The Best Defense

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

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

A build from forum user ForgettableNPC recently caught my eye.

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

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

Tears to Thousands of Eyes

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

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

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

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

Make Him Disabled, Bitter and Mean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

(I said lass.)

Friend Only to the Undertaker

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

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

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

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

Good God, Say it Again!

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

Grandmaster of Flowers:

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

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

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

Shadowdancer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So What is it Good For?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Update 25: Smiles in the Dojo

"Your gaming time is very important to us. The current wait time is 12 hours."

“Your gaming time is very important to us. The current wait time is 12 hours.”

Welcome to Update 25: Update of Evil!

It’s a rougher day for Cordovan and Co. as they try to get Update 25 installed and updated properly on their servers since 8:00 AM EDT. As I write this, twelve hours later, it’s still not quite up, but I’m up.

Things happen. I wish Turbine’s ragged team much bacon and coffee and hope they’ll get everything all running very soon.

Any dissenting comments or criticisms of Turbine on my blog will be spiked and banned. I live in Indiana and I have had it up to here with the self-privileged minority that feels entitled to everything of late, even if they’re not being actually targeted.

So, rather than slugging out monsters to pass the time on a character in Diablo II, here’s a quick summary of some highlights I’ve found in the Release Notes that satisfies far more than a few of my character’s interests.

The Great:

  • Bleed damage now scales 200% with Melee Power.

That’s a happy thing for some weapons I carry but Saekee should be very happy since his build that uses the Forester’s Brush Hook kama will mop the floors up with greater damage.

  • Ranged Power has been added to Epic Levels and Epic Destiny cores:
    • Each Epic level from 21 to 28 now increases Ranged Power by three.
    • Fatesinger, Shadowdancer, Primal Avatar and Shiradi Champion gain +4 Ranged Power per innate ability.
    • Grandmaster of Flowers and Unyielding Sentinel gain +3 Ranged Power per innate ability.
    • Divine Crusader and Legendary Dreadnaught gain +2 Ranged Power per innate ability.
    • Fury of the Wild gains +1 Ranged Power per innate ability.

Very good news for Artemistika and my revamping of Pynthetica, my Zen Archer, but also, I hope, this translates to Szyncletica’s throwing stars.

  • The Ninja Spy’s Sting of the Ninja should now work properly with all named weapons (that meet the requirements.)

All the ninjas in the house have celebrated this news by adding an extra spoon of honey in their green tea. This bug, longstanding since around Update 22, means that Szycletica’s shuriken of all kinds will again add punishing Ninja Poison DoTs in addition to other damage. Dragons beware: Her Thunder-Forged Shuriken awaits to send you to the abyss.

  • The Monk Mountain Stance now gives 50% Hate Generation, and its upgrades now give 100/150/200% Hate Generation.

I think I heard Lynncletica smile.

Shintao Monks, in their current incarnation, have a harder time generating aggro, even in Mountain Stance. This is a substantial boost to Hate generation. It means Lynn’s going to be bloodier than ever before Level 18 but the results should be worth it by Epic levels.

  • The Rogue Assassin has been improved:
  • Core Abilities
    • Assassin’s Trick now works on all enemies, and no longer has a saving throw. The attack now has a shorter animation. Cooldown is now 6 seconds, and duration is now 15 seconds.
    • Nimbleness no longer requires sneak attacks, and works on any hit. +5 Melee Power.
    • Lethality: +5 Melee Power.
    • Deadly Shadow: You gain +2 Dexterity and +2 Intelligence. You gain 10 Melee Power and +4 Sneak Attack dice. You gain +4 to Reflex Saving Throws. You gain +2 to the DC of your Assassinate.
  • Tier One
    • Poison Strikes now applies an “Assassin’s Mark” to an opponent for 10 seconds.
    • Shiv no longer reduces threat when you attack, and instead offers an additional passive bonus that reduces the threat of all your attacks by 5/10/15%. The attack also makes a Bluff check, using your Bluff skill, when you strike an opponent, for one second + .25 seconds per Rogue level.)
    • Stealthy now also gains +20/35/50% movement speed while sneaking.
  • Tier Two
    • Venomed Blades costs 1/1/1 AP, and now scales with 200% Melee Power.
    • Bleed Them Out’s bleed damage scales with 200% Melee Power.
    • Damage Boost’s cost has been reduced to 1 AP per level. The boost to Melee Power is now 10/20/30.
  • Tier Three
    • Critical Accuracy has been removed.
    • Critical Mastery: (1/1/1 AP) + 1/2/3 bonus to critical damage and to confirm critical hits.
  • Tier Four
    • Critical Damage has been removed.
    • Weakening Strikes reduces the Melee and Ranged Power of opponents by 10 + Rogue Level/2 for 10 seconds if you attack an enemy with an “Assassin’s Mark.”
    • Execute: If a target is below 30% health, deal 500 damage. This damage scales with 200% Melee Power, and has a cooldown of 15 seconds. This enhancement no longer has a sneak attack requirement.
  • Tier Five
    • Assassinate now has a 12 second cooldown.
    • Measure the Foe: Gain +4 Melee Power, +2 Dodge, +2 Maximum Dodge, +1 to hit and +1 to the DC’s of your Assassinate ability for every 4/2/1 seconds you remain stealthed. This effect stacks up to five times, and lasts 10 seconds after you come out of stealth.
    • Deadly Strikes: Your attacks against enemies with an “Assassin’s Mark” to +5 damage.
    • Light Armor Mastery: (1/1/1 AP) You gain 1/2/3 to Maximum Dodge. While wearing light armor, gain 2/4/6 to the Maximum Dexterity Bonus of your armor and armor check penalty, and gain 2/4/6 Physical Resistance Rating.

All of this is happiness for The Littlest Assassin–who wasn’t having any problems before. Now with some refinements, Sukitetica is really going to have a blast.

  • Ammunition found in chests will now appear in stacks of 100.
  • Thieves Tools now stack up to one thousand in a stack.

Yes. Useful amounts of ammo for Artemistika, and no more stupid inventory slots wasted on needed tools for Suki.

And now the Good and the Weird:

  • Each Swashbuckler Core enhancement had been erroneously granting an extra +1 Doublestrike. This extra Doublestrike has been removed to match the text.

Whoops. I guess Flynncletica’s been a bit overpowered. Oh, well. She’s still fun to play, even with an earlier Update 24 adjustment to Single Weapon Fighting. I’m all for balance, however.

  • The Crucible
    • The optional objectives at the start of the quest no longer give XP.
    • XP for completing the quest has been boosted to be equivalent to the XP removed from optionals.

Not that I play this quest alone, and not as often before it was demoted as a Gianthold flagging quest–but removing the XP from the little manipulations you can do with the NPCs need to still present an advantage to the adventurers. I can’t remember if these added an extra chest or made the end-fights easier, but I guess I understand the balancing.

  • Marketplace
    • A new teleporter has been located in the Marketplace.
    • There is a new NPC near the Airship Tower that tells players how to get to the Temple of Elemental Evil.
      Vertigo, the Crafting tutorial NPC, has moved next to the big pillar between the Airship Tower and the new Teleporter.
    • Kipling Vranch, a Collectibles Trader, has been moved to Vertigo’s old spot.
    • Zerchi Spire-Keeper, who takes players to the Restless Isles, has moved south of his old location, and is now near the Auctioneer Churchwarden.
    • Kupper-Nickel, who takes players to Zawabi’s Refuge, has moved west of the Airship Tower along with some of his friends.
    • Loghan d’Deneith, who gives the quest Gladewatch Outpost Defense, has moved west of his old spot to the entrance of House Deneith.
    • Jasper Cruikshank, who gives the quest Archer Point Defense, has moved west of his old spot to the entrance of House Deneith.

Finally, a teleporter in the Marketplace!

  • Trapmaking
    • Traps that deal damage now show floaty-text damage numbers, and report in the Combat Log like most damage.
    • The time to place traps has been reduced to 1 second.
    • The time for traps to “arm” after being placed has been reduced to 1 second.
    • The general cooldown on placing traps has been reduced from fifteen seconds to eight seconds.
    • Small and Weak elemental traps now have a larger damage area, matching Average traps.
    • Device Workstations now have recipes for elemental traps from minimum levels 13-27.

Rogues that can be realistic Trapmasters! This is awesome news as we also get Epic Traps! The reduction of deployment time means a great deal, too. I might make that Mechanic soon after all.

So, when The Update of Existential Evil is finally over for Turbine tonight, we’ll all get some new things to play with, especially Rogues.

And when I heard that Wil Wheaton has lent his voice talents to the new quest, I smiled. DDO is old but still has some street cred for those who care.

See you in game.

Must Be My Charming Personality

Everybody got their party hat? Yes?

Everybody got their party hat? Yes? Great!

On first building Flynncletica, I was attracted to the use of Dexterity to Damage for her Swashbuckling fighting style. I knew how well that worked based on my experience with the Ninja Spy’s identical ability on Kiricletica and others.

I’ve considered recanting DEX-to-damage to try a different tack with a Different Tack (the ability), which determines which stat (other than STR) defines your damage.

My DEX is a bit higher after a few points in it. I chose Halfling to improve her Dexterity. I can get my CHA about as high as DEX when I want to convert the masses through a Fascinate song and then a Mass Suggestion.

But as I learned the hard way in a Heroic Elite run of “Friends in Low Places,” I wasn’t quite the charmer as I hoped by the end fight. I thought I needed more CHA and/or needed to concentrate on CHA for Damage.

I’m Feeling Fascination

Still a bit wet behind the ears as a Bard, I’ve only started to use Fascinate to halt enemies. Now at level 18, she’s trained Mass Suggestion to effect a mass charm on enemies.

I have no problems in training non-damaging spells and songs. It’s my monastic upbringing. Playing Shintao Monks, I’m often buffing and supporting allies as well with Healing Ki, finishing moves and elemental curatives like the Lesser Restoration SLA, Restoring the Balance.

At lower difficulties or with enemies with lower Will, Suggestion sticks well, answering the enemy challenge to “You and whose army?!” But I’d like to ensure that Mass Suggestion sticks rather well in Elite difficulties.

Since the ability Different Tack allows CHA to work as damage, pumping my character’s CHA to improve its modifier, not DEX, would be the prudent thing if I want Flynn to dominate fights by redirecting them as allied attackers with CHA as the sole modifier for all things important.

Thankfully I had some foresight on this on reaching 1,750 favor.  I chose a +2 CHA tome and then used two upgrades for an inherent +4.

I had strongly considering using a Lesser Heart of Wood to redo my stats, adding back the DEX points to CHA–but not too many. I still need higher DEX for good Reflex saves.

I’m looking more at CThruTheEgo’s “Monte Cristo” build for bardic advice, after getting my build inspiration from another DEX based thread for a soloing Bard.

As more of you know than me, Fascinate’s DC is the Perform skill +d20. With Perform maxed out now and using a Perform +13 ring, using the effect works quite well.

With some Spellsinger training, I could Fascinate specific monsters that otherwise can never be Fascinated. But I’m heavy in Warchanter training now, enjoying the attacks that freeze enemies and abilities that add PRR and doublestrike bonuses. At level 19, Flynn had 32 PRR (with only a PRR +2 gem) and 29% standing doublestrike.

I’ll gain Evasion, another 1% Doublestrike, +2 DEX and +2 CHA with level 20 and the Swashbuckler capstone enhancement. So, perhaps, I’ll stay where I am, but use Epic Destinies and items to add more CHA to get my Will saves higher. The DEX will help Reflex to make my miss-chance effects work better.

I have a lot of destiny grinding ahead of me.

But I had look at the Charms as they stood now and commit to a direction.

Not Magically Delicious

Back to that end-fight in “Friends in Low Places.” Knowing the enemy zerg-rush of that last fight, I began dropping down Mind Fog and Otto’s dancing balls to slow things down, then readied myself to Fascinate and use Mass Suggestion to boot. My goal wasn’t to kill the mobs but to keep them off immobile and off of me while I concentrated on killing the last boss to prevent more enemies from spawning.

It didn’t work. I think these enemies had a higher Will save, for one, as I could pick off and charm the straggling bands of invaders but had a harder time slowing the camp attackers. I became overwhelmed too quickly to mount a counter-offensive.

I needed to improve my charming personality.

Charms break down into several sub-abilities. You can charm most humanoids and some monsters except oozes, constructs and undead (although you can Fascinate them with a bit more training).

Suggestion has a different DC calculation: 10 + (Bard level/2) + CHA modifier. I’m all Bard; that’s good. But at CHA 22 at the lowest, I need to keep up my girly poise if I’m to redirect my enemies.

My best DC is 28. I’d rather have 35 or better in Heroic.

CHA seems the go-to stat, but does that all but guarantee that Charms and Suggestion will do as I want?

There’s also a second charming effect, Dominate, that I enjoy. I’d rather convince a Orthon follow me around to go with the rest of my summoned posse.

I did some reading on builds and realized that the Shard of Xoriat would be more useful than for the great meat shielding beholders, renders, mind flayers and Taken you can wield from it. It’s also a bardic treasure with Exceptional CHA +1 and Greater Enchantment Bonus.

If I read that right, Greater Enchantment Bonus adds a stacking 2 to my overall Charm-related DCs, right? Please let me know if I’m reading that wrong. I think it’s comparable to  boosts like Combat Mastery, which help tactical feat DCs for things like Stunning Fist for Monks.

So, I’ve got CHA +4 in tomes. I can also wear a +6 CHA enhancement item, having plans to slot a colorless gem in either of my level 20 armor or shield.

The next items I can imagine would help are collectible-generated Potions of Influence (stacking +1 to +3 CHA bonus) that I can use any time, as well as the +2 Yugoloth favor potions from Amrath and the quests of the Devil Battlefield. Toss some Turbine Points to the DDO Store and I can add in the stacking +2 Elixirs. So I can add up to another +5 to +7 now for brief periods.

I planed to go into the Devil Battlefield as soon once I hit level 20, wanting to have a better-than-average level when heading into these quests on Elite. Last night I impulsively tackled “Sins of Attrition” on Elite, coming out of that CR 21 fight by the skin of my teeth. Haystack the hireling over-healed throughout the quest, straining our spell point reserves. Eventually I left the sumbitch behind until the last battle. I just needed the Death Ward from the guy, anyway.

But…do you see my mistake in all of this thinking?

I mistakenly believed that Will saves are improved by CHA, when it’s WIS that affects a Will save, right? I need the Force of Personality feat to make my CHA modifier work for Will saves, as there’s no way I’ll add anything to WIS on Flynncletica unless a +5 tome comes dropping from the sky on her head. At least…that’s my understanding of it. Please tell if I’m wrong before I gimp another character!

The next feat slot for that comes at level 21. I was going to slum it out with potions until that time. But…I chose to make a feat swap. I can live without Improved Shield Mastery (with a small loss of doublestrike and PRR) to be a better charmer into Epic.

Epic Bling

One thing that’s a little disorienting involves what the comely young Halfling Bard chicks are wearing this year on Level 20 and beyond.

I have only three items in my cavalier’s wardrobe on reaching 20: a tier-3 Epic Swashbuckler shield, some tier-3 Epic Duelist’s Leathers, and an Epic Elyd Edge. I thought of adding a Heavy Fortification gem in the shield’s blue slot and a +6 CHA colorless gem in the armor so I can dispense with my Minos Legens, perhaps moving its Vitality +20 colorless gem to something else in the future and freeing my head for something more interesting later.

Looking about Eveningstar, I realized that there doesn’t appear to be any bard-inclined epic gear as we can get for Monks (the Sun Soul set) or Fighters (the Purple Dragon Knight set) or Wizards (the Battle Arcanist set).

There are a few options through the Druid trader, such as the Lenses of the Woodsman and Boots of the Woodsman. The Leathers light armor isn’t bad either although not attractive enough to swap out for the Epic Duelist’s Leathers, even with the equipped set bonus.

The Purple Dragon Gauntlets with their greater STR, CON bonus and 30% healing amplification would be welcome, I’m sure, as perhaps the Iron Mitts, and the Kobold Admiral’s Tiller from Epic Three-Barrel Cove.

But you can see where this is going. An epic Bard Swashbuckler seems to be more of a motley of items that don’t have much set complementarity with each other as opposed to items from the Eveningstar sets.

The popular Bard SB threads again offer some suggestions. Two of them caught my eye.

  • Sage’s Mantle cloak (from “The Tracker’s Trap”) for equipment Enchantment Focus bonus
  • Intricate Field Optics goggles (from “Return to Gianthold Tor”) for Insightful CHA or CHA +8

Flynncletica, having a desire for a Corymrian weapon, recently completed the challenge “Ring of Fire” with all optionals completed (bye, dragon!), my first character to complete a full challenge. She obtained a serviceable level 16 rapier with ingredients gathered but does plan to run challenges to make level 20 and 24 weapons.

Additional suggestions from the adventurer’s peanut gallery are welcomed.

Epic Destinies

"Wait! I have one more buff before you blow up that car!"

“Wait! I have one more buff before you blow up that car!”

I did mention I will find myself grinding my ass off to gain not only specific abilities but the many Twist of Fate slots required to hold them?

For once, I may not mind this. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to take the easy way out if I can do so.

One Key of Destiny (I hope) as a first-life character and I’m unlocking Unyielding Sentinel out of the gate. I want its Shield Prowess, Brace for Impact and Legendary Shield Mastery immediately for defenses. Once that tree is trained, it’s off to Grandmaster of Flowers to slum it out a bit as a monastic fighter as I unlock the Martial tree. I might actually put away my swashbuckling gear for a bit as I train this, wielding only a shortsword for a bit of flavor and to impress the other Monks.

Then, on to Shadowdancer for its extra doublestrike and Shadow Form for better incorporeality. I see this destiny as my default once I train enough Fate points to unlock what I desire to Twist from other places.

The Shadowdancer greatly improves Flynn’s scouting and ambush abilities and will help her survive it better. Her miss-chance effects will be stronger with up to 50% concealment, 25%+Dodge and 25% Incorporeality of Shadow Form to go with higher AC and PRR.

Next, Legendary Dreadnought for more fighting prowess and fate points before training Fatesinger and Divine Crusader. And yes, I could even talk myself into Draconic Incarnation and Magister.

If I cannot use a Key of Destiny to start, I’ll begin as a Fatesinger and earn my prerequisites the old-fashioned way by unlocking the spheres, one by one.

In short, sure. I want them all. All the Destinies.

I’ve never trained more than three destinies on any one character before, and even then, one of those destinies wasn’t fully trained. But with a Swashbuckler and its hybrid lifestyle as fighter and bard, I won’t feel as stripped-down while moving between or training destinies.

While as a first-life, where there’s no XP penalty, this is the best opportunity to make the most of Flynn’s abilities. I’ve never had a reason to be a destiny completionist–until now.

Too Much Swash, Not Enough Buckler

Stale rank air greeted the adventurer’s party as it stepped into the sewers.

After a few seconds of preparation, most of the adventurers charged forward, reckless, in haste and raged. But one small halfling took the hindmost. She’d been burned before by overzealous party members.

Huge spiders leapt from crevasses and from dark perches overhead, immediately overwhelming and surprising those ahead of her. These spiders were so massive that the halfling could conceivably put a harness and saddle on one and ride it back to Stormreach.

Several party members faded back immediately, bitten by the poisonous spiders. A lone healer struggled to remove poisons and heal while others defended her.

“Amateurs,” Flynncletica muttered to herself. She hummed a little, channelling a little bardic power to add blurriness and health to a couple of the struggling party members.

One spider broke from the group and charged.

But she didn’t raise her sword arm. Flynn leaned back a bit to brace herself and moved her left arm ahead.

First thing these bugs will do is to try to bite you, she recalled. Block, and I avoid getting poisoned.

The spider’s fangs met the tiny shield with a loud crack. Droplets of venom spattered harmlessly away. Flynn’s feet slid backward on the slight slipperiness of the grimy sewer floor.

Not only did her shield block avoid the spider’s bite, the monster moved too quickly against the swashbuckler’s defenses, collapsing to the stone floor on all eight legs, knocking itself down.

Flynn’s sword arm seized the brief opportunity, the rapier assailing the prone spider like the sting of an angry hornet.

In moments, the heart of the spider had beat its last, having never scored a single hit against the small swashbuckler.

One down, ten spiders to go. Flynncletica advanced into the outskirts of the fray to join her comrades.

~ ~ ~

A favorite show I like to (re)watch while gaming is Log Horizon.

I’ve already gushed enough about the show here. What brought it to mind as I’ve been playing with my new Swashbuckler character, Flynncletica, involves how the role-play nature of the film and TV swashbuckler meshes with the combat actions of the gamer’s version as well as how swashbuckling appears in other media.

The new class lets me reminiscence a little. I took a Fencing course in college and vividly remember how it greatly differs from the cinematic style and how fun it was to fight realistically with rapiers. Hint: You’re supposed to stab somebody.

I also remember how many times I lost the skin from my hands and arms from duels, despite protections. All that showmanship in cinema won’t do a thing for me in my fights in DDO, but the Bard has a few ways to make a little quasi-cinematic magic in the game.

Faking It

Will SOMEBODY just stab someone already?!

Will SOMEBODY just stab someone already?!

One thing that’s quite sure in Flynncletica’s world is that “Flynning” is not going to happen (despite her name).

For those too lazy to click the TV Tropes link, “Flynning” is how sword fights are normally shown–badly simulated, where the actors are basically slapping their blades at each other, never quite seeming to try to actually poke or slice each other.

The Jedi/Sith fights in the Star Wars movies were a more kendo-style version of Flynning, but at least they were trying to hit each other with better fight choreography in the later films. But I loathe most other sword fight films because this trope is quite common there.

The new Swashbucklers in DDO must attack for damage, not just flail their weapon about. While blocking is a good idea, there’s not much time often in attack/riposte/attack/riposte, and blocks are done by your shield (if any), not a sword. It’s a go-for-the-jugular combat. There’s also size and strength limits. You couldn’t do Flynning against an angry giant with a club as large as you are.

That said, the DDO Swashbuckler gets an interesting ability where enemies that miss you in melee have a 20% chance of knocking themselves down. A run through Splinterskull turned funny as I watched spiders drop to all fours–er…eights–as they missed me and fell, allowing for a quicker kill.

Talking Your Attacker Into Being Stupid

Nyanta from "Log Horizon." Poised. Elegant, Quntessential swordplay. Bonus points in taking down a Monk, too.

Nyanta from “Log Horizon.” Poised. Elegant, Quintessential swordplay. Bonus points in taking down a Monk, too.

Nyanta, a statuesque were-cat in Log Horizon, is a type of swashbuckler. His class in this game-turned-reality gets to dual-wield two rapiers.

As the show narration notes (often explaining their game-now-reality combat and spell mechanics), the LH Swashbuckler’s swift attacks will damage a character’s stats, lowering Dodge and defenses.

And Nyanta has no problem in using his gentlemanly cat-speak to question your fighting style and perhaps your questionable upbringing while he slices and pierces you to death.

As a Bard, Flynncletica’s powers often buff allies rather than debuff. I’m enjoying one debuffing ability: Cutting Jibes. It’s a taunt that lowers nearby enemy Will saves by 3, which make Charm spells easier to land.

I’m training Flynn to be a master Charmer, to cause chaos by charming as many enemies to my side to reduce attacks on me and my party while I concentrate on other targets.

One nasty fight you’d likely recall occurs in the latter part of “Come Out and Slay” in the Sharn Syndicate chain. Fighters, mages, bards, archers are all lining your escape path and will swarm you fast if you try the direct approach.

Flynn took the high road, charming as many enemies while above the path as she could to keep the aggro off the party and whittle down the enemy’s own attacks with their own kin, making for an easy victory.

I’m quickly learning that the Perform skill is just as critical for a good Bard as the Concentration skill is to a Monk.

The Finesse of the Blade

Fandral, as seen in "Thor: The Dark World," keeps a dagger handy as he fights dark elves. Can't say I blame him. Elves be tricksy.

Fandral, as seen in “Thor: The Dark World,” keeps a dagger handy as he fights dark elves. Can’t say I blame him. Elves be tricksy.

And then there’s Fandral, the swashbuckling Asgardian in the Thor movie series and comics. Modeled after Errol Flynn, Fandral uses a rapier to fight ridiculously powerful enemies.

Fandral’s fighting style (the side dagger in the promo site ignored) is supported in DDO: You can wield only a blade in your main-hand and nothing in your off-hand. If you do so, you can gain 10% to Doublestrike (or Doubleshot if you’re using a thrown weapon).

You may also use a buckler (a very small shield, as Flynncletica uses) and gain 10% Dodge as a result, or use a Orb or Rune Arm if you are trained with more arcane or arcano-mechanical savvy, gaining spell power or spell point benefits, once you train the appropriate ability.

Fandral’s fight power is also reflected in DDO. As noted in the last post, the new Single Weapon Fighting line of feats increases attack speed and damage tremendously as you train them. Several abilities in the Swashbuckler tree allow power strikes with your weapon for greater damage to go with SWF.

There are many rapiers in DDO, so Flynn has many types to use for specific needs.

Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight

Obi-Wan Kenobi: Why sufficient skills can allow you to bring a (large) knife to a gunfight.

Obi-Wan Kenobi: Why sufficient skills can allow you to bring a (large) knife to a gunfight.

As with other melee fighters, a Swashbuckler must endure any ranged attacks.

The DDO version can train an ability to add Deflect Arrows to their defenses, effectively ignoring one attack every 6 seconds. But ranged attacks also include magic attacks, which gets trickier depending on your race or build.

By level 20, the Eberron Swashbuckler gains Evasion from their last core enhancement ability to help. Before then, it’s up to their saving throws and whatever Spell Resistance they have to withstand magic. If Flynn were a Drow (she’s a Halfling) she’d gain innate spell resistance to ward off magic attacks that aren’t direct attacks, such as Holds.

As a Bard, she’ll be able to train the Freedom of Movement spell to resist such attacks. I’m already missing the high saves of a Monk. I was in a party in “Redfang,” in the poison trap room, when a Monk in party daintily sprinted past me, activating the trap, avoiding any damage, but causing Flynn her first death as the poison struck with a toxic plume at point-blank range.

As for nastier melee attacks, the Swashbuckler gets training bonuses to Dodge to help in miss chances. Unlike a Monk, however, a typical swashbuckler is wearing light armor, which will limit the amount of DEX applied to Armor Class and which also hinders the maximum Dodge Bonus they can possess. Halfling training should help here with Improved Dodge for me, and the class tree also gives Uncanny Dodge through a core ability.

Bards are great with Concealment effects. I Blurred myself happily at low levels and now can add Displacement for a brief 50% level of protection. The weakest effect will be Incorporeality, which I’d likely have no greater than 10% with an item with Ghostly applied. The higher-end Ring of Shadows or Treads of Falling Shadow can add this.

The Role-Play with Countermeasures

I find myself often settling into a certain stance, just before a fight, with each character. The ninjas are always in stealth. The Shintao Monks stand in active attack.

I like to put Flynn’s buckler up immediately, and wait.

As I noted, I don’t see many people actively blocking. They should. Active blocking gives them instant protection against a certain amount of damage, harsh weapon effects such as Maladroit, Crippling and Wounding, even against poison attacks and spells like Bane.

The enemy AIs aren’t that diverse. After a time, you’ll know that a certain enemy starts their attacks with a debuff, or a charging attack. It’s also why the Balance skill is required for the Swashbuckler so that they can stay upright against things, or at least get up from being prone faster.

A charging Swashbuckler, in my experience so far, is a dying one. Let the prey come to you. Let them make the first move, then swat things down that dare to duel like the flies that they are.

That shield can also be used for attacks with a shield bash. The Swashbuckler gets Low Blow, a special attack that simulates a shield bash (the character doesn’t make the actual motion) that  knocks down an enemy based on a Perform skill DC. While slower than the Monk’s Stunning Fist, the Low Blow is very reliable so far, moreso than Stunning Blow.

Combining Low Blow with a later instant-kill attack, Coup de Grace, a Swashbuckler in defensive mode is more dangerous than a rampaging one. Doesn’t seem that Coup de Grace is working as well as it should and might be bugged.

Gear in The Crystal Cove

There are so few bucklers out there for better defenses that it makes the returning shuriken-hunting game seem very, very easy. As  I might have noted before, there are precisely two named non-crafted bucklers in the game, and both are Epic level: the Barnacled Buckler and the humorous-looking Kobold Admiral’s Tiller. The only other is the confusingly-named “Swashbuckler,” a buckler in several flavors based on your crafting ingredients from the Crystal Cove event.

As if Turbine read my mind, the Cove reopened, through the American Independence Day holiday weekend on July 6th.

I’ve built a level 8, 12 and 20 version of the shield, upgrading the 8 and 12 versions so far. The tier-3 Epic version adds Insightful Dexterity with a blue augment slot, along with the high 6% doublestrike, Reposte and Guardbreaking effects.

I love Guardbreaking. It’s a dazing effect that works on most everything, undead included, allowing me several free attacks.

Farming the Cove has been fairly easy at Level 9 or so, even making solo runs with one hireling to farm for dragonshards. Flynn is a great room clearer.

I’ve also a ton of higher-level gems to get to work on that Epic Swashbucker from past runs. And Pynthetica’s old closet of things from her Ranger life has yielded an Epic Duelist’s Leathers, light armor that’s highly recommended by those in the Swashbuckler discussion threads for it’s improved Maximum Dexterity and Armor bonuses.

Playing Monks for so long, I’ve been used to easy Dodge numbers. With any kind of armor, that’s limited without some special adjustments. Being a Halfling, I have a couple of racial skills that could help this, too.

The First-Lifer Blues

Experience points are so ample that Flynn seems to gain XP just by merely logging in! Almost all of my action points have gone solely into the Swashbuckler tree and I haven’t regretted that at all yet. But I’m still a Bard neophyte and need to improve several abilities to ensure my charms work when I need them for most anything as well as some party crowed control.

But I’m stumped a bit. Reading through the Warchanter and Spellsinger trees, I had no idea what might be better for a melee-oriented Bard. Forum threads suggested Warchanter is more inclined for me, and so have begun adding a few points there, cautiously.

 

The Singing Sword of Destruction

The HELLS is this, Syn? This doesn't look like a Monk! Have you been enjoying too much incense or something?

The HELLS is this, Syn? This doesn’t look like a Monk! Have you been meditating over too much incense or something?

My blog’s primary goal is a reflection on all things about the Monk class in Dungeons & Dragons Online. Often the posts I share are meant as extensive discussion and analysis of general abilities, prestige tracks and builds that the Monk can utilize. Such discussion would clog up the Book of Syncletica guide itself and would also be too subjective.

There have been a few new things that’s entered into our virtual world of Eberron to pull my attention away from the monastic for a time.

It might surprise some people to know that not all of my characters are Monks. I have an Artificer, still in her first life and used primarily for Cannith Crafting. I have two Rogues, one an Acrobat in her first life and a very young Assassin. There’s also a halfling Cleric.

But many of the other non-monks have been re-rolled as I needed a new slot for a character idea. A paladin, bard, Cleric-Monk, Rogue-Monk and sorcerer have met an early demise out of lack of interest or poor, irreparable building.

I’ve really, really wanted to enjoy more of the magical classes but Artificer has been the closest I’ve come to doing so.

And then came something new with Update 22 that I just had to try.

The Swashbuckler

DDO’s concept of this single-bladed scoundrel did not take much inspiration from the SRD versions or official tabletop concepts. Because of DDO’s live-combat format. low role-play and Epic quests and raids, the DDO Swashbuckler needed a lot more attack power and versatility. In short, the D&D Swashbuckler is more role-play oriented with simple but highly effective fighting rules. The DDO Swashbuckler must be a master with the single blade almost to Jedi Knight caliber.

I enjoyed a Swashbuckler version long ago in Neverwinter Nights 2. This version (and all of the D&D rules and designs I’ve found online) used a Rogue as the base class. Makes sense, given that a Rogue is…well, roguish, with that swagger and bravado and versatility you’d expect to see in such a character.

But DDO moved in a different direction. Rather than Rogue, their version is geared primarily for Bards.

It’s not a bad idea. In DDO as with D&D, Bards truly are a support class. They are weak in attack but can greatly augment a party’s attacks, buffs and strong in crowd control. But that was about it.

When Epic levels came along, the Bard gained the Fatesinger epic destiny, yet it, too, seemed more of the same: A series of abilities that supported its arcane songs and buffs but with lower attack than other destinies.

And so, perhaps to help this class with greater overall attack power, this new class tree came into being…although not without a lot of player criticism and advice after the developers announced it and asked for comments during its development.

But kudos to the developers; they listened very intently to all players and tweaked the class tree for a solid balance and an enticing reason to choose Single Weapon Fighting over Two Weapon Fighting. You cannot have both; the new feat is mutually exclusive to the TWF feats.

Now, a disclaimer: I know Monks. I know very little about Bards except in gameplay with others. That said, my guild leaders and a few officers have Bards I watch often in play, so I know their abilities. I’m sure that many of you may have multiclassed in the past to generate a better fighter out of a Bard than the stock L20 Bard.

But, as I tend to do with Monks, I’m going to explore how strong the single-class Bard can become with the new Swashbuckler tree.

In Like Flynn

My character naming convention is clear. My Monks have the -(c)letica style nomenclature exclusively (Pynthetica was an early exception as my 2nd character rolled; she was first a Ranger before her current life as a Zen Archer Monk). All my other characters had names often starting with an “A” (a tribute to my mother, who named all her children with “K” names).

But I thought that this character had enough potential to stay to be worthy of my monastic convention. So the name I chose was an in-joke to an existing name (Lynncletica) but also as a reference to Errol Flynn, the late actor renowned for many swashbuckling films in the pre-WWII era.

FlynncleticaMeet Flynncletica.

She’s fresh off the boat and taken only to level 4 with Veteran I status so I could appreciate most of the low-level quests and understand more of the Bard class in a crash-course of early levels.

That said, Flynn is already a terrifyingly powerful melee fighter. With her Starter Rapier and about 10 action points used, she can Blur and heal herself, throw out a few useful bard songs while ripping quick, deadly holes into everything she’s encountered so far.

The keys to Flynn’s power comes from two components. The Single Weapon Fighting ability, among other effects, adds a 10% Combat Style melee and ranged alacrity bonus as well as Doublestrike and Doubleshot from the Swashbuckling stance (should I care to use a repeating crossbow or bow).

Note the distinction of that alacrity bonus. I immediately crafted a reusable trinket with the 10% melee alacrity as an Enhancement bonus.

These effects stacked. I had a level 4 character with 4% Doublestrike and 20% melee alacrity.

Later feats in the Single Weapon Fighting line raise the melee alacrity to 30% Combat Style bonus with greater damages to boot. Does that mean that Flynn could have a 40% total increase in melee alacrity? Yes. Yes, it does.

Equipment

Sadly, there are very, very few named bucklers, the smallest of the shields, in the game. The best ones are Epic versions (and are quite cool looking). The only Heroic version is from the Crystal Cove event, called (not surprisingly) the “Swashbuckler.”

Aside from the general protection that a shield provides, I’d like to see more with Riposte effects. In the NWN2 version, any missed attack gave my character an immediate counter-attack. Riposte (as well as other tree effects) can add more of this. There are a couple of similar effects that generate damage on missed attacks.

My current buckler has 1% Doublestrike, which stacks with the Swashbuckler’s innate bonuses.

I may need to craft a bit.

I love the look and feel of the rapier and I’m going to stick with this weapon type throughout Flynn’s life, occasionally swapping out a recently-looted Everbright rapier for oozes and rust monsters. Plenty of good weapons for Bards exist, including the Spider Spike, the Elyd Edge (my Bard-savvy guild leader advised me to get this one to regenerate my bard songs using its Anthem effect), the Turbulent Epee, the heavy Dueling Schlager, Sheridan’s RuinNuushmaar’s Adamantine Tooth, and Tyrzza’s Bane, to name a few.

Light armor should be sufficient for Flynn, and there’s more of that good stuff in-game than I need to mention here.

As for other essentials that Bards should have, I’ll need lots of advice and experimentation.

Training

I took some pointers from two threads on the general build. As much as I’d love to add in the halfling dragonmark (good tip, Geoff), I can see that I’ll be pretty feat starved and would be better off adding healing or defensive spells as I went along.

Based on one poster’s very helpful answer, I focused on combat (DEX) but will be adding as much CHA as I can to whip out anything that slows down at least smaller crowds.

Flynn, like most Bards, is not meant to solo, I think. I have to keep a meat shield handy. I’ve had a blast running this character with guildmates and might–just might–even join in a PUG or two. I’ve also looked more at the Monte Cristo build ideas for better Bardesque crowd controls in whatever I can apply to Flynn.

I’m studying what Warchanter tree abilities can improve Flynn’s attack and CC powers. Advice is appreciated.

Gameplay

One thing that DDO players don’t do nearly as often as they should is block. We have shields, true, but often they’re there for off-hand effects and general passive protections.

I plan to block and often. I plan to start off defensively, letting the enemy’s first attack go into my shield (with miss effects activating as they might) before I pummel him with several Swashbuckler attacks while also letting any Riposte or guard effects hurt him more. I find shield bashing quite handy as well. I suspect you really can’t just hold down your Attack button as often as a swashbuckler if you want to triumph.

As Flynn gains in power, I’ll enjoy some Bard crowd controls, choking attacks in doorways and narrow passages while picking off any comers to my blade. I’m particularly interested in using taunts that reduce Will saves, making paralysis and charms more effective to make an enemy’s army my own. I’ll need some study to ensure I can pull off powerful Otto’s Spheres in higher levels: That’s CHA, and I’m pumping DEX over all else, so tomes and equipment will be needed along with action points to some enhancements.

Bards aren’t known to be stealthy. But Flynn can cast Invisibility (immunity from Spot). Combined with some Move Silently points (and a few Hide points given as part of being a halfling), she can use some situational tactics to help decide where and when she will fight. The tree also adds Fast Movement, a lighter but appreciated speed-up.

In higher levels, Flynn may be able to kill anything that is Fascinated or prone as she trains her magic skills.

Three-Barrel Cove and Tangleroot are next–but Flynn is leveling hyper-fast as a first-life character.

Flynn may not be a Monk, but she’s going to have speed and versatility that matches many of them. And, she’ll be wise enough to buff any Monks in party to make the most of their powers.

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of

“The Madcap Adventures of Flynncletica”

in color!