Szyncletica: Shroud Beater

It’s my first major accomplishment. Szyncletica, now a capped Epic Shiradi Shuricannon, defeated the Shroud on her own on a quiet Sunday morning.

Wasn’t easy.

Part 1

I had two attempts here. The first aborted at part 1 when I missed a second portal keeper that appeared.

I learned an important strategy: Portal Keepers are bound to appear if you’re slow at the portals, solo or not.

The key is to simply target and kill the keeper and then continue on with your work. Know the portal manifestation order and check all the portals.

If you hear a second warning after you’ve thought you’ve killed any keepers, you missed one and have less than a minute to rectify your mistake.

I took that knowledge into my second attempt and was able to beat part 1 without significant issue.

Part 2

I had a terrible group of lieutenants, about as annoying as a solo runner can get I had Kasquick, the troll, the lion and the fire elemental. The last two lieutenants are stupid fast in their ghosts returning to the center. I know from study that other solo runners have abandoned their run if they’d got such an over-speedy group. But I’m fast, too. I gave it a go.

After I killed off Kasquick near the southwestern tree and began working on the others, I noticed how much time had gone past before Kasquick had returned to life. On killing fire, I watched him get stuck within a corner, staying there for almost 3 minutes before the game AI forced him to the center to revive.

I tried to take advantage of that spawn slowness and the fact that this was a maze. The best place to slay them is near and just north of the southwestern recharge tree. The lieutenants have a tendency to get stuck or meander slower to the center and their respawn point. I needed that time; the lion was extremely fast in running back to the center, faster than the elemental.

With a series of timed beatdowns and some lucky procs from my Celestial sword’s passive explosions of fire and light, the lieutenants fell, the crystal eliminated and now, on to the dreaded part 3.

Part 3

This time, I thought of another idea to conquer this place, where the Prismatic Wall had taken me twice already.

I zoomed through the area, smashing as many crystals above the doors as fast as I could before I opened up the central fountain, retreated and waited.

I knew now that eliminating door crystals brought the Wall up faster. I wanted to wait to start any water runs until the Wall spawned so it wouldn’t spawn atop me.

Celebratory cannonballs in Part 3's regenerating pond.

Celebratory cannonballs in Part 3’s regenerating pond.

Finally it appeared. I began a careful series of runs out, always following far behind the Wall as I did my work, filling only one fountain and removing crystals as I retreated back to the center where the Wall does not travel.

I waited for the Wall to pass by my fountain door on its clockwise path, then sprinted out counter-clockwise to do what I could do.

It took about 30 minutes, but patience won, and I left part 2 with two chests and victory.

Now to go where few others have gone.

Part 4

I thought to myself that Part 1 and 2 were the most difficult because they had a time element. That was only partly correct. Part 1 is timed only once a portal keeper appeared. Part 2 isn’t timed at all except in the fine window you have while all lieutenants are down and the race to destroy their respawning crystal. It’s part 3 that requires the greatest timing.

One Ninja Drow, one battle.

One Ninja Drow, one battle.

Now, it was just a matter of combat. A matter of outlasting my enemies.

The Whirling Blades are a nuisance but not very dangerous on Normal. My thoughts in this first encounter with Arraetrikos involved one important factor: Beating his regenerative factor.

As Klorox the Barbarian showed, it was a matter of damaging Harry faster than he regenerated.

I kicked up my defenses, drank a DDO store elixir and a Yugoloth potion, and got to work.

Taking out the trash was easy enough, and then Harry arrived.

We meet at last, pit fiend.

We meet at last, pit fiend.

The Thunder-Forged Shuriken with its tier 1 upgrade did its work. I pulled 1/5th of his HP away on round 1.

Each time the pit fiend disappeared, I went into Sneak to boost my passive ki regeneration and used Wholeness of Body to recharge my HP to full.

Staying hidden also left me hidden from the devil spawns, allowing me to take my time in regenerating ki and waiting for my Eternal Potion of Death Ward to recharge.

The gnolls that arrived to recharge Harry fell very, very quickly each round to vorpalling stars and were never a factor.

Harry and I fought on. After 5 rounds or so, the beast fell.

Part 5

As ready for the final fight as I'd ever be.

As ready for the final fight as I’d ever be.

I waited at the part 4 altar to regenerate my ki to maximum and clear the cooldown on my Eternal potion.

The strategy here was similar to part 4, although I realized that I’d have a hell of a time separating the speedy revived lieutenants.

And just before I entered, I decided to buy some +20 Jump potions from the DDO Store.

It took a bit to slay the lieutenants.

Then Harry materialized once more.

Bet most of you have never seen this view of part 5 before, high above.

Bet most of you have never seen this view of part 5 before, high above.

I drank that Jump potion and leaped atop the center pedestal, running all the way up and was able to stand on the edge of the outside wall of the area. I pelted Harry senseless and with impunity.

After 15 minutes or so, the deed was done.

Another feather in the cap for Firewall’s Shuricannon design, even with a weaker design such as my own.

I give you a video of the last minutes of the battle.

 

And Sir Geoff: By request: the dance of victory.

ScreenShot01379ScreenShot01378

Maybe I found my final inspiration a couple of days ago, after discovering an old DDO thread of a much-earlier Shroud victory by the quintessential Sarlona guild, Caffeine.

Every one in the raid group used only Clubs of the Holy Flame.

Completed years ago, that’s still going to be more badass than anything I have done or can think of doing.

 

 

Stormreach Shadows: A New Stealth Game Guide

sslogo2I recently proposed a self-imposed team challenge I dubbed as “Stealth Team Six,

The idea involves two or more players, using stealth tactics to complete their adventures for a fascinating change of pace.

But I neglected to offer much more to help people of almost any class consider this idea.

A blog post or even a gameplay suggestion could only go so far.

I’ve spoken much about stealth tactics before in many posts, here, here, here, here and here. I also had a chapter about stealth tactics in a chapter in the Monk guide.

DDO Wiki has skill information, and much discussion can be found on the DDO forums.

But much of of it is rather incoherent, sometimes dated and dry as a car mechanic’s guide in the desert sun.

The flavor, the essence of what you must do and how to proceed is missing amidst all the technical data.

There’s just not a comprehensive game guide for training and applying stealth tactics in Dungeons & Dragons Online.

Well, until now, anyway.

Introducing Stormreach Shadows

I’ve built the skeleton of Stormreach Shadows, a new DDO game guide that tries to do what The Book of Syncletica did -offer a comprehensive player resource, but this time on the fundamentals of stealth.

Unlike The Book of Syncletica, however, this guide’s mission isn’t just for Monks. It’s to aid any class in exploring and applying any stealth techniques to their build.

At the least, a little stealth for any character could make a rougher quest into a less trying one on some occasions, even if you and your party don’t go all Splinter Cell on the place.

For classes that support innate stealth abilities, we hope to hone your training to the extent where you’re so invisible that the DDO gamemasters will have a hard time finding you on their own servers.

A few years of monastic play, trying things out here and there, allowed me to find (or rediscover) innate abilities of the Monk class. Now, together, we can study all class abilities to see how a stealth team can support each other, from spells to UMD and bardic song.

As time allows, the guide will also gain something I’ve been wanting to integrate in the Monk guide: Video examples in specific quests on using stealth. I’ve made a few videos with Kiricletica already and will incorporate these while also creating a few new ones with Sukitetica (my halfling Assassin) and others.

The guide will have a small chapter noting reported or known bugs as they relate to stealth. One intrepid player has been documenting serious bugs that affect the Assassin since Update 22 came out, and we’re trying to find more that could affect other players.

We’re Going Global on This One

Now, readers know that I primarily play Monks. I have limited experience with other classes, so I cannot easily know how Fighters, Wizards, Sorcerers, Druids, Clerics and other classes could use stealth principles without compromising their class’s central roles or abilities.

That’s why I’m not alone in the editing and compilation this time around. As I said, I’ve created the skeleton, but need more help this time around in getting some meat on its bones.

I’ve initially asked forum member Saekee, a fellow ninja stealth enthusiast and frequent commenter on this blog, to aid me in the guide’s initial development, filling in data from his experience. He’s especially interested in adding suggested multiclass builds to help create improved stealth masters, especially with classes that have very limited stealth potential due to their defense design, such as Paladins.

I also welcome any other players who’d like to assist us in developing and maintaining the guide’s class-specific chapters where their game experience will be helpful in noting spells, weapons, feats and skills of that class that could be helpful in ST6-style operations that I would not inherently know with my limited experience.

Stormreach Shadows won’t go “wiki” since I do want to keep editing control, and because the web site’s mechanics limit revision changes that could cause edit wars and other issues without a controlled delegation of who edits what.

But, again, I do welcome offers from any others who would care to contribute a few hours of their time by adopting a class-specific chapter and developing it so it will be as useful and accurate as possible. The class chapters could use adoption by anyone that’s used that class in stealth. I’ll want to limit one editor per class chapter.

And even if a class chapter is already reserved, we’ll always welcome corrections, additions and comments, which I’ll take point in adding if the chapter editor isn’t fast enough.

Don’t worry if you’re not very experienced in writing. As long as you don’t write exclusively in text-speak (It’s “before,” not “B4″–speak English, not bingo) and use proper English grammar and sentence structure sufficient enough for me not to be forced to rewrite most of your page, you’ll just fill in what you know, based on each class chapter’s pre-formatted template I’ll have up for each.

In my role as the managing editor of the guide, I’ll take care of concising, linking up and correcting and tidying up any results you submit for a consistent look once you’re satisfied with your contribution. Credits for writing can be added, if desired, with your DDO Forums identity.

If you’re interested, follow the instructions on the forum thread. This blog post will be a bit circular in soliciting help since you’re likely reading via a link on the DDO Forums’s Game Guides subforum. The forum page will detail what you’ll need to access the site as an editor.

The Ascetic Guardian

My posts have been filled with pleasant diversion from the blog’s focus.

Shuricannons.

Shortsword wielding ninjas.

Even Bard Swashbucklers.

Whatever happened to good ol’ fisticuffs?

Well, rejoice, Dear Heart, as now we return to those thrilling days of not-so-yesteryear of the thrice-new adventures of Lynncletica, the Little Mountain.

More sword than shield, Lynn's defenses will increase. But her attire befits that of a hermit until she is truly worthy to be a guardian.

More shield than sword, Lynn’s defenses will increase. But her attire befits that of a hermit until she is truly worthy to be a guardian.

With a third life, Lynn is not so little. Her larger physique granted by the third reincarnation makes her appear Amazonian, compared to others about the dojo.

Lynncletica returns as a Shintao Monk once more, leaving the role of the dojo’s Epic leader to Szyncletica for now. This time, Lynn is able to take full advantage of the Shintao training, which favors the Earth Stance for defense and power.

Of course, Lynn can never keep up with the Joneses in Boston, Mass., where their role as DDO’s developers continually tweak or change the curve of reality. Now comes Update 23, which will add a new mechanic for more melee and ranged damage: melee power.

The idea has many critics. Sir Geoff of Hanna has fired an early salvo of scorn about it. And I must admit to being darned confused about the notion.

I have read, in as much as time allowed, the expected updates to improve player defenses, especially against Epic characters. It would be nice not to get one-shotted by a minion. Four or five, maybe, if you’re not prepared. But the guys in heavy armor wear heavy armor and shields for a reason. It should take quite a lot of punishment for their characters to die.

What they need is something that scales with Epic damage bypassing, so the devs “Armor Up” threads had discussed adjustments with PRR and introduction of yet another mitigation ability, Magic Resistance Rating.

I find that welcome…but don’t we already have Spell Resistance for countering effects of certain spells? I believe I read that MRR aids against offensive spells, which makes a little sense with a sword-and-board against a powerful mage. But here, we come perilously close to that balance of mage versus melee where, all things being equal, mages lose. That’s why magic is what it is.

Peak Performance, Part Deux

Lynn’s return to Heroic continues my goal to get more of my characters to early levels to assist others. I’d also like Lynn, now gaining experience much slower, to help with Evennote’s great initiative, Players Helping Players, by helping her eventual avatar appearance on my server.

For now, I’m working to get Lynn to level 5. She appears for now  in some Ragged Rags as a mark of monastic asceticism, helping me to remember and appreciate the foundation of the unarmed Monk. Unless required or invited into party, Lynn enters on Elite without hireling support to help me train in defense and attack.

I’m particularly keen on preparing her for using Ki Shout. It’s an Intimidate effect that uses the Concentration score rather than Intimidate, a cross-class skill for Monks. I want to draw attention. I want the enemies to see only me, to fight me.

That sounds a little suicidal for a Monk, but here me out.

Log Horizon Revisited: The Guardian Motif

This fearless (or foolhardy) desire to serve more in the tanking role is certainly spinning off from my Log Horizon appreciation. This anime, where a D&D-styled game has become an alternate reality where the players live in that world as people based on their characters, has clear roles of battle tactics that serve the protagonists very well.

The first three main characters you see are an Enchanter (a Wizard-like character whose role is to augment his party member’s attack and defense) a Guardian (a heavy-armored fighter who intentionally tanks, that is, attracts all enemies to him to bear the brunt of the fighting while others in the party coordinate attacks) and an Assassin (which does as the name says) with ninja-like stealth skills.

Guardian: Taunter and Tanker Extraordinaire.

Guardian: Taunter and Tanker Extraordinaire.

I don’t quite have an Enchanter character, but Flynncletica the Bard comes a little closer to it. Kiricletica (despite the homage of her name to a Sword Art Online protagonist) is more like an Assassin with her Ninja Spy skills, so there’s a spot for a Guardian, and Lynn can fill that.

The second episode of the first series (a second series arrives this Fall) shows our Enchanter, Shiroe, and Guardian, Naotsugu, about to be ambushed by a player-killer group of at least 4 people. just nearby a large woods in a small glade at night. The enemy party consists of at least two Rogue-like people, a Fighter and a healer class.

What these four poor bastards don’t realize is that Shiroe and Naotsugu are perfect at their roles, trusting in each other’s abilities implicitly from their days as part of their game’s Ultimate Static Group, a non-guild renowned for their prowess in completing raids that even high-level guilds struggled to do.

I’d invite you to watch the episode, for free, online at Crunchyroll. The action scene is barely 10 minutes, about 5 minutes into the episode. But let me summarize how two players began to completely mop the floor with these four players in an excellent demonstration of teamwork. This show illustrates great RPG strategies we’re forgetting on DDO.

  1. Shiroe, the Enchanter, is seen casting a passive spell (but not announcing what he’s doing) as Naotsugu leaps in to gather aggro on the three attackers, their healer apparently staying behind the fray for support.
  2. As his maul-wielding fighter beats on Naotsugu,the enemy leader orders a nimble roguish attacker, using two chakrams, to attack Shiroe. Just as she leaps at him, Shiroe slows her down with Astral Bind, a rooting spell.
  3. Realizing a new problem, the enemy leader tells the chakram-wielder to switch places so he can attack Shiroe.
  4. Naotsugu notices the aggro change (and Shiroe trusts that he does) and performs “Anchor Howl”, a super-intimidate AoE effect that compels all in range to attack him alone. If anyone tries to ignore Naotsugu, he can make a nasty counterattack.
  5. With all three attackers now on Naotsugu, Shiroe realizes that the Guardian can only take that much attention for so long before his HP is gone. First, he casts what seems to the enemies as a worthless spell that throws floating lights around the enemy’s heads.
  6. Shiroe next targets the enemy fighter and casts “Thorn Bind Hostage”, a rooting spell that creates nasty magic thorns around a target that also roots them in place.
  7. Naotsugu strikes the thorns around the maul-wielder, causing him to lose half of his HP immediately. Surprised, the enemy leader calls out for the healer to restore health to their stricken member. Several thorns remain on the maul-wielder and the implications to all are deadly clear.
  8. Naotsugu strikes again at the punishing thorns. The enemy fighter dies and disappears (in this new reality, they are immortal and resurrect back in town), shocking the remaining enemies. The enemy leader shouts at their healer, who sways and promptly drops to his knees. Shiroe’s very first action at the start of the battle was to cast a sleeping spell on the healer, knocking him out of the fight, literally.
  9. The chakram-wielder becomes frustrated and attempts to attack Shiroe, but Naotsugu slaps her to near-death as she is still under the Anchor Howl intimidate effect. She soon runs away from the battle.
  10. The enemy leader, alone on the battlefield, calls out for his party backup, a Summoner and Sorcerer hiding in the woods. But Shiroe already knew about them.
  11. Shiroe’s count of “four enemies” was based on the fact that Naotsugu was momentarily stopped by a rooting spell not cast by any of the four attackers on the field. This was code to Akatsuki, the Assassin, who was in the woods as well and interpreted Shiroe’s message that more of the enemy were in wait elsewhere. Shiroe’s floating lights kept the enemies from seeing into the dark woods, where Akatsuki proceeded to assassinate the two mages without interference.
  12. Akatsuki drags out the dying two mages, who disappear. The enemy leader is totally alone and soon dies as well in a fitful and pitiful attempt to stab Shiroe, which Akatsuki does not allow.

It’s Naotsugu that played the dominant role in the battle. His role wasn’t as damage dealer but his aggro generation allowed all other party members to use their talents to the fullest without being under attack. No one paid attention to Shiroe’s strategic machinations until it was much too late. Akatsuki wasn’t known to the enemy party. She notes to the enemy leader, “your teamwork is full of holes.”

And note that the team of three had no healer of their own in party and were outnumbered 2 to 1. This continues into episode four, and even then, the team, now with two additions, has a only very weak healer as they ultimately must fight in another player-killer scenario, five against at least twenty five.

The central fight is a Swashbuckler against an evil Monk, cleverly taunted into a one-on-one battle. When the enemy Monk tries to dogpile on his sole combatant using the rest of his guild, guess who steps in and forces that mob to concentrate on him? Yep. That’s Naotsugu. In addition to Anchor Howl, he uses a special ability comparable to the Unyielding Sentinel’s epic moment to become effectively impervious for a time to buy Shiroe and the swashbuckler the time they need against the Monk.

Our guys win again.

Strategy works. Tanking is still awesome because a skilled party can handle far more formidable forces in this mode, rather than arming themselves to the teeth and attacking individually and on sight, each member likely pulling more threat to them than they could handle. The AI isn’t incompatible with this traditional style; the player attitudes now are. Everybody wants to be the star, it seems.

In contrast to what I described from episode 2 of the show, by episode 13, a junior group of adventurers show exactly how NOT to fight, losing and retreating again and again because of poor aggro management and only a vague sense of each other’s roles until one of them, a Shrine Priest that’s fond of Shiroe, begins training them to work as a team, with her work emulating Shiroe’s encounter-control tactics. That group becomes a bundle of power and dominance after that.

Lynncletica, Guardian Monk

So, Lynn is getting adjustments to make her a better Guardian-type Monk stylized a little after Naotsugu as Akatsuki is currently inspiring bits of Kiricletica. Her hit points will be sizable, her attacks powerful, but her defenses more formidable.

It’s not quite too different from her second-life as Lynn could handle almost any enemy in tanking but struggled a bit with Epic Elite defenses. My hope is that I can improve her against some EE as well, particularly as Update 23’s changes come into play.

She can heal herself and remove damaging curses and effects. Most importantly, Lynn can keep the bulk of the fight on her with her Ki Shout. From there, others in the party can debilitate enemies without fear of immediate counter-reprisal.

More and more STR will be Lynn’s regimen to eliminate targets, with close attention to WIS and CON.

I hope I can find a little more PRR than the 67 or so I managed by Epic, but it’s the miss-chance powers that I’d like more. Lynn never trained any Ninja Spy techniques and may consider it for Shadow Veil for 25% incorporeality. She didn’t have the strongest Dodge in the past, either, with maybe 18%. That’s got to change, too. She can Blur herself adequately.

One thing that the new Shintao tree has firmly discouraged me from doing is to train all the Elemental Curatives. Since Rise of the Phoenix only resurrects yourself and is no longer a Raise Dead SLA, I’ll only train the remove-curse and lesser-restoration abilities, which are great mass-effects in party, and shove the freed AP into Ninja Spy or improving more defense abilities. I’ll be immune to natural poisons and disease and can carry potions for magical types.

Combat Expertise will be retrained; it’s 10% stacking bonus to all AC goes fine with Earth Stance’s 20%. Lynn could get 100 AC without effort by level 20.

And, if team strategy is handled well, any party that Lynncletica serves won’t require extensive healing.

Lynn might train up additional abilities from the Ninja Spy and Mystic trees. The Henshin side has Mystic Training for improved finisher DCs, and an Animal Form style. Way of the Patient Tortoise has no negatives with more Concentration and HP, but Way of the Tenacious Badger seems nice in that my unarmed damage increases as my HP decreases, at the price of less Fortitude (compensated by higher CON). Adding more Dodge from the ninja’s Acrobatic ability is an easy choice to add points toward Shadow Veil. Perhaps, then, Faster Sneaking and Stealthy to add a bit more Hide/Move Silently and gain a point of passive ki regeneration.

I’m skipping Exemplar as before. The few points to unused cross-class skills Heal and Intimidate and the extra Threat generation I can gain through Devotion spell power and higher Concentration.

Deft Strikes and its increased off-hand attack rate is inviting, but Reed in the Wind’s extra Dodge is also helpful.

I’m curious how PRR will be effective for Monks with Update 23’s goal to cap PPR for unarmored folks. That said, I”m still a fan of it. So the Iron Skin ability gets maxed for 15 untyped PRR, as well as Conditioning for more Concentration and 15 more HP.

The jade attacks are always handy and will be trained, of course. If tier 4’s Instinctive Defense can be trained to reduce damage should Lynn become helpless (before I can use my Harper Pin if low on HP), then I’ll add it. I’m more keen on adding another CON point at this level.

Tier 5 of Shintao is filled with goodies. Meditation of War helps PRR but reduces Dodge cap in Earth Stance (at least until the last core enhancement offsets this). Empty Hand Mastery raises the unarmed attack hit die. I like Kukan-Do’s remote stunning but feel my CHA will never be high enough, and prefer to bring the fights closer to Stunning Fist range.

By Epic levels, Lynncletica will take more training as the Unyielding Sentinel, an epic destiny designed to tank and endure. She’ll lack only the ability to wear a shield for more defense but will gain more CON and PRR, and can amplify her Shield AC bonus from a Flawless White Dragonscale Robe once she creates one. There’s also the newer destinies that may offer more.

I’m looking forward to being more like a mountain, sturdy and invincible. Here’s hoping there’s more I can adapt in Update 23.

 

 

The Insane Tourist’s Guide to the Storm Horns

ScreenShot00930Continuing our guides to extreme DDO tourism to such destinations as the Subterrane and the Underdark, we turn our attention to what might be the most breathtaking place you’ll likely encounter in your travels to-date.

The Storm Horns is a massive mountain range on the outskirts of the Kingdom of Cormyr. Reminiscent of the American Northwest, this wilderness area is arguably MUCH larger than the King’s Forest, outside Eveningstar.

And if the greenery of the King’s Forest wasn’t enough, you are able to take in true vistas from the ridges of the mountain. You’ll literally make a climb up the mountain, with the climate changing as often as the denizens who, predictably enough, aren’t that fond of sightseers and will not offer much hospitality.

Occupying the mountain are the Netherese, descendents of some of the nastiest spell casters that ever lived, and who tire of not having a legacy of blowing shit up as well as their forefathers. These people aren’t exactly the kinds of magicians you’d invite over for birthday parties, lest you want it to be the last one you’ll see on this plane of existence.

Preparing for the Trip: Heroic and Epic Tours

Like the deadlands of Gianthold and the prison city of Wheloon, the Storm Horns offers a Heroic tour (Level 19) or an Epic tour (L27).

To reach the mountains, you must be able to reach Eveningstar. This requires a Stormreach tourist like yourself to

  • Complete the Lords of Dust quest series in Stormreach Harbor and then complete “Beyond the Rift” to open a path to Eveningstar for your first-life character, or
  • Use a Key to Eveningstar to make an extraplanar teleport to the town if you received such a key from a previous life.
  • Or,  use the Hall of Heroes Passport to go to Eveningstar directly from the login screen. Free feature if you’re a VIP tourist, or 795 Turbine Points from the DDO Store. (Thank you, FuzzyDuck.)

The Storm Horns, like the King’s Forest, may give level restrictions for entering. Check with your tourist agent for more details.

New and challenging inhabitants dominate all climes of the mountain. It’s critical to have a good self-sufficiency as only a few shrines to rejuvenate yourself exist in the area. With air elementals and other inhabitants capable of knockdown there, it is possible that you can be accidentally knocked off the mountain.

Feather-fall items are essential to have at the ready. You will fall to your death without feather falling or a similar ability.

The Forest

Even on entry, you're assaulted by beauty. Don't let yourself become assaulted by owlbears at the same time.

Even on entry, you’re assaulted by beauty. Don’t let yourself become assaulted by owlbears at the same time.

On entering, you’ll find a curious individual named Eldovar Fleetleaf that offers to teleport you immediately to one of three areas in the area for a price of Astral Shards.

You can decline his offer and find these special waypoints (Harper Stones) yourself, but this might take some time. For nine shards, you can move about more quickly if your tour group is already far ahead.

It’s strongly advised that you read the tour guide map from DDO Wiki to find these Stones for later (and safer travel). It seems that, once you find the Stones on Heroic, you needn’t look for them again in the Epic version.

Once you do this, future visits with Eldovar will teleport you to that location for free.

There are many streams off the mountain, with passageways across each.

There are many streams off the mountain, with passageways across each.

The forest is much like a snowy King’s Forest but with a significant gradation as you climb as well as an abundance of deciduous forest that sways in the breeze. Other flora, such as fields of wildflowers, are wonderfully sculpted.

Scattered throughout this and higher elevations are journal entry markers left by the inquisitive but prepared Oriphaun (Heroic tour) or the sarcastic and darkly humorous Netherese leader Amskar (Epic tour).

You will traverse for several hours in real time to find all 45 of these markers, and likely run face to face with imaginative and even mythical creatures as you find these little waypoints.

At the forest level, you might find satyrs: Half goat, half man. You’ll also see the owlbear in its native habitat.

There is a large lake to the west with a tiny island in its center that I’ll refer back as you reach higher altitudes.

The Tundra

This lovely lake grows smaller and smaller as you ascend.

This lovely lake grows smaller and smaller as you ascend.

As you climb higher, snowfall appears, but waxes and wanes. The cold becomes more sharp, and so do the bites of those that live here.

You’ll see griffons and something far more unusual: harpies, half woman, half bird, all shrieking. Be careful of their crooning, which can stun you or sometimes make you helpless.

The Netherese, who make camp of various sizes on the mountain, will not be happy that you have discovered parts of their plans. Gnolls, orcs, Netherese-allied humans, and giants are in league with the Netheril and will slay you on sight–which sort of makes sightseeing hard to do.

Your best stealth game can avoid some fights if you desire or are able to use it. Remember that the hill giants you first encounter have See Invisibility and (with the Update 19 stealth AI changes) have incredibly far Spot bonuses. They’re able to see you coming at least three times farther than most other enemies.

Midpoint

There's really not a bad view anywhere on the Horns...unless it's from within the stomach of a griffon.

There’s really not a bad view anywhere on the Horns…unless it’s from within the stomach of a griffon.

The cold whips you as if you were a redheaded stepchild. Drifting snow spins about as you walk.

Looking over the ridge, that reasonably-sized lake at forest level becomes very, very tiny and eventually fades from view with the blowing snow.

You must be very careful here as the Netherese have many of the largest fortifications built here.

They’ve added a familiar but no-less formidable enemy that you’ve seen in places such as in snowy Aussircaex’s Valley: Frost Giants.

The Summit

The desolate beauty is marred only by the Netherese at this point.

The desolate beauty is marred only by the Netherese at this point.

It’s all snowy from here on out. A white dragon occasionally takes up residence in the area, if dragon-spotting is your kind of thing.

Hopefully you won’t become part of the dragon’s favorite pastime: adventurer snacking.

The largest Netherese installations reside atop the mountain. These also lead to the last two quests in the series, if the tourist information is correct.

Watch out for the Ice Elementals. They are surprisingly powerful in attack. Strong fire spells will rid you of them, but they are very many, and you are fewer.

Special Attractions

The Netherese are poor hosts. That’s certainly because they have secrets to their secrets that they aren’t keen on sharing with you until Cormyr is destroyed, and you with them.

That said, check out the glacier entrances once you’ve completed the quests involving the Netherese occupation of the mountain.

By the time you reach the summit and the glaciers, you’ll be a witness to the Netherese magic-bomb facility and flying fortress–if you survive their attempt to use it before you’re forced to destroy it.

Nailed It: The Mirror of Glamering

I’m busy with a special project that I’ll tell you about very soon. So this is a very short post.

In my quasi-daily DDO news scan, some notes about Update 23’s changes came up from Sir Geoff of Hanna and over at Tactalicious & Craftalicious.

I’ve been hoping for more attack animations and have stated so recently. But one wish came true from all that.

More cosmetic armor. How much? As much as you want, it seems, thanks to an upcoming item called the Mirror of Glamering.

Think of it as a cloning tool, a photocopier if you will, of any armor or helm appearance in the game. We’ve got a whiff of this with the Ninja Outfit, a cosmetic copy of the Spider-Spun Caparison.

Now you can look as uber as you think you are.

Now, please Turbine, make it both a very rare drop but easily purchaseable (and tradeable) on the DDO Store. Give it a high TP. People will buy it. Trust me. Make some bucks to keep making us game content.

Don’t stop there, however! Add more new appearances based on class. “Tactalicious” asked for samurai armor (Kensei!). We’ve got ninja, so let’s try out those different attack animations? Yes? Maybe?

And thanks!

The “Stealth Team 6″ Challenge

It can be a little like this, minus the guns. That's serious Underwater Action there.

It can be a little like this, minus the guns. That’s serious Underwater Action there.

A lone hobgoblin patrolled a cave corridor deep in the hobgoblin halls. The guard stopped by three crates, their dim shadows blocking what little light from the surrounding torches could emit into the tunnel. With nothing to see, the guard turned and followed his steps back up the hall to his previous checkpoint.

Behind him, the shadows around the crates moved. Three adventurers studied the guard’s movement in silence.

With a gesture forward, Ryncletica pointed to several more crates where she and two other ninja could hide. Together they moved ahead with no noise; dripping water from stalactites above were far louder.

Passing the guard, they reached another lone hobgoblin guarding a treasure chest. Isolated enough from neighboring patrols, he’d still alert others and the ninjas could get overwhelmed should he bolt.

All three could see that this one was more stout, more decorated, and certainly more dangerous than the lesser guards behind them.

Kiricletica made a hand gesture to the others, who nodded and melded into the shadows. Kiri pulled out a single blade and channeled her ki, her blade’s tip dancing as she etched the signs of Water, Darkness and Water into the air. moving to point-blank range to the idling boss.

A single swing of Kiri’s blade disrupted the ki of her enemy, paralyzing him. The two other ninja moved in on stealthy feet. Two seconds later, the boss was dead,  never having a chance to make a single attack or call out for help.

Ahead, after evading several small patrols by clinging to the corridor’s edges and ledges, a single guard ahead stood idle at a thin chokepoint, unmoving, his back to the team. They couldn’t sneak past him without being discovered.

Ryncletica approached and held out a straightened palm charged with dark ki. She quickly touched the pressure point on the guard’s back. He collapsed immediately, dead. Ryn had to leave stealth to do this, so Szyncletica and Kiri were at the ready.

A small band of enemies saw Ryn and charged in. Szyncletica raised up, her arm a blurry motion as throwing stars whizzed by Ryn’s head, striking and killing the five guards before they reached the team. Szyn reminded the team that additional kills were necessary in their mission to thin out the forces as well as killing their leader.

A large mob blocked a door. Out of direct sight of the mob, Kiri pulled out a star and lobbed it at a barrel left and in a small cul-de-sac. As the mob moved to investigate, the team sneaked behind and away, the final boss still yet to come.

~~~~~

With the Update 19 changes to the stealth AI, I tried to gather a group of guildmates, months ago, with high Sneak skills to join me in quests where we complete objectives with minimal kills, good trapping, looting wherever possible, with few enemies noticing.

I called the idea “Stealth Team 6,” which worked well in name both to a Shout Out to the famous U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 ops group (which doesn’t really use their old name officially, but damn it if that will stop us from using it) as well as the maximum size of a party.

It didn’t gain momentum with my guild at the time, thanks to the widespread number of levels as well as many players that preferred to play more Epic content or eschewed Hide/Move Silently in their builds.

So, I thought I’d farm out the idea for anyone, guild or no guild, on any server. The challenge is very similar to what Kiricletica did primarily in her first life, except that she cannot open locks or disable traps.

The extra challenge for ST6 squads is that they are a larger party that must work cohesively or else one person could blow the cover on everyone. Most importantly, the team would fail their mission.

ST6 is a proposed way to play DDO, with self-imposed conditions to change things up a lot for a static group,  PuG or guild. You could even blend in other self-imposed conditions such as permadeath.

ST6 gives a group an opportunity to train in stealth tactics as a group, learning from more experienced players if one’s handy. It’s also more fun to share in the knowledge that your entire six-person team killed only 2 guys, bypassed dozens, even hundreds of enemies, and snuffed the boss quick to gain that treasure.

By mastering stealth tactics, some quests that seem like death traps can be managed easier. Remember that one quest in the Necropolis chain where you split up and have to deal with a gauntlet of skeleton archers that will  fill you with arrows yet are too far away to easily attack? Not a problem for an ST6 team. You just sneak on through, hit the lever to the door ahead and continue. Archers won’t shoot what they cannot see.

ST6 players also learn to become more self-sufficient in normal play, remembering that the most optimal path isn’t always the obvious one.

So, when conventional ways to complete a quest are harder, tiresome, resource-intensive or just plain boring, it’s time to form up your Stealth Team 6 special ops.

Team Deployments

ninjaspyWhat classes could qualify for ST6 missions?

While any class could do some work in an ST6 team, the Bard, Monk, Ranger and Rogue (including the Shadar-Kai race) are best suited because Hide and Move Silently are class skills for them, allowing their numbers to go to their maximums.

I’ve spoken fondly of the synergy of the Ninja Spy and Rogue Assassin before.

If you’re unfamiliar with the stealth mechanics in DDO, read the DDO Wiki Sneak article. I just updated the article with a few additional tips and clarification.

The character itself should at least:

  • Wear no armor or light armor. Else, you’re going to be subject to the Armor Check Penalty on critical skills needed for best stealth missions. Most importantly, you’ll be unable to swim faster or jump higher while in stealth. Jump and Tumble have a -20 penalty while in Stealth, requiring expertise in avoiding detection by going up and above enemies, rather than around.
  • Have maximum Hide and Move Silently (H/MS) scores. Everyone, but especially team members who aren’t Bards, Monks, Rogues or Rangers should wear any gear with Competence or other bonuses to improve their scores. Hide reduces the time for enemies to “lock on” your location with Spot while sneaking within their line of sight. Move Silently reduces their chance to hear you while sneaking. Invisibility cannot count here. While invisibility is immunity from enemy Spot checks, it is ineffective against Red Names and other enemies with See Invisibility or True Seeing. High MS + invisibility against a beholder = dying adventurer. Hide will reduce detection against True Seers until you’re about body-length to them (2 meters). At that point you have the brief but very workable element of surprise, be it a Stunning Fist, Assassinate, Finger of Death, whatever. Kill what you must quickly, as silently as you can, and don’t let even other party members know what just happened, much less the enemy. Invisibility can greatly supplement but not replace Hide.
  • Have high Jump scores. Most people simply add a maximum of 10 points to Jump and stop, using spells or potions or items to increase the number if needed. Jump scores above 40 give no benefit unless you’re in Sneak. There, you have a -20 penalty. So increasing Jump to higher numbers ensures that you can leap atop high locations even while in stealth.
  • Class role coordination. As implied above, you’ve got to be able to stay hidden as a team, doing as much as you can while hidden. Trappers are critical for team members who might hide as well as any other on the team but lack Evasion to pass through deadly traps. A good Wizard or Sorcerer with Knock can substitute when the team Rogue is handling other business. Monks and Assassins could form an assault team to clear pathways quickly and quietly with Quivering Palm, Assassinate and other moves. Swashbucklers can light tank and give party buffs as needed,  give Invisibility out to others, and slash mobs silly.
  • Stealth tactics mastery. This includes but isn’t limited to:  never striking any breakables, ever, unless using one to attract enemies away from your position or an objective; always remaining in Sneak except in battle, but returning to Sneak any time when moving; letting Rogues open locked doors rather than bashing them in for a silent entry; avoiding a giveaway of team position unless as part of a coordinated feint. Enemies with tremor-sense (spiders) and what few others that can defeat/ignore H/MS require a finer touch that a team would have to figure out on the fly. Example: the epic quest “House of Broken Chains” can be done well in stealth but one location has spiders that must be pulled away from the captured slaves so the slaves won’t attack you so that you can rescue them later.
  • Stealth speed. The Deepwood Stalker Ranger, Ninja Spy and Thief-Acrobat Rogue have the Faster Sneaking ability to increase stealth speed by up to 50%. A core ability in the Shadowdancer epic destiny can add full movement speed briefly to a sneaking character. Speed isn’t absolutely required but is very helpful to get out of an enemy’s line-of-sight and to a target as soon as possible. Combined with the class’s natural fast movement and enhancement training, the Ninja Spy is the fastest stealth class.
  • Shadow approach. Zerging is never welcome in a stealth team unless you zerg as a team and in formation with the precision of the Blue Angels flying team. Higher experience is gained not by kill count but low bonuses (Insidious Cunning-10%, Discreet-7% and Devious-5%) and completing any optionals if low-kill count can be maintained or if party agrees to mission changes based on the quest. Some quests will need you to slaughter to advance or activate other objectives; the goal is to kill what you must but not enrage the whole dungeon as you do it.
  • Direct Action. A stealth team’s advantage is that they can be as small as they want and therefore less detectable, but their disadvantage is that they are small and more vulnerable to mob overruns. Therefore, what an ST6 team cannot outwit by stealth, they must outgun. While fighting, however, they can use their innate stealth tactics against the AI to keep more enemies from joining the fray. Say your team is moving through a corridor when one of your party is detected. If the enemy is a scout, ranged members must take that guy out before he rings an alarm. If the enemy charges, the team has to eliminate him without attracting more attention from others.

Mission Objectives

A ST6 mission could go many ways because every quest is different, of course. The advantage to playing in ST6 is that your team exploits the environment and expected behaviors of your enemies to press your advantage. While we’ve all done this non-stealthy ways in parties, an ST6 team will apply this to avoid attacks when possible, not to counter them.

Let’s take apart a quest or two to show what an ST6 mission might do.

“The Kobold’s New Ringleader”

Kiricletica shows how using breakables aided her in a successful solo, low-kill run through this level 2 quest on Elite in this video. Details on the quest can also be found here.

“Frame Work”

This quest is built well to handle any kind of party and has only two objectives: Use a special Flesh-to-Stone wand to stone any non-boss minotaur and then kill the Minotaur Chieftain.

One stealthy approach is to shoot yourselves into the fort using a repaired ballista. Team members can scatter, with high Spot gear to see the stealthed panthers and wolves as you gather enough ballista parts. A Rogue Mechanic will be able to repair one or more ballistas to allow teams to approach from several angles.

As the ballista shoots you, it pulls you out of stealth on activating the thing, so be sure to go back to Sneak while in flight. From here, the operation is a matter of team pride and preference.

The stealthiest approach is repairing a ballista, near the bosses inside the fort, which will shoot you into the chieftain’s lair without needing to open its gate, and bypassing the traps on the ramp to that gate.

You could wipe out the town, take out only the Cabal Seers for their chests, stone any Minotaur Runts to make setting off alarms impossible by enemies, or go in to the end-fight as a group, stone the Runts there, kill the red-named Chieftain and use diversion tactics to allow all to loot the chests before escaping with the ballista there.

“Blockade Buster”

Another quest designed to favor stealth; using doors there will not break Sneak or cut Invisibility. The Dungeonmaster’s first words to you sums up your mission 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."

 

The optimal party would be Rogue Assassins with a Ninja Spy or two. The ninja goes to seek out the crest on each ship since they can go invisible at will with ki. Once the crest is found, all sneak to the lower deck, where the Assassins remove the kobolds before an alarm sounds, or mages use Flesh-to-Stone or Finger of Death.

Lastly, a Rogue opens the mine bay doors for all others to leave as he uses Trapmaking skills to make detonators.

Optionally, any captains lounging about in their quarters (especially if guarding a crest) could be taken out safely as a team. One captain is often on the bridge of one ship and would cause too much consternation on deck to eliminate.

A perfect score of 9 killed (3 kobolds each) or less with all detonators going off fast enough for none of the crews to raise alarms makes for a nice bit of bragging and extra XP.

“The Claw of Vulkoor”

Arguably the toughest stealth mission in the game, especially as a team. After killing the fire giant wizard, the team can use assassination/instant-kill tactics on the giants before going stealthy to use the pressure plates to charm the guardian scorpions while avoiding detection from any scorpion.

It can be done, even at Epic Elite. You gain massive XP and extra chests for completing all stealth optionals, having only killed what giants stood in the way.

At the start, the tough part is that the giants have See Invisibility, so anyone that’s relied on it before will not do well here.

The toughest part involves staying out of sight of randomly moving and patrols of scorpions in tight spaces.  Sneaking by them is harder if you don’t move fast in Sneak (Ninja Spy and Rogue Acrobat trees have Faster Sneaking enhancements to increase Sneak speed).

Team “Uniform”

I add this part for kicks and giggles, but if you’re going to go in as a stealth team, go big in terms of looks. It’s great for morale.

Ninja Masks. Hoods. Dark clothing. Glowing goggles. The Shadowfell look.

This is a good time to spend those Turbine Points to get some great cosmetic armor. You can standardize or look like a rag-tag outfit. A little role-play should be very fun here.

Techniques

A strong ST6 team has many, many tools to complete objectives with deadly silence.

  • Stealth. This goes without further discussion.
  • Distraction. Enemies nearby will move to investigate a sound. If you use a single breakable to pull enemies while remaining in stealth, you can sneak behind them, often clearing your path to reach a lever or to continue to your objective.
  • Assassination skills. As noted, the Monk’s Quivering Palm will insta-kill, at the price of pulling that Monk out of stealth. A Rogue Assassin would be the point-man for the true Assassinate ability that keeps them hidden.
  • Charms/Domination. The Bard’s skills to make your enemies your allies can make them fight with each other while your team presses on. Shadowdancers can use a dominating ability.
  • Paralyzation. Hold Monster spells. The Freezing the Lifeblood finishing move to paralyze for a full minute.
  • Muting. The Pain Touch finishing move nauseates an enemy. They cannot attack or cast spells for a full minute.
  • Neutralization. The Pain Touch finishing move will mute enemy casters. All other insta-kill spells work here.
  • Ninja Poison. Against tougher enemies, the damage-over-time effect of this magical poison of the Ninja Spy can make takedowns of most of the toughest bosses easier, magnifying any Poison attacks of the group.
  • Bluffing. Not only useful for combat pulling, but also for NPC dialogs for a tactical completion.
  • Diplomacy. Some quests offer a better no-kill/limited-kill option with good Diplomacy.
  • Intimidate. While normally you’re not trying to pick a fight, a Shintao Monk’s Ki Shout could allow one character to be a diversion while others sneak away and continue to an objective. A Shintao Monk is a resilient self-healing character that can take on a group. A Swashbuckler could also take on this role by charming enemies, killing what she must, and then leaving the scene.
  • Diversion, the ability. The Ninja Spy’s Diversion technique is a hate-magnet dummy he can deploy when a team is becoming overwhelmed or need a strong distraction, aggroing everything in range so that the rest of the team is ignored and can escape.
  • Disable Device: Traps are not a problem with a typical well-trained Rogue.
  • Search. Your Rogues will find the hidden loot, side passages quite well.
  • Ranged attack. Archers and throwers are great here, as would be a powerful Wizard and Sorcerer. Your agility allows you to reach a high ground to pelt enemies if required.
  • Open Lock: Same as for traps, Rogues can open locked doors without attracting attention.
  • Spot. At least the leaders should have high Spot skills to see hidden enemies way ahead so that the team can determine how to avoid or remove them.
  • Diversity. Only the Rogue hasn’t an innate self-healing option, but offers many other abilities to a group. Adding a Dragonmark of Healing will fix that if a halfling, and Use Magic Device works well, too. Half-Elves and Rangers can use wands and scrolls with the right training. A well-prepared ST6 team doesn’t require a dedicated healer.
  • Cooperation. A ST6 team must excel at this as no other, just like a SEAL team. You must have a strong leader here, and team members must cooperate and coordinate. Dissention is failure.

Implementation

Hopefully this idea will generate some interest through the game as a play alternative. Perhaps you’re already doing it.

Take my suggestions, modify them as you see fit and then get some groups going. I hope to recruit others on my own server and guild, pointing them to this post for instruction.

See the DDO Wiki articles for more on the mechanics of stealth in the game:

Let me know if you’ve taken up the challenge and tell us of your results.

UPDATE: From this post comes a new game guide: Stormreach Shadows, for all classes to master stealth tactics.

Let’s See More Attack Animations!

If there were any one new cosmetic addition you could add to Dungeons & Dragons Online, what would it be?

My wish might be for more attack animations.

Attack animations shouldn’t be impossible to code in. In fact, we’ve seen a new one with a new class not long ago: the rune arm attack with the Artificer. I’m not sure if the addition of Orbs also changed how mages seem to work as well. So it’s not a matter of impossibility.

Attack animations would be purely aesthetic and not change one iota of your abilities.

So why not consider new attack animations based on a few criteria?

  • Class
  • Tree
  • Cosmetics

Class

The Artificer looks like any other class with a sword or a crossbow without a rune arm equipped. That should be its default. Because of what a rune arm is, you can’t really have it work other ways. Same for the crossbow.

For the unarmed Monk, there should be two or three animations to choose. I liked the variations in Jade Empire based on the attack style you selected.

To make the dev’s life easier if needed, once chosen in the Character Creation tree, this unarmed attack style can’t be changed until a reincarnation. This selection might also reflect how you’d handle other weapons, too.

Druids would see options for Animal Form. Greatsword users would be happy. Longsword and bastard swords would see a variation.

All other classes should get at least two variations. It would be nice to see a piercing attack animation that would reflect the rapier for Swashbucklers to look more authentic. Quarterstaff users should also see a new version that’s less club swinging and more “Friar Tuck”-like, or true to the bo staff style.

Tree

And here’s where it should get really good. Class trees should show specific ways to hold a weapon based on whether you’ve trained a specific weapon style (Single Weapon Fighting, Two Weapon Fighting).

This could be based on the dominant number of action points spent in a tree. Let’s take the Ninja Spy in this example, just to appease me.

Ahsoka from "The Clone Wars." Reverse-grip two-handed fighting.
Ahsoka from “The Clone Wars.” Reverse-grip two-handed fighting.
(c) Disney.

 

They’d fight unarmed based on the Character Creation selection with one of the three weapon fighting styles. But as a Ninja Spy, they should hold weapons quite unique to their tree.

Ahsoka  with reverse-grip single weapon fighting.

Ahsoka with reverse-grip single weapon fighting.

I’d live to see the reverse grip option for Single Weapon Fighting, with a backward grip on one weapon if using Two-Weapon Fighting. As shown, one young Jedi in The Clone Wars animated series had this going on, big time.

This could be automatic based on unique tree/feats such as Monk philosophy or spell school, to pick two examples, or selectable in the Gameplay or UI options.

The sellable kick here, if Turbine wanted to do so, is that certain styles would be wholly restricted to a class. The Monk, being a Premium class that is available only as a Premium account or as a VIP, would get the “cooler” styles. Same could be true for other unlockable races or classes.

Cosmetics

And, if you have TP, you could buy up other attacks as cosmetic additions. This would supplement what you have chosen for more diversity. Some would not work without a prerequisite, such as TWF or SWF.

This could be added for the spell casters so they’d see differences.

Or, weapons themselves could have cosmetics. If you can’t swing nicely, then at least have something that looks nice as it swings.

Problems and Benefits with the Idea

Some classes don’t lend themselves to change. I can’t imagine how archery or crossbow use can be changed up. I mentioned rune arm usage and its apparent limits.

But I want Turbine to earn the bucks needed to keep the game worlds profitable so we can keep playing. Such animations would be entirely optional, so it’s not forced down our throats. But, like the new Ninja outfit cosmetic armor (identical to the highly-popular Spider-Spun Caparison epic outfit), we’d be all happy to pay for looking good and looking cooler if it were offered, right?

And if there were lots of options, lots of TP would be exchanged. We’d be happy. The devs would be happy. Warner Games would be happy. And such changes shouldn’t break anything.

Thoughts on the idea?

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