In the Halls of the Mountain Kings

It’s been quite a while since I took first-life Lynncletica on her roaring rampage through the Reaver’s Refuge quest chain. She completed the entire chain going solo, including “Stealer of Souls,” stopping short of trying to take on the undead Sor’jek, the ex-Tempest’s Spine boss.

With the advent of Cannith Crafting and Dragonscale Armors, what was an unpopular place to get interesting loot has become patently uninteresting for many, myself included.

Just getting to the Refuse (did I say that? I meant “Refuge“…really, I did) is a pain in the chaps, as well as leaving it (you must either have Teleport or talk to the Stormreaver to get the “Fly” spell and fly back up into an exit portal high above you). I love the aesthetics of the area but navigation inside the Refuge has got to be one of the most unintuitive places in the game.

You can do the flagging quests in any order. It’s what you need to gain from or prior to the the run that’s certainly made flagging less interesting.

Randomly appearing in chest loot in the Demon Sands, Orchard of the Macabre, and in the three wilderness areas of the Refuge) are these special exclusive, bound-to-character gems. Three of them are needed as part of the process to enter “Stealer of Souls,” in addition to the Dragonshard Essences you farm from each of the three flagging quests.

That nonsense said, let’s talk about each of the three quests. I’m no expert in any of them but I can tell you why each and every one of them are some of the nastiest, overly-complicated developer-got-out-on-the-wrong-side of the keyboard-without-their-coffee quests designed.

Enter the Kobold

The small wilderness area of Mount Reyselon is actually quite stunning. You really feel like you’re on a mountain. The patrolling gnolls there aren’t a burden but it might take you a bit to find the entrance to the kobold lair.

The quest itself is pretty straightforward. Stealth works very well as an alternate way of getting through and is a fun challenge.

What totally mood-kills the entire quest is the puzzle room that makes you behave like a Knight on a chessboard to open a force-fielded door on the opposite side.

It’s not an especially terrible puzzle to complete, especially using the DDO Wiki solver. The puzzle just completely ruins the gaming momentum. There is a chest that your party can get once the party is across–yes, the entire party has to cross. Heaven help them if they become disoriented or enter before the puzzle is completely solved, forcing you to start again.

The end-fight can be nasty, with many respawning mages and evil genies pummeling you with fireballs and whatnot.

Monastery of the Scorpion

As a player that so loves the Monk class, I was expecting quite a lot from this wilderness area and quest when I first played it. I hoped to see contemplative Monks outside, some interesting NPC banter on the meaning of life and how to get the evil Monks out of their monastery.

No such luck. The Monks there were destroyed long before. Worse, inside, the Drow Monks there are, well, Drow Monks. Poor CON, using kamas. They are hardly a match.

Worse–more freaking puzzles. The traps keep you on your toes, sure. But there’s much to do gymnastically to progress through the quest.

The mood-killer is the end fight. A terribly overpowered Scarrow boss is there to beat, unless you have a good puzzle-solver in your party that can solve it to kill the boss in that manner.

Prey on the Hunter

Most players I’ve been with find themselves becoming very, very annoyed towards the end of this quest–myself included.

An endless swarm of frost giants and other things appear as you make your way through a maze of tunnels, locating switches to unlock doors or gathering the party to wait for ice floors to shatter to let you fall below and to another tunnel.

This quest has two mood-killers. To reach the final fight where Aussircaex is being attacked by several frost giants, you must find the right path through an ice maze. Once you start the maze, the dragon is attacked, so you have very little time to save her before you fail the quest.

Once you’ve past the maze, there’s the matter of a half-dozen frost giants and the dragon, which you cannot heal and whose attacks can hurt you. Likewise, your attacks can hurt it if you’re not careful. To kill what hope is left in a near-hopeless fight is the giant boss that appears and zergs to the dragon if you don’t cut it off fast while trying to keep all the other giants from ending the dragon.

I can’t remember if I completed this fight on Casual difficulty but it’s likely–Lynncletica has learned to hate frost giants and came in prepared to stop them after several attempts and without hirelings that got in the way more than helping.

The Last Battle and The Loot

Once you survive and complete the three flagging quests and gather the needed gems and essences, there’s the matter of “Stealer of Souls” to complete. On Lynncletica, “Souls” was surprisingly easy to do, thanks to strong Evasion and good Healing Ki/amplification on my solo run. The last area, where air elementals try to push you off, was the only real challenge. I did pass up on taking on Sor’jek on my first and only run through the quest.

Using the Draconic Runes, you buy a basic Dragontouched armor that has three slots for a plethora of special runes with different abilities. The good news is that these abilities can add quite a lot of versatility. The bad news is that (1) getting the rune you want is relatively random (you can crunch runes in the altars there to gain a new, different, randomly spawning rune) and (2) the results may be woefully ordinary, especially in comparison to Gianthold’s Dragonscale armor/robes as well as the new augment slot options that can add much of this functionality without the heavy grinding.

I want to complete this area just to know I can beat the damned thing. If I can upgrade my Dragontouched Robe, great. But it’s more than the loot, but the challenge of beating a quest chain that is really stacked against you.

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The End is Nigh!

I couldn’t help but to write one last post on MyDDO before it dies a lonely, frozen kobold-in-a-corner death sometime tomorrow.

“Last person leaving: Please turn off the lights.”

 

 

Th-th-that’s ALL, Folks! (Or, Ending a Shroud Run with a Bang)

So, Tyrs Paladium makes another successful run at The Shroud.

We punish the portals.

We terrorize the occupants of the maze and destroy its four denizens.

We solve the many puzzles and, despite the prismatic wall appearing and spinning about, conquer the third area.

When Arrietreikos shows up, it takes three rounds to slay him and his friends (don’t judge us!) but we prevailed.

We initiated a new guildmate by having him attempt to get our “bonus chest” as we entered the final fight.

After a time, Arrietreikos falls one last time, and the guild collects most of their loot shortly before we all exploded.

 

Wait…what? Explode?

 

Yeah.

As a few us waited about as they rolled for a Large Devil Scale I was donating, somebody drank a Potion of Wonder.

I nickname them “Potions of WTF” since you have no damn idea what the things will do. I give any I find to our guild leader and warn her to drink them far, far away from me.

Not long ago, somebody at Turbine thought it would be funny to add one effect to a Potion of Wonder: Detonation Pack.

You remember. You find them in the Lordsmarch quest “Undermine” and in the Cannith adventure, “Blown to Bits.”

The result?

Nuke the party while they loot. It’s the only way to be sure.

The Potion of Wonder detonated and vaporized the looting party.

I couldn’t help but laugh like crazy as we tried to revive ourselves and the person who drank the potion confessed and apologized much.

Talk about ending your raid with a bang.

Free Deaths! Just Reclaim the Rift!

Does death always have the best moves in the game of life?

I was pretty optimistic, there, recounting a recent guild Epic Elite run in “Trial By Fury.”

I had to pass on a later guild EE run into “Deal and the Demon” but was able to make a venture into EE “Reclaiming the Rift” last night.

Death was there as usual, but he opened up a strip mall for us, handed us complimentary tickets to get killed as often as we didn’t want, sold invitations for every enemy to come help us die in several gruesome and immediate ways, and to break practically every piece of gear we carried.

Lynncletica joined in, as before, the one character I have that I have fortified and trained and equipped to survive better than any other character I have for Epic Elite. I think I survived about 5-10 seconds longer on average than the rest of the party.

I’ve asked others in the DDO Forums to give us their take on that quest in EE difficulty. As I admitted in the thread, we likely went in too “light,” with two pure Light Monks, one Cleric Monk, a Bard and a Barbarian.  In this fight, a powerful “sword and board’ melee such as a Paladin is likely needed. I’m sure I’ll get some interesting answers (and a few who can’t help but rub it in).

For me, the deaths often came from enemy mages that pummeled me with death spells or elemental damage faster than I could reach them and smack them silly with a stun. If it wasn’t the mages, it was the dracoliths that dealt absolutely brutal slashing damage in the 130 range.

So it’s back to the drawing board I go to study specific quests and how specific classes handle it better than others. I’m sure that Monks don’t fare as well against slashing damage, but often I save enough against such attacks not to come to grips with this problem, until now.

I’m sure I’ll have a few answers in the thread that suggest multiclassing a bit. I don’t like to do this but rather try to push a single class to its fullest. That, and Epic Destinies add similar versatility than complicating a character’s build identity by splitting it two or three ways.

Feel free to relate your EE fight experiences–please! Knowing is half the battle! (The other half is fighting it.)

The Merciless Tempest and the Little Mountain

The moment arrived this week.

To fight the unbeatable foes.

Everything I have learned to-date in designing a Monk to withstand an Epic Elite quest was first tested recently as my guildmates and I entered “Trial by Fury.”

For those not in the know, Dungeons & Dragons Online has difficulty levels for every adventure. When you’re a character of level 20 or higher, you can enter “Epic” difficulty, which breaks down to four levels. Casual (enemies are far weaker than you), Normal (enemies are typically on-par with your level), Hard (enemies are somewhat higher than you) and Elite (enemies are dramatically powerful than you, sometimes twice as powerful). The highest character level you can get at the moment is 25. In Epic Elite, enemies show up often between Level 29 and 45, and boss enemies can be much stronger.

Despite your gear and power, a Level 25 can get swatted dead immediately in “EE” like a Level 1 character in a Level 20 raid without proper preparation.

Lynncletica, as you may know already, has the nickname of “The Little Mountain,” an Grandmaster of Mountain Stancer designed to withstand or avoid damage, to yield as much as a mountain would move against a storm.

While I’ve made some wrong calculations on a few defensive means such as PRR (augment gems are enhancement bonuses, so having more than one PRR gem will not stack with other effects), my other calculations have been spot-on, if not more so.

Thanks to many insightful forum threads on surviving Epic Elite difficulty (this one is among my favorite), Lynn entered her first EE with three most important statistics:

  • 150% fortification. This is the most serious protection that many don’t realize they require.

Back when you leveled up from 1 to 20, you were told by other experienced players to wear Light, Moderate and Heavy Fortification items as soon as you can. When you reached Level 9 and got that Heavy Fortification item, you didn’t think much about what it did for you as long as you had that item property equipped. Fortification protects you from critical hits and sneak attack damage. It’s based roughly on the enemy’s level. So, if you encounter a CR25 enemy and have Heavy Fortification plus a 25% Exceptional Fortification item, great. You’ll avoid 99% of critical hits and sneak attacks. But if you have only 125% versus a CR 40 enemy, you’re in for a very painful and probably fatal surprise. You’ll 140% fortification there.

The challenge for most is that you can’t get Exceptional Fortification items higher than 25% except on a few armors such as the Warforged’s Livewood Core or the light armor Leaves of the Forest. You can also look for the Fabricator’s Gauntlets and Fabricator’s Bracers in House Cannith Manufactury and “Blown to Bits,” and unlock them for a stacking 25% fortification that adds to Exceptional Fortification items. The downside there is having to unequip useful bracers and gloves such as the set item Bracers of the Sun Soul and the heal amplifying Purple Dragon Gauntlets. So, to best add more fortification for melee while keeping your better gear equipped, you’ll likely need to use Epic Destiny abilities to add more fortification.

That means you, the player, have to think outside of the box–that is, to train in more than only one Epic Destiny for needed protections. For Lynncletica and most melees, the easy way to do this is to train up in the Unyielding Sentinel destiny, pick the tier 1 ability “Brace for Impact” and take both ranks. This adds 40% stacking fortification as well as a tidy +2 to your Reflex saves.

But to use Brace for Impact, you need to either (1) keep Unyielding Sentinel as your active destiny or (2)  use the Twists of Fate slots, gain enough fate points to unlock a slot and put this ability inside the slot. In the case of Lynncletica, this allows her to use her completed Grandmaster of Flowers training while having that fortification equipped. (Lynn “cheated” by buying a Tome of Fate +2 to get two slots unlocked, a tier 1 and a tier 2, so that Improved Combat Expertise can also be twisted.)

She wears an Fortifying 10% of Natural Armor +6 necklace to give her at least 150% fortification at all times. If there’s a seriously nasty enemy that’s higher than CR 50, on go the Fabricator’s Set for 175% maximum fortification.

I can’t stress how important it is to get this fortification. It’s why most of us die far too quickly in there.

  • Higher Reflex saves. This helps my Dodge, Evasion, Concealment and Incorporeality effects work. You could have all of these effects maxed out but a low Reflex means that they’ll rarely protect you. I sat on a +40 to all saves, unbuffed. That number gave me enough protection, but 45 or higher would be better.
  • Dodge, Concealment and Incorporeality effects at all times. I lucked out on getting a high-end Ring of Shadows, which has 20% concealment and 10% incorporeality all on one item. As a Light Monk, I can blur myself for a minute at a time, and did so for party members without it. For crunch times, I had crafted a 2-charge Displacement throwing start clicky (50% concealment for 1 min 30 secs) and had the GMoF “Scattering of Petals” 25% emergency Dodge on hand as well to go with my standing 12% Dodge bonus.

In Epic Elite, the best tactic for many is to concentrate on damage avoidance rather than damage absorption, the common tactic for melees using Armor Class numbers and Physical Resistance Rating (PRR).

Lynncletica didn’t go in too shy on those numbers, either, in case any of her avoidance tricks failed. She owned a minimum 100 AC unbuffed and 62 PRR. That PRR was hard to get but, thanks to training up Legendary Dreadnought‘s Improved Combat Expertise for 20 PRR while in Combat Expertise stance, as well as 15 PRR from Ultimate Mountain Stance, 15 PRR from Standing with Stone (GMoF ability) and another 12 PRR from a gem, I absorb 30% damage.

Part of my damage absorption strategy is the Way of the Sun Soul effect in Mountain Stance where a Radiant Forcefield-like bubble protects me from 25% of most damage on a vorpal roll. Strangely, I didn’t see this appear at all during my fight. Either I was silly and didn’t have all my Sun Soul items equipped throughout the run, or there is a glitch in that quest where vorpal rolls didn’t activate that effect.

  • Stunning Fist DC of 50 to 52, using Yugoloth and DDO Store potions as required, especially after the first death that removed ship buffs.

Contrary to my earlier experiences with Syncletica, you really need 50 DC or more to reliably stun. The Grave Wrappings help a lot to increase the chances, provided you can level drain your enemy once or twice to make them more vulnerable to stunning. The level drains were what threw me off, thinking in error that a 36 (which was likely 46 with Stunning +10s on) was enough to pull that off more or less consistently. If I needed, I can twist in Legendary Tactics and not Improved Combat Expertise for +6 to the DC for a 56 to 62, at the expense of PRR absorption.

So how did it go?

I was as durable as I hoped to be. As many players will tell you, death was inevitable. However, not being the first to die, as well as the cause of death was what I was trying to achieve.

I was never slain by critical or sneak attack damage as others in my party. Rather, I was simply overwhelmed by mobs when most others in the party were incapacitated or dead, leaving me the sole target. That’s a good thing, and something I can plan more for later.

Tactics played out well here. On open territory against the hordes of spiders, it was a harder fight for the party. Against other mobs, we fared better. At one point I fell off a ledge and had to run back to the party, which had encountered two enemy Yugoloth mages that nearly wiped the party. Getting back, I had to remember something: Yugoloth are Outsiders. My guild leader, also a Light Monk, snuck in and Jaded each target for a very quick takedown. Problem solved.

The end fight was expectedly challenging, but our party’s veteran players settled into a rhythm and roles we’ve used before. Our bard, no stranger to healing, assisted our Cleric/Monk while myself, the guild leader’s Monk, and a Paladin took turns whomping on Grulemith the Goristro. While spamming Healing Ki as I fought, I had switched to some lightweight crafted +1 Icy Burst handwraps of Vampirism to supplement my HP when I should have used my +5 Vicious handwraps of Vampirism for more damage. Still, the party got the job done and the minotaur-on-steroids took a powder.

Lynncletica and the party survived in far less scruffy condition than in that terrible EE “The Portal Opens” slaughter. I think, on average, there was 4 deaths per party member total in our run.

I have one more EE run this week and hope to get more data to refine Lynncletica’s durability and pass on that information to others. If you haven’t taken a gander at my Monk guide’s chapters on Epic Elite preparation, as well as Armor and PRR and improving your Dodge and related avoidance buffs, you might find it helpful to consider for your toons, Monks or otherwise.

 

The End to Farming for Silver+Good Handwraps

Van Helsing: Bringing the right tool and attitude for the job.

The monastic life of unarmed combat in Stormreach in the realm of DDO and realms beyond has, frankly, been a pain in the hands for many Monks.

While other classes could wield all kinds of weapons that can help bypass an enemy’s innate material or alignment-based damage reductions, the Monk is a special case.

The body of the unarmed Monk is the weapon. Handwraps aren’t coded as weapons but enhancements that add to the effectiveness of unarmed damage.

And that is the rub. To fight gracefully, a Monk must remain Centered. This means you can’t wear any light, medium or heavy armor. You can wear an outfit, a robe, or run about in your brown skivvies if that’s your thing. You’re also limited to only a few weapons outside of handwraps that could add the same DR-bypassing goodness of a traditional melee character–at the expense of slightly slower attack speed than fighting unarmed, as well as being prohibited from using some of the Monk’s speciality unarmed-only tactics such as Stunning Fist and the Dark Monk’s Touch of Death.

As Monks enter level 16 and begin flagging themselves in the Vale of Twilight for “The Shroud,” a question enters the mind of a Monk. How can my fists effectively damage a devil or demon? These creatures are among the nastiest denizens in the game, especially on their home turf in Shavarath or the Demonweb.

By level 16, all Monks can bypass Magic (L4), Lawful (L12) and Adamantine (L16) material protections. But lesser devils require either Good-aligned handwraps/materials (such as Flametouched Iron) or Silver weaponry to hurt them effectively. Any Monk can wear Holy or Pure Good handwraps easily enough in this case.

But soon a Monk will encounter the horned devils and the pit fiends. These devils require your hands to bypass Silver and Good simultaneously to bypass their damage reduction.

Before Update 14, you had a handful of options to keep your unarmed fighting working best:

 

  1. Be a Light Monk and complete all Shintao Monk training levels. This adds Byeshk, Cold Iron and Silver unarmed damage reductions to your fighting. Just wear some Good-aligned handwraps and you’re, er…good.
  2. As a Dark Monk, win the lottery by farming for and finding the Devout Handwraps: +2 Metalline of Pure Good handwraps, or finding a pair of randomly generated Silver Threaded of Pure Good handwraps on the Auction House (for insane prices) or in chest loot.
  3. Have an Artificer grant you a Planar Weapons good-alignment buff or a Silver Weapons buff, depending on what you have on-hand (so to speak).
  4. Be a high-level Cannith craftsman and make your own Metalline of Pure Good handwraps.
  5. Cry.

 

(Oh, and while you Dark Monks are farming, you’ll need Cold Iron-studded of Pure Good and Byeshk-threaded handwraps if you didn’t find Metalline of Pure Good handwraps, since Xoriat creatures don’t care about Silver.)

As of Update 17, however, all Monks can rejoice, as the expensive and frustrating preparations needed to have Silver+Good handwraps has been (somewhat) mercifully resolved by the developers.

Monks have two absolute requirements to ridding themselves of the imminent devils on their back: You need to own or be able to access either the Catacombs or the Delera’s Tomb adventure pack.

The key can be found in either adventure (although getting both packs is ideal), thanks to updates to two handwrap sets I’ve considered standard equipment at early training: the Devotion and Eternal Rest handwraps.

Before Update 17, each set possessed half of the Silver/Good answer for unarmed fighting. Eternal Rest handwraps were silver-threaded. The Devotion handwraps were Flametouched Iron and Holy.

As with much of the named gear in Update 17, both handwraps received a great makeover with a small price. The developers corrected the redundancy of Holy with Flametouched Iron in the Devotion handwraps  and made them haughtier: +3 Enhancement damage, Holy, Devotion +48, and a Red augment slot. They bind to character on equip, so you can still farm them with one character and give them to others.

The important part: That Red augment slot. This slot can accept a Ruby of Silvered Strikes. Ta-da: Harry Beaters that can fully damage a pit fiend or horned devil.

Similarly, I discovered that the Eternal Rest handwraps got a similar revision: +2 Enhancement damage, Ghost Touch, Silver-threaded , Undead Bane with a Red augment slot as well. Add a Ruby of Good later in your life and you have another Harry Beater set.

The challenge, of course, is finding that specific Ruby. Both can be bought using Tokens of the Twelve (the new name for “Epic Dungeon Tokens”) from the Epic vendor there. You can farm Tokens with a higher-end character from “Devil Assault” or other Eberron epic level quests. You might get lucky and the thing drops for you in your loot. Gems are not bound to character; your “altitis” may just pay off.

Or–you may find yourself looking on the Auction House for these gems at insane prices.

Didn’t I mention something like that before? (Sigh.)

Okay, so it may still require a harsh amount of resources to get a decent set of Harry Beater handwraps. At least it’s easier to get a set of upgradable handwraps themselves with minimal effort, as opposed to a gargantuan amount for a fully working pair.

 

News Flash: Turbine announces “Dungeons & Dragons OFFLINE”

The motor pool commute is MUCH more interesting when you have to re-route your commute due to dragons on the roadway.

I’m still reeling over today’s announcement from Turbine of a bold new game that takes Dungeons & Dragons to your very doorstep.

Many of us enjoy D&D in one form or another, such as the venerable Obsidian and Atari “Neverwinter Nights” games, the “Baldur’s Gate” games, and, of course, “Dungeons & Dragons Online.”

But Tolero, Senior Hatchery Specialist, announced a new D&D product that not only may be outstanding once out of alpha and beta, but controversial.

“Turbine is excited to announce DUNGEONS & DRAGONS OFFLINE, a bold new way to challenge and vanquish the horrors of X’endrik and the Forgotten Realms–without a computer!”

Using a special belt-mounted device and virtual-reality goggles, DDOffline creates a virtualization of D&D non-player characters and enemies that blend seamlessly with your day.

“Whether you’re at work or at home, you can enter a quest and slay orcs, converting ordinary household and office devices into your weapons and gear,” Tolero said.

While still in alpha, DDOffline promises to be a challenge to implement. “Katie,” who asked not to give out her real name, has been part of the alpha program.

“It’s been awesome!” she says. “I wear the goggles when I’m doing household chores. One day, I entered the bathroom to drop off a filled diaper I just took off my son, and a kobold appeared! After it screamed how much it hated me, I looked down at the diaper and converted it into a throwing weapon. I threw it and killed the kobold with one mighty blow!”

“Katie’s” husband, however, noted that his wife’s happiness was his bane. “I spent 2 hours cleaning baby poop off of the bathroom wall. My wife is running around the house jousting with a spatula. So how is this fun for me, again?”

The virtualization goggles are designed to work on normal eyeglasses and sunglasses. With a cellular link (sold separately), you can take your adventures into your car and on errands and your daily commute.

“I slew a dragon that tried to eat several cars ahead of me, stopping all lanes of traffic on I-90” recalled John Michael “DragunSlazar” Baker. “I floored my engine, converted my coffee cup into a lance, and charged! The dragon just exploded! People around me were cheering and laughing! They nearly smothered me when they dogpiled on me in celebration. They sent me to a healing village and clerics had to tend to my injuries. Now I need to roll high on my Diplomacy skill since, apparently, I slew a dragon aligned to a kobold nation. They’ve imprisoned me and I’m not yet sure how to get out.”

Local police and bystanders who were present during Baker’s dragon slaying were reportedly not amused. Without the VR goggles on hand for themselves, they simply noted Baker ramming a jack-knifed semi-tractor tanker, filled with gasoline, which ignited in a gigantic fireball, closing the interstate for hours. After being treated for 2nd-degree burns at a local hospital, Baker is currently in the city lockup awaiting a hearing.

“I’m looking forward to killing the trolls I see at work,” said Matt Greer, alpha tester. “It’s bad enough they’re on the DDO forums and Facebook. Now I get my revenge!” he said, prepping a mixture of vinegar and lemon juice in a coffee cup-turned-longsword.

Dungeons & Dragons Offline expects to go to beta soon, as soon as a few nagging bugs involving missing infants and wandering beholders is cleared up.