A Monk Barbarian That Rests More Often

Yes, I know the title is a bit of clickbait for those who know the contradiction.

To be any Monk, you must have a Lawful alignment. This means that, of the many classes in Dungeons & Dragons Online (which bars the player use of Evil alignments right now), a Monk multiclassed with the Barbarian class is impossible.

With the latest DDO update released in preparation of the “Fables of the Feywild” expansion, a new player race appeared. At first news of it, I was rather “meh” about it since my interests were elsewhere in building up a new Monk archer, among other projects.

But then, one of the acolytes in my new mostly-Monk guild, The Syncletican Monastery on Ghallanda, appeared with a Monk of the Shifter race.

At first, I admit that the appearance threw me off. The Shifter has a very primal, animalistic look, not unlike that of a werewolf (which, of course, is where the class is descended from).

But then I watched Kemai at work with his Shifter, which has unique movements to any other Monk.

I fell in love with it right away, and worked to clear out a character slot, occupied by a sad inactive Gnome Wizard in my list of characters, to build one of my own.

I find myself learning how Barbarians work without actually being one.

Meet Floracletica.

Right off, you can see how the Shifter race appears in attack mode. While all other Monks have clenched fists in fight stance, the Shifter’s long, clawed hands are in more of an open-handed slashing look.

The character building for a Shifter shows very different hair and facial features. These, of course, change nothing of the gameplay, but did put me off in terms of aesthetics at first (I find myself always gravitating to humanoids and less to the blends like Warforged) until I was able to find a Shifter face that looked placid and even lovely, as if she were of a regal line of humanoid lions.

Shifters, apparently, are always barefooted.

Having never played a Barbarian in class or kind, I decided to create Flora at level 1 (rather than L4 or higher Veteran options) to get a feel for what the class does and does not do from the very start. I am not at all disappointed so far.

From what I am able to interpret thus far from reviewing the racial enhancement trees and other info from the DDO Wiki, the Shifter specializes in enhancing attack and defense while also providing a stacking bonus via Rage.

Normally, I steer clear of using Rage through potions as this can negate other Monk attack or defense abilities, like the Combat Expertise feat. (I think I am wrong here as only the Barbarian version might prohibit spellcasting or the Combat Expertise to work.)

But these characteristics are innate to the Shifter, so if my Monk was to move forward, I needed to learn to embrace how Rage works.

The Barbarian use of Rage gives a morale boost to STR and CON with a decrease in AC. The Shifter’s racial version appears to have a stacking Rage bonus to any potion enhancement to this. So I can drink a Potion of Rage that will stack with the effect.

I did test whether the granted feat for all players, Defensive Fighting, a lesser version of Combat Expertise, would disable itself with the use of Shifter raging. Naturally, the feat disabled itself on clicking my racial raging.

Flora is, so far, a stock Shintao Monk, which should work well for a Shifter. There are, like Monks, two paths to consider on character build. The Wildhunt Shifter offers +1 WIS and a +4 Rage bonus to Wisdom and Dexterity, a +2 Morale bonus to Will saves, and a -2 penalty to Strength. The Beasthide Shifter contrasts with +1 CON and a +4 Rage bonus to Armor Class and Constitution, a +2 Morale bonus to Fortitude saves, and a -2 penalty to Wisdom.

I picked Wildhunt Shifter for now as lower WIS does not seem prudent to a Monk. This grants later improvements to Dodge, spellcasting while Raged, and giving Lesser Displacement automatically while in Shifter Rage. In contrast, the Beasthide Shifter path will later augment PRR, healing amplification, threat generation and a modest HP boost, which is equally compelling for a Shintao.

Looking at Flora’s claws, I was hoping to see innate slash damage added to the Monk’s inherent bludgeoning of unarmed attacks. While that damage isn’t automatically added, slashing damage is added through the Maul enhancement, giving a Druid-like bleeding attack for a few moments with this active attack.

Added Cleave early on for a good non-ki attack, which works nicely.

Other later enhancements look interesting. The Howls are mass debuffs to enemy saves and buffs to allies. Magic Fang is an old ability I used for my summoned or animal companions way back in my Neverwinter Nights games, adding +1 to weapon enhancement damage. As Shifters are both humanoid and animal for purposes of spells and and other uses, Magic Fang will raise her handwraps enhancement or when completely unarmed. (Still remembering that handwraps are now weapons because I’ve been playing that long now from when they were not.)

There are enhancements to augment the saves and abilities on summons, which isn’t something I will expect to do with Flora.

Even meditating on a Shifter is a treat, which I liked. While all other Monks meditate with hands clasped in front of them as if in prayer, the Shifter sits in a more Buddhist-styled open-armed meditative posture used in yoga.

I like this appearance that appears to be added by the devs as a purely cosmetic change. The Shifter, as a character, seems more in need of a deeper meditative state as a raging Monk, which seems counterintuitive to an otherwise traditionally contemplative class. Greater contemplation through raging, I guess.

This may have been added in some update that appeared during my hiatus, but thanks to the devs for correcting the cosmetic error where Monks armed with bows or other larger weapons would show the weapon in Meditation poking through the character’s head. Now weapons are temporarily hidden while in Meditation.

Because the Shifter’s raging powers are consumed action boosts in a sense, resting at a shrine, normally more of an option for a Monk since rests will deplete stored ki, might be more of a thing for Flora. There will be less use of shrines on completing the last core racial enhancement that regenerates the Rage boosts every 90 seconds.

Racial enhancements to natural armor are welcomed, which I assume stack with enhancement bonuses. And while I won’t be seeking joining raids where petrification is likely (sorry, almost no one plays “Ascension Chamber”), having that innate ability to be immune to petrification is a nice touch against medusas, although I wonder if it will also ignore the debuffing caused by the medusa’s initial attempts to petrify you. (Almost looking forward to trying this out if I have it unlocked in time for the level 12 quest, “Eyes of Stone.”)

Also nice is a special mass-paralyzing howl based on WIS DCs, which will come in handy for tougher fights.

Overall, I see an interesting future for Flora as my guild’s first effort at a tank (my oldest and most experienced tank, Lynncletica, is still around on my original guild and will likely stay there for some time as I complete some Legendary flagging on her and gather up some other items or abilities in Epic Destinies long neglected).

Now, off to get some Striding and melee alacrity items for her, as she slashes and moves in slower motions than I care to see.

The Adventures of Hjolan and Kellicletica

The monastery’s ranks slowly but happily grow, as does its reputation.

One acolyte shows great promise. She’s Hjolan, training in the Shintao unarmed arts. Lately she and my newer single-weapon wielding Ninja Spy, Kellicletica, have teamed up on many adventures as they move from early to mid-level questing.

Pairing light and dark Monks makes for rather rapid questing with good synergy. The Shintao grabs the aggro. Hjolan admits to never being great in stealth and so has often leapt headlong into mobs where even Aasimar fear to tread. But right behind him is Kelli, her Tiefling Assassin’s Blade slicing, dicing, poisoning and slaying with sneak attack, CON stat damage and lots of Ninja Poison.

Despite my recent love of what Falconry does for several Monks, Kelli is pretty stock Ninja Spy so far. Her main skill, which I’m exploiting well enough so far, is that she’s a Halfling. Her healing dragonmark provides useful Heal spells for emergencies or in-combat along with a few Cure Serious and Light options. While not as diverse as going Half-Elf for their Dilettante options as my low-kill stealth master Kiricletica has once done, the Action Points used are far cheaper, too.

Another benefit for defense as a Halfling are Dodge bonuses and increases to Dodge cap, which stack with related enhancements in Ninja Spy. At level 13, rocking gear to give her Adherent of the Mists set bonuses, she’s at 33% Dodge.

Halflings gain extra Sneak Attack dice to add to Kelli’s strikes and Sneak Attack bonuses to hit hard.

To hit fast, Kelli uses only one shortsword and Single Weapon Fighting feats. Ninja Spy requires bulking up on DEX for to-hit and damage but also WIS for ensuring her dark finishers land and stick. Of course, some CON is needed to survive a strike or two, as are items to add Blur or other concealment to go with her 25% Incorporeality miss-chance.

Lastly, to be jack of key ninja trades are some throwing enhancements at the upper end of the Halfling tree to fight off enemies with shuriken at range. Not sure if these stack with the Ninja Spy’s endgame level 18 powers, but it’s likely.

Standard stealth skills raised high to avoid many fights or to flank enemies, although newer quests take this more into account with required stops to speak to NPCs or interact with objects that leave her obviously vulnerable.

That still leaves Kelli with a ton of AP to work in somewhere else, and I’m not yet sure where to go with that.

I’m simply pushing the stock Ninja Spy as far it can go.

One quest chain that I don’t see as popular as it once might have been is the Assault on the Slave Lords.

I don’t blame others playing this one less often. Hjolan and I did parts 1 and 2 of this and my memories of why it’s not as popular came back quickly as we progressed. It’s a taxing chain. Enemies at Elite level are extremely numerous, varied and powerful. Traps are prevalent and require a good Rogue. Shrines are few, hirelings drain themselves of spellpoints rapidly and player death is probable without a proper attack and defense plan. Come light into the domains of the Slave Lords and you will die.

I’d played this one enough, and died enough times, to know where we had to go, trying to recall what to skip. I wanted to save more slaves but frankly the deeper one-way corridors of enemies, bosses and one shrine at the end of all of that just wasn’t worth the trouble in part 1.

Part 2 gave us a small respite as the hobgoblin mobs were numerous but not quite as potent. Still, it was a terrible grind with two hireling clerics which weren’t very discriminating in spellpoint use.

The good news was that bosses were less of a problem because of our high DPS. Between Hjolan’s unarmed strikes and my Ninja Poison-edged blades, the bosses were hardly a threat.

Hjo had been looking forward to the final fight, which has four red-named lords, all being recharged by a central boss. Hoped to poison DoT every one of them to slow and then stop them before they stopped us, which wouldn’t take long seeing how the hirelings we had were as good as dead with little sense to concentrate on healing the player characters.

Putting Slave Lords part 3 at a later date, we entered the lands of Barovia and the domain of the sinister Count Strahd. Thanks to previous characters who have entered the domain, Kelli already had a Borovian shuriken and shortsword, each with Rubies of Ghostbane from the Night Revels.

As noted often, Ninja Spies are best at slaying the living and, unlike the Shintao, are weakest at the undead because the ninja’s destructive use of ki manifests as negative energy effects, which are, best, harmless to the undead. Ninjas use swords rather than bludgeoning weapons as well, making cutting down skeletons slower. So gearing up and striking sure and fast is Kelli’s best offensive act, with avoiding fights altogether a second tactic.

Hjo and I had little worries in “Death House” (such a series of tragedies in this storyline). Hjo has blended in some Rogueish search and disarm skills, but on Elite they aren’t especially great. I opted to bring in Fira, a capable halfling Rogue to keep us a little safer.

Likewise, the hags at Old Bonegrinder and the hordes of wolves in “Fresh-Baked Dreams” weren’t nearly as much a problem as I’ve had with light Monks or my archers. Kelli could slaughter well out there, with Ninja Poison very effective against the pie-making witches since, as a melee fighter, she’s used to fights in close quarters.

Then, dinner time with the Count. Numerous encounters in the enormous Castle Ravenloft in “An Invitation to Dinner” have left me overly cautious even on my self-healing Monks. Thankfully, the synergy of our two Monks made completion relatively easy. The starting fight with the cursespewing Shadows of Hate thankfully resulted in no fatalities with even the hirelings, thanks to Hjo’s spamming of Healing Ki with lesser-restoration buffing. From there I was optimistic in our reaching objectives, even taking on Strahd a second time for another chest. The ghostbane-enabled Borovian Shortsword did wonders.

A running joke between Hjo and I involves her tendency to take excessive damage. On a whim I asked how much fortification she had after leaving Ravenloft. Well, it was not 100% or greater, which was horrifying and surprising. Hjolan had survived much to-date that should’ve killed her twice over, especially Slave Lords.

I strongly suggested a detour from Ravenloft to a duergar mine, in “A Relic of a Sovereign Past.” There, Hjo could gather adamantine ore there and quickly whip up a Nightforge Gorget necklace for 100% fortification to live a lot longer.

Duergar, or dark dwarves, can’t be paralyzed. But Kelli easily nauseated many, leaving them completely unable to spellcast or fight, saving us a lot of trouble against many casters and fighters.

By the quest’s end, we opted to fully piss off the duergar king, at which point I poisoned him to the point where he was bleeding green in seconds. As his personal blackguard appeared, rather than concentrating on one enemy, Kelli ran around the crowd, hacking away and delivering Ninja Poison to collectively hurt the enemies and generating ki before settling on eliminating each one as Hjo kept aggro and punched many of the guys into oblivion.

With a gorget equipped (Kelli opted to make one for herself while there with some spare ore she brought along), Hjolan and Kelli continue their work to cleanse the realms. More to come; it’s been historically rare for me to run with other Monks so continually.

Bowmaster Revisited

If you recall from years (!) ago, I developed two all-Monk archer builds. The first, the Zen Archer, was a high defense miss-chance archer with pretty impressive attack stats. But with criticisms about the Zen Archer’s dependence on bow qualities for damage, I made the Zen Bowmaster, an Elven terror with very high WIS DCs for its Arcane Archer enhancements that were fully capable of paralyzing and slaying mass enemies even in raids. The Bowmaster’s downside was the trade-off of overall damage for other abilities from the AA tree.

Well, with the Falconry enhancement tree, I’m revisiting the Bowmaster yet again for several critical skills which should improve both damage and takedown versatility options.

And because guild masters apparently must be an alt-character addict, meet Melithetica.

Melith is Elven, so as to get the AA tree. But unlike Paracleta (version 1), the enhancement changes will be less spread out over three or four trees. In fact, I won’t put nearly as many action points in AA, either. The potency of this Bowmaster comes from one stat: WIS, through the Falconry’s Killer Instinct enhancements.

In Bowmaster v1, Paracleta boosted her WIS dramatically for the AA DCs to be incredibly effective. But that meant that DEX, still the damage stat through the Elven Aerenal Grace enhancement, was less. DEX to-hit came from a few points to activate Ninja Spy’s first core, Basic Ninja Training. Some extra Ranged Power came from the Harper Agent tree.

No longer. Killer Instinct allows WIS to manage DCs of both Falconry and AA while also also being the controlling to-hit and damage stat.

One stat to rule them all. Almost.

No Monk is going to live long without DEX, CON, and STR. So Melith will need tomes and gear to keep DEX up (critical for reflex saves), CON for hit points, obviously, and STR to carry gear and do what melee she may require.

Falconry will also give the bird, literally, to enemies she fights. Bowmasters don’t fear the mobs, so the use of attacks which make enemies helpless in the tree (Diving Attack, Go for the Eyes, Coordinated Attack) means that, combined with Falconry’s No Mercy (same from Ninja Spy) and the use of Assassinate DCs in both AA and Falconry, Melith will be a very strong damage dealer and, I hope, trash controller by the time she gains Improved Precise Shot. Be it one enemy or ten, Melith may have a shot solution.

With only three trees to groom, not four, they’ll be significant AP saved and redirected for damage or protection. Grace will not be needed. There’s gear about to add Displacement by epic levels, so going the full dragonmark path is optional. Recent raids I’ve played such as Killing Time demonstrate the need for Magical Resistance Rating to go with whatever Physical Resistance Rating gear can be provided (Lynncletica, my tank and most durable Monk, was getting her clock zapped a lot there). There’s still also passive ki generation to work out, but when she really really needs it, she’ll have it by level 12 or so.

I’m unsure at this point which tree will get the bulk of points, but I’m leaning more towards Falconry than AA. Since Elven AA takes longer to level, particularly for the doubleshot bonuses, this build won’t focus on it so much, and should be less expensive. Quality shots (lots of elemental damage and situational control) over quantity.

As with Paracleta, feats are tight. Hoping to add Shot on the Run in addition to the usual ranged feats. But I may need to trade off something.

Just got a Greatbow of the Scrag, an eternally nasty grind to farm as with the Tiefling Assassin’s Blade in the wilds of Three Barrel Cove, so she’s committed now to growing and killing.

Stay tuned.

Life Finds A Way

I’ve planned to do something for what has turned into years now.

I’ve noticed a serious increase in the number of new players on my return. It’s obvious because most aren’t in a guild and so haven’t a guild name in their name. That’s OK: DDO doesn’t require a guild, although you get a lot of benefits (particularly buffs, extra storage options, faster crafting and resurrection options) if you are.

The Great Plague of 2020 has clearly been an influence on DDO gameplay. It was a very nice gesture for Standing Stone Games to make the entire world practically free for a time, and then offered a dirt-cheap offer to continue play with most of the original modules permanently for only a few DDO points and coupon code. Great sports in a time of need, especially since literally escaping to worlds free of COVID-19 was what some people really needed to relax a while.

COVID-19’s effects on my life, like many, have left me working from home. In real life, I help to keep 1/3 of the US power grid operating. While that has great job security (without us, both health care workers, food suppliers and those also isolated at home are in deep trouble) the boredom and tedium has been trying.

So between work, some gaming helped. But self-isolation has really made me lonely. Today’s announcement hopefully will both fix that and inspire me to get the updated Monk guide to a usable state.

The Order of Syncletica was often written in a third-person voice in past times to illustrate the many kinds of Monks and their non-Monk cohorts which I’ve played. Between this blog and the Monk guide, DDO became a new life for me, which, as life did, had some downs to go with the many ups.

Today, the dojo has become a real place on the Ghallanda server. There’s a new guild there, and I am the guild master.

The Syncletican Monastery is looking for members. There are a few caveats.

  • Unless you are a specialist class (all mages, Clerics, Rogues, some Bards), your character MUST take at least 3 Monk levels. That will require your character to be Lawful, as there are no un-lawful Monks. The whole goal of the guild is to train Monks in the monastic way. We do need some non-Monks and don’t expect everyone to keep their characters with Monk levels from life to life. The two classes which will likely be discouraged will be Fighters (unless adding Monk levels for Kensai) and Barbarians (non-Lawful). But that comes to the second caveat:
  • The Monastery’s purpose is a training guild. That is, if you are interested in creating a Monk and learning to use them from level 1 to 30, this is your place. Once you feel comfortable with your character, you can stick around with other Monks you make, leave the guild to grow in your next reincarnation or create a specialist character to aid others. The guild’s not trying to get the highest renown or the best buffs or even the greatest reputation, except as a great place to learn the Monk class.
  • Raids. I want nearly all-Monk raids. Years ago, my long-time guild managed to organize a virtually all-Monk raid for “The Shroud.” What a curb-stomp that was. From the simple to the complex, raids will test your mettle as a Monk.
  • New members may have a private goal. Your guild master is, naturally, Syncletica. But she has been a hermit. To get her back on the field, she will be donating anything she can give from her supplies to new and growing Monks to free herself from retirement and a horde of equipment. Until she can unburden herself, she can’t help out in adventures. I do have several other characters to aid at some levels, but I need more low-level ones for training.
  • Your home is one of the better guild ships that astral shards could get for its current level. I and a friend (who I fear no longer plays) have worked the guild alone to a respectable level 35. We can do better.

Now, these rules are somewhat flexible, save the first one, but being a Monk and learning how to play is the key reason I made the guild. The old Monk guide was moved to a new host but still has the basics.

I may schedule times where players can party up with me to learn the basics in several quests, traveling with one of my own as we do. It won’t be long before I need officers who share my vision of gameplay and fun.

My hope is that, as I play with more of you first-hand, I will find my way to completing the new guide with the new quests, gear and strategies you need to survive and win.

I will be online all day from 9:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time Saturday September 5 to get started. You can send a game mail to Syncletica if you are interested in signing up a character at any time. As things grow, I may get a guild website with scheduled events, roster and calendar. But for now, we’ll play it by ear.

The Monster

Not the DDO kind of monster. No, no.

It’s the kind of monster that is more ravenous and difficult to satiate but virtually impossible to kill.

It’s the monster called creativity.

And creativity is continually buffed by the demon called progress.

So, as noted in my last post, I am updating my Monk guide. I greatly appreciate how it has been helpful, even in its very outdated state, during my absence.

Life had a way of pushing me out of DDO for a time. That stuff happens. As a result, I’ve found myself looking at my own guide from the outside in. I was rather surprised how still useful it was.

I was planning on completely starting from scratch.

But I ran into some problems right away with my desire to update it. Over the 5 years or so as I updated and added, it grew to a tremendous size. That’s not bad except if major changes in the game came along. You can imagine how much has changed between its last revision at game Update 33 and now (46).

Gameplay has told me that, as far as the class goes, the Monk is really the same. Some improvements and changes on game mechanics were done, such as stealth in the last recent update, and that nerfed the monster’s ability, not the player. Some new enhancement tress appeared which are pretty nice, and a butt-ton of new gear and quests, of which I will need to consider as far as how to guide someone in play.

So, to make a long story short, the new site (which will be hosted here on WordPress) will be more of a very major revision than a rewrite.

My hope is to have it ready before July ends.

That’s because it will be accompanied by a special announcement that may be an additional aid to new players to the Monk.

I treat the guide, this blog, and my unnamed project seriously. Unlike most other classes and races (where favor can unlock them), you have to plop down real national currency in DDO to unlock the class.

Time for the lot of you that’s joined the game in the era of Killer Cooties to get your money’s worth, right?

In related news, the original guide was hosted on the old Google Sites. They have also made a major upgrade so I was forced to move the book to a new version of Google Sites. Actually, it reads and looks better, although I liked the old book theme.

You may still be able to reach the original guide at its usual link:

https://sites.google.com/site/bookofsyn/

But I recommend that you go to the new site and its slightly different link, because Google says that the original site will eventually be deleted. Besides, aside from coming here when it’s ready, you’ll eventually find the link to the totally updated guide there. Here’s the recommended site until the new one’s ready:

https://sites.google.com/view/ddobookofsyncletica/home

Birds Make Everything Interesting

Catching up on the game (happily–there have been so many new updates), I’ve gravitated to three builds that are less punchy and more specialized in regards to Monks.

Became immediately interested in two new universal enhancement trees. A halfling Rogue I made (creating yet again a new alt) started work with the Visani Fighting tree and absolutely loved the DPS and backward blade handling appearance. One Ranger decided to play with the Falconry tree, which is what I’ll touch on more now.

Falconry is a curious tree. You get an indestructible bird (the appearance you choose doesn’t matter) that is undetectable by enemies if you’re sneaking or invisible. But what the tree does with the bird is provide first-strike tools that have begun to enhance the one-trick limits of two builds of mine.

Laylacletica and the Improved Zen Archer

Laylacleta’s ability to knockdown and blind enemies greatly assists in crowd control.

Layla is a Zen Archer. As others may recall from past posts of Pynthetica, the Zen Archer build I developed emphasized a simple pew-pew all-Monk Elf archer with no other ranged enhancements (no Arcane Archer or Deepwood Sniper). What Zen Archers lack in variations of attack they compensate for by high passive defenses with Dodge, concealment and incorporeality, making them so hard to hit that they down others before they could have a chance. Zen Archers used portions of the Ninja Spy tree to gain advanced Sneak and passive ki regeneration so they could use their Ten Thousand Stars many-shot effect every 1 minute as needed.

But on attack with a Zen Archer, things start charging at you, and there is only so much one can passively avoid in attack when 5 enemies or more begin to target you. As with Rangers and Arcane Archers, there has to be something more to slow or stop enemies to give an advantage.

For previous Zen Archers, I relied on the effects of my equipment, such as fortification bypass, hamstring/tendon slice, and more, to aid in taking things down before they got too close. Doubleshot was also dramatically raised as well as Ranged Power since most of the action points went into Harper Agent for increasing passive Ranged Power and general bow damage.

But such effects can only go so far, so you either had to attack smarter or not at all, lest you get several axes, blades and spells to your face all at once.

With Layla, I thought to give Falconry a try. I would lose a little Ranged Power in sacrificing the Harper Agent tree, but I would get sizable potent first-strike attacks that gave damage but also some crowd control. The first, Diving Attack, is effectively a stunning knockdown that works (for Layla) on just about all but red-named monsters. The second, Strike for the Eyes, blinds most enemies. The third, Coordinated Strike, is a mass blinding and bleeding effect on mobs.

Now Layla could stop enemies in an improved capacity, downing things faster with less damage. Using the attacks cost no ki, no spell points and had very fast cooldowns. But there were other benefits that saved action points throughout her build with this tree change.

Falconry has some Sheltering and healing amplification benefits found in other trees. So I didn’t have to pump lots of points into the racial and Ninja Spy trees to get similar effects. Layla’s Elf tree has the same points for improved bow damage and Dex-to-Damage and Dex-to-Hit benefits, but there’s more, so much more to Falconry that benefits Monks to the point where I could save more points.

Falconry adds Killer Instinct to the mix. Like Harper’s Know the Angles and Ninja Spy’s similar core abilities, rather than using STR for damage or attack, Falconry lets you use WIS for both. For a Monk, that’s awesome. WIS boosts so much on a Monk that there are savings afoot. In the case of Layla, I could now just pump WIS and put less points in DEX save to improve Dodge and Reflex. For now, she sticks with DEX-to-hit and damage as I experiment.

I’m still in work as to Layla’s new level of rampaging with this variation. I should mention that Falconry has No Mercy, the same Ninja Spy enhancement which pummels helpless enemies with extra damage. Normally, without Epic Destinies, Pynthetica couldn’t really use this unless she got off a lucky shot from a bow effect. But with Falconry, blinding and knockdown mean that a Zen Archer smacks down things far more effectively to helplessness and so can kill faster.

The only downside to Falconry for the Zen Archer is increasing the aggro to a build that doesn’t want it. I may toy more with maximizing a Ninja Spy enhancement, Subtlety, as well as equipment bonuses which lower threat level so enemies are less likely to turn around on me and keep to my meat-shield Clerics, Rogue or Fighters that I deploy on attack when there are more than 3 or 4 enemies.

Annithetica and an improved Mystic

And then, I had a yen to play again with the Henshin Mystic.

So with Falconry’s WIS-to-attack and WIS-to-Damage ideas in mind, Annithetica was born. But here, I take Falconry to a deeper use.

Like the Zen Archer, the Mystic can generate aggro. In fact, they make far more of it than any Monk with its ki-based Fire and Force attacks. But Mystics lack in defense, as my previous posts about Quintessica note. So, like the Zen Archer, the Mystic could use an edge to stop or slow some enemies enough to give it an edge to reduce damage if the build couldn’t pump up its miss-chance, armor or sheltering effects (which are still necessary).

So this young Mystic has a falcon floating over its head now. By level 10, I moved to Killer Instinct’s WIS for damage and attack rolls and I needed to only add further STR points beyond reducing changes for enfeeblement. Took care of that cheaply enough with my +2 Tome from 1750 Favor. A bit of DEX and CON, but WIS will do wonders for constant ki and other Monk abilities.

She’s been tearing through most dungeons by outright incineration of enemies in mass. Built similarly to Quintessica, the Mystic needs the Cleave and Great Cleave feats to spin up that mass damage. But with very high WIS for her level and all of her Mystic abilities amped by the WIS modifier, I see very significant fire and force damage to the point that Incinerating Wave firewall can destroy mobs in one strike.

Something new got added: Two Handed Fighting, which apparently got an insane Strikethrough bonus that is effectively the melee version of Improved Precise Shot’s multiple-strike feature. Also, the feat Spring Attack now includes an actual spring attack that can help start a fight faster by leaping at a target and smacking things right away. So the Two-Handed Fighting feats will keep pouring into this build.

What I hope with Anni here is to add the falcon’s helpless effects to blind en masse, combined with No Mercy, to burn the ashes of the ashes of many more enemies before they can become effective. Being able to knockdown something and then slam it from existence is one goal. All that Anni needs now is the right attack after knockdown. Probably one of the Elemental Ki Strikes, like Fists of Iron, to make a killer 3W hit with extra weapon damage modifiers, uprated by No Mercy and helplessness.

Defense was still an issue early on, as Mystics are a little squishy, and Anni’s gear was less than optimal for Dodge and Sheltering until level 12. As she hit the Ravenloft quests, she’ll got the wonderful Bavarian Quarterstaff, which has been awesome throughout the game with its absolutely lethal damage output (Layla uses her Barvarian Longbow as her ultimate kick-everyone’s-ass bow, not just undead). Since WIS activates so much, some additional gear leaves Anni at level 13 with 50 AC, max Dodge of 32% and about 32 PRR. Time to look for a metalline boss-beater as she moves forward.

Anni has even encouraged me to work through the Necropolis quests, of which I’ve never been a fan, mostly because it felt like a grind and required parties for mandatory levers. I just love incinerating undead now.

More to come on this. These experiments to the builds will, I hope, become part of an updated, all-new Monk guide.

Light Returns to the Monastery

I will admit to becoming a little burnt out on DDO. What seemed to be a somewhat short break turned out to be a over two-year hiatus. Perhaps I’ll detail what I was doing, gaming-wise, in that off-time on another day.

But I kept my DDO account active. And on returning to the game recently noticed so many fresh and new things to be and to do, especially about my favorite class.

Looking at the new enhancement trees, I rolled up a halfling Rogue to try out the Vistani Fighter enhancements. Dang, that’s a DPS build if ever there was one.

Then I dusted off my Zen Archer build. It still has gas. I was hoping to work in the new effect Missile Deflection to aid in overall defense, but it’s limited to certain races/enhancements, so I’ll have to come back to that.

So much fresh content. The secondary Keep on the Borderlands starter quests were lovely. And Mists of Ravenloft — wow. I am blown away every time I enter that one, and there’s still so much left to do.

There are many tweaks in the game which are nice. The best news for me so far is that none of them have invalidated any of my builds thus far. This might be one benefit of my tendency not to create multiclassed characters. But I am far more open to the idea. We’ll see where that goes.

When I last left off, I had some things in mind to share with other players. Thanks to one friend (who seems to have sadly left the game or has moved her players elsewhere, understandably due to real-life developments) I have a small guild with precisely one player: Me.

I will be seeking additional members in my little guild once I flesh out some details on why it could be useful to others.

And as waited as Update 46 Patch 2 was being implemented in downtime, I had a new build idea.

Without getting anybody’s hopes up, let me finish this return post with some goals I have as I return to play:

  • A new, updated Monk guide. This will be hosted in another spot, simplify reading, and have more build suggestions. It’ll also rid itself of cruft that’s not only outdated but available otherwise on DDO Wiki so it’ll make things easier to keep updated. I will keep the original guide in its place with pointers to the new guide once I have enough of the new guide running.
  • A new Monk build, as noted. As I have in the past, development and gameplay about it will be posted here.

See you soon. Like everyone else in the world, the COVID-19 outbreak has left me with a bit more home-time but also provides more opportunity to play.

From the Silence Comes Energy

Ryn3aSorry for the dubious record of 6 months without so much as a “hello.”

As they say in my guild, “real life comes first.” My new job also reoriented my free time, enjoying family and caring for their needs and my own, while my priority to game had dropped. While I do get in two hours or so of DDO per week since March, that pales to the 15+ hours I would find the play years before. Burnout was also a factor.

Thankfully, DDO keeps changing, so now there is more for me to explore and consider, even if I’m reduced to only monthly or bi-monthly posts.

Too much has changed for me to delve immediately to in-depth analysis, so let’s go to the basics, which I can expand on in later posts.

  • Update 36 Named Items: A few interesting baubles for the Monk class, but nothing struck me as spectactular or notable, save perhaps for the Red Fens set updates, which are always handy for mid-level Monks as they struggle to level 12.
  • Quintessica, my Henshin Mystic, has completed many a Deathwyrm run, showing her general competence in stick fighting. But still that tree lacks improved stick-fighting and defensive skills over other classes. I’ll be reviewing that stock build to see if other trees could improve it.
  • Update 37’s introduction of missile deflection seemed a bit redundant to me since the Deflect Arrows feat, as well as miss-chance effects tend to fulfill this role. To date, I’ve not seen any item that provides this feature. I hope to add it to Pynthetica, my original Zen Archer. Changes I couldn’t discern some months ago seemed to make her far more susceptible to injury in raids, as if her miss-chance powers were negated.
  • After a very successful first-life, the Zen Bowmaster Paracleta got a heroic reincarnation. Originally built as a damage-dealer, the Arcane Archer DC changes allowed Paracleta to become a potent crowd-controlling monster. This time, I’ll work on additional tweaks to increase both damage and AA DCs.
  • My proudest build is the Poison Master, my Drow Ninja Spy. Great DPS, a versatile scout, lots of tactical options, Ryncletica’s most serious foes are those she cannot overcome with ninja tactics or poison–generally, the undead and demons/devils. She’s about to go through Deathwyrm runs to improve her weaponry as well as giving me to to play with options. I may create a new alt with less baggage to firm up the build’s first-life play options and variations.
  • The Sentient Weapons feature is nostalgic, taking me back to the Neverwinter Nights game expansion that introduced Enserric, a sentient weapon that threw humorous quips as you fought with it while also offering a power bonus.  I’m still studying the impact of this feature and may write about it another time. I do love the idea of feeding said weapons items that you collect that build up over time in banks and caches but cannot use yet cannot sell. DDO sometimes seems intent on turning us into hoarders without ways to utilize what we collect.
  • Update 37’s new raid and the Ravendark quests are just the thing for a Shintao Monk. I hope to play it through with Lynncletica soon. The named items here are actually very interesting, although gathering them from what are probably the pinnacle raids available in the game seems a little defeating.

I hope to get the Monk guide updated (perhaps with an entirely new look) to clear out outdated information and perhaps focus on gameplay-specific features of my builds to emphasize how to play the Monk classes as whole. No promises as to when this will happen; I need to study the best way, if any, to make that happen.

See you sooner, than later.

Review: Battleheart Legacy

My work and some personal stuff still leaves me playing significantly less than I’d like. But it’s also the dog-days of summer where many players are vacationing. Even the twice-weekly Deathwyrm raid runs are a little harder to fill. But Fall will be here soon and things will settle back. I’ve not yet touched Update 36 for that reason so more comments on that on another day.

Naturally I cannot play DDO at work but I find bits of downtime where I’d like to stay awake with a game. I turn to my iPhone 7 and have searched for single-player RPG adventure games on it. One was Oceanhorn, a total love-letter to the 1990s-era game The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and a very clever game, although short and with limited replay options.

But when I found Battleheart Legacy, I found the closest thing to soloing DDO on a mobile device that I’ve ever seen.

The app maker I trusted: Mikamobile made the Zombieville USA games that have worked for several years of fun play. Battleheart Legacy is the second of a series of games (The original Battleheart appears to flirt with the appearance of the first Nintendo Final Fantasy game and I’ve looking forward to buying it).

This second Battleheart is so rich with content and features, not to mention humor, that I find myself laughing often.

The interface avoids dedicated virtual buttons for movement and easily uses the touch an area to move to a place feature, which also works great for classes with teleportation effects.

Like DDO, you begin with selecting a character from a somewhat limited assortment of appearances. All start with a simple sword and street clothes. You can also clone a save file to take that version in a different direction. All behavior is saved automatically, and you can pause the game simply by returning to the iPhone home screen.

BH-1

These names seem familiar…

The tutorial is short and simple and can be easily bypassed if you wish. There are dialogue options you can choose to be as lawful or snarky as you want. While there are no alignments in BH, you can behave as good or evil as you’d like to be. However, going dark might literally kill off your NPC helpers, especially if you turn on Crazy Mode.

BH-2a

The Barbarian trainer is skeptical. You are armed with sass, however.

You can opt to have a helmet visible or not visible (if the armor has one) but this is as far as you go in appearance options. The armors you do get and weapons over time do change and look pretty spiffy, however.

The game is polished, attractive and leaves you plenty of freedom enough in travel to kill yourself if you don’t pay attention. Dungeons that don’t match your level are clearly marked. DDO players will find the character skills and gear interface to naturally easy to use.

Two towns have an academy where you’ll find class trainers. Six are easily found: Bard, Paladin, Wizard, Ranger, Knight (fighter) and Rogue. But events and exploring other rooms lead you to discover that there are SIX additional classes: Battlemage (similar to Warlocks), Witch, Necromancer, Barbarian, Ninja and Monk.

BH-Monk

Oh, yeah. And no funny finishing moves finger-breaking combos, either.

BH instantly got my love at the discovery of the Ninja and Monk, obviously. The Ninja is similar to the Monk but with dual-wielding swords and a lot of high-speed attacks. The Monk is all-unarmed and very, very durable with the right tweaking.

And tweaking you’ll love in this game. BH encourages you to use abilities and skills from other classes and there is no limit to how much you can train. However, you have only a few gear, ability and passive skill slots. A Monk can use Bard skills, Rangers can add Rogue skills, and none of this affect your character’s abilities. It’s all as versatile as you want it to be.

BH-abilities

Mix-and-match skills from any class you wish to give you what you want.

BH-3

The training window for a class.

I started with the Ranger. You hold a bow in one hand and use your sword if things get too close. You get an animal companion that helps hold aggro, although it’s a little squishy.

The Attributes list to the left actually scrolls to show additional attributes, like Dodge.

BH-2

BH-Attrib

Scroll the left side to see more detail on your stats. Here, trained abilities can be switched out from other classes on the right.

Leveling is easy and you can repeat dungeons over and over and loot over and over to gain gear to sell. As you gain levels, the smithys slowly give upgraded equipment. There are quests to gain ore for each to gain a bonus item or higher level gear. Quests range from dungeon crawls to arena mauls, including a death arena where you can get the best gear in the game if you can survive long enough to kill at least 80 enemies.

The end-game prep quests, to collect three shards, are located in high-level dungeons that will easily eat you even at high level. Best to enter at a much higher level than dungeon level to improve your odds.

Magic and abilities are cooldown based, eliminating mana management. To improve the speed in which you reuse abilities, you can get items that give you a chance to instantly reset a cooldown or decrease the cooldown time. You can improve critical hits on attacks and spells, increase the critical hit multiplier, enjoy passive HP regeneration, increase Dodge, find classes with Evasion, and increase movement and attack speeds. Every item buff stacks if you can find items that support any of these abilities.

BH-smiting

Smiting Paladin encourages smiting. Neat.

Everyone gets just 5 health potions that fully restore you while in a dungeon. You’ll want to find passive health regeneration or life-stealing items and spells to stretch your HP, since there are no NPCs I’ve seen so far that assist you. These potions are automatically restored on returning to the map.

Your abilities are shown in slots below that are easy to access. Targeting, movement and graphics are perfect on an iPhone 7 and should work fine on iPhone 5s or better, or newer iPads.

BH-Combat

Health and white experience bar with abilities below that restore after cooldown make for a simple and sublime interface.

The humor and writing is simple and funny. This NPC welcomes you in the first Academy training hall and clearly tells you how you are destined for greatness.

BH-5

The hidden class trainers often have an attack option if you piss them off. You don’t want to try this unless you don’t care to use the class and if you like to die very, very quickly. A couple of them challenge you to a duel to qualify for training, and a few you cannot find until you find them in a random encounter that activates if you travel around the map too long.

Battleheart Legacy has very good replay value, with difficulty levels as well as reset options that allow you to keep your skills but reset your level for a new challenge. The world is way, way smaller compared to other RPGs or MMOs but it is large enough to enjoy.

BH-map

Touch to move to a dot and then touch the destination option on the upper right. Quests to complete may show this yellow exclamation point. You might get stopped by a random encounter.

The game is a steal at $4.99 US and has no in-app purchases; you get everything you need to enjoy it.

While it’s been around for three years, the app maker has been about since the smartphone app was invented and keep all of their games compatible over many years with iPhone. There also appears to be an upload/download option of character files.

You’ll love this game if you’re stuck somewhere, or not.

Here’s a nice 14 minute video review to let you see how it looks and works.

The Return of the Thwacky-Stick

QuinAndGholaFanWith three characters done with their Thunderholme raid runs to build their Thunder-Forged weapons, I wanted to get another character dusted off and armed.

I was also getting slightly burned out from the successes of ranged and thrown fighting. I’d been playing Pynthetica, Szyncletica and Paracleta a bit too much lately, and I wanted to go melee again since Lynncletica is fully-actualized as a strong tank for many raids, and the Poison Master Ryncletica needs some gear tweaks before she goes into Thunderholme.

It was time to return to Quintessica, my Henshin Mystic.

A long time ago in a D&D-styled game not so far away, I made a Fighter that used quarterstaves. I called them “thwacky-sticks” because the Fighter essentially beat the living crap out of everything with impunity.

I never quite got that same mojo with the Henshin Mystic…until now.

Quintessica’s sat on the sidelines for a handful of reasons, although I enjoyed playing her.

  1. Attack speed (in the original enhancement pass) was woefully slower than other builds using quarterstaves.
  2. Overall defense was very poor, especially for a melee build. It was like playing a Barbarian with less than no armor. When a character builds up aggro as the Mystic does, they need to absorb much more damage or attack faster.
  3. Building up effective spellpower (in the original enhancement tree) to increase the ki-powered damage types was doable but problematic. You could have a staff that increased spellpower or melee damage, but not both.

Thankfully, it looks like these problems seem licked back with Update 33, so now, I’m catching up.

Offensive Changes

The new enhancement tree removed the use of spellpower to increase damage to ki-powered spell-like abilities. In its place, ki-powered abilities are magnified by Monk levels, Melee Power, or both. The tree gains remarkable base Melee Power bonuses.

These changes have really boosted the overall attack performance. For example, Cauldron of Flame is an extraordinarily potent kill-zone maker since the Melee Power and Monk level bonuses stack up to roast a wide area. It’s your own personal Firewall and every melee cannot help but come face-to-face with you–and burn.

If a boss is inside the zone with you, smack them with the All-Consuming Flame fire debuff and the damage goes way up. Bonus: You can move within the flame circle now; it lasts 30 seconds and has a 30 second cooldown. For places where I expect to get swarmed, I have this attack ready. And you also gain an attack and PRR boost while inside a Cauldron.

The addition of melee power in the core enhancements also increase general weapon damage. Hits do seem harder and more effective. It doesn’t hurt that Lighting the Candle, the Fire/Force damage weapon buff, also scales with that Melee Power.

For my build, I chose to add CleaveGreat Cleave, and Whirlwind Attack. This allows me to spin a staff almost continually. You can guess how all that spinning works with enemies trying to kill me while immersed in a Cauldron of Flame. Did I mention the extra fun with glancing blows?

The doublestrike-boosting Quick Strike also has a faster cooldown, allowing more chances for extra hits. I’m trying to add any Doublestrike bonuses here and there.

While I like some of the melee attacks of Legendary Dreadnought, it appears that Fury of the Wild is the better ED to use with its glancing-blow benefits to two-handed weapons such as quarterstaves, the burst damage of Adrenaline and Unbridled Fury, as well as Fury Made Placid (WIS +6, improves Monk DCs and AC). As I’ve said, Mystics and Barbarians have similar features.

As for other destinies, Primal Avatar doesn’t have much save STR and a few weapon buffs. Unyielding Sentinel may be helpful in quasi-tanking since I can maximize CON from the tree, but perhaps Divine Crusader’s similar treats with Consecration and weapon buffs may add up, as well as STR bonuses that I desperately need for more damage.

As melees go, Quintessica kills more efficiently now, thanks to these boosted powers and the wider reach of the staff to smack things. Wear-and-tear on quarterstaves is still nasty, and for the first time ever, I’m seeing permanent damage build up on a Thunder-Forged weapon. Upgrading it through the tiers doesn’t change this so I’ll bind it and use a repair oil kit from the DDO Store (or use the Stone of Change) shortly now that it’s bound to my character anyway.

As for attack speed, the last core enhancement pays off. Serenity adds 15% boost to attack speed, which seems to stack with Melee Alacrity boosts. I missed this in an early review of the new tree. I liked the idea of taking the epic feat Blazing Speed for permanent Haste, but realize weapon damage is better and will work in Epic Feats and Destiny Feats such as Overwhelming Critical and Harbinger of Chaos. Being a Monk, I already have plenty of speed for running or attack.

Dire Charge is also under consideration. This mass-stun pairs well with the cleaving to affect mass damage to several enemies, especially if I can get them all close in a Cauldron to burn everything for 6 seconds while getting a beat-down with a staff. Its effectiveness will vary in raids, where often trash is warded or red-named and unaffected by stunning.

The only enemies I can’t burn are devils and demons. I make some Force damage, sure. I’ll just have to be more creative in some raids.

Defensive Changes

The core enhancements improved the inadequate defenses a tiny bit. For every core enhancement, you gained +3 PRR for a maximum of +15. That’s not much, but it’s still appreciated. Staying in Mountain Stance at its maximum tier adds another 15 PRR. I just might reach 100 PRR with some Insightful bonuses and the best Monk armor, Outfit of the Celestial Guardian, by level 29.

Adding to this, I also followed Lynn’s design and trained Combat Expertise for more AC. The epic destiny Legendary Dreadnaught’s Improved Combat Expertise adds 20 PRR with the companion feat active as an epic character, which could be easily twisted.

Quinn currently sees 61 PRR, with more later. Like other older characters in my dojo, I didn’t train every destiny early on for them, so Quinn’s second life is holding at 25-27 while I work on completing EDs to unlock fate slots as well as qualify for ED feats such as Perfect Two-Weapon Fighting. Glancing-blow damage is great when you have multiple cleave effects.

I added something from the Ninja Spy tree to help: Shadow Veil. That 25% incorporeality combined with Dodge, Blur and AC seem to get Quinn through many scrapes, although she still bruises more than Lynncletica. Ideally, Quinn should be 3/4 as durable as Lynn and have around the same HP. I am not confident of Quinn’s effectiveness as a tank, even an off-tank. Lynn’s PRR stands around 150-161 PRR with nearly 300% fortification and has more HP than Quinn, who would get pummeled without more PRR and fortification. “Stick and move” is really Quinn’s mantra.

General Stance and Feat Changes

The general Monk stance updates are mixed blessings. Water Stance gives greater Dodge and a really improved cap. Fire Stance received the critical threat multiplier from Mountain Stance, which, I believe has improved Threat.

The most useful feat changes involved Ku-kando and the Shining Star finishing move. The DCs of both are no longer CHA-based but WIS-based. While I can’t use Ku-kando as a Mystic, I have weaponized Shining Star, sending enemies into dance frenzies with its spell-like ability of Otto’s Irresistible Dance. This finisher is rapidly easy to activate since it uses Earth-Wind-Fire moves in sequence that don’t lengthen the time to activate with cooldowns.

There’s also the mob-draining power of Every Light Casts a Shadow. In groups, I just warn others to have Death Ward equipped (just in case of a nagging bug) before I throw myself into a pile of enemies and neg-level the lot of them.

I had forgotten that Every Light is a dark-ki attack, which means I can also activate the ninja-grade finishers such as the paralyzing Freezing the Lifeblood or the mage-stopping Pain Touch. I have to time the attack just right, but after neg-leveling all near me, the odds of this helpless-inducing paralysis sticking go way higher.

Although the Mystic’s damage often add Force damage as well, she’s got to be careful in raids like “Defiler of the Just,” where everything is fire-immune, naturally, as devils and demons. Some dragons also will laugh at her powers but Thunder-Forged weapons are meant to hurt most of them. Amplifying the fire damage as a Mystic is just a bonus.

Weapons

Quinn has a boatload of staves–perhaps too many, and few of them useful in epic. The three I see most effective at level cap are the Thunder-Forged staff (its Adamantine durability is really preferable as well as its Fire/vulnerability damage), the Epic Light Unending (specialized undead/boss beater) as well as a Legendary Green Steel Mineral or Triple-Positive staff (once I build them).

With all the destinies to power up to gain fate points, I’ll have plenty of time to gather ingredients to build these staves to full power.

Gear

The best thing I’ve done is to custom craft items for more STR, CON and WIS while upgrading items for Melee Alacrity, Devotion, and AC bonuses. I have most AC covered except Natural Armor, which needs more of those pesky Purified Eberron Dragonshard Fragments for my crafter. Thankfully, some runs in “Devil Assault” can get me Tokens of the Twelve to exchange for a few: Crafting can get expensive as you add Insightful abilities.

I find the Guardian’s Cloak a staple for damage mitigation on all my characters. And if one enters “Temple of the Deathwyrm” enough, eventually the challenge of surviving the “Red Light-Green Light” room requires that I’ll need a Jeweled Cloak from Epic Gianthold as a backup against the instant-death effect.

To sum up, I’ve been far more cocky in running quests. Knowing the areas help me lure (or avoid) enemies so I can effect maximum damage to many enemies in an enclosed space. When there are a mix of mages and melee, the woo-woo of mass-neg leveling increases my chances of taking all down a bit faster. I wonder if the Mystic can win the melee-only/no-spells game of “kill ’em all faster.”

It’s been a long while since I’ve made a video, and I think I’ve promised one for the Mystic for longer. Lots of real-life work to do first, but sometime soon I’ll get one posted.

 

 

A Cautionary Tale of L-Shroud Part 4

Mericletica5Our most excellent multi-guild raid team took on a Legendary Shroud on Hard recently.

We should be old hats at this. But L-Shroud has a deceptive quality. Most of us have played Heroic-level Shroud many, many times before. So the familiar surroundings of L-Shroud, I suspect, causes some of us to let our guard down.

That’s a very bad thing to do in any part, but especially in Part 1, where the troglodytes that appear are all very dangerous. The sorcerers disintegrate. The fighters critically hit you with one strike, and so do the assassins. In this part, we break off two or three people to guard the portal beater’s backs. That’s a difficult job since the trash spawns at the portal as well as behind the team. And most of our player defenses on Legendary are much weaker.

For some reason this night, our DPS on portal beating was OK but you could tell it wasn’t our best. We complete Parts 1, 2 and 3 without much fuss.

It’s Part 4 that I worry about most now in Legendary Shroud.

The fight is exactly the same as in the Heroic version. Devils show up with a few friends to off you. After a time, Arraetrikos appears for the first time.

And this is where sub-par DPS will end your raid–and also why a solo Legendary run is nearly impossible.

Optimally, you kill Harry in one pass, else he returns with gnolls that heal him. In Legendary, the eight gnolls will heal Harry back from 1/4 HP to full health in less than 30 seconds. And the gnolls are hardy bastards; only one or two adventurers cannot destroy them fast enough. You need to devote the whole party to remove them fast, then switch over to Harry and peel back more HP on him.

But Harry is also being Harry, throwing fireballs and slapping adventurers hither and yon, killing a few. After a consecutive Ten Thousand Stars and Manyshot volley to his face, Harry often turns his attention to me and spins meteors to my face, which will sting a bit, even with high Reflex saves, without some PRR.

That’s typically the point where your party is doomed, especially if your DPS was only adequate but not superior. One or two adventurers with only one or two death penalties may be OK, but once 5 or more in your party have suffered 3 or more deaths, their performance and HP are greatly reduced, increasing the chance for others to die and all but ensuring that Harry will triumph.

So, to those a little new to L-Shroud, here’s a tip or two for what its worth.

  1. Check your party DPS before entering. A full party is less important than a party that can rid the floor of portals and have the power to hurt Harry (or the gnolls) situationally. Not that I fault our raid party here (we love to have everyone play) but players under level 25 in the party probably hurt our chances that night.
  2. Ensure people have their portal-beaters and Harry beaters as well as any fortification bypassing. The simple portal-beater isn’t enough, in my opinion. You need to reduce the portal’s (and L-Harry’s) fortification to do similar damage to him as in Heroic. My Pynthetica the Zen Archer is designed to excel in both categories thanks to a strong weapon (a Complete Thunder-Forged Longbow that punches Force damage) but also because she can reach 85% fortification bypass thanks to Precision (25%), the bow’s armor-piercing (35%), the Grandmaster of Flowers ED Piercing Clarity (10%) and, by level 30, the Shadowdancer ED Grim Precision (15%). I swap in +5 Holy Arrows, kick on Ten Thousand Stars and go to town. It shouldn’t be a terrible option for most to switch to crafted Armor-Piercing gloves to help. And player abilities that also reduce fortification as a group (the Monk’s Jade Strike, or the Deepwood Stalker’s Mark of the Hunter) also help.
  3. Depending on your group, determine your Part 4 strategy. Normally the strategy is simple: Kill Harry, rapidly and in one go. But be ready with a Plan B: Slowing or killing the gnolls before turning your attention to Harry. Here, Paracleta’s superior Legendary-level paralysis helped a few times when Harry didn’t go down on the first try. She paralyzed two gnolls, leaving only six to destroy and buying time for the party. The trick here is that you MUST paralyze or otherwise freeze the gnolls before they emit their healing beam, as they materialize in the arena. That beam does not stop once started unless the gnoll is dead or the beam hasn’t started to begin with. Flesh-to-Stone, Otto’s Dancing or other effects could work if you get the save and if you’re very fast. If you have paralyzers in your party (and not Heroic level paralysis: You’re going to need to have a DC of 60+ to stand a chance), this can make the difference.
  4. Remind the party to go for maximum everything on the first attempt. Use boosts, the right weapon, throw spells carelessly. Definitely hit him with anything that lowers fortification for yourself or the party. Hold nothing back. It’s got to be “one and done” or the gnolls await you.

Got any other tips to share from your raid experience? Just drop them in the comments.

The Efficient Gamer

Ryn4Being an older gamer (“When I was your age, we played with 8-bits…and we LIKED IT!) I’m not as keen as jumping on the bandwagon of some other new game. I have been tempted to try out WoW just to see what the fuss was about.

My new job (yay!) consists of three or four 12-hour work days. The advantage of that is a LOT of days off to decompress, sleep and catch up on work.

This new routine has reduced my DDO time a bit, because, as my guild’s prime rule says, “real life comes first.”

That doesn’t mean I’m not playing at least two to three hours per week. Still doing the same things, just a bit slower.

Pynthetica is nearing 29 once more as a Zen Archer. I’m looking into improving this build once more, as I might have noted, by checking out other races and classes. My last task from a gear standpoint is (1) craft up level 30-ish items that are optimally placed (WIS, DEX) so to allow use of named items, replacing some loot-gen items that aren’t in good spots; (2) Complete a Legendary Shroud and craft up ingredients to make my Legendary Green Steel Mineral Longbow with “You Cannot Evade Me”: an augment that spikes Insightful DEX by 1d8+2 for 20 seconds and causes 1d8+2 Dexterity damage. Apropos for the ever-evading Zen Archer, do you think?

Paracleta, my very successful Zen Bowmaster, finally has her Complete Thunder-Forged Longbow. Being a first-lifer, I’ll possibly eTR her first and burn Shiradi karma for a Doubleshot 3% bonus to bring her ultimate standing Doubleshot to 74% with gear but before any use of Ten Thousand Stars or Manyshot, which sends her Doubleshot to as high as 241%. I should begin work on her Legendary Green Steel Longbow, too. Once back at level 30, it’ll be back to a regular Heroic True Reincarnation to play around with some things. Paracleta was built as a counter-attack to comments about the Zen Archer. As serendipity would have it, she found a very strong niche. This character will have a long and very dangerous life.

I’d love to get more time in on Ryncletica, my third build, the Poison Master. She’s incredibly dangerous with her DPS and poison damage but could use some offensive adjustments over several areas. The great thing about her is that she’s effective at any level because of her build design. Time to play with other races, although this may reduce a little poison damage and require feats I get for free as a Drow. She’s also lacking powerful Thunder-Forged weapons, but her innate speed and damage is already good. Defense is the central need for the Poison Master.

Lynncletica has proven herself as a very versatile tank over many raids. There’s little more she can be, so I may never TR her again, reserving her as a contingency tank for raids that lack one. We’ll see. Meanwhile, new Dragonborn Shintao Scythetica may be filling in as I test this race with Shintao training.

Been thinking of how to improve Szyncletica, my old original Shuricannon. I should look at Firewall’s Shuricannon 2.0 notes and integrate them into her next life. Meanwhile she’s working on a Thunder-Forged shuriken since Pyn, Paracleta and Lynn are done with their many “Deathwyrm” raid rotations. Like Pyn, Szyn is desperately in need for optimizing her gear, so she’s aiding that being the central contributor of loot-gen gear to be crunched into Cannith essences for my crafter to use and grow.

With the Update 33 changes, I’d also want to revisit some older ideas. One that fell by the wayside with the enhancement tree introduction was the “Avatar” build that leverages the strengths of each and every Monk stance. Now that the Monk stances are themselves augmented yet again and with improvements (and more personal experience with) Epic Destinies, I might be able to take one of my characters through such a development.

And then there’s the recent changes that have made stealth (and, in the case of Rogues, assassination) that make this ability much more hazardous to use. I still have my solo-stealth master, Kiricletica, to study how to augment stealth skills against a dungeon that, on sensing you, truly alerts whole squads at you. Can a ninja still use their disappearance and stealth skills to escape reliably?

Thanks for still coming by to read, although I cannot post as often as I’d like.

Zen Archery and Returning Again and Again

archer

I’ve been mostly re-leveling Pynthetica. She completed a run as a new Monk archer build, the Shadowbow Ninja (great damage) and is now back as a Zen Archer with her second Epic True Resurrection.

On Pyn’s first eTR, the larger problem was finding and using all the lower level equipment. Not the bows: I had several good ones, especially the free Unwavering Ardency (from the 10th Anniversary Party) that’s more than powerful enough until you can wield a Pinion. I simply wanted useful goggles, boots, trinkets and the like.

Cannith Crafting to the rescue. Update 32’s revised features really helped customize new tools that supported normal and Insightful bonuses for any items. Most importantly, anything I made with bound shards is bound-to-account, making storage of the items easier by transferring them to my bank characters as I TR.

By finally getting my crafting level up to level 29 or so right now, Pyn’s equipped with Tendon Slice and Armor Piercing bonuses, Insightful Dodge and ability scores. Fortification was the only thing I couldn’t swing in, so I had to use some older Heroic items to keep it (and Deathblock) in place until I reached level 25 or so. On return to level 28 (where the bulk of my best gear is usable at minimum level), the central crafted items may be the goggles (WIS/Insightful WIS for maximum Ranged Power and AC), boots (Dodge/Insightful Dodge), gloves (DEX/Insightful DEX, Tendon Slice) and perhaps bracers as a wild card (Resistance). The necklace slot is also up for grabs as the Epic Golden Guile is less useful now, but I have no idea what to add. Same is true for perhaps one ring.

As to what Epic Past Life feats I choose? Doubleshot and Fortification. I wanted a quick 2nd Doubleshot feat after epic life #2 but I was impatient in rebuilding that karma back in the Primal tree. I’ll grab that second Doubleshot stack (3% per stack, maximum 3 stacks) on another eTR.

Changes with Updates 33 and Improved Deception did affect the Zen Archer build with mostly positives than negative. For one, more Dodge and stacking maximum Dodge with the Monk stance adjustments, so Pyn has around 38% Dodge (with items) in Water stance. But what the stances gave, it also took away by moving the critical threat multiplier from Earth stance to Fire stance. As Fire stance is rather WIS-lowering and gives no benefits while in ranged attack, the Zen Archer would only go to Earth stance for a little more PRR now. Wind stance remains only useful for a DEX boost and gives no other benefit for a ranged (as opposed to thrown) weapon user.

The bluff spinning effect that Improved Deception created was defined as a bug with Update 34, so that’s gone. More challenging is the aggro change in shooting one enemy in or near a group of others, which aggros the entire group. For me, I’ve adjusted my gameplay to use height and barriers that restrict a mob’s ability to bum-rush my party. I still use two or three hirelings (thanks for the extra kitty, SSG) in solo play to grab the aggro first when practical.

When there’s nothing to slow down a zerg attack, I ramp up my own. The Zen Archer still has potent damage per target with all of its Ranged Power and the ability to use Ten Thousand Stars and Manyshot to improve attack speed and Ranged Power. She may not be using Improved Precise Shot (she’s a sniper) but she takes down single enemies so rapidly that the change isn’t particularly bad. (I am considering, as you should, adding IPS as an option for faster clearing as one of my last Epic feats, since the aggro change can work against you.)

Combined with the right bow, mobs of 10 or more are killed rapidly. Add in a few uses of Shiradi talents such as Otto’s Whistler and Pin and smaller groups are easily managed.

The Zen Archer’s talent to stand and defeat armies of enemy archers remains very good. With the extra Dodge in Water stance, it’s better. No other ranged/thrown weapons character I know of could stand toe-to-toe against the gnolls in Epic “Chains of Flame” without losing 3/4 of their HP or worse. With all her defenses up, Pyn might lose 1/8 of her HP.

So, I’m considered the new Racial Reincarnation options. As an Elf, Pyn could work to get that extra +1 DEX and Action Point. But frankly, I see this new option as a bit underwhelming, especially since the price of using Racial Reincarnation works like a Heroic True Reincarnation (favor, flags, quest completions reset, empty your TR cache). That’s a lot of sacrifice for a little gain. And Racial Reincarnation is mutually exclusive to other reincarnations. You can’t make both a Racial and Heroic/Epic TR at the same time.

 

The Dragonborn Monk: I Like It!

Please oh please or please let me make one as beautifully deadly as this one

I’ve not played D&D tabletop. But the addition of Dragonborn (unlike the Gnomes, except for their dancing and appearance, which are awesome) is a great one for Update 35, released today.

For starters, it’s the first reptilian player character. Second, it’s a fsckinDRAGON.

Most importantly, it fills in some important variations for Shintao players.

The race gets +2 STR, -2 DEX and +2 CHA. Decent base advantages for the Shintao tanker. The racial tree (at least based on the information as presented on the Lammania server) is also balanced well between being a strong fighter or mage. In short, it seems you cannot go wrong in either option. This obviously makes sense for a dragon race.

The look is also impressive. Hopefully the females don’t have bewbage (as the “female” Warforged do not, although the illustration does) as a weirdness. The appearance looks menacing yet curiously inviting. I’m looking forward to the character appearance variations in the character generation. A Dragonborn with lipstick and hair (!?) would be amusing.

Being a Human all the time to get (at least) no racial advantage or disadvantage, save more healing amplification, was boring. While Dragonborn only have a little innate racial amp, the Shintao itself gives plenty, and you get an inherently tougher race with innate Natural Armor and PRR bonuses. I know you could also go Half-Elf–but they are so butt-ugly as characters.

That said, I’m totally going to roll one up at my earliest opportunity. For raids such as those in Thunderholme and the new raid that comes with this new update, a dragon fighting a dragon should be a nice change of pace.

And my continued experimentation with UMD is also made easier with this race as a natural spellcaster.

Edited: Corrected base stats.

The Shintao Guardian

portrait-lynncletica1Hi, all.

In real-life news, I just received a job offer. No more potential as a real-life mendicant. That news lets me relax just a little before my job prep to get a long-requested build to you.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been using Lynncletica, my Little Mountain Shintao Monk, as a very successful and potent tank in nearly 35 Deathwyrm runs (all difficulties) and several other raids.

In Legendary Hound of Xoriat, Lynncletica easily held aggro on Zyzzy and her puplings with Ki Shout and an effective 105 Intimidate in an Legendary Normal run. She was doing fine in Legendary Hard but has yet to complete. That’s a tough challenge even with a prepared party with great coordination, and you don’t win raids alone.

So what makes her special? Not too much. It’s time to share that.

  • Fortification: Unyielding Sentinel is the central tanking destiny. With a +70 Insightful Fortification helm, Brace for Impact, and the Outfit of the Celestial Guardian, Lynn sits at 286% to 315% Fortification.
  • Miss-chance: 27% Dodge, 10% Incorporeal with an item, 20-25% Concealment. All with gear but Blur can be done through the Wind/Light/Wind Monk finishing move.
  • AC: Improved Combat Expertise, Combat Expertise, Ultimate Earth Stance and other gear for around 138 to 158 AC based on buffs and gear.
  • PRR: 158 to 180. This really absorbs a lot of damage combined with the usual Monk abilities in effect.
  • HP: Around 1200-1400. She can take several hits without flinching.
  • Healing amplification: 180-270. Typical 180 when tanking to maximize defense. Can use Healing Ki for 400+ HP heal every 10 seconds. Rejuvenation Cocoon also improved. These numbers make for 400-600 HP from a Cure Light Wounds spell.
  • Concentration skill: 101-105. Ki Shout makes this the Intimidation skill with solid aggro and threat generation from Earth Stance and Unyielding Sentinel. What’s mine stays mine.

Lynn’s gear at level 30 isn’t particularly special. Her design leverages more STR (2:1 ratio). at 50 STR to 24 DEX to optimize damage but gain some Reflex saves and AC. Feats that add PRR or damage absorption improve durability in fights. With a bit of juggling of special buffs and gear, Lynn can briefly reach 75 STR needed for levers in Legendary Elite Tempest’s Spine.

CON is the highest stat at 55 base, as Monks gain only 75% HP per level as others. But this works well as high CON and Insightful CON items are worn.

For Epic feats, I chose Guardian Angel, Elusive Target and Epic Damage Reduction to soak or avoid additional damage. Dire Charge helps offensively for aggro control. The Legendary feat I chose was Scion of Limbo. Monks are used to one-minute buffs, and the many variations possible were all positive ones, either augmenting defense or offensive regularly without me having to do anything. You could also consider other Legendary feats to give a fixed defensive or offensive bonus.

With handwraps such as Storm’s Harness, Epic Scraps of Enlightenment and now some Complete Thunder-Forged Handwraps with Mortal Fear, Lynn’s innate metal-bypass has no problem hurting what she needs to hurt and well. Stunning Fist is available with a high WIS item switch-out, bringing the ability to a useable level, boosting AC a bit. However, raids rarely allow you to stun much.

The general gear list includes things that primarily enhance defense. These items may be merged or adjusted using Cannith Crafting or other items.

I didn’t add the Twists to the build. I strongly recommend Rejuvenation Cocoon and Brace for Impact (If not in Unyielding Sentinel) no matter what else you select. Enlightenment from Grandmaster of Flowers is good. Also, Standing with Stone for more stacking PRR while in Earth Stance. Improved Combat Expertise from Legendary Dreadnaught adds more PRR.

Like many builds, there’s much flexibility in what you take, just as long you don’t remove much of the special damage reduction or HP benefits. Adjusting WIS and DEX to lower levels will impact AC and saves. Naturally, use Yugoloth favor potions and DDO Store elixirs for added power.

Attached is a PDF file of the build. (WordPress has limitations for what I can upload.) Open the file using Adobe Reader or other PDF reader, copy the text and paste it into a text editor such as Notepad and save it as ShintaoGuardian.txt. You should be able to import the text file directly in Character Builder Lite to adjust as you see fit.

Shintao-Guardian

 

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