Off Topic: 2015 Superhero Films Reveal Titanic Matchups

At ComicCon 2013 this week, Warner Bros. and Disney officially declared war of the superheroes. The eventually winner will be us, the viewers, by 2015.

Marvel’s news was primarily some spit shining on the next Avengers movie. It’s official title gives it away for the dedicated comic readers (I’m not one of them nowandays for either universe): The Avengers: Age of Ultron. A quick look up on Ultron’s comic-book history tells me enough: crazy killer robot.

Hm. Sure. I’m pretty familiar with crazy killer robots. Joss Whedon, currently invulnerable with his success with the first Avengers movie, teased the crowd at ComicCon with star appearances from the many satellite movies that will form up before the next Avengers film. My personal love is Captain America as shown on-screen, coming soon in Captain America: The Winter Solder next spring.

So what could Warner Bros., owners of DC Comics, do to match, if not outdo the Disney/Marvel announcements? With the exception of the critically acclaimed Dark Knight Trilogy from Christopher Nolan, the WB’s attempts to launch a counterpart superhero cinematic universe for DC has been lackluster at best. The 2011 Green Lantern movie, intended to be the first of a series of films to kickstart that universe, wasn’t terrible, but was far from well-received. Christopher Nolan stated that his Batman was in a universe where other superheroes didn’t exist. Thankfully, this summer’s Man of Steel film did well enough at the box office for a sequel to be announced.

With the Superman sequel, DC played the one card it could play that would get everyone’s attention.

You don't want to mess with these two. Ever.

You don’t want to mess with these two. Ever.

Zack Snyder, director of the latest Superman film, announced at ComicCon that the Batman would be in the next Superman film.

Wow. It’s a bold risk but one that fans will come out to see. There’s no other iconic superheroes in any comic book universe that’s more compelling than Superman and Batman in a team-up. (There are many Superman/Batman animated films and graphic novels to illustrate this.) However, Snyder notes that this won’t be a pair-up but something more adversarial, perhaps like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel of a older, future Batman.

As if Batman stood a chance in that mode for long, the fan’s love of Batman’s crazy-preparedness notwithstanding. The film must show the two working together in the end, as the comic universes clearly show, for they really are the best of friends over time. Also, as clearly illustrated in the first film, in a fight between human versus Kryptonian, human loses unless very lucky. Not even the non-powered but brilliant Batman can keep up in a prolonged fight with a determined Superman.

If Warner Bros. can pull off this team-up, they’ll get their cinematic universe in a good position. When you think about all the other attempts to get any of their characters to the big screen with any measure of success, a Superman/Batman film was WB’s strongest, and probably the only card they had left.

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So Close and Yet So Far: Epic Elite Solo

Garamol and Lynncletica in negotiations for his loot.

Garamol and Lynncletica in negotiations for his loot.

In between her farming duties for her lower-powered students, Lynncletica, the Little Mountain and my most powerful character, is eyeing how to attain her Purple Dragon Knights favor to unlock her Spider-Spun Caparison outfit.

At the time of this writing, she’s got 319 favor, short of the 375 needed to access the NPC that will allow unlocking.

I figure I might be able to get the needed favor by completing EE with the Eveningstar and Underdark chain quests.

That’s a better number of favor since the introduction of the three inaugural Shadowfell quests, which added more PDK favor to the mix.

As noted before, Lynncletica is built to endure EE as long as any pure Monk can manage. In any other difficulty or adventure outside of Epic Elite, she is practically invulnerable.  She ventures through the Subterrane for Icy Raiment farming with nary a care.

Final score: Lynn 1, Sinvala 0.

Final score: Lynn 1, Sinvala 0.

She can tank Arraetrikos in “The Shroud” on Elite and not feel the least inconvenienced, avoiding much of what he throws out.

She can take out Sinvala the Black Dragon in Elite “Mired in Kobolds” (the dragon is CR 30, and we know how nastier dragons are as of Update 17).

I find soloing with Lynn a joy, but it also helps me weed out any weaknesses in her. Soloing most anything up to Epic Hard is quite doable within the quest objectives. Multiple party member-quests are about the exception.

But Epic Elite, as experienced players know, is a different beast. I’d love to have a few guildies join me rather than  an insane solo run, but as I noted in my last post, our guild, and perhaps DDO as a whole, is significantly suffering from player attendance.

To test out her capacity to survive and beat an EE adventure, Lynncletica’s first EE solo run began in the millhouse in the King’s Forest.

As few hirelings of any level would survive in EE, I summoned only a Rogue/Shadowdancer, just to disable the spell wards inside the home. Healing would come from Lynn’s potent healing amplification numbers (I estimate about 400%).

Lynn has two combat modes. In Dreadnought mode (with Legendary Dreadnought as dominant Epic Destiny), Lynn can dish greater damage but have little in the way of additional attacks granted by Grandmaster of Flowers, and lose out on some PRR, Dodge bonus and tactical DCs granted from that destiny. Lynn’s preferred mode for EE is to twist LD’s Improved Combat Expertise and Unyielding Sentinel’s Brace for Impact for more PRR and fortification combining all the DCs and Dodge effects and PRR boosts in GMoF. She typically sits around 686 to 735 HP depending on her buffs or combat mode.

On entering, I parked the hireling and set about pummeling the Drow Priestess. This took a while as Lynn’s combat damage was lower and the CR 44 Priestess’s overall DR was rather nasty. A few times she brought me to half my HP before I needed to use one potion between Healing Ki bursts and Fists of Light’s +2 to +5 HP recharges per hit. Soon, the Priestess walked off with her warning and I was left to figure out the better strategy to complete this place.

Option 1: A Sacrifice of Many for the One

Here, I’ll just encounter the Priestess and beat her up until she sacrifices everybody and has nothing left to live for..er…with, then slay her to complete.

This avoids the dangerous fighting of her minions in each room as well as the risk that the Rogue hireling would get insta-killed and unable to remove the wards, leaving me quite vulnerable to their damage. The downside is that the Priestess would draw on every body, minion or hostage, to stay alive.

I recall one player that managed to attract the Priestess in the hidden attic room, where it appears she was too far to sacrifice anyone, but at the time I was playing I couldn’t look up that reference. His stealth skills likely equal Ryncletica’s ability, but Lynn’s stealth, while superior, lacks the Shadowdancer advantages that the forum poster’s build likely had, including Improved Invisibility to open that hidden room without attracting a mob.

Option 2: Go Hero

I chose this option on my first attempt, to slay minions and rescuing hostages to leave the Priestess with little to sacrifice. It didn’t seem that I would save any time or resources in trying to gun the Priestess down in option 1 by outlasting her. I figured I would get the upper hand on her minions if I was lucky.

The Rogue hireling (a lower level Epic one, to my fault) barely took down the first two wards in the outer upper hallway. After I parked her near the entrance, I tried to remove the enemies in the first room.

Did I mention how I hate mages? In my first attempt in Grandmaster Mode, a wizard managed to blow through my 44 saves to hold me, and that was that as the fighters sliced me up like so much bologna. Holding a Monk is about the one defense that mages might succeed to cast in time before a spell-resistant and high-saving Monk tries to stun them. That mage got lucky or was just the better man, being a likely CR 40.

A couple of days later, I tried again, switched to Dreadnought Mode for considerably more damage but keeping most of my defenses up. This time, however, the Priestess would have none of it and managed to blast me with disintegrate attempts faster than Lynncletica’s otherwise-impressive ability to fully reheal all her 700+ HP  while fighting in less than 45 seconds.

More Thinking To Do

I still wonder if this particular EE would be better done in Dreadnought mode. The key is to build up blitz moments that could be used to attack the minions–hard–in Master’s Blitz epic moment mode. It’s an incredible attack mode that Lynn learned can increase speed and damage to godly levels for powerfully fast takedowns for as long as you have enemies to kill.

Building up a charge would not be too hard, since I can spam up a charge in a public area and wait in-quest to use it in the minion room.  With luck, the speed of takedowns will recharge the Blitz to allow me to perform a similar take down in successive rooms. The Blitz is a good idea because it will last up to 2:30 min, or 1 charge lost per 15 seconds. If I can kill fast, the Blitz sustains itself.

Which means, with critical hits in the thousands and normal attacks in the 200s, taking down anyone should be easy with haste boosts. Whether a mage intervenes in time to ruin my berserk mode is another story.

As to that mage, the maximum reflex save I can generate with temporary boosts and buffs is about 52. My stunning DC is about the same, suitable for a lesser-fortified class such as a wizard. If I enter a room, target the mage and off him first, I have a literal fighting chance. I need those same reflexes to evade certain damage from attacks, but from there, its the Big Three of Miss Chances combined with fast takedowns and stick-and-move fighting that might win the day for an EE solo run.

Some comments from an esteemed commenter a recent post notes some greater benefits from Unyielding Sentinel (among other destinies) that I haven’t tried yet. On his pure Monk, using Fatesinger for buffing, he has over 1300 HP (also thanks to taking Toughness feats until his fingers bled). Good defenses, too. In Lynn’s next life, a few more Toughness feats and anything to help Dodge and reflex saves still attracts me. For those who think that a Monk can’t tank, well, Daniel’s work should change your mind.

Practicing What You Preach (Or, Why Syncletica Sucks)

MinotaurAggro

Sometimes, Syncletica is a moron. In this not-so-related capture, we see Syncletica’s stone floating peacefully, surrounded by the WHOLE minotaur city that came to greet and beat her.

Some time ago I mentioned an Epic Elite run with my guildmates into “The Portal Opens” where Syncletica felt all “Hey–I know kung fu” confident–right up to when she was killed like a gnat in the first 20 seconds of the adventure.

I’ve been playing and enjoying the game too much using other toons, dealing with real-life, updating the Monk guide and enduring many new and planned game updates to get around to giving Syncletica a decent post-mortem–until now.

Syncletica is my very first DDO character. Her other students, Lynncletica and Ryncletica, have an advantage in that they are built from the harsh lessons of Syncletica’s gameplay. For some reason, I didn’t meld much of Lynn and Ryn’s experience into Syn’s second life, and it gravely shows. I must’ve been sleeping on the day that I True Reincarnated her.

Poor Miss Chance

Syncletica’s Dodge bonus at level 23 was a puny 8%. Nope, that’s not a typo. Lynn, an Earth Stancer, has a respectable 18%, while Ryncletica runs at 21% at Level 17 and will have it perpetually maxed when back in Shadowdancer destiny.

That’s pretty lame. Syncletica plays fine in Heroic adventures but a mere 8% chance to save against an attack is a mortal flaw.

While Syncletica is a fan of the Dance of Clouds 20% concealment buff she can generate herself, she has no incorporeality bonus.

Summing it up, Syncletica needs some gear and a retool of her feats for better Dodge. She’s a Wind Stancer with very high Doublestrike (16% to 22%) but she won’t survive to use it until I add in some feats and a bit of gear to raise her Dodge to at least 16%. An Epic Gianthold Ring of Shadows would be useful here.

As with Ryncletica, it would be logical to adjust feats to add Whirlwind Attack. The prerequisite feats for it (Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack) would add in an instant 7% Dodge bonus but also Combat Expertise to boost AC by 10%.  A Monk with Doublestrike and Whirlwind Attack should have crazy procs on off-hand attacks, helping to clear a room faster. I’ve long since required that all Monks have at least Cleave in their build, so this will eat three, not four, effective slots.

If time allows, Shadowdancer training to get Shadow Form for 25% incorporeality and better Dodge would also make Syn a longer lasting fighter.

Poor Epic Fortification

Syncletica was slaughtered in EE Portal Opens because she entered with only 100% fortification. The enemies in a typical EE are CR 40 or more. That means Syn needs at least 140% fortification to survive a direct critical hit at least once. Without that, Syn was instantly killed by a critical hit.

She’ll need to train a bit in Unyielding Sentinel for its tier 1 “Brace for Impact” which gives 40% stacking fortification and +2 to Reflex saves (handy for Evasion).

She owns a Fabricator’s Ingenuity set to add in additional 25% stacking fortification if needed, and she should own a 20% or higher exceptional fortification item to add to this.

Poor Saves

Syncletica’s saves are average. Her Wind Stance reduces her Fortitude saves. Her high DEX should help her Reflex saves, but something is missing. As I note in the Monk guide, based on DDO forum discussions and Lynncletica’s experience, a 40 save is minimal for Epic Elite, 50 is good, 60 is godly.

Syn should train more in Ocean Stance. She’s loved the use of Void Strike IV in the past. However, it’s now a liability since it’s not as reliable as a kill strike before Epic levels, as well as the massive AP drain in training other stances to qualify for it. Further, the Grandmaster of Flowers tier 6 ability, Everything is Nothing, is effectively a Void Strike IV, Mass, with a certain kill success, that requires destiny points, not action points. Syn needs the saves (and Dodge bonuses) that Grandmaster of Oceans can provide. The downside is that I might not be able to improve her Earth Stance beyond Adept level…there won’t be enough APs for more than two Master or greater stances, I suspect.

Speed is Not Enough

Wind Stance is a joy to play. It’s certainly more kung-fu than the other stances. But EE is an endurance game and Syn was far too spongy to succeed in her current level.

A thought came to me to consider training her more in the Legendary Dreadnought destiny. Aside from working to get Improved Combat Expertise (for more PRR; Syn currently hasn’t any), she can certainly take advantage of the action boosts. Syn can already seem a blur when fighting, but a haste action boost would make her essentially ethereal to her foes.

The damage and attack boosts would certainly not hurt, either. Training the destiny to maximum for the epic moment of Master’s Blitz would make Syn a powerfully fast fighter. The question remaining involves Syn’s ability stats, specifically, STR. I’ve learned from Lynn how important STR really can be in determining damage (I’ve not played other melees so forgive my Captain Obvious epiphany), yet I’ve often put STR on the lesser track. Syn has high DEX…maybe too high. Two or more points need to go from DEX to STR, if not a bit more. The change will affect Reflex saves but give far greater damage per second. On a Wind Stancer, that means you’re aren’t shooting faster, necessarily, but your bullets will be much larger.

Down on the Farm

Looks like Lynncletica will have to spend a bit more time in “Devil Assault”  to build up some Tokens of the Twelve so that I can reincarnate Syncletica once more. As it seems, Syn should become an interesting fusion from Lynn’s Earth schooling and Ryn’s shadowy Ocean schooling to make her a powerhouse fighter once more.

I guess I should prepare for the new enhancements, too, and how that will affect all of my characters. I’ll have to apply GamerGeoff’s workaround for the broken updated TurbineInvoker code to get my Lammania client started again.

Syncletica Fails her Knowledge Save: A Monk Guide Correction

Student Whiffle Purr left a note on the About the Monk Guide comment page that pointed out a gross error in the Book of Syncletica’s chapter on Evasion, Dodge, Concealment and Incorporeality.

While Evasion is rolled against your Reflex save, the other three items are simple miss chance calculations, as if every attack is a 100% chance that’s reduced by each effect. Since each effect can stop an attack, your odds of reducing damage are higher as these percentages rise. I incorrectly noted that all of the miss chance effects use Reflex.

I ate some baked crow with the morning coffee while making quick tweaks to this chapter but I might show the same stupidity in other chapters, so bear with me as I update.

It Is Inevitable, Teacher Syncletica

It's not cheating if you're allowed to have several partners to enjoy. Gaming is like that.

It’s not cheating if you’re allowed to have several partners to enjoy. Gaming is like that.

Empress Mizzaroo’s recent post on her enjoyment of WoW got me to thinking more about something that’s been on my mind for several months.

She pens her new pastime in joining World of Warcraft as if she’s cheating on Turbine and DDO. Can’t say I blame her. Her sentiment is like my own and should be appreciated by the Turbine staff.

I’ve never enjoyed a game as much as I have DDO, not because they have Monks (albeit their existence was my primary motivation to try it out) but, as I learned later, the friendships you gain through guilds help out a lot in play and adds to the fun. That said, the virtual world of DDO has become…real to me.

Not everyone enjoys this sentimentality with MMO games…or cannot do so for long.

With the recent introduction of Neverwinter Online, yet another D&D-flavored world competes for the attention of the gaming faithful. That game’s introduction has impacted my guild on Ghallanda, which now has a guild formed in the NWO while still supporting its original DDO guild.

But one cannot serve two masters without compromise. My guild’s overall active players per day has dropped noticeably.

Despite the allusion of cheating, it’s not fair to say to guildies that you can only play one game. Many of my guildies have played DDO since it’s introduction in 2006. That’s a very long time to play one game world, even if new content is introduced regularly. I must be clear here in stating that I don’t blame my game pals one damned bit for playing elsewhere. DDO is a game, not a religion. Eventually your attention wanders for recreation.

Yet, change is here. I’ve been in the DDO world for about 3 years now and I’m not done with the fun. But my guild’s primary leadership are often away on NWO, with maybe less than two hours of DDO gameplay per week. For many other reasons outside of gaming elsewhere, our overall attendance is lower.

It’s also possible that the recent updates (including the demise of MyDDO blogging as well as the controversial use of gaming logins for forum logins) as well as planned updates such as a total rewrite of the enhancement scheme is causing people to find somewhere else to play.

So what’s a Monk to do when his friends are partying elsewhere?

It comes down to a few tough choices, although there’s not always a dichotomy that forces me to choose one over the other.

  1. Hold the fort: As a guild officer, continue to post quests and raids to keep guild interest up, since our guild leader doesn’t restrict this action only to the guild leader.
  2. Suck it up: Continue to play solo but join up on guild runs and (shudder) PUGs if I want some company.
  3. Give in: Create a new account on Neverwinter Online and find my guild friends there.
  4. Resist.

Holding the Fort

I’ve been trying to manage my toons so that I can lead parties from many levels for quest chains and raids. It’s not easy: Monks level fast. But my real-life comes first, as our guild charter states, so I can’t post something for everyday and not be able to attend it myself. I’ve had my share of family outings and weekend plans lately.

So I need to continue to encourage others in the guild to post and participate, too. This has worked with limited success since our overall numbers online per night are lower and overall attendance per week is scarily low. I will continue to schedule and run things but there’s only so much one person can do with limited numbers and time.

Suck It Up

Playing solo is often my way. I’m not a particularly sociable person in real life so the virtual life of a monastic, often solitary and contemplative, translates into my gameplay. Paradoxically, playing with guildies breaks me out of this and I prize it highly as it takes a group of good friends to pull me out of my shell.

I’ve joined up with a few stalwart guildies every few nights to run something, so that’s something. As with many, I loathe PUG gameplay. From personalities to zerging to people who are too new to the game or ignorant of gameplay, their game roles or common courtesy, PUGs make my hands chafe.

But often when there isn’t anyone at my level in the guild that is playing anything I can join with the character I’m training, this option is a ping-pong of solo and limited guild play that feels like you’re managing a long-distance relationship. Badly.

Give in to Neverwinter

A few of you might say, “Why not the best of  both worlds? Go join NWO and roll up a free toon?”

I say, “So…how long have you been reading my blog? You don’t know me too well, I guess.” 

The answer here is clear. NWO is very new and appears to have a rather on-rails gameplay. My wife complains enough on how much time I spend on DDO, so adding a second game world is like offering new drugs to an addict on the mend.

Most importantly, there are no Monks in NWO (yet). Not that I play Monks all the time, just almost all of the time. The most attractive classes there are Rangers, Clerics and Rogues–and I give limited play to those classes on DDO as it is.

I can rewind the game clock and install any of my classic Neverwinter Nights games or even the all-martial arts world of Jade Empire if I needed a second respite. I don’t. I like DDO and I’m still learning everything this world can do. As well, I’d only add to the guild decline already in play on Ghallanda by spending time in that version of Neverwinter.

Resist

Once in awhile I’d organize my guild to do something a little different, such as running “The Shroud” with almost all Monks and one or two healers. That raid was a complete curb-stomping of Harry with all the DPS generated by that raid party. Similarly, we’ve had a Mostly-Arcane Archer raid, too.

I’ve toyed and joked with the idea of creating my own guild whose membership would be limited to characters with no fewer than two Monk levels. “The Order of Syncletica” would be a fitting name for it (reflecting the tradition of monastic order names such as the Order of St. Benedict), but I’d likely name it something less similar so as not to conflict with the blog name or Turbine’s fansite rules (I’ve since added the blog to the DDO fansites list).

A guild of Monks would be as true of a dojo as I could make it. We can share resources and tips, organize all kinds of  quests and stomp the living hell out of this game. I would have complete responsibility for the guild’s growth and maintaining player interest with what the game quests provide me.

The downsides are obvious. A guild takes time to grow and requires much time and resources to maintain. In a real sense, I’d be doing what I see others are doing; playing less and less in my current guild in favor of something more shiny and new. I’d just be doing that within the game itself. Further, I’d likely create the guild on a new server.

Based on the DDO Wiki articles on creating a guild and building an airship, this would be a formidable task that would likely sap most of my game time on my original server since I will need to either sink lots of real-world cash to buy Astral Shards to buy a ship and its amenities, or create a new character, play solo and in PUGs to generate the in-game platinum needed to kickstart the guild. I haven’t even thought of the hassle of recruiting.

It is Inevitable, Smith Says

Like Smith, the games are many. I can fight against assimilation for so long before I'm overcome.

Like Smith, the games are many. I can fight against assimilation only for so long before I’m overcome. But I will fight.

Sooner or later, forming a all-Monk guild or joining an existing one is probable for me if I stay in DDO. All the information I’ve collected through experience and comments from readers like you have made the Book of Syncletica what it is. The new enhancements (love them or hate them) will also alter the game significantly that might be of great interest to people who’ve felt that DDO is a little long in the tooth.

Agent Smith was right when he told Neo that he would eventually die. He just didn’t anticipate that Neo would take Smith down with him. Same was true with the deaths of other major characters in The Matrix Trilogy.

The cycle of game life means that, eventually, a game must be reloaded–whether it be by technology, the developers, or the players themselves. Mind you, it can be the same game code played, or you load in new code.

For now, I’m in “Screw Destiny” mode. I’m staying, and will fight in and for Xen’drik until it or I cease to exist.

If I ever form that all-Monk guild, you’ll be the first to know. For now, I’ll hold the fort and suck it up until it sucks too much.

Off Topic: “Man of Steel”

Man-of-SteelDecided to take a break from gaming and enjoy the holiday a bit to go to a movie.

I was a bit reticent to see this latest retelling of Superman on the big screen. The last attempt, Superman Returns, was a bland tale that was relatively low on action that I would nickname it, Superman: The Motionless Picture. While director Bryan Singer did well on X-Men and X-Men 2, he lost his mojo for Returns–likely because the movie seemed like there was some anvilicious message in it. That, and the film tried too hard to be a better continuation of the 1978 films.

The only reason I dragged myself to see this new film has a name associated with it: Christopher Nolan. The same guy that brought a realistic but enjoyable Dark Knight Trilogy of films wasn’t at the helm for this Superman film, but his production company headed the venture, and his influence with the script was clearly present.

So, what did I think of the movie?

I liked it. Superman was portrayed realistically and enjoyably. The character was close enough to its comic book legend, the story background from Krypton was primal and engrossing, and the acting was very good. I enjoyed Amy Adam’s Lois (neither quite damsel nor action girl), and I liked how the storyline took a page from Marvel on the xenophobia our society would have in reality if someone like Superman would appear.

The story is filled to the brim with action. Notable roles include Henry Cavill, who did quite well as Clark, as well as Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner as Clark’s fathers in a potent nod to the need for strong fathers. Lovely Diane Lane was stripped of her usual Hollywood glamour and (along with the actress that portrayed Kal-El’s mom) also sent a great message to the power of motherhood.

Seems that this summer is a time for re-dos. As with situations of a previous Star Trek film making its way into Star Trek Into Darkness (yet to be seen, but I know the plot), we get a retelling of General Zod. Contrary to his 1978 movie version, you can understand where this Zod comes from as he is simply not doing terrible things just to be terrible. He truly cares to save Krypton, however flawed his reasoning. Michael Shannon is dark, determined and a great foil for Superman.

The only element of the film I didn’t enjoy is something often glossed over in most of the comics but shouldn’t have been ignored in a “Nolanverse” film. Superman’s fights bring amazingly catastrophic destruction on a level similar to having ten 9/11 attacks with several collapsed buildings and the untold deaths that come from this. The movie ends without any mention of having to rebuild half of the city, nor how the populace feels about Superman’s presence. Personally, I’d be very fearful of being “saved” by Superman if he came to town. I’d find a bomb shelter right then and there. (In contrast, the end of The Avengers lampshades this similar destruction levied on New York City briefly as news reports roll in.)

I don’t want to spoil the film further, but if you still felt unsettled by Returns, go enjoy Man of Steel. Like The Dark Knight Trilogy, this will not uphold certain comic book precepts as, like in Batman Begins, people seem less, uh, stupid. Lois figures out who Clark is in the first 30 minutes. It’s not a story of Clark as Superman, but a story of people who either become better–or worse–because they learn, quite abruptly, that they are not alone in the universe.

(Update: Added a link to a website that calculated hypothetical damage and deaths based on Chicago or NYC as analogues for Metropolis. We’re talking deaths, injuries and missing in the millions, here.)

Monks and the Dreaming Dark: Going Deeper

It’s fascinating what you can learn from Wikipedia these days (especially given that you really shouldn’t use Wikipedia to learn anything important unless you like your data heavily biased).

With thoughts of creating my own guild someday, I began considering a name for the guild. That’s when I stumbled on Wikipedia’s article on the religions of Eberron.

Unlike the Forgotten Realms, religion is cited primarily as minor story background through DDO, rather than determining your character’s specific alignment or favored weapons and spells as you would see in games such as classic Neverwinter Nights. That is, you’re more associated with a church (such as the Silver Flame) than a specific deity.

Also, while you might actually encounter avatars of many deities in FR gameplay, DDO’s Eberron has only a handful of powerful physical gods (The Lord of Eyes, Vol, Lolth, the Devourer of Dreams) but  few to none of the deities of a more cosmological bent, such as Mystra or Tyr. You can see the distinction as the developers portray it in the rest and resurrection shrines. In Eberron, these shrines are more hunks of vaguely ornate carved stone with generic, non-descript faces. But for shrines in the FR adventures, the shrines are beautifully-crafted figures of two specific deities of the Forgotten Realms. You might not be aligned to them, but these shrines restore you, all the same.

While DDO is based on the Eberron game campaign, it’s gameplay mechanic doesn’t fully sync with the pen-and-paper game. That said, the wiki article gives a very interesting backstory on the Dreaming Dark, as well as what occurred in the Eberron backstory that surrounds these shadowy inhabitants.

The Quori

You’ve heard the name of the Quori dropped if you’ve played any of the adventures in the Inspired Quarter.

The Quori are, as the Eberron Wiki page describes them, creatures of nightmare that originate from the extraplanar realm of Dal Quor. The Quori’s existence was tied to Eberron’s ages. When Eberron moved to a new age, the Quori die off and are reborn into something else that aligns better to what Eberron has transformed to become.

However, most of the Quori seem to hate this link and are trying to continually stop the change. They attempted to invade Xen’drik during the Age of the Giants, several game-thousands of years prior to present-day Eberron. The Giants stopped their advance. Familiar story? It should be. You get to react to a new invasion inside a recording of an old invasion of one key battle of that Quori/Giant fight in the quest “Eye of the Titan.”

After seeing that recollection, your character freaks and decides to investigate more into the Inspired, where they find themselves fighting for their own will in “Finding the Path.”

Let's see Leo and Friends try to go deeper on THIS guy.

Let’s see Leo and Friends try to go deeper on THIS guy.

Yep, if you’re fighting dream creatures, you need to go deeper. (In a related bit, GamerGeoff notes that, if you’re fighting DDO bugs, this might be true, too.)

Since that war, the Giants broke the direct connection of the Quori realm and Xen’drik, so the Quori can’t easily manifest in the Material Realm.

I love this story as well because it shows that the Quori were the true creators of the Warforged, not House Cannith. Before the House Cannith additions were added to the game over a year ago, players could pick up on this clue only from the quest. The true origins of the Warforged are now clearer as you read the journals found scattered about  inside the Cannith Manufactury zone. Basically, House Cannith found an old Quori device that could make these living constructs.

There were a handful of Quori who did not care for the evil ways of most of their brethren. In fact, they favored this change of the Ages. Before the war with the Giants, I think, one of the Quori, Tarantai, rebelled and escaped with about 66 followers into the Material Realm in hopes of a way to promote this change, which they believed would be filled with joy and not static darkness. There, she encountered some monastics in the land of Sarlona. These Monks voluntarily melded with these good Quori spirits–and also ensured that they’d have a bullseye painted on every one of those Monks by the Dreaming Dark Quori.

The descendants of these good-aligned Quori Monks are known as Kalashtar: Humanoid beings with psionic powers. Familiar word, kalashtar? You heard the name dropped when you’re exploring the second quest in the Gray Moon Waning chain on Sorrowdusk Isle: “Justice for Grust.” The Dungeon Master implies that kalashtar are extremely wise–and it doesn’t take you, much less a kalashtar, to know you are walking into a trap in that quest.

To kill off a kalashtar’s Quori spirit forever is nearly impossible. You could off one or two, but to kill off the Quori essence which, like a spiritual genetic trait, has passed into all kalashtar, you can only destroy Tarantai’s followers completely through absolute genocide of their entire race.

Destroy an entire race of super-smart psionic Monks? Yeah, like that’ll happen.

Not that the Dal Quor haven’t tried.

The Kalashtar vs. the Legions of Dal Quor

It seems that good Quori Tarantai realized that the legions of evil brethren in Dal Quor would eventually come to the Material Realm to destroy the Monks of Sarlona and the descendants of her followers.

So Tarantai and her direct descendants decided to screw up that plan–at the cost of their own existence. When the Dal Quor entered the Material World to target Tarantai’s descendants, they eventually used special devices called Shroud Resonators, which began to eternally protect the kalashtar and the Salona Monks. Activating these devices required all of Tarantai’s descendants to die in doing it.

This event hasn’t stopped the Dal Quor from continuing their efforts to destroy Xen’drik. They began to merge themselves with some humans (over a much longer time frame than the Kalashtar, and with greater coercion)  to create the Path of Inspiration, a secretive organization that plots the overturn of anything that will move Eberron forward into light. Darkness hates that, apparently. You can play a series of quests that deal with their attempt to mind-control all of Stormreach, which is also connected to yet another attempt by the Dreaming Dark to invade Xen’drik en masse again–this time, without the Giants and Dragons to stop them.

In the game, they call the cover organization “Dal Qat” and not “Dal Quor,” and I’ve yet to figure out why this is.

Maybe it’s a cover inside a cover within a cover.

Dammit!

Be sure to drop in the Inspired Quarter one day to see them at their work.

What? They look like just another quirky religion to you?

Try looking at them with True Seeing active on your character.

Differences in DDO

As I said before, the kalashtar are mentioned only in passing in one DDO adventure. The kalashtar, despite being aligned with some Monks at their start, are primarily a psionic race, with beauty that rivals the Elves. DDO, at the moment, don’t have the Kalashtar or any psionic race in game. (I expect the Gnomes to show up in-game before psions do–and I won’t bet on that, either.)

But should the Kalashtar do appear, they have to have a special kinship to the Monk class, and, as Halflings have an affinity to the Rogue class, a Kalashtar Monk would have special racial abilities. I like the take on this on this fan page about the race.

Oh, yeah. “I can kill you with my brain”, indeed.

The “Shroud resonators” and the Shroud raid (“The Thirteenth Eclipse”) aren’t related (as I first believed in reading the Wikipedia story). But it does give a fine story to why the Dal Quor seem more annoyed in fighting Monks and lawful characters. You never know if your Monk has a little Quori in them–and that means there’s an old blood feud about to occur.

You can read what I think is a tidbit of the the PnP Eberron usage of its thirteen moons that forms “The Shroud” story background in this Eberron Wiki article for comparison.