Rift – Dark Moments in Character Building – Dulcien the Shaman

Boss Drum, here we go again
Rhythm Eternal from a distant time
An echo of long ago
Not yet forgotten, No.

Music is Osgard the Saboteur/Bard’s department, but that’s not going to stop this week’s Rift character from coming on, and coming on strong! Take pinch of dwarven doughtiness, and a distinctly undwarven love of nature, add knowing insight to mystical might, and you’ve got Dulcien the Shaman!

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Dulcien - Connected to the Powers that Be With Healing Rhythmic Synergy

I’ve not played Dulcien anywhere near as much as Osgard (partially because I’m holding out for an xp-lock option), so he’s a mere level 15 right now. Rightfully he might at the moment be called Dulcien the Justicar, but he has all the Justicar he’ll be getting, and will be continuing up the Shaman Tree for the time-being.

Shaman, Justicar, and Druid are all largely melee based cleric souls. All three get the rather amazing passive “Faith in Action” which adds your Spell Power to your Attack Power, your Spell Crit to your Attack Crit, and your Spell focus to your Melee Hit. This results in a cleric who can kick out quite a lot of melee damage. This is particularly important for Dulcien, as you’ll see.

Dulcien CAN heal, and does so as much as he is able. This is predominantly done through a Justicar ability called Reparation (the reason he went so far up the Justicar tree.) This causes 10% of all damage he puts out, or 25% from Justicar abilities, to go out as a group heal to the ten nearest group or raid members. A buff that he has and always keeps up, Mien of Honor, increases the healing by 50%. For instance, if Dulcien smacks an opponent for 100 damage, the ten nearest friends will be healed for 15, or for 37 if it was a justicar ability that did the damage. That can add up to some decent passive healing, as Dulcien would usually be hitting a lot of things during a fight, but of course it’s rather spread out and better for keeping people topped up than dealing with serious burst damage.

He could use a shield, but as his healing is improved by improved damage output, he chooses to use a two-handed weapon most of the time. A staff with a high spell-power bonus works perfectly, increasing both his magic AND his melee power.

He also has a group heal, also from Justicar, called Doctrine of Loyalty. This heals the ten nearest friends for 51 +50% from Mien of Honor. Obviously it’s not particularly good, but is useful. It is also fueled by Convictions, which are gained by using life-based attacks.

And that’s it. That’s all his heals right now. What this means is that Dulcien needs to be melee combat to be able to do any healing. This isn’t too much of a problem, generally, and convictions last 30 seconds so he can fire Doctrine of Loyalty off while moving towards the next opponent. Still, it would be fair to say that you would not want Dulcien to be your primary raid healer, though he’d certainly make life a lot easier for whoever was the main healer. One thing worth mentioning is that as a melee build, his area heals are a lot more likely to hit the people who actually need it, the other close-combat characters, than a healer who is standing well back from the fight.

There is one other source of healing, mind you, and that would be his fairy. Like Osgard, he has a zero point pet-class on the side, providing him with a fairy companion, who casts heals-over-time as she sees fit. Currently she’ll do 110 healing over 12 seconds. Once again, useful, and she seems willing to occasionally chuck them at group-mates.

Going forward, that situation is unlikely to improve in the short-term, apart from spell-upgrades. Shaman get a decent personal heal, but nothing they can use on anyone else. However, they do get some excellent resistance group-buffs, being able to raise elemental resistances by 30 (for the rank 1 version), and using the right one for the job will certainly reduce incoming damage a useful amount.

Druid, which he will put points into fairly soon, will give him a single target heal, Balm of the Woods, after 6 points spent, but it’s on a 15 second cooldown. He’s going to pick that up at any rate, for emergency use. Any ability which will increase his damage will also increase his healing, and that’ll be his main focus.

Reality changing, moving shifting us higher
To a connection with Gaia
Running out of rhythm,
You know that we’re coming on strong
Because we keep comin’ on!

Needless to say, the sensible thing to do would be to create a second build that uses souls with more healing abilities, for use when such a thing is completely necessary. This, though, is his default build for generally poking about. It’s extremely good for soloing, and has gotten the job done in general Rift and Invasion situations thus far. I suspect it would be absolutely awful for PvP, where burst damage is the order of the day. Let’s take a quick look at his skill tree.

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Rift - A Melee Cleric's Soul Tree

It’s certainly fun to play. My main reason for posting this character, in truth, is to partially show to non-clerics why they might not be getting the healing they’re expecting. Now, I think Dulcien does do a decent amount of healing, as he is very careful about using Doctrine of Loyalty whenever it would be useful, but it is not always available (Not helped by convictions being a bit buggy, and you not always receiving them when you ought). He’s also put particular effort into getting the Justicar abilities which grant and improve the healing from his attacks, and some melee clerics might not have done that. Even with that though, he’s no healing power-house, but there is no rule that a cleric has to be. In Rift they share healing duties with Bards and Chloromancers, after all.

I couldn’t resist littering this post with lyrics from one of my favourite bands of the 90′s. From the days when dance music was still good:

Claims of the Normal Episode 9

Episode 9 of the Claims of the Normal podcast is up, and I was once again dragged in to discuss many things, some of which I even had intelligent opinions on. You can find it over here.

We had quite a long discussion of Rift, by which I mean that I went on about it for about ten minutes until made to stop.

Rift – Dark Moments in Character Building – Osgard the Saboteur

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Osgard and Snorty pause for a quick picture with the Guardian Leaders in Sanctum

My dwarven pal, Osgard, has had many adventures across the MMO worlds, but perhaps his best known role was as a Dwarven Engineer in Warhammer Online. He also occasionally visits Azeroth in the form of a hunter. It seemed fitting then, to try to combine the two, and the result has worked fairly well so far.

Saboteur was an obvious base, granting him bombs and charges aplenty. While he rather misses his turrets and napalm, it does give him a good mixture of ranged options, and will eventually provide him with landmines. He hasn’t really bothered too much with the trap-side of Saboteur, as they seem a bit ineffective compared with his other options, but perhaps I should experiment with them a little more.

Many were the times in Warhammer that the only healing anyone in his group was likely to get was coming from Osgard’s barrel of Bugman’s Best, and he has continued this fine tradition of healer of last resort by taking just enough bard to give him two area heal-over-time abilities. They’re not particularly large, but they do hit rather a lot of people, so are good for generally keeping people topped up. Healing is typically rather scarce, so a rogue willing to help out with that is a useful fellow to have about!

As his tertiary class he has Ranger. That’s just for the pet, which you can get and upgrade without putting any points in. Having a snuffly friend willing to take agro off you is a major godsend when soloing, and Snorty does the job well. His damage output is negligible, but he’s right good at taunting.

It’ll be a bit indecipherable, I suspect, but here’s a picture of his Soul Tree for good measure. He has largely concentrated on choices that increase the effectiveness of his bombs and charges, though the Dexterity-boosting passive was a must-have also.

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Osgard the Saboteur's Soul Tree

This isn’t actually much of a “Dark Moment in Character Building” compared with some of my previous entries in that series, as I suspect that a Saboteur/Bard, with unpointed Ranger, just for the pet, is probably pretty common. In fact I would not be at all surprised if over half of rogues have secondary bard and tertiary ranger, for the healing and pet, with a variety of primary class options, though I would imagine that works slightly less well with the melee souls.

At level 26, he’s well ahead of my other alts. Actually he’s rather farther ahead than I really want him to be, as he still has a great many things he wants to do in Silverwood (and Gloamwood too, which he’s almost finished the quests in), and I see this as something of a design flaw. There is no way that anyone would be anywhere near completing all Silverwood achievements by the time you outlevel the zone, and it feels a bit strange to have so many high level folks running around there also trying to get the various Colossal kills they need for achievements and the epic questline. We desperately need to be able to turn off xp gain, and this will become even more of a factor when the patch currently on the test server comes in to effect, increasing xp for Rifts and Invasions.

He’s not dabbled in PvP yet, partially because the last thing he needs is yet another source of xp. I really need to get around to that, but I keep putting it off, thinking that an xp-lock might be just around the corner. If one does materialise, I’ll be very tempted to start Osgard again. You know how I am with trying to do everything at as low a level as possible!

I’ll introduce you to more of my Rift alt-stable soon!

On Rift’s Contribution System

Today’s Rift patch notes had an interesting line:

Tracking abilities no longer trigger global cooldown, which also reduces their effect on Rift contribution.

Rift’s Contribution system is something I’ve been meaning to address. During an invasion or rift closure, your contribution is measured against that of the other participants, with you competing for the best rating, and thus the best rewards. Warhammer had something similar, and if you’re a longterm reader you’ll know that I had more than a few issues with their contribution system too, and I discussed the issues with contribution systems in general.

You might imagine that our contribution is measured by damage dealt, healing done, or other useful things that people might do in a fight. It has long been known though that Rift contribution is pretty much just a factor of how many buttons you can activate. Today’s patch-note suggests that it is, in fact, determined by how much time you spend in global cooldown (and probably casting time). I’m not sure how channels work in to that equation, but what is certainly true is that actual effectiveness or usefulness has no part in determining your contribution.

So contribution has been raisable by doing things that are entirely useless to the task at hand, such as spamming your track button over and over. Track was a good choice as it has no mana cost, but you just as often see someone standing there spamming their instant buffs.

You’re at a disadvantage if you’re only doing things that are useful to the fight, particularly if you are melee, as you are likely to spend a fair bit of time running to targets. Now, you *could* use that time spamming something useless, if you’re lucky to have such a power within your skillset, but that makes no sense whatsoever within the context of the game.

Here is the thing for me. When I’m fighting a Rift or Invasion I want to spend my thought cycles considering how best to defeat the enemy. I do not want to spend them on organising within my head how best to arrange my actions to have the minimum amount of time when I’m not under a global cooldown, just so I can get a decent reward at the end. I do not want to know that if I stop hammering buttons, even for a moment, my contribution level will plummet compared with that of my fellows.

At any rate, I’m not a huge fan of competing within your own team, as it can lead to some rather self-defeating dynamics. For instance, I’m actually an idiot for healing other players, unless I believe that we can’t complete the task without it. The more time my colleagues spend dead or running back from respawn, the more buttons I can click in their absence.

Now, I’m not doing these things. I like to play for the team, and to be effective, but it has been extremely apparent that some people are not, and the folks who are playing fair are getting stiffed. Knowing this makes Rift much less fun for me.

Any contribution system is going to have its issues, but it is vital that they do not encourage anti-social or bizarre behaviours, and actually reward people for working as part of the team.

Update: Rift Developer Hartsman just sent me a tweet about this.

Agree with the overall feeling on encouraging weird behaviour. Addressing that as well. The current tweak just makes it “less weird”

So it sounds like we’ll be seeing some positive changes to how contribution works. Huzzah! Hopefully that will include changes to address the imbalance between ranged and melee in gaining contribution too.

Rift – A Map to the Books and Blessings of Old Mathosia

Rift’s Guardian tutorial area has quite a large number of books to find, and they may be missable if you don’t pick them up, given that I know of no way to get back there once you leave.

That being the case, I’ve knocked up this little map, which will hopefully come in handy for anyone having trouble finding the location of the last one or two. I’ve also marked the location of certain relics of the Gods of the Vigil, which will grant a ten minute blessing if you should (And you ought to!) pray before them.

The map will be a little shrunk on this page, but you can click on it to view it at full size. I hope it comes in useful!

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A Map to the Books and Blessings of Old Mathosia

An Embarrassment of Riches.

MMO players have an embarrassment of riches this week. Of course Rift will be opening up early access on the 24th, but the latest EQ2 expansion, “Destiny of Velious”, launches today, with an 8 day extravaganza of events.

On top of that, DDO will be having it’s 5 year anniversary, with an all-new piratey event recycled from the original tutorial island. I’ll try to catch some of that, though I hope it’s more enjoyable than the Halloween event, which I pretty much hated, and I have heard it is similar to.

With all that going on, where do I find myself?

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Zoltoon, meeting up with some old friends in Everfrost.

Aye indeed, I’m still playing Everquest on the Fippy Darkpaw progression server, and have decided, now that the free period is over, that I’ll subscribe for a month. I’m a little surprised myself, though not because I didn’t think it was a good game. I just thought that I’d be unable to look past the graphics and would be a little bored with retreading ground I had very thoroughly explored a long time ago, but after a couple of hours I really didn’t notice the graphics any more any more, and I’m getting real pleasure from visiting the people and places I remember. I’m not the only MMO blogger that has felt this, and Stargrace is covering her adventures in old Norrath quite thoroughly.

As you know, I’m not much of one for raiding, and I never really had the patience for lengthy camps either, so I don’t really recognise the caricature of EQ that is often presented. I always found plenty to do, and kept myself well equipped enough for my purposes without engaging in activities I didn’t find fun.

I have picked up Scars of Velious, even though I doubt there’ll be much in it that’ll make very much difference to Maltheas’ life in the mid-level. At his current rate, he’ll be ready for Velious adventuring quests some time in 2017. He should get to experience the crafting content rather sooner, and of course he’ll probably go exploring the new lands anyway. At the least I’ll need to take a few pictures to show you. I think I’ll try to do a daily post from EQ2 while the special event days are going on. Day 1 is going to involve Othmir, which always make me happy!

I haven’t picked Rift up yet, and I’m still a bit conflicted on it. To tell the truth, I’ve found a lot of the coverage toe-curlingly embarrassing. Often it is kind of like reading someone’s secret love poetry to the girl of their dreams. Also, like true love, people haven’t been reacting well to any criticism of the object of their affection, which sucks out a lot of the pleasure of writing about it. Still, it’s a new MMO, and I’d probably do well to be in at the start of it. On the other hand, I’m not made of money. Once they add the Paypal option I’ll probably grab it as I have some advertising money sitting in there that I can’t use to buy something useful like food without fiddling about with transferring it.

Right. I *think* the EQ2 servers are down for the big Velious update, so I think it’s time to try to get Zoltoon sorted with the Stein of Moggok! I don’t know where I’m going to find the time to do everything I want to this week, but I’ll give it my best shot.

STO: In which I rush to defeat the Devidians

Phase 6 of Rift’s Beta starts today, with some major changes.

However, I’m not going to be playing Rift today because Star Trek Online’s 3rd Feature Episode series, focusing on the Romulans, begins tomorrow. Once that happens, the special end reward from the second series, the Ophidian Cane, will no longer be awarded, so I need to deal with those pesky Devidians tonight. Not because I particularly need the cane, nice though it is, but I can never stand to miss out on time-limited items!

It does look interesting though. Hard to tell exactly how useful it’ll be without trying it out against some unsuspecting evil-doers.

Star Trek Online Ophidian Cane Stats

Theoretically we have until 10 am PST on the 5th of February, but I don’t think I want to cut it quite that fine. I’ve already done the first episode, so I just need to finish the last 4 this evening. Should be no problem.

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Star Trek Online's Anniversary is still in full flow!

Update: It turns out the Ophidian Cane reward has been turned off already. Sadness :( It was unexpected, as it seems to fly in the face of how we were told this would work. I put in a GM ticket, but I don’t have terribly high hopes for it.

Ah well. I’ll make sure I don’t leave the next one quite so late.