From Tranquility to Serenity

There is a certain joy you feel in renewal, in repentance that makes you appreciate why you love what you love. This was a transforming time that, at the least, should make me a better person, not to mention a nicer player.

There is a certain joy you feel in renewal, in repentance that makes you appreciate why you love what you love. This was a transforming time that, at the least, should make me a better person, not to mention a nicer player.

I’m back.

Lent taught me that I did play DDO too often.

I wasn’t cold turkey throughout Lent, however, having revived my Diablo II interest.

But at least that game can be paused, and I found greater quality time with my family and faith.

I will likely adopt a new play time schedule so DDO, however fun, doesn’t get the better of me, while still allowing time to continue exploring and enjoying all the happiness. While Lent is now over and Eastertide is here, I loved the wave of comparative tranquility that, while problems didn’t go away with a wave of a wand or something, I was more attuned to respond to them and appreciate what I have.

Looks like a lot’s happened during my exodus. Update 25 is coming today. The Temple of Elemental Evil is near. All the Rogue trees are getting a refresh, especially the Assassins and Mechanics.

I logged in for the first time since February 18 yesterday. When I left, my guild had just hit level 99. Yesterday, my guild sat at level 103–four guild levels in a 5 week span. Holy cow. Something’s up with my guild, and that’s a great thing.

Getting My Ninja On

The first thing I did on login, once reorienting my eyes back to the visual richness of the game (playing a weaker resolution game like Diablo II is bound to make you appreciate even DDO’s slightly aged but superior graphics), I had a definitive urge to take the ninjas out on patrol.

First off the ship was Ryncletica the poison-master for a flagging run in “The Coalescence Chamber.” If there were any signs of rust in my gameplay, I whittled them out quickly as I eliminated the initial troglodyte and troll forces with Althea the fashion-model-turned-Favored Soul.

From there, with Althea parked most of the time except to refresh my Death Ward, I had a very smooth run by sneaking through as much as I could (when the damned bats didn’t show up every 2 seconds) using my shuriken as needed for some distant targets, and generally picking and choosing targets through the end. The only real challenge, bats notwithstanding, was the final key with the gelatinous cube, which is always one big Jello-bowl of HP. But after nailing it using some Ninjutsu, after 20 negative levels it finally melted.

With Ryn’s shadow-lust sated for a time, it was time for Kiricletica the solo-master in “Eyes of Stone” on Hard. Still following her self-imposed solo rules just because they’re still fun and force me to feel the ninja vibe, Kiri quickly restored guards, then used Freezing the Lifeblood finishers on every mage that guarded the Coin Lords for a very quick takedown. Each mage managed to summon their elementals–but then, that’s why the Pain Touch finisher is a godsend, which Nauseated each elemental to prevent them from attacking or casting.

Skipping the troll in the Bureau of Magical Vehicles, I entered the side entrance, restored the last guards and entered Hesstess’s lair. I summoned a fiend-blood troll as fodder and Blurred up the two guards before going to work, striking Hesstess with hit-and-run doses of Ninja Poison using Poisoned Soul Ninjutsu while using ninja speed to avoid her direct stunning magic and stoning gaze. Reinforcements that appeared only made it easier to keep my ki levels high enough to end Hesstess by poison in only 3 minutes or so.

To cap off the first day back, I also took Artemistika out into the epic High Road for some concentrated slayers. I want to pump the XP from 3,000 slayers straight into my Grandmaster of Flowers training so that I can build up another Fate point, unlock the Divine tree and get Unyielding Sentinel and perhaps Divine Crusader pumped up for more Fate points. I’d love to have the Elder Dryad accessible to me for later Epic play, so that means a bit more Destiny grinding, with a +2 Tome of Fate purchase still in reserve.

A New Direction, A New Guild, a New Server

I’m thinking of branching out from my only server, Ghallanda, to start a new guild where stealth is the name of the game. Bards, Rogues, Rangers and Monks would take a new darker tack in defeating the evils. Once Update 25 takes hold, it’s on my to-do list.

If you have a suggestion as to which server to set up camp, feel free to speak up.

I would not mind at all meeting many of you who have visited the blog. And starting up new characters to grow together sounds like a blast.

Perhaps we’ll have a server in common with almost everyone to get all shadowy and stuff. If enough interest appears here and we can coordinate, I’ll revisit it in a later post and set up a public plan.

Purple Haze

ScreenShot01462

Purple haze, all in my brain
Lately things they don’t seem the same
Actin’ funny, but I don’t know why
Excuse me while I kiss this guy

(Well, I think that’s how it goes.)

Poison is a highly underestimated attack. I don’t know of others that talk much about it.

The reborn Ryncletica knows better. At level 11, she’s still using two of the level 4 Tiefling Assassin’s Blade to mow down enemies that are three times the weapon’s level–and shows no sign of stopping.

I recently posted Ryncletica’s build in greater detail as a favor. While doing that I learned about the Primal Avatar’s Epic Moment and a lesser ability that also has Poison damage with a stacking effect similar to Ninja Poison. However–it might not work if my attacks aren’t still piercing or slashing.

I’m so looking forward to returning to Epic play. But for now I wanted to show just how deadly Ninja Poison can be–more so than when Kiricletica went Viper Style on many, many enemies during her first life.

Everything about Ryncletica is venomous. Every attack she makes delivers a Poison dose: the Tiefling blade, Venomed Blade effect, Sting of the Ninja on critical hits, and Poison Soul Ninjutsu on Touch of Despair strikes.

When Ninja Poison kicks in, even in small stacks, the vulnerability effect takes hold very, very quickly with that much Poison damage seeping into the pores of any enemy.

The result is that purple damage numbers from Poison appear almost immediately on most enemies I attack. Even if I switch targets, any enemies I’ve previously attacked are still being damaged by Ninja Poisoning.

Isolated enemies are either paralyzed first and then hacked very quickly away. Tougher orange-names might be paralyzed and hacked away. Red-named bosses get Touch of Despair attacks to weaken their fortification and get the full Ninja Poison dosage to rid them of their hit points.

Recently, I took both Kiricletica and Ryncletica through “Hiding in Plain Sight” Elite. Kiri prefers no hirelings. Despite her Single Weapon Fighting, her Half-Elf Cleric dilettante healing, healing amplification, her low-kill tactics and similar defenses to Ryn, at level 12, it was hard on Kiri to make it through the quest. By the boss fight, the three orange-named lieutenants were more threatening because Kiri’s weaker saves kept getting her held by Hazadil’s dancing-balls.

But Ryncletica, at level 11, had it easier. With the hireling out of combat and parked away in case of HP crisis, Ryn snuck up to the bosses, quickly paralyzed and slew one of the orange-named lieutenants and sent the other two on a goose-chase, with Hazadil trying to hold Ryn in dancing-balls. But Ryn’s saves were too strong.

When Hazedil made the mistake of coming down from his perch, Ryn poured on the poison and the boss died in a fraction of the time that it took Kiri and her faster melee speed.

I’m usually conservative in leveling the Ninja Spies. I try to have at least a 1-level advantage when entering an Elite quest (that is, I’ll enter a level 12 Elite quest on character level 13).

But Ryncletica’s power and her higher defense for her level is allowing me to match levels or even enter below Elite difficulty level.

And baby needs a pair of Envenomed Blades with greater Poison damage.

Video Example

Talk is cheap. Here is a video of Ryncletica carving up things in “Eyes of Stone” Elite, two levels under, using level 4 shortswords.

Watch all the purple. There’s purple everywhere. Purple haze, all in their brains. And spleen, and many other body parts.

Click on the CC to see captions.

U.S. Holiday

This week is more like a fourteen-day version. Things may be quiet on the blog this week while I enjoy family time during the Thanksgiving holiday and prepare for yet another week-long business trip immediately after. Let’s hope the online gods will grant us stronger wifi at our base hotel this time.

Kiri and The Droaam Zerg Machine

Kiricletica was DYING to jump off and send these guys back into the sea.

Kiricletica was DYING to jump off and send these guys back into the sea. Don’t you get that impulse of shouting at your party? “C’mon! We can TAKE ’em!”

Kiricletica reached level 14 last week, quickly donned some White Dragonscale Robes for some much-needed protection, buffed up and made a beeline to the preliminary quests in Lordsmarch Plaza.

I’ve been anticipating the fight with the mighty Droaam armies for some time now. They’ve become a welcome favorite to many players because of the humorous but immersive story line as well as the challenges, loot and experience you can gain. Overall, I see it as one of DDO’s premier questing areas.

The Droaam is a monster nation from the distant land (to the continent of Xen’drik, anyway) of Khorvaire. It’s the place where the Eberron pen-and-paper campaigns do their thing. My understanding is that DDO chose Xen’drik to avoid story/plot conflicts while still sharing in the Eberron world lore.

With the Droaam apparently considering Stormreach as a fine place to colonize, three linked quests (all cleverly named) serve as a prelude to the actual invasion of the Droaam seen in the four-part chain, “Attack on Stormreach.”

Being what Kiricletica is, her primary mission was to scout and report.

Her secondary option, if required, is to slaughter the leader.

I’ve always found the Droaam a curious, formidable enemy with substantial flaws. For one, the bulk of their ground-pound troops are orcs. They’re far more heavily armored than what one would encounter to this level, but they are still orcs, easily outwitted in combat and picked off relatively well as individuals. As an organized force, however, orcs are very dangerous.

But what makes the Droaam interesting isn’t their sheer brute strength. It’s their specialty forces.

The Droaam warpriests and warmages deliver relentless punishment, from Cometfall spells, Finger of Death, Enervation, Blade Barriers. Divine Punishment, while reliably keeping their party healed. I placed priority in removing the mages first.

But killing the mages is harder, as they stay where they should, behind their guards: orcs, light conscript fighters, archers and the Vanguards, huge juggernaut ogres that prey on the weakest in your party first. Their presence is designed to scare and bludgeon a party into breaking formation, as other Droaam exploit the break to their advantage.

The greatest challenge, overall, is the sheer numbers of the Droaam that hit you as a zerg rush. They often run in support groups not unlike a player character party, where mages heal and attack in the rear ranks while soldiers take the assault directly to the player character.

As AI goes, the Droaam behave more as coordinated enemy parties than the relatively individualistic fights you see elsewhere in the game.

The best solution against a zerg force, for the solitary Kiri, is to be ignored, like a butterfly flying above a stampede. Such a loud, overwhelming mob won’t hear or pay attention to the whisper sounds of a passing butterfly.

Too bad the Droaam zerg didn’t know that my butterfly packed venom as I fluttered to its heart to stab it.

Diplomatic Impunity

The first, “Diplomatic Impunity,” requires only a few objectives: Speak to Henritta, your quest giver, meet a scout that’s found a Droaam staging area, report back to Henritta, and find and kill the Droaam war captain.

In terms of drama, the sight of a whole beach filled with legions of Droaam and their siege machines always fires me up. I want to jump down from the scout point and give them what-for. Alas, all you can do is report back.

ScreenShot01075Kiricletica manages to complete all objectives and reaches the war captain with no kills.

When I do begin my attack, a moment of outside distraction in my home gets me killed, but not before I removed two-thirds of Ilos Hrolk’s health using a crapload of poison attacks.

ScreenShot01076Quickly rebuffing and returning, I learned that the Droaam closest to the fortress disappear once the final fight started. Back inside, I threw a star to pull the good captain away from the bulk of the mob.

A couple of soldiers come too, and I mow them down. With the captain isolated, I puncture and poison him silly to complete with only 4 kills total and a Devious bonus.

No wildmen were harmed in this mission. I’m a little sympathetic for them. They’re often the literal and figurative butt monkeys in many DDO quests, often used as slaves or getting their territory screwed by outsiders. Slaying them would also violate my self-imposed rules. No wonder they’re always edgy and attack on sight.

I talked my way through their village.

Frame Work

ScreenShot01077I love this quest because stealth is welcomed if you choose to use it. There are only two central objectives: Turn any minotaur to stone, and then kill the minotaur chieftain.

Stealth-lovers know of Mr. Cow’s video on how to complete this in about 3 minutes. I took a bit more time but gained the same results, albeit sloppier than I wanted it to go.

After gathering up a bunch of ballista parts, I used one to inject me into the fortress, rather than doing the “Cowabunga Approach”, leaping over a wall near the gate by the water.

After avoiding a close call or two of being discovered, I used a second inner ballista to launch me into the chieftain’s stronghold. I stoned the runt in there to keep him from ringing an alarm bell, buffed and then threw a star at the chieftain to begin.

ScreenShot01078Sometimes you’ll be lucky in that only the chieftain comes to engage you. I wasn’t that fortunate and soon his entourage came to greet me with axes and spells. But the new White Dragonscale Robe helped a lot in defense as I moved from place to place to get back to the chieftain.

My poison attacks worked well, taking out the ogre mage and a Cabal Seer to allow me to focus on the chieftain once more to carve him up quickly. Unfortunately an alarm sounded elsewhere as I grabbed the loot and escaped.

I completed with another Devious bonus but lost the no-alarm objective. I’ll be going back to try this again as a matter of honor. I need to remember that the Chieftain can be fought briefly without his guards caring during Hesstess’s retreat, leaving me a small window to quickly take him out as the Cow did.

Eyes of Stone

In the final prelude quest, I did something I’ve never quite considered in getting the Stone-to-Flesh salve. I stayed atop the library shelves as much as possible, leaping to each and avoiding attention from kobolds. I had one or two kills here as I retrieved the salve before heading up to the Coin Lords.

While the developers design quests with some stealth in mind, they don’t always have triggers that work in stealth, such as the ones that cause an enemy to attack when they see you. I took full advantage of this by moving to point-blank range of each Gnoll mage that guarded each Coin Lord. When they activated, two of the gnolls forgot to summon their elemental henchmen, leaving me the pleasure of dispatching the gnolls without a lot of fuss.

After freeing the Coin Lords, I moved quickly to the end-fight, sneaking by everything else to get there.

ScreenShot01079I wasn’t going to make the same mistake here as I did in “Impunity.” I ran through my fight strategy. There are two NPCs that could draw aggro briefly before they died; I applied Blur on them to give them a little more life.

I double-checked that my Poisoned Soul Ninjutsu ability was active (I learned later that I didn’t have it running during “Impunity” at all). I checked my Poison Neutralizing potions on my toolbar (Medusa Snake Venom will kill you with 1,000 points of damage if you leave that untreated). Finally, I buffed with a Blur and my Death Ward clicky, pulled out the Vampiric Fury Shortswords and got to work.

ScreenShot01080I didn’t have an extremely hard fight once I removed the Vanguard and supporting mages. I dosed Hesstess with a boatload of poison. Despite the fact she’s more reptilian herself and has her own poison attacks, she herself is not poison-immune. Fighting her is typically a stick-and-move matter for any player to avoid getting turned to stone, so the DoT effects are helpful.

On her death, I made my third Devious bonus for the night as well as a welcome pair of Stonedust Handwraps that Kiri can use for special cases.

Rapid Ascent

A first life VIP character levels rapidly. I wrote this post on hitting level 14, but I finished writing it on reaching level 16 only 4 days ago. The Hard Bravery Bonus is rewarding with 10,000 XP or more on some places.

Now, I have the Envenomed Blades dual-wielded. More on the pleasantries of this weapon combo in my next account.