Come to the Dark Side! (Or not)

After dusting off Ryncletica and exploring more of the nature of the “Dark” monk, I have this to say.

Ninja Spys are awesome.

I’ve played light monks all through my time on DDO. There were ups and downs, things I had to unlearn from my Neverwinter Nights days, and learning more about the exceptions to the game mechanics to which monks can bend, break or be liable.

Let’s go through my initial objections from long past and how they shape up now.

Myth: Dark monks can’t heal themselves as well as light monks.

Fact: Generally true, if you play style consists of terrible impulses to scream-and-leap at mobs. Otherwise, dark monks do fine in self-healing, with the right fighting style combined with enhancements, reaching level 11 and with a few offensive items.

  • Dark monks are natural ninjas. Light monks solo well because they can heal themselves of afflictions. Dark monks solo well because mobs don’t know they’re frickin’ there. To wit: I took Ryncletica (L14) into Haywire Foundry on Hard, alone (no hirelings). I sneaked past almost everything to get the two levers to the central golems. Pulled out my smiting handwraps and dispatched the golems (lots of Touch of Death on the red-named), then make a hasty exit. HP never dropped below 1/3, thanks to the information in the next point…
  • Dark monks heal wonderfully with vampiric weaponry and prudence. The Vampiric Stonedust Wraps were a no-brainer, but the Vampiric Fury Shortswords are a bonus win. The extra stat damage these do in combination with Improved Two Weapon Fighting and doublestrike will keep a monk’s HP/ki meter well-filled. If you find yourself a little peaked after a fight, use Wholeness of Body and fill yourself up from ki. Of course…
  • Ninjas don’t attack mobs. They attack targets. If you can hide and complete a quest without fighting a thing, you still get the XP. A Ninja Spy in One With Shadow/Sneak regenerates ki (Light monks have to wait to get Oremi’s Necklace for that trick) so there’s no reason to rush. In fact, once you can regenerate ki to 50 in your stable pool, you can Touch of Death targets routinely with an assassin’s precision.

If you don’t put points into Hide/Move Silently, you aren’t a ninja. You’re just a monk that likes to kill. Nothing wrong with that, but you lose the benefits of why the dark monk is deadlier than its light cousin.

Myth: Dark monks deal more DPS than their light cousin.

Fact: Depends on where they are, and what they must attack.

The dark monk’s available killing powers generally consist of elemental, force and negative energy. These come from the Earth/Air/Fire/Water strikes, Void Strike, and Touch of Death. (Both monk types get Quivering Palm for another instant-death strike.) The good news is that the dark monk is extremely effective on killing the living, non-aberration kind of foe. Drow. Ogres. Giants. Humans.

But stick a dark monk against these monsters and they will have a harder time because these foes offset a skill to kill or the ability to use a killing technique. These include:

  • Undead (dependent on Holy/Undead bane/disrupting weapons, while light monks are designed inherently to hurt the undead)
  • Aberrations (Enemies that live on negative energy are unlikely to be killed by it, so Touch of Death is a bad thing to try on them)
  • Anything with tremor sense (Dark monks can’t easily bypass spiders)
  • Anything that kills you faster than you can kill it. I know this sounds obvious, but one monk ability, to stun something, is less effective against the non-living and problematic with some planar creatures. That means that the light monks have it good with Tomb of Jade, which can encase any extraplanar, non-living and non-construct enemy and effectively stun it. Dark monks (even with vampiric ability) won’t have enough inherent positive energy attacking prowess against such foes. A prepared ninja (like Batman-prepared, with Holy burst weaponry)  is a live one at quest’s end.
  • Anything that loves to debuff or curse you early and often. (Dark monks must use clickys or potions to offset, which eventually run out, while light monks can remove such afflictions for as long as they can generate ki). Anyone that’s done the end fight with the hyper-cursing red-named bosses in A New Invasion and The Dreaming Dark final quest knows of what I speak.

To wrap up: Ryncletica is awesome to play. I’ve gained sizable appreciation for what dark monks can do. The most interesting challenge to come for her will be in fighting in the Shroud. Dark monks don’t get the damage reduction bypassing while unarmed, so she’s stuck with Metalline of Pure Good/Righteousness shortswords/kamas here until she can get a Tower of Despair ring, add Holy burst to one and wear metalline handwraps. (I do not hold out, ever, on getting Metalline/PG wraps in my lifetime).

Ryncletica has shown me clearly that a dark monk, rightly played, is a very soloable–and powerful–character.

Update 11 is up!

The Update is up. The artificer is too attractive: it may be my very first mage. I love the steampunky-ness of it. Sadly, it’s a bad, bad multiclass fit for Monks (as are most spellcasters).

Two important things: While the Favored Souls and Air Savant Sorcerers had their leap abilities cooled a little, the Monk’s Abundant Step was not changed. Ki is still hard to get for some (though not me…I’m a frickin’ wuxia fighter in most quests, leaping about like crazy). Donnie Yen has got nothing on me.

And, thank the Makers, Ghost Touch bugs on handwraps are fixed.

Stay tuned.

To Zerg or Not To Zerg

DDO is a very rich adventure. I’ve spent many, many hours and have not yet explored every quest or raid. I’ve certainly not discovered every little secret or chest. In short, there’s plenty for me yet to enjoy.

But it seems to me that, for many (especially with parties) the aesthetics of the game (the scenery, the backstory, puzzles and optional battles) are often eclipsed in favor of immediate gratification. Loot. Experience points. Levels.

There is something to be said for going slower. I know I’m an old bastard in the gaming world. (“Back in my day, we played games that had ONE pixel! And we LIKED it!”) Yet, how can most players just fly by or through quests without enjoying what DDO is: A virtual world turned art form.

There are plenty of quests to cite to show the programming beauty as well as the thought given to gameplay that weren’t designed with zerging in mind. To start, enter “The Captives” quests (Level 3 or so) and you are near a stone bridge under a radiant sky, with a small lake below. The beauty of this quest made me stop a bit in awe before beginning the obligatory orc slaying.

Another well-designed quest is the Delera’s Tomb chain. It epitomizes “dungeon” but places bits of backstory (specifically, the symbols of the Sovereign Host (who you interact with in the “Relic of a Sovereign Past” quest) and the history (and politics) of Delera I. Seeing her great-great granddaughter elsewhere as a Coin Lord tells you her progeny are not to be trifled with.

Speaking of Coin Lords, The Lordsmarch quest series are heavy in detail and ornate styles, while the Reign of Madness chain is Lovecraftian-chic, great loot for the puzzle-wise and just plain bat-$#!! CRAZY, with the madness of Xoriat brought to view in…icky, squishy, macabre detail.

Of all the quests, I yearn to visit in full the Necropolis series. Aside from the damned obvious need for the Devout Handwraps for a few Monks, the ponderous issues with a few quests have gotten in the way of simply going out to do some undead slaying. I’m sure I’ll get a guide from the guild sometime. Syncletica and Lynncletica (light Monks) would completely rule there.

I want to level my toons as anyone else. But I also want to enjoy what the game offers. So, often I play alone, sneaking with my rogue or ninja. Stealth brings a new challenge in itself: Complete the mission with as low a kill count while with as much loot and XP as you can get. Sure, Conquest bonus is nice, but completing the optionals lets you take in (at least once) the detail that the developers have provided. The joy of beating the traps and moving past whole armies of evil is often more interesting than a kill count.

There are some quests so poorly designed or ponderous that you wished you could zerg through. We know what these are. Perhaps the XP isn’t great, and the best item in its loot table is a +3 Dull Spoon of Lesser Ooze Bane. Maybe the quest is buggy. On these quests, it would be great for the developers to review them, expanding or rewriting them to improve their quality.