How a Ninja Causes a Bug

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So, here’s Ryncletica, now a powerhouse fighter at level 30. She’s continuing to train every destiny to gain enough fate points to have Sense Weakness and other abilities twisted for raids and to boost her Epic Elite combat prowess.

I started up the Epic saga that pretty much requires everything in Eveningstar and beyond, starting with “Impossible Demands.” Just to be sporting, I enter with Iessin the Rogue/Shadowdancer in Epic Elite.

The fight with Priestess Vicala begins strangely because I couldn’t target her at first. For some reason I kept targeting the door behind her but my sword strokes pass through her. I shift position to get Vicala to move, and she does, towards the locked end-quest chest.

Among other spells I shake off, she begins smacking me with a hundred points of Divine Punishment. I return the favor with a hundred points of Ninja Poison ticking on her. Here’s the combat log at the peak of the battle:

(Combat): Vicala Szind’s divine punishment hit you for a total of 75 points of light damage after 37 were blocked by energy resistance.

(Combat): You hit Vicala Szind for 97 points of poison damage.

(Combat): Vicala Szind’s divine punishment hit you for a total of 79 points of light damage after 37 were blocked by energy resistance.

. . .

(Combat): Vicala Szind’s divine punishment hit you for a total of 85 points of light damage after 37 were blocked by energy resistance.

(Combat): You hit Vicala Szind for 87 points of poison damage.

(Combat): Vicala Szind’s divine punishment hit you for a total of 79 points of light damage after 37 were blocked by energy resistance.

(Combat): You hit Vicala Szind for 99 points of poison damage.

(Combat): You hit Vicala Szind for 103 points of poison damage.

(Combat): You hit Vicala Szind for 97 points of poison damage.

Helping me reduce the punishing Light damage is a cloak that has Light Resistance 37, a very handy thing against evil clerics.

She goes all “Super Saiyan” on me as expected in the quest’s start. You know what that is: Drow priestesses sacrifice any innocent to gain a super buff that recharges their life and reduces your attack effectiveness for a time.

But the Ninja Poison DoTs persistently damage her, even in super-mode. As she returns to normal, her body “hiccups” every 2 seconds as the Ninja Poison dots her with 107 points of damage. Her Divine Punishment dots stop after about 15 seconds.

So, Vicala sacrifices the Purple Dragon Knight and then leaves, closing the door–which she does. I move back to the normally-safe area by the entrance and shrine.

And then the very pissed-off Vicala comes storming back through the door. She’s not following her preset patrol. She attacks me and the passive Iessin–not just twice but three times, also sacrificing the already-stricken Purple Dragon Knight a second time as she goes Super Saiyan once more.

Proof that, while Divine Punishment can deal debilitating damage, Ninja Poison throws up to 20 stacks of the stuff and lasts 15 seconds per stack, ticking damage every 3 seconds.

Ninja Poison ruined my normal attempt to rescue all hostages without the priestess noticing.

And it left me a momentary challenge on how to turn off Ninja Poison for the first fight or I’d keep turning the priestess into more than the usual psychotic murderess she is. (The answer there would be to switch off the Poisoned Soul and Sting of the Ninja enhancements.)

To the defense of the developers, this isn’t so much of a bug than a glitch. Ninja Poison was too effective on her at the start on this first attempt. Often some NPCs that fight then go inactive have any lasting player damaging effects removed. Looks like Vicala didn’t get that treatment on the first attempt.

I reset the quest, tried again and completed. However, during the run, Vicala apparently was enjoying a particular piece of furniture upstairs and glitched again, halting her patrol. I took advantage of that, rescued all the hostages and then dispatched her.

#ninjaproblems

Epic Purple Haze: Venomous Weapons

Update 29's new prefix/suffix format offers some improvements for a poison master--if she can find the weapons.

Update 29’s new prefix/suffix format offers some improvements for a poison master–if she can find the weapons.

I’m still tooling about with Ryncletica, a Drow that leverages all kinds of Poison damage with Ninja Poison to DoT the hell out of many enemies.

With Update 29, a curious addition has arrived to weapon prefixes that has almost caused me to forget that I still need a Shard to build an Epic Envenomed Blade for Ryn.

That’s the Venomous prefix. These are adding 1d6, 2d6, 3d6, 4d6, 5d6, even 6d6 Poison damage to weapons. That’s a lot of Poison for the 100% Poison debuff caused by Ninja Poison to amplify, far more than the Poison damage that any other weapon adds. In contrast, my two preferred weapons are the Tiefling Assassin’s Blade and the Envenomed Blade, which give only 1 to 6 Poison, with occasional bursts of additional Poison in the latter. I just found a level 28 blade of Critical Piercing for extra damage.

So these new weapons give more consistent Poison damage that should stack and amplify. I said should as I had yet to test it until recently.

While the Venomous prefix was rather common, it took me some time to find a couple of shortswords (shown above) with Venomous, never mind an idea set with of Wounding or Doublestrike. I even found a Venomous returning shuriken before these two shortswords. That’s the first Poison throwing star I’ve ever seen, and I hope to watch Sting of the Ninja boost its DoT effects.

So, at level 24, Ryn’s test needed to find a boss that (1) Wasn’t a devil, elemental or undead, (2) Was respectfully high rank, at least CR 28 so I can watch the DoT build-up, and (3) had a simple end-fight with no respawns to complicate my observations.

Frelga, the night hag awaiting at the end of “The Riddle” on Heroic Elite, qualified for the job.

The result: As expected, these weapons get sizable boosts of Poison damage that get magnified with Ninja Poison. This build also adds the Venomed Blades Drow enhancement to go with all that. Don’t have a Quiver of Poison yet, which would complete this build’s power.

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ScreenShot01828It would be nice to also find an Red augment slot. Sadly, there are no Poison rubies we can add to weapons. That would be nice to see.

The weapons themselves also have a strong base damage, which is welcome.

You may notice other purple damage amidst all the purple poison haze. That’s the Touch of Despair finisher debuff that magnifies negative energy damage. I do have the 500-point zapping Touch of Death on hand, but wasn’t using it here so I could observe the new Poison.

The Poison Master is a somewhat limited build to be sure, especially with Update 28 and 29’s additional raids and quests that build up to a new invasion by the devils of Shavarath and other outsiders that are completely immune to Poison. Good against Drow and humans and many others.

But when that one HP-heavy boss shows up that isn’t a devil but is resistant to many other attacks, Ryncletica will be up to the job.

The Best of Both Worlds

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Leveling felt like it took forever, but Ryncletica the Poisonmaster is back in Epic.

Epic melee combat always requires a different strategy. Like Rogue Assassins, Epic Ninja Spies thrive on opportunity, and try to generate as many opportunities as possible.

What’s surprised me are the many opportunities a Ninja Spy has available.

Healing Up and Epic Destinies

Like Szyncletica the star-thrower, Ryncletica is a Drow and needed better battle healing. The popularly trained Rejuvenation Cocoon was the simple answer, attained at level 24.

Most of you know how grinding through Epic Destinies to unlock access to each one can be a bit daunting. Thankfully, experience with my first mature Zen Archer showed me that the rewards were well worth it. (This isn’t news for many of you. I’m just slow, so I apologize. I’m more likely to enjoy playing than grinding for continuous growth, typically.)

When Ryn last TR’ed, I was rather selfish in leaving a destiny because the benefits felt safe. Shadowdancer was like that for Ryncletica. I felt safer in it and did not see how other destinies outside of Grandmaster of Flowers would synergize as well as with my Ninja Spy. But, now, after playing through several with the Zen Archer (a ninja at heart), I’ve seen the light and rededicated Szyn and Ryn to complete as many destinies as necessary to get commonly useful abilities and improve the character’s overall efficiency.

Again, I apologize for being dense about this sort of thing until recently. Like enhancement trees, you shouldn’t overlook benefits in other destinies, even it it takes time to develop them. And best to take advantage of first-life XP to build these up faster than in later lives.

So Legendary Dreadnought right now ultimately provides some HP and melee power, but I don’t find myself doing much with the boosts. I’m appreciating the critical hit and threat boosts, and I’m sure to enjoy Master’s Blitz for boss fights.

It’s when I trained up Shiradi that Ryn showed a different side of herself. Ryn is a light version of Shuricannon 1.0 because she is Drow, lacking only the ranged feat bonuses and a bit less DEX. But, with a Celestia in hand, Ryn can tear through monsters almost as well with her stars as her swords. Ryn’s behaving more like a Ranger than a Monk in this regard; capable of equally powerful melee or ranged fighting if the need arises.

I’ll let you know more about other destinies as I level them to open up more fate slots if I see a need.

As for healing amplification, I need that, too. Neither Drow nor Ninja Spy offer any inherent healing amp. I’m using a herolic Shamanic Fetish for some boosts to it right now, but if I can improve it with some points to my Healing skill with an augment, I’ll add it. The Purple Dragon Gauntlets are an easy option but it takes away my Melee Alacrity I appreciate from my Fabricator’s Gauntlets. But then, I could use a crafted Trinket of Melee Alacrity and use the PDK Gauntlets to see if its healing amp works better than Devotion spell power.

Weapons (or: How I Own Drow with Level 4 Shortswords)

With the capstone enhancement, Ninja Master, I will often Vorpal with my shortswords.

But I understand how some feel that there aren’t really powerful shortswords for Epic play.

I’m realizing this isn’t as much of a problem for a Ninja Spy that uses their innate skills.

I have a couple of Epic Elemental Fury swords for level 26, and two Thunder-Forged Shortswords in use now. Both TF swords have Rubies of the Endless Night, but they aren’t as effective to me as I would like against some things, and I’d likely swap those out for some Good augment gems.

I also want my Poisoning powers at maximum. One weapon can improve that, with some extra grinding in one quest.

That’s “Spinner of Shadows.” The goal is to find two Shards of the Envenomed Blade. I’ve got one Seal and two Scrolls so far. Once I can upgrade two, they will become my stronger Epic “go-to” weapon against most non-demon enemies that are susceptible to Poison damage. The Epic Envenomed Blade has a decent 2(W)+6 base damage boost and a higher Enhancement damage. The Enervation feature will match that I’ve added to the weaken Tiefling blades in the form of Rubies of the Endless Night. The upgrade gains me Red augment slots where I can improve their DR, likely with Good gems.

I recall Evennote’s post of some time back of her frustration in grinding for a Shard for her Silver Slinger. I believe she did eventually get one to drop later in repeated runs in “The Spinner of Shadows”. That was back in 2013, before a recent update that defined the chances of Shards and Seals drop rate at 5% at Epic Normal to 15% on Epic Elite. Of course, running in a party should stack those odds through the number in the party. A guildmate’s expressed interest, too, in running “Spinner” often enough to find it, so, with chest ransack rules also factoring in, a larger party is best.

One thing I won’t look forward to handling are the Hezrous. Hezrou demons suck. I’d rather stick-and-move against Karas, especially with Ninja Poison DoTs, even in EE. But Shards for the whole chain drop only in the Epic Chest of “Spinner.”

I thought to improve my Hezroubuster skills. Most Spinner hunting parties die because they split up too much. Herzous easily whomp solo adventurers without a plan. Staying together saves resources. And the blue spiders weren’t going anywhere.

So, before I had the TF swords, and with a little research, I make some Hezroubusting shortswords.

I had to test out those +5 Axiomatic Burst Flametouched Iron Shortswords of Chaotic Outside Bane in an Epic Normal run in “Spinner,” but not before double-checking some notes on controlling the Spinner. Seems I was overdoing the pinning process. After pinning her well in rounds 1 and 2, I had several minutes to run around with my two hirelings to gather crystals.

And then came the hezrous and renders. I charged in, the new swords butchering them. I shoved in what dark finishers would work against them sometimes (Pain Touch) but mostly it was a DPS thrashing of any hezrous that got too close. Being in Grandmaster of Flowers helped; I have a few more bits of XP to fill that destiny before returning to Legendary Dreadnought.

The battle over, but no shards of any kind. ‘Tis sad. But I lived. As soon as I can build up a bit more power and gain a party, it’s back to the Khyber salt mines.

But for Ryncletica, the simple things remain ridiculously effective in many places.

I entered an Epic Hard “House of Broken Blades,” armed myself with only my Tiefling Assassin’s Blades and laid waste to that place.

The key (as always) isn’t in the base weapon damage but in several other aspects:

  • Poison damage from the blades combined with Ninja Poison
  • The 15-20 critical threat range, now turned to 13-20 with Ninja Master and Improved Critical
  • Higher damage with high (though not highest) DEX
  • Tthe Ninja Spy’s various abilities to make enemies helpless.

I mixed up stealth using the hirelings to lure enemies close, or sneaked up to enemies and smacked them with Freezing the Lifeblood over and over. Any Drow that met me, including Orange-named and nasty Champions, dropped very quickly as the full power of the tiefling sword carved their HP with a few strikes. Even the bosses hated me with the critical hits (and boosts to critical damage from LD) that whittled them down.

And if they’re too dangerous to constantly swat? A Snowstar damages as well as melee blades. I’m working on finding a Dawnbringer.

Advanced Armor and other Gear

I’m using the Way of the Sun Soul set and have an unlocked Spider-Spun Caparison for later.

I investigated the benefits of the Shadow Dragonscale armors to see if an outfit would be a benefit. My Poisonmaster relies on effects that wound (weakening CON and therefore Fortitude to make dark finishers stick) deliver Poison (magnified by my Ninja Poison debuffing) and bypass fortification. Doesn’t look like those outfits will help, outside of 130% fortification that would relieve me of wearing two items and not one to get my fortification to 175% or better.

Higher Doublestrike would be preferable, too. Having 20 to 25% based Doublestrike would be ideal when I’m not spamming Shadow Double for a 6-second 100% Doublestrike burst. I don’t see that happening unless I do Epic TRs.

Sometimes, with some Netherese or even a pirate gets you down, a ninja needs to dance.

Sometimes, with some Netherese or even a pirate gets you down, a ninja needs to dance.

Not many choices to boost attack speed. It may not be a bad thing to consider grinding for an Epic Jorgundal’s Collar (Level 25) with its 15% alacrity.

Fitting in improved epic fortification (150%) is critical for melee fighting, far more than my ranged work with Mericletica. I have Brace for Impact already for 40% and can use the combined Fabricator’s set for another 25% but at the cost of the Sun Soul effects and some stat benefits. I want 200% but I’m functional enough at 150%, with a few rings and cloaks to boost things as I need them.

Champions are still a pain, and Ryn has it harder at times. I tried her first EE with my usual hireling duo (Albus the Favored Soul and my Onyx Panther) in EE “Bargain of Blood.” Hobgoblins were more initially resistant to Freezing without weakening them more in some way. When a Champion came out, he turned my party into an unappealing goo.

Stats

I completed two Shavarath quests to get my Yugoloth potions, and have a few other stacking potions to get DEX and WIS briefly to 46. That seems low but consider how the poisonmaster needs that balance. I’m favoring WIS since a helpless-inducing finisher allows the Ninja Spy enhancements to tear up anything, reducing the need for higher DEX.

Like any other melee fighter, Ninja Spies don’t like crowds. But one Flash Bang or a Diversion dummy and I’m so much vapor to regroup. I still don’t like aberrations and demons. I do better against the living humanoid types.

That said, I want a standing 44 WIS and 40 DEX through any means I can. I may retool Grandmaster of Flowers to a higher WIS than DEX to help with the critical finishers.

Because Ryncletica is all over the map with her abilities, it’s going to harder to pin down her build for the Monk guide’s build section. But maybe that’s a good thing. That variation might let you try different things without straying too far from the build’s inherent function.

It’s a harder melee build to play, for sure. Stealth simply avoids immediate death. Yet it’s not her EDs or powerful weapons that make Ryn enjoyable. It’s her innate skills as a Monk that make her more than just another light fighter. To anyone that claims that finishing moves are useless, Ryn (and Kiricletica before her) put such claims to the question. 

I Hate The #@*#%@! Netherese!

The Monk class is the strongest anti-mage class in the game.

You Shar-loving, magic missile throwing motherf_____!

You Shar-loving, magic missile throwing motherf_____!!!

But Ryncletica the Poisonmaster was striking out last night against a few Netherese Wizards in a Heroic Hard run of “End of the Road” in the High Road quest chain.

Both starts were stupidly easy. Against squishy humans, Ryncletica’s attacks with an Envenomed Blade and Tiefling Assassin’s Blade or Vampiric Fury Shortsword dice up people quite well.

Then my little party approaches the multiple spell ward line and at least two enemy wizards. Despite some initial beatdowns with the blades to weaken their fortitude and hit them with a Freezing the Lifeblood paralysis or a Quivering Palm kill, the bastards stayed up.

The first one, a Champion, hurled a buttload of likely maximized magic missiles into me before I realized it, sending me to Dolurrh. Fine, fine. I will be more prepared next time.

The second one that clocked me wasn’t a champion at all but maneuvered himself into the spell wards line, making it nigh-impossible to hurt him sufficiently before he whipped off a Disintegrate or something and I was looking at my soulstone again.

I was fuming. My guild master, normally the one that makes sailors blush when she’s having a bad character day, was amused at how my calm was completely damaged.

I abandoned the attempt and joined up with the guild master’s party for a more successful and comparatively relaxing runs through Gianthold with Kiricletica.

Some Tips about the Netherese

Just wanted to give a few suggestions, no matter if you’re Heroic or Epic, for what it’s worth. After all, I’m a soulstone here.

  • Always wear Deathblock and use Death Ward, especially against Champions. Often Netherese mages hit you with Dispel Magic before unleashing a series of nasty things.
  • Carry a Shield clicky. Magic Missiles are extremely dangerous in the hands of these guys. Look at the picture.
  • Kill them quickly. Screw anything else around you. Netherese mages aren’t support, they’re the central attacker in many quests, and for good reason. Fight magic with magic. Blast them with Finger of Death, send in your Assassins and Shintao Monks.
  • If you’re not a high-level Monk or Drow, wear items with Spell Resistance and Evasion if possible. These things will help you shrug off commonly problematic non-damaging attacks that may debuff you.
  • Disable them. Paralysis will be hard to land on these guys, so don’t rely on it. Try stunning, knockdowns, bashing, DoTs, Bard spells–just get these guys unable to cast, if only briefly.

My monastic calm totally left me. I wish there were a quest option where we could reprogram the flying glacier from “What Goes Up” to send it towards Netheril to drop that big magical-plutonium ball of mythallar on their city. And let one adventurer ride it back yelling, “Yippie-ki-yay, motherf____!!! Magic-missile THIS, you c___suckers!”

Update 25: Smiles in the Dojo

"Your gaming time is very important to us. The current wait time is 12 hours."

“Your gaming time is very important to us. The current wait time is 12 hours.”

Welcome to Update 25: Update of Evil!

It’s a rougher day for Cordovan and Co. as they try to get Update 25 installed and updated properly on their servers since 8:00 AM EDT. As I write this, twelve hours later, it’s still not quite up, but I’m up.

Things happen. I wish Turbine’s ragged team much bacon and coffee and hope they’ll get everything all running very soon.

Any dissenting comments or criticisms of Turbine on my blog will be spiked and banned. I live in Indiana and I have had it up to here with the self-privileged minority that feels entitled to everything of late, even if they’re not being actually targeted.

So, rather than slugging out monsters to pass the time on a character in Diablo II, here’s a quick summary of some highlights I’ve found in the Release Notes that satisfies far more than a few of my character’s interests.

The Great:

  • Bleed damage now scales 200% with Melee Power.

That’s a happy thing for some weapons I carry but Saekee should be very happy since his build that uses the Forester’s Brush Hook kama will mop the floors up with greater damage.

  • Ranged Power has been added to Epic Levels and Epic Destiny cores:
    • Each Epic level from 21 to 28 now increases Ranged Power by three.
    • Fatesinger, Shadowdancer, Primal Avatar and Shiradi Champion gain +4 Ranged Power per innate ability.
    • Grandmaster of Flowers and Unyielding Sentinel gain +3 Ranged Power per innate ability.
    • Divine Crusader and Legendary Dreadnaught gain +2 Ranged Power per innate ability.
    • Fury of the Wild gains +1 Ranged Power per innate ability.

Very good news for Artemistika and my revamping of Pynthetica, my Zen Archer, but also, I hope, this translates to Szyncletica’s throwing stars.

  • The Ninja Spy’s Sting of the Ninja should now work properly with all named weapons (that meet the requirements.)

All the ninjas in the house have celebrated this news by adding an extra spoon of honey in their green tea. This bug, longstanding since around Update 22, means that Szycletica’s shuriken of all kinds will again add punishing Ninja Poison DoTs in addition to other damage. Dragons beware: Her Thunder-Forged Shuriken awaits to send you to the abyss.

  • The Monk Mountain Stance now gives 50% Hate Generation, and its upgrades now give 100/150/200% Hate Generation.

I think I heard Lynncletica smile.

Shintao Monks, in their current incarnation, have a harder time generating aggro, even in Mountain Stance. This is a substantial boost to Hate generation. It means Lynn’s going to be bloodier than ever before Level 18 but the results should be worth it by Epic levels.

  • The Rogue Assassin has been improved:
  • Core Abilities
    • Assassin’s Trick now works on all enemies, and no longer has a saving throw. The attack now has a shorter animation. Cooldown is now 6 seconds, and duration is now 15 seconds.
    • Nimbleness no longer requires sneak attacks, and works on any hit. +5 Melee Power.
    • Lethality: +5 Melee Power.
    • Deadly Shadow: You gain +2 Dexterity and +2 Intelligence. You gain 10 Melee Power and +4 Sneak Attack dice. You gain +4 to Reflex Saving Throws. You gain +2 to the DC of your Assassinate.
  • Tier One
    • Poison Strikes now applies an “Assassin’s Mark” to an opponent for 10 seconds.
    • Shiv no longer reduces threat when you attack, and instead offers an additional passive bonus that reduces the threat of all your attacks by 5/10/15%. The attack also makes a Bluff check, using your Bluff skill, when you strike an opponent, for one second + .25 seconds per Rogue level.)
    • Stealthy now also gains +20/35/50% movement speed while sneaking.
  • Tier Two
    • Venomed Blades costs 1/1/1 AP, and now scales with 200% Melee Power.
    • Bleed Them Out’s bleed damage scales with 200% Melee Power.
    • Damage Boost’s cost has been reduced to 1 AP per level. The boost to Melee Power is now 10/20/30.
  • Tier Three
    • Critical Accuracy has been removed.
    • Critical Mastery: (1/1/1 AP) + 1/2/3 bonus to critical damage and to confirm critical hits.
  • Tier Four
    • Critical Damage has been removed.
    • Weakening Strikes reduces the Melee and Ranged Power of opponents by 10 + Rogue Level/2 for 10 seconds if you attack an enemy with an “Assassin’s Mark.”
    • Execute: If a target is below 30% health, deal 500 damage. This damage scales with 200% Melee Power, and has a cooldown of 15 seconds. This enhancement no longer has a sneak attack requirement.
  • Tier Five
    • Assassinate now has a 12 second cooldown.
    • Measure the Foe: Gain +4 Melee Power, +2 Dodge, +2 Maximum Dodge, +1 to hit and +1 to the DC’s of your Assassinate ability for every 4/2/1 seconds you remain stealthed. This effect stacks up to five times, and lasts 10 seconds after you come out of stealth.
    • Deadly Strikes: Your attacks against enemies with an “Assassin’s Mark” to +5 damage.
    • Light Armor Mastery: (1/1/1 AP) You gain 1/2/3 to Maximum Dodge. While wearing light armor, gain 2/4/6 to the Maximum Dexterity Bonus of your armor and armor check penalty, and gain 2/4/6 Physical Resistance Rating.

All of this is happiness for The Littlest Assassin–who wasn’t having any problems before. Now with some refinements, Sukitetica is really going to have a blast.

  • Ammunition found in chests will now appear in stacks of 100.
  • Thieves Tools now stack up to one thousand in a stack.

Yes. Useful amounts of ammo for Artemistika, and no more stupid inventory slots wasted on needed tools for Suki.

And now the Good and the Weird:

  • Each Swashbuckler Core enhancement had been erroneously granting an extra +1 Doublestrike. This extra Doublestrike has been removed to match the text.

Whoops. I guess Flynncletica’s been a bit overpowered. Oh, well. She’s still fun to play, even with an earlier Update 24 adjustment to Single Weapon Fighting. I’m all for balance, however.

  • The Crucible
    • The optional objectives at the start of the quest no longer give XP.
    • XP for completing the quest has been boosted to be equivalent to the XP removed from optionals.

Not that I play this quest alone, and not as often before it was demoted as a Gianthold flagging quest–but removing the XP from the little manipulations you can do with the NPCs need to still present an advantage to the adventurers. I can’t remember if these added an extra chest or made the end-fights easier, but I guess I understand the balancing.

  • Marketplace
    • A new teleporter has been located in the Marketplace.
    • There is a new NPC near the Airship Tower that tells players how to get to the Temple of Elemental Evil.
      Vertigo, the Crafting tutorial NPC, has moved next to the big pillar between the Airship Tower and the new Teleporter.
    • Kipling Vranch, a Collectibles Trader, has been moved to Vertigo’s old spot.
    • Zerchi Spire-Keeper, who takes players to the Restless Isles, has moved south of his old location, and is now near the Auctioneer Churchwarden.
    • Kupper-Nickel, who takes players to Zawabi’s Refuge, has moved west of the Airship Tower along with some of his friends.
    • Loghan d’Deneith, who gives the quest Gladewatch Outpost Defense, has moved west of his old spot to the entrance of House Deneith.
    • Jasper Cruikshank, who gives the quest Archer Point Defense, has moved west of his old spot to the entrance of House Deneith.

Finally, a teleporter in the Marketplace!

  • Trapmaking
    • Traps that deal damage now show floaty-text damage numbers, and report in the Combat Log like most damage.
    • The time to place traps has been reduced to 1 second.
    • The time for traps to “arm” after being placed has been reduced to 1 second.
    • The general cooldown on placing traps has been reduced from fifteen seconds to eight seconds.
    • Small and Weak elemental traps now have a larger damage area, matching Average traps.
    • Device Workstations now have recipes for elemental traps from minimum levels 13-27.

Rogues that can be realistic Trapmasters! This is awesome news as we also get Epic Traps! The reduction of deployment time means a great deal, too. I might make that Mechanic soon after all.

So, when The Update of Existential Evil is finally over for Turbine tonight, we’ll all get some new things to play with, especially Rogues.

And when I heard that Wil Wheaton has lent his voice talents to the new quest, I smiled. DDO is old but still has some street cred for those who care.

See you in game.

Purple Haze

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Purple haze, all in my brain
Lately things they don’t seem the same
Actin’ funny, but I don’t know why
Excuse me while I kiss this guy

(Well, I think that’s how it goes.)

Poison is a highly underestimated attack. I don’t know of others that talk much about it.

The reborn Ryncletica knows better. At level 11, she’s still using two of the level 4 Tiefling Assassin’s Blade to mow down enemies that are three times the weapon’s level–and shows no sign of stopping.

I recently posted Ryncletica’s build in greater detail as a favor. While doing that I learned about the Primal Avatar’s Epic Moment and a lesser ability that also has Poison damage with a stacking effect similar to Ninja Poison. However–it might not work if my attacks aren’t still piercing or slashing.

I’m so looking forward to returning to Epic play. But for now I wanted to show just how deadly Ninja Poison can be–more so than when Kiricletica went Viper Style on many, many enemies during her first life.

Everything about Ryncletica is venomous. Every attack she makes delivers a Poison dose: the Tiefling blade, Venomed Blade effect, Sting of the Ninja on critical hits, and Poison Soul Ninjutsu on Touch of Despair strikes.

When Ninja Poison kicks in, even in small stacks, the vulnerability effect takes hold very, very quickly with that much Poison damage seeping into the pores of any enemy.

The result is that purple damage numbers from Poison appear almost immediately on most enemies I attack. Even if I switch targets, any enemies I’ve previously attacked are still being damaged by Ninja Poisoning.

Isolated enemies are either paralyzed first and then hacked very quickly away. Tougher orange-names might be paralyzed and hacked away. Red-named bosses get Touch of Despair attacks to weaken their fortification and get the full Ninja Poison dosage to rid them of their hit points.

Recently, I took both Kiricletica and Ryncletica through “Hiding in Plain Sight” Elite. Kiri prefers no hirelings. Despite her Single Weapon Fighting, her Half-Elf Cleric dilettante healing, healing amplification, her low-kill tactics and similar defenses to Ryn, at level 12, it was hard on Kiri to make it through the quest. By the boss fight, the three orange-named lieutenants were more threatening because Kiri’s weaker saves kept getting her held by Hazadil’s dancing-balls.

But Ryncletica, at level 11, had it easier. With the hireling out of combat and parked away in case of HP crisis, Ryn snuck up to the bosses, quickly paralyzed and slew one of the orange-named lieutenants and sent the other two on a goose-chase, with Hazadil trying to hold Ryn in dancing-balls. But Ryn’s saves were too strong.

When Hazedil made the mistake of coming down from his perch, Ryn poured on the poison and the boss died in a fraction of the time that it took Kiri and her faster melee speed.

I’m usually conservative in leveling the Ninja Spies. I try to have at least a 1-level advantage when entering an Elite quest (that is, I’ll enter a level 12 Elite quest on character level 13).

But Ryncletica’s power and her higher defense for her level is allowing me to match levels or even enter below Elite difficulty level.

And baby needs a pair of Envenomed Blades with greater Poison damage.

Video Example

Talk is cheap. Here is a video of Ryncletica carving up things in “Eyes of Stone” Elite, two levels under, using level 4 shortswords.

Watch all the purple. There’s purple everywhere. Purple haze, all in their brains. And spleen, and many other body parts.

Click on the CC to see captions.

U.S. Holiday

This week is more like a fourteen-day version. Things may be quiet on the blog this week while I enjoy family time during the Thanksgiving holiday and prepare for yet another week-long business trip immediately after. Let’s hope the online gods will grant us stronger wifi at our base hotel this time.

Ninjas and Assassins Revisited: Tainted Love

Ninja and assassin squad on approach. Trust me, they're here.

Ninja and assassin squad on approach. Trust me, they’re here.

I drew some consternation from readers when making my favorable comparison of Ninja Spies to Rogue Assassins some time ago.

With a Rogue Assassin of my own that’s working very well as well as several ninja variations, I thought I’d make a fresher comparison and contrast of the class trees, especially with the introduction of a new class tree.

A fun fact: the two classes come from a common real-life archetype. The word “assassin” comes from the Middle Eastern name hashshashin. The name implies that these early killers were sometimes fortified for their duties by hashish, a narcotic I hear goes great with baked goods.

Ninjas, likely originating in China before Japan, and known more formally as shinobi, are merely the hashshashin’s Eastern counterpart. In DDO, of course, the connections of their assassination skills are divided between two D&D classes: Monk and Rogue. Female ninja are known as kunoichi, which I use for my clan.

Two sides of the same coin, really. Saying “ninja assassin” is as redundant as saying “wet water.”

Advantage: Suki – Spycraft

I know I’m very late to the game on this subject, but I’m really enjoying the Use Magic Device skill. As much as I’m able to bring some gear and train in some martial techniques for my kunoichi, the advantages gained in using wands and scrolls or equipping items outside of their normal requirements brings extra diversity to both the role-play flavor and the overall functionality of my Assassin, Sukitetica.

I note time and again that adding UMD cross-class skill points to a Monk is a waste. I still hold to that. A UMD of 24 is arguably the best that a Heroic single-classed Monk can do without bankruptcy (11 cross-class maximum plus CHA modifier of +5 with CHA 8 base, a +5 tome and a +6 enhancement item to get CHA 20, with a Voice of the Master +1 Luck bonus and an alchemical +3 from a House Deneith CHA skills potion).

That allows no-fail Blur and Invisibility and a few other minor protections, maybe Nightshield. I know there are other things to add here, but they aren’t going anywhere close to useful if you can’t reach the next best number, 40, without compromising stealth and jump and Concentration skills or equipped items to do it. Going Half-Elven with a Cleric dilettante is still more prudent.

But now, with a more open mind and greater study of the UMD article on DDO Wiki, at least I have a greater appreciation of the skill and what it could bring to any Monk that really, really wants it.

But I digress. UMD ability with an Assassin is completely Batman-esque in its utility.

Sukitetica, pushing Level 14, can get a solid UMD 24 with items alone. She has only a +1 CHA tome consumed, and awaits her 1750 favor to get a +2 tome that she’ll read and then use a +3 Upgrade tome in the bank for more modifier-based points. With some House Deneith skill potions and a couple more items, she should have UMD 27 temporarily for some more immediate needs.

She can now use Invisibility scrolls. They last for 2 minutes 30 seconds or so,  longer than Ryncletica’s 1-minute Shadow Veil ki-activated invisibility, but have one disadvantage: It’s a verbal spell. I cannot use it willy-nilly in some stealth moments while I’m too close to enemies that may hear my chanting. For close quarters, I better keep some Invisibility potions at the ready.

Case in point: I took Suki into a near-perfect Heroic Elite “The Claw of Vulkoor” run recently. I had noisemaker traps to move some stubborn, camping scorpions away to pacify the guardians very easily. But doing work on the dreaded sixth guardian, with many other roaming scorpions afoot, I neglected to renew my Invisibility before proceeding. I pacified the guardian after getting all to move with a noisemaker, but not before a roaming scorpion saw me and blew that XP objective.

In contrast, Ryncletica made a Hard run of the same quest. She had to brute-force the pressure-plate on the camping sixth scorpion but got it pacified without detection. It was the seventh and final guardian that would not cooperate. I couldn’t make enough noise with throwing stars or breaking stuff in the nearby tomb to lure the thing off its nesting atop the last pressure plate. I could only reveal myself to force the guardian to fight me, losing that XP bonus.

Blur and Nightshield are on the table for Suki, as are Flaming Sphere scrolls. As Teacher Saekee noted, these are big ol’ rolling hate magnets that are hard to kill. If I can deploy one of these against a mob, I can sneak-attack and assassinate to my heart’s content without the use of a meat-shield hireling to attract attention in some locales.

Advantage: Ryn – Poison and Stat-Damage

Level 10 Ryncletica’s go-to weaponry are either two Tiefling Assassin’s Blades (still level 4 items) or a Tiefling blade with Sting, which delivers a poison-stat damaging effect like the Assassin’s so-called poison attacks. It’s actually Poison damage that attracts me as Ninja Poison stacks magnify any Poison enhancement damage from the Tiefling blades, and weapons with the Poison prefix, as well as poison damage from the Envenomed Blades, not so far away.

Both blades have a Ruby of the Endless Night added to them for negative levels on Vorpal, which cushions the blow of not training in the Ninjutsu effect Wave of Despair for spamming mass neg-levels.

I’m not disparaging stat-damage at all. In fact, I rely on it as it increases my ability to take out an enemy in a hurry. The beauty of the Tiefling blade is it’s Keen property for improved critical hits (it will be a bit longer before I can add the feat) as well as its Wounding property that knocks off CON points, weakening foes faster. I spam Suki’s three poison stat-damaging attacks while sneak-attacking u the same keys I use on Ryn and other Monks to spam ki elemental attacks.

In a direct fight, Ryn’s blades simply mow through anyone she encounters as her Touch of Despair and Precision stance attacks also grind through any fortification while the poison quickly sets in.

In a couple of levels, Ryn can use her Vengeful and Vampiric Fury Shortswords for more stat-damaging happiness.

When I wasn’t reading up on UMD, I’ve been studying what other Poison damage effects I can stack into Ryncletica’s build. There’s not much left.

  • She’s got Venomed Blades now as part of her poison-master build, with two more ranks to train there. I already noted the Harper Agent melee power training to magnify this ability’s damage.
  • She’d like to complete her Red Fens Vulkoor’s Cunning set for 10% Threat reduction and the Vulkoorim poison stat-damaging effect from the Ring of Venom and Necklace of Venom.
  • Ryn still wears her Jidz-Tet’ka, which doses a paralyzing poison on occasion while in Ocean Stance.
  • The “Foundation of Discord” and “A Cry for Help” quests in Gianthold might drop a Quiver of Poison that will add ranged Poison damage to my shuriken (provided that I use a Cannith-crafted one that will bypass the Sting of the Ninja bug and deliver Ninja Poison properly again).
  • Greater Poison weapons on loot-generated weapons are quite welcome, but rare to find.

All-in-all, getting the Envenomed Blades back in my hands (and, if very very lucky, finding the pieces to make Epic blades) is the best I can do in the Heroic equipment category, aside from improving her Ninja Poison techniques during combat.

But let me know if I’ve missed an item, enhancement or even Epic Destiny that delivers poison.

Deuce: Stealth Tactics and Attack

While Suki is more dependent on something else gaining attention for her attacks to work best, Ryncletica still has to behave like a sneaky cat to ambush something. Neither character works best in the open for too long at their level without a supporting character since they cannot battle-heal very well.

Thus, Ryn and Suki take to the shadows.

Suki has stronger Hide/Move Silently powers, thanks to a being a Halfling Rogue. Ryn’s not far behind but can also go invisible at-will and more quietly than Suki, as noted. But Ryn’s invisibility requires ki, which is still a precious commodity to generate.

Ryn is a better sustained attack than Suki while in the open, increasing damage in one way or another the longer she fights. But when Suki can gain the advantage of surprise, her Assassinate powers can sometimes take out 2 people at once and then retreat to do that again. I’m just learning how that effect works, turning your character to another target just after using the attack.

Ryn is fine-tuning her Dark finishers. What she cannot paralyze, she can mute. What she cannot mute, she blinds. Blindness really helps avoid direct attacks since few enemies can remove it; it’s effectively 50% Concealment. She now has Flash Bang for mass-blinding and dazing escapes.

Suki likes daggers. After completing a run through the “Cult of the Six” chain, she had a few choices for the chain reward. While another Quicksilver Cassok for the Monks would have been fine, she gravitated to a little dagger named Sheridan’s Wrack. It didn’t seem all that special at first with Keen and one Red augment slot.

And then she equipped it. In Suki’s hands, the crit-range dived to 17-20 and, with Blade Specialization trained, went to 15-20 with a x3 crit modifier. The Wrack also has a 1.50(2d3) damage profile, making it my new death-blade for high damage, no-frills assassinations.

Ryn can boost her DEX for more and more damage, and Assassins share the DEX to-hit and to damage ability. But Suki has a new option: Train the Versatile Adept abilities in the Harper Agent tree to use her INT for to-hit and damage.

I was worried that, somehow, the DEX to-hit feature would countermand that Harper training, but this option should work like the old Weapon Finesse effect. As long as Suki’s INT is the higher ability score, then INT to-damage would be used. This means I can pump her INT for both attack and to ensure her Assassinate DCs are as strong as they can be. I’ll still need DEX for reflex. If I’m wrong, I’ll just reset the Harper tree but the extra INT is still a very good thing to do.

It’s too bad that I can’t have either as an NPC to the other while in gameplay. Ryn and Suki would be an unstoppable death-dealing duo.

Drow Kunoichi: Ryncletica Resharpened

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

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

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

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

Melee Powered Poison

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

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

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

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

But melee attacks work perfectly with the poison.

Ryn4

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adding More Spy to the Spymaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poison Master Revisited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silk, Hiding Sword, Sting and Shadow

The Kunoichi...where brute strength is lacking, cunning through poisoned blades do the work. (Credit: CreativeCut.com)

The Kunoichi…where brute strength is lacking, cunning and poisoned blades do the work. This is actually a close approximation of Kiricletica’s look. (Credit: CreativeCut.com)

Everything I know about Ninja Spies is being fully tested with Kiricletica, the lone ninja (kuniochi).

Combat skills. Stealth limits. Assassination tactics. DefensesNinjutsu.

Just when I think this character is reaching an impasse, something works out in my plans to conquer as many quests as I can without any hirelings or single party member–and with as few kills as required.

Because of this challenge, I have to make major course corrections. One of them is working on mastering the art of poison as a central takedown tactic, particularly with the debuffing power that Ninja Poison can do.

The Lady of Venom

I have not read, in the DDO Forums or elsewhere, of anyone else that’s mastering a poisoner build. Almost all posts involve questions/complaints on how Sting of the Ninja changed (shortly after the enhancement update) to only allow it to work with ninja weaponry (shortswords, kamas and shuriken) but not martial arts or non-ninja uncentered piercing/slashing weapons (bows, unarmed attack) thwarting its use as a min-max option for archers and others.

So, I’m trying to pioneer this attack skill of punishing waves of simultaneous negative energy and poison while perfecting the stealth tactics of the latest updates.

As noted in a past post, Ninja Poison not only injects stacks of poison (up to 20) to give nasty damage over time, but each stack gives 5% vulnerability to anything that isn’t outright immune to poison, to a maximum of 100%. Weapons with untyped poison also enjoy this magnification of damage.

Combine this level of DoT damage with the still-deadly negative energy attacks of Touch of Despair and Touch of Death, and the Ninja Spy becomes a solitary fighter one should not want to meet alone in a dark dungeon. Using the Poisoned Soul ability with Touch of Despair, I can inject poison simultaneously with a negative energy curse and damage from the finisher and a Touch of Death strike.

Poison is also a great offensive weapon when enemies are immune to negative energy. Thankfully, very few enemies are immune to both poison and negative energy attacks.

The downside? It can take a bit of time to pump in poison. You can blow an immediate 1 to 4 stacks into a tight group using Poisoned Darts with a little ki every 15 seconds. Every 10 seconds you can inject 5 stacks over 30 seconds using the Poisoned Soul Ninjutsu ability, through the Touch of Despair finisher. By 40 seconds an enemy is lungs-full of poison with 20 stacks.

A stack is injected on a critical hit with the Sting of the Ninja ability active and when using piercing/slashing weapons. And finally, you can undo all your work (and a chunk of the enemy’s HP) by forcibly ripping the poison out at 1d20 to 1d50 damage per stack, using Poison Exploit.

What’s probably obvious to some is, if the enemy is powerful enough to stand up to such a prolonged beating, can the player withstand the enemy counterattacks?

I think so. That’s why Kiri is training it. Eventually, she will hit a wall with an enemy that cannot be cut down by mere swordplay, and may have far more hit points and defenses. She needs a strong offense that also minimizes damage to herself. Speedy poisoning is the key.

I’m collecting all kinds of weapons that slap untyped poisons to accelerate an attack. The Envenomed Blade (which I’ll dual-wield) will the best of the Heroic-level blades I can use at level 16. Imagine an attack where purple DoTs of 20d4, or 80-100+ damage and greater (with the vulnerability and with poison weapons in use) appear over the head of an enemy per 3 seconds, not to mention the ki attacks, weapon damage and purple negative energy damage that ninjas also use that should quickly devour a foe.

It’s then a matter of good defense to avoid or absorb the damage while at close range.

For that, the Ninja Spy is generally favorable to miss-chance effects (Dodge, Incorporeality, Concealment). Kiri is nearing 20% Dodge and always has Blur (20% conceal) and Shadow Veil (25% incorporeality) for very strong miss-chance defenses at her level. She requires more WIS and DEX for better offensive/defensive/DC results. Slated at the approaching level 14 is a White Dragonscale Robe for much-needed improvements to AC for her later counter-assaults on Lordsmarch as well as Tempest’s Spine Elite.

Lady of War: A Brain over Brawn Offense

Keras, the Drow fighter end-boss in “The Lords of Dust“, is a good example of who Kiri has to poison swiftly. On Heroic Elite this CR26 boss is quite dangerous with his Whirlwind Attack and dual-wielded swords, getting in Sneak Attack damage even if you’re quite fortified. Most parties without a squishy ranged option will choose to go “stick-and-move” on him because of the tremendous damage he can do with only a hit or two. His HP isn’t tiny, so it takes time to kill him.

For Ninja Spies, the option can be to smack him one or two times while throwing Ninja Poison to damage him as he chases you or attacks others. This places powerful poison DoTs on him and makes him more vulnerable to poisons in general so that other party attacks can be more effective. Blowing Poisoned Darts at him every 15 seconds to put 1 to 4 stacks on him should help too.

I’m adding in ranged options, too. To contrast, Szyncletica’s stars are loaded with Ninja Poison and heavily DoTs anything quite well over time with her onslaught of thrown attacks. For her, taking down Keras was easy in the past with star damage, kiting and heavy Ninja Poisoning.

The downside to Szyn’s star-throwing is she cannot use any Ninjutsu with thrown weapons, relying only on Sting of the Ninja and Venomed Blades, so poisoning was a slower process. Kiri uses stars as well, and not badly, but her attacks are less damaging and slower than a Shiradi Shuricannon. Still, from long range, she does build up some poison on a charging enemy before entering melee and dosing it much faster. Getting a Quiver of Poison for more ranged poison damage isn’t a bad idea as well.

But Kiricletica should be a better overall poisoner with the full Ninjutsu abilities, while piling on weapon damage, negative energy and elemental damage with ki strikes.

Like many other finishing moves, poison mastery requires coordination. An Earth/Dark/Earth finisher might be good here for Pain Touch, which prevent enemy spellcasting and attacks until they save from the effect while you can wail on them and set up a Ninjutsu/Touch of Despair attack.

Poisoning works for Kiri as she’s not trying to chase any enemy around the dungeon and attract too much attention. If she can throw a few potent DoTs on an enemy and break off, letting them die slowly while she escapes and hides. This would be especially true against bosses that are a required target while their minion guards aren’t.

The end fight of “Frame Work” fits this bill. With other characters I have been able to lure up the chieftain boss, the only required kill,  to the upper platforms of the end-fight area, smacking him around while his minions hold back for a time, wondering what’s going on. Imagine getting enough poison stacks on him to where you just walk away after a bit as he eventually just succumbs to the poison. One Flash Bang to hold off your escape from his guards, perhaps also to loot, and you’re done for the day with some green tea awaiting you in the dojo.

Lady Of Blinding Darkness

I’ve been quickly adding more lesser-used ninja tactics to aid in the inevitable mob fights, or to prevent some.

You already know I enjoy pulling individuals with a well-thrown star. Provided it doesn’t create a zone bug (where the quest presumes you’ll fight a boss in a specific location) this works well.

I also use stars to break objects so their sound lures other enemies to that sound, while I sneak forward to do my business. When there aren’t crates or jars to break, I’ve resorted to using enemies themselves to generate noise. This is tricky, since a jar won’t come charging to kill you. But if it can be done at long range, the enemy reacts and others react to him without an immediate charge. But with that farther range, you have to traverse a greater distance to make it to your objective before enemy attention returns to your path.

I’m switching up a lot when the mobs become too huge. I completed “Slavers of the Shrieking Mines” and “Bring Me The Head of Ghola-Fan!” recently. Midway through “Ghola-Fan”, I reached the spiral staircase and floated down the center to a soundless entry where Taskmaster Tar-Lom breaks in his newly-trained troops, declaring you as the training dummy.

I hit the leader with a poison dose and ran away. I kept my attention on the boss as best I could, hitting him with more poison. He fell before his own students did.

But the mob numbered ten or more. A swing-by-swing fight, even with Vampiric Fury Shortswords, proved to become a losing battle with the angered students, even with Blur and Incorporeality going.

I started spitting Poisoned Darts at them, whirling away to heal up after stunning and blinding the mob with a Flash Bang. The poison weakened the mobs as well as the shortsword’s CON leaching from disease.

Two or three rounds of this and the fight was done. If I had to, I could have used that Flash Bang to escape outright since blindness is effectively an invisibility guard. I would just go into Sneak and use an Abundant Step to move away to a safe spot so they wouldn’t hear where I moved to and chase me.

Flash Bangs are awesome. They offer something I think other players don’t realize. Like Stunning Fist, this stuns an enemy for 6 seconds. Unlike Stunning Fist, it also blinds, is an area-of-effect attack and works with wielded weapons. It’s slower to use with a 30 second cooldown, yes, but it still offers a useful stun effect for weapon users, where Stunning Fist cannot be applied.

I’m going to max out Flash Bang to ensure for better tactical options when the going gets too tough. Again, that’s more need to pump up WIS for a better DC for it to succeed. I’ve found it’s a cool way to escape rooms where you’ve had to pull a lever or switch and enemies detect you. After I pull the lever, I get the room’s occupants to group up before throwing a Bang at them. It’s like a Batman-esque smoke bomb. Blinded and sometimes stunned, by the time they can see again and begin searching in vain to find me, I’m long gone. I used that trick in one room in “Faithfully Departed” very recently.

You might be asking what I’m ultimately sacrificing with the planned use of all the poison attacks and special ninja skills. The answer is Sneak Attack. I have 1 of the 4 tiers trained up, but that’s it (and I’ll likely reallocate those points). For Kiri, she’d only get one (weak) punch as a Sneak Attack, so these points are wasted while in solo play. Kiri could never generate the ultimate Sneak Attack power of a Rogue anyway. I’d rather add more DEX or WIS with those Action Points to ensure that later monastic training will be more effective, such as Quivering Palm, the assassinate-style attack at level 15.

Kiri and the Family Business

This Marut put a hit on me throughout the game lately. I decided to put out a hit of my own.

This Marut put a hit on me throughout the game lately. I decided to put out a hit of my own.

I had planned to write up a summary of Kiricletica’s attempt to complete “Tempest’s Spine” on Elite as a Level 12 character.

Other parties interfered. I imagined that an inquiry to eliminate me went a little like this:

Boss: I represent the interests of those who lost loved ones to a
Ninja Spy known as Kiricletica. My associates promise their
friendship if you would do them a small favor.
Contractors: What's that?
Boss: Ensure that Kiricletica receives the death she is due.
--

Attempt 1: Enter Tempest’s Spine on Elite. Easily sneaked by everything up to the iron golem. Dispatched it and the Fire Reaver. The Ice Render appeared, appeared to smile and zapped me instantly cold and dead with a Polar Ray.

Attempt 2: This time, in on Hard difficulty. Boosted my defenses against Ice this time. Entered the Lair of Fire and Ice and traveled up the slope to clear a couple of giants before pulling the Ice Render. One giant laughs and then uses Destruction on me. Kiri apparently didn’t have her Deathblock item equipped. Dead.

Realizing that completing the mountain probably wasn’t going to happen that day, I downshifted to lower difficulty quests I hadn’t completed since I knew they required more character chutzpah than I possessed early on. These didn’t end well, either.

Spies in the House: Elite difficulty. All went quite well until Kiri became one with the second electric floor guarded by the elementals, despite having some Protection from Electricity and Resist Electric buffs to handle one or two hits. Electrocuted.

A Small Problem: Elite difficulty. My first mistake was to sneak by all the animals at the start. They added to the chewing that Brawnpits suffered as we tried to reach the caravan. My healing scrolls were no match for the mobs and the proud giant fell. Alive, but escorted ally dead, leaving me disgraced.

It was then that finally got the hint.

Apparently my personal interests have conflicted with an Inevitable, a construct that doesn’t care for adventurers that cheat death.

He didn’t even have to drop his current mission to punish a Drow vampire that’s seen too many years. The Marut simply hired some inexpensive no-named contractors to off me no matter what quest I attempted.

Dying by myself, I can handle. But disgracing me and my clan by having an innocent on my watch die? This presents a significant and undesirable problem of dishonor to the family business, you see.

So, realizing that the Inevitable would keep serving me death almost everywhere I went that day, I decided, against all rationality, to go to the mattresses.

In The Jungles of Khyber

I’ve been keeping a Hard Bravery Bonus going to keep experience points as strong as I could without committing to suicidal attempts where the Inevitable just wasted his dough. But I try Elite at least once if I’m at least 2 levels up from the quest difficulty.

Attempt 1: I entered in on Elite. I made the fatal error of hanging around in the small room where the scorpions lock you in and try to eat you before you can open the door to the first shrine and the overhead snipers and mages.

You’re still going down, marut. Interfering with my family business was…disrespectful.

Attempt 2: After some shopping to get a Muffled Veneer, slotting it with a Deathblock gem, and then wearing a Resistance +6 cloak, I returned to the Drow cave on Hard difficulty.

This time, I stayed in stealth mode as I entered the scorpion ambush. You’d be surprised how some hidden enemies just don’t activate while you’re in Sneak mode. Now, that ambush door leading to the first shrine is trapped as are several others in this quest, so I quickly pulled the lever and Abundant Stepped away before the trap could hit me. After a quick check of defenses I lept up to the Drow killing perch and removed the resistance there before cutting up the scarrow and scorpions left behind.

With a sigh of relief, I moved on to the room of stilled earth elementals. The Inevitable shouts down that I’m officially in his way, proclaiming that I’ll die like Veil.

I briefly searched my memory for an emote that could show that bastard a non-spell version of the Finger of Death using one of my hand. Honor is everything to a ninja, my friend. You may personify the law, Mr. Marut, but today, I embody the will of revenge.

As the elementals awoke, I used Wave of Despair to neg-level them to make them easier to dispatch. I carefully pulled the last one around the corner and away from the sealed door that would open to reveal a band of Drow I had no intention of fighting.

From here, Kiri went full ninja. There weren’t just patrols of Drow from the elementals to the next shrine near the encampment’s boundary–there were dozens of Drow. An army.

Conservation of Ninjitsu ensured that I moved fast, invisible and unseen through them all, through a long series of cavern corridors, finally ending at a small patrol at a campfire in the hallway adjacent to the shrine. Some throwing stars lured those three Drow to their doom.

The iron key needed to open the sealed door were guarded by two more Drow facing the shrines but not me. I opened the chest and took the key in stealth, without disturbing their contemplation of the shrine’s fine craftsmanship. Good men. They appreciate a few of the finer things. I respect that.

The Marut’s Bodyguards

Out of the frying pan and into the fire as I unlocked the door leading to enemies on the Marut’s payroll. While they themselves aren’t the target, they had to but put down. This wasn’t personal. I know what it means to have a job to do. I’ll just be doing my job better than they will of their own.

Experience told me that at least two beholders guarded the central forked hallway into the mushroom patch where the sealed door and three INT runes awaited.

Out came the Snowstar again to pull the first beholder, punishing it with Ninja Poison. Some quick work with my shortswords ended its life without serious problems. I had to take on the second more directly but it ended nominally as well, with only some of my buffs dispelled.

Two beholders remained, one a red-named guard. Both fell to the Snowstar, thrown fr0m extreme range.

I had recently read an +3 INT tome for Kiri to work on getting Combat Expertise later, so having this Monk use the required 11 INT runes wasn’t a bother.

Moving on, I chose to take out the iron golem and its keeper for a chest but, more importantly, for a better perch for the last of the resistance before I could reach the Marut.

I floated down to stand on the wall above the geyser and used the trusty Ninja Poison-enhanced Snowstar to range whatever stood in the first of three waves of attackers near the final shrine. I had to leap down to activate the last two waves but moved to the nooks and crannies of the area to fight with fewer enemies at a time.

With the way clear, it was time for the dreaded fight against the highest paid mercenaries on the Marut’s payroll. I prepared myself for death; it was, as they say, inevitable. After pulling the lone Drow in their party to dispatch him, I carefully lured the red-named beholder and the troll into the larger path so I could run back to the shrine after death but while keeping those two out of visual range where they’d see me on resurrection and camp the shrine to kill me over and over.

I pulled off half of the beholder’s hit points before expiring. I ran to the resurrection shrine, hiding behind it as I returned to life and built up some ki. Once the death penalty wore off, I pulled the troll successfully into the shrine and ended him. One to go.

I prepped a Touch of Despair finisher with Poisoned Soul activated; if I were to die again, I wanted to DoT that beholder with lots of poison. I sneaked up and started my attack, injecting a massive dose of poison into the beholder using both some Poisoned Darts and the poison finisher, striking as best I could. The beholder spun and evaded but DoTs of 30-40 damage began popping over his head, quickly draining all but the last of its HP. A single sword hit destroyed it.

Now, it’s payback time for all the deaths. All the dishonor. This isn’t business, Marut. Honor is very personal.

It wasn’t a complex fight. I hadn’t any adamantine weapons I remembered at the time (remembering after the fight that my Holy handwraps were adamantine-laced). But I never, ever forget to bring in an Anarchic weapon into this quest. I put on some  simple +2 Anarchic handwraps and spoke to Veil.

Normally I’m not into assassinations for personal gain. I left more than several chests behind me, unopened, as part of my work. Today felt a little different.

The Marut was no match for me, and he went down.

I sheathe my sword, take the coins.

My honor of and that of my dojo is restored. When the Inevitable revives in Dolurrh, I’ve arranged to have him wake up with a dead beholder’s head in his bed. Ninjas are typically not so outspoken, you understand. In this case, however, it was important to leave a clear message, no, a promise, that no one could refute.

So, now that the death-curse is off for a time (at least, that’s what I believe, anyway), it’s back to review my plans to eliminate Sor’jek Incanni.

Poisoning the Players in the PUG

We’ve gained notoriety,
And caused much anxiety
In the Audubon Society
With our games.
They call it impiety,
And lack of propriety,
And quite a variety
Of unpleasant names.
But it’s not against any religion
To want to dispose of a pigeon.

So if Sunday you’re free,
Why don’t you come with me,
And we’ll poison the pigeons in the park.
And maybe we’ll do
In a squirrel or two,
While we’re poisoning pigeons in the park.

We’ll murder them (all) amid laughter and merriment.
Except for the few we take home to experiment.
My pulse will be quickenin’
With each drop of strychnine
We feed to a pigeon.
It just takes a smidgen!
To poison a pigeon in the park.

(Tom Lehrer’s “Poisoning the Pigeons in the Park” is a sardonically funny little ditty. For the complete version by the master sage himself on video, go here.)

The Drow of the Underdark: Poison-laced Poison with Poison Frosting. Oh, and they look cooler than your armor kit rags.

The Drow of the Underdark: Poison-filled Poison Cheesecake and Beefcake with Poison Frosting. And their armor and dresses are to DIE for.

Update 19’s changes are far sweeping than any update I’ve experienced in my three years of game play.

One of these changes is the significance of poison.

Before Update 14, poisoning was merely a nuisance for most players. You’d find and use a Proof against Poison item to give effective immunity to what poisons were out there. Monks gained early immunity to all poisons. Poison was just…poison. There weren’t any variations I can remember from back then. By the time your character’s Fortitude saves were sufficiently high, no one worried about poison again until they reincarnated.

And then the Menace of the Underdark expansion appeared and things–that is, players–took on a different shade of green.

The Proof is in New Poison Types

Poison gained three new variations: Natural, magical and supernatural. Proof against Poison items now only protect you from natural poisons and gave you saving throws against magical poisons based primarily on the Proof gear plus your Fortitude save.

As many a player learned quite quickly when fighting the Spinner of Shadows in the quest of the same name, your natural and magical poison resistances and immunities did nothing against the Spinner’s Strong Spider Demon Venom, a supernatural poison that would absolutely kill you if you didn’t loiter around the fragment of the Silver Flame to rid you of the powerful effects.

As for my characters, I didn’t worry about poison at all to this point as Monks gained poison immunity. So it was quite the shock when the Spinner’s poison took me down fast and brutally. As I learned later, the Monk’s granted feat against poison, Diamond Body, was reworked with Update 14 to protect a Monk only from natural poisons.

Over the last few updates, players were a bit more careful around the Spinner but weren’t that concerned about poison damage from anywhere else. With Update 19, that thinking has got to be changing rapidly.

Poison is now a significant and increasingly common damage effect that comes from many sources and forms.

Many natural poisons are warded off with a Proof against Poison item, as in the past. These include bites from spiders, spores from zombies, scorpions and bugbears.

And then comes the pain: Magical poisons are abundantly found in several enemies. Thankfully, some Monks can take advantage of their own abilities in this realm.

(FuzzyDuck81 noted an omission to this article on its first posting.) Thankfully, Poison Neutralization potions and spells rid you of the long-term effects of most poisons and give you temporary immunity from that poison for a time. But it won’t remove existing damage caused by the poison. You’ll need Restoration or Panacea for that.

Magically Deadly

In the past, poisons didn’t take hold as well from enemy attacks. Today, with the delineation of poisons, enemy weapons will deliver specific poisons that primarily target your ability stats. Some of these poisons give a one-time damage effect that reduces that ability until you use a poison neutralization spell or potion, such as from poison traps. If you are poisoned, that familiar greenish “H” appears over your head, telling you that you should drink that potion right away before you’re forced to use some kind of Restoration spell or potion to cure what damaged you.

But now some poisons deliver a damage-over-time, or “DoT” effect. As anyone who has or knows of a Cleric and their Divine Punishment spell, a DoT attack sends stacking, cumultative damage as often as it is applied, often causing damage to enemies even if they have run away or when they aren’t receiving any other attacks by your party.

Attacks from these enemies will cause a special untyped DoT effect if you are unfortunate in being attacked.

  • Green Dragon Poison: “This powerful and magical poison of the dragon attacks your body.” Can stack multiple times, damage over time effect. The quest “Don’t Drink the Water” has a dragon that delivers this in spades.
  • Drow Weapon Poison: Can stack multiple times, damage over time effect. Found on the Faerun Drow.
  • Purple Worm Tail Venom: “This underdark creature has a powerful poison!” Can stack multiple times, damage over time effect. Found on the worms of the Faerun Drow in the Underdark and in the quest “In the Belly of the Beast.”

Anyone that has an Epic character now has experienced the Drow poison effects more and more now. Even if you can absorb physical and magical damage, their poison will eat at you for additional nastiness. Fighter weapons are coated with it. This is especially bad against your hirelings since they cannot react as well to DoT effects.

Most magical poisons, like most natural poisons, give a one-time effect. The difference is that few, if any characters have immunity to magical poisons and must rely on their enchantment resistances and other abilities to slow down, if not stop, the poisons from toxifying them. These magical poisons include:

  • Arcanaloth: You have been poisoned by an arcanaloth and may soon suffer additional Strength damage. (These are known more popularly as Yugoloths, the dog-like sages hanging about in Amrath and the Demonweb.)
  • Fire Reaver: You have been poisoned by a fire reaver and may soon suffer additional Strength damage.
  • Flesh Render: You have been poisoned by a flesh render and may soon suffer additional Constitution damage.
  • Iron Golem: You have been poisoned by an iron golem and may soon suffer additional Constitution damage. (A golem isn’t organic, but obviously their metal is tainted.)
  • Medusa Snake Venom: You have been poisoned by the snake bite of a Medusa and may soon die. Deals Constitution damage. (Plenty of medusas appear in the Lordsmarch and “Lord of Eyes” quest series.)

Supernaturally Nasty

The ultimate poisons basically kill you by blowing your HP away with DoT effects or a massive cyanide-like shot to your brain to end you immediately. Thankfully, there are only four kinds. The bad news is that you’re likely to encounter every one of them at least once in your character’s life–and one more often than all others.

  • Cursed Contact Poison: You have been poisoned by cursed contact poison and may suffer additional damage until you are cured or you die. This is a curse and a poison effect. Dealt by Glittering treasure near the Horn of Endurance in “The Crucible.” This one’s easy; don’t be greedy.
  • Strong Spider Demon Venom: This spider’s poison is a force of pure evil and unaffected by normal remedies. It’s slow but lethal.  This is the unhappiness given to you freely by the  Spinner of Shadows. Only the Fragment of the Flame will rid you of it.
  • Weak Spider Demon Venom: This spider’s poison is a force of pure evil and unaffected by normal remedies. It’s slow but lethal. The Spinner’s little friends, the Flame Eater and Bloated Flame Eater spiders, also give off nasty damage that only the Fragment of the Flame can remove.
  •  Pit Fiend Venom: You have been poisoned by a pit fiend and may soon die.

Of these, you’ll likely find yourself a surprise victim of Arraetrikos with his potent poison attack with Update 19, anytime you enter the most popular raid in the game, “The Shroud.”

Quintessica and a well-fortified paladin were in a losing fight against Harry in Part 4 not long ago. One moment I was fine, and then I was a soulstone in the penalty box of Part 5. A quick check showed that ignoring the poison indicator above my head was unwise:

  • Poison Injury: Fortitude DC 32 to save. Initially, you get 1d6 CON damage. Untreated, secondary 1000 CON damage.

Ow.

In the past, I don’t think that damage went off as virulently. But now, I’m carrying stacks of neutralization potions, not only for Harry, but for everything.

But enemies aren’t the only ones that can dish out poison damage.

Ninja Poison

Update 19 moved the elemental debuffing enhancements of the Dark Monk into the Henshin Mystic tree, replacing them with Ninjitsu, abilities that can (among other things) inject or forcibly remove Ninja Poison, a DoT poison with powerful cumulative effect.

  • Ninja Poison: Target takes 1d4 points of Poison damage every 3 seconds for 15 seconds. The target’s vulnerability to poison is increased by 5%. This ability can stack up to 20 times. On timer expiration, 5 stacks of Ninja Poison are removed at a time.

Ninja Poison is delivered only with piercing and slashing weapons of a Ninja Spy. You can also use the core ability, Poisoned Darts, to spit a cone of darts. I’ve not had much success with them as the targeting of these things isn’t very good. Further, anything you hit will attack you, so it’s likely an attack that works only if your enemies can’t reach you while you watch them weaken.

You can start your poisoning by using the Ninjitsu ability, Poisoned Soul, to inflict stacks of poison every 6 seconds for 30 seconds. Do the math: It’s 1d4 times 5, or 20d4 that’s sizzling the hell out of what received it, every 3 seconds. By the time an enemy gets the maximum of Ninja Poison stacks (20), the DoT effect is clearly doing dramatic damage.

You can also forcibly pull Ninja Poison out for dramatic damage using Poison Exploit, another Ninjitsu ability. This one’s only useful in prolonged fights–and which fights are those? Orange names, maybe?

Later, ninjas gain the Sting of the Ninja, a weapon stance which adds a stack of poison on critical hits from any piercing and slashing weapon, including ranged weapons such as shurikens.

All of my ninjas use their shortswords but will be using them more to deliver poison more often. While general mobs aren’t going to live long enough to get its full effect, some persistent enemies could stand a DoT. I suspect some players are “meh” about it since poison isn’t an immediate kill effect. But when you encounter those orange-named guys or red-named bosses that do not have poison immunity, you’ll be glad to have this option.

Circle Strafing

My new Drow thrower, Szyncletica, loves to watch Ninja Poison at work. She can target at a very great distance. As the Ninja Poison accumulates and their vulnerability is increased, the poison damage indicator over the enemy’s head goes from normal to purple damage. With additional stars thrown per attack, the odds of anything getting poisoned increase while Szyn takes little or no damage.

And now I’m forcing myself to learn how to circle strafe–running around an enemy or mob, flinging star after star.

You’ll recall the giant fight in the 2nd part of “Redwillow’s Ruins”? You’re mobbed immediately by many giants, trolls and hobgoblins. With a Snowstar in hand, I gathered them and spun the mob to death.

Strafing like this is all too easy to kill a mob since they often cannot keep up with you and haven’t the AI smartness to try to break out of the circle. But it was physically hard to play it at first. I had to hold down my right mouse button and left button while pressing the forward and a side movement key at the same time. Even with a Logitech gamepad, its brutal to do since I have to move the mouse and pick it up carefully to keep the strafing.

Some quick research tells me that the Mouselook key is what I need to touch next time. That’s the one I accidentally touch that ticks me off when my left/right turn keys suddenly go side to side. This way, I should have less cramping and more effective circles, the tighter the better, I think, against single bosses with better speed.