Ramblings, Updates, and Editorial Diarrhea
The New Kid In Town
So I rolled this toon up a while ago, shortly after Part Two of “The Seven-Life Itch” was published. Alas, he has not seen much playtime, mostly due to Uncle Tubbs and Whall demanding attention, as my war-divines are wont to do.
But, as the title says, it’s better late than never. So, please say a big, warm hello for Cupcaque Glitter Sprinkles, the half-orc Tempest Ranger/Rogue.
At first, you might be wondering, “Why would you name a melee ‘Cupcaque?'” Well, that’s actually pretty straightforward. Some other player, who probably hasn’t logged on in four years, got to the idea before me and already had the name Cupcake reserved. I will refrain from calling any names, lest that individual actually lay eyes on this blog (which they probably won’t, statistically speaking). No sense in tempting fate, though.. right?
The whole idea behind Cupcaque’s generation was to do something “new.” I tried that, I honestly did, equipping him with the best scimitars I could find in early loot runs and on the Auction House. I may still return to that later – particularly when Cruel Nobility becomes available – but I had to fall back to dual-weilding my favorite middle-level longswords, Retribution. That brought his melee DPS well up to an acceptable level that wasn’t being met with the dual-scimis… which makes me sad, because the scimitars looked so much more evil.
As much as it seemed – and still seems – crazy, I rolled up Cupcaque as a primary melee toon without taking any of the Power Attack/Cleave/Great Cleave line. None of them.. because almost all of my other melees have them. Instead, I’m focusing more on tactical feats, which I’ve never previously paid a terrible amount of mind to (not counting the Mass Trip from stick-builds). It’s taking some getting used to, but overall, I’m enjoying the revamp to how I approach combat.
It’s by no means a perfect build in any way, shape, or form, however. During the conceptual portion of the build, I was expecting to see more of a paladin’s level of self-healing; It wasn’t until around level 10 when It registered that I was still packing an un-amplified Cure Light Wounds. Even with Devotion 60 slotted, he’s hitting himself for between 9 and 14 hit points.. which is effective for little more than an occasional Band-Aid. His Cure Serious pots hit for 3-4 times the healing power, and even those leave much to be desired for. As such, a couple of the other concept builds that Cupcaque has been running with typically share a hireling between the group.
- DM: You’re up, Thol.
- Tholgrin (to DM): I summon a hireling. Also, I feel shame as a minor action.
Of course, lately I’ve been thinking about my knee-jerk reaction to have a bad taste in my mouth about confessing to using hirelings. Why does every toon have to be an all-in-one superbuild? Sure, I have several of those capped in the Epics (and also one whose entire job is to assist others with the dreaded Final Push to Twenty that never levels past 20). But does every toon have to be that way? A bit of running with some buddies recently has me scratching my head at this thought.
In getting Mattok Shalefinder (dwarf cleric 19) up to his current spot, I spent some time running with a more “traditional” party: one pure fighter, one pure cleric, and one pure sorcerer. And you know what? We all fell back into classic roles so seamlessly, I wasn’t even aware we had shifted our tactics until Von pointed out “now this is old-school D&D!” in the middle of a quest.
He’s right. It was. And you know what? It felt great.
Dungeons & Dragons is – without question – if not technically the first pen & paper RPG, by far the great-granddaddy of every subsequent game, and has a very significant debt owed to it by such famous household names as The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy. Without D&D backing it, one could make a very convincing case that video gaming as we know it today would be a vastly different landscape. And what made D&D so great? The traditional roles that everyone played, the cameraderie, and the teamwork. Oh, yeah, and epic adventure.
If everyone is a super-toon, some of that feeling is gone. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun being the penultimate badass on the block that can do everything, channel both arcane and divine, trap, shoot, kill, and bomb with impunity. But returning back to the roots – there was something inherently elegant about the straightforward tactics and simple efficiency with the fighter up front, cleric roving from the middle to the front as needed, and the spellthrower in back lobbing death into the fray that just felt right.
Perhaps, in a way, reverting to Mattok has fulfilled some of my “something new” itch. As much as I have tried to repurpose him into a more solo-able cleric without turning into a carbon copy of Whall’s Divine Healtank build, he’s still pretty lousy in the DPS arena. I could tell you the spin story in that I’ve increased his average melee damage by 314%, but three times crap is still poop. It’s just less crappy. The fighter and sorcerer are relieved since they have an actual, honest-to-goodness, real-life human backing their healbot (who only stands in traps occasionally, and purely for his own amusement, rather than complete idiocy) where they would otherwise have had to lug around a braindead AI. It was different.. and not bad different. Good different. That doesn’t mean I’m going to go repurpose my super-toons into pure-role characters, but it made for an interesting vacation from the constant quest for the pinnacle of self-sufficiency.
Awkward Build Ideas
I’ve mentioned already that I LR’ed Mattok. Originally, he was a pre-Shadowfell Conspiracy flavor build, a “pacifist human healbot.” The origins of the toon were to have him 100% dedicated to heals, buffs, and defense to allow the rest of the party to focus on the “everything else.” That worked great until the static group I’d been running him with dissolved and left him un-soloable at level 15 in a PUG world that didn’t want healbots any more. Back when he was first rolled, I couldn’t be outside of a party for more than a few minutes before getting tells asking if I wanted to help out in XYZ quest or ABC raid. By the time he hit fifteen, nuffin’ but silence.
So a few weeks ago, I LR’ed him and specifically tried to get him a little more punch. Primarily fixing things like a heavy armor + tower shield user having a Strength of eight (8). Yes, that was what the original pacifist build had, amongst other things. I shuffled around his build points and feats, and wound up with.. well, pretty much the same thing.
Except now he can actually hit things and cause moderate damage. Oh, sure, whatever he’s attacking will fall over at some point; but this is a game of Hare and the Tortoise where everyone else is going zero to sixty in two point six seconds, and Mattok is registered with his zero to sixty time as “eventually.”
I was anxious when he hit level 18, for I had a Blazing Sun waiting for him in the bank. In a fit of (partially intoxicated) whimsy, I opted to give him Single Weapon Fighting as a feat; this negates all of his Shield Mastery abilities while the Blazing Sun is equipped, but has a few other, more interesting effects..
Right now, Mat’s a little bipolar. Having different equipment sets is nothing new. Having different equipment sets activate different sets of feats isn’t even something new – think Power Attack & Cleave with swords swapping to Rapid Shot and Point Blank Shot with a bow. On the other hand – at least to me – having two different melee sets activate different aspects of melee combat is something new.
When things hit the fan and he’s in full-on healtank mode, he’s packing a Templar’s Bulwark and Forgotten Light. The rest of the time, however, he’s sporting the Blazing Sun with a Cormyrean Longsword from Eveningstar that boasts Acid Burst, Crushing Wave, and Improved Paralyzing. (If you’re wondering why there’s no link for the Cormyrean, they’re from the challenge traders in Eveningstar and each one is randomly rolled; the number of possibilities is pretty bloody staggering. –Ed.) While I can hear the screams of agony from here – and sure, some of those were my own – I’m still not one hundred percent convinced the idea was a bad one.
Here’s why: Mattok plays like two completely separate toons, depending on which “mode” he’s in.
Changing out the tower shield for the orb, and adding in the attack speed for Single Weapon Fighting, makes him more viable as a provider of melee DPS. (Note that I did not say “good provider.”) It also makes him faster. Switching to Orb Mode allows him to not just keep up with his companions, but outrun them as a dwarf heavy. That’s pretty impressive. In Tank Mode, he’s lulling behind everyone; not much, but enough to make me lament my monks.
In Tank Mode, he can block darn near anything. The additional DR brought on by the tower shield, sprinkled with his Radiant Aura, means he can stay right up in the ugliest of messes available on Heroic Elite. I want to try his luck in The Weapons Shipment on Elite, but I’m not sure how many of Mat’s companions are keen on the idea.
If it seems as though I need to pick a direction and stick with it, you’re right. DDO is very much a min/max environment, and part of the power behind pure builds is taking one direction and running with it to absurd magnitudes. By splitting the focus here, I’m losing out on a bunch of high-end potential; but to be entirely honest, I haven’t decided yet which one I like better. Truth be told, I’m having more fun with the Orb Mode; plus, you don’t see very many dwarven clerics with orbs and swords these days. Makes for a touch of… hey… something new!