Craglorn Interview with Rich Lambert

aetherian-mageTamriel Foundry is thrilled to feature an interview with Rich Lambert, Lead Content Designer for The Elder Scrolls Online and the mastermind behind the game’s first adventure zone of Craglorn and its trials of Hel Ra Citadel and the Aetherian Archive. This adventure zone will be the first major content expansion for ESO, adding an entire new zone as well as the hugely anticipated 12-player PvE trials.

Read on to check out our question and answer interview for some great insight into the design objectives of these trials and the challenges that players can expect to encounter within them.

Q: Rich, thank you so much for agreeing to answer some of our biggest questions about Craglorn and Trials for the Tamriel Foundry community. Could you start by sharing with everyone your role on the ESO team and how you’ve been involved with the creation of the game’s first adventure zone?

My pleasure! My name is Rich Lambert and I am the Lead Content Designer on ESO. In a nutshell, it’s my job to lead the content department and work with each of the teams to develop all the zones, dungeons, and Trials in the game.

Q: The Elder Scrolls Online seems to be pioneering its own unique slant on high-level group PvE, butwas there any specific encounter from a past MMO which inspired you to do something fun or cool during the development of a Craglorn Trial? What were some of your favorite group PvE memories from other games?

Craglorn as a concept is something that I’ve wanted to build since pretty much day one of ESO’s development. It harkens back to some of the old school games, (ugh I said ‘old school’) where grouping was really important for survival and stuff was hard. As a player, I definitely lean towards the “raiding” scene when I play MMOs. I raided in EQ and in WoW and a lot of my fondest PvE memories stem from those games. If I could only pick one moment, it would probably have to be from EQ and being the first guild to wake the Sleeper. I think I still have screenshots stashed away somewhere of that infamous day on The Rathe.

Q: We’ve learned that the first Trial in the game is the fortress of “Hel Ra Citadel”. However, we’ve also seen mention of the mysterious “Aetherian Archive.” Could you give a short spoiler-free explanation of these locales which set the flavor for what players may find there? Will both Trials be available when Craglorn launches, or is Hel Ra the focus of Craglorn and Aetherian Archive is for a later challenge?

Hel Ra Citidel once served as a forward base and training hall for the Yokudans when they invaded Tamriel long, long ago. The Trial itself is focused on the story of the Warrior Celestial and is more grounded in nature. On the other hand, the Aetherian Archive was once a research facility for a renegade group of mages who wished to study Tamriel without limits. The Trial here centers on the story of the Mage Celestial and is extremely high magic. Both of these Trials will be available when Craglorn launches.


One of the many formidable bosses which players will encounter in Craglorn’s trials.

Q: In a recent “Ask Us Anything”, you revealed that you could enter Craglorn stating at Veteran Rank 1. Are the Trials within Craglorn tied to the main story quest for that zone? Will players need to first progress through the group content of the adventure zone in order to access its Trials? If there is some sort of attunement or keying required, will everyone in the group need to have completed this step?

The Trials are tied to the zone in that they help to further flesh out the story of the Mage and the Warrior celestials, but you don’t have to do any kind of attunement or get a special key to enter them. You can just show up at the entrance, form up a group, and enter the Trial.

Q: One of the most frustrating aspects of current veteran dungeons for organized groups involves loot allocation. The most desirable drops from Veteran Dungeons are not able to be traded to other members of your party. Does loot allocation from Trial encounters function similarly to veteran dungeons where every participant receives their own loot? Does this equipment typically bind on acquire, or can Trial loot be traded amongst your group in some way? It would be really great to be able to give that awesome shield that drops to our tank who would actually use it!

Loot in Trials is handled the same way as in regular dungeons – where everyone gets their own roll on the loot table. The loot from the bosses, quest rewards, and leaderboard rankings are all BOP (bind on pickup/account).

Q: Will crafting play a large role for upgrading equipment earned in Craglorn? Can equipment earned in trails be upgraded using the same set of crafting tools used for other items in the game? For a number of reasons, legendary upgrade components are already very plentiful in the game’s economy. Have you considered alternative systems for allowing players to improve raid quality loot?

The loot that drops in the Trials can be upgraded just like loot from Veteran Dungeons or any other drop.

Craglorn features a haunting and shattered landscape.

Craglorn features a haunting and shattered landscape.

Q: The concept of “bannermen” as mentioned in your recent overview of Craglorn Trials sounds like an awesome way to make “trash” pulls more interesting. How many different varieties of bannermen are there in Craglorn’s Trials? Are the locations of bannermen ever randomized? Can you give any further details on how this system makes Craglorn’s Trials more challenging?

Bannermen are basically the group busters in the Trials. Each has its own unique set of challenges and when you get a couple of them together at once, the group is in for a world of hurt if they aren’t dealt with correctly. Each Trial has its own unique set of three Bannermen and they are generally found mixed within regular monsters.

Q: A large concern for groups who aspire to challenge for top times on the Trial leaderboards is that the PvP campaign bonuses provide a significant advantage for players who are members of a dominant campaign. An additional 250 health for every player combined with 6% increased critical hit chance can make a big difference for group performance. How are PvP bonuses handled in Craglorn? Are you worried that guilds will be forced to decide between competing in a balanced PvP campaign and challenging for PvE honors?

The PvP bonuses carry over into Trials, just like all other PvE activities. We are monitoring how this plays out, but we are seeing a lot more balance in the individual campaigns and it has started to become a lot more difficult to own everything and to get all the bonuses.

Q: It sounds like resurrection and death plays a key component in the Craglorn Trials. It was announced that parties will have a “soul reservoir” available for the duration of the Trial. Could you go into a bit more depth about how these resurrection mechanics will challenge groups in Trials?

Every time a player character dies and resurrects inside the Trial, a “soul” is removed from the soul reservoir. Once there are no more souls available, the fail state of the instance is reached and the group is forced to leave the instance. Once outside, the Trial can be reset and the group can renter and try again from the beginning. Currently each Trial is set to 36 resurrections, (which equates to 3 per player in the group) but we are still tweaking those numbers.

The mystical Aetherian Archive is the arcane enclave of the Celestial Mage.

The mysterious Aetherian Archive is the arcane enclave of the Celestial Mage.

Q: Is it possible to change your group configuration by substituting players in or out while a Trial is in-progress, or are the members of your group locked to the Trial until it is reset?

Yep you can change your group out as much as you want. It will not reset your soul reservoir though and is probably going to slow you down pretty significantly.

Q: For achievement hunters out there will Craglorn and its Trials have a full set of unlockable achievements for players to earn? Will the Undaunted have additional challenges for players to attempt in Trials similar to the existing “ok, you beat the boss, but can you do it the HARD way” achievements which exist for veteran dungeons? Are any unique titles earned by defeating the challenges in Hel Ra Citadel?

We will have a few achievements for the Trials at launch and have additional planned for the future. More on that soon!

Q: Do you have any tips or advice to share with the Tamriel Foundry community on how to prepare ourselves and our groups for the Craglorn Trials?

The 3 big things to remember:

  1. Death recap is insanely useful. Use it and strategize with your group when you die.
  2. Regular Trials monsters will generally give you clues to upcoming boss abilities, so pay attention.
  3. Deaths in Trials are big hits to your leaderboard time. If you are going for a top time, err on the side of staying alive over speed.

Good luck everyone and I hope you all enjoy Craglorn and its Trials!

I would like to, once again, express our sincere thanks to Rich Lambert for taking the time to address some of our questions about Craglorn and its trials. I hope you have found these questions and answers interesting. I’m interested to see how some of our concerns regarding loot allocation and PvP campaign bonuses end up affecting the way groups approach trials in ESO. The intended level of difficulty for Craglorn’s trials sounds awesome, and I can’t wait to start progressing through them once patch 1.1 reaches the live servers. Let us know what you think about Craglorn and Rich’s insight into its challenges in the comment section below!