Come to the Dark Side! (Or not)

After dusting off Ryncletica and exploring more of the nature of the “Dark” monk, I have this to say.

Ninja Spys are awesome.

I’ve played light monks all through my time on DDO. There were ups and downs, things I had to unlearn from my Neverwinter Nights days, and learning more about the exceptions to the game mechanics to which monks can bend, break or be liable.

Let’s go through my initial objections from long past and how they shape up now.

Myth: Dark monks can’t heal themselves as well as light monks.

Fact: Generally true, if you play style consists of terrible impulses to scream-and-leap at mobs. Otherwise, dark monks do fine in self-healing, with the right fighting style combined with enhancements, reaching level 11 and with a few offensive items.

  • Dark monks are natural ninjas. Light monks solo well because they can heal themselves of afflictions. Dark monks solo well because mobs don’t know they’re frickin’ there. To wit: I took Ryncletica (L14) into Haywire Foundry on Hard, alone (no hirelings). I sneaked past almost everything to get the two levers to the central golems. Pulled out my smiting handwraps and dispatched the golems (lots of Touch of Death on the red-named), then make a hasty exit. HP never dropped below 1/3, thanks to the information in the next point…
  • Dark monks heal wonderfully with vampiric weaponry and prudence. The Vampiric Stonedust Wraps were a no-brainer, but the Vampiric Fury Shortswords are a bonus win. The extra stat damage these do in combination with Improved Two Weapon Fighting and doublestrike will keep a monk’s HP/ki meter well-filled. If you find yourself a little peaked after a fight, use Wholeness of Body and fill yourself up from ki. Of course…
  • Ninjas don’t attack mobs. They attack targets. If you can hide and complete a quest without fighting a thing, you still get the XP. A Ninja Spy in One With Shadow/Sneak regenerates ki (Light monks have to wait to get Oremi’s Necklace for that trick) so there’s no reason to rush. In fact, once you can regenerate ki to 50 in your stable pool, you can Touch of Death targets routinely with an assassin’s precision.

If you don’t put points into Hide/Move Silently, you aren’t a ninja. You’re just a monk that likes to kill. Nothing wrong with that, but you lose the benefits of why the dark monk is deadlier than its light cousin.

Myth: Dark monks deal more DPS than their light cousin.

Fact: Depends on where they are, and what they must attack.

The dark monk’s available killing powers generally consist of elemental, force and negative energy. These come from the Earth/Air/Fire/Water strikes, Void Strike, and Touch of Death. (Both monk types get Quivering Palm for another instant-death strike.) The good news is that the dark monk is extremely effective on killing the living, non-aberration kind of foe. Drow. Ogres. Giants. Humans.

But stick a dark monk against these monsters and they will have a harder time because these foes offset a skill to kill or the ability to use a killing technique. These include:

  • Undead (dependent on Holy/Undead bane/disrupting weapons, while light monks are designed inherently to hurt the undead)
  • Aberrations (Enemies that live on negative energy are unlikely to be killed by it, so Touch of Death is a bad thing to try on them)
  • Anything with tremor sense (Dark monks can’t easily bypass spiders)
  • Anything that kills you faster than you can kill it. I know this sounds obvious, but one monk ability, to stun something, is less effective against the non-living and problematic with some planar creatures. That means that the light monks have it good with Tomb of Jade, which can encase any extraplanar, non-living and non-construct enemy and effectively stun it. Dark monks (even with vampiric ability) won’t have enough inherent positive energy attacking prowess against such foes. A prepared ninja (like Batman-prepared, with Holy burst weaponry)  is a live one at quest’s end.
  • Anything that loves to debuff or curse you early and often. (Dark monks must use clickys or potions to offset, which eventually run out, while light monks can remove such afflictions for as long as they can generate ki). Anyone that’s done the end fight with the hyper-cursing red-named bosses in A New Invasion and The Dreaming Dark final quest knows of what I speak.

To wrap up: Ryncletica is awesome to play. I’ve gained sizable appreciation for what dark monks can do. The most interesting challenge to come for her will be in fighting in the Shroud. Dark monks don’t get the damage reduction bypassing while unarmed, so she’s stuck with Metalline of Pure Good/Righteousness shortswords/kamas here until she can get a Tower of Despair ring, add Holy burst to one and wear metalline handwraps. (I do not hold out, ever, on getting Metalline/PG wraps in my lifetime).

Ryncletica has shown me clearly that a dark monk, rightly played, is a very soloable–and powerful–character.

A Deadly Shadow

I sat in mediation for some time that morning in a small garden of our dojo’s small pond, a few clicks from the dormitory, far enough into the meadow that I couldn’t hear the chatter of others.

I had been training my listening skills, hearing nothing but flies and bees buzzing for hours before I detected the particular footsteps of my abbot, the nearly-silent foot falls growing louder. Humans. They practically plod like giants when they walk, even my master.

“Greetings, master Syncletica,” I said, not turning about or bothering to open my eyes. The foot falls stopped.

“You have completed the stealth tests satisfactorily,” she said.

High praise from my master, especially considering the test she gave to me.

Syncletica’s final test was for me to enter the Firebrand Gnoll mines and retrieve several gemstones with as few kills as possible. But I was to go alone. She left a mercenary cleric nearby in case of grave danger but she was ordered not to accompany me through the mines itself, and would stay put at the quest entrance.

Most of the master’s acolytes have chosen the Path of Harmonious Balance, where ki is used to heal yourself and others, but can also be used to damage attackers. I am one of a few that chose the Path of Inevitable Dominion, where I use my ki for extra damage and to aid in cloaking my approach.

Many people seem to think this “dark” path is evil, or questionable. It is not. There is no evil in the training of mind and body, especially to use such skill against the true evils that trouble Stormreach and its neighbors.

My brethren think I am somehow weaker. Because of this, I accepted my final test with determination.

I accepted additional training in the art of the ninja. It gives me stronger stealth skills. Not only are my hiding and move silently training is enhanced, but I can use my ki to make myself invisible and a bit incorporeal for a brief time. I would need that inside the narrow corridors of the mines. I handle shortswords very well as ki weaponry for when my fists cannot overcome an enemy–a rarer event, thankfully.

But the most dangerous training I know is for when I must fight. I often strike and stun enemies while cloaked to quickly remove them without drawing attention from others. For when I must fight a group, I measure their strength. Spell casters and healers are felled first, if possible. I have crafted a pair of handwraps that aid in stunning and, with a fortunate strike, will encase an enemy in stone. These wraps are also vampiric, fortifying my healing ability. Otherwise, other than drinking healing potions, healing while in battle is not possible.

But my best skill involves the management of ki. Like any other monk, I need the ki force to empower my training. Others will fight to generate it, leaving them at risk of having to use more to heal themselves or others. My training allows me to regenerate ki while in stealth, up to my stable level of concentration. That’s not much ki energy, but it is enough to heal myself every few minutes without having to encounter one attacker, or mediate to generate energy.

Were I to be discovered and an outright fight was inevitable, I use my most punishing technique. I draw my ki into a ball of intense energy that punishes the lifeforce of any living being, often destroying them with that single attack. A few in the dojo were…concerned…with such a brutal attack. “We are not assassins,” they say. They believe there is something wrong in the sudden death of an enemy. Yet they, as I, will eventually learn a new sudden-death strike. Maybe my brothers and sisters confuse my training and attacks with my attitude. I’m not as social as others. Maybe they just see me as angry or mean. I do not know.

But I do what I must. And I completed my test. No cleric. Barely detected by most of the mine’s denizens. I left the required gems by the master’s doorstep late last night.

I could hear the master take a few steps towards me as I still faced the pond. A heard a slight rustle as some kind of package was placed beside me. “You have earned this,” the master said, as her footsteps receded from me.

A few minutes later, I opened my eyes. Next to me in a neat package was clothing that gave me stronger concentration and protection, two special shortswords of metalline, and headgear that no other in the dojo had been allowed to wear, until now.

As the sun began to set, I dressed in the new outfit and pulled the obsidian-black mask over my dull red hair. With a moment of concentration, I ran to the pond, running quickly over the water to the other side, hardly disturbing the liquid’s surface tension, then cloaked myself to disappear into the outlying forest and to my next mission.

I am the first ninja of my dojo. I will defend its honor, its members, and the citizens and friends of Stormreach.