Szyncletica, my third Ninja Spy, who specializes in throwing stars as her primary weapon, had minor teething pains, all expected. Perhaps I should say that her player had teething pains, primarily since a thrower is a different breed of Monk, like Henshin Mystics.
Nevertheless, she’s extremely fun to play and is my current obsession. She’s gained 7 levels since I rolled her up last week.
I think she takes down enemies faster at-level than either my Artificer, the semi-retired Arcammedes (my resident crafter) or my Arcane Archer, Pynthetica, now recently TR’d to become a Half-Elf Arcane Archer Monk (just to see how it works).
If you’re building one, take note of a few things.
Unarmed Fighting and Low STR
You don’t have good kung fu, frankly. With a very low STR (8), you don’t cause sufficient damage for many enemies. It’s good to have some handwraps when some oozes show up, but otherwise your power to damage comes from piercing and slashing weapons since your ninja training uses Dexterity to determine all damage–except for unarmed fighting, where STR still rules.
You might also get gravely surprised when you need to carry things (Gwylan’s Stand, Irestone Inlet, Stormcleave Outpost) or open barred doors (Proof is in the Poison, Cult of the Six) and find that your STR is so low that you can’t bust the door down or pull a lever. Getting hit by a Ray of Enfeeblement just once could leave you helpless and unable to even drink a Lesser Restoration potion, much less fight.
You must carry and wear extra STR items to give yourself enough carrying capacity, or run with a friend who does have the STR. Switching to Fire Stance will also help.
Pull out your shortswords and not your handwraps for close quarter fighting in some cases, save oozes. Shuriken are slashing weapons and they will cause some oozes to break up into several.
(A bit of useful news: I learned that, since Update 11 or so, all hireling weapons have the Everbright property so they won’t break them against oozes. Let them do the dirty work.)
Rocks and other Elementals
They’re often resistant to slashing damage caused by stars. They can’t be vorpaled. You’ll need to work on an elemental bane weapon, get really lucky to find a banishing star, or take to some shortswords again.
If you’re gathering up returning shuriken and can craft, here’s an opportunity to make an Icy Burst of Greater Elemental Bane star, if you are fortunate to have the skill and necessary ingredients. In “Taming the Flames,” Szyn’s very high Reflex save and Snowstar (Icy Burst) made this quest a breeze with completion of all optionals.
You aren’t generating any ki as a thrower. Ranged attacks don’t generate it.
That makes trying to use Ten Thousand Stars for a burst of damage a bit impossible with less than 20 ki. That’s why training up the Henshin Mystic ability, Contemplation, to its maximum will give a passive ki regeneration to keep your stable pool filled enough to use this ki ability. WIS is needed for ki quantity, but Concentration is essential.
At level 10, you should have +2 passive regeneration that should keep you hale and hearty if you play to the class strengths and stay in stealth to keep the maximum ki regeneration for when you need it. It’s not just for attack for to refresh your HP with Wholeness of Body.
On hitting level 12, I gained Greater Ocean Stance, so now I can push to +3 regeneration when the need arises.
Weapons and Attack Speed
You’re wielding a shuriken. It’s the lowest base damage weapon in the game (1d2). A dart has 1d4. A Club of the Holy Flame, for crying out loud, has a greater base damage than a throwing star. If we could lob spitballs, I’d imagine they’d do more base damage than a star.
Your martial ki attacks also won’t work with ranged attacks. The only damage from the star comes from the star itself and the standard weapon damage calculations based on your stats and enhancements.
Your mission is to use any abilities you can to maximize the damage per strike as well as the number of strikes per attack. That’s why the Shiradi Shuricannon build emphasizes DEX for a percentage chance of extra stars per attack as well as using Ninja Spy to gain DEX to damage, foregoing STR for damage calculation. WIS is used with Ten Thousand Stars to boost the number of stars thrown and number of attacks as well.
I just learned from the build’s author, Firewall, that Ranged Alacrity effects don’t work with thrown weapons. Pooh. At least Wind Stance helps here, and additional stars per attack certainly do.
You have only three named stars. Good luck in getting a star with common but important prefixes such as banishing, disruption and paralyzing. It’s not impossible, but you’ll likely need great luck in getting one. You’ll need to look to challenges and Green Steel for options, as well as some crafting, of course. If you are very lucky, you’ll find a returning star with a red augment slot.
Thankfully I have a handful of characters that can run the Vale flagging quests, gather up Shavarath stones and ingredients to make Szyn a GS base shuriken (that only binds to character on equipping), and then have these characters run “The Shroud” to gather ingredients to get her a powerful weapon very soon, before she reaches the Vale herself.
With Improved Critical: Thrown now added, the crit range is shown as 15-20. That’s not a typo. It’s still X2 damage, but that’s a very big window of opportunity to generate damage. I’m seeing criticals (wielding a Seeker VI kama) in the 120-140 range–and of course, multiple stars often proc with similar numbers at the same time.
Lightning II, Crushing Wave and Greater Disruption stars, in that order, are on my list. On running Threnal with guildies this weekend, I had to craft a Metalline Flametouched Iron Shuriken of Bleeding to penetrate the DR of the many Xoriat Renders there. It should hold me until Green Steel opportunities come about.
Damn that I’ll need to get several Large Splintered Horns to make these base items so that she’ll be able to throw Shards of Power at them to complete them. I’ve got one, so I’m hoping to barter a few more from guildmates.
And there’s also the Eveningstar Challenges for the spelltouched stars.
A star isn’t stopping anything in its tracks immediately. I’ve taken a page out of my Arcane Archer experience and scribbled some ninja know-how in it to come up with two tactics…
Distance, DoTs and Do-si-Dos
A high Spot and the right graphics distance renderings means that Szyn can lodge a star in the eyeball of a mephit from hundreds of meters away. Even if I have to throw several stars, it takes more time for something to chase me down than for it to die of multiple stars to the body.
By being far out of a mob’s Spot range, you are a highly effective sniper, able to down enemies without attracting any enemies surrounding your target. Using elevation and obstacles to limit the enemy’s ability to reach you is a bonus. A star-thrower completely dominates wide-area wilderness areas (the Devil Battlefield and the Shavarath area of the Vale of Twilight might be exceptions since enemy teleport is common there). Szyn’s venture through the Red Fens with her Snowstar turned the place into a dramatic killing field.
Standing still is key to success. The Archer’s Focus weapon stance of Precise Shot builds up cumultative bonuses to attack and damage to magnify the results.
Complementing the pelting is the Damage over Time effect of Ninja Poison. We discussed its potency and that of other poisons recently. When enemies start getting purple DoTs, their fate is sealed, even if I’m forced to run.
I’ve been combining DoTs and distance to fight orange and red-named bosses, as well as mobs, by dancing around enemies by circle strafing. This avoids damage from straight-line magic and melee attacks, leaving Szyn’s spell resistances, Evasion and saves to aid against tracking magic damage.
It’s only challenge is having enough room to run about, as well as my own game play in using the right keyboard and mouse controls to keep my hands from cramping. I’ve learned to mix in mouselook mode but I find it annoying since I lose access to my toolbars in this mode.
The results, however, are very very pleasing. I’m becoming surprised how few bosses are poison immune, gaining such immunity, if at all, on Elite difficulty. The three bosses at the end of “Frame Work” received catastrophic Ninja Poisoning, as high as 70 points per 3 seconds, that made short work of them. Even the ogre mage, whose kind disappears to regenerate after so much damage, received DoTs while intangible.
Some enemies don’t take well to being poisoned. I applied heavy DoTs to Hesstess in Elite “Eyes of Stone.” She returned the favor, I think, with an immediate dose of Medusa Snake Venom that zapped 25 CON off of me, killing me instantly.
Stealth and Sneak Attacks
Szyn knows how to use people. (She’s a Faerun Drow. Duh.) Her primary need for extra bodies, as with some others, is to keep the aggro situated elsewhere while she’s at work.
She’s almost always in stealth, recharging her ki and staying out of immediate detection. As her party charges in, she waits for the right moment before she strikes. Sneak attack damage builds up from Ninja training, as well as Ninja Poison. Later, the “No Mercy” ability increases damage against held and helpless foes.
She takes to the high ground whenever there is some. She never attacks first unless the distance between her and the mobs guarantees that she won’t pull her target and his friends to her and that the target goes down before it reaches her.
If required, she uses her Shadow Veil for invisibility in times where being seen is certain death and to give some incorporeality insurance if fighting is inevitable at close range.
The party-as-meat-shield concept isn’t new. But this mode makes it harder for Szyn to solo in that a cleric hireling (needed for healing) isn’t often a good meat shield. They have average DPS and Threat and so-so defenses. Up to level 13, I had a great relationship with Fayden Maelith, a durable L10 Cleric that fights better than she heals but does watch out for me, holds aggro well, and doesn’t bolt or do anything unpredictable. We took on “A Small Problem” on Elite and dominated the tiefling masses. She took aggro and guarded the giant well while I blasted the mages from behind. Lately, Flagon the Cleric and his Blade Barrier has been generally reliable.
I’ve had barely more successes than failures in Szyncletica’s ventures through the House Deneith quests. As noted, narrow corridors aren’t as favorable as wide expanses where Szyn can attack from very afar, while strafing or on high. I did a few Three Barrel Cove adventures and dominated them with ranged abilities.
In “Guard Duty,” I stood atop the bridge of one ship and blew things away with ease. No crew members died, and I let the Cleric hireling go nuts in fighting, which also helped the crew as she healed them and ignored me. In “The Troglodyte’s Get” and its sequel, “Old Grey Garl,” Szyn could use ninja stealth and distance to kill at extreme range. That final chest in the first quest, guarded by mages, was all too easy since my attacks greatly exceed their spell range or their ability to get closer before they’re slain. I just have to remember not to attack some enemies before their objective activates–it’s a common quest self-bugging situation.
But doing quests not quite at your level (even on Elite) is easy to boast about. I’m beginning to hit that wall where weapon effectiveness meets quest difficulty.
A return to the Pit late last week was triumphant. There, ninja skills make it easy to get to where you want to go without attracting a lot of attention. Being able to range everything is a bonus.
Protection and Other Gear
I’ve done something on a pure Monk that I’ve not done before. Szyncletica has put aside her Jidz-Tet’ka bracers in favor of Wind Howler Bracers to gain that occasional sonic damage strike. Since Szyn rarely leaves Wind Stance to keep her throwing speed and DEX up, the Jidz were only adding +10 to Jump, something I need only in cases where I need to jump higher in stealth and its -20 penalty to that skill.
So now I realize that the usual Monk equipment isn’t necessarily the most ideal. My AA experience isn’t completely helping since a lot of the functionality that Pynthetica possessed had originated from her AA and Ranger skills and less from the gear. More STR (for carrying capacity) is welcome, but WIS is most needed for improving ki and Ten Thousand Stars.
Time to drop a line on the Shuricannon thread for more help.