Drow Kunoichi: Ryncletica Resharpened

Each of my Monks are being regroomed as I try to spread out their levels for helping others, but also for something different.

I’ve sent Syncletica, Flynncletica and Szyncletica into several Epic Normal runs of “Devil’s Assault” to gather Tokens of the Twelve for any reincarnation efforts.

I know who was my next TR target–my first dark Monk, Ryncletica, the kunoichi. But for months now I’ve been unsure how to position her. Too many ninjas? Hell, no, you can’t have too many! And if you do, how would you find them?

And then Update 23 came along to inspire several of us in the game–which caused me to go “screw that” to the Token farming for now and buy a Heroic Heart of Wood for getting the inspiration off the ground immediately.

Melee Powered Poison

This DDO thread notes how Venomed Blades, a poison stance granted to Drow and Assassins, gains a 200% boost to Melee Power, which augments attack damage.

What caught my eye is that there is also amplification to poison damage as well. Not just the damage of Venomed Blades, but the Sting of the Ninja effect as well, where Ninja Poison is injected on critical hits. Teacher Firewall, creator of the Shiradi Shuricannon build, confirms that the 1d8 poison damage of Venomed Blades amplifies with more Melee Power as well as the debuffing of Ninja Poison, ranged or in melee. The higher your Melee Power, the higher the damage.

With that, I was able to make a decision for Ryncletica’s third life. Go Drow, go Ninja Spy.

Now, I already have a Drow ninja: Szyncletica, the Shroud Beater. But she’s designed to use only shuriken. And, sadly, the Sting of the Ninja bug affects any poisoning done with all but a few Cannith-crafted stars, including Venomed Blades. (Firewall confirmed that ranged amplification works but using a star that isn’t bugged from using Sting of the Ninja.)

But melee attacks work perfectly with the poison.

Ryn4

I’M BATGIRL. Well, no. Her pointed ears are in the wrong place.

 

So, for your review, here is Ryncletica reborn, my very first ninja, now in her third life. Still in her kunoichi form (assault ninja), but more streamlined, I think.

As a Drow, she’ll gain not only Venomed Blades to accelerate melee and poison damage but gain improved damage with her shuriken and shortswords, her primary weapon.

The Shuriken Expertise free racial feat turns out to be quite handy with extra stars thrown per attack. Thanks to some tips from Szyncletica, Ryn can “switch-hit” quite well, using stars for remote damage and pulls. I need now to make kamas or shortswords that add any off-hand effects for special occasions.

Unlike her sister, Kiricletica, Ryn will stick to Two Weapon Fighting, preferring the off-hand procs (and the accumulating poison and stat damage it can apply) over attack speed.

Ryn benefits from the major schooling that Kiri showed me with the Freezing the Lifeblood and Pain Touch finishers. If I can’t paralyze it, I mute or blind it, even giants (although their higher Fortitude saves tend to shake it off a little faster).

I’m adding a little Sneak Attack damage as points allow, with No Mercy and Shadow Double as critical training goals. One ability I’ve tended to skip, Subtlety, might come in handy, reducing my Threat while making that quick takedown against scattered foes while in party.

But there’s more in store to differentiate her from Kiri and Szyn.

Adding More Spy to the Spymaster

Ryn is getting Harper Agent training to add some Melee Power for her swords and Ranged Power for when she uses shuriken. Drow Xen’drik Training will add to-hit competence bonuses to her weapons. DEX is the prime stat for all damage, with WIS very close behind to ensure that the finishers land and that Ryn has sufficient ki.

Unlike Kiri, who gains some Melee Power as a Single Weapon Fighter, Ryn has to add some through the Harper tree for now or gain no Melee Power at all in Heroic levels.

The inherent advantages of Drow, from stealth to attack skill, should compensate for the lower CON and HP of the Drow.

Ryn has a Phiarlan Mirror Cloak equipped for a modest Hide/Move Silently boost, and has trained in Shadow Veil for invisibility and incorporeality on-demand. Having never owned a Cloak of Shadows, I see some runs into “The Church and the Cult” to find that item for +10 Hide and Move Silently at level 9. Or, I could wait to get to level 11 and buy/farm tapestry pieces from the Orchard to make a Muffled Veneer for +11 Hide/Move Silently. (I prefer the newer Nightforge Gorget to add 100% fortification through level 14 as it also allows me to slot a Deathblock gem in my necklace.)

Ryn5As for Ninja Spy skills, Ryn is the second Ninja Spy I have to not train in the Touch of Death or Stunning Fist. The reasoning is that Ninja Poison with Melee Power should be a greater killer. Many things immune to negative energy or stuns aren’t immune to poison–and I’m able to deliver poison much faster than ToD hits or stuns.

I can rely quite well on Freezing the Lifeblood’s paralyze on many enemies. Those immune from paralyzing (duergar) are likely too resistant to a stun anyway–but not from getting muted by Pain Touch. Unarmed fighting won’t inject Ninja Poison anyway, so shortswords are the mandatory direction for this build.

Most critically, the Action Point costs to train three trees, Drow, Ninja Spy and Harper Agent will be very, very hard while also trying to cling to the Ninja Master level 20 joys of vorpalling everything.

It means I must spend 40 points in Ninja Spy, plus 1 for the last core, to vorpal. After that, I have only 39 points to spread elsewhere: 18 points required into Drow to unlock Venomed Blades and its three ranks, with the last 11 into Harper Agent or Ninja Spy’s other features.

By my calculations, Harper Agent adds +4 Melee/Ranged Power with +3 to my hireling’s abilities from a nearby ability, trained as a progression prerequisite since I must spend 2 AP to go to the next tier for one more point of Melee/Ranged power. Going Harper may not seem worth it.

But hey, these are all enhancement-based things. If being a Harper Agent becomes too gimpy, I’ll reset the tree and devote its points to my Drow/Ninja Spy trees or put a few points in the Mystic tree for more passive ki.

While only 4 points of Melee Power may not be awesome in Heroic, once back in Epic levels, Shadowdancer and Grandmaster of Flowers training, in addition to the new Epic Power feat, will add more melee power and so, more damage.

Skipping Stunning Fist lets me add the Ten Thousand Stars feat instead to boost thrown weapon damage. So far, with Shuriken Expertise, I’m seeing double and occasional triple hits of stars and can reliably take down targets at range.

The No Mercy enhancement adds up to 30% more damage to my poor paralyzed enemies–with Sneak Attack damage to go with that.

In short, Ryncletica is rebuilt for power takedowns, sacrificing defense and healing for massive poisoning, with a little sneak attack, ranged damage and helpless-based DPS.

Sounds more like a traditional ninja, don’tcha think? It’s too bad that the Ninja Mask cosmetic doesn’t cover Ryn’s pointed ears. Despite her training, she doesn’t look like Batgirl in the right way.

Poison Master Revisited

I groomed Kiricletica to be a good poisoner, but Ryn should be able to take it an order or two of magnitude with the amplified Venomed Blades.

I’m played with some Drow abilities. I trained in Faerie Fire, a spell-like ability that dispels Concealment and Hide effects. It’s not quite as strong as I’d like it to be as it requires CHA for its DC. My early tests of it didn’t even reveal some hidden kobolds in the Searing Heights wilderness, so I’ll likely reset the tree and put those points into more Xen’drik Weapon Training.

Ryn still wants to keep her theatricality, a natural thing to be as a ninja. Any clickies or abilities she can use are fair game. Ninja Spy tactics to escape are still on the board. I suspect that AP needed to upgrade Flash Bang and Poison Exploit  to their maximums will be there, even Sneak Attack–but I can’t max out those abilities and train ability score enhancements, too. Ryn is going to be all-talent, no boosts.

Ryn was my first stealth-heavy character, and is only going to be better at it with Update 19’s changes, fresh gear and the refinements to stealth tactics we’ve all learned (now compiled in the Stormreach Shadows guide, if you didn’t know).

Ryncletica is going to miss the versatility of her second life’s half-elven Cleric dilettante in terms of wands and scrolls, forcing her to pick her battles much more carefully then even Kiri did, having only healing potions and the occasional Wholeness of Body healing. That’s familiar territory for Ryn as she was Halfling in life #1. Ryn’s Drow skills do benefit more than as a Halfling, from sleep immunity, and similar Spot/Listen/Search bonuses, but with a more concentrated throwing advantage than even a Halfling.

Ki generation is the biggest challenge in the early levels. I’ve trained in all 3 ranks of Stealthy to gain its +1 to passive ki generation. But I doubt if I have enough AP to add 8 AP to the Henshin Mystic tree’s Contemplation for another passive point without skipping the whole Harper thing. And I’ve been down that road already in life #2.

I’ll have to do with Greater Ocean Stance’s second passive ki regeneration point at level 12 if I want the Harper side. Since Ryn does melee, she can kick on Fire Stance to generate a bunch of ki on attacks, then go into Sneak with higher WIS and Concentration to retain her cache. That’s been my current tactic.

As for weapons, Szyncletica helped out with some very quick runs into Heroic Three Barrel Cove to farm a Tiefling Assassin’s Blade. Kiri loaned out a +1 Poison Shortsword of Feeding to add to the fun. A second Tiefling blade wouldn’t hurt; Kiri still likes hers despite being twice as high in levels than Ryn. The CON damage, combined with Fists of Darkness’s debuffing and fortification damage, and the Precision stance active, makes for fast damage to most anything so far at her Level 8 status. I need some augment gems for my blades.

Even the Tiefling blades should do well for me for several levels, swapping out some pairs of  Vampiric Fury Shortswords, Vengeful Fury Shortswords (both stat-damaging weaponry types) and crafted Metalline of Pure Good swords for special times until I can re-equip a pair of the Happy-Dance of heroic shortswords, the poison-dripping Envenomed Blades at level 16. Lots of time in Gianthold to get some White Dragonscale Armor, too.

Ryncletica should be the summation of the experience of two other ninja–deadly at range, deadliest at point-blank range. She and Sukitetica the Assassin have more in common right now. Stay tuned.

The Drow and Klingons: A Character Study

Fellow blogger Erdrique has recently posted a series of articles on backstory insights of races and alliances in various adventures that are often illuminating and sometimes puzzling.

A stray thought came to mind regarding the Drow. Erdrique has touched on the ones we find in the Searing Heights.

Hazai_HaathaEven the weakest of them exudes attitude and weaponized bitterness. They often back it up with numbers and skill.

The Xen’drik Drow, commonly aligned with the god Vulkoor, can sometimes be mild allies, as with the peaceful Raveneye Drow in the Red Fens, whose backstory (if you bother to speak with one NPC) tells of their self-isolation after giantish enslavement.

But when they or any other Drow have their Vulkoor cheerleader mode on, they are ferocious, as we see in the Demon Sands adventures, especially “An Offering of Blood” where it seems that every desert Drow on Xen’drik shows up to kill you.

And then, it gets worse–not for you yet, but for them. The Xen’drik Drow get one-upped by another better-known Drow race from another realm–the Faerun Drow, the dark elves of the Underdark of Abeir-Toril.

These Drow enter into the world of Xen’drik by manipulating the Xen’drik Drow to free a senior drider priestess, the Spinner of Shadows, who contacts the goddess Lolth (who makes Vulkoor seem like an orange-named boss). Lolth’s mere “Hello!” when her aspect appears in the plane of Khyber causes an inter-planar rift in Xen’drik that threatens to destroy the planet. It’s a metaphysical attack so intense that it might be like being a grandson and getting slapped so hard by a bully that your grandfather feels it, decades before you were born.

Rather than Vulkoor’s scarrow (scorpion/drow fusions), we see the driders: Spider Drow borne from the stuff of nightmares. It’s not my first time handling driders, being a Neverwinter Nights player. (When I saw the scarrow for the first time, I laughed at their oddness.)

FaerunDrowPriestessOne of the most dreaded enemies in their ranks are the Drow Priestesses, powerful mages that will sustain themselves in a fight by sucking the life from anyone in her influence–even her own army.

Dun'Robar_BlademasterThe Drow of the Underdark are more sinister, more battle ready than the Xen’drik Drow. While the Underdark Drow have houses that often fight among themselves, the Xen’drik Drow are often seen in various alliances, most not with your interests and, interestingly, not with other Drow factions. As a result, they seem rather spread out in effectiveness, like the Sulatar Drow of the Searing Heights. The Vulkoor Drow in Menechtarun are arguably the most potent of the Drow on Xen’drik up to level 16.

From there, the nastiest ones are found in Khyber. They appear to be Drow who have been influenced by the Spinner of Shadows to gather dragonshards for her. As a result of their alliance, these Drow spellcasters are superior in firepower than any other Xen’drik Drow, if Sabriz Rinzyn Kho is any indication.

The contrasts between the Faerun and Xen’Drik Drow made me think of the Klingons, the warrior race in Star Trek lore. At first, these characters were written up as placeholders for Communist rulers of the Cold War, since the Original Series was produced during that time. They were humanoid in appearance then, resembling Asian/Slavic peoples you might find in the former Soviet Union, with a heavy “Fu Manchu” look.

By the early 1980’s, the Klingons took on a different appearance, still humanoid but with a more…crustacean appearance, for lack of a better term. These were first seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The Klingon commander at the start of the film was played by the late Mark Lenard, one of the first actors to play a role in  all of the non-human major races in the series and films as well as appear in more Star Trek projects than most other actors (The unnamed Romulan commander in “Balance of Terror,” the unnamed Klingon commander in The Motion Picture, and, of course, Sarek of Vulcan, Spock’s father, in the Original Series, Next Generation, and the movies Star Trek III and IV).

These “new” Klingons quickly gained a far grandiose warrior-race posture not unlike races we see in the Dungeons & Dragons universes. An artificial language was created for them for use with The Motion Picture by Marc Okrand. It’s now the most commonly spoken artificial language in the world. (Sheldon Cooper tries to use it at any opportunity.) SF conventions always have a contingent of attendees that are in full Klingon apparel–well, the armor from the Next Generation appearance, anyway. They speak of honor and war and battle. They aren’t necessarily evil, but are fearless, continually ready for battle to show their worth.

klingons

Klingons: Before…and now. For folks playing at home, this is the same character, Kor, played by the venerable actor John Colicos (also of original “Battlestar Galactica” fame as the original Baltar).

By their reappearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Klingons had a love/hate alliance with the Federation. Like the Vulkoor Drow, when the Klingons are miffed at you, you’ll have to fight for your honor or be destroyed. If Star Fleet shared the Klingon’s distaste for a common enemy, a Klingon/Federation war party is an awesome force to be reckoned with. The race also gained a substantially greater historical backstory and ethics that showed how a dangerous Klingon isn’t particularly evil–just Klingon.

The writers of Star Trek lampshaded why the appearance of the Klingons changed from Kirk’s time to Picard’s time in the very humorous and technically-beautiful return to Kirk’s time of tribble trouble, using clever CGI to meld 24th Century characters into the Original Series episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” to interact with events in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode, “Trials and Tribble-ations.”

So, when “New Klingons” showed up, it seemed to me (an old guy that’s watched The Original Series when it first aired) that the Original Series Klingons have become jokes to viewers and fans, spoken of only in passing. So it may be also true for the Xen’drik Drow, threatened with perceiving itself as the “New Coke” of the Drow race.

It would interesting to have a new adventure in DDO where players get to explore the history of the Drow, specifically how the Xen’drik Drow are handling the revelation that other Drow in the universe not only exist, but are tougher, badder and have a MUCH bigger god than they do. I mean, Vulkoor isn’t quite up to planet-killing prowess, to my knowledge.

Where did these new dark elves come from?, the Xen’drik Drow would ask. Why are they more powerful? What is the fate of the Xen’drik Drow with this revelation of both religious, political and ontological import? What does Lolth have in mind? Is she going to sacrifice the Drow of Eberron to the Demonweb?

Given that some Xen’drik Drow aren’t so much evil as they boast superiority (a common Drow trait), it would fascinating to see a Xen’drik Drow show up their Faerun counterparts in some way. Imagine that the Drow of the Underdark have their eyes set on invading Stormreach.

Do you think our Eberron Drow would have any of that?

With this line of thinking, I’m surprised that the devs haven’t created an adventure where the Xen’drik Drow then ask, “How can we help your kind in killing that overgrown false spider-god?”

Our Drow wouldn’t fight so much for Xen’drik, but just because they need to save face. They’d go out to prove that they are Drow too, dammit, not some knockoff copies that the Underdark used for slaves once upon a time.

The developer’s concentration in focusing on creating more Forgotten Realms adventures and less of Eberron quests make the probability of exploring this new plight to the Xen’drik Drow unlikely.

A Little Role-Play on My Part

My newest character, the star-thrower Szyncletica, is a House Dun’Robar Drow. So, with some practice, I’m going to play her as an outsider amidst outsiders with some inside understanding of her Xen’drik brethren. She’s going to get annoyed at the relative equality of Xen’Drik Drow men in the quests she’ll encounter (women are the leaders with the Faerun Drow), especially since her backstory is that she was a daughter of a Matron Mother and thus, heir to the throne–if she were able to kill off her sibling competition.

I plan to march Szyn into the Demon Sands shortly. I’ll likely choose dialog options that reflect her nature as a Drow. I’m hoping that the developers added a little NPC dialog changes that might make Drow-to-Drow talks a bit interesting. However, it’s not probable given the age of the modules, and my adventures in the Red Fens don’t show any change.

I do know one thing. I think Szyn has the cojones to take down the Demon Queen solo, at Heroic level. Her throwing attack can hit fast and hard, her reflexes will save easily against Queen Lailat’s blade-barrier like attacks, the gnolls will not survive and Szyn should be able to kite her way to victory.

Update 20: The Half-Elf Inflatable Tank

Half-elves lose a key ability to being a durable light tank. But there's a difference between a light tank and a tank that's way too light.

Half-elves lose a key ability to being a durable light tank. But there’s a difference between a light tank and a tank that’s way too light.

Update: A poster noted that I was caught by Turbine Doublespeak Syndrome. The issue here would involve a Half-Elf (who gets the racial abilities of Improved Recovery, no matter the class) who takes Monk levels and then chooses Half-Elf Dilettante  Monk and then attempts to use the Dilettante Special Ability selection to gain the identically-named Improved Recovery options from there. To avoid people gaining triple amping using the Shintao line, the devs restrict the Shintao line (since all the cores add 5%) if you try to get around this trick. This makes sense.

So ignore this rambling in the post, which I will leave as a testament to anyone who later tells me that I post and don’t admit to being wrong. I was wrong.

A quick note as we all peruse through the changes of Update 20.

I noticed new language in some enhancement trees, designed to keep players from wasting action points by choosing abilities that are redundant to or conflict with something else from their class feats or other enhancement tree. The developers call these “Antirequisites.”

One caught my eye right away: The first Shintao Monk ability, “Bastion of Purity,” has a disheartening new antirequisite: By taking it, you cannot choose Half-Elf Improved Recovery I or II abilities.

I took several sips of coffee this morning to figure out why the change was made.

Note that Update 19 reduced racial healing amplification options to only Humans and Half-Elves, and left what was the old “Monk Improved Recovery” boosts split up into the Shintao core enhancements. Taking all Shintao cores will give you 30% amplification. If you aren’t either of these races, racial healing amplification is closed to you.

Frankly, this means that only a Human and their three tiers of Improved Recovery get the maximum healing amplification as a Shintao Monk. Half-Elves cannot use their options, even if they favor their human side, if I read this change correctly and didn’t miss other adjustments.

The only reason I could fathom to this change is that Half-Elf dilettantes, particularly the Cleric one, allows self-healing through wands and scrolls. Maybe the combined use of racial improved recovery and the dilettante seemed overpowered to the developers when used by Shintao characters.

As it is, my two Half-Elves are all Ninja Spies anyway. Both have maxed their racial Improved Recovery but also can use wands and scrolls for healing and buffing. They all rely on stealth and miss chance effects to reduce damage and do not lead a party except to scout.

Lynncletica is fated to be only a Human since she requires the maximum available healing amp that can only come from being a human Shintao Monk. Same is true for Syncletica, although I have some thoughts on her fate for a third life.

If you have a Half-Elf Shintao Monk, you’ll likely see a message indicating that your enhancements have been partially or fully reset. Sorry.

What annoys me is that the Shintao enhancement tree favors Mountain Stance too strongly. I love that the tree works as a tanking stance. But there are different ways to assist in light tanking and maximum defense isn’t necessarily the only way. We Monks survive by using ki and not plate and gear to regenerate ourselves.

My newest Monk, a Drow, has no healing amplification (save equipping her Jidz-Tet’ka bracers and using Fire Stance). But she’s a slippery devil with lots of miss-chance that is increasingly hard to hit, anyway.

If you’ve seen any other nerfing of enhancements, especially if they’re Monk related and/or have affected your characters, drop me a line.

Update: If you’re the kind of reader that reads only the end of a post, go back to the start. This only affects a specific min-max attempt by taking a dilly of the same class you that you are.

Poisoning the Players in the PUG

We’ve gained notoriety,
And caused much anxiety
In the Audubon Society
With our games.
They call it impiety,
And lack of propriety,
And quite a variety
Of unpleasant names.
But it’s not against any religion
To want to dispose of a pigeon.

So if Sunday you’re free,
Why don’t you come with me,
And we’ll poison the pigeons in the park.
And maybe we’ll do
In a squirrel or two,
While we’re poisoning pigeons in the park.

We’ll murder them (all) amid laughter and merriment.
Except for the few we take home to experiment.
My pulse will be quickenin’
With each drop of strychnine
We feed to a pigeon.
It just takes a smidgen!
To poison a pigeon in the park.

(Tom Lehrer’s “Poisoning the Pigeons in the Park” is a sardonically funny little ditty. For the complete version by the master sage himself on video, go here.)

The Drow of the Underdark: Poison-laced Poison with Poison Frosting. Oh, and they look cooler than your armor kit rags.

The Drow of the Underdark: Poison-filled Poison Cheesecake and Beefcake with Poison Frosting. And their armor and dresses are to DIE for.

Update 19’s changes are far sweeping than any update I’ve experienced in my three years of game play.

One of these changes is the significance of poison.

Before Update 14, poisoning was merely a nuisance for most players. You’d find and use a Proof against Poison item to give effective immunity to what poisons were out there. Monks gained early immunity to all poisons. Poison was just…poison. There weren’t any variations I can remember from back then. By the time your character’s Fortitude saves were sufficiently high, no one worried about poison again until they reincarnated.

And then the Menace of the Underdark expansion appeared and things–that is, players–took on a different shade of green.

The Proof is in New Poison Types

Poison gained three new variations: Natural, magical and supernatural. Proof against Poison items now only protect you from natural poisons and gave you saving throws against magical poisons based primarily on the Proof gear plus your Fortitude save.

As many a player learned quite quickly when fighting the Spinner of Shadows in the quest of the same name, your natural and magical poison resistances and immunities did nothing against the Spinner’s Strong Spider Demon Venom, a supernatural poison that would absolutely kill you if you didn’t loiter around the fragment of the Silver Flame to rid you of the powerful effects.

As for my characters, I didn’t worry about poison at all to this point as Monks gained poison immunity. So it was quite the shock when the Spinner’s poison took me down fast and brutally. As I learned later, the Monk’s granted feat against poison, Diamond Body, was reworked with Update 14 to protect a Monk only from natural poisons.

Over the last few updates, players were a bit more careful around the Spinner but weren’t that concerned about poison damage from anywhere else. With Update 19, that thinking has got to be changing rapidly.

Poison is now a significant and increasingly common damage effect that comes from many sources and forms.

Many natural poisons are warded off with a Proof against Poison item, as in the past. These include bites from spiders, spores from zombies, scorpions and bugbears.

And then comes the pain: Magical poisons are abundantly found in several enemies. Thankfully, some Monks can take advantage of their own abilities in this realm.

(FuzzyDuck81 noted an omission to this article on its first posting.) Thankfully, Poison Neutralization potions and spells rid you of the long-term effects of most poisons and give you temporary immunity from that poison for a time. But it won’t remove existing damage caused by the poison. You’ll need Restoration or Panacea for that.

Magically Deadly

In the past, poisons didn’t take hold as well from enemy attacks. Today, with the delineation of poisons, enemy weapons will deliver specific poisons that primarily target your ability stats. Some of these poisons give a one-time damage effect that reduces that ability until you use a poison neutralization spell or potion, such as from poison traps. If you are poisoned, that familiar greenish “H” appears over your head, telling you that you should drink that potion right away before you’re forced to use some kind of Restoration spell or potion to cure what damaged you.

But now some poisons deliver a damage-over-time, or “DoT” effect. As anyone who has or knows of a Cleric and their Divine Punishment spell, a DoT attack sends stacking, cumultative damage as often as it is applied, often causing damage to enemies even if they have run away or when they aren’t receiving any other attacks by your party.

Attacks from these enemies will cause a special untyped DoT effect if you are unfortunate in being attacked.

  • Green Dragon Poison: “This powerful and magical poison of the dragon attacks your body.” Can stack multiple times, damage over time effect. The quest “Don’t Drink the Water” has a dragon that delivers this in spades.
  • Drow Weapon Poison: Can stack multiple times, damage over time effect. Found on the Faerun Drow.
  • Purple Worm Tail Venom: “This underdark creature has a powerful poison!” Can stack multiple times, damage over time effect. Found on the worms of the Faerun Drow in the Underdark and in the quest “In the Belly of the Beast.”

Anyone that has an Epic character now has experienced the Drow poison effects more and more now. Even if you can absorb physical and magical damage, their poison will eat at you for additional nastiness. Fighter weapons are coated with it. This is especially bad against your hirelings since they cannot react as well to DoT effects.

Most magical poisons, like most natural poisons, give a one-time effect. The difference is that few, if any characters have immunity to magical poisons and must rely on their enchantment resistances and other abilities to slow down, if not stop, the poisons from toxifying them. These magical poisons include:

  • Arcanaloth: You have been poisoned by an arcanaloth and may soon suffer additional Strength damage. (These are known more popularly as Yugoloths, the dog-like sages hanging about in Amrath and the Demonweb.)
  • Fire Reaver: You have been poisoned by a fire reaver and may soon suffer additional Strength damage.
  • Flesh Render: You have been poisoned by a flesh render and may soon suffer additional Constitution damage.
  • Iron Golem: You have been poisoned by an iron golem and may soon suffer additional Constitution damage. (A golem isn’t organic, but obviously their metal is tainted.)
  • Medusa Snake Venom: You have been poisoned by the snake bite of a Medusa and may soon die. Deals Constitution damage. (Plenty of medusas appear in the Lordsmarch and “Lord of Eyes” quest series.)

Supernaturally Nasty

The ultimate poisons basically kill you by blowing your HP away with DoT effects or a massive cyanide-like shot to your brain to end you immediately. Thankfully, there are only four kinds. The bad news is that you’re likely to encounter every one of them at least once in your character’s life–and one more often than all others.

  • Cursed Contact Poison: You have been poisoned by cursed contact poison and may suffer additional damage until you are cured or you die. This is a curse and a poison effect. Dealt by Glittering treasure near the Horn of Endurance in “The Crucible.” This one’s easy; don’t be greedy.
  • Strong Spider Demon Venom: This spider’s poison is a force of pure evil and unaffected by normal remedies. It’s slow but lethal.  This is the unhappiness given to you freely by the  Spinner of Shadows. Only the Fragment of the Flame will rid you of it.
  • Weak Spider Demon Venom: This spider’s poison is a force of pure evil and unaffected by normal remedies. It’s slow but lethal. The Spinner’s little friends, the Flame Eater and Bloated Flame Eater spiders, also give off nasty damage that only the Fragment of the Flame can remove.
  •  Pit Fiend Venom: You have been poisoned by a pit fiend and may soon die.

Of these, you’ll likely find yourself a surprise victim of Arraetrikos with his potent poison attack with Update 19, anytime you enter the most popular raid in the game, “The Shroud.”

Quintessica and a well-fortified paladin were in a losing fight against Harry in Part 4 not long ago. One moment I was fine, and then I was a soulstone in the penalty box of Part 5. A quick check showed that ignoring the poison indicator above my head was unwise:

  • Poison Injury: Fortitude DC 32 to save. Initially, you get 1d6 CON damage. Untreated, secondary 1000 CON damage.

Ow.

In the past, I don’t think that damage went off as virulently. But now, I’m carrying stacks of neutralization potions, not only for Harry, but for everything.

But enemies aren’t the only ones that can dish out poison damage.

Ninja Poison

Update 19 moved the elemental debuffing enhancements of the Dark Monk into the Henshin Mystic tree, replacing them with Ninjitsu, abilities that can (among other things) inject or forcibly remove Ninja Poison, a DoT poison with powerful cumulative effect.

  • Ninja Poison: Target takes 1d4 points of Poison damage every 3 seconds for 15 seconds. The target’s vulnerability to poison is increased by 5%. This ability can stack up to 20 times. On timer expiration, 5 stacks of Ninja Poison are removed at a time.

Ninja Poison is delivered only with piercing and slashing weapons of a Ninja Spy. You can also use the core ability, Poisoned Darts, to spit a cone of darts. I’ve not had much success with them as the targeting of these things isn’t very good. Further, anything you hit will attack you, so it’s likely an attack that works only if your enemies can’t reach you while you watch them weaken.

You can start your poisoning by using the Ninjitsu ability, Poisoned Soul, to inflict stacks of poison every 6 seconds for 30 seconds. Do the math: It’s 1d4 times 5, or 20d4 that’s sizzling the hell out of what received it, every 3 seconds. By the time an enemy gets the maximum of Ninja Poison stacks (20), the DoT effect is clearly doing dramatic damage.

You can also forcibly pull Ninja Poison out for dramatic damage using Poison Exploit, another Ninjitsu ability. This one’s only useful in prolonged fights–and which fights are those? Orange names, maybe?

Later, ninjas gain the Sting of the Ninja, a weapon stance which adds a stack of poison on critical hits from any piercing and slashing weapon, including ranged weapons such as shurikens.

All of my ninjas use their shortswords but will be using them more to deliver poison more often. While general mobs aren’t going to live long enough to get its full effect, some persistent enemies could stand a DoT. I suspect some players are “meh” about it since poison isn’t an immediate kill effect. But when you encounter those orange-named guys or red-named bosses that do not have poison immunity, you’ll be glad to have this option.

Circle Strafing

My new Drow thrower, Szyncletica, loves to watch Ninja Poison at work. She can target at a very great distance. As the Ninja Poison accumulates and their vulnerability is increased, the poison damage indicator over the enemy’s head goes from normal to purple damage. With additional stars thrown per attack, the odds of anything getting poisoned increase while Szyn takes little or no damage.

And now I’m forcing myself to learn how to circle strafe–running around an enemy or mob, flinging star after star.

You’ll recall the giant fight in the 2nd part of “Redwillow’s Ruins”? You’re mobbed immediately by many giants, trolls and hobgoblins. With a Snowstar in hand, I gathered them and spun the mob to death.

Strafing like this is all too easy to kill a mob since they often cannot keep up with you and haven’t the AI smartness to try to break out of the circle. But it was physically hard to play it at first. I had to hold down my right mouse button and left button while pressing the forward and a side movement key at the same time. Even with a Logitech gamepad, its brutal to do since I have to move the mouse and pick it up carefully to keep the strafing.

Some quick research tells me that the Mouselook key is what I need to touch next time. That’s the one I accidentally touch that ticks me off when my left/right turn keys suddenly go side to side. This way, I should have less cramping and more effective circles, the tighter the better, I think, against single bosses with better speed.

Throwing It In – A Shuriken Ninja

Inspiration comes from multiple places. After learning of the destructive magic within the throwing star wielded by a fully trained Ninja Spy, I thought briefly how it would be cool to see more use of shuriken before my attention wandered off to Quintessica and her Mystic abilities.

Somebody accepted that challenge. Forum user “Firewall” designed a build that specializes in throwing stars, and I’m shamelessly, proudly creating a version of my own.

The “Shiradi Shuricannon,” by Firewall

I love this design. For starters, it’s a pure Monk, which immediately drew cheers from me.

Firewall wasn’t trying to use the typical min-maxing that comes from multiclassing, but to utilize every racial and class ability, skill and feat to generate the strongest damage you can from the shuriken.

Firewall chose the race that gains natural proficiency and expertise feats with shuriken: the Drow.

His ability stats were atypical for any Monk I’ve played or seen, but for a good reason.

STR 8/DEX 20/CON 14/INT 10/WIS 14 with a 36 point build. Very low STR is weird, yes.

But STR doesn’t define damage when you have a Ninja Spy where DEX to damage ability now applies for piercing and slashing weapons. A high DEX, with Shuriken Expertise, also defines the percentage chance of throwing an additional star per attack.

Over the character’s training, you add in feats that improve the number of stars thrown or extent of damage, such as Point Blank Shot, Quickdraw, Precise Shot, Precision, Rapid Shot, Improved Critical: Thrown, Improved Precise Shot and Ten Thousand Stars.

To help with miss chance, he adds in Dodge and improves that further by selecting the racial ability Improved Dodge for up to a 3% additional bonus. And then he takes the racial ability “Xen’drik Weapon Training:” which adds +1 to hit and damage with shortswords, rapiers and shuriken. Being a ninja, she also gets the Shadow Veil ability for invisibility and incorporeality. She just needs a little Blur happiness from somewhere.

Firewall uses much of the Ninja Spy tree to add poison damage, stealth, dodge and agility, but also dabbles a bit in the Henshin Mystic tree to gain more DEX and passive ki regeneration. That’s an important thing since ranged/thrown damage cannot generate ki, while some throwing abilities will require ki to activate. He threw some points in abilities there that I couldn’t see the point about initially for combat, such as Negotiator.

Reading on, I realized that he wanted the extra Diplomacy for use with the Epic Destiny, Shiradi Champion, and its Epic Moment, Audience with the Queen (a special buff with at least a DC 20). He also put points in the Shintao tree to gain two core enhancements (10% healing amplification, some Tainted protections), and adds points to Ki Shout (use Concentration skill for Intimidate), Conditioning (more Concentration and HP), and points in Exemplar. That’s a weird one since the few Intimidate points given are worthless, but there is the 2 points to Heal for positive healing amplification.

For skills, a point into Tumble, some more Diplomacy, and encourages points in Hide, Move Silently, Jump, and Spot as one has the points to use.

The real challenge in this build isn’t the overall damage, but what you are able to throw at your enemies. Of all the weapons in the game, the shuriken has very few named versions. All of these have the “Returning” feature so you can use it all the time. Throwing stars seem to be in-vogue, so its harder to find loot-generated stars with Returning as its feature. You’ll pay more if they have additional effects or properties such as being Adamantine or Silver.

I’ve been hoarding a few of these long before the enhancement pass. Sadly, my crafting efforts had left some of the better ones bound to the character that holds them. This leaves me with gathering the handful of named stars I shuffle about my characters as they level and crafting a few others for tactical use as required.

  • Shadow Star: A simple star that’s easily farmed from the Shan-To-Kar quest chain. Despite having no elemental damage, its Keen property leaves quite a sting.
  • Snowstar: An improved version from the Sorrowdusk series from a recent update makes this Icy Burst star quite useable.
  • The Morning Star: A new item from “Friends in Low Places” in Wheloon and the only star I’ve seen with an augment slot. Designed to rip undead or shadow enemies apart.

In addition, I need an acid solution (trolls of any kind), a Pure Good solution (I have a couple of Silver returners that I can craft) and an Adamantine solution (golems). But there’s still the likelihood that good ol’ fisticuffs will be required. This build doesn’t specialize in unarmed fighting as well, but I can see taking one Two Weapon Fighting feat to ensure that a couple of shortswords with common DR solutions will take care of what I can’t pew-pew into the afterlife.

Items with Deadly and Accuracy can help, as well as a Doubleshot bonuses I can find on things.

Now, going the full Ninja Spy route means that the build’s throwing stars gain Vorpal at level 20. When you’re throwing as many stars as this character can do, the damage must be completely incredible.

Firewall notes that Shiradi Champion is used as an Epic Destiny for obvious reasons to support and augment thrown damage and a few Epic Feats that will finalize the damage as an Epic character.

A New Member of the Dojo

Getting home yesterday, I rolled up a new character. In celebration of the new character’s difference as well as personal tradition, she has a backstory that is quite different than others in the dojo.

“Szy Dun’Robar was groomed from birth to be a powerful leader. But, as is the way the Drow of the Forgotten Realms, competition to be the Matron Mother is fierce and deadly. Approaching her Age of Maturity, Szy was ambushed by rival sisters and huddled into the darkness of the Underdark, stripped of all gear and left to die. Thankfully, one family friend had learned of the plan and infiltrated the ambush team. The man, a Drow servant named Zhang, left a small cache of essentials and a map in a crevice, with a note: ‘Leave the world of Toril. Find yourself in the outsider world of Xen’drik. Return when ready.’ it said.

Szy made her way to the outskirts of the village of Eveningstar and to a mysterious portal, bristling with Drow energies but smelling of something less..ambitious. In her weakened state, Szy lost consciousness but was discovered and cared for by a small residence of Monks. Recovering, she learned was weaker physically–far weaker in fighting unarmed than others in this monastery. The abbess told her, “Let your inner gifts grow. Use our training to magnify what you already know. What can you do?” she asked.

Szy picked up a wooden training throwing star, like the type she’d played with all her life–and threw it squarely at a wooden training dummy, piercing the dummy with the star, wedged firmly as if the star were made of steel.

The abbess learned of Szy’s life story and warned the young Drow that justice isn’t revenge. In honor of her new teacher, Szy chose the name Szyncletica and began discipleship under Senior Teacher Ryncletica in the art of the ninja. Perhaps, one day, she’d return to the lands that people here called the “Forgotten Realms,” and to the House of Dun’Robar–not to rule or slay, but to humble them and their Matron. To let them know that Szy’s shadow would be ever haunting them and stopping their dark plans against all who simply want to exist.”

Meet Szy, newest Toril refugee.

Meet Szy, newest Toril refugee.

Szyncletica (or “Zin” for short in pronunciation) is a young Drow, so some sacrifices were made in her ability points. Thankfully I have a small supply of tomes to give her to compensate a bit.

I skipped the preamble of Korthos and zipped her immediately to level 7 to see what she could initially do. It took quite a bit of hopping from bank character to player character to find suitable gear for her, and she still lacks a bit.

But, armed with what she had, I stepped her into the Searing Heights to screw with things there.

Holy crap. If anything lasted more than three throws, it was because it was a rare encounter. Using only the Shadow Star (which has no elemental damage at all), the hits were fast and accurate. Most things died before they could come remotely close, and her high Spot allowed a ridiculous high target distance. Szy is an impressively nasty slayer, even at a paltry level 7. It almost seemed as if she had been an archer.

I can’t wait to add more ninja training points to gain poison damage. Concentration and ki regeneration are priorities since she can’t use Ten Thousand Stars with less than 20 ki without a non-throwing way to generate it.

Unfortunately, ki attacks can’t work with thrown weapons, so poison and other weapon damage will have to do. That does mean that I can focus all my feats and abilities to maximize the tiny stars in her hand.

Like Hawkeye in Marvel Comics, Szyn will work better from a distance. She’ll need to go very, very ninja in narrow dungeons and sewers to avoid attracting too much attention that she cannot handle. She’s got “scout” written all over her, but infiltration requires her to be able to fight back with more durability.

As for self-healing, it’s a double challenge. Thrown weapons can’t use Vampirism.  She hasn’t any spell-like abilities related to healing. I’ll have to see what can be done, but she’s likely going to avoid hordes unless distance gives her an advantage. As in her imagined backstory, Szyn may always be vulnerable to mobs.

"Is this how all of you clerics dress on Xen'drik? WTF were you THINKING, Flower?"

“Is this how all of you clerics dress on Xen’drik? WTF were you THINKING, Flower?”

I’ll be trouncing through the “Sentinels of Stormreach” adventures to gain access to House Deneith’s weapon supplier for partially-returning shurikens if they suit the need.

Of course, getting one of the Wheloon stars is strong in my mind.

Stay tuned. At least Teacher Firewall helped me stop my hemorrhagic gushing about Mystics, right?

(Updated to correct the misspelling of my own character’s name. That’s sad. It’s pronounced “Zen-CLET-ti-ca” as in, ‘What is the sound of one arm throwing?’)

Machines in My Ghosts

Would you believe me if I told you that I barely know what I’m doing?

I didn’t think so. I couldn’t do my job if I didn’t balance the right spell while making fine adjustments on my growing inventory of devices. The newest tool I’ve been learning to upkeep since receiving one from my professor, the rune arm, is particularly challenging to keep working without blowing up in my face.

The professor doesn’t have to cut me a break, but he does. He’s used to teaching humans on the ways of House Cannith, home of the arch-craftsmen of Ebberon. I’m just an orphaned Drow lucky enough not to be wolf food years ago.

I hear a metallic creak at my feet. Syracuse, my pet defender, looks up at me. He’s a smart dog. I pick up a small metal cog and fling across the workshop–a bit too hard. It sails through a small pane in a window.

Syracuse dutifully leaps straight through the window, smashing it to bits. Not the first time it happened. I walk over and apply a repair spell on the window. After the fourth time I broke it (and the third time Syracuse leaped through it) I converted the window into a construct that holds panes and restores itself.

“You’re really intent on leaving, aren’t you?” the professor said.

I returned to my bag. One of my crossbows sat by. It needed something more, later. “Yes. I need to find why I was abandoned,” I said.

A series of hard, fast footsteps introduced Syracuse, the cog in his metal teeth. Sometimes I could swear he was smiling if I didn’t remember that I’ve not added any emotional gears and detachable plates on his face.

The professor stood up, his one adamantine leg partially glistening in a sunbeam popping through the skylight above. “There had to be a reason why. Maybe it’s best not to know. You of all people should know not to browbeat the drow.”

The professor shouldn’t assume that the irritation I felt wasn’t a racial thing.

Growing up entirely with humans has left me in a disadvantage. I’ve learned the history of drow, some tribal stories. But to other drow, I’m completely an outsider. I can’t seem to make them answer anything. It’s not as if I have a distinct difference in appearance. Maybe it’s my accent.

I finished packing, adding the last of my ingredient bags.

“You’ll write, I hope, Medes? It gets awful quiet when you’re on your adventures.” The professor looked distressed in a way I could understand, for once. It was…nice to know somebody wanted me. He was one of two men that found me. His partner had since passed on.

“I will, papa.” I walked over to kiss him on the cheek.

He patted my hand. “And, here,” he said, handing me a parchment. “It’s a special infusion you should know. This one creates a turret of flame that attracts and damages enemies. And don’t forget to continue to work on your crafting.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. The professor and I had made a meager living in the upkeep of iron constructs. Once in a while we’d get a beautiful adamantine in our shop for repair, which kept us fed for months. But it was a long time since one showed up. I needed to leave home, not just for finding my parents–anyone who can tell me who I am.

The professor would survive with the resources we had for the winter. But If I were to stay…

“I’ll send you some platinum from my jobs when I can,” I said. “Don’t futz with the furnace this winter, okay?”

The professor nodded.

“Don’t you end up getting killed. Syracuse!” he shouted at my pet. “Guard her. Guard her well.”

The construct barked enthusiastically.

I left. The usual bustle of House Cannith, of hisses and steam whistles and blindingly bright metals adorned homes and shops and constructs, even a few people.

As much as I like it here, it is not my home. Machines have crept into my memory of my infancy. I remember the smells of sulphur and grass, in the place where I was found, alone and left to die in the Searing Heights.

I need to know why I was abandoned. And once I learn why, perhaps I can return. Perhaps I can rid myself of this…anger that keeps me from being–well, whatever I need to be.

My first mission is in search of a tool I’ll need if I’m ever to survive for long. The professor said I’d never be able to wield one. I know otherwise. A rune arm will be the difference between nights in a cramped, warm inn or death on the plains outside Stormreach.

Syracuse looks up at me as we leave the enclave and head through the marketplace. I pat his head.

“You’re going to get a lot more to chase and chew on than just a rusty cog, little guy.” I load my repeater. Adventure…and answers, await.