Can’t Attend Mah Bizness

Business travel all this week left me in mobile mode, trying out the Mac client for DDO with general success, save one problem.

The hotel’s wireless access points were terrible, leaving me with a very short window to play. The laptop I use also becomes an oven if used for too long.

Next week won’t be much better but I plan to get a video post up this weekend with more on the Poison Master build.

The Poison Master In-Depth

dnd-lego

I know building is not always this easy. I wish it were.

Normally, I’m not much into describing build data. I’m bad and lazy at it. I also think it takes away from the organics and serendipity of designing a character.

Nothing at all against RJ Cyberware’s excellent Character Planner, but I haven’t used it for some time.

I tried using the latest version to partially assist me, I realized it wasn’t updated yet for Update 23 and the Harper tree. (I’m aware that Ron has passed the torch to a co-developer.)

But a kind person PM’ed me to detail what I’m doing with Ryncletica by specifics as I train her to be a master poisoner.

So, here goes.

Drow 32-point build, third life. Base stats:

STR: 10, DEX: 17, CON: 12 , INT: 10 , WIS: 18, CHA: 10

The high WIS is to ensure strong DCs to use finishing moves. DEX is critically important for modifiers for damage and to-hit, to, AC and Reflex. Tomes for DEX and WIS are important.

I’m sure tome bonuses are missing a bit in this, but I’m winging it here. If you can max out an ability with tomes, get them. None of Ryn’s attacks or abilities are prohibited with lower DEX or WIS, but they will be more effective.

Ryncletica is a stock Ninja Spy except in these key areas.

  • Drow racial enhancements
    • As a Drow, she gains Shuriken Expertise as a free feat, generating more stars on an average throw than in her Half-Elf past life.
    • She also gains +1 to-hit and to damage bonuses from at least 3 levels of Xen’drik Weapon Training for her shortswords (primary weapon) and shuriken.
    • Key to the poison-master build is the Update 23 changes to Venomed Blades, the same ability shared with the Rogue Assassin. Venomed Blades adds 200% to Melee Power, which aids Ninja Poison as well as any other poison damage. Both Ninja Poison and the Venomed Blades boost stacks, quickly yielding purple numbers as the poison vulnerability of Ninja Poison quickly applies.
  • Harper Agent enhancements
    • Up to +7 Melee Power points added through this tree to take advantage of the Venomed Blades boost. (This is better than my initial build calculation.) It’s a heavy AP load since the build still wants 41 AP in the Ninja Spy tree for the complete Ninja Master core ability (Vorpal, +2 DEX and +1 competency to shortsword crit threat range and +2 to bonus for shuriken threat range).
    • Several enhancements add to Universal Spell Power, which may help in general healing and damage.
    • A point of DEX comes from this training from the second core training.
  • Ninja Spy enhancements
    • Ninja Training and Advanced Ninja Training cores use DEX-to-hit and DEX-to-damage, and add a chance for an additional star to be thrown per attack (in addition to Shuriken Expertise). Ryn will be a weaker star-thrower than Shuricannon Szyncletica but far stronger than half-elf Kiricletica.
    • Only two Ninjutsu abilities are trained: Poisoned Soul and Poison Exploit. Other AP that would train the line, including Touch of Death, are ignored. Poisoned Soul injects 5 stacks of Ninja Poison on each Touch of Despair finisher. Poison Exploit rips out all Ninja Poison at 1d20 damage per stack. In training the Deadly Exploits enhancement, the Poison Exploit damage rises to 1d50 per stack…and is magnified by Venomed Blades and Melee Power for potentials of thousands of points of poison damage. Ryncletica can still deliver negative energy damage but poison is the primary death dealer.
    • With up to 20 stacks on an enemy, combined with Melee Power and Venomed Blades, a 100% poison vulnerability of Ninja Poison increases from the Venomed Blades as well as weapons with Poison enhancements. At level 11, Ryncletica still uses two of the Tiefling Assassin’s Blade, which has Wounding (CON damage that reduces Fortitude saves) and Poison (stacks with Ninja Poison effects and Venomed Blades). Any living creature gets shredded quickly by these effects. Tough enemies like duergar are easy prey with these blades and DEX-to-damage.
    • No Mercy enhancement adds an additional 30% more damage to helpless enemies.
    • Finishing Moves are central. Dark finishers can paralyze, mute or blind. These increase the speed of the poison-master’s work. Common finishers are also applied.
    • The Unyielding Strike ki attack is a quick and powerful Diversion/Bluff effect that not only helps me charge the paralyzing Freezing the Lifeblood finisher but twists enemies around very reliably, allowing me more free attacks, even against undead and elementals.
    • Shadow Double will help with burst DPS from doublestrike to deliver more poison with dual blades.
    • A little Sneak Attack is trained for prerequisites and will add some DPS when enemies are helpless, stacking with No Mercy.
  • Weaponry
    • Poison damage stacks. Some enhancements and weapons that claim to give poison damage often are stat-damaging effects and not Poison damage as a separate property as is elemental, negative energy and Force damage. Ninja Poison magnifies any Poison damage, including its own, from allied attacks (including the Poison spell) and effects.
    • The Tiefling Assassin’s Blades used have a Ruby of the Endless Night slotted, energy draining enemies while the blades have Wounding, a very useful property that damages CON (thus reducing Fortitude) and deliver Ninja Poison.
    • At level 16, two of the Envenomed Blade will be used for greater Poison damage and armor-piercing, with Paralyzing as a side benefit. The hunt is on for Shards of the Envenomed Blade to make an Epic version(s) of this weapon that will take it through to level cap.
    • The Snowstar is in use for tactical ranged fighting, but Ryn owns a few crafted stars that will deliver Ninja Poison at range (as a bug in Sting of the Ninja still  prevents named stars and challenge-crafted stars from doing this since Update 21). High DEX and Shuriken Expertise aids with faster kills with more stars per throw.
    • The hunt is on for a Quiver of Poison. This adds Poison damage to thrown weapons.
  • Feats
    • Two Weapon Fighting line. Off-hand damage is helpful here.
    • Ten Thousand Stars. Ryncletica skips Stunning Fist to add more damage with thrown weaponry. Against enemies with poison immunity, distance with damage is paramount.
    • Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack, Combat Expertise, Whirlwind Attack. Miss-chance effects are excellent for this build. At level 11, Ryncletica uses a Green Steel helm with DEX skill bonuses and permanent Blur (20% Concealment). Dodge should be at least 25% by level 20, and Ninja Spies can use Shadow Veil for 25% Incorporeality. Combat Expertise will be trained once INT reaches 13 for an AC 10% boost. Whirlwind Attack is this build’s only tactical melee attack that can dose multiple enemies.
    • Improved Critical: Piercing for the shortswords.

It looks like my initial calculations for AP underestimated my available points. I have a few more AP for Harper.

So, 41 points minimum required to add the Ninja Spy enhancements. Bracketed numbers show total AP in the tree to that point:

  • Basic Ninja Training (core): 1 pt
  • Poisoned Soul: 2 pts
  • Stealthy: 3 pts [6]
  • Advanced Ninja Training (core, 5 AP spent, Monk level 3): 1 pt
  • Faster Sneaking: (3 ranks) 6 pts [13]
  • Sting of the Ninja (tier 3, 10 AP spent): 1 pt
  • Shadow Veil (core, 10 AP spent, Monk level 6): 1 pt
  • Unbalancing Strike (tier 2, 5 AP spent): 2 pts
  • Poison Exploit (5 AP spent): 2 pts [17]
  • Flash Bang (tier 3, 10 AP spent, 3 ranks): 3 pts
  • Sneak Attack (tier 1): 2 pts
  • No Mercy (tier 4, 20 AP spent, 3 ranks): 6 pts [28]
  • Deadly Exploits (tier 4, 20 AP spent, 3 ranks): 6 pts
  • Poisoned Darts (core, 20 AP spent, Monk level 12): 1 pt
  • Diversion (core, 30 AP spent, Monk level 18): 1 pt [36]
  • Shadow Double (tier 5, 30 AP spent): 2 pts [38]
  • Sneak Attack (tier 2, 5 AP spent): 2 pts [40]
  • Ninja Master (core, 40 AP spent, Monk level 20): 1 pt

To get maximum Venomed Blades, I needed 18 AP in the Drow enhancements:

  • Spell Resistance I (core): 1 pt
  • Xen’drik Weapon Training (tier 1): 2 pts
  • Drow Dexterity (core): 2 pts
  • Vermin Lore (tier 1): 1 pt [6]
  • Venom Lore (tier 2, 3 ranks, 5 AP spent): 3 pts
  • Xen’drik Weapon Training (tier 1): 2 pts [11]
  • Xen’drik Weapon Training (tier 2, 5 AP spent): 2 pts
  • Xen’drik Weapon Training (tier 3, 10 AP spent): 2 pts [15]
  • Venomed Blades (tier 4, 15 AP spent, 3 ranks): 3 pts [18]

The remaining 21 AP struggles to activate as much Melee Power with a few side benefits:

  • Agent of Good (core): 1 pt
  • Traveler’s Toughness (tier 1, 3 ranks): 3 pts
  • Awareness (tier 1, 3 ranks): 1 pt
  • Versatile Adept I (tier 2, 3 ranks, 5 AP spent): 3 pts
  • Harper Leadership (tier 2, 3 ranks, 5 AP spent): 3 pts [11]
  • Versatile Adept II (tier 3, 3 ranks, 10 AP spent): 3 pts [14]
  • Harper Training I (core): 2 pts [16]
  • Agent of Good II (core, level 6, 10 AP spent): 1 pt
  • Highly Skilled (tier 3, 10 AP spent, 3 ranks): 3 [20]
  • Versatile Adept III (tier 4, 20 AP spent, 3 ranks): 1 pt [21]

Challenges

Ryncletica the poison-master is intent on using Melee Power and Venomed Blades to increase her already-heavy poison damage. There’s insufficient AP available to train other Monk trees to add more passive ki regeneration, Concentration skill, or Dodge. No other enhancements outside of the Drow, Ninja Spy and Harper Agent trees can be trained.

Ryncletica must rely on only +2 total passive ki regeneration from training the Stealthy enhancement in the Ninja Spy tree and Greater/Ultimate Ocean Stance once at level 12 (at this writing, she’s 11). Since she is a melee character, ki shouldn’t be major concern as she rises in level. She may gain more ki regeneration in Epic play.

A handful of enemies are completely poison-immune. These include non-Warforged constructs, devils, demons and undead. Ryncletica will fall back to DR-bypassing weaponry, including unarmed fighting. She should hold her own, through not be exemplary in such battles, although her Drow weapon attack bonuses will make her slightly superior to other races with blade fighting.

Thankfully, enemies with high poison resistance can be weakened and overcome with enough poison, which a Ninja Spy is built to do. As with most Ninja Spies, Ryncletica is best against living, non-outsider enemies.

Ryncletica has no wand or scroll ability. She must rely on potions, clickys and her innate Monk skills for healing and other needs. Her very-strong miss-chance defenses should offset damage as her poison attacks rapidly degrade the enemy (as well as good tactics, picking when and where to fight).

Skill points are devoted to Hide and Move Silently, Concentration and Jump. What few benefits Ryn could gain from cross-class training Use Magic Device are offset by her own innate abilities or items (Blur and Invisibility are standard tools).

Ryncletica, as neither Human, Half-Elf or Shintao Monk, gains no healing amplification bonuses. She must fight carefully as battle damage is not easily and quickly restored. If any skill points aren’t used as noted above, she might consider adding them to the cross-class Heal skill for 1% positive energy spell power per point for a slight improvement to battle healing. Ryncletica’s motto is “kill fast, escape faster.” It would be interesting to contrast a double-bladed Ninja Spy like Ryn against a Tempest Ranger.

Ryncletica could retrain as a Single Weapon Fighter for much greater innate Melee Power bonuses that would allow the 11 AP in Harper Agent to be allocated elsewhere. As Kiricletica is already a SWF build, I wanted to test the TWF benefits, especially with Epic play. This is a personal preference. Ryncletica is built to maximize poison damage, not overall attack speed.

Other Equipment

Ryncletica owns an Icy Raiment that will do nicely from level 14 in most instances. She may own a White Dragonscale Robe for better AC protections.

Short of the Icys, her gear is rather off-the-shelf. I’m not going to go down this complete list as it is laughable to most, but I’ll note the highlights.

  • Icy Raiment or White Dragonscale Robe. High Dodge/AC or higher AC.
  • Nightforge Gorget: Heavy Fortification with a Deathblock augment gem combines an essential protection.
  • Jidz-Tet’ka: Still useful in mid-Heroic game as its Tri-Kreen poison helps in paralyzing while in Ocean Stance, as well as other stance benefits such as Jump in Wind Stance and healing amp in Fire Stance.
  • Green Steel DEX helm: Permanent Blur and a 2-click Displacement for emergencies.

In short: Any equipment that boosts AC and miss-chance are a plus. Any gear that increases WIS and DEX and saves are a plus. Any gear that adds Poison is a plus. Any gear that damages CON is a plus. As a melee character, increases in Fortification beyond 100% is critical as you head to Epic play.

Epic Play

I’m fond of Shadowdancer with this build for its stealthy controls, especially with high Dodge, Improved Invisibility and Shadow Manipulation.

However, the damage benefits of Primal Avatar look very attractive, particularly with abilities such as Insidious Spores, which spreads nasty Poison damage that can be amplified by Ninja Poison’s vulnerability. The Avatar’s Epic Moment, Avatar of Nature, also has a Poisoning attack that adds stacking damage that, combined with the perfected Heroic Poisoner training, should cause incredible Poison DOTs (200+ or more) per 2-3 seconds. The standard training of Rejuvenation Cocoon is also important. Primal training also adds more WIS if desired.

Grandmaster of Flowers remains a strong cross-train to improve ki regeneration and as a destiny for use in high-combat situations.

I see 150% or greater Fortification is critical to survive. Training the Unyielding Sentinel destiny and using any tricks learned from forum user and Master Assassin Nokowi to gain very high fortification will reduce the high-crit damage that Epic monsters can do.

Currently…(Updated from First Post)

Ryncletica is still doing very well. She’s getting some push-back in damage as she nears level 12. Concentrating on getting No Mercy trained and Greater Ocean Stance for more ki. Once that’s reached, a couple more Melee Power points are planned before continuing Ninja Spy training, then more Harper Agent points gradually through L16.

Vow of Poverty: Pretty Please, Devs?

desertI’m enjoying Syncletica in her hermit style as she moves to Level 5.

Teacher Saekee noted that the concept I’m doing is nothing new, and has a PnP concept.

It’s Vow of Poverty, based on D&D 3.5e rules. A number of sites discuss it: here is one that’s most detailed.

Given that Monks are likely to take this, there is much gnashing of teeth and wailing and lamentations of overpoweredness of this ability, even in the tabletop world. Boy, that sounds familiar.

I think Vow of Poverty would make for a great enhancement tree. The challenge would be how to implement it.

I see it this way. To even activate this proposed class tree, you cannot have any non-Monk levels, period.

Once you choose it, if you have spent any AP elsewhere (except in racial trees) the game forces you to reset that tree(s). You may only have the Poverty tree active and no other, including other Monk trees.

Once the tree is active, any weapon other than a quarterstaff or unarmed fighting uncenters you. So you don’t even get to use kamas. Or, you may choose a preferred weapon and use only that weapon (as well as unarmed fighting) without losing your center.

But how would we limit what is carried, or if clickies can be used? What about guild ship buffs or special House buffs?

The bonuses would be rich and stack with the normal Monk class leveled abilities, based on this version. They should also gain Deathblock as a granted feat and an SLA of Death Ward by level 16, or some greater ability to resist death spells better than almost any other class. Granted fortification bonuses as one levels. With optional training, more DR bypassing, too, as Shintaos gain.

Attempting to take any other class would cause the tree to disable and all AP removed, as well as the bonuses.

Would this be a harder class tree? It should. It would require a keen mind and advanced Monk skills, I think, to make this work. No multiclassing to twink your build. Higher weapon limits.

But I love this concept. I’d love to see this in Update 24 or 25. I will download the Lam client to lead the tests!

On Locusts and Honey: Hermit Syncletica

In the desolation hide all the answers.

In the desolation hides the answers.

DDO Forum user Grace_ana asked me to visit a thread about beginner builds. She set some rules for new beginner preset build concepts, based on what’s offered but commonly unused from the character creation screen:

Rules for the pre-made paths are as follows:
1. It must be a pure build.
2. It cannot require any tomes.
3. It should have both a 28-pt and 32-pt option.
4. It should be workable with any race. This means including racial feats is fine, as long as a particular racial feat isn't vital.
5. Don't include enhancements, though the paths should be anchored in a tree much like the current ones are anchored in a former PRE.
6. It should only go up to level 20.

I couldn’t break things down in number-crunch mode using character creation tools. But I could recite the natural advantages of a human Monk without a lot of fuss.

A Monk is a natural fighter that doesn’t really require much from the enhancement trees to be a viable fighter, completely naked, into level 20. And I answered so, breaking down the reasons why.

I’m not sure if I properly helped Grace in her thread. I suspect I didn’t, leaving more questions than answers. But she inspired me.

I feel compelled to verify what I’ve said. It might be, to-date, my most challenging project since Kiricletica’s solo adventures.

Syncletica in the Desert

My first Monk and namesake to the blog and guide has been a bit idle. I’ve reincarnated her Shintao counterpart, Lynncletica, as an improved Shintao tanker. As a Wind-Stance Monk, Syn was generally great in Heroic but had issues in Epic play. They are my only Shintao Monks.

Syncletica is named for a real-life monk–specifically, a Desert Mother, a monastic of the early Catholic Church in the Fourth Century. Said to be very beautiful, she gave up her family’s wealth to devote a life to prayer, living in the desert.

I have always tried to show the qualities of the Monk class. To do something different and worthy rather than trying to build the best one. And its been quite a while since the abbess herself has made any news; all of her students are more “famous.”

SynHermitSo, like her namesake, I sent Syncletica into the desert.

Away from her stores of equipment. Away from her students and dojo.

She lives a meager earning, scraping by for platinum to purchase healing potions. Staying away from her guildship and the buffs it provides, its shelter.

In her third life, she owns nothing re-equipped from her past life, nothing in her inventory. No leaving the snowy side of Korthos for better-than-starter items for her first lives, or buffs.

If she finds something useful in the course of her adventures, she may keep it. But her Resurrection Cache and bank is far away, gathering dust in the city banks and never available.

Like John the Baptist in New Testament lore, her subsistence is simple, starting by the shipwreck by Korthos Island and fighting forward. She must make the most out of less.

She declines loans from player characters out of quest; everything she possesses must be earned by her efforts (that is, no twinking). If she wants something crafted, she’ll have to do it herself. In a party, she will accept buffs but not call out for any specific buff for her own sake.

If her inventory fills, she cannot reach a bank and must sell or abandon what she has. She’ll have no collectible or ingredient bags short of what is given to her in this new life.

All that is old is new again. Damage bypassing will come from handwraps and kamas, if need be. Augment gems may help this challenge. Her memory filled with stories of Kiricletica braving adventures alone, Syn will have to emulate some of her student’s art. Life will be expensive. It will be difficult.

Most importantly, this Syncletica does not train any class enhancement trees. She’ll use the human racial enhancements, but that is all. She will choose the path of light once more, choosing the Fists of Light feat at level 3 but will not train the Shintao or any other class tree.

She’ll train some feats to improve her prowess. Two-Weapon Fighting, Dodge and Mobility, Stunning Fist, and a few others. Tactical combat feats will be important. She trains the Dragonmark of Passage for a speed boost and, later, Dimension Door and Teleport.

And what items Syncletica does find may not fit with her new meditations. She might choose to wear only a robe, a ring and a bracelet, and these things only for some important protections, such as Deathblock and Fortification.

Her goal is to demonstrate and completely master all available powers of the unarmed self, not to have those powers skewed or even corrupted by things she may wear or training from a special school. She wants to show the inner quality, the finer edge of the living weapon that is the Monk.

Non-combat skills are critical, such as Diplomacy. Enlightenment does not necessarily include fighting.

Hirelings are allowable, but Syncletica would prefer to push herself rather than find herself dependent on them. A few quests will require one for mandatory levers or switches.

The Hermit Challenge

Everything I know of Monks in the DDO world began with Syncletica (carrying over lessons learned in the Neverwinter Nights games). Over time, I compiled what I’ve learned in gameplay and from others into a guide.

By testing her in this playstyle I can do some things I managed with Kiricletica, such as increasing my appreciation of finishing moves and stealth.

But I may also be able to show how little is needed as a viable Monk up to level 20. After that, the rules change dramatically with Epic monsters and I don’t think any build as bare as this could survive without enhancements and Epic Destiny training.

I’ve claimed in my guide that a Monk is still quite deadly with little to no equipment.  Syncletica becomes my demonstration of this claim.

I will try to give detailed build specifics and report her progress often to illustrate strengths and weaknesses.

Stealth Ops: The Claw of Vulkoor

Next in this series of posts detailing stealth options in high-difficulty quests, I’ll analyze what’s likely the most profitable quest for using stealth in the whole game in terms of XP.

The Claw of Vulkoor” is designed for Heroic or Epic characters to demonstrate their stealth and tactical mettle as no other.

Starting Out: The Giants

You need to kill one and only one enemy in this entire quest: the fire giant warlock Sobrien, that turns your Drow entourage into scorpions before attacking you. He uses various death and fire spells. While not a terrible bother with a full party, solo players should try weapons that wound him, draining his fortitude a bit to cause a dazed effect where you’ll get the upper hand very quickly.

Once Sobrien is dead, let your stealth leader (the person who will be first on the path at all times) gather the scorpions and Ioanna’s Ancestral Staff. Don’t worry about using Invisibility spells at the moment: You’ll need to avoid some giants who have See Invisibility. Only your stronger Hide/Move Silently scores will work here.

From Sobrien’s last stand, after Ioanna dispels a barrier for you, you’ll find three doors. To your right, guarded by two giants, is a door that leads directly down a path to the first pressure plate that opens the way into the scorpion-filled lair. Directly ahead is a door to a sleeping giant and a lever that opens the door by the giants. As you’ll note in their brief conversation, the lever is trapped. To your left and opposite the doors is a hidden door to another lever and a horizontal door that can drop you down to the pressure plate on an opposite path.

Taking the right door requires a high-Evasion character, preferably a Rogue, to enter that trapped room, disarm the trap and activate the switch, staying in Sneak to avoid waking up the sleeping giant inside. The path ahead has a patrolling giant who, if he spots you, will run back down the path to activate a very nasty fire trap that fills the whole corridor with flame.

Stay in Sneak, be you Monk or Rogue, as you disarm and/or pull that lever. The room will fill with fire if the trap is still armed but a Monk can leap to safety. Move fast: the sleeping giant gets tickled by the fire inside and wakes up to investigate.

Experienced stealth teams might try noisemaker traps to lure the giants at the door, as sneaking between them is impossible. Or, just kill them–but be warned that you might trip off the patrolling giant in the hallway below, who will activate the fire trap.

High-stealth teams can do the trapped lever and sneak behind the giant (not ahead of him, as giants have high Spot and bonuses) down the path, staying left of the giant as he turns about to make his rounds back up the path. You’ll find two sleeping giants and the first pressure plate.

Taking the hidden door is better for parties with a mix of high and low-stealth characters. This way gives you a chance to find a rare that occasionally appears from a unopenable mirrored door. This path also has a regular giant guard patrolling the path and one idle giant standing guard at the end of the path by yet another hidden door, but no fire traps. It’s better to lure the giant at the lower path up, or you’ll also attract the ire of two more giants that were asleep at the first pressure plate. It is possible–but very difficult–for a small team to bypass both giants here, and open the hidden door without the giant’s notice.

Rogues being what they are, teams can pursue both options, taking the party down the trap-less path but letting the Rogue quickly disable the traps in the other path for XP bonuses.

Whichever path you complete, the leader should walk over the plate to place the Staff and open the way to the scorpions. Never forget to pick up the Staff off a pressure plate before continuing.

Pacify the Scorpion Guardians

Apply your best buffing spells, long-term Invisibility (you will, hopefully, do no fighting from here to the quest’s end), Fire Resistances and Protection, and any Ranger’s Camouflage spells.

I say this while you’re likely surrounded by a couple of sleeping giants. A wiser group did this at the start as you need to go permanently silent from that point.

This is where the test begins.

Your primary task is to avoid being noticed by the roaming scorpions to gain a XP bonus. Getting noticed also causes scorpions to erupt from the ground in an ambush, ruining your chances at higher XP (20% of total). Depending on difficulty, healing scorpions will also appear, often standing idle but turning about occasionally. As the name implies, should you find yourself fighting, these healing scorpions heal the ambushers, making your job harder. Avoid getting close to any scorpion.

Stay in Sneak throughout the entire quest from this point forward. Never make one step without being in Sneak except where indicated.

And forsake any and all rest shrines. Your team shouldn’t have a high resource cost, anyhow, save Invisibility and Camouflage spells and perhaps a Haste spell if you’re not in earshot of scorpions. All the shrines are guarded. Use them and give up on your maximum XP. Any fight from this point reveals you.

The guardian scorpions are near or patrolling by a pressure plate. To get the pacify bonus, your team needs to go straight ahead from the first pressure plate and (with Feather Fall on), drop down to the bottom-most area. Immediately ahead is a guardian.

Often there are roaming scorpions about. In fact, watch out from pressure plate #1: a scorpion will appear to your right before the drop. You can trade the Staff to your best stealth team member–somebody with high agility and invisibility. Using the pressure plates and retrieving the Staff from a plate does not remove invisibility.

The best general tactic for touching the plate, especially when a guardian is close, is to touch the plate with invisibility active and immediately retreat. You must also have good Move Silently or the guardian detects you. After a moment, the passageway clears and the guardian is neutralized. During this, you’ll still need to ensure that you’re not in the path of a roaming scorpion.

Each of the seven guardians has a different challenge. The first is generally easy as there is perhaps one roaming scorpion. The second one is a bit tough as the guardian and entourage are closer to the pressure plate by a shrine. Another has a roaming scorpion on a long patrol. The fourth has the guardian himself making a very quick patrol. The worst ones have guardians practically camped on the pressure plate.

Midway up, you’ll find a door leading to a shrine, camped by giants. Avoid it, and the roaming scorpions and continue the path. You’ll cross over to the sixth guardian that camps his pressure plate.

You have two climbs that need a little Jump. You can leave Sneak here but be sure to go back into Sneak once you’re near the end of the traverse.

Don’t Be Greedy

On your way after completing the last jumps are a bunch of nesting or healing scorpions with a door and its switch. A strong and attentive stealth party member has to time opening the door while the scorpions aren’t looking their way. The door stays open long enough for the rest of your party to enter, but don’t hit that switch inside before your party makes its way to stand atop the switch or you have your Rogue team member disable the control box of the lever on Elite difficulty. Else, that room’s door closes and fills with soulstone-generating flames.

In the door that opens is the tomb of Prince Gornard. Stealth teams out to complete this quest will not try to rob this tomb. The giant’s chest has no special treasure of value,, Gornard is a nasty hit point-bag of a giant skeletal mage, and the fight’s noise may cause the last guardian to notice you.

You must have someone with high Spot or True Seeing to find the hidden door to the last guardian, but don’t open it until all party members are far away from it and when the opener is ready to go quick-Sneak after opening it.

On Heroic difficulty, the last guardian is often alone, and is hard to lure. He’s also sitting atop that last pressure plate. In Epic difficulty, as soon as you pop the hidden, the sound lures the guardian and one or two scorpions down the path.

Heroic players may need a Rogue with noisemakers to pull the guardian off of the pressure plate. I’ve had problems in generating noises that would attract the scorpion without detection. Teacher Saekee suggests the use of Flaming Sphere. It’s not a summoned creature that might cause the detect bonus to be violated, and its high Threat tends to pull anything towards it.

In Epic, where the scorpion bolts to your location, if you are lucky, the guardian will stand at an angle where your best stealth team member can pass by him and use the Staff one last time to pacify the guardian. From there, its a matter of avoiding the sight of any last scorpions by the pressure plate to find the Claw of Vulkoor. Have your Voices of the Master equipped as you touch the last plate by the Claw to end the quest.

You can ignore spurious warning messages about roaming scorpions from Ioanna after you’ve completed.

Getting all optionals gives you 89% more XP with 7% Devious bonus for less than 12 monsters killed.

Video

Here’s a perfect solo run of the place, done a bit ago by Kiricletica the Ninja Spy on Heroic Elite.

Stealth Ops: Blockade Buster

Continuing my series on using stealth tactics, we’ll talk about one of my personal favorites: “Blockade Buster.” The Dungeonmaster’s voice sets up your mission quite nicely.

"The Droaam fleet has gathered here during this dark night --
probably for mutual protection.
Such measures might help against a naval attack--
but not against you."

 

“Blockade” is designed to be a stealth-capable quest. Using any doors or hatches do not break Sneak or Invisibility effects. You can engage all the ships at once with a full stealth party or take on the whole blockade by yourself.

As with a few other stealth quests, “Blockade” offers more XP for those who use stealth. You’re going to work in very close quarters with lots of sleeping Droaam and a few roaming guards, so only the strongest Hide/Move Silently scores will avail here. Invisibility is a help but Move Silently is the key to success. The Camouflage spell, used by a Ranger or someone with high UMD and a scroll, adds stacking Hide skill. Party members with weaker Move Silently skill need an item to add Competence bonuses, or may simply need to bring some popcorn and sit on the raft during the adventure while others complete it. Piking here is a benefit for more experience.

The quest is inherently a simple one: Destroy the three blockading Droaam ships. It’s how you accomplish this that determines your reward.

All ships are similar in design. Your mission objectives are:

  • Get aboard undetected.
    • On all three ships are roaming archers with higher Spot, patrolling the deck. Some ships have two archers. Ladders are located on both port and starboard (left and right side) of each ship.
    • You need to study each archer and time your approach and ladder climb or you will be spotted. Sneak speed is critical (you don’t want to be above deck for long), so use Haste, have Speed/Striding items or train Faster Sneaking enhancements if possible.
    • It’s important to have Sneak active, with Invisibility if possible, from the moment you leave Mist’s raft, your start point. The only shrine is located here.
  • Find the mine bay crest. The crest is randomly placed on each ship in one of four locations.
    • The galley, filled with sleeping Droaam, is located near the center of the ship, closer to the stern (forward).
    • The bridge, above the captain’s quarters aft (rear of the ship). A captain may be here. If he is not, he is in his quarters.
    • The captain’s quarters, aft and below the bridge on a side door to port (ship’s left side). Depending on the ship, the captain is either in his quarters or on the bridge.
    • The lower deck. The mine bay hatch is always here, sternward. More sleeping Droaam. Strong Move Silently skill is required in these very tight quarters, especially in grabbing the crest. One step out of Sneak and you’re in big trouble.
    • Every door in the quest can be used without breaking your Sneak and Invisibility. It’s strongly recommended that you use your item targeting and use-item keys to avoid accidentally making an action that pulls you out of Sneak, causes noise or otherwise blows your cover.
  • Get inside the mine bay and eliminate the engineers before they can raise an alarm.
    • Once inside, three kobold engineers may be sleeping, or awake and on patrol. Near them is an alarm bell that you don’t want them to ring to get your no-alarms XP bonus. One of the engineers will be an orange-named kobold. One has a very high Spot score.
    • Any instant ways to halt or kill these kobolds before they can reach the bell is key to bonuses and your safety. Should they ring the bell, everyone on board that ship (but not others) will awaken, making your exit tougher if you cannot open the mine hatches to leave the ship from this point. Rogue Assassins with Assassinate training are the prime leaders in this area. They can kill silently while staying in Sneak, and have sufficient INT for the next step.
  • Set the timer on the mines or make detonators to destroy the ship.
    • Once the orange-named engineer is dead, the loot chests by the mine controls will unlock.
    • Again, a Rogue is your key main to get the best bonuses here. An Assassin takes down the kobolds quickly and silently to avoid alarms. Any Rogue with four levels has the Trapmaking feat, which allows them to make a remote detonator to blow up the ship immediately on their command. If the detonators can be traded, you can give them to others in party to activate all three at once to avoid other ships from sounding the fleet-wide general alarm that wakes everyone.
    • Detonators are preferable to the timer option, which does work well if you coordinate with others in your party that have neutralized mine bays on the other two ships. Each party sets their timer at the same time so that the ship’s destruction occurs instantaneously. If you’re solo, you’ll need to activate your timer to match that of an active timer so that the ships blow up as simultaneously as possible. So if you’ve already completed a ship and activated a timer for 10 minutes, you need to clear the next ship and activate its time in sync with the first at 5 minutes, and hustle to get the last ship’s timer in sync with the other two at 2 minutes.
    • You need someone with high INT to unlock the mine doors to escape underwater. If alarms have gone off, leaving through the lower deck will be very hazardous.
  • Return to the raft and destroy the ships or wait for them to explode.
    • On timer, the ships will blow once the countdown is done. Otherwise, use your detonators to complete your mission.

You have the option to assassinate the ship’s captains, but this typically requires them to be in their quarters, where no other crew will hear your fighting. Captains are red-named ogre bosses and often spam death spells and have nasty melee attacks.

A party in Stealth Team Six deployment can assault all three ships simultaneously, and then set a two-minute timer with the mine controls on party cue, and leave. This makes for a very quick XP run that can be done over and over.

Never, ever break any breakables in this quest or you’ll awake everyone.

“Blockade”‘ is biased against non-hiding characters. You can complete it through massive bloodshed if your party lacks training, but you also lose 160% more XP than the stealth path. Leaving the non-stealthy party members to pike this quest on the raft, watching patrols and buffing, is a very legitimate option.

Video Demonstration

I’ve completed this quest many times on my ninjas, but lacked the ability to keep the general alarm from sounding.

So here’s a video of a perfect run using Sukitetica, my new assassin. The only thing I was missing is the Mission: Impossible TV theme playing throughout (and no, not that Tom Cruise abomination).

The video has Closed Captioning. To see the captions, click on the CC button on the video toolbar. I’m still new at the use of my tool for this and some captions might appear faster than they should. Apologies for that.

Stealth Ops: Diplomatic Impunity

There’s only one thing you must do in “Diplomatic Impunity“: Kill the Droaam commander.

And that’s what Sukitetica the Assassin did.

This is first in a series of summarized walkthroughs that will highlight stealth tactics for selected quests. Selection criteria include whether stealth gains advantages in resources (fighting and healing versus avoidance), completion speed, and experience earned.

Most importantly, quest selections are based on how freaking fun it is to beat a quest against seemingly insurmountable odds and without slaying hordes of things.

Normally, my Ninja Spies like Kiricletica do such fun stuff. She managed to kill the commander but had to dispatch three others–and died once on her solo attempt. Still impressive numbers, but Suki thought she could do better.

Part 1: Get to Ulluvian

Since Assassins aren’t the greatest in protracted fighting, relying on their Sneak Attack damage for greater DPS, it was prudent to have a meat-shield backup. Natasha, the level 16 Cleric, was selected for her Death Ward. She was left parked throughout most of the quest, only summoned at the wildmen village for a rebuff of Death Ward and for one other use at the adventure’s end.

Suki’s been very busy in completing any and all quests at level 11 and below, banking her level 15 while earning 1,750 total favor for a +2 INT tome and then a +3 Upgrade INT tome. Suki preferred to get her Assassinate DC as high as possible without depreciating her XP rewards too much while entering this quest on Elite difficulty. Eventually her training as a Harper Agent will try switching her DEX-to-hit/damage to INT-to-hit/damage so I can pour INT into every level-up.

The extra INT added a couple more skill points to her level ups to 16. For this mission, Suki took advantage of the Ranger spell Camouflage and its stacking +10 Circumstance bonus to Hide. On top of that, scrolls of Invisibility helped for close-quarters cloaking.

After speaking to Henritta, simply go into Sneak and follow the northern (player’s left) edge of the jungle, never walking over the large plant flumes and their gray dirt, which may summon scorpions.

Carefully destroy root walls to proceed. You’ll avoid the gathering of irate wildmen (logically pissed off at more invaders but probably helpless to do much about it) to reach the next root wall and an area where panthers live. Suki was detected by one but used a paralyzing runestone on it to escape, avoiding a need to slay the kitty.

Once past the kitty-cats, you’re in the jungle clearing. Head down the beach path to find Ullevian and speak with him. Recent updates don’t count hirelings as party members for the purposes of activating objectives, so I was able to leave my meat-shield behind for the next step: bypassing the Droaam scout forces.

Part 2: Warn Henritta

Strong Hide/Move Silently isn’t enough at close-quarters going back up the narrow gorge where Droaam patrols now spawned. I also needed Invisibility and Faster Sneaking to get past things fast. Even when one or two scouts sensed me, their Spot check doesn’t last and they flail about blindly while I’m already far away.

Back at the jungle clearing, I stay to the player’s right, on the outer edge of the clearing, evading one pacing Droaam mage to make it to the root wall I’ll return to later, that leads towards the end-fight. For speed and safety, going through the Vinethrasher camp is faster.

I evaded detection from the wildmen guards and used Diplomacy to enter the camp and used the skill again to move peacefully through the village and back to base camp. I’m an Assassin, not a murderer, nor am I greedy for random low-value loot. You don’t need a high Diplomacy skill to complete either check.

Out through the village’s northern path, you’re soon reunited with Henritta to deliver the bad news. She gives you a new order: kill Ilos Hrolk.

Part 3: Assassinate the Commander

In the past, I enjoyed the fun of simply going through the entire jungle, past Droaam, wildmen and panthers to get to the last root wall leading to the fortress. Suki chose the more efficient path of returning up a path through the Vinethrasher village and then sneaking by the hostile wildmen guards to the root wall, completing avoiding the bulk of the Droaam jungle scouts.

With the root wall destroyed, Suki had to deal with yet another narrow rocky pathway and many more Droaam. Passing by these guys, even with Invisibility and greater Hide would be risky, so Suki used a noisemaker in one spot to pull enemies together, making it easier to slip by.

After bypassing a couple more patrols, Suki hears the Droaam commander ordering everyone to stand down to parley with me. At this point, all patrol spawns in the jungle and final path disappear, and all Droaam are temporarily non-aggressive.

ScreenShot01423I stood by the fortress gate. Suki had no kills at all to this point. There are at least 104 hostiles possible to kill in the entire quest.

Killing Hrolk and only Hrolk wasn’t a simple matter.

He is inside his fortress with a door I cannot open once I’m inside. I could go toe-to-toe with the commander easily enough, but I had to find a way to keep his reinforcements out of the battle.

ScreenShot01424I could call in the hireling to distract others. But the longer that the hireling remained present, the greater the chance that she’d kill someone else, as well as pull unwanted company.

So I took advantage of two tactics we’ve noted in the Stormreach Shadows guide.

One: I summoned a Flaming Sphere. If it worked, this little blob of annoying and nearly indestructible flame would make an excellent hate-magnet that would keep the commander’s initial guards too busy to find me.

Two: Once I initially spoke to the NPC commander, I was pulled from Sneak, but I re-engaged Sneak once the dialogue appeared, completed the remaining dialogue that way, leaping away from the commander as the fight began.

It all worked. The Flaming Sphere pulled everyone to itself, including the red-named commander. Now, how to get the commander away to fight me alone?

Here’s where I momentarily forgot that I was a Rogue, not a Monk. I used Bluff to pull the commander down to the fortress door and began my attack. His initial guards up top stayed put. So far, so good.

As expected, Hrolk goes dirty and calls in his outside reinforcements. In hindsight, if I were smarter, I’d would’ve placed Web traps at this door to slow down the extra fighters.

With more Droaam than I could handle, it was time for my one distraction. I summoned the Cleric hireling and threw her into aggressive mode. It worked. She gave me a brief series of emergency healing while I continued my final blows against the commander. A few moments later and the commander was dead and the quest completed.

ScreenShot01430Officially, only one kill to complete the quest.

The hireling and I together did mop up the remaining Droaam outside and inside the fortress to reach the three reward chests.

ScreenShot01431Next time: “Frame Work.” Let’s hope that the aggro rebalancing in Update 23 works as it should for that adventure.

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