Winnie Part Nine: Pit of Despair

Duke Winnie continues Hell Act I at clvl 72.

The Tamoe Highland is the largest of the outdoor spaces in Act I, and yet for this very reason it's one of the easier parts of the Act. It usually has skeleton mages instead of archers, and there are no shamans with resurrecting minions. On this occasion, the Highland was mostly full of dark hunters (corrupted rogues), who were speedy but otherwise not much of a threat. Of course, there was the usual gamut of bosses: Cursed/CEB/Conviction aura rogue, Extra Fast/Cursed/CEB rogue, Fanaticism aura/CEB/Cursed skeleton mage, and so on. This is par for the course in Hell though! Winnie had tons of retreat room and handled all threats in safety.

I went ahead to the Outer Cloister next in order to secure the waypoint. The biggest danger here was an Extra Strong/Stone Skin/Cursed black rogue, who was killing Pooh Bear in seconds. I had been keeping an eye out for dangerous rogue bosses, however, ever since I remembered Svava getting smacked around by them in Rogue Revival. With the Ravens scouting out the location of enemies, Winnie stayed safe.

The Pit is often full of dangerous bosses, since there are always rogue archers of some kind lurking down there. However, Winnie really lucked out on this particular trip: all of the bosses and champ packs on the first floor of the Pit turned out to be devilkin! And even when juiced up with Extra Fast, or bonus damage via Cursed or Extra Strong, devilkin are still devilkin. Pit 1 therefore did not pose any problems, and I have no interesting stories to relate. Just cleared out all of the monsters in methodical fashion.

Pit 2 was a whole different story, however. The entrance was packed - PACKED - with monsters out the wazoo. There was at least one boss in there, whose abilities I didn't see when briefly scanning through the crowd. Pooh Bear was swarmed in seconds, and quickly overwhelmed. There had to be almost 20 enemies surrounding him, and I realized that Winnie was going to be forced out of the level within seconds. Rather than give up on the floor, I raced Winnie deeper into the level, heading off to the right where there is often a small pocket of safety. Only... on this trip, there was no security there whatsoever. Just a Holy Shock wench with another crew of minions, plus even MORE devilkin. There was nowhere to go and no time to open a town portal. I had already drunk three full rejuvs, and the situation was falling apart by the second. I had no choice but to Save and Exit, or Winnie most certainly would have died.

Now I hate to do this, but sometimes with a Hardcore character you simply have no other option. I was not going to stick around and fight a suicidal battle. However, I didn't plan on giving up on the Pit Level 2 (even though that would have been the sane thing to do with a Hardcore character!) Now that I had some knowledge of the monster draw, and the understanding that any movement deeper into the level would prove fatal, I could start formulating a plan of attack for a repeat attempt at the same map. If I could be careful and wake up fewer enemies at the start, I believed that I had a good chance to clear it out successfully.

On the return trip to the Pit (new session), the skeleton mages in the Tamoe Highland had been replaced by rogue archers, which were much more dangerous. I ended up having to kill a lot more enemies than I wanted to, simply because it wasn't safe to rush forward into the dungeon. Inside the Pit the first floor was also packed with archers, making for more slow and careful going. At least I knew the map layout now, and could keep unwanted fights to a minimum. Winnie did level up to 73 during these repeat engagements - nothing I could do about that.

My mistake in the initial trip into the Pit 2 had been to move into the level too deeply; Winnie simply woke up too many opponents at once. If I could keep the initial rush to a half-dozen monsters, rather than the 15 or so that appeared the first time, Pooh Bear would have enough time to tank them down before being overwhelmed. As part of this plan, I actually unsummoned Pooh before heading down to the bottom floor. This way, he wouldn't wander too far into the level and wake up more than I wanted to. OK... *deep breath* Let's do this thing, and do it right.

The plan started out working well. With no Pooh Bear to wander off to the south, Winnie didn't wake up anything on coming down the stairs. Then Amplisa literally RAN to directly to the south, unleashing a tidal wave of monsters! Argh, what are you doing, you stupid girl?!?! Bad Amplisa! Pooh Bear was immediately summoned to block the choke point, but Winnie was already in deep trouble. An archer boss was racing into the picture along with her minions, with abilities Extra Strong/Multishot/FEB. That... was really, really bad.

Amplisa died almost immediately (arrowed), and I was happy to have her dead for the moment. Easier to manage the situation that way. I summoned Pooh right into the middle of the archer mob, and got the boss to run away from her companions and into the top right corner, where I re-summoned Pooh to trap her and get the quick kill. However, this left Winnie exposed to attack, and he took a full barrage of Extra Strong Multishot fire, which easily did over 1000 damage! If Oak Sage had not been running in the background, that would have been the end of Winnie's quest right there. I drank a rejuv immediately, and with the first boss dead, did my best to reasses the situation. The archer minions were still sniping away at Winnie, and there were devilkin running around everywhere, plus a devilkin boss whose abilities I hadn't had time to see yet. Something Cursed. With the situation collapsing, I took a moment to retreat back to town by going back up the stairs.

Revived Amplisa in town (wish real life worked like that, heh), healed up and grabbed some additional full rejuvs from stash. Upon returning back to the Pit 2, Winnie could finally see the abilities of the devilkin boss: Cursed/Stone Skin/Extra Strong. Great, just great.

With help from Amplisa, Pooh Bear slowly tanked down this mob of opponents (with Winnie Cursed all the while) and waited until Solar Creeper had eaten all the corpses. Then I moved Winnie over to the right side of the area, still up on the top level, where another avalanche of devilkin (accompanied by devilkin champs) awaited, with more archers firing away from the bottom level all the while. I had a tiny amount of retreat room, so I strung these monsters out by fighting back at the staircase again, using the narrow chokepoint for all it was worth. That left untold amounts of gore on the ground:

This picture doesn't even contain the blood and bodies from the initial battle, which were cleaned up when Winnie returned to town. That was the worst of the level, although there remained plenty of devilkin, rogue archers, and finally the devilkin shaman left to go on the bottom floor. There was never a doubt once Winnie had room to work, and the whole level was cleared out end to end:

What a mess. These pictures don't even do it justice, so many dozens of monsters packed into such a tiny area. I was so glad to get this area over with, you have no idea. The good news was that Winnie had completed the last of the "terrible twos", and I had an excellent chance at completing the rest of the Act if I played things smart.

The Barracks is usually full of bosses, and this trip certainly held true to form. Winnie ran into six bosses and another champ pack, most of them dark rogues or hell clan goats. The toughest encounter was a double boss pack, Mana Burn/Cursed/Stone Skin rogue along with Magic Resistant/Cursed/CEB goat, who were located together in the same room!

I managed to avoid fighting them together with some quick footwork, and the Cursed attribute had them do themselves in with Spirit of Barbs. There were so many bosses, I don't even have time here to talk about the Multishot/LEB skeleton mage boss! The Smith came up Extra Strong/FEB/CEB and was frankly one of the easiest opponents in the whole area. Winnie could deal with those abilities with no sweat.

Jail 1 was full of dark ones, two different bosses and a champ pack of the little guys. Good thing their shamans don't appear until the Cathedral. There were also a handful of ghosts down on this level, and one of them popped up as a boss: FEB/CEB/Cursed. Although this was still a pain to deal with, Winnie had enormously more room to work with here compared to the Forgotten Tower, and thus managed a safe (if not exactly fast) victory. Jail 2 was mostly bone warriors and bone mages, with the usual gauntlet of boss traits. There was an Extra Fast/Fanaticism/Teleportation skeleton mage boss, a Multishot/Cursed skeleton archer boss (fun stuff!), and two more Cursed bosses - a dark one and another skeleton archer - near the exit of the level. Cursed was a theme of this area, it seemed.

Pitspawn Fouldog is always Cursed/CEB of course, and along with that he was Mana Burn/Teleportation, thus drawing pretty tame extra abilities. He and his minions were content to sit back and shoot lightning blobs rather than try to swarm Winnie, and that allowed Pooh Bear to down them one at a time in relative safety. Jail 3 was more of the same, lots of random goats, skeleton mages, and dark ones, with bosses scattered all over the place. To be honest, this area came at the end of a lengthy session, and all of the opponents were beginning to run together in my mind. As such, I have no real comments on this area, as Winnie simply continued to do the same things he had been doing before. I was very glad to get the Inner Cloister waypoint and secure my progress for the night.

The Cathedral was busy, very busy. There is usually a boss of some kind right at the entrance doors, but on this occasion there were actually two tainted bosses: Spectral Hit/Extra Strong/Stone Skin and a second one whose abilities failed to show up my screenshots, despite repeated attempts to take his picture (whatever). Together, they forced multiple retreats back into the Inner Cloister where there was safe room to operate. Making matters worse was a dark one shaman boss in the left alcove, who drew an interesting combo of Multishot/LEB/Extra Fast. His minions had been mixed in with the double tainted boss pack, making the battle for the Cathedral entrance that much more interesting. Compared to that triple threat, Bone Ash was a pushover, despite his five-fold trait combo of Magic Resistant/Extra Strong/CEB/Extra Fast/Teleportation. (Why is he always Extra Strong despite not having a melee attack to benefit from it? Heh.)

Cats 1 was packed with bosses; I counted eight of them, split between more dark ones and their shamans, lightning-spitting tainted, and gibbering rat men. Since this is not a particularly large area, that meant that there was a boss around virtually every corner. The toughest of these were probably the rat men bosses, since they had the greatest speed and their small size made them hard to see in the darkness. An LEB/FEB/Extra Strong rat man was likely the worst of the bunch, although Winnie had some lengthy running fights against dark one shamans and their attendant hordes as well. Cats 2 was also boss city, but more interestingly it was also the location of probably the biggest blunder I had committed in the whole variant run to date. Pooh Bear was facing off against a CEB/Extra Strong/Cursed arach spider boss through a doorway, and here I have the silly little idea to walk up next to the boss to get a better picture. Gee, does that sound smart to you? Winnie took a hit from an Extra Strong/Cursed boss while I WASN'T running Oak Sage!

Winnie only has 1100 life when employing Spirit of Barbs, so this was major damage. I drank a full rejuv and ran back to safety - but I never needed to expose Winnie to danger in the first place! What a dumb move that was. At least I got the picture, heh. The rest of the level was full of dark ones and their shamans (I am really getting sick of the endless resurrectables!) plus the usual run of bosses, including a Multishot/Cursed/Holy Fire tainted boss. Winnie seems to be drawing Cursed a lot as a boss trait of late, which is not a good thing.

Cats 3 actually answered my wish, and did not have any dark ones or shamans - yay! Instead, it was packed with ghouls (zombies) and banished one (vampires), just the two monster types. There were a pair of interesting boss fights on this level, the first coming against a Stone Skin/Fanaticism/FEB ghoul, the Stone Skin ability having him turn up Physical Immune. The zombie minions were still pathetically slow even with the Fanaticism aura, and I used my standard drill for this type of fight: Spirit of Barbs until only the boss was left, then corner him against the wall with Pooh Bear and have Amplisa slowly dish out elemental damage, with minor assistance from Spirit of Wolverine. Everything worked like a charm against "Black Blister" - even the name sounds unpleasant!

The toughest fight came in the very last room Winnie explored, a double boss pack with an Extra Strong/CEB/Teleportation ghoul and a Spectral Hit/Cursed/Holy Freeze aura vampire. I was able to lure the zombies away from the vampire boss, where Spirit of Barbs took them out, but this was still a difficult encounter, with vampire fireballs flying around all over the place and the zombies dealing major damage with the Extra Strong/Cursed combination. Handle with caution!

Alright, last task to complete in Act I: Cats 4. I've always liked the way this Act ends, so let's try to finish up in style. Winnie cleared out the first two rooms with amazing speed (I had tons of practice cleaning up dark ones and their shamans!) and then proceeded to enter Andy's lair. The first job was cleaning out the dark ones and two more shamans in the left and ring wings of the long corridor, which I managed to do without waking up Andariel. Then a zombie boss appeared in the center of the hall: Teleportation/Stone Skin/Extra Strong, another Physical Immune!

OK, that was not what I needed to be playing around with on Cats 4, another PI boss. Fortunately, Winnie managed to lure the zombie and his crew out without waking up Andy, then it was a relatively simple task to lure them all back to the blood pool, slay the minions with Spirit of Barbs, and then get the boss himself with Amplisa's bow. That finished, Winnie could finally begin the fight against Andy herself:

I had bought about a half-dozen Antidote potions ahead of time, and they were extremely useful here. Any time Winnie got hit by her poison spray, I simply opened the inventory and drank one. In fact, I even had enough to feed a couple to Amplisa, in order to keep her alive too. Spirit of Barbs was reflecting tons of damage to Andariel, even though she was killing Pooh Bear at an unprecedented rate. She was smacking the daylights out of my poor furry companion like you couldn't believe; Winnie had to drink four mana potions just from resummoning Pooh over and over again! In the end, it all worked out as planned and Winnie got ready to catch the Caravan east.

The one insult was that Andariel's final death explosion apparently poisoned Amplisa, and she suddenly dropped dead a few seconds later while I was looking at the treasure drops. Ridiculous! I kept her alive all through the fight, for that to happen?! Sigh. I'm not counting that as a formal death, because that wasn't my fault. The battle was freakin' over! Anyway, all of Andy's stuff was junk. Winnie will next see you in Act II, still alive, still searching for that +3 druid summoning club.