On Locusts and Honey: Hermit Syncletica

In the desolation hide all the answers.

In the desolation hides the answers.

DDO Forum user Grace_ana asked me to visit a thread about beginner builds. She set some rules for new beginner preset build concepts, based on what’s offered but commonly unused from the character creation screen:

Rules for the pre-made paths are as follows:
1. It must be a pure build.
2. It cannot require any tomes.
3. It should have both a 28-pt and 32-pt option.
4. It should be workable with any race. This means including racial feats is fine, as long as a particular racial feat isn't vital.
5. Don't include enhancements, though the paths should be anchored in a tree much like the current ones are anchored in a former PRE.
6. It should only go up to level 20.

I couldn’t break things down in number-crunch mode using character creation tools. But I could recite the natural advantages of a human Monk without a lot of fuss.

A Monk is a natural fighter that doesn’t really require much from the enhancement trees to be a viable fighter, completely naked, into level 20. And I answered so, breaking down the reasons why.

I’m not sure if I properly helped Grace in her thread. I suspect I didn’t, leaving more questions than answers. But she inspired me.

I feel compelled to verify what I’ve said. It might be, to-date, my most challenging project since Kiricletica’s solo adventures.

Syncletica in the Desert

My first Monk and namesake to the blog and guide has been a bit idle. I’ve reincarnated her Shintao counterpart, Lynncletica, as an improved Shintao tanker. As a Wind-Stance Monk, Syn was generally great in Heroic but had issues in Epic play. They are my only Shintao Monks.

Syncletica is named for a real-life monk–specifically, a Desert Mother, a monastic of the early Catholic Church in the Fourth Century. Said to be very beautiful, she gave up her family’s wealth to devote a life to prayer, living in the desert.

I have always tried to show the qualities of the Monk class. To do something different and worthy rather than trying to build the best one. And its been quite a while since the abbess herself has made any news; all of her students are more “famous.”

SynHermitSo, like her namesake, I sent Syncletica into the desert.

Away from her stores of equipment. Away from her students and dojo.

She lives a meager earning, scraping by for platinum to purchase healing potions. Staying away from her guildship and the buffs it provides, its shelter.

In her third life, she owns nothing re-equipped from her past life, nothing in her inventory. No leaving the snowy side of Korthos for better-than-starter items for her first lives, or buffs.

If she finds something useful in the course of her adventures, she may keep it. But her Resurrection Cache and bank is far away, gathering dust in the city banks and never available.

Like John the Baptist in New Testament lore, her subsistence is simple, starting by the shipwreck by Korthos Island and fighting forward. She must make the most out of less.

She declines loans from player characters out of quest; everything she possesses must be earned by her efforts (that is, no twinking). If she wants something crafted, she’ll have to do it herself. In a party, she will accept buffs but not call out for any specific buff for her own sake.

If her inventory fills, she cannot reach a bank and must sell or abandon what she has. She’ll have no collectible or ingredient bags short of what is given to her in this new life.

All that is old is new again. Damage bypassing will come from handwraps and kamas, if need be. Augment gems may help this challenge. Her memory filled with stories of Kiricletica braving adventures alone, Syn will have to emulate some of her student’s art. Life will be expensive. It will be difficult.

Most importantly, this Syncletica does not train any class enhancement trees. She’ll use the human racial enhancements, but that is all. She will choose the path of light once more, choosing the Fists of Light feat at level 3 but will not train the Shintao or any other class tree.

She’ll train some feats to improve her prowess. Two-Weapon Fighting, Dodge and Mobility, Stunning Fist, and a few others. Tactical combat feats will be important. She trains the Dragonmark of Passage for a speed boost and, later, Dimension Door and Teleport.

And what items Syncletica does find may not fit with her new meditations. She might choose to wear only a robe, a ring and a bracelet, and these things only for some important protections, such as Deathblock and Fortification.

Her goal is to demonstrate and completely master all available powers of the unarmed self, not to have those powers skewed or even corrupted by things she may wear or training from a special school. She wants to show the inner quality, the finer edge of the living weapon that is the Monk.

Non-combat skills are critical, such as Diplomacy. Enlightenment does not necessarily include fighting.

Hirelings are allowable, but Syncletica would prefer to push herself rather than find herself dependent on them. A few quests will require one for mandatory levers or switches.

The Hermit Challenge

Everything I know of Monks in the DDO world began with Syncletica (carrying over lessons learned in the Neverwinter Nights games). Over time, I compiled what I’ve learned in gameplay and from others into a guide.

By testing her in this playstyle I can do some things I managed with Kiricletica, such as increasing my appreciation of finishing moves and stealth.

But I may also be able to show how little is needed as a viable Monk up to level 20. After that, the rules change dramatically with Epic monsters and I don’t think any build as bare as this could survive without enhancements and Epic Destiny training.

I’ve claimed in my guide that a Monk is still quite deadly with little to no equipment.  Syncletica becomes my demonstration of this claim.

I will try to give detailed build specifics and report her progress often to illustrate strengths and weaknesses.

What Inspires You?


Or are you waiting for somebody else to save her because you’re still grinding for that Epic Destiny for more DPS? She’s not going to save herself, you know. (And if she does save herself, she’s not going to want you playing with her.)

Noticed that OurDDO and the DDO forums aren’t very active today.

I find that disturbing. The younger generation aren’t entirely adapting Cobainian or Meyerist philosophies, are they?

I mean, the gaming community can’t possibly be filled with players who wait to be entertained (and bitch when they think it sucks) or sit on their butts waiting for the world to change because they’re too indifferent to realize that the world requires their direct action for any change of significance to occur.

I’m older than most gamers. I’m also part of the last group of Baby Boomers (although my wife continues to try to label me as a “Generation X’er”). This gives me an insight into the past, a past where smartphones, personal computers and video games did not exist.

I’m also a big-picture person. That ability hasn’t gotten me rich or anything yet, but it does allow me to ask questions that others may not initially think of asking.

Today’s question is, as the post title asks, “What inspires you?”

I admit the question is very broad, so I’ll pop in some general directions to flesh out the idea.

What Inspires Your Builds?

As frequent readers have learned, I don’t typically solicit or adapt builds.

The closest I’ve done to adapting a build is the Shiradi Shuricannon, a build designed by someone else. Firewall noted that my build seems a little different than his original design, despite my attempts to actually replicate his build. I guess my individuality creeped into what became Szyncletica.

I tend to look at the game design and adapt a gameplay style based on a specific ability(s), class theme or game feature. My love of Monks empowers much of what I do here. They are a mystical class and I exploit that to the letter and to the role’s true nature.

Kiricletica is a generally stock Ninja Spy that leverages the stealth game mechanics. Ryncletica began my exploration into Ninja Spies, helped me define a kunoichi theme.

Syncletica favors Wind Stance while Lynncletica favored Earth. Ryncletica began to learn the benefits of Water Stance while Quintessica, back in the old days before Update 19, favored all the stances in an “Avatar” concept.

Do you find your ideas from reading the forums or blogs, or somewhere else? Do you generate your own builds? Do you share them?

What Inspires Your Gameplay?

Are you a player that simply grinds away? Do you design for power and performance or for more subtlety?

Do you even bother reading the “flavor text” of a quest? Do you appreciate or even care about the background story? I was jazzed on the “Storm Horns” quest chain and floored to see the Netherese again after enjoying them years before in a Neverwinter Nights expansion. And the wastes of Anauroch are coming to DDO soon for more Netheril antics.

The DDO forums are filled with build information. But most of these builds are based on exploiting the multiclassing options to increase combat prowess.

I’m not necessarily arguing for or against multiclassing here. I’m simply pointing out that multiclassing seems less used for anything other than increasing raw damage or sometimes defense.

Do you look at the game’s features itself to design characters? That is, look at the principles of spell power and magnify that information into a build? Or take the weakest weapon in the game and augment it to generate a powerful fighter?

Do you look at specific enemies and how to overcome them with a build or tactic?

Do you look to external sources such as TV or films? Most readers here know of my fondness towards anime and how two shows, Log Horizon and Sword Art Online, both with very different takes on the RPG game world, have inspired me to make new characters–and still do.

How about imposing conditions to your gameplay to limit what you can do to give a greater challenge? I did that with Kiricletica and her self-imposed challenge to sneak through the game with as few kills as she could.

What Do You Offer?

DDO is a game of cooperation and participation. Even if you choose to play the game completely without human players in your party, you’re still dependent on the resources of the stores to find items you may not be able to farm easily or otherwise attain at all.

Do you sell items not only for more cash for your characters, but also because you know that others may find your items useful?

If you like most of us, we often play with people we’ve come to know, either through a guild or frequent play time by association. If those friends were asked what you and your characters bring to the party, would their answer be more praise about you, the player, rather than general descriptions of your characters?

I’ll defer on what I bring to the game while I’m playing it. To-date, externally I’ve brought two game guides and this blog to reflect my thoughts on it. It’s rather self-serving to make this point on a blog post on this subject, but you see what I mean.

While not all of us can make a game guide, do you frequent the DDO forums to ask or offer advice to or from other players? Do you submit official bug reports when you find something amiss? Do you contribute to the DDO Wiki? Do you have your own blog?

Are you one of the brilliant souls that have generated respected game resources such as the DDO Character Planner or the Cannith Crafting Generator, or a smartphone app?

What do you do for your guild?

Do you help entertain, or wait to be entertained?

What Keeps You Coming Back to DDO?

As new games arrive, many players take off to spend time in those games. A few often find themselves returning to DDO. A common reason involves DDO’s versatility. The D&D character generation system is well-advanced here, with many 3.5e and 4.0 characters. Years of development have made dozens and dozens of quests and several raids. In short, DDO has more content, with more to come.

I’ve still not exhausted DDO. The world is vast and infinite. That’s not only in content, but the mechanics that give me freedom to try something new. And most of you know that I’m still playing Monks predominantly. I’ve only scratched the surface of other classes and what they have to offer.

At this rate, I’m likely to be one of the players that will be the last to switch off the lights on my drydocked guild airship when the world of DDO goes offline for the last time.

I keep writing here as a testament of the game’s inspiration to consider what I can do next with my characters. Lately, that idea’s extended into what I can do with other players, thanks to Stormreach Shadows, the stealth guide.

Far flashier games exist out there. Why are you still here, and happy to be here?

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.

Free Deaths! Just Reclaim the Rift!

Does death always have the best moves in the game of life?

I was pretty optimistic, there, recounting a recent guild Epic Elite run in “Trial By Fury.”

I had to pass on a later guild EE run into “Deal and the Demon” but was able to make a venture into EE “Reclaiming the Rift” last night.

Death was there as usual, but he opened up a strip mall for us, handed us complimentary tickets to get killed as often as we didn’t want, sold invitations for every enemy to come help us die in several gruesome and immediate ways, and to break practically every piece of gear we carried.

Lynncletica joined in, as before, the one character I have that I have fortified and trained and equipped to survive better than any other character I have for Epic Elite. I think I survived about 5-10 seconds longer on average than the rest of the party.

I’ve asked others in the DDO Forums to give us their take on that quest in EE difficulty. As I admitted in the thread, we likely went in too “light,” with two pure Light Monks, one Cleric Monk, a Bard and a Barbarian.  In this fight, a powerful “sword and board’ melee such as a Paladin is likely needed. I’m sure I’ll get some interesting answers (and a few who can’t help but rub it in).

For me, the deaths often came from enemy mages that pummeled me with death spells or elemental damage faster than I could reach them and smack them silly with a stun. If it wasn’t the mages, it was the dracoliths that dealt absolutely brutal slashing damage in the 130 range.

So it’s back to the drawing board I go to study specific quests and how specific classes handle it better than others. I’m sure that Monks don’t fare as well against slashing damage, but often I save enough against such attacks not to come to grips with this problem, until now.

I’m sure I’ll have a few answers in the thread that suggest multiclassing a bit. I don’t like to do this but rather try to push a single class to its fullest. That, and Epic Destinies add similar versatility than complicating a character’s build identity by splitting it two or three ways.

Feel free to relate your EE fight experiences–please! Knowing is half the battle! (The other half is fighting it.)