Death Seekers III: The Search for Soulstones

"I do not tolerate failure," Blofeld said. Too bad he's not leading the party. Shit would get DONE.

“I do not tolerate failure,” Blofeld said. Too bad he’s not leading the party. Shit would get DONE.

In my previous installment, I entertained the majestic problems of certain quests that are not only challenging for their level, but can also be train-wrecked by a blundering party member.

Let’s dive into the meaty level 12-18 level quests that are extraordinarily difficult to play with an at-level party and/or when your party is filled with..er..colorfully bad gameplay.

Now the game difficulty ramps up the damage significantly, as well as the consequences for a party’s lack of vision. The good news is that more players you encounter in a PUG have greater experience and are less likely to cause a party grave distress.

Usually.

Remember that the list is trying to note the quests where simple bludgeoning, stabbing, slicing and spellcasting just won’t do. There are many difficult quests that proper application of mana and sword will overcome. This list, while not even close to inclusive, hits the highlight reel in my experiences.

While I was going to discuss quests but not raids, I’m going to make one little exception and add the most popular raid in the game. You know why.

Let’s recap the rating system again:

  • Navigation: Does the quest require many switches and keys to use to progress? How hard are they to find? How linear is the adventure? Are there traps? Are there quest-required puzzles? How much resistance is encountered to find objectives? Is the quest just plain confusing due to its sheer size?
  • Enemies: How many? What’s the dominant race? Do they respawn? Do they attack with effects that are harder to resist or avoid? Are there one or more kill zones where they’d likely entrap you? Does their nature limit your fighting ability?
  • Bosses: How many mini-bosses? What damage resistance do they have? What special attacks do they do? How do you escape from it if you cannot kill it? How large is their entourage?

Invaders! (Level 12)

Navigation: 2, Enemies: 10, Bosses: 8

The Waterworks get an extraplanar makeover, thanks to a Xoriat invasion. Xoriat Flesh, Fire and Ice Renders, along with many Thaarak Hounds invade the area, sending kobolds running and screaming through the halls.

Your party likely ends up joining the kobolds in their panic if you weren’t prepared on entering this misty hellhole. The Renders are the last thing you’d worry about.

There are beholders. Note plural. As in approximately 10-12 anti-magic cone wielding neg-leveling beholders, ready to zap you and your party quickly into the afterlife.

This quest is extremely tough for PUGs in this free-to-play quest, whose members may not likely have some better gear found in the premium adventures that provides at least Deathblock to ward a glancing magic blow by a beholder that’s not quite trying to kill you yet.

The navigation is the easy part. It’s the same Waterworks format, although many hidden doors. rare encounters and passageways found in the original quest are not present here. The sole shrine you can use is near the end-boss’s room. Do visit there for a bit of a laugh.

Death Ward is surprisingly less important because beholders also love to strip your buffs before disintegrating you (which Deathblock cannot block). What’s really needed here is a strong, nurturing healer-type with a big pile of Restoration/Greater Restoration scrolls to keep parties from being energy drained down to toddlerhood.

Also needed is a strategy. There’s a right tool for any job, and that job is beholder slaying. Parties that scream and leap into a beach ball flotilla of these things are going to die so rapidly that party leaders may start petitioning Turbine to make Soulstone Collectable Bags.

Teacher Syncletica, in an earlier life, demonstrates how shit gets DONE.

Teacher Syncletica, in an earlier life, demonstrates how she got shit DONE.

Send in your Monks and Paladins, especially if they are Light Monks or Warforged. They are excellent candidates since they have great saving throws, spell resistances and are immune from level drain, leaving them more likely to have the prowess needed to quickly take down a beholder.

Monks and specific Paladins are designed to take down aberrations like these. Shintao Monks get Tomb of Jade far earlier than in their pre-Update 19 lives and should have a great stun attack to Jade one beholder while stunning and killing a second one.

The stealthy approach also works. I don’t mean trying to use Invisibility–beholders have a lot of eyes and see through that nonsense. But it takes them a bit longer to notice the hidden adventurer. Since Faster Sneaking is now standard equipment on Rogue Assassins and Ninja Spies, this would be a great time to hustle up there and use Assassinate or Quivering Palm to let the air quickly out of a Xoriat beach ball. Remember that the stealth AI is more vigilant. The beholder WILL see even a sneaking player–but if you time your speed right, the beholder will have less time to react.

Your party has to explore this truncated version of the Waterworks and find portals where (gasp!) Elder Beholders hold station. They simply have greater HP but are no less vulnerable to becoming monastic beach balls if you have Monks in your party. (Also remember that Bard and Monk buffs are special; they can NOT be removed by beholders.)

Humanoid minions are helping out the beholders. A few locations have chaos orbs floating about to make your adventure that much more stimulating.

As soon as your party stitches their flesh back to their faces, be sure to tally up your Outsider (Invasion) tokens. Get 25 of these bound-to-character gems and speak to an NPC nearby the quest entrance to exchange them for some decent gear. You can only get one item per life, but it’s a boon for the free-to-play character. Of particular note is the Ring of Balance. It comes with a Green Augment slot and a 100% Fortification gem that you can easily remove and place in other gear if the ring isn’t to your liking.

Frame Work (Level 12)

Navigation: 6, Enemies: 10, Bosses: 8

Ah, what fresh hell is this? Well, it’s not too fresh. Ever visited a cattle barn? It’s like this–only these cows aren’t going to let you tip ’em.

It all starts off well enough, with your party sauntering through the countryside surrounding the minotaur city, looking for ballista parts, taking down the periodic panther, wolf and spider.

And then one of your party members goes all Leeroy and storms into the minotaur city.

Frame Work requires a bit of subterfuge for most parties, by targeting the Minotaur Runts before they have a chance to ring the alarm bells.  It’s not that most parties don’t want the extra kills if you’re going for the slay-everything option. You just don’t want half of the whole city to wake up at once and cause a persistent Dungeon Alert from which there is no escape for your pitiful little band. Therefore, kill off a region of bull-men, lick your wounds, find and kill the next runt, and then ring the alarm yourself when the party is ready.

If you find that your party has a griefer that zooms about ringing bells like a Christmas caroler or unnecessarily alerting more and more minotaurs, don’t follow him/her. They will die, heinously. Leave their stone alone and do not resurrect them. Sic semper stultus.

There are two entrances. Entering either one is easy enough by using the stoning wand on one of the two guards (completing a required objective) and then pulling the second guard from afar to keep from alerting others inside.

A stealthy player can literally jump over the wall at the lake entrance to open the gate, or you might want to sasshay your group up to a gate and wait for several minotaurs to happily open the gate for you so they can kick your teeth in.

The key in the quest for a typical party is not to separate, pull and isolate kills, and kill the runts first.

When Cabal Seers show up, look out. They’re often the reason why your party Hulk Smasher turned into a soulstone rapidly since these red-names use lots of energy draining and death spells. As a reward for killing those guys, chests will materialize somewhere nearby. But please caution your party to clear out the area before wandering around. There are many dead-ends where minotaur bands love to surround and entrap careless players.

Another opportunity for the impatient in your party to die without dignity is to bum-rush the ramp to the Minotaur Chieftain, which is loaded with extremely deadly one-time blades. Going up the ramp also starts the end-fight mechanic, which isn’t a nice time to have it start if you’re still neck-deep in minotaurs.

There are three bosses, to make matters worse. A final Cabal Seer might be inside the fortress, too, and shamans are busily healing the enemies while you’re running for your lives from the gods-awful clusterfrak bull rush (often with yet one more alarm sounded to bring the rest of the city down on your heads).

Foundation of Discord (Level 13)

Navigation: 3, Enemies: 10, Bosses: 10

This quest is so batshit-crazy hard at any level and difficulty that I’ve already dedicated a whole article on it. Read it and weep.

In the Demon’s Den (Level 18)

Navigation: 7, Enemies: 9, Bosses: 9

This little orphaned free-to-play quest is available in the courtyard of the Inspired Quarter. Inside, you have respawning gnolls, fire and earth elementals, fiendish felines all about. In a central room is Aurora the maralith, who laments how hard it is to find good help these days as you slay the army she sends after you. You can probably feel for her, too, if you have a bad party.

On Normal difficulty, this one’s just a bash-fest, with the marilith attacking only after you slay three fiery d’jinn ritualists that are part of her ritual.

But on Hard and Elite, your party has to bring their A-game, and probably the A-game of three of their friends, to beat this one as a team. Here, the marilith attacks immediately. You know mariliths: Why use one sword when six will do? Here’s the kicker: She can’t be killed until all three ritualists are slain. She loves to generate dangerous and damaging fog while she tries to skewer you.

It’s nowhere close to easy. If you have a tanker, they and a healer have to take the angry marilith off on a stroll and away from the rest of the party. From there, you have three tunnels filled with all manner of nastiness that you must kill to get to the ritualists at the end of each tunnel. Your remaining party needs to separate and take on legions of enemies found in the tunnels. Do the math: If two are kiting the marilith and there are three tunnels, then two people are likely to go alone into one of those dark passageways.

And your party has to coordinate. On Normal, you can slay each ritualist one at a time and they don’t come back. But on Hard/Elite, what’s left of your team, all divided in three locations, have to kill the ritualists within 30 seconds of each other or they respawn.

Once that’s done, the marilith is vulnerable and the party has to yet again cut through respawning resistance to get to the marilith to gang up and slay her without getting tossed about or knocked down or cut into six tiny pieces.

Oh, and the levers you may need to progress through areas are often trapped. Some of them wind around and confuse you easily.

Wrath of the Flame (Level 19)

Navigation: 2, Enemies: 8, Bosses: 8

This quest (and “Running with the Devils”) makes even experienced players forget some basics about damage reduction.

The place is filled with Silver Flame humans: Paladins, Wizards, Fighters and Clerics. Because they are the Silver Flame (often Lawful Stupid), they are misled by their leader (who isn’t who she says she is). Despite being gullible and easily misled, the Silver Flame are really nasty fighters as they turn on you.

But then you’ll hear messages in chat: “My weapon’s not working.” “They’re immune to my attacks.” Cue the curb-stomping of the party by the Silver Flame–a group not known for its extraordinary fighting skills–if their tendency to constantly hire adventurers out to clear out their many many tombs and catacombs is any indication.

Many player weapons and attacks don’t work because the Silver Flame (and the Eladrin in “Running with the Devils”) are Good-aligned. Many of our player weapons are also Good-aligned, making them ineffective in damage.

Worse off, the Flame’s battlers aren’t stupid. They usually and immediately cast Death Ward, too, making it harder to swat them back with Life Draining or negative energy attacks. They’re often as well-buffed as your own party.

The best weapons against the Flame are those with the Aligned property. Such weapons will hit with the opposite damage reduction of an enemy. In the case of the Flame, they get Evil damage. You can also try Banishing weapons, since the Flame comes from the same plane as you and aren’t native to Shavarath.

Players can make things even harder on themselves by the time they encounter Lightbringer (just as you reach the imprisoned Yugoloths). A massive army of the Flame surround her. Don’t attack the army–attack Lightbringer! After a moment, you’ll see that she’s a succubus that had disguised herself as Lightbringer. Once the idiots in the Flame realize the deception, they become your allies immediately–and a very good thing as a mob of Shavarath enemies pounce on you. Keeping as many Silver Flame bodies alive helps this part of the battle.

The Shroud (Level 17)

Navigation: 8, Enemies: 10, Bosses: 10

The Shroud is DDO’s most popular raid. It’s also the raid most likely to fall apart because of the complexity of objectives and the coordination required from every party member. For that reason, I’m making this sole exception in not mentioning raids, which are naturally difficult. The Shroud is run so often that you’d think everybody can do it reliably, especially when many Epic players enter in.

If you believe that, I have some beachfront property on the shores of Argonnessen that I’m sure you’ll love.

The Thirteenth Eclipse (the Shroud’s official name) requires players to complete five flagging quests as well as use ingredients you gather from each completion to create a Signet Stone that is key to completing the flagging. Some players (the ones that don’t bother to read)  won’t follow instructions to complete the final flagging steps and often delay the raid’s start. Most party leaders aren’t patient and kick them out if they’re not flagged. The lesson? Read, read, read.

The Shroud has five parts. It’s amazing how much is going on and is still quite a lot of information to juggle for experienced players. The challenge is keeping the party focused on the task at hand at all times. It’s too much to go into detail, but let me summarize where parties often cause their own demise.

Part 1: Kill everything, destroy the portals quickly.

This part is typically the easiest, but it can get screwed up if a party leader doesn’t guide everyone to destroying portals in the general order that they spawn. The DDO Wiki article for the raid shows when and where the portals turn up. If parties break up, getting these portals down fast enough will be unlikely before too many portal keepers appear to ward the portals, causing the raid to fail.

Part 2: Kill off trash mobs in the maze, pull and separate 4 Shavarath lieutenants, kill them, destroy their respawning crystal over their spawn point before they return.

This part has “cluster” written all over it. You’ll see your Hulk Smashers go nuts in removing trash, and that’s good. The crazy begins if someone gets too close into the interior of the maze before all trash is destroyed that could affect the party’s bigger fight. The lieutenants have special area-of-effect buffs for each other that make them nigh-invulnerable. Having spare devils poking you makes things all the harder. If the lieutenants are out before the trash is gone, look out.

Pulling the lieutenants down the eastern side of the maze to the south side of the maze is a common tactic, but your Hulk Smashers can make things more difficult if they aren’t listening, forcing players to separate too widely within the maze and spreading healing and DPS resources too thinly.

The next part of this craziness is telling the brain-dead in your party to coordinate the kills of the lieutenants so that they all die at about the same time. If the deaths are staggered too widely, one monster might make it back to the respawn point and comes back to life to torment the party. The respawn crystal can only be destroyed while all lieutenants are ghosts and before any one of them reaches the respawn point. Destroying the crystal also requires the party leader to designate a crystal-destroyer–often a spellcaster–to loiter carefully around the maze’s center to be ready to quickly destroy the thing at the right time.

Part 3: Solve all puzzles, avoid the Whirling Blades, don’t step on the yellow wards, refresh the fountains before a prismatic wall appears and wipes the party.

This area is timed. It requires the brain-dead of the party to think as they may materialize, alone, inside a sealed room where an infamous Shroud puzzle awaits. The puzzle doesn’t have to be solved to add the purifying water to the fountain–but your party will lose 2 chests. An inexperienced player will not know where to find a Shroud puzzle solver or not care, stomping quietly and futilely on their puzzles while not alerting others that they can’t solve it themselves in time.

Again, the party leader is key here. They have to brief the party before entering on what not to do. Don’t destroy any crystals above the rooms, except the three that ward the wading pool where the water fountain resides for bottles of water.

If things are going too slow, the party leader could sacrifice the two chests, destroy the room crystals so the water can be added to all fountains. The party leader also has to keep the team on puzzle-solving status, and that everyone is running through the maze, avoiding the yellow glyphs that cast Horrid Wilting and Greater Dispel Magic to debuff you, and the invulnerable, unavoidable Whirling Blades that will kill the squishiest or careless of your group.

And heavens help you if you are running a raid with fewer than 12 players. It’s probable that one or more rooms will be unoccupied, their puzzles unsolved, its fountain dry. Happen to bring in someone with Knock or who can pick locks? Or will members in party even bother to report an empty room?

Part 4: Kill Arraetrikos.

Bad party leaders neglect warning the group only to enter this next area as a group and only once buffed. Once things start, this bash-o-thon gives parties very few opportunities to regroup. They’d also make sure that all weapons are properly readied to fight a pit fiend.

Like “The Reaver’s Bane” and “Tower of Despair,” player deaths are rewarded with a trip to a penalty box (in this case, a jump into Part 5) where you cannot be resurrected until Harry is killed.

Hulk Smashers that love to kill, kill, kill, might kill devils too quickly, sending many Whirling Blades that spawn from the deaths into your party to kill them, especially on Elite where the blades do maximum damage.

Harry appears in the room’s center and awaits the right weapon to hurt him effectively. This is where your party’s DPS makes all the difference. If melee fighters aren’t using weapons with Silver and Good properties, the fight will be slower.

Good parties on Normal and Hard difficulties might take Harry down in one or two rounds. On rounds two and later, more devils appear before Harry–and more Whirling Blades threaten to kill more party members. Then Gnoll Idolaters appear and cast healing beams at Harry. Well-prepared party leaders ask if there’s a Monk in party with an Everything is Nothing nuke ready to use at the room’s center to swat all the gnolls simultaneously so that all others in party can continue the beat-down on Harry. Otherwise the leader has casters ready to kill the gnolls.

Too many deaths and you’ll end up failing. Sometimes this part can fail even with an experienced party due to lag or misfortune.

Funny thing: My guild ran the Shroud, short-manned by two, on Elite, just last night. Many of us were Epic level; it was an ingredients run. Things went bad in part 4 but by that misfortune of many players being in the wrong place. One of our healers was killed almost immediately and our second had computer issues and disconnected twice. Harry was barely down to 75% by the end of round 3. By then, only the DC’d healer, myself (on Quintessica the Mystic in her first run in this 2nd life) and a Paladin were the last alive.

The guild party was resigned to fail but were in good spirits, rooting for me and the paladin to complete it. Quintessica  dived in, trying to recharge her EiN “Death Blossom” while fending off devils, as was the paladin. For the next round, my Death Blossom wasn’t ready, so I ran about to kill the gnolls while the Paladin stood his ground against Harry for a time alone. Another round and our DC’d healer was able to reconnect to recharge us once before he was killed. I blew away almost all the gnolls with the Death Blossom in the next round before battling Harry once more by round 4.

In a notable example of the Update 19 changes to how effective poison can slay you dead, Quintessica was prepping for round 5 when she suddenly found herself at room temperature.  The combat log said something to the effect of Harry’s pit fiend poison delivering a 1,000 point dose at me. Wow. So much for the old Monk immunity to poison thing (that takes care of natural stuff but not supernatural or magical now). But cheers to Quintessica, who was far more effective and durable as a Mystic. Going to look that pit fiend poison up, though.

The guild called the raid for another night. The paladin, still alive and alone in part 4, was so badass-durable that he actually had to let himself be killed to leave the instance.

Part 5: Kill Arretreikos (Again).

After your whole party dies on using the last altar (by design) and materializes in a new area, you’re revived to fight the four lieutenants from part 2 again. All buffs (including ship buffs) are lost on entry.

Separating them as before is easier with the large area but some zerging party members might kill all the lieutenants before the party can rebuff or recharge their spellpoints before Harry appears on the death of the last lieutenant. Typically, you keep one lieutenant alive while buffs and recharging goes on.

Harry is angrier here than ever, often and randomly changing his target, and moving about. Good party healing, appropriate buffs  and melee teams adjusting position to box Harry in place should make this an easy fight. I did say, “should.” Thankfully players can be revived here should they die–at the expense of the healer-types having to change focus from the lead fighters to the dead.

Taking Requests

That’s my take on some of the tougher quests to coordinate or run with an at-level group. There are plenty more but they don’t rank up to the pure evil seen in the ones I’ve listed. That’s a matter of opinion, so if you know of a quest that can really go the wrong way fast because of the quest’s sheer scope or ability to cause players to goof, then let me know about that quest so I can run it again (crap) and note the pitfalls we might find.

Foundation of Discord: Unsafe at Any Level

Get used to seeing a LOT of these in one Gianthold EE quest.

Get used to seeing a LOT of these in one Gianthold EE quest.

Recently, I joined some guildies on Ryncletica the Ninja on an Epic Elite run of “Foundation of Discord,” a walk-up optional quest within Gianthold.

I’ve played this one before. I rank this quest with others like “Proof is in the Poison” and “Acid Wit” as quests that are far tougher running at-level than other adventures. I would assert that “Foundation” is the toughest quest in Gianthold. Here’s why.

I completed this quest on Ryncletica in solo mode (no hirelings) on Epic Hard, so I knew what to expect in EE. You have to slay three Concord guardians to reach Patrick, a very nasty boss in a very well guarded room with archers on platforms, several Aurum mages, fighters and clerics, and continually respawning fire, air and earth elementals. All the guardians and bosses are surrounded by Bards that love to use stunning spells, Clerics abound who are too good with Cometfall and Greater Command, Wizards appear that freeze and zap you silly, and shadowy Rogues amerge with brutal sneak attacks.

On my EH run, after using several turns of Shadow Manipulation (dominate) turns on two earth elementals that guard Patrick to whittle down his HP, I finally dove into the recess where he stood and pummeled him. Stealth and infiltration tactics (pulling individuals to kill and controlling the volume of attacks) helped a lot.

But EE was a different matter.

Ryncletica’s skills at stealth are partially negated with a party, naturally. Stunning things in EE is harder. It’s the versatile nature of “Foundation’s” mobs that’s the key to its difficulty. Some quests have fewer spellcasters and more fighter-types. This one is caster-rich and their AI is relentless in targeting. It’s as if the mobs are more coordinated than in previous updates. Remember that the dwarf-like Duergar that dominate this area are very resilient and resistant to paralyzing and stuns.

We were all getting sniped by Rogues but the real challenge involved taking down each Concord guardian. I don’t know how they were trained but it was clear that they had Ryncletica’s number: Monks are most vulnerable to slashing damage. My high Dodge and Reflex did little here to keep from getting eviscerated several times by the guardians. Others in the party fared no better. A few Shadow dominations put one enemy on our side for a time. I started to target the Bards and Rogues to give the mobs a taste of their own medicine.

Bloodied and dead more than a few times over, we make it to the large room. I was able to sneak in and enable all the sonic traps to bust Patrick out of his invulnerable forcefield while the rest of the party kept the elemental’s initial attention. Then the fun started as the elementals began to earthgrab everybody. Normally, earthgrab is a just a nuisance, releasing you before something serious happens. But in EE, earthgrab holds and then squeezes the life out of you with 100-point or greater damage. Further, other elementals often took advantage and walloped you to death if you weren’t there already.

After several attempts to lure and Dominate the spare elementals in an attempt to bum-rush the boss, as well as removing any Aurum guards (which, thankfully, don’t respawn) I came up on one idea, borne of desperation after looking at Patrick’s stats. Apparently my dojo characters really hate dwarves and duergar, as I’ve amassed quite the collective kill counts in my Monster Manual, allowing me to see the boss’s hit points.

Patrick had 118,000 HP. Between the elementals tagging us, there was no way we were going to survive for any length of time in direct melee. We were all running out of resources.

But one advantage came to mind. Patrick was effectively immobile in the center of that pit, Since we had access to pillars above him, I suggested we take the “death from above” strategy, smacking him with any ranged attacks we had.

The elementals still threw Fireballs and made long-range earthgrabs, while an irritated Patrick used ice spells to pull us off of our perches. I took advantage of Ninja Vorpals with my tiny throwing star and extra attacks to pull a few more HP off the boss. Some of us were still dying to elemental waves but not nearly as rapid as before. Thank goodness Patrick did not regenerate during this battle.

After nearly 1.5 hours, of which nearly 30 minutes was spent trying to kill the boss, it was over. Our repair bills were more epic than our rewards, that’s for sure.

If you’re feeling cocky about your build, take some friends into EE “Foundation.” You’ll be quickly humbled (certain paladins excluded, perhaps).

Weekend Kung-Fu Classes for my other Characters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arcane Archer Monk

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

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

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

Rogue Monk II

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

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

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

Cleric Monk

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

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

Paladin Monk

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

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

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

Druid Monk

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

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

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

Classes That Don’t Synergize

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

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

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

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

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

The 1st Rule of Thaarak Wraps Fight Club

A fellow guildmate laments this DDO forum thread on a new handwrap that is making quite the sensation.

I’m talking about the Thaarak Wraps.

My main character, a Light Monk named Syncletica, was lucky to obtain these during our guild’s recent runs on the Hound of Xoriat raid. The wraps will only drop at Hard or Elite difficulty, as well as a handful of other incredible items for other classes, including a Rogue’s or archer’s dream ring, some awe-inspiring bracers for spell-casters, a divine healer’s shield, +3 ability stat tomes, and much more.

But it’s the Thaarak Wraps that interest some of the masses for two reasons.

One: Any class can wear and use handwraps, even if your non-Monk toon looks like it’s dancing like Elaine from Seinfeld as they fight unarmed.

Two: Like the greatsword named Terror, the Wraps have the Nightmare quality. They unleash Force damage (in fact, the most incredible Force Bursting damage of any handwraps I own), often erupting with the Phantasmal Killer spell on a critical hit.

And that’s the worry of my guildmate. He’s concerned that the devs will eventually nerf these wraps when people talk about their impressive ability to kill.

Now, I can vouch for the killing part of these wraps. I took these babies into The Mindsunder quest in the Inspired Quarter, primarily running in Ocean Stance for highest Wisdom. With my guildmates (one armed with a Terror), we slaughtered the place on Hard. If the terrible acid burst and force burst effects of the wraps didn’t take a foe down fast enough, the very frequent PK procs from my Wraps and Terror did. (It didn’t hurt that most of us took in a Shard of Xoriat with us and were very lucky to bring in four Beholders to one end-fight.)

I don’t think the devs will do anything to the Wraps in later updates, save one thing. First, the Terror greatsword is tough to get, and requires your toon to be proficient in greatswords. Now, while those who can use a greatsword will welcome a Terror at their side, how often does that sword proc a PK? It would depend on whether the player uses a Bloodstone or something else that increases his critical hit modifier, I reckon.

In contrast, a good Monk stacks himself with at least a Blood Stone, but also has learned to run around in Mountain Stance III or IV, where your critical hit range expands from 20 on handwraps to 19-20 and greatly increases your proc chances. Combined with the DPS of the typical unarmed Monk, the Wraps are truly an evil weapon.

However, the Wraps aren’t a “new vorpal” by any means. The Thaarak Wraps will tear through any living creature, true. But some creatures resist them–and they just happen to be among the toughest of the game’s denizens.

  • Xoriat creatures (except perhaps, beholders) resist or are immune from the acid bursting.
  • Any well Death Warded or red-named enemies are immune from the PK effect. This includes most fights against devils, demons and tieflings in the Devil Battlefield or Vale of Twilight.
  • Non-living creatures (constructs) are immune from PK. In fact, a clay golem can be greatly healed by using these things on them–a definite no-no.

The thread link above talks of a Paladin doing his Elaine’s Dance-of-Death in a PvP fight, scoring more kills than others. I can guarantee you that the Paladin was an exception rather than a rule in the use of the Wraps. Why? Because, Paladins have the best saves in the game and, thus, are able to leverage their attack DCs as well (if not better) than Monks.

One other reason I don’t worry about the nerfing of the Wraps involves getting them in the first place. All the great loot in Hound at Hard/Elite is Bound to Character–no swapping them to your other toons or selling them. And have you actually completed Hound on Hard? Without a coordinated party and solid gameplay, your odds of finishing off Xyzzy are pretty damn nil.

What if the devs decide to do something about the Wraps? I submit one idea. They change the Wraps’s to a Monk or Half-Elf requirement. That way, only the Monks can benefit (or a Half-Elf with a Monk dilettante), limiting the spread of the things.

So, fear not. We can talk about Thaarak Wraps.

The restriction on talking about Fight Club does remain, however.