The One Purposely Broken Stealth Mechanic

ninjaOnce upon a time, at Update 20, a stealthy character could lure enemies hither and yon by cracking breakables close to them.

See exhibit #1: A video of Kiricletica using this mechanic in “The Kobold’s New Ringleader” with Update 20.

And the stealthy players and the devs saw that this was good.

Then, Update 22 made another change that took away the favorite tactic of ranged characters everywhere. The change, shall we say, had unfortunate implications:

  • Monsters will now aggro when players shoot their nearby friends at long range.
  • Monster AI has been adjusted to improve the ability of enemies to detect players, and to improve game performance (particularly in regard to aggro and when damaged.)

This meant that, if you shot an enemy’s buddy, he and his friends would notice and pursue you, no matter how far you were away when you shot them. This often caused a serious aggro problem because the enemies would often call for reinforcements though impossible sources, such as halfway across the a minotaur city, verging often into Dungeon Alert issues and the game performance issues that happen when dozens of enemies attack you at once.

And, lo, the players lamented and were filled with rage–especially Assassins.

It’s one thing to assassinate, but to broadcast it without the opportunity to escape detection of the fact, even with stealth and invisibility in effect, caused great anguish.

But something changed again by the time we reach Update 23. The Release Notes text that points to that something says thus:

Monster AI has been improved to make them more efficient at filtering out things that they are not interested in to improve performance in densely populated areas.

And again, the masses were pleased.

But it took me some time in gameplay, right into Update 24, to realize what the Developers did.

As you know, Update 19 provided a revamp of the stealth mechanics in the game. It was, in my opinion, quite beneficial. Among other player adjustments (being able to jump, clearer rules on what Hide, Move Silently and invisibility did) monsters were given consistent rules to find you, and you as the player had a generally consistent options of hiding as well as escaping from them–with some study.

No longer could monsters endlessly chase you. If you were able to break out of their line of sight and then go silent and out of view, the enemies would stop and search around the last spot they thought you were. After a time they may go back, or they might stick around to patrol your last revealed spot. No more “sliding” monsters.

In related benefits, the Ninja Spies got upgraded enhancements that also helped them effectively “smoke bomb” a group, blinding and dazing them for 6 seconds to allow a window of escape. Flash Bangs are awesome.

Either way, Update 19 made stealth operations, if not just the use of invisibility for some, far more consistent.

But Update 22 swung the pendulum too far, and the devs wanted to correct it with Update 23’s change in what monsters tended to notice.

The problem, as the Assassins and Rangers and many others learned, is that it was too easy–way too easy–for too many monsters to notice you and your party. As noted, sometimes the result was a Dungeon Alert as enemies began a cascading series of alerts to each other that activated much of the dungeonspace. Or, seriously weird reinforcements came out of nowhere. Some reported hellish behavior in “Frame Work,” where the chieftain’s call essentially aggroed the city, calling over every minotaur left into his tiny fortress against your much tinier party.

So Update 23 revved back that monster-sense mechanic way back, so way back that ranging characters could once again, plug an enemy in the back and only attract the ire of that enemy most of the time.

But in the course of that needed adjustment, the monsters became deaf. Not to players; you can still Sneak with a weak Hide or Move Silently and you’ll see enemy Spot check bonuses quickly escalate or the telltale red footfall blobs around your character that tell you that monsters can hear you coming.

Monsters now no longer react to the sound of any objects breaking. Go ahead. Give it a try.

Now, that same developer sorcery still allowed monsters to hear other items, such as Noisemaker traps and verbal spells being cast too closely to them. Monsters simply don’t hear vases, crates and barrels, even exploding ones, or other quest objects when they are destroyed. I’m not even sure if monsters react to the sound of broken doors now.

Am I grousing about Update 23? Heck, no. I know the developers have to adjust the game mechanics to compensate the most common (albeit stupid) tendency for some players to treat every quest as if they entered Hazadil’s Warehouse (“Time to start smashing”) and broke everything they say without regard to the notion that breaking things create sound in most universes.

So, without the adjustment to monsters overreacting to their allies, Assassins would continue to have a far harder time doing what they are designed to do.

I only lament the loss of a crucial piece of the environment that worked great for stealth tactics. I would have really enjoyed using breakables to move about the large mobs that tend to congregate in corners and corridors in the latest super-dungeon, “Temple of Elemental Evil.” I would likely get a Devious bonus out of a place where there are thousands of things to kill. I did manage a Discreet bonus.

But that’s just how I play. Stealth does not require (nor do quest objectives often allow you to express outright) pacifism.

I’m already making some updates in the stealth guide.

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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.