From the Silence Comes Energy

Ryn3aSorry for the dubious record of 6 months without so much as a “hello.”

As they say in my guild, “real life comes first.” My new job also reoriented my free time, enjoying family and caring for their needs and my own, while my priority to game had dropped. While I do get in two hours or so of DDO per week since March, that pales to the 15+ hours I would find the play years before. Burnout was also a factor.

Thankfully, DDO keeps changing, so now there is more for me to explore and consider, even if I’m reduced to only monthly or bi-monthly posts.

Too much has changed for me to delve immediately to in-depth analysis, so let’s go to the basics, which I can expand on in later posts.

  • Update 36 Named Items: A few interesting baubles for the Monk class, but nothing struck me as spectactular or notable, save perhaps for the Red Fens set updates, which are always handy for mid-level Monks as they struggle to level 12.
  • Quintessica, my Henshin Mystic, has completed many a Deathwyrm run, showing her general competence in stick fighting. But still that tree lacks improved stick-fighting and defensive skills over other classes. I’ll be reviewing that stock build to see if other trees could improve it.
  • Update 37’s introduction of missile deflection seemed a bit redundant to me since the Deflect Arrows feat, as well as miss-chance effects tend to fulfill this role. To date, I’ve not seen any item that provides this feature. I hope to add it to Pynthetica, my original Zen Archer. Changes I couldn’t discern some months ago seemed to make her far more susceptible to injury in raids, as if her miss-chance powers were negated.
  • After a very successful first-life, the Zen Bowmaster Paracleta got a heroic reincarnation. Originally built as a damage-dealer, the Arcane Archer DC changes allowed Paracleta to become a potent crowd-controlling monster. This time, I’ll work on additional tweaks to increase both damage and AA DCs.
  • My proudest build is the Poison Master, my Drow Ninja Spy. Great DPS, a versatile scout, lots of tactical options, Ryncletica’s most serious foes are those she cannot overcome with ninja tactics or poison–generally, the undead and demons/devils. She’s about to go through Deathwyrm runs to improve her weaponry as well as giving me to to play with options. I may create a new alt with less baggage to firm up the build’s first-life play options and variations.
  • The Sentient Weapons feature is nostalgic, taking me back to the Neverwinter Nights game expansion that introduced Enserric, a sentient weapon that threw humorous quips as you fought with it while also offering a power bonus.  I’m still studying the impact of this feature and may write about it another time. I do love the idea of feeding said weapons items that you collect that build up over time in banks and caches but cannot use yet cannot sell. DDO sometimes seems intent on turning us into hoarders without ways to utilize what we collect.
  • Update 37’s new raid and the Ravendark quests are just the thing for a Shintao Monk. I hope to play it through with Lynncletica soon. The named items here are actually very interesting, although gathering them from what are probably the pinnacle raids available in the game seems a little defeating.

I hope to get the Monk guide updated (perhaps with an entirely new look) to clear out outdated information and perhaps focus on gameplay-specific features of my builds to emphasize how to play the Monk classes as whole. No promises as to when this will happen; I need to study the best way, if any, to make that happen.

See you sooner, than later.

The Efficient Gamer

Ryn4Being an older gamer (“When I was your age, we played with 8-bits…and we LIKED IT!) I’m not as keen as jumping on the bandwagon of some other new game. I have been tempted to try out WoW just to see what the fuss was about.

My new job (yay!) consists of three or four 12-hour work days. The advantage of that is a LOT of days off to decompress, sleep and catch up on work.

This new routine has reduced my DDO time a bit, because, as my guild’s prime rule says, “real life comes first.”

That doesn’t mean I’m not playing at least two to three hours per week. Still doing the same things, just a bit slower.

Pynthetica is nearing 29 once more as a Zen Archer. I’m looking into improving this build once more, as I might have noted, by checking out other races and classes. My last task from a gear standpoint is (1) craft up level 30-ish items that are optimally placed (WIS, DEX) so to allow use of named items, replacing some loot-gen items that aren’t in good spots; (2) Complete a Legendary Shroud and craft up ingredients to make my Legendary Green Steel Mineral Longbow with “You Cannot Evade Me”: an augment that spikes Insightful DEX by 1d8+2 for 20 seconds and causes 1d8+2 Dexterity damage. Apropos for the ever-evading Zen Archer, do you think?

Paracleta, my very successful Zen Bowmaster, finally has her Complete Thunder-Forged Longbow. Being a first-lifer, I’ll possibly eTR her first and burn Shiradi karma for a Doubleshot 3% bonus to bring her ultimate standing Doubleshot to 74% with gear but before any use of Ten Thousand Stars or Manyshot, which sends her Doubleshot to as high as 241%. I should begin work on her Legendary Green Steel Longbow, too. Once back at level 30, it’ll be back to a regular Heroic True Reincarnation to play around with some things. Paracleta was built as a counter-attack to comments about the Zen Archer. As serendipity would have it, she found a very strong niche. This character will have a long and very dangerous life.

I’d love to get more time in on Ryncletica, my third build, the Poison Master. She’s incredibly dangerous with her DPS and poison damage but could use some offensive adjustments over several areas. The great thing about her is that she’s effective at any level because of her build design. Time to play with other races, although this may reduce a little poison damage and require feats I get for free as a Drow. She’s also lacking powerful Thunder-Forged weapons, but her innate speed and damage is already good. Defense is the central need for the Poison Master.

Lynncletica has proven herself as a very versatile tank over many raids. There’s little more she can be, so I may never TR her again, reserving her as a contingency tank for raids that lack one. We’ll see. Meanwhile, new Dragonborn Shintao Scythetica may be filling in as I test this race with Shintao training.

Been thinking of how to improve Szyncletica, my old original Shuricannon. I should look at Firewall’s Shuricannon 2.0 notes and integrate them into her next life. Meanwhile she’s working on a Thunder-Forged shuriken since Pyn, Paracleta and Lynn are done with their many “Deathwyrm” raid rotations. Like Pyn, Szyn is desperately in need for optimizing her gear, so she’s aiding that being the central contributor of loot-gen gear to be crunched into Cannith essences for my crafter to use and grow.

With the Update 33 changes, I’d also want to revisit some older ideas. One that fell by the wayside with the enhancement tree introduction was the “Avatar” build that leverages the strengths of each and every Monk stance. Now that the Monk stances are themselves augmented yet again and with improvements (and more personal experience with) Epic Destinies, I might be able to take one of my characters through such a development.

And then there’s the recent changes that have made stealth (and, in the case of Rogues, assassination) that make this ability much more hazardous to use. I still have my solo-stealth master, Kiricletica, to study how to augment stealth skills against a dungeon that, on sensing you, truly alerts whole squads at you. Can a ninja still use their disappearance and stealth skills to escape reliably?

Thanks for still coming by to read, although I cannot post as often as I’d like.

Zen Archery and Returning Again and Again

archer

I’ve been mostly re-leveling Pynthetica. She completed a run as a new Monk archer build, the Shadowbow Ninja (great damage) and is now back as a Zen Archer with her second Epic True Resurrection.

On Pyn’s first eTR, the larger problem was finding and using all the lower level equipment. Not the bows: I had several good ones, especially the free Unwavering Ardency (from the 10th Anniversary Party) that’s more than powerful enough until you can wield a Pinion. I simply wanted useful goggles, boots, trinkets and the like.

Cannith Crafting to the rescue. Update 32’s revised features really helped customize new tools that supported normal and Insightful bonuses for any items. Most importantly, anything I made with bound shards is bound-to-account, making storage of the items easier by transferring them to my bank characters as I TR.

By finally getting my crafting level up to level 29 or so right now, Pyn’s equipped with Tendon Slice and Armor Piercing bonuses, Insightful Dodge and ability scores. Fortification was the only thing I couldn’t swing in, so I had to use some older Heroic items to keep it (and Deathblock) in place until I reached level 25 or so. On return to level 28 (where the bulk of my best gear is usable at minimum level), the central crafted items may be the goggles (WIS/Insightful WIS for maximum Ranged Power and AC), boots (Dodge/Insightful Dodge), gloves (DEX/Insightful DEX, Tendon Slice) and perhaps bracers as a wild card (Resistance). The necklace slot is also up for grabs as the Epic Golden Guile is less useful now, but I have no idea what to add. Same is true for perhaps one ring.

As to what Epic Past Life feats I choose? Doubleshot and Fortification. I wanted a quick 2nd Doubleshot feat after epic life #2 but I was impatient in rebuilding that karma back in the Primal tree. I’ll grab that second Doubleshot stack (3% per stack, maximum 3 stacks) on another eTR.

Changes with Updates 33 and Improved Deception did affect the Zen Archer build with mostly positives than negative. For one, more Dodge and stacking maximum Dodge with the Monk stance adjustments, so Pyn has around 38% Dodge (with items) in Water stance. But what the stances gave, it also took away by moving the critical threat multiplier from Earth stance to Fire stance. As Fire stance is rather WIS-lowering and gives no benefits while in ranged attack, the Zen Archer would only go to Earth stance for a little more PRR now. Wind stance remains only useful for a DEX boost and gives no other benefit for a ranged (as opposed to thrown) weapon user.

The bluff spinning effect that Improved Deception created was defined as a bug with Update 34, so that’s gone. More challenging is the aggro change in shooting one enemy in or near a group of others, which aggros the entire group. For me, I’ve adjusted my gameplay to use height and barriers that restrict a mob’s ability to bum-rush my party. I still use two or three hirelings (thanks for the extra kitty, SSG) in solo play to grab the aggro first when practical.

When there’s nothing to slow down a zerg attack, I ramp up my own. The Zen Archer still has potent damage per target with all of its Ranged Power and the ability to use Ten Thousand Stars and Manyshot to improve attack speed and Ranged Power. She may not be using Improved Precise Shot (she’s a sniper) but she takes down single enemies so rapidly that the change isn’t particularly bad. (I am considering, as you should, adding IPS as an option for faster clearing as one of my last Epic feats, since the aggro change can work against you.)

Combined with the right bow, mobs of 10 or more are killed rapidly. Add in a few uses of Shiradi talents such as Otto’s Whistler and Pin and smaller groups are easily managed.

The Zen Archer’s talent to stand and defeat armies of enemy archers remains very good. With the extra Dodge in Water stance, it’s better. No other ranged/thrown weapons character I know of could stand toe-to-toe against the gnolls in Epic “Chains of Flame” without losing 3/4 of their HP or worse. With all her defenses up, Pyn might lose 1/8 of her HP.

So, I’m considered the new Racial Reincarnation options. As an Elf, Pyn could work to get that extra +1 DEX and Action Point. But frankly, I see this new option as a bit underwhelming, especially since the price of using Racial Reincarnation works like a Heroic True Reincarnation (favor, flags, quest completions reset, empty your TR cache). That’s a lot of sacrifice for a little gain. And Racial Reincarnation is mutually exclusive to other reincarnations. You can’t make both a Racial and Heroic/Epic TR at the same time.

 

The Shadowbow Ninja

The recent changes to the Monk enhancement trees enhanced the already-great Ninja Spy tree. Of note:

  • Advanced Ninja Training: Any non-handwrap, non-quarterstaff weapon you can wield while Centered gains bonuses.
  • Diversion: For 50 ki, you create a hate-magnet training dummy (Cooldown: 3 minutes)
  • Ninja Master: +2 DEX and +2 WIS, Vorpal gained on any non-handwrap, non-quarterstaff weapon you can wield, +1 Competence bonus to critical hit multiplier.

I saw one immediate benefit to my Zen Archer and Bowmaster: I could save some AP by removing Aerenal Grace from the Elf tree since Advanced Ninja Training provided DEX-to-Damage for longbows. That’s done.

Then I kept looking at the new Ninja tree as a whole. Next to the Rogue and its trees, it is the strongest class for Sneak Attack damage (The Deepwood Stalker has better general ranged Sneak Attack but you have to power it first). I’ve leveraged this with the Zen Archer, adding a bit of Sneak Attack damage that procs when the many Deception effects and items she carries Bluffs the enemy and adds in that damage.

But the Sneak Attack bonuses were a bonus, not the focus of the Zen Archer.

So what would happen if you could maximize the power of Sneak Attack from a ranged perspective while also providing better Ranged Power to magnify all that, all while not compromising the basic miss-chance defenses of the ninja?

So I started drawing out a new build. I call it the Shadowbow Ninja.

Pynthetica-Shadowbow.jpgAll-Monk, all-ninja, a little Harper, and Elf. Unlike the other Zen bow-wielders, the Shadowbow uses the full Ninja Spy tree, gaining the full Sneak Attack bonuses as well as all the core enhancements. In particular, the last core, Ninja Master, adds more DEX and WIS, Vorpal on any equipped bow (and other weapons) and bonus to the crit multiplier.

The Shadowbow is a sniper, as does the Zen Archer, but it isn’t as dependent on the bow. With a pair of shortswords, it can do the standard deadly ninja stuff: Finishing moves to debilitate and eliminate targets, and Ninja Poison in melee fighting.

In this respect, the Shadowbow shares more traits with the traditional Ranger, alternating between ranged and melee attack. But the Shadowbow Ninja is all-Monk, gaining the benefits of stronger defenses than many Rangers, particularly the miss-chance effects and high Reflex saves, perhaps higher than the Zen Archer itself.

Like the Zen Archer, the Shadowbow adds in additional Ranged Power points through a few points in Harper Agent. She also takes advantage of a new ninja enhancement: Action Boost: Melee/Ranged Power, to get a +20 boost no matter the attack style.

The new Deadly Striker tier 5 adds a +1 Competence bonus to the bow’s critical threat range.

The Shadowbow sacrifices the improved defenses of the Zen Archer for that extra damage, so Pyn says goodbye to Deflect Arrows and her Elven Shadow Dragonmark for gaining Displacement. But Paracleta is similar limited so thankfully the loss of these two defenses can be worked around.

The Shadowbow is very stealthy, as are most ninjas. Because of the bonuses from Ninja Spy, she can also wield shurikens quite well, although not with as much prowess as the Poison Master (a Drow that gains natural proficiency bonuses) while similar to the Shuricannon, at least with Vorpal thrown weapons.

In any attack where the enemy is bluffed, aggroed or helpless, the Shadowbow takes full advantage. With vorpal, Sneak Attack and No Mercy  in play, there’s 30% more damage to helpless–and ninjas can make enemies helpless in three separate ways by melee. In Heroic play, effects such as Freezing Ice can make enemies helpless through ranged attacks, but in Epic, the gloves are off with Shiradi Champion’s Nerve Venom freezing enemies, as well as using a Twist of Fate to stack more helpless damage from Fury of the Wild’s Sense Weakness, which stacks with No Mercy. The Vorpal will help a lot against weaker trash.

It should be noted that Sneak Attack has a range limit. Deepwood Stalkers can extend their range, but all others are stuck with a maximum 49-foot distance for applying Sneak Attack with ranged or thrown weapons. This makes the Shadowbow a closer-range attacker for best damage. Pyn still uses a lot of Deception items to cause Bluff effects to slow the enemy down, even if Sneak Attacks cannot occur.

One feat I’ve been dying to add to the Zen bow-wielders with little success was Shot on the Run, recently updated to add +3 Ranged Power in addition to cancelling out any penalties to attack rolls while moving. The Shadowbow can be stationary and build up its Archer’s Focus bonuses to Ranged Power, or haul ass across the battlefield with a barrage of arrows like the Zen Bowmaster but have more superiority in a running attack with a bit more Ranged Power. If this feat doesn’t seem that effective, I can trade it out and reapply AP in the Elf tree for her Shadow Dragonmark and gain Displacement again.

If the going gets rough, the Shadowbow owns the full ninja utility belt: Flash Bang to blind and daze a group, or Diversion to throw a hate-magnet on the field while gaining Invisibility for a few seconds. The Update 33 change only requires 50 ki for this with a cooldown of 3 minutes, so it’s no longer tied to your 2 Meditation turns. That lends the ability be used more often as a tactical tool, such as luring a large mob from your path forward or aiding your rescue attempts in a pitched battle where most or all of your party is dead and you must grab soulstones.

In Epic play, Shadowdancer is a wonderful complement to the build. She’s even adopted a new hooded dark archer look, thanks to glamered clothing derived on the Night Revels gear. With that stuff on, he’s certainly more haunting with Shadow Form (see the image above).

Other melee destinies that worked with the Zen Archer should be useful as well. I love using all the Shadowdancer abilities, especially Executioner’s Shot and causing chaos in enemy packs with Shadow Manipulation. Very fun when dominating a Shadar-kai into chain-whipping the mobs for you while you sneak by to your real targets.

I was eager to try out this build, which I’ve mapped out successfully using Character Builder Lite. I decided to send Pynthetica, the veteran Zen Archer, down this route, and she’s become my first Epic Reincarnation, working her way back up from level 20. I chose the Primal karma to take the Epic Past Life feat Doubleshot for 3% more.

She’s now fully geared as I can make her with a completed Thunder-Forged Longbow with Mortal Fear (which I can’t use until level 28), heroic and Legendary Green Steel Longbows, and many other early bound-to-character bows, so she won’t be lacking for weaponry as she grows, although early levels leave me using my Unwavering Ardency much of the time. Would be great to get Blazing Embers with the upgrade with a Seal of the Black Abbot, which means some time in the rather-boring Orchard of the Macabre. But blinded is helpless and that would help.

Pyn did craft a new rare item: An Epic Bow of the Silver Flame, which works well with its blunt damage against skeletal and mummy undead (with a level 20 Fire gem) when I’m not using my triple-positive Greater Disrupting Heroic Green Steel bow.

I’ve also done something I’ve not done before on a Monk before: A greater effort to experiment with Use Magic Device on this build to add a few extra tricks. I added a little more INT to get the needed skill points without compromising her stealth or Spot skills and adding in CHA and UMD/Insightful UMD items with Heroism potions to raise the UMD DC as best I can.

At level 21 I can use scrolls like Knock and Shield (but although I meet the chance to use Knock, some things, like the locked chest in Spies in the House, just don’t open with my Knock and I don’t know why). I will need higher levels to equip items to raise my skill to use Raise Dead. I want Pyn to be able to perform rescues–gods know there have been some raids where party wipes have been rather tough to recover without a good rescuer amidst alert, temporarily victorious enemies.

Guess that also means I should work on fishing for the popular but oh-so-rare Cursed Blade of Jack Jibbers.

I need to play with her a little bit more before I post the CBL build data. And I still have a lot of rewrites due for the Monk guide, among other real-life challenges.

A Final Review of My Builds

So, all three of the builds I created are sufficiently leveled and geared. I can now update the Monk guide with guidelines on what to expect as you start and level them.

Thanks so much for your suggestions, criticisms and patience as I’ve played through each one. I hope you will find them (or variants you design from them) useful and fun.

I don’t think I’ve made a post where I’ve spoken of them all in-depth. To avoid cluttering up the guide with such subjective drivel, I’ll post it here.

The Zen Archer

build1a

Purpose: High miss-chance, high Ranged Power Elven defensive sniper. 20 Monk (Harper Agent/Ninja Spy)

Best environments:

  • Attacking enemies using missiles or magic, as they have a very hard time making a successful hit against the build due to its high Concealment, Incorporeality, Dodge, Improved Evasion, PRR, AC and Spell Resistance
  • Quests where stealth can be used to allow sniping from a distance. Enemies often never reach this build before she kills them with Deception, Epic Destiny abilities, and Tendon Slice effects.

Worst environment:

  • Legendary raids, where the enemy CR is sufficient to bypass most of the build’s layered defenses
  • Raids with mostly Red-named enemies (such as “Defiler of the Just”), where the build’s DPS and single-target enemy controls to slow or stop enemies is neutralized

Strengths and Weaknesses:

  • High sustained ranged DPS, second only to Zen Bowmaster, thanks to higher Ranged Power from Harper Agent
  • Fast takedown with higher innate Ranged Power and Deception effects that add Sneak Attack damage
  • Useful 33% standing Doubleshot with EDs and gear
  • Strongest stealth skills, but slower movement speed in stealth
  • Miss-chance effects, spell resistance and PRR allow sustained DPS even when attacked by several enemies at once
  • Using Harper Agent and Elf Dragonmark enhancements, can gain 6-minute Displacement
  • Can use Ten Thousand Stars and Manyshot, works well with “Furyshot.”
  • High Diplomacy, useful in several instances
  • Damage dependent on DEX, bow quality and arrows
  • Has best fortification-bypass options; can land 100+ hits against Legendary Shroud planar gateways with 55% fortification bypass thanks to Epic Destiny abilities and Thunder-Forged longbow
  • Easy build to train other EDs, once Pin and Otto’s Whistler are available in Twist of Fate slots
  • Uses Precise Shot only to build up damage bonuses and limit Threat generation
  • As a stationary fighter, generates the best sustained damage against toughest enemies

The Zen Archer was discussed on the forums, and you can find more build information in the Monk guide.

The Zen Bowmaster

build2b.jpg

Purpose: High-DPS offensive ranged attacker. 20 Monk (Arcane Archer)

Best environment: Enemies with low Will saves.

Worst environment:

  • Quests or raids against some special Red-named enemies or enemies with higher Will saves (enemy Clerics, Paladin/Blackguards, shamans) that resist attack DCs
  • Quest or raids where the build generates too much aggro; the build has the lowest overall defenses

Strengths and Weaknesses:

  • Very high DPS. Bow damage combines with Ranged Power and arrow imbues augmented by spell power from the AA tree.
  • Uses both Ten Thousand Stars and Manyshot for highest burst Doubleshot while in Divine Crusader ED – up to 240%
  • Highest standing Doubleshot on first life (75% with feats, ED, AA and gear)
  • Versatile attack options from the AA tree (blunt/piercing/slash/Doubleshot) and elemental, force, paralyzing, banishing and smiting effects
  • AA imbues are based on WIS modifier. As a Monk, build can greatly boost WIS to use as to-hit modifier (Zen Archery feat), generating extra AC, and creating DCs for arrow effects that operate even in Legendary Elite raids, especially paralyzing
  • Fair fortification bypass
  • Useful, but not superior miss-chance effects
  • Sustained damage lower than Zen Archer but imbued spell power attacks compensate often for increased damage per attack for some enemies over Zen Archer
  • Not as weapon-dependent as Zen Archer unless enemy resists AA attacks due to higher fortification
  • Uses Improved Precise Shot, which often causes great Threat generation

You’ll find the fundamental build information in the Monk guide.

The Poison Master Ninja

build3a

Purpose: High-DPS offensive melee Drow. 20 Monk (Ninja Spy)

Best environment: Enemies with low Fortitude saves.

Worst environment:

  • Quests or raids where enemies can resist special attacks that cause Helplessness, Nausea, or Blindness
  • Quest or raids where enemies are immune from Negative Energy or Poison

DPS and Weaknesses:

  • Medium High to Very High DPS, depending on whether Helplessness can be used
  • Second-best stealth skills (second to Zen Archer), fastest movement speed while Sneaking
  • Best instant-kill power against isolated enemies, using finishing moves or Quivering Palm attack
  • Ninja Spy training augments stealth, defense, movement speed, Dexterity to-hit and to-Damage with shortswords and shuriken, Sneak Attack damage and Ninja Poison, a powerful DoT effect that cannot be resisted except by Poison-immune enemies
  • Drow racial feats and enhancements add Shuriken and Shortsword prowess as well as additional Poison damage
  • Optional Epic Destiny Feat choices can add greater Doublestrike, Doubleshot and bonuses to Dodge and Dodge cap (to 34%)
  • Some Ninja Spy Monk finishing moves cause Helplessness, allowing No Mercy enhancement (and, in Epic, stacking with Fury of the Wild’s Sense Weakness) to generate 30 to 60% additional damage on Helpless enemies
  • As a melee fighter without a shield, defenses are limited to WIS (AC bonus), Combat Expertise, high miss-chance effects, and movement speed

Detailed information can be found in the Monk guide.

Zen Eternal

ScreenShot01776I’ve played little else than Pynthetica lately. She’s my second oldest character, a human Ranger AA gone all Elven Monk, now aiding me in perfecting my Zen Archer build beyond what Mericletica began on the Cannith server.

I’ve purposefully halted any level ups at 25 for a time to get Pyn more abilities she never received in your first two lives. As a human Ranger she sat at level 20 for months before Update 17 and the Menace of the Underdark expansion. I tinkered with her a little bit but then left her alone again for months. When the enhancement pass came around, I finally had an idea for her and TR’ed her into the first concept of the Zen Archer. It didn’t go very well as her ranged damage bit and I TR’d her again by level 22.

In neither first or second life did I give Pyn enough playtime to build up any Epic Destiny. So, now, I don’t want her to slack again in her third life. I want to give her all the things.

That starts with level 26, the first Epic Destiny feat. Often on all characters I just take Toughness, which requires no completed sphere. Nay, nay! to that, this time, not for the neglected Pynthetica. I’m simply building all the destinies, not just for choosing something other than Toughness, but to gain more Fate points to improve her lot as she moves forward. I finally wised up and did this with Mericletica and then began destiny build-ups to many others. It’s clear I had a fear with that.

But I wanted to take things a step or ten farther, especially with level 30 now available.

  • Train one Divine sphere destiny before taking level 26. That was building up Unyielding Sentinel after completing Shiradi Champion, Grandmaster of Flowers, and Primal Avatar. That unlocked the level 26 Epic Destiny feats Guardian Angel and Holy Strike. Guardian Angel gives PRR equal to your WIS for 30 seconds if your HP<=50%. Holy Strike adds Ghost Touch and 10d6 untyped damage to Evil. I picked Holy Strike.
  • Take Blinding Speed at level 27 for permanent Haste. It requires no prerequisites. Now my Ranged attack speed is 22%. It could still be improved with Gilvaenor’s Ring and Gilvaenor’s Necklace, which, combined, add a stacking 10% Competence bonus to ranged alacrity for a grand total of 32% ranged alacrity. I’ll have to convince a lot of people to run “Tower of Despair” in order to get that ring, and several runs through “Genesis Point” to find that necklace.
  • Complete 2 Primal destinies before level 28. That’s for the 10% additional Doubleshot feat, of course. That’s completed.
  • Complete Shadowdancer, Legendary Dreadnought and all remaining Divine destinies before level 29. These three capped Martial destinies and three Divine destinies (with several more Fate points as a side benefit) open the level 29 Epic Destiny feat Embodiment of Law for 10 Bane damage to all enemies and 20 Law damage against Chaotic enemies. It’s a lot of grinding, but where am I going?
  • Choose a level 30 Legendary Feat.
  • Complete Fury of the Wild to have maximum karma in the Primal Sphere.
    • That’s right–as a reward for being neglected for so long, Pynthetica gets to be my first Epic True Reincarnation. I want the Primal Sphere’s Epic Past Life feat 3% bonus to Doubleshot, and will return as a Zen Archer again and again.

Since the initial announcement, some things have changed about Legendary Feats. So Scion of the Ethereal Plane is less attractive as a result, so now I’m looking to others.

Not sure of the simple buffs of Scion of Arborea are as good: +20 Ranged Power, +2 to Enhancement Bonus of the bow. I leaned then to Scion of Limbo. There are eight buffs that pop on for 1 minute and cycle randomly, but most of them very useful. 40 Ranged Power, or 16% Doubleshot, 30 PRR, 20% Dodge and 40 to Healing Amplification, 1d20 Chaos damage, and so on.

But it’s Scion of the Astral Plane that won my internal debate. It adds 4% Doubleshot plus another 4% while Centered (woot!) as well as 4% Dodge and 4 to the Dodge cap. That brings the dodge cap benefits from being a Ninja Spy (the Zen Archer’s secondary enhancements) up from a 30% cap to a 34% Dodge.

So my miss-chance numbers go up: 34% Dodge, 25% Incorporeality, 20% Concealment. I’d love to invite the crazies in our meta-guild into an Epic Elite “Prison of the Planes” to get a shot at a level 25 Ring of Shadows with Lesser Displacement at 25% Concealment. And I’ve still got 3 Displacement dragonmarks, each lasting about 5 minutes thanks to a Harper Agent enhancement. A Pendant of Quiet Movements or certainly the Token of the Proven might require less deaths to obtain. I’d prefer the trinket as I have little else to add there now, rather than sacrifice my Epic Golden Guile. These stacking Improved Deception effects really slow down charging enemies.

With 20% Doubleshot (3% Elf, 2% Guild Buff, 5% from the Dynamistic Quiver, and 10% Doubleshot Epic Destiny Feat), this final feat would give me 28% Doubleshot. I just scored the 8% Epic Dynamistic Quiver to give me 23% Doubleshot at level 28. With that last destiny this goes to the highest I can make without Epic Past Life feats or special temporary buffs: 31% standing Doubleshot. That’s not bad at all for a pure elven Monk with mixed enhancements. Szyncletica the Shroud-soloing Shuricannon hasn’t any appreciable Doubleshot.

Also, level 29 and 30 give additional Fate points and a fourth slot, making it easy to add things like Otto’s Whistler or Grim Precision to a build that needs every advantage to survive Legendary Tempest’s Spine and Shroud. Our guild is stoked on trying these very soon.

Shadowdancer or Grandmaster of Flowers will be my raid destiny for maximum defense or offense, respectively. Both give decent damage. It’s Grandmaster’s font of high passive ki regeneration, offensive ki attacks, Everything is Nothing, and boosts to weapon base damage that will allow me to use Ten Thousand Stars almost continually every 30 seconds and ward off the largest mobs. It’s Shadowdancer’s higher Ranged Power, extra fortification bypass with Grim Precision, boosts to fill in my Dodge cap to maximum and continuous 25% incorporeality in Shadow Form that helps in raids where there are proportionally fewer but tougher enemies (such as the devils and portals in the Shroud).

Extra Credit: Upgrade my Thunder-Forged Longbow, and build a Legendary Bow worthy of a Zen Archer.

I have no idea what kind of bow to build for Legendary Shroud.

Zen Balance

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I’ve been amiss in getting updates to the Zen Archer build as I finalized its Epic settings. As I might have mentioned before, it turned out to be an easy build to level up destinies while in off-destiny, once I was able to get three Fate slots opened to have Pin, A Dance of Flowers (GMoF weapon damage) and the ever-popular Rejuvenation Cocoon available no matter what destiny was in use.

I took a bit more time to train through Legendary Dreadnought, Unyielding Sentinel and Divine Crusader to get the necessary points for a tier 2 slot 2 upgrade and a tier 3 slot 1 upgrade. This allows the use of Grim Precision for extra fortification bypassing against portal gateways.

You might see where I’m going with this.

ScreenShot01738

I hope to take Mericletica, the first complete Epic Zen Archer (save a few pieces of gear in the new Update 27 quests and “Haunted Halls”) into a solo Shroud run, emulating her sister, Szyncletica.

With Meri’s slower shot speed, despite her higher weapon damage and critical hits, I needed the best fortification bypass I could generate. Here’s what she’ll have going into such a run, with Grandmaster of Flowers as the active destiny.

  • Precision: 25%
  • Grim Precision: 15%
  • Piercing Clarity: 10%
  • Trapsmith’s Workshop ship buff: 5%
  • Black Dragonscale Robe’s Armor-Piercing: 10%

That’s 65% fortification bypass, which should help take down those portal gateways well enough, once I make a few tests. Aside from getting a Deconstructor augment slot to add Improved Destruction for fortification damage, I don’t have anything else to add here through training.

I’ll use my tier 1 Thunder-Forged Longbow as usual for maximum damage. If I could run the Thunderholme raids regularly, I could struggle for ingredients to get tier 2 and gain 35% Armor-Piercing on that bow for a terrific 85% bypassing.

I’m able to take down a portal in about 35 seconds without Manyshot in earlier tests, but I need to work on increasing my consistent power and attack before trying a Shroud. Raids are different, of course, so I’d have to ensure that Meri’s defenses are strongest to survive alone there.

I’ve finally updated the details finalized for using the build in my forum thread, since it wasn’t quite clear-cut as I ask you to configure the character one way for Heroic and then adjust behavior based on Epic play. It is worth it, but I can’t help you see that without more information. Thanks for your patience.

Alright, Enough with the IPS

By the way, the forum thread has had several responses, one generously kind but critical, another not so much, about the addition of Improved Precise Shot into the build.

I refuse. In fact, that the build’s gotten very very far without it, even surviving more EE attempts than Szyn has done is  proof that IPS isn’t what this build’s best at doing.

I think IPS will do nothing more than get the Zen shit-kicked out of it because of excessive aggro, and game mechanics prove this. One notes how I rely on hirelings as aggro-magnets, but this is no different than Rogues and mages hanging around with players. The Zen Archer does not lead the charge, but it certainly concludes it. I don’t build characters to be Avatars of Untold Slaughter of Millions By Themselves. That’s the monkcher. Go read about that one.

So the only conclusion I can make is that people really don’t understand that I don’t play my characters with absolute power or completion speed in mind. Like many of my characters, the Zen Archer takes its time, destroys with near-impunity depending on the quest, and walks home without a death and some loot. The Zen Archer is a ninja archer and relies on powerful surprise attacks to end enemies fast. Just as my melee ninjas don’t try to aggro the whole dungeon, I don’t do so with this archer.

Of course I’m enjoying the reversal of the game mechanics that don’t easily alert other enemies to when one of their allies is being punctured. Isn’t everyone?

So, if you think that not having IPS is crippling, add it in and see what happens. I won’t be.

This will likely be the last post on the Zen Archer for a while unless I pull off a Shroud victory with one (one chance in 3, as opposed to even-money with the Shuricannon). I need to concentrate on greater documentation for it in the Monk guide, and then set off for different things.

DDO Zen Archer: The Completed Build

Mericletica5I’ve fully trained my Zen Archer build. Equipping this first one, Mericletica, will still take time on the quieter realm of the Cannith server, but all the central enhancements and initial destinies are done. I’ve still got the level 16 Pynthetica to complete on Ghallanda, but as a third-life it’s going so slow to level her.

The build’s a great alternative that delivers damage while providing all the benefits of complete Monk levels in both offense and defense.

This post is also a kind of apology and shout-out to Firewall’s Shuricannon 2.0 build. I’ve been so ADHD or just plain overwhelmed in other matters that I’ve only begun a 2.0 ‘Cannon and so haven’t been able to talk much about it. The Zen Archer has been my obsession of late, and that time spent was worth it by adapting concepts from the ‘Cannon, as I’ll explain.

Shuricannon’s Slower Kin

I’ve talked extensively on the original Shuricannon. Firewall has since upgraded the build to deliver more fortification bypassing for more damage.

Much of the Zen Archer’s design is very similar to the Shuricannon, directly or in principle.

  • High miss-chance and general defenses (30% Dodge, 25% Incorporeality, 20% Concealment).
    • Firewall’s build adds in Lesser Displacement (25% Concealment) from an upgraded robe from “Temple of Elemental Evil.” I’m working on that myself. Unlike his Drow-based build, however, I go Elven, and have the Shadow Dragonmark for invisibility and Displacement. Saekee’s tip to use Harper Agent’s Magic of Patience enhancement allows me a 5-minute Displacement at level 28, reducing the need to get Green Steel clickies. The differing playstyle reduces the need for the number of Displacements.
    • All points in DEX give a high Reflex as well as damage as noted below. That Reflex save has only failed me twice, in an Epic Normal run (I think) in “Ghost of a Chance.” There’s a very nasty blade trap there that laughed at my 64-ish Reflex save and chopped me to bits. Same for the trap guarding the elemental engine of the prime enemy airship in “Precious Cargo.”
    • The Zen Archer’s role is the opposite of the ‘Cannon. The ‘Cannon is a capable “flying tank,” with its Monk speed, PRR and miss-chance. However, by Epic, it only uses ki for Ten Thousand Stars with Shadow Veil. The Zen Archer uses ki more often for GMoF attacks in that mode. When in other destinies, I try to twist Enlightenment for +1 passive ki. Else, I have only +2 passive ki when in Sneak and from Ultimate Ocean Stance. The Zen Archer is a sniper.
  • Hard Hitting DPS.
    • The Shuricannon specializes in higher DPS by leveraging Doubleshot-like advantages from both the Drow-granted Shuriken Expertise feat and the Ninja Spy’s core abilities, specifically Advanced Ninja Training.
    • The Zen Archer is an Elven build. Firewall took Drow for Shuriken Expertise and damage bonuses, and Ninja Spy for DEX-to-Damage with stars and other damage bonuses. Along similar lines of reason, I chose Elf to give immediate proficiency for longbows and, with training, DEX-to-Damage with bows. Both Zen Archer and Shuricannon then ramp up DEX to the maximum possible to deliver damage. As bows don’t gain further benefits in Heroic DPS beyond Sneak Attack damage and  the No Mercy enhancement from Ninja Spy, I adjusted my build to concentrate on the benefits of the Harper Agent enhancements to add Ranged Power and, later, stacking Deception to slow and Bluff enemies, where SA gains additional damage. By Epic, I’m adding more bow damage from the Grandmaster of Flowers destiny, using A Dance of Flowers and Piercing Clarity on top of the destiny’s Ranged Power and Epic Power leveling bonuses.
    • Further, the Zen Archer’s longbows deliver greater base damage per hit. My Szyncletica’s best stars see 60-75 damage per hit, although there are a lot of other effects that certain shuriken gain for DPS per hit, especially Ninja Poison, which the Zen Archer cannot do. The Zen Archer’s base hits with a Thunder-Forged Longbow at level 28, in Grandmaster of Flowers, is 150+ once all competency bonuses are up. I tested the overall DPS on the planar gateway portal in Aussircaex’s Valley. While Szyncletica could take that portal down in about 45 seconds with Ten Thousand Stars, Mericletica with Manyshot blasted that thing to bits in under 30 seconds. I still have a TTS and normal bow test for her, but the base damage is clearly superior with a bow, even if the total sustained DPS works differently. I have Manyshot and TTS and better Doubleshot outside of this, versus Szyn. However, I didn’t let Szyn train two destinies to gain the Doubleshot feat to further improve her sustained attack. Meri’s fortification bypass is also superior to Szyncletica’s, which started off on Shiradi Champion to immediately benefit from Whirling Wrists and related damage enhancements. Shuricannon 2.0, with gear, can get higher bypassing.
    • Like the ‘Cannon, bonuses to critical hit threat and range ramp up the damage. But here, the Zen Archer sees critical hits in the 1500 or greater range since, with Earth Stance and Overwhelming Critical, I get a x5 effective multiplier (the ‘Cannon does this too after a fashion and with another destiny). I never saw such critical hit numbers with my ‘Cannon, but again, DPS is subjective. I do see similar take-down speed with the Zen Archer as the ‘Cannon. However, both builds are played very differently. The ‘Cannon is a berserking, running attacker. The Zen Archer is a calm, near-motionless, balanced sniper. As such, the ‘Cannon clears more enemies per minute, but the Zen Archer can zap down a single tougher enemy as fast yet not endanger itself. I clear rooms and dungeons very well. I just do so one enemy at a time as fast as possible.

Mericletica6

  • Defensive advantages from full Monk training.
    • The Shuricannon has stronger innate magic protection from the start as Drow gain Spell Resistance that grows as they do. The Monk’s Diamond Soul feat adds this in at level 13 for the Zen Archer. The two features are identical and, thus, don’t stack on the Shuricannon. Grandmaster of Flowers and an airship buff add a little more stacking bonus.
    • I managed to work in the highest fortification I have ever made on a character with the Zen Archer: 205%. This comes from a 25% Exceptional Fortification loot-gen helm, 40% from the Unyielding Sentinel’s Brace for Impact, 125% Fortified gloves, and guild ship bonuses that filled in the rest. This should ensure that the Zen Archer can stand and fire without as much concern against any melee enemies that get too close, except Champions, the bane of many a build, which often can ignore one or more of the Zen Archer’s passive defenses.
    • The Zen Archer is still a ninja at heart and has very strong Hide/Move Silently skills to go where it wants without detection. Having Abundant Step is key here–and having sufficient ki to use it repeatedly without compromising my ki store.
    • The Zen Archer in Grandmaster of Flowers mode regenerates +4 ki at maximum, gaining a maximum 240 ki held fully charged. I can use many offensive and defensive abilities without dangerously depleting my ki pool in extended fights, and regenerate ki very rapidly between each battle. It also allows the use of shrines to recharge my spell points without worrying about ki loss.
    • I still find the Way of the Sun Soul set helpful for the Zen defense. To go with the miss-chances, Reflex saves, Improved Evasion, high fortification and Spell Resistance comes the 25% damage-reducing Radiant Forcefield effect that often procs while in Earth Stance while I deliver maximum critical hit damage from that stance’s benefits to weapon.
    • The only enemies that make the Zen Archer move are Champions. They threaten one or more of my defenses at all times. But keeping GMoF as the central destiny grants me emergency damage through the knockdown effect of Drifting Lotus, where I can then Pin that enemy and eliminate it.
  • Gear.
    • Both Zen Archer and ‘Cannon use similar gear, outside of the weapons, of course. In my case, as I don’t run as many specific quests as Firewall is able to do to get the best of the best, I’m still adding in effects that both builds enjoy to squeeze that last bit of DPS from every shot. In fact, youshould be able to use the same gear for thisbuild as the ‘Cannon if you’re able to obtain it. Here’s what I have for now.
      • Fortification bypass.
        • Shuricannon 2.0 revels in this, and the Zen Archer took more than a few pointers here. It’s one reason why I’ve found that the Grandmaster of Flowers destiny provides the best overall offensive and defensive balance for this build.
        • You can gain more DPS from Shiradi Champion and more burst DPS from Fury of the Wild, but GMoF’s Piercing Clarity adds 10% additional fortification bypassing to go with the 25% of Precision feat for 35%, and a 5% guild buff for 50% currently. I’ve trained up a bit of Shadowdancer and used Grim Precision and its 15% bypass bonus.
        • If I train up more destinies for more fate points, I could upgrade a Twist of Fate slot for tier 3 to use that as well for 65% with Grim Precision. Even Heroic level Black Dragonscale Robes will add 10% Armor-Piercing for 75%. I’m making routing Heroic Elite runs into Gianthold Tor, quickly gathering 3 White and Black scales for the next lives and using that armor. On Cannith, I don’t see a lot of opportunities to build Flawless Black Dragonscale Robes for 15% Armor-Piercing, but hope springs eternal with an LFM.
      • Two key rings, the Ring of Shadows and Seal of House Avithoul, provide Hide/Move Silently defenses, Blurry, 10% standing Incorporeality (saving ki to reduce use of Ninja Spy’s Shadow Veil) with Improved Deception (stacks with the Harper Agent enhancement) and Sneak Attack bonuses. This slows charging enemies but also greatly slows attacks by even Red Named enemies when Manyshot is running. The continuous high-speed hits tend to permanently turn away bosses and slow their attacks, making take-down faster.
      • Shadowdancer’s permanent Shadow Form will save some ki later here.
      • Saekee and I learned during an EE run into “The Claw of Vulkoor” that Deception effects per player tend to “lock up” bosses to the point where they can’t make attacks or defense. They’re in a state of permanent Bluff while the DPS holds. Saekee had at least one Deception effect and I have two.
      • Defensively, the Way of the Sun Soul set also helps in Earth Stance with PRR bonuses, including a boost from Standing with Stone. I do want to add a Sheltering augment somewhere to fortify my total soak damage reduction to around 45-60 PRR.
      • I have unlocked a Spider-Spun Caparison outfit with Improved Dexterity +3 for more HP. Replacing the Boots of the Woodsman I’ve worn are a pair of Surefooted Boots. This grants the Mobility feat for 2% more Dodge but also has a Green augment slot where a Topaz of Power +150 sits to give more spell points for Rejuvenation Cocoon.
      • Replaced my Nightforge Gorget with a temporary necklace with Wisdom +8 and a Yellow augment slot used with a Deathblock gem. I hope to find the Necklace of Mystic Ediolons for inherent Deathblock, better Improved DEX and CON but also (once upgraded) Augment Summoning for +4 to my summoned and hireling ability scores, which would make them more helpful in Epic Elite, especially running Primal Avatar for additional boosts.
      • The Tier 1 Thunder-Forged Longbow with a Good augment gem is the primary weapon, punching anything it targets, especially dragons. If I find any groups running the Thunder Peak raid enough, further upgrades of the weapon would be nice. I’m getting well-acquainted with “Temple of Elemental Evil” enough to start hunting for the Epic Sapphire Sting, the only other bow that makes the TF bow seem weak.
      • I’ve completed my Shroud flagging. I have one first Green Steel desire: A triple-positive bow for handling undead bosses. I’m confident that Mericletica might do something only Szyncletica has managed: Completing the Shroud alone. The need is less in bragging rights than the low population on Cannith.
  • Destinies and Epic Training
    • I trained more destinies on this character than I ever had on any character to date. I started with GMoF, bypassed Legendary Dreadnought for expediency to get Shiradi Champion and Primal Avatar trained to qualify for level 28 Epic Destiny feats, and trained Shadowdancer to gain more fate points to upgrade slot 1 to tier 2. I plan to train Legendary Dreadnought, Fury of the Wild and Shadowdancer to gain three more fate points to get tier 3 unlocked. I know Firewall loves Divine Crusader, so I’ll be tooling through Unyielding Sentinel for more fate points and to unlock that destiny too.
    • While in Grandmaster of Flowers, I have Pin from Shiradi in an upgraded tier 2 Twist slot and Rejuvenation Cocoon from Primal Avatar in the second and third Twist slots. This allows three important GMoF abilities to stay up without Twisting (Piercing Clarity, A Dance of Flowers for 1.5W damage increase, with Enlightenment and the innate abilities Ubiquity for Tumbling through enemies and Balance in All Things keeping ki regeneration at its maximum while also giving knockdown immunity). GMoF’s offensive powers, also help in defense and damage, especially Drifting Lotus, and it allows me to have the room-obliterating Everything is Nothing available on boss fights.
    • Shiradi Champion works very well at the expense of defense and ki regeneration. Pin and Otto’s Whistler are impressive attack modes that make this destiny great in smaller fight scenarios.
    • Primal Avatar is a great defensive destiny that boosts my character’s outward defenses, specifically with hirelings. The aggro-magnet Elder Dryad allows me to pummel things from afar longer. Of course, Rejuvenation Cocoon is a requirement for most characters and is easy to train. The Zen Archer tries to avoid being too dependent on it as the ultimate balance between DPS and defense is the goal of the build. If the Zen Archer is taking so much damage that Cocoon has to be used all the time, the build’s not doing what it should.
    • The Blinding Speed Epic feat gives permanent Haste for 22% Ranged Alacrity. The level 28 Epic Destiny feat Doubleshot adds 10% Doubleshot for  a total of 15% with Elven and guild ship bonuses.
    • Off-destiny, this build still does good damage, but does enjoy the Ranged Power bonuses from each destiny. That said, Fury of the Wild’s intentionally nerfed +1 Ranged Power (balancing out the monkchers that use that) is less attractive than GMoF and Shiradi or Shadowdancer.

The Final Build

I’ll be pasting the final build later on my forum thread for anyone to import into Character Builder Lite, and update the first post with the final information.

I have a video to share of this build tackling a battle to give an idea of its power. The Zen Archer isn’t bad at all in Epic Elite, but you do have to pick battles with care as you would any character.

Comments welcome. Be sure to click the “CC” for captioning that explains the tactics as the video goes along.

The Case for Fortification…and More

The shield: A symbol of fortification. Your type is different, or not.

The shield: A symbol of fortification. Your type is different, or not.

Was watching the latest video tutorial from Axel, where he’s discussing how to increase your character’s survivability. As his character plows through Epic Elite “Lords of Dust,” starting with Merideth, he notes, with emphasis, that he’s not going to discuss several topics: saves (which are “class-dependent”), AC (believing that super-high AC isn’t possible) and Evasion (which, he says, is outmoded by heavy armor, which seems contradictory to having AC).

I smile at his informative talk as he lets his Ranger/Monk/Cleric loose. I know he’s this specific multiclass because he has a yellow bar (ki: Two Monk levels for Evasion), a Ranger class symbol, and is able to purify the altars in that quest, which requires Divine levels.

Axel has great information for melee characters and it’s definitely recommended. But that video wasn’t for me. My Epic Elite experience with evasive classes (Monk, Rogue) is different. And, in the time I had available to watch what I could of the video, Axel didn’t mention one key protection needed for everyone.

I learned, not long after a trip into “The Portal Opens” with Syncletica with the then-new Menace of the Underdark expansion, that Death will come on swift heels to those who lack in Epic protection.

That specific protection is fortification.

In Heroic levels, experienced adventurers often help discouraged neophytes among us after they’re killed with only one or two hits by a monster. Our first question to help is, “What’s your fortification?”

The reply from that adventurer is often, “What?” or “I don’t know.”

For Monks, fortification is critical since we are often front-line or solo fighting.

I suspect that a few of us get confused as to when and what we need in fortification, where we can get it, and why it’s so dang important.

Don’t Die on the First Hit

Fortification, saith the wiki, reduces the chance for your character to suffer additional damage calculated as a critical hit or a sneak attack. Fortification doesn’t stop normal physical damage and is worthless against spell casters.

It’s generally easier now than prior to Update 19 to find fortification resources for any level. Before then, you had to look for items with suffixes of “Light,” “Moderate” and ‘Heavy” fortification. Let’s break down the minimum you should have by character level first.

  • Fortification 25%: The current name of what was once “Light” fortification. Almost all named items for this have no minimum level to use it. There are 10 named items that have this property. However, since Update 19, many loot-generated items (boots, belts and gloves) have the Fortified prefix with fortification levels between 20% to 40% that are still usable by adventurers between level 1 and 5.
  • Fortification 75%: The current name to what was “Moderate” fortification. There are 18 named items with this property. Again, there will be more loot-gen items with the Fortified prefix that should service characters between levels 6-11 with percentages between 40 to 80%.
  • Fortification 100%: Also called “Heavy” fortification. Every character should be wearing this amount by level 12, if not as soon as level 9. By this time, monsters will have a much easier time heavily damaging characters, especially foes that can make Sneak Attacks. Many, many named items exist, including the venerable Minos Legens. My personal favorite, the Nightforge Gorget, since that’s an easily-crafted level 9 item from “A Relic of a Sovereign Past”, with a Yellow augment slot suitable for a Deathblock gem (a topic of protection for another post).

Now, you can also find Heroic items with greater than 100% fortification now, too, which are very helpful in the highest-level Heroic Elite difficulties where monsters will have Epic levels (Challenge Rating 20 and above) while you’re still at character level 18.

But I might not have impressed on you sufficiently as to the importance of fortification, so let me back up some more.

How Critical Hits Work

While critical hits determine extra damage by player characters to enemies when your weapon attack roll is around 19 or 20 and a confirmation roll is also made, the same goes for enemy attacks at your character.

Fortification, again, reduces the chance that you’ll take additional damage as a critical hit or sneak attack despite the enemy’s attack roll.

The easy way to calculate what chances your character will take it to the face is to look at the Challenge Rating (CR) of your enemy by selecting it and using your Examine selection in your focus window. I’ll use the wiki’s examples.

Say you have 50% fortification against a kobold with a CR of 1. That monster has a 51% chance to hit you with a critical hit.

A CR 20 monster hitting a 100% fortified character has a 20% chance at a critical hit. So having the standard maximum fortification in Heroic levels isn’t enough to avoid a nasty slash in higher-difficulty content. Any quests over level 18 will sting on Elite for sure. This doesn’t take into consideration how boss enemies work, or Monster Champions, which now keep even experienced adventurers on their toes because these randomly-found enemies often possess higher CRs and have special buffs that may increase their chances of wailing on you without mercy.

A CR 54 enemy striking a character with 150% fortification has only a 4% chance of scoring that critical hit.

See the pattern?

Epic Fortification

I once joined a guild run into Epic Elite “Devil Assault.” All of us were level 22 or better. We died with ease as CR 44 trash decided it was time to take us out to the curb, rapidly.

The common factor in that total-party-kill was that few of us, if any, had more than 125% fortification. As the last example showed, that’s not enough against any monster of CR 25 or better, especially ones that often flanked us and got sneak attacks. We needed at least 140% fortification to have a 4% chance not to carry home our own entrails back in our arms.

Anyone that’s gone toe-to-toe with the Epic Elite end-boss of “The Lords of Dust,” Karas, will get a harsh lesson in why epic fortification is so critical. His Sneak Attack damage will end you immediately.

So, I make a habit to get any Epic character of mine ready to handle the worst of the worst as best as possible. I recommend at least 150% fortification if you’re going toe-to-toe in any Epic Elite–more if you’ve got it.

Thankfully, getting this isn’t hard at all, keeping in mind some rules.

  1. Standard fortification, an Enhancement bonus, does not stack with other Enhancement bonuses. Only the highest percentage applies. Epic Fortified loot-generated items go up to 125%.
  2. Special fortification types can stack, depending on the bonus descriptions.

So, an item with the Fortified prefix, as with any item that says a percentage of “fortification” are standard levels. None of these stack.

I know Axel’s character has to have at least 150% fortification to survive. Even with very high HP, you take just a couple of critical hits in EE and you’re done.

Special Fortification

But there are items and effects with Exceptional and untyped Fortification levels. Unless the percentages found on these items are the same number, they will stack with each other and standard fortification.

  • Fabricator’s Bracers and Fabricator’s Gauntlets: Once their Nearly Finished property is unlocked, these together provide 25% untyped stacking fortification to any character. The downside is that you must equip both items at the same time, screwing with your Epic equipment feng shui.
  • Exceptional Fortification items and properties: Some loot-generated items will give stacking fortification, up to 25% more, often having the Fortifying prefix (that’s different than Fortified). These fortification bonus is an Insight bonus and stacks with the Enhancement bonus of standard fortification. However, only the highest Insight bonus item applies. Named items such as the Leaves of the Forest medium armor and the Greater Stalwart Trinket share this property.
  • Some enhancement trees and one Epic Destiny provide untyped fortification that stacks with everything.
    • The Sacred Defender tree for Paladins give 2% fortification for each trained core ability.
    • The Paladin-typed Unyielding Sentinel epic destiny has the ability Brace for Impact, a tier 1 ability that any character can train and Twist for 4 destiny points to give a 40% stacking fortification bonus. Alone with a 100% fortification item or effect, many players may have sufficient protection for anything, including a few lighter Epic Elite fights.
  • High level guild airships with the Armory amenity can get up to 15% additional stacking fortification, improved by the Proving Ground state room amenity.

In Practice

My Zen Archer build is meant to stay put, like a turret, firing on anything. Without fortification, that’s certain death when melees are able to close in on me.

Someone left a very low priced Fortifying Helm (note the word difference) on the Auction House in Cannith one day, with 25% stacking Insight bonus to fortification. Yay, me!

I’ve wrapped up training Unyielding Sentinel with my archer to get that tier 1 Twistable ability. I have 190% fortification available, with no less than 125% at any time in her first Epic life. Once I let go of the Nightforge Gorget and wear a 115 to 125% item as I move into level 27-28 gear, I’ll  have over 200%, more than enough fortification for Epic Elite.

Sauce for the Goose

Thankfully, most monsters lack any fortification, making our player character’s critical hits that more damaging.

But a few enemies are fortified against us, reducing our weapon effectiveness. That’s why you can’t sneak attack a skeleton and some constructs and bosses.

But you can train abilities or find items that offer fortification bypassing or reduction. In the case of bypassing, your weapon or attack ignores a certain level of enemy fortification for yourself only. In the case of reduction, it universally lowers the fortification, allowing others in your party to cash in.

Most of these effects stack unless they’re classified as a similar type of bypass or reduction.

  • Precision is a combat feat that allows you to ignore 25% fortification and gain 5% to your to-hit with no penalties.
  • Armor-piercing bypass properties come on items such as the Black Dragonscale Robe, as well as some weapons.
  • Rogues get Opportunist, a feat that also bypasses 10% fortification.
  • The Trapsmith’s Workshop guild ship amenity gives a 5% bypass.
  • Rogue Assassins have Assassin’s Trick for 25% reduction.
  • The Destruction and Improved Destruction property found on weapons is a stacking reduction effect.
  • Improved Sunder, a melee strike, reduces fortification.
  • The Dark Monk’s finishing move, Touch of Despair (Dark/Dark/Dark) reduces fortification by 25%.
  • The Favored Soul’s Shield of Condemnation core ability in Angel of Vengeance can reduce fortification by up to 50%.
  • Weapons with Weaken Construct or Weaken Undead reduce fortification.
  • The Artificer’s and Rogue Mechanic’s Wrack Construct can reduce fortification by as much as 50%.
  • Insult, a Fury of the Wild ability, reduces by 10%. (Be careful of the tier 1 ability, Tunnel Vision, which, while you’re raged, reduces the player’s fortification by 10%.)
  • Piercing Clarity, a Grandmaster of Flowers ability, bypasses up to 10%.

Teacher Firewall’s Shuricannon 2.0 build, from which I draw much inspiration in solidifying the Zen Archer, shows that he can generate a 95% armor-piercing rating with a lot of gear and upgrades that I’ll likely not see. I’ll be happy to have 50%.

For Mericletica the now-Epic Zen Archer, I have Precision with Piercing Clarity for 35% fortification bypass. If she can get a Flawless Black Dragonscale Robe, that can increase by 15% or 20% to get 50 to 55%. In the highly unlikely event I can upgrade to a Tier 2 Thunder-Forged Longbow, the “Dragon’s Edge” upgrade offers 35% Armor-piercing, which is what Firewall crafts in his Thunder-Forged Shuriken.

Note that armor-piercing is a typed effect and usually doesn’t stack with itself, only the highest bonus applies.

The Other Protections

Axel’s information deals with the player type that (1) is generally a melee fighter, which will take a walloping in EE, (2) has time to get the best gear, and (3) multiclasses to get the best of everything. I’m betting, too, that his playstyle is totally different than my own, as the video shows (his style is scream-and-leap melee). Based on the video, he clearly knows his stuff for armored fighting.

My focus is generally on Monks, so what he ignores in this video are actually key to the defense of the EE Monk.

Axel is very right on never focusing on only one area of defense. You need to dabble in as much as possible. But what you can or should dabble depends on your class, and not everyone is going to dabble in several classes to start.

I’ve discussed these Monk defenses in different posts and in the Monk guide at length, but let me summarize what protections are important for the EE Monk aside from fortification.

  • Saves: Saves are the ultimate armor for a Monk. While saves may not be relevant to Axel or other classes save a Paladin, saves determine how likely Monks are going to be hurt or overcome by some types of damage or spells. It’s hard to build a Monk with poor saves: they won’t live through Heroic if you do manage to build a poor one.
  • Spell Resistance: This high passive defense blocks so many spell attacks but few talk about it because the Monk gains this benefit automatically. Few others get this ability, even in Epic play. Monks generally get 30 spell resistance at level 20. If you are Drow, you get this defense earlier, and Grandmaster of Flowers allows a stacking bonus. You can’t get Spell Resistance any other way except from a Cleric/Favored Soul spell.
  • Improved Evasion: It was paradoxical to me that Axel said that Evasion wasn’t necessary for EE play when his character in that video showed a yellow bar, suggesting 2 Monk levels, a common way to get Evasion. Evasion avoids damaging spells and certain trap damage. Since spell casters abound in EE play, Evasion is the old-school way to avoid that problem. Today, heavy armor folks can reduce this damage with Magical Resistance Rating (MRR), which can’t apply with no-armor types. Firewall notes that Improved Evasion is equivalent to 100 MRR, and my gameplay confirms this. Spell Resistance, combined, make Monks very magic-resistant. We can stand in a sea of fire elementals and never get hit by a fireball.
  • Miss-chance: High Dodge, Incorporeality and Concealment are key in many a Monk’s survival, and we can boost these numbers unlike any other class. My Zen Archer relies on maximizing these effects and sustaining them longer than many other classes. Axel discounts them in this one video because of their problems in activating them or their general effectiveness. Since I can get 25% Incorporeal, 20% Concealment and 30% Dodge, I’m far more effective than 10% Ghostly and Blur alone.
  • AC: While AC is less effective at higher difficulties, it’s not ignored. It’s simply one helpful passive defense. Mericletica sits around 84 in Earth Stance, which isn’t bad at all for a non-melee character, which helps a little in mitigation against trash at least.
  • PRR: Physical Resistance Rating’s recent tinkering by the devs makes a little PRR go a longer way. Getting 25 PRR means 20% of any damage is absorbed. PPR helps my Monks when all other defenses are compromised. Combine that with other defenses and life is that more survivable should a hit get through. I’ll want to add a PRR augment gem to get this a little higher.
  • Special gear: I love the Way of the Sun Soul set and how it provides a Radiant Forcefield type effect on you (in Earth Stance) with a critical hit confirmation, reducing damage by 25%. Combined with other damage avoidance and mitigation, this helps the Zen Archer hold her position to boost her damage.

Definitely take the great work that Axel provides and use it, but note that Monks are special and some information there might not apply. Don’t know if Axel does Monks, but based on his smooth video series, I’m sure he has a clue about them.

Zen Grandmaster

Sure, it was from the Training Dummy. But there it is.

Sure, it was from the Training Dummy. But there it is.

The race of the Zen Archers and the testing of the build was never a fair contest. Mericletica on Cannith was a first-lifer with XP nearly oozing out of every pore just for showing up somewhere, while three-lifer Pynthetica has to scrap for play time.

Pyn wins in the gear department hands down, however, having accumulated much in her lifetimes, including a Shimmering Arrowhead and all the big bows, including a Raider’s Box-bestowed Pinion bow that’s dying to be used.

But Mericletica, now level 23, is first to test the viability of the Epic Zen Archer first. As a first-life Monk, she began in the Grandmaster of Flowers destiny.

As part of the build testing, I’m writing a series of posts on Epic Destinies as they relate to the Zen Archer, with GMoF first.

Weaponized Ki, Improved Damage

While GMoF helps unarmed Monks best, it also offers general bonuses that apply to armed Monks. Mericletica’s ki is boosted. Her weapon damage is improved. A few Destiny Points to DEX aids in damage and to-hit. She bypasses more fortification.

Update 25 grants +3 Ranged/Melee power per each innate ability. That’s a great start to a build that will already had  15 Ranged Power on entering Epic play with her Harper Agent training. And every Epic character gains +3 Epic Power per level. At present, Mericletica has around 27 Ranged Power.

  • Inner Focus (innate ability 1): Additional ki and stacking spell resistance to avoid attacks. Of course, this is also a rechargeable non-Meditation emergency ki surge button, helpful in prolonged attacks where I’m spamming Ten Thousand Stars and other ki attacks as often as I’m able.
  • Perfect Balance: More to Dodge to maximize it to 30%.
  • Lily Petal: The first of the magical ki attack balls. I plan to heavily leverage these and related attacks because of the Zen Archer’s maximized regenerative ki effects. As they give Magic type damage, most enemies can’t resist it and take hundreds of points of damage. It’ll be especially helpful against Champions, the bane of the Zen Archer, as their special buffs often compromise at least one of the build’s circles of defense.
  • Enlightenment: More passive ki regeneration and ki as a whole to empower attacks. I’m using this ability to make adjustments to enhancement AP, as I’ll note in a moment.
  • A Dance of Flowers: Increases the weapon damage modifier for her bows.
  • Centered Mind (innate ability 2): The Slippery Mind feat to ward off enchantment attacks such as Otto’s dancing spells, buying the character time to escape and attack.
  • Serenity: More stacking spell resistance needed against things such as the Drow spellcasters.
  • Wholeness of Spirit (innate ability 3): Periodic cleansing button of bad status effects and debuffs.
  • Orchid Blossom: Lily Petal’s mass strike upgrade. Helpful against mobs.
  • Walking with Waves: While in Ocean Stance, an additional 3% Dodge if I require it by this time.
  • Perfection of Body: Boosts to Fortitude saves, where this build is weakest.
  • The Abiding Path (innate ability 4): Immunity to Slippery Surfaces. I do not fear and will not move away from the spellcasters with Sleet Storm.
  • Standing with Stone: Up to +15 PRR and 15 HP when in Earth Stance. I’m often in this Monk stance for improvements to the critical threat range of my bows and damage mitigation, now that other abilities of the destiny can compensate for the loss of saving throws and Dodge when otherwise using Ocean Stance. Critical hit damage goes up 30% easily when I’m running in this mode.
  • Piercing Clarity: Effective True Seeing against concealment effects. Most importantly, additional fortification bypass of 10% to go with Precision (25%) and other bypass training I can utilize.
  • Ubiquity (innate ability 5): Tumbling through enemies as if they were incorporeal. Helpful to shift position while not interrupting Archer’s Focus, if it works.
  • Drifting Lotus: My answer to avoiding Improved Precise Shot. Combined with the other ki attacks, I’ll be able to quickly knockdown and damage enemies, often using this feature to escape with stealth if a fight becomes overwhelming.
  • Dancing with Flames: Like A Dance of Flowers, I hoped this additional ability would also boost the weapon dice modifier. However, it fails to work with bows, only unarmed and perhaps melee weapons. It’s skipped.
  • Perfection of Soul: Additional Reflex saves when in the heat of battle. Right now, I’m less in need of it.
  • Balance in All Things (innate ability 6): Immunity to most knockdowns and an additional +1 to passive ki regeneration. For the Zen Archer, that means up to a total of +5 possible passive ki regeneration (Stealthy from Ninja Spy, Contemplation from Henshin Mystic (now disabled), Ultimate Ocean Stance, Enlightenment and this innate ability). If HP drops to less than 50%, then Way of the Tenacious Badger adds +1 for a rapid +5/+6 passive regeneration, perfect for spamming Lily Petal and other alternative attacks.
  • A Scattering of Petals: A Blinding debuff for escapes. A convenient alternative to the Ninja Spy’s Flash Bang (which isn’t trained). I’d rather add another DEX point.
  • Everything is Nothing: One of the best Epic Moments out there that instantly kills almost everything in a wide range. Since this Epic character will be spamming ki attacks often, it should be easy to have this charged for tactical use in wide areas where many enemies are anticipated, sniping and luring as many enemies into “Death Blossom” range. The Zen Archer will never lack in sufficient ki for this or any other ki strike.

Adjustments to Enhancements

With more passive ki regeneration from this destiny, it’s wasn’t a bad idea to retool my Monk enhancements for more weapon damage in Epic play. Here’s the summary.

  1. I reset the Henshin Mystic tree, removing training for Contemplation. This reduces passive ki regeneration by 1 but this is made up with the Enlightenment ability in GMoF, even as a Twisted ability, as well as the last innate ability while in GMoF. This freed up 8 AP and leaves the tree dormant.
  2. Completed 34 points of Harper Agent training. The last two cores weren’t helpful to damage, and those 10 AP used to qualify for it don’t help outside of DEX training. So any training at level 30 stopped after Harper Enchantment of Deception. I did consider Saekee’s great idea to extend my Elven Displacement duration with Magic of Patience, adding 2 points there. My Elven Displacement from my Shadow Dragonmark now lasts a hardy 4 minutes instead of 1 minute 30 seconds, thanks to that Extend Magic effect.
  3. Trained Ninja Spy’s Sneak Attack and No Mercy enhancements using the 12 to 14 freed AP. This additional damage will come in handy when Shiradi Champion training offers Nerve Venom, which makes enemies helpless. Significant damage from Sneak Attacks now apply as Improved Deception effects kick in.

Epic Gear

Mericletica5

Mericletica is a first-life character on a server with a lower player population. I’ll have to make due from the charity of others for gear when raids are run less often.

Grabbed a low-hanging fruit: A Spider-Spun Caparison for a paltry amount of Astral Shards for +3 Insightful DEX later. I gathered plenty of Eveningstar Commendations for the Way of the Sun Soul set and its stance-based buffs.

The Radiant Forcefield-like buff that reduces damage by 25% for 10 seconds when a vorpal-calculated hit is confirmed in Earth Stance adds to the Zen damage reduction scheme, as does the PRR and AC boosts of Earth Stance. Ocean Stance kicks on a Fire Shield/Cold buff. I don’t know if the Wind Stance’s buff of 6% Doublestrike includes Doubleshot as well (I’m sure I tested this on Szyncletica and it does not).

With level 23 done, I decided to downshift to farm some items.

To use the Sun Soul set, my trusty level 3 Bracers of Wind must go, which meant a new Blurry item to replace it. I found a reasonably-priced epic Ring of Shadows on the Shard Exchange and put it on immediately at level 23. This ring has it all for the stealthy, defensive ninja. Great Hide/Move Silently and at least 10% Incorporeal protection with its Ghostly at all times to go with the Blurry, saving me a little ki in light skirmishes where I needn’t kick on Shadow Veil.

On the other hand is a gift from Saekee: A Seal of House Avithoul, perfect for the Epic adjustments for additional Sneak Attack damage, DEX +7 and with Improved Deception that stacks with my Harper based version for frequent Bluff-spins against charging attackers, slowing them down.

STR was a serious problem for me. My collection of bows are heavy, and even as I pared them down, I had to wear some Ogre Power boots and not something more useful. Completing most of the Heroic Elite runs possible in Gianthold gained me sufficient ancient relics to trade for a Diamond of Strength +5 that I added to the slot on the Ring of Shadows.

Scored a non-epic Roadwatch Bow in the latter days of leveling to 20, which was surprisingly effectively against the plant and fey in the “Druid’s Deep” series. I will be buying an Epic version of this thing, as well as completing more Eveningstar challenges to get different Cormyrian bows and their often harsh Improved Paralyzing, Wounding and other detrimental effects.

Saekee was happy to venture out to make me a Tier 0 Thunder-Forged Longbow. I wasn’t doing badly at all beforehand with my non-epic Thornlord for horrific 300 to 400 crits while in Earth Stance with sustained damage of 100 per hit, elevating by 20-45 with a bluffing Improved Diversion spin and the Sneak Attack bonus.

On breaking out of the Sun Soul set at higher levels for a raid configuration, the Flawless Black Dragonscale Robe would add more fortification bypass. I’ll be farming Heroic Tor to gather their lesser version for a robe usable for life #2 or for Epic play when I need to really punch through something.

So here’s the gear summary, thus far, for the TL;DR crowd.

  • Helm: Deadly Helm of Accuracy (both +6 bonuses). This is a very useful placeholder until I find something better. The Epic choices are weird here. A Flawless Helm of the Black Dragon would pair well enough with its counterpart robe. The Epic Wheloon chain reward helms aren’t bad, but I think, for now, that level 27 Guardian’s Helmet with 120% fortification and Hammerblock isn’t looking too bad.
  • Necklace: Nightforge Gorget with Deathblock gem. This is always a hard thing to part with until I can stabilize my Epic gear so I have Deathblock and higher Fortification elsewhere. Some Fortified 125% Gloves with a yellow and green slot would be ideal as I could stick a PRR gem in with the Deathblock gem. It’s too easy in places to get a Death Ward buff dispelled, so I never leave the airship without this. I’d rather have a Dodge 8% or better item here, if not elsewhere.
  • Trinket: Mummified Bat. Of all the gear I have, trinkets are in the worst shape. Ideally, a Planar Focus item with Insightful DEX +3 would be fine, but a Shimmering Arrowhead might be the better thing for slowing anything with Crippling. Combined with Improved Deception, this could be a great thing.
  • Cloak: A Drow Piwafwi. The basic Hide/Move Silently allows easy stealth movement but also has that funny Invisibility Guard (like the Drow Slavers, it gives you effective Improved Invisibility for a bit and so slows down aggro) but also Improved Sneak Attack +5 to boost weapon damage. I need to add something better since only the SA effect is working here…
  • Belt: Belt of the Sun Soul. The Concentration +15, Insightful WIS +2 and CON +7 is very welcome.
  • Ring #2: A Seal of House Avithoul. DEX +7. Excellent for boosting Sneak Attack damage and increases the Improved Deception effect since I also have this working on Harper Enchantment. Enemies, even red-names, spin quite a bit, allowing for a lot of extra damage.
  • Gloves: Fortified 105% of Speed VI. This is likely the place to add in greater Epic fortification or DEX or Dodge later. I’d love to find Speed as well until I reach level 27 and get the Blinding Speed feat to be permanently Hasted and get 15% ranged speed. I’m not sure what named item, aside from the Purple Dragon Gauntlets for healing amplification) would fit here. DEX +10 with Dodge 10%/Protection/Natural Armor 1+0 are possible to find by level 28.
  • Boots: Boots of the Woodsman. After many trades of other commendations, these provide Insightful DEX +2 for more damage and some more movement speed. There are many, many better Epic boots to find later.
  • Ring #1: Ring of Shadows, level 23. Blurry, Ghostly, a STR +5 gem, and Hide/Move Silently +17. I shouldn’t need the Drow Piwafwi with this ring, further emphasizing my need to dump that cloak.
  • Bracers: Bracers of the Sun Soul. Boosts not only WIS but adds Insight bonuses to saves, AC and CON.
  • Armor: Vestments of the Sun Soul. This completes the Way of the Sun Soul effects that reduce damage or provide emergency effects such as Restoration. Once I’m cocky enough for chasing 375 PDK favor, I’ll unlock the Spider-Spun Caparison.
  • Goggles: Lenses of the Woodsman. Gives me Seeker +6, an attack bonus and True Seeing, allowing me (in combination with the Sun Soul set) to retire my Teraza’s Perfect Sight, which is why my Helm slot has just a loot-gen item. I was trying originally for some Drow Smoke Goggles but, after three runs through the first Darkening quests and besting “The Battle of Eveningstar” thrice, the drop just wasn’t there. I did score two pairs of Grave Wrappings, one to keep and another to hand over to Gwynncletica, my young Shintao for her later glory. Perhaps Shadowsight would be good here as an alternative later.

Gameplay

Currently, Mericletica blasts things at sustained 100-120 damage with around 20-40 Sneak Attack damage, with 400-500 critical hits once her Archer’s Focus is full.

At DEX 44 or so, Mericletica is a surprisingly hard-hitting powerhouse. I’m starting my Elite run into the Devil Battlefield to complete the Shavarath quests there for Yugoloth Favor Potions. Combined with DDO Elixirs and the special House Deneith potions, I’ll get +6 more to DEX on-hand for crunch fights. It looks like, with items and destinies, Meri should ultimately have around 48-52 DEX base by end-game with +6 in reserve. I need to visit Szyncletica the star-thrower to check how she reached a 60 after two lives and emulate that.

Right now, Dodge bonus isn’t where I want it to be. It’s 21% if I’m in Ocean Stance, but it can reach 30%. I need to retool what I have, starting with that cloak slot. An Adamantine Cloak of the Wolf, with Dodge 8% and Improved Seeker +5 might do the trick. If I can add points to Walking with Waves for 3% more while in Ocean Stance without messing up my Epic Moment, that’s one help.

While I prefer the strong, generally aggressive hireling duo of Albus, the level 20 Favored Soul and my Onyx Panther to take aggro-point, Mericletica wasn’t doing too badly on her own in the wilds of the Devil Battlefield. She took out her first pit fiend with some clever jumping atop the Tower of Despair’s outer gate, pelting the thing from above as it received punches from the Warforged Titan below.

The Grandmaster of Flowers destiny, overall, boosts weapon damage, Dodge and Dexterity, while adding in the ranged ki magic balls as a “finish him!” move with a low HP enemy. It’s actually turning out as a great ranged destiny because it reinforces the zen of this build, leveraging ki and the natural monastic abilities for strong defense and damage. Only Shiradi Champion will be better in general damage and versatility with the bow, but at a defense disadvantage if I read it right.

I’m going to race through Legendary Dreadnought to get another Twist slot unlocked and upgraded, to reach Shiradi Champion and Primal Avatar as soon as possible.

There’s still a lot of items I can farm as well. I see many runs into “The Weapons Shipment” for that Shimmering Arrowhead Hopefully I can bring Saekee or others along to increase my farming odds. I owe him a lot.

I foresee an Epic XP leveling freeze at level 27 to avoid wasting my last Epic Destiny feat slot. While training two Primal destinies to qualify, I’ll take Overwhelming Critical as an Epic Feat at 24, changing the bow critical multiplier from x3 to x4, I think. I’ll take Toughness as the first Epic Destiny feat at level 26, Blinding Speed at level 27, continuing destiny training until I can take Doubleshot (10% added, 15% total) as the last Epic Destiny feat.

I hope to have a video of this build in fully-trained GMoF, as well as Shiradi and Shadowdancer in the coming weeks.

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 Arcane Archer Monk

 

Not all martial arts training requires a blade or empty hand.

The Arcane Archer Monk: Levels slower, less versatile than a Ranger, BIG Epic payoff.

After my last post on a more viable Zen Archer, Sir Geoff of Hanna commented back, asking what a DEX-based Arcane Archer Monk would be like.

And then light dawned again as I replied back.

The Basics

Going Elf, as with the Zen Archer, allows Dexterity-to-Damage, foregoing the need for any Ranger levels to get Bow Strength. It also resolves any weapon proficiency required for longbows for a Monk.

You’ll need Zen Archery, of course, to Center the bow. The usual ranged feats are needed, starting with Point Blank Shot, Quick Draw, and Precise Shot, adding in Ten Thousand Stars as a class feat at level 6, Improved Critical: Ranged at level 12, Precision and Manyshot at levels 15 and 18. As an Epic character, you can add two more feats.

You’d need to have 4 AP saved up to train the Arcane Archer tree from the Elf racial tree.

But AP is where things get very, very tricky.

I Canna Change T’ Laws O’ Physics, Captain!

The Zen Archer’s advantage comes from adding damage from the Harper Agent tree, but only after these requirements are met:

  • Elf racial requirements (20 AP minimum)
    • Dragonmark training up to Displacement
    • Aerenal Grace for DEX-to-Damage
    • Skill for 3% Doubleshot/3% Dodge
    • Core 1: Elven Accuracy I
    • Core 2: Elven Dexterity I
  • Ninja Spy (14 AP minimum)
    • Stealthy in Ninja Spy (3 ranks )
    • Acrobatic (3 ranks)
    • Faster Sneaking (1 rank)
    • Agility (3 ranks)
    • Core 1: Ninja Training
    • Core 2: Advanced Ninja Training
    • Core 3: Shadow Veil
  • Henshin Mystic (8 AP minimum)
    • Way of the Tenacious Badger
    • Core 1: Riddle of Fire
    • Mystic Training
    • Negotiator (2 ranks)
    • Contemplation (3 ranks)

All of this training gives the basic Monk archer the required Dodge, Concealment, Incorporeality skills, Dodge, and, most importantly, every passive ki regeneration option from enhancements, gaining another +1 passive ki regeneration with level 12. Without it, a Monk archer wouldn’t have sufficient ki generated to power Ten Thousand Stars (20 ki) or Shadow Veil (15 ki) with any regularity.

That leaves a paltry 38 AP. The elven Arcane Archer tree can eat up to 66 AP alone. You need 40 + 1 AP to train the last core ability. You’re 3 AP short.

You can shave 3 AP from the Dodge cap increasing Agility without a sizable problem in defense, leaving you with just enough AP to complete the fifth core. And you might be able to remove 2 AP from Faster Sneaking.

But Elven Arcane Archers level slower than their Ranger brethren. Your Heroic training won’t be completed until you’re a level 25 Epic character, holding back those 2 AP from your Heroic days until you reach levels 22 and 25 respectively, where the fourth and fifth core enhancements are available.

But what AA training do you pick with only 41 AP?

Where Many Monks Have Gone Before

The monkcher builds use AA training, of course. Their multiclassing allows some class benefits that a single-class Monk doesn’t get automatically, particularly a larger spell point bar. So the AA tree has to first establish and improve spell point increases to empower imbuements or this build can’t do anything at all with too little SP.

The goal of the AA Monk is to generate versatile damage combined with Monk defenses. While the monkcher leverages all kinds of classes and epic destinies, I envision the AA Monk as a more versatile strafing, kiting fighter–the complete opposite of the Zen Archer but with similar advantages because of full Monk class training.

Core 1, Tier 1

  • Arcane Archer: Core 1 requirement, 1 AP, to activate the tree.
  • Energy of the Wild: 3 ranks, 3 AP. You gain Magical Training at 3 ranks to support passive SP regeneration with Echoes of Power and 80 spell points.

We’ll skip Conjure Arrows, saving 2 AP. You can train enough with House Deneith to gain Sturdy arrows at 75% return.

  • Elemental Arrows I: 2 AP. You need to spend AP to grow into the next tier, and taking at least one of these imbuements is wise.

Core 2: Tier 2 (5 AP prerequisite, 6 AP spent)

Any of these enhancements cost 2 AP. Only Elemental Arrows have only 1 rank, while the others have 3. Best to train only 1 rank on two of them. You’ll also need to train the Core ability 2. In this example, I’ll pick:

  • Morphic Arrows: Core 2 requirement, 1 AP.
  • Elemental Arrows II: 2 AP.
  • Force Arrows: 2 AP, rank 1.

Core 3, Tier 3 (10 AP prerequisite, 11 AP spent)

From here, we try to boost DEX for more general damage as well. Two selections have 3 ranks at 2 AP a rank, but the others are single rank. Of the options, I’ve always been meh on Shattermantle, so I train these enhancements instead:

  • Terror Arrows: 2 AP, rank 1.
  • Elemental Arrows III: 2 AP.
  • Dexterity: 1 point to DEX, 2 AP.

But I need 20 AP spent in the tree to move forward and have only spent 17 here. Preferring damage that can’t be resisted by most, I train another rank in

  • Force Arrows (Tier 2, rank 2): 2 AP

and also

  • Metalline Arrows (Core 3 requirement): 1 AP

Tier 4 (20 AP prerequisite, 20 spent)

Training everything on this tier won’t get us to the next tier at 30 AP. We’ll need to back-train with a few AP as last time to spend 10 AP.

Do note that training the tier requires character level 12, but we can’t train the fourth core ability, Aligned Arrows, until character level 15.

  • Banishing Arrows: 1 AP.
  • Paralyzing Arrows: 3 AP, 3 ranks.
  • Smiting Arrows: 1 AP.
  • Dexterity: 2 AP.
  • Elemental Arrows IV: 2 AP.
  • Aligned Arrows (Core 4 requirement): 1 AP

Tier 5 (30 AP prerequisite, 30 AP spent)

We still have a comparatively generous 11 AP left to spend. However, you’ll be stuck with 2 AP as you train as an Epic character, unable to unlock the last two cores until later. And you have to spend every point you have left, somewhere, leaving 2 points for Core 5 and 6.

  • Arrow of Slaying: 2 AP.
  • Improved Elemental Arrows: 1 AP
  • Runebow: 2 AP.
  • Force Arrows (Tier 2, rank 3): 2 AP
  • True Strike (Tier 1): 1 AP, 1 rank.

That leaves:

  • Shadow Arrows (Core 5 requirement, level 22 required): 1 AP
  • Master of Imbuement (Core 6, level 25 required): 1 AP.

A Better Monk Archer?

I think so. It gains many benefits of the Zen Archer while gaining greater versatility with damage from the imbuements. This build is far less a flavor build as the Zen Archer, but its payoff is slower.

But what this Elven Arcane Archer Monk really does well is Doubleshot. It gains 3% from Elven racial training, and 25% more from the Core 5 and 6 abilities. Then train in the Epic Destiny feat of Doubleshot for 10% more, and then add in an enhancement bonus from some weapon that likely will give up to 6%. That’s 44% sustained Doubleshot, friends.

And I’m not adding in any Epic Destiny abilities.

That’s probably a good thing, because we’ll blow our minds by imagining this character fully trained in the Divine Crusader destiny with Tier 5 ability, Celestial Champion (up to 10% more Doubleshot, if you can withstand getting critically hit enough times in a given period) and the last core ability, Zeal of the Righteous. That’s a toggled power-trip of decaying 50% bonus Doubleshot and 50 Ranged Power on top of that 44%.

I was planning to have Artemistika the Ranger train as a Druid next. But with all of her many trained EDs, she may enter the convent and loiter in the archer’s glade training area for life #2. And I guess training yet another destiny, say, Divine Crusader, isn’t a bad idea now.

Now that I’ve got a bead on character building in a formal way, thanks to forum member EllisDee’s Character Planner Lite, I will post a more detailed build later on the forums and in the Monk guide.

 

 

 

Emissaries from Ghallanda

tree

Change is often stressful, but often brings great beauty as well as strength.

I created a new character, not on my home server of Ghallanda, but on Cannith.

This was the first server I think that the game pointed me to use on first logging in nearly five years ago. Two other characters rested there, unused for years.

My freshly rolled Zen Archer, Mericletica, got to work. I wanted to start off with a Poison Master, but for best results that needed a Drow, which took me a while to unlock on that server.

I’ll explain my larger reasons why I’m on Cannith, far from my stores of loot and a friendly, large and respected guild on another server, in a moment. For now, let me relate some fun that comes from this change.

The New World

Playing the game feels wholly different when you start over on a new server. Unlike joining the game for the first time and being wholly confused as to mechanics, location, and interaction, an experienced player on a new server has many advantages. I know what I’ll need to start a new home and where to find it–at least at first.

With no platinum to speak of, with no stores of loot, I began again. The earliest quests often provide commonly found and useful tools.

Since the Zen Archer is one of two genuine builds I’ve designed, I knew precisely how to start. To speed things up, Mericletica began as  a Veteran II character at level 7. This offered a bunch of suitable starter gear. But rather than handwraps, Meri chose a longbow. I pushed her AP immediately into the Elf racial tree to give her Dexterity-to-Damage, Dodge and Doubleshot bonuses like her parallel sister, Pynthetica.

A bargain offer on the Auction House: A Lumric’s Longbow, perfect for the hordes of undead in her future. (Turned out that this thing was effective against the Ghostly Skeletons in Delera’s Tomb that normally needed Good alignment to even hurt.)

My only first goal for the new Zen Archer was to get a Greatbow of the Scrag, a power bow for a low level archer with its blunted ammunition and higher damage, also great against skeletons. Several runs into the wilds of Three Barrel Cove came up with little. But I knew it dropped: Pynthetica got that bow after only a couple of runs on Ghallanda. Eventually I found one, again on the Auction House, at just the right time and cost.

If you’ve never started completely new on a different server, all access and resources are separate from your original home except for your Turbine Points. While I could spend about US$25 to transfer any of my characters from Ghallanda, I’m finding more and more that this is unnecessary.

Homesteading

DDO is a wonderful world. Your best game resource really isn’t your gear or build, but your brain. There are so many tools in the game that you might tend to ignore because of the benefits of a guild. Even then, you find yourself learning about more resources than ever before.

Mericletica is homeless within a city’s walls. Yet she is a Monk. Through my experience, she knows where to find resources to complete her mission, and her class offers innate support that makes survival easier.

The first tactic I’m using is the benefit of owning many character slots. Farming without a guild’s help requires you to use multiple characters to avoid quickly ransacking boss chests, among other needs such as multiple collectibles, platinum and gear sources, establishing a crafting character, and more.

I reactivated my Ranger, Cynthetica, picked up a bow for a bit and farmed the Cove, having little luck so far in getting that bow for her Zen sister. Cyn here has not been played since I joined over 5 years ago and created her, so she had lots of freebies sitting in her inventory, including a Raider’s box for a “Caught in the Web” raid weapon gift! She is taking her Pinion bow, that’s for sure.

More characters appeared. There’s now Gadgetetica, a young enterprising Halfling Rogue Assassin. Realizing the sad state of financial and material affairs with the small troupe, she’s spearheading acquiring the massive financing and crafting services, training herself in Cannith Crafting.

I’m now appreciating the benefit of a higher Haggle skill to improve my platinum stores. I’ve come to nickname her “Gidget.”

Also settling in to help is a Half-Elf Shintao Monk named Gwynncletica.

At 400 favor, a Drow Poison Master arrived on Cannith: Vipercletica. She’s going at things with a single blade, so it’s back to the Cove to find her a Tiefling Assassin’s Blade. Soon, I’m sure a Drow Bard might come to town. And a banking character is storing essential gear for myself and others for later adventures.

Mericletica herself is a bit gear-dependent and needs specific training different from her companions. She’s got Deflect Arrows trained, has emergency Displacement, Shadow Walk and Invisibility through her Dragonmark, but Meri lacked a Blurry item–critical for the zen-defense.

She now has Shadow Veil from her ninja training., with barely enough ki regenerating to add that important Incorporeality, or to use Ten Thousand Stars occasionally. She’s generating the 8 AP needed for Henshin Mystic’s Contemplation for another passive ki regeneration point and a bit more Concentration.

Back to getting Blurry. I fixated on the options. The prudent direction was to build a set of Bracers of Wind. In fact, getting the level 3 version only takes two ingredients and two challenges–the same ones needed for a level 7 version.

So late one evening, I grabbed Flower the Cleric and set off farming. Readers know that I don’t like the Cannith challenges. They are overly complex and often throw me out of the game’s immersion, like a McDonald’s restaurant within a mountain view to the background.

But the “Lava Caves: Circles of Power” and “Kobold Chaos” dragonshard runs went very well. It’s far easier to farm on a ranged character since you can cover a greater area of defense.

So Meri has her Bracers. Now it’s back to quest running for her, Gwynn and Gidget, with Cynthetica picking up slack later.

Worried that Meri wouldn’t have enough damage punch against undead as I entered into the Catacombs, I researched what Good-aligned arrows I could acquire. On Ghallanda, I’d just use my crafter to make some, but that’s not happening yet on Cannith. And surviving the fight at the start of “The Chronoscope” to reach the war-torn Rusty Nail tavern and their supplies of Flametouched arrows seemed a bit daunting at the time.

Turns out, 2 Marks of the Keeper given to a Marketplace collectible vendor yield 100 +1 Arrows of Undead Bane.

Now I’m all anxious because I’ve rediscovered how useful the collectible vendors can be now, especially in getting some ruby augments for some of my weapons as well as other augments for needed protections. And lots of specialty arrows.

The big hassle, outside of using a banking character, is getting a quiver that holds a substantial number of specialty arrows. The best are the Large Thin Quiver from the House Deneith vendor, at 1000 arrows, and the Very Large Thin Quiver from the DDO Store only, at 1500 arrows. I’ve been working hard on Favor rewards from Deneith for ammo, Phlarian for buffs and clickies, Delera’s Tomb for weapons and other gear, and so on.

I learned that the Hammer and Chain store, near the Harbor banker, sells inexpensive quivers that I could load and pack with as many arrows as I can hold and put into a bank.

Mericletica1Meri took her Greatbow of the Scrag and punched holes in the legions of undead in the Catacombs, gathering more Marks of the Keeper for later.

I might–just might–start running Necropolis now, especially if I can acquire more options to hurt undead with that bow or something better down the road, like a Bow of the Silver Flame.

Things feel all fresh again. I was even excited over a Cannith Challenge. Starting new really pushes you to consider more game resources in a different manner than what you’d normally do when affiliated with a guild or have an insane loot store.

I even used a Mirror of Glamering for the first time, copying an outfit that Meri had that looked perfect for her archery ways.

That outfit looked terrible to me when used on melee fighters, but the neck fan and extended bracers looked very appropriate for a Zen Archer.

The Mission on Cannith

So, why am I on Cannith? I guess it’s for the same reasons that EvenNote and BonnieBew and many others do what they do to help other players. My motivation is themed as well.

What role-play I do in DDO tends to reflect my actual faith as a player. In real life, I greatly respect the monastic traditions in the Catholic Church, particularly their historic role in the early monastic communities in aiding and preserving civilization after the fall of the ancient Roman Empire.

Monasteries were much like our guilds. They gathered men and women under a common theme. Often these people had training as farmers and scribes, weavers and craftsmen. They pooled their knowledge and aided their neighbors.

From the ruins of the Empire, the monastic traditions preserved and copied ancient texts, not only intricate Bibles (called illuminated manuscripts because of their detailed and ornate art) but literary works and histories. From these, they formed the first public schools and are the creators of the first universities. They refined food preparation, including things like cheese and beer. They codified the first hospitals and hospices and even hotels.

Did you know that, today, it’s estimated that the Church is the largest non-governmental provider of health care in the world, running 26% of the world’s facilities?

Through their faith and love of others, these men and women were dedicated and disciplined peoples that blew on the embers of hope to bring the flame of the Light back to a darkened populace.

This is why it’s inappropriate to call the Middle Ages as “The Dark Ages.” There was nothing dark about that time except for a sudden interruption of knowledge and unity that people such as the monks and nuns tried–and succeeded–in reassembling for many who had less than nothing.

And when a monastery was large enough, often missionaries are sent to spread their knowledge and aid to other communities, repeating the process of establishing a monastery and training and aiding those in need.

Mericletica and friends are my missionaries from Ghallanda in spirit. I want to aid others on different servers to be the best Monks their can be, through training and gear, but also to enjoy the spirit of new friends. I’m not leaving my old friends on Ghallanda, but the mission of the blog and the Monk and stealth guides is to help others best enjoy their playtime as a Monk.

A new server home strengthens my resolve to complete this mission, and is surprisingly fun in application. I’m learning to be more resourceful and hope to share this information here and on Cannith and any other servers I may be able to visit.

“To whom much is given, much is required,” God said. If I’m serious about making better Monks for DDO and to grow our worlds, I must take my mission more abroad.

While I initially planned on creating a new guild on Cannith, a friend of the blog has pretty much convinced me to join an existing community. Stay tuned.

Zen Master: The Untouchable Archer


Pynthetica-Zen12-4

The delicate balance, as I explained to the Teacher before her sabbatical, in the use of the longbow through ki, required me to shed my thuggish notions of strength I once learned as a Ranger.

The balance comes not from the release of the arrow, I explained, but in releasing myself from the material plane while guiding the arrow to its target. Thus, zen, or complete focus of mind and body, enables a flow of power from grace, not strength, which also moves the body away from danger in concert with the hand guiding the arrow to its destination.

Should an enemy arrow, or many attacks for that matter, seek out my body, my disciplines train my body to ignore that arrow and to let it pass by. I don’t use monastic principles so much as to repel the arrow but to push myself into another plane of existence where the attack cannot reach me.

This discipline requires only your training, ki, and no arcane or divine philosophies.

– Pynthetica, in her teachings to young acolytes on her inaugural instruction in the art of zen archery


(UPDATE: Since this post, I’ve refined the build to the point where I actually posted a build on the DDO forums. Its basic protections are same as here but with some tweaks. Find it here.)

I had drafted an entire update article on Pynthetica, my Zen Archer build. 

DDO doesn’t have a true “Zen Archer” as found in D&D tabletop or similar games, but provided one feat that supported the notion. I’ve been trying to develop one.

As you may recall, she was a decent Monk with a bow but not a high-damaging one because of her Bow Strength limitations.

Basically, a bow’s damage modifier is non-existent unless your STR is less than 9 or if you have a form of the Bow Strength feat (granted to all Rangers but very expensive for others). Or you can do what Pyn did in life #2 and use the Half-Elf Ranger dilettante to gain a Lesser version–but I don’t recommend it. She ended up reaching level 20 but having insufficient damage per hit to make a survivable difference in Epic.

I discovered an alternative to Bow Strength and decided to forego Pyn’s epic training as a Half-Elf, moving her onto life #3 immediately. Pynthetica is my only character that has three lives without ever training past level 21.

As I was reviewing some of Pyn’s recent gameplay successes in my head while writing the old draft, a post-caffeination revelation occurred in me,  causing me to scrap that draft in favor of this one. It seemed neater.

Simple but Effective Damage


When asked how a Monk would channel ki through their archery, I was only able to say, “Through persistence.” As the Drow teacher Szyncletica might say, there is less to be said by a single projectile yet quite more to be said by several projectiles sent at once.

–Pynthetica


As described here and here, Pynthetica is simply a Monk with a bow. She uses no additional classes as the “monkcher” nor trains any Arcane Archer powers. She’s more comparable in her build to Szyncletica, who’s based on the version 1 Shiradi Shuricannon.

As an Elf, Pyn saves many resources and gives her some powerful advantages. Let’s stick with the usual attack stuff first in a quick summary.

  1. Going Elf gives Pyn natural longbow proficiency, saving several feats ordinarily required for non-Rangers.
  2. The Zen Archery feat makes a bow a Centered ki weapon, but doesn’t give weapon proficiency, thus the need to use a race that provides this. Zen Archery normally applies the WIS modifier, rather than DEX, as the to-hit roll if WIS is higher than DEX.
  3. Elven (Aerenal) Weapon Training gives increased damage and attack bonuses to her bows.
  4. Choosing Aerenal Grace adds Dexterity-to-Damage for her bows.
  5. Choosing the Skill enhancement adds 3% Doubleshot, 3% Dodge and bypasses 3% enemy Dodge.

Pynthetica-Zen12-2Clearly, the DEX-to-Damage for bows solves the bow damage problem nicely. A little Doubleshot aids in damage.

Ranged Feats by level 12 are Point Blank Shot, Quick Draw, Precise Shot, Improved Critical: Ranged, and Ten Thousand Stars.

Like Szyncletica the star-thrower, there are limits to what monastic arts can be applied to non-melee combat. For Pyn, there’s far less she can apply because there are fewer skills in the Ninja Spy tree that augment damage to any weapon aside from shortswords and shuriken. More on what she did train in this tree in a moment.

Pynthetica decided to pour much of her remaining AP into the Harper Agent tree to gain as much Ranged Power and passive enhancements to her bow as possible. By level 20, she’ll have up to +15 Ranged Power with all Harper skills trained. She may also have sufficient AP to make her weapon Good-aligned and add a modest damage increase with the tier 5 enhancements found there.

Pyn’s weapon damage should be comparable to Rangers (without any damage imbues) since one stat controls damage and to-hit. But monkchers and some Arcane Archers would probably do much better.

That’s all well and good. But what really makes Pyn a useful character build, much less a viable one?

That answer came to me after reviewing how Pyn fought in several quests.

Missed Me by That Much


I invited the ten acolytes to take their positions along the range. Each were given two blunted arrows. I stood as their target at the other end of the range. I had only ten blunted arrows, one per student.

I concentrated, moving myself to the Between, then instructed each of them to shoot me while I targeted each of them.

Not one of their arrows struck me, yet I was able to strike each student. One student remarked, “It was as if you weren’t there as I shot my arrow.”

-Pynthetica


So I have Pyn out in the field. A bunch of trolls and ogres do their mixing up of ranged attack and melee strikes. I direct Pyn to remove the threats as arrows and other attacks rain down. I recall seeing a lot of text fly over Pyn’s head while she’s fighting.

Miss Miss Miss Dodge Blurry Deflected Miss Incorporeal Miss Dodge Blurry Evade Evade Miss Dodge Incorporeal Dodge Deflected Dodge

While all that text is flying by, the enemies are dropping, but Pyn’s health remains stable. It’s not dropping much, certainly not so dramatically that an occasional heal from a tanking Cleric hireling or a potion won’t fix.

Pynthetica-Zen12-3Without realizing it, Pyn was showing me her art of “Zen Mastery.” This is Pyn’s self-ascribed DDO art of archery while not fully in existence on the material plane.

To understand this, let’s review Pyn’s passive training skills.

As with other ninjas, Pynthetica gains strong miss-chance abilities as a Monk. She gains a base 6% Dodge just training up to level 20. As a ninja, she gains more bonuses, and using certain Monk stances improve this further, not counting any gear.

The higher each miss-chance defense of Dodge, Concealment and Incorporeality, the less damage taken. When an enemy attacks, their attack is rolled against each miss-chance. Fail any one of them and the attack misses.

While ninjas such as Szyncletica and the solo-master Kiricletica can have the up to usual 25% Dodge, 20% Concealment and 25% Incorporeality for a very respectable miss-chance of about 55%, Pynthetica discerned something more.

Pyn is an Elf. She trained her Shadow Dragonmark. In addition to emergency Invisibility she can tap if she has insufficient ki to use Shadow Veil, she also has 3 uses of Displacement per rest for heavy battles. That’s 50% Concealment. She’ll try to have at least a form of Blur (20% Concealment) equipped at all times.

Pyn is also a ninja at heart. She trained in Shadow Veil, of course, for silent Invisibility and 25% Incorporeality, the highest Ghostliness you can achieve without being a high-level Pale Master. But she can increase her own Dodge cap with the Agility enhancement to boost her Dodge cap from the standard 25% cap to 28%. Combined with her guild ship’s Fencing Master ship buff that adds a 2% bonus to Dodge cap, Pynthetica can achieve a 30% Dodge.

Unfortunately, unlike Shuricannons, Ninja Poison cannot be applied with bows. Training in any of the Nujutsu or Sting of the Ninja elements would be fruitless. I might apply a precious 1 AP to the first rank of Flash Bang to give Pyn an emergency escape–more points if need be, but I would also sacrifice Ranged Power AP to do this. Pyn also loses the vorpalling weapons and other weapon upgrades in the latter Ninja Spy core abilities.

Unlike Artemistika the Ranger, Pynthetica’s natural Monk training also gives her greater movement speed, better AC, better saves, Improved Evasion and better Jump if required, like Szyncletica. Wearing no armor still has its advantages.

Pyn hates enemy archers. She trained in the Deflect Arrows feat. This will deflect an enemy missile attack once every six seconds–but note the fine print, yea saith the Wiki:

  • Monks do not need to be centered to benefit from this feat and can deflect arrows that strike from behind.
  • Only arrows and bolts that hit are deflected. Those that miss do not count towards the 1 deflected projectile per 6 seconds quota.

So Pyn’s miss-chances have a fourth layer. Should the enemy’s missile make successful saves against Pyn’s Dodge, Concealment and Incorporeality (remember, all must be saved against by an enemy attack), the missile will get swatted away with Deflect Arrows. Further, since the combined miss-chances are higher than the average ninja, odds are that Deflect Arrows will always ward off an missile attack that beats the odds against Pyn’s miss-chance.

It also doesn’t hurt that the high DEX and WIS also boost Pyn’s general AC (through DEX AC bonus and the Monk AC bonus) to survive a direct melee hit. Thus, there is no concern about improving CON scores beyond using items or changing Monk stances in crunch times.

 Normal battle miss-chance defenses (level 12)

  • Dodge: 22, Concealment: 0, Incorporeality: 0 = 22%
  • Dodge: 22, Concealment: 0, Incorporeality: 25 = 41.5%
  • Dodge: 22, Concealment: 20, Incorporeality: 25 = 53.2%

Advanced battle miss-chance defenses (level 12)

  • Dodge: 20, Concealment; 50, Incorporeality: 25 = 70.75%

Epic battle miss-chance defenses (level 20+)

  • Dodge: 30, Concealment; 20, Incorporeality: 25 = 58%
  • Dodge: 30, Concealment; 50, Incorporeality: 25 = 73.75%

And remember, if something is able to get past any of these numbers slower than once per six seconds, and it’s a missile attack, it will be deflected by Deflect Arrows.

Pyn’s AC at level 12 at the time of this writing is a strong 51 to 55, adjustable a little through an item or Monk stances as a physical defense, a Natural Armor item, and hopefully will gain some modest PRR and a little MRR as further mitigation. Pyn’s saves, however, are the links that form her strongest armor created by miss-chance.

Pyn’s zen mastery, in short, is a superior miss-change strategy combined with Deflect Arrows and Improved Evasion. That much defense, even for a time, is enough to ward off the nastiest attacks, including magic assault, where Improved Evasion adds an effective fifth layer.

While Pyn is far from any kind of tank, she should be able to deliver more uninterrupted attacks and lose health slower while under fire than many other archer classes when they are under direct attack.

Zen Master’s Gear


The zen master must not only choose the appropriate bow and arrows for the target, but also the correct application of enchanted gear which fortifies and magnifies their skill in standing in the balance of material and ethereal, the Between.

In a perfect world the zen master will not move, but should they require escape from a charging enemy, they must also be swift, sometimes silent, returning to their place of Between to target their enemy once more.

–Pynthetica


To make her Ten Thousand Stars training most effective, a higher WIS is needed. This also helps with the ki pool but also with total AC. But DEX is the damage and to-hit stat that will be improved most, especially into Epic play. TTS is preferable over Manyshot because of its shorter cooldown of 1 minute and its 30 second use versus Manyshot’s 2 minute cooldown and 20 second use.

Pyn’s general weaponry isn’t special. Most of the named bows are there, including the howitzer Thornlord, the undead-hating high-performance Silver Longbow, troll-hunters such as Serpentbranch and the Tortured Livewood Bow (of which I’m happy to see improved versions, snagging an Epic one for later), and perhaps an Elemental Longbow of Earth if Misty would care to part with hers. And long ago Pyn was constructing a Lightning II longbow but got only to tier 2 before losing the formula. Still, it’s still a superior weapon.

She’s enjoying a Frozen Tunic that stops some enemies cold quite conveniently. A Black Dragonscale Robe awaits her at level 14 to help with fortification bypass, with a White robe for improved defense. While I’m using a Greater Nimble Trinket to add Blur, I’m studying how badly I want some Bracers of Wind. The tier 2 level 15 version with Blurry, Dodge 6% and Air Guard would be sufficient–and only bound to account.

Some pre-augment slot Bracers of Deftness add Mobility for 2% more Dodge for now.

Some switching of gear added a Resistance +6 helm and some Striding 30% boots are now equipped, as well. Looks like I can trade collectables for some Greater Heroism potions with a House Jorasco trader for crunch times but use my Eternal Potion of Heroism during less stressful battles.

Zen Mastery to Level 20


 I do not have answers as yet to teach these acolytes on the ways of fighting against the most superior enemies rumored to exist on another world, and even other planes. This I have yet to encounter, myself. I do know that becoming a shadow may only achieve so much if your enemy is a shadow as well.

–Pynthetica


There are two feat slots left. Precision would make a very logical one to take for blowing by 25% fortification and boosting damage by 5%–it’s too good to pass up. The second slot depends on Pyn’s overall defense. She has enough INT to train Combat Expertise to gain a 10% AC boost, which can go to 30% if she moves to Ultimate Earth Stance. Of course, adding the Dodge feat itself would help its defense bonus by 3%.

But there’s also the kill-everything Manyshot that cannot be fully ignored since any archer may need to clear a room faster than TTS can do in a crisis. Given that Pyn’s defenses are designed to be superior than merely having higher AC, I’m clearly leaning to Manyshot, especially with the introduction of stupidly durable Champions. At the same time, Pyn is no slouch in stealth, and prefers to set up her kills, either sniping them away from long range or by forcing them into kill zones.

I don’t want to get into Epic talk just yet, except to say that Shadowdancer offers the best Ranged Power boost at +4 per core ability with more persistent miss-chance and ranged damage, yet Grandmaster of Flowers provides greater ki regeneration and monastic protections. Of course, Shiradi Champion has to be completed first since that was her initial active destiny in her first life as a Ranger.

And I’ve jinxed myself before. Let’s see what see happens.

Enough Talk, Show Us a Video!

I wanted to find a place where there are many archers that form a kill zone against anything that enters their domain to demonstrate Pyn’s zen mastery.

I found two such places. However, while the fortress of archers in “Chains of Flame” would make a more fitting example, time and allergies prohibited that demo. Instead, I went for the simplier quest. Watch Pyn take on the Firebrand gnolls in “Maraud the Mines.”

Zen and the Art of Tranquil Resignation

Looking good as an archer and being a viable one are two different things. (Publicity still from the 2011 film, Your Highness, copyright Universal Pictures)

Looking good as an archer and being a viable one are two different things. (Publicity still of actress Natalie Portman from the 2011 film, Your Highness, copyright Universal Pictures)

Pynthetica the Zen Archer reached level 20 not very long ago, after an expected struggle with this trial build.

She dealt decent damage as a Half-Elf pure Monk archer with Arcane Archer flavoring throughout her Heroic level adventures. A Monk with a bow, remember? Not a “monkcher?”

I planned to train her through Shiradi Champion and several other destinies to build her defenses and tactics. Just because Pyn’s a pure Monk didn’t mean she couldn’t utilize the burst damage that monkchers have enjoyed.

But there’s a greater problem that overrides what Epic Destinies to pick and train. The problem’s so great that I must resign Pyn to another life to try again, with a greater hope for the future to make a Zen Archer the strongest it can be, through Heroic levels and beyond.

As it stands now, continuing with Pyn in this current build would be folly.

Damage

Shortly after Pyn hit 20, I rolled up Artemistika, an elven Deepwood Stalker. I’ve been playing it to death. Next to Monks, archers get much love from me.

I’m officially concerned for Pyn now because of lessons learned with Misty. In particular, bow damage.

All Rangers gain the Bow Strength feat, applying STR modifier to bow damage. Elves can adjust this with the Aerenal Grace racial enhancement to make DEX as the sole stat for to-hit and damage.

Misty’s level 22 damage to an unfortified training dummy with a strong non-Epic bow showed 120-190 damage per normal hit, with criticals in the 400s and beyond.

But Pyn is not a Ranger right now, nor a full Elf. She gained a “Lesser Bow Strength” from her Half-Elf Ranger dilettante. So she has to apply the STR modifier, but only gets credit for a percentage of that modifier.

Zen Archery simply changed the to-hit bonus from DEX to WIS, which was why I had began pumping up WIS.

But this makes Pyn in her second life not too different from her first life as a Ranger where I neglected her STR and pumped up her DEX in my ignorance.

The result is that Pyn is woefully under powered as a Half Elf with bow damage. I did anticipate this, but not on the order of magnitude that Misty illustrated for me.

Perhaps in the next life, going Elf would give Pyn the Aerenal Grace ability with Zen Archery providing the centering factor for using the bow only. Then life would be in better balance since she was specced for higher DEX with tomes in life 1.

It’s too bad that I can’t easily train in Deepwood Stalker as you can do so in adding an Arcane Archer tree to any Elven character. An Elven Monk Pyn with DWS would make a superior archer with her monastic powers. Multiclassing for now isn’t an option for me.

Additional elven longbow competence training from the racial tree would also work in her favor as well as that Shadow Dragonmark that adds Displacement, among other things.

So for now, I’m too challenged to make Pyn work as effectively as she can be with this handicap. Hindsight is a poor way to build a character. But, this Monk-with-a-bow build was experimental. At least through Misty I have an answer for Pyn to make her build much more dynamic later.

As a result, I will shorten Pyn’s adventures yet again, having never trained past level 22 in the first life as a Ranger, reincarnated as an Elf.

Back to the Drawing Board

There was a lot of  work with in destiny-land. There was a lot of grinding to do. I’m sure training in Grandmaster of Flowers, Shiradi Champion, Shadowdancer and many other EDs would make a Zen Archer a very formidable foe.

But even I know that DDO requires damage. However creatively you apply it, as I do with characters like Ryncletica, your damage must be sufficient.

In this instance, Pyn’s archery-fu is insufficient.

All the aggro management I have on Misty (combined with substantial hireling/summon stat boosts) would not work for Pyn, even if she could train them, as she simply can’t pull off the better bow damage right now, no matter the ED.

At least Pyn has a never-used Pinion bow ready to try when she’s back in business. And getting a Thunder-Forged bow isn’t a bad thing as well.

Pyn 3.0 will come shortly. While I have a lot of projects now–Syncletica’s life as a hermit, Lynncletica’s desire to be a better tank and with other non-Monk flavors I’m enjoying, where will I find the time?

Monks get priority for me, so Misty’s growing collection of Tokens of the Twelve are going to her. Misty blew away an Epic Normal run of “Devil Assault” and farms Tokens just fine. I want the Zen Archer working the way I know it can be.

 

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