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Which skills will actually be useful in DDO, and which are just "roleplaying flavor"? Here are brief comments on how often you can actually use each skill, and how important it is to succeed.
In general, Rogues need skills in this order of importance: Search, Disable Device, Open Lock, UMD, and Spot. Bards need Perform and Use Magic Device, spellcasters need Concentration unless they plan on using Quicken Spell at all times, melee characters need Jump, tanks need Intimidate, everyone benefits from Balance, and nobody needs Swim, Heal and Repair.
- Balance (Dex): Being knocked down is a common threat for melee fighters. Hobgoblin warriors like to trip, a giant's stomp is a damaging AoE knockdown, and all dogs and wolves have good trip skills (augmented by grease-shooters, on Iron Defenders). While high Balance scores does not prevent those threats from happening, a high Balance score will allow a character to recover quickly and to not lie flat on the floor for too long.
- Concentration (Con): Naturally pretty important for primary spellcasters, who will often need to cast with a monster in their face unless they plan on often using Quicken Spell, in which case it may be slightly less valuable, but keep in mind all scrolls and some spells may not be quickened. Rangers and Paladins, however, have few good spells compared to their fighting skills, and will mainly use magic for pre-fight buffs or post-combat recovery. During battle, they usually have other things to do. However, for a Monk, Concentration is the most important skill, as it determines not only their stable ki level, but also how quickly it decays.
- Haggle (Cha): Allows you to negotiate better prices with vendors. Each point in Haggle will increase the price of the items you sell by 0.25%. It's not a high priority skill but it's a nice choice if you happen to have leftover points. Some players build a character, called a "hagglebot," whose sole purpose is to buy and sell items for the players therefore maximizing his profits (human Bards are well-equipped for this). Some of these players even offer this service to other, like Khyber's Qwijymart.
- Hide (Dex): Hide determines how easily you can be seen in bright lighting. It's represented by the "eye" indicators that appear next to your character while in Stealth. An enemy's Spot check in a visual arc in front of them determines if you will be spotted. Stealth can be useful for races and classes that use light or no armor and/or have bonuses to Hide and Move Silently. While most parties, understandably, may not choose to use scouts to investigate threats before charging into battle, Hide (in combination with Move Silently (see below)) is a great consideration for soloing Rogues, Rangers and Monks, and may be useful in groups with a Rogue Assassin, a Ninja Spy Monk, Tempest Ranger as well as dedicated groups or guilds specialized in stealth. An argument for stealth can be made in completing adventures more quickly, gaining more experience per time spent, since less time is spent in fighting. With Move Silently, stealth is also advantageous against enemies with True Seeing or See Invisibility, such as beholders and giants. Neither of these foes can detect a stealthy character--until it's too late.
- Jump (Str): As expected from a video game, Jump is more helpful than in PnP. Simple tools to help a clumsy character move through a dungeon are not present in DDO. You cannot bring ropes, you can't cast Spider Climb or Levitate, and you can't even stand on the dwarf's shoulders. Therefore, having a good Jump skill is fairly important, although the Jump spell may help solving problematically low Jump scores at higher levels. Since (unlike many other fantasy MMORPGs) a player cannot walk through a monster (except in using abilities in some Epic Destinies such as Shadowdancer), Jump can be an important escape for someone who gets surrounded. It's also particularly useful for spellcasters who want to cast while moving. While the character is slowed down if casting a spell while moving, casting in mid-air does not impose said speed penalty. Most non-Evasion classes add no more than 10 points to this (spells and enhancements from gear can aid this along), while swifter classes with light or no armor may find higher numbers more practical.
- Listen (Wis): A very low priority skill. It can used to sometimes spot enemies but that rarely comes to use. However, if you have a reasonable Listen skill, the game displays red "echoes" at enemy locations and puts them into your orb, allowing you to target and shoot at them. Characters built with stealth who infiltrate dungeons with enemies that use stealth or invisibility might find a few points handy here.
- Move Silently (Dex): Move Silently determines if an enemy can hear you while in stealth. In combination with it's sister skill, Hide, Move Silently can help any class bypass enemies, even at close range, as the enemy's Listen check rolls against this score. Races and classes with stealth bonuses should work on this skill being a bit higher than Hide for effective stealth in low to no-light, but have good Hide for medium to bright light conditions. As noted in Hide, typical parties do not favor sneaking about and prefer fighting everything they see. Some quests, such as "The Claw of Vulkoor" and "Blockade Buster" are designed for high stealth characters and give substantial experience for avoiding fights. Points to Move Silently (and using them while Sneaking) to bypass enemies is a good argument against using Invisibility all the time, which effectively hides you as if you were in a brighter light but does NOT keep enemies from hearing you run past them, possibly alerting most of the dungeon.
- Spot (Wis): Spot is useful for detecting Sneaking enemies more quickly, however its primary usage is to detect traps and secret doors. The game design has little random threat placement. In most quests traps and secret passages are always in the same position each time you run a dungeon, regardless of difficulty settings, but it's obviously a daunting task to remember the exact location of everything. If some experienced players are part of the party and played the mission before, they may point out traps before a dedicated rogue ever gets to spot them. Yet, if you play in a dedicated group of new players, in a no spoiler group or guild, if you're unsure to remember the location of every traps and secret door, or if you run a Quest with random trap placement, Spot becomes a far more important skill.
- Swim (Str): Probably the single-most useless skill in the game, considering that as early as level 3 you may find a magic item enabling infinite water-breathing (see Underwater Action) which would otherwise be the highest advantage of a high Swim score. A high Swim score also increases Swim speed, which may be useful in one section of "The Crucible." However, it also affects your movement when under the effects of a Fly spell. This is useful in quests such as "The Reaver's Fate."
- Tumble (Dex): While visually fun, this skill offers very little to most non-Evasion classes. The first advantage is to reduce falling damage but that is often taken care of by Feather-falling items. The second advantage is to allow greater mobility while shield blocking, and is the only real use for the skill. Many tanks try to toss a point or two in it in order to be able to tumble while shield blocking. A high Tumble will allow somersaults and backflips for quick escapes. In the Shadowdancer and Grandmaster of Flowers Epic Destinies, a very high Tumble improves their special abilities to literally tumble through an enemy. That can be very beneficial in "stick and move" fighting in Epic quests where character damage is much greater.
- Use Magic Device (Cha): An incredibly useful skill if the player can reach high scores, it allows the character to use Heal (for fleshies) or Reconstruct scrolls (for warforged) to self-heal himself or herself. Other useful items to use via UMD are Raise Dead scrolls, Resurrection scrolls, Fire Shield scrolls, Restoration scrolls and Stoneskin wands. It can also be used to circumvent alignment restrictions and race restrictions. Mind your use of this skill if you have little use for CHA as a class or if UMD is a cross-class ability and your class has fewer Action Points to devote to this skill.
- Bluff (Cha): In previous updates, bluff had a cast time. It is now instant, and very valuable. When used in combat, it's essentially a single target Diplomacy, with the added bonus of causing the target to be sneak attacked for six seconds. When used out of combat, it can be used to pull single targets from a pack of monsters, without breaking stealth - however the monster will become aggressive 1 second after he reaches the bluffer's pulling location, and will go after the bluffer. Careful kiting and intimidation timing will allow for a bluffer to pull one mob to the party at a time - useful when there's a lack of crowd control.
- Diplomacy (Cha): Diplomacy is used to shed aggro to a nearby ally. While potentially useful, it's a tool to be used carefully as it can be worse, sometimes, to send the aggro to an ally than to keep it on yourself. Diplomacy is particularly useful to squishy characters. Players may also appreciate higher points to this skill for more favorable options in some quest dialogues with NPCs.
- Disable Device (Int): This is a skill often highly valued by Rogues and Artificers. While Rogues bring more to the party than simply their ability to disarm traps, it's an ability that often get them into groups and thus one they want to do well. To disarm a trap you need good levels of both Search and Disable. It is debatable as to which is the most important, since without Search you can't find the box in the first place, but should you fail your Disable by more than 5 the trap box explodes, injuring you and making that trap permanently un-disarmable.
- Heal (Wis): A rather unimportant skill. Carrying around a healing kit on the off chance of stabilizing an incapacitated ally is rarely worth the inventory slot as it's a rare occurrence and that a single Cure Light Wounds spell (from a cleric, paladin, ranger, bard, or rogue with wand - or even an Aid clicky) is better than the Heal skill. Heal also increases the amount of hit points regained by resting but the difference is only of a potion or two, which are quite cheap. You will rarely need to rest for hit points, if ever, unless the mission has already gone badly wrong. Clerics, Favored Souls, Bards and Druids will simply heal everyone before resting to refill spell points, and melee characters may find themselves resting only to refill "daily" usages of some powers. Soloing characters may find Heal useful, but even there, putting the skill points in something else and getting an Owl's Wisdom clicky, combined with a Sustenance item, would be better. One quest, "Outbreak," benefits a higher Heal score for an optional objective.
- Intimidate (Cha): The art of holding aggro with Intimidate is often known as intimitanking and can be quite useful if used to mitigate the damage taken by the party. Melee "sword and board" classes such as Paladins and Fighters will make of this skill a priority. It can be useful for other classes, but is often a cross-class skill, or is avoided to help avoid more attention than their class's fighting style can handle.
- Open Lock (Dex): A medium-importance Rogue/Artificer skill. Only rarely is lockpicking needed to complete a mission. More often, it opens up more monsters, some bonus treasure, or (sometimes best of all) an extra rest shrine. Sometimes it provides a great treasure, however (as in the "Duality" quest). Lockpicking is easier than disabling traps, because there is no explosion risk, and most rogues have higher Dexterity than Intelligence. It is plausible for a person with only 1 or 2 levels of rogue to focus on Open Lock and defeat most locks you'll find, because unlike Disable Device, it doesn't require a Search check first to even start. It is important to note that there is an arcane spell (Knock) that allows a spellcaster to pick locks by making a check of caster level + relevant stat modifier against the lock DC. Though it is usually l-3 points lower than a rogue's base open lock skill, it is enough for most chests if you run at level.
- Perform (Cha): This skill opens up to the Bard new songs (which depend on the number of ranks in the skill, NOT the total mod), and is a must for all bards. Without having a sufficient amount of ranks in Perform, a bard cannot use some of his songs. This skill sets the DC for resisting the Bard's songs like Fascinate.
- Repair (Int): Identical to Heal, but applying only to warforged. It's a weak skill and very few will bother with it. The only exception are the wizards who have more skill points than they can usually find use for, and therefore may toss a few points in Repair.
- Search (Int): This is a skill often highly valued by Rogues and Artificers as it is required to find and disable traps. While rogues bring more to the party than simply their ability to disarm traps, it's an ability that often get them into groups and thus one they want to do well. To disarm a trap you need good levels of both Search and Disable. It can also be used to find secret doors but the spell Detect Secret Doors usually covers that more effectively as it does not require an high Spot score and does not require anyone to stop moving and actively Search.