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Berserker vs. Kensai

Discussion in 'BG2: Throne of Bhaal (Classic)' started by Aldeth the Foppish Idiot, May 26, 2004.

  1. Aldeth the Foppish Idiot

    Aldeth the Foppish Idiot Armed with My Mallet O' Thinking Veteran

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    Well, I finally got around to downloading Chloe, an NPC mod. She's a human kensai. I have never personally thought much of the kensai class, and I almost always prefer a berserker. So, what I did to finally lay my misgivings to rest about kensais, was to make a party that included Chloe, a PC beserker, and Korgan.

    I've gone through about half the game at this point, and Korgan and my PC are putting Chloe to shame in the kills department. My PC and Korgan each have almost 30% of the kills (PC 30%, Korgan 29%), with Chloe coming in 3rd with 21%. The rest of the XP are divided among the other three characters, but they are my mages/clerics so it's only natural to assume that they would have fewer kills than my frontliners.

    The point of all this is to ask, why do people love kensais so much? So I'm trying to do an apples-to-apples comparison with the two kits.

    Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm under the impression that kensai's get:

    -2 bonus to starting AC
    +1 to hit/damage for every three levels
    1 kai ability for every four levels, which has the affect that their attacks do max damage the next round.
    no armor/no missile weapons

    Berserkers on the other hand get:

    1 berserk for every four levels, which gives +2 to hit/damage and -2 to AC, and gives them immunity to almost every spell effect other than direct damage.
    Only can become proficient in missile weapons

    Then I started to compare the two.

    I discounted the missile weapon usage immediately, because it doesn't prevent you from using thrown weapons like axes or daggers, and no one make a kensai or a beserker to use missile weapons anyway.

    I figured I'd need a baseline to start with, so I considered a kensai and a berserker at level 20 - a good mid-point comparison. I also assumed that since they are fighter kits, that each would have a strength enhancing item like a girdle of giant strength - I took Hill Giant that gives +3 to hit and +7 to damage. I assumed both would be wielding Celestial Fury, and both had grand mastery in katanas.

    The -2 to AC for the kensai is nothing. The fact that beserkers can wear armor means the AC for a beserker is always going to be superior.

    Then I looked at average to hit and damage:

    Kensai THAC0:
    Base: 1, with modifiers (+3 strength), (+3 mastery), (+6 for being a 20th level kensai), (+3 weapon), for a total of -15.

    Berserker THAC0:
    Everything is the same, except they don't get the +6 kensai bonus, so total of -9.

    Regardless of whether it's -9 or -15, you're hitting everything. In order for either class to miss, they have to roll a critical miss (5% chance for each class), or encounter an enemy with an AC of at least -11. To my knowledge, no such enemy exists in the game. So the kensai is no better off in terms of THAC0.

    Then I looked at damage, noting that a katana's base damage is 5.5.

    Then we get +3 weapon, +7 strength, +3 mastery, +6 kensai for an average damage of 24.5.

    For beserker, it's the same thing, except he misses out on the +6 kensai damage, for a total average of 18.5. So kensais have an edge here.

    Then I considered how they were when using their special abilities. In AC, berserkers get an even bigger lead with the -2 AC bonus while berserk.

    THAC0: Kensia does not change (-15), Berserker goes from -9 to -11, but we've already said that at these levels, THAC0 is irrelevant.

    Damage: Beserker average increases to 20.5, while the kensias increase to 29. So the advantage here is still with the kensai.

    So, basically my question boiled down to is it better to do a little more damage, or wear armor, and I still say it's better to wear armor, and get immunity to all of those spells. The more I look at the kai ability, it's a sham. Most of the damage your weapon does is based on your modifiers for strength, weapon, and mastery. The difference between "average damage" and "max damage" is a measly 4.5 points. So while they both can hit everything, the berserkers get a ton of immunities to spells, and are far less likely to be hit. Now I completely understand it is possible to create a kensai with an AC well into negative numbers, but I don't think that you can get a character in the realm of a berserker with all that armor. Plus, those armor/shields/helms confer other resistances that the kensai can't get.

    So again, I ask: What's the attraction here?
     
  2. Wordplay Gems: 29/31
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    I have never used kensai, but I think that the extra damage can come handy if you already have a tank absorbing most of the damage (summons or otherwise). Beside that, there really isn't any reason to take one with you -Chloe being an exception only because some *cough* perverted *cough* people want lesbian action. :shake:
     
  3. Splunge

    Splunge Bhaal’s financial advisor Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    One other kensai bonus is -1 to weapon speed every 4 levels; this basically makes sure you always strike first in a round.

    I've used a pure kensai once, and a berserker (Korgan) once. I found the kensai to be tricky in the early stages, but once you get up to levels in the low teens, he is unstoppable. To be honest, I wasn't all that impressed with Korgan, but I don't know why, since he is a good fighter.
     
  4. Bombur

    Bombur I'm always last and I don't like it

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    As I've said elsewhere, I have a role-playing problem with the kensai being inappropriate from a genre standpoint. Don't like 'em, won't play 'em. For AC, though, a Kensai can use the shield amulet and potions of defense.

    Berserkers are overpowered (unreasonable immunities to hugely powerful spells simply because you're a bit upset).

    For my money, an archer is a better choice for your "hit everything with huge damage" fighter. Same THACO and damage bonuses as a kensai, but from a safe distance (no close combat with poor AC). Then there's the whole "I can wear armor -- nyaa, nyaa!" thing, plus stealth.
     
  5. caldurin Gems: 1/31
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    I think that the appeal of kensai might be coolness.

    When I played my straight human kensai it was so cool, dual weilding long swords, no armor, super fast attack speeds.
    It felt so cool for me to be wearing no armor but hacking and slashing my enemies left in right, my guy was one with the sword.

    While beserker's can be a lot of fun to play they seem to be a boring class, not very original.

    Just my opinion.
     
  6. Nizidramanii'yt Gems: 10/31
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    I found the berserkes more playable, since I want to actually 'use' armor on my party. Mostly I only have 2 fighter/clerics in my party who can carry armor, so I can give them the powerful armor I find. A kensai can't wear any, so he's basically not my pick. He's cool though ;) Even more useless in my eyes is the wizard slayer, with such 'minimal' magic resistance, but that's another story.
     
  7. KyletheSpeedDemon Gems: 1/31
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    Kensai all the way for me. Even a pure Kensai. Armor doesn't mean much to me if I get lots of hit points and have good saving throws. If he can take the blows and continue killing I'm fine. Hardiness doesn't hurt.

    Kensai's are pure killing machines. They do insane damage, insane thaco, and insane speed factors. On top of Kai ability and you can mix that in with Greater Whirlwind Attacks.

    They can't use armor or bracers but they shouldn't be able to with the monster damage they can unleash. Hell, if played right they will kill most opponents before it can do a thing or it counters with minimal damage.

    And if you have great AC good armor on and you get hit anyway? Whats the point? hehe.

    Only reason I would get a Berserker Rage is so I could own a certain lich that casts imprisonment. Thats not reason enough IMO.

    I think a Barbarian vs. Berserker would be a better argument.
     
  8. Benan Gems: 20/31
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    In Kensai versus Berserker, I prefer the Kensai, he's skilled and powerful, and a decent challenge because of the no amour fact.

    In the Barbarian vs. Berkerker, I prefer the barbarian, higher hit points, moves faster, barbarian rage is just as good as berserker rage.

    I used a barbarian for a game, and by the end of ToB, he was pretty much unstoppable.
     
  9. Septic Yogurt Gems: 9/31
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    Meh, stop debating and find out, make em fight each other. Surely thats the best test available for basic skills such as bouncing swords from the facial area.
     
  10. NonSequitur Gems: 19/31
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    I recently finished ToB with an Elf Kensai (inspired somewhat by watching Kill Bill), and aside from the low HP that I got, there seemed to be very few drawbacks to the class. Everything in ToB will hit you anyway, so your AC doesn't matter too much (except against Illithids). The Gargoyle Boots are good for a Kensai as it makes them immune to backstab and gives them two 'skins, which usually gives them more than enough time to destroy anything in their path. You can use Ioun Stones instead of helmets (Wong Fei's Ioun Stone is excellent, especially with the Ring of Gaxx), and the speed bonus on weapons means you will destroy just about anything before it lays a hand on you. I demolished Demogorgon with two Greater Whirlwinds (having Keldorn using True Sight and a Breach-Pierce Magic-Greater Malison spell trigger from Imoen helped too).

    That said, I've never tried a berserker - I've just started SoA with one but I intend to dual-class her to Druid at 10th or 12th level. Immunity to mind control and Imprisonment are great, but in my experience, Kensai leave a path of destruction in melee that no other class can match (which, funnily enough, is what they're supposed to do). At low levels I imagine the Berserker's ability to use armour is very helpful in surviving, but after a Kensai gets going they are nigh unstoppable.
     
  11. Death Whisper Gems: 9/31
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    besides, immunities can be achieved through spells and scrolls :rolleyes:

    protection from "insert word here" scrolls anyone :rolleyes:

    I like kensais the best, but then again you all knew that hehe.
     
  12. Faraaz Gems: 26/31
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    Kensais have a lot of novelty to them...and they are great for dual-classing as well. The bonuses they get are great for if you want to dual class as a mage or a thief. Those extra damage points sure come in handy when you backstab...they can accumulate an extra 10 hitpoints of damage.

    Also...in the case of the Kensai/Thief...once they get UAI...they become really unstoppable.

    So, to conclude, in addition to all the good points everyone has mentioned so far, Kensai's are also very good for dual-classing, more so than Berserkers IMHO.
     
  13. Zephyr Angel Gems: 7/31
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    IMO, the berserker is the PURE fighter, and that the Kensai is just some off the track ninja wannabe.

    But honestly, the Berserker is damned fun to roleplay, I mean, to use the ability, I have to weigh out if it is worth it, and that is great. Unlike the Barbarian, the Berserker can be specialized in the weapons of his choice. Another cool notion.

    What good is a fighter if he can't look cool in a suit of armour? The Kensai is so unappealing to me the first time I laid eyes on it...

    So, the saying goes, to beserk or not to beserk, you decide...


    yeah yeah, WHATEVER... :p
     
  14. Aldeth the Foppish Idiot

    Aldeth the Foppish Idiot Armed with My Mallet O' Thinking Veteran

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    If you are dual classing, I agree the Kensai does provide some useful benefits. Basically, if I were dual-classing to a thief or mage, I'd start with a kensai, although if I were dual-classing to a cleric, I'd probably go with the berserker.
     
  15. Death Whisper Gems: 9/31
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    kensais are NOT some ninja wannabe LOL

    if you know something about japanese history, you'll now they are similar to the samurai, exept that the kensai is trained from early childhood to become one with his\hers sword.

    they where strategical fighters that held vital points against their enemies in battles. a bridge or a gate for example. unloke bg2, they did wear armour though.
     
  16. Zephyr Angel Gems: 7/31
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    All hail Death Whisperer! Defender of the Kensai Order!

    Okay, so I made a mistake...
     
  17. Bombur

    Bombur I'm always last and I don't like it

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    That's the problem! They don't fit the genre. I say lop off their heads with a hefty vorpal blade. One, two! One, two! :evil:
     
  18. Gothmog

    Gothmog Man, a curious beast indeed! ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    True, they do have origins in Japan. But this is Faerun and you can find kensai outside Kara-tur as well. I didnt read much, but i saw the description of kensai from the Sword&fist rulebook, picturing a human(non-asian) character with a longsword.
    So basicaly, i suppose anyone can achieve the status of a kensai if they're good enough and if they follow an appropriate code.
    IIRC kensai is more like a status, meaning it can be achieved through skill of arms. Naturaly it had to be more precisely specified for BG, so they made it without armor and all those things.


    Anyway, i prefer kensai's way more than berserkers, more of a personal preference than any in-game advantage.
    Swordplay in general is a rather limited art, and hampering your movement with tons of metal on yourself is even further reducing your effect. True, there's nothing like that in the game that would reduce THAC0 because you are wearing an armor as heavy as yourself, but just try to imagine it. On the other hand there's this unarmored guy, with only a weapon. The whole meaning of hit points is character's ability to avoid serious injury. Do you think a full-plate wearing character is fast enough to avoid half a ton heavy swing by a fire giant? Perhaps it wouldnt pierce his armor, but it'd crush him to ants level. On the other hand a kensai would have an easier time escaping that fate, because he's totaly free in movement.
    Of course none of this is in the game, but i do prefer to play characters that i can imagine fighting as realisticaly as possible. Of course there's magic all around, but the physics are the same, humans are the same and fighters posses no magic.
    babble.
     
  19. Sir Ai Rayzor Gems: 7/31
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    Want protection for your kensai ?

    Then get these items:
    Robe Of Vecna,
    Ring of Gaxx,
    Ring of Protection +2,
    Cloak Of Sewers.

    The point is that my Kensai(13)/Mage(24) has an armorclass on -5 right now - without applying any spells. So they do not lack in armour and they still kick a**! :) :cool: :p
     
  20. Aldeth the Foppish Idiot

    Aldeth the Foppish Idiot Armed with My Mallet O' Thinking Veteran

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    Well, the Robe of Vecna really isn't relevant. I was comparing a straight kensai to a straight berserker. I have already admitted that if the desire is to dual-class, kensais make sense if you're dual-classing to a mage, and berserkers make sense if you're dual-classing to a cleric.

    Even so, a -5 armor class for someone on the frontline is far from impressive. My armor wearing characters routinely have armor class ratings at -10 or lower. -5 is something I would expect from a mage or a thief, but certainly not a fighter.
     
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