A Light in the Dark

ninja-n-piratesI had been hoping to vent about what I’ve seen regarding the alpha of the Monk enhancements shown on the Lammania server last week but haven’t the stomach to chew through it as detailed as I wanted to as yet. As there were many, many things to discuss, I may need to make one large post that summarizes the good, bad and ugly I saw in the alpha.

I felt more compelled to throw myself into the game and enjoy one of my Monks before the enhancements reappear later on Lammania under beta tests. I guess I can take solace that the enhancement changes won’t be coming anytime soon.

My only Dark Monk, Ryncletica, has been on her first life for over two years. I leveled her slowly because I played her improperly, to be frank. While all of my Light Monks can heal themselves and have greater defensive and offensive ability, Ryncletica had a harder time because I tried to make a Dark Monk work as a Light Monk with expectedly bad results.

It wasn’t until I partied more with Ryn and reviewed how stealth really works in the game that Ryn got more face time and began to shine for her own merits.

After I used a Lesser Reincarnation on her some time ago, I retooled her stealth skills. I learned how Dodge, Incorporeality and Concealment can work with Evasion and good Reflex saves to form a nearly-invisible character that can complete some quests without any enemies inside knowing that Ryn was ever there.

Now that I’ve farmed enough Tokens of the Twelve using Lynncletica to get a true reincarnation token for Ryn, I decided to finally restart her life and take what I’ve learned to her new life as a far more experienced njnja.

Ryncletica v2.0

The most important change to Ryn was her race. She’s moved from a Halfling to a Half-Elf. That adds the second key to her improvements: a Dilettante feat and enhancements.

The Dilettante choice was obvious: Cleric. Now Ryncletica can use scrolls and wands. I’ve been pretty myopic in the significance of this ability while researching and reading up from others that chose this path. I was happy to know I could use more healing options. But there’s far more, of course. I can use offensive wands and scrolls as well (such as Soundburst) and have better mending options than even my Light Monks over time (such as using full Restoration and Raise Dead scrolls) as I improve her Cleric Dilettante levels.

I’ve been on a tear re-leveling Ryn since last Saturday, going from level 1 to 7 in just 4 days. I put as many points into Hide and Move Silently as I could per level, and then took advantage of my Artificer crafter to make +10 Hide and +10 Move Silently items for her to use at level 7. I stealth-zerged the entire Splinterskull chain on Elite, fighting only when necessary. To help in self-healing, I crafted some Flametouched Iron wraps into +1 Acid Flametouched Iron of Lesser Vampirism handwraps.

Stealth is really underrated but it has a few drawbacks.

  1. Patience is not only a virtue, but a requirement. I entered “The Troglodyte’s Get” on Elite completely solo to test out Ryn’s new self-sufficiency and stealth. The mages there were the most deadly with their magic missiles and especially Hold Person spells. The objective wasn’t to kill any of them but to destroy their nests of eggs. Several well-placed throwing stars removed the eggs from a safe distance but also allowed me to snipe out of range of the mages. Shurikens also work well to hit-and-pull single enemies for a quick takedown.
  2. Did I mention I’m stealthy? I can complete quests much faster since I don’t spend time fighting, but until Ryn gets Ninja Spy II, more Monk Fast Movement levels and faster Striding boots, I’m not as fast on my feet as I’d like to be as I move through the quests.
  3. Ninjas don’t do breakables. With the recent update changes that give you a great chance to find great loot, even tomes, from breaking barrels, I am a little forlorn that I can’t always break every box I see. Barrel-slaying also makes noise and attracts the very enemies I don’t want to fight if I don’t have to. I also miss getting Ransack bonuses, although getting Devious and Insidious Cunning bonuses compensate a little.
  4. Ninjas also often skip optionals. For me, the goal is the goal, especially if its simply a matter of finding something or slaying one enemy. I don’t like skipping optionals but Ryncletica is more shadow and less fighter. Over time, she’ll gain more experience in completing quests than spending time exploring every nook and corner. This goes against my normal play mode (especially when enjoying time with guildmates) but since I’m also in solo play with Ryn, this is not an issue.

Just as in her higher-levels in her first life, Ryncletica is discovering that many low-level quests can be easily stealthed out to completion. I drummed her through the four Deneith sewer quests easily in Ninja mode, and am about to set my sights on Delera’s Tomb (undead sometimes sense your life, so stealth options there will vary), The Carnival quests in House P, and the Sentinels of Stormreach.

So far, this upgraded Ryncletica is enjoyable, but she’s a bit fragile with lower HP than I’d like, which leaves to some nail-biting moments when she fails an Evasion save.

Otherwise, it’s a good time to be a ninja–especially against my natural enemy: Pirates. Yaaryar and his crew on Irestone Inlet just got a serious schooling on the art of shadow.

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The End to Farming for Silver+Good Handwraps

Van Helsing: Bringing the right tool and attitude for the job.

The monastic life of unarmed combat in Stormreach in the realm of DDO and realms beyond has, frankly, been a pain in the hands for many Monks.

While other classes could wield all kinds of weapons that can help bypass an enemy’s innate material or alignment-based damage reductions, the Monk is a special case.

The body of the unarmed Monk is the weapon. Handwraps aren’t coded as weapons but enhancements that add to the effectiveness of unarmed damage.

And that is the rub. To fight gracefully, a Monk must remain Centered. This means you can’t wear any light, medium or heavy armor. You can wear an outfit, a robe, or run about in your brown skivvies if that’s your thing. You’re also limited to only a few weapons outside of handwraps that could add the same DR-bypassing goodness of a traditional melee character–at the expense of slightly slower attack speed than fighting unarmed, as well as being prohibited from using some of the Monk’s speciality unarmed-only tactics such as Stunning Fist and the Dark Monk’s Touch of Death.

As Monks enter level 16 and begin flagging themselves in the Vale of Twilight for “The Shroud,” a question enters the mind of a Monk. How can my fists effectively damage a devil or demon? These creatures are among the nastiest denizens in the game, especially on their home turf in Shavarath or the Demonweb.

By level 16, all Monks can bypass Magic (L4), Lawful (L12) and Adamantine (L16) material protections. But lesser devils require either Good-aligned handwraps/materials (such as Flametouched Iron) or Silver weaponry to hurt them effectively. Any Monk can wear Holy or Pure Good handwraps easily enough in this case.

But soon a Monk will encounter the horned devils and the pit fiends. These devils require your hands to bypass Silver and Good simultaneously to bypass their damage reduction.

Before Update 14, you had a handful of options to keep your unarmed fighting working best:

 

  1. Be a Light Monk and complete all Shintao Monk training levels. This adds Byeshk, Cold Iron and Silver unarmed damage reductions to your fighting. Just wear some Good-aligned handwraps and you’re, er…good.
  2. As a Dark Monk, win the lottery by farming for and finding the Devout Handwraps: +2 Metalline of Pure Good handwraps, or finding a pair of randomly generated Silver Threaded of Pure Good handwraps on the Auction House (for insane prices) or in chest loot.
  3. Have an Artificer grant you a Planar Weapons good-alignment buff or a Silver Weapons buff, depending on what you have on-hand (so to speak).
  4. Be a high-level Cannith craftsman and make your own Metalline of Pure Good handwraps.
  5. Cry.

 

(Oh, and while you Dark Monks are farming, you’ll need Cold Iron-studded of Pure Good and Byeshk-threaded handwraps if you didn’t find Metalline of Pure Good handwraps, since Xoriat creatures don’t care about Silver.)

As of Update 17, however, all Monks can rejoice, as the expensive and frustrating preparations needed to have Silver+Good handwraps has been (somewhat) mercifully resolved by the developers.

Monks have two absolute requirements to ridding themselves of the imminent devils on their back: You need to own or be able to access either the Catacombs or the Delera’s Tomb adventure pack.

The key can be found in either adventure (although getting both packs is ideal), thanks to updates to two handwrap sets I’ve considered standard equipment at early training: the Devotion and Eternal Rest handwraps.

Before Update 17, each set possessed half of the Silver/Good answer for unarmed fighting. Eternal Rest handwraps were silver-threaded. The Devotion handwraps were Flametouched Iron and Holy.

As with much of the named gear in Update 17, both handwraps received a great makeover with a small price. The developers corrected the redundancy of Holy with Flametouched Iron in the Devotion handwraps  and made them haughtier: +3 Enhancement damage, Holy, Devotion +48, and a Red augment slot. They bind to character on equip, so you can still farm them with one character and give them to others.

The important part: That Red augment slot. This slot can accept a Ruby of Silvered Strikes. Ta-da: Harry Beaters that can fully damage a pit fiend or horned devil.

Similarly, I discovered that the Eternal Rest handwraps got a similar revision: +2 Enhancement damage, Ghost Touch, Silver-threaded , Undead Bane with a Red augment slot as well. Add a Ruby of Good later in your life and you have another Harry Beater set.

The challenge, of course, is finding that specific Ruby. Both can be bought using Tokens of the Twelve (the new name for “Epic Dungeon Tokens”) from the Epic vendor there. You can farm Tokens with a higher-end character from “Devil Assault” or other Eberron epic level quests. You might get lucky and the thing drops for you in your loot. Gems are not bound to character; your “altitis” may just pay off.

Or–you may find yourself looking on the Auction House for these gems at insane prices.

Didn’t I mention something like that before? (Sigh.)

Okay, so it may still require a harsh amount of resources to get a decent set of Harry Beater handwraps. At least it’s easier to get a set of upgradable handwraps themselves with minimal effort, as opposed to a gargantuan amount for a fully working pair.

 

Come to the Dark Side! (Or not)

After dusting off Ryncletica and exploring more of the nature of the “Dark” monk, I have this to say.

Ninja Spys are awesome.

I’ve played light monks all through my time on DDO. There were ups and downs, things I had to unlearn from my Neverwinter Nights days, and learning more about the exceptions to the game mechanics to which monks can bend, break or be liable.

Let’s go through my initial objections from long past and how they shape up now.

Myth: Dark monks can’t heal themselves as well as light monks.

Fact: Generally true, if you play style consists of terrible impulses to scream-and-leap at mobs. Otherwise, dark monks do fine in self-healing, with the right fighting style combined with enhancements, reaching level 11 and with a few offensive items.

  • Dark monks are natural ninjas. Light monks solo well because they can heal themselves of afflictions. Dark monks solo well because mobs don’t know they’re frickin’ there. To wit: I took Ryncletica (L14) into Haywire Foundry on Hard, alone (no hirelings). I sneaked past almost everything to get the two levers to the central golems. Pulled out my smiting handwraps and dispatched the golems (lots of Touch of Death on the red-named), then make a hasty exit. HP never dropped below 1/3, thanks to the information in the next point…
  • Dark monks heal wonderfully with vampiric weaponry and prudence. The Vampiric Stonedust Wraps were a no-brainer, but the Vampiric Fury Shortswords are a bonus win. The extra stat damage these do in combination with Improved Two Weapon Fighting and doublestrike will keep a monk’s HP/ki meter well-filled. If you find yourself a little peaked after a fight, use Wholeness of Body and fill yourself up from ki. Of course…
  • Ninjas don’t attack mobs. They attack targets. If you can hide and complete a quest without fighting a thing, you still get the XP. A Ninja Spy in One With Shadow/Sneak regenerates ki (Light monks have to wait to get Oremi’s Necklace for that trick) so there’s no reason to rush. In fact, once you can regenerate ki to 50 in your stable pool, you can Touch of Death targets routinely with an assassin’s precision.

If you don’t put points into Hide/Move Silently, you aren’t a ninja. You’re just a monk that likes to kill. Nothing wrong with that, but you lose the benefits of why the dark monk is deadlier than its light cousin.

Myth: Dark monks deal more DPS than their light cousin.

Fact: Depends on where they are, and what they must attack.

The dark monk’s available killing powers generally consist of elemental, force and negative energy. These come from the Earth/Air/Fire/Water strikes, Void Strike, and Touch of Death. (Both monk types get Quivering Palm for another instant-death strike.) The good news is that the dark monk is extremely effective on killing the living, non-aberration kind of foe. Drow. Ogres. Giants. Humans.

But stick a dark monk against these monsters and they will have a harder time because these foes offset a skill to kill or the ability to use a killing technique. These include:

  • Undead (dependent on Holy/Undead bane/disrupting weapons, while light monks are designed inherently to hurt the undead)
  • Aberrations (Enemies that live on negative energy are unlikely to be killed by it, so Touch of Death is a bad thing to try on them)
  • Anything with tremor sense (Dark monks can’t easily bypass spiders)
  • Anything that kills you faster than you can kill it. I know this sounds obvious, but one monk ability, to stun something, is less effective against the non-living and problematic with some planar creatures. That means that the light monks have it good with Tomb of Jade, which can encase any extraplanar, non-living and non-construct enemy and effectively stun it. Dark monks (even with vampiric ability) won’t have enough inherent positive energy attacking prowess against such foes. A prepared ninja (like Batman-prepared, with Holy burst weaponry)  is a live one at quest’s end.
  • Anything that loves to debuff or curse you early and often. (Dark monks must use clickys or potions to offset, which eventually run out, while light monks can remove such afflictions for as long as they can generate ki). Anyone that’s done the end fight with the hyper-cursing red-named bosses in A New Invasion and The Dreaming Dark final quest knows of what I speak.

To wrap up: Ryncletica is awesome to play. I’ve gained sizable appreciation for what dark monks can do. The most interesting challenge to come for her will be in fighting in the Shroud. Dark monks don’t get the damage reduction bypassing while unarmed, so she’s stuck with Metalline of Pure Good/Righteousness shortswords/kamas here until she can get a Tower of Despair ring, add Holy burst to one and wear metalline handwraps. (I do not hold out, ever, on getting Metalline/PG wraps in my lifetime).

Ryncletica has shown me clearly that a dark monk, rightly played, is a very soloable–and powerful–character.