The Efficient Gamer

Ryn4Being an older gamer (“When I was your age, we played with 8-bits…and we LIKED IT!) I’m not as keen as jumping on the bandwagon of some other new game. I have been tempted to try out WoW just to see what the fuss was about.

My new job (yay!) consists of three or four 12-hour work days. The advantage of that is a LOT of days off to decompress, sleep and catch up on work.

This new routine has reduced my DDO time a bit, because, as my guild’s prime rule says, “real life comes first.”

That doesn’t mean I’m not playing at least two to three hours per week. Still doing the same things, just a bit slower.

Pynthetica is nearing 29 once more as a Zen Archer. I’m looking into improving this build once more, as I might have noted, by checking out other races and classes. My last task from a gear standpoint is (1) craft up level 30-ish items that are optimally placed (WIS, DEX) so to allow use of named items, replacing some loot-gen items that aren’t in good spots; (2) Complete a Legendary Shroud and craft up ingredients to make my Legendary Green Steel Mineral Longbow with “You Cannot Evade Me”: an augment that spikes Insightful DEX by 1d8+2 for 20 seconds and causes 1d8+2 Dexterity damage. Apropos for the ever-evading Zen Archer, do you think?

Paracleta, my very successful Zen Bowmaster, finally has her Complete Thunder-Forged Longbow. Being a first-lifer, I’ll possibly eTR her first and burn Shiradi karma for a Doubleshot 3% bonus to bring her ultimate standing Doubleshot to 74% with gear but before any use of Ten Thousand Stars or Manyshot, which sends her Doubleshot to as high as 241%. I should begin work on her Legendary Green Steel Longbow, too. Once back at level 30, it’ll be back to a regular Heroic True Reincarnation to play around with some things. Paracleta was built as a counter-attack to comments about the Zen Archer. As serendipity would have it, she found a very strong niche. This character will have a long and very dangerous life.

I’d love to get more time in on Ryncletica, my third build, the Poison Master. She’s incredibly dangerous with her DPS and poison damage but could use some offensive adjustments over several areas. The great thing about her is that she’s effective at any level because of her build design. Time to play with other races, although this may reduce a little poison damage and require feats I get for free as a Drow. She’s also lacking powerful Thunder-Forged weapons, but her innate speed and damage is already good. Defense is the central need for the Poison Master.

Lynncletica has proven herself as a very versatile tank over many raids. There’s little more she can be, so I may never TR her again, reserving her as a contingency tank for raids that lack one. We’ll see. Meanwhile, new Dragonborn Shintao Scythetica may be filling in as I test this race with Shintao training.

Been thinking of how to improve Szyncletica, my old original Shuricannon. I should look at Firewall’s Shuricannon 2.0 notes and integrate them into her next life. Meanwhile she’s working on a Thunder-Forged shuriken since Pyn, Paracleta and Lynn are done with their many “Deathwyrm” raid rotations. Like Pyn, Szyn is desperately in need for optimizing her gear, so she’s aiding that being the central contributor of loot-gen gear to be crunched into Cannith essences for my crafter to use and grow.

With the Update 33 changes, I’d also want to revisit some older ideas. One that fell by the wayside with the enhancement tree introduction was the “Avatar” build that leverages the strengths of each and every Monk stance. Now that the Monk stances are themselves augmented yet again and with improvements (and more personal experience with) Epic Destinies, I might be able to take one of my characters through such a development.

And then there’s the recent changes that have made stealth (and, in the case of Rogues, assassination) that make this ability much more hazardous to use. I still have my solo-stealth master, Kiricletica, to study how to augment stealth skills against a dungeon that, on sensing you, truly alerts whole squads at you. Can a ninja still use their disappearance and stealth skills to escape reliably?

Thanks for still coming by to read, although I cannot post as often as I’d like.

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

 

Standing with Stones

fukiya

Ninja PLEASE!

I’m still alive and well (albeit still unemployed) as I make a quick note of recent events and updates. I’ve been distracted by an old friend, a game I loved before DDO. More on that another time.

First off, congratulations to Standing Stone Games. I, for one, welcome our new game overlords.

You can read more about the reincorporation online, but basically, it seems our developers and producers have spun themselves off from their WB Games-owned Turbine entity and have a much freer space to develop and profit. Looks like some old hands lost over the years might also be returning.

I wanted primarily to write on Update 33 Patch 2, arriving tomorrow (Wednesday 12/21). Many course corrections and major changes to polish off the major Monk enhancements and handwrap/weapon update of Update 33.

Here are the general Monk adjustments. Items that are great (and there are several) are in italics.

  • Monk finishing moves now incorporate Stunning bonuses into their DC calculations.
  • Ki Shout has had its cooldown reduced to match Intimidate, and its Ki cost lowered slightly. (Lynncletica is very happy.)
  • Meditation of War is no longer considered a Defensive stance.
  • Flash Bang should now add Stunning DCs.
  • Ki Bolt now scales with 3x Melee Power, and adds Stunning DCs.
  • Incinerating Wave now scales with 3x Melee Power, and adds Stunning DCs.
  • Cauldron of Flame’s damage has changed to 1d2 Fire Damage per Monk level, scaling with 2x Melee Power, at each tier, to a maximum of 10d2 per Monk level before scaling. In addition, while wielding a quarterstaff inside your Cauldron of Flame, you gain +20 PRR, +10 MRR, and +15% Dodge that ignores Dodge Cap.
  • Serenity grants an additional boost to Cauldron of Flame: While wielding a quarterstaff inside your Cauldron of Flame, you gain +5 to hit and damage, and a +1 Critical Multiplier.
  • Serenity now grants a +15% attack speed with quarterstaves. (About time.)
  • Henshin Mystic has a new Tier 5 ability called Henshin Staff Training: +3 to hit and damage with quarterstaves.
  • Lighting the Candle now deals about twice as much damage as before.
  • Void Strike now adds +1 to Critical Threat Range and Multiplier with its attack.
  • Shintao’s Touch the Void Dragon now also passively grants +1[w] with handwraps or while unarmed.
  • Shintao’s To Seek Perfection now also passively grants +2[w] with handwraps or while unarmed.
  • Ninja Spy’s Diversion now also grants +5 Sneak Attack Dice for 20 seconds when activated.
  • Ninja Spy’s Ninja Master now also passively grants +5 Sneak Attack Dice.

Ninjas come awfully close to Rogue-level sneak attack powers with things like this, and I’m not complaining. My new SA-happy Shadowbow Ninja archer will deal more damage.

  • Diversion and Touch the Void Dragon no longer share a cooldown.
  • Hit boxes for monks with handwraps have been restored to their previous size.

A very annoying bug squash here that should now allow handwrap-wielding Monks to massage Lolth’s incredible abs with our fists once more in “Caught in the Web” without falling to our doom.

  • Every Light Casts a Shadow should no longer give negative levels to friendly members of your party.
  • Spring Attack is now a Monk Feat at level 6.

The Combat adjustments are a bit interesting for ranged characters. Not sure how this will work with my snipers, especially the Diversion-loving Pynthetica:

  • We’ve corrected a long-standing bug where groups of enemies would not aggro correctly. Players will find that they can no longer use a ranged attack to pull singular enemies from a group without aggroing nearby enemies.

Now, I’m fine with this change as it is more realistic. But, hopefully, the other aggroed enemies don’t immediately come after you, but first note the noise, look, and investigate, buying you time.

  • Bluff and Deception will no longer cause bosses and enemies using ranged attacks or spells to turn around. This corrects an issue where ranged enemies would stop attacking after being bluffed or affected by Deception, and improves the enemy combat experience. Red-named bosses are still affected by sneak attack damage vulnerability.

Another change that’s fine, as long as the Bluff effect still procs and damage is still happening, and hopefully, enemies are still slowed or hesitant in some way. However, this might change the nature of my Zen Archer powers. I’ll have to test and see.

  • Raid and named bosses can no longer be champions.

Nothing’s more scary than to see Lolth wearing a crown. She’s already crazy as it is.

Other good stuff:

  • Many old loot effects that were made specifically for old-style handwraps now work properly on updated handwraps.
  • Vampirism and Lesser Vampirism now provide their proper effects on handwraps.
  • Heroic and Legendary Greensteel handwraps are now available!

How about that? I’ve been craving some Triple-Positive disruptors for Deathwyrm.

  • Scaling Melee and Ranged Alacrity 10% is now applying its proper bonus.

Last but not least is the ability to immediately transfer your characters to and from other servers. This costs a bit but might help in the server balance right away. I might use it to move a few beloved characters I made on Cannith (of which time prohibits me to occupy often enough now).

More to come for my last post of the year next week, if not sooner.

 

Acquiescence for the Pugilists

oldglovesI’ve joked with friends, as I drink four Yugoloth Favor Potions with my Shintao Monk every fifteen minutes, that I fight simply to support my expensive drinking habit.

That’s not far from the truth. Getting sufficient favor to gain Yugoloth favor requires you to run most of the Shavarath-Devil quests on Elite. Time is expensive in an MMO. Each Yugoloth potion itself is about 1,100 platinum. I buy four types–STR, DEX, CON, WIS–often 50 each. That’s roughly 100,000 platinum.

I can go through them rapidly. They’re a beneficial expenditure when farming on Legendary Hard quests when CR 40 and higher enemies spawn.

Being a Monk isn’t an inexpensive venture. First, you have to buy the class. It cannot be earned by favor. When I learned of DDO, without playing one second in the game, I bought the class, becoming a Premium player.You also can gain the class as a VIP.

As a Monk, you’re always limited at the start in what items you can use. No armor except cloth. No weapons save 3 types unless your enhancements and feat allow exception. Heavier damage incurred without a lot of practice in the style of fighting. Lesser damage and hit points than any other melee. Lesser protections at the start until you build up Improved Evasion, miss-chance and saves. And you have to leverage this peculiar energy known as ki, and timing specific elemental attacks to buff or damage, all in a proper sequence, or you fail the technique, be you level 1 or 30.

By level 9 you’re more able. By level 12 most Monks come into their own and do very well at Elite ventures if they remember their strengths. That is, a good Monk doesn’t leap into the fray if they can help it or unless they do so by strategy (a tanking Monk does, if need be).

The early DDO quests are stacked against the Monk because much of it existed before the class did. So, most early quests don’t give item rewards useful at all to the Monk. A few quests were adjusted to help there, but they are far and few, or require you to purchase a module (Catacombs and Sentinels of Stormreach come immediately to mind).

The one singular benefit of being a Monk, if you persevered in your training, is its self-sufficiency. You could heal yourself or use techniques that minimized or avoided fighting altogether that few other classes could match. Your special attacks were designed to thwart the most dangerous enemies early on in an adventurer’s life–the undead.

Changes are natural in an MMO. Most are to the benefit of the player, even if it takes a while for us to appreciate them.

The latest update for the Monk class, specifically its enhancement trees, is most useful for the Ninja Spy but leave the Henshin Mystic in a questionably useful state.

One change, however, has compelled me to avoid the use of any unarmed Monk, except in some raids, for the time being. That’s the change of handwraps as extensions of the unarmed Monk into a weapon.

While the quality of the change seems to improve the general damage of the Monk, the change will also make gameplay for early Monks prohibitively expensive, and difficult for some Monks, even epic ones, to compensate. Here’s why.

  1. Early Monks will be often fighting oozes. Before Update 33, handwraps did not suffer greatly from attacking these jelly creatures while other melee fighters had to back off a little to let casters or ranged members in party to eliminate them. Killing oozes also gave the young Monk some opportunity to build up needed ki reserves that dissipate early in their play with lower WIS and Concentration scores. Handwraps now are weapons, and, per the developers, are working as intended, suffering damage from attacking oozes and rust monsters. This is very serious for two reasons. (1) Unarmed fighting is the de facto form of the Monk. Finding handwraps with the Everbright property is nearly impossible with the current loot-generation: The prefix appears completely extinct. That means a young Monk must spend a lot of platinum buying handwraps so they can get through a single quest filled with oozes. (Waterworks has quite a lot of these, for example). Finding inexpensive Everbright handwraps or quarterstaves will be unlikely, especially since now every Monk will need one and the trading economy will naturally make these more expensive. Else, the Monk must nerf their own damage by removing their wraps and fighting bare-handed. In effect, the change forces you to avoid using your one and only weapon as a Monk. (2) Gaining Everbright with the (welcome) update to Cannith Crafting requires you to have moderate skill (250) to make your own bound ones. If you are lucky to know a friend who can create unbound shards for your Everbright weapon,  at 400 skill, you can also gain the right handwraps.
  2. For new Monks, both conditions make fighting more difficult and expensive than it need be. And this issue affect high-end adventurers. Your named handwraps will also suffer damage, and that means you must craft very expensive handwraps not only to for them to survive but also deal sufficient damage. Rust monsters and oozes do appear in flagging quests for Epic and Legendary raids, and powerful, deadly rust monsters do appear in one Legendary raid. That leaves Epic players to fight with much weaker weaponry, or none at all to preserve their handwraps during a long raid, dealing less damage to the enemy and likely jeopardizing themselves and party.

So, for now, it’s hard for me to recommend anyone to choose the class unless you are going for some non-unarmed variant. Even then, bows and shuriken cannot break down some walls and doors to progress, so every Monk carries handwraps or kamas, at the least, to knock these down.

In reply to a thread I posted on this, developer Steelstar noted that the durability of handwraps were significantly boosted to help this working-as-intended design. However, in tests I’ve done, difficult oozes will destroy most of the durability even in a brief fight. And there’s always someone in party that has only slashing weapons that make more oozes as they break apart, leaving everybody with more to fight.

Steelstar also noted that they’ll be looking into the situation on when or if they can improve this matter.

I’m normally patient and don’t inherently blame the devs–they always have a difficult job in pleasing the player and encouraging them to play and, in turn, spend their money and time to do so.

But the Monk class is a different breed. If the Monk were a class that could be earned by favor, the challenge of it becoming more expensive and time-consuming to equip and fight oozes would be offset a little. But players already spend real money to get the class. To play now in certain quests will damage equipment so badly, with far fewer options than other classes with the same issues, that I can’t really recommend buying the class until Everbright handwraps for young Monks are provided at low cost and early on, and in Free-to-Play content, just so they can get through the early levels.

Intermediate Heroic and Epic level Monks also shouldn’t require Cannith Crafting levels to get at least one named pair of handwraps with Everbright properties just to get rid of the monsters. The items needn’t be particularly powerful at all–just durable. Finishing moves and technique can go a long way from there.

We Monks don’t want to spend our time right now improving our crafting levels just to play, much less avoiding spending lots of platinum in repair costs. Besides, how could a Monk improve his crafting levels if questing requires getting loot to break down, and to get to that, you might fight monsters that dramatically destroy your equipment?

For now, my unarmed Monks are retired to rest in the dojo, relieved of most work until my crafting level improves to make Everbright handwraps for them and others I encounter.

Update 33: The Promised Land

I did get Lammania up earlier in the week to explore the changes for the Monk class with Update 33. I played around with copies of my Zen Archer, Poison Master and Shintao. Things looked promising for the very brief time I was able to play there.

Now that the official release notes are up as the game is updating today, I realized I missed some little bits of information from my last post that should make most Monks in general rather happy. Listed from awesome to meh:

  • In all three trees, Elemental Ki strikes have been changed. Eagle Claw Attack now applies four stacks, and stacks to 15. Knock on the Sky reduces enemy physical damage by 4% per stack. Unbalancing Strike is now +3[w].

I use Unbalancing Strike (counted as a Water move) often with the Poison Master to quickly charge up Freezing the Lifeblood paralyzing move. Doesn’t look like Fists of Iron has changed from its +3[W] damage, +1 critical threat range, and +1 Critical Damage Multiplier.

  • The Fire finisher Breath of the Fire Dragon now scales with 2x Melee Power.

This change will certainly help in damage against Plant and ice-based enemies.

  • Each Ninjutsu ability in Ninja Spy now also grants +1 to hit and damage with weapons other than a quarterstaff or handwraps when centered.

A welcome change for my Poison Master and for the stealth-master Kiricletica. Kiri’s still around but my Zen craze has been keeping my attention. I’ll update you on her progress with these new changes and perhaps put Kiri through more solo stealth work with newer content.

  • Iron Skin now works regardless of your chosen stance.
  • Iron Skin’s third rank now grants +20 PRR when centered.

Last night I was playing with Lynncletica’s PRR just before another Deathwyrm. She generally sat around 139. Then I added in a Legendary Planar Compass, then Twisted in the Grandmaster of Flowers Standing with Stone for 15 additional and Primal Avatar’s Ephemeral Evolution for up to 15 more when attacked. As I completed that change, my Legendary feat Scion of Limbo moved to give me another 30 PRR. And then I added in the Antipode/Planar Conflux 15 PRR bonus.

I had around 177 PRR for a hot minute.The update to Iron Skin will make things more hot.

  • Grandmaster of Flowers now grants handwrap proficiency in its first Core Ability.

Might have mentioned this one, but it’s still great. Gives our non-Monks something to look forward to doing as they level up that destiny.

  • Fury Eternal and Unbridled Fury now explicitly say they work with ranged weapons.

The monkchers are vindicated.

When I used Unbridled Fury one time with Pynthetica in a “Defiler of the Just” run against the end-boss, my reaction to the immense DPS boost was not too different from Egon using his proton thrower for the first time in Ghostbusters: Complete amazement.

egon_gb1

  • Handwraps have gained +10 Hardness and +80 Maximum Durability.

Since handwraps are weapons now, does this mean that they also become damaged from oozes and rust monsters? Let’s hope not. Handwraps should have an inherent Everbright property. We shouldn’t lose, as parties or individual Monks, a way to remove oozes through a melee fighter. Monks can’t equip Muckbane clubs without becoming uncentered, and quarterstaves are nearly worthless in the hands of anyone but a Mystic.

UPDATE: In very early play in Update 33 live, I entered “Creeping Death,” where oozes abound. My wraps are suffering tremendous damage. I’ve reported this as a bug already. This is unacceptable as I haven’t any other “weapons” to use as a Shintao and there are absolutely no “Everbright” handwraps as that would’ve been unnecessary pre-Update 33.

SECOND UPDATE: Cordovan’s response in a thread I opened reporting this states this change is working as intended. New players are going to get screwed for repair costs as oozes are plentiful in early content. Everbright handwraps haven’t dropped for ages with various loot prefix/suffix changes. And you’ll need at least 250 bound/400 unbound skill to craft Everbright handwraps. I normally roll with the punches (no pun intended) with game changes that are challenging, but this one makes so little sense I will not be surprised that fewer Monks appear.

  • Stunning Fist now specifically requires Handwraps to use.

Is this “problem” still going on? If you aren’t a Monk, you should be using Stunning Blow or, better, Shield Bash. I’ve seen one friend shield-bash about as fast as I could use Stunning Fist, and it was most impressive.

  • Planar Shards, Outsider Tokens, and Draconic Runes now properly go into bags.

Totally not specific to Monks, but yay, more storage space freed up.

  • Demon Assault no longer respawns enemies after the end chest is opened.

That’s welcome. In that quest, the reavers and renders were almost impossible to manage while you’re trying to loot, assess and trade items from the chest.

  • Six new Deity options are available for Clerics, Paladins, and Favored Souls at their first level. These are analogous to the existing Deity feats and abilities.

Again, not Monk-related. But I’m fond of this change because of my long love of the D&D based Neverwinter Nights games. There, your clerics got a lot of extra bonuses with their deity alignments. Further, if you’re going to have clerics and other divine fighters in the game, leaving out these elements seemed to make gameplay rather odd in terms of roleplay, especially since many NPCs had deity alignments.

  • Festivult Abishai Cookies work as a set again.

That explains my abortive attempt to use the five cookies with Paracleta for a stacking +4 to WIS while running a Legendary Elite Tempest’s Spine. I’ll be running lots of stuff to get more of these cookies in the future.

  • Critical Multiplier bonuses now work on Thrown weapons.

That bug keeps being fixed and broken over several updates. My old Shuricannon relies on better modifiers for higher damage, so this is welcome. However, conversations on the forums suggest this isn’t the complete fix.

  • Monk’s Moment of Clarity finishing move feat tooltip now properly states that it is a stacking bonus, rather than an Insight bonus.

Hardly relevant since you’d have to be a Mystic (where the only Void attack exists to activate the finisher) to use it. I mentioned this last time because there’s no reason I know not to have a simple Void Strike feat added back into the game for non-Mystics to use this finisher and its dark version once more.

I will try to forget what I’ve known about the Mystic and give it another try soon. I’ve learned more on defense options and the game has evolved significantly over several updates to provide options I hadn’t had available when the first Mystics arrived.

 

 

Keeping Shadow at Bay

Hours after the last post on preparing for Lynncletica’s first epic raid tanking, I remembered at the last minute that a raid was scheduled that same day.

I made the decision to move the Little Mountain to hold back the Sibilant Shade, Aurgoloroasa, in “Temple of the Deathwyrm.”

The most-excellent raid group, formed from several different guilds, met for their twice-weekly run into Thunderholme. To survive trying to tank the dragon, I needed one thing: Level 27. With sufficient work on my destinies that wouldn’t jeopardize future XP too much, I leveled up, added Epic Damage Reduction for 10 PRR more, and pulled the level 27 Guardian’s Cloak from my reincarnation cache for desperately-needed DR against slash and pierce damage.

In Unyielding Sentinel destiny, I checked my gear and looked at my twists. With 3 fate points available, I upgraded the second slot and added Fury of the Wild’s Damage Reduction for 6 PRR more.

I hoped to wear the Epic Mentau’s Goggles for Ghostly through the raid. However. the dragon’s occasionally deadly breath attack debuffs Death Ward, leaving you vulnerable to excessive negative energy damage without Deathblock. Unable to upgrade a slot in time for the raid for an inexpensive yellow augment, it was back to wearing some Green Steel goggles I’ve trusted for this.

The raid was smooth and uneventful and fast as we made our way to the top, fortunately avoiding the taxing Jump and Red Light/Green Light intermediate rooms for the Trap and Tower Combat rooms.

Then the moment of truth came. I checked both my Intimidate and Concentration skills. Ki Shout would be my more dominant intimidate but I added the Intimidate button to my toolbar just in case. I learned later, not surprisingly, that they share cooldowns like Ten Thousand Stars and Manyshot.

With a quick check of my defense/healing gear, off I went.

lynn-dw1.jpg

My plan was simple and similar to any tanks before me: Intimidate by either skill and keep striking the dragon. As a Monk, I wanted to build ki for Healing Ki when needed, use Rejuvenation Cocoon if Healing Ki becomes interrupted. In short, I’m continually healing as I fight, so as not to require a dedicated healer.

Things have gotten wild in other DW runs, especially if the tank loses control or the crowd controlling party that manages the Kuldjarghs and respawns become overwhelmed. I needed to be as self-sufficient as possible, and Lynn’s training and gear did not disappoint. Thankfully, Aurgoloroasa hasn’t any other special attacks, and as a Shintao Monk, I had a few special protections to help against undead even as powerful as her.

I would like to see if the Shock and Awe effect that dragons throw out can be offset by the Monk’s anti-stun finisher, Grasp the Earth Dragon. I hadn’t time to throw a buff for it at the time. (A later run showed that the buff is ineffective.) Shock and Awe slowed me most of time, naturally, since this is a big freakin’ angry undead shadow dragon.

One thing I learned quickly to do once the dragon started knocking me down (Stand Against the Tide’s secondary ability that prevents knockdown, Steadfast, doesn’t work against all knockdown types) was first to move to Unbreakable stance for PRR and then do something Monks don’t think of doing often: Block.

lynn-dw2.jpg

Even without a shield, a simple block seemed to prohibit knockdown (although the wiki does not note this), wards off some attack types and, thus reduce the damage I received. Once I had my HP restored, I turtled up for a bit, struck to gain back some ki, and blocked again.

Once or twice, the dragon’s successive attacks knocked me down and left me with just one-quarter health. The feat Guardian Angel kicked on for emergency PRR but I hadn’t time to look at that, of course. A single quick Cocoon restored my HP bar, thanks to 220 healing amplification. The healing curse also pulled 4 or 8 HP per strike.

The secondary worry was losing aggro. This was an accomplished raid team that knew when to attack the dragon to lower her HP in order for her to spawn Shadows to kill for portals used to enter the shadow side for phylactery destruction. But too much damage by the group and I could lose the dragon’s attention. Thankfully my threat level was sufficient. Only once did I need to rein her back in.

The great thing was that I tanked it well, defended well against the damage, healed myself most of the time, and could move her around enough to help complete the raid.

Now, the group decided just for Epic Hard that night, having suffered a brutal Epic Elite completion days before due to game issues.

Tanking was most triumphant.

A few days later we tried Elite “Fire on Thunder Peak.” I was tanking the “fat” dragon quite well. Things, however, went very pear-shaped after the two purple-named magma elementals were killed. Our teams were in poor alignment for more trash and the dragon’s attacks increased (as expected), leaving me more vulnerable. We abandoned our Epic Elite run and returned to curb-stomp things on Hard.

But, in my opinion, no more vulnerable than any other tank. I’ve seen heavily armored guys die easier than I did.  As a Shintao, my general defenses are good, and I have room for a bit more with some item farming and creative use of twists. Lesser Displacement. Another 30 PRR. Healing amp so strong I can heal 600 HP with Healing Ki.

Since then, Lynncletica has reached level 30, choosing Elusive TargetOverwhelming Critical and Dire Charge to complete the feats to 29. For the Legendary feat, I chose something new for me: Scion of Limbo. I’m used to one-minute buffs. The advantage here is that Limbo costs me nothing to use and works passively. I can time tactics as buff messages appear.

Filling in some epic destinies for 4 more fate points for twisting Sense Weakness. Not that Lynn has been hurting for damage. At around 50 STR and using the incredible burst damage of the Storm’s Harness handwraps, Lynn has begun to solo Epic Elites to work on her 5,000 favor. Her stunning work is also very strong there: As high as 80 DC for Dire Charge and a 68-70 DC for Stunning Fist. More than sufficient to stun Champion orange-names most times.

For those DCs, I wear level 30 Severlin’s Leaden Boots, a Legendary Animated Rope for +14 Combat Mastery (Enhancement bonus), some Insightful Combat Mastery +6 gloves, and Legendary Tactics from Legendary Dreadnought as a twist. I wear some Wisdom +14 goggles but haven’t any Insightful WIS items equipped just yet. The Storm’s Harness wraps add a +4 Quality Stunning bonus, too. My WIS is rarely above 40. Dire Charge uses your highest ability score, which is either STR or CON, both often in the 50s.

If I’m going to continue tanking shadow dragons, however, I need the negative energy absorbing powers of the Belt of Thoughtful Remembrance. I should have one, but farming for it shouldn’t be too hard.

Update 33 Testing

The DDO forums are abuzz with player comments and a few replies from the devs on the expected changes.

Given the magnitude of changes, and with a little encouragement from Cordovan, I’ve decided to join in the testing of U33 once it’s live on Lammania.

It’s amazing to me how some much criticism has been generated. I find it amazing because historically, the many functions of the Monk, certainly the most complex of the melee class, don’t seem to be used by many players I’ve seen in my circle. Everyone has a right to comment and aid in the development. I wish I knew more players that seem to actually use the enhancements and feats, attack and defense benefits at the level I’ve tried. Trying and using everything in the class is what my guide and gaming practice is all about.

Not that I’m omniscient to know the hearts and techniques of all players, of course. I’m always concerned how some players miss out on the tactical elements of the class, and think that more attack power or defense is simply the way to go.

But again, I’m oversimplifying other’s motives. I guess I don’t see any serious deficiencies in the class (save the Mystic’s defense and attack speed) that can’t be compensated by strategy.

Since the Book of Syncletica is going to need some significant changes on the update’s release, getting ahead on how the changes work will help update the guide that much sooner.

Can’t wait to begin.

Update 33 Beta: Seen It, Still Working on Believing

scales

Cordovan was banking on completing Update 33 on Legendary Elite, solo, armed with only a Club of the Holy Flame, when he posted on Twitch TV a preview of the update’s expected changes recently. Teacher Saekee showed another thread with a clearer view of Cordovan’s notes.

They’re all expected live (per Cordovan’s forum update on the matter, not the video) around Wednesday, October 12 on Lammania.

Since I dominantly play the Monk class, I’m sure a few folks want my take on it. I had some early reservations about expected changes. Now that there’s public, official but beta release notes, I can speak up.

The problem is that the changes are rather comprehensive and numerous, so I’ll concentrate on how they affect what builds I have and come back to finer points as they apply.

Changes to my Shintao Monks

Lynncletica and Syncletica will see their handwraps change into a type of Exotic weapon, with 1d6 as their starting damage.

I don’t know if a completely unarmed (that is, not wearing handwraps) Monk still sees damage through their hands in the current way.

Any DR bypassing provided by the enhancements for unarmed Monks will apply through the new handwraps.

It’s not clear to me why this change was made, save for increasing possible damage and to provide the option to make Green Steel handwraps. I find the latter answer a load of malarkey since several quest chains now create handwraps from ingredients, Thunder-Forged handwraps included. Why the Shroud’s building mechanic didn’t follow the same principle has always confused me.

Stances get a few changes. For starters, the +1 critical hit multiplier in the upper Mountain stances move to the Fire Stances. I guess this is logical as Fire Stance increases STR, which is the attack modifier, so greater damage will come from this change. The downside (and a balance I approve) is that higher damage is offset by a reduction in WIS if using Fire Stance. Lynn will still use Mountain Stance as a guardian for its protections but this does invite a new build that punches harder than any other.

Ocean Stance’s Dodge bonuses are enhanced to 3,6.9 and 12%. This change is weird. It’s ridiculously easy to add Dodge to a Monk. I would’ve rather seen increases to all saves in a similar scale.

Wind Stance received no changes to its bonuses to Doublestrike or attack speed or defenses. Syncletica remains a glass cannon.

“Form Ki” moves are mentioned. I presume we’re speaking of the elemental strikes. These attacks are scaled by Melee Power. I’m fond of this as it encourages people to use finishers and elemental attacks, if my presumption is right. Likewise, elemental strikes scale with melee power, and provides me with similar confusion.

And attack-based finishers deliver 1[w] damage. Not bad.

As well, Fists of Light itself delivers 0.5[w], 4d6 Light damage, and overall damage, including Vorpal-calculated strikes, scale with Melee Power. Nice news when bashing skeletons and others more effectively, especially since the Monk’s Bludgeoning damage is resisted by many enemies.

Vorpal Strike now works with handwraps. It wasn’t working before? Thankfully I haven’t bothered to use this feat lately, and there are Vorpal handwraps, anyway.

Some other cool changes: Shining Star, the Otto’s finisher of Earth/Wind/Fire (get it?) will use WIS and not CHA as its modifier. A new build idea just dawned in my head immediately, although this finisher is granted only at level 20. It would’ve been nice if the feat’s minimum level was lowered to 12 or 15. Similarly, the remote stun enhancement Kukan-do will also use WIS and not CHA for it’s DC.

Some great news for Lynn’s healing: Healing Ki now heals 1d4 per Monk level, instead of per 2 levels. 

Lastly, in the “WTF!? You’re Confusing Us!” category is “Moment of Clarity.” The description says that it’s “bonuses now stack (a former Insight bonus).”

What the devs may be forgetting (and have since the initial enhancement change) is there are two Moments of Clarity in-game. The release notes clearly mention the Harper Agent enhancement’s ability to increase tactical and spell DCs by +10 for ten seconds.

The original Moment of Clarity was a granted Monk feat, a finishing move (Light/Void/Light: Bonuses to attack rolls and skill checks to nearby allies). It’s been all but permanently broken ever since the Void Strike feat was removed with the first enhancement pass and placed in a remarkably useless tier 5 enhancement when the Henshin Mystic enhancements arrived years ago. Removing Void Strike also broke the Ninja Spy’s charming finisher, Curse of the Void.

Can we PLEASE get a Lesser Void Strike feat restored to reactivate the Moment of Clarity (and the dark Monk’s Curse of the Void) finishers without having to train a Mystic? Please? It doesn’t have to even cause more than 1 point of Force damage. Just restore that finisher with a simple optional feat, or rip it out of the granted feats. It’s tiresome to see something we cannot use–and, based on the notes, making Mystics will still not be worth it to me to get Void Strike or play them in general (more later).

More Shintao specific changes in their tree begin with +1 to-hit and attack for each trained Elemental Curative. Similarly to changes in the Ninja Spy’s tier 5 Ninjutsu, you no longer need to train all Elemental Curatives to get Rise of the Phoenix, the self-resurrection ability. Switching places with Phoenix is Empty Hand Mastery, which changes from a die damage of 1d6 to 1d8 to a +1 Competence bonus to critical hit modifier and threat range.

The defensive PRR boosting Iron Skin works for any stance. A small win for Wind Stancers like Syncletica and Ocean Stancers like the Zen archers and the Poison Master. Likewise, Violence Begets Violence also works for any stancean additional concession to make the Shintao tree give less favoritism to tanking.

The fourth Shintao core, Touch the Void Dragon, now becomes an untyped stacking bonus to all ability scores, and the final core enhancement, To Seek Perfection, goes from +2 to +4 WIS.

The changes to the Tainted strikes confuse me in terms of role play (the Shintao specialized in damaging any Outsider), but I can live with the adjustments. All abilities that affected Tainted creatures now affect all enemies, including the ability to encase any enemy in jade and debuff anything with Jade Strike, Tomb of Jade and Smite Tainted Creature. The change is like giving Rangers a Favored Enemy range to “everything,” but who am I to judge?

Lastly, Meditation of War’s effects will now become untyped and stack with similar effects.

Changes to the Poison Master, Zen Archer and Bowmaster

The Zen Archer build I put together (as well as her opposite, the Zen Bowmaster) are based in part on elements from the Ninja Spy tree. Of course, the melee Poison Master is wholly ninja.

My largest worry in the rumored enhancements were that the devs would make changes to the one tree that was generally versatile and perfect out of the gate in the first pass. The Zen Archer and the Poison Master are based on some items from teacher Firewall’s original Shuricannon. The Bowmaster has only a “splash” of Ninja Spy for use of its Shadow Veil incorporeality but is primarily a Elven Arcane Archer that really loves a recent enhancement pass update there.

Thankfully, what changes I read for the ninjas seem not only acceptable, but very welcome.

For Ryncletica the sword wielder, the Fists of Darkness’ effects now scale with Melee Power.

There were several incomplete notes about changes to basic finishing moves. Using Cordovan’s notes, I think I can guess what’s to be changed.

The Gathering Storm and Raging Sea finishers has had their WIS DC modifiers raised from 10 + WIS modifier to 15. These aren’t commonly used finishers, even by me.

Replacing the rather underwhelming Crippling Strike enhancement (which did the same  as the Rogue version) in tier 5 Ninja Spy is the new Deadly Striker. With any weapon other than handwraps or quarterstaves, you gain +1 to critical hit modifier range, with kamas and shuriken get double the bonus. Yay for both Shuricannons and Saekee’s hyper-crit-range Forester’s Brush Hook build. (Most of the Ninja Spy changes affect all weapons except the new handwraps and quarterstaves.)

The ninja also gets a tier 2 Action Boost to Melee and Ranged Power. Happiness for all the builds I use, especially the Zen Archer, which is all about Ranged Power.

It kept getting better to be ninja. The first and second core enhancements, Ninja Training and Advanced Ninja Training, now apply to ANY weapon (again, except handwraps and staves) you can use while Centered.

This is BIG for the Zen builds as this means that neither absolutely require the Elf for the Grace enhancement to deliver Dexterity-to-Damage for longbows (but still needs the racial tree for weapon proficiency), and also means you can get these bows working far earlier in the build’s life. I’d still likely recommend Elf for weapon proficiency, the extra training available there to longbow damage, Dragonmarks for Displacement, and Doubleshot. But this changes saves a few Action Points you can reapply in other trees.

And here’s an obscure bonus I see as a benefit of this change. There is a singular named weapon that’s not a kama, shuriken, handwrap, quarterstaff or bow that Monks can wield while staying Centered and without being a Kensei. It’s the Midnight Greetings kukri. Melee ninja such as Ryncletica can use them more effectively since DEX-to-Damage will be activated.

However, the Monk class’s Martial Weapon Proficiency includes only handaxes (something only the Kensei could use right now) by default, so a precious feat must be added for proficiency in this special kukri. While the Heroic weapon isn’t very special, the classic Epic version of the weapon can do some serious work in early Epic lives. Requiring the feat for proficiency may not be worth it, and goodness knows how hard it is to gather the seal, scroll and shard ingredients needed to make any classic Epic crafted item.

Ninja Poison now scales with Melee Power. I’ll really want to see how the Poison Master build will work with this change–it’s all about stacking Poison DoTs. The little-used Poisoned Darts gain more Poison per stack (1d8), but that’s still welcome.

Here’s more. The final core enhancement, Ninja Master, adds +2 DEX and +2 WIS, with +1 Competence bonuses critical hit changed from range to threat modifiers (except for handwraps or staves). I can imagine Saekee just fainted: His Brush Hook build may get a threat range of 10-20 now.

More happiness for the Poison Master, as Poison Exploit’s damage rises to 1d10+10 per Ninja Poison stack.

Also, the Touch of Death negative energy strike scales to 200% Melee Power, and no longer requires you to train the Ninjutsu components to get it. It’s still a tier 5 ability, but for those that don’t care for Ninjutsu, it’s a build option.

Very happy change to Shadow Double. While its stacking Doublestrike bonus was decreased from 100% to 50%, its duration is doubled to 12 seconds, gains 3[W] in damage and has a shorter 20 second cooldown.

And it keeps getting better. Matching the Rogue Assassin tree changes, Stealthy and Faster Sneaking are merged and require 3 AP to fully activate. Also, the melee threat reducing Subtlety will be moved from tier 2 to tier 1, while the Dodge cap, Concentration boosting Ability requires more commitment in Ninja Spy as it moves up to tier 2.

Last but not least, each tier of Ninjutsu is cheaper to activate, with just 1 AP, but also gives +1 to to-hit and damage with all Centered non-handwrap/quarterstaff weapon for each trained enhancement.

I was hoping the Ninja Spy wouldn’t be nerfed. A good thing will actually become better. Yay!

Changes to the Henshin Mystic: Disappointing

For every silver lining in the notes, however, there’s more ominous clouds looming in confusing and contradictory changes for the Henshin Mystic.

The biggest changes to the Mystic is the removal of Spell Power for its damage boost to its Fire and Force damage. Instead, all core enhancements grant a stacking equivalent of Melee Power bonus. This is confusing to me because, of all the Monk classes, the Mystic’s original design was to leverage ki offensively like no other. Instead, the changes simply add in passive offensive boosts to a class that was doing just fine when swinging the staff, but had limited means to weaponize ki when using it.

Here’s a confusing one from the notes, which I must assume is in error. Sounding Staff now gives +2 ki per hit (removing the Implement bonus for Spell Power) and grants the Quick Draw feat. Uh, doesn’t the Quick Draw feat grant increases to rate of fire for ranged and thrown  weapons, not attack speed to the Mystic’s primary weapon, the quarterstaff? Is this feat supposed to augment the Ki Bolt ranged attack, which also gets a boost per Monk level rather than every two levels?

(Update: Teacher Ziindarax, a member of the Player’s Council, corrected me on a mistake in the Ninja Spy tier 5 and noted the logic of Quick Draw. “Quick Draw does benefit weapons, but it’s also being buffed so that you can actually attack faster after casting a spell or spell-like ability. Presumably, this would mean (for example) that if you had a warlock that used the Eldritch Burst or Spirit Blast abilities, and then tried to use a regular attack immediately afterwards, you would not suffer that irritating delay between the SLA and your regular melee/ranged attack. Instead, you get to attack instantly. Just to answer the question posed in your article as to how Quick Draw would benefit a Henshin Mystic.”)

The last core enhancement, Serenity, no longer gives Spell Power-related effects, goes to +4 WIS and adds +25 Melee Power.

Still trying to make the old original Ninja Spy enhancements useful, each Elemental Word gains 2{W} and +2 stacks to Vulnerability per hit. I guess the Melee Power bonuses to the elemental ki strikes used here might make for some great boosts to total damage.

Also, Void Strike remains at tier 5, virtually inaccessible to any other Monk, but gains 3[W] and its Force damage scales to Melee Power.

Some AP reductions to Mystic Training and Embrace the Void (not “Voice” as shown in the notes), requiring 1 AP to train. Also, the damage bonuses to Focus stack with other sources.

Lastly, the complicated Every Light Casts a Shadow enhancement now delivers 1d2 negative levels immediately on-hit to surrounding enemies, and 1d4 to the target.

That’s it for the Mystic. No attack speed or defense improvements.Spell Power-based attacks such as Incinerating Wave and  Cauldron of Flame aren’t mentioned in terms of what damage they create since the Spell Power boosts are being ripped out of the tree. Worthless enhancements like Negotiator and Mystic Training still remain. And you’ll still need to splash a Rogue to gain attack speed bonuses or (cheaper) Shintao abilities for defense.

I loved the potential of the Mystic’s attack power (and gushed about it here long ago) but it still lacks highly important defenses as it generates a terrible amount of aggro and cannot withstand such damage as Shintao Monks can do. I don’t see myself returning or recommending the Mystic unless there’s a way to improve defense and attack speed without multiclassing or using excessive AP in other Monk trees.

Until then, my two Mystics remain bank characters.

What Do You Think?

If you could make suggestions to the devs (and I dare say you should try), what would you ask them to adjust for these proposed adjustments to the Monk enhancements?

While the Shintao changes are good, and the Ninja Spy unbelievably improved, the Mystic’s adjustment make little sense other than improving its “El Kabong” mentality and further distancing its potential ability to wield ki for greater offense, defense or speed.

Fire away in the comments here.

 

Monastic Tanking

portrait-lynncletica1

I’ve been enjoying opportunities to run many raids, some I’ve rarely or never run before, such as “The Mark of Death” and “The Master Artificer.” I think, now, that the only raid I have never participated (primarily because of my disdain of the quest series needed to gather sigil, shield and frame ingredients) is “Accursed Ascension.”

But “Mark of Death” isn’t my favorite raid, anyway, so I’m sure “Ascension” won’t be a loss. I’ll still try to flag for it when an opportunity arises.

Ninety nine percent of my raids are as a DPS character, be it with the fortification-bypassing steady-hitting archery of Pynthetica, the crowd-controlling mass-destruction from the bow of Paracleta, or the poisonous shortsword damage of Ryncletica.

But one matter is common in many raids. The need for a tank, a character that can keep a central boss target busy while the rest of the party can remove trash and complete other related objectives necessary to eventually slay said bosses. Surprisingly, I’ve watched many a non-Fighter or non-Paladin accomplish this role in the Thunderholme raids.

I’ve mentioned, long ago, my work to align Lynncletica to become a tank. Nearing level 20, I’m closer to beginning my work to help out in epic raids.

But I know the character’s behavior in gameplay is just as important as the build to ensure that enemies pay attention to you and not the rest of the party.

The general article on the Tank on the DDO Wiki was helpful.

According to the article, a tank has to have central characteristics to be successful:

  • Health
  • Healing amplification
  • Armor Class
  • Saves
  • Damage Reduction
  • Intimidation (active and passive)
  • Balance
  • Weapons and items that increase Threat
  • Enhancements and other boosts

Health

Lynn’s HP gain per level as a Monk is only 75% of other melee tanks, requiring me to take the Toughness feat a few times and take Constitution enhancements from enhancements or Epic Destinies anywhere I can. My goal is to get Lynn to at least 1,000 HP this time around. That may seem low for a tank but as a Monk, Lynn has some special damage reduction abilities that others haven’t, such as miss-chance effects.

Unyielding Sentinel will likely be the default epic destiny, aiding not only in HP but threat and protection.

Damage Absorption

With recent changes, Lynn’s epic PRR should reach 100 or above. I was able to get Pynthetica’s PRR between 60 to 80 PRR with gear as an archer, so a Monk designed to tank should be able to improve that number. Like the miss-chance effects on Pyn, I have a lot of studying ahead of me to stack all available sources.

Healing amplification

At level 19, with a Shamanic Fetish in place, all Improved Recovery enhancements trained and with only one core enhancement left in the Shintao tree, Lynn’s Healing Ki can restore as much as 200 HP every 10 seconds. At around 490 HP, that’s helpful. This will improve with buffs and an epic Shamanic Fetish later in epic play. Healing amp gear also will play important roles, even items to add to my cross-class Heal skill.

Lynn might see 250-300 HP bursts from Healing Ki, with healing shield vampiric HP of 6-8 HP per strike probable. Self-healing is Lynn’s strongest quality.

Armor Class

Lynn’s AC is aided by Combat Expertise and the Monk’s Grandmaster of Mountains stance to boost total AC by 30%. All I must do I maximize the numbers through items to get that bonus. Around 150 to 200 AC is a suitable goal, but this will require a lot of item juggling and augment gems to boost Deflection and Natural Armor bonuses. Lynn’s DEX is lower so items to boost it and WIS for more AC will be critical.

Monks can’t use shields. But I can gain Shield bonuses from one item: A Flawless White Dragonscale Robe. I have a Flawless White helm, too, to get the HP artifact bonus. This set may be helpful over Shadowscale outfits until I can equip the Outfit of the Celestial Guardian, still the best armor I think you can find for any Monk by level 28.

Saves

Lynn’s saves are better than many tanks but weaker in one area, and that’s Reflex. Thankfully, perhaps a +5 or +6 tome in combination with enhancements to get DEX and its Reflex save higher. Fortitude and Will saves will be superior, thanks to high STR and WIS.

Damage Reduction

I mentioned improving Lynn’s miss-chance numbers to help avoid damage. Monks gain DR 20/Epic at level 20. The epic Guardian’s Cloak from Wheloon is a popular item I use on all my epic characters, with additional DR help.

Intimidate

So I’ve practiced my protection skills against charging mobs using weaker-than-normal hirelings, clerics, typically. The central ability is Ki Shout, an Intimidate-like ability that uses a Shintao Monk’s Concentration skill as the Intimidate number.

Ki Shout works quite well and I’m able to keep my clerics from getting slaughtered despite the light spells they spam to tick off enemies.

But there’s also the passive Threat generation needed. Grandmaster of Mountains adds 200% additional Threat. I’m currently wearing the Fabricator’s Bracers with its sister gauntlets for 20% more. Epic destinies can help here later as I grow.

Balance

Lynn has a high Balance to get her back on her feet if knocked down. Items can help here as required. Again, Unyielding Sentinel could help here with Standing Against the Tide core destinies and supporting effects. To mitigate damage if knocked down is the Shintao enhancement Instinctive Defense to ward off up to 25% damage if helpless. Blocking while down is important, too.

Weapons

Handwraps are Lynncletica’s central weapon but she holds on to some Metalline aligned kamas to add slashing damage, as well as a Snowstar to lure enemies closer. I’m looking forward to using some of the recent new wraps such as Storm’s Harness.

Gameplay

Tanking only works when a party wants one around. Some parties will have players that just zerg ahead and gather aggro like there’s no tomorrow. By the time you’re able to aid in rescue, the player has either zapped most of what would have killed him or has died.

Or I’ll aggro a group and find out I’m over my head. Most of the time, Lynn holds to her Little Mountain title, enduring and outlasting many enemies. But champions and Legendary levels are game-changing. I’m totally pessimistic that even a fully-trained and equipped Lynncletica will survive a sword blow from Sor’jek atop the mountain summit in Legendary Tempest’s Spine, after I’ve watched so many others that have died to that attack.

But maybe others have missed something. Maybe I’ll find that something.

Reimagining the Monk

fallinglynnWhile I don’t think the Monk class as a whole are underpowered (far from it), there are some serious arguments on the Shintao Monk’s future being raised on several threads in the past. The Henshin Mystic is also a peeve to me.

The Shintao represents the traditional form of the Monk: Unarmed combat.

Shintaos keep to a strict use of STR to determine damage from unarmed combat and DEX for the attack rolls. In theory, the higher your STR, the more damage you deal.

The problem for me is, unlike the Ninja Spy tree, there isn’t much versatility in the Shintao or Mystic trees, and that needs fixing.

It’s Not About More Damage

It’s been a bit since Lynncletica was an Epic character, a hardy Shintao Monk that has soloed the Subterrane, and braved the haunted deeps of Thunderholme. She’s on her way now to Epicland and dedicating her training to be a raid tanker.

With the recent healing amplification adjustments, Lynncletica’s already-potent HP recovery with Healing Ki (which would bring back 1/3 of her health at the least) will likely bring back 2/3, not to mention the vampiric boosts to Fists of Light.

But that’s not what a central thread or two on the state of Monks is concentrating on.

To most of the posters, it’s all about damage.

Now, I’ve never had a problem landing powerful hits with Lynn. I clear things just fine. So I pose this argument: Perhaps some people are just too damned impatient and want to clear monsters with a Shintao Monk in the same way that a Barbarian does. That’s not the role of the class.

Monks are the lesser damaging of the melee classes by design. What? You expect to hit as hard with a fist as you would with a sword and very high STR? That’s incredulous. But that doesn’t mean that there may be some…some…lack of damage present on Monks in Epic levels.

This presumes one thing: You’re running a pure Monk. You can’t expect all the damage benefits of a pure Monk to be present in a splashed one. The better core abilities and enhancements appear at these higher levels.

I would tweak the Unarmed Strike feat to boost damage more for every Monk level, including Epic. That’s it. It doesn’t require scary recoding of handwraps as weapons, which could cause far greater game-breaking issues since handwraps have been notoriously unstable to be begin with. Such coding would affect crafted wraps, wraps already looted, and problematic wraps such as metal-laced ones or those with special features such as piercing.

Further, Epic Monks should gain perhaps an additional +5 Melee Power per level. This would require 20 Monk levels to receive. Otherwise you gain the usual Melee Power as all characters do.

I’m deliberately ignoring any points on the Shintao enhancements overall here. So where can the tree stand some re-tweaking to help with general unarmed damage?

What’s a Better Shintao Monk?

An improved Shintao Monk tree shouldn’t overly favor Earth Stance. In fact, it should have toggles to benefit the Shintao while in certain stances. Similar effects come from a specific item revered by Monks: the Jidz-Tet’ka bracers. You also see Monk stance effects augmented by the Grandmaster of Flowers Epic Destiny.

Now, adding stance-based augmentations shouldn’t change the focus of the Shintao’s role. She’s not a berserker like the Barbarian or a pure tanker or front-line fighter as the Paladin. I’d want to see greater adaptation of the tree against all manner of extraplanar, aberration and undead creatures. Moving over the old Tainted ki strikes and improving the levels of unarmed DR bypassing was not enough.

Some might point to the changes we got from the Tier 5 Meditation of War enhancement. From what I’ve read, this enhancement is often the most reviled, and I agree. To me, it’s a double-penalty. You already have less defense in Wind Stance, for instance. Why should Meditation of War magnify this for a poor boost to attack off-hand chance and damage? The DC boosts to tactical feats are laughable in Fire Stance as it lowers defense.

Water Stance is a natural defensive stance but Meditation of War drops damage by 10%. No wonder we never use this enhancement unless in Earth Stance, where you gain more PRR at the price of lower Dodge. It’s the lesser of many evils.

The Empty Hand Mastery enhancement should go from 1d6 to 1d10, instead of 1d8.

I would improve Touch the Void Dragon to add more STR boosts in addition to general ability scores.

The To Seek Perfection  core ability should give +4 WIS and +4 STR.

And, as there’s no Monk that has mastery of kamas, the Shintao should add an option to perfect damage with kamas.

See a pattern?

Shintao Monks determine damage by STR. WIS is needed for the Stunning DCs, sure, but because of the Monk’s need to have many ability scores somewhat balanced, we’ve never been able as players to give STR as great an emphasis as Fighters and Barbarians can do. This (and other adjustments) should reflect greater STR or Melee Power boosts to a revised Shintao tree in Heroic and Epic levels.

So, that’s it. I’d rather tweak enhancements and feats to significantly improve the Shintao’s overall damage rather than have recoding break not only the handwraps but the role of Shintaos themselves. The mechanics of the Monk are fine. To avoid breaking the game, simply tweak up the Monk granted Unarmed Strike feats and enhancements noted.

Defensively, the tree is fine. Epic Shintaos should be entering Epic Elite with no less than 150% Fortification; 200% would be optimal. Their unarmed strikes should be at 80-120 base damage per hit. Since they strike faster, this adds up quick and should offset the slower kill rate a bit over other melee classes that strike far harder.

Updating the Mystic

I loved the Henshin Mystic when it first arrived. The damage it can do with quarterstaves is extremely nasty, especially with criticals–more than the Shintao but a bit less than my Zen Archer build.

However, the Mystic lacks two critical points that must be addressed: Attack speed and defense.

I would suggest +3 untyped PRR per core enhancement, with a +10 PRR bonus by the last core. Perhaps as well, a +2 AC bonus per core. I wouldn’t also be against a new finishing move or enhancement for the tree that gives temporary Dodge or Ghostly.

Most importantly, the Mystic tree needs the same attack speed as the Thief-Acrobat, although they might reach that speed more slowly than the Acrobat. Most players tend to multiclass in Rogue just to get the Mystic’s speed up. That shouldn’t be necessary. The speed types should be anti-prerequisites as well, naturally.

One More Thing

Put back a simple Void Strike feat attack back in the game, already, for the love of God.

Ever since the initial enhancement tree introduction, no other Monk except the Mystic can use the Void Strike–and that required a ridiculous tier 5 enhancement. This completely broke the Moment of Clarity and Curse of the Void finishers, which require a Void attack.

Just make it a feat so that any class can add in a 1 to 6 damage attack that also reactivates those finishers when they are eligible in the normal leveling.

I hope the developers do not consider changing handwraps to weapons. This can be a disastrous decision because the coding for all types, including crafted ones, will kill the class until functionality is restored. I’m normally not particularly one to go “d00m!!1” about things, but I’ve been around the game long enough to see how even the slightest change in handwraps often screw up things in a very bad way.

Handwrap code is stable. Just boost the features of feats and update a few key enhancements in the Shintao and Mystic trees for versatility, speed, and defense.

Touch the Ninja Spy tree and I will be unhappy. It’s perfect as it is.

The Best Defense

Ho! Ha ha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust! *sproing*

Ho! Ha ha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust! *sproing*

A build from forum user ForgettableNPC recently caught my eye.

One day he mused about a Monk with the maximum Dodge bonus possible. He admittedly degenerated his idea to Acrobat build with a touch of Monk and Fighter.

But I wanted to take up his cause, since, being me, I’m all about maximizing the central class traits. What is the maximum Dodge that a Monk can attain without multiclassing? And, like war, what is it good for?

Tears to Thousands of Eyes

Dodge bonus, to review for any newbies, is part of a character’s miss-chance defenses, including Concealment (that’s often Blur), Incorporeality (that’s “Ghostly”) and Evasion (reflex-based). These passive defenses simply reduce the chance of damage by a certain type of attack. In the case of Dodge bonus, the higher your percentage, the less chance that physical attacks (melee or ranged) from enemies will hit you.

Dodge doesn’t help against traps or magic attacks–that’s for Evasion and Improved Evasion, a feat reserved for those who wear light- or no armor.

A character’s Dodge bonus are adjusted by a few factors.

  • What are you wearing? (heavy breathing)
    • Classes such as Rogues and Rangers, who can wear light armor, are designed to allow a higher Dodge bonus maximum, or “cap,” over classes that wear medium or heavy armor. The denser your armor, the less your maximum dexterity bonus, which not only limits how much AC bonus you gain from your DEX modifier, but also your maximum Dodge cap.
  • Who are you? (Ooh-ooh, ooh -ooh)
    • Without any armor, any character has a natural 25% maximum cap–but this can be increased depending on the character’s race, class, enhancements and some items. Halflings gain natural enhancements that increase their Dodge cap. Classes can also gain natural, stacking Dodge bonuses that can override the default cap. Monks gain up to 6% Dodge that stacks with items or enhancements, such as Ocean Stance.
  • Are you a Swashbuckler, Kensei, Ninja Spy, Shintao or Tempest Ranger?
    • Each of these class tree’s enhancements have training that can raise your natural Dodge cap. Note that the Ninja Spy and Kensei enhancements are identical and do not stack, nor do they stack with the Tempest counterpart.
  • Are you in a level 43 or higher guild?
    • The Fencing Master guild amenity buff adds 2% to your Dodge cap.

Make Him Disabled, Bitter and Mean

It’s bad enough, as a Monk, that your defenses aren’t naturally stronger than a Fighter. But, unlike a Fighter, some tranquil contemplation while haggling with your dojo’s quartermaster and trainer might find you items and techniques to support your natural Dodge bonus.

Let’s use a Halfling Ninja Spy here in my example. Unlike the Shintao, ninjas don’t need to train two enhancements to gain a Dodge bonus. Shintao’s Meditation of War first debuffs your cap before the tree’s last core ability offsets this, giving you no penalty, but also leaves you no benefit.

(I know a Drow could have 1% Dodge better than the Halfling. I learned his after all these calculations were made below. So keep that in mind but, also note the cap issue ahead.)

We’ll start with training our shadowy kunoichi with enhancements and granted feats that she can use towards Dodge once she reached level 20. After each item. I show the Dodge and cap as it changes.

Default Monk: 6% Dodge (through Flurry of Blows granted feat), 25% Dodge cap

  • Nimble Reaction (Tier 2 Halfling enhancement): 3% to Dodge cap.
    • Dodge cap: 28%
  • Flurry of Blows (class feat): All Monks gain 6% untyped Dodge bonus by level 20.
    • Dodge: 6%, Cap 28%
  • Improved Dodge (Tier 3 Halfling enhancement): 3% Dodge.
    • Dodge: 9%, Cap: 28%
  • Ultimate Ocean Stance (granted feat, level 18): You gain a stacking 4% Dodge bonus.
    • Dodge 13%, Cap 28%
  • Agility (tier 2 Ninja Spy):  3% Dodge cap.
    • Dodge 13%,  31% Cap.
  • Acrobatic (Tier 1 Ninja Spy): 3% Dodge.
    • Dodge 16%, 31% Cap.

I’m omitting Halfling Agility as this is a temporary boost. We’ll just concern ourselves with boosts that can be sustained.

That’s not a bad number at all: 16% standing Dodge with training alone as a completely naked Halfling*** and no selected feats yet.

Let’s add the only feats that give more standing Dodge.

  • Dodge (feat): 3%
    • Base: 19%
  • Mobility: 2%
    • Base: 21%
  • Spring Attack: 2%
    • Base: 23%

Still naked, that’s a base 23% Dodge. Hardly impossible or impractical number of trainable feats that still leave a player to choose combat related feats such as Two Weapon Fighting and Improved Critical.

***The author of this blog or its agents are not responsible for any
costs for mental counseling, loss of income, time you'll never get
back or images seen that can't be unseen as a result of this
description.

 

Now let’s put some clothing on that perky, cold little lass.

(I said lass.)

Friend Only to the Undertaker

Virtually all gear that provides extra Dodge are enhancement bonuses. So, only the highest bonus from one of your items will apply to your general bonus.

By level 20, the highest loot-generated Dodge item you can wield has a 6% enhancement bonus. There are exceptions, such as the level 15 Skirmisher’s Locket (8%) or the venerable Icy Raiment (also 8%). I’ll stick with the commonly available loot-generated item as, as you’ll see, finding enough Dodge bonus itself isn’t the real problem.

So your final total for this Heroic Halfling is a base of 29% Dodge with a 31% cap. That fits exactly what I’ve seen in past and current lives with my ninjas Ryncletica, Kiricletica and Szyncletica. For level 20, that’s extremely impressive Dodge.

And now, let’s see if any Epic Destiny or gear could make this better.

Good God, Say it Again!

The two natural destinies immediately available to a first-life ninja are Grandmaster of Flowers and Shadowdancer. Let’s calculate both, and then factor in an opened Twist of Fate slot so that any Twistable ability from one destiny could benefit an active destiny, if any exist.

Grandmaster of Flowers:

  • Perfect Balance (tier 1): 3%
  • Walking with Waves (tier 3, only while in Ocean Stance): 3%

I’m ignoring the temporary 25% 6-second temporary bonus of the tier 6 ability, A Scattering of Petals for purposes of standing Dodge calculations and also because it can’t be Twisted.

So a Grandmaster of Flowers ninja has a potential base of 35%. But their cap remains fixed at 31%, so that’s as far as that goes.

Shadowdancer:

  • Untouchable (tier 5): Gain 1% Dodge per each Shadow Charge (maximum trainable is 7): 7% Dodge

I’m ignoring Meld into Darkness for the same reasons as A Scattering of Petals.

So a Shadowdancer has the highest additional epic Dodge of 7% for a potential 36%, but the cap still limits the total to 31%.

As for Epic feats, Combat Archery adds 2% Dodge along with its 1 weapon die damage bonus while using a bow. Still doesn’t help the cap.

Are there any other destinies that can add more Dodge or, most importantly, increases the cap for a Ninja Spy?

Yes to extra Dodge, but they would be very, very expensive to train as a Twisted ability, requiring at least 10 Fate points just to unlock and upgrade your first Twist slot to use tier 4 abilities, such as Echoes of the Ancestors-Martial, a tier 4 Fatesinger ability. However, I found no other destiny to help raise the Dodge cap past 31% for a Halfling Ninja Spy.

She could now wear Epic Dodge enhancement gear, which can appear with up to an 11% bonus, adding 5% more from a Heroic item to a potential of 41% or 42% Dodge for Grandmaster of Flowers or Shadowdancer, respectively. Still, the cap limits the effectiveness to 31%.

So let’s add the only other cap-raising option. This Halfling lass is in a level 103 guild. They have the Fencing Master ship buff for a 2% cap increase, raising Dodge cap to 33%.

So What is it Good For?

The “winner:” Any non-Halfling ninja, with all the Heroic class training alone listed, without Twisting a thing, wearing the highest Dodge enhancement item, and using all available Dodge options in either Shadowdancer or Grandmaster of Flowers , can have a 28% Dodge cap.

Be a Halfling and train it’s abilities, and you gain a 31% cap. Be in the right guild, and it’s 33%.

If the cap could go further, a Halfling ninja Shadowdancer would see a standing 42% potential.

My math can suck. If you see an error, shout out. Other hidden effects also generate Dodge nowadays without many of us thinking about, so these Dodge generation numbers are always sketchy, although the cap generation is quite clear.

As the forum thread notes, other classes, races and training can reach a higher Dodge and cap, especially with the incredible bonuses to both Dodge and Dodge caps in the Rogue Thief-Acrobat tree. The highest standing cap possible anywhere from anything appears to be 45%. Several players report that the temporary Dodge overrides that give 50 or even 100% Dodge for a few seconds tend to be bugged, so caveat emptor. All of my calculations deal with a full ninja, not a multiclassed one. There are other threads and blogs that detail how to twink every last drop of defense, offense and what-have-you by multiclassing. This blog ain’t it.

I don’t know of any past-live feats or abilities you gain that could help further. As the thread notes, it’s the cap, not Dodge itself, that’s hardest to maximize.

Combined with all other miss-chances, a ninja can survive pretty well. In fact, in the next post, I’ll update you with the revival of the ninja-aligned Zen Archery build and how Dodge plays an important role in her defense.

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.

Vow of Poverty: Pretty Please, Devs?

desertI’m enjoying Syncletica in her hermit style as she moves to Level 5.

Teacher Saekee noted that the concept I’m doing is nothing new, and has a PnP concept.

It’s Vow of Poverty, based on D&D 3.5e rules. A number of sites discuss it: here is one that’s most detailed.

Given that Monks are likely to take this, there is much gnashing of teeth and wailing and lamentations of overpoweredness of this ability, even in the tabletop world. Boy, that sounds familiar.

I think Vow of Poverty would make for a great enhancement tree. The challenge would be how to implement it.

I see it this way. To even activate this proposed class tree, you cannot have any non-Monk levels, period.

Once you choose it, if you have spent any AP elsewhere (except in racial trees) the game forces you to reset that tree(s). You may only have the Poverty tree active and no other, including other Monk trees.

Once the tree is active, any weapon other than a quarterstaff or unarmed fighting uncenters you. So you don’t even get to use kamas. Or, you may choose a preferred weapon and use only that weapon (as well as unarmed fighting) without losing your center.

But how would we limit what is carried, or if clickies can be used? What about guild ship buffs or special House buffs?

The bonuses would be rich and stack with the normal Monk class leveled abilities, based on this version. They should also gain Deathblock as a granted feat and an SLA of Death Ward by level 16, or some greater ability to resist death spells better than almost any other class. Granted fortification bonuses as one levels. With optional training, more DR bypassing, too, as Shintaos gain.

Attempting to take any other class would cause the tree to disable and all AP removed, as well as the bonuses.

Would this be a harder class tree? It should. It would require a keen mind and advanced Monk skills, I think, to make this work. No multiclassing to twink your build. Higher weapon limits.

But I love this concept. I’d love to see this in Update 24 or 25. I will download the Lam client to lead the tests!

The Ascetic Guardian

My posts have been filled with pleasant diversion from the blog’s focus.

Shuricannons.

Shortsword wielding ninjas.

Even Bard Swashbucklers.

Whatever happened to good ol’ fisticuffs?

Well, rejoice, Dear Heart, as now we return to those thrilling days of not-so-yesteryear of the thrice-new adventures of Lynncletica, the Little Mountain.

More sword than shield, Lynn's defenses will increase. But her attire befits that of a hermit until she is truly worthy to be a guardian.

More shield than sword, Lynn’s defenses will increase. But her attire befits that of a hermit until she is truly worthy to be a guardian.

With a third life, Lynn is not so little. Her larger physique granted by the third reincarnation makes her appear Amazonian, compared to others about the dojo.

Lynncletica returns as a Shintao Monk once more, leaving the role of the dojo’s Epic leader to Szyncletica for now. This time, Lynn is able to take full advantage of the Shintao training, which favors the Earth Stance for defense and power.

Of course, Lynn can never keep up with the Joneses in Boston, Mass., where their role as DDO’s developers continually tweak or change the curve of reality. Now comes Update 23, which will add a new mechanic for more melee and ranged damage: melee power.

The idea has many critics. Sir Geoff of Hanna has fired an early salvo of scorn about it. And I must admit to being darned confused about the notion.

I have read, in as much as time allowed, the expected updates to improve player defenses, especially against Epic characters. It would be nice not to get one-shotted by a minion. Four or five, maybe, if you’re not prepared. But the guys in heavy armor wear heavy armor and shields for a reason. It should take quite a lot of punishment for their characters to die.

What they need is something that scales with Epic damage bypassing, so the devs “Armor Up” threads had discussed adjustments with PRR and introduction of yet another mitigation ability, Magic Resistance Rating.

I find that welcome…but don’t we already have Spell Resistance for countering effects of certain spells? I believe I read that MRR aids against offensive spells, which makes a little sense with a sword-and-board against a powerful mage. But here, we come perilously close to that balance of mage versus melee where, all things being equal, mages lose. That’s why magic is what it is.

Peak Performance, Part Deux

Lynn’s return to Heroic continues my goal to get more of my characters to early levels to assist others. I’d also like Lynn, now gaining experience much slower, to help with Evennote’s great initiative, Players Helping Players, by helping her eventual avatar appearance on my server.

For now, I’m working to get Lynn to level 5. She appears for now  in some Ragged Rags as a mark of monastic asceticism, helping me to remember and appreciate the foundation of the unarmed Monk. Unless required or invited into party, Lynn enters on Elite without hireling support to help me train in defense and attack.

I’m particularly keen on preparing her for using Ki Shout. It’s an Intimidate effect that uses the Concentration score rather than Intimidate, a cross-class skill for Monks. I want to draw attention. I want the enemies to see only me, to fight me.

That sounds a little suicidal for a Monk, but here me out.

Log Horizon Revisited: The Guardian Motif

This fearless (or foolhardy) desire to serve more in the tanking role is certainly spinning off from my Log Horizon appreciation. This anime, where a D&D-styled game has become an alternate reality where the players live in that world as people based on their characters, has clear roles of battle tactics that serve the protagonists very well.

The first three main characters you see are an Enchanter (a Wizard-like character whose role is to augment his party member’s attack and defense) a Guardian (a heavy-armored fighter who intentionally tanks, that is, attracts all enemies to him to bear the brunt of the fighting while others in the party coordinate attacks) and an Assassin (which does as the name says) with ninja-like stealth skills.

Guardian: Taunter and Tanker Extraordinaire.

Guardian: Taunter and Tanker Extraordinaire.

I don’t quite have an Enchanter character, but Flynncletica the Bard comes a little closer to it. Kiricletica (despite the homage of her name to a Sword Art Online protagonist) is more like an Assassin with her Ninja Spy skills, so there’s a spot for a Guardian, and Lynn can fill that.

The second episode of the first series (a second series arrives this Fall) shows our Enchanter, Shiroe, and Guardian, Naotsugu, about to be ambushed by a player-killer group of at least 4 people. just nearby a large woods in a small glade at night. The enemy party consists of at least two Rogue-like people, a Fighter and a healer class.

What these four poor bastards don’t realize is that Shiroe and Naotsugu are perfect at their roles, trusting in each other’s abilities implicitly from their days as part of their game’s Ultimate Static Group, a non-guild renowned for their prowess in completing raids that even high-level guilds struggled to do.

I’d invite you to watch the episode, for free, online at Crunchyroll. The action scene is barely 10 minutes, about 5 minutes into the episode. But let me summarize how two players began to completely mop the floor with these four players in an excellent demonstration of teamwork. This show illustrates great RPG strategies we’re forgetting on DDO.

  1. Shiroe, the Enchanter, is seen casting a passive spell (but not announcing what he’s doing) as Naotsugu leaps in to gather aggro on the three attackers, their healer apparently staying behind the fray for support.
  2. As his maul-wielding fighter beats on Naotsugu,the enemy leader orders a nimble roguish attacker, using two chakrams, to attack Shiroe. Just as she leaps at him, Shiroe slows her down with Astral Bind, a rooting spell.
  3. Realizing a new problem, the enemy leader tells the chakram-wielder to switch places so he can attack Shiroe.
  4. Naotsugu notices the aggro change (and Shiroe trusts that he does) and performs “Anchor Howl”, a super-intimidate AoE effect that compels all in range to attack him alone. If anyone tries to ignore Naotsugu, he can make a nasty counterattack.
  5. With all three attackers now on Naotsugu, Shiroe realizes that the Guardian can only take that much attention for so long before his HP is gone. First, he casts what seems to the enemies as a worthless spell that throws floating lights around the enemy’s heads.
  6. Shiroe next targets the enemy fighter and casts “Thorn Bind Hostage”, a rooting spell that creates nasty magic thorns around a target that also roots them in place.
  7. Naotsugu strikes the thorns around the maul-wielder, causing him to lose half of his HP immediately. Surprised, the enemy leader calls out for the healer to restore health to their stricken member. Several thorns remain on the maul-wielder and the implications to all are deadly clear.
  8. Naotsugu strikes again at the punishing thorns. The enemy fighter dies and disappears (in this new reality, they are immortal and resurrect back in town), shocking the remaining enemies. The enemy leader shouts at their healer, who sways and promptly drops to his knees. Shiroe’s very first action at the start of the battle was to cast a sleeping spell on the healer, knocking him out of the fight, literally.
  9. The chakram-wielder becomes frustrated and attempts to attack Shiroe, but Naotsugu slaps her to near-death as she is still under the Anchor Howl intimidate effect. She soon runs away from the battle.
  10. The enemy leader, alone on the battlefield, calls out for his party backup, a Summoner and Sorcerer hiding in the woods. But Shiroe already knew about them.
  11. Shiroe’s count of “four enemies” was based on the fact that Naotsugu was momentarily stopped by a rooting spell not cast by any of the four attackers on the field. This was code to Akatsuki, the Assassin, who was in the woods as well and interpreted Shiroe’s message that more of the enemy were in wait elsewhere. Shiroe’s floating lights kept the enemies from seeing into the dark woods, where Akatsuki proceeded to assassinate the two mages without interference.
  12. Akatsuki drags out the dying two mages, who disappear. The enemy leader is totally alone and soon dies as well in a fitful and pitiful attempt to stab Shiroe, which Akatsuki does not allow.

It’s Naotsugu that played the dominant role in the battle. His role wasn’t as damage dealer but his aggro generation allowed all other party members to use their talents to the fullest without being under attack. No one paid attention to Shiroe’s strategic machinations until it was much too late. Akatsuki wasn’t known to the enemy party. She notes to the enemy leader, “your teamwork is full of holes.”

And note that the team of three had no healer of their own in party and were outnumbered 2 to 1. This continues into episode four, and even then, the team, now with two additions, has a only very weak healer as they ultimately must fight in another player-killer scenario, five against at least twenty five.

The central fight is a Swashbuckler against an evil Monk, cleverly taunted into a one-on-one battle. When the enemy Monk tries to dogpile on his sole combatant using the rest of his guild, guess who steps in and forces that mob to concentrate on him? Yep. That’s Naotsugu. In addition to Anchor Howl, he uses a special ability comparable to the Unyielding Sentinel’s epic moment to become effectively impervious for a time to buy Shiroe and the swashbuckler the time they need against the Monk.

Our guys win again.

Strategy works. Tanking is still awesome because a skilled party can handle far more formidable forces in this mode, rather than arming themselves to the teeth and attacking individually and on sight, each member likely pulling more threat to them than they could handle. The AI isn’t incompatible with this traditional style; the player attitudes now are. Everybody wants to be the star, it seems.

In contrast to what I described from episode 2 of the show, by episode 13, a junior group of adventurers show exactly how NOT to fight, losing and retreating again and again because of poor aggro management and only a vague sense of each other’s roles until one of them, a Shrine Priest that’s fond of Shiroe, begins training them to work as a team, with her work emulating Shiroe’s encounter-control tactics. That group becomes a bundle of power and dominance after that.

Lynncletica, Guardian Monk

So, Lynn is getting adjustments to make her a better Guardian-type Monk stylized a little after Naotsugu as Akatsuki is currently inspiring bits of Kiricletica. Her hit points will be sizable, her attacks powerful, but her defenses more formidable.

It’s not quite too different from her second-life as Lynn could handle almost any enemy in tanking but struggled a bit with Epic Elite defenses. My hope is that I can improve her against some EE as well, particularly as Update 23’s changes come into play.

She can heal herself and remove damaging curses and effects. Most importantly, Lynn can keep the bulk of the fight on her with her Ki Shout. From there, others in the party can debilitate enemies without fear of immediate counter-reprisal.

More and more STR will be Lynn’s regimen to eliminate targets, with close attention to WIS and CON.

I hope I can find a little more PRR than the 67 or so I managed by Epic, but it’s the miss-chance powers that I’d like more. Lynn never trained any Ninja Spy techniques and may consider it for Shadow Veil for 25% incorporeality. She didn’t have the strongest Dodge in the past, either, with maybe 18%. That’s got to change, too. She can Blur herself adequately.

One thing that the new Shintao tree has firmly discouraged me from doing is to train all the Elemental Curatives. Since Rise of the Phoenix only resurrects yourself and is no longer a Raise Dead SLA, I’ll only train the remove-curse and lesser-restoration abilities, which are great mass-effects in party, and shove the freed AP into Ninja Spy or improving more defense abilities. I’ll be immune to natural poisons and disease and can carry potions for magical types.

Combat Expertise will be retrained; it’s 10% stacking bonus to all AC goes fine with Earth Stance’s 20%. Lynn could get 100 AC without effort by level 20.

And, if team strategy is handled well, any party that Lynncletica serves won’t require extensive healing.

Lynn might train up additional abilities from the Ninja Spy and Mystic trees. The Henshin side has Mystic Training for improved finisher DCs, and an Animal Form style. Way of the Patient Tortoise has no negatives with more Concentration and HP, but Way of the Tenacious Badger seems nice in that my unarmed damage increases as my HP decreases, at the price of less Fortitude (compensated by higher CON). Adding more Dodge from the ninja’s Acrobatic ability is an easy choice to add points toward Shadow Veil. Perhaps, then, Faster Sneaking and Stealthy to add a bit more Hide/Move Silently and gain a point of passive ki regeneration.

I’m skipping Exemplar as before. The few points to unused cross-class skills Heal and Intimidate and the extra Threat generation I can gain through Devotion spell power and higher Concentration.

Deft Strikes and its increased off-hand attack rate is inviting, but Reed in the Wind’s extra Dodge is also helpful.

I’m curious how PRR will be effective for Monks with Update 23’s goal to cap PPR for unarmored folks. That said, I”m still a fan of it. So the Iron Skin ability gets maxed for 15 untyped PRR, as well as Conditioning for more Concentration and 15 more HP.

The jade attacks are always handy and will be trained, of course. If tier 4’s Instinctive Defense can be trained to reduce damage should Lynn become helpless (before I can use my Harper Pin if low on HP), then I’ll add it. I’m more keen on adding another CON point at this level.

Tier 5 of Shintao is filled with goodies. Meditation of War helps PRR but reduces Dodge cap in Earth Stance (at least until the last core enhancement offsets this). Empty Hand Mastery raises the unarmed attack hit die. I like Kukan-Do’s remote stunning but feel my CHA will never be high enough, and prefer to bring the fights closer to Stunning Fist range.

By Epic levels, Lynncletica will take more training as the Unyielding Sentinel, an epic destiny designed to tank and endure. She’ll lack only the ability to wear a shield for more defense but will gain more CON and PRR, and can amplify her Shield AC bonus from a Flawless White Dragonscale Robe once she creates one. There’s also the newer destinies that may offer more.

I’m looking forward to being more like a mountain, sturdy and invincible. Here’s hoping there’s more I can adapt in Update 23.

 

 

Sympathy for the Devils

The eternal battlefield. Are you too scared to take on the devils on their home turf?

The eternal battlefield. Are you too scared to take on the devils on their home turf? Leave your Epic excuses behind, stop being a baby and go fight for REAL.

I don’t know of many guildmates that bother to hang around in the Devil Battlefield much nowadays, especially with the Epic content in the Forgotten Realms.

But there is still much to be gained there between levels 18 and 24, especially for a Monk.

Before the Menace of the Underdark expansion, the Tower of Despair raid was a popular run, even for PuGs.

To run this raid required a character to complete the four flagging quests: “Genesis Point,” “A New Invasion,” “Bastion of Power,” and “Sins of Attrition.” You also needed to make sufficient runs through the two standalone quests, “Wrath of the Flame” and “Weapons Shipment,” to farm for four ingredients to make the special Boots of Anchoring, needed by melee classes in particular to avoid getting banished back to Eberron by one of the bosses during the raid itself.

Further, in comparison to other Level 19 quests, Shavarath enemies are demons and devils. They’re often filled with immunities and require at least Good-aligned weapons, never approach you short-manned and have bags of hit points to wear you down.

No wonder fewer people run this series.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, especially with Epic questing.

Reason 1: Yugoloth Potions

Today, the most important thing your characters can gain from the  Shavarath quests are Yugoloth Favor Potions. As the name suggests, you gain access to a special vendor when you have sufficient Yugoloth favor. This means you’ll need to run, at minimum, three of the four quests on Elite.

I found that you can leave “A New Invasion” on Hard and complete the others on Elite for sufficient favor, as the end-fight with “Invasion” is a claustrophobic nightmare of trapped floors and a very angry Pit Fiend, chasing you and chaining you to the floor to disembowel you on Elite difficulty.

So what’s special about the “Yugo potions?” They raise your ability scores, a +2 bonus that stacks with anything, including the DDO Store elixirs.

The downside to Yugo potions is that they also have side effects. For Monks, the four potions they’d favor might be the Essence of Betrayal (+2 DEX), Essence of Desire (+2 CON), Essence of Despair (+2 WIS) and Essence of Fury (+2 STR).

In addition to the ability score change, the Essence of Betrayal will also increase your Sneak Attack bonus but decrease your general attack bonus. The Essence of Desire adds a stacking +20 HP but slows your melee attacks by 5%. The Essence of Despair adds +4 to your Natural Armor bonus but saps -4 from your Reflex saves, while the Essence of Fury adds +8 to your Will saves against Fear while sapping your general Will saves to everything else by -4.

In Epic play, getting your WIS modifier and your STR and CON as high as you can is critical. The Yugo potions, in combination with the DDO Store potions, give you +4 to any ability score. The Yugo potions last 15 minutes.

Reason 2: Incredible Potential rings and their companion items

Any ring from the end-rewards of the Tower of Despair raid can be unlocked to show its “incredible potential.” For unarmed Monks, this means you can unlock a ring’s ability to add Holy Burst or other elemental burst effects to your attacks. Since a Shintao Monk can already train to bypass Silver DR, you become a natural Harry Beater with a Holy Burst ring.  Again, this works for unarmed Monks only. However, other effects of the rings, from spell power boosts to elemental absorption to Insightful stat bonuses, can also be available to any class.

It takes a while to make this work. First, get a ring from the raid. The drop rate isn’t high. Some in the party may be looking for the specific set ring for their class and choose instead to let others in the party to roll for their lucky allotment. All rings are Bound to Character on Acquire so you can’t trade them outside of the raid chest.

The rings are also Exclusive. If you happen to gain a second Monk set ring of the same name, you can’t keep it if you already have one in your inventory. I’d be biased and have any Monks roll for it first in party.

Each time you run the raid, you’ll also get a Shavarath War Trophy. You need 9 of these special ingredients, plus a properly imbued Shard of Great Power to unlock the ring.

Getting the class set item (for Monks, the Shintao Cord, Nyoko’s Necklace or Oremi’s Necklace) that matches the ring is a bonus but not required. You’ll find these items drop in the chests through all the flagging quests.

Teacher Syncletica has been the luckiest, owning an unlocked Kyosho’s Ring and its Shintao Cord. Wearing both gives her unarmed Good or Evil DR bypassing in addition to the Holy Burst on her ring.

Reason 3: Bragging Rights

The Devil Battlefield is, well, a battlefield. Nothing comes easy from a place that’s acquainted to eternal war. The mere victories of one adventurer mean nothing to those in Shavarath, unless you happen to come to their turf and kick their ass. A lot.

Which is exactly what GamerGeoff and his Gamer Girl recently did. Every quest, on Elite. They brought in level 20 and 21 characters. Hardly “Epic” characters that used strategy and the right firepower to complete. I know of many people that are horrified, and I mean horrified, to complete the Weapons Shipment at any difficulty, much less Elite. For characters like Szyncletica, it’s generally a turkey shoot. Lynncletica sees it as a good workout.

And I took Kiricletica through the whole Battlefield myself weeks before, dead-solo with no hirelings (except in one required quest, Genesis Point) and beat everything (that could find me while stealthy) on Elite difficulty to get her sufficient Yugo privileges.

Sure, few of us enjoy the devils. They’re tough. They’re meant to be.

But defeating the tough enemies, not getting an easy out…isn’t that what we play to do?

Go kick lots of Shavarath ass, or go home.

Update: Teacher Mernom also noted in the comments that there are alchemical ability score potions you can trade, using collectibles, from several vendors in House Deneith, that can also raise your ability scores, albeit very briefly (2 minutes). The Potion of Reason and the Potion of Health are two examples. You don’t need to go to Shavarath to get them, necessarily, unless the collectable you need happens to spawn there. I’ve played the game for over 4 years and never knew these existed. Thanks!

A Monastic Video Showcase

Please stand by.

Please stand by.

After posting videos demonstrating the Heroic level and Epic Shiradi Shuricannon, I was reminded of times where differing opinions at least or flame wars at most occur on the DDO forums on what build or what class(es) and abilities will do this and that.

One thread long ago on the Henshin Mystic turned that way but it caught my ire because the dissenting poster, all the while stating that unarmed damage beats quarterstaff damage, also admitted to having not played a Mystic.

Now, I don’t claim in the slightest to creating or possessing characters that are the optimal for anything except for how I like to play. But my Monks don’t suck outright and do a good job of the one thing they’re meant to do: complete a quest or raid.

But I took offense to that poster because it was clear that their min-maxing multiclassing worldview completely dismissed the idea that something else could possibly work. I’m used to this with the Henshin Mystic. As I’ve said in past posts, I’m likely the only comprehensive resource so far (here and in The Book of Syncletica) on defining the Henshin Mystic class based on its enhancement tree, given it’s only been around for yet quite a year.

Rather than get into a debate of words, I realized I have to apply a social truism: “Pictures or it didn’t happen.”

So I’ll add some moving pictures–they’ll be worth hundreds of thousands of words.

Over the next few weeks I’ll add demonstration videos of the pure Ninja Spy, Henshin Mystic and Shintao Monk, each showing my interpretation of each class’s gameplay. Doing this also exposes my personal style, which you may or may not like.

I’ll choose a quest that illustrates their specialities. For a Shintao, it’ll be a brawling quest where undead, aberrations and extraplanar creatures roost. For a Ninja Spy, it may be a quest where a singular objective requires stealth, cunning and tactics to complete. Lastly, it will be Quintessica that will show what I think the developers had in mind, based on the class tree, of what a Mystic can do with a quarterstaff and their mystical ki powers.

Class trees are simply a launching point for players. There’s no point whatsoever in making a Mystic or any other class using only the racial tree and abilities from only one class tree. A Mystic or Shintao that adds in Shadow Veil for incorporeality miss-chance is going to stand a pounding better, as well as a Ninja Spy that adds in abilities from other trees to improve its attack or defense. None of my characters use only the abilities of their class tree.

That said, the purpose of the demo videos is to help new players decide what playstyle they might consider based on the class tree’s innate skills. It never means that a Shintao can’t use a bow or a Ninja Spy can’t use a staff or a Mystic not use handwraps. Versatility is important. However, effectiveness based on your skills makes sense economically for the action points you spend.

Most importantly, the videos can show what the class does flat out–a good illustrative video for players new to the Monk (the exact purpose of the Monk guide). Shintao Monks are self-healing stun-bot goddesses that are hard to kill. Ninja Spies can avoid half of an army to assassinate with deft blade work or unarmed fighting with a deadly skill set. And a Mystic can take on mobs like Neo takes on an army of Agent Smiths using a metal staff.

So, coming soon, I’ll finally make that video of Mystic Quintessica doing her “Burly Brawl.” Later, Lynncletica, the “Little Mountain” will go where Archons fear to tread, perhaps against an army of devils. Lastly, Kiricletica can represent the Ninja Spies somewhere.

If possible, these movies will get linked into their respective chapters in the Monk guide.

Much later, I’ll give the same treatment to the Elven Arcane Archer Monk and a Kensei Fighter I’m working on.

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