Your Playstyle is not My Playstyle

You either attracted attention, or were left behind to attract more attention. Ow.

You either attracted attention, or were left behind to attract more attention. Ow.

As you might’ve gleaned from my last post, I’ve gotten a few more gripes about the lack of Improved Precise Shot on my Zen Archer that I was in the mood to handle.

But after speaking with some friends, I realized it was more of an opportunity for me to discuss why I play more conservatively than more players than I realized. 

Let me ask you several questions based on my observations over the years. Just make a mental note if you answered “yes” or “no” to each. The questions are in no particular order or emphasis.

  1. After your party buffs, do you surge ahead into a pile of enemies?
  2. Do you tend to attack first, no matter what your class?
  3. Do you tend to use builds that emphasize very high DPS?
  4. Are your builds primarily multiclassed?
  5. Do you tend to always just surge ahead and fight, and not worry about generating dungeon alert?
  6. Have you ever made a character that has a Move Silently or Hide score greater than 20?
  7. If you play a Monk, do you think the finishing moves are too complex or useless?
  8. If you play a mage, do you tend to use your spells without worrying about attracting attention?
  9. If you play a ranged character, do you use Improved Precise Shot at all times?
  10. If you play a Rogue Assassin, do you complain how your Assassinate doesn’t work?

If you answered “yes” to most of these, you really shouldn’t be reading my blog.

Aggro Means Aggression

DDO is designed to kill you. If you carelessly approach a group of enemies without a plan of attack, death is sure to come. Sure, you could be a veteran player of many years and even memorized the location and appearance of monsters. That doesn’t change the conditions of the quest, especially if you have party members that aren’t strong enough yet in experience (player or character) or have sufficient firepower or protections to survive.

There are two type of aggro-magnets I know. One kind is the player that simply isn’t watching the mechanics carefully enough. They may be new to the game or very experienced. They often try a special attack and, next thing you know, they forget a critical mechanic and cry out “Help!” moments before others hear a “ding!”

The second are the zerging, all-knowing, high-speed players that measure XP per hour. They know many quests by heart, set up quest and raids with “know it” in their description, and blast forward. They often can dish out the damage and maximize every single ability and have the best of the best gear. Sometimes they’re often completionist-lovers.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with either situation–except when you claim that the way you play is the only way to play and become intolerant to any other ideas.

You Don’t Need to be Perfect at Everything

DDO’s D&D roots mean that some classes will be superior to others at a given thing. You can make a high-DPS fighter with UMD and good Search and Spot but you will eventually meet a challenge you cannot do alone. Many Epic quests now laugh at your True Seeing, requiring a fully functioning Rogue or Artificer to find that door. Your high DPS is useless in part 3 of The Shroud. You will get very, very bloody in many quests if you simply fight without thinking.

What’s “thinking?”

  1. Pulling enemies. You break up a large group and pick them off one by one. Even if you do this only a little, it makes your eventual charge less rigorous. This is the Zen Archer’s job. In a party, I remain stationary, targeting enemies that are being kited or that are targeting others in a party. 
  2. Turning off Improved Precise Shot. Unless you are certain that you can kill all eighteen of the orcs you just hit at once, you’re not only endangering the quest but party members. And even if you can kill off all of those orcs, you’re showing off and being a kill hog. No one wants “leet” players in party because they’re an assassin of joy of whatever you find likeable in a quest’s storyline, including party esprit de corps. The Zen Archer can’t do its job with IPS.
  3. Remembering that you’re in a freaking party. Share the fame. Let people read the story, speak to the NPCs, even grab a collectible. Do some optionals. Do something wacky like letting the Rogue scout, and not leaving the newbie Sorcerer behind as dungeon fodder.

I’m really digressing from my central point. Fighting is what DDO is about. I’m not arguing that. I question how some of you think that what others get out of DDO (or any game) must be the same as what you get out of the game, else, you’re patently convinced that others “aren’t doing it right.”

I am not advocating that any player should make a stealth character, or play only single-classed characters and love it. Nor am I suggesting that you should rip out feats and skills and enhancements that please you and work for your character.

I’m simply telling you to stop your proselytizing about how important you think a skill or feat or enhancement may be. Many players, me included, come to learn and realize what’s cool or useful by experience, not by somebody sauntering into a forum thread to drop in their sage knowledge in clipped, 3rd grade English. In that sense, my blog and the Monk and stealth guides might be filled with “Captain Obvious” information to you. That’s fine. There’s other places you can go to find what you need.

It’s clear I’m not tranquil here. It’s because players that become too godly in their minds just aggro me.

I only have two builds I’ve made. They aren’t necessarily original but they are effective for me and thought it would be nice to share them. My responsibility is to communicate how to play them. Strangely, seems that other builds are more self-explanatory.

I hope your builds work for you. But if you’re going to say that feat X is a must, I’m going to consider what I know about it–and then decide for myself.

Saintly Swords Schooling by Saekee

 

My inexperience with heavy blades is aided by the good folk in the forums. Thanks for helping me not gimp another character.

My inexperience with heavy blades is aided by the good folk in the forums. Thanks for helping me not gimp another character.

With Kiricletica’s successes now allowing her to solo the Amrath quests and reaching Level 26, new guild members compel me to return to one of the two remaining specialty Monks I want to play and then document for the Monk guide.

I’ve already put in enough time on Pynthetica, going from a Ranger Arcane Archer to a Zen Archer. So getting my Kensei Monk up and running is my goal for this long U.S. holiday weekend.

Part of my routine to help understand a class’s role is to read the D&D roleplay information if possible on similar classes. Kensei means “Sword Saint” in Japanese. There are far too many unsaintly uses of the word, most of them dealing with anime varieties I don’t watch.

To gain the saintly component of this class, it’s synergy with the Monk class should form a fascinating attacker.

It’s a good thing I played Kiri the way I did as I learned more about the power of dark finishing moves that paralyze or disable enemy spells and attacks. Kiri’s training will also help in my first forays in multiclassing Monk with the Fighter class.

My goal was to make Theacletica, my Kensei student, a specialist light fighter with kukris, daggers and shortswords. She’s a dark Monk and so can use the same abilities that Kiri has, but now I’m aware of these at a much lower level.

I didn’t precisely know what challenges I had in building her. I wanted to stay Centered to use all Monk abilities, so robes/outfits only. She’s a Half-Elf so I’ll be able to work in self-healing and buffing with a Cleric dilettante. I’ve added a few points in Ninja Spy to gain shortsword prowess but this presents a problem. The Dexterity to Damage ability comes with using weapons once you train in the first two ninja cores. Shadow Veil is the third core, and I’d really prefer the high Incorporeality defense I can get since I will not have as much AC as a Fighter.

Fighters also normally use STR for damage, but I figured that I’ll need to build things more monastic than martial and put more emphasis on DEX since I planned to use light blades with the Ninja Training and its DEX-to-Damage.

Thea would have to strike fast and stop fights with the finishing moves since it may be some time before she can hold her own as a true Kensei. While not using Kiri’s first-life self-imposed rules, I expected to use the techniques I refined with Kiri to keep Thea alive.

The new stuff for me involved the benefits of the Fighter levels, required to eventually allow kukris and daggers to be centered for me. With Fighter levels I’ll get more feats that should add a lot of variation in attack. I don’t expect to add fewer than 6 Monk levels and no more than 12 Fighter levels.

While there will be fewer granted Monk levels and a serious challenge on some advanced abilities I enjoy from there, the Fighter levels will add many more Fighter bonus feats to augment her attacks. These include Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack and Whirlwind Attack as well as Cleave attacks, Improved Critical, and Two Weapon Fighting. With no maximum dexterity bonus to worry about as a non-armored character, perhaps using the Ninja Spy abilities isn’t a bad thing.

There’s just the careful application of Fighter levels to reach my desire of a maximum 12/Monk minimum 8/Fighter setup. I’m terribly afraid I’ll wreck this build as I did Cassietetica the ninja assassin (now a bank). I’m retro-adding settings from the DDO Character Planner to check that I’ll meet the Fighter prerequisites necessary for One With the Blade to make non-Monk weapons work as centered weapons.

Now, all these considerations I wrote here came long before Teacher Saekee’s meditations came up with something more deadly, reminding me how inexperienced I am with multiclassing, the principles of critical threat–and how a different weapon than any I’ve used can add to a character’s flavor.

Brushes with Death

In a recent DDO forums thread, Saekee asked anyone if they could confirm if the increased critical threat range of the Forester Brush Hook kama would stack with the Ninja Spy capstone and Improved Critical: Slashing.

Now, the Hook is special. It already has a 19-20 threat with a x3 modifier. Get the Ninja Spy capstone and you get 17-20. I confirmed this on Kiricletica with her dual-wielded kamas but hadn’t the ability to check farther.

If you take Improved Critical: Slashing, that range goes batshit: to 13-20, as Saekee proves on one of his characters:

Why I'm going to add IC: Slashing to Kiricletica immediately. DAY-UM.

Why I’m going to add IC: Slashing to Kiricletica immediately. DAY-UM.

Now, if you get the Epic versions of these, they’ll help a bit with damage, but does that matter when you’re likely to make powerful DEX-to-damage 3x criticals around 40% of the time!?

Your dojo must be very proud of you, Saekee. Props for the discovery.

I will be tooling up Kiricletica for this, for sure. But this discovery makes me realize how screwed up Theacletica’s current weapon choices may be. A Kensei should emphasize weapon damage. It’s what a Kensei should be about, right?

Resetting Theacletica

So now I’m tossing my light-bladed Kensei into the fire. Saekee’s probably made more non-Monk characters and understands weapon damage a bit more than I do, thus his discovery. I’d be a moron not to pay heed to it.

I had been thinking too much like a Monk and not enough as a Fighter to make my first Kensei shine.

It would be better for Theacletica to use greatswords and kamas. She’ll still have kicks and punches as a backup. As a multiclassed character, she can’t gain the Ninja Spy competence bonuses for critical threat. But the Kensei tree offers great weapon specializations for damage, more critical hit damage, and a +1 threat increase to the focused weapon. I just need Improved Critical: Slashing to make it work. I’ve got a number of greatswords in my banks, saved for whenever I got around to making a conventional fighter. For now, no reason to let those weapons sit about.

Going the greatsword route also differentiates her from Kiricletica, who is already mastered light blades. If I’m going to do a kensei, I should go for the really obscure weapon that you’d not see on a typical Monk.

I still need to study whether the Dark philosophy is still more prudent than the Light. Theacletica could really use the benefits of Shintao’s healing amp. Then again, a bit of training in the ninja arts gives Ninja Poison to really augment attack damage, as well as better miss-chance powers with Shadow Veil.

It also means that Theacletica should be focused on STR when using greatswords. I can’t add too much DEX just for occasional use of kamas, even though I gain that Dexterity-to-Damage. It’s one or the other, right? (Update: Saekee reminds me that greatswords, once Centered, become DEX-to-damage weapons, too with ninja training, being slashing weapons.)

A Monk with a greatsword also smacks of complete badassery on the battlefield.

Hopefully it’s not too late to salvage Theacletica’s build if I’ve already put too much DEX in her. If she’s too far gone, I’ll reroll her and report back.

 

Redefining Roles in My Dojo

Light...Dark. Matters not, it does. Colonel Sanders is no longer our master.

Light…Dark. Matters, it does not. Our master, Colonel Sanders, no longer is.

The remarkable changes of Update 19 is forcing my altitis to get a grip on reality.

As you might guess, I have several Monks.

What you might not guess is that I have a few non-Monk characters, too. More on those unwashed heathen later. Right now, I’m compelled to differentiate how my Monks serve my guild and me.

Since creating the Monk guide, I’ve realized that play time with each major variation was key to keeping some level of competence in documenting what feat, skill, item or enhancement can do. I generally defined my Monk’s roles as did many other players, as if they were buckets of fried chicken that you ordered up. “Light” or “Dark?” Do you serve it primarily cold, hot, nuked or poached?

As I gained better understanding of the elemental Monk stances, the differentiations also broke down to the old Prestige classes (Shintao or Ninja Spy) and what Monk stance they favored, and why.

Now, the class trees offer so much variation but with substantial changes that my original attempts to have a Monk that specialized in any one Monk stance or philosophy is useful as so many crumbs at the bottom of the Colonel’s box of biscuits. Let’s break down what’s happened.

When Everybody’s A Super…

Syndrome…No one will be.

Remember Quintessica? My “Avatar” Monk that mastered all the elemental stances by refusing to master a PrE? Yeah, she’s just one of the gang now. Update 19 automatically grants all elemental stances to you as your Monk levels, as feats. The good news is that all that AP spent in the past can go to other enhancements. The bad news is that the Avatar is a stock feature for all fully-trained Monks. She’s since moved on to finishing move and quarterstaff mastery.

I’ve also heard in casual conversation (to my horror) that the higher stances (known also now as “Forms”) can be chosen by low-level Monks. That is, if you have a feat space, you can choose it with 1 Monk level at any time, rather than letting level progression auto-grant it to you. Makes for an interesting but strange option for Kensei fighters.

The news did caught me off-guard. It left me in both an existential and ontological crisis for a bit. pondering things like “Why be a Monk anymore if any otherwise-unskilled Tom, Dick or Arretreikos can buy up a feat and punch about, too?”

Of course, a Monk is still more than just an unarmed bludgeon, thankfully. We still matter. There is still a delineation of why Monks are still relevant in DDO. What we can do that others cannot.

But we can no longer use elemental stances as a benchmark. Every Monk is an “Avatar,” a master of all elements.

As the poster child for a lost role with Update 19, I retooled Quintessica quickly as my first Henshin Mystic to gather a feel for the new enhancements, as noted recently.

But now there’s still the matter of repurposing the rest of my posse.

Please Choose One of Your 505 Options

I kid you not. The variations of the class trees allow you (with at least one multiclass or Arcane Archer option if from an elven race) that you have five hundred and five individual core and tier abilities from which to define yourself as a Monk in this new age.

This purposefully excludes non-divine spell caster class trees just to keep my sanity (you’d likely add another 200 variations), does not include Barbarian and Bard trees (impossible to multiclass with a Monk), and only counts Human, Half-Elf and Elf races.

My Monk guide (now mostly revised) is concentrating on 125-or-so options for now: The three Monk class trees, the Kensei class tree, and (coming soon to the guide) the Arcane Archer tree if an elven-type race that can add this tree with a few AP, racially.

If I try to keep to practicing what I preach, then my dojo (and friends who drop in) need some retooling. Here’s what I have in mind for characters who haven’t received or self-defined their roles already in this Brave New Game World, such as Lynncletica the Tanker, Quintessica the versatile Mystic, and Ryncletica the Ninja.

Arcane Archer Monk (Half-Elf)

Pynthetica is my next to oldest character (Syncletica being the oldest). She’s a human Ranger Arcane Archer, a past favorite from my Neverwinter Nights days. She’s never experienced a True Resurrection, so she’s due.

My goal is to have train all of my characters (unless a dedicated non-Divine spellcaster or dedicated healer) with significant (6 or more) Monk levels. Likely, most will have much more. Each character is going to get a weapon specialization (lowercase) that melds with their monastic training. I have a Rogue that’s competent at traps but uses Ninja skills and is training up as an Assassin.

In the case of Pynthetica, she’ll become a Half-Elf, train the basics in unarmed combat and then add in the Arcane Archer tree. She’ll need the Zen Archery feat for Centeredness with the bow and may be lighter in overall punch than either fully-trained Monk or a Ranger AA. But with that Cleric dilletante, she’ll be quite versatile.

I like the idea of going Light in philosophy here for some healing regeneration, but going Half-Elf with a Cleric dilettante will shore that up, so Dark is a better damage option although much of its work can’t work in ranged mode.

Pyn should be quite competent going pure Monk or adding in 6 Ranger levels to gain Manyshot and a few granted feats. Since you needn’t take a second class for AA as an elven-type, it’s a matter of putting the Action Points where they matter. I think this will be my first priority on this next Fall weekend (after taking Lynncletica in “Devil Assault” to farm a bunch of Tokens of the Twelve).

Light Kensei Swordfighter (Warforged)

I have a Warforged Monk named Synthetica. Yes, the name begged to be used.

To complete my original quartet of elemental users in the past, I had planned to make the robot into a Fire-Stancer since healing her (“it?”) would be complicated given the racial healing problems.

Now that only Humans and Half Elves get anything on the racial side from healing amplification (with the Warforged’s options just trying to keep them from being a burden), I plan to make Synthetica into something far more unusual. Using the very interesting Kensei enhancements that sync well with Monk abilities, I’m going to work on giving the robot a much longer arm than any of my Monks. Specifically, Synthetica will eventually use a greatsword.

Starting out, it will be a mostly unarmed affair, and a minimum of 8 Fighter levels may be required to get the best power. Since you can’t add ki proficiency with greatswords from any Monk class tree, Synthetica will need the entire Kensei line to make a greatsword a Centered tool, adding perhaps a few points into Shintao for some self healing. This one should be fun if I keep it a secret to my guildies. Imagine that we’re in a quest and things are looking bleak, when suddenly an unarmed Synthetica pulls out a huge sword and begins a school in how to carve and filet. It wouldn’t be my usual style and I look forward to it.

Dark Kensei Weapon Master (Half-Elf)

This is Theacletica,  mentioned recently, who is going Dark for damage and training in light blades. Since shortswords are easily added to any Monk with one point in the Ninja Spy core abilities, she’s likely to stay with these until she takes the full Kensei line and adds kukris, daggers and a few other sundries. She won’t throw the kitchen sink at you, but will throw every bit of the kitchen’s pointy, edged silverware.

Rogue Henshin (Human or Halfling)

Allysen is my first Rogue and has had growing pains. Mostly this not her fault. I love to play many characters in solo mode. You can get only so far with a Rogue since they specialize in damage that works effectively and only when someone else has the attention of the guy you’re attacking. She’s been at level 17 for a dreadfully long time.

I’ll need to force her to level 20 and then TR her. I may keep her as a Halfling (hear the murmuring praise by GamerGeoff) for the Dragonmarks and some gear she already possesses from her Thief Acrobat days. For greater damage and versatility, she could train as a Light Henshin with some Ninja Spy. She’ll forsake her life as an Acrobat, since many of the abilities there are also found in Henshin (with little benefit or compatibility with each other).

The problem is that being a Rogue is a very skill intensive path. You’re good at it, or you suck, and there’s no middle ground. Frankly, fighting is secondary for Rogues. I could use Cassietetica as a model (a Rogue Assassin Ninja) and steer Allysen towards the Mechanic path a bit. Still, AP is AP. I make Allysen a decent fighter or a decent Rogue. Of all the characters, Allysen is the greatest challenge for Heroic living.

Wind Stancer (Human)

This is what Syncletica, a Shintao, is now. Epic levels have not been friendly to her at all. She takes tremendous damage there from which she can’t heal fast enough, even with an impressive healing amplification.

I’m not giving up on Syn as a Wind Stancer, but she really needs more beef to counteract damage. In Heroic, she’s fine, In Epic, not so much. That likely means, as she reaches Epic levels, to pile on Legendary Dreadnought training, Unyielding Sentinel and Shadowdancer epic destinies for more protections.

I put her through a Lesser Resurrection recently, adding a few points in the Ninja Spy tree for faster sneaking, more Dodge and Shadow Veil (easy 25% incorporeality), while remaining points go to Shintao. Got her more Dodge, too. I took her into one fight in Eveningstar and recalled her back bloody and in pieces, despite having miss-chance skills like her old student, Ryncletica. Sigh.

The Dreadnought mode gets many Action Boosts that a Wind Stancer could use to throw out more damage than they take in. Some Shadowdancer abilities can improve her DCs to go with LD as well. I’ve just got to find the right balance for my primary toon and namesake to these enterprises.