Enhancements Alpha: Shintao Monk

In the first part, we looked at how Humans fare in the new enhancements tree alpha recently shown on Lammania.

Next, let’s look at how the Shintao Monk fares as a tree-based prestige.

The interesting and potentially useful advantage to the class tree system, overall, is that it provides a cafeteria-style selection. You aren’t limited to only abilities from one class tree. A Monk can pick enhancements from any three to form many diverse characters with interesting gameplay results.

However, there is something gravely off in the class trees. This doesn’t affect just Shintao but the class itself.

Monk Stances Changed to Auto-granted Feats

This is, to me, a terrible change. As I looked through the class trees, I realized that the various elemental stances (Adept, Master, Grandmaster) weren’t in any of the class trees, as they are in the live version. I found them, eventually, sitting in the Feats tab.

In the current framework, you had to carefully select your elemental stance enhancements with the limited 80 AP. It was possible to have all four Grandmaster styles at a sacrifice to other enhancements such as Void Strike or a fully completed Prestige track. No more. In the alpha, every single elemental form is granted to you as feats, not enhancements, at specific levels.

This overpowers the Monk. One of my most powerful characters is an “Avatar,” which has mastered every Grandmaster style. Building Quintessica put limits on some Prestige advancements but gear and gameplay offset this quite well.

By giving all Monk elemental styles, it overpowers the class since these abilities augment ability scores, skills, and defenses greatly. It also throws out what little (but enjoyable) role-playing philosophy that was present in choosing a style. Effectively, everyone’s an “Avatar,” and that’s frankly not realistic.

Monk stance effects are special, stacking with all other buff, item and spell effects for skills, feats and abilities. That means that all the new enhancements make a Monk far more powerful than it probably should.

Sure, you could only play one style. Yet how does this limit your character’s power?

I understand why these were moved as developers would have had to add the advancement tree in all the class trees, which would be impractical.

So why not give Monk stances as selectable special feat slots given at specific levels and with the same ability score requirements? Elemental Feats, it could say. A player could add a new school or improve something else in the Feat tree, but still have a limitation. Perhaps moving the Void Strike enhancements here would help since there’s a serious design problem with that as well.

Taking more Void Strikes or elemental stances would give balance as you can take all of one or the other, not both, as it is on the live server. While you must take the feat, you can always use the feat trainer to swap it out (which is more expensive than retraining enhancements but keeps a bit of a limit in place while allowing some flexibility).

Of all the changes under consideration, let’s hope that Monk stances don’t stay as shown in the alpha.

alpha-shintao

Shintao Monk

The Shintao Monk currently is still one of the most resilient character builds, able to outlast, outgun and, if necessary, outrun their enemies, and using fewer resources than any other class, thanks to ki. The alpha has boosted the Shintao’s defensive and offensive abilities–at the price of the Prestige class’s theme, it’s flavor, it’s role-play feel.

Core Abilities: Bastion of Purity, Protection from Tainted Creatures, Iron Hand, Argent Fist, Touch the Void Dragon, To Seek Perfection

  • CON: Bastion of Purity replaces Monk Improved Recovery and is only found in the Shintao tree. That means that if you’re a non-human, non-Half-Elf, Ninja or Henshin, you’re completely SOL for any kind of enhancement or class-based healing amplification, period. A Human or Half-Elf non-Shintao can get the similar Human and Monk Improved Recovery, but no others.
  • Protection from Tainted Creatures gives a general buff against some effects, but this core item is more useful for the first level of unarmed DR metal bypassing for Byeshk defenses.
  • Iron Hand just provides Cold Iron unarmed DR bypassing as did its predecessor in Shintao II live.
  • Argent Fist improves the Tainted saves but adds the popular Silver DR unarmed bypass of Shintao III live, where the Shintao’s body is effectively a living, unarmed metalline weapon.
  • CON: Touch the Void Dragon is an ill-named new effect that expends a Meditation turn for a nastily uber boost to all ability scores for one minute. This is a panic button that works like the Madstone or Rage effects, but it seems really overpowered, especially in combination with the auto-granted stances. (I say “ill-named” because this ability has nothing to do with any Void elemental attacks.)
  • CON: To Seek Perfection seems thrown-in. You gain +2 to WIS and lose any penalties to a tier 5 enhancement called Meditation of War. I think this and similar high-level core abilities replace the heroic Capstones. If this is the case, we lose the enhanced ki effect and bonuses to Concentration here for Shintao students (it appears in the Henshin Mystic tree, to be discussed soon).

Tier 1:  Elemental Curatives, Reed in the Wind, Defensive Strikes, Ki Shout, Exemplar

  • PRO (mostly): Elemental Curatives are the same spell-like abilities that are available to Harmonious Balance students: Difficulty at the Beginning, Lifting the Veil, Restoring the Balance, and The Receptive Earth. This is a select-one item where you can select others in higher tiers. What’s changed isn’t a bad idea: Your Healing Ki finishing move (in addition to its mass Heal effect) also activates any and all of these curatives as you get them. In battle, this can be awesome to heal, remove curses, blindness, disease and apply a lesser restoration all at once with a single finisher. There are two problems, however: Are the curatives now a mass effect or do you have to select a target? Also, using the curative now is FAR more expensive in terms of ki, since you need maybe 30-40 ki available just for a low-level use as you grind out your finisher.
  • Reed in the Weed sounds thrown-in, especially since Monks had naturally received a good Dodge bonus as part of their class. It’s not a bad idea to have an improved chance to miss physical attacks. It’s just not spectacularly inspiring here and should be available to all Monks.
  • PRO and CON: Defensive Strikes a toggled Monk stance that trades offense for defense. It looks to be a great option for tanking Monks. It does seem to be steep in prerequisites, however. As well, this seems to support a theme in these trees that Monks are unarmed bludgeons that need to be less swishy, versus a lightweight fighter that has superior evasive and Dodge. In other words, how does this differ a Monk from a Fighter?
  • PRO: Ki Shout shows that the devs are looking to improve a Monk’s melee effectiveness by using Concentration as an ersatz skill to help intimidate. I’m all for this as tanker Monks have had to sink double-points into the Intimidate skill and use Earth Stance to gain some traction here.
  • CON: Exemplar (up to +3 in Heal and Intimidate, and up to 10% additional Threat generation) is a complete waste of an enhancement slot. This isn’t worth the points at all.

Tier 2: Elemental Curatives, Smite Tainted Creature, Iron Skin, Elemental Ki Strikes, Conditioning

  • Smite Tainted Creature is identical to its live counterpart in Shintao II.
  • PRO: Iron Skin adds what seems to be stacking PRR to a Monk. Great promise for tanking. Hopefully the PRR bonuses in Mountain Stance remain to add to these damage reduction effects.
  • PRO and CON: Elemental Ki Strikes are the optional ki attacks available through each elemental stance but with some new styles and changes. Eagle Claw Attack (Improved Destruction effect x2 and +2[W] damage, Fists of Iron (+3 [W] damage now!), Knock on the Sky (deflects damage and +1[W]) and Unbalancing Strike (same as the original). While very attractive, the problem I have with these is that they are found in two trees: Shintao and Ninja Spy. That’s a waste of good enhancement slots that ninjas or Shintao could opt for something else. One or the other need the same tree; not both.
  • PRO: Conditioning isn’t anything bad as it gives more Concentration and HP. It’s more like the Animal Paths (now living on the Henshin Mystic tree), specifically, the Way of the Patient Tortoise.

Tier 3: Elemental Curatives, Jade Strike, Dismissing Strike, Wisdom/Constitution

  • Jade Strike is identical to its live version.
  • CON: Dismissing Strike, which banishes on a failed save, recharges slowly and thus hardly useful or  rarely relied on by anyone I’ve partnered. Banishing handwraps aren’t that rare. A better ability could be added here, or a better effect.
  • CON: Wisdom/Constitution is thrown-in. It’s clear that the devs didn’t have anything better to add to this slot.

Tier 4: Elemental Curatives, Tomb of Jade, Instinctive Defense, Wisdom/Constitution

  • Tomb of Jade remains the same awesome punch as the live version.
  • PRO: Instinctive Defense is interesting. Should you fail your save, you take less damage while helpless. Can’t argue with that.
  • CON: Wisdom/Constitution: Again, as with tier 3, this seems thrown-in.

Tier 5: Rise of the Phoenix, Kukan-Do, Violence Begets Violence, Meditation of War, Empty Hand Mastery

  • CON CON CON: The change to Rise of the Phoenix actually made me angry. Light Monks offered Cleric-like abilities to supplement the real ones in addition to their fighting prowess. This change makes RotF into a self-centered invulnerability-meets-Diehard enhancement that  returns you to battle. Since when did this class become so selfish and not a  party-support class? Further, not everyone is going to go Half-Elf for a Cleric Dilettante,  make clickies or grind for special items, spend points in Use Magic Device or have huge bags of platinum, Turbine Points, or Astral Shards just to get a Raise Dead ability! This is the one enhancement change that could make my cancel my account outright–it’s just that ridiculous. I don’t always run with parties, but do often have to raise my own hireling cleric because they are coded for Stupid +10 sometimes. I know that many don’t use this ability, but in this alpha change, you get your Monk Improved Recovery III equivalent anyway for this class tree, which was what players often chose instead of Rise of the Phoenix. Have the devs watched any martial arts movies lately? Or even read the 4th edition D&D rulebook? Monks, as a class design, do not serve themselves. Don’t change this ability, devs.
  • Kukan-Do is generally the same as it’s live version.
  • PRO and CON: Violence Begets Violence is a new fascinating ability that increases your critical threat range (when Defensive Strikes is active) to help deliver punishing damage up to 20x your threat range. It resets when you’re critically hit. Again, however, this ability doesn’t seem very monastic. Fighters fight. Monks fight when required, and with skill, not as a fancy bludgeon. Again, this seem to taint the class philosophy/design.
  • CON: Meditation of War gives special insight damage or effects based on your Monk stance. It’s not a bad idea. However, the feature for Fire stance, where you get +2 to your Stunning DCs, seems offset by the fact that Fire Stance removes points from WIS, which generates tactical DCs for Monks in the first place. In short, the features offset each other ridiculously. Maybe this should be the Ocean Stance’s ability?
  • Empty Hand Mastery moves a Monk’s hit die from 1d6 to 1d8. That’s nice but nothing new in that all Monks gained this at level 20 prior to a recent update. Damage is good except that, again, this seems like a dev’s wish to make the Monks greater fighters when we didn’t suck to begin with.

So, the Shintao line seems three steps forward and two steps backward. The quasi-philosophical feel of the Monk, peaceful and contemplative until provoked into mystical kicking of ass, seems like it’s being pointed to kill-kill-kill more than kill-help-kill. That’s not how the D&D class envisioned it to be. I know DDO is less role-play than action, but it’s the little details that matter in keeping a class differentiated from others. I can learn to bludgeon just fine, unarmed, as a Fighter. That doesn’t make him a Monk.

Coming soon: The Henshin Mystic alpha enhancements.

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Enhancements Alpha: Racial Trees

So, let’s begin a breakdown on the recent alpha release of the new enhancements for Monks on Lammania.

I was slowed in getting this done because it was hard to practically record anything, not to mention the doom-filled reaction I had to changes that aren’t part of the enhancements tree, but to granted Monk feats. Thankfully, other contributors on the DDO Wiki have resolved the compilation of the proposed trees to make it much easier for me to link them for you to view and point out the ramifications. Thank you, thank you, DDO Wiki!

I’ll begin first by reviewing a racial tree sample. I was hoping to find time to look at Humans, Halflings, Half-Elves and Half-Orcs, but right now, all the time I have for is to review the Human tree.

You can view the summaries of other racial trees (and class trees) on DDO Wiki. Again, my apologies that I can’t cover every one.

Please note: My review is based on my gameplay style as well as how the proposed changes affect Monks in the way I’ve played them. I acknowledge a wholesale bias as I don’t play all the classes or races. Therefore, my opinions may not match your own. Your mileage may vary.

alpha-humanHumans

Core Abilities: for Humans, these are filled with the Versatility, Adaptability and Greater Adaptability enhancements.

  • While I find the extra boosts handy in some instances, they are too short and give too little benefit except at low levels. That’s how I play; I know others enjoy these, but often Monk stances provide similar benefits. These do stack with Monk stances, so I don’t discount them completely.
  • In the current system, not everyone cares to use these, certainly not to spend the AP necessary to bring each to their maximum. Why make these mandatory when you wanted to spend the AP on something else. It would be more prudent to add Skill Focus in the Core Abilities since we’re discussing Humans, who are quite adaptable and should have a “knack” in which they all excel.

Tier 1:  Dragonmark Focus, Skill Focus, Action Surge, Improved Recovery, Don’t Count Me Out

  • Pro: No change is a good change. Human Improved Recovery remains available and has ranks to improve this in later tiers. Essential for Monks, who get fewer hit points per level than other melees. However,this may be the only healing amplification option available for Monks who don’t take Shintao enhancements (see the Shintao alpha review).
  • The Dragonmark Focus is in a logical place and improved versions appear in later tiers.
  • Action Surge is new, and it has some benefit to giving you a bit more ability points to tweak your build. So long as these can count for other prerequisites that need a certain ability score (such as Two Weapon Fighting), I’m good with it.
  • Same for the new Don’t Count Me Out, although I question why humans are more hard-headed than other more hardy races in terms of going incapacitated.

Tier 2:  Lesser Dragonmarks, Skill Focus, Action Surge, Fighting Style

  • Pro: Another Action Surge gives you a chance to boost another ability score, but it cannot be the same one you selected in Tier 1.
  • Fighting Style could add a little to-hit for unarmed and two-weapon fighting, but I’m unsure of how this stacks or works with the Two Weapon Fighting feat or Monk stances.

Tier 3:  Greater Dragonmarks, Skill Mastery, Action Surge, Improved Recovery, Heroism

  • Logical progression. Skill Mastery is okay, but seems a bit wimpy to add it at this tier level.
  • More Improved Recovery healing amplification is welcome.
  • Con: Heroism is also interesting to see, but not in a good way, since this is easily found in potions. It saves you from carrying more potions, but it seems thrown-in.

Tier 4: Action Surge, Improved Recovery, Greater Heroism

  • Pro: Greater Heroism is something I can root for here; it’s always welcome if you haven’t a Bard with you.
  • Cons: That’s it? Are we losing something here? Yes, we are. Gone from human racial abilities are the Toughness enhancements to gain more HP. For Monks, we needed these badly since we have fewer hit points of all the melee classes. There doesn’t seem to be a reason why. Hopefully I’ll find out whether the class enhancements make up for them somewhere.

Next: Shintao Monk alpha enhancements.

Gwylan Himself Would Be Proud

One of the cooler, immersive quests below level 12 (Stormcleave Outpost, Tear of Dhakkan and Jungles of Khyber are others) is “Gwylan’s Stand.” It’s a level 7 adventure that will knock your ego down several pegs if you don’t come in prepared for the traps, the heavy load of cargo you must carry and unload at each objective, and the army of enemies that await to kill you from the moment they spot you.

The Thuranni incursion obviously haven’t met a determined kunoichi ninja like Ryncletica, that doesn’t like to be seen unless she really wants to be.

One ninja. Two hundred Thuranni. Who's REALLY outnumbered here?

One ninja. Two hundred Thuranni. Who’s REALLY outnumbered here?

I tried soloing Gwylan’s Stand a few days before, with a hireling in tow. The hireling ensured that everyone saw us and, on Elite difficulty, promptly killed us. Worse, I wasn’t “in the zone.” There’s a specific mindset I have to use when playing as an infiltrator.

Infiltration mode differs from pure stealth in that it requres some fighting and more patience. Infiltration is pure aggro management: For enemies I cannot sneak past or reside too close to an objective (I must kill several lieutenants as well as taint the supplies), I pull enemies in your path using one strike with a throwing star from as far as I can spot them, drawing them far from their friends. I eliminate that enemy and repeat as necessary until I clear a path to that objective.

This time, Ryncletica entered alone on Elite difficulty.

“…The Chinaman leapt up and said, ‘Supplies!'”

Getting the supplies in the cave wasn’t too difficult. You beat down a few trolls and rust monsters there for some ki, and there weren’t enough trolls around the last of the supplies to cause much of a fuss. Ryn’s way to limit damage comes from being 20% Concealed, 25% Incorporeal and with a 14-16% Dodge when she has to fight. A little healing wand whips to bring her back to health, and she was ready for the big game.

After pulling and dispatching two lieutenants and their patrols, it was time to round the corner to the first trap and single Elf Fighter/Wizard. I really, really wanted to kill that SOB so he wouldn’t ever activate the spike trap there. Sure, I could just sneak past him, but I was in a pissy mood. He was too fast for my attack and managed to activate the spikes, but it was a minor nuisance than a threat.

The Plaza and West Complex: What Traps?

The first real challenge was getting to the West complex ahead. Another Fighter/Wizard patrolled the stairs. I swallowed my assassin tendencies since there were two traps to watch: a force trap all along the stairs, and sonic traps along the path forward to a lieutenant and the first complex. The traps will never activate if I wasn’t detected…and I wasn’t seen.

After ending the next lieutenant, I looted quickly and went back to stealth mode as a patrol spawns to reinforce that lieutenant. They run back to some nearby stairs and stop, leaving me open to individually lure some trolls and minotaurs from the area below with a throwing star to the head to clear the way to my first supply crates. I was able to hide in a nook between these crates while activating them. Then it’s back to stealth mode, sneaking by yet another Elf and his stair traps, never to see him again. Past the patrol and on into the West complex.

This one had no traps but lots of enemies to pull. I took the left path and lured quite a lot, including the boss, before running down to dispatch the two remaining. Two more supply crates completed.

Petering North

Back outside, a few squatters by the West entrance met their demise, then it was on to the North complex, but not before luring and dispatching another lieutenant and his patrols. I slipped by the spawning minotaurs here and entered to avoid a fight.

Inside the North complex, you can only go one way; the other is barred. I was forced to fight three enemies on top but luckily no others were alerted. The path down has cold traps on each pillar. But–the traps don’t activate if you walk to the opposite pillar of each trap and hug it as you go around.

After pulling more enemies, I eliminated yet another boss and ruined more crates. I returned the way I came: I wasn’t here to slay, but to complete a mission.

Go South, Young Ninja

The path to the South complex is guarded by a standing patrol and a nasty fire trap along the stairs in front of them. After taking some precautions (Ocean Stance for better Dodge and saves, and a Heroism potion), I went invisible and jumped, switching back to stealth just before landing so the guards wouldn’t hear me vaulting over the fire traps. Up the ramp and into the last complex.

This one always seems too easy for parties I’ve been with. Some always forget the blade trap at the top of the ramp. More invisibility and a vault, then it was time to pull enemies one-by-one once more.

The boss was too lightly guarded. I pulled a couple and pounced on the rest like a hungry, rabid cat. After smashing the last of the breakables and slipping on my Voice, it was time to contemplate the mysteries of ninja domination. About 11,000 XP for my trouble. And no, I left alone the deadly acid-trap chest outside. It’s the joy of the challenge that’s the true prize here…

…And there’s not any gear in that quest that would suit a Monk, anyway.

House Phiarlan’s spy ring should be sending me my Double-O number and ID card any time now. And I want my green tea stirred, not shaken.

Does This Outfit Make Me Look Gimpy?

FlyingMoonLynMonks were among the classes introduced after a bit after DDO launched, and a bit of time before I joined the game. In fact, I joined the game because Monks existed (having enjoyed the original Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2) and would not have played DDO at all if they were absent (one of many reasons why I’m steering clear of Neverwinter Online for now).

A little trivia: The Monks arrived in the “Module 7” update, just after DDO blew up the original Marketplace tent during what I heard was a spectacular event watched by many in-game in 2008 (the game arrived in January 2006 or so). Of course, players can enjoy that destruction through its recreation in the “The Chronoscope” raid.

With the Monk class’s later entry, some of the oldest quests and raids in the game have few to no items that benefits Monks in the slightest. Some quest chains were given a few trinkets (such as handwraps in Three Barrel Cove, the Catacombs and Delera’s Tomb) while a few places are impractical for Monks to venture, save for the experience points and favor or to sell off what worthless items you purloin there (Tempest’s Spine, most items from the Vale of Twilight, House Phlarian, House Kundarak). Long after the Monks joined the scene, the pickings for them are still comparatively light from new quests and raids.

This pseudo-discrimination is not new or special. It’s really a matter of the Monk’s design. It’s easy for the developers to make a new set of armor or a new sword or axe or scepter. These items are commonly used by many classes. In terms of fighting and protection, however, the Monks have always been different. For example, while arcane spell casters can’t easily wear armor, it’s not a complete restriction if you put action points in the right places or have a race that mitigates arcane spell failure (such as Drow Artificers). Monks, however, can never wear anything other than robes or outfits or they become uncentered. They lose their monastic mystical abilities immediately until they are centered again.

Since a Monk’s body is the weapon (things like handwraps merely augment their innate unarmed damage), we as a player group have adapted nicely (through the class’s ability points, feats, enhancements and some gear) to know how to dish out serious damage.

But outfits have always been a sticking point for me. Until recently, outfits afforded very little defensive protection from a standpoint of AC. That’s changed a little bit, but you need to know where to find it.

Levels 1 – 8

What might tick off some of us who play is the aesthetics of having to wear robes at early levels and not outfits as these afford a better level of protection.

(For purposes of anti-min/max talk, I’m purposely avoiding discussion of challenges that offer you decent options such as the Frozen Tunic. For those of us that want to play and not grind, challenges aren’t appealing–and I don’t assume everyone has a VIP account for unlimited runs through these challenges to get the ingredients needed for building these items.)

When you start out in Korthos, you’re given the Disciple’s Robe. It’s not very impressive. It’s not even a robe, but appears as an outfit.

At this point, many experienced players buy or craft an Outfit of Invulnerability, which affords substantial protection through damage reduction relative to your level. If you are lucky enough, however, you might find something more.

By level 2, you might have a chance at a Sewer Smock. This is actually a robe that has been recently updated as of Update 17 and affords more than the acid resistance of its previous incarnation (despite what the current DDO Wiki page shows for the item specifically at present–we’re usually faster in updating this stuff) with +3 AC and a Blue Augment slot.

Delera’s Vestment, a Level 6 robe, was updated to offer +5 AC and a Blue Augment slot (with some CHA).

A great update came to the Level 6 Enlightened Robes (again, an outfit and not a robe), which adds a welcome +5 AC, a Green Augment slot with Acid Resistance 10 pre-slotted, +3 WIS and Moderate Fortification. To get this outfit, you’ll need to run The DREADED Pit for a shot at getting one or find an unbound outfit on the Auction House.

At level 8 is another robe that was nicely updated: The Quicksilver Cassok (never mind the misspelling of “cassock”) is now more than a fast Striding robe. It also offers Melee Alacrity 10% (awesome for those of you who haven’t crafted this as a level 3 trinket), +5 AC and a Blue Augment slot (perfect for a Heavy Fortification gem). This might be the outfit that will get you by until level 12. But you’ll need to complete the entire Cult of the Six chain in Sorrowdusk to find one.

Another awful grind that might be worth it to do comes from the Ruins of Threnal. I know, I know. You’re still paying your psychiatrist from the PTSD treatments you’ve had after having to defend Coyle during the last time you were subjected to that madman. But fear not. You have a shot at the upgraded Thanatos Weave, which not only has built-in Deathblock (as did the original) but +5 AC with a Blue and Colorless Augment slot.

Levels 9 – 12

Maybe I was wrong to say that we can’t get decent clothing protection options as Monks in comparison to our armored kin. The more I explore our options with Update 17, the more I find. Let’s delve into what you can wear between 9 to 12 and contrast them to what many Monks will often suit up on reaching Level 12: the venerable Garments of Equilibrium.

Dragoncraft Robe (Level 10): Whoa. This is a miniature version of the White Dragonscale Robe, also from the revised Gianthold area. It has +5 AC, Moderate Fortification, Protection +4 and Shield +4. I’m big on getting items with built-in Shield since Monks can’t carry shields, so this adds more AC to a build. These robes only require 10 Ancient Dragon Relics to make–something you can farm off with another of your characters or from the generosity of a fellow player.

Vulkoorim Dervish Robe (Level 10): From the Demon Sands, specifically the end reward of a rare encounter in the wilderness there comes this updated robe with +6 AC, Improved Fire Resistance, a Green and Colorless Augment slot.

Antithesis (Level 12): From the “Inferno of the Damned” comes a +6 AC, Protection +4, Resistance +4 robe with Fire Guard, Ice Guard and a Colorless Augment slot. Not bad.

The Garments of Equilibrium haven’t changed with Update 17. They offer a die step up on your unarmed damage, Heavy Fortification and +13 to Concentration. But with the options available in Augment slots, I believe now that we can do better. Sadly, there’s not much more out there in terms of named robes or outfits at this level range.

Level 12-16

Now things pick up a little bit. But just a little.

White Dragonscale Robe (Level 14): Again with the robes! But this one is arguably the most powerful that a Monk can wear into Epic levels, in my opinion, with +8 AC, Heavy Fortification, Protection +5, Shield +4 and Improved Cold Resistance. Their appearance may not be quite good, but that’s what a good armor kit is for.

Enlightened Vestments: (Level 16): These weren’t gifted with an upgrade. You find them only in the Vision of Destruction raid, and they have a comparatively measly +6 AC, a useful +6 WIS and Banishing Fists (handy in the Vale). If you get them, great, but it’s hardly worth grinding to get them.

Icy Raiment (Level 14): Show some respect for this armor. Many players…died…to bring you this information. Many PUGs have banded together to have a chance at getting this outfit in the past, but with the new updated armor (in Gianthold, I suspect), the grind had become less pressing. This armor, found only in the end chest of the giant skeleton Garamol in an obscure and deadly chamber within the Subterrane raid-level wilderness, has gotten a slight makeover. It received +6 AC in addition to its Dodge Bonus 4%, Protection +4 and Resistance +3. Most importantly, as opposed to its last incarnation, the Icys are now unbound. Get your Epic in there and grind them for fame for your other toons and fortune from selling unneeded outfits on the Auction House.

Levels 16 – 20

There are a few options you can consider before reaching Level 20 and getting the Epic outfits from Eveningstar.

Cloth of the Faithful (Level 16): If you grind through the Necropolis quest series and upgrade your Silver Flame Nugget to its maximum, you can trade it in for this armor. It’s mostly for spell casters with its Wizardry VI, but it also comes with +7 AC, Spell Resistance 30, acts as a Nightshield clicky (handy for emergency avoidance of magic missiles), with a Green and Colorless Augment slot.

Dragontouched Vestments (Level 16): Not to be confused with the various similarly-named armors from Gianthold, this outfit earns a love/hate relationship for good reason. To get it, you need to complete all three flagging quests in the Reaver’s Refuge chain, trade in 50 Draconic Runes you collect in your adventures, and hope to get the various special runes that can upgrade the armor. There’s many variations, but getting the rune you want is rather random. You can crunch three runes to get a different random rune, but in comparison to the precision you can gain in using Augment gems, I doubt that few of us care to run this chain except for bragging rights, as well as to talk trash about the so-called Monks that inhabit the Monastery of the Scorpion.

And That’s It

So there are precisely six named outfits I can find that are worth mentioning that you can find in-game to keep your Monk from wearing robes. As I said, it’s not that the robes are bad–they are bad as in “Awesome Protection.” They just don’t have the kung-fu look as outfits do.

The devs recently added new looks to spawned loot-generated armor, as well as adding AC bonuses to them, so many pre-Update 17 outfits can be retired in favor of better protection. But aside from going Epic to get the ubiquitous Vestments of the Sun Soul and Spider-Spun Caparison, you have to make an effort to ensure that you wear the best protection, albeit perhaps not the most fashionable.

I will admit a conceit. For her second life, I wanted Lynncletica, my tanker Monk, to have the “Matrix” look by wearing black robes and showing her goggles, a la Trinity.

With the absolutely incredible Epic version of the White Dragonscale Robes and its powerful set helm, I might reach that appearance once I complete a few grinds in “The Fall of Truth” for Commendations and gather a few more Restored relics from several trips into Epic Gianthold.

Nothing like having ten Giants and a dragon chasing you across the acrid plains of Gianthold to keep you motivated and fight as viciously as Trinity did.

Still, I wanted to wear a robe in this case. Only on Epic do we Monks get outfits or robes with similar protections and aesthetics in a uniform way (pun unintended).

A Light in the Dark

ninja-n-piratesI had been hoping to vent about what I’ve seen regarding the alpha of the Monk enhancements shown on the Lammania server last week but haven’t the stomach to chew through it as detailed as I wanted to as yet. As there were many, many things to discuss, I may need to make one large post that summarizes the good, bad and ugly I saw in the alpha.

I felt more compelled to throw myself into the game and enjoy one of my Monks before the enhancements reappear later on Lammania under beta tests. I guess I can take solace that the enhancement changes won’t be coming anytime soon.

My only Dark Monk, Ryncletica, has been on her first life for over two years. I leveled her slowly because I played her improperly, to be frank. While all of my Light Monks can heal themselves and have greater defensive and offensive ability, Ryncletica had a harder time because I tried to make a Dark Monk work as a Light Monk with expectedly bad results.

It wasn’t until I partied more with Ryn and reviewed how stealth really works in the game that Ryn got more face time and began to shine for her own merits.

After I used a Lesser Reincarnation on her some time ago, I retooled her stealth skills. I learned how Dodge, Incorporeality and Concealment can work with Evasion and good Reflex saves to form a nearly-invisible character that can complete some quests without any enemies inside knowing that Ryn was ever there.

Now that I’ve farmed enough Tokens of the Twelve using Lynncletica to get a true reincarnation token for Ryn, I decided to finally restart her life and take what I’ve learned to her new life as a far more experienced njnja.

Ryncletica v2.0

The most important change to Ryn was her race. She’s moved from a Halfling to a Half-Elf. That adds the second key to her improvements: a Dilettante feat and enhancements.

The Dilettante choice was obvious: Cleric. Now Ryncletica can use scrolls and wands. I’ve been pretty myopic in the significance of this ability while researching and reading up from others that chose this path. I was happy to know I could use more healing options. But there’s far more, of course. I can use offensive wands and scrolls as well (such as Soundburst) and have better mending options than even my Light Monks over time (such as using full Restoration and Raise Dead scrolls) as I improve her Cleric Dilettante levels.

I’ve been on a tear re-leveling Ryn since last Saturday, going from level 1 to 7 in just 4 days. I put as many points into Hide and Move Silently as I could per level, and then took advantage of my Artificer crafter to make +10 Hide and +10 Move Silently items for her to use at level 7. I stealth-zerged the entire Splinterskull chain on Elite, fighting only when necessary. To help in self-healing, I crafted some Flametouched Iron wraps into +1 Acid Flametouched Iron of Lesser Vampirism handwraps.

Stealth is really underrated but it has a few drawbacks.

  1. Patience is not only a virtue, but a requirement. I entered “The Troglodyte’s Get” on Elite completely solo to test out Ryn’s new self-sufficiency and stealth. The mages there were the most deadly with their magic missiles and especially Hold Person spells. The objective wasn’t to kill any of them but to destroy their nests of eggs. Several well-placed throwing stars removed the eggs from a safe distance but also allowed me to snipe out of range of the mages. Shurikens also work well to hit-and-pull single enemies for a quick takedown.
  2. Did I mention I’m stealthy? I can complete quests much faster since I don’t spend time fighting, but until Ryn gets Ninja Spy II, more Monk Fast Movement levels and faster Striding boots, I’m not as fast on my feet as I’d like to be as I move through the quests.
  3. Ninjas don’t do breakables. With the recent update changes that give you a great chance to find great loot, even tomes, from breaking barrels, I am a little forlorn that I can’t always break every box I see. Barrel-slaying also makes noise and attracts the very enemies I don’t want to fight if I don’t have to. I also miss getting Ransack bonuses, although getting Devious and Insidious Cunning bonuses compensate a little.
  4. Ninjas also often skip optionals. For me, the goal is the goal, especially if its simply a matter of finding something or slaying one enemy. I don’t like skipping optionals but Ryncletica is more shadow and less fighter. Over time, she’ll gain more experience in completing quests than spending time exploring every nook and corner. This goes against my normal play mode (especially when enjoying time with guildmates) but since I’m also in solo play with Ryn, this is not an issue.

Just as in her higher-levels in her first life, Ryncletica is discovering that many low-level quests can be easily stealthed out to completion. I drummed her through the four Deneith sewer quests easily in Ninja mode, and am about to set my sights on Delera’s Tomb (undead sometimes sense your life, so stealth options there will vary), The Carnival quests in House P, and the Sentinels of Stormreach.

So far, this upgraded Ryncletica is enjoyable, but she’s a bit fragile with lower HP than I’d like, which leaves to some nail-biting moments when she fails an Evasion save.

Otherwise, it’s a good time to be a ninja–especially against my natural enemy: Pirates. Yaaryar and his crew on Irestone Inlet just got a serious schooling on the art of shadow.

What Kind of DnD Character Are You…in Real Life?

Wow. This was fun.

Took this quiz (it’s about 130 questions, so find some time first, and turn off your pop-up blocker and switch on JavaScript) that asks you real-world questions of your behavior and then generates who you could be if you were a real-life Dungeons & Dragons character.

My results weren’t surprising. Take a guess.

 

I Am A: Lawful Good Human Monk/Cleric (3rd/3rd Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength-14
Dexterity-17
Constitution-14
Intelligence-13
Wisdom-15
Charisma-12

Alignment:
Lawful Good A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. He combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. He tells the truth, keeps his word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished. Lawful good is the best alignment you can be because it combines honor and compassion. However, lawful good can be a dangerous alignment when it restricts freedom and criminalizes self-interest.

Race:
Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Primary Class:
Monks are versatile warriors skilled at fighting without weapons or armor. Good-aligned monks serve as protectors of the people, while evil monks make ideal spies and assassins. Though they don’t cast spells, monks channel a subtle energy, called ki. This energy allows them to perform amazing feats, such as healing themselves, catching arrows in flight, and dodging blows with lightning speed. Their mundane and ki-based abilities grow with experience, granting them more power over themselves and their environment. Monks suffer unique penalties to their abilities if they wear armor, as doing so violates their rigid oath. A monk wearing armor loses their Wisdom and level based armor class bonuses, their movement speed, and their additional unarmed attacks per round.

Secondary Class:
Clerics act as intermediaries between the earthly and the divine (or infernal) worlds. A good cleric helps those in need, while an evil cleric seeks to spread his patron’s vision of evil across the world. All clerics can heal wounds and bring people back from the brink of death, and powerful clerics can even raise the dead. Likewise, all clerics have authority over undead creatures, and they can turn away or even destroy these creatures. Clerics are trained in the use of simple weapons, and can use all forms of armor and shields without penalty, since armor does not interfere with the casting of divine spells. In addition to his normal complement of spells, every cleric chooses to focus on two of his deity’s domains. These domains grants the cleric special powers, and give him access to spells that he might otherwise never learn. A cleric’s Wisdom score should be high, since this determines the maximum spell level that he can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Yeah. I’m basically Syncletica and Lynncletica, my Light Monks. Go figure. Even the stats aren’t too bad.

(Thanks Micki for the link!)

Monk Enhancements Alpha: A Prologue

EnAlphaSummary

In the mystical server of Lammania this week exists a place where I smile, nod and cry.

This is the realm where, for a few days longer, I can browse at the upcoming changes to the format and function of Enhancements. I’m looking only at the Monk changes for the time being since time is limited before Lammania switches out the enhancements to show other sets for other classes.

With little desire to play them for now, I downloaded and installed the Lammania code, spent over a week trying to figure out why it wouldn’t launch before a couple of enterprising forum members figured out a workaround to get me going.

My objectives during this alpha (which isn’t scheduled to launch in any live update in the very near future) is thus:

  1. See how the format has changed
  2. See how Monk feats and enhancements have changed
  3. See how the Henshin Mystic format was added
  4. Note serious changes and report them in a survey to the developers immediately
  5. Spend several posts in this blog reviewing the trees and how they impact how you play today

The Format

If you’ve made an Epic character and used Epic Destinies, you won’t be surprised that the enhancement trees look and work similarly to Epic Destiny trees.

What differs from the ED trees confused me. First: There is a panel for your racial enhancements. At the base of this tree (where ED innate abilities are automatically activated as you level) are items you can click on to activate.

What irritated me greatly are the requirements for these base items. The format compels you to spend in things that are currently optional, such as Adaptability and Human Versatility, in order to spend enough AP to make other points in the racial panel active and unlocked. A waste. The base abilities waste much of your AP since they often take 2 AP to activate–in fact, most of the abilities take 2 AP to use.

Like ED skills, some enhancements have ranks where you can upgrade one enhancement up to 3 ranks.

In addition to the racial panel are what are marked as Class Enhancements. The former name of Prestige Enhancements reside on three panels, which means that the Monk has a new Prestige option. Here, you’ll find the Shintao Monk, Ninja Spy and the new, long-awaited implementation of the Henshin Mystic.

This rearrangement of the Prestige Enhancements have some promise but, in my initial look and experimentation, I found a few things that distressed me greatly.

The Review

In the coming days, I’ll take one panel at a time, break down what’s there, how it differs from the current format, and how much its contents are great/sucks/interesting/terrifyingly silly.

I’ve spotted several Monk staples that are missing, moved or augmented to benefit only one PrE that I will be ranting about to the alpha developers immediately, as I feel that the changes dangerously affect the fundamental skills that all Monks should be able to attain in any Prestige Enhancement.

A few key skills in the Shintao and Ninja panels are so distressingly off that I can’t tell you how awful it is right now to me.

As for the Henshin Mystic, it has the greatest promise if we can encourage the devs to make a few tweaks.

Stay tuned.