Zen Balance 2: Electric Boogaloo

PynA3So the balance change discussion is now reality with Update 28 Patch 1.

I suspected that none of my ranged characters should take a hit from this. In fact, I thought most should get a boost.

In case you’re a too-long didn’t read kind of person (not likely since you’re coming here to listen to me), here’s the change in a nutshell:

Both Manyshot and Ten Thousand Stars become feats to give brief bonuses to Doubleshot and Ranged Power. There’s no longer any Doubleshot penalties naturally for this reason. Rather than animating a flurry of arrows, your Doubleshot represents additional hits but also more powerful missile hits.

Manyshot = Current Doubleshot + (BAB * 4) with Current Ranged Power + (BAB *4).

Ten Thousand Stars is now aligned to your Monk level and WIS score. TTS Doubleshot = Current Doubleshot + (WIS) with (Monk level * 5) + Current Ranged Power.

So let’s show what I get with this new scheme through pictures. All characters are using Shiradi Champion level 5 and are level 28 unless noted. Weapon types here are less important than any spells, feats, enhancements or ED abilities that improve their BAB, Doubleshot, Ranged Power and WIS.

(Note: I am not strong in HTML and can’t easily correct the headers of the characters slamming against each other below. My apologies if it’s harder to read.)

Szyncletica

Build: Drow Shuricannon (Ninja Spy Monk 28)

Uses: Ten Thousand Stars only. WIS 36 (Ocean Stance)

Before: Doubleshot: 2%, Ranged Power: 54

After: Doubleshot: 102%, Ranged Power: 90

SzynB1

SzynB2SzynA1SzynA2

 

 

 

Artemistika

Build: Elf Deepwood Stalker (Ranger Level 28)

Uses: Manyshot only. BAB 24

Before: Doubleshot: 35%, Ranged Power 73

After: Doubleshot: 131%, Ranged Power 193

MistyB1MistyB2MistyA1MistyA2

 

 

Pynthetica

Build: Elf Zen Archer (Ninja Spy Monk Level 23, Shiradi 4)

Uses:

  • Manyshot, BAB 22
  • Ten Thousand Stars, WIS 39

Before: Doubleshot: 10%, Ranged Power 68

With TTS: Doubleshot: 110%, Ranged Power 122

With Manyshot: Doubleshot: 98%, Ranged Power 144

PynB1PynB2PynA1PynA2PynA3

PynA4

The Outcome

The numbers aren’t as telling as performance, and this varies because of the difference in weapons with the shuriken and bows. All of them blow the training dummy into sawdust in seconds with any of these modes.

Misty’s Manyshot, mostly because the Doubleshot effect adds an additional shot when over 100% now, combined with her high Ranged Power, definitely hasn’t lost the overall effectiveness to me. She holds the highest Doubleshot and Ranged Power scores, which is natural and expected for a Ranger. I would cry out “nerf!” myself if this weren’t the case as the Ranger is the natural archer class. In short, I’m seeing similar effects to the multi-arrow effect of the old Manyshot but with more damage per arrow. The best news here is that the power of Manyshot has greater control to the player. Increase your Doubleshot and/or Ranged Power elsewhere, and the damage increases. In fact, with Killer working, Doubleshot goes up further by 20% with Misty, so her true Doubleshot would be 151% as things die.

Szyncletica’s shuriken performance is weaker because she’s yet to add any significant standing Doubleshot gear. Unlike Pynthetica and Misty, Szyn also gains no additional Ranged Power outside of Shiradi and Epic levels. That said, being a full Monk with a decent WIS gives a reliable TTS performance, although weakest of the three as far as the numbers show. This is due in part because a Shiradi Shuricannon is already a multi-shotting thrower because of the combined effects of Shuriken Expertise and Ninja Spy’s Advanced Ninja Training, both of which add a chance to throw an additional shuriken per attack. Thus, the game squeezes in more stars per attack in addition to what Szyn already throws, and the animation shows that.

It’s Pynthetica that’s pleasantly surprising. My Zen Archer build shows its muster without full training in Shiradi and with four Epic levels (and its corresponding Ranged Power bonuses) yet to go. Pyn’s standing RP is higher than Misty’s RP at level 28. While Misty’s Doubleshot is best (she has the Epic Destiny feat of Doubleshot as well), Pyn comes in a strong second with TTS alone at 110%.(Pyn’s Elf enhancement with a ship buff gives 5% and she pulled a Dynamistic Quiver to get another 5%). Her Manyshot bonuses to RP were respectable as well at 144.

So, Pyn’s extra RP from Harper Agent helps. Being a full Monk helps, too, and Pyn has more damage to come. She used the revised feats in a Shroud run that night, and wasn’t displeased at all.

As I said in an earlier post, only the change in TTS is a nerf to splash builds like monkchers, since only 2 Monk levels or a lower WIS won’t give a lot of Ranged Power or Doubleshot boost. It should be interesting to see how those builds are revised.

In other news from this patch: I’m looking forward to the new Halloween event, which previews live for an in-game load test for us all today (10/23). I’m also digging the cleaner, more responsive look of the DDO Store. Nice work, devs.

Now Comes the Dawn

One thing I neglected to mention in depth from the latest Update 27 content in “Trials of the Archons” is the named loot.

Like the archons themselves, the quality and amount of named gear is luminous.

But one item in DDO’s page that details the items grabbed my attention immediately.

The hunt began with the release, and part 1 of that hunt ended last night in spectacular fashion.

Tyrs Paladium, my home on the Ghallanda server, completed a Heroic run of the three new quests in Amrath earlier in the week, and then proceeded on a Epic run last night. I led a group of four able-bodied folk into the three quests, all on Epic Elite.

I’m usually pretty conservative on difficulties when in a live party. But I was in control of Szyncletica the Starwielder, Solitary Destroyer of the Shroud. My strongest offensive character.

After gathering for buffs, the very first thing I wanted to check was the CR level of the trash we needed to clear at the start of “The Archon’s Trial.”

The trash was CR 76. That’s not a typo.

Szyn behaved as a ranged tank, her Improved Precise Shot and off-hand Fiery Detonations by her off-hand Celestia easily aggroing everything in sight. Combined with her permanent Haste and attack speed from the Blinding Speed epic feat, I was able to keep the swarms from overwhelming us in most locations.

Then there were the bosses. The bebilith mid-boss was a CR 83 as was the Planetar leader end-boss. While the bebilith fell after about 5 minutes, the green-skinned Planetar was the biggest bag of HP I’ve ever encountered. Before we could concentrate our fire on her, we had to dispatch her entourage of super-deadly Lantern Archons that peppered us with Searing Light rays of 150 points of damage or more, and Devas with brutal bludgeoning attacks.

ScreenShot01726

It took over 10 minutes of continuous fire and beat downs to defeat the Planetar.

Onto “Demon Assault.” That run gave our team no dramatic surprises until the end-fight. I tried to pull a few enemies at a time, keeping the team far from the lethal Shavarath blades.

Having run this quest a couple of times before, I recommended that the team fight the boss first to complete, which typically has left a gate between the boss fight and a shrine open to us. But on Epic Elite, that gate closed, and we were met by dozens of Shavarath renders of fire, frost and flesh, trapped there to fight or die.

It looked like we were about to immediately wipe as Dungeon Alert built up to Orange, but IPS came to the rescue. I circle-strafed the entire legion of renders to keep them off the main party while they chewed on the boss. That had to be one of the most intense tanking fights I’ve done in a long while. Thankfully, the spawns did stop and we completed the quest and then took on the optional meralith for a trivial chest and some additional XP.

In the last quest, “The Devil’s Details,” even the normally trivial Tiefling Marksmen were deadly as we raided a stronghold of Aaretreikos. By the end fight we chose to stay at the top of the stairs to limit what we had to fight. The Erinyes boss–so strikingly beautiful as she was deadly–was a CR 83 as well and took some time to kill. After completion we finished off what trash remained between us and our end-loot.

I didn’t see what I was looking for in my allotment, but a fellow guildmate did receive it and passed the item to me.

ScreenShot01727

Behold, the Dawnbringer. The fourth named shuriken in-game and the second one to come with both Heroic and Epic versions and an augment slot. And, like all other named stars, this is a Bound-to-Account weapon.

The stats you see above reflect what the weapon does when I, as a Ninja Spy, equip it.

The day was over and I haven’t yet a chance to see what it can do. But soon, legions of evil, soon you will follow and fall to the Dawn.

 

Hark, The Herald Angels Fight

I'm captivated by the erinyes, red-winged and powerful. Why am I attracted to bad girls? You'd think one divorce would fix me of that.

I’m captivated by the erinyes, red-winged and powerful. Why am I attracted to bad girls? You’d think one divorce would fix me of that.

Real-life and work have definitely curbed my blogging efforts of late, leaving me little precious time to complete the substantial updates in The Book of Syncletica with builds and what-not, as well as general help here and there in the player-base. A crisis caused me to miss a scheduled appearance as podcast guest on DDOCast last week, which vexed me greatly. I can’t provide enough apologies to Shamgar and anyone who tuned in.

So I’m trying to make up for lost time and posts by going straight to a brief talk on the new release of Update 27: “Trials of the Archons.”

For past update, the most we’d seen of the Good-aligned celestial forces in the battlefields of Shavarath are skeletal remains of fallen archons on the battlefields and one living archon we are able to free and speak with briefly in “Wrath of the Flame.” Atop the floating fortress of Amrath, we can see one of the celestial cities floating far off. And that was it, until now.

Something (perhaps our collective ass-kicking adventurer lifestyle) has compelled the archons to call on the adventurers to assist them. But the trust of the archons is not given easily.

“Trials of the Archons” is broken down to three quests and one raid. The first, “The Archon’s Trial,” sends you through an increasingly difficult set of challenges. The archons initially say that they had a nice battery of canned tests but, since a force of devils and demons have decided to invade that day, why, say you adventurers go off and clean them up for us?

The archons are angelic beings, all appearing to be stunning, flying statuesque humanoid females, always flying and hovering. This holy appearance, however, doesn’t seem to preclude them from applying a certain kinder, gentler type of dickery. It’s understandable from their point of view as the archons have seen how the mortals are easily tricked (see “Wrath of the Flame”) or are corrupted from within (“The Lords of Dust”). Given that their war against the devils and demons (with the devils and demons in-fighting in a perpetual civil war to boot, as noted in “Bastion of Power”) is filled with endless strategy and counter-attack, the archons’ thoughts about who to trust border on insular considerations only.

Thankfully, through the three quests you can complete, you show that you can hold your own in a fight. “The Archon’s Trial” eventually pits you against archons in a duel, and they are hardly pushovers. Since they are Good-aligned (like the Eladrin in the Vale of Twilight) your Holy weapon has no effect, forcing you to change your game.

Quest #2 is “Demon Assault.” If the name rings a bell, it’s because you’re getting a sequel of sorts from the Marketplace quest, “Devil Assault.” Rather than being locked in a small room in arena-style combat, you’re placed in ruins and must navigate through them, slay wave after wave of demons that pour through portal gateways. It’s a trial. You have an optional rescue before your party gets the beatdown of your life from a boss fight.

The last quest, “The Devil’s Details,” requires your party to find out what the great pit fiend Arraetrikos is planning in a new offensive to win the endless war. You’re introduced to the erinyes: The dark, corrupted version of the archon, with red wings and a very nasty attitude.

Complete these three quests and you’re flagged for a new raid: “Defiler of the Just.” I have no more information on this one since it was just released except that it’s got a few serious bugs that may make it unplayable right now.

“Trials of the Archons” has both level 13 and level 30 quest modes to satisfy your tastes. The loot is absolutely incredible. While completing the first quest, I received an Epic quarterstaff that basically will kill anything unholy with great ease.

I first tried quest #1 with the ever-prepared Kiricletica, master of soloing. As I learned later with a party, completing this one took time and, likely, I would have failed my final fight one-on-one against a group of archons. Ninja prowess can only go so far, even with dark finishing moves and deceptive effects. I aborted my Heroic run to join guildmates for an Epic Hard attempt with Szyncletica the star-thrower.

Being what she is, Szyn was able to help beat back the hordes with spamming shuriken. In “The Archon’s Trial” there is a puzzle situation where you should be wary without a lot of electrical resistance and absorption.

In conclusion, these new quests, at least, are a refreshing new addition after the welcome but highly time-intensive “Haunted Halls of Eveningstar” and “Thunderholme” content.

I tried to keep this review spoiler-free, so keep your comments that way, too and let me know how you’ve enjoyed this new stuff.

A Drow In Despair

Szyncletica1

I’m away from DDO during the season of Lent. This is a saved post I’ve made while I’m away. This post may or may not contain sensitive subject matter unsuitable for some minds (specifically, religion).

Reader discretion advised.

~~~

With a solo of the Shroud under Szyncletica’s belt, what’s next for this mad Monk?

Once upon a time not long ago, the “Tower of Despair” raid was an important objective for Monks to find ingredients for and any of the special rings there which can be used to create a DR-breaking bursting ring that worked only with unarmed attacks.

It was the dev’s substitute for being unable to upgrade the already-existing Green Steel crafting system to accommodate the introduction of handwraps when the Monk class arrived shortly thereafter.

Nowadays, there are plenty of handwraps you can craft and use to break DR from other systems in the game, so the whining of the lack of GS wraps has faded. But with the introduction of Epic characters and quests, so has the desire for people to run “ToD.”

Now, these Incredible Potential rings aren’t much use to Szyn, either, as a throwing Monk. The ring’s unlocked Holy Burst and related bursts work only on unarmed attacks.

But there’s wasn’t much in the way of loot in the Shroud to gain for Szyn, either. She completed it simply to say that she did. And so it is for the Tower.

I wouldn’t dream of this insane run were it not for the Thunder-Forged Shuriken that causes incredible damage fast enough to destroy a pit fiend alone.

The question now is whether Szyn can manage two bosses at the same time on a Normal-difficulty run.

The Good

From a matter of destruction, Szyn’s weaponry as a maxed L28 character should do short work against the trash inside the Tower. She can already handle the same kinds of nastiness alone inside an Epic Hard “Devil Assault” as she did in the Shroud. She uses Rejuvenation Cocoon, has high miss-chance powers and strong Reflex saves (90) because of her very high DEX (62+ when the winds are right).

The Bad

The first challenge will be destroying the Judge and the Jailer in part 1. I’m unsure if I can keep the attention of only one, or if I’m going to have to fight both at once. Improved Precise Shot will help. I’m not sure if Freedom of Movement will help against chaining effects from one of them.

The best news is that, being a Monk, my resistances to certain attacks are higher and I’m highly maneuverable and damage-resistant, keeping my distance as I attack. I only need to carry a small barge-load of Remove Curse potions and watch my healing.

The Ugly

I expect the fight against Nythirios and his Shadowfiends in Part 2 will be far harder than smacking Horoth into his component atoms in Part 3.

Veterans know that Nythirios is a pit fiend like Harry. No big thing there. But it’s his little dark icy-cold pets that swarm around, trying to freeze-kill over entire parties that disturbs me. In a normal party, you need only to designate someone to aggro the Shadowfiends, drawing them away from the party while your main team beats Nythirios into goo. When he’s down, the deadly fiends vanish. I’ve watched 10 HP casters do this job and, surprisingly, stay alive. If a HP-weak Wizard can do it, then a thrower should be able.

For me, I’ll have to kite everything (when do I not kite?). Szyn is very fast in attack and speed (permanent Haste through the Epic feat Blinding Speed), so she’ll need to have lots of Protection against Cold potions handy to slow any of the serious damage that a Shadowfiend might hit her with if she grazes one too close. My hope is that I’ll just drag Nythirios and Friends, kiting them while my Shiradi effects and Celestia off-hand explosions kill off the Shadowfiends long enough to reduce them as a threat while continually aiming at the fiend to end him. I’m always using Improved Precise Shot so any strikes hit all between me and my target if I can keep the alignment right.

In Part 3, again, it’s a matter of kiting. The room is generally a circle and big enough for me to do this. Horoth has a stunning attack that I cannot counter as a dark Monk, but I hope to survive it long enough to put down enough damage on him. Plenty of Orthon trash spawns and respawns, and then Suulomades the horned devils enters to try to trash me, too. I could change my target to Suulo while running for my life if things are stable enough, then slay Horoth.

It’ll be a matter of experimentation based on how much damage I’m taking and how much damage I can inflict against trash and bosses before Horoth gets lucky with a Disintegrate hit or prolonged stun. While now in possession of the FoM-granting Orcish Privateer’s Boots, I must wear Boots of Anchoring throughout the battle to keep from getting banished to Eberron.

This is a complete experiment because I’m a little bored, and also because I want to know the lay of the land before I think of taking my Ranger inside to hunt for her Gilvenor’s Ring. When paired with Gilvenor’s Necklace from another Devil Battlefield quest, she’d gain 10% Ranged Alacrity as a Competence Bonus–stacking with other Ranged Alacrity bonuses.

Imagine having 30% Ranged Alacrity once I get a Pinion bow (20% alacrity) and when wearing these items.

I did. I needed to cuddle and have a cigarette after that. I don’t smoke.

Postmortem: Attempt #1

So, shortly before my sabbatical, I took Szyn the thrower into “Tower of Despair.”

The cool part is that I was able to use stealth to avoid a lot of fighting before entering the realm of the Judge and Jailer, sneaking by 90% of everything.

That first fight worked out about the way I expected, and I was victorious. I used my Thunder-Forged Shuriken for much of the fight because of the raw damage, but experimented with my Green Steel Mineral II star as well.

I took some time to prep for the expected nightmare of Part 2, arming myself with Fire Shield items, watching others complete the area while alone and how they didn’t die. But then I made the mistake of thinking too much after watching VoodooSpyce’s videos, particularly a run into the Tower while solo. His character stood still, not kiting, so that the Shadowfiend’s cold aura wouldn’t hit him nearly as often. I felt cocky and tried it his way.

I was slaughtered rather quickly by standing still.

I should’ve stuck to my first instinct to kite the Shadowfiend while attacking the pit fiend. While VoodooSpyce’s videos was useful, I may need to look to the monkchers in the crowd to see what can be done here, at the least.

Szyncletica: Shroud Beater

It’s my first major accomplishment. Szyncletica, now a capped Epic Shiradi Shuricannon, defeated the Shroud on her own on a quiet Sunday morning.

Wasn’t easy.

Part 1

I had two attempts here. The first aborted at part 1 when I missed a second portal keeper that appeared.

I learned an important strategy: Portal Keepers are bound to appear if you’re slow at the portals, solo or not.

The key is to simply target and kill the keeper and then continue on with your work. Know the portal manifestation order and check all the portals.

If you hear a second warning after you’ve thought you’ve killed any keepers, you missed one and have less than a minute to rectify your mistake.

I took that knowledge into my second attempt and was able to beat part 1 without significant issue.

Part 2

I had a terrible group of lieutenants, about as annoying as a solo runner can get I had Kasquick, the troll, the lion and the fire elemental. The last two lieutenants are stupid fast in their ghosts returning to the center. I know from study that other solo runners have abandoned their run if they’d got such an over-speedy group. But I’m fast, too. I gave it a go.

After I killed off Kasquick near the southwestern tree and began working on the others, I noticed how much time had gone past before Kasquick had returned to life. On killing fire, I watched him get stuck within a corner, staying there for almost 3 minutes before the game AI forced him to the center to revive.

I tried to take advantage of that spawn slowness and the fact that this was a maze. The best place to slay them is near and just north of the southwestern recharge tree. The lieutenants have a tendency to get stuck or meander slower to the center and their respawn point. I needed that time; the lion was extremely fast in running back to the center, faster than the elemental.

With a series of timed beatdowns and some lucky procs from my Celestial sword’s passive explosions of fire and light, the lieutenants fell, the crystal eliminated and now, on to the dreaded part 3.

Part 3

This time, I thought of another idea to conquer this place, where the Prismatic Wall had taken me twice already.

I zoomed through the area, smashing as many crystals above the doors as fast as I could before I opened up the central fountain, retreated and waited.

I knew now that eliminating door crystals brought the Wall up faster. I wanted to wait to start any water runs until the Wall spawned so it wouldn’t spawn atop me.

Celebratory cannonballs in Part 3's regenerating pond.

Celebratory cannonballs in Part 3’s regenerating pond.

Finally it appeared. I began a careful series of runs out, always following far behind the Wall as I did my work, filling only one fountain and removing crystals as I retreated back to the center where the Wall does not travel.

I waited for the Wall to pass by my fountain door on its clockwise path, then sprinted out counter-clockwise to do what I could do.

It took about 30 minutes, but patience won, and I left part 2 with two chests and victory.

Now to go where few others have gone.

Part 4

I thought to myself that Part 1 and 2 were the most difficult because they had a time element. That was only partly correct. Part 1 is timed only once a portal keeper appeared. Part 2 isn’t timed at all except in the fine window you have while all lieutenants are down and the race to destroy their respawning crystal. It’s part 3 that requires the greatest timing.

One Ninja Drow, one battle.

One Ninja Drow, one battle.

Now, it was just a matter of combat. A matter of outlasting my enemies.

The Whirling Blades are a nuisance but not very dangerous on Normal. My thoughts in this first encounter with Arraetrikos involved one important factor: Beating his regenerative factor.

As Klorox the Barbarian showed, it was a matter of damaging Harry faster than he regenerated.

I kicked up my defenses, drank a DDO store elixir and a Yugoloth potion, and got to work.

Taking out the trash was easy enough, and then Harry arrived.

We meet at last, pit fiend.

We meet at last, pit fiend.

The Thunder-Forged Shuriken with its tier 1 upgrade did its work. I pulled 1/5th of his HP away on round 1.

Each time the pit fiend disappeared, I went into Sneak to boost my passive ki regeneration and used Wholeness of Body to recharge my HP to full.

Staying hidden also left me hidden from the devil spawns, allowing me to take my time in regenerating ki and waiting for my Eternal Potion of Death Ward to recharge.

The gnolls that arrived to recharge Harry fell very, very quickly each round to vorpalling stars and were never a factor.

Harry and I fought on. After 5 rounds or so, the beast fell.

Part 5

As ready for the final fight as I'd ever be.

As ready for the final fight as I’d ever be.

I waited at the part 4 altar to regenerate my ki to maximum and clear the cooldown on my Eternal potion.

The strategy here was similar to part 4, although I realized that I’d have a hell of a time separating the speedy revived lieutenants.

And just before I entered, I decided to buy some +20 Jump potions from the DDO Store.

It took a bit to slay the lieutenants.

Then Harry materialized once more.

Bet most of you have never seen this view of part 5 before, high above.

Bet most of you have never seen this view of part 5 before, high above.

I drank that Jump potion and leaped atop the center pedestal, running all the way up and was able to stand on the edge of the outside wall of the area. I pelted Harry senseless and with impunity.

After 15 minutes or so, the deed was done.

Another feather in the cap for Firewall’s Shuricannon design, even with a weaker design such as my own.

I give you a video of the last minutes of the battle.

 

And Sir Geoff: By request: the dance of victory.

ScreenShot01379ScreenShot01378

Maybe I found my final inspiration a couple of days ago, after discovering an old DDO thread of a much-earlier Shroud victory by the quintessential Sarlona guild, Caffeine.

Every one in the raid group used only Clubs of the Holy Flame.

Completed years ago, that’s still going to be more badass than anything I have done or can think of doing.

 

 

Solo Shroud Update

Family obligations keep me from trying to make more attempts to complete “The Shroud” on Normal with Szyncletica as often as I wish. It’s also a far longer task because I’m alone in there, so I need at least 2 hours, uninterrupted.

That said, I did make a second attempt a weekend ago. Completed part 1 without issue. Part 2 had a great pull of lieutenants that I removed in one round.

Part 3 ate me again. This time, while I spotted the prismatic wall while in the center, I began to carefully follow it as I removed more crystals.

Not so smart. The DDO Wiki page warns that the wall has a tendency to make a new copy of itself at corners as it moves down a side. Zapped again for being too close to said corner.

At least Szyn’s combat prowess is confirmed with parts 1 and 2, right?

Broken Spokes in the Wheel of Life

wheel_of_life

Samara is ever-present in the world of Dungeons & Dragons Online. We truly reincarnate to improve ourselves. But when should we try to break the cycle?

I have 18 characters. Four are banks. One is a semi-retired Drow Artificer that hasn’t played since before the new enhancements.

One is a halfing L18 Thief-Acrobat Rogue still on its first life and dreadfully confused about herself as she learns the new abilities. A half-Elf Paladin recently met its demise to allow Flynncletica to appear.

The three Ninja Spies, Ryncletica, Szyncletica and Kiricletica, each bring a unique fighting style. Ryn is an unarmed Shadowdancer-enabled L25 Monk in her second life. Szyncletica is a L27 Shiradi Shuricannon also in her second life. Kiricletica is the accomplished hard-solo shortsword master at L26 in her first life.

Pynthetica was a Arcane Archer Ranger in life 1 and is now a pure Zen Archer Monk at level 17.

That leaves two Shintao Monks, Lynncletica the Earth tanker at level 25, and Syncletica herself, refusing to fight much since she seemed too vulnerable for harder Epic play in her second life at level 23. Quintessica rounds out the dojo in her second life as a Henshin Mystic at level 23.

I bore you with this character list because, as you can see, there are far too many of them sitting at Epic levels. It’s time for some of them to start again, to take another cycle in the wheel of life.

But should any of them simply submit to the circle of samara and become a Monk once again? Or should they consider a bit more?

I’m leaning to the more.

Yes, the person that doesn’t teach multiclassing per se in the Monk guide is considering other classes–sort of.

It’s not a tough concept. I have more than enough characters to experiment and learn what others have done before me and have enjoyed. I’m not paving any new ground except for my own fun. As well, I have more than enough characters to explore any tenets of a pure Monk to afford a cross-class training session.

But enlightenment is a bitch, or makes you one.

On Syncletica

As you may know, Syncletica is my first character and my first Monk.

For her third life, I envision that she should explore more of the divine powers and train in Cleric levels. She would still have a minimum of 2 Monk levels but would be a better aid to others.

Else, especially with the new enhancement pass, I should take one more turn as a Wind Stancer, improving her durability to match her speed. I know a lot more about miss-chance, PRR and AC now than when she last left the dojo.

On Ryncletica

Ryn was once a halfling. I see her returning to her original small stature from her life as a human, but with Rogue levels.

Now, I’ve tried and failed to balance a character to have superior Rogue skills while also keeping a monastic fighting style. I’ll need to seriously plan her build with RJ’s Character Builder and read up on other builds before attempting this again.

Else, Ryn could explore a new class. I’ve wanted to explore the Druid, so this is an option.

On Kiricletica

There’s still more to explore with Kiri as a pure Ninja Spy in life 2, so I will not change her design once she reincarnates. She was a blast to play in hard-solo mode.

With her patented Ninja Poison attacks not working with the latest update, she’s in stasis until it’s working again. I’ve been trying to get more bug reports submitted to get this resolved.

On Lynncletica

I’ve told myself time and again that Lynncletica will stay Epic as she was my most durable character and can farm many places for other characters.

That’s changed with Szyncletica; who has done what Lynn has not by surviving Epic Elite adventures alone.

I still want to improve Lynn’s overall capacity to keep and hold attention as a light tanker. She is certainly the strongest self-healer I have, although her DPS is a bit lacking. She was still at L25 when the Update 19 enhancement changes came about, so she’s not as optimized for tanking as she could be with a tweak of enhancements.

I’ll have Lynn and Szyn farm Tokens of the Twelve for themselves and others.

On Szyncletica

I love the Shuricannon build too much to change one bit of Szyn’s abilities. The more past lives for her, the better.

If I do add a new path for her, shortsword work or Ranger prowess isn’t a bad one. She is my strongest Monk and has proven able to complete Epic Elite, solo if necessary, and has even completed a portion of the Shroud alone.

As I said, if Lynn reincarnates, then Szyn stays Epic until Lynn returns to power.

On Quintessica

The Mystic is a really potent staff-wielder with incredible DPS. Only Szyncletica  can claim better numbers. The thread on training an Epic Destiny to boost spell power and damage is quite appealing.

For now I’ll keep Quin in Epic while I add in some points. It will take time since it requires a lot of ED training for sphere hopping to the Arcane side.

Once she does complete this training, a bit of Druidic training might be nice.

Or, is this the time for my first Wizard or Sorcerer? I don’t know.

On Pynthetica

Her experimentation in Zen Archery is coming along well. She’s my first and only character to come from a non-monastic class into the Monk class, so it’s not outside probability to see her try her hand at being an Artificer, or to see if Deepwood Sniper can meld well with her ranged past life and her monastic life.

On Allysen

Allysen is my halfling Acrobat Rogue at level 18 and the oldest character I have to have never reincarnated.

I think I should either use the Lesser Heart of Wood to respec her and get her into Epic Shadowdancer training before I reincarnate her into something else. Would she be the better candidate for a Rogue Monk than Ryncletica? The gear she’s gathered suggests yes.

On the Others

  • I retired my paladin and created Flynncletica. This swashbuckler is a blast to play to the point where I’m neglecting my monastic training.
  • Arcammedes dutifully sits in the crafting hall at L19 in her first life as Artificer. She’s not been on the battlefield for over a year.

I should train her enhancements and at least see her to Level 20 or so. A reincarnation won’t remove her crafting prowess but would completely free her inventory slots for holding stuff. She’s not going anywhere with her crafting levels–and that’s the problem.

  • There’s still a Kensei to train.

Four bank characters now hold a lot of gear. Much of it I gathered long ago in trying to keep a storehouse of gear for any guildmates to use in building a Monk. Now, I think, that time’s past, especially with crafting as an option for any low-level gear I can generate for someone as unbound.

I’m selling off most of this to free up at least one more character slot.

Have I Hit the Wall in the Circle?

As long-time readers of the guide and the blog know, I like to chew through the many permutations of the Monk as a single class.

Generally I’ve studied a class tree’s strengths and weaponized them, such as Kiricletica.

Lately I haven’t been very creative here, generating or adapting new builds. Perhaps it’s my disappointment with a few bugs such as Ninja Poison failing, which has all but stopped Kiricletica’s progress. Maybe my mind is becoming too combat-oriented thanks to the sword-wielding non-Monk, Flynncletica.

Perhaps I haven’t studied the Monk and non-Monk class trees enough to see a new wheel on which to roll a character along in a new path of study.

And perhaps I’m impatient for progress. There is one clear path I haven’t explored with Theacletica as she trains as a Kensei, as I noted.

That’s the problem of samara. Your own limitations prevent you from breaking the cycle of life and death. It’s difficult to move forward sometimes; you feel stuck in a circle, attracted by easy victory or novelty.

I think I require more study. The path of enlightenment is not supposed to be easy.

In any case, I’m open to some suggestions to explore. But be warned that I don’t take change well for change’s sake. I like the diversity of DDO, but the best damage is secondary to the best gameplay, and I’ve not the patience or time for what I see is the tedium of multiclassed tweaking.

It’s Monday, and Sir Geoff of Hanna has posted a nice meditative animation. Yes…calming and peaceful. Enlightenment doesn’t happen in a chaotic mind.

Alone in the Shroud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenges in the Shroud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attempt #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

My Own Private Normandy Landing

Even after 70 years, this scene in history, of storming the deadly beaches near Normandy, remains one of the most incredible witnesses to bravery in World War II.

Even after 70 years, this scene in history, of storming the deadly beaches near Normandy, remains one of the most incredible witnesses to bravery in World War II.

Ever since I heard of one quest getting updated, I’ve been anxious to see it.

Update 22 brings us an Epic version of Three-Barrel Cove. My ninjas have been sharpening their stars at the notion of challenging hordes of pirates.

But there are other nastier pirates, such as the Blood Tide, which have had designs on Stormreach by first emasculating and decapitating the city’s military defensive center, House Deneith.

Of the five quests in the Sentinels of Stormreach chain, one didn’t have an Epic version until now.

Storm the Beaches” not only got an upgrade but changed one aspect that made things interesting.

One of the three objectives is to destroy eight ballistas along the pirate fortress. In the original Heroic version, eliminating these was as easy as targeting any breakable object.

But now, the ballistas fire back with massive area-of-effect damage that will likely kill you in one strike.

Yes, those ballistae you’ve used to shoot down pirate airships in Three-Barrel Cove are now directed at you.

The quest title fits the bill now. You still have three ways to start the quest: Attack the moored pirate ship, use a side trail leading to the fortress’s top, or (as the quest name implies) land on the beaches around the fortress.

If you are spotted, the enemies that guard the ballistas will fire on you with their weapons and the ballistas.

Ever played “Medal of Honor” games, set in WWII? One very memorable scenario puts you as a player character about to land on Omaha Beach, the heaviest and deadliest encounter of the several Allied landfalls of Operation Overlord, on the beaches near Normandy, France. We recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of that landing.

In MoH, the game tried to murder you on Normandy beach. The same words were used by the DDO player that described his experience with the revised quest in the Lammania thread I’ve read.

I normally like the trail pass option, so I tried the spymaster option using Szyncletica the star-thrower ninja.

All was well in sneaking up to the upper level. Knowing what to expect, I began throwing stars at a ballista.

It was down to less than a third of its health when I saw it.

That projectile, tree-trunk sized and shaped like a flaming arrow, approached me head-on. I was mesmerized by how it looked, locked in amazement at the attack’s speed and range.

BAM. And that’s when I died from over 1200 points of bludgeon damage.

A second attempt with Szyncletica fared only slightly better. I had swam from the spymaster drop-off to the moored enemy ship and removed all resistance, and then entered the submerged entrance to remove all enemies inside.

On exiting to the outside at the south entrance, I was spotted and I heard a ballista activate. I hurried back in, expecting to have the ballista lose its target lock on me.

I came back out through the watery entrance and began a swim on the outskirts of the western edge of the map, stealthy and invisible.

BAM. Lesson #2: Ballistae never lose their target lock, even if you enter into the fortress. Stealth does no good. I already knew from posts that invisibility was also a wash.

I love this quest, despite failing very badly at it so far. It’s requiring me to really, really think.

And I think that I need to get a party gathered to go into this one.

The biggest challenge is that your own “army” is going to be limited to six. Good luck.

The Wrath of the Netherese

After completing my first Epic Elite solo run with Szyncletica, I’ve gotten more emboldened since last weekend.

Eager to get my 375 Purple Dragon Knight favor in hopes of someday unlocking my Celestia for a Planar Focus I looted, I’ve worked on completing several PDK quests on Heroic or Epic Elite.

I turned my eye to one where the role-play factor would be excellent: “The House of Rusted Blades.”

Syzncletica’s backstory is as a daughter of that house, culled early from the matron mother competition and nearly killed before smuggled to Eberron. She wants vengeance on the whole house. It’s totally personal.

Role-play may be quite secondary to DDO itself, but it can really psych you up if you enjoy that kind of thing.

That same rush of adrenaline, too, came to me later from advance knowledge of Forgotten Realms lore.

Epic Elite “The House of Rusted Blades”

This quest is a short and sweet one. House Dun’Robar is filled with dangerous fighters. Fortunately, they buy into your magic disguise at first. I skipped the weapon room optional, opened the shrine room just in case, and went to the Blademaster’s weapon rack to poison it.

Things went slightly pear-shaped from there. A Diversion dummy I left for the fighters didn’t take (or last long). Soon, a small force chased me down the halls. Unfortunately, the angry Drow activated those who were passively standing guard, and I became deadly close to getting a Dungeon Alert.

But Syzn had a new star in her hands, a L24 spelltouched shuriken with Fracturing and Improved Destruction, among its other hidden effects. With this heinous weapon, designed to destroy the living, she targeted the hindmost and used Improved Precise Shot to rip through her pursuers. The wide expanse of the House with its ramps allowed me to line up targets and evade by leaping off the ramp to line everyone up again until the mob was eliminated.

My original plan was only to isolate and kill the senior Blademaster. But now that the whole house became alerted to me and on the aggressive, I changed my tactics: Kill everyone (save those in the weapons room and the Matron Mother’s lair–I wasn’t suicidal, especially without an ability to remove the spell wards in either place).

Clearing out the last enemies in the canteen and space by the Blademaster’s quarters, I returned through the side passage to ring the bell to alert the Blademaster–and immediately skedaddled, heading back up the ramp adjacent to the path to the double-gated weapons room and the upper level to the entrance.

The Blademaster boss did not move as I removed any and all targets from around him on the upper level, including the four guards by the entrance. Dropping down, using all ninja skills, I retraced my steps back through the lower level and side passage where many enemies that spawned from the central room (once the bell rang) had ran and stopped. Nice one, Devs–this would be a natural place for an EE party to camp to avoid direct confrontation with the boss until they could remove his support. Too bad that enemy party left their own flank open, allowing me to follow and pick them off from a long, fatal distance.

ScreenShot01219With no others left, I returned to the upper level and pummeled the senior Blademaster. Using Pin to slow him down with other Shiradi and spelltouched effects, the EE Blademaster slowly but inevitably met his end.

ScreenShot01221Delicious win. I want to re-do this one, but next time I’ll bring in a Rogue hireling to remove the spell wards to the matron mother. Yes, it’s quite bloodthirsty to role-play the notion of killing your own sister (or mother), which technically would leave Szyn as the new Matron Mother by bloodline. But since she’s also slaying any defenders, she’s really not feeling inclined to be a leader. She’s the angel of Death for the entire House, not its salvation.

Epic Elite “Impossible Demands”

After completing the last two initial Heroic quests before the prison chain in Wheloon to add a few more favor points, I managed to catch a “Caught in the Web” PuG run on Epic Hard. A brutal raid as always. I survived fairly well up to when most others chickened out of luring the trash around the last portal keepers and I decided to volunteer–and die–twice to get things moving along. But the group was generally reliable and efficient.

To get the last of my favor, I entered “Impossible Demands.” Priestess Vicala is not a nice person, but the mechanics of fighting her and saving the hostages is no different for me than completing it on lower difficulties.

The true challenge was having sufficient maneuvering room to fight. The tiny rooms were too tiny against Drow that could lop off 100 HP a swing. I modified my typical plan for this quest: Let the priestess head downstairs and then kite an enemy out and dispatch each one by one. The Improved Paralyzer star helped. An earlier attempt left me Stoned and dead as I didn’t hit the wizards fast enough. Luck proved better the second time in. My only mistake was in setting one hostage free a moment too early, and Vicala sacrificed her. All the others were freed and Vicala was defeated with only a comparatively moderate struggle given Epic Elite. Strange that she is invulnerable to negative energy…and I would have really loved to have Sting of the Ninja working to help with the damage (perhaps it’ll work again with Update 22).

And after all that work, I don’t really have anything to upgrade with the PDK vendor, short of some Spidersilk Robes that have no collective features I’d be able to use from the War Wizard’s Battle Arcanist set.

A Break in the Ice

If I’m not slaying the Drow, I’m stopping the insanely evil plans of the Netherese in the Storm Horns now.

I’ve never completed this quest chain and thought it would be good to get its Heroic Elite side completed to help me learn it for a later Epic completion.

Frost Giants! Ever the annoyance to Lynncletica, Szyn’s not fond of them, either. Stealth helped a lot in strategic killing. But what impressed me was the storyline, the music and the voice work for the NPCs. It really provided an immersive story experience.

I’ve played the 2000-era Neverwinter Nights game series from BioWare. The “Shadows of Undrentide” expansion explores some crazed medusa trying to use old Netherese resources to do the unthinkable: Raise a ancient fallen Netheril city, Undrentide, buried for thousands of years of sand, to float again in the skies, complete with its side benefit as a flying fortress that could decimate cities and become an nigh-unstoppable ruler of the world of Faerun.

So when Syzn hears from the Harpers that they’ve heard of something called a “mythallar” involved in the Horns, Syzn took in the news with her usual tranquil, stoic expression.

Her player (me) said “Oh…shit!” quite out loud.

You see, mythallar, in Forgotten Realms lore,  is a terribly overpowered magical substance used for two things: Power and flight. Think of it as magical plutonium, with all the good and bad that implies.

The Netherese with any amount of mythallar is like giving more gamma rays to the Hulk, or metal to Magneto. Whatever the Netherese had in mind to attack Cormyr, I knew in my heart it involved or included the dreaded words of air bombardment or air invasion. I learned that much from my adventures in the wastes of the Aranoch desert and the ruins of that ancient city in another life.

ScreenShot01226

Three or four more of these mythallars and we could move Faerun out of ORBIT.

I removed the Netherese mage that had supervised the excavation. Unlike the NWN version, this mythallar was planetary in size, a blueish globe surely 1000 meters in diameter.

Now it was time to make my way to stay the Netherese for good. I expected a good fight; the Netherese are not pushovers.

What Goes Up: The Best Storyline and Music in DDO

Many, many thanks to Turbine for this quest. I felt like I was in a powerful fantasy drama and I was the star.

Still learning the quest, I entered in on Heroic Elite. I needed to remove many Netherese and Shadar-Kai forces with controls that blocked the upper entrance to the summit. With a Rogue hireling in tow in case things got weird, I routed any resistance. My Concentration score was more than high enough to disable any force fields that blocked my path.

The MUSIC! I think this is one of the games best scores. It pumped me up greatly as enemies came left and right.

I did read up a bit on this quest before I entered, about being careful not to fall off the glacier, whatever that meant. But nothing prepared me for what I saw as I made it atop the summit.

The top of the world, looking down on Creation.

The top of the world, looking down on Creation.

Damn, Turbine. That’s some fine artwork. I couldn’t go fighting for several seconds. I had to take it all in.

Combined with the majestic music, the grandeur of the view, the free sky and clouds about me generated more sensations of being the hero in the last, climactic scenes of the last movie of a long-awaited trilogy.

With that feeling came the realization that I should’ve been a bit more careful. And that everything that the devs could throw at me was going to show up to stop me from destroying the mythallar.

Giants and orcs and gnolls, oh my! Killing them wasn’t a problem. And then I stepped into a crevasse.

Dead. Thankfully, Turbine moves your s0ulstone next to a resurrection shrine most of the time.

I rebuffed as best I could with inventory items and remove more and more enemies, finally reaching the boss, standing atop the huge mythallar globe.

This seems familiar, I thought. Shades of Undrentide haunted me as I realized these guys were going to fly a frakking glacier over Cormyr, packed with troops and destroy Cormyr from the sky. The size of this thing suggested that they could fly to the kingdom itself and just colony drop the city out of existence with the entire glacier. Wow.

Szyn went to work, not realizing at first that killing the boss was secondary. He would summon large reinforcements when he lost even a small amount of health. What I missed in the Objectives list was: Destroy the flight pillars. I had to do something similar in NWN, destroying enough of the mythallar to sink the city once more. Here, I remove some mechanisms which would empower flight.

It was harrowing, although my thrower skills had the upper hand to remove the pillars while Improved Precise Shot allowed me to hit pursuers as well.

After losing my ship buffs and without some good resistances and greater familiarity with the glacier’s cracks and crevasses, death came calling often for me, falling once more, blasted by many ice elementals that ganged up, and getting turned to stone.

But the quest was too damned fun not to try again and again. By the fifth death, I reluctantly decided I’d like to have my gear intact and not permanently damaged, and I aborted the run.

I have never, ever had so much fun in failing a quest in any DDO adventure since, perhaps, “Frame Work.” The backstory I knew of the Netherese only made the experience that more real.

Turbine and Staff: Epic Win, +1 and gratz to you. Sorry I got to this one late. I have similar praise for you with the Haunted Halls, but that’s for another time.

And I’ll be back there. The Netherese are toast…even if I have to cross the streams to do it.

And I might have to reload Neverwinter Nights on some computer, somewhere.

The Epic Elite Shuricannon, Victorious

A DEX of 60. What else does a Shuricannon need for an Epic Elite run?

A DEX of 60. What else does a Shuricannon need for an Epic Elite run?

I’ve been waiting for this moment. I’ve studied others, often “monkcher” builds, on how they survive and defeat an Epic Elite quest by themselves.

This moment also brings a moment of declaration to any player that believes that a pure class cannot survive long, much less alone, in an Epic Elite quest. Never mind the notion that a thrown weapon can equate to bow attacks.

It was time for the Shiradi Shuricannon to blow away the myths–and its enemies.

Completion Study

I’ve watched some solo EE “Gianthold Tor” runs where a monkcher (one which had Monk, Ranger and Wizard levels, based on the buffs he used) completed the initial quest, defeating the boss mage. The optional dragon/giant pairs were not shown.

I saw two very important things.

One, the monkcher’s burst damage, using Adrenaline Overload and Action Boosts, combined with Manyshot and Ten Thousand Stars, dealt doubleshot damage of over 1,000 per arrow with damage numbers that scrolled fast and furious. Impressive.

The second: After this burst damage, the arrows per second were far less damaging and shot at a much slower rate than my ‘Cannon’s thrown speed. One other condition is the limitation of what damage effects come from the bow attack. The bow itself might have two or three elemental or damage reduction effects. An Arcane Archer can add two imbues to the arrows and then perhaps some weapon and indirect enhancements or items. That’s it.

The ‘Cannon comes in with only Ten Thousand Stars. My character won’t have Fury of the Wild ED trained to Twist any abilities for a time. The video I watched showed the player with both Manyshot and Ten Thousand Stars, although they supposedly share the same cooldown. If that was the case, it’s because he gained better damage at certain times or against certain enemies.

But my character comes in with dramatic normal attack speed, an assortment of throwing stars with many, many effects going off from Shiradi effects and Spellplague and weapon enchantments that should slow down even rampaging giants and damage them heavily.

There’s also Vorpal damage, 100 points if the enemy still has over 1,000 HP. In short, the ‘Cannon is always “manyshotting” at 2-3 stars per normal attack–it’s in “super”-manyshot mode with Ten Thousand Stars. With my WIS, there’s at least one additional star per throw and a small chance at one or two more per throw. Unfortunately I learned the greater mathematics of TTS too late for this life, as Pynthetica is learning now. Perhaps there will be greater results later with some Epic hardware.

The off-hand Celestia’s light and fire damage often proc with hundreds of damage to supplement overall attack power.

So, the only question remaining is whether my ‘Cannon, at a paltry 503 HP soaking wet, can stay alive long enough to take things down.

Character Study

Firewall, creator of the Shuricannon build, noted that my stats didn’t seem to match up to his build (past lives notwithstanding) as he witnessed in one of the demo videos I made, so I’ve reviewed my character for any deficiencies.

There’s the matter of gear, which I know I’m slacking. Unlike the Shuricannon’s creator, my character hasn’t many past lives and I haven’t run many raids or particular quests with her, limiting some gear choices until I do.

Gone will be that trusty Frozen Tunic. I’m working on building a Flawless White Dragonscale Robe and hope to make several Tor runs to farm for the matching Epic Helm of the White Dragon for a +50 HP boost and better overall protection. A Restored Giantcraft robe, a robe that works as the Black Dragonscale Robe, is helpful with its armor piercing and haste guard.

There are a few items to add more DEX. I wear an Epic Normal pair of Treads of Fallen Shadow for the Insightful DEX +2 and DEX +7, but another greater DEX item is preferred. The most impressive DEX item I’ve seen was noted in a post by a player in the Shuricannon forum thread: Dumathoin’s Bracers, from one of the two highest-level raids in the game, gives Dexterity +11. There’s surely a few +10 and +11 loot-generated items somewhere out there, too. I prefer rings.

Szyn owns Yugo potions, a few DDO Store elixirs and now knows of the House Deneith ability potions. With Wind Stance, ship buffs and these potions as available, she can hit 60 DEX, with a little room for more.

By level 25 of last life, I started to dispense with the Way of the Sun Soul gear in favor of equipment that increased DEX and WIS and CON while keeping my Dodge maximized (28%), adding Blurry (20%) while also using Shadow Veil’s incorporeality (25%).

In EE, I believed the ‘Cannon’s overall defenses were higher with miss-chance, Monk AC bonuses and speed, and Combat Expertise. PRR isn’t part of the normal setup since ‘Cannons are either in Wind or Ocean Stance, not Earth. Defenses aren’t high on my list. I’m moving all the time to avoid direct hits, and high Evasion and saves remove anything else except arrow/missiles (why Firewall is fond of Deflect Arrows feat in EE) and magic missiles (avoided by a Shield clicky).

I did experiment with Deflect Arrows after Firewall’s recommendation in the character’s  first life. I may return to it again since my DEX is in better shape than in the last life.

It still means that I’ve got a lot of XP grinding to do to train LD and perhaps Fury for their abilities and for Twist of Fate slots. I got lazy with Lynncletica and bought a Tome of Fate +2 to get a slot unlocked or upgraded for her, and I don’t have any problem doing so for Szyn if it will reduce the time  in ED grinding while training outside of the Shiradi destiny.

Which Quest to Do First

You can tell by my tone that I don’t do EE often. I know quite a few others have and know their way around and mind their limits. Often they’re with a party while I’m usually solo (not in my best interests).

I definitely don’t want to enter into a mob-ridden EE such as “Tharaask Arena” to test the viability and tactics needed. Same for EE Tor. To get my toes wet, I might use a place where there’s room to run and escape if things go south. And I hope to bring a guildmate or five, perhaps, but was not against a solo attempt.

“The House of Rusted Blades” in House Dun’Robar would work. It’s short. There’s only Drow. They’re still nasty but there’s a lot of maneuvering room in the end-fight. There’s enough of them and variety (mages, fighters) to challenge my character without clearly overwhelming her. And it fits my role-play. The character background is that Syzn was a refugee from House Dun’Robar, a matron mother to-be that was culled early. Saved by a family friend, she trained in Eberron and returns to the Underdark for sweet, star-filled revenge on the whole frakking house. (R.A. Salvatore, are you reading?)

I took Szyn and the hireling Andaro into a Heroic Elite “Breaking the Ranks” yesterday, partially out of curiosity as I haven’t done any of the Storm Horns quests beyond “Lines of Supply.” In “Supply,” running Heroic Elite too, she annihilated the convoy. A mistimed re-application of Death Ward got me killed before Andaro revived me, allowing a swift-footed gnoll to escape. But that was it.

“Ranks” was a wide slay-fest where Andaro couldn’t survive. The word “hordes” fits well there as very numerous mobs come at you.

But this is where the Shuricannon’s thrown and running speed work very well. She was too fast and was able to continually circle-strafe her way to domination. Her miss-chance avoided the potshots from the dragon above.

Alternately, there’s a few Eberron EEs where I can mix up stealth with slaying. Going EE isn’t just about the necessary DPS and defense if a fight is inevitable, but ultimately simply surviving to the end. If all the stealth training can’t help there in some capacity, I think I’m doing it wrong.

I accidentally entered “Return to Prison of the Planes” rather than its Heroic version on Epic Elite. (Not the first time I’ve done that.) I actually mowed down the Aurum fighters nicely before realizing my error–and the realization that Szyn might be ready.

Epic Elite “The Tide Turns”

I chose a personal favorite, “The Tide Turns,” one quest I know very well.

Two candidates came to mind for this place: Kiricletica and Szyncletica.

I tried my hand with Kiri. Her stealth was excellent. But once she was found, the melee hits were just too much. A goof where my finisher toolbar wasn’t in place sealed her fate.

In came Szyncletica. She has barely 475 HP. Her fortification is only 105%, insufficient to withstand a CR 45 critical hit. But her miss-chance powers were strong, her stealth as good or better than Kiri’s.

I entered without any hirelings at L24, just a hairs-breadth of experience from the next level. I drank a Yugo DEX potion and one Superior Elixir from the DDO Store, and one Potion of Reason to add +5 to my DEX and boost a couple of other scores. Last, one well-treasured Eternal Potion of Death Ward from the Anniversary Cards. Ten minutes of Death Ward, cools down in 10 minutes. Perfect.

I hung off to the side on opening the door to the central room and snuck inside. After a mob moved off the stairs, I snuck up to Captain Tew to activate the next objective: bypass the shield.

From here I needed to kill. Would Szyn have the chops?

HELL, YEAH.

My improved paralyzing stars whirled through the fortress. Combined with Improved Precise Shot, Nerve Poison, No Mercy, stat damage and other spellplague and Shiradi effects, the CR 45 mobs, most with 3,500 HP, were slowed, frozen and eliminated fast.

I carefully cleared my way to the armory. Tight spaces with little room to maneuver meant that I had to rely on the stopping effects of the stars and have some room behind me to run.

Soon, I was in the sewers. The only challenge here were the giant rats in the latter part of the area. My first attempt ended with getting eaten. On attempt #2 I kept on the pipes where their AI wasn’t smart enough to force them to chase me.

I cleared out the shrine room, also too tight for comfort, by dropping in a Diversion dummy–one training-dummy hate magnet to make it easier for me to whittle off the pirates inside while they were unable to stop fighting the dummy.

Strong monastic saves and a couple of Abundant Steps got me to the shield switch, where I carefully pulled and aligned all the fighters to remove them for a required objective. The kobold ambush and the mob beyond a door ahead were also carefully pulled for elimination. Thankfully, my saves against the powerful electrical trap spared me from serious damage.

I pulled and slew enemies by the final shrine, near the barracks, as well as enemies beyond it. Once cleared enough, I had the luxury of using the shrine to reset any clickies I had.

A mix of stealth and stars cleared the path to the boss. In Heroic play I often ignored Tew’s guards and pulled him alone into the small hallway to fight him and, later, his puppetmaster. But Szyn needed to run; the ogre mage Ahraatz-Ri throws all kinds of attacks that are best avoided from a distance. I opened both doors to Tew’s last stand and spammed stars until the mob was gone and Tew was killed.

The final fight. Ahraatz-Ri was CR 53. My ship buffs were fading. Rejuvenation Cocoon was the key to victory, allowing quick and easy battle healing. But the ogre mage was a massive bag of HP, probably around 120,000 at least.

EESzyn1

It took about 10 minutes. But he did fall.

 

VICTORY.

VICTORY. (And level up!)

As I’ve said, I’m not a power-gamer. But I’ve taken notes from the best, so getting my very first EE solo completion says a lot for the many players that provided their experience in making it happen. Many thanks to Teacher Firewall for creating this incredible ninja build.

EESzyn3

EESzyn4

 

The Littlest Giantslayer

1500 GoliathsBefore Heat Mizer did a song-and-dance on my computer cores a few weeks ago, Szyncletica the star-thrower was back on the warpath. Continuing to show my tankers like Lynncletica that they aren’t the only ones that can hold their own going solo in Epic adventures, she’s ventured alone into the especially dangerous wastes of epic Gianthold, improving her fight experience and completing flagging quests on EH once more for an eventual run into Gianthold Tor.

Anyone that’s visited the epic version of this popular quest wilderness knows how it’s far more hostile than its Heroic mode. The giants have massive HP, can literally seem to see you from a mile away with their proportionate Spot bonuses, and often dogpile on you with three or more at a time.

Oh, and dragons like to drop out of the frickin’ sky and eat you.

Szyn, however, has taken a page or two from David’s book on getting giant shit done.

I’ve been playing her pure solo (like Kiricletica) since she went Epic, occasionally adding my Onyx Panther or another hireling for a little support occasionally (Restorations or aggro management). Doing this keeps me in control of what I fight and where, giving me the advantage.

The key to Szyn’s giant-slaying success at first was her level 20 Icy Burst, Crushing Wave, Improved Paralyzing spelltouched shuriken. Combined with Improved Precise Shot and Shiradi effects such as Nerve Poison, the high DPS just carves through hordes of giants with complete dominance. Still wearing the Golden Guile, its Improved Deception often bluffs the hordes, slowing their rate of advance.

And with level 23 reached once again, out came the Celestia. This adds firebombing and light-damage for spectacular mass-damage effects to already weakened mobs.

And then I got a new ML24 star crafted that causes faster damage to giants with some hidden nasty “spellplague” effects.

I didn’t bother going stealth too much. I wanted to attract attention.

To Szyn, a Drow with emmity to giantkind, Zoarinnia here looked like a winged giant... and just as easily eliminated.

To Szyn, a Drow with emmity to giantkind, Zoarinnia here looked like a winged giant… and just as easily eliminated.

The giants weren’t the only victims to Szyn’s davidic imitations. One dragon decided to show up and met death with a bit of circle-strafing attacks with a Green Steel Mineral II star (the go-to when you meet up with most red-named enemies).

A rare encounter with the sleeping dragon guarding a chest was far too easy for a Ninja Spy to sneak up and claim the goodies before purposely waking the dragon afterwards to remove it from existence. Five more dragons met their end before she slew her 1,500th giant.

The orcs in Epic Hard “Feast or Famine” shared the hurt, despite being a level 24 quest that should’ve given them a little edge against a technically weaker single enemy at level 23. Virtually immune to the many traps that line the doors, Szyn blasted through the orcs in the narrow hallways, dispatching the lieutenants and friends to get their passage keys. The hobgoblin party was slain before it could leave its hidden tunnel ambush point.

At the end fight, I decided just to open fire on everything that moved, concentrating first on any mages and then removing everybody, including the hunting party, before taking the boss down to complete the quest.

Earlier, Szyn slaughtered the orcs in Epic Hard “Return to Cabal for One” for her first flag.

One of the more annoying and difficult quests in-game, even with an Epic character, is “Prey on the Hunter” in the Reaver’s Refuge. You have to run a gauntlet of frost giants to rescue a dragon that’s too arrogant to think they need to be rescued. Just for a break from Gianthold, I buzzed through that one on Hard difficulty–risky because the giants were nigh-impossible for me to drop fast enough using any other Monks I had on Normal difficulty, including barely successful completions by the frost-giant-hating Lynncletica and the fiery staff wielding Quintessica the Mystic.

But Szyn does not tolerate failure. She quickly pummeled any giant with the Celestia’s raw fire and light power and IPS of the stars. She made it to the dragon and, to redirect aggro once the unrelenting red-named boss arrived, used a Diversion dummy. That little super-hate magnet pulled everything toward it, including the dragon, allowing me to target the boss giant faster for a quick takedown. Yay, me.

Gianthold’s loot is still well-enjoyed by many players, especially with the Epic mode and the changes in Gianthold Tor. Szyn wants to farm another Ring of Shadows for herself (she lacks Blurry at present). Epic Hard “Madstone Crater” is next. Here, she might need a Fighter to hold some attention at key points. I’m wondering if she could survive an Epic Elite run. Maybe once she’s back to level 28 prowess. Maybe.

There’s also the matter of getting her Flawless White Dragonscale Robe created. I’m about at the limits of the Frozen Tunic’s advantages and need better overall defenses with more HP since Szyn now draws a lot of aggro in solo mode with killing as a strategy rather than avoiding fights. The Flawless Scale, combined with its matching helm, can help here. More on getting Szyn ready for real EE play in a later post.

As others know, “Madstone” is difficult for some parties, much less trying it solo because of the many attacks you must thwart against the giant sages that are attempting to destroy the tainted crystals throughout the quest. Szyn’s paralyzing attacks work well here but she can’t be omnipotent and be in two places at once to guard the wizards.

I’ll post her attempt at tackling Epic Hard “Madstone Crater” sometime.

A Shuricannon Video

Szyn-Lailat

There are many fans of Firewall’s Shiradi Shuricannon, and I’m one of them.

Some skeptics posting in the thread asked if there were any video of the Shuricannon in action to see how the build worked.

Now there is. I’ve created a video of my then-L19 Szyncletica tearing through the Shavarath side of the Vale of Twilight and completing “Running with the Devils” on Hard difficulty.

“Devils” is actually nastier than other Shroud flagging quests and on par in difficulty with “Wrath of the Flame” from the Devil Battlefield. Why? Both quests have enemies that are Good-aligned with significant buffs and protections that thwart player weapons.

In the case of the Eladrin in this quest, they are superior enemies with Cold Iron damage reduction and are prolific spellcasters. If you don’t take their healers down fast, you’re going to get Divinely Punished for it.

Given the weapon limits of a Shuricannon, this seemed a short-enough quest to demo what it can do.

I note the ‘Cannon’s strengths, requirements, common equipment, weaknesses and rationale throughout the video. My primary weapon is a Green Steel Mineral II star to bypass the Eladrin and devil DR without issue. Even with the bug that caused Sting of the Ninja to stop working on shuriken with Update 21, Szyncletica still controls the dungeon.

Very shortly after this run, Szyn reached level 20. She reactivated her Shiradi Champion and Primal Avatar destinies, entered “Blown to Bits” on Hard difficulty and tore everything apart on a pure solo run. I took down the Fire Iron Golem optional boss faster than with any character I have as I could continually attack him without having to concern myself about his det-packs.

If you have any questions on the video, just comment. I’ll be linking this post to the Shuricannon thread as well, where you should post for specific questions on the build itself with his creator.

(I apologize for the video’s darkness. I did find a tweaking setting on YouTube that should make the video much clearer to see.)

Update 21: Min-Maxing Beyond Thunderholme

I couldn’t resist my post title.

So, Update 21 has arrived with a host of interesting niceties, a spot of new gear, a super-long quest, a massive wilderness area and two raids. The downside to all of the above is that it’s targeted to the young twitchmonster leveling players at level 26 and greater.

D&D Anniversary Cards

What all players will find on the first character logged in after the update is the D&D Anniversary Box, a special gift to all in celebration of Dungeons & Dragons’s 40th anniversary.

Inside, depending on your account type (VIP, premium and free-to-play) you’ll get 5 random collector cards with descriptions of classic D&D monsters (they’re very nice), a bag to hold these cards, a Magical D20 clicky to get more cards (1 per day for all except VIPs, which get 2), and a special clicky that can combine two different cards for special items.

For most, the Anniversary Cards are probably the cooler bonus. With the right combinations, you’ll get Raid Bypass Timers, Eternal Potions for special hard-to-come-by protections such as Death Ward and Freedom of Movement, +3 Tomes, and more. Like the Risia Ice Games, the cards are akin to recipes. Some cards will be common but others may appear more often.

The bad news? As of this writing, the Magical D20 device is broken. You can use it once but it’s not resetting after 24 hours for anyone. GamerGeoff suggests a non-exploitive workaround using any other accounts you own.

No word on how long the card system will last. Let’s hope at least 6 months.

Release Notes

Update 21 has many, many bug fixes. You should read the Release Notes for greater detail, but here’s a summary and commentary on a few of them as they relate to the monastic arts.

  • Quivering Palm, after getting a boost to DCs through Sundering bonuses in a previous update, has been nerfed down for balance but with a compromise bonus that increases the DC chance should it miss until it hits or three minutes pass. I’m OK on this; while QP is a great Assassinate-like move, you shouldn’t be able to spam it using our shorter monastic cooldowns.
  • Grasp the Earth Dragon no longer sometimes triggers enemy-targeted effects on allies. I didn’t know this anti-stun buff was busted to begin with, so hats off to the devs for the fix.
  • Many spell-like abilities and supernatural abilities now correctly cannot be used in anti-magic fields. This should be interesting. Monk buffs such as Dance of Clouds (Blur) aren’t disspelled by beholders, the primary anti-magic field maker. But the question is whether a Monk can still generate this and other buffs while within a field. I’m betting yes but I need to test it.
  • Monk Henshin Mystic – Elemental Words (Tiers 1-4) – All-Consuming Flame and Winter’s Touch are no longer giving the wrong damage vulnerability (cold vs. fire). I never use any of these former Ninja Spy debuffers on my Mystic, Quintessica, except Static Charge, to make Harry in the Shroud more vulnerable to lightning.
  • Epic Moment Counters should no longer be reset when you go through a portal within a quest. Yay! We should be able to keep our Grandmaster of Flowers charges in “The Portal Opens” and other quests.
  • Grandmaster of Flowers – Light as a Feather now properly negates falling damage under all circumstances. If you have a multiclassed Monk that uses this (pure Monks don’t need it with Perfect Slow Fall) then this fix should keep you from splatting in the future.
  • The Quiver of Poison is now Bind on Acquire, instead of claiming it was Bind on Equip, as this type of item is unable to function properly as Bind on Equip. When people tried to sell these items, they would bind on pulling them from mail into your inventory, keeping you from moving it to the character of your choice. After much gnashing of teeth to fix, they decided just to change the flag so you can no longer trade this item but then allows it from being broken in trading. These items are nice for the Shuricannons as it adds more untyped poison to their attacks (along with Sting of the Ninja and Venomed Blades).
  • The effects of the Potion of Wonder have been updated. The devs don’t say how it was updated. Did they remove the detonation pack effect? While fun in the right crowds after a quest or raid, it’s a griefing suicide-bomber tool should the det pack go off in the middle of a raid.
  • Quest Experience changes: As expected, the “Jungle of Khyber” will no longer give the super-XP it has before, but is still quite a bountiful reward. What I appreciated were the boosts to many quests that really deserved a boost due to their difficulty, such as “In the Belly of the Beast,” “Chains of Flame” in the Sands, and “The Thrill of the Hunt” in Wheloon. The new ‘Jungle’ is Epic Normal “What Goes Up”: it’s XP has doubled from 30K to 61K.
  • A feature is now available that allows you to receive and immediately consume a Siberys Spirit Cake with Astral Shards when you die: just click on the “Revive” button that appears near the Quest Objective panel when you die. This feature is not usable in Raids. Note that it is still possible to obtain cakes by navigating the DDO Store and using Turbine Points. I noticed this after Kiricletica had died due to carelessness a day ago. I suspected that the Revive button used Astral Shards, and I was right. I think that might be cheaper than TP.

Things That Broke/Are Still Broken

Updates often cause gloom, despair and agony on us. Deep, dark depression and excessive misery.

Here’s one list.

  • Sting of the Ninja is broken for thrown weapons. Ninja Poison isn’t being dosed. That’s a big ouch for Shuricannon builds like Szyncletica, who were able to get extra damage on enemies this way. I didn’t notice problems on Kiricletica using her shortswords, so this is probably limited to thrown weapons. I
  • Likewise, the thrown weapons critical modifier bug, identified by the developers, didn’t make it to Update 21’s fixed list. The bug does remain listed on the Known Issues list.
  • Stunning Fist still does not help in charging Everything is Nothing (that’s DEATH BLOSSOM to you) nor does any Light attacks work in their finishing moves.
  • You can’t use your Key to Eveningstar from an airship. Just leave it and use it anywhere else but there.

Thunderholme

The new adventuring stuff is found as you make your way towards the bridge where the Storm Horns quests were found. Gone is a simple bridge that you can’t cross. In its place, a full bridge that takes you across the river and to an ancient dwarven castle that the Netherese have occupied.

The Ruins of Thunderholme is a large, large wilderness area in the form of a ruined castle.  Don’t go in here unless you are at least L25 and built to handle respawning swarms of undead dwarves, animated by many Netherese necromancers. Shrines are distant, and this place is meant to kill hirelings with ease. I took my L25  tanker Lynncletica into this L28 area and adapted well (Shintao Monks are natural undead hunters) but was very glad that my healing amplification was very high.

I ran with my guild leader at first, she having a harder time on her Shintao Monk. In our travels, we found one of the bosses that, when beaten (and provided you’re at the right level) grant you access to one of the two new raids. The guild leader invited another guildmate and I waited near the boss and his posse while Leader went to help retrieve him–no small feat. The Ruins is a complex maze-like area with several floors. The map adapts to what floor you are on in a zone-less manner that’s refreshing enough, but surviving in here requires you to be very tough since things respawn and often.

So Lynn was pondering, waiting for the party to regroup when a minion of that boss, Degan the Death Knight, aggroed on me. Degan was at least a level 32 undead knight. And when you have a Red-Named boss with “Death” in his name, you don’t hesitate to use Death Ward.

Lynn slowly pummeled Degan and Friends, healing repeatedly since this fight actually managed to put dents in Lynn’s strong AC (109) and PRR (67) as well as her miss-chance effects. Even unbuffed, Lynn can heal almost 1/4 of her total HP with Healing Ki every 10 seconds and generates +2 to +4 HP with the Fists of Light healing curse–more if I put on a Shamanic Fetish for more positive energy boosts. A Healing Ki hit of 200 isn’t unusual.

I took down Degan on my own and returned to find the group to lead them to our chest.

We explored for hours–hours–and then encountered an underground city that the Faerun Drow would be envious to see.

Thunderholme-ShadowDragonLair

The picture doesn’t quite do it justice…the place seemed to stretch for miles and miles. And none of us were remotely ready to take on a dracolich that night.

Thunderholme is still being mapped and documented by other adventurers, so information on additional goodies is a bit sparse.

As far as loot goes, there’s not a lot of gear, and much of it favors the fighter-type or spellcaster. A couple of items did catch my eye:

Both offer a little something for defense or damage, but again, it’s as if the developers wanted to make fewer items but add a lot more abilities to these items.

So, explore this new spot, where dwarves yet again dug too deeply, and let me know what you think. It gives me a reason to start leveling Lynncletica again.

Solo Raiding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advantages and Challenges for Szyncletica

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The DQ Solo Attempts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going Solo in the Shroud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, back to the drawing board.

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