24 September, 2011
After more than a year of playing, I finally got a level 20 character in Dungeons & Dragons Online. I thought it would be interesting to talk a bit about my perspectives as a player who is also a designer of these beasts.
Introducing, the character
My character is a Human Monk 15/Rogue 5. The concept was a character that I could solo with at lower levels, able to do traps easily. At higher levels, I’d focus on being able to use sneak attacks against enemies with the levels of rogue and the enhancement bonuses. But, the character tends to be weak against anything that can’t be sneak attacked (undead, constructs, etc.) I’m also not the most durable, without the piles of hit points that the theorycrafters expect everyone to have, although I generally do alright with a fair amount of evasion, decent armor class, and exceptional saves.
I could go into all the lovely stats and figures (6d6+6 sneak attack damage on each hit!), but that’s the focus on numbers I lamented previously. But, an MMO seems to engender that focus. I’ll talk about that a bit more later.
DDO in context
As I’ve said a few times before, I really like DDO’s business model. I’m a premium player (non-subscriber who has paid for points), and I’ve bought pretty much everything I want in DDO with only spending about $100 in the game and getting a few more points for free. Of course, this was when content was on sale for 50% on on occasional basis. Now it’s rare to see a sale for more than 20% off.
It’s also of note that this character is not on my “main” server. My Monk/Rogue is on the Argonnessen server, while regularly I play on the Cannith server with the last survivors of the Massively guild I joined back in the day. But, I have a lot of characters spread out over multiple servers, as the business model of DDO gives you bonus currency for building characters on different servers. This means that I have a few characters on almost every server to try to earn a few of these bonuses.
Also note that I pretty much only run with PUGs now on the monk/rogue. I’ve had a few frustrating experiences, notably when people tried to ridicule my character choice, but 90% of the time things go smooth. My character is relatively self-sufficient, so I can often get out of sticky situations myself. I’d probably look at joining a larger guild (I’m in a tiny guild with just my own characters right now) if I wanted to do high end content more regularly.
This is also not the first max-level character I’ve had in a game. I’ve gotten to the maximum level four times in WoW, and twice in LotRO. I actually never completely maxed out a character in Meridian 59, but the system didn’t require a maximum level character to play by design.
The good, the bad, the ugly
Let me say that I’ve enjoyed playing the character so far. The character has both strengths and weaknesses, and is fun to play. The unique blend of classes lets me stand out, even if I’m not the absolutely most powerful type of character.
DDO in general seems to work well with a blend of characters and allows for a lot of interesting character, so you generally don’t have to worry about characters fitting into specific roles. (Although someone to disable traps is pretty much a requirement for the harder difficulty levels.) You also don’t have to execute perfectly to complete a quest, with some flexibility allowed in each quest or raid I’ve experienced so far. My character fits in well as a trap monkey, able to do very good damage against many types of enemies.
That said, there are some frustrations. One of the advantage of the Ninja Spy prestige enhancement is the ability to use shortswords. This is kinda nice, but the bonuses are quickly lost. At 20th level, even though I’m not a full monk, my unarmed damage is 2d6 each hit and there’s a (undocumented) 12.5% haste bonus for unarmed monk characters. Plus, some special abilities are only usable with fists. The only an advantages a shortsword has are a different damage type (piercing instead of blunt) and an increased threat range so that it will score a critical strike about twice as often as fists will. Therefore, any effect that is triggered by a critical hit will happen more often with a short sword. But, as far as pure damage, the fists do better even before you consider an ability like touch of death that does incredible damage and can only be used unarmed. In general, it’s better to go unarmed thereby taking away a lot of the unique aspects of the character. It’d be nice to see some additional benefits for using weapons instead of fists if it’s presented as an option.
Further, there seemed to be a bug affecting my character the other night. When swapping from handwraps to a short sword, my attack bonus dropped 10 points. On the elite quests were were doing, I literally could not hit many of the enemies we were fighting with my short swords. I assume this is a bug, and not working as intended, as my attack bonus with my short swords seemed to reset if I “zoned”. Not seeing the breakdown of bonuses makes it hard to know what’s affecting the bonuses. Compare this with AC, which has a nice breakdown on your character sheet. The further problem is that with all the custom changes to the ruleset to make it conform to an MMO setting, I can’t just dig out my D&D books to figure out how things should work.
It’s also been interesting where a recent update added numeric values to hit point bars for your party members. Previously you just saw the bar and could tell roughly have damaged someone was. I’ve heard stories about some people getting cranky about other people having “too few” hit points. But, I’ve yet to run into that as I tend to not suck too badly in a group.
Okay, so what now?
So, now I have a max level character, what do I do? A few options are open to me.
Go get more favor. Completing quests gives you favor. You get more favor if you do it on a harder level. So, I could go through and complete quests on Elite to get favor. More favor gives more Turbine Points, as I linked above. The problem is that as a premium player, I can only open quest difficulties in order: first Normal, then Hard, then Elite. That means I’d have to find someone else to open quests for me unless I wanted to run them three times to get Elite favor. Given that for the lower level quests that means that someone would not be getting xp since I’m 20th level, that’s potentially limiting.
Raiding! The old standby for MMOs. I’ve run a few of the high end raids like The Shroud on my character, building up materials for Green Steel items. I’ve flagged myself for many of the raids, although I could get ready for a few more. But, ultimately, this is upgrading gear for a bit more power.
Epic Dungeons. Pretty much raiding in a different light. Epic difficulty is available on only some dungeons. Its harder, but there’s a chance to upgrade some of the unique items by getting some random drops. So, there’s still a focus on upgrading gear to get more power.
True Reincarnation. DDO has an interesting system where you can take a high level character and “reincarnate” to a low level character; this was called remorting in text MUDs. Your new form requires a lot more xp, but your our previous classes gives you some advantages to your new life. If I wanted to go completely psychotic, I could keep going for the ultimate prize by reincarnating a total of 12 times.
Retire, play an alt. I think I’d like to so something with this character to try things out to see how they work, but I could just focus on the other characters having attained the top level with this one. I have a fair number of other characters on other servers, as I said above.
I’m leading toward doing a bit of epic dungeons to see how they go, then perhaps doing a True Reincarnation (TR) to try that out. I’m hesitant to do too much, because I don’t want to be bored with the high level stuff by the time our characters on Cannith (my highest one is level 16) get to the “end game”. But, we’re currently doing quests in order on Elite difficulty, and we have a way to go yet. Kinda depends on what we do with those characters as to what I want to do with my monk/rogue. Even if I did TR the character, what new type of character would I play? The same thing? Or would I want to try a new character type while benefiting from the +1 bonus to damage?
It’s about having fun
Unlike some other developers, I find that I can have fun while playing an MMO. I’m able to play “as a player” then do analysis (like this post) after the fact. I do find that I grow bored with things a lot faster, though, probably because the Explorer in me is adept at breaking things apart faster.
As I said, however, I’ve definitely had fun with this character. I’m also having fun with a Warforged Wizard 10/Rogue 2, and my Dwarf Ranger 15/Bard 1, and a number of other characters. So, I see myself sticking with DDO a while longer, at least as long as I have good friend still playing. :)
If this has piqued your curiosity, feel free to sign up for an account (that’s a referral link for me, gives me a few bonuses if you sign up with a new account and later buy points.) If you’re interested in playing on Cannith send Sowilo a game mail. (Of all the servers, Cannith was the only server I couldn’t get the name “Psychochild” on.) Our guild, OnedAwesome is small, but we have a guild ship with a few benefits. We mostly play Wednesday and Saturday at around 6 PM Pacific. We have some higher level characters, but we’d be willing to play some of our lower level alts if people were interested in joining.
But, enough with the advertising, what do you think? Have you played DDO? Any experiences with high level characters? Any questions about DDO you’d like me to give my point of view on? (Keeping in mind that I don’t have any special insider information.)