As i mentioned not too long ago, DDO mainstay Schir Gold of Sarlona was in the midst of a third druid life with a greedy eye towards TR’ing as a wizard Pale Master. Well, a hefty amount of organized questing saw me through the rest of heroic content and ready to make the leap into a new class, which i did a few days ago. Incidentally, it seems to have been Druid Week in the DDO world, as both the DDOCast and fellow blogger Erdrique put a spotlight on these natural warriors.
For this current incarnation as a druid, Schir followed the skeleton of a melee wolf build i saw on the DDO forums. Her previous experiences as a druid focused on the spellcasting, which just completely wrecked the heroic content primarily through DOTs like creeping cold and the druid’s top-notch CC via earthquake. Also, i found the SLA word of balance particularly useful. For the melee build i went with a half-elf and took every opportunity to boost her sneak attack damage and doublestrike chances via [improved] shield mastery, and put most of her build points into strength and wisdom. Life as a wolf wound up being one of the funnest lives ever, with Schir tearing up pretty much everything she encountered along with her wolf companion Miracle and whatever level animal summon spell she had access to at any particular level. Flavor-wise, the Blood Frenzy enhancement really puts you into the mindset of the hunter, with your pack ripping through mob after mob, carried forward to the next battle with the mass vigor spells keeping the dog pack in tip top shape.
Question answered, DDO-style:
Once she hit 8th level and gained the ability to wild shape into a winter wolf, i never even looked askance at the other forms and went all in, having a blast slotting whatever icy-themed gear i got my hands on to keep with the theme. Toward the high-end, i scored the Frostbite Blade, a really cool looking scimitar that fell into my possession through what i felt was fate. Unfortunately, you can’t see it when you’re in wolf form, but the bad guys were certainly feeling it’s chilling touch. It wasn’t until after TR’ing (which yes, i’ll get to in a moment) that i finally got my feet wet in challenges and picked up the Frozen Tunic – an unbelievably awesome piece of gear that would have been perfect. One day i’ll have to re-visit the melee wolf druid and see how she does decked out in one of those. At any rate, i had a super fun time as a melee wolf druid. They’re so survivable with their vigor spells and still not too shabby in the CC department either. And the dps is crazy. Maybe not top tier; i don’t have a lot of experience as a melee anything so it could be that in the scope of things they’re not that great. But out of all her lives, Schir never tore through monsters like she did here. For her investment in three lives as a druid, from now on all of her summons, hirelings and charmed minons will have +6 to all of their ability scores. This will be perfect for her [eventual] return to artificer. It also aligns excellently with the life Schir currently pursues, which is a break in my original plan of 3x ranger/druid/sorcerer then before heading back to artificer – the dread Pale Master!
Whatever caused the idea to take a wizard life to pop into my head, i can’t recall but the more i considered it the more excited i became to try it out. More than likely i read a forum thread that intrigued me, but as i said in the past too, for an MMO solo-er like me the “pet classes” are a definite boon and i had my eye on that skeletal knight (who would be buffed up nicely by those druid past lives). Normally, and this is true of all Schir’s various lives, i stay pure to whatever class she in.
Multiclassing always seemed a tad tricky to manage for me, and i like the idea of being the best of whatever class i’m playing, getting capstones and so forth. In the case of the wizard however, i came across a build called a Pale Trapper that offered something Schir hasn’t had access to in quite some time: the ability to handle traps and locks. Again, something for solo play that is hella useful. Granted, quest knowledge goes a long way towards surviving the nasty traps in some of these dungeons, but towards the high end of play it can become a dicey (and slicey) proposition – especially when you’re trying to maintain your elite bravery streak. Even in lower level content, areas like that corridor in Tangleroot’s spider caves can take some fancy maneuvering to get past.
If any of my old-time PnP or MMO gaming buddies were still around, they would be shocked to discover how much i’ve come to enjoy caster classes, and this wizard life is no exception. In this regard, i have to hand it to Schir’s time as an air savant sorcerer for instilling such a deep appreciation for the fun of spell slinging (and to a lesser extent a short-lived PnP campaign when i ran a wizard starting at 1st level). There’s so much you can do with magic, with each new level bringing a noticeable increase in the breadth of your abilities. At this point, i haven’t gotten too far up there in level but i’m already seeing the payoffs whenever a coveted new spell slot or, even moreso, spell level opens up. What i am most looking forward to is hitting level 12 and getting that Shroud of the Wraith enhancement from the pale master tree. If i’m honest, i don’t know if it’s the best of the various shrouds, but personally i’ve always thought wraiths are just cool. This sounds silly, but the word itself “wraith” i’ve long considered simply slick sounding. Back in the day, i had a fun time playing the PnP game Wraith: The Oblivion, and maybe that has something to do with it.
On the other hand, when i snagged the Marvel Comics mini-series Wraith (part of the Annihilation Conquest arc) i was greatly underwhelmed. The character did look freaking cool though. In DDO game terms, the incorporeality, floating, auto ghost touch and CON-draining attacks seem incredibly useful. While i’m on the subject of the shrouds, what’s up with shroud of the zombie? Does anyone ever use that one? A couple of times i toggled it on and boy did it seem to really suck.
Just like in PnP, at lower levels, wizards and other arcane spellcasters tend to be very squishy, relying on their tougher companions to do a lot of the fighting (and getting hit). For Schir’s first level in this life, she was a rogue because, well that’s just what you do whenever your build involves rogue. Getting to level 2 takes all of about an hour to blow through Korthos Village on elite so it really isn’t even worth mentioning. For her race, i went with the drow because i wanted to max out her INT, which i did by starting with a 20 in that score. The rest of the points went mostly into CON, and i threw a couple in DEX and CHA for the bump in her rogue skills and UMD – all of which have a great headstart through her 3 past lives as an artificer.
As far as feats go, this was the first life in years where i did not take toughness. Back in the day, it was pretty much a must-have inclusion for any build along with a minimum 14 CON and (in some circles) 1 point in tumble. It’s worth noting that i betray my non min/max status by saying i always put as much into tumble as i can with any of her lives, because frankly i like to roll and dive all around. Since the addition of Epic Destinies to DDO, i knew immediately that i’d choose the Magister when i could simply because of the unearthly reactions ability’s description that states “at rank 3 when you tumble, you will phase out from reality briefly.” How cool does that sound? Very cool, that’s how much (and it is imo – probably one of my favorite things to do in DDO, i know, easily amused).
The path i’m following through the levels is based loosely on a couple of different builds i found in the forum: this pale trapper one and this hyper-detailed and useful pale master guide. From my play experience so far, i guessing there’s several times when you’ll basically completely re-do your enhancements. For example, i’m sure the traditionalist caster from the archmage tree makes a significant impact later on, but this early there aren’t even any orbs to equip so it would be essentially useless. True, it does function when you have a staff equipped…but for the most part i’ve been relying on master’s touch and whatever highest damage great axe i can find. As i’ve gained levels though, i notice a distinct blending of spellcasting and axe-swinging that is proving pretty effective. Schir just hit level 7 (6 as a wizard) which allowed her to don the shroud of the vampire, and most fights seem to go like this: web up as many bruisers as she can, frost lance the toughest of the bunch (or whichever guy starts waving his arms around), cast lesser death aura and wade into the web swinging. Every so often i’ll toss out the chill touch SLA too, which i’m guessing is enhanced by the glaciation on the incredible Frozen Tunic because it hits for a lotta damage. Again, the Frozen Tunic proves indispensible. Seriously, i love that thing and i can’t wait to start upgrading it through the challenges.
Speaking of the Frozen Tunic, something i wanted to touch on is the importance of gear in DDO. It’s no secret that i jump around between several MMOs, and while upgrading your gear is important in all of them, it feels really important in DDO. Maybe it’s because there’s just a lot of variables in this game particularly like all the different spell powers, melee facets like PRR, doublestrike and the like, AC, saving throws, etc. So many times throughout all the years i’ve played, i’ll get some piece of gear or another and all of a sudden there’s like a quantum leap forward in how effective you become. If i may again use the Frozen Tunic as an example, until i got this thing, Schir was doing okay. Her Niac’s was dependable and slogging through fights wasn’t super difficult with the aforementioned master’s touch/big friggin’ axe combo. Then i donned these sweet duds and it was like the mobs were practically nothing. Her icy rays went from being a good start of a fight to ending them before they even started, and the minor freezing ice ability seems to proc WAY more than 5% of the time. Likewise, once she hit level 5 and her Charged Gauntlets made a shocking difference in her dps (see what i did there?). Fortunately, i’m a bit of a hoarder so i’ve got a big ol’ shared vault, personal vault and TR cache filled with all sorts of doodads, many of which i’ve never used due but am now eyeing with avarice for the chance to equip.
Based on how much impact that Frozen Tunic has been for me, i’m definitely going to spend more time engaging in the various challenges in House Cannith as well. My next goal is acquiring the Bracers of Wind and Spare Hand, which if they’re anything like the tunic will be a fantastic addition to her load out. Perma-blurry from the bracers will get a ton of mileage, and an item doing double duty for DD and open locks ain’t too shabby neither. In my experience the bracers and belt slots, particularly the latter, are often difficult for me to fill anyway. There’s no shortage of good stuff out there for them, but a lot of it is raid loot and, again, for a solo guy like me the opportunities to get them don’t come along too often (read: basically never).
Before wrapping up, i want to mention a forum thread that proved enlightening to me.
Naturally, i felt compelled to read this one because i am one of those people. In the last week, the thread has grown to 7 pages in length and there are all sorts of interesting replies. Some decry the presence of people like me ruining games, some are wholly indifferent. More than a few folks gave glib replies or come off as a bit salty, using the opportunity to dress down Turbine for doing things they feel make grouping difficult, while others put down the playerbase for being a PiTA to do the same. But scattered amongst those responses are some thoughtful responses, too. While reading through them, what emerged to me was the simple fact that the persistent world of MMO games offers a unique sort of play experience. Unlike single-player games, there is no ending. While many of today’s games, for instance my all-time favorite game Mass Effect, offer occasional DLC packs and whatnot, there is a definite end to the game. But in the world of MMOs, even those with healthy endgame content, you can continue to play your character for as long as the servers remain functioning. While doing so, you participate in a large environment with unique economy filled with countless other real people controlling fun characters rushing to and fro about whatever business they have. To me, that’s the exciting part of MMOs even if i’m not in a party with any of them. People still chat in the general channel and occasionally even wave or bow to each other. Once in a while (although i haven’t seen it in years) someone will conduct a little game of sorts with whomever is around, like this one time i remember a guy saying that whoever could find him would get some item or another, and all of a sudden there’s dozens of people running all over the place searching for him.
For the curious, here was my response to the OP:
i can’t speak for anyone but me on this, but i like the atmosphere of an open persistent world. People running to and fro, general banter and so forth. That being said, in my experience i have a different pace than most that i’ve grouped with. Sometimes i do a quest pretty fast, and sometimes really slow, and sometimes i stop in the middle of it to do something else. i don’t generally do things the “accepted” way, and then there’s raids, which i’ve barely ever done and feel like i’d be an annoyance.
At the end of the day, the answer to the OP really is a simple one though: because we have fun. Whether we’re in a PUG or a guild party, or a group consisting of hirelings, onyx panthers and owlbears, we log in to watch our characters change and grow, get shiny new gear and check out the latest quests and mini-games.
And then some of us write verbose blogs about our experiences there too!