ideal).
b) Designate an initial Buyer. Probably best to pick this person based on what requisition forms they have, but many people have the Torch Layer act as Buyer as well. Only 1 person at a time can talk to the Kobold Foreman; deciding who this will be in advance gets you started quicker. If it's the Torch Layer, it avoids the necessity to hand off items. If the Torch Layer is the initial Buyer, it is likely at least one set of additional purchases will have to be done by someone else after a few crystals are collected. Possibly the Torch Layer will have time to return to the Foreman while Defenders (see below) are scouting. If not, someone else will have to do this.
c) Optionally, have a Goalie. Goalie will stay at or near the (base of the) entry ramp to let you know if an attack is endangering the foreman and to buy additional equipment as needed or possible.
Nobody seems to have picked up on this terminology. Most commonly this person is known as a 'Guard' or says they will 'Guard the Center'.
d) Optionally designate a Teleporter Manager to move the teleporter(s) as required (see below). If not a separate task, this usually falls to the Torch Layer.
Ongoing experience suggests that the Scouts/Line runners are a better choice for moving the teleporter down the line, since they're likelier to be near it, and the Torch Layer is likely intersections ahead extending the line.
e) Everyone else is in the Defenders. Their job is initially to scout out the direction suggested by the Torch layer and kill any mobs along the path, possibly also letting him know where the best resources are. After the initial scout, their job is to defend the Kobolds, hurry them along, and heal them if possible. Defenders will spend a lot of time running up and down the torch line.
And thus now generally are told to 'Run the Line'. Again, the terminology I picked didn't catch on.
Note: Anyone not in the Defenders group should be fairly self-sufficient as they may lack backup at any given moment.
Best choice to guard center is often a healer. If there's only 1, that's the place for them.
2. Initial Purchase: Buy (in order of priority) a dozen torches, a teleporter, and as many barrels as possible. Depending on who does this, drop the items you don't intend to use yourself on the ground for others to pick up. Let the group know what you bought. (By observation, within about 30sec of quest entry, kobolds will have turned in close to 20 crystals. At a minimum, that should allow purchase of 10-12 torches and a teleporter. Even better, tho, turning in a teleporter requisition puts one in your inventory for free).
3. Followup Purchase: You should only have to do this one time after the initial purchase. There is never a good reason to buy something later; the sooner you own it, the sooner (and longer) you get the benefit. Buy a 2nd teleporter (and a 1st if the initial purchase didn't include one), as many barrels as the instance will allow based on your requisitions, however many healing torches you intend to use (up to 2, IMO) and any additional incense torches and Kobold workers you plan on using. Deliver them to whoever will be using them. (But if you bought any healing torches, Set 1 near the Foreman, and Set all the barrels at the beginning of the torch line for empty-handed Kobolds to pick up.)
Never buy a healing torch. They cost more and aren't worth it. But if you must, buy only 1 and use it to replace the torch closest to the Foreman at the top of the ramp. They'll be near it longer than at any other point along the line and it's a safe place for them to hang out that tiny bit longer that they seem to at a healing torch.
4. Defenders: As suggested by Natean, clear out the South area (I'll call it Room 1) right away. That gives your Kobolds something to do while you pick a direction (and there is almost always a Purple outcrop or two in there). After that, either the Torch Layer or the leader of the Defenders needs to pick a direction to scout for Purples and send/lead the Defenders that way. Since the map is essentially an orthagonal maze, simple directions like 'Purples at EESE' would be great. Make clear whether you are directing every turn or only intersections.
This has worked out well enough to have become common practice. Even with voice, you'll hear things like 'incoming from WS'. Personal preference in non-epic CC is to scout the EN loop first and then down to the waterfall. In Epic CC, it's normal practice to simply clear a line to the Colossal Crystal. (Note: Clear 1 intersection off the line on both sides.. mobs sometimes spot kobolds on the line (or torches?) and move toward it, which can mess up your whole day).
5. Torch Layer: Correct the instance's initial torch layout. You can steal the 2 torches from just inside the entry by the rest shrine (behind you when you appear in the instance). Run a straight line of torches to Room 1 in the South and if you have a teleporter already, place it just inside the entry to that room. Remember that it's OK to run the torch line off the side of the ramp, but not OK to have triangular or square torch connections.. only a line.
6. Torch Layer: I can not say this loud enough or often enough: Only ONE live torch run at a time. Multiple runs simply split your resources in defending your kobolds and require the use of more torches and teleporters. So I repeat.. only ONE live run of torches. Your live run may pass multiple crystal outcrops, but the kobolds will farm the first one they encounter along the path. This is your Harvest Site. Watch carefully for triangular connections.. Kobolds will choose a direction every time they are presented with a choice and may turn around and head back empty-handed or travel in a circle if presented with such choices.
No doubt there's more on this later, but it still stands up. Take the extra time at corners to make sure your torches don't connect in triangles. It'll save you a lot of grief later (kobolds turning around empty-handed).
7. Defenders should stay together in groups while scouting to minimize damage while cleaning up initial mobs.
This doesn't always happen.. but it should. Every major vertex on the map tends to start with skeletons, skeleton archers and zombies (5-ish is usual on epic runs). Clearing with 2 or 3 people goes MUCH faster and reduces damage taken considerably. The exception may be some arcanes and divines who may be able to take out a full set solo quickly and easily.
8. Teleporter Manager: Get a teleporter. Get it early. Place it just North of Room 1 to start with, then move it as necessary to just on the entry-side of your current Harvest Site. When that crystal patch is empty, move the teleporter on to the near side of the next Harvest Site. A 2nd teleporter is a very useful option. If you get a 2nd, place it at the next Harvest Site before the first one is cleared, then go back and pick up the old one. This way no kobold ever misses the opportunity to teleport back. If no Teleport Manager, either the Torch Layer or any Defender can move the teleporter in this fashion.
9. ALL: Kobolds don't die often IME. That being the case, most of the hat auras are a waste of resources. IMO, everyone should get Haste Aura. Note that the spell Haste appears to work on Kobolds as well. It has been recommended to me that the blur aura is also useful in that it reduces the likelihood of kobolds being hit by mobs, panicking, and running useless places (like back up the line, but I once found a Kobold soulstone in a corner of the map, on a solo run where I laid not a single torch.. clearly he fled there).
Hats seem to be less ubiquitous these days, especially at higher levels and since the 'Invitations' that gave everyone a free hat only happened the first year. Kobolds DO die some, especially in epic runs. Usually that happens because the torch line is run to the far reaches of the map and it's impossible to be everywhere at once.
NOTE: Although the only verbal warning you get of attackers comes from the Foreman when mobs enter the center room, if you have the screen resolution to keep your map open, kobolds being hit are visible as flashing red. This is very useful information to those running the line. If you can see and have voice, tell others (not everyone will have the resolution or think to keep their map open).
10. Dead Ends (the only complicated bit and open to alternative approaches... chose this as simplest of the best options):
a) Torch Layer: When your torch run hits a dead end (as it eventually will), scout a new path to a new destination, decide from where on your existing path you intend to start a new run, and start laying torches along the new path. DO NOT CONNECT THIS LINE TO THE LIVE LINE. Leave at least 2 torches missing at the beginning of the run so kobolds will not see the new run until you are done with the old one.
If you have a 2nd teleporter, you may optionally get it from the Teleport Manager and place it at the first Harvest Site along the new path. This only makes sense once you are harvesting the last or possibly second-last site along the old path.
b) Torch Layer: Ask Teleport Manager to let you know when the last Harvest Site along the old path is almost cleared out. When he does, lay the 2 torches missing from the new path to connect it. Then remove the first 2 torches from the old path so new empty-handed Kobolds will only follow the new path.
c) Torch Layer: Return along the old path, collecting torches as you go (you will undoubtedly be following Kobolds).
d) Teleport Manager: When Torch Layer comes in sight picking up the old path, he will be herding Kobolds. These Kobolds will not use the teleporter until the last torch has been picked up. Wait for the last Kobold to use the teleporter, then grab it and run back down old path and up new path to place it ASAP.
11. Just a note about aggro, suggested by my friend Kimberlyte on Orien. Pull combat off the torch line whenever possible and as much as possible, to avoid interfering with Kobold travel. Good use of intimidate can make a lot of difference here. A single hit on a mob that does damage works as well. This is the real value in bothering to have a Goalie: he can pull the mobs away from the ramp until the remaining Defenders can arrive, keeping the Kobolds moving uninterrupted.
Purple crystals are so much more valuable than greens that it may be worthwhile babysitting Kobolds carrying purples to see that no harm comes to them. NOPE.. just make sure they teleport.
Economize. Buying everything just because you can wastes resources and makes it harder to hit 300. Keep in mind that named mobs drop torches, barrels and requisitions.. maybe even teleporters, but I can't prove that ATM. Never seen a teleporter drop from a redname.. only requisitions.
Fewer Kobolds with multiple barrels is better than more Kobolds each with a single barrel. Sometimes groups of Kobolds get in each others' way and they mill around wasting time, and they can also get in the way of the Defenders either moving from place to place or targeting mobs on or near the line. Since the cost of 3 single-barrel Kobolds is identical to the cost of one 3-barrel Kobold and Kobolds seldom die, there is no good argument for more Kobolds with fewer barrels.
Following this (not as simple as it sounded in my head) set of guidelines will maximize your crystal-gathering efficiency. I am eagerly anticipating feedback on anything I overlooked or additional information to fine-tune this.