The Halfling’s Lament

Note: Early in my blogging, I wrote imaginary tales using my toons to greater illustrate issues or techniques. Not only does it give me some writing practice, it’s hopefully less boring to read than a stodgy, dry post about how the game is played from the real-life mechanics we see as the player. So, indulge me while I introduce a new build of mine, Cassietetica, who has trained a few levels of Monk but has a calling to the rogueish arts. Cassie is my first serious attempt at multiclassing using 2 or more Monk levels. Either she will end up 18 Rogue/3 Monk (I moved to three Monk levels to gain negative energy attacks/debuffs using Fists of Darkness) or the more likely move to 14/6, where Cassie trains to Ninja Spy I for its invisibility, stealth, and shortsword prowess benefits. In any case, trapfinding and lockpicking will be Cassie’s speciality.

– ~ ~ ~ –

tavernSounds of smashing chairs, loud music and conversations assailed my ears just on cracking open the door to the Wayward Lobster tavern.

Adventurers and city-folk from all walks of life sat or stood about in conversation. A few people looked at me for a moment. I had the feeling I was being assessed to see if I could be helpful in some way.

A halfling girl looked up from her tankard but didn’t drop her gaze at me. With a barely perceptible movement, she motioned me over to sit. I recalled my notes from the abbotess Syncletica: the halfling matched the description that the sensei gave me.

“You one of Syncletica’s?” the halfling asked, not taking her eyes off me as she took a draw from her tankard.

“I am. My chosen name is Cassietetica.”

The halfling slammed down her mug a little loudly and wiped the foam off her mouth with her forearm. “Someday, somebody’s going to explain to me why all of you make such complicated names for yourselves. Can’t just have a simple name like the rest of us.”

“Cassie’s my birth name. My new name just illustrates my allegiance to my vocation,” I said, taking a seat at the table and regretting it immediately. Apparently I sat in a small puddle of something that began to soak through the bottom of my robe.

Allysen drank the last of her ale and put the mug aside. “”Vocation”, huh? Most people that Syn recruits just do their monk thing. It’s pretty cool to see them at work, sure. I don’t get along with most of them, though. Too goody-two-shoes. They aren’t into the adventure for the money, you might say. I sniff out a chest but they’re somewhere else, fighting.”

The rogue motioned at the barkeeps for another round. She pointed at me to ask if I cared for a half-pint. I raised my hand, shaking my head.

The new tankard arrived and Allysen took a long swig before saying, “I do like one of them–Ryncletica. She can’t bust a lock open worth a damn but she can avoid getting frozen and fried by a trap better than I can. Good fighter, too. I thought I was invisible. She can go invisible anytime she wants.

The rogue stretched her small figure across to the adjoining table on my left to steal a bowl of nuts to chew on. “But you. I can see something’s different about you. In fact…” The rogue squinted at me, reached over to my right arm and tapped my sleeve, slowly and emphatically with her index finger.

“I knew it. You’ve got thieves tools in there. Don’t know of any Monks that can pick locks–or think it’s right to do so.”

“That’s why the sensei asked you to meet me. I have some basic training in the martial arts. I know my basic elemental forms. However–the dojo cannot teach me all that I want to know.”

“You want to go rogue,” Allysen said, her voice muffled a bit by a mouthful of peanuts.

“For most of my training, yes.”

“Why not go all the way?”

I crossed my arms. “Because you die too easily.

Bits of peanut stung my face as Allysen coughed. “You take that back!” she yelled. Her right hand left the table surreptitiously while her left rose to point an angry finger at me.

“Calm down…and keep your blade sheathed. It wasn’t meant to be an insult. We can’t all be everything. I wouldn’t ask you to lead a charge against a pit fiend, and I can’t either. But the sensei said that you were a good rogue and could give me some advice.”

“Advice, huh?” the rogue said, the flickering anger fading from her eyes. A trace of a smile darted on and off the corners of Allysen’s mouth before she said, “Sure. But talk ain’t cheap. You’ll have to make it worth my while.”

I pulled out a small bag and placed it atop the table. “This is the pre-arranged fee for your time. I’d ask you not to haggle for anything else.”

Allysen looked a bit disappointed as she took the bag. “Was hoping that somebody else was going to pay me so I could cash in a little more.”

“You were actually going to con me out of more money in addition to what the sensei planned to pay you?”

“It’s our way. You shouldn’t be surprised. Boy, you got a long way to go before you’re going to be a good rogue,” she said, pouring the platinum coins into her hand, eyes darting about in a silent count before returning them to the bag, her head bobbing a couple of times in satisfaction.

“That’s just it, Allysen. Our dojo could use more money for our charitable work. You’d be surprised how many places get damaged from invasions, the wars, people displaced and out on the streets. We do alright in trading what we find to the shopkeepers–”

“And I bet they rip you off. That’s why I haggled you. If you don’t know the better part of negotiating, things get expensive real fast. Might want to spend time learning to haggle.”

I nodded. “I don’t think I can afford to. In any case, our costs in repairing our own equipment, combined with selling equipment and tending to our clinic for injuries, is barely helping to make ends meet for the dojo and those we care for.”

The rogue sighed. “And you want to cash in a bit more.”

“If I can find and retrieve more gear in an adventure without great expenditures to repair items or my injuries  in that adventure, it would help a lot. Of course, that would include accessing locked doors and the chests behind them.

“So you’re here to test out.”

“Someone in the Free Agents told me that you’d put in a good word to start me off with better rogue tools if you tested me.”

“Bunch of damned liars. As if I had any influence with them. Still, I’m curious myself.” Allysen pulled out a small wooden box, flat like a book, from side pocket of her armor. “Okay, let’s test you out. Open this up.”

At first I reached for the box but stopped myself. One of Allysen’s eyebrows rose as well as a corner of her mouth.

“Good. I thought you were going to get a faceful of water. Rogues always look before they touch anything. Examine the floor, the walls. The walls next to those walls and floors ahead and behind. Traps can be anywhere.” She motioned at the box. “It’s still not open, though.”

I pulled a lock pick from my sleeve and a pair of goggles to examine the box. Something about one top corner didn’t look right. I plunged the pick’s tip into a small hole and heard a snapping sound.

“Very good. That was the water trap disarming,” Allysen said. “You heard that snap?”

“Yes.”

“Must be your half-elven blood,” she said. I apparently gasped when she revealed her observation. “Yeah, I could see the traces of your ear points,” she admitted. “Most of you look a bit prettier than ordinary humans, too. Keep going on that box.”

I examined the rest of the box and noticed an almost imperceptible crease on the left side. Carefully holding one side, I scooted a finger over the crease and pushed.

I heard a snap–but was thankful it wasn’t the sound of my finger getting crunched.

“That was the second trap. Nice. A rogue can’t assume that one chest has only one trap or one control box. There could be several traps and control boxes. Let’s see what else you find.”

I picked up the box. On its underside was a tiny keyhole. I took out my lock pick set and carefully worked. After a few moments, the box clicked. I twisted the box and out dropped a small copper coin.

The rogue smiled as she took the box and coin, fiddling with it to reset it back. “I’m impressed. That’s a pretty high-difficulty lock I made on that Rogue’s Toy. So you got some good instincts and skills. If you keep up on your training, buy or find some better gear, I bet you’ll be fine.”

She leaned across the table. “So–why are you really here?”

“My problem–is how to keep better defenses as I train. If I am to fight in the monastic way, I can’t wear that light leather armor that you do. It’s too heavy and cumbersome. It…disturbs my calm.”

Allysen realized the problem. “But wearing that dress of yours is liable to get you cut up and pounded silly. Not a lot of protection on robes.”

“No. One discipline will help as I train–but only to a point if I train more on rogue skills than monastic ones.”

“So outside of your robes, there’s always better bracers, rings, necklaces.”

“I was hoping that you would know more sources.”

“That’s more of a question for Ryncletica, I think.”

We sat in silence for a bit before Allysen said, “I’ll admit something. I’ve been at this trapper thing for a while now. Lately it’s been quite a grind, very challenging. I can sneak into places just fine, usually find the nastier traps and pay the bills for my party. But when a fight shows up nowadays…” she stopped talking, shaking her head.

My monastic training, limited as it was, could detect a pale aura about Allysen. A trace of it stays around everyone that’s been killed but resurrected before their soul becomes too long detached from their body. The more deaths you experience, the brighter or more substantial that aura becomes to those trained to see it. Allysen’s aura practically formed a grayish silhouette about her body, as if her body smoldered after being scorched often.

“The game, the hunt…it isn’t what it’s used to be. I may have to–go back to get some better training.” The rogue had been twirling her testing box in her hands absentmindedly before she realized what she was doing and put the box back in her satchel.

excerpt_rogue1“I hear this from Ryncletica so much that I want to punch her in the face, but I want to hear it from you, Cassie…somebody that gets the rogueish way of doing things. How are you planning to survive in places where enemies are far tougher? I’m good with my quarterstaffs but…I guess I’m just not fast enough.”

I took a breath before I answered. “Rogue skills are often just straight training.  I’ve been taught that, if you have only one way to fight, there will be many more ways that an enemy has to kill you. The monastic arts allow me to be fast and nimble, like you. But I can also change my fighting stances. Be a little stronger, wiser, flexible, faster or durable.  Learning to stun things helps. Elemental attacks to my fighting help a lot. Keeping out of sight–well, I don’t have to tell you how handy that can be.”

“I don’t get into that book-learning. I think learning on the job and using what you see is better.”

“For Monks, what you call ‘book-learning’ is wisdom that improves our mystical powers. Without it, it would be like a wizard that didn’t study and so can’t use magic spells or have much in the way of spell energy to wield them.”

Allysen’s attention didn’t waver. “Go on,” she said.

“I’m not sure how much you fight..but maybe fighting is the problem. I’ve learned from Teacher Ryncletica that fighting is not the first option of the ninja. Maybe it shouldn’t be the first option of a rogue, either. Which means, we need to be able to stay out of sight but also to maximize our prowess should we get cornered.”

“I should learn to stun things, then,” smashing one fist into the palm of her other hand. “Gods know that my paralyzing quarterstaff isn’t as good against the nastiest hordes.”

“Maybe. You might need to get stronger first to make stunning work with a staff. The monastic way is different there, emphasizing attention to finding vulnerable points on the body using ki and wisdom, not strength. Might help your damage quite a bit, too.”

Allysen shifted in her chair uncomfortably, grabbing  her head suddenly as if she thought it would fall off her neck. “Ugh. Too much ale. Okay, okay…maybe I need more sword training, too, as  as a backup.”

“Perhaps. A staff is like my fists–it bludgeons an attacker but isn’t as good against things that are more resilient. It’s zombies that I dislike. I cannot use my negative energy attacks on them and they don’t drop as well from martial attacks. I carry around a kama for those occasions.”

“That hooked thing? I would think a shortsword would do better.”

“It isn’t. You need to slash zombies apart, not ventilate them like a leather punch on hide. Shortswords just pierce.”

Allysen looked off to the side in thought before suddenly turning her head to me, chin lifted in challenge. “What’s the three most important abilities to you, in doing what you’re trying to do? So you can still open locks and find traps but still use your bar-brawling fisticuff stuff?”

I scratched my head and said. “First, keeping dexterous. That helps my reflexes and perhaps how much armor protection I gain from monastic training. Next, staying wise, which also helps my mystical armor but also helps determine my overall ki.” When Allysen’s eyes squinted, I said, “Ki is like the spell energies of a wizard or sorcerer but for Monks.”

The bar noises overtook us again as we sat without talking before Allysen opened up the bag I gave her and put down three platinum coins. “Here,” she said.

“What’s this for?”

“For your advice. Can’t earn a living for free, you know.”

“Thanks,” I said, gathering up the coin and standing up.

“Good luck out there. Shoot me a Orienmail if you need something,” Allysen said with two fingers from her forehead in salute.

I bowed and left the bar. I wondered if the sensei wanted me to teach more to Allysen than the rogue would be able to teach me. There are times I don’t understand our ways.

But then, as Allysen hinted, a rogue does things her way, and it’s not the same for every rogue. Perhaps I may have to do things differently. Use swords sometime, like Teacher Ryncletica. Or consider a quarterstaff. I can still show charity, but I would do so through subterfuge, rather than brute force. I can tell that Ryncletica’s Dark School may be more useful to me, at least to training level 6.

If I can find that path that joins the monastic and rogueish craft, I might find my answers.

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Monk AC and Update 14: Oh, Boy

So, I’m all excited and enjoying the changes of Update 14 and the Menace of the Underdark. As a Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2 player, old things were made new again.

What first amazed me was how Armor Class was revised–specifically, how Monks fared from it.

I’ve always said that a Monk’s defenses come primarily from their saves. With this update, I stand more justified by that notion.

While the traditional numbers for AC and its related kinds haven’t changed, how your AC benefits you as a direct consequence of specific attacks is made more clear. Dodge becomes a percentage of evading attack. Your AC calculates into a percentage of avoiding any attack. I’m still trying to make sense of all this, but my guildies and I experienced how incredibly significant these changes have become with one of the new quests in Eveningstar: “The Riddle.

I completed this level 19 quest on Hard with Lynncletica (the Little Mountain Monk) and Klin the hireling cleric without much difficulty (surely due to dungeon scaling in part) before I joined my Tyrs Paladium guildmates to a run there recently, and to an entirely different experience.

I volunteered as guide, having done it so recently that I still had the quest mapped out in my client. Our full party included a Favored Soul, a couple of Fighters, a Cleric, a Bard as well as Yours Truly. Two of us were level 16 or so, the rest were level 20s with no small experience in handling difficult quests. We lacked a spellcaster, which we’d regret later.

This quest began auspiciously. Will-o-Wisps and a nastier version of the Red Fens’s Vine trolls whittled nastily on the team throughout. While the Wisps through chain lightning and zapped most of the party, the Vine Terrors threw Spike Growth, eating away at the party’s health rapidly.

Everyone except me. The new calculations of Dodge and AC had increased my unbuffed AC from 53 or so to 63. With normal ship and party buffs, Lynncletica sat at 75 until our buffs began to fade. It took much time for me to whittle down the Vine monsters but my Thaarak Wraps delivered deadly Force damage to take down the Wisps. My Improved Evasion saved me from almost all of the damage from these attacks. Earth Stance got an adjustment in calculating damage reduction, which surely helped my survival.

Not that I was the savior of the party or anything. We had to think and move carefully, especially as we encountered hags that spawned Animated Armor minions endlessly until we killed the crones. The multitude of Shrines (awesome new look for Forgotten Realms!) barely kept us going. Things went from bad to worse for everyone after our buffs faded. The end-fight was nasty as destroying the last hag would cause us to nearly wipe twice. I finally took one hit too many and died a couple of times but our party gathered what little we had left to finish off the bad guys. We did complete, with very respectable XP, but the quest reward was incredibly bad–I think we experienced a nasty loot bug that today’s hotfix hopefully repaired.

But, wow, Lynncletica waded through lightning bolts and spikes like it weren’t no thang. I get the feeling that Dodge items will become a new ticket item. The Epic Destinies that add Evasion abilities may also be quite popular.

I’m generally very impressed with the new content, but I’m very interested in how Lynncletica has become that much more durable. More on this as the game mechanics become clear.

The Little Mountain vs The Big Mountain

Concluding Information on increasing AC for my Monk

To follow up with my attempts to improve the AC of my Earth Stance light Monk, Lynncletica, without gimping her, I have news.

With an Icy Raiment outfit, some Armored +6 Bracers, a Radiant Ring, Combat Expertise and an Epic Ring of the Buccaneer (tier 2), Lynncletica sits, with no buffs, at 56.

Add ship buffs, and she sustains herself at 60 for an hour. (That’s in Earth Stance IV. If I move to Ocean Stance, that’s about 65.)

A +3 Barkskin potion (which stacks with the +3 Natural Armor in Earth Stance IV) brings it to 63 in Earth Stance.

The Lasting potions from the DDO Store add +2 to DEX and WIS, rising her to 65 in Earth Stance for 10 minutes.

Kick in the Shield clicky for 1 minute of buff and Lynncletica’s maximum self-buffing goes to 69.

I sacrificed only 20 HP and 2 STR, and added Weapon Finesse to make Lynn’s strikes more consistent. I can’t wait to take Lynncletica into the Shroud or Devil Battlefield again soon.

How To Busy Yourself When Everyone else is in Smuggler’s Rest

So, trying to escape the frenzy of Crystal Cove for an evening, I decided to revisit an old friend, back when he was, um, less dead. That “friend” is Sor’jek Incanni, the boss of the level 10 raid, “Tempest’s Spine.” I didn’t want to intrude on him by crashing his lair with a large party, so I pondered a solo visit on Normal.

Tempest’s Spine was my very first raid long ago, guided very well by a character leader I think was named “Mofus.” It’s still a personal favorite that I guide with fellow guildies from time to time. This time, I wanted to put the (capped) Lynn through some paces and see if soloing this one was possible, technically. Answer: It is, with a little preparation and a lot of patience.

The two challenges for a soloing melee fighter entering Tempest’s Spine are that (1) no hirelings are allowed and (2) you must be able to activate a INT 18 rune. Lynncletica self-heals quite well, so heals aren’t an issue. After a first abortive run, I realized that one of the enemy mages had destroyed my House Phlarian buffs, so I couldn’t manage the INT rune. A return to the city for a junk Clever +6 helm fixed that for a second attempt.

It’s funny what can scare the bejeezus out of you at level 10 that you can manage as easily as Neo plowing through several Agents in the Matrix. Fire and Ice? Just kite one to the other and pummel them. Rust monsters? Bring ’em. Iron Golems? Meh. A marut? Void Strike IV removed him from existence after three blows. Beholders? Stunned and slain.

On the end fight, I had my doubts. I have never been a great puzzle solver, but this one wasn’t as nasty. The challenge was to solve the puzzle while keeping Sor’jek busy and not attempting to fling me off the mountaintop. I considered my run a success even if I didn’t beat the Big Guy; I saw it as an exercise in fun in just getting to the summit, as well as noting alternate routes and places were people get lost in a raid party for later runs.

So I summoned up a Xoriat plaything for Sor’jek to play with as I worked out the puzzle and added the runes. That worked, although I used one too many summons, leaving me all alone once the puzzle was down. It took very little time to whittle the giant to less than 50% health…

…And then, despite my back to the wall as I fought, Sor’jek regained his weather control and flung me into space. And I mean, REALLY into space. I hadn’t turned off my Slow Fall and still had on my Cannith Boots of Propulsion–a rookie mistake for many that get to the summit.

I was still very airborne, traveling at Mach 0.2 over the land after 30 seconds before I recalled, still unable to see much of the ground. The area round the summit is FREAKING HUGE. Next to, perhaps, the Vale of Twilight, that has got to be the largest wilderness/raid area in the game.

Next time, Sor’jek. Next time. Maybe I’ll bring a very big Onyx Panther to chew on you while I get matters completed. 🙂

Rebuilding Lynncletica (Or, How to Almost Gimp Your Monk)

I’ve finally gotten a grip on what “Armor Class” really means in DDO. For a Monk, it should be something helpful to know, since we can’t use leather or plate armor or wield shields. Yet, few people I speak to (at least, within my guild) see AC as something they concern themselves about as Monks. I’m guilty of this and have likely perpetuated the poo-pooage of AC over resistances.

AC? Resistances? Why Not Both?

It turns out (says me, guest-starring as Captain Obvious) that AC and resistances do go together. AC helps to negate a melee or ranged attack outright. It represents the attack roll that an enemy must roll to hit you. If you have 50 AC and the attack rolls a 49, he misses. So why doesn’t it seem that AC isn’t that important for Monks?

The answer comes from three feats all Monks receive over time. The first two are Evasion and Improved Evasion. You gain no damage with a successful Reflex save on attacks and (with Improved Evasion) only half the damage if you fail your saving throw. The last is Diamond Soul. At level 13, a Monk gets Spell Resistance equal to his Monk level +10, up to 30 by capstone. These three feats work together to mitigate many, many melee and magic attacks all by themselves.

Resistances (Fortitude, Will, Reflex) add to this to greatly lower the probability of become helpless (a Monk is dead meat if stunned, encumbered or paralyzed). A Resistance +5 item (to go with the Monk’s inherent increases in saves as they level) work great here.

Yet, a Monk is still getting very bruised by attacks that pounce through his AC. So why not get both sets of numbers up to higher levels?

How AC Breaks Down and Boogies Over Your Presumptions

Lynncletica (my Ultimate Mountain Stance Light Monk for those new to the show) had an unbuffed AC of 52 before I decided to Lesser Reincarnate her yesterday for one goal: Raise her AC by at least 5. But AC is broken down into subdivisions called bonuses, and this is where we catch how unaware I was about AC.

First Rule of AC: The Numbers Do Not Always Add Up. Armor Class has 9 divisions that determine if, say the bracers you wear and the outfit you have on will protect you more, less or the same.

Where can you see how things break down. Open your character sheet and hover your mouse pointer over your AC number. (Go ahead, I’ll wait.)

Now, without going into immense detail (you can check out the DDO Wiki article for more comprehensiveness), here’s the run-down of bonuses you see and how they relate to Monks.

  • Base AC: Every character has at least 10 AC.
  • Natural Armor bonus: Comes from a class’s natural hide or magical effect. Barkskin gives to Natural Armor, as well as a few other non-Monk armors. Mountain Stance gives a +3 Insight bonus to natural armor (more on this in a sec).
  • Armor bonus: Comes from things you wear, such as traditional armor, bracers and the like. A few robes/outfits have this but most do not.
  • Shield bonus: Comes from using a shield. Monks cannot wear shields, so what is a (virtual) gal to do here? (See the very last sentence of this entry on how to get it, albeit briefly.)
  • Dexterity bonus: Add your Dexterity modifier to your AC. Monks that pump DEX up get tremendous AC boosts here. Lynn pumped more into STR and CON, which formed the dilemma.
  • Deflection bonus: Comes often from cloaks and rings under the term “Protection.”
  • Dodge Bonus: Of all the bonuses, this is the only one that (typically) allows you to stack it using items with different numbers. For example, wearing the Icy Raiment, Chattering Ring and Thaarak Bracelet together will give you a Dodge bonus of 9 (+4+3+2). The Dodge feat itself falls under a another category: Feat Bonus.
  • Size bonus: Become a Halfling and you get +1 to your AC.
  • Insight bonus: This one’s tricky. An Insight bonus may apply in its own category or apply into another bonus. For example, Ultimate Mountain Stance gains +3 insight bonus to Natural Armor. So that number shows up under Natural Armor, not as Insight Bonus.
  • Miscellaneous bonus: A catch-all category for effects that come from effects or enhancements, such as a Paladin’s aura or Halfling’s Hero Companion.

Second Rule of AC: Adjust your gear, feats, ability score and enhancements to help maximize your number. So, Lynncletica’s problem didn’t involve her gear. She has several bracers, Dragontouched Vestments and the Icy Raiment outfit. Cool. But what was not cool was when I realized that hardly any of it stacked in the right way for more AC.  Without peacetime buffs (guild ship or House Phlarian), I had a standing AC of 49 or so with the Icys on. What was I missing?

On a Monk, there are three special ways to get more AC, with two in your direct control. The first comes from a Monk just being a Monk: the Monk AC bonus, a granted feat that gives you up to +5 stacking AC bonus under a special bonus category: “Centered bonus.” You’ll lose this if you are uncentered, so Monk splashes that use anything non-Monkly never see this bonus. The second we spoke of already: Dexterity bonus. The last is similar: A Monk gets more AC based on their Wisdom modifer as well. So, a Monk with great AC often has pumped DEX and WIS to 30 or more, gaining +10 AC from each ability. Lynn suffered here; I was so intent on damage and HP that more ability points were placed in STR and CON.

So, after careful consideration, I was off to our friendly neighborhood reincarnation NPC and mindflayer.

Just a little R.E.S.P.E.C! (Find out what it means to me!)

(with apologies to Aretha Franklin)

So I brought a Lesser Heart of Wood, thought about how really stupid it was to respec my toon within 2 hours of our guild’s very first Monk-dominant Shroud run (A very fun run: 7 Monks, 2 Healers, 1 Artificer, 1 Bard and 1 Sorcerer dragging a China-sized industrial-strength can of Whoopass into Meridia), then ignored the screams of warning in my head and began the process anyway.

My objective was to raise Lynn’s AC without wholly compromising her light tanking ability, HP or STR. To do this, I would have to retool the Monk’s four main stats: STR, DEX, CON and WIS, but also add points to something that few Monks should ever consider except for this case: INT.

So I stripped Lynn of all gear, committed to the LR, and got to work. Now, when someone says they’re a “STR-based Monk,” it means they didn’t take the Weapon Finesse feat. This means that a highly strong Monk’s attack modifier comes from their STR. Take Weapon Finesse, and your DEX modifier is used for attack, although your STR is still used to determine how hard you hit. I decided that Lynn was too strong and pulled a couple of points off, applying it to DEX. Next, I pulled a few points from WIS and moved them to DEX and INT. Why the hell did I put points into Intelligence? The answer: Combat Expertise (+5 stacking Feat AC, another bonus category).

I redid my enhancements (choosing 1 DEX from Human Adaptability and Monk Wisdom I)  and looked at the result. Lynn lost about 10 HP to one less Toughness feat. OK. Lynn gained 2 to her Dexterity AC bonus and lost 2 from a lower WIS bonus (but compensated by my ToD ring). After exchanging Improved Critical: Bludgeoning for Combat Expertise with Fred (you get an identical effect from Greater/Ultimate Mountain Stance), the results were in after adding my gear back. I improved AC quite a bit. I made a Google spreadsheet before all this to help in determining how things stack. I made two sheets, one for the Icys and gear and another for the Dragontouched Vestiments, to see how stacking gear would gain AC. You can view it here.

The Icy configuration gave the best maximum self-buffed AC. But I created a serious problem. Lynn’s lower STR had reduced her attack rolls! Her fists began to whiff by enemies while I was with a party on the following day. Luckily, the same place that showed Lynn’s reduced attacks was also the answer to restoring her attack bonus.

I was playing with guildies in the just-re-opened Smuggler’s Rest and Crystal Cove challenges!

Lynn owned a Level 16 Ring of the Buccaneer. The two stats that could help were the Protection bonus and Dexterity bonus, which sat at +4 and +5 respectively. I slammed down minotaurs for a few minutes and gained the doubloons to immediately upgrade to an Epic Ring of the Buccaneer. (DEX +6, Protection +5). Halfway there: I gained 1 more AC from the Protection Bonus, negating the Icy’s +4.

A couple of runs through Crystal Cove allowed me to get Tier 2 on the Ring: DEX +7. That did it, Lynn was able to hit her enemies again at CR21.

Epilogue

So I’m finally faced with one last dilemma. Lynn’s DEX is now higher than her STR. The idea of calling Lynn a STR-based Monk was silly now. But, more so, I really need better to-hit. Come Saturday evening, I’ll trade off Power Attack (which would work against attack rolls) for Weapon Finesse.

I was originally going to respect Power Attack for Combat Expertise at first, but Fred warned that removing PA would require me to respect other feats as PA was a prerequisite of some kind. For what? I think it’s a bug, since nothing I can think of for a Monk would require Power Attack. I’ll do a bit of research before I attempt to respec once the respec timer is done.

But now, unbuffed, Lynncletica sits at 57. Add ship buffs, a Barkskin +3 potion (did you know that this stacks to Ultimate Earth stance’s insight bonus to Natural Armor?), and a Shield clicky (only 1 damned minute of +4 Shield bonus AC) and Lynncletica sees an AC of 63. Lasting potions from the DDO store as well as party buffs will raise her to really good AC levels.

I’ll let you know how it works out.

Postscript: One thing to note  in all of this is that I managed to improve Lynncletica’s AC despite my near-constant use of Mountain Stance, which adds +2 CON and discredits you 2 DEX.

Crunching AC Numbers

With all my “L33T UBER MONK TANK1!!” talk lately, I’ve began to study something that you’d think I’d know more about, but don’t. That’s Armor Class, the various bonus types and how a Monk should really, really work to make this number high. In a later post I’ll take Lynncletica apart to see where she needs some work to think of herself as tanking material.