Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down for a guided tour of the newest module for Dungeons and Dragons Online: Stormreach. Known as Module 7, this new addition not only adds new content and areas, but also sees the introduction of a new class, the Monk.
For those who may not be familiar with the history of Dungeons and Dragons, Monk is a character class that arrived in an early edition of the pen and paper giant, but then faded to a kind of obscurity until the launch of Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 edition where it was re-introduced into the consciousness of the game.
Monks as a class are quick and agile. They are masters of martial arts, practitioners of this class can cause damage with their fists and feet that more than matches the steel of their battlefield counterparts. They also use a mystical energy of the soul known as Ki energy to add a supernatural bent to the class, allowing monks to focus that energy into different kinds of attacks.
When Dungeons and Dragons Online launched, there was some question as to the reason that the Monk was one of the two classes from the core “Player’s Handbook” character classes that was left by the wayside. It turns out that the answer is that the Monk is a more complicated class to convert into an MMO format than one might imagine. As a result, we see a very detailed Monk class with the launch of Module 7.
DDO’s Monks are quite honestly a treat to sit down and watch. Their movements have been specially animated to give the feel that you’re dealing with a serious martial artist. I was glad to see that the developers put so much time into the look of the new class. It grants these fist-wielding warriors a certain level of “cool” that I’m not sure they would have had if they had been released at launch.
In deciding how to implement the monk into the game, the team at Turbine looked beyond the regular source material (the Player’s Handbook) and delved into the Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition “Oriental Adventures” sourcebook to find extra abilities for the new class. Given that monks can’t use gear in the same ways as other characters (Monks get a very limited weapon and armor selection), something had to be found to allow them to be unique and interesting for players.
The Monk, we are told, is described in MMO terms as a “melee combat class”, joining a number of already pre-existing melee combat classes in the game. We learned earlier that the dev team was trying to diversify the class from those that came before it, and one of the ways that they have done that (we talked about the animations earlier, which are still cool), is to create a new and very active combat style. DDO in and of itself has one of the more action-packed combat systems in today’s MMOs, and playing a Monk, you are engaged just that much more with the system .Navigating your Monk around opponents and lashing out with your fists and feet really make you feel like you’re a part of the action.
It isn’t all just punch and kick your problems away for the Monk. As they progress in level, the Monk gains access to attacks that are aligned to a given element (water, earth, wind, fire) that can lead toward some pretty devastating combo finishing moves.
At third level, the Monk gets diversified even more as she gains access to her philosophies. Philosophies contribute a great deal to a Monk’s personal diversity, allowing them to focus on either a more defensive role or a more offensive role.
The Monk’s philosophies are divided up into two different categories, called paths:
The Path of Harmonious Balance allows the Monk to focus his powers on defensive abilities, curse removal, access to minor healing abilities and more. In short, this particular philosophy will serve well for a player who wants to play more of a support role.
The Path of Inevitable Dominion allows the Monk access to abilities that will help him to cause more damage and more easily take down opponents. In short, this philosophy is more personally-based than the alternative, but it allows the Monk to contribute in a group in a different way.
In the second half of this article, we will look at some of the other new and exciting features that this new module brings to Turbine’s MMO version of Dungeons and Dragons.