A Shuricannon Video

Szyn-Lailat

There are many fans of Firewall’s Shiradi Shuricannon, and I’m one of them.

Some skeptics posting in the thread asked if there were any video of the Shuricannon in action to see how the build worked.

Now there is. I’ve created a video of my then-L19 Szyncletica tearing through the Shavarath side of the Vale of Twilight and completing “Running with the Devils” on Hard difficulty.

“Devils” is actually nastier than other Shroud flagging quests and on par in difficulty with “Wrath of the Flame” from the Devil Battlefield. Why? Both quests have enemies that are Good-aligned with significant buffs and protections that thwart player weapons.

In the case of the Eladrin in this quest, they are superior enemies with Cold Iron damage reduction and are prolific spellcasters. If you don’t take their healers down fast, you’re going to get Divinely Punished for it.

Given the weapon limits of a Shuricannon, this seemed a short-enough quest to demo what it can do.

I note the ‘Cannon’s strengths, requirements, common equipment, weaknesses and rationale throughout the video. My primary weapon is a Green Steel Mineral II star to bypass the Eladrin and devil DR without issue. Even with the bug that caused Sting of the Ninja to stop working on shuriken with Update 21, Szyncletica still controls the dungeon.

Very shortly after this run, Szyn reached level 20. She reactivated her Shiradi Champion and Primal Avatar destinies, entered “Blown to Bits” on Hard difficulty and tore everything apart on a pure solo run. I took down the Fire Iron Golem optional boss faster than with any character I have as I could continually attack him without having to concern myself about his det-packs.

If you have any questions on the video, just comment. I’ll be linking this post to the Shuricannon thread as well, where you should post for specific questions on the build itself with his creator.

(I apologize for the video’s darkness. I did find a tweaking setting on YouTube that should make the video much clearer to see.)

April Fools on the DDO Forums

After a stressful day, what better way to laugh than to discuss how bacon brings joy to all--when it's "working as intended."

After a stressful day, what better way to laugh than to discuss how bacon brings joy to all–when it’s “working as intended.”

Catch it while it lasts.

I log in and find a new forum: “Bacon.”

Lots of subforums. And, with little prompting, everyone piles on to “complain” of bacon nerfing, why the bacon is missing from the Auction House, and other common complaints.

That was a nice touch, Cordovan and Pals. Thanks for the laugh!

Magekiller

The Assassin from "Diablo II," trained to slay mages in style. (c) Blizzard Entertainment

The Assassin from “Diablo II,” trained to slay mages with style. (c) Blizzard Entertainment

After reading my own review of finishing moves in my last post, my right hand moved on its own and began to slap me across the face every so often for a few odd minutes.

“What is the sound of a stupid gamer crying?” the hand said.

I’ve always touted the Monk class as an anti-mage or “magekiller“; a class designed to resist or deflect magical attacks and to slay powerful spellcasters that could debilitate other classes who fail to evade or save from such attacks.

Old Diablo II fans may recall the Assassin class, a martial-arts melee class that used items and attacks that emulated magic to destroy corrupted mages.

I miss that game. It was the original Neverwinter Nights RPG that pulled me away from that one, and DDO then pulled me here. I haven’t touched Diablo III out of fear it will ruin my life.

DDO’s Monks aren’t much different from the Diablo Assassin, from their martial arts, using ki rather than magic for attacks and spell-like abilities, inheriting high spell resistances and armored with saves that thwart many a spell caster.

After some four years of play, I’ve still many things to learn. I’ve surprised myself by what I haven’t used.

I’ve documented how much I love the power of Freezing the Lifeblood, a long-lasting Dark paralysis finisher that allows me to hold almost any Orange-Named or lesser enemy for very long periods (from a battle perspective). Now, I’ve found a second joy: Pain Touch.

Pain Touch will nauseate an enemy. This finisher and the Stinking Cloud spell are the only abilities in the game that cause the Nauseated effect. When something is nauseated, they cannot cast spells or attack. The only thing they can do is walk around. My DC ensures they aren’t casting or fighting for a full minute.

My bet, however, is that Stinking Cloud’s fortitude save is low and easy for enemies to beat. Else, I’d see more allied spellcasters using it to stop enemy counterparts. Or, because the effect also generates a greenish cloud that also gives Concealment, perhaps it’s a spell that few add to their spell book as clouding spells are often frowned on by party members.

Pain Touch has the usual Monk DC formula to save from this Fortitude attack: 10 + Monk level + WIS modifier, which are boosted by many enhancements such as the Henshin Mystic’s Mystical Training ability.

The advantage of Pain Touch is that it works on many enemies that may resist paralysis or won’t qualify for the Freezing attack, such as aberrations such as driders, duergar, monstrous humanoids, giants, and vermin such as spiders.

Kiricletica, anti-mage of Eberron and the Forgotten Realms.

Kiricletica, anti-mage of Eberron and the Forgotten Realms.

You need a strong DC to pull this off.

At level 25 and buffed in Grandmaster of Flowers training at present (where I’ve taken all WIS upgrades to-date at tier 4 for a 46 WIS), Kiricletica’s DC is at least 12 + 25 + 18 = 55. Since mages aren’t normally packed with CON and therefore have a lower Fortitude, Pain Touch works quite well to shut them up. Like Freezing, the enemy rarely escapes the nausea before the one-minute timer expires.

I first tried this on a solo run into “Jungles of Khyber” on Epic Normal. The Drow mages sometimes saved against it, but a Freezing attack held them tight.

The real challenge presented itself with the beholders. I sneaked up to near point-blank range to launch a Pain Touch finisher. My results were inconclusive. They still threw out an antimagic cone and some Enervation, suggesting that they either saved against Pain Touch or are immune. They still died from my other attacks and removing a couple of negative levels left me none the worst for wear.

Silencing the Mages

To express my joy in this (belated) discovery, I ventured out into the wilds of the Underdark, where plenty of nasty spellcasters lurked about to test the finisher: Drow Priestesses, illithids, Yuan-Ti, Drow Necromancers. A successful Pain Touch attack left them mute. They were still moving about but they were out of the fighting picture while I tended to other business.

The only obstacle to using these finishers are in charging them up. Each ki attack used takes 3 seconds, which can overlap with another. I can charge either finisher up in about 6 seconds, applying one while attacking and charging it for another mage. But since I don’t move around while fighting, other enemies often aren’t aware I’m there, allowing time to charge finishers again and set up Freezes or Pain Touch strikes.

Of course, easier but more ki-expensive attacks to take the mage out of the picture immediately, such as Quivering Palm, aren’t off the table. I mixed these attacks up with finishers since Quivering Palm’s use won’t affect a finisher chain.

In the epic Gianthold wilderness, where even a high Sneak skill is good only if you’re about a quarter-mile away from the eyes of a giant, Pain Touch proved remarkably helpful in stopping some giants from doing anything. Stone and Storm Giants could be halted but Fire Giants and Hill Giants were often more resistant, likely since they are often spellcasters with some innate spell resistance and/or maybe a higher buffed Fortitude.

Spiders, as you know, are quite the pain for a stealth player since they’ll detect you with tremor-sense. But using Pain Touch stops their attacks. Their lower Fortitude guaranteed a successful finisher during one visit to epic-level “Trial by Fire” in Gianthold where the arachnids were quite numerous. Trolls, being what they are, are immune from muting or my type of paralysis. But that’s where the usual flame weapons work just fine.

The hallmark of Pain Touch’s power revealed itself on meeting a Devil Battlefield rare encounter, Lysson, an orange-named horned devil. I sneaked behind him and launched a Pain Touch finisher against him, leaving him unable to do anything while I cleaned up his minions and then redirected my attacks to him. This horned devil, one of the game’s more resistant/immune-laden enemies, couldn’t attack me once.

But it got better.

I suspended my solo play rules and teamed up with the guild leaders for an Epic Hard “Trial by Fury.” Without a dedicated healer, the Bard, Arcane Archer and I were doing pretty well. The spiders in one test of might are, if you pardon the pun, very bugged. One pack of yugoloths appeared and gave the team a challenge, but my spell resistance and saves kept the mutts from damaging me as I whittled them down. These guys are arguably some of the nastiest casters in the game as they were punching holes in my party member’s defenses.

The last yugoloth mages, two orange names, needed some care, seeing what ordinary ones almost did to the party. I asked to go down and apply a bit of Pain Touch to each–which I did, putting them both out of the spellcasting picture while we removed their guard spiders with ease.

Blizzard…eat your heart out.

The Mystery of the Finishing Move

(Credit: Claudio Pozos)

(Credit: Claudio Pozas)

I am not surprised, in my travels, on what monastic abilities are used more often than others.

By far, the most popular ability for most players is the feat, Stunning Fist, and for good reason.

But is that all there is to being a Monk? To stun things.

I say, “Nay, nay!”

My adventures with Kiricletica have allowed me to acquaint myself to the mystical powers inherent in the finishing moves available to all Monks. Since she plays completely alone, the solitude forced me to review and utilize anything I could do to gain an advantage against the hordes. Kiri may be a ninja, but the Conservation of Ninjutsu only goes so far.

A Primer on Finishing Moves

For those newer to Monks than others, a finishing move is a spell-like ability made by combining three ki attacks, often the elemental attacks from your training based on earth, wind, fire and water, which activates a specific attack or defense. Despite the name, a finishing move isn’t necessarily a “Finish him!” killing strike.

Once a chain is charged up, a special attack feat, Finishing Moves, changes its appearance to reflect the charged finisher, where then the Monk can activate it.

The Book of Syncletica lists all finishing moves for your technical review. Here, I’m going to highlight each finisher’s merits and why each should be used more often.

For those with some knowledge of the monastic arts, ask yourself: How many of these finishers have I used? How many did I forget existed, or what they did?

Foundational Finishers

All Monks can perform these four finishing moves, which are generated by using the same elemental ki attack three times in a row.

The Trembling Earth:  Long before any Monk can train in Improved Critical feats, this attack will raise an Monk’s critical hit multiplier. For unarmed attacks, this greatly increases potential damage. It’s also a great first-strike attack against mages since it inhibits their ability to cast spells for 30 seconds. Think of this move as your personal anti-magic cone. In fact, use it against a beholder to effectively make it powerless to hurt you.

The Gathering Storm: This finisher gives you, in effect, a concealment-like effect that is applied to the attacker rather than to yourself. By reducing the enemy’s chance to land attacks for 30 seconds, you are effectively using a Concealment ability. Combine this with true Concealment effects such as Blur (available for Shintao Monks through a later finisher) and you may increase your ability to attack more safely.

Breath of the Fire Dragon: This is an attack that emulates the spell, Burning Hands. It’s often good to destroy objects that require a fire attack when you might lack the STR to knock something down, such as a door. Unfortunately, the effect can be inconsistent in some locations where you should be able to use fire to complete a task but cannot (setting the tents on fire in “Undermine” “Siegebreaker” comes to mind). Great against trolls and icy creatures.

The Raging Sea: Enemy attacks are slowed by this finisher. Use it whenever you have a high attack speed enemy to cut down the damage rate to you and your party.

Light Finishers

Those that train in the Harmonious Balance philosophy will become Shintao Monks in principle. The Fists of Light, a new ki attack, is the keystone to these finishers, which create helpful buffs for you and your party. Of all the finishing moves, these five finishers certainly are most popular to others in a party.

These finishers only last 1 minute, but their effects (like Bard songs) cannot be dispelled, not even by a beholder.

Grasp the Earth Dragon: This finisher is popular in quests such as “The Dreaming Dark” and the raid “Tower of Despair” as it is the only anti-stun protection in the game.

Dance of Clouds: An easy way for a Monk to keep himself and his party with Blur at all times. Ki is regenerative, saving spell points from others.

Walk of the Sun: A great way to boost the saving throws of any in your party by 2. Stacks with everything. Rogues and trap-prone members of your party adore this move.

Aligning the Heavens: Arguably the most popular finisher, this one should be activated before a party begins mass buffs, as it reduces spell costs for all by 25% for 1 minute. I try to use this while in battle, especially when shrines are few and far between fights.

Healing Ki: This finisher is why Shintao Monks are extremely durable. This finisher is a mass-healing effect. It also activates any selected Elemental Curatives, which will remove blindness, curses, disease, or provide a Lesser Restoration to any party member in range. Healing amplification can amplify Healing Ki (and the Healing Curse vampiric effect  that a single Fists of Light attack generates) to the power of a Heal spell and beyond. A light Monk should be spamming this attack in raid battles to supplement healing and take a little work off the healers in the party.

Dark Finishers

Those that train in the Inevitable Dominion philosophy become Ninja Spies in principle. The Fists of Darkness is a keystone to these five finishers, all of which are attacking finishers. I’ve seen few ninjas I could identify that use any of these finishers, which is disappointing. Those players gravitate all too often to the ninja’s negative energy attack, Touch of Death, and a later ki assassination attack, Quivering Palm.

They underestimate these abilities. All of these require a Fortitude save equal to 10 + Monk level + WIS modifier. Finishers such as these is why experienced Monks know to pump WIS as high as they can to ensure that their attacks and finishers stick.

Pain Touch: Enemy is nauseated for up to 60 seconds. The Nauseated quality means that an enemy can’t do anything but move around: no attacks, defense, actions or spell casting. Only the Stinking Cloud spell shares this property. Nauseated is different from Sickened (what Troglodyte Stench does). Only a Heal or Panacea spell will remove this effect. This should be a common fight tactic against paralysis-immune enemies such as the Duergar.

Falling Star Strike: Enemy is blinded for up to 60 seconds. While ninjas later gain Flash Bang to daze and blind enemies for about 6 seconds, this finisher will blind for much longer. Against a single enemy, it’s a good way to flank and strike at them while they flail about in vain trying to hit you.

Karmic Strike: Produces a hit with critical threat at the expense of 20 hit points to the Monk, which cannot be reduced by effects such as damage resistance. Given that other training to improve critical threat are available, this might be a less than desirable move. Against tough named enemies that are resistant or immune, this finisher is better than nothing in trying to generate more damage. But it steals your own HP, so I would understand if most Monks skipped this finisher.

Freezing the Lifeblood: This move is, by far, the most under-utilized finisher that a ninja can make. You paralyze an enemy for up to 60 seconds. Now, unlike the Paralysis effect, which lasts only 6 or so seconds and has a low Will save to avoid or escape it, this move’s DC is as high as the Monk’s level and WIS modifier. This likely means that what you paralyze will stay paralyzed for the full minute, unable to move. Kiricletica uses this move a great deal. In stealth, behind a group of enemies all looking the other way, I use this finisher on every one I can. Often that means most or all of the entire mob is frozen; I slay them without a single counterattack. Freezing can be done at level 3, so even a low-level Monk can dominate the dungeon. It’s only condition is that the target must be humanoid. Aside from the obvious (humans, elves, halflings), the effect works on gnolls, orcs, kobolds, and lizardmen, but not monstrous humanoids or giants. Outsiders that look human (such as the Eladrin) are also immune. Red-named enemies are immune, but not others.

Touch of Despair: This move debilitates a target’s negative energy and fortification protections by 25%. A common finisher for ninjas, who follow it up with a Touch of Death attack that benefits from the negative energy vulnerability. But this finisher also activates one of the selected Ninjutsu moves, which will give a negative-level to all nearby enemies, inject or forcibly remove stacks of Ninja Poison, or suck a small amount of HP and ki from an enemy.

Special Finishers

With the proper prerequisites, any Monk can also perform four additional finishing moves in their highest levels of training. With Update 19, however, some finishers once restricted to a specific philosophy have now become effectively exclusive to one class tree.

Curse of the Void: Once a personal favorite attack for ninjas, this attack charmed enemies for up to 2 minutes. But since lesser Void Strike attacks disappeared with Update 19 for any Monk, only a Level 12 Henshin Mystic that trains the only Void Strike in the game, a tier 5 ability, can pull this off–and far slower than any past ninja.

Moment of Clarity: A finisher that I used in “The Shroud” to give brief Insight bonuses to attack and damage. But, like Curse of the Void, only a Mystic can perform this finisher.

Shining Star: The best named finisher (a pun on the song by the 70′s group, “Earth Wind and Fire”), this finisher uses (wait for it) the Earth, Wind and Fire ki attacks to form a finisher that (you guessed it) causes the target to dance: Your personal Otto’s Irresistible Dance. Unlike all other finishers, this move uses CHA (10 + Monk level + CHA modifier) as the DC. CHA is normally a complete dump stat for Monks, so wearing a Charismatic item or using a free tome if you find one is better to use this move.

The Henshin Mystic is All Masterful

With Update 19′s introduction of the Henshin Mystic, the game changed quite a bit on finishing moves. Before this update, no Monk could utilize more than 11 finishing moves (four Foundational, five Philosophical, 1 Void-based, and Shining Star).

But the Mystic gains the ability to add one special ki attack at level 12–a ki attack that’s opposite of the philosophy they chose at level 3. A Light-aligned Mystic can add a Dark attack, and a Dark Mystic adds a Light attack. These attacks then enable Mystics to complete the 5 additional finishers of their opposite philosophy, including Touch of Despair and Healing Ki.

Since the Mystic is the only class with Void Strike as well, this allows the Mystic to perform both Void based finishers.

As such, the Mystic can perform all 17 finishing moves.

The question you should ask yourself (be a ninja, Shintao or Mystic) is whether you’re going to push beyond your mere mastery of one or two finishers, and know what and when to use at the given time.

A Monk that uses only a few finishers is like a Wizard that casts only a Wall of Fire.

Update 21: Min-Maxing Beyond Thunderholme

I couldn’t resist my post title.

So, Update 21 has arrived with a host of interesting niceties, a spot of new gear, a super-long quest, a massive wilderness area and two raids. The downside to all of the above is that it’s targeted to the young twitchmonster leveling players at level 26 and greater.

D&D Anniversary Cards

What all players will find on the first character logged in after the update is the D&D Anniversary Box, a special gift to all in celebration of Dungeons & Dragons’s 40th anniversary.

Inside, depending on your account type (VIP, premium and free-to-play) you’ll get 5 random collector cards with descriptions of classic D&D monsters (they’re very nice), a bag to hold these cards, a Magical D20 clicky to get more cards (1 per day for all except VIPs, which get 2), and a special clicky that can combine two different cards for special items.

For most, the Anniversary Cards are probably the cooler bonus. With the right combinations, you’ll get Raid Bypass Timers, Eternal Potions for special hard-to-come-by protections such as Death Ward and Freedom of Movement, +3 Tomes, and more. Like the Risia Ice Games, the cards are akin to recipes. Some cards will be common but others may appear more often.

The bad news? As of this writing, the Magical D20 device is broken. You can use it once but it’s not resetting after 24 hours for anyone. GamerGeoff suggests a non-exploitive workaround using any other accounts you own.

No word on how long the card system will last. Let’s hope at least 6 months.

Release Notes

Update 21 has many, many bug fixes. You should read the Release Notes for greater detail, but here’s a summary and commentary on a few of them as they relate to the monastic arts.

  • Quivering Palm, after getting a boost to DCs through Sundering bonuses in a previous update, has been nerfed down for balance but with a compromise bonus that increases the DC chance should it miss until it hits or three minutes pass. I’m OK on this; while QP is a great Assassinate-like move, you shouldn’t be able to spam it using our shorter monastic cooldowns.
  • Grasp the Earth Dragon no longer sometimes triggers enemy-targeted effects on allies. I didn’t know this anti-stun buff was busted to begin with, so hats off to the devs for the fix.
  • Many spell-like abilities and supernatural abilities now correctly cannot be used in anti-magic fields. This should be interesting. Monk buffs such as Dance of Clouds (Blur) aren’t disspelled by beholders, the primary anti-magic field maker. But the question is whether a Monk can still generate this and other buffs while within a field. I’m betting yes but I need to test it.
  • Monk Henshin Mystic – Elemental Words (Tiers 1-4) – All-Consuming Flame and Winter’s Touch are no longer giving the wrong damage vulnerability (cold vs. fire). I never use any of these former Ninja Spy debuffers on my Mystic, Quintessica, except Static Charge, to make Harry in the Shroud more vulnerable to lightning.
  • Epic Moment Counters should no longer be reset when you go through a portal within a quest. Yay! We should be able to keep our Grandmaster of Flowers charges in “The Portal Opens” and other quests.
  • Grandmaster of Flowers – Light as a Feather now properly negates falling damage under all circumstances. If you have a multiclassed Monk that uses this (pure Monks don’t need it with Perfect Slow Fall) then this fix should keep you from splatting in the future.
  • The Quiver of Poison is now Bind on Acquire, instead of claiming it was Bind on Equip, as this type of item is unable to function properly as Bind on Equip. When people tried to sell these items, they would bind on pulling them from mail into your inventory, keeping you from moving it to the character of your choice. After much gnashing of teeth to fix, they decided just to change the flag so you can no longer trade this item but then allows it from being broken in trading. These items are nice for the Shuricannons as it adds more untyped poison to their attacks (along with Sting of the Ninja and Venomed Blades).
  • The effects of the Potion of Wonder have been updated. The devs don’t say how it was updated. Did they remove the detonation pack effect? While fun in the right crowds after a quest or raid, it’s a griefing suicide-bomber tool should the det pack go off in the middle of a raid.
  • Quest Experience changes: As expected, the “Jungle of Khyber” will no longer give the super-XP it has before, but is still quite a bountiful reward. What I appreciated were the boosts to many quests that really deserved a boost due to their difficulty, such as “In the Belly of the Beast,” “Chains of Flame” in the Sands, and “The Thrill of the Hunt” in Wheloon. The new ‘Jungle’ is Epic Normal “What Goes Up”: it’s XP has doubled from 30K to 61K.
  • A feature is now available that allows you to receive and immediately consume a Siberys Spirit Cake with Astral Shards when you die: just click on the “Revive” button that appears near the Quest Objective panel when you die. This feature is not usable in Raids. Note that it is still possible to obtain cakes by navigating the DDO Store and using Turbine Points. I noticed this after Kiricletica had died due to carelessness a day ago. I suspected that the Revive button used Astral Shards, and I was right. I think that might be cheaper than TP.

Things That Broke/Are Still Broken

Updates often cause gloom, despair and agony on us. Deep, dark depression and excessive misery.

Here’s one list.

  • Sting of the Ninja is broken for thrown weapons. Ninja Poison isn’t being dosed. That’s a big ouch for Shuricannon builds like Szyncletica, who were able to get extra damage on enemies this way. I didn’t notice problems on Kiricletica using her shortswords, so this is probably limited to thrown weapons. I
  • Likewise, the thrown weapons critical modifier bug, identified by the developers, didn’t make it to Update 21′s fixed list. The bug does remain listed on the Known Issues list.
  • Stunning Fist still does not help in charging Everything is Nothing (that’s DEATH BLOSSOM to you) nor does any Light attacks work in their finishing moves.
  • You can’t use your Key to Eveningstar from an airship. Just leave it and use it anywhere else but there.

Thunderholme

The new adventuring stuff is found as you make your way towards the bridge where the Storm Horns quests were found. Gone is a simple bridge that you can’t cross. In its place, a full bridge that takes you across the river and to an ancient dwarven castle that the Netherese have occupied.

The Ruins of Thunderholme is a large, large wilderness area in the form of a ruined castle.  Don’t go in here unless you are at least L25 and built to handle respawning swarms of undead dwarves, animated by many Netherese necromancers. Shrines are distant, and this place is meant to kill hirelings with ease. I took my L25  tanker Lynncletica into this L28 area and adapted well (Shintao Monks are natural undead hunters) but was very glad that my healing amplification was very high.

I ran with my guild leader at first, she having a harder time on her Shintao Monk. In our travels, we found one of the bosses that, when beaten (and provided you’re at the right level) grant you access to one of the two new raids. The guild leader invited another guildmate and I waited near the boss and his posse while Leader went to help retrieve him–no small feat. The Ruins is a complex maze-like area with several floors. The map adapts to what floor you are on in a zone-less manner that’s refreshing enough, but surviving in here requires you to be very tough since things respawn and often.

So Lynn was pondering, waiting for the party to regroup when a minion of that boss, Degan the Death Knight, aggroed on me. Degan was at least a level 32 undead knight. And when you have a Red-Named boss with “Death” in his name, you don’t hesitate to use Death Ward.

Lynn slowly pummeled Degan and Friends, healing repeatedly since this fight actually managed to put dents in Lynn’s strong AC (109) and PRR (67) as well as her miss-chance effects. Even unbuffed, Lynn can heal almost 1/4 of her total HP with Healing Ki every 10 seconds and generates +2 to +4 HP with the Fists of Light healing curse–more if I put on a Shamanic Fetish for more positive energy boosts. A Healing Ki hit of 200 isn’t unusual.

I took down Degan on my own and returned to find the group to lead them to our chest.

We explored for hours–hours–and then encountered an underground city that the Faerun Drow would be envious to see.

Thunderholme-ShadowDragonLair

The picture doesn’t quite do it justice…the place seemed to stretch for miles and miles. And none of us were remotely ready to take on a dracolich that night.

Thunderholme is still being mapped and documented by other adventurers, so information on additional goodies is a bit sparse.

As far as loot goes, there’s not a lot of gear, and much of it favors the fighter-type or spellcaster. A couple of items did catch my eye:

Both offer a little something for defense or damage, but again, it’s as if the developers wanted to make fewer items but add a lot more abilities to these items.

So, explore this new spot, where dwarves yet again dug too deeply, and let me know what you think. It gives me a reason to start leveling Lynncletica again.

The Viper meets the Spider

FaerunDrowPriestess

Spiders have been known to kill snakes. But the Drow aren’t expecting a Ninja.

Kiricletica just reached level 20 and is gearing up for Epic mode. She kept to her solo-only limits except for a couple of times where I joined some guildmates on quests I’d already completed alone, like “Jungles of Khyber.”

Some folks might say that Epic solo play is easier since your character gains some rather, well, epic gear. I think the only edge you get is from using the right Epic Destiny as well as strong numbers in your class’s “magic” stat.

After a little study, Kiri’s first pick is Shadowdancer. Improved stealth, some sneak attack, immunity to energy drain, permanent incorporeality, improved invisibility, bonuses to Dodge, a Dominate power–what’s not to like?

Sure, the epic set gear can really help. Kiri’s first priority this weekend was in assembling the Sun Soul set for better defenses and stats, finally retiring my venerable White Dragonscale Robe. That meant a long sojourn in the King’s Forest to find encounters to obtain any commendations to trade for the items.

“The Druid’s Deep” chain I completed earlier helped here since you can run that series and gain 3 commendations of your choice as a chain end-reward, if you’re desperate for more commendations in a relative hurry.

I’ve had a small taste of Underdark Drow from “The Druid’s Curse,” the end-quest of that chain, with a few Drow that appear in an optional cave. It stung a little but Kiri held her own.

But now, it’s finally time to see what Kiri can do against one of the game’s most challenging enemies: the Priestesses of Lolth.

Come Into My Lair, the Spider Says

Drow Priestesses are effectively Clerics with serious backup from their goddess, Lolth. Imagine having your god on speed-dial.

From Divine Punishment, Inflict Wounds, Cometfall, Hold Monster–the Priestess alone can hurt you fast and badly if left alone.

What’s worse about the Priestess is her special regenerative ability. Priestesses are rarely solitary with many lesser Drow at her beck and call. Should her health fall to a critical level and provided she is not Helpless, she’ll leech on the nearest humanoid and then go all Super Saiyan on you with her infamous 30-second Favored of the Goddess power-up: “Having performed a sacrifice to the Goddess, you have increased spell damage, greatly improved resistances to incoming damage, and an incredible boost to spell resistance.”

Typically, to kill a Priestess, you must kill her minions. Should she happen to have hostages or slaves, she’ll eat them, too, if they’re close by.

But I have not had the honor, the privilege of introducing those nasty spider-worshippers to the power of Ninja Poison at full strength as opposed to the slower- or no-dosing that the ninjas Szyncletica the star-thrower or the unarmed Ryncletica could do.

I didn’t know if the Priestess’s spider-style could shrug off all the damage-over-time stacks I can deliver from Kiri’s Viper Style (Freezing the Lifeblood to paralyze with three+ hits of Poisoned Soul Ninjutsu using Envenomed Blades to magnify damage) with her regenerative ability. So far, nothing I’ve killed has the capacity to remove poison from itself that I could note in the heat of battle. That’s likely a game mechanic as NPCs don’t seem to care about using Panacea or related remove-poison effects. And will her Favored of the Goddess status help against the unrelenting power of poisoning?

There was also the matter of trying to make the Priestess quite helpless so she cannot regenerate. A common solution for unarmed Monks is to stun Priestesses silly and load up the damage, stunning again before she can recover if possible.

Kiri had a better idea, using Freezing the Lifeblood to hold down the Priestess much longer than stuns or normal paralysis since it requires a Fortitude save to escape, not Will (which a Priestess, a high WIS enemy, should shake off). Provided Kiri’s not fighting a Red-Named Priestess, taking down the lesser varieties should work well.

But even for the Red-Named kind that cannot be paralyzed, like Priestess Vicala Szind in “Impossible Demands,” Kiri should be able to use Viper Style for 200+ dots and then switch to Poison Exploit for a quick rip of the poison sac before she might regenerate. At what point she regenerates is the question I can’t remember. At 25%, maybe?

And Kiri’s blades, as a Ninja Master, now are Vorpal weapons with greater critical hit and damage modifiers. She’s the first character that uses shortswords almost exclusively (save oozes and maybe a wisp or two), so higher damage is important.

Legendary Damage

While Shadowdancer will be Kiri’s first destiny, Legendary Dreadnought may be her second school, skipping over Grandmaster of Flowers until after LD is trained. Epic play will have epic fighting so Kiri’s stealth will only go so far before a CR30 trash mob will end her without a good counterattack. The defenses, weapon attacks and action boosts will be critical to Kiri’s survival as she grows.

Impossible Demands

After much adventuring in the King’s Forest, finding all the journals and slaying 750 enemies (plus a side quest or two in Eveningstar), I reached level 21, had my full Sun Soul attire, added a Drow Piawfi, pulled out a Drow Shortsword of the Weapon Master just to see what it could do. My WIS was 38 in Ocean Stance, not bad at all to ensure that a Freezing finisher works on EH.

A few close fights in the Forest made me realize that I shouldn’t stay in Ocean Stance all the time. I’d gotten used to it since passive ki regeneration works best from being in Sneak while in that stance. Earth Stance, however, offers maximum AC with Combat Expertise up (bringing her AC to 90 with 15 PRR) and Wind Stance offers 10% Doublestrike and 15% melee speed increase (going to 110% Doublestrike for 6 seconds using one ninja ability, Shadow Double). With the Vestments of the Sun Soul equipped, its Enhanced Ki now provided more than enough ki during any fight to not require continual use of Ocean Stance.

My leveling prior to the quest allowed me to test Viper Style against Orange-Named Drow Priestesses in the Underdark. One always appears en route to the path to the Sschindylryn portal via the King’s Forest entrance.

First rule of Priestess Fight Club: Kill/disable the slavemasters and mages first. I targeted them with Freezing strikes to keep their spells at bay, removed the slavemaster first to turn the slaves over to my side, and then targeted the Priestess with a Freezing attack that held her tight and unable to regenerate despite having many slaves to feed from. All slaves were saved and the priestess could never zap anyone.

I entered “Impossible Demands” on Epic Hard, one level above me.

Reading up on Vicala, I didn’t know she had permanent See Invisibility, not that it matters for the purposes of that quest since you never let yourself get in line-of-sight of her from any distance. On EN, it’s silly-easy to watch the priestess make her rounds since she appears on your map. I’ve done in on EH just fine without that aid.

I did bring in a Gold Seal Rogue to disable all the spell wards along the way but did not involve it in any fighting. Those of you in the know realize that the spell ward proximity make it very hard to navigate or fight, and I didn’t want to discover at that time if the wards affected the hostages in any way. My goal was not to be seen, eliminate all Drow (required or Vicala will regenerate on anyone left during the final fight) and save all the hostages. Since I wasn’t getting the help from the map with Epic Hard, this was a small concession to the difficulty.

Vicala makes a transit from top of inner stairs closest to the entrance to the basement and back in 2:30 seconds. (I time it.) My beat-down of Vicala at the quest’s start was promising; her only counter to my Ninja Poison was Divine Punishment, which hurt, but not nearly as badly as the damage she endured.

I had the hireling remove the four spell wards along the upper level, parked it in passive-mode at the entrance, then went to work with Freezing strikes at the mages first before removing the fighters. An optional fight with Warleader Speitar, a nasty Blademaster, took longer than I liked since I had to fight in a small area and had problems keeping his support team out of the picture. But he did fall after a lot of poisoning.

The hostages have to be released at the right time and place or Vicala or others will kill them on sight. Never a problem for me but you do have to pay attention.

In the end, all hostages were freed, all kidnappers vanquished, and the final fight of viper versus spider ended with Vicala simply unable to withstand 150+ point dots of Ninja Poison for very long.

Any search on Google on spiders versus snakes show the spider winning. Obviously, it cheats. So, fortune goes to the prepared–and the more poisonous.

The Unquiet Graves

Kiri’s Viper Style was challenged by the Dark Incantors, the arch-necromancers occupying the graveyard in “The Unquiet Graves.” Back in on Epic Hard, one level up from me. No trap-monkey hirelings (or any hirelings) used here.

My first challenge was ensuring I had Death Ward active at all times. The Incanters will zap you in a microsecond using all kinds of death spells, even on EN. I had two Visors of the Flesh Render Guards handy for 7 minutes each, with two 20-minute Death Ward potions on reserve. I could use the only rest shrine later to recharge the clickies with no concerns about ki drainage since I regenerate very well during a fight.

Incanter #1 was easy to slay with Viper Style leaving him 3/4 dead by the time he ran off to his reinforcements in the graveyard proper. I had to switch from my Envenomed Blades to disrupting kamas to help remove the zombies.

Incanter #2 fell to the same tactics as #1 but his spell attacks left me challenged to keep my HP up. Viper Style allows my poison to attack him (with enough doses) while I healed and regrouped. I decided to use the shrine after this fight to recharge the death ward clickies.

On Incanter #3, I nailed the two closest fighters with Freezing finishers and removed the one zombie that reinforced the Incanter’s damage protections. I pulled the fight away from the small graveyard or else the hidden Drow roaming there would also get involved in the fight.

I backtracked to the large graveyard and pulled the Incanter behind the large mausoleum and was somewhat lucky to attract only one necromancer and archer, rather than the whole swarm of his support. Kiri had a hard time getting her pattern going with all the minions chasing her.

That’s the Viper’s weakness: If Kiri has too much to fight, using Viper Style can’t work as I’m trying to survive more than I’m able to attack.

I concentrated a bit and remembered that the Incanter was my only target. I swiped at others for ki and kept aligning my Touch of Despair attacks at the last Incanter to lay on as much Ninja Poison as I could before being forced to retreat.

The last Incanter fell but looting the chest required a Flash Bang to blind everything long enough for me to sneak to the chest, loot and use a Word of Recall for a teleport-escape. Got a pair of Grave Wrappings for my trouble.

Poison Mastery: “You Are Already Dead”

fukiyaKiricletica continues her swift leveling, completing the adventures necessary to reach the little village of Eveningstar to enjoy the Wheloon adventures.

She’s now level 19 and looking forward to level 20′s benefit of Ninja Mastery, the last core ability that gives +2 DEX, extra competence in shortswords, shuriken and kamas, and gives Vorpal to all of these weapons.

Her mastery of poison use continues to reveal insights. Inside “Disciples of Shar,” I had an opportunity to test one poisoning effect that’s harder to prepare but yields impressive results.

Kiricletica, being a Ninja Spy, is best in fighting against the non-demonic, non-undead, non-living construct enemies, which are often never immune to poison or negative energy damage. The Shar worshippers in the cave lair were all human, with a few mephits, wolves and a special pet as exceptions.

In making this journey, I’ve all but fully dedicated Kiri towards the fights she will win as she approaches level 20. While she will flag herself in the Vale of Twilight for The Shroud raid to build up a good Green Steel weapon, I may have her skip adventures where the bulk of the enemies are poison/negative energy immune, extraplanar or non-humanoid. Kiri (in this life at least) may never see the plane of Shavarath. Adventures that involve the aberrations of Xoriat and the Dreaming Dark might also be limited in scope with her self-imposed soloing rules for the same reasons.

The central reasoning involves one attack. The easiest form of crowd control I find highly reliable isn’t the paralyzing effect of the Envenomed Blade. Rather, it’s the Water/Dark/Water finishing move, Freezing the Lifeblood.

Rather than low 17 Will save of paralysis from the Blades that many foes shake off after a few seconds, Freezing the Lifeblood is a Fortitude save roll (10+ Monk level+Wisdom modifier), making it far harder for enemies to escape with my 39 DC  (includes some Mystic Training of +2 to finisher DCs from Henshin Mystic, leaving them quite helpless for a full minute as they try and fail to escape. What I freeze stays frozen.

The key to getting this finisher working, as noted in past posts, is the Elemental ki attack, Unbalancing Strike. It counts as a Water ki attack as it hits and causes a Bluff effect that momentarily spins about and stops an enemy from attacking me, freeing me up to strike a Fists of Darkness, another Unbalancing Strike and the completed finisher that roots them in place and at my mercy.

I’ll often just freeze one enemy after another (starting with the healers or enemy mages) before working on others, systematically slowing the entire crowd to dispatch at my whim. WIS, rather than DEX, is my go-to stat now if I want to ensure that this attack holds even an Epic-level enemy.

Completing this move is the No Mercy enhancement. On helpless enemies, you get 10/20/30% more damage to put them away much faster.

I loved attacking the Disciples of Shar. Despite being orange-named, the Lifeblood freeze worked quite well on them, halting their magic attacks, making the cutting down of their guards far easier. The Disciples are still moaning from the Ninja Poison DoTs they’ve absorbed once surrendering. Their guards hardly stood a chance with the armor-piercing force of becoming paralyzed by my Envenomed Blades or my finisher. A few strikes to remove about 3/4 health while they’re helpless and the Ninja Poison does the rest, killing several of them while they’re frozen and I’ve already moved deeper into the cavern.

I readied for the end-fight. The boss, Dedryk Black, is guarded by one final Disciple and many more minions. I concentrate my attacks on the last Disciple as she’s more damaging in combination with Black’s many attempts to disintegrate and use Destruction spells. The last Disciple surrenders, the minions are done, and so I attack Black, dosing him with poison again and again, to shut him down.

I buff up and go to Sneak for the last fight as the Owlbear is released. I sneaked behind him when I began my attack. Strangely, it didn’t turn around to face me, so I was able to beat the creature relentlessly with Envenomed Blades. By my third round, the owlbear had at least 15 stacks of Ninja Poison.

And then I switched my Ninjutsu to Poison Exploit.

Poison Exploit purges an enemy of all stacks with extra damage, starting at 1d20 per stack. I put 1 Action Point to the Deadly Exploits enhancement, which magnifies the damage to 1d30 (two tiers remain for 1d50 damage per stack).

The result:

You hit Owlbear with 799 points of poison damage.

Oh, yeah. And that was with only the first rank trained. By three ranks, the damage may be at around 1,000 points lost to poison alone.

In a return to “Eyes of Stone” on Elite, Hesstess the medusa got a taste of her own poison, nailed with over 900 damage from Poison Exploit in one dramatic “Finish her!” move.

So, cumultative, magnified and bursted poison damage is the hallmark of the Ninja Spy. And we can still add in the classic negative energy pummeling for more pain.

The Attack Strategy

I’ve chewed on some names for a combo series I’ve found myself gravitating towards in recent adventures, names from the most esoteric (“Kiss of the Black Widow”) to obviously simple (“Poison Finisher”).

I decided for snark. Let’s nickname it as “The Socratic Method” for now (but see an update to this naming at the end of this post).

Those who have experienced the Method include:

The Method is administered with two or more fast uses of the Touch of Despair finishing move with the Ninjutsu style Poisoned Soul in play. For faster dosing, Envenomed Blades make cut after cut, adding more (untyped) weapon poison that’s magnified in damage from the Ninja Poison debuff, with a chance of adding additional stacks of  Ninja Poison from Sting of the Ninja on critical hits. Blowing Poisoned Darts every 30 seconds also add 1-4 more stacks.

The Socratic Method also includes the negative energy and fortification-damaging debuff of Touch of Despair, where a Touch of Death hit can then punish for 500 or more damage to go with the poisoning.

Here’s the Method in a nutshell.

  1. Attack with a primed Touch of Despair/Poisoned Soul finisher
  2. Add Poisoned Darts
  3. Normal attack for 10 seconds, adding a Touch of Death strike
  4. A second Touch of Despair/Poisoned Soul finisher
  5. Retreat, charge up Touch of Despair, repeating once or twice
  6. If desired, switch to Poison Exploit, complete Touch of Despair finisher to rip all poison out

The key is speed: Steps 1-4 are completed within 20-25 seconds. At this point, the enemy has a minimum of 250 damage (on a save from ToD) plus at least 11 stacks of Ninja Poison (10 from Poisoned Soul, 1 at minimum from the Darts). Ninja Poison is 1d4 per 3 seconds per stack for 15 seconds. Any stack is a 5% vulnerability debuff. Thus, the enemy has at least a 55% vulnerability to all poison damage and 25% vulnerability to negative energy and fortification.

One-third to one-half of an enemy’s hit points are often gone by the first wave since the actual numbers are stronger.

To make things interesting, taking advantage of both debuffs, I wield my Night’s Grasp shortsword (negative energy damage) with an Envenomed Blade, adding more negative energy damage. The purple damage numbers from both poison and negative energy’s havoc are quite impressive.

The Method’s advantage comes from the substantial damage you can put on a single enemy while avoiding becoming surrounded (if a mob is present) while minimizing your own damage.

Poison Exploit is slower and harder to set up. But against a high-HP red-named enemy where lingering too close for too long is dangerous, or when the enemy is low on HP but may get healed before your swords can kill him, the Poison Exploit with a simultaneous hit with Touch of Death could yield thousands of points of immediate, boss-ending damage at once. Remember that Ninja Poison is always slamming DoTs into an enemy even if you have only a few stacks applied. And the poison vulnerability of Ninja Poison amplifies any poison-typed damage from your weapons. Poison Exploit is simply a satisfying last bite that helps with really durable enemies.

The Lords of Dust/Servants of the Overlord

As noted in the past, Karas is dangerous at all difficulties with his potent sneak attack damage that bypasses your fortification. After dispatching his lackey, Gnomon, I charged up a Touch of Despair and struck. Twice, then three times.

I waltzed with Keras for a few moments after before he gave his “my death is only the beginning” final words and collapsed. By the time I was done with him, he had accumulated 80-123+ damage from poison DoTs every 3 seconds.

I dreaded the run on “Servants.” I knew death would be coming for me on swift wings if I didn’t successfully bypass the Drow hordes. I didn’t die but blew through half of my Heal scrolls while trying to kill the priestesses that kept trying to disintegrate me.

The end-fight itself is a mob-fest. As with some other fights, I had to make up tactics as I went. In this case, I chose to mix in as much stealth as I could, pulling the fights to the corners limited aggro. Jariliths are just nasty since they have a stealth-defeating sense, as do the spiders. I summoned an elemental to help at the start to draw attention as best it could.

When Ryo and her pet Herzou appeared, I concentrated on pulling and destroying the demon (having only Touch of Death as an effective weapon against this poison-immune behemoth) before applying the Method to Ryo’s face.

But there are always naysayers. So I’m adding a video to show how Kiri’s affectionate afflictions take down the haughty. I like killing Karas since he’s quite the Worthy Opponent.

Here’s a video of “Lords of Dust,” now completed on Heroic Elite. Just watch the amount of purple damage on Keras. Just watch. I didn’t need to use Poison Exploit on him since his HP dived so dramatically from the poisoning alone.

After I fatally poison something, I move on. There’s no need to linger,  even if they are still moving or talking. Gnomon and Keras were already dead.

My apologies for the video’s lack of sound. I made a goof in my sound settings so Bandicam lacked a sound channel. It’s a long video of 37 minutes so take breaks if you care to watch the details.

Update: Teacher Saekee enjoyed my post but wasn’t digging my bad punnage of my poisoning technique. Saekee took a little time out to make some suggestions, like “Viper,” which stuck well with me. So, I think I’ll rename this poisoning technique as the “Viper Style.”  A viper is a class of snakes, they inject venom and sound dangerous and mystical as Monks should be, but the name gets rid of the snark. Sorry, Socrates. “The Hemlock Maneuver” also gets the heave-ho.

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