Alone in the Shroud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenges in the Shroud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attempt #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Self-Imposed Stealth Solo Challenge

I’m a very big proponent of stealth tactics in quests.

I know that doesn’t go down well with many adventures in DDO, but usually, the joy of slaying is lost on me. I kill enemies because they will try to kill me. Often, I must initiate attack. If I am attacked first, I ensure I’m the last one standing to finish it.

So, with a serious case of altitis with a little boredom kicking in, I’m considering a game for myself that others can play along as well. I’m inspired by two sources. First, from the creator of the DDO Character Planner, who had begun this some time ago.

The second inspiration is from a popular manga/anime show.

The rules are simple:

  • Do not kill except when
    • A required objective requires it
    • Stealth is not an option (enemies can often or always detect you, such as wraiths and spiders)
    • You are revealed/unable to hide and you are fighting for your life
  • Do not smash breakables unless it is a required objective; this makes noise that attracts enemies
  • Reveal yourself only when
    • A required objective/condition of passage is activated only if you are visible (to prevent bugging a quest)
    • Aggression or diversion is required to complete an objective
  • Complete the mission without assistance (no hirelings) unless an objective requires additional party members for levers and switches. Assistance will be dismissed or left idle after levers are completed
  • Discreet (5% or less), Devious (7%) or Insidious Cunning (10%) kill objectives are required where possible.

To meet the “no kill” objective will require taking advantage of the game’s improved stealth AI. Enemies now respond to noises more reliably and go to the sound to investigate. In narrow corridors where enemies block the doorways, noise could be used to pull the enemies away and allow an adventurer to pass by. Alternately, a character can use a single attack or quick reveal to pull enemies towards them. If you can break the line of sight of these enemies and then hide and go quiet, the enemies often pass you by, searching for you in vain briefly before often returning to their original positions.

It will take my best Ninja Spy to make this work. My fondest characters (Syncletica, Lynncletica and Ryncletica) have Epic levels and have been idle for some time while my star-thrower mania has continued unabated for weeks now.

But which character should enter this game? I’d likely dedicate only one character to complete this, from level 1 to 28ish.

I strongly considered Syncletica herself. She’s been largely idle since her first TR and horrific results as an Epic character.

Ryncletica is already a strong general Ninja Spy and would enter a third life to try this.

In the end, I generated another Ninja Spy. Inspired by Sword Art Online‘s “Black Swordsman” and central character, Kirito, the player character Kiricletica is now skulking the dungeons.

As the build goes, Kiri isn’t very special except I’m adding longswords to her ability for slashing damage, befitting her namesake. Every ability to stay hidden or divert attention is getting maximized.

Every Trick in the Book

I’m not quite utilizing every condition of RJ’s attempt. While his goal was to fully complete all quests, including optionals, I’m sticking to the required objectives only. I’m using ship buffs and I’ve equipped Kiricletica with some starter equipment with the goal of her gathering her own later.

Since I’m attempting each dungeon on Elite and within 2 levels of the quest difficulty, any gear she attains from other characters, should I choose, essentially evens the odds, not increases them.

Self-healing is a critical consideration in solo play, but thankfully is going to be less problematic since Kiricletica is Half-Elf with the Cleric dilettante to allow scroll and wand healing as well as good protective buffs. Several points are going into the Shintao and Mystic trees for greater ki regeneration, healing amplification and improved DCs.

Kiricletica will need an improved ability for ranged damage to avoid some fights. While she won’t be as powerful as Szyncletica,  I’m using all I’ve learned of the Shiradi Shuricannon build to boost Kiri’s DEX very high for improved damage and attack as well as shuriken throw rate. I might add Shuriken Expertise while adding in Cleave and Great Cleave. The Two-Weapon Fighting feats are important but I don’t know if taking all three will be essential.

Kiri’s already equipped with a Phiarlan Mirror Cloak,  a great item for new characters to improve Hide/Move Silently skills. Spot will get a boost, and Diplomacy where possible for avoiding some fights.

From here, it’s all tactics.

Stealthy Repossession: The Dreaded

Many players in groups either skip this quest altogether or use tactics that keep the precious kobold prophets busy enough so one person can zerg in to grab the gem that completes the quest.

I chose to do things the old fashioned way.

I entered in as a level 4 character on Elite. My first mistake was walking around as I activated a buff or two. On opening the first door, two ordinary kobolds and one prophet attacked and had to be put down. I still had a safety margin of prophets, so in I went.

The key in stealth is often to follow the paths of those you avoid. Staying behind them keeps you out of their visual arc, their line of sight. You also need to avoid sneaking too closely for their Listen skill to hear you take that misstep.

The second prophet guards a wide main hall with two gated passages. The little guy makes a lazy clockwise walk around the area, so I follow him and, while he’s at 3 o’clock and I’m at a the lever at 11 o’clock, I pull the lever, restealth without taking one step, and enter the west hall.

Two prophets walk in a slightly different pattern up and down this north-south hallway. Your only target is another lever on the west wall. Many other kobolds are sleeping.

This lever is the hardest of the six you must engage since you have to time pulling the lever with restealthing before the prophets are in Spot range. Hopefully you will restealth and be heading back north before the prophets turn around for their northern track, as you’ll want to pull that thing quickly as they pass. Thankfully, despite the sound effect, it seems that levers don’t make sounds that attract. Else, this quest would be clearly impossible.

I pulled the lever and sneaked back out, wary of the central hall prophet still doing his rounds.

On to a west hallway where a fourth prophet makes another patrol. Same tactic is used as in the central hall but you have to watch for when the kobold stops at certain points before turning and walking away. I let the kobold head more easterly and away from my objective, a door where another lever awaited inside. More sleeping kobolds. There were some boxes I was able to use to elevate myself out of some tight spots where my timing with the prophet was too perfect and his line-of-sight approached too fast.

Ahead to the east, a corridor leads to another room with a mix of sleeping kobolds, one vigilant thrower atop a tall pile of crates, and two prophets. Here, you have to move fast to get past this to fall down and to the right  into a lower room, avoiding the bridge ahead. Inside a recess are two switches to pull. Do not make one move without being in stealth here (or anywhere) as the prophets will hear you.

You must then head northerly, avoiding two more prophets, to the final switch. On this one, it may be best to use invisibility if you have a potion or effect, to gain an edge on Spot, since there are two last prophets and often one optional boss, a witch doctor. Activate the switch on the south wall, and then sneak in for the gem, located north and west from the last switch.

Sounds easy? I didn’t think it did.

Thanks to Micki, I’m now the owner of a Bandicam license, so here’s a recreation of that run with Kiri, now a little higher at level 5, in the first of a series of videos to help Monks work out their kinks in certain quests.

Here’s another successful but less glamorous attempt on that quest. My apologies for the darkened video; I’m getting used to the gamma and brightness settings as things get moved here and there.

How Far Can I Go?

As the character Kirito knew, there will be point where solo play is not possible, much less practical. Kiricletica isn’t designed to be an achiever of quest chains or gain accolades in leveling. Her only desire is to complete as much of the game as possible without any player character’s to assist. Raids would be the exception. Maybe.

The only challenges that will thwart her will be ones that absolutely require several live players to coordinate levers and switches. As much as I’m hopeful of Kiri’s abilities, being in two places at once isn’t one of them.

Perhaps I’ll be able to get a Devious bonus in “The Kobold’s New Ringleader.” You never know.

(Update: I apologize for the video quality. Serves me right for using Windows Movie Maker, free as it is. I’ll be improving the video quality as I find better options. This thread, older as it is, still has some tips.)

Solo Raiding

It’s rather a contradictory term: “solo raiding.”

Raid (n.) - a sudden attack on an enemy by troops, aircraft or other
armed forces in warfare.

Note the plural. To enter a raid (a high-difficulty adventure designed for up to 12 party members) as the only party member, makes the ultimate boast of being a one-man army.

Not that this contradiction or wild claims have stopped anyone from trying–and sometimes succeeding.

I’ve been reading quite a few posts in the Achievements subforum on soloing “The Shroud” and “Zawabi’s Revenge” (ADQ2) and it got me to try a few out myself.

Solo raiding at-level is almost unheard of. Raids often require many skills and resource-intensive fighting that no one character can typically meet the requirements. So higher-level solo raids are often done by characters that are significantly over the raid’s level, and on Normal difficulty.

I’ve completed only two solo raids prior to this bout of insanity: “Tempest’s Spine” and “The Chronoscope,” levels 10 and 6, respectively. Both adventurers were Shintao Monks for their durability and self-healing. Of these, only one has Epic levels, and I’ve sent in Lynncletica successfully on Epic Hard. I know that neither of these raids have remarkably tough challenges for solo players with good self-sufficiency.

Last week, I added a new character to the table: The star-thrower Szyncletica against the Demon Queen. After that, I tried a solo run in The Shroud with Lynncletica the tanker.

Advantages and Challenges for Szyncletica

Szyncletica rapidly leveled to 26 in her first life. Her sustained DPS is the best in my dojo with many random effects going off from Shiradi Champion, off-hand passive effects, as well as the spelltouched shurikens she uses.

I’ve tried Heroic ADQ2 on Lynncletica before, perhaps shortly after Update 14 and Epic Destinies. The gnolls perched atop the pillars ate her alive, despite her powerful defenses. I tried keeping a ranged option handy to remove them but it was too slow.

Szyn, on the other hand, uses only stars to attack.

I imagined that her DPS should knock most of the tower gnolls quickly away between their respawns, particularly using an Improved Paralyzing star she owns.  She can attack the marilith at any stage and, through strafing and Improved Precise Shot, attack any effreeti and the marilith at once. In one video from an old 2007 player, it looks like the Monk archer there just plain ignores the gnolls above. But the raid’s likely changed since this video.

Szyn’s greatest challenge was crisis healing. She had potions but that was it, aside from Shiradi’s Healing Spring. It was touch and go on how well this would work as Szyn stays well out of melee range and attempts to use many miss-chance abilities to slow down incoming damage. ADQ2 is all-fight: no rest, no respite. Using Wholeness of Body is not an option.

I bit my reluctance to switch Destinies, activated Primal Avatar and entered a Epic Hard “Jungles of Khyber” run recently. I completed that run with an immediate 4 Destiny Points and activated Rejuvenation Cocoon in full.

That’s a nice ability. It simply throws out a nice healing boost and some temporary HP with spell points. Combined with Devotion and healing amplification, the results would be sufficient to keep Szyn healed in battle.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I got Cocoon trained after my attempts at the Demon Queen. More on that in a sec.

Thankfully, the loot gods have been good to me. I just received a level 24 Cold Iron spelltouched star with Wounding and the occasional Disintegrate. Kicking on the Stay Good stance should make that star effective enough to bust the Queen’s DR.

The DQ Solo Attempts

Szyn-LailatWith a load of Haste potions and after some study, I completed the pre-raid, rebuffed and tried a raid run.

I armed Szyn with her L20 Icy Burst of Improved Paralyzing and removed the effreti and elementals without issue.

After a few words with the Demon Queen, the fight was on. I removed the gnolls very quickly to the point where they were a non-factor.

I did what I could to concentrate all my attacks only on the marilith, no matter where she was, letting Improved Precise Shot weed out any effreti that got in the way.

But I was having a hard time keeping healed from the glancing damage that Lailat managed to get on me.

She was down to virtually no HP at all when I took one hit too many myself and expired. And then I saw something odd.

Szyn-vs-Lailat1-eNI realized I had mistakenly took Szyn in against the Queen on Epic Normal difficulty and nearly beat her. Note the Queen’s virtually out of HP. It was that close.

Beginner’s luck, it turned out. I tried another run on eN and got curbstomped faster, before Lailat had lost half of her HP.

Determined to get something done, I ran through once more, on Heroic Elite.

Funny: Lailat in eN is around Level 26. On Heroic Elite, she’s CR28 and felt a bit harder to hit.

Szyn-vs-Lailat-hEBut I held my own and the marilith fell. It was my first solo raid victory on a non-Light Monk, characters that have all the healing toys compared to their Dark brethren. No vampirism. No Healing Ki. No Cleric dilettante. Just a throwing star, a weak battle healing option and sheer sustained damage per second.

But perhaps, before I TR, I will try an eNormal once more, armed now with Cocoon since those first runs, and with a stronger resolve.

Going Solo in the Shroud

The barbarian that completed a Shroud run solo had to fiddle a few things and was incredibly overgeared to ensure some success. First off, he was level 28–that’s a capped character. Lynncletica sits at 25 now. Next, he multiclassed a couple of Fighter levels to go with his Barbarian. Looks like he used the Fury of the Wild Epic Destiny with some Primal Avatar things mixed in, perhaps some Legendary Dreadnought.

I decided to go in with Grandmaster of Flowers but with Twists from Legendary Dreadnought and Unyielding Sentinel that boosted fortification, PRR, and DCs.

The damage that the Barb could do was quite remarkable, sometimes making 3,0oo point critical hits. I was thinking too far ahead, on what to do in Part 4 against Harry and his recharging gnolls.

So, armed for bear, I took Lynn into a Normal run.

You might guess what happened. Lynn loses in part 1. Her DPS is sufficient to take down the portals but far too slowly. The portal keepers arrive and lock up the Shroud with Shavarath, sealing my fate.

A post-mortem made me recall an old contest that I had planned to write about: A DPS contest where players were asked to enter Aussircaex’s Valley and test how fast they could remove a planar gateway that resided there.

This is the same type of portal seen in the Shroud. It never changes and has a fixed set of stats, is always 12,000 HP, is immune from most elemental damage and has 100% fortification. So it’s a perfect way to test out any character’s DPS.

The original contest set some weapon limits, but going in a raid, you’ve got to remove that thing fast and by any means necessary.

I did take Szyn in there and took that portal down in about 1 minute and 16 seconds, but I can’t remember if that was with my newer and Shroud-designed Holy of Greater Construct Bane star or using an older Aligned of Construct Bane one.

If I can add some Armor-Piercing properties in my off-hand, I’m sure I can whittle that thing down in under a minute. Time to study again. Looks like I could trade out the Celestia blade with my Envenomed Blade’s 10% armor piercing, but then I’d also lose the light damage that the epic shortsword can do. I’d have to test it.

And it looks like armor-piercing effects stack. So, in a perfect, beautiful world, wearing a regular or Flawless Black Dragonscale Robe and its armor piercing would stack with off-hand effects. I could farm for Black scales. I took Szyn into a few Heroic Tor runs and beat two of the three dragons on Elite but it was the black dragon’s acid damage that threw me off. (This was, again, before I got Cocoon trained up.) Some Black Dragonscale would be a good tactical alternative.

Lynn should do better, but I’m not sure. I’ve become a bit dependent on Grandmaster of Flowers. I needed the speed and critical hit power of Legendary Dreadnought, if just for part 1 alone. My concern remained on getting to Part 4. Harry wouldn’t be the issue; it would be my ability to remove the gnolls in later rounds before they recharge him faster than I could damage him. I wouldn’t have the Rage effects of a Barbarian nor as many Action Boosts. Without GMoF, there’s no ability to use Everything is Nothing to remove the gnolls very quickly.

But then, without LD, getting through Part 1 is likely impossible.

So, back to the drawing board.

The Burly Brawl, DDO Style

One mob? One quarterstaff, then.

One mob? One quarterstaff, then.

When I play with one of my characters, I often do so in a binge of weeks at a time before switching to another one. My current binge is with Quintessica and her new skills as a Henshin Mystic.

As you know, they use quarterstaffs to fight (albeit not exclusively). As a traditional weapon, unlike handwraps (which aren’t weapons, so the Monk’s innate damage is calculated from the character in unarmed fighting), I have to think long and hard as to how to generate the most damage per swing, and to effectively make as many swing attempts as possible.

With level 17 in the bank, I keep having dreams of what I’ll be able to do as I reach Level 20.

Doublestrike Power and STR

A Mystic gains quarterstaff training that’s similar to the Rogue Acrobat (and, as of this 19.2 Update, skills of these trees still appear to stack, for those Min/Maxers playing at home). So far, the two things I’m looking at are higher STR and greater doublestrike.

My Heroic-level doublestriking was (a still impressive) 32.50% for 10 second bursts while in Wind Stance and using the Quick Strikes ability at level 16. By level 18 now, it sees for Heroic at 35% (10% Grandmaster of Wind with Quick Strikes). With Power Attack active, it’s a blast to beat-down many enemies using Quick Strikes while spamming Void Strike and elemental form attacks like crazy. Quick Strike is a Morale bonus so adding Doublestrike prefix gear won’t help. Wind Stance adds doublestrike as an Enhancement bonus. I don’t run in Wind Stance generally due to its weaker defenses, but it sure helps in getting your Training Dummy “Hours of Practice” buff very rapidly. (The poor thing.) I won’t be hanging around Wind Stance for too long since it generates an average amount of ki and it’s a stance with fewer defenses.

Oh, I almost forgot the Fabricator’s Gauntlets and Fabricator’s Bracers. The unlocked set adds that Cannith Combat Infusion that procs often enough, adding some AC and a 5% Alchemical bonus to doublestrike. So, if all the stars align at level 18, Quintessica’s doublestrike ranges between 35 to 40% with Quick Strike, Ultimate Wind Stance and/or the Infusion going off.

And there’s more I might gain with stacking untyped doublestrike in Epic levels from Grandmaster of Flowers, maybe another 3 to 6%, A flickering dream tells me of Epic Gianthold’s Flawless Black Dragonscale Robes, with its matching Epic Helm of the Black Dragon, give a stacking 3% Artifact doublestrike bonus that I can dream of obtaining after several “Caught in the Web” episodes.  (n.b.: I had the wrong set mentioned here earlier; it’s the Black set, not White, that gives the 3%.)

STR determines damage with a quarterstaff, and the weapon isn’t typically Finesse-qualified. Perhaps more so than with my tanker, Lynncletica, I’ll need as high a STR as I can make for Quintessica to generate higher damage. As much as I love the Mystical Fire and Force spell-like abilities, they aren’t going to take down whole mobs immediately, but will damage them significantly enough from staff fighting for me and my party to whittle them down faster.

So, where does a Heroic pure Monk go to get more damage from here?

Quin uses Whirlwind Attack, which does work well quite well in mobs (and doesn’t appear to be bugged). I don’t think there’s enough feats to add Cleave and Great Cleave, but perhaps I could consider Improved Sunder for this build to bust down the armor protections faster.

Damn it, but I can’t stop thinking of Quin in Epic mode. Crunching doublestrike gets me excited. She’ll have 25% (Quick Strike, 10 secs, Morale bonus), Grandmaster of Wind (10%, sustained, enhancement bonus), Running with Wind (Grandmaster of Flowers tier 2, 3% sustained in Wind Stance, untyped), Hail of Blows (GMoF tier 2, 3%, sustained, untyped). If the Fabricator’s set is worn and it procs, that’s another 5% Alchemical bonus for 6 seconds. That’s a total of 25%+10+3+3+5 = 46% maximum doublestrike (16% sustained in Wind Stance, 6% without it).

And what happens if I train as Legendary Dreadnought’s Lightning Mace and later twist in both tier 2 GMoF abilities?

That’s 25%+15+3+3+5+5% (LD, Lightning Mace, 15% enhancement for 6 seconds, or +5 with Wind Stance, one overwriting since they both enhancement bonuses, and Cannith Combat Infusion) = a maximum, theoretical and brief 56% doublestrike chance (10+3+3 = 16% chance in Wind Stance, 6% without it).

Then add another 3% from a full Flawless Dragonscale set. Brief 59% doublestrike, 19% sustained in Wind Stance.

That’s a lot of Twists of Fate, a lot of luck and a lot of grinding time. Not even sure if that’s viable in battle, but achieving a fraction of this speed should be good. Imagine all that going off in whole or in part with LD action haste or damage boosts.

The Big F’n Stick Thread

During some research, I found this long-running DDO forums thread on how players have worked on maximizing quarterstaff damage over the years. At over 118 pages, I’m still reading it.

The one thing I’ve taken away from that thread is the joy of glancing blows, an ability inherent with quarterstaves. Effectively, there’s yet a chance for additional attacks with this in effect.

The Two Handed Fighting line improves this opportunity to insane levels that I I really want to use. I’d like to put a point or more into the Fighting Style ability and choose the Great Weapon Aptitude option: Glancing blows produced by your two-handed weapon attacks have a +2%/+4%/+6% increased chance of producing magical weapon effects such as flaming. There are 3 ranks that require the latter two THF feats that I may not have slots to improve, but we’ll see. Between doublestriking and this, there should be much bashing.

I spent quite a lot of feats to get Whirlwind Attack, which is equally worthy and adds needed Dodge to this defense-weak build, in my opinion. I have a few feat slots left as I move to 20, so I’m grooming to take these feats for more attacks.

Emulating the Burly Brawl

Glasses: check. Longcoat-like robe: check. Big f'n stick: Check. Attitude: Oh yeah.

Glasses: check. Longcoat-like robe: check. Big f’n stick: Check. Attitude: Oh yeah. Neo, eat your heart out.

I’m a huge fan of The Matrix movie series. My second-favorite fight in the movies is known as the “Burly Brawl.” There, Neo (the One, who really knows kung-fu and 57 other ways to fight) must use everything he knows to fight out a respawning army of rogue, viral, former agent Smiths. The ass-kicking is simply intense, as both Neo and the Smiths are Made of Diamond, neither one being able to harm the other, only knock each other or throw them away temporarily.

Neo fights unarmed for two thirds of the encounter. He holds his own well enough with 5 to 10 Smiths. Neo is Harried by 20-30 and begins to be overwhelmed by 50.

Neo thinks out of the box and improvises a quarterstaff, pulled out of concrete and away from its former role as an iron playground pole or fence post.

Then the fun starts. Neo starts wiping the floor with the 50, turning most of the Smiths into balls in a batting cage. It takes another 50 Smiths to slow Neo down again before he decides to fly away to escape, leaving the match (barely) at a draw.

For those who haven’t seen it or need their memory refreshed, here’s a video clip. It’s one of the first uses of digitized versions of people mixed in with live, choreographed fights. (You’ll know it’s digital Neo when his shoes change appearance to a raised heel, while Keanu wears a flatter sole.) My favorite fight, later in the Merovingian’s chateau, is all live action wire-fu, twice as badass and a far better music track to go with the fighting. Neo shows his Weapon Master Fu throughout this one.

There’s a perfect place (two, really) where I look forward to Quintessica emulating much of these fights. In her first life, she’s taken on the devils in “Devil Assault” solo. But it’s the continuous, multiplicative terror of spawns in the end fight of “The Weapons Shipment” where every Shintao Monk I own has had to show their mettle.

Going solo there, the speed of the fighting and the amount of enemies mean that finishing moves is all you have time for without getting slammed. all but preventing use of items to heal. You have to keep yourself going entirely through fighting prowess, vampiric effects and ki.

In this case, the need to deal with multiple attacks left Lynncletica and Syncletica more vulnerable as solely-unarmed fighters. But in her second life, Quintessica’s staff work might make things far more interesting. Her Fire attacks will be largely ineffective against devil-spawn, so maximizing her Force damage will be critical. Lots and lots of Whirlwind Attacks with the Woo-Woo Stick to maximize the area-of-effect, negative levels and glancing blows (combined with Seeker and related effects), in addition to Every Light Casts a Shadow to mass-neg-level as I can. Weaken your enemy to strengthen yourself.

My biggest worry is that she won’t have as much healing amplification as I’d like. But then, a Mystic is a dervish and hardly stands still long enough to get attacked.

I’ll likely start her working things unarmed to build ki and keep up. Then the Big Stick comes out by the time the Orthons appear, at the latest, and I will not walk softly at all.

The Stick of Destiny

As to which stick to use in there? Maybe I’ll have a Green Steel Mineral II or Lightning II crafted by then. Otherwise it’s the Metalline of Pure Good crafted stick.

Very recently, an awesome high-powered guildmate escorted my level 18 self to the Dreaming Dark’s hideaway and blasted him for quick access to his Dreamforge.

There, I had enough essences to unlock two weapons: Rahl’s Might and my now-fully upgraded Dreamspitter. I have a Holy Crystal, life-stealing, Force Bursted, Evil Outsider WOO-WOO STICK now. And the Rahl’s is a Force Bursted slashing crit monster. I pulled a few 300 criticals with that thing!

The Dreamspitter’s many neg-level songs of Woo against mobs during a guild run into “Friends in Low Places” were so constant that I was practically crooning like Perry Como. So my personal nickname for my Dreamspitter is now officially my “Perry COMA Stick”.

Quin’s staff-based Burly Brawl won’t happen for at least one or two more levels. Quin needs more boosts to healing amplification from the racial tree, some Two Handed Fighting, and the Fabricator’s Ingenuity set. At level 20, getting that awesome Stout Oak Walking Stick would be nice going in there, as well as wearing more protective gear.

One critical deficit that I’ve always had with Quintessica’s lesser reliance on the old Prestige paths that boosted HP is simply keeping those hit points high enough to be a reliable melee. At level 16, she was a bit sickly at 300. I grabbed some Argonessen favor for 10 more HP, and now armed with an Alchemist’s Pendant, more ki on hit and 10 more HP to make Earth Stance a viable option.

She has fair Dodge numbers (16%) but her work is so ki-intensive that blurring herself steals attack options and she hasn’t AP just yet to add to adding Shadow Veil for Ghostly or improving racial traits just yet. Sounds like I’ll need to put a perma-blur item somewhere here. An epic Ring of Shadows might be the best tactical option.

Hopefully I’ll make some time to make a video of this fight to post here (with music, cued to “The Burly Brawl” music from the movie soundtrack) with the results when that day comes. No link or it didn’t happen, right?

So Close and Yet So Far: Epic Elite Solo

Garamol and Lynncletica in negotiations for his loot.

Garamol and Lynncletica in negotiations for his loot.

In between her farming duties for her lower-powered students, Lynncletica, the Little Mountain and my most powerful character, is eyeing how to attain her Purple Dragon Knights favor to unlock her Spider-Spun Caparison outfit.

At the time of this writing, she’s got 319 favor, short of the 375 needed to access the NPC that will allow unlocking.

I figure I might be able to get the needed favor by completing EE with the Eveningstar and Underdark chain quests.

That’s a better number of favor since the introduction of the three inaugural Shadowfell quests, which added more PDK favor to the mix.

As noted before, Lynncletica is built to endure EE as long as any pure Monk can manage. In any other difficulty or adventure outside of Epic Elite, she is practically invulnerable.  She ventures through the Subterrane for Icy Raiment farming with nary a care.

Final score: Lynn 1, Sinvala 0.

Final score: Lynn 1, Sinvala 0.

She can tank Arraetrikos in “The Shroud” on Elite and not feel the least inconvenienced, avoiding much of what he throws out.

She can take out Sinvala the Black Dragon in Elite “Mired in Kobolds” (the dragon is CR 30, and we know how nastier dragons are as of Update 17).

I find soloing with Lynn a joy, but it also helps me weed out any weaknesses in her. Soloing most anything up to Epic Hard is quite doable within the quest objectives. Multiple party member-quests are about the exception.

But Epic Elite, as experienced players know, is a different beast. I’d love to have a few guildies join me rather than  an insane solo run, but as I noted in my last post, our guild, and perhaps DDO as a whole, is significantly suffering from player attendance.

To test out her capacity to survive and beat an EE adventure, Lynncletica’s first EE solo run began in the millhouse in the King’s Forest.

As few hirelings of any level would survive in EE, I summoned only a Rogue/Shadowdancer, just to disable the spell wards inside the home. Healing would come from Lynn’s potent healing amplification numbers (I estimate about 400%).

Lynn has two combat modes. In Dreadnought mode (with Legendary Dreadnought as dominant Epic Destiny), Lynn can dish greater damage but have little in the way of additional attacks granted by Grandmaster of Flowers, and lose out on some PRR, Dodge bonus and tactical DCs granted from that destiny. Lynn’s preferred mode for EE is to twist LD’s Improved Combat Expertise and Unyielding Sentinel’s Brace for Impact for more PRR and fortification combining all the DCs and Dodge effects and PRR boosts in GMoF. She typically sits around 686 to 735 HP depending on her buffs or combat mode.

On entering, I parked the hireling and set about pummeling the Drow Priestess. This took a while as Lynn’s combat damage was lower and the CR 44 Priestess’s overall DR was rather nasty. A few times she brought me to half my HP before I needed to use one potion between Healing Ki bursts and Fists of Light’s +2 to +5 HP recharges per hit. Soon, the Priestess walked off with her warning and I was left to figure out the better strategy to complete this place.

Option 1: A Sacrifice of Many for the One

Here, I’ll just encounter the Priestess and beat her up until she sacrifices everybody and has nothing left to live…with, then slay her to complete.

This avoids the dangerous fighting of her minions in each room as well as the risk that the Rogue hireling would get insta-killed and unable to remove the wards, leaving me quite vulnerable to their damage. The downside is that the Priestess would draw on every body, minion or hostage, to stay alive.

I recall one player that managed to attract the Priestess in the hidden attic room, where it appears she was too far to sacrifice anyone, but at the time I was playing I couldn’t look up that reference. His stealth skills likely equal Ryncletica’s ability, but Lynn’s stealth, while superior, lacks the Shadowdancer advantages that the forum poster’s build likely had, including Improved Invisibility to open that hidden room without attracting a mob.

Option 2: Go Hero

I chose this option on my first attempt, to slay minions and rescuing hostages to leave the Priestess with little to sacrifice. It didn’t seem that I would save any time or resources in trying to gun the Priestess down in option 1 by outlasting her. I figured I would get the upper hand on her minions if I was lucky.

The Rogue hireling (a lower level Epic one, to my fault) barely took down the first two wards in the outer upper hallway. After I parked her near the entrance, I tried to remove the enemies in the first room.

Did I mention how I hate mages? In my first attempt in Grandmaster Mode, a wizard managed to blow through my 44 saves to hold me, and that was that as the fighters sliced me up like so much bologna. Holding a Monk is about the one defense that mages might succeed to cast in time before a spell-resistant and high-saving Monk tries to stun them. That mage got lucky or was just the better man, being a likely CR 40.

A couple of days later, I tried again, switched to Dreadnought Mode for considerably more damage but keeping most of my defenses up. This time, however, the Priestess would have none of it and managed to blast me with disintegrate attempts faster than Lynncletica’s otherwise-impressive ability to fully reheal all her 700+ HP  while fighting in less than 45 seconds.

More Thinking To Do

I still wonder if this particular EE would be better done in Dreadnought mode. The key is to build up blitz moments that could be used to attack the minions–hard–in Master’s Blitz epic moment mode. It’s an incredible attack mode that Lynn learned can increase speed and damage to godly levels for powerfully fast takedowns for as long as you have enemies to kill.

Building up a charge would not be too hard, since I can spam up a charge in a public area and wait in-quest to use it in the minion room.  With luck, the speed of takedowns will recharge the Blitz to allow me to perform a similar take down in successive rooms. The Blitz is a good idea because it will last up to 2:30 min, or 1 charge lost per 15 seconds. If I can kill fast, the Blitz sustains itself.

Which means, with critical hits in the thousands and normal attacks in the 200s, taking down anyone should be easy with haste boosts. Whether a mage intervenes in time to ruin my berserk mode is another story.

As to that mage, the maximum reflex save I can generate with temporary boosts and buffs is about 52. My stunning DC is about the same, suitable for a lesser-fortified class such as a wizard. If I enter a room, target the mage and off him first, I have a literal fighting chance. I need those same reflexes to evade certain damage from attacks, but from there, its the Big Three of Miss Chances combined with fast takedowns and stick-and-move fighting that might win the day for an EE solo run.

Some comments from an esteemed commenter a recent post notes some greater benefits from Unyielding Sentinel (among other destinies) that I haven’t tried yet. On his pure Monk, using Fatesinger for buffing, he has over 1300 HP (also thanks to taking Toughness feats until his fingers bled). Good defenses, too. In Lynn’s next life, a few more Toughness feats and anything to help Dodge and reflex saves still attracts me. For those who think that a Monk can’t tank, well, Daniel’s work should change your mind.

Gwylan Himself Would Be Proud

One of the cooler, immersive quests below level 12 (Stormcleave Outpost, Tear of Dhakkan and Jungles of Khyber are others) is “Gwylan’s Stand.” It’s a level 7 adventure that will knock your ego down several pegs if you don’t come in prepared for the traps, the heavy load of cargo you must carry and unload at each objective, and the army of enemies that await to kill you from the moment they spot you.

The Thuranni incursion obviously haven’t met a determined kunoichi ninja like Ryncletica, that doesn’t like to be seen unless she really wants to be.

One ninja. Two hundred Thuranni. Who's REALLY outnumbered here?

One ninja. Two hundred Thuranni. Who’s REALLY outnumbered here?

I tried soloing Gwylan’s Stand a few days before, with a hireling in tow. The hireling ensured that everyone saw us and, on Elite difficulty, promptly killed us. Worse, I wasn’t “in the zone.” There’s a specific mindset I have to use when playing as an infiltrator.

Infiltration mode differs from pure stealth in that it requres some fighting and more patience. Infiltration is pure aggro management: For enemies I cannot sneak past or reside too close to an objective (I must kill several lieutenants as well as taint the supplies), I pull enemies in your path using one strike with a throwing star from as far as I can spot them, drawing them far from their friends. I eliminate that enemy and repeat as necessary until I clear a path to that objective.

This time, Ryncletica entered alone on Elite difficulty.

“…The Chinaman leapt up and said, ‘Supplies!'”

Getting the supplies in the cave wasn’t too difficult. You beat down a few trolls and rust monsters there for some ki, and there weren’t enough trolls around the last of the supplies to cause much of a fuss. Ryn’s way to limit damage comes from being 20% Concealed, 25% Incorporeal and with a 14-16% Dodge when she has to fight. A little healing wand whips to bring her back to health, and she was ready for the big game.

After pulling and dispatching two lieutenants and their patrols, it was time to round the corner to the first trap and single Elf Fighter/Wizard. I really, really wanted to kill that SOB so he wouldn’t ever activate the spike trap there. Sure, I could just sneak past him, but I was in a pissy mood. He was too fast for my attack and managed to activate the spikes, but it was a minor nuisance than a threat.

The Plaza and West Complex: What Traps?

The first real challenge was getting to the West complex ahead. Another Fighter/Wizard patrolled the stairs. I swallowed my assassin tendencies since there were two traps to watch: a force trap all along the stairs, and sonic traps along the path forward to a lieutenant and the first complex. The traps will never activate if I wasn’t detected…and I wasn’t seen.

After ending the next lieutenant, I looted quickly and went back to stealth mode as a patrol spawns to reinforce that lieutenant. They run back to some nearby stairs and stop, leaving me open to individually lure some trolls and minotaurs from the area below with a throwing star to the head to clear the way to my first supply crates. I was able to hide in a nook between these crates while activating them. Then it’s back to stealth mode, sneaking by yet another Elf and his stair traps, never to see him again. Past the patrol and on into the West complex.

This one had no traps but lots of enemies to pull. I took the left path and lured quite a lot, including the boss, before running down to dispatch the two remaining. Two more supply crates completed.

Petering North

Back outside, a few squatters by the West entrance met their demise, then it was on to the North complex, but not before luring and dispatching another lieutenant and his patrols. I slipped by the spawning minotaurs here and entered to avoid a fight.

Inside the North complex, you can only go one way; the other is barred. I was forced to fight three enemies on top but luckily no others were alerted. The path down has cold traps on each pillar. But–the traps don’t activate if you walk to the opposite pillar of each trap and hug it as you go around.

After pulling more enemies, I eliminated yet another boss and ruined more crates. I returned the way I came: I wasn’t here to slay, but to complete a mission.

Go South, Young Ninja

The path to the South complex is guarded by a standing patrol and a nasty fire trap along the stairs in front of them. After taking some precautions (Ocean Stance for better Dodge and saves, and a Heroism potion), I went invisible and jumped, switching back to stealth just before landing so the guards wouldn’t hear me vaulting over the fire traps. Up the ramp and into the last complex.

This one always seems too easy for parties I’ve been with. Some always forget the blade trap at the top of the ramp. More invisibility and a vault, then it was time to pull enemies one-by-one once more.

The boss was too lightly guarded. I pulled a couple and pounced on the rest like a hungry, rabid cat. After smashing the last of the breakables and slipping on my Voice, it was time to contemplate the mysteries of ninja domination. About 11,000 XP for my trouble. And no, I left alone the deadly acid-trap chest outside. It’s the joy of the challenge that’s the true prize here…

…And there’s not any gear in that quest that would suit a Monk, anyway.

House Phiarlan’s spy ring should be sending me my Double-O number and ID card any time now. And I want my green tea stirred, not shaken.

A Soloing Primer

We all know that DDO doesn’t exactly cater to creating quests that benefit players without any other player characters in party–that is, solo play. However, there are quite a few adventures, quest chains and even a raid or two that can be done by the determined player character.

Why Solo Play?

  • Allows you to scout the quest for later play with guildies
  • Allows test of your toon’s build and your gameplay under stress
  • You set your own time schedule. Neither zergers nor completionists will challenge you
  • In most places, the dungeon scaling turns down the overall challenges of enemies
  • Good when you have had enough of Pick-Up Groups for a time
  • A great way for discoveries in a quest, or about your character’s abilities
  • A fun sense of accomplishment

When Should You Not Play Solo?

  • When your guildies need you
  • When you do so just to show off to others, especially in not sharing how you succeeded for others to try
  • When you have failed to study a quest/raid to determine if you can meet its mandatory obstacles (runes, switches, puzzles)
  • When you’re not able to continually self-heal and protect yourself reliably–WITHOUT a hireling

What Classes are Best for Solo Play?

Here’s my take on the better classes based on observation of others and a little personal experience. Your mileage may vary.

Solo Survivability Rating (SSR): A rating of 1 means you’re going to die just by entering alone. A rating of 10 means that you’re so potentially bad@$$ that the adventure might auto-complete the moment you zone in.

  • Artificer: Ridiculously dangerous at low- to mid-levels, especially with an Iron Defender and repeating crossbow. Weaker on self-healing (unless Warforged) than others. Moderately powerful spells. Will get chewed on in higher levels as DPS may not clear mobs as fast. Great trapper (if they survive in getting to the control panel). SSR (Levels 1-14): 8.5. SSR (Levels 15+): 5.
  • Barbarian: Rogue meets Fighter. Good evasive abilities, trap sense, great DPS and damage reductions. One guildie Barbarian visited the Devil Battlefield so much on solo that the devils named a pass after him. Kills faster than others can damage him. SSR: 8.
  • Bard: The best class that bolsters a party with his many buffs does lacks a bit of DPS and protection to ensure solo play. Great spells to charm enemies will not work as well in advanced quests and raids. SSR: 5.
  • Cleric: Underestimated in their attack power and often considered “healbots” by inexperienced and ignorant PUGs. Turn Undead uses grant incredible healing power. Not a strong DPS fighter, but will dominate against the undead. SSR: 7.
  • Favored Soul: The “battle cleric.” More DPS and greater spell casting make this a useful solo player, with the right gear. SSR: 7.5
  • Fighter: The quintessential melee class. Healing can be problematic but, like a Barbarian, you can kill faster than enemies can damage you with the right gear and skill. A soloing Fighter learns his weak spots quickly. SSR: 7.
  • Monk: Very good damage against living or undead, high spell resistances, incredible saves, fastest of all classes. Light Monks can self-heal powerfully while fighting and remove common curses. Dark Monks self-heal as well with the right gear. Extremely good Evasion and stealth; only a Rogue is better. Thanks to ki, may be the best class in resource management. Buffs are far shorter. SSR: 9.
  • Paladin: Strong melee class; a powerful fighter against all that is evil. Best saving throws of all classes. Can tank as well as take out the trash. Self-healing works well with good management. Great Prestige Enhancements. SSR: 8.
  • Ranger: Great overall class. Self-healing best as a human. Can handle multiple types of targets at a distance or close up. Good Evasion. Can be trained to handle traps. Few spells but they are very economical in self-buffing. Great scout. Survivablity is good. SSR: 8.5.
  • Rogue: Master trap artist, good assassin if trained. Tenacious but weak fighter. Sadly, may have lowest DPS in game because Sneak Attack works only if there are others to draw attention from you. Most challenged in solo play in high levels. UMD could allow self-healing if careful.  SSR (Levels 1-9): 7. SSR (Levels 9+): 3.
  • Sorcerer: A walking artillery battery. Self-healing works as long as there are scrolls to use and when not charged by powerful melees. Advanced players that think ahead and know the quest will not eat more resources than they have on hand. Dead-meat to highly magic-resistant foes. SSR: 6.5.
  • Wizard: Similar to Sorcerer. Watch your resources. Advanced soloing due to vulnerability against powerful melee types. SSR: 6.5.

Update: Some recent comments properly called me out on significant differences between Sorcerers and Wizards that truly show I don’t know what I’m talking about. I know for a fact that these two classes can solo fairly well where there are not mobs of highly spell-resistant or warded foes–and I have seen that majesty in action. Your mileage on how well spell casters will solo will greatly depend on your build. My opinion is based on a critical problem that melees thrive on but others do not: aggro. A spell caster will have lower HP in general, so they have to tear down resistances and stop or kill mobs before they are overwhelmed. In a pure solo situation (no hirelings but maybe a summoned creature), it won’t take long for the mobs to come charging at the spell caster that’s raining death on them…or trying to do so.

Where to Go Solo?

Many quests below level 9 are not filled with hyper-dangerous mobs, per se. As with high-level quests, managing how and when enemies find you is key: Don’t bite off more than you chew. Take advantage of chokepoints (doors, passageways) that limit how many enemies come through or allow concentration of your spells or firepower.

By level 12, quests take on that flavor that make or break many player’s attempt to level their toons. Monks that have just wailed about without using finishing moves will get frustrated here, as will some casters. While there’s no “game rule” not to have a hireling cleric (or fighter, if you are a healing class), having one about may give you a distorted view on how resilient you really are in the field. Certain quests give a special exception (such as “The Xorian Cipher”) where a party-based challenge requires actual feet or hands to stand on a switch or pull levers at the right time.

By level 16 to 18, most classes come into their own. You should be able to know the weak spots of the central enemies of the game–and have the right weapon to use against that weakness.

Based on my use of Monks. Clerics, Rogues, Rangers and Artificers, here’s a sampling of adventures (Level 3 to 14 or so) you may find refreshing to solo.

  1. The Catacombs series. This tests your skill at ridding the undead–LOTS of undead. Good end-rewards, particular Ghost Touch weaponry, for later quests.
  2. Waterworks chain. Essential training against living mobs. Stealth players may find it refreshing. Kobolds will hate you.
  3. Halls of Shan-To-Kor. Another great one that tests your resources where learning to stay undetected may be better, sometimes, than duking it out.
  4. Assault on Splinterskull. “Groundhog Day.” Great XP, some vital emergency loot for non-spell casters (like the Death Ward clicky, Visors of the Flesh Render) and fun for all classes.
  5. The Chronoscope. Soloing this raid on Normal for anyone level 10 and under should prove your early mettle. Remember, this is a raid, so you’ll be on your own with no hirelings, although summoned creatures may take the edge off.
  6. Delera’s Tomb. A personal favorite with tremendous XP and teaching opportunity in resource management. Vital end-rewards include your Voice of the Master.
  7. Gwylan’s Stand, Tear of Daakaan, and Stormcleave Outpost. Mobs, long distances, closed quarters, traps. Complete any of these solo before level 10 and consider yourself awesome (until the next quest). Stealth players can rule in “Gwylan’s” especially.
  8. Vault of Night chain (not the raid). These quests have something to pester even the most resourceful player. Introducing: the Beholder. Artificers should eat through Haywire Foundry with zeal.
  9. Sorrowdusk quest chain. Good XP, a little repetitive, but filled with good end-chain rewards.
  10. The Red Fens and Assault on Stormreach free and Pay to Play series. The game ramps up death here but with some of the newest and finest mid-level gear you will find in game–much of it upgradable.

Where Can’t I Solo?

  • Most raids. They are filled with massive mobs, require many hands on deck to operate the objectives and often require abilities that no one class will have in order to complete, much less survive. Two raids are soloable and may be of interest for fun or profit: Tempest’s Spine (have INT 18 through an item), and the Chronoscope (bring Pure Good/Cold Iron weaponry) to get your Abishi set completion.
  • Some party-required quests that have levers to pull simultaneously. These include “The Xorian Cipher” (although Cordovan notes a good how-to guide), and several adventures in the Necropolis series. In these, allow yourself a hireling or two or three to get you through these parts, but park them for an extra challenge (or dismiss them to avoid dungeon scaling).

What’s your take? Any stories to share?

The Little Mountain vs The Big Mountain

Concluding Information on increasing AC for my Monk

To follow up with my attempts to improve the AC of my Earth Stance light Monk, Lynncletica, without gimping her, I have news.

With an Icy Raiment outfit, some Armored +6 Bracers, a Radiant Ring, Combat Expertise and an Epic Ring of the Buccaneer (tier 2), Lynncletica sits, with no buffs, at 56.

Add ship buffs, and she sustains herself at 60 for an hour. (That’s in Earth Stance IV. If I move to Ocean Stance, that’s about 65.)

A +3 Barkskin potion (which stacks with the +3 Natural Armor in Earth Stance IV) brings it to 63 in Earth Stance.

The Lasting potions from the DDO Store add +2 to DEX and WIS, rising her to 65 in Earth Stance for 10 minutes.

Kick in the Shield clicky for 1 minute of buff and Lynncletica’s maximum self-buffing goes to 69.

I sacrificed only 20 HP and 2 STR, and added Weapon Finesse to make Lynn’s strikes more consistent. I can’t wait to take Lynncletica into the Shroud or Devil Battlefield again soon.

How To Busy Yourself When Everyone else is in Smuggler’s Rest

So, trying to escape the frenzy of Crystal Cove for an evening, I decided to revisit an old friend, back when he was, um, less dead. That “friend” is Sor’jek Incanni, the boss of the level 10 raid, “Tempest’s Spine.” I didn’t want to intrude on him by crashing his lair with a large party, so I pondered a solo visit on Normal.

Tempest’s Spine was my very first raid long ago, guided very well by a character leader I think was named “Mofus.” It’s still a personal favorite that I guide with fellow guildies from time to time. This time, I wanted to put the (capped) Lynn through some paces and see if soloing this one was possible, technically. Answer: It is, with a little preparation and a lot of patience.

The two challenges for a soloing melee fighter entering Tempest’s Spine are that (1) no hirelings are allowed and (2) you must be able to activate a INT 18 rune. Lynncletica self-heals quite well, so heals aren’t an issue. After a first abortive run, I realized that one of the enemy mages had destroyed my House Phlarian buffs, so I couldn’t manage the INT rune. A return to the city for a junk Clever +6 helm fixed that for a second attempt.

It’s funny what can scare the bejeezus out of you at level 10 that you can manage as easily as Neo plowing through several Agents in the Matrix. Fire and Ice? Just kite one to the other and pummel them. Rust monsters? Bring ’em. Iron Golems? Meh. A marut? Void Strike IV removed him from existence after three blows. Beholders? Stunned and slain.

On the end fight, I had my doubts. I have never been a great puzzle solver, but this one wasn’t as nasty. The challenge was to solve the puzzle while keeping Sor’jek busy and not attempting to fling me off the mountaintop. I considered my run a success even if I didn’t beat the Big Guy; I saw it as an exercise in fun in just getting to the summit, as well as noting alternate routes and places were people get lost in a raid party for later runs.

So I summoned up a Xoriat plaything for Sor’jek to play with as I worked out the puzzle and added the runes. That worked, although I used one too many summons, leaving me all alone once the puzzle was down. It took very little time to whittle the giant to less than 50% health…

…And then, despite my back to the wall as I fought, Sor’jek regained his weather control and flung me into space. And I mean, REALLY into space. I hadn’t turned off my Slow Fall and still had on my Cannith Boots of Propulsion–a rookie mistake for many that get to the summit.

I was still very airborne, traveling at Mach 0.2 over the land after 30 seconds before I recalled, still unable to see much of the ground. The area round the summit is FREAKING HUGE. Next to, perhaps, the Vale of Twilight, that has got to be the largest wilderness/raid area in the game.

Next time, Sor’jek. Next time. Maybe I’ll bring a very big Onyx Panther to chew on you while I get matters completed. 🙂

The Little Mountain v. Garamol

Just when I thought that I’d learned almost all I needed about Monks, I find myself surprised twice in the same week. The first moment came when Lynncletica stood up to the Judge.

The next came after a moment of study, starting with this DDO forum thread from one enterprising player, who admits that his character(s) are “not yet uber.” (Who really is “uber”, really? There’s always something in the game that will easily kick your ass in a one-on-one fight if you get too cocky.)

The subject: The Icy Raiment robes I’ve noted time and again.

One of my toons has a pair, and those on her first and only run with a PuG through the Subterrane and to Garamol’s lair.

The goal: Get to Garamol, kill him (eventually), loot chest.

Your party: Just you, whoever you are.

The player maps out the quick way to find which of three portals in the Sub will lead to Garamol without steering you into a mob of smashing, spell-casting giant skeletons or highly destructive living Meteor Storm spells. He has a great plan that generally works right up to falling down the long column to Garamol himself, a level 23 badass that’s meant to challenge an entire raid party (did we mention that the Sub itself is a raid wilderness area?).

So I consider this (insane) idea of a solo “Icy Run”. Lynncletica needs a pair, definitely. Would she be able to survive long enough to find the right portal? Well, once anyone gets past the one living spell that follows you at the very start, the meteor swarm, it’s a matter of steering it into the very first skellies you fight (two by a door must be killed to unlock its lever).

The Road to Garamol

For a light Monk like Lynn, armed with a L12 pair of Wraps of Endless Light, I pace myself to build up ki, spamming Fists of Light to heal myself and hurt the undead (sadly, this giant skellies are in a type of planar existance like Shavarath and cannot be disrupted). I alternate between Fire and Mountain Stance as ki and defense needs warrant.

So, I manage to comfortably survive my way to a portal leading to Garamol. It’s one of three portals. If the closest portal isn’t it, you’ll have a second option, also guarded by skeletons, and a third, guarded by a beholder and some flensers/flayers. Again, not much of a challenge to a light Monk.

In The Hall of the Giant Skeleton King

What the poster didn’t note as well were the traps that lined the upper level of the cylindrical lair of Garamol. Fire, Acid, Electric, Sonic activate as you fall…and they are raid level nasty. There are rune circles you can run through to avoid setting off some of the traps, but you can’t avoid them all.

I bolt down a Greater Ardor II potion for emergency healing amplification and chug Cure Serious Potions before I hand. I prefer to fall slowly become I’m too lazy to try to turn off the bugged Perfect Slow Fall and pull off my Cannith Boots of Propulsion. My saves are generally fine, but I typically lose half my HP as I dodge the traps. Your mileage may vary.

Lynn makes it to the bottom. She happens to find herself away from the gold. She expects a crapload of skeletons as Syncletica experienced, but only Garamol is about. He charges. It’s just Lynn and Garamol, mano a mano.

Fine with me. I switch to Ultimate Mountain Stance, check my Wraps of Endless Light and take him on.

The battle is long, but I’m restricting my elemental punches, using only my Fists of Light (light damage with 1d50 light damage on critical, vampiric healing shield) to kick his butt slowly but surely, occasionally hitting a 100 as he absorbs what would be a disrupting vorpal. For every 40-50 HP he sucks from me, I pump back 60-90 HP from Healing Ki (more if I keep my Greater Ardor buff running). Garamol also kicks more ki into me if he does strike me, which I convert back into HP and light attacks.

After about 4 minutes, the Little Mountain stood defiant. The damage reduction of my stance kept me well in the game.

And if I remembered how to post a picture here, I’d show the result. You can guess. Garamol was a broken pile of bones.

I get to the chest. No Icys. When at first you don’t succeed, kill, kill again. I made 4 more runs that night, two with a guildmate (where we learned that more in your party is not necessarily better).

Surviving Garamol: Observations

Now, here’s some tips for those of you playing at home.

  1. DO NOT LAND ON THE GOLD below. If you do, you’ll spawn several giant skeleton mages, fighters and archers, ghosts, and still get Garamol bearing down on you. Looking down as you fall, you’ll see the stairs form up. Treat that as “12:00.” At “3:00” is a small rock formation. Aim for it and land there (and if you are party of a larger party, try to get everyone there). Do that, and odds are that only Garamol, maybe 1 other skellie, and maybe 1 ghost will attack you throughout your entire attempt.
  2. DO NOT JUMP. This is really hard for me as a Monk. Take a jump and Garamol may reverse gravity on you, sending you up, up and into the traps above. That’s bad.
  3. Stay close to the wall, with your back to it or close to it. Garamol often strikes you in an attempt to knock you down. If you have good Balance, you’ll be knocked back but stay on your feet. But if he knocks you back into the gold, your fight will get a bit more complicated.
  4. Use your best defensive posture as you fight. Mitigating damage to yourself is actually secondary to damaging Garamol, to a point. Note Lynn’s example. Else, Garamol will finish you faster than you can finish him, even against your most effective weapons and spells.
  5. Healing amplification is necessary. Garamol will hit you often and repeatedly, and if he has friends, they will drain you fast. There is no shrine, no safe place, no escape except recalling and death. Your resources MUST outlast Garamol. Use Greater Ardor and Potency/Devotion items. Have a Monk throw an Aligning the Heavens SP reduction buff to conserve spell points.
  6. STAY OFF THE GOLD AFTER KILLING GARAMOL. It will still spawn many nasties. Your only goal is to get to his chests. Carefully run from 3:00 to 12:00, up the stairs and to your reward, which hopefully includes the Icy Raiment.
  7. A party will likely trigger all the nasties, but will always be more likely to survive. Running this thing solo is part self-gratification but also desperation. It’s not required to do it this way.

Lynn took to the lair again the next day. Still no Icys, but she did score a Mace of Smiting and the coveted Tira’s Splendor rune arm. Too bad that I rolled up two Chaotic Good Artificers and have no Clerics at present. Oh, well.