Zen Eternal

ScreenShot01776I’ve played little else than Pynthetica lately. She’s my second oldest character, a human Ranger AA gone all Elven Monk, now aiding me in perfecting my Zen Archer build beyond what Mericletica began on the Cannith server.

I’ve purposefully halted any level ups at 25 for a time to get Pyn more abilities she never received in your first two lives. As a human Ranger she sat at level 20 for months before Update 17 and the Menace of the Underdark expansion. I tinkered with her a little bit but then left her alone again for months. When the enhancement pass came around, I finally had an idea for her and TR’ed her into the first concept of the Zen Archer. It didn’t go very well as her ranged damage bit and I TR’d her again by level 22.

In neither first or second life did I give Pyn enough playtime to build up any Epic Destiny. So, now, I don’t want her to slack again in her third life. I want to give her all the things.

That starts with level 26, the first Epic Destiny feat. Often on all characters I just take Toughness, which requires no completed sphere. Nay, nay! to that, this time, not for the neglected Pynthetica. I’m simply building all the destinies, not just for choosing something other than Toughness, but to gain more Fate points to improve her lot as she moves forward. I finally wised up and did this with Mericletica and then began destiny build-ups to many others. It’s clear I had a fear with that.

But I wanted to take things a step or ten farther, especially with level 30 now available.

  • Train one Divine sphere destiny before taking level 26. That was building up Unyielding Sentinel after completing Shiradi Champion, Grandmaster of Flowers, and Primal Avatar. That unlocked the level 26 Epic Destiny feats Guardian Angel and Holy Strike. Guardian Angel gives PRR equal to your WIS for 30 seconds if your HP<=50%. Holy Strike adds Ghost Touch and 10d6 untyped damage to Evil. I picked Holy Strike.
  • Take Blinding Speed at level 27 for permanent Haste. It requires no prerequisites. Now my Ranged attack speed is 22%. It could still be improved with Gilvaenor’s Ring and Gilvaenor’s Necklace, which, combined, add a stacking 10% Competence bonus to ranged alacrity for a grand total of 32% ranged alacrity. I’ll have to convince a lot of people to run “Tower of Despair” in order to get that ring, and several runs through “Genesis Point” to find that necklace.
  • Complete 2 Primal destinies before level 28. That’s for the 10% additional Doubleshot feat, of course. That’s completed.
  • Complete Shadowdancer, Legendary Dreadnought and all remaining Divine destinies before level 29. These three capped Martial destinies and three Divine destinies (with several more Fate points as a side benefit) open the level 29 Epic Destiny feat Embodiment of Law for 10 Bane damage to all enemies and 20 Law damage against Chaotic enemies. It’s a lot of grinding, but where am I going?
  • Choose a level 30 Legendary Feat.
  • Complete Fury of the Wild to have maximum karma in the Primal Sphere.
    • That’s right–as a reward for being neglected for so long, Pynthetica gets to be my first Epic True Reincarnation. I want the Primal Sphere’s Epic Past Life feat 3% bonus to Doubleshot, and will return as a Zen Archer again and again.

Since the initial announcement, some things have changed about Legendary Feats. So Scion of the Ethereal Plane is less attractive as a result, so now I’m looking to others.

Not sure of the simple buffs of Scion of Arborea are as good: +20 Ranged Power, +2 to Enhancement Bonus of the bow. I leaned then to Scion of Limbo. There are eight buffs that pop on for 1 minute and cycle randomly, but most of them very useful. 40 Ranged Power, or 16% Doubleshot, 30 PRR, 20% Dodge and 40 to Healing Amplification, 1d20 Chaos damage, and so on.

But it’s Scion of the Astral Plane that won my internal debate. It adds 4% Doubleshot plus another 4% while Centered (woot!) as well as 4% Dodge and 4 to the Dodge cap. That brings the dodge cap benefits from being a Ninja Spy (the Zen Archer’s secondary enhancements) up from a 30% cap to a 34% Dodge.

So my miss-chance numbers go up: 34% Dodge, 25% Incorporeality, 20% Concealment. I’d love to invite the crazies in our meta-guild into an Epic Elite “Prison of the Planes” to get a shot at a level 25 Ring of Shadows with Lesser Displacement at 25% Concealment. And I’ve still got 3 Displacement dragonmarks, each lasting about 5 minutes thanks to a Harper Agent enhancement. A Pendant of Quiet Movements or certainly the Token of the Proven might require less deaths to obtain. I’d prefer the trinket as I have little else to add there now, rather than sacrifice my Epic Golden Guile. These stacking Improved Deception effects really slow down charging enemies.

With 20% Doubleshot (3% Elf, 2% Guild Buff, 5% from the Dynamistic Quiver, and 10% Doubleshot Epic Destiny Feat), this final feat would give me 28% Doubleshot. I just scored the 8% Epic Dynamistic Quiver to give me 23% Doubleshot at level 28. With that last destiny this goes to the highest I can make without Epic Past Life feats or special temporary buffs: 31% standing Doubleshot. That’s not bad at all for a pure elven Monk with mixed enhancements. Szyncletica the Shroud-soloing Shuricannon hasn’t any appreciable Doubleshot.

Also, level 29 and 30 give additional Fate points and a fourth slot, making it easy to add things like Otto’s Whistler or Grim Precision to a build that needs every advantage to survive Legendary Tempest’s Spine and Shroud. Our guild is stoked on trying these very soon.

Shadowdancer or Grandmaster of Flowers will be my raid destiny for maximum defense or offense, respectively. Both give decent damage. It’s Grandmaster’s font of high passive ki regeneration, offensive ki attacks, Everything is Nothing, and boosts to weapon base damage that will allow me to use Ten Thousand Stars almost continually every 30 seconds and ward off the largest mobs. It’s Shadowdancer’s higher Ranged Power, extra fortification bypass with Grim Precision, boosts to fill in my Dodge cap to maximum and continuous 25% incorporeality in Shadow Form that helps in raids where there are proportionally fewer but tougher enemies (such as the devils and portals in the Shroud).

Extra Credit: Upgrade my Thunder-Forged Longbow, and build a Legendary Bow worthy of a Zen Archer.

I have no idea what kind of bow to build for Legendary Shroud.

The Case for Fortification…and More

The shield: A symbol of fortification. Your type is different, or not.

The shield: A symbol of fortification. Your type is different, or not.

Was watching the latest video tutorial from Axel, where he’s discussing how to increase your character’s survivability. As his character plows through Epic Elite “Lords of Dust,” starting with Merideth, he notes, with emphasis, that he’s not going to discuss several topics: saves (which are “class-dependent”), AC (believing that super-high AC isn’t possible) and Evasion (which, he says, is outmoded by heavy armor, which seems contradictory to having AC).

I smile at his informative talk as he lets his Ranger/Monk/Cleric loose. I know he’s this specific multiclass because he has a yellow bar (ki: Two Monk levels for Evasion), a Ranger class symbol, and is able to purify the altars in that quest, which requires Divine levels.

Axel has great information for melee characters and it’s definitely recommended. But that video wasn’t for me. My Epic Elite experience with evasive classes (Monk, Rogue) is different. And, in the time I had available to watch what I could of the video, Axel didn’t mention one key protection needed for everyone.

I learned, not long after a trip into “The Portal Opens” with Syncletica with the then-new Menace of the Underdark expansion, that Death will come on swift heels to those who lack in Epic protection.

That specific protection is fortification.

In Heroic levels, experienced adventurers often help discouraged neophytes among us after they’re killed with only one or two hits by a monster. Our first question to help is, “What’s your fortification?”

The reply from that adventurer is often, “What?” or “I don’t know.”

For Monks, fortification is critical since we are often front-line or solo fighting.

I suspect that a few of us get confused as to when and what we need in fortification, where we can get it, and why it’s so dang important.

Don’t Die on the First Hit

Fortification, saith the wiki, reduces the chance for your character to suffer additional damage calculated as a critical hit or a sneak attack. Fortification doesn’t stop normal physical damage and is worthless against spell casters.

It’s generally easier now than prior to Update 19 to find fortification resources for any level. Before then, you had to look for items with suffixes of “Light,” “Moderate” and ‘Heavy” fortification. Let’s break down the minimum you should have by character level first.

  • Fortification 25%: The current name of what was once “Light” fortification. Almost all named items for this have no minimum level to use it. There are 10 named items that have this property. However, since Update 19, many loot-generated items (boots, belts and gloves) have the Fortified prefix with fortification levels between 20% to 40% that are still usable by adventurers between level 1 and 5.
  • Fortification 75%: The current name to what was “Moderate” fortification. There are 18 named items with this property. Again, there will be more loot-gen items with the Fortified prefix that should service characters between levels 6-11 with percentages between 40 to 80%.
  • Fortification 100%: Also called “Heavy” fortification. Every character should be wearing this amount by level 12, if not as soon as level 9. By this time, monsters will have a much easier time heavily damaging characters, especially foes that can make Sneak Attacks. Many, many named items exist, including the venerable Minos Legens. My personal favorite, the Nightforge Gorget, since that’s an easily-crafted level 9 item from “A Relic of a Sovereign Past”, with a Yellow augment slot suitable for a Deathblock gem (a topic of protection for another post).

Now, you can also find Heroic items with greater than 100% fortification now, too, which are very helpful in the highest-level Heroic Elite difficulties where monsters will have Epic levels (Challenge Rating 20 and above) while you’re still at character level 18.

But I might not have impressed on you sufficiently as to the importance of fortification, so let me back up some more.

How Critical Hits Work

While critical hits determine extra damage by player characters to enemies when your weapon attack roll is around 19 or 20 and a confirmation roll is also made, the same goes for enemy attacks at your character.

Fortification, again, reduces the chance that you’ll take additional damage as a critical hit or sneak attack despite the enemy’s attack roll.

The easy way to calculate what chances your character will take it to the face is to look at the Challenge Rating (CR) of your enemy by selecting it and using your Examine selection in your focus window. I’ll use the wiki’s examples.

Say you have 50% fortification against a kobold with a CR of 1. That monster has a 51% chance to hit you with a critical hit.

A CR 20 monster hitting a 100% fortified character has a 20% chance at a critical hit. So having the standard maximum fortification in Heroic levels isn’t enough to avoid a nasty slash in higher-difficulty content. Any quests over level 18 will sting on Elite for sure. This doesn’t take into consideration how boss enemies work, or Monster Champions, which now keep even experienced adventurers on their toes because these randomly-found enemies often possess higher CRs and have special buffs that may increase their chances of wailing on you without mercy.

A CR 54 enemy striking a character with 150% fortification has only a 4% chance of scoring that critical hit.

See the pattern?

Epic Fortification

I once joined a guild run into Epic Elite “Devil Assault.” All of us were level 22 or better. We died with ease as CR 44 trash decided it was time to take us out to the curb, rapidly.

The common factor in that total-party-kill was that few of us, if any, had more than 125% fortification. As the last example showed, that’s not enough against any monster of CR 25 or better, especially ones that often flanked us and got sneak attacks. We needed at least 140% fortification to have a 4% chance not to carry home our own entrails back in our arms.

Anyone that’s gone toe-to-toe with the Epic Elite end-boss of “The Lords of Dust,” Karas, will get a harsh lesson in why epic fortification is so critical. His Sneak Attack damage will end you immediately.

So, I make a habit to get any Epic character of mine ready to handle the worst of the worst as best as possible. I recommend at least 150% fortification if you’re going toe-to-toe in any Epic Elite–more if you’ve got it.

Thankfully, getting this isn’t hard at all, keeping in mind some rules.

  1. Standard fortification, an Enhancement bonus, does not stack with other Enhancement bonuses. Only the highest percentage applies. Epic Fortified loot-generated items go up to 125%.
  2. Special fortification types can stack, depending on the bonus descriptions.

So, an item with the Fortified prefix, as with any item that says a percentage of “fortification” are standard levels. None of these stack.

I know Axel’s character has to have at least 150% fortification to survive. Even with very high HP, you take just a couple of critical hits in EE and you’re done.

Special Fortification

But there are items and effects with Exceptional and untyped Fortification levels. Unless the percentages found on these items are the same number, they will stack with each other and standard fortification.

  • Fabricator’s Bracers and Fabricator’s Gauntlets: Once their Nearly Finished property is unlocked, these together provide 25% untyped stacking fortification to any character. The downside is that you must equip both items at the same time, screwing with your Epic equipment feng shui.
  • Exceptional Fortification items and properties: Some loot-generated items will give stacking fortification, up to 25% more, often having the Fortifying prefix (that’s different than Fortified). These fortification bonus is an Insight bonus and stacks with the Enhancement bonus of standard fortification. However, only the highest Insight bonus item applies. Named items such as the Leaves of the Forest medium armor and the Greater Stalwart Trinket share this property.
  • Some enhancement trees and one Epic Destiny provide untyped fortification that stacks with everything.
    • The Sacred Defender tree for Paladins give 2% fortification for each trained core ability.
    • The Paladin-typed Unyielding Sentinel epic destiny has the ability Brace for Impact, a tier 1 ability that any character can train and Twist for 4 destiny points to give a 40% stacking fortification bonus. Alone with a 100% fortification item or effect, many players may have sufficient protection for anything, including a few lighter Epic Elite fights.
  • High level guild airships with the Armory amenity can get up to 15% additional stacking fortification, improved by the Proving Ground state room amenity.

In Practice

My Zen Archer build is meant to stay put, like a turret, firing on anything. Without fortification, that’s certain death when melees are able to close in on me.

Someone left a very low priced Fortifying Helm (note the word difference) on the Auction House in Cannith one day, with 25% stacking Insight bonus to fortification. Yay, me!

I’ve wrapped up training Unyielding Sentinel with my archer to get that tier 1 Twistable ability. I have 190% fortification available, with no less than 125% at any time in her first Epic life. Once I let go of the Nightforge Gorget and wear a 115 to 125% item as I move into level 27-28 gear, I’ll  have over 200%, more than enough fortification for Epic Elite.

Sauce for the Goose

Thankfully, most monsters lack any fortification, making our player character’s critical hits that more damaging.

But a few enemies are fortified against us, reducing our weapon effectiveness. That’s why you can’t sneak attack a skeleton and some constructs and bosses.

But you can train abilities or find items that offer fortification bypassing or reduction. In the case of bypassing, your weapon or attack ignores a certain level of enemy fortification for yourself only. In the case of reduction, it universally lowers the fortification, allowing others in your party to cash in.

Most of these effects stack unless they’re classified as a similar type of bypass or reduction.

  • Precision is a combat feat that allows you to ignore 25% fortification and gain 5% to your to-hit with no penalties.
  • Armor-piercing bypass properties come on items such as the Black Dragonscale Robe, as well as some weapons.
  • Rogues get Opportunist, a feat that also bypasses 10% fortification.
  • The Trapsmith’s Workshop guild ship amenity gives a 5% bypass.
  • Rogue Assassins have Assassin’s Trick for 25% reduction.
  • The Destruction and Improved Destruction property found on weapons is a stacking reduction effect.
  • Improved Sunder, a melee strike, reduces fortification.
  • The Dark Monk’s finishing move, Touch of Despair (Dark/Dark/Dark) reduces fortification by 25%.
  • The Favored Soul’s Shield of Condemnation core ability in Angel of Vengeance can reduce fortification by up to 50%.
  • Weapons with Weaken Construct or Weaken Undead reduce fortification.
  • The Artificer’s and Rogue Mechanic’s Wrack Construct can reduce fortification by as much as 50%.
  • Insult, a Fury of the Wild ability, reduces by 10%. (Be careful of the tier 1 ability, Tunnel Vision, which, while you’re raged, reduces the player’s fortification by 10%.)
  • Piercing Clarity, a Grandmaster of Flowers ability, bypasses up to 10%.

Teacher Firewall’s Shuricannon 2.0 build, from which I draw much inspiration in solidifying the Zen Archer, shows that he can generate a 95% armor-piercing rating with a lot of gear and upgrades that I’ll likely not see. I’ll be happy to have 50%.

For Mericletica the now-Epic Zen Archer, I have Precision with Piercing Clarity for 35% fortification bypass. If she can get a Flawless Black Dragonscale Robe, that can increase by 15% or 20% to get 50 to 55%. In the highly unlikely event I can upgrade to a Tier 2 Thunder-Forged Longbow, the “Dragon’s Edge” upgrade offers 35% Armor-piercing, which is what Firewall crafts in his Thunder-Forged Shuriken.

Note that armor-piercing is a typed effect and usually doesn’t stack with itself, only the highest bonus applies.

The Other Protections

Axel’s information deals with the player type that (1) is generally a melee fighter, which will take a walloping in EE, (2) has time to get the best gear, and (3) multiclasses to get the best of everything. I’m betting, too, that his playstyle is totally different than my own, as the video shows (his style is scream-and-leap melee). Based on the video, he clearly knows his stuff for armored fighting.

My focus is generally on Monks, so what he ignores in this video are actually key to the defense of the EE Monk.

Axel is very right on never focusing on only one area of defense. You need to dabble in as much as possible. But what you can or should dabble depends on your class, and not everyone is going to dabble in several classes to start.

I’ve discussed these Monk defenses in different posts and in the Monk guide at length, but let me summarize what protections are important for the EE Monk aside from fortification.

  • Saves: Saves are the ultimate armor for a Monk. While saves may not be relevant to Axel or other classes save a Paladin, saves determine how likely Monks are going to be hurt or overcome by some types of damage or spells. It’s hard to build a Monk with poor saves: they won’t live through Heroic if you do manage to build a poor one.
  • Spell Resistance: This high passive defense blocks so many spell attacks but few talk about it because the Monk gains this benefit automatically. Few others get this ability, even in Epic play. Monks generally get 30 spell resistance at level 20. If you are Drow, you get this defense earlier, and Grandmaster of Flowers allows a stacking bonus. You can’t get Spell Resistance any other way except from a Cleric/Favored Soul spell.
  • Improved Evasion: It was paradoxical to me that Axel said that Evasion wasn’t necessary for EE play when his character in that video showed a yellow bar, suggesting 2 Monk levels, a common way to get Evasion. Evasion avoids damaging spells and certain trap damage. Since spell casters abound in EE play, Evasion is the old-school way to avoid that problem. Today, heavy armor folks can reduce this damage with Magical Resistance Rating (MRR), which can’t apply with no-armor types. Firewall notes that Improved Evasion is equivalent to 100 MRR, and my gameplay confirms this. Spell Resistance, combined, make Monks very magic-resistant. We can stand in a sea of fire elementals and never get hit by a fireball.
  • Miss-chance: High Dodge, Incorporeality and Concealment are key in many a Monk’s survival, and we can boost these numbers unlike any other class. My Zen Archer relies on maximizing these effects and sustaining them longer than many other classes. Axel discounts them in this one video because of their problems in activating them or their general effectiveness. Since I can get 25% Incorporeal, 20% Concealment and 30% Dodge, I’m far more effective than 10% Ghostly and Blur alone.
  • AC: While AC is less effective at higher difficulties, it’s not ignored. It’s simply one helpful passive defense. Mericletica sits around 84 in Earth Stance, which isn’t bad at all for a non-melee character, which helps a little in mitigation against trash at least.
  • PRR: Physical Resistance Rating’s recent tinkering by the devs makes a little PRR go a longer way. Getting 25 PRR means 20% of any damage is absorbed. PPR helps my Monks when all other defenses are compromised. Combine that with other defenses and life is that more survivable should a hit get through. I’ll want to add a PRR augment gem to get this a little higher.
  • Special gear: I love the Way of the Sun Soul set and how it provides a Radiant Forcefield type effect on you (in Earth Stance) with a critical hit confirmation, reducing damage by 25%. Combined with other damage avoidance and mitigation, this helps the Zen Archer hold her position to boost her damage.

Definitely take the great work that Axel provides and use it, but note that Monks are special and some information there might not apply. Don’t know if Axel does Monks, but based on his smooth video series, I’m sure he has a clue about them.

A Ghost in the Fortress

On request from a commenter in the thread I posted for the Zen Archer build, I’ve made another video of the archer fighting within the gnoll’s mountain fortress in “Chains of Flame.”

Here, I put Pynthetica the Zen Master through a greater test for you to demonstrate how her interpretation of zen mastery wards off damage.

“Chains of Flame” Heroic Elite is level 15, and so is Pyn. Obviously the layout of the fortress and the number of gnolls weighed heavily against my odds if I simply tried to run through the place alone.

My tactics were simple: Stand and shoot. Only when champions showed up did I have to adjust my game a bit as they often had superior buffs, such as True Seeing, that penetrated one or more of my passive defenses.

I subject Pyn to a hail of arrows and spell attacks intentionally in several places to demonstrate the effectiveness of her miss-chances, spell resistance, evasion and saves. Just watch the volume of miss miss dodge deflected dodge incorporeal miss incorporeal messages that scroll over Pyn’s head as she continues to attack. She deals far more damage than she receives when fighting from a distance, even with a horde of enemy archers.

The video shows Pyn’s central weakness near the final path to the boss: Becoming uncentered. The Firebrand mages often threw spells that lowered my STR, leaving me overburdened and becoming uncentered. That turned off most of Pyn’s defensive powers, specifically my Dodge, Monk stance, and saves and the Incorporeality effect from the Ninja Spy Shadow Veil. Near the final battle I got too close to a group of mages that nearly took me down.

In this video I summon Tempys the Cleric, but use him primarily to heal a few points if needed between battles as well as a mobile Death Ward clicky. Sometimes I just healed myself using Wholeness of Body every 2 minutes since I didn’t do a bad job at regenerating ki on my own.

Tempys wasn’t allowed to fight throughout the adventure while I took advantage of distance to snipe the fortress dead. While I prefer to use an aggro-magnet for more confrontational battles using archers, “Chains” is large enough so that I could complete it without an attack dog. The Zen Master is also a ninja and uses their basic stealth techniques to sneak to places and set up assaults.

I just need to wear more STR to offset ability-draining attacks.

The video’s about 1 hour 10 minutes long. You can browse the video at time marks 1 minute 30 seconds, 18 minutes 20 seconds, and 48 minutes 25 seconds for specific examples of damage avoidance and deflection.

Zen Master: The Untouchable Archer


Pynthetica-Zen12-4

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple but Effective Damage


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

–Pynthetica


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missed Me by That Much


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

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

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

-Pynthetica


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Normal battle miss-chance defenses (level 12)

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

Advanced battle miss-chance defenses (level 12)

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

Epic battle miss-chance defenses (level 20+)

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

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

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

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

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

Zen Master’s Gear


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

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

–Pynthetica


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

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

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

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

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

Zen Mastery to Level 20


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

–Pynthetica


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

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

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

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

Enough Talk, Show Us a Video!

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

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

The Best Defense

Ho! Ha ha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust! *sproing*

Ho! Ha ha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust! *sproing*

A build from forum user ForgettableNPC recently caught my eye.

One day he mused about a Monk with the maximum Dodge bonus possible. He admittedly degenerated his idea to Acrobat build with a touch of Monk and Fighter.

But I wanted to take up his cause, since, being me, I’m all about maximizing the central class traits. What is the maximum Dodge that a Monk can attain without multiclassing? And, like war, what is it good for?

Tears to Thousands of Eyes

Dodge bonus, to review for any newbies, is part of a character’s miss-chance defenses, including Concealment (that’s often Blur), Incorporeality (that’s “Ghostly”) and Evasion (reflex-based). These passive defenses simply reduce the chance of damage by a certain type of attack. In the case of Dodge bonus, the higher your percentage, the less chance that physical attacks (melee or ranged) from enemies will hit you.

Dodge doesn’t help against traps or magic attacks–that’s for Evasion and Improved Evasion, a feat reserved for those who wear light- or no armor.

A character’s Dodge bonus are adjusted by a few factors.

  • What are you wearing? (heavy breathing)
    • Classes such as Rogues and Rangers, who can wear light armor, are designed to allow a higher Dodge bonus maximum, or “cap,” over classes that wear medium or heavy armor. The denser your armor, the less your maximum dexterity bonus, which not only limits how much AC bonus you gain from your DEX modifier, but also your maximum Dodge cap.
  • Who are you? (Ooh-ooh, ooh -ooh)
    • Without any armor, any character has a natural 25% maximum cap–but this can be increased depending on the character’s race, class, enhancements and some items. Halflings gain natural enhancements that increase their Dodge cap. Classes can also gain natural, stacking Dodge bonuses that can override the default cap. Monks gain up to 6% Dodge that stacks with items or enhancements, such as Ocean Stance.
  • Are you a Swashbuckler, Kensei, Ninja Spy, Shintao or Tempest Ranger?
    • Each of these class tree’s enhancements have training that can raise your natural Dodge cap. Note that the Ninja Spy and Kensei enhancements are identical and do not stack, nor do they stack with the Tempest counterpart.
  • Are you in a level 43 or higher guild?
    • The Fencing Master guild amenity buff adds 2% to your Dodge cap.

Make Him Disabled, Bitter and Mean

It’s bad enough, as a Monk, that your defenses aren’t naturally stronger than a Fighter. But, unlike a Fighter, some tranquil contemplation while haggling with your dojo’s quartermaster and trainer might find you items and techniques to support your natural Dodge bonus.

Let’s use a Halfling Ninja Spy here in my example. Unlike the Shintao, ninjas don’t need to train two enhancements to gain a Dodge bonus. Shintao’s Meditation of War first debuffs your cap before the tree’s last core ability offsets this, giving you no penalty, but also leaves you no benefit.

(I know a Drow could have 1% Dodge better than the Halfling. I learned his after all these calculations were made below. So keep that in mind but, also note the cap issue ahead.)

We’ll start with training our shadowy kunoichi with enhancements and granted feats that she can use towards Dodge once she reached level 20. After each item. I show the Dodge and cap as it changes.

Default Monk: 6% Dodge (through Flurry of Blows granted feat), 25% Dodge cap

  • Nimble Reaction (Tier 2 Halfling enhancement): 3% to Dodge cap.
    • Dodge cap: 28%
  • Flurry of Blows (class feat): All Monks gain 6% untyped Dodge bonus by level 20.
    • Dodge: 6%, Cap 28%
  • Improved Dodge (Tier 3 Halfling enhancement): 3% Dodge.
    • Dodge: 9%, Cap: 28%
  • Ultimate Ocean Stance (granted feat, level 18): You gain a stacking 4% Dodge bonus.
    • Dodge 13%, Cap 28%
  • Agility (tier 2 Ninja Spy):  3% Dodge cap.
    • Dodge 13%,  31% Cap.
  • Acrobatic (Tier 1 Ninja Spy): 3% Dodge.
    • Dodge 16%, 31% Cap.

I’m omitting Halfling Agility as this is a temporary boost. We’ll just concern ourselves with boosts that can be sustained.

That’s not a bad number at all: 16% standing Dodge with training alone as a completely naked Halfling*** and no selected feats yet.

Let’s add the only feats that give more standing Dodge.

  • Dodge (feat): 3%
    • Base: 19%
  • Mobility: 2%
    • Base: 21%
  • Spring Attack: 2%
    • Base: 23%

Still naked, that’s a base 23% Dodge. Hardly impossible or impractical number of trainable feats that still leave a player to choose combat related feats such as Two Weapon Fighting and Improved Critical.

***The author of this blog or its agents are not responsible for any
costs for mental counseling, loss of income, time you'll never get
back or images seen that can't be unseen as a result of this
description.

 

Now let’s put some clothing on that perky, cold little lass.

(I said lass.)

Friend Only to the Undertaker

Virtually all gear that provides extra Dodge are enhancement bonuses. So, only the highest bonus from one of your items will apply to your general bonus.

By level 20, the highest loot-generated Dodge item you can wield has a 6% enhancement bonus. There are exceptions, such as the level 15 Skirmisher’s Locket (8%) or the venerable Icy Raiment (also 8%). I’ll stick with the commonly available loot-generated item as, as you’ll see, finding enough Dodge bonus itself isn’t the real problem.

So your final total for this Heroic Halfling is a base of 29% Dodge with a 31% cap. That fits exactly what I’ve seen in past and current lives with my ninjas Ryncletica, Kiricletica and Szyncletica. For level 20, that’s extremely impressive Dodge.

And now, let’s see if any Epic Destiny or gear could make this better.

Good God, Say it Again!

The two natural destinies immediately available to a first-life ninja are Grandmaster of Flowers and Shadowdancer. Let’s calculate both, and then factor in an opened Twist of Fate slot so that any Twistable ability from one destiny could benefit an active destiny, if any exist.

Grandmaster of Flowers:

  • Perfect Balance (tier 1): 3%
  • Walking with Waves (tier 3, only while in Ocean Stance): 3%

I’m ignoring the temporary 25% 6-second temporary bonus of the tier 6 ability, A Scattering of Petals for purposes of standing Dodge calculations and also because it can’t be Twisted.

So a Grandmaster of Flowers ninja has a potential base of 35%. But their cap remains fixed at 31%, so that’s as far as that goes.

Shadowdancer:

  • Untouchable (tier 5): Gain 1% Dodge per each Shadow Charge (maximum trainable is 7): 7% Dodge

I’m ignoring Meld into Darkness for the same reasons as A Scattering of Petals.

So a Shadowdancer has the highest additional epic Dodge of 7% for a potential 36%, but the cap still limits the total to 31%.

As for Epic feats, Combat Archery adds 2% Dodge along with its 1 weapon die damage bonus while using a bow. Still doesn’t help the cap.

Are there any other destinies that can add more Dodge or, most importantly, increases the cap for a Ninja Spy?

Yes to extra Dodge, but they would be very, very expensive to train as a Twisted ability, requiring at least 10 Fate points just to unlock and upgrade your first Twist slot to use tier 4 abilities, such as Echoes of the Ancestors-Martial, a tier 4 Fatesinger ability. However, I found no other destiny to help raise the Dodge cap past 31% for a Halfling Ninja Spy.

She could now wear Epic Dodge enhancement gear, which can appear with up to an 11% bonus, adding 5% more from a Heroic item to a potential of 41% or 42% Dodge for Grandmaster of Flowers or Shadowdancer, respectively. Still, the cap limits the effectiveness to 31%.

So let’s add the only other cap-raising option. This Halfling lass is in a level 103 guild. They have the Fencing Master ship buff for a 2% cap increase, raising Dodge cap to 33%.

So What is it Good For?

The “winner:” Any non-Halfling ninja, with all the Heroic class training alone listed, without Twisting a thing, wearing the highest Dodge enhancement item, and using all available Dodge options in either Shadowdancer or Grandmaster of Flowers , can have a 28% Dodge cap.

Be a Halfling and train it’s abilities, and you gain a 31% cap. Be in the right guild, and it’s 33%.

If the cap could go further, a Halfling ninja Shadowdancer would see a standing 42% potential.

My math can suck. If you see an error, shout out. Other hidden effects also generate Dodge nowadays without many of us thinking about, so these Dodge generation numbers are always sketchy, although the cap generation is quite clear.

As the forum thread notes, other classes, races and training can reach a higher Dodge and cap, especially with the incredible bonuses to both Dodge and Dodge caps in the Rogue Thief-Acrobat tree. The highest standing cap possible anywhere from anything appears to be 45%. Several players report that the temporary Dodge overrides that give 50 or even 100% Dodge for a few seconds tend to be bugged, so caveat emptor. All of my calculations deal with a full ninja, not a multiclassed one. There are other threads and blogs that detail how to twink every last drop of defense, offense and what-have-you by multiclassing. This blog ain’t it.

I don’t know of any past-live feats or abilities you gain that could help further. As the thread notes, it’s the cap, not Dodge itself, that’s hardest to maximize.

Combined with all other miss-chances, a ninja can survive pretty well. In fact, in the next post, I’ll update you with the revival of the ninja-aligned Zen Archery build and how Dodge plays an important role in her defense.

A Simple Zen Archer

She's not much, but she's got it where it counts.

She’s not much, but she’s got it where it counts.

Reincarnating Pynthetica from a human Arcane Archer Ranger to a elven AA Monk has been fun.

Pyn is not a “monkcher.”  Teacher Unbongwah replied recently to someone asking what that build was, with a perfect general description.

I’m not a power gamer, although I do like to win. Part of the sense of accomplishment is success using the tools at hand without borrowing the traits of other classes. I know that means that the feat and AP costs might be higher. I might sacrifice a little DPS.

I like the self-imposed challenge of understanding all that is monastic. The new class trees allow greater augmentations of any Monk to do just about anything. While I first groused about the ability for all Monks to gain all elemental stances with Update 19, I now exploit that change to my advantage.

So, like Kiricletica, Pynthetica has a type of self-imposed challenge to push herself to the limit as Kiri did (learning a lot about finishers and Ninja Poison in the process). What powers, advantages and weaknesses does an Arcane Archer Monk possess that we might miss by going the powergamer monkcher route? What things can a level 20, 22 and 25 Elven Monk AA do (or cannot do) in relation to other builds? Which capstone enhancements are better? How does a pure Monk handle a bow in comparison to a single shuriken or a pair of shortswords?

Despite my research, I’ve not found anyone that’s settled in making a pure elven AA Monk on the forums in recent history. So I may be tilling new ground in such a basic build. Hopefully, as with Kiri, I learn something new.

Despite not being a monkcher, Pyn’s true path as a zen archer can show a baseline, a better idea of how Monk levels and class training can leverage the art of Zen Archery while still having all the Monk innate strengths.

Level 10 Offensives

Pyn has a small selection of AA enhancements for frost or force arrows and morphic or metallic arrows. Combined with effects from a Red Fens set item, that’s really it. But she hits consistently and generally strong. Precise Shot adds in generating more gradual damage through its Archer’s Focus. It will be a bit before she’s eligible for Improved Precise Shot. Until then, she adds AP to the Arcane Archer tree as she can. I’ll definitely use four AP for 2 points of WIS.

With level 12 comes Ten Thousand Stars. I’ve been adding WIS from as many sources as I can as well as training the Henshin Mystic for Contemplation for another +1 to passive ki regeneration. Getting Greater Ocean Stance now also helps for having enough ki for using Ten Thousand Stars. Her ki pool and regeneration are good at 80 stable ki with a 32 WIS, buffed and in Greater Ocean Stance. She won’t be training Manyshot. I’m able to turn TTS around about as fast as I activate it. All I need is ki.

There’s a fascinating older DDO thread where many players tried (successfully) to determine the percentage of how TTS works. Effectively, get your WIS to 42 or more and you’ll likely shoot 3 arrows most of the time and 4 arrows a little less than half of the time. Unlike Manyshot’s 20 second burst with a 2 minute cooldown, TTS bursts for 30 seconds with a cooldown of only 60, so you can fire off TTS every 30 seconds as long as there’s ki to use it. Monkchers leverage TTS and Manyshot, although they share cooldowns if you try to use them in sequence.

I didn’t know until recently that Earth Stance’s critical multiplier worked with ranged attacks. I’ve tested this while fighting in Threnal after reading a post noting this point. The critical hits did appear larger. If this is truly the case, a pure Monk gains sizable damage advantages with bows early on in their life.

Perhaps related to this matter is a bug that’s turned up on Lammania on ranged attacks where it seems that the archer’s die are 19-sided and not 20, making critical vorpals, at the least, impossible. I’m not sure if that’s on Live servers, but out of curiosity, I sat Pyn on a training dummy and fired many volleys to see if 20 rolls appeared, and they didn’t. The devs are aware.

If I have to drop the bow, Pyn does have Stunning Fist trained. With high WIS (all points are going into this), her DC should be quite respectable.

Level 10 Defensives

I’m just chugging Cure Serious Potions with a little wand-waving for healing. Pyn seems to have better defense than from her first life. I chalk it up to a high Dodge for her level (16%) and Improved Evasion. I’ve also become a better ranged fighter than when I first played Pyn, using the circle-strafing and micro-kiting techniques learned from Szyncletica.

As I get the last Improved Dilettante: Ranger and half-elf Improved Recovery abilities fully trained, Pyn should have decent (although not exemplary) self-healing with wands and will have some Devotion spell power in place to help potions do their best. I have a Greater Nimble Trinket for an easy addition of Blur (20% concealment) for now.

Training in Shadow Veil to complete her better miss-chances with 25% incorporeality requires that I add the two core Ninja Training abilities for shortsword use and Dexterity to Damage. I don’t see enough points to consider training one Ninjutsu ability, Poisoned Soul, to add Ninja Poison to Pyn’s options. I’d rather see No Mercy trained up for extra damage to helpless enemies but this will eat badly into my AP to complete other AA abilities.

As cool it would be to add poisoning to the mix, Ninja Poison requires blades, not bows, so I don’t want to train up things I’d use only occasionally.

Armor Class isn’t bad at 43 or so in Ocean Stance. It’s enough to take a few hits if something manages to get too close.

I need more Spot. I’m challenged to get this since Hide/Move Silently points aren’t a bad idea given the build’s power-striking limits beyond what AA abilities I make. I plan on fixing this over the weekend with some crafted goggles.

One thing that Pyn can do that she couldn’t as a Ranger is move–fast. She has the agility of a Monk, so I can make her manually evade attacks by side-stepping. She also has Abundant Step to leap to a tactical advantage. Kiting is extremely easy. Sound familiar? It should–Szyncletica’s speed also serves her well as a pure Drow Monk.

Feats

Pyn has two feat slots left at 15 and 18. I should take Improved Precise Shot, of course.

Improved Critical: Piercing is also a good idea. But then I thought perhaps I should take Weapon Focus: Piercing to qualify for Bow Strength, rather than relying on the dilettante’s lesser Bow Strength.

I’m leaning this way. If Earth Stance offers a way to improve critical damage without a feat, Bow Strength adds more overall damage per shot rather than a chance at better critical damage.

It’ll be risky to go IPS, then Weapon Focus, and wait for level 21 to add Bow Strength, and 24 for Improved Critical. But by then, I’ll need the edge to damage, not as much in Heroic mode as best I see it.

Equipment

I was too new to the game at the time I rolled up Pyn over 4 years ago to research the useful bows back then, but now I’ve tracked down several bows with impressive damage. Game updates make these choices easier today, anyway.

Until recently I’ve enjoyed the Giant’s Roar, a serviceable bow.

I started farming in Three-Barrel Cove for the Greatbow of the Scrag. This has blunted ammo, less needed with Pyn’s morphic arrows, but it also hates constructs and has a red augment slot. It’s the overall damage of this bow and others that compels me to chase them down.

The second bow I had Szyncletica farm from a 45-min zerg run through Delera’s Tomb: Serpentbranch, a potent high-damage bow with two augment slots. I added a Ruby of the Vampire Slayer to it along with an acid augment and is my standard bow for most things. For undead, the Silver Longbow still made  for superior attacks even after I pulled out my old disrupting bow at level 12.

I’ve entered the wastes of the Sands and culled many gnolls in search of Thornlord, a +4 bow with just one red slot–but has a base damage of 1.50(1d8+2). That thing’s designed to smack like a howitzer. No luck so far.

Getting and using these bows will have to hold me until I hit level 14 and can use Pyn’s wide assortment of stored bows, some loot-generated and others, like the nasty Bow of Sinew and Petrifying War Bow, from quest chains. A +4 Thundering bow of Pure Good is doing well in Threnal anytime I see Renders appear, once I switch to Metallic arrows.

I’m thinking that Pyn needs to follow Szyn’s lead and build a Frozen Tunic. Unlike Szyn, however, Pyn’s comparatively slower DPS means that the freeze effect will appear less often. Perhaps a Ring of the Stalker is a better bet from the challenges while crafting up a White Dragonscale Robe that would likely satisfy Pyn’s defenses even into Epic. Looks like Szyn or Lynn is about to go on some White scale farming runs.

Consistent, Lackluster…Lovable

The elven Monk AA is peculiar. My action point distribution is all over the map. Points into Ninja Spy for Stealthy’s +1 passive ki and Shadow Veil’s incorporeality. Points into Henshin Mystic for Contemplation’s +1 passive ki. Points into the Elven AA tree.

I don’t see a clear “capstone” to look forward to achieving. You know, that moment where the character stands as a powerful Heroic build that dominates many high-end quests. For Kiricletica, that happened early with sufficient WIS and good stealth tactics to use finishers and Ninja Poison. Szyncletica sat pretty at level 16 when she could use her spelltouched shuriken.

There’s just something rather ordinary about Pyn’s growth. It won’t be helped by the slower core ability training that won’t give me my last two AA cores until Epic levels.

So I see more of the monastic in Pyn in a slightly disappointing sense. Nothing is very flashy or creative about an elven AA, unlike a stealthy shortsword ninja or a high-speed star-thrower. They just shoot arrows.

But Pyn has greater miss-chance defenses than a Ranger. She moves much faster. She’s hard to hit. And she does take things down. I guess that’s what really matters. Nothing flashy, just effective. She’s a Monk with a bow, with all the benefits of defense.

Like Szyn, healing is her greater challenge on Heroic. But unlike Szyn, Pyn can make any potions she drinks work more effectively, especially if she can pile in a Devotion item.

It’s Ten Thousand Stars that brings out the magic from within this archer.. Once I can reach a 42 WIS to maximize the chances for more arrows per attack, I’ll be happy. At only 32 WIS, it’s not bad.

Pyn’s Starring Role, Coming Soon

Now that Pyn reached level 12 and has Ten Thousand Stars, I’ll make a video for Pyn to illustrate her in the Monk guide shortly.

Practicing What You Preach (Or, Why Syncletica Sucks)

MinotaurAggro

Sometimes, Syncletica is a moron. In this not-so-related capture, we see Syncletica’s stone floating peacefully, surrounded by the WHOLE minotaur city that came to greet and beat her.

Some time ago I mentioned an Epic Elite run with my guildmates into “The Portal Opens” where Syncletica felt all “Hey–I know kung fu” confident–right up to when she was killed like a gnat in the first 20 seconds of the adventure.

I’ve been playing and enjoying the game too much using other toons, dealing with real-life, updating the Monk guide and enduring many new and planned game updates to get around to giving Syncletica a decent post-mortem–until now.

Syncletica is my very first DDO character. Her other students, Lynncletica and Ryncletica, have an advantage in that they are built from the harsh lessons of Syncletica’s gameplay. For some reason, I didn’t meld much of Lynn and Ryn’s experience into Syn’s second life, and it gravely shows. I must’ve been sleeping on the day that I True Reincarnated her.

Poor Miss Chance

Syncletica’s Dodge bonus at level 23 was a puny 8%. Nope, that’s not a typo. Lynn, an Earth Stancer, has a respectable 18%, while Ryncletica runs at 21% at Level 17 and will have it perpetually maxed when back in Shadowdancer destiny.

That’s pretty lame. Syncletica plays fine in Heroic adventures but a mere 8% chance to save against an attack is a mortal flaw.

While Syncletica is a fan of the Dance of Clouds 20% concealment buff she can generate herself, she has no incorporeality bonus.

Summing it up, Syncletica needs some gear and a retool of her feats for better Dodge. She’s a Wind Stancer with very high Doublestrike (16% to 22%) but she won’t survive to use it until I add in some feats and a bit of gear to raise her Dodge to at least 16%. An Epic Gianthold Ring of Shadows would be useful here.

As with Ryncletica, it would be logical to adjust feats to add Whirlwind Attack. The prerequisite feats for it (Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack) would add in an instant 7% Dodge bonus but also Combat Expertise to boost AC by 10%.  A Monk with Doublestrike and Whirlwind Attack should have crazy procs on off-hand attacks, helping to clear a room faster. I’ve long since required that all Monks have at least Cleave in their build, so this will eat three, not four, effective slots.

If time allows, Shadowdancer training to get Shadow Form for 25% incorporeality and better Dodge would also make Syn a longer lasting fighter.

Poor Epic Fortification

Syncletica was slaughtered in EE Portal Opens because she entered with only 100% fortification. The enemies in a typical EE are CR 40 or more. That means Syn needs at least 140% fortification to survive a direct critical hit at least once. Without that, Syn was instantly killed by a critical hit.

She’ll need to train a bit in Unyielding Sentinel for its tier 1 “Brace for Impact” which gives 40% stacking fortification and +2 to Reflex saves (handy for Evasion).

She owns a Fabricator’s Ingenuity set to add in additional 25% stacking fortification if needed, and she should own a 20% or higher exceptional fortification item to add to this.

Poor Saves

Syncletica’s saves are average. Her Wind Stance reduces her Fortitude saves. Her high DEX should help her Reflex saves, but something is missing. As I note in the Monk guide, based on DDO forum discussions and Lynncletica’s experience, a 40 save is minimal for Epic Elite, 50 is good, 60 is godly.

Syn should train more in Ocean Stance. She’s loved the use of Void Strike IV in the past. However, it’s now a liability since it’s not as reliable as a kill strike before Epic levels, as well as the massive AP drain in training other stances to qualify for it. Further, the Grandmaster of Flowers tier 6 ability, Everything is Nothing, is effectively a Void Strike IV, Mass, with a certain kill success, that requires destiny points, not action points. Syn needs the saves (and Dodge bonuses) that Grandmaster of Oceans can provide. The downside is that I might not be able to improve her Earth Stance beyond Adept level…there won’t be enough APs for more than two Master or greater stances, I suspect.

Speed is Not Enough

Wind Stance is a joy to play. It’s certainly more kung-fu than the other stances. But EE is an endurance game and Syn was far too spongy to succeed in her current level.

A thought came to me to consider training her more in the Legendary Dreadnought destiny. Aside from working to get Improved Combat Expertise (for more PRR; Syn currently hasn’t any), she can certainly take advantage of the action boosts. Syn can already seem a blur when fighting, but a haste action boost would make her essentially ethereal to her foes.

The damage and attack boosts would certainly not hurt, either. Training the destiny to maximum for the epic moment of Master’s Blitz would make Syn a powerfully fast fighter. The question remaining involves Syn’s ability stats, specifically, STR. I’ve learned from Lynn how important STR really can be in determining damage (I’ve not played other melees so forgive my Captain Obvious epiphany), yet I’ve often put STR on the lesser track. Syn has high DEX…maybe too high. Two or more points need to go from DEX to STR, if not a bit more. The change will affect Reflex saves but give far greater damage per second. On a Wind Stancer, that means you’re aren’t shooting faster, necessarily, but your bullets will be much larger.

Down on the Farm

Looks like Lynncletica will have to spend a bit more time in “Devil Assault”  to build up some Tokens of the Twelve so that I can reincarnate Syncletica once more. As it seems, Syn should become an interesting fusion from Lynn’s Earth schooling and Ryn’s shadowy Ocean schooling to make her a powerhouse fighter once more.

I guess I should prepare for the new enhancements, too, and how that will affect all of my characters. I’ll have to apply GamerGeoff’s workaround for the broken updated TurbineInvoker code to get my Lammania client started again.

Syncletica Fails her Knowledge Save: A Monk Guide Correction

Student Whiffle Purr left a note on the About the Monk Guide comment page that pointed out a gross error in the Book of Syncletica’s chapter on Evasion, Dodge, Concealment and Incorporeality.

While Evasion is rolled against your Reflex save, the other three items are simple miss chance calculations, as if every attack is a 100% chance that’s reduced by each effect. Since each effect can stop an attack, your odds of reducing damage are higher as these percentages rise. I incorrectly noted that all of the miss chance effects use Reflex.

I ate some baked crow with the morning coffee while making quick tweaks to this chapter but I might show the same stupidity in other chapters, so bear with me as I update.