Stormreach Shadows: A New Stealth Game Guide

sslogo2I recently proposed a self-imposed team challenge I dubbed as “Stealth Team Six,

The idea involves two or more players, using stealth tactics to complete their adventures for a fascinating change of pace.

But I neglected to offer much more to help people of almost any class consider this idea.

A blog post or even a gameplay suggestion could only go so far.

I’ve spoken much about stealth tactics before in many posts, here, here, here, here and here. I also had a chapter about stealth tactics in a chapter in the Monk guide.

DDO Wiki has skill information, and much discussion can be found on the DDO forums.

But much of of it is rather incoherent, sometimes dated and dry as a car mechanic’s guide in the desert sun.

The flavor, the essence of what you must do and how to proceed is missing amidst all the technical data.

There’s just not a comprehensive game guide for training and applying stealth tactics in Dungeons & Dragons Online.

Well, until now, anyway.

Introducing Stormreach Shadows

I’ve built the skeleton of Stormreach Shadows, a new DDO game guide that tries to do what The Book of Syncletica did -offer a comprehensive player resource, but this time on the fundamentals of stealth.

Unlike The Book of Syncletica, however, this guide’s mission isn’t just for Monks. It’s to aid any class in exploring and applying any stealth techniques to their build.

At the least, a little stealth for any character could make a rougher quest into a less trying one on some occasions, even if you and your party don’t go all Splinter Cell on the place.

For classes that support innate stealth abilities, we hope to hone your training to the extent where you’re so invisible that the DDO gamemasters will have a hard time finding you on their own servers.

A few years of monastic play, trying things out here and there, allowed me to find (or rediscover) innate abilities of the Monk class. Now, together, we can study all class abilities to see how a stealth team can support each other, from spells to UMD and bardic song.

As time allows, the guide will also gain something I’ve been wanting to integrate in the Monk guide: Video examples in specific quests on using stealth. I’ve made a few videos with Kiricletica already and will incorporate these while also creating a few new ones with Sukitetica (my halfling Assassin) and others.

The guide will have a small chapter noting reported or known bugs as they relate to stealth. One intrepid player has been documenting serious bugs that affect the Assassin since Update 22 came out, and we’re trying to find more that could affect other players.

We’re Going Global on This One

Now, readers know that I primarily play Monks. I have limited experience with other classes, so I cannot easily know how Fighters, Wizards, Sorcerers, Druids, Clerics and other classes could use stealth principles without compromising their class’s central roles or abilities.

That’s why I’m not alone in the editing and compilation this time around. As I said, I’ve created the skeleton, but need more help this time around in getting some meat on its bones.

I’ve initially asked forum member Saekee, a fellow ninja stealth enthusiast and frequent commenter on this blog, to aid me in the guide’s initial development, filling in data from his experience. He’s especially interested in adding suggested multiclass builds to help create improved stealth masters, especially with classes that have very limited stealth potential due to their defense design, such as Paladins.

I also welcome any other players who’d like to assist us in developing and maintaining the guide’s class-specific chapters where their game experience will be helpful in noting spells, weapons, feats and skills of that class that could be helpful in ST6-style operations that I would not inherently know with my limited experience.

Stormreach Shadows won’t go “wiki” since I do want to keep editing control, and because the web site’s mechanics limit revision changes that could cause edit wars and other issues without a controlled delegation of who edits what.

But, again, I do welcome offers from any others who would care to contribute a few hours of their time by adopting a class-specific chapter and developing it so it will be as useful and accurate as possible. The class chapters could use adoption by anyone that’s used that class in stealth. I’ll want to limit one editor per class chapter.

And even if a class chapter is already reserved, we’ll always welcome corrections, additions and comments, which I’ll take point in adding if the chapter editor isn’t fast enough.

Don’t worry if you’re not very experienced in writing. As long as you don’t write exclusively in text-speak (It’s “before,” not “B4”–speak English, not bingo) and use proper English grammar and sentence structure sufficient enough for me not to be forced to rewrite most of your page, you’ll just fill in what you know, based on each class chapter’s pre-formatted template I’ll have up for each.

In my role as the managing editor of the guide, I’ll take care of concising, linking up and correcting and tidying up any results you submit for a consistent look once you’re satisfied with your contribution. Credits for writing can be added, if desired, with your DDO Forums identity.

If you’re interested, follow the instructions on the forum thread. This blog post will be a bit circular in soliciting help since you’re likely reading via a link on the DDO Forums’s Game Guides subforum. The forum page will detail what you’ll need to access the site as an editor.

A Monastic Video Showcase

Please stand by.

Please stand by.

After posting videos demonstrating the Heroic level and Epic Shiradi Shuricannon, I was reminded of times where differing opinions at least or flame wars at most occur on the DDO forums on what build or what class(es) and abilities will do this and that.

One thread long ago on the Henshin Mystic turned that way but it caught my ire because the dissenting poster, all the while stating that unarmed damage beats quarterstaff damage, also admitted to having not played a Mystic.

Now, I don’t claim in the slightest to creating or possessing characters that are the optimal for anything except for how I like to play. But my Monks don’t suck outright and do a good job of the one thing they’re meant to do: complete a quest or raid.

But I took offense to that poster because it was clear that their min-maxing multiclassing worldview completely dismissed the idea that something else could possibly work. I’m used to this with the Henshin Mystic. As I’ve said in past posts, I’m likely the only comprehensive resource so far (here and in The Book of Syncletica) on defining the Henshin Mystic class based on its enhancement tree, given it’s only been around for yet quite a year.

Rather than get into a debate of words, I realized I have to apply a social truism: “Pictures or it didn’t happen.”

So I’ll add some moving pictures–they’ll be worth hundreds of thousands of words.

Over the next few weeks I’ll add demonstration videos of the pure Ninja Spy, Henshin Mystic and Shintao Monk, each showing my interpretation of each class’s gameplay. Doing this also exposes my personal style, which you may or may not like.

I’ll choose a quest that illustrates their specialities. For a Shintao, it’ll be a brawling quest where undead, aberrations and extraplanar creatures roost. For a Ninja Spy, it may be a quest where a singular objective requires stealth, cunning and tactics to complete. Lastly, it will be Quintessica that will show what I think the developers had in mind, based on the class tree, of what a Mystic can do with a quarterstaff and their mystical ki powers.

Class trees are simply a launching point for players. There’s no point whatsoever in making a Mystic or any other class using only the racial tree and abilities from only one class tree. A Mystic or Shintao that adds in Shadow Veil for incorporeality miss-chance is going to stand a pounding better, as well as a Ninja Spy that adds in abilities from other trees to improve its attack or defense. None of my characters use only the abilities of their class tree.

That said, the purpose of the demo videos is to help new players decide what playstyle they might consider based on the class tree’s innate skills. It never means that a Shintao can’t use a bow or a Ninja Spy can’t use a staff or a Mystic not use handwraps. Versatility is important. However, effectiveness based on your skills makes sense economically for the action points you spend.

Most importantly, the videos can show what the class does flat out–a good illustrative video for players new to the Monk (the exact purpose of the Monk guide). Shintao Monks are self-healing stun-bot goddesses that are hard to kill. Ninja Spies can avoid half of an army to assassinate with deft blade work or unarmed fighting with a deadly skill set. And a Mystic can take on mobs like Neo takes on an army of Agent Smiths using a metal staff.

So, coming soon, I’ll finally make that video of Mystic Quintessica doing her “Burly Brawl.” Later, Lynncletica, the “Little Mountain” will go where Archons fear to tread, perhaps against an army of devils. Lastly, Kiricletica can represent the Ninja Spies somewhere.

If possible, these movies will get linked into their respective chapters in the Monk guide.

Much later, I’ll give the same treatment to the Elven Arcane Archer Monk and a Kensei Fighter I’m working on.

Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa

mea-culpaThe Monk guide and this blog have one author. I prefer to call myself the “editor” of the guide because what I write there isn’t really my work.

Both guide and blog contain a lot of my experience, sure, but it’s also experience from other players as discussed in the DDO forums, player videos, observed gameplay, the DDO Wiki, and comments from blog posts.

But none of that assures or guarantees that anything written is completely accurate, although I strive for this.

The need for accuracy is obvious. A game is a simulation. If the variables (say, the length of the Death Ward buff from the Visor of the Flesh Render Guards) are described in error (the buff lasts 10 minutes), then you, the player, honestly reading something as a resource, will be disappointed to find that the buff is only 7 minutes.

The Monk guide has been around for about 2 years now in its present form. I had written a private guide from my guildmates over a year before that. Making the guide public meant that I needed to do one thing: swallow any pride in designing it.

If I were prideful in the guide’s usefulness or success, I would see it as a personal accomplishment. In situations like that, such things are then defended, right or wrong.

That’s not why I wrote the guide, or enter posts here.

The guide is meant to be as accurate and concise as I can make it with the limited time and resources I have at hand. If there’s any credit to be given, I accept it only as the editor of what existed out in the game world years before I showed up in most cases.

Despite my intentions, there has and will be times where I screw up information. A recent example came up through a DDO forums post where someone suggested to the devs to increase the XP bonuses for no-kill questing (Discreet, Devious and Insidious Cunning). Most responses argued against the idea (although I thought that Cunning should go from 10 to 15% but never be higher). The subject train derailed a little to how such bonuses are attained and why. I referred to my post that casually contrasted the Rogue Assassin with the Ninja Spy, where I clearly admitted a lot of bias but wanted to be as fair as I could with any data I could sort from the DDO Wiki.

That post came and went–until I reposted the link on this thread.

And not only did a couple site some glaring errors in my comparison (such as Assassins gaining vorpal with sneak attacks at level 18), one poster chose to insult my credibility and make it personal with a disrespectful response I made to another poster to a question asked in another, unrelated thread.

My “Lawful Good” nature is my actual personality. I’ll slay real trolls as quickly as the game versions. I was this close to reporting the post to the forum administrator before I remembered that this is the Easter season, where forgiveness should be greatly emphasized.

Besides, my reaction to the disrespectful comment was probably borderline as well. I barely kept my pride in check.

So what you can get from all that is this: the guide is a public document to me. It’s strength comes from lots of feedback to keep it as accurate as possible. I’m just one of the players, not a Turbine developer and certainly not a subject matter expert or uber player.

Blog entries are less studious and often discuss my reactions, observations and discoveries in gameplay.

Blog entries may also be less accurate because of the more immediate nature of writing them as I desire, rather than due to a need.

I apologize to anyone if anything written here or in guide has not generated the results expected. However, and this is important, I need your comments, criticisms, even complaints, to fix any errors you find. I primarily play one class, and so discussions about other classes might stretch my limits. Just be civil when you respond back. I write and compile all of this out of joy in the game, and I want the work to reflect back to other players to aid them.

The guide will be a poor reference without your feedback. Take the time to help correct me and you’ll have a better reference to use or even recommend to others.

A little update: I think the poster and I are burying the hatchet in that he asked me my viewpoint in a private message. I know he’s a great player but he’s genuinely amazed at my worldview. So I don’t want to make the issue seem too out of hand.

A New Year’s Revolution

Time is hardly on anyone’s side. As 2014 arrives, I have many things to prepare, both as a player, a man approaching (gasp!) 50, and as a father.

I’m not posting about any New Year’s resolutions as I think they generate an artificial intention in yourself. If you can commit yourself to completing anything important in your life, why wait until the turn of the year?

That said, here’s some things you can look forward to seeing in the Monk guide and this blog in the coming year.

Video Illustration

Thanks to a recommendation from Micki, I’m going to try out Bandicam for recording video shorts for the Monk guide to help people with the basics of building and training their characters. In advanced chapters, I’m hoping to create quest examples where certain abilities, such as stealth, can make a quest easier as only a Monk can do.

Since WordPress and Google Sites (where this blog and the guide are hosted, respectively) support YouTube embedding, this should be an easy matter to complete.

I won’t have quite the lovely voice that Micki or BonnieBew (who seems to have lost or deleted her page…sad) has provided us in their video captures, but hopefully I’ll make up for my baritone with useful information.

A Little More Flavor

I’ve fought with getting my special Monk flavored characters working over the year. Part of the problem is getting distracted with shinier known-quality or new class trees, like the Mystic and definitely the Shuricannon.

I’ve been wanting to make a Kensei Monk and complete my Elven Arcane Archer; the Kensei has been sitting on the bench for far too long. Expect to see more of her in the near future.

Also, with the failure to launch my Rogue Assassin Monk due to spreading out action points and skill points too thinly, I may send Cassietetica to the heavens and reroll a new character with lesser Monk emphasis and more Rogue power. I really like to add more of the Ninja skills but a Rogue should be good at finding  and disabling traps and picking locks. That’s the class role.

I’m also hoping to improve and expand on the Epic Monk’s abilities. Can a pure Monk solo an Epic Elite? Through video and preparation and guile, I’m going to take the primary Monk types and show how it’s done.

A Little Less of Me, Figuratively and Literally

I’ve been playing far too much of the game. I want to lose up to 50 pounds and maintain a good physical routine. So, my “50 by 50” campaign begins this week to lose up to 50 pounds before I reach 50 in June. For some of you, your youth protects you a bit, but that won’t last. For more on this depressing topic, take a look at this 2009 GameSpot article.

For the official record, and for others to chide and cheer and bully me into my habit, I stand at 233 pounds. By June, let’s see if that number reaches under 200. Studies and personal experience show that less weight does help, not only against larger health problems such as cholesterol (mine’s a bit higher than it should) but depression and creativity. The last three years have had many ups and downs, from my wedding to my mother’s passing two weeks prior, and several legal fights to keep my son’s rights protected.

A game is just that. While I enjoy it and the friends I’ve come to know through it, I can’t use it or any other device to hide from or delay things that need attention. This isn’t news to any of you, of course. We all have to think like this. Perhaps I’m just reminding you to do the same while I remind myself.

I look at my friends in the SF community. As a whole, we don’t look good at all for our ages. Geeks of all kinds, from science fiction to gaming to technology geeks are too sedentary and fall into bad habits, often justifying our appearance under the false guise of being “diverse” and “individualistic.”

Think of the “new” names for illnesses like fibromyalgia and then add in old standards like diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. I’d guess that the average geek is heavier and less healthy than the average person that doesn’t participate in those activities.

I just know, for sure, that my chair shouldn’t creak when I sit in it.

So, that means I’ll be curtailing gameplay quite a bit to meet that goal. I’ll still look forward to weekend play, but weekday play, Lord willing, will drop quite a bit as I not only keep fit at the gym after work but also take care of important matters for my son’s upcoming high school graduation and entry into college.

All in all, it may mean that I post something here on the blog only once a week, but no less than that. So if you have me in your weekly reading, I hope I don’t disappoint. It’s not like I haven’t many things to talk about; my drafts folder fills with several unfinished posts that I work on and publish when ready.

Happy New Year!

I wanted to thank everyone that pops in to read my thoughts on the game and experiences. I’m just a typical player as most of you are and don’t pretend to have any special knowledge or skills in the game except to compile existing information into something more digestible and immediately helpful. I hope I’ve helped. I also give a hearty thank you to everyone in the DDO community that’s supported the Monk guide and read this blog, correcting and criticizing as necessary to ensure that what’s found here is accurate.

DDO is a community, and this blog or the guide wouldn’t be here were it not for your help. See you next year.

Frantic Deadlines in My Mind

"We're back in hardware mode."

“We’re back in hardware mode.”

Just a quick note that the Monk guide, the Book of Syncletica, is in active full-bore rewrite mode. Parts will be incomplete as I update a chapter at a time or create outright new ones with Update 19.

I toyed with bringing the guide into WordPress but realized that it would be more trouble that it was worth, since Sites handles webpages and WordPress is more of a blog engine.

Further, I haven’t the coin to unlock the features here for advanced appearances or have decent web coding skills to make it happen. Boy, that free-to-blog concept seems familiar…

Lots of tweaking will be left after the core updates are done. I have to play a bit more with the Henshin Mystic nee’ Avatar, Quintessica to get a better feel, and look at some racial class trees to update some new Monk race information, as well as figure out many unanswered questions, such as if certain capstone-like things still exist (such as getting 10/Epic DR on level 20). Once done, hopefully by Labor Day, all that will be missing is information on the newer loot being generated and how to utilize it.

That’s important to note, ’cause I found some Vorpal Handwraps yesterday. Yeah, the devs just opened up their mystical coding can of wantsome. I’m seeing slots on all kinds of things, Dodge items out the ying-yang and Fortification items that exceed 100%.  Riposte is a new suffix with very interesting possibilities for Monks with high miss-chance, since you make an additional attack each time an enemy misses. Wow.

Oh yeah. I need to write a letter to the devs to put a simple Void Strike attack back in the dang game to use the Level 10 special finishers, ’cause none of us are going Henshin all the time and we aren’t ponying up 30 AP just to get it.

Hopefully a few key bugs are fixed. Was playing with some guildies in “Blown to Bits” when, just as the quest finished, we got hit by super-lag that essentially froze us. We managed to get back to the entrance where the lag stopped. We made our way back to the same location and to the last bosses without further incident. I’ve been hearing of nasty lag in places but this was the first time I encountered the nastiest stuff.

And there’s the wee known issue with the Wave of Despair, a delicious Ninja Spy ninjitsu addition to the Touch of Despair finishing move that gives all nearby enemies a negative level. The problem? It gives negative levels to your allies, too. Whoops. Better not use that in party for now.

The Game’s All New Again: Monk Guide Redux

I have a lot of work over the next month.

On Monday, August 19, Update 19 arrives, and with it, not only the Shadowfell Conspiracy expansion but, likely, the new enhancement format.

The enhancements completely change the game for all classes, adding new or upgraded prestige enhancements while often reworking feats.

That means that the Book of Syncletica guide is half-useless in its current state and needs a full rewrite for the game.

There’s plenty of happiness to look forward. One late addition was the rewrite of the stealth process that makes for tactical fighting by zipping and out of stealth or invisibility. I’ll get into a larger talk on this in another post as soon as I play it live.

I’m seriously considering a move of the guide from its current host to another. I would love to have it here on WordPress, but it’s built as a blog site, not a general web site format without the right theme. I’ve also wanted a very specific look for the guide that reflects a certain mystical aesthetic. Much of the core text should be transferable but rewrites will take time. I’ll put a large banner or special section warning readers that much of the guide may be obsolete until I can complete the work.

In related news, I visited GenCon and had a great time hanging out with the DDOCast hosts as they made their last broadcast before passing the baton to another host. Among the audience was Tolero, her husband and ProducerGlin. More about this entertaining night at another time.

For now, I’ve really got to get to work.

Syncletica Fails her Knowledge Save: A Monk Guide Correction

Student Whiffle Purr left a note on the About the Monk Guide comment page that pointed out a gross error in the Book of Syncletica’s chapter on Evasion, Dodge, Concealment and Incorporeality.

While Evasion is rolled against your Reflex save, the other three items are simple miss chance calculations, as if every attack is a 100% chance that’s reduced by each effect. Since each effect can stop an attack, your odds of reducing damage are higher as these percentages rise. I incorrectly noted that all of the miss chance effects use Reflex.

I ate some baked crow with the morning coffee while making quick tweaks to this chapter but I might show the same stupidity in other chapters, so bear with me as I update.