The Shadowfell Conspiracy has been out for a few days and while I haven’t even gotten into the new quests so far I have been playing around with the new Iconics and like any other Dungeons and Dragons Online player with a lot of characters, spending some quality time working on the new enhancement trees to make my characters work again. I finally really got to tool around with the new Shadar-Kai Assassin Iconic running around with a few friends in our static group in the Attack on Stormreach quest chain after using the login screen to send her over to Eberron. The Shadar-Kai is another of the Iconics that were included with the Collector’s Edition version of the Shadowfell Conspiracy expansion, a specialized character that starts at level fifteen with a few extra bonuses and a different backstory than an ordinary character created through the main game. I’ve covered the Bladeforged and the Morninglord and now we’re on to probably my favorite of the Iconics, but we’ll have to see how the Purple Dragon Knight plays out before I completely go that way. The Purple Dragon Knight has some interesting ideas and I haven’t built a tank in awhile.
Let me first get this out there that the Rogue is not my favorite class to play in the game. I don’t have the mindset for it. I always feel like tissue paper and never quite get in the party groove. I also tend to play more of a trapper type than a silent assassin, but I think after building up my Shadar-Kai and running around with her I may have to rebuild the one Rogue I do have as I have been having a blast. Part of it is the shadow moves, but the other part are some fairly standard Rogue features I’ve just never availed myself of. Silent assassin that can find and disable traps in, squishy staff wielding trap-monkey out.
Like the other Forgotten Realms Iconics, you start out in the Ball and Chain Tavern, Elminster waiting patiently for you to stop breaking pots and beating on the training dummy for you to talk to him. The Shadar-Kai Assassin is sort of human, having worked with the Netherese you’re not quite there anymore but you’ve gotten out from under their thumb and are out to get some revenge and stop whatever plot they’re up to. From there you can delve into the Shadowfell Conspiracy quest chain that’s entirely at level for your character since you start at fifteen. Like the other Iconics you don’t have to level up all in Rogue and can thank Elminster for his time and head out into the world to find a different trainer. I went the full Rogue for mine, custom build with no paths, and have been pleasantly surprised by it.
The Shadar-Kai Assassin bonuses on top of the regular Rogue trees give you some neat Shadow abilities including going incorporeal to get out of a mob or blowing through them with a sprint move and even attacking them with a dagger made from the shadows. One of the neat abilities is an area-of-effect attack where your character pulls out a spiked chain and begins whipping any of the NPCs around them for several seconds. For the weaker enemies this can be pretty devastating, but don’t expect to take out a huge group at higher levels, more like taking them down a hit point peg or two. While I didn’t feel as squishy as my normal rogue, part of that is due to the shadow abilities and the very nice gear they give you at the start, the other part is building the character with more survivability in mind. Of particular note are the two weapons you’re given, Risk and Reward that work great in concert with each other. One uses your hit points for extra damage, the other stealing hit points from your target to heal you. On top of that they’re not too shabby and give you a special bonus when they’re equipped.
My biggest complaint about creating the character is partly the look, but also a mechanic involved. The Shadar-Kai are technically human in this edition, but you don’t get that extra feat humans get when you first create them. This isn’t a bug, it’s because of what they are which is technically not human any more if you go by the Fourth Edition lore. You also get a bonus to dexterity while taking a hit on your charisma. While this only hampers you a little bit with your Use Magic Device and other social skills, it’s also helping you get around traps and avoid reflex based attacks, but I’d almost have preferred a feat. It makes sense from a lore perspective but as a player I can still be annoyed but the amount of fun I’ve had with this character certainly drowns that out. The plane that the Shadar-Kai live leads them to use pain as a focus, so don’t be surprised when there’s no option for not having scars on your face and you have a wide variety of piercings and a distinct lack of hair options. I do think the armor is a bit lacking. I made up a female for this and my Morninglord and the armor here is decently detailed but has that whole ‘let’s show some skin’ thing going especially on the alternate blue set that came with it that just doesn’t work. Yes they’re wearing leather and yes they need to be able to move, but it doesn’t look all that practical at all compared to what the Morninglord is wearing.
Now I mentioned I’d taken her out for a spin in a group. It was my Shadar-Kai, a Cleric, and two Artificers all in on the Attack on Stormreach chain, which on Heroic Elite was at level for all our characters. That’s quite a bit of DPS, but it’s all squishy and mostly ranged, but I was still able to shine. Between sneaking and assassinate and the other abilities available to the Shadar-Kai I did fairly well. The only real problem was when I ended up tanking somewhat by accident. I did have the better survival chances than the Artificers and the Cleric couldn’t heal or cast very well knocked over, so there I was. The Summerfield quest that tanking part was a bit of an issue because of the rather large boss at the end, but other than that we did really well. The artificers kept aggro in the latter quest with the Night Hag while I took care of traps for the bonus. Undermine was a lot of fun as my evasion and good rolling kept me from getting obliterated in the minefield while I was screwing around trying to set mine’s to blow under enemies, which leads to the Blockade quest where I had issues.
The casters seemed to be my only real weakness other than a direct beat down from a melee character. I’d get held a few times but it was the insta-kill spells that did me in, hitting me for well over double my hit points, but to be fair, the boss monster Captain that throws those spells down has always been tough for any group at level and we beat him anyway with minimal pain. I also delved into some Gianthold walk-ups that were at level and while I missed spotting a trap or two it still holds up quite well. Apart from the appearance of being a reject from Mad Max or Ghosts of Mars, the Shadar-Kai has been my favorite of the Iconics released with the expansion. I’ve liked this one so much I’m kind of dreading trying out the Purple Dragon Knight for fear of disappointment. Check my next column for a look into the last Iconic in the Shadowfell Conspiracy before I start tackling the quests.