How a Ninja Causes a Bug

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So, here’s Ryncletica, now a powerhouse fighter at level 30. She’s continuing to train every destiny to gain enough fate points to have Sense Weakness and other abilities twisted for raids and to boost her Epic Elite combat prowess.

I started up the Epic saga that pretty much requires everything in Eveningstar and beyond, starting with “Impossible Demands.” Just to be sporting, I enter with Iessin the Rogue/Shadowdancer in Epic Elite.

The fight with Priestess Vicala begins strangely because I couldn’t target her at first. For some reason I kept targeting the door behind her but my sword strokes pass through her. I shift position to get Vicala to move, and she does, towards the locked end-quest chest.

Among other spells I shake off, she begins smacking me with a hundred points of Divine Punishment. I return the favor with a hundred points of Ninja Poison ticking on her. Here’s the combat log at the peak of the battle:

(Combat): Vicala Szind’s divine punishment hit you for a total of 75 points of light damage after 37 were blocked by energy resistance.

(Combat): You hit Vicala Szind for 97 points of poison damage.

(Combat): Vicala Szind’s divine punishment hit you for a total of 79 points of light damage after 37 were blocked by energy resistance.

. . .

(Combat): Vicala Szind’s divine punishment hit you for a total of 85 points of light damage after 37 were blocked by energy resistance.

(Combat): You hit Vicala Szind for 87 points of poison damage.

(Combat): Vicala Szind’s divine punishment hit you for a total of 79 points of light damage after 37 were blocked by energy resistance.

(Combat): You hit Vicala Szind for 99 points of poison damage.

(Combat): You hit Vicala Szind for 103 points of poison damage.

(Combat): You hit Vicala Szind for 97 points of poison damage.

Helping me reduce the punishing Light damage is a cloak that has Light Resistance 37, a very handy thing against evil clerics.

She goes all “Super Saiyan” on me as expected in the quest’s start. You know what that is: Drow priestesses sacrifice any innocent to gain a super buff that recharges their life and reduces your attack effectiveness for a time.

But the Ninja Poison DoTs persistently damage her, even in super-mode. As she returns to normal, her body “hiccups” every 2 seconds as the Ninja Poison dots her with 107 points of damage. Her Divine Punishment dots stop after about 15 seconds.

So, Vicala sacrifices the Purple Dragon Knight and then leaves, closing the door–which she does. I move back to the normally-safe area by the entrance and shrine.

And then the very pissed-off Vicala comes storming back through the door. She’s not following her preset patrol. She attacks me and the passive Iessin–not just twice but three times, also sacrificing the already-stricken Purple Dragon Knight a second time as she goes Super Saiyan once more.

Proof that, while Divine Punishment can deal debilitating damage, Ninja Poison throws up to 20 stacks of the stuff and lasts 15 seconds per stack, ticking damage every 3 seconds.

Ninja Poison ruined my normal attempt to rescue all hostages without the priestess noticing.

And it left me a momentary challenge on how to turn off Ninja Poison for the first fight or I’d keep turning the priestess into more than the usual psychotic murderess she is. (The answer there would be to switch off the Poisoned Soul and Sting of the Ninja enhancements.)

To the defense of the developers, this isn’t so much of a bug than a glitch. Ninja Poison was too effective on her at the start on this first attempt. Often some NPCs that fight then go inactive have any lasting player damaging effects removed. Looks like Vicala didn’t get that treatment on the first attempt.

I reset the quest, tried again and completed. However, during the run, Vicala apparently was enjoying a particular piece of furniture upstairs and glitched again, halting her patrol. I took advantage of that, rescued all the hostages and then dispatched her.

#ninjaproblems

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The Viper meets the Spider

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Spiders have been known to kill snakes. But the Drow aren’t expecting a Ninja.

Kiricletica just reached level 20 and is gearing up for Epic mode. She kept to her solo-only limits except for a couple of times where I joined some guildmates on quests I’d already completed alone, like “Jungles of Khyber.”

Some folks might say that Epic solo play is easier since your character gains some rather, well, epic gear. I think the only edge you get is from using the right Epic Destiny as well as strong numbers in your class’s “magic” stat.

After a little study, Kiri’s first pick is Shadowdancer. Improved stealth, some sneak attack, immunity to energy drain, permanent incorporeality, improved invisibility, bonuses to Dodge, a Dominate power–what’s not to like?

Sure, the epic set gear can really help. Kiri’s first priority this weekend was in assembling the Sun Soul set for better defenses and stats, finally retiring my venerable White Dragonscale Robe. That meant a long sojourn in the King’s Forest to find encounters to obtain any commendations to trade for the items.

“The Druid’s Deep” chain I completed earlier helped here since you can run that series and gain 3 commendations of your choice as a chain end-reward, if you’re desperate for more commendations in a relative hurry.

I’ve had a small taste of Underdark Drow from “The Druid’s Curse,” the end-quest of that chain, with a few Drow that appear in an optional cave. It stung a little but Kiri held her own.

But now, it’s finally time to see what Kiri can do against one of the game’s most challenging enemies: the Priestesses of Lolth.

Come Into My Lair, the Spider Says

Drow Priestesses are effectively Clerics with serious backup from their goddess, Lolth. Imagine having your god on speed-dial.

From Divine Punishment, Inflict Wounds, Cometfall, Hold Monster–the Priestess alone can hurt you fast and badly if left alone.

What’s worse about the Priestess is her special regenerative ability. Priestesses are rarely solitary with many lesser Drow at her beck and call. Should her health fall to a critical level and provided she is not Helpless, she’ll leech on the nearest humanoid and then go all Super Saiyan on you with her infamous 30-second Favored of the Goddess power-up: “Having performed a sacrifice to the Goddess, you have increased spell damage, greatly improved resistances to incoming damage, and an incredible boost to spell resistance.”

Typically, to kill a Priestess, you must kill her minions. Should she happen to have hostages or slaves, she’ll eat them, too, if they’re close by.

But I have not had the honor, the privilege of introducing those nasty spider-worshippers to the power of Ninja Poison at full strength as opposed to the slower- or no-dosing that the ninjas Szyncletica the star-thrower or the unarmed Ryncletica could do.

I didn’t know if the Priestess’s spider-style could shrug off all the damage-over-time stacks I can deliver from Kiri’s Viper Style (Freezing the Lifeblood to paralyze with three+ hits of Poisoned Soul Ninjutsu using Envenomed Blades to magnify damage) with her regenerative ability. So far, nothing I’ve killed has the capacity to remove poison from itself that I could note in the heat of battle. That’s likely a game mechanic as NPCs don’t seem to care about using Panacea or related remove-poison effects. And will her Favored of the Goddess status help against the unrelenting power of poisoning?

There was also the matter of trying to make the Priestess quite helpless so she cannot regenerate. A common solution for unarmed Monks is to stun Priestesses silly and load up the damage, stunning again before she can recover if possible.

Kiri had a better idea, using Freezing the Lifeblood to hold down the Priestess much longer than stuns or normal paralysis since it requires a Fortitude save to escape, not Will (which a Priestess, a high WIS enemy, should shake off). Provided Kiri’s not fighting a Red-Named Priestess, taking down the lesser varieties should work well.

But even for the Red-Named kind that cannot be paralyzed, like Priestess Vicala Szind in “Impossible Demands,” Kiri should be able to use Viper Style for 200+ dots and then switch to Poison Exploit for a quick rip of the poison sac before she might regenerate. At what point she regenerates is the question I can’t remember. At 25%, maybe?

And Kiri’s blades, as a Ninja Master, now are Vorpal weapons with greater critical hit and damage modifiers. She’s the first character that uses shortswords almost exclusively (save oozes and maybe a wisp or two), so higher damage is important.

Legendary Damage

While Shadowdancer will be Kiri’s first destiny, Legendary Dreadnought may be her second school, skipping over Grandmaster of Flowers until after LD is trained. Epic play will have epic fighting so Kiri’s stealth will only go so far before a CR30 trash mob will end her without a good counterattack. The defenses, weapon attacks and action boosts will be critical to Kiri’s survival as she grows.

Impossible Demands

After much adventuring in the King’s Forest, finding all the journals and slaying 750 enemies (plus a side quest or two in Eveningstar), I reached level 21, had my full Sun Soul attire, added a Drow Piawfi, pulled out a Drow Shortsword of the Weapon Master just to see what it could do. My WIS was 38 in Ocean Stance, not bad at all to ensure that a Freezing finisher works on EH.

A few close fights in the Forest made me realize that I shouldn’t stay in Ocean Stance all the time. I’d gotten used to it since passive ki regeneration works best from being in Sneak while in that stance. Earth Stance, however, offers maximum AC with Combat Expertise up (bringing her AC to 90 with 15 PRR) and Wind Stance offers 10% Doublestrike and 15% melee speed increase (going to 110% Doublestrike for 6 seconds using one ninja ability, Shadow Double). With the Vestments of the Sun Soul equipped, its Enhanced Ki now provided more than enough ki during any fight to not require continual use of Ocean Stance.

My leveling prior to the quest allowed me to test Viper Style against Orange-Named Drow Priestesses in the Underdark. One always appears en route to the path to the Sschindylryn portal via the King’s Forest entrance.

First rule of Priestess Fight Club: Kill/disable the slavemasters and mages first. I targeted them with Freezing strikes to keep their spells at bay, removed the slavemaster first to turn the slaves over to my side, and then targeted the Priestess with a Freezing attack that held her tight and unable to regenerate despite having many slaves to feed from. All slaves were saved and the priestess could never zap anyone.

I entered “Impossible Demands” on Epic Hard, one level above me.

Reading up on Vicala, I didn’t know she had permanent See Invisibility, not that it matters for the purposes of that quest since you never let yourself get in line-of-sight of her from any distance. On EN, it’s silly-easy to watch the priestess make her rounds since she appears on your map. I’ve done in on EH just fine without that aid.

I did bring in a Gold Seal Rogue to disable all the spell wards along the way but did not involve it in any fighting. Those of you in the know realize that the spell ward proximity make it very hard to navigate or fight, and I didn’t want to discover at that time if the wards affected the hostages in any way. My goal was not to be seen, eliminate all Drow (required or Vicala will regenerate on anyone left during the final fight) and save all the hostages. Since I wasn’t getting the help from the map with Epic Hard, this was a small concession to the difficulty.

Vicala makes a transit from top of inner stairs closest to the entrance to the basement and back in 2:30 seconds. (I time it.) My beat-down of Vicala at the quest’s start was promising; her only counter to my Ninja Poison was Divine Punishment, which hurt, but not nearly as badly as the damage she endured.

I had the hireling remove the four spell wards along the upper level, parked it in passive-mode at the entrance, then went to work with Freezing strikes at the mages first before removing the fighters. An optional fight with Warleader Speitar, a nasty Blademaster, took longer than I liked since I had to fight in a small area and had problems keeping his support team out of the picture. But he did fall after a lot of poisoning.

The hostages have to be released at the right time and place or Vicala or others will kill them on sight. Never a problem for me but you do have to pay attention.

In the end, all hostages were freed, all kidnappers vanquished, and the final fight of viper versus spider ended with Vicala simply unable to withstand 150+ point dots of Ninja Poison for very long.

Any search on Google on spiders versus snakes show the spider winning. Obviously, it cheats. So, fortune goes to the prepared–and the more poisonous.

The Unquiet Graves

Kiri’s Viper Style was challenged by the Dark Incantors, the arch-necromancers occupying the graveyard in “The Unquiet Graves.” Back in on Epic Hard, one level up from me. No trap-monkey hirelings (or any hirelings) used here.

My first challenge was ensuring I had Death Ward active at all times. The Incanters will zap you in a microsecond using all kinds of death spells, even on EN. I had two Visors of the Flesh Render Guards handy for 7 minutes each, with two 20-minute Death Ward potions on reserve. I could use the only rest shrine later to recharge the clickies with no concerns about ki drainage since I regenerate very well during a fight.

Incanter #1 was easy to slay with Viper Style leaving him 3/4 dead by the time he ran off to his reinforcements in the graveyard proper. I had to switch from my Envenomed Blades to disrupting kamas to help remove the zombies.

Incanter #2 fell to the same tactics as #1 but his spell attacks left me challenged to keep my HP up. Viper Style allows my poison to attack him (with enough doses) while I healed and regrouped. I decided to use the shrine after this fight to recharge the death ward clickies.

On Incanter #3, I nailed the two closest fighters with Freezing finishers and removed the one zombie that reinforced the Incanter’s damage protections. I pulled the fight away from the small graveyard or else the hidden Drow roaming there would also get involved in the fight.

I backtracked to the large graveyard and pulled the Incanter behind the large mausoleum and was somewhat lucky to attract only one necromancer and archer, rather than the whole swarm of his support. Kiri had a hard time getting her pattern going with all the minions chasing her.

That’s the Viper’s weakness: If Kiri has too much to fight, using Viper Style can’t work as I’m trying to survive more than I’m able to attack.

I concentrated a bit and remembered that the Incanter was my only target. I swiped at others for ki and kept aligning my Touch of Despair attacks at the last Incanter to lay on as much Ninja Poison as I could before being forced to retreat.

The last Incanter fell but looting the chest required a Flash Bang to blind everything long enough for me to sneak to the chest, loot and use a Word of Recall for a teleport-escape. Got a pair of Grave Wrappings for my trouble.

So Close and Yet So Far: Epic Elite Solo

Garamol and Lynncletica in negotiations for his loot.

Garamol and Lynncletica in negotiations for his loot.

In between her farming duties for her lower-powered students, Lynncletica, the Little Mountain and my most powerful character, is eyeing how to attain her Purple Dragon Knights favor to unlock her Spider-Spun Caparison outfit.

At the time of this writing, she’s got 319 favor, short of the 375 needed to access the NPC that will allow unlocking.

I figure I might be able to get the needed favor by completing EE with the Eveningstar and Underdark chain quests.

That’s a better number of favor since the introduction of the three inaugural Shadowfell quests, which added more PDK favor to the mix.

As noted before, Lynncletica is built to endure EE as long as any pure Monk can manage. In any other difficulty or adventure outside of Epic Elite, she is practically invulnerable.  She ventures through the Subterrane for Icy Raiment farming with nary a care.

Final score: Lynn 1, Sinvala 0.

Final score: Lynn 1, Sinvala 0.

She can tank Arraetrikos in “The Shroud” on Elite and not feel the least inconvenienced, avoiding much of what he throws out.

She can take out Sinvala the Black Dragon in Elite “Mired in Kobolds” (the dragon is CR 30, and we know how nastier dragons are as of Update 17).

I find soloing with Lynn a joy, but it also helps me weed out any weaknesses in her. Soloing most anything up to Epic Hard is quite doable within the quest objectives. Multiple party member-quests are about the exception.

But Epic Elite, as experienced players know, is a different beast. I’d love to have a few guildies join me rather than  an insane solo run, but as I noted in my last post, our guild, and perhaps DDO as a whole, is significantly suffering from player attendance.

To test out her capacity to survive and beat an EE adventure, Lynncletica’s first EE solo run began in the millhouse in the King’s Forest.

As few hirelings of any level would survive in EE, I summoned only a Rogue/Shadowdancer, just to disable the spell wards inside the home. Healing would come from Lynn’s potent healing amplification numbers (I estimate about 400%).

Lynn has two combat modes. In Dreadnought mode (with Legendary Dreadnought as dominant Epic Destiny), Lynn can dish greater damage but have little in the way of additional attacks granted by Grandmaster of Flowers, and lose out on some PRR, Dodge bonus and tactical DCs granted from that destiny. Lynn’s preferred mode for EE is to twist LD’s Improved Combat Expertise and Unyielding Sentinel’s Brace for Impact for more PRR and fortification combining all the DCs and Dodge effects and PRR boosts in GMoF. She typically sits around 686 to 735 HP depending on her buffs or combat mode.

On entering, I parked the hireling and set about pummeling the Drow Priestess. This took a while as Lynn’s combat damage was lower and the CR 44 Priestess’s overall DR was rather nasty. A few times she brought me to half my HP before I needed to use one potion between Healing Ki bursts and Fists of Light’s +2 to +5 HP recharges per hit. Soon, the Priestess walked off with her warning and I was left to figure out the better strategy to complete this place.

Option 1: A Sacrifice of Many for the One

Here, I’ll just encounter the Priestess and beat her up until she sacrifices everybody and has nothing left to live for..er…with, then slay her to complete.

This avoids the dangerous fighting of her minions in each room as well as the risk that the Rogue hireling would get insta-killed and unable to remove the wards, leaving me quite vulnerable to their damage. The downside is that the Priestess would draw on every body, minion or hostage, to stay alive.

I recall one player that managed to attract the Priestess in the hidden attic room, where it appears she was too far to sacrifice anyone, but at the time I was playing I couldn’t look up that reference. His stealth skills likely equal Ryncletica’s ability, but Lynn’s stealth, while superior, lacks the Shadowdancer advantages that the forum poster’s build likely had, including Improved Invisibility to open that hidden room without attracting a mob.

Option 2: Go Hero

I chose this option on my first attempt, to slay minions and rescuing hostages to leave the Priestess with little to sacrifice. It didn’t seem that I would save any time or resources in trying to gun the Priestess down in option 1 by outlasting her. I figured I would get the upper hand on her minions if I was lucky.

The Rogue hireling (a lower level Epic one, to my fault) barely took down the first two wards in the outer upper hallway. After I parked her near the entrance, I tried to remove the enemies in the first room.

Did I mention how I hate mages? In my first attempt in Grandmaster Mode, a wizard managed to blow through my 44 saves to hold me, and that was that as the fighters sliced me up like so much bologna. Holding a Monk is about the one defense that mages might succeed to cast in time before a spell-resistant and high-saving Monk tries to stun them. That mage got lucky or was just the better man, being a likely CR 40.

A couple of days later, I tried again, switched to Dreadnought Mode for considerably more damage but keeping most of my defenses up. This time, however, the Priestess would have none of it and managed to blast me with disintegrate attempts faster than Lynncletica’s otherwise-impressive ability to fully reheal all her 700+ HP  while fighting in less than 45 seconds.

More Thinking To Do

I still wonder if this particular EE would be better done in Dreadnought mode. The key is to build up blitz moments that could be used to attack the minions–hard–in Master’s Blitz epic moment mode. It’s an incredible attack mode that Lynn learned can increase speed and damage to godly levels for powerfully fast takedowns for as long as you have enemies to kill.

Building up a charge would not be too hard, since I can spam up a charge in a public area and wait in-quest to use it in the minion room.  With luck, the speed of takedowns will recharge the Blitz to allow me to perform a similar take down in successive rooms. The Blitz is a good idea because it will last up to 2:30 min, or 1 charge lost per 15 seconds. If I can kill fast, the Blitz sustains itself.

Which means, with critical hits in the thousands and normal attacks in the 200s, taking down anyone should be easy with haste boosts. Whether a mage intervenes in time to ruin my berserk mode is another story.

As to that mage, the maximum reflex save I can generate with temporary boosts and buffs is about 52. My stunning DC is about the same, suitable for a lesser-fortified class such as a wizard. If I enter a room, target the mage and off him first, I have a literal fighting chance. I need those same reflexes to evade certain damage from attacks, but from there, its the Big Three of Miss Chances combined with fast takedowns and stick-and-move fighting that might win the day for an EE solo run.

Some comments from an esteemed commenter a recent post notes some greater benefits from Unyielding Sentinel (among other destinies) that I haven’t tried yet. On his pure Monk, using Fatesinger for buffing, he has over 1300 HP (also thanks to taking Toughness feats until his fingers bled). Good defenses, too. In Lynn’s next life, a few more Toughness feats and anything to help Dodge and reflex saves still attracts me. For those who think that a Monk can’t tank, well, Daniel’s work should change your mind.