Kiricletica’s Bane

Kiricletica, anti-mage of Eberron and the Forgotten Realms.

Kiricletica looks nice here, but she’s just posing. She should look less aggressive. It doesn’t pay to be a highly-visible ninja.

It’s been a bit since I last spoke about Kiricletica. Inspired by the character of “Kirito” in the light novel/anime about a VRMMORPG called Sword Art Online, Kiricletica emulated the anime character in generally completing her adventures completely alone. No hirelings (save a few quests where switches needed more than a single person) or summoned creatures as active fighters. And there’s the self-imposed limit to kills.

The Shuricannon Szyncletica stole my attention away for a time. Bugs in the game that stopped Ninja Poison from applying with Updates 21 and 22 also dampened my spirits to complete Kiri’s first life and reincarnate her for a second go.

With Ninja Poison working again, I logged in recently to find problems in playing Kiri.

There’s nothing wrong with her, but me. I’ve become a bane to Kiri’s success. (Any pun you detected is intentional.)

It’s because of a speed differential I’ve put in my head.

Of late, I’ve been primarily enjoying two characters with insane attack speeds: Szyncletica and the swashbuckling Flynncletica. So Kiri’s attack speed, as a shortsword wielding ninja, seems very very slow. I have a Melee Alacrity item but I don’t often drink Haste potions to boost things.

There’s also Kiri’s built-in attack methodology. While Szyn and Flynn can scream-and-leap into most any fight, Kiri’s designed to avoid fighting, picking off or eluding isolated enemies as required, then isolating the boss and eliminating them. Her primary DPS comes from Ninja Poison.

Finally, there’s a matter of scope. Kiri was not built as the ultimate fighter, but the ultimate victor. Completing the mission, not attaining the highest slayer count, or even all optionals, is Kiri’s design.

Difficulty is also not supposed to be a factor. The Epic Elite barrier that so many complain about on the forums when it comes to melee fighting is one that Kiri shouldn’t be trying to breech except in rare fights (perhaps “House of Rusted Blades”). Frankly, EE melee fighters hit very hard–harder than Kiri can withstand. She can complete most things on Epic Hard as the combat challenges are a bit less. More on EE issues in a moment.

Lastly, there’s the matter of raids. Raids are all about fighting in a group. Kiri cannot keep up by herself. With “Tempest’s Spine” as an exception, she doesn’t do raids under her solo rules.

So where does that leave the Most Loneliest Ninja?

Still happy, I think.

There’s Much Left to Do

My challenge at Kiri’s current level, 26, is three-fold. First, to push through some experience to add Legendary Dreadnought’s Improved Combat Expertise for a little PRR. Second is to complete her leveling to 28, just to say she can.

The last goal (and I don’t know if I have patience to do this) is to complete every quest available in the game that does not absolutely require multiple characters to complete. Raids are also off the table.

I’m not attempting to complete any remaining quests at Elite difficulty. I’m just trying to complete things, period. If there’s a Favor incentive I can see that can gain me something useful (such as those that gained me Yugoloth favor potions), then that’s a secondary goal.

Building a second Thunder-Forged Shortsword isn’t a bad idea. There may be a few more low-level items to farm before a reincarnation.

Some adventures may exceed Kiri’s powers, even if I were playing her optimally as before. For instance, completing the Wheloon quests, especially the Storm Horns series, seem damned impossible with this build in terms of thoroughness. The zerg-rush attacks in “Breaking the Ranks” and “What Goes Up” is going to hurt. It’s an arena fight like “Tharaask Arena.” Conservation of Ninjutsu be damned. Kiricletica would get slaughtered.

It’s Not Her, It’s Me

But let me get back to my mental handicap with Kiri’s fighting prowess. I’ve obviously shown her able under my gameplay to complete 3 of the 4 Devil Battlefield quests on Elite, by herself, to gain sufficient Yugo favor. I couldn’t just go stealth through all that. Further: Many devils and demons are poison-immune, so Kiri really had to fight it out to complete things.

So am I gimping my own playstyle with Kiri by playing high-attack speed characters?

I think so, although it’s not irreparable. Kiri’s design required the utmost patience, the most serious mind. I would leave Kiri in stealth for several minutes in a quest, contemplating my next moves, building up ki and studying the AI of a target I had to kill or could not bypass.

With Batman-esque determination, I executed the plan. Such meta-roleplay did work. But I’ve gotten out of true. Kiricletica isn’t very special in terms of character design or gear as a Ninja Spy. But she has a very specialized skill set, and thus, manner of play.

I took Kiri back into “Impossible Demands” on Epic Elite. While damaging Priestess Vicala to begin the hostage rescue wasn’t a problem, I immediately became overwhelmed in taking on the fighters of the hostages in room 1.

A post-mortem review revealed the one thing I pushed Kiri into doing; Offensive attacks. She normally lures single enemies out, before killing them as a viper would. Else, a horde of spiders can kill a sole viper.

It’s funny but Kiri is going to have to train me to play properly again, rather than me, the player, retooling her and reallocating this and that. Kiri is fine. I’m the one that sucks.

Broken Tools of the “Ninja Assassin” Trade?

Kiri is, in part, a perfection of ninja skills I first learned from her teacher, Ryncletica.

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

Kiri’s perfected a few of her own, such as high-dosage poisoning, paralyzing and enemy pulling.

With Update 22, how many new things will she had to add to her Ninja Utility Belt? And can she meet a new game mechanic change?

A foreboding example of Update 22’s aggro/AI changes came in a DDO forum thread where a player noted that the fun challenge of assassinating only the Minotaur Chieftain in “Frame Work” not only didn’t work but became a clusterfrak when mobs surged in from all throughout the city. What caught my eye (in screen shots) and the poster were all three Cabal Seers, high-level mages, suddenly spawning  from their perches, hundreds of meters away, to guard the chieftain.

That’s too much of an aggro change. While local enemies should be attracted when you slap the boss, the “local” definition has changed to say, “Somewhere in the quest.” The Seers shouldn’t have a hot-line to call themselves in from halfway across the city and materialize atop you.

The only way I can think of working around this is to partially violate the limited kill rule by assassinating the Cabal Seers first. But then, if the AI is still wacky, that might bring more terror on my head if I don’t remove any Runts that ring the bells. And now, how far can those Runts detect you?

I do have an idea to improve on Kiri’s attack speed in her next life. More on that another time.

For now, I have to remember how to be a ninja. After all I’ve completed with Kiricletica, isn’t that weird?

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A Link to The Present

One day I was driving home. Often my mind has one or two sub-processes going as I do so, either about personal things or (take a guess) the game, crunching some numbers or ability here and there.

I had slipped in a CD into my car’s player to listen to some great orchestral music based on a popular game series when it hit me.

I love being a Swashbuckler because of another game.

Flynncletica2aShields. Swords. Fantasy. Saving the world.Link_Artwork_4_(Skyward_Sword)

Flynncletica plays much like playing Link, the eternal hero in The Legend of Zelda video game series.

All I’m missing is a Master Sword.

I need to do some searches in a DDO item library.

 

The Fighters Aren’t Different, But the Game Is.

There are many similarities that I needn’t fully explore here, especially since any of you MUST have played a version of this game over its 25-year history. If you haven’t, stop reading this thing and go do so. NOW.

But, in short, DDO’s Swashbuckler can perform advanced sword tricks, can use magic offensively and defensively, can shield block–and look good doing it all. Link has had years looking much better at this, however.

But it’s the classic sword-and-board combination that plays right down my alley. I’ve missed this in playing Monks all the time in DDO, though I love them so.

In fact, when my gaming laptop suffered irreversible failures a couple of months ago that forced me off DDO for a spell, guess what I did to keep my gaming jones happy? Yep, a copy of Skyward Sword.

But DDO lacks some things that Zelda always has in abundance.

  • A clear enemy. Link generally has to fight many mini-bosses to get to the big boss (often, Ganondorf). In DDO, one day it’s this group or this guy or this goddess. DDO is more like Zelda for adventurers with attention-deficit disorder (SQUIRREL).
  • A trial of virtue. Link often has to earn his happy ending by proving himself through your ability to not only fight but solve very complex puzzles and mazes in many dungeons. Most things aren’t given to you free. In fact, they’re often ridiculously hidden.  While we get the adventurer kiddie-pool of Korthos, Link gets a baptism of fire often at the very start.
  • A clear sense of accomplishment. In most versions, obtaining The Master Sword. When you get that thing (particularly in A Link to the Past) and the triumphal Orchestral Bombardment of Link’s Theme comes crashing into your ears, you felt you have officially Taken Several Levels of Badass. And a good thing too, ’cause the minute you get it, you have a new plot to rescue a now-kidnapped Zelda. And heavens help anything that gets in your way. Same is true for the mini-bosses. Each of them often make you feel initially that, despite your current equipment and training, you’re immediately out of your league again and require you to do more than simply attack. Zelda games excel in forcing you to think how to kill that boss. Hacking and slashing blindly will get you killed.
  • Someone to save. Yes, it’s old fashioned, but having only one goal (saving the princess) isn’t really a bad idea. We DDO adventurers are running hither and yon, to fight this here and that over there. In our world, there’s always some spider goddess trying to destroy the world or some undead dragon doing things for the evulz or some ethereal dream creatures or hordes of demons or whack-a-doo human wizards trying to take over the world. Link has just one job, and he’s apparently eternally destined to do so. Bonus points in that he is very good at what he does, no matter what incarnation.

Leveling Up: DDO is Far Faster than in Zelda

One thing DDO has over Zelda: Advancement speed. You could spend DAYS exploring Hyrule or wherever Link ends up before he feels a bit more powerful. It’s a very nonlinear world, filled with many, many hidden caches of gear and rupees (currency) as you branch out, even in the first game made back in 1986.

Combined with game objectives that lock you out of exploring everywhere until you obtain some items or speak with someone, DDO is more open and vast than Link’s worlds, even as low-level character, with a few restrictions such as the Devil Battlefield. Games like Zelda heavily influenced the player walk-through guides. No one person would ever learn that exists in a single Zelda game. The invention of the wiki format has made these guides that more dynamic and accessible.

On a first-life character, with all the experience bonuses I gain as VIP player, Flynncletica cannot stop herself from accelerating to level 18 at present. Since she practically stands idle while generating boatloads of XP as a result, I’m trying to concentrate on quests that yield material benefits (loot) as well as experience. I’m turning her attention to the Shroud flagging quests for Green Steel, and then to the Devil Battlefield for Yugoloth favor for their special brews.

So, back on topic somewhat, what would be a “Master Sword” for a Swashbuckler?

Let’s stick to Heroic-level longswords and rapiers. I already know that a Thunder-Forged sword would be the most powerful at its core.

  • There’s the Turbulent Epee at level 14. Nice. Cuts clean through many things with a bit of elemental damage.
  • I appreciated the Dueling Schlager. It cried BITCHSLAP at anything it struck with its higher damage.
  • My current go-to weapon is a Fell Rapier of Ice. I’ve an affinity for frost weapons. Ice is nice. Training the re-tooled Warchanter tree and its preference for ice attacks is feeding my love of frost attacks.
  • I couldn’t see many longswords of quality for Heroic use.

But nothing really stands out (barring a tedious grind for crafting a Colomel or Mournlode weapon). Or, should I say that nothing clearly meant for the Swashbuckler–my Flynncletica–stood out.

DDO lacks true unique weapons…ones that should only be in the hands of a small number of characters, if not only one, period. I mean, it’s not very rewarding, in a way, that you should be able to find copies of Excalibur for you and 10,000 of your friends, right?

The Raider’s Boxes most of us received around Update 20 gave a few of us that feeling of generic accomplishment. You win DDO, player #2446774!

We’re also missing the uniqueness of the singular hero. Link has allies, yes, but he’s the Hero and the ultimate burden of kicking everyone’s ass falls solely on him. Compare that to adventurers in DDO that get a lot more help. Link is the ONLY protagonist in a very large world.

Just days after I created Flynn, I realized that several other characters had significant collections in their ingredient bags. I poked through them all and realized I had something that I’ve written off on hunting for long ago: All three ingredients to make a classic Epic version of the pre-Update 17 weapons.

You know: the “shard”, “seal” and “scroll” upgrades that seem hardly worth the time to find nowadays, much less assemble, compared to the Epic Epic weapons?

I’ve played for a few years now and never, ever had a complete set of these items until now, much less the ingredients needed for something I wanted or would find useful.

When Flynn reaches her Heroic pinnacle, she’ll have this masterful sword awaiting her.

But there’s always a better sword in DDO. Flynn is awesome, but she’s no Link.

EpicElyd

Broken Spokes in the Wheel of Life

wheel_of_life

Samara is ever-present in the world of Dungeons & Dragons Online. We truly reincarnate to improve ourselves. But when should we try to break the cycle?

I have 18 characters. Four are banks. One is a semi-retired Drow Artificer that hasn’t played since before the new enhancements.

One is a halfing L18 Thief-Acrobat Rogue still on its first life and dreadfully confused about herself as she learns the new abilities. A half-Elf Paladin recently met its demise to allow Flynncletica to appear.

The three Ninja Spies, Ryncletica, Szyncletica and Kiricletica, each bring a unique fighting style. Ryn is an unarmed Shadowdancer-enabled L25 Monk in her second life. Szyncletica is a L27 Shiradi Shuricannon also in her second life. Kiricletica is the accomplished hard-solo shortsword master at L26 in her first life.

Pynthetica was a Arcane Archer Ranger in life 1 and is now a pure Zen Archer Monk at level 17.

That leaves two Shintao Monks, Lynncletica the Earth tanker at level 25, and Syncletica herself, refusing to fight much since she seemed too vulnerable for harder Epic play in her second life at level 23. Quintessica rounds out the dojo in her second life as a Henshin Mystic at level 23.

I bore you with this character list because, as you can see, there are far too many of them sitting at Epic levels. It’s time for some of them to start again, to take another cycle in the wheel of life.

But should any of them simply submit to the circle of samara and become a Monk once again? Or should they consider a bit more?

I’m leaning to the more.

Yes, the person that doesn’t teach multiclassing per se in the Monk guide is considering other classes–sort of.

It’s not a tough concept. I have more than enough characters to experiment and learn what others have done before me and have enjoyed. I’m not paving any new ground except for my own fun. As well, I have more than enough characters to explore any tenets of a pure Monk to afford a cross-class training session.

But enlightenment is a bitch, or makes you one.

On Syncletica

As you may know, Syncletica is my first character and my first Monk.

For her third life, I envision that she should explore more of the divine powers and train in Cleric levels. She would still have a minimum of 2 Monk levels but would be a better aid to others.

Else, especially with the new enhancement pass, I should take one more turn as a Wind Stancer, improving her durability to match her speed. I know a lot more about miss-chance, PRR and AC now than when she last left the dojo.

On Ryncletica

Ryn was once a halfling. I see her returning to her original small stature from her life as a human, but with Rogue levels.

Now, I’ve tried and failed to balance a character to have superior Rogue skills while also keeping a monastic fighting style. I’ll need to seriously plan her build with RJ’s Character Builder and read up on other builds before attempting this again.

Else, Ryn could explore a new class. I’ve wanted to explore the Druid, so this is an option.

On Kiricletica

There’s still more to explore with Kiri as a pure Ninja Spy in life 2, so I will not change her design once she reincarnates. She was a blast to play in hard-solo mode.

With her patented Ninja Poison attacks not working with the latest update, she’s in stasis until it’s working again. I’ve been trying to get more bug reports submitted to get this resolved.

On Lynncletica

I’ve told myself time and again that Lynncletica will stay Epic as she was my most durable character and can farm many places for other characters.

That’s changed with Szyncletica; who has done what Lynn has not by surviving Epic Elite adventures alone.

I still want to improve Lynn’s overall capacity to keep and hold attention as a light tanker. She is certainly the strongest self-healer I have, although her DPS is a bit lacking. She was still at L25 when the Update 19 enhancement changes came about, so she’s not as optimized for tanking as she could be with a tweak of enhancements.

I’ll have Lynn and Szyn farm Tokens of the Twelve for themselves and others.

On Szyncletica

I love the Shuricannon build too much to change one bit of Szyn’s abilities. The more past lives for her, the better.

If I do add a new path for her, shortsword work or Ranger prowess isn’t a bad one. She is my strongest Monk and has proven able to complete Epic Elite, solo if necessary, and has even completed a portion of the Shroud alone.

As I said, if Lynn reincarnates, then Szyn stays Epic until Lynn returns to power.

On Quintessica

The Mystic is a really potent staff-wielder with incredible DPS. Only Szyncletica  can claim better numbers. The thread on training an Epic Destiny to boost spell power and damage is quite appealing.

For now I’ll keep Quin in Epic while I add in some points. It will take time since it requires a lot of ED training for sphere hopping to the Arcane side.

Once she does complete this training, a bit of Druidic training might be nice.

Or, is this the time for my first Wizard or Sorcerer? I don’t know.

On Pynthetica

Her experimentation in Zen Archery is coming along well. She’s my first and only character to come from a non-monastic class into the Monk class, so it’s not outside probability to see her try her hand at being an Artificer, or to see if Deepwood Sniper can meld well with her ranged past life and her monastic life.

On Allysen

Allysen is my halfling Acrobat Rogue at level 18 and the oldest character I have to have never reincarnated.

I think I should either use the Lesser Heart of Wood to respec her and get her into Epic Shadowdancer training before I reincarnate her into something else. Would she be the better candidate for a Rogue Monk than Ryncletica? The gear she’s gathered suggests yes.

On the Others

  • I retired my paladin and created Flynncletica. This swashbuckler is a blast to play to the point where I’m neglecting my monastic training.
  • Arcammedes dutifully sits in the crafting hall at L19 in her first life as Artificer. She’s not been on the battlefield for over a year.

I should train her enhancements and at least see her to Level 20 or so. A reincarnation won’t remove her crafting prowess but would completely free her inventory slots for holding stuff. She’s not going anywhere with her crafting levels–and that’s the problem.

  • There’s still a Kensei to train.

Four bank characters now hold a lot of gear. Much of it I gathered long ago in trying to keep a storehouse of gear for any guildmates to use in building a Monk. Now, I think, that time’s past, especially with crafting as an option for any low-level gear I can generate for someone as unbound.

I’m selling off most of this to free up at least one more character slot.

Have I Hit the Wall in the Circle?

As long-time readers of the guide and the blog know, I like to chew through the many permutations of the Monk as a single class.

Generally I’ve studied a class tree’s strengths and weaponized them, such as Kiricletica.

Lately I haven’t been very creative here, generating or adapting new builds. Perhaps it’s my disappointment with a few bugs such as Ninja Poison failing, which has all but stopped Kiricletica’s progress. Maybe my mind is becoming too combat-oriented thanks to the sword-wielding non-Monk, Flynncletica.

Perhaps I haven’t studied the Monk and non-Monk class trees enough to see a new wheel on which to roll a character along in a new path of study.

And perhaps I’m impatient for progress. There is one clear path I haven’t explored with Theacletica as she trains as a Kensei, as I noted.

That’s the problem of samara. Your own limitations prevent you from breaking the cycle of life and death. It’s difficult to move forward sometimes; you feel stuck in a circle, attracted by easy victory or novelty.

I think I require more study. The path of enlightenment is not supposed to be easy.

In any case, I’m open to some suggestions to explore. But be warned that I don’t take change well for change’s sake. I like the diversity of DDO, but the best damage is secondary to the best gameplay, and I’ve not the patience or time for what I see is the tedium of multiclassed tweaking.

It’s Monday, and Sir Geoff of Hanna has posted a nice meditative animation. Yes…calming and peaceful. Enlightenment doesn’t happen in a chaotic mind.

Fantasy Service: Necessary “Evil”?

Wow. Look at the hit points on THAT one.

Wow. Look at the hit points on THAT one.

As all my characters are female, I’m a G.I.R.L. cross-player.

My avatars are all female for two reasons: One, because I appreciate the female form in DDO far more than the male form, especially if I have to stare at it for hours.

Second: I’m an old-school gamer that learned to take advantage of male arcade gamers who always chose the brawny male characters in combat games such as those in Street Fighter II.

Chun_LiI would pick Chun-Li or Charlotte and show them their error in underestimating a girl, as they will often subconsciously think that the girl character is a weaker one.

One player character voice, emitted automatically as you entered combat in the original Neverwinter Nights campaigns, summed my enjoyment nicely: “Prepare to be beaten by a girl.” It’s a clear visceral level of intimidation that no amount of points to an Intimidate score can compare.

A third subjective reason is that action girls kick ass in popular media.

MsTrinityWhen someone can pull off a look like this (Trinity) at a SF convention, you have to marry them (and so I did).

But how far should my obvious preference for the female form go in the game before it just gets weird, or worse?

So I wanted to chat a bit about fanservice in my beloved world of DDO.

Note that this isn’t going to be a scientific or even-handed analysis. Nor am I going to softball the beloved developers about what they’ve added or not added in the game over the years. The gaming industry is not ultimately run by the developers but their bosses, who approve, encourage or insist on adding or removing appearances and dialogue in a game to encourage one thing: Sales.

Thus, don’t take my criticisms as either chauvinist or puritanical. I’m just calling things out as I’m able to see them for you to think about.

Armor and Clothing

The easiest analysis of DDO’s fanservice begins with clothing and armor. Without deviation, the female characters are always lacking in coverage if one cared to go that far, while the male outerwear never quite “pumps up” what male attributes that a female gamer might care to see on their male avatars.

Bare midriffs abound for the females (Oooh! Belly buttons!) while nary a one armor appearance kit adds a male midriff with washboard abs and hardened pecs that would make even young Schwarzenegger or Ferrigno nod in approval, having become successfully pumped up.

BikiniSyn

Syn was going through a phase.

I fed into this imbalance myself back when armor appearance kits were available. Take a look at Syncletica herself in an earlier life, sporting the bikini look as she performed her monastic work.

The clear tendency to show more feminine sexuality also appears on the NPCs. Take busybody Eolynn Arva in Eveningstar, quest giver of “Overgrowth” in “The Druid’s Deep” chain.

She’s wearing clothes, sure. But her cleavage may require you to have a Jump of 30 to extricate yourself from it.

 

 

More clothing doesn’t help, either.

malicia-rb-614The poster child of this is Malicia, the senior succubus as seen in “Under the Big Top” and “Wrath of the Flame.”

One JPEG = 10K words.

 

 

 

 

 

Lack of Clothing and Armor

I’d point out some male examples here and in the previous section but I haven’t found any. This is obviously a bias since (1) I’m a guy that has pointed out his attention to female form and (2) being a guy, I’m not looking out for clear sexualization of male avatars.

A few NPCs stand out here.

DryadThe Dryads are relatively new with the “Menace of the Underdark” expansion. Kudos to the developers for their incredible animations that make them believable as defenders of the forest.

Dryads are like ballerinas, with graceful movements not only as they fight but as they die, curling up as if completing a dying-swan move.

So why does this graceful fey, clearly more plant than humanoid, possess boobs?

There’s also an audio aspect; the sounds of a struggling or dying dryad bring to mind some people who are aroused or attracted to female grunts, sighs and moans. There’s plenty of that in many games and media, as well as sports, and I will not sully my blog by adding links to this.

A rarely-seen example is found in “Wrath of the Flame.”

In your travels you rescue an Archon, a celestial being that is the other side of the eternal war on the plane of Shavarath.

archon

Frankly, the demons should just surrender.

This sole female example, as seen in this early game loading screen, has wings, very simple bikini armor, some headgear, a lot of glow and not much else.

We’ve never been shown a male example.

The devil hierarchy of Shavarath, to note, doesn’t show any real sexuality except a clear masculine sense of power by sheer physical force.

The demons seem to lack any feminine leaders save Malicia.

Arguably the most omnipresent NPC that dishes out high-quality fanservice as early as level 6 is the succubus.

Having recently received a new computer that can easily push the resolution of the game to the max, I was all-to0-distracted, even to the point of being dismayed, when a guildmate summoned one up during a quest chain.

succubusHoly crap on a cracker.

There’s also emotes to consider.

Sir Geoff of Hanna has completed an extensive look at the Dance emotes and how they differ in female and male. I’m fond of the Drow female’s second dance–and guilty as charged for why I prefer it. It’s the hips.

 

 

So What’s My Point?

I guess there isn’t one except to ask a few questions I’ve alluded to before.

  1. Why the disparity between female fanservice to male? Do abs and pecs not sell? Are all developers male and what few female developers there are were sent to the same place as female Ents and bearded dwarven women? To DDO’s credit, you can add scars to your avatar’s faces to ugly them up. But then, you can also add lipstick and more varieties of hairstyles to female characters.
  2. Is there a need (or lack) for more male sexualization in DDO from a profit or “balance” standpoint? I’m not suggesting or requesting such additions but only identifying their exclusion. Dances, to take a non-clothing example, show a more tavern-jig aspect for male avatars while half-elf and Drow dances play at the forbidden-fruit cheerleader and courtesan archetypes.

All things considered, I feel DDO has generally not crossed that moral event horizon point of no return of fanservice where the sexuality of either player character or NPC hasn’t some attempt of a message or purpose to it.

You might be wondering what games I have in my mind that do cross that moral event horizon level of gratuity. Since this can be quite the subjective, I’m purposefully not revealing what games I’m thinking of. Since I play fewer games where such content may appear, I’m clearly biased by what I’ve been told about such games, rather than what I’ve played. My religion and upbringing can also bring in a bias. I will leave it to you to generate counter-examples based on your personal experience.

One justified example are the dryads. As caretakers, their feminine appearance reflects the maternal and fertile aspects of keeping a forest alive and prospering.

Likewise, the succubi are sexualized for a reason. In truth, they aren’t humanoid, but demons. They weaponize sexuality to lure adventuring idiots like me to into underestimating their ability to get you killed, directly or indirectly.

Not even their leader, Malicia, is actually using sexual charms, but literal ones. In both of her adventures, she shows cunning by trying to kill you by manipulating others first (through charms or impersonation) before she’s forced to take you down by combat directly. In her own words (paraphrasing), “It’s all about control.” Her dominatrix fetish wear symbolizes domination–just not the type of domination a male player might be hoping to experience, albeit subconsciously.

As far as player appearances, does the “chainmail bikini” look sell more to G.I.R.L.s like me or to actual female players? I know I’ve bought more armor kits than not.

Being a bit conservative in terms of knowing where some lines should be drawn, I like DDO for what it is but always worry when I find myself enjoying the eye candy too much, forgetting that the game is the goal, not the titillation.

I know I’m meandering a bit in my analysis. What do you think?

I’m thinking that I’m going to have to spend a bit more time cleaning out WordPress’s spam catcher. I already adjusted the post’s title in hopes of avoiding a blitz of spam posts about icky stuff.

Alone in the Shroud

A Drow has scheduled a date with you, big guy. Bring some flowers...for your funeral.

A Drow has scheduled a date with you, big guy. Bring some flowers…for your funeral.

From time to time I’ve had one of those crazy ideas.  First it was an Epic Elite solo run. One continual goal is to complete “The Shroud” alone.

Lynncletica tried it, long ago, failing part 1 rapidly as she simply couldn’t beat down the portals (officially, a planar gateway) fast enough. She’d have to gain more STR, speed and better portal beaters.

I wasn’t done yet. I have only one other character that excelled Lynncletica, not by endurance, but damage. That was Szyncletica.

On Szyn’s first life, I read up on what it takes to beat down a portal from an old but useful thread that offered to post results to a challenge. A portal identical to those in the Shroud, part 1, is in the snowy wastes of Aussircaex’s Valley.

As noted before, the shuriken has the lowest base damage (1d2) of any weapon. Now, with throwing builds all about, they are rarer to find on the Auction House, and expensive if you happen to find one.

Before, the fastest I could destroy a portal, using a crafted +5 Holy star of Greater Construct Bane, was 1 minute 14 seconds. It would not do. A throwing star damaged well enough, but just not fast enough. Trials using a Mineral II and Triple-Positive Green Steel stars yielded similar takedown speeds.

My options were greatly limited. While many weapons drop in the game that have the uncraftable Smiting suffix, the odds of discovering a returning Smiting shuriken seemed higher than my chance of winning the Powerball national lottery.

It took another life and a new update, 21, to introduce another chance at a chance.

Some tips from the Shuricannon thread and a recent trip through the Ruins of Thunderholme gained me a new crafted weapon: A Thunder-Forged Alloy Shuriken. I added a Ruby of Good to this metalline star, although it appears not to be working properly.

Nonetheless, the weapon has a very high base damage with its Tier 1 upgrade: 4(1d2)+10 with a 14-18 damage range…easily more than twice the damage of my usual beater. And it has the Touch of Shadows property for 8 to 48 negative energy damage. Remember that Szyn’s build is a Ninja Spy. All of her damage comes from her very high DEX, in addition to competence bonuses from being a Drow, a natural user of the thrown weapon.

So, freshly leveled to 26 and loaded up with ship buffs and stacking special potions, off I skipped to the snowy portal always present in Aussircaex’s Valley to test out that new Thunder-Forged star.

I cleared out the surrounding enemies, drank any stat-boosting potions and switched to Wind Stance for additional Dexterity. I had 60. I set my timer and began smacking the portal.

The Thunder-Forged star took down that portal in 41 seconds. That’s better than a good Barbarian L20 with a Mineral II Green Steel weapon shown on that old thread, and far better than my old crafted star.

Giddy with the stronger possibility of a Shroud solo, I assessed what, if any temporary weapon effects I can apply to that star. Craftable returning shurikens with a red augment slot seem to be completely imaginary, else I’d craft one and add a Ruby of the Vampire Slayer for some Light damage,  and apply some Oil of Incandescence portions for some more Light damage. Despite the lack of a slotted star, I plan to add the Oil for extra damage during part 4 and 5.

Update 22 (out on 6/11, the day I first penned this post) gave the shuriken criticals their true range of 15-20 with Ninja Spy capstone, which added in considerably more damage on critical hits.

Challenges in the Shroud

Of course, Szyn would be completely alone. No hirelings of any kind in a raid. In Epic, self-sufficiency wasn’t a problem. In addition to elemental and poison resist potions, she stocked up on Yugoloth potions and collectable ability-boosting potions as well as buying a few DDO elixirs to allow a +6 stat advantage when the going got tougher.

If Szyn could blow down the portals fast enough, then part 2 was the second greatest challenge, gathering and slaying the four lieutenants and then destroying the central crystal. Based on other’s successful runs, a player might have to abort a run if they get swift-moving lieutenants that cannot be outraced to blast the crystal or who add a party buff that makes the group too strong.

My feeling was that I’ll need to use a ninja tactic or two to keep them separated for a bit, hit them with burst damage and then hit another, minding that each of them regenerate. Or, kill each once so that they lose some HP to make slaying easier.

Part 3 is the puzzle challenge. That one should be easy. If I could blast down the portals, the crystals over the doors (normally a forbidden thing in a raid party but necessary in solo mode) will go down fast, and Monk speed will get the lunar water in the fountains quickly before the prismatic wall appears. Even if the wall approaches, Szyn can move fast and just has to stay behind the wall, going clockwise around the area, hiding in the fountain to let it go by if needed.

Then, the fun stuff comes with parts 4 and 5. How much DPS will Szyn be able to maintain against Arraetrikos? Getting the gnolls down wasn’t a worry but they must still drop fast to avoid rehealing the big guy.

I anticipated to go through quite a bit of spell points to stay healed from the occasional d1 I’ll roll against a meteor that Harry hurled at my head. On Normal, Harry shouldn’t be a major hassle if I can push my damage per hit to its ultimate. I didn’t forget the Whirling Blades. I planned to fight at near-melee range so I would be able to easily see where those things spawned as Harry entered, then leap away as they closed in. That would allow me a continuous pattern of striking.

Harry has only one ability I cannot avoid: Hold Monster. A faint chance to have a Freedom of Movement effect comes with the new epic Three Barrel Cove, by slaying rare encounter bosses in search of the Orcish Privateer Boots. Being a Monk, I should be able keep my saves high enough that Harry’s chances of landing that spell are lower. On Normal difficulty, the odds probably favor me. I do have a Lesser Harper Pin for an emergency break from a hold, but with a 10 minute cooldown, it’s a desperation move.

It’s going to be a long day stopping these guys. One player, a master of solo raiding, still took just shy of 2 hours to beat the game on Normal difficulty with a L25 character. I’m hoping my DPS will speed things up a little.

If Szyn can get past Part 4, then Part 5 is just more of the same.

Attempt #1

First thing on a Saturday morning, I geared up with scads of potions and set off.

Life was made a lot easier with the new U22 super-lasting airship buffs but there was still the matter of handling element resistance and protections. At the top of my worry list were my number of mana potions. I needed to improve my healing amplification to make things as efficient as I could, even with shrines and rechargers.

Part 1 began with my first screw-up. My phone died overnight, where I kept a copy of the portal takedown order. I had to go from memory and with extra guile.

ScreenShot01245The new Thunder-Forged star did its work well. Gulping Haste potions, I moved fast to blow the portals down.

A few Portal Keepers did appear but chasing them down and killing them bought me the time I needed. My heart was racing with triumph on clearing Part 1 alone for the first time.

Part 2 started off well enough, easily clearing the trash and scouting the center. I gulped. I had the swift fire lieutenant along with the manically teleporting devil, orc and troglodyte.

Past solo veterans often aborted right then and there as the fire elemental moves very fast to the respawn point after being killed. I decided to give it a try.

The Celestia’s light bombs helped as I whittled down and killed the lieutenants once to rid them of their regeneration once they revived. I had all four down but the trog’s stench slowed me down before I could remove it and race to the central crystal.

ScreenShot01248Taking another tack with the revived lieutenants, I lured and whittled down the elemental a bit before pulling and engaging the others in the southwest corner.

With a timely light bomb from Celestia, all four went down and I raced again to the center but the elemental’s shadow was ahead.

Thankfully I could target the crystal fast. I destroyed it just as the fire elemental revived. Part 2 complete!

But it was part 3 that ended me. I easily destroyed the upper crystals and began adding the lunar water to the fountains.

My time sense kept telling me all was well in this section, but a turn to the left after completing fountain #5 landed me smack into the prismatic wall, appearing far faster than I expected.

ScreenShot01249Now I know at least that destroying the crystals appears to bring the wall up much faster. I’ll be a bit more prepared next time–and always turn right from a puzzle room.

I was just happy that I could clear the first two parts.

Szyn just reached level 27 and has the epic feat of Blinding Speed, making her permanently Hasted.

Things might get interesting with her second attempt I’m planning this weekend. Stay tuned.