Monastic Arts in the Sleeping Dust

Despite the increased fighting in upper Heroic level quests where Ryncletica the Poisonmaster is a bit challenged, a few quests allow her to express her ninja arts in ways few other classes can manage. One of them is “Let Sleeping Dust Lie.”

A quest that’s surely the bane of zergers and slaughter-lovers, your mission is to find a couple of journals that explain an attempt by some enemies to release a Lord of Dust. To do this, the enemy has brainwashed a Crimson Foot spider hive that happens to live there. The challenge is to avoid killing any spiders for a chest, and to avoid killing more than 4 spiders once you’ve read the first journal.

As you know from your own gameplay, that’s difficult, especially in a full party. So, of all the Shroud flagging quests, this one tends to have a solo-friendly element, especially for a Ninja Spy.

Spiders sense stealth, so one technique of the Ninja Spy is worthless there. But there are several other tools in Ryn’s arsenal.

First, she pulls out her Snowstar. While her DEX is less than Szyncletica the star-throwing Shuricannon, Ryn is also Drow. Like Szyn, she gained Shuriken Expertise and Ninja Spy’s Advanced Ninja Training to a greater chance to throw additional stars per attack. Combined with Xen’drik Weapon Training enhancements from the Drow tree, Ryn’s stars and shortswords do excellent damage. She’s able to shoot down the orc puppeteers from a distance to avoid the melee’s and mage’s challenge in this quest: Avoiding off-hand or area-of-effect damage that could kill a spider.

The second central tool requires preparation: Quivering Palm, the assassinating ki strike that removed most of the ogre mages before they could disappear and recharge or dispatch isolated puppeteers. It’s a lot of ki to use that strike, but passive ki regeneration helps.

So, often one clears out the tunnels as you search for the first journal. My guild tends to leave the journal alone once found until all the tunnels are emptied. Once you touch the first journal, your 4-kill limit on spiders activates.

After killing off the first ogre mage that possesses a key that opens interior doors leading to the upper levels, Ryncletica chose a different path.

SleepingDustUpperJump

Despite any adjustments made by the devs in past updates to make the rocky debris impossible to climb, jumping still works if you have the right inclination. The diagram shows how I did it. Standing on a single torch near the center north passage allows a small foothold to a small ledge, where one Abundant Step lands you atop a rocky outcrop to the east. From there, with Feather Fall and another Abundant Step, you land atop another outcropping on a central pillar to the south. The last jump takes you east again where you try to grab an edge of the upper level.

Note I said “grab,” not land. You won’t find a place atop the rocky outcrop to stand if you miss. You have to catch the ledge or land atop. You need the maximum Jump possible, an comparatively easy matter for a Monk with a pair of Jidz-Tet’ka, and a Potion of Jumping +10. The Jidz-Tet’ka in Wind Stance gives a +10 Insight bonus to Jump, stacking with any Enhancement bonuses and skill points. The second requirement is an long-jump ability. The Cannith Boots of Propulsion won’t work as you’ll need to jump three times. That still leaves a growing number of non-Monks that can pull this off:

  1. Wind Dance, an Air Savant Sorcerer’s enhancement
  2. Vault, a Thief-Acrobat enhancement
  3. Leap of Faith, a Favored Soul ability
  4. Flyby Attack, a Draconic Incarnation epic ability

You’ll still need a good Jump, and can’t be wearing armor or items that weigh you down.

Once you’re up here, if you’re lucky, you can find the second journal next to you, which is where I found it in this case. It spawns here or by the shrine across the way on other ledge.

You won’t be able to explore or move through very much up there without the first key. The DDO Wiki article noted that reading the second journal before the first is possible.

Your Playstyle is not My Playstyle

You either attracted attention, or were left behind to attract more attention. Ow.

You either attracted attention, or were left behind to attract more attention. Ow.

As you might’ve gleaned from my last post, I’ve gotten a few more gripes about the lack of Improved Precise Shot on my Zen Archer that I was in the mood to handle.

But after speaking with some friends, I realized it was more of an opportunity for me to discuss why I play more conservatively than more players than I realized. 

Let me ask you several questions based on my observations over the years. Just make a mental note if you answered “yes” or “no” to each. The questions are in no particular order or emphasis.

  1. After your party buffs, do you surge ahead into a pile of enemies?
  2. Do you tend to attack first, no matter what your class?
  3. Do you tend to use builds that emphasize very high DPS?
  4. Are your builds primarily multiclassed?
  5. Do you tend to always just surge ahead and fight, and not worry about generating dungeon alert?
  6. Have you ever made a character that has a Move Silently or Hide score greater than 20?
  7. If you play a Monk, do you think the finishing moves are too complex or useless?
  8. If you play a mage, do you tend to use your spells without worrying about attracting attention?
  9. If you play a ranged character, do you use Improved Precise Shot at all times?
  10. If you play a Rogue Assassin, do you complain how your Assassinate doesn’t work?

If you answered “yes” to most of these, you really shouldn’t be reading my blog.

Aggro Means Aggression

DDO is designed to kill you. If you carelessly approach a group of enemies without a plan of attack, death is sure to come. Sure, you could be a veteran player of many years and even memorized the location and appearance of monsters. That doesn’t change the conditions of the quest, especially if you have party members that aren’t strong enough yet in experience (player or character) or have sufficient firepower or protections to survive.

There are two type of aggro-magnets I know. One kind is the player that simply isn’t watching the mechanics carefully enough. They may be new to the game or very experienced. They often try a special attack and, next thing you know, they forget a critical mechanic and cry out “Help!” moments before others hear a “ding!”

The second are the zerging, all-knowing, high-speed players that measure XP per hour. They know many quests by heart, set up quest and raids with “know it” in their description, and blast forward. They often can dish out the damage and maximize every single ability and have the best of the best gear. Sometimes they’re often completionist-lovers.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with either situation–except when you claim that the way you play is the only way to play and become intolerant to any other ideas.

You Don’t Need to be Perfect at Everything

DDO’s D&D roots mean that some classes will be superior to others at a given thing. You can make a high-DPS fighter with UMD and good Search and Spot but you will eventually meet a challenge you cannot do alone. Many Epic quests now laugh at your True Seeing, requiring a fully functioning Rogue or Artificer to find that door. Your high DPS is useless in part 3 of The Shroud. You will get very, very bloody in many quests if you simply fight without thinking.

What’s “thinking?”

  1. Pulling enemies. You break up a large group and pick them off one by one. Even if you do this only a little, it makes your eventual charge less rigorous. This is the Zen Archer’s job. In a party, I remain stationary, targeting enemies that are being kited or that are targeting others in a party. 
  2. Turning off Improved Precise Shot. Unless you are certain that you can kill all eighteen of the orcs you just hit at once, you’re not only endangering the quest but party members. And even if you can kill off all of those orcs, you’re showing off and being a kill hog. No one wants “leet” players in party because they’re an assassin of joy of whatever you find likeable in a quest’s storyline, including party esprit de corps. The Zen Archer can’t do its job with IPS.
  3. Remembering that you’re in a freaking party. Share the fame. Let people read the story, speak to the NPCs, even grab a collectible. Do some optionals. Do something wacky like letting the Rogue scout, and not leaving the newbie Sorcerer behind as dungeon fodder.

I’m really digressing from my central point. Fighting is what DDO is about. I’m not arguing that. I question how some of you think that what others get out of DDO (or any game) must be the same as what you get out of the game, else, you’re patently convinced that others “aren’t doing it right.”

I am not advocating that any player should make a stealth character, or play only single-classed characters and love it. Nor am I suggesting that you should rip out feats and skills and enhancements that please you and work for your character.

I’m simply telling you to stop your proselytizing about how important you think a skill or feat or enhancement may be. Many players, me included, come to learn and realize what’s cool or useful by experience, not by somebody sauntering into a forum thread to drop in their sage knowledge in clipped, 3rd grade English. In that sense, my blog and the Monk and stealth guides might be filled with “Captain Obvious” information to you. That’s fine. There’s other places you can go to find what you need.

It’s clear I’m not tranquil here. It’s because players that become too godly in their minds just aggro me.

I only have two builds I’ve made. They aren’t necessarily original but they are effective for me and thought it would be nice to share them. My responsibility is to communicate how to play them. Strangely, seems that other builds are more self-explanatory.

I hope your builds work for you. But if you’re going to say that feat X is a must, I’m going to consider what I know about it–and then decide for myself.

Zen Balance

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I’ve been amiss in getting updates to the Zen Archer build as I finalized its Epic settings. As I might have mentioned before, it turned out to be an easy build to level up destinies while in off-destiny, once I was able to get three Fate slots opened to have Pin, A Dance of Flowers (GMoF weapon damage) and the ever-popular Rejuvenation Cocoon available no matter what destiny was in use.

I took a bit more time to train through Legendary Dreadnought, Unyielding Sentinel and Divine Crusader to get the necessary points for a tier 2 slot 2 upgrade and a tier 3 slot 1 upgrade. This allows the use of Grim Precision for extra fortification bypassing against portal gateways.

You might see where I’m going with this.

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I hope to take Mericletica, the first complete Epic Zen Archer (save a few pieces of gear in the new Update 27 quests and “Haunted Halls”) into a solo Shroud run, emulating her sister, Szyncletica.

With Meri’s slower shot speed, despite her higher weapon damage and critical hits, I needed the best fortification bypass I could generate. Here’s what she’ll have going into such a run, with Grandmaster of Flowers as the active destiny.

  • Precision: 25%
  • Grim Precision: 15%
  • Piercing Clarity: 10%
  • Trapsmith’s Workshop ship buff: 5%
  • Black Dragonscale Robe’s Armor-Piercing: 10%

That’s 65% fortification bypass, which should help take down those portal gateways well enough, once I make a few tests. Aside from getting a Deconstructor augment slot to add Improved Destruction for fortification damage, I don’t have anything else to add here through training.

I’ll use my tier 1 Thunder-Forged Longbow as usual for maximum damage. If I could run the Thunderholme raids regularly, I could struggle for ingredients to get tier 2 and gain 35% Armor-Piercing on that bow for a terrific 85% bypassing.

I’m able to take down a portal in about 35 seconds without Manyshot in earlier tests, but I need to work on increasing my consistent power and attack before trying a Shroud. Raids are different, of course, so I’d have to ensure that Meri’s defenses are strongest to survive alone there.

I’ve finally updated the details finalized for using the build in my forum thread, since it wasn’t quite clear-cut as I ask you to configure the character one way for Heroic and then adjust behavior based on Epic play. It is worth it, but I can’t help you see that without more information. Thanks for your patience.

Alright, Enough with the IPS

By the way, the forum thread has had several responses, one generously kind but critical, another not so much, about the addition of Improved Precise Shot into the build.

I refuse. In fact, that the build’s gotten very very far without it, even surviving more EE attempts than Szyn has done is  proof that IPS isn’t what this build’s best at doing.

I think IPS will do nothing more than get the Zen shit-kicked out of it because of excessive aggro, and game mechanics prove this. One notes how I rely on hirelings as aggro-magnets, but this is no different than Rogues and mages hanging around with players. The Zen Archer does not lead the charge, but it certainly concludes it. I don’t build characters to be Avatars of Untold Slaughter of Millions By Themselves. That’s the monkcher. Go read about that one.

So the only conclusion I can make is that people really don’t understand that I don’t play my characters with absolute power or completion speed in mind. Like many of my characters, the Zen Archer takes its time, destroys with near-impunity depending on the quest, and walks home without a death and some loot. The Zen Archer is a ninja archer and relies on powerful surprise attacks to end enemies fast. Just as my melee ninjas don’t try to aggro the whole dungeon, I don’t do so with this archer.

Of course I’m enjoying the reversal of the game mechanics that don’t easily alert other enemies to when one of their allies is being punctured. Isn’t everyone?

So, if you think that not having IPS is crippling, add it in and see what happens. I won’t be.

This will likely be the last post on the Zen Archer for a while unless I pull off a Shroud victory with one (one chance in 3, as opposed to even-money with the Shuricannon). I need to concentrate on greater documentation for it in the Monk guide, and then set off for different things.

Now Comes the Dawn

One thing I neglected to mention in depth from the latest Update 27 content in “Trials of the Archons” is the named loot.

Like the archons themselves, the quality and amount of named gear is luminous.

But one item in DDO’s page that details the items grabbed my attention immediately.

The hunt began with the release, and part 1 of that hunt ended last night in spectacular fashion.

Tyrs Paladium, my home on the Ghallanda server, completed a Heroic run of the three new quests in Amrath earlier in the week, and then proceeded on a Epic run last night. I led a group of four able-bodied folk into the three quests, all on Epic Elite.

I’m usually pretty conservative on difficulties when in a live party. But I was in control of Szyncletica the Starwielder, Solitary Destroyer of the Shroud. My strongest offensive character.

After gathering for buffs, the very first thing I wanted to check was the CR level of the trash we needed to clear at the start of “The Archon’s Trial.”

The trash was CR 76. That’s not a typo.

Szyn behaved as a ranged tank, her Improved Precise Shot and off-hand Fiery Detonations by her off-hand Celestia easily aggroing everything in sight. Combined with her permanent Haste and attack speed from the Blinding Speed epic feat, I was able to keep the swarms from overwhelming us in most locations.

Then there were the bosses. The bebilith mid-boss was a CR 83 as was the Planetar leader end-boss. While the bebilith fell after about 5 minutes, the green-skinned Planetar was the biggest bag of HP I’ve ever encountered. Before we could concentrate our fire on her, we had to dispatch her entourage of super-deadly Lantern Archons that peppered us with Searing Light rays of 150 points of damage or more, and Devas with brutal bludgeoning attacks.

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It took over 10 minutes of continuous fire and beat downs to defeat the Planetar.

Onto “Demon Assault.” That run gave our team no dramatic surprises until the end-fight. I tried to pull a few enemies at a time, keeping the team far from the lethal Shavarath blades.

Having run this quest a couple of times before, I recommended that the team fight the boss first to complete, which typically has left a gate between the boss fight and a shrine open to us. But on Epic Elite, that gate closed, and we were met by dozens of Shavarath renders of fire, frost and flesh, trapped there to fight or die.

It looked like we were about to immediately wipe as Dungeon Alert built up to Orange, but IPS came to the rescue. I circle-strafed the entire legion of renders to keep them off the main party while they chewed on the boss. That had to be one of the most intense tanking fights I’ve done in a long while. Thankfully, the spawns did stop and we completed the quest and then took on the optional meralith for a trivial chest and some additional XP.

In the last quest, “The Devil’s Details,” even the normally trivial Tiefling Marksmen were deadly as we raided a stronghold of Aaretreikos. By the end fight we chose to stay at the top of the stairs to limit what we had to fight. The Erinyes boss–so strikingly beautiful as she was deadly–was a CR 83 as well and took some time to kill. After completion we finished off what trash remained between us and our end-loot.

I didn’t see what I was looking for in my allotment, but a fellow guildmate did receive it and passed the item to me.

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Behold, the Dawnbringer. The fourth named shuriken in-game and the second one to come with both Heroic and Epic versions and an augment slot. And, like all other named stars, this is a Bound-to-Account weapon.

The stats you see above reflect what the weapon does when I, as a Ninja Spy, equip it.

The day was over and I haven’t yet a chance to see what it can do. But soon, legions of evil, soon you will follow and fall to the Dawn.