What’s So Scary?

I was mulling over some notes in preparation over a final and one thing stuck out to me that I’ve been wanting to write a quick blurb about.

In the last lecture of my sci-fi film class, the professor asked a simple but profound question:

“What’s so scary about babies born with a birth defect, and being called ‘unbabies’?”

The term “unbabies” come from The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian/speculative fictional world where babies born with a birth defect aren’t actually considered babies, but unbabies, similar to some parallel of the undead. It is an interesting topic, especially in this political climate relevant to abortion debates.

But a familiar, usually shrill, voice in the back replied, this time in a deeper and more somber tone:

“A guy like me couldn’t be born.”

He said it quickly and without any refrains, so I think that actually emphasized the sad quality of such a statement. There was a certain finality and sadness to it. Usually, this student is very loud and outspoken, and often annoys the class and professor. But it hit me hearing this and my perspective was enlightened. I have had three special needs students in a couple of my classes and all of them equally annoying, including one other that I won’t really mention specifically where. But knowing this gave me a sense of sympathy, or maybe pity — and some hope.

It gives me a sort of strength, a reminder, to be kind and patient all the more. I never had to worry about my existence, unlike a lot of people in this world, including my own siblings. I can’t stop hearing these words echo in my head.

A guy like me


couldn’t be born.

Alternate Build Choices?

So, in an alternate universe where I can duplicate a Sera copy, what build choices would I make different?

It’s hard for me to make the obvious optimal choice because of flavor/specific preferences. And I mean, these choices are quite significant, in that they can “easily” be exchanged for their optimal option. To list them off, Sera has:

  • Lawful Good alignment
  • Scion of Fire (arguable)
  • Silver Flame Faith
  • Mental Toughness line

In a perfect duplicate of Sera’s character, I would probably exchange alignments to be Lawful Neutral to compromise, or optimally, True Neutral if I just let everything go. Scion of Fire would be a tough choice, but I could go Scion of Air just as easily for more of a DC based caster. Of course, Olladra faith would be ideal compared to Silver Flame faith in so many ways: Articles of Faith implement bonus, Displacement capstone, and the signature ability to grant a 1d6 Luck bonus to all abilities scores. Surely that is better than a bugged banishment ability…

I still have not yet decided whether or not I want to TR Sera one more time. Should I let go of these clearly weaker flavor preferences? Will TRing be worth the hassle at all? I still have a lot to decide, but I think either way I will be fine. I can either try something new (which has its own high costs) or keep things. If I don’t like the changes, I suppose I can always revert them. In that sense, that would require 2 TR’s, which is something I’m not sure I’m too keen about, but that would give me +1 Wisdom at least since Sera is Human. It is too bad I likely will not remain WIS specced – but who knows. Part of the process includes whether or not I want to change that, and ultimately I may not. We will just have to see, and I will have to prepare for potential 1, 2, 3 or even more TR’s!

And ultimately, I’m both excited and stressed for this patch. Kind of says a lot about my growing outlook of this game, and I should also keep that in mind. A lot of things have been stirring, I feel.

A New Self Foreshadows

Just like that, I will have to face a new change that I honestly am both excited and concerned about.

As much as I’m stoked for the long awaited Favored Soul pass (albeit slightly miffed that Clerics are getting a buff too), it is hard trying to accommodate the changes. The biggest changes in regards to the build include, and are not limited to the potential following changes:

  1. Reversing build stat primary spec, from WIS to CHA
  2. Changing deities from Silver Flame to Olladra
  3. Experimenting with feat tetris to update twists
  4. Updating Heroic/ED enhancements

I become nostalgic thinking about going from WIS spec all this time to suddenly a CHA spec. While I’m not too entirely opposed to the idea, it is hard to accept even such a “mainstream” stat that is prevalent and useful in a lot of builds. My stubbornness has officially reached a new level.

A lot of these are still things I am thinking about. Mostly, I need to play the new updated changes in the build itself to see how performance pans out. And while I cannot truly write about a lot of the changes publicly, I am definitely curious as to how much this will improve the statistical numbers. I’m thrilled to see a potential higher SP count, although I feel that the curve will only rise linearly as with comparison to all others, of course. Beyond just the pass that affects everyone, it is almost inspiring enough to embark on yet another TR project… OK, no.

Perhaps this journey to being the best is something that is in vain. It’s fun, but after realizing the weight of the major previous project, I realized that was a year of me missing out what I truly enjoy about this game. And I only hope that this change to Favored Souls is something that makes it more fun, rather than just focusing on the numbers. Even though that is literally all what the pass is about, strengthening Favored Souls as a core class. Who knows, maybe it might throw my build off completely. Although there are indeed a lot of good things.

I hope after the pass I can at least, and at last, say that it was worth it. That Favored Souls, after over tens of updates, finally has a proper enhancement pass in addition to a third tree. While I personally do not think I would need a power boost, Favored Souls as a collective whole can certainly use it more. Of course, I am sure this is what all the Paladins, Monks, Barbarians, Bards, and more have been saying prior to their passes.

I’m not too scared that I won’t like the new build/changes, rather something I am just thinking about deeply about how to solve. I like the mental challenge, but I can only hope as of now that all turns out according to my calculations. *pushes up nonexistent nerd glasses*

But what can I say, I don’t like sudden change. And maybe this is just another push towards another venture that I may enjoy.

So this is my last chance to say good-bye to the wise Seraphemia that she has always been. She’ll still be WIS secondary, but now she will have to fit the lore of a charismatic character. I still can’t shake that sad feeling away, as I always found Wisdom, in essence, to be of greater beauty than Charisma. We shall see.

To the beautifully wise Seraphemia, devoted and favored follower of the Silver Flame: Until the End of the World.

Review: Hirelings

Before hirelings (particularly divine healers) became back on the plat market for Reaper healing, I can recall using them as far as I can remember.

The number one misconception I always hear from players is that hirelings are a waste. They have buggy AI, which pretty much wraps up their mischief: from running blindly into traps, to healing themselves over the player, to countless more. But there is more to hirelings than just the first impression and generalization that all hirelings are “a waste.”

One of the biggest things that people don’t take the time to do is to buff their hirelings. Hirelings already start off with zero buff/effects (save for Druid past lives, feats/enhancements, and ship buffs), extremely minimal gear and spell list, and carry the programming limitations of AI. Buff, buff, buff, if you are looking for a hireling to carry more than 10% of the work. Greater Heroism, Blur, Protection from Evil, Resist Energies, any sort of speed buff (Longstrider’s, Haste), are all easily accessible in some form, typically by scrolls and wands. If you expect a hireling to do more than just flop around like a Magikarp, then expect to treat it like a player member — well, I take that back, the average player nowadays do not even buff other players. Basically, you need to put in at least some effort towards the hireling if you want any decent effort out of it. Strictly speaking, if you want it to survive and heal or CC something, those buffs will grant it the necessary means of basic protections against typical hireling deaths.

One of the other things I notice is that people tend to choose the “wrong” hirelings, and either have not played enough with hirelings to understand their behaviors or do not really think much of it. As an observant player, these behaviors are crucial in determining the types of hirelings to contract with. For example, Larafay, a highly well known and popular hireling for divine offensive caster “DPS/instakill,” is also highly aggressive and is not an appropriate hireling that is focused on healing first. Similarly, we see this between the healer hirelings – Heystack generally has poor performance overall compared to the level 16 Favored Soul, Althea, who performs much better and even carries a Greater Restoration spell which is very handy for that level range in particular.

The number one thing I look for when selecting a hireling is highly dependent on its available actions primarily, and then their behaviors. For instance, I will almost always prefer Althea over Natasha, despite that both are level 16 divines – Althea is typically good about casting Heal on her own when necessary, and I find that having a cure mass spell is much more useful than to Heal everyone individually at points of stagnation in a quest. Another reason for this is that Favored Souls are going to be the superior class when it comes to their other divine counterpart – because hirelings lack the other unique abilities the two classes are comprised of, it is much favorable to select the class that has the more SP, and ultimately, more firepower and heals per shrine. Both may have Death Ward, Mass, which I will touch on later, but there are distinct differences between choosing one over the other which can make a difference when it comes to questing for maximum performance potential. However, because they are in the same level range and it is often bothersome to go to hireling vendors after every hour, I often buy both anyway in the event that I will need Natasha (primarily for her Heal spell usage in circumstances where that is favorable over cure mass) over Althea.

Most of the times, when we purchase hireling contracts, we often select healer types because those are the ones we need the most. Granted, most of the hires that I purchase are indeed mostly divine types for heals, rogues for traps in epics, and Mikayl for DD. Here is an extensive list of the types of hirelings I will purchase over, with more solid commentary from levels 15-30:

  • Erythryn, level 3 Cleric
  • Kendra Estleton, level 5 Cleric
  • Arias Oreth, level 6 Cleric
  • Laerathor, level 7 Cleric
  • Marissa Lorle, level 9 Cleric
  • Fayden Maeleth, level 10 Cleric
  • Lani Vesta, level 9 Favored Soul
  • Miranda Kelvin, level 11 Cleric
  • Duerim Guardwell, level 13 Favored Soul
  • Mikayl the Pious, level 11 Fighter
  • Tempys Lorben, level 14 Cleric
  • Natasha Thorston, level 16 Cleric
  • Althea, level 16 Favored Soul
  • Larafay Do’rret, level 15 Favored Soul
  • Micardya Elsryn, level 14 Bard
  • Albus Gladwin, level 20 Favored Soul
  • Lilo Blackstitch, level 21 Rogue
  • Tarlov Snowtrack, level 23 Ranger
  • Grobbin Halfhitch, level 21 Wizard
  • Garret the Sainted, level 25 Favored Soul
  • Kieran Ostermann, level 26 Fighter

♦ Two of the hirelings are listed solely due to unique spells: Lani and Grobbin for Freedom of Movement and Trap the Soul spells respectively. These two are the only sources found in hirelings and in none other, and may serve to be highly useful in niche situations (often, FOM is best if another player summons Lani in addition to the main hireling, and Trap the Soul is used primarily for soul gem farming).
♦ Some of the hirelings are listed due to usefulness in combat: Tarlov, Kieran, and Larafay for instance. Tarlov is one of the best TWF DPS hirelings with some healing capabilities, Kieran has high HP and can take a hit, and Larafay, as mentioned before, is a divine casting killing machine.
♦ There are very similar behaviors in some of these hirelings, within the same class. Althea, Albus, and Garret are all within the “family” that exhibit decent healing behaviors – they also all carry the same main actions (Mass Deathward, Greater Restoration). Natasha is very similar to her elven brethren within the same level range (i.e. Isadora, Jatrina), which I did not post due to the fact that they don’t carry Deathward. And so on.
♦ Mikayl is highly important due to his Sentinel Dragonmark ability: Dimension Door, which can be casted x3 per rest, and last infinitely.
♦ Lilo is listed as the only Rogue hireling because strangely, she is the best trap equipped hireling out of the four in epics – she is able to trap low level EE quests with a much greater chance than the others who cannot even find the box, which is partly due to the fact that they do not have a Rogue Skill Boost action. With the proper buffs and external hireling effects, she is a competent trapper well past level 25 quests in EE.

If you have not already noticed, Mass Deathward is a huge must in divine hirelings. Because I am one of those people who don’t like to fit in Deathblock as a constant in her gear setup (rather, prefer to swap in when necessary), I recognize the vast important Deathward has, beyond the fact that it can also be a preventative measure for many other things that Deathblock cannot protect against. Thus, it is something I always make sure to carry with me, and something that I encourage others to do as well because I always notice the same mistakes that I’ve observed in both my and others’ game-play. The fact that it is a mass spell makes it so much easier to help protect party members too, who may not realize its importance either.

Knowing how to play a hireling is honestly, more than half the battle as well. If you want it to be stupid aggressive and give it free reign to go crazy, select the active stance. If you want it to stay back, and especially for healers, to perform healing duties, use the defensive stance. Always be conscientious of what the hireling is doing and if it is sabotaging a part of the quest, immediately hit the passive action, recall its location to your character, and force the hireling to go into stationary mode until it is safe to proceed. Perhaps this is just my impression but a lot of people seem to dislike micromanagement, so when it comes to hirelings they don’t really see what is happening beyond the scope of their own character. There is no paid attention to hirelings because of their perceived insignificance, and thus there is a lack of knowledge about them. Hirelings have a highly predictable behavior, generally speaking (because well, AI and programming) – it is our ignorance as players that chooses to blind ourselves of learning the inner compartments of such products of half AI, half bugs. Or at least part of it.

When we pay attention and take notice of hirelings, we learn that there are many predictable moves, primarily due to bugs and the patterns that occur from them, and ultimately, they can truly bend to our will. For instance, and hireling AI will always vary as updates may make changes but for now, there are sets of behaviors that any player can realize a specific pattern. When a divine healer type hireling is recalled to you and your HP falls below ~75%, the typical response is for the hireling to cast Heal upon the player. However, this is not the case all the time – the hireling’s response may be negated by an internal bug that negates Heal spell action to be executed, perhaps the recall action cleared that response, etc. But the active stance, using our basic knowledge of what the hireling actions do, is a sort of this “counter” against that – when you hit active from defensive, or defensive or passive back to active, this allows the hireling to properly respond. This is more of a bug and a fault on the programming system, as when cooldowns were introduced to hirelings, from the coding side, it could have offset the actual performance of some responses. On the bright side, while hot in mid-combat, it has become almost a tactical response to immediately use this loophole in order to get command the hireling, internally, despite it not having the Heal spell on the action bar, to do so. So in that regard, it becomes almost an advantageous bug because we have an internal “Heal” command in addition to everything else on the action bar.

Another bugged response is the use of spells, buffs, or any other class unique action. The cooldowns as mentioned before really screwed up the timing and effective response of most if not all of the class/hireling specific abilities. A prime example would be the use of Resurrection type spells – most of the time, when I have to use it in a dire situation where the party has wiped and the hire acts as “insurance policy,” I drag the hire to my location, preferably in a safe spot, immediately throw it into passive and stationary modes, and attempt to hit the Resurrection spell on my character. However, this will not work where it used to in the past (or as far as I recall) – instead, I am forced to select it at least out of stationary mode, and often into defensive because even passive mode will bug it out. This requires some speed and timing, and even luck if your wipe is bad enough depending on mob size, environment/location, and the above two factors. For abilities such as DD, there is often an internal cooldown in addition that will not allow the usage of that spell despite the cooldown timer reset.

Despite the usual rage and frustration by the general consensus of hirelings, I have almost faithfully used them at any chance I get. There is nothing to lose when you have a divine hireling to save you when things get a little pear-shaped, more XP from trap bonuses in a group where no one ever seems to be the trapper when I am not one that life, and speedy completions through both the actual assistance of hirelings, or a swift DD out. There is the factor of them raising dungeon scaling, which matters in wildernesses. They are indispensable and can be used as fodder, distractions, lever pullers, and so on. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks hirelings, overall, are wonderful products of half bugs, half AI, but they sure have saved my tush more than a thousand times in so many ways.


Class Bias

I came upon thinking this subject the other day when I was informed about potential DC casting nerfs.

As a Favored Soul advocate, I am clearly biased. But as I thought deeply about this, and upon how others react, I realized something.

Often, people become “possessive” of a certain class that they champion, and carry strong opinions against any other class (depending on the favored class, the “opposition”). There is a lot of toxicity from the casters versus melee, and we see that most between those two because both have had their highs and lows during “eras.”

Personally, I do carry some form of judgement of those who tend to follow builds mindlessly, generally following “flavor of the month” builds or classes that got the latest buff. Perhaps it is because I feel that it is shallow – but I have begun to look at things differently. Not in the sense of following what the mainstream crowd follows, but to look at it from a grand scheme of things. A lot of the forum warriors who champion their classes versus its opposition tend to forget that this is still a multiplayer game, a game that utilizes teamwork and cooperation to some degree. And ultimately, that leads to everyone winning – when a class is buffed, there is some happiness, and some hate. That hate, the more and more I think about it, becomes more unreasonable. Sure, a class may be stronger than the others (cough cough Warlock). But in my eyes, I have always found a way to see the positive despite that – who knows, if you can outkill the top and latest buffed class, that says something. If you can work together to complete one of the most difficult adventures, that says something. There is always more than one solution in the game, well, so we can say in general – but that is the game’s entire charm. And a lot of people seem to forget that, always wanting the best of the best for their class, and their class only.

I cannot say that I do not feel the same. Favored Souls have been due their update since years ago, and they have always been a one trick pony class in the mainstream field as a 2-4 splash, at best. But I know that this issue is multifaceted, and that not everyone hates X class for the reason I mentioned above. It is just that when we hear the word nerf, we automatically assume its negative connotation, and they are almost always unfavorable by a large margin. From the developers’ point of view, I can understand that they are attempting to balance classes. From the players’ point of view, any nerf is bashed against as a force of imbalance. I think it is important to view both nerfs and buffs as equals and dependent upon each other – that one cannot exist without the other without “chaos” breaking loose from one side. Even then, buffs can be perceived as imbalance to the players as well if that is all what the devs did, and eventually, the elites would cry out boredom.

Perhaps I am just not pushing for much as the others say we should, but I do not think I have ever really complained against what the devs did, no matter how ludicrous it is. This anniversary, sure it was not even sufficient enough to my (and many others’) expectations, Reaper mode, even little nerfs and bugs such as Implosion’s friendly and enemy targeting bug – all of these I just accept and move on, playing by their rules (for the most part…). Maybe I just have a low threshold of expectations, but perhaps the reason for my easy acceptance for their “mistakes” is because I view any controversial negative action as an internal challenge, and frankly, it just doesn’t bother me because life goes on still. If I can overcome it, I will be fine, my reasoning goes.

But I slightly digress. Class bias – I am clearly affected by it as I always ask “What’s your favorite class?” to many friends and players. I am fixated on the notion that most everyone has a favorite class on their one main toon, and I have always never fully understood those who had numerous alts and never stayed on one toon, in endgame, and enjoying the company of friends and raids at endgame content. I think a lot of people who favor a certain class that is not as strong as other clearly OP classes tend to have an inferior complex. I do not mean that in a bad way necessarily because I am sure that anyone who has fallen in love with a class that is generally unfavored or neglected by the devs (like Druids) have felt this way. But just like how Sorcerers were in the dust for the longest time until the undead zombie Shiradi was introduced, which may be kind of an iffy example because it is not exactly the same as a pure Sorcerer which was what we were comparing, it still emphasizes on creativity (build and skills). Shiradi was always a build that has been around since the early release of Epic Destinies. So how did it become so popular and blow up again? The minor adjustments to the build that marks its excellent self sustainability along with a certain “something” drastically improves the initial concept of the build that ultimately created a new creative build to own. I like to think of this as a well made remix to a song.

And again, I digress. But this entire topic is interconnected on so many other things. So perhaps not! 😛 But in this new “era” of Reaper mode, it is clear that cooperation is now being forced. It feels forced. I did not intend to turn this into a Reaper mode evaluation sort of post, but it is related. With cooperation back on the table mostly due to healing penalties and rules, class bias is just one of the things that split the community up, since the beginning of the early days back before the EDs. Threads like these will be more common I’m sure, and perhaps in the future when there is a greater amount of the player-base running high end Reaper mode content that people will become more and more divided. I think it will be reminiscent, almost, of the older days when there was more prejudice and discrimination among classes since there is a newfound (or brought back in our case) demand for very specific classes. I think that this would not be so much of an issue if we had a greater population to work with, so that the range and probability of gaining desirable members is higher and ultimately, achieve greater gameplay without waiting for healers or certain classes. However, there definitely has been an increase of returning players simply based on my experience, but retention rate may not be reflective of that increase.

All in all, I have thought about this personally and feel that it is time to stop thinking of such class divisions in discriminatory ways. My personal philosophy after all has always been to play the class you want to play, and whatever you find fun is the right way to play the game. The typical spiel of general liberalism. Regardless of the rules imposed by the game developers, we as a community have an implicit responsibility as team players to work together to overcome any and every obstacle or challenge.

It is going to be very hard to switch from a fast paced self sufficient play-style to one that is accommodating others in every aspect. But for me, at least, well, I would like to think that I am, have always been doing that and am fairly conscientious of my surroundings and what is happening to other players near me. Which lately, I have been feeling strongly disappointed by the fact that now a lot of people seem to neglect attention to what others are doing – the general grievances of the PUG audience. I was wondering how long it would take to be honest. But I get over things quickly – I had my moment of frustration, and moved on. That doesn’t exactly mean that I’ll stop caring for others (especially as I am the party leader in 95% of the parties I run in). And I think that is what it just boils down to in simplest terms: learning and trying to care about others.