Emissaries from Ghallanda

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

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

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

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

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

The New World

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homesteading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mission on Cannith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ranger Hunter Soldier Spy

artemistika1I have a Bard, a Rogue Assassin and many many Ninja Spies.

I haven’t played a Ranger since Pynthetica’s first life, before the new stealth AI retool and enhancement trees.

And I’ve never tried out one particular flavor of Ranger that deserves some attention with the stealth revisions. This way I can learn more about this class path and shore up information in the Stormreach Shadows stealth guide.

So, say hello to young Artemistika, my first Deepwood Stalker. She just might be the best overall stealth fighter because of her very specific skill set.

The Shadow

What stoked me about the Stalker is the incorporation of stealth with powerful ranged attack. At first it struck me as a support build, like the Rogue. The Stalker seemed lacking, at first, the sustained DPS and imbue versatility seen in the Arcane Archer or the melee complexity of the Tempest two-hander or Ninja Spy.

But, reading between the lines as I try to do, I began to see more of the sniper and the rogueish stealth master inside this Ranger that I had to try, with a touch of an old idea I once tried in a lost Artificer.

The Stalker’s makes for the missing imbued arrows of the Arcane Archer kindred with the benefit of ranged Sneak Attack damage, allowing a powerful burst hit of damage provided that you strike fast and first, or preferably have an aggro-magnet keep the attention of everyone. Combined with high stealth skills, the Stalker can pick their targets and kill with only a few quick volleys before cloaking into the shadows to hunt again.

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Stealth masters in-training always go to see Ulluvian, patron saint of stealth masters, for chats and tips. If he can sneak home through a Droaam horde, so can you.

This Ranger is naturally stealth-able. Camouflage is especially potent to allow me to sneak past a mob at closer range than any other characters, Rogues and Monks included.

The Faster Sneaking skill is important as Rangers don’t quite move as fast as other classes and need that speed edge. The Ranger’s ability to improve Hide and Move Silently skills for supporting players looks very handy as well.

I’m looking forward to joining more parties with this build. While slower than the ninjas, Mistika makes up for stealth speed with better Hide scores. Eventual training gives Hide in Plain Sight, making Mistika likely the best stealth master because of her ability to weave through enemies at closer range than anyone else I have.

The Sidekicks

I’ve loved the ability to summon other creatures. I experimented with this summoner role with my second, late Artificer named Ayvanna. She trained her normal Iron Defender but also added in a second and, I think, even a third Defender to have a pack of dogs that grabbed aggro while she attacked with her crossbow and runearm.

When Pynthetica was an Arcane Ranger, she also had a simple Summoned Ally as befitted her spell abilities, occasionally using her Wild Empathy to add a second charmed creature.

With Mistika’s Stalker enhancements and a few others, I’m weaponizing my NPC helpers.

It’s one thing to charm an animal. But what if the animal I charmed with Empathy was also a Monster Champion (extra buffs, tougher to kill)?

What if I added the Augment Summoning feat (+4 to all ability scores, increased health and fortification) to this? And how about some Harper Leadership training (Your hirelings, summoned, and charmed creatures gain up to +4 to all ability scores)?

A quick check on the forums (with the answer given by the FuzzyDuck himself) confirmed that Harper Leadership and Augment Summoning’s boosts stack on your direct hirelings and summons, although not your hireling’s summons.

And finally, let me use my Empathy powers as a Fascination-like power against Vermin, Elementals and Magical Beasts if I feel like it.

So level 7 ‘Mistika (readied as a Veteran Status II character) tried this out on an Elite “Where There’s Smoke.” (Level 5). With Flower the hireling in tow, we popped off orc after orc. But the fun came when I remembered the wolves in the area.

A better use of Monster Champions: Turn them to your side and buff them up further.

A better use of Monster Champions: Turn them to your side and buff them up further.

In both packs there was a Champion among them. One use of Improved Wild Empathy later and that Champion was my dominated bitch (pun intended). A use of Charm Animal and a second doggie turned to my side, wreaking havoc with the neighboring orc parties.

This Christmas weekend, I was so enamored with ‘Mistika that I played her all weekend. It will be a bit before her best summoned creature is available, but I summon it in a pinch when I need more aggro-magnets. I can charm or dominate as many animals as they are available and as fast as my cooldowns, spell points and Empathy turns allow.

Improved Wild Empathy is really a Domination spell, so for five minutes, I have an extra helper unless I have to climb or drop off somewhere; sadly, such creatures cannot follow. Adding a charmed animal adds to the confusion. The benefit to Empathy powers is that they aren’t dispellable or breakable. My charmed animals stay that way, even if damaged. And these special charms can’t be removed even if you had Bard levels and used a Disarm Charm ability.

With Stalker training, your Empathy powers give you the ability to halt elementals, vermin, and magical beasts in their tracks. I knew just the quests where I wanted to test this ability. In “Haywire’s Foundry,” I smacked Empathy on the two fire and sole earth elementals that appear at the start, locking them in place for 5 minutes to kill them without retaliation.

That’s an awesome stopping power I also used in “Spies in the House” (the fire elementals with a possible and deadly air elemental) and against air elementals in general–I hate their knockdown powers.

This special Fascinate isn’t broken by anything, including damage. I’m limited by the number of Empathy turns I have, but then, using rest shrines isn’t as problematic for Rangers as it is for young Monks.

The Style

Artemistika is an Elf to gain greater weapon damage training for longbows or her rapiers with racial training. Her Mark of Shadow dragonmark adds Invisibility and, eventually, Shadow Walk, Displacement and eventually a nasty neg-level attack for crunch fights.

While Bow Strength improves the STR modifier to give longbow damage for Rangers, the Elf can train the racial tier 5 ability, Aerenal Grace, which lets DEX become the damage modifier, overriding Bow Strength. So, all ability points go to DEX and nothing but DEX  for maximum to-hit, damage with a little AC and improved Reflex as a bonus. at least as much as maximum dexterity bonus allows.

I’ll add what I can to CON (HP) and WIS (Will save for Empathy and charming) with items, available enhancements and tomes.

Another racial ability, Skill, adds 3% untyped Doubleshot and much-needed Dodge while bypassing 3% of enemy Dodge.

The Stalker build emphasizes quick, powerful strikes with ranged Sneak Attack damage. The old prestige enhancements name was “Deepwood Sniper,” which still holds true in flavor in the succeeding tree.

Like Suki, Mistika shares the Killer enhancement, which adds a 5% Morale Bonus to “Extra Shots” (that’s the text; strange that it doesn’t say “Doubleshot”) for a few seconds after a successful sneak attack kill, stacking up to 4 times. That’s a 20% Morale Bonus doubleshot bonus I sorely desire, which will stack with any Enhancement bonus items I can find. Makes the “Mark of Death” raid more attractive, where the Epic Quiver of Alacrity rests.

artemistika4

The Stalker gains serious attack boosts when using Precise Shot’s Archer’s Focus, a stance which magnifies her attack the longer she stands still, especially with the final core ability that adds more stacks to this ability. Farther potency to very distant ranged attacks improves as well over other archers, where by level 20 I’ll always be considered in Point Blank Shot and Sneak Attack range.

But to keep the Archer Focus bonus, Artemistika has to keep control of the field. That’s why she’ll use her charm and summoning powers to keep her NPC charges up and attracting nasties.

To keep her animal army hardy, she can eventually apply elemental resists, Freedom of Movement, energy protection, and more. While Mistika’s hireling’s summons don’t gain the ability score boosts, the additional bodies in the crowd make for a formidable attack option.

Stalkers gain sizable positive energy spell power boosts as they grow. Combined with points in Heal as a class skill, her otherwise-weaker Cure Light and Moderate Wounds spells are very effective. I need it. My miss-chance effects are poor, with Dodge getting capped by the use of light armor, and no Blur or Incorporeality yet. Blur is my priority to ward off some melee and ranged damage. I’ll need to add in a Dusk (10% Incorporeality) item/augment somewhere, and do what I can in Dodge. Of all the things that worry me is generating enough AC and defenses. Having the light armor gives a small PRR bonus to ward off some damage.

Mistika does have a Shadow dragonmark, so she’s got a few but long-lasting Invisibility turns, and can train Shadow Walk, Displacement and even a special negative-leveling power if AP allows it.

Hide and Move Silently are naturally trained up, and she’s got great Spot bonuses. I’m going to boost that Search power up a bit more for finding those hidden doors, or look to Elven skills that might work if I have the AP to train them.

The Strategy

Artemistika first worked on her House Deneith favor for sturdy arrows. These have greater enhancements to them and drain far slower than standard arrows, so its a matter of having a couple of wide quivers of a 1000 each. I also carry Adamantine and Cold Iron ones for special needs. Sure, getting Conjured Arrows from the Ranger AA tree is possible but that’s AP I can use for something else.

I also zoomed her through some Cannith challenges for a Frozen Tunic, the first time I’ve ever spent time in such challenges outright with a new character. Not using it as much right now but I will before it’s freezing DCs start to be less effective.

At first glance, the special ranged attacks don’t look like much. And then I discovered the joy of Sniper Shot. This, like the Monk’s Unbalancing Strike, is a Bluffing/Deception shot. It’s got a relatively fast 6-second cooldown, making it great for me to spin about enemies and add in some extra Sneak Attack damage while they are bluffed.

Manyshot stays reserved for times where my aggro-partners are becoming overwhelmed and I need to clear out a powerful mob. I also use it against HP-heavy red-named enemies, of course. I miss the faster cooldown of Ten Thousand Stars on Pyn, but I’m getting by nicely.

As a first-life, Mistika is leveling crazy-fast, already at level 13 with a banked level as you read this. I’m prioritizing quests with high XP, specific favor rewards or gear and will shortly rev down the XP to complete favor and gain gear on low level quests I’ve skipped. Quests like “The Pit”, “Stormcleave Outpost” and “Spies in the House” were easily done. Had more problems with “Tear of Dhakaan” and couldn’t complete when I hit the respawning town room and I left my hireling active with fatal results.

The Serpentbranch bow I had on Pynthetica (bound to account) is still her go-to bow for most attacks, although I just crafted up a nice Aligned of Greater Construct Bane bow with an empty red slot for Maruts and other robots. Any bow that I can augment helps a lot with general DPS.

Same goes for finding items that add bonuses to Sneak Attack damage. A Halfling’s racial bonuses, in hindsight, would make an improved sniper, but the elven DEX-to-damage power might be offsetting this. A kindly guildmate (you know who you are) donated the Bracers of the Hunter to me that help with a bit more Sneak Attack damage.

I think a Ring of the Stalker is also in my immediate future, especially one for level 20. That Manslayer effect would be awesome and the exceptional Sneak Attack bonus damage welcome, not to mention some miss-chance effects.

Black Dragonscale Armor seems also in the future. I’ll have to farm for scales in Tor with the nearly implacable Szyncletica.

I’m wearing Deadly/Accuracy gear and a Seeker VI item with Improved Critical: Piercing trained. It’s making the critical hits quite potent.

So, to sum up, Mistika plays a little more like an Assassin. She brings her melee/aggro team in to lure a mob. This requires stealth; you get your summoned team close enough to auto-attack while keeping yourself from being seen.

This team is buffed up to stay alive, generating aggro just as I reveal myself and begin picking off the enemies that my team damages, minimizing the risk of hitting something that turns away from the pack and towards me. The sneak attack damage is key here. I’ll have special shots that outright kill weaker enemies, and if I can add points to Killer and other critical threat/hit effects, the damage stacks.

You just don’t go all pew-pew with a Stalker. This is a hunter. You have to deliberately arrange and pick a target for best effect.

Again, all of this ties to the stillness of the archer. Unlike my other ranged attackers like Szyncletica the thrower and Pynthetica the Zen Archer, Artemistika avoids movement while shooting. She’s gained Improved Precise Shot as a Ranger, but she’ll rarely use it since Stalkers can gain bonuses to Archer’s Focus with Precise Shot. The longer she stands still, the greater the damage.

The Sights

artemistika2The coolest thing about Mistika is her appearance. She looks angry and all Action-Girly powerful.

I invested in a new cosmetic armor to seal in the look. I don’t normally go for blondes, but for Mistika, I’ll make a happy exception.

I’ll talk more on her Epic future as she quickly comes to it. Shiradi Champion and Fury of the Wild are natural fits, but so is Primal Avatar, especially with the summoned/hireling buffs there that might be sorely needed if soloing an Epic quest. Shadowdancer looks great, too, for better defenses and more Sneak Attack die.