Apr 092015

Debating Stealth: Is It Broken? Or Not?

Why look, over there, controversy! Of a minor sort, to be sure, and involving only a couple of DDO bloggers, meaning that nothing could be more “niche-y” and obscure. Yet nonetheless, actual disagreement, with vehemence! And bullet points!

It all started innocently enough, well not really innocently, more like blindly, when I tried to explain to Severlin why stealth was broken as a playstyle in DDO, with one exception:

“But it is not a viable play style for anyone except the dedicated, flower-sniffing soloer, and not even always then.”

Oh, I said more than that, almost 1000 words more than that, but the main point was that DDO stealth was not useful in main game play and required the practicioner to dedicate characters to it, adopting a slower-paced “flower sniffy” playstyle that is more appropriate to a soloist game rather than a group game.

But I have attracted the ire of my admired and deep-thinking blog colleague (bloggeague?) Teacher Syn, of the very informative and useful blog The Order of Syncletica, who knows everything there is to know about monks. And who also wrote the book on DDO stealth, or at least, co-wrote it, and is far more knowledgeable about this topic (or for that matter, most topics) than I.

Oh ho, says friend Syn, Geoff Hanna is so very wrong! So wrong that I need to write (I don’t know but it looks like) 2000 of my own words to prove it! Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong!

And so the debate is on. Sadly, I am time-constrained today, with early meetings at work. If I accidentally say something brusque in the process of making a point, please assume that I don’t actually mean anything brusque, but am rushing. And making a point. At the same time.

And bear in mind that I like Syn, I was honored to shake his hand in person at Gen Con, and I greatly respect his DDO prowess.

And now, onto the red meat.

For start, let’s look at the premise of Syn’s rebuttal. While it is captioned with all kinds of “Geoff Hanna is wrongness”, he really isn’t opposing my position. I have more to say, potentially a lot more, but let’s start with abstracting the articles.

Remember this? “But it is not a viable play style for anyone except the dedicated, flower-sniffing soloer, and not even always then.” Now let’s see what I wrote in context. This is the header of my article, the abstract if you will:

To me, the biggest issue with rogues, and especially Assassins, is not the enhancement tree. It is the fact that stealth does not work in DDO.

Now before you go all “yes it does” on me, let’s be clear. I am not stating that stealth is bugged (although sometimes it is) nor am I saying that there are no situations where stealth is helpful (although there aren’t very many).

But it is not a viable play style for anyone except the dedicated, flower-sniffing soloer, and not even always then.

Although Syn does a line-by-line breakdown of my article, he skipped the entire header. Including the above. Which is key, because I can summarize most of his points by saying “hey, I have characters that are dedicated to stealth! And I solo with them in a time-consuming and laborious manner! And for me, stealth works great!”

I stipulate that stealth works great for Syn under these dedicated, flower-sniffing conditions. But really his entire article is agreeing with me. We are in violent agreement.

But wait, there is more, there is a point-by-point takedown:

I mention that many monsters are unsneakable and Syn rebuts by pointing out that may are not. Which I think is really agreeing with me some more.

I mention that no one will wait for the guy in sneak mode. Syn says that is true but fallacious (which is an impossibility) but elaborates to say that my point is valid but all those people who won’t wait are being bad teammates. You hear that, you majority of DDO players you? You are doing it wrong, Syn said so. Stop and wait. Or in other words, I think he is agreeing with me again but bemoaning the truth.

I mention that no one will wait for the guy who is powering up in stealth mode, and Syn agrees again, although again blaming the other players and not blaming stealth mode itself.

I point out that many quests will not advance without killing all the monsters. Syn agrees again, although he does so by explaining how it is possible to use a dedicated character employing solo (meaning party-unfriendly) tactics to pull each monster one at a time and kill them. He could have saved time and just said “Geoff you are right”.

My next point is sort of only waveringly on-target and not very quantifiable. It is not a great point, and therefore hard to rebut. Syn does, but in an equally wavering, non-quantifiable manner.

I’m not keeping score! Hah, I am lying, in fact I am totally keeping score! So far, Syn has agreed with every point I’ve made. Except one that was poorly formed to begin with. He is also agreeing with the main point of my post.

I think I am winning.

Sadly the clock is ticking and I don’t have the space to address the remainder of Syn’s (comprehensive and detailed) post. In the interest of fairness, I will point out that he would have won some points in the part I am skipping. But only some, for the most part he continues to rebut my statements by accidentally validating them.

I’ll jump ahead to his conclusion:

Stealth is a defensive posture. DDO doesn’t allow you, on purpose and with one sole exception (Assassinate) to be simultaneously offensive and defensive with this mode. And even Assassinate has its limits, but it does work.

And that my friends, is why stealth is broken as a DDO playstyle. Go ahead and take that defensive playstyle into a Temple of the Deathwyrm group, and wonder why you are alone in the first part, sneaking up on yet another skeletal dwarf, while everyone else has completed five puzzles and is approaching the end fight.

Yes, if you want to play DDO like it was Thief, you can, usually. For the most part. Except when you can’t.

“But it is not a viable play style for anyone except the dedicated, flower-sniffing soloer, and not even always then.”

This basic statement remains unchallenged throughout Syn’s article. More, it remains unchallenged in DDO. This is just how it is. If you want stealthy play, you can have it, but you have to give up a lot of everything else that makes DDO.

And that, my friends, is broken.

🙂 😀 🙂

  8 Responses to “Debating Stealth: Is It Broken? Or Not?”

Comments (8)
  1. 🙂 I just have one comment. To me broken, means not WAI.

    • Yes, that is how Sev took it as well in the discussion. And many others. But you know what, it it true-ish. Because it can only work (sort of) when the whole party agrees and goes along, more or less in the same way that you can role play if you agree specific restrictions. Or indeed do perma death. Or naked runs. You do it by restricting yourself, limiting the people you play with and voluntarily not using part of the game.

      All are doable, and are mostly WAI. And they can be fun. But they are not really something you can just do while gaming / pugging etc.

  2. “Ho! Ha-ha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust! *sproing*”
    You caught me at my best and worst, trying to defend a position, agreeing on much but not in application. Not to mention you gain the advantage in the skill of brevity while I think my post was more of an uncoordinated missile salvo.
    Let me catch my mental breath, sum up your hits and agree with you terribly once more in a later rebuttal/corollary/love letter/suicide pact.

  3. And apologizes will be forthcoming for any mischaracterizations or omissions. I hate soundbites, too.

    • No apologies are needed; your article was well-written (as always), thorough (as always) and enjoyable to read (as always). Even if utterly wrong 🙂

      Clearly no offense was intended. And none was taken.

      • You have some good points, despite our bantering. It might be more important to clarify our question to a mutual theme: What can you do or not do offensively with stealth? Update 25 changed that game for Rogues and I think a little creative thinking might give an answer that many more people can use. I’ll try that direction in a later post and do a lot better to get your POV more accurately.

  4. im sensing a DDO Debate topic here…

  5. While I agree with your individual points, Geoff, I don’t agree with your summation. Stealth is not “broken”. It has become a niche skill that most players don’t need. It’s similar to cleric healing. Both are skills used to help keep players alive, but are no longer needed in most cases.

    Back in the dark ages, when I played PnP, it was no different. The barbarian meatheads of the group were always anxious to run into the room and start hackin’ and slashin’ before the rogue could get the lay of the land and help us plan our tactic. In large part, it depended on how OP we felt. When we felt weak, we’d sneak everywhere, looking around corners, and try to get the jump on stronger foes. Surprise attacks helped us to take down foes without getting killed. But we didn’t always bother. Especially if we had a strong cleric. 

    In DDO, there are several differences which exacerbate the situation.
    1) The familiarity of content played over and over helps players to know what’s around the next corner.
    2) The game is balanced for players to be slightly OP unless they are really pushing the envelope.
    3) The ease of reincarnation (either by shrine or spell or release) has taken the fear of death out of player’s psyches.
    4) The majority of the players are trying to level quickly.

    So, if I know what’s coming and I am likely going to be able to power through it and death has little to no ramifications and (whether I openly admit it or not) I want more XP per minute, then stealth is of little value.

    Now, if we change the parameters, then stealth can play a bigger role.
    1) New content tends to make people slow down and consider stealth
    2) People running under level tend to slow down and consider stealth
    3) Permadeath groups use stealth more often
    4) Some players, like Syn, enjoy the stealth play style and don’t expect to level as quickly as the min/max zergers.

    So, is stealth broken? Does it need to be fixed? In my opinion, no. Not every style of play or character focus is going to fit in with the masses in the middle of the road. If you like it, great! Feel free to sneak along in the shadows at the side of the road. The freedom to choose vastly different play styles is part of what makes the game great.

What do you think?

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