The Frost Giant and You

"Well, isn't going to work here."

Lynncletica (my heavy-duty Light Monk) has developed a new hobby: The quicker dispatch of Frost Giants.

You’ll find these hulking things throughout a couple of places in the Reaver’s Refuge adventures.

Frost Giants are much like other giants. Slow in attack. They knock you down. What differs them from others is their ridiculous durability. They have probably 1,000-3,000 HP on Normal or wilderness environments. Since they are being controlled by a really ticked off giant lich, they typically have Deathblock. Did I mention the knockdown part?

One thing to note in reading is that Frost Giants don’t have is a lot of Dexterity. That reminded me of an old tactic that worked great for players before auto-crit was removed from the game. The use of stat-draiing weapons still work, but they will no longer allow you to get super-massive damage on a helpless foe–just higher damage.

So Lynncletica found three pairs of handwraps to test out in the Valley:  A pair of +5 Flaming Burst Handwraps of Bone Breaking, a pair of +5 Maladroit Handwraps of Maiming, and a pair of +1 Force Handwraps of Improved Destruction.

The Taste Test

“We’ve secretly replaced the standard handwraps that Lynncletica uses with pairs that should leave a giant butt-naked in seconds.

Let’s see what happens.”

The first pair, the +5 Flaming Burst of Bone Breaking, were obviously enjoyable. Frost Giants are very vulnerable to fire, so an Earth Stance Monk with frequent critical hits per strike really pissed the giants off. They fell reasonably fast, but I couldn’t note if that seemed any faster than the other Flaming Burst wraps of Pure Good I’d had used earlier. That is, the “bone breaking” part of the wraps didn’t seem to slow the giants down.

The second pair of Maladroits seemed nice in damage. Again, however, the Dexterity-draining effect seemed ineffective. I kept thinking I was missing something.

And then I tried the pair of Force Wraps of Improved Destruction. Hmm. Now these handwraps were surprisingly handy. For those playing at home, the Destruction/Improved Destruction effect tears away (without opportunity to save) up to -8 of the foe’s AC and -8% fortification. Things did show a marked but very modest improvement in takedown speed. I couldn’t quantify it as well as I wanted, however, the giants did not like me.

Some pointers against these guys:

  • Frost Giants try to knock you down often. A high Balance skill keeps you on your feet so you’re only knocked back.
  • Kill it with fire. Damage-over-Time spells may be particularly nice. (Having Monks, I tend to Kill It with Friar.)
  • Giants as a race have very high Fortitude. You might get a Stunning Blow/Fist to hand, but don’t depend on it.
  • Don’t forget the clerics. They often throw Blade Barriers and try death spells on you. Always shoot the medic first.
  • Fight in a stable place. You’ll hate yourself if the giant knocks you off a cliff and into the middle of next week, all because you decided to fight on the ice bridge.

All of this Frost Giant hate comes from one quest: “Prey on the Hunter.” The beasties spawn often, in mobs, and are your main focus to kill, quickly, before they kill Aussircaex, who is so ungrateful for your aid in stopping the mobs of giants that are bludgeoning her that she still treats you, the rescuers, as an enemy, making area-of-effect spells problematic since they’ll hurt the dragon as well as the giants.

I tried this on Casual, recently. I was able to progress well enough, accompanied by my new Onyx Panther, Klin the Level 20 Cleric and his summoned Herzou. The maze took me longer to solve (don’t use Empty Body/Shadow Walk here; the speed is negated by difficulty in seeing where the hell you’re going). I made it to the dragon and decided to head straight to the giant red-named boss. Whoops. Apparently I dragged the dragon with me because my hirelings dutifully attacked everybody, dragon included. In a second, the dragon fell.

Back to the drawing board.

Would it kill the developers to create an event where you craft Flaming Burst on stuff?

Oh, yeah. That’s Cannith Crafting. My bad.

A Soloing Primer

We all know that DDO doesn’t exactly cater to creating quests that benefit players without any other player characters in party–that is, solo play. However, there are quite a few adventures, quest chains and even a raid or two that can be done by the determined player character.

Why Solo Play?

  • Allows you to scout the quest for later play with guildies
  • Allows test of your toon’s build and your gameplay under stress
  • You set your own time schedule. Neither zergers nor completionists will challenge you
  • In most places, the dungeon scaling turns down the overall challenges of enemies
  • Good when you have had enough of Pick-Up Groups for a time
  • A great way for discoveries in a quest, or about your character’s abilities
  • A fun sense of accomplishment

When Should You Not Play Solo?

  • When your guildies need you
  • When you do so just to show off to others, especially in not sharing how you succeeded for others to try
  • When you have failed to study a quest/raid to determine if you can meet its mandatory obstacles (runes, switches, puzzles)
  • When you’re not able to continually self-heal and protect yourself reliably–WITHOUT a hireling

What Classes are Best for Solo Play?

Here’s my take on the better classes based on observation of others and a little personal experience. Your mileage may vary.

Solo Survivability Rating (SSR): A rating of 1 means you’re going to die just by entering alone. A rating of 10 means that you’re so potentially bad@$$ that the adventure might auto-complete the moment you zone in.

  • Artificer: Ridiculously dangerous at low- to mid-levels, especially with an Iron Defender and repeating crossbow. Weaker on self-healing (unless Warforged) than others. Moderately powerful spells. Will get chewed on in higher levels as DPS may not clear mobs as fast. Great trapper (if they survive in getting to the control panel). SSR (Levels 1-14): 8.5. SSR (Levels 15+): 5.
  • Barbarian: Rogue meets Fighter. Good evasive abilities, trap sense, great DPS and damage reductions. One guildie Barbarian visited the Devil Battlefield so much on solo that the devils named a pass after him. Kills faster than others can damage him. SSR: 8.
  • Bard: The best class that bolsters a party with his many buffs does lacks a bit of DPS and protection to ensure solo play. Great spells to charm enemies will not work as well in advanced quests and raids. SSR: 5.
  • Cleric: Underestimated in their attack power and often considered “healbots” by inexperienced and ignorant PUGs. Turn Undead uses grant incredible healing power. Not a strong DPS fighter, but will dominate against the undead. SSR: 7.
  • Favored Soul: The “battle cleric.” More DPS and greater spell casting make this a useful solo player, with the right gear. SSR: 7.5
  • Fighter: The quintessential melee class. Healing can be problematic but, like a Barbarian, you can kill faster than enemies can damage you with the right gear and skill. A soloing Fighter learns his weak spots quickly. SSR: 7.
  • Monk: Very good damage against living or undead, high spell resistances, incredible saves, fastest of all classes. Light Monks can self-heal powerfully while fighting and remove common curses. Dark Monks self-heal as well with the right gear. Extremely good Evasion and stealth; only a Rogue is better. Thanks to ki, may be the best class in resource management. Buffs are far shorter. SSR: 9.
  • Paladin: Strong melee class; a powerful fighter against all that is evil. Best saving throws of all classes. Can tank as well as take out the trash. Self-healing works well with good management. Great Prestige Enhancements. SSR: 8.
  • Ranger: Great overall class. Self-healing best as a human. Can handle multiple types of targets at a distance or close up. Good Evasion. Can be trained to handle traps. Few spells but they are very economical in self-buffing. Great scout. Survivablity is good. SSR: 8.5.
  • Rogue: Master trap artist, good assassin if trained. Tenacious but weak fighter. Sadly, may have lowest DPS in game because Sneak Attack works only if there are others to draw attention from you. Most challenged in solo play in high levels. UMD could allow self-healing if careful.  SSR (Levels 1-9): 7. SSR (Levels 9+): 3.
  • Sorcerer: A walking artillery battery. Self-healing works as long as there are scrolls to use and when not charged by powerful melees. Advanced players that think ahead and know the quest will not eat more resources than they have on hand. Dead-meat to highly magic-resistant foes. SSR: 6.5.
  • Wizard: Similar to Sorcerer. Watch your resources. Advanced soloing due to vulnerability against powerful melee types. SSR: 6.5.

Update: Some recent comments properly called me out on significant differences between Sorcerers and Wizards that truly show I don’t know what I’m talking about. I know for a fact that these two classes can solo fairly well where there are not mobs of highly spell-resistant or warded foes–and I have seen that majesty in action. Your mileage on how well spell casters will solo will greatly depend on your build. My opinion is based on a critical problem that melees thrive on but others do not: aggro. A spell caster will have lower HP in general, so they have to tear down resistances and stop or kill mobs before they are overwhelmed. In a pure solo situation (no hirelings but maybe a summoned creature), it won’t take long for the mobs to come charging at the spell caster that’s raining death on them…or trying to do so.

Where to Go Solo?

Many quests below level 9 are not filled with hyper-dangerous mobs, per se. As with high-level quests, managing how and when enemies find you is key: Don’t bite off more than you chew. Take advantage of chokepoints (doors, passageways) that limit how many enemies come through or allow concentration of your spells or firepower.

By level 12, quests take on that flavor that make or break many player’s attempt to level their toons. Monks that have just wailed about without using finishing moves will get frustrated here, as will some casters. While there’s no “game rule” not to have a hireling cleric (or fighter, if you are a healing class), having one about may give you a distorted view on how resilient you really are in the field. Certain quests give a special exception (such as “The Xorian Cipher”) where a party-based challenge requires actual feet or hands to stand on a switch or pull levers at the right time.

By level 16 to 18, most classes come into their own. You should be able to know the weak spots of the central enemies of the game–and have the right weapon to use against that weakness.

Based on my use of Monks. Clerics, Rogues, Rangers and Artificers, here’s a sampling of adventures (Level 3 to 14 or so) you may find refreshing to solo.

  1. The Catacombs series. This tests your skill at ridding the undead–LOTS of undead. Good end-rewards, particular Ghost Touch weaponry, for later quests.
  2. Waterworks chain. Essential training against living mobs. Stealth players may find it refreshing. Kobolds will hate you.
  3. Halls of Shan-To-Kor. Another great one that tests your resources where learning to stay undetected may be better, sometimes, than duking it out.
  4. Assault on Splinterskull. “Groundhog Day.” Great XP, some vital emergency loot for non-spell casters (like the Death Ward clicky, Visors of the Flesh Render) and fun for all classes.
  5. The Chronoscope. Soloing this raid on Normal for anyone level 10 and under should prove your early mettle. Remember, this is a raid, so you’ll be on your own with no hirelings, although summoned creatures may take the edge off.
  6. Delera’s Tomb. A personal favorite with tremendous XP and teaching opportunity in resource management. Vital end-rewards include your Voice of the Master.
  7. Gwylan’s Stand, Tear of Daakaan, and Stormcleave Outpost. Mobs, long distances, closed quarters, traps. Complete any of these solo before level 10 and consider yourself awesome (until the next quest). Stealth players can rule in “Gwylan’s” especially.
  8. Vault of Night chain (not the raid). These quests have something to pester even the most resourceful player. Introducing: the Beholder. Artificers should eat through Haywire Foundry with zeal.
  9. Sorrowdusk quest chain. Good XP, a little repetitive, but filled with good end-chain rewards.
  10. The Red Fens and Assault on Stormreach free and Pay to Play series. The game ramps up death here but with some of the newest and finest mid-level gear you will find in game–much of it upgradable.

Where Can’t I Solo?

  • Most raids. They are filled with massive mobs, require many hands on deck to operate the objectives and often require abilities that no one class will have in order to complete, much less survive. Two raids are soloable and may be of interest for fun or profit: Tempest’s Spine (have INT 18 through an item), and the Chronoscope (bring Pure Good/Cold Iron weaponry) to get your Abishi set completion.
  • Some party-required quests that have levers to pull simultaneously. These include “The Xorian Cipher” (although Cordovan notes a good how-to guide), and several adventures in the Necropolis series. In these, allow yourself a hireling or two or three to get you through these parts, but park them for an extra challenge (or dismiss them to avoid dungeon scaling).

What’s your take? Any stories to share?

And lo, a Holy Artifact was Crafted

After hundreds of adventurers in Smuggler’s Rest (wish they) were struck blind by a very public…coupling by a minotaur and hobgoblin, I needed to make a holy artifact to apply to MY EYES. That, and send any of my characters over to the Twelve’s Psychologists for a Forget-That-Happened balm.

Well, the artifact came just in time in the form of Lynncletica’s first Holy Bursted Radiant Ring. It took the sting off that sighting.

To aid in my therapy, I joined a few Tyrs Paladium guildies for a Epic run through “Bargain of Blood.” We had a few deaths (a little too much aggro in places) but we made it through. Lynn’s new ring (combined with a Greater Bold Trinket and Thaarak Wraps) made at least 12 numbers appear over the pitiful heads of our enemies on critical hits. Didn’t hurt to have a Seeker +8 effect between my Crystal Cove pirate hat and the Bold Trinket, either.

Now to get the guildies to run Epic “The Tide Turns” for a chance at Jidz-Tet’ka epic crafting items.

The Little Mountain vs The Big Mountain

Concluding Information on increasing AC for my Monk

To follow up with my attempts to improve the AC of my Earth Stance light Monk, Lynncletica, without gimping her, I have news.

With an Icy Raiment outfit, some Armored +6 Bracers, a Radiant Ring, Combat Expertise and an Epic Ring of the Buccaneer (tier 2), Lynncletica sits, with no buffs, at 56.

Add ship buffs, and she sustains herself at 60 for an hour. (That’s in Earth Stance IV. If I move to Ocean Stance, that’s about 65.)

A +3 Barkskin potion (which stacks with the +3 Natural Armor in Earth Stance IV) brings it to 63 in Earth Stance.

The Lasting potions from the DDO Store add +2 to DEX and WIS, rising her to 65 in Earth Stance for 10 minutes.

Kick in the Shield clicky for 1 minute of buff and Lynncletica’s maximum self-buffing goes to 69.

I sacrificed only 20 HP and 2 STR, and added Weapon Finesse to make Lynn’s strikes more consistent. I can’t wait to take Lynncletica into the Shroud or Devil Battlefield again soon.

How To Busy Yourself When Everyone else is in Smuggler’s Rest

So, trying to escape the frenzy of Crystal Cove for an evening, I decided to revisit an old friend, back when he was, um, less dead. That “friend” is Sor’jek Incanni, the boss of the level 10 raid, “Tempest’s Spine.” I didn’t want to intrude on him by crashing his lair with a large party, so I pondered a solo visit on Normal.

Tempest’s Spine was my very first raid long ago, guided very well by a character leader I think was named “Mofus.” It’s still a personal favorite that I guide with fellow guildies from time to time. This time, I wanted to put the (capped) Lynn through some paces and see if soloing this one was possible, technically. Answer: It is, with a little preparation and a lot of patience.

The two challenges for a soloing melee fighter entering Tempest’s Spine are that (1) no hirelings are allowed and (2) you must be able to activate a INT 18 rune. Lynncletica self-heals quite well, so heals aren’t an issue. After a first abortive run, I realized that one of the enemy mages had destroyed my House Phlarian buffs, so I couldn’t manage the INT rune. A return to the city for a junk Clever +6 helm fixed that for a second attempt.

It’s funny what can scare the bejeezus out of you at level 10 that you can manage as easily as Neo plowing through several Agents in the Matrix. Fire and Ice? Just kite one to the other and pummel them. Rust monsters? Bring ’em. Iron Golems? Meh. A marut? Void Strike IV removed him from existence after three blows. Beholders? Stunned and slain.

On the end fight, I had my doubts. I have never been a great puzzle solver, but this one wasn’t as nasty. The challenge was to solve the puzzle while keeping Sor’jek busy and not attempting to fling me off the mountaintop. I considered my run a success even if I didn’t beat the Big Guy; I saw it as an exercise in fun in just getting to the summit, as well as noting alternate routes and places were people get lost in a raid party for later runs.

So I summoned up a Xoriat plaything for Sor’jek to play with as I worked out the puzzle and added the runes. That worked, although I used one too many summons, leaving me all alone once the puzzle was down. It took very little time to whittle the giant to less than 50% health…

…And then, despite my back to the wall as I fought, Sor’jek regained his weather control and flung me into space. And I mean, REALLY into space. I hadn’t turned off my Slow Fall and still had on my Cannith Boots of Propulsion–a rookie mistake for many that get to the summit.

I was still very airborne, traveling at Mach 0.2 over the land after 30 seconds before I recalled, still unable to see much of the ground. The area round the summit is FREAKING HUGE. Next to, perhaps, the Vale of Twilight, that has got to be the largest wilderness/raid area in the game.

Next time, Sor’jek. Next time. Maybe I’ll bring a very big Onyx Panther to chew on you while I get matters completed. 🙂