Update 29: The New Hotness

Level 30: Our powers are over 10,000!!!1!

Level 30: Our powers are over 10,000!!!1!

So the devs dropped by the forums to note their plans to bring level 30 to our worlds.

If you haven’t caught it, start with this thread from Vargouille.

They “flattened” the XP curve to not make it horrifically hard to get there. But at levels 29 and 30, you get bonuses such as extra Fate points (that stack with everything you’ve earned, including Epic Completionist and Fate tomes) and that 4th Fate slot you can only get with Epic Completionist (not sure if that means E-Cers get 5 slots total)

Then there are new feats. At level 29 you get a new Epic Destiny Feat slot, which require 3 capped destinies but also give you a series of new feat types. These can be found here.

Of these, a few caught my eye:

  • Dreamscape (2 Primal+ 1 Arcane)
    Activate to pop off to the land of dreams. You are invulnerable and invisible for five seconds, then return with a random 30-second buff. 1 minute cooldown.
  • Harbinger of Chaos (1 Primal+2 Martial)
    With weapon and unarmed attacks, deal 1d20 Bane damage against all targets and an additional 2d20 Chaos damage against Lawful targets. This scales with Melee or Ranged power depending on your weapons.

These aren’t bad at all for Monks and adaptable to my Zen bow builds, too.

By level 30, you get a Heroic feat slot–a welcome bonus as often builds have to sacrifice that one feat at level 18 you can attain now. And there’s a new set of feats called Legendary Feats, listed here.

Legendary Feats require you to have 3 Epic Destinies of the same or a combination of two destinies plus one from another. These are far more exciting. Of interest to me are:

  • Scion of the Ethereal Plane
    Permanent Blur, and while sneaking, permanent Displacement.
    +1 point of Sneak Attack damage for every 2 points of Hide you have
    +2 to all Skills
    Permanent Invisibility Guard, as per the item effect
  • Scion of the Astral Plane
    +4 to Tactical Feat DCs
    +4% Doublestrike & Doubleshot. An additional +4 if you are centered.
    +4% Dodge.
    +4 to Reflex Saves.
  • Scion of Limbo
    +2 Determination Bonus to all Saves
    eight buffs, each one minute long. Cycles randomly.
    +40 Melee and Ranged power, +80 Spell Power
    +16% Doublestrike & Doubleshot, +20% Spell Crit Damage
    +30 PRR and MRR
    +20% Dodge and +40 Healing Amp
    +20 DR /Law
    Your weapon/unarmed strikes and spells deal 1d20 Chaos Damage
    Each time you would be damaged, you have a +5% chance to completely ignore the damage. Does not affect any incoming Positive, Negative, or Repair effects.
    Confetti explodes around your shoulders. Festive!

I’m so interested in the Scion of the Ethereal Plane feat. The devs like stealth! They really, really do!

There are updated feats for lower level Epic characters, too. I’m still unsure what, if any, of these are directly applicable to any kind of Monk at the moment.

And cheers to the PRR and MRR bonuses for Epic hirelings. Combined with Harper Agent and Primal Avatar builds, you could make a strong tanker out of some hirelings–provided they don’t wander off or lose focus on the fight.

Knowing how swiftly we got the Doubleshot changes from Update 28, I suspect these ideas will be our Christmas present under the update tree, all before the end of the year.

What’cha think about them? I’m interested mostly on monastic applications, as is the focus of this blog, so fire away.

Triumph from the Shadows: Why Stealth Does Work

I missed quite a few insightful posts during my sabbatical, but one caught my eye as I scanned the list of post posts.

It was from Sir Geoff of Hanna. Gnome-Fearer. Halfling Commando. One-half of a 5000 Favor Dynamic Duo. The MMOtivator (“Pike with me if you want to live!”).

The post was entitled: “Sneaking In Plain Sight – Why Stealth is Broken as a DDO Play Style.”

Given my love of the sneaky arts, I had to read. And, as is my tendency, to generate my own discussion and debate.

Now, obviously my goal isn’t to go all “You’re wrong!” throughout my whole post that will obviously favor the use of stealth in many (albeit not all) quests. I want to take any and all objections and make a deeper study of how others see it before I apply my own take on it. From such fair objective analysis can results be attained.

And such analysis can be helpful in improving and revising Stormreach Shadows, a web guide I co-edit that provides extended information for many classes into using stealth more often in many quests.

Assassin Speed: Fixed

Geoff starts by noting a comment from producer Severlin regarding some suggestions in the Rogue Assassin Changes thread. Sev notes that the Assassin’s general sneak speed does put them behind other classes with the Faster Sneaking ability.

This was recently and easily fixed in Update 25, thankfully, as those speed traits are now included in Stealthy. I like it, as it also encourages more use of the stealth skills.

I logged in Tuesday evening to reset Sukitetica’s AP just to see this happy speed boost.

The Stealth Engine as a Whole

Geoff takes note of one important comment by Sev:

“Changes to stealth require tech work and affect lots of game systems and are prone to side effects so we have to be careful there. Anything that involves significant changes to monster AI is out of scope for this update and this hampers any global revamp to Stealth.”

Makes sense, since Update 19 was already a “global rewrite” that introduced many of the critical changes to stealth that make it more reliable in gameplay now. Before Update 19, stealth was, more or less, an alternative way to avoid detection. But heaven help you if you were detected, for there was no real way for you to escape.

Pre-Update 19 stealth also had a long list of peculiar problems, such as:

  • Monsters “sliding” to you, stop-motion style, when they saw you.
  • Monsters that always detected you, even when you broke line-of-sight and were out of their Listen range.
  • The inability for a player to jump while in Sneak. (Naughty, bannable “stealth humping” ensues.)
  • No reliable cues to the player if they were in imminent danger of detection by sight or sound.

Since Update 19 and that massive rewrite, monsters generally behaved more logically to curious sights and sounds. The nature of Invisibility (which too many players think should be a complete solution for “hiding” but has never been such) was clearly defined as resistance from Spot checks unless you are very close to a monster. Monsters also listen and investigate sounds of breaking things more often as well, but only those that pick up the sounds go to move, not a whole mob.

And players can also jump and tumble while in Sneak, albeit at a substantial penalty to those skills, which encourages more training to counteract those penalties. Having greater mobility now also allows players to take to higher ground so that enemy Spot checks can be avoided by simple elevation.

Generally, the Update 19 changes persist and work well, except I’ve noticed that, since around Update 22 or so, enemies are no longer attracted properly by the sound of breakables or other sounds. This makes drawing and distracting enemies a broken mechanic right now. Rogues can get past this with Noisemaker traps, but Monks and other classes haven’t a viable non-combat distraction option.

Geoff noted that, in his opinion, that stealth wasn’t helpful–but clarified this in the context of using Rogues, especially Assassins. He avoids going deeper on this at first so as not to go too far off-topic.

I believe I comprehend Geoff’s reasoning, although I disagree. It all has to do with the Assassin’s primary ability: Assassinate. When you use that ability while other enemies are within Listen or Spot range, monsters do react to the death cries of an assassinated ally. As a result, if you are in Listen or Spot range, the enemy Spot and Listen check bonuses spike–and you’re likely detected immediately.

The real problem, from my point of view, is a matter of realism. When John Wilkes Booth approached President Lincoln’s booth, no one paid notice. When he shot the President at point-blank range, it wasn’t as if his wife and others in the booth just randomly glanced around everywhere except at the President, wondering casually where that noise originated, or even ignoring the commotion. Clearly their senses heightened and they turned instinctively to the stimulus. Why wouldn’t a monster do the same?

Assassinations aren’t a public affair. That means that superior Assassin tactics requires isolation of targets so as not to be detected by others. Rogues have plenty of skills to make this happen. Bluff is the best one when a loose group of enemies stands about, allowing you to pull one away to dispatch while others are none the wary. A precise use of a noisemaker also can pull one or more enemies. This requires a player to do something sometimes anathema to DDO: Using patience and cunning. Don’t carry a big stick but a big Bluff DC.

And, for the Assassin to make an escape, their Hide and Move Silently scores must be as high as they can be. Your skill at skulking away must be as high or higher than your Assassinate DC, or you’re missing the point of being an Assassin. You’re not meant to be caught–and it is possible to escape.

Higher level Monks have an Assassinate-like feat: Quivering Palm. Unlike Assassinate, however, using this ability pulls a Monk out of stealth. So Monks learn isolation skills. Many people were upset as recent updates kept nerfing the DCs of this skill, and for good reason. Sure, you can spam it during attack, but it was never meant as a “live” assassinate.

Now some might say, “But I don’t want to isolate things.” Then you can’t expect a instant-kill mechanic to work properly when its conditions aren’t met. You don’t get something for nothing, and so you can’t assassinate without some chance at reprisal. My argument is that, with the right choice and isolated target, there is little chance at reprisals. But if you’re going to spam Assassinate or Quivering Palm in a crowded hall, expect someone to notice.

Let me get back to another facet of Geoff’s comments.

Severlin’s Retort

When Geoff commented on how he thought that a Rogue revamp also required a revamp of the stealth engine, Sev made a curt and definitive reply:

“We get concerned when players make blanket statements about stealth being “broken” without really outlining what they mean. While we love player feedback and welcome specific suggestions about stealth, I just don’t want to set up false expectations about things stealth should allow. We wouldn’t want players, as an example, to have the expectation that characters should be opening doors and pulling levers while remaining in stealth. This type of behavior would threaten too many types of content. Without specifics we can do nothing to address people’s concerns.”

Sev, I feel, is right on the money, and for the reasons I noted earlier about how stealth is not a panacea to avoid being obvious to others.

Take the notion of opening levers and doors while in stealth. Now, a handful of quests purposefully allow the use of doors or portals without leaving Sneak (“The Portal Opens” and “Blockade Buster” come to mind) but the one more XP-lucrative quest does not allow this (“The Claw of Vulkoor”).

Sev is right, and I can encountered many examples where too much stealth (with the current rules) break a scant few of the DDO quest mechanics that activate bosses, open or complete quest objectives, or just simply allow one to proceed. Remember that I have one character, Kiricletica, which completed as many adventures in the game in stealth that would allow it (pretty much everything but raids and quests that absolutely required a party) and without any other players or hirelings, and also purposefully avoided combat except where required. These included all the Devil Battlefield quests, on Elite, to get her Yugoloth favor potions (A hireling helped with levers in “Genesis Point”).

If stealth were really broken, there is no way I’d have survived such an attempt. I must have done something contrary to what others note about stealth.

In “Claw of Vulkoor,” if a stealthy player could open doors and levers without detection, it would be far too easy. I have to time my movements to avoid patrolling scorpions there, and waiting for some to turn around to face a direction opposite of me to flip a lever is part of the mission. Further–and this is a very important point–you do NOT move, ever, while not in Sneak. You can perform actions while stationary, but the second you succeed in getting that lever or switch flipped, you must immediately return to stealth. Just one step while out of stealth and your Move Silently skill is zero, your footfall is heard and you are detected.

Now, Epic players such as Shadowdancers do have an option to open levers and switches without detection but without stealth per se. That’s Improved Invisibility. It’s great to have when you can manage to get to a well-guarded door that, while enemies are just scattered enough to not find you while Sneaking, they will see you on flipping the lever. But this is a special skill, maximum 30 seconds, with a 4 minute cooldown.

Now many quests have a “pressure zone,” if you will, which activates a quest action when a player steps on it, stealthy or not. This is a good thing as a boss or objective that requires to know if you’ve entered a place must work the first time as quest mechanics sometimes are programmed to work just once, leaving a quest bugged if it can’t see “the obvious.”

Only one of these pressure zones goes too far, and that’s at the end of “Monastery of the Scorpion,” where the Scorrow boss on steroids will immediately charge and attack anyone, stealthed or not. This act not only screws up the puzzle you can use to kill him, but Sannyasi is one of a handful of bosses that completely ignores stealth when they shouldn’t. You can’t escape from him, ever, with any tactic.

That’s wrong. While Red Names have True Seeing, stealth is immune from such effects. This is why Monks and Rogues make great beholder-slayers because we can sneak up to the eye-balls before they Spot can lock on fast enough. The devs could wave their hands and say that Sannyasi has tremor-sense or other abilities that make stealth powerless (such as what oozes have) but scorrow and scorpion aren’t spiders and don’t normally have these traits.

Sev is intentionally calling out Geoff and others who want their special abilities to work without a trade-off they must train or prepare to counteract. Someone is going to notice a body fall. Someone is going to notice you in stealth if your Move Silently skill is insufficient.

Geoff’s Return Volley and My Overhand Swing

To Geoff’s credit, he did have many specific arguments that I’ll address one by one.

  1. Many encounters contain unsneakable monsters. Sometimes it seems like most of them do
  2. No one will wait for the sneaky guy to catch up
  3. No one will wait for the sneaky guy to power up anything that requires being in sneak
  4. So many places where a quest will not advance until you have killed all the monsters
  5. The fear of “threatening too many types of content” hobbles stealth play. The pendulum is swung too far. Swing it back a little.

Point 1: Generally true but only early in your life. An adventurer’s very first quests often contain spiders and oozes. These cannot be avoided through stealth. However, as quests advance in difficulty, there are many quests where you can enter and exit with few to no detections. The Lordsmarch quest “Diplomatic Impunity” is a perfect example. There are only three primary objectives: Find Ullivian the scout, report back to Henritta, and kill the Droaam commander. All of these can be completed without killing or being detected by anything in between. I’ve done this a few times, using my Rogue Assassin and ninjas. One kill is all that’s needed to complete (although clean up to get the chests require slaying that don’t count to the kill bonus or any other metric since the quest is over).

You can sneak to most every NPC in the game except bosses where your presence is detected because you walk into a zone where you must be seen. Approaching the bound Spinner in “Spinner of Shadows” does this if you come close enough to the dais where she hangs. I mentioned Sannyasi from “Monastery” as a rare exception where a boss NPC goes off the rails to see you. Driders are spider-kind but, as I know from stealth work in the Underdark and many Eveningstar quests, they don’t have tremor-sense and can be assassinated.

A few higher-end quests (like “The Coalescence Chamber”) will add in The Goshdammed Bats. Bats don’t detect you by sight, but have basically a Listen check of 999. Once you move, even when sneaking, you are found, period. You need a Move Silently skill that’s impossible to attain–and my Ranger, Artemistika, has the highest of all my characters with every buff and ability (around 114).

I have far too many videos that illustrate that Point 1 is erroneous once you pass the earliest quests.

Point 2: Generally true, but fallacious. Offset by the reason why guilds exist and why good party members never leave a man behind. This point isn’t a problem with stealth. It’s a problem with the player’s attitude and skill. Lack of cooperation and an overuse of autonomy has lead to Rogues that don’t trap and healers that don’t heal and tankers that don’t tank. You can do what you want to do, but you can’t knock stealth because it cannot overcome the self-centered interests of other players.

Besides, stealth works just fine completely alone or with like-minded and prepared parties of any size. As with any other quest, it’s a matter of parties communicating, planning out strategies and roles before entering.

One ninja and one Assassin should be enough for just about anything. Trust me.

Point 3: Same answer as Point 1. This is a player attitude problem. Sneak is a one-button instantaneous action for a character. Invisibility is a potion, scroll, spell or spell-like ability that’s also quick to apply to a single character. What Geoff might be alluding here is that the rest of the party doesn’t care to get any of these buffs and just surge ahead and aggro the whole place. If they really screw up, you’ll get to collect all their soulstones in quiet and peace.

Point 4: Sometimes yes. Kill all the monsters is often a required objective. There are very, very few quests that allow a no-kill completion. But stealth should not be incorrectly equated to pacifism. What stealth allows characters to do, as does Invisibility, Hold spells, Paralyzing, Otto’s spells, or Intimidate, is a way to manage crowds and control aggro. In the case of stealth, you manage a crowd by avoiding their detection. But when a quest says, “Kill ’em all,” then you do so.

But, as a Ninja Spy or Assassin, you can use “pick-off” moves that isolate and slay the targets, one at a time. Your skill is revealing yourself only as you choose, confusing and shrouding your enemies, buying you time to eliminate the horde before they can effectively organize against you. You can also use spells that cause Fear. Theatricality and deception is what the Batman does. We can do this, too. (In Batman Begins, the first battle against Falcone’s minions happens this very way…Batman sneaks about, thinning out the herd, scaring most them shitless before removing what few are left as a group.)

My Assassin uses Bluff, pulls an enemy into the shadow and away from others, kills it, then repeats. My ninjas target isolated enemies, use paralysis, spell/melee muting, and blinding finishing moves to slow an enemy attack. They can also take advantage of isolated enemies and remove them.

Point 5: Generally not applicable. Most quests do exactly as they should and activate as they should, whether you are in stealth or not. Else, why would the devs support D&D skills that would inherently bug most of the game? Further, I can testify that my experiences with Kiricletica revealed very very few quests where the stealth mechanic caused quest completion issues to a point where I couldn’t finish. What few quests I encountered that experienced minor issues involved some of the game’s oldest quests. But in many cases, quests you didn’t think were possible in stealth were quite doable.

But Geoff Slams Back

After these first sub-points, Geoff notes several more. This post is going long, but I think it’s necessary to keep chipping away at some of these for clarification, correction and illumination.

  1. There are style problems with sneak that are the result of game changes:
    • a) More stop points added to previously sneakable quests prevent most sneak-only completions
    • b) Dungeon alert
  2. There are issues with the implementation of Assassinate
    • a) A successful Assassinate should not break one out of sneaking
    • b) Assassination requires sneak but you cannot sneak while already in melee
  3. And there are some specific technical issues with sneak
    • a) The bad guys inerrantly hit you with ranged at the first sign of finding you
    • b) It is supposed to be possible to shake off pursuit if one is able to retain sneak but that does not work *
    • c) Monsters that hear you inerrantly follow your path when sneaking
    • d) Monsters that do not show indicators of being able to see you are still able to hit you with single-target spells. Which breaks sneak and now everyone sees you.

Item 1(a): DDO quests have always been filled with stop points. I don’t know which quests he’s noting here, but I’d like to know which ones so I can video my attempt to show where stealth still works or where it does, indeed, break.

Item 1(b): Dungeon Alert never happens to the stealthy character because DA requires your enemies to detect you. I’ve entered and exited many a quest, leaving the same enemies standing and patrolling where they did, without a single alert. The only time I will generate DA as a stealthy character are against enough enemies that sense me and I cannot shake them because of their nature. That’s generally against bats. Lots of bats, as in “Coalescence Chamber.” They will cause a DA if I head up the shafts where they spawn, prompting me to use ranged attacks or return to where they fell (yeah, the bats, the things with wings, fall to the base of the shaft) to kill them off. But the rest of the dungeon remains oblivious to me.

Item 2(a): Assassination, sadly, isn’t a bug but a feature. Some enemies will be aware of you in principle or by game mechanic. Take the gnoll mages in each of the stoned Coin Lord’s rooms in “Eyes of Stone.” Sure, I had the same problem with Sukitetica the Assassin but also with Kiricletica on Easter Sunday. The gnoll won’t activate and attack unless you enter its room and activate him (which, since I don’t activate him while Sneaking and as he doesn’t activate even when blundering in until a certain distance, is a hidden Listen check). Jerry Snook (a.k.a. Cordovan) alluded to this in a rare and appreciative reply to Geoff’s article. It’s a good thing the gnoll mages aren’t active because they’d blast through their own door the second you walked up to the second floor. They’re purposefully inactive to avoid DA, especially if your party splits up. So the gnoll mages really behave as if they know you are coming, mechanic-wise. You can’t easily assassinate someone who knows you are coming.

Item 2(b): You can Assassinate while in melee, provided you’re not the only one that’s attacking. That’s aggro management, pure and simple. Let your hirelings or party members go in first, then come up from behind and kek-kek all you want. I find that some enemy AoE spells or attacks will throw me out of Sneak and blow Assassinate attempts sometimes, but this is an exception rather than a rule. Besides, why worry about Assassinate when your Sneak Attack damage should quickly pound anything not aggroed on you into bite-size bits? A solo Assassin has the odds stacked against them. You’re one character. There are many ahead and some are prepared to greet you. Your skill in getting past their defenses so as to command the field to kill is more paramount than your mere ability to assassinate.

Item 3(a): Enemies that use bows or other ranged weapons, like a player character’s Ranger, have a naturally higher Spot bonus than other enemies. Your Hide skill might get past non-ranged attackers but you better bring a superior Hide skill against those designed to see you from afar.

This same mechanic is demonstrated in brutal clarity in the Epic Gianthold wilderness. First off, all giants there have See Invisibility, so don’t even bother with that potion or spell. The giants have a very high Spot bonus that’s proportional to their size. In short, they’ll see a non-sneaking character from about 10-15 giant-lengths away, easily. If you can sneak through Epic Gianthold without giants noticing you, you have effectively perfected your skill, in my opinion.

Item 3(b, c and d): I updated the Sneak article on DDO Wiki based on the Update 19 release notes and from my experience on what is required to shake off a pursuing enemy(s) using Sneak.

  1. Break the line-of-sight with your enemy first. Run away and turn a corner is a best practice, but cowering behind a box is not. Nor will Invisibility work; once they see you, they see you.
  2. Next, go into Sneak and then apply Invisibility, if time and ability allow. Sneak is essential now because turning the corner or entering another room breaks the enemy’s sight-lock on you. They still know where you went but lost precisely where you are. But the key here is that they are still hunting you. If you aren’t sneaking, they’re targeting you by sound.
  3. Finally, keep moving as you do (1) and (2). The enemy will still pursue but can only use their Listen check to hunt you down. Move Silently counters this if you have enough skill points applied. Most enemies search the last place you stopped, swatting away at the air until they hit you or find nothing, sometimes spreading out. Depending on the mechanic of the enemy, they may stop and go back, stop swatting and go back to normal alert, or swat indefinitely. In any case, don’t be where they are. In fact, just sneak past them and continue on your merry way. As to single-target spells, the effect is the same as a wide arc from a halberd, and the resolution is the same. The enemy is targeting you only if they know exactly where you are. But some spells can be directed to a position even if a target isn’t there.

So, yeah, Geoff. You’re doing it wrong. 🙂 You must avoid both enemy sight and hearing for this to work. And once you break enemy sight and sound-lock, get off the path where they expect you to be.

Ninja Spies have advantage here with their Flash Bangs. These daze and blind enemies for 6 seconds, allowing a ninja to use an Abundant Step in Sneak to easily disappear. But Assassins are Rogues, so enough UMD means a Blindness spell can work on a single foe. Solid Fog could also help, as can many many other items as noted on the Blinded wiki page. There’s also the old-school option of leaving a sacrificial lamb such as a hireling to pull aggro while you skedaddle. And level 18 Ninja Spies can create a Diversion, a hate-magnet training dummy (dressed like a pirate, of course) that will easily pull pursuers to itself.

DDO quests don’t differentiate much between a single player and full party. That said, the only reason why stealth would not work in party is because there is a party member with inadequate Hide and Move Silently skill or is using or doing something that causes noise, aggro or light. A Ranger in party has Hide/Move Silently party buffs that stack with items (Camouflage and Pass Without Trace). Invisibility is a simple anti-Spot that works against anything but True Seeing/See Invisibility, so even if a player that isn’t a natural stealth class (Bard, Ranger, Rogue, Monk) but wants to play a stealthier game, add cross-class points to Move Silently over Hide, and befriend a Ranger.

There’s a reason why the nickname of the stealth guide was “Stealth Team Six.”

Conclusion

You’re not doing it right, all.

Stealth is a defensive posture. DDO doesn’t allow you, on purpose and with one sole exception (Assassinate) to be simultaneously offensive and defensive with this mode. And even Assassinate has its limits, but it does work.

There were several comments to Geoff’s post. One said, “Even if you “stand” still while in stealth mobs tend to sweep towards you and eventually spot you. This even if you’re out of side behind a door/wall. Closed doors give even more agro.”

Standing still really means “Do not move.” Stealth, specifically Hide, reduces but never eliminates the chance for something to see you. If you are standing still in stealth about 3 body lengths from some enemy, their Spot check is not only up but magnifying upward by design. (Those are the multiplying “eyes” above an enemy that change as their Spot increases.) Once they detect something, their Spot bonus grows to the point where you will eventually be found. Hide was never designed to make you permanently cloaked. You need to get out of the enemy’s line-of-sight, and Hide provides you the time to do it before their Spot bonus changes to “detected.”

And an enemy’s Listen check goes through doors. We know that DDO doors often seem like they aren’t there. So stealth masters treat them as already open, never approaching them without being in Sneak. Else, things do tend to aggro through them. Keep in mind that enemies that can defeat Sneak (spiders, oozes) will detect you automatically and likely cause minions nearby to do the same.

Kiricletica’s Advice on Stealth: “Your Hide or Move Silently training may fail against an enemy if either score, divided by 2, is equal or less than the enemy’s Challenge Rating number.”

I don’t “sometimes” get some use out of stealth.

I enjoy it virtually all the time. I have pictures. I have a whole YouTube channel filled with video. It works. And I co-wrote an entire guide on it.

“Spies in the House?” Did it.

“Claw of Vulkoor?” Yep.

“Bastion of Power?” Sure.

The eighth Splinterskull quest, “Doom of the Witch-doctor: Zulkash, Herald of Woe?” Yep. And in only 4 kills out of a possible 75–and I sneaked by all the mobs that guarded the puzzle wheels. The totem counted a a kill. I added the Devious bonus on that DDO Wiki article.

Did you know you can can activate puzzle wheels while in stealth?

I don’t want to think I have some “lock” on stealth skills. I started with some ideas from player Ghoste long ago and worked from there.

I know Geoff’s been playing the game far longer than I have, so please take any criticisms here about Geoff’s post with respect–he’s  one of the coolest people I know in-game (and had the honor to meet in person). But there’s several important things missing to his comments and those who commented back.

Be it Assassin or ninja, the process of stealth is alive and well, but it does require training and a different mindset to bring it to fruition.

Seems that the only thing wrong with stealth, as I see it, is that, for many, the techniques to make stealth work just sneak right by them all.

I’m still open to join a new server and help teach the art of stealth.

UPDATE: In the limited time he had at that moment, Sir Geoff has posted a rebuttal that, at the least, calls me out on just being too damn wordy, while noting how we agree more than disagree. Didn’t I just say that here? 🙂

Stand and Deliver

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I’ve enjoyed my new Deepwood Stalker to the point where I’ve “hyper-leveled” her with all the holiday bonus XP, VIP and play-through bonuses over the last few weeks.

Artemistika (or Misty, as one guildie calls her) has everything trained for best tactics and damage with her bows.

Once I corrected a bad feat choice, choosing Improved Critical: Piercing and not IC: Ranged, and once Aerenal Grace (DEX to damage) was added in, Misty’s DPS began to rise. With Improved Archer’s Focus in the mix and one special ability, the damage is absolutely astounding.

Others disagree on using Aerenal Grace, as noted in this recent thread. They recommend certain gear but also a multiclass format. The only thing they all agree on is getting a Silver Longbow–the one bow that Misty didn’t have at hand in her Heroic life, having acquired one just recently.

I disagree with the thread’s conclusions. I suspect they aren’t taking advantage of the class role and playing it as DPS build, ignoring that managing aggro is the key to the Deepwood Stalker build. This Ranger is as challenged to deliver powerful attacks as an Assassin if they cannot position themselves without attention from the enemy.

That thread on an Elven build also noted the addition of Ten Thousand Stars as a secondary DPS option to go with Manyshot. In short, the posters essentially recommend a monkcher build. I don’t think that’s necessary.

The Deepwood Stalker is meant to stand still and create cumulatively powerful sustained damage with plenty of skills. I had no problems with this build in Heroic once I understood this point, especially after aggro-management training I gained through another Sneak Attack-enabled character, my Assassin, Sukitetica.

I’m having great success with my Elven Ranger because I train hirelings to help me master the art of ranged aggro control.

A Quick Heroic Life

Around level 16, I decided to whip up a Black Dragonscale Robe, rather than it’s light armor counterpart, on the suggestion of a commenter to help balance Misty’s AC with her ever-growing DEX in Heroic. It also allows me to consider a Zen Archer or Shuricannon 2.0 track for her later, using that robe.

Black Dragonscale armors are known for their Haste Guard and armor-piercing qualities that reduce enemy fortification. My understanding is that, generally, this effect stacks with other fortification-reducing effects. I wore this through level 22, noted below.

I trained in much of the good stuff from the Stalker tree, including Heavy Draw, Improved Archer’s Focus, Killer, and Leg Shot. I might tweak these a bit to get the last special shot, Head Shot, but it seemed a bit random to be successful based on the description.

At Level 20 and Above

Misty’s now at level 23. She’s trained two-thirds of Shiradi Champion, a bit of Primal Avatar for Rejuvenation Cocoon, reached enough training to open the martial ED trees and used a Key of Destiny to immediately open up my second preferred ED, Shadowdancer. I want to have this trained by the time I hit my first Epic raid for greater defenses and Sneak Attack damage, with dominating a high-CR enemy for a powerful aggro management option.

At 45 DEX in Shiradi, Misty is not to be underestimated but still has room to grow that ability. If I could afford a +5 DEX tome, I’d add that in, too, but that will have to come some other time. A tome with only +3 is the best I can do right now. Getting Yugo potions to boost this up will have to wait. Attempts to start this are challenging due to aggro management overload (see below).

I still need Unyielding Sentinel’s Brace for Impact trained in to survive an EE strike with higher fortification, and have a small collection of Fortifying items for adding in Exceptional Fortification. With more training, I want 180% or higher fortification to survive while not moving. Since my AC is practically meaningless at 53, fortification and miss-chance effects are priority, next to tweaking my hirelings for the best aggro solution.

The nicest gift came through a visit to the Magma Forge by Szyncletica: A tier-0 Thunder-Forged Longbow. It’s my standard weapon now. After a run through a few Storm Horns quests on Heroic Elite, I was blessed by the guild master with a +5 Anarchic Longbow of Disruption. Being of the Neutral persuasion (after being so used to being Lawful as a Monk), I can equip it without any neg-level issues. It’ll have to do while I work on getting a Green Steel triple-positive bow.

Some very, very hard grinding, through three tours of the “Druid’s Deep” chain and hunts through the King’s Forest and the High Road netted enough Commendations of various types to buy the three items that form the Woodsman’s Guile set from the Druid trader.

But there’s something more to Misty’s success than mere ED training and new gear.

Badass Hirelings

Yes, I said “badass” and “hireling” in the same phrase.

Since level 20, when not with other guildmates, I’m accompanied by two specific hirelings: Albus Gladwin, a level 20 Favored Soul with Death Ward, and my level 20 Onyx Panther.

Now, that doesn’t sound like much until you add in two important bits of training I’ve added in, and mentioned before.

  • Augment Summoning feat: Your summoned creatures, charmed minions, and hirelings have +4 to all ability scores, increased health (amount equal to what the toughness feat would grant: Total hit dice +2), and increased fortification (+50%).
  • Harper Leadership: Your hirelings, summoned, and charmed creatures gain [+2/+3/+4] to all ability scores.

So my hirelings have +8 to all abilities, more fortification and HP. Combined with Ranger buffs to protect them against the usual elemental damage, Albus and the Panther make for an excellent, resilient and controllable aggro team. I can boost both up a bit more for crunch times using:

  • Heroic Companion (Harper tree): Action Boost: Grants an ally +0.25/+0.5/+1[W], +2/+4/+6 to hit and saving throws, 0/+2%/+4% Dodge and 0/0/+10 Physical Resistance Rating. (Cooldown: 30 seconds).
  • Animal Growth (Ranger spell): Grants an Animal, Magical Beast, or Vermin a +4 size Bonus to Strength, a +4 Size Bonus to Constitution, and a -2 penalty to Dexterity.

Albus gets the Heroic Companion buff while the Panther enjoys the Animal Growth buff, boosting STR and CON stats it can change for a +12 ability score buff for the cat.

And when I need a wild-weasel aggro magnet that always protects me (at the cost of attracting some aggro), I have a Shard of Xoriat to summon a squishy Taken, illitid, Evil Eye or beholder. These summons also gain the benefits of my Augment Summoning/Harper Leadership powers and any buffs I give them, making them far stronger and durable.

The result? A very durable team for me to stand and deliver punishing damage as Archer’s Focus increases and critical damage of 200, 400, 600 and even some 1200 hits fly from my bow.

Sure, DPS is important. But DPS in combination with keeping enemies at bay while you deliver the damage means sustained DPS. That is, the ability to continually shoot and shoot without any retaliation from enemies because of strong aggro management and being interrupted. For a Stalker, the Archer’s Focus magnifies my competence bonuses to attack, up to 25 times.

Aggro management beats high DPS. Even if you’re using a masterwork bow, a strong aggro solution keeps the enemies off you, no matter how terrible your DPS may be. That’s not only a resource saver but a life saver.

On the contrary, when (not if) your high DPS isn’t high enough without aggro management, something will turn on you fast for generating damage on them. And that something obviously had higher HP than your bow could remove. That also means that the monster likely has higher attack potential than you can withstand, and you’re a dead adventurer.

Attack so hard that the enemy can’t turn on you until it’s too late, and stay far away, and you got the gist of Misty’s fight strategy.

Misty manages crowd control so well that I use Manyshot only on occasion. I’ll kick it on with a solitary boss that my team has locked down (more on that team in a moment) or in a crisis where a lot of trash appears and it’s important they are dispatched before the aggro team and I are overwhelmed.

Without Manyshot, I can take down a training dummy with 150+ normal damage per shot once I debuff it with a Deepwood Stalker core enhancement:

  • Mark of the Hunted: Expend a use of Animal Empathy. Your currently selected enemy receive -10% Fortification, -10 Armor Class, -10 Spell Resistance, and suffers a -4 penalty to all ability scores for 3 minutes.

As noted before, a Deepwoodsman generates more and more damage as their Archer’s Focus builds up. Add in the debuffing effects of being Marked and the damage becomes very severe. When I activate this ability against anything, my damage skyrockets, especially if I’m got my posse in the right place to keep aggro on the targets.

The Mark lasts for three minutes, more than long enough to destroy just about anything I target, even a boss, although I’m sure some red-names won’t be as damaged by getting Marked.

Aggro Management, Woodsman Style

This process isn’t very different from how I’ve applied hirelings with Sukitetica, except that Misty is trying to stay still and continually fire on enemies kept under aggro by the hirelings.

Here’s my usual attack plan:

  • I’m sneaking at all times when scouting. Hireling party is buffed, including Freedom of Movement.
  • I send in the hireling attack team against a mob.
  • For larger and stronger mobs, I tell the Panther to Intimidate them, which works very well in keeping the mob’s attention. The hireling’s buffed nature makes them durable even when surrounded against small to medium mobs of CR 25-30.
  • I begin to pick off the weakest enemies, letting my Archer’s Focus build to 25, where my damage becomes powerful, with 75-100 damage per normal strike and more with critical hits and special attacks. If all is going well, I never move. I move the hirelings so I keep my damage primed while standing still, the hallmark of the Stalker build.
  • I back off attack until the hirelings start attacking on an enemy and then join in so that I limit the enemy’s chance to turn aggro on me before it’s too late for them. The farther I’m away, the better.
  • Should any enemies come at me, they get hit by a Sniper Shot to bluff them about, a Leg Shot to cripple them, or I move briefly into the mob and tell the Panther to Intimidate my attackers to pull them back into the attack fold.
  • I’ll refocus the hireling’s attack to Champions last, or next to last if there is an orange- or red-named boss in the mix.
  • Champions and named monsters get Marked to debuff them, increasing my damage to them by about 20-30%. I’ll also use the Pin ability to hold enemies in place briefly.

The results in many fights are impressive on Heroic Elite to most Epic Hard fights. The hirelings last a terribly long time, even when surrounded, while I pick off enemies with near-impunity. The key is to wait for the right moment: an important quality as a good hunter. Once the hirelings have aggro, I’m open to shooting.

The hirelings are beginning to strain now against the Drow in Epic Hard, however, as these guys hit hard with fortification-reducing attacks, Drow poison and more.

Aggro management is also difficult against fast-moving or teleporting enemies, such as devils and demons, some of which also are harder for any ally to Intimidate. I can’t easily keep aggro in the many quests in the Devil Battlefield as yet, so I’ll have to go in over-level and with a larger party to make those happen on Elite difficulty to get my Yugo favor.

I like Albus for his Death Ward, but on level 24 I may look to another Epic hireling that can heal himself and a fellow aggro-magnet while still dishing out damage.

When in a live party, Misty is more formidable because I’m often exploiting the fact that most players just go HULK SMASH on everything, generating aggro so strongly that I just sit back and shoot.

To improve my hireling’s survival as I reach into Epic Hard, a bit more Primal Avatar training is in order. There’s the following abilities I’ll want to Twist into Misty while in Shiradi mode. The second of the three is most appealing.

  • Friends of Nature (Tier 1): You call forth a small nature animal, providing a bonus to nearby allies. Duration: 3 minutes. Cooldown: 3 minutes. (I choose the Frog for +2 PRR to my NPC minions)
  • Natural Shielding (Tier 2): Your summoned and charmed pets, hirelings, and monsters gain +[30/60/100] maximum HP and +[10/20/30] PRR. Rank 3: Natural Creatures also gain evasion: When they make a successful Reflex save to avoid damage, they suffer no damage instead of half damage. (Natural Creatures include: Animals, Elementals, Magical Beasts, Plants, & Vermin)
  • Summer Smoke (Tier 3): Toggle: Nearby allies have a small chance to deal [5/10/15]d20 extra fire damage with their attacks.

The last two require a crapload of Twist of Fate unlocking that may not be likely, so I would have to have Primal Avatar as the active destiny and Twist any other abilities over. I might buy a Twist of Fate tome to get that second slot unlocked as soon as possible for a tier 1 while using two earned points for upgrade the tier 1 slot to use Shiradi as dominant–preferred since I have a lot of extra DEX from it.

Extra credit if using Primal Avatar could come from:

  • Autumn Harvest (Tier 4): You and nearby allies have a 5% chance to heal [10/15/20]d10 when nearby enemies die. Not affected by spell power.
  • Summon Dryad Elder (Tier 4): Summon a Dryad Elder. She uses her magic for damage spells as well as support and healing (Regenerate on self, Death Ward on group, Mass Cure Critical Wounds on others – heals enemies as well.)

Fury of the Wild has one ability I could Twist as well:

  • Primal Scream (Tier 1): Nearby allies are raged gaining +[3/4/5] morale bonus to Strength and Constitution, and suffer a -2 penalty to armor class. Nearby enemies take up to [10/20/30]d20 sonic damage. [3/4/5] uses per rest. Duration 3 minutes per use.

So, with that Fury ability, the hirelings get a +13 minimum boost to STR and CON. The Panther sees a +17 to STR and CON. That’s a tough little kitty.

There might even be an Epic Bard hireling that could pump up the numbers further. Doesn’t seem practical for me to look into Fatesinger abilities. I’d lose on the DEX abilities as I would with hanging around in Primal Avatar.

I’m not optimistic, but if these abilities can help an Epic hireling or summoned creature stay healthy and fighting long enough at Epic Hard or harder in combination with my Heroic stuff, I might have something. I still need to research any other EDs or feats that might add to allies. Suggestions welcome.

In any case, I need to fully train both Shiradi and Primal Avatar to qualify for the Epic Destiny feat, Doubleshot, by level 28.

More Invisible than Invisibility

What’s also notable are Misty’s stealth skills. I’ve added skill points to Hide and Move Silently throughout Heroic training, and she gained a few more points to this through her enhancement trees and some Shiradi training.

The result is astounding. With ship buffs and the Woodsman’s Guile set equipped, Misty sits at about 75 Hide/Move Silently. about 10 points better than any of my ninjas. She can boost both to 85 or so with the spells Camouflage and Pass Without Trace.

And as a Ranger, Misty has the Hide in Plain Sight feat that adds more H/MS and reduces slows Spot bonus, so she can move much closer to enemies before their Spot bonus can lock on. That’s helpful since Misty’s sneaking speed is only two-thirds that of any of my ninjas, despite training in Faster Sneaking and wearing Striding gear.

Generally, once you get any skill to 75 or more, I think you’re good for Epic Elite stuff that involves that skill.

But I don’t know if Misty or the hirelings will cut it at that level just yet. Hide/Move Silently are tactical, not defensive skills. Short of the Panther’s Intimidate, Misty has very few ways to shake off or escape enemies that come at her before she can kill them.

The skill of my little hunting party has made for the fastest explorer completion of the Underdark. It took perhaps under 2 hours to complete my map with these two hirelings at my side. The downside to Misty is that she has no way to save any collared slaves. None of her skills allow a safe removal of collars in wilderness and quest areas.

Misty also tends to take spell wards completely in the face without a Rogue in party. The ordinary Evasion feat with only a 30 or so Reflex save won’t do it against saving from harsh damage from any spell ward.

Pushing the Limits in “What Goes Up”

Trying to keep a streak, I sent Misty and friends into the Heroic Elite “What Goes Up.”

Mind you, I wasn’t very optimistic on this attempt. I took the highly formidable Szyncletica in there at level 25 and got hammered despite her skill. In this quest, you’re besieged by an army. Even with a full party, it hurts. But I love this adventure: the music, the setting, the stakes, the challenges–everything.

At the start, aggro management became a bother. When there are more than ten or so enemies, keeping aggro with a small team becomes very challenging because some enemies tend to split off, especially in tight places. I had to time my exit from stealth very, very carefully or aggro control was lost. Thankfully, the hirelings were durable and, with some close calls, we made it out of the orc and frost giant zones.

The damned Shadar-kai are my team’s worst problem to-date. You can easily guess why. When some start spinning with that Spiked Chain Attack, the low-DEX hirelings get debilitated quickly. Misty can avoid that damage thanks to her high DEX modifier, but needs to relocate the hirelings fast if chains get zipped about. Only when I can cripple one do I have a chance to put many holes in them while my aggro team is forced into disarray.

Because of the Shadar-kai reinforcements, completing the second level where Orphaun was held took more care. With an adjustment to strategy, we did clear away much of the control rooms, found Orphaun and eliminated the mage and his minions that were activating the mythallar.

ScreenShot01511Our party met its Waterloo at the top of the glacier. It was a valiant fight, but the zerg rush of orcs with supporting battle healers were far too many to keep in an aggro check.

Perhaps if I could max out the party with a high-DPS Rogue and Paladin, we might have stood a chance. But Albus had quickly drained his mana after the 2nd wave from the battlements near the glacier entrance.

I began battle healing both hirelings myself while picking off what I could before we lost aggro control completely. I’ll have my hands full by creating two aggro teams that way. With several Gold Seals (if I can’t convince guildmates to join me) it’s also a bit of an expensive challenge.

I am not finished yet. Short of a live party, Misty is going to dial in those Netherese and meet this challenge. Just as with Szyn, playing “What Goes Up” feels like an epic adventure and dares you to challenge it. The Netherese must fall.

A Little Update: My level 98 guild also possesses two other ship buffs that give a total additional +5 to summoned/hireling abilities. Misty’s now training Primal Avatar to add in more protections and a Dryad summon I look forward to seeing in action.

Ranger Hunter Soldier Spy

artemistika1I have a Bard, a Rogue Assassin and many many Ninja Spies.

I haven’t played a Ranger since Pynthetica’s first life, before the new stealth AI retool and enhancement trees.

And I’ve never tried out one particular flavor of Ranger that deserves some attention with the stealth revisions. This way I can learn more about this class path and shore up information in the Stormreach Shadows stealth guide.

So, say hello to young Artemistika, my first Deepwood Stalker. She just might be the best overall stealth fighter because of her very specific skill set.

The Shadow

What stoked me about the Stalker is the incorporation of stealth with powerful ranged attack. At first it struck me as a support build, like the Rogue. The Stalker seemed lacking, at first, the sustained DPS and imbue versatility seen in the Arcane Archer or the melee complexity of the Tempest two-hander or Ninja Spy.

But, reading between the lines as I try to do, I began to see more of the sniper and the rogueish stealth master inside this Ranger that I had to try, with a touch of an old idea I once tried in a lost Artificer.

The Stalker’s makes for the missing imbued arrows of the Arcane Archer kindred with the benefit of ranged Sneak Attack damage, allowing a powerful burst hit of damage provided that you strike fast and first, or preferably have an aggro-magnet keep the attention of everyone. Combined with high stealth skills, the Stalker can pick their targets and kill with only a few quick volleys before cloaking into the shadows to hunt again.

artemistika3

Stealth masters in-training always go to see Ulluvian, patron saint of stealth masters, for chats and tips. If he can sneak home through a Droaam horde, so can you.

This Ranger is naturally stealth-able. Camouflage is especially potent to allow me to sneak past a mob at closer range than any other characters, Rogues and Monks included.

The Faster Sneaking skill is important as Rangers don’t quite move as fast as other classes and need that speed edge. The Ranger’s ability to improve Hide and Move Silently skills for supporting players looks very handy as well.

I’m looking forward to joining more parties with this build. While slower than the ninjas, Mistika makes up for stealth speed with better Hide scores. Eventual training gives Hide in Plain Sight, making Mistika likely the best stealth master because of her ability to weave through enemies at closer range than anyone else I have.

The Sidekicks

I’ve loved the ability to summon other creatures. I experimented with this summoner role with my second, late Artificer named Ayvanna. She trained her normal Iron Defender but also added in a second and, I think, even a third Defender to have a pack of dogs that grabbed aggro while she attacked with her crossbow and runearm.

When Pynthetica was an Arcane Ranger, she also had a simple Summoned Ally as befitted her spell abilities, occasionally using her Wild Empathy to add a second charmed creature.

With Mistika’s Stalker enhancements and a few others, I’m weaponizing my NPC helpers.

It’s one thing to charm an animal. But what if the animal I charmed with Empathy was also a Monster Champion (extra buffs, tougher to kill)?

What if I added the Augment Summoning feat (+4 to all ability scores, increased health and fortification) to this? And how about some Harper Leadership training (Your hirelings, summoned, and charmed creatures gain up to +4 to all ability scores)?

A quick check on the forums (with the answer given by the FuzzyDuck himself) confirmed that Harper Leadership and Augment Summoning’s boosts stack on your direct hirelings and summons, although not your hireling’s summons.

And finally, let me use my Empathy powers as a Fascination-like power against Vermin, Elementals and Magical Beasts if I feel like it.

So level 7 ‘Mistika (readied as a Veteran Status II character) tried this out on an Elite “Where There’s Smoke.” (Level 5). With Flower the hireling in tow, we popped off orc after orc. But the fun came when I remembered the wolves in the area.

A better use of Monster Champions: Turn them to your side and buff them up further.

A better use of Monster Champions: Turn them to your side and buff them up further.

In both packs there was a Champion among them. One use of Improved Wild Empathy later and that Champion was my dominated bitch (pun intended). A use of Charm Animal and a second doggie turned to my side, wreaking havoc with the neighboring orc parties.

This Christmas weekend, I was so enamored with ‘Mistika that I played her all weekend. It will be a bit before her best summoned creature is available, but I summon it in a pinch when I need more aggro-magnets. I can charm or dominate as many animals as they are available and as fast as my cooldowns, spell points and Empathy turns allow.

Improved Wild Empathy is really a Domination spell, so for five minutes, I have an extra helper unless I have to climb or drop off somewhere; sadly, such creatures cannot follow. Adding a charmed animal adds to the confusion. The benefit to Empathy powers is that they aren’t dispellable or breakable. My charmed animals stay that way, even if damaged. And these special charms can’t be removed even if you had Bard levels and used a Disarm Charm ability.

With Stalker training, your Empathy powers give you the ability to halt elementals, vermin, and magical beasts in their tracks. I knew just the quests where I wanted to test this ability. In “Haywire’s Foundry,” I smacked Empathy on the two fire and sole earth elementals that appear at the start, locking them in place for 5 minutes to kill them without retaliation.

That’s an awesome stopping power I also used in “Spies in the House” (the fire elementals with a possible and deadly air elemental) and against air elementals in general–I hate their knockdown powers.

This special Fascinate isn’t broken by anything, including damage. I’m limited by the number of Empathy turns I have, but then, using rest shrines isn’t as problematic for Rangers as it is for young Monks.

The Style

Artemistika is an Elf to gain greater weapon damage training for longbows or her rapiers with racial training. Her Mark of Shadow dragonmark adds Invisibility and, eventually, Shadow Walk, Displacement and eventually a nasty neg-level attack for crunch fights.

While Bow Strength improves the STR modifier to give longbow damage for Rangers, the Elf can train the racial tier 5 ability, Aerenal Grace, which lets DEX become the damage modifier, overriding Bow Strength. So, all ability points go to DEX and nothing but DEX  for maximum to-hit, damage with a little AC and improved Reflex as a bonus. at least as much as maximum dexterity bonus allows.

I’ll add what I can to CON (HP) and WIS (Will save for Empathy and charming) with items, available enhancements and tomes.

Another racial ability, Skill, adds 3% untyped Doubleshot and much-needed Dodge while bypassing 3% of enemy Dodge.

The Stalker build emphasizes quick, powerful strikes with ranged Sneak Attack damage. The old prestige enhancements name was “Deepwood Sniper,” which still holds true in flavor in the succeeding tree.

Like Suki, Mistika shares the Killer enhancement, which adds a 5% Morale Bonus to “Extra Shots” (that’s the text; strange that it doesn’t say “Doubleshot”) for a few seconds after a successful sneak attack kill, stacking up to 4 times. That’s a 20% Morale Bonus doubleshot bonus I sorely desire, which will stack with any Enhancement bonus items I can find. Makes the “Mark of Death” raid more attractive, where the Epic Quiver of Alacrity rests.

artemistika4

The Stalker gains serious attack boosts when using Precise Shot’s Archer’s Focus, a stance which magnifies her attack the longer she stands still, especially with the final core ability that adds more stacks to this ability. Farther potency to very distant ranged attacks improves as well over other archers, where by level 20 I’ll always be considered in Point Blank Shot and Sneak Attack range.

But to keep the Archer Focus bonus, Artemistika has to keep control of the field. That’s why she’ll use her charm and summoning powers to keep her NPC charges up and attracting nasties.

To keep her animal army hardy, she can eventually apply elemental resists, Freedom of Movement, energy protection, and more. While Mistika’s hireling’s summons don’t gain the ability score boosts, the additional bodies in the crowd make for a formidable attack option.

Stalkers gain sizable positive energy spell power boosts as they grow. Combined with points in Heal as a class skill, her otherwise-weaker Cure Light and Moderate Wounds spells are very effective. I need it. My miss-chance effects are poor, with Dodge getting capped by the use of light armor, and no Blur or Incorporeality yet. Blur is my priority to ward off some melee and ranged damage. I’ll need to add in a Dusk (10% Incorporeality) item/augment somewhere, and do what I can in Dodge. Of all the things that worry me is generating enough AC and defenses. Having the light armor gives a small PRR bonus to ward off some damage.

Mistika does have a Shadow dragonmark, so she’s got a few but long-lasting Invisibility turns, and can train Shadow Walk, Displacement and even a special negative-leveling power if AP allows it.

Hide and Move Silently are naturally trained up, and she’s got great Spot bonuses. I’m going to boost that Search power up a bit more for finding those hidden doors, or look to Elven skills that might work if I have the AP to train them.

The Strategy

Artemistika first worked on her House Deneith favor for sturdy arrows. These have greater enhancements to them and drain far slower than standard arrows, so its a matter of having a couple of wide quivers of a 1000 each. I also carry Adamantine and Cold Iron ones for special needs. Sure, getting Conjured Arrows from the Ranger AA tree is possible but that’s AP I can use for something else.

I also zoomed her through some Cannith challenges for a Frozen Tunic, the first time I’ve ever spent time in such challenges outright with a new character. Not using it as much right now but I will before it’s freezing DCs start to be less effective.

At first glance, the special ranged attacks don’t look like much. And then I discovered the joy of Sniper Shot. This, like the Monk’s Unbalancing Strike, is a Bluffing/Deception shot. It’s got a relatively fast 6-second cooldown, making it great for me to spin about enemies and add in some extra Sneak Attack damage while they are bluffed.

Manyshot stays reserved for times where my aggro-partners are becoming overwhelmed and I need to clear out a powerful mob. I also use it against HP-heavy red-named enemies, of course. I miss the faster cooldown of Ten Thousand Stars on Pyn, but I’m getting by nicely.

As a first-life, Mistika is leveling crazy-fast, already at level 13 with a banked level as you read this. I’m prioritizing quests with high XP, specific favor rewards or gear and will shortly rev down the XP to complete favor and gain gear on low level quests I’ve skipped. Quests like “The Pit”, “Stormcleave Outpost” and “Spies in the House” were easily done. Had more problems with “Tear of Dhakaan” and couldn’t complete when I hit the respawning town room and I left my hireling active with fatal results.

The Serpentbranch bow I had on Pynthetica (bound to account) is still her go-to bow for most attacks, although I just crafted up a nice Aligned of Greater Construct Bane bow with an empty red slot for Maruts and other robots. Any bow that I can augment helps a lot with general DPS.

Same goes for finding items that add bonuses to Sneak Attack damage. A Halfling’s racial bonuses, in hindsight, would make an improved sniper, but the elven DEX-to-damage power might be offsetting this. A kindly guildmate (you know who you are) donated the Bracers of the Hunter to me that help with a bit more Sneak Attack damage.

I think a Ring of the Stalker is also in my immediate future, especially one for level 20. That Manslayer effect would be awesome and the exceptional Sneak Attack bonus damage welcome, not to mention some miss-chance effects.

Black Dragonscale Armor seems also in the future. I’ll have to farm for scales in Tor with the nearly implacable Szyncletica.

I’m wearing Deadly/Accuracy gear and a Seeker VI item with Improved Critical: Piercing trained. It’s making the critical hits quite potent.

So, to sum up, Mistika plays a little more like an Assassin. She brings her melee/aggro team in to lure a mob. This requires stealth; you get your summoned team close enough to auto-attack while keeping yourself from being seen.

This team is buffed up to stay alive, generating aggro just as I reveal myself and begin picking off the enemies that my team damages, minimizing the risk of hitting something that turns away from the pack and towards me. The sneak attack damage is key here. I’ll have special shots that outright kill weaker enemies, and if I can add points to Killer and other critical threat/hit effects, the damage stacks.

You just don’t go all pew-pew with a Stalker. This is a hunter. You have to deliberately arrange and pick a target for best effect.

Again, all of this ties to the stillness of the archer. Unlike my other ranged attackers like Szyncletica the thrower and Pynthetica the Zen Archer, Artemistika avoids movement while shooting. She’s gained Improved Precise Shot as a Ranger, but she’ll rarely use it since Stalkers can gain bonuses to Archer’s Focus with Precise Shot. The longer she stands still, the greater the damage.

The Sights

artemistika2The coolest thing about Mistika is her appearance. She looks angry and all Action-Girly powerful.

I invested in a new cosmetic armor to seal in the look. I don’t normally go for blondes, but for Mistika, I’ll make a happy exception.

I’ll talk more on her Epic future as she quickly comes to it. Shiradi Champion and Fury of the Wild are natural fits, but so is Primal Avatar, especially with the summoned/hireling buffs there that might be sorely needed if soloing an Epic quest. Shadowdancer looks great, too, for better defenses and more Sneak Attack die.

Pacifist Play: Is That Possible?

Someone asked us on the Stormreach Shadows guide forum thread for a list of quests in DDO where no kills are required to complete a quest.

It got me to thinking. Are there any quests where killing is not an absolute requirement?

The Results

661054_pw_diplomacyTo answer this question, I needed some time to study every quest in DDO to note any game mechanic that confirmed if at least one kill was required.

Surprisingly, it took me a short time, simply scanning the quests by level list for any names that stood out by memory and then studying the few quests I haven’t done. Most quests are part of chains and it was easy to recall their objectives.

There were some caveats in determining this list.

  1. If a quest has any spiders, bats or oozes, it can’t be considered. No amount of stealth or invisibility or speed will keep these monsters from honing in on you with their special senses. Invis-zerg too much in quests filled with these and you’re inevitably slaying something, thanks to Dungeon Alerts.
  2. Raids and character-creation quests such as “Hall of the Mark” or “The Voyage” are excluded here. In case you think “The Grotto”, quest #1 can be done this way, you must kill the first sahuagin to pull the lever, even if you left your NPC trio to kill everything else.
  3. If a required quest objective has the word “slay” or “kill” in it, it’s also disqualified.
  4. Any rescue or escort quest is disqualified for obvious reasons.
  5. Any progression-only quest is disqualified (such as “Free Delera'”, speaking with Archbishop Dryden in “The Catacombs” chain)

I’m going to note very low kill quests to contrast and compare, especially those I’ve done myself.

And you can’t just leave pets to fight even if you aren’t. Summoned and hired creatures are your agents and represent you.

Here’s what I found.

  • Harbor Toll: A (new?) quest for level 4 and below only where you use non-combat skills to win. No fighting. And if you go to level 5, you can’t pick this quest up.
  • Stealthy Repossession: Absolutely no kills required.
  • Stop Hazadil’s Shipment: I jest here because there are no enemies to slay, only boxes, unless you go all out to find the one and only optional kobold to kill.
  • Home Sweet Sewer: Another aversion as your mission is to pull the dogs to the entrance. Slay one and you fail.
  • The Deadly Package: Agent of the Darguul (Splinterskull #6): I confirmed with Kiricletica that you can do this short quest with absolutely no kills, despite a moderate force of hobgoblins between you and the NPC you must contact to complete. I added the “Insidious Cunning” info to this quest’s DDO Wiki page.
  • Transitions to the last Splinterskull quests: To complete the last 3 quests, you have to get to the inner stronghold gate. This requires no kills if you are clever enough to do it, unless you encounter some spiders in your path in one of these quests.
  • Doom of the Witch-doctor: Zulkash, Herald of Woe: This isn’t a no-kill quest. But I note it here because, despite the army of hobgoblins surrounding the puzzle wheels, it is very possible to make precisely two required kills to complete this one: Zulkash himself, and his totem, rather than up to 75 kills possible. You’ll just have to get the guards around each puzzle wheel to move away from it for a time.
  • Maraud the Mines: Technically, yes, you aren’t required to kill anything. The challenge is that most of the required gems you must collect are in breakables that you must destroy to obtain them, of which the sounds attract attention. Often the monsters are also camping on your objectives, and a few are on your path. I’ve done this one solo several times with a Devious bonus, so I had a few kills. It may be possible to go without kills with a Rogue with invisibility options, fog scrolls and a lot of noisemakers. Or, use a partner that pulls the aggro away and then uses Dimension Door to escape.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: It is possible to slay only the Droaam captain to complete the quest. On Kiricletica I managed to get to the final battle without a single kill, slaying only 3 others aside from the target. (How you escape from the mobs left over inside the fortress or loot the chests afterward is another matter.) (Update: It’s completely doable.)
  • Frame Work: It was possible to slay only the red-named minotaur chieftain to complete this quest. Update 22 had bugs that made enemies practically teleport into the fortress on trying this, but perhaps Update 23 has fixed that craziness.
  • Blockade Buster: Another quest where no kills are possible but very difficult for melees to do. A mage with Flesh-to-Stone could stop the kobolds in the mine bay (your goal on all three ships, nine kobolds total). A very fast Ninja Spy could use a finisher to paralyze all three kobolds for up to a minute, enough time to set the mine controls and escape the mine bay. You can’t use the mine controls without a sound; doing so awakens any kobolds nearby.
  • The Claw of Vulkoor: You must kill Sobrien the Wizard at the game’s start. From there, no kills are required.

And that’s it. That’s all I could find.

Quests like “Eyes of Stone” can be easily stealthed but you must slay the four mages and elementals spawned that hold each Coin Lord, then slay Hesstess herself, while trying to avoid getting killed.

Many quests may have levers and switches that must be pulled to proceed. However, often these levers and switches are “wired” to the mobs nearby, just as chests are often locked until you clear enemies nearby (“Irestone Inlet”). Kiricletica discovered this mechanic a lot in her no-kill days.

Since this is DDO and not “Splinter Cell World,” it’s logical that they’re aren’t many quests where slaying is unnecessary. Eberron and the Forgotten Realms are dangerous places where enemies shoot first.

You can get low-kills, but most of the quests simply require you to get your hands dirty…er…bloody.

Got a quest that you’ve think I’ve missed? Tell me about it and I’ll challenge your recollection of it.

Ninjas and Assassins Revisited: Tainted Love

Ninja and assassin squad on approach. Trust me, they're here.

Ninja and assassin squad on approach. Trust me, they’re here.

I drew some consternation from readers when making my favorable comparison of Ninja Spies to Rogue Assassins some time ago.

With a Rogue Assassin of my own that’s working very well as well as several ninja variations, I thought I’d make a fresher comparison and contrast of the class trees, especially with the introduction of a new class tree.

A fun fact: the two classes come from a common real-life archetype. The word “assassin” comes from the Middle Eastern name hashshashin. The name implies that these early killers were sometimes fortified for their duties by hashish, a narcotic I hear goes great with baked goods.

Ninjas, likely originating in China before Japan, and known more formally as shinobi, are merely the hashshashin’s Eastern counterpart. In DDO, of course, the connections of their assassination skills are divided between two D&D classes: Monk and Rogue. Female ninja are known as kunoichi, which I use for my clan.

Two sides of the same coin, really. Saying “ninja assassin” is as redundant as saying “wet water.”

Advantage: Suki – Spycraft

I know I’m very late to the game on this subject, but I’m really enjoying the Use Magic Device skill. As much as I’m able to bring some gear and train in some martial techniques for my kunoichi, the advantages gained in using wands and scrolls or equipping items outside of their normal requirements brings extra diversity to both the role-play flavor and the overall functionality of my Assassin, Sukitetica.

I note time and again that adding UMD cross-class skill points to a Monk is a waste. I still hold to that. A UMD of 24 is arguably the best that a Heroic single-classed Monk can do without bankruptcy (11 cross-class maximum plus CHA modifier of +5 with CHA 8 base, a +5 tome and a +6 enhancement item to get CHA 20, with a Voice of the Master +1 Luck bonus and an alchemical +3 from a House Deneith CHA skills potion).

That allows no-fail Blur and Invisibility and a few other minor protections, maybe Nightshield. I know there are other things to add here, but they aren’t going anywhere close to useful if you can’t reach the next best number, 40, without compromising stealth and jump and Concentration skills or equipped items to do it. Going Half-Elven with a Cleric dilettante is still more prudent.

But now, with a more open mind and greater study of the UMD article on DDO Wiki, at least I have a greater appreciation of the skill and what it could bring to any Monk that really, really wants it.

But I digress. UMD ability with an Assassin is completely Batman-esque in its utility.

Sukitetica, pushing Level 14, can get a solid UMD 24 with items alone. She has only a +1 CHA tome consumed, and awaits her 1750 favor to get a +2 tome that she’ll read and then use a +3 Upgrade tome in the bank for more modifier-based points. With some House Deneith skill potions and a couple more items, she should have UMD 27 temporarily for some more immediate needs.

She can now use Invisibility scrolls. They last for 2 minutes 30 seconds or so,  longer than Ryncletica’s 1-minute Shadow Veil ki-activated invisibility, but have one disadvantage: It’s a verbal spell. I cannot use it willy-nilly in some stealth moments while I’m too close to enemies that may hear my chanting. For close quarters, I better keep some Invisibility potions at the ready.

Case in point: I took Suki into a near-perfect Heroic Elite “The Claw of Vulkoor” run recently. I had noisemaker traps to move some stubborn, camping scorpions away to pacify the guardians very easily. But doing work on the dreaded sixth guardian, with many other roaming scorpions afoot, I neglected to renew my Invisibility before proceeding. I pacified the guardian after getting all to move with a noisemaker, but not before a roaming scorpion saw me and blew that XP objective.

In contrast, Ryncletica made a Hard run of the same quest. She had to brute-force the pressure-plate on the camping sixth scorpion but got it pacified without detection. It was the seventh and final guardian that would not cooperate. I couldn’t make enough noise with throwing stars or breaking stuff in the nearby tomb to lure the thing off its nesting atop the last pressure plate. I could only reveal myself to force the guardian to fight me, losing that XP bonus.

Blur and Nightshield are on the table for Suki, as are Flaming Sphere scrolls. As Teacher Saekee noted, these are big ol’ rolling hate magnets that are hard to kill. If I can deploy one of these against a mob, I can sneak-attack and assassinate to my heart’s content without the use of a meat-shield hireling to attract attention in some locales.

Advantage: Ryn – Poison and Stat-Damage

Level 10 Ryncletica’s go-to weaponry are either two Tiefling Assassin’s Blades (still level 4 items) or a Tiefling blade with Sting, which delivers a poison-stat damaging effect like the Assassin’s so-called poison attacks. It’s actually Poison damage that attracts me as Ninja Poison stacks magnify any Poison enhancement damage from the Tiefling blades, and weapons with the Poison prefix, as well as poison damage from the Envenomed Blades, not so far away.

Both blades have a Ruby of the Endless Night added to them for negative levels on Vorpal, which cushions the blow of not training in the Ninjutsu effect Wave of Despair for spamming mass neg-levels.

I’m not disparaging stat-damage at all. In fact, I rely on it as it increases my ability to take out an enemy in a hurry. The beauty of the Tiefling blade is it’s Keen property for improved critical hits (it will be a bit longer before I can add the feat) as well as its Wounding property that knocks off CON points, weakening foes faster. I spam Suki’s three poison stat-damaging attacks while sneak-attacking u the same keys I use on Ryn and other Monks to spam ki elemental attacks.

In a direct fight, Ryn’s blades simply mow through anyone she encounters as her Touch of Despair and Precision stance attacks also grind through any fortification while the poison quickly sets in.

In a couple of levels, Ryn can use her Vengeful and Vampiric Fury Shortswords for more stat-damaging happiness.

When I wasn’t reading up on UMD, I’ve been studying what other Poison damage effects I can stack into Ryncletica’s build. There’s not much left.

  • She’s got Venomed Blades now as part of her poison-master build, with two more ranks to train there. I already noted the Harper Agent melee power training to magnify this ability’s damage.
  • She’d like to complete her Red Fens Vulkoor’s Cunning set for 10% Threat reduction and the Vulkoorim poison stat-damaging effect from the Ring of Venom and Necklace of Venom.
  • Ryn still wears her Jidz-Tet’ka, which doses a paralyzing poison on occasion while in Ocean Stance.
  • The “Foundation of Discord” and “A Cry for Help” quests in Gianthold might drop a Quiver of Poison that will add ranged Poison damage to my shuriken (provided that I use a Cannith-crafted one that will bypass the Sting of the Ninja bug and deliver Ninja Poison properly again).
  • Greater Poison weapons on loot-generated weapons are quite welcome, but rare to find.

All-in-all, getting the Envenomed Blades back in my hands (and, if very very lucky, finding the pieces to make Epic blades) is the best I can do in the Heroic equipment category, aside from improving her Ninja Poison techniques during combat.

But let me know if I’ve missed an item, enhancement or even Epic Destiny that delivers poison.

Deuce: Stealth Tactics and Attack

While Suki is more dependent on something else gaining attention for her attacks to work best, Ryncletica still has to behave like a sneaky cat to ambush something. Neither character works best in the open for too long at their level without a supporting character since they cannot battle-heal very well.

Thus, Ryn and Suki take to the shadows.

Suki has stronger Hide/Move Silently powers, thanks to a being a Halfling Rogue. Ryn’s not far behind but can also go invisible at-will and more quietly than Suki, as noted. But Ryn’s invisibility requires ki, which is still a precious commodity to generate.

Ryn is a better sustained attack than Suki while in the open, increasing damage in one way or another the longer she fights. But when Suki can gain the advantage of surprise, her Assassinate powers can sometimes take out 2 people at once and then retreat to do that again. I’m just learning how that effect works, turning your character to another target just after using the attack.

Ryn is fine-tuning her Dark finishers. What she cannot paralyze, she can mute. What she cannot mute, she blinds. Blindness really helps avoid direct attacks since few enemies can remove it; it’s effectively 50% Concealment. She now has Flash Bang for mass-blinding and dazing escapes.

Suki likes daggers. After completing a run through the “Cult of the Six” chain, she had a few choices for the chain reward. While another Quicksilver Cassok for the Monks would have been fine, she gravitated to a little dagger named Sheridan’s Wrack. It didn’t seem all that special at first with Keen and one Red augment slot.

And then she equipped it. In Suki’s hands, the crit-range dived to 17-20 and, with Blade Specialization trained, went to 15-20 with a x3 crit modifier. The Wrack also has a 1.50(2d3) damage profile, making it my new death-blade for high damage, no-frills assassinations.

Ryn can boost her DEX for more and more damage, and Assassins share the DEX to-hit and to damage ability. But Suki has a new option: Train the Versatile Adept abilities in the Harper Agent tree to use her INT for to-hit and damage.

I was worried that, somehow, the DEX to-hit feature would countermand that Harper training, but this option should work like the old Weapon Finesse effect. As long as Suki’s INT is the higher ability score, then INT to-damage would be used. This means I can pump her INT for both attack and to ensure her Assassinate DCs are as strong as they can be. I’ll still need DEX for reflex. If I’m wrong, I’ll just reset the Harper tree but the extra INT is still a very good thing to do.

It’s too bad that I can’t have either as an NPC to the other while in gameplay. Ryn and Suki would be an unstoppable death-dealing duo.

Enter the Assassin

"Assassinate."

“Assassinate.”

I’m straying again from monastic enlightenment, but primarily because I’m fond of Rogues, their complementarity with Ninja Spies, as well as my total love of stealth operations, recently codified for others.

There’s also the matter of refining what I’ve learned from my aging first-life Acrobat, Allysen, combining my stealth teachings from Kiricletica and others.

Say hello to Sukitetica. She’s a halfling Assassin, inspired by Log Horizon’s cute but deadly character, Akatsuki.

With Suki, my goal is to destroy my own fallacies about any limitations in the class. But Update 22 won’t make that easy.

The Art of Offensive Non-Aggression

Enjoying the Splinterskull throne. It's lonely being an Assassin--and Sukitetica likes it that way, mostly.

Enjoying the Splinterskull throne. It’s lonely being an Assassin–and Sukitetica likes it that way, mostly.

Unlike Ninja Spies, Rogues, in general, have high to-hits but not necessarily high damage per attack. By the basic design, Rogues gain a far greater attack when enemies aren’t paying attention to them: Sneak Attack.

The benefits of Sneak Attack damage in stealth ops returned quickly to my attentions after only a few minutes with Suki.

When running Kiricletica during her self-imposed solo challenge days, I had to refresh myself about Threat.

Also known as “Hate” or “aggro”, Threat is a calculation by an enemy AI on how much damage it suffered from your character, even if you’ve not actually caused any damage. The Intimidate skill exploits Threat to pull enemies to tanking characters.

For Kiri, I managed Threat simply by avoiding attacking except when required. Even if attacked, I used attacks and gear that caused a momentary Bluff effect, where a target briefly turns their attention away from you, reducing their number of attacks on you.

The goal of an Assassin is to keep their Threat as low as possible while still keeping an aggressive posture. If Threat goes too high, not only will the enemy choose you as a target but it eliminates your chance to deal catastrophic damage by Sneak Attacks, the hallmark trait of fighting Rogues.

To their credit, Ninja Spies also gain Sneak Attack enhancement training identical to Rogues. However, Rogues gain class bonuses to Sneak Attack as auto-granted feats as they level, substantially increasing damage over any other class Sneak Attack powers. Being a Halfling, like Suki, affords a chance to train additional Sneak Attack dice on top of Rogue levels and Assassin tree enhancements.

So, to best manage Threat, Suki’s learned to always hire a meat shield and set him or her to fight.

Often, she chooses Clerics as they also have restorative powers, self-healing, and a fair amount of defenses. Such hirelings (or summoned creatures they can add to a battle) needn’t endure being surrounded for long. Lurking in stealth, Suki sends her mercenaries ahead to attract as many enemies as they can withstand.

Then she strikes the grouped enemies from behind. Using Single Weapon Fighting and combined with Dexterity-to-hit and to-Damage bonuses, she gains improved weapon damage. Kukris are preferred over daggers but Suki uses what tool is best, depending on the enemy. She holds onto a Muckbane for the oozes.

Combined with a strong weapon, Suki carves through her foes with swift, lethal precision. Even at her current level 8, armed with a highly damaging Blood Machete with level 8 Frost and Fire augment gems, anything that isn’t undead or a construct meets a very sudden end.

Exactly What It Says On The Tin

Anyone who forgets why Assassins exist, and who refuse to assist them in gameplay, epically fail to comprehend the very clear role of this class tree. A ninja can assassinate, but requires greater training (level 16). The Monk’s Quivering Palm attack does instantly and quietly kill a target (with a sufficient WIS DC) but it pulls the attacker out of Sneak.

The Assassin’s quintessential attack leaves the Assassin in Sneak and undetected.

But Suki is several levels from training the Assassinate ability–not that it works too well with Update 22. An overbalancing problem with enemy AI causes them to sense the Assassin after a quick kill. Bluff is also bugged, attracting enemies that aren’t targeted.

Thankfully, according to a report from Master Assassin Nokowi, Update 23 appears to rectify the issue, restoring the one skill and related Roguish powers.

Until she reaches Level 12, Suki is content to leverage other special attacks in her arsenal. There are three “poison” attacks. In truth, these are debuffing attacks which aren’t enhanced by Poison vulnerability effects such as those from the Ninja Spy’s Ninja Poison. Despite this, these so-called “Poison Strikes” can debuff enemy saves, increase damage, decease spell resistance or even paralyze under the right conditions. By “right,” I should say rare. Most of these go off only on Vorpal attack rolls.

Still, spamming these three attacks, in addition with Bleed Them Out and Shiv, both with increased weapon damage, aren’t a bad combination at all to ensure that whatever you attack is deader than dead in only 1 or 2 attacks.

Suki2

Suki had to go with an “Assassin’s Creed” look. Nope, never played that game. But their avatars look stellar.

Suki is training her stealth master skills but is quite the opposite of the low-kill edict of Kiricletica. Suki is, effectively, blood-thirsty. She knows her objectives as well as vulnerabilities and would rather take them out and not butcher an entire dungeon needlessly at greater risk to herself and her party.

She’d ask you to define “needlessly,” however, since enemies are in her way to her central objectives, loot and the exit. Seems that there will be few times where Suki doesn’t feel threatened. An Assassin, it seems, may be one living, death-dealing definition of paranoia. They do believe everyone is out to get them, and thus prepare themselves to counterstrike before her enemies can make a single attack.

As opposed to some anti-social ninjas you know, Suki would love to join her guildmates or even PuGs. She’s also an excellent trapmaster and lockpicker, and appreciates the fine work that other party members do in attracting attention so she can eliminate the tougher enemies without interference.

The challenge is ensuring that party members allow Suki to do her job. Assassins require cooperation of others to thrive.

Compensating for Lost Ki

I’m already missing two characteristics of the Ninja Spy: the Wholeness of Body self-healing feat, and Shadow Veil, a level 6 ninja enhancement that grants one minute of invisibility and 25% incorporeality at will (for 10 ki).

Happily, I have some options.

This time I’m listening to Sir Geoff of Hanna regarding dragonmarks. Suki’s got her Mark of Healing. While eventually having a reserve of Heal is a good thing, it’s Break Out the Leeches that makes me giddy.

It removes a negative level, disease and poison effect stack once every 3 seconds. Leeches work per your Heal skill: If you have 10 in Heal, the leeches go to work for 10 seconds. Clearly, I’d like to have at least 12 Heal, more if possible for this cross-class skill.

I’ll miss the ki-based self-healing of a Monk less with these dragonmarks. Maximizing the Jorasco Dragonmark Focus adds a bit more versatility with more dragonmark uses and bonuses to Heal, per The Geoff.

As far as invisibility goes, I tend to stockpile Potions of Invisibility as I find them in quests. Suki carries several dozen. I shouldn’t need them as often if I invest a few additional points in both Halfling and Rogue versions of the Stealthy enhancements to substantially increase Suki’s Hide and Move Silently abilities. She’s trained Faster Sneaking from the Mechanic tree. and wears the faster Speed or Striding gear.

Suki is training her Use Magic Device skill in hopes of using Invisibility scrolls (UMD: 24) and other spells later in life. Such items can be problematic in the wilds as some have verbal components–you make sounds as you use them. That’s bad for someone that doesn’t want to attract attention.

I’m new to UMD. I’ve generally been an opponent of this skill since I mostly play Monks, for which it is a cross-class skill. But I see the great advantages of a high UMD skill that will eventually add in emulating a few monastic powers I’m missing (such as Blur) but several others I can never attain as a mere Monk, such as Teleport, Raise Dead, Resurrection and Heal. The Mechanic line has 3 points I could grab, but that’s an expensive AP drain. I’d rather boost my CHA and take advantage of many other items to get my UMD to at least 40 by level 20.

Incorporeality of any serious degree beyond Ghostly will have to wait until she reaches Epic levels and enjoys Shadowdancer powers.

Suki is a simple girl. Provided she has a meat shield, no trap, no locked door, no enemy will interfere with her job.

I wish that the game could allow you to pair your character with a hireling avatar based from your character list. A hireling version of Kiricletica the ninja or Lynncletica the tanker paired with Suki would be formidable.

The “Stealth Team 6” Challenge

It can be a little like this, minus the guns. That's serious Underwater Action there.

It can be a little like this, minus the guns. That’s serious Underwater Action there.

A lone hobgoblin patrolled a cave corridor deep in the hobgoblin halls. The guard stopped by three crates, their dim shadows blocking what little light from the surrounding torches could emit into the tunnel. With nothing to see, the guard turned and followed his steps back up the hall to his previous checkpoint.

Behind him, the shadows around the crates moved. Three adventurers studied the guard’s movement in silence.

With a gesture forward, Ryncletica pointed to several more crates where she and two other ninja could hide. Together they moved ahead with no noise; dripping water from stalactites above were far louder.

Passing the guard, they reached another lone hobgoblin guarding a treasure chest. Isolated enough from neighboring patrols, he’d still alert others and the ninjas could get overwhelmed should he bolt.

All three could see that this one was more stout, more decorated, and certainly more dangerous than the lesser guards behind them.

Kiricletica made a hand gesture to the others, who nodded and melded into the shadows. Kiri pulled out a single blade and channeled her ki, her blade’s tip dancing as she etched the signs of Water, Darkness and Water into the air. moving to point-blank range to the idling boss.

A single swing of Kiri’s blade disrupted the ki of her enemy, paralyzing him. The two other ninja moved in on stealthy feet. Two seconds later, the boss was dead,  never having a chance to make a single attack or call out for help.

Ahead, after evading several small patrols by clinging to the corridor’s edges and ledges, a single guard ahead stood idle at a thin chokepoint, unmoving, his back to the team. They couldn’t sneak past him without being discovered.

Ryncletica approached and held out a straightened palm charged with dark ki. She quickly touched the pressure point on the guard’s back. He collapsed immediately, dead. Ryn had to leave stealth to do this, so Szyncletica and Kiri were at the ready.

A small band of enemies saw Ryn and charged in. Szyncletica raised up, her arm a blurry motion as throwing stars whizzed by Ryn’s head, striking and killing the five guards before they reached the team. Szyn reminded the team that additional kills were necessary in their mission to thin out the forces as well as killing their leader.

A large mob blocked a door. Out of direct sight of the mob, Kiri pulled out a star and lobbed it at a barrel left and in a small cul-de-sac. As the mob moved to investigate, the team sneaked behind and away, the final boss still yet to come.

~~~~~

With the Update 19 changes to the stealth AI, I tried to gather a group of guildmates, months ago, with high Sneak skills to join me in quests where we complete objectives with minimal kills, good trapping, looting wherever possible, with few enemies noticing.

I called the idea “Stealth Team 6,” which worked well in name both to a Shout Out to the famous U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 ops group (which doesn’t really use their old name officially, but damn it if that will stop us from using it) as well as the maximum size of a party.

It didn’t gain momentum with my guild at the time, thanks to the widespread number of levels as well as many players that preferred to play more Epic content or eschewed Hide/Move Silently in their builds.

So, I thought I’d farm out the idea for anyone, guild or no guild, on any server. The challenge is very similar to what Kiricletica did primarily in her first life, except that she cannot open locks or disable traps.

The extra challenge for ST6 squads is that they are a larger party that must work cohesively or else one person could blow the cover on everyone. Most importantly, the team would fail their mission.

ST6 is a proposed way to play DDO, with self-imposed conditions to change things up a lot for a static group,  PuG or guild. You could even blend in other self-imposed conditions such as permadeath.

ST6 gives a group an opportunity to train in stealth tactics as a group, learning from more experienced players if one’s handy. It’s also more fun to share in the knowledge that your entire six-person team killed only 2 guys, bypassed dozens, even hundreds of enemies, and snuffed the boss quick to gain that treasure.

By mastering stealth tactics, some quests that seem like death traps can be managed easier. Remember that one quest in the Necropolis chain where you split up and have to deal with a gauntlet of skeleton archers that will  fill you with arrows yet are too far away to easily attack? Not a problem for an ST6 team. You just sneak on through, hit the lever to the door ahead and continue. Archers won’t shoot what they cannot see.

ST6 players also learn to become more self-sufficient in normal play, remembering that the most optimal path isn’t always the obvious one.

So, when conventional ways to complete a quest are harder, tiresome, resource-intensive or just plain boring, it’s time to form up your Stealth Team 6 special ops.

Team Deployments

ninjaspyWhat classes could qualify for ST6 missions?

While any class could do some work in an ST6 team, the Bard, Monk, Ranger and Rogue (including the Shadar-Kai race) are best suited because Hide and Move Silently are class skills for them, allowing their numbers to go to their maximums.

I’ve spoken fondly of the synergy of the Ninja Spy and Rogue Assassin before.

If you’re unfamiliar with the stealth mechanics in DDO, read the DDO Wiki Sneak article. I just updated the article with a few additional tips and clarification.

The character itself should at least:

  • Wear no armor or light armor. Else, you’re going to be subject to the Armor Check Penalty on critical skills needed for best stealth missions. Most importantly, you’ll be unable to swim faster or jump higher while in stealth. Jump and Tumble have a -20 penalty while in Stealth, requiring expertise in avoiding detection by going up and above enemies, rather than around.
  • Have maximum Hide and Move Silently (H/MS) scores. Everyone, but especially team members who aren’t Bards, Monks, Rogues or Rangers should wear any gear with Competence or other bonuses to improve their scores. Hide reduces the time for enemies to “lock on” your location with Spot while sneaking within their line of sight. Move Silently reduces their chance to hear you while sneaking. Invisibility cannot count here. While invisibility is immunity from enemy Spot checks, it is ineffective against Red Names and other enemies with See Invisibility or True Seeing. High MS + invisibility against a beholder = dying adventurer. Hide will reduce detection against True Seers until you’re about body-length to them (2 meters). At that point you have the brief but very workable element of surprise, be it a Stunning Fist, Assassinate, Finger of Death, whatever. Kill what you must quickly, as silently as you can, and don’t let even other party members know what just happened, much less the enemy. Invisibility can greatly supplement but not replace Hide.
  • Have high Jump scores. Most people simply add a maximum of 10 points to Jump and stop, using spells or potions or items to increase the number if needed. Jump scores above 40 give no benefit unless you’re in Sneak. There, you have a -20 penalty. So increasing Jump to higher numbers ensures that you can leap atop high locations even while in stealth.
  • Class role coordination. As implied above, you’ve got to be able to stay hidden as a team, doing as much as you can while hidden. Trappers are critical for team members who might hide as well as any other on the team but lack Evasion to pass through deadly traps. A good Wizard or Sorcerer with Knock can substitute when the team Rogue is handling other business. Monks and Assassins could form an assault team to clear pathways quickly and quietly with Quivering Palm, Assassinate and other moves. Swashbucklers can light tank and give party buffs as needed,  give Invisibility out to others, and slash mobs silly.
  • Stealth tactics mastery. This includes but isn’t limited to:  never striking any breakables, ever, unless using one to attract enemies away from your position or an objective; always remaining in Sneak except in battle, but returning to Sneak any time when moving; letting Rogues open locked doors rather than bashing them in for a silent entry; avoiding a giveaway of team position unless as part of a coordinated feint. Enemies with tremor-sense (spiders) and what few others that can defeat/ignore H/MS require a finer touch that a team would have to figure out on the fly. Example: the epic quest “House of Broken Chains” can be done well in stealth but one location has spiders that must be pulled away from the captured slaves so the slaves won’t attack you so that you can rescue them later.
  • Stealth speed. The Deepwood Stalker Ranger, Ninja Spy and Thief-Acrobat Rogue have the Faster Sneaking ability to increase stealth speed by up to 50%. A core ability in the Shadowdancer epic destiny can add full movement speed briefly to a sneaking character. Speed isn’t absolutely required but is very helpful to get out of an enemy’s line-of-sight and to a target as soon as possible. Combined with the class’s natural fast movement and enhancement training, the Ninja Spy is the fastest stealth class.
  • Shadow approach. Zerging is never welcome in a stealth team unless you zerg as a team and in formation with the precision of the Blue Angels flying team. Higher experience is gained not by kill count but low bonuses (Insidious Cunning-10%, Discreet-7% and Devious-5%) and completing any optionals if low-kill count can be maintained or if party agrees to mission changes based on the quest. Some quests will need you to slaughter to advance or activate other objectives; the goal is to kill what you must but not enrage the whole dungeon as you do it.
  • Direct Action. A stealth team’s advantage is that they can be as small as they want and therefore less detectable, but their disadvantage is that they are small and more vulnerable to mob overruns. Therefore, what an ST6 team cannot outwit by stealth, they must outgun. While fighting, however, they can use their innate stealth tactics against the AI to keep more enemies from joining the fray. Say your team is moving through a corridor when one of your party is detected. If the enemy is a scout, ranged members must take that guy out before he rings an alarm. If the enemy charges, the team has to eliminate him without attracting more attention from others.

Mission Objectives

A ST6 mission could go many ways because every quest is different, of course. The advantage to playing in ST6 is that your team exploits the environment and expected behaviors of your enemies to press your advantage. While we’ve all done this non-stealthy ways in parties, an ST6 team will apply this to avoid attacks when possible, not to counter them.

Let’s take apart a quest or two to show what an ST6 mission might do.

“The Kobold’s New Ringleader”

Kiricletica shows how using breakables aided her in a successful solo, low-kill run through this level 2 quest on Elite in this video. Details on the quest can also be found here.

“Frame Work”

This quest is built well to handle any kind of party and has only two objectives: Use a special Flesh-to-Stone wand to stone any non-boss minotaur and then kill the Minotaur Chieftain.

One stealthy approach is to shoot yourselves into the fort using a repaired ballista. Team members can scatter, with high Spot gear to see the stealthed panthers and wolves as you gather enough ballista parts. A Rogue Mechanic will be able to repair one or more ballistas to allow teams to approach from several angles.

As the ballista shoots you, it pulls you out of stealth on activating the thing, so be sure to go back to Sneak while in flight. From here, the operation is a matter of team pride and preference.

The stealthiest approach is repairing a ballista, near the bosses inside the fort, which will shoot you into the chieftain’s lair without needing to open its gate, and bypassing the traps on the ramp to that gate.

You could wipe out the town, take out only the Cabal Seers for their chests, stone any Minotaur Runts to make setting off alarms impossible by enemies, or go in to the end-fight as a group, stone the Runts there, kill the red-named Chieftain and use diversion tactics to allow all to loot the chests before escaping with the ballista there.

“Blockade Buster”

Another quest designed to favor stealth; using doors there will not break Sneak or cut Invisibility. The Dungeonmaster’s first words to you sums up your mission nicely:

"The Droaam fleet has gathered here during this dark night --
probably for mutual protection.
Such measures might help against a naval attack--
but not against you."

 

The optimal party would be Rogue Assassins with a Ninja Spy or two. The ninja goes to seek out the crest on each ship since they can go invisible at will with ki. Once the crest is found, all sneak to the lower deck, where the Assassins remove the kobolds before an alarm sounds, or mages use Flesh-to-Stone or Finger of Death.

Lastly, a Rogue opens the mine bay doors for all others to leave as he uses Trapmaking skills to make detonators.

Optionally, any captains lounging about in their quarters (especially if guarding a crest) could be taken out safely as a team. One captain is often on the bridge of one ship and would cause too much consternation on deck to eliminate.

A perfect score of 9 killed (3 kobolds each) or less with all detonators going off fast enough for none of the crews to raise alarms makes for a nice bit of bragging and extra XP.

“The Claw of Vulkoor”

Arguably the toughest stealth mission in the game, especially as a team. After killing the fire giant wizard, the team can use assassination/instant-kill tactics on the giants before going stealthy to use the pressure plates to charm the guardian scorpions while avoiding detection from any scorpion.

It can be done, even at Epic Elite. You gain massive XP and extra chests for completing all stealth optionals, having only killed what giants stood in the way.

At the start, the tough part is that the giants have See Invisibility, so anyone that’s relied on it before will not do well here.

The toughest part involves staying out of sight of randomly moving and patrols of scorpions in tight spaces.  Sneaking by them is harder if you don’t move fast in Sneak (Ninja Spy and Rogue Acrobat trees have Faster Sneaking enhancements to increase Sneak speed).

Team “Uniform”

I add this part for kicks and giggles, but if you’re going to go in as a stealth team, go big in terms of looks. It’s great for morale.

Ninja Masks. Hoods. Dark clothing. Glowing goggles. The Shadowfell look.

This is a good time to spend those Turbine Points to get some great cosmetic armor. You can standardize or look like a rag-tag outfit. A little role-play should be very fun here.

Techniques

A strong ST6 team has many, many tools to complete objectives with deadly silence.

  • Stealth. This goes without further discussion.
  • Distraction. Enemies nearby will move to investigate a sound. If you use a single breakable to pull enemies while remaining in stealth, you can sneak behind them, often clearing your path to reach a lever or to continue to your objective.
  • Assassination skills. As noted, the Monk’s Quivering Palm will insta-kill, at the price of pulling that Monk out of stealth. A Rogue Assassin would be the point-man for the true Assassinate ability that keeps them hidden.
  • Charms/Domination. The Bard’s skills to make your enemies your allies can make them fight with each other while your team presses on. Shadowdancers can use a dominating ability.
  • Paralyzation. Hold Monster spells. The Freezing the Lifeblood finishing move to paralyze for a full minute.
  • Muting. The Pain Touch finishing move nauseates an enemy. They cannot attack or cast spells for a full minute.
  • Neutralization. The Pain Touch finishing move will mute enemy casters. All other insta-kill spells work here.
  • Ninja Poison. Against tougher enemies, the damage-over-time effect of this magical poison of the Ninja Spy can make takedowns of most of the toughest bosses easier, magnifying any Poison attacks of the group.
  • Bluffing. Not only useful for combat pulling, but also for NPC dialogs for a tactical completion.
  • Diplomacy. Some quests offer a better no-kill/limited-kill option with good Diplomacy.
  • Intimidate. While normally you’re not trying to pick a fight, a Shintao Monk’s Ki Shout could allow one character to be a diversion while others sneak away and continue to an objective. A Shintao Monk is a resilient self-healing character that can take on a group. A Swashbuckler could also take on this role by charming enemies, killing what she must, and then leaving the scene.
  • Diversion, the ability. The Ninja Spy’s Diversion technique is a hate-magnet dummy he can deploy when a team is becoming overwhelmed or need a strong distraction, aggroing everything in range so that the rest of the team is ignored and can escape.
  • Disable Device: Traps are not a problem with a typical well-trained Rogue.
  • Search. Your Rogues will find the hidden loot, side passages quite well.
  • Ranged attack. Archers and throwers are great here, as would be a powerful Wizard and Sorcerer. Your agility allows you to reach a high ground to pelt enemies if required.
  • Open Lock: Same as for traps, Rogues can open locked doors without attracting attention.
  • Spot. At least the leaders should have high Spot skills to see hidden enemies way ahead so that the team can determine how to avoid or remove them.
  • Diversity. Only the Rogue hasn’t an innate self-healing option, but offers many other abilities to a group. Adding a Dragonmark of Healing will fix that if a halfling, and Use Magic Device works well, too. Half-Elves and Rangers can use wands and scrolls with the right training. A well-prepared ST6 team doesn’t require a dedicated healer.
  • Cooperation. A ST6 team must excel at this as no other, just like a SEAL team. You must have a strong leader here, and team members must cooperate and coordinate. Dissention is failure.

Implementation

Hopefully this idea will generate some interest through the game as a play alternative. Perhaps you’re already doing it.

Take my suggestions, modify them as you see fit and then get some groups going. I hope to recruit others on my own server and guild, pointing them to this post for instruction.

See the DDO Wiki articles for more on the mechanics of stealth in the game:

Let me know if you’ve taken up the challenge and tell us of your results.

UPDATE: From this post comes a new game guide: Stormreach Shadows, for all classes to master stealth tactics.

The Lone Blade: Kiricletica Reborn

Kiri's a little closer to the single-bladed Akatsuki than her "Sword Art Online" inspiration. And not nearly as cute when assassinating.

Kiri’s a little closer to the single-bladed “ninja” Akatsuki from “Log Horizon” than her “Sword Art Online” inspiration, Kirito–although Kiri’s not nearly as cute when assassinating.

Feeling impulsive a few days ago, I gathered up some Tokens of the Twelve with the L26 Kiricletica, made a Heroic True Heart of Wood and proceeded to start a new life with my soloing Ninja Spy.

My impulsiveness made me forget to buy up a boatload of Yugoloth potions, but I still have a modest supply.

And the new ingredients system for the Shared Bank makes localizing collectibles needed for the House Deneith ability potions for more emergency WIS or DEX so much easier. I’ve also been more crazed in farming anything mossy for those WIS potions.

Reviewing the quest list, there wasn’t much else Kiri could accomplish that was necessary to do, although I entertained clearing all other lower quests for a time. She’d mastered Shadowdancer and Grandmaster of Flowers.

But I wanted to give Kiri a few important changes under her cloak for this second life.

The Lone Blade

Kiricletica’s first life had one general problem: attack speed. As an armed Monk, damage per second with shortswords is a bit lower than fighting unarmed. She had offhand chances with the Two Weapon Fighting feats but didn’t train them in full.

She was able to pack in more damage with many enemies, thanks to Ninja Poison. However, takedown speed is critical in solo ops so that the isolated enemies you remove do not have an opportunity to strike back or call for help.

Kiricletica is now the first of my Monks to use Single Weapon Fighting.

It was a clear choice to boost attack speed for a character that’s not a one-man army. My exploits with Flynncletica sold me on this idea immediately.

By level 15, Kiri as a SWF user could have 30% base Combat Style bonus melee alacrity, not counting stacking enhancement bonuses from Wind Stance, Haste, or her Melee Alacrity trinket. For quick takedowns, that’s a help.

I said “could” because feats can still be tight if I want to add in Whirlwind Strike for some combat options. If I have to pick, it’s obviously for more SWF speed.

Kiri won’t enjoy the innate stacking Doublestrike, Dodge or AC bonuses that Swashbucklers like Flynncletica can gain with the right training of that class’s enhancements, combined with SWF.

But that’s not the point. The Ninja Spy already masters a shortsword with impressive attack bonuses, Dexterity to Damage, as well as enjoying inherent abilities as a Monk. If I can add some morale bonus Doublestrike in from something, great. She’ll also gain Shadow Double later for a burst of 100% Doublestrike with 2x weapon damage for 6 seconds with a 30 second cooldown.

To my pleasant surprise, Single Weapon Fighting is treated as a Monk Class Feat. Curiously, I couldn’t initially select it during character creation with the granted 2 ranks of Balance already in place, the feat’s only prerequisite. I had to backtrack and add two more points to Balance before the feat was selectable.

Dodge and the Half-Elf Cleric Dilettante returned as well. Using scrolls and wands is just too good to pass up. Training Mobility and Spring Attack for Dodge as well as Combat Expertise for more AC.

I felt more reserved in training too much of the Half-Elf tree, and I shouldn’t be. I chose the Elven side in Kiri’s first life for more Dexterity, which was rather meh, but going more Human this round should be more advantageous with its Action Boosts for special needs, and more additional ability points. Improved Recovery is a no-brainer for needed healing amplification, as is boosting the Cleric dilettante for using Heal and Restoration scrolls.

She ate a saved 30,000 XP gem from a very lucky Daily Dice roll to send her straight to level 3, where she’s already taken the Dark path and trained much of the good stuff in the Ninja Spy tree, lacking only Sting of the Ninja for a while longer.

Kiricletica has the maximum WIS I could add to her on creation: 18 base. She’s already 24 WIS with buffs, inherent bonuses and Ocean Stance  at level 3, still lacking an enhancement bonus item. I exploited her power immediately, using “Freezing the Lifeblood” finishing moves on the few orange bosses of a few Korthos quests. Kiri had 48 base WIS and could boost it to 54-56 with potions by L26. I want to see 60 there for perfect finishers.

Once damage-enhancing abilities such as No Mercy are trained again (up to 30% more damage to helpless enemies), takedown speed will be insane, especially with Human Action Boosts and more DEX. Of course, the assassinate-like Quivering Palm at level 15 should apply quite well with Kiri’s very high WIS DC.

DEX is still important and is the second critical stat. I want to get this much higher than her first life, perhaps 40-45 by Epic. This should help not only sword damage but increase Kiri’s throwing star prowess. If feats allow (and I doubt they will), I’ll add Ten Thousand Stars to her in this life.

Ki retention and generation is the real challenge to making this work at such low levels; Kiri’s DCs for her finishers at her level is rock-solid. A crafted Concentration +7 helm sits on her head for a bit more help. Eight action points are going to train the Henshin Mystic’s Mystical Training (more to finisher DCs)  to ultimately gain the Contemplation ability (more Concentration and another passive ki regeneration point).

Not a single point goes into any Shintao ability.

I dug up a Phiarlan Mirror Cloak  for more Hide/Move Silently until I can use her Cloak of Shadows once more.

She’ll try to have a bit more Spot, too. Colliding into the asses of other stealthy enemies while sneaking around yourself is outright embarrassing.

The Revised Mission

I’ve got a lot of characters to get up to speed and also to TR in keeping with improving my ability to help others enjoy the game and improve their skills.

While I love, love, LOVE playing Kiri in solitary mode, and will still do so from time to time, I’m trying to hold her back while I TR and level up a few others, as too many of my characters are loitering around at higher levels.

I’ll still keep Kiri to her original soloing challenge rules while alone as a matter of role-play, but she’ll be likely joining parties more often. I’m only questioning whether to move her to level 5 right away.

Flynn and Szyncletica will be diving into several “Devil’s Assault” runs to generate as many Tokens as I’m able to do. I’m determined to get my dojo to be less top-heavy so I can help out other players and have more fun to boot.

 

Kiri and The Kobold’s New Ringleader

With one character newly created and built to run as many quests as she can without any party/hireling assistance, I began completing several Harbor quests.

One that I thought would require me to be resourceful to meet my stealth challenge goals is “The Kobold’s New Ringleader.” In this quest (and with many to come where slaying is often a requirement), complete stealth is impossible. Rather, I switch to an infiltration mode.

In infiltration, you may have to actively kill but only enough enemies to proceed to the goal. If you can evade fighting, you should do so. Often, however, there are just too many enemies about that will detect you.

Infiltration will be easier later as Kiri’s Hide and Move Silently skills outstrip enemy Spot levels and as her Faster Sneaking ability (with better Striding/Monk movement speed improvements in tandem) reduces her chances against a Spot check.

I’m still burdened with Windows Movie Maker as my editor. This will be the last darker video as I think I’ve gotten a grip on the brightness and gamma settings.

Highlights:

  • This quest is very high on breakables. In keeping with the stealth goals, few were touched.
  • To avoid fighting unnecessary sections of the quest, I leapt through the opening in the large barricade ahead of the quest start.
  • What breakables I did use, I used for diversion. Scan to time point 3:00 to see how this was done. In the new stealth AI, monsters will move to investigate any sounds where they can’t see a target. With plenty of barrels to smash, I used them not only to allow me to pull a switch inside a guarded room, but also to use the same trick to distract the kobolds on my way out. I will be using this scheme a lot as her adventures continue.
  • I would’ve done better at time point 8:15 in distracting two packs of kobolds. I moved one pack within the now-opened door to the ringleader, but I should have tried to lure down the kobolds sitting in the final hall to the ringleader’s door. If I would’ve struck a breakable while staying out of sight to the left of that hallway, towards the boss room, I could have entered the shrine on the other end, stuck a box inside, and lured the kobolds there as I sneaked out again.
  • The final fight has a small pack of kobolds and one mini-boss before the ogre boss. I did kill the boss and avoid getting the last of the runts not counted in the kill score. Still, I had to slay half of the quest’s population to complete.

Recap on Other Quests

I completed “Where There’s Smoke” at Hard difficulty. This is the “save the farm, save the dogs” quest in the Cerulean Hills. Killing is inevitable here because of the patrols and the erected barrier near the start. However, avoiding the dogs, I was able to evade many patrols to get to the farm. In trying to stay hidden, I began to discover nooks and crannies throughout this quest that I’ve never noticed before. Very insightful stuff. I hope to rediscover features such as these to use in other quests that even flower-sniffers may not notice. One thing I learned I could do was to jump over the fences of the farm main entrance and the farmhouse itself, rather than destroying the doors. I did have to kill all the orcs that spawn at the farmhouse to complete the quest as a required objective. Given the heavy mobs in this one, I was pleased to come out alive and without an Aggression bonus–my goal when Devious or better low-kill bonuses aren’t possible.

Also completed was the Waterworks chain. I did film part 1 of this quest and learned something interesting about the “Rescue Arlos” quest. You recall the multiple raised bridges that you think you need to drop to enter into the various hallways? Well, I just jumped in the water and then leapt up to one passageway. I still had to double back to kill the guards at that nexus, but without a bridge dropped there until I chose to drop it, they couldn’t leave to chase me.

The quest almost went pear-shaped as I escorted Arlos, as he found not only the last group of kobolds in the nook before the bridge, but a acid-cloud spamming mini-boss shaman. Thankfully I did buff Arlos a little as a precaution and he did survive to complete the quest.

Part 2 of Waterworks was just ugly in terms of stealth or infiltration and had to be essentially played as most would play it since respawns, oozes and close quarters with required kills prohibited a more promising run.

Also completed were “The Captives” in Cerulean Hills, successfully keeping the kill count down, and a modest success in the Baudry Cartaman series that added some experience in avoiding vigilant kobolds.

Kiricletica reached Level 6 with completing Waterworks. Now she can go invisible and incorporeal with Shadow Veil, has Two-Weapon Fighting and can use her longswords as ki weapons. Delicious.

Next time: DDO “Groundhog Day”, and encounters with pirates–a ninja’s worst enemy.

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.)

Ninja Assassin: DDO Stealth 2.0

RynRestsAtShrine

I’ve been dying to put Update 19’s new stealth features to a harsh test.

School was in session recently with your favorite ninja, Ryncletica, in “Return to Cabal for One,” Epic Hard, solo, no hirelings (until boss fight, with the Onyx Panther).

For those not in the know, here’s a quick summary of what’s changed for the player.

  • Players can jump and tumble in stealth, at a -20 penalty to those skills. I have been officially vindicated in adding more points in Jump. You still shouldn’t add more than 40, but if you do, you’ll jump better while in stealth.
  • This now-standard feature required that the Shadowdancer ability to give you jumping for 30 seconds was nerfed and revised to faster speed, sneak attacks and whatnot.
  • Several class trees offer abilities to greatly improve your sneaking speed, such as Agility in the Ninja Spy tree.
  • Strong Hide and Move Silently scores makes escaping a fight quite practical, as I’ll explain in a moment.

Enemies will behave less strangely and much more consistently.

  • EnemyHeardEnemies are much more vigilant and attentive. If they hear or see anything, they move realistically to investigate it (a red “?” appears over their head) .
  • Enemies have swift and increasing Spot bonuses in their field of vision in an arc in front of them. This is represented by flashing eye symbols over their heads that grow in number and change color to indicate they’re getting a better fix on you while in stealth or if invisible (which is still essentially Hide +20). This Spot change takes only a second or two–they’re very fast to find you if you loiter.EnemySpot2
  • If an enemy sees you, a red eye appears over them. They will chase you until you kill them or if you can break their line-of-sight of you and hide again, being still and quiet, forcing them to find you again.EnemySees
  • After a few moments of fruitless searching, enemies will give up, sometimes walking back to where you found them.
  • As before, some enemies will find you without eyes (Thaarak Hounds), through vibrations (spiders) or because you still breathe (some undead).
  • While you can still sneak up on a beholder, their 360 degree arc means that they will spot a sneaking player faster than before. Never try to use invisibility on a beholder or you’ll get laughed at moments before it blasts you into atoms.

I picked “Cabal” because it’s hardly a stealth-friendly quest. Entering on Epic Hard and dead-solo ensured that I would get a workout and any Epic character advantages were generally evenly matched. No healer hirelings is standard for Ryncletica, who can heal herself well enough and knows that most hirelings attract a stupid amount of attention.

Entering

On entering, my first tactic was to divide and conquer the first guards surrounding Gardak, the scheming false turncoat, pulling them towards the entrance for easy kills. Next, pounce like a cat on the enemy mages, the most challenging guys who love to throw disco-balls up to dance you to death or use Glitterdust to obscure their allies.

I told the scheming hobgoblin to disable all the traps as part of the deal, knowing that I’d see him again at the end fight. I could’ve let the traps stay as a betting man since Ryncletica’s Reflex save of 56 (52 and a boost)  was strong enough to pull the super-trapped lever in EH “Haywire Foundry” without getting punctured. If I was certain that the enemies were damaged by their own traps, I would’ve left them in place. Yet I knew life would be stimulating enough with the fights to avoid traps in the mix.

After cleaning up a small group by the second door, it was officially game time.

Targeting

After opening any door, I tumbled back and went stealth, to minimize whole mobs on the other side from attacking at once.

“Cabal” is nasty as most locations are narrow corridors filled with hobgoblins on patrol. My targets, the conspirators, awaited in rooms off of these corridors, often with more guards inside.

I could sneak by the hordes in several hallways but I always needed to leave an “out,” or escape. So, for the first hallway, I used Shadow Manipulation to dominate an enemy mage, which compelled most enemies to group up and kill him, while I slew all of them to make my escape path.

I opened up the room of the first target and tried to pull a guard or two. Whoops. The whole room reacted and tried to chase me down. I ran, turned a corner and went stealthy and invisible–the first test of the new AI. The hobgoblins followed…and ran right by me, swinging and yelling in vain as they searched for me. (My Hide/Move Silently scores are in the low 70s in Shadowdancer mode and a Drow Piwafwi equipped.)

Letting them zerg by, I skulked off back to my target, still in his room.

Killing the first conspirator took a bit, being a red-named guy with a couple of stray guards. One down, three to go.

Another Dominate made a mage my ally, who took out a few hallway guards before succumbing. The second door was more in the open, so it was time for my next trick for a few stray guards. I snuck up behind one and used Quivering Palm, the Monk’s weaker counterpart to Assassinate. Works similarly but pulls you from stealth. I re-hid and repeated the measure often, making quick and quiet eliminations going up the hallway.

Conspirator #2 slept through my pulling of their guards out of his hiding hole. This time, I escaped upward, atop a high platform. Enemies just knew I was near as I looked down at them. Their Spot searches were busily pinging, but they couldn’t quite fish me out. Eventually they gave up. Too bad. Another Dominate kept the searchers busy while I removed Conspirator #2.

Conspirator #3 was in the shrine room and his guards were treated to the same plan as his predecessor.

Funny thing about the last two, in rooms on an upper level. Their guards, most below, just stood there as I sneaked up the ladder. I guess I was pretty quiet in opening the door, much less sneaking inside. Here, I Dominated one mage and used him to keep most of Conspirator #4’s minions running about as I ended their boss.  Conspirator #5 was easy after I Dominated a guard, which kept his attention while he and I had our tussle on the center platform of the room, free from being interrupted by any of his guards.

The End Fight

One thing I didn’t calculate well in this run was elapsed time. My ship buffs had disappeared by the time I made my way to the boss given the methodical use of stealth as a killing tactic. Rather than fighting the zerging masses within the last two hallways to the boss’s door, a bit of Abundant Stepping and stealth put me in the boss room, leaving the last dozen minions unaware and out of the game.

Buffless and alone, I knew there was no way in hell that I could take on the boss while he was surrounded by three mages, two Winter Wolves and two fighters. I sneaked about behind the oversized pillar in the room’s center and made the second boss appear from the rear exit, near his now-unavailable chest.

I had a couple of useful options: First, thin out the herd. Over a few minutes, I hit Dominate spells on the two mages to rid myself of them. The attacks provided me with needed intel as I targeted them. Each boss had over 21,000 HP, while their minions had about 2100. (It pays to complete your Monster Manual accomplishments to see enemy stats, folks.)

The second option was to add a bigger, durable distraction and then pummel enemies while their backs are turned for sneak attack damage as well as damage impunity. As I said, generally hirelings are useless. But not all. I summoned my reliable Onyx Panther. But apparently, the big cat made some noise on materializing and the bosses and their entourage suddenly arrived to investigate. I found myself looking at the kill party dead-on.

I bailed, tossing a Flash Bang (stuns and blinds a mob) and going stealthy in hopes they wouldn’t chase me. It worked. They slew the mighty panther quickly, giving me an ominous insight about their damage; the Level 20 Panther is not easily killed. Fortuitously, the party stayed in that back room to guard the hireling’s soulstone. That worked out well to move the mob, although not as I planned.

That gave me time to recharge my Shadowdancer charges with two  to three minions near the boss door. Ha. I had a shot again.

I used a throwing star, pulled the lesser boss Gardak away  to near the room entrance to fight him (mostly) alone (a Wolf wanted to play, too). It took more than a few Heal scrolls, even with my miss-chance effects working, to put that guy down.

Finally, the big boss, who had cleric skills and Blade Barriers galore. Whatever. I’m a damned ninja that can practically evade a machine gun burst in my sleep. I learned my lesson from his comrade, however, and kicked on some Displacement for added help in the second fight. A few more Heal scrolls later, the hobgoblin’s lesson was over.

Stealth can’t directly help you in a boss fight except, perhaps, to escape one, but it makes getting to it quite easier. Just watch your ship buffs if you’re dependent on their benefits–or just carry some scrolls if you’re able to use them.

Ninja Versus Pirates, DDO Style

Now that I have two Ninjas (one a pure Monk, the second a Rogue/Monk), I have some more flexibility in running some favorite mid-level quests where stealth works well.

I often revisit these quests in the Lordsmarch Plaza to complete them on harder difficulties once my toons are more powerful as they remain a challenge to complete the objectives even if you’ll suffer little damage. The Droaam are good enemies to test out your offensive and defensive powers at mid level, particularly solo.

Lordsmarch Plaza

Diplomatic Impunity: In theory, a Ninja Spy should be able to dissolve into the jungle to reach the scout, return to Henrietta, reach the final fight and kill only those inside that area.

Mission complete. Ryncletica entered on Elite recently, summoning one Cleric hireling that was parked for 98% of the adventure. Avoiding cats, wildmen and scorpions, she met the scout, evaded all but two or three Droaam fighters, negotiated a passage through the wildman village rather than fight, informed Henrietta of the invasion, and reversed the route through the wildmen village. Parking the hireling just at the final root wall, she evaded all fighters to reach the enemy fort. Some glitch prevented the hireling and I from slaying the last henchmen before removing the boss. Devious bonus: 16 kills.

Ryncletica is pretty beefy in terms of defense now at level 14. Now with the Icy Raiment, she has persistent 21% Dodge, 25% incorporeality with Shadow Fade and 20% concealed with her Greater Nimble Trinket. Reflex saves are about 24-26. At her level, she’s hard to hit once more.

Frame Work: After recovering enough ballista parts to use on a ballista that launches into the boss’s complex, you use the stone wand on one minotaur, go invisible,  leap over a wall, activate the ballista, kill the chieftain and bail using the ballista inside the complex. If you are very insidious, you kill the minotaur runt inside there who could activate the alarm so that you also get the no-alarm bonus. I used MrCow’s notes and video to come close to doing this with Ryncletica in her first life.

Mission Complete. It was less suicidal to do this on Normal difficulty. The stoning wand is a vital tool. You need stone only one to complete the objective, but you’ll likely need to stone a shaman that’s close to your injector ballista into the fortress, as well as the only runt to the right of the inner fortress who could activate the alarm inside. Once that’s done, I threw down some solid fog around the throne, pulled out some Night’s Grasp handwraps to kill the chieftain, looted and used the inner ballista. Dorris the warforged scout praises you differently for your subtlety if you complete your mission without the alarms activating.

Eyes of Stone: Easy to avoid some fights, but you must kill the four mages that guard the stoned Coin Lords. Of course, the end-fight requires you to attack respawning mobs until Hesstess is dead. Un-stoning the various guards as distractions might be useful, as well as summoning a chaotic monster helper that pulls enemies out of their entrenched locations through the Coin Lord’s halls while I sneak by them.

Mission Complete. Again completed on Normal. I avoided most fights, killing about 83 but still getting the Devious bonus. Hesstess goes down well with Night’s Grasp wraps and good Touch of Despair curses to further the damage. Ryncletica’s damage avoidance miss chance worked well in there.

Assault on Summerfield: You’ll need to kill lots here, but you can use stealth/invisibility as well as a Monk’s agility to sneak up on many individual attackers without drawing mobs. A little solid fog might also obscure others nearby from seeing the slays.  Ryn would do better than Cassie here since Ryn is a fully-trained Monk with Abundant Step to reach the more remote attackers on the higher roofs.

Blockade Buster: The true ninja-versus-pirate encounter. Your stealth and invisibility is tested nicely here. It’s the kobolds in the lower deck that guard the magazines that you must avoid or kill before they activate the alarm. With sufficient INT, you can open the minebay doors and leave there without further provoking any crew that might be awoken from an alarm. It’s very hard to stop the kobolds from setting that alarm, sadly. In her last life, Ryncletica has blown up all three ships, leaving most of the crew asleep, and killed only kobolds to do it. This time, she’ll leave the detonation timer on the first ship at a higher setting and wait for all three to go down. As far as the kobolds–maybe a Hold Person spell or a well-placed stun will stop the alarm attempts.

Undermine: The narrow tunnels make it hard to  avoid fighting, but you can stealth through quite a bit of it. I would recommend infiltration (strategic kills through tactics) since there’s lots of XP gained from the optionals, but stealth could avoid a lot of really nasty fighting–or you can use the det packs offensively. I’ve learned that Night’s Grasp handwraps work better on elementals than elemental bane. Perhaps it’s the maladroit property as well as negative energy damage.

Siegebreaker: Nothing but fighting here, and required to keep your end-fight from becoming a monster-rich disaster. Cassie’s trap disabling skills might make her more useful at the end-fight’s puzzle but Ryn will be a better overall fighter.

The Red Fens

Similarly, the ninjas can have a good time infiltrating two of the three flagging quests there.

Fathom the Depths: Find the Drow hostages and levers to progress requires some systematic killing but you can bypass a number of mobs. Evasion will prevent damage from what few traps exist there. You may get to the last fight with only a few kills but watch out for the red-name mudman and fish-man mage there. The mage is easier to slay. Don’t fight around the platform with all the silly grease traps–move the fight into the last hallway.

Mission complete. On Elite, Ryncletica was able to save the Drow before flooding the area, and used stealth to bypass a few key places, such as the water elementals that will not spawn unless they see you. As far as the boss fight, she dragged the mage into the hallway and then kept her distance from the lesser enemy mages while taking down the huge mudman.

The Claw of Vulkoor: Another perfect Ninja stealth-designed quest, this time with Giants. They see invisibility, which means your stealth is key to making things happen. Avoid being seen by scorpions, pacify the guardian scorpions and a massive XP bonus awaits you. Ryn has completed this on Epic Hard but lacked noisemakers to make it easiest. Where Ryn came up short, I hope Cassie can do better.

Turns out that Cassie joined some fellow guildies on a run here recently and guided them to a victory by pacifying most of the guardians. She successfully used a noisemaker on one of the guardians. It’s Ryncletica’s turn next time.

The Last Stand: Nothing but fighting here.

Into the Deep: In the main wilderness area, you can sneak about a little but fighting to clear out enemies for XP is a better idea (and faster). You must slay quite a bit in this series so infiltration skills to set up better kills are what’s needed.

Cassietetica, the Trapmaster Ninja?

I introduced my new Monkish Rogue, Cassietetica, in an imaginary conversation with my pure Acrobat Rogue, Allysen.

Without a Rogue, you'll need an lake filled with Bactine. (Credit: www.TenTonHammer.com)

Without a Rogue, your post-quest recovery area is a lake filled with Bactine and aloe. (Credit: http://www.TenTonHammer.com)

Shortly after writing that post, I recalled my desire to be better at stealth with Ryncletica in terms of diversion. For Ryn, that’s mostly finding a cave wall near what she wants to distract, throwing a shuriken at that point, and waiting for the enemies to go investigate that noise while she sneaks past.

For Rogues with Trapmaking ability, the options grow, although it seems that very few players use these options. The reason is simple: DDO is more slanted to party-style, obliterate-everything twitchy gameplay where stealth and related tactics just aren’t done. I play solo often when not enjoying time my guildmates, so this isn’t an issue for me.

I realized that I had a special opportunity for Cassie to show how useful she can be as a mine-laying specialist.

It’s a fascinating proposal. After playing DDO for a few years now, I’m pretty familiar with what mobs will appear at specific locations of an adventure. Therefore, if I can lay traps for them (while also disabling traps that may exist), I might be able to dish out some incredible area-of-effect damage, clear mobs by the dungeon-load, and effectively loot whole adventures.

  1. Lay down traps.
  2. Lure enemies to traps
  3. Blow up enemies.
  4. Repeat.

Now, this also means that a single adventure could turn into a slower return on investment. But I’m not considering this for the speed or even the experience points, but just to see how conniving, how devious a Rogue can be in destroying enemies by hardly raising her weapon.

Trap Types

DDO Wiki has a good article on trapmaking that’s the basis for my interest.

To make certain traps, you need enough trap parts you scavenge as you disable traps throughout the game. Fair enough. You recycle trap materials to make your own traps.

The trap I expect to use most often isn’t quite a trap. It’s a noisemaker. I can set it and, in a few seconds, it makes a sound that should attract enemies to it while I shuffle away in the opposite direction. This is what Ryn would love to have in soloing “The Claw of Vulkoor” to lure scorpions away in the process of completing ting the quest without being detected. However, making traps requires the Trapmaking feat auto-granted to Rogues at level 4, so Monks can’t build or use noisemakers without multiclassing some Rogue levels.

While Rogues can farm for many trap part types (such as mechanical parts from blade traps and the like), they’re limited to creating elemental and magical traps. (Sad that we can’t set up our own spinning blade traps o’ death.)

The promising news is that such traps come in various degrees of damage, commensurate with the number of parts and other ingredients you have on hand and the Rogue level necessary to set that trap.

Better: Rogues can set traps with damage that can’t always be saved against by most mobs, such as Force and Sonic.

By level 11, a Rogue should be able to make Force and Sonic mines that have a huge area-of-effect with 50d6 damage. Oh, let me just fill a room with these. Mines auto-deactivate after 2 minutes 30 seconds, so there’s time to lay a nice field of these babies in front of a door or hallway and let the bastards stumble through.

But you can see the challenge here, however. You need parts to make traps. Lots and lots and lots of parts. That’s going to take a lot of quest grinding where traps are abundant. Thankfully, DDO provides me with many places to farm for the Force and Sonic parts I’d like, as well as mechanical parts.

A Ninja Trapmaster

Ninja_crouchTo help in parts farming, I can make Cassie a Rogue Mechanic.

She’ll has a better shot of gathering more parts per disabled trap. They also get better DCs to use them, increasing the likelihood that enemies will suffer greatly for her skills.

But I also wanted to add Ninja Spy I to Cassie, too. I didn’t realize that you can select more than one Prestige Enhancement on a multiclassed character: 1 Prestige per class, not character.

So, it should be possible to add Rogue Mechanic I and Mechanic II to Cassie to improve her trapmaking and trap-laying skills.

Additionally, I can add a little Ninja training for shortsword ability and Shadow Fade (ki-powered invisibility/incorporeality) to have a Rogue 14/Monk 6. Shadowdancer Epic Destiny will be perfect for her later, and she’ll have enough Monk levels for Grandmaster of Flowers training, too.

But can I swing all the Mechanic enhancement prerequisites (I’ll need them anyway to compensate for lost Rogue skill points from the Monk levels) as well as the Ninja Spy I prerequisites? It’s a lot to do.

I reset my enhancements a day or so ago to try out the possibilities and started picking. The enhancements work out just fine for both Prestiges with a few points to spare.

Some might ask, “Why not Assassin training?”

It’s a good question. I’d still gain some parts, but going full Mechanic doubles the chance for more trap parts versus an ordinary Rogue. She’ll also set traps (and detonation packs) faster than others. Setting traps for this build is just as important as disabling them. Going Mechanic also leaves me an emergency ranged option as well, using repeating crossbows.

An Assassin build does sound tempting, yes. But somehow I see Cassie as less…temperamental than other Rogues. Must be that monastic training. She kills because she has to do so, not because she wants to do so. Still, if I wanted to go down that grim, woefully powerful road, it’s just a matter of resetting enhancements.

Honestly–there is plenty of slaying in DDO. Somehow, I’ve never been that bloodthirsty. I’m more of a fan of counting coup. It”s something that Ryncletica does a lot. She gains personal favor in defeating her enemies by circumventing every defense they have to complete an objective. Rather than obliterating an enemy’s army, Ryncletica obliterates their honor. Ryn and Cassie rarely start fights, but they will always finish them.

Cassie’s stats are going to be difficult. Normally, WIS is a dump stat for a Rogue. But she’ll need a bit to make her Monk DCs work and her ki to be sufficient for attacks. She’ll certainly have high concentration on her DEX for AC and reflex saves but needs good Fortitude and Will saves, too. She can’t rely on her stuns. She won’t gain Abundant Step, so somersaulting to get to trap control boxes will require awesome saves. Thus, Dodge/Incorporeality/Concealment numbers will be essential. STR is also vital; that’s why Allysen has weak DPS. Cassie, by hook or crook, needs a minimum 24 STR by level 20, I think.

So, there you have it. A Rogue with dark Monk fighting skills, who is also a Ninja and trapmaster.

Stay tuned. This is going to be a fun build to generate.

I need to think of a good build name, however. “Ninja Trapmaster” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.

In related fun, TenTonHammer has an older but well-written article on why DDO Rogues are true Rogues in comparison to other MMO games.

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.

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