After taking apart the proposed Henshin Mystic class tree, I conclude my look at the alpha enhancements for Monks with this last installment of my admittedly biased review of the last of the three prestige class enhancements, the Ninja Spy.
In comparison to the live Shintao Monk enhancements, there wasn’t a lot going for the original Ninja Spy that had a serious “wow” factor for many players as it had only two levels versus Shintao’s three levels to upgrade.
Over time, however, I’ve discovered that playing what enhancements we did get to their fullest made ninjas a powerfully versatile scout and infiltrator that later synergized very well with the Shadowdancer Epic Destiny.
After the rather disappointing changes proposed in the other trees, I expected to have to nickname this tree as “Ninja Spy III: Electric Bugaloo“. As it turned out I’m actually quite pleased with the changes–with a few caveats.
Core abilities: Ninja Training, Ninja Training, Shadow Veil, Poisoned Darts, Diversion, Ninja Master
- PRO: Ninja Training (Level 1) gives you shortsword proficiency as ki weapons immediately at Monk level 1. An excellent way to start off the class.
- Ninja Training (Level 3) lets you use your Dexterity modifier for damage using piercing (shortsword) and slashing (kama) weapons. You also might throw an additional shuriken during an attack. This seems to add the features of Ten Thousand Stars (which is now missing from any of the other trees) and the now more-disused Weapon Finesse feat.
- Shadow Veil (Level 6) is the renamed Shadow Fade, one of the most versatile and popular abilities on live, which give you 1 minute of invisibility and 25% incorporeality, leaving you incorporeal if you must attack. It’s missing it’s ki regeneration mode, but this re-appears as a separate feature, later.
- Poisoned Darts: You spit a cone of poisoned darts and hit your targets with Ninja Poison. What “Ninja Poison” is and how it differs from other poison effects I haven’t figured out as yet.
- PRO: Diversion: You expend a turn of Meditation to go invisible and create a dummy that attracts monsters. Yes. I like this one a lot, provided that Monks get an extra Meditation turn from somewhere (we get only 2 per rest).
- Ninja Master: You gain +2 Dexterity. While you are centered, you gain a +1 competence bonus to the critical threat range with shortswords and a +2 competence bonus to the critical threat range with kamas and shuriken. Any piercing or slashing weapon you wield gains the Vorpal ability. If I have to fight, I don’t mind this, although it sounds a little wimpy, save Vorpal. Everyone likes Vorpal.
The core abilities aren’t bad at all, but let’s go into the tiers and hope for more tidbits.
- PRO PRO PRO: Nujitsu gives new attacks in place of the elemental vulnerability attacks that now belong to the Henshin Mystic. These are all toggled effects and only one can be active at a time, I’m sure. These augment your Touch of Despair finishing move. You’ll gain a new attack on each tier.
- Impending Doom gives you +25 ki and +25 HP if an enemy cursed with the Touch of Despair dies within 30 seconds.
- Poison Exploit purges an enemy of Ninja Poison, dealing 1d20 poison damage per stack of Ninja Poison removed. In short, Ninja Poison is just as bad coming out as going in.
- Poison Soul adds a stack of Ninja Poison to an enemy every 6 seconds for up to 30 seconds.
- Wave of Despair causes all nearby enemies to take a negative level. Wow.
- PRO: Stealthy gives you more Hide and Move Silently points. At its highest rank, you gain +1 ki while sneaking (the counterpart to the “One with Shadow” effect on the live servers).
- Sneak Attack Training gives you some points to your sneak attack damage as did its live predecessors.
- PRO: Faster Sneaking adds more speed to your sneaking, up to 50% faster (which likely stacks with your Striding ability). Currently, with both Ninja I and II selected, your speed increase was only 20%, so this is a great upgrade, potentially allowing a Ninja to always run silent.
- Acrobatic: More points to Balance, Jump and Tumble, plus up to 3% more to your Dodge Bonus. More Dodge is welcome.
- Subtlety reduces your Threat to as low as 40%.
- CON: Elemental Ki Strikes here are the same ones found in the Shintao class tree and are quite redundant. Can’t something else work here, devs? Ninjas fight, but they can specialize in much more.
- Agility adds up to 3 to your Concentration, Reflex saves, and your Dodge Bonus cap.
- Flash Bang is a ball you throw that has a chance of blinding on a failed Reflex save and stunning them with a failed Fortitude save. Would be nice if this could be used as a diversion or noise maker, although Diversion is available now, as well.
- Sting of the Ninja: You poison your weapon with a secret mixture. While you are centered, piercing and slashing attacks you make deliver a stack of Ninja Poison on critical hits. Shuriken apply this effect on damage instead of on critical hits. Unarmed combat requires a set of handwraps for this to apply (as well as a way to deal piercing or slashing damage). Oh, this one was going so well until that last caveat. For this attack to work unarmed, you need to have the Brawling Gloves crafted for yourself (piercing attack) or be at epic levels to use Vorpal Strikes (slashing damage). Perhaps there are other ways to use this while unarmed.
- CON: Wisdom/Dexterity: The devs threw this one in, as with other class enhancements.
- PRO: Deadly Exploits augments your Poison Exploits special ability by increasing your Ninja Poison damage.
- PRO: No Mercy: You deal up to 30% more damage to helpless opponents. Do get your Stunning Fist DCs maxed for this one.
- Touch of Death hasn’t changed, except that its cooldown appears to have increased from 10 to 15 seconds.
- Crippling Strike is the same as the Rogue ability of the same name: A strength-sapping effect of -2 STR that accumulates. Not bad, but I expected more at this tier level. Perhaps combined with Maladroit effects (while using some Night’s Grasp handwraps that also add negative energy damage) this could be quite fun to have.
- Shadow Double: You perform a melee attack with +2[W] and gain 100% melee doublestrike for 6 seconds. In a crowd, perhaps, with the right Cleave effect and good Two Weapon Fighting, it might be a nice addition.
The occasionally useful but always cool Dance of the Water Strider, where you can run on liquids, is gone from the Ninja Spy tree. It’s not that hard to add, but for some reason the devs removed this. This ability does have several applications in quests, specifically in the “Accursed Abbot” quest where a Ninja can run over deadly-to-touch water to complete an objective.
From Alpha to Omega: Epilogue
Quite a few players on the Lammania forums seemed understandably disappointed or confused by the changes seen in the alpha. I’m one of them.
Of these, the Ninja Spy tree is now more fortified and has suffered the least detrimental changes and the best overall gains of all the Prestige trees. It favors the subtle approach and has potentially devastating attacks using Touch of Despair alone. I like it.
Shintao Monks have greater protections but is the only class tree that has built-in healing amplification. If you’re a Ninja or Henshin and are not Human or Half-Elf, you have no healing amplification in your build, anywhere, without items.
My favorite spell-like ability, Rise of the Phoenix, is transformed into a self-serving ability that no longer raises dead, leaving players to grind for more limited ways to do this. Monks already have a restore-all panic button available in the Grandmaster of Flowers epic destiny: Wholeness of Spirit. Why add a second that doesn’t help others? Shintao alpha also shares a redundant set of elemental ki attack enhancements with the Ninja Spy that should be removed or incorporated elsewhere.
Henshin Mystics aren’t nearly as cool as they could be. They hoard the only Void Strike attack and at high level, breaking the Void finishers for all other class trees. Their use of Fire as a dominant ki attack as well as bludgeoning attacks with staffs (with no changes to DR bypassing, such as adding slashing damage) as well as no changes in attack speed make the new class a questionable choice.
I’m looking forward to the Ninja Spy update. For all else, not so much. But this is an alpha look. Let’s hope that the devs have listened to the feedback and make a few useful changes that don’t gimp one class or overly favor another.
- Monk healing amplification. For all class trees.
- A lesser Void attack, or better, Void Strike for all without using the Henshin tree.
- Return “Dance of the Water Strider.” We do use that in the Abbot quests as well as stealthy, fast approaches in some places, and for quick farming during the Risia Ice Festival.
- Boost the quarterstaff speed in increments and add some DR bypassing for the Henshin.
- Add something other than Fire damage in Henshin that won’t be worthless against devils, demons and other high-level enemies.
- Make the Monk stances selectable as feats but don’t overpower the class and give them every stance. Void Strike or an elemental stance to add at 6, 12 and 18.