Assassins and Ninja Spies: A Comparison

Assassin: A knife for any occasion.

Assassin: A knife for any occasion.

(4/18/2014: A few comrades on the forums noted several glaring errors to my comparison here during a discussion on XP related to stealthing. I’ll update my comparison in the near future but, to keep my mea culpa here as a reference, I’ll revisit it in a new post.)

I have written and published several posts related to Kiricletica the solo ninja and originally had more posts on the way. But life events and Kiri’s fast leveling have antiquated those posts rather swiftly, making updates impractical.

So, I wanted to take a break from that to look at the Ninja Spy class in general, from the perspective of a similar class.

Most of you know (probably ad nauseam) what the Ninja Spy can do. They have many abilities to quickly harm and kill an enemy, both as enhancements or as part of the Monk class.

But how similar are the Ninja Spies to the Rogue Assassin?

Both classes are good scouts. Each handles traps in their own way. The Rogue would disarm them. The Monk would ignore them, thanks to Evasion, Abundant Step and high saves.

The ninja has many ways to kill. Everyone knows about the Assassin’s ultimate move, logically named Assassinate. But what else does this class do? Is there synergy between it and a ninja?

Note what I’m asking. I’m not pitting an Assassin and ninja in a player-versus-player fight. I’m trying to quantify what the Assassin’s innate skills can do in comparison to the Ninja Spy.

Conditions for Comparison

Since I can’t quite define a simulation of either class in a fight, it’s a matter of looking at each class’s raw abilities.

Both classes will have cooldowns on certain attacks. The Monk’s ki will also determine how often certain attacks can be done. Both situations increase the length of time.

There’s also the damage per second and types of attacks that may or may not cause noise or otherwise attract others.

So, as best I can do, I’ll compare and contrast weapon options, attack options, defense options, and how each class fares if they enter a quest completely alone as a hard soloist.

I will have a natural bias in this comparison since I haven’t a high level Assassin as yet. But I treat the DDO Wiki’s information as the gospel and will give favor to that class if my interpretation sees fit.

On Weapon Types

The Assassin is proficient with kukris (1d4 slashing) and daggers (1d4 piercing) and gain competence bonuses for these in their tree. Ninja Spies can use shortswords (1d6 piercing), kamas (1d6 slashing), shuriken (1d2 slashing, thrown) as well as fight unarmed (1d6 bludgeoning) as part of their monastic training. The Ninja Spy gains competence bonuses for shortswords and shuriken from their class tree but also unarmed bonuses as the central class.

An Assassin may gain other weapon proficiencies from racial qualities, but a Monk, no matter their race, is limited to weapons that allow them to stay centered. That said, in a class-to-class comparison, the Monk has the advantage since what few weapons they can use will deal a bit more damage. Further, a fully-trained Level 20 Monk has potent unarmed damage. A Ninja Spy’s weaponry, as a result, covers all the DR conditions, leaving only metallic DR to be bypassed with the right training or weapon. Complete Monk training allows Magic, Lawful and Adamantine bypass when fighting unarmed.

The Assassin may be capable of using thrown weapons but won’t gain greater proficiencies or training for them without racial enhancements or feats (such as being a Drow or Halfling).  Ninja Spies can use shuriken extremely well, gain some modest competencies for them over time but cannot use any ki attacks with thrown weapons.

On efficiency, the Ninja Spy looks like it has the upper hand here with greater weapon type options as well as stronger weapon damage. On damage per second, neither holds an advantage unless the Ninja Spy goes unarmed, which is always a faster attack speed than any class using armed combat.

On Attacks

Monks as a whole can greatly augment armed or unarmed damage using ki to add elemental damage with every attack, starting at 1d6 elemental damage to 2d20 damage by level 20. These elemental ki attacks have quick cooldowns of 3 seconds and from 5 to 8 ki to use, which isn’t very expensive given that a Monk generates some ki as they fight (excepting thrown weapons). Handwraps also augment damage and provide some weapon effects, despite not being weapons in themselves.

When using shortswords, kama or shuriken, Ninja Spies can inject Ninja Poison as an attack. Shuriken can only dose an enemy on a critical hit, but shortsword or kama use can also dose an enemy using the Ninjutsu ability, Poisoned Soul. The ability of Poisoned Darts is a special short-range attack that can be done while in any attack posture. The incredible damage-over-time effect of Ninja Poison has been discussed at length in previous posts.

Monks have a level 15 ki attack, Quivering Palm, that assassinates an enemy on a failed Fortitude save. The significant disadvantage over the Assassinate skill of the Rogue is that the Palm pulls you out of Sneak. Quivering Palm training also requires a higher character level prerequisite (15) than Assassinate (12). Quivering Palm has a 6 second cooldown but is rather ki expensive at 30 points.

The Ninja Spy’s penultimate attack, Touch of Death, requires the training of Ninjutsu: four toggled states that activate on a Touch of Despair finisher. Of these, Poisoned Soul and Poison Exploit weaponize Ninja Poison going in and going out. I’ve seen a Poison Exploit pull over 900 points of damage from an enemy–and that wasn’t from the ability fully trained (2 of 3 tiers). Touch of Death itself, even magnified by the Touch of Despair curse, can generate maybe 625 damage (twice if somehow it registers as a doublestrike).

While Assassinate is the Assassin’s penultimate attack, one that can be performed while sneaking and without pulling the Rogue out of Sneak, the class must train three other melee attacks as a tree prerequisite, called Poison Strikes. I had to go to my own Level 4 Assassin to determine if the training name was a misnomer or if Assassins actually deliver Poison damage with these attacks. A forum thread I opened had been trying to gain an answer.

As it turns out from some tests with my own Assassin, the Poison Strikes are treated as debuffing and stat-damage attacks that do not register in the combat log or overhead damage display as Poison damage, typed or untyped.

Each attack delivers a -1 stacking penalty (up to 5 times) against Fortitude, Will or Reflex saves. On critical hits, the attack also delivers 1d6 WIS, CON or DEX damage. On what would be a vorpal attack, each Poison Strike delivers a special effect. Heartseeker removes 5% of enemy HP, Ice Chill will paralyze, and Soulshatter will give a -100 spell resistance penalty. Any Poison Strike has a 6 second cooldown.

Also available to the Assassin are many other special attacks from their class tree. The core ability Assassin’s Trick will drop 25% enemy fortification and sneak attack immunity on a failed save, comparable to the Touch of Despair finisher for a Ninja Spy (-25% enemy fortification and +25% negative energy vulnerability).

Also in the Assassin’s arsenal are Shiv (higher weapon damage with less Threat, 12 second cooldown), Venomed Blades (weapon stance to add true Poison damage to all weapons), Bleed Them Out (increased weapon damage and on successful damage causes your opponent to bleed, stacking 5 times, 1d6 damage every 2 seconds for 14 seconds per stack) and Execute (3[W], 500 damage if enemy health below 20%).

Lastly, Damage Boosts are available to greatly increase weapon damage for up to 30 seconds, and there’s the core ability Lethality, which will kill enemies on a sneak attack if the hit would’ve been calculated as a vorpal strike.

Both classes gain special attack modifiers for their damage. For Ninja Spies, the first two core abilities give them Dexterity to Damage, where both attack rolls and damage are directly from this ability for any piercing and slashing weapon they can use while centered. Assassins gain a similar option with their two core abilities for daggers and kukris only but require Weapon Finesse to use other melee weapons in this way. At least the Assassin can consider other options; Ninja Spies will become uncentered weapons such as a rapier or dart.

By level 20, both Ninja Spies and Assassins gain Competence bonuses to their weapon critical multipliers and damage. Ninja Spies also gain vorpal properties on any shortsword, kama and shuriken attack.

The Ninja Spy, being a Monk, has far greater diversity in adding the right elemental damage to customize any attack, including negative energy and poison. The Ninja Spy’s Touch of Death and Poison attacks add great diversity–and this is on top of any weapon damage effects.

The Assassin may have fewer overall attacks but they aren’t poor. It’s a matter of how they are applied in a circumstance. But if a player uses the wrong attack, they may have to wait longer for its cooldown and a chance to attack again–and losing any attack advantages in the process. The Assassin, true to its name, is clearly the better assassinating class since their death strike won’t reveal them to others nearby. However, if they are found, it’s a question of whether the Assassin can get away or fight to live another day.

Defense

As I haven’t an Assassin at level 20 yet, I’m dependent on the DDO Wiki information and experience with my level 18 Acrobat Rogue to note their approximate defense capabilities. Again, my assessment is going to add some bias to the Monk’s known defenses but I will strive to be fair.

Both classes have excellent Sneak abilities with proper Hide/Move Silently training but the Monk comes up (very) slightly ahead since they were no armor that could cause a sound. Since most Rogues wear light armor, they avoid any Maximum Dexterity Bonus penalties.

The Ninja Spy has two clear enhancement advantages to stealth. One is having Faster Sneaking available for direct training in their class tree. Assassins would need to train the first core ability in the Acrobat tree to gain this tier 1 ability. The second advantage is Shadow Veil, the third core ability. For 10 ki, the ninja may go invisible and gain 25% incorporeality for 1 minute. In Sneak, invisibility reduces the Spot bonuses, allows closer approach to enemies. If the ninja attacks, the incorporeality persists until it expires. Only Pale Masters, the Shadar-Kai race and a handful of other abilities or items can yield more than Ghostly (10% incorporeality), making Ninja Spies strong in this hard-to-attain miss-chance effect.

Assassins that train their Use Magic Device skills can use invisibility and Blur wands to help with improved stealth and miss-chance. Their use of any invisible effects persist with Assassinate, making this ability clearly superior to the ninja’s Quivering Palm. Ninja Spies must add Concealment effects with items, a risky use of UMD, clickys or (if a Half Elf with a Cleric or other spellcasting dilettante) wands or scrolls.

Monks wear clothing and gain special AC bonuses from WIS as well as from DEX. The Ninja Spy may need to augment their AC with more DEX and WIS (which is also essential for attacks and finishing moves). Assassins may have better AC options using light armor and have several abilities to add more Dodge to their defenses, although not as naturally as a Ninja Spy (who has Dodge 6% from the granted class training and additional Dodge bonuses when using Ocean Stance). Assassins may gain the advantage in AC since they can wear light armor with no penalties and boost their DEX for improved defenses, while Ninja Spies must search to find a lesser amount of robes or outfits with stacking AC bonuses.

Assassins gain the core ability Nimbleness, a cumulative Dodge bonus on a Sneak Attack every 6 seconds, stacking 10 times. However, since Assassins receive lesser and Improved Uncanny Dodge for a Dodge 6% inherent bonus, and the ability to use the same ability for a temporary overcharge of Dodge (50%), Nimbleness has a questionable advantage. Ninja Spies gain a natural 6% inherent Dodge as well but gain no other advantages to the class except the use of Ocean Stance for up to 4% Dodge. Any level 18 Monk will have no less than 10% Dodge while in Ocean Stance, and gear and enhancements can improve this.

Both classes also enjoy Evasion and Improved Evasion as granted feats, although the Monk gains the latter ability at level 9 versus the Rogue’s level 10. Saving throws favor the Monk thanks to granted updates to saves through their monastic training with +12 to all saves, the best base bonus of any class. Rogues in general aren’t bad in Reflex saves, the roll that counts should a trap be sprung.

Overall, the Ninja Spy has superior innate miss-chance, saves and stealth defenses, but the Assassin’s diverse skill set can offset this advantage a little with the right gear and training. Assassins are also better armored.

Movement, Special Abilities and Soloing

From my observation, scouts and spies work differently.

Scouts gather enemy information with little chance of detection but avoid fights unless a clear advantage is present (think Ullevian). Spies can do what scouts do but can also infiltrate into an enemy lair, removing almost any resistance as needed to get to an objective, often to retrieve or eliminate it.

To be a good scout, you need strong stealth skills. But for infiltration and espionage, you must be able to outgun what you cannot outrun (think James Bond). Most importantly, both types require a solo approach (unless tagging along with another stealth player) or their party members will reveal their presence. Thus, you can rely only on what you carry with you and, perhaps, the rest shrines in the area.

Empowering most Monk abilities is ki. While ki can be generated by fighting, it’s not a good idea if the ninja plans to survive. The Ninja Spy can train to regenerate ki passively (without fighting) using several skills, although one (Contemplation) must be trained from the Henshin Mystic tree. Ki can be used not only for attack, but also to fully heal every 2 minutes. Ki, as noted, also powers the invisibility/incorporeality power of Shadow Veil.

An Assassin, by comparison, has a theoretically finite supply of shrines, scrolls, wands and potions. While the Ninja Spy can regenerate ki for attack and defense indefinitely, the Assassin’s resources are limited.

On attack, ki empowers Quivering Palm and Touch of Death for quick-kill opportunities, as well as all other ki attacks. By level 18, the Ninja Spy has a special escape trick: Diversion, where the ninja uses 1 turn of Meditation to create a hate-magnet dummy (like an airship Training Dummy, only dressed like a pirate) while turning themselves invisible briefly to allow quick escape from an overwhelming mob.

The Monk’s Abundant Step ability, allowing very quick horizontal traverses, can avoid tight-knit patrols and leap over chasms that even a high-jumping Halfling cannot do without special gear such as the Cannith Boots of Propulsion.

The Ninja Spy also has Flash Bang, a non-damaging grenade that blinds and dazes enemies. After using a Flash Bang, a ninja that goes into Sneak, Shadow Veil and uses Abundant Step almost assures a complete escape from anything other than perhaps a red-named monster. The Assassin has no comparable crowd controlling escape options I could note from their enhancement training or base class training. However, there is a blinding attack against a single enemy, Shadow Dagger, which also causes damage.

While the Ninja Spy gains some Sneak Attack training, the Assassin gains dramatically more SA training (in addition to the class’s central SA training) for devastating attacks. Even alone, with a Diversion item such as a Golden Guile, a solo Assassin can deliver punishing damage as long as the enemy is bluffed–and the enemy’s friends don’t show up.

Conclusion

So does the Ninja Spy make for a better infiltrator class? In general, yes, due to the many diverse attacks and defense options. However, Ninja Spies aren’t able to self-heal or buff in battle (without using racial options) as any Assassin that trains UMD to compensate. Due to the high action point requirements for a cross-class skill, a Ninja Spy that attempts to add in UMD will seriously compromise the overall stealth of the character. In this, an Assassin can be more resourceful, at least in the short-term.

Assassins have a superior one-hit-kill ability, but as with any other ability, this requires proper training to ensure the DC is high enough to overcome almost any target. Likewise, high stealth skills must ensure that they are not detected in using assassination abilities. Assassins aren’t DPS-rich, however, as Monks tend to be, nor have they emergency escape options, so a mob fight isn’t in the cards except for a Rogue with more fortified gear and several tricks up their sleeves. (And what Rogue doesn’t have a few extra tricks?)

In short, a lone Assassin that knows how to use Bluff skills to draw and pick off enemies can be very impressive character.

I see a Half-Elven team of Assassin and Ninja Spy as a powerful party of two. With the right dilettantes, the duo would be very self-sufficient on buffs and healing. Either class can set up kills for the other. Should one enemy manage to survive a hit from one of the pair, they will not likely survive attacks from the second.

Tell me of your experiences with the Assassin class and if I missed anything critical.

Kiri and The Droaam Zerg Machine

Kiricletica was DYING to jump off and send these guys back into the sea.

Kiricletica was DYING to jump off and send these guys back into the sea. Don’t you get that impulse of shouting at your party? “C’mon! We can TAKE ’em!”

Kiricletica reached level 14 last week, quickly donned some White Dragonscale Robes for some much-needed protection, buffed up and made a beeline to the preliminary quests in Lordsmarch Plaza.

I’ve been anticipating the fight with the mighty Droaam armies for some time now. They’ve become a welcome favorite to many players because of the humorous but immersive story line as well as the challenges, loot and experience you can gain. Overall, I see it as one of DDO’s premier questing areas.

The Droaam is a monster nation from the distant land (to the continent of Xen’drik, anyway) of Khorvaire. It’s the place where the Eberron pen-and-paper campaigns do their thing. My understanding is that DDO chose Xen’drik to avoid story/plot conflicts while still sharing in the Eberron world lore.

With the Droaam apparently considering Stormreach as a fine place to colonize, three linked quests (all cleverly named) serve as a prelude to the actual invasion of the Droaam seen in the four-part chain, “Attack on Stormreach.”

Being what Kiricletica is, her primary mission was to scout and report.

Her secondary option, if required, is to slaughter the leader.

I’ve always found the Droaam a curious, formidable enemy with substantial flaws. For one, the bulk of their ground-pound troops are orcs. They’re far more heavily armored than what one would encounter to this level, but they are still orcs, easily outwitted in combat and picked off relatively well as individuals. As an organized force, however, orcs are very dangerous.

But what makes the Droaam interesting isn’t their sheer brute strength. It’s their specialty forces.

The Droaam warpriests and warmages deliver relentless punishment, from Cometfall spells, Finger of Death, Enervation, Blade Barriers. Divine Punishment, while reliably keeping their party healed. I placed priority in removing the mages first.

But killing the mages is harder, as they stay where they should, behind their guards: orcs, light conscript fighters, archers and the Vanguards, huge juggernaut ogres that prey on the weakest in your party first. Their presence is designed to scare and bludgeon a party into breaking formation, as other Droaam exploit the break to their advantage.

The greatest challenge, overall, is the sheer numbers of the Droaam that hit you as a zerg rush. They often run in support groups not unlike a player character party, where mages heal and attack in the rear ranks while soldiers take the assault directly to the player character.

As AI goes, the Droaam behave more as coordinated enemy parties than the relatively individualistic fights you see elsewhere in the game.

The best solution against a zerg force, for the solitary Kiri, is to be ignored, like a butterfly flying above a stampede. Such a loud, overwhelming mob won’t hear or pay attention to the whisper sounds of a passing butterfly.

Too bad the Droaam zerg didn’t know that my butterfly packed venom as I fluttered to its heart to stab it.

Diplomatic Impunity

The first, “Diplomatic Impunity,” requires only a few objectives: Speak to Henritta, your quest giver, meet a scout that’s found a Droaam staging area, report back to Henritta, and find and kill the Droaam war captain.

In terms of drama, the sight of a whole beach filled with legions of Droaam and their siege machines always fires me up. I want to jump down from the scout point and give them what-for. Alas, all you can do is report back.

ScreenShot01075Kiricletica manages to complete all objectives and reaches the war captain with no kills.

When I do begin my attack, a moment of outside distraction in my home gets me killed, but not before I removed two-thirds of Ilos Hrolk’s health using a crapload of poison attacks.

ScreenShot01076Quickly rebuffing and returning, I learned that the Droaam closest to the fortress disappear once the final fight started. Back inside, I threw a star to pull the good captain away from the bulk of the mob.

A couple of soldiers come too, and I mow them down. With the captain isolated, I puncture and poison him silly to complete with only 4 kills total and a Devious bonus.

No wildmen were harmed in this mission. I’m a little sympathetic for them. They’re often the literal and figurative butt monkeys in many DDO quests, often used as slaves or getting their territory screwed by outsiders. Slaying them would also violate my self-imposed rules. No wonder they’re always edgy and attack on sight.

I talked my way through their village.

Frame Work

ScreenShot01077I love this quest because stealth is welcomed if you choose to use it. There are only two central objectives: Turn any minotaur to stone, and then kill the minotaur chieftain.

Stealth-lovers know of Mr. Cow’s video on how to complete this in about 3 minutes. I took a bit more time but gained the same results, albeit sloppier than I wanted it to go.

After gathering up a bunch of ballista parts, I used one to inject me into the fortress, rather than doing the “Cowabunga Approach”, leaping over a wall near the gate by the water.

After avoiding a close call or two of being discovered, I used a second inner ballista to launch me into the chieftain’s stronghold. I stoned the runt in there to keep him from ringing an alarm bell, buffed and then threw a star at the chieftain to begin.

ScreenShot01078Sometimes you’ll be lucky in that only the chieftain comes to engage you. I wasn’t that fortunate and soon his entourage came to greet me with axes and spells. But the new White Dragonscale Robe helped a lot in defense as I moved from place to place to get back to the chieftain.

My poison attacks worked well, taking out the ogre mage and a Cabal Seer to allow me to focus on the chieftain once more to carve him up quickly. Unfortunately an alarm sounded elsewhere as I grabbed the loot and escaped.

I completed with another Devious bonus but lost the no-alarm objective. I’ll be going back to try this again as a matter of honor. I need to remember that the Chieftain can be fought briefly without his guards caring during Hesstess’s retreat, leaving me a small window to quickly take him out as the Cow did.

Eyes of Stone

In the final prelude quest, I did something I’ve never quite considered in getting the Stone-to-Flesh salve. I stayed atop the library shelves as much as possible, leaping to each and avoiding attention from kobolds. I had one or two kills here as I retrieved the salve before heading up to the Coin Lords.

While the developers design quests with some stealth in mind, they don’t always have triggers that work in stealth, such as the ones that cause an enemy to attack when they see you. I took full advantage of this by moving to point-blank range of each Gnoll mage that guarded each Coin Lord. When they activated, two of the gnolls forgot to summon their elemental henchmen, leaving me the pleasure of dispatching the gnolls without a lot of fuss.

After freeing the Coin Lords, I moved quickly to the end-fight, sneaking by everything else to get there.

ScreenShot01079I wasn’t going to make the same mistake here as I did in “Impunity.” I ran through my fight strategy. There are two NPCs that could draw aggro briefly before they died; I applied Blur on them to give them a little more life.

I double-checked that my Poisoned Soul Ninjutsu ability was active (I learned later that I didn’t have it running during “Impunity” at all). I checked my Poison Neutralizing potions on my toolbar (Medusa Snake Venom will kill you with 1,000 points of damage if you leave that untreated). Finally, I buffed with a Blur and my Death Ward clicky, pulled out the Vampiric Fury Shortswords and got to work.

ScreenShot01080I didn’t have an extremely hard fight once I removed the Vanguard and supporting mages. I dosed Hesstess with a boatload of poison. Despite the fact she’s more reptilian herself and has her own poison attacks, she herself is not poison-immune. Fighting her is typically a stick-and-move matter for any player to avoid getting turned to stone, so the DoT effects are helpful.

On her death, I made my third Devious bonus for the night as well as a welcome pair of Stonedust Handwraps that Kiri can use for special cases.

Rapid Ascent

A first life VIP character levels rapidly. I wrote this post on hitting level 14, but I finished writing it on reaching level 16 only 4 days ago. The Hard Bravery Bonus is rewarding with 10,000 XP or more on some places.

Now, I have the Envenomed Blades dual-wielded. More on the pleasantries of this weapon combo in my next account.

Silk, Hiding Sword, Sting and Shadow

The Kunoichi...where brute strength is lacking, cunning through poisoned blades do the work. (Credit: CreativeCut.com)

The Kunoichi…where brute strength is lacking, cunning and poisoned blades do the work. This is actually a close approximation of Kiricletica’s look. (Credit: CreativeCut.com)

Everything I know about Ninja Spies is being fully tested with Kiricletica, the lone ninja (kuniochi).

Combat skills. Stealth limits. Assassination tactics. DefensesNinjutsu.

Just when I think this character is reaching an impasse, something works out in my plans to conquer as many quests as I can without any hirelings or single party member–and with as few kills as required.

Because of this challenge, I have to make major course corrections. One of them is working on mastering the art of poison as a central takedown tactic, particularly with the debuffing power that Ninja Poison can do.

The Lady of Venom

I have not read, in the DDO Forums or elsewhere, of anyone else that’s mastering a poisoner build. Almost all posts involve questions/complaints on how Sting of the Ninja changed (shortly after the enhancement update) to only allow it to work with ninja weaponry (shortswords, kamas and shuriken) but not martial arts or non-ninja uncentered piercing/slashing weapons (bows, unarmed attack) thwarting its use as a min-max option for archers and others.

So, I’m trying to pioneer this attack skill of punishing waves of simultaneous negative energy and poison while perfecting the stealth tactics of the latest updates.

As noted in a past post, Ninja Poison not only injects stacks of poison (up to 20) to give nasty damage over time, but each stack gives 5% vulnerability to anything that isn’t outright immune to poison, to a maximum of 100%. Weapons with untyped poison also enjoy this magnification of damage.

Combine this level of DoT damage with the still-deadly negative energy attacks of Touch of Despair and Touch of Death, and the Ninja Spy becomes a solitary fighter one should not want to meet alone in a dark dungeon. Using the Poisoned Soul ability with Touch of Despair, I can inject poison simultaneously with a negative energy curse and damage from the finisher and a Touch of Death strike.

Poison is also a great offensive weapon when enemies are immune to negative energy. Thankfully, very few enemies are immune to both poison and negative energy attacks.

The downside? It can take a bit of time to pump in poison. You can blow an immediate 1 to 4 stacks into a tight group using Poisoned Darts with a little ki every 15 seconds. Every 10 seconds you can inject 5 stacks over 30 seconds using the Poisoned Soul Ninjutsu ability, through the Touch of Despair finisher. By 40 seconds an enemy is lungs-full of poison with 20 stacks.

A stack is injected on a critical hit with the Sting of the Ninja ability active and when using piercing/slashing weapons. And finally, you can undo all your work (and a chunk of the enemy’s HP) by forcibly ripping the poison out at 1d20 to 1d50 damage per stack, using Poison Exploit.

What’s probably obvious to some is, if the enemy is powerful enough to stand up to such a prolonged beating, can the player withstand the enemy counterattacks?

I think so. That’s why Kiri is training it. Eventually, she will hit a wall with an enemy that cannot be cut down by mere swordplay, and may have far more hit points and defenses. She needs a strong offense that also minimizes damage to herself. Speedy poisoning is the key.

I’m collecting all kinds of weapons that slap untyped poisons to accelerate an attack. The Envenomed Blade (which I’ll dual-wield) will the best of the Heroic-level blades I can use at level 16. Imagine an attack where purple DoTs of 20d4, or 80-100+ damage and greater (with the vulnerability and with poison weapons in use) appear over the head of an enemy per 3 seconds, not to mention the ki attacks, weapon damage and purple negative energy damage that ninjas also use that should quickly devour a foe.

It’s then a matter of good defense to avoid or absorb the damage while at close range.

For that, the Ninja Spy is generally favorable to miss-chance effects (Dodge, Incorporeality, Concealment). Kiri is nearing 20% Dodge and always has Blur (20% conceal) and Shadow Veil (25% incorporeality) for very strong miss-chance defenses at her level. She requires more WIS and DEX for better offensive/defensive/DC results. Slated at the approaching level 14 is a White Dragonscale Robe for much-needed improvements to AC for her later counter-assaults on Lordsmarch as well as Tempest’s Spine Elite.

Lady of War: A Brain over Brawn Offense

Keras, the Drow fighter end-boss in “The Lords of Dust“, is a good example of who Kiri has to poison swiftly. On Heroic Elite this CR26 boss is quite dangerous with his Whirlwind Attack and dual-wielded swords, getting in Sneak Attack damage even if you’re quite fortified. Most parties without a squishy ranged option will choose to go “stick-and-move” on him because of the tremendous damage he can do with only a hit or two. His HP isn’t tiny, so it takes time to kill him.

For Ninja Spies, the option can be to smack him one or two times while throwing Ninja Poison to damage him as he chases you or attacks others. This places powerful poison DoTs on him and makes him more vulnerable to poisons in general so that other party attacks can be more effective. Blowing Poisoned Darts at him every 15 seconds to put 1 to 4 stacks on him should help too.

I’m adding in ranged options, too. To contrast, Szyncletica’s stars are loaded with Ninja Poison and heavily DoTs anything quite well over time with her onslaught of thrown attacks. For her, taking down Keras was easy in the past with star damage, kiting and heavy Ninja Poisoning.

The downside to Szyn’s star-throwing is she cannot use any Ninjutsu with thrown weapons, relying only on Sting of the Ninja and Venomed Blades, so poisoning was a slower process. Kiri uses stars as well, and not badly, but her attacks are less damaging and slower than a Shiradi Shuricannon. Still, from long range, she does build up some poison on a charging enemy before entering melee and dosing it much faster. Getting a Quiver of Poison for more ranged poison damage isn’t a bad idea as well.

But Kiricletica should be a better overall poisoner with the full Ninjutsu abilities, while piling on weapon damage, negative energy and elemental damage with ki strikes.

Like many other finishing moves, poison mastery requires coordination. An Earth/Dark/Earth finisher might be good here for Pain Touch, which prevent enemy spellcasting and attacks until they save from the effect while you can wail on them and set up a Ninjutsu/Touch of Despair attack.

Poisoning works for Kiri as she’s not trying to chase any enemy around the dungeon and attract too much attention. If she can throw a few potent DoTs on an enemy and break off, letting them die slowly while she escapes and hides. This would be especially true against bosses that are a required target while their minion guards aren’t.

The end fight of “Frame Work” fits this bill. With other characters I have been able to lure up the chieftain boss, the only required kill,  to the upper platforms of the end-fight area, smacking him around while his minions hold back for a time, wondering what’s going on. Imagine getting enough poison stacks on him to where you just walk away after a bit as he eventually just succumbs to the poison. One Flash Bang to hold off your escape from his guards, perhaps also to loot, and you’re done for the day with some green tea awaiting you in the dojo.

Lady Of Blinding Darkness

I’ve been quickly adding more lesser-used ninja tactics to aid in the inevitable mob fights, or to prevent some.

You already know I enjoy pulling individuals with a well-thrown star. Provided it doesn’t create a zone bug (where the quest presumes you’ll fight a boss in a specific location) this works well.

I also use stars to break objects so their sound lures other enemies to that sound, while I sneak forward to do my business. When there aren’t crates or jars to break, I’ve resorted to using enemies themselves to generate noise. This is tricky, since a jar won’t come charging to kill you. But if it can be done at long range, the enemy reacts and others react to him without an immediate charge. But with that farther range, you have to traverse a greater distance to make it to your objective before enemy attention returns to your path.

I’m switching up a lot when the mobs become too huge. I completed “Slavers of the Shrieking Mines” and “Bring Me The Head of Ghola-Fan!” recently. Midway through “Ghola-Fan”, I reached the spiral staircase and floated down the center to a soundless entry where Taskmaster Tar-Lom breaks in his newly-trained troops, declaring you as the training dummy.

I hit the leader with a poison dose and ran away. I kept my attention on the boss as best I could, hitting him with more poison. He fell before his own students did.

But the mob numbered ten or more. A swing-by-swing fight, even with Vampiric Fury Shortswords, proved to become a losing battle with the angered students, even with Blur and Incorporeality going.

I started spitting Poisoned Darts at them, whirling away to heal up after stunning and blinding the mob with a Flash Bang. The poison weakened the mobs as well as the shortsword’s CON leaching from disease.

Two or three rounds of this and the fight was done. If I had to, I could have used that Flash Bang to escape outright since blindness is effectively an invisibility guard. I would just go into Sneak and use an Abundant Step to move away to a safe spot so they wouldn’t hear where I moved to and chase me.

Flash Bangs are awesome. They offer something I think other players don’t realize. Like Stunning Fist, this stuns an enemy for 6 seconds. Unlike Stunning Fist, it also blinds, is an area-of-effect attack and works with wielded weapons. It’s slower to use with a 30 second cooldown, yes, but it still offers a useful stun effect for weapon users, where Stunning Fist cannot be applied.

I’m going to max out Flash Bang to ensure for better tactical options when the going gets too tough. Again, that’s more need to pump up WIS for a better DC for it to succeed. I’ve found it’s a cool way to escape rooms where you’ve had to pull a lever or switch and enemies detect you. After I pull the lever, I get the room’s occupants to group up before throwing a Bang at them. It’s like a Batman-esque smoke bomb. Blinded and sometimes stunned, by the time they can see again and begin searching in vain to find me, I’m long gone. I used that trick in one room in “Faithfully Departed” very recently.

You might be asking what I’m ultimately sacrificing with the planned use of all the poison attacks and special ninja skills. The answer is Sneak Attack. I have 1 of the 4 tiers trained up, but that’s it (and I’ll likely reallocate those points). For Kiri, she’d only get one (weak) punch as a Sneak Attack, so these points are wasted while in solo play. Kiri could never generate the ultimate Sneak Attack power of a Rogue anyway. I’d rather add more DEX or WIS with those Action Points to ensure that later monastic training will be more effective, such as Quivering Palm, the assassinate-style attack at level 15.

Off Topic: “Log Horizon”

Log Horizon: A "kinder, gentler" trapped-in-game experience...but no less entertaining.

Log Horizon: A “kinder, gentler” trapped-in-game experience…but no less entertaining.

I’m a big fan of “Sword Art Online.” It’s an anime adaptation of a very popular manga series of an excellent gamer that is among the first to use a virtual reality MMO where you are the avatar, within the digital world, a’la The Matrix, and interact completely as a three-dimensional being.

SAO has some critics, as all things do.

Its first story dealt with being trapped in such a world as a death game. Players were forced to complete the game, or die trying permanently–both in-game and their body dying in the real world.

There’s much fridge horror and nightmare fuel for viewers of this show when you consider that, of the 10,000 players trapped in that game by the first story, there were only around 6,000 that survive. SAO’s drama, even when later games that the main characters play aren’t filled with death stakes, still have a sharp edge of gloom and doom.

There have been other manga/anime where you can exist (somewhat) in a virtual reality, but now, riding on SAO’s success and catching up fast is a less-dark but no less dramatic take on the trapped-in-a-video-game concept.

“Log Horizon” centers itself not on a swordmaster like SAO’s Kirito but a spellcaster, a college-age man by the name of Shiroe. He’s a rather introverted sort but has Chessmaster-like thinking.

The game that Shiroe plays, “Elder Tale,” is a 2-D fantasy game set in a long post-apocalyptic Japan, with elements of classes and gameplay like DDO or similarly-themed MMORPGs that’s had a long prosperous life. Shiroe’s been playing for eight years of the game’s 20 year life and knows it well. He even plays it as we play DDO now, at a desk with a display and keyboard and mouse.

He’s logged in at the time as a new update of the game is being applied when something happens.

Suddenly he’s inside the game as his Shiroe character, as are some thirty thousand others on the Japan server that hosts his game. Later you learn that there are many other linked servers that form a worldwide virtual world with many players also mysteriously trapped.

But this is where Log Horizon plays things differently. There isn’t any malevolent entity that explains what the players can or should do. They’re just now inside this world with no instruction and no information about why, what to do or how to leave it.

Most of the players panic but also are quite genre savvy (a poke at SAO), realizing that death in this new world might mean that they might die in the real world, or that the game mechanics for resurrection are still present, where death means revival in a cathedral in town, with no real harm. They thankfully and quickly learn the latter, resurrection, is still true.

Like in SAO, the characters have a virtual floating interface of controls (with a log-out button that fails to work) but they soon learn that the controls aren’t how to play. They need to feel, not think, and eventually have to learn to fight all over again, not by “clicking” buttons but calling out their attacks and behaving as they should as their character (think of the many animations and gestures that we see our MMO characters do after we command them and you get the idea).

Mostly out of fear but for power for some, the guilds in this world start to consolidate players while people figure out what’s going on.

Needs such as food are readily available, but while food looks appealing, almost everything tastes like wet soggy crackers. Shelter is also handy, and there are monsters to kill to earn a little living.

Most interestingly, the NPCs, from shopkeepers to villagers, are now as interactive and alive as you are, although they lack immortality and are a bit suspicious of you.

But now what? What’s an immortal and increasingly bored adventurer to do?

“Log Horizon” is a fascinating deconstruction on the trapped-in-a-game concept. As with other people in the chaos, Shiroe meets up with an old friend, Naotsugu, a guardian (tanking fighter) and Akatsuki, a female assassin that thinks of herself as a ninja, with very strong tracking, sneak and invisibility skills. (You know by now who’s my favorite character.)

From a game mechanics standpoint, these three players fight extremely well–and without any healer in their party. That’s Shiroe’s art. His spells aren’t great offensively but he likes his class, the enchanter, because it allows great party support. Those friends in the past, like Naotsugu, are tuned in to Shiroe’s style and can beat a larger force through cunning and intimidation.

Like SAO’s Kirito, Shiroe is also reticent at joining a guild, even with “The Apocalypse,” (what players call the event that threw them all into the game) but not because people don’t understand him, but because his game knowledge is so vast that people bugged him constantly for game tips. For quite a while until maybe a year or so before the Apocalypse, Shiroe was once part of a mega-party calling themselves the “Debauchery Tea Party,” which were able to complete high level raids and adventures that challenged more organized guilds. The story takes us forward and back in Shiroe’s time with this group, and these three characters soon ally themselves with a few former members of the since-disbanded Tea Party during their adventures.

Log Horizon isn’t like SAO in that, as Shiroe says, this is their reality, not a game. While this world is inspired by the Elder Tales game, its inhabitants that defined the game’s quests no longer behave as they once did. Serious problems involves plots such as kidnapping and slavery, the rights of non-adventurers, establishing a purpose in this world and interacting with the former NPCs, the “People of the Land.” If Shiroe’s new world were merely a game, the People of the Land would be handing out quests to complete, but that’s no longer the case, with ramifications that build up because of this change. In short, for those familiar with SAO, imagine a game world filled with not NPCs but characters like Yui–interactive and very much alive.

To give you one hint without spoiling things terribly, take “The Reaver’s Fate,” the raid and concluding story for the Heroic Gianthold story arc in DDO. In this raid, the Stormreaver has returned and decided that the giants and Eberron itself are not fit to survive. He’s switched on a doomsday device and players have 20 minutes to end the Stormreaver (after he activates several game mechanisms) and turn off the doomsday device. If you fail, Eberron explodes.

Of course, in your reality, with you, the player, sitting in front of your keyboard, only your party dies should you fail, and you can try again, Eberron and Xen’drik none the worse for wear.

But what happens if you have game events like these in progress in this new reality, whether you the adventurer or the People of the Land know or care of them, with obvious epic and disastrous consequences that could destroy the world?

Kawara, a Monk in the West Wind Brigade guild.

Kawara, a Monk in the West Wind Brigade guild.

Log Horizon has many characters, all with interesting stories. Among the many things I like is that there are Monks in this world. I’ve seen an evil Monk and a good Monk in battle, and they behave very much like their DDO counterparts.

Lovers of Bards and Wizards and Fighters and Druids and Rogues will find something to associate with as well.

I won’t spoil things further. If you’ve enjoyed SAO, “Log Horizon” will appeal to you with its humor and very unique take on the game world inverted as a true reality. You can watch the show on Hulu Plus or for free (with more episodes available) on the Crunchyroll website.

Kiri and the Family Business

This Marut put a hit on me throughout the game lately. I decided to put out a hit of my own.

This Marut put a hit on me throughout the game lately. I decided to put out a hit of my own.

I had planned to write up a summary of Kiricletica’s attempt to complete “Tempest’s Spine” on Elite as a Level 12 character.

Other parties interfered. I imagined that an inquiry to eliminate me went a little like this:

Boss: I represent the interests of those who lost loved ones to a
Ninja Spy known as Kiricletica. My associates promise their
friendship if you would do them a small favor.
Contractors: What's that?
Boss: Ensure that Kiricletica receives the death she is due.
--

Attempt 1: Enter Tempest’s Spine on Elite. Easily sneaked by everything up to the iron golem. Dispatched it and the Fire Reaver. The Ice Render appeared, appeared to smile and zapped me instantly cold and dead with a Polar Ray.

Attempt 2: This time, in on Hard difficulty. Boosted my defenses against Ice this time. Entered the Lair of Fire and Ice and traveled up the slope to clear a couple of giants before pulling the Ice Render. One giant laughs and then uses Destruction on me. Kiri apparently didn’t have her Deathblock item equipped. Dead.

Realizing that completing the mountain probably wasn’t going to happen that day, I downshifted to lower difficulty quests I hadn’t completed since I knew they required more character chutzpah than I possessed early on. These didn’t end well, either.

Spies in the House: Elite difficulty. All went quite well until Kiri became one with the second electric floor guarded by the elementals, despite having some Protection from Electricity and Resist Electric buffs to handle one or two hits. Electrocuted.

A Small Problem: Elite difficulty. My first mistake was to sneak by all the animals at the start. They added to the chewing that Brawnpits suffered as we tried to reach the caravan. My healing scrolls were no match for the mobs and the proud giant fell. Alive, but escorted ally dead, leaving me disgraced.

It was then that finally got the hint.

Apparently my personal interests have conflicted with an Inevitable, a construct that doesn’t care for adventurers that cheat death.

He didn’t even have to drop his current mission to punish a Drow vampire that’s seen too many years. The Marut simply hired some inexpensive no-named contractors to off me no matter what quest I attempted.

Dying by myself, I can handle. But disgracing me and my clan by having an innocent on my watch die? This presents a significant and undesirable problem of dishonor to the family business, you see.

So, realizing that the Inevitable would keep serving me death almost everywhere I went that day, I decided, against all rationality, to go to the mattresses.

In The Jungles of Khyber

I’ve been keeping a Hard Bravery Bonus going to keep experience points as strong as I could without committing to suicidal attempts where the Inevitable just wasted his dough. But I try Elite at least once if I’m at least 2 levels up from the quest difficulty.

Attempt 1: I entered in on Elite. I made the fatal error of hanging around in the small room where the scorpions lock you in and try to eat you before you can open the door to the first shrine and the overhead snipers and mages.

You’re still going down, marut. Interfering with my family business was…disrespectful.

Attempt 2: After some shopping to get a Muffled Veneer, slotting it with a Deathblock gem, and then wearing a Resistance +6 cloak, I returned to the Drow cave on Hard difficulty.

This time, I stayed in stealth mode as I entered the scorpion ambush. You’d be surprised how some hidden enemies just don’t activate while you’re in Sneak mode. Now, that ambush door leading to the first shrine is trapped as are several others in this quest, so I quickly pulled the lever and Abundant Stepped away before the trap could hit me. After a quick check of defenses I lept up to the Drow killing perch and removed the resistance there before cutting up the scarrow and scorpions left behind.

With a sigh of relief, I moved on to the room of stilled earth elementals. The Inevitable shouts down that I’m officially in his way, proclaiming that I’ll die like Veil.

I briefly searched my memory for an emote that could show that bastard a non-spell version of the Finger of Death using one of my hand. Honor is everything to a ninja, my friend. You may personify the law, Mr. Marut, but today, I embody the will of revenge.

As the elementals awoke, I used Wave of Despair to neg-level them to make them easier to dispatch. I carefully pulled the last one around the corner and away from the sealed door that would open to reveal a band of Drow I had no intention of fighting.

From here, Kiri went full ninja. There weren’t just patrols of Drow from the elementals to the next shrine near the encampment’s boundary–there were dozens of Drow. An army.

Conservation of Ninjitsu ensured that I moved fast, invisible and unseen through them all, through a long series of cavern corridors, finally ending at a small patrol at a campfire in the hallway adjacent to the shrine. Some throwing stars lured those three Drow to their doom.

The iron key needed to open the sealed door were guarded by two more Drow facing the shrines but not me. I opened the chest and took the key in stealth, without disturbing their contemplation of the shrine’s fine craftsmanship. Good men. They appreciate a few of the finer things. I respect that.

The Marut’s Bodyguards

Out of the frying pan and into the fire as I unlocked the door leading to enemies on the Marut’s payroll. While they themselves aren’t the target, they had to but put down. This wasn’t personal. I know what it means to have a job to do. I’ll just be doing my job better than they will of their own.

Experience told me that at least two beholders guarded the central forked hallway into the mushroom patch where the sealed door and three INT runes awaited.

Out came the Snowstar again to pull the first beholder, punishing it with Ninja Poison. Some quick work with my shortswords ended its life without serious problems. I had to take on the second more directly but it ended nominally as well, with only some of my buffs dispelled.

Two beholders remained, one a red-named guard. Both fell to the Snowstar, thrown fr0m extreme range.

I had recently read an +3 INT tome for Kiri to work on getting Combat Expertise later, so having this Monk use the required 11 INT runes wasn’t a bother.

Moving on, I chose to take out the iron golem and its keeper for a chest but, more importantly, for a better perch for the last of the resistance before I could reach the Marut.

I floated down to stand on the wall above the geyser and used the trusty Ninja Poison-enhanced Snowstar to range whatever stood in the first of three waves of attackers near the final shrine. I had to leap down to activate the last two waves but moved to the nooks and crannies of the area to fight with fewer enemies at a time.

With the way clear, it was time for the dreaded fight against the highest paid mercenaries on the Marut’s payroll. I prepared myself for death; it was, as they say, inevitable. After pulling the lone Drow in their party to dispatch him, I carefully lured the red-named beholder and the troll into the larger path so I could run back to the shrine after death but while keeping those two out of visual range where they’d see me on resurrection and camp the shrine to kill me over and over.

I pulled off half of the beholder’s hit points before expiring. I ran to the resurrection shrine, hiding behind it as I returned to life and built up some ki. Once the death penalty wore off, I pulled the troll successfully into the shrine and ended him. One to go.

I prepped a Touch of Despair finisher with Poisoned Soul activated; if I were to die again, I wanted to DoT that beholder with lots of poison. I sneaked up and started my attack, injecting a massive dose of poison into the beholder using both some Poisoned Darts and the poison finisher, striking as best I could. The beholder spun and evaded but DoTs of 30-40 damage began popping over his head, quickly draining all but the last of its HP. A single sword hit destroyed it.

Now, it’s payback time for all the deaths. All the dishonor. This isn’t business, Marut. Honor is very personal.

It wasn’t a complex fight. I hadn’t any adamantine weapons I remembered at the time (remembering after the fight that my Holy handwraps were adamantine-laced). But I never, ever forget to bring in an Anarchic weapon into this quest. I put on some  simple +2 Anarchic handwraps and spoke to Veil.

Normally I’m not into assassinations for personal gain. I left more than several chests behind me, unopened, as part of my work. Today felt a little different.

The Marut was no match for me, and he went down.

I sheathe my sword, take the coins.

My honor of and that of my dojo is restored. When the Inevitable revives in Dolurrh, I’ve arranged to have him wake up with a dead beholder’s head in his bed. Ninjas are typically not so outspoken, you understand. In this case, however, it was important to leave a clear message, no, a promise, that no one could refute.

So, now that the death-curse is off for a time (at least, that’s what I believe, anyway), it’s back to review my plans to eliminate Sor’jek Incanni.

Congrats to the First DDO Player’s Council Members!

You can find that list of members at this link.

If you look closely, there are some names that may be quite familiar to you. Among these inaugural members are two OurDDO contributors (at least, that’s what I’m hoping):

If these two are truly you two–

Kiri and the Late, Lamented Longsword

Be it Link's Master Sword or Kirito's Elucidator, the cost of using a longsword for Kiricletica has become too steep.

Be it Link’s Master Sword or Kirito’s Elucidator, the cost of using a longsword for Kiricletica has become too steep.

After a bit of appreciation of the longsword using the Monk feat, “Whirling Steel Strike,” I abandoned these weapons on Kiricletica in favor of her shortswords.

I primarily needed to get two feat slots used just to activate longsword use, repurposing them for Power Attack and Cleave.

Kiri’s namesake uses a longsword, but adding this in was part experiment, part emulation. I’ve never seen how effective a Monk would be with a longsword. It’s not bad at all, really. I think I’d recommend it for a Kensei build since Fighters will get free proficiency and have many feat slots to add in Whirling Steel Strike to make that a Centered weapon long before their Kensei enhancements kick in for Centering other weapons.

On Shortswords and Unbalancing Strike

Shortswords, a piercing weapon, actually work since I do carry kamas for slashing damage when required. I’ll soon use some Forester’s Brush Hooks and later some Dream Edges for close-quarters slash-work. I lose the longsword’s 1d8 to the shortsword’s 1d6 as well as slashing, but I also gain greater availability of these weapons and ninja competencies. There’s also the needed Vampiric Fury Shortswords from the Lordsmarch area. So far, I’ve resisted crafting any Lesser Vampiric weapons.

Ninja Spies get natural proficiencies and bonuses to shortswords, so, in addition to Power Attack (prerequisite) and Cleave, I keep adding in the Two Weapon Fighting feats and will gain competence bonuses to the swords. Later, as Sneak Attack abilities as trained, I expect more happy from Unbalancing Strike, a ki attack that effectively does a Diversion hit where Sneak Attack vulnerability is increased.

Unbalancing Strike is also a Water attack. When it and Fists of Darkness are chained (Water/Dark/Water) you get Freezing the Lifeblood, a paralyzing attack that works on any non-ooze or construct for up to 60 seconds. That saved my butt in a “Bargain of Blood” Elite run I did where I died twice after attracting too much attention. Being able to paralyze without a paralyzing weapon came in handy. I run in Ocean Stance to boost my saves so the Jidz-Tet’ka poisoning paralysis effect is still in place as well on a critical hit chance.

I love Unbalancing Strike with Freezing the Lifeblood as it promises to be a lesser but effective substitute for Stunning Fist. I spin around everyone and gain extra attacks without counterattacks, including elementals, spiders and some bosses. I also gain the pleasure of delivering Ninja Poison with the shortswords equipped. I’m using my handwraps almost exclusively for oozes and rust monsters at present.

A curious thing: I noticed that the DDO Wiki entries for the pre-Update 19 version of Unbalancing Strike wasn’t updated and started to do so. As I peered through each class tree I recalled that the Elemental Ki Strike existed in all three Monk class trees.

There’s no language that says that you cannot spend AP in other trees to pick up another one of the attacks or that they are exclusive except to themselves. I might consider this and pick up Fists of Iron for a powerful strike or Eagle Claw Attack for a weak Destruction attack. I may spend more points in either Shintao (to get 10% healing amplification from two core abilities) or Henshin Mystic (where I’ve already spent points in Contemplation for more passive ki regeneration).

As for shortswords, I’ve collected a few noteworthy ones, some from times past that I’ve saved.

Remember the “Night’s Grasp” prefix? Weapons with this prefix gain negative energy damage and Maladroit (DEX damage). In the hands of a Ninja Spy that can make things very vulnerable to such damage thanks to Touch of Despair, a Night’s Grasp weapon dealt horrifying purple damage.

Sadly, this weapon prefix went away several Updates ago and I’ve hoarded any handwraps and weapons I could find ever since. Worse of all, all of these items became bound to character on equip, so if I committed that weapon to a character and couldn’t make that character fulfill their destiny, tough noogies, unless I try to swap it from one character to another using my own Astral Shards through the Shard Exchange, at the risk of some other buyer grabbing them before I can buy them on my other character.

But then, it’s not a totally bad position. If I sell it, to myself or another, I still get Shards to try again for other items there. I only fully lose that item only if I abandon that item on a character fated to oblivion by reroll.

Completing Gwylan’s Stand and Tear of Dhakaan

I took a swing at “Gwylan’s Stand” a short time back and failed once before on Level 9 Elite at character level 9, but I got it done on a second try recently on level 10, proving my point that I need to power up a bit more to handle more combat-intensive areas.

With Kiri’s rules, it has to be an infiltration quest where there’s a mandatory slaying of several lieutenants, but I could avoid most everything else.

I decided to run it again to record how to infiltrate it with limited kills and with the new shortsword/paralyzing finisher whammy as well as the Night’s Grasp shortsword. For poetry’s sake, I also carried Gwylan’s Blade for a bit of role-playing retribution.

Dual-wielding shortswords proved quite effective in fights. Most enemies that I struck didn’t last long between getting bluffed or paralyzed.

I’ll upload it to the Syncletica G. YouTube channel when time allows.

I tried my hand at “Tear of Dhakaan” as well on Elite. Kiri did pretty well, despite having to backtrack a couple of times when I missed a mandatory lieutenant to kill. The most dangerous part would normally be the small city where respawning enemies will overwhelm you if you don’t leave. Stealth and quick feet helped to avoid that problem.

Level 12 Happiness

A series of runs this past week to complete the Sorrowdusk chain, VoN1 and 2 pushed Kiri up to Level 12. Awaiting her were those pair of Vampiric Fury Shortswords. I think I’ve not had it easier in Sorrowdusk before since stealth allowed me to rapidly complete the Co6 side with Devious bonuses.

Getting the Master stances really helped since now, in Greater Ocean Stance, the extra WIS and another +1 passive ki regeneration is really incredible, with a stable pool sitting in the 80s, twice what she had before L12 (+1 from Contemplation, Stealthy and Greater Ocean Stance for a total +3). Defense is up a bit as well, but not much, still wearing the Quicksilver Cassok until I can build a White Dragonscale Robe for her at L14.

Action Points have gone to boosting the Cleric dilettante so I can use Restoration scrolls, into the Ninjitsu abilities to move forward to getting Touch of Death, and to Sneak Attack damage. I’ve got a Death’s Locket for some Deathblock but can wear it situationally until I add an augment gem if the need arises. I shouldn’t have to wear it all the time since I’m playing the How Not to Be Seen Game, Professional Edition, where mages shouldn’t blow up people they don’t know are nearby.

I added one point to DEX for more damage but now will focus AP to WIS points to increase my DCs for finishing moves, specifically to ensure that Unbalancing Strike and Freezing the Lifeblood continue to work. Tomes are certainly not out of the question.

I took the feat Improved Critical: Piercing to help the shortsword use. I’d like to add in Seeker +6 somewhere to improve damage fox expected crunch times when fighting is a must. Gaining Abundant Step with this last level-up will help a long way for better stealth maneuvering.

Built some +3 Metalline of Pure Good shortswords to handle most anything else I encounter at her next target, the Ruins of Threnal. Now that I’m more overpowered, it’s also time to backtrack to Elite runs on “The Pit,” the Carnival series, “The Tide Turns” and to dive pell-mell into the Lordsmarch Chain.

I’ve been noticing that the site visits are way up, hopefully in interest on Kiri’s progress. If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a note.