Saturday, February 16, 2013

Icewind Dale 2 - Revisited (Part 2 - The Beginning)

Quick reference:
Tank = Deep Gnome 28 Dreadmaster/1 Rogue/1 Monk
Talos cleric = Drow 17 Stormlord/4 Barbarian/4Fighter/5Sorcerer
Diplomat = Tiefling 2 Rogue/14 Druid/14 Bard
Sorcerer = Aasimar 1 Paladin/29 Sorcerer

First Steps
Ah low level and gold woes! Of course, I didn't expect my team to start even with a simple full plate armor readily available to me. Anyhow, Studded Leather is good enough for my tank due to his high DEX. At this point he seems pretty ridiculous: 22AC at level 1 without shields and buffs, and is able to cast Mirror Image and Blur. My Talos cleric seem to suffer a bit though. Her low DEX means that she will have to live with crappy Chainmail armor. Since she will still be at the front row, I gave her the shield you can 'steal' at the Palisade, leaving her with a very average 18AC. Hey I'm poor! It didn't take me long after her first level up that I should've really given her 1 Fighter level so that she can be proficient with axes.

The initial Targos was pretty uneventful, if not irritating because there are some locks I cannot pick at the start. Having a dedicated diplomat starts to pay off a bit; I managed to avoid the fight against the Iron Collar dudes in the tavern and jacked up the price of some barters, which is really important this early in the game. The innkeeper is really stingy though, only 50gp for getting rid of a noisy ghost in his inn. At least the nice elf lady (Ulbrec's wife) is a bit more generous. Otherwise it's all fine and dandy.

Battle at the Palisade
I made sure to wipe out Phaen of the Rags before the battle. My party's resources are limited so less enemies is better for me.

The battle itself was kind of hard. My tank was still level 1 with 10HP. Even though he wasn't getting hit that often, a couple of lucky criticals can still kill him. Because of that, focusing on smaller minions before the bigger ones seem to work like a charm. I also realized that I should have taken Burning Hands for my sorcerer. I had completely forgotten how useless Magic Missile + Chromatic Orbs were at level 1, and I took them because they were awesome at later levels. Because of that I had to use all 3 charges of the Wolf Charm from the drinking game at the docks, so that the goblin sorcerer would stupidly magic missile them instead of my party.

And my tank STILL hadn't leveled after the fight. I'm starting to worry about the 20% experience penalty should I ever find the need to take the monk levels. Hopefully it's not anytime soon. It shouldn't be.

Shaengarne Bridge
Ulbrec is mad, asking up to 6 level 1-2 adventurers to overtake a critical bridge that is obviously going to be held by a battalion.

God the entrance is hard. There is like a gazillion guys trying to hit 1 gnome. After dying a few times, I finally managed to defeat them, causing my guys to level up. Here I manage to grab the Bard level for my diplomat, the Fighter level for my Talos cleric and finally one more level for my tank, effectively doubling his HP. The rest of the area is much easier after the level up. I made sure to cast Command everytime I see an orc shaman cast spells and beat the crap out of him.

It is around here the first sneaking mission came about, which is easily solved with the deep gnome once per day ability of turning himself invisible. At this point I realized what a ridiculous scout he is. High AC, invisibility, cleric spells, mirror image, good damage, I'm sending him to scout fog of wars before I engage my enemies. My diplomat is having problems now trying to stand  near the fighters and granting them bard songs and doing nothing else though. Too bad you cannot hide while you sing.

The troll fight is pretty hard. He hits more frequently and harder than I would've liked. I don't have a rogue who can steal the blade from him without him noticing so I have to fight. I realized how much I needed entangle at this point and how useless Summon Nature's Ally I is. Also, Ray of Enfeeblement could really help in this case; it's flat -15 STR in this game for whatever reason.

I had a pretty big level up at the Harpy/Boar area. My sorcerer have one extra spell (I took Ray of Enfeeblement), my two clerics hit level 3, opening the door to level 2 spells which are immensely useful. The Talos cleric is becoming a beast with her new Returning Throwing Axe, Bull Strength and Destructive Blow. The High Priests who immediately cast Beast Claw, Summon spells and Cures are pretty trivial, casting the almost instant Command spell whenever they start casting crap. Yes I memorized Command to the max. The newly acquired Hold Person and Horror spells helped too.

The actual battle of the bridge was pretty easy with the new levels, except for one bitch that suddenly cast fireball in my face, wiping half my party. I did not manage to save the bridge though, since I neglected to buy potions in case of critical hits so I 'cheated' by resting in the middle of the battlefield (which makes no sense).

Goblin Fortress
The outside of the fortress wasn't particularly hard, considering that there is a free place for you to rest every time you are low on resources. The mini-boss fight at the top right hand of the map is tough though, with a couple of ice trolls, ogres, an orc shaman and a bunch of archers and wolf-riders. As if that wasn't bad enough, they would randomly orbital strike wolf-riders in the middle of the battlefield (screwing up my positioning) as long as there is an orc shaman beside the War Drum. Fortunately, that particular War Drum is snipe-able from across the bridge without attracting attention, so most of the problem is taken care of.

The warrens of the fortress (the Goblin Warrens) isn't that bad. 2 levels of things to kill, none of them particularly difficult. Scouting with my gnome proved so invaluable that it becomes the norm. As I level up and gain access to Barkskin, more powerful Chromatic Orbs, Fireball and Animate Dead, fights can become trivial at best, with annoying AI aggro management possibly screwing my plans. This dungeon is quite funny because the fights get easier as you progress, so level design-wise it seems strange. I remembered that the very first fight when you enter the dungeon can be pretty tough. The rest, not so much.

The exterior and interior fights after making out of the warrens can get a little overwhelming. Thanks to scouting and the awesome Entangle + Fireball spam combo, huge fights can whittle down to small brawls when done correctly. Deep Gnomes and Drows as frontlines are truly awesome, as they have spell resistance in case you misfire your fireball. If I didn't like them being in the front, I could always cast a couple of Animate Dead (really dumb spell in many ways) and let them draw aggro before letting lose my combo.

The Guthma fight is incredibly underwhelming. He failed my Chromatic Orb saving throw and was stunned for 3 rounds. With my drow's retarded Attack Bonuses (fully buffed with Bull Strength, Destructive Blow, Strength of One, Bard Song) and Faerie Fire cast on him, he went down so fast I mistook him for another bugbear. With my sorcerer free to do anything at this point, she simply fireball-ed the mirror imaged orc and goblin shamans continuously until they are dead. So much for mirror image!

This party really went through a lot. At the start I felt worried that this party might not make it, but towards the end, it really got a lot simpler as I gain access to better items and spells.

I think it is safe to say that having all the monsters attacking a Deep Gnome with 28 AC fully buffed with mirror image is perfectly okay. I also equipped him with Witherbranch Boots (immune to Entangle) and Houndstooth Collar (immune to Panic and Fear) so he can walk in and out of my druid's Entangle spell and silly spells like Horror don't affect him.

The rest of my party is running on 16 AC or less, with my Sorcerer running on a whooping 9 AC. If you are reading this and wants to build the same sorcerer for tabletop, don't be an idiot and stop right there. 9 AC will have you begging the DM for dear life at level 1. However, this is a computer game where AI can be abused a little, so 9 AC is fine as long as I am careful. Plus, the overpowered instant-cast Chromatic Orb helps a lot, as well as both my cleric's instant Command spell.

Now that Targos is safe, apparently my party thinks it's a good idea to fly in an airship in medieval-fantasy setting piloted by a half-delusional absent-minded gnome. I wasn't surprised we crash landed.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Icewind Dale 2 - Revisited (Part 1 - Party Creation)

Back to IWD2!
I realized that even after playing Icewind Dale 2 to death, I have never completed it fully. There might be reasons for that; I might be busy, the party I created was not fun at a certain point, certain characters felt useless at a certain point that I want to recreate a new party...etc.

With the help of the awesome JUPP guide, I'm attempting to return back to IWD2, and possibly even clear the infamous Heart of Fury mode. The goal of the party is simple: it must be able to clear HoF (requires min-maxing), leveling from 1-30 must be reasonable and lastly I must be fun playing the party. I will be running a 4-man party, because I realized that 6 people can get difficult to control and is quite overkill sometimes to the point that it gets boring. Leveling 6 specialized characters is also really boring. I played enough PnP DnD to the point that so I really want each character to be 'self-sufficient'.

JUPP helped a lot in that process. Most of the characters suggested in the guide are min-maxed to the max, are really versatile and theoretically fun to play from 1-30. After thinking for a long time, it really seems that no matter how much I try to deviate, my characters will eventually 'become' one of his characters. In the end, my party composition is the only thing different; the characters in the party ended up being one of those in the guide. It makes sense; the game has only so many viable classes for certain roles as well as races. If I were to make a tank with 70+AC, there's only so many ways I can do it, so I simply choose the way I think I would enjoy.

Here is the party I'm planning out:
1) Deep Gnome 1 Rogue/1 Monk/28 Dreadmaster of Bane
This is the tank of the party and also the 1st character in the melee party of the JUPP guide.  Pretty straightforward. I love clerics a lot so from the start I had a 30 cleric planned out for tanker. 1 Monk is to convert WIS to AC and 1 Rogue is to get the crazy headband that gives generic AC. JUPP only finished the build when it educated me that Dreadmasters get quests that increase WIS. Cool, I always wanted to play an evil cleric.

Problem with this character is that it has 3 classes and none of them are favored classes of the Deep Gnome race. Dipping 1 level into monk will incur the 20% experience penalty. However, it shouldn't happen until I reach HoF since clerics can wear heavy armor and I don't think my WIS will be that much higher than the best heavy armor in normal mode at that point of time.

2) Tiefling 2 Rogue/14 Druid/14 Bard
This looks like a really fun build. It's purpose is to do EVERYTHING out of combat. I am not sure if I can build this character as a scout; it does have druid levels as well as bard levels so it has a wide range of spells to it's disposal. I have to wait and see how that turns out. For now, it's there just to provide Barkskin and cover bard songs. I might even level Use Magic Device so that I can use more objects with this character.

I am wondering if early levels are going to be hard though. This character is running on really low STR and DEX stats so lockpicking is going to be difficult unless the Druid part gets Shapeshifting. Even then, I would need to level Druid up together with Bard because it will incur the 20% experience penalty, so shapeshifting will not be in the equation until character level 10 or so.

3) Assimar 1 Paladin/29 Sorc

Main arcane spellcaster. Really straightforward and effective build. However, it has to cover some utility spells since it is the MAIN arcane spellcaster after all. Thankfully, I have 29 levels for that, so I will have more spells learnt eventually, just need to pick the right one. Assimar is just there to prevent experience penalty.

4) Drow Stormlord of Talos 17/4 Fighter/4 Barbarian/5 Sorcerer
Main damage dealer of the party. This is also another character from JUPP, which I really like because of how versatile she is. She's the substitute cleric, offloading work from the 1st character, and also the main healer, as her alignment is Lawful neutral so she can spontaneously cast cure spells if needed. She can nuke from her Talos specialization, and with 18 STR + Draw Upon Holy Might + Rage and other cleric buffs, she's gonna do tons of damage.

Currently I'm not thinking about adding a fifth member. This party looks theoretically strong and fun to play from level 1-30 as it is. I'll keep posting how I do in each chapter and arcs with this party as I find time to keep playing. Once everything is over, I'll plan to eventually post this as a guide along with all the other posts for others to read.

Hopefully this party is good enough for me to enjoy throughout the game till HoF =)