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Strongest vanilla character and party (surprises within)

Discussion in 'Baldur's Gate (Classic)' started by MrMermaid, Jul 21, 2018.

  1. MrMermaid

    MrMermaid Reality is merely an illusion, albeit persistent Resourceful

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    I've recently just begun to rediscover the joys of the vanilla first part of the trilogy (i.e., sans Tutu/BGT updates), and in fact replaying it is the closest thing to recapturing the sheer pleasure of the first times I played the game as a wee whippersnapper (think I rolled a crummy Ranger, and loved it!). But my years powergaming the second instalment are now influencing my approach, and I've ended up trying to figure out the "strongest" main character and team. Here are my thoughts, and I'd be curious to hear anybody else's input!

    Firstly, influencing factors:
    1) Archers rule. And I don't mean the kit; this is vanilla. But fighters/rangers still make mean snipers, augmented by unnerfed arrows! Fire and Cold do extra 1d6 elemental damage (compared to 1d2 in BG2) and Acid arrows do a whopping extra 2d6 acid damage, no save!
    2) Grandmastery grants an extra 1 whole attack per round from high mastery! But it's impossible to achieve with pure fighter. (1 proficiency point every 3rd level, capped at 161,000 exp, or level 8, and the opening 4 points can't exceed 2 in any weapon: maximum in one weapon is ****, or high mastery.) Or is it really impossible...?
    3) Mirror Image is totally overpowered. It's essentially a Stoneskin spell, but available from Mage level 3. (And it was completely nerfed in BG2, so that opponents always had a chance to hit you.) Also it protects from area damage spells like fireball.

    After careful consideration, I arrived at the following party:
    Shar'Teel: Fighter (7) -> Thief (dual class)
    She gains high mastery in Large Swords, and uses Varsona (Long Sword +2) and later Icingdeath (Scimitar +3) for epic backstabbing. She also has +1/2 attacks per round and can whip out Twinkle (Scimitar +3 Defender) for close combat.

    Coran: Fighter/Thief
    Starts out with mastery in Bows, and eventually equips the Eagle Short Bow, focusing on acid arrows and arrows of detonation. He's also the party's main thief. (I'll take Imoen until I find him, to minimise exp gains a little, and get past locks and traps.)

    Kivan: Ranger
    Specialised in Bows, I'll give him the Long Bow of Marksmanship and acid arrows plus arrows of dispelling (since he has a higher Thac0 than Coran). In a pinch he'll whack out his halberd or the Spider's Bane two-handed sword.

    Viconia: Cleric
    As the party's main (and only!) cleric, she focuses on healing, buffs and dispels. Her prime perk is 50% innate magic resistance, which stacks up to 75% with the Robe of Balduran.

    Edwin: Conjurer
    It's essentially undisputable that he's hands-down the best mage in the game, beating even any player character mage concoction (thank you, special necklace!).


    So this could be the best party, but what might be the optimal player character? Generally accepted theory suggests the synergy between the fighter and mage, and a lot of guides advocate the classic fighter (7) -> mage dual, but for me the main drawback of the above is its lack of grandmastery (highly desirable in vanilla BG1, for reason number 2).

    Then it occurred to me: what if I flipped that dual? Take enough (specialist) mage levels to get Mirror Image, then dual over to fighter, and (ab)use the fact that dualling into fighter allows one immediately to sink all four starting points into one weapon. At third fighter level you get grandmastery, and if you have enough experience margin left over you could even reach fighter level 7, for that extra 1/2 attack per round! Let's add it up:

    1 (base) + 1.5 (GM) + 0.5 (lvl. 7) = 3 APR.

    Not quite the godly levels of Greater Whirlwind or Belm + Impr. Haste, but not bad for smashing the puny denizens of the Sword Coast! Now apply the unnerfed Haste spell of BG1 (this is where you'd need your second mage, e.g., Edwin), which (like vanilla Icewind Dale 1) doubles APR, and you get 6 APR! Combine this with the cheesiest weapon of BG1, the Dagger of Venom (which applies a stackable, non-saveable recurring poison damage, essentially disabling and/or slowing every enemy in the game) and the protections of the mage part of the dual, and you'd have a near invincible mêlée powerhouse.

    The only drawback is the loss of hit points. A level 3/8 mage/fighter dual with 18 constitution would have

    3 x (1d4 + 2) + (8 - 3) x (1d10 + 4) = between 34 and 88 hit points, for an average of 61.

    A level 4/8 mage/fighter would similarly have between 32 and 80 hit points, average of 56.

    For comparison, a more traditional fighter/mage 7/8 dual nets

    7 x (1d10 + 4) + 1 x (1d4 + 2) = between 38 and 104, or an average of 71,

    and a pure level 8 fighter gets between 40 and 112, average of 76.

    So the trade-off becomes Mirror Image + GM vs. Mirror Image + extra 10 HP vs. purely extra 15 HP.

    I've yet to test any of this in practice. I suspect that, like all dual classes, this build will suffer a bit at low levels (although no more than a usual squishy mage). This is offset a little because dualling at level 3 is still very early game. Do you guys have any thoughts? I'm also considering Khalid instead of Kivan as my second archer. Does anybody have any experience with turning him into one? Roleplaying-wise it's a bit sad to split up the pair. (I'm pondering whether in this alternate universe, it's Jaheira who falls at the hands of a madman... Brage? Mulahey? The basilisk wizard...? Too many options. :p)
     
  2. Tao_ Gems: 1/31
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    Nice write-up. Yeah, I'd be worried about being too squishy and how soon you can get some kind of healing support. I haven't played the original bg in a looong time but the difficulty can be a killer for a mage character at the beginning. I'd just make sure to engage with a different melee character first before jumping in. Is your other melee character going to be Shar-Teel? She's pretty squishy too iirc.
     
  3. dmc

    dmc Speak softly and carry a big briefcase Staff Member Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!)

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    One thing I am sort of remembering from my initial BG run-throughs. Wasn't Viconia's MR both a blessing and a curse? I seem to recall that her MR would cause heal spells to fail if they did not overcome her resistance.
     
  4. MrMermaid

    MrMermaid Reality is merely an illusion, albeit persistent Resourceful

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    Early healing will be tricky. My main option will be to avoid damage with the standard crowd control measure: Sleep.

    I think I'll make a bee-line for Beregost to take Kagain temporarily, then swap him out for Shar'Teel (after he beats her :p ).

    I hadn't thought of that! But would it even affect her own spells' efficacy? She's my only healer, after all...
     
  5. SlickRCBD Gems: 24/31
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    Generally you should race to the Friendly Arms Inn. Jaheria might not be the best healer, but you can get her early. That one ambush just outside the Inn however tends to be one of the hardest fights in the game due to you only having Imoen (thief), Monteron (fighter/thief) and Xar (Necromancer), and thus no defense against the guy's horror spell and you are too low level to save against it. It doesn't help that Xar usually has a poor spell selection (IIRC Chill Touch and Larloch's Minor Drain) and it isn't safe to rest until you get to the FAI past that fight.

    Once you survive that fight, you can get Jaheria who can memorize Cure Light Wounds just as well as a cleric, and since Spontaneous Casting doesn't happen for a few more years until Third Edition comes out, it makes no difference at this point.
    You can ditch them for whoever you want later on.


    Oh, and Viconaia's spell resistance does indeed work on everything, both good and bad.
     
  6. dmc

    dmc Speak softly and carry a big briefcase Staff Member Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!)

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    It impacts spells cast on her, not spells she casts, so she'll be able to heal your crew just fine. The problem is healing herself. I think potions work fine, IIRC.
     
  7. SlickRCBD Gems: 24/31
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    Potions work just fine. Use them to heal her reliably in a fight, outside a fight you can usually rest so don't waste potions, just heal with renewable resources (spells) and rest.
     
  8. dcc74 Gems: 2/31
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    Shar-Teel won’t be able to use at least one of Drizzt’s scimitars, maybe both, due to her evil nature. Jaheira can, though, and maybe (?) Coran as well.

    Doesn’t Shar-Teel start with 1-2 slots in small swords? If that’s indeed the case, perhaps you should give her the Dagger of Venom...and Drizzt’s chain mail - a rogue can hide in shadows using that armor IIRC.
     
  9. jiansonz Gems: 2/31
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    I think Larloch's Minor Drain is just great for this particular fight. Scout with Monty (or Imoen), leave Xzar just outside Tarnesh's view. Have Monty move up behind Tarnesh. Try to time it so as many guards as possible are close by.

    Start off with a backstab attempt (sometimes you get lucky with both to-hit and damage rolls, and then it's game over Tarnesh), then bring in Xzar and have him pump Larloch's Minor Drains. Imoen and main character should now move in and attack with ranged weapons, but make sure they (and/or Xzar) are as far as possible from each other so if a Horror goes off, it won't hit all of them.

    If Xzar's timing is right, he'll disrupt Horror or Mirror Image and then you are close to winning.
    If Imoen has a Wand of Magic Missiles (IIRC, that happened sometimes in Vanilla. Hm, who did she filch that one from?), she can attack at the same time as Xzar.
     
  10. Yoshimo's Heart Gems: 13/31
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    Actually I believe you can sleep outside at the Friendly Arms Inn so I believe you can rest to change spells if needed.
     
  11. SlickRCBD Gems: 24/31
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    Does he only trigger for the Bhaalspawn? Because just about every time I've done that fight I've had a hard time keeping him from triggering both the mirror image and horror spells which seem to get cast impossibly fast (without a high level Contingency or Horror). I'm going from memory, because it has been a few years since I've played BG1. I've picked up a bunch of old games in the last couple years at the library "book sales" and have been playing other things I never got to play in the past.
    I haven't been able to backstab him before he gets off his mirror image. I'll have to try it the next time I play, although I just got a new computer and am playing a new game on it.

    Well, technically you can't sleep outside on the FAI map, but you can sleep outside in ANY of the surrounding maps.
     
  12. MrMermaid

    MrMermaid Reality is merely an illusion, albeit persistent Resourceful

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    I've never had major issues nailing him with missiles to interrupt his nasty spells. Occasionally one gets through but it's dealt with as suggested above: spread the party out.

    Also I believe any character can trigger the conversation.


    My recollection is that one can sleep anywhere on the FAI map! :D That's very kind of those guards!
     
  13. MrMermaid

    MrMermaid Reality is merely an illusion, albeit persistent Resourceful

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    A short report back on my OP. The dual classing cheese shenanigans of BG2 are strictly verboten in BG1 vanilla (so my plan was based on a recollection from Tutu): no 4 stars in one weapon when dualling into Fighter, and no extra stars in existing weapon when dualling from Fighter (á la Anomen). Sorry guys. Looks like no grandmastery, and the best class is a plain ol' Fighter (7) -> Mage (8).
     
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    The thread says "strongest vanilla character", but it IS possible to edit one of the .2DA files to allow multi-class grand mastery using NearInfinity (or extract it with Infinity Explorer and use your favorite editor, such as 2DAEdit).
    I know I kinda got cute with that, and made it so that a multi-class fighter can get grand mastery in any weapon that can be used by all of his classes.
     
  15. MrMermaid

    MrMermaid Reality is merely an illusion, albeit persistent Resourceful

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    Very cute! We all wish it were true...

    Just booted up the GOG version, and confirmed that you can rest anywhere on the FAI map.

    Moreover, with a plain Fighter (18 DEX and a Comp. L. Bow) and Imoen, I was able to rapidly pick up Kivan from High Hedge, zoom straight to FAI, and there turn Tarnesh into a cute pink pincushion without fail (I reloaded and re-tried several times to confirm). Three bows shooting arrows is enough APR to disrupt his spells, and he's only got about 13 HP. Maybe that's a more effective path than going straight to the Inn?
     
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    I never got around to learning to make a WEIDU installer, but I could upload the .2DA file to the files section with the versions for BG1, BG2, and I think IWD1.
    Note that when I said "all his classes", that meant that the poor C/F/M was limited to staves and slings for grand mastery. He could still take two pips in other weapons as normal while a F/M/T can only get grand mastery in mage weapons, since I can't recall any weapons a mage can use that a fighter or thief can not.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2018
  17. SlickRCBD Gems: 24/31
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    Edit, looks like I remembered wrong. The mod I made was for Baldur's Gate II. It is all or nothing in Baldur's Gate I unless you use Tutu or Trilogy.
    It is easy to change the Profsmax.2da to allow mutli-class grand mastery in BG1 and IWD1, but the file is ignored in BG2 in favor of weapprof.2da, which is what I modified to get the above effect.
    Sorry, the mod was made almost 15 years ago, and it has been around 5 years since I last played plain vanilla BG1. My last run I finally tried Tutu and found out that the Totemic Druid actually is useful at BG1 levels even if the summons are weak by the time you get to BG2 levels.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2018
  18. Yoshimo's Heart Gems: 13/31
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    I thought that was the case with resting at the FAI. Yea you can go get Kivan and there are other characters you can grab quickly if you are really worried such as a certain dwarf and a bard (though that also requires a fight). That being said I find that if you prepare yourself before hand by having all your archers ready at close range a main character, Imoen, Xzar, and Montaron you should be able to beat him. That first time though he makes for a nasty surprise that is for sure.
     
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    Yeah, If you're heading over to Beregost first to pick up some npc's you should definitely pick up Kagain while you're there, he's the best tank in the game imho.
    Picking up Garrick early on is pretty tough, unless you bring a potion of absorption - during the fight with silke she fires off a lightning bolt at the start of combat that can easily wipe a low level character.
    Traveling one area north of the FAI allows you to pick up ajantis as well, though you probably don't want to run around the area too much lest you get eaten by an ankheg.
     
  20. Dranalis DeAealth

    Dranalis DeAealth Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc Veteran

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    Just have Xzar blast magic users at the start of combat with Larloch's Minor Drain. Useless as a damage spell, superb as an interruption spell because of how quickly it can be cast. Particularly with Silkie, you shouldn't really have any problem after he's fired that off, as you're given the opportunity to get your fighters surrounding her before talking with her. She'll be taking too many melee hits to cast anything else.
     
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