A Ghost in the Fortress

On request from a commenter in the thread I posted for the Zen Archer build, I’ve made another video of the archer fighting within the gnoll’s mountain fortress in “Chains of Flame.”

Here, I put Pynthetica the Zen Master through a greater test for you to demonstrate how her interpretation of zen mastery wards off damage.

“Chains of Flame” Heroic Elite is level 15, and so is Pyn. Obviously the layout of the fortress and the number of gnolls weighed heavily against my odds if I simply tried to run through the place alone.

My tactics were simple: Stand and shoot. Only when champions showed up did I have to adjust my game a bit as they often had superior buffs, such as True Seeing, that penetrated one or more of my passive defenses.

I subject Pyn to a hail of arrows and spell attacks intentionally in several places to demonstrate the effectiveness of her miss-chances, spell resistance, evasion and saves. Just watch the volume of miss miss dodge deflected dodge incorporeal miss incorporeal messages that scroll over Pyn’s head as she continues to attack. She deals far more damage than she receives when fighting from a distance, even with a horde of enemy archers.

The video shows Pyn’s central weakness near the final path to the boss: Becoming uncentered. The Firebrand mages often threw spells that lowered my STR, leaving me overburdened and becoming uncentered. That turned off most of Pyn’s defensive powers, specifically my Dodge, Monk stance, and saves and the Incorporeality effect from the Ninja Spy Shadow Veil. Near the final battle I got too close to a group of mages that nearly took me down.

In this video I summon Tempys the Cleric, but use him primarily to heal a few points if needed between battles as well as a mobile Death Ward clicky. Sometimes I just healed myself using Wholeness of Body every 2 minutes since I didn’t do a bad job at regenerating ki on my own.

Tempys wasn’t allowed to fight throughout the adventure while I took advantage of distance to snipe the fortress dead. While I prefer to use an aggro-magnet for more confrontational battles using archers, “Chains” is large enough so that I could complete it without an attack dog. The Zen Master is also a ninja and uses their basic stealth techniques to sneak to places and set up assaults.

I just need to wear more STR to offset ability-draining attacks.

The video’s about 1 hour 10 minutes long. You can browse the video at time marks 1 minute 30 seconds, 18 minutes 20 seconds, and 48 minutes 25 seconds for specific examples of damage avoidance and deflection.

The Arcane Archer Monk


Not all martial arts training requires a blade or empty hand.

The Arcane Archer Monk: Levels slower, less versatile than a Ranger, BIG Epic payoff.

After my last post on a more viable Zen Archer, Sir Geoff of Hanna commented back, asking what a DEX-based Arcane Archer Monk would be like.

And then light dawned again as I replied back.

The Basics

Going Elf, as with the Zen Archer, allows Dexterity-to-Damage, foregoing the need for any Ranger levels to get Bow Strength. It also resolves any weapon proficiency required for longbows for a Monk.

You’ll need Zen Archery, of course, to Center the bow. The usual ranged feats are needed, starting with Point Blank Shot, Quick Draw, and Precise Shot, adding in Ten Thousand Stars as a class feat at level 6, Improved Critical: Ranged at level 12, Precision and Manyshot at levels 15 and 18. As an Epic character, you can add two more feats.

You’d need to have 4 AP saved up to train the Arcane Archer tree from the Elf racial tree.

But AP is where things get very, very tricky.

I Canna Change T’ Laws O’ Physics, Captain!

The Zen Archer’s advantage comes from adding damage from the Harper Agent tree, but only after these requirements are met:

  • Elf racial requirements (20 AP minimum)
    • Dragonmark training up to Displacement
    • Aerenal Grace for DEX-to-Damage
    • Skill for 3% Doubleshot/3% Dodge
    • Core 1: Elven Accuracy I
    • Core 2: Elven Dexterity I
  • Ninja Spy (14 AP minimum)
    • Stealthy in Ninja Spy (3 ranks )
    • Acrobatic (3 ranks)
    • Faster Sneaking (1 rank)
    • Agility (3 ranks)
    • Core 1: Ninja Training
    • Core 2: Advanced Ninja Training
    • Core 3: Shadow Veil
  • Henshin Mystic (8 AP minimum)
    • Way of the Tenacious Badger
    • Core 1: Riddle of Fire
    • Mystic Training
    • Negotiator (2 ranks)
    • Contemplation (3 ranks)

All of this training gives the basic Monk archer the required Dodge, Concealment, Incorporeality skills, Dodge, and, most importantly, every passive ki regeneration option from enhancements, gaining another +1 passive ki regeneration with level 12. Without it, a Monk archer wouldn’t have sufficient ki generated to power Ten Thousand Stars (20 ki) or Shadow Veil (15 ki) with any regularity.

That leaves a paltry 38 AP. The elven Arcane Archer tree can eat up to 66 AP alone. You need 40 + 1 AP to train the last core ability. You’re 3 AP short.

You can shave 3 AP from the Dodge cap increasing Agility without a sizable problem in defense, leaving you with just enough AP to complete the fifth core. And you might be able to remove 2 AP from Faster Sneaking.

But Elven Arcane Archers level slower than their Ranger brethren. Your Heroic training won’t be completed until you’re a level 25 Epic character, holding back those 2 AP from your Heroic days until you reach levels 22 and 25 respectively, where the fourth and fifth core enhancements are available.

But what AA training do you pick with only 41 AP?

Where Many Monks Have Gone Before

The monkcher builds use AA training, of course. Their multiclassing allows some class benefits that a single-class Monk doesn’t get automatically, particularly a larger spell point bar. So the AA tree has to first establish and improve spell point increases to empower imbuements or this build can’t do anything at all with too little SP.

The goal of the AA Monk is to generate versatile damage combined with Monk defenses. While the monkcher leverages all kinds of classes and epic destinies, I envision the AA Monk as a more versatile strafing, kiting fighter–the complete opposite of the Zen Archer but with similar advantages because of full Monk class training.

Core 1, Tier 1

  • Arcane Archer: Core 1 requirement, 1 AP, to activate the tree.
  • Energy of the Wild: 3 ranks, 3 AP. You gain Magical Training at 3 ranks to support passive SP regeneration with Echoes of Power and 80 spell points.

We’ll skip Conjure Arrows, saving 2 AP. You can train enough with House Deneith to gain Sturdy arrows at 75% return.

  • Elemental Arrows I: 2 AP. You need to spend AP to grow into the next tier, and taking at least one of these imbuements is wise.

Core 2: Tier 2 (5 AP prerequisite, 6 AP spent)

Any of these enhancements cost 2 AP. Only Elemental Arrows have only 1 rank, while the others have 3. Best to train only 1 rank on two of them. You’ll also need to train the Core ability 2. In this example, I’ll pick:

  • Morphic Arrows: Core 2 requirement, 1 AP.
  • Elemental Arrows II: 2 AP.
  • Force Arrows: 2 AP, rank 1.

Core 3, Tier 3 (10 AP prerequisite, 11 AP spent)

From here, we try to boost DEX for more general damage as well. Two selections have 3 ranks at 2 AP a rank, but the others are single rank. Of the options, I’ve always been meh on Shattermantle, so I train these enhancements instead:

  • Terror Arrows: 2 AP, rank 1.
  • Elemental Arrows III: 2 AP.
  • Dexterity: 1 point to DEX, 2 AP.

But I need 20 AP spent in the tree to move forward and have only spent 17 here. Preferring damage that can’t be resisted by most, I train another rank in

  • Force Arrows (Tier 2, rank 2): 2 AP

and also

  • Metalline Arrows (Core 3 requirement): 1 AP

Tier 4 (20 AP prerequisite, 20 spent)

Training everything on this tier won’t get us to the next tier at 30 AP. We’ll need to back-train with a few AP as last time to spend 10 AP.

Do note that training the tier requires character level 12, but we can’t train the fourth core ability, Aligned Arrows, until character level 15.

  • Banishing Arrows: 1 AP.
  • Paralyzing Arrows: 3 AP, 3 ranks.
  • Smiting Arrows: 1 AP.
  • Dexterity: 2 AP.
  • Elemental Arrows IV: 2 AP.
  • Aligned Arrows (Core 4 requirement): 1 AP

Tier 5 (30 AP prerequisite, 30 AP spent)

We still have a comparatively generous 11 AP left to spend. However, you’ll be stuck with 2 AP as you train as an Epic character, unable to unlock the last two cores until later. And you have to spend every point you have left, somewhere, leaving 2 points for Core 5 and 6.

  • Arrow of Slaying: 2 AP.
  • Improved Elemental Arrows: 1 AP
  • Runebow: 2 AP.
  • Force Arrows (Tier 2, rank 3): 2 AP
  • True Strike (Tier 1): 1 AP, 1 rank.

That leaves:

  • Shadow Arrows (Core 5 requirement, level 22 required): 1 AP
  • Master of Imbuement (Core 6, level 25 required): 1 AP.

A Better Monk Archer?

I think so. It gains many benefits of the Zen Archer while gaining greater versatility with damage from the imbuements. This build is far less a flavor build as the Zen Archer, but its payoff is slower.

But what this Elven Arcane Archer Monk really does well is Doubleshot. It gains 3% from Elven racial training, and 25% more from the Core 5 and 6 abilities. Then train in the Epic Destiny feat of Doubleshot for 10% more, and then add in an enhancement bonus from some weapon that likely will give up to 6%. That’s 44% sustained Doubleshot, friends.

And I’m not adding in any Epic Destiny abilities.

That’s probably a good thing, because we’ll blow our minds by imagining this character fully trained in the Divine Crusader destiny with Tier 5 ability, Celestial Champion (up to 10% more Doubleshot, if you can withstand getting critically hit enough times in a given period) and the last core ability, Zeal of the Righteous. That’s a toggled power-trip of decaying 50% bonus Doubleshot and 50 Ranged Power on top of that 44%.

I was planning to have Artemistika the Ranger train as a Druid next. But with all of her many trained EDs, she may enter the convent and loiter in the archer’s glade training area for life #2. And I guess training yet another destiny, say, Divine Crusader, isn’t a bad idea now.

Now that I’ve got a bead on character building in a formal way, thanks to forum member EllisDee’s Character Planner Lite, I will post a more detailed build later on the forums and in the Monk guide.




The Zen Archer is Now a Thing

For the first time ever, I’ve posted a build. It’s one of two I’ve genuinely created and not grafted from others. I think it’s going to be a fun flavor build for some that really enjoy the Monk. It’s no Shuricannon, but it’s proving great to play.

Feel free to read and comment about the Zen Archer here on the DDO forums.

Emissaries from Ghallanda


Change is often stressful, but often brings great beauty as well as strength.

I created a new character, not on my home server of Ghallanda, but on Cannith.

This was the first server I think that the game pointed me to use on first logging in nearly five years ago. Two other characters rested there, unused for years.

My freshly rolled Zen Archer, Mericletica, got to work. I wanted to start off with a Poison Master, but for best results that needed a Drow, which took me a while to unlock on that server.

I’ll explain my larger reasons why I’m on Cannith, far from my stores of loot and a friendly, large and respected guild on another server, in a moment. For now, let me relate some fun that comes from this change.

The New World

Playing the game feels wholly different when you start over on a new server. Unlike joining the game for the first time and being wholly confused as to mechanics, location, and interaction, an experienced player on a new server has many advantages. I know what I’ll need to start a new home and where to find it–at least at first.

With no platinum to speak of, with no stores of loot, I began again. The earliest quests often provide commonly found and useful tools.

Since the Zen Archer is one of two genuine builds I’ve designed, I knew precisely how to start. To speed things up, Mericletica began as  a Veteran II character at level 7. This offered a bunch of suitable starter gear. But rather than handwraps, Meri chose a longbow. I pushed her AP immediately into the Elf racial tree to give her Dexterity-to-Damage, Dodge and Doubleshot bonuses like her parallel sister, Pynthetica.

A bargain offer on the Auction House: A Lumric’s Longbow, perfect for the hordes of undead in her future. (Turned out that this thing was effective against the Ghostly Skeletons in Delera’s Tomb that normally needed Good alignment to even hurt.)

My only first goal for the new Zen Archer was to get a Greatbow of the Scrag, a power bow for a low level archer with its blunted ammunition and higher damage, also great against skeletons. Several runs into the wilds of Three Barrel Cove came up with little. But I knew it dropped: Pynthetica got that bow after only a couple of runs on Ghallanda. Eventually I found one, again on the Auction House, at just the right time and cost.

If you’ve never started completely new on a different server, all access and resources are separate from your original home except for your Turbine Points. While I could spend about US$25 to transfer any of my characters from Ghallanda, I’m finding more and more that this is unnecessary.


DDO is a wonderful world. Your best game resource really isn’t your gear or build, but your brain. There are so many tools in the game that you might tend to ignore because of the benefits of a guild. Even then, you find yourself learning about more resources than ever before.

Mericletica is homeless within a city’s walls. Yet she is a Monk. Through my experience, she knows where to find resources to complete her mission, and her class offers innate support that makes survival easier.

The first tactic I’m using is the benefit of owning many character slots. Farming without a guild’s help requires you to use multiple characters to avoid quickly ransacking boss chests, among other needs such as multiple collectibles, platinum and gear sources, establishing a crafting character, and more.

I reactivated my Ranger, Cynthetica, picked up a bow for a bit and farmed the Cove, having little luck so far in getting that bow for her Zen sister. Cyn here has not been played since I joined over 5 years ago and created her, so she had lots of freebies sitting in her inventory, including a Raider’s box for a “Caught in the Web” raid weapon gift! She is taking her Pinion bow, that’s for sure.

More characters appeared. There’s now Gadgetetica, a young enterprising Halfling Rogue Assassin. Realizing the sad state of financial and material affairs with the small troupe, she’s spearheading acquiring the massive financing and crafting services, training herself in Cannith Crafting.

I’m now appreciating the benefit of a higher Haggle skill to improve my platinum stores. I’ve come to nickname her “Gidget.”

Also settling in to help is a Half-Elf Shintao Monk named Gwynncletica.

At 400 favor, a Drow Poison Master arrived on Cannith: Vipercletica. She’s going at things with a single blade, so it’s back to the Cove to find her a Tiefling Assassin’s Blade. Soon, I’m sure a Drow Bard might come to town. And a banking character is storing essential gear for myself and others for later adventures.

Mericletica herself is a bit gear-dependent and needs specific training different from her companions. She’s got Deflect Arrows trained, has emergency Displacement, Shadow Walk and Invisibility through her Dragonmark, but Meri lacked a Blurry item–critical for the zen-defense.

She now has Shadow Veil from her ninja training., with barely enough ki regenerating to add that important Incorporeality, or to use Ten Thousand Stars occasionally. She’s generating the 8 AP needed for Henshin Mystic’s Contemplation for another passive ki regeneration point and a bit more Concentration.

Back to getting Blurry. I fixated on the options. The prudent direction was to build a set of Bracers of Wind. In fact, getting the level 3 version only takes two ingredients and two challenges–the same ones needed for a level 7 version.

So late one evening, I grabbed Flower the Cleric and set off farming. Readers know that I don’t like the Cannith challenges. They are overly complex and often throw me out of the game’s immersion, like a McDonald’s restaurant within a mountain view to the background.

But the “Lava Caves: Circles of Power” and “Kobold Chaos” dragonshard runs went very well. It’s far easier to farm on a ranged character since you can cover a greater area of defense.

So Meri has her Bracers. Now it’s back to quest running for her, Gwynn and Gidget, with Cynthetica picking up slack later.

Worried that Meri wouldn’t have enough damage punch against undead as I entered into the Catacombs, I researched what Good-aligned arrows I could acquire. On Ghallanda, I’d just use my crafter to make some, but that’s not happening yet on Cannith. And surviving the fight at the start of “The Chronoscope” to reach the war-torn Rusty Nail tavern and their supplies of Flametouched arrows seemed a bit daunting at the time.

Turns out, 2 Marks of the Keeper given to a Marketplace collectible vendor yield 100 +1 Arrows of Undead Bane.

Now I’m all anxious because I’ve rediscovered how useful the collectible vendors can be now, especially in getting some ruby augments for some of my weapons as well as other augments for needed protections. And lots of specialty arrows.

The big hassle, outside of using a banking character, is getting a quiver that holds a substantial number of specialty arrows. The best are the Large Thin Quiver from the House Deneith vendor, at 1000 arrows, and the Very Large Thin Quiver from the DDO Store only, at 1500 arrows. I’ve been working hard on Favor rewards from Deneith for ammo, Phlarian for buffs and clickies, Delera’s Tomb for weapons and other gear, and so on.

I learned that the Hammer and Chain store, near the Harbor banker, sells inexpensive quivers that I could load and pack with as many arrows as I can hold and put into a bank.

Mericletica1Meri took her Greatbow of the Scrag and punched holes in the legions of undead in the Catacombs, gathering more Marks of the Keeper for later.

I might–just might–start running Necropolis now, especially if I can acquire more options to hurt undead with that bow or something better down the road, like a Bow of the Silver Flame.

Things feel all fresh again. I was even excited over a Cannith Challenge. Starting new really pushes you to consider more game resources in a different manner than what you’d normally do when affiliated with a guild or have an insane loot store.

I even used a Mirror of Glamering for the first time, copying an outfit that Meri had that looked perfect for her archery ways.

That outfit looked terrible to me when used on melee fighters, but the neck fan and extended bracers looked very appropriate for a Zen Archer.

The Mission on Cannith

So, why am I on Cannith? I guess it’s for the same reasons that EvenNote and BonnieBew and many others do what they do to help other players. My motivation is themed as well.

What role-play I do in DDO tends to reflect my actual faith as a player. In real life, I greatly respect the monastic traditions in the Catholic Church, particularly their historic role in the early monastic communities in aiding and preserving civilization after the fall of the ancient Roman Empire.

Monasteries were much like our guilds. They gathered men and women under a common theme. Often these people had training as farmers and scribes, weavers and craftsmen. They pooled their knowledge and aided their neighbors.

From the ruins of the Empire, the monastic traditions preserved and copied ancient texts, not only intricate Bibles (called illuminated manuscripts because of their detailed and ornate art) but literary works and histories. From these, they formed the first public schools and are the creators of the first universities. They refined food preparation, including things like cheese and beer. They codified the first hospitals and hospices and even hotels.

Did you know that, today, it’s estimated that the Church is the largest non-governmental provider of health care in the world, running 26% of the world’s facilities?

Through their faith and love of others, these men and women were dedicated and disciplined peoples that blew on the embers of hope to bring the flame of the Light back to a darkened populace.

This is why it’s inappropriate to call the Middle Ages as “The Dark Ages.” There was nothing dark about that time except for a sudden interruption of knowledge and unity that people such as the monks and nuns tried–and succeeded–in reassembling for many who had less than nothing.

And when a monastery was large enough, often missionaries are sent to spread their knowledge and aid to other communities, repeating the process of establishing a monastery and training and aiding those in need.

Mericletica and friends are my missionaries from Ghallanda in spirit. I want to aid others on different servers to be the best Monks their can be, through training and gear, but also to enjoy the spirit of new friends. I’m not leaving my old friends on Ghallanda, but the mission of the blog and the Monk and stealth guides is to help others best enjoy their playtime as a Monk.

A new server home strengthens my resolve to complete this mission, and is surprisingly fun in application. I’m learning to be more resourceful and hope to share this information here and on Cannith and any other servers I may be able to visit.

“To whom much is given, much is required,” God said. If I’m serious about making better Monks for DDO and to grow our worlds, I must take my mission more abroad.

While I initially planned on creating a new guild on Cannith, a friend of the blog has pretty much convinced me to join an existing community. Stay tuned.

Hirelings Have Gone All Marlin Perkins On Us

Update 25 has done something terrible with hireling behavior.

The official description from the Update 25 Patch 2 release notes seemed legit:

  • Hirelings who are Standing their Ground will no longer leave their assigned area to aid players.
    Fixed a bug that could cause hirelings to switch back to “follow” mode shortly after a teleportation that was followed by a quick press of Stand Your Ground.

But the results are worse than I’ve ever managed from our automated mercenaries, even taking personalities into account.

Hirelings are now too passive. It’s like the old jokes that Johnny Carson did on The Tonight Show about Marlin Perkins, the host of the Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom TV show from the 70’s, where Marlin is parodied as sending out his sidekick to do the dirty work while Marlin watched in safety and comfort.

Now, the hirelings are being pseudo-Marlin, treating our player characters as their hired help, and not stepping in properly as they should.

When they’re set to Defensive mode, normally they will fight when an enemy comes too close. This often has the controllable but annoying side-effect of hirelings chasing down an enemy with a ranged attack, often aggroing a dungeon in the process.

But when hirelings are now set to Aggressive mode, they will stand there, watching you as indifferently as a cat as you’re bludgeoned and beaten to a fruit-juicy pulp until you’re forced to hit their Attack button in order for them to pay attention and defend.

Hirelings still get too personal about who they attack. Here I am getting pasted by something and the hireling, rather than attacking what’s immediately punching me, goes after something around the corner. Hirelings now have worse aggro definition than ever.

The worse problem comes with buffs and healing. Like the Aggressive issue, hirelings are even less likely to drop what they’re doing to give you emergency healing and are even slower to resurrect you.

The greatest example of something gone horribly twisted is the behavior of Flower and Larathor, two level 7 clerics. Where normally Flower’s personality is normally offensive when in Defensive mode, she’ll just look at you passively as your life is carved out of your body. Her summoned spider is still useful enough for the aggro-magnet it is, but not as much now, given that Flower doesn’t respond to its cries when under assault.

Larathor is normally a hireling I avoid because he was too passive when I needed a fighting buffer, an light aggro shield mostly for ranged characters like my Zen Archers. But now, although he’s still enjoying watching you get beaten to an inch of your life and beyond when enemies are in close proximity, Larathor often jumps into the fray, rather than sitting out.

Thankfully, the developers saw the cooldown conflict with the Call Hireling command and then telling them to Stand Your Ground, so movement control is much better.

I’ll be putting in a bug report, as all should, on this. Hirelings, in a perfect world, should:

  • Always fight off melee attackers that come within a body length of them or their leader, especially if they are attacking their leader.
  • Always prioritize threat to closest melee enemy, protecting Leader first, party members second.
  • Never run to attack distant enemies that attack them or their leader unless directed to do so.
  • Should recognize if they are being attacked from a distance and go into a new passive mode: Block, if Defensive mode is active and no other commands are being handled. They should stay in Block until commanded to do something else or if something comes too close to them or their leader or party.
  • Should always heal (if a healing hireling) when leader is at 45% or less HP but never above 70%. This often causes wasteful use of spell points.
  • Should have a prioritization of offensive spell use based on number of enemies, intensity of attack on the hireling or their leader, and spell cost. In short, a Cometfall is a bit excessive against one orc. Sir Geoff of Hanna has already praised the berserk nature of Larafay the level 15 Favored Soul. Now, she’s freakin’ insane and will manage to deplete her spell points in your quest’s first attacks faster than ever before.
  • Should recognize and remove debuffing spells but prioritize such removals based on incoming commands. In short, don’t worry about my poison curse when I or another need a heal or revive. And always remove debuffs when no other commands are present and a party is not under threat.


Are Monks Really Broken?


Monks are far from “broken,” but some trees could use a lot of love.

There are several threads on the DDO forums that discuss the state of the Monk class and how some feel is “broken.”

Here’s some initial advice for those in the threads, and I’m paraphrasing a dev here. Merely calling something “broken” without specific examples and reasons does not aid your case with the developers. As programmers and producers who also have a world to keep in balance so that neither enemies or players are particularly overpowered, developers need real data, not just your mood.

There’s also the matter of remembering that the Monk class is based on many D&D fundamentals that likely won’t change. This especially includes the fact that, both in DDO and D&D, Monks always have less HP than a Fighter. This is a game mechanic that you must overcome as a player, and plenty of us have done so.

That said, over a few threads and even on a DDOCast episode that Shamgar was kind to invite me, I’ve spoken my take on what in the Monk class enhancements could be improved or left alone.

In this post, I’m going to try make my thoughts at their most cohesive for my “official” opinion that the devs can consider with all the other player’s thoughts.

Unarmed Combat

This is the most-discussed topic, and the suggestions disturb me as much as what Update 19 did to the Monk elemental stance formats.

Many want handwraps to become true weapons. This would mean that the Monk’s body is not (necessarily) counted as the weapon in terms of coding. That’s what the Unarmed feat generates and why other classes who fight unarmed do not generate the same damage as Monks.

But we all know too well how handwraps can get buggy. Perhaps a change to handwraps as weapons would de-bug the situation. I think not, since much of the game, especially crafting in quests and in House Cannith, have dependencies in that coding.

I say, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Rather, change the simple weapon damage output for Unarmed. It should scale higher for every Monk level, and really be more effective in Epic play. That’s just adjusting a feat.

You can’t expect Monks to work like Fighters and Barbarians. Even if handwraps get changed, you shouldn’t see Monks necessarily matching or even outperforming the best melee classes. They have other talents to offset this. Getting a “bigger, better weapon” doesn’t offset other intrinsic issues for other melee classes, so why would this work here?

As for difficulty class saves, this requires more attention. An unarmed Monk must use STR to determine damage, DEX for Reflex and to-hit and AC, CON for survivability, and WIS for their DCs. I fear that, often, players treat their Monks more as Fighters. boosting (logically) their STR and/or DEX but neglecting their WIS, and thus things just don’t land.

I don’t usually experience this problem; I often boost WIS higher, especially with Ninja Spies, because I use finishing moves that stick on Epic Hard easily, even some Epic Elites. Once I paralyze, blind, or mute enemies, I gain a lot of damage from their Helplessness. But then, Ninja Spies gain DEX-to-Damage with shortswords, and I use these as their primary weapons, reducing my dependency on STR.

So having four critical abilities to keep high is tough on an unarmed Monk. Balance is one thing, as a class trait, but there has to be a way to improve overall at least the tactical DCs, of which Stunning Fist, our hallmark unarmed attack, is involved. Perhaps an Epic feat that allows you to use STR as your DC modifier for Stunning Fist would be welcome.

I’m not going down the route of other DCs for Monk abilities like Quivering Palm. That should remain a WIS DC, and yes, you can get it high enough. Quivering Palm isn’t meant to be used as a spamming Assassinate, but the devs at least added bonuses to your attempts if you’re trying to do so.

Armed Combat

I love quarterstaves, shortswords, shuriken and kamas. But let’s consider that daggers are smaller than shortswords and shouldn’t cause Monks to be uncentered. And kamas are just a type of sickle.

Let’s add daggers and sickles into the mix for any Monk.

Henshin Mystic Combat and Defense

I love the Mystic’s weaponizing of ki. But it’s combat speed with staves should approach, if not match, the level of Thief-Acrobats. Hell, the Acrobat is more like a Mystic than a Mystic.

Mystics also have terrible overall defenses, needed since they are really a melee class, not a caster. Rather than a massive revision of the tree, I’d suggest:

  • Adding Dodge bonuses and bonus AC for each core ability. 2% Dodge and 3 AC per core would do nicely. The last core would also give a 5% increase to Dodge cap (not stackable with Ninja Spy’s Agility).
  • Adding a Mystic effect for 25% Incorporeality for 30 seconds to self and to party, a finishing move buff. Void/Void/Void would work, especially if a lesser Void Strike would return to the feats.
  • Increased attack speed with quarterstaves. Make it identical and anti-prerequisite to the Acrobat.

Elemental Stance Enhancements

As noted, the Shintao Monk tree all but exclusively requires the use of Earth Stance.

Why not create a new tree that, similar to effects that favor elemental acuity in the Season’s Herald Druid or the many Sorcerer trees, give specialized training to the other three stances? The effects would only work most effectively in a particular stance except Earth Stance, and provide either an offensive or defensive advantage that can be increased by training. AP would limit the player from becoming too crazed and encourage fostering one path. In short, let’s think “Avatar: The Last Airbender” here.

Here are some samples that pop in my head:

Water Stance: You are mastering Cold attacks and the nature of ice to slip and slide, powerful enough to push even a mountain away. Your ultimate attack can freeze an enemy for up to 12 seconds (cooldown of 1 minute) and reduce the enemy fortification by 10%. Lesser attacks also increase your Cold damage, armed or unarmed, except for ranged weapons (but not thrown). Your Dodge cap is increased by 1% for every Cold enhancement trained while Water Stance is active. Because Cold does not favor the swift, you also lose 2% of your movement speed.

The restriction to ranged, but not thrown weapons is to support the star-throwers but not bows because they already have the Arcane Archer option.

Fire Stance: You master the art of flame and its tendency to burn. Your ultimate attack sears enemies with immolating flames for a time, briefly blinding them and reducing their offensive prowess, especially enemy Fire resistance. Other lesser enhancements will increase your Fire damage with ki attacks. Your healing amplification is boosted by 1% for each Fire enhancement you train while Fire Stance is active. Because Fire is indiscriminate to what it burns, you lose 2% of your HP.

Ice elementals, beware.

Wind Stance: You master the power of that which is not seen yet can knockdown a whole forest with great speed. Your ultimate attack causes a thunderous area-of-effect knockdown with enemies, causing them substantial Lightning damage as they fall with a failed Reflex save. Lesser enhancements will increase your Electric ki attack damage. You gain 2% Doublestrike for each Wind enhancement trained while Wind Stance is active. Because Wind is a free spirit that can be stopped by solids, you lose 1 AC for each Wind enhancement.

The tier 5 path would give the “ultimate” reward from an offensive mode. Wind could have a chance to activate a chain-lightning effect on knockdown. Ocean could have a chance to cause a Freezing Ice area-of-effect or a Tomb-of-Jade freeze effect with a 1 minute cooldown. Fire stance could cause an immolation effect that logically creates a Fear effect as the monster runs away, burning alive. You can only choose one, but of course can always respec your enhancements. Imagination can run wild here.

Again, since the Shintao tree is already favored to Earth, there’s no need to give that stance any advantages.

The Least Broken Enhancement Tree

The Ninja Spy remains a near-perfect enhancement tree. Every enhancement found there reflects abilities that make any Monk, trained with even a portion of these skills, quite the certified badass.

With Update 19, my gameplay focus turned to 80% Ninja Spy, nearly forsaking my venerable Shintao Monks, for reasons already noted. In fact, I claim there is nothing broken in the Ninja Spy enhancements.

That said, I make a couple of suggestions:

  • Let’s make the ninja look more like a ninja. Other classes have special ways to hold their weapons, such as the orbs for spellcasters, and rune arms for Artificers. Give ninjas a reverse-grip hold on swords held in their main hand. For SWF ninjas, it’ll look awesome. For two-weapon ninjas, they’re REALLY looking masterful with the off-hand in the forward grip and the reverse grip in the main. If possible, when a ninja holds a shuriken in their main hand, the off-hand weapon, if any, should go reverse-grip, too.
  • Allow Sting of the Ninja to work on Centered bows. I don’t want to make Ninja Poison too prevalent, but it’s illogical for shurikens to be poisonous but not arrows from a bow. I can understand if this is rejected. Since when do you envision a ninja with a bow? But then, Ninja Poison also has a Poisoned Darts core ability, so there’s a precedent.


The One Purposely Broken Stealth Mechanic

ninjaOnce upon a time, at Update 20, a stealthy character could lure enemies hither and yon by cracking breakables close to them.

See exhibit #1: A video of Kiricletica using this mechanic in “The Kobold’s New Ringleader” with Update 20.

And the stealthy players and the devs saw that this was good.

Then, Update 22 made another change that took away the favorite tactic of ranged characters everywhere. The change, shall we say, had unfortunate implications:

  • Monsters will now aggro when players shoot their nearby friends at long range.
  • Monster AI has been adjusted to improve the ability of enemies to detect players, and to improve game performance (particularly in regard to aggro and when damaged.)

This meant that, if you shot an enemy’s buddy, he and his friends would notice and pursue you, no matter how far you were away when you shot them. This often caused a serious aggro problem because the enemies would often call for reinforcements though impossible sources, such as halfway across the a minotaur city, verging often into Dungeon Alert issues and the game performance issues that happen when dozens of enemies attack you at once.

And, lo, the players lamented and were filled with rage–especially Assassins.

It’s one thing to assassinate, but to broadcast it without the opportunity to escape detection of the fact, even with stealth and invisibility in effect, caused great anguish.

But something changed again by the time we reach Update 23. The Release Notes text that points to that something says thus:

Monster AI has been improved to make them more efficient at filtering out things that they are not interested in to improve performance in densely populated areas.

And again, the masses were pleased.

But it took me some time in gameplay, right into Update 24, to realize what the Developers did.

As you know, Update 19 provided a revamp of the stealth mechanics in the game. It was, in my opinion, quite beneficial. Among other player adjustments (being able to jump, clearer rules on what Hide, Move Silently and invisibility did) monsters were given consistent rules to find you, and you as the player had a generally consistent options of hiding as well as escaping from them–with some study.

No longer could monsters endlessly chase you. If you were able to break out of their line of sight and then go silent and out of view, the enemies would stop and search around the last spot they thought you were. After a time they may go back, or they might stick around to patrol your last revealed spot. No more “sliding” monsters.

In related benefits, the Ninja Spies got upgraded enhancements that also helped them effectively “smoke bomb” a group, blinding and dazing them for 6 seconds to allow a window of escape. Flash Bangs are awesome.

Either way, Update 19 made stealth operations, if not just the use of invisibility for some, far more consistent.

But Update 22 swung the pendulum too far, and the devs wanted to correct it with Update 23’s change in what monsters tended to notice.

The problem, as the Assassins and Rangers and many others learned, is that it was too easy–way too easy–for too many monsters to notice you and your party. As noted, sometimes the result was a Dungeon Alert as enemies began a cascading series of alerts to each other that activated much of the dungeonspace. Or, seriously weird reinforcements came out of nowhere. Some reported hellish behavior in “Frame Work,” where the chieftain’s call essentially aggroed the city, calling over every minotaur left into his tiny fortress against your much tinier party.

So Update 23 revved back that monster-sense mechanic way back, so way back that ranging characters could once again, plug an enemy in the back and only attract the ire of that enemy most of the time.

But in the course of that needed adjustment, the monsters became deaf. Not to players; you can still Sneak with a weak Hide or Move Silently and you’ll see enemy Spot check bonuses quickly escalate or the telltale red footfall blobs around your character that tell you that monsters can hear you coming.

Monsters now no longer react to the sound of any objects breaking. Go ahead. Give it a try.

Now, that same developer sorcery still allowed monsters to hear other items, such as Noisemaker traps and verbal spells being cast too closely to them. Monsters simply don’t hear vases, crates and barrels, even exploding ones, or other quest objects when they are destroyed. I’m not even sure if monsters react to the sound of broken doors now.

Am I grousing about Update 23? Heck, no. I know the developers have to adjust the game mechanics to compensate the most common (albeit stupid) tendency for some players to treat every quest as if they entered Hazadil’s Warehouse (“Time to start smashing”) and broke everything they say without regard to the notion that breaking things create sound in most universes.

So, without the adjustment to monsters overreacting to their allies, Assassins would continue to have a far harder time doing what they are designed to do.

I only lament the loss of a crucial piece of the environment that worked great for stealth tactics. I would have really enjoyed using breakables to move about the large mobs that tend to congregate in corners and corridors in the latest super-dungeon, “Temple of Elemental Evil.” I would likely get a Devious bonus out of a place where there are thousands of things to kill. I did manage a Discreet bonus.

But that’s just how I play. Stealth does not require (nor do quest objectives often allow you to express outright) pacifism.

I’m already making some updates in the stealth guide.