With Kiricletica’s successes now allowing her to solo the Amrath quests and reaching Level 26, new guild members compel me to return to one of the two remaining specialty Monks I want to play and then document for the Monk guide.
I’ve already put in enough time on Pynthetica, going from a Ranger Arcane Archer to a Zen Archer. So getting my Kensei Monk up and running is my goal for this long U.S. holiday weekend.
Part of my routine to help understand a class’s role is to read the D&D roleplay information if possible on similar classes. Kensei means “Sword Saint” in Japanese. There are far too many unsaintly uses of the word, most of them dealing with anime varieties I don’t watch.
To gain the saintly component of this class, it’s synergy with the Monk class should form a fascinating attacker.
It’s a good thing I played Kiri the way I did as I learned more about the power of dark finishing moves that paralyze or disable enemy spells and attacks. Kiri’s training will also help in my first forays in multiclassing Monk with the Fighter class.
My goal was to make Theacletica, my Kensei student, a specialist light fighter with kukris, daggers and shortswords. She’s a dark Monk and so can use the same abilities that Kiri has, but now I’m aware of these at a much lower level.
I didn’t precisely know what challenges I had in building her. I wanted to stay Centered to use all Monk abilities, so robes/outfits only. She’s a Half-Elf so I’ll be able to work in self-healing and buffing with a Cleric dilettante. I’ve added a few points in Ninja Spy to gain shortsword prowess but this presents a problem. The Dexterity to Damage ability comes with using weapons once you train in the first two ninja cores. Shadow Veil is the third core, and I’d really prefer the high Incorporeality defense I can get since I will not have as much AC as a Fighter.
Fighters also normally use STR for damage, but I figured that I’ll need to build things more monastic than martial and put more emphasis on DEX since I planned to use light blades with the Ninja Training and its DEX-to-Damage.
Thea would have to strike fast and stop fights with the finishing moves since it may be some time before she can hold her own as a true Kensei. While not using Kiri’s first-life self-imposed rules, I expected to use the techniques I refined with Kiri to keep Thea alive.
The new stuff for me involved the benefits of the Fighter levels, required to eventually allow kukris and daggers to be centered for me. With Fighter levels I’ll get more feats that should add a lot of variation in attack. I don’t expect to add fewer than 6 Monk levels and no more than 12 Fighter levels.
While there will be fewer granted Monk levels and a serious challenge on some advanced abilities I enjoy from there, the Fighter levels will add many more Fighter bonus feats to augment her attacks. These include Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack and Whirlwind Attack as well as Cleave attacks, Improved Critical, and Two Weapon Fighting. With no maximum dexterity bonus to worry about as a non-armored character, perhaps using the Ninja Spy abilities isn’t a bad thing.
There’s just the careful application of Fighter levels to reach my desire of a maximum 12/Monk minimum 8/Fighter setup. I’m terribly afraid I’ll wreck this build as I did Cassietetica the ninja assassin (now a bank). I’m retro-adding settings from the DDO Character Planner to check that I’ll meet the Fighter prerequisites necessary for One With the Blade to make non-Monk weapons work as centered weapons.
Now, all these considerations I wrote here came long before Teacher Saekee’s meditations came up with something more deadly, reminding me how inexperienced I am with multiclassing, the principles of critical threat–and how a different weapon than any I’ve used can add to a character’s flavor.
Brushes with Death
In a recent DDO forums thread, Saekee asked anyone if they could confirm if the increased critical threat range of the Forester Brush Hook kama would stack with the Ninja Spy capstone and Improved Critical: Slashing.
Now, the Hook is special. It already has a 19-20 threat with a x3 modifier. Get the Ninja Spy capstone and you get 17-20. I confirmed this on Kiricletica with her dual-wielded kamas but hadn’t the ability to check farther.
If you take Improved Critical: Slashing, that range goes batshit: to 13-20, as Saekee proves on one of his characters:
Now, if you get the Epic versions of these, they’ll help a bit with damage, but does that matter when you’re likely to make powerful DEX-to-damage 3x criticals around 40% of the time!?
Your dojo must be very proud of you, Saekee. Props for the discovery.
I will be tooling up Kiricletica for this, for sure. But this discovery makes me realize how screwed up Theacletica’s current weapon choices may be. A Kensei should emphasize weapon damage. It’s what a Kensei should be about, right?
So now I’m tossing my light-bladed Kensei into the fire. Saekee’s probably made more non-Monk characters and understands weapon damage a bit more than I do, thus his discovery. I’d be a moron not to pay heed to it.
I had been thinking too much like a Monk and not enough as a Fighter to make my first Kensei shine.
It would be better for Theacletica to use greatswords and kamas. She’ll still have kicks and punches as a backup. As a multiclassed character, she can’t gain the Ninja Spy competence bonuses for critical threat. But the Kensei tree offers great weapon specializations for damage, more critical hit damage, and a +1 threat increase to the focused weapon. I just need Improved Critical: Slashing to make it work. I’ve got a number of greatswords in my banks, saved for whenever I got around to making a conventional fighter. For now, no reason to let those weapons sit about.
Going the greatsword route also differentiates her from Kiricletica, who is already mastered light blades. If I’m going to do a kensei, I should go for the really obscure weapon that you’d not see on a typical Monk.
I still need to study whether the Dark philosophy is still more prudent than the Light. Theacletica could really use the benefits of Shintao’s healing amp. Then again, a bit of training in the ninja arts gives Ninja Poison to really augment attack damage, as well as better miss-chance powers with Shadow Veil.
It also means that Theacletica should be focused on STR when using greatswords. I can’t add too much DEX just for occasional use of kamas, even though I gain that Dexterity-to-Damage. It’s one or the other, right? (Update: Saekee reminds me that greatswords, once Centered, become DEX-to-damage weapons, too with ninja training, being slashing weapons.)
A Monk with a greatsword also smacks of complete badassery on the battlefield.
Hopefully it’s not too late to salvage Theacletica’s build if I’ve already put too much DEX in her. If she’s too far gone, I’ll reroll her and report back.