A Newbie’s Guide to DDO: Part 1 - The Basics

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Welcome, travelers. I see that you are new to the world of Eberron, the setting for Dungeons and Dragons Online. Fear not! I can help guide you as you begin your adventures in this magical land. Who am I, you ask? Well, pardon my rudeness as that I should have introduced myself earlier. My name is Prelixin, a loremaster and sage of some repute in these lands. Though my eyes may be dimmed by the passage of years, I can assure you that my mind retains the clarity of the purest spring. Come! Take a seat, let the serving wench fill your mug with a hearty ale, and let me tell you of knowledge that will, fates be willing, lead you to riches and glory.

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The Die Roll

The first crumb of knowledge that will serve you is the basic mechanic by which the gods decide everything and how actions are resolved – the roll of a twenty-sided die. Whenever you attempt an action, be it an attack or use of a skill, a die is rolled. These rolls happen in a blink of the eye during gameplay and show up on the right side of your screen. The obvious result is a number ranging from one to twenty, the higher the better. These rolls can be modified by several things, such as your stats, the number of ranks you have in a skill, a magic item or special gear, and so on. The thing to remember is that you want the highest number possible. Let us take cooking a goose as an example (cooking is not an action that you do in the game, but serves as a useful scenario). Rolling a natural 1 or 20 on the die is bad (1) or good (20). Let’s say you roll a 20 on your cooking attempt. That means you automatically succeed; your goose tastes delicious, your friends devour the meal and express their admiration for you cooking skills, and the girl you were trying to impress wants you to come back home with her and “check under her bed for monsters!” Now, let’s say you roll a natural 1 on that cooking check. Not only have you failed, but your goose catches on fire, the kitchen needs 300 gold to be repaired, your friends mock you, and that special girl decides to go home with that half-orc nitwit that you hate. But, Prexilin, you cry…what about rolls between one and twenty? That leads us to….

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The mighty D20 die...revere it...treasure it...

The Difficulty Class

Basically, the Difficulty Class (or known as DC) represents how hard it is to perform an action. An action can be anything from hitting a monster in combat, making a save against a trap’s poison, or trying to disarm a deadly trap. The more difficult the chance to successfully attempt the action, the higher the number needed to do that action. Going back to our cooking scenario, let us assume that cooking a goose is easy. So, let us say that the DC needed is a ten. We attempt the action, meaning the 20-sided die is rolled, we add any appropriate modifiers, and then check the results. Let us say that the gods are smiling and the 20-sided die rolls a 14. To that we add modifiers such as our cooking skill (there isn’t one, but let us assume that we have 4 ranks in it), stat modifiers (let us say Dexterity helps cooking and we luckily have a +3 Dexterity modifier), and any special gear (we also happen to have Glove Mitts of Cooking +2, oh happy day!). Our grand total is: 14 (die roll) + 4 (cooking skill) + 3 (Dexterity) +2 (Glove Mitts) = 23! Man, we cooked some good goose. Now, if we were trying to cook some fancy cordon-bleu goose with all kinds of fancy trimmings, the DC might be 20 or even higher.


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The Stats

Now that I have told you about the die roll and the Difficulty Class, we can now move on to the stats (also called abilities). These stats not only define your character, but also impact your actions. A high score in an ability will give you a bonus to an action that uses that stat. A low score in an ability will give you a negative to those actions. The gods have allowed each of us the choice to define who we are; thus, we choose our own stat scores. However, there are only a certain number of points to be spent, so spend those points wisely! I chose to have a low Constitution, and for that, colds have been the bane of my life every winter without fail. First, let us examine the stats that define who and what we are.

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Half-Orcs are strong...
but also very ugly.
Strength (STR): This stat represents how strong a character is physically, ie: your muscles. A Strength of 18 is a muscle bound champion weightlifter whilst a Strength of 4 is some 6 year old girl scout whose cookies you can easily take. This ability effects melee combat adding to your chances to hit and increasing your damage. The classes who best benefit from a high Strength are Fighters, Paladins, Rangers, and Barbarians. The skills associated with this stat are Jump and Swim. In addition, there are objects in the game (such as doors or levers) that require a high Strength to open.

Dexterity (DEX): This stat represents your agility, hand-eye coordination, and sense of balance. A person of Dexterity of 18 can easily juggle multiple objects while doing somersaults and such, while a Dexterity of 4 is somebody like my Aunt Emeralis who can’t stir her coffee without spilling it all over the floor. Dexterity adds to your chance to hit in ranged combat (bows and thrown weapons) and factors into your Reflex Save. (We will discuss Saves later on.) It also adds to your Armor Class (which we’ll discuss in our combat section). Dexterity is the primary stat for Rogues and is useful for those wearing medium, light, or no armor to help their Armor Class, such as Barbarians, Rangers, Wizards, and Sorcerers. Skills affected by Dexterity are Balance, Hide, Move Silently, Open Lock, and Tumble.

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Dwarves have a
strong Constitution.
Constitution (CON): Constitution represents your physical stamina. Its primary importance is that it adds to your hit points, which is coveted by all the classes. Constitution also impacts your Fortitude Save. The skill associated with Constitution is Concentration, an important skill for magic users. A person with a low Constitution is somebody who is frail and gets sick all the time (such is my life in my old age!), whilst a person with a high Constitution never gets sick and eats nuclear hot wings by the bucket with no ill effects.

Intelligence (INT): Intelligence is your ability to reason and think, representing how smart you are. This stat is coveted by Wizards as it modifies our spell points (how much we can cast before resting) and how difficult it is for their enemies to resist the Wizard’s spells. It is also useful for other classes, especially Rogues, as that it adds to the skill points that a character gets every level to spend on increasing what skills they already have or getting new skills. Skills that use Intelligence are Disable Device, Repair, and Search. I, as a learned loremaster and sage, have an incredibly high Intelligence. Otto, the stable boy whose job is to muck out the dung and who has a vocabulary of about twenty words, has a very low Intelligence.

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Elves are very dextrous
...and smoking hot.
Wisdom (WIS): Wisdom represents your common sense, intuition, perception, and being in tune with your surroundings. Wisdom is the most important stat for Clerics, but is also desirable by Paladins, Rangers, and Monks (for Monks, it’s added to their Armor Class). Wisdom affects Will Saves and the following skills: Heal, Listen, and Spot. Wisdom adds spell points (like Intelligence does for Wizards) for Clerics, Rangers, and Paladins. For those three classes, the minimum Wisdom to cast a spell is 10 plus the spell level. A third-level Ranger spell thus requires 13 Wisdom. A Monk who meditates and is one with the world has a high Wisdom, while I, having a low Wisdom, don’t even realize that I’m standing in a stream…a cold, cold stream. Did I ever tell you about how my original adventuring party wouldn’t let me stand watch after those cast-iron golems sneaked up on me while I was on watch one night?

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Halfings, while not very strong.
make deadly Rogues.
Charisma (CHA): Charisma represents your force of personality, how attractive you are physically, your personal magnetism…basically, if you have “it.” That seductive Sorceress who you know is up to no good, but you just can’t say no? She has Charisma to spare. Boil-Face Charlie? He can’t even get a dog to come close to him even with a steak tied around his neck, much less anybody actually paying him any attention. Yours truly has a high Charisma. I’ve spent many a warm night in a maiden’s bed during my travels. There’s no need to look so surprised, my friend! While I am old and wrinkled now, that wasn’t always the case. Old Prelixin was a hit with the ladies.

To help you in creating your character, here is a handy chart detailing the modifiers for the stat ranges.


Stat Score: Modifier: Stat Score: Modifier:
0 - 1 -5 16 - 17 +3
2 - 3 -4 18 - 19 +4
4 - 5 -3 20 - 21 +5
6 - 7 -2 22 - 23 +6
8-9 -1 24 - 25 +7
10 - 11 0 26 - 27 +8
12 - 13 +1 28 - 29 +9
14 - 15 +2 30 -31 +10


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Build Points

Before you can begin adventuring in the world of Eberron, you must first mold yourself out of the clay from which you come. Dungeons and Dragons Online allows you the freedom to create your own path by choosing what your stats will be. To do this, you spend Build Points. You begin your existence with all your stats at 8. From there, you can spend Build Points to increase your stats from that base of 8. How many points, you ask? Well, the gods have seen fit to give you 28 Build Points to use (or you can purchase the ability to have 32 Build Points from the DDO store). Here is the breakdown of the cost for a stat.

Stat: Building
Points:
Stat: Building
Points:
8 0 14 6
9 1 15 8
10 2 16 10
11 3 17 13
12 4 18 16
13 5

As you can see, having an 18 in a stat at the beginning of your adventuring life is extremely expensive. If you’re using the standard 28 Build Points, having an 18 takes over half of your total points. You must choose wisely, my friend.

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What to buy? So few points...so many wants...

Racial Modifiers

Your race also impacts your stats. Everyone knows that Elves are more graceful than Half-Orcs…and far better looking, I might add! Did I ever tell you about the time that a Half-Orc chieftain wanted me to marry his daughter? That was a very narrow escape, praise the gods. What was that you said? Get on with the racial modifiers? Oh my, forgive my ramblings. In my dotage, I do tend to get sidetracked and begin talking about some ancient event like the time some friend and I…..what? Right….racial modifiers. Here is a quick summary of how the various races modify the starting stats of your character. Please note that these modifiers occur after you have spent your points.

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Drow get lets of bonuses...
and are extremely hot.
Drow Elf: +2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence, +2 Charisma, -2 Constitution
Dwarf: +2 Constitution, -2 Charisma
Elf: +2 Dexterity, -2 Constitution
Half-Elf: None
Half-Orc: +2 Strength, -2 Intelligence, -2 Charisma
Halfling: +2 Dexterity, -2 Strength
Human: None
Warforged: +2 Constitution, -2 Wisdom, -2 Charisma

Saving Throw

In the course of your journeys, you will face many dangers that will require you to make a Saving Throw. A Saving Throw is made when you attempt to resist some form of attack, be it magical or natural. When you make a Saving Throw, the 20 sided die is rolled and your bonuses to the save in question is added. Your bonuses to the die roll are based on your level, class, and ability scores. There are three kinds of Saving Throws:

  • Fortitude: This type of save is made to pit your ability to stand against attacks that affect your physical health, such as poisons. Constitution is the ability that impacts this save.
  • Reflex: This type of save is made when you can dodge out of the way of an attack and avoid (or reduce) the damage you would have taken. Examples are dodging a fireball thrown by an enemy wizard or whirling blades from traps in the floor. Dexterity is the ability used for this type of save.
  • Will: This type of save is made to resist mental attacks upon you such as Hypnotism spells or Otto’s Irresistible Dance, which makes you dance in place without the ability to defend yourself. Wisdom is the stat that is used for this type of save.

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Better hope you make that Reflex Save...those spikes look sharp!

I hope that these words of knowledge will help you in your quest, my friend. The hour grows late and these old bones need their rest. However, we are not yet done. There is more for me to tell you, but we have covered many of the basics so far. My belief is that if you know why and how things happen in the world, you will be better informed to make wise choices. My belly is now warm from fine ale and I will return after some rest. Prelixin will not let you down, my friend. Good night and dream of a dragon’s hoard!

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