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

 

Real Life Debuff

databank_forcelightning_01_169_b1eb5a6f

As if unemployment could really feel like this. It’s worse.

As noted in past posts, I’m still in the game but sporadically. Unemployment still plagues my family, so real-life comes first before all other things, obviously. My Concentration score has to be higher in front of my computer than within it as an avatar. My game skills are insufficient as wage-earning.

I did frighten a few friends by rolling up a Gnome wizard a week or so ago, just to keep them on their toes. They thought I’d lost my mind.

If there are any topics you’d like me to address in future posts, do comment with suggestions.

A Mighty Love: “Neverwinter Nights”

By luck on Facebook, there was an ad that mentioned a free download of a game for 48 hours. The site, GOG (used to be known as “Good Old Games”) hosts that and many other PC games from relative antiquity.

neverwinter-nights

One of the desktop promo shots, showing the lovely, poised and eventually traitorous Aribeth de Tylmarande. 

This game, however, I could not resist downloading. It was “Neverwinter Nights,” the original 2002 Bioware game. This was the “Diamond” release, which included the original campaign, the first expansion, “Shadows of Undrentide,” and the last major expansion, “Hordes of the Underdark.” It also included three smaller modules I could not play on my Mac as they were released for the Windows code base only.

Lord knows how many times I’ve actually purchased the game for both platforms. So I saw this free opportunity to download it for Windows play as a blessing. Too bad I didn’t think of switching to Mac mode to download the Mac binaries at the time. At least I know where to get it. On second thought, the NWN Mac port, unless rewritten, will not work with current Mac OS versions because the software engine requires compatibility tools long since removed from Mac OS. So given that my iMac is mostly in Boot Camp (native Windows) mode 90% of the time, the Windows version was a better plan.

NWN was the game I began to play as my “Diablo II” high finally began to recede. It was my first venture into D&D official game mechanics and campaigns (several attempts to enjoy the original “Baldur’s Gate” ended with crushing confusion and failure).

Because hope springs eternal for me, I even had saved my “localvault” character saves folder. Thankfully the character files are text-based files that worked fine if switched between the Mac and PC clients. And now I can copy the installer to a USB stick so I’ll never lose the damn media again.

The Campaigns

Everything I learned about basic D&D mechanics I first learned from NWN. That’s especially true for the Monk, of which I played a lot. No surprise there for you.

NWN was a single-player game that supported player-based campaigns with larger parties, as well as even a Dungeonmaster driven campaign. I rarely tried to go multiplayer; at the time I wasn’t inclined to try them after the cluster-frakking I experienced in “Diablo II” multiplayer mode, with player killing rampant and cheating abundant.

nwn_shieldguardian

Shield Guardians. These guys were beautiful.

NWN used the D&D 3rd Edition ruleset for much of its foundation. It’s this design that gave me enough confidence to enjoy a sequel game, “Neverwinter Nights 2” and then to buy the Monk class on joining DDO–without playing a single second in-game.

One thing that DDO could still improve is its opening tutorial quest. The  Original Campaign begins by you, an adventurer out to help the city of Neverwinter, besieged by a plague, in the Neverwinter Academy, a training building for all classes.

The tutorial allows you to experiment and understand all elements of movement, camera, combat and spell casting very quickly I became very comfortable with the rules and mechanics quickly.

soh-charactersht

The Character Sheet looks more familiar now than ever. This is in an elven crypt in “Shadows of Undrentide.” Great graphics for its time (if you had a PC that supported them).

Like DDO, NWN has a great dialogue engine with PCs. Unlike DDO, NWN allows Evil-aligned player characters and presents dialogue responses that reflect your choice. Also, non-player characters improve or adjusted your alignment, which is measured from 0 to 100 based on your actions. So if you entered with a Lawful Neutral character, continually rescuing people that you could otherwise leave alone will eventually change you to Good aligned. Attempting to kill certain people, especially if innocent, will send you down the Chaotic and Evil paths.

You can move your player character (PC) using the WASD keys but the mouse option to click a spot ahead to move your character was much more natural. I missed this.

NWN also supported henchmen, the counterpart to hirelings. Much like our DDO brethren, you had limits on the number of them in your party, you could adjust their combat and other behaviors, and there were various classes you could select to complement your PC class. While the original campaign did not support adjusting the inventory of the henchmen, the two major expansions did, allowing you to really trick out your guys to meet every need. All three games also allowed romance or deeper relationships (with loot often as a reward) by chatting more with your henchmen or other NPCs.

hotu-combat

Aribeth joins my NWN incarnation of Lynncletica in a curb-stomp battle against dozens and dozens of devil minions.

NWN allowed you to boost the game’s difficulty as well so that care had to be taken for area-of-effect spells that could hurt yourself or the party if carelessly used, or to make enemies deal far higher damage to you than normal, similar to Epic Elite nastiness.

The original campaign is pleasantly long, allows you to pause the game and save as you desire, and provided all the D&D pleasantness as you chose.

The first expansion, “Shadows of Undrentide” (SOU) could be played with a new character or with one you imported from an original campaign. This campaign introduced kobolds (in particular, a notably fun NPC named Deekin, who could join you as a henchmen in the second expansion). SOU told of a mysterious attempt to find the ancient ruins of the floating cities of ancient Netheril and return one into the sky.

Does that sound familiar? It should. These floating cities were powered by D&D’s magical plutonium, mythallar. You saw a big ball of it used to fly a glacier as a war platform in the quest “What Goes Up.” My NWN experience helped me prepare for the dangerous mages we find in DDO.

The second and last major campaign was “Hordes of the Underdark” (HOTU). You can also import a level 15 character or higher (new characters get XP boosted to reach 15 if desired). This expansion loosely connects your PC as the same that completes SOU (neither expansion sees your original campaign character as connected to the their events) so you’ll already have a reputation as a hero that gets stuff done. In HOTU you’re also reunited with the Original Campaign’s henchmen.

hotu-battle-1

HOTU was remarkable for throwing you into the city of Waterdeep, besieged (since when is a city not besieged when you show up?) by the Drow of the Underdark, under the leadership of a matron mother self-appointed as the “Valsharess”, or “Queen”. Taking advantage of a sudden and unexplained disappearance of the goddess Lolth (maybe Ana Brabener decided to take her butt out), the Drow society is thrown into chaos and new factions are formed.

To discover the mystery behind the Drow attack, you’re tasked with discovering why the buffer zone of Undermountain, a series of dungeons-from-hell maintained by the crazy wizard Halaster, is allowing the Drow to pass from the Underdark through Undermountain to the surface.

HOTU allows Epic characters up to level 40. You can choose to continue leveling in your class (so a level 40 Monk can happen) or you can add in prestige classes very similar to our Epic Destinies, such as Shadowdancer, Assassin (evil Rogues only), Champion of Torm, Purple Dragon Knight and so on.

hotu-feats-2

Leveling in all three campaigns is familiar enough with skill points and feats that are similarly named with similar functions. With my DDO Monk experience, however, I’m amused by differences in NWN Monk feats over their DDO counterparts. One, “Empty Body” gives you 50% Concealment in NWN–a very powerful defense because there isn’t a countering power in NWN to bypass concealment.

hotu-feats-1

Another feat at level 20 gave you immunity from mind-affecting spells, something I’d love to see in DDO where not for the fact that DDO reflects the NWN importance of high saves and spell resistance to ward off such things.

hotu-endgame

The Underdark is filled with the usual denizens and a small pack of good-aligned Drow that you assist. But more sinister forces held by the Valsharess are moving everyone around like chess pieces for an endgame that will lead you face to face with a king of the hells with no tolerance for heroes and a tendency to turn your henchmen into enemies.

Still a Great Buy

I’ve never played D&D tabletop, but thanks to my enjoyment and experience from DDO and NWN, I’m much more likely to try it someday. Just so happens there’s an annual gaming convention in my town when I’m ready to dive in.

The complete 2002 Neverwinter Nights game with expansions and 3 modules is only $10 from GoG.com. You’ll also find “Neverwinter Nights 2,” another enjoyable adventure with a sequel or two on the site. You should be able to ramp up the graphic settings to their maximums for full enjoyment.

Why not give yourself a old-school Christmas present?

 

Standing with Stones

fukiya

Ninja PLEASE!

I’m still alive and well (albeit still unemployed) as I make a quick note of recent events and updates. I’ve been distracted by an old friend, a game I loved before DDO. More on that another time.

First off, congratulations to Standing Stone Games. I, for one, welcome our new game overlords.

You can read more about the reincorporation online, but basically, it seems our developers and producers have spun themselves off from their WB Games-owned Turbine entity and have a much freer space to develop and profit. Looks like some old hands lost over the years might also be returning.

I wanted primarily to write on Update 33 Patch 2, arriving tomorrow (Wednesday 12/21). Many course corrections and major changes to polish off the major Monk enhancements and handwrap/weapon update of Update 33.

Here are the general Monk adjustments. Items that are great (and there are several) are in italics.

  • Monk finishing moves now incorporate Stunning bonuses into their DC calculations.
  • Ki Shout has had its cooldown reduced to match Intimidate, and its Ki cost lowered slightly. (Lynncletica is very happy.)
  • Meditation of War is no longer considered a Defensive stance.
  • Flash Bang should now add Stunning DCs.
  • Ki Bolt now scales with 3x Melee Power, and adds Stunning DCs.
  • Incinerating Wave now scales with 3x Melee Power, and adds Stunning DCs.
  • Cauldron of Flame’s damage has changed to 1d2 Fire Damage per Monk level, scaling with 2x Melee Power, at each tier, to a maximum of 10d2 per Monk level before scaling. In addition, while wielding a quarterstaff inside your Cauldron of Flame, you gain +20 PRR, +10 MRR, and +15% Dodge that ignores Dodge Cap.
  • Serenity grants an additional boost to Cauldron of Flame: While wielding a quarterstaff inside your Cauldron of Flame, you gain +5 to hit and damage, and a +1 Critical Multiplier.
  • Serenity now grants a +15% attack speed with quarterstaves. (About time.)
  • Henshin Mystic has a new Tier 5 ability called Henshin Staff Training: +3 to hit and damage with quarterstaves.
  • Lighting the Candle now deals about twice as much damage as before.
  • Void Strike now adds +1 to Critical Threat Range and Multiplier with its attack.
  • Shintao’s Touch the Void Dragon now also passively grants +1[w] with handwraps or while unarmed.
  • Shintao’s To Seek Perfection now also passively grants +2[w] with handwraps or while unarmed.
  • Ninja Spy’s Diversion now also grants +5 Sneak Attack Dice for 20 seconds when activated.
  • Ninja Spy’s Ninja Master now also passively grants +5 Sneak Attack Dice.

Ninjas come awfully close to Rogue-level sneak attack powers with things like this, and I’m not complaining. My new SA-happy Shadowbow Ninja archer will deal more damage.

  • Diversion and Touch the Void Dragon no longer share a cooldown.
  • Hit boxes for monks with handwraps have been restored to their previous size.

A very annoying bug squash here that should now allow handwrap-wielding Monks to massage Lolth’s incredible abs with our fists once more in “Caught in the Web” without falling to our doom.

  • Every Light Casts a Shadow should no longer give negative levels to friendly members of your party.
  • Spring Attack is now a Monk Feat at level 6.

The Combat adjustments are a bit interesting for ranged characters. Not sure how this will work with my snipers, especially the Diversion-loving Pynthetica:

  • We’ve corrected a long-standing bug where groups of enemies would not aggro correctly. Players will find that they can no longer use a ranged attack to pull singular enemies from a group without aggroing nearby enemies.

Now, I’m fine with this change as it is more realistic. But, hopefully, the other aggroed enemies don’t immediately come after you, but first note the noise, look, and investigate, buying you time.

  • Bluff and Deception will no longer cause bosses and enemies using ranged attacks or spells to turn around. This corrects an issue where ranged enemies would stop attacking after being bluffed or affected by Deception, and improves the enemy combat experience. Red-named bosses are still affected by sneak attack damage vulnerability.

Another change that’s fine, as long as the Bluff effect still procs and damage is still happening, and hopefully, enemies are still slowed or hesitant in some way. However, this might change the nature of my Zen Archer powers. I’ll have to test and see.

  • Raid and named bosses can no longer be champions.

Nothing’s more scary than to see Lolth wearing a crown. She’s already crazy as it is.

Other good stuff:

  • Many old loot effects that were made specifically for old-style handwraps now work properly on updated handwraps.
  • Vampirism and Lesser Vampirism now provide their proper effects on handwraps.
  • Heroic and Legendary Greensteel handwraps are now available!

How about that? I’ve been craving some Triple-Positive disruptors for Deathwyrm.

  • Scaling Melee and Ranged Alacrity 10% is now applying its proper bonus.

Last but not least is the ability to immediately transfer your characters to and from other servers. This costs a bit but might help in the server balance right away. I might use it to move a few beloved characters I made on Cannith (of which time prohibits me to occupy often enough now).

More to come for my last post of the year next week, if not sooner.

 

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