Kiri and the Lesser of Two Evils

Completed the first part of “Temple of Elemental Evil” with Kiricletica in her usual solo mode.

I’m keeping things spoiler-free so you can enjoy it’s content.

I wanted to complete it without any hints from the DDO Wiki or anywhere else. Thankfully, it wasn’t very hard to figure out.

I began to understand the mechanics quickly on stumbling over the guards of the first key. After that short fight, I found another Temple key, covered in a force field. Two other Temple keys weren’t too hard to locate, but I realized I had to find a specific place to remove a ward off one Temple key.

Dozens of enemies packed corridors in most inconvenient locations. Most doors would lead you to unoccupied areas, but there was always that one door where you pretty much greeted a mob of 10 or more startled and enraged cultists. Often I threw a Flash Bang and left the scene fast. Flash Bangs saved me several times, including one Red Dungeon Alert where I tumbled into three rooms and a hallway of angered cultists. To remove that DA, I had to go back and hunt those guys down until the DA stopped.

Finding the boss’s lair was straightforward and the boss fight itself wasn’t too hard, after I performed the same trick I used in one temple on one of the four minions. When the wizard decided to come down from his perch, he screwed himself as I pounced on him, applying enough Ninja Poison in him to drop an elephant.

I did use stealth through most of it to avoid a lot of fighting. That was a good thing, because I would be still fighting by the time you read this. Got it done in a bit over 2 hours.

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Did I mention I got a Discreet bonus in completing the first temple?

That’s now added to the DDO Wiki as you read this. Still, if killing “only” 133 enemies earns “Discreet,” then how many damned cultists are in this place?

Kiricletica didn’t want to find out.

Next time: Finding out what the “Devious” bonus might be on Part 1, and starting an exploration of Part 2.

Or, taking Szyncletica the star-master inside Part 1 on Epic Normal (it’s also a CR 30 quest).

Oh, when you can find the audio commentaries throughout the quest, do listen in as they quite enjoyable. The reason that Wil Wheaton was happy to be the DM voice was that he’d apparently played ToEE in its original tabletop version, but also speaks, among other subjects, why he enjoyed playing a squishy wizard over some hulking barbarian or fighter as a 98-pound weakling of a kid.

Kiri and Lots of Elemental Evil

My hands were full throughout this week with a major project and reorienting myself to DDO again. I spent a lot of time working on the rebuilt Pynthetica the Zen Master with very promising results (more on her very soon).

But after the kerfuffle on stealth I made recently, I decided to have some fun with Kiricletica recently to get at least a taste of the newest quest, “The Temple of Elemental Evil.”

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Kiricletica is my strongest stealth-master at level 14, so she’s over-level as she entered on Elite, but rumors told me that such advantages in level weren’t going to matter much.

They were right.

On first glance, the place felt massive, even more so than “Haunted Halls of Eveningstar” and “Thunderholme,” two places I love to explore with stealth characters. After saying hi to the NPC in the center hall, I took the southwest door to the tunnels below.

Every interception and most rooms are just packed–packed!–with orcs and human cultists and more orcs and undead. One wrong move and it’s Dungeon Alert party time, and I would be the hors d’oeuvre.

Being a ninja, Kiri was able to herself invisible, strolling or leaping past the mobs without detection, most of the time.

About a dozen orcs made the fatal mistake to find me, so I moved them to a less obvious section of hallway to dispatch them without making a scene.

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toee2bI managed to get pretty far inside, eventually finding the Earth Barrier but not yet finding the key or whatever I was looking for. Did find a lockbox with some gilly mushrooms, though.

Deeper in, there are more things out to kill you. Before the server crashed (it’s been having a very hard time these past two weeks, at least the fourth time) and we were all kicked out, I found a spiked trap pit near a gated area.

And lots and lots and lots of lots of orcs.

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I know this place is very, very huge, so I plan to break up any exploration notes into this Temple, writing tips as I go, into bite-size pieces, or video, or something that doesn’t turn posts into chapters from Pilgrim’s Progress or other doorstops.

I hope that I can find each of the elemental keys without a lot of fighting, just to say I could.

And Wil Wheaton did a fine job with the dungeonmaster work.

Triumph from the Shadows: Why Stealth Does Work

I missed quite a few insightful posts during my sabbatical, but one caught my eye as I scanned the list of post posts.

It was from Sir Geoff of Hanna. Gnome-Fearer. Halfling Commando. One-half of a 5000 Favor Dynamic Duo. The MMOtivator (“Pike with me if you want to live!”).

The post was entitled: “Sneaking In Plain Sight – Why Stealth is Broken as a DDO Play Style.”

Given my love of the sneaky arts, I had to read. And, as is my tendency, to generate my own discussion and debate.

Now, obviously my goal isn’t to go all “You’re wrong!” throughout my whole post that will obviously favor the use of stealth in many (albeit not all) quests. I want to take any and all objections and make a deeper study of how others see it before I apply my own take on it. From such fair objective analysis can results be attained.

And such analysis can be helpful in improving and revising Stormreach Shadows, a web guide I co-edit that provides extended information for many classes into using stealth more often in many quests.

Assassin Speed: Fixed

Geoff starts by noting a comment from producer Severlin regarding some suggestions in the Rogue Assassin Changes thread. Sev notes that the Assassin’s general sneak speed does put them behind other classes with the Faster Sneaking ability.

This was recently and easily fixed in Update 25, thankfully, as those speed traits are now included in Stealthy. I like it, as it also encourages more use of the stealth skills.

I logged in Tuesday evening to reset Sukitetica’s AP just to see this happy speed boost.

The Stealth Engine as a Whole

Geoff takes note of one important comment by Sev:

“Changes to stealth require tech work and affect lots of game systems and are prone to side effects so we have to be careful there. Anything that involves significant changes to monster AI is out of scope for this update and this hampers any global revamp to Stealth.”

Makes sense, since Update 19 was already a “global rewrite” that introduced many of the critical changes to stealth that make it more reliable in gameplay now. Before Update 19, stealth was, more or less, an alternative way to avoid detection. But heaven help you if you were detected, for there was no real way for you to escape.

Pre-Update 19 stealth also had a long list of peculiar problems, such as:

  • Monsters “sliding” to you, stop-motion style, when they saw you.
  • Monsters that always detected you, even when you broke line-of-sight and were out of their Listen range.
  • The inability for a player to jump while in Sneak. (Naughty, bannable “stealth humping” ensues.)
  • No reliable cues to the player if they were in imminent danger of detection by sight or sound.

Since Update 19 and that massive rewrite, monsters generally behaved more logically to curious sights and sounds. The nature of Invisibility (which too many players think should be a complete solution for “hiding” but has never been such) was clearly defined as resistance from Spot checks unless you are very close to a monster. Monsters also listen and investigate sounds of breaking things more often as well, but only those that pick up the sounds go to move, not a whole mob.

And players can also jump and tumble while in Sneak, albeit at a substantial penalty to those skills, which encourages more training to counteract those penalties. Having greater mobility now also allows players to take to higher ground so that enemy Spot checks can be avoided by simple elevation.

Generally, the Update 19 changes persist and work well, except I’ve noticed that, since around Update 22 or so, enemies are no longer attracted properly by the sound of breakables or other sounds. This makes drawing and distracting enemies a broken mechanic right now. Rogues can get past this with Noisemaker traps, but Monks and other classes haven’t a viable non-combat distraction option.

Geoff noted that, in his opinion, that stealth wasn’t helpful–but clarified this in the context of using Rogues, especially Assassins. He avoids going deeper on this at first so as not to go too far off-topic.

I believe I comprehend Geoff’s reasoning, although I disagree. It all has to do with the Assassin’s primary ability: Assassinate. When you use that ability while other enemies are within Listen or Spot range, monsters do react to the death cries of an assassinated ally. As a result, if you are in Listen or Spot range, the enemy Spot and Listen check bonuses spike–and you’re likely detected immediately.

The real problem, from my point of view, is a matter of realism. When John Wilkes Booth approached President Lincoln’s booth, no one paid notice. When he shot the President at point-blank range, it wasn’t as if his wife and others in the booth just randomly glanced around everywhere except at the President, wondering casually where that noise originated, or even ignoring the commotion. Clearly their senses heightened and they turned instinctively to the stimulus. Why wouldn’t a monster do the same?

Assassinations aren’t a public affair. That means that superior Assassin tactics requires isolation of targets so as not to be detected by others. Rogues have plenty of skills to make this happen. Bluff is the best one when a loose group of enemies stands about, allowing you to pull one away to dispatch while others are none the wary. A precise use of a noisemaker also can pull one or more enemies. This requires a player to do something sometimes anathema to DDO: Using patience and cunning. Don’t carry a big stick but a big Bluff DC.

And, for the Assassin to make an escape, their Hide and Move Silently scores must be as high as they can be. Your skill at skulking away must be as high or higher than your Assassinate DC, or you’re missing the point of being an Assassin. You’re not meant to be caught–and it is possible to escape.

Higher level Monks have an Assassinate-like feat: Quivering Palm. Unlike Assassinate, however, using this ability pulls a Monk out of stealth. So Monks learn isolation skills. Many people were upset as recent updates kept nerfing the DCs of this skill, and for good reason. Sure, you can spam it during attack, but it was never meant as a “live” assassinate.

Now some might say, “But I don’t want to isolate things.” Then you can’t expect a instant-kill mechanic to work properly when its conditions aren’t met. You don’t get something for nothing, and so you can’t assassinate without some chance at reprisal. My argument is that, with the right choice and isolated target, there is little chance at reprisals. But if you’re going to spam Assassinate or Quivering Palm in a crowded hall, expect someone to notice.

Let me get back to another facet of Geoff’s comments.

Severlin’s Retort

When Geoff commented on how he thought that a Rogue revamp also required a revamp of the stealth engine, Sev made a curt and definitive reply:

“We get concerned when players make blanket statements about stealth being “broken” without really outlining what they mean. While we love player feedback and welcome specific suggestions about stealth, I just don’t want to set up false expectations about things stealth should allow. We wouldn’t want players, as an example, to have the expectation that characters should be opening doors and pulling levers while remaining in stealth. This type of behavior would threaten too many types of content. Without specifics we can do nothing to address people’s concerns.”

Sev, I feel, is right on the money, and for the reasons I noted earlier about how stealth is not a panacea to avoid being obvious to others.

Take the notion of opening levers and doors while in stealth. Now, a handful of quests purposefully allow the use of doors or portals without leaving Sneak (“The Portal Opens” and “Blockade Buster” come to mind) but the one more XP-lucrative quest does not allow this (“The Claw of Vulkoor”).

Sev is right, and I can encountered many examples where too much stealth (with the current rules) break a scant few of the DDO quest mechanics that activate bosses, open or complete quest objectives, or just simply allow one to proceed. Remember that I have one character, Kiricletica, which completed as many adventures in the game in stealth that would allow it (pretty much everything but raids and quests that absolutely required a party) and without any other players or hirelings, and also purposefully avoided combat except where required. These included all the Devil Battlefield quests, on Elite, to get her Yugoloth favor potions (A hireling helped with levers in “Genesis Point”).

If stealth were really broken, there is no way I’d have survived such an attempt. I must have done something contrary to what others note about stealth.

In “Claw of Vulkoor,” if a stealthy player could open doors and levers without detection, it would be far too easy. I have to time my movements to avoid patrolling scorpions there, and waiting for some to turn around to face a direction opposite of me to flip a lever is part of the mission. Further–and this is a very important point–you do NOT move, ever, while not in Sneak. You can perform actions while stationary, but the second you succeed in getting that lever or switch flipped, you must immediately return to stealth. Just one step while out of stealth and your Move Silently skill is zero, your footfall is heard and you are detected.

Now, Epic players such as Shadowdancers do have an option to open levers and switches without detection but without stealth per se. That’s Improved Invisibility. It’s great to have when you can manage to get to a well-guarded door that, while enemies are just scattered enough to not find you while Sneaking, they will see you on flipping the lever. But this is a special skill, maximum 30 seconds, with a 4 minute cooldown.

Now many quests have a “pressure zone,” if you will, which activates a quest action when a player steps on it, stealthy or not. This is a good thing as a boss or objective that requires to know if you’ve entered a place must work the first time as quest mechanics sometimes are programmed to work just once, leaving a quest bugged if it can’t see “the obvious.”

Only one of these pressure zones goes too far, and that’s at the end of “Monastery of the Scorpion,” where the Scorrow boss on steroids will immediately charge and attack anyone, stealthed or not. This act not only screws up the puzzle you can use to kill him, but Sannyasi is one of a handful of bosses that completely ignores stealth when they shouldn’t. You can’t escape from him, ever, with any tactic.

That’s wrong. While Red Names have True Seeing, stealth is immune from such effects. This is why Monks and Rogues make great beholder-slayers because we can sneak up to the eye-balls before they Spot can lock on fast enough. The devs could wave their hands and say that Sannyasi has tremor-sense or other abilities that make stealth powerless (such as what oozes have) but scorrow and scorpion aren’t spiders and don’t normally have these traits.

Sev is intentionally calling out Geoff and others who want their special abilities to work without a trade-off they must train or prepare to counteract. Someone is going to notice a body fall. Someone is going to notice you in stealth if your Move Silently skill is insufficient.

Geoff’s Return Volley and My Overhand Swing

To Geoff’s credit, he did have many specific arguments that I’ll address one by one.

  1. Many encounters contain unsneakable monsters. Sometimes it seems like most of them do
  2. No one will wait for the sneaky guy to catch up
  3. No one will wait for the sneaky guy to power up anything that requires being in sneak
  4. So many places where a quest will not advance until you have killed all the monsters
  5. The fear of “threatening too many types of content” hobbles stealth play. The pendulum is swung too far. Swing it back a little.

Point 1: Generally true but only early in your life. An adventurer’s very first quests often contain spiders and oozes. These cannot be avoided through stealth. However, as quests advance in difficulty, there are many quests where you can enter and exit with few to no detections. The Lordsmarch quest “Diplomatic Impunity” is a perfect example. There are only three primary objectives: Find Ullivian the scout, report back to Henritta, and kill the Droaam commander. All of these can be completed without killing or being detected by anything in between. I’ve done this a few times, using my Rogue Assassin and ninjas. One kill is all that’s needed to complete (although clean up to get the chests require slaying that don’t count to the kill bonus or any other metric since the quest is over).

You can sneak to most every NPC in the game except bosses where your presence is detected because you walk into a zone where you must be seen. Approaching the bound Spinner in “Spinner of Shadows” does this if you come close enough to the dais where she hangs. I mentioned Sannyasi from “Monastery” as a rare exception where a boss NPC goes off the rails to see you. Driders are spider-kind but, as I know from stealth work in the Underdark and many Eveningstar quests, they don’t have tremor-sense and can be assassinated.

A few higher-end quests (like “The Coalescence Chamber”) will add in The Goshdammed Bats. Bats don’t detect you by sight, but have basically a Listen check of 999. Once you move, even when sneaking, you are found, period. You need a Move Silently skill that’s impossible to attain–and my Ranger, Artemistika, has the highest of all my characters with every buff and ability (around 114).

I have far too many videos that illustrate that Point 1 is erroneous once you pass the earliest quests.

Point 2: Generally true, but fallacious. Offset by the reason why guilds exist and why good party members never leave a man behind. This point isn’t a problem with stealth. It’s a problem with the player’s attitude and skill. Lack of cooperation and an overuse of autonomy has lead to Rogues that don’t trap and healers that don’t heal and tankers that don’t tank. You can do what you want to do, but you can’t knock stealth because it cannot overcome the self-centered interests of other players.

Besides, stealth works just fine completely alone or with like-minded and prepared parties of any size. As with any other quest, it’s a matter of parties communicating, planning out strategies and roles before entering.

One ninja and one Assassin should be enough for just about anything. Trust me.

Point 3: Same answer as Point 1. This is a player attitude problem. Sneak is a one-button instantaneous action for a character. Invisibility is a potion, scroll, spell or spell-like ability that’s also quick to apply to a single character. What Geoff might be alluding here is that the rest of the party doesn’t care to get any of these buffs and just surge ahead and aggro the whole place. If they really screw up, you’ll get to collect all their soulstones in quiet and peace.

Point 4: Sometimes yes. Kill all the monsters is often a required objective. There are very, very few quests that allow a no-kill completion. But stealth should not be incorrectly equated to pacifism. What stealth allows characters to do, as does Invisibility, Hold spells, Paralyzing, Otto’s spells, or Intimidate, is a way to manage crowds and control aggro. In the case of stealth, you manage a crowd by avoiding their detection. But when a quest says, “Kill ’em all,” then you do so.

But, as a Ninja Spy or Assassin, you can use “pick-off” moves that isolate and slay the targets, one at a time. Your skill is revealing yourself only as you choose, confusing and shrouding your enemies, buying you time to eliminate the horde before they can effectively organize against you. You can also use spells that cause Fear. Theatricality and deception is what the Batman does. We can do this, too. (In Batman Begins, the first battle against Falcone’s minions happens this very way…Batman sneaks about, thinning out the herd, scaring most them shitless before removing what few are left as a group.)

My Assassin uses Bluff, pulls an enemy into the shadow and away from others, kills it, then repeats. My ninjas target isolated enemies, use paralysis, spell/melee muting, and blinding finishing moves to slow an enemy attack. They can also take advantage of isolated enemies and remove them.

Point 5: Generally not applicable. Most quests do exactly as they should and activate as they should, whether you are in stealth or not. Else, why would the devs support D&D skills that would inherently bug most of the game? Further, I can testify that my experiences with Kiricletica revealed very very few quests where the stealth mechanic caused quest completion issues to a point where I couldn’t finish. What few quests I encountered that experienced minor issues involved some of the game’s oldest quests. But in many cases, quests you didn’t think were possible in stealth were quite doable.

But Geoff Slams Back

After these first sub-points, Geoff notes several more. This post is going long, but I think it’s necessary to keep chipping away at some of these for clarification, correction and illumination.

  1. There are style problems with sneak that are the result of game changes:
    • a) More stop points added to previously sneakable quests prevent most sneak-only completions
    • b) Dungeon alert
  2. There are issues with the implementation of Assassinate
    • a) A successful Assassinate should not break one out of sneaking
    • b) Assassination requires sneak but you cannot sneak while already in melee
  3. And there are some specific technical issues with sneak
    • a) The bad guys inerrantly hit you with ranged at the first sign of finding you
    • b) It is supposed to be possible to shake off pursuit if one is able to retain sneak but that does not work *
    • c) Monsters that hear you inerrantly follow your path when sneaking
    • d) Monsters that do not show indicators of being able to see you are still able to hit you with single-target spells. Which breaks sneak and now everyone sees you.

Item 1(a): DDO quests have always been filled with stop points. I don’t know which quests he’s noting here, but I’d like to know which ones so I can video my attempt to show where stealth still works or where it does, indeed, break.

Item 1(b): Dungeon Alert never happens to the stealthy character because DA requires your enemies to detect you. I’ve entered and exited many a quest, leaving the same enemies standing and patrolling where they did, without a single alert. The only time I will generate DA as a stealthy character are against enough enemies that sense me and I cannot shake them because of their nature. That’s generally against bats. Lots of bats, as in “Coalescence Chamber.” They will cause a DA if I head up the shafts where they spawn, prompting me to use ranged attacks or return to where they fell (yeah, the bats, the things with wings, fall to the base of the shaft) to kill them off. But the rest of the dungeon remains oblivious to me.

Item 2(a): Assassination, sadly, isn’t a bug but a feature. Some enemies will be aware of you in principle or by game mechanic. Take the gnoll mages in each of the stoned Coin Lord’s rooms in “Eyes of Stone.” Sure, I had the same problem with Sukitetica the Assassin but also with Kiricletica on Easter Sunday. The gnoll won’t activate and attack unless you enter its room and activate him (which, since I don’t activate him while Sneaking and as he doesn’t activate even when blundering in until a certain distance, is a hidden Listen check). Jerry Snook (a.k.a. Cordovan) alluded to this in a rare and appreciative reply to Geoff’s article. It’s a good thing the gnoll mages aren’t active because they’d blast through their own door the second you walked up to the second floor. They’re purposefully inactive to avoid DA, especially if your party splits up. So the gnoll mages really behave as if they know you are coming, mechanic-wise. You can’t easily assassinate someone who knows you are coming.

Item 2(b): You can Assassinate while in melee, provided you’re not the only one that’s attacking. That’s aggro management, pure and simple. Let your hirelings or party members go in first, then come up from behind and kek-kek all you want. I find that some enemy AoE spells or attacks will throw me out of Sneak and blow Assassinate attempts sometimes, but this is an exception rather than a rule. Besides, why worry about Assassinate when your Sneak Attack damage should quickly pound anything not aggroed on you into bite-size bits? A solo Assassin has the odds stacked against them. You’re one character. There are many ahead and some are prepared to greet you. Your skill in getting past their defenses so as to command the field to kill is more paramount than your mere ability to assassinate.

Item 3(a): Enemies that use bows or other ranged weapons, like a player character’s Ranger, have a naturally higher Spot bonus than other enemies. Your Hide skill might get past non-ranged attackers but you better bring a superior Hide skill against those designed to see you from afar.

This same mechanic is demonstrated in brutal clarity in the Epic Gianthold wilderness. First off, all giants there have See Invisibility, so don’t even bother with that potion or spell. The giants have a very high Spot bonus that’s proportional to their size. In short, they’ll see a non-sneaking character from about 10-15 giant-lengths away, easily. If you can sneak through Epic Gianthold without giants noticing you, you have effectively perfected your skill, in my opinion.

Item 3(b, c and d): I updated the Sneak article on DDO Wiki based on the Update 19 release notes and from my experience on what is required to shake off a pursuing enemy(s) using Sneak.

  1. Break the line-of-sight with your enemy first. Run away and turn a corner is a best practice, but cowering behind a box is not. Nor will Invisibility work; once they see you, they see you.
  2. Next, go into Sneak and then apply Invisibility, if time and ability allow. Sneak is essential now because turning the corner or entering another room breaks the enemy’s sight-lock on you. They still know where you went but lost precisely where you are. But the key here is that they are still hunting you. If you aren’t sneaking, they’re targeting you by sound.
  3. Finally, keep moving as you do (1) and (2). The enemy will still pursue but can only use their Listen check to hunt you down. Move Silently counters this if you have enough skill points applied. Most enemies search the last place you stopped, swatting away at the air until they hit you or find nothing, sometimes spreading out. Depending on the mechanic of the enemy, they may stop and go back, stop swatting and go back to normal alert, or swat indefinitely. In any case, don’t be where they are. In fact, just sneak past them and continue on your merry way. As to single-target spells, the effect is the same as a wide arc from a halberd, and the resolution is the same. The enemy is targeting you only if they know exactly where you are. But some spells can be directed to a position even if a target isn’t there.

So, yeah, Geoff. You’re doing it wrong. :) You must avoid both enemy sight and hearing for this to work. And once you break enemy sight and sound-lock, get off the path where they expect you to be.

Ninja Spies have advantage here with their Flash Bangs. These daze and blind enemies for 6 seconds, allowing a ninja to use an Abundant Step in Sneak to easily disappear. But Assassins are Rogues, so enough UMD means a Blindness spell can work on a single foe. Solid Fog could also help, as can many many other items as noted on the Blinded wiki page. There’s also the old-school option of leaving a sacrificial lamb such as a hireling to pull aggro while you skedaddle. And level 18 Ninja Spies can create a Diversion, a hate-magnet training dummy (dressed like a pirate, of course) that will easily pull pursuers to itself.

DDO quests don’t differentiate much between a single player and full party. That said, the only reason why stealth would not work in party is because there is a party member with inadequate Hide and Move Silently skill or is using or doing something that causes noise, aggro or light. A Ranger in party has Hide/Move Silently party buffs that stack with items (Camouflage and Pass Without Trace). Invisibility is a simple anti-Spot that works against anything but True Seeing/See Invisibility, so even if a player that isn’t a natural stealth class (Bard, Ranger, Rogue, Monk) but wants to play a stealthier game, add cross-class points to Move Silently over Hide, and befriend a Ranger.

There’s a reason why the nickname of the stealth guide was “Stealth Team Six.”

Conclusion

You’re not doing it right, all.

Stealth is a defensive posture. DDO doesn’t allow you, on purpose and with one sole exception (Assassinate) to be simultaneously offensive and defensive with this mode. And even Assassinate has its limits, but it does work.

There were several comments to Geoff’s post. One said, “Even if you “stand” still while in stealth mobs tend to sweep towards you and eventually spot you. This even if you’re out of side behind a door/wall. Closed doors give even more agro.”

Standing still really means “Do not move.” Stealth, specifically Hide, reduces but never eliminates the chance for something to see you. If you are standing still in stealth about 3 body lengths from some enemy, their Spot check is not only up but magnifying upward by design. (Those are the multiplying “eyes” above an enemy that change as their Spot increases.) Once they detect something, their Spot bonus grows to the point where you will eventually be found. Hide was never designed to make you permanently cloaked. You need to get out of the enemy’s line-of-sight, and Hide provides you the time to do it before their Spot bonus changes to “detected.”

And an enemy’s Listen check goes through doors. We know that DDO doors often seem like they aren’t there. So stealth masters treat them as already open, never approaching them without being in Sneak. Else, things do tend to aggro through them. Keep in mind that enemies that can defeat Sneak (spiders, oozes) will detect you automatically and likely cause minions nearby to do the same.

Kiricletica’s Advice on Stealth: “Your Hide or Move Silently training may fail against an enemy if either score, divided by 2, is equal or less than the enemy’s Challenge Rating number.”

I don’t “sometimes” get some use out of stealth.

I enjoy it virtually all the time. I have pictures. I have a whole YouTube channel filled with video. It works. And I co-wrote an entire guide on it.

“Spies in the House?” Did it.

“Claw of Vulkoor?” Yep.

“Bastion of Power?” Sure.

The eighth Splinterskull quest, “Doom of the Witch-doctor: Zulkash, Herald of Woe?” Yep. And in only 4 kills out of a possible 75–and I sneaked by all the mobs that guarded the puzzle wheels. The totem counted a a kill. I added the Devious bonus on that DDO Wiki article.

Did you know you can can activate puzzle wheels while in stealth?

I don’t want to think I have some “lock” on stealth skills. I started with some ideas from player Ghoste long ago and worked from there.

I know Geoff’s been playing the game far longer than I have, so please take any criticisms here about Geoff’s post with respect–he’s  one of the coolest people I know in-game (and had the honor to meet in person). But there’s several important things missing to his comments and those who commented back.

Be it Assassin or ninja, the process of stealth is alive and well, but it does require training and a different mindset to bring it to fruition.

Seems that the only thing wrong with stealth, as I see it, is that, for many, the techniques to make stealth work just sneak right by them all.

I’m still open to join a new server and help teach the art of stealth.

UPDATE: In the limited time he had at that moment, Sir Geoff has posted a rebuttal that, at the least, calls me out on just being too damn wordy, while noting how we agree more than disagree. Didn’t I just say that here? :)

Update 25: Smiles in the Dojo

"Your gaming time is very important to us. The current wait time is 12 hours."

“Your gaming time is very important to us. The current wait time is 12 hours.”

Welcome to Update 25: Update of Evil!

It’s a rougher day for Cordovan and Co. as they try to get Update 25 installed and updated properly on their servers since 8:00 AM EDT. As I write this, twelve hours later, it’s still not quite up, but I’m up.

Things happen. I wish Turbine’s ragged team much bacon and coffee and hope they’ll get everything all running very soon.

Any dissenting comments or criticisms of Turbine on my blog will be spiked and banned. I live in Indiana and I have had it up to here with the self-privileged minority that feels entitled to everything of late, even if they’re not being actually targeted.

So, rather than slugging out monsters to pass the time on a character in Diablo II, here’s a quick summary of some highlights I’ve found in the Release Notes that satisfies far more than a few of my character’s interests.

The Great:

  • Bleed damage now scales 200% with Melee Power.

That’s a happy thing for some weapons I carry but Saekee should be very happy since his build that uses the Forester’s Brush Hook kama will mop the floors up with greater damage.

  • Ranged Power has been added to Epic Levels and Epic Destiny cores:
    • Each Epic level from 21 to 28 now increases Ranged Power by three.
    • Fatesinger, Shadowdancer, Primal Avatar and Shiradi Champion gain +4 Ranged Power per innate ability.
    • Grandmaster of Flowers and Unyielding Sentinel gain +3 Ranged Power per innate ability.
    • Divine Crusader and Legendary Dreadnaught gain +2 Ranged Power per innate ability.
    • Fury of the Wild gains +1 Ranged Power per innate ability.

Very good news for Artemistika and my revamping of Pynthetica, my Zen Archer, but also, I hope, this translates to Szyncletica’s throwing stars.

  • The Ninja Spy’s Sting of the Ninja should now work properly with all named weapons (that meet the requirements.)

All the ninjas in the house have celebrated this news by adding an extra spoon of honey in their green tea. This bug, longstanding since around Update 22, means that Szycletica’s shuriken of all kinds will again add punishing Ninja Poison DoTs in addition to other damage. Dragons beware: Her Thunder-Forged Shuriken awaits to send you to the abyss.

  • The Monk Mountain Stance now gives 50% Hate Generation, and its upgrades now give 100/150/200% Hate Generation.

I think I heard Lynncletica smile.

Shintao Monks, in their current incarnation, have a harder time generating aggro, even in Mountain Stance. This is a substantial boost to Hate generation. It means Lynn’s going to be bloodier than ever before Level 18 but the results should be worth it by Epic levels.

  • The Rogue Assassin has been improved:
  • Core Abilities
    • Assassin’s Trick now works on all enemies, and no longer has a saving throw. The attack now has a shorter animation. Cooldown is now 6 seconds, and duration is now 15 seconds.
    • Nimbleness no longer requires sneak attacks, and works on any hit. +5 Melee Power.
    • Lethality: +5 Melee Power.
    • Deadly Shadow: You gain +2 Dexterity and +2 Intelligence. You gain 10 Melee Power and +4 Sneak Attack dice. You gain +4 to Reflex Saving Throws. You gain +2 to the DC of your Assassinate.
  • Tier One
    • Poison Strikes now applies an “Assassin’s Mark” to an opponent for 10 seconds.
    • Shiv no longer reduces threat when you attack, and instead offers an additional passive bonus that reduces the threat of all your attacks by 5/10/15%. The attack also makes a Bluff check, using your Bluff skill, when you strike an opponent, for one second + .25 seconds per Rogue level.)
    • Stealthy now also gains +20/35/50% movement speed while sneaking.
  • Tier Two
    • Venomed Blades costs 1/1/1 AP, and now scales with 200% Melee Power.
    • Bleed Them Out’s bleed damage scales with 200% Melee Power.
    • Damage Boost’s cost has been reduced to 1 AP per level. The boost to Melee Power is now 10/20/30.
  • Tier Three
    • Critical Accuracy has been removed.
    • Critical Mastery: (1/1/1 AP) + 1/2/3 bonus to critical damage and to confirm critical hits.
  • Tier Four
    • Critical Damage has been removed.
    • Weakening Strikes reduces the Melee and Ranged Power of opponents by 10 + Rogue Level/2 for 10 seconds if you attack an enemy with an “Assassin’s Mark.”
    • Execute: If a target is below 30% health, deal 500 damage. This damage scales with 200% Melee Power, and has a cooldown of 15 seconds. This enhancement no longer has a sneak attack requirement.
  • Tier Five
    • Assassinate now has a 12 second cooldown.
    • Measure the Foe: Gain +4 Melee Power, +2 Dodge, +2 Maximum Dodge, +1 to hit and +1 to the DC’s of your Assassinate ability for every 4/2/1 seconds you remain stealthed. This effect stacks up to five times, and lasts 10 seconds after you come out of stealth.
    • Deadly Strikes: Your attacks against enemies with an “Assassin’s Mark” to +5 damage.
    • Light Armor Mastery: (1/1/1 AP) You gain 1/2/3 to Maximum Dodge. While wearing light armor, gain 2/4/6 to the Maximum Dexterity Bonus of your armor and armor check penalty, and gain 2/4/6 Physical Resistance Rating.

All of this is happiness for The Littlest Assassin–who wasn’t having any problems before. Now with some refinements, Sukitetica is really going to have a blast.

  • Ammunition found in chests will now appear in stacks of 100.
  • Thieves Tools now stack up to one thousand in a stack.

Yes. Useful amounts of ammo for Artemistika, and no more stupid inventory slots wasted on needed tools for Suki.

And now the Good and the Weird:

  • Each Swashbuckler Core enhancement had been erroneously granting an extra +1 Doublestrike. This extra Doublestrike has been removed to match the text.

Whoops. I guess Flynncletica’s been a bit overpowered. Oh, well. She’s still fun to play, even with an earlier Update 24 adjustment to Single Weapon Fighting. I’m all for balance, however.

  • The Crucible
    • The optional objectives at the start of the quest no longer give XP.
    • XP for completing the quest has been boosted to be equivalent to the XP removed from optionals.

Not that I play this quest alone, and not as often before it was demoted as a Gianthold flagging quest–but removing the XP from the little manipulations you can do with the NPCs need to still present an advantage to the adventurers. I can’t remember if these added an extra chest or made the end-fights easier, but I guess I understand the balancing.

  • Marketplace
    • A new teleporter has been located in the Marketplace.
    • There is a new NPC near the Airship Tower that tells players how to get to the Temple of Elemental Evil.
      Vertigo, the Crafting tutorial NPC, has moved next to the big pillar between the Airship Tower and the new Teleporter.
    • Kipling Vranch, a Collectibles Trader, has been moved to Vertigo’s old spot.
    • Zerchi Spire-Keeper, who takes players to the Restless Isles, has moved south of his old location, and is now near the Auctioneer Churchwarden.
    • Kupper-Nickel, who takes players to Zawabi’s Refuge, has moved west of the Airship Tower along with some of his friends.
    • Loghan d’Deneith, who gives the quest Gladewatch Outpost Defense, has moved west of his old spot to the entrance of House Deneith.
    • Jasper Cruikshank, who gives the quest Archer Point Defense, has moved west of his old spot to the entrance of House Deneith.

Finally, a teleporter in the Marketplace!

  • Trapmaking
    • Traps that deal damage now show floaty-text damage numbers, and report in the Combat Log like most damage.
    • The time to place traps has been reduced to 1 second.
    • The time for traps to “arm” after being placed has been reduced to 1 second.
    • The general cooldown on placing traps has been reduced from fifteen seconds to eight seconds.
    • Small and Weak elemental traps now have a larger damage area, matching Average traps.
    • Device Workstations now have recipes for elemental traps from minimum levels 13-27.

Rogues that can be realistic Trapmasters! This is awesome news as we also get Epic Traps! The reduction of deployment time means a great deal, too. I might make that Mechanic soon after all.

So, when The Update of Existential Evil is finally over for Turbine tonight, we’ll all get some new things to play with, especially Rogues.

And when I heard that Wil Wheaton has lent his voice talents to the new quest, I smiled. DDO is old but still has some street cred for those who care.

See you in game.

From Tranquility to Serenity

There is a certain joy you feel in renewal, in repentance that makes you appreciate why you love what you love. This was a transforming time that, at the least, should make me a better person, not to mention a nicer player.

There is a certain joy you feel in renewal, in repentance that makes you appreciate why you love what you love. This was a transforming time that, at the least, should make me a better person, not to mention a nicer player.

I’m back.

Lent taught me that I did play DDO too often.

I wasn’t cold turkey throughout Lent, however, having revived my Diablo II interest.

But at least that game can be paused, and I found greater quality time with my family and faith.

I will likely adopt a new play time schedule so DDO, however fun, doesn’t get the better of me, while still allowing time to continue exploring and enjoying all the happiness. While Lent is now over and Eastertide is here, I loved the wave of comparative tranquility that, while problems didn’t go away with a wave of a wand or something, I was more attuned to respond to them and appreciate what I have.

Looks like a lot’s happened during my exodus. Update 25 is coming today. The Temple of Elemental Evil is near. All the Rogue trees are getting a refresh, especially the Assassins and Mechanics.

I logged in for the first time since February 18 yesterday. When I left, my guild had just hit level 99. Yesterday, my guild sat at level 103–four guild levels in a 5 week span. Holy cow. Something’s up with my guild, and that’s a great thing.

Getting My Ninja On

The first thing I did on login, once reorienting my eyes back to the visual richness of the game (playing a weaker resolution game like Diablo II is bound to make you appreciate even DDO’s slightly aged but superior graphics), I had a definitive urge to take the ninjas out on patrol.

First off the ship was Ryncletica the poison-master for a flagging run in “The Coalescence Chamber.” If there were any signs of rust in my gameplay, I whittled them out quickly as I eliminated the initial troglodyte and troll forces with Althea the fashion-model-turned-Favored Soul.

From there, with Althea parked most of the time except to refresh my Death Ward, I had a very smooth run by sneaking through as much as I could (when the damned bats didn’t show up every 2 seconds) using my shuriken as needed for some distant targets, and generally picking and choosing targets through the end. The only real challenge, bats notwithstanding, was the final key with the gelatinous cube, which is always one big Jello-bowl of HP. But after nailing it using some Ninjutsu, after 20 negative levels it finally melted.

With Ryn’s shadow-lust sated for a time, it was time for Kiricletica the solo-master in “Eyes of Stone” on Hard. Still following her self-imposed solo rules just because they’re still fun and force me to feel the ninja vibe, Kiri quickly restored guards, then used Freezing the Lifeblood finishers on every mage that guarded the Coin Lords for a very quick takedown. Each mage managed to summon their elementals–but then, that’s why the Pain Touch finisher is a godsend, which Nauseated each elemental to prevent them from attacking or casting.

Skipping the troll in the Bureau of Magical Vehicles, I entered the side entrance, restored the last guards and entered Hesstess’s lair. I summoned a fiend-blood troll as fodder and Blurred up the two guards before going to work, striking Hesstess with hit-and-run doses of Ninja Poison using Poisoned Soul Ninjutsu while using ninja speed to avoid her direct stunning magic and stoning gaze. Reinforcements that appeared only made it easier to keep my ki levels high enough to end Hesstess by poison in only 3 minutes or so.

To cap off the first day back, I also took Artemistika out into the epic High Road for some concentrated slayers. I want to pump the XP from 3,000 slayers straight into my Grandmaster of Flowers training so that I can build up another Fate point, unlock the Divine tree and get Unyielding Sentinel and perhaps Divine Crusader pumped up for more Fate points. I’d love to have the Elder Dryad accessible to me for later Epic play, so that means a bit more Destiny grinding, with a +2 Tome of Fate purchase still in reserve.

A New Direction, A New Guild, a New Server

I’m thinking of branching out from my only server, Ghallanda, to start a new guild where stealth is the name of the game. Bards, Rogues, Rangers and Monks would take a new darker tack in defeating the evils. Once Update 25 takes hold, it’s on my to-do list.

If you have a suggestion as to which server to set up camp, feel free to speak up.

I would not mind at all meeting many of you who have visited the blog. And starting up new characters to grow together sounds like a blast.

Perhaps we’ll have a server in common with almost everyone to get all shadowy and stuff. If enough interest appears here and we can coordinate, I’ll revisit it in a later post and set up a public plan.

A Drow In Despair

Szyncletica1

I’m away from DDO during the season of Lent. This is a saved post I’ve made while I’m away. This post may or may not contain sensitive subject matter unsuitable for some minds (specifically, religion).

Reader discretion advised.

~~~

With a solo of the Shroud under Szyncletica’s belt, what’s next for this mad Monk?

Once upon a time not long ago, the “Tower of Despair” raid was an important objective for Monks to find ingredients for and any of the special rings there which can be used to create a DR-breaking bursting ring that worked only with unarmed attacks.

It was the dev’s substitute for being unable to upgrade the already-existing Green Steel crafting system to accommodate the introduction of handwraps when the Monk class arrived shortly thereafter.

Nowadays, there are plenty of handwraps you can craft and use to break DR from other systems in the game, so the whining of the lack of GS wraps has faded. But with the introduction of Epic characters and quests, so has the desire for people to run “ToD.”

Now, these Incredible Potential rings aren’t much use to Szyn, either, as a throwing Monk. The ring’s unlocked Holy Burst and related bursts work only on unarmed attacks.

But there’s wasn’t much in the way of loot in the Shroud to gain for Szyn, either. She completed it simply to say that she did. And so it is for the Tower.

I wouldn’t dream of this insane run were it not for the Thunder-Forged Shuriken that causes incredible damage fast enough to destroy a pit fiend alone.

The question now is whether Szyn can manage two bosses at the same time on a Normal-difficulty run.

The Good

From a matter of destruction, Szyn’s weaponry as a maxed L28 character should do short work against the trash inside the Tower. She can already handle the same kinds of nastiness alone inside an Epic Hard “Devil Assault” as she did in the Shroud. She uses Rejuvenation Cocoon, has high miss-chance powers and strong Reflex saves (90) because of her very high DEX (62+ when the winds are right).

The Bad

The first challenge will be destroying the Judge and the Jailer in part 1. I’m unsure if I can keep the attention of only one, or if I’m going to have to fight both at once. Improved Precise Shot will help. I’m not sure if Freedom of Movement will help against chaining effects from one of them.

The best news is that, being a Monk, my resistances to certain attacks are higher and I’m highly maneuverable and damage-resistant, keeping my distance as I attack. I only need to carry a small barge-load of Remove Curse potions and watch my healing.

The Ugly

I expect the fight against Nythirios and his Shadowfiends in Part 2 will be far harder than smacking Horoth into his component atoms in Part 3.

Veterans know that Nythirios is a pit fiend like Harry. No big thing there. But it’s his little dark icy-cold pets that swarm around, trying to freeze-kill over entire parties that disturbs me. In a normal party, you need only to designate someone to aggro the Shadowfiends, drawing them away from the party while your main team beats Nythirios into goo. When he’s down, the deadly fiends vanish. I’ve watched 10 HP casters do this job and, surprisingly, stay alive. If a HP-weak Wizard can do it, then a thrower should be able.

For me, I’ll have to kite everything (when do I not kite?). Szyn is very fast in attack and speed (permanent Haste through the Epic feat Blinding Speed), so she’ll need to have lots of Protection against Cold potions handy to slow any of the serious damage that a Shadowfiend might hit her with if she grazes one too close. My hope is that I’ll just drag Nythirios and Friends, kiting them while my Shiradi effects and Celestia off-hand explosions kill off the Shadowfiends long enough to reduce them as a threat while continually aiming at the fiend to end him. I’m always using Improved Precise Shot so any strikes hit all between me and my target if I can keep the alignment right.

In Part 3, again, it’s a matter of kiting. The room is generally a circle and big enough for me to do this. Horoth has a stunning attack that I cannot counter as a dark Monk, but I hope to survive it long enough to put down enough damage on him. Plenty of Orthon trash spawns and respawns, and then Suulomades the horned devils enters to try to trash me, too. I could change my target to Suulo while running for my life if things are stable enough, then slay Horoth.

It’ll be a matter of experimentation based on how much damage I’m taking and how much damage I can inflict against trash and bosses before Horoth gets lucky with a Disintegrate hit or prolonged stun. While now in possession of the FoM-granting Orcish Privateer’s Boots, I must wear Boots of Anchoring throughout the battle to keep from getting banished to Eberron.

This is a complete experiment because I’m a little bored, and also because I want to know the lay of the land before I think of taking my Ranger inside to hunt for her Gilvenor’s Ring. When paired with Gilvenor’s Necklace from another Devil Battlefield quest, she’d gain 10% Ranged Alacrity as a Competence Bonus–stacking with other Ranged Alacrity bonuses.

Imagine having 30% Ranged Alacrity once I get a Pinion bow (20% alacrity) and when wearing these items.

I did. I needed to cuddle and have a cigarette after that. I don’t smoke.

Postmortem: Attempt #1

So, shortly before my sabbatical, I took Szyn the thrower into “Tower of Despair.”

The cool part is that I was able to use stealth to avoid a lot of fighting before entering the realm of the Judge and Jailer, sneaking by 90% of everything.

That first fight worked out about the way I expected, and I was victorious. I used my Thunder-Forged Shuriken for much of the fight because of the raw damage, but experimented with my Green Steel Mineral II star as well.

I took some time to prep for the expected nightmare of Part 2, arming myself with Fire Shield items, watching others complete the area while alone and how they didn’t die. But then I made the mistake of thinking too much after watching VoodooSpyce’s videos, particularly a run into the Tower while solo. His character stood still, not kiting, so that the Shadowfiend’s cold aura wouldn’t hit him nearly as often. I felt cocky and tried it his way.

I was slaughtered rather quickly by standing still.

I should’ve stuck to my first instinct to kite the Shadowfiend while attacking the pit fiend. While VoodooSpyce’s videos was useful, I may need to look to the monkchers in the crowd to see what can be done here, at the least.

Ninja Versus Ninja: A Look Back at Diablo II

The Diablo II Assassin: Unarmed, uncatchable, nearly unstoppable.

The Diablo II Assassin: Unarmed, uncatchable, nearly unstoppable.

While I’m away from DDO during Lent, I had to find a game that I still enjoyed but

  • Could be instantly paused
  • Not be an internet game
  • Not cause rapid amounts of time wasted

Well, two out of three’s not bad.

I pulled out my old install disks of Diablo II. It took Neverwinter Nights to pull me from that 3-year long crack habit, only to upgrade my fix when I discovered Dungeons & Dragons Online.

At least I know I can only do one drug at a time. I’ve yet to purchase Diablo III. And if this blog ever, ever posts something about installing World of Warcraft, that’s the time that those of you that know where I live should arrange for a serious Intervention.

The first challenge wasn’t finding the activation codes (I’m good at keeping track of these) but in trying to get the game installed from CDs. I own an iMac model that’s quite a pleasant gaming computer while it’s in Boot Camp mode (running Windows 7 natively). But this latest model removed its built-in CD/DVD drive. I had to search around for my USB CD/DVD external drive.

Diablo II was one of the first major PC games that had a generally simultaneous release on both Mac and PC (back in the day when Steve Jobs had not only brought Apple from the brink but also started to make some very game-capable workstations). Sadly, the Mac version of D2 can no longer operate. The game was built for the old PowerPC processor. When Apple moved to Intel processors in 2006, the new Mac OS X Unix-based OS had a PowerPC emulation layer to support D2, but this disappeared over three years ago with OS 10.5 or so. Short of hyper-hacking a Mac PowerPC emulator into OS X Yosemite, using Windows was the easiest choice.

I smartly searched the Blizzard website for any compatibility issues. This is, after all, a game produced in 2000, with a late expansion in 2002. Surprisingly, Diablo II, introduced during the early Windows ME/XP days in 2000, runs excellently in Windows 7 once you tell it to run as Administrator and in Compatibility mode (with a couple of other settings for good measure). Back in the day, CDs (!) behaved as another game key to prevent copy theft. But Blizzard eventually told how to make a CD-less gameplay experience–something important when your computer is a disc-less iMac computer.

Sadly, I’ve lost my long-played saved characters used over the years, and had to start over with new characters.

Well, this blog isn’t the Sorcerer Blog, so I’m going to skip over my love affair with the Sorceress class, that hellion girl that puts the Her in “Sorcerher”. I generally played that class or the spear/bow wielding Amazon until the Lord of Destruction update introduced the Assassin.

The Assassin is an unarmed fighter, a member of an order of anti-mages that emulate magic through various finishing moves.

Sound familiar?

This is going to be a pleasantly long post. Grab some popcorn.

Now, I’ve played this class to death prior to my first entry as a Monk in the two Neverwinter Nights games. But with DDO experience under my belt, specifically Ninja Spy skills, I finding myself learning the benefits of skills I’ve ignored entirely over the years. As a result, I’ve found new joys in a age-old game, with lots of later DDO and NWN play experience to improve my game.

If It Runs Like a Monk and Fights Like a Monk…

The D2 Assassin, like a DDO Monk, is an anti-mage, with many attacks and speed designed to kill mages before they have a chance. Assassins use special hand blades or claws, rather than gauntlets or handwraps. Their skill trees (faintly similar to the DDO trees) are broken down into Martial Arts, Shadow Disciplines, and Traps.

Martial Arts are broken down into several finishing moves that magnify overall attack damage, deliver amplified area-of-effect elemental damage, or cause vampiric leaching of Life and Mana Points. Just like the DDO Monk, finishing moves are charged in sets of three.

Unlike the DDO Monk, you can and should charge up multiple finishers cumulatively. For instance, I can strike three times to fully charge a Tiger Strike (amplified general damage) then switch to charge up Fire, Lightning, Cobra (vampiric), and Ice charges before releasing them simultaneously.

How the D2 Assassin unleashes the strike is where it gets better. I can use a normal attack to do so, where all the charged effects strike at once, with fire, ice, cold and lightning go off like a bomb, while general damage and vampiric effects do so as well. But I also have special attacks to release finishers.

I can make a normal kick (which adds to the damage, depending on the boots I wear), or a Dragon Kick (greater damage with a charging attack) or a teleporting kick. This teleporting kick is designed to fight bosses who might be too powerful to fight one-on-one for long periods. So, you fight their minions, charging up and killing them, and then teleport-kick into the boss with all that charged goodness.

Now, that was my typical way to play back in the day. Then I decided on returning to put just one skill point in everything to unlock every skill to experiment. I’ve never bothered to do much in the Traps tree,  but I am loving it now.

Set Your Own Traps

The D2 Assassin can set up area-of-effect traps that throw elemental damage to anything in the area, aiding you as you fight with martial arts finishers.

To go with this, you have the ability to throw many, many throwing stars continually, per point of mana available. D2 has the Strength, Dexterity, Vitality and Energy as ability scores. D2 generally has no true “dump stat” but Energy isn’t as required for the Assassin as STR and DEX are for attack rolls and damage, just like DDO. But you need some Energy to make a sufficient mana pool (just like ki) to perform your job.

I had never used the throwing stars before. Even with two skill points, I was reliving my love of the DDO Shuricannon with my old Assassin and mowing down enemies from afar that would sometimes overwhelm and tax my defenses and Life points. It saved me a lot of resources when fighting Mephisto, one of the game bosses, by gunning him down Szyncletica-style with multiple stars.

Finishing Moves

I wondered if the DDO developers took a page from Diablo II in the development of their Monk, because the concept of finishing moves and elemental attacks are so similar. Odds are, as the D&D Monk predates the Diablo series, Blizzard (yes, that Blizzard) did the copying.

D2 uses the Life/Mana player health/magic format, of course. Rather than ki, the Assassin uses her Mana to empower her emulated attacks. As you train her abilities, the Mana cost can increase dramatically when using the most powerful abilities.

Thankfully, there’s Cobra Strike, a vampiric leaching attack that damages while pulling Life and Mana from a target. There’s also gear you can find that has vampiric effects.

Diablo 2 has only four stats: STRength, DEXterity, VITality and ENERGY. STR and DEX are needed as you expect for the Assassin. Vitality is the equivalent of CON in D&D and ENERGY works as the Mana-increasing stat. A nice balance of STR and DEX for unarmed fighting is needed (like in DDO) but VIT is key to staying power for Life (HP). A few points in Energy is needed but not too much. Assassins can generate Energy themselves, in a similar fashion to some ki generating moves from the DDO Monk stances.

Shadow Techniques

One thing that the Assassin can do that’s also very ninja (but not “Ninja Spy,” as available directly from their enhancement trees), is to create a summoned assistant. The summoned comes in a lighter drone form that doesn’t take too much damage to a much more powerful and aggressive avatar that uses the whole can of Assassin offensive martial techniques. This means that the Assassin can have that Shadow Master summon to go with their hireling–yes, hireling!–be it a Rogue archer, a spear-wielder, a mage, or a Barbarian fighter, for two allies on the field.

You can even coat your weapons for Poison damage-over-time attacks. So very ninja. The Assassin was a popular character, introduced in the game’s sole expansion, because it could change up its attacks to meet any enemy immunity. I never used the Poison attacks back in the day, and I just added it to Syn’s repertoire. Green-tinged bliss.

Monastics of Another Realm

So, enough chatter. Enjoy my moves in this video that demonstrates most of the Assassin.

It’s sad that I’m not as far away from my computer as a gaming machine as I wanted to be. But if I have to be gaming and it’s not DDO, Diablo II still holds its own, even at 12 years old.

 

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