DDO Theatricality and Deception: Lessons from The Batman and Bond

I know, I know–yet another ninja article.

But I’m fascinated about pushing the DDO engine and gameplay system to the maximum to make my ninjas work as closely in function to the ultimate Western “ninja”: The Batman.

From ninja training...

From ninja training…

I’m not trying to emulate the crimefighting, appearance and angst of that character (obviously: I could play Arkham Asylum for that).

I do want to utilize the subterfuge and theatricality that the Batman uses (from elements of the comics and the “Nolanverse” movie trilogy) in gameplay for the same reasons: offensive and defensive improvements. The Batman uses many, many gadgets. DDO offers many gadgets. Surprisingly, few people use them, such as traps.

...To become a fighter of ninjas (and criminals)

…To become a fighter of ninjas (and criminals)

I’ve got the stealth part worked out. But part of the Batman’s style also involves using ways to disable or deceive enemies without necessarily fighting everything he sees in order to reach his objective.

I made Ryncletica a half-elf in her second life to allow her use of healing scrolls and wands. Of course, there is much more to a cleric than healing. They have (through the Cleric dilettante) the ability to use many more defensive spells through scrolls.

So, with gameplay mechanics in mind, what spells or items could Ryncletica or Cassietetica use more as a half-elf that gives her that Bat-Ninja/I-Spy vibe that also would aid them in adventures?


The Batman uses a form of these in modern animation and the Nolanverse films, which are sometimes improperly named “Batarangs.” They can hurt an enemy from afar. In DDO, it’s a good way to lure single enemies to you for easy pick-offs from a larger mob.

Ryncletica the Ninja Spy has an improved Snowstar (+4 returning Icy Burst) but isn’t satisfied here. When she needs to kill something hard and fast but at a distance, DDO shurikens are notorious for their lack of power.

Ah, Q...you always had something to give the spy who has everything.

Ah, Q…you always had something to give the spy who has everything.

So, my Artificer crafter, Arcammedes, has become my ninja’s Lucius Fox (or Q, if you care to take the James Bond spy motif) in designing a higher-powered throwing star of death. Ryn’s patient, but does want to complete a mission before her buffs expire. (For those not in the know, a Monk becomes uncentered if they use any other throwing or ranged instrument without ki training such as Zen Archery.)

A greensteel shuriken would likely be the better bet. After crunching some numbers on the most-awesome Crafting Planner, a Mineral II metalline star with an elemental burst should do the trick.

Outfits and Other Apparel

From level 14 to level 20, I’m convinced that two sets of clothing work best: The Icy Raiment and the White Dragonscale Robe. They provide great defense you cannot find until Epic levels–if at all. Ryncletica just got a pair of  the new Icys, thanks to Lynncletica, the Maid of Diamond Monk that visits the Subterrane often, without a care in the freakin’ world.

For theatricality’s sake, each ninja works a Ninja Mask. The +5 competence bonus to Hide/Move Silently is negated by all the other things they wear, but it sets the mood. Would the Batman look cool or menacing wearing only a ski mask? Um…not really, no. (Please don’t mention the Bunny Hat; I considered this for a few hot seconds before I laughed myself silly. Only by working in a Monty Python & The Holy Grail theme can I imagine the Bunny-Lass, with sharp, pointy teeth, terrorizing anyone.)

RyncleticaTalismanArmorTo complete the ninja look, I broke down and bought a new armor cosmetic: a Cannith robe with talismans or something like that. You can see the results aren’t bad at all.

No capes are visible in DDO. Edna Mode would be pleased. Ninjas don’t do them, anyway. As far as what to wear in the cloak slot will vary as leveling goes. Several unique cloaks with yellow and green augment slots make it easy to wear Deathblock, Blindness Immunity or Heavy Fortification on a single item.

The new Hellfire Cloak is a new favorite which has those slots. I have a Level 16 Cloak of Night with Deathblock but require the fortification on something other than a ring or belt. As a Ninja, it’s not as useful as it once was.

The better answer might be in the new Nightforge Gorget, which goes in the neck slot and has a yellow slot for a Deathblock gem with Heavy Fortification built-in. As Ryn returns to Epicness, I’d want her Drow Piwafi back in place in the cloak slot.

For rings, I often use DEX, WIS and feather falling there, but you needn’t have FF always running. A Mummified Bat works as I require. I’ve used Hide rings to boost that skill and Goggles for Move Silently as well. Ryn hasn’t done any Tower of Despair runs to have a chance at building a Holy Burst ring, and needs to do so on this life. For special occasions where I talk my way out of, or into, a fight, I use an Eloquence ring. Ryn can’t intimidate or bluff, so diplomacy is all she’s got.

Currently the Lenses of Opportunity add some Seeker that’s missing and Sneak Attack while fighting. When not in battle, it’s a pair of high Spot goggles to see who’s ahead and trying to hide from me (or I keep on the Mummified Bat).

As for boots, I keep some Striding +30 ones on most of the time at this level. I have some Tumbling +13 boots on hand for emergency maneuvers. You’d be surprised how useful a backflip to escape being surrounded works when fighting. Since Ryn has Spring Attack, she suffers no attack penalty in fighting in a quick stick-and-move manner.

All this slotting also freed up my head slot for something else. The helm leaned to a Minos Legens for the Vitality and Heavy Fortification if I switched off the current cloak, or a Sacred Helm for its Deathblock if I haven’t a yellow slotted item for its gem effect. Now I need to think better as to what can go there since heavy fortification or deathblock aren’t required there at all times. For now, my Teraza’s Perfect Sight works to give me persistent True Seeing for the pesky mages with Displacement. Then again, Ryn just received Improved Cleric Dilettante III, so she may be able to reliably use True Seeing scrolls, leaving me again to ponder the head slot.

I keep some Spectral Gloves about for ghost fights but often leave a Level 12 pair of Brawling Gloves for some piercing damage advantage. Interesting: The glass-jaw stunning/Sap effect is finally working on these things. I often see a Hypnosis and stun effect around many enemies when I’m wearing these. I need to upgrade these when Crystal Cove returns again.

Defensive Clickies, Wands or Spells

The Batman is crazy-prepared for just about anything. With that in mind, I’ve kept some odds and ends that I thought might be useful for certain occasions.

Blindness: Could make sneaking by many a lot easier to do since all they could do is listen for the ninja.

Sleep or Deep Slumber: Put a small group or individual to sleep and pass them by. Cassie’s trapmaking skills might do better. Ryn collected a Vial of Slumber from the Seal of Shan-To-Kar that she’s been aching to apply to a situation. I’m betting, however, that many foes won’t fall for it, so to speak.

Fog: While Solid Fog would work, its effect might turn a mob towards me, rather than concealing me. A simpler Fog Cloud might be better. If it truly conceals sight as Hide does, I should be able to open doors in close proximity without enemies becoming aware, save a Listen check. History shows this as a hit-or-miss matter. Still, the idea of emulating the Batman’s flash smoke bomb and then disappearing from others unexpectedly would make for a fun escape trick. Abundant Step would make this work; I use that to move very quickly past standing close-grouped mobs to avoid triggering their Spot checks. Lay down fog, skidaddle. Cue dramatic music.

Any Shield clicky or Nightshield: Shield adds +4 AC and protects against magic missiles. Nightshield just protects against the missiles but boosts saves as well. No Monk should be without a Shield clicky as an army of enemy mages can kill you fast with their magic version of a Macross Missile Massacre.

Scrolls of Restoration: One of the best things that Ryncletica and Cassie get to use. No longer need I fear level drains outright. I took Ryncletica into “Invaders” recently and laid waste to the beholder-ridden place with stealth, stuns and lots of scrolls. Normally, beholder hunting was just a Light Monk thing to me. Not anymore.

Scrolls of Heal: This would be a faster option to aid the party when a Cleric is overloaded, and to remove other effects from a fight.

Scrolls of True Seeing: With a high Dilletante level, I should have a shot of using these, freeing up a slot space.

Scrolls of Word of Recall: Awesome. While not a perfect Teleport, it gets me out of a dungeon and back to the city faster.

I’m still pondering the applications of many scroll-based tools. Those who play Clerics often probably are shouting at your computer to “take this spell” or “take that one!”

Offensive Spells and Clickies and Spell-Like Abilities

I’d hate to think of when I’ll have to use these and doubt their full effectiveness. However, a few attacking spells might be handy in the right circumstance. Most spells I can use won’t work as a half-elf, but there are sure to be a few others that I’m not yet familiar with to help.

Curse of the Void: A personal favorite of Ryncletica. Use a Void-Dark-Void finisher to charm something for a minute or two. The cool thing is that I can do this to as many enemies as I want, turning an army against me into an army against themselves. A high WIS assures that this effect will take.

Sound Burst: Useful early on, but less so on higher level enemies.

Cometfall: Available in scrolls.  Against undead mobs, this can thin out the herd.

Flame Strike: Also in scrolls. Mass damage, especially when enemies can see me but can’t reach me.

Wand of Searing Light: Might be a better weapon than a throwing star to hit light-sensitive foes who are in a recessed level where the ninjas cannot jump.

Stats, Feats, Skills and Enhancements

Don't ask how Ryncletica got up there--or she'll have to kill you.

Don’t ask how Ryncletica got up there–or she’ll have to kill you.

No gadgets in the world will substitute for the ability to move quiet and quickly, while killing just as efficiently if one needs to do so. In the case of Ryncletica, she’s more durable than Cassie, who will suffer AC problems later on since robes are likely her main outerwear.

Invisibility: Covered by Ninja’s Shadow Fade.

Stealth: Also covered by Hide and Move Silently.

Evasion: Covered, as also with Improved Evasion.

Reflex saves: Required for Evasion, Dodge or any concealment or miss chance effects to work. A high DEX is needed.

Whirlwind Attack: When a fight is inevitable, out comes the paralysing handwraps and a spin kick to slow down the mob and whittle them down.

Stunning Fist: Hallmark of a Monk that Ryn uses to stop and destroy isolated enemies before they can damage her.

Touch of Despair: Weaken them with this curse and make them more vulnerable against negative energy, especially…

Touch of Death: The 500 point (or more) quick take-down attack. Even if they save, it’s still half-damage.

Quivering Palm: An assassinate-like level 15 ability using ki, only it pulls me out of stealth. Best used on isolated enemies or taking out that one energy-draining mage from a pack to start off a fight.

Improved Critical: Bludgeoning: For better crits, this is key as the characters move to level 16.

Metalline of Pure Good/Righteousness handwraps: I’m scouring the Auction House for red-augment slotted generic wraps that I can recraft and add a potent elemental augment gem. Both ninjas need these for unarmed fighting since they can’t bypass many damage reductions without them.

Assassinate: The Rogue type. For Cassie, important since she isn’t a pure Monk. Unlike Ryn, she’ll kill without leaving stealth.

Jump: Get it to 20 and leave it alone to leap up and over things. Don’t stay two-dimensional in fighting. Make them come to you, even if going up. Can’t reach me? Too bad.

HP: A problem for both ninjas, but with high evasive and concealing effects, they often reduce the amount of damage because these effects make it much harder for spells and weapons to land in the first place. More CON is needed for Fortitude saves.

Tumble: Surprisingly nice to have for very quick retreats once you can somersault. I know its a bit of points but it comes more in handy with Shadowdancer abilities.

Wisdom: Very high on Ryncletica for stunning and other Monk DCs, but moderate on Cassie since DEX and STR might be needed more to attack and deflect attacks better.

The Conservation of Ninjitsu

He never knew what hit him.

He never knew what hit him.

Look this one on TV Tropes and you’ll understand. Ryncletica invoked this in her trip to Gwylan’s Stand. Basically, a single ninja against more than one ninja (or anyone else) means that the single ninja wins. The Bride from Kill Bill. John McClane from the Die Hard movies. Neo in The Matrix. The Batman.

And Ryncletica. But I boast. It’s the results that determine success, not my dreams of the build.

It’s a lot to live up to. Be a ninja. Be a spy. My mind wanders as I ponder the synergies to imagine James Bond as being Batman. No, I’m not cleaning up the mess your head just made. Worse: Think who would win if the two had to fight.

My bet goes to the Batman by a close margin. Gadgets aside, they both have similar tactics to compel enemies to do what they think they should do, and thus allow a victory through predictable behavior. But they call it the Batman Gambit on TV Tropes, not the “James Bond Gambit.”

Weekend Kung-Fu Classes for my other Characters

Sing it..you know you want to. "Everybody was kung-fu fighting...HA!"

Sing it..you know you want to.
“Everybody was kung-fu fighting…HA!”

Something to read while the DDO gets another update this morning.

With my entry into a multiclassed Rogue with Monk training, I’ve been thinking a bit on doing the same for many of my other non-Monk characters since, if you haven’t caught on, I like the Monk class.

This can be tricky stuff, especially since I’ve only made a few WIS-based casters (Rangers and Clerics). I’ve never gotten the hang of arcane casters in DDO, and have only one sword-and-board melee, a lonely Paladin that rarely gets any air time.

My Monk guide is designed to help people build and play an non-multiclassed Monk, and I enforce this training preference in not discussing blends in great detail in the guide. But the gloves are off in this article as I seriously reconsider not only multiclassing one or two more of my characters, but ALL of them.

I imagine each of my non-Monks journeying one day to the dojo, being helped out of their armor and weapons, handed a pair of monkly pajamas and a straw mat to sit on during their weekend kung-fu seminar, beefing up their unarmed fighting skills with Teachers Syncletica, Lynncletica and Ryncletica before returning back to their dominant occupations of their primary class.

I expect many of them to get a fine schooling and a lot of bruising. For a couple of them, the trip might be worth it.

Arcane Archer Monk

Pynthetica is my human Arcane Archer that I loved to play before Monk fever took me completely.

The first idea in returning Pyn to the game in her 2nd life is to create a Zen Archer, or “Monkcher” as it’s known on the forums. Uses a bow and Zen Archery (use WIS rather than DEX for attack rolls) but be ready to punch it up if things become too close. I envision a Ranger 14/Monk 6, adding in some Arcane Archer power combined with Ninja Spy I for some negative energy attacks and natural invisibility.

I’d lose some ranged alacrity this way with the loss of the Ranger capstone but I’d try to compensate by adding a lot more STR than in her first life for greater damage. One advantage is getting the Two-Handed Fighting line for free with Ranger levels, saving several feat slots if she went all-Monk in her training.

Rogue Monk II

Allysen is my weary Thief-Acrobat II halfling Rogue. Being my first Rogue, she has some issues that make her not as adequate at trapping or fighting as I’d want her to be. Cassie is my first Rogue with Monk levels, so Allysen would be my second effort.

After playing this Acrobat for a bit now, I suspect that I’m missing overall attack power: STR. Quarterstaff fighting is also a bit slower. Rather than pitch the staffs, I could keep the Acrobat and add just two Monk levels. Normally people just do this for the Evasion, but Rogues get that, too. What I’m adding is the unarmed fighting option for more attack variety with elemental ki attacks, which also work with the staff. From there, add far more STR.

It’s AC that becomes a problem in the build since Allysen would have to wear robes or outfits to stay centered. That means that Allysen will need to subscribe to the Dodge/Mobility/Spring Attack/Combat Expertise/Whirlwind Attack blend that Cassietetica will have, and that Ryncletica and Quintessica the Avatar have for superior Dodge, AC and a special attack option. Still can’t neglect DEX for the AC and Reflex but STR will be the damage dealer here. With only 2 Monk levels Allysen should be able to disarm and spot as a good Rogue should.

Cleric Monk

A fitting and common multiclass for many players since WIS powers both classes. I’ve tried this before with unfavorable results, likely because I couldn’t make that toon “fit in” with parties as well as run solo as well as I wanted.

For me, Cleric dilettantes for Half-Elves were far easier to utilize with Cassie and Ryn while keeping their roles straight–and thus not losing any offense or defense in the build. I do so want to make a better party aide with improved fighting prowess than a typical Cleric. Perhaps a look at wielding kamas is worth it, as they do well against zombies, leaving Turn Undead uses to weaker skeletons. I have a halfling cleric I could use for this but the joy of doing this is not there for me. For now, I’m leaving this blend on the back-burner.

Paladin Monk

I must admit that I haven’t studied enough for this one. This blend would have the strongest saves in the game (Pallys and Monks rank #1 and #2 here). Attack power, a few spells to help buff others and self isn’t a bad thing. The information I lack involves what Prestige Enhancement to use. I’d imagine a Paladin Monk as an advanced beholder slayer, so going Light Monk would be the direction if I took up to 6 levels.

Perhaps that’s redundant since Paladins also have a distaste for undead and may have more resources than Shintao Monk I. It can’t be Ninja Spy as that specializes in negative energy and complicates things.

There’s also the matter of CHA, which will sap points for other abilities needed for unarmed fighting. AC is the big loser here since many Paladin defenses/abilities are done through shields–something an unarmed blend like this can never do. If the shield is on, I still have Evasion in place to help but that disables most other monastic effects. Don’t know if I’ll get to trying out this idea. I’ve just not been inspired by the Paladin class.

Druid Monk

Not much time devoted to studying this one, either, but on the surface there is much potential. Druid spell points come from high WIS–perfect for a build whose animal forms effectively fight unarmed, which synergize with a monastic fighting style. The piercing and slashing damage additions are worthy, too. I wasn’t initially sure which way this should go: Minor as a Monk or as a Druid?

Looks like (based on the limited DDO Wiki class article that’s still being fleshed out) that minoring as a Monk gives the best benefit. Two levels for Evasion, and Stunning Fist with additional elemental damage at early levels, and the rest of the attack power is supplemented by the druid forms. STR again defines the damage.

With a few fresh new character slots from buying the new expansion pre-release, this just might be my new experiment in the coming days. Might ask a couple of the hosts on DDOCast: Seems they’re a little bit country, a little bit rock-and-roll when it comes to some Monk/Druids or Druid/Monks they play.

Classes That Don’t Synergize

There are several classes that can’t work as a unarmed fighter with two or more Monk levels.

You can’t make Bard or Barbarian Monks: These classes must always be non-Lawful while Monks must be Lawful. Doesn’t mean you can’t use Epic Destinies to add a little something extra that reflects these classes, but that’s much later in the game.

Sorcerers and Wizards could benefit from the two-level splash of Evasion but otherwise should never be on the front lines where their low hit points mean certain death, Monk Evasion or no. Their reliance on CHA or INT also lessens what monastic prowess they’d have, and thus their odds at survival. Not saying it’s impossible–there are certainly a few crazy players that have surely rolled one up. I’m just not going to be one of them, for now.

As with the Sorcerer, the Favored Soul isn’t a good fit for a Monk blend since CHA is used by that class–almost entirely a dump stat on a Monk.

A definite no-no would be the Artificer. Half of their fun and abilities literally extend from the rune arm, and, as a dev said, rune arms damage one’s calm. It requires INT for spell points. A two-level Monk splash for Evasion would certainly help a traditional Artificer, but I’m not sure how an unarmed Artificer would be practical. (UPDATE: See the comments for a reconsideration: One poster enlightened me to my class bias that would make an Artificer Monk a very enticing option, rune arms be damned.)

Ninja Versus Pirates, DDO Style

Now that I have two Ninjas (one a pure Monk, the second a Rogue/Monk), I have some more flexibility in running some favorite mid-level quests where stealth works well.

I often revisit these quests in the Lordsmarch Plaza to complete them on harder difficulties once my toons are more powerful as they remain a challenge to complete the objectives even if you’ll suffer little damage. The Droaam are good enemies to test out your offensive and defensive powers at mid level, particularly solo.

Lordsmarch Plaza

Diplomatic Impunity: In theory, a Ninja Spy should be able to dissolve into the jungle to reach the scout, return to Henrietta, reach the final fight and kill only those inside that area.

Mission complete. Ryncletica entered on Elite recently, summoning one Cleric hireling that was parked for 98% of the adventure. Avoiding cats, wildmen and scorpions, she met the scout, evaded all but two or three Droaam fighters, negotiated a passage through the wildman village rather than fight, informed Henrietta of the invasion, and reversed the route through the wildmen village. Parking the hireling just at the final root wall, she evaded all fighters to reach the enemy fort. Some glitch prevented the hireling and I from slaying the last henchmen before removing the boss. Devious bonus: 16 kills.

Ryncletica is pretty beefy in terms of defense now at level 14. Now with the Icy Raiment, she has persistent 21% Dodge, 25% incorporeality with Shadow Fade and 20% concealed with her Greater Nimble Trinket. Reflex saves are about 24-26. At her level, she’s hard to hit once more.

Frame Work: After recovering enough ballista parts to use on a ballista that launches into the boss’s complex, you use the stone wand on one minotaur, go invisible,  leap over a wall, activate the ballista, kill the chieftain and bail using the ballista inside the complex. If you are very insidious, you kill the minotaur runt inside there who could activate the alarm so that you also get the no-alarm bonus. I used MrCow’s notes and video to come close to doing this with Ryncletica in her first life.

Mission Complete. It was less suicidal to do this on Normal difficulty. The stoning wand is a vital tool. You need stone only one to complete the objective, but you’ll likely need to stone a shaman that’s close to your injector ballista into the fortress, as well as the only runt to the right of the inner fortress who could activate the alarm inside. Once that’s done, I threw down some solid fog around the throne, pulled out some Night’s Grasp handwraps to kill the chieftain, looted and used the inner ballista. Dorris the warforged scout praises you differently for your subtlety if you complete your mission without the alarms activating.

Eyes of Stone: Easy to avoid some fights, but you must kill the four mages that guard the stoned Coin Lords. Of course, the end-fight requires you to attack respawning mobs until Hesstess is dead. Un-stoning the various guards as distractions might be useful, as well as summoning a chaotic monster helper that pulls enemies out of their entrenched locations through the Coin Lord’s halls while I sneak by them.

Mission Complete. Again completed on Normal. I avoided most fights, killing about 83 but still getting the Devious bonus. Hesstess goes down well with Night’s Grasp wraps and good Touch of Despair curses to further the damage. Ryncletica’s damage avoidance miss chance worked well in there.

Assault on Summerfield: You’ll need to kill lots here, but you can use stealth/invisibility as well as a Monk’s agility to sneak up on many individual attackers without drawing mobs. A little solid fog might also obscure others nearby from seeing the slays.  Ryn would do better than Cassie here since Ryn is a fully-trained Monk with Abundant Step to reach the more remote attackers on the higher roofs.

Blockade Buster: The true ninja-versus-pirate encounter. Your stealth and invisibility is tested nicely here. It’s the kobolds in the lower deck that guard the magazines that you must avoid or kill before they activate the alarm. With sufficient INT, you can open the minebay doors and leave there without further provoking any crew that might be awoken from an alarm. It’s very hard to stop the kobolds from setting that alarm, sadly. In her last life, Ryncletica has blown up all three ships, leaving most of the crew asleep, and killed only kobolds to do it. This time, she’ll leave the detonation timer on the first ship at a higher setting and wait for all three to go down. As far as the kobolds–maybe a Hold Person spell or a well-placed stun will stop the alarm attempts.

Undermine: The narrow tunnels make it hard to  avoid fighting, but you can stealth through quite a bit of it. I would recommend infiltration (strategic kills through tactics) since there’s lots of XP gained from the optionals, but stealth could avoid a lot of really nasty fighting–or you can use the det packs offensively. I’ve learned that Night’s Grasp handwraps work better on elementals than elemental bane. Perhaps it’s the maladroit property as well as negative energy damage.

Siegebreaker: Nothing but fighting here, and required to keep your end-fight from becoming a monster-rich disaster. Cassie’s trap disabling skills might make her more useful at the end-fight’s puzzle but Ryn will be a better overall fighter.

The Red Fens

Similarly, the ninjas can have a good time infiltrating two of the three flagging quests there.

Fathom the Depths: Find the Drow hostages and levers to progress requires some systematic killing but you can bypass a number of mobs. Evasion will prevent damage from what few traps exist there. You may get to the last fight with only a few kills but watch out for the red-name mudman and fish-man mage there. The mage is easier to slay. Don’t fight around the platform with all the silly grease traps–move the fight into the last hallway.

Mission complete. On Elite, Ryncletica was able to save the Drow before flooding the area, and used stealth to bypass a few key places, such as the water elementals that will not spawn unless they see you. As far as the boss fight, she dragged the mage into the hallway and then kept her distance from the lesser enemy mages while taking down the huge mudman.

The Claw of Vulkoor: Another perfect Ninja stealth-designed quest, this time with Giants. They see invisibility, which means your stealth is key to making things happen. Avoid being seen by scorpions, pacify the guardian scorpions and a massive XP bonus awaits you. Ryn has completed this on Epic Hard but lacked noisemakers to make it easiest. Where Ryn came up short, I hope Cassie can do better.

Turns out that Cassie joined some fellow guildies on a run here recently and guided them to a victory by pacifying most of the guardians. She successfully used a noisemaker on one of the guardians. It’s Ryncletica’s turn next time.

The Last Stand: Nothing but fighting here.

Into the Deep: In the main wilderness area, you can sneak about a little but fighting to clear out enemies for XP is a better idea (and faster). You must slay quite a bit in this series so infiltration skills to set up better kills are what’s needed.

This is War, Cassie

I’ll admit that my life affects how I play my characters. I am not a typically aggressive sort.

In fact, were not for a couple of details, I could have lived a more contemplative life as a deacon in the Catholic Church. I guess I could consider, in my latter years to come, a life as an oblate with a religious order.

Syncletica is a real name of a real abbess of a monastic order in the 3rd Century. As a Catholic myself, I don’t believe that aggression is the first step in resolving issues. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy the Monk class with its syncretic blending of contemplative pseudo-Eastern philosophies, some based on fiction and others fact, to give life to the class.

That said, the world of Ebberon, like our own, is not entirely peaceful. As such, my Syncletica is a warrior abbess and cannot promote training in her dojo that doesn’t ultimately aid in the defense of X’endrik, including the elimination of enemies.

ninja peekI made the decision, as of reaching level 10 last night on Cassietetica, to make her a Rogue Assassin, rather than a Mechanic as planned.

Comments from my posts on Cassie gave me most of my motivation. She needs to be able to fight as well as she can hide and remove traps. Further, a Mechanic gains proficiency with repeating crossbows but this also uncenters a Monk using one. Assassinate will work unarmed or with ki weapons (shortswords or kamas).

Despite some objectives in a few quests where you can talk yourself out of a fight, pacifism as a whole is not the way of DDO.

Been leveling up Cassie heavily over the last few days. Now is the time to add her last two Monk levels to reach level 6 and get the Ninja Spy skills for invisibility/incorporeality, a few numbers for stealth, and shortsword proficiency. Got a lot left to play in reaching level 12:  “Gwylan’s Stand,” “Tear of Dhakaan,” “Redwillow’s Ruins,” the House Deneith chain, Sorrowdusk chain and perhaps the Necropolis and Threnal adventures that should get me to this point. From there, she gets all Rogue levels.

To make Assassinate work best, Cassie’s INT is a priority since it uses that modifier and level 14 will be as high as she goes for the Rogue level modifier. I need a boost there to add Combat Expertise and Whirlwind Attack to help her overall fighting in crunch times.

In most cases, she’ll still avoid attacking. Her stealth numbers should be quite good. But when something gets in her way, she should be quite capable of removing it and keep herself in stealth–something Ryncletica cannot do.

Cassietetica, the Trapmaster Ninja?

I introduced my new Monkish Rogue, Cassietetica, in an imaginary conversation with my pure Acrobat Rogue, Allysen.

Without a Rogue, you'll need an lake filled with Bactine. (Credit: www.TenTonHammer.com)

Without a Rogue, your post-quest recovery area is a lake filled with Bactine and aloe. (Credit: http://www.TenTonHammer.com)

Shortly after writing that post, I recalled my desire to be better at stealth with Ryncletica in terms of diversion. For Ryn, that’s mostly finding a cave wall near what she wants to distract, throwing a shuriken at that point, and waiting for the enemies to go investigate that noise while she sneaks past.

For Rogues with Trapmaking ability, the options grow, although it seems that very few players use these options. The reason is simple: DDO is more slanted to party-style, obliterate-everything twitchy gameplay where stealth and related tactics just aren’t done. I play solo often when not enjoying time my guildmates, so this isn’t an issue for me.

I realized that I had a special opportunity for Cassie to show how useful she can be as a mine-laying specialist.

It’s a fascinating proposal. After playing DDO for a few years now, I’m pretty familiar with what mobs will appear at specific locations of an adventure. Therefore, if I can lay traps for them (while also disabling traps that may exist), I might be able to dish out some incredible area-of-effect damage, clear mobs by the dungeon-load, and effectively loot whole adventures.

  1. Lay down traps.
  2. Lure enemies to traps
  3. Blow up enemies.
  4. Repeat.

Now, this also means that a single adventure could turn into a slower return on investment. But I’m not considering this for the speed or even the experience points, but just to see how conniving, how devious a Rogue can be in destroying enemies by hardly raising her weapon.

Trap Types

DDO Wiki has a good article on trapmaking that’s the basis for my interest.

To make certain traps, you need enough trap parts you scavenge as you disable traps throughout the game. Fair enough. You recycle trap materials to make your own traps.

The trap I expect to use most often isn’t quite a trap. It’s a noisemaker. I can set it and, in a few seconds, it makes a sound that should attract enemies to it while I shuffle away in the opposite direction. This is what Ryn would love to have in soloing “The Claw of Vulkoor” to lure scorpions away in the process of completing ting the quest without being detected. However, making traps requires the Trapmaking feat auto-granted to Rogues at level 4, so Monks can’t build or use noisemakers without multiclassing some Rogue levels.

While Rogues can farm for many trap part types (such as mechanical parts from blade traps and the like), they’re limited to creating elemental and magical traps. (Sad that we can’t set up our own spinning blade traps o’ death.)

The promising news is that such traps come in various degrees of damage, commensurate with the number of parts and other ingredients you have on hand and the Rogue level necessary to set that trap.

Better: Rogues can set traps with damage that can’t always be saved against by most mobs, such as Force and Sonic.

By level 11, a Rogue should be able to make Force and Sonic mines that have a huge area-of-effect with 50d6 damage. Oh, let me just fill a room with these. Mines auto-deactivate after 2 minutes 30 seconds, so there’s time to lay a nice field of these babies in front of a door or hallway and let the bastards stumble through.

But you can see the challenge here, however. You need parts to make traps. Lots and lots and lots of parts. That’s going to take a lot of quest grinding where traps are abundant. Thankfully, DDO provides me with many places to farm for the Force and Sonic parts I’d like, as well as mechanical parts.

A Ninja Trapmaster

Ninja_crouchTo help in parts farming, I can make Cassie a Rogue Mechanic.

She’ll has a better shot of gathering more parts per disabled trap. They also get better DCs to use them, increasing the likelihood that enemies will suffer greatly for her skills.

But I also wanted to add Ninja Spy I to Cassie, too. I didn’t realize that you can select more than one Prestige Enhancement on a multiclassed character: 1 Prestige per class, not character.

So, it should be possible to add Rogue Mechanic I and Mechanic II to Cassie to improve her trapmaking and trap-laying skills.

Additionally, I can add a little Ninja training for shortsword ability and Shadow Fade (ki-powered invisibility/incorporeality) to have a Rogue 14/Monk 6. Shadowdancer Epic Destiny will be perfect for her later, and she’ll have enough Monk levels for Grandmaster of Flowers training, too.

But can I swing all the Mechanic enhancement prerequisites (I’ll need them anyway to compensate for lost Rogue skill points from the Monk levels) as well as the Ninja Spy I prerequisites? It’s a lot to do.

I reset my enhancements a day or so ago to try out the possibilities and started picking. The enhancements work out just fine for both Prestiges with a few points to spare.

Some might ask, “Why not Assassin training?”

It’s a good question. I’d still gain some parts, but going full Mechanic doubles the chance for more trap parts versus an ordinary Rogue. She’ll also set traps (and detonation packs) faster than others. Setting traps for this build is just as important as disabling them. Going Mechanic also leaves me an emergency ranged option as well, using repeating crossbows.

An Assassin build does sound tempting, yes. But somehow I see Cassie as less…temperamental than other Rogues. Must be that monastic training. She kills because she has to do so, not because she wants to do so. Still, if I wanted to go down that grim, woefully powerful road, it’s just a matter of resetting enhancements.

Honestly–there is plenty of slaying in DDO. Somehow, I’ve never been that bloodthirsty. I’m more of a fan of counting coup. It”s something that Ryncletica does a lot. She gains personal favor in defeating her enemies by circumventing every defense they have to complete an objective. Rather than obliterating an enemy’s army, Ryncletica obliterates their honor. Ryn and Cassie rarely start fights, but they will always finish them.

Cassie’s stats are going to be difficult. Normally, WIS is a dump stat for a Rogue. But she’ll need a bit to make her Monk DCs work and her ki to be sufficient for attacks. She’ll certainly have high concentration on her DEX for AC and reflex saves but needs good Fortitude and Will saves, too. She can’t rely on her stuns. She won’t gain Abundant Step, so somersaulting to get to trap control boxes will require awesome saves. Thus, Dodge/Incorporeality/Concealment numbers will be essential. STR is also vital; that’s why Allysen has weak DPS. Cassie, by hook or crook, needs a minimum 24 STR by level 20, I think.

So, there you have it. A Rogue with dark Monk fighting skills, who is also a Ninja and trapmaster.

Stay tuned. This is going to be a fun build to generate.

I need to think of a good build name, however. “Ninja Trapmaster” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.

In related fun, TenTonHammer has an older but well-written article on why DDO Rogues are true Rogues in comparison to other MMO games.

The Little Mountain, Illustrated

As I was writing up my last post on my new build, Cassietetica, I was scouring the net for an illustration or two to break up the text (endlessly long blog posts can be quite boring to the eyes without pictures).

During my search, I found a drawing by an artist with the signature of “Pozas”, presumbly made in 2004, that would be exactly how I would draw my tanker Monk, Lynncletica, if I had the skill. It’s a perfect drawing, right down to Lynn’s red hair with a braid, her chiseled physique–not to mention her attitude.


I didn’t care for the review by the blogger that hosted this picture regarding how he thought Monks had little versatility–but he was discussing the class in the tabletop RPG pen-and-paper realm.


The “real” Lynn, in an earlier life.

He’s still probably wrong, though. Many people just don’t get the Monk class, no matter what media available to play the class–until they actually roll up a character, read up on how to play the character and take it seriously.

Any nincompoop can roll up a Fighter and go “Hulk Smash!” on everything. It takes contemplation to build and excel a Monk properly.

In DDO at least, a Monk can outlast practically any other class in fighting without outside assistance. Ki, and good technique, can do it all.

Looks like I credit the illustration properly. Thanks to Claudio Pozas. Visit his site; he has great work there.

The Halfling’s Lament

Note: Early in my blogging, I wrote imaginary tales using my toons to greater illustrate issues or techniques. Not only does it give me some writing practice, it’s hopefully less boring to read than a stodgy, dry post about how the game is played from the real-life mechanics we see as the player. So, indulge me while I introduce a new build of mine, Cassietetica, who has trained a few levels of Monk but has a calling to the rogueish arts. Cassie is my first serious attempt at multiclassing using 2 or more Monk levels. Either she will end up 18 Rogue/3 Monk (I moved to three Monk levels to gain negative energy attacks/debuffs using Fists of Darkness) or the more likely move to 14/6, where Cassie trains to Ninja Spy I for its invisibility, stealth, and shortsword prowess benefits. In any case, trapfinding and lockpicking will be Cassie’s speciality.

– ~ ~ ~ –

tavernSounds of smashing chairs, loud music and conversations assailed my ears just on cracking open the door to the Wayward Lobster tavern.

Adventurers and city-folk from all walks of life sat or stood about in conversation. A few people looked at me for a moment. I had the feeling I was being assessed to see if I could be helpful in some way.

A halfling girl looked up from her tankard but didn’t drop her gaze at me. With a barely perceptible movement, she motioned me over to sit. I recalled my notes from the abbotess Syncletica: the halfling matched the description that the sensei gave me.

“You one of Syncletica’s?” the halfling asked, not taking her eyes off me as she took a draw from her tankard.

“I am. My chosen name is Cassietetica.”

The halfling slammed down her mug a little loudly and wiped the foam off her mouth with her forearm. “Someday, somebody’s going to explain to me why all of you make such complicated names for yourselves. Can’t just have a simple name like the rest of us.”

“Cassie’s my birth name. My new name just illustrates my allegiance to my vocation,” I said, taking a seat at the table and regretting it immediately. Apparently I sat in a small puddle of something that began to soak through the bottom of my robe.

Allysen drank the last of her ale and put the mug aside. “”Vocation”, huh? Most people that Syn recruits just do their monk thing. It’s pretty cool to see them at work, sure. I don’t get along with most of them, though. Too goody-two-shoes. They aren’t into the adventure for the money, you might say. I sniff out a chest but they’re somewhere else, fighting.”

The rogue motioned at the barkeeps for another round. She pointed at me to ask if I cared for a half-pint. I raised my hand, shaking my head.

The new tankard arrived and Allysen took a long swig before saying, “I do like one of them–Ryncletica. She can’t bust a lock open worth a damn but she can avoid getting frozen and fried by a trap better than I can. Good fighter, too. I thought I was invisible. She can go invisible anytime she wants.

The rogue stretched her small figure across to the adjoining table on my left to steal a bowl of nuts to chew on. “But you. I can see something’s different about you. In fact…” The rogue squinted at me, reached over to my right arm and tapped my sleeve, slowly and emphatically with her index finger.

“I knew it. You’ve got thieves tools in there. Don’t know of any Monks that can pick locks–or think it’s right to do so.”

“That’s why the sensei asked you to meet me. I have some basic training in the martial arts. I know my basic elemental forms. However–the dojo cannot teach me all that I want to know.”

“You want to go rogue,” Allysen said, her voice muffled a bit by a mouthful of peanuts.

“For most of my training, yes.”

“Why not go all the way?”

I crossed my arms. “Because you die too easily.

Bits of peanut stung my face as Allysen coughed. “You take that back!” she yelled. Her right hand left the table surreptitiously while her left rose to point an angry finger at me.

“Calm down…and keep your blade sheathed. It wasn’t meant to be an insult. We can’t all be everything. I wouldn’t ask you to lead a charge against a pit fiend, and I can’t either. But the sensei said that you were a good rogue and could give me some advice.”

“Advice, huh?” the rogue said, the flickering anger fading from her eyes. A trace of a smile darted on and off the corners of Allysen’s mouth before she said, “Sure. But talk ain’t cheap. You’ll have to make it worth my while.”

I pulled out a small bag and placed it atop the table. “This is the pre-arranged fee for your time. I’d ask you not to haggle for anything else.”

Allysen looked a bit disappointed as she took the bag. “Was hoping that somebody else was going to pay me so I could cash in a little more.”

“You were actually going to con me out of more money in addition to what the sensei planned to pay you?”

“It’s our way. You shouldn’t be surprised. Boy, you got a long way to go before you’re going to be a good rogue,” she said, pouring the platinum coins into her hand, eyes darting about in a silent count before returning them to the bag, her head bobbing a couple of times in satisfaction.

“That’s just it, Allysen. Our dojo could use more money for our charitable work. You’d be surprised how many places get damaged from invasions, the wars, people displaced and out on the streets. We do alright in trading what we find to the shopkeepers–”

“And I bet they rip you off. That’s why I haggled you. If you don’t know the better part of negotiating, things get expensive real fast. Might want to spend time learning to haggle.”

I nodded. “I don’t think I can afford to. In any case, our costs in repairing our own equipment, combined with selling equipment and tending to our clinic for injuries, is barely helping to make ends meet for the dojo and those we care for.”

The rogue sighed. “And you want to cash in a bit more.”

“If I can find and retrieve more gear in an adventure without great expenditures to repair items or my injuries  in that adventure, it would help a lot. Of course, that would include accessing locked doors and the chests behind them.

“So you’re here to test out.”

“Someone in the Free Agents told me that you’d put in a good word to start me off with better rogue tools if you tested me.”

“Bunch of damned liars. As if I had any influence with them. Still, I’m curious myself.” Allysen pulled out a small wooden box, flat like a book, from side pocket of her armor. “Okay, let’s test you out. Open this up.”

At first I reached for the box but stopped myself. One of Allysen’s eyebrows rose as well as a corner of her mouth.

“Good. I thought you were going to get a faceful of water. Rogues always look before they touch anything. Examine the floor, the walls. The walls next to those walls and floors ahead and behind. Traps can be anywhere.” She motioned at the box. “It’s still not open, though.”

I pulled a lock pick from my sleeve and a pair of goggles to examine the box. Something about one top corner didn’t look right. I plunged the pick’s tip into a small hole and heard a snapping sound.

“Very good. That was the water trap disarming,” Allysen said. “You heard that snap?”


“Must be your half-elven blood,” she said. I apparently gasped when she revealed her observation. “Yeah, I could see the traces of your ear points,” she admitted. “Most of you look a bit prettier than ordinary humans, too. Keep going on that box.”

I examined the rest of the box and noticed an almost imperceptible crease on the left side. Carefully holding one side, I scooted a finger over the crease and pushed.

I heard a snap–but was thankful it wasn’t the sound of my finger getting crunched.

“That was the second trap. Nice. A rogue can’t assume that one chest has only one trap or one control box. There could be several traps and control boxes. Let’s see what else you find.”

I picked up the box. On its underside was a tiny keyhole. I took out my lock pick set and carefully worked. After a few moments, the box clicked. I twisted the box and out dropped a small copper coin.

The rogue smiled as she took the box and coin, fiddling with it to reset it back. “I’m impressed. That’s a pretty high-difficulty lock I made on that Rogue’s Toy. So you got some good instincts and skills. If you keep up on your training, buy or find some better gear, I bet you’ll be fine.”

She leaned across the table. “So–why are you really here?”

“My problem–is how to keep better defenses as I train. If I am to fight in the monastic way, I can’t wear that light leather armor that you do. It’s too heavy and cumbersome. It…disturbs my calm.”

Allysen realized the problem. “But wearing that dress of yours is liable to get you cut up and pounded silly. Not a lot of protection on robes.”

“No. One discipline will help as I train–but only to a point if I train more on rogue skills than monastic ones.”

“So outside of your robes, there’s always better bracers, rings, necklaces.”

“I was hoping that you would know more sources.”

“That’s more of a question for Ryncletica, I think.”

We sat in silence for a bit before Allysen said, “I’ll admit something. I’ve been at this trapper thing for a while now. Lately it’s been quite a grind, very challenging. I can sneak into places just fine, usually find the nastier traps and pay the bills for my party. But when a fight shows up nowadays…” she stopped talking, shaking her head.

My monastic training, limited as it was, could detect a pale aura about Allysen. A trace of it stays around everyone that’s been killed but resurrected before their soul becomes too long detached from their body. The more deaths you experience, the brighter or more substantial that aura becomes to those trained to see it. Allysen’s aura practically formed a grayish silhouette about her body, as if her body smoldered after being scorched often.

“The game, the hunt…it isn’t what it’s used to be. I may have to–go back to get some better training.” The rogue had been twirling her testing box in her hands absentmindedly before she realized what she was doing and put the box back in her satchel.

excerpt_rogue1“I hear this from Ryncletica so much that I want to punch her in the face, but I want to hear it from you, Cassie…somebody that gets the rogueish way of doing things. How are you planning to survive in places where enemies are far tougher? I’m good with my quarterstaffs but…I guess I’m just not fast enough.”

I took a breath before I answered. “Rogue skills are often just straight training.  I’ve been taught that, if you have only one way to fight, there will be many more ways that an enemy has to kill you. The monastic arts allow me to be fast and nimble, like you. But I can also change my fighting stances. Be a little stronger, wiser, flexible, faster or durable.  Learning to stun things helps. Elemental attacks to my fighting help a lot. Keeping out of sight–well, I don’t have to tell you how handy that can be.”

“I don’t get into that book-learning. I think learning on the job and using what you see is better.”

“For Monks, what you call ‘book-learning’ is wisdom that improves our mystical powers. Without it, it would be like a wizard that didn’t study and so can’t use magic spells or have much in the way of spell energy to wield them.”

Allysen’s attention didn’t waver. “Go on,” she said.

“I’m not sure how much you fight..but maybe fighting is the problem. I’ve learned from Teacher Ryncletica that fighting is not the first option of the ninja. Maybe it shouldn’t be the first option of a rogue, either. Which means, we need to be able to stay out of sight but also to maximize our prowess should we get cornered.”

“I should learn to stun things, then,” smashing one fist into the palm of her other hand. “Gods know that my paralyzing quarterstaff isn’t as good against the nastiest hordes.”

“Maybe. You might need to get stronger first to make stunning work with a staff. The monastic way is different there, emphasizing attention to finding vulnerable points on the body using ki and wisdom, not strength. Might help your damage quite a bit, too.”

Allysen shifted in her chair uncomfortably, grabbing  her head suddenly as if she thought it would fall off her neck. “Ugh. Too much ale. Okay, okay…maybe I need more sword training, too, as  as a backup.”

“Perhaps. A staff is like my fists–it bludgeons an attacker but isn’t as good against things that are more resilient. It’s zombies that I dislike. I cannot use my negative energy attacks on them and they don’t drop as well from martial attacks. I carry around a kama for those occasions.”

“That hooked thing? I would think a shortsword would do better.”

“It isn’t. You need to slash zombies apart, not ventilate them like a leather punch on hide. Shortswords just pierce.”

Allysen looked off to the side in thought before suddenly turning her head to me, chin lifted in challenge. “What’s the three most important abilities to you, in doing what you’re trying to do? So you can still open locks and find traps but still use your bar-brawling fisticuff stuff?”

I scratched my head and said. “First, keeping dexterous. That helps my reflexes and perhaps how much armor protection I gain from monastic training. Next, staying wise, which also helps my mystical armor but also helps determine my overall ki.” When Allysen’s eyes squinted, I said, “Ki is like the spell energies of a wizard or sorcerer but for Monks.”

The bar noises overtook us again as we sat without talking before Allysen opened up the bag I gave her and put down three platinum coins. “Here,” she said.

“What’s this for?”

“For your advice. Can’t earn a living for free, you know.”

“Thanks,” I said, gathering up the coin and standing up.

“Good luck out there. Shoot me a Orienmail if you need something,” Allysen said with two fingers from her forehead in salute.

I bowed and left the bar. I wondered if the sensei wanted me to teach more to Allysen than the rogue would be able to teach me. There are times I don’t understand our ways.

But then, as Allysen hinted, a rogue does things her way, and it’s not the same for every rogue. Perhaps I may have to do things differently. Use swords sometime, like Teacher Ryncletica. Or consider a quarterstaff. I can still show charity, but I would do so through subterfuge, rather than brute force. I can tell that Ryncletica’s Dark School may be more useful to me, at least to training level 6.

If I can find that path that joins the monastic and rogueish craft, I might find my answers.

Enhancement Alpha: Ninja Spy

After taking apart the proposed Henshin Mystic class tree, I conclude my look at the alpha enhancements for Monks with this last installment of my admittedly biased review of the last of the three prestige class enhancements, the Ninja Spy.

In comparison to the live Shintao Monk enhancements, there wasn’t a lot going for the original Ninja Spy that had a serious “wow” factor for many players as it had only two levels versus Shintao’s three levels to upgrade.

Over time, however, I’ve discovered that playing what enhancements we did get to their fullest made ninjas a powerfully versatile scout and infiltrator that later synergized very well with the Shadowdancer Epic Destiny.

After the rather disappointing changes proposed in the other trees, I expected to have to nickname this tree as “Ninja Spy III: Electric Bugaloo“.  As it turned out I’m actually quite pleased with the changes–with a few caveats.


Ninja Spy

Core abilities: Ninja Training, Ninja Training, Shadow Veil, Poisoned Darts, Diversion, Ninja Master

  • PRO: Ninja Training (Level 1) gives you shortsword proficiency as ki weapons immediately at Monk level 1. An excellent way to start off the class.
  • Ninja Training (Level 3) lets you use your Dexterity modifier for damage using piercing (shortsword) and slashing (kama) weapons. You also might throw an additional shuriken during an attack. This seems to add the features of  Ten Thousand Stars (which is now missing from any of the other trees) and the now more-disused Weapon Finesse feat.
  • Shadow Veil (Level 6) is the renamed Shadow Fade, one of the most versatile and popular abilities on live, which give you 1 minute of invisibility and 25% incorporeality, leaving you incorporeal if you must attack. It’s missing it’s ki regeneration mode, but this re-appears as a separate feature, later.
  • Poisoned Darts: You spit a cone of poisoned darts and hit your targets with Ninja Poison. What “Ninja Poison” is and how it differs from other poison effects I haven’t figured out as yet.
  • PRO: Diversion: You expend a turn of Meditation to go invisible and create a dummy that attracts monsters. Yes. I like this one a lot, provided that Monks get an extra Meditation turn from somewhere (we get only 2 per rest).
  • Ninja Master: You gain +2 Dexterity. While you are centered, you gain a +1 competence bonus to the critical threat range with shortswords and a +2 competence bonus to the critical threat range with kamas and shuriken. Any piercing or slashing weapon you wield gains the Vorpal ability. If I have to fight, I don’t mind this, although it sounds a little wimpy, save Vorpal. Everyone likes Vorpal.

The core abilities aren’t bad at all, but let’s go into the tiers and hope for more tidbits.

Tier 1: Nujitsu, Stealthy, Sneak Attack Training, Faster Sneaking, Acrobatic

  • PRO PRO PRO: Nujitsu gives new attacks in place of the elemental vulnerability attacks that now belong to the Henshin Mystic. These are all toggled effects and only one can be active at a time, I’m sure. These augment your Touch of Despair finishing move. You’ll gain a new attack on each tier.
  • Impending Doom gives you +25 ki and +25 HP if an enemy cursed with the Touch of Despair dies within 30 seconds.
  • Poison Exploit  purges an enemy of Ninja Poison, dealing 1d20 poison damage per stack of Ninja Poison removed. In short, Ninja Poison is just as bad coming out as going in.
  • Poison Soul adds a stack of Ninja Poison to an enemy every 6 seconds for up to 30 seconds.
  • Wave of Despair causes all nearby enemies to take a negative level. Wow.
  • PRO: Stealthy gives you more Hide and Move Silently points. At its highest rank, you gain +1 ki while sneaking (the counterpart to the “One with Shadow” effect on the live servers).
  • Sneak Attack Training gives you some points to your sneak attack damage as did its live predecessors.
  • PRO: Faster Sneaking adds more speed to your sneaking, up to 50% faster (which likely stacks with your Striding ability). Currently, with both Ninja I and II selected, your speed increase was only 20%, so this is a great upgrade, potentially allowing a Ninja to always run silent.
  • Acrobatic: More points to Balance, Jump and Tumble, plus up to 3% more to your Dodge Bonus. More Dodge is welcome.

Tier 2: Ninjitsu, Subtlety, Sneak Attack Training, Elemental Ki Strikes, Agility

  • Subtlety reduces your Threat to as low as 40%.
  • CON: Elemental Ki Strikes here are the same ones found in the Shintao class tree and are quite redundant. Can’t something else work here, devs? Ninjas fight, but they can specialize in much more.
  • Agility adds up to 3 to your Concentration, Reflex saves, and your Dodge Bonus cap.

Tier 3: Ninjitsu, Flash Bang, Sneak Attack Training, Sting of the Ninja, Wisdom/Dexterity

  • Flash Bang is a ball you throw that has a chance of blinding on a failed Reflex save and stunning them with a failed Fortitude save. Would be nice if this could be used as a diversion or noise maker, although Diversion is available now, as well.
  • Sting of the Ninja: You poison your weapon with a secret mixture. While you are centered, piercing and slashing attacks you make deliver a stack of Ninja Poison on critical hits. Shuriken apply this effect on damage instead of on critical hits. Unarmed combat requires a set of handwraps for this to apply (as well as a way to deal piercing or slashing damage). Oh, this one was going so well until that last caveat. For this attack to work unarmed, you need to have the Brawling Gloves crafted for yourself (piercing attack) or be at epic levels to use Vorpal Strikes (slashing damage). Perhaps there are other ways to use this while unarmed.
  • CON: Wisdom/Dexterity: The devs threw this one in, as with other class enhancements.

Tier 4: Ninjitsu, Deadly Exploits, Sneak Attack Training, No Mercy, Wisdom/Dexterity

  • PRO: Deadly Exploits augments your Poison Exploits special ability by increasing your Ninja Poison damage.
  • PRO: No Mercy: You deal up to 30% more damage to helpless opponents. Do get your Stunning Fist DCs maxed for this one.

Tier 5: Touch of Death, Crippling Strike, Shadow Double

  • Touch of Death hasn’t changed, except that its cooldown appears to have  increased from 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Crippling Strike is the same as the Rogue ability of the same name: A strength-sapping effect of -2 STR that accumulates. Not bad, but I expected more at this tier level. Perhaps combined with Maladroit effects (while using some Night’s Grasp handwraps that also add negative energy damage) this could be quite fun to have.
  • Shadow Double: You perform a melee attack with +2[W] and gain 100% melee doublestrike for 6 seconds. In a crowd, perhaps, with the right Cleave effect and good Two Weapon Fighting, it might be a nice addition.

What’s Missing?

The occasionally useful but always cool Dance of the Water Strider, where you can run on liquids, is gone from the Ninja Spy tree. It’s not that hard to add, but for some reason the devs removed this. This ability does have several applications in quests, specifically in the “Accursed Abbot” quest where a Ninja can run over deadly-to-touch water to complete an objective.

From Alpha to Omega: Epilogue

Quite a few players on the Lammania forums seemed understandably disappointed or confused by the changes seen in the alpha. I’m one of them.

Of these, the Ninja Spy tree is now more fortified and has suffered the least detrimental changes and the best overall gains of all the Prestige trees. It favors the subtle approach and has potentially devastating attacks using Touch of Despair alone. I like it.

Shintao Monks have greater protections but is the only class tree that has built-in healing amplification. If you’re a Ninja or Henshin and are not Human or Half-Elf, you have no healing amplification in your build, anywhere, without items.

My favorite spell-like ability, Rise of the Phoenix, is transformed into a self-serving ability that  no longer raises dead, leaving players to grind for more limited ways to do this. Monks already have a restore-all panic button available in the Grandmaster of Flowers epic destiny: Wholeness of Spirit. Why add a second that doesn’t help others? Shintao alpha also shares a redundant set of elemental ki attack enhancements with the Ninja Spy that should be removed or incorporated elsewhere.

Henshin Mystics aren’t nearly as cool as they could be. They hoard the only Void Strike attack and at high level, breaking the Void finishers for all other class trees. Their use of Fire as a dominant ki attack as well as bludgeoning attacks with staffs (with no changes to DR bypassing, such as adding slashing damage) as well as no changes in attack speed make the new class a questionable choice.

I’m looking forward to the Ninja Spy update. For all else, not so much. But this is an alpha look. Let’s hope that the devs have listened to the feedback and make a few useful changes that don’t gimp one class or overly favor another.

  • Monk healing amplification. For all class trees.
  • A lesser Void attack, or better, Void Strike for all without using the Henshin tree.
  • Return “Dance of the Water Strider.” We do use that in the Abbot quests as well as stealthy, fast approaches in some places, and for quick farming during the Risia Ice Festival.
  • Boost the quarterstaff speed in increments and add some DR bypassing for the Henshin.
  • Add something other than Fire damage in Henshin that won’t be worthless against devils, demons and other high-level enemies.
  • Make the Monk stances selectable as feats but don’t overpower the class and give them every stance. Void Strike or an elemental stance to add at 6, 12 and 18.

Enhancements Alpha: Henshin Mystic

After going over the Human racial enhancement and Shintao Monk class enhancement tree from the recent alpha exposure on Lammania, it’s time to look at the long-awaited new, third Prestige class to be introduced when this new enhancement tree format goes live: The Henshin Mystic.

There are serious problems with this new class set that take away not only from its own potential greatness but from abilities originally found in the live Shintao and Ninja Spy enhancements.


Henshin Mystic

Core Abilities: Riddle of Fire, Ki Bolt, Sounding Staff, Incinerating Wave, Cauldron of Flame, Serenity

  • *Riddle of Fire improves your Fire and Force spell power, improves your Fire resistance and detracts from enemies. This improves for each Henshin core ability you choose.
  • PRO: *Ki Bolt lets you shoot off a bolt of ki that deals fire and Force damage. A low-level counterpart to the Grandmaster of Flowers’s Epic Destiny ability, Lily Petal.
  • *Sounding Staff gives improvements to Universal Spell Power as you level the class tree. As a player that doesn’t delve much in the spell casting classes, I’m sure this is a good thing but can’t easily quantify how this improves overall damage.
  • *Incinerating Wave throws a moving firewall, dealing Fire and Force damage that grows as you level. Interesting again, with a caveat for later.
  • *Cauldron of Flame burns any enemies around you with massive Fire damage while you stand in your effect. If you move, the effect ends. Sounds good, but…
  • Serenity is effectively the original Monk heroic Capstone.

Now, why the asterisks above?

As you”ll see in the other tiers, the Henshin primarily deals Fire damage. That’s not going to help against Fire Elementals or those immune to fire–which happen to be the most deadliest foes on Heroic levels: the devils and demons. Nor does the Henshin gain any speed or DR bypassing advantages.

Let’s continue into the tiers.

Tier 1: Elemental Words, Staff Training, Mystic Training, Negotiator, Animal Forms

  • Elemental Words are the same spell-like elemental debuffing abilities from the live Ninja Spy enhancements, which give 10% more acid, cold, fire or electric damage. Like similar abilities in other trees, you can pick one per tier but only one you haven’t chosen in a prior tier. These debuffers might be more handy here than in the Ninja Spy camp, which has its own new negative energy debuffing attacks that I’m excited to use.
  • CON: Staff Training adds +1 to hit and to damage from quarterstaves over several tiers. Really? That’s all? Why should a Monk train in using a staff if the damage is (1) not different from the bludgeoning of unarmed fighting, and (2) is slower than unarmed fighting? A Henshin, in my imagination, should generate superior damage as a master of this weapon. Better than an Acrobat, or even a Fighter. This underwhelming enhancement foreshadows how unimpressive the Henshin tree ultimately becomes as we explore higher tiers.
  • CON: Mystic Training adds up to +3 to your tactical DCs. That’s nice–but since the unarmed class feat Stunning Fist cannot be used with a quarterstaff (requiring one to take the non-class feat Stunning Blow), this is a nearly useless ability for a quarterstaff user.
  • CON: Negotiator gives bonuses to Diplomacy, Bluff and Intimidate (or Haggle–the DDO Wiki page is contradictory). This is a thrown-in ability that wasted on most Monks.
  • If you wondered where the Animal Forms such as the Way of the Patient Tortoise went, you’ll find it in this tier. Once chosen, the forms improve automatically as your Monk levels, and so do penalties from the form, if any.

Tier 2: Elemental Words, Staff Training, Quick Strike, Elemental Ki Strikes, Contemplation

  • Staff Training is the same limited improvement as the first tier, and still lame.
  • Quick Strike adds insult to injury in a staff-wielding Monk that is serious on generating more damage for a brief time, as does an Action Boost. It does not add speed.
  • Contemplation adds ki regeneration, more Concentration and better Will saves. Neither impressive nor bad.

Tier 3: Elemental Words, Staff Training, Lighting the Candle, Embrace the Void, Ability Score

  • Lighting the Candle has some promise by adding deadly Fire and (on critical hits only) Force damage. More damage does come from a staff but some is possible when unarmed. The attack reduces your ki generation on-hit, however.
  • Embrace the Void is a poorly-named enhancement that, like a similarly ill-named Shintao ability, has nothing to do with Void attacks. It adds more Meditation turns, and your ki regenerates faster. More so, you generate a shield that protects you for up to 100 damage and it regenerates every 3 seconds. Battle Meditation, anyone? It reminds me of the gargoyle’s force shield that negates damage while they stop fighting to reheal.
  • Ability Score: The devs couldn’t think of anything else better for this slot, so you can add a point to a stat.

Tier 4: Elemental Words, Staff Training, Focus, Ability Score

  • The three other abilities here are no different from previous tiers, merely improving on what you chose from a prior tier.
  • Focus is a new enhancement that sounds like someone’s been watching a marathon run of “The Matrix” movie series (or played a few of the games). As you meditate, your Universal Spell Power gets a temporary boost, insight bonuses to weapon damage and to-hit, as do your allies nearby.

Tier 5: Void Strike, Staff Training, Balance in Dawn

  • CON CON CON: This is the only place where Void Strike resides as far as I can tell. There doesn’t appear to be any other lesser forms of Void Strike in any other class tree, which means that only the Henshin–and a high-level one at that–has access to this ability. This breaks the Curse of the Void and Moment of Clarity finishers since there’s no low-level Void Strike attack to choose to use these finishers. This is Void Strike IV, effectively, and at a lower level (12 rather than 18). But its placement screws over all other Monks.
  • Staff Training is more of the same wimpy staff upgrades.
  • PRO: Balance in Dawn is something I read about on the forums as the devs told us of the initial Henshin rough-in design. This gives a Henshin the ability to use a Light attack or a Dark attack. So if you chose to be a Dark Monk and train up to get this enhancement, you can add a Light attack with a damaging effect not unlike Divine Punishment. If you kill that enemy fast enough, a 100 point healing burst appears around you. Likewise, a Light Monk can add a Dark attack, which gives negative levels to a target and +2[W] damage. Kill the enemy fast enough and every nearby enemy gets negative levels, too. Further, this gives either philosophy the capacity to activate almost all finishers of a Monk. It’s a fascinating addition–were it not for the fact that you have to find AP to train the Henshin side, sacrificing something more important in the Shintao or Ninja Spy sides to get this or Void Strike back.

Frankly, I am quite disappointed at this new class but reserve a little hope. Henshin Mystics, sadly, aren’t that mystical. There’s little in this class alpha that will pull me away from unarmed fighting since you gain little advantages to doing so–except regain attacks that all Monks should have access to use. If greater speed and elemental damage other than fire is added, then a Henshin can take those Rahl’s Might and Dreamspitter staffs to a whole new level of ass-kickery. Better: Add a mass-knockback spin attack (Neo vs. Smith in The Matrix Reloaded‘s “Burly Brawl” is all the inspiration that the devs need on that idea).

Last but not least, a look at the new Ninja Spy alpha enhancements.