Saintly Swords Schooling by Saekee

 

My inexperience with heavy blades is aided by the good folk in the forums. Thanks for helping me not gimp another character.

My inexperience with heavy blades is aided by the good folk in the forums. Thanks for helping me not gimp another character.

With Kiricletica’s successes now allowing her to solo the Amrath quests and reaching Level 26, new guild members compel me to return to one of the two remaining specialty Monks I want to play and then document for the Monk guide.

I’ve already put in enough time on Pynthetica, going from a Ranger Arcane Archer to a Zen Archer. So getting my Kensei Monk up and running is my goal for this long U.S. holiday weekend.

Part of my routine to help understand a class’s role is to read the D&D roleplay information if possible on similar classes. Kensei means “Sword Saint” in Japanese. There are far too many unsaintly uses of the word, most of them dealing with anime varieties I don’t watch.

To gain the saintly component of this class, it’s synergy with the Monk class should form a fascinating attacker.

It’s a good thing I played Kiri the way I did as I learned more about the power of dark finishing moves that paralyze or disable enemy spells and attacks. Kiri’s training will also help in my first forays in multiclassing Monk with the Fighter class.

My goal was to make Theacletica, my Kensei student, a specialist light fighter with kukris, daggers and shortswords. She’s a dark Monk and so can use the same abilities that Kiri has, but now I’m aware of these at a much lower level.

I didn’t precisely know what challenges I had in building her. I wanted to stay Centered to use all Monk abilities, so robes/outfits only. She’s a Half-Elf so I’ll be able to work in self-healing and buffing with a Cleric dilettante. I’ve added a few points in Ninja Spy to gain shortsword prowess but this presents a problem. The Dexterity to Damage ability comes with using weapons once you train in the first two ninja cores. Shadow Veil is the third core, and I’d really prefer the high Incorporeality defense I can get since I will not have as much AC as a Fighter.

Fighters also normally use STR for damage, but I figured that I’ll need to build things more monastic than martial and put more emphasis on DEX since I planned to use light blades with the Ninja Training and its DEX-to-Damage.

Thea would have to strike fast and stop fights with the finishing moves since it may be some time before she can hold her own as a true Kensei. While not using Kiri’s first-life self-imposed rules, I expected to use the techniques I refined with Kiri to keep Thea alive.

The new stuff for me involved the benefits of the Fighter levels, required to eventually allow kukris and daggers to be centered for me. With Fighter levels I’ll get more feats that should add a lot of variation in attack. I don’t expect to add fewer than 6 Monk levels and no more than 12 Fighter levels.

While there will be fewer granted Monk levels and a serious challenge on some advanced abilities I enjoy from there, the Fighter levels will add many more Fighter bonus feats to augment her attacks. These include Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack and Whirlwind Attack as well as Cleave attacks, Improved Critical, and Two Weapon Fighting. With no maximum dexterity bonus to worry about as a non-armored character, perhaps using the Ninja Spy abilities isn’t a bad thing.

There’s just the careful application of Fighter levels to reach my desire of a maximum 12/Monk minimum 8/Fighter setup. I’m terribly afraid I’ll wreck this build as I did Cassietetica the ninja assassin (now a bank). I’m retro-adding settings from the DDO Character Planner to check that I’ll meet the Fighter prerequisites necessary for One With the Blade to make non-Monk weapons work as centered weapons.

Now, all these considerations I wrote here came long before Teacher Saekee’s meditations came up with something more deadly, reminding me how inexperienced I am with multiclassing, the principles of critical threat–and how a different weapon than any I’ve used can add to a character’s flavor.

Brushes with Death

In a recent DDO forums thread, Saekee asked anyone if they could confirm if the increased critical threat range of the Forester Brush Hook kama would stack with the Ninja Spy capstone and Improved Critical: Slashing.

Now, the Hook is special. It already has a 19-20 threat with a x3 modifier. Get the Ninja Spy capstone and you get 17-20. I confirmed this on Kiricletica with her dual-wielded kamas but hadn’t the ability to check farther.

If you take Improved Critical: Slashing, that range goes batshit: to 13-20, as Saekee proves on one of his characters:

Why I'm going to add IC: Slashing to Kiricletica immediately. DAY-UM.

Why I’m going to add IC: Slashing to Kiricletica immediately. DAY-UM.

Now, if you get the Epic versions of these, they’ll help a bit with damage, but does that matter when you’re likely to make powerful DEX-to-damage 3x criticals around 40% of the time!?

Your dojo must be very proud of you, Saekee. Props for the discovery.

I will be tooling up Kiricletica for this, for sure. But this discovery makes me realize how screwed up Theacletica’s current weapon choices may be. A Kensei should emphasize weapon damage. It’s what a Kensei should be about, right?

Resetting Theacletica

So now I’m tossing my light-bladed Kensei into the fire. Saekee’s probably made more non-Monk characters and understands weapon damage a bit more than I do, thus his discovery. I’d be a moron not to pay heed to it.

I had been thinking too much like a Monk and not enough as a Fighter to make my first Kensei shine.

It would be better for Theacletica to use greatswords and kamas. She’ll still have kicks and punches as a backup. As a multiclassed character, she can’t gain the Ninja Spy competence bonuses for critical threat. But the Kensei tree offers great weapon specializations for damage, more critical hit damage, and a +1 threat increase to the focused weapon. I just need Improved Critical: Slashing to make it work. I’ve got a number of greatswords in my banks, saved for whenever I got around to making a conventional fighter. For now, no reason to let those weapons sit about.

Going the greatsword route also differentiates her from Kiricletica, who is already mastered light blades. If I’m going to do a kensei, I should go for the really obscure weapon that you’d not see on a typical Monk.

I still need to study whether the Dark philosophy is still more prudent than the Light. Theacletica could really use the benefits of Shintao’s healing amp. Then again, a bit of training in the ninja arts gives Ninja Poison to really augment attack damage, as well as better miss-chance powers with Shadow Veil.

It also means that Theacletica should be focused on STR when using greatswords. I can’t add too much DEX just for occasional use of kamas, even though I gain that Dexterity-to-Damage. It’s one or the other, right? (Update: Saekee reminds me that greatswords, once Centered, become DEX-to-damage weapons, too with ninja training, being slashing weapons.)

A Monk with a greatsword also smacks of complete badassery on the battlefield.

Hopefully it’s not too late to salvage Theacletica’s build if I’ve already put too much DEX in her. If she’s too far gone, I’ll reroll her and report back.

 

And the Rock Said, “No Hiding Place”

Seems that my adventures have caused a few–questions in our dojo.

Long ago, against the advice and teachings of my abbot, Syncletica, a Grandmaster of Wind, I chose the ancient and disused philosophy of the Mountain. In my first adventures, I came back bloodied and beaten from tasks of justice asked me, but survived.

Today, my abbot has requested a private session. She has asked me, an acolyte, to begin teaching on the Way of Stone. While it may be an honor, I am terrified. The terrors of Xoriat and Shavarath are on our doorstep, some say. Why in the name of the Host would any of my lessons be superior to that of our abbot’s plans (who has met with several generals who have dared to take on Stormreach).

Syncletica corrected me. “It is not that your technique is superior. No one monk stance is completely superior over others. However, were we all to fight as I fight, I fear our victories would begin to fade.”

She explained.

“When I was an acolyte myself, I felt drawn to stay in the Fire stance more, believing that my increases in Strength and ki generation would allow me to dominate. But the stance reduced my wisdom, preventing me from making more critical strikes to stun or disable enemies before they could even put up a fight.”

“Later, I chose the Way of Wind but learned to move between it and Fire stance. While in Wind stance, I’m physically weaker but much faster. Since I can strike far faster and more often, I can readily take down mobs very quickly.”

“I watched many good monks become more rigid than I once was. They mastered one stance and almost never left it. As a result, when it came to certain brutes, their lack of training in multiple techniques left them more likely to be resurrected than victorious.”

“But you have…you have rediscovered that the best offense may be a good defense. Tell me again about your adventures in the Vale of Twilight.”

So I did. While in the third level of Mountain Stance, I recalled how I was able to quickly overpower enemies, even those of which I had not yet learned how to bypass their stronger defenses–all through sheer brawn inherent in the stance. The result was obvious: I was not faster, but simply more powerful, able to dispatch stronger enemies faster, through massively critically strikes, than the multiple hits in Wind stance.

Syncletica began to change into a light outfit. “And that is what we need to learn, Lynncletica. While speed has its usefulness, the toughest enemies are just that: Tough. We need to ensure we don’t get, well, set in our ways. Each path is a gift, even I didn’t understand it at first when you began your training.”

“All of Xendrik will fall if any of us–archers and fighters, thieves and holy warriors–if any of us become too predictable, or even expect an adventure to always go by the book, based on other’s recollections. Who is “right” doesn’t matter. All monks in my tutelage must understand what you understand–and that training starts with me,” the abbot said as she began to wrap her hands in training cloth. “We begin. Tonight.”

It was…weird, last night, as a light breeze moved through the orange blossoms of the trees surrounding our home. I stood there, teaching my teacher the way of Stone.

The Sturdiness of a Mountain

Under the tutelage of the abbot, I adopted the name of Lynncletica. Rather than cloistering myself for enlightenment, I have chosen the Harmonious path, as many have in my monastery, and began seeking truth and justice throughout the realms of Stormreach and beyond.

Unlike the abbot, Syncletica, who is a Grandmaster in the Way of the Wind, I chose a different path: The path of the Sturdy Mountain.

The abbot seemed skeptical but she did allow me to train in this school.

I chose this path for I saw a time (as the abbot has recounted in many an adventure) where destiny may be denied, where justice cannot be served where evil seems too strong. I believed in this: An adventuring party is not successful through through superior weaponry alone, or superior numbers, or superior spells. The successful party survives through durability.

And for that, one must endure long enough to ensure that all others can return to fight and succeed.

I see a time where all in my party are weakened or have fallen and I alone must endure, attracting the enemy, dispatching them not necessarily through swiftness but by turning the enemies attacking energy back into them. In the Mountain Path, the ability to hit an enemy critically greatly increases, especially using the Fists of Iron and mastery of the Void Strike. I seek items that improve my seeking mastery when striking here.

Further, should I be struck by an enemy, my ki only gets stronger. I can then use that ki to heal myself while further damaging my enemy. The only challenge involves healing faster than my opponents can deal damage. Again, the Way of Earth reduces the amount of damage I must endure, improving as I master it’s way.

I spoke with a neighboring acolyte at a dojo. They confirm my information. Aside from significant damage, they tell of acolytes and grandmasters who hit enemies so hard that they are phased out of existence, or hurt so badly that a lighter strike will finish them.

I am confident in my path. While I may never be as steadfast as a dwarf fighter, or as intimidating as a barbarian, as even as pious as a paladin, I am sure that I will become the Angry Mountain, whose shaking against those who push against it will yield only avalanches and large stones to crush and smite all that challenge it. The mountain shall endure.