Staying Alive

As with many of my characters, I never trained Lynncletica much beyond their aligned epic destiny of Grandmaster of Flowers. That’s changed, of course.

At level 26, she’s holding her level-ups as she fills up other destinies to gain other abilities when using Twist of Fate slots.

In what areas I have leveled, I found myself tempted to take epic feats that supported Lynn’s unarmed damage. But I’ve resisted so far.

If I’m ever to tank reliably in raids such as “Temple of the Deathwyrm”, I need two other abilities: physical resistance and healing amplification.

Both of these are supported in one defensive destiny I will use for tanking: Unyielding Sentinel. That’s no surprise, I’m sure.

My PRR goal was 150, or 60% damage reduction. Looks like I’ll easily have most of this, 142 PRR minimum, by level 27 with the following:

  • Ultimate Mountain Stance (Monk stance): 15, untyped
  • Iron Skin (Shintao enhancement): 15, untyped
  • Meditation of War (Shintao enhancement), 10, Insight bonus
  • Epic Damage Reduction (Epic feat, level 27): 10, untyped
  • Improved Combat Expertise (Legendary Dreadnought, tier 2, Twisted, while in Combat Expertise stance), 20, untyped
  • Heed No Pain (Unyielding Sentinel, while in Unbreakable stance): 30, untyped
  • Ring with Sheltering +27 (Enhancement bonus)
  • Planar Prowess (Antipode handwraps and Planar Focus of Prowess): 15, untyped
  • Guardian Angel (when <50% HP): 40-60 (WIS score and saving throws to PRR for 30 seconds)

There’s still more to play with depending on Twist of Fate slots, such as the tier 4 Standing with Stone from Grandmaster of Flowers as a Twisted ability (15 untyped), the level 29 Outfit of the Celestial Guardian’s +38 Sheltering, the Legendary Boots of the Devil Commander (Quality +8; it’s Insight bonus is offset by Meditation of War) and either Scion of Limbo for a chance at +30 PRR or Scion of Earth for +20.

Beyond 150 PRR, there’s little point. I’d be better off improving miss-chance, Reflex saves (which Lynn is weakest), AC and healing amplification.

A few friends in party have been impressed at my healing amplification, and I like it, too. Nowandays it’s easy to calculate this: Just open your character sheet and hover your mouse pointer over your HP information.

At level 27, I have an absolute minimum amp of 110. That comes from

  • Human Improved Recovery (racial enhancement): 60, untyped
  • Shintao core enhancements: 50

The guild airship buff Bath House adds 20.

The remaining are situational based on selected feats, destiny, Monk stance or equipped items.

  • Epic Jidz-Tet’ka (while in Fire Stance, Insight bonus): 50
  • Iron Mitts (Competence bonus): 60
  • Vigor of Battle (Unyielding Sentinel): 20
  • Scion of Limbo (Legendary feat, random buff): 40

Through equipment and Fire Stance, 270 is my current high in Unyielding Sentinel. This isn’t an optimal configuration as it compromises my PRR and AC defense significantly, so it’s for illustration.

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Then I wear an epic Shamanic Fetish for a 108 equipment bonus to positive spell power, and a 28 Heal skill that stacks on this.

I smack the training dummy with Fists of Light vampiric healing curses. Here’s the result.

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And then I use the Healing Ki finisher.

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Yep. I heal myself for around 425 to 525 HP per 10 seconds on Healing Ki alone and restore 5 to 10 HP while charging it up per attack over about 10 seconds.

And, like most epic players, I twist Rejuvenation Cocoon, which hits for up to 9 seconds or until healed. I had to go into the Subterrane to find a living spell to damage me to test this. Here’s that result.

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So Lynncletica, even with only 200 amp, should have ample means to keep herself hale and hearty through many fights, restoring one-third to one-half her HP at any time.

But it’s slash damage that scares me most, and I must do what little I can to ward off some of that, in as much as epic monsters will allow that. By level 27 the Guardian Cloak will have to help as I haven’t discovered any other mitigation options just yet.

I hope to tank my first raid this weekend. If it happens I’ll try to record or take a few shots of it. Tanks tend to be a busy sort of group.

 

 

Bowmaster Ascendant

Paracleta22Skipping low-reward chains to reach level 20 and beyond, the Bowmaster Paracleta is remarkably adept at controlling trash and even some minibosses as she wins Elite quests.

Gear, especially bows, is important but not as critical as leveling and flagging for raids that can yield greater rewards than plodding through the usual chains repeatedly.

One important point I neglected to account from the original build (and a change in the enhancement tree with a recent update) is that the Arcane Archer tree is cheaper to work up to 40 action points. This left me with enough remaining to fully complete the core Elven racial enhancements and add Shadow Veil from Ninja Spy into the fold, reserving 2 AP for the last AA cores. I previously noted how the use of WIS modifiers for the DCs of several imbues are what give this Zen build its characteristic flavor. Thanks to a reader that noted that they were able to accommodate Shadow Veil in a variant of this build.

Another matter involves Doubleshot. At level 20, I have 30% and can’t account for the sources. I’ve got the 5% effect of Shadow Arrows now at level 22, the 10% bonus on capping the AA core to come at level 25, and but Epic Destiny Doubleshot feat until level 27. But who am I to complain? I’m sure I can trace it, but time is a bit limited.

She’s working her way through the Devil Battlefield now for Yugoloth favor and the +2 ability potions, but low bow damage made it hard going. At level 21, she has the Combat Archery feat for extra weapon damage and completed the Eveningstar Drow quests, holding my experience levels so that destiny levels are completed. Starting from Grandmaster of Flowers to the primal tree to get Rejuvenation Cocoon and Shiradi Champion’s Pin and Otto’s Whistler and fill all destinies to get Twists unlocked and filled. I’d like to have Shiradi running by the time Paracleta enters her first “Caught in the Web.”

There’s so much going on as this character grows swiftly that I’m worried I will miss out on some XP opportunity. But that’s why raid flagging and the support I can get there might make a difference. I’m using sagas more and more on this. Paracleta is raid-designed. Hopefully she can keep substantial amounts of trash too afraid to fight in “Fire on Thunder Peak” and “Caught in the Web” or help in the DPS in other raids. I so want to get this girl into the weekend raid parties that remain the awesome group they’ve always been for fun raids, even in failure.

A comment or two in the last post from Teacher Jammond reminded me that AA imbues get damage bonuses from spell power. So destinies in the Arcane tree could be just as nasty as others. I’ve began study of adding Equipment bonuses of Magnetism (for great Electric imbue boosts against pit fiends), Combustion (icy enemies), and Impulse (Force damage) to have an enhanced DPS solution on hand against certain bosses. Still using my Unwavering Ardency bow in the Storm Horns, that bow with the Fire Arrows imbue, boosted with the Improved enhancement, really fry fire-sensitive enemies.

At level 22 now, Pynthetica granted her sister a Tier 0 Thunder-Forged longbow. Pyn’s early advantages in Harper Agent Ranged Power helps in damage as Paracleta’s damage is less than Pyn’s at the same level—the difference caused by the Ranged Power variation as well as slightly lower DEX. All this superb crowd control isn’t useful if Paracleta can’t slay bosses before they slay her, or if it takes too long to rid herself of a held mob before one enemy gets in a lucky strike. Going Shiradi will help, as will Epic Power as she levels a bit more.

Paracleta will hold her level at 23 as she pumps XP only into as many Epic Destinies, particularly Primal, for healing, fate points, and of course boosts to abilities and damage. As with Pynthetica and Mericletica, getting Pin as a Twisted ability is helpful. I wonder if Pin works with Improved Precise Shot, affecting all in the line of that arrow’s fire. If so, my, my. Same for Otto’s Whistler. I want to take significant Epic Destiny feats when I’m eligible.

A guildmate donated what I needed for a Seal of the Black Abbot to unlock my Unwavering Ardency bow’s Blinding power and requested a video. Time is short to get one in on this post, but perhaps I can work one in next time, on Heroic Elite, with one of my favorite quests, “What Goes Up.” That will also illustrate Paracleta’s near-perfect paralysis crowd control. Only enemy Clerics and a few Champions resist my AA Paralysis to be a serious threat.

To keep that perfect control with paralysis means I’ve got to keep that WIS high. Right now she’s around 40. Good, but not great. I want 50 at minimum and expect that 60 is my Epic Elite minimum for 75% or better DC success. For that, I need to keep an eye on better Insightful Wisdom items, WIS 10 or better items, and get the special Festive bonus when I’m able.

No Mercy to the Helpless

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As mentioned last post, I’ve turned my attention from Pynthetica, capped at 30 and participating in many a Legendary or Epic Elite raid for the best gear, and started work on my second unique build, Ryncletica, the poison-master.

While I’m so totally enjoying the power of poison damage that Ryn magnifies, especially with the new Venomous prefixes, I’m appreciating now why some people have steered away from shortsword builds, weapons with only 1d6 base damage compared to other swords. That attitude might have changed with weapons such as Thunder-Forged swords.

But ultimately they aren’t ninjas. We Ninja Spies also get sizeable critical threat, damage and Vorpal bonuses to these weapons as the character grows in power at level 20.

Like Pynthetica, I held Ryn’s level at 25 while I completed a destiny to get a useful Epic Destiny feat at level 26, other than Toughness. That was Perfect Two Weapon Fighting, to get 5% untyped Doublestrike with some offhand Doublestrike, too.

To get that feat, I needed one trained Primal epic destiny. I’ve been training Shiradi Champion off and on, but that got familiar too quickly. Ryn is a Drow, so she’s able to train as a “light” Shuricannon like her sister Szyncletica. Ryn gains all the vorpal and critical threat range or threat bonuses for using stars, missing only the available Ranged and throwing-related feats but has Shuriken Expertise as a granted feat and Ten Thousand Stars. Most importantly, Ryn is a melee fighter and I’ve played enough ranged characters of late.

So I picked the Fury of the Wild destiny. This was the first time I’ve tried it on any character, but I’ve heard quite a lot about it. It’s commonly the central destiny used by the typical “monkcher” hyper-DPS builds, leveraging Adrenaline to dramatically generate high burst DPS when Manyshot and  Ten Thousand Stars are leveraged.

But Ryn is using the destiny as it was designed, as a melee-based destiny. I’ve not had a lot of use of Adrenaline, mostly because its Rage effects intended for the destiny’s audience, the Barbarian, aren’t as nice to Monks because it lowers some stats that benefit the unarmored Monk.

But one ability caught my eye, one I’ve heard others mention. That’s Sense Weakness. This tier 4 ability can give, with all 3 ranks, 30% additional damage to Helpless enemies with cumulative weapon damage bonuses based on the enemy’s current HP.

But the discerning ninja in the audience knows that the Ninja Spy has a similar enhancement: No Mercy. It also gives up to 30% more damage to the Helpless.

So, your question is: Does No Mercy and Sense Weakness stack in damage?

My preliminary tests suggest, yes. Yes, it does. While my math is certainly off because of extra benefits of the destiny, that’s at least a 60% boost in damage any time something is made Helpless.

Ninja Spy has one way to easily make many enemies, even Orange names, quite Helpless. I’ve mentioned it before: Freezing the Lifeblood, which gives a special minute-long paralysis that gives me plenty of time to chop something to tiny bits. Far more effective than Stunning Fist at Epic play, Freezing only requires me to get a high WIS to improve the modifier. Hardly a problem. It’s most effective against trash but occasionally I’ll get an Orange-named with low Fortitude, like Maribeth, a human cultist mini-boss in “The Lords of Dust.”

I’ll post a video that shows how terribly powerful this merciless combo can be on another day. It’s so potent that I’ll be focusing training more destinies so I can add this as a Tier 4 Twisted option. I’ll likely prefer Grandmaster of Flowers as her raid destiny once at level 30 as there are more options in that destiny alone to weaponize all the ki that Ryn builds up, saving a lot of Twist slots of abilities found there.

For now, she’s moved on to train Primal Avatar to gain more fate points and versatility. I’m familiar enough with this destiny with Zen Archers but this the first time I’ve used it as a melee character. It’s showing some promise as it supports bonuses to Two Weapon Fighting. One tier 3 ability that was really helpful in my first “Caught in the Web” run was the fully-ranked Balanced Attacks, which knocks down enemies on a vorpal and causes Helpless. That’s certainly another Twist candidate.

Now comes the annual Risia Winter Games. When I was fresh to the game, it was a fun event and was where I began to appreciate more how Monks are a special class. In short, I could farm the hell out of the place for purple coins faster than anything.

And those coins offer chances to make many “Icy Burst kits”–three recipes with enough Motes of Winter to add Icy Burst damage to the Venomous shortswords and kamas I find. This is logical enough because most things I can poison will also suffer from Cold damage. If I can find Venomous shortswords with Red Augment slots–so much the better.

Ryn farmed about 48 Purple coins in an hour and frosted up several of the her speciality poison weapons nicely.

Now to work on her hit points: Now at level 27 with Blinding Speed and Perfect Two Weapon Fighting, Ryn’s DPS is excellent but she needs to be able to survive more than one catastrophic hit despite 241% fortification. A rust monster in my first run of Legendary Tempest’s Spine one-shotted me–but we were in on Hard difficulty and I was 5 levels lower.

Despite owning similar miss-chance effects found on other ninjas in my dojo, Ryn’s melee fighting status makes her far more vulnerable to damage than I’d like. I can adapt by watching my enemies and situations far more carefully, use stick-and-move tactics, and of course, letting others in party charge ahead first. I specialize in trash removal, as do many melee Monks.

With that first Legendary TS raid complete, a very kind guildmate passed to me what seems to be the best cloth armor in the game for use at level 29: Outfit of the Celestial Guardian. That armor has so much in it that I’m having the pleasant problem of what gear to swap out because of that armor’s many benefits. Until then, I’m wearing a Shadowscale Outfit that fits like a catsuit and isn’t bad at all for protection. Perhaps a +5 Charisma tome is in order. I’ve been revisiting an old friend: the finisher Shining Star, which doesn’t cause Helplessness but its dance-off to the death certainly is beneficial.

I have to play her more and more in melee combat-intensive quests like the Batman or 007, at least in terms of preparedness, creativity and resources. I’ve been best so far in ranged-type combat with Szyncletica and Pynthetica. It’s Ryn that is my first melee character to confront the greatest nastiness of the Legendary realm.

Zen Balance

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I’ve been amiss in getting updates to the Zen Archer build as I finalized its Epic settings. As I might have mentioned before, it turned out to be an easy build to level up destinies while in off-destiny, once I was able to get three Fate slots opened to have Pin, A Dance of Flowers (GMoF weapon damage) and the ever-popular Rejuvenation Cocoon available no matter what destiny was in use.

I took a bit more time to train through Legendary Dreadnought, Unyielding Sentinel and Divine Crusader to get the necessary points for a tier 2 slot 2 upgrade and a tier 3 slot 1 upgrade. This allows the use of Grim Precision for extra fortification bypassing against portal gateways.

You might see where I’m going with this.

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I hope to take Mericletica, the first complete Epic Zen Archer (save a few pieces of gear in the new Update 27 quests and “Haunted Halls”) into a solo Shroud run, emulating her sister, Szyncletica.

With Meri’s slower shot speed, despite her higher weapon damage and critical hits, I needed the best fortification bypass I could generate. Here’s what she’ll have going into such a run, with Grandmaster of Flowers as the active destiny.

  • Precision: 25%
  • Grim Precision: 15%
  • Piercing Clarity: 10%
  • Trapsmith’s Workshop ship buff: 5%
  • Black Dragonscale Robe’s Armor-Piercing: 10%

That’s 65% fortification bypass, which should help take down those portal gateways well enough, once I make a few tests. Aside from getting a Deconstructor augment slot to add Improved Destruction for fortification damage, I don’t have anything else to add here through training.

I’ll use my tier 1 Thunder-Forged Longbow as usual for maximum damage. If I could run the Thunderholme raids regularly, I could struggle for ingredients to get tier 2 and gain 35% Armor-Piercing on that bow for a terrific 85% bypassing.

I’m able to take down a portal in about 35 seconds without Manyshot in earlier tests, but I need to work on increasing my consistent power and attack before trying a Shroud. Raids are different, of course, so I’d have to ensure that Meri’s defenses are strongest to survive alone there.

I’ve finally updated the details finalized for using the build in my forum thread, since it wasn’t quite clear-cut as I ask you to configure the character one way for Heroic and then adjust behavior based on Epic play. It is worth it, but I can’t help you see that without more information. Thanks for your patience.

Alright, Enough with the IPS

By the way, the forum thread has had several responses, one generously kind but critical, another not so much, about the addition of Improved Precise Shot into the build.

I refuse. In fact, that the build’s gotten very very far without it, even surviving more EE attempts than Szyn has done is  proof that IPS isn’t what this build’s best at doing.

I think IPS will do nothing more than get the Zen shit-kicked out of it because of excessive aggro, and game mechanics prove this. One notes how I rely on hirelings as aggro-magnets, but this is no different than Rogues and mages hanging around with players. The Zen Archer does not lead the charge, but it certainly concludes it. I don’t build characters to be Avatars of Untold Slaughter of Millions By Themselves. That’s the monkcher. Go read about that one.

So the only conclusion I can make is that people really don’t understand that I don’t play my characters with absolute power or completion speed in mind. Like many of my characters, the Zen Archer takes its time, destroys with near-impunity depending on the quest, and walks home without a death and some loot. The Zen Archer is a ninja archer and relies on powerful surprise attacks to end enemies fast. Just as my melee ninjas don’t try to aggro the whole dungeon, I don’t do so with this archer.

Of course I’m enjoying the reversal of the game mechanics that don’t easily alert other enemies to when one of their allies is being punctured. Isn’t everyone?

So, if you think that not having IPS is crippling, add it in and see what happens. I won’t be.

This will likely be the last post on the Zen Archer for a while unless I pull off a Shroud victory with one (one chance in 3, as opposed to even-money with the Shuricannon). I need to concentrate on greater documentation for it in the Monk guide, and then set off for different things.

DDO Zen Archer: The Completed Build

Mericletica5I’ve fully trained my Zen Archer build. Equipping this first one, Mericletica, will still take time on the quieter realm of the Cannith server, but all the central enhancements and initial destinies are done. I’ve still got the level 16 Pynthetica to complete on Ghallanda, but as a third-life it’s going so slow to level her.

The build’s a great alternative that delivers damage while providing all the benefits of complete Monk levels in both offense and defense.

This post is also a kind of apology and shout-out to Firewall’s Shuricannon 2.0 build. I’ve been so ADHD or just plain overwhelmed in other matters that I’ve only begun a 2.0 ‘Cannon and so haven’t been able to talk much about it. The Zen Archer has been my obsession of late, and that time spent was worth it by adapting concepts from the ‘Cannon, as I’ll explain.

Shuricannon’s Slower Kin

I’ve talked extensively on the original Shuricannon. Firewall has since upgraded the build to deliver more fortification bypassing for more damage.

Much of the Zen Archer’s design is very similar to the Shuricannon, directly or in principle.

  • High miss-chance and general defenses (30% Dodge, 25% Incorporeality, 20% Concealment).
    • Firewall’s build adds in Lesser Displacement (25% Concealment) from an upgraded robe from “Temple of Elemental Evil.” I’m working on that myself. Unlike his Drow-based build, however, I go Elven, and have the Shadow Dragonmark for invisibility and Displacement. Saekee’s tip to use Harper Agent’s Magic of Patience enhancement allows me a 5-minute Displacement at level 28, reducing the need to get Green Steel clickies. The differing playstyle reduces the need for the number of Displacements.
    • All points in DEX give a high Reflex as well as damage as noted below. That Reflex save has only failed me twice, in an Epic Normal run (I think) in “Ghost of a Chance.” There’s a very nasty blade trap there that laughed at my 64-ish Reflex save and chopped me to bits. Same for the trap guarding the elemental engine of the prime enemy airship in “Precious Cargo.”
    • The Zen Archer’s role is the opposite of the ‘Cannon. The ‘Cannon is a capable “flying tank,” with its Monk speed, PRR and miss-chance. However, by Epic, it only uses ki for Ten Thousand Stars with Shadow Veil. The Zen Archer uses ki more often for GMoF attacks in that mode. When in other destinies, I try to twist Enlightenment for +1 passive ki. Else, I have only +2 passive ki when in Sneak and from Ultimate Ocean Stance. The Zen Archer is a sniper.
  • Hard Hitting DPS.
    • The Shuricannon specializes in higher DPS by leveraging Doubleshot-like advantages from both the Drow-granted Shuriken Expertise feat and the Ninja Spy’s core abilities, specifically Advanced Ninja Training.
    • The Zen Archer is an Elven build. Firewall took Drow for Shuriken Expertise and damage bonuses, and Ninja Spy for DEX-to-Damage with stars and other damage bonuses. Along similar lines of reason, I chose Elf to give immediate proficiency for longbows and, with training, DEX-to-Damage with bows. Both Zen Archer and Shuricannon then ramp up DEX to the maximum possible to deliver damage. As bows don’t gain further benefits in Heroic DPS beyond Sneak Attack damage and  the No Mercy enhancement from Ninja Spy, I adjusted my build to concentrate on the benefits of the Harper Agent enhancements to add Ranged Power and, later, stacking Deception to slow and Bluff enemies, where SA gains additional damage. By Epic, I’m adding more bow damage from the Grandmaster of Flowers destiny, using A Dance of Flowers and Piercing Clarity on top of the destiny’s Ranged Power and Epic Power leveling bonuses.
    • Further, the Zen Archer’s longbows deliver greater base damage per hit. My Szyncletica’s best stars see 60-75 damage per hit, although there are a lot of other effects that certain shuriken gain for DPS per hit, especially Ninja Poison, which the Zen Archer cannot do. The Zen Archer’s base hits with a Thunder-Forged Longbow at level 28, in Grandmaster of Flowers, is 150+ once all competency bonuses are up. I tested the overall DPS on the planar gateway portal in Aussircaex’s Valley. While Szyncletica could take that portal down in about 45 seconds with Ten Thousand Stars, Mericletica with Manyshot blasted that thing to bits in under 30 seconds. I still have a TTS and normal bow test for her, but the base damage is clearly superior with a bow, even if the total sustained DPS works differently. I have Manyshot and TTS and better Doubleshot outside of this, versus Szyn. However, I didn’t let Szyn train two destinies to gain the Doubleshot feat to further improve her sustained attack. Meri’s fortification bypass is also superior to Szyncletica’s, which started off on Shiradi Champion to immediately benefit from Whirling Wrists and related damage enhancements. Shuricannon 2.0, with gear, can get higher bypassing.
    • Like the ‘Cannon, bonuses to critical hit threat and range ramp up the damage. But here, the Zen Archer sees critical hits in the 1500 or greater range since, with Earth Stance and Overwhelming Critical, I get a x5 effective multiplier (the ‘Cannon does this too after a fashion and with another destiny). I never saw such critical hit numbers with my ‘Cannon, but again, DPS is subjective. I do see similar take-down speed with the Zen Archer as the ‘Cannon. However, both builds are played very differently. The ‘Cannon is a berserking, running attacker. The Zen Archer is a calm, near-motionless, balanced sniper. As such, the ‘Cannon clears more enemies per minute, but the Zen Archer can zap down a single tougher enemy as fast yet not endanger itself. I clear rooms and dungeons very well. I just do so one enemy at a time as fast as possible.

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  • Defensive advantages from full Monk training.
    • The Shuricannon has stronger innate magic protection from the start as Drow gain Spell Resistance that grows as they do. The Monk’s Diamond Soul feat adds this in at level 13 for the Zen Archer. The two features are identical and, thus, don’t stack on the Shuricannon. Grandmaster of Flowers and an airship buff add a little more stacking bonus.
    • I managed to work in the highest fortification I have ever made on a character with the Zen Archer: 205%. This comes from a 25% Exceptional Fortification loot-gen helm, 40% from the Unyielding Sentinel’s Brace for Impact, 125% Fortified gloves, and guild ship bonuses that filled in the rest. This should ensure that the Zen Archer can stand and fire without as much concern against any melee enemies that get too close, except Champions, the bane of many a build, which often can ignore one or more of the Zen Archer’s passive defenses.
    • The Zen Archer is still a ninja at heart and has very strong Hide/Move Silently skills to go where it wants without detection. Having Abundant Step is key here–and having sufficient ki to use it repeatedly without compromising my ki store.
    • The Zen Archer in Grandmaster of Flowers mode regenerates +4 ki at maximum, gaining a maximum 240 ki held fully charged. I can use many offensive and defensive abilities without dangerously depleting my ki pool in extended fights, and regenerate ki very rapidly between each battle. It also allows the use of shrines to recharge my spell points without worrying about ki loss.
    • I still find the Way of the Sun Soul set helpful for the Zen defense. To go with the miss-chances, Reflex saves, Improved Evasion, high fortification and Spell Resistance comes the 25% damage-reducing Radiant Forcefield effect that often procs while in Earth Stance while I deliver maximum critical hit damage from that stance’s benefits to weapon.
    • The only enemies that make the Zen Archer move are Champions. They threaten one or more of my defenses at all times. But keeping GMoF as the central destiny grants me emergency damage through the knockdown effect of Drifting Lotus, where I can then Pin that enemy and eliminate it.
  • Gear.
    • Both Zen Archer and ‘Cannon use similar gear, outside of the weapons, of course. In my case, as I don’t run as many specific quests as Firewall is able to do to get the best of the best, I’m still adding in effects that both builds enjoy to squeeze that last bit of DPS from every shot. In fact, youshould be able to use the same gear for thisbuild as the ‘Cannon if you’re able to obtain it. Here’s what I have for now.
      • Fortification bypass.
        • Shuricannon 2.0 revels in this, and the Zen Archer took more than a few pointers here. It’s one reason why I’ve found that the Grandmaster of Flowers destiny provides the best overall offensive and defensive balance for this build.
        • You can gain more DPS from Shiradi Champion and more burst DPS from Fury of the Wild, but GMoF’s Piercing Clarity adds 10% additional fortification bypassing to go with the 25% of Precision feat for 35%, and a 5% guild buff for 50% currently. I’ve trained up a bit of Shadowdancer and used Grim Precision and its 15% bypass bonus.
        • If I train up more destinies for more fate points, I could upgrade a Twist of Fate slot for tier 3 to use that as well for 65% with Grim Precision. Even Heroic level Black Dragonscale Robes will add 10% Armor-Piercing for 75%. I’m making routing Heroic Elite runs into Gianthold Tor, quickly gathering 3 White and Black scales for the next lives and using that armor. On Cannith, I don’t see a lot of opportunities to build Flawless Black Dragonscale Robes for 15% Armor-Piercing, but hope springs eternal with an LFM.
      • Two key rings, the Ring of Shadows and Seal of House Avithoul, provide Hide/Move Silently defenses, Blurry, 10% standing Incorporeality (saving ki to reduce use of Ninja Spy’s Shadow Veil) with Improved Deception (stacks with the Harper Agent enhancement) and Sneak Attack bonuses. This slows charging enemies but also greatly slows attacks by even Red Named enemies when Manyshot is running. The continuous high-speed hits tend to permanently turn away bosses and slow their attacks, making take-down faster.
      • Shadowdancer’s permanent Shadow Form will save some ki later here.
      • Saekee and I learned during an EE run into “The Claw of Vulkoor” that Deception effects per player tend to “lock up” bosses to the point where they can’t make attacks or defense. They’re in a state of permanent Bluff while the DPS holds. Saekee had at least one Deception effect and I have two.
      • Defensively, the Way of the Sun Soul set also helps in Earth Stance with PRR bonuses, including a boost from Standing with Stone. I do want to add a Sheltering augment somewhere to fortify my total soak damage reduction to around 45-60 PRR.
      • I have unlocked a Spider-Spun Caparison outfit with Improved Dexterity +3 for more HP. Replacing the Boots of the Woodsman I’ve worn are a pair of Surefooted Boots. This grants the Mobility feat for 2% more Dodge but also has a Green augment slot where a Topaz of Power +150 sits to give more spell points for Rejuvenation Cocoon.
      • Replaced my Nightforge Gorget with a temporary necklace with Wisdom +8 and a Yellow augment slot used with a Deathblock gem. I hope to find the Necklace of Mystic Ediolons for inherent Deathblock, better Improved DEX and CON but also (once upgraded) Augment Summoning for +4 to my summoned and hireling ability scores, which would make them more helpful in Epic Elite, especially running Primal Avatar for additional boosts.
      • The Tier 1 Thunder-Forged Longbow with a Good augment gem is the primary weapon, punching anything it targets, especially dragons. If I find any groups running the Thunder Peak raid enough, further upgrades of the weapon would be nice. I’m getting well-acquainted with “Temple of Elemental Evil” enough to start hunting for the Epic Sapphire Sting, the only other bow that makes the TF bow seem weak.
      • I’ve completed my Shroud flagging. I have one first Green Steel desire: A triple-positive bow for handling undead bosses. I’m confident that Mericletica might do something only Szyncletica has managed: Completing the Shroud alone. The need is less in bragging rights than the low population on Cannith.
  • Destinies and Epic Training
    • I trained more destinies on this character than I ever had on any character to date. I started with GMoF, bypassed Legendary Dreadnought for expediency to get Shiradi Champion and Primal Avatar trained to qualify for level 28 Epic Destiny feats, and trained Shadowdancer to gain more fate points to upgrade slot 1 to tier 2. I plan to train Legendary Dreadnought, Fury of the Wild and Shadowdancer to gain three more fate points to get tier 3 unlocked. I know Firewall loves Divine Crusader, so I’ll be tooling through Unyielding Sentinel for more fate points and to unlock that destiny too.
    • While in Grandmaster of Flowers, I have Pin from Shiradi in an upgraded tier 2 Twist slot and Rejuvenation Cocoon from Primal Avatar in the second and third Twist slots. This allows three important GMoF abilities to stay up without Twisting (Piercing Clarity, A Dance of Flowers for 1.5W damage increase, with Enlightenment and the innate abilities Ubiquity for Tumbling through enemies and Balance in All Things keeping ki regeneration at its maximum while also giving knockdown immunity). GMoF’s offensive powers, also help in defense and damage, especially Drifting Lotus, and it allows me to have the room-obliterating Everything is Nothing available on boss fights.
    • Shiradi Champion works very well at the expense of defense and ki regeneration. Pin and Otto’s Whistler are impressive attack modes that make this destiny great in smaller fight scenarios.
    • Primal Avatar is a great defensive destiny that boosts my character’s outward defenses, specifically with hirelings. The aggro-magnet Elder Dryad allows me to pummel things from afar longer. Of course, Rejuvenation Cocoon is a requirement for most characters and is easy to train. The Zen Archer tries to avoid being too dependent on it as the ultimate balance between DPS and defense is the goal of the build. If the Zen Archer is taking so much damage that Cocoon has to be used all the time, the build’s not doing what it should.
    • The Blinding Speed Epic feat gives permanent Haste for 22% Ranged Alacrity. The level 28 Epic Destiny feat Doubleshot adds 10% Doubleshot for  a total of 15% with Elven and guild ship bonuses.
    • Off-destiny, this build still does good damage, but does enjoy the Ranged Power bonuses from each destiny. That said, Fury of the Wild’s intentionally nerfed +1 Ranged Power (balancing out the monkchers that use that) is less attractive than GMoF and Shiradi or Shadowdancer.

The Final Build

I’ll be pasting the final build later on my forum thread for anyone to import into Character Builder Lite, and update the first post with the final information.

I have a video to share of this build tackling a battle to give an idea of its power. The Zen Archer isn’t bad at all in Epic Elite, but you do have to pick battles with care as you would any character.

Comments welcome. Be sure to click the “CC” for captioning that explains the tactics as the video goes along.

Zen Grandmaster

Sure, it was from the Training Dummy. But there it is.

Sure, it was from the Training Dummy. But there it is.

The race of the Zen Archers and the testing of the build was never a fair contest. Mericletica on Cannith was a first-lifer with XP nearly oozing out of every pore just for showing up somewhere, while three-lifer Pynthetica has to scrap for play time.

Pyn wins in the gear department hands down, however, having accumulated much in her lifetimes, including a Shimmering Arrowhead and all the big bows, including a Raider’s Box-bestowed Pinion bow that’s dying to be used.

But Mericletica, now level 23, is first to test the viability of the Epic Zen Archer first. As a first-life Monk, she began in the Grandmaster of Flowers destiny.

As part of the build testing, I’m writing a series of posts on Epic Destinies as they relate to the Zen Archer, with GMoF first.

Weaponized Ki, Improved Damage

While GMoF helps unarmed Monks best, it also offers general bonuses that apply to armed Monks. Mericletica’s ki is boosted. Her weapon damage is improved. A few Destiny Points to DEX aids in damage and to-hit. She bypasses more fortification.

Update 25 grants +3 Ranged/Melee power per each innate ability. That’s a great start to a build that will already had  15 Ranged Power on entering Epic play with her Harper Agent training. And every Epic character gains +3 Epic Power per level. At present, Mericletica has around 27 Ranged Power.

  • Inner Focus (innate ability 1): Additional ki and stacking spell resistance to avoid attacks. Of course, this is also a rechargeable non-Meditation emergency ki surge button, helpful in prolonged attacks where I’m spamming Ten Thousand Stars and other ki attacks as often as I’m able.
  • Perfect Balance: More to Dodge to maximize it to 30%.
  • Lily Petal: The first of the magical ki attack balls. I plan to heavily leverage these and related attacks because of the Zen Archer’s maximized regenerative ki effects. As they give Magic type damage, most enemies can’t resist it and take hundreds of points of damage. It’ll be especially helpful against Champions, the bane of the Zen Archer, as their special buffs often compromise at least one of the build’s circles of defense.
  • Enlightenment: More passive ki regeneration and ki as a whole to empower attacks. I’m using this ability to make adjustments to enhancement AP, as I’ll note in a moment.
  • A Dance of Flowers: Increases the weapon damage modifier for her bows.
  • Centered Mind (innate ability 2): The Slippery Mind feat to ward off enchantment attacks such as Otto’s dancing spells, buying the character time to escape and attack.
  • Serenity: More stacking spell resistance needed against things such as the Drow spellcasters.
  • Wholeness of Spirit (innate ability 3): Periodic cleansing button of bad status effects and debuffs.
  • Orchid Blossom: Lily Petal’s mass strike upgrade. Helpful against mobs.
  • Walking with Waves: While in Ocean Stance, an additional 3% Dodge if I require it by this time.
  • Perfection of Body: Boosts to Fortitude saves, where this build is weakest.
  • The Abiding Path (innate ability 4): Immunity to Slippery Surfaces. I do not fear and will not move away from the spellcasters with Sleet Storm.
  • Standing with Stone: Up to +15 PRR and 15 HP when in Earth Stance. I’m often in this Monk stance for improvements to the critical threat range of my bows and damage mitigation, now that other abilities of the destiny can compensate for the loss of saving throws and Dodge when otherwise using Ocean Stance. Critical hit damage goes up 30% easily when I’m running in this mode.
  • Piercing Clarity: Effective True Seeing against concealment effects. Most importantly, additional fortification bypass of 10% to go with Precision (25%) and other bypass training I can utilize.
  • Ubiquity (innate ability 5): Tumbling through enemies as if they were incorporeal. Helpful to shift position while not interrupting Archer’s Focus, if it works.
  • Drifting Lotus: My answer to avoiding Improved Precise Shot. Combined with the other ki attacks, I’ll be able to quickly knockdown and damage enemies, often using this feature to escape with stealth if a fight becomes overwhelming.
  • Dancing with Flames: Like A Dance of Flowers, I hoped this additional ability would also boost the weapon dice modifier. However, it fails to work with bows, only unarmed and perhaps melee weapons. It’s skipped.
  • Perfection of Soul: Additional Reflex saves when in the heat of battle. Right now, I’m less in need of it.
  • Balance in All Things (innate ability 6): Immunity to most knockdowns and an additional +1 to passive ki regeneration. For the Zen Archer, that means up to a total of +5 possible passive ki regeneration (Stealthy from Ninja Spy, Contemplation from Henshin Mystic (now disabled), Ultimate Ocean Stance, Enlightenment and this innate ability). If HP drops to less than 50%, then Way of the Tenacious Badger adds +1 for a rapid +5/+6 passive regeneration, perfect for spamming Lily Petal and other alternative attacks.
  • A Scattering of Petals: A Blinding debuff for escapes. A convenient alternative to the Ninja Spy’s Flash Bang (which isn’t trained). I’d rather add another DEX point.
  • Everything is Nothing: One of the best Epic Moments out there that instantly kills almost everything in a wide range. Since this Epic character will be spamming ki attacks often, it should be easy to have this charged for tactical use in wide areas where many enemies are anticipated, sniping and luring as many enemies into “Death Blossom” range. The Zen Archer will never lack in sufficient ki for this or any other ki strike.

Adjustments to Enhancements

With more passive ki regeneration from this destiny, it’s wasn’t a bad idea to retool my Monk enhancements for more weapon damage in Epic play. Here’s the summary.

  1. I reset the Henshin Mystic tree, removing training for Contemplation. This reduces passive ki regeneration by 1 but this is made up with the Enlightenment ability in GMoF, even as a Twisted ability, as well as the last innate ability while in GMoF. This freed up 8 AP and leaves the tree dormant.
  2. Completed 34 points of Harper Agent training. The last two cores weren’t helpful to damage, and those 10 AP used to qualify for it don’t help outside of DEX training. So any training at level 30 stopped after Harper Enchantment of Deception. I did consider Saekee’s great idea to extend my Elven Displacement duration with Magic of Patience, adding 2 points there. My Elven Displacement from my Shadow Dragonmark now lasts a hardy 4 minutes instead of 1 minute 30 seconds, thanks to that Extend Magic effect.
  3. Trained Ninja Spy’s Sneak Attack and No Mercy enhancements using the 12 to 14 freed AP. This additional damage will come in handy when Shiradi Champion training offers Nerve Venom, which makes enemies helpless. Significant damage from Sneak Attacks now apply as Improved Deception effects kick in.

Epic Gear

Mericletica5

Mericletica is a first-life character on a server with a lower player population. I’ll have to make due from the charity of others for gear when raids are run less often.

Grabbed a low-hanging fruit: A Spider-Spun Caparison for a paltry amount of Astral Shards for +3 Insightful DEX later. I gathered plenty of Eveningstar Commendations for the Way of the Sun Soul set and its stance-based buffs.

The Radiant Forcefield-like buff that reduces damage by 25% for 10 seconds when a vorpal-calculated hit is confirmed in Earth Stance adds to the Zen damage reduction scheme, as does the PRR and AC boosts of Earth Stance. Ocean Stance kicks on a Fire Shield/Cold buff. I don’t know if the Wind Stance’s buff of 6% Doublestrike includes Doubleshot as well (I’m sure I tested this on Szyncletica and it does not).

With level 23 done, I decided to downshift to farm some items.

To use the Sun Soul set, my trusty level 3 Bracers of Wind must go, which meant a new Blurry item to replace it. I found a reasonably-priced epic Ring of Shadows on the Shard Exchange and put it on immediately at level 23. This ring has it all for the stealthy, defensive ninja. Great Hide/Move Silently and at least 10% Incorporeal protection with its Ghostly at all times to go with the Blurry, saving me a little ki in light skirmishes where I needn’t kick on Shadow Veil.

On the other hand is a gift from Saekee: A Seal of House Avithoul, perfect for the Epic adjustments for additional Sneak Attack damage, DEX +7 and with Improved Deception that stacks with my Harper based version for frequent Bluff-spins against charging attackers, slowing them down.

STR was a serious problem for me. My collection of bows are heavy, and even as I pared them down, I had to wear some Ogre Power boots and not something more useful. Completing most of the Heroic Elite runs possible in Gianthold gained me sufficient ancient relics to trade for a Diamond of Strength +5 that I added to the slot on the Ring of Shadows.

Scored a non-epic Roadwatch Bow in the latter days of leveling to 20, which was surprisingly effectively against the plant and fey in the “Druid’s Deep” series. I will be buying an Epic version of this thing, as well as completing more Eveningstar challenges to get different Cormyrian bows and their often harsh Improved Paralyzing, Wounding and other detrimental effects.

Saekee was happy to venture out to make me a Tier 0 Thunder-Forged Longbow. I wasn’t doing badly at all beforehand with my non-epic Thornlord for horrific 300 to 400 crits while in Earth Stance with sustained damage of 100 per hit, elevating by 20-45 with a bluffing Improved Diversion spin and the Sneak Attack bonus.

On breaking out of the Sun Soul set at higher levels for a raid configuration, the Flawless Black Dragonscale Robe would add more fortification bypass. I’ll be farming Heroic Tor to gather their lesser version for a robe usable for life #2 or for Epic play when I need to really punch through something.

So here’s the gear summary, thus far, for the TL;DR crowd.

  • Helm: Deadly Helm of Accuracy (both +6 bonuses). This is a very useful placeholder until I find something better. The Epic choices are weird here. A Flawless Helm of the Black Dragon would pair well enough with its counterpart robe. The Epic Wheloon chain reward helms aren’t bad, but I think, for now, that level 27 Guardian’s Helmet with 120% fortification and Hammerblock isn’t looking too bad.
  • Necklace: Nightforge Gorget with Deathblock gem. This is always a hard thing to part with until I can stabilize my Epic gear so I have Deathblock and higher Fortification elsewhere. Some Fortified 125% Gloves with a yellow and green slot would be ideal as I could stick a PRR gem in with the Deathblock gem. It’s too easy in places to get a Death Ward buff dispelled, so I never leave the airship without this. I’d rather have a Dodge 8% or better item here, if not elsewhere.
  • Trinket: Mummified Bat. Of all the gear I have, trinkets are in the worst shape. Ideally, a Planar Focus item with Insightful DEX +3 would be fine, but a Shimmering Arrowhead might be the better thing for slowing anything with Crippling. Combined with Improved Deception, this could be a great thing.
  • Cloak: A Drow Piwafwi. The basic Hide/Move Silently allows easy stealth movement but also has that funny Invisibility Guard (like the Drow Slavers, it gives you effective Improved Invisibility for a bit and so slows down aggro) but also Improved Sneak Attack +5 to boost weapon damage. I need to add something better since only the SA effect is working here…
  • Belt: Belt of the Sun Soul. The Concentration +15, Insightful WIS +2 and CON +7 is very welcome.
  • Ring #2: A Seal of House Avithoul. DEX +7. Excellent for boosting Sneak Attack damage and increases the Improved Deception effect since I also have this working on Harper Enchantment. Enemies, even red-names, spin quite a bit, allowing for a lot of extra damage.
  • Gloves: Fortified 105% of Speed VI. This is likely the place to add in greater Epic fortification or DEX or Dodge later. I’d love to find Speed as well until I reach level 27 and get the Blinding Speed feat to be permanently Hasted and get 15% ranged speed. I’m not sure what named item, aside from the Purple Dragon Gauntlets for healing amplification) would fit here. DEX +10 with Dodge 10%/Protection/Natural Armor 1+0 are possible to find by level 28.
  • Boots: Boots of the Woodsman. After many trades of other commendations, these provide Insightful DEX +2 for more damage and some more movement speed. There are many, many better Epic boots to find later.
  • Ring #1: Ring of Shadows, level 23. Blurry, Ghostly, a STR +5 gem, and Hide/Move Silently +17. I shouldn’t need the Drow Piwafwi with this ring, further emphasizing my need to dump that cloak.
  • Bracers: Bracers of the Sun Soul. Boosts not only WIS but adds Insight bonuses to saves, AC and CON.
  • Armor: Vestments of the Sun Soul. This completes the Way of the Sun Soul effects that reduce damage or provide emergency effects such as Restoration. Once I’m cocky enough for chasing 375 PDK favor, I’ll unlock the Spider-Spun Caparison.
  • Goggles: Lenses of the Woodsman. Gives me Seeker +6, an attack bonus and True Seeing, allowing me (in combination with the Sun Soul set) to retire my Teraza’s Perfect Sight, which is why my Helm slot has just a loot-gen item. I was trying originally for some Drow Smoke Goggles but, after three runs through the first Darkening quests and besting “The Battle of Eveningstar” thrice, the drop just wasn’t there. I did score two pairs of Grave Wrappings, one to keep and another to hand over to Gwynncletica, my young Shintao for her later glory. Perhaps Shadowsight would be good here as an alternative later.

Gameplay

Currently, Mericletica blasts things at sustained 100-120 damage with around 20-40 Sneak Attack damage, with 400-500 critical hits once her Archer’s Focus is full.

At DEX 44 or so, Mericletica is a surprisingly hard-hitting powerhouse. I’m starting my Elite run into the Devil Battlefield to complete the Shavarath quests there for Yugoloth Favor Potions. Combined with DDO Elixirs and the special House Deneith potions, I’ll get +6 more to DEX on-hand for crunch fights. It looks like, with items and destinies, Meri should ultimately have around 48-52 DEX base by end-game with +6 in reserve. I need to visit Szyncletica the star-thrower to check how she reached a 60 after two lives and emulate that.

Right now, Dodge bonus isn’t where I want it to be. It’s 21% if I’m in Ocean Stance, but it can reach 30%. I need to retool what I have, starting with that cloak slot. An Adamantine Cloak of the Wolf, with Dodge 8% and Improved Seeker +5 might do the trick. If I can add points to Walking with Waves for 3% more while in Ocean Stance without messing up my Epic Moment, that’s one help.

While I prefer the strong, generally aggressive hireling duo of Albus, the level 20 Favored Soul and my Onyx Panther to take aggro-point, Mericletica wasn’t doing too badly on her own in the wilds of the Devil Battlefield. She took out her first pit fiend with some clever jumping atop the Tower of Despair’s outer gate, pelting the thing from above as it received punches from the Warforged Titan below.

The Grandmaster of Flowers destiny, overall, boosts weapon damage, Dodge and Dexterity, while adding in the ranged ki magic balls as a “finish him!” move with a low HP enemy. It’s actually turning out as a great ranged destiny because it reinforces the zen of this build, leveraging ki and the natural monastic abilities for strong defense and damage. Only Shiradi Champion will be better in general damage and versatility with the bow, but at a defense disadvantage if I read it right.

I’m going to race through Legendary Dreadnought to get another Twist slot unlocked and upgraded, to reach Shiradi Champion and Primal Avatar as soon as possible.

There’s still a lot of items I can farm as well. I see many runs into “The Weapons Shipment” for that Shimmering Arrowhead Hopefully I can bring Saekee or others along to increase my farming odds. I owe him a lot.

I foresee an Epic XP leveling freeze at level 27 to avoid wasting my last Epic Destiny feat slot. While training two Primal destinies to qualify, I’ll take Overwhelming Critical as an Epic Feat at 24, changing the bow critical multiplier from x3 to x4, I think. I’ll take Toughness as the first Epic Destiny feat at level 26, Blinding Speed at level 27, continuing destiny training until I can take Doubleshot (10% added, 15% total) as the last Epic Destiny feat.

I hope to have a video of this build in fully-trained GMoF, as well as Shiradi and Shadowdancer in the coming weeks.

Zen and the Art of Tranquil Resignation

Looking good as an archer and being a viable one are two different things. (Publicity still from the 2011 film, Your Highness, copyright Universal Pictures)

Looking good as an archer and being a viable one are two different things. (Publicity still of actress Natalie Portman from the 2011 film, Your Highness, copyright Universal Pictures)

Pynthetica the Zen Archer reached level 20 not very long ago, after an expected struggle with this trial build.

She dealt decent damage as a Half-Elf pure Monk archer with Arcane Archer flavoring throughout her Heroic level adventures. A Monk with a bow, remember? Not a “monkcher?”

I planned to train her through Shiradi Champion and several other destinies to build her defenses and tactics. Just because Pyn’s a pure Monk didn’t mean she couldn’t utilize the burst damage that monkchers have enjoyed.

But there’s a greater problem that overrides what Epic Destinies to pick and train. The problem’s so great that I must resign Pyn to another life to try again, with a greater hope for the future to make a Zen Archer the strongest it can be, through Heroic levels and beyond.

As it stands now, continuing with Pyn in this current build would be folly.

Damage

Shortly after Pyn hit 20, I rolled up Artemistika, an elven Deepwood Stalker. I’ve been playing it to death. Next to Monks, archers get much love from me.

I’m officially concerned for Pyn now because of lessons learned with Misty. In particular, bow damage.

All Rangers gain the Bow Strength feat, applying STR modifier to bow damage. Elves can adjust this with the Aerenal Grace racial enhancement to make DEX as the sole stat for to-hit and damage.

Misty’s level 22 damage to an unfortified training dummy with a strong non-Epic bow showed 120-190 damage per normal hit, with criticals in the 400s and beyond.

But Pyn is not a Ranger right now, nor a full Elf. She gained a “Lesser Bow Strength” from her Half-Elf Ranger dilettante. So she has to apply the STR modifier, but only gets credit for a percentage of that modifier.

Zen Archery simply changed the to-hit bonus from DEX to WIS, which was why I had began pumping up WIS.

But this makes Pyn in her second life not too different from her first life as a Ranger where I neglected her STR and pumped up her DEX in my ignorance.

The result is that Pyn is woefully under powered as a Half Elf with bow damage. I did anticipate this, but not on the order of magnitude that Misty illustrated for me.

Perhaps in the next life, going Elf would give Pyn the Aerenal Grace ability with Zen Archery providing the centering factor for using the bow only. Then life would be in better balance since she was specced for higher DEX with tomes in life 1.

It’s too bad that I can’t easily train in Deepwood Stalker as you can do so in adding an Arcane Archer tree to any Elven character. An Elven Monk Pyn with DWS would make a superior archer with her monastic powers. Multiclassing for now isn’t an option for me.

Additional elven longbow competence training from the racial tree would also work in her favor as well as that Shadow Dragonmark that adds Displacement, among other things.

So for now, I’m too challenged to make Pyn work as effectively as she can be with this handicap. Hindsight is a poor way to build a character. But, this Monk-with-a-bow build was experimental. At least through Misty I have an answer for Pyn to make her build much more dynamic later.

As a result, I will shorten Pyn’s adventures yet again, having never trained past level 22 in the first life as a Ranger, reincarnated as an Elf.

Back to the Drawing Board

There was a lot of  work with in destiny-land. There was a lot of grinding to do. I’m sure training in Grandmaster of Flowers, Shiradi Champion, Shadowdancer and many other EDs would make a Zen Archer a very formidable foe.

But even I know that DDO requires damage. However creatively you apply it, as I do with characters like Ryncletica, your damage must be sufficient.

In this instance, Pyn’s archery-fu is insufficient.

All the aggro management I have on Misty (combined with substantial hireling/summon stat boosts) would not work for Pyn, even if she could train them, as she simply can’t pull off the better bow damage right now, no matter the ED.

At least Pyn has a never-used Pinion bow ready to try when she’s back in business. And getting a Thunder-Forged bow isn’t a bad thing as well.

Pyn 3.0 will come shortly. While I have a lot of projects now–Syncletica’s life as a hermit, Lynncletica’s desire to be a better tank and with other non-Monk flavors I’m enjoying, where will I find the time?

Monks get priority for me, so Misty’s growing collection of Tokens of the Twelve are going to her. Misty blew away an Epic Normal run of “Devil Assault” and farms Tokens just fine. I want the Zen Archer working the way I know it can be.

 

Kiricletica’s Bane

Kiricletica, anti-mage of Eberron and the Forgotten Realms.

Kiricletica looks nice here, but she’s just posing. She should look less aggressive. It doesn’t pay to be a highly-visible ninja.

It’s been a bit since I last spoke about Kiricletica. Inspired by the character of “Kirito” in the light novel/anime about a VRMMORPG called Sword Art Online, Kiricletica emulated the anime character in generally completing her adventures completely alone. No hirelings (save a few quests where switches needed more than a single person) or summoned creatures as active fighters. And there’s the self-imposed limit to kills.

The Shuricannon Szyncletica stole my attention away for a time. Bugs in the game that stopped Ninja Poison from applying with Updates 21 and 22 also dampened my spirits to complete Kiri’s first life and reincarnate her for a second go.

With Ninja Poison working again, I logged in recently to find problems in playing Kiri.

There’s nothing wrong with her, but me. I’ve become a bane to Kiri’s success. (Any pun you detected is intentional.)

It’s because of a speed differential I’ve put in my head.

Of late, I’ve been primarily enjoying two characters with insane attack speeds: Szyncletica and the swashbuckling Flynncletica. So Kiri’s attack speed, as a shortsword wielding ninja, seems very very slow. I have a Melee Alacrity item but I don’t often drink Haste potions to boost things.

There’s also Kiri’s built-in attack methodology. While Szyn and Flynn can scream-and-leap into most any fight, Kiri’s designed to avoid fighting, picking off or eluding isolated enemies as required, then isolating the boss and eliminating them. Her primary DPS comes from Ninja Poison.

Finally, there’s a matter of scope. Kiri was not built as the ultimate fighter, but the ultimate victor. Completing the mission, not attaining the highest slayer count, or even all optionals, is Kiri’s design.

Difficulty is also not supposed to be a factor. The Epic Elite barrier that so many complain about on the forums when it comes to melee fighting is one that Kiri shouldn’t be trying to breech except in rare fights (perhaps “House of Rusted Blades”). Frankly, EE melee fighters hit very hard–harder than Kiri can withstand. She can complete most things on Epic Hard as the combat challenges are a bit less. More on EE issues in a moment.

Lastly, there’s the matter of raids. Raids are all about fighting in a group. Kiri cannot keep up by herself. With “Tempest’s Spine” as an exception, she doesn’t do raids under her solo rules.

So where does that leave the Most Loneliest Ninja?

Still happy, I think.

There’s Much Left to Do

My challenge at Kiri’s current level, 26, is three-fold. First, to push through some experience to add Legendary Dreadnought’s Improved Combat Expertise for a little PRR. Second is to complete her leveling to 28, just to say she can.

The last goal (and I don’t know if I have patience to do this) is to complete every quest available in the game that does not absolutely require multiple characters to complete. Raids are also off the table.

I’m not attempting to complete any remaining quests at Elite difficulty. I’m just trying to complete things, period. If there’s a Favor incentive I can see that can gain me something useful (such as those that gained me Yugoloth favor potions), then that’s a secondary goal.

Building a second Thunder-Forged Shortsword isn’t a bad idea. There may be a few more low-level items to farm before a reincarnation.

Some adventures may exceed Kiri’s powers, even if I were playing her optimally as before. For instance, completing the Wheloon quests, especially the Storm Horns series, seem damned impossible with this build in terms of thoroughness. The zerg-rush attacks in “Breaking the Ranks” and “What Goes Up” is going to hurt. It’s an arena fight like “Tharaask Arena.” Conservation of Ninjutsu be damned. Kiricletica would get slaughtered.

It’s Not Her, It’s Me

But let me get back to my mental handicap with Kiri’s fighting prowess. I’ve obviously shown her able under my gameplay to complete 3 of the 4 Devil Battlefield quests on Elite, by herself, to gain sufficient Yugo favor. I couldn’t just go stealth through all that. Further: Many devils and demons are poison-immune, so Kiri really had to fight it out to complete things.

So am I gimping my own playstyle with Kiri by playing high-attack speed characters?

I think so, although it’s not irreparable. Kiri’s design required the utmost patience, the most serious mind. I would leave Kiri in stealth for several minutes in a quest, contemplating my next moves, building up ki and studying the AI of a target I had to kill or could not bypass.

With Batman-esque determination, I executed the plan. Such meta-roleplay did work. But I’ve gotten out of true. Kiricletica isn’t very special in terms of character design or gear as a Ninja Spy. But she has a very specialized skill set, and thus, manner of play.

I took Kiri back into “Impossible Demands” on Epic Elite. While damaging Priestess Vicala to begin the hostage rescue wasn’t a problem, I immediately became overwhelmed in taking on the fighters of the hostages in room 1.

A post-mortem review revealed the one thing I pushed Kiri into doing; Offensive attacks. She normally lures single enemies out, before killing them as a viper would. Else, a horde of spiders can kill a sole viper.

It’s funny but Kiri is going to have to train me to play properly again, rather than me, the player, retooling her and reallocating this and that. Kiri is fine. I’m the one that sucks.

Broken Tools of the “Ninja Assassin” Trade?

Kiri is, in part, a perfection of ninja skills I first learned from her teacher, Ryncletica.

The Kunoichi...where brute strength is lacking, cunning through poisoned blades do the work. (Credit: CreativeCut.com)

Kiri’s perfected a few of her own, such as high-dosage poisoning, paralyzing and enemy pulling.

With Update 22, how many new things will she had to add to her Ninja Utility Belt? And can she meet a new game mechanic change?

A foreboding example of Update 22’s aggro/AI changes came in a DDO forum thread where a player noted that the fun challenge of assassinating only the Minotaur Chieftain in “Frame Work” not only didn’t work but became a clusterfrak when mobs surged in from all throughout the city. What caught my eye (in screen shots) and the poster were all three Cabal Seers, high-level mages, suddenly spawning  from their perches, hundreds of meters away, to guard the chieftain.

That’s too much of an aggro change. While local enemies should be attracted when you slap the boss, the “local” definition has changed to say, “Somewhere in the quest.” The Seers shouldn’t have a hot-line to call themselves in from halfway across the city and materialize atop you.

The only way I can think of working around this is to partially violate the limited kill rule by assassinating the Cabal Seers first. But then, if the AI is still wacky, that might bring more terror on my head if I don’t remove any Runts that ring the bells. And now, how far can those Runts detect you?

I do have an idea to improve on Kiri’s attack speed in her next life. More on that another time.

For now, I have to remember how to be a ninja. After all I’ve completed with Kiricletica, isn’t that weird?

The Littlest Giantslayer

1500 GoliathsBefore Heat Mizer did a song-and-dance on my computer cores a few weeks ago, Szyncletica the star-thrower was back on the warpath. Continuing to show my tankers like Lynncletica that they aren’t the only ones that can hold their own going solo in Epic adventures, she’s ventured alone into the especially dangerous wastes of epic Gianthold, improving her fight experience and completing flagging quests on EH once more for an eventual run into Gianthold Tor.

Anyone that’s visited the epic version of this popular quest wilderness knows how it’s far more hostile than its Heroic mode. The giants have massive HP, can literally seem to see you from a mile away with their proportionate Spot bonuses, and often dogpile on you with three or more at a time.

Oh, and dragons like to drop out of the frickin’ sky and eat you.

Szyn, however, has taken a page or two from David’s book on getting giant shit done.

I’ve been playing her pure solo (like Kiricletica) since she went Epic, occasionally adding my Onyx Panther or another hireling for a little support occasionally (Restorations or aggro management). Doing this keeps me in control of what I fight and where, giving me the advantage.

The key to Szyn’s giant-slaying success at first was her level 20 Icy Burst, Crushing Wave, Improved Paralyzing spelltouched shuriken. Combined with Improved Precise Shot and Shiradi effects such as Nerve Poison, the high DPS just carves through hordes of giants with complete dominance. Still wearing the Golden Guile, its Improved Deception often bluffs the hordes, slowing their rate of advance.

And with level 23 reached once again, out came the Celestia. This adds firebombing and light-damage for spectacular mass-damage effects to already weakened mobs.

And then I got a new ML24 star crafted that causes faster damage to giants with some hidden nasty “spellplague” effects.

I didn’t bother going stealth too much. I wanted to attract attention.

To Szyn, a Drow with emmity to giantkind, Zoarinnia here looked like a winged giant... and just as easily eliminated.

To Szyn, a Drow with emmity to giantkind, Zoarinnia here looked like a winged giant… and just as easily eliminated.

The giants weren’t the only victims to Szyn’s davidic imitations. One dragon decided to show up and met death with a bit of circle-strafing attacks with a Green Steel Mineral II star (the go-to when you meet up with most red-named enemies).

A rare encounter with the sleeping dragon guarding a chest was far too easy for a Ninja Spy to sneak up and claim the goodies before purposely waking the dragon afterwards to remove it from existence. Five more dragons met their end before she slew her 1,500th giant.

The orcs in Epic Hard “Feast or Famine” shared the hurt, despite being a level 24 quest that should’ve given them a little edge against a technically weaker single enemy at level 23. Virtually immune to the many traps that line the doors, Szyn blasted through the orcs in the narrow hallways, dispatching the lieutenants and friends to get their passage keys. The hobgoblin party was slain before it could leave its hidden tunnel ambush point.

At the end fight, I decided just to open fire on everything that moved, concentrating first on any mages and then removing everybody, including the hunting party, before taking the boss down to complete the quest.

Earlier, Szyn slaughtered the orcs in Epic Hard “Return to Cabal for One” for her first flag.

One of the more annoying and difficult quests in-game, even with an Epic character, is “Prey on the Hunter” in the Reaver’s Refuge. You have to run a gauntlet of frost giants to rescue a dragon that’s too arrogant to think they need to be rescued. Just for a break from Gianthold, I buzzed through that one on Hard difficulty–risky because the giants were nigh-impossible for me to drop fast enough using any other Monks I had on Normal difficulty, including barely successful completions by the frost-giant-hating Lynncletica and the fiery staff wielding Quintessica the Mystic.

But Szyn does not tolerate failure. She quickly pummeled any giant with the Celestia’s raw fire and light power and IPS of the stars. She made it to the dragon and, to redirect aggro once the unrelenting red-named boss arrived, used a Diversion dummy. That little super-hate magnet pulled everything toward it, including the dragon, allowing me to target the boss giant faster for a quick takedown. Yay, me.

Gianthold’s loot is still well-enjoyed by many players, especially with the Epic mode and the changes in Gianthold Tor. Szyn wants to farm another Ring of Shadows for herself (she lacks Blurry at present). Epic Hard “Madstone Crater” is next. Here, she might need a Fighter to hold some attention at key points. I’m wondering if she could survive an Epic Elite run. Maybe once she’s back to level 28 prowess. Maybe.

There’s also the matter of getting her Flawless White Dragonscale Robe created. I’m about at the limits of the Frozen Tunic’s advantages and need better overall defenses with more HP since Szyn now draws a lot of aggro in solo mode with killing as a strategy rather than avoiding fights. The Flawless Scale, combined with its matching helm, can help here. More on getting Szyn ready for real EE play in a later post.

As others know, “Madstone” is difficult for some parties, much less trying it solo because of the many attacks you must thwart against the giant sages that are attempting to destroy the tainted crystals throughout the quest. Szyn’s paralyzing attacks work well here but she can’t be omnipotent and be in two places at once to guard the wizards.

I’ll post her attempt at tackling Epic Hard “Madstone Crater” sometime.

Mystical Spell Power: Getting Fired Up

Too much spell power? Credit: Clint Cearley. (c) WoTC

Too much spell power? Credit: Clint Cearley. (c) WoTC

In tuning up Quintessica to experiment with the Fire Drake-style use of Draconic Incarnation to heavily boost spell power, I asked myself, “Self…what is the highest spell power that a Mystic can achieve?”

This chat between lobes began after a few sips of coffee and after a DDO thread search for anything regarding maximum spell power. I found a useful one. It’s based on a 18 Sorcerer/2 Favored Soul build with probably more lives than a cat. Still, it’s a useful foundation for my research.

Most Monks concern themselves with only one type of spell power: Devotion. It boosts positive energy spell power for healing. That doesn’t mean that any Monk couldn’t chug down some Alchemical potions to help with their elemental ki attacks. It’s just that they’re not likely to do so.

The Henshin Mystic is different. They also concern themselves with boosting Fire and Force spell power, for their spell ki attacks deliver damage from these two elements.

The challenge for the Mystic is that they aren’t arcane spell casters. So metamagic feats– “easy buttons” that allow spell power boosts for Wizards, Sorcerers and other arcane classes–don’t apply to the Mystic. Ki is ki, magic is magic. If you train them in, they will not change your spell power. So pure Mystics must rely on innate and item-related spell power bonuses in Heroic play but, as the Fire Drake training shows, can leverage spell power boosts in Epic play, using Draconic Incarnation and other epic destinies.

Heroic Mystic Spell Power Sources

Using the DDO Wiki sources, here’s what Quintessica’s innate spell power basically sits at by the time she reached her class tree capstone, Serenity.

  • +25 Fire (5x core abilities)
  • +25 Force (5x core abilities)
  • +25 to Fire (Serenity, Level 20)
  • +25 to Force (Serenity, Level 20)
  • +15 Universal, Implement bonus (3 spell power * +5 enhancement staff equipped)

That’s pretty basic, right? Even I can understand this.

Let’s add in a few easily-obtained item-related sources, permanent or temporary, with ML 20.

  • +90 Fire (Combustion gem in red augment slot): Equipment bonus
  • +90 Force (Impulse gem in in red augment slot): Equipment bonus
  • +20 Fire (Potion of Greater Inferno): Alchemical Bonus
  • +20 Force (Potion of Greater Impact): Alchemical Bonus

So Quintessica, level 20, bare-assed,with only a staff in hand, no buffs, two gems and a couple of potions, should have

  • + 175 Fire spell power
  • + 175 Force spell power

That’s not too bad for a non-arcane character. Quintessica also gains spell critical chances in her training, but I’m not that smart to add in their ramifications in fighting here for now.

Now lets explore how Epic Destinies play into this, adding  some special items that Quintessica might find.

Epic Mystic Spell Power

So, in Epic play, Quintessica has to deal with more powerful enemies, some with greater spell or elemental resistances. That’s fine.

Do remember that, despite all this number-crunching, that a Mystic is still a Monk, a melee fighter at its core, not a spell caster. Any additional spell power supplements, not replaces, a Mystic’s ability to cause heavy damage.

Looking over the EDs, it appears that the Mystic benefits best in overall spell power with Draconic Incarnation. Then we’ll use Twists of Fate slots of other abilities from two other destinies: Divine Crusader and Shiradi Champion. I’m not brooching the grinding time necessary to reach these abilities, only exploring what is possible.

Draconic Incarnation (active destiny)

  • Dragon Heritage (tier 3, three ranks): +30 to Fire spell power
  • Secondary Spell Ability: (tier 4, two ranks): +20 to Fire spell power

(UPDATE: Secondary Spell Ability may only allow me to increase spell power to some other element, not Fire. Thanks Mercure.)

Divine Crusader (Twisted abilities only)

  • Interrogation: (tier 1) +5 Universal (passive)
  • Flames of Purity (tier 2, three ranks): +30 Fire spell power
  • Empyrean Magic* (tier 3) +20 Fire spell power (+2 Sacred bonus to Universal spell power per fire spell cast, stacks 10 times)

Shiradi Champion (Twisted abilities only)

  • Fey Form (tier 2, three ranks): +30 Universal spell power

And that’s all I could find.

I put an asterisk on Empyrean Magic since I don’t know if a Mystic’s spell-like abilities count with this ability’s Fervor counter to boost spell power. I will not count it in the calculations below, also represented by another asterisk.

Summing It Up

To help in calculating the maximum damage, let’s make Quintessica a level 25 Epic character (20 Monk, 5 Epic) so that she can also use the strongest Alchemical potions. Quintessica can also wield a +5 Thaumaturgy fire staff, ML 25, which should allow a +15 Implement bonus and a +120 Equipment bonus to Fire spell power (we’re presuming that Quin can find this loot-generated staff). I don’t think adding augment gems matter here since that Thaumaturgy staff would have the higher stacking number versus 114 Equipment spell power of any gem. I’m not sure how the Potency effect of this staff factors in, so I’ll be conservative and not include it in my calculation.

I’m sure I’m going to screw up this calculation by double-dipping somewhere with a bonus that cannot stack. If you see an error, speak up.

  • +50 Fire (Henshin Mystic level 20, untyped)
  • +50 Force (Henshin Mystic level 20, untyped)
  • +120 Equipment (Universal, staff Equipment bonus)
  • +15 Implement bonus
  • +30 Fire spell power from Draconic Incarnation abilities
  • +5  from all twisted Divine Crusader abilities for Force damage*
  • + 35 from all twisted Divine Crusader abilities, Fire damage only*
  • +30 Universal from twisted Shiradi Champion’s Fey Form
  • + 25 Alchemical Bonus (Superior Inferno potion)
  • +25 Alchemical Bonus (Superior Impact potion)

Quintessica’s Fire spell power at level 25: 305. (Removed Secondary Spell Ability.)

That’s noticeably more than what our Fire Drake author calculated (280), although he did not presume a quarterstaff was in use. Her Force spell power would be 245.

There is enough Twist of Fate slots for the two Divine Crusader abilities and the one Shiradi Champion. Two slots would need to be upgraded to tier 2 abilities. That means I need 11 Fate points to make this happen. Ow. Realistically, I’d not likely train so hard and only unlock the first two for tier 2 only, for ‘only’ 8 points.

These spell power numbers are great for a Mystic, but I know pales to what our arcane brothers could possibly gain. In the thread I referenced, the poster was able to generate 917 spell power, spread about various elements.

These calculations don’t add in other stacking item effects that Quin could find on her journey, such as a Flawless Blue Dragonscale Robe (Draconic Fury: +15 Artifact bonus), the Planar Conflux or an Earddweller (Psionic bonuses). But it is quite illuminating to see how much damage a Monk can do with Force and Fire. It might also be possible to add cross-class skill points to the new Spellcraft skill to add a little more power if it is not absolutely restricted to specific classes.

As our Fire Drake author has reported, what spell power he generated (combined with the DI abilities) seemed more than enough to destroy things for a Shintao tanker, with only partially trained Mystic skills.

And no Sorcerer’s weapon is going to make a 500+ critical hit in melee to supplement the infernal beat-down from both staff and ki attack from such a fired-up Mystic.

 

The Fire Drake: An Incinerating Monk

Your dreams of being like Zuko the Firebender from "Avatar: The Last Airbender" might have been answered.

Your wish of being like Zuko the Firebender from “Avatar: The Last Airbender” might have been answered.

It’s great when someone discovers something new or insightful, especially in the world of Dungeons & Dragons Online.

Teacher Saekee’s been nice to point out insightful threads I might be interested in reading. One thread he recommended, by senior student Robbenklopper, describes how the poster trained the Draconic Incarnation epic destiny for his Monk.

For those not familiar (as I am not), Draconic Incarnation is an Arcane destiny that’s generally for Sorcerers with some application for Bards and Wizards. It focuses on improving spell caster levels and spell power of any element you choose. It’s not a destiny to which Monks, masters of ki, not magic, would normally gravitate.

But what student Robbenklopper discovered is about to pull me partially away from the contemplative martial artistry of the monastic so to better understand the power of sorcery.

The Red Drake

I’m effectively a complete newbie to any arcane classes (except Artificer). I have no Wizards, Bards or Sorcerers in my dojo. The closest character I have that thinks in terms of spell power (the mechanism to amplify a spell’s ultimate damage, broken down by elemental types) is for my Henshin Mystic, Quintessica.

Robbenklopper’s inspiring thread discusses his “Red Drake Monk.” He was able to leverage training in Henshin Mystic and Draconic Incarnation with his Shintao Monk and Combustion augment gems, with a Twisted ability, Flames of Purity, from the new Divine Crusader epic destiny.

His results? A massive boost in Fire spell power. He notes that using the DI abilities, he has generated 3,000+ fire damage and 400 damage using a finishing move (I must assume the Fire related ones such as Breath of Fire, the Burning Hands SLA). Two specific DI abilities, Dragon Breath and Energy Burst – Fire, simply incinerate his enemies.

This got me thinking.

Of Mystics and Magic

What would a fully trained Henshin Mystic, with innate training that adds very useful spell power boosts to Fire and Force damage, gain from the Draconic Incarnation destiny, based on Robbenklopper’s discovery?

Robbenklopper’s character trained only to the third Mystic core ability, Incinerating Wave, a firewall-like attack of Fire and Force damage. He estimates that a fully trained Mystic, with the Serenity core ability, could have as much as 280 Fire spell power, not counting what other effects such as spell lore could add in.

Quintessica is obviously my candidate to find out if she could generate so much Fire damage that she leaves nothing but ash in her wake.

She’s only trained the Grandmaster of Flowers, Legendary Dreadnought and portions of Unyielding Sentinel–hardly a qualifier for her to claim DI. I am not, however, against buying my destiny. I had to do so for Szyncletica, a new Monk at the time, for her to immediately use the Shiradi Champion destiny for her star throwing.

So, as soon as I check the budget, a Key of Destiny is coming for Quin to buy the Draconic Incarnation destiny.

Next comes the task of what to train in the destiny. Robbenklopper warns to pick the fire-related abilities since trying to amplify other elements may weaken your spell power overall.

Quin’s current Fire spell power at level 23 is around 150, roughly. I’m not a great number-cruncher but I’m going to try to figure out what she will gain from each training tier and abilities. The core abilities just add SP to the mix, but spell points are required since the abilities activate magically.

Tier1: Energy Sheath, Dragonhide, Draconic Perception. I can gain some elemental absorption, and improvements to my fortitude save, natural armor, Spot, and reflex saves. These do nothing for spell power but the Destiny Points spent will open the next tier and satisfy prerequisites.

Tier 2: Go Out With a Bang, Barrier of Scales. “Bang” turns you into a bomb with AoE damage once your HP drop below 50%, also turning you Improved Invisibility for a time. “Barrier” adds some damage absorption. Again, spending points here is needed to get to the meaty stuff. I can imagine using Cauldron of Flames to attract and damage enemies before blowing myself up real good with the Bang to finish off a mob.

Tier 3: Dragon Heritage, Piercing Spellcraft. All of the DI abilities use INT or CHA for their DC successes–neither stats are favored by Monks. That said, you pick the color of your draconic inspiration. For Quin, that’s likely the red dragon, with up to +30 Fire spell power once fully trained. Piercing Spellcraft could help ensure that the damage hits, but being a Monk, the results gained here in spell penetration may be inconsequential.

Tier 4: Energy Burst, Secondary Spell Ability. Robbenklopper loved the damage with Energy Burst-Fire. The Secondary Spell Ability seems like I’d get another 20 spell power to Fire.

Tier 5: Flyby Attack, Dragon Breath: With the fire spell power as high as Quin can get it, these abilities (the first emulates Abundant Step + phase-through enemies) smack enemies with the fire damage trained to this point. The poster noted complete toasting of epic giants with Dragon Breath: 3,800 points of damage.

More Firepower…or More Anything

Quin’s own innate Mystic training should also get a sizeable boost with the spellpower updates. I may already have a high Combustion augment gem on-hand to add to a slot in some fire-aligned Thaumaturgy staff. In this mode, Quin doesn’t focus as much on melee damage (yet can still do so well with her staff training) as to pump out maximum Fire damage (with a bit of Force damage) from the stand-your-ground Cauldron of Flame, Incinerating Wave and Ki Bolt.

As Robbenklopper noted, he was able to generate nasty unarmed damage with handwraps loaded with spell power augments as well.

As time allows, I’ll get Quin trained up and post a video if possible on the results.

As Robbenklopper noted, you’re not limited to Fire here. You could train the Electric side or other elements since things like demons will laugh at your attempts to burn them. The only one missing here, I think, is Force damage, which would have been a great option for a Mystic.

I’m still working on a “cool” name for this Mystic fight mode. I think Robbenklopper’s “Fire Drake” stands on its own well for the unarmed fighter. Stay tuned. Props to this man for his incredible discovery.

 

 

Epic Shuricannon: Nothing Comes Close

SzynTR1-L22I posted a demo run of the Shiradi Shuricannon at high Heroic levels to demonstrate the build’s basics.

As an Epic character, the ‘Cannon’s training in Shiradi, along with some ninja happiness, can be summed up in one phrase: Nothing comes close.

You can take that in both senses of the meaning.

The Shiradi effects, for those unfamiliar, add interesting elemental effects around 7% of the time that add area-of-effect and direct damage to targets using ranged attacks. It doesn’t matter what kind of ranged attack you use; even magic works (thus the popularity of the Shiradi Sorcerers).

Now, a 7% chance for an effect to go off (“proc”) doesn’t sound like much.

Well, then, you have to look at the Shuricannon’s basic design. Here’s a screenshot of Szyncletica’s character sheet (above).

Here you see that DEX is very, very heavy. That’s because DEX determines both damage and to-hit for a Ninja Spy. Also, the DEX is also the percentage of a second shuriken through from both Shuriken Expertise (granted as a Drow) and Advanced Ninja Training. As an Epic character, Szyn and her kind normally throw 2-3 stars per attack at the minimum with this ability.

The typical ranged feats (Rapid Shot, Quick Draw) also help thrown stars per second.

Ultimate Wind Stance adds 15% to that throwing speed.

And then, we add Shiradi’s Whirling Wrists: up to 60% increase to that throwing speed.

But wait, there’s more.

Use Spelltouched Shuriken for greater raw damage and additional crazy-random damage effects to go with Shiradi’s, and Green Steel for these special cases such as high-level demons and undead.

The result? Attack speed and damage so incredible that few things get close enough to hurt the Shuricannon before it mows them down.

Bonus training in Primal Avatar adds in Rejuvenation Cocoon for good self-healing and Shiradi’s Healing Spring for backup.

For burst damage, Ten Thousand Stars adds extra stars based on the WIS modifier.

I’ve soloed the Devil Battlefield quests except for Genesis Point (where I needed a hireling) to gain enough favor for Yugoloth (“Yugo”) potions. They give a +2 stacking stat bonus but with a tradeoff. Also available are DDO stat elixirs that do the same but without a tradeoff. That’s another +4 to essential stats if required for damage and defense (DEX/WIS).

The summation: The Epic Shuricannon, while perhaps having fewer types of versatility that a “Monkcher” might have, is perhaps the best thrown-weapon build anywhere. As Firewall, creator of the build, has argued time and again in his thread, while multiclassed builds using Halflings might get some benefits, they are offset by one thing or other that’s part of the Shuricannon’s success. You have to train in Shuriken proficiency and Expertise for non-Monk halflings. You lose the DEX to Damage effects, as well as the Drow’s shuriken competency training bonuses. The Drow/Monk spell resistance and Dodge is superior. Ninja Spy’s Shadow Veil adds high incorporeality and invisibility.

Multiclassing also means you lose a level 20 capstone. The Shuricannon’s capstone, as a pure Ninja Spy, is gaining Vorpal to any shuriken and other piercing and slashing ki weapons, as well as +2 DEX and (although still a nagging bug) increased critical threat range that should bring the crit range to as wide as 15-20.

To demonstrate, I’ve recorded two videos.

This first one is of Szyncletica managing the undead giant skeletons on the way to Garamol’s lair in the raid wilderness of the Subterrane. Fans of the blog know that Lynncletica, a Shintao tanker, is strong enough to farm this area, where no hirelings are allowed. But could a Ninja Spy, a class tree not designed with self-healing or undead attack proficiency do the same–and with only a throwing star? The answer comes from Szyn’s high DPS and one triple-positive Greater Disrupting shuriken that ends the CR 25 Garamol far faster than Lynncletica and with fewer resources expended.

The second video shows how Szyn handles a mob. A perfect place for this is the Underdark Arena challenge, “Fight to the Finish.” One ninja: one mob for 10 minutes or more–seems like a fair fight.

She owns a Level 20 Icy Bursting Improved Paralyzing star that halts most everything. Occasional hits of the Nerve Poison from Shiradi training and freezing from her Level 14 Frozen Tunic (still equipped on Epic) make for quite a dominating show. Improved Precise Shot ensures very heavy mob damage and crowd control. She uses a Onyx Panther to aid with aggro management a bit, healing it with Rejuvenation Cocoon as needed, but doesn’t rely on it.

I’ve directly uploaded these videos (trying once more to get the overall brightness correct with better success) for far better clarity, and am using Amara to add captioning, rather than using Windows Movie Mangler. Just click the CC button if you don’t see the captions on the Garamol run. The second video has no commentary: 1 movie = 1,000,000 words.

 

Power Slaying: Szyncletica at Endgame

I thought I’d make some final screen captures of Szyncletica the star-thrower as she approaches level capstone in her first life. She’s L26 at the time I write this, and may likely reach L28 before Christmas if I still haven’t looted or crafted the essentials I think she needs for Life 2.0.

As noted before, this is a very powerful build that can take down single enemies well and do surprisingly well against mobs with the right shuriken. In fact, I have one of those “right shurikens,” getting lucky to get an Improved Paralyzing Level 20 spelltouched star. With Improved Precise Shot (IPS), she’s a very effective one-man crowd controller in some Epic adventures.

This is one character I’m looking forward to reincarnating with glee. It’s fun to play at all levels, and she will only get stronger, although I’m pondering my options for her weakest point.

Dragons

One of my first tastes of how good Szyn would be involved a foray into “Mired in Kobolds.” At the end, you encounter Valrath, a young black dragon. If you want all the treasure in that area, you can stick around to take out his much tougher mother, Sinvala.

Animated illustration of circlestrafing. The b...

Animated illustration of circlestrafing. The blue player circlestrafes counterclockwise around his red adversary, firing continually as he does so. Red, unable to keep track of the moving blue, misses with most all shots. Blue is at an advantage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One thing I learned about many dragons is that they aren’t immune to poison. Szyn’s fighting style on dragons, given their relative size and difficulty in turning,  is basically circle strafing: (1) run around the enemy, (2) pelt them with debilitating stars and accumulate poison damage, (3) repeat until dead.

I was level 16 going into a Normal run on this, so I didn’t do anything especially “epic” except to survive a dragon. They spin and try to chase you, often spewing a nasty dragon breath of acid.

Because of their bulk, however, they aren’t as fast in chasing if you’re fast enough. By spinning about, the larger dragon cannot turn quite fast enough to hit you with their breath. Depending on the size of the area, you should be able to run without evading obstacles. In this quest, Valrath has a small group of paragon kobold fighters and shamans as well as the unstable power crystals that throw damage, and there are briar patches.

Being a ranged fighter with lots of Dodge and Improved Evasion, I stood my ground and immediately removed the crystals before beginning my run. I didn’t have to quite target the kobolds. They eventually got into my throwing pattern at the dragon and IPS removed them.

Szyn-vs-SinvalaValrath was my match at 16. Then I stayed about for Sinvala, who comes in at CR21 on Normal. She got the same treatment but much larger poison damage, often reaching 75 per tick.

As for touch healing, circle strafing works because the hireling is busy trying to chase you around and thus tends to stay out of immediate danger since the dragon is focused on the damage dealer–you. Occasionally I’d cut across the dragon’s flank to get a quick heal from my hireling (in this case, Isadora the Cleric) and then continue my circling.

I’ll likely go back in to see how I do against the CR30 mama dragon on Elite, while being 4 or so levels below her at around L26. Only Lynncletica has beaten Sinvala on Elite–and she’s a tanking Shintao with far greater defenses than Szyn.

A more recent adventure was in Epic Normal “Don’t Drink the Water,” where Szyn entered at L24 against CR27 Tharmalos, a green dragon that loves his poison breath. Strange that he’s not immune from poison, either.

Szyn-vs-TharmalosI attacked him the same way as with Sinvala: circle strafing. After a point, the area’s floor breaks up into pools of acid, so I’ve developed a third-eye, as it were, jumping while strafing to avoid the holes.

Against Tharmalos and his tendency to try to pounce on you like a 12,000 pound rabid kitten with a serious case of mange, standing still at any time against him was unwise.

So, in summary, Szyn’s speed, evasiveness and miss-chance, combined with firepower, makes her a fierce dragon slayer. Thankfully, the game offers a wide area to fight when dragons appear, be it in “Mired,” the epic Gianthold wilderness or the raid “Fall of Truth.” Else, she’d be a chew toy.

Bosses

If dragons can be felled, smaller bosses shouldn’t a huge issue in general. The problem here is typically maneuvering room. The smaller the corridor or room, the tighter circles I have to spin, and the more likely that a boss will chase me. Often here, their lair is too small and I collide with everything, forcing me to move the fight out of an area or use another tactic.

In solo play, my hirelings never out-do my damage rate and so keeping Threat is always a problem.

Since most bosses aren’t large or stay still, the attack pattern goes from circle strafing to kiting the enemy in solo play. I let them chase me but always stay ahead of them while continuing my barrage. This works very well against spell casters that sometimes cannot deal their most damaging spells due to my poison-dotting as well as any other Shiradi effects that interrupt their concentration. Distance is key against fighters as Drow hit with poison of their own as well as dangerous critical hits.

Unlike my melee Monks, Szyn has got away with just using her non-epic White Dragonscale Robe and adding a modest 110% fortifying set of gloves into the mix for Epic play. She just got a Blurry item to help with attacks so she’s more untouchable but can withstand a hit or two without serious complications. I’ve been farming for a Shimmering Arrowhead in “The Weapons Shipment” with no joy and imminent chest ransacking. I’m not reincarnating before I have this and one or two Green Steel weapons in her arsenal.

Shroud fighting is good for Szyn as she can hold still with Archer’s Focus to concentrate damage on the static Harry in part 4, sidestepping as required to avoid the occasional meteor. In part 5, she lets the melees engage for a moment and then attacks from a long way away, always keeping one of the melee fighters between her and Harry as a way to keep him from immediately breaking in a run towards her position.

When not strafing, the challenge is to stay out of melee range, keep enough miss-chance effects up to minimize ranged damage and not to kite enemies too far from their lair to avoid rubber-banding them back to their start, fully healed and more dangerous than when you had better health and buffs.

Poison, poison, poison. I can’t say enough on the positives of this dot effect. Slashing damage from the stars now confirm for me what Szyn is best at: Killing non-demonic, non-undead, non-construct hordes.

Weaknesses

Starting off at low level, mobs aren’t too good to encounter. With IPS, it’s less of a bother. But there are some things I just can’t take down very well.

Undead giant skeletons. They need the best bludgeoning DR and my slashing attacks with shuriken just don’t do it. Even with the vaunted Morning Star and using Shiradi stance “Stay Good,” I give limited damage. So much for any Subterrane trips until I get that Greater Disrupting Green Steel star completed.

Golems and living constructs. Without a smiting shuriken, it’s tough going on constructs. I began work on Elite runs in the Cannith Manufactury for the three quests there. In “Power Play,” it wasn’t too bad in using the spelltouched stars for damage. But in the end fight, the continuous respawns and awkward kiting I had to do became too complex and I died from Steelthorn’s team. I don’t have an answer for these guys through any named or high-crafting option at present. I could only craft up a Holy Adamantine Greater Construct Bane star to use on them and planar portals in the Shroud. I hate artificers. They really use Lightning Motes nowadays to stun very effectively since Update 19. It’s not impossible for a smiting shuriken to be generated, I think. It’s just that the damn weapons overall don’t show up as often in loot generation, much less higher-end stars with great properties.

Demons and devils. If there are only a few individuals, it’s not a problem. When mobs show up, Szyn’s inability to poison them and their DR requirements (Good) limit the use of Epic Destiny options in Shiradi. I appreciate the “Stay Good” stance to add no-damage Good alignment to weapons. But this won’t work against pit fiends and horned devils. Perhaps paradoxically, while its harder to remove demonic mobs, my Shocking Burst Silver of Pure Good star easily robs these bosses of their life. Go figure.  A better Green Steel Mineral II star is in the works. Szyn held her own quite well in an Epic Normal “Devil Assault” run with a couple of hirelings to light-tank. Even got a Shard of Great Power for my troubles. I’ll have two or three more runs there before Szyn is ready for her second life, in so far as needed Tokens of the Twelve, at least.

The Near Future

I’ve been organizing more guild Shroud runs that seem to be appreciated. Just had one last night (at the time of this post) and I think I finally have all the materials required to fully craft my Greater Disruption star. With maybe another run or two, the Mineral or Ice II will be next.

I see myself skipping the Demonweb quests this time around since getting XP isn’t the issue, but the right gear. Self-piking a Heroic series of Wheloon Prison quests to pick up more useful mid-level gear as well as Heroic Gianthold for similar items attracts me more. I’m even considering doing several Eveningstar challenges to build at least one more low-end spelltouched star to add to the next life’s arsenal, or encouraging a few guildmates to help me run the Cannith Challenges for a Frozen Tunic

In addition to the necessary Shroud runs, I’m looking more at epic Gianthold for thinking ahead to building an Epic White Dragonscale Robe and getting the matching helm. That means joining PuGs of “Fall of Truth.” My guild’s rather conservative on Epic and raid play compared to some,  and I’m less likely to join a PuG, so I haven’t gotten out there much.

There’s also the matter of survival. Three emergency recharges of Healing Spring isn’t cutting it for sustained battle play where rests or places to hide to use Wholeness of Body are possible, such as a raid. While Szyn has some of the best DPS, she has the worst healing amplification of my characters–practically zero. Often this isn’t a problem since her fighting style allows her to stay far away from melee attacks and dodge or evade many magic and missile attacks. But in the Shroud, the Whirling Blades eat her alive, especially on Elite. I got smacked with 50-100 point ticks, and only the character’s speed avoided a nastier fate.

I’ll spend some PDK commendations for some Purple Dragon Knight Gauntlets before reincarnating but I need a better battle healing option. My usual alternative for my Monks, vampirism, can’t work on ranged attacks, which is all that Szyn is able to do in effective fighting.

After re-reading the Shradi Shuricannon thread once more on things I’ve might have missed, I’ll realize now I will have to bear disabling Shiradi for a time and start training a bit in Primal Avatar for Rejuvenation Cocoon and a little more health. Unlike the build specification, I don’t think I trained anything in Shintao Monk to gain 10% amplification, and it’s a bit late to worry about it now, given that I’m not planning on entering Szyn in anything in this life that requires it.

At the risk of sounding redundant, this is one reincarnation I’m looking very forward to doing, but I have to slow my excitement down and gear up for the next life while I can.

The Little Mountain: “Peak” Performance

“No matter how the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow to it.”

–The Emperor (from the Disney film, “Mulan”)

Over the recent months I’ve realized that each of my Monks have developed a specialty as I’ve altered their abilities to suit my fun.

Ryncletica is my only dark Monk (which may change as my only Rogue reaches 20), a Ninja Spy Water Stancer with potent Shadowdancer powers, able to infiltrate where few others dare go in Epic adventures.

Syncletica is my first Monk, a Wind Stancer Shintao Monk that is (mostly) as deadly as she is swift.

Quintessica shouts “I am the AVATAR! You better deal with it!” In her first life, she was a Grandmaster of all elements, with Whirlwind Attack and Grandmaster of Flowers. In her second life now, she returned as a Human for more healing amplification, HP, and an extra feat.

Synthetica is my first Warforged Monk and is contemplating the power of Fire.

And then there’s Lynncletica, the “Little Mountain,” the frequently bruised and bloodied Earth Stancer who is designed to tank a bit for some conditions.

With Epic levels and Destinies in place, I’ve reconsidered how best to re-train Lynn, now approaching Level 18 in her second life, to become the strongest tanking Monk that she can be. After the complete thrashing that Syn received in a recent EE quest, I want to ensure that Lynn can withstand much more damage when in Epic Elite.

The first trial to be overcome is within my own head–the same one I had with Ryncletica’s arduous but worthwhile switch from Grandmaster of Flowers training to Shadowdancer. In the case of Lynn, giving up most of Grandmaster of Flowers’s incredible attacks is very tough. But it may be worth doing to gain the protective benefits in the Legendary Dreadnought destiny.

The primary reasons to add this training are simply two: more HP to soak up damage, improved tactical difficulty checks (DC) with Stunning Fist and others, and a higher Physical Resistance Rating. In short, everything that any hardened Fighter would want to survive longer in the front line.

From Blossoms to Jagged Crags

Many attack-related abilities in destinies other than Grandmaster of Flowers are not built to work unarmed. Legendary Dreadnought is no exception, with many abilities that apply only to the use of weapons only. But LD also allows boosts to survival not possible elsewhere. Thus, Lynncletica will concentrate most of her Destiny Points into adding more CON through this training, with a few exceptions.

As Lynn completes her Heroic retraining, she’ll hopefully add at least 1 additional Toughness feat for more HP, sacrificing a Greater Two Weapon Fighting feat. Lynn gave up Rise of the Phoenix in favor of Monk Improved Recovery III and more points down the road for other things, so combined with a maxed Human Improved Recovery III and maxed Racial Toughness, her HP and healing amplification are superior at her current level. Getting back her Epic equipment will see all of these abilities leap substantially at Level 20 or so.

The first goal in Legendary Dreadnought training will be in increasing HP will be the first innate ability, Shrug Off Punishment, which will give an additional 50 HP when fully trained in the destiny.

At tier 1 training, Lynn will add points to Legendary Tactics to add higher DCs to Stunning Fist, and dump DP into another CON point.

At tier 2 training, Improved Combat Expertise will add 20 PRR. This makes up a little for the lost 15 PRR and 15 HP in the Grandmaster of Flowers tier 4 ability, Standing with Stone. It’s possible to Twist this tier 4 ability into this destiny but it would be a very harsh grind in training additional destinies to gain the many fate points needed to upgrade the slots. In her third life, maybe. CORRECTION: This is a Tier 2 ability that’s easily Twisted should I keep Lynn in Grandmaster of Flowers, stacking it with Standing with Stone and Earth Stance.

At tier 3 training, Lay Waste might still work unarmed (there’s no documentation on this), so points go to this and another 2 DP to CON.

Tier 4 will find me adding more CON, but will add points to other abiltiies here just to meet prerequisite spending for the next tier. The points will be wasted since almost none of the abilities of this tier will apply to unarmed attacks.

Tier 5 shows Advancing Blows and Devastating Critical. Not sure if the former works with unarmed attacks or if the latter stacks with Ultimate Mountain Stance’s and Improved Critical:Bludgeoning’s +1 modifiers. More CON or STR DP points expended as well.

Tier 6 should be the test. There should be a very substantial HP increase from both leveling (8 HP per level, for a total additional 40 at level 25) 6 CON (60 HP), and LD level 0 innate destiny (50 HP). She may be see a total HP level between 750 to 850, very conservatively.

Damage Mitigation

With more HP to help soak damage received, there’s always a need to prevent damage in the first place.

After some LD training, Lynn’s PRR should be: +15 (Ultimate Mountain Stance) + 20 (Improved Combat Expertise) by Level 23 or so. I’ll add in a Cloak of the Bear to add up to +9 PRR, but what I’d love to see is at least 50 PRR on Lynn.

A heated DDO Forum thread on increasing Monk PRR reminded me that Monks have several other advantages/options to avoid damage as an unarmored fighter: Evasion, Dodge, Concealment, and Incorporeality–all of which are treated independently to avoid damage. So, while more PRR would be good should any of these saving opportunities fail, it may be better for me to consider increasing Lynn’s inherent Monk defenses.

Can I make a Displacement clicky for extra concealment when her Dancing with Clouds 20% concealment finisher isn’t enough? (Answer: A Smoke II Green Steel item does that.) How much more Dodge can I add in a Earth Stance build? Should I sacrifice the Sun Soul set effects for superior fortification by using Lynn’s unlocked Fabricator’s set (25% stacking fortification to bring her to 150%) and it’s Madstone-like effect on criticals?

There’s also a consideration to train and Twist the Unyielding Sentinel passive Tier 1 ability “Brace for Impact” to bring Lynn’s total fortification (with the Fabricator’s set and its 25% stacking fortification and an Exceptional Fortification 25% necklace/ring) to 100+25+25+40. Yeah. That’s 190% fortification if the Unyielding Sentinel can be Twisted and can stack.

How much more AC can be added? I don’t see this number as significant for Monks by Epic Elite levels since we can never reach the numbers of sword-and-board players. Their high AC+PRR numbers are supposed to help damage, while, as I already mentioned, better evasive or damage avoidance abilities are inherent to Monks. Still, AC still counts, somewhere. Lynn should have at least 38 WIS for a little more AC, but 40+ is what I’d love to shoot for to improve all Stunning Fist and related DCs.

Offensively, there’s not much to add from a build point-of-view. Lynn is well-equipped (although a Seal of House Dun’Robar would be nice). Lynn should qualify for Vorpal Strikes as well for more punishing critical hits. If all of this brutal leveling goes well, Lynncletica should become the strongest, most hardy DPS Monk in my arsenal with this feat.

It will be a little while longer before Lynn is back in Epic levels and in LD training. I’ll keep you posted (and update this and my Monk guide on the results to share with everyone).

Kunoichi: Shadowmaster Ninja Spy

Can you find the ninja in the screenshot? There’s always a ninja near you. You just can’t see them–just like these poor guys.

Of all of my Monks, Ryncletica, my halfling Dark Monk, has leveled the slowest. In fact, she’s been around for nearly as long as Syncletica, since I joined the game in mid-2010.

But this has turned out to be a good thing. I know a few other Dark Monks, but many of these play them with little to none of the shadowy benefits and abilities found in their one Prestige Enhancement, the Ninja Spy. While DDO gameplay doesn’t fully promote a role-play aspect, I’ve found it easy to always think *NINJA* while running Ryn through her paces.

With most of her Grandmaster of Flowers abilities learned, Ryncletica has greater offensive abilities. Yet she rarely uses them nowandays. She’s a better spy. She can kill effectively enough, but for many quests, most enemies don’t even know she’s been in their lair, looting their things, killing their bosses. You can’t believe how much time this saves in completing any quest.

The Epic Ninja

One problem I had with Ryn on occasion involves DDO’s tendency to make quests that seem as if they cannot be completed as well by the use of infiltration: Avoid enemies, eliminate only required enemies to complete. Frankly speaking, Ryn couldn’t enter many quests early in her life without a lot of life support: healbots, specifically. Combined with her weaker ability to heal herself in combat than Light Monks, Ryn (and I, while learning Dark Monk mechanics) had to take her time a bit more as she moved through her latter Heroic levels. No longer.

Level 23 Ryncletica has been going at it completely solo through several Epic Normal and Heroic Elite adventures, completing adventures such as:

  • Epic Normal “The Claw of Vulkoor”: Not a single scorpion except one guardian (dang it!) ever knew I was there. Massive XP from this.
  • “Blockade Buster”: Since door entry doesn’t break stealth or invisibility in this quest, I was able to complete the entire quest without killing any orcs or gnolls. Many kobolds died to bring you this information, however.
  • Epic Normal “Spies in the House”: This lone counter-spy waltzed past almost all of the spies, killed off a boss, and has raided the Epic chest over three times now.
  • Epic Normal “The Tide Turns”: No, this isn’t a stealth mission. I did it, anyway. I moved through mobs without detected, killed only what I had to kill, and could have cared less about the epic-level hallway traps that annihilate other parties in this quest.

You might be asking how I’m managing this. Well, let’s review Ryn’s training.

rynvulkoor1

  • Her base Hide/Move Silently numbers are around 48. Buffed and using other abilities and gear such as the Drow Piwafwi, she sits around 60. Even in bright light, Ryn is rarely detected.
  • Shadow Fade, a Ninja Spy enhancement, uses 10 ki for 1 minute of invisibility and 25% incorporeality (better than Ghostly). If I have to fight, the invisibility stops but the incorporeality stays for a better defense.
  • A Level 16 Cloak of Night from the Mabar Festival gives Ryn a 10% concealment and needed Deathblock for the occasional surprise.
  • Grandmaster of Oceans training, plus Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack, other Ninja Spy and class additions, along with Dodge bonuses from Grandmaster of Flowers give Ryn a permanent, unbuffed 24% Dodge. I can max it by wearing a pair of Tharaak Bracelets. Combined with Improved Evasion and the higher saves of Ocean Stance and ED bonuses, Ryncletica’s overall saves sit between 40 and 48.
  • Ninja Spy training allows faster movement while stealthed. With good Striding boots on (Cannith Boots of Propulsion are used), she moves very fast.
  • The magic comes from using Abundant Step while stealthed at ground level. Technically, she’s not walking. She floats at high speed past traps and mobs, attracting no attention and moving faster than the traps can activate, if they do at all.

Blacker than Black:

The Kunoichi, the Shadowdancer Ninja Spy

It’s not often that I use GMoF abilities during infiltration. Most are offensive skills. So, given that it’s taken long enough for Ryn to come this far–why not continue to improve her infiltration skills?

Just because I’ve enjoyed the heck out of the role-play I can do with Ryn here, I did a little walking of my virtual fingers through the Wikipedia to find information on what Westerners call the “Ninja.” Like many things from China, we non-Oriental folks tend to use Anglicized pronunciations of things. The word origin/modern Chinese pronunciation for “ninja” is really shinobi or shinobi-no-mono, meaning “to steal away” or “to forebear.” Mono means “to hide,” so the name has a rich meaning.

I’m training Ryncletica into a kunoichi–a master female ninja. I’ll begin training her in Shadowdancer skills that will allow many more abilities that keep her safe, more undetectable and elusive.

There’s some overlap with Ninja-Monk abilities and Shadowdancer, but quite a few will be highly useful.

  • Shadow Training II: Innate active ability that allows full movement and jump while stealthed for 30 seconds. Hells, yeah.
  • Shadow Training IV: Innate active ability for Dimension Door 5 times per rest. Talk about a disappearing ninja…! I considered going Drow for the dragonmarked version. When Ryn reincarnates, I can go Half-Elf instead (for Cleric dilettante healing).
  • Stealthy: Tier 1. MOAR stealthy-points.
  • Escape Notice: Tier 2. Use Hide skill points as Diplomacy. “You don’t need to look over at me. (hand wave)”
  • Lithe: Tier 2. More to reflex saves and perhaps AC.
  • Meld into Darkness: Tier 3. Emergency 100% Dodge bonus for up to 15 seconds.
  • Grim Precision: Tier 3. Bypass up to 15% enemy fortification and up to 3% of their Dodge.
  • Improved Invisibility: Tier 4. It’s like “Super Shadow Fade.” Invisibility for up to 30 seconds. Stays active if you attack, and you gain Displacement (50% concealment) for up to 90 seconds. WANT.
  • Sealed Soul. Tier 5. Immunity from energy drain. (Eat me, beholders and mages.)
  • Consume: Tier 6. A 10 second aura around you will cause anything within it to be eaten by its own shadow and  die or take lots of damage unless they save. You’re free to go about your business while behaving as a living black-hole during this time.
  • Dark Imbuement: Epic Moment. Not as impressive as the Grandmaster of Flowers’s “Death Blossom” but still a good fit for a Dark Monk. Gain enough Shrouding Charges and you can activate attacks with powerful Unholy energies for 30 seconds, increased range with melee attacks, and any ranged attacks have a chance to be explosive.

So, Ryncletica has the potential of becoming so deep in shadow, it’s almost silly. But I like the potential. And I can Twist a few of the simple GMoF abilities over that come in handy, like Lily Petal or even the mighty Orchid Blossom. I might lose my better Dodge abilities and a few other niceties, so in a later update, I’ll show the tradeoffs.

Dark is not evil, after all.

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