The Shintao Guardian

portrait-lynncletica1Hi, all.

In real-life news, I just received a job offer. No more potential as a real-life mendicant. That news lets me relax just a little before my job prep to get a long-requested build to you.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been using Lynncletica, my Little Mountain Shintao Monk, as a very successful and potent tank in nearly 35 Deathwyrm runs (all difficulties) and several other raids.

In Legendary Hound of Xoriat, Lynncletica easily held aggro on Zyzzy and her puplings with Ki Shout and an effective 105 Intimidate in an Legendary Normal run. She was doing fine in Legendary Hard but has yet to complete. That’s a tough challenge even with a prepared party with great coordination, and you don’t win raids alone.

So what makes her special? Not too much. It’s time to share that.

  • Fortification: Unyielding Sentinel is the central tanking destiny. With a +70 Insightful Fortification helm, Brace for Impact, and the Outfit of the Celestial Guardian, Lynn sits at 286% to 315% Fortification.
  • Miss-chance: 27% Dodge, 10% Incorporeal with an item, 20-25% Concealment. All with gear but Blur can be done through the Wind/Light/Wind Monk finishing move.
  • AC: Improved Combat Expertise, Combat Expertise, Ultimate Earth Stance and other gear for around 138 to 158 AC based on buffs and gear.
  • PRR: 158 to 180. This really absorbs a lot of damage combined with the usual Monk abilities in effect.
  • HP: Around 1200-1400. She can take several hits without flinching.
  • Healing amplification: 180-270. Typical 180 when tanking to maximize defense. Can use Healing Ki for 400+ HP heal every 10 seconds. Rejuvenation Cocoon also improved. These numbers make for 400-600 HP from a Cure Light Wounds spell.
  • Concentration skill: 101-105. Ki Shout makes this the Intimidation skill with solid aggro and threat generation from Earth Stance and Unyielding Sentinel. What’s mine stays mine.

Lynn’s gear at level 30 isn’t particularly special. Her design leverages more STR (2:1 ratio). at 50 STR to 24 DEX to optimize damage but gain some Reflex saves and AC. Feats that add PRR or damage absorption improve durability in fights. With a bit of juggling of special buffs and gear, Lynn can briefly reach 75 STR needed for levers in Legendary Elite Tempest’s Spine.

CON is the highest stat at 55 base, as Monks gain only 75% HP per level as others. But this works well as high CON and Insightful CON items are worn.

For Epic feats, I chose Guardian Angel, Elusive Target and Epic Damage Reduction to soak or avoid additional damage. Dire Charge helps offensively for aggro control. The Legendary feat I chose was Scion of Limbo. Monks are used to one-minute buffs, and the many variations possible were all positive ones, either augmenting defense or offensive regularly without me having to do anything. You could also consider other Legendary feats to give a fixed defensive or offensive bonus.

With handwraps such as Storm’s Harness, Epic Scraps of Enlightenment and now some Complete Thunder-Forged Handwraps with Mortal Fear, Lynn’s innate metal-bypass has no problem hurting what she needs to hurt and well. Stunning Fist is available with a high WIS item switch-out, bringing the ability to a useable level, boosting AC a bit. However, raids rarely allow you to stun much.

The general gear list includes things that primarily enhance defense. These items may be merged or adjusted using Cannith Crafting or other items.

I didn’t add the Twists to the build. I strongly recommend Rejuvenation Cocoon and Brace for Impact (If not in Unyielding Sentinel) no matter what else you select. Enlightenment from Grandmaster of Flowers is good. Also, Standing with Stone for more stacking PRR while in Earth Stance. Improved Combat Expertise from Legendary Dreadnaught adds more PRR.

Like many builds, there’s much flexibility in what you take, just as long you don’t remove much of the special damage reduction or HP benefits. Adjusting WIS and DEX to lower levels will impact AC and saves. Naturally, use Yugoloth favor potions and DDO Store elixirs for added power.

Attached is a PDF file of the build. (WordPress has limitations for what I can upload.) Open the file using Adobe Reader or other PDF reader, copy the text and paste it into a text editor such as Notepad and save it as ShintaoGuardian.txt. You should be able to import the text file directly in Character Builder Lite to adjust as you see fit.

Shintao-Guardian

 

Mystical Return

I’ve been pretty gloomy-gus about some of the changes to the Monk enhancements lately. I don’t want people to misinterpret my criticisms as a “DOO00M!!!1” or anti-Turbine skeed, however.

You play a game for its positive effect on you. It may be of little surprise that I didn’t want to play all that much on that day when the handwraps were made into weapons.

The problem is still serious enough to keep discussing what to do about it, short- or long-term. So, several monastics in my dojo prayed and contemplated.

Creeping Death of Your Handwraps

I was in a party last night on Legendary Elite in “Creeping Death.” Yeah, the quest with lots and lots and lots of oozes. I joined one Shintao Monk in the fight. He had virtually destroyed over 4 sets of handwraps before the quest was over. Because these oozes were around CR60-ish, removing his wraps and effecting any damage worth a damn wasn’t an option.

Since the update, I have been grinding every bit of loot I could to make Cannith Essences to work on boosting my crafting levels. Today, at level 233, with a 35% crafting booster, I reached a 75% chance to craft what I needed: an Everbright shard. I could only make minimum level 25 shards safely, but this balances out the weapon for earlier use.

I love the new crafting system, by the way. It’s inherently more expensive than its predecessor, but the process saves a lot of calculations and makes the process much more understandable. Since items are bound to account, you don’t have that nagging worry of forgetting something that could craft items for a character that won’t use that item.The variations, damage, or effects you have available are also striking.

Speaking of striking, here is the result I made for Lynncletica.

everbrightwraps

However, I have spent dozens of hours in the crafting hall to reach a level where I could make Everbright shards. New Monks won’t be so fortunate.

GamerGeoff acknowledged that the change is more true to lore as well as game mechanics. He suggested that Monks do what other classes do against oozes: Wield a Muckbane.

I vetoed the thought in a reply, but, just in case, I checked. The Ninja Spy’s update included making any weapon you could wield as gaining DEX-to-Damage. So I borrowed my only Muckbane from my Rogue for Ryncletica the Poison Master to hold as a test.

The test failed. While Monks have weapon proficiency in clubs, the Muckbane uncenters her. We lose all our monastic powers.

So the secondary options are (1) fight completely unarmed, removing handwraps or (2) use another weapon, and carry more handwraps or other weapons as they break to the oozes and rust monsters.

I neglected to say what Monk I brought into the “Creeping Death” run.

My Henshin Mystic, Quintessica, has returned to active status.

Some Light in the Shadow

Quintessica was first built back during the older enhancement format, before the trees. She was designed to wield all four elemental stances. During that time, it was very costly to master all the stances, but I was in an “Avatar: The Last Airbender” mood, and she was fun to play.

With the new enhancement trees, everyone got the complete stances. Quintessica became one of the new Henshin Mystics and collected a boatload of quarterstaves.

While initially interesting to play, the lack of defense and speed slowed and soon stopped my enjoyment of Quintessica as she reached epic play. She’s been sitting at level 23 for over two years before she came out of retirement last night.

In the ooze-filled dungeon of “Creeping Death.” A level 23 character in a level 33 quest.

Wielding a Dreamspitter.

Dreamspitter.jpg

It’s not the most optimal Epic quarterstaff that’s immune to rust or ooze damage (that’s her sister staff from “The Fall of Truth,” the Dreampiercer). But it did the job.

More interesting was how Quintessica functioned in fighting. With a weaker weapon I didn’t expect much. I didn’t expect her to survive at all, really, because she hasn’t Rejuvenation Cocoon available yet, so ki and potion healing was all that she had as things tried to kill her

But after beating up a bit of ooze rather decently, I looked at Quinn’s character sheet.

Her base melee power was 102.

That’s an insane level of power boost for level 23.

I also took Cleave, Great Cleave and Whirlwind Attack. She sits inside her Cauldron of Flame circle and spams each one almost continually.

And after ensuring my party had Death Ward, I kept using Every Light Casts a Shadow to cause additional negative levels on top of any that the Dreamspitter (the original “woo-woo stick”) added.

Quintessica has the same problem as other Monks in terms of serious weapon damage against oozes in her next life’s early days until she can wield that crystal staff. I did scrounge up an old level 8 Everbright staff I saved for her to use a little later.

Quinn is woefully under-geared and under-trained. So, from what I’ve seen last night, I think she needs a bit of time out to see what she can really do with the new tree updates, as well as level and gear up a bit. Based on several great reports from Teacher Vladrich on the Mystic, I’m feeling a little encouraged about things.

 

 

Keeping Shadow at Bay

Hours after the last post on preparing for Lynncletica’s first epic raid tanking, I remembered at the last minute that a raid was scheduled that same day.

I made the decision to move the Little Mountain to hold back the Sibilant Shade, Aurgoloroasa, in “Temple of the Deathwyrm.”

The most-excellent raid group, formed from several different guilds, met for their twice-weekly run into Thunderholme. To survive trying to tank the dragon, I needed one thing: Level 27. With sufficient work on my destinies that wouldn’t jeopardize future XP too much, I leveled up, added Epic Damage Reduction for 10 PRR more, and pulled the level 27 Guardian’s Cloak from my reincarnation cache for desperately-needed DR against slash and pierce damage.

In Unyielding Sentinel destiny, I checked my gear and looked at my twists. With 3 fate points available, I upgraded the second slot and added Fury of the Wild’s Damage Reduction for 6 PRR more.

I hoped to wear the Epic Mentau’s Goggles for Ghostly through the raid. However. the dragon’s occasionally deadly breath attack debuffs Death Ward, leaving you vulnerable to excessive negative energy damage without Deathblock. Unable to upgrade a slot in time for the raid for an inexpensive yellow augment, it was back to wearing some Green Steel goggles I’ve trusted for this.

The raid was smooth and uneventful and fast as we made our way to the top, fortunately avoiding the taxing Jump and Red Light/Green Light intermediate rooms for the Trap and Tower Combat rooms.

Then the moment of truth came. I checked both my Intimidate and Concentration skills. Ki Shout would be my more dominant intimidate but I added the Intimidate button to my toolbar just in case. I learned later, not surprisingly, that they share cooldowns like Ten Thousand Stars and Manyshot.

With a quick check of my defense/healing gear, off I went.

lynn-dw1.jpg

My plan was simple and similar to any tanks before me: Intimidate by either skill and keep striking the dragon. As a Monk, I wanted to build ki for Healing Ki when needed, use Rejuvenation Cocoon if Healing Ki becomes interrupted. In short, I’m continually healing as I fight, so as not to require a dedicated healer.

Things have gotten wild in other DW runs, especially if the tank loses control or the crowd controlling party that manages the Kuldjarghs and respawns become overwhelmed. I needed to be as self-sufficient as possible, and Lynn’s training and gear did not disappoint. Thankfully, Aurgoloroasa hasn’t any other special attacks, and as a Shintao Monk, I had a few special protections to help against undead even as powerful as her.

I would like to see if the Shock and Awe effect that dragons throw out can be offset by the Monk’s anti-stun finisher, Grasp the Earth Dragon. I hadn’t time to throw a buff for it at the time. (A later run showed that the buff is ineffective.) Shock and Awe slowed me most of time, naturally, since this is a big freakin’ angry undead shadow dragon.

One thing I learned quickly to do once the dragon started knocking me down (Stand Against the Tide’s secondary ability that prevents knockdown, Steadfast, doesn’t work against all knockdown types) was first to move to Unbreakable stance for PRR and then do something Monks don’t think of doing often: Block.

lynn-dw2.jpg

Even without a shield, a simple block seemed to prohibit knockdown (although the wiki does not note this), wards off some attack types and, thus reduce the damage I received. Once I had my HP restored, I turtled up for a bit, struck to gain back some ki, and blocked again.

Once or twice, the dragon’s successive attacks knocked me down and left me with just one-quarter health. The feat Guardian Angel kicked on for emergency PRR but I hadn’t time to look at that, of course. A single quick Cocoon restored my HP bar, thanks to 220 healing amplification. The healing curse also pulled 4 or 8 HP per strike.

The secondary worry was losing aggro. This was an accomplished raid team that knew when to attack the dragon to lower her HP in order for her to spawn Shadows to kill for portals used to enter the shadow side for phylactery destruction. But too much damage by the group and I could lose the dragon’s attention. Thankfully my threat level was sufficient. Only once did I need to rein her back in.

The great thing was that I tanked it well, defended well against the damage, healed myself most of the time, and could move her around enough to help complete the raid.

Now, the group decided just for Epic Hard that night, having suffered a brutal Epic Elite completion days before due to game issues.

Tanking was most triumphant.

A few days later we tried Elite “Fire on Thunder Peak.” I was tanking the “fat” dragon quite well. Things, however, went very pear-shaped after the two purple-named magma elementals were killed. Our teams were in poor alignment for more trash and the dragon’s attacks increased (as expected), leaving me more vulnerable. We abandoned our Epic Elite run and returned to curb-stomp things on Hard.

But, in my opinion, no more vulnerable than any other tank. I’ve seen heavily armored guys die easier than I did.  As a Shintao, my general defenses are good, and I have room for a bit more with some item farming and creative use of twists. Lesser Displacement. Another 30 PRR. Healing amp so strong I can heal 600 HP with Healing Ki.

Since then, Lynncletica has reached level 30, choosing Elusive TargetOverwhelming Critical and Dire Charge to complete the feats to 29. For the Legendary feat, I chose something new for me: Scion of Limbo. I’m used to one-minute buffs. The advantage here is that Limbo costs me nothing to use and works passively. I can time tactics as buff messages appear.

Filling in some epic destinies for 4 more fate points for twisting Sense Weakness. Not that Lynn has been hurting for damage. At around 50 STR and using the incredible burst damage of the Storm’s Harness handwraps, Lynn has begun to solo Epic Elites to work on her 5,000 favor. Her stunning work is also very strong there: As high as 80 DC for Dire Charge and a 68-70 DC for Stunning Fist. More than sufficient to stun Champion orange-names most times.

For those DCs, I wear level 30 Severlin’s Leaden Boots, a Legendary Animated Rope for +14 Combat Mastery (Enhancement bonus), some Insightful Combat Mastery +6 gloves, and Legendary Tactics from Legendary Dreadnought as a twist. I wear some Wisdom +14 goggles but haven’t any Insightful WIS items equipped just yet. The Storm’s Harness wraps add a +4 Quality Stunning bonus, too. My WIS is rarely above 40. Dire Charge uses your highest ability score, which is either STR or CON, both often in the 50s.

If I’m going to continue tanking shadow dragons, however, I need the negative energy absorbing powers of the Belt of Thoughtful Remembrance. I should have one, but farming for it shouldn’t be too hard.

Update 33 Testing

The DDO forums are abuzz with player comments and a few replies from the devs on the expected changes.

Given the magnitude of changes, and with a little encouragement from Cordovan, I’ve decided to join in the testing of U33 once it’s live on Lammania.

It’s amazing to me how some much criticism has been generated. I find it amazing because historically, the many functions of the Monk, certainly the most complex of the melee class, don’t seem to be used by many players I’ve seen in my circle. Everyone has a right to comment and aid in the development. I wish I knew more players that seem to actually use the enhancements and feats, attack and defense benefits at the level I’ve tried. Trying and using everything in the class is what my guide and gaming practice is all about.

Not that I’m omniscient to know the hearts and techniques of all players, of course. I’m always concerned how some players miss out on the tactical elements of the class, and think that more attack power or defense is simply the way to go.

But again, I’m oversimplifying other’s motives. I guess I don’t see any serious deficiencies in the class (save the Mystic’s defense and attack speed) that can’t be compensated by strategy.

Since the Book of Syncletica is going to need some significant changes on the update’s release, getting ahead on how the changes work will help update the guide that much sooner.

Can’t wait to begin.

Monastic Tanking

portrait-lynncletica1

I’ve been enjoying opportunities to run many raids, some I’ve rarely or never run before, such as “The Mark of Death” and “The Master Artificer.” I think, now, that the only raid I have never participated (primarily because of my disdain of the quest series needed to gather sigil, shield and frame ingredients) is “Accursed Ascension.”

But “Mark of Death” isn’t my favorite raid, anyway, so I’m sure “Ascension” won’t be a loss. I’ll still try to flag for it when an opportunity arises.

Ninety nine percent of my raids are as a DPS character, be it with the fortification-bypassing steady-hitting archery of Pynthetica, the crowd-controlling mass-destruction from the bow of Paracleta, or the poisonous shortsword damage of Ryncletica.

But one matter is common in many raids. The need for a tank, a character that can keep a central boss target busy while the rest of the party can remove trash and complete other related objectives necessary to eventually slay said bosses. Surprisingly, I’ve watched many a non-Fighter or non-Paladin accomplish this role in the Thunderholme raids.

I’ve mentioned, long ago, my work to align Lynncletica to become a tank. Nearing level 20, I’m closer to beginning my work to help out in epic raids.

But I know the character’s behavior in gameplay is just as important as the build to ensure that enemies pay attention to you and not the rest of the party.

The general article on the Tank on the DDO Wiki was helpful.

According to the article, a tank has to have central characteristics to be successful:

  • Health
  • Healing amplification
  • Armor Class
  • Saves
  • Damage Reduction
  • Intimidation (active and passive)
  • Balance
  • Weapons and items that increase Threat
  • Enhancements and other boosts

Health

Lynn’s HP gain per level as a Monk is only 75% of other melee tanks, requiring me to take the Toughness feat a few times and take Constitution enhancements from enhancements or Epic Destinies anywhere I can. My goal is to get Lynn to at least 1,000 HP this time around. That may seem low for a tank but as a Monk, Lynn has some special damage reduction abilities that others haven’t, such as miss-chance effects.

Unyielding Sentinel will likely be the default epic destiny, aiding not only in HP but threat and protection.

Damage Absorption

With recent changes, Lynn’s epic PRR should reach 100 or above. I was able to get Pynthetica’s PRR between 60 to 80 PRR with gear as an archer, so a Monk designed to tank should be able to improve that number. Like the miss-chance effects on Pyn, I have a lot of studying ahead of me to stack all available sources.

Healing amplification

At level 19, with a Shamanic Fetish in place, all Improved Recovery enhancements trained and with only one core enhancement left in the Shintao tree, Lynn’s Healing Ki can restore as much as 200 HP every 10 seconds. At around 490 HP, that’s helpful. This will improve with buffs and an epic Shamanic Fetish later in epic play. Healing amp gear also will play important roles, even items to add to my cross-class Heal skill.

Lynn might see 250-300 HP bursts from Healing Ki, with healing shield vampiric HP of 6-8 HP per strike probable. Self-healing is Lynn’s strongest quality.

Armor Class

Lynn’s AC is aided by Combat Expertise and the Monk’s Grandmaster of Mountains stance to boost total AC by 30%. All I must do I maximize the numbers through items to get that bonus. Around 150 to 200 AC is a suitable goal, but this will require a lot of item juggling and augment gems to boost Deflection and Natural Armor bonuses. Lynn’s DEX is lower so items to boost it and WIS for more AC will be critical.

Monks can’t use shields. But I can gain Shield bonuses from one item: A Flawless White Dragonscale Robe. I have a Flawless White helm, too, to get the HP artifact bonus. This set may be helpful over Shadowscale outfits until I can equip the Outfit of the Celestial Guardian, still the best armor I think you can find for any Monk by level 28.

Saves

Lynn’s saves are better than many tanks but weaker in one area, and that’s Reflex. Thankfully, perhaps a +5 or +6 tome in combination with enhancements to get DEX and its Reflex save higher. Fortitude and Will saves will be superior, thanks to high STR and WIS.

Damage Reduction

I mentioned improving Lynn’s miss-chance numbers to help avoid damage. Monks gain DR 20/Epic at level 20. The epic Guardian’s Cloak from Wheloon is a popular item I use on all my epic characters, with additional DR help.

Intimidate

So I’ve practiced my protection skills against charging mobs using weaker-than-normal hirelings, clerics, typically. The central ability is Ki Shout, an Intimidate-like ability that uses a Shintao Monk’s Concentration skill as the Intimidate number.

Ki Shout works quite well and I’m able to keep my clerics from getting slaughtered despite the light spells they spam to tick off enemies.

But there’s also the passive Threat generation needed. Grandmaster of Mountains adds 200% additional Threat. I’m currently wearing the Fabricator’s Bracers with its sister gauntlets for 20% more. Epic destinies can help here later as I grow.

Balance

Lynn has a high Balance to get her back on her feet if knocked down. Items can help here as required. Again, Unyielding Sentinel could help here with Standing Against the Tide core destinies and supporting effects. To mitigate damage if knocked down is the Shintao enhancement Instinctive Defense to ward off up to 25% damage if helpless. Blocking while down is important, too.

Weapons

Handwraps are Lynncletica’s central weapon but she holds on to some Metalline aligned kamas to add slashing damage, as well as a Snowstar to lure enemies closer. I’m looking forward to using some of the recent new wraps such as Storm’s Harness.

Gameplay

Tanking only works when a party wants one around. Some parties will have players that just zerg ahead and gather aggro like there’s no tomorrow. By the time you’re able to aid in rescue, the player has either zapped most of what would have killed him or has died.

Or I’ll aggro a group and find out I’m over my head. Most of the time, Lynn holds to her Little Mountain title, enduring and outlasting many enemies. But champions and Legendary levels are game-changing. I’m totally pessimistic that even a fully-trained and equipped Lynncletica will survive a sword blow from Sor’jek atop the mountain summit in Legendary Tempest’s Spine, after I’ve watched so many others that have died to that attack.

But maybe others have missed something. Maybe I’ll find that something.

Netheril Here Nor There

Walking into Mordor: Not recommended without the monastic art.

Walking into Mordor: Not recommended without the monastic arts.

“Hi. My name is Syn, and I’m an alti-holic.”

(Hi, Syn!)

Since time is very limited for me with concentrating on a number of real-life tasks, I’m going to steer the blog back to its primary focus: The Monk class and what can be done with them. I will get back to the adventurers of Ranger Artemistika, Assassin Sukitetica and Swashbuckler Flynncletica soon. These characters not only round out my work in defining the sneak-happy classes to better document the Stormreach Shadows stealth guide, but are damned fun to play under the right conditions, especially Misty.

By “right conditions,” I mean that they tend to die a lot easier than the weakest of my Monks when in the wrong conditions.

I’ve actually missed being able to dance through the deadliest traps in the game like a drunken elf prancing through a meadow of flowers in springtime. It’s been a bit since I can stare down any enemy that tries something as mundane as a Fear spell or since I could take several Meteor Swarms to the face without issue and return the favor in a flurry of elemental strikes.

For even my most versatile non-Monk characters, one does not simply walk into Mordor. And DDO presents a lot of “Mordors” for unwitting players to enter unprepared.

But for my best Monks, they sometimes make a habit of daily runs into the Mordor de jour, punching and kicking and puncturing and poisoning seven shades of piss out of anything in their way.

This blog is primarily about Monks, so when time is at a crunch, that’s where the focus must be.

Let’s catch up on Ryncletica, the Poison Master and a little bit on Lynncletica, the Little Mountain tanker.

My Favorite Enemy

The Netherese have had a special place in my gamer heart since my old Neverwinter Nights days in trying to stop some loony from reactivating old Netheril magitek. My appreciation of the DDO Netherese is quite happy with three adventure chains: “The High Road” (get back a Nether Scroll), “Wheloon Prison” (get back yet another Nether Scroll) and the super-epic Storm Horns adventures, which left Szyncletica in awe.

Yet, I’ve not completed any of these adventures as often as I’d like, and so Ryncletica is starting to work on this. She’s completed all of her missions in the prison-turned Netherese outpost, and is after the Shade leader in “Through a Mirror Darkly.”

Ryncletica sits on level 16 now with increasingly strong DPS and durability that allow solo Elite missions most of the time. I could use a bit more DEX for damage/to-hit. I’m being cautious and only putting her through Hard difficulties as I make a more thorough study of each quest before returning to them on Elite difficulty. I’ve also desired to complete the Explorer locations in this forsaken place.

None of the Wheloon Prison quests allow for complete stealth. “Friends in Low Places” is all-combat, as is “A Lesson in Deception” and especially “Thrill of the Hunt” and those irritating Howlers. “Army of Shadow” does allow a bit of stealth ops to bypass or control much of the fighting.

Remembering long-ago travels in the overshadowed Oldstone Hall, I hoped to use shadow against shadow with Ryncletica’s strong ninja powers.

The many Shadow creatures that appear often don’t if you are stealthy enough, which helped a bit while making my way through “Thrill” and “Army.”

Ryncletica’s now able to use two Envenomed Blades, but chooses to hold only one of those blades in the main hand and her trust Tiefling Assassin’s Blade in the off-hand. The Wounding effect weakens from it while the advanced Poison and paralysis of the Envenomed Blade make a potent two-handed attack posture. Two Envenomed Blades weren’t bad but, lacking the Wounding effect reduces the chance for better use of the dark finishing moves.

She’s also trained Shadow Double for a doublestrike DPS burst for tougher enemies, and Quivering Palm makes for quick-kills as I make my way through otherwise-empty halls.

A Build Change for Ryn

I abandoned the use of the Harper tree to build up melee power for now. The AP cost didn’t reflect any significant advantages in damage at this time. Further, that AP has helped both Drow and Ninja Spy trees to boost their damage or defenses. Ambidexterity from the Drow tree, or Sneak Attack or completing the Ninjutsu training (right up to Touch of Death) is back on the table.

I’ll certainly revisit melee power boosts as Ryn returns to Epic levels, specifically with Shadowdancer and Epic leveling’s boosts to melee power. She’ll need to get Primal Avatar trained enough for Rejuvenation Cocoon for greater healing options.

In Oldstone Hall

The mission went pretty well. With one hireling, the lovely-rendered Favored Soul Althea as passive backup and parked for 90% of the mission, I sneaked through the light and dark sides of the hall. The narrow halls made it a challenge to avoid what few patrols existed. Despite this, I was able to obtain two or three of the orbs without combat by way of ninja stealth.

On the final fight, I took a tip from the wiki: Don’t follow the shade continually back and forth from the light and dark sides. I concentrated on delivering Ninja Poison DoTs on the boss, which left him still taking damage while he phased out and I concentrated on mopping up any Shadar-Kai or other minions that materialized.

As a quest chain, I enjoy Wheloon Prison, but it is probably my least favorite of the three Netherese missions. The High Road quests take second (I love its wilderness and the respawn rate that can let you hunt there for hours), but the Storm Horns remain the pinnacle of the Netherese missions and, in my opinion, the most beautiful and well-designed and story-immersive story lines in the game. I’m looking forward to getting Ryn to the Storm Horns, but not without a party. You don’t solo those quests without a lot of firepower.

Lynncletica’s Heeljing

I couldn’t end this quick post without geeking out about Update 24’s adjustment in healing amplification.

No one appears to be complaining a bit on the forums with the change. The new formula has dramatically improved the vampiric healing of Fists of Light for Lynn. In Earth Stance with the Jidz-Tet’ka bracers on (no amp in that stance) and with 3 Shintao cores, I’m seeing 2-4 HP per strike. Kick on Fire Stance and it jumps to 2-6, if not more.

Lynn needs the new format. I’ve been pushing her through early quests on Elite. Like her first life, early levels are a bloody mess for her, easily taking punishing damage with weak saves for what miss-chance effects are up for her. At level 9, Lynn is fit and fighting but has to manage aggro oh so carefully.

The Ascetic Guardian

My posts have been filled with pleasant diversion from the blog’s focus.

Shuricannons.

Shortsword wielding ninjas.

Even Bard Swashbucklers.

Whatever happened to good ol’ fisticuffs?

Well, rejoice, Dear Heart, as now we return to those thrilling days of not-so-yesteryear of the thrice-new adventures of Lynncletica, the Little Mountain.

More sword than shield, Lynn's defenses will increase. But her attire befits that of a hermit until she is truly worthy to be a guardian.

More shield than sword, Lynn’s defenses will increase. But her attire befits that of a hermit until she is truly worthy to be a guardian.

With a third life, Lynn is not so little. Her larger physique granted by the third reincarnation makes her appear Amazonian, compared to others about the dojo.

Lynncletica returns as a Shintao Monk once more, leaving the role of the dojo’s Epic leader to Szyncletica for now. This time, Lynn is able to take full advantage of the Shintao training, which favors the Earth Stance for defense and power.

Of course, Lynn can never keep up with the Joneses in Boston, Mass., where their role as DDO’s developers continually tweak or change the curve of reality. Now comes Update 23, which will add a new mechanic for more melee and ranged damage: melee power.

The idea has many critics. Sir Geoff of Hanna has fired an early salvo of scorn about it. And I must admit to being darned confused about the notion.

I have read, in as much as time allowed, the expected updates to improve player defenses, especially against Epic characters. It would be nice not to get one-shotted by a minion. Four or five, maybe, if you’re not prepared. But the guys in heavy armor wear heavy armor and shields for a reason. It should take quite a lot of punishment for their characters to die.

What they need is something that scales with Epic damage bypassing, so the devs “Armor Up” threads had discussed adjustments with PRR and introduction of yet another mitigation ability, Magic Resistance Rating.

I find that welcome…but don’t we already have Spell Resistance for countering effects of certain spells? I believe I read that MRR aids against offensive spells, which makes a little sense with a sword-and-board against a powerful mage. But here, we come perilously close to that balance of mage versus melee where, all things being equal, mages lose. That’s why magic is what it is.

Peak Performance, Part Deux

Lynn’s return to Heroic continues my goal to get more of my characters to early levels to assist others. I’d also like Lynn, now gaining experience much slower, to help with Evennote’s great initiative, Players Helping Players, by helping her eventual avatar appearance on my server.

For now, I’m working to get Lynn to level 5. She appears for now  in some Ragged Rags as a mark of monastic asceticism, helping me to remember and appreciate the foundation of the unarmed Monk. Unless required or invited into party, Lynn enters on Elite without hireling support to help me train in defense and attack.

I’m particularly keen on preparing her for using Ki Shout. It’s an Intimidate effect that uses the Concentration score rather than Intimidate, a cross-class skill for Monks. I want to draw attention. I want the enemies to see only me, to fight me.

That sounds a little suicidal for a Monk, but here me out.

Log Horizon Revisited: The Guardian Motif

This fearless (or foolhardy) desire to serve more in the tanking role is certainly spinning off from my Log Horizon appreciation. This anime, where a D&D-styled game has become an alternate reality where the players live in that world as people based on their characters, has clear roles of battle tactics that serve the protagonists very well.

The first three main characters you see are an Enchanter (a Wizard-like character whose role is to augment his party member’s attack and defense) a Guardian (a heavy-armored fighter who intentionally tanks, that is, attracts all enemies to him to bear the brunt of the fighting while others in the party coordinate attacks) and an Assassin (which does as the name says) with ninja-like stealth skills.

Guardian: Taunter and Tanker Extraordinaire.

Guardian: Taunter and Tanker Extraordinaire.

I don’t quite have an Enchanter character, but Flynncletica the Bard comes a little closer to it. Kiricletica (despite the homage of her name to a Sword Art Online protagonist) is more like an Assassin with her Ninja Spy skills, so there’s a spot for a Guardian, and Lynn can fill that.

The second episode of the first series (a second series arrives this Fall) shows our Enchanter, Shiroe, and Guardian, Naotsugu, about to be ambushed by a player-killer group of at least 4 people. just nearby a large woods in a small glade at night. The enemy party consists of at least two Rogue-like people, a Fighter and a healer class.

What these four poor bastards don’t realize is that Shiroe and Naotsugu are perfect at their roles, trusting in each other’s abilities implicitly from their days as part of their game’s Ultimate Static Group, a non-guild renowned for their prowess in completing raids that even high-level guilds struggled to do.

I’d invite you to watch the episode, for free, online at Crunchyroll. The action scene is barely 10 minutes, about 5 minutes into the episode. But let me summarize how two players began to completely mop the floor with these four players in an excellent demonstration of teamwork. This show illustrates great RPG strategies we’re forgetting on DDO.

  1. Shiroe, the Enchanter, is seen casting a passive spell (but not announcing what he’s doing) as Naotsugu leaps in to gather aggro on the three attackers, their healer apparently staying behind the fray for support.
  2. As his maul-wielding fighter beats on Naotsugu,the enemy leader orders a nimble roguish attacker, using two chakrams, to attack Shiroe. Just as she leaps at him, Shiroe slows her down with Astral Bind, a rooting spell.
  3. Realizing a new problem, the enemy leader tells the chakram-wielder to switch places so he can attack Shiroe.
  4. Naotsugu notices the aggro change (and Shiroe trusts that he does) and performs “Anchor Howl”, a super-intimidate AoE effect that compels all in range to attack him alone. If anyone tries to ignore Naotsugu, he can make a nasty counterattack.
  5. With all three attackers now on Naotsugu, Shiroe realizes that the Guardian can only take that much attention for so long before his HP is gone. First, he casts what seems to the enemies as a worthless spell that throws floating lights around the enemy’s heads.
  6. Shiroe next targets the enemy fighter and casts “Thorn Bind Hostage”, a rooting spell that creates nasty magic thorns around a target that also roots them in place.
  7. Naotsugu strikes the thorns around the maul-wielder, causing him to lose half of his HP immediately. Surprised, the enemy leader calls out for the healer to restore health to their stricken member. Several thorns remain on the maul-wielder and the implications to all are deadly clear.
  8. Naotsugu strikes again at the punishing thorns. The enemy fighter dies and disappears (in this new reality, they are immortal and resurrect back in town), shocking the remaining enemies. The enemy leader shouts at their healer, who sways and promptly drops to his knees. Shiroe’s very first action at the start of the battle was to cast a sleeping spell on the healer, knocking him out of the fight, literally.
  9. The chakram-wielder becomes frustrated and attempts to attack Shiroe, but Naotsugu slaps her to near-death as she is still under the Anchor Howl intimidate effect. She soon runs away from the battle.
  10. The enemy leader, alone on the battlefield, calls out for his party backup, a Summoner and Sorcerer hiding in the woods. But Shiroe already knew about them.
  11. Shiroe’s count of “four enemies” was based on the fact that Naotsugu was momentarily stopped by a rooting spell not cast by any of the four attackers on the field. This was code to Akatsuki, the Assassin, who was in the woods as well and interpreted Shiroe’s message that more of the enemy were in wait elsewhere. Shiroe’s floating lights kept the enemies from seeing into the dark woods, where Akatsuki proceeded to assassinate the two mages without interference.
  12. Akatsuki drags out the dying two mages, who disappear. The enemy leader is totally alone and soon dies as well in a fitful and pitiful attempt to stab Shiroe, which Akatsuki does not allow.

It’s Naotsugu that played the dominant role in the battle. His role wasn’t as damage dealer but his aggro generation allowed all other party members to use their talents to the fullest without being under attack. No one paid attention to Shiroe’s strategic machinations until it was much too late. Akatsuki wasn’t known to the enemy party. She notes to the enemy leader, “your teamwork is full of holes.”

And note that the team of three had no healer of their own in party and were outnumbered 2 to 1. This continues into episode four, and even then, the team, now with two additions, has a only very weak healer as they ultimately must fight in another player-killer scenario, five against at least twenty five.

The central fight is a Swashbuckler against an evil Monk, cleverly taunted into a one-on-one battle. When the enemy Monk tries to dogpile on his sole combatant using the rest of his guild, guess who steps in and forces that mob to concentrate on him? Yep. That’s Naotsugu. In addition to Anchor Howl, he uses a special ability comparable to the Unyielding Sentinel’s epic moment to become effectively impervious for a time to buy Shiroe and the swashbuckler the time they need against the Monk.

Our guys win again.

Strategy works. Tanking is still awesome because a skilled party can handle far more formidable forces in this mode, rather than arming themselves to the teeth and attacking individually and on sight, each member likely pulling more threat to them than they could handle. The AI isn’t incompatible with this traditional style; the player attitudes now are. Everybody wants to be the star, it seems.

In contrast to what I described from episode 2 of the show, by episode 13, a junior group of adventurers show exactly how NOT to fight, losing and retreating again and again because of poor aggro management and only a vague sense of each other’s roles until one of them, a Shrine Priest that’s fond of Shiroe, begins training them to work as a team, with her work emulating Shiroe’s encounter-control tactics. That group becomes a bundle of power and dominance after that.

Lynncletica, Guardian Monk

So, Lynn is getting adjustments to make her a better Guardian-type Monk stylized a little after Naotsugu as Akatsuki is currently inspiring bits of Kiricletica. Her hit points will be sizable, her attacks powerful, but her defenses more formidable.

It’s not quite too different from her second-life as Lynn could handle almost any enemy in tanking but struggled a bit with Epic Elite defenses. My hope is that I can improve her against some EE as well, particularly as Update 23’s changes come into play.

She can heal herself and remove damaging curses and effects. Most importantly, Lynn can keep the bulk of the fight on her with her Ki Shout. From there, others in the party can debilitate enemies without fear of immediate counter-reprisal.

More and more STR will be Lynn’s regimen to eliminate targets, with close attention to WIS and CON.

I hope I can find a little more PRR than the 67 or so I managed by Epic, but it’s the miss-chance powers that I’d like more. Lynn never trained any Ninja Spy techniques and may consider it for Shadow Veil for 25% incorporeality. She didn’t have the strongest Dodge in the past, either, with maybe 18%. That’s got to change, too. She can Blur herself adequately.

One thing that the new Shintao tree has firmly discouraged me from doing is to train all the Elemental Curatives. Since Rise of the Phoenix only resurrects yourself and is no longer a Raise Dead SLA, I’ll only train the remove-curse and lesser-restoration abilities, which are great mass-effects in party, and shove the freed AP into Ninja Spy or improving more defense abilities. I’ll be immune to natural poisons and disease and can carry potions for magical types.

Combat Expertise will be retrained; it’s 10% stacking bonus to all AC goes fine with Earth Stance’s 20%. Lynn could get 100 AC without effort by level 20.

And, if team strategy is handled well, any party that Lynncletica serves won’t require extensive healing.

Lynn might train up additional abilities from the Ninja Spy and Mystic trees. The Henshin side has Mystic Training for improved finisher DCs, and an Animal Form style. Way of the Patient Tortoise has no negatives with more Concentration and HP, but Way of the Tenacious Badger seems nice in that my unarmed damage increases as my HP decreases, at the price of less Fortitude (compensated by higher CON). Adding more Dodge from the ninja’s Acrobatic ability is an easy choice to add points toward Shadow Veil. Perhaps, then, Faster Sneaking and Stealthy to add a bit more Hide/Move Silently and gain a point of passive ki regeneration.

I’m skipping Exemplar as before. The few points to unused cross-class skills Heal and Intimidate and the extra Threat generation I can gain through Devotion spell power and higher Concentration.

Deft Strikes and its increased off-hand attack rate is inviting, but Reed in the Wind’s extra Dodge is also helpful.

I’m curious how PRR will be effective for Monks with Update 23’s goal to cap PPR for unarmored folks. That said, I”m still a fan of it. So the Iron Skin ability gets maxed for 15 untyped PRR, as well as Conditioning for more Concentration and 15 more HP.

The jade attacks are always handy and will be trained, of course. If tier 4’s Instinctive Defense can be trained to reduce damage should Lynn become helpless (before I can use my Harper Pin if low on HP), then I’ll add it. I’m more keen on adding another CON point at this level.

Tier 5 of Shintao is filled with goodies. Meditation of War helps PRR but reduces Dodge cap in Earth Stance (at least until the last core enhancement offsets this). Empty Hand Mastery raises the unarmed attack hit die. I like Kukan-Do’s remote stunning but feel my CHA will never be high enough, and prefer to bring the fights closer to Stunning Fist range.

By Epic levels, Lynncletica will take more training as the Unyielding Sentinel, an epic destiny designed to tank and endure. She’ll lack only the ability to wear a shield for more defense but will gain more CON and PRR, and can amplify her Shield AC bonus from a Flawless White Dragonscale Robe once she creates one. There’s also the newer destinies that may offer more.

I’m looking forward to being more like a mountain, sturdy and invincible. Here’s hoping there’s more I can adapt in Update 23.

 

 

Broken Spokes in the Wheel of Life

wheel_of_life

Samara is ever-present in the world of Dungeons & Dragons Online. We truly reincarnate to improve ourselves. But when should we try to break the cycle?

I have 18 characters. Four are banks. One is a semi-retired Drow Artificer that hasn’t played since before the new enhancements.

One is a halfing L18 Thief-Acrobat Rogue still on its first life and dreadfully confused about herself as she learns the new abilities. A half-Elf Paladin recently met its demise to allow Flynncletica to appear.

The three Ninja Spies, Ryncletica, Szyncletica and Kiricletica, each bring a unique fighting style. Ryn is an unarmed Shadowdancer-enabled L25 Monk in her second life. Szyncletica is a L27 Shiradi Shuricannon also in her second life. Kiricletica is the accomplished hard-solo shortsword master at L26 in her first life.

Pynthetica was a Arcane Archer Ranger in life 1 and is now a pure Zen Archer Monk at level 17.

That leaves two Shintao Monks, Lynncletica the Earth tanker at level 25, and Syncletica herself, refusing to fight much since she seemed too vulnerable for harder Epic play in her second life at level 23. Quintessica rounds out the dojo in her second life as a Henshin Mystic at level 23.

I bore you with this character list because, as you can see, there are far too many of them sitting at Epic levels. It’s time for some of them to start again, to take another cycle in the wheel of life.

But should any of them simply submit to the circle of samara and become a Monk once again? Or should they consider a bit more?

I’m leaning to the more.

Yes, the person that doesn’t teach multiclassing per se in the Monk guide is considering other classes–sort of.

It’s not a tough concept. I have more than enough characters to experiment and learn what others have done before me and have enjoyed. I’m not paving any new ground except for my own fun. As well, I have more than enough characters to explore any tenets of a pure Monk to afford a cross-class training session.

But enlightenment is a bitch, or makes you one.

On Syncletica

As you may know, Syncletica is my first character and my first Monk.

For her third life, I envision that she should explore more of the divine powers and train in Cleric levels. She would still have a minimum of 2 Monk levels but would be a better aid to others.

Else, especially with the new enhancement pass, I should take one more turn as a Wind Stancer, improving her durability to match her speed. I know a lot more about miss-chance, PRR and AC now than when she last left the dojo.

On Ryncletica

Ryn was once a halfling. I see her returning to her original small stature from her life as a human, but with Rogue levels.

Now, I’ve tried and failed to balance a character to have superior Rogue skills while also keeping a monastic fighting style. I’ll need to seriously plan her build with RJ’s Character Builder and read up on other builds before attempting this again.

Else, Ryn could explore a new class. I’ve wanted to explore the Druid, so this is an option.

On Kiricletica

There’s still more to explore with Kiri as a pure Ninja Spy in life 2, so I will not change her design once she reincarnates. She was a blast to play in hard-solo mode.

With her patented Ninja Poison attacks not working with the latest update, she’s in stasis until it’s working again. I’ve been trying to get more bug reports submitted to get this resolved.

On Lynncletica

I’ve told myself time and again that Lynncletica will stay Epic as she was my most durable character and can farm many places for other characters.

That’s changed with Szyncletica; who has done what Lynn has not by surviving Epic Elite adventures alone.

I still want to improve Lynn’s overall capacity to keep and hold attention as a light tanker. She is certainly the strongest self-healer I have, although her DPS is a bit lacking. She was still at L25 when the Update 19 enhancement changes came about, so she’s not as optimized for tanking as she could be with a tweak of enhancements.

I’ll have Lynn and Szyn farm Tokens of the Twelve for themselves and others.

On Szyncletica

I love the Shuricannon build too much to change one bit of Szyn’s abilities. The more past lives for her, the better.

If I do add a new path for her, shortsword work or Ranger prowess isn’t a bad one. She is my strongest Monk and has proven able to complete Epic Elite, solo if necessary, and has even completed a portion of the Shroud alone.

As I said, if Lynn reincarnates, then Szyn stays Epic until Lynn returns to power.

On Quintessica

The Mystic is a really potent staff-wielder with incredible DPS. Only Szyncletica  can claim better numbers. The thread on training an Epic Destiny to boost spell power and damage is quite appealing.

For now I’ll keep Quin in Epic while I add in some points. It will take time since it requires a lot of ED training for sphere hopping to the Arcane side.

Once she does complete this training, a bit of Druidic training might be nice.

Or, is this the time for my first Wizard or Sorcerer? I don’t know.

On Pynthetica

Her experimentation in Zen Archery is coming along well. She’s my first and only character to come from a non-monastic class into the Monk class, so it’s not outside probability to see her try her hand at being an Artificer, or to see if Deepwood Sniper can meld well with her ranged past life and her monastic life.

On Allysen

Allysen is my halfling Acrobat Rogue at level 18 and the oldest character I have to have never reincarnated.

I think I should either use the Lesser Heart of Wood to respec her and get her into Epic Shadowdancer training before I reincarnate her into something else. Would she be the better candidate for a Rogue Monk than Ryncletica? The gear she’s gathered suggests yes.

On the Others

  • I retired my paladin and created Flynncletica. This swashbuckler is a blast to play to the point where I’m neglecting my monastic training.
  • Arcammedes dutifully sits in the crafting hall at L19 in her first life as Artificer. She’s not been on the battlefield for over a year.

I should train her enhancements and at least see her to Level 20 or so. A reincarnation won’t remove her crafting prowess but would completely free her inventory slots for holding stuff. She’s not going anywhere with her crafting levels–and that’s the problem.

  • There’s still a Kensei to train.

Four bank characters now hold a lot of gear. Much of it I gathered long ago in trying to keep a storehouse of gear for any guildmates to use in building a Monk. Now, I think, that time’s past, especially with crafting as an option for any low-level gear I can generate for someone as unbound.

I’m selling off most of this to free up at least one more character slot.

Have I Hit the Wall in the Circle?

As long-time readers of the guide and the blog know, I like to chew through the many permutations of the Monk as a single class.

Generally I’ve studied a class tree’s strengths and weaponized them, such as Kiricletica.

Lately I haven’t been very creative here, generating or adapting new builds. Perhaps it’s my disappointment with a few bugs such as Ninja Poison failing, which has all but stopped Kiricletica’s progress. Maybe my mind is becoming too combat-oriented thanks to the sword-wielding non-Monk, Flynncletica.

Perhaps I haven’t studied the Monk and non-Monk class trees enough to see a new wheel on which to roll a character along in a new path of study.

And perhaps I’m impatient for progress. There is one clear path I haven’t explored with Theacletica as she trains as a Kensei, as I noted.

That’s the problem of samara. Your own limitations prevent you from breaking the cycle of life and death. It’s difficult to move forward sometimes; you feel stuck in a circle, attracted by easy victory or novelty.

I think I require more study. The path of enlightenment is not supposed to be easy.

In any case, I’m open to some suggestions to explore. But be warned that I don’t take change well for change’s sake. I like the diversity of DDO, but the best damage is secondary to the best gameplay, and I’ve not the patience or time for what I see is the tedium of multiclassed tweaking.

It’s Monday, and Sir Geoff of Hanna has posted a nice meditative animation. Yes…calming and peaceful. Enlightenment doesn’t happen in a chaotic mind.

A Monastic Video Showcase

Please stand by.

Please stand by.

After posting videos demonstrating the Heroic level and Epic Shiradi Shuricannon, I was reminded of times where differing opinions at least or flame wars at most occur on the DDO forums on what build or what class(es) and abilities will do this and that.

One thread long ago on the Henshin Mystic turned that way but it caught my ire because the dissenting poster, all the while stating that unarmed damage beats quarterstaff damage, also admitted to having not played a Mystic.

Now, I don’t claim in the slightest to creating or possessing characters that are the optimal for anything except for how I like to play. But my Monks don’t suck outright and do a good job of the one thing they’re meant to do: complete a quest or raid.

But I took offense to that poster because it was clear that their min-maxing multiclassing worldview completely dismissed the idea that something else could possibly work. I’m used to this with the Henshin Mystic. As I’ve said in past posts, I’m likely the only comprehensive resource so far (here and in The Book of Syncletica) on defining the Henshin Mystic class based on its enhancement tree, given it’s only been around for yet quite a year.

Rather than get into a debate of words, I realized I have to apply a social truism: “Pictures or it didn’t happen.”

So I’ll add some moving pictures–they’ll be worth hundreds of thousands of words.

Over the next few weeks I’ll add demonstration videos of the pure Ninja Spy, Henshin Mystic and Shintao Monk, each showing my interpretation of each class’s gameplay. Doing this also exposes my personal style, which you may or may not like.

I’ll choose a quest that illustrates their specialities. For a Shintao, it’ll be a brawling quest where undead, aberrations and extraplanar creatures roost. For a Ninja Spy, it may be a quest where a singular objective requires stealth, cunning and tactics to complete. Lastly, it will be Quintessica that will show what I think the developers had in mind, based on the class tree, of what a Mystic can do with a quarterstaff and their mystical ki powers.

Class trees are simply a launching point for players. There’s no point whatsoever in making a Mystic or any other class using only the racial tree and abilities from only one class tree. A Mystic or Shintao that adds in Shadow Veil for incorporeality miss-chance is going to stand a pounding better, as well as a Ninja Spy that adds in abilities from other trees to improve its attack or defense. None of my characters use only the abilities of their class tree.

That said, the purpose of the demo videos is to help new players decide what playstyle they might consider based on the class tree’s innate skills. It never means that a Shintao can’t use a bow or a Ninja Spy can’t use a staff or a Mystic not use handwraps. Versatility is important. However, effectiveness based on your skills makes sense economically for the action points you spend.

Most importantly, the videos can show what the class does flat out–a good illustrative video for players new to the Monk (the exact purpose of the Monk guide). Shintao Monks are self-healing stun-bot goddesses that are hard to kill. Ninja Spies can avoid half of an army to assassinate with deft blade work or unarmed fighting with a deadly skill set. And a Mystic can take on mobs like Neo takes on an army of Agent Smiths using a metal staff.

So, coming soon, I’ll finally make that video of Mystic Quintessica doing her “Burly Brawl.” Later, Lynncletica, the “Little Mountain” will go where Archons fear to tread, perhaps against an army of devils. Lastly, Kiricletica can represent the Ninja Spies somewhere.

If possible, these movies will get linked into their respective chapters in the Monk guide.

Much later, I’ll give the same treatment to the Elven Arcane Archer Monk and a Kensei Fighter I’m working on.

Update 21: Min-Maxing Beyond Thunderholme

I couldn’t resist my post title.

So, Update 21 has arrived with a host of interesting niceties, a spot of new gear, a super-long quest, a massive wilderness area and two raids. The downside to all of the above is that it’s targeted to the young twitchmonster leveling players at level 26 and greater.

D&D Anniversary Cards

What all players will find on the first character logged in after the update is the D&D Anniversary Box, a special gift to all in celebration of Dungeons & Dragons’s 40th anniversary.

Inside, depending on your account type (VIP, premium and free-to-play) you’ll get 5 random collector cards with descriptions of classic D&D monsters (they’re very nice), a bag to hold these cards, a Magical D20 clicky to get more cards (1 per day for all except VIPs, which get 2), and a special clicky that can combine two different cards for special items.

For most, the Anniversary Cards are probably the cooler bonus. With the right combinations, you’ll get Raid Bypass Timers, Eternal Potions for special hard-to-come-by protections such as Death Ward and Freedom of Movement, +3 Tomes, and more. Like the Risia Ice Games, the cards are akin to recipes. Some cards will be common but others may appear more often.

The bad news? As of this writing, the Magical D20 device is broken. You can use it once but it’s not resetting after 24 hours for anyone. GamerGeoff suggests a non-exploitive workaround using any other accounts you own.

No word on how long the card system will last. Let’s hope at least 6 months.

Release Notes

Update 21 has many, many bug fixes. You should read the Release Notes for greater detail, but here’s a summary and commentary on a few of them as they relate to the monastic arts.

  • Quivering Palm, after getting a boost to DCs through Sundering bonuses in a previous update, has been nerfed down for balance but with a compromise bonus that increases the DC chance should it miss until it hits or three minutes pass. I’m OK on this; while QP is a great Assassinate-like move, you shouldn’t be able to spam it using our shorter monastic cooldowns.
  • Grasp the Earth Dragon no longer sometimes triggers enemy-targeted effects on allies. I didn’t know this anti-stun buff was busted to begin with, so hats off to the devs for the fix.
  • Many spell-like abilities and supernatural abilities now correctly cannot be used in anti-magic fields. This should be interesting. Monk buffs such as Dance of Clouds (Blur) aren’t disspelled by beholders, the primary anti-magic field maker. But the question is whether a Monk can still generate this and other buffs while within a field. I’m betting yes but I need to test it.
  • Monk Henshin Mystic – Elemental Words (Tiers 1-4) – All-Consuming Flame and Winter’s Touch are no longer giving the wrong damage vulnerability (cold vs. fire). I never use any of these former Ninja Spy debuffers on my Mystic, Quintessica, except Static Charge, to make Harry in the Shroud more vulnerable to lightning.
  • Epic Moment Counters should no longer be reset when you go through a portal within a quest. Yay! We should be able to keep our Grandmaster of Flowers charges in “The Portal Opens” and other quests.
  • Grandmaster of Flowers – Light as a Feather now properly negates falling damage under all circumstances. If you have a multiclassed Monk that uses this (pure Monks don’t need it with Perfect Slow Fall) then this fix should keep you from splatting in the future.
  • The Quiver of Poison is now Bind on Acquire, instead of claiming it was Bind on Equip, as this type of item is unable to function properly as Bind on Equip. When people tried to sell these items, they would bind on pulling them from mail into your inventory, keeping you from moving it to the character of your choice. After much gnashing of teeth to fix, they decided just to change the flag so you can no longer trade this item but then allows it from being broken in trading. These items are nice for the Shuricannons as it adds more untyped poison to their attacks (along with Sting of the Ninja and Venomed Blades).
  • The effects of the Potion of Wonder have been updated. The devs don’t say how it was updated. Did they remove the detonation pack effect? While fun in the right crowds after a quest or raid, it’s a griefing suicide-bomber tool should the det pack go off in the middle of a raid.
  • Quest Experience changes: As expected, the “Jungle of Khyber” will no longer give the super-XP it has before, but is still quite a bountiful reward. What I appreciated were the boosts to many quests that really deserved a boost due to their difficulty, such as “In the Belly of the Beast,” “Chains of Flame” in the Sands, and “The Thrill of the Hunt” in Wheloon. The new ‘Jungle’ is Epic Normal “What Goes Up”: it’s XP has doubled from 30K to 61K.
  • A feature is now available that allows you to receive and immediately consume a Siberys Spirit Cake with Astral Shards when you die: just click on the “Revive” button that appears near the Quest Objective panel when you die. This feature is not usable in Raids. Note that it is still possible to obtain cakes by navigating the DDO Store and using Turbine Points. I noticed this after Kiricletica had died due to carelessness a day ago. I suspected that the Revive button used Astral Shards, and I was right. I think that might be cheaper than TP.

Things That Broke/Are Still Broken

Updates often cause gloom, despair and agony on us. Deep, dark depression and excessive misery.

Here’s one list.

  • Sting of the Ninja is broken for thrown weapons. Ninja Poison isn’t being dosed. That’s a big ouch for Shuricannon builds like Szyncletica, who were able to get extra damage on enemies this way. I didn’t notice problems on Kiricletica using her shortswords, so this is probably limited to thrown weapons. I
  • Likewise, the thrown weapons critical modifier bug, identified by the developers, didn’t make it to Update 21’s fixed list. The bug does remain listed on the Known Issues list.
  • Stunning Fist still does not help in charging Everything is Nothing (that’s DEATH BLOSSOM to you) nor does any Light attacks work in their finishing moves.
  • You can’t use your Key to Eveningstar from an airship. Just leave it and use it anywhere else but there.

Thunderholme

The new adventuring stuff is found as you make your way towards the bridge where the Storm Horns quests were found. Gone is a simple bridge that you can’t cross. In its place, a full bridge that takes you across the river and to an ancient dwarven castle that the Netherese have occupied.

The Ruins of Thunderholme is a large, large wilderness area in the form of a ruined castle.  Don’t go in here unless you are at least L25 and built to handle respawning swarms of undead dwarves, animated by many Netherese necromancers. Shrines are distant, and this place is meant to kill hirelings with ease. I took my L25  tanker Lynncletica into this L28 area and adapted well (Shintao Monks are natural undead hunters) but was very glad that my healing amplification was very high.

I ran with my guild leader at first, she having a harder time on her Shintao Monk. In our travels, we found one of the bosses that, when beaten (and provided you’re at the right level) grant you access to one of the two new raids. The guild leader invited another guildmate and I waited near the boss and his posse while Leader went to help retrieve him–no small feat. The Ruins is a complex maze-like area with several floors. The map adapts to what floor you are on in a zone-less manner that’s refreshing enough, but surviving in here requires you to be very tough since things respawn and often.

So Lynn was pondering, waiting for the party to regroup when a minion of that boss, Degan the Death Knight, aggroed on me. Degan was at least a level 32 undead knight. And when you have a Red-Named boss with “Death” in his name, you don’t hesitate to use Death Ward.

Lynn slowly pummeled Degan and Friends, healing repeatedly since this fight actually managed to put dents in Lynn’s strong AC (109) and PRR (67) as well as her miss-chance effects. Even unbuffed, Lynn can heal almost 1/4 of her total HP with Healing Ki every 10 seconds and generates +2 to +4 HP with the Fists of Light healing curse–more if I put on a Shamanic Fetish for more positive energy boosts. A Healing Ki hit of 200 isn’t unusual.

I took down Degan on my own and returned to find the group to lead them to our chest.

We explored for hours–hours–and then encountered an underground city that the Faerun Drow would be envious to see.

Thunderholme-ShadowDragonLair

The picture doesn’t quite do it justice…the place seemed to stretch for miles and miles. And none of us were remotely ready to take on a dracolich that night.

Thunderholme is still being mapped and documented by other adventurers, so information on additional goodies is a bit sparse.

As far as loot goes, there’s not a lot of gear, and much of it favors the fighter-type or spellcaster. A couple of items did catch my eye:

Both offer a little something for defense or damage, but again, it’s as if the developers wanted to make fewer items but add a lot more abilities to these items.

So, explore this new spot, where dwarves yet again dug too deeply, and let me know what you think. It gives me a reason to start leveling Lynncletica again.

Solo Raiding

It’s rather a contradictory term: “solo raiding.”

Raid (n.) - a sudden attack on an enemy by troops, aircraft or other
armed forces in warfare.

Note the plural. To enter a raid (a high-difficulty adventure designed for up to 12 party members) as the only party member, makes the ultimate boast of being a one-man army.

Not that this contradiction or wild claims have stopped anyone from trying–and sometimes succeeding.

I’ve been reading quite a few posts in the Achievements subforum on soloing “The Shroud” and “Zawabi’s Revenge” (ADQ2) and it got me to try a few out myself.

Solo raiding at-level is almost unheard of. Raids often require many skills and resource-intensive fighting that no one character can typically meet the requirements. So higher-level solo raids are often done by characters that are significantly over the raid’s level, and on Normal difficulty.

I’ve completed only two solo raids prior to this bout of insanity: “Tempest’s Spine” and “The Chronoscope,” levels 10 and 6, respectively. Both adventurers were Shintao Monks for their durability and self-healing. Of these, only one has Epic levels, and I’ve sent in Lynncletica successfully on Epic Hard. I know that neither of these raids have remarkably tough challenges for solo players with good self-sufficiency.

Last week, I added a new character to the table: The star-thrower Szyncletica against the Demon Queen. After that, I tried a solo run in The Shroud with Lynncletica the tanker.

Advantages and Challenges for Szyncletica

Szyncletica rapidly leveled to 26 in her first life. Her sustained DPS is the best in my dojo with many random effects going off from Shiradi Champion, off-hand passive effects, as well as the spelltouched shurikens she uses.

I’ve tried Heroic ADQ2 on Lynncletica before, perhaps shortly after Update 14 and Epic Destinies. The gnolls perched atop the pillars ate her alive, despite her powerful defenses. I tried keeping a ranged option handy to remove them but it was too slow.

Szyn, on the other hand, uses only stars to attack.

I imagined that her DPS should knock most of the tower gnolls quickly away between their respawns, particularly using an Improved Paralyzing star she owns.  She can attack the marilith at any stage and, through strafing and Improved Precise Shot, attack any effreeti and the marilith at once. In one video from an old 2007 player, it looks like the Monk archer there just plain ignores the gnolls above. But the raid’s likely changed since this video.

Szyn’s greatest challenge was crisis healing. She had potions but that was it, aside from Shiradi’s Healing Spring. It was touch and go on how well this would work as Szyn stays well out of melee range and attempts to use many miss-chance abilities to slow down incoming damage. ADQ2 is all-fight: no rest, no respite. Using Wholeness of Body is not an option.

I bit my reluctance to switch Destinies, activated Primal Avatar and entered a Epic Hard “Jungles of Khyber” run recently. I completed that run with an immediate 4 Destiny Points and activated Rejuvenation Cocoon in full.

That’s a nice ability. It simply throws out a nice healing boost and some temporary HP with spell points. Combined with Devotion and healing amplification, the results would be sufficient to keep Szyn healed in battle.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I got Cocoon trained after my attempts at the Demon Queen. More on that in a sec.

Thankfully, the loot gods have been good to me. I just received a level 24 Cold Iron spelltouched star with Wounding and the occasional Disintegrate. Kicking on the Stay Good stance should make that star effective enough to bust the Queen’s DR.

The DQ Solo Attempts

Szyn-LailatWith a load of Haste potions and after some study, I completed the pre-raid, rebuffed and tried a raid run.

I armed Szyn with her L20 Icy Burst of Improved Paralyzing and removed the effreti and elementals without issue.

After a few words with the Demon Queen, the fight was on. I removed the gnolls very quickly to the point where they were a non-factor.

I did what I could to concentrate all my attacks only on the marilith, no matter where she was, letting Improved Precise Shot weed out any effreti that got in the way.

But I was having a hard time keeping healed from the glancing damage that Lailat managed to get on me.

She was down to virtually no HP at all when I took one hit too many myself and expired. And then I saw something odd.

Szyn-vs-Lailat1-eNI realized I had mistakenly took Szyn in against the Queen on Epic Normal difficulty and nearly beat her. Note the Queen’s virtually out of HP. It was that close.

Beginner’s luck, it turned out. I tried another run on eN and got curbstomped faster, before Lailat had lost half of her HP.

Determined to get something done, I ran through once more, on Heroic Elite.

Funny: Lailat in eN is around Level 26. On Heroic Elite, she’s CR28 and felt a bit harder to hit.

Szyn-vs-Lailat-hEBut I held my own and the marilith fell. It was my first solo raid victory on a non-Light Monk, characters that have all the healing toys compared to their Dark brethren. No vampirism. No Healing Ki. No Cleric dilettante. Just a throwing star, a weak battle healing option and sheer sustained damage per second.

But perhaps, before I TR, I will try an eNormal once more, armed now with Cocoon since those first runs, and with a stronger resolve.

Going Solo in the Shroud

The barbarian that completed a Shroud run solo had to fiddle a few things and was incredibly overgeared to ensure some success. First off, he was level 28–that’s a capped character. Lynncletica sits at 25 now. Next, he multiclassed a couple of Fighter levels to go with his Barbarian. Looks like he used the Fury of the Wild Epic Destiny with some Primal Avatar things mixed in, perhaps some Legendary Dreadnought.

I decided to go in with Grandmaster of Flowers but with Twists from Legendary Dreadnought and Unyielding Sentinel that boosted fortification, PRR, and DCs.

The damage that the Barb could do was quite remarkable, sometimes making 3,0oo point critical hits. I was thinking too far ahead, on what to do in Part 4 against Harry and his recharging gnolls.

So, armed for bear, I took Lynn into a Normal run.

You might guess what happened. Lynn loses in part 1. Her DPS is sufficient to take down the portals but far too slowly. The portal keepers arrive and lock up the Shroud with Shavarath, sealing my fate.

A post-mortem made me recall an old contest that I had planned to write about: A DPS contest where players were asked to enter Aussircaex’s Valley and test how fast they could remove a planar gateway that resided there.

This is the same type of portal seen in the Shroud. It never changes and has a fixed set of stats, is always 12,000 HP, is immune from most elemental damage and has 100% fortification. So it’s a perfect way to test out any character’s DPS.

The original contest set some weapon limits, but going in a raid, you’ve got to remove that thing fast and by any means necessary.

I did take Szyn in there and took that portal down in about 1 minute and 16 seconds, but I can’t remember if that was with my newer and Shroud-designed Holy of Greater Construct Bane star or using an older Aligned of Construct Bane one.

If I can add some Armor-Piercing properties in my off-hand, I’m sure I can whittle that thing down in under a minute. Time to study again. Looks like I could trade out the Celestia blade with my Envenomed Blade’s 10% armor piercing, but then I’d also lose the light damage that the epic shortsword can do. I’d have to test it.

And it looks like armor-piercing effects stack. So, in a perfect, beautiful world, wearing a regular or Flawless Black Dragonscale Robe and its armor piercing would stack with off-hand effects. I could farm for Black scales. I took Szyn into a few Heroic Tor runs and beat two of the three dragons on Elite but it was the black dragon’s acid damage that threw me off. (This was, again, before I got Cocoon trained up.) Some Black Dragonscale would be a good tactical alternative.

Lynn should do better, but I’m not sure. I’ve become a bit dependent on Grandmaster of Flowers. I needed the speed and critical hit power of Legendary Dreadnought, if just for part 1 alone. My concern remained on getting to Part 4. Harry wouldn’t be the issue; it would be my ability to remove the gnolls in later rounds before they recharge him faster than I could damage him. I wouldn’t have the Rage effects of a Barbarian nor as many Action Boosts. Without GMoF, there’s no ability to use Everything is Nothing to remove the gnolls very quickly.

But then, without LD, getting through Part 1 is likely impossible.

So, back to the drawing board.

Update 20: The Half-Elf Inflatable Tank

Half-elves lose a key ability to being a durable light tank. But there's a difference between a light tank and a tank that's way too light.

Half-elves lose a key ability to being a durable light tank. But there’s a difference between a light tank and a tank that’s way too light.

Update: A poster noted that I was caught by Turbine Doublespeak Syndrome. The issue here would involve a Half-Elf (who gets the racial abilities of Improved Recovery, no matter the class) who takes Monk levels and then chooses Half-Elf Dilettante  Monk and then attempts to use the Dilettante Special Ability selection to gain the identically-named Improved Recovery options from there. To avoid people gaining triple amping using the Shintao line, the devs restrict the Shintao line (since all the cores add 5%) if you try to get around this trick. This makes sense.

So ignore this rambling in the post, which I will leave as a testament to anyone who later tells me that I post and don’t admit to being wrong. I was wrong.

A quick note as we all peruse through the changes of Update 20.

I noticed new language in some enhancement trees, designed to keep players from wasting action points by choosing abilities that are redundant to or conflict with something else from their class feats or other enhancement tree. The developers call these “Antirequisites.”

One caught my eye right away: The first Shintao Monk ability, “Bastion of Purity,” has a disheartening new antirequisite: By taking it, you cannot choose Half-Elf Improved Recovery I or II abilities.

I took several sips of coffee this morning to figure out why the change was made.

Note that Update 19 reduced racial healing amplification options to only Humans and Half-Elves, and left what was the old “Monk Improved Recovery” boosts split up into the Shintao core enhancements. Taking all Shintao cores will give you 30% amplification. If you aren’t either of these races, racial healing amplification is closed to you.

Frankly, this means that only a Human and their three tiers of Improved Recovery get the maximum healing amplification as a Shintao Monk. Half-Elves cannot use their options, even if they favor their human side, if I read this change correctly and didn’t miss other adjustments.

The only reason I could fathom to this change is that Half-Elf dilettantes, particularly the Cleric one, allows self-healing through wands and scrolls. Maybe the combined use of racial improved recovery and the dilettante seemed overpowered to the developers when used by Shintao characters.

As it is, my two Half-Elves are all Ninja Spies anyway. Both have maxed their racial Improved Recovery but also can use wands and scrolls for healing and buffing. They all rely on stealth and miss chance effects to reduce damage and do not lead a party except to scout.

Lynncletica is fated to be only a Human since she requires the maximum available healing amp that can only come from being a human Shintao Monk. Same is true for Syncletica, although I have some thoughts on her fate for a third life.

If you have a Half-Elf Shintao Monk, you’ll likely see a message indicating that your enhancements have been partially or fully reset. Sorry.

What annoys me is that the Shintao enhancement tree favors Mountain Stance too strongly. I love that the tree works as a tanking stance. But there are different ways to assist in light tanking and maximum defense isn’t necessarily the only way. We Monks survive by using ki and not plate and gear to regenerate ourselves.

My newest Monk, a Drow, has no healing amplification (save equipping her Jidz-Tet’ka bracers and using Fire Stance). But she’s a slippery devil with lots of miss-chance that is increasingly hard to hit, anyway.

If you’ve seen any other nerfing of enhancements, especially if they’re Monk related and/or have affected your characters, drop me a line.

Update: If you’re the kind of reader that reads only the end of a post, go back to the start. This only affects a specific min-max attempt by taking a dilly of the same class you that you are.

So Close and Yet So Far: Epic Elite Solo

Garamol and Lynncletica in negotiations for his loot.

Garamol and Lynncletica in negotiations for his loot.

In between her farming duties for her lower-powered students, Lynncletica, the Little Mountain and my most powerful character, is eyeing how to attain her Purple Dragon Knights favor to unlock her Spider-Spun Caparison outfit.

At the time of this writing, she’s got 319 favor, short of the 375 needed to access the NPC that will allow unlocking.

I figure I might be able to get the needed favor by completing EE with the Eveningstar and Underdark chain quests.

That’s a better number of favor since the introduction of the three inaugural Shadowfell quests, which added more PDK favor to the mix.

As noted before, Lynncletica is built to endure EE as long as any pure Monk can manage. In any other difficulty or adventure outside of Epic Elite, she is practically invulnerable.  She ventures through the Subterrane for Icy Raiment farming with nary a care.

Final score: Lynn 1, Sinvala 0.

Final score: Lynn 1, Sinvala 0.

She can tank Arraetrikos in “The Shroud” on Elite and not feel the least inconvenienced, avoiding much of what he throws out.

She can take out Sinvala the Black Dragon in Elite “Mired in Kobolds” (the dragon is CR 30, and we know how nastier dragons are as of Update 17).

I find soloing with Lynn a joy, but it also helps me weed out any weaknesses in her. Soloing most anything up to Epic Hard is quite doable within the quest objectives. Multiple party member-quests are about the exception.

But Epic Elite, as experienced players know, is a different beast. I’d love to have a few guildies join me rather than  an insane solo run, but as I noted in my last post, our guild, and perhaps DDO as a whole, is significantly suffering from player attendance.

To test out her capacity to survive and beat an EE adventure, Lynncletica’s first EE solo run began in the millhouse in the King’s Forest.

As few hirelings of any level would survive in EE, I summoned only a Rogue/Shadowdancer, just to disable the spell wards inside the home. Healing would come from Lynn’s potent healing amplification numbers (I estimate about 400%).

Lynn has two combat modes. In Dreadnought mode (with Legendary Dreadnought as dominant Epic Destiny), Lynn can dish greater damage but have little in the way of additional attacks granted by Grandmaster of Flowers, and lose out on some PRR, Dodge bonus and tactical DCs granted from that destiny. Lynn’s preferred mode for EE is to twist LD’s Improved Combat Expertise and Unyielding Sentinel’s Brace for Impact for more PRR and fortification combining all the DCs and Dodge effects and PRR boosts in GMoF. She typically sits around 686 to 735 HP depending on her buffs or combat mode.

On entering, I parked the hireling and set about pummeling the Drow Priestess. This took a while as Lynn’s combat damage was lower and the CR 44 Priestess’s overall DR was rather nasty. A few times she brought me to half my HP before I needed to use one potion between Healing Ki bursts and Fists of Light’s +2 to +5 HP recharges per hit. Soon, the Priestess walked off with her warning and I was left to figure out the better strategy to complete this place.

Option 1: A Sacrifice of Many for the One

Here, I’ll just encounter the Priestess and beat her up until she sacrifices everybody and has nothing left to live for..er…with, then slay her to complete.

This avoids the dangerous fighting of her minions in each room as well as the risk that the Rogue hireling would get insta-killed and unable to remove the wards, leaving me quite vulnerable to their damage. The downside is that the Priestess would draw on every body, minion or hostage, to stay alive.

I recall one player that managed to attract the Priestess in the hidden attic room, where it appears she was too far to sacrifice anyone, but at the time I was playing I couldn’t look up that reference. His stealth skills likely equal Ryncletica’s ability, but Lynn’s stealth, while superior, lacks the Shadowdancer advantages that the forum poster’s build likely had, including Improved Invisibility to open that hidden room without attracting a mob.

Option 2: Go Hero

I chose this option on my first attempt, to slay minions and rescuing hostages to leave the Priestess with little to sacrifice. It didn’t seem that I would save any time or resources in trying to gun the Priestess down in option 1 by outlasting her. I figured I would get the upper hand on her minions if I was lucky.

The Rogue hireling (a lower level Epic one, to my fault) barely took down the first two wards in the outer upper hallway. After I parked her near the entrance, I tried to remove the enemies in the first room.

Did I mention how I hate mages? In my first attempt in Grandmaster Mode, a wizard managed to blow through my 44 saves to hold me, and that was that as the fighters sliced me up like so much bologna. Holding a Monk is about the one defense that mages might succeed to cast in time before a spell-resistant and high-saving Monk tries to stun them. That mage got lucky or was just the better man, being a likely CR 40.

A couple of days later, I tried again, switched to Dreadnought Mode for considerably more damage but keeping most of my defenses up. This time, however, the Priestess would have none of it and managed to blast me with disintegrate attempts faster than Lynncletica’s otherwise-impressive ability to fully reheal all her 700+ HP  while fighting in less than 45 seconds.

More Thinking To Do

I still wonder if this particular EE would be better done in Dreadnought mode. The key is to build up blitz moments that could be used to attack the minions–hard–in Master’s Blitz epic moment mode. It’s an incredible attack mode that Lynn learned can increase speed and damage to godly levels for powerfully fast takedowns for as long as you have enemies to kill.

Building up a charge would not be too hard, since I can spam up a charge in a public area and wait in-quest to use it in the minion room.  With luck, the speed of takedowns will recharge the Blitz to allow me to perform a similar take down in successive rooms. The Blitz is a good idea because it will last up to 2:30 min, or 1 charge lost per 15 seconds. If I can kill fast, the Blitz sustains itself.

Which means, with critical hits in the thousands and normal attacks in the 200s, taking down anyone should be easy with haste boosts. Whether a mage intervenes in time to ruin my berserk mode is another story.

As to that mage, the maximum reflex save I can generate with temporary boosts and buffs is about 52. My stunning DC is about the same, suitable for a lesser-fortified class such as a wizard. If I enter a room, target the mage and off him first, I have a literal fighting chance. I need those same reflexes to evade certain damage from attacks, but from there, its the Big Three of Miss Chances combined with fast takedowns and stick-and-move fighting that might win the day for an EE solo run.

Some comments from an esteemed commenter a recent post notes some greater benefits from Unyielding Sentinel (among other destinies) that I haven’t tried yet. On his pure Monk, using Fatesinger for buffing, he has over 1300 HP (also thanks to taking Toughness feats until his fingers bled). Good defenses, too. In Lynn’s next life, a few more Toughness feats and anything to help Dodge and reflex saves still attracts me. For those who think that a Monk can’t tank, well, Daniel’s work should change your mind.

The Little Mountain, Illustrated

As I was writing up my last post on my new build, Cassietetica, I was scouring the net for an illustration or two to break up the text (endlessly long blog posts can be quite boring to the eyes without pictures).

During my search, I found a drawing by an artist with the signature of “Pozas”, presumbly made in 2004, that would be exactly how I would draw my tanker Monk, Lynncletica, if I had the skill. It’s a perfect drawing, right down to Lynn’s red hair with a braid, her chiseled physique–not to mention her attitude.

monk_vs_skeleton

I didn’t care for the review by the blogger that hosted this picture regarding how he thought Monks had little versatility–but he was discussing the class in the tabletop RPG pen-and-paper realm.

fallinglynn

The “real” Lynn, in an earlier life.

He’s still probably wrong, though. Many people just don’t get the Monk class, no matter what media available to play the class–until they actually roll up a character, read up on how to play the character and take it seriously.

Any nincompoop can roll up a Fighter and go “Hulk Smash!” on everything. It takes contemplation to build and excel a Monk properly.

In DDO at least, a Monk can outlast practically any other class in fighting without outside assistance. Ki, and good technique, can do it all.

Looks like I credit the illustration properly. Thanks to Claudio Pozas. Visit his site; he has great work there.

In the Halls of the Mountain Kings

It’s been quite a while since I took first-life Lynncletica on her roaring rampage through the Reaver’s Refuge quest chain. She completed the entire chain going solo, including “Stealer of Souls,” stopping short of trying to take on the undead Sor’jek, the ex-Tempest’s Spine boss.

With the advent of Cannith Crafting and Dragonscale Armors, what was an unpopular place to get interesting loot has become patently uninteresting for many, myself included.

Just getting to the Refuse (did I say that? I meant “Refuge“…really, I did) is a pain in the chaps, as well as leaving it (you must either have Teleport or talk to the Stormreaver to get the “Fly” spell and fly back up into an exit portal high above you). I love the aesthetics of the area but navigation inside the Refuge has got to be one of the most unintuitive places in the game.

You can do the flagging quests in any order. It’s what you need to gain from or prior to the the run that’s certainly made flagging less interesting.

Randomly appearing in chest loot in the Demon Sands, Orchard of the Macabre, and in the three wilderness areas of the Refuge) are these special exclusive, bound-to-character gems. Three of them are needed as part of the process to enter “Stealer of Souls,” in addition to the Dragonshard Essences you farm from each of the three flagging quests.

That nonsense said, let’s talk about each of the three quests. I’m no expert in any of them but I can tell you why each and every one of them are some of the nastiest, overly-complicated developer-got-out-on-the-wrong-side of the keyboard-without-their-coffee quests designed.

Enter the Kobold

The small wilderness area of Mount Reyselon is actually quite stunning. You really feel like you’re on a mountain. The patrolling gnolls there aren’t a burden but it might take you a bit to find the entrance to the kobold lair.

The quest itself is pretty straightforward. Stealth works very well as an alternate way of getting through and is a fun challenge.

What totally mood-kills the entire quest is the puzzle room that makes you behave like a Knight on a chessboard to open a force-fielded door on the opposite side.

It’s not an especially terrible puzzle to complete, especially using the DDO Wiki solver. The puzzle just completely ruins the gaming momentum. There is a chest that your party can get once the party is across–yes, the entire party has to cross. Heaven help them if they become disoriented or enter before the puzzle is completely solved, forcing you to start again.

The end-fight can be nasty, with many respawning mages and evil genies pummeling you with fireballs and whatnot.

Monastery of the Scorpion

As a player that so loves the Monk class, I was expecting quite a lot from this wilderness area and quest when I first played it. I hoped to see contemplative Monks outside, some interesting NPC banter on the meaning of life and how to get the evil Monks out of their monastery.

No such luck. The Monks there were destroyed long before. Worse, inside, the Drow Monks there are, well, Drow Monks. Poor CON, using kamas. They are hardly a match.

Worse–more freaking puzzles. The traps keep you on your toes, sure. But there’s much to do gymnastically to progress through the quest.

The mood-killer is the end fight. A terribly overpowered Scarrow boss is there to beat, unless you have a good puzzle-solver in your party that can solve it to kill the boss in that manner.

Prey on the Hunter

Most players I’ve been with find themselves becoming very, very annoyed towards the end of this quest–myself included.

An endless swarm of frost giants and other things appear as you make your way through a maze of tunnels, locating switches to unlock doors or gathering the party to wait for ice floors to shatter to let you fall below and to another tunnel.

This quest has two mood-killers. To reach the final fight where Aussircaex is being attacked by several frost giants, you must find the right path through an ice maze. Once you start the maze, the dragon is attacked, so you have very little time to save her before you fail the quest.

Once you’ve past the maze, there’s the matter of a half-dozen frost giants and the dragon, which you cannot heal and whose attacks can hurt you. Likewise, your attacks can hurt it if you’re not careful. To kill what hope is left in a near-hopeless fight is the giant boss that appears and zergs to the dragon if you don’t cut it off fast while trying to keep all the other giants from ending the dragon.

I can’t remember if I completed this fight on Casual difficulty but it’s likely–Lynncletica has learned to hate frost giants and came in prepared to stop them after several attempts and without hirelings that got in the way more than helping.

The Last Battle and The Loot

Once you survive and complete the three flagging quests and gather the needed gems and essences, there’s the matter of “Stealer of Souls” to complete. On Lynncletica, “Souls” was surprisingly easy to do, thanks to strong Evasion and good Healing Ki/amplification on my solo run. The last area, where air elementals try to push you off, was the only real challenge. I did pass up on taking on Sor’jek on my first and only run through the quest.

Using the Draconic Runes, you buy a basic Dragontouched armor that has three slots for a plethora of special runes with different abilities. The good news is that these abilities can add quite a lot of versatility. The bad news is that (1) getting the rune you want is relatively random (you can crunch runes in the altars there to gain a new, different, randomly spawning rune) and (2) the results may be woefully ordinary, especially in comparison to Gianthold’s Dragonscale armor/robes as well as the new augment slot options that can add much of this functionality without the heavy grinding.

I want to complete this area just to know I can beat the damned thing. If I can upgrade my Dragontouched Robe, great. But it’s more than the loot, but the challenge of beating a quest chain that is really stacked against you.

Free Deaths! Just Reclaim the Rift!

Does death always have the best moves in the game of life?

I was pretty optimistic, there, recounting a recent guild Epic Elite run in “Trial By Fury.”

I had to pass on a later guild EE run into “Deal and the Demon” but was able to make a venture into EE “Reclaiming the Rift” last night.

Death was there as usual, but he opened up a strip mall for us, handed us complimentary tickets to get killed as often as we didn’t want, sold invitations for every enemy to come help us die in several gruesome and immediate ways, and to break practically every piece of gear we carried.

Lynncletica joined in, as before, the one character I have that I have fortified and trained and equipped to survive better than any other character I have for Epic Elite. I think I survived about 5-10 seconds longer on average than the rest of the party.

I’ve asked others in the DDO Forums to give us their take on that quest in EE difficulty. As I admitted in the thread, we likely went in too “light,” with two pure Light Monks, one Cleric Monk, a Bard and a Barbarian.  In this fight, a powerful “sword and board’ melee such as a Paladin is likely needed. I’m sure I’ll get some interesting answers (and a few who can’t help but rub it in).

For me, the deaths often came from enemy mages that pummeled me with death spells or elemental damage faster than I could reach them and smack them silly with a stun. If it wasn’t the mages, it was the dracoliths that dealt absolutely brutal slashing damage in the 130 range.

So it’s back to the drawing board I go to study specific quests and how specific classes handle it better than others. I’m sure that Monks don’t fare as well against slashing damage, but often I save enough against such attacks not to come to grips with this problem, until now.

I’m sure I’ll have a few answers in the thread that suggest multiclassing a bit. I don’t like to do this but rather try to push a single class to its fullest. That, and Epic Destinies add similar versatility than complicating a character’s build identity by splitting it two or three ways.

Feel free to relate your EE fight experiences–please! Knowing is half the battle! (The other half is fighting it.)

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