A Drow In Despair

Szyncletica1

I’m away from DDO during the season of Lent. This is a saved post I’ve made while I’m away. This post may or may not contain sensitive subject matter unsuitable for some minds (specifically, religion).

Reader discretion advised.

~~~

With a solo of the Shroud under Szyncletica’s belt, what’s next for this mad Monk?

Once upon a time not long ago, the “Tower of Despair” raid was an important objective for Monks to find ingredients for and any of the special rings there which can be used to create a DR-breaking bursting ring that worked only with unarmed attacks.

It was the dev’s substitute for being unable to upgrade the already-existing Green Steel crafting system to accommodate the introduction of handwraps when the Monk class arrived shortly thereafter.

Nowadays, there are plenty of handwraps you can craft and use to break DR from other systems in the game, so the whining of the lack of GS wraps has faded. But with the introduction of Epic characters and quests, so has the desire for people to run “ToD.”

Now, these Incredible Potential rings aren’t much use to Szyn, either, as a throwing Monk. The ring’s unlocked Holy Burst and related bursts work only on unarmed attacks.

But there’s wasn’t much in the way of loot in the Shroud to gain for Szyn, either. She completed it simply to say that she did. And so it is for the Tower.

I wouldn’t dream of this insane run were it not for the Thunder-Forged Shuriken that causes incredible damage fast enough to destroy a pit fiend alone.

The question now is whether Szyn can manage two bosses at the same time on a Normal-difficulty run.

The Good

From a matter of destruction, Szyn’s weaponry as a maxed L28 character should do short work against the trash inside the Tower. She can already handle the same kinds of nastiness alone inside an Epic Hard “Devil Assault” as she did in the Shroud. She uses Rejuvenation Cocoon, has high miss-chance powers and strong Reflex saves (90) because of her very high DEX (62+ when the winds are right).

The Bad

The first challenge will be destroying the Judge and the Jailer in part 1. I’m unsure if I can keep the attention of only one, or if I’m going to have to fight both at once. Improved Precise Shot will help. I’m not sure if Freedom of Movement will help against chaining effects from one of them.

The best news is that, being a Monk, my resistances to certain attacks are higher and I’m highly maneuverable and damage-resistant, keeping my distance as I attack. I only need to carry a small barge-load of Remove Curse potions and watch my healing.

The Ugly

I expect the fight against Nythirios and his Shadowfiends in Part 2 will be far harder than smacking Horoth into his component atoms in Part 3.

Veterans know that Nythirios is a pit fiend like Harry. No big thing there. But it’s his little dark icy-cold pets that swarm around, trying to freeze-kill over entire parties that disturbs me. In a normal party, you need only to designate someone to aggro the Shadowfiends, drawing them away from the party while your main team beats Nythirios into goo. When he’s down, the deadly fiends vanish. I’ve watched 10 HP casters do this job and, surprisingly, stay alive. If a HP-weak Wizard can do it, then a thrower should be able.

For me, I’ll have to kite everything (when do I not kite?). Szyn is very fast in attack and speed (permanent Haste through the Epic feat Blinding Speed), so she’ll need to have lots of Protection against Cold potions handy to slow any of the serious damage that a Shadowfiend might hit her with if she grazes one too close. My hope is that I’ll just drag Nythirios and Friends, kiting them while my Shiradi effects and Celestia off-hand explosions kill off the Shadowfiends long enough to reduce them as a threat while continually aiming at the fiend to end him. I’m always using Improved Precise Shot so any strikes hit all between me and my target if I can keep the alignment right.

In Part 3, again, it’s a matter of kiting. The room is generally a circle and big enough for me to do this. Horoth has a stunning attack that I cannot counter as a dark Monk, but I hope to survive it long enough to put down enough damage on him. Plenty of Orthon trash spawns and respawns, and then Suulomades the horned devils enters to try to trash me, too. I could change my target to Suulo while running for my life if things are stable enough, then slay Horoth.

It’ll be a matter of experimentation based on how much damage I’m taking and how much damage I can inflict against trash and bosses before Horoth gets lucky with a Disintegrate hit or prolonged stun. While now in possession of the FoM-granting Orcish Privateer’s Boots, I must wear Boots of Anchoring throughout the battle to keep from getting banished to Eberron.

This is a complete experiment because I’m a little bored, and also because I want to know the lay of the land before I think of taking my Ranger inside to hunt for her Gilvenor’s Ring. When paired with Gilvenor’s Necklace from another Devil Battlefield quest, she’d gain 10% Ranged Alacrity as a Competence Bonus–stacking with other Ranged Alacrity bonuses.

Imagine having 30% Ranged Alacrity once I get a Pinion bow (20% alacrity) and when wearing these items.

I did. I needed to cuddle and have a cigarette after that. I don’t smoke.

Postmortem: Attempt #1

So, shortly before my sabbatical, I took Szyn the thrower into “Tower of Despair.”

The cool part is that I was able to use stealth to avoid a lot of fighting before entering the realm of the Judge and Jailer, sneaking by 90% of everything.

That first fight worked out about the way I expected, and I was victorious. I used my Thunder-Forged Shuriken for much of the fight because of the raw damage, but experimented with my Green Steel Mineral II star as well.

I took some time to prep for the expected nightmare of Part 2, arming myself with Fire Shield items, watching others complete the area while alone and how they didn’t die. But then I made the mistake of thinking too much after watching VoodooSpyce’s videos, particularly a run into the Tower while solo. His character stood still, not kiting, so that the Shadowfiend’s cold aura wouldn’t hit him nearly as often. I felt cocky and tried it his way.

I was slaughtered rather quickly by standing still.

I should’ve stuck to my first instinct to kite the Shadowfiend while attacking the pit fiend. While VoodooSpyce’s videos was useful, I may need to look to the monkchers in the crowd to see what can be done here, at the least.

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Ninja Versus Ninja: A Look Back at Diablo II

The Diablo II Assassin: Unarmed, uncatchable, nearly unstoppable.

The Diablo II Assassin: Unarmed, uncatchable, nearly unstoppable.

While I’m away from DDO during Lent, I had to find a game that I still enjoyed but

  • Could be instantly paused
  • Not be an internet game
  • Not cause rapid amounts of time wasted

Well, two out of three’s not bad.

I pulled out my old install disks of Diablo II. It took Neverwinter Nights to pull me from that 3-year long crack habit, only to upgrade my fix when I discovered Dungeons & Dragons Online.

At least I know I can only do one drug at a time. I’ve yet to purchase Diablo III. And if this blog ever, ever posts something about installing World of Warcraft, that’s the time that those of you that know where I live should arrange for a serious Intervention.

The first challenge wasn’t finding the activation codes (I’m good at keeping track of these) but in trying to get the game installed from CDs. I own an iMac model that’s quite a pleasant gaming computer while it’s in Boot Camp mode (running Windows 7 natively). But this latest model removed its built-in CD/DVD drive. I had to search around for my USB CD/DVD external drive.

Diablo II was one of the first major PC games that had a generally simultaneous release on both Mac and PC (back in the day when Steve Jobs had not only brought Apple from the brink but also started to make some very game-capable workstations). Sadly, the Mac version of D2 can no longer operate. The game was built for the old PowerPC processor. When Apple moved to Intel processors in 2006, the new Mac OS X Unix-based OS had a PowerPC emulation layer to support D2, but this disappeared over three years ago with OS 10.5 or so. Short of hyper-hacking a Mac PowerPC emulator into OS X Yosemite, using Windows was the easiest choice.

I smartly searched the Blizzard website for any compatibility issues. This is, after all, a game produced in 2000, with a late expansion in 2002. Surprisingly, Diablo II, introduced during the early Windows ME/XP days in 2000, runs excellently in Windows 7 once you tell it to run as Administrator and in Compatibility mode (with a couple of other settings for good measure). Back in the day, CDs (!) behaved as another game key to prevent copy theft. But Blizzard eventually told how to make a CD-less gameplay experience–something important when your computer is a disc-less iMac computer.

Sadly, I’ve lost my long-played saved characters used over the years, and had to start over with new characters.

Well, this blog isn’t the Sorcerer Blog, so I’m going to skip over my love affair with the Sorceress class, that hellion girl that puts the Her in “Sorcerher”. I generally played that class or the spear/bow wielding Amazon until the Lord of Destruction update introduced the Assassin.

The Assassin is an unarmed fighter, a member of an order of anti-mages that emulate magic through various finishing moves.

Sound familiar?

This is going to be a pleasantly long post. Grab some popcorn.

Now, I’ve played this class to death prior to my first entry as a Monk in the two Neverwinter Nights games. But with DDO experience under my belt, specifically Ninja Spy skills, I finding myself learning the benefits of skills I’ve ignored entirely over the years. As a result, I’ve found new joys in a age-old game, with lots of later DDO and NWN play experience to improve my game.

If It Runs Like a Monk and Fights Like a Monk…

The D2 Assassin, like a DDO Monk, is an anti-mage, with many attacks and speed designed to kill mages before they have a chance. Assassins use special hand blades or claws, rather than gauntlets or handwraps. Their skill trees (faintly similar to the DDO trees) are broken down into Martial Arts, Shadow Disciplines, and Traps.

Martial Arts are broken down into several finishing moves that magnify overall attack damage, deliver amplified area-of-effect elemental damage, or cause vampiric leaching of Life and Mana Points. Just like the DDO Monk, finishing moves are charged in sets of three.

Unlike the DDO Monk, you can and should charge up multiple finishers cumulatively. For instance, I can strike three times to fully charge a Tiger Strike (amplified general damage) then switch to charge up Fire, Lightning, Cobra (vampiric), and Ice charges before releasing them simultaneously.

How the D2 Assassin unleashes the strike is where it gets better. I can use a normal attack to do so, where all the charged effects strike at once, with fire, ice, cold and lightning go off like a bomb, while general damage and vampiric effects do so as well. But I also have special attacks to release finishers.

I can make a normal kick (which adds to the damage, depending on the boots I wear), or a Dragon Kick (greater damage with a charging attack) or a teleporting kick. This teleporting kick is designed to fight bosses who might be too powerful to fight one-on-one for long periods. So, you fight their minions, charging up and killing them, and then teleport-kick into the boss with all that charged goodness.

Now, that was my typical way to play back in the day. Then I decided on returning to put just one skill point in everything to unlock every skill to experiment. I’ve never bothered to do much in the Traps tree,  but I am loving it now.

Set Your Own Traps

The D2 Assassin can set up area-of-effect traps that throw elemental damage to anything in the area, aiding you as you fight with martial arts finishers.

To go with this, you have the ability to throw many, many throwing stars continually, per point of mana available. D2 has the Strength, Dexterity, Vitality and Energy as ability scores. D2 generally has no true “dump stat” but Energy isn’t as required for the Assassin as STR and DEX are for attack rolls and damage, just like DDO. But you need some Energy to make a sufficient mana pool (just like ki) to perform your job.

I had never used the throwing stars before. Even with two skill points, I was reliving my love of the DDO Shuricannon with my old Assassin and mowing down enemies from afar that would sometimes overwhelm and tax my defenses and Life points. It saved me a lot of resources when fighting Mephisto, one of the game bosses, by gunning him down Szyncletica-style with multiple stars.

Finishing Moves

I wondered if the DDO developers took a page from Diablo II in the development of their Monk, because the concept of finishing moves and elemental attacks are so similar. Odds are, as the D&D Monk predates the Diablo series, Blizzard (yes, that Blizzard) did the copying.

D2 uses the Life/Mana player health/magic format, of course. Rather than ki, the Assassin uses her Mana to empower her emulated attacks. As you train her abilities, the Mana cost can increase dramatically when using the most powerful abilities.

Thankfully, there’s Cobra Strike, a vampiric leaching attack that damages while pulling Life and Mana from a target. There’s also gear you can find that has vampiric effects.

Diablo 2 has only four stats: STRength, DEXterity, VITality and ENERGY. STR and DEX are needed as you expect for the Assassin. Vitality is the equivalent of CON in D&D and ENERGY works as the Mana-increasing stat. A nice balance of STR and DEX for unarmed fighting is needed (like in DDO) but VIT is key to staying power for Life (HP). A few points in Energy is needed but not too much. Assassins can generate Energy themselves, in a similar fashion to some ki generating moves from the DDO Monk stances.

Shadow Techniques

One thing that the Assassin can do that’s also very ninja (but not “Ninja Spy,” as available directly from their enhancement trees), is to create a summoned assistant. The summoned comes in a lighter drone form that doesn’t take too much damage to a much more powerful and aggressive avatar that uses the whole can of Assassin offensive martial techniques. This means that the Assassin can have that Shadow Master summon to go with their hireling–yes, hireling!–be it a Rogue archer, a spear-wielder, a mage, or a Barbarian fighter, for two allies on the field.

You can even coat your weapons for Poison damage-over-time attacks. So very ninja. The Assassin was a popular character, introduced in the game’s sole expansion, because it could change up its attacks to meet any enemy immunity. I never used the Poison attacks back in the day, and I just added it to Syn’s repertoire. Green-tinged bliss.

Monastics of Another Realm

So, enough chatter. Enjoy my moves in this video that demonstrates most of the Assassin.

It’s sad that I’m not as far away from my computer as a gaming machine as I wanted to be. But if I have to be gaming and it’s not DDO, Diablo II still holds its own, even at 12 years old.

 

What Do Monks Make in Crafting?

If you think DDO crafting can be painful, there's always Minecraft to invoke suicidal thoughts.

If you think DDO crafting can be painful, there’s always Minecraft to invoke suicidal thoughts.

I’m away from DDO during the season of Lent. This is a saved post I’ve stored for use while I’m away. This post may or may not contain sensitive subject matter unsuitable for some minds (specifically, religion).

Reader discretion advised.

~~~

Q: What items should Monks create by crafting?

A: Quite a lot of things, but primarily for early levels or very special needs. Here’s my list, ever changing to the need and the character.

Cannith Crafting and Augment Slots

While there’s been recently a lot of complaining on the DDO forums on how some players are dissatisfied with the current system as it hasn’t scaled to their desires, the functionality and usefulness of Cannith Crafting is still quite a benefit for everyone, especially early in their lives and when they are in dire need of weapons that break this DR or that which aren’t available anywhere.

Between levels 1 and 10, you’re likely to generate several things for most unarmed Monks that can help it along. Mind you, what you create using bound shards will bind the item to character, so there is always a resource issue in ensuring that whatever precious base item you use for a character will not only work for the character, but that will ensure that the character gets some play time and is viable and enjoyable. There’s nothing sadder to me than to retire and reroll a failed character and having to bury his bound-to-character items with her.

Cannith Crafting requires a time investment to make a character with sufficient levels to generate anything for your characters on your account. In the end, it’s quite worth it.

And Augment Slots make life a lot easier as you can improve handwraps with many new slots to diversify your attack or defense.

Items I often craft up at early levels include:

Trinkets of Melee/Ranged Alacrity 10%

I buy the very inexpensive blank trinkets from the DDO Store and then add this ability. They become ML3, stay Bound to Account, even using BtC crafting formula, and are quite handy starting out. Earth Stance Monks gain a benefit with them for faster attacks. Ranged alacrity trinkets are helpful for my archers but not my shuriken thrower, as ranged alacrity isn’t applicable to thrown weapons.

Striding 15/20% items

Speed is everything for a Monk. When I can’t find Striding items, or need the Striding effect on something other than boots, this is one option. I never craft up 25/30 items unless really desperate as these are more readily available. The newer Speed suffix adds both movement speed and some alacrity, allowing a compromise if I need to remove my ranged/melee alacrity trinket. But Speed isn’t a craftable suffix at this time.

Crafted metallic handwraps

It used to be that finding something that busted Silver and Good DR was a complete pain in the butt. You needed a lot of luck in locating them in random loot, a lot of platinum, or an infinite level of luck in getting the only named Metalline of Pure Good handwraps in the game: The Devout Handwraps from the Necropolis.

The revisions to Shintao Monk with the new enhancements make getting unarmed DR bypassing far earlier with the core abilities, but if you’re a Ninja Spy, you need the specific handwraps if you’re not using shortswords or kamas or are a star-thrower.

Note that Ninja Spy training delivers Dexterity-to-Damage only with piercing and slashing weapons. You’re using the standard STR-to-damage formula when you’re going unarmed. As a result, unarmed damage isn’t the ninja’s best damage dealer, although you’ll need this option for ridding yourself of weapon-resistant enemies.

Thankfully, with the new Augment Slots and improved enhancements, getting “Harry Beaters” or related DR busters isn’t nearly as painful. For Harry Beaters, it’s simply a matter of completing the “Delera’s Tomb” or “Catacombs” chain, which give you the Devotion handwraps and the Eternal Rest handwraps.

You can insert a Silver (or any other metallic augment) into the Devotion wraps and a Good augment into the Silver-laced Eternal Rests and you’re all set.

Mind you, these augments are ML12, but this gets you going when things get tougher as you run into tough devils and demons later. Finding metal-laced/spiked loot-generated handwraps isn’t nearly as bad to re-craft to your needs today as well. Sometimes you’ll find metallic wraps with one or more augment slots that you can repurpose. And there are also handwraps and weapons where the metalline quality is now a suffix.

You’ll likely need Cold Iron DR reduction if you plan to run the level 10 “Ruins of Threnal” series, filled with Xoriat flesh renders, and Byeshk for the mindflayers. Aside from the Devout wraps, there’s no named non-crafted handwraps that will drop for you here. Getting metalline wraps or finding DR-specific wraps as soon as possible is your own unarmed option for a ninja.

Of course, there are many wraps that work excellently as you reach Epic levels.

Crafted vampiric handwraps

Sometimes Heroic-level Ninja Spies need an emergency battle healing option if they aren’t Half-Elves with a Cleric dilettante for wand/scroll healing. I prefer using Flametouched Iron handwraps in Cannith Crafted wraps here to add in Good alignment so I can lump in an effective prefix for more damage. Lesser Vampirism is a comparatively easy suffix to craft, but the full Vampiric property is very good but has a high resource to do this.

I’m not going to say what ingredient is required; I’ll let you do the homework. These are good until the character gains some Vampiric Stonedust Wraps with its added bonuses to stun. However, crafted vampiric wraps and their DR bypassing are usual more helpful.

Detect Secret Door goggles

Despite recent updates that increased the Search requirements on some doors, these are still good to generate for some early-level hidden doors with loot potential.

Concentration skill items

When you have low ki, it’s a pain, These items boosts the ki pool up a bit. It’s easier to make Goggles for this since you’ll switch them out when in combat but can quickly come back to them between battles to recharge. Not a substitute for low WIS; add points here. And always, always add points to Concentration at each level.

Spot items

A higher Spot is a big help in stealth to see hidden enemies ahead so you don’t smash into them or get too close and get detected. Elven and Halfling races get a small natural boost for this, but the more Spot, the better, especially for ranged damage dealers but also for stealthy ninjas to detect hidden enemies ahead of you.

Unraveling Enchantments

No Monk should ever go without having a pair of the Jidz-Tet’ka bracers at level 5. These require you to obtain the Torn Chitin Bracers and unlock them in Visbane’s Folly, atop the Sentinel’s Tower, using the Seals of the Goat, Lion and Dragon that you can find in the quests in the Sentinels of Stormreach quest chain.

The effects of the bracers change with your Monk stance.

  • Earth Stance: You gain 1[W] to your unarmed damage. This is the same effect found on the Garments of Equilibrium and similar items and doesn’t stack with other damage modifiers.
  • Wind Stance: You gain +10 Insight bonus to Jump. This stacks with the Enhancement bonus of Jump potions/spells.
  • Fire Stance: You gain a +50 Insight bonus to healing amplification. This is arguably the strongest effect of the bracers that works through the character’s entire life. It stacks with anything that isn’t an Insight bonus, making it a potent way to improve battle and self-healing. With Update 24’s Healing Amplification revision, these boost healing more than ever before.
  • Ocean Stance: On unarmed confirmed vorpal strikes, delivers a poison that paralyzes the target (DC 17 fortitude save) and inflicts 1d6 Dexterity damage (DC 17 fortitude save, increased 50% if paralysis is successful or if the mob is already helpless). The dexterity damage and paralysis effects are saved against separately. With the recent changes to Poison effects, Kiricletica and Ryncletica have seen the Tri-Kreen Venom work far more effectively than ever before, paralyzing many poor kobolds in her early adventures. (It’s an effect identical to Shiradi’s Nerve Poison.) This may be helped by the Ninja Poison effects that increase poison vulnerability, but I suspect I’m lowering their DC through weapon effects like Wounding. A DC 17 is very low and I’ve rarely seen that effect take hold as often as with my poison-wielding ninjas. I recommend taking a look at this for an easy low-level paralysis.

Monks with a flair for the dramatic could craft the Filthy Kukri into Midnight Greetings. It adds Deception, an effect that bluffs enemies and makes them stop fighting you and turn around briefly, giving you an edge, so to speak, in getting in more attacks per second. You can use this weapon and stay Centered (although you won’t have weapon proficiency with it without training). It’s a better weapon for an off-hand, especially in the hands of a shuriken thrower, since the Deception effect works on the character and stars gain that property as with any other passive effects from an off-hand weapon.

Cannith Challenges

It was a pain in the butt to learn a few of these challenges, but their ingredient rewards can generate very useful items that can work early in your character lives with profound results. I’m still not sold on the time/results payoff for a single character, and don’t like the mechanics of these challenges at all, but as much of the items are Bound to Account, at least I can trade it off to help another character later.

  • Frozen Tunic. Comes in L4 versions and higher. The Freezing Ice effect with high DPS characters means that you’re often solidifying enemies often, a great paralysis effect. Szyncletica the star thrower loved her Tunic. Best of all, until tier 3, they’re Bound to Account.
  • Ring of the Stalker. Adds Exceptional Sneak Attack and Seeker effects. Craft the one with Manslayer effect for a vorpal-like ability as early as L11.

Eveningstar Challenges

Far easier to complete in most ways than the Cannith challenges, the ingredients here can make interesting weapons. Unlike the Cannith ones, these challenges are essentially high-combat defend-the-base or slay-everything challenges, not impossible at all if you must play solo, but very manageable with a small party.

Of particular note are the Spelltouched Shuriken that my star-thrower ninja enjoys. They often have hidden effects that make them more of a “Shiradi-in-a-weapon” weapon. And once Shiradi effects are added from the destiny, look out. Even the Level 16 versions give you Shiradi-like fun before you go Epic.

I’ve not made any handwraps from this challenge set yet, but I believe you can do so. Such wraps would have tremendous versatility with the right combinations.

Sora Katra Crafting

Most Monks know to farm for the Stonedust Handwraps and then use the needed marks to craft them into the Vampiric Stonedust Wraps, as noted. If you don’t know, now you do.

The vampiric property comes from the hard-to-obtain Staff of the Shadow, the quest chain end-reward for the Assault on Stormreach chain. Don’t waste that staff. It’s also an optionally good item for Henshin Mystics by reversing the formula, using the Stonedust Handwraps to upgrade the staff into the Petrifying Shadow Staff, which can paralyze or turn enemies to stone while delivering negative levels and sucking life away with its Lesser Vampirism.

The shows-up-all-the-time Blade of Fury can be crafted into three kinds of two matching and powerful shortswords. The Vampiric Fury versions are helpful (but at the expense of using Stonedust Handwraps to craft them).

For shortsword-wielding ninjas, I recommend these. They have Wounding, which damages CON and, thus, Fortitude, making your Ninja Poisoning and dark finishers much more able to stick. Getting a few HP back from the Lesser Vampirism, especially with the Healing Amp changes, make these still a good go-to weapon.

The one advantage of Sora Katra crafting is that the various Marks you require can be purchased from the DDO Store, I believe, or can be purchased within the crafting mechanism. The Marks are Bound to Account so trading them from other players isn’t an option.

Dragonscale Robes

Gianthold’s revision made obtaining powerfully protective robes very easy to do. With 20 White Dragon Scales from the optional white dragon/giant fight in Heroic difficulty  “Gianthold Tor”, you can make the White Dragonscale Robe, with high AC, Heavy Fortification, Protection and Shield AC and Cold resistance. The Epic version is more powerful and, combined with its Epic helm, may be the strongest protection an Epic Monk could wear.

The Black Dragonscale Robe might be useful for Monks with ranged attacks as it features the Armor-Piercing property that bypasses some fortification.

The Dragoncraft Robes aren’t bad at all, as they are a “mini” version of their ‘Scale versions. They require fewer ingredients and can be worn at level 10.

The Flawless versions of these robes from Epic play are equally as attractive, but requires some luck in getting three rare Commendations of Heroism as part of the process, as well as beating up enough Epic Tor dragons for their Flawless dragon scales.

Don’t confuse these clothing types with the Dragontouched crafted apparel that’s made through the ponderous “Reaver’s Refuge” series. Gianthold’s updated armor and clothing far outweighs what few advantages that the DT armors once had.

Green Steel Crafting

The addition of Cannith Crafting as well as Epic gear and better Heroic gear has softened the blow that we still cannot craft Green Steel Handwraps. Perhaps the recently announced quests that may add an Epic Devil Battlefield and a new Green Steel update might see this finally resolved.

The good news is that we can craft any other conventional weapon. Star-throwers should make a Mineral II shuriken as their go-to weapon for most enemies and Silver-Good bosses (excepting clay golems and undead) and a Triple-Positive star as a very potent Greater Disrupting weapon that hates, just hates undead giant skeletons.

Ninjas should make better short swords and have a star on hand for special needs, such as Silver of Pure Good or even Metalline of Pure Good.

Unarmed Monks should look into the Alchemical Crafting for customized handwraps if, for some ungodly reason, you’re not enjoying the many new handwraps such as the Ivy Wraps, the Adamantine Knuckles, Grave Wrappings and more.

But the problem here is that you have to run “The Master Artificer” raid to find a pair of wraps to start crafting, or pay an ungodly sum from the Auction House or Shard Exchange. And there’s the matter of ingredients from the Cannith areas and raids. I’m not fond of this crafting option.

I’ve often crafted GS gear for permanent Blur, 45 HP, Displacement and the like. There’s a downside to this in that only one Green Steel non-weapon item can be worn at a time, or the effect of wearing two will quickly try to kill you without cleaning one of the items with a special ingredient, the Essence of Cleansing, found in your rewards list at the end of your 20th Shroud run.

Incredible Potential rings

Since the introduction of Eveningstar and beyond, not many people run the Devil Battlefield’s raid, “Tower of Despair” as often now. This was where Monks could find a special ring from that raid that they could craft up, using Green Steel ingredients, to form rings with Holy Burst effects to help DR busting.

These rings (and their companion necklaces) are still great to have. But I’ll admit that there’s far easier options now to gain DR bypassing than running this raid at least 7 times for a special ingredient.

It would be nice to see that Shavarath Trophy of War drop as on occasional ingredient in Elite runs of the Devil Battlefield quests or in Epic “Devil’s Assault.”

Syncletica is the only character I have that has the matching Shintao Monk set and an unlocked ring. Together, she bypasses Good/Evil DR.

Thunder-Forged Weapons

The best way to officially describe these highest-level Epic weapons is “Holy shit.

They are comparatively very easy to obtain by collecting enough of one ingredient to generate a weapon of your choice (including handwraps). You can upgrade them three times. Non-handwrap items are unbound at Tier 0 (creation) and Tier 1 levels, only becoming Bound to Character once you craft it further.

But, as handwraps are not weapons, any versions of these become Bound to Character on Equip. That means that, while any character that can enter Thunderholme to reach the forge (an NPC will grant you this once you make it there for the first time) and craft for you, don’t let any others equip those wraps except the Monk they’re slated for use.

Now, crafting TS items to Tier 2 and later requires far more dedication than I have–something on the order of running the two Thunderholme raids about 20 or more times. But even in their Tier 1 state, a Thunder-Forged weapon often has 3x the damage of anything you own, period. And they leave you an Augment slot for additional happy.

Quest-Based Upgrading and Live Events

I mentioned the Jidz-Tet’ka bracers, which are actually a type of quest-based upgrading. There are others.

As with other classes, the Minos Legens helm from the Orchard of the Macabre for 100% Fortification and Vitality are popular, but my ninjas have become fans of the Muffled Veneer, which adds to Hide/Move Silently and has a Yellow augment slot. It’s farming for the 20 Tapestry Pieces that tend to make a man want to throw themselves off the top of Amrath.

There’s also the newer version of the Nightforge Gorget, which has 100% Fortification and a convenient Yellow gem slot for a Deathblock gem. This crafting option is the only one I know of where you find the crafting materials and crafter inside a quest: “A Relic of a Sovereign Past.” Just gather up Adamantine ore and craft all you want. (Previous updates made this stuff Exclusive but now you can make and own as much as you have ore to generate.)

There’s still a few live events to take advantage, although handwraps and weapons for Monks aren’t typically available.

The Crystal Cove events can gain you the Cutthroat’s Smallblade for ninjas. While the damage is okay, the Hide/Move Silently numbers are good to have, wielding the item as you need to without compromising your overall protections. Greater Nimble Trinkets are excellent to get your ninja’s Blur on, with a little Dodge, as early as level 4.

What’s your favorite thing to craft up for your Monk?

The Existential Gamer

I’m away from DDO during the season of Lent. This is a saved post I’ve compiled while I’m away. This post may or may not contain sensitive subject matter unsuitable for some minds (specifically, religion).

Reader discretion advised.

~~~

One mob? One quarterstaff, then.

This is a spoon.

We all know of many veteran DDO players that have completed mighty deeds. They’ve beaten almost everything in the game, and on the highest difficulties or with some clever tricks.

But once you’ve made yourself the best killing machine you can be in DDO and have conquered all, what else is there?

Maybe a week of being away from DDO is making me stir-crazy, but I don’t think so.

Going Deeper

Games are escapism, yes. But what if it becomes too real to your mind?

We know of the story in The Matrix, a near-perfect virtual reality of the world, built to placate humanity. But, as the story unfolds, we learn that the Matrix works like any advanced operating system. You can’t leave it up forever before errors accrue and the system must be restarted. And the stabilizing element of the Matrix, the ability to choice, ultimately causes the system’s slow degradation. An Anomaly appears, who becomes Choice Incarnate, that destabilizes the system even more. That’s Neo. And he wasn’t the only One, as the story goes.

For those who choose reality, you may wake up and challenge the unreality.

A similar notion is found in the film Inception, where some people go to sleep for hours because they accept the dream as their permanent reality now. In that story, some go to sleep to wake up.)

But the dreamers in Inception can’t take anything back from their experience. And the escapees from The Matrix are fighting a cyclical battle they have been fated to lose, definitively, five times before. And only One man knows the secret and can break the cycle. Else, mankind  is locked in a continuous state of imprisonment. The people of Zion don’t realize that the Machines has always kept them under a form of control and have destroyed them each time the Matrix had to be restarted.

For many that escaped, the real world is so frightening that they regret leaving that virtual cage, that virtual life. They felt they could accomplish or feel more safe — or at least seem to feel more accomplished and safe — in the Matrix than in the real world.

The Search for…Something

I connected this notion to the easily found complaints on the DDO forums about the quality of the game.

  • When is there going to be an “end-game” battle?
  • I should be able to solo any raid.
  • This game is too easy.
  • Why are they nerfing (insert item here)
  • It’s time to (insert appallingly tough suggestion/monster/quest here)

Now, I’m neither the worse nor best player in the game. But I question about the ultimate motivations of some players. I’ve toyed with these motivation before with a player character type test.

If you are trying to attain “ultimate power” in a game, being able to crush any challenge you find (by yourself or with compatriots), then what is left for you to do?

These players are asking for their world to expand with them. But is this a natural way to think about life?

Game worlds aren’t true worlds. Even if you had the combined intellects of Einstein, Leonardo, Hawking, Sun-Tzu, Eisenhower and Alexander the Great in a perfect fighter amalgamation of Hercules, Legolas and Aragorn, Luke Skywalker and Steven Strange, combined with the wealth and equipment of Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Reed Richards, you could not possibly find and beat every challenge that the real world can present to you.

The real world is an infinite battle because it continually evolves, whether you want it or not, or whether you’re ready for it to do so.

A game world has a start and an end. There is repetition and respawning and reincarnation to simulate a cycle of life. But life in DDO, WoW and every other MMO can only present a static bubble of a world in need. A game, by definition, is a form of simulation. Ultimately, you can predict its behavior, and anticipate most events. An experienced gamer becomes quasi-omniscient. That’s why many players become bored, especially if they have a one-track mind in terms of playing only one tactical avenue of a MMO.

And even if a game could better simulate reality, there are plenty of new, confused and disoriented players in the game that strongly implies that games should have a limit in size. Else, the game world would be just as terrifying as trying to make your way in the real world, and would discourage you from coming back.

For this and more logical reasons of coding and server size and bandwidth, there are a finite series of challenges to a game. There are difficulties to turn up the challenge level of these quests and raids, but it is quite possible to beat every single one of them. Doing that gains you a +6 tome of your choice. Sir Geoff of Hanna and Gamer Girl pulled this off recently.

But…after you vanquish everything and at the highest level of play, what is there left to do?

Maybe a better question for the Gamer That Beats Everything is “What are you searching for?”

Meditation

I’m not going to be so arrogant as to presume that I know the psychology of these people who ask for more from DDO on the forums. So, I’m not going to try to answer what these players are truly seeking as they play.

But I can ask myself this question.

During this time away from the game during the season of Lent, I’m asking myself why I played DDO in the first place. Is this the only place where I feel like I “accomplish” something, especially if my work or home chores don’t yield a real, genuine accomplishment that I get paid actual money for completing?

Have I become some kind of attention-whore with this blog and compiling the guides?

As I said, it’s important to know the real world from the game world, and not to put too much energy into the unreal if it doesn’t benefit the Real.

I know one reason why I play, and it leaves a little chill in me when I contemplate it.

The real world is scary. The real world is harder than any adventure any game can dream. The game worlds are safer. Yet I have the power to avoid things I don’t want to encounter while inside that world.

But while the game worlds provide a little adrenaline and satisfaction in puzzle solving or strategy, it’s still ultimately unsatisfying because game worlds cannot come close to reaching the level of complexity and difficulty that the labors of the real world throw at us everyday. I don’t have to worry about mundane things such as eating, or sleeping, or shelter, or taxes.

But then, the game world doesn’t leave you with soul-crushing events that can persist until you die and/or are penniless.

The game world, if used improperly, can be a temptation that makes you try to avoid the “game” of the real world. Temptations rarely lead us to fortunate results.

Nietzsche said “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”  Is that really true in the game world? Generally, yes. Dying requires you to examine your strategy and gear, and to adjust them to fight and win the next time. But the real world often doesn’t provide a second chance. It’s a true “permadeath” challenge. No wiki. No “developer” or “game master” to call up when you’re stuck.

(Or is there a Game Master? For me, yes, there is. But like Turbine’s GMs, I don’t always get a direct answer with Him, and what answers I might here back may be quite cryptic.)

If you win at objectives in the real world, satisfaction is certainly more fulfilling, I think. It’s the difficulty levels we often can’t handle. There’s some training you might get in the quest “Changing the Diaper of Despair” if you had younger siblings or cousins. And there are guides to buy for many of life’s challenges, and some may get you by.

But who wants to get into an Epic Elite version of “Divorce Dungeon”? How can you train for that? I did that once. I barely came out of it with much of anything. Certainly didn’t feel victorious. French-kissing a kobold would’ve been more pleasurable than that experience.

Gamers place themselves in a strange existence. Game worlds may be ultimately too easy, while the challenges of the real world are ultimately too hard. And game worlds can provide an unhealthy realm of escapism. Human weakness tends to pick the path of least resistance.

Do we choose to live in the Matrix? Do we choose to go deeper in the dream? Do we prefer the worlds of the simulacrum? And at what expense?

While I believe in the Resurrection of the Body and an after-life, as a living person today, this belief sometimes presents only a hollow and terrifying consolation. That’s a natural, human reaction. We are conditioned to seek a foundation, an assurance, a result whereby our reason can feel pleased. I simultaneously reject the reality of the unreal, the simulacra, while trying to enjoy the panacea while inside it.

In the case of the after-life, I think I’m only freaked out because I think I’ve not studied my “class” game manuals sufficiently or listened to enough advice from veteran players in the Game of Life.

The real world does have similar broad objectives that parallel game themes.

  1. Enter the world.
  2. Learn how the world works.
  3. Help others as you would like to be helped.
  4. Don’t let fear stop you from doing what you can.
  5. Die well with a list of things accomplished.

But the real world adds one objective that the game world won’t do.

  • Don’t expect to take any accomplishments or worth with you as you go to the next world, or even think that your efforts gained you “points” in the next life.

I think this Lenten season, of being away from the game worlds and playing the game of Reality alone, is training me more horrifying well than I imagined.

There is a spoon, in reality. We only fake not having a spoon as gamers. You haven’t chosen the red pill, as Neo did. You’re choosing to stay in the virtual world, where all you accomplish disappears when the last servers are powered down, someday.

We’re far from superhuman in the real world. Yet we have to face every encounter with ratty gear (if we’re lucky), limited skill, expensive alternatives, limited praise, staggering odds, and sometimes only one shot at success.

I submit that my Diety gives me power and strength as I level up. But anyone with faith can tell you that you’re often given skills and gifts for which you can’t immediately identify, much less have any idea how to wield.

I choose Lent to force me to take the red pill.