The Survivable Monk

Oh, you thought I’d only do one story about DDO? Sucker

Recently in the DDO forums, there was, (and still is) a thread going on about how Monks are underclassed in the DPS (Damage Per Second) department. For my part, I disagree with that thesis. Monks aren’t the ultimate DPS machine, but they do really well, especially given that they can land 2–3 times the number of attacks that anyone else can. (Handwraps are two-weapon fighting, and monk attack speed with handwraps is off the chain at higher levels.)

But there was a comment about overall surviveability that caught my eye, because the person who mentioned it also talked about their Armor Class (AC) and the number they gave seemed a bit low. They were at 110 in earth stance, which gives you a significant boost to AC, and I run 140 in water stance, which does not. (Water stance boosts Ki generation, saves, and dodge, all of which are more important to me than just AC.)


Armor Class

So I thought I’d respond here, mostly because Medium is a more flexible writing tool than a forum. So first, here is my Monk’s AC in his “normal” config:

If you haven’t played D&D since second edition, AC is a LOT more complex.

As we can see, my AC is 140. The “+2” next to it is if I’m in a blocking stance. As I’m a monk, and blocking means I stand there and let people hit me, I never block, that’s stupid. Now, a tank, with heavy armor, a good tower shield and some serious threat generation/intimidation will do just that. Because that’s what tanks do. They hunker down and let people beat on them while the rest of the party attacks. However, they don’t take a lot of damage, if any from it. It’s very neat to watch.

So now, there’s a number of things that add to my AC here:

  • +14 due to my Dexterity, which you can see comes from the general DEX bonus. If I increase my DEX by one, then I’d get an extra point of AC, since ability bonuses increment every two increases in that score.
  • +18 from my Wisdom bonus. That’s due to the Armor Class Bonus class feat that Monks get automatically at first level.
  • +20 Armor Bonus from my Epic Mage Armor Epic Destiny Feat, which I took instead of Epic Toughness when I last Epic Reincarnated. Without that feat, that would only be a +11 Armor Bonus from my armor. (To avoid some confusion, in general, identical bonuses in DDO don’t stack. If they did, then I’d have a +31 Armor bonus. Instead, the larger bonus is used. So I have a +20 instead of a +11. If it seems a bit confusing, it can be.) My armor is seen here:
That took more than a bit of work to get, but well worth the effort.
  • +10 Natural Armor Bonus. This is a bonus that does stack with a regular Armor Bonus, and I get it from my bracers. Note also that sweet +11 bonus to DEX. In addition, they really boost my elemental resistance, and give me a sheltering bonus to my Physical Resistance Rating, or PRR, which plays a part in all this, but I’ll discuss later in the post:
This was the reward I picked up on my 20th run of the “Temple of the Deathwyrm” raid. Again, a decent bit of work, but well worth the effort.
  • +10 Deflection Bonus, provided by another bit of gear I got from the same raid as Dumathoin’s Bracers, my Ward Token Ring. (There’s a LOT going on with this ring, we’ll get to most of it.):
I LOVE THIS RING
  • +1 Dodge Bonus. Technically, this should be a +1 Alchemical bonus, but in the course of updating Dodge from a static +1/2/3 kind of value to its current percentage, this one stayed as a Dodge bonus. However you name it, it still helps, and I got that one via the Alchemical Armor Eldritch Ritual. (Yes, DDO loves its names.)
  • +17 Misc Bonus. Don’t you love crap like that? That comes from a few places. Six points of it come from Guild Airship Buff Bonuses. Two points come from Walking With Waves in the Grandmaster of Flowers Epic Destiny. Seven points from Paired Parrying I twisted in from the Primal Avatar Epic Destiny. Six points from Lithe that I twisted in from the Shadowdancer Epic Destiny. In theory, I should have a +21 here, but there could be some stacking issues going on.
  • +12 Feat bonus. Eight points of it come from my two Epic Past Life Feats in the Martial Sphere. Four points of this, I’ve no idea. But still, +12 is +12, so I’m not complaining.
  • +15 Centered Bonus. This is another monk-specific one. If I’m not centered, then I lose Ki, I attack slow (or normally if you prefer), I run slow, basically, I’m a hot easily-killed, helpless mess. To be centered I have to be wearing only a robe or outfit, (docent if you’re a Warforged). If you’re a Warforged Monk, then no body type heavier than Composite Plating. (Warforged are sentient robots, basically.) You can’t have a shield, and you can only use certain weapons like Kamas, Shurikens, Quarterstaves, or be “Unarmed” which means using Handwraps. Which really work kind of like a weapon. The handwraps thing is a bit of a mess at the moment, but it works well enough so I’m okay with it. Also, you can’t be encumbered.
  • 10% AC bonus. This is from the Combat Expertise feat I took to get whirlwind attack. I rather enjoy it, since as a percentage, the higher my “base” AC is, the more this adds.

That’s my AC. All those things give me a 140. But that’s not the whole story. For example, what happens if I go into the aforementioned Earth Stance? Well, I lose quite a bit of Wisdom bonus, but I gain a lot of hit points, (almost 100) and my AC goes from 140 to 161. Also if I am fighting “tainted” creatures, such as non-Lawful extraplanar creatures, Aberrations, or Undead, I get a +3 to my AC against them. (YAY SHINTAO ENHANCEMENTS!) It also does nice things to our next section, the Physical Resistance Rating.


Physical Resistance Rating

Physical Resistance Rating, or PRR is rather important, because it works to mitigate damage that will happen on an attack that bypasses your armor class. My “normal” PRR is 30, which means I’m going to take just over 23% less damage from physical attacks (think non-magic here). If I’m in Earth stance, that’s increased to 65, which means I take just under 40% less damage from physical attacks. However, there are a number of things that can increase it for my character depending on situation.


Dodge

So now we get into a bit of the esoterica of making a monk survivable, starting with Dodge. As you’ll notice, I have a 31% dodge and a 31% max dodge. Which means, I’m about as dodgy as possible. (I SAW THE PUN, I WENT FOR IT!!! ALWAYS INTENDED, ALWAYS!!!!) I get that dodge bonuse via a lot of ways, like Enhancements:

  • Meditation of War which gives me a +5 bonus to max dodge when I’m in water stance.
  • Grandmaster of Forms Ocean Stance, (Water Stance) which gives me a 4% dodge bonus.
  • Improved Dodge +2%

Feats:

Epic Destiny bonuses

  • Walking with Waves 1%

Guild Enhancements

  • Fencing Master +2% to Max dodge bonus

Items such as the 11% bonus from my Epic Belt of Thoughtful Remembrance:

This is a random drop from the Epic Fleshmaker’s laboratory. What’s the Fleshmaker’s name? Mentau. Mentau the Fleshmaker. :-)

Dodge is important because it’s a major part of my overall Miss Chance. Dodge, along with the incorporeality bonus from my armor. The formula for this gives me, overall, around a 31% chance to be missed in combat. That’s more than a little handy. If you’re a Monk, Dodge bonus is your bestest friend.


Fortification

Then we have fortification, which is really important because this is what prevents sneak attacks and critical hits from turning you into paste. In my case, my fortification is 165%, which would seem to mean that those will never work on me.

I’ve seen people with truly high fortifications. But mine is solid for a Monk.

But there are things like flanking, certain spells and other issues that can reduce my fortification. But it does mean they don’t succeed often.


Dealing with magical attacks

Then there’s dealing with magical attacks, like your old friend, Mr. Fireball. Those are a combination of saving throws, evasion, and resistances.

Saving throws are pretty simple, there’s three: Reflex, Fortitude, and Will. I’m going to talk about reflex last, because as I’m a monk, mine’s a bit complicated. Fortitude Saves are how you recover from things like poison or disease. My fort(itude) save isn’t bad:

These are not really great saves. I’ve had averages in the 70s, and i’ve seen Paladins with 80/90 in each.

It’s a 67, from various sources. Much of that comes from my gear, like my Epic Boots of the Innocent:

Given my love of Stunning fist, and my class, the speed and the Stunning boost make these boots awesome

or the aforementioned Epic Belt of Thoughtful Remembrance, and my Mythic Minos Legens:

I still don’t believe I pulled this one as fast as I did.

Oh, and of course, Airship buffs and Epic Destiny buffs. The handy thing with the Epic Destiny buffs is that they help me make the save even if I roll a 1, which would normally always be a fail.

Will saves are about the same (used against things like hold person, charm):

The two-point difference between it and the Fort save is due to the +2 bonus the Minos Legens gives Fort saves. The overall 4-point reduction in Feat and Enchanted bonuses are somewhat mitigated by the +2 points I get from using Wisdom as the ability mod here (+18) instead of Constitution (+16).

Finally, Reflex save, which is what you use against things like traps, and Mr. Fireball (who it must be said, is quite the dick):

Reflex saves on a monk are complicated

The reason I save this for last is because of an interesting quirk called Evasion. I actually have two Evasion feats: Evasion and Improved Evasion. Normally, if I make my Reflex save, I take no damage or half damage. If I fail the save, I take full damage. Evasion modifies that so that if make my Reflex save, and I’d normally then take half damage, I end up taking no damage, but I still take full damage if I fail the save. With Improved Evasion, if I’d normally take only half damage with a successful Reflex save, I take no damage, and if I fail the reflex save, I only take half damage. Double Word Score!

Then we have resistances. There’s three main types: elemental, spell/magic, and damage resistance (DR).

Elemental resistance applies to things like Acid, Cold, Fire, and occasionally Force and Sonic. (I know, I know, but I don’t create the rules, I just play by them.) My elemental resistances are pretty solid:

Those numbers are fairly simple. If for example, someone casts Mr. Fireball at me (I HATE that guy!), and I fail my reflex save, that leaves me with say, 100pts of damage left. Since my fire resistance is 72, we subtract 72 points from that, and I only potentially take 28 points of damage. (there’s other things such as temp buffs protection spells that could drop that even further.) Each resistance is specific to that kind of spell. Then there’s Spell Resistance (SR) and Magical Resistance Rating or MRR.

Spell resistance:

Spell resistance is a little odd, because it doesn’t apply to all magic as one would think. Instead, it only applies to some spells. But if it does apply, then to overcome it, the person casting the spell at me has to roll higher than my Spell Resistance to overcome it. Since my SR is only 36, this is not a high bar.

Magical Resistance Rating:

MRR applies to everything but force damage, aka Magic Missles (Even bigger dicks than Mr. Fireball!) MRR is applied after other resistances, and is a percentage. So, in our earlier example, that Fireball that could cause 28 pts of damage has to deal with MRR. Mine is 23.08%, so we strip off that much damage from 28, and now I’m only taking 21 points of damage. (MRR results always round down, so both 21.0 and 21.9999 are treated as 21.) IN YOUR FACE FIREBALL!!! YEAH, I’M ON YOUR LAWN, WHATCHA GOIN’ DO ABOUT IT?

Finally, there’s Damage Resistance, or DR. My DR:

That means that against a physical attack with a weapon that is not considered “Epic”, the first ten points of damage are thrown away. That’s not particularly high, some folks can get a lot more, and you can layer it with different items and what have you. The best DRs have a bypass type of “-” which means it can’t be bypassed. Boo-YAH. Good DR for the most part is the provenance of really good armor and shields, none of which do me any good.


Tactics

So what’s this all mean. First, it means I either do pretty well in a fight, or I take it in the shorts. Evasion builds, which I certainly am, don’t fail gracefully. Which is why I don’t fight in the “stand there and swing” method. In a one-on-one, I’m not overly mobile, but even then I try to circle my opponent to pick up flanking bonuses. If there are a lot of people, then I start jumping a LOT, and using various circular attacks like my Spiked Chain Attack, Whirlwind Attack, Drifting Lotus, and Orchid Blossom. Standing still in a crowd is a fast way for me to die.

What I’ll usually do is jump in the middle of a group, then in rapid succession: Drifting Lotus, Whirlwind, Stunning Fist, Spiked Chain, Whirlwind again, (it only has a 5 second cooldown) and then I’m jumping out. With any luck, the paralyzing effect from my handwraps’ Paralyzing Fear effect:

Mortal Fear is cool as hell. I’ve hit non-bosses for 20K of damage in one shot. I highly recommend it.

Kicks in and I freeze a few enemies, (especially if it hits or “procs” on a whirlwind.) I’ll then pick the enemy with the least amount of hitpoints and work on them, then move on to the next, etc. In a dicey sitch, I’m jumping constantly until I can get some help or everyone is dead.


Random Healing

Along with that, I’ve a few things that keep me alive. First, potions, of course. Then there’s also Wholeness of Spirit:

That’s a Grandmaster of Flowers feat that acts like a heal spell and a Greater Restoration spell at the same time. The hit points it heals are boosted from the normal 150 to an average of 550 by the Positive Energy and Healing Amplification I get from both my Shintao Monk enhancements and my Gauntlets of Immortality:

It actually took me a while to figure out just how much of a boost these were giving me.

Which work together to give me a total spell power of around 245 or so:

I’ve seen Clerics with less positive spell power. however, my spell critical is pants, and my spell crti. multiplier is nonexistent

and that rather nice boost to my healing spells of anywhere between 122% to 245%. If I score a spell critical, (16%) chance of that, then double that. In addition to wholeness of spirit, I also have a Fists of Light attack:

I use this one a lot. If you get multiple people using it on the same enemy, you can keep a lot of people alive.

That normally gives me 1–2 points of healing per punch/attack, but with my boosts, it’s more like 2–4. In addition, if I use three of those in a row, I have a finishing move called Healing Ki, which when triggered, heals me and everyone in the area for 1–4 (aka 1d4) of damage + another 1d4 points per two monk levels. In my case, that’s 15d4 of healing, so 15–60 points, but, when you add in my positive spellpower boost (245) and my Healing Amplification of 80 means I can heal up between 200–700 points (if I pull a crit). That’s not bad at all, especially given that I can do that in combat.

But wait, there’s more.

Note that “Touch of Immortality” effect on the Gauntlets of Immortality? That’s another 2–4 HP of healing, (really 4–8) every 15 seconds. Then thanks to my Epic Belt of Thoughtful Remembrance’s Greater Regeneration, I get another 2 (4) HP every 30 seconds. So now that’s 12–20 points or so every 30 seconds. But we aren’t done yet. In one of my Epic Reincarnations, I took the Fast Healing feat, so when I’m in that stance (and I’m ALWAYS in that stance), I’m also healing 25HP (5+5/5 character levels) which works out to 50+ every minute, thanks to my positive spell power and healing amplification. So basically, every minute, I’m healing 67–75 hit points.

Doesn’t Suck.


If this seems complicated, it can be. It took me a number of years to figure this all out, but it’s worth it because it lets me play a very survivable monk, and if you can’t keep from dying, well, it doesn’t matter how good your DPS is in the end.