Tips & Tricks

Tholgrin’s Introductory Guide to Smacking Things, Part I: Attacking

Or, So You Want to Be a Melee

 

Perhaps you’re new to Dungeons & Dragons Online.  Perhaps you come from a long line of spellcasters and are just now branching out into your melee lives.  Perhaps you’re just really bored and are reading this article in the bathroom at work on your phone. Whatever your reason for being here, thanks!

The purpose of this article is to provide a basic understanding of the mechanics that go behind the angle of the game I do best:  hitting things with large objects.

So without further ado, let’s get down to the three core fundamentals of melee smacking:  Attacking, Damage, and Fighting Styles.  Originally, this was going to be a single article, but by the time I had finished Attacking, it needed to be split into three!


Attacking

or, How to Actually Hit Your Opponent

Before you can crack open the skull of that orc with your five-megaton hammer, you have to actually hit the orc.  That’s right, the orc isn’t going to just stand there and let your weapon of skull devastation obliterate his face-meat into a thousand tiny pieces.  This is where attacking comes into play.

The high-level number you’re looking at (if you’re not in combat) is the one ambiguously labeled “bonus” in the Details pane of your Inventory screen:

Attack Bonus

The attack bonuses of my Intelligence-based Scimitar Wizard, Adipostal.  Note the rather large discrepancy with the shield?  That’s due to Know the Angles not applying the Intelligence modifier to shields.  More on that later!

The short summary of this number is, as with most numbers in MMO games, “the higher the better.”  More accuracy = more hits landed = more long-term damage (some considerations outlined later). So, how do we get this number bigger?  What makes up this attack bonus? And why do vets giggle when they accidentally call it THAC0?

Let’s start at the beginning.

Base Attack Bonus (BAB)

The primary source of your attack bonus (also called a to-hit bonus) for Heroic toons is your class breakdown, which provides your Base Attack Bonus.  This is exactly what it sounds like, the base, to which everything is added.  Your BAB determines several other factors in how smackery you’ll be, from the number of attack animations in your attack sequence to a behind-the-scenes attack speed increase.   

Full Base Attack Bonus:  This means your character receives 1 point of BAB per character level, and applies to the traditional smacky classes of Fighter, Barbarian, Paladin, and Ranger.  A level 20 character receiving Full BAB has a +20 BAB.

Three-Quarters Base Attack Bonus:  This means your character receives 0.75 points of BAB per character level, only in whole numbers, and applies to your “mostly smacky” classes of Artificer, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Favored Soul, Monk*, Rogue, and Warlock.  It should be pointed out that the Monk, while only receiving three-quarters BAB for the purposes of feat qualification, has full BAB for combat rolls while they remain centered. A level 20 character receiving Three-Quarters BAB has a +15 BAB.

Half Base Attack Bonus:  This means your character receives 0.5 points of BAB per character level, again only in whole numbers, and applies to your “not smacky” classes of Wizard and Sorcerer.  A level 20 character receiving Half BAB has a +10 BAB.

An Important Note for Multi-Class Junkies (and Math Nerds):  There is a flooring in the formula when it comes to calculating your BAB for both classes and for levels.  They are calculated independently of each other.  For example, a level 2 Cleric has a BAB of 1 (0.75*2=1.5 floored to 1), a level 3 Cleric has a BAB of 2 (0.75*3 = 2.25), and a level 4 Cleric has a BAB of 3 (0.75*4=3).  However, a level 2 Cleric/level 2 Bard, both receiving Three-Quarters BAB, is not +3, as it is calculated as follows:

(Cleric = 0.75*2 = 1.5 = floored to 1) + (Bard = 0.75*2 = 1.5 = floored to 1) = +2

This can become critically important in some builds’ leveling orders for feat qualifications.  This is also important to note that it is not rounding, as it will never round up.

You may notice two numbers on your Character Sheet for your BAB.  The first number is your “real” BAB – the one with which you qualify for feats and the like – and the second is your “effective” BAB.  This comes into play with Monks and some class/spell abilities, such as Divine Might, Tenser’s Transformation, being in the Divine Crusader Epic Destiny, et cetera.  This “effective” BAB works towards your attack roll, but doesn’t qualify for any feats, affect your attack sequence, or improve your attack speed. Just like with Ability Scores, “real” numbers are better than “effective” numbers, but “effective” numbers are better than nothing.

Ability Modifiers

If you’re going to smack something, it’s a good idea to not turn your primary combat attribute into a dump stat.  Every melee weapon has a primary attribute that provides attack and damage bonuses to it. Traditionally, this was pretty much reserved for Strength and Dexterity, however, updates to the game have made it so you can turn pretty much any statistic into an attack/damage modifier, though they may need some additional requirements and hoops be jumped through to maintain it.  In general, the bigger you can get your combat attribute, the better, for both to-hit and damage.

Remember that hefty drop from Vulkoor’s Edge down to Emerald Twilight listed above?  That’s due in part to differences in Fighter Kensei class enhancements and item Weapon Enhancements, but primarily, it’s the loss of the Intelligence-to-Hit ability from Harper Agent’s Know the Angles.

Accuracy Items

While historically, these weren’t that big of a deal, they’ve lately become quite sought after with the scaling brought on by Reaper and Legendary difficulties.  Accuracy items provide a Competence bonus to the character’s attack (to-hit) rolls, but not to damage. However, unlike Weapon Enhancements, Accuracy items scale to much larger values, often going over +20 in higher levels, and likewise, their Insightful and Quality counterparts are also much larger.

Weapon Enhancements

Another major source of your to-hit number is the enhancement bonus of your weapon.  Commonly just referred to as the “plus” or the “bonus” of a weapon, it refers to – well, for lack of an overly technical definition, the plus at the beginning.  For example, the enhancement bonus of a +4 Flaming 2 Longsword of Taco Bane 3 is +4.  (It’s also listed as such in the item details page.)  The key differences between Weapon Enhancements and Accuracy is that a) it is an Enhancement bonus, which stacks;  and b) Weapon Enhancement bonuses apply to damage, as well.

Class Enhancements and Feats

Don’t make the mistake of overlooking the class enhancements for to-hit bonuses.  They may not seem like much on an individual basis, but as nearly every class enhancement and feat that provides a to-hit bonus stacks, they can add up to quite a significant number over time, much like the power of Past Lives.

Past Lives

Common sources of to-hit modifiers in past lives include Fighter Heroic past lives (up to a +3 attack bonus) and the Arcane Epic Past Life feat Enchant Weapon, which adds up to a stacking +3 Weapon Enhancement bonus to your equipped weapon.

Attack Sequences

Each attack doesn’t have the same bonus when fired off in rapid succession, called an attack sequence and noted by the animations changing per attack in a specified order.  Generally speaking, the sequence increases in number of hits the higher your BAB goes, and starting with the third hit, gains a bonus to the attack roll.  Your standard, standing-still attack sequence (once all animations are unlocked at BAB +3) goes (BAB)/(BAB)/(BAB+5)/(BAB+10). So, for a 20th level pure fighter, their attack sequence is +20/+20/+25/+30, repeat.

Proficiencies

In short, a Proficiency dictates whether you know how to bloody use the sodding weapon.  Generally speaking, smacky classes have more proficiencies than non-smacky classes. Whenever you’re researching a build, or coming up with your own, you tend to pick a weapon style, such as “single-weapon fighting rapier with rune arm” or “two-handed greatclub” or whatever.  Whenever this happens, it’s a good idea to ensure that the build you’re intending to use is actually proficient with the weapon – being non-proficient results in a -4 penalty to hit for weapons, and much more severe penalties for armor and shields. In short, be proficient with your kill-stick.

Situational Bonuses (and One Major Penalty)

I won’t go into explicit detail for every single situational bonus here, such as Sneak Attack and Flanking, or Exhausted and Cursed, or any of the myriad other effects.  However, I will go into explicit detail about a penalty that is frequently forgotten by panicking players:  Movement! If your character is moving while attacking – and this includes frantic kiting to avoid death – you suffer a -4 penalty to your to-hit rolls.  While this may not seem like much, at extremely low and extremely high levels, that can be just enough to nudge you into lousy territory. Sometimes it’s best to just drag it over by the tank and bawl for help.  Even your attack style (two weapon vs. two handed, for example) can change your attack bonus – but only while those weapon(s) are equipped.)


The Attack Roll

or, Spinning That d20 Like a DJ

So what does this mean to you, the aspiring smacky-person?  Well, in the example we started pages ago, in before you crack that orc’s skull in with your five-megaton hammer, you have to actually hit him.  That orc, just like you, the player character, has an Armor Class. You know, that number you might have largely ignored while being a caster? Yeah, that one.  He has one, too. Or she. Or they. I’m not going to assume this fictional orc’s pronouns.

The basics of the attack roll are very similar to what they were in 3.5E, at least from a mechanics perspective.  The summary of method is as follows:

If a d20 roll + total attack modifiers >= target’s AC, the attack hits.

DDO does all the adding of attack modifiers behind the scenes – remember that “Bonus” number on the inventory screen I pointed out a while ago?  Yeah, that – so that’s your baseline. Any number of the above modifiers can affect it, though. So about those allegedly abstract numbers on your weapon die…


Putting It All Together

or, Why Those Seemingly Random Bonuses Aren’t Random at All

We will illustrate this first with a very simple example:

  •         First Life Level 10 Fighter (BAB +10)
  •         30 Strength (+10 attribute modifier)
  •         +5 Light Hammer (nicknamed Five Megaton, because irony)
  •         Hasn’t spent any Action Points because I’m too lazy to explain all that mess
  •         Likewise, hasn’t taken any melee-related feats because I’m too lazy to explain that in this example, too
  •         Has no additional Accuracy-related equipment

This combination of events would result in a Bonus on the Inventory screen of:

10 + 10 + 5 = +25

Now, remember how I said that was a “high level” overview?  This single +25 attack bonus can result in a large number of actual roll bonuses showing up under the die without being as born from the madness of Xoriat as you might first assume.  Let’s dive in and check out a few examples!

Six Interpretations of a Basic Attack Sequence

  •         Standing Still, Target Facing Attacker:  +25 / +25 / +30 / +35
  •         Moving, Target Facing Attacker:  +21 / +21 / +26 / +31
  •         Standing Still, Half Flanking (side of target):  +26 / +26 / +31 / +36
  •         Moving, Half Flanking (side of target): +22 / +22 / +27 / +32
  •         Standing Still, Full Flanking (rear of target): +27 / +27 / +32 / +37
  •         Moving, Full Flanking (rear of target):  +23 / +23 / +28 / +33

Bear in mind the above examples included no sneak attacks, no buffs, no special class traits, no enhancements, no weapon effects, no debuffs… you get the idea.  These are the six most frequent permutations of straightforward smacking – just you, the target, and the attack button, and it still wound up with 14 different attack rolls derived from that one Bonus value on the inventory page.  And of course, you aren’t guaranteed to complete one sequence before moving to the next one! If you face the person, get two hits off, then someone else pulls aggro, and you are now at their rear, you may have just gone +25 (still, facing) / +25 (still, facing) / +32 (still, full flank) / +37 (still, full flank).


That’s All Well and Good, But I Still Can’t Hit Stuff.  Now What?

or, I May Have Made an Oopsie

Well, now you (hopefully) have a (slightly) better understanding of the various factors that comprise that single, simple number which drives everything on your melee attacks.  On the other hand, what do you do – aside from roll your eyes at folks whose advice is “you shouldn’t have done that” – if you’re currently leveling a build, have difficulty landing hits, and don’t have a Lesser Heart of Wood to respec things?  How do you fix swinging a heavy pick around like it’s a soggy pool noodle?

Here’s some basic suggestions that don’t require Hearts of Wood:

  •         Pile on the Accuracy items!  You can either craft or find an Accuracy item with relative ease on most servers’ Auction Houses (trust me, I’ve been shopping and posting on them all lately, with #Shroudpalooza2018 approaching!).  Insightful accuracy can be found, too, but is more easily crafted. If you have the crafting levels, you can slap both on a trinket. Otherwise, you’re looking at Goggles, Helms, Trinkets for up to +23 Accuracy and Gloves, Trinkets for up to +11 Insightful Accuracy.  Do not underestimate the massive change a one-slot upgrade of +34 to-hit can make. If you don’t have the crafting levels and the Auction House seems to be dry, look for named items such as the Ring of Prowess (or its Legendary counterpart) for a major boost.  You can also check the Category:Accuracy items page for a list of named alternatives.  The Nicked Scimitar is a wonderful one-handed weapon (with +5 Accuracy and expanded damage dice for a scimi!) with a Minimum Level of 2 and is easily acquired from the Sharn Syndicate quest line if you’re already suffering at low levels.
  •         Crank your Primary Melee Attribute.  If you’re Strength based, spend a few minutes on DDOwiki and figure out every single point you can sink into your primary weapon stat.  Look at your Enhancements and see if you can rearrange some points to get a few more without crippling your build elsewhere.  Every point counts in the long run! Some shortcuts to pertinent categories:

o   Strength items

o   Dexterity items

o   Constitution items

o   Intelligence items

o   Wisdom items

o   Charisma items

  •         Look for Combat Enhancements.  This is especially true if you have “Primary Smacky” classes in your build – the ones which receive Full Base Attack Bonus.  The enhancement trees there – and in many other classes, too! – can be riddled with seemingly innocuous +1 to-hits here and there.  Believe me, they all add up.
  •         Consider adding a few Fighter levels.  Not only do they come with a plethora of free feats, the low-level Fighter enhancement trees can provide a sizeable boost to your melee output – both accuracy and damage-wise – without a whole lot of investment.  While you may derail your original plans, somewhat, sometimes an “emergency replanning session” is exactly what is needed to make an otherwise agonizing leveling experience more tolerable. And trust me – there are plenty of veteran players who have been there before.  You are not alone and don’t be afraid to talk about it.  You might be pleasantly surprised at the number of veterans who will happy to help with an LFM that says “Help!  This build didn’t turn out quite right.” Most of us have already limped down that road (and probably several times, too).

Well that about wraps it up for the moment.  Bear in mind there are plenty of topics that affect attack rolls that haven’t been addressed here – Legendary difficulty and its non-linear scaling, for one – but this should, hopefully, provide a better understanding of the whats, hows, and whys of whether or not your Nine Megaton Light Hammer actually smacked that orc in the head.

When next we meet, we’ll take a look at the basics of Damage!

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Things I Wish I Had Known

Chatting with a buddy of mine recently had us waxing nostalgic about some of the mistakes we used to make when we had first started playing DDO.  Odds are likely, if you’re a veteran of the game, this post may give you some giggles; otherwise, it’s geared mostly towards new players to perhaps lend some advice.

Boring Disclaimer: as with any “opinions and suggestions” type piece, the following thoughts are just that, and not ironclad instructions that must be followed under penalty of death.  Or are they?

I have no idea how this will be organized, so let’s just dive right in.

 


 

Melees:  Pick a combat style and stick with it.

With the exception of extreme end-game uber-calculations (which we aren’t going into), there are merits and drawbacks to each of the major combat styles.  Once you have your character concept in mind, and have decided on a combat style – Single Weapon, Two Weapon (also unarmed for Monks), Sword & Board, or Two Handed – it’s typically best to stick with it.  In general, that means picking a weapon category as well, and plan on taking the appropriate feats.

So, typically, one of the following sets of feats:

  • Single Weapon Fighting -> Improved Single Weapon Fighting -> Greater Single Weapon Fighting
  • Two Weapon Fighting -> Improved Two Weapon Fighting -> Greater Two Weapon Fighting
  • Two Handed Fighting -> Improved Two Handed Fighting -> Greater Two Handed Fighting
  • Shield Mastery -> Improved Shield Mastery and Improved Shield Bashing

 

And one of the following feats, appropriate to the chosen weapon type:

  • Improved Critical: Bludgeoning
  • Improved Critical: Piercing
  • Improved Critical: Slashing

 

If it seems unbearable to account for four feats on your build, load it up with as many as you can.  The increased combat effectiveness for a fully-fledged master of their combat style compared to the alternative is phenomenal.  Rangers are lucky in the sense they get most of their two-weapon line for free.

 


 

Avoid multiclassing right away… on your main, at least.

Generally speaking, my typical advice to new players is “Don’t multiclass until you know what you’re doing,” with a follow-up statement of “if you asked if you know what you’re doing, you don’t, yet.”  This applies mostly to striking out and creating your own builds – of course, following an established build that someone else has already researched and tested (not theorycrafted) is an entirely different animal.

Most notably when it comes to multiclassing is that it can either go phenomenally well or phenomenally poorly, depending on how well it was planned, and – for characters just beginning their careers who don’t have a lot of past lives behind their belt – how well it synergizes together.  A 50+ past life toon can get away with a lot more than a first- or second-lifer, and when it comes to highly complicated builds, that can result in heavy collapses.

On the other hand, half of what you will learn is from failed experiments.  By all means, go forth and create a halfling Dexterity-based heavy armor fighter-wizard swinging a great axe while (attempting to) throw Magic Missiles.  Just don’t do it on your main, which can create a foul environment where you feel that you have to play a disastrous build just to progress.  Create a “disposable hero” for that whimsy… and be prepared to have fun with it.  Which leads me right into…

 

 


 

Demo your next build, especially if it’s multi-classed.

As tempting as it is to jump right into that next life you’ve been salivating over, it can be wise to not do it immediately.  This is particularly true if it’s already late at night, as for some complex builds, one mis-click at an early level can send a large amount of things for later levels swirling in disarray.  The easy way to prevent this?

Try and keep one character slot free for demo toons*.  By the time you have reached level 20, odds are likely you’ve unlocked enough favor to build Veteran Status II toons – commonly called “vet-7” since they start at level 7 – and almost guaranteed enough for vet-4.  As these are once-per-server unlocks, you don’t have to keep doing it on every life.  Even better is if you have access to one of the Iconic races, which allow you to start at level 15, along with coming with some (mediocre) gear to help with the demonstration process.

Bear in mind, many times when you build a demo toon, you’re not going to be anywhere close to full potential.  Go ahead and put your demo toon into some content where they’re going to be underprepared – historically, I’ve used The Lords of Dust for this on Iconic demos.  (Yes, walking into effective level 18 at level 15, intentionally.  -Ed.)  The purpose for this is to catch yourself and make note of common pitfalls in multiclass builds that you may not have thought about already, such as:

 

  • Alignment restrictions – did you accidentally make your druid/monk neutral good instead of lawful neutral? Can’t take monk any more!
  • Class restrictions – did you completely forget about Arcane Spell Failure on that Favored Soul/Sorcerer idea?
  • Spreading yourself too thin – does this build require so many Action Points to come online that it won’t be ready until 21? Perhaps that should be reevaluated..
  • Feat requirements – are you actually going to meet the requirements for the feats you need at the levels you want to take them at?
  • Gearholes – do I have the appropriate pieces of gear available, or are there holes I need to account for?
  • Are there any take-aways I need to address before building this for real?

 

It may seem like a lot of work, but investing 2-3 hours in a demo toon can save twenty to thirty levels of pain, if you do find yourself catching an “oops.”

*Also, don’t forget – even if you don’t have a slot free on your current server (which is ideal, as you still have access to all of your BtA goodies) – there are still plenty of other servers to “experiment” on.

 


 

Be prepared for “The Big Four.”

Potions of Lesser Restoration.  Potions of Curse Removal.  Potions of Remove Disease.  Potions of Blindness Removal.  Even if your chosen class cannot cast the spells inherently, there are potions for sale at various vendors across Stormreach;  ideally, grab the potions at the Guild Potion Vendor in House K to score a discount.  (The guild ones seem to be less likely to explode, too.  -Ed.)  Most of my characters that can even inherently cast “The Big Four” as spells carry a stack of the potions as well, for when the feces collides with the air circulator.

Each one of the conditions these readily available potions fixes can cripple your toon.

 

  • Stat damage can leave your toon in a “helpless” state where they are unable to take any actions whatsoever and, in addition, suffer additional incoming damage. Stat damage is the most common of The Big Four and happens all the time in higher level content.
  • Minor curses only cause a -4 penalty to everything (attacks, skills, and saves). That’s bad, but severe curses can prevent you from receiving incoming healing.  The nastiest ones, inflicted by the Cursed Wound effect, have no maximum duration and last until you can get to a rest shrine or the curse is removed.
  • Diseases run the gamut from mildly annoying to devastating, particularly if your saving throws aren’t exactly stellar. If you plan on venturing into mummy territory, carry both Curse Removal and Remove Disease potions or effects.
  • Blindness can easily be negated by certain gear effects or a Topaz of Blindness Immunity; however, without it and venturing on your own, you may find yourself failing a saving throw and getting nailed with it. The first time you’re in a drow level and get struck with blindness that has a ten-minute duration with no solution will be the last time you’ll ever let that happen.  It sucks.

 

If you’re a party-going type, there are also wands for The Big Four you can get.  Wands have the added advantage of being able to bestow the effect on others; several of the potions state they have a “pour spout for application to friends,” but that is a dodgy effort at best.  Wands are also cheaper (a single wand of 50 charges costs about half as much as a stack of 50 potions), but require the removal of your weapon to use, and are also prone to breaking from combat damage.

 


 

Immunity doesn’t always mean impunity.

Folks that come from a background of the pen & paper game, particularly the 3rd edition which DDO is based off of, are already well and familiar with this particular loophole.

Anytime something is listed with an immunity to status effects, it usually comes with a clarification, such as immunity to natural poisons.  That doesn’t mean that the character is immune to all poisons.

DDO (and the pen & paper game) have three tiers of classifications for poisons, diseases, and some other effects:  Natural, Magical, and Supernatural.  Generally speaking, as one moves up the tiers, the effects become nastier;  immunity to natural diseases, for example, is a relatively minor bonus, as it is the Magical and Supernatural diseases which cause the most headache and problems.  The same goes for poisons, as well – you can be immune to natural poisons, but that won’t save you from getting paralyzed by Drow Weapon Poison.

In other words, before you get too excited about seeing the word “immunity,” double-check to make sure there isn’t a clarification next to it.

 


 

Constitution is not a dump stat.  Repeat:  Constitution is not a dump stat.

When creating a build, the term “dump stat” is used to refer to an attribute which has been either largely or totally ignored in order to allow points to be applied to other attributes.  For example, a player designing a pure brute fighter might ignore Intelligence in favor of focusing on more physical statistics.

Constitution, however, is not a dump stat.  Constitution measures how physically solid and resilient your character is, as well as determining your total number of hit points (staying alive is good) and your Fortitude saving throws, which is frequently used in saving throws versus deadly or crippling effects (staying alive is good).

In short, staying alive is good.  Your DPS when dead is exactly zero.  You can heal nothing when dead and disable no traps when dead.  Constitution is not a dump stat.  If there is only one piece of advice you take away from this article, this should be it.  Can I repeat it a few more times?

 


 

Melees:  Have an ooze/rusty solution.

Nothing will wreck your day faster than being unprepared when you turn the corner and see a pair of Grey Oozes slithering their way towards you with intent to glop all over your weapons and armor.  Ideally, you’ll have an Everbright version of your chosen build’s favored weapon, but that ideal scenario may be a far time in coming.  Farming Durk’s Got a Secret for a Muckbane (or two!) is a good alternative.

Some options if you don’t have Muckbane and are encountering oozes and/or rusties:

 

  • First things first: Just because a weapon has Ooze Bane on it does not make it immune to ooze/rusty damage.  Ooze bane just makes it deal additional damage to the target creature type.  A steel sword of ooze bane will still be powder in a few swings.
  • Handwraps do not take damage from oozes/rusties. It won’t be efficient if you’re not a monk, but your real weapons will be intact.
  • Ranged weapons suffer no damage from oozes or rusties, but cause most types of oozes to split into smaller versions. While this increases the number of combatants, it is still preferable to risking the destruction of your primary weapon in a bad situation.
  • Sun Flasks, while consumables, utterly annihilate oozes at low levels (in many cases one-shotting oozes on Elite through level 3 content). Don’t buy them from the DDO Store until you check with friends and guildies as they are typically available in vast abundance during and after Festivult.
  • Wooden weapons do not take additional damage from rusties, but it does not make them immune to normal weapon wear and tear.
  • Oozes can still damage wooden weapons and shields, but it is still advisable to use “disposable” wooden weapons on an ooze as opposed to your very valuable primary weapon.
  • Not all quarterstaves are wood. Be sure to check the material type before potentially feeding your opponent a snack.
  • Extreme Caution and/or Panic is advisable for unprepared Warforged dealing with Rust Monsters. Rust Monster Stun can stun toasters for 6 seconds, creating the helpless condition for bonus damage on top of the bonus damage already dealt by Rust Monsters.  This effect can stunlock your toaster until his/her/other demise.
  • Alternately, hide behind the ranged DPS/caster and whimper periodically.

 

 


 

Hang on to that returning throwing weapon…

For builds that aren’t explicitly dealing in ranged DPS, it may seem silly (at first) to have a returning throwing weapon.  You’ll thank me (or whomever gave you the suggestion beforehand) later.

First of all, there are plenty of enemies you just can’t reach (or reach right away) without a ranged weapon.  In addition, there are places where you need to be able to strike a target lever in another part of the room – granted, in many of these, there’s a breakable nearby with a bow and 10 (!!) arrows, just in case, but that doesn’t always happen.  And, in the case of the above comment, a returning throwing weapon is great to have while kiting a pack of oozes that hunger for your flesh (and armor) if you haven’t found an Everbright or glass weapon.

For casters, it’s mostly nice just to be able to contribute something if you run out of blue bar and while you’re waiting for Echoes of Power to fill you back up.  Sure, it might not be much, but “not much” is greater than zero.

And, finally, you never have to bother with ammo.  (Primary ranged DPS builds can typically summon their own.)

 


 

Casters:  You can Metamagic each of your spells independently.

Generally speaking, putting the metamagic feat on your hotbar and turning it on for everything is a recipe to have an empty blue bar.  Instead, right-click the individual spell you want to crank up and use the options there to toggle any or all of the metamagics for that spell independently of the rest of your other spells.  That way you can have an Ultimate Panic Button copy of Heal with all of your Empowers and Quickens on, and then a “less critical” version for general use… or just pick and choose which spells get boosted.

And a friendly reminder – your Spell-Like Abilities can always be metamagicked for no additional spell point cost.  It’s a general consensus that every SLA should have every available metamagic turned on at all times.  After all, it’s free, why not crank it?

 


 

Oddly, be happier about Medium Eberron Dragonshards than Larges.

You can check out the entire list of trade-ins and locations on the wiki, but my personal list of favorites are the experience elixirs and the Shard Trinket of Greater Restoration.  The trinket is essentially a 20-charge clicky with no minimum level and no UMD requirement, which makes it an amazing resource to have when things go pear-shaped.  There are plenty of other options, as well, including a Shard Trinket of Mnemonic Enhancement which might catch a few casters’ eyes.  What is strange is the best turn-ins are hoarded around Medium Eberron Dragonshard Fragments, not the Large ones – your options for Large turn-ins are:

 

So don’t be sad next time you pull a Medium Eberron Dragonshard fragment and your buddy pulls a Large.  You got the better deal.

Also of note – at the end of each turn-in is a logic puzzle which hands out a reward if you get it correct.  The bonus is pretty lukewarm, at best, so don’t panic too much if you can’t figure it out (or skip it entirely).

 


 

So that’s about all I can come up with off the top of my head for the Things I Wish I Had Known when I started playing the game.  Next time, I’ll spill the beans on the embarrassing stories that led to these little enlightenments!

The Most Loneliest Component

Primary casters in DDO have long been used to stocking up on loads of spell components and have a wide variety of means to ensure they don’t run out mid-fight – which is always an awkward situation.  Even secondary casters are known to keep a healthy stock for the exact same reasons.

There are, however, one group of components which you can fork into the garbage can forever.  I’m looking at you, druids, with your brand-new pass that just came out (although this has made me giggle for years, now).

A full level 20 druid has enough spell slots to keep the entire level 9 spellbook prepared at all times.  And at 10pp a pop, our good friend Sprig of Sacred Mistletoe looks like he’d be expensive.  (Or she, or other, I’m not judging.)  On the other hand, let’s take a look at all of the level 9 Druid spells…

And that’s the entire level 9 spell list.  There is an entire level of spells, for which a component has been created, a use for which does not exist.  Now, it’s frequent for me, as a front-line divine who doesn’t typically cast offensive spells on my Clerics (melee Warpriests) and Favored Souls (melee Warpriests) and multi-classes thereof (still melee Warpriests) to have entire spell levels of spells I choose to take that don’t require components.  But that’s just what I am selecting, which by happenstance does not require it.

This, on the other hand, is an entire spell level where the only way to consume the components is to either throw them away, sell them, or have them blown up in a hostile Delayed Blast Fireball.  So the next time you’re at a reagent vendor and stocking up on Druid bits and bobs, skip buying level 9 components.  You’ll never need them.*

 

*Until Standing Stone reads this post and retrofits one of the spells to require material components.

 

 

Tholgrin’s Guide to Minimum Acceptable Standards

Minimum Acceptable Standards

We all gotta start somewhere…

As one with a severe case of alt-itis, I often find myself switching to toons I haven’t played in quite a long time.  Back when I was freely bouncing between them frequently and not caring a whim about my performance, the little inconsistencies between each toon’s loadout didn’t bother me;  as a more seasoned player, they drive me berserk to the point I won’t even play with the toon until he (or she) meets what I have since dubbed “Minimum Acceptable Standards.”

Now, before you get into a ruckus or all riled up and assume I’m calling your build something, keep in mind that what I’m referring to are what I believe to be universal standards as apply to all of my toons.  Every single one of them.  I’m not applying them to you or your toons, although they may serve as a guideline for some less-experienced players who are wondering “what the hell do I need to keep and/or get?” when looking at the mind-boggling array of items available in the game.  While the “Big Four” (blindness, curse, resto, disease) may be second-nature to more veteran players, I recall from personal experience when that wasn’t the case for myself, back when I first started.

So, without further ado, I present to you Tholgrin’s Guide to Minimum Acceptable Standards, in no particular order – since they all have to be met, anyway!  And keep in mind, when reading this, that these are what I consider to be ”universal,” in the sense that I believe every toon should have these resources available, regardless of class, build, or race, and not a checklist to make an “uber” toon.

  •         Some form of self-healing, however rudimentary.  Whether it’s natively-cast spells, scrolled with UMD, chugged from potions, or some other means, literally every character needs to restore hit points in some fashion or another.  Ideally, it is combat-capable – and by that, I mean something that can be pulled off in the middle of a right-proper fuster of clucks.  However, that’s not always the case, but downing half-a-dozen Cure Serious Wounds pots is better than absolutely nothing, if that’s your only option.  Higher level toons may consider stocking up on Silver Flame pots – while they’re not ideal, thanks to the “side effects” (-50% move speed, -10 all ability scores, -4 saves for 30 seconds), it’s more efficient than lugging about thousands of smaller potions.  Of course, potions are a last resort, but again, these are “minimum” acceptable standards, not ideal!
  •         A Remove Blindness solution.  Most commonly achieved with the cheap and readily available Potion of Remove Blindness sold by the adorable Guild Potion vendor in House K, it can also be achieved through Blindness Ward effects (at low or very high levels) or cast natively by a number of divine classes.  Green Steel clickies with Panacea also work, however, the limited number of charges make this a “less than ideal” solution, particularly in drow-heavy areas (they do seem to love their blindness, don’t they?).  However, it’s still better than nothing.  If you happen to not be in a guild, you can pick these up from Feather’s Fall Apothecary in House J, or the Potion Vendor under the red tent in the Marketplace.  Also found in the Portable Hole and other vendors.  Divines can cast this natively, and Shintao monks also have this as one of their toggles for Healing Ki.
  •         A Remove Curse solution.  Also easily acquired via the Guild Potion Vendor in House K (as are all the “Big Four”), Remove Curse is absolutely critical in certain areas, at least, if you want to have any real chance of survival.  Notable areas include The Haunted Library, most of the Demon Sands of Menechtarun, and walking into Caught in the Web without a huge stack of them is a recipe for being turned into drider facepaste.  While divines can cast this natively, it should be noted that just because a character has a healing spell does not mean they can remove curses.  Druids, for example, can heal and remove disease, but must find some other means of curse removal, while Bards are the opposite.  Shintao monks have access to this as a toggle for their Healing Ki, as they do for all of the “Big Four.”  If you only get one or two Healing Ki toggles, it’s a hard toss up between Remove Curse and Lesser Restoration;  resto is more widely valued, but when you need a curse removed, it is 100% invaluable.  If you don’t have access to the guild potion vendor, you can pick them up at the vendor in the Marketplace, or also in Feather’s Fall Apothecary in House J.
  •         A Restoration solution (multiple tiers).  Lesser Restoration potions, like the rest of the “Big Four,,” are readily available from the House K guild potion vendor.  If you don’t have access to him yet, for whatever reason, you can also find them at the Potion Vendor under the red tent in the Marketplace.  Plain Restoration potions exist, but are extremely rare in lootgen;  savor these, as they also restore one Negative Level each chug in addition to more ability score damage than the Lesser version (duh).  Greater Restoration cures all negative levels and all stat damage, but (to my knowledge) does not exist in any form of potion format.  It can, however, be scrolled (Guild Divine Scroll vendor in House K, or House of Wizardry in House J) if you can summon up the 44 UMD difficulty.  Shintao monks, once again, have Lesser Restoration available as a toggle from their Healing Ki finisher, Clerics in the Warpriest line can score an area Lesser Restoration with the Ameliorating Strike enhancement, and most Divine casters (including Druids, this time) can mimic most of the effect via the Heal or Regenerate spells – sans negative levels, of course.  For those with some Medium Eberron Dragonshards to spare, one can also acquire a Shard Trinket of Greater Restoration from Clarice Roden in the Marketplace, which has 20 charges of Greater Restoration and no minimum level.
  •         A Remove Disease solution.  Diseases may not seem like a scary thing to many young adventurers.  That is, until they watch in horror as that one failed roll rapidly turns into two, and then the debilitation escalates into crippling, character-destroying effect if left unchecked.  Many veteran toons have the saving throws necessary to avoid much of the effects of disease, but it is not always something you want to leave to chance – especially on a young toon’s life or when venturing into mummy territory, where Pernicious/Virulent Mummy Rot can really mess with your hair day.  Readily available from the Guild Potion Vendor in House K (notice he’s “the place” to go for the Big Four?), as well as the potion vendor in the Marketplace and Feather’s Fall Apothecary in House J.  Divine casters can cast the spell natively – although Bards cannot, even though they can Remove Curse.  Once again, Shintao Monks have this available as one of their Healing Ki toggles, and many classes become immune to “natural” disease – although most of the nastier afflictions you’ll come across will be magical in nature, and this is not entirely something you want to rely upon.
  •         Deathblock (after level 7).  At low levels, instant-death effects aren’t very common, so this isn’t something of concern to most young toons.  After approximately character level 7, however – the exact point also depends upon what content you are running – you should have a Deathblock effect on or available at all times.  Readily available from lootgen  items, as well as many named items (Bloodplate Armor is a wonderful solution for heavies, for example, able to tie in Deathblock and Fortification via a Blue Augment Slot), it should not be difficult to acquire, but is dang-near required for survival, particularly in beholder- or caster-heavy areas.
  •         Fortification (100% by level 8).  Ideally, you’ll start seeking Fortification immediately, but the ones available below level 8 are… less than ideal.  Still, 75% is better than 0%, given the option, but the earliest level you can reliably get 100% fortification is level 8.  For those at home wondering “what’s fortification,” you’re probably also wondering why your characters seem to suddenly get wrecked by absolutely massive hits completely out of the blue.  Those are enemy critical hits, and they are just as shredding to player characters as ours are to hostile mobs.  Some ranged and casters can get away without having a whole lot of fortification, but as a front-liner, it’s bloody mandatory for survival.  Unless you like the level 2 ogre Bloodknuckles hitting you for 184 bludgeoning damage in a single swing, that is.  In Epic levels, some mobs have Fortification Bypass, and some Heroic champs do, as well;  as such, going over 100% is not “wasted effort.”  If you don’t have Fortification on your melee toon, trust me and put it on – you will see an instant reduction in the time spent as a swirling rock.
  •         Stuff Bags.  While it probably seems so second-nature to veteran players, getting your threebies of bags as soon as humanly possible is definitely a minimum.  Otherwise, these “baggable” items will bloat your inventory and make adventuring quite a bit more annoying than it really needs to be;  set the bags to auto-gather and breathe a sigh of relief.  You can acquire the following bags for free on all toons with no access restrictions (yes, there are more available, but these are free):

o    Small Gem Bag from Fitzpat the Fence (Harbor)

o    Small Collectibles Bag from Baudry Cartamon (Harbor)

o    Tiny Ingredients Bag from Felix d’Cannith (Harbor), Maker (Cannith Crafting Hall), or Vertigo (Marketplace)

o    Small Ingredients Bag from Jeanselme Brutecius (Tower of the Twelve); note he will try and give you one at 40 Favor for The Twelve, so if you want a second, leave the first in your bank, as they’re exclusive.

  •         A Fire Resistance solution.  Be it an item with a permanent enchantment, an augment, spell, or potions, Fire is the one element that you will come across almost universally in your travels.  Of course, there are situations where other elements come up in abundance (except perhaps Sonic), but virtually every hostile arcane and divine will cast some form of Fire-based spell at you, lava exists with alarming frequency (if one were to apply real physics, that is), and fire traps or exploding barrels are bloody everywhere.  If you only have one Elemental Resistance solution for all time, it should be fire, and should be in such abundance as to either be permanent (item) or in quantities where it might as well be permanent (stacks of 100 Fire Resistance potions).  My personal preference is an item for Fire, and the remainder can be done however needs-be;  but Fire is one that is, in my experience, a non-negotiable for every toon, front-line or not, and at every level.  The good news is that they’re readily available and relatively easy to craft, even at moderate to low crafting levels.  Obviously, just one resist isn’t going to cover every base, and while you’re out stocking up on Fire resist pots, you might as well grab Cold, Acid, and Electricity while you’re at it, unless you can cast the spell natively… but get Fire as an absolute minimum.

It should also be noted that there are wands readily available for “The Big Four.”  These, while somewhat more restrictive in use than potions, have the distinct advantage of being able to be used on other players.  (Several of the potion descriptions state they have a “funnel” and can be used on other players, but the actual execution of such a feat is… unreliable, at best.)  If you can use wands, they are notably cheaper than an equivalent stack of potions, if platinum is actually of concern in your budget.  On the other hand, wands also have the nasty tendency to break in combat, and require the user to switch weapons to the wand and then back to the weapon to use – which can be rather annoying in a heated battle.  The same goes for Cure Wands.. and don’t get me started on the Eternal Wand of Cure Minor Wounds (a.k.a. “the annoying thwip-stick”).

What follows are a few optional, but most definitely desired, things to have checked off.  They aren’t considered to be “minimum” standards, however, but if you can mark these as done, they will most certainly pay off in the long run.

  •         Death Ward (after level 7).  Not to be confused with its cousin Deathblock, above, Death Ward serves a different purpose.  Yes, Death Ward prevents instant death effects like its cousin, but it also prevents 100% of Negative Energy damage (Necrotic Ray, Cause Wounds, Harm, etc.) and makes the recipient immune to Negative Levels by the same regard.  Anyone who has watched their awesome toon get neg-leveled into oblivion knows full well the difference between a Death Ward clicky (Visor of the Flesh Render Guards, Eternal Flask of Death Ward) or spell being the difference between having your character (and blue bar) minced to pieces and waltzing away carelessly.  If you have the faction coms to spare for the Clerics of Eveningstar, you can trade one com in for an unbound Potion of Death Ward.  Not a bad exchange for toons whose coms are otherwise gathering dust.
  •         An XP Booster (multiple items).  Almost every veteran character has at least one of these items available, somewhere.  The entire group of these are casually referred to in PUGs as a “Voice,” the statement of which acts as a reminder to put one’s XP booster item on before the completion of the quest – that stacking 5% adds up over time!  There are several different versions, as outlined below:

o    Voice of the Master – Delera’s Tomb

o    Mantle of the Worldhspaer – Ruins of Threnal

o    Pale Green Ioun Stone – Shadow of a Doubt

o    The Master’s Gift – made from a Voice, a Mantle, and 5 Greater Tokens of the Twelve

And, as Gamer Geoff caught, I missed the easy-to-acquire Experienced Evil from the Temple of Elemental Evil turn-in for both quests!

  •         A Raise Dead solution.  While some put this in their “minimum” acceptable standards, I file it away as optional, mostly since some builds (i.e. pure fighter or barbarian) probably won’t have the snuff to reliably make it happen.  There are scrolls available for Raise Dead, Resurrection, and True Resurrection from the Guild Divine Scroll Vendor in House K, as well as Raise Dead scrolls being found in the House of Wizardry in House J, all starting at 36 UMD difficulty and going up from there.  You can craft Green Steel triple positive items with a single shot of Raise Dead as a clicky, and the unbound and not exclusive (!!) Ring of the Ancestors, which can be farmed from the Slavers of the Shrieking Mines quest in the Restless Isles.  The Ring requires a Good alignment, however, and also only comes with one charge per rest – as such, I wouldn’t refer to them as “solutions,” but rather, “better than the alternative.”  The same goes with the elven divine racial Undying Call ability, which allows a 6th level elven divine to resurrect an ally, albeit with a pretty brutal cooldown.

Well, there you have it!  A little (srsly?  Little?  –Ed.) list of the things which I consider to be mandatory across every toon, and must-haves where available for the majority of the rest.  I should point out that this has no relation to the items which are on my “Checklist” of things I want to get my army of characters for 2016 – that’s tracked in a spreadsheet and something entirely different!

Happy Slaying!

 

Tholgrin’s Guide to Great Crossbows

Orsyn Burr has had a rough life.

Well, it didn’t start off that way.  At first, he was my initial delving into the Palificer Artadin build, which was later shattered by the Palificer Artadin 2.0.   Go figure.  Since then, he’s been largely ignored.

It was around the time I had logged Orsyn back on after the nudge to level cap got raised, where I realized something awful:  I have had one of every “main class” – wizards and sorcerers excluded – in my roster since shortly after I started playing;  with Felldar, my former “rogue” going, well, rogue, and taking over Orsyn’s spot, it’s only fair for Orsyn to turn the tables and, well, go rogue.

So he did.

He’s now sitting pretty in Epics, a level 22 “Master Mechanic and Ghost Extraordinaire,” but I learned a few lessons while bringing him up to snuff.  Yes, there’s a purpose to this infuriatingly long and rambling introduction, and that is that there are very, very few named Great Crossbows available.

So here are all of them.  Yes, all of them.  It’s not as scary as it sounds.   

Author’s Note:  One advantage to Great Crossbows over Heavy Crossbows is that any vorpal hit from a proficient user will create an automatic, no-save knockdown effect on non-red-named enemies.  While it’s not frequent enough to be used as a primary crowd control source, it is a nice benefit.  Oh, in addition to the fact that Great Crossbows hit with the impact of an anti-materiel rifle.


 

Tholgrin’s Guide to Every Named Great Crossbow in the Game

Oladren’s Great Crossbow

Minimum Level 1

+0 Great Crossbow, 1[2d8] base damage, Cold Touch (+1 cold damage on hit), Keen I (expanded crit range without feat).  Enhanced critical range of 15-20.

Item Found In:  The Collaborator end turn-in reward, guaranteed pop.

Personal Notes:  Playing a mechanic at low level, particularly solo, is rather tough.  This bow makes things a little easier with the enhanced critical range, which makes seemingly every other shot an explosive crit.  While it doesn’t necessarily hold up all the way to the next named great crossbow, it’s certainly one you can pack heat with for a few levels.  Useless against undead, though.


 

Temple of Elemental Evil Great Crossbow (Weapon Version)

Minimum Level 7

+3 Great Crossbow, 1.5[2d8] base damage, 1% Elemental Vulnerability (specific to weapon type);  can be upgraded to include Seeker +4, Crippling (-50% enemy movement speed on critical), Elemental Blast (+1d10 elemental damage specific to weapon type on crit, additional 4d6 elemental on vorpal), Purple Augment Slot, and either a +2 or +4 mythic weapon boost with super-rare mushrooms.

Item Found In:  Temple of Elemental Evil Part One, Part Two, or End Rewards.

Required for Above Upgrades:  200 Rusty Gilled Mushrooms from ToEE Part One, 50 Yellow Parisol mushrooms from ToEE Part Two, 50 of the appropriate elemental mushrooms from ToEE Part Two, and optionally a Red Cage or Octopus Stinkhorn mushroom (although the return on investment for anything beyond Tier 2 is debatable).

Personal Notes:   When it comes to Great Crossbows, one could consider it their “thing” to have massive critical damage.  Some weapons that are less “crit-killer-ey” don’t get quite the same punch as a ToEE weapon, but for crit-heavy weapons, they can be delightful.  Just make sure to farm the Heroic mushrooms on an Epic-level character, or be prepared for a seriously long haul.


 

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Leverage

Minimum Level 7

+3 Great Crossbow, 1.5[2d8] base damage, Lesser Human Bane (+1d6 bane to humans), Heartseeker I (+3d6 untyped damage on crit), Frostbite (+1% vulnerability on hit), Insightful Sneak Attack Bonus +2, Purple Augment Slot, Mythic Weapon Boost +2, Mythic Shield Boost +2

Item Found In:  Temple of Elemental Evil rare chests, end chests, extremely low drop rate

Personal Notes:  If nothing else, this is one sexy-looking great crossbow!  I glamered this almost immediately and haven’t looked back.  I also found myself leaning towards Leverage over the ToEE Great Crossbow I had made, mostly due to the versatility wherein Frostbite (in spite of its name) causes 1% damage vulnerability to all damage types, not just the element in question on the ToEE Great Crossbow with the same minimum level.  On the other hand, Leverage does have a pretty rough drop rate – I’ve pulled one out of over a hundred runs of both parts of the Temple and countless chests on each run – so in its absence, the ToEE weapon is a solid alternative.  But not nearly as centerfold-worthy.


 

Green Steel Great Crossbow

Minimum Level 12

+5 Great Crossbow, 1.5[2d8] base damage, evil damage bypass, various effects

Base Item Found In:  Created from various ingredients in the Vale of Twilight and upgraded with ingredients found in The Shroud raid and/or Epic Devil Assault

Personal Notes:   The big problem with “grading” Green Steel as a generic is that there are far too many permutations to summarize in a single sentence.  One might be a bloody demon-killer while another might struggle to plink kobolds in the Harbor.  As such, I’m going to leave this here as a “your mileage may vary,” and keep it at that.  On the other hand, considering what becomes available next level with Divine Artillery, even the best Green Steel great crossbows are up for some serious competition.  However, it should be noted that Green Steel has Evil damage bypass, which thanks to The Archon’s Trial and specifically Rhi’enne the Planetar’s singlehanded efforts (read: absolutely retarded Evil-aligned DR in Epic), is greatly in vogue as of late.


 

Divine Artillery

Minimum Level 13

+5 Great Crossbow, 2[2d8] base damage, Deception III (5% chance to bluff enemies on hit, +3 sneak attack, +6 sneak attack damage), Eldritch III (+3d4 Force damage on-hit), Vorpal (auto-kill on natural 20 if 1,000 HP or less; otherwise, 100 untyped damage), Stealth Strike (-15% ranged threat), Flametouched Iron (bypass Good DR), Purple Augment Slot

Item Found In:  The Devil’s Details,  end chest

Personal Notes:  Don’t let the fact this thing’s appearance is akin to a toy manufactured by NERF and Fischer-Price fool you, the Divine Artillery is the Noisy Cricket of great crossbows.  This thing hits like a freight train and grows to retarded damage ratings with the top tier of the Mechanic tree filled in.  As in, I feel fully comfortable saying “this weapon will carry you from 13 to 20.”  That kind of stupid damage.  However, get a cosmetic… because nobody will take you seriously with that golden shiny pew-pew  toy in your hand.


 

Alchemical Great Crossbow

Minimum Level 12 (blank), 16 (Tier 1), 18 (Tier 2), or 20 (Tier 3)

+5 Great Crossbow, 2[2d8] base damage, various effects

Base Item Found In:  The Master Artificer end chests

Personal Notes:  Technically, the “blank” should be filed with the blank Green Steel, since they’re both ML12.  However, Green Steel stays ML12 while the Alchemical skyrockets as you add effects to it.. and granted, some of them are pretty tasty.  On the other hand, in order to see much of any effect at all, the weapon needs to be at Tier One,  where it automatically jumps to ML16.  That, in my opinion, causes it to be filed above the rest.  As with Green Steel, you’ll pretty much have to already be a higher level to get the materials needed to craft it, as they drop only from level 20+ raids.  Having personally cranked out the effort to create one of these Alchemical Bad Boys, I’ll summarize it with the following:  “Sure, go ahead and make one if you already happen to have the ingredients, or are going to run the raids for fun anyway.  But have to recommend against farming explicitly for Alchemical weapons – there are better alternatives with less effort available.”


 

Did anyone else notice this humongous jump in levels, or was it just me?

Thunder-Forged Alloy Great Crossbow

Minimum Level 22 (blank), 24 (Tier 1), 26 (Tier 2), or 28 (Tier 3)

+9 to +12 Great Crossbow, 3.5[2d8] to 4.5[2d8] base damage, metalline, various effects

Base Item Found In:  Created at the Magma Forge in the Ruins of Thunderholme for 20 Thunder-Forged Dwarven Ingots and 15 Commendations of Valor

Personal Notes:  I have long been quoted as saying, “If you’re going to be taken seriously in Epic, go T-forged or go home.”  Thunder-Forged weapons are some of the most ridiculously powerful in the game, and the raw damage alone can even make blanks more viable than other alternatives.  Great Crossbows are no exception to the rule.  They’re sexy.  Farming the ingredients for a Tier One (grand total of 80 Ingots and 60 Coms) isn’t a terribly agonizing ordeal, either.  “Make one,” says Tholgrin – at least a Tier 1/level 24, since there are alternatives at 26 if you don’t feel like farming too many materials.  Seriously, though.  Make one.


 

Epic Temple of Elemental Evil Great Crossbow (Weapon Version) 

Minimum Level 26

+7 Great Crossbow, 5[2d8] base damage, 1% Elemental Vulnerability (specific to weapon type);  can be upgraded to include Exceptional Seeker +5, Crippling (-50% enemy movement speed on critical), Greater Elemental Blast (+4d10 elemental damage specific to weapon type on crit, additional 6d6 elemental on vorpal), Purple Augment Slot, and either a +2 or +4 mythic weapon boost with super-rare mushrooms.  Also becomes part of the Epic Elemental Evil set with a set of armor, providing a +20 Quality bonus to Melee and Ranged Power as well as Universal Spell Power while both are equipped.

Item Found In:  Epic Temple of Elemental Evil Part One, Part Two, or End Rewards.

Required for Above Upgrades:  200 Epic Rusty Gilled Mushrooms from Epic ToEE Part One, 50 Epic Yellow Parisol mushrooms from Epic ToEE Part Two, 50 of the appropriate Epic elemental mushrooms from Epic ToEE Part Two, and optionally a Red Cage or Octopus Stinkhorn mushroom (although the return on investment for anything beyond Tier 2 is debatable).

Personal Notes:   I struggle to get excited about the Epic ToEE Great Crossbow.  In Heroics, your options are very limited at that point;  in Epics, one can easily farm T-Forged Ingots at a much faster rate for an arguably better end product (for one point, the difference in base damage of the 26 versions – 1[2d8] – must immediately compete with the +7 [ToEE] vs. +11 [T-forged] enhancement bonuses difference).   Now I’m not saying that the Epic ToEE Great Crossbow is inherently bad, but  the return on investment when directly compared with a T-forged makes it a rough comparison to lean in favor of directly.  Your mileage may vary, particularly if the Epic Elemental Evil Set Bonus is incorporated.


 

Epic Leverage

Minimum Level 26

+7 Great Crossbow, 5[2d8] base damage, Greater Human Bane (+3d6 bane to humans), Heartseeker VI (+13d6 untyped damage on crit), Frostbite (+1% vulnerability on hit), Insightful Sneak Attack Bonus +6, Purple Augment Slot, Mythic Weapon Boost +2, Mythic Shield Boost +2

Item Found In:  Epic Temple of Elemental Evil rare chests, end chests, extremely low drop rate

Personal Notes:  Honestly, I can’t have any real-world comments on the actual play-effectiveness of the Epic version of Leverage, since I haven’t found it yet.  However, given the many parallels between the Heroic and Epic pair of Leverage vs. ToEE Great Crossbow, I’d have to wager money on Epic Leverage being the winner… if you’re lucky enough to have one.  I’m not.  Sadface.


 

Legendary Green Steel Great Crossbow

Minimum Level 26

+14 Great Crossbow, 5[2d8] base damage, various effects

Base Item Made From:  Legendary level 30 content ingredients

Personal Notes:  This is going to be extra thin.. mostly because their modular nature makes the new Legendary Green Steel weapons highly customizable.  As such, their combat effectiveness can range from “amazing” to “meh” and everywhere in between – your mileage may vary.


 

Epic Divine Artillery

Minimum Level 28

+12 Great Crossbow, 5.5[2d8] base damage, Deception IX (5% chance to bluff enemies on hit, +9 sneak attack, +18 sneak attack damage), Eldritch VI (+6d4 Force damage on-hit), Sovereign Vorpal (auto-kill on natural 20 if 3,000 HP or less; otherwise, 300 untyped damage), Stealth Strike (-15% ranged threat), Flametouched Iron (bypass Good DR), Orange Augment Slot

Item Found In:  Epic The Devil’s Details, end chest

Personal Notes:  Much like its Heroic counterpart, this thing hits like a weapon out of a.. a… a something epic and awesome that hits really, really hard.  In the hands of a Mechanic with the bonus Sneak Attack damage built up, this can punch holes through enemy heads at an alarming rate.. and that’s a good thing!  Just make sure, as before, to wear a cosmetic… because who wants to show up to fight Legendary Malicia with a NERF crossbow?


 

And there you have it!  While it’s not the most red-headed of the red-headed stepchildren (that poor distinction goes to darts), it’s definitely a weapon category that has only a few players in it.  Of course, they are players that hit like an artillery barrage, but that’s beside the point.

I hope this little dose of Tholgrin’s Patented Research Made Easy® has helped in some way, shape, or form!

Happy Slaying!

P.S.  Have a request for a future post or “Tholgrin’s Guide?”  Leave it in the comments below!

 

Tholgrin’s Intro Guide to Epic

Having walked many players through their first forays into Epic careers, I’ve heard the same questions and confusions popping up over and over again.  It seems these are the type of questions that players new to Epic content aren’t sure how to ask, or can’t find clearly stated answers on the wiki.  As such, I thought I’d put this article out there to provide a simple, plain-terms explanation of how the “Epic thing” works.

Those of you who are already familiar and have several ERs under your belt can probably skip this entire post, since this is aimed at the “first-timer” to learn exactly how the gears turn.

First things first, let’s take a look at the three (3) types of experience earned in Epic levels, as opposed to the one (1) kind earned in Heroic play (measured by the blue bar).

Epic Character Experience  (purple bar, no ‘bubbles’)

As far as your character “build” is concerned, leveling ends at 20.  You cannot gain any more levels in a “class” beyond the total that capped out your Heroic career;  for example, there is no such thing as a 20 Fighter/8 Favored Soul.  With the exception of feats being selected, every character receives the exact same growth in terms of Hit Points, Spell Points, Skill Points, and Base Attack Bonus from levels 21 through 30;  only the feat selections make these levels differ from one character to the next.  Epic Character Experience is earned no matter what you do, and caps at level 30 (as of the time of this writing).  Once you hit cap, you cease earning Epic Character Experience.  Unlike Heroic experience, the epic Character Experience does not have a “bubble system” of display, as there are no ranks segmenting a given level.  Fill it up once, and you’re at the next level.

Epic Destiny Experience  (yellow bar, with ‘bubbles’)

First things first:  if you have not yet purchased Epic Destinies (or acquired them with a bundle purchase, previously) then you should note that Epic Character Experience does not apply retroactively to your Epic Destinies.  This means, should you play for a few days and earn, say, 500,000 Character Experience before you purchase Destinies for your account, you will start with 0 XP for your Destinies and work up from there.  This may help make an important decision if you don’t have them yet – you may want to put your brand-newly Epic toon on pause until you can acquire the Destinies.  Or not, your choice, really, just make your decision informed and don’t get caught blindsided.

Anyhoo… once you switch over from Heroic to Epic play, the XP Bar at the bottom will automatically switch from the blue bar (Heroic XP) to the purple bar (Epic Character XP) automatically.  You can click the “rotating circle of arrows” near the Main Menu button to toggle between many different views – personally, I prefer the one which has the Purple Bar visible in the background, with a smaller Yellow Bar overlaid in front of it while leveling Destinies; this way, I can see the progress of both Destiny Experience and Character Experience at a glance.

Having said that, let’s explain why they’re different.  Epic Character Experience functions largely the same way Heroic Experience worked – you gain it, level up, and move along.  Epic Destiny Experience is earned in tandem with Character XP in the sense that every point you earn for your character is earned in copy for the currently active Destiny.  (Yes, this means you have to level each Destiny up independently of the others.)  Destiny Points – the Epic Destiny version of Action Points – earned in one Destiny only apply to that Destiny.  This means you cannot earn points in Exalted Angel and spend them in Unyielding Sentinel, no matter how hard you try.

On the other hand, unlike Epic Character Experience, Epic Destiny Experience is permanent.  This means that, once you “cap out” a Destiny and it states “Maximum Epic XP Earned” in the yellow bar, that whichever destiny you have just capped will remain so forever.  If you earn only four (4) XP in a Destiny, you will forever have those four XP in that Destiny, until you add more to it.  You never, ever lose experience in an Epic Destiny, no matter how many times you Epic Reincarnate;  once you cap out all twelve Destinies, you can turn the Epic Destiny Experience meter (yellow bar) off, forever, for that toon.  (Because it’ll always say the same thing – “yes, I’m still capped.”)  As you level up a given Destiny, you will unlock adjacent ones on the Destiny Map – it takes three levels to unlock a Destiny within the same Sphere, and four levels for the “bridge Destinies” to cross over into an adjacent Sphere.

Which is completely different from..

Epic Destiny Sphere “Karma” (really, it’s experience, it just doesn’t have a bar)

You earn karma – commonly referred to as “Sphere XP,” by being active in a Destiny which corresponds to a particular sphere.  While this may sound complicated, they’re pretty logically grouped together, and make quite a bit of sense, once you think about it.  Just because a Destiny was structured with a specific class in mind has absolutely nothing to do with what class you are, currently.  (In fact, some of the most effective Epic builds criss-cross the lines and cherry pick from all over, not just their “official” Destiny.)

Primal Sphere

  •         Fury of the Wild – the “barbarian destiny”
  •         Primal Avatar – the “druid destiny”
  •         Shiradi Champion – the “ranger destiny” officially, although one of the blurrier lines in practice

Martial Sphere

  •         Legendary Dreadnought – the “fighter destiny”
  •         Grandmaster of Flowers – the “monk destiny” (don’t let the name fool you)
  •         Shadowdancer – the “rogue destiny”

Arcane Sphere

  •         Fatesinger – the “bard destiny”
  •         Draconic Incarnation – the “sorcerer destiny”
  •         Magister – the “wizard destiny”

Divine Sphere

  •         Unyielding Sentinel – the “paladin destiny”
  •         Exalted Angel – the “favored soul destiny”
  •         Divine Crusader – the “cleric destiny”

In order to be eligible to Epic Reincarnate and earn an Epic Past Life, one needs to have a total of 6,000,000 Karma in a given Sphere, which will allow you to pick one of three Epic Past Life feats related to that given Sphere.  In other words, you cannot spend your entire epic career in Shadowdancer and earn an Arcane Epic Past Life feat;  if you want a given Epic Past Life, you’ll have to be in the correct Sphere.  (Unless, however, you already had your six million sphere XP earned on a previous Epic career.)

Having said all that, it does not mean that you must earn the six million Sphere XP before you cap out your Epic Character Experience – and, frequently, on the first life, it does not happen that way.  For example, if you are playing a Fighter who selected Legendary Dreadnought (Martial sphere) and wish to earn an Epic Past Life Feat: Fast Healing (Primal), one would need to level Legendary Dreadnought up to level four (as it’s a “bridge Destiny” that connects with Shiradi Champion in Primal), then switch over to a Destiny in the Primal Sphere and begin earning Karma in that sphere.  All of the experience earned in Legendary Dreadnought stays there forever – and the Sphere XP earned stays there until it is spent to ER at a later date.  However, upon reaching level cap, the player may have to do a little bit more adventuring to “make up” the Sphere XP left behind in Martial during the process of unlocking the Primal Sphere.

ScreenShot01176

The Map View of Orsyn Burr’s Epic Destinies, showing a number of things:  1) Unyielding Sentinel is at level 5, which “unlocks” the two other Destinies in the Divine Sphere (Divine Crusader and Exalted Angel);  since Unyielding is a “bridge destiny” and is above level 4 (note the four “stars” forming a line between Divine and Martial) he can unlock Grandmaster of Flowers;  Shadowdancer and Legendary Dreadnaught will both unlock when Grandmaster hits level 3, or can be unlocked with the purchase of a Key of Destiny (hence the coin symbol on them);  the Divine sphere has 162,287 Sphere XP (Karma) towards an Epic Past Life, and none of the other Spheres have any progress whatsoever.

Confused, yet?  Don’t panic!  None of your progress is ever lost.  All Destiny XP earned is retained forever, and all Sphere XP is retained until it is spent during the specific Epic Reincarnation process for that specific sphere in exchange for an Epic Past Life Feat.  (In the example above, all Sphere XP earned while leveling up Dreadnought will hang around until used to purchase a Martial Epic Past Life Feat while ERing… even if the player does a dozen or more ERs in other Spheres, first.)

Because of this, however, many veteran players tend to keep a given Epic career focused within a specific Sphere;  in the example above, Epic Life #1 would probably remain in the Martial Sphere, and Epic Life #2 would start and stay in the Primal Sphere (to maximize efficiency).  This doesn’t mean that a player must remain in a given Destiny, however – it’s not uncommon for a player’s first Epic Life in a given Sphere to be spent “filling out” all three Destinies present, since that’s a “one-and-done” deal and never needs to be done again.  Ever.  It also works out quite nicely that capping out each Destiny (1.98M per Destiny x 3 Destinies per Sphere = 5.94M) fits in beautifully with the six million Sphere XP needed to score an Epic Past Life for said Sphere.

ScreenShot01051

Tholgrin’s Destiny chart, showing every destiny “Done” and capped out.  At this point, Destiny XP becomes a non-issue (as everything is at maximum).

To summarize, any time you earn experience while playing DDO with a toon level 20 or above, you can benefit in up to three places:

  •         Epic Character Experience (from level 20 up to level 30), and
  •         Epic Destiny Experience for the active Destiny (until the Destiny is capped at 1.98M), and
  •         Epic Destiny Karma for the active Destiny’s Sphere (up to 6M).

If you should decide to Heroic TR early – by that, I mean after 20 but before 30 (sometimes called “chickening out” –Ed.) – all of your Destiny XP and Sphere XP are still hanging around until next time.  You’ll have to re-acquire your Epic Character XP, of course.

The other reason for filling out all of the Destinies in a Sphere is to earn..

Twist of Fate and Fate Points

Destiny abilities, while wonderful, are only active while you currently have the Destiny active.  In other words, if you cap out Grandmaster of Flowers and then move to Shadowdancer, all of the benefits you earned in Grandmaster of Flowers are “suspended” until you return to that Destiny.  That rule, however, can be bent from somewhat (with only a few Twist of Fate points) to an extreme degree (a large number of Twist of Fate points).  The primary source of earning Fate Points is by leveling up the Epic Destinies themselves – every three Destiny levels (total, across all Destinies) is worth an additional fate point.  (You can also earn a Fate Point every 4th ER and by purchasing Tomes of Fate from the DDO store.  –Ed.)

This means if you have Fatesinger at level 4, Shadowdancer at 3, and Dreadnought at 2, for a total of 9 levels, you have a total of three Fate Points.  If you were to level Dreadnought to 3 and make it 10 levels, you’d… still have three Fate Points.  They only increase in count on whole divisions.

For an easy way to think of it – capping an entire Sphere is three Destinies at five levels each, for a total of fifteen levels.  In other words, each capped Sphere is worth 5 Fate Points;  capping out all four Spheres alone is worth twenty Fate Points.

These Fate Points are used to unlock and upgrade Twist of Fate slots.  These slots allow you to “twist” in abilities from other Destinies which are not presently active – however, you cannot twist “Core” abilities, which are listed as Innate on the abilities list.  Using Fate Points, you can unlock a slot, which automatically allows a Tier 1 ability to be used in that slot – and then spend additional points to upgrade the slot to hold up to a Tier 4 ability.  As one can imagine, the further you upgrade a slot, and more slots you unlock, the more expensive they become in terms of Fate Points.  More specifics are available on the wiki as far as point costs for various combinations.

I won’t go into the possibilities of various combinations of Destinies and Twists, which run the gamut from absurd (pure Fighter in Magister with Endless Turning twisted in) to downright deadly (hehehehe – I said I wouldn’t go into it!  -Ed.) and beyond.  What I will point out are a few common pitfalls I have seen others try:

  •         If you’re twisting in an enhancement to another Destiny ability, you must have the prerequisite ability as well in order to take advantage of it.  Example:  You cannot twist Rainbow in from Shiradi Champion without having Prism to activate it.  (Well, you can, but it won’t do anything at all.)  It’s possible to twist in Double Rainbow to another Destiny, just expensive (both in Fate Points and slots).
  •         Many abilities are also contingent upon class abilities – twisting them in without having the relevant class ability will offer no benefit.  Example:  As mentioned above, a pure Fighter getting Endless Turning from Divine Crusader, when the Fighter class has no ability to Turn Undead in the first place.

o    On the other hand, the Fighter in question could twist in Turn Undead from the same tree, as well as Endless Turning, to further bend and confuse that rule.  However, without the backing of an actual Paladin or Cleric build, the logic of this decision may be pretty questionable.

  •         Similar to the above, some abilities may not require class abilities, but are otherwise unusable without being active in the Destiny itself.  For example, Reign from the Fatesinger tree enhances the character’s weapons with lightning strikes on vorpal;  it counts as a Spontaneous Song, which isn’t a problem while the player is in Fatesinger, even without a single Bard level, as the Destiny itself provides songs.  On the other hand, twisting it into a class which has zero songs means the ability is now null-and-void since it cannot be activated while in a Destiny which does not provide songs innately.
  •         Tier 5 and 6 abilities cannot be twisted in, at all, and neither can Innate (“core”) abilities.  Make sure you check that before you try and twist in Adrenaline (innate, Fury of the Wild) and Leap of Faith (tier 5, Exalted Angel) to your Dreadnought.
  •         Purchasing slots with your Fate Points is not permanent, and you do not have to ER in order to reset your slot purchases.  Simply visit a Fatespinner (one in the Marketplace and one in Eveningstar) to have her reset your Fate Points for free.
  •         You can get a 4th Twist of Fate slot upon attaining Epic Completionist (three Epic Past Life Feats total in each Sphere;  note they do not have to be three different Past Life Feats, you can simply get three stacks of one you like).  However, it’s not free, and still costs Fate Points to unlock/upgrade.  

So now that you’ve gotten your character up to level 30, what happens then?

Reincarnation

In Heroic play, there’s not a whole lot of intricacies when it comes to reincarnation.  You simply make it to level 20, acquire your Heart of Wood however you see fit, and then trot over to the Reincarnation Grove.  That’s it!  Of course, there are a few more… intricacies.. with Epic than there are with Heroic play.  But, then again, that’s part of the addiction, once you figure them out!

There are four general ways to go about your reincarnation business, once you make it to Epic:

  •         Heroic True Reincarnation (TR) – cutting one’s Epic career short, for whatever reason, and returning to level 1.  This provides a Heroic Past Life feat and is not available as an option for Iconic characters.  All Epic Character XP* is forfeited with no benefit.  Doesn’t differ from traditional Heroic TR’ing in any meaningful way.  (*Note this is not your Destiny XP or Sphere XP being forfeited.  –Ed.)
  •         Epic Reincarnation (ER) –  Upon reaching level 30 and accumulating a total of six million Sphere XP (“Karma”) in a chosen Sphere, the character is able to select which Epic Past Life feat from their chosen Sphere and return to level 20.  In the process, the character will be “rebuilt” from level 1 to 20, allowing new feat selections and point/skill allocations;  think of this step as a Lesser Reincarnation performed at level 20.  You cannot change classes, races, genders, or the like during this part.  Epic Reincarnation does not build a TR Cache the same way Heroic True Reincarnation does – what’s in your bank, stays in your bank.  Iconic characters can ER back to 20 the same way other characters can.
  •         Double Reincarnation (or ER/TR) – a common practice of performing an Epic Reincarnation, followed immediately by a Heroic True Reincarnation.  Yes, you can do that!  The only thing which may makes this step somewhat more complicated is lining up both Hearts of Wood back-to-back.  Iconic characters cannot perform double reincarnations as they are ineligible for Heroic True Reincarnation.
  •         Iconic Reincarnation (IR) –  Only available for Iconic races (currently Bladeforged, Morninglord, Purple Dragon Knight, and Shadar-Kai, regardless of chosen classes), an Iconic character who decides to return to level 1 must perform an Iconic Reincarnation.  They must be at level cap and get a special Heart of Wood (shockingly called an Iconic Heart of Wood), at which point they will receive two past life feats, much like a Heroic race would if they were performing a Double Reincarnation.  However, instead of an Epic Past Life Feat, the Iconic reincarnation provides the character with an Iconic Past Life Feat and the Heroic Past Life Feat for their primary class.  This can be performed regardless of current Sphere XP;  in other words, you don’t have to rack up and/or spend any Sphere XP to perform an Iconic Reincarnation.  Your character will be sent right back to 1, where just like with a Heroic Reincarnation, there’s nothing preventing him from selecting another Iconic race and jumping right back up to 15.

So hopefully, this little article will provide some clarity on questions you might have had about “how that whole Epic thing works.”  If you have any more questions regarding “that Epic thing” that you can’t seem to find a straight answer on, leave it in the comments section below, and I’ll try and find one for you!

ScreenShot01045

And here is a close-up of Tholgrin’s butt, because, reasons.

Happy slaying!

 

So You Wanna Shroud, Eh?

Last night, our merry band of misfits decided to have a silly, impromptu “shard hunting/teaching run” of The Shroud, which is quite possibly DDO’s most frequently run raid of all time by what I imagine would be a monumental landslide.  With four people – two who knew the raid and two who had “run it previously” but weren’t confident in taking charge and plowing ahead – we turned out a victory, but got almost completely skunked on shards.  Jerks.

One of the back-and-forth dialog bits gave me an idea, however.

            “I’m not sure on the puzzles.”

            “No big deal, go run water.”

            “…..I don’t know what that means.”

Confusion

Ever felt like this in a raid before?

This is not to point fingers or name names, because if you’ve been reading this blog from the start, my fifth post ever was about how I was embarrased that I didn’t know what I was doing in The Shroud and how I royally hosed it up trying to solo it.  Since then, I’ve advanced in Tholgrin’s Levels of Raid Familiarity, outlined below.

Tholgrin’s Levels of Raid Familiarity

Level I:  Your job is to keep up, don’t touch anything that looks important, and not die.  Observe and learn.  Keep the cross-chatter down to avoid interrupting critical communication.  If you are given an order, follow it to the letter and do not deviate.  Swinging wildly in the general vicinity of mobs and/or shooting walls to “feel useful” is optional.  This is the “don’t be a liability” level.*

Level II:  You’ve run the raid enough now to contribute, and know how not to screw up the raid.. for the most part.  You know where you are supposed to stand for your role, but have not yet learned “everyone else’s” parts.  You’ve had enough experience to know when to bend your role a little bit to make things run more smoothly, but aren’t yet ready to create your own battle plans.  This is the ”yay, I’m an asset” level.

Level III:  At this point, you’ve run every role, know what every sub-team is supposed to do on each part, and can practically recite the wiki.  You can rattle the entire sequence of events and each group’s tasks off the top of your head.  You have zero fears of the PUG leader going “dude, you know this better than I do” and passing the star your way.  This is the “it’s cool, I got dis” level.

*P.S.  No, I’m not really that much of a dick to newcomers to a raid.  That’s just the general “vibe” when it comes to raid virgins and PUGs in my experience.  It’s always my goal to make sure anyone leaving a teaching run which I am leading walks out feeling comfortably at Level II in whatever their role was.

Having explained that, we effectively had two Level IIIs and two Level I’s in the raid.  What gave me an idea was the fact that – when the poop collided with the air circulator during Phase Two of the raid and the Rainbow Wall of Screw Your Grandmother appeared, both my Level III partner and I fell back onto old habits… and suddenly, we were speaking a language that half our party didn’t understand while flying around the map in seemingly utter chaos.

(simulated conversation snippets)

“shit, wall at 9 o’clock!”

“need water at northwest and northeast.”

“…what do I do?”

“southeast 5×5 unsolved!”

(deer in headlights)

”wall!  WALL!!  HAUL ASS!  Don’t look, move!”

“where?”

And thus, the idea for the following semi-guide sort-of-walkthrough was born.  No, this is not intended to replace the Wiki page as a source of hard information and facts like Harry’s Intimidate DC.  What this is intended to do is to provide someone who is not intimately familiar with the raid with a translation of what everything means and a way to walk into the raid feeling prepared for “the real experience.”  A tourist’s guide, if you will, only TeacherSyn already has that DDO trademark.

Without further ado, I present….


So You Wanna Shroud, Eh?

Or, How to Not Look Like A Noob Raid Virgin On Your Early Runs

(also known as a Wall-O-Text)

Phase Zero:  Preparation

Critical Information:  Before you even begin, the most blatant thing is make sure you’re bloody well flagged!  The Shroud has a flagging process that doesn’t just end with the completion of all five quests.  Okay, having said the obvious, let’s move on to more pertinent things.

(Side Note:  If Valairea won’t talk to you after you’ve made your Shavarath Signet Stone and you con’t figure out why, make sure you take it out of your Ingredients Bag first.  She won’t recognize it if it’s in a baggie.)

If you’re a melee, make sure you can break Silver and Good DR.  I’ve never seen a run with the annoying phrase “link beaters” tossed around as anything more than mutual curiosity, but back in the day, that was a pretty big deal.  Harry (a.k.a. Arriatrikos, the huge Pit Fiend boss of The Shroud) has some pretty ridiculous DR on Elite that can turn your melee into Useless Pudding if you can’t break it.

If you can trap, make sure you have enough +5 Thieves Tools.  You’ll need them in Phase Three.  If you’re not a trapper, consider bringing along some form of Knock and/or some of your stash of Bells of Opening, if you have any.  Again, you’ll need them in Phase Three.

And… that’s about it, really, for special preparation.


Phase One:  The Portals

Critical Information:  If a Portal Keeper remains on the premises for more than sixty seconds, the quest will fail, and people will be very annoyed at the whole situation.  Possibly yourself included.

What’s Going to Happen:  At first, everyone will scatter about killing things.  That’s fine, that’s what you’re supposed to do at first.  Just pick someone to follow and go slaughter Shavvy types.

Once all the random mobs are dead, it will begin a sequence of portals opening.  There is a predetermined order, but don’t worry about memorizing it right away.  As with the section before, just follow someone who looks like they know where they’re going – and if nobody does, wander around until you find one of those big, giant, swirling blood-red Shavarathian portals and start whacking it.  Yeah, it’s really that simple.  Phase One isn’t very tricky.

Typical Party Roles:

  •         Yeah, there aren’t any, here.  Everyone just pretty much runs around like decapitated barbarian dire chickens killing stuff.  It’s seriously like watching a school of piranha in that regard.

Phrases You Might Hear:

  •         “Portal Keeper!”  – This means a Portal Keeper has entered the premises, and the clock is ticking.  The DM will notify you when one has been on-site for a few seconds, and again when the clock is getting super serial.  If the DM gets to the second warning, start panicking, drop everything you are doing, and go kill that bastard.  In general, this is shouted when a) a Portal Keeper has been announced by the DM, and b) nobody has visual contact on where said Portal Keeper is.  Given that this one silly little jerkface with only 200hp can wipe a full twelve-man group of level 28’s in sixty seconds, they’re kind of a big deal.  And more than one can pop out at the same time.  The good news is they don’t show up all the time, and a good group can blitz through all the portals before one even has a chance to say boo.
  •         “Shard” – potentially said after each phase during the looting process;  someone has pulled a Shard of Power, Shard of Greater Power, or Shard of Supreme Power from the chest, and has it up for roll.  Usually comes with a die number to keep the rolls separate, such as “Shard of Power d72” or what-have-you.  I won’t keep putting this one in each segment since it’s pretty standard.

Generally Accepted Etiquette:

  •         At the end of this phase (and every phase), it’s generally accepted to stand on top of the altar to notify other party members that you are ready to proceed.  If you aren’t ready, don’t get on the altar, or get too close to it (especially if you’re a heavy, it might be interpreted that your Jump score just isn’t good enough to make it up top).   
  •         Pets are welcome in this Phase, but dismiss them before Phase Two.  Summons are technically fine in Phase One, but make sure they die or time out before joining Phase Two, where they are very much not welcome; due to this, they’re generally not bothered with.

Phase Two:  The Pac-Man Maze

Critical Information:  DO NOT, under any cicrumstances, start tossing around AOE and/or mass damage effects (including cleaves/great cleaves/etc. for melees) after the trash has been dealt with.  Also, heading to the center of the maze before all the trash is gone will probably earn you a few grumbles.

What’s Going to Happen:  Each player will be teleported to a random corner of the maze.  The first job is to clear the maze of the random trash (non-named monsters that are pre-littered throughout the maze).  Kill themz with impunity – just lay waste in your favorite method.

Once the trash is clear and someone heads to the center – or, if someone accidentally does it early – that’s when you have to watch your muzzles.  The reason why is pretty easy – there are four (4) enemies in the center that will spill out, and none of them will die if they’re too close to each other.  What your intrepid band of adventurers will most likely do is weaken them individually, then drag them off in separate directions to kill – where their ghosts (just like Pac-Man) will strut back to the center.  Once all four are dead simultaneously, the barrier surrounding a crystal in the center drops, and can be destroyed.  If a ghost gets back to the center before the crystal explodes, you get to do the whole shebang over again… so make sure you drag your boss as far away from the center as possible.  The Southwest corner is generally used, since it’s got a pretty long hike for the ghosts.  The Fire Elemental and Bezekira (ghost lion) are by far the fastest ghosts, and special care must be taken to ensure they are very far away.

Due to the amount of coordination needed, this phase can easily be the most frustrating in a disorganized team.  Communication is key.

Typical Party Roles:

  •         Crystal Sitter – someone (particularly a caster or build with strong ranged damage) who parks themselves in front of the crystal, deliberately not getting any aggro, with full intent to vaporize it the instant the barrier drops.
  •         Preppers (four teams, usually) – the rest of the party, whose job is to weaken each of the four bosses (not kill) and ensure aggro is evenly sorted onto different people for ease of the divide & conquer portion.  Going batshit nuts in the DPS department during this phase actually makes things a lot harder.  Use kiddie gloves.

Phrases You Might Hear:

  •         “I got so-and-so” – this is a generally accepted way of laying a claim to a particular boss if the raid leader has not made assignments.  This is not a cocky, e-peen stroking thing saying that the guy thinks he can take the boss on all by himself – it’s more or less that “I am hereby taking responsibility for this here Boss, I will make sure he is weakened, then separated from the others, and killed when appropriate.  Should you also wish to attack this Boss, please follow my lead for the duration of this Phase.”
  •         “so-and-so prepped” – this means one of the groups has finished prepping – i.e. weakening down to a very slim margin of life – their boss and is awaiting the kill order.  If you are part of the group, say, attacking the fire elemental, and you hear “Fire Ele prepped,” this also means STOP ATTACKING IT.
  •         “kill” – this very simple, four letter word acts as the keystone for this entire phase, and means a lot of things.  To the preppers with the bosses, it means literally, “kill your boss.”  To the crystal sitter, it means, “the bosses are about to die, look alive and be ready to break that crystal.”  When the kill order comes, be sure to do it – everything hinges on timing in Phase Two.
  •         “(expletive)” – somebody, somewhere, or something got out of order.  It could have been a boss being killed too early, getting back to the center faster than anticipated, the crystal sitter taking a nap and missing his window, all sorts of things.  In general, though, it means, “stop what you’re doing, we need to reassess where we’re at and reformulate the plan.”

Generally Accepted Etiquette:

  •         If you’re assigned to a boss, stick to it.  It’s bad form to switch bosses, thereby getting the aggro chains all sorts of confused.  “Don’t cross the streams” and all that.
  •         If the raid leader has not made assignments, don’t be afraid to “claim” a boss.   This keeps things organized; rather than everybody milling about and eventually settling on “what so happens to have become their boss,” laying claims keeps things in order.
  •         If someone has laid a claim to a boss, or has been assigned a boss, don’t be a dick and try and steal their thunder by out-killing them.  More often than not, it winds up backfiring.  This doesn’t mean “don’t attack them,” but it does mean follow their lead with regards to that boss… which may include “don’t hit him whlie I’m dragging him off to a corner, because he’ll stop moving and now we have to reestablish aggro.”
  •         Standing around staring at your boss with 100hp left in the later stages of this Phase is part of life.  Don’t feel bad for doing it.
  •         As before, standing/dancing/napping on the altar at the end means you’re ready (looted, rested if needed, etc.) to move forward.
  •         Pets/dogs/summons are verboten in this phase, as they’re a highly uncontrollable variable in an already volatile situation.

Phase Three:  The Puzzles

Critical Information:  There are lots of crystals in this Phase;  breaking the three crystals above the purple barrier to the center is good.  If that purple barrier is already down and you can freely walk to the fountain, then all crystals are verboten and shattering them will result in your eyelids being peeled off with a spork and fed to the crazy halfling cat-lady in House J.

Likewise, watering a fountain in a puzzle room before the puzzle is solved will get you summarily complained at, but won’t fail the raid.  It’ll just cost the entire party two chests (and therefore two chances at Shards).

If you have no means of opening locked things, you run a very real risk of failing the raid right here.

What’s Going to Happen:  Everybody will be teleported into a puzzle room at the start of the Phase.  There are four kinds of puzzles – 3×3, 4×4, 5×5, and circle, all identical to the “Lights Out!” puzzle game from the 90’s.  If you don’t know how to solve your puzzle, don’t worry – just dance at the door and someone will let you out.

This Phase has a plethora of rooms arranged in a general square-like shape surrounding a central fountain.  Each of the rooms around the borders contains a puzzle and a fountain – except the northern 5×5, which has two fountains.  The object here is to a) solve every puzzle, and b) water every fountain after its puzzle is completed.  They don’t have to occur simultaneously or anything, or in any specific order.

Of course, while all this is happening, there are random force explosions in the hallways and swinging Shavarath blades tyring to cut you to ribbons.  And believe me, they hurt.  You don’t want to ignore them.  If the group takes too long to solve the puzzles and water the fountains, the Rainbow Wall of Death will appear and make things a lot more complicated.  The Rainbow Wall moves in a clockwise fashion throughout the Phase, with the central fountain being “safe.”  However, you should know that at the corners, the wall doesn’t turn per se – it finishes out one direction, then starts again on the other direction, thereby “overlapping” and making the corners extremely dangerous places to be careless in.

While this area isn’t “timed” in the sense that there’s no fail mechanic if it isn’t completed within a certain duration, there is some sense of urgency, and efficiency is a high priority.  This is due to the fact that the Rainbow Wall of Death makes life significantly harder, so deferring to a faster puzzle solver is generally considered proper behavior.  It doesn’t insinuate that you couldn’t personally have solved the puzzle given time, though;  don’t take it as a personal slight, and do not feel bad about asking for help if you’re not making progress quickly.

Also, at the end, just to the left of the altar, there’s a vendor.  He will buy your junk from you to free up inventory space, sell energy cells (needed for Green Steel crafting, it’s not a bad idea to stock up if you have the plat so it’s not something you need to worry about later), or repair your gear.  You should note, however, that this guy is a SERIOUSLY RIGHTEOUS SCALPER when it comes to his repair rates and seems to have about a 1,000% markup (repair bills which would run 300pp outside the raid run 30,000pp in it).   Not kidding.

Typical Party Roles:

  •         Solvers – folks who know the puzzles and can solve them quickly.  Some solvers may avoid certain ones for various reasons;  personally, I can do all of the puzzles pretty rapidly but take a bit longer on the 3×3’s, so I’ll defer to another Solver if they’re more confident on those.
  •         Water Runners/Waterboys – folks whose job is to run to the top of the central fountain, grab a vial of Lunar Water from the statue head (you can only carry one at a time), and then run around the Phase like a bat out of hell to find a completed puzzle with a dry fountain.  When you do, run up and smack the fountain.  Do not, however, do this if the puzzle is not yet complete.  Also, do not underestimate the value of a few good waterboys; remember this Phase has two parts, and the Rainbow Wall of Death doesn’t care if all the puzzles are completed if they’re also unwatered.  If you already know you are going to be a Waterboy, dance in the doorway of your puzzle room to be freed.
  •         Openers – Each of the puzzle rooms is locked until the puzzle is solved.  Openers are needed to both free people from puzzles they need help with, as well as gain access to all of the puzzle rooms which didn’t have a party member teleport into it.  If all of your openers die and cannot be raised before the puzzles are solved, you might have a very serious problem.  If you are an Opener, your first task is to circle the whole map and free anybody dancing in the doorways.
  •         Wall-Watcher – if you have enough people, one may be assigned the task of following the Rainbow Wall of Death around after it appears, for the sole purpose of being able to call out its location to others.  Just make sure to not get too close to it at the corners.

Phrases You Might Hear:

  •         “so-and-so, go run water” – this means that you have been delegated as a Waterboy.  Don’t take it personally, there has to be a few of them, and their job is just as important as the puzzle solvers.
  •         “Rainbow Wall, ___ o’clock!” – this is a bad thing to hear.  It doesn’t mean the raid is going to fail – well, not inherently – but does mean that the Rainbow Wall of Screwing Up Your Life has appeared and will make life miserable for the remainder of the Phase.  Think of it along the same lines as “Iceberg, dead ahead!”  Whenever it is spotted, it is generally accepted to call out its location using clock references.  This lets everybody else know where they need to not be, as well as let any Solvers know they need to haul ass if they’re at risk of getting vaporized.
  •         “where’s the wall?” – almost always asked by a panicked Solver, they need to know right now how close the wall is – because they have to have enough time to unlock the lever and get clear.
  •         “need help on (location) (puzzle type)” – I’ve typed this before, and I’ll type it again.  Do not let your ego get in the way of efficiency.  If you’re not making any progress on your puzzle, do not hesitate to call out for help.  It is polite to state the type of puzzle you’re on, as well, as some folks are faster at specific puzzles than others, and stating which it is up-front can more rapidly assist the party as a whole;  for example, “Need help on southeast 5×5!”  The last thing you want is to be fiddling away on a puzzle, not making any measurable progress, and learn that the Rainbow Wall is active by becoming its first fatality.

Generally Accepted Etiquette:

  •         If you’re not comfortable with puzzles in general, or the one you teleported into specifically for whatever reason, leave it alone and go dance by the doorway.  The first thing any Opener is going to do is make a circuit of the whole Phase and release dancing people to run water (or go work on puzzles they’re more comfortable with).
  •         The center is a safe zone – however, that’s not a free pass to pike.  Even if you know exactly zero about puzzles, you can always run water and that is a useful thing.  On the other hand, if your toon is squishy to the point you can’t hang with the blades and random explosions, it’s better to sit tight in the center than become a healer’s liability.
  •         Watering a puzzle before it is solved is excruciatingly bad form (and may get you blacklisted).
  •         Breaking the crystals in the center (not the ones above the purple barrier leading into the central fountain that must be broken to get inside) is also excruciatingly bad form and may get you blacklisted.  For this reason, summons are also verboten in this Phase, as many have ranged attacks and will go nuts on the wrong crystals and piss everyone off.
  •         As always, standing/dancing/sneezing on the altar at the end notifies everybody that you’re ready to go.

Phase Four:  Harry, Part One

Critical Information:  It may sound silly, but don’t die.  No, seriously.  If you do, you get sent to the “penalty box” and cannot be resurrected until after Harry’s dead during a very small window (and assuming your party members know what they’re doing).   Do not be afraid to disengage, run away, and heal up rather than die.

What’s Going to Happen:  After teleporting into a circular chamber, you’ll face off with a small war band of typical Shavarathian devils – barbazu, orthons, bezekira, etc.  Nothing new in that regard.  You should be aware, though, that every barbazu (those are the green bearded devils with halberds) killed will spawn a spinning Shavarath blade that auto-aggros on the person who killed it… although it may change its mind if you run around a bit.

After you kill the first wave, another wave of devils will teleport in.  Smash their faces in.  Thus begins the first fight with Harry.

Truth be told, this is a really straightforward smack-‘n-whack style fight.  There aren’t a whole lot of special tactics (other than bring silver + good DR breaking for melees).  He’ll hang around for about a minute, during which time the blades spinning around the room will spiral closer and closer.  DO NOT try and show off and be ballsy and eat the damage from the blades because “your toon is badass.”  That kind of e-peen stroking will get your toon killed and shoved in the penalty box.  Sure, it can be done, but trying to show off to a bunch of vets and failing has very much the opposite effect in the long run.

After about one minute, Harry will run away like a punk and you’ll have a few seconds to catch your breath.  This is called a “round” – when you hear someone say they dropped Harry in the first round, it means they killed him before he could retreat.  Once he comes back, he’ll bring with him eight Gnoll Idolators, whose sole job is to heal Harry.  These are jerks and need to be killed quickly;  luckily, they all have precisely two hit points (exaggeration, but they are squishy as hell.  –Ed.)  and go down super fast.  Kill them, then return to smacking Harry.

Rinse and repeat until victory. When you do achieve victory, do not click the altar right away, or people in the penalty box will be rather annoyed.  Once the altar is clicked, the ghosts in the penalty box will briefly be teleported into the center and be rez-able;  if the altar is clicked when the healers aren’t ready, this is considered to be a pretty douchey thing to do.

Typical Party Roles:

  •         Harry Stabber – your job is to stab Harry until he dies or you do.
  •         Harry Nuker – your job is to nuke Harry until he dies or you do.
  •         Harry Slapper – your job is to slap Harry unti lhe dies or you do.
  •         Harry Shooter – your job is to shoot Harry until he dies or you do.

Notice a trend?

Phrases You Might Hear:

  •         “I’ve got so-and-so” – said by toons who are capable of raising the dead after Harry escapes, to denote to other individuals who can rez who they’re going to target.  This prevents toons from being “double targeted” and others from being overlooked – you only have a very short window to raise the dead once the altar is hit.
  •         “give us a countdown” – also said by toons who are capable of raising the dead after the assignments and claims have all been arranged.  In short, it means that one person at the altar will count down (usually from 3, but not set in stone) and then click the altar at the end.

Generally Accepted Etiquette:

  •         Once Harry is defeated, if you have the ability to raise dead, you are expected to hang around in the circular chamber to help with any corpses.  If you cannot, run up to the shrines with everyone else.  This prevents organizational confusion.
  •         It’s extremely bad form to click the altar at the end before the healers are ready to raise everybody from the penalty box.  If nobody died, it doesn’t matter, but if there are corpses, wait until they’re ready for a countdown.
  •         It is equally bad form to not be present for your own resurrection.  Walking AFK and missing the window (or holding up the rest of the raid) is heavily frowned upon.
  •         Your pets or summons are welcome in Phase Four, but probably won’t last long.  Dismiss them before Phase Five, however;  due to this, most vets don’t even bother.
  •         As always, standing/dancing/napping/farting on the altar signifies your readiness to proceed.

Phase Five:  The Final Showdown

Critical Information:  Do.  Not.  Click.  The.  Altar.  Right.  Away.  You will be hunted down by legions of snarling, drooling dire puppies that think you smell like bacon.  It is a very common practice for individuals to run all the way until the absolute end (right before clicking the altar in Phase Five after Harry bites it) and then recall to avoid getting the 3-day completion timer, so they can turn around and come right back in and hunt for more shards/materials.  Clicking the altar too quickly sets them on a timer, and will likely set them off.

What’s Going to Happen:  First off, if you’ve told the raid it’s your first time, you’re probably going to get hazed a little.  You’ll probably be fed some line about how there’s a secret treasure room you can only get to if you’re a Shroud Virgin, and you can only get to it if you click on the exact center of the portal while jumping, but if you do it wrong, everyone will die and it will be a total party wipe, but don’t worry, we have faith in you, etc. etc. etc.  Don’t pay it any mind.  Everyone will die, but that’s part of the script.

If you are hazed, however, it’s just as much fun to “out-act” the guys razzing you and go completely over the top in the opposite direction, about how you’ll release and run back in to raise everybody (don’t actually do it), or some other mess.  You’ve got about 30 seconds to kill before anything happens, so ham it up and have fun.

Afterwards, your favorite four bosses from Phase Two will be unleashed again.  This time, however, you don’t have to kill them in synch, just drop them.  It’s significantly easier to do if they’re separated, but nowhere near as delicate an operation as in Phase Two.  Eventually, they’ll fall over;  you’ll have to drag them around a bit if they’re bunched up, though.  Once they’re history a second time, Harry will attack.

Which leads to pretty much the most anti-climactic fight thus far in the raid.  It is literally a whack’n’smack with no tricks.  (Well, if you take a while, Shavarath Blades will pop up and wander about aimlessly, but nothing like the targeted spiral of death in Phase Four.)  If everyone is Epified and way over-level – which a good chunk of the runs nowadays seem to be – turn your auto-attack on and have a drink.  He’s got a pantload of hit points, but by this point, that shouldn’t be anything more than an mild inconvenience leading to his eventual demise.

Typical Party Roles:

  •         Harry Stabber – your job is to stab Harry until he dies or you do.
  •         Harry Nuker – your job is to nuke Harry until he dies or you do.
  •         Harry Slapper – your job is to slap Harry unti lhe dies or you do.
  •         Harry Shooter – your job is to shoot Harry until he dies or you do.

Notice a trend?

Phrases You Might Hear:

  •         “I’ve got so-and-so” – much like its counterpart in Phase Two, but far less imperative.  In short, it’s a minor attempt at organization to make the four bosses die that much faster with minimal dragging around.
  •         “who’s recalling,” “leave/recall if you’re going to,” “ddoor,” “wait for everyone to leave” – a reminder to the whole party that some folks may be leaving after Harry dies and before the altar is clicked.  This particular communication has dozens of iterations, but they all mean the same thing:  Get out if you’re going to.

Generally Accepted Etiquette:

  •         Pets/summons are generally not welcome in this Phase, since they can cause needless aggro complications with the four bosses.  They won’t fail anything in this phase, but can be irritating.  In general, leave them at home.
  •         Clicking the final altar before folks have a chance to recall is a super-duper douchebag move and might get you blacklisted.
  •         As such, fighting Harry on or near the altar is generally frowned upon, for the added risk of accidentally clicking the altar after he dies.
  •         If it’s your first Shroud run, you might get talked into a Final Altar Victory Dance (clothing optional) after the dust settles.  Don’t forget to take your screen shot for posterity’s sake.

And there you have it!

See, it’s not all that bad, is it?  I hope these five thousand words or so will help at least someone to feel more confident about joining up with a Shroud PUG, even if they’re not going to lead their own right away – although there’s enough information here to head your own up if you’re so inclined.  And, ideally, armed with the notes above – even if it’s your first Shroud ever, you won’t look like a total noob.  And that’s all that matters, right?  😉

Happy slaying!