Kiri and the Wheloon Prison, Part 1

ninjaWork is murderously long and my game time is proportionally less, among other personal challenges with the family. I wish I could go back to my halcyon days of youth when I posted more frequently.

Still, posting something once every two weeks at the latest is better than nothing at all. And, I’ve been saving up.

Update 28 and the Night Revels event brought a few but intriguing new items for players to enjoy. In the next posts, I’m going to show you how one new item makes a difference in stealth gaming. It’s the Long Broom of Mystery.

Teacher Saekee is familiar with it as he’s the progenitor of “The Flaming Sphere scroll Fan Club” on the DDO forums. He learned that Flaming Sphere is an incredible hate-magnet that lures enemies from a wide distance and gathers them around it. It’s a great tool to move mobs away from switches or tight passageways. Like Charm or Sap, however, any aggression to anything near the Sphere and enemies will ignore the Sphere and attack you. Now any non-arcane or low-UMD character can make a distraction. The twist is that you still need good Hide/Move Silently skills to walk past the curious enemies.

I wanted as well to enjoy the soloing adventures of Kiricletica, still in her second life at level 17. She takes on the entire Wheloon Prison chain on Heroic Hard difficulty as a demonstration, starting with “Friends in Low Places.”

Now “Friends” isn’t a stealth-dominant quest. You must fight through this to clear out enemies that attack the camps. I decided to add Isadora the Cleric, as her Blade Barrier will add some crowd control that lures enemies to her while inflicting damage where I can mop up, especially at the nasty end-fight where a red-named enemy keeps a series of respawning mobs coming until she dies. I generally don’t use hirelings with Kiricletica, respecting my own self-imposed solo parameters. But the end-fight of “Friends” is relentless, exceeding Kiri’s Single Weapon Fighting. She’s very good in escaping a horde as large as that, perhaps even luring the red-named away to fight her alone. But for brevity in the video, I opted to use a hireling. I’m hireling-less in the latter 3 videos.

Each of the videos highlights the central objectives. I tended to avoid the optionals for brevity.

Captions are included. Be sure to click the “CC” button on the toolbar to see them.

Here’s part 1. Next time: “A Lesson in Deception.”

The Right Tools

sword-shieldIt’s no longer a game of Light Monk fisticuffs for most of my game play, of late.

My unarmed play of late is generally only with Ryncletica the Ninja, who often enjoys more time with her short swords and shuriken. She now owns a Celestia to go with her Star of Day to dish out some Ninja Poisoning, as well as Antipode handwraps.

Quintessica the Mystic almost always uses her quarterstaves, and the latest gift of a free Sireth from the Update 20 Raider’s Box will all but guarantee this fighting style isn’t changing soon.

And the star-thrower Szyncletica is looking out for any returning stars to craft while on her way to obtain her Green Steel weapons. She just got a Morning Star shuriken and a nasty Cormyrian power-star.

All this weaponizing of my Monks leads me to a mild revelation. Good weapons are hard to find.

Unarmed Thinking Dulls the Blade

With a few exceptions with a few non-Monks I own,  I generally find the latest handwraps and adapted them to my game play and to the quest at hand. Loot-generated handwraps often fit the needs and there are quite a few named handwraps that work. The Shintao Monks gained the most ease in equipping since they gained much of their own damage reduction bypassing as they leveled. All I needed to do was stack more damage and train each Monk properly for durability.

I didn’t have to think hard on my artificer and Arcane Archers since they could get easy DR bypassing options through buffs and gear. I don’t own any Fighters, and my other characters are played too little to gain full attention to some weapon needs at the moment.

With Update 19, the world changed.

Ninja use of shortswords and shuriken became far superior with the changes to poison, the Dexterity-to-Damage ability of the class tree for piercing and slashing weapons, and Ninja Master’s vorpal effects.

The Henshin Mystic uses quarterstaves almost exclusively and deal harsher critical hits with them than any unarmed Monk I’ve owned. And I mentioned (ad nauseum to some of you, perhaps) the need for throwing stars for a Ninja star-thrower.

In short, I have been increasingly forced to think outside the unarmed damage framework to the traditional weapon damage and types that many others use. I feel like a noob.

Damage Bypassing

The greatest challenge in generating the best damage comes with Szyncletica. She has one attack mode: Shuriken. She’ll only go unarmed for oozes and to bust down doors. Otherwise, her damage bypassing must come from the star (if no other buffs or abilities are present).

As she reached 16, she was pulled in two directions: Getting flagged for the Shroud and completing the Lords of Dust chain to reach Eveningstar, completing any challenges there. Each path gains a new weapon: Green Steel from the Shroud and Cormyrian thrown weapons from Eveningstar.

Shruiken are harder to build as Green Steel. They need Large Splintered Horns, a rarer item to find in your Shroud ingredient farming. I know I’ll end up paying through the nose on the auction house to get a couple of these for at least two GS stars.

The Eveningstar/Underdark challenges aren’t nearly as puzzling as the House Cannith ones in terms of solo play. Thankfully I some guildies and I made it through to Eveningstar and farmed these at-level to get my first Cormyrian star, with acid, Crushing Wave and goodness knows how many other effects, like paralyzing. It’s not all that good on Shavarath or Xoriat enemies, but on everyone else, it’s a marvel.

On my very first trip into Wheloon and into “Friends in Low Places,” I scored The Morning Star I can use to help against light-sensitive enemies. I popped a Silver augment in there for now. Vampires hate me.

I took Szyncletica into a normal-difficulty “Running with the Devils” to see what she could do. The Eladrin there are often stumpers since they are Good-aligned (making Holy weapons useless), are powerful mages, and need Cold Iron to fully bypass their impressive damage reduction.

I had an Aligned star with me, but it wasn’t enough. Switching to a Metalline Flametouched star just pissed them off more than injured them. I crafted up a Cold Iron returning star into an Aligned Cold Iron of Improved Destruction that worked well enough on a a later run.

By next Thursday’s guild run into the Shroud, I plan to re-craft a couple of Silver stars to a +5 Shocking Burst Silver star of Pure Good and maybe a +3 Holy Silver star of Improved Destruction. Both will target Arraetrikos and his weaknesses. He has just 50% fortification on Normal difficulty, so I might be able to remove up to 15 fortification with the second star and some AC as well, to make it easy on the melee teams. Harry is vulnerable to electricity, so a Shocking Burst star pinpoints that, too. So long as I can evade the occasional meteor he flings my way (with a very high Reflex, I should do so), I’ll be okay in Part 4 and keep a good distance from others in part 5 when Harry is freer to move.

Crafted stars don’t have a wide damage range, unfortunately. Improved Critical: Thrown goes only so far. The Snowstar has a much-wider range but isn’t Good-aligned for better pain. That’s why the higher damage game-crafted Green Steel and Cormyrian weapons are needed as Szyn to improve her overall power in raids.

I’ve avoided many halls of the undead with Szyn, including Delera’s Tomb. I can mow zombies easy enough. It’s the slashing-resistant skeletons that are harder to take down–especially with the complete lack of a disrupting shuriken. My new Morning Star shuriken will help there, if a future Cormyrian star’s semi-random effects don’t surprise me with a disruptor. Time to go get my Voice, finally.

40+ Dexterity at Level 16

I’ve never had such a high ability stat on any character, ever, at Heroic level. On a Ninja thrower, the DEX goes not just to damage and attack rolls but determines the percentage of an additional star thrown per attack. That means that Szyn throws an additional star 40% of the time now. It showed in Gianthold as I tested out the change. Poor giants were gunned down at high distance with a Snowstar, most before they could react. Add in Improved Precise Shot and I was culling mobs out there. It’s the Red Fens all over again.

In Gianthold, I hope to get a guildmate or two to complete the flagging runs there in hopes of pulling a low-level Ring of Shadows for some blurriness in lieu of yet more Green Steel crafting for a Smoke II helmet with 2-clicky Displacement and permanent Blur for later. Lots and lots of Shroud runs in my future.

The additional stars with the higher DEX really improve the effective damage per second of the build. I’m counting on its power in the Shroud.

I took the Cormyrian star into “Mired with Kobolds” on Normal. Aside from a bug that prevented me from rescuing Wayfinder Dael, the quest was full of stomp as I blasted things from long range.

Then came the dragon. I immediately blasted the crystals in the circular field and began circle strafing everything, dispatching the kobolds and then running alternately small and large circles about the child dragon. Didn’t take long for it to die.

I quickly looted…and stopped. I wanted to see what the star could do against something stronger.

Out came Mama Dragon, CR21. Off I went strafing again.

I didn’t have to change a thing. Strafing means I avoid the damaging breath. Any damage I got came from the briar thorns where my Evasion save hit me with half damage. The hireling kept me healed when it could keep up. It was too busy trying to keep up with me to attract the dragon’s attention and so survived as well.

Sinvala could be poisoned, and after a time, 70 poison damage in purple numbers kept punishing her every 2-3 seconds in addition to the spelltouched star’s occasional slams of elemental damage and Crushing Waves. She’s immune to acid, but that didn’t help her.

Victory came easily, to my surprise.

My hope is that I can use strafing in Part 4 of the Shroud, where Harry is immobile. Szyn’s reflexes should help in reducing the chance that one fireball might end her day. There’s the matter now of her HP. She’s gotta be able to take a whirling blade hit or three, and 325 is dangerously low. I’d be happier at 400. Firewall was already ahead of me, swapping out Precision for Toughness. Hate to be a “me too,” but “me too!”

It’s time for Szyncletica’s first Shroud run. Time to put the metal down.

And after 20, its a new ball game. Based on what the Shurricannon build requires, it’s going to be a tough road as she gets Shiradi training completed.

Throwing It In – A Shuriken Ninja

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

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

The “Shiradi Shuricannon,” by Firewall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Member of the Dojo

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Szy, newest Toril refugee.

Meet Szy, newest Toril refugee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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