In Sword Art Online, the hero kept himself at least 10 character levels above the floor level he challenged (where the game world had 100 floors). This is more akin in levels to what perhaps “World of Warcraft” does than in Dungeons & Dragons games where 30-40 is the ultimate character level (depending on your game edition or rules).
So what’s a suitable safety margin for Kiri’s gameplay without becoming overpowered? Can a solo player really get overpowered since it’s always you alone against everything?
More Power, More Balance
For part of that answer, I think I’ll defer to the experience system.
In DDO Wiki, the amount of experience gained versus character level is explained thus:
Level of quest vs level of highest character in quest: (party) Compare the quest's level to the level of the highest-level character to have entered the quest (even if they later left). If that character's level is below, equal to, or one level above the quest's level, there is no adjustment. If it's +2, there's a -10% penalty. +3 = -25%, +4 = -50%, +5 = -75%, +6 = -99%, and at +7 or higher there is no XP regardless of bonuses. Casual difficulty subtracts 2 from the quest's level (if possible) for purposes of this adjustment, Hard difficulty adds 1, and Elite adds 2. Solo difficulty does not affect it.
Kiri’s goal. optimally, is to complete quests at no greater than two levels higher than Elite as a general rule, primarily to gain a decent experience reward. But some quests are absolutely far harder at-level, or even with a couple of character levels above Elite’s 10% penalty.
Kiri’s goal is not to level fast, but she shouldn’t complete quests with greater than 4 levels or she’ll blow quite a few experience points: more than 50%. Remember also that Kiri generally avoids optionals, Ransack and kill bonuses so that experience is also lost to her.
The second half of a good safety margin involves an effective offensive/defensive balance. Kiri’s at Level 9 but has had serious issues with a few Level 6 quests on Elite difficulty. There are many factors. She’s the only target. Her defenses at this point are lower. Her offensive powers, save Wave of Despair (mass negative level effect) don’t yet include Cleave or Great Cleave. She also hasn’t much in hit points.
For quick damage, her Sneak Attack bonuses need to improve (including wearing items) and I need more WIS for saves, ki and defense, as well as later to ensure that Quivering Palm sticks to quick-kill isolated targets. Power Attack and Cleave is needed for quests that require fighting in the trenches. She’s added Unbalancing Strike for its diversion ability for Sneak Attack power.
Lastly, Kiri’s defenses are light on AC. That might improve in a bit with some gear upgrades, but I really need to absorb more damage than I am at present, meaning that I need 60 AC or better by level 12.
The primary skill she has is the ability to sneak about, even in very close quarters, to evade enemy detection. But when she is detected, oh boy. For that reason, often Kiri has had to downshift to Hard difficulty for some adventures and return to fight another day for an Elite completion.
The main challenge is kill avoidance where it is allowed, no matter the quest or character level. If the objectives are something like “Slay everything in sight” (as with quests like “Kobold Assault”) then Kiri can take or leave that quest, completing it for house favor if desired, no matter the quest level.
Paralyzing swords and handwraps will be the thing, but the Envenomed Blades will likely be her go-to weapons for special reasons below.
The Way of the Ki Warrior
Like Quintessica the Mystic before her, Kiricletica must weaponize all aspects of ki for defense and attack.
Most Monks use a Stunning Fist here, a Quivering Palm there. Going solo, I have to start wielding ki like a Jedi manages the Force. A Ninja Spy is now quite equipped to do this, I think, with the right timing.
After fighting through “Archer Point Defense,” a timed quest where slaying is mandatory, I learned a few things about Kiri. For one, the Ninjitsu effects are going to help immensely once I improve on more WIS. She already has Wave of Despair for mass-negative levels that go a long way in weakening a larger force.
With realizing the sheer power of poison from Szyncletica’s star-throwing, I’m going to improve on injecting and forcefully pulling Ninja Poison more and more, especially since Kiri uses long- and short swords for greatest damage. Aside from Wave of Despair, Ninjitsu is better against single enemies but could be useful against smaller mobs.
Impending Doom: A quick way to pull 25 ki and 25 HP back. Tactically I can’t see how this is economical since you’ll spend more to build this up, but it might come in handy. The DDO Wiki description seems to be missing what detriment this effect gives to any enemy, if anything.
Poisoned Soul: On a failed saving throw, your Touch of Despair finisher also causes your opponent to gain a stack of Ninja Poison every 6 seconds for 30 seconds. Ninja Poison from normal weapons only injects a stack on a critical hit. This will force several stacks into an enemy. Weapons that add poison, like Envenomed Blades, will gain advantage here since Ninja Poison increases poison vulnerabilities.
Poison Exploit: On a failed saving throw, your Touch of Despair finisher purges an enemy of Ninja Poison, dealing 1d20 poison damage per stack of Ninja Poison removed. Once you have an enemy with DOTs of 50 or more from poison damage, this ability will quickly magnify the damage. I think you can get up to 20 stacks of Ninja Poison into something, so this is a potential of 20d20–worse with vulnerabilities.
Poisoned Darts: Not a Ninjitsu skill but a core ability. I see myself using this against a small mob, injecting a mob with Ninja Poison before smacking enemies with more poison from any weapons and other Ninjitsu.
Of course, there’s also Touch of Death by Level 12 or so for more punishment.
All of this means that more and more WIS is essential.
But this does leave a set of quests where the victory will be rather Pyrrhic as a solo player just won’t have every ability handy to fully complete it at-level or at all and will need to go in as powerful as she can be. These include:
- Phiarlan Carnival: Some quests, like “A Small Problem,” are challenges of kill power while guarding Brawnpits. Others, like “Partycrashers” cannot be fully completed since I’ll lack sufficient Diplomacy until around level 12 or higher.
- Necropolis: Here’s my deep, dark secret. I’ve never completed the entire Necropolis 1-4 quest series on any character, ever. As such, I’m going in blind as a bat for some of the quests. I know some have multiple switches or require splitting up a party, which means that I’ll not be able to complete them without suspending my self-imposed rules for that quest.
- Assault on Stormreach: The first three quests are solo-capable. It’s “Siegebreaker” that’s going to be a bear since the final fight is a small area where you’re going to be the inevitable center of attention. Perhaps a summoned creature might aid me here, but it runs the risk of frakking up the center puzzle I’ll have to solve.
- Raids: I have “The Chronoscope” in line to try, and “Tempest’s Spine” as well. I have no idea if I can make “The Reaver’s Fate” work in solo mode. And let’s not bother to go any farther than those for now.
- Devil Battlefield: With the right weapons, Kiri might live there. It’s “Genesis Point” and “A New Invasion” that give me pause. “Genesis” has switches that require a 2nd person to do and I’ve never gotten my graphic settings right to target them for a hireling to use from afar. “Invasion” isn’t bad in terms of the maze. What worries me is the boss, a very angry, cursespewing pit fiend in a room of trapped death where Kiri’s battle healing may prove inadequate.
There are quests I’m looking very forward to completing as a solo stealth character.
- Blockade Buster: I hope to get a high enough INT to leave via the mine bays, but it’s not required. My challenge is to end the kobold engineers before they raise any alarms. The no-alarm objectives are the only ones I’ve never completed. Since the quest supports high-stealth, this one’s mine.
- Frame Work: Devious bonus of 5 monsters to kill means I have the boss to slay with a margin of four others that are caught in my wake, in a quest where killing a hundred minotaurs means you’re only getting started.
- Claw of Vulkoor: Another quest with great stealth-rewards.
I’m pumping Kiri’s Hide/Move Silently scores to insane levels for a Heroic character. She’s near 35 now at level 9 with a few buffs. I’d love to have her at 50 by level 12–that’s Epic-level numbers that should really help against Spot checks at the sneak speed she can do. Jump and Tumble also needs a boost to overcome the -20 penalty on both skills, with Jump a priority.
It really seems that I’ll need to be 3-4 levels higher than the quest in order to survive, even with stealth tactics. And if I don’t build up my overall attack options, Kiri is in for a rougher ride.