Playstyles, pet genders and possible PUGs

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Life as a pale trapper has been rolling along splendidly for good ol’ Schir Gold, a revelation that elicited a good laugh from an old gaming buddy when i exclaimed what a blast i’m having and in general how much fun spellcasters are to play. But you know, as a gamer, there’s been several watershed experiences for me that really informed a lot of my playstyle sensibilities throughout the years. The ranger archer i took all the way through the entire Neverwinter Nights game and it’s expansion, Lothario LaRue, instilled a great appreciation for ranged combat that bled over to tabletop D&D and other games as well. In a similar vein, my beloved Mass Effect took the joy of this style a bit further through the sniper profession, where my FemShep often took everyone out before her two squadmates could even see any action. Along those same lines, i was eerily surprised at my efficacy with the coin-op Silent Scope. And so it is with the magic users in DDO – the arcane ones anyway. Ever since that sorcerer life, i’ve been loving me some spell-slinging so much that i don’t know when i’ll ever return to the artificer. Actually, i’ve a mind to build a melee focused arti when i come back around, and i want to gather a few more PLs and get a better build idea before going in that direction.

Kind of scary how easily i took to sniping but don't worry - it's just a game.

Kind of scary how easily i took to sniping but don’t worry – it’s just a game.

In the meantime, the pale trapper is providing all the things i look for in a self-reliant solo build for DDO. Those two rogue levels (taken at 1 and 9) so far haven’t let me down in the crucial search/spot and traps/locks departments. Even when you know where traps are located and can reasonably avoid or survive them, it’s still very satisfying to find that box and disarm it – and the extra XP doesn’t hurt neither.

On the magical side of things, even with 9 levels of wizard to her name Schir is still primarily master’s touching big weapons for the pedestrian job of cleaning up trash mobs. The Frostbrand i scored off the AH is her primary weapon and even at level 11 is performing adequately. She also totes a Blade of Fury that i plan to fuse into a Vampiric Fury Blade when i get around to running one of my favorite quest chains: Attack on Stormreach. In addition, she easily crafted both a maul and greatsword of holy pure good that are put to good use against DDO’s legion of undead enemies. Rounding out the current hotbar weapons is Souleater, a very nice staff with wonderful effects that also triggers her Traditionalist Caster enhancement.

Schir Gold as a Pale Master, armed with Frostbrand and sporting her Phantasmic Masque while her cranium rat looks on.

Schir Gold as a Pale Master, armed with Frostbrand and sporting her Phantasmic Masque while her cranium rat looks on.

When she’s not a-swingin’ large weapons and Minor Freezing Icing monsters via the Frozen Tunic, ray spells like Frost Lance can almost always take single targets down in one hit. For big groups, the classic web/firewall combo (my first time ever using firewall!) delivers admirably. For a little while, i tried using Ghoul Touch reasoning that SF: Necromancy, Phantasmic Masque and so forth would boost the DC sufficiently, but it seemed to work only about 1-in-20 times – much less than the Frozen Tunic proc – so back into the spellbook it went. A few other utility and random other spells fill the usual loadout, like the occasional Ball Lightning or Cloudkill, or Ray of Enfeeblement. The most-used spell is, of course, Death Aura that keeps me and my skellie in tip top shape.

Side note: this PM life is the first time i don’t feel reliant on hirelings to complete quests. Mainly because i usually grab a cleric to keep me healed but since they literally cannot heal a PM with any of the various shrouds on, they’re almost useless. Why “almost?” Consider this: a stack of 10 light SP potions from the DDO store is 95 TP. For plat, you can get mnemonic potions from the AH to keep you going if you’re made of money. But for just a heck of a lot less plat or TP you can snag a hireling with divine vitality, park them by the entrance and when your blue bar runs low simply call them to your side for a recharge. So far, i’ve only really done that a couple of times when i know a quest is long and shrines are precious and likely to be used up. Or if i need someone to stand on a trigger or something.

Speaking of the skellie, i had an interesting investigation this week into the secret of its appearance. While milling about House Kundarak, i spotted a fellow PM and noticed his skeleton knight was blackened and bloody with glowing green eyes, while mine was just a rusty grey color. We struck up a conversation, and he did not know the reason for the difference in their looks. Likewise, the /advice channel offered no answers, and a trip to the forum yielded mostly responses about how pets suck, with a couple people guessing it had something to do with your enhancements. As it turns out, it’s simply a function of level. Once i hit wizzy 9, my stalwart undead minion transformed into a darker version of himself.

The pre-level 9 PM skeletal knight looks like this fella

The pre-level 9 PM skeletal knight looks like this fella

Or herself?

After making this discovery, i sent a mail to my new PM buddy to let him know what i’d found out. He replied via lightning post that he’d been wondering about it since our exchange a few days prior and was happy i remembered him and sent the message. He also asked whether my skellie (at least in life) had been male or female. Interesting question! That got me thinking, as i often lean towards the pet classes. My first experience, barring the ill-fated summoner i tried to build back in the day (a wizard with the Iron Companion line of enhancements), was with the artificer and their Iron Defender. This was Schir’s first life, and i dubbed her pet Miracle in honor of my Champions Online character Miracle Miss that i’d been playing at that point. However, i always considered DDO Miracle to be a male, a straight-laced lawful bodyguard in contrast to Schir’s traditional chaotic neutrality. In my imagination, Miracle had a proper British accent and would often advise against random destruction as well as recommending safety above risk. If i’m honest, i did give him the breaker of boxes enhancement for a short time, but it quickly became annoying and too often resulted in that bug where they curl into a floating ball and do nothing.

Once you hit wizzy 9, your skeletal pal takes on a darker appearance like this Blackbone Knight

Once you hit wizzy 9, your skeletal pal takes on a darker appearance like this Blackbone Knight

Since then, whether playing through another artificer life or spending time as a druid, i dub my canine companion Miracle and assume its spirit has reincarnated along with me. So whether covered in fur and snarling fangs or metal and whirring gears, Miracle is that same uptight Brit. When it comes to the skellie…i hadn’t really thought about it but i suppose its gender is irrelevant – it’s just an animated skeleton. But if i have to make a distinction, i guess i’ll break form and go with female. Why not? There’s equal opportunity for men and women to become adventuring knights in this fantasy setting. And i suppose that fits with an abbreviation that just popped into my head for the Pale Master Skeleton, or PMS 😉

And lest you think i’m alone in wondering about the backstory of pets both interactive and cosmetic, fellow DDO blogger Gamer Geoff recently welcomed a new addition to his Sparksy character’s family that generated not one but TWO blog posts.

To wrap up, i made two other DDO discoveries this week, one useful and one counterproductive. As regards the latter, as you may know from recent posts i’ve been exploring the Cannith Challenges and absolutely loving the loot available to build with the materials earned there – especially that Frozen Tunic. In the course of upgrading it, i am dismayed to find out that the materials needed are only available through a challenge with level range of 15-20. Why in the world is it set up that way? The item is ML 8, but the crystallized magma shards needed to upgrade it to tier 2 and 3 are only available in the Time is Money challenge that you must be at least level 15 to enter. Oddly, the ML 12 version of the tunic requires mats from the Buying Time challenge which only requires you to be level 12 – the same level as the item. Is this WAI? What gives?

The useful tidbit i have to offer came about through some casual favor farming. Since i’d blown through a lot of the low level stuff on the road back up to level 20, the usual stops like Water Works, Information is Key, STK and so forth, i’d skipped right past a lot of things. Naturally, i didn’t get any XP when i returned to Korthos for Misery’s Peak and the other island quests. Stealthy Repossession was pretty fun though, since my rogue levels and the invisibility spell gave me, you know, stealth (usually i come back to this and zerg it when none of the kobolds can even hit me).

When i came around to some of the level 3 quests, i noticed i was getting a tiny bit of XP. There’s always been penalties to XP gained based on how many levels you are above the quest, which is nothing new, but i’d never really thought much about it when favor farming. Since they’re so easy, naturally i was blowing through them quickly and by the time i got to the Catacombs, i was pulling in a couple thousand XP per quest. Granted, i have the greater tome of learning, guild XP buff, Voice of the Master and so forth. It wasn’t a ton of XP, but it was something. By the time i got up to the level 5 quests, i was sitting at level 11 myself which would normally result in -99% XP. But i’d been doing all of these on elite, which means these were level 7 quests so the penalty dropped to -50%. Still a big hit, but like i mentioned they’re quite easy when you’re well above level. The most noticeable big return that i recall was from the Fire Caves in Three Barrel Cove, which after all was said and done was something like 8000+ XP for just a few minutes work.

i felt this is worth mentioning here only because there’s a lot of different playstyles out there, and for me as a solo veteran player trying to accumulate PLs, it was nice to notice the significant XP gains from doing these lower-level quests. They don’t offer much in the way of a challenge, but it is fun to run through these quests without much fear of defeat, tossing around magic willy nilly. And the XP/min isn’t too shabby.

Going forward, i’m feeling pretty confident with this pale trapper build even though it’s not min/max. There hasn’t been a trap or lock that i couldn’t overcome, both Schir and her skeletal minion are usually at full health thanks to Death Aura and the wizard’s adaptability has seen me through all of the content i’ve faced so far. On the grouping side of things, a couple of times i even almost joined a PUG. Unfortunately, my guild has basically become a haven of soloists these days when anyone is even online, so i was actually thinking about looking for a new guild. Believe it or not, i really miss the days of joining up with fellow guildies for the laughs and shared experiences. DDO took a major upswing for me when i was invited to the Sacred Flame Guardians and even though i’m an officer now, it’s not the same when there’s at most maybe three people on at a time all doing their own thing.

In other Long Shot DDO news, i’ve been thinking a lot about revisiting my Free Agent Reporting for the chance to use some of my journalistic training in a fun way. Those were fun articles to write from the perspective of a Chronicle reporter in Stormreach. They tended to take a while to write because i really worked the beat, talking to every NPC and taking notes along the way. The more i think about it though, i did have a lot of fun writing those.

Never a dull moment in Eberron!

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