Battle of the Zen Archers: A Wishlist

We need more zen archers. We need gameplay reasons to do so.

We need more zen archers. We need gameplay reasons to do so.

Pynthetica just hit level 14 and now has several good bows pulled from her old Ranger stores: A smiter, an icy-bursted Metalline of Pure Good, and the Bow of Sinew.

But rather than talk about Pyn’s general improvements (I’ll bore you later), I wanted to show you something interesting about the Zen Archer–not the one I play, but what you might find in a Dungeons & Dragons tabletop scenario.

The D&D Source

I’ve read a few comments over the years on how DDO isn’t like D&D. Given its use of an automated dungeonmaster, its de-emphasis on role-play and its need to create a realtime combat structure, they’re right.

But, as with the Monks in my old Neverwinter Nights games, the similarities are closer for the Monk to D&D than other classes, I feel.

Take a look at the Zen Archer as shown on the D&D Wiki to see what I mean.

It seems a bit familiar to the DDO Wiki articles on the Monk class, doesn’t it? The feats, the use of ki.

What’s naturally missing is any Arcane Archer stuff. That’s significant. It means that a Monk training with a bow, at least from the D&D perspective, was meant to be a potent standalone fighter. Adding in AA skills just helped with the damage needs in the DDO realm.

One thing that stands out that interested me is the base attack bonus graduation on the D&D Zen Archer. Compare to the general DDO Monk and you can see that the DDO developers really nerfed the hell out of their Monk. Where our Monks get a +15 BAB at 20, the D&D version is at 20, comparable to other melee fighters.

Is the part of the “great cabal” that keeps the Monks from becoming any more “overpowered” than they are? The mind boggles.

One thing that’s also notable is how D&D’s Zen Archer doesn’t presume Monk levels. In a sense, being a Zen Archer is more comparable to an Epic Destiny, or how Arcane Archer usage can be optionally added to an elven race.

Feats I’d Like to See for DDO’s Zen Archer

As noted, the feats, from their names and descriptions, aren’t much different from DDO, but there are a handful I wanted to note that would be great to see in the DDO arena.

  • Deflection Penetration: At 8th level, a zen archer’s arrows strike truer. When ordinarily an arrow would be deflected, snatched or reflected outright, the defender must make a Reflex save against a DC of 10 + ½ the zen archer’s character level + the zen archers Wisdom modifier in order to deflect the projectile. Otherwise, he is hit.

That’s similar to our fortification bypassing abilities seen with Ninja Spy’s Touch of Despair, Armor-Piercing qualities such as that on the Envenomed Blade, or with Rogue abilities. Perhaps adding this is redundant, but it’s defined as a special quality here if the class is played pure, and would also be great to differentiate it from Ranger or elven archers.

  • The Unseen Eye: At 14th level, the zen archer learns to aim with his mind instead of his eyes. When opposed to a miss chance due to concealment or the effect of certain spells (like entropic shield) he may reroll his miss chance percentile a second time to see if he hits. This class feature also bestows a +2 competence bonus to the DC of the deflection penetration ability.

This is another ability that’s similar to getting True Seeing or other ability that helps a character’s chances to hit against a concealed enemy. To make this an inherent element of a zen archer would also add favor and distinctiveness over other archer builds.

  • Zen Mastery: At 16th level, a zen archer’s mastery over his weapons of choice increases. The critical multiplier of any shortbow or longbow in his hands increases by one and becomes ×4.

Oh, why the hell not? This alone would make zen archers pop out of the woodwork with the bow’s power. It would encourage builds that aren’t monkchers because they wouldn’t take Ranger levels. Now, I’d add a WIS requirement here. Say, 24. That way splashing is discouraged because of the heavy WIS that would be worthless for Rangers, strain the INT needs of a Wizard and do little for a mixed Cleric.

  • Tongue of Sun and Moon: A zen archer of 17th level or higher can speak with any living creature.

This might seem like role-play here, but I can see this work as the ki counterpart to Improved Wild Empathy. Unlike the Ranger, however, this effect would work on anything except, perhaps, constructs and undead. Imagine a Zen Archer being able to use an orthon as a meat shield. You should require a high Concentration skill (30) and WIS 24 as well to pull this off with the usual WIS DC checks that Monks make.

  • Power Shot: At 18th level, a zen archer gains the ability to, through superior manipulation of ki, empower his arrows by sacrificing accuracy. He may take a voluntary penalty to his attack roll less than or equal to his Wisdom modifier, and gains a bonus equal to that penalty to his damage rolls.

I wouldn’t mind this one, either. Combined with Ten Thousand Stars, this would be a great panic button against a horde of low-HP enemies that aren’t difficult individually but would kill you in a group.

  • Zen Penetration: At 20th level, the zen archer has perfected the art of archery, and forevermore knows how and where to strike by a culmination of instinct, prowess and his excellent control of ki. The added damage done by bows due to the zen archer’s Wisdom modifier is henceforth considered magical and no longer subject to any damage resistance. Zen penetration also applies to the extra ki damage due to the Power Shot class feature, if applicable.

Sounds like this could be translated into DDO as “your arrows automatically bypass any metal-based damage reduction.” I wouldn’t add alignment here as that would be overpowered. But it would make sense to have this one if you also limit it to a toggled combat stance that cannot be used with Power Attack or Combat Expertise. It should also take a high ki amount to activate (50).

The Sound of One Bowstring

The role-play sections of that wiki’s article also feed well into how the zen archer should be played. I’d ask you to take a read at it.

To summarize, I think that the DDO Zen Archer could use more distinction as a player option. You can train a Monk to work as a Zen Archer but the game provides no real prestige or enhancement benefits to achieve a comparable similarity to its D&D counterpart. You have to glob a few things here and there and build the character quite manually, as opposed to the canned enhancement tree of the Arcane Archer.

I’m not recommending yet another enhancement tree. I’d just use Zen Archery to unlock more abilities within itself as Monk levels increase. Optionally, if you train Zen Archery, granted feats appear for you if you meet Zen Archery’s secondary requirements.

Most importantly, the DDO Zen Archer gains no additional natural abilities by using a bow as a Monk. You’ll have only a fighting advantage by adding in Arcane Archer training. Why does the Monk have to use magical abilities if a feat exists that doesn’t require magic to use bows?

The one unique DDO feat not seen in D&D’s implementation is Ten Thousand Stars, a Manyshot-like ability that works with bows. I think a Zen Archer at level 16 should gain a natural bonus to this ability over any splashed character. An extra arrow per 3 attacks would do it.

In a perfect world, without training one damn bit of the AA tree, I should be able to:

  • Train Zen Archery with 16 WIS and Monk level 3. This feat would expand power as your Monk increases in levels. It would also give longbow/shortbow proficiency (it doesn’t now) and make it a ki weapon as before. The key is that the feat would unlock more of its abilities as you gain Monk levels, to purposefully encourage more uses of the zen abilities.
  • Use my ki attack elemental strikes with bow attacks, if I have enough ki regenerating and take the Zen Archery feat and have enough WIS as a forced prerequisite. This removes needing to use magic from the AA tree to imbue arrows.
  • Gain +1 passive ki regeneration from Zen Archery at level 12 and Monk level 12, WIS 24 required.
  • Gain competence bonuses with Zen Archery trained and at levels 12, 15 and 18 with enough WIS and Concentration trained.
  • Gain bonuses with Ten Thousand Stars at level 16.
  • Charm one of most kinds of creature using ki, with Zen Archery and level 17 Monk.
  • Gain metal DR bypass. 3-5% Doubleshot and perhaps another critical hit bonus or multiplier with Zen Archery, 20 Monk levels and 24 WIS at level 20.

What do you think?





2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mernom
    May 21, 2014 @ 04:39:37

    Truly interesting

  2. erdrique
    May 27, 2014 @ 10:14:43

    I agree, sounds very interesting to me for sure!! I really like the Unseen Eye and the Tongue of Sun and Moon. Those would be pretty neat to see in DDO!!

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