P.E.A.C.H. my Darkstrider

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I have lately (if not always) been fairly critical without offering a great deal to the forum. It's about time I allowed for some criticism of my own work.

One of my groups has been playing through the published series. During Demonqueen Enclave we were joined by a Drow Ranger, who started with a ranged build, but rebuilt as melee. Melee is not working out so well...

This build intentionally avoids Frost Cheese, but is nonetheless Item dependant (Armor of Dark Deeds)
[sblock Darkstrider]
====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Zakara Darkstrider, level 21
Drow, Ranger, Darkstrider, Destined Scion
Build: Archer Ranger
Fighting Style Option: Two-Blade Fighting Style (for free toughness)
Ranger Option: Prime Shot
Epic Heroism Option: Dexterity
Epic Heroism Option: Wisdom
Auspicious Birth (Auspicious Birth Benefit)
Theme: Bregan D'aerthe Spy
STR 12, CON 13, DEX 28, INT 12, WIS 24, CHA 10
STR 10, CON 11, DEX 18, INT 10, WIS 14, CHA 8
AC: 38 Fort: 33 Ref: 37 Will: 35
HP: 155 Surges: 7 Surge Value: 38

Initiative +31, not counting our Combat Leader's Bonus
Acrobatics +23, Dungeoneering +22, Endurance +15, Heal +22, Perception +24, Stealth +29
Arcana +11, Athletics +10, Bluff +10, Diplomacy +10, History +11, Insight +17, Intimidate +14, Nature +17, Religion +11, Streetwise +10, Thievery +18
Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack
Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack
Bregan D'aerthe Spy Utility: Levitation (Bregan D'aerthe Spy)
Bregan D'aerthe Spy Utility: Continuous Levitation (Bregan D'aerthe Spy)
Drow Racial Power: Cloud of Darkness
Hunter's Quarry  Power: Hunter's Quarry
Ranger Attack 1: Careful Attack
Ranger Attack 1: Twin Strike
Ranger Utility 2: Invigorating Stride
Ranger Attack 3: Disruptive Strike
Ranger Utility 6: Weave Through the Fray
Ranger Attack 9: Attacks on the Run
Stealth Utility 10: Persistent Tail
Darkstrider Attack 11: Darkstrider Ambush
Darkstrider Utility 12: Cloaked in Shadow
Ranger Attack 13: Pinning Strike
Ranger Attack 15: Confounding Arrows
Ranger Attack 15: Bleeding Wounds
Ranger Utility 16: Howling Winds
Ranger Attack 17: Pounding Barrage
Darkstrider Attack 20: Death in the Dark
Level 1: Twilight Adept
Level 2: Weapon Proficiency (Greatbow)
Level 4: Bow Expertise
Level 6: Distant Advantage, retrained to Hidden Sniper upon acquisition of Armor, 12th or 13th)
Level 8: Weapon Focus (Bow)
Level 11: Alertness
Level 12: Darkjumper
Level 14: Improved Defenses
Level 16: Superior Will
Level 18: Focused Mind
Level 20: Merciless Killer
Level 21: Bow Mastery
Level 21: Superior Initiative (replaces Improved Initiative)
Adventurer's Kit
Greatbow of Speed +4 x1
Feyhide Armor of Dark Deeds +4 x1
Bracers of Archery (paragon tier) x1
Shadowdancer's Boots x1
Gauntlets of Blood (paragon tier) x1
Crownring of Tchazzar x1
Assassin's Cloak +4 x1
Ring of Invisibility x1
Ring of Fury x1
Belt of Vim (paragon tier) x1
Bag of Holding
Elven Chain Shirt (paragon tier)
Pierced Heart Tattoo (paragon tier) x1
Pelor's Sun Blessing (level 13)
====== End ======
It occurs to me that Hunter fighting Style, with a hidden weapon (+fading strike in place of careful) would probably be a fairly good option (but the feat init bonus is wasted, Superior is nearly required). Current abilities allow for hiding about 4 rounds/encounter (not counting Persistent Tail which is At-Will, and can target an Ally for the certain trigger, but requires Move and Immediate), and first round is a gimmee with our Combat Leader (Cha focused Cavalier|Warlord, +9 to Init), but current intent still takes Acolyte Power for Invisible Stalker at 22nd...

Please, comments and thoughts from the forum...
I suppose my own assessment might be helpful...

(reserves post for my own assessment)

Tricks to Hide: Twilight Adept Cunning Stalker Feature (Free +Move 3 or more squares) 1/Enounter; Cloaked in Shadow (Minor, requires being adjacent to stone feature) 1/encounter; Cloud of Darkness (Minor, provides total concealment for 2 rounds, +move, remember Shadowjumper feat, free action teleport on round it is used) 1/encounter; Persistent Tail (Move +Immediate) At-Will; Ring of Invisibility (Minor action after milestone, total concealment for 2 rounds, +move)

Twin Strike is at +30 vs AC 35 (includes CA, but not Prime Shot), 2d12 +11 Static with another +10 when hidden (nearly certain to add), +7 if my target has Radiant Vulnerability, +9 if my target is bloodied. Averages 96 Damage against bloodied targets (assumes hit without Radiant Vulnerabilty, DPR is not yet calculated).

This actually outdamages my encounter powers (fairly close with Pounding Barrage), so they become more control options (Immobilzed or Dazed). I like Disruptive for out of turn damage (not a lot at 1d12+20), and with Wis pumped as full secondary, almost certainly negates a hit.

Why have you assumed Bloodied you might be asking...
As I will usually be going first, it is always wise to pop your minion check (sucks to waste encounter powers on minions, first attack should be at-will, and Twin Strike is a good one). If my first round is spent killing minions, well, only Twin Strike is used, and I clean two.

r1 Twin Strike +Weapon of Speed minor action basic: ~110 (120 if I've had a chance to quarry my target)
Out of Turn: ~25
r2 Pounding Barrage: ~110 (120 if I've had a chance to quarry my target)
This is enough to bloody one target, and the rest of my party is also working...
1 or 2 rounds spent exercising control options to assist party (prioritized against melee brutes, or skirmishers) accounted for, party should now be in clean-up mode. This is not a rule, just typical.
Consider a powerswap to grab snap shot.

I know it's always a good idea to do minion checking first, but your darkstrider bonus really works best for a first round nova as you can fire away with impunity and not have to fiddle with hidden yet. After that, it gets harder to do any sort of nova (with your bonus damage intact). So once you know the initiative order, consider delaying until just before the monster's turn and let your allies do your minion checking for you. This will probably hurt your prime shot bonuses though so weigh that accordingly.

Also, if you're outside alot (making it much harder to use the darkstrider utility), consider Shadow of the Wild.
Taking Snapshot would require Superior Crossbow, instead of greatbow, and that would require Speed Loader. Still, not beyond the realm of possible... thanks. (Also, Weapon of Speed gives me a minor action basic ranged 1/encounter already, but another certainly wouldn't hurt.)

I have considered adding Shadowslide (Shift when you use Cloud of Darkness) in addition to Shadow Jumper, just to facilitate a nova round, but the utility seems a little stretched, I'll have to mull it over some more...

Cloud Nova: (includes hypothetical Shadowslide)
minor: Cloud+shift = hidden
AP: triple shooter
free: teleport (Shadowjumper) = hidden
Standard: Triple Shooter (daily) or Double Shooter (encounter)
move action: shift = hidden
... all out of actions...Cry

1st Round Nova
AP: Triple Shooter
Standard: Triple Shooter (daily) or Double Shooter (encounter)
Minor: Weapon of Speed
Move: (sub Minor) Snap Shot (adds about 36 pts, but costs two feats and change of weapon)

...and in spite of my damage focus, our controller is Int base, even after taking Superior Init, she will be going after many monsters. I, on the other hand, have a double attack, at least. Taking out the two closest minions before they act seems a reasonable prospect, letting our defenders get to more important targets
You're right about the crossbow, can definately be worth the investment. I had confused Hidden Sniper with Treetop Sniper.

Crossbow expertise is also pretty handy as sometimes your shooting lanes are limited due to hidden hijinks. Although your build isn't as limited by terrain as others.

Also, you may find that Twilight Adept doesn't do much for you overall given your other tricks to get hidden. Being able to grab sneak attack might be more worthwhile (and then the feat to get SA again on AP), especially to boost your nova potential.
The Darkness Reign feat and supply of items that grant standard actions which can not be used for attacks (such as Timeless Locket, Clockwork Cowl, etc.) would let you keep the Cloud around for multiple turns.  Basically it would come out to swapping your minor for a standard (via the items) to sustain Cloud.  Depends how much you're getting out of it and how much feat support you put into Cloud.

Bargle wrote:
This is CharOp. We not only assume block-of-tofu monsters, but also block-of-tofu DMs.

Zelink wrote:
You're already refluffing, why not refluff to something that doesn't suck?
for the snap shot suggestion the feat Tree top sniper is what you're looking for.  Allows you to use all rogue powers that require a crossbow with a bow instead.  Though i don't know how feat intensive your build is without really looking it over, but that's how you can possibly solve the problem.
"Non nobis Domine Sed nomini tuo da gloriam" "I wish for death not because I want to die, but because I seek the war eternal"


Yeah, unfortunately, Treetop Sniper is Elf exclusive, adding Snap Shot, with a Sneak attack, really would add about 50 pts in a first round nova... As I mentioned, retaining Drow as racial choice, going superior crossbow would enable its addition, but cost 2 feats...

So, trading out the following feats...
Level 01: Bow Expertise (Start Career with Longbow)
Level 02: Speed Loader
Level 02: Retrain Bow Expertise for Weapon Proficiency (Superior Crossbow)
Level 04: Crossbow Expertise
Level 06: Weapon Focus (Crossbows)
Level 08: Distant Advantage
Level 10: Sneak of Shadows
Level 11: Novice Power (picks up Snapshot for Biting Volley)
Level 12: Improved Initiative
Level 13: Retrain Distant Advantage for Hidden Sniper (on acquiring Armor of Dark Deeds)
Level 14: Twilight Adept
Level 16:
Improved Defenses
Level 18:
Superior Will
Level 20: Focused Mind
Level 21: Bow Mastery
Level 21: Retrain Improved Initiative for Superior Initiative

Net Loss: Shadow Jumper (not a big deal), Merciless Killer (Ouch), Alertness (in an ordinary game, this feat is mostly unnecessary, but in a game where the DM merely declares, "Ok, you guys are surprised," well, losing that feat kinda sucks).

Net gain: We open every combat with 4, 5, or 8 Crossbow bolts. We choose any target we want within 20, without regard for intervening cover, so long as we have line of sight.

+31 vs AC (+32 with Prime Shot, which we probably won't have, defenders like front line)
Standard: Pounding Barrage 1d10 +30 = 35.5 (x3 for 106.5) and another 1d6 (assuming 2 hit)=110
Minor: Snap Shot 1d10 +30 =35.5
Minor: Weapon of Speed Encounter Basic Ranged 2d10 +30 =41
AP: Bleeding Wounds 1d10 +30 = 35.5 (x3) =106.5
Sneak Attack in there anywhere for 5d6 =17.5
Grand total 300.5 , oh, and up to 15 ongoing damage (194 without AP or Daily)

Not terrible without Frostcheese.

edit, lol, bad math... correcting ok, I think that's better
Not sure how much use you will get out of Distant Advantage or Hidden sniper. DA is very party dependent, and if you're using stealth regularly from level 1 on (a little tricky) you're getting CA. Similarly Hidden Sniper becomes redundant once you get Darkstrider as you already get CA with hidden, as well as getting CA during first round.
You're correct, Hidden Sniper may well be overkill. It's taken mostly as fallback, in case I end up stunned for a round, and need to re-establish hidden status. Powers like Persistent Tail, Invisible Stalker (at 22nd), and the Cunning Stalker feature require you have concealment at the end of your move. I'm getting Concealment from Armor of Dark Deeds, and attacking with CA...

You know, if I end up stunned for a round (which becomes increasingly unlikely at the end of Paragon, and nearly impossible by 24th level) Distant Advantage may actually serve me better to re-establish CA... I'll need to give that some thought.

Yes, Distant Advantage is more useful with a cooperative party, and even then sometimes difficult (such as when the party has backed a target into a corner), but I can generally get my party to cooperate (most of the melee types I play with know to flank to add to their own accuracy).