Stealth Ops: Diplomatic Impunity

There’s only one thing you must do in “Diplomatic Impunity“: Kill the Droaam commander.

And that’s what Sukitetica the Assassin did.

This is first in a series of summarized walkthroughs that will highlight stealth tactics for selected quests. Selection criteria include whether stealth gains advantages in resources (fighting and healing versus avoidance), completion speed, and experience earned.

Most importantly, quest selections are based on how freaking fun it is to beat a quest against seemingly insurmountable odds and without slaying hordes of things.

Normally, my Ninja Spies like Kiricletica do such fun stuff. She managed to kill the commander but had to dispatch three others–and died once on her solo attempt. Still impressive numbers, but Suki thought she could do better.

Part 1: Get to Ulluvian

Since Assassins aren’t the greatest in protracted fighting, relying on their Sneak Attack damage for greater DPS, it was prudent to have a meat-shield backup. Natasha, the level 16 Cleric, was selected for her Death Ward. She was left parked throughout most of the quest, only summoned at the wildmen village for a rebuff of Death Ward and for one other use at the adventure’s end.

Suki’s been very busy in completing any and all quests at level 11 and below, banking her level 15 while earning 1,750 total favor for a +2 INT tome and then a +3 Upgrade INT tome. Suki preferred to get her Assassinate DC as high as possible without depreciating her XP rewards too much while entering this quest on Elite difficulty. Eventually her training as a Harper Agent will try switching her DEX-to-hit/damage to INT-to-hit/damage so I can pour INT into every level-up.

The extra INT added a couple more skill points to her level ups to 16. For this mission, Suki took advantage of the Ranger spell Camouflage and its stacking +10 Circumstance bonus to Hide. On top of that, scrolls of Invisibility helped for close-quarters cloaking.

After speaking to Henritta, simply go into Sneak and follow the northern (player’s left) edge of the jungle, never walking over the large plant flumes and their gray dirt, which may summon scorpions.

Carefully destroy root walls to proceed. You’ll avoid the gathering of irate wildmen (logically pissed off at more invaders but probably helpless to do much about it) to reach the next root wall and an area where panthers live. Suki was detected by one but used a paralyzing runestone on it to escape, avoiding a need to slay the kitty.

Once past the kitty-cats, you’re in the jungle clearing. Head down the beach path to find Ullevian and speak with him. Recent updates don’t count hirelings as party members for the purposes of activating objectives, so I was able to leave my meat-shield behind for the next step: bypassing the Droaam scout forces.

Part 2: Warn Henritta

Strong Hide/Move Silently isn’t enough at close-quarters going back up the narrow gorge where Droaam patrols now spawned. I also needed Invisibility and Faster Sneaking to get past things fast. Even when one or two scouts sensed me, their Spot check doesn’t last and they flail about blindly while I’m already far away.

Back at the jungle clearing, I stay to the player’s right, on the outer edge of the clearing, evading one pacing Droaam mage to make it to the root wall I’ll return to later, that leads towards the end-fight. For speed and safety, going through the Vinethrasher camp is faster.

I evaded detection from the wildmen guards and used Diplomacy to enter the camp and used the skill again to move peacefully through the village and back to base camp. I’m an Assassin, not a murderer, nor am I greedy for random low-value loot. You don’t need a high Diplomacy skill to complete either check.

Out through the village’s northern path, you’re soon reunited with Henritta to deliver the bad news. She gives you a new order: kill Ilos Hrolk.

Part 3: Assassinate the Commander

In the past, I enjoyed the fun of simply going through the entire jungle, past Droaam, wildmen and panthers to get to the last root wall leading to the fortress. Suki chose the more efficient path of returning up a path through the Vinethrasher village and then sneaking by the hostile wildmen guards to the root wall, completing avoiding the bulk of the Droaam jungle scouts.

With the root wall destroyed, Suki had to deal with yet another narrow rocky pathway and many more Droaam. Passing by these guys, even with Invisibility and greater Hide would be risky, so Suki used a noisemaker in one spot to pull enemies together, making it easier to slip by.

After bypassing a couple more patrols, Suki hears the Droaam commander ordering everyone to stand down to parley with me. At this point, all patrol spawns in the jungle and final path disappear, and all Droaam are temporarily non-aggressive.

ScreenShot01423I stood by the fortress gate. Suki had no kills at all to this point. There are at least 104 hostiles possible to kill in the entire quest.

Killing Hrolk and only Hrolk wasn’t a simple matter.

He is inside his fortress with a door I cannot open once I’m inside. I could go toe-to-toe with the commander easily enough, but I had to find a way to keep his reinforcements out of the battle.

ScreenShot01424I could call in the hireling to distract others. But the longer that the hireling remained present, the greater the chance that she’d kill someone else, as well as pull unwanted company.

So I took advantage of two tactics we’ve noted in the Stormreach Shadows guide.

One: I summoned a Flaming Sphere. If it worked, this little blob of annoying and nearly indestructible flame would make an excellent hate-magnet that would keep the commander’s initial guards too busy to find me.

Two: Once I initially spoke to the NPC commander, I was pulled from Sneak, but I re-engaged Sneak once the dialogue appeared, completed the remaining dialogue that way, leaping away from the commander as the fight began.

It all worked. The Flaming Sphere pulled everyone to itself, including the red-named commander. Now, how to get the commander away to fight me alone?

Here’s where I momentarily forgot that I was a Rogue, not a Monk. I used Bluff to pull the commander down to the fortress door and began my attack. His initial guards up top stayed put. So far, so good.

As expected, Hrolk goes dirty and calls in his outside reinforcements. In hindsight, if I were smarter, I’d would’ve placed Web traps at this door to slow down the extra fighters.

With more Droaam than I could handle, it was time for my one distraction. I summoned the Cleric hireling and threw her into aggressive mode. It worked. She gave me a brief series of emergency healing while I continued my final blows against the commander. A few moments later and the commander was dead and the quest completed.

ScreenShot01430Officially, only one kill to complete the quest.

The hireling and I together did mop up the remaining Droaam outside and inside the fortress to reach the three reward chests.

ScreenShot01431Next time: “Frame Work.” Let’s hope that the aggro rebalancing in Update 23 works as it should for that adventure.

Pacifist Play: Is That Possible?

Someone asked us on the Stormreach Shadows guide forum thread for a list of quests in DDO where no kills are required to complete a quest.

It got me to thinking. Are there any quests where killing is not an absolute requirement?

The Results

661054_pw_diplomacyTo answer this question, I needed some time to study every quest in DDO to note any game mechanic that confirmed if at least one kill was required.

Surprisingly, it took me a short time, simply scanning the quests by level list for any names that stood out by memory and then studying the few quests I haven’t done. Most quests are part of chains and it was easy to recall their objectives.

There were some caveats in determining this list.

  1. If a quest has any spiders, bats or oozes, it can’t be considered. No amount of stealth or invisibility or speed will keep these monsters from honing in on you with their special senses. Invis-zerg too much in quests filled with these and you’re inevitably slaying something, thanks to Dungeon Alerts.
  2. Raids and character-creation quests such as “Hall of the Mark” or “The Voyage” are excluded here. In case you think “The Grotto”, quest #1 can be done this way, you must kill the first sahuagin to pull the lever, even if you left your NPC trio to kill everything else.
  3. If a required quest objective has the word “slay” or “kill” in it, it’s also disqualified.
  4. Any rescue or escort quest is disqualified for obvious reasons.
  5. Any progression-only quest is disqualified (such as “Free Delera'”, speaking with Archbishop Dryden in “The Catacombs” chain)

I’m going to note very low kill quests to contrast and compare, especially those I’ve done myself.

And you can’t just leave pets to fight even if you aren’t. Summoned and hired creatures are your agents and represent you.

Here’s what I found.

  • Harbor Toll: A (new?) quest for level 4 and below only where you use non-combat skills to win. No fighting. And if you go to level 5, you can’t pick this quest up.
  • Stealthy Repossession: Absolutely no kills required.
  • Stop Hazadil’s Shipment: I jest here because there are no enemies to slay, only boxes, unless you go all out to find the one and only optional kobold to kill.
  • Home Sweet Sewer: Another aversion as your mission is to pull the dogs to the entrance. Slay one and you fail.
  • The Deadly Package: Agent of the Darguul (Splinterskull #6): I confirmed with Kiricletica that you can do this short quest with absolutely no kills, despite a moderate force of hobgoblins between you and the NPC you must contact to complete. I added the “Insidious Cunning” info to this quest’s DDO Wiki page.
  • Transitions to the last Splinterskull quests: To complete the last 3 quests, you have to get to the inner stronghold gate. This requires no kills if you are clever enough to do it, unless you encounter some spiders in your path in one of these quests.
  • Doom of the Witch-doctor: Zulkash, Herald of Woe: This isn’t a no-kill quest. But I note it here because, despite the army of hobgoblins surrounding the puzzle wheels, it is very possible to make precisely two required kills to complete this one: Zulkash himself, and his totem, rather than up to 75 kills possible. You’ll just have to get the guards around each puzzle wheel to move away from it for a time.
  • Maraud the Mines: Technically, yes, you aren’t required to kill anything. The challenge is that most of the required gems you must collect are in breakables that you must destroy to obtain them, of which the sounds attract attention. Often the monsters are also camping on your objectives, and a few are on your path. I’ve done this one solo several times with a Devious bonus, so I had a few kills. It may be possible to go without kills with a Rogue with invisibility options, fog scrolls and a lot of noisemakers. Or, use a partner that pulls the aggro away and then uses Dimension Door to escape.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: It is possible to slay only the Droaam captain to complete the quest. On Kiricletica I managed to get to the final battle without a single kill, slaying only 3 others aside from the target. (How you escape from the mobs left over inside the fortress or loot the chests afterward is another matter.) (Update: It’s completely doable.)
  • Frame Work: It was possible to slay only the red-named minotaur chieftain to complete this quest. Update 22 had bugs that made enemies practically teleport into the fortress on trying this, but perhaps Update 23 has fixed that craziness.
  • Blockade Buster: Another quest where no kills are possible but very difficult for melees to do. A mage with Flesh-to-Stone could stop the kobolds in the mine bay (your goal on all three ships, nine kobolds total). A very fast Ninja Spy could use a finisher to paralyze all three kobolds for up to a minute, enough time to set the mine controls and escape the mine bay. You can’t use the mine controls without a sound; doing so awakens any kobolds nearby.
  • The Claw of Vulkoor: You must kill Sobrien the Wizard at the game’s start. From there, no kills are required.

And that’s it. That’s all I could find.

Quests like “Eyes of Stone” can be easily stealthed but you must slay the four mages and elementals spawned that hold each Coin Lord, then slay Hesstess herself, while trying to avoid getting killed.

Many quests may have levers and switches that must be pulled to proceed. However, often these levers and switches are “wired” to the mobs nearby, just as chests are often locked until you clear enemies nearby (“Irestone Inlet”). Kiricletica discovered this mechanic a lot in her no-kill days.

Since this is DDO and not “Splinter Cell World,” it’s logical that they’re aren’t many quests where slaying is unnecessary. Eberron and the Forgotten Realms are dangerous places where enemies shoot first.

You can get low-kills, but most of the quests simply require you to get your hands dirty…er…bloody.

Got a quest that you’ve think I’ve missed? Tell me about it and I’ll challenge your recollection of it.

In Defense of Assassins

Nope. No one noticed. He should be able to get clean away.

Nope. No one noticed. He should be able to get clean away.

I’ve not been playing my Rogue Assassin very long. But I love what she can do.

I’m also enjoying Update 23’s changes to over overbalancing of enemies noticing your assassinations that effectively challenged how you used this skill.

Yet I noticed this thread and some older ones that complain about how the class still seems borked.

Again, I haven’t been playing it long. But I have been playing their spirit-twin class, the Ninja Spy, for much longer. In fact, much of my success with Suki comes from my solo experience with Kiricletica.

So, in defense of the current Assassin (and knowing that today’s update patch might fix things that I’ve not found a problem with though others might have), let me ask some critical points.

Do You Expect Not to Be Noticed?

Update 22 tried to make enemies much smarter against ranged enemies and aggro in general. In short, if you’re an archer that shot one someone inside a mob at long range, others inside that mob may get annoyed and chase you. While this didn’t change the effectiveness of ranged damage, it made for more realistic gameplay in that you shouldn’t be able to snipe at things without some consequence.

The same mechanic was used at the melee level. There is no such thing as a “silent takedown.” Some noise is made. Update 22’s problem was that the enemies seemed to not only notice but home in on the silent attacker as if they were fully revealed, making Assassinate nearly useless.

But Update 23 reduced this overbalance. I’ve been able to assassinate enemies that are not very close to others. But once I do, they notice the death-rattle of their fallen–but they appear to be attracted to the sound, not the sight. As a result, I “stick-and-move”. I hit my target and then sneak away rapidly from that spot, leaving the enemies flustered but unable to find me.

This balance seems logical to me in that I shouldn’t get a free pass on killing someone within a thick, angry mob. It would be like no one sitting left and right of Abraham Lincoln not noticing the sound of the assassin’s bullet injected into his head at point-blank range.

How High Are Your Stealth Skills, Anyway?

Like Ninja Spies, an Assassin’s Hide and Move Silently skills must be high to avoid being noticed. The Assassinate ability allows you to kill without breaking stealth, yes. But you can’t just sit there in place after your kill. You must move away unless you killed a rather isolated enemy and no others heard their death cry.

When enemies charge a location, I don’t believe their Spot check is getting bonuses but their Listen check is still going. If your Move Silently skill is lacking, especially at close range to them, your pursuers will find you by your elephantine foot plodding. If your Hide skill isn’t as strong as it should, their Spot bonus will reveal you.

In addition to good H/MS, a strong Assassin moves fast in Sneak. That means to train all three ranks of Faster Sneaking from the Thief-Acrobat’s tree for a 50% boost to speed, while also wearing your best Speed/Striding item.

Are You Alone?

The mechanics of aggro are still present for Assassins. In fact, we’re supposed to take full advantage of this.

Unlike my ninjas that often take the forefront in attack, Suki sits back. In solo play, I set a Cleric in front and let her go aggressive, attracting a mob around her. I wait in Sneak, until the moment is just right.

And then I move in. I’m learning fast how to make multiple Assassinate hits if I strike just as I swivel my character. I’ve taken two guys down pretty easily when they’re grouped together and sometimes three if I’m lucky.

But if you’re trying for that solo Assassin bit, you’re going to get in trouble because of the aggro counterbalance of Update 22.

Now, twelve seconds to recharge Assassinate isn’t a long time at all given the benefit of removing your enemy immediately. If you’re not patient, you’re going to get what you deserve: Aggro. A good meat shield takes a few moments to gain aggro. But once they do, you go in, make a hit, and then pull back.

In the case where there the mob is too large and the meat shield can’t keep up their own healing, that’s where you make a hit but then take advantage of a Rogue’s Sneak Attack. With Suki’s Single Weapon Fighting speed, she can mow down mobs from behind. But like assassinations, I don’t continually do this or I’ll get the mob to turn against me and not staying fixed on my meat shield. I make a few strikes to remove one or two and then back off again.

By then, I’m also ready to assassinate again.

In a live party, the Assassin really shines. I was in a run in “The Coalescence Chamber” with some guildmates–and at Level 14, to boot. Staying in stealth keeps the scorpions down (bats just show up, sadly). But when in the spiraling shafts, my non-stealthed party got the maddened attention of everything in there. Still in stealth, I made a beeline to the next destination, assassinating everything as I went because the trog’s attention stayed on the rest of my party.

Yes, Some Things May Still Need Work

I don’t use Bluff as often as I should. But reports indicate that it tends not to attract a single target but multiples, as if you made a single ranged attack That’s not good.

But then, I also tend to use noisemakers and break objects, or use meat shields. For now, I use Bluff when I want to pull a very isolated enemy, but I don’t expect it to allow me to assassinate them because of the broken mechanic.

And today’s Update patch is said to fix Venomed Blades from preventing Sneak Attacks: good news for Ryncletica as well as Suki.

Suki herself also needs more work. She’s been plowing through any unfinished lower level quests to build up favor for her +2 tome of her choice–an INT tome in this case. Then she can use a +3 Upgrade tome to reach 29 INT. She’s still looking at the Harper’s INT to-hit and to damage options but I’m favoring Master Assassin Nokowi’s build ideas. I just looted a +3 Lesser Heart of Wood. Perhaps I should give Suki a quick rebuild to reallocate an INT point or two.

I guess my point is made. I’m still a novice in the art of the perfect Rogue kill, but my Ninja instincts tell me that issues with other Assassins is less of a bug than in failing to recognize that the environment behaves more proactively. I don’t blame others for griping per se because the change may seem more sudden for this class than others. But you can adapt; it’s all a matter of noting your behaviors and adjusting accordingly.

Ninjas and Assassins Revisited: Tainted Love

Ninja and assassin squad on approach. Trust me, they're here.

Ninja and assassin squad on approach. Trust me, they’re here.

I drew some consternation from readers when making my favorable comparison of Ninja Spies to Rogue Assassins some time ago.

With a Rogue Assassin of my own that’s working very well as well as several ninja variations, I thought I’d make a fresher comparison and contrast of the class trees, especially with the introduction of a new class tree.

A fun fact: the two classes come from a common real-life archetype. The word “assassin” comes from the Middle Eastern name hashshashin. The name implies that these early killers were sometimes fortified for their duties by hashish, a narcotic I hear goes great with baked goods.

Ninjas, likely originating in China before Japan, and known more formally as shinobi, are merely the hashshashin’s Eastern counterpart. In DDO, of course, the connections of their assassination skills are divided between two D&D classes: Monk and Rogue. Female ninja are known as kunoichi, which I use for my clan.

Two sides of the same coin, really. Saying “ninja assassin” is as redundant as saying “wet water.”

Advantage: Suki – Spycraft

I know I’m very late to the game on this subject, but I’m really enjoying the Use Magic Device skill. As much as I’m able to bring some gear and train in some martial techniques for my kunoichi, the advantages gained in using wands and scrolls or equipping items outside of their normal requirements brings extra diversity to both the role-play flavor and the overall functionality of my Assassin, Sukitetica.

I note time and again that adding UMD cross-class skill points to a Monk is a waste. I still hold to that. A UMD of 24 is arguably the best that a Heroic single-classed Monk can do without bankruptcy (11 cross-class maximum plus CHA modifier of +5 with CHA 8 base, a +5 tome and a +6 enhancement item to get CHA 20, with a Voice of the Master +1 Luck bonus and an alchemical +3 from a House Deneith CHA skills potion).

That allows no-fail Blur and Invisibility and a few other minor protections, maybe Nightshield. I know there are other things to add here, but they aren’t going anywhere close to useful if you can’t reach the next best number, 40, without compromising stealth and jump and Concentration skills or equipped items to do it. Going Half-Elven with a Cleric dilettante is still more prudent.

But now, with a more open mind and greater study of the UMD article on DDO Wiki, at least I have a greater appreciation of the skill and what it could bring to any Monk that really, really wants it.

But I digress. UMD ability with an Assassin is completely Batman-esque in its utility.

Sukitetica, pushing Level 14, can get a solid UMD 24 with items alone. She has only a +1 CHA tome consumed, and awaits her 1750 favor to get a +2 tome that she’ll read and then use a +3 Upgrade tome in the bank for more modifier-based points. With some House Deneith skill potions and a couple more items, she should have UMD 27 temporarily for some more immediate needs.

She can now use Invisibility scrolls. They last for 2 minutes 30 seconds or so,  longer than Ryncletica’s 1-minute Shadow Veil ki-activated invisibility, but have one disadvantage: It’s a verbal spell. I cannot use it willy-nilly in some stealth moments while I’m too close to enemies that may hear my chanting. For close quarters, I better keep some Invisibility potions at the ready.

Case in point: I took Suki into a near-perfect Heroic Elite “The Claw of Vulkoor” run recently. I had noisemaker traps to move some stubborn, camping scorpions away to pacify the guardians very easily. But doing work on the dreaded sixth guardian, with many other roaming scorpions afoot, I neglected to renew my Invisibility before proceeding. I pacified the guardian after getting all to move with a noisemaker, but not before a roaming scorpion saw me and blew that XP objective.

In contrast, Ryncletica made a Hard run of the same quest. She had to brute-force the pressure-plate on the camping sixth scorpion but got it pacified without detection. It was the seventh and final guardian that would not cooperate. I couldn’t make enough noise with throwing stars or breaking stuff in the nearby tomb to lure the thing off its nesting atop the last pressure plate. I could only reveal myself to force the guardian to fight me, losing that XP bonus.

Blur and Nightshield are on the table for Suki, as are Flaming Sphere scrolls. As Teacher Saekee noted, these are big ol’ rolling hate magnets that are hard to kill. If I can deploy one of these against a mob, I can sneak-attack and assassinate to my heart’s content without the use of a meat-shield hireling to attract attention in some locales.

Advantage: Ryn – Poison and Stat-Damage

Level 10 Ryncletica’s go-to weaponry are either two Tiefling Assassin’s Blades (still level 4 items) or a Tiefling blade with Sting, which delivers a poison-stat damaging effect like the Assassin’s so-called poison attacks. It’s actually Poison damage that attracts me as Ninja Poison stacks magnify any Poison enhancement damage from the Tiefling blades, and weapons with the Poison prefix, as well as poison damage from the Envenomed Blades, not so far away.

Both blades have a Ruby of the Endless Night added to them for negative levels on Vorpal, which cushions the blow of not training in the Ninjutsu effect Wave of Despair for spamming mass neg-levels.

I’m not disparaging stat-damage at all. In fact, I rely on it as it increases my ability to take out an enemy in a hurry. The beauty of the Tiefling blade is it’s Keen property for improved critical hits (it will be a bit longer before I can add the feat) as well as its Wounding property that knocks off CON points, weakening foes faster. I spam Suki’s three poison stat-damaging attacks while sneak-attacking u the same keys I use on Ryn and other Monks to spam ki elemental attacks.

In a direct fight, Ryn’s blades simply mow through anyone she encounters as her Touch of Despair and Precision stance attacks also grind through any fortification while the poison quickly sets in.

In a couple of levels, Ryn can use her Vengeful and Vampiric Fury Shortswords for more stat-damaging happiness.

When I wasn’t reading up on UMD, I’ve been studying what other Poison damage effects I can stack into Ryncletica’s build. There’s not much left.

  • She’s got Venomed Blades now as part of her poison-master build, with two more ranks to train there. I already noted the Harper Agent melee power training to magnify this ability’s damage.
  • She’d like to complete her Red Fens Vulkoor’s Cunning set for 10% Threat reduction and the Vulkoorim poison stat-damaging effect from the Ring of Venom and Necklace of Venom.
  • Ryn still wears her Jidz-Tet’ka, which doses a paralyzing poison on occasion while in Ocean Stance.
  • The “Foundation of Discord” and “A Cry for Help” quests in Gianthold might drop a Quiver of Poison that will add ranged Poison damage to my shuriken (provided that I use a Cannith-crafted one that will bypass the Sting of the Ninja bug and deliver Ninja Poison properly again).
  • Greater Poison weapons on loot-generated weapons are quite welcome, but rare to find.

All-in-all, getting the Envenomed Blades back in my hands (and, if very very lucky, finding the pieces to make Epic blades) is the best I can do in the Heroic equipment category, aside from improving her Ninja Poison techniques during combat.

But let me know if I’ve missed an item, enhancement or even Epic Destiny that delivers poison.

Deuce: Stealth Tactics and Attack

While Suki is more dependent on something else gaining attention for her attacks to work best, Ryncletica still has to behave like a sneaky cat to ambush something. Neither character works best in the open for too long at their level without a supporting character since they cannot battle-heal very well.

Thus, Ryn and Suki take to the shadows.

Suki has stronger Hide/Move Silently powers, thanks to a being a Halfling Rogue. Ryn’s not far behind but can also go invisible at-will and more quietly than Suki, as noted. But Ryn’s invisibility requires ki, which is still a precious commodity to generate.

Ryn is a better sustained attack than Suki while in the open, increasing damage in one way or another the longer she fights. But when Suki can gain the advantage of surprise, her Assassinate powers can sometimes take out 2 people at once and then retreat to do that again. I’m just learning how that effect works, turning your character to another target just after using the attack.

Ryn is fine-tuning her Dark finishers. What she cannot paralyze, she can mute. What she cannot mute, she blinds. Blindness really helps avoid direct attacks since few enemies can remove it; it’s effectively 50% Concealment. She now has Flash Bang for mass-blinding and dazing escapes.

Suki likes daggers. After completing a run through the “Cult of the Six” chain, she had a few choices for the chain reward. While another Quicksilver Cassok for the Monks would have been fine, she gravitated to a little dagger named Sheridan’s Wrack. It didn’t seem all that special at first with Keen and one Red augment slot.

And then she equipped it. In Suki’s hands, the crit-range dived to 17-20 and, with Blade Specialization trained, went to 15-20 with a x3 crit modifier. The Wrack also has a 1.50(2d3) damage profile, making it my new death-blade for high damage, no-frills assassinations.

Ryn can boost her DEX for more and more damage, and Assassins share the DEX to-hit and to damage ability. But Suki has a new option: Train the Versatile Adept abilities in the Harper Agent tree to use her INT for to-hit and damage.

I was worried that, somehow, the DEX to-hit feature would countermand that Harper training, but this option should work like the old Weapon Finesse effect. As long as Suki’s INT is the higher ability score, then INT to-damage would be used. This means I can pump her INT for both attack and to ensure her Assassinate DCs are as strong as they can be. I’ll still need DEX for reflex. If I’m wrong, I’ll just reset the Harper tree but the extra INT is still a very good thing to do.

It’s too bad that I can’t have either as an NPC to the other while in gameplay. Ryn and Suki would be an unstoppable death-dealing duo.

The Undesirables: Quests I May Never Complete

DDO is a huge world. There are (at least) 405 quests and 37 wilderness areas.

Yet there are several I have yet to see, or may never see.

The Necropolis

(Credit: Claudio Pozos)

One down, Lynncletica…only 58,295 more undead left to kill. (Credit: Claudio Pozos)

Many people complain about the design of the “Ruins of Threnal” quest chain, and I understand why. But any issues there do not compare to the clusterfrak that is the Necropolis.

The DDO Wiki article alone shows how almost incomprehensible it is to know which NPC gives what to progress in which chain.

In the very few times I’ve run in the first part of the chain, I’m almost always overcome with confusion. The quest designs are (in comparison to others) poorly executed. It’s never clear what to find, what to do. With the fewer times I’ve completed part 1 and entered parts 2 and a little of 3, I’ve only become more confused, lost, and summarily frustrated and bored.

As I noted in a recent post, the undead are legion. The Necropolis illustrates this with mind-numbing effectiveness. Even possessing hale and hearty undead-bashing Shintao Monks like Lynncletica or Syncletica does not encourage me to seek out the quests here.

Long ago, prior to Cannith Crafting, I wanted to make runs out here for the rare Devout Handwraps, the only named Metalline of Pure Good-styled handwraps in the game at the time. No longer (not even for their red augment-slot version).

Bashing endless skeletons and ghosts is one thing. Bashing said undead for hours on end is as fulfilling as bashing trolls on the internet–who seem more numerous than the undead. No, thank you.

I will never likely see my Silver Flame favor higher than the first tier reward.

But then again…there is Update 23’s Epic Orchard of the Macabre and its terrifyingly awesome new loot there as well in Crystal Cove. The Epic Muffled Veneer is +20 Hide/Move Silently–with a “Mythic” version as well. And a favorite but hard-to-find Epic version of the Belt of Thoughtful Remembrance is attractive as well.

Too bad that most of the items are ML27 or better. I’m not inclined to keep characters that über for so long, save Szyncletica the star-thrower, and only because she’s a proven build I can use specifically for anything super-tough.

But maybe culling a few skeletons wouldn’t hurt.

The Xorian Cipher

The Necropolis has several quests where extra players are mandatory to activate switches or buttons to proceed. I’m all for parties and cooperation, which is part of DDO’s roots as a D&D game. But this mechanic completely sucks. A quest should not assume that a party is always available. (Now for raids, I can understand this requirement, by their very nature.)

That said, an alternate means to proceed (with some penalty for XP or loot, or HP) should always be incorporated in a quest design. Always. “The Haunted Halls of Eveningstar” showed this properly at its start, if I recall. A lever opens a gate, but requires STR. If you haven’t got it, some True Seeing or a good Search will find a way around it.

As with those particular Necro quests, I’ve rarely entered Xorian Cypher. In fact, I’m certain I’ve entered it precisely twice in my four years of gameplay.

And there were little reasons for me to do so. The loot there was around before the Monk class came to be, it seems. Even with the Update 19 changes to the items found there, there’s little to attract me to slay more skeletons or find a way around boring game mechanics.

Reaver’s Refuge

This area should be a nice pastime to play.

But, like the Necropolis, all these quests suffer from a poor kick-the-dog design that all but fully discourages my desire to complete the chain. These three tedious flagging quests eventually lead you back to Sor’jek, now sporting a nice lich look and a timed, shallow-story slay-it-all chain conclusion.

Enter the Kobold

What starts as a serviceable and aesthetically interesting dungeon and combat is suddenly c-blocked by a complex puzzle that can only be completed by most of us if you use the DDO Wiki article that explains it.

Only one player should enter it, else, the puzzle lights are not lit properly. It takes several tedious minutes with even a good puzzle-master in any group that dares to join you to complete this action-halting puzzle. And your reward for doing so, one chest, requires everyone to make their way through the puzzle to get it.

The end-fight is against some efreeti, a very angry death spell-casting kobold and massive fireball damage that even few evasive characters can tolerate for long. Did I mention the one-way hole into the quest that seals behind you, blocking any attempt to retreat? You can put a hireling there, but having them retrieve soulstones might be a bit problematic.

Monastery of the Scorpion

RynRestsAtShrineI do love, love, love the wilderness area surrounding this quest: Soami Gardens, and for good reason.

The area was, as the name of the quest implies, once a monastery, a home for Monks.

The area is filled with small shrines and DDO’s lovely pseudo-Shinto aesthetic.

There is an absolutely stunning bridge over a pond near the large remnants of the supposedly empty monastery. I was captivated when I first visited here.

The flavor text in-game is limited, however, noting only that site was abandoned after an apparent attack by Xoriat forces destroyed its caretakers long ago. Was this area just made up specifically for this adventure? If not, is there more to the story?

An Eberron tabletop rules wiki has some great campaign background on the world’s monastic orders. You do learn, in the course of the adventure, that this place was taken over by monastic followers of the Mockery, which does suggest that the developers did a little homework in fleshing out the storyline beyond making a place to play. I would’ve liked to know what general order had once lived here.

I’ve taken Ryncletica, in a past life, throughout the entire complex, including into the interior of the monastery where it’s very hard to access without a strong Jump skill.

This area is most tranquil, especially after slaying a rare encounter beholder that occasionally takes residence near the boulder-blocked entrance to the building’s interior.

You’ll forget all this beauty in death within the Garden once your joy is insta-killed by the overbearing objectives of the quest. The Drow monks (kamas in hand) and others inside are hardly challenging. In fact, these Mockery guys are just that: a mockery. They give monks a bad name.

Finding the various buttons to unlock the way forward isn’t bad. The highly trapped and force-fielded shrine and chests seemed quite irrelevant to the quest and unnecessarily difficult.

It gets worse from here. Once that puzzle’s forcefield is passed, your party needs superior reflex saves to survive getting to at least one switch that turns off the antigravity field that holds you against the ceiling and nasty spikes that zap your HP. If your party can figure out where to land on a sparse group of cross-beams, getting to a second switch disables a force field for a chest below. In either case, prepare for a gelatinous cube dropping down on you.

The multi-sided puzzle platform isn’t highly annoying but, like “Enter the Kobold,” delivers a harsh buzzkill to your combat energy, save the occasional respawning guard. Trying to navigate the various jets in the upper walkways to reach switches that activate a single jet to the end-fight only adds to the tedium.

And then, there’s the end-fight, starring Sannyasi, Engine of Destruction. A scorrow on steroids on steroids, he immediately trashes a central puzzle in his lair that’s intended for you to solve so as to kill him. No amount of stealth helps here by design: He charges once you pass a specific point.

You must either kite him about without harming him as others solve the puzzle, or fight him. Of course, he has minions to whittle at puzzle-solvers, even if you have someone that keeps the scorrow’s aggro. Should you land any blows on the scorrow, your blows permanently damage the puzzle lights, increasing the chances that the puzzle will become unsolvable and that you must kill Sannyasi yourself. He is not easy and dangerous at-level, with movement and attack speed that taxes even Monks.

Of course, killing him directly robs you of an extra chest, too. No, thank you.

Prey on the Hunter

"Well, isn't going to work here."

The wilderness area here, Aussircaex’s Valley, is a small snowy wasteland filled with frost giants. There’s little reason to explore here, save a few rare encounters and a portal gateway that’s always here where you can test your character’s DPS.

This quest is a gauntlet. You must triumph over the respawning giants and their friends to find a lever or two to open the way through a series of icy caves. I don’t mind this part at all. In fact, running like hell and using any creative means to go all-out to slay whatever gets in your way–and fast–has been a fun challenge in times past. Frost giants are tough.

You reach a mini-boss fight that’s invigorating enough. And then, yet again, your adrenaline rush is brutally quelled as you approach the end-fight, guarded by a extremely mood-killing maze. You have only so much time to find the single path that leads to the beleaguered white dragon that’s besieged by frost giants. Take too long and it dies, leaving you 30+ minutes you’re not getting back.

Once you reach the dragon, don’t expect her to be friendly to you. She hates everybody. As a result, you can accidentally accelerate her death since she’s a targetable hostile just as are all the giants about her. Very soon, a red-named frost giant joins the fray and the dragon’s death is assured if you cannot get his aggro and that of the other giants off Aussircaex.

Should you defeat the giant horde, Aussircaex comes back to her senses and holds off on eating you in exchange for offering you one of the dragon essences that you came for. Normally, here, I just take the item and leave.

Next time that I ever do this quest, I’m going to kill that smug dragon to emphasize how she’s so not going to be part of the Prophecy if I can help it.

She’ll wish she was enthralled again by a mindsunder after I filet her and her mate for dragon steaks and stew for the dojo’s next tailgate party.

Wow. See how frustrating these quests can be? I just threatened dracoicide simply because I got fed up with rescuing ungrateful beings in a nearly impossible adventure.

Stealer of Souls

Completing these three quests opens up a new battle against Sor’jek Incanni. Yep. You did kill him atop Tempest’s Spine. Now he’s back as a lich and using dead dragons as well as elementals and giantish magic, manipulated by The Truthful One to make an undead draconic army.

Sound exciting? Well, not really.

Again, fail to read up on this quest on the DDO Wiki and you’ll likely fail. It’s timed, and you must complete specific parts, activating runes or switches and slaying a mini-boss that controls part of Sor’jek’s machinery. The fights are tedious, long, difficult, and hardly fun: they’re simply a slay-them-all format. Worse of the four is a quest where you’re on rising platforms with air elementals and giants ready to blow you or knock you off, requiring you to reenter the fight.

Once all that nonsense is done, fighting Sor’jek is allowed (try to approach him before this and you’re killed by a force field). Not that the fight is exciting. He’s a haughty, huge bag of HP with little gained for you at the end of it all.

You see, throughout these four quests you’ve not only gathered dragon essences but Draconic Runes, collectibles used to create Dragontouched armor. While once, this apparel was worth the grind, the game now offers armor and clothing that’s far easier to obtain and is far more versatile.

Further, the runes come in many types that may or may not offer you what you want on your armor. You can convert three runes to gain a new random one, but that means you’d also have to run the Reaver’s Reach chain over and over again to obtain more of these bound-to-character collectables.

And did I mention how much of a pain it is in terms of time to enter and exit the Reach? You jump off a ship and have to swim to enter, and then you’ll need to get the Stormreaver to give you the Fly spell to fly up to the area’s exit. I don’t mind that the first few times, but yikes! Would it hurt to add a direct teleport to and from the Refuge and not to its airship?

The Restless Isles

QuinAndGholaFanConcluding my list of rarely-completed quests, the Restless Isles will leave those without a Shard of Improved GPS quite lost and confused.

The two quests, “Slavers of the Shrieking Mines” and “Bring Me the Head of Ghola-Fan!” aren’t bad at all.

Trying to get to either of them through the underwater paths from micro-island to micro-island is a bit tedious as you must find keys to unlock your paths if you haven’t a lock picker handy.

To give the area some credit, finding quests in the Kings Forest and Underdark is much harder.

I add this here because I have never, ever entered the raid here, “The Titan Awakes.” I hear its a pain to do, with bashing pillars in the right way and then using a frickin’ laser to zap a maddened Warforged Titan. It’s so off the list of things-to-do in the game that I’ve never seen an LFM for it in several years to even tempt me to try it.

Sir Geoff of Hanna noted a recent (successful but overly daunting) trial of completing the raid, very short-manned, with two hirelings. Were I to have  a Gamer Girl like his–and boatloads of patience and perseverance I lack–and he reminded me that there’s a pre-raid to complete first.


What quests have you given up on ever doing again?

Drow Kunoichi: Ryncletica Resharpened

Each of my Monks are being regroomed as I try to spread out their levels for helping others, but also for something different.

I’ve sent Syncletica, Flynncletica and Szyncletica into several Epic Normal runs of “Devil’s Assault” to gather Tokens of the Twelve for any reincarnation efforts.

I know who was my next TR target–my first dark Monk, Ryncletica, the kunoichi. But for months now I’ve been unsure how to position her. Too many ninjas? Hell, no, you can’t have too many! And if you do, how would you find them?

And then Update 23 came along to inspire several of us in the game–which caused me to go “screw that” to the Token farming for now and buy a Heroic Heart of Wood for getting the inspiration off the ground immediately.

Melee Powered Poison

This DDO thread notes how Venomed Blades, a poison stance granted to Drow and Assassins, gains a 200% boost to Melee Power, which augments attack damage.

What caught my eye is that there is also amplification to poison damage as well. Not just the damage of Venomed Blades, but the Sting of the Ninja effect as well, where Ninja Poison is injected on critical hits. Teacher Firewall, creator of the Shiradi Shuricannon build, confirms that the 1d8 poison damage of Venomed Blades amplifies with more Melee Power as well as the debuffing of Ninja Poison, ranged or in melee. The higher your Melee Power, the higher the damage.

With that, I was able to make a decision for Ryncletica’s third life. Go Drow, go Ninja Spy.

Now, I already have a Drow ninja: Szyncletica, the Shroud Beater. But she’s designed to use only shuriken. And, sadly, the Sting of the Ninja bug affects any poisoning done with all but a few Cannith-crafted stars, including Venomed Blades. (Firewall confirmed that ranged amplification works but using a star that isn’t bugged from using Sting of the Ninja.)

But melee attacks work perfectly with the poison.


I’M BATGIRL. Well, no. Her pointed ears are in the wrong place.


So, for your review, here is Ryncletica reborn, my very first ninja, now in her third life. Still in her kunoichi form (assault ninja), but more streamlined, I think.

As a Drow, she’ll gain not only Venomed Blades to accelerate melee and poison damage but gain improved damage with her shuriken and shortswords, her primary weapon.

The Shuriken Expertise free racial feat turns out to be quite handy with extra stars thrown per attack. Thanks to some tips from Szyncletica, Ryn can “switch-hit” quite well, using stars for remote damage and pulls. I need now to make kamas or shortswords that add any off-hand effects for special occasions.

Unlike her sister, Kiricletica, Ryn will stick to Two Weapon Fighting, preferring the off-hand procs (and the accumulating poison and stat damage it can apply) over attack speed.

Ryn benefits from the major schooling that Kiri showed me with the Freezing the Lifeblood and Pain Touch finishers. If I can’t paralyze it, I mute or blind it, even giants (although their higher Fortitude saves tend to shake it off a little faster).

I’m adding a little Sneak Attack damage as points allow, with No Mercy and Shadow Double as critical training goals. One ability I’ve tended to skip, Subtlety, might come in handy, reducing my Threat while making that quick takedown against scattered foes while in party.

But there’s more in store to differentiate her from Kiri and Szyn.

Adding More Spy to the Spymaster

Ryn is getting Harper Agent training to add some Melee Power for her swords and Ranged Power for when she uses shuriken. Drow Xen’drik Training will add to-hit competence bonuses to her weapons. DEX is the prime stat for all damage, with WIS very close behind to ensure that the finishers land and that Ryn has sufficient ki.

Unlike Kiri, who gains some Melee Power as a Single Weapon Fighter, Ryn has to add some through the Harper tree for now or gain no Melee Power at all in Heroic levels.

The inherent advantages of Drow, from stealth to attack skill, should compensate for the lower CON and HP of the Drow.

Ryn has a Phiarlan Mirror Cloak equipped for a modest Hide/Move Silently boost, and has trained in Shadow Veil for invisibility and incorporeality on-demand. Having never owned a Cloak of Shadows, I see some runs into “The Church and the Cult” to find that item for +10 Hide and Move Silently at level 9. Or, I could wait to get to level 11 and buy/farm tapestry pieces from the Orchard to make a Muffled Veneer for +11 Hide/Move Silently. (I prefer the newer Nightforge Gorget to add 100% fortification through level 14 as it also allows me to slot a Deathblock gem in my necklace.)

Ryn5As for Ninja Spy skills, Ryn is the second Ninja Spy I have to not train in the Touch of Death or Stunning Fist. The reasoning is that Ninja Poison with Melee Power should be a greater killer. Many things immune to negative energy or stuns aren’t immune to poison–and I’m able to deliver poison much faster than ToD hits or stuns.

I can rely quite well on Freezing the Lifeblood’s paralyze on many enemies. Those immune from paralyzing (duergar) are likely too resistant to a stun anyway–but not from getting muted by Pain Touch. Unarmed fighting won’t inject Ninja Poison anyway, so shortswords are the mandatory direction for this build.

Most critically, the Action Point costs to train three trees, Drow, Ninja Spy and Harper Agent will be very, very hard while also trying to cling to the Ninja Master level 20 joys of vorpalling everything.

It means I must spend 40 points in Ninja Spy, plus 1 for the last core, to vorpal. After that, I have only 39 points to spread elsewhere: 18 points required into Drow to unlock Venomed Blades and its three ranks, with the last 11 into Harper Agent or Ninja Spy’s other features.

By my calculations, Harper Agent adds +4 Melee/Ranged Power with +3 to my hireling’s abilities from a nearby ability, trained as a progression prerequisite since I must spend 2 AP to go to the next tier for one more point of Melee/Ranged power. Going Harper may not seem worth it.

But hey, these are all enhancement-based things. If being a Harper Agent becomes too gimpy, I’ll reset the tree and devote its points to my Drow/Ninja Spy trees or put a few points in the Mystic tree for more passive ki.

While only 4 points of Melee Power may not be awesome in Heroic, once back in Epic levels, Shadowdancer and Grandmaster of Flowers training, in addition to the new Epic Power feat, will add more melee power and so, more damage.

Skipping Stunning Fist lets me add the Ten Thousand Stars feat instead to boost thrown weapon damage. So far, with Shuriken Expertise, I’m seeing double and occasional triple hits of stars and can reliably take down targets at range.

The No Mercy enhancement adds up to 30% more damage to my poor paralyzed enemies–with Sneak Attack damage to go with that.

In short, Ryncletica is rebuilt for power takedowns, sacrificing defense and healing for massive poisoning, with a little sneak attack, ranged damage and helpless-based DPS.

Sounds more like a traditional ninja, don’tcha think? It’s too bad that the Ninja Mask cosmetic doesn’t cover Ryn’s pointed ears. Despite her training, she doesn’t look like Batgirl in the right way.

Poison Master Revisited

I groomed Kiricletica to be a good poisoner, but Ryn should be able to take it an order or two of magnitude with the amplified Venomed Blades.

I’m played with some Drow abilities. I trained in Faerie Fire, a spell-like ability that dispels Concealment and Hide effects. It’s not quite as strong as I’d like it to be as it requires CHA for its DC. My early tests of it didn’t even reveal some hidden kobolds in the Searing Heights wilderness, so I’ll likely reset the tree and put those points into more Xen’drik Weapon Training.

Ryn still wants to keep her theatricality, a natural thing to be as a ninja. Any clickies or abilities she can use are fair game. Ninja Spy tactics to escape are still on the board. I suspect that AP needed to upgrade Flash Bang and Poison Exploit  to their maximums will be there, even Sneak Attack–but I can’t max out those abilities and train ability score enhancements, too. Ryn is going to be all-talent, no boosts.

Ryn was my first stealth-heavy character, and is only going to be better at it with Update 19’s changes, fresh gear and the refinements to stealth tactics we’ve all learned (now compiled in the Stormreach Shadows guide, if you didn’t know).

Ryncletica is going to miss the versatility of her second life’s half-elven Cleric dilettante in terms of wands and scrolls, forcing her to pick her battles much more carefully then even Kiri did, having only healing potions and the occasional Wholeness of Body healing. That’s familiar territory for Ryn as she was Halfling in life #1. Ryn’s Drow skills do benefit more than as a Halfling, from sleep immunity, and similar Spot/Listen/Search bonuses, but with a more concentrated throwing advantage than even a Halfling.

Ki generation is the biggest challenge in the early levels. I’ve trained in all 3 ranks of Stealthy to gain its +1 to passive ki generation. But I doubt if I have enough AP to add 8 AP to the Henshin Mystic tree’s Contemplation for another passive point without skipping the whole Harper thing. And I’ve been down that road already in life #2.

I’ll have to do with Greater Ocean Stance’s second passive ki regeneration point at level 12 if I want the Harper side. Since Ryn does melee, she can kick on Fire Stance to generate a bunch of ki on attacks, then go into Sneak with higher WIS and Concentration to retain her cache. That’s been my current tactic.

As for weapons, Szyncletica helped out with some very quick runs into Heroic Three Barrel Cove to farm a Tiefling Assassin’s Blade. Kiri loaned out a +1 Poison Shortsword of Feeding to add to the fun. A second Tiefling blade wouldn’t hurt; Kiri still likes hers despite being twice as high in levels than Ryn. The CON damage, combined with Fists of Darkness’s debuffing and fortification damage, and the Precision stance active, makes for fast damage to most anything so far at her Level 8 status. I need some augment gems for my blades.

Even the Tiefling blades should do well for me for several levels, swapping out some pairs of  Vampiric Fury Shortswords, Vengeful Fury Shortswords (both stat-damaging weaponry types) and crafted Metalline of Pure Good swords for special times until I can re-equip a pair of the Happy-Dance of heroic shortswords, the poison-dripping Envenomed Blades at level 16. Lots of time in Gianthold to get some White Dragonscale Armor, too.

Ryncletica should be the summation of the experience of two other ninja–deadly at range, deadliest at point-blank range. She and Sukitetica the Assassin have more in common right now. Stay tuned.

Those Poor Things: Beleaguered Races in DDO

For storylines to have some conflict that requires us players and characters to care to help, there’s often quite a few oppressed races throughout our adventures.

Sadly, most of them are turned against us, and the game objectives often prohibit us from helping them.

But strangely we’re often reminded how we, the adventurers, become the uninvited, the intruder, even the murderers.


The Sahuagin play very dirty in their attempts to kill off the population of the tiny community of Korthos. Sahuagin are worshippers of The Devourer, brother of Arawai (whose shrine of bountiful harvests you find out in the Cerulean Hills) and her opposite, a force of natural destruction. The Sahuagin have corrupted not only human followers of the Devourer to aid their cause, but are using the necromantic arts to raise the long-dead Cannith engineers and family buried on the island to terrorize the populace. They’re also using magic to try to freeze the inhabitants off the island.

This may be a reaction to the way that House Cannith often seems quite okay with using places and resources with barely any attempt at gaining permission to do so, or thinking about the implications caused by their acts.

House Cannith is the closest analogue to the British Empire we see in this game–including the need for an outside force to clean up their messes for years to come. Even before House Cannith was available to us adventurers for quests, a quest that let you see through the eyes of an ancient Warforged Titan confirmed that Cannith’s claim of inventing the Warforged was only so much smoke and mirrors. The quests and raids in their house show how House Cannith’s hubris comes to bite them on their non-shiny metal asses.


"Kobolds still hate you." Kobold not above eating you, though.

“Kobolds still hate you.” Kobold not above eating you, though.

Often ostracized by the rest of the Stormreach community as thieves or vermin, kobolds settled into the sewers to live. Unfortunately, they seek out anything vulnerable to use, often causing them to cross into the paths of  those who don’t like them.

A nice little kobold like Scrag actually asks you to help him and his family remove a group of near-feral dogs released into his part of the sewer. But, unlike other citizens (or kobolds), he asks you to lure them out of the sewers unharmed.

But Scrag is a rarity. Kobolds hate you, especially when you go on a rescue mission to find two Stormreach guards who had few legitimate reasons for going deep into the sewers and getting waylaid by the kobolds.

I see kobolds are generally neutral, not evil. In the Waterworks, they attack because you’re invading their home.

Kobolds are easily influenced into doing evil, despite their capacity to be nice, if not neutral. Later adventures into the bowels of Mount Reysalon show yet another group of kobolds influenced by the forces of a lich to help him–what else?–take over the world.

And let’s not forget some very enterprising kobolds who decide to up their game by making the mistake of aligning with a black dragon, or two.

We see a few kobolds in a sympathetic light, and thankfully, we needn’t harm them. That’s because they’re being driven out of their sewer homes, not by adventurers this time, but by an underground incursion by the plane of Xoriat.

Best of all, we get to enjoy kobolds in league with us (this week in fact) as their worker union and our parties join forces to mine crystals on the island of Smuggler’s Cove. As you work and they scurry, they have many a witty thing to say about their work and your past relationships with them.

The Wildmen

"You hurted me!"

“You hurted me!”

These hominids embody the TV Tropeism of “butt monkey” both literally and physically. They’re simply cannon-fodder for everybody throughout the game.

We don’t see the wildmen making any large-scale offensives anywhere in the game. They seem quite content to being left alone–which is why they are often picked off, picked on or picked up by other races to do any bidding but the wildmen’s own desires.

The only people more pissed off than the duergar on the island where Ataraxia’s Haven is located are the wildmen. With nowhere else to go to live, to call them upset at this invasion to turn their island into a resort is putting it mildly. Guys like Mirot attack on sight.

The wildmen are forced to live in the shadows of others that invade another unnamed island, turned into a fortress this time by the Blood Tide pirates. Needless to say, they also attack you on sight if you choose to pass through what’s left of their world that’s not part of the fortress.

Travel to the Restless Isles to investigate a smuggling ring of ancient magical artifacts that Hazadill exploited, and there you’ll find mines where ogres have enslaved many a wildmen to mine for these artifacts. What’s incredible in these quests is that you’ll find some wildmen who turn against their own kind. I’m more than happy to punch these turncoat wildmen straight to Dulurrh.

If you’re detected by the ogre slavers in the Shrieking Mines, they’ll sic their wildmen slaves on you to sweeten their sadism as well as kill you. If you can slay only the controlled ogres, the wildmen are freed–but leave more than just a few words of ingratitude for being rescued by the likes of you while teleporting away.

The poor plight of the wildmen hardly stops there. The Vinethrasher clan just want to do their thing in the isolated jungles of the Skyfall Coast when they’re pulled into the middle of two invasion forces: Your party and advance-scouting parties from a Droaam invasion force.

Very skilled (and sympathetic) adventurers can actually avoid killing any wildmen in this quest, and then use Diplomacy with the Vinethrasher chieftain in his village to warn him of the invasion force while also passing through his village peacefully to go warn a Stormreach scouting base.

The next time you run into the wildmen, they’re enslaved again, this time by the corrupted and clandestine Path of Inspiration, a group that is very close to invading Xen’drik from the Plane of Dreams, this time with no giants to stop them as they were stopped eons before. If you’re very careful with your attacks (and have no hirelings that will gleefully hack anything they see), these wildmen won’t attack you. But they’ve become so embittered and completely broken by their enslavement that I’ve felt almost relieved to kill them as the only available means to release them from their horrid captivity.

And the wildmen’s woes aren’t even slowed by living on another plane.

On the Plane of Eternal War, forces in a Shavarath base have exported and turned wildmen into biological weapons, infecting them before trying to ship them disguised as innocuous cargo, back to Xen’drik and other locales. Unable to rescue them, you can use control panels above the suspicious cargo bay to use a weapon to blast open the crates imprisoning the wildmen and others, leaving them to attack their captors on their own, or enter the area through a base portal to kill them along with their guards.

The Undead

Sure. Being dead to begin with, these folks are generally beyond complaining much about anything.

But if you think about the loved ones of those people who are animated to do evil, it becomes a bit more tragic. What’s most tragic is that, of all the butt-monkeys, the undead have no spokesman and have no say. Torture is truly timeless for the eternal.

Wildmen are most trod-upon, true, but the undead are exploited by the legion. Quest after quest after quest is filled with the hordes of the unliving. By count, the undead are certainly the most exploited.

Who knows how saddening it was for one of the Coin Lords to hear about your namesake’s spirit becoming tortured and manipulated.

Some Hobgoblins Who Aren’t Doing Anything

Some hobgoblin has recruited you to wage war against the Arzag-Khor tribe, so that Karnat’s tribe can seize possession of some “tear” shaped thing.

Now, it appears that these hobgoblins aren’t screwing with anybody, living quietly in a complex underground sewer city under House Phiarlan.

They don’t have any war machines in wait. They don’t have a plan to blow up the town. Little hobgoblin kids were probably running through the streets, playing stickball or “Catch the Kobold” or something. Hobgoblin moms are making some delicious mushroom stew, and the smells of roasted rats and spider fill the city with happiness. Bacon is being cooked.

And then you show up.

During the untold slaughter your party brings down upon their world, you’ll likely see one of them say, “Why can’t you leave us in peace?!”

‘Nuff said.

And that’s not the only time you’re a bloodthirsty maniac slaughtering sentients for pay.

Some Poor Homeless and Hungry People

You are asked to purge a small sewer of heretics to the Silver Flame in one quest.

The quest is so reprehensible to many players that they avoid it altogether. I tried to go in to assassinate only the required targets with Kiricletica once. It took all my abilities to keep the enraged inhabitants from harm’s way after the deed was done, even with the quest flag completed.

The fact that you’ll later avenge the deaths of these innocents by killing off the jerk that hired you doesn’t cleanse you from the fact that these innocents died at your hands. You’re a jerk for taking the job.

It’s a wonder the Sovereign Host doesn’t seek revenge. But they’re more like Christians than the bureaucratic, theocratic and easily manipulated Flame (to use a real-world comparison), and certainly less likely to get as corrupted from within. Or captured. Or impersonated. Or completely led down the primrose path to world-ending disaster.

Wheloon Prison

Talk about lazy. The Kingdom of Cormyr finds a terrorist band in a large port city, and decide to go all Escape from New York on it, converting it into a large prison…and trapping lots of innocents with the crazies and criminals.

While the followers of Shar are very, very dangerous, it’s still a significant amount of misplaced retribution to sacrifice innocent people in order to resist a very powerful evil. As your adventures in the prison and elsewhere deduce, rather than diminishing the Netherese terrorists in Wheloon and Cormyr, the prison city is now a full Shar command center, with nothing and almost no one to stop them from their plans to ruin Cormyr.

Somewhere, the Harper Agents are facepalming. They have a quite the mess to clean up, thanks to the Lawful Stupid acts of the Purple Dragon Knights.

Those Who Deserve What’s Coming to Them

And then there are many other races that intentionally ask for it, gaining little or no sympathy or even a way to see their point of view.

There’s not a sympathetic gnoll that you’ll encounter in the game. They are a strong, prideful force that would be left alone if they weren’t so predatory. Ever talk to a NPC Gnoll in the game? That’s because they have nothing to talk about. You’re dog-food to them and they don’t talk to food.

Most of the Drow like being assholes in favor of their allegiance with some giant or some god. The Vulkoor Drow hate giants but hate outsiders even more, with small groups like the Raveneye being exceptions. The Sulatar Drow are just crazed maniacs with fire spells who haven’t given up their enslavement to the giants of old, despite having control of a volcano they could use to blow up (very) nearby Stormreach! And we won’t bother discussing the quintessential dark-skinned dickery that epitomizes the Drow of the Underdark.

While many of us have banished Arraetrikos back to Shavarath more times than we can count, don’t you feel a little sad when other leaders in the Tower of Despair not only condemn him for apparent weakness and/or treason and then shrink him down to a cute, cuddly-sized bundle of red-winged terror, suitable as a pet?

Nope, I wasn’t shedding any tears, either.

And we’re all still waiting for our Baby Pit Fiend companion, Turbine, complete with things to say like, “Tell me how many times you banished Daddy again!” or “Kobolds taste like chicken!” or “Buy me an Cube pet with pineapple and human chunks in it!”

I’m sure I’m missing several lesser groups that get it in the shorts throughout the game, so feel free to cite your own examples.

What Inspires You?


Or are you waiting for somebody else to save her because you’re still grinding for that Epic Destiny for more DPS? She’s not going to save herself, you know. (And if she does save herself, she’s not going to want you playing with her.)

Noticed that OurDDO and the DDO forums aren’t very active today.

I find that disturbing. The younger generation aren’t entirely adapting Cobainian or Meyerist philosophies, are they?

I mean, the gaming community can’t possibly be filled with players who wait to be entertained (and bitch when they think it sucks) or sit on their butts waiting for the world to change because they’re too indifferent to realize that the world requires their direct action for any change of significance to occur.

I’m older than most gamers. I’m also part of the last group of Baby Boomers (although my wife continues to try to label me as a “Generation X’er”). This gives me an insight into the past, a past where smartphones, personal computers and video games did not exist.

I’m also a big-picture person. That ability hasn’t gotten me rich or anything yet, but it does allow me to ask questions that others may not initially think of asking.

Today’s question is, as the post title asks, “What inspires you?”

I admit the question is very broad, so I’ll pop in some general directions to flesh out the idea.

What Inspires Your Builds?

As frequent readers have learned, I don’t typically solicit or adapt builds.

The closest I’ve done to adapting a build is the Shiradi Shuricannon, a build designed by someone else. Firewall noted that my build seems a little different than his original design, despite my attempts to actually replicate his build. I guess my individuality creeped into what became Szyncletica.

I tend to look at the game design and adapt a gameplay style based on a specific ability(s), class theme or game feature. My love of Monks empowers much of what I do here. They are a mystical class and I exploit that to the letter and to the role’s true nature.

Kiricletica is a generally stock Ninja Spy that leverages the stealth game mechanics. Ryncletica began my exploration into Ninja Spies, helped me define a kunoichi theme.

Syncletica favors Wind Stance while Lynncletica favored Earth. Ryncletica began to learn the benefits of Water Stance while Quintessica, back in the old days before Update 19, favored all the stances in an “Avatar” concept.

Do you find your ideas from reading the forums or blogs, or somewhere else? Do you generate your own builds? Do you share them?

What Inspires Your Gameplay?

Are you a player that simply grinds away? Do you design for power and performance or for more subtlety?

Do you even bother reading the “flavor text” of a quest? Do you appreciate or even care about the background story? I was jazzed on the “Storm Horns” quest chain and floored to see the Netherese again after enjoying them years before in a Neverwinter Nights expansion. And the wastes of Anauroch are coming to DDO soon for more Netheril antics.

The DDO forums are filled with build information. But most of these builds are based on exploiting the multiclassing options to increase combat prowess.

I’m not necessarily arguing for or against multiclassing here. I’m simply pointing out that multiclassing seems less used for anything other than increasing raw damage or sometimes defense.

Do you look at the game’s features itself to design characters? That is, look at the principles of spell power and magnify that information into a build? Or take the weakest weapon in the game and augment it to generate a powerful fighter?

Do you look at specific enemies and how to overcome them with a build or tactic?

Do you look to external sources such as TV or films? Most readers here know of my fondness towards anime and how two shows, Log Horizon and Sword Art Online, both with very different takes on the RPG game world, have inspired me to make new characters–and still do.

How about imposing conditions to your gameplay to limit what you can do to give a greater challenge? I did that with Kiricletica and her self-imposed challenge to sneak through the game with as few kills as she could.

What Do You Offer?

DDO is a game of cooperation and participation. Even if you choose to play the game completely without human players in your party, you’re still dependent on the resources of the stores to find items you may not be able to farm easily or otherwise attain at all.

Do you sell items not only for more cash for your characters, but also because you know that others may find your items useful?

If you like most of us, we often play with people we’ve come to know, either through a guild or frequent play time by association. If those friends were asked what you and your characters bring to the party, would their answer be more praise about you, the player, rather than general descriptions of your characters?

I’ll defer on what I bring to the game while I’m playing it. To-date, externally I’ve brought two game guides and this blog to reflect my thoughts on it. It’s rather self-serving to make this point on a blog post on this subject, but you see what I mean.

While not all of us can make a game guide, do you frequent the DDO forums to ask or offer advice to or from other players? Do you submit official bug reports when you find something amiss? Do you contribute to the DDO Wiki? Do you have your own blog?

Are you one of the brilliant souls that have generated respected game resources such as the DDO Character Planner or the Cannith Crafting Generator, or a smartphone app?

What do you do for your guild?

Do you help entertain, or wait to be entertained?

What Keeps You Coming Back to DDO?

As new games arrive, many players take off to spend time in those games. A few often find themselves returning to DDO. A common reason involves DDO’s versatility. The D&D character generation system is well-advanced here, with many 3.5e and 4.0 characters. Years of development have made dozens and dozens of quests and several raids. In short, DDO has more content, with more to come.

I’ve still not exhausted DDO. The world is vast and infinite. That’s not only in content, but the mechanics that give me freedom to try something new. And most of you know that I’m still playing Monks predominantly. I’ve only scratched the surface of other classes and what they have to offer.

At this rate, I’m likely to be one of the players that will be the last to switch off the lights on my drydocked guild airship when the world of DDO goes offline for the last time.

I keep writing here as a testament of the game’s inspiration to consider what I can do next with my characters. Lately, that idea’s extended into what I can do with other players, thanks to Stormreach Shadows, the stealth guide.

Far flashier games exist out there. Why are you still here, and happy to be here?

Secret Harper Agent Man

Harper Assassin: A perfect and deadly combination.

Harper Assassin: A perfect and deadly combination.

Update 23 brought a fascinating addition to the enhancement tree: Harper Agent.

For those of you that don’t bother to read the flavor text of various Harper favor quests in the Forgotten Realms to gain an idea of who they are, here’s some info from one wiki, and more information from Wikipedia. Of course, DDO Wiki has a short summary.

For DDO purposes, the Harper Agent is the first enhancement tree that any character can access. In fact, your character is granted this tree automatically as a VIP, but requires a DDO Store purchase for others. (Reports are coming in that some players don’t see the tree: This is a Known Issue.)

Harpers are the Forgotten Realm’s counterpart to MI-6 or CIA or House Phiarlan: they’re spies. A good-aligned group, they investigate and infiltrate suspicious groups throughout the land, seeking any information they can use to counteract and defeat those who try to subjugate or eliminate the good people of Faerun.

The Harpers we see in Eveningstar are quite busy in several theaters of operation. You’ll first encounter them as they deal with a caustic infection and a maddened druid in “The Druid’s Deep” quest chain. Shortly after, the Harpers are fending off the Netherese on three fronts: A race to collect pieces of a dangerous and ancient Netherese scroll in “The High Road” adventures, dismantling a Netherese outpost embedding itself in the Wheloon Prison, and rescuing Oriphaun Huntsilver while also stopping a powerful Netherese army in the Storm Horns.

Odds Are You Won’t Live to See Tomorrow

The Harper Agent tree appears more suited for Intelligence and magic users.Your precious Action Points will be strained to use much of what this tree offers while also keeping your class tree abilities strong–and that’s what the developers appear to want you to do. The Harper is a class to itself. Harpers are spies first with a strong Minor in Asskicking second.

Each Core Ability increases Universal Spellpower, your to-hit against Evil creatures, and/or your DEX, CHA or INT ability scores.Tier 1 abilities improve general Rogue/spymaster skills of Listen, Search and Spot, toughens you up with innate Energy resistance and HP, and adds the first of two Strategic Combat abilities. The first lets you use your INT modifier as your to-hit with melee and ranged weapons. You can improve this ability in Tier 3 to use your INT modifier for your attack damage rolls. This ability alone is going to be positively exploited by Rogue Assassins, whose INT is used for many of the skills, including Assassinate. Pumping up only INT is a godsend for damage and DCs as both Rogue and Assassin.

Spell power and spell point boosts come throughout, as well as Melee Power and Ranged Power boosts. New to the game, not all classes gain any of these new augmentations to attack damage except, perhaps later, as Epic characters. The Harper Agent can add more to the Heroic character.

As for Monks, there’s less there to consider except for, perhaps, the Arcane Archer or half-elves. Increases to melee power, spell and hit points and spell power might be great for my Pynthetica, the Zen Archer. The Ranged Power boosts alone might compensate for the lesser overall damage she deals, being neither a “monkcher” or Ranger. But my Action Points are spread all over already. It’s going to be hard to accommodate the new tree.

Given You Some Numbers, But Take Away Your Name

The Harper Agent is all about higher numbers. More ability points. More spell power, melee and ranged power. Ultimately, magic users gain more versatility as they can reduce their dependency on material spell components and add the Extend Spell feat as an enhancement through the tree, freeing up a feat slot. By level 12 training, your weapons can gain Deception effects or Righteousness (good-aligned) or you can add 10 stacking Harper bonus spell power.

But as I noted, the more you train as a Harper, the less potent you may become in your traditional class.

But for most DDO players, multiclassing is commonplace. The Harper Agent simply allows additional diversity but at a cost to some of your identity. I noted how Assassins will eat this up (I’m strongly considering how to add this to Sukitetica). Wizards can gain some serious powers, as well as Bards, the natural traditional class that might mate best with the tree.

If you find that your traditional class tree’s Tier 5 offerings are lackluster and your racial options even less appealing, then the Harper Agent might bring a refreshing and powerful change to your build.

Guru Meditation

My real-life self is traveling this week, sans any access to Update 23 or a computer capable of playing it.

So far, no dramatic withdrawal symptoms. It helped that I got to visit the National Air and Space Museum every day. :squee:

See you next week. I’ll certainly be examining the effects on my active Monks with inaugural Melee Power, Magic Power and defensive changes added with the new update.