A Mighty Love: “Neverwinter Nights”

By luck on Facebook, there was an ad that mentioned a free download of a game for 48 hours. The site, GOG (used to be known as “Good Old Games”) hosts that and many other PC games from relative antiquity.

neverwinter-nights

One of the desktop promo shots, showing the lovely, poised and eventually traitorous Aribeth de Tylmarande. 

This game, however, I could not resist downloading. It was “Neverwinter Nights,” the original 2002 Bioware game. This was the “Diamond” release, which included the original campaign, the first expansion, “Shadows of Undrentide,” and the last major expansion, “Hordes of the Underdark.” It also included three smaller modules I could not play on my Mac as they were released for the Windows code base only.

Lord knows how many times I’ve actually purchased the game for both platforms. So I saw this free opportunity to download it for Windows play as a blessing. Too bad I didn’t think of switching to Mac mode to download the Mac binaries at the time. At least I know where to get it. On second thought, the NWN Mac port, unless rewritten, will not work with current Mac OS versions because the software engine requires compatibility tools long since removed from Mac OS. So given that my iMac is mostly in Boot Camp (native Windows) mode 90% of the time, the Windows version was a better plan.

NWN was the game I began to play as my “Diablo II” high finally began to recede. It was my first venture into D&D official game mechanics and campaigns (several attempts to enjoy the original “Baldur’s Gate” ended with crushing confusion and failure).

Because hope springs eternal for me, I even had saved my “localvault” character saves folder. Thankfully the character files are text-based files that worked fine if switched between the Mac and PC clients. And now I can copy the installer to a USB stick so I’ll never lose the damn media again.

The Campaigns

Everything I learned about basic D&D mechanics I first learned from NWN. That’s especially true for the Monk, of which I played a lot. No surprise there for you.

NWN was a single-player game that supported player-based campaigns with larger parties, as well as even a Dungeonmaster driven campaign. I rarely tried to go multiplayer; at the time I wasn’t inclined to try them after the cluster-frakking I experienced in “Diablo II” multiplayer mode, with player killing rampant and cheating abundant.

nwn_shieldguardian

Shield Guardians. These guys were beautiful.

NWN used the D&D 3rd Edition ruleset for much of its foundation. It’s this design that gave me enough confidence to enjoy a sequel game, “Neverwinter Nights 2” and then to buy the Monk class on joining DDO–without playing a single second in-game.

One thing that DDO could still improve is its opening tutorial quest. The  Original Campaign begins by you, an adventurer out to help the city of Neverwinter, besieged by a plague, in the Neverwinter Academy, a training building for all classes.

The tutorial allows you to experiment and understand all elements of movement, camera, combat and spell casting very quickly I became very comfortable with the rules and mechanics quickly.

soh-charactersht

The Character Sheet looks more familiar now than ever. This is in an elven crypt in “Shadows of Undrentide.” Great graphics for its time (if you had a PC that supported them).

Like DDO, NWN has a great dialogue engine with PCs. Unlike DDO, NWN allows Evil-aligned player characters and presents dialogue responses that reflect your choice. Also, non-player characters improve or adjusted your alignment, which is measured from 0 to 100 based on your actions. So if you entered with a Lawful Neutral character, continually rescuing people that you could otherwise leave alone will eventually change you to Good aligned. Attempting to kill certain people, especially if innocent, will send you down the Chaotic and Evil paths.

You can move your player character (PC) using the WASD keys but the mouse option to click a spot ahead to move your character was much more natural. I missed this.

NWN also supported henchmen, the counterpart to hirelings. Much like our DDO brethren, you had limits on the number of them in your party, you could adjust their combat and other behaviors, and there were various classes you could select to complement your PC class. While the original campaign did not support adjusting the inventory of the henchmen, the two major expansions did, allowing you to really trick out your guys to meet every need. All three games also allowed romance or deeper relationships (with loot often as a reward) by chatting more with your henchmen or other NPCs.

hotu-combat

Aribeth joins my NWN incarnation of Lynncletica in a curb-stomp battle against dozens and dozens of devil minions.

NWN allowed you to boost the game’s difficulty as well so that care had to be taken for area-of-effect spells that could hurt yourself or the party if carelessly used, or to make enemies deal far higher damage to you than normal, similar to Epic Elite nastiness.

The original campaign is pleasantly long, allows you to pause the game and save as you desire, and provided all the D&D pleasantness as you chose.

The first expansion, “Shadows of Undrentide” (SOU) could be played with a new character or with one you imported from an original campaign. This campaign introduced kobolds (in particular, a notably fun NPC named Deekin, who could join you as a henchmen in the second expansion). SOU told of a mysterious attempt to find the ancient ruins of the floating cities of ancient Netheril and return one into the sky.

Does that sound familiar? It should. These floating cities were powered by D&D’s magical plutonium, mythallar. You saw a big ball of it used to fly a glacier as a war platform in the quest “What Goes Up.” My NWN experience helped me prepare for the dangerous mages we find in DDO.

The second and last major campaign was “Hordes of the Underdark” (HOTU). You can also import a level 15 character or higher (new characters get XP boosted to reach 15 if desired). This expansion loosely connects your PC as the same that completes SOU (neither expansion sees your original campaign character as connected to the their events) so you’ll already have a reputation as a hero that gets stuff done. In HOTU you’re also reunited with the Original Campaign’s henchmen.

hotu-battle-1

HOTU was remarkable for throwing you into the city of Waterdeep, besieged (since when is a city not besieged when you show up?) by the Drow of the Underdark, under the leadership of a matron mother self-appointed as the “Valsharess”, or “Queen”. Taking advantage of a sudden and unexplained disappearance of the goddess Lolth (maybe Ana Brabener decided to take her butt out), the Drow society is thrown into chaos and new factions are formed.

To discover the mystery behind the Drow attack, you’re tasked with discovering why the buffer zone of Undermountain, a series of dungeons-from-hell maintained by the crazy wizard Halaster, is allowing the Drow to pass from the Underdark through Undermountain to the surface.

HOTU allows Epic characters up to level 40. You can choose to continue leveling in your class (so a level 40 Monk can happen) or you can add in prestige classes very similar to our Epic Destinies, such as Shadowdancer, Assassin (evil Rogues only), Champion of Torm, Purple Dragon Knight and so on.

hotu-feats-2

Leveling in all three campaigns is familiar enough with skill points and feats that are similarly named with similar functions. With my DDO Monk experience, however, I’m amused by differences in NWN Monk feats over their DDO counterparts. One, “Empty Body” gives you 50% Concealment in NWN–a very powerful defense because there isn’t a countering power in NWN to bypass concealment.

hotu-feats-1

Another feat at level 20 gave you immunity from mind-affecting spells, something I’d love to see in DDO where not for the fact that DDO reflects the NWN importance of high saves and spell resistance to ward off such things.

hotu-endgame

The Underdark is filled with the usual denizens and a small pack of good-aligned Drow that you assist. But more sinister forces held by the Valsharess are moving everyone around like chess pieces for an endgame that will lead you face to face with a king of the hells with no tolerance for heroes and a tendency to turn your henchmen into enemies.

Still a Great Buy

I’ve never played D&D tabletop, but thanks to my enjoyment and experience from DDO and NWN, I’m much more likely to try it someday. Just so happens there’s an annual gaming convention in my town when I’m ready to dive in.

The complete 2002 Neverwinter Nights game with expansions and 3 modules is only $10 from GoG.com. You’ll also find “Neverwinter Nights 2,” another enjoyable adventure with a sequel or two on the site. You should be able to ramp up the graphic settings to their maximums for full enjoyment.

Why not give yourself a old-school Christmas present?

 

Standing with Stones

fukiya

Ninja PLEASE!

I’m still alive and well (albeit still unemployed) as I make a quick note of recent events and updates. I’ve been distracted by an old friend, a game I loved before DDO. More on that another time.

First off, congratulations to Standing Stone Games. I, for one, welcome our new game overlords.

You can read more about the reincorporation online, but basically, it seems our developers and producers have spun themselves off from their WB Games-owned Turbine entity and have a much freer space to develop and profit. Looks like some old hands lost over the years might also be returning.

I wanted primarily to write on Update 33 Patch 2, arriving tomorrow (Wednesday 12/21). Many course corrections and major changes to polish off the major Monk enhancements and handwrap/weapon update of Update 33.

Here are the general Monk adjustments. Items that are great (and there are several) are in italics.

  • Monk finishing moves now incorporate Stunning bonuses into their DC calculations.
  • Ki Shout has had its cooldown reduced to match Intimidate, and its Ki cost lowered slightly. (Lynncletica is very happy.)
  • Meditation of War is no longer considered a Defensive stance.
  • Flash Bang should now add Stunning DCs.
  • Ki Bolt now scales with 3x Melee Power, and adds Stunning DCs.
  • Incinerating Wave now scales with 3x Melee Power, and adds Stunning DCs.
  • Cauldron of Flame’s damage has changed to 1d2 Fire Damage per Monk level, scaling with 2x Melee Power, at each tier, to a maximum of 10d2 per Monk level before scaling. In addition, while wielding a quarterstaff inside your Cauldron of Flame, you gain +20 PRR, +10 MRR, and +15% Dodge that ignores Dodge Cap.
  • Serenity grants an additional boost to Cauldron of Flame: While wielding a quarterstaff inside your Cauldron of Flame, you gain +5 to hit and damage, and a +1 Critical Multiplier.
  • Serenity now grants a +15% attack speed with quarterstaves. (About time.)
  • Henshin Mystic has a new Tier 5 ability called Henshin Staff Training: +3 to hit and damage with quarterstaves.
  • Lighting the Candle now deals about twice as much damage as before.
  • Void Strike now adds +1 to Critical Threat Range and Multiplier with its attack.
  • Shintao’s Touch the Void Dragon now also passively grants +1[w] with handwraps or while unarmed.
  • Shintao’s To Seek Perfection now also passively grants +2[w] with handwraps or while unarmed.
  • Ninja Spy’s Diversion now also grants +5 Sneak Attack Dice for 20 seconds when activated.
  • Ninja Spy’s Ninja Master now also passively grants +5 Sneak Attack Dice.

Ninjas come awfully close to Rogue-level sneak attack powers with things like this, and I’m not complaining. My new SA-happy Shadowbow Ninja archer will deal more damage.

  • Diversion and Touch the Void Dragon no longer share a cooldown.
  • Hit boxes for monks with handwraps have been restored to their previous size.

A very annoying bug squash here that should now allow handwrap-wielding Monks to massage Lolth’s incredible abs with our fists once more in “Caught in the Web” without falling to our doom.

  • Every Light Casts a Shadow should no longer give negative levels to friendly members of your party.
  • Spring Attack is now a Monk Feat at level 6.

The Combat adjustments are a bit interesting for ranged characters. Not sure how this will work with my snipers, especially the Diversion-loving Pynthetica:

  • We’ve corrected a long-standing bug where groups of enemies would not aggro correctly. Players will find that they can no longer use a ranged attack to pull singular enemies from a group without aggroing nearby enemies.

Now, I’m fine with this change as it is more realistic. But, hopefully, the other aggroed enemies don’t immediately come after you, but first note the noise, look, and investigate, buying you time.

  • Bluff and Deception will no longer cause bosses and enemies using ranged attacks or spells to turn around. This corrects an issue where ranged enemies would stop attacking after being bluffed or affected by Deception, and improves the enemy combat experience. Red-named bosses are still affected by sneak attack damage vulnerability.

Another change that’s fine, as long as the Bluff effect still procs and damage is still happening, and hopefully, enemies are still slowed or hesitant in some way. However, this might change the nature of my Zen Archer powers. I’ll have to test and see.

  • Raid and named bosses can no longer be champions.

Nothing’s more scary than to see Lolth wearing a crown. She’s already crazy as it is.

Other good stuff:

  • Many old loot effects that were made specifically for old-style handwraps now work properly on updated handwraps.
  • Vampirism and Lesser Vampirism now provide their proper effects on handwraps.
  • Heroic and Legendary Greensteel handwraps are now available!

How about that? I’ve been craving some Triple-Positive disruptors for Deathwyrm.

  • Scaling Melee and Ranged Alacrity 10% is now applying its proper bonus.

Last but not least is the ability to immediately transfer your characters to and from other servers. This costs a bit but might help in the server balance right away. I might use it to move a few beloved characters I made on Cannith (of which time prohibits me to occupy often enough now).

More to come for my last post of the year next week, if not sooner.

 

A Monk with Magic

archer

I have not been a fan of mixing up cross-class features experimentally on my Monks until recently when I just decided I need to let my virtual hair down and see if some skills could be used to benefit my characters.

I’ve not created a spellcaster character yet. And I wasn’t generally a fan of mixing features up between classes because I wanted to maximize my learning and experience on everything that the Monk could innately do.

But I also had a clear bias: Mages, specifically the evil ones, were the enemy. The Monk is a melee fighter that’s also a potent anti-mage with high saves, spell resistance and mobility. Perhaps I was taking a page mentally from Diablo II’s Assassin, a player class of that beloved game that was also very Monk-like with charging moves and effects that emulated magic to fight evil mages.

Over the years of play, this bias gave way to appreciate the benefits of using wands or scrolls and found the flexibility extremely handy. Kiricletica, my super-soloing ninja, is Half-Elf and uses the Cleric dilettante to give her high-level Cleric casting levels to use the important divine scrolls such as Heal. My halfling Rogue Assassin, Sukitetica, is very UMD-happy as many Rogues tend to be, armed with an arsenal of scrolls and wands that have saved a few parties in arena fights where soulstones are all over the place and party recovery is compromised because most people are too visible. Being sneaky is your ally and a special power.

So, with my ignorance and prejudice of magic purged from working with Suki, I decided to take the plunge on a pure Monk.

With completing my first eTR on Pynthetica, transforming her into a master untouchable sniper into a bow-wielding sneak-attack machine, I decided to throw some caution into the wind and try out the one skill I discouraged in my Monk guide for fear of gimping a class with few skill points available to it at the start: Use Magic Device.

The first requirement I learned in experimenting with cross-class skill leveling begins at level 1 (or in my case, level 20): Add a couple of ability points to INT and use the largest INT tome you can afford. Ta-da! I just gained 2 or 3 extra skill points per level over the base 4 skill points for a typical Monk. While this wasn’t required, it was essential for how I wanted to play Pyn as I tested the Shadowbow Ninja. She still needed high Hide and Move Silently numbers. Spot was critical. Concentration can never be ignored. There went the 4 granted points right there. The additional points allowed me to pump up UMD to its maximum cross-class limit of 11.5 points without compromising anything else.

Next, use tomes and items to raise CHA, the ability score that boosts UMD. So as I level I’ll be able to wear CHA and Insightful CHA items to add substantial points. Add in Yugoloth favor potions and DDO Store elixirs and I can boost my UMD easily to near 30 points alone. I’m taken advantage of my updated Cannith Crafting powers to make a CHA +12 cloak.

Then finally, equip any items that add UMD bonuses. There’s the Tome of Skill you can buy, and items with Competence, Exceptional and Enhancement bonuses. Only one item per category counts, of course. An Epic Treasure Hunter’s Spyglass, a Big Top, and a few other baubles move the UMD number up to the high 20s to low 30s.

Finally, with these items equipped, kick on Heroism/Great Heroism for an additional bonus to all skills. If Pyn were a light Monks, she could also use the Walk of the Sun finishing buff for another +2 untyped buff to skills.

At level 26, Pyn can now use Restoration and Heroism without fail. I really, really love getting Restoration and Heroism because I can remove negative levels from myself and party as well as buff my hirelings. Raising dead party members while in stealth is a critical party-saving measure because using scrolls doesn’t break stealth in most cases I’ve experienced.

Kicking in a few more tricks, I got 39 UMD, enough to handle Teleport, Greater Heroism, Heal, and Raise Dead. Teacher Jammond recommended work to use Tenser’s Transformation scrolls for +4 Alchemical boosts to STR, DEX and CON, and it looks like I can do that now.

Some scrolls just won’t work. Knock, for instance. I can cast them but the effect requires caster levels I’ll never have. I still have a lot to learn.

To catch you up on Pynthetica’s work on testing and perfecting the Shadowbow Ninja: It goes very well. In addition to UMD benefits, I’ve learned that the best hireling to take with her is a Rogue. That might sound a bit squishy but consider this point. Pyn generates nearly the same sneak attack damage per arrow as the piercing and other damage coming from the bow, and as a Ninja Spy has her own innate SA bonuses. A Rogue specializes in sneak attack, of course.

If the two of us are attacking, an enemy that is susceptible to sneak attack has no quarter, no way to avoid it. If the enemy changes aggro to me, the hireling’s SA is devastating. If the aggro returns to the hireling, I blow them away from Ranged Power bonuses, my Pinion’s Planar Focus: Subterfuge bonuses, the Ninja Spy SA bonuses, the Shadowdancer’s SA bonuses, effects from a Seal of House Avithoul, Deception bonuses…you get the idea. Anything that stands between two SA-happy fighters won’t last long enough to hurt either of us severely before the enemy falls. The takedown speed is amazing. I use a little Rejuvenation Cocoon to refresh our HP as needed and keep on going.

In a live party, Pyn’s SA can sometimes be too good and she’ll pull aggro. It’s better for her to be in parties where there is a good player with Intimidate or strong Threat to keep Pyn from having to stick and move.

I only wish I could have an epic Rogue with Sneak ability. I still have to toss the hireling into the fray and have her build a little aggro before I start shooting. That’s risky ’cause Rogues aren’t tanks.

I think a video is warranted on this, so I’ll try to post one in the near future.

 

The Shadowbow Ninja

The recent changes to the Monk enhancement trees enhanced the already-great Ninja Spy tree. Of note:

  • Advanced Ninja Training: Any non-handwrap, non-quarterstaff weapon you can wield while Centered gains bonuses.
  • Diversion: For 50 ki, you create a hate-magnet training dummy (Cooldown: 3 minutes)
  • Ninja Master: +2 DEX and +2 WIS, Vorpal gained on any non-handwrap, non-quarterstaff weapon you can wield, +1 Competence bonus to critical hit multiplier.

I saw one immediate benefit to my Zen Archer and Bowmaster: I could save some AP by removing Aerenal Grace from the Elf tree since Advanced Ninja Training provided DEX-to-Damage for longbows. That’s done.

Then I kept looking at the new Ninja tree as a whole. Next to the Rogue and its trees, it is the strongest class for Sneak Attack damage (The Deepwood Stalker has better general ranged Sneak Attack but you have to power it first). I’ve leveraged this with the Zen Archer, adding a bit of Sneak Attack damage that procs when the many Deception effects and items she carries Bluffs the enemy and adds in that damage.

But the Sneak Attack bonuses were a bonus, not the focus of the Zen Archer.

So what would happen if you could maximize the power of Sneak Attack from a ranged perspective while also providing better Ranged Power to magnify all that, all while not compromising the basic miss-chance defenses of the ninja?

So I started drawing out a new build. I call it the Shadowbow Ninja.

Pynthetica-Shadowbow.jpgAll-Monk, all-ninja, a little Harper, and Elf. Unlike the other Zen bow-wielders, the Shadowbow uses the full Ninja Spy tree, gaining the full Sneak Attack bonuses as well as all the core enhancements. In particular, the last core, Ninja Master, adds more DEX and WIS, Vorpal on any equipped bow (and other weapons) and bonus to the crit multiplier.

The Shadowbow is a sniper, as does the Zen Archer, but it isn’t as dependent on the bow. With a pair of shortswords, it can do the standard deadly ninja stuff: Finishing moves to debilitate and eliminate targets, and Ninja Poison in melee fighting.

In this respect, the Shadowbow shares more traits with the traditional Ranger, alternating between ranged and melee attack. But the Shadowbow Ninja is all-Monk, gaining the benefits of stronger defenses than many Rangers, particularly the miss-chance effects and high Reflex saves, perhaps higher than the Zen Archer itself.

Like the Zen Archer, the Shadowbow adds in additional Ranged Power points through a few points in Harper Agent. She also takes advantage of a new ninja enhancement: Action Boost: Melee/Ranged Power, to get a +20 boost no matter the attack style.

The new Deadly Striker tier 5 adds a +1 Competence bonus to the bow’s critical threat range.

The Shadowbow sacrifices the improved defenses of the Zen Archer for that extra damage, so Pyn says goodbye to Deflect Arrows and her Elven Shadow Dragonmark for gaining Displacement. But Paracleta is similar limited so thankfully the loss of these two defenses can be worked around.

The Shadowbow is very stealthy, as are most ninjas. Because of the bonuses from Ninja Spy, she can also wield shurikens quite well, although not with as much prowess as the Poison Master (a Drow that gains natural proficiency bonuses) while similar to the Shuricannon, at least with Vorpal thrown weapons.

In any attack where the enemy is bluffed, aggroed or helpless, the Shadowbow takes full advantage. With vorpal, Sneak Attack and No Mercy  in play, there’s 30% more damage to helpless–and ninjas can make enemies helpless in three separate ways by melee. In Heroic play, effects such as Freezing Ice can make enemies helpless through ranged attacks, but in Epic, the gloves are off with Shiradi Champion’s Nerve Venom freezing enemies, as well as using a Twist of Fate to stack more helpless damage from Fury of the Wild’s Sense Weakness, which stacks with No Mercy. The Vorpal will help a lot against weaker trash.

It should be noted that Sneak Attack has a range limit. Deepwood Stalkers can extend their range, but all others are stuck with a maximum 49-foot distance for applying Sneak Attack with ranged or thrown weapons. This makes the Shadowbow a closer-range attacker for best damage. Pyn still uses a lot of Deception items to cause Bluff effects to slow the enemy down, even if Sneak Attacks cannot occur.

One feat I’ve been dying to add to the Zen bow-wielders with little success was Shot on the Run, recently updated to add +3 Ranged Power in addition to cancelling out any penalties to attack rolls while moving. The Shadowbow can be stationary and build up its Archer’s Focus bonuses to Ranged Power, or haul ass across the battlefield with a barrage of arrows like the Zen Bowmaster but have more superiority in a running attack with a bit more Ranged Power. If this feat doesn’t seem that effective, I can trade it out and reapply AP in the Elf tree for her Shadow Dragonmark and gain Displacement again.

If the going gets rough, the Shadowbow owns the full ninja utility belt: Flash Bang to blind and daze a group, or Diversion to throw a hate-magnet on the field while gaining Invisibility for a few seconds. The Update 33 change only requires 50 ki for this with a cooldown of 3 minutes, so it’s no longer tied to your 2 Meditation turns. That lends the ability be used more often as a tactical tool, such as luring a large mob from your path forward or aiding your rescue attempts in a pitched battle where most or all of your party is dead and you must grab soulstones.

In Epic play, Shadowdancer is a wonderful complement to the build. She’s even adopted a new hooded dark archer look, thanks to glamered clothing derived on the Night Revels gear. With that stuff on, he’s certainly more haunting with Shadow Form (see the image above).

Other melee destinies that worked with the Zen Archer should be useful as well. I love using all the Shadowdancer abilities, especially Executioner’s Shot and causing chaos in enemy packs with Shadow Manipulation. Very fun when dominating a Shadar-kai into chain-whipping the mobs for you while you sneak by to your real targets.

I was eager to try out this build, which I’ve mapped out successfully using Character Builder Lite. I decided to send Pynthetica, the veteran Zen Archer, down this route, and she’s become my first Epic Reincarnation, working her way back up from level 20. I chose the Primal karma to take the Epic Past Life feat Doubleshot for 3% more.

She’s now fully geared as I can make her with a completed Thunder-Forged Longbow with Mortal Fear (which I can’t use until level 28), heroic and Legendary Green Steel Longbows, and many other early bound-to-character bows, so she won’t be lacking for weaponry as she grows, although early levels leave me using my Unwavering Ardency much of the time. Would be great to get Blazing Embers with the upgrade with a Seal of the Black Abbot, which means some time in the rather-boring Orchard of the Macabre. But blinded is helpless and that would help.

Pyn did craft a new rare item: An Epic Bow of the Silver Flame, which works well with its blunt damage against skeletal and mummy undead (with a level 20 Fire gem) when I’m not using my triple-positive Greater Disrupting Heroic Green Steel bow.

I’ve also done something I’ve not done before on a Monk before: A greater effort to experiment with Use Magic Device on this build to add a few extra tricks. I added a little more INT to get the needed skill points without compromising her stealth or Spot skills and adding in CHA and UMD/Insightful UMD items with Heroism potions to raise the UMD DC as best I can.

At level 21 I can use scrolls like Knock and Shield (but although I meet the chance to use Knock, some things, like the locked chest in Spies in the House, just don’t open with my Knock and I don’t know why). I will need higher levels to equip items to raise my skill to use Raise Dead. I want Pyn to be able to perform rescues–gods know there have been some raids where party wipes have been rather tough to recover without a good rescuer amidst alert, temporarily victorious enemies.

Guess that also means I should work on fishing for the popular but oh-so-rare Cursed Blade of Jack Jibbers.

I need to play with her a little bit more before I post the CBL build data. And I still have a lot of rewrites due for the Monk guide, among other real-life challenges.

Changes in Destiny

portrait-lynncletica1“Does not work with handwraps” is a common phrase seen in several of the melee-based Epic Destinies.

But, with the changes to handwraps as an Exotic weapon, Teacher Mernom and myself immediately wondered if that restriction has been lifted. I decided to find out with Lynncletica, my Shintao Monk.

Some general changes to the Jade strike-related attacks are amazing to use. I’ve adapted them for use quickly as I farm in the Night Revels.

While the Strike Tainted Creatures attack does not proc very often, the second-highest attack, Jade Strike, is highly effective against anything, including red-named enemies, in reducing their fortification enough to improve damage. If the enemy’s Will save isn’t good, they’re encased in jade–and this is occurring much more often than before since the Jade strikes have improved DCs. Jade Strike’s fortification reduction and encasement has a short cooldown as well (around 30 seconds), making it my second-favorite attack against non-bosses.

Tomb of Jade seems also more effective, but combined with Jade Strike, my attacks nearly double in damage, going into 400 to 600 per strike, depending on the target’s DR.

Now to summarize how Epic Destinies are helping.

Legendary Dreadnought

I retooled the destiny points to add in Lay Waste and Momentum Swing and also added Pulverizer.

Wearing the Storm’s Harness handwraps, my inventory status showed 17-20 for the critical range. The critical threat multiplier showed X3 on the handwrap weapon data. That suggests that these abilities are applying.

Master’s Blitz certainly works as before and makes for great option in sustained fighting to boost overall damage, especially with effects that now work with the revised handwraps. With the Blitz going, enemies that get struck by Jade Strike are damaged far quickly.

In this and all destinies, the Melee Power boosts have risen dramatically. Where, in the past, I made hits of around 120 per strike, I now see hits in the 220s (depending on the target’s DR) with critical hits between 1100 to 3000.

Unyielding Sentinel

Not surprisingly to most of you, this is my all-defense destiny I use for tanking in raids or in the toughest quests. It has the highest Melee Power rating found in a few other destinies and many abilities that allow me to adjust my defenses while still delivering some damage.

This destiny doesn’t offer STR boosting as Dreadnought does, but with the handwrap changes, the overall damage has nicely improved.

The Tower of Despair Incredible Potential ring I have (which provided Holy Burst/Good-alignment for unarmed attacks) is behaving as it should, now that handwraps are true weapons: The ring no longer functions unless I am bare-handed with no handwraps or weapons equipped. To my understanding, Purify Weapon only gives Good damage, but not alignment, but I’ll check that. In the interim, I chose another point to CON in that destiny since I could use all the HP I could get.

That ToD rings will no longer work is a bit bittersweet because it gives one more reason why the Tower of Despair raid is rarely attended today. There’s little there to gain for the Epic or high-level Heroic character and now, nothing for the Monk. The rings were an answer for needed DR bypass for the Monk, not long after its introduction, especially since Green Steel handwraps weren’t possible. Time moves on, but a refresh to the raid would be nice.

Fury of the Wild

The berserker destiny should be a great one to use for Monks, and I didn’t expect it to disappoint.

While the overall damage is lower per attack with only +3 Melee Power per innate ability, the burst damage isn’t bad, but it can be inconsistent against enemies. That is, if you’re not readied against Blur or other miss-chance effects, your attacks miss and your opportunity is lost.

One significant benefit for the Monk (learned with optimizing WIS for Paracleta) is that I can heavily boost WIS through Primal Scream and Fury Made Placid, which gives me the highest WIS to-date for Lynncletica from any destiny, with all gear and potions (58). This makes the DCs for Stunning and Jade striking much more effective.

Grandmaster of Flowers

The Monk-aligned destiny didn’t gain any new advantages with the change that I can note for Monks themselves. If you have a non-Monk that needs to use the destiny, you’ll now gain Handwrap proficiency to wield them if you care to use them.

For Lynn as a tanker, it’s the least useful destiny of the melee destinies, and it feels weird saying that. The problem is that there are many good abilities, however, adding points to gain these abilities all but sacrifices the options I’ve used in other destinies to boost STR, CON or WIS. I do use Twists of Fate to add in particularly notable abilities from GMoF into more offensive destinies, abilities such as A Dance of Flowers, Piercing Clarity and Standing with Stone.

Shadowdancer

As with GMoF, life as a Shadowdancer using a Shintao Monk also shows little change. This destiny is more inclined to weapon use and augment stealth or Rogue-related features such as Sneak Attacks, threat reduction, and diversionary abilities that passively empower you rather than directly overpowering your enemies. Lynn can sneak but she’s meant to attract the ire of anything around her.

Fatesinger

Surprisingly, this is a decent destiny for a Shintao. You can choose STR throughout and the handful of abilities that can apply to melee fighters work well. First is the second innate ability, Glitter of Fame, that adds +1 to all abilities except CHA. Also, Intoxicating Presence adds a stun-guard. The aggressive Reign adds Lightning damage to attacks, and Echoes of the Ancestors: Martial adds +1 to STR and DCs if you take the Legendary Dreadnought mode.

In the course of writing this I had a small inspiration for a ninja variant. More on that once I test out some things if it pans out.

Thank You, Developers

trophyUpdate 33 Hotfix 1 is arriving as I type this.

The release notes are short, as hotfixes tend to be quick bullet points.

There’s been some important fixes, such as purple and red-named bosses not becoming Champions.

A guildmate had to play the Spinner of Shadows in Epic with a crown on her head–as if she needed any more overpowered abilities!

But less can be more when it comes to patches.

The best news:

  • Handwraps no longer take durability damage.

Obviously I haven’t tested this just yet. But it’s good news. Not because we Monks want special treatment, but because the change of handwraps to non-weapons (with all the downsides that weapons can have against oozes and rust monsters) made the class potentially more expensive to use in early levels. It was also a sudden change that most of us were hardly ready to compensate for, through crafting or other means.

I would’ve also been happy to have Everbright wraps given to new Monks in Korthos as well as Heroic and Epic named Everbright wraps we could find, rather than mucking with sensitive code. But the devs decided to find a global change, and it’s no less appreciated.

It also means that parties once more have a member that can handle oozes without splitting them (in general), damaging their weapons or wasting spell points. Every class has at least one benefit to a party, and Monks benefitted from ooze-bashing, too, especially in lower levels where ki generation is harder.

Now new Monks won’t be as broke as they might have been. Thanks for the quick fix, devs.

Another fix was something I had noticed in gameplay sometimes:

  • Monk Damage Reduction on handwraps will no longer disappear after zoning or resting.

I would notice that, when wearing my Storm’s Harness handwraps, the electric damage wouldn’t be activating. After swapping to another pair of wraps and back, the damage would reappear. Now, I don’t recall resting (I rarely use shrines except for resetting spell points, clickies, or death penalties) when this problem happened.

In related news, I have heard rumors that the Tower of Despair “Incredible Potential” rings might be problematic with the handwrap change. I’ve not yet tested this and will report when I can, but if anyone has a Holy Bursted ring and can verify if the ring still works with the new handwrap format, just shout out.

 

 

Mystical Return

I’ve been pretty gloomy-gus about some of the changes to the Monk enhancements lately. I don’t want people to misinterpret my criticisms as a “DOO00M!!!1” or anti-Turbine skeed, however.

You play a game for its positive effect on you. It may be of little surprise that I didn’t want to play all that much on that day when the handwraps were made into weapons.

The problem is still serious enough to keep discussing what to do about it, short- or long-term. So, several monastics in my dojo prayed and contemplated.

Creeping Death of Your Handwraps

I was in a party last night on Legendary Elite in “Creeping Death.” Yeah, the quest with lots and lots and lots of oozes. I joined one Shintao Monk in the fight. He had virtually destroyed over 4 sets of handwraps before the quest was over. Because these oozes were around CR60-ish, removing his wraps and effecting any damage worth a damn wasn’t an option.

Since the update, I have been grinding every bit of loot I could to make Cannith Essences to work on boosting my crafting levels. Today, at level 233, with a 35% crafting booster, I reached a 75% chance to craft what I needed: an Everbright shard. I could only make minimum level 25 shards safely, but this balances out the weapon for earlier use.

I love the new crafting system, by the way. It’s inherently more expensive than its predecessor, but the process saves a lot of calculations and makes the process much more understandable. Since items are bound to account, you don’t have that nagging worry of forgetting something that could craft items for a character that won’t use that item.The variations, damage, or effects you have available are also striking.

Speaking of striking, here is the result I made for Lynncletica.

everbrightwraps

However, I have spent dozens of hours in the crafting hall to reach a level where I could make Everbright shards. New Monks won’t be so fortunate.

GamerGeoff acknowledged that the change is more true to lore as well as game mechanics. He suggested that Monks do what other classes do against oozes: Wield a Muckbane.

I vetoed the thought in a reply, but, just in case, I checked. The Ninja Spy’s update included making any weapon you could wield as gaining DEX-to-Damage. So I borrowed my only Muckbane from my Rogue for Ryncletica the Poison Master to hold as a test.

The test failed. While Monks have weapon proficiency in clubs, the Muckbane uncenters her. We lose all our monastic powers.

So the secondary options are (1) fight completely unarmed, removing handwraps or (2) use another weapon, and carry more handwraps or other weapons as they break to the oozes and rust monsters.

I neglected to say what Monk I brought into the “Creeping Death” run.

My Henshin Mystic, Quintessica, has returned to active status.

Some Light in the Shadow

Quintessica was first built back during the older enhancement format, before the trees. She was designed to wield all four elemental stances. During that time, it was very costly to master all the stances, but I was in an “Avatar: The Last Airbender” mood, and she was fun to play.

With the new enhancement trees, everyone got the complete stances. Quintessica became one of the new Henshin Mystics and collected a boatload of quarterstaves.

While initially interesting to play, the lack of defense and speed slowed and soon stopped my enjoyment of Quintessica as she reached epic play. She’s been sitting at level 23 for over two years before she came out of retirement last night.

In the ooze-filled dungeon of “Creeping Death.” A level 23 character in a level 33 quest.

Wielding a Dreamspitter.

Dreamspitter.jpg

It’s not the most optimal Epic quarterstaff that’s immune to rust or ooze damage (that’s her sister staff from “The Fall of Truth,” the Dreampiercer). But it did the job.

More interesting was how Quintessica functioned in fighting. With a weaker weapon I didn’t expect much. I didn’t expect her to survive at all, really, because she hasn’t Rejuvenation Cocoon available yet, so ki and potion healing was all that she had as things tried to kill her

But after beating up a bit of ooze rather decently, I looked at Quinn’s character sheet.

Her base melee power was 102.

That’s an insane level of power boost for level 23.

I also took Cleave, Great Cleave and Whirlwind Attack. She sits inside her Cauldron of Flame circle and spams each one almost continually.

And after ensuring my party had Death Ward, I kept using Every Light Casts a Shadow to cause additional negative levels on top of any that the Dreamspitter (the original “woo-woo stick”) added.

Quintessica has the same problem as other Monks in terms of serious weapon damage against oozes in her next life’s early days until she can wield that crystal staff. I did scrounge up an old level 8 Everbright staff I saved for her to use a little later.

Quinn is woefully under-geared and under-trained. So, from what I’ve seen last night, I think she needs a bit of time out to see what she can really do with the new tree updates, as well as level and gear up a bit. Based on several great reports from Teacher Vladrich on the Mystic, I’m feeling a little encouraged about things.

 

 

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