A lone hobgoblin patrolled a cave corridor deep in the hobgoblin halls. The guard stopped by three crates, their dim shadows blocking what little light from the surrounding torches could emit into the tunnel. With nothing to see, the guard turned and followed his steps back up the hall to his previous checkpoint.
Behind him, the shadows around the crates moved. Three adventurers studied the guard’s movement in silence.
With a gesture forward, Ryncletica pointed to several more crates where she and two other ninja could hide. Together they moved ahead with no noise; dripping water from stalactites above were far louder.
Passing the guard, they reached another lone hobgoblin guarding a treasure chest. Isolated enough from neighboring patrols, he’d still alert others and the ninjas could get overwhelmed should he bolt.
All three could see that this one was more stout, more decorated, and certainly more dangerous than the lesser guards behind them.
Kiricletica made a hand gesture to the others, who nodded and melded into the shadows. Kiri pulled out a single blade and channeled her ki, her blade’s tip dancing as she etched the signs of Water, Darkness and Water into the air. moving to point-blank range to the idling boss.
A single swing of Kiri’s blade disrupted the ki of her enemy, paralyzing him. The two other ninja moved in on stealthy feet. Two seconds later, the boss was dead, never having a chance to make a single attack or call out for help.
Ahead, after evading several small patrols by clinging to the corridor’s edges and ledges, a single guard ahead stood idle at a thin chokepoint, unmoving, his back to the team. They couldn’t sneak past him without being discovered.
Ryncletica approached and held out a straightened palm charged with dark ki. She quickly touched the pressure point on the guard’s back. He collapsed immediately, dead. Ryn had to leave stealth to do this, so Szyncletica and Kiri were at the ready.
A small band of enemies saw Ryn and charged in. Szyncletica raised up, her arm a blurry motion as throwing stars whizzed by Ryn’s head, striking and killing the five guards before they reached the team. Szyn reminded the team that additional kills were necessary in their mission to thin out the forces as well as killing their leader.
A large mob blocked a door. Out of direct sight of the mob, Kiri pulled out a star and lobbed it at a barrel left and in a small cul-de-sac. As the mob moved to investigate, the team sneaked behind and away, the final boss still yet to come.
With the Update 19 changes to the stealth AI, I tried to gather a group of guildmates, months ago, with high Sneak skills to join me in quests where we complete objectives with minimal kills, good trapping, looting wherever possible, with few enemies noticing.
I called the idea “Stealth Team 6,” which worked well in name both to a Shout Out to the famous U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 ops group (which doesn’t really use their old name officially, but damn it if that will stop us from using it) as well as the maximum size of a party.
It didn’t gain momentum with my guild at the time, thanks to the widespread number of levels as well as many players that preferred to play more Epic content or eschewed Hide/Move Silently in their builds.
So, I thought I’d farm out the idea for anyone, guild or no guild, on any server. The challenge is very similar to what Kiricletica did primarily in her first life, except that she cannot open locks or disable traps.
The extra challenge for ST6 squads is that they are a larger party that must work cohesively or else one person could blow the cover on everyone. Most importantly, the team would fail their mission.
ST6 is a proposed way to play DDO, with self-imposed conditions to change things up a lot for a static group, PuG or guild. You could even blend in other self-imposed conditions such as permadeath.
ST6 gives a group an opportunity to train in stealth tactics as a group, learning from more experienced players if one’s handy. It’s also more fun to share in the knowledge that your entire six-person team killed only 2 guys, bypassed dozens, even hundreds of enemies, and snuffed the boss quick to gain that treasure.
By mastering stealth tactics, some quests that seem like death traps can be managed easier. Remember that one quest in the Necropolis chain where you split up and have to deal with a gauntlet of skeleton archers that will fill you with arrows yet are too far away to easily attack? Not a problem for an ST6 team. You just sneak on through, hit the lever to the door ahead and continue. Archers won’t shoot what they cannot see.
ST6 players also learn to become more self-sufficient in normal play, remembering that the most optimal path isn’t always the obvious one.
So, when conventional ways to complete a quest are harder, tiresome, resource-intensive or just plain boring, it’s time to form up your Stealth Team 6 special ops.
While any class could do some work in an ST6 team, the Bard, Monk, Ranger and Rogue (including the Shadar-Kai race) are best suited because Hide and Move Silently are class skills for them, allowing their numbers to go to their maximums.
If you’re unfamiliar with the stealth mechanics in DDO, read the DDO Wiki Sneak article. I just updated the article with a few additional tips and clarification.
The character itself should at least:
- Wear no armor or light armor. Else, you’re going to be subject to the Armor Check Penalty on critical skills needed for best stealth missions. Most importantly, you’ll be unable to swim faster or jump higher while in stealth. Jump and Tumble have a -20 penalty while in Stealth, requiring expertise in avoiding detection by going up and above enemies, rather than around.
- Have maximum Hide and Move Silently (H/MS) scores. Everyone, but especially team members who aren’t Bards, Monks, Rogues or Rangers should wear any gear with Competence or other bonuses to improve their scores. Hide reduces the time for enemies to “lock on” your location with Spot while sneaking within their line of sight. Move Silently reduces their chance to hear you while sneaking. Invisibility cannot count here. While invisibility is immunity from enemy Spot checks, it is ineffective against Red Names and other enemies with See Invisibility or True Seeing. High MS + invisibility against a beholder = dying adventurer. Hide will reduce detection against True Seers until you’re about body-length to them (2 meters). At that point you have the brief but very workable element of surprise, be it a Stunning Fist, Assassinate, Finger of Death, whatever. Kill what you must quickly, as silently as you can, and don’t let even other party members know what just happened, much less the enemy. Invisibility can greatly supplement but not replace Hide.
- Have high Jump scores. Most people simply add a maximum of 10 points to Jump and stop, using spells or potions or items to increase the number if needed. Jump scores above 40 give no benefit unless you’re in Sneak. There, you have a -20 penalty. So increasing Jump to higher numbers ensures that you can leap atop high locations even while in stealth.
- Class role coordination. As implied above, you’ve got to be able to stay hidden as a team, doing as much as you can while hidden. Trappers are critical for team members who might hide as well as any other on the team but lack Evasion to pass through deadly traps. A good Wizard or Sorcerer with Knock can substitute when the team Rogue is handling other business. Monks and Assassins could form an assault team to clear pathways quickly and quietly with Quivering Palm, Assassinate and other moves. Swashbucklers can light tank and give party buffs as needed, give Invisibility out to others, and slash mobs silly.
- Stealth tactics mastery. This includes but isn’t limited to: never striking any breakables, ever, unless using one to attract enemies away from your position or an objective; always remaining in Sneak except in battle, but returning to Sneak any time when moving; letting Rogues open locked doors rather than bashing them in for a silent entry; avoiding a giveaway of team position unless as part of a coordinated feint. Enemies with tremor-sense (spiders) and what few others that can defeat/ignore H/MS require a finer touch that a team would have to figure out on the fly. Example: the epic quest “House of Broken Chains” can be done well in stealth but one location has spiders that must be pulled away from the captured slaves so the slaves won’t attack you so that you can rescue them later.
- Stealth speed. The Deepwood Stalker Ranger, Ninja Spy and Thief-Acrobat Rogue have the Faster Sneaking ability to increase stealth speed by up to 50%. A core ability in the Shadowdancer epic destiny can add full movement speed briefly to a sneaking character. Speed isn’t absolutely required but is very helpful to get out of an enemy’s line-of-sight and to a target as soon as possible. Combined with the class’s natural fast movement and enhancement training, the Ninja Spy is the fastest stealth class.
- Shadow approach. Zerging is never welcome in a stealth team unless you zerg as a team and in formation with the precision of the Blue Angels flying team. Higher experience is gained not by kill count but low bonuses (Insidious Cunning-10%, Discreet-7% and Devious-5%) and completing any optionals if low-kill count can be maintained or if party agrees to mission changes based on the quest. Some quests will need you to slaughter to advance or activate other objectives; the goal is to kill what you must but not enrage the whole dungeon as you do it.
- Direct Action. A stealth team’s advantage is that they can be as small as they want and therefore less detectable, but their disadvantage is that they are small and more vulnerable to mob overruns. Therefore, what an ST6 team cannot outwit by stealth, they must outgun. While fighting, however, they can use their innate stealth tactics against the AI to keep more enemies from joining the fray. Say your team is moving through a corridor when one of your party is detected. If the enemy is a scout, ranged members must take that guy out before he rings an alarm. If the enemy charges, the team has to eliminate him without attracting more attention from others.
A ST6 mission could go many ways because every quest is different, of course. The advantage to playing in ST6 is that your team exploits the environment and expected behaviors of your enemies to press your advantage. While we’ve all done this non-stealthy ways in parties, an ST6 team will apply this to avoid attacks when possible, not to counter them.
Let’s take apart a quest or two to show what an ST6 mission might do.
“The Kobold’s New Ringleader”
Kiricletica shows how using breakables aided her in a successful solo, low-kill run through this level 2 quest on Elite in this video. Details on the quest can also be found here.
This quest is built well to handle any kind of party and has only two objectives: Use a special Flesh-to-Stone wand to stone any non-boss minotaur and then kill the Minotaur Chieftain.
One stealthy approach is to shoot yourselves into the fort using a repaired ballista. Team members can scatter, with high Spot gear to see the stealthed panthers and wolves as you gather enough ballista parts. A Rogue Mechanic will be able to repair one or more ballistas to allow teams to approach from several angles.
As the ballista shoots you, it pulls you out of stealth on activating the thing, so be sure to go back to Sneak while in flight. From here, the operation is a matter of team pride and preference.
The stealthiest approach is repairing a ballista, near the bosses inside the fort, which will shoot you into the chieftain’s lair without needing to open its gate, and bypassing the traps on the ramp to that gate.
You could wipe out the town, take out only the Cabal Seers for their chests, stone any Minotaur Runts to make setting off alarms impossible by enemies, or go in to the end-fight as a group, stone the Runts there, kill the red-named Chieftain and use diversion tactics to allow all to loot the chests before escaping with the ballista there.
Another quest designed to favor stealth; using doors there will not break Sneak or cut Invisibility. The Dungeonmaster’s first words to you sums up your mission nicely:
"The Droaam fleet has gathered here during this dark night -- probably for mutual protection. Such measures might help against a naval attack-- but not against you."
The optimal party would be Rogue Assassins with a Ninja Spy or two. The ninja goes to seek out the crest on each ship since they can go invisible at will with ki. Once the crest is found, all sneak to the lower deck, where the Assassins remove the kobolds before an alarm sounds, or mages use Flesh-to-Stone or Finger of Death.
Lastly, a Rogue opens the mine bay doors for all others to leave as he uses Trapmaking skills to make detonators.
Optionally, any captains lounging about in their quarters (especially if guarding a crest) could be taken out safely as a team. One captain is often on the bridge of one ship and would cause too much consternation on deck to eliminate.
A perfect score of 9 killed (3 kobolds each) or less with all detonators going off fast enough for none of the crews to raise alarms makes for a nice bit of bragging and extra XP.
“The Claw of Vulkoor”
Arguably the toughest stealth mission in the game, especially as a team. After killing the fire giant wizard, the team can use assassination/instant-kill tactics on the giants before going stealthy to use the pressure plates to charm the guardian scorpions while avoiding detection from any scorpion.
It can be done, even at Epic Elite. You gain massive XP and extra chests for completing all stealth optionals, having only killed what giants stood in the way.
At the start, the tough part is that the giants have See Invisibility, so anyone that’s relied on it before will not do well here.
The toughest part involves staying out of sight of randomly moving and patrols of scorpions in tight spaces. Sneaking by them is harder if you don’t move fast in Sneak (Ninja Spy and Rogue Acrobat trees have Faster Sneaking enhancements to increase Sneak speed).
I add this part for kicks and giggles, but if you’re going to go in as a stealth team, go big in terms of looks. It’s great for morale.
Ninja Masks. Hoods. Dark clothing. Glowing goggles. The Shadowfell look.
This is a good time to spend those Turbine Points to get some great cosmetic armor. You can standardize or look like a rag-tag outfit. A little role-play should be very fun here.
A strong ST6 team has many, many tools to complete objectives with deadly silence.
- Stealth. This goes without further discussion.
- Distraction. Enemies nearby will move to investigate a sound. If you use a single breakable to pull enemies while remaining in stealth, you can sneak behind them, often clearing your path to reach a lever or to continue to your objective.
- Assassination skills. As noted, the Monk’s Quivering Palm will insta-kill, at the price of pulling that Monk out of stealth. A Rogue Assassin would be the point-man for the true Assassinate ability that keeps them hidden.
- Charms/Domination. The Bard’s skills to make your enemies your allies can make them fight with each other while your team presses on. Shadowdancers can use a dominating ability.
- Paralyzation. Hold Monster spells. The Freezing the Lifeblood finishing move to paralyze for a full minute.
- Muting. The Pain Touch finishing move nauseates an enemy. They cannot attack or cast spells for a full minute.
- Neutralization. The Pain Touch finishing move will mute enemy casters. All other insta-kill spells work here.
- Ninja Poison. Against tougher enemies, the damage-over-time effect of this magical poison of the Ninja Spy can make takedowns of most of the toughest bosses easier, magnifying any Poison attacks of the group.
- Bluffing. Not only useful for combat pulling, but also for NPC dialogs for a tactical completion.
- Diplomacy. Some quests offer a better no-kill/limited-kill option with good Diplomacy.
- Intimidate. While normally you’re not trying to pick a fight, a Shintao Monk’s Ki Shout could allow one character to be a diversion while others sneak away and continue to an objective. A Shintao Monk is a resilient self-healing character that can take on a group. A Swashbuckler could also take on this role by charming enemies, killing what she must, and then leaving the scene.
- Diversion, the ability. The Ninja Spy’s Diversion technique is a hate-magnet dummy he can deploy when a team is becoming overwhelmed or need a strong distraction, aggroing everything in range so that the rest of the team is ignored and can escape.
- Disable Device: Traps are not a problem with a typical well-trained Rogue.
- Search. Your Rogues will find the hidden loot, side passages quite well.
- Ranged attack. Archers and throwers are great here, as would be a powerful Wizard and Sorcerer. Your agility allows you to reach a high ground to pelt enemies if required.
- Open Lock: Same as for traps, Rogues can open locked doors without attracting attention.
- Spot. At least the leaders should have high Spot skills to see hidden enemies way ahead so that the team can determine how to avoid or remove them.
- Diversity. Only the Rogue hasn’t an innate self-healing option, but offers many other abilities to a group. Adding a Dragonmark of Healing will fix that if a halfling, and Use Magic Device works well, too. Half-Elves and Rangers can use wands and scrolls with the right training. A well-prepared ST6 team doesn’t require a dedicated healer.
- Cooperation. A ST6 team must excel at this as no other, just like a SEAL team. You must have a strong leader here, and team members must cooperate and coordinate. Dissention is failure.
Hopefully this idea will generate some interest through the game as a play alternative. Perhaps you’re already doing it.
Take my suggestions, modify them as you see fit and then get some groups going. I hope to recruit others on my own server and guild, pointing them to this post for instruction.
See the DDO Wiki articles for more on the mechanics of stealth in the game:
Let me know if you’ve taken up the challenge and tell us of your results.
UPDATE: From this post comes a new game guide: Stormreach Shadows, for all classes to master stealth tactics.