The Kensei: Where Was THIS Hiding?

Riddick: Weapon master. He'd kill you with a tea cup.

Riddick: Weapon master. He’d kill you with a tea cup.

As I have been trying to update the Book of Syncletica guide, I stumbled on something that I hadn’t noticed before with the new enhancement trees.

I’ve heard of the Kensei fighters, sure. I was never sure what they were, except that they were more often dual-wielding, high DPS fighters.

I was doing some research to see where any class could increase their Dodge cap past 25% a day ago. I knew from experience that Ninja Spies could do this by 3% but then I learned that another class tree had this option.

I was sad to learn that their ability is identical to the Ninja Spy’s and thus, cannot stack. But as I read through this updated Kensei class tree, I could feel my eyes begin to bug out of my head.

The Kensei was familiar to me because I knew it under a different name in my Neverwinter Nights gaming days: “Weapon Master.” Effectively, the Kensei can choose a favored weapon and specialize in its use to much greater effectiveness than others. I didn’t pay attention to it back then because unarmed fighting wasn’t available to that class in the game.

What really caught my eye was that the Kensei class tree had integrated benefits for Monks who add points to this tree.

Without hesitation, I decided to break one of the Book of Syncletica’s rules, just this once. For those not in the know, the guide’s goal is to teach a player that’s new or inexperienced in the Monk to build and master a pure Monk, non-multiclassed, right to level 20 and beyond. I’ve not enough experience (or patience) to learn every multiclass option, and it’s advanced stuff, so I don’t cover it in any great detail in the guide (except note which classes may be more suitable or not in multiclassing).

But for the revised Kensei class tree, I decided to add it to the guide.

I’m a complete greenhorn on this build, so the chapter on it is quite incomplete until I can write about it with more authority. The history of the pre-Update 19 version showed a little Monk synergy as well. But with the versatility of the new class enhancement trees, a Kensei can make a more effective Ninja Spy into an non-Rogue assassin, give them greater effectiveness in fighting, and (while you needn’t take many Fighter levels to gain the benefits) greater durability.

I’m sure you can pair the Kensei with any Monk class trees, but I think that the Ninja Spy and perhaps the Henshin Mystics would gain the most. The Shintao Monk design is meant to work more as an unarmed fighter. While the Kensei abilities can augment them a little, the Shintao class tree is more aligned to accommodate tanking and endurance over power of attack.

I rolled up a new character, Theacletica, and plan to see how she takes to using shortswords, and eventually, kukris and throwing daggers, all while Centered. Perhaps a 14/6 Monk-Fighter, I don’t know. Given that I already have a Ninja, I’m leaning to the Kensei’s Tier 5 abilities, which I need to be Centered with kukris and daggers.

You learn something new every day with Update 19.

Weekend Kung-Fu Classes for my other Characters

Sing it..you know you want to. "Everybody was kung-fu fighting...HA!"

Sing it..you know you want to.
“Everybody was kung-fu fighting…HA!”

Something to read while the DDO gets another update this morning.

With my entry into a multiclassed Rogue with Monk training, I’ve been thinking a bit on doing the same for many of my other non-Monk characters since, if you haven’t caught on, I like the Monk class.

This can be tricky stuff, especially since I’ve only made a few WIS-based casters (Rangers and Clerics). I’ve never gotten the hang of arcane casters in DDO, and have only one sword-and-board melee, a lonely Paladin that rarely gets any air time.

My Monk guide is designed to help people build and play an non-multiclassed Monk, and I enforce this training preference in not discussing blends in great detail in the guide. But the gloves are off in this article as I seriously reconsider not only multiclassing one or two more of my characters, but ALL of them.

I imagine each of my non-Monks journeying one day to the dojo, being helped out of their armor and weapons, handed a pair of monkly pajamas and a straw mat to sit on during their weekend kung-fu seminar, beefing up their unarmed fighting skills with Teachers Syncletica, Lynncletica and Ryncletica before returning back to their dominant occupations of their primary class.

I expect many of them to get a fine schooling and a lot of bruising. For a couple of them, the trip might be worth it.

Arcane Archer Monk

Pynthetica is my human Arcane Archer that I loved to play before Monk fever took me completely.

The first idea in returning Pyn to the game in her 2nd life is to create a Zen Archer, or “Monkcher” as it’s known on the forums. Uses a bow and Zen Archery (use WIS rather than DEX for attack rolls) but be ready to punch it up if things become too close. I envision a Ranger 14/Monk 6, adding in some Arcane Archer power combined with Ninja Spy I for some negative energy attacks and natural invisibility.

I’d lose some ranged alacrity this way with the loss of the Ranger capstone but I’d try to compensate by adding a lot more STR than in her first life for greater damage. One advantage is getting the Two-Handed Fighting line for free with Ranger levels, saving several feat slots if she went all-Monk in her training.

Rogue Monk II

Allysen is my weary Thief-Acrobat II halfling Rogue. Being my first Rogue, she has some issues that make her not as adequate at trapping or fighting as I’d want her to be. Cassie is my first Rogue with Monk levels, so Allysen would be my second effort.

After playing this Acrobat for a bit now, I suspect that I’m missing overall attack power: STR. Quarterstaff fighting is also a bit slower. Rather than pitch the staffs, I could keep the Acrobat and add just two Monk levels. Normally people just do this for the Evasion, but Rogues get that, too. What I’m adding is the unarmed fighting option for more attack variety with elemental ki attacks, which also work with the staff. From there, add far more STR.

It’s AC that becomes a problem in the build since Allysen would have to wear robes or outfits to stay centered. That means that Allysen will need to subscribe to the Dodge/Mobility/Spring Attack/Combat Expertise/Whirlwind Attack blend that Cassietetica will have, and that Ryncletica and Quintessica the Avatar have for superior Dodge, AC and a special attack option. Still can’t neglect DEX for the AC and Reflex but STR will be the damage dealer here. With only 2 Monk levels Allysen should be able to disarm and spot as a good Rogue should.

Cleric Monk

A fitting and common multiclass for many players since WIS powers both classes. I’ve tried this before with unfavorable results, likely because I couldn’t make that toon “fit in” with parties as well as run solo as well as I wanted.

For me, Cleric dilettantes for Half-Elves were far easier to utilize with Cassie and Ryn while keeping their roles straight–and thus not losing any offense or defense in the build. I do so want to make a better party aide with improved fighting prowess than a typical Cleric. Perhaps a look at wielding kamas is worth it, as they do well against zombies, leaving Turn Undead uses to weaker skeletons. I have a halfling cleric I could use for this but the joy of doing this is not there for me. For now, I’m leaving this blend on the back-burner.

Paladin Monk

I must admit that I haven’t studied enough for this one. This blend would have the strongest saves in the game (Pallys and Monks rank #1 and #2 here). Attack power, a few spells to help buff others and self isn’t a bad thing. The information I lack involves what Prestige Enhancement to use. I’d imagine a Paladin Monk as an advanced beholder slayer, so going Light Monk would be the direction if I took up to 6 levels.

Perhaps that’s redundant since Paladins also have a distaste for undead and may have more resources than Shintao Monk I. It can’t be Ninja Spy as that specializes in negative energy and complicates things.

There’s also the matter of CHA, which will sap points for other abilities needed for unarmed fighting. AC is the big loser here since many Paladin defenses/abilities are done through shields–something an unarmed blend like this can never do. If the shield is on, I still have Evasion in place to help but that disables most other monastic effects. Don’t know if I’ll get to trying out this idea. I’ve just not been inspired by the Paladin class.

Druid Monk

Not much time devoted to studying this one, either, but on the surface there is much potential. Druid spell points come from high WIS–perfect for a build whose animal forms effectively fight unarmed, which synergize with a monastic fighting style. The piercing and slashing damage additions are worthy, too. I wasn’t initially sure which way this should go: Minor as a Monk or as a Druid?

Looks like (based on the limited DDO Wiki class article that’s still being fleshed out) that minoring as a Monk gives the best benefit. Two levels for Evasion, and Stunning Fist with additional elemental damage at early levels, and the rest of the attack power is supplemented by the druid forms. STR again defines the damage.

With a few fresh new character slots from buying the new expansion pre-release, this just might be my new experiment in the coming days. Might ask a couple of the hosts on DDOCast: Seems they’re a little bit country, a little bit rock-and-roll when it comes to some Monk/Druids or Druid/Monks they play.

Classes That Don’t Synergize

There are several classes that can’t work as a unarmed fighter with two or more Monk levels.

You can’t make Bard or Barbarian Monks: These classes must always be non-Lawful while Monks must be Lawful. Doesn’t mean you can’t use Epic Destinies to add a little something extra that reflects these classes, but that’s much later in the game.

Sorcerers and Wizards could benefit from the two-level splash of Evasion but otherwise should never be on the front lines where their low hit points mean certain death, Monk Evasion or no. Their reliance on CHA or INT also lessens what monastic prowess they’d have, and thus their odds at survival. Not saying it’s impossible–there are certainly a few crazy players that have surely rolled one up. I’m just not going to be one of them, for now.

As with the Sorcerer, the Favored Soul isn’t a good fit for a Monk blend since CHA is used by that class–almost entirely a dump stat on a Monk.

A definite no-no would be the Artificer. Half of their fun and abilities literally extend from the rune arm, and, as a dev said, rune arms damage one’s calm. It requires INT for spell points. A two-level Monk splash for Evasion would certainly help a traditional Artificer, but I’m not sure how an unarmed Artificer would be practical. (UPDATE: See the comments for a reconsideration: One poster enlightened me to my class bias that would make an Artificer Monk a very enticing option, rune arms be damned.)

The Halfling’s Lament

Note: Early in my blogging, I wrote imaginary tales using my toons to greater illustrate issues or techniques. Not only does it give me some writing practice, it’s hopefully less boring to read than a stodgy, dry post about how the game is played from the real-life mechanics we see as the player. So, indulge me while I introduce a new build of mine, Cassietetica, who has trained a few levels of Monk but has a calling to the rogueish arts. Cassie is my first serious attempt at multiclassing using 2 or more Monk levels. Either she will end up 18 Rogue/3 Monk (I moved to three Monk levels to gain negative energy attacks/debuffs using Fists of Darkness) or the more likely move to 14/6, where Cassie trains to Ninja Spy I for its invisibility, stealth, and shortsword prowess benefits. In any case, trapfinding and lockpicking will be Cassie’s speciality.

– ~ ~ ~ –

tavernSounds of smashing chairs, loud music and conversations assailed my ears just on cracking open the door to the Wayward Lobster tavern.

Adventurers and city-folk from all walks of life sat or stood about in conversation. A few people looked at me for a moment. I had the feeling I was being assessed to see if I could be helpful in some way.

A halfling girl looked up from her tankard but didn’t drop her gaze at me. With a barely perceptible movement, she motioned me over to sit. I recalled my notes from the abbotess Syncletica: the halfling matched the description that the sensei gave me.

“You one of Syncletica’s?” the halfling asked, not taking her eyes off me as she took a draw from her tankard.

“I am. My chosen name is Cassietetica.”

The halfling slammed down her mug a little loudly and wiped the foam off her mouth with her forearm. “Someday, somebody’s going to explain to me why all of you make such complicated names for yourselves. Can’t just have a simple name like the rest of us.”

“Cassie’s my birth name. My new name just illustrates my allegiance to my vocation,” I said, taking a seat at the table and regretting it immediately. Apparently I sat in a small puddle of something that began to soak through the bottom of my robe.

Allysen drank the last of her ale and put the mug aside. “”Vocation”, huh? Most people that Syn recruits just do their monk thing. It’s pretty cool to see them at work, sure. I don’t get along with most of them, though. Too goody-two-shoes. They aren’t into the adventure for the money, you might say. I sniff out a chest but they’re somewhere else, fighting.”

The rogue motioned at the barkeeps for another round. She pointed at me to ask if I cared for a half-pint. I raised my hand, shaking my head.

The new tankard arrived and Allysen took a long swig before saying, “I do like one of them–Ryncletica. She can’t bust a lock open worth a damn but she can avoid getting frozen and fried by a trap better than I can. Good fighter, too. I thought I was invisible. She can go invisible anytime she wants.

The rogue stretched her small figure across to the adjoining table on my left to steal a bowl of nuts to chew on. “But you. I can see something’s different about you. In fact…” The rogue squinted at me, reached over to my right arm and tapped my sleeve, slowly and emphatically with her index finger.

“I knew it. You’ve got thieves tools in there. Don’t know of any Monks that can pick locks–or think it’s right to do so.”

“That’s why the sensei asked you to meet me. I have some basic training in the martial arts. I know my basic elemental forms. However–the dojo cannot teach me all that I want to know.”

“You want to go rogue,” Allysen said, her voice muffled a bit by a mouthful of peanuts.

“For most of my training, yes.”

“Why not go all the way?”

I crossed my arms. “Because you die too easily.

Bits of peanut stung my face as Allysen coughed. “You take that back!” she yelled. Her right hand left the table surreptitiously while her left rose to point an angry finger at me.

“Calm down…and keep your blade sheathed. It wasn’t meant to be an insult. We can’t all be everything. I wouldn’t ask you to lead a charge against a pit fiend, and I can’t either. But the sensei said that you were a good rogue and could give me some advice.”

“Advice, huh?” the rogue said, the flickering anger fading from her eyes. A trace of a smile darted on and off the corners of Allysen’s mouth before she said, “Sure. But talk ain’t cheap. You’ll have to make it worth my while.”

I pulled out a small bag and placed it atop the table. “This is the pre-arranged fee for your time. I’d ask you not to haggle for anything else.”

Allysen looked a bit disappointed as she took the bag. “Was hoping that somebody else was going to pay me so I could cash in a little more.”

“You were actually going to con me out of more money in addition to what the sensei planned to pay you?”

“It’s our way. You shouldn’t be surprised. Boy, you got a long way to go before you’re going to be a good rogue,” she said, pouring the platinum coins into her hand, eyes darting about in a silent count before returning them to the bag, her head bobbing a couple of times in satisfaction.

“That’s just it, Allysen. Our dojo could use more money for our charitable work. You’d be surprised how many places get damaged from invasions, the wars, people displaced and out on the streets. We do alright in trading what we find to the shopkeepers–”

“And I bet they rip you off. That’s why I haggled you. If you don’t know the better part of negotiating, things get expensive real fast. Might want to spend time learning to haggle.”

I nodded. “I don’t think I can afford to. In any case, our costs in repairing our own equipment, combined with selling equipment and tending to our clinic for injuries, is barely helping to make ends meet for the dojo and those we care for.”

The rogue sighed. “And you want to cash in a bit more.”

“If I can find and retrieve more gear in an adventure without great expenditures to repair items or my injuries  in that adventure, it would help a lot. Of course, that would include accessing locked doors and the chests behind them.

“So you’re here to test out.”

“Someone in the Free Agents told me that you’d put in a good word to start me off with better rogue tools if you tested me.”

“Bunch of damned liars. As if I had any influence with them. Still, I’m curious myself.” Allysen pulled out a small wooden box, flat like a book, from side pocket of her armor. “Okay, let’s test you out. Open this up.”

At first I reached for the box but stopped myself. One of Allysen’s eyebrows rose as well as a corner of her mouth.

“Good. I thought you were going to get a faceful of water. Rogues always look before they touch anything. Examine the floor, the walls. The walls next to those walls and floors ahead and behind. Traps can be anywhere.” She motioned at the box. “It’s still not open, though.”

I pulled a lock pick from my sleeve and a pair of goggles to examine the box. Something about one top corner didn’t look right. I plunged the pick’s tip into a small hole and heard a snapping sound.

“Very good. That was the water trap disarming,” Allysen said. “You heard that snap?”

“Yes.”

“Must be your half-elven blood,” she said. I apparently gasped when she revealed her observation. “Yeah, I could see the traces of your ear points,” she admitted. “Most of you look a bit prettier than ordinary humans, too. Keep going on that box.”

I examined the rest of the box and noticed an almost imperceptible crease on the left side. Carefully holding one side, I scooted a finger over the crease and pushed.

I heard a snap–but was thankful it wasn’t the sound of my finger getting crunched.

“That was the second trap. Nice. A rogue can’t assume that one chest has only one trap or one control box. There could be several traps and control boxes. Let’s see what else you find.”

I picked up the box. On its underside was a tiny keyhole. I took out my lock pick set and carefully worked. After a few moments, the box clicked. I twisted the box and out dropped a small copper coin.

The rogue smiled as she took the box and coin, fiddling with it to reset it back. “I’m impressed. That’s a pretty high-difficulty lock I made on that Rogue’s Toy. So you got some good instincts and skills. If you keep up on your training, buy or find some better gear, I bet you’ll be fine.”

She leaned across the table. “So–why are you really here?”

“My problem–is how to keep better defenses as I train. If I am to fight in the monastic way, I can’t wear that light leather armor that you do. It’s too heavy and cumbersome. It…disturbs my calm.”

Allysen realized the problem. “But wearing that dress of yours is liable to get you cut up and pounded silly. Not a lot of protection on robes.”

“No. One discipline will help as I train–but only to a point if I train more on rogue skills than monastic ones.”

“So outside of your robes, there’s always better bracers, rings, necklaces.”

“I was hoping that you would know more sources.”

“That’s more of a question for Ryncletica, I think.”

We sat in silence for a bit before Allysen said, “I’ll admit something. I’ve been at this trapper thing for a while now. Lately it’s been quite a grind, very challenging. I can sneak into places just fine, usually find the nastier traps and pay the bills for my party. But when a fight shows up nowadays…” she stopped talking, shaking her head.

My monastic training, limited as it was, could detect a pale aura about Allysen. A trace of it stays around everyone that’s been killed but resurrected before their soul becomes too long detached from their body. The more deaths you experience, the brighter or more substantial that aura becomes to those trained to see it. Allysen’s aura practically formed a grayish silhouette about her body, as if her body smoldered after being scorched often.

“The game, the hunt…it isn’t what it’s used to be. I may have to–go back to get some better training.” The rogue had been twirling her testing box in her hands absentmindedly before she realized what she was doing and put the box back in her satchel.

excerpt_rogue1“I hear this from Ryncletica so much that I want to punch her in the face, but I want to hear it from you, Cassie…somebody that gets the rogueish way of doing things. How are you planning to survive in places where enemies are far tougher? I’m good with my quarterstaffs but…I guess I’m just not fast enough.”

I took a breath before I answered. “Rogue skills are often just straight training.  I’ve been taught that, if you have only one way to fight, there will be many more ways that an enemy has to kill you. The monastic arts allow me to be fast and nimble, like you. But I can also change my fighting stances. Be a little stronger, wiser, flexible, faster or durable.  Learning to stun things helps. Elemental attacks to my fighting help a lot. Keeping out of sight–well, I don’t have to tell you how handy that can be.”

“I don’t get into that book-learning. I think learning on the job and using what you see is better.”

“For Monks, what you call ‘book-learning’ is wisdom that improves our mystical powers. Without it, it would be like a wizard that didn’t study and so can’t use magic spells or have much in the way of spell energy to wield them.”

Allysen’s attention didn’t waver. “Go on,” she said.

“I’m not sure how much you fight..but maybe fighting is the problem. I’ve learned from Teacher Ryncletica that fighting is not the first option of the ninja. Maybe it shouldn’t be the first option of a rogue, either. Which means, we need to be able to stay out of sight but also to maximize our prowess should we get cornered.”

“I should learn to stun things, then,” smashing one fist into the palm of her other hand. “Gods know that my paralyzing quarterstaff isn’t as good against the nastiest hordes.”

“Maybe. You might need to get stronger first to make stunning work with a staff. The monastic way is different there, emphasizing attention to finding vulnerable points on the body using ki and wisdom, not strength. Might help your damage quite a bit, too.”

Allysen shifted in her chair uncomfortably, grabbing  her head suddenly as if she thought it would fall off her neck. “Ugh. Too much ale. Okay, okay…maybe I need more sword training, too, as  as a backup.”

“Perhaps. A staff is like my fists–it bludgeons an attacker but isn’t as good against things that are more resilient. It’s zombies that I dislike. I cannot use my negative energy attacks on them and they don’t drop as well from martial attacks. I carry around a kama for those occasions.”

“That hooked thing? I would think a shortsword would do better.”

“It isn’t. You need to slash zombies apart, not ventilate them like a leather punch on hide. Shortswords just pierce.”

Allysen looked off to the side in thought before suddenly turning her head to me, chin lifted in challenge. “What’s the three most important abilities to you, in doing what you’re trying to do? So you can still open locks and find traps but still use your bar-brawling fisticuff stuff?”

I scratched my head and said. “First, keeping dexterous. That helps my reflexes and perhaps how much armor protection I gain from monastic training. Next, staying wise, which also helps my mystical armor but also helps determine my overall ki.” When Allysen’s eyes squinted, I said, “Ki is like the spell energies of a wizard or sorcerer but for Monks.”

The bar noises overtook us again as we sat without talking before Allysen opened up the bag I gave her and put down three platinum coins. “Here,” she said.

“What’s this for?”

“For your advice. Can’t earn a living for free, you know.”

“Thanks,” I said, gathering up the coin and standing up.

“Good luck out there. Shoot me a Orienmail if you need something,” Allysen said with two fingers from her forehead in salute.

I bowed and left the bar. I wondered if the sensei wanted me to teach more to Allysen than the rogue would be able to teach me. There are times I don’t understand our ways.

But then, as Allysen hinted, a rogue does things her way, and it’s not the same for every rogue. Perhaps I may have to do things differently. Use swords sometime, like Teacher Ryncletica. Or consider a quarterstaff. I can still show charity, but I would do so through subterfuge, rather than brute force. I can tell that Ryncletica’s Dark School may be more useful to me, at least to training level 6.

If I can find that path that joins the monastic and rogueish craft, I might find my answers.

Samsara: Syncletica in the Cycle

sam·sa·ra

noun /səmˈsärə/ 

The cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound

Syncletica, my main girl, a Light Monk, entered through that circle through True Reincarnation and returned, again, as a Monk, with greater potential from lessons learned in her first, turbulent life. I had planned to TR her on Easter, but with a quieter household this week and trying to fight some personal blues, Palm Sunday was the day of Syncletica’s resurrection.

It’s my first time to use True Reincarnation, so I’m still learning the robes. I see that your character gains a free automatic feat for Past Life of your last class. For me, that’s Past Life: Monk, with +1 to damage rolls. It wasn’t what I was expecting when, after I leveled to 3 and chose my Philosophy (a Light Monk again), I saw a new feat: Past Life: Disciple of the Fist. This was what I was waiting to see. It sends your Monk’s unarmed damage rolls up by a step (so 2d4 is 2d6, 2d10 is 2d12, etc.), gives a boost to Concentration, and allows an Evasive trance.

That Evasion trance seems a little odd until I thought about it. Monks receive Evasion very early at level 2 (a reason why two levels of Monk is a popular option for some melee types). So, this trance may give characters with past Monk experience that TR as a non-Monk to get that Evasion back using this option and without multiclassing, albeit with the price that it is not a permanent feat but more like a clicky. It’s only active for 20 seconds and still requires the character to use light armor or less and not be encumbered.

Syn received a little makeover, giving her an appearance that’s more of a blend of the dark features of her desert monastic namesake as well as Asian features from the lovely kung-fu action girl that graces this blog as my avatar: Michelle Yeoh.

This time around, I didn’t suffer the problems in knowing what a Monk could do. Syn went through Korthos and made fish sticks out of the fish people, never entering a quest on anything but Hard difficulty or better. I missed my Healing Ki for some time, having the Level 1 cleric hireling Dryad (didn’t she have a helmet before Update 13?) help me out until I punched and kicked myself to Level 3.

To my shame, I hadn’t as many low-level gear from my guild’s Monk bank as available to me as I thought. I did have one nice item: the Fernian Wraps from the Threnal chain, with no minimum level.

So far, choices for Enhancements are in line, no APs wasted. Didn’t add Weapon Finesse again, yet, in study of what I may integrate from the classic Rockan’s build and his avoidance of it since STR and DEX are often so closely set for many Monks. Syncletica was built at first from my own Neverwinter Nights knowledge and had to be retweaked twice to fit DDO’s gameplay (including a Greater Reincarnation) to get her to what she was. Lynncletica is a better result of all that knowledge gained from Syn’s retwinking; STR-based, but far durable and happily sitting at 509 HP, unbuffed.

I’ll likely still choose Weapon Finesse since I get better AC over time and hits (Syn’s really missing punches at the moment). As for that second Past Life feat…yeah, I think resurrection and tighter XP rewards requires greater asskicking.

And, this time, Syncletica will ask her guildies to guide her through the entire Necropolis chain. As a Light Monk, you’d think this was a no-brainer.

A Death in the Family

I’ve seen much of death. But when it comes to a close friend, death seems all the most closer to you.

A few weeks ago, the cleric that called herself Arcangela was found alone and lifeless in her quarters we gave her, here in my dojo. She never overcome the distress in what she believed was a futility of saving the ungrateful, the hostile, even those who were evil. Despite our talks, it appeared that the cleric simply appealed to her god to cease fighting. My physicians found no marks, no poisons, no traces of magic foul play. She simply surrendered her will to live.

The cleric was buried in a solemn service. Many of my acolytes and a few from the city come to bid their respects. I picked a quiet location under a large, sturdy oak, near a small stream with a pleasant trickling sound.

After the burial, one of my acolytes, a young halfling named Krena, remained standing  by Arcangela’s grave.

“I don’t understand. Why was it so hard for her?” the halfling asked.

I took a moment to consider before I spoke. “Clerics have much to manage. Few other adventures consider the innate stress of gathering and channeling divine magic.”

“Is it…painful…to heal people?”

I nodded. “In a sense. You sacrifice your ability to fight, sometimes, in order to ensure that your mission is a success. But some adventurers, ill-tempered, ill-trained and ill-equipped, often take advantage and abuse a cleric’s power. They see them as little more than a walking healing potion vendor.”

“I see,” the halfing said. I could see my answers had only generated more questions. I stood in the quiet and waited.

“You said that clerics sacrifice their ability to fight in order to heal. But could they improve on their fighting skills?”

“Yes,” I said. “An adventurer could train in multiple schools, one in fighting, and one in the divine arts. The downside to this is that the adventurer can ultimately not attain mastery in either school and thus be unable to perform the highest abilities that either class could attain.”

Krena’s face began to blush, her mouth opening slightly to show her clenched teeth.

“It wasn’t fair what those…pick-up groups did to her,” she said, her voice shaking.

“No. No, it wasn’t.”

“Master…I feel that…I feel I could learn the fighting essentials and begin study of the clerical arts.”

I knew this was coming. “What could you offer that Arcangela could not?” I asked bluntly.

Krena’s posture straightened in response to my challenge. “I know that even the basic unarmed attacks and evasive training will make me faster and more durable than some clerics I have read about. I won’t need heavy armor. I can heal myself through ki and perform more damage through ki. At the same time, the clerical arts will improve my skills in fighting as well as serving others in their healing.”

“But aren’t you worried that others will take advantage?”

She shook her head. “I think that Arcangela let herself become consumed.”

“How so?”

“As you have taught us, there is a difference between aiding during battle and contributing to an adventurer’s weakened state. It would be better, for both healer and adventurer, if mistakes in training or preparation are not disguised through temporary treatments.”

I smiled. “How would you say this in a less formal tone?”

Uh…stop healing the stupid?

“Better,” I said. “So what can the dojo do for you?”

“I need to complete my unarmed training. I need two more things: The name of a healer trainer in House Jorasco and permission to choose a name based on my new profession.”

I began walking back towards the compound. “I can help you in both. What name do you choose?”

“Gwencletica,” she said, after a beat.

The young halfling just became our first Cleric Monk. I plan to watch her progress with great interest.

A Test of Faith

We found the cleric, half-dead, in a recessed hallway inside the tomb of Delera Omaren I.  She told us (after some rehabilitation) that she had survived alone after her party abandoned her only through her ability to periodically turn the hordes of undead that would amass by the door she had locked.

The strain of so defending herself  had greatly and steadily weakened her. By the time I and Lynncletica had arrived (and by accident–I was reviewing Lynn’s skills in eliminating undead), she said she had perhaps one turn ability left before she would have succumbed or became one of the undead.

The cleric called herself Arcangela.

That was about as much explanation as we were able to get from the woman before she collapsed into unconsciousness for three days. We returned her to the dojo to recuperate.

On day four, I found myself out in the meadow. Seated along our pond was the cleric. I approached and sat, but Arcangela seemed to barely notice me.

After several minutes, she asked, “If I cannot defend myself, how can I do as my faith asks?”

I thought a moment and said, “What do you wish to know?”

Arcangela sighed. “I want…I need to know something beyond armor. Yet I need to be the best destroyer of the undead hordes. You’ve heard of the terrors in the old necropolis. And yet, I cannot manage the filth that has corrupted Delera’s tomb.”

“You could join the Path of Harmonious Balance,” I said.

“I know of it,” she replied. “It isn’t as effective in controlling many mobs of undead.”

“It isn’t,” I admitted. “But you become extremely good at destroying them one at a time.”

The cleric shook her head. “There must be a better way.”

I stood up. “Perhaps for you the path must fork. Perhaps a…fusion 0f the skills of martial art with the divine art.”

Arcangela didn’t answer for several heartbeats. “But I may never live up to my full potential in a single vocation.”

“And yet, you may be the stronger cleric for it. What you cannot outgun, you may outrun,” I said.

The cleric stood up, shakily. “What would I have to learn?”

“It’s what you would have to unlearn that may be more important,” I answered. “For one, the heavy armor slows you greatly. Your protection would come from agility. While the martial arts would be very helpful in direct defense, your powers of destroying undead would not be greatly diminished.”

“And what might be the disadvantages?”

I shook my head. “Highest level spells may be forbidden to you. Healing spells may not be as robust as you would like. Your martial arts skill may be too weak in some places. I know of a few in Stormreach that have learned the fundamentals of the martial art–perhaps only two levels of training–and then continue in their primary vocation.”

I sat back down. “I challenge you to consider the third level, to accept two paths, that of Harmonious Balance as well as your clerical path. Many of my skills are similar to yours but not as potent. And yet, I will survive longer, for the monk renews herself through ki, which doesn’t require rest or potions to renew.”

The cleric nodded but said little else except, “I will consider what you said.”

I left for my quarters to think a bit more about Arcangela’s plight. She seemed–angry that other adventurers sometimes saw her only as a tap to survive themselves but cared little else for her skills. For my part, I wish I knew more on how to fuse the realm of cleric and monk. How much training in one may weaken the other training?

Perhaps Arcangela and I will learn together, once she decides.