I have a pretty solid philosophy when it comes to playing MMOs — I play what’s fun and appealing to me, not what is widely considered to be the “best” class or the “best” build or whatnot. Sometimes the two converge, but more often not. This is not a philosophy I’ve had for my entire gaming career, but one that I’ve gradually come around to. Listen, I truly understand the appeal of picking the best, the most optimal, the tried-and-true builds that are designed by gamers who know a lot more about the numbers and have far more experience than I do. But I’ve also come to realize that by idolizing the “best”, often I am compromising who I am in a way and what I want to do.
This is the reason I rerolled on a different server in DDO, despite having unlocked the Drow and accumulated a nice stockpile of money and connections over the course of a month on my first server. I saw what I was doing — driving myself slavishly to get the 32-point builds (or the next best thing), telling myself that only then would I be free to play what I wanted. Seeing that made me pause — why couldn’t I just play what I wanted to right then? Because it would be less than optimal, it might not be as raid-worthy as something else, I would feel inferior in comparison? Pfaddle.
Fiddyment is my experiment to doing what I want without worrying about optimal anything. In DDO, a game that is less than forgiving for poor build choices, this is a dangerous approach, but I think I’ve learned enough about the game so far as to guide myself without totally gimping my character. I asked myself what I wanted to play… the jack-of-all-trades bard came to mind. What race? Well, the halflings appeal to me. So, halfling bard, 28-point spec, less than optimal.
I spent a few days playing Fiddy, enjoying her but also feeling out for how I wanted to play the character. Initially I was basing Fiddy off of a DDO forum build that was a little… odd… in that it was a dragonmark build that was designed to use the halflings’ dragonmarks as well as the bard’s natural abilities to be a decent healer. I found out that nobody relied on me to be a primary healer (as they did with the cleric), but they certainly didn’t mind me jumping into that role if the situation warranted. But the dragonmarks didn’t excite me as much as I thought they would, and I was having difficulties being a melee fighter — bards can and do melee well, but we’re not the tanks of the game, just the support guys. We can do decent damage, but if we get aggro, we go down fast.
With that in mind, I was running Water Works on elite with a melee-heavy team, so I switched to my bow and experimented with ranged damage for a bit. Everyone says how ranged damage in DDO is pretty weak in comparison to melee — often fights are over so quick that you can only get off a handful of shots that do far less damage than a few sword swings. But I kind of liked using my bow and not having to worry about running up to the bad guys all the time. I realized I wanted to play Fiddy as a ranged support bard who could mez and throw some heals when necessary. And because of that, I had to make a few changes. I had to respec.
Respeccing in DDO is tricky — and partial, as there are no “total respecs” in the game as of yet (although the devs have promised that they are coming to the store). Let’s start off with what you cannot change: you cannot change any choices pertaining to your class picks. If you are a 18/2 fighter/ranger, then that you shall be. You also cannot change your initial stat choices, although you can add to them through various means.
But you can change how you’ve modified that character up to that level, and this is what I looked into:
For casters and casting-aptitude classes, swapping spells is one of the easier things to do. For wizards and clerics, it’s as easy as stepping into a tavern to pull and replace whatever spells you fancy. For arcane casters like bards and sorcerers (and the upcoming favored souls), your spell choices are a bit more set in stone — although the game allows you to swap one spell out for a new one every few days (real time).
Enhancements are the “mini-feats” that are granted via action points, which you accrue once per ranking up (five ranks to a level). You can do a lot with enhancements, from adding stat or skill points, to strengthening your skills, to choosing a speciality for your character. Since the available enhancements are based on your level, your race, your classes, and any previously picked enhancements and feats, it behooves you to do some planning ahead to make sure that you’ve fulfilled the prerequisites for the future enhancements you desire.
Respeccing enhancements is fairly easy — go to your trainer and ask to do so. I think there’s a fee involved as well.
Feats are the “big” decision making changes for your character, which usually gives you a new ability, opens up a new range of possibilities, or greatly increases a certain area of your character’s talents. Some builds get far more feats than others — humans start out with a free extra feat, and fighters get feats pretty much all the time. But respeccing a feat is considerably more difficult.
New players get one virtually “free” feat respec by doing a simple level 1 quest in the harbor, granted by the NPC Lockania. You can earn additional feat respecs by acquiring certain Siberys Dragonshards (fairly easy to come by at lower levels, but much tougher at higher ones) and bringing some gold to a Mind Flayer named Fred in House J. Fred will let you exchange feats as long as you’ve met the requirements for the feat you want.
Back To Fiddyment
With Fiddy, I knew I wanted to do two things: to get rid of my dragonmarks and refocus on becoming a bard spellsinger (a bard specialty path) at level 6, and to be able to use a heavy crossbow repeater — kind of like a machine gun for crossbows. Not because I’m optimally built for repeaters, but my dex is pretty high and it has a decent “coolness factor” — a halfling spitting out a solid stream of crossbow bolts from a huge beast of a gun. This required two feat respecs and a major reworking of my enhancements.
The feats weren’t too bad — I ended up using the one free feat respec from the harbor quest as well as a dragonshard for my second one. The first new feat was dumped into Spell Focus: Enchantment (a prerequisite of spellsinger, and I figured pretty good for CC in the future), and the second into the feat that allowed me to use a heavy repeater without an attack penalty. Happily, in so doing, the game informed me that my new feat choices impacted my established enhancements, and as a result they gave me back all my action points to re-spend (free enhancement respec, score!).
So with an afternoon’s worth of tweaking, Fiddy has become a lot more appealing to me, and I absolutely love running around flinging crossbow bolts every which way — blat-blat-blat!