The Existential Gamer

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

Reader discretion advised.


One mob? One quarterstaff, then.

This is a spoon.

We all know of many veteran DDO players that have completed mighty deeds. They’ve beaten almost everything in the game, and on the highest difficulties or with some clever tricks.

But once you’ve made yourself the best killing machine you can be in DDO and have conquered all, what else is there?

Maybe a week of being away from DDO is making me stir-crazy, but I don’t think so.

Going Deeper

Games are escapism, yes. But what if it becomes too real to your mind?

We know of the story in The Matrix, a near-perfect virtual reality of the world, built to placate humanity. But, as the story unfolds, we learn that the Matrix works like any advanced operating system. You can’t leave it up forever before errors accrue and the system must be restarted. And the stabilizing element of the Matrix, the ability to choice, ultimately causes the system’s slow degradation. An Anomaly appears, who becomes Choice Incarnate, that destabilizes the system even more. That’s Neo. And he wasn’t the only One, as the story goes.

For those who choose reality, you may wake up and challenge the unreality.

A similar notion is found in the film Inception, where some people go to sleep for hours because they accept the dream as their permanent reality now. In that story, some go to sleep to wake up.)

But the dreamers in Inception can’t take anything back from their experience. And the escapees from The Matrix are fighting a cyclical battle they have been fated to lose, definitively, five times before. And only One man knows the secret and can break the cycle. Else, mankind  is locked in a continuous state of imprisonment. The people of Zion don’t realize that the Machines has always kept them under a form of control and have destroyed them each time the Matrix had to be restarted.

For many that escaped, the real world is so frightening that they regret leaving that virtual cage, that virtual life. They felt they could accomplish or feel more safe — or at least seem to feel more accomplished and safe — in the Matrix than in the real world.

The Search for…Something

I connected this notion to the easily found complaints on the DDO forums about the quality of the game.

  • When is there going to be an “end-game” battle?
  • I should be able to solo any raid.
  • This game is too easy.
  • Why are they nerfing (insert item here)
  • It’s time to (insert appallingly tough suggestion/monster/quest here)

Now, I’m neither the worse nor best player in the game. But I question about the ultimate motivations of some players. I’ve toyed with these motivation before with a player character type test.

If you are trying to attain “ultimate power” in a game, being able to crush any challenge you find (by yourself or with compatriots), then what is left for you to do?

These players are asking for their world to expand with them. But is this a natural way to think about life?

Game worlds aren’t true worlds. Even if you had the combined intellects of Einstein, Leonardo, Hawking, Sun-Tzu, Eisenhower and Alexander the Great in a perfect fighter amalgamation of Hercules, Legolas and Aragorn, Luke Skywalker and Steven Strange, combined with the wealth and equipment of Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Reed Richards, you could not possibly find and beat every challenge that the real world can present to you.

The real world is an infinite battle because it continually evolves, whether you want it or not, or whether you’re ready for it to do so.

A game world has a start and an end. There is repetition and respawning and reincarnation to simulate a cycle of life. But life in DDO, WoW and every other MMO can only present a static bubble of a world in need. A game, by definition, is a form of simulation. Ultimately, you can predict its behavior, and anticipate most events. An experienced gamer becomes quasi-omniscient. That’s why many players become bored, especially if they have a one-track mind in terms of playing only one tactical avenue of a MMO.

And even if a game could better simulate reality, there are plenty of new, confused and disoriented players in the game that strongly implies that games should have a limit in size. Else, the game world would be just as terrifying as trying to make your way in the real world, and would discourage you from coming back.

For this and more logical reasons of coding and server size and bandwidth, there are a finite series of challenges to a game. There are difficulties to turn up the challenge level of these quests and raids, but it is quite possible to beat every single one of them. Doing that gains you a +6 tome of your choice. Sir Geoff of Hanna and Gamer Girl pulled this off recently.

But…after you vanquish everything and at the highest level of play, what is there left to do?

Maybe a better question for the Gamer That Beats Everything is “What are you searching for?”


I’m not going to be so arrogant as to presume that I know the psychology of these people who ask for more from DDO on the forums. So, I’m not going to try to answer what these players are truly seeking as they play.

But I can ask myself this question.

During this time away from the game during the season of Lent, I’m asking myself why I played DDO in the first place. Is this the only place where I feel like I “accomplish” something, especially if my work or home chores don’t yield a real, genuine accomplishment that I get paid actual money for completing?

Have I become some kind of attention-whore with this blog and compiling the guides?

As I said, it’s important to know the real world from the game world, and not to put too much energy into the unreal if it doesn’t benefit the Real.

I know one reason why I play, and it leaves a little chill in me when I contemplate it.

The real world is scary. The real world is harder than any adventure any game can dream. The game worlds are safer. Yet I have the power to avoid things I don’t want to encounter while inside that world.

But while the game worlds provide a little adrenaline and satisfaction in puzzle solving or strategy, it’s still ultimately unsatisfying because game worlds cannot come close to reaching the level of complexity and difficulty that the labors of the real world throw at us everyday. I don’t have to worry about mundane things such as eating, or sleeping, or shelter, or taxes.

But then, the game world doesn’t leave you with soul-crushing events that can persist until you die and/or are penniless.

The game world, if used improperly, can be a temptation that makes you try to avoid the “game” of the real world. Temptations rarely lead us to fortunate results.

Nietzsche said “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”  Is that really true in the game world? Generally, yes. Dying requires you to examine your strategy and gear, and to adjust them to fight and win the next time. But the real world often doesn’t provide a second chance. It’s a true “permadeath” challenge. No wiki. No “developer” or “game master” to call up when you’re stuck.

(Or is there a Game Master? For me, yes, there is. But like Turbine’s GMs, I don’t always get a direct answer with Him, and what answers I might here back may be quite cryptic.)

If you win at objectives in the real world, satisfaction is certainly more fulfilling, I think. It’s the difficulty levels we often can’t handle. There’s some training you might get in the quest “Changing the Diaper of Despair” if you had younger siblings or cousins. And there are guides to buy for many of life’s challenges, and some may get you by.

But who wants to get into an Epic Elite version of “Divorce Dungeon”? How can you train for that? I did that once. I barely came out of it with much of anything. Certainly didn’t feel victorious. French-kissing a kobold would’ve been more pleasurable than that experience.

Gamers place themselves in a strange existence. Game worlds may be ultimately too easy, while the challenges of the real world are ultimately too hard. And game worlds can provide an unhealthy realm of escapism. Human weakness tends to pick the path of least resistance.

Do we choose to live in the Matrix? Do we choose to go deeper in the dream? Do we prefer the worlds of the simulacrum? And at what expense?

While I believe in the Resurrection of the Body and an after-life, as a living person today, this belief sometimes presents only a hollow and terrifying consolation. That’s a natural, human reaction. We are conditioned to seek a foundation, an assurance, a result whereby our reason can feel pleased. I simultaneously reject the reality of the unreal, the simulacra, while trying to enjoy the panacea while inside it.

In the case of the after-life, I think I’m only freaked out because I think I’ve not studied my “class” game manuals sufficiently or listened to enough advice from veteran players in the Game of Life.

The real world does have similar broad objectives that parallel game themes.

  1. Enter the world.
  2. Learn how the world works.
  3. Help others as you would like to be helped.
  4. Don’t let fear stop you from doing what you can.
  5. Die well with a list of things accomplished.

But the real world adds one objective that the game world won’t do.

  • Don’t expect to take any accomplishments or worth with you as you go to the next world, or even think that your efforts gained you “points” in the next life.

I think this Lenten season, of being away from the game worlds and playing the game of Reality alone, is training me more horrifying well than I imagined.

There is a spoon, in reality. We only fake not having a spoon as gamers. You haven’t chosen the red pill, as Neo did. You’re choosing to stay in the virtual world, where all you accomplish disappears when the last servers are powered down, someday.

We’re far from superhuman in the real world. Yet we have to face every encounter with ratty gear (if we’re lucky), limited skill, expensive alternatives, limited praise, staggering odds, and sometimes only one shot at success.

I submit that my Diety gives me power and strength as I level up. But anyone with faith can tell you that you’re often given skills and gifts for which you can’t immediately identify, much less have any idea how to wield.

I choose Lent to force me to take the red pill.

The Burly Brawl, DDO Style

One mob? One quarterstaff, then.

One mob? One quarterstaff, then.

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

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

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

Doublestrike Power and STR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Big F’n Stick Thread

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

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

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

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

Emulating the Burly Brawl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Stick of Destiny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GenCon Bound: Home Field Advantage

I live in Indianapolis, which happens to home to GenCon Indy, which starts this Thursday and continues through Sunday. Oh, yeah. BIG travel time to this venue for me.

For most online gamers, GenCon might not be as big of a deal, since there’s a heavy concentration of pen-and-paper gaming, which I don’t do. But it’s been a while since I last attended. The convention upped its game (so to speak) by adding more recreational non-gaming programming such as parties. I’m more of a Sci-Fi conventioneer (think Worldcon, Dragoncon, Capricon, and two locally hosted ones, Inconjunction and Starbase Indy), so that change added better reasons to attend.

This year the reason to attend is simple: Say hi and meet the folks at Turbine as well as any other DDO players who visit My Fair City. I’m going to bend the ear of a developer or two (Hi, Tolero and Cordovan!)  about this whole lack of a Void Strike at low levels…but I digress.


So, ticket in hand, I’ll be ready for a Friday afternoon (just Friday) and a little evening in enjoying their epic Dealer Room (more of a convention in itself).

I plan as well to sit in on the DDOCast to be recorded there with Sig and Anne Trent and (in his last regular appearance) Geoff Hanna.

If you plan on attending, I’ll be happy to say hi and chat.

Look for the guy above. He’s me.

Not quite what you’d expect in terms of all the Monk advice, huh? Thankfully (I hope) I’ve never suggested that my gender wasn’t male. Folks might be a bit put off, I think. I just love the monastic life, and “Syncletica” (a real abbess) was a cool name I couldn’t turn down. (That and girl avatars are far less ugly.)

So, if my mundane appearance (not to mention the faux gender bending) disturbs you, pretend you see me dressed as Morpheus, with my lovely bride-to-be (in 2005), who made for an astonishingly lovely Trinity, and all will be OK.


I wish I could put on my Badass Longcoat again for my visit, but it’s deteriorated after years of use, so I’ll have to commission a new one. Maybe I’ll put on an eyepatch, wear a black turtleneck and conventional trenchcoat and question how badly humanity is outmatched or how cool my ride is.

Or, put on a 24th Century Starfleet Captain’s tunic and tell you how many ways that my little starship can beat your own. I guess I could also put on my master Jedi robes and show you the magic of my lightsaber (with “BMF” etched on its helt).

Yeah, being Black and bald greatly lends itself to many different looks. Can’t quite make a decent avatar of myself in DDO, however. Don’t know what’s up with that.

I loved what a simple coat and glasses did as I walked through downtown Indy this way. Some people parted like the Red Freaking Sea, while others smiled and clapped. Nobody thought to stop and talk.