A Link to The Present

One day I was driving home. Often my mind has one or two sub-processes going as I do so, either about personal things or (take a guess) the game, crunching some numbers or ability here and there.

I had slipped in a CD into my car’s player to listen to some great orchestral music based on a popular game series when it hit me.

I love being a Swashbuckler because of another game.

Flynncletica2aShields. Swords. Fantasy. Saving the world.Link_Artwork_4_(Skyward_Sword)

Flynncletica plays much like playing Link, the eternal hero in The Legend of Zelda video game series.

All I’m missing is a Master Sword.

I need to do some searches in a DDO item library.


The Fighters Aren’t Different, But the Game Is.

There are many similarities that I needn’t fully explore here, especially since any of you MUST have played a version of this game over its 25-year history. If you haven’t, stop reading this thing and go do so. NOW.

But, in short, DDO’s Swashbuckler can perform advanced sword tricks, can use magic offensively and defensively, can shield block–and look good doing it all. Link has had years looking much better at this, however.

But it’s the classic sword-and-board combination that plays right down my alley. I’ve missed this in playing Monks all the time in DDO, though I love them so.

In fact, when my gaming laptop suffered irreversible failures a couple of months ago that forced me off DDO for a spell, guess what I did to keep my gaming jones happy? Yep, a copy of Skyward Sword.

But DDO lacks some things that Zelda always has in abundance.

  • A clear enemy. Link generally has to fight many mini-bosses to get to the big boss (often, Ganondorf). In DDO, one day it’s this group or this guy or this goddess. DDO is more like Zelda for adventurers with attention-deficit disorder (SQUIRREL).
  • A trial of virtue. Link often has to earn his happy ending by proving himself through your ability to not only fight but solve very complex puzzles and mazes in many dungeons. Most things aren’t given to you free. In fact, they’re often ridiculously hidden.  While we get the adventurer kiddie-pool of Korthos, Link gets a baptism of fire often at the very start.
  • A clear sense of accomplishment. In most versions, obtaining The Master Sword. When you get that thing (particularly in A Link to the Past) and the triumphal Orchestral Bombardment of Link’s Theme comes crashing into your ears, you felt you have officially Taken Several Levels of Badass. And a good thing too, ’cause the minute you get it, you have a new plot to rescue a now-kidnapped Zelda. And heavens help anything that gets in your way. Same is true for the mini-bosses. Each of them often make you feel initially that, despite your current equipment and training, you’re immediately out of your league again and require you to do more than simply attack. Zelda games excel in forcing you to think how to kill that boss. Hacking and slashing blindly will get you killed.
  • Someone to save. Yes, it’s old fashioned, but having only one goal (saving the princess) isn’t really a bad idea. We DDO adventurers are running hither and yon, to fight this here and that over there. In our world, there’s always some spider goddess trying to destroy the world or some undead dragon doing things for the evulz or some ethereal dream creatures or hordes of demons or whack-a-doo human wizards trying to take over the world. Link has just one job, and he’s apparently eternally destined to do so. Bonus points in that he is very good at what he does, no matter what incarnation.

Leveling Up: DDO is Far Faster than in Zelda

One thing DDO has over Zelda: Advancement speed. You could spend DAYS exploring Hyrule or wherever Link ends up before he feels a bit more powerful. It’s a very nonlinear world, filled with many, many hidden caches of gear and rupees (currency) as you branch out, even in the first game made back in 1986.

Combined with game objectives that lock you out of exploring everywhere until you obtain some items or speak with someone, DDO is more open and vast than Link’s worlds, even as low-level character, with a few restrictions such as the Devil Battlefield. Games like Zelda heavily influenced the player walk-through guides. No one person would ever learn that exists in a single Zelda game. The invention of the wiki format has made these guides that more dynamic and accessible.

On a first-life character, with all the experience bonuses I gain as VIP player, Flynncletica cannot stop herself from accelerating to level 18 at present. Since she practically stands idle while generating boatloads of XP as a result, I’m trying to concentrate on quests that yield material benefits (loot) as well as experience. I’m turning her attention to the Shroud flagging quests for Green Steel, and then to the Devil Battlefield for Yugoloth favor for their special brews.

So, back on topic somewhat, what would be a “Master Sword” for a Swashbuckler?

Let’s stick to Heroic-level longswords and rapiers. I already know that a Thunder-Forged sword would be the most powerful at its core.

  • There’s the Turbulent Epee at level 14. Nice. Cuts clean through many things with a bit of elemental damage.
  • I appreciated the Dueling Schlager. It cried BITCHSLAP at anything it struck with its higher damage.
  • My current go-to weapon is a Fell Rapier of Ice. I’ve an affinity for frost weapons. Ice is nice. Training the re-tooled Warchanter tree and its preference for ice attacks is feeding my love of frost attacks.
  • I couldn’t see many longswords of quality for Heroic use.

But nothing really stands out (barring a tedious grind for crafting a Colomel or Mournlode weapon). Or, should I say that nothing clearly meant for the Swashbuckler–my Flynncletica–stood out.

DDO lacks true unique weapons…ones that should only be in the hands of a small number of characters, if not only one, period. I mean, it’s not very rewarding, in a way, that you should be able to find copies of Excalibur for you and 10,000 of your friends, right?

The Raider’s Boxes most of us received around Update 20 gave a few of us that feeling of generic accomplishment. You win DDO, player #2446774!

We’re also missing the uniqueness of the singular hero. Link has allies, yes, but he’s the Hero and the ultimate burden of kicking everyone’s ass falls solely on him. Compare that to adventurers in DDO that get a lot more help. Link is the ONLY protagonist in a very large world.

Just days after I created Flynn, I realized that several other characters had significant collections in their ingredient bags. I poked through them all and realized I had something that I’ve written off on hunting for long ago: All three ingredients to make a classic Epic version of the pre-Update 17 weapons.

You know: the “shard”, “seal” and “scroll” upgrades that seem hardly worth the time to find nowadays, much less assemble, compared to the Epic Epic weapons?

I’ve played for a few years now and never, ever had a complete set of these items until now, much less the ingredients needed for something I wanted or would find useful.

When Flynn reaches her Heroic pinnacle, she’ll have this masterful sword awaiting her.

But there’s always a better sword in DDO. Flynn is awesome, but she’s no Link.


Broken Spokes in the Wheel of Life


Samara is ever-present in the world of Dungeons & Dragons Online. We truly reincarnate to improve ourselves. But when should we try to break the cycle?

I have 18 characters. Four are banks. One is a semi-retired Drow Artificer that hasn’t played since before the new enhancements.

One is a halfing L18 Thief-Acrobat Rogue still on its first life and dreadfully confused about herself as she learns the new abilities. A half-Elf Paladin recently met its demise to allow Flynncletica to appear.

The three Ninja Spies, Ryncletica, Szyncletica and Kiricletica, each bring a unique fighting style. Ryn is an unarmed Shadowdancer-enabled L25 Monk in her second life. Szyncletica is a L27 Shiradi Shuricannon also in her second life. Kiricletica is the accomplished hard-solo shortsword master at L26 in her first life.

Pynthetica was a Arcane Archer Ranger in life 1 and is now a pure Zen Archer Monk at level 17.

That leaves two Shintao Monks, Lynncletica the Earth tanker at level 25, and Syncletica herself, refusing to fight much since she seemed too vulnerable for harder Epic play in her second life at level 23. Quintessica rounds out the dojo in her second life as a Henshin Mystic at level 23.

I bore you with this character list because, as you can see, there are far too many of them sitting at Epic levels. It’s time for some of them to start again, to take another cycle in the wheel of life.

But should any of them simply submit to the circle of samara and become a Monk once again? Or should they consider a bit more?

I’m leaning to the more.

Yes, the person that doesn’t teach multiclassing per se in the Monk guide is considering other classes–sort of.

It’s not a tough concept. I have more than enough characters to experiment and learn what others have done before me and have enjoyed. I’m not paving any new ground except for my own fun. As well, I have more than enough characters to explore any tenets of a pure Monk to afford a cross-class training session.

But enlightenment is a bitch, or makes you one.

On Syncletica

As you may know, Syncletica is my first character and my first Monk.

For her third life, I envision that she should explore more of the divine powers and train in Cleric levels. She would still have a minimum of 2 Monk levels but would be a better aid to others.

Else, especially with the new enhancement pass, I should take one more turn as a Wind Stancer, improving her durability to match her speed. I know a lot more about miss-chance, PRR and AC now than when she last left the dojo.

On Ryncletica

Ryn was once a halfling. I see her returning to her original small stature from her life as a human, but with Rogue levels.

Now, I’ve tried and failed to balance a character to have superior Rogue skills while also keeping a monastic fighting style. I’ll need to seriously plan her build with RJ’s Character Builder and read up on other builds before attempting this again.

Else, Ryn could explore a new class. I’ve wanted to explore the Druid, so this is an option.

On Kiricletica

There’s still more to explore with Kiri as a pure Ninja Spy in life 2, so I will not change her design once she reincarnates. She was a blast to play in hard-solo mode.

With her patented Ninja Poison attacks not working with the latest update, she’s in stasis until it’s working again. I’ve been trying to get more bug reports submitted to get this resolved.

On Lynncletica

I’ve told myself time and again that Lynncletica will stay Epic as she was my most durable character and can farm many places for other characters.

That’s changed with Szyncletica; who has done what Lynn has not by surviving Epic Elite adventures alone.

I still want to improve Lynn’s overall capacity to keep and hold attention as a light tanker. She is certainly the strongest self-healer I have, although her DPS is a bit lacking. She was still at L25 when the Update 19 enhancement changes came about, so she’s not as optimized for tanking as she could be with a tweak of enhancements.

I’ll have Lynn and Szyn farm Tokens of the Twelve for themselves and others.

On Szyncletica

I love the Shuricannon build too much to change one bit of Szyn’s abilities. The more past lives for her, the better.

If I do add a new path for her, shortsword work or Ranger prowess isn’t a bad one. She is my strongest Monk and has proven able to complete Epic Elite, solo if necessary, and has even completed a portion of the Shroud alone.

As I said, if Lynn reincarnates, then Szyn stays Epic until Lynn returns to power.

On Quintessica

The Mystic is a really potent staff-wielder with incredible DPS. Only Szyncletica  can claim better numbers. The thread on training an Epic Destiny to boost spell power and damage is quite appealing.

For now I’ll keep Quin in Epic while I add in some points. It will take time since it requires a lot of ED training for sphere hopping to the Arcane side.

Once she does complete this training, a bit of Druidic training might be nice.

Or, is this the time for my first Wizard or Sorcerer? I don’t know.

On Pynthetica

Her experimentation in Zen Archery is coming along well. She’s my first and only character to come from a non-monastic class into the Monk class, so it’s not outside probability to see her try her hand at being an Artificer, or to see if Deepwood Sniper can meld well with her ranged past life and her monastic life.

On Allysen

Allysen is my halfling Acrobat Rogue at level 18 and the oldest character I have to have never reincarnated.

I think I should either use the Lesser Heart of Wood to respec her and get her into Epic Shadowdancer training before I reincarnate her into something else. Would she be the better candidate for a Rogue Monk than Ryncletica? The gear she’s gathered suggests yes.

On the Others

  • I retired my paladin and created Flynncletica. This swashbuckler is a blast to play to the point where I’m neglecting my monastic training.
  • Arcammedes dutifully sits in the crafting hall at L19 in her first life as Artificer. She’s not been on the battlefield for over a year.

I should train her enhancements and at least see her to Level 20 or so. A reincarnation won’t remove her crafting prowess but would completely free her inventory slots for holding stuff. She’s not going anywhere with her crafting levels–and that’s the problem.

  • There’s still a Kensei to train.

Four bank characters now hold a lot of gear. Much of it I gathered long ago in trying to keep a storehouse of gear for any guildmates to use in building a Monk. Now, I think, that time’s past, especially with crafting as an option for any low-level gear I can generate for someone as unbound.

I’m selling off most of this to free up at least one more character slot.

Have I Hit the Wall in the Circle?

As long-time readers of the guide and the blog know, I like to chew through the many permutations of the Monk as a single class.

Generally I’ve studied a class tree’s strengths and weaponized them, such as Kiricletica.

Lately I haven’t been very creative here, generating or adapting new builds. Perhaps it’s my disappointment with a few bugs such as Ninja Poison failing, which has all but stopped Kiricletica’s progress. Maybe my mind is becoming too combat-oriented thanks to the sword-wielding non-Monk, Flynncletica.

Perhaps I haven’t studied the Monk and non-Monk class trees enough to see a new wheel on which to roll a character along in a new path of study.

And perhaps I’m impatient for progress. There is one clear path I haven’t explored with Theacletica as she trains as a Kensei, as I noted.

That’s the problem of samara. Your own limitations prevent you from breaking the cycle of life and death. It’s difficult to move forward sometimes; you feel stuck in a circle, attracted by easy victory or novelty.

I think I require more study. The path of enlightenment is not supposed to be easy.

In any case, I’m open to some suggestions to explore. But be warned that I don’t take change well for change’s sake. I like the diversity of DDO, but the best damage is secondary to the best gameplay, and I’ve not the patience or time for what I see is the tedium of multiclassed tweaking.

It’s Monday, and Sir Geoff of Hanna has posted a nice meditative animation. Yes…calming and peaceful. Enlightenment doesn’t happen in a chaotic mind.

Fantasy Service: Necessary “Evil”?

Wow. Look at the hit points on THAT one.

Wow. Look at the hit points on THAT one.

As all my characters are female, I’m a G.I.R.L. cross-player.

My avatars are all female for two reasons: One, because I appreciate the female form in DDO far more than the male form, especially if I have to stare at it for hours.

Second: I’m an old-school gamer that learned to take advantage of male arcade gamers who always chose the brawny male characters in combat games such as those in Street Fighter II.

Chun_LiI would pick Chun-Li or Charlotte and show them their error in underestimating a girl, as they will often subconsciously think that the girl character is a weaker one.

One player character voice, emitted automatically as you entered combat in the original Neverwinter Nights campaigns, summed my enjoyment nicely: “Prepare to be beaten by a girl.” It’s a clear visceral level of intimidation that no amount of points to an Intimidate score can compare.

A third subjective reason is that action girls kick ass in popular media.

MsTrinityWhen someone can pull off a look like this (Trinity) at a SF convention, you have to marry them (and so I did).

But how far should my obvious preference for the female form go in the game before it just gets weird, or worse?

So I wanted to chat a bit about fanservice in my beloved world of DDO.

Note that this isn’t going to be a scientific or even-handed analysis. Nor am I going to softball the beloved developers about what they’ve added or not added in the game over the years. The gaming industry is not ultimately run by the developers but their bosses, who approve, encourage or insist on adding or removing appearances and dialogue in a game to encourage one thing: Sales.

Thus, don’t take my criticisms as either chauvinist or puritanical. I’m just calling things out as I’m able to see them for you to think about.

Armor and Clothing

The easiest analysis of DDO’s fanservice begins with clothing and armor. Without deviation, the female characters are always lacking in coverage if one cared to go that far, while the male outerwear never quite “pumps up” what male attributes that a female gamer might care to see on their male avatars.

Bare midriffs abound for the females (Oooh! Belly buttons!) while nary a one armor appearance kit adds a male midriff with washboard abs and hardened pecs that would make even young Schwarzenegger or Ferrigno nod in approval, having become successfully pumped up.


Syn was going through a phase.

I fed into this imbalance myself back when armor appearance kits were available. Take a look at Syncletica herself in an earlier life, sporting the bikini look as she performed her monastic work.

The clear tendency to show more feminine sexuality also appears on the NPCs. Take busybody Eolynn Arva in Eveningstar, quest giver of “Overgrowth” in “The Druid’s Deep” chain.

She’s wearing clothes, sure. But her cleavage may require you to have a Jump of 30 to extricate yourself from it.



More clothing doesn’t help, either.

malicia-rb-614The poster child of this is Malicia, the senior succubus as seen in “Under the Big Top” and “Wrath of the Flame.”

One JPEG = 10K words.






Lack of Clothing and Armor

I’d point out some male examples here and in the previous section but I haven’t found any. This is obviously a bias since (1) I’m a guy that has pointed out his attention to female form and (2) being a guy, I’m not looking out for clear sexualization of male avatars.

A few NPCs stand out here.

DryadThe Dryads are relatively new with the “Menace of the Underdark” expansion. Kudos to the developers for their incredible animations that make them believable as defenders of the forest.

Dryads are like ballerinas, with graceful movements not only as they fight but as they die, curling up as if completing a dying-swan move.

So why does this graceful fey, clearly more plant than humanoid, possess boobs?

There’s also an audio aspect; the sounds of a struggling or dying dryad bring to mind some people who are aroused or attracted to female grunts, sighs and moans. There’s plenty of that in many games and media, as well as sports, and I will not sully my blog by adding links to this.

A rarely-seen example is found in “Wrath of the Flame.”

In your travels you rescue an Archon, a celestial being that is the other side of the eternal war on the plane of Shavarath.


Frankly, the demons should just surrender.

This sole female example, as seen in this early game loading screen, has wings, very simple bikini armor, some headgear, a lot of glow and not much else.

We’ve never been shown a male example.

The devil hierarchy of Shavarath, to note, doesn’t show any real sexuality except a clear masculine sense of power by sheer physical force.

The demons seem to lack any feminine leaders save Malicia.

Arguably the most omnipresent NPC that dishes out high-quality fanservice as early as level 6 is the succubus.

Having recently received a new computer that can easily push the resolution of the game to the max, I was all-to0-distracted, even to the point of being dismayed, when a guildmate summoned one up during a quest chain.

succubusHoly crap on a cracker.

There’s also emotes to consider.

Sir Geoff of Hanna has completed an extensive look at the Dance emotes and how they differ in female and male. I’m fond of the Drow female’s second dance–and guilty as charged for why I prefer it. It’s the hips.



So What’s My Point?

I guess there isn’t one except to ask a few questions I’ve alluded to before.

  1. Why the disparity between female fanservice to male? Do abs and pecs not sell? Are all developers male and what few female developers there are were sent to the same place as female Ents and bearded dwarven women? To DDO’s credit, you can add scars to your avatar’s faces to ugly them up. But then, you can also add lipstick and more varieties of hairstyles to female characters.
  2. Is there a need (or lack) for more male sexualization in DDO from a profit or “balance” standpoint? I’m not suggesting or requesting such additions but only identifying their exclusion. Dances, to take a non-clothing example, show a more tavern-jig aspect for male avatars while half-elf and Drow dances play at the forbidden-fruit cheerleader and courtesan archetypes.

All things considered, I feel DDO has generally not crossed that moral event horizon point of no return of fanservice where the sexuality of either player character or NPC hasn’t some attempt of a message or purpose to it.

You might be wondering what games I have in my mind that do cross that moral event horizon level of gratuity. Since this can be quite the subjective, I’m purposefully not revealing what games I’m thinking of. Since I play fewer games where such content may appear, I’m clearly biased by what I’ve been told about such games, rather than what I’ve played. My religion and upbringing can also bring in a bias. I will leave it to you to generate counter-examples based on your personal experience.

One justified example are the dryads. As caretakers, their feminine appearance reflects the maternal and fertile aspects of keeping a forest alive and prospering.

Likewise, the succubi are sexualized for a reason. In truth, they aren’t humanoid, but demons. They weaponize sexuality to lure adventuring idiots like me to into underestimating their ability to get you killed, directly or indirectly.

Not even their leader, Malicia, is actually using sexual charms, but literal ones. In both of her adventures, she shows cunning by trying to kill you by manipulating others first (through charms or impersonation) before she’s forced to take you down by combat directly. In her own words (paraphrasing), “It’s all about control.” Her dominatrix fetish wear symbolizes domination–just not the type of domination a male player might be hoping to experience, albeit subconsciously.

As far as player appearances, does the “chainmail bikini” look sell more to G.I.R.L.s like me or to actual female players? I know I’ve bought more armor kits than not.

Being a bit conservative in terms of knowing where some lines should be drawn, I like DDO for what it is but always worry when I find myself enjoying the eye candy too much, forgetting that the game is the goal, not the titillation.

I know I’m meandering a bit in my analysis. What do you think?

I’m thinking that I’m going to have to spend a bit more time cleaning out WordPress’s spam catcher. I already adjusted the post’s title in hopes of avoiding a blitz of spam posts about icky stuff.

Alone in the Shroud

A Drow has scheduled a date with you, big guy. Bring some flowers...for your funeral.

A Drow has scheduled a date with you, big guy. Bring some flowers…for your funeral.

From time to time I’ve had one of those crazy ideas.  First it was an Epic Elite solo run. One continual goal is to complete “The Shroud” alone.

Lynncletica tried it, long ago, failing part 1 rapidly as she simply couldn’t beat down the portals (officially, a planar gateway) fast enough. She’d have to gain more STR, speed and better portal beaters.

I wasn’t done yet. I have only one other character that excelled Lynncletica, not by endurance, but damage. That was Szyncletica.

On Szyn’s first life, I read up on what it takes to beat down a portal from an old but useful thread that offered to post results to a challenge. A portal identical to those in the Shroud, part 1, is in the snowy wastes of Aussircaex’s Valley.

As noted before, the shuriken has the lowest base damage (1d2) of any weapon. Now, with throwing builds all about, they are rarer to find on the Auction House, and expensive if you happen to find one.

Before, the fastest I could destroy a portal, using a crafted +5 Holy star of Greater Construct Bane, was 1 minute 14 seconds. It would not do. A throwing star damaged well enough, but just not fast enough. Trials using a Mineral II and Triple-Positive Green Steel stars yielded similar takedown speeds.

My options were greatly limited. While many weapons drop in the game that have the uncraftable Smiting suffix, the odds of discovering a returning Smiting shuriken seemed higher than my chance of winning the Powerball national lottery.

It took another life and a new update, 21, to introduce another chance at a chance.

Some tips from the Shuricannon thread and a recent trip through the Ruins of Thunderholme gained me a new crafted weapon: A Thunder-Forged Alloy Shuriken. I added a Ruby of Good to this metalline star, although it appears not to be working properly.

Nonetheless, the weapon has a very high base damage with its Tier 1 upgrade: 4(1d2)+10 with a 14-18 damage range…easily more than twice the damage of my usual beater. And it has the Touch of Shadows property for 8 to 48 negative energy damage. Remember that Szyn’s build is a Ninja Spy. All of her damage comes from her very high DEX, in addition to competence bonuses from being a Drow, a natural user of the thrown weapon.

So, freshly leveled to 26 and loaded up with ship buffs and stacking special potions, off I skipped to the snowy portal always present in Aussircaex’s Valley to test out that new Thunder-Forged star.

I cleared out the surrounding enemies, drank any stat-boosting potions and switched to Wind Stance for additional Dexterity. I had 60. I set my timer and began smacking the portal.

The Thunder-Forged star took down that portal in 41 seconds. That’s better than a good Barbarian L20 with a Mineral II Green Steel weapon shown on that old thread, and far better than my old crafted star.

Giddy with the stronger possibility of a Shroud solo, I assessed what, if any temporary weapon effects I can apply to that star. Craftable returning shurikens with a red augment slot seem to be completely imaginary, else I’d craft one and add a Ruby of the Vampire Slayer for some Light damage,  and apply some Oil of Incandescence portions for some more Light damage. Despite the lack of a slotted star, I plan to add the Oil for extra damage during part 4 and 5.

Update 22 (out on 6/11, the day I first penned this post) gave the shuriken criticals their true range of 15-20 with Ninja Spy capstone, which added in considerably more damage on critical hits.

Challenges in the Shroud

Of course, Szyn would be completely alone. No hirelings of any kind in a raid. In Epic, self-sufficiency wasn’t a problem. In addition to elemental and poison resist potions, she stocked up on Yugoloth potions and collectable ability-boosting potions as well as buying a few DDO elixirs to allow a +6 stat advantage when the going got tougher.

If Szyn could blow down the portals fast enough, then part 2 was the second greatest challenge, gathering and slaying the four lieutenants and then destroying the central crystal. Based on other’s successful runs, a player might have to abort a run if they get swift-moving lieutenants that cannot be outraced to blast the crystal or who add a party buff that makes the group too strong.

My feeling was that I’ll need to use a ninja tactic or two to keep them separated for a bit, hit them with burst damage and then hit another, minding that each of them regenerate. Or, kill each once so that they lose some HP to make slaying easier.

Part 3 is the puzzle challenge. That one should be easy. If I could blast down the portals, the crystals over the doors (normally a forbidden thing in a raid party but necessary in solo mode) will go down fast, and Monk speed will get the lunar water in the fountains quickly before the prismatic wall appears. Even if the wall approaches, Szyn can move fast and just has to stay behind the wall, going clockwise around the area, hiding in the fountain to let it go by if needed.

Then, the fun stuff comes with parts 4 and 5. How much DPS will Szyn be able to maintain against Arraetrikos? Getting the gnolls down wasn’t a worry but they must still drop fast to avoid rehealing the big guy.

I anticipated to go through quite a bit of spell points to stay healed from the occasional d1 I’ll roll against a meteor that Harry hurled at my head. On Normal, Harry shouldn’t be a major hassle if I can push my damage per hit to its ultimate. I didn’t forget the Whirling Blades. I planned to fight at near-melee range so I would be able to easily see where those things spawned as Harry entered, then leap away as they closed in. That would allow me a continuous pattern of striking.

Harry has only one ability I cannot avoid: Hold Monster. A faint chance to have a Freedom of Movement effect comes with the new epic Three Barrel Cove, by slaying rare encounter bosses in search of the Orcish Privateer Boots. Being a Monk, I should be able keep my saves high enough that Harry’s chances of landing that spell are lower. On Normal difficulty, the odds probably favor me. I do have a Lesser Harper Pin for an emergency break from a hold, but with a 10 minute cooldown, it’s a desperation move.

It’s going to be a long day stopping these guys. One player, a master of solo raiding, still took just shy of 2 hours to beat the game on Normal difficulty with a L25 character. I’m hoping my DPS will speed things up a little.

If Szyn can get past Part 4, then Part 5 is just more of the same.

Attempt #1

First thing on a Saturday morning, I geared up with scads of potions and set off.

Life was made a lot easier with the new U22 super-lasting airship buffs but there was still the matter of handling element resistance and protections. At the top of my worry list were my number of mana potions. I needed to improve my healing amplification to make things as efficient as I could, even with shrines and rechargers.

Part 1 began with my first screw-up. My phone died overnight, where I kept a copy of the portal takedown order. I had to go from memory and with extra guile.

ScreenShot01245The new Thunder-Forged star did its work well. Gulping Haste potions, I moved fast to blow the portals down.

A few Portal Keepers did appear but chasing them down and killing them bought me the time I needed. My heart was racing with triumph on clearing Part 1 alone for the first time.

Part 2 started off well enough, easily clearing the trash and scouting the center. I gulped. I had the swift fire lieutenant along with the manically teleporting devil, orc and troglodyte.

Past solo veterans often aborted right then and there as the fire elemental moves very fast to the respawn point after being killed. I decided to give it a try.

The Celestia’s light bombs helped as I whittled down and killed the lieutenants once to rid them of their regeneration once they revived. I had all four down but the trog’s stench slowed me down before I could remove it and race to the central crystal.

ScreenShot01248Taking another tack with the revived lieutenants, I lured and whittled down the elemental a bit before pulling and engaging the others in the southwest corner.

With a timely light bomb from Celestia, all four went down and I raced again to the center but the elemental’s shadow was ahead.

Thankfully I could target the crystal fast. I destroyed it just as the fire elemental revived. Part 2 complete!

But it was part 3 that ended me. I easily destroyed the upper crystals and began adding the lunar water to the fountains.

My time sense kept telling me all was well in this section, but a turn to the left after completing fountain #5 landed me smack into the prismatic wall, appearing far faster than I expected.

ScreenShot01249Now I know at least that destroying the crystals appears to bring the wall up much faster. I’ll be a bit more prepared next time–and always turn right from a puzzle room.

I was just happy that I could clear the first two parts.

Szyn just reached level 27 and has the epic feat of Blinding Speed, making her permanently Hasted.

Things might get interesting with her second attempt I’m planning this weekend. Stay tuned.


Too Much Swash, Not Enough Buckler

Stale rank air greeted the adventurer’s party as it stepped into the sewers.

After a few seconds of preparation, most of the adventurers charged forward, reckless, in haste and raged. But one small halfling took the hindmost. She’d been burned before by overzealous party members.

Huge spiders leapt from crevasses and from dark perches overhead, immediately overwhelming and surprising those ahead of her. These spiders were so massive that the halfling could conceivably put a harness and saddle on one and ride it back to Stormreach.

Several party members faded back immediately, bitten by the poisonous spiders. A lone healer struggled to remove poisons and heal while others defended her.

“Amateurs,” Flynncletica muttered to herself. She hummed a little, channelling a little bardic power to add blurriness and health to a couple of the struggling party members.

One spider broke from the group and charged.

But she didn’t raise her sword arm. Flynn leaned back a bit to brace herself and moved her left arm ahead.

First thing these bugs will do is to try to bite you, she recalled. Block, and I avoid getting poisoned.

The spider’s fangs met the tiny shield with a loud crack. Droplets of venom spattered harmlessly away. Flynn’s feet slid backward on the slight slipperiness of the grimy sewer floor.

Not only did her shield block avoid the spider’s bite, the monster moved too quickly against the swashbuckler’s defenses, collapsing to the stone floor on all eight legs, knocking itself down.

Flynn’s sword arm seized the brief opportunity, the rapier assailing the prone spider like the sting of an angry hornet.

In moments, the heart of the spider had beat its last, having never scored a single hit against the small swashbuckler.

One down, ten spiders to go. Flynncletica advanced into the outskirts of the fray to join her comrades.

~ ~ ~

A favorite show I like to (re)watch while gaming is Log Horizon.

I’ve already gushed enough about the show here. What brought it to mind as I’ve been playing with my new Swashbuckler character, Flynncletica, involves how the role-play nature of the film and TV swashbuckler meshes with the combat actions of the gamer’s version as well as how swashbuckling appears in other media.

The new class lets me reminiscence a little. I took a Fencing course in college and vividly remember how it greatly differs from the cinematic style and how fun it was to fight realistically with rapiers. Hint: You’re supposed to stab somebody.

I also remember how many times I lost the skin from my hands and arms from duels, despite protections. All that showmanship in cinema won’t do a thing for me in my fights in DDO, but the Bard has a few ways to make a little quasi-cinematic magic in the game.

Faking It

Will SOMEBODY just stab someone already?!

Will SOMEBODY just stab someone already?!

One thing that’s quite sure in Flynncletica’s world is that “Flynning” is not going to happen (despite her name).

For those too lazy to click the TV Tropes link, “Flynning” is how sword fights are normally shown–badly simulated, where the actors are basically slapping their blades at each other, never quite seeming to try to actually poke or slice each other.

The Jedi/Sith fights in the Star Wars movies were a more kendo-style version of Flynning, but at least they were trying to hit each other with better fight choreography in the later films. But I loathe most other sword fight films because this trope is quite common there.

The new Swashbucklers in DDO must attack for damage, not just flail their weapon about. While blocking is a good idea, there’s not much time often in attack/riposte/attack/riposte, and blocks are done by your shield (if any), not a sword. It’s a go-for-the-jugular combat. There’s also size and strength limits. You couldn’t do Flynning against an angry giant with a club as large as you are.

That said, the DDO Swashbuckler gets an interesting ability where enemies that miss you in melee have a 20% chance of knocking themselves down. A run through Splinterskull turned funny as I watched spiders drop to all fours–er…eights–as they missed me and fell, allowing for a quicker kill.

Talking Your Attacker Into Being Stupid

Nyanta from "Log Horizon." Poised. Elegant, Quntessential swordplay. Bonus points in taking down a Monk, too.

Nyanta from “Log Horizon.” Poised. Elegant, Quintessential swordplay. Bonus points in taking down a Monk, too.

Nyanta, a statuesque were-cat in Log Horizon, is a type of swashbuckler. His class in this game-turned-reality gets to dual-wield two rapiers.

As the show narration notes (often explaining their game-now-reality combat and spell mechanics), the LH Swashbuckler’s swift attacks will damage a character’s stats, lowering Dodge and defenses.

And Nyanta has no problem in using his gentlemanly cat-speak to question your fighting style and perhaps your questionable upbringing while he slices and pierces you to death.

As a Bard, Flynncletica’s powers often buff allies rather than debuff. I’m enjoying one debuffing ability: Cutting Jibes. It’s a taunt that lowers nearby enemy Will saves by 3, which make Charm spells easier to land.

I’m training Flynn to be a master Charmer, to cause chaos by charming as many enemies to my side to reduce attacks on me and my party while I concentrate on other targets.

One nasty fight you’d likely recall occurs in the latter part of “Come Out and Slay” in the Sharn Syndicate chain. Fighters, mages, bards, archers are all lining your escape path and will swarm you fast if you try the direct approach.

Flynn took the high road, charming as many enemies while above the path as she could to keep the aggro off the party and whittle down the enemy’s own attacks with their own kin, making for an easy victory.

I’m quickly learning that the Perform skill is just as critical for a good Bard as the Concentration skill is to a Monk.

The Finesse of the Blade

Fandral, as seen in "Thor: The Dark World," keeps a dagger handy as he fights dark elves. Can't say I blame him. Elves be tricksy.

Fandral, as seen in “Thor: The Dark World,” keeps a dagger handy as he fights dark elves. Can’t say I blame him. Elves be tricksy.

And then there’s Fandral, the swashbuckling Asgardian in the Thor movie series and comics. Modeled after Errol Flynn, Fandral uses a rapier to fight ridiculously powerful enemies.

Fandral’s fighting style (the side dagger in the promo site ignored) is supported in DDO: You can wield only a blade in your main-hand and nothing in your off-hand. If you do so, you can gain 10% to Doublestrike (or Doubleshot if you’re using a thrown weapon).

You may also use a buckler (a very small shield, as Flynncletica uses) and gain 10% Dodge as a result, or use a Orb or Rune Arm if you are trained with more arcane or arcano-mechanical savvy, gaining spell power or spell point benefits, once you train the appropriate ability.

Fandral’s fight power is also reflected in DDO. As noted in the last post, the new Single Weapon Fighting line of feats increases attack speed and damage tremendously as you train them. Several abilities in the Swashbuckler tree allow power strikes with your weapon for greater damage to go with SWF.

There are many rapiers in DDO, so Flynn has many types to use for specific needs.

Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight

Obi-Wan Kenobi: Why sufficient skills can allow you to bring a (large) knife to a gunfight.

Obi-Wan Kenobi: Why sufficient skills can allow you to bring a (large) knife to a gunfight.

As with other melee fighters, a Swashbuckler must endure any ranged attacks.

The DDO version can train an ability to add Deflect Arrows to their defenses, effectively ignoring one attack every 6 seconds. But ranged attacks also include magic attacks, which gets trickier depending on your race or build.

By level 20, the Eberron Swashbuckler gains Evasion from their last core enhancement ability to help. Before then, it’s up to their saving throws and whatever Spell Resistance they have to withstand magic. If Flynn were a Drow (she’s a Halfling) she’d gain innate spell resistance to ward off magic attacks that aren’t direct attacks, such as Holds.

As a Bard, she’ll be able to train the Freedom of Movement spell to resist such attacks. I’m already missing the high saves of a Monk. I was in a party in “Redfang,” in the poison trap room, when a Monk in party daintily sprinted past me, activating the trap, avoiding any damage, but causing Flynn her first death as the poison struck with a toxic plume at point-blank range.

As for nastier melee attacks, the Swashbuckler gets training bonuses to Dodge to help in miss chances. Unlike a Monk, however, a typical swashbuckler is wearing light armor, which will limit the amount of DEX applied to Armor Class and which also hinders the maximum Dodge Bonus they can possess. Halfling training should help here with Improved Dodge for me, and the class tree also gives Uncanny Dodge through a core ability.

Bards are great with Concealment effects. I Blurred myself happily at low levels and now can add Displacement for a brief 50% level of protection. The weakest effect will be Incorporeality, which I’d likely have no greater than 10% with an item with Ghostly applied. The higher-end Ring of Shadows or Treads of Falling Shadow can add this.

The Role-Play with Countermeasures

I find myself often settling into a certain stance, just before a fight, with each character. The ninjas are always in stealth. The Shintao Monks stand in active attack.

I like to put Flynn’s buckler up immediately, and wait.

As I noted, I don’t see many people actively blocking. They should. Active blocking gives them instant protection against a certain amount of damage, harsh weapon effects such as Maladroit, Crippling and Wounding, even against poison attacks and spells like Bane.

The enemy AIs aren’t that diverse. After a time, you’ll know that a certain enemy starts their attacks with a debuff, or a charging attack. It’s also why the Balance skill is required for the Swashbuckler so that they can stay upright against things, or at least get up from being prone faster.

A charging Swashbuckler, in my experience so far, is a dying one. Let the prey come to you. Let them make the first move, then swat things down that dare to duel like the flies that they are.

That shield can also be used for attacks with a shield bash. The Swashbuckler gets Low Blow, a special attack that simulates a shield bash (the character doesn’t make the actual motion) that  knocks down an enemy based on a Perform skill DC. While slower than the Monk’s Stunning Fist, the Low Blow is very reliable so far, moreso than Stunning Blow.

Combining Low Blow with a later instant-kill attack, Coup de Grace, a Swashbuckler in defensive mode is more dangerous than a rampaging one. Doesn’t seem that Coup de Grace is working as well as it should and might be bugged.

Gear in The Crystal Cove

There are so few bucklers out there for better defenses that it makes the returning shuriken-hunting game seem very, very easy. As  I might have noted before, there are precisely two named non-crafted bucklers in the game, and both are Epic level: the Barnacled Buckler and the humorous-looking Kobold Admiral’s Tiller. The only other is the confusingly-named “Swashbuckler,” a buckler in several flavors based on your crafting ingredients from the Crystal Cove event.

As if Turbine read my mind, the Cove reopened, through the American Independence Day holiday weekend on July 6th.

I’ve built a level 8, 12 and 20 version of the shield, upgrading the 8 and 12 versions so far. The tier-3 Epic version adds Insightful Dexterity with a blue augment slot, along with the high 6% doublestrike, Reposte and Guardbreaking effects.

I love Guardbreaking. It’s a dazing effect that works on most everything, undead included, allowing me several free attacks.

Farming the Cove has been fairly easy at Level 9 or so, even making solo runs with one hireling to farm for dragonshards. Flynn is a great room clearer.

I’ve also a ton of higher-level gems to get to work on that Epic Swashbucker from past runs. And Pynthetica’s old closet of things from her Ranger life has yielded an Epic Duelist’s Leathers, light armor that’s highly recommended by those in the Swashbuckler discussion threads for it’s improved Maximum Dexterity and Armor bonuses.

Playing Monks for so long, I’ve been used to easy Dodge numbers. With any kind of armor, that’s limited without some special adjustments. Being a Halfling, I have a couple of racial skills that could help this, too.

The First-Lifer Blues

Experience points are so ample that Flynn seems to gain XP just by merely logging in! Almost all of my action points have gone solely into the Swashbuckler tree and I haven’t regretted that at all yet. But I’m still a Bard neophyte and need to improve several abilities to ensure my charms work when I need them for most anything as well as some party crowed control.

But I’m stumped a bit. Reading through the Warchanter and Spellsinger trees, I had no idea what might be better for a melee-oriented Bard. Forum threads suggested Warchanter is more inclined for me, and so have begun adding a few points there, cautiously.


The Singing Sword of Destruction

The HELLS is this, Syn? This doesn't look like a Monk! Have you been enjoying too much incense or something?

The HELLS is this, Syn? This doesn’t look like a Monk! Have you been meditating over too much incense or something?

My blog’s primary goal is a reflection on all things about the Monk class in Dungeons & Dragons Online. Often the posts I share are meant as extensive discussion and analysis of general abilities, prestige tracks and builds that the Monk can utilize. Such discussion would clog up the Book of Syncletica guide itself and would also be too subjective.

There have been a few new things that’s entered into our virtual world of Eberron to pull my attention away from the monastic for a time.

It might surprise some people to know that not all of my characters are Monks. I have an Artificer, still in her first life and used primarily for Cannith Crafting. I have two Rogues, one an Acrobat in her first life and a very young Assassin. There’s also a halfling Cleric.

But many of the other non-monks have been re-rolled as I needed a new slot for a character idea. A paladin, bard, Cleric-Monk, Rogue-Monk and sorcerer have met an early demise out of lack of interest or poor, irreparable building.

I’ve really, really wanted to enjoy more of the magical classes but Artificer has been the closest I’ve come to doing so.

And then came something new with Update 22 that I just had to try.

The Swashbuckler

DDO’s concept of this single-bladed scoundrel did not take much inspiration from the SRD versions or official tabletop concepts. Because of DDO’s live-combat format. low role-play and Epic quests and raids, the DDO Swashbuckler needed a lot more attack power and versatility. In short, the D&D Swashbuckler is more role-play oriented with simple but highly effective fighting rules. The DDO Swashbuckler must be a master with the single blade almost to Jedi Knight caliber.

I enjoyed a Swashbuckler version long ago in Neverwinter Nights 2. This version (and all of the D&D rules and designs I’ve found online) used a Rogue as the base class. Makes sense, given that a Rogue is…well, roguish, with that swagger and bravado and versatility you’d expect to see in such a character.

But DDO moved in a different direction. Rather than Rogue, their version is geared primarily for Bards.

It’s not a bad idea. In DDO as with D&D, Bards truly are a support class. They are weak in attack but can greatly augment a party’s attacks, buffs and strong in crowd control. But that was about it.

When Epic levels came along, the Bard gained the Fatesinger epic destiny, yet it, too, seemed more of the same: A series of abilities that supported its arcane songs and buffs but with lower attack than other destinies.

And so, perhaps to help this class with greater overall attack power, this new class tree came into being…although not without a lot of player criticism and advice after the developers announced it and asked for comments during its development.

But kudos to the developers; they listened very intently to all players and tweaked the class tree for a solid balance and an enticing reason to choose Single Weapon Fighting over Two Weapon Fighting. You cannot have both; the new feat is mutually exclusive to the TWF feats.

Now, a disclaimer: I know Monks. I know very little about Bards except in gameplay with others. That said, my guild leaders and a few officers have Bards I watch often in play, so I know their abilities. I’m sure that many of you may have multiclassed in the past to generate a better fighter out of a Bard than the stock L20 Bard.

But, as I tend to do with Monks, I’m going to explore how strong the single-class Bard can become with the new Swashbuckler tree.

In Like Flynn

My character naming convention is clear. My Monks have the -(c)letica style nomenclature exclusively (Pynthetica was an early exception as my 2nd character rolled; she was first a Ranger before her current life as a Zen Archer Monk). All my other characters had names often starting with an “A” (a tribute to my mother, who named all her children with “K” names).

But I thought that this character had enough potential to stay to be worthy of my monastic convention. So the name I chose was an in-joke to an existing name (Lynncletica) but also as a reference to Errol Flynn, the late actor renowned for many swashbuckling films in the pre-WWII era.

FlynncleticaMeet Flynncletica.

She’s fresh off the boat and taken only to level 4 with Veteran I status so I could appreciate most of the low-level quests and understand more of the Bard class in a crash-course of early levels.

That said, Flynn is already a terrifyingly powerful melee fighter. With her Starter Rapier and about 10 action points used, she can Blur and heal herself, throw out a few useful bard songs while ripping quick, deadly holes into everything she’s encountered so far.

The keys to Flynn’s power comes from two components. The Single Weapon Fighting ability, among other effects, adds a 10% Combat Style melee and ranged alacrity bonus as well as Doublestrike and Doubleshot from the Swashbuckling stance (should I care to use a repeating crossbow or bow).

Note the distinction of that alacrity bonus. I immediately crafted a reusable trinket with the 10% melee alacrity as an Enhancement bonus.

These effects stacked. I had a level 4 character with 4% Doublestrike and 20% melee alacrity.

Later feats in the Single Weapon Fighting line raise the melee alacrity to 30% Combat Style bonus with greater damages to boot. Does that mean that Flynn could have a 40% total increase in melee alacrity? Yes. Yes, it does.


Sadly, there are very, very few named bucklers, the smallest of the shields, in the game. The best ones are Epic versions (and are quite cool looking). The only Heroic version is from the Crystal Cove event, called (not surprisingly) the “Swashbuckler.”

Aside from the general protection that a shield provides, I’d like to see more with Riposte effects. In the NWN2 version, any missed attack gave my character an immediate counter-attack. Riposte (as well as other tree effects) can add more of this. There are a couple of similar effects that generate damage on missed attacks.

My current buckler has 1% Doublestrike, which stacks with the Swashbuckler’s innate bonuses.

I may need to craft a bit.

I love the look and feel of the rapier and I’m going to stick with this weapon type throughout Flynn’s life, occasionally swapping out a recently-looted Everbright rapier for oozes and rust monsters. Plenty of good weapons for Bards exist, including the Spider Spike, the Elyd Edge (my Bard-savvy guild leader advised me to get this one to regenerate my bard songs using its Anthem effect), the Turbulent Epee, the heavy Dueling Schlager, Sheridan’s RuinNuushmaar’s Adamantine Tooth, and Tyrzza’s Bane, to name a few.

Light armor should be sufficient for Flynn, and there’s more of that good stuff in-game than I need to mention here.

As for other essentials that Bards should have, I’ll need lots of advice and experimentation.


I took some pointers from two threads on the general build. As much as I’d love to add in the halfling dragonmark (good tip, Geoff), I can see that I’ll be pretty feat starved and would be better off adding healing or defensive spells as I went along.

Based on one poster’s very helpful answer, I focused on combat (DEX) but will be adding as much CHA as I can to whip out anything that slows down at least smaller crowds.

Flynn, like most Bards, is not meant to solo, I think. I have to keep a meat shield handy. I’ve had a blast running this character with guildmates and might–just might–even join in a PUG or two. I’ve also looked more at the Monte Cristo build ideas for better Bardesque crowd controls in whatever I can apply to Flynn.

I’m studying what Warchanter tree abilities can improve Flynn’s attack and CC powers. Advice is appreciated.


One thing that DDO players don’t do nearly as often as they should is block. We have shields, true, but often they’re there for off-hand effects and general passive protections.

I plan to block and often. I plan to start off defensively, letting the enemy’s first attack go into my shield (with miss effects activating as they might) before I pummel him with several Swashbuckler attacks while also letting any Riposte or guard effects hurt him more. I find shield bashing quite handy as well. I suspect you really can’t just hold down your Attack button as often as a swashbuckler if you want to triumph.

As Flynn gains in power, I’ll enjoy some Bard crowd controls, choking attacks in doorways and narrow passages while picking off any comers to my blade. I’m particularly interested in using taunts that reduce Will saves, making paralysis and charms more effective to make an enemy’s army my own. I’ll need some study to ensure I can pull off powerful Otto’s Spheres in higher levels: That’s CHA, and I’m pumping DEX over all else, so tomes and equipment will be needed along with action points to some enhancements.

Bards aren’t known to be stealthy. But Flynn can cast Invisibility (immunity from Spot). Combined with some Move Silently points (and a few Hide points given as part of being a halfling), she can use some situational tactics to help decide where and when she will fight. The tree also adds Fast Movement, a lighter but appreciated speed-up.

In higher levels, Flynn may be able to kill anything that is Fascinated or prone as she trains her magic skills.

Three-Barrel Cove and Tangleroot are next–but Flynn is leveling hyper-fast as a first-life character.

Flynn may not be a Monk, but she’s going to have speed and versatility that matches many of them. And, she’ll be wise enough to buff any Monks in party to make the most of their powers.

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of

“The Madcap Adventures of Flynncletica”

in color!

My Own Private Normandy Landing

Even after 70 years, this scene in history, of storming the deadly beaches near Normandy, remains one of the most incredible witnesses to bravery in World War II.

Even after 70 years, this scene in history, of storming the deadly beaches near Normandy, remains one of the most incredible witnesses to bravery in World War II.

Ever since I heard of one quest getting updated, I’ve been anxious to see it.

Update 22 brings us an Epic version of Three-Barrel Cove. My ninjas have been sharpening their stars at the notion of challenging hordes of pirates.

But there are other nastier pirates, such as the Blood Tide, which have had designs on Stormreach by first emasculating and decapitating the city’s military defensive center, House Deneith.

Of the five quests in the Sentinels of Stormreach chain, one didn’t have an Epic version until now.

Storm the Beaches” not only got an upgrade but changed one aspect that made things interesting.

One of the three objectives is to destroy eight ballistas along the pirate fortress. In the original Heroic version, eliminating these was as easy as targeting any breakable object.

But now, the ballistas fire back with massive area-of-effect damage that will likely kill you in one strike.

Yes, those ballistae you’ve used to shoot down pirate airships in Three-Barrel Cove are now directed at you.

The quest title fits the bill now. You still have three ways to start the quest: Attack the moored pirate ship, use a side trail leading to the fortress’s top, or (as the quest name implies) land on the beaches around the fortress.

If you are spotted, the enemies that guard the ballistas will fire on you with their weapons and the ballistas.

Ever played “Medal of Honor” games, set in WWII? One very memorable scenario puts you as a player character about to land on Omaha Beach, the heaviest and deadliest encounter of the several Allied landfalls of Operation Overlord, on the beaches near Normandy, France. We recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of that landing.

In MoH, the game tried to murder you on Normandy beach. The same words were used by the DDO player that described his experience with the revised quest in the Lammania thread I’ve read.

I normally like the trail pass option, so I tried the spymaster option using Szyncletica the star-thrower ninja.

All was well in sneaking up to the upper level. Knowing what to expect, I began throwing stars at a ballista.

It was down to less than a third of its health when I saw it.

That projectile, tree-trunk sized and shaped like a flaming arrow, approached me head-on. I was mesmerized by how it looked, locked in amazement at the attack’s speed and range.

BAM. And that’s when I died from over 1200 points of bludgeon damage.

A second attempt with Szyncletica fared only slightly better. I had swam from the spymaster drop-off to the moored enemy ship and removed all resistance, and then entered the submerged entrance to remove all enemies inside.

On exiting to the outside at the south entrance, I was spotted and I heard a ballista activate. I hurried back in, expecting to have the ballista lose its target lock on me.

I came back out through the watery entrance and began a swim on the outskirts of the western edge of the map, stealthy and invisible.

BAM. Lesson #2: Ballistae never lose their target lock, even if you enter into the fortress. Stealth does no good. I already knew from posts that invisibility was also a wash.

I love this quest, despite failing very badly at it so far. It’s requiring me to really, really think.

And I think that I need to get a party gathered to go into this one.

The biggest challenge is that your own “army” is going to be limited to six. Good luck.

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