Update 33: The Promised Land

I did get Lammania up earlier in the week to explore the changes for the Monk class with Update 33. I played around with copies of my Zen Archer, Poison Master and Shintao. Things looked promising for the very brief time I was able to play there.

Now that the official release notes are up as the game is updating today, I realized I missed some little bits of information from my last post that should make most Monks in general rather happy. Listed from awesome to meh:

  • In all three trees, Elemental Ki strikes have been changed. Eagle Claw Attack now applies four stacks, and stacks to 15. Knock on the Sky reduces enemy physical damage by 4% per stack. Unbalancing Strike is now +3[w].

I use Unbalancing Strike (counted as a Water move) often with the Poison Master to quickly charge up Freezing the Lifeblood paralyzing move. Doesn’t look like Fists of Iron has changed from its +3[W] damage, +1 critical threat range, and +1 Critical Damage Multiplier.

  • The Fire finisher Breath of the Fire Dragon now scales with 2x Melee Power.

This change will certainly help in damage against Plant and ice-based enemies.

  • Each Ninjutsu ability in Ninja Spy now also grants +1 to hit and damage with weapons other than a quarterstaff or handwraps when centered.

A welcome change for my Poison Master and for the stealth-master Kiricletica. Kiri’s still around but my Zen craze has been keeping my attention. I’ll update you on her progress with these new changes and perhaps put Kiri through more solo stealth work with newer content.

  • Iron Skin now works regardless of your chosen stance.
  • Iron Skin’s third rank now grants +20 PRR when centered.

Last night I was playing with Lynncletica’s PRR just before another Deathwyrm. She generally sat around 139. Then I added in a Legendary Planar Compass, then Twisted in the Grandmaster of Flowers Standing with Stone for 15 additional and Primal Avatar’s Ephemeral Evolution for up to 15 more when attacked. As I completed that change, my Legendary feat Scion of Limbo moved to give me another 30 PRR. And then I added in the Antipode/Planar Conflux 15 PRR bonus.

I had around 177 PRR for a hot minute.The update to Iron Skin will make things more hot.

  • Grandmaster of Flowers now grants handwrap proficiency in its first Core Ability.

Might have mentioned this one, but it’s still great. Gives our non-Monks something to look forward to doing as they level up that destiny.

  • Fury Eternal and Unbridled Fury now explicitly say they work with ranged weapons.

The monkchers are vindicated.

When I used Unbridled Fury one time with Pynthetica in a “Defiler of the Just” run against the end-boss, my reaction to the immense DPS boost was not too different from Egon using his proton thrower for the first time in Ghostbusters: Complete amazement.

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  • Handwraps have gained +10 Hardness and +80 Maximum Durability.

Since handwraps are weapons now, does this mean that they also become damaged from oozes and rust monsters? Let’s hope not. Handwraps should have an inherent Everbright property. We shouldn’t lose, as parties or individual Monks, a way to remove oozes through a melee fighter. Monks can’t equip Muckbane clubs without becoming uncentered, and quarterstaves are nearly worthless in the hands of anyone but a Mystic.

UPDATE: In very early play in Update 33 live, I entered “Creeping Death,” where oozes abound. My wraps are suffering tremendous damage. I’ve reported this as a bug already. This is unacceptable as I haven’t any other “weapons” to use as a Shintao and there are absolutely no “Everbright” handwraps as that would’ve been unnecessary pre-Update 33.

SECOND UPDATE: Cordovan’s response in a thread I opened reporting this states this change is working as intended. New players are going to get screwed for repair costs as oozes are plentiful in early content. Everbright handwraps haven’t dropped for ages with various loot prefix/suffix changes. And you’ll need at least 250 bound/400 unbound skill to craft Everbright handwraps. I normally roll with the punches (no pun intended) with game changes that are challenging, but this one makes so little sense I will not be surprised that fewer Monks appear.

  • Stunning Fist now specifically requires Handwraps to use.

Is this “problem” still going on? If you aren’t a Monk, you should be using Stunning Blow or, better, Shield Bash. I’ve seen one friend shield-bash about as fast as I could use Stunning Fist, and it was most impressive.

  • Planar Shards, Outsider Tokens, and Draconic Runes now properly go into bags.

Totally not specific to Monks, but yay, more storage space freed up.

  • Demon Assault no longer respawns enemies after the end chest is opened.

That’s welcome. In that quest, the reavers and renders were almost impossible to manage while you’re trying to loot, assess and trade items from the chest.

  • Six new Deity options are available for Clerics, Paladins, and Favored Souls at their first level. These are analogous to the existing Deity feats and abilities.

Again, not Monk-related. But I’m fond of this change because of my long love of the D&D based Neverwinter Nights games. There, your clerics got a lot of extra bonuses with their deity alignments. Further, if you’re going to have clerics and other divine fighters in the game, leaving out these elements seemed to make gameplay rather odd in terms of roleplay, especially since many NPCs had deity alignments.

  • Festivult Abishai Cookies work as a set again.

That explains my abortive attempt to use the five cookies with Paracleta for a stacking +4 to WIS while running a Legendary Elite Tempest’s Spine. I’ll be running lots of stuff to get more of these cookies in the future.

  • Critical Multiplier bonuses now work on Thrown weapons.

That bug keeps being fixed and broken over several updates. My old Shuricannon relies on better modifiers for higher damage, so this is welcome. However, conversations on the forums suggest this isn’t the complete fix.

  • Monk’s Moment of Clarity finishing move feat tooltip now properly states that it is a stacking bonus, rather than an Insight bonus.

Hardly relevant since you’d have to be a Mystic (where the only Void attack exists to activate the finisher) to use it. I mentioned this last time because there’s no reason I know not to have a simple Void Strike feat added back into the game for non-Mystics to use this finisher and its dark version once more.

I will try to forget what I’ve known about the Mystic and give it another try soon. I’ve learned more on defense options and the game has evolved significantly over several updates to provide options I hadn’t had available when the first Mystics arrived.

 

 

Update 33 Beta: Seen It, Still Working on Believing

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Cordovan was banking on completing Update 33 on Legendary Elite, solo, armed with only a Club of the Holy Flame, when he posted on Twitch TV a preview of the update’s expected changes recently. Teacher Saekee showed another thread with a clearer view of Cordovan’s notes.

They’re all expected live (per Cordovan’s forum update on the matter, not the video) around Wednesday, October 12 on Lammania.

Since I dominantly play the Monk class, I’m sure a few folks want my take on it. I had some early reservations about expected changes. Now that there’s public, official but beta release notes, I can speak up.

The problem is that the changes are rather comprehensive and numerous, so I’ll concentrate on how they affect what builds I have and come back to finer points as they apply.

Changes to my Shintao Monks

Lynncletica and Syncletica will see their handwraps change into a type of Exotic weapon, with 1d6 as their starting damage.

I don’t know if a completely unarmed (that is, not wearing handwraps) Monk still sees damage through their hands in the current way.

Any DR bypassing provided by the enhancements for unarmed Monks will apply through the new handwraps.

It’s not clear to me why this change was made, save for increasing possible damage and to provide the option to make Green Steel handwraps. I find the latter answer a load of malarkey since several quest chains now create handwraps from ingredients, Thunder-Forged handwraps included. Why the Shroud’s building mechanic didn’t follow the same principle has always confused me.

Stances get a few changes. For starters, the +1 critical hit multiplier in the upper Mountain stances move to the Fire Stances. I guess this is logical as Fire Stance increases STR, which is the attack modifier, so greater damage will come from this change. The downside (and a balance I approve) is that higher damage is offset by a reduction in WIS if using Fire Stance. Lynn will still use Mountain Stance as a guardian for its protections but this does invite a new build that punches harder than any other.

Ocean Stance’s Dodge bonuses are enhanced to 3,6.9 and 12%. This change is weird. It’s ridiculously easy to add Dodge to a Monk. I would’ve rather seen increases to all saves in a similar scale.

Wind Stance received no changes to its bonuses to Doublestrike or attack speed or defenses. Syncletica remains a glass cannon.

“Form Ki” moves are mentioned. I presume we’re speaking of the elemental strikes. These attacks are scaled by Melee Power. I’m fond of this as it encourages people to use finishers and elemental attacks, if my presumption is right. Likewise, elemental strikes scale with melee power, and provides me with similar confusion.

And attack-based finishers deliver 1[w] damage. Not bad.

As well, Fists of Light itself delivers 0.5[w], 4d6 Light damage, and overall damage, including Vorpal-calculated strikes, scale with Melee Power. Nice news when bashing skeletons and others more effectively, especially since the Monk’s Bludgeoning damage is resisted by many enemies.

Vorpal Strike now works with handwraps. It wasn’t working before? Thankfully I haven’t bothered to use this feat lately, and there are Vorpal handwraps, anyway.

Some other cool changes: Shining Star, the Otto’s finisher of Earth/Wind/Fire (get it?) will use WIS and not CHA as its modifier. A new build idea just dawned in my head immediately, although this finisher is granted only at level 20. It would’ve been nice if the feat’s minimum level was lowered to 12 or 15. Similarly, the remote stun enhancement Kukan-do will also use WIS and not CHA for it’s DC.

Some great news for Lynn’s healing: Healing Ki now heals 1d4 per Monk level, instead of per 2 levels. 

Lastly, in the “WTF!? You’re Confusing Us!” category is “Moment of Clarity.” The description says that it’s “bonuses now stack (a former Insight bonus).”

What the devs may be forgetting (and have since the initial enhancement change) is there are two Moments of Clarity in-game. The release notes clearly mention the Harper Agent enhancement’s ability to increase tactical and spell DCs by +10 for ten seconds.

The original Moment of Clarity was a granted Monk feat, a finishing move (Light/Void/Light: Bonuses to attack rolls and skill checks to nearby allies). It’s been all but permanently broken ever since the Void Strike feat was removed with the first enhancement pass and placed in a remarkably useless tier 5 enhancement when the Henshin Mystic enhancements arrived years ago. Removing Void Strike also broke the Ninja Spy’s charming finisher, Curse of the Void.

Can we PLEASE get a Lesser Void Strike feat restored to reactivate the Moment of Clarity (and the dark Monk’s Curse of the Void) finishers without having to train a Mystic? Please? It doesn’t have to even cause more than 1 point of Force damage. Just restore that finisher with a simple optional feat, or rip it out of the granted feats. It’s tiresome to see something we cannot use–and, based on the notes, making Mystics will still not be worth it to me to get Void Strike or play them in general (more later).

More Shintao specific changes in their tree begin with +1 to-hit and attack for each trained Elemental Curative. Similarly to changes in the Ninja Spy’s tier 5 Ninjutsu, you no longer need to train all Elemental Curatives to get Rise of the Phoenix, the self-resurrection ability. Switching places with Phoenix is Empty Hand Mastery, which changes from a die damage of 1d6 to 1d8 to a +1 Competence bonus to critical hit modifier and threat range.

The defensive PRR boosting Iron Skin works for any stance. A small win for Wind Stancers like Syncletica and Ocean Stancers like the Zen archers and the Poison Master. Likewise, Violence Begets Violence also works for any stancean additional concession to make the Shintao tree give less favoritism to tanking.

The fourth Shintao core, Touch the Void Dragon, now becomes an untyped stacking bonus to all ability scores, and the final core enhancement, To Seek Perfection, goes from +2 to +4 WIS.

The changes to the Tainted strikes confuse me in terms of role play (the Shintao specialized in damaging any Outsider), but I can live with the adjustments. All abilities that affected Tainted creatures now affect all enemies, including the ability to encase any enemy in jade and debuff anything with Jade Strike, Tomb of Jade and Smite Tainted Creature. The change is like giving Rangers a Favored Enemy range to “everything,” but who am I to judge?

Lastly, Meditation of War’s effects will now become untyped and stack with similar effects.

Changes to the Poison Master, Zen Archer and Bowmaster

The Zen Archer build I put together (as well as her opposite, the Zen Bowmaster) are based in part on elements from the Ninja Spy tree. Of course, the melee Poison Master is wholly ninja.

My largest worry in the rumored enhancements were that the devs would make changes to the one tree that was generally versatile and perfect out of the gate in the first pass. The Zen Archer and the Poison Master are based on some items from teacher Firewall’s original Shuricannon. The Bowmaster has only a “splash” of Ninja Spy for use of its Shadow Veil incorporeality but is primarily a Elven Arcane Archer that really loves a recent enhancement pass update there.

Thankfully, what changes I read for the ninjas seem not only acceptable, but very welcome.

For Ryncletica the sword wielder, the Fists of Darkness’ effects now scale with Melee Power.

There were several incomplete notes about changes to basic finishing moves. Using Cordovan’s notes, I think I can guess what’s to be changed.

The Gathering Storm and Raging Sea finishers has had their WIS DC modifiers raised from 10 + WIS modifier to 15. These aren’t commonly used finishers, even by me.

Replacing the rather underwhelming Crippling Strike enhancement (which did the same  as the Rogue version) in tier 5 Ninja Spy is the new Deadly Striker. With any weapon other than handwraps or quarterstaves, you gain +1 to critical hit modifier range, with kamas and shuriken get double the bonus. Yay for both Shuricannons and Saekee’s hyper-crit-range Forester’s Brush Hook build. (Most of the Ninja Spy changes affect all weapons except the new handwraps and quarterstaves.)

The ninja also gets a tier 2 Action Boost to Melee and Ranged Power. Happiness for all the builds I use, especially the Zen Archer, which is all about Ranged Power.

It kept getting better to be ninja. The first and second core enhancements, Ninja Training and Advanced Ninja Training, now apply to ANY weapon (again, except handwraps and staves) you can use while Centered.

This is BIG for the Zen builds as this means that neither absolutely require the Elf for the Grace enhancement to deliver Dexterity-to-Damage for longbows (but still needs the racial tree for weapon proficiency), and also means you can get these bows working far earlier in the build’s life. I’d still likely recommend Elf for weapon proficiency, the extra training available there to longbow damage, Dragonmarks for Displacement, and Doubleshot. But this changes saves a few Action Points you can reapply in other trees.

And here’s an obscure bonus I see as a benefit of this change. There is a singular named weapon that’s not a kama, shuriken, handwrap, quarterstaff or bow that Monks can wield while staying Centered and without being a Kensei. It’s the Midnight Greetings kukri. Melee ninja such as Ryncletica can use them more effectively since DEX-to-Damage will be activated.

However, the Monk class’s Martial Weapon Proficiency includes only handaxes (something only the Kensei could use right now) by default, so a precious feat must be added for proficiency in this special kukri. While the Heroic weapon isn’t very special, the classic Epic version of the weapon can do some serious work in early Epic lives. Requiring the feat for proficiency may not be worth it, and goodness knows how hard it is to gather the seal, scroll and shard ingredients needed to make any classic Epic crafted item.

Ninja Poison now scales with Melee Power. I’ll really want to see how the Poison Master build will work with this change–it’s all about stacking Poison DoTs. The little-used Poisoned Darts gain more Poison per stack (1d8), but that’s still welcome.

Here’s more. The final core enhancement, Ninja Master, adds +2 DEX and +2 WIS, with +1 Competence bonuses critical hit changed from range to threat modifiers (except for handwraps or staves). I can imagine Saekee just fainted: His Brush Hook build may get a threat range of 10-20 now.

More happiness for the Poison Master, as Poison Exploit’s damage rises to 1d10+10 per Ninja Poison stack.

Also, the Touch of Death negative energy strike scales to 200% Melee Power, and no longer requires you to train the Ninjutsu components to get it. It’s still a tier 5 ability, but for those that don’t care for Ninjutsu, it’s a build option.

Very happy change to Shadow Double. While its stacking Doublestrike bonus was decreased from 100% to 50%, its duration is doubled to 12 seconds, gains 3[W] in damage and has a shorter 20 second cooldown.

And it keeps getting better. Matching the Rogue Assassin tree changes, Stealthy and Faster Sneaking are merged and require 3 AP to fully activate. Also, the melee threat reducing Subtlety will be moved from tier 2 to tier 1, while the Dodge cap, Concentration boosting Ability requires more commitment in Ninja Spy as it moves up to tier 2.

Last but not least, each tier of Ninjutsu is cheaper to activate, with just 1 AP, but also gives +1 to to-hit and damage with all Centered non-handwrap/quarterstaff weapon for each trained enhancement.

I was hoping the Ninja Spy wouldn’t be nerfed. A good thing will actually become better. Yay!

Changes to the Henshin Mystic: Disappointing

For every silver lining in the notes, however, there’s more ominous clouds looming in confusing and contradictory changes for the Henshin Mystic.

The biggest changes to the Mystic is the removal of Spell Power for its damage boost to its Fire and Force damage. Instead, all core enhancements grant a stacking equivalent of Melee Power bonus. This is confusing to me because, of all the Monk classes, the Mystic’s original design was to leverage ki offensively like no other. Instead, the changes simply add in passive offensive boosts to a class that was doing just fine when swinging the staff, but had limited means to weaponize ki when using it.

Here’s a confusing one from the notes, which I must assume is in error. Sounding Staff now gives +2 ki per hit (removing the Implement bonus for Spell Power) and grants the Quick Draw feat. Uh, doesn’t the Quick Draw feat grant increases to rate of fire for ranged and thrown  weapons, not attack speed to the Mystic’s primary weapon, the quarterstaff? Is this feat supposed to augment the Ki Bolt ranged attack, which also gets a boost per Monk level rather than every two levels?

(Update: Teacher Ziindarax, a member of the Player’s Council, corrected me on a mistake in the Ninja Spy tier 5 and noted the logic of Quick Draw. “Quick Draw does benefit weapons, but it’s also being buffed so that you can actually attack faster after casting a spell or spell-like ability. Presumably, this would mean (for example) that if you had a warlock that used the Eldritch Burst or Spirit Blast abilities, and then tried to use a regular attack immediately afterwards, you would not suffer that irritating delay between the SLA and your regular melee/ranged attack. Instead, you get to attack instantly. Just to answer the question posed in your article as to how Quick Draw would benefit a Henshin Mystic.”)

The last core enhancement, Serenity, no longer gives Spell Power-related effects, goes to +4 WIS and adds +25 Melee Power.

Still trying to make the old original Ninja Spy enhancements useful, each Elemental Word gains 2{W} and +2 stacks to Vulnerability per hit. I guess the Melee Power bonuses to the elemental ki strikes used here might make for some great boosts to total damage.

Also, Void Strike remains at tier 5, virtually inaccessible to any other Monk, but gains 3[W] and its Force damage scales to Melee Power.

Some AP reductions to Mystic Training and Embrace the Void (not “Voice” as shown in the notes), requiring 1 AP to train. Also, the damage bonuses to Focus stack with other sources.

Lastly, the complicated Every Light Casts a Shadow enhancement now delivers 1d2 negative levels immediately on-hit to surrounding enemies, and 1d4 to the target.

That’s it for the Mystic. No attack speed or defense improvements.Spell Power-based attacks such as Incinerating Wave and  Cauldron of Flame aren’t mentioned in terms of what damage they create since the Spell Power boosts are being ripped out of the tree. Worthless enhancements like Negotiator and Mystic Training still remain. And you’ll still need to splash a Rogue to gain attack speed bonuses or (cheaper) Shintao abilities for defense.

I loved the potential of the Mystic’s attack power (and gushed about it here long ago) but it still lacks highly important defenses as it generates a terrible amount of aggro and cannot withstand such damage as Shintao Monks can do. I don’t see myself returning or recommending the Mystic unless there’s a way to improve defense and attack speed without multiclassing or using excessive AP in other Monk trees.

Until then, my two Mystics remain bank characters.

What Do You Think?

If you could make suggestions to the devs (and I dare say you should try), what would you ask them to adjust for these proposed adjustments to the Monk enhancements?

While the Shintao changes are good, and the Ninja Spy unbelievably improved, the Mystic’s adjustment make little sense other than improving its “El Kabong” mentality and further distancing its potential ability to wield ki for greater offense, defense or speed.

Fire away in the comments here.

 

Reimagining the Monk

fallinglynnWhile I don’t think the Monk class as a whole are underpowered (far from it), there are some serious arguments on the Shintao Monk’s future being raised on several threads in the past. The Henshin Mystic is also a peeve to me.

The Shintao represents the traditional form of the Monk: Unarmed combat.

Shintaos keep to a strict use of STR to determine damage from unarmed combat and DEX for the attack rolls. In theory, the higher your STR, the more damage you deal.

The problem for me is, unlike the Ninja Spy tree, there isn’t much versatility in the Shintao or Mystic trees, and that needs fixing.

It’s Not About More Damage

It’s been a bit since Lynncletica was an Epic character, a hardy Shintao Monk that has soloed the Subterrane, and braved the haunted deeps of Thunderholme. She’s on her way now to Epicland and dedicating her training to be a raid tanker.

With the recent healing amplification adjustments, Lynncletica’s already-potent HP recovery with Healing Ki (which would bring back 1/3 of her health at the least) will likely bring back 2/3, not to mention the vampiric boosts to Fists of Light.

But that’s not what a central thread or two on the state of Monks is concentrating on.

To most of the posters, it’s all about damage.

Now, I’ve never had a problem landing powerful hits with Lynn. I clear things just fine. So I pose this argument: Perhaps some people are just too damned impatient and want to clear monsters with a Shintao Monk in the same way that a Barbarian does. That’s not the role of the class.

Monks are the lesser damaging of the melee classes by design. What? You expect to hit as hard with a fist as you would with a sword and very high STR? That’s incredulous. But that doesn’t mean that there may be some…some…lack of damage present on Monks in Epic levels.

This presumes one thing: You’re running a pure Monk. You can’t expect all the damage benefits of a pure Monk to be present in a splashed one. The better core abilities and enhancements appear at these higher levels.

I would tweak the Unarmed Strike feat to boost damage more for every Monk level, including Epic. That’s it. It doesn’t require scary recoding of handwraps as weapons, which could cause far greater game-breaking issues since handwraps have been notoriously unstable to be begin with. Such coding would affect crafted wraps, wraps already looted, and problematic wraps such as metal-laced ones or those with special features such as piercing.

Further, Epic Monks should gain perhaps an additional +5 Melee Power per level. This would require 20 Monk levels to receive. Otherwise you gain the usual Melee Power as all characters do.

I’m deliberately ignoring any points on the Shintao enhancements overall here. So where can the tree stand some re-tweaking to help with general unarmed damage?

What’s a Better Shintao Monk?

An improved Shintao Monk tree shouldn’t overly favor Earth Stance. In fact, it should have toggles to benefit the Shintao while in certain stances. Similar effects come from a specific item revered by Monks: the Jidz-Tet’ka bracers. You also see Monk stance effects augmented by the Grandmaster of Flowers Epic Destiny.

Now, adding stance-based augmentations shouldn’t change the focus of the Shintao’s role. She’s not a berserker like the Barbarian or a pure tanker or front-line fighter as the Paladin. I’d want to see greater adaptation of the tree against all manner of extraplanar, aberration and undead creatures. Moving over the old Tainted ki strikes and improving the levels of unarmed DR bypassing was not enough.

Some might point to the changes we got from the Tier 5 Meditation of War enhancement. From what I’ve read, this enhancement is often the most reviled, and I agree. To me, it’s a double-penalty. You already have less defense in Wind Stance, for instance. Why should Meditation of War magnify this for a poor boost to attack off-hand chance and damage? The DC boosts to tactical feats are laughable in Fire Stance as it lowers defense.

Water Stance is a natural defensive stance but Meditation of War drops damage by 10%. No wonder we never use this enhancement unless in Earth Stance, where you gain more PRR at the price of lower Dodge. It’s the lesser of many evils.

The Empty Hand Mastery enhancement should go from 1d6 to 1d10, instead of 1d8.

I would improve Touch the Void Dragon to add more STR boosts in addition to general ability scores.

The To Seek Perfection  core ability should give +4 WIS and +4 STR.

And, as there’s no Monk that has mastery of kamas, the Shintao should add an option to perfect damage with kamas.

See a pattern?

Shintao Monks determine damage by STR. WIS is needed for the Stunning DCs, sure, but because of the Monk’s need to have many ability scores somewhat balanced, we’ve never been able as players to give STR as great an emphasis as Fighters and Barbarians can do. This (and other adjustments) should reflect greater STR or Melee Power boosts to a revised Shintao tree in Heroic and Epic levels.

So, that’s it. I’d rather tweak enhancements and feats to significantly improve the Shintao’s overall damage rather than have recoding break not only the handwraps but the role of Shintaos themselves. The mechanics of the Monk are fine. To avoid breaking the game, simply tweak up the Monk granted Unarmed Strike feats and enhancements noted.

Defensively, the tree is fine. Epic Shintaos should be entering Epic Elite with no less than 150% Fortification; 200% would be optimal. Their unarmed strikes should be at 80-120 base damage per hit. Since they strike faster, this adds up quick and should offset the slower kill rate a bit over other melee classes that strike far harder.

Updating the Mystic

I loved the Henshin Mystic when it first arrived. The damage it can do with quarterstaves is extremely nasty, especially with criticals–more than the Shintao but a bit less than my Zen Archer build.

However, the Mystic lacks two critical points that must be addressed: Attack speed and defense.

I would suggest +3 untyped PRR per core enhancement, with a +10 PRR bonus by the last core. Perhaps as well, a +2 AC bonus per core. I wouldn’t also be against a new finishing move or enhancement for the tree that gives temporary Dodge or Ghostly.

Most importantly, the Mystic tree needs the same attack speed as the Thief-Acrobat, although they might reach that speed more slowly than the Acrobat. Most players tend to multiclass in Rogue just to get the Mystic’s speed up. That shouldn’t be necessary. The speed types should be anti-prerequisites as well, naturally.

One More Thing

Put back a simple Void Strike feat attack back in the game, already, for the love of God.

Ever since the initial enhancement tree introduction, no other Monk except the Mystic can use the Void Strike–and that required a ridiculous tier 5 enhancement. This completely broke the Moment of Clarity and Curse of the Void finishers, which require a Void attack.

Just make it a feat so that any class can add in a 1 to 6 damage attack that also reactivates those finishers when they are eligible in the normal leveling.

I hope the developers do not consider changing handwraps to weapons. This can be a disastrous decision because the coding for all types, including crafted ones, will kill the class until functionality is restored. I’m normally not particularly one to go “d00m!!1” about things, but I’ve been around the game long enough to see how even the slightest change in handwraps often screw up things in a very bad way.

Handwrap code is stable. Just boost the features of feats and update a few key enhancements in the Shintao and Mystic trees for versatility, speed, and defense.

Touch the Ninja Spy tree and I will be unhappy. It’s perfect as it is.

Are Monks Really Broken?

QuinAndGholaFan

Monks are far from “broken,” but some trees could use a lot of love.

There are several threads on the DDO forums that discuss the state of the Monk class and how some feel is “broken.”

Here’s some initial advice for those in the threads, and I’m paraphrasing a dev here. Merely calling something “broken” without specific examples and reasons does not aid your case with the developers. As programmers and producers who also have a world to keep in balance so that neither enemies or players are particularly overpowered, developers need real data, not just your mood.

There’s also the matter of remembering that the Monk class is based on many D&D fundamentals that likely won’t change. This especially includes the fact that, both in DDO and D&D, Monks always have less HP than a Fighter. This is a game mechanic that you must overcome as a player, and plenty of us have done so.

That said, over a few threads and even on a DDOCast episode that Shamgar was kind to invite me, I’ve spoken my take on what in the Monk class enhancements could be improved or left alone.

In this post, I’m going to try make my thoughts at their most cohesive for my “official” opinion that the devs can consider with all the other player’s thoughts.

Unarmed Combat

This is the most-discussed topic, and the suggestions disturb me as much as what Update 19 did to the Monk elemental stance formats.

Many want handwraps to become true weapons. This would mean that the Monk’s body is not (necessarily) counted as the weapon in terms of coding. That’s what the Unarmed feat generates and why other classes who fight unarmed do not generate the same damage as Monks.

But we all know too well how handwraps can get buggy. Perhaps a change to handwraps as weapons would de-bug the situation. I think not, since much of the game, especially crafting in quests and in House Cannith, have dependencies in that coding.

I say, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Rather, change the simple weapon damage output for Unarmed. It should scale higher for every Monk level, and really be more effective in Epic play. That’s just adjusting a feat.

You can’t expect Monks to work like Fighters and Barbarians. Even if handwraps get changed, you shouldn’t see Monks necessarily matching or even outperforming the best melee classes. They have other talents to offset this. Getting a “bigger, better weapon” doesn’t offset other intrinsic issues for other melee classes, so why would this work here?

As for difficulty class saves, this requires more attention. An unarmed Monk must use STR to determine damage, DEX for Reflex and to-hit and AC, CON for survivability, and WIS for their DCs. I fear that, often, players treat their Monks more as Fighters. boosting (logically) their STR and/or DEX but neglecting their WIS, and thus things just don’t land.

I don’t usually experience this problem; I often boost WIS higher, especially with Ninja Spies, because I use finishing moves that stick on Epic Hard easily, even some Epic Elites. Once I paralyze, blind, or mute enemies, I gain a lot of damage from their Helplessness. But then, Ninja Spies gain DEX-to-Damage with shortswords, and I use these as their primary weapons, reducing my dependency on STR.

So having four critical abilities to keep high is tough on an unarmed Monk. Balance is one thing, as a class trait, but there has to be a way to improve overall at least the tactical DCs, of which Stunning Fist, our hallmark unarmed attack, is involved. Perhaps an Epic feat that allows you to use STR as your DC modifier for Stunning Fist would be welcome.

I’m not going down the route of other DCs for Monk abilities like Quivering Palm. That should remain a WIS DC, and yes, you can get it high enough. Quivering Palm isn’t meant to be used as a spamming Assassinate, but the devs at least added bonuses to your attempts if you’re trying to do so.

Armed Combat

I love quarterstaves, shortswords, shuriken and kamas. But let’s consider that daggers are smaller than shortswords and shouldn’t cause Monks to be uncentered. And kamas are just a type of sickle.

Let’s add daggers and sickles into the mix for any Monk.

Henshin Mystic Combat and Defense

I love the Mystic’s weaponizing of ki. But it’s combat speed with staves should approach, if not match, the level of Thief-Acrobats. Hell, the Acrobat is more like a Mystic than a Mystic.

Mystics also have terrible overall defenses, needed since they are really a melee class, not a caster. Rather than a massive revision of the tree, I’d suggest:

  • Adding Dodge bonuses and bonus AC for each core ability. 2% Dodge and 3 AC per core would do nicely. The last core would also give a 5% increase to Dodge cap (not stackable with Ninja Spy’s Agility).
  • Adding a Mystic effect for 25% Incorporeality for 30 seconds to self and to party, a finishing move buff. Void/Void/Void would work, especially if a lesser Void Strike would return to the feats.
  • Increased attack speed with quarterstaves. Make it identical and anti-prerequisite to the Acrobat.

Elemental Stance Enhancements

As noted, the Shintao Monk tree all but exclusively requires the use of Earth Stance.

Why not create a new tree that, similar to effects that favor elemental acuity in the Season’s Herald Druid or the many Sorcerer trees, give specialized training to the other three stances? The effects would only work most effectively in a particular stance except Earth Stance, and provide either an offensive or defensive advantage that can be increased by training. AP would limit the player from becoming too crazed and encourage fostering one path. In short, let’s think “Avatar: The Last Airbender” here.

Here are some samples that pop in my head:

Water Stance: You are mastering Cold attacks and the nature of ice to slip and slide, powerful enough to push even a mountain away. Your ultimate attack can freeze an enemy for up to 12 seconds (cooldown of 1 minute) and reduce the enemy fortification by 10%. Lesser attacks also increase your Cold damage, armed or unarmed, except for ranged weapons (but not thrown). Your Dodge cap is increased by 1% for every Cold enhancement trained while Water Stance is active. Because Cold does not favor the swift, you also lose 2% of your movement speed.

The restriction to ranged, but not thrown weapons is to support the star-throwers but not bows because they already have the Arcane Archer option.

Fire Stance: You master the art of flame and its tendency to burn. Your ultimate attack sears enemies with immolating flames for a time, briefly blinding them and reducing their offensive prowess, especially enemy Fire resistance. Other lesser enhancements will increase your Fire damage with ki attacks. Your healing amplification is boosted by 1% for each Fire enhancement you train while Fire Stance is active. Because Fire is indiscriminate to what it burns, you lose 2% of your HP.

Ice elementals, beware.

Wind Stance: You master the power of that which is not seen yet can knockdown a whole forest with great speed. Your ultimate attack causes a thunderous area-of-effect knockdown with enemies, causing them substantial Lightning damage as they fall with a failed Reflex save. Lesser enhancements will increase your Electric ki attack damage. You gain 2% Doublestrike for each Wind enhancement trained while Wind Stance is active. Because Wind is a free spirit that can be stopped by solids, you lose 1 AC for each Wind enhancement.

The tier 5 path would give the “ultimate” reward from an offensive mode. Wind could have a chance to activate a chain-lightning effect on knockdown. Ocean could have a chance to cause a Freezing Ice area-of-effect or a Tomb-of-Jade freeze effect with a 1 minute cooldown. Fire stance could cause an immolation effect that logically creates a Fear effect as the monster runs away, burning alive. You can only choose one, but of course can always respec your enhancements. Imagination can run wild here.

Again, since the Shintao tree is already favored to Earth, there’s no need to give that stance any advantages.

The Least Broken Enhancement Tree

The Ninja Spy remains a near-perfect enhancement tree. Every enhancement found there reflects abilities that make any Monk, trained with even a portion of these skills, quite the certified badass.

With Update 19, my gameplay focus turned to 80% Ninja Spy, nearly forsaking my venerable Shintao Monks, for reasons already noted. In fact, I claim there is nothing broken in the Ninja Spy enhancements.

That said, I make a couple of suggestions:

  • Let’s make the ninja look more like a ninja. Other classes have special ways to hold their weapons, such as the orbs for spellcasters, and rune arms for Artificers. Give ninjas a reverse-grip hold on swords held in their main hand. For SWF ninjas, it’ll look awesome. For two-weapon ninjas, they’re REALLY looking masterful with the off-hand in the forward grip and the reverse grip in the main. If possible, when a ninja holds a shuriken in their main hand, the off-hand weapon, if any, should go reverse-grip, too.
  • Allow Sting of the Ninja to work on Centered bows. I don’t want to make Ninja Poison too prevalent, but it’s illogical for shurikens to be poisonous but not arrows from a bow. I can understand if this is rejected. Since when do you envision a ninja with a bow? But then, Ninja Poison also has a Poisoned Darts core ability, so there’s a precedent.

 

Vow of Poverty: Pretty Please, Devs?

desertI’m enjoying Syncletica in her hermit style as she moves to Level 5.

Teacher Saekee noted that the concept I’m doing is nothing new, and has a PnP concept.

It’s Vow of Poverty, based on D&D 3.5e rules. A number of sites discuss it: here is one that’s most detailed.

Given that Monks are likely to take this, there is much gnashing of teeth and wailing and lamentations of overpoweredness of this ability, even in the tabletop world. Boy, that sounds familiar.

I think Vow of Poverty would make for a great enhancement tree. The challenge would be how to implement it.

I see it this way. To even activate this proposed class tree, you cannot have any non-Monk levels, period.

Once you choose it, if you have spent any AP elsewhere (except in racial trees) the game forces you to reset that tree(s). You may only have the Poverty tree active and no other, including other Monk trees.

Once the tree is active, any weapon other than a quarterstaff or unarmed fighting uncenters you. So you don’t even get to use kamas. Or, you may choose a preferred weapon and use only that weapon (as well as unarmed fighting) without losing your center.

But how would we limit what is carried, or if clickies can be used? What about guild ship buffs or special House buffs?

The bonuses would be rich and stack with the normal Monk class leveled abilities, based on this version. They should also gain Deathblock as a granted feat and an SLA of Death Ward by level 16, or some greater ability to resist death spells better than almost any other class. Granted fortification bonuses as one levels. With optional training, more DR bypassing, too, as Shintaos gain.

Attempting to take any other class would cause the tree to disable and all AP removed, as well as the bonuses.

Would this be a harder class tree? It should. It would require a keen mind and advanced Monk skills, I think, to make this work. No multiclassing to twink your build. Higher weapon limits.

But I love this concept. I’d love to see this in Update 24 or 25. I will download the Lam client to lead the tests!

A Monastic Video Showcase

Please stand by.

Please stand by.

After posting videos demonstrating the Heroic level and Epic Shiradi Shuricannon, I was reminded of times where differing opinions at least or flame wars at most occur on the DDO forums on what build or what class(es) and abilities will do this and that.

One thread long ago on the Henshin Mystic turned that way but it caught my ire because the dissenting poster, all the while stating that unarmed damage beats quarterstaff damage, also admitted to having not played a Mystic.

Now, I don’t claim in the slightest to creating or possessing characters that are the optimal for anything except for how I like to play. But my Monks don’t suck outright and do a good job of the one thing they’re meant to do: complete a quest or raid.

But I took offense to that poster because it was clear that their min-maxing multiclassing worldview completely dismissed the idea that something else could possibly work. I’m used to this with the Henshin Mystic. As I’ve said in past posts, I’m likely the only comprehensive resource so far (here and in The Book of Syncletica) on defining the Henshin Mystic class based on its enhancement tree, given it’s only been around for yet quite a year.

Rather than get into a debate of words, I realized I have to apply a social truism: “Pictures or it didn’t happen.”

So I’ll add some moving pictures–they’ll be worth hundreds of thousands of words.

Over the next few weeks I’ll add demonstration videos of the pure Ninja Spy, Henshin Mystic and Shintao Monk, each showing my interpretation of each class’s gameplay. Doing this also exposes my personal style, which you may or may not like.

I’ll choose a quest that illustrates their specialities. For a Shintao, it’ll be a brawling quest where undead, aberrations and extraplanar creatures roost. For a Ninja Spy, it may be a quest where a singular objective requires stealth, cunning and tactics to complete. Lastly, it will be Quintessica that will show what I think the developers had in mind, based on the class tree, of what a Mystic can do with a quarterstaff and their mystical ki powers.

Class trees are simply a launching point for players. There’s no point whatsoever in making a Mystic or any other class using only the racial tree and abilities from only one class tree. A Mystic or Shintao that adds in Shadow Veil for incorporeality miss-chance is going to stand a pounding better, as well as a Ninja Spy that adds in abilities from other trees to improve its attack or defense. None of my characters use only the abilities of their class tree.

That said, the purpose of the demo videos is to help new players decide what playstyle they might consider based on the class tree’s innate skills. It never means that a Shintao can’t use a bow or a Ninja Spy can’t use a staff or a Mystic not use handwraps. Versatility is important. However, effectiveness based on your skills makes sense economically for the action points you spend.

Most importantly, the videos can show what the class does flat out–a good illustrative video for players new to the Monk (the exact purpose of the Monk guide). Shintao Monks are self-healing stun-bot goddesses that are hard to kill. Ninja Spies can avoid half of an army to assassinate with deft blade work or unarmed fighting with a deadly skill set. And a Mystic can take on mobs like Neo takes on an army of Agent Smiths using a metal staff.

So, coming soon, I’ll finally make that video of Mystic Quintessica doing her “Burly Brawl.” Later, Lynncletica, the “Little Mountain” will go where Archons fear to tread, perhaps against an army of devils. Lastly, Kiricletica can represent the Ninja Spies somewhere.

If possible, these movies will get linked into their respective chapters in the Monk guide.

Much later, I’ll give the same treatment to the Elven Arcane Archer Monk and a Kensei Fighter I’m working on.

Redefining Roles in My Dojo

Light...Dark. Matters not, it does. Colonel Sanders is no longer our master.

Light…Dark. Matters, it does not. Our master, Colonel Sanders, no longer is.

The remarkable changes of Update 19 is forcing my altitis to get a grip on reality.

As you might guess, I have several Monks.

What you might not guess is that I have a few non-Monk characters, too. More on those unwashed heathen later. Right now, I’m compelled to differentiate how my Monks serve my guild and me.

Since creating the Monk guide, I’ve realized that play time with each major variation was key to keeping some level of competence in documenting what feat, skill, item or enhancement can do. I generally defined my Monk’s roles as did many other players, as if they were buckets of fried chicken that you ordered up. “Light” or “Dark?” Do you serve it primarily cold, hot, nuked or poached?

As I gained better understanding of the elemental Monk stances, the differentiations also broke down to the old Prestige classes (Shintao or Ninja Spy) and what Monk stance they favored, and why.

Now, the class trees offer so much variation but with substantial changes that my original attempts to have a Monk that specialized in any one Monk stance or philosophy is useful as so many crumbs at the bottom of the Colonel’s box of biscuits. Let’s break down what’s happened.

When Everybody’s A Super…

Syndrome…No one will be.

Remember Quintessica? My “Avatar” Monk that mastered all the elemental stances by refusing to master a PrE? Yeah, she’s just one of the gang now. Update 19 automatically grants all elemental stances to you as your Monk levels, as feats. The good news is that all that AP spent in the past can go to other enhancements. The bad news is that the Avatar is a stock feature for all fully-trained Monks. She’s since moved on to finishing move and quarterstaff mastery.

I’ve also heard in casual conversation (to my horror) that the higher stances (known also now as “Forms”) can be chosen by low-level Monks. That is, if you have a feat space, you can choose it with 1 Monk level at any time, rather than letting level progression auto-grant it to you. Makes for an interesting but strange option for Kensei fighters.

The news did caught me off-guard. It left me in both an existential and ontological crisis for a bit. pondering things like “Why be a Monk anymore if any otherwise-unskilled Tom, Dick or Arretreikos can buy up a feat and punch about, too?”

Of course, a Monk is still more than just an unarmed bludgeon, thankfully. We still matter. There is still a delineation of why Monks are still relevant in DDO. What we can do that others cannot.

But we can no longer use elemental stances as a benchmark. Every Monk is an “Avatar,” a master of all elements.

As the poster child for a lost role with Update 19, I retooled Quintessica quickly as my first Henshin Mystic to gather a feel for the new enhancements, as noted recently.

But now there’s still the matter of repurposing the rest of my posse.

Please Choose One of Your 505 Options

I kid you not. The variations of the class trees allow you (with at least one multiclass or Arcane Archer option if from an elven race) that you have five hundred and five individual core and tier abilities from which to define yourself as a Monk in this new age.

This purposefully excludes non-divine spell caster class trees just to keep my sanity (you’d likely add another 200 variations), does not include Barbarian and Bard trees (impossible to multiclass with a Monk), and only counts Human, Half-Elf and Elf races.

My Monk guide (now mostly revised) is concentrating on 125-or-so options for now: The three Monk class trees, the Kensei class tree, and (coming soon to the guide) the Arcane Archer tree if an elven-type race that can add this tree with a few AP, racially.

If I try to keep to practicing what I preach, then my dojo (and friends who drop in) need some retooling. Here’s what I have in mind for characters who haven’t received or self-defined their roles already in this Brave New Game World, such as Lynncletica the Tanker, Quintessica the versatile Mystic, and Ryncletica the Ninja.

Arcane Archer Monk (Half-Elf)

Pynthetica is my next to oldest character (Syncletica being the oldest). She’s a human Ranger Arcane Archer, a past favorite from my Neverwinter Nights days. She’s never experienced a True Resurrection, so she’s due.

My goal is to have train all of my characters (unless a dedicated non-Divine spellcaster or dedicated healer) with significant (6 or more) Monk levels. Likely, most will have much more. Each character is going to get a weapon specialization (lowercase) that melds with their monastic training. I have a Rogue that’s competent at traps but uses Ninja skills and is training up as an Assassin.

In the case of Pynthetica, she’ll become a Half-Elf, train the basics in unarmed combat and then add in the Arcane Archer tree. She’ll need the Zen Archery feat for Centeredness with the bow and may be lighter in overall punch than either fully-trained Monk or a Ranger AA. But with that Cleric dilletante, she’ll be quite versatile.

I like the idea of going Light in philosophy here for some healing regeneration, but going Half-Elf with a Cleric dilettante will shore that up, so Dark is a better damage option although much of its work can’t work in ranged mode.

Pyn should be quite competent going pure Monk or adding in 6 Ranger levels to gain Manyshot and a few granted feats. Since you needn’t take a second class for AA as an elven-type, it’s a matter of putting the Action Points where they matter. I think this will be my first priority on this next Fall weekend (after taking Lynncletica in “Devil Assault” to farm a bunch of Tokens of the Twelve).

Light Kensei Swordfighter (Warforged)

I have a Warforged Monk named Synthetica. Yes, the name begged to be used.

To complete my original quartet of elemental users in the past, I had planned to make the robot into a Fire-Stancer since healing her (“it?”) would be complicated given the racial healing problems.

Now that only Humans and Half Elves get anything on the racial side from healing amplification (with the Warforged’s options just trying to keep them from being a burden), I plan to make Synthetica into something far more unusual. Using the very interesting Kensei enhancements that sync well with Monk abilities, I’m going to work on giving the robot a much longer arm than any of my Monks. Specifically, Synthetica will eventually use a greatsword.

Starting out, it will be a mostly unarmed affair, and a minimum of 8 Fighter levels may be required to get the best power. Since you can’t add ki proficiency with greatswords from any Monk class tree, Synthetica will need the entire Kensei line to make a greatsword a Centered tool, adding perhaps a few points into Shintao for some self healing. This one should be fun if I keep it a secret to my guildies. Imagine that we’re in a quest and things are looking bleak, when suddenly an unarmed Synthetica pulls out a huge sword and begins a school in how to carve and filet. It wouldn’t be my usual style and I look forward to it.

Dark Kensei Weapon Master (Half-Elf)

This is Theacletica,  mentioned recently, who is going Dark for damage and training in light blades. Since shortswords are easily added to any Monk with one point in the Ninja Spy core abilities, she’s likely to stay with these until she takes the full Kensei line and adds kukris, daggers and a few other sundries. She won’t throw the kitchen sink at you, but will throw every bit of the kitchen’s pointy, edged silverware.

Rogue Henshin (Human or Halfling)

Allysen is my first Rogue and has had growing pains. Mostly this not her fault. I love to play many characters in solo mode. You can get only so far with a Rogue since they specialize in damage that works effectively and only when someone else has the attention of the guy you’re attacking. She’s been at level 17 for a dreadfully long time.

I’ll need to force her to level 20 and then TR her. I may keep her as a Halfling (hear the murmuring praise by GamerGeoff) for the Dragonmarks and some gear she already possesses from her Thief Acrobat days. For greater damage and versatility, she could train as a Light Henshin with some Ninja Spy. She’ll forsake her life as an Acrobat, since many of the abilities there are also found in Henshin (with little benefit or compatibility with each other).

The problem is that being a Rogue is a very skill intensive path. You’re good at it, or you suck, and there’s no middle ground. Frankly, fighting is secondary for Rogues. I could use Cassietetica as a model (a Rogue Assassin Ninja) and steer Allysen towards the Mechanic path a bit. Still, AP is AP. I make Allysen a decent fighter or a decent Rogue. Of all the characters, Allysen is the greatest challenge for Heroic living.

Wind Stancer (Human)

This is what Syncletica, a Shintao, is now. Epic levels have not been friendly to her at all. She takes tremendous damage there from which she can’t heal fast enough, even with an impressive healing amplification.

I’m not giving up on Syn as a Wind Stancer, but she really needs more beef to counteract damage. In Heroic, she’s fine, In Epic, not so much. That likely means, as she reaches Epic levels, to pile on Legendary Dreadnought training, Unyielding Sentinel and Shadowdancer epic destinies for more protections.

I put her through a Lesser Resurrection recently, adding a few points in the Ninja Spy tree for faster sneaking, more Dodge and Shadow Veil (easy 25% incorporeality), while remaining points go to Shintao. Got her more Dodge, too. I took her into one fight in Eveningstar and recalled her back bloody and in pieces, despite having miss-chance skills like her old student, Ryncletica. Sigh.

The Dreadnought mode gets many Action Boosts that a Wind Stancer could use to throw out more damage than they take in. Some Shadowdancer abilities can improve her DCs to go with LD as well. I’ve just got to find the right balance for my primary toon and namesake to these enterprises.

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