The Shintao Guardian

portrait-lynncletica1Hi, all.

In real-life news, I just received a job offer. No more potential as a real-life mendicant. That news lets me relax just a little before my job prep to get a long-requested build to you.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been using Lynncletica, my Little Mountain Shintao Monk, as a very successful and potent tank in nearly 35 Deathwyrm runs (all difficulties) and several other raids.

In Legendary Hound of Xoriat, Lynncletica easily held aggro on Zyzzy and her puplings with Ki Shout and an effective 105 Intimidate in an Legendary Normal run. She was doing fine in Legendary Hard but has yet to complete. That’s a tough challenge even with a prepared party with great coordination, and you don’t win raids alone.

So what makes her special? Not too much. It’s time to share that.

  • Fortification: Unyielding Sentinel is the central tanking destiny. With a +70 Insightful Fortification helm, Brace for Impact, and the Outfit of the Celestial Guardian, Lynn sits at 286% to 315% Fortification.
  • Miss-chance: 27% Dodge, 10% Incorporeal with an item, 20-25% Concealment. All with gear but Blur can be done through the Wind/Light/Wind Monk finishing move.
  • AC: Improved Combat Expertise, Combat Expertise, Ultimate Earth Stance and other gear for around 138 to 158 AC based on buffs and gear.
  • PRR: 158 to 180. This really absorbs a lot of damage combined with the usual Monk abilities in effect.
  • HP: Around 1200-1400. She can take several hits without flinching.
  • Healing amplification: 180-270. Typical 180 when tanking to maximize defense. Can use Healing Ki for 400+ HP heal every 10 seconds. Rejuvenation Cocoon also improved. These numbers make for 400-600 HP from a Cure Light Wounds spell.
  • Concentration skill: 101-105. Ki Shout makes this the Intimidation skill with solid aggro and threat generation from Earth Stance and Unyielding Sentinel. What’s mine stays mine.

Lynn’s gear at level 30 isn’t particularly special. Her design leverages more STR (2:1 ratio). at 50 STR to 24 DEX to optimize damage but gain some Reflex saves and AC. Feats that add PRR or damage absorption improve durability in fights. With a bit of juggling of special buffs and gear, Lynn can briefly reach 75 STR needed for levers in Legendary Elite Tempest’s Spine.

CON is the highest stat at 55 base, as Monks gain only 75% HP per level as others. But this works well as high CON and Insightful CON items are worn.

For Epic feats, I chose Guardian Angel, Elusive Target and Epic Damage Reduction to soak or avoid additional damage. Dire Charge helps offensively for aggro control. The Legendary feat I chose was Scion of Limbo. Monks are used to one-minute buffs, and the many variations possible were all positive ones, either augmenting defense or offensive regularly without me having to do anything. You could also consider other Legendary feats to give a fixed defensive or offensive bonus.

With handwraps such as Storm’s Harness, Epic Scraps of Enlightenment and now some Complete Thunder-Forged Handwraps with Mortal Fear, Lynn’s innate metal-bypass has no problem hurting what she needs to hurt and well. Stunning Fist is available with a high WIS item switch-out, bringing the ability to a useable level, boosting AC a bit. However, raids rarely allow you to stun much.

The general gear list includes things that primarily enhance defense. These items may be merged or adjusted using Cannith Crafting or other items.

I didn’t add the Twists to the build. I strongly recommend Rejuvenation Cocoon and Brace for Impact (If not in Unyielding Sentinel) no matter what else you select. Enlightenment from Grandmaster of Flowers is good. Also, Standing with Stone for more stacking PRR while in Earth Stance. Improved Combat Expertise from Legendary Dreadnaught adds more PRR.

Like many builds, there’s much flexibility in what you take, just as long you don’t remove much of the special damage reduction or HP benefits. Adjusting WIS and DEX to lower levels will impact AC and saves. Naturally, use Yugoloth favor potions and DDO Store elixirs for added power.

Attached is a PDF file of the build. (WordPress has limitations for what I can upload.) Open the file using Adobe Reader or other PDF reader, copy the text and paste it into a text editor such as Notepad and save it as ShintaoGuardian.txt. You should be able to import the text file directly in Character Builder Lite to adjust as you see fit.

Shintao-Guardian

 

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Staying Alive

As with many of my characters, I never trained Lynncletica much beyond their aligned epic destiny of Grandmaster of Flowers. That’s changed, of course.

At level 26, she’s holding her level-ups as she fills up other destinies to gain other abilities when using Twist of Fate slots.

In what areas I have leveled, I found myself tempted to take epic feats that supported Lynn’s unarmed damage. But I’ve resisted so far.

If I’m ever to tank reliably in raids such as “Temple of the Deathwyrm”, I need two other abilities: physical resistance and healing amplification.

Both of these are supported in one defensive destiny I will use for tanking: Unyielding Sentinel. That’s no surprise, I’m sure.

My PRR goal was 150, or 60% damage reduction. Looks like I’ll easily have most of this, 142 PRR minimum, by level 27 with the following:

  • Ultimate Mountain Stance (Monk stance): 15, untyped
  • Iron Skin (Shintao enhancement): 15, untyped
  • Meditation of War (Shintao enhancement), 10, Insight bonus
  • Epic Damage Reduction (Epic feat, level 27): 10, untyped
  • Improved Combat Expertise (Legendary Dreadnought, tier 2, Twisted, while in Combat Expertise stance), 20, untyped
  • Heed No Pain (Unyielding Sentinel, while in Unbreakable stance): 30, untyped
  • Ring with Sheltering +27 (Enhancement bonus)
  • Planar Prowess (Antipode handwraps and Planar Focus of Prowess): 15, untyped
  • Guardian Angel (when <50% HP): 40-60 (WIS score and saving throws to PRR for 30 seconds)

There’s still more to play with depending on Twist of Fate slots, such as the tier 4 Standing with Stone from Grandmaster of Flowers as a Twisted ability (15 untyped), the level 29 Outfit of the Celestial Guardian’s +38 Sheltering, the Legendary Boots of the Devil Commander (Quality +8; it’s Insight bonus is offset by Meditation of War) and either Scion of Limbo for a chance at +30 PRR or Scion of Earth for +20.

Beyond 150 PRR, there’s little point. I’d be better off improving miss-chance, Reflex saves (which Lynn is weakest), AC and healing amplification.

A few friends in party have been impressed at my healing amplification, and I like it, too. Nowandays it’s easy to calculate this: Just open your character sheet and hover your mouse pointer over your HP information.

At level 27, I have an absolute minimum amp of 110. That comes from

  • Human Improved Recovery (racial enhancement): 60, untyped
  • Shintao core enhancements: 50

The guild airship buff Bath House adds 20.

The remaining are situational based on selected feats, destiny, Monk stance or equipped items.

  • Epic Jidz-Tet’ka (while in Fire Stance, Insight bonus): 50
  • Iron Mitts (Competence bonus): 60
  • Vigor of Battle (Unyielding Sentinel): 20
  • Scion of Limbo (Legendary feat, random buff): 40

Through equipment and Fire Stance, 270 is my current high in Unyielding Sentinel. This isn’t an optimal configuration as it compromises my PRR and AC defense significantly, so it’s for illustration.

lynn-amp-stat

Then I wear an epic Shamanic Fetish for a 108 equipment bonus to positive spell power, and a 28 Heal skill that stacks on this.

I smack the training dummy with Fists of Light vampiric healing curses. Here’s the result.

lynn-amp1.jpg

And then I use the Healing Ki finisher.

lynn-amp2.jpg

Yep. I heal myself for around 425 to 525 HP per 10 seconds on Healing Ki alone and restore 5 to 10 HP while charging it up per attack over about 10 seconds.

And, like most epic players, I twist Rejuvenation Cocoon, which hits for up to 9 seconds or until healed. I had to go into the Subterrane to find a living spell to damage me to test this. Here’s that result.

lynn-amp-cocoon

So Lynncletica, even with only 200 amp, should have ample means to keep herself hale and hearty through many fights, restoring one-third to one-half her HP at any time.

But it’s slash damage that scares me most, and I must do what little I can to ward off some of that, in as much as epic monsters will allow that. By level 27 the Guardian Cloak will have to help as I haven’t discovered any other mitigation options just yet.

I hope to tank my first raid this weekend. If it happens I’ll try to record or take a few shots of it. Tanks tend to be a busy sort of group.

 

 

Did Someone Say ‘Raid?’

I have run more raids in the last month than in the last six months, and not one of them has been a PUG.

It’s thanks mostly to a neat idea of my guild’s co-leader. He activated a user chat channel and invited several other guilds that work similiarly to our own to listen in.

The result had turned much like a concept I’ve seen in an gaming anime I’ve mentioned before: “Log Horizon.”

In this show, we see our protagonist, who never joined a guild in the past. Rather, he and several others once formed a super-party that called themselves the “Debouchery Tea Party.” The members came from other guilds or none at all and were legends to other players and guilds for beating the most difficult raids in their D&D-like game, “Elder Tale.”

The user chat channel has formed something much like this. On Fridays and Sundays, members chat and consider what to run, form up and go.

This meta-guild possesses a lot of experience and has a lot of fun in taking on the big raids at any difficulty they want. Only lag is our greatest enemy.

Pynthetica has dived into the most raids. Her Zen Archer role appears to help others in party with trash control and when members are pursued by too much trash. With high defenses, low threat and long range, I can pick off trash, and, keeping stationary, keep up DPS on raid bosses, as typical in “Fire on Thunder Peak.”

Pyn also works well in “Fall of Truth.” Using only Precise Shot, I can target trash, the disciples and The Truthful One without aggroing most of the arena or putting myself too close to danger. Having the ability to give burst DPS for takedowns is beneficial, especially since I don’t have to run to a boss to make it happen. With two burst options (Manyshot or Ten Thousand Stars) every 30 seconds, Pyn is consistent.

Ryncletica has joined in as well. Her switch-hitting DPS of star-throwing or two-weapon fighting works great so far in boss fights and trash clearing. I try to keep her in the rear guard, like Pyn. But Ryn is a solo combat specialist. I’m grooming her as a mini-boss destroyer as she can whittle them down and keep enemies busy while others in party handle the central objectives or concentrate on tanking.

All this raiding helps my own experience and confidence but reinforces the viability of the Poison Master and Zen Archer builds in repeated runs through the most challenging content, including a few runs through Legendary Shroud. We tried a Legendary Hound of Xoriat run but, like Heroic, keeping ever-increasing trash out of the puppy fight was overwhelming us.

Runs into “Defiler of the Just” have also been risky. If lag didn’t kill us, the strategy usually worked. But clearing trash with Epic Wards or as Red Names pushed Pyn’s (and everyone’s) versatility to her limits.

ScreenShot01850

Hm. Perhaps we should reset and try again. About five too many Pit Fiends.

The raids also allow upgrading of weaponry or obtaining great new items. Pyn now has a Tier 2 Thunder-Forged Longbow—the first tier 2 TF item on any of my characters. Ryn received a potent Outfit of the Celestial Guardian during a Legendary Tempest’s Spine run. Pyn should also be ready to create her first Legendary Green Steel blank longbow sooner than later.

Above all, the politeness, patience and positive attitude of our meta-guild makes for very enjoyable raiding. Opportunities to flag are offered as often as raids to ensure we can keep our raid parties full and powerful. Often, veteran members put their ingredients and named items up for roll to help newer members begin upgrading gear.

Raiding with this group of happy, experienced players put the ‘awesome’ in their “The World is Just Awesome” cooperative teamwork.

This is why Dungeons & Dragons Online is still around to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The world continues to remain filled with awesome. Not just the content, but the players as well.

Thanks to the hard work of everyone at Turbine and to our meta-guildmates. You know who you are.

Better Gaming Through Anime

Exactly what you'd expect to hear on a vulnerable raid, right?

Exactly what you’d expect to hear when a boss is vulnerable during a raid, right?

Plenty of you have read of my recent character builds, many inspired in part through two anime programs: Sword Art Online (SAO) and Log Horizon (LH). Both shows are now airing a second season.

These two programs, based on light novels, aren’t quite like the usual fantasy, supernatural, mecha or other anime plot themes. Both are heavily influenced by MMO gaming design and concepts, including monsters, character classes, terminology, strategy and relationships to current technology.

Both second seasons have illustrated gameplay in ways that, I think, would be a great primer to people who are new to the multi-multiplayer online format, and new to Dungeons & Dragons game design in particular.

How these characters play is critical if DDO ever implements the concept of the mythic raid/quest. We can talk about the idea, but these game-inspired anime series already live the idea–and show how desperately they fight despite cohesive teamwork.

What makes both shows interesting is that the players aren’t sitting behind a computer screen while at play. Either they are connected into the game by a special brain wave interface that makes the Oculus Rift seem like a 1970’s Atari console joystick (SAO), or for reasons unknown, the game has turned life inside out, and they live as their avatars (LH) within this alternative reality.

Both series (their 2013 first seasons and their 2014 current second seasons) are available to watch, free, at the Crunchyroll web site, with a slower release on Hulu Plus. Mind you, the LH season 2 English subtitles are atrociously poor on Hulu, wrought with typos and gross mis-translation, so I’d recommend Crunchyroll for your viewing.

Character Classes

Sword Art Online character classes, in the original death game story arc, were generally based on your preferred weapon training. The original game world, Aincrad, was a magic-less world where weapon skills formed your character. There were no archers or mages or magic in general; you could use daggers, spears, axes, and swords of all kinds. Save for the protagonist, Kirito, no one could dual-wield swords (and the protagonist received that ability through no action of his own). Character levels were less D&D based and were more exponential as seen in games such as World of Warcraft.

By the second arc, “Fairy Dance,” a new game world based on the SAO game engine introduced flight as well as magic. Characters could choose a fairy-like elven race, each with specific specialties, such as elemental, healing, shadow arts, summoning, gadgeteering, beast taming and the like. Unlike the first SAO, character levels mattered less; rather, mastery of magic and weapon skills as levels were emphasized.

As the SAO engine became a de facto open-sourced game engine, many games developed, even overlapping and allowing import or transfer of character data with in-common information between games. Imagine being able to move a WoW character to DDO or Lord of the Rings Online and back. Game items would not transfer, but your basic stats and skills would move with your core character.

Shiroe, the main character in LH, is a master strategist, watching ahead while watching all player stats. Wish DDO has a closer analogue.

Shiroe, the main character in LH, is a master strategist, watching ahead while watching all player stats. Wish DDO has a closer analogue.

Log Horizon, in contrast, is much more heavy throughout its program on character classes. In fact, the game that’s become a new reality, the fictitious Elder Tale, is a DnD-like game world, set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, half the size of the actual one.

The players, pulled into this reality as living avatars after a major game update, still interact with the world’s game mechanics (levels, spells, weapons) through a diegetic interface (as do the digital avatars in SAO). The light novel’s author has acknowledged the book’s inspiration from DnD and other games.

LH has four class-type categories with 90 subclasses that can supplement fighting or non-combat or tactical prowess.

  • Warrior:
    • Guardian: A high HP Fighter-style shield-and-sword tank with Intimidate aggro-controlling and damage-mitigation
    • Samurai: A high HP shield-less fighter that sacrifices some defenses for greater attack combinations.
    • Monk: A high HP unarmed fighter that works remarkably similar to the DDO version, with many attacks with very short cooldowns.
  • Weapon-type:
    • Assassin: Abilities very similar to the Rogue Assassin with high sneak-attack and very high weapon damage at the expense of defense and a required element of surprise. Depending on the subclass training, can use stealth tactics to move and travel and teleport short distances soundlessly.
    • Swashbuckler: A dual-wielding fighter, with average defenses. Their swift attacks can damage enemy stats and saves to weaken them. Can use light weapons or swords with many variations.
    • Bard: Very comparable to the DDO Bard. Uses song magic to buff and augment allies and weaken and charm enemies. Can use a limited weapon set or no weapons at all. Types almost match the pre-Update 19 prestige enhancements.
  • Healer:
    • Cleric: Very similar to the current DDO implementations. Highly regarded in the LH world as healing options appear strictly limited to this and other healing classes. All other classes have to focus on evading or mitigating damage and cannot battle-heal.
    • Druid: Very similar to DDO versions. Has (destructive) animal companions, rooting and dismissal spells and is a strong healing class.
    • Kannagi/Shrine Priest: Less comparable to the Favored Soul, this class is designed to block damage to allies before it happens, including buffs, with some weak attack spells and some healing options.
  • Mage:
    • Enchanter: A wizard-type class that specializes in magic to greatly augment allied attacks, root or bind enemies and debuff them, with a few weak direct attacks. The central protagonist, Shiroe, is this class. Combined with his knowledge of the game and mastery of calculating enemy and allied combat data ahead of time, he is highly-regarded by his friends as a master strategist that can take a small force and wield it as if it were a raiding party against a superior force.
    • Summoner: Creates summoned beasts or spirits creatures to battle for them.
    • Sorcerer: Highest offensive magic user, at the natural sacrifice to HP and defense. Combined with a Bard, a Sorcerer’s attacks can be augmented substantially.

Combat

Both programs show elements found in many MMOs.

Safe-zones

In both universes, player-versus-player combat has restrictions. In the original SAO, you can’t be killed in towns but combat creates a terrifying knockdown and fatigue effect. SAO variations with territorial/racial boundaries would allow races of a territory to kill those of other races who are present in their towns, with the foreign race unable to defend or fight.

In LH, player combat is expressly prohibited, where NPC town guardians will appear and kill even the strongest adventurers for infractions. LH players exploit this in many ways without violating the combat rule, including handholds, kidnapping and limb locks, as well as even sexual assault (in the light novels anyway; the anime tones this element down for broadcast concerns).

Wilderness areas

Respawns occurred slowly in the SAO worlds. A single boss commanded access to the next floor of the castle-like world, each with unique environments and skies. In the original arc, the game’s creator trapped nearly 10,000 players in the game, unable to log out or be removed from the game from the outside. You had one life, and if you died in the game, you died in the real world. Save the towns, death was possible anywhere.

Later story arcs in the SAO series removed the death-game premise but cleverly adds a real-world consequence of some sort from game objectives that promotes a compelling story line in each arc.

In LH, respawns are part of the natural game mechanic and explained as a magical and natural function that makes enemies essentially immortal. That’s counterbalanced by the player as the Adventurer, who also are immortal and resurrect on death (though not without a price).

Character attack

SAO sword attacks had cooldowns where players had to defend or escape before attacking again. LH attacks, spells or weapons, also had cooldowns that varied based on class. As you might expect, the more powerful or useful the attack or defensive action, the slower the cooldown.

The original SAO story arc had less emphasis on tanks, with no healers available. As the story arcs and new worlds evolved, the general tanker/damage/healer teams became more prevalent and helpful.

LH has always stuck to roles in combat. Teamwork is critical, no matter how small. Episode 2 of season 1 illustrates how good teamwork needn’t have a full party–just a smart one.

Raids

Here is where both shows could really teach a few DDO players on how things are done.

In the original SAO, a raiding party consisted of 49 people, seven groups into seven teams. LH raiding parties were four teams of 6 people for 24 players–twice that in a DDO raid.

While SAO episodes would only generalize the raid functions as front-line fighter and healer/mage support (if any existed), LH made exacting differentiated group roles: tanks, DPS, healers and support.

Where Sword Art Online’s writing emphasizes the character story at the expense of explaining game mechanics except for critical plot points, Log Horizon is superior at turning game mechanics into high drama. The show illustrates specific actions, such as attacks by name, cooldown limits, common MMO issues such as limited ammo, magic points, or weapon wear-and-tear, combined with enemy and boss attacks, their patterns, timing and ramifications for the Adventurers fighting them. Never has a party wipe seemed so realistically portrayed on-screen than in Log Horizon 2.

The episodes say and show what characters know and act, reach their highs and limits, with their communication to others virtually identical to what we’d see in party chat.

Three raid bosses, no escape, total surprise. Party wipe.

Three raid bosses, no escape, total surprise. Party wipe.

It’s the scope of organization that’s interesting to watch in LH season 2. The protagonist, Shiroe, is well-known for his strategist planning for battles large and small.

But even he finds a dreadful surprise when something very unexpected occurs in one raid battle that, in DDO, could only be classified as a game admin taking over a boss NPC and wielding it’s powers manually. In short, the boss goes off-script and adapts to the party attack. He calls in fellow raid bosses from other locations to kill the party. Imagine Aaretreikos from “The Shroud” calling in the Truthful One and the Stormreaver during part 5 of that raid, without notice.

The closest actual problem like this in DDO would be if a GM began to control the boss manually.

Both shows would be boring as hell if they portrayed their gaming as DDO does. We shouldn’t expect our raid bosses to throw something totally new at us each time we entered. But good drama allows these shows to work that premise into story with more than thrilling results.

Teamwork is the Key

Both game-based anime shows do a fine job of bringing a game world to life and keeping true to the MMO vocabularies and monsters such as kobolds or demons.

While SAO is ultimately a story about a male protagonist and a growing base of female players he has helped and who adore him, LH is a story about gaming, since the Adventurer’s lives are literally and fully immersed in the new game reality.

As one might expect, some LH and original SAO players decide never to fight,  since it’s still a very scary experience to battle in first-person. In SAO story arc 1, the death-game, some opt never to play, and others go literally insane, forming a murder guild, one that player-kills for sport in a game where death is real.

But both shows emphasize teamwork and communication. Unlike DDO, tackling a raid boss alone is completely impossible (although SAO’s Kirito managed it a couple of times , once by overleveling and once with a special skill and sheer luck).

There are plenty of threads on the DDO forums where players complain that the game is “too easy.” To resolve that, I’d propose that the game difficulty be able as a “impossible” setting. No matter what the enemy is, they will be 5 times the level of the party’s strongest character. They’d have weapons that could slay you in a handful of hits, or even a single hit if you are not wary. No matter what weapons and gear you have, no matter your level, no matter your magic, only strategy and a full party give you a chance, period.

Your party can’t simply hack and slash at it. It might have a series of party-deadly attacks, even one-hit kills. Your team will have to watch the boss and his minions very carefully.

And, to make things interesting, the quests would have randomized weapon powers, effects, immunities and number of bosses. Some may intentionally target and prioritize killing your healers or tanks. Your team can’t simply stand out in the open.

And raid parties become much larger, say 24. And some might say that’s not enough.

Zergs would be impossible. Soloing would be impossible. Winning would be improbable.

The idea isn’t new, of course. Talk of “mythic” raids and quests are bandied about of late.

The players would be forced to see why Dungeons & Dragons is the most popular game design. It’s not the gear, or the class, or the levels or the versatility. It’s teamwork. It’s always been about teamwork.

As the anime shows illustrate well, solid MMO play is ultimately in perfecting a team. Not everyone can or should be the “ultimate fighter.”

Want an illustrated example? Go to Crunchyroll and see LH season 2, episode 3, “The Abysmal Shaft,” to see how a raid party has to deal with a very, very complex raid boss–the first of many for them.

Alone in the Shroud

A Drow has scheduled a date with you, big guy. Bring some flowers...for your funeral.

A Drow has scheduled a date with you, big guy. Bring some flowers…for your funeral.

From time to time I’ve had one of those crazy ideas.  First it was an Epic Elite solo run. One continual goal is to complete “The Shroud” alone.

Lynncletica tried it, long ago, failing part 1 rapidly as she simply couldn’t beat down the portals (officially, a planar gateway) fast enough. She’d have to gain more STR, speed and better portal beaters.

I wasn’t done yet. I have only one other character that excelled Lynncletica, not by endurance, but damage. That was Szyncletica.

On Szyn’s first life, I read up on what it takes to beat down a portal from an old but useful thread that offered to post results to a challenge. A portal identical to those in the Shroud, part 1, is in the snowy wastes of Aussircaex’s Valley.

As noted before, the shuriken has the lowest base damage (1d2) of any weapon. Now, with throwing builds all about, they are rarer to find on the Auction House, and expensive if you happen to find one.

Before, the fastest I could destroy a portal, using a crafted +5 Holy star of Greater Construct Bane, was 1 minute 14 seconds. It would not do. A throwing star damaged well enough, but just not fast enough. Trials using a Mineral II and Triple-Positive Green Steel stars yielded similar takedown speeds.

My options were greatly limited. While many weapons drop in the game that have the uncraftable Smiting suffix, the odds of discovering a returning Smiting shuriken seemed higher than my chance of winning the Powerball national lottery.

It took another life and a new update, 21, to introduce another chance at a chance.

Some tips from the Shuricannon thread and a recent trip through the Ruins of Thunderholme gained me a new crafted weapon: A Thunder-Forged Alloy Shuriken. I added a Ruby of Good to this metalline star, although it appears not to be working properly.

Nonetheless, the weapon has a very high base damage with its Tier 1 upgrade: 4(1d2)+10 with a 14-18 damage range…easily more than twice the damage of my usual beater. And it has the Touch of Shadows property for 8 to 48 negative energy damage. Remember that Szyn’s build is a Ninja Spy. All of her damage comes from her very high DEX, in addition to competence bonuses from being a Drow, a natural user of the thrown weapon.

So, freshly leveled to 26 and loaded up with ship buffs and stacking special potions, off I skipped to the snowy portal always present in Aussircaex’s Valley to test out that new Thunder-Forged star.

I cleared out the surrounding enemies, drank any stat-boosting potions and switched to Wind Stance for additional Dexterity. I had 60. I set my timer and began smacking the portal.

The Thunder-Forged star took down that portal in 41 seconds. That’s better than a good Barbarian L20 with a Mineral II Green Steel weapon shown on that old thread, and far better than my old crafted star.

Giddy with the stronger possibility of a Shroud solo, I assessed what, if any temporary weapon effects I can apply to that star. Craftable returning shurikens with a red augment slot seem to be completely imaginary, else I’d craft one and add a Ruby of the Vampire Slayer for some Light damage,  and apply some Oil of Incandescence portions for some more Light damage. Despite the lack of a slotted star, I plan to add the Oil for extra damage during part 4 and 5.

Update 22 (out on 6/11, the day I first penned this post) gave the shuriken criticals their true range of 15-20 with Ninja Spy capstone, which added in considerably more damage on critical hits.

Challenges in the Shroud

Of course, Szyn would be completely alone. No hirelings of any kind in a raid. In Epic, self-sufficiency wasn’t a problem. In addition to elemental and poison resist potions, she stocked up on Yugoloth potions and collectable ability-boosting potions as well as buying a few DDO elixirs to allow a +6 stat advantage when the going got tougher.

If Szyn could blow down the portals fast enough, then part 2 was the second greatest challenge, gathering and slaying the four lieutenants and then destroying the central crystal. Based on other’s successful runs, a player might have to abort a run if they get swift-moving lieutenants that cannot be outraced to blast the crystal or who add a party buff that makes the group too strong.

My feeling was that I’ll need to use a ninja tactic or two to keep them separated for a bit, hit them with burst damage and then hit another, minding that each of them regenerate. Or, kill each once so that they lose some HP to make slaying easier.

Part 3 is the puzzle challenge. That one should be easy. If I could blast down the portals, the crystals over the doors (normally a forbidden thing in a raid party but necessary in solo mode) will go down fast, and Monk speed will get the lunar water in the fountains quickly before the prismatic wall appears. Even if the wall approaches, Szyn can move fast and just has to stay behind the wall, going clockwise around the area, hiding in the fountain to let it go by if needed.

Then, the fun stuff comes with parts 4 and 5. How much DPS will Szyn be able to maintain against Arraetrikos? Getting the gnolls down wasn’t a worry but they must still drop fast to avoid rehealing the big guy.

I anticipated to go through quite a bit of spell points to stay healed from the occasional d1 I’ll roll against a meteor that Harry hurled at my head. On Normal, Harry shouldn’t be a major hassle if I can push my damage per hit to its ultimate. I didn’t forget the Whirling Blades. I planned to fight at near-melee range so I would be able to easily see where those things spawned as Harry entered, then leap away as they closed in. That would allow me a continuous pattern of striking.

Harry has only one ability I cannot avoid: Hold Monster. A faint chance to have a Freedom of Movement effect comes with the new epic Three Barrel Cove, by slaying rare encounter bosses in search of the Orcish Privateer Boots. Being a Monk, I should be able keep my saves high enough that Harry’s chances of landing that spell are lower. On Normal difficulty, the odds probably favor me. I do have a Lesser Harper Pin for an emergency break from a hold, but with a 10 minute cooldown, it’s a desperation move.

It’s going to be a long day stopping these guys. One player, a master of solo raiding, still took just shy of 2 hours to beat the game on Normal difficulty with a L25 character. I’m hoping my DPS will speed things up a little.

If Szyn can get past Part 4, then Part 5 is just more of the same.

Attempt #1

First thing on a Saturday morning, I geared up with scads of potions and set off.

Life was made a lot easier with the new U22 super-lasting airship buffs but there was still the matter of handling element resistance and protections. At the top of my worry list were my number of mana potions. I needed to improve my healing amplification to make things as efficient as I could, even with shrines and rechargers.

Part 1 began with my first screw-up. My phone died overnight, where I kept a copy of the portal takedown order. I had to go from memory and with extra guile.

ScreenShot01245The new Thunder-Forged star did its work well. Gulping Haste potions, I moved fast to blow the portals down.

A few Portal Keepers did appear but chasing them down and killing them bought me the time I needed. My heart was racing with triumph on clearing Part 1 alone for the first time.

Part 2 started off well enough, easily clearing the trash and scouting the center. I gulped. I had the swift fire lieutenant along with the manically teleporting devil, orc and troglodyte.

Past solo veterans often aborted right then and there as the fire elemental moves very fast to the respawn point after being killed. I decided to give it a try.

The Celestia’s light bombs helped as I whittled down and killed the lieutenants once to rid them of their regeneration once they revived. I had all four down but the trog’s stench slowed me down before I could remove it and race to the central crystal.

ScreenShot01248Taking another tack with the revived lieutenants, I lured and whittled down the elemental a bit before pulling and engaging the others in the southwest corner.

With a timely light bomb from Celestia, all four went down and I raced again to the center but the elemental’s shadow was ahead.

Thankfully I could target the crystal fast. I destroyed it just as the fire elemental revived. Part 2 complete!

But it was part 3 that ended me. I easily destroyed the upper crystals and began adding the lunar water to the fountains.

My time sense kept telling me all was well in this section, but a turn to the left after completing fountain #5 landed me smack into the prismatic wall, appearing far faster than I expected.

ScreenShot01249Now I know at least that destroying the crystals appears to bring the wall up much faster. I’ll be a bit more prepared next time–and always turn right from a puzzle room.

I was just happy that I could clear the first two parts.

Szyn just reached level 27 and has the epic feat of Blinding Speed, making her permanently Hasted.

Things might get interesting with her second attempt I’m planning this weekend. Stay tuned.