Purple Haze

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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.

The Viper meets the Spider

FaerunDrowPriestess

Spiders have been known to kill snakes. But the Drow aren’t expecting a Ninja.

Kiricletica just reached level 20 and is gearing up for Epic mode. She kept to her solo-only limits except for a couple of times where I joined some guildmates on quests I’d already completed alone, like “Jungles of Khyber.”

Some folks might say that Epic solo play is easier since your character gains some rather, well, epic gear. I think the only edge you get is from using the right Epic Destiny as well as strong numbers in your class’s “magic” stat.

After a little study, Kiri’s first pick is Shadowdancer. Improved stealth, some sneak attack, immunity to energy drain, permanent incorporeality, improved invisibility, bonuses to Dodge, a Dominate power–what’s not to like?

Sure, the epic set gear can really help. Kiri’s first priority this weekend was in assembling the Sun Soul set for better defenses and stats, finally retiring my venerable White Dragonscale Robe. That meant a long sojourn in the King’s Forest to find encounters to obtain any commendations to trade for the items.

“The Druid’s Deep” chain I completed earlier helped here since you can run that series and gain 3 commendations of your choice as a chain end-reward, if you’re desperate for more commendations in a relative hurry.

I’ve had a small taste of Underdark Drow from “The Druid’s Curse,” the end-quest of that chain, with a few Drow that appear in an optional cave. It stung a little but Kiri held her own.

But now, it’s finally time to see what Kiri can do against one of the game’s most challenging enemies: the Priestesses of Lolth.

Come Into My Lair, the Spider Says

Drow Priestesses are effectively Clerics with serious backup from their goddess, Lolth. Imagine having your god on speed-dial.

From Divine Punishment, Inflict Wounds, Cometfall, Hold Monster–the Priestess alone can hurt you fast and badly if left alone.

What’s worse about the Priestess is her special regenerative ability. Priestesses are rarely solitary with many lesser Drow at her beck and call. Should her health fall to a critical level and provided she is not Helpless, she’ll leech on the nearest humanoid and then go all Super Saiyan on you with her infamous 30-second Favored of the Goddess power-up: “Having performed a sacrifice to the Goddess, you have increased spell damage, greatly improved resistances to incoming damage, and an incredible boost to spell resistance.”

Typically, to kill a Priestess, you must kill her minions. Should she happen to have hostages or slaves, she’ll eat them, too, if they’re close by.

But I have not had the honor, the privilege of introducing those nasty spider-worshippers to the power of Ninja Poison at full strength as opposed to the slower- or no-dosing that the ninjas Szyncletica the star-thrower or the unarmed Ryncletica could do.

I didn’t know if the Priestess’s spider-style could shrug off all the damage-over-time stacks I can deliver from Kiri’s Viper Style (Freezing the Lifeblood to paralyze with three+ hits of Poisoned Soul Ninjutsu using Envenomed Blades to magnify damage) with her regenerative ability. So far, nothing I’ve killed has the capacity to remove poison from itself that I could note in the heat of battle. That’s likely a game mechanic as NPCs don’t seem to care about using Panacea or related remove-poison effects. And will her Favored of the Goddess status help against the unrelenting power of poisoning?

There was also the matter of trying to make the Priestess quite helpless so she cannot regenerate. A common solution for unarmed Monks is to stun Priestesses silly and load up the damage, stunning again before she can recover if possible.

Kiri had a better idea, using Freezing the Lifeblood to hold down the Priestess much longer than stuns or normal paralysis since it requires a Fortitude save to escape, not Will (which a Priestess, a high WIS enemy, should shake off). Provided Kiri’s not fighting a Red-Named Priestess, taking down the lesser varieties should work well.

But even for the Red-Named kind that cannot be paralyzed, like Priestess Vicala Szind in “Impossible Demands,” Kiri should be able to use Viper Style for 200+ dots and then switch to Poison Exploit for a quick rip of the poison sac before she might regenerate. At what point she regenerates is the question I can’t remember. At 25%, maybe?

And Kiri’s blades, as a Ninja Master, now are Vorpal weapons with greater critical hit and damage modifiers. She’s the first character that uses shortswords almost exclusively (save oozes and maybe a wisp or two), so higher damage is important.

Legendary Damage

While Shadowdancer will be Kiri’s first destiny, Legendary Dreadnought may be her second school, skipping over Grandmaster of Flowers until after LD is trained. Epic play will have epic fighting so Kiri’s stealth will only go so far before a CR30 trash mob will end her without a good counterattack. The defenses, weapon attacks and action boosts will be critical to Kiri’s survival as she grows.

Impossible Demands

After much adventuring in the King’s Forest, finding all the journals and slaying 750 enemies (plus a side quest or two in Eveningstar), I reached level 21, had my full Sun Soul attire, added a Drow Piawfi, pulled out a Drow Shortsword of the Weapon Master just to see what it could do. My WIS was 38 in Ocean Stance, not bad at all to ensure that a Freezing finisher works on EH.

A few close fights in the Forest made me realize that I shouldn’t stay in Ocean Stance all the time. I’d gotten used to it since passive ki regeneration works best from being in Sneak while in that stance. Earth Stance, however, offers maximum AC with Combat Expertise up (bringing her AC to 90 with 15 PRR) and Wind Stance offers 10% Doublestrike and 15% melee speed increase (going to 110% Doublestrike for 6 seconds using one ninja ability, Shadow Double). With the Vestments of the Sun Soul equipped, its Enhanced Ki now provided more than enough ki during any fight to not require continual use of Ocean Stance.

My leveling prior to the quest allowed me to test Viper Style against Orange-Named Drow Priestesses in the Underdark. One always appears en route to the path to the Sschindylryn portal via the King’s Forest entrance.

First rule of Priestess Fight Club: Kill/disable the slavemasters and mages first. I targeted them with Freezing strikes to keep their spells at bay, removed the slavemaster first to turn the slaves over to my side, and then targeted the Priestess with a Freezing attack that held her tight and unable to regenerate despite having many slaves to feed from. All slaves were saved and the priestess could never zap anyone.

I entered “Impossible Demands” on Epic Hard, one level above me.

Reading up on Vicala, I didn’t know she had permanent See Invisibility, not that it matters for the purposes of that quest since you never let yourself get in line-of-sight of her from any distance. On EN, it’s silly-easy to watch the priestess make her rounds since she appears on your map. I’ve done in on EH just fine without that aid.

I did bring in a Gold Seal Rogue to disable all the spell wards along the way but did not involve it in any fighting. Those of you in the know realize that the spell ward proximity make it very hard to navigate or fight, and I didn’t want to discover at that time if the wards affected the hostages in any way. My goal was not to be seen, eliminate all Drow (required or Vicala will regenerate on anyone left during the final fight) and save all the hostages. Since I wasn’t getting the help from the map with Epic Hard, this was a small concession to the difficulty.

Vicala makes a transit from top of inner stairs closest to the entrance to the basement and back in 2:30 seconds. (I time it.) My beat-down of Vicala at the quest’s start was promising; her only counter to my Ninja Poison was Divine Punishment, which hurt, but not nearly as badly as the damage she endured.

I had the hireling remove the four spell wards along the upper level, parked it in passive-mode at the entrance, then went to work with Freezing strikes at the mages first before removing the fighters. An optional fight with Warleader Speitar, a nasty Blademaster, took longer than I liked since I had to fight in a small area and had problems keeping his support team out of the picture. But he did fall after a lot of poisoning.

The hostages have to be released at the right time and place or Vicala or others will kill them on sight. Never a problem for me but you do have to pay attention.

In the end, all hostages were freed, all kidnappers vanquished, and the final fight of viper versus spider ended with Vicala simply unable to withstand 150+ point dots of Ninja Poison for very long.

Any search on Google on spiders versus snakes show the spider winning. Obviously, it cheats. So, fortune goes to the prepared–and the more poisonous.

The Unquiet Graves

Kiri’s Viper Style was challenged by the Dark Incantors, the arch-necromancers occupying the graveyard in “The Unquiet Graves.” Back in on Epic Hard, one level up from me. No trap-monkey hirelings (or any hirelings) used here.

My first challenge was ensuring I had Death Ward active at all times. The Incanters will zap you in a microsecond using all kinds of death spells, even on EN. I had two Visors of the Flesh Render Guards handy for 7 minutes each, with two 20-minute Death Ward potions on reserve. I could use the only rest shrine later to recharge the clickies with no concerns about ki drainage since I regenerate very well during a fight.

Incanter #1 was easy to slay with Viper Style leaving him 3/4 dead by the time he ran off to his reinforcements in the graveyard proper. I had to switch from my Envenomed Blades to disrupting kamas to help remove the zombies.

Incanter #2 fell to the same tactics as #1 but his spell attacks left me challenged to keep my HP up. Viper Style allows my poison to attack him (with enough doses) while I healed and regrouped. I decided to use the shrine after this fight to recharge the death ward clickies.

On Incanter #3, I nailed the two closest fighters with Freezing finishers and removed the one zombie that reinforced the Incanter’s damage protections. I pulled the fight away from the small graveyard or else the hidden Drow roaming there would also get involved in the fight.

I backtracked to the large graveyard and pulled the Incanter behind the large mausoleum and was somewhat lucky to attract only one necromancer and archer, rather than the whole swarm of his support. Kiri had a hard time getting her pattern going with all the minions chasing her.

That’s the Viper’s weakness: If Kiri has too much to fight, using Viper Style can’t work as I’m trying to survive more than I’m able to attack.

I concentrated a bit and remembered that the Incanter was my only target. I swiped at others for ki and kept aligning my Touch of Despair attacks at the last Incanter to lay on as much Ninja Poison as I could before being forced to retreat.

The last Incanter fell but looting the chest required a Flash Bang to blind everything long enough for me to sneak to the chest, loot and use a Word of Recall for a teleport-escape. Got a pair of Grave Wrappings for my trouble.

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.