Hard Labor

bugs-hard-laborBack at work now and there is too much to do here to spend time catching up on matters of interest in DDO.

I wanted to note that I’ll be soon making major rewrites to The Book of Syncletica.

This overhaul will bring the guide to current update information, add at least a couple of builds and suggested starter builds, simplify language, have interconnecting links with its sister tome, Stormreach Shadows, provide video, and perhaps provide chapters on key quests that can test your Monk build as well as your play style.

But I would appreciate any suggestions from you on things you’d like to see, not just in the guide, but also in this blog.

I’ll be back to regular posts as soon as I’m able. Namaste.

On Vacation

Taking a break from the blog and the forums this holiday week in the U.S. I hadn’t had a long vacation in, like, forever.

Doesn’t mean I stopped gaming, however. Mericletica, Zen Archer #2 and first-lifer, is now capped. She plays very well. More on her and the final build specifics will come next week.

The Case for Fortification…and More

The shield: A symbol of fortification. Your type is different, or not.

The shield: A symbol of fortification. Your type is different, or not.

Was watching the latest video tutorial from Axel, where he’s discussing how to increase your character’s survivability. As his character plows through Epic Elite “Lords of Dust,” starting with Merideth, he notes, with emphasis, that he’s not going to discuss several topics: saves (which are “class-dependent”), AC (believing that super-high AC isn’t possible) and Evasion (which, he says, is outmoded by heavy armor, which seems contradictory to having AC).

I smile at his informative talk as he lets his Ranger/Monk/Cleric loose. I know he’s this specific multiclass because he has a yellow bar (ki: Two Monk levels for Evasion), a Ranger class symbol, and is able to purify the altars in that quest, which requires Divine levels.

Axel has great information for melee characters and it’s definitely recommended. But that video wasn’t for me. My Epic Elite experience with evasive classes (Monk, Rogue) is different. And, in the time I had available to watch what I could of the video, Axel didn’t mention one key protection needed for everyone.

I learned, not long after a trip into “The Portal Opens” with Syncletica with the then-new Menace of the Underdark expansion, that Death will come on swift heels to those who lack in Epic protection.

That specific protection is fortification.

In Heroic levels, experienced adventurers often help discouraged neophytes among us after they’re killed with only one or two hits by a monster. Our first question to help is, “What’s your fortification?”

The reply from that adventurer is often, “What?” or “I don’t know.”

For Monks, fortification is critical since we are often front-line or solo fighting.

I suspect that a few of us get confused as to when and what we need in fortification, where we can get it, and why it’s so dang important.

Don’t Die on the First Hit

Fortification, saith the wiki, reduces the chance for your character to suffer additional damage calculated as a critical hit or a sneak attack. Fortification doesn’t stop normal physical damage and is worthless against spell casters.

It’s generally easier now than prior to Update 19 to find fortification resources for any level. Before then, you had to look for items with suffixes of “Light,” “Moderate” and ‘Heavy” fortification. Let’s break down the minimum you should have by character level first.

  • Fortification 25%: The current name of what was once “Light” fortification. Almost all named items for this have no minimum level to use it. There are 10 named items that have this property. However, since Update 19, many loot-generated items (boots, belts and gloves) have the Fortified prefix with fortification levels between 20% to 40% that are still usable by adventurers between level 1 and 5.
  • Fortification 75%: The current name to what was “Moderate” fortification. There are 18 named items with this property. Again, there will be more loot-gen items with the Fortified prefix that should service characters between levels 6-11 with percentages between 40 to 80%.
  • Fortification 100%: Also called “Heavy” fortification. Every character should be wearing this amount by level 12, if not as soon as level 9. By this time, monsters will have a much easier time heavily damaging characters, especially foes that can make Sneak Attacks. Many, many named items exist, including the venerable Minos Legens. My personal favorite, the Nightforge Gorget, since that’s an easily-crafted level 9 item from “A Relic of a Sovereign Past”, with a Yellow augment slot suitable for a Deathblock gem (a topic of protection for another post).

Now, you can also find Heroic items with greater than 100% fortification now, too, which are very helpful in the highest-level Heroic Elite difficulties where monsters will have Epic levels (Challenge Rating 20 and above) while you’re still at character level 18.

But I might not have impressed on you sufficiently as to the importance of fortification, so let me back up some more.

How Critical Hits Work

While critical hits determine extra damage by player characters to enemies when your weapon attack roll is around 19 or 20 and a confirmation roll is also made, the same goes for enemy attacks at your character.

Fortification, again, reduces the chance that you’ll take additional damage as a critical hit or sneak attack despite the enemy’s attack roll.

The easy way to calculate what chances your character will take it to the face is to look at the Challenge Rating (CR) of your enemy by selecting it and using your Examine selection in your focus window. I’ll use the wiki’s examples.

Say you have 50% fortification against a kobold with a CR of 1. That monster has a 51% chance to hit you with a critical hit.

A CR 20 monster hitting a 100% fortified character has a 20% chance at a critical hit. So having the standard maximum fortification in Heroic levels isn’t enough to avoid a nasty slash in higher-difficulty content. Any quests over level 18 will sting on Elite for sure. This doesn’t take into consideration how boss enemies work, or Monster Champions, which now keep even experienced adventurers on their toes because these randomly-found enemies often possess higher CRs and have special buffs that may increase their chances of wailing on you without mercy.

A CR 54 enemy striking a character with 150% fortification has only a 4% chance of scoring that critical hit.

See the pattern?

Epic Fortification

I once joined a guild run into Epic Elite “Devil Assault.” All of us were level 22 or better. We died with ease as CR 44 trash decided it was time to take us out to the curb, rapidly.

The common factor in that total-party-kill was that few of us, if any, had more than 125% fortification. As the last example showed, that’s not enough against any monster of CR 25 or better, especially ones that often flanked us and got sneak attacks. We needed at least 140% fortification to have a 4% chance not to carry home our own entrails back in our arms.

Anyone that’s gone toe-to-toe with the Epic Elite end-boss of “The Lords of Dust,” Karas, will get a harsh lesson in why epic fortification is so critical. His Sneak Attack damage will end you immediately.

So, I make a habit to get any Epic character of mine ready to handle the worst of the worst as best as possible. I recommend at least 150% fortification if you’re going toe-to-toe in any Epic Elite–more if you’ve got it.

Thankfully, getting this isn’t hard at all, keeping in mind some rules.

  1. Standard fortification, an Enhancement bonus, does not stack with other Enhancement bonuses. Only the highest percentage applies. Epic Fortified loot-generated items go up to 125%.
  2. Special fortification types can stack, depending on the bonus descriptions.

So, an item with the Fortified prefix, as with any item that says a percentage of “fortification” are standard levels. None of these stack.

I know Axel’s character has to have at least 150% fortification to survive. Even with very high HP, you take just a couple of critical hits in EE and you’re done.

Special Fortification

But there are items and effects with Exceptional and untyped Fortification levels. Unless the percentages found on these items are the same number, they will stack with each other and standard fortification.

  • Fabricator’s Bracers and Fabricator’s Gauntlets: Once their Nearly Finished property is unlocked, these together provide 25% untyped stacking fortification to any character. The downside is that you must equip both items at the same time, screwing with your Epic equipment feng shui.
  • Exceptional Fortification items and properties: Some loot-generated items will give stacking fortification, up to 25% more, often having the Fortifying prefix (that’s different than Fortified). These fortification bonus is an Insight bonus and stacks with the Enhancement bonus of standard fortification. However, only the highest Insight bonus item applies. Named items such as the Leaves of the Forest medium armor and the Greater Stalwart Trinket share this property.
  • Some enhancement trees and one Epic Destiny provide untyped fortification that stacks with everything.
    • The Sacred Defender tree for Paladins give 2% fortification for each trained core ability.
    • The Paladin-typed Unyielding Sentinel epic destiny has the ability Brace for Impact, a tier 1 ability that any character can train and Twist for 4 destiny points to give a 40% stacking fortification bonus. Alone with a 100% fortification item or effect, many players may have sufficient protection for anything, including a few lighter Epic Elite fights.
  • High level guild airships with the Armory amenity can get up to 15% additional stacking fortification, improved by the Proving Ground state room amenity.

In Practice

My Zen Archer build is meant to stay put, like a turret, firing on anything. Without fortification, that’s certain death when melees are able to close in on me.

Someone left a very low priced Fortifying Helm (note the word difference) on the Auction House in Cannith one day, with 25% stacking Insight bonus to fortification. Yay, me!

I’ve wrapped up training Unyielding Sentinel with my archer to get that tier 1 Twistable ability. I have 190% fortification available, with no less than 125% at any time in her first Epic life. Once I let go of the Nightforge Gorget and wear a 115 to 125% item as I move into level 27-28 gear, I’ll  have over 200%, more than enough fortification for Epic Elite.

Sauce for the Goose

Thankfully, most monsters lack any fortification, making our player character’s critical hits that more damaging.

But a few enemies are fortified against us, reducing our weapon effectiveness. That’s why you can’t sneak attack a skeleton and some constructs and bosses.

But you can train abilities or find items that offer fortification bypassing or reduction. In the case of bypassing, your weapon or attack ignores a certain level of enemy fortification for yourself only. In the case of reduction, it universally lowers the fortification, allowing others in your party to cash in.

Most of these effects stack unless they’re classified as a similar type of bypass or reduction.

  • Precision is a combat feat that allows you to ignore 25% fortification and gain 5% to your to-hit with no penalties.
  • Armor-piercing bypass properties come on items such as the Black Dragonscale Robe, as well as some weapons.
  • Rogues get Opportunist, a feat that also bypasses 10% fortification.
  • The Trapsmith’s Workshop guild ship amenity gives a 5% bypass.
  • Rogue Assassins have Assassin’s Trick for 25% reduction.
  • The Destruction and Improved Destruction property found on weapons is a stacking reduction effect.
  • Improved Sunder, a melee strike, reduces fortification.
  • The Dark Monk’s finishing move, Touch of Despair (Dark/Dark/Dark) reduces fortification by 25%.
  • The Favored Soul’s Shield of Condemnation core ability in Angel of Vengeance can reduce fortification by up to 50%.
  • Weapons with Weaken Construct or Weaken Undead reduce fortification.
  • The Artificer’s and Rogue Mechanic’s Wrack Construct can reduce fortification by as much as 50%.
  • Insult, a Fury of the Wild ability, reduces by 10%. (Be careful of the tier 1 ability, Tunnel Vision, which, while you’re raged, reduces the player’s fortification by 10%.)
  • Piercing Clarity, a Grandmaster of Flowers ability, bypasses up to 10%.

Teacher Firewall’s Shuricannon 2.0 build, from which I draw much inspiration in solidifying the Zen Archer, shows that he can generate a 95% armor-piercing rating with a lot of gear and upgrades that I’ll likely not see. I’ll be happy to have 50%.

For Mericletica the now-Epic Zen Archer, I have Precision with Piercing Clarity for 35% fortification bypass. If she can get a Flawless Black Dragonscale Robe, that can increase by 15% or 20% to get 50 to 55%. In the highly unlikely event I can upgrade to a Tier 2 Thunder-Forged Longbow, the “Dragon’s Edge” upgrade offers 35% Armor-piercing, which is what Firewall crafts in his Thunder-Forged Shuriken.

Note that armor-piercing is a typed effect and usually doesn’t stack with itself, only the highest bonus applies.

The Other Protections

Axel’s information deals with the player type that (1) is generally a melee fighter, which will take a walloping in EE, (2) has time to get the best gear, and (3) multiclasses to get the best of everything. I’m betting, too, that his playstyle is totally different than my own, as the video shows (his style is scream-and-leap melee). Based on the video, he clearly knows his stuff for armored fighting.

My focus is generally on Monks, so what he ignores in this video are actually key to the defense of the EE Monk.

Axel is very right on never focusing on only one area of defense. You need to dabble in as much as possible. But what you can or should dabble depends on your class, and not everyone is going to dabble in several classes to start.

I’ve discussed these Monk defenses in different posts and in the Monk guide at length, but let me summarize what protections are important for the EE Monk aside from fortification.

  • Saves: Saves are the ultimate armor for a Monk. While saves may not be relevant to Axel or other classes save a Paladin, saves determine how likely Monks are going to be hurt or overcome by some types of damage or spells. It’s hard to build a Monk with poor saves: they won’t live through Heroic if you do manage to build a poor one.
  • Spell Resistance: This high passive defense blocks so many spell attacks but few talk about it because the Monk gains this benefit automatically. Few others get this ability, even in Epic play. Monks generally get 30 spell resistance at level 20. If you are Drow, you get this defense earlier, and Grandmaster of Flowers allows a stacking bonus. You can’t get Spell Resistance any other way except from a Cleric/Favored Soul spell.
  • Improved Evasion: It was paradoxical to me that Axel said that Evasion wasn’t necessary for EE play when his character in that video showed a yellow bar, suggesting 2 Monk levels, a common way to get Evasion. Evasion avoids damaging spells and certain trap damage. Since spell casters abound in EE play, Evasion is the old-school way to avoid that problem. Today, heavy armor folks can reduce this damage with Magical Resistance Rating (MRR), which can’t apply with no-armor types. Firewall notes that Improved Evasion is equivalent to 100 MRR, and my gameplay confirms this. Spell Resistance, combined, make Monks very magic-resistant. We can stand in a sea of fire elementals and never get hit by a fireball.
  • Miss-chance: High Dodge, Incorporeality and Concealment are key in many a Monk’s survival, and we can boost these numbers unlike any other class. My Zen Archer relies on maximizing these effects and sustaining them longer than many other classes. Axel discounts them in this one video because of their problems in activating them or their general effectiveness. Since I can get 25% Incorporeal, 20% Concealment and 30% Dodge, I’m far more effective than 10% Ghostly and Blur alone.
  • AC: While AC is less effective at higher difficulties, it’s not ignored. It’s simply one helpful passive defense. Mericletica sits around 84 in Earth Stance, which isn’t bad at all for a non-melee character, which helps a little in mitigation against trash at least.
  • PRR: Physical Resistance Rating’s recent tinkering by the devs makes a little PRR go a longer way. Getting 25 PRR means 20% of any damage is absorbed. PPR helps my Monks when all other defenses are compromised. Combine that with other defenses and life is that more survivable should a hit get through. I’ll want to add a PRR augment gem to get this a little higher.
  • Special gear: I love the Way of the Sun Soul set and how it provides a Radiant Forcefield type effect on you (in Earth Stance) with a critical hit confirmation, reducing damage by 25%. Combined with other damage avoidance and mitigation, this helps the Zen Archer hold her position to boost her damage.

Definitely take the great work that Axel provides and use it, but note that Monks are special and some information there might not apply. Don’t know if Axel does Monks, but based on his smooth video series, I’m sure he has a clue about them.

Review: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?

48188The blog title is not a question for you, good reader.

I have scoured Hulu for more gaming-themed anime after the (Epic!) conclusions of the second seasons of “Log Horizon” and “Sword Art Online“.

I found a new one. It’s title is…unfortunate, and long, but the storyline more than makes up for it.

“Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?” (hereafter called “Dungeon”, known by fans by the nickname of “DanMachi”) is the story of a newb. Yes, that inexperienced adventurer that’s certainly going to die in the first few minutes of a quest from grave inexperience, or so you think.

The world of “Dungeon” involves a large town where a massive ancient multifloored dungeon rests below. Many adventurers carefully explore the tower and whoop any monsters found. Monsters continually spawn, so were it not for the adventurers, the monsters would rise up and overwhelm the world. The side-benefit for the world of Orario is that adventuring is a primary occupation.

This world isn’t a game come to life like Log Horizon or a virtual MMO as is Sword Art Online, but uses some gaming principles and mechanics in a “real life” in-universe context, specifically stats. On the literal backs of every adventurer is an elaborate magical tattoo that basically show the adventurer’s stats, skills and magic, if any.

There are gods, too. Quite a few. They aren’t watching over their world from another plane of existence, deciding what fate to give to their “children,” as they call the humans, elves, dwarfs, and others. Eons ago, as the story goes, they got bored. Collectively, they sealed off most of their divine powers and incarnated themselves to live and learn with their children, including taking on both pleasures and inconveniences of bodily form.

What powers they did keep were given to the adventurers to help develop and raise their skills to fight monsters. The gods form guild-like families, or familia, each of which often specialize in something. Magic. Blacksmithing. Drinking. Each god in the familia is responsible for reading changes to their children’s stats by reading their back and mystically manipulating the information there.

Our hero, Bell, decided to become an adventurer after his grandfather was killed. But he knew enough that he would get killed without joining a familia. But he was rejected by everyone until a lone goddess named Hestia offered him a place with her. Bell is generally a lightly armored rogue-like fighter, using (for a time) only a small dagger or short sword.

So now the Hestia Familia is  active, membership: 2. Some familia are rich and live in good homes, even mansions. Hestia isn’t there yet. Bell and Hestia live in the basement of a long abandoned church. Their furniture is ragged and there is only one bed, where Bell, being a gentleman, gives to Hestia, while he sleeps on the couch.

“Dungeon” is filled with familiar characters or roles that they play in adventurer business. There’s a business that advises adventurers, dressed in business attire and who also serve as the government in terms of rules that adventurers must obey outside of the dungeon. That group also exchanges the monster crystals (what’s left of a monster after they are destroyed) in exchange for the currency.

Like DDO’s guilds, familias come in many sizes and leadership. A few are rotten, most are good, some are small and others very large. An adventurer can form a party from members of other familias, but otherwise are discouraged within their own ranks from trying to fraternize too strongly.

news_xlarge_danmachi_kokuchi2Bell’s life changes at the very start of episode 1. This white-haired kid is on a low dungeon level when a minotaur from several floors up goes on a rampage and nearly turns Bell into goo where it not for Ais, a stunningly beautiful blonde and highly powerful adventurer. She’s a level 6 adventurer, perhaps the equivalent of a DDO level 18 character, which took her 10 years to reach.

Leveling up is normally a very slow process. Bell is a level 1 (as are many adventurers there) and, if he levels like other adventurers, won’t see level 2 before adulthood. But Bell isn’t like all the others.

Bell is amazed at Ais but, often, he’s way too embarrassed to approach her. Bell’s pretty shy all around, which isn’t helped by the fact that his dungeon advisor, a couple of waitresses, and even Hestia herself are rather attracted to him.

“Dungeon” isn’t the typical “harem” anime series, however. Conflict and drama abound. Some adventurers take horrible advantage of small people called “Parum” (it’s Latin for “little”, which avoids getting sued by the Tolkien estate), abusing and stealing what they can from them. And one person, a goddess herself, seems to throw all kinds of bad things at Bell, just to entertain herself as some gods once did in their glory days.

Bell’s growth is reflected by the reactions of other adventurers who are first skeptical then astonished at how he becomes less of the blood-stained “Tomato Guy” that Ais saved to an resourceful adventurer ready to save himself and others if he can do so. While the world of Orario has Clerics, death is final here; there’s no resurrection.

“Dungeon” has mild fanservice (Gainaxing, revealing clothing, Bell often put through marshmallow hell) but no nudity and a little cursing. Despite the harem theme, the show does keep the overt sexuality down, although there are obvious indications that one goddess digs other ladies. It’s believable that many of the girls in the show like Bell. What’s different about each motivation comes from the plot.

The show is sufficiently bloody, however, often involving great moments of awesomeness when Bell does what others believe is completely impossible for him to do.

Unlike SAO or LH, this appears to be a 12-episode series, extracted from its light novel origins.

You can enjoy “Dungeon” completely free on the Crunchyroll movie site, or pick it up with delayed episodes on Hulu Plus.

Bonus points to the producers of the show in using the same voice actor of SAO’s Kirito. That man makes for dramatic voice acting, even if I can’t understand a word he’s saying.

Zen Grandmaster

Sure, it was from the Training Dummy. But there it is.

Sure, it was from the Training Dummy. But there it is.

The race of the Zen Archers and the testing of the build was never a fair contest. Mericletica on Cannith was a first-lifer with XP nearly oozing out of every pore just for showing up somewhere, while three-lifer Pynthetica has to scrap for play time.

Pyn wins in the gear department hands down, however, having accumulated much in her lifetimes, including a Shimmering Arrowhead and all the big bows, including a Raider’s Box-bestowed Pinion bow that’s dying to be used.

But Mericletica, now level 23, is first to test the viability of the Epic Zen Archer first. As a first-life Monk, she began in the Grandmaster of Flowers destiny.

As part of the build testing, I’m writing a series of posts on Epic Destinies as they relate to the Zen Archer, with GMoF first.

Weaponized Ki, Improved Damage

While GMoF helps unarmed Monks best, it also offers general bonuses that apply to armed Monks. Mericletica’s ki is boosted. Her weapon damage is improved. A few Destiny Points to DEX aids in damage and to-hit. She bypasses more fortification.

Update 25 grants +3 Ranged/Melee power per each innate ability. That’s a great start to a build that will already had  15 Ranged Power on entering Epic play with her Harper Agent training. And every Epic character gains +3 Epic Power per level. At present, Mericletica has around 27 Ranged Power.

  • Inner Focus (innate ability 1): Additional ki and stacking spell resistance to avoid attacks. Of course, this is also a rechargeable non-Meditation emergency ki surge button, helpful in prolonged attacks where I’m spamming Ten Thousand Stars and other ki attacks as often as I’m able.
  • Perfect Balance: More to Dodge to maximize it to 30%.
  • Lily Petal: The first of the magical ki attack balls. I plan to heavily leverage these and related attacks because of the Zen Archer’s maximized regenerative ki effects. As they give Magic type damage, most enemies can’t resist it and take hundreds of points of damage. It’ll be especially helpful against Champions, the bane of the Zen Archer, as their special buffs often compromise at least one of the build’s circles of defense.
  • Enlightenment: More passive ki regeneration and ki as a whole to empower attacks. I’m using this ability to make adjustments to enhancement AP, as I’ll note in a moment.
  • A Dance of Flowers: Increases the weapon damage modifier for her bows.
  • Centered Mind (innate ability 2): The Slippery Mind feat to ward off enchantment attacks such as Otto’s dancing spells, buying the character time to escape and attack.
  • Serenity: More stacking spell resistance needed against things such as the Drow spellcasters.
  • Wholeness of Spirit (innate ability 3): Periodic cleansing button of bad status effects and debuffs.
  • Orchid Blossom: Lily Petal’s mass strike upgrade. Helpful against mobs.
  • Walking with Waves: While in Ocean Stance, an additional 3% Dodge if I require it by this time.
  • Perfection of Body: Boosts to Fortitude saves, where this build is weakest.
  • The Abiding Path (innate ability 4): Immunity to Slippery Surfaces. I do not fear and will not move away from the spellcasters with Sleet Storm.
  • Standing with Stone: Up to +15 PRR and 15 HP when in Earth Stance. I’m often in this Monk stance for improvements to the critical threat range of my bows and damage mitigation, now that other abilities of the destiny can compensate for the loss of saving throws and Dodge when otherwise using Ocean Stance. Critical hit damage goes up 30% easily when I’m running in this mode.
  • Piercing Clarity: Effective True Seeing against concealment effects. Most importantly, additional fortification bypass of 10% to go with Precision (25%) and other bypass training I can utilize.
  • Ubiquity (innate ability 5): Tumbling through enemies as if they were incorporeal. Helpful to shift position while not interrupting Archer’s Focus, if it works.
  • Drifting Lotus: My answer to avoiding Improved Precise Shot. Combined with the other ki attacks, I’ll be able to quickly knockdown and damage enemies, often using this feature to escape with stealth if a fight becomes overwhelming.
  • Dancing with Flames: Like A Dance of Flowers, I hoped this additional ability would also boost the weapon dice modifier. However, it fails to work with bows, only unarmed and perhaps melee weapons. It’s skipped.
  • Perfection of Soul: Additional Reflex saves when in the heat of battle. Right now, I’m less in need of it.
  • Balance in All Things (innate ability 6): Immunity to most knockdowns and an additional +1 to passive ki regeneration. For the Zen Archer, that means up to a total of +5 possible passive ki regeneration (Stealthy from Ninja Spy, Contemplation from Henshin Mystic (now disabled), Ultimate Ocean Stance, Enlightenment and this innate ability). If HP drops to less than 50%, then Way of the Tenacious Badger adds +1 for a rapid +5/+6 passive regeneration, perfect for spamming Lily Petal and other alternative attacks.
  • A Scattering of Petals: A Blinding debuff for escapes. A convenient alternative to the Ninja Spy’s Flash Bang (which isn’t trained). I’d rather add another DEX point.
  • Everything is Nothing: One of the best Epic Moments out there that instantly kills almost everything in a wide range. Since this Epic character will be spamming ki attacks often, it should be easy to have this charged for tactical use in wide areas where many enemies are anticipated, sniping and luring as many enemies into “Death Blossom” range. The Zen Archer will never lack in sufficient ki for this or any other ki strike.

Adjustments to Enhancements

With more passive ki regeneration from this destiny, it’s wasn’t a bad idea to retool my Monk enhancements for more weapon damage in Epic play. Here’s the summary.

  1. I reset the Henshin Mystic tree, removing training for Contemplation. This reduces passive ki regeneration by 1 but this is made up with the Enlightenment ability in GMoF, even as a Twisted ability, as well as the last innate ability while in GMoF. This freed up 8 AP and leaves the tree dormant.
  2. Completed 34 points of Harper Agent training. The last two cores weren’t helpful to damage, and those 10 AP used to qualify for it don’t help outside of DEX training. So any training at level 30 stopped after Harper Enchantment of Deception. I did consider Saekee’s great idea to extend my Elven Displacement duration with Magic of Patience, adding 2 points there. My Elven Displacement from my Shadow Dragonmark now lasts a hardy 4 minutes instead of 1 minute 30 seconds, thanks to that Extend Magic effect.
  3. Trained Ninja Spy’s Sneak Attack and No Mercy enhancements using the 12 to 14 freed AP. This additional damage will come in handy when Shiradi Champion training offers Nerve Venom, which makes enemies helpless. Significant damage from Sneak Attacks now apply as Improved Deception effects kick in.

Epic Gear

Mericletica5

Mericletica is a first-life character on a server with a lower player population. I’ll have to make due from the charity of others for gear when raids are run less often.

Grabbed a low-hanging fruit: A Spider-Spun Caparison for a paltry amount of Astral Shards for +3 Insightful DEX later. I gathered plenty of Eveningstar Commendations for the Way of the Sun Soul set and its stance-based buffs.

The Radiant Forcefield-like buff that reduces damage by 25% for 10 seconds when a vorpal-calculated hit is confirmed in Earth Stance adds to the Zen damage reduction scheme, as does the PRR and AC boosts of Earth Stance. Ocean Stance kicks on a Fire Shield/Cold buff. I don’t know if the Wind Stance’s buff of 6% Doublestrike includes Doubleshot as well (I’m sure I tested this on Szyncletica and it does not).

With level 23 done, I decided to downshift to farm some items.

To use the Sun Soul set, my trusty level 3 Bracers of Wind must go, which meant a new Blurry item to replace it. I found a reasonably-priced epic Ring of Shadows on the Shard Exchange and put it on immediately at level 23. This ring has it all for the stealthy, defensive ninja. Great Hide/Move Silently and at least 10% Incorporeal protection with its Ghostly at all times to go with the Blurry, saving me a little ki in light skirmishes where I needn’t kick on Shadow Veil.

On the other hand is a gift from Saekee: A Seal of House Avithoul, perfect for the Epic adjustments for additional Sneak Attack damage, DEX +7 and with Improved Deception that stacks with my Harper based version for frequent Bluff-spins against charging attackers, slowing them down.

STR was a serious problem for me. My collection of bows are heavy, and even as I pared them down, I had to wear some Ogre Power boots and not something more useful. Completing most of the Heroic Elite runs possible in Gianthold gained me sufficient ancient relics to trade for a Diamond of Strength +5 that I added to the slot on the Ring of Shadows.

Scored a non-epic Roadwatch Bow in the latter days of leveling to 20, which was surprisingly effectively against the plant and fey in the “Druid’s Deep” series. I will be buying an Epic version of this thing, as well as completing more Eveningstar challenges to get different Cormyrian bows and their often harsh Improved Paralyzing, Wounding and other detrimental effects.

Saekee was happy to venture out to make me a Tier 0 Thunder-Forged Longbow. I wasn’t doing badly at all beforehand with my non-epic Thornlord for horrific 300 to 400 crits while in Earth Stance with sustained damage of 100 per hit, elevating by 20-45 with a bluffing Improved Diversion spin and the Sneak Attack bonus.

On breaking out of the Sun Soul set at higher levels for a raid configuration, the Flawless Black Dragonscale Robe would add more fortification bypass. I’ll be farming Heroic Tor to gather their lesser version for a robe usable for life #2 or for Epic play when I need to really punch through something.

So here’s the gear summary, thus far, for the TL;DR crowd.

  • Helm: Deadly Helm of Accuracy (both +6 bonuses). This is a very useful placeholder until I find something better. The Epic choices are weird here. A Flawless Helm of the Black Dragon would pair well enough with its counterpart robe. The Epic Wheloon chain reward helms aren’t bad, but I think, for now, that level 27 Guardian’s Helmet with 120% fortification and Hammerblock isn’t looking too bad.
  • Necklace: Nightforge Gorget with Deathblock gem. This is always a hard thing to part with until I can stabilize my Epic gear so I have Deathblock and higher Fortification elsewhere. Some Fortified 125% Gloves with a yellow and green slot would be ideal as I could stick a PRR gem in with the Deathblock gem. It’s too easy in places to get a Death Ward buff dispelled, so I never leave the airship without this. I’d rather have a Dodge 8% or better item here, if not elsewhere.
  • Trinket: Mummified Bat. Of all the gear I have, trinkets are in the worst shape. Ideally, a Planar Focus item with Insightful DEX +3 would be fine, but a Shimmering Arrowhead might be the better thing for slowing anything with Crippling. Combined with Improved Deception, this could be a great thing.
  • Cloak: A Drow Piwafwi. The basic Hide/Move Silently allows easy stealth movement but also has that funny Invisibility Guard (like the Drow Slavers, it gives you effective Improved Invisibility for a bit and so slows down aggro) but also Improved Sneak Attack +5 to boost weapon damage. I need to add something better since only the SA effect is working here…
  • Belt: Belt of the Sun Soul. The Concentration +15, Insightful WIS +2 and CON +7 is very welcome.
  • Ring #2: A Seal of House Avithoul. DEX +7. Excellent for boosting Sneak Attack damage and increases the Improved Deception effect since I also have this working on Harper Enchantment. Enemies, even red-names, spin quite a bit, allowing for a lot of extra damage.
  • Gloves: Fortified 105% of Speed VI. This is likely the place to add in greater Epic fortification or DEX or Dodge later. I’d love to find Speed as well until I reach level 27 and get the Blinding Speed feat to be permanently Hasted and get 15% ranged speed. I’m not sure what named item, aside from the Purple Dragon Gauntlets for healing amplification) would fit here. DEX +10 with Dodge 10%/Protection/Natural Armor 1+0 are possible to find by level 28.
  • Boots: Boots of the Woodsman. After many trades of other commendations, these provide Insightful DEX +2 for more damage and some more movement speed. There are many, many better Epic boots to find later.
  • Ring #1: Ring of Shadows, level 23. Blurry, Ghostly, a STR +5 gem, and Hide/Move Silently +17. I shouldn’t need the Drow Piwafwi with this ring, further emphasizing my need to dump that cloak.
  • Bracers: Bracers of the Sun Soul. Boosts not only WIS but adds Insight bonuses to saves, AC and CON.
  • Armor: Vestments of the Sun Soul. This completes the Way of the Sun Soul effects that reduce damage or provide emergency effects such as Restoration. Once I’m cocky enough for chasing 375 PDK favor, I’ll unlock the Spider-Spun Caparison.
  • Goggles: Lenses of the Woodsman. Gives me Seeker +6, an attack bonus and True Seeing, allowing me (in combination with the Sun Soul set) to retire my Teraza’s Perfect Sight, which is why my Helm slot has just a loot-gen item. I was trying originally for some Drow Smoke Goggles but, after three runs through the first Darkening quests and besting “The Battle of Eveningstar” thrice, the drop just wasn’t there. I did score two pairs of Grave Wrappings, one to keep and another to hand over to Gwynncletica, my young Shintao for her later glory. Perhaps Shadowsight would be good here as an alternative later.

Gameplay

Currently, Mericletica blasts things at sustained 100-120 damage with around 20-40 Sneak Attack damage, with 400-500 critical hits once her Archer’s Focus is full.

At DEX 44 or so, Mericletica is a surprisingly hard-hitting powerhouse. I’m starting my Elite run into the Devil Battlefield to complete the Shavarath quests there for Yugoloth Favor Potions. Combined with DDO Elixirs and the special House Deneith potions, I’ll get +6 more to DEX on-hand for crunch fights. It looks like, with items and destinies, Meri should ultimately have around 48-52 DEX base by end-game with +6 in reserve. I need to visit Szyncletica the star-thrower to check how she reached a 60 after two lives and emulate that.

Right now, Dodge bonus isn’t where I want it to be. It’s 21% if I’m in Ocean Stance, but it can reach 30%. I need to retool what I have, starting with that cloak slot. An Adamantine Cloak of the Wolf, with Dodge 8% and Improved Seeker +5 might do the trick. If I can add points to Walking with Waves for 3% more while in Ocean Stance without messing up my Epic Moment, that’s one help.

While I prefer the strong, generally aggressive hireling duo of Albus, the level 20 Favored Soul and my Onyx Panther to take aggro-point, Mericletica wasn’t doing too badly on her own in the wilds of the Devil Battlefield. She took out her first pit fiend with some clever jumping atop the Tower of Despair’s outer gate, pelting the thing from above as it received punches from the Warforged Titan below.

The Grandmaster of Flowers destiny, overall, boosts weapon damage, Dodge and Dexterity, while adding in the ranged ki magic balls as a “finish him!” move with a low HP enemy. It’s actually turning out as a great ranged destiny because it reinforces the zen of this build, leveraging ki and the natural monastic abilities for strong defense and damage. Only Shiradi Champion will be better in general damage and versatility with the bow, but at a defense disadvantage if I read it right.

I’m going to race through Legendary Dreadnought to get another Twist slot unlocked and upgraded, to reach Shiradi Champion and Primal Avatar as soon as possible.

There’s still a lot of items I can farm as well. I see many runs into “The Weapons Shipment” for that Shimmering Arrowhead Hopefully I can bring Saekee or others along to increase my farming odds. I owe him a lot.

I foresee an Epic XP leveling freeze at level 27 to avoid wasting my last Epic Destiny feat slot. While training two Primal destinies to qualify, I’ll take Overwhelming Critical as an Epic Feat at 24, changing the bow critical multiplier from x3 to x4, I think. I’ll take Toughness as the first Epic Destiny feat at level 26, Blinding Speed at level 27, continuing destiny training until I can take Doubleshot (10% added, 15% total) as the last Epic Destiny feat.

I hope to have a video of this build in fully-trained GMoF, as well as Shiradi and Shadowdancer in the coming weeks.

Glass Cannons

Suki2Spent a bit of time this weekend giving some love to my freshly-Epic Rogue Assassin, Sukitetica.

I’ve spoken a bit on my take on their general performance in comparison to Ninja Spies. I should sum up these points.

  • Assassin Sneak Attack damage is incredible.
  • Single Weapon Fighting’s speed with Sneak Attack damage is insanely powerful.
  • UMD turns any Rogue into Batman–or, at least, Batman’s utility belt. From Raising Dead, to Heals, to defeating traps and opening doors, emergency buffs–they can do it all.
  • Assassinate is still damned fun.

That said, the epic Sukitetica got herself killed a few times, which leads me to add one point.

  • Assassins can’t take damage worth a damn. Or, at least, mine doesn’t.

That’s not really news. However,  I feel that you have to be able to absorb some level of damage during crunch times. I ran with a great party on the Sschindylryn quests; always a personal favorite. We nailed “House of Rusted Blades,” clearing out everything while one person tanked the Blademaster boss perfectly for several minutes alone. Paladin.

In “House of Broken Chains,” the results were similar. I used my UMD to disable enough of the slave collars, although I learned fast that UMD’s roll is far less reliable than Concentration with a Monk. A few slaves died. But we got the rescue bonus and even took down a horde of spiders, clearing out the place.

But “House of Death Undone” took a little more party finesse since the place is full of enemies and enemies-turned-zombies. This House has a great medical plan: Life and Unlife Insurance. I wondered about their dental plan.

We took out the matron mothers in each House. House Avithoul was kind enough to present me with a Seal of House Avithoul for my trouble, a perfect ring that just made my DPS shoot up substantially.

I’m still stuck on what the Epic Rogue should be wearing, aside from that welcome ring. There’s no Commendations path I’m aware of that supports the Rogue. So, I guess the Rogue has to mish-mash items from various patrons based on the character’s need.

Looks like the Druids of the Kings Forest commendation rewards have the greatest general appeal. It provides great Hide/Move Silently bonuses, and offers Sneak Attack damage bonuses with all three set items.

Experience with Artemistika also reminds me that getting enough of these particular commendations are a pain in the butt. I’ll spend more time trading three commendations from more readily dropping patronages to generate what I need for the druids.

As for weapons, I’m still in great shape. The Sacrificial Dagger is simply a murder weapon in the hands of an Assassin against anything not a zombie. I used that weapon from the moment I could wield it, only swapping it out with a disruptor when I had a need. It’s got negative-leveling on a critical hit, and I do that a lot.

But back to Suki’s defenses. They suck. Her AC is laughable. Her miss-chance skills (20% Concealment, 0% Incorporeal, 18% Dodge) isn’t great. Without the Insightful Reflexes feat to use the INT modifier for Reflex saves and not DEX, Suki’s average DEX isn’t enough to ward off a high-level trap. Shadowdancer’s Dodge powers will work only if I’ve trained more Dodge and raise her maximum dexterity bonus (which I hadn’t). If she’s detected, she has few backups she can kick on to escape, like the Ninja Spy’s Flash Bang.

Her fortification must go to 150% to survive EE attempts. I watched her 56 DC to Assassinate work 90% of the time, but that 10% worries me. And she needs more to her rogueish skills to find and disable traps and open doors. I couldn’t pull off opening the locked door to the boss of “Death Undone.” It took a wizard in the party to beat it.

So Suki has a lot to fix. Lots of gear. Lots of Epic Destinies to train.

It’s going to be fun.

On Cannith, Suki’s counterpart, Gadgetetica, has been pretty vigilant until I realized that I didn’t train her Single Weapon Fighting on her. Big whoops. I ended up using my free Lesser Heart of Wood to Lesser Reincarnate her. Wasn’t a bad idea since this allowed me to reassign more AP into the Assassin tree to get that much closer to being ready to assassinate on schedule at level 12.

I haven’t spoken much about Shintao Monks lately. I’ll need to do so soon.

Off Topic: Why I’m Still Catholic

This isn’t a post about Dungeons & Dragons Online or anything about gaming in particular. It’s a response to a challenge by Elizabeth Scalia, a Catholic writer and blogger. I’m merely taking a liberty in using my blog to meet her challenge. (There have been far fewer clever internet challenges lately.) If you’re not interested in my personal insights on my faith, do ignore this post.


 

The Anchoress, also known as Elizabeth Scalia, made a public challenge to anyone with a web presence to explain why they remain a Catholic, especially during this time where many people warp their desires into political and social pressure to intimidate those who fully practice their faith, not restraining it behind the church doors.

My blog typically restricts itself to discussions about Dungeons & Dragons Online, a multiplayer online world based on the popular tabletop game. So I’m doing something that blogs shouldn’t do much, if at all: Speak off-topic.

I’m going to do so, just this once. I might even be able to show how my faith even intersects with my gaming.

I’m not known anywhere outside of this blog. I’m just a father and husband. As a kid, my family wasn’t particularly religious, although my grandmother was raised Catholic. I did grow with a respect that God existed, but could never understand that “Jesus” thing.

For some reason, God has surrounded me with German Catholics. My high school best friend, my college best friend, and my wife are German Catholics. That was the catalyst that, in 2005, made me enter into the faith. But that’s a story in itself.

In mid-2004, I divorced from a civil marriage. I felt lost, guilty and broken. Despite not looking for anyone, someone appeared at a science-fiction convention I attended. In these gatherings most people have several things in common, and this young woman and I had an interest in wearing costumes the following evening. Specifically, I was going to make an effort to look like the character of Morpheus from The Matrix films, and she as the character Trinity.

While my costume at the time was nothing to speak of, the young woman’s rendition was breathtakingly accurate, and her facial contours were nearly identical to the actress that played the role.

I was smitten. We spent much of the day looking for someone who we heard had dressed as the central character of the films, Neo, also known as “The One.” We never found that costumed man, but the young woman and I found each other.

Over the weeks, she introduced me to the Church again in a more formal way, and I decided, a few weeks later, to enter RCIA (the teaching and discernment classes available at Catholic churches if you are interested in becoming Catholic or want to learn more). Like radio host Matt Swaim of “The Sonrise Morning Show,” I became part of the Catholic Class of 2005.

Thanks to Catholic radio and TV, especially Catholic Answers, I gained a reliable grounding in my faith. I became Catholic and stay a Catholic because:

  • We are founded on history. We mention Pontius Pilate in the Nicean Creed because Christianity came from a real man, in a real place and in real-time. We have witnesses and documents and thousands of years of history as proof of this.
  • We codified the sacred writings that codified what we call the Bible. Other Christians may declare the Bible as the sole rule of faith, but they neglect the point that Christ didn’t found a book, but a Church, and empowered successors to the Apostles to determine what the “table of contents” of Sacred Scripture would become, in the 4th Century.
  • We believe that science is supportive, not exclusive, in our faith in God. We have many, many scientists who, among other things, founded genetic theory, developed the heliocentric theory of the Solar System, and developed the Big-Bang Theory (the science, not the show).
  • We have survived the march of history, as Christ stated. From horrific falls of empires, many many wars, even bouts of corruption within the Church clergy have not toppled the Church. In fact, it seems to have strengthened its resolve to feed the poor, clothe the naked, bury the dead, and bring the word of Christ to a frightened, confused world. Many other Christian faiths, if they haven’t faded away, are changing so radically from their roots–from the teachings of God Himself–that they are shades of what they once were.
  • The Catholic Church sees the teachings of God as supernatural laws of truth, and defends them just as scientists do the laws of the scientific world. Just as the physical laws of the speed of light, mass, energy, and mathematics do not change based on whims, opinion or consensus, nor do the truths that God has revealed to all. While other faiths bend to the winds of culture (which, often, discovers its idea of “truth” was a bad idea), the Church knows that such truths, such as respect for human life, the purpose of marriage, and our ultimate destiny and reason for being on earth, aren’t subject to change, and are just important now as they were 2,000 years ago, today, and 2,000 years from now.

You can find many sources of my faiths on this document from Catholics Come Home.

Some of you who’ve never read this blog before (or likely will again) might find the blog’s title familiar. That’s because my central gaming character, Syncletica, is also the name of one of the first Desert Mothers, a Catholic saint and monastic (an early nun). In the game, I play the Monk class, which has a quasi-religious nature in the concentration of their inner self to perform martial arts feats. I try to reflect the reverence found in the Catholic monastic world within the game’s parameters.

That is, I created this blog (and a guide on the Monk class) to pass on what I’ve learned and to aid others in gameplay, just as St. Syncletica had forsaken her wealth in the 3rd Century to serve others and the Lord.

I was able to re-marry (see this link if you’re a Catholic and wonder how that happened, since you normally cannot divorce and re-marry in the Church) and, soon after, bring my mother and son into the faith, too.

catholicpriesthoodGod wanted me to know that I made the right decision in a personal revelation. 

One day, not long after entering the faith, a friend of mine gave me a poster she created to promote more priestly vocations in the Church.  This one, on the left.

This is Father Jonathan Meyer, a priest in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. He normally wears a cassock, a long black coat that happens to look a lot like the coat that the enlightened Neo wore in the second and third films.

I had found the One after all. (My vocation is to marriage, not to priesthood, however.)

That man is one of many ones who become in persona Christi during the Holy Eucharist, celebrating the holy sacrifice of the One Holy Priest, Savior of Mankind, the Christ.

Yep. The Matrix made me Catholic.

 

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