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Playing a deliberately challenged party; anyone doing it?


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I don't mean Singleton playthroughs; that's beyond me. I just mean a party that is far from optimal, on Normal setting. I've spent many an hour poring through these forums, and know all about what's optimal (hint: non-melee, non-ranged). But I've now beaten the game w/ the default party, and want to try something different.

 

For example:

 

1) Dual Wield fighter (never played one in an Avernum; nerfed a little since A:EFTP I understand);

2) Archer (yes, I know!!!);

3) Sword & Shield fighter (just too many fun swords in the game, and some nice shields to boot);

4) and here's the crazy one: a single spellcaster (Priest/Mage).

 

All human b/c I'll need every single trait I can scrape up. Obviously 2 & 4 are problematic, but again, the point is to have fun w/ a 2nd playthrough w/ different characters. Simply boosting the difficulty setting by itself is not what I want, nor do I want 3-4 spellcasters (which is optimal), just b/c I like the variety of a more "traditional" group of PCs.

 

Anybody doing something like this?

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Dual Wielding is the strongest form of melee in the game, so for a deliberate challenge you might want a pole user or another sword and shield user. That said, Dual Wielding is pretty fun and there are more interesting swords in the game than there are spears and halberds.

 

Normal difficulty isn't that hard, so you could easily use a nephil or slith (or both) as one of your melee fighters or archer.

 

Dikiyoba.

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It's so weird that you call that a "deliberately challenged party". That is pretty close to what I've played on torment, on every game from Avernum 1-6 and A:EFTP and now A2:CS (the only differences are that the first character is a pole/missile weapon user, which makes it even less optimal, the second one is an archer/melee weapon user, again less optimal, the third is a full priest, and the fourth is a full mage).

 

I think the "Archery sucks and is useless, why bother with melee since magic is far superior" mindset is influencing a lot of people and how they play these games. I cannot imagine how ridiculously easy the game would be on torment with 3-4 mages/priests, let alone how easy it would be on normal! I'm all for min-maxing stats (to some extent, since I am currently trying to keep strength and dexterity somewhat even on my fighter and archer), and I really cannot see a point to giving a priest or mage anything other than intelligence, but playing the same tired "one tank, 3 mage/priests" just because you've been told that everything else sucks kind of....sucks. I mean, are people even trying to play with the party that they really want (before finding that the game is impossible with that group even on normal), or is the "one tank, three mage/priests" the hot party that everyone really wants to play? Because if the second scenario is the true one, then that's all good and dandy, but I doubt that that's the case.

 

I just couldn't play a game a certain way just because the consensus is that that is the way to play it. I have to have my party the same every time, because I role-play to some extent. Hell, the only reason I come close to min-maxing is just because it seems to be the sensible way to do it, role-playing wise (why would a fighter train in intelligence if he/she never learns spells, and why would I dump a couple of points into strength for a spellcaster who sits at the back and casts spells all the time?).

 

My group as it is would mop the floor with the game on normal and hard difficulty. It's coming close to mopping the floor even on torment, now that I have gotten past Dark Waters. It is in no way handicapped, not in my opinion. Just my 2 cents.

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I like giving party members specific roles. Feels more like a classic fantasy story than everybody being amazing at everything.

 

Right now I have.

 

1) Swordfighter tank.

 

2) Archer, with a little bit of pole weapons skill as a backup. Further nerfed in combat since he has most of the tool use and cave lore. That being said, archers are actually pretty fun to use. Landing two ranged shots a turn is pretty cool, plus the occasional curse, and the high dex means that enough attacks miss him that he makes a decent secondary tank.

 

3) Dedicated priest.

 

4) Dedicated mage.

 

There are only a few exceptions to their niche roles. I took 1 point in priest skills for the fighter and archer so they could minor heal and cure. The priest/mage both took sword skill to unlock hardiness and battle disciplines, but their strength is so low they can't actually use swords in combat. And of course, I'm buying as many skills for everybody as trainers will provide.

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I like giving party members specific roles. Feels more like a classic fantasy story than everybody being amazing at everything.

 

Right now I have.

 

1) Swordfighter tank.

 

2) Archer, with a little bit of pole weapons skill as a backup. Further nerfed in combat since he has most of the tool use and cave lore. That being said, archers are actually pretty fun to use. Landing two ranged shots a turn is pretty cool, plus the occasional curse, and the high dex means that enough attacks miss him that he makes a decent secondary tank.

 

3) Dedicated priest.

 

4) Dedicated mage.

 

There are only a few exceptions to their niche roles. I took 1 point in priest skills for the fighter and archer so they could minor heal and cure. The priest/mage both took sword skill to unlock hardiness and battle disciplines, but their strength is so low they can't actually use swords in combat. And of course, I'm buying as many skills for everybody as trainers will provide.

I'm doing something similar for my first A2:CS playthrough, except with a slith polefighter instead of a swordfighter, and nephil specializing in thrown weapons rather than archery (although he does just fine with a bow backup when he wants to conserve thrown ammo, due to high DEX). I'm playing on torment, and so far it's going fine.

 

In response to the original post: in general, I find that if you're playing with four characters, you really don't need to go with the absolute optimal, MIN-MAXED party, even on torment. Four characters gives you enough flexibility to have a bit of fun. You do still need to think carefully about stat allocations, to make sure each character is effective at their assigned role, but you don't need a 4 magic, or 1 tank+3 magic party.

 

Oh, and thanks for for the Anama party shout out, Triumph! I'm hoping to do one in A2:CS as my next playthrough.

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This leads into one of my problems with these forums. Certain posters figure out the absolutely most effective party possible and then complain that things are too easy or certain skills are not useful and intentionally or not come out very negative towards the game. It can easily seem to new users/lurkers who are just trying out Jeff's games that they are not any fun to play.

 

Stepping down from my soap box, I am currently at Level 25 in A:CS on normal. I have a Human Sword/shield with bow for ranged attack, a Slith Pole User with bow for ranged, a nephil priest with bow and a human mage with bow. The first two emphasize Str, with Dex and End half of Str, the second two emphasize Int with Dex and End half of Int. I have used battle disciplines two or three times total. I am overly cautious on expending spell points, and I have first aid to help me recover between fights so that I do not have to keep returning to town, and I hoard consumables without expending them to a point that it could probably be considered a mental difficulty. The most important thing is that I am enjoying the game.

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Counter-soapbox here, guys. As one of those "certain posters", I certainly do post about what's efficient or optimal. But I've never suggested that you can't enjoy the games in other ways. And I frankly resent the suggestion that anyone has. No one tries to push anything on anyone; it's just a matter of sharing what's been discovered and observed about the game. So I find it pretty frustrating that there are "certain other posters" ;) who seem to take matter-of-fact statements about what the game balance is like, as some kind of an attack.

 

There is no "mindset" that "bows suck and are useless". (And since I actually went to the trouble of making a remix of the previous game that highlighted skills like bows, think I've put my money where my mouth is on that one.) What there is, rather, is close analysis of different attacks which led to the conclusion that bows are underpowered or suboptimal. Not a mindset, an analysis. Optimal tactics are not required to beat the game, even on Torment (though on Torment they do help) -- and they certainly aren't required to enjoy the game.

 

Some people enjoy optimization. Some people enjoy trying unique tactics. Some people enjoy role playing their characters. Some people enjoy two, or all three, or something else, or none of them at all. When somebody talks about one modality of playing, it's not an attack on any other.

 

The forum is better for having all types of players. Even if you don't like optimization, you presumably like the more widely-consumed fruits of the optimizers -- all the Strategy Central threads that collect and sort and compare all the stuff in the game. Similarly, I enjoy reading descriptions of games where someone has taken an RP approach to their characters, even though I don't tend to do that. SW games have always had custom-made characters and lopsided balance, always, from the most beloved game to the least. It's a part of them, and it's a part of these forums. We should be welcoming discussion of all those elements of the games.

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The only PC I'm nervous about is the single spellcaster, priest/mage. I've pretty much always played the Avernum games w/ separate priests & mages, and the dedicated priest to save my bacon in a tough fight while the mage pours out damage. Having a (non-hasted etc.) PC have to choose between 1 or the other might be tricky, but I'm willing to try for the novelty of it (for me, anyway). Since that PC will also be responsible for Arcane Lore, I think that means my spell progression is going to be slower than otherwise would happen, so I'll have to make the most of what I get, when I get it.

 

Unless I compromise on the Archer (giving him sword skills to get some Hardiness), that PC is also in danger of taking frequent dirt naps, so that'll be another challenge for me. Again though, this is just an exercise in trying something different than I typically do. Hopefully the novelty won't wear off.

 

Thanks for the comments.

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Actually, Slartibus, I really didn't mean to say that you are causing people to have the "This sucks and is suboptimal" mindset (I don't really think you ever said anything "sucked", I am just referring to a thread that mentions asks "Is archery still useless" or something like that, but I do understand why you would think it was an attack against you). I understand that you are just analyzing the mechanics of the game and reporting your findings. It is just that other people are reading this analysis and prematurely coming to the conclusion that certain things suck. There are more than a couple of threads (like this one) that seem to think that something other than 3-4 spellcasters is not a very viable party. The analysis is coming from you, the mindset is coming from some players that actually abandon the way they initially started playing the game in favor of a more optimal party composition.

 

I know that it is always the choice of the player how they want to play the game, but far too many people seem to be taking the optimal route and possibly compromising their enjoyment of the game. I can imagine that someone who is even a little decent at roleplaying games would be able to skate through the game with 3-4 spellcasters on normal difficulty and claim that the game is too easy and that it was boring, when I imagine that that is not how Jeff Vogel intended the games to be played (why would he give you the option of melee and archery if this was the case?). I apologize if you took my post as an attack, as I really do enjoy reading your analyses, and the information that you, Lilith, and Randomizer (and others that I probably forgot) compile is helpful for a completionist-type like me.

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Counter-soapbox here, guys. As one of those "certain posters", I certainly do post about what's efficient or optimal. But I've never suggested that you can't enjoy the games in other ways.

 

 

I don't think there's a right or wrong way to play the game. One of the great things about these games is that you can set your difficulty beyond just picking the difficulty setting. How many characters to play, how optimized to make them, how frugal you are with mana/scrolls/potions, what level you tackle different challenges at, etc. There are infinite difficulty levels.

 

And even if you're not going for 100% optimization, it's still interesting and useful to learn how to do it. My party isn't particularly optimized but I've definitely incorporated some useful tricks I've learned here like getting adrenaline rush and hardiness for my casters. Plus, it's fun to learn how other people are playing, even if you're doing things differently. I've definitely appreciated reading all the different strategies here.

 

 

Unless I compromise on the Archer (giving him sword skills to get some Hardiness), that PC is also in danger of taking frequent dirt naps, so that'll be another challenge for me. Again though, this is just an exercise in trying something different than I typically do. Hopefully the novelty won't wear off.

 

The archer will have the advantage of high dex, so a lot of attacks will miss them. You can use them as a sort of mediocre tank if need be, as long as you heal as necessary. They do take more damage when they get hit than casters or melee types do (since they have no hardiness or resistance), but that isn't too big a problem as long as you avoid letting them be the focus of all the attacks at once.

 

Also it isn't a bad idea to give your archer a little bit of melee skill and hardiness as a back up. You can use the sword or pole skill towards the battle disciplines anyway, even if their low strength keeps them from being too useful. My archer has about 6 points of pole and hardiness and they're often on the front lines alongside the swordsman.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just checking in to report that I finished my 2nd playthrough w/ this custom party just fine. I did get melee skills & hardiness for the archer, who survived just fine. Maybe it helped having already played the game, w/ copious notes (and great advice on these boards), but it was no more difficult than the 1st (default party) playthrough.

 

I think I'm going to replay A:EFTP w/ this kind of custom party now...

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  • 1 month later...

I play with the same party in different Avernum games, conceived to be most effective at first attack, to kill or damage the foes, shorten the fight and prevent foes to get harder to eliminate or to protect themselves with magic. I use a Berserker dual wielded, a Berserker with halberd, an Archer+Priest, and a Hedge Wizard. The settings make some big fights harder and longer at the distance, due to the fewer protection items used, but shorten most of the others. With regards to Archers, my experience is they are quite useful in combat because they finish the job. In fact I noticed that frequently the berserkers leave a portion of health level on their enemies, and they would be as dangerous on next turn, that's where the archer comes on the scene.

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  • 1 month later...

Well I think it's fun to have a really kick ass party, that's what I normally go for - but this time I've been trying to add a small amount of RP to my playthrough, which I usually don't do. To me it seems for whatever reason unrealistic that two specialized melee fighters end up grouped in with a specialized mage and specialized priest. Having a greater range of (weaker) skills feels more realistic to me, and then developing the PCs based on their backstory I find more satisfying for some reason. I also like having different skills to choose from during a battle.

 

I'm using a Rogue that dual wields, an Archer with mostly dex and some melee (half of bows), Hedge Wizard with equal mage/priest, and a Shaman with strong pole skills, weaker priest skills. So far the battles have been really challenging and fun, both due to the tactics differences and the characterization. The double healers feels a little too easy at times but otherwise I think it's great.

 

So the moral so far for me is that adding some imagination to my playthrough has made the game a lot more enjoyable, I recommend it heartily, whatever party build you are using.

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ROFL ... this is my exact party make-up, except instead of dual wielding, I'm using a polearm. Call me crazy, but too many hours playing WoW and dungeoning have warped me into believing that a sword-and-board tank, a polearm user, a hunter and a ranged caster are pretty much THE perfect raiding team. I've been handicapped a bit because of the split between mage and priest spells -- it's forced me to have my other guys pick up the slack with stuff like Arcane Lore and Cave Lore. But I'm walking through most things. Oh, and bows? My hunter regularly one- or two-shots most everything. ;)

 

Of note: I'm not doing Torment, at least not this run. I like to explore and enjoy first ... then comes torture. :D

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  • 2 weeks later...

You can play and win A2 without dual-wielding. One front-rank PC has a sword, the other has a pole-arm. Ditto, A1 can be played with the same make-up, don't know about the assassination of Hawthorne, I did not finish that.

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You can play and win pretty much any Spidweb game with a poorly-designed party, really. Jeff doesn't like making people get two-thirds of the way through the game and have to start over. It's bad for business. It becomes less feasible on higher difficulty levels of course, but really even on Torment min-maxing is for fun and challenge, not necessity, despite the impression one might sometimes get reading this message board.

 

As for me, I'm playing A1 with one dual-wielding fighter and one spellcaster. I'm having little trouble so far. I forget what difficulty I'm playing on though. I know I got a good way in on Normal difficulty, although it's possible I switched to Easy after the long forgot-what-I-was-doing break.

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