Zen Master: The Untouchable Archer


Pynthetica-Zen12-4

The delicate balance, as I explained to the Teacher before her sabbatical, in the use of the longbow through ki, required me to shed my thuggish notions of strength I once learned as a Ranger.

The balance comes not from the release of the arrow, I explained, but in releasing myself from the material plane while guiding the arrow to its target. Thus, zen, or complete focus of mind and body, enables a flow of power from grace, not strength, which also moves the body away from danger in concert with the hand guiding the arrow to its destination.

Should an enemy arrow, or many attacks for that matter, seek out my body, my disciplines train my body to ignore that arrow and to let it pass by. I don’t use monastic principles so much as to repel the arrow but to push myself into another plane of existence where the attack cannot reach me.

This discipline requires only your training, ki, and no arcane or divine philosophies.

– Pynthetica, in her teachings to young acolytes on her inaugural instruction in the art of zen archery


(UPDATE: Since this post, I’ve refined the build to the point where I actually posted a build on the DDO forums. Its basic protections are same as here but with some tweaks. Find it here.)

I had drafted an entire update article on Pynthetica, my Zen Archer build. 

DDO doesn’t have a true “Zen Archer” as found in D&D tabletop or similar games, but provided one feat that supported the notion. I’ve been trying to develop one.

As you may recall, she was a decent Monk with a bow but not a high-damaging one because of her Bow Strength limitations.

Basically, a bow’s damage modifier is non-existent unless your STR is less than 9 or if you have a form of the Bow Strength feat (granted to all Rangers but very expensive for others). Or you can do what Pyn did in life #2 and use the Half-Elf Ranger dilettante to gain a Lesser version–but I don’t recommend it. She ended up reaching level 20 but having insufficient damage per hit to make a survivable difference in Epic.

I discovered an alternative to Bow Strength and decided to forego Pyn’s epic training as a Half-Elf, moving her onto life #3 immediately. Pynthetica is my only character that has three lives without ever training past level 21.

As I was reviewing some of Pyn’s recent gameplay successes in my head while writing the old draft, a post-caffeination revelation occurred in me,  causing me to scrap that draft in favor of this one. It seemed neater.

Simple but Effective Damage


When asked how a Monk would channel ki through their archery, I was only able to say, “Through persistence.” As the Drow teacher Szyncletica might say, there is less to be said by a single projectile yet quite more to be said by several projectiles sent at once.

–Pynthetica


As described here and here, Pynthetica is simply a Monk with a bow. She uses no additional classes as the “monkcher” nor trains any Arcane Archer powers. She’s more comparable in her build to Szyncletica, who’s based on the version 1 Shiradi Shuricannon.

As an Elf, Pyn saves many resources and gives her some powerful advantages. Let’s stick with the usual attack stuff first in a quick summary.

  1. Going Elf gives Pyn natural longbow proficiency, saving several feats ordinarily required for non-Rangers.
  2. The Zen Archery feat makes a bow a Centered ki weapon, but doesn’t give weapon proficiency, thus the need to use a race that provides this. Zen Archery normally applies the WIS modifier, rather than DEX, as the to-hit roll if WIS is higher than DEX.
  3. Elven (Aerenal) Weapon Training gives increased damage and attack bonuses to her bows.
  4. Choosing Aerenal Grace adds Dexterity-to-Damage for her bows.
  5. Choosing the Skill enhancement adds 3% Doubleshot, 3% Dodge and bypasses 3% enemy Dodge.

Pynthetica-Zen12-2Clearly, the DEX-to-Damage for bows solves the bow damage problem nicely. A little Doubleshot aids in damage.

Ranged Feats by level 12 are Point Blank Shot, Quick Draw, Precise Shot, Improved Critical: Ranged, and Ten Thousand Stars.

Like Szyncletica the star-thrower, there are limits to what monastic arts can be applied to non-melee combat. For Pyn, there’s far less she can apply because there are fewer skills in the Ninja Spy tree that augment damage to any weapon aside from shortswords and shuriken. More on what she did train in this tree in a moment.

Pynthetica decided to pour much of her remaining AP into the Harper Agent tree to gain as much Ranged Power and passive enhancements to her bow as possible. By level 20, she’ll have up to +15 Ranged Power with all Harper skills trained. She may also have sufficient AP to make her weapon Good-aligned and add a modest damage increase with the tier 5 enhancements found there.

Pyn’s weapon damage should be comparable to Rangers (without any damage imbues) since one stat controls damage and to-hit. But monkchers and some Arcane Archers would probably do much better.

That’s all well and good. But what really makes Pyn a useful character build, much less a viable one?

That answer came to me after reviewing how Pyn fought in several quests.

Missed Me by That Much


I invited the ten acolytes to take their positions along the range. Each were given two blunted arrows. I stood as their target at the other end of the range. I had only ten blunted arrows, one per student.

I concentrated, moving myself to the Between, then instructed each of them to shoot me while I targeted each of them.

Not one of their arrows struck me, yet I was able to strike each student. One student remarked, “It was as if you weren’t there as I shot my arrow.”

-Pynthetica


So I have Pyn out in the field. A bunch of trolls and ogres do their mixing up of ranged attack and melee strikes. I direct Pyn to remove the threats as arrows and other attacks rain down. I recall seeing a lot of text fly over Pyn’s head while she’s fighting.

Miss Miss Miss Dodge Blurry Deflected Miss Incorporeal Miss Dodge Blurry Evade Evade Miss Dodge Incorporeal Dodge Deflected Dodge

While all that text is flying by, the enemies are dropping, but Pyn’s health remains stable. It’s not dropping much, certainly not so dramatically that an occasional heal from a tanking Cleric hireling or a potion won’t fix.

Pynthetica-Zen12-3Without realizing it, Pyn was showing me her art of “Zen Mastery.” This is Pyn’s self-ascribed DDO art of archery while not fully in existence on the material plane.

To understand this, let’s review Pyn’s passive training skills.

As with other ninjas, Pynthetica gains strong miss-chance abilities as a Monk. She gains a base 6% Dodge just training up to level 20. As a ninja, she gains more bonuses, and using certain Monk stances improve this further, not counting any gear.

The higher each miss-chance defense of Dodge, Concealment and Incorporeality, the less damage taken. When an enemy attacks, their attack is rolled against each miss-chance. Fail any one of them and the attack misses.

While ninjas such as Szyncletica and the solo-master Kiricletica can have the up to usual 25% Dodge, 20% Concealment and 25% Incorporeality for a very respectable miss-chance of about 55%, Pynthetica discerned something more.

Pyn is an Elf. She trained her Shadow Dragonmark. In addition to emergency Invisibility she can tap if she has insufficient ki to use Shadow Veil, she also has 3 uses of Displacement per rest for heavy battles. That’s 50% Concealment. She’ll try to have at least a form of Blur (20% Concealment) equipped at all times.

Pyn is also a ninja at heart. She trained in Shadow Veil, of course, for silent Invisibility and 25% Incorporeality, the highest Ghostliness you can achieve without being a high-level Pale Master. But she can increase her own Dodge cap with the Agility enhancement to boost her Dodge cap from the standard 25% cap to 28%. Combined with her guild ship’s Fencing Master ship buff that adds a 2% bonus to Dodge cap, Pynthetica can achieve a 30% Dodge.

Unfortunately, unlike Shuricannons, Ninja Poison cannot be applied with bows. Training in any of the Nujutsu or Sting of the Ninja elements would be fruitless. I might apply a precious 1 AP to the first rank of Flash Bang to give Pyn an emergency escape–more points if need be, but I would also sacrifice Ranged Power AP to do this. Pyn also loses the vorpalling weapons and other weapon upgrades in the latter Ninja Spy core abilities.

Unlike Artemistika the Ranger, Pynthetica’s natural Monk training also gives her greater movement speed, better AC, better saves, Improved Evasion and better Jump if required, like Szyncletica. Wearing no armor still has its advantages.

Pyn hates enemy archers. She trained in the Deflect Arrows feat. This will deflect an enemy missile attack once every six seconds–but note the fine print, yea saith the Wiki:

  • Monks do not need to be centered to benefit from this feat and can deflect arrows that strike from behind.
  • Only arrows and bolts that hit are deflected. Those that miss do not count towards the 1 deflected projectile per 6 seconds quota.

So Pyn’s miss-chances have a fourth layer. Should the enemy’s missile make successful saves against Pyn’s Dodge, Concealment and Incorporeality (remember, all must be saved against by an enemy attack), the missile will get swatted away with Deflect Arrows. Further, since the combined miss-chances are higher than the average ninja, odds are that Deflect Arrows will always ward off an missile attack that beats the odds against Pyn’s miss-chance.

It also doesn’t hurt that the high DEX and WIS also boost Pyn’s general AC (through DEX AC bonus and the Monk AC bonus) to survive a direct melee hit. Thus, there is no concern about improving CON scores beyond using items or changing Monk stances in crunch times.

 Normal battle miss-chance defenses (level 12)

  • Dodge: 22, Concealment: 0, Incorporeality: 0 = 22%
  • Dodge: 22, Concealment: 0, Incorporeality: 25 = 41.5%
  • Dodge: 22, Concealment: 20, Incorporeality: 25 = 53.2%

Advanced battle miss-chance defenses (level 12)

  • Dodge: 20, Concealment; 50, Incorporeality: 25 = 70.75%

Epic battle miss-chance defenses (level 20+)

  • Dodge: 30, Concealment; 20, Incorporeality: 25 = 58%
  • Dodge: 30, Concealment; 50, Incorporeality: 25 = 73.75%

And remember, if something is able to get past any of these numbers slower than once per six seconds, and it’s a missile attack, it will be deflected by Deflect Arrows.

Pyn’s AC at level 12 at the time of this writing is a strong 51 to 55, adjustable a little through an item or Monk stances as a physical defense, a Natural Armor item, and hopefully will gain some modest PRR and a little MRR as further mitigation. Pyn’s saves, however, are the links that form her strongest armor created by miss-chance.

Pyn’s zen mastery, in short, is a superior miss-change strategy combined with Deflect Arrows and Improved Evasion. That much defense, even for a time, is enough to ward off the nastiest attacks, including magic assault, where Improved Evasion adds an effective fifth layer.

While Pyn is far from any kind of tank, she should be able to deliver more uninterrupted attacks and lose health slower while under fire than many other archer classes when they are under direct attack.

Zen Master’s Gear


The zen master must not only choose the appropriate bow and arrows for the target, but also the correct application of enchanted gear which fortifies and magnifies their skill in standing in the balance of material and ethereal, the Between.

In a perfect world the zen master will not move, but should they require escape from a charging enemy, they must also be swift, sometimes silent, returning to their place of Between to target their enemy once more.

–Pynthetica


To make her Ten Thousand Stars training most effective, a higher WIS is needed. This also helps with the ki pool but also with total AC. But DEX is the damage and to-hit stat that will be improved most, especially into Epic play. TTS is preferable over Manyshot because of its shorter cooldown of 1 minute and its 30 second use versus Manyshot’s 2 minute cooldown and 20 second use.

Pyn’s general weaponry isn’t special. Most of the named bows are there, including the howitzer Thornlord, the undead-hating high-performance Silver Longbow, troll-hunters such as Serpentbranch and the Tortured Livewood Bow (of which I’m happy to see improved versions, snagging an Epic one for later), and perhaps an Elemental Longbow of Earth if Misty would care to part with hers. And long ago Pyn was constructing a Lightning II longbow but got only to tier 2 before losing the formula. Still, it’s still a superior weapon.

She’s enjoying a Frozen Tunic that stops some enemies cold quite conveniently. A Black Dragonscale Robe awaits her at level 14 to help with fortification bypass, with a White robe for improved defense. While I’m using a Greater Nimble Trinket to add Blur, I’m studying how badly I want some Bracers of Wind. The tier 2 level 15 version with Blurry, Dodge 6% and Air Guard would be sufficient–and only bound to account.

Some pre-augment slot Bracers of Deftness add Mobility for 2% more Dodge for now.

Some switching of gear added a Resistance +6 helm and some Striding 30% boots are now equipped, as well. Looks like I can trade collectables for some Greater Heroism potions with a House Jorasco trader for crunch times but use my Eternal Potion of Heroism during less stressful battles.

Zen Mastery to Level 20


 I do not have answers as yet to teach these acolytes on the ways of fighting against the most superior enemies rumored to exist on another world, and even other planes. This I have yet to encounter, myself. I do know that becoming a shadow may only achieve so much if your enemy is a shadow as well.

–Pynthetica


There are two feat slots left. Precision would make a very logical one to take for blowing by 25% fortification and boosting damage by 5%–it’s too good to pass up. The second slot depends on Pyn’s overall defense. She has enough INT to train Combat Expertise to gain a 10% AC boost, which can go to 30% if she moves to Ultimate Earth Stance. Of course, adding the Dodge feat itself would help its defense bonus by 3%.

But there’s also the kill-everything Manyshot that cannot be fully ignored since any archer may need to clear a room faster than TTS can do in a crisis. Given that Pyn’s defenses are designed to be superior than merely having higher AC, I’m clearly leaning to Manyshot, especially with the introduction of stupidly durable Champions. At the same time, Pyn is no slouch in stealth, and prefers to set up her kills, either sniping them away from long range or by forcing them into kill zones.

I don’t want to get into Epic talk just yet, except to say that Shadowdancer offers the best Ranged Power boost at +4 per core ability with more persistent miss-chance and ranged damage, yet Grandmaster of Flowers provides greater ki regeneration and monastic protections. Of course, Shiradi Champion has to be completed first since that was her initial active destiny in her first life as a Ranger.

And I’ve jinxed myself before. Let’s see what see happens.

Enough Talk, Show Us a Video!

I wanted to find a place where there are many archers that form a kill zone against anything that enters their domain to demonstrate Pyn’s zen mastery.

I found two such places. However, while the fortress of archers in “Chains of Flame” would make a more fitting example, time and allergies prohibited that demo. Instead, I went for the simplier quest. Watch Pyn take on the Firebrand gnolls in “Maraud the Mines.”

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Drow Kunoichi: Ryncletica Resharpened

Each of my Monks are being regroomed as I try to spread out their levels for helping others, but also for something different.

I’ve sent Syncletica, Flynncletica and Szyncletica into several Epic Normal runs of “Devil’s Assault” to gather Tokens of the Twelve for any reincarnation efforts.

I know who was my next TR target–my first dark Monk, Ryncletica, the kunoichi. But for months now I’ve been unsure how to position her. Too many ninjas? Hell, no, you can’t have too many! And if you do, how would you find them?

And then Update 23 came along to inspire several of us in the game–which caused me to go “screw that” to the Token farming for now and buy a Heroic Heart of Wood for getting the inspiration off the ground immediately.

Melee Powered Poison

This DDO thread notes how Venomed Blades, a poison stance granted to Drow and Assassins, gains a 200% boost to Melee Power, which augments attack damage.

What caught my eye is that there is also amplification to poison damage as well. Not just the damage of Venomed Blades, but the Sting of the Ninja effect as well, where Ninja Poison is injected on critical hits. Teacher Firewall, creator of the Shiradi Shuricannon build, confirms that the 1d8 poison damage of Venomed Blades amplifies with more Melee Power as well as the debuffing of Ninja Poison, ranged or in melee. The higher your Melee Power, the higher the damage.

With that, I was able to make a decision for Ryncletica’s third life. Go Drow, go Ninja Spy.

Now, I already have a Drow ninja: Szyncletica, the Shroud Beater. But she’s designed to use only shuriken. And, sadly, the Sting of the Ninja bug affects any poisoning done with all but a few Cannith-crafted stars, including Venomed Blades. (Firewall confirmed that ranged amplification works but using a star that isn’t bugged from using Sting of the Ninja.)

But melee attacks work perfectly with the poison.

Ryn4

I’M BATGIRL. Well, no. Her pointed ears are in the wrong place.

 

So, for your review, here is Ryncletica reborn, my very first ninja, now in her third life. Still in her kunoichi form (assault ninja), but more streamlined, I think.

As a Drow, she’ll gain not only Venomed Blades to accelerate melee and poison damage but gain improved damage with her shuriken and shortswords, her primary weapon.

The Shuriken Expertise free racial feat turns out to be quite handy with extra stars thrown per attack. Thanks to some tips from Szyncletica, Ryn can “switch-hit” quite well, using stars for remote damage and pulls. I need now to make kamas or shortswords that add any off-hand effects for special occasions.

Unlike her sister, Kiricletica, Ryn will stick to Two Weapon Fighting, preferring the off-hand procs (and the accumulating poison and stat damage it can apply) over attack speed.

Ryn benefits from the major schooling that Kiri showed me with the Freezing the Lifeblood and Pain Touch finishers. If I can’t paralyze it, I mute or blind it, even giants (although their higher Fortitude saves tend to shake it off a little faster).

I’m adding a little Sneak Attack damage as points allow, with No Mercy and Shadow Double as critical training goals. One ability I’ve tended to skip, Subtlety, might come in handy, reducing my Threat while making that quick takedown against scattered foes while in party.

But there’s more in store to differentiate her from Kiri and Szyn.

Adding More Spy to the Spymaster

Ryn is getting Harper Agent training to add some Melee Power for her swords and Ranged Power for when she uses shuriken. Drow Xen’drik Training will add to-hit competence bonuses to her weapons. DEX is the prime stat for all damage, with WIS very close behind to ensure that the finishers land and that Ryn has sufficient ki.

Unlike Kiri, who gains some Melee Power as a Single Weapon Fighter, Ryn has to add some through the Harper tree for now or gain no Melee Power at all in Heroic levels.

The inherent advantages of Drow, from stealth to attack skill, should compensate for the lower CON and HP of the Drow.

Ryn has a Phiarlan Mirror Cloak equipped for a modest Hide/Move Silently boost, and has trained in Shadow Veil for invisibility and incorporeality on-demand. Having never owned a Cloak of Shadows, I see some runs into “The Church and the Cult” to find that item for +10 Hide and Move Silently at level 9. Or, I could wait to get to level 11 and buy/farm tapestry pieces from the Orchard to make a Muffled Veneer for +11 Hide/Move Silently. (I prefer the newer Nightforge Gorget to add 100% fortification through level 14 as it also allows me to slot a Deathblock gem in my necklace.)

Ryn5As for Ninja Spy skills, Ryn is the second Ninja Spy I have to not train in the Touch of Death or Stunning Fist. The reasoning is that Ninja Poison with Melee Power should be a greater killer. Many things immune to negative energy or stuns aren’t immune to poison–and I’m able to deliver poison much faster than ToD hits or stuns.

I can rely quite well on Freezing the Lifeblood’s paralyze on many enemies. Those immune from paralyzing (duergar) are likely too resistant to a stun anyway–but not from getting muted by Pain Touch. Unarmed fighting won’t inject Ninja Poison anyway, so shortswords are the mandatory direction for this build.

Most critically, the Action Point costs to train three trees, Drow, Ninja Spy and Harper Agent will be very, very hard while also trying to cling to the Ninja Master level 20 joys of vorpalling everything.

It means I must spend 40 points in Ninja Spy, plus 1 for the last core, to vorpal. After that, I have only 39 points to spread elsewhere: 18 points required into Drow to unlock Venomed Blades and its three ranks, with the last 11 into Harper Agent or Ninja Spy’s other features.

By my calculations, Harper Agent adds +4 Melee/Ranged Power with +3 to my hireling’s abilities from a nearby ability, trained as a progression prerequisite since I must spend 2 AP to go to the next tier for one more point of Melee/Ranged power. Going Harper may not seem worth it.

But hey, these are all enhancement-based things. If being a Harper Agent becomes too gimpy, I’ll reset the tree and devote its points to my Drow/Ninja Spy trees or put a few points in the Mystic tree for more passive ki.

While only 4 points of Melee Power may not be awesome in Heroic, once back in Epic levels, Shadowdancer and Grandmaster of Flowers training, in addition to the new Epic Power feat, will add more melee power and so, more damage.

Skipping Stunning Fist lets me add the Ten Thousand Stars feat instead to boost thrown weapon damage. So far, with Shuriken Expertise, I’m seeing double and occasional triple hits of stars and can reliably take down targets at range.

The No Mercy enhancement adds up to 30% more damage to my poor paralyzed enemies–with Sneak Attack damage to go with that.

In short, Ryncletica is rebuilt for power takedowns, sacrificing defense and healing for massive poisoning, with a little sneak attack, ranged damage and helpless-based DPS.

Sounds more like a traditional ninja, don’tcha think? It’s too bad that the Ninja Mask cosmetic doesn’t cover Ryn’s pointed ears. Despite her training, she doesn’t look like Batgirl in the right way.

Poison Master Revisited

I groomed Kiricletica to be a good poisoner, but Ryn should be able to take it an order or two of magnitude with the amplified Venomed Blades.

I’m played with some Drow abilities. I trained in Faerie Fire, a spell-like ability that dispels Concealment and Hide effects. It’s not quite as strong as I’d like it to be as it requires CHA for its DC. My early tests of it didn’t even reveal some hidden kobolds in the Searing Heights wilderness, so I’ll likely reset the tree and put those points into more Xen’drik Weapon Training.

Ryn still wants to keep her theatricality, a natural thing to be as a ninja. Any clickies or abilities she can use are fair game. Ninja Spy tactics to escape are still on the board. I suspect that AP needed to upgrade Flash Bang and Poison Exploit  to their maximums will be there, even Sneak Attack–but I can’t max out those abilities and train ability score enhancements, too. Ryn is going to be all-talent, no boosts.

Ryn was my first stealth-heavy character, and is only going to be better at it with Update 19’s changes, fresh gear and the refinements to stealth tactics we’ve all learned (now compiled in the Stormreach Shadows guide, if you didn’t know).

Ryncletica is going to miss the versatility of her second life’s half-elven Cleric dilettante in terms of wands and scrolls, forcing her to pick her battles much more carefully then even Kiri did, having only healing potions and the occasional Wholeness of Body healing. That’s familiar territory for Ryn as she was Halfling in life #1. Ryn’s Drow skills do benefit more than as a Halfling, from sleep immunity, and similar Spot/Listen/Search bonuses, but with a more concentrated throwing advantage than even a Halfling.

Ki generation is the biggest challenge in the early levels. I’ve trained in all 3 ranks of Stealthy to gain its +1 to passive ki generation. But I doubt if I have enough AP to add 8 AP to the Henshin Mystic tree’s Contemplation for another passive point without skipping the whole Harper thing. And I’ve been down that road already in life #2.

I’ll have to do with Greater Ocean Stance’s second passive ki regeneration point at level 12 if I want the Harper side. Since Ryn does melee, she can kick on Fire Stance to generate a bunch of ki on attacks, then go into Sneak with higher WIS and Concentration to retain her cache. That’s been my current tactic.

As for weapons, Szyncletica helped out with some very quick runs into Heroic Three Barrel Cove to farm a Tiefling Assassin’s Blade. Kiri loaned out a +1 Poison Shortsword of Feeding to add to the fun. A second Tiefling blade wouldn’t hurt; Kiri still likes hers despite being twice as high in levels than Ryn. The CON damage, combined with Fists of Darkness’s debuffing and fortification damage, and the Precision stance active, makes for fast damage to most anything so far at her Level 8 status. I need some augment gems for my blades.

Even the Tiefling blades should do well for me for several levels, swapping out some pairs of  Vampiric Fury Shortswords, Vengeful Fury Shortswords (both stat-damaging weaponry types) and crafted Metalline of Pure Good swords for special times until I can re-equip a pair of the Happy-Dance of heroic shortswords, the poison-dripping Envenomed Blades at level 16. Lots of time in Gianthold to get some White Dragonscale Armor, too.

Ryncletica should be the summation of the experience of two other ninja–deadly at range, deadliest at point-blank range. She and Sukitetica the Assassin have more in common right now. Stay tuned.

Secret Harper Agent Man

Harper Assassin: A perfect and deadly combination.

Harper Assassin: A perfect and deadly combination.

Update 23 brought a fascinating addition to the enhancement tree: Harper Agent.

For those of you that don’t bother to read the flavor text of various Harper favor quests in the Forgotten Realms to gain an idea of who they are, here’s some info from one wiki, and more information from Wikipedia. Of course, DDO Wiki has a short summary.

For DDO purposes, the Harper Agent is the first enhancement tree that any character can access. In fact, your character is granted this tree automatically as a VIP, but requires a DDO Store purchase for others. (Reports are coming in that some players don’t see the tree: This is a Known Issue.)

Harpers are the Forgotten Realm’s counterpart to MI-6 or CIA or House Phiarlan: they’re spies. A good-aligned group, they investigate and infiltrate suspicious groups throughout the land, seeking any information they can use to counteract and defeat those who try to subjugate or eliminate the good people of Faerun.

The Harpers we see in Eveningstar are quite busy in several theaters of operation. You’ll first encounter them as they deal with a caustic infection and a maddened druid in “The Druid’s Deep” quest chain. Shortly after, the Harpers are fending off the Netherese on three fronts: A race to collect pieces of a dangerous and ancient Netherese scroll in “The High Road” adventures, dismantling a Netherese outpost embedding itself in the Wheloon Prison, and rescuing Oriphaun Huntsilver while also stopping a powerful Netherese army in the Storm Horns.

Odds Are You Won’t Live to See Tomorrow

The Harper Agent tree appears more suited for Intelligence and magic users.Your precious Action Points will be strained to use much of what this tree offers while also keeping your class tree abilities strong–and that’s what the developers appear to want you to do. The Harper is a class to itself. Harpers are spies first with a strong Minor in Asskicking second.

Each Core Ability increases Universal Spellpower, your to-hit against Evil creatures, and/or your DEX, CHA or INT ability scores.Tier 1 abilities improve general Rogue/spymaster skills of Listen, Search and Spot, toughens you up with innate Energy resistance and HP, and adds the first of two Strategic Combat abilities. The first lets you use your INT modifier as your to-hit with melee and ranged weapons. You can improve this ability in Tier 3 to use your INT modifier for your attack damage rolls. This ability alone is going to be positively exploited by Rogue Assassins, whose INT is used for many of the skills, including Assassinate. Pumping up only INT is a godsend for damage and DCs as both Rogue and Assassin.

Spell power and spell point boosts come throughout, as well as Melee Power and Ranged Power boosts. New to the game, not all classes gain any of these new augmentations to attack damage except, perhaps later, as Epic characters. The Harper Agent can add more to the Heroic character.

As for Monks, there’s less there to consider except for, perhaps, the Arcane Archer or half-elves. Increases to melee power, spell and hit points and spell power might be great for my Pynthetica, the Zen Archer. The Ranged Power boosts alone might compensate for the lesser overall damage she deals, being neither a “monkcher” or Ranger. But my Action Points are spread all over already. It’s going to be hard to accommodate the new tree.

Given You Some Numbers, But Take Away Your Name

The Harper Agent is all about higher numbers. More ability points. More spell power, melee and ranged power. Ultimately, magic users gain more versatility as they can reduce their dependency on material spell components and add the Extend Spell feat as an enhancement through the tree, freeing up a feat slot. By level 12 training, your weapons can gain Deception effects or Righteousness (good-aligned) or you can add 10 stacking Harper bonus spell power.

But as I noted, the more you train as a Harper, the less potent you may become in your traditional class.

But for most DDO players, multiclassing is commonplace. The Harper Agent simply allows additional diversity but at a cost to some of your identity. I noted how Assassins will eat this up (I’m strongly considering how to add this to Sukitetica). Wizards can gain some serious powers, as well as Bards, the natural traditional class that might mate best with the tree.

If you find that your traditional class tree’s Tier 5 offerings are lackluster and your racial options even less appealing, then the Harper Agent might bring a refreshing and powerful change to your build.