The Wisdom to Stop Time

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Lolth picked a fight with the wrong adventurers.

I’m sorry for being way-off my 2 per month post goals. Lots of real-life stuff, particularly losing my job. Hated the place anyway and had been on the market for several weeks prior. Prospects are good, however, so at present, when I’m not job searching each day, I’m getting a lot of play time.

Each of the three builds I’ve made turned out to have a certain “schtick”–a fortunate bonus to its design for which I didn’t originally plan.

For Pynthetica the Zen Archer, the high-DEX also makes her very difficult to kill, even against the party-wiping AoE from the end-boss of “Defiler of the Just” or the electro-bombs from the Stormreaver in “Fall of Truth.” She just upgraded her Thunder-Forged Longbow to tier 3 with Mortal Fear and life is very, very good. After she completes leveling Fury of the Wild, I plan to make her my first Epic TR character, going Primal for more Doubleshot through Epic Past Lives.

For Ryncletica the Poison-master, her Drow heritage not only adds to her poison skills but also made her just as deadly with shuriken, a type of “Shuricannon“-lite. She’s my “on-timer” character right now when the archers are on raid timers.

In the case of Paracleta the Zen Bowmaster, my desire for a build with a very high Doubleshot has found serendipity from her core abilities as an Arcane Archer.

Before the recent updates to the AA tree, Paralyzing Shot showed this pitiful quality to this and many of its special non-elemental arrow imbues:

oldAAparalysis

Those arrows were fine until you hit Epic levels, where a DC of 26 gained you slightly better than “Improved Paralyzing” weapon effects. In other words, you weren’t likely to freeze anything except on a low enemy save.

Now, AAs have WIS modifiers combined with any Enchantment focus DCs as your modifier.

newAAparalysis

The changes in the AP for the tree helped free up some points for defense from Ninja Spy, as well.

Now, the classes that tend to use WIS offensively are few. Clerics and Rangers and Paladins use it to get more spell points or qualify for certain spells. Favored Souls use WIS for their offensive DCs. Monks use WIS to influence their level of ki, calculate the DCs for Stunning Fist, and gain an AC bonus based on the modifier.

But they also use WIS as the to-hit modifier for bows when the Zen Archery feat is used.

For a Ranger AA to appreciate the AA DC change, they’d have to give up something important: STR (damage rolls) or DEX (to-hit) to raise WIS more than the usual 14 points that the class requires to use all of their small cache of spells.

Monkchers also will sacrifice decent DCs since they, too, will want to add more to STR. Their benefits from Zen Archery simply come from being centered with the bow. They can’t add more WIS if they want to follow their high-DPS damage track.

This is where Paracleta shines. She has only two central stats that form her offensive joy: WIS and DEX. Unlike Pyncletica, however, things are turned around in importance. WIS applies a higher AC bonus and ki management while also giving the to-hit. All I need to do is add a bit more DEX for the Elven DEX-to-damage. And as an AA, spell power really brings out extra damage that doesn’t require me to go nuts with DEX (although I’m still adding effects where I can). I can deal over 100 points of Fire damage to go with the 100 physical damage of one arrow.

So I’ve pumped WIS as high as I can go.

How high? You’re invited to view a spreadsheet with the estimates.

I filled in what I could expect in the best scenario in the row on level 30. Let me summarize.

By level 30, Par has a 58 minimum WIS, no matter the destiny, now that she’s read a +6 WIS tome. That’s only with the base, tomes, Ocean Stance, an Insightful WIS +6 item, a +15 WIS item, a +2 Festive WIS augment. With the +2 untyped bonuses of the Yugoloth and DDO elixirs, it’s 62 minimum.

Now add in up to +6 WIS from either the Primal Avatar or Divine Crusader destinies. If I go Primal Avatar, the Spirit Boon ability gives another +2 WIS for as long as I have Spirit to supply it. Better and more flexible: I can Twist the Fury of the Wild’s tier 2 ability Acute Instincts for a +2 WIS with just a Rage potion.

House Deneith potions can give up to +3 Alchemical bonus to WIS for about 1 minute or two.

The last item I needed to find that stacks is the Legendary Earthen Mantle, the only game item with Quality WIS, +4 in this case. That’s in “Search and Rescue,” with a long fight through the Underdark optional. Thanks to some great guildmates, I have that item, and helped them score some sought-after gear of their own afterward.

As a bonus for spell power, in “Memoirs of an Illusory Larcener” is an incredible spell power-boosting tiara, the Legendary Pansophic Circlet, that will be good for special occasions.

I could also Twist at least +1 WIS from any other destiny, but at the compromise of ki (Enlightenment from GMoF) or extra fortification (Brace for Impact from Unyielding Sentinel).

Finally, in a party with a good Bard, Inspire Excellence gives a +2 Competence to WIS. The Fatesinger destiny could add a +2 additional WIS and a boost to already-hasted attack speed but gives no other WIS bonus.

That’s at least a possible, but brief, 76-80 WIS, or a 53 minimum Will DC to stop many things cold. WIS 72 is sustainable for 1 to 15 minutes. Add in a +5 Enchantment item and that’s a 61 DC, with Insightful and Enhancement bonuses added for a few more DC points, including this lovely gem that dropped for me for use very recently. Other Enchantment DC boosts are Equipment or untyped bonuses, so yay for me.

Topaz of Gr Enchantment

 

I might have mentioned this before. So why am I excited?

To start, several weeks ago, I completed a level 32 Epic Elite “Grim and Barrett” and paralyzed hordes of CR 50ish Abishi very reliably at only 53 WIS, or a 41 DC. I’ve also kept great control of trash in a “Caught in the Web” EH run a couple of weekends back.

Later, the team entered a Legendary Tempest’s Spine on Elite. It was grueling, but we made it. I made a video of it, which you can find here. Sadly, a glitch in my sound settings left the video silent with no audio at all.

Just for giggles as a comparison to Szyncletica’s effort, I decided to run a solo Heroic Shroud with Paracleta on Normal. I was proud of Szyn’s effort but she was nowhere close to what an AA can do. In Shiradi mode, Par’s DPS blew away the portals and I got a good set of lieutenants to mow down in part 2. I did part 3 deliberately slow to avoid colliding into the prismatic wall with 7 rooms left to fill with water, bypassing the puzzle solving. I took down Harry in one round in part 4 and bested him again in part 5 to conclude the raid in about 45 minutes.

But the real adventure, a very, very grueling one, was with the cool kids in our meta-guild with Legendary Shroud on Hard. With fatal one-shot sneak-attacks from Troglodyte Assassins on part 1 and deadly ghost kittehs in part 2, it was challenging from the beginning. The great news was that Paracleta was able to stop just about everything to slow down the attacks on the party. But there were more trials, especially in part 4 where we had to work out a plan when we couldn’t kill Harry in one go. The team devised one idea to help against the hyper-healing gnolls, and that involved Paracleta’s bow.

The video is captioned and there is lots of sound except from my own mic. (Lousy voice, anyway). It took us 2 hours and we were slightly short-manned to boot, but it was a success. The video is not edited so here are the timestamps for each part:

  • Part 1: Start
  • Part 2: 27 min 56 sec
  • Part 3: 1 hour 10 min 31 sec
  • Part 4: 1 hour 21 min
  • Part 5: 1 hour 47 min 55 sec

Paracleta seems to find that 70 WIS is the magic number for reliability in raids where paralysis can work. The most practical configuration will be any destiny with +6 WIS and the Legendary Earthen Mantle with all stacking items, or 72-74 WIS. There are no other items with stacking WIS that I can find except perhaps some Exceptional WIS +1 item, but this matters little if the ability score is even to make the modifier. There’s a remote chance of finding a WIS 16 item.

Paracleta can still be a tad squishy, though far less than a Ranger that aggros as much as she does.Thankfully, with enough WIS to stop things cold, they have to reach me first. The downside, for now, in paralysis mode, is that I’m dependent on killing damage from the bow alone. Even with spell power boosts and the Thunder-Forged bow, the time it takes to remove a hardy CR 53 enemy can take too long alone. It’ll take the tier 3 upgrade with Mortal Fear to help more here–though not on Legendary raids, where Mortal Fear is deliberately nerfed, although its extra Force damage will work nicely with the Legendary Earthen Mantle’s Impulse spell power boost.

So, we’ll see, sometime, if Legendary Elite (is that “Reaper?”) enemies can be stopped by Paracleta’s paralysis.

Now with an Epic Dynamistic Quiver and Shadow Arrows kicked on, Paracleta has a standing 78% Doubleshot. Whatever attacks isn’t going to do it for long, especially when I switch to Divine Crusader and kick on Zeal of the Righteous for that 50 Doubleshot buff and Ranged Power boost, combined with either of the many-shot feats: 220 to 240%.

Theatricality and Deception, Part 3: Iron Ninja

Her small elven form, the tips of her pointed ears barely visible through her order’s traditional black mask, quietly, swiftly dropped through a hole above the holding cell of several slaves-to-be, a mix of human, elven and even Drow.

She ignored the stench within the hole; apparently it was a dumping hole for a latrine once. Apparently, dumping fecal waste falling from above into a slave’s cell was a mere matter of efficiency for the Drow who commanded here.

But these were not the Drow of Ryncletica’s kind. They were an otherworldly sort. Rather than meeting the challenges of Vulkoor, these Drow worshipped Lolth, the Spider Queen goddess.

Ordinarily, Ryncletica would respect Drow as Drow: Let the best man win, as Vulkoor would demand. But these were Drow of a different bent. They wanted domination. They ignored Vulkoor. And they chose to enslave even their own kind.

Ryncletica’s vows of law and order, combined with her personal distaste of spiders and the fact that one overgrown spider goddess was threatening to rip her home world into rocks for the Demonweb, gave her renewed assurance that these things that call themselves Drow were not worthy.

In the cell, the slaves inside gave little reaction to her falling from above, save to move away, closer to the rocks and bars of the cell’s interior. Ryncletica’s eyes were only visible to them, but she could see a few of them relax slightly as she lifted a single index finger to her covered mouth as a caution to stay quiet. The two Drow slaves in the cell narrowed their eyes in examination. She knew what they were thinking. Familiar form, yet not the same.

She pulled out her shortswords and slammed them into the cell door, letting her weapon’s many enchantments easily destroy the simple wards that kept the door magically sealed to hold the captives inside.

The hushed but tangible sounds of rushed footfalls came from ahead. “The door is open! Search for the slave that did this!” one of the Drow guards said. The others of the party scattered, searching the darkness and dank with their enhanced night-vision for the intruder, confident that they would find their prey.

From above, something disguised as just another stalactite fell towards a lone guard, green, icy Ninja Poison dropping from her outstretched swords…


 

Ryncletica may be level 30 but her power continues to grow amazingly well. So much so that she’s doing something only Szyncletica the star-thrower has done often: Soloing Epic Elite adventures.

That news might be a “meh” moment to a few of you that eat Epic Elite quests as snacks. But consider that I don’t use multiclassed characters. I’m using everything a single class offers, while synergizing Epic Destinies, feats, skills and gear as anyone else would do. Ryncletica has reached a personal pinnacle where the use of theatrical and deceptive tools as well as some of the better gear and training now raise her to a level none of my melee Monks have achieved.

For me, in the past, Epic Elite meant a very bloody fight, even with a full party. But now I know that the first and foremost requirement in entering EE is fortification beyond 150 and at least 500 HP. At 200+ fortification and 800ish HP,  I can withstand several 100 point critical hits without worry and need to pay attention only to Red Named and champions, who break those rules and most of my defenses.

The key to Ryncletica’s challenge (and successes, so far) is using the basics inherent in the class. Stealth. Quick strikes. Doublestrike. Techniques to disable and slay.

That is, most of her Heroic enhancements remain her fundamentals of attack, defense, and especially escape. Epic feats, destinies only improve the enhancement’s effectiveness.

Technique remains the prime skill. I don’t engage everything at once. I pick off the weakest and leave me plenty of time to pummel the toughest without any enemy reinforcements helping out. I’ll scatter the enemies, cause them to search for me. And when the moment is right. I strike.

So let’s break down the Epic Poison Master.

Offenses

Ryncletica is primarily a two-weapon melee fighter with the complete Two-Weapon Fighting line and the Epic Destiny feats Blinding Speed for permanent Haste and Perfect Two-Weapon Fighting for more doublestrike. She’s got 32% Doublestrike with current options. Every ki weapon she wields is a Vorpal weapon courtesy of Ninja Spy training.

Being Drow, like Szyncletica the Shuricannon, Ryn holds a powerful alternative to melee fighting when it is unsafe to engage an enemy at close range. As a melee fighter, her weaponry slices and dices rapidly, with large levels of ki generated by that. But she is also quite capable of taking out anything using her shuriken almost as rapidly as her swords, missing only some of the ranged/thrown feats to optimize that skill.

Ninja Poison is the central damage dealer. No matter what the weapon, Ninja Poison is delivered to any enemy except Poison-immunes (most demons, devils, constructs and undead). This damage-over-time effect accelerates her killing power, debuffs any Poison resistance by 100% and lasts longer than other DoTs.

Secondary damage comes from Sneak Attacks and any destiny training effects, which comes frequently as I bluff them with the Unyielding Strike attack. Unloading Ninja Poison via the Touch of Despair finisher also debuffs an enemy against the quintessential negative-energy attack, the Touch of Death.

As for weaponry, I’ve noted it before in a recent post. I’m using the strongest Venomous shortswords I have, both given Festival Icy Burst, used against most enemies. I change up weapons as necessary: two Elemental Fury swords for most elementals, two Thunder-Forged shortswords for DR-busting, or Epic Forester Brush Hooks for metalline/aligned bypassing against Maruts and pit fiends.

Defenses

Ryncletica now shows the most impressive defensive stats of any Monk I’ve made, more so than even my “Little Mountain” Shintao Monk, Lynncletica.

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Currently training the Unyielding Sentinel destiny, Ryncletica boasts the best defenses I’ve had on a Monk. She has a 97 PRR with 34% Dodge, 20% Concealment, 25% Incorporeality with 152 AC and 215 Fortification. All these numbers have saved her from devastating damage against Epic Elite Champions and some bosses, but that’s half the story.

Earth Stance gives +15 stacking PRR, and she wears the Outfit of the Celestial Guardian for +38 PRR by enhancement. Unyielding Sentinel’s Heed No Pain gives +30 PRR and some Insightful PRR bracers add another 15. By twisting the tier 2 ability Improved Combat Expertise from Legendary Dreadnought for +20 PRR, Ryn can reach 117 PRR in her current destiny. While in Grandmaster of Flowers to use ki for maximum offensive options (such as the crowd-destroying Everything is Nothing during trash-ridden raids such as “Fire on Thunder Peak”), the Standing with Stone ability and its +15 PRR will be combined with Improved Combat Expertise to reach 38 (Outfit) + 15 (Earth Stance) + 15 (Insightful bonus bracers) 15 (Standing with Stone)+ 20 = 103 PRR.

I did consider the Shintao Monk enhancement Iron Skin to give additional PRR, but it would take away from Ninja Spy’s Sneak Attack bonuses and Crippling Strike at tier 5 of its enhancements. The miss-chance defenses help more than additional PRR, anyway.

The Legendary Feat Scion of the Astral Plane raised her Dodge cap to 34%. With a Lesser Displacement item (three are available from high-end content), she can reach Dodge/Incorporeality/Concealment defenses of 34/25/25%. Using blinding techniques such as Flash Bangs give a brief 50% Concealment.

Tactics

Superheroes like the Batman or Black Widow are more than their weapons. They use their cunning to help fight enemies, even when outnumbered–provided they focus on keeping every else they fight busy, confused, off-balance, or ineffective.

A ninja is about deception and subtle attack, using stealth and non-damaging resources to move the enemy to where she wants them to be, or leveraging the enemy’s expected behavior to her advantage.

One game-changing Epic Destiny feat changed my fighting dynamic significantly: Dire Charge. This is a stunning ability that uses your highest ability score modifier +20 and any Stunning modifiers from gear (I use a Seal of House Dun’Robar).  The stun created by ramming into an enemy leaves nearby enemies helpless for 6 seconds, much like Stunning Fist,  but a mass effect. I eliminate them quickly as the combined Sense Weakness and No Mercy generate over 60% more damage with additional modifiers.

Often I’ll use distance to lure solitary enemies, using shuriken, and then use Dire Charge or the paralyzing Freezing the Lifeblood finisher to pick them off. Isolating enemies fits the ninja skill set but is also a safer option than charging into a heavily-armed group of CR 42+ enemies.

In the event I have to dive into a large fight where crowd control isn’t practical, such as the end-battle in “The Battle of Eveningstar,” I use my shuriken with a Celestia as the off-hand weapon that delivers area-of-effect fireballs and flame while I ran about, keeping the spawns down while concentrating on the boss. I often soften up champions, which frequently have attacks that bypass my strongest defenses, with ranged attacks.

More techniques include fighting when pulling isn’t an option. When a mob gathers up to surround me, I let them–and then throw a Flash Bang to stun and blind them. I can use Dire Charge then to stun a few longer and then kill them, or fade into stealth and regroup.

When the mob is too large for grinding them down, it’s the hate-magnet dummy created by the Diversion ability that can not only save me but a party as well. Often Orange and Red Named enemies aren’t pulled to the dummy, but their support will be, which will at least limit my fight, hopefully at some distance from the dummy, to a fewer number.

The essential objectives are the only items on the Iron Ninja’s playbook on Epic Elite. Most combat-oriented optionals are skipped for speed or avoided for safety. Likewise, it’s against the ninja way to slaughter boxes and barrels; breakable bonuses are skipped. These leave you vulnerable since enemies will hear your footfalls as you run around barrel-slaying.

But why talk about it? Let me show you how Ryncletica uses every trick she has to take on the hordes in the combat-heavy EE “House of Broken Chains.” House Avithoul’s guards are no slouches with many critical-hitting blademasters (often champions) to handle, and spiders about to throw me off my stealth game if I’m not prepared.

But playing Epic Elite requires you to be prepared. Perhaps not as crazy-prepared as the Batman, but similarly able to adjust to any scenario. In this quest, I learn quickly how to match muscle against muscle by creating an army of my own from House Avithoul’s resources.

The video will be closed-captioned in YouTube: Click on the CC button to view them.

Since this video, Ryn has completed two of the three Demonweb quests alone as well on EE. Whether she’ll try the enemy-zerging “Reclaiming the Rift,” I don’t know.

And now I’m considering if Ryncletica has the chops to pull off a melee-based solo Heroic Shroud like her star-throwing cousin. If I do so, I’ll let you know.

Invaders! A Video Walkthrough

Current Score: Ninja 3, Beholders: 0.

Current Score: Ninja 3, Beholders: 0.

Sorry for the 2-week+ timing between posts. Per my guild rules, real life comes first. Work, as well as a family illness, has made the past weeks pretty tough to post anything of significance.

I’m surprised I’ve not made a video walkthrough of one of the most challenging Heroic quests in the game. That’s probably because it’s a bat-shit crazy idea for any class to complete, much less complete by going solo.

But if they were any character that could make it work in my dojo, it’s Kiricletica, built to solo from the start.

Invaders!” is a revisit to the central Waterworks sewer system (minus the hidden doors, rare encounters and usual denizens). A Xoriat invasion occurs there, cutting off paths through the sewers, scaring the crap out of the kobolds and, most distressingly, causing many, many beholders to appear.

Flesh Renders and Polar-Ray zapping Ice Flensers routinely spawn from portals throughout the place. Beholders aren’t isolated, often guarded by Xoriat followers, Cyclonic-blasting Thaarak Hounds and more beholders.

Your mission is to clean out the place of everything that shouldn’t be there, of course, primarily the beholders.

Challenges

  1. This is a place where a grouped party may not be the best idea. A beholder’s antimagic cone will likely render some in your party defenseless and debuffed before it starts zapping with various things. Enervation. Disintegrate. Telekinesis. It will try to paralyze, curse, burn and instantly kill you. A group will draw a lot of attention, so as a result, the beholder’s effects may not allow you to back each other up as you’re disabled and picked off.
  2. Death Ward is mostly useless here because the first thing a beholder will do is use its antimagic cone to zap you of any buffs (outside of Monk, Bard and airship buffs, which can’t be dispelled). You MUST wear a Deathblock item to have some protection against Finger of Death and a few other instant-kill spells. Deathblock isn’t a panacea but it will buy you time. Pale Masters might find it a bit easier.
  3. If the beholders aren’t scary enough, the respawning Ice Flensers love Polar Ray, which can hit at 100-200+ damage. There’s also the hordes of Thaarak Hounds that enjoy mass hits of Cyclonic Blast at 70+ points each, as well as some instant-death and acid attacks.
  4. Most parties will trod along drawing attention from anything that moves, often near respawn points. Invisibility spells are useless against beholders and many other enemies here as they have True Seeing or See Invisibility. Antimagic effects will debuff them off of you, anyway.
  5. To increase the randomness, there are many Chaos Orbs circulating about, sometimes bringing you benefit or bane at exactly the wrong time.
  6. There is only one rest and resurrection shrine.
  7. Party members with low saves, little or no spell protection or Deathblock will not last long. Especially vulnerable are party members with a HULK SMASH zerging mentality. They may get lucky and nail a few threatening things, but eventually they’ll be in the wrong place and be zapped themselves or attract more attention that a party can handle.
  8. You have to pass a lot of enemies, including several beholders, to reach each of the elder beholders that hold open a locus used for invasion.
  9. Enemies do not easily “rubberband” here (return to their spawn point if kited too far). If you’re being chased, expect the chase to buy you time, not escape.

Suggestions

  1. It’s not impossible for magic party members to fight here against beholders, but it’s central that another party member draw the beholder’s attention first, preferably far away from the spell caster so they won’t get hit by an antimagic cone. From there, spell casters can treat beholders to a taste of their own medicine with instant-death spells, Flesh-to-Stone or related attacks.
  2. Ranged attacks against beholders here can be both hit and miss, so to speak. If your ranged attack can draw one beholder away from a group of them, you reduce the amount of potential damage or deaths in your party. If your ranged attacks throw off area-of-effect damage, you’ll draw all the enemies in that group to you.
  3. Attacks that stun or paralyze help a lot. For all their magic damage, beholders have the fortitude of a balloon. If you get the jump on them, removing them is comparably easy.
  4. This quest supports the power of high stealth, if you use it properly. (Invisibility will not work.)  Sewer passageways are narrow. Ice Flensers use Hide. You need a strong Spot to detect them, or at least avoid colliding into them. Some enemies may detect you while Sneaking, such as Thaarak Hounds, so you may need to draw them away to avoid fighting more than need to at any moment. Beholders have 360-degree Spot, but with a high Hide score, you can move to point-blank range and pop them. However, Thaarak Hounds have blindsense, which stealth can’t defeat. Their Cyclonic Blasts in a group of hounds can whittle your HP immediately and/or knock you down. Dispatch them promptly.
  5. Spell absorption items will buy you time. I carried a Scarab of Spell Absorption but didn’t use it as wisely as I should.
  6. Champions that appear really throw the dungeon’s power against you. Prioritize their demise over all others.
  7. The final fight is your only named creature, which can be one of several encounters. It’ll likely have a final entourage of similar enemies guarding it. Before you can fight it, you must remove all the elder beholders.
  8. The optional killing of outsiders objective is almost inevitable to complete. Portals throughout continually spawn enemies you can kill.

Sewer Cleaning from Hell

Kiricletica was loaded with Heal and Restoration scrolls. Alone, she leveraged high passive ki regeneration and used Quivering Palm to rid herself quickly of some targets. Sometimes with a Tiefling Assassin’s Blade in hand, she used its Wounding powers to make sure that Pain Touch finishers stick against beholders, muting them and making them harmless for a quick finish. Most fights, however, used a Metalline of Pure Good shortsword or a Forester’s Brush Hook. I used Pain Touch and Quivering Palm as much as possible.

Fast ki regeneration helps in frequent use of Shadow Veil for both Incorporeality and Invisibility for times where fighting or evasive action is better.

The hardest part for me involves the respawning renders, especially the deadly Polar Rays from the Flensers. Hounds are also challenging since they can sense me no matter what. They loved to spam Cyclonic Blast. In a group of three or move, those attacks would all but kill me.

I entered two levels higher than the quest. Still, I tried and failed this quest three times early, often downed by hounds, before managing a completion on Elite…and even then, I had to use a raise-dead cake when I moved into a fight before failing to preparing even once, just before the end-fight.

But I did get it done. See the results.

Be sure to click the “CC” button to see the captions. My apologies for the dimness; I’ve already adjusted it to improve it slightly and will do so again later.

A Ghost in the Fortress

On request from a commenter in the thread I posted for the Zen Archer build, I’ve made another video of the archer fighting within the gnoll’s mountain fortress in “Chains of Flame.”

Here, I put Pynthetica the Zen Master through a greater test for you to demonstrate how her interpretation of zen mastery wards off damage.

“Chains of Flame” Heroic Elite is level 15, and so is Pyn. Obviously the layout of the fortress and the number of gnolls weighed heavily against my odds if I simply tried to run through the place alone.

My tactics were simple: Stand and shoot. Only when champions showed up did I have to adjust my game a bit as they often had superior buffs, such as True Seeing, that penetrated one or more of my passive defenses.

I subject Pyn to a hail of arrows and spell attacks intentionally in several places to demonstrate the effectiveness of her miss-chances, spell resistance, evasion and saves. Just watch the volume of miss miss dodge deflected dodge incorporeal miss incorporeal messages that scroll over Pyn’s head as she continues to attack. She deals far more damage than she receives when fighting from a distance, even with a horde of enemy archers.

The video shows Pyn’s central weakness near the final path to the boss: Becoming uncentered. The Firebrand mages often threw spells that lowered my STR, leaving me overburdened and becoming uncentered. That turned off most of Pyn’s defensive powers, specifically my Dodge, Monk stance, and saves and the Incorporeality effect from the Ninja Spy Shadow Veil. Near the final battle I got too close to a group of mages that nearly took me down.

In this video I summon Tempys the Cleric, but use him primarily to heal a few points if needed between battles as well as a mobile Death Ward clicky. Sometimes I just healed myself using Wholeness of Body every 2 minutes since I didn’t do a bad job at regenerating ki on my own.

Tempys wasn’t allowed to fight throughout the adventure while I took advantage of distance to snipe the fortress dead. While I prefer to use an aggro-magnet for more confrontational battles using archers, “Chains” is large enough so that I could complete it without an attack dog. The Zen Master is also a ninja and uses their basic stealth techniques to sneak to places and set up assaults.

I just need to wear more STR to offset ability-draining attacks.

The video’s about 1 hour 10 minutes long. You can browse the video at time marks 1 minute 30 seconds, 18 minutes 20 seconds, and 48 minutes 25 seconds for specific examples of damage avoidance and deflection.

The Mighty Bow of Artemis

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Careful study of the targets on Thunder Peak prior to Misty unleashing her brand of hell.

 

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

Reader discretion advised.

~~~

I named Artemistika partially after the Greek goddess Artemis, a huntress, protector of woodlands and superior wielder of the bow. Quite appropriate choice for a Ranger or Druid.

There’s been an increased clamor on the DDO forums on how ranged damage/power is gimpy unless you’re a Monkcher. I guess it depends on what kind of damage you’re looking for.

While Melee Power as introduced to improve general damage for Epic players with swords and other handed weaponry, the Ranged Power element has not been implemented yet, as of Update 24, and won’t be till a later update, per Severlin, Executive Producer.

As noted before, I’m sticking to specific behavior–standing still–to generate the cumulative damage that Archer’s Focus does with DWS training, and having only one stat for damage and to-hit helps a great deal.

I love this class. Deepwood Stalkers really pack a punch if you do what they must do: Stand still and build their attack power. It’s critical to have powerful friends as well as a powerful bow. You cannot be a one-man army–but you might get by nicely as a three- or four-man version.

And may the gods favor my Ranger should Ranged Power come to the world and the decimation that update will add to what’s already there.

Misty’s completed her first high-level raids (“Fire on Thunder Peak” and “Caught in the Web”) and has trained two Primal Epic Destinies to qualify for the Doubleshot Epic Destiny feat at level 28, and took Blinding Speed at level 26. With Shadowdancer trained as well as Shiradi Champion and Primal Avatar, I’ll try to somehow grind through Grandmaster of Flowers to gain access to Unyielding Sentinel and the much-desired Brace for Impact ability to maximum her fortification at 200% for the toughest Epic Elite quests.

With only 60 AC but over 155% fortification, Blurry and Ghostly or 25% Incorporeality in Shadow Form, Misty takes a surprisingly low amount of damage in the event she loses aggro control and her targets come to chase her.

Misty’s first Thunder Peak had a few serious hiccups. Our raid party had problems keeping the trash at bay long enough to sustain damage on the dragons. Eventually I was getting chased about the field by mobs that hadn’t anything else to chase due to numerous deaths. I took only one death myself after kiting myself too closely to a dragon’s fire breath. Once we did conquer both dragons, there were only three or so of us left alive and I found myself keeping all the trash at bay for a time before a resurrection solution worked to revive the party. All fun, all in all, and tested Misty’s emergency tactics (Improved Precise Shot, Displacement and the like).

One amazing thing, in the stealth department, are Misty’s Hide/Move Silently scores. Unbuffed, she’ll sit around 80. I’ve pushed it to 110. I could sneak Misty off the server with numbers like that. Deepwood Stalkers appear to be the clear winners in the DDO Hide and Seek game. I’ve got lots of documenting to do on the Stormreach Shadows guide for the Ranger.

I plan to train Misty’s destinies and stay as an Epic fighter for as long as it’s fun and until I get my Green Steel bows built. I’ve got one quest left for my Yugoloth potions, and a Pinion bow is still a goal. Enough “Thunder Peak” raids and I could get her Thunder-Forged bow a tier 2 upgrade. There are a few other trinkets and goals, such as 375 PDK favor for melding a Hide of the Goristro to my Woodsman’s Guile set.

In other news, the second effort to make the Zen Archer build work, after my first try wasn’t quite there, is now in progress. Stay tuned.

Netheril Here Nor There

Walking into Mordor: Not recommended without the monastic art.

Walking into Mordor: Not recommended without the monastic arts.

“Hi. My name is Syn, and I’m an alti-holic.”

(Hi, Syn!)

Since time is very limited for me with concentrating on a number of real-life tasks, I’m going to steer the blog back to its primary focus: The Monk class and what can be done with them. I will get back to the adventurers of Ranger Artemistika, Assassin Sukitetica and Swashbuckler Flynncletica soon. These characters not only round out my work in defining the sneak-happy classes to better document the Stormreach Shadows stealth guide, but are damned fun to play under the right conditions, especially Misty.

By “right conditions,” I mean that they tend to die a lot easier than the weakest of my Monks when in the wrong conditions.

I’ve actually missed being able to dance through the deadliest traps in the game like a drunken elf prancing through a meadow of flowers in springtime. It’s been a bit since I can stare down any enemy that tries something as mundane as a Fear spell or since I could take several Meteor Swarms to the face without issue and return the favor in a flurry of elemental strikes.

For even my most versatile non-Monk characters, one does not simply walk into Mordor. And DDO presents a lot of “Mordors” for unwitting players to enter unprepared.

But for my best Monks, they sometimes make a habit of daily runs into the Mordor de jour, punching and kicking and puncturing and poisoning seven shades of piss out of anything in their way.

This blog is primarily about Monks, so when time is at a crunch, that’s where the focus must be.

Let’s catch up on Ryncletica, the Poison Master and a little bit on Lynncletica, the Little Mountain tanker.

My Favorite Enemy

The Netherese have had a special place in my gamer heart since my old Neverwinter Nights days in trying to stop some loony from reactivating old Netheril magitek. My appreciation of the DDO Netherese is quite happy with three adventure chains: “The High Road” (get back a Nether Scroll), “Wheloon Prison” (get back yet another Nether Scroll) and the super-epic Storm Horns adventures, which left Szyncletica in awe.

Yet, I’ve not completed any of these adventures as often as I’d like, and so Ryncletica is starting to work on this. She’s completed all of her missions in the prison-turned Netherese outpost, and is after the Shade leader in “Through a Mirror Darkly.”

Ryncletica sits on level 16 now with increasingly strong DPS and durability that allow solo Elite missions most of the time. I could use a bit more DEX for damage/to-hit. I’m being cautious and only putting her through Hard difficulties as I make a more thorough study of each quest before returning to them on Elite difficulty. I’ve also desired to complete the Explorer locations in this forsaken place.

None of the Wheloon Prison quests allow for complete stealth. “Friends in Low Places” is all-combat, as is “A Lesson in Deception” and especially “Thrill of the Hunt” and those irritating Howlers. “Army of Shadow” does allow a bit of stealth ops to bypass or control much of the fighting.

Remembering long-ago travels in the overshadowed Oldstone Hall, I hoped to use shadow against shadow with Ryncletica’s strong ninja powers.

The many Shadow creatures that appear often don’t if you are stealthy enough, which helped a bit while making my way through “Thrill” and “Army.”

Ryncletica’s now able to use two Envenomed Blades, but chooses to hold only one of those blades in the main hand and her trust Tiefling Assassin’s Blade in the off-hand. The Wounding effect weakens from it while the advanced Poison and paralysis of the Envenomed Blade make a potent two-handed attack posture. Two Envenomed Blades weren’t bad but, lacking the Wounding effect reduces the chance for better use of the dark finishing moves.

She’s also trained Shadow Double for a doublestrike DPS burst for tougher enemies, and Quivering Palm makes for quick-kills as I make my way through otherwise-empty halls.

A Build Change for Ryn

I abandoned the use of the Harper tree to build up melee power for now. The AP cost didn’t reflect any significant advantages in damage at this time. Further, that AP has helped both Drow and Ninja Spy trees to boost their damage or defenses. Ambidexterity from the Drow tree, or Sneak Attack or completing the Ninjutsu training (right up to Touch of Death) is back on the table.

I’ll certainly revisit melee power boosts as Ryn returns to Epic levels, specifically with Shadowdancer and Epic leveling’s boosts to melee power. She’ll need to get Primal Avatar trained enough for Rejuvenation Cocoon for greater healing options.

In Oldstone Hall

The mission went pretty well. With one hireling, the lovely-rendered Favored Soul Althea as passive backup and parked for 90% of the mission, I sneaked through the light and dark sides of the hall. The narrow halls made it a challenge to avoid what few patrols existed. Despite this, I was able to obtain two or three of the orbs without combat by way of ninja stealth.

On the final fight, I took a tip from the wiki: Don’t follow the shade continually back and forth from the light and dark sides. I concentrated on delivering Ninja Poison DoTs on the boss, which left him still taking damage while he phased out and I concentrated on mopping up any Shadar-Kai or other minions that materialized.

As a quest chain, I enjoy Wheloon Prison, but it is probably my least favorite of the three Netherese missions. The High Road quests take second (I love its wilderness and the respawn rate that can let you hunt there for hours), but the Storm Horns remain the pinnacle of the Netherese missions and, in my opinion, the most beautiful and well-designed and story-immersive story lines in the game. I’m looking forward to getting Ryn to the Storm Horns, but not without a party. You don’t solo those quests without a lot of firepower.

Lynncletica’s Heeljing

I couldn’t end this quick post without geeking out about Update 24’s adjustment in healing amplification.

No one appears to be complaining a bit on the forums with the change. The new formula has dramatically improved the vampiric healing of Fists of Light for Lynn. In Earth Stance with the Jidz-Tet’ka bracers on (no amp in that stance) and with 3 Shintao cores, I’m seeing 2-4 HP per strike. Kick on Fire Stance and it jumps to 2-6, if not more.

Lynn needs the new format. I’ve been pushing her through early quests on Elite. Like her first life, early levels are a bloody mess for her, easily taking punishing damage with weak saves for what miss-chance effects are up for her. At level 9, Lynn is fit and fighting but has to manage aggro oh so carefully.

Stealth Ops: Spies in the House

There's ALWAYS a ninja somewhere. Can you find her?

It’s Spy Vs. Spies in this quest. Or, if you’re me, ninja vs. pirates.

I’m continuing my series of posts where I give detailed analysis of quests that benefit players that use stealth tactics and deliver a larger XP or resource-savings reward for doing that.

Often, these quests will likely be ones that are rather reviled by the usual zerging slasher forces or those players that don’t “read the manual.” That is, they log in, select a quest and enter, often unprepared and armed to the teeth–and fated for a long day. Or, the quest is an unusual design: multiple levels, required keys or levers, or more ambush points where your party is more vulnerable than necessary.

The details in these guides will be more detailed than what information you’ll find in the DDO Wiki articles in terms of navigation and way-points, but aren’t meant as a substitute.

Also, these posts will eventually cross-link to the Stormreach Shadows guide, where formatting limits are a bit restrictive for images and the occasional video.

Let’s start with one of my personal favorites: “Spies in the House.”

Preparation


Note: Update 23 has a bug where, if you start “Spies” while you have the “Sentinels of Stormreach” quest chain in-progress, the quest chain giver will not offer you the chain end-reward loot list on completion. Run “Spies” before starting “Sentinels” as a workaround, or run “Spies” after you complete the chain. While related in the storyline, “Spies” isn’t part of the Sentinels quest chain so you needn’t speak to Taggart d’Deneith, the Sentinels quest chain-giver.


“Spies” is one of a handful of quests where the exit is straight up, over a harrowing series of climbs. Not coincidentally, several of the quests I’ll review in this series have climbing and multiple levels.

I’d argue that “Spies” earns the title for the most challenging of these climbing quests. Unlike other climbing quests, Completing “Spies” requires agility way beyond that needed in quests such as “The Coalescence Chamber.” You need at least at least +10 Jump in this place–and that’s optimally your number while you’re in Sneak, which gives a -20 penalty to that and Tumble.

Thus, medium and heavy Armored Fighters, Clerics and Paladins have a harder time in quests like “Spies” because their Armor Check Penalty works against their Jump skill. These classes as well as Wizards, Artificers and Sorcerers also have Jump as a cross-class skill where it’s cost-prohibitive to add many, if any skill points. Potions, items and spells to give stacking Competence and Enhancement bonuses that raise Jump to a useful level can help a lot for such characters.

Stealth will also be problematic for all classes who aren’t Bards, Monks, Rangers or Rogues since Hide and Move Silently as also cross-class skills. Rangers, Druids and strong-UMD Rogue can help here, too, in addition to items. (For suggestions to fix that, see this chapter and this chapter in the Stormreach Shadows stealth guide.)

A Feather Falling item or long-lasting spells is also required here throughout the quest. Falling here means falling a long way that will likely leave you very vulnerable, feeling very lost, and unable to catch up easily. Striding speed is also very important in the final levels; buy some Haste potions.

“Spies” makes every attempt to keep you from going upward using simple barriers that must be activated or bypassed before your party proceeds. In “Coal Chamber,” it’s a matter of running up and up, with no requirements to jump except down with a Feather Fall item to a shrine. In “Spies,” if you have low Jump, you’re going to have a harder time. A few places require you to leap up swiftly to grab onto something should you fall out of alignment as you make your way.

Don’t bother using your in-quest map here. Like “The Pit” and “Chains of Flame,” the multiple layers of the quest map do not reveal any information of use to navigation.

The Entry Level: “Ninja, Please!” (Or, “Why Clerics Can’t Jump“)

You start the quest next to a very high sewer shaft that drops to an underwater point. Even with Feather Falling off, it seems that it’ll take about 10 seconds for you to hit the water below. That’s a portent of your long climb back up, elsewhere. Stealth teams should buff up here and activate Sneak before dropping down since the underwater point below will prohibit you from activating Sneak.

Once you’re down, ahead is a small alcove guarded by ice mephits and water elementals. Your fastest stealth party member can move to the lever to pull it, opening a gate to swim down the sewer tunnel while others rush by the enraged elementals. You don’t have to fight these guys; simply pulling that lever and leaping into the water ahead avoids them.

The wide underwater pit ahead is filled with sonic and spike traps with fences to force your path. High reflex/evasive characters can avoid them. A Rogue can disable all the traps for bonuses. Non-evasive characters should carefully swim forward and, on returning to solid ground, stop and stay in Sneak to stay a bit hidden. In the water lies one of three valves that control an air jet that teams should use.

Out of the water and in Sneak, you’re surrounded enter a vast complex with catwalks and scaffolding above. To your relative left (northwest and southwest) in the wide-open area are many skeleton archers and a few Blood Tide fighters and mages. East and ahead from the water is a small dead-end tunnel with another couple of traps and a second valve for the first air jet.

The third and last valve of this first jet is in the northwest corner, guarded by a few humans and their skeleton charges, next to the air jet itself.

A non-stealthy team would have to make their way along catwalks from the northwest, pelted by skeletal snipers not only above but way above you, shooting where you cannot shoot back. It’s a killing field.

And even then, a non-stealthy team must make a couple of careful climbs to a valve that lowers a drawbridge for the team to climb up a series of fixed boxes to another scaffold level. Miss your mark, and you’ll fall down and back to the water entry.

For stealth teams, there’s a better way.

Lower Level: Jet-Setter

After activating the first two valves, carefully make your way to the last valve, dispatch the skeletons and mages there and activate the last valve, located next to the jet itself. If your team stays in that corner, you shouldn’t be detected by the skeleton archers to the far left, watching the catwalks and scaffolding.

With the three valves activated on the lowest level, two air jets activate. One lifts you up to a catwalk just above you, where a second diagonal jet hurls you up and to a wide catwalk across the way, above the center of the bottom level.

What you do here depends on your party composition.

Teams with strong Jump skills can simply use your Jump prowess and Feather Fall for controlled guiding, using the two jets to make your way up to the center catwalk, and then jump down or across a bit to the lower scaffolding with the closed drawbridge to climb up fixed boxes that lead up through holes in the scaffolding for a couple of levels to higher piping. Traversing this way in Sneak avoids any detection by the skeletal archers very close by. There is likely one lonely human guard here in hiding at the drawbridge scaffolding. If anyone’s stealth skills are poor, he will find you.

If your party is a mix of low-Jump characters that aren’t as agile, a lone stealthy character can make the jet leaps, then head southward and up and over some pipes to reach the valve over dead-end scaffolding to the far south, above the watery entry, that lowers the drawbridge. Unfortunately this means that your party’s walk to the bridge will likely fight the lower archers and a couple of human fighters along the catwalk and platforms to the now-lowered drawbridge as even your stealth skills will be compromised at such close proximity. Your fighting might also alert the archers much higher up. This is problematic since you’ll be fired at, but cannot target back because of your attack angle.

Once your team has climbed up at the highest scaffold via the fixed boxes, jumping is required to a pipe that’s close enough to stand on. Your team must stay in stealth here; above are more skeletal archers that will rain down arrows on you at an angle where you cannot counter-attack. The path north on the pipe leads to a puzzle wheel that controls an air jet behind and above you in the southwest corner. It’s the only way up for everyone.

One party member can sneak to the wheel and turn it twice to activate it’s second light to the right, which activates the proper southwest jet that will launch your party members to yet another scaffold above. Left of the puzzle wheel is a constantly-blowing jet that catapults your team to that larger southwest jet. Everyone’s got to traverse the northern pipe: watch out for the break in the pipe on the way or you’re going to fall. A Bard in your party that can give Invisibility to your team helps a lot here in avoiding detecting from the now-closer archers above you.

Keep in stealth throughout this entire progression, even if your Hide/Move Silently scores are poor. A stealth posture keeps you slowed and in better control while traveling on the thin pipes. You may need to stand up for the jets to launch you.

On using the southwest jet, you should land by some fixed boxes on a scaffold just below a large mob of skeleton archers, human necromancers and a couple of gargoyles. You’re going to leave stealth to attack them by making your way up the boxes to a small landing just south of the group and then charging ahead to a scaffold and up to their location. Note how high you are; if you slip without Feather Fall, you’re in for some serious damage.

Eliminate the entire guarding force ahead–specifically, 10 skeletons whose undeaths control lighted locks above a prisoner gate and a valve to the path onward. A valve set precariously on a corner edge of the area of the archers along the stone wall, near a locked gate, activates a small jet that launches you back to the center scaffolding to a level you couldn’t climb to reach. Here, another set of boxes sit below a second valve, guarded by a couple of gargoyles. This valve opens that locked gate near the first valve, where you rescue the first of four Deneith prisoners. Just inside this gate is another valve that opens the larger gate to the east entry and forward.

Depending on difficulty, there may be a trap just inside, as well as air mephits. Your second prisoner is just to your left from within this entry; a lever opens his cage.

Ahead, at the apex of this short hall, several skeletons will spawn that you should eliminate. At the end of the hallway is an electrified shaft and a ladder with more mephits. Evasive characters in stealth can likely just go up the ladder and evade the electricity trap and mephits, who won’t follow. But a Rogue in party should find a control box above to disable the trap for more vulnerable party members. Eliminate the mephits if they are a hassle.

At the top of this shaft, opposite the ladder, is a treasure chest across the shaft’s wide chasm. It’s locked, so if your team hasn’t the means to unlock it, you should skip it and continue on through the last of the skeletal guards. A hidden door near the ladder reveals a lever; it’s purpose wasn’t clear to me, even after several runs before, until now. Flip it, and it activates air jets to push your team to that locked chest. It appears to be a semi-random pulse that turns off, requiring you to flip the switch again.

At least two skeletal mages, skeletons and several skeleton archers await you ahead: eliminate them to unlock a lever in the T-intersection to the end. A third Deneith prisoner awaits rescue here, and there is a treasure chest as reward for coming this far.

That lever opened steel doors to your next adventure. The good news is that you’re done with undead guards. If you thought your trip was tough so far, just you wait.

Grid Level 1: Rowan and Friends

Just beyond the steel doors are rest and resurrection shrines, guarded likely by a one or two Blood Tide fighters. Your team should use this shrine as you’ll be unable to return to it once you proceed.

At the end of this path you’ll see several Blood Tide archers on catwalks lining a wide, very electrified grid floor. This is the first of several grid floors you’ll find that can’t be disabled and will pelt you with 30-60 damage per second, easily killing party members that stand on it for too long. If you’re missing Resist Electricity or Protection against Electricity buffs, use them now.

With a mixed party, your best tactic is to go into Sneak and drop down to the northern wall and to a path on along the electrified floor, sneaking in below the archers and to a lower catwalk. A single guard along the last part of  the path could alert others if he spots you; a quick kill or good stealth bypassing is recommended. Strong archers or throwing characters might opt to remove the archer guards. Monks with Abundant Step or classes with a long-jump, instead, might leap directly from the shrine level over to the upper level catwalk–better if you’re invisible if you do this unless going immediately on the offensive.

Northward is a watery fortress sealed by a steel gate that you must bypass. Guards are all about here. Your team can go left (westward) and around, up a watery fall, where a skeletal mage awaits you to return it to inanimate bone. Left (east) of here is the base of Rowan Watzun, a red-named necromancer that loves death spells: Have at least Deathblock items equipped as you attack him and his guards.

Once Rowan is down, a lever in his lair, by a chest, opens the path ahead to the upper catwalk. You’re assaulted by backup fighters immediately after Rowan dies. Resistance here is comparatively slight; you may want to eliminate all the archers along the catwalks if your party is of weaker stealth skill. A stronger stealth team can lure any standing guards by Rowan’s lair to remove them without alerting the catwalk archers, leaving them unaware of your presence throughout this next segment.

To the south are additional pipes and valves. On a ladder above is your fourth and final Deneith prisoner and a chest, both caged. Two valves here are at ground level open the prisoner’s cell and part of the way forward; one is guarded by mephits. A stealthy character can activate that lever without waking the mephits at all. As with all stealth quests, resist the temptation of breaking boxes: the best bonus you can get is Vandal, and only with luck and a few deaths.

At the southwest corner on a ladder is another shrine; make this rest count: Your last shrine is near the end of the quest, a long way up.

At the last prisoner’s level is a pipe to the east where the third lever awaits. All party members must climb up to this pipe (via the prisoner’s ladder) and west to yet another platform and air jet to move forward. Without a Rogue to disarm it, your team will have to brave some blades that slash about around this jet. Historically, the blades don’t hit often–and the blades are the last of your worries.

Grid Levels 2 and 3: This is Where It Begins to Suck

Before your team uses the jet, buff up again with any and all electrical resists and absorption or Protection from Electricity buffs. You’ll be very glad you did. Your Feather Fall is essential here, as well. A CON and/or False Life item or spell is extremely helpful for low HP players. You’re going to have to soak up a lot of voltage.

This jet is one of two in this area that are hard to navigate as you’re catapulted upward a little blindly. You’ll be sent high up and if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a pipe to a small platform near a valve. Whoever reaches that valve should turn it immediately.

If you’re unlucky, you’ll hit your head and bounce back down and must climb back up to the jet.

If you’re very unlucky, you’ll overshoot and land on yet another electrified grid floor. If you do, run left (north) to your only safe-haven, some fixed boxes that lead up to a cross of pipes.

Once your party is up, you’ll find fire elementals and, if you’ve been unluckier, an air elemental. You must kill all the elementals that spawn here (four total) to proceed. This won’t be easy for melee teams; the elementals are often floating about, away from the pipes you’re standing on, and inaccessible.

If an air elemental spawns, your luck is terrible. It will likely blow party members hither and yon. Your best bet is to congregate by the sole group of fixed boxes to the north to avoid getting electrocuted, standing on the lowest box.

Ranged icy weaponry (Snowstar, Chill Shard and the like) or spells that hurt fire elementals are required. Melee teams will be lucky if the elementals come close enough to attack.

The fire elementals throw fireball after fireball, often floating over the grid and out of melee range. If you can hit them by direct attack, do so. Your non-Evasion party members should seek cover; they will not survive against the fireball pelting for long. An air elemental complicates your attack. Evasion characters should separate, giving the party a chance to move the aggro around as you make your attacks.

This area is where I imply how hirelings and summoned creatures are less than useful since they’ll be extra things you’d have to look after or will draw unwanted attention and jeopardize your safety. If they die on the grid, leave their soulstone. One exception for summons: if you can summon a water elemental or other thing that can float to attack the elementals, it’s worth a go.

Once the elementals are down, turn the remaining valves in this area and, carefully timing the blowing air vents that threaten to make you run the dangerous grids again, head around to another air jet. If you don’t clear the elementals, the steel door above this jet remains closed.

This jet blows you up to a marginally safe start point, but no safe destination. You must run across yet another electrical grid. High-evasive characters have a very low chance to save against the damage, but everyone should rebuff with Protection from Energy and, if needed, Electric resistance. There is a small group of fixed boxes ahead as your only sanctuary. Don’t worry about stealth here to the boxes: Run! Speed is life.

More valves above on the pipes, and this time, guarded by mephits. Just to be nasty, a valve that reduces some of the damaging steam leaks have jets that will push you off and onto the grid if you don’t time them right when using them. Unlike the level below, however, killing the mephits just makes your life easier. Once the valves are done, you’re clear to jump and run carefully to a ladder up.

The Last Floors: Daylight

Stay in stealth as you traverse this floor and to a ladder nearby some water run-offs. Else, you’ll awaken water elementals that will fire on you. A rest shrine is here on this next to last floor for those who need this final oasis.

The serious stuff is behind you. You need only to reach the last floor where two gargoyles start trolling you but end up only annoying each other.

The gargoyles guard two final valves. (Any other valves you see at this level are decoration only.) One closes steel doors ahead to form a floor as well as open steel doors just ahead to the quest’s end. The second activates a lightning trap that’s not disarmable.

Let the high-reflex member of your party turn a valve. I don’t believe you have to wait for the gargoyle chat to complete to do this. A couple of Blood Tide fighters will assault you by the last door but they are nothing compared to what you just endured.

Put on your Voice of the Master for a big XP payout before you approach the first chest you see, no matter what your difficulty. On Epic difficulties, an epic chest spawns to your right on a gridded scaffold cubby hole.

Use your Finish button rather than using the provided tunnel. Otherwise, you’ll spawn in Stormreach Harbor, rather than next to the quest giver in House Deneith.

Video

This is a long quest that can get longer without better descriptions. So I’ve taken time to record this quest to give you a better visualization. Good hunting!

Stealth Ops: Chains of Flame

M_walkthrough_chains_of_flame

Use this map from the DDO Wiki.

Continuing my series on quests that favor a stealthy approach, we explore tactics to use against a very formidable Gnoll stronghold in “Chains of Flame, ” one of the three flagging quests in the Sands of Menechtarun series.

“Chains” can suck on so many levels, literally. Like “Spies in the House,” “Chains” is a multi-level adventure where your quest map is mostly worthless. Being pelted by gnoll archers, fried by elementals or sliced into bits, pelted and fried by numerous traps is the name of the game here. And you’ll need to free at least 15 slaves by speaking with them.

But a stealthy approach will help you infiltrate the fortress where you can better control when and how you attack, and especially control if you’re attacked. Beefing up your ranged attack options isn’t a bad idea for careful use in a few locations.

“Chains” comes in a Heroic and Epic version. The pathing is identical.

With a recent update, “Chains” offers a boatload of XP, making the trip very worthwhile.

Soloing this adventure bites with all the inevitable fighting. Stealth Team Six mode is recommended.

Preparation

Even with an experienced party hacking everything to bits, “Chains” is a very long quest; set aside at least 1 hour. With an experienced guide, it takes about 15 minutes from the Sands desert entrance to make your way to the quest entrance alone.

As with most stealth adventures, hirelings and summoned creatures draw unnecessary attention and may get you killed more than helping you. Be as self-sufficient as you can with self-healing options. Keep any hirelings on passive mode and stationary at all times, and take advantage of their new instant-teleport ability to skip them over deadly places if you’re using them as a healerbot or Divine Vitality fountain.

There are only two distant and hard to access shrines, so resource management is critical. Most importantly, carry Feather Fall, always wear Deathblock for frequent encounters with gnoll mages, and Death Ward when facing superior mages and for the end-fight.

Also carry plenty of Remove Curse and Disease solutions, have at least some Lesser Restoration options, but most importantly carry Fire Resistance and Protection from Fire solutions at hand by the end-fight, as original guild ship amenity fire protections wane after 1 hour if you haven’t a Ranger or other mage in the party.

An optimal stealth party has a Rogue Assassin (assassinations/trapping) or Rogue Mechanic (superior trapping), Ninja Spy (tactical kills, ranged thrown attacks), Ranger (Resists and Camouflage, ranged missile attack) and Bard (buffs, especially Invisibility, Blur, and Haste, charms or Domination, and in the worst case, crowd control). Fewer party members can be more beneficial in some places, but more members naturally help in the expected firefights.

Don’t enter this quest with a weak ranged solution. To lower your resource consumption, you may find that eliminating some attacks from above will make your mission easier before you reach that level. Or, if your party is a mix of agile and non-agile characters, ranged support is essential to save non-agiles from excessive damage.

It’s All About Keys, Slaves and One Lever

Take advantage of the quest article on the DDO Wiki. It will save you time and grief. Maps will detail the proper path that avoids unnecessary backtracking or fighting.

To avoid being redundant, I’m only noting special tactics you can use at certain locations, rather than discussing the pathing. I like to use the wiki’s block diagram map, shown here.

Your primary mode in stealth ops here is infiltration. You will be seen. But you want to minimize your exposure to snipers and mages at all times while transitioning outside of the fortress, along bridges, catwalks and outer paths.

Before opening that first door at quest start, buff up. There aren’t very many “safe” areas (at least, until you clear them), and spells can make noise that attract attention. Park and make passive any hirelings here; most of them cannot sneak and will draw fire that will reveal you. Using uncontrollable summoned creatures is a very bad idea that might increase your aggro and waste resources.

On every door, always stand to its side to avoid being seen by others ahead of the door.

Your mission begins over a long bridge over a big pool of lava. All above you are gnoll snipers with high Spot, ready to pincushion you. In harder difficulties and certainly Epic play, the bridge may be trapped and may have mephits. Stay in Sneak as you move across this first bridge. Halfway across, gnolls will burst through the door ahead. Sneak back to the start’s interior as they’ll stop at that halfway point. Then launch a ranged attack to pull and slay the gnolls inside the start area while keeping the archers outside unawares.

The first section requires you to go to the left doors several times to gain three keys before you can enter the locked door at the right of the first intersection. From there, the path is generally hard to mess up. If you can’t open a door, you’re missing a key.

Treat every exterior path as a sniper kill-zone. There will almost always be snipers above you. As you rise up the fortress, mages and snipers will appear on your level. Never exit without being in Sneak.

If you have one in party, keep your Rogue out in front, not your kill team. There are several deadly fire, spike, spinning blade and swiping blade traps in a few locations.

Cul-de-Sacs

Many intersections will have cul-de-sac doors where other Overseers (holders of keys) reside with guards and some prisoners. Often these levels will have archers and fighters and mages, but also more backup above you, raining down death.

After eliminating Overseers, freeing prisoners and gathering keys, be sure to search out any levels that open paths ahead in the cave. Chests may also be found in these cul-de-sacs, but one will be locked and require a Rogue’s handiwork or a Wizard’s Knock spell.

Shrines, Slaves and Optionals

There are only two shrines. The first you’ll find on your path after opening locked door #1 at intersection #1 on the wiki map. The second requires you to lower a drawbridge and clear enemies guarding it around intersection #9 on the wiki map. Because of this, casters must be careful not to power-cast and have mana reserves if you choose a higher aggressive posture.

Saving Gaspar the Dwarf near intersection #2 requires a high Bluff to cause a fight. If you haven’t a Bluff option in your dialogue with the ogre mage, you can’t save Gaspar. Provoking the mage gives you two keys; one to the Stolen Treasury Key and another door key. Don’t save the dwarf and you’ll still get the pass key but lose the XP and the Stolen Treasury Key. Paradoxically, a Rogue with a high Bluff also likely has a high Open Lock and doesn’t need the Treasury Key.

By intersection 6, you can rescue a minotaur from his fire elemental guards for XP and a chest.

You will certainly find 15 slaves on your path, a required objective, but it’s the 16th slave (whomever your party finds next) that gives you the required Royal Firebrand Key, which opens the chamber of the boss at the very top. So always free the slaves, but remind your party that the 16th slave will give that Firebrand Key to one member of your party, and they have to live long enough to open the boss door. If that party member gets separated or, worse, dies in the lava pool, that key may be irretrievable and the quest must be restarted.

Observant stealth teams might take it as challenge to find every slave. This requires patience, stealth insertion, jumps to areas off the path, even a quick swim through lava if Dimension Door isn’t handy. Without D-Door, I’d strongly recommend that only a Monk at character level 12 perform this, as they will have Abundant Step. An agile Human with the Dragonmark of Passage can whip up a D-Door, too. Otherwise, don’t try to complete this or rescue is impossible.

Getting access to the second shrine near intersection #9 isn’t required, but there are slaves nearby it.

The last locked door has Erath the Blinded. Any party member with Blindness Immunity equipped can take the halfling’s curse, where it will have no effect. If you have a cleric hireling in your party, they’ll likely to remove the curse permanently. Remove Blindness potions, however, do not work against this special curse.

The End-Fight

There are two red-named bosses to slay. One is an efreet that enjoys frying anyone he sees. Kill him first if you have non-Evasion members in your party. The gnoll boss is mostly a fighter with Displacement ability, a Stunning Blow attack and a few other divine attack tricks, but is mostly a bag of HP. He’s often guarded by two Firebrand mages.

Unload all the damage you have throughout this fight. A chest or two awaits you. Picking up the Orb of the Efreet from the left side of the throne ends the quest.

On returning to town, you must speak with the quest giver to gain the Orb of the Djinn (not the “Orb of the Efreet” as noted incorrectly in the video–that’s what you pick up), which is your flagging item for Zawabi.

Video

Many ninja spies died…getting you this video (not).

Grab some popcorn; it’s going to be long. Click on the CC to show the captions. I switched to a less-restrictive caption tool, so these should be easier to read.

Ryncletica had the advantage of Poison damage to dispatch the bosses with relative ease.

 

 

Purple Haze

ScreenShot01462

Purple haze, all in my brain
Lately things they don’t seem the same
Actin’ funny, but I don’t know why
Excuse me while I kiss this guy

(Well, I think that’s how it goes.)

Poison is a highly underestimated attack. I don’t know of others that talk much about it.

The reborn Ryncletica knows better. At level 11, she’s still using two of the level 4 Tiefling Assassin’s Blade to mow down enemies that are three times the weapon’s level–and shows no sign of stopping.

I recently posted Ryncletica’s build in greater detail as a favor. While doing that I learned about the Primal Avatar’s Epic Moment and a lesser ability that also has Poison damage with a stacking effect similar to Ninja Poison. However–it might not work if my attacks aren’t still piercing or slashing.

I’m so looking forward to returning to Epic play. But for now I wanted to show just how deadly Ninja Poison can be–more so than when Kiricletica went Viper Style on many, many enemies during her first life.

Everything about Ryncletica is venomous. Every attack she makes delivers a Poison dose: the Tiefling blade, Venomed Blade effect, Sting of the Ninja on critical hits, and Poison Soul Ninjutsu on Touch of Despair strikes.

When Ninja Poison kicks in, even in small stacks, the vulnerability effect takes hold very, very quickly with that much Poison damage seeping into the pores of any enemy.

The result is that purple damage numbers from Poison appear almost immediately on most enemies I attack. Even if I switch targets, any enemies I’ve previously attacked are still being damaged by Ninja Poisoning.

Isolated enemies are either paralyzed first and then hacked very quickly away. Tougher orange-names might be paralyzed and hacked away. Red-named bosses get Touch of Despair attacks to weaken their fortification and get the full Ninja Poison dosage to rid them of their hit points.

Recently, I took both Kiricletica and Ryncletica through “Hiding in Plain Sight” Elite. Kiri prefers no hirelings. Despite her Single Weapon Fighting, her Half-Elf Cleric dilettante healing, healing amplification, her low-kill tactics and similar defenses to Ryn, at level 12, it was hard on Kiri to make it through the quest. By the boss fight, the three orange-named lieutenants were more threatening because Kiri’s weaker saves kept getting her held by Hazadil’s dancing-balls.

But Ryncletica, at level 11, had it easier. With the hireling out of combat and parked away in case of HP crisis, Ryn snuck up to the bosses, quickly paralyzed and slew one of the orange-named lieutenants and sent the other two on a goose-chase, with Hazadil trying to hold Ryn in dancing-balls. But Ryn’s saves were too strong.

When Hazedil made the mistake of coming down from his perch, Ryn poured on the poison and the boss died in a fraction of the time that it took Kiri and her faster melee speed.

I’m usually conservative in leveling the Ninja Spies. I try to have at least a 1-level advantage when entering an Elite quest (that is, I’ll enter a level 12 Elite quest on character level 13).

But Ryncletica’s power and her higher defense for her level is allowing me to match levels or even enter below Elite difficulty level.

And baby needs a pair of Envenomed Blades with greater Poison damage.

Video Example

Talk is cheap. Here is a video of Ryncletica carving up things in “Eyes of Stone” Elite, two levels under, using level 4 shortswords.

Watch all the purple. There’s purple everywhere. Purple haze, all in their brains. And spleen, and many other body parts.

Click on the CC to see captions.

U.S. Holiday

This week is more like a fourteen-day version. Things may be quiet on the blog this week while I enjoy family time during the Thanksgiving holiday and prepare for yet another week-long business trip immediately after. Let’s hope the online gods will grant us stronger wifi at our base hotel this time.

A Monastic Video Showcase

Please stand by.

Please stand by.

After posting videos demonstrating the Heroic level and Epic Shiradi Shuricannon, I was reminded of times where differing opinions at least or flame wars at most occur on the DDO forums on what build or what class(es) and abilities will do this and that.

One thread long ago on the Henshin Mystic turned that way but it caught my ire because the dissenting poster, all the while stating that unarmed damage beats quarterstaff damage, also admitted to having not played a Mystic.

Now, I don’t claim in the slightest to creating or possessing characters that are the optimal for anything except for how I like to play. But my Monks don’t suck outright and do a good job of the one thing they’re meant to do: complete a quest or raid.

But I took offense to that poster because it was clear that their min-maxing multiclassing worldview completely dismissed the idea that something else could possibly work. I’m used to this with the Henshin Mystic. As I’ve said in past posts, I’m likely the only comprehensive resource so far (here and in The Book of Syncletica) on defining the Henshin Mystic class based on its enhancement tree, given it’s only been around for yet quite a year.

Rather than get into a debate of words, I realized I have to apply a social truism: “Pictures or it didn’t happen.”

So I’ll add some moving pictures–they’ll be worth hundreds of thousands of words.

Over the next few weeks I’ll add demonstration videos of the pure Ninja Spy, Henshin Mystic and Shintao Monk, each showing my interpretation of each class’s gameplay. Doing this also exposes my personal style, which you may or may not like.

I’ll choose a quest that illustrates their specialities. For a Shintao, it’ll be a brawling quest where undead, aberrations and extraplanar creatures roost. For a Ninja Spy, it may be a quest where a singular objective requires stealth, cunning and tactics to complete. Lastly, it will be Quintessica that will show what I think the developers had in mind, based on the class tree, of what a Mystic can do with a quarterstaff and their mystical ki powers.

Class trees are simply a launching point for players. There’s no point whatsoever in making a Mystic or any other class using only the racial tree and abilities from only one class tree. A Mystic or Shintao that adds in Shadow Veil for incorporeality miss-chance is going to stand a pounding better, as well as a Ninja Spy that adds in abilities from other trees to improve its attack or defense. None of my characters use only the abilities of their class tree.

That said, the purpose of the demo videos is to help new players decide what playstyle they might consider based on the class tree’s innate skills. It never means that a Shintao can’t use a bow or a Ninja Spy can’t use a staff or a Mystic not use handwraps. Versatility is important. However, effectiveness based on your skills makes sense economically for the action points you spend.

Most importantly, the videos can show what the class does flat out–a good illustrative video for players new to the Monk (the exact purpose of the Monk guide). Shintao Monks are self-healing stun-bot goddesses that are hard to kill. Ninja Spies can avoid half of an army to assassinate with deft blade work or unarmed fighting with a deadly skill set. And a Mystic can take on mobs like Neo takes on an army of Agent Smiths using a metal staff.

So, coming soon, I’ll finally make that video of Mystic Quintessica doing her “Burly Brawl.” Later, Lynncletica, the “Little Mountain” will go where Archons fear to tread, perhaps against an army of devils. Lastly, Kiricletica can represent the Ninja Spies somewhere.

If possible, these movies will get linked into their respective chapters in the Monk guide.

Much later, I’ll give the same treatment to the Elven Arcane Archer Monk and a Kensei Fighter I’m working on.

Epic Shuricannon: Nothing Comes Close

SzynTR1-L22I posted a demo run of the Shiradi Shuricannon at high Heroic levels to demonstrate the build’s basics.

As an Epic character, the ‘Cannon’s training in Shiradi, along with some ninja happiness, can be summed up in one phrase: Nothing comes close.

You can take that in both senses of the meaning.

The Shiradi effects, for those unfamiliar, add interesting elemental effects around 7% of the time that add area-of-effect and direct damage to targets using ranged attacks. It doesn’t matter what kind of ranged attack you use; even magic works (thus the popularity of the Shiradi Sorcerers).

Now, a 7% chance for an effect to go off (“proc”) doesn’t sound like much.

Well, then, you have to look at the Shuricannon’s basic design. Here’s a screenshot of Szyncletica’s character sheet (above).

Here you see that DEX is very, very heavy. That’s because DEX determines both damage and to-hit for a Ninja Spy. Also, the DEX is also the percentage of a second shuriken through from both Shuriken Expertise (granted as a Drow) and Advanced Ninja Training. As an Epic character, Szyn and her kind normally throw 2-3 stars per attack at the minimum with this ability.

The typical ranged feats (Rapid Shot, Quick Draw) also help thrown stars per second.

Ultimate Wind Stance adds 15% to that throwing speed.

And then, we add Shiradi’s Whirling Wrists: up to 60% increase to that throwing speed.

But wait, there’s more.

Use Spelltouched Shuriken for greater raw damage and additional crazy-random damage effects to go with Shiradi’s, and Green Steel for these special cases such as high-level demons and undead.

The result? Attack speed and damage so incredible that few things get close enough to hurt the Shuricannon before it mows them down.

Bonus training in Primal Avatar adds in Rejuvenation Cocoon for good self-healing and Shiradi’s Healing Spring for backup.

For burst damage, Ten Thousand Stars adds extra stars based on the WIS modifier.

I’ve soloed the Devil Battlefield quests except for Genesis Point (where I needed a hireling) to gain enough favor for Yugoloth (“Yugo”) potions. They give a +2 stacking stat bonus but with a tradeoff. Also available are DDO stat elixirs that do the same but without a tradeoff. That’s another +4 to essential stats if required for damage and defense (DEX/WIS).

The summation: The Epic Shuricannon, while perhaps having fewer types of versatility that a “Monkcher” might have, is perhaps the best thrown-weapon build anywhere. As Firewall, creator of the build, has argued time and again in his thread, while multiclassed builds using Halflings might get some benefits, they are offset by one thing or other that’s part of the Shuricannon’s success. You have to train in Shuriken proficiency and Expertise for non-Monk halflings. You lose the DEX to Damage effects, as well as the Drow’s shuriken competency training bonuses. The Drow/Monk spell resistance and Dodge is superior. Ninja Spy’s Shadow Veil adds high incorporeality and invisibility.

Multiclassing also means you lose a level 20 capstone. The Shuricannon’s capstone, as a pure Ninja Spy, is gaining Vorpal to any shuriken and other piercing and slashing ki weapons, as well as +2 DEX and (although still a nagging bug) increased critical threat range that should bring the crit range to as wide as 15-20.

To demonstrate, I’ve recorded two videos.

This first one is of Szyncletica managing the undead giant skeletons on the way to Garamol’s lair in the raid wilderness of the Subterrane. Fans of the blog know that Lynncletica, a Shintao tanker, is strong enough to farm this area, where no hirelings are allowed. But could a Ninja Spy, a class tree not designed with self-healing or undead attack proficiency do the same–and with only a throwing star? The answer comes from Szyn’s high DPS and one triple-positive Greater Disrupting shuriken that ends the CR 25 Garamol far faster than Lynncletica and with fewer resources expended.

The second video shows how Szyn handles a mob. A perfect place for this is the Underdark Arena challenge, “Fight to the Finish.” One ninja: one mob for 10 minutes or more–seems like a fair fight.

She owns a Level 20 Icy Bursting Improved Paralyzing star that halts most everything. Occasional hits of the Nerve Poison from Shiradi training and freezing from her Level 14 Frozen Tunic (still equipped on Epic) make for quite a dominating show. Improved Precise Shot ensures very heavy mob damage and crowd control. She uses a Onyx Panther to aid with aggro management a bit, healing it with Rejuvenation Cocoon as needed, but doesn’t rely on it.

I’ve directly uploaded these videos (trying once more to get the overall brightness correct with better success) for far better clarity, and am using Amara to add captioning, rather than using Windows Movie Mangler. Just click the CC button if you don’t see the captions on the Garamol run. The second video has no commentary: 1 movie = 1,000,000 words.

 

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.)

Poison Mastery: “You Are Already Dead”

fukiyaKiricletica continues her swift leveling, completing the adventures necessary to reach the little village of Eveningstar to enjoy the Wheloon adventures.

She’s now level 19 and looking forward to level 20’s benefit of Ninja Mastery, the last core ability that gives +2 DEX, extra competence in shortswords, shuriken and kamas, and gives Vorpal to all of these weapons.

Her mastery of poison use continues to reveal insights. Inside “Disciples of Shar,” I had an opportunity to test one poisoning effect that’s harder to prepare but yields impressive results.

Kiricletica, being a Ninja Spy, is best in fighting against the non-demonic, non-undead, non-living construct enemies, which are often never immune to poison or negative energy damage. The Shar worshippers in the cave lair were all human, with a few mephits, wolves and a special pet as exceptions.

In making this journey, I’ve all but fully dedicated Kiri towards the fights she will win as she approaches level 20. While she will flag herself in the Vale of Twilight for The Shroud raid to build up a good Green Steel weapon, I may have her skip adventures where the bulk of the enemies are poison/negative energy immune, extraplanar or non-humanoid. Kiri (in this life at least) may never see the plane of Shavarath. Adventures that involve the aberrations of Xoriat and the Dreaming Dark might also be limited in scope with her self-imposed soloing rules for the same reasons.

The central reasoning involves one attack. The easiest form of crowd control I find highly reliable isn’t the paralyzing effect of the Envenomed Blade. Rather, it’s the Water/Dark/Water finishing move, Freezing the Lifeblood.

Rather than low 17 Will save of paralysis from the Blades that many foes shake off after a few seconds, Freezing the Lifeblood is a Fortitude save roll (10+ Monk level+Wisdom modifier), making it far harder for enemies to escape with my 39 DC  (includes some Mystic Training of +2 to finisher DCs from Henshin Mystic, leaving them quite helpless for a full minute as they try and fail to escape. What I freeze stays frozen.

The key to getting this finisher working, as noted in past posts, is the Elemental ki attack, Unbalancing Strike. It counts as a Water ki attack as it hits and causes a Bluff effect that momentarily spins about and stops an enemy from attacking me, freeing me up to strike a Fists of Darkness, another Unbalancing Strike and the completed finisher that roots them in place and at my mercy.

I’ll often just freeze one enemy after another (starting with the healers or enemy mages) before working on others, systematically slowing the entire crowd to dispatch at my whim. WIS, rather than DEX, is my go-to stat now if I want to ensure that this attack holds even an Epic-level enemy.

Completing this move is the No Mercy enhancement. On helpless enemies, you get 10/20/30% more damage to put them away much faster.

I loved attacking the Disciples of Shar. Despite being orange-named, the Lifeblood freeze worked quite well on them, halting their magic attacks, making the cutting down of their guards far easier. The Disciples are still moaning from the Ninja Poison DoTs they’ve absorbed once surrendering. Their guards hardly stood a chance with the armor-piercing force of becoming paralyzed by my Envenomed Blades or my finisher. A few strikes to remove about 3/4 health while they’re helpless and the Ninja Poison does the rest, killing several of them while they’re frozen and I’ve already moved deeper into the cavern.

I readied for the end-fight. The boss, Dedryk Black, is guarded by one final Disciple and many more minions. I concentrate my attacks on the last Disciple as she’s more damaging in combination with Black’s many attempts to disintegrate and use Destruction spells. The last Disciple surrenders, the minions are done, and so I attack Black, dosing him with poison again and again, to shut him down.

I buff up and go to Sneak for the last fight as the Owlbear is released. I sneaked behind him when I began my attack. Strangely, it didn’t turn around to face me, so I was able to beat the creature relentlessly with Envenomed Blades. By my third round, the owlbear had at least 15 stacks of Ninja Poison.

And then I switched my Ninjutsu to Poison Exploit.

Poison Exploit purges an enemy of all stacks with extra damage, starting at 1d20 per stack. I put 1 Action Point to the Deadly Exploits enhancement, which magnifies the damage to 1d30 (two tiers remain for 1d50 damage per stack).

The result:

You hit Owlbear with 799 points of poison damage.

Oh, yeah. And that was with only the first rank trained. By three ranks, the damage may be at around 1,000 points lost to poison alone.

In a return to “Eyes of Stone” on Elite, Hesstess the medusa got a taste of her own poison, nailed with over 900 damage from Poison Exploit in one dramatic “Finish her!” move.

So, cumultative, magnified and bursted poison damage is the hallmark of the Ninja Spy. And we can still add in the classic negative energy pummeling for more pain.

The Attack Strategy

I’ve chewed on some names for a combo series I’ve found myself gravitating towards in recent adventures, names from the most esoteric (“Kiss of the Black Widow”) to obviously simple (“Poison Finisher”).

I decided for snark. Let’s nickname it as “The Socratic Method” for now (but see an update to this naming at the end of this post).

Those who have experienced the Method include:

The Method is administered with two or more fast uses of the Touch of Despair finishing move with the Ninjutsu style Poisoned Soul in play. For faster dosing, Envenomed Blades make cut after cut, adding more (untyped) weapon poison that’s magnified in damage from the Ninja Poison debuff, with a chance of adding additional stacks of  Ninja Poison from Sting of the Ninja on critical hits. Blowing Poisoned Darts every 30 seconds also add 1-4 more stacks.

The Socratic Method also includes the negative energy and fortification-damaging debuff of Touch of Despair, where a Touch of Death hit can then punish for 500 or more damage to go with the poisoning.

Here’s the Method in a nutshell.

  1. Attack with a primed Touch of Despair/Poisoned Soul finisher
  2. Add Poisoned Darts
  3. Normal attack for 10 seconds, adding a Touch of Death strike
  4. A second Touch of Despair/Poisoned Soul finisher
  5. Retreat, charge up Touch of Despair, repeating once or twice
  6. If desired, switch to Poison Exploit, complete Touch of Despair finisher to rip all poison out

The key is speed: Steps 1-4 are completed within 20-25 seconds. At this point, the enemy has a minimum of 250 damage (on a save from ToD) plus at least 11 stacks of Ninja Poison (10 from Poisoned Soul, 1 at minimum from the Darts). Ninja Poison is 1d4 per 3 seconds per stack for 15 seconds. Any stack is a 5% vulnerability debuff. Thus, the enemy has at least a 55% vulnerability to all poison damage and 25% vulnerability to negative energy and fortification.

One-third to one-half of an enemy’s hit points are often gone by the first wave since the actual numbers are stronger.

To make things interesting, taking advantage of both debuffs, I wield my Night’s Grasp shortsword (negative energy damage) with an Envenomed Blade, adding more negative energy damage. The purple damage numbers from both poison and negative energy’s havoc are quite impressive.

The Method’s advantage comes from the substantial damage you can put on a single enemy while avoiding becoming surrounded (if a mob is present) while minimizing your own damage.

Poison Exploit is slower and harder to set up. But against a high-HP red-named enemy where lingering too close for too long is dangerous, or when the enemy is low on HP but may get healed before your swords can kill him, the Poison Exploit with a simultaneous hit with Touch of Death could yield thousands of points of immediate, boss-ending damage at once. Remember that Ninja Poison is always slamming DoTs into an enemy even if you have only a few stacks applied. And the poison vulnerability of Ninja Poison amplifies any poison-typed damage from your weapons. Poison Exploit is simply a satisfying last bite that helps with really durable enemies.

The Lords of Dust/Servants of the Overlord

As noted in the past, Karas is dangerous at all difficulties with his potent sneak attack damage that bypasses your fortification. After dispatching his lackey, Gnomon, I charged up a Touch of Despair and struck. Twice, then three times.

I waltzed with Keras for a few moments after before he gave his “my death is only the beginning” final words and collapsed. By the time I was done with him, he had accumulated 80-123+ damage from poison DoTs every 3 seconds.

I dreaded the run on “Servants.” I knew death would be coming for me on swift wings if I didn’t successfully bypass the Drow hordes. I didn’t die but blew through half of my Heal scrolls while trying to kill the priestesses that kept trying to disintegrate me.

The end-fight itself is a mob-fest. As with some other fights, I had to make up tactics as I went. In this case, I chose to mix in as much stealth as I could, pulling the fights to the corners limited aggro. Jariliths are just nasty since they have a stealth-defeating sense, as do the spiders. I summoned an elemental to help at the start to draw attention as best it could.

When Ryo and her pet Herzou appeared, I concentrated on pulling and destroying the demon (having only Touch of Death as an effective weapon against this poison-immune behemoth) before applying the Method to Ryo’s face.

But there are always naysayers. So I’m adding a video to show how Kiri’s affectionate afflictions take down the haughty. I like killing Karas since he’s quite the Worthy Opponent.

Here’s a video of “Lords of Dust,” now completed on Heroic Elite. Just watch the amount of purple damage on Keras. Just watch. I didn’t need to use Poison Exploit on him since his HP dived so dramatically from the poisoning alone.

After I fatally poison something, I move on. There’s no need to linger,  even if they are still moving or talking. Gnomon and Keras were already dead.

My apologies for the video’s lack of sound. I made a goof in my sound settings so Bandicam lacked a sound channel. It’s a long video of 37 minutes so take breaks if you care to watch the details.

Update: Teacher Saekee enjoyed my post but wasn’t digging my bad punnage of my poisoning technique. Saekee took a little time out to make some suggestions, like “Viper,” which stuck well with me. So, I think I’ll rename this poisoning technique as the “Viper Style.”  A viper is a class of snakes, they inject venom and sound dangerous and mystical as Monks should be, but the name gets rid of the snark. Sorry, Socrates. “The Hemlock Maneuver” also gets the heave-ho.

Kiri and Redwillow’s Ruins

One of latest challenges with Kiricletica, the solo ninja that completes all quests without any parties and with as low a kill count as possible, is “Redwillow’s Ruins.”

I love the layout of this quest. In the usual way most people play it, you slay stuff, grab the personal effects of the doomed halfling party, visit the Drow encampment and slay them, perhaps enter the caves with a good Rogue to disable traps for some extra loot, and then take on a swarm of giants and kill their boss.

Kiri’s mission is sizably different. The required objectives, in short, are to retrieve all the personal effects and then kill Tor’gahn, the giant boss.

In theory, I shouldn’t have to kill anything except Tor’gahn. John B. noted in my last post to the contrary, however. Each of the effects is guarded by a boss. I’ll need to isolate and kill each boss and then somehow attempt to recover the items while some mobs may still be lurking.

Going in on Elite difficulty on this level 6 quest, Kiri’s Hide/Move Silently powers will get their ultimate test to-date. While the enemies overall have greater Spot bonuses commensurate with their CR (probably 10-12), it’s the giants that pose the largest challenge. Many giants possess See Invisibility, which prevents me from lingering close to them, even hidden. Again, John B. noted that these giants aren’t equipped with See Invisibility.

I figured that if I see a giant less than 3 giant body-lengths to me, I need to move away, fast. I’m pushing 30 to H/MS and hope to move it to as high as 36 or so with the Voice of the Master, the Elite Spider Cult Mask buff, and Greater Heroism potions if needed.

The Hide/Spot check is proportional to the size of the thing looking your way. After the new stealth AI went live in Update 19, I’ve noticed that giants see me and party members from way, way off because their size allows a far longer Spot visual arc.

I’m as fast as I can go with Striding items, gained a bit more Monk movement speed, and have maxed out Faster Sneaking to help in power stealthing this one.

I needn’t worry about the giants until the last part of the quest. For now, the most immediate task was to figure out how to distract the various guards around the personal effects. There are some breakables near some of the effects, so I’d have to use them carefully to lure enemies away and then move in fast to pick things up, almost without stopping.

Kiri will go in at level 9, so her level advantage on Elite at quest level 8 won’t be particularly significant. After a bit of rearrangement of action points, Kiri now possesses better passive ki regeneration to keep Shadow Veil available as she wants it, after maxing out the Henshin Mystic ability, Contemplation, to go with her maximized Ninja Spy ability, Stealthy, for a +2 passive bonus that should give her up to 50 stable ki.

The Mission

John B.’s intel was correct. The effects weren’t there, but the bosses were around. After studying things a bit, I decided to back up very far and then use a throwing star to piss off the guard.

It worked. I was able to pull the first boss, a troll, away from the pack and slay him. The first personal effect appeared. I grabbed it while invisible and moving after targeting it. One down.

ScreenShot01022Next came the trolls. Three effects to pick up. Carefully walking the edges off the trail to avoid spawning the scorpions, I successfully pulled the boss troll and slew him.

It took a bit of work to lure away two trolls near the effects without slaying them, but I got it done. Two sets of effects to go.

ScreenShot01023I pulled a relatively solitary hobgoblin boss for the next to last of the effects, but it took some careful targeting (after turning off autotargeting) of the last boss from extremely long-range to isolate and kill him.

A quick use of Shadow Veil and targeting the sealed container in a run and I had all the effects with only 7 enemies killed.

After handing off the personal effects, it was time for Tor’gahn. Buffing up with Sneak and Shadow Veil, I walked forward and into the portal.

Giants and hobgoblins were all about waiting for a fight I was able to deny them. I made a beeline to the boss.

Apparently the bulk of the giants that greet you at the portal make their start from the boss. I confirmed this with a near-nasty surprise as the mob returned to guard the boss–at least 8 giants.

ScreenShot01025With few options, I moved around the mob and behind Tor’gahn to study an idea.

If I could use the terrain and a few obstacles, I could fight Tor’gahn while obstructing the fight from most of the other giants.

It worked for the most part. I got a few licks on Tor’gahn before a few other guards joined in. I broke the fight and then hid near a giant relic. Surprisingly, neither the boss or any others followed. I pulled out my Snowstar and threw.

In a few moments, the boss was dead. I got a Devious bonus for only 8 kills on a quest that has a Conquest for 146 enemies. Guess I need to update the DDO Wiki again with the news.

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Kiri and the Attack on Splinterskull

Kiricletica, the solitary ninja, completed the Assault on Splinterskull chain using some creative means. Using stealth tactics whereever possible, it was extremely fun to complete these repetitive quests once more.

Since it’s a long chain where combat on some areas is required, I’ll summarize the highlights.

First Strike

On this first quest I reacquainted myself to the main path, learning where I’d have to fight and opportunities not to fight in later visits. You’re required to kill 20 hobgoblins  so I didn’t send any time of significance in stealth mode.

There are always two to three spiders that appear as you enter Splinterskull cave that you cannot bypass. After time I realized I could kill them in Fire Stance for a boost to my ki pool for using Shadow Veil (more on this in a moment).

The Hobgoblin’s Captives

ScreenShot00988This was my first stealth opportunity. I botched an attempt to bypass the first group of hobgoblins but learned a way to do so that I’d apply later.

I wanted to bypass as much as possible in the side rooms to reach the captives. Of the 125 enemies I could’ve killed for Conquest, I needed to eliminate only 14 to gain my first Devious bonus.

The trick was the use of Shadow Veil, here and throughout later quests. It allowed me to move much closer to patrols since its invisibility greatly reduced the Spot bonus unless I got within a body length.

ScreenShot00989I used levers and spoke to each captive to free them.

Those actions made no noise, despite their guards standing very close in front of their cells, completely oblivious.

Yarkuch’s War-plans

This one required combat to obtain each set of plans.

Out of at least 74 enemies available for an Onslaught bonus, I needed to kill only 27 (2 killed themselves).

I didn’t activate any kill bonus, so it wasn’t a poor achievement.

Whisperdoom’s Spawn

More inescapable spiders. By now, however, I’d mastered how to bypass the first mob by using a shuriken to break a box left of their first hallway entrance, then skulking to the group’s right as they investigated. Shadow Veil allowed me to bypass worgs and hobgoblins in the next two halls.

ScreenShot00992But inside the largest hall before the circular caves sat one of the three daughters of Whisperdoom. I threw a star at it to pull it out of the hall and kill it before it revealed me in the larger hall.

The patrols in the circular caves (where you later use the sealed door to the inner stronghold) start at a fixed spot each time, allowing me to activate their patrol and walk behind them if necessary. I was able to completely avoid them and enter Whisperdoom’s cave.

ScreenShot00993After luring out the two black widows that guard the final room, I ranged as many of the 20 eggs before Whisperdoom got in the way and I had to bludgeon the rest. Out of a possible 63 kills for an Aggression bonus, I slew only 7 for another Devious bonus.

I’ve been updating DDO Wiki’s information for this and each quest to add Devious bonuses. Apparently, no one’s tried to try for these achievements before.

The Deadly Package: The Stronghold Key

With my stealth tactics perfected, I needed only 7 kills for yet another Devious bonus out of at least 64 available for Onslaught. I avoided all but the last Hobgoblin Avenger, who died after I reached the inner entrance and had made the completion.

The Deadly Package: Agent of the Darguul

This one is very short but has quite a few guards by the raised bridge. I used a star to drop the bridge and then moved undetected to speak to Lhor-Tragu to complete with no kills and an Insidious Cunning bonus, the best score you can get in a stealth run.

I was feeling cocky for the next two quests.

Doom of the Witch-doctor: The Way to Zulkash and Zulkash, Herald of Woe

I bypassed all but 7 enemies to reach the inner stronghold entrance for a Devious bonus.

In “Herald of Woe” comes the four wheels to set to drop the barrier to Zulkash and his totem. I avoided any kills as I made my way over the guarded bridge and waterway, into the first set of inner halls and past the former holding area of the flesh render.

But how to activate the four wheels?

I tried a variation on my diversion technique. Out of line of sight, I broke a crate, used Shadow Veil and sneaked over to the first wheel to turn it once. To my pleasant surprise, using the wheel neither broke my stealth or invisibility.

ScreenShot01005I diverted the second wheel using another crate to distract, turning it four times. The third wheel was trickier with more enemies and spread farther apart, but I succeeded on this. Still no kills.

The last wheel had too few breakables. Thanks to auto-targeting, I hit two enemies and had to eliminate them. But I was able to skulk to the wheel and avoid dispatching two other guards.

Now for the final room and Zulkash.

ScreenShot01008I buffed a bit and then entered the room, climbing up to where Zulkash stood by his totem. I slew him and, evading others to avoid increasing my kill count, I made it up to destroy the totem to complete this quest.

Out of a possible 75 enemies slain for Onslaught, I killed 4–the totem counted as one itself–for a Devious bonus.

ScreenShot01009That completion was absolutely incredible; I never thought you could complete that section with so few kills.

After this run, I was only 1,000 or so points from level 7. A quick series of slays in the Searing Heights completed that requirement so I could boost my skills and wear a Cloak of Shadows to bring my Hide/Move Silently scores to nearly 30. I was going to need that advantage. The last two quests were completed on Hard,  a level 7 difficulty I completed at level 6. Going in on Hard again for the final quests, I’d be a level 7 in a level 8 difficulty.

The Way to Yarkuch and Yarkuch’s Last Stand

Time for the last two quests in the chain. For this last run, I decided to capture the entire run for your review, specifically, how to evade the mobs on the path to the inner stronghold, and then the final quest itself.

The final quest mixes things up to avoid fighting. I managed a Discreet bonus. I couldn’t add the last minutes after completion due to YouTube video time constraints, but it’s clear how few enemies I had to kill to reach it.

Kiricletica is getting pretty versatile. Adding more Sneak Attack damage will help to quick-kill some things in the future. She should be able to move to Elite quests on a regular basis as she approaches level 9.

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