What Do Monks Make in Crafting?

If you think DDO crafting can be painful, there's always Minecraft to invoke suicidal thoughts.

If you think DDO crafting can be painful, there’s always Minecraft to invoke suicidal thoughts.

I’m away from DDO during the season of Lent. This is a saved post I’ve stored for use while I’m away. This post may or may not contain sensitive subject matter unsuitable for some minds (specifically, religion).

Reader discretion advised.

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Q: What items should Monks create by crafting?

A: Quite a lot of things, but primarily for early levels or very special needs. Here’s my list, ever changing to the need and the character.

Cannith Crafting and Augment Slots

While there’s been recently a lot of complaining on the DDO forums on how some players are dissatisfied with the current system as it hasn’t scaled to their desires, the functionality and usefulness of Cannith Crafting is still quite a benefit for everyone, especially early in their lives and when they are in dire need of weapons that break this DR or that which aren’t available anywhere.

Between levels 1 and 10, you’re likely to generate several things for most unarmed Monks that can help it along. Mind you, what you create using bound shards will bind the item to character, so there is always a resource issue in ensuring that whatever precious base item you use for a character will not only work for the character, but that will ensure that the character gets some play time and is viable and enjoyable. There’s nothing sadder to me than to retire and reroll a failed character and having to bury his bound-to-character items with her.

Cannith Crafting requires a time investment to make a character with sufficient levels to generate anything for your characters on your account. In the end, it’s quite worth it.

And Augment Slots make life a lot easier as you can improve handwraps with many new slots to diversify your attack or defense.

Items I often craft up at early levels include:

Trinkets of Melee/Ranged Alacrity 10%

I buy the very inexpensive blank trinkets from the DDO Store and then add this ability. They become ML3, stay Bound to Account, even using BtC crafting formula, and are quite handy starting out. Earth Stance Monks gain a benefit with them for faster attacks. Ranged alacrity trinkets are helpful for my archers but not my shuriken thrower, as ranged alacrity isn’t applicable to thrown weapons.

Striding 15/20% items

Speed is everything for a Monk. When I can’t find Striding items, or need the Striding effect on something other than boots, this is one option. I never craft up 25/30 items unless really desperate as these are more readily available. The newer Speed suffix adds both movement speed and some alacrity, allowing a compromise if I need to remove my ranged/melee alacrity trinket. But Speed isn’t a craftable suffix at this time.

Crafted metallic handwraps

It used to be that finding something that busted Silver and Good DR was a complete pain in the butt. You needed a lot of luck in locating them in random loot, a lot of platinum, or an infinite level of luck in getting the only named Metalline of Pure Good handwraps in the game: The Devout Handwraps from the Necropolis.

The revisions to Shintao Monk with the new enhancements make getting unarmed DR bypassing far earlier with the core abilities, but if you’re a Ninja Spy, you need the specific handwraps if you’re not using shortswords or kamas or are a star-thrower.

Note that Ninja Spy training delivers Dexterity-to-Damage only with piercing and slashing weapons. You’re using the standard STR-to-damage formula when you’re going unarmed. As a result, unarmed damage isn’t the ninja’s best damage dealer, although you’ll need this option for ridding yourself of weapon-resistant enemies.

Thankfully, with the new Augment Slots and improved enhancements, getting “Harry Beaters” or related DR busters isn’t nearly as painful. For Harry Beaters, it’s simply a matter of completing the “Delera’s Tomb” or “Catacombs” chain, which give you the Devotion handwraps and the Eternal Rest handwraps.

You can insert a Silver (or any other metallic augment) into the Devotion wraps and a Good augment into the Silver-laced Eternal Rests and you’re all set.

Mind you, these augments are ML12, but this gets you going when things get tougher as you run into tough devils and demons later. Finding metal-laced/spiked loot-generated handwraps isn’t nearly as bad to re-craft to your needs today as well. Sometimes you’ll find metallic wraps with one or more augment slots that you can repurpose. And there are also handwraps and weapons where the metalline quality is now a suffix.

You’ll likely need Cold Iron DR reduction if you plan to run the level 10 “Ruins of Threnal” series, filled with Xoriat flesh renders, and Byeshk for the mindflayers. Aside from the Devout wraps, there’s no named non-crafted handwraps that will drop for you here. Getting metalline wraps or finding DR-specific wraps as soon as possible is your own unarmed option for a ninja.

Of course, there are many wraps that work excellently as you reach Epic levels.

Crafted vampiric handwraps

Sometimes Heroic-level Ninja Spies need an emergency battle healing option if they aren’t Half-Elves with a Cleric dilettante for wand/scroll healing. I prefer using Flametouched Iron handwraps in Cannith Crafted wraps here to add in Good alignment so I can lump in an effective prefix for more damage. Lesser Vampirism is a comparatively easy suffix to craft, but the full Vampiric property is very good but has a high resource to do this.

I’m not going to say what ingredient is required; I’ll let you do the homework. These are good until the character gains some Vampiric Stonedust Wraps with its added bonuses to stun. However, crafted vampiric wraps and their DR bypassing are usual more helpful.

Detect Secret Door goggles

Despite recent updates that increased the Search requirements on some doors, these are still good to generate for some early-level hidden doors with loot potential.

Concentration skill items

When you have low ki, it’s a pain, These items boosts the ki pool up a bit. It’s easier to make Goggles for this since you’ll switch them out when in combat but can quickly come back to them between battles to recharge. Not a substitute for low WIS; add points here. And always, always add points to Concentration at each level.

Spot items

A higher Spot is a big help in stealth to see hidden enemies ahead so you don’t smash into them or get too close and get detected. Elven and Halfling races get a small natural boost for this, but the more Spot, the better, especially for ranged damage dealers but also for stealthy ninjas to detect hidden enemies ahead of you.

Unraveling Enchantments

No Monk should ever go without having a pair of the Jidz-Tet’ka bracers at level 5. These require you to obtain the Torn Chitin Bracers and unlock them in Visbane’s Folly, atop the Sentinel’s Tower, using the Seals of the Goat, Lion and Dragon that you can find in the quests in the Sentinels of Stormreach quest chain.

The effects of the bracers change with your Monk stance.

  • Earth Stance: You gain 1[W] to your unarmed damage. This is the same effect found on the Garments of Equilibrium and similar items and doesn’t stack with other damage modifiers.
  • Wind Stance: You gain +10 Insight bonus to Jump. This stacks with the Enhancement bonus of Jump potions/spells.
  • Fire Stance: You gain a +50 Insight bonus to healing amplification. This is arguably the strongest effect of the bracers that works through the character’s entire life. It stacks with anything that isn’t an Insight bonus, making it a potent way to improve battle and self-healing. With Update 24’s Healing Amplification revision, these boost healing more than ever before.
  • Ocean Stance: On unarmed confirmed vorpal strikes, delivers a poison that paralyzes the target (DC 17 fortitude save) and inflicts 1d6 Dexterity damage (DC 17 fortitude save, increased 50% if paralysis is successful or if the mob is already helpless). The dexterity damage and paralysis effects are saved against separately. With the recent changes to Poison effects, Kiricletica and Ryncletica have seen the Tri-Kreen Venom work far more effectively than ever before, paralyzing many poor kobolds in her early adventures. (It’s an effect identical to Shiradi’s Nerve Poison.) This may be helped by the Ninja Poison effects that increase poison vulnerability, but I suspect I’m lowering their DC through weapon effects like Wounding. A DC 17 is very low and I’ve rarely seen that effect take hold as often as with my poison-wielding ninjas. I recommend taking a look at this for an easy low-level paralysis.

Monks with a flair for the dramatic could craft the Filthy Kukri into Midnight Greetings. It adds Deception, an effect that bluffs enemies and makes them stop fighting you and turn around briefly, giving you an edge, so to speak, in getting in more attacks per second. You can use this weapon and stay Centered (although you won’t have weapon proficiency with it without training). It’s a better weapon for an off-hand, especially in the hands of a shuriken thrower, since the Deception effect works on the character and stars gain that property as with any other passive effects from an off-hand weapon.

Cannith Challenges

It was a pain in the butt to learn a few of these challenges, but their ingredient rewards can generate very useful items that can work early in your character lives with profound results. I’m still not sold on the time/results payoff for a single character, and don’t like the mechanics of these challenges at all, but as much of the items are Bound to Account, at least I can trade it off to help another character later.

  • Frozen Tunic. Comes in L4 versions and higher. The Freezing Ice effect with high DPS characters means that you’re often solidifying enemies often, a great paralysis effect. Szyncletica the star thrower loved her Tunic. Best of all, until tier 3, they’re Bound to Account.
  • Ring of the Stalker. Adds Exceptional Sneak Attack and Seeker effects. Craft the one with Manslayer effect for a vorpal-like ability as early as L11.

Eveningstar Challenges

Far easier to complete in most ways than the Cannith challenges, the ingredients here can make interesting weapons. Unlike the Cannith ones, these challenges are essentially high-combat defend-the-base or slay-everything challenges, not impossible at all if you must play solo, but very manageable with a small party.

Of particular note are the Spelltouched Shuriken that my star-thrower ninja enjoys. They often have hidden effects that make them more of a “Shiradi-in-a-weapon” weapon. And once Shiradi effects are added from the destiny, look out. Even the Level 16 versions give you Shiradi-like fun before you go Epic.

I’ve not made any handwraps from this challenge set yet, but I believe you can do so. Such wraps would have tremendous versatility with the right combinations.

Sora Katra Crafting

Most Monks know to farm for the Stonedust Handwraps and then use the needed marks to craft them into the Vampiric Stonedust Wraps, as noted. If you don’t know, now you do.

The vampiric property comes from the hard-to-obtain Staff of the Shadow, the quest chain end-reward for the Assault on Stormreach chain. Don’t waste that staff. It’s also an optionally good item for Henshin Mystics by reversing the formula, using the Stonedust Handwraps to upgrade the staff into the Petrifying Shadow Staff, which can paralyze or turn enemies to stone while delivering negative levels and sucking life away with its Lesser Vampirism.

The shows-up-all-the-time Blade of Fury can be crafted into three kinds of two matching and powerful shortswords. The Vampiric Fury versions are helpful (but at the expense of using Stonedust Handwraps to craft them).

For shortsword-wielding ninjas, I recommend these. They have Wounding, which damages CON and, thus, Fortitude, making your Ninja Poisoning and dark finishers much more able to stick. Getting a few HP back from the Lesser Vampirism, especially with the Healing Amp changes, make these still a good go-to weapon.

The one advantage of Sora Katra crafting is that the various Marks you require can be purchased from the DDO Store, I believe, or can be purchased within the crafting mechanism. The Marks are Bound to Account so trading them from other players isn’t an option.

Dragonscale Robes

Gianthold’s revision made obtaining powerfully protective robes very easy to do. With 20 White Dragon Scales from the optional white dragon/giant fight in Heroic difficulty  “Gianthold Tor”, you can make the White Dragonscale Robe, with high AC, Heavy Fortification, Protection and Shield AC and Cold resistance. The Epic version is more powerful and, combined with its Epic helm, may be the strongest protection an Epic Monk could wear.

The Black Dragonscale Robe might be useful for Monks with ranged attacks as it features the Armor-Piercing property that bypasses some fortification.

The Dragoncraft Robes aren’t bad at all, as they are a “mini” version of their ‘Scale versions. They require fewer ingredients and can be worn at level 10.

The Flawless versions of these robes from Epic play are equally as attractive, but requires some luck in getting three rare Commendations of Heroism as part of the process, as well as beating up enough Epic Tor dragons for their Flawless dragon scales.

Don’t confuse these clothing types with the Dragontouched crafted apparel that’s made through the ponderous “Reaver’s Refuge” series. Gianthold’s updated armor and clothing far outweighs what few advantages that the DT armors once had.

Green Steel Crafting

The addition of Cannith Crafting as well as Epic gear and better Heroic gear has softened the blow that we still cannot craft Green Steel Handwraps. Perhaps the recently announced quests that may add an Epic Devil Battlefield and a new Green Steel update might see this finally resolved.

The good news is that we can craft any other conventional weapon. Star-throwers should make a Mineral II shuriken as their go-to weapon for most enemies and Silver-Good bosses (excepting clay golems and undead) and a Triple-Positive star as a very potent Greater Disrupting weapon that hates, just hates undead giant skeletons.

Ninjas should make better short swords and have a star on hand for special needs, such as Silver of Pure Good or even Metalline of Pure Good.

Unarmed Monks should look into the Alchemical Crafting for customized handwraps if, for some ungodly reason, you’re not enjoying the many new handwraps such as the Ivy Wraps, the Adamantine Knuckles, Grave Wrappings and more.

But the problem here is that you have to run “The Master Artificer” raid to find a pair of wraps to start crafting, or pay an ungodly sum from the Auction House or Shard Exchange. And there’s the matter of ingredients from the Cannith areas and raids. I’m not fond of this crafting option.

I’ve often crafted GS gear for permanent Blur, 45 HP, Displacement and the like. There’s a downside to this in that only one Green Steel non-weapon item can be worn at a time, or the effect of wearing two will quickly try to kill you without cleaning one of the items with a special ingredient, the Essence of Cleansing, found in your rewards list at the end of your 20th Shroud run.

Incredible Potential rings

Since the introduction of Eveningstar and beyond, not many people run the Devil Battlefield’s raid, “Tower of Despair” as often now. This was where Monks could find a special ring from that raid that they could craft up, using Green Steel ingredients, to form rings with Holy Burst effects to help DR busting.

These rings (and their companion necklaces) are still great to have. But I’ll admit that there’s far easier options now to gain DR bypassing than running this raid at least 7 times for a special ingredient.

It would be nice to see that Shavarath Trophy of War drop as on occasional ingredient in Elite runs of the Devil Battlefield quests or in Epic “Devil’s Assault.”

Syncletica is the only character I have that has the matching Shintao Monk set and an unlocked ring. Together, she bypasses Good/Evil DR.

Thunder-Forged Weapons

The best way to officially describe these highest-level Epic weapons is “Holy shit.

They are comparatively very easy to obtain by collecting enough of one ingredient to generate a weapon of your choice (including handwraps). You can upgrade them three times. Non-handwrap items are unbound at Tier 0 (creation) and Tier 1 levels, only becoming Bound to Character once you craft it further.

But, as handwraps are not weapons, any versions of these become Bound to Character on Equip. That means that, while any character that can enter Thunderholme to reach the forge (an NPC will grant you this once you make it there for the first time) and craft for you, don’t let any others equip those wraps except the Monk they’re slated for use.

Now, crafting TS items to Tier 2 and later requires far more dedication than I have–something on the order of running the two Thunderholme raids about 20 or more times. But even in their Tier 1 state, a Thunder-Forged weapon often has 3x the damage of anything you own, period. And they leave you an Augment slot for additional happy.

Quest-Based Upgrading and Live Events

I mentioned the Jidz-Tet’ka bracers, which are actually a type of quest-based upgrading. There are others.

As with other classes, the Minos Legens helm from the Orchard of the Macabre for 100% Fortification and Vitality are popular, but my ninjas have become fans of the Muffled Veneer, which adds to Hide/Move Silently and has a Yellow augment slot. It’s farming for the 20 Tapestry Pieces that tend to make a man want to throw themselves off the top of Amrath.

There’s also the newer version of the Nightforge Gorget, which has 100% Fortification and a convenient Yellow gem slot for a Deathblock gem. This crafting option is the only one I know of where you find the crafting materials and crafter inside a quest: “A Relic of a Sovereign Past.” Just gather up Adamantine ore and craft all you want. (Previous updates made this stuff Exclusive but now you can make and own as much as you have ore to generate.)

There’s still a few live events to take advantage, although handwraps and weapons for Monks aren’t typically available.

The Crystal Cove events can gain you the Cutthroat’s Smallblade for ninjas. While the damage is okay, the Hide/Move Silently numbers are good to have, wielding the item as you need to without compromising your overall protections. Greater Nimble Trinkets are excellent to get your ninja’s Blur on, with a little Dodge, as early as level 4.

What’s your favorite thing to craft up for your Monk?

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The Insane Tourist’s Guide to the Storm Horns

ScreenShot00930Continuing our guides to extreme DDO tourism to such destinations as the Subterrane and the Underdark, we turn our attention to what might be the most breathtaking place you’ll likely encounter in your travels to-date.

The Storm Horns is a massive mountain range on the outskirts of the Kingdom of Cormyr. Reminiscent of the American Northwest, this wilderness area is arguably MUCH larger than the King’s Forest, outside Eveningstar.

And if the greenery of the King’s Forest wasn’t enough, you are able to take in true vistas from the ridges of the mountain. You’ll literally make a climb up the mountain, with the climate changing as often as the denizens who, predictably enough, aren’t that fond of sightseers and will not offer much hospitality.

Occupying the mountain are the Netherese, descendents of some of the nastiest spell casters that ever lived, and who tire of not having a legacy of blowing shit up as well as their forefathers. These people aren’t exactly the kinds of magicians you’d invite over for birthday parties, lest you want it to be the last one you’ll see on this plane of existence.

Preparing for the Trip: Heroic and Epic Tours

Like the deadlands of Gianthold and the prison city of Wheloon, the Storm Horns offers a Heroic tour (Level 19) or an Epic tour (L27).

To reach the mountains, you must be able to reach Eveningstar. This requires a Stormreach tourist like yourself to

  • Complete the Lords of Dust quest series in Stormreach Harbor and then complete “Beyond the Rift” to open a path to Eveningstar for your first-life character, or
  • Use a Key to Eveningstar to make an extraplanar teleport to the town if you received such a key from a previous life.
  • Or,  use the Hall of Heroes Passport to go to Eveningstar directly from the login screen. Free feature if you’re a VIP tourist, or 795 Turbine Points from the DDO Store. (Thank you, FuzzyDuck.)

The Storm Horns, like the King’s Forest, may give level restrictions for entering. Check with your tourist agent for more details.

New and challenging inhabitants dominate all climes of the mountain. It’s critical to have a good self-sufficiency as only a few shrines to rejuvenate yourself exist in the area. With air elementals and other inhabitants capable of knockdown there, it is possible that you can be accidentally knocked off the mountain.

Feather-fall items are essential to have at the ready. You will fall to your death without feather falling or a similar ability.

The Forest

Even on entry, you're assaulted by beauty. Don't let yourself become assaulted by owlbears at the same time.

Even on entry, you’re assaulted by beauty. Don’t let yourself become assaulted by owlbears at the same time.

On entering, you’ll find a curious individual named Eldovar Fleetleaf that offers to teleport you immediately to one of three areas in the area for a price of Astral Shards.

You can decline his offer and find these special waypoints (Harper Stones) yourself, but this might take some time. For nine shards, you can move about more quickly if your tour group is already far ahead.

It’s strongly advised that you read the tour guide map from DDO Wiki to find these Stones for later (and safer travel). It seems that, once you find the Stones on Heroic, you needn’t look for them again in the Epic version.

Once you do this, future visits with Eldovar will teleport you to that location for free.

There are many streams off the mountain, with passageways across each.

There are many streams off the mountain, with passageways across each.

The forest is much like a snowy King’s Forest but with a significant gradation as you climb as well as an abundance of deciduous forest that sways in the breeze. Other flora, such as fields of wildflowers, are wonderfully sculpted.

Scattered throughout this and higher elevations are journal entry markers left by the inquisitive but prepared Oriphaun (Heroic tour) or the sarcastic and darkly humorous Netherese leader Amskar (Epic tour).

You will traverse for several hours in real time to find all 45 of these markers, and likely run face to face with imaginative and even mythical creatures as you find these little waypoints.

At the forest level, you might find satyrs: Half goat, half man. You’ll also see the owlbear in its native habitat.

There is a large lake to the west with a tiny island in its center that I’ll refer back as you reach higher altitudes.

The Tundra

This lovely lake grows smaller and smaller as you ascend.

This lovely lake grows smaller and smaller as you ascend.

As you climb higher, snowfall appears, but waxes and wanes. The cold becomes more sharp, and so do the bites of those that live here.

You’ll see griffons and something far more unusual: harpies, half woman, half bird, all shrieking. Be careful of their crooning, which can stun you or sometimes make you helpless.

The Netherese, who make camp of various sizes on the mountain, will not be happy that you have discovered parts of their plans. Gnolls, orcs, Netherese-allied humans, and giants are in league with the Netheril and will slay you on sight–which sort of makes sightseeing hard to do.

Your best stealth game can avoid some fights if you desire or are able to use it. Remember that the hill giants you first encounter have See Invisibility and (with the Update 19 stealth AI changes) have incredibly far Spot bonuses. They’re able to see you coming at least three times farther than most other enemies.

Midpoint

There's really not a bad view anywhere on the Horns...unless it's from within the stomach of a griffon.

There’s really not a bad view anywhere on the Horns…unless it’s from within the stomach of a griffon.

The cold whips you as if you were a redheaded stepchild. Drifting snow spins about as you walk.

Looking over the ridge, that reasonably-sized lake at forest level becomes very, very tiny and eventually fades from view with the blowing snow.

You must be very careful here as the Netherese have many of the largest fortifications built here.

They’ve added a familiar but no-less formidable enemy that you’ve seen in places such as in snowy Aussircaex’s Valley: Frost Giants.

The Summit

The desolate beauty is marred only by the Netherese at this point.

The desolate beauty is marred only by the Netherese at this point.

It’s all snowy from here on out. A white dragon occasionally takes up residence in the area, if dragon-spotting is your kind of thing.

Hopefully you won’t become part of the dragon’s favorite pastime: adventurer snacking.

The largest Netherese installations reside atop the mountain. These also lead to the last two quests in the series, if the tourist information is correct.

Watch out for the Ice Elementals. They are surprisingly powerful in attack. Strong fire spells will rid you of them, but they are very many, and you are fewer.

Special Attractions

The Netherese are poor hosts. That’s certainly because they have secrets to their secrets that they aren’t keen on sharing with you until Cormyr is destroyed, and you with them.

That said, check out the glacier entrances once you’ve completed the quests involving the Netherese occupation of the mountain.

By the time you reach the summit and the glaciers, you’ll be a witness to the Netherese magic-bomb facility and flying fortress–if you survive their attempt to use it before you’re forced to destroy it.

The Viper meets the Spider

FaerunDrowPriestess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come Into My Lair, the Spider Says

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legendary Damage

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

Impossible Demands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Unquiet Graves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Insane Tourist’s Guide to the Underdark

Underdark1In our first guide, we discussed the wonders inside the demon-infested catacombs of the Subterrane that tourists like some of you might enjoy.

The Insane Tourist might find the vistas of the Subterrane interesting, but not quite big enough.

Experienced tourists (that is, Epic characters) can take in the magnificent desolation of the Underdark, where not-so-happy dark elves plot to invade some towns of the surface world. It’s all drama down there. Yuan-Ti power grabs. Immense giant worms that try to eat you whole. A dragon. Zombies.

Sure, the Drow are rather ruthless and evil. But they also have style in doing it. And their digs (no pun intended) are pretty majestic for a massive underground canyon. You have to go see.

Preparations Before You Visit

The Drow aren’t standing about, asking for your tickets, passport or papers and ushering you inside the Underdark on a tram. As is their way, they’re out to kill or enslave you.

Therefore, you’ll need to be properly equipped for your trip. Weapons with Elf Bane are okay, but generally any good-aligned weapon will suffice to keep the crowds of natives at bay as they surround you in wonder and murderous intent. Remember that the Drow are more spell resistant than other enemies. They also tend to use more poison attacks that can be debilitating if you don’t pack some poison neutralization potions for the journey.

To reach the Underdark itself, customs require you to

  1. Be Level 20. You must be Level 20 or higher to enter the King’s Forest to find the sole portal into the area.
  2. Complete the “Lords of Dust” quest chain, and then complete “Beyond the Rift” to open a path for you from Eberron to the Forgotten Realms, if this is your character’s first life as an Insane Tourist.
  3. You may either venture through the King’s Forest to find the entrance on the barren hill, or complete the “Darkening” Eveningstar quest chain to gain access. Once you complete “The Battle for Eveningstar,” the portal to the Underdark activates inside Eveningstar Cavern. (Until you find another portal inside the Underdark or complete the chain, the other cavern’s portals may remain darkened.)

Once you’ve basked in the hospitality and quiet desperation of the villagers of Eveningstar, enter the King’s Forest from their town and head south. It may be easiest and safest to follow the path of the river to the east once you come to it, since it winds southward and just east of your destination.

As you travel, you’ll find many journals left for you to read by Elminster, known to be a powerful wizard and scholar of the area (as well as quite popular with the ladies and a goddess or two).

A Purple Dragon Knight outpost lies along the river’s edge just before the river ends at the southernmost reaches of the forest. You may want to stop there and speak to a mage inside, who can instantly teleport you from the outpost back to Eveningstar, and then vise versa for future tours once you speak to him while at the outpost.

Take some rest at the outpost, and then head westward until you find an easily identifiable barren hill with many Drow greeters. The entrance atop the hill allows you to find two sub-portals within the Underdark that make it easier later to reach a quest in the Underdark itself as well as the Drow city, Sschindylryn,  from the Eveningstar Cavern.

Update: One reader disagreed on the availability of accessing the Underdark. I am reasonably sure that any character that hasn’t entered the Underdark on their current life will find that the Eveningstar Cavern has only one of three portals active. You’ll only be able to use the single portal which (at that stage in your life) only returns you to Eberron (or, if you have one, a guild airship). The portals that activate once you visit the Underdark or Sschindylryn are not active until you reach their respective entrances for the first time. You must complete the Eveningstar battle quest chain for the Underdark portal to activate inside Eveningstar cavern.

Your First Stop in the Underdark: Greet Some Slavers

The King’s Forest entrance rests above a caravan of Drow slavers from House Avithoul. Their charges are Eveningstar villagers and soldiers, each equipped with a magical collar that forces them to fight you, rather than sell you tschotskes and maps.

Underdark2-slaves

More slaves…and slaver’s loot…liberated!

The slavers are often shrouded in invisibility and accompanied by more visible Drow guards. A good Spot reveals their outline. Show them how hospitality is best offered by killing the slaver and his guards without harming their collared slaves.

You’re rewarded with XP if you can save enough of these less-prepared tourists you find here and elsewhere the Underdark by using your skills of disabling devices, your Concentration, or even brute strength to remove the controlling collars from the enslaved ones–without killing them. For Monks, you’ll likely need a Concentration at least 48 or better to have a fighting chance of removing the slave collars.

Next Stop: See a Real Drow Priestess and Open the Portal to Sschindylryn

After the slavers, you can make your way over a stone bridge to a small redoubt with a few Drow archers who are happy to show you what real arrows look like–points first and at high velocity. Be mindful that slowing and damaging Spell Wards are all over this area, making a quick exit harder to do. A Rogue in your tour group can disable these to make your trip less arduous.

Continuing southwest and up a path leads you to a welcoming party of more Drow slavers accompanying a Drow priestess. They’ll demonstrate their religious customs for surface dwellers by making you their sacrifice of the day.

If you want that selfie of you alone and not you with your soulstone, you might decline the Drow’s insistence to die horribly by slaying everyone else first, except the Priestess. She’s a special one. If you attempt to kill her, she’ll use her magics to leech the lives of anyone in her party to continue fighting you. Only when a Priestess has no more allies or slaves left alive to leech can you (easily) kill the Priestess herself.

Did I mention that the Underdark denizens love to use death spells? Be sure to pack something or bring someone that offers Death Ward throughout your tour, and at least be wearing a Deathblock item if you haven’t Death Ward options at hand.

With the twisted religious service over, head a little ways up the path to find a shrine and a portal to enter the Drow city of Sschindylryn. Once you enter this portal, you will have now activated sister portals to both the Underdark and the Drow city to make it easier to return to either destination, directly from Eveningstar Cavern.

Sschindylryn: City of Portals

See_Rock_CitySo that’s what all those “See Rock City” barn signs were talking about, right? You’ll never see them quite the same way again now.

As you might expect, there’s not a tour guide awaiting you to show you the fine eateries and museums inside the Drow city. It’s still quite scenic on the outside. Lots of waterfalls.

Scattered about the city and the southern parts around the city are missives from a Drow leader that discuss their desire to visit Eveningstar and Eberron and take what they want. Seems they’re also learning about things from your world, like guild airships.

You might want to pass on any requests from them for a ship invite.

Collect all the missives scattered about the city outskirts and inside the city and you’ll complete a full map of the area.

The Drow make you work for that map. Watch your step! Sschindylryn rests atop a wide canyon to an underground river so deep that the Drow aren’t daring enough to visit there. Fall off into the bottomless crevasse surrounding the city and your tourist days are temporarily over. Several of the missives rest along the edges of the canyon to give you sphincter-clenching sensations as you hop over gaps on the way to find them. It’s good reading, really.

Look up. THAT'S how you build a pyramid.

Look up. THAT’S how you build a pyramid.

The city is stunningly built. Ornately inscribed doors and spires, seemingly carved from the stone itself, form the many residences and halls there. Unfortunately, the Drow never offer open-house tours of city dwellings, so you will not be able to share that Eberron fruitcake you’ve been carrying.

If you want to get an idea of how to build a ziggurat (a stepped pyramidal building), stand at the city’s main entrance and look up.

Notice how the Drow built dwellings within stalactites above the city. Awe-inspiring. And don't even think how they get up there.

Notice how the Drow built dwellings within stalactites above the city. Awe-inspiring. And don’t even think how they get up there.

You’ll also find yet another portal inside the city. Taking this is a quick way to head elsewhere in the Underdark. But should you activate this portal, you may find yourself materializing on return trips to the Drow city at this portal and not the outskirts portal. There are one or two other city portals, but these are inactive (likely for a future adventure somewhere else in the Underdark).

Underdark-Scity3There are three areas based on the Drow houses to see as you slay the guards, commoners and driders that greet you on your tour. House Dun’Robar is a military house, specialized in training fighter legions. House Avithoul, as you might guess from your first encounter as you initially entered the Underdark, specializes in the slave trade. House Szind offers to keep other Drow troops and slaves alive, even if you keep killing them, by using their necromancers to raise them as undead. Lastly, atop and inside the ziggurat of the city, is a Drow temple where you may get to meet the High Priestess and pay your respects.

Inside any of these houses you’ll find a magnificent living space. Tapestries adorn the walls. Sculptures and decorated altars abound. Racks of weaponry and military precision. The beautifully and tastefully decorated bedrooms of the Matron Mothers. Libraries filled with the knowledge of Drow over the milennia. Incredible furniture. The Drow blend form and function in a mesmerizing, captivating synergy.

Sadly, all of these areas are closed to deeper tours. Once you complete a battle to save Eveningstar from a Drow invasion, you can enter their Houses in the Drow city and get a closer look at mostly everything in House Dun’Robar without Drow complaint. But the illusion spell works only temporarily to allow you to contemplate the art inside House Avithoul, and the spell fails utterly in the necromantic spyworks of House Szind.

The city has at least one rare encounter in each house as well as two in the common area. These Drow and driders do not offer their wares willingly.

The Underdark Tour Continues

The wilds of the Underdark are contained on three levels. Being of natural formation, it’s not at all easy to find paths that lead where you want to sight-see. There’s also the matter of Drow and Yuan-Ti forces wanting to push you off these high ledges to your doom at your earliest inconvenience.

Key places to visit are noted in a copy of the full map. There is one additional portal that you can use to leave and return to the Underdark with greater ease than having to use the King’s Forest portal. Activating the Riz Malag portal makes it more convenient later to reach the quest, “In the Belly of the Beast.”

The ruins of Riz Malag.

The ruins of Riz Malag.

Ever seen a dragon up close? Any typical adventurer has done so, of course. Why stop now? In one of the harder paths to find, and a harder rare enemy to discover in his lair, is the red dragon Micahrastir. Now, dragons are rarely friendly. To them, you’re the snack on their version of a trip. You might be able to get a selfie of you next to his slumbering bulk, but if you’re that close, fighting him is probable.

Careful not to get knocked off of Micah’s lair by his wind buffeting if you’re trying to steal his loot (as is custom for adventurer tourists). Once a fight starts, the small path that leads up to him is destroyed and you cannot return to him in the same instance to continue your fight if you’re knocked off.

Overall, stealth is a wonderful and preferred way to enjoy your tour, especially if alone. You’ll certainly attract less attention if you are keen on reaching every encounter point. True to the name, however, it’s dark in there.

The Underdark with no goggles (enhanced a bit but still dark).

The Underdark with no goggles (enhanced a bit but still dark).

A vendor named Malchor is close by the Eveningstar portal into the Underdark. Now that you’ve activated a portal in Eveningstar Cavern, it’s easy to reach this vendor. Recall from anywhere in the Underdark, and then use the Underdark portal in Eveningstar Cavern and choose the option for the trader’s post.

Malchor’s having a promotion on his wares and will offer to give you a pair of his light-enhancing goggles at no charge.

The Underdark with goggles!

The Underdark with goggles!

These goggles better highlight the area, and they also mark hostiles in a red hue. Aside from changing your character’s gear setup, the goggles may cause contrasts in your sight that might annoy your appreciation of the aesthetics of the area.

Other notable encounters and sights:

  • The last priestess of House Jegg’Dralnoc. A rare sight to find a priestess all alone in the wilds. Doesn’t look like Lolth is giving her any sympathy or alms. You’re not that type of “take pictures, leave only footprints” kind of tourist, however. Once she attacks you, you can take a certain pride in ending an entire Drow house all by yourself. Her altar is always in the same place, although sometimes she isn’t there, replaced by a Drow acolyte.
  • Nessaleesa, She Who Hunts Among Stones. A medusa has made a garden of stone–specifically, enemies she has turned to stone by her petrifying gaze. If you’re a Shintao Monk, it would be curiously fitting to turn her into jade stone, if possible, for a few moments before ending her.
  • Agathea, a night hag, has a little old place where she wants you to get together. It’s not a love shack, however. You’re to be part of our food supply, baby.
  • The Grand Waterfall. The Yuan-Ti like it, too. But they aren’t inclined to share it with you.
  • Tranquility Grove. Wow, man. Poppies poppies poppies…you shouldn’t rest here. At all. The flora will attempt to make you sleep here indefinitely. If you’re of elven heritage, you’re immune to sleep effects and should be able to traverse the area without problem.
  • Riz Malag: A rather striking set of ruins amidst the starkness of the Underdark stone. Do find this for your alternate portal out and back to get to “In the Belly of the Beast.” There’s many illitids and animated armors nearby.

Next time on Insane Tourism: The Storm Horns.