The Rogues had finally made their way to Harrogath, and what would be the final stages of their quest (or at least the three-dot portion of it). Act Five Hell can throw all sorts of strange monster combinations at the player, so we would never be entirely sure what the Rogues would encounter on any given night. We could guess what would be appearing in the Bloody Foothills though: more Quill Rats and Burning Dead Archers!
The Bloody Foothills were packed with humongous swarms of both those enemies, a very serious threat for our Rogue group. This is one of the many bosses we fought on the night, a Multiple Shot/Lightning Enchanted Archer boss. Extra Fast too, although that wasn't the dangerous part. It was very slow going, as digging out entrenched groups of archers forced the Rogues to return to town frequently for more potions. We did finally catch up to the big boss at the end of the area:
Shenk whipped all his minions into suicide status, but stuck on the other side of this ridge they had no chance to reach us and were shot down in compete safety. Shenk himself fared no better. This boss was just about the easier fight of the entire evening! It took the full 3 hours just to reach Shenk, and roughly a quarter of the map was still left uncleared. The Rogues grabbed the waypoint and called it a night. Huge headache to deal with, the only plus being that it really felt like Harrogath was under "siege" on this outing.
The next session was one with an unusually small group; Jaffa was still away traveling, and Sirian had to miss as well. Dathon's connection also was very flaky all evening, frequently leaving only four Rogues in the fighting. Despite that fact, the team made good progress throughout the night. We were jumped by Eldritch and his Extra Fast crew at the Frigid Highlands waypoint, as usual:
The standard tactics were followed for situations like this, with a couple of Rogues drawing the worst of the enemy pack down into the Bloody Foothills and then parking them at a portal. Once we had cleared some space out in the Highlands, we returned and finished off the boss pack, at which point in time the above picture was taken. Nice work from everyone involved.
There were still tons of Burning Dead Archers in the Frigid Highlands, but no Quill Rats, and that made the night much, much easier. The Imps and Death Maulers were a breeze compared to those Quill Rats (who hit hard, can poison Rogues, and can't be meleed thanks to their Thorns ability). Svava swapped to her shield setup and tried to serve as the team tank for the evening, which seemed to work well. Our small team made great progress, completing the whole "free the barbarians" quest along the way through the Highlands. The following picture deserves some explaining:
As part of the Rogues' full-clear pace, all of the enemies must be hunted down and destroyed. One of the Imps in the Highlands kept taking refuge in this barricaded tower, so we tried to fight the tower. These stupid things have so many hit points, we spent a good 5-10 minutes doing nothing but fighting a stationary tower! Beware us mighty Rogues, who can barely kill something that doesn't even fight back! Dathon's connection dropped, he came back in and asked us, "Where are you guys?" "Still fighting the tower..." This took so long, in the future we resolved just to skip these things, as it wasn't worth the time investment. We also found out how to lure imps out of the things by baiting them, and that helped too.
The Rogues managed to clear the entire Frigid Highlands in this session and entered the Arreat Plateau, although we couldn't make our way to the waypoint there. On the next night, with Sirian having rejoined us and Dathon's Internet connection behaving properly, we returned to the Frigid Highlands waypoint and began advancing from there, not needing a full-clear this time around. The Frigid Highlands waypoint was trapped again, double boss pack (instead of just Eldritch), but we managed to park the worst of it in different directions with portals and restore the situation. Abbadon dungeon was right by the waypoint, so the Rogues ran that next (we had skipped it in the previous session) and found it packed end to end with Horror Archers. The Stranglers and Frenzytaurs also in there were a joke, but the archers were real monsters. This was the worst situation involving those Horror Archers in the sub-dungeon:
It's a boss pack grouped together there against the wall; I cut-and-pasted the boss stats at the top from another picture. That was only the beginning of the mob of archers though; a second archer boss wandered up from the south with all of his minions too, making the situation that much worse. Hit and run with Frozen Orb, as illustrated in this picture, was the Rogues' best offense here. I recall that Svava got stunlocked and killed here, even with her 60% faster hit recovery gear on. The poison that the archers sometimes delivered was also rough, draining my life from full to empty in about 2 seconds. Yikes!
Clearing Abbadon took over an hour; after that, Sirian teleported ahead to free the barbs and get that quest done (since he was missing it), then we reset from a portal up near the Arreat Plateau. That's where the team ran into this fellow:
We had of course killed Eyeback in the previous session as well, but the better picture was from this one. Despite being Extra Fast/Extra Strong, he went down pretty easily. The Rogues found the waypoint relatively quickly in the Arreat Plateau and stopped there for the night with 90% of the new area uncleared. The monster draw was noticeably tougher on this evening than it had been the night before.
Naturally, the next evening started out at Arreat Plateau waypoint, where the Rogues ran into a nasty Cursed/Mana Burn/Might Aura spear cat that put everyone on the ground (except Sirian, who said he escaped by pure luck). I did not manage to get a picture of that deadly furball, but did snap this from a fight shortly thereafter:
This guy was nowhere near as difficult; the Rogues kept their distance and whacked him down with their bows. On the whole, the monster draw in the Plateau was quite friendly, and we made rapid progress through the area. The team went down into the Pit of Acheron sub-dungeon and had a nice draw there too: Corpse Eaters, Imps, and Greater Mummies. This was certainly a huge (and refreshing!) contrast to the masses of Horror Archers in the previous such dungeon. One Corpse Eater boss made for a nice picture:
Aww, poor baby, stuck over there with no way to reach us. Doom Growler did have Teleportation, but never hopped over to where we were. The aftermath of the battle was noteworthy as well:
Those Corpse Eaters are so messy when they have their meals! Anyway, the Rogues made rapid progress with this friendly draw and cleared out the area in about 20-30 minutes. The Arreat Plateau was so easy that it was full-cleared as well, even this guy not posing any particular threat:
With two areas full-cleared already and still time remaining on the night, the Rogues headed down into the Crystalline Passage. There were Cold Mages and Vipers down there, but again the monster draw simply wasn't that hard. Fortune continued to shine on the Rogue team, as we then found the Passage waypoint and the entrance to the Glacial Trail - still with time remaining - so the Rogues continued on into the Glacial Trail to find that waypoint as well. Some Vipers encountered there objected to the rapid progress the group was making and put up a decent fight:
Cursed and Mana Burn is never a great combo, and the Extra Fast speed had these things zipping all over the place tossing bone spears. Anyway, after this boss was eliminated the Rogues did manage to find the Glacial Trail waypoint right at the end of the session and called it a night, marking the most successful session in ages. Now that may have been due to the easy monster draws, but the Rogues still managed to clear two areas and find two new waypoints - something not seen since the days of Nightmare. At this rate, we'll be at Baal in two more sessions! Unfortunately, that wasn't exactly a rate that the Rogues could match every night, so there were still plenty more nights of long slogging through the ice caves of Act Five ahead for the Rogue team.