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.
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.
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.