The Misadventures of Four ANTS

Maltatai

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Introduction
Do You get bored of hearing of nothing but the latest repugnant raid by the single-minded single-element spellcaster? Have You had enough of holier-than-thou holy bolters and smug sorceresses? Do You wish to rid your cellar of pests like scrappy summoners and dumb druids? Leave your situation in our capable claws and enjoy the meditative magnificence of magic-free months ever after!


Assassinating Natalyas Terminating Solutions





A ROYGBIV -certified mercenary company. We will dispatch any spellcaster of any inclination wielding magic of any colour.

Elite Unique-ecological services. We will not disrupt the environment of Sanctuary with magic finding over-exploitation of endangered biotopes.


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Maltatai

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Mar 17, 2020
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1. Concerning Hybrid Assassins
While the class is in many ways versatility itself, hybrid assassins are not a very common sight. The shadow disciplines provide ever-useful benefits that can aid the combat with both traps and martial arts but the latter two require mostly conflicting investments in skill points and equipment. One-point wonders such as death sentry and dragon flight gives a lot for just a handful of skill points and blade fury is a convenient reserve option for any close ranged witch hunter. Splitting the skill points between martial arts and traps will not only strain the synergizing of the primary damage dealing skills but also leave little left for the useful defenses and support skills that enable your main attacks to be effective. As if that was not deterring enough, the equipment needs of the spell-casterly trapper and the brawling and wailing martial artist are rather hard to combine. It is not surprising that the number of hardcore hybrid assassins is small and those going untwinked almost non-existent.

In other words, what are we waiting for?

The idea of making the four martial arts and traps based assassins originated mostly from the fact that there are four styles of their claws and I thought it would be stylish to have one that focused on one type each, hence four characters. I have also not tried out traps and martial arts very much, preferring a somewhat quieter approach. So onward into the fray with them screaming like an indiscreet warrior princess. Since traps are mainly fire and lightning based and since I haven't used fists of fire or claws of thunder as main attacks on a character in a long time I figured that the ANTS would be either lightning or fire themed, two each. The fiery ones fade and cloak in their smoke and use slower but heavier attacks, dressed in the dark and red heavy armour. The enlightninged ones dazzle the mind with their speed and prefer faster and lighter attacks, wearing the shining medium armours. Obviously the two clans despise one another and would go out of the way to bring down those foul heretics.

The ANTS will search for their primary targets across Sanctuary and will need local guides, so they will each look to enlist a different mercenary. These will offer different advantages and disadvantages that should affect the gameplay considerably.
 

Maltatai

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2. Skills and Earliest Levels
Meet the ANTS. Octavia, Nymia, Ignatia and Celexia are the latest assets and proud acquisitions of Assassinating Natalyas Terminating Solutions.

Two of them, Octavia and Nymia, are more combat focused with charged up elemental skills and blade traps that require attack rating of their own and gain a damage bonus from their claw mastery as I understand it. Ignatia and Celexia were originally intended to be mixed trappers both but I shelved the idea in favour of letting each ant have a dragon* move skill. A bit of a drawback for Ignatia and Celexia is that they have no obvious way to take advantage of a really good melee claw as it is but it is possible that some fools thing of piercing would let them use some skill granted by their claws effectively.

*Those skills do not deserve that etymology for it is the necromancers that really follow the dragon deity of Sanctuary and not even the impressive kicks are damaging enough to be worthy of association with such a magnificent creature.

In any case, the ANTS will also for once and for all attempt to woman up and stand their ground with weapon block instead of running for their lives in insufficient frailty like some of their colleagues. 9 points each will give them a solid defense I hope.

The ANTS will be built in the following way.


Octavia

Skills:
20 Fists of Fire.
20 Claw Mastery.
20 Dragon Tail.
20 Blade Sentinel.
9 Weapon Block.
1 Cloak of Shadows.
3 Fade.

Claws: Cestus style claws (the mighty war fist of fire).

Mercenary: Blessed aim town guard. The red aura is the right thing for a fiery red assassin.

Strengths and Weaknesses:
KABOOM. Fists of fire combined with dragon tail will be enough to blow anything and anyone out of the dungeon, or so one can hope. There should be ample fireworks and explosions in any case and that is what truly matters. Octavia will also use the blade sentinel that can work on groups while she create explosions. Blade sentinel matches the colours of heavy armour more than blade fury so that is the trap of choice for her since it is also aided by her claw mastery. A couple of extra points are left over for fade which is excellent as Octavia will be in the thick of the melee and needing to guard her hired guard. Dragon tail offers much less attack rating than the other dragonly attacks and blade sentinel will need a huge investment in attack rating to be useful. Fortunate indeed then to have an advisor of accuracy at hand.

Octavia will build up fists of fire first in order to burn Diablo and make the most of that skill before fire immune morons start showing their unbecoming faces. After that she will likely focus in the cheap and initially useful Blade Sentinel followed by Dragon Tail. Claw Mastery will benefit all other skills and be maximized last.

Nymia

Skills:
20 Claws of Thunder.
20 Claw Mastery.
20 Dragon Claw.
20 Blade Fury.
9 Weapon Block.
1 Burst of Speed.
1 Mind Blast.

Claws: Claws style claws (the lightning quick claws of thunder).

Mercenary: Barbarian. Lightning white stunning will help an equally eager meleer.

Strengths and Weaknesses:
The counterpart and also opposite to Octavia, Nymia is the only one without a kick and the most focused on clawing at things. That she will do with a vengeance and with precision from all the attack rating bonuses. She is somewhat weak in fireworks but on the other hand claws of thunder deals fairly good damage on its own and she will apply the effects twice with dragon claw which should compensate a bit for the limited elemental investment. The lack of kicking means that she has sort of one item luck option less but on the other hand the speed potential of dragon claw and claw weapons could let her capitalize on striking effects much more than the others. Blade fury is probably her least reliable skill since it will require a good deal of extra attack rating to hit and most importantly because her brawling berserker will not wait for stragglers when engaging and thereby requiring prompt help.

Nymia will focus her early efforts on claws of thunder to claw at Diablo, followed by dragon claw and claw mastery. There are a lot of claws in her life, if you didn't catch that. Blade fury will need the most help from her equipment to be effective and will be maxed lastly. It will be workable before that with just one point as a reserve to deal with exploding enemies.

Ignatia

Skills:
20 Fire Blast.
20 Wake of Inferno.
20 Wake of Fire.
20 Dragon Flight.
9 Weapon Block.
1 Cloak of Shadows.
1 Fade.

Claws: Katar style claws (wake of fire-shaped broad blades).

Mercenary: Cold iron wolf. Red robes for the fiery redlings, and cold damage is useful and a third damage type. Keep your allies close but your enemy (mages) closer.

Strengths and Weaknesses:
Igniting the surroundings with her fire traps while kicking the immune enemies apart sounds fairly simple, but how does one do it best and what is the best way to pass the time between dragon flights? Even tax free potion shopping before the next flight leaves will get boring eventually. Perhaps her defensive strength will allow her to focus fire much better at concentrated groups congregating around her or she will discover a katar enabling some completely new skill that can be worked into the build. Since elite katars are a bit more common than the other styles Ignatia has a decent chance of finding a pair with a couple of interesting abilities. Another issue is how a corrupted caster of cold will work with the offensive dragon flight and what to do if a pack of fire immunes are too strong to land on and kick safely.

Ignatia will focus on wake of inferno to roast Diablo and later complement it with wake of fire followed by dragon flight to be ready for immune enemies and heavy boots in nightmare. Fire blast will be maxed last. Because it rhymes. And also because fire blast will be hardest to combine effectively with melee and other skills.

Celexia

Skills:
20 Dragon Talon.
20 Shock Web.
20 Charged Bolt Sentry.
20 Lightning Sentry.
9 Weapon Block.
3 Burst of Speed.
1 Mind Blast.

Claws: Scissors Katar style claws (three blades are good for channelling alternating currents for your lightning traps).

Mercenary: Cold rogue. Inner sight is lightning white and shining.

Strengths and Weaknesses:
Dragon talon is the lightning quick kick so it should be a skill to go with lightning traps. The problem is that that is such an established combination, and heaven, hell and inbetween forbid that it would turn the character into a bland cookie cutter. But someone still has to use dragon talon and I am eager to see it work on an assassin that can endure melee well enough to make the skill shine. Lightning traps offer good variety but it would be interesting to focus on maximizing close range damage from charged bolts or cover the ground in shock webs to make use of Celexias melee capability along with the traps. So long as she is well protected, a ruthless rapid-firing reaver might prove to be the deadliest trap of them all.

Celexia will build up dragon talon to kick Diablo in a convenient and sensitive spot followed by the lightning traps, in order to be decided later. Lightning sentry will be maxed lastly.

The ANTS began their reign of chaos in the following fearsome way:

The ANTS Earliest Progress (Level 8)

Octavia
Beginning with claw mastery Octavia had an easy start finding a couple of sapphires to chill little fallen ones with. She obtained burst of speed and dragon claw before starting to build up fists of fire.

Nymia
Second katar to drop had a little lightning damage which suited her theme well. She found a large charm with cold resistance and lightning damage in the cold plains, very nice. For once early enough for the damage to be useful. She got dragon claw and burst of speed which she would build up before getting claws of thunder.

Ignatia
With few gems but several poison potions her start was easy but boring. She had the least experience of all when entering the cold plains for some reason. However she found a funny rate amulet with 2 to dexterity and regeneration and a bit more, like a tiny version of the Mahim Oak Curio amulet. She put her spare point into fire blast.

Celexia
She began as Celexa until I realized I had forgotten the "i" in her name... Sigh. When restarting with proper spelling she had much better luck however, finding a septic charm, two topazes and a sapphire along with some handy throwing knives and poison potions. She managed to buy a mechanics katar of shock where she put the two topazes, a rather devastating weapon available at level 7. She put her spare points into dragon talon, giving her two kicks.
 
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Maltatai

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...the claws were hanging by the door hoorah, hoorah!
The boots are polished, the plates are bright
The are reflecting the dimming light
And we're all afraid
When assassins are leaving home

Cathedral church bells ring no more hoorah, hoorah!
Tristram was ransacked to the core hoorah, hoorah!
The village lads and lassies lay
In graves too shallow along the way,
See old Griswold stray
Across the ruins of his old home

The ANTS go after all the Three hoorah, hoorah!
But which three will it really be hoorah, hoorah!
The contract has been crystal clear
The game is on, let witches feel fear
For the ANTS draw near
When the lights go out at our home.

What letter was in the professors vault hoorah, hoorah!
So vengeful and bitter to a fault hoorah, hoorah!
Theodora Tape, what have you done
Is sense and reason all but gone
For the demons wait
While the ANTS go after the Three
 

Maltatai

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Equipment and Early Levels
The claw and armour types being defined still leaves a lot of questions of what the ANTS will look for in their wardrobes. I intend to rely on gambling and rune hunting rather than visiting act bosses until my eyes shut on their own accord, and part of the mission of the ANTS is to evaluate and hopefully prove that fairly common and easily acquired items can suffice. And naturally they will have to remain stylish. It won't do for a fiery ant to pick up a mismatching bone shield or something like that.

Claws:
Malice and Strength can be counted on I think, at least it seems like rotten luck to never be able to obtain a suitably socketed elite claw. Octavia is limited by the curious lack in sockets on cestus style claws and must prevent monster healing by some other means. Otherwise I expect that gambling will prove to be the main source of weapons and with both ignorance of target defense and prevention of healing being possible from rare claws they could be quite useful for every ant.

The elite claws are generally quite equal. The war fist is slower and heavier which will make it less suitable to employ fists of fire but add more damage to the blade sentinel of Octavia. The feral claws and runic talons are faster and lighter than the rest which is an asset for Nymia when using claws of thunder but has less to offer to aid her blade fury.

All the ANTS will invest 118 points each into strength and dexterity for equality since the scissors suwayyah require that. It is no severe waste though, since all benefit from extra attack rating and the boneweave boots are an economical and fairly available choice of footwear for kicking, incidentally needing 118 strength too.

Armour:
Well, obviously there is a rather desirable armour for assassins with spread out skills and general need for attack speed. It requires a Lem rune and I have heard that it is fairly popular...

Based on my experiences with previous characters I would expect some but not all the ANTS to come across a Lem rune during their travels. The more interesting question is what the others should aim for.

Duress is another ever useful option, not least since none of the ANTS has an inherent source of cold damage. The chances of finding an Um rune are somewhat lower than a Lem rune.

Smoke is always useful and the weakening curse is likely to come in handy to keep ANTS and mercenaries alive in many situations. It would be especially nice to see it in combination with high PDR gear for the hired help. It is somewhere between the two colour themes, being lightly yellow-ish.

Peace would be interesting to try out for Nymia at least. Her potential for high attack speed might be enough to let her maintain a steady flow of valkyries even though they disappear quickly, but not instantly. I expect them to be able to function as a decoy and crowd control effect but not comparable to a minion.

A unique or set armour is not totally unthinkable even with no attention to magic finding, and could provide a substantial bonus, especially if socketed. I'm not really counting on that, however.

PDR is definitely interesting to invest in and some kind of useful prefix of amicae could be helpful if it can be socketed.

A jewellers armour of something useful with three or four really excellent jewels could probably be useful and interesting enough to try out.

Teleporting:
I can not see the ANTS working without teleportation charges, meaning a circlet or amulet with those, preferably an amulet. A staff on switch is too slow in the emergencies where the skill will be needed and dedicating a weapon slot to that is also a serious impediment in itself. Teleportation is not a common suffix and astronomical sums will be spent gambling these, but if the ANTS are really fortunate they will find one with a useful prefix too.

Defenses:
Apart from the obvious need of a good deal of life and resistances, where I haven't got any precise numbers for what is enough, the ANTS will need around 30 PDR/MDR to operate with some level of convenience and I would very much like them to have regeneration, and lots of it. 10 is a minimum to be noticeable but 20 or more is preferable. Regeneration makes me play smarter, calmer and also smile evilly at the futility of minor enemies attempts to inflict harm that is soon healed.

Skill Levels:
Items that grant a bonus to skill levels have a high priority, no question about that. The idea is to make mixed assassins after all and especially the shadow disciplines support skills will be tremendously more useful with a few bonus points into them, and the elemental attack skills likewise. Unfortunately many other things also have a high priority so it remains to be seen what the ANTS can afford to invest in skill levels after all.

Curses:
Apart from the cloaking for the fiery ones, curses can be an important addition gained from the equipment. Weaken is as mentioned very useful and widely available from armour, gloves or wands. The flame-like amplify damage would look great if cast by Octavia when clawing and aslo open up for a much improved dragon tail. Life tap from a wand goes well to the red legs of the heavy armour and perhaps a large shield can complement the gold details on the plates. Lower resistance is purple but also white and possibly something for the lightning ants to make use of. Since they can disable enemies with mind blast there is less need for a curse that improves survivability.

Far from these megalomaniacal plans, the ANTS had to make do with far less impressive trinkets:

The ANTS Early Levels (Level 15)

Celexia
The toppling of enemies like domino bricks accidently knocked over echoed across the meadows. Literally stepping over enemies with her double dragon talon kicks, she found a couple of nice little life charms, plentiful gems and a couple of damage jewels for her and the rogue Elexa along with stylish skulls. Throwing potions kept being useful against crowds to add a little variety and awesome green graphics. Lastly, Celexia gambled a calamitous claw that looks extremely promising. Also, what a name for a claw. She will build up dragon talon and weapon block to stand steady against Andariel.

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Octavia
BOOM. Gaining 11 more mana from items can in fact make a notable difference this early in the game. Fists of fire is a cheap skill at only two mana which is very welcome, and made short work of most crowds that gathered around her. Octavia found a gem shrine to give Isolde the fire rogue a slightly better gemmed bow than is usual. Octavia gambled to rare cestuses with identical damage, with the other rare one coming with a point of cold damage added which is quite neat. Prevent monster heal is a welcome mod to have and the cestus is definitely worth keeping until she finds a replacement with the same.

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Ignatia
Green with envy should all be of the greatest trap of them all - Fiona. With no less than three jewels of envy she is the luckiest rogue in years early on. Wake of fire is expensive so early on but very useful. Carver crowds or brutish brutes fell with equal ease and Ignatia has hardly needed to do anything on her own. She will keep improving wake of fire in anticipation of burning a certain act boss with a sensitivity towards the flames.

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Nymia
While slow, dragon claw slices apart most things this early without effort anyway. Nymia has found some additional mana early on which is still an increase of about a quarter more. Putting more points into strength and dexterity than her sister ants, Nymia took up her signature claws and managed to gamble two with two sockets each but little else. With Ith or Ral runes in them they could last her for some time. She is the least spectacular early on but soon the expensive flashes from her thunderous claws will light up the surroundings. Her cold companion Olena has had little to do other than picking off the odd forgotten fallen one to the side.

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