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Nobear

Mechanical differences between A1, A2, and A3?

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Hi guys,

 

I've come back to Avernum (with the A3 remake) after a few years. I remember this was a very helpful community.

 

I stubbornly insist to play only on Torment, even as I'm relearning all the details I'd forgotten from before. I'm also loathe to use the Character Editor (except possibly for testing purposes). I've found there are things it can't even fix, such as failing to cap a skill before using relevant trainers, knowledge crystals, or certain quest rewards that I didn't notice except in hindsight (e.g. Hardiness and Lethal Blow). Let's just say I've restarted the game several times so far in order to tweak things about my builds. I tend to get to my low 20s, after defeating the slime and roach plagues, before I notice some other mechanical detail and my perfectionism demands I start over lol.

 

I've read both Randomizer's and Clintone's advice, as linked to from the A3 Strategy Central. I found it generally good. However, despite their both stressing that Endurance should be considered a secondary attribute, I found myself frequently having trouble hitting things even maintaining a 2:1 ratio of primary stat to Endurance (total). I realized I had put maybe 5 points in Endurance by my low 20s, and can't help but wonder how much better off I might be having put even those 5 points into my primary attribute. It seems the times I've had trouble hitting stuff — and wasted resources and/or died in a protracted battle — have far outweighed the times I've been unavoidably one-shot. Or perhaps I could get by with the same 2:1 ratio if I kept up with the primary attribute traits, instead of postponing them in favor of others.

 

Anyway, with all of this relearning and increased build planning, I'm wondering what specific mechanics have stayed the same in A3 compared to A1, and which have changed. One basic question: is Mariecury's A1 analysis (formerly known as Slartibus I believe?) still a good reference for A3, with few enough changed details to make this convenient as a starting point?

 

Here are some of my observations and questions on what has changed (or not), mechanically. Feel free to correct me or add to this list.

 

  1. According to Mariecury's A1 analysis, the base dual wielding penalty was 20% in A1. The tooltip from A3 says it's 35%. Is this correct? If so, dual wielding starts off being a net DPA (Damage Per Action) loss unless your modified hit chance is sufficiently close to 95%. If your hit chance would otherwise barely be 95%, it's 60% dual wielding. Let's say it's super early game and you have no % damage bonuses. Then instead of doing (.95)(1) = 95% of (damage levels )(base weapon die average) DPA, you'd be doing (2)(.60)(.65) = 78%. Dual wielding only starts off being a net DPA gain if your modified hit chance is at least 75%, which means you'd otherwise have a 95% hit chance with 15% to spare: (2)(.75)(.65) = 97.5% of (damage levels )(base weapon die average) DPA. So a good rule of thumb is that if you're not seeing at least 75% hit chance from your dual wielder, they may be better off using a sword and shield until they get more % damage bonuses, which — regardless of source — make the dual wielding damage penalty less significant.
  2. Six new spells have been added. Priest: Curse the Land, Rain of Curses, Bless the Land. Mage: Pool of Fire, Pool of Ice, Pool of Corruption. Were any spells replaced? Some of the requirements have been adjusted, like Mass Healing and Mass Curing require 9 now instead of 8. Shouldn't affect the viability of hybrid (priest minor) builds much, right?
  3. I forget what bonus humans had before. I assume it wasn't extra traits, since Mariecury's A1 analysis doesn't mention that. 8 additional good traits would make humans the clear winner, but what do people think? Are there not 8 traits left after the first 16 good enough for humans to be the clear winner in practice?
  4. Mariecury mentioned the Quicksilver Bulwark, Quicksilver Sandals, Runed Plate, and Robe of the Magi as reasons not to take Swordmage. Apparently the Quicksilver Bulwark didn't reduce hit chance in A1 (this OP-ness vaguely rings a bell), but in A3 it does according to Randomizer's list. I'm ok with A3 spoilers, as I've played the original, but I'm rusty on some specifics. Is it doable (and not suicide on Torment) to get into Gale and buy the Runed Plate significantly earlier than you're "supposed to," in order to make not having Swordmage less painful? Or is Swordmage considered less of a waste now, especially as a human with 8 extra trait points to throw around? I've certainly enjoyed having it in early-midgame.
  5. It seems gold is a lot less scarce in A3 than in A1. It's still a resource I find I have to budget throughout early-midgame, but with the amount of gold available from conventional sources as well as delivery quests, is it now reasonable to expect that I'll eventually be able to have it all — all that gold can buy, at least? Or would that either be impossible or involve long, boring periods full of only delivery quests?
  6. Randomizer and others have listed max requirements for Tool Use, Arcane Lore, Nature Lore, and Vahnatai Lore, but what about Luck? There are certain special encounters where it seems you only find an item if you have a certain amount of Luck. Is this cumulative across the party like TU, AL, or NL, or does it have to be all on one character?
  7. Challenger still seems to do nothing, not from a short test, but from hours of gameplay where the tank had between 0 and 3 levels. With or without it, I find most enemies will go out of their way to hit and follow my dex-based archer tank when I start a fight sending her 5 spaces ahead, and have my backstabbing strength-based fighter move up only one space. I wait for my tank to be surrounded. I find this works for most enemies, but some won't nicely surround the tank, and some will specifically target other party members. I just haven't noticed Challenger play any role in how enemies behave, regardless of range.
  8. Does XP work basically the same way as in A1, meaning that rounding makes the XP traits useless in most cases?
  9. Randomizer includes the following sentence in his A3 advice post: "You still get assignable stats and skill points until level 35 when they are now every 5th level." Remind me: is this the same or different from how A1 and A2 worked? Because it seems that A1 builds were made with level 30 in mind. If I should expect an additional 5 levels of skill points, this could fundamentally change my builds.
Edited by Nobear
to properly link to the first page of the A1 analysis

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10. Friendly fire on Hard and Torment. Ha! This definitely helps contribute to difficulty in an interesting way, one that forces a change in tactics.

 

The reason I'm laughing is that the AI hasn't been updated to try to avoid friendly fire. One of the tougher quests I've attempted so far is the Kriszan Province one where you have to help a drake lord against other drakes. First, you'd think drakes would be smart enough not to keep breathing fire at each other when they're immune to it. Second, you'd think they'd be smart enough to try to avoid killing their own minions and allies in the process of being engaged in the first idiocy. The trick to that quest may well be to get the heck out of the way, and cross your fingers that the drake lord can handle his competition without you lol. I've tried making sure I'm nowhere near LOS between them. But if an enemy drake's often fire-immune minion comes out my way, my friend the drake lord will still turn around to breathe on it, killing me and usually giving the enemy minion a quite pleasant sauna.

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11. Are there any changes I should know about to the skills, or to avoidance? I seem to remember a 20% hit floor, but I forget which game(s) it was from. I think it was an attempt to make avoidance tank builds unviable, because they are pretty OP with a 5% hit floor.

 

Guess what kind of tank I have? The same cheesy dex-based avoidance kind, a front-liner whose weapon of choice is a bow and arrow. Sure, when exactly 9 enemies are in play, all perfectly surrounding her, she can't use her bow. I mean she could blink out with her Vahnatai crystal, but her main job is tanking, not drop-in-the-bucket pew-pewing. But she can definitely help take out high-value ranged targets, and sometimes she'll move and shoot when few enemies are left. She uses Blade Sweep to such great effect that I'm fine having everyone else get Adrenaline Rush before her.

 

As I mentioned before, I've started the game over several times, but I've been consistent in the kind of tank I like Azshandine to be. Thing is, she'll at least do something with her bow just from having high Dex, but the question is how I want to specialize her. The way I see it, every 10 levels is a chance to get 10 in two skills. By level 10, she can have 8+2 Melee Weapons and 10+ Hardiness, with a couple points for utility skills like Tool Use. By level 20, 10+ Parry and... it's already wide open. In various iterations, I've gone for Riposte, Quick Action, and/or Lethal Blow, but I'm thinking I could do better. Riposte doesn't reduce damage at all, right? And it's an independent roll, so it has no effect on how often you're hit or missed? You can either be hit, evade, or parry and also riposte?

 

I think it would make sense to have her minor either in archery or in priest spells. For archery, what's the priority of skills for damage? I'd have to get Bows 8+2, then what? Sharpshooter and... Lethal Blow? Or Sniper? Do the old complaints about Sniper still stand to the same degree? Personal prejudice aside, which two skills would most efficiently compliment Bows for damage? Or if she minored in priest spells, she could still hit with a bow like she does currently, get up to Mass Healing/Curing, and get Resistance O.o.

 

This is all thinking of level 30 as the cap for skills. But if skill points continue to be regularly available until level 35 (see #9), that means either maxing out another combat skill, or maybe maxing Luck and getting some First Aid... but I'd have to plan for that kind of thing. And that's just one party member.

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A lot of the answers to these questions can be found using the search function on the forums.  Some of them you can just look up in the game yourself (i.e., what spells were removed between games).  For the less obvious ones, here is what I can give you off the top of my head:

 

6 hours ago, Nobear said:

One basic question: is Mariecury's A1 analysis (formerly known as Slartibus I believe?) still a good reference for A3, with few enough changed details to make this convenient as a starting point?

 

Most of the principles still apply, and the majority of game mechanics are unchanged.  So in those realms it is a good starting point.  The flow of the games are not identical, however.  In A:EFTP you could pretty easily explore almost all friendly settlements and map locations at the start, with little danger.  Neither A2:CS nor A3:RW are quite the same.

 

6 hours ago, Nobear said:

1. According to Mariecury's A1 analysis, the base dual wielding penalty was 20% in A1. The tooltip from A3 says it's 35%. Is this correct?

 

Yes, Jeff nerfed dual wielding as of A2:CS in two ways: changing the base penalty from -20% to -35% (which has a bigger impact on early game than late game), and removing or nerfing two incredibly strong weapons with bonuses that aided both hands (a flaming sword, and a sword with an insanely high Blademaster bonus) (which has a big impact on the late game).

 

6 hours ago, Nobear said:

3. I forget what bonus humans had before. I assume it wasn't extra traits, since Mariecury's A1 analysis doesn't mention that. 8 additional good traits would make humans the clear winner, but what do people think? Are there not 8 traits left after the first 16 good enough for humans to be the clear winner in practice?

 

If we're talking about the same analysis, it absolutely mentions this.  That hasn't changed, and humans are still the clear winner, though someone (Clintone I think?) made a good argument for using nephils in specific builds in A3:RW.

 

6 hours ago, Nobear said:

4. Mariecury mentioned the Quicksilver Bulwark, Quicksilver Sandals, Runed Plate, and Robe of the Magi as reasons not to take Swordmage... Or is Swordmage considered less of a waste now, especially as a human with 8 extra trait points to throw around?

 

Swordmage was never a complete waste, at least not the first few levels -- it just wasn't necessary in A:EFTP.  It is more useful in A3:RW.

 

6 hours ago, Nobear said:

5. It seems gold is a lot less scarce in A3 than in A1. It's still a resource I find I have to budget throughout early-midgame, but with the amount of gold available from conventional sources as well as delivery quests, is it now reasonable to expect that I'll eventually be able to have it all — all that gold can buy, at least?

 

Yes.  This was actually true of the most recent version of A:EFTP as well -- Jeff initially set the second-level spell and training purchase prices much higher on the Mac version, which came out a month or two before the PC version IIRC.  It now doesn't do that on any platforms.  Negotiator is still important in A:EFTP but you can be less picky there.  A3:RW does theoretically have infinite money, so you could skip Negotiator, but that would slow things down for long enough that I wouldn't consider it worthwhile.

 

6 hours ago, Nobear said:

8. Does XP work basically the same way as in A1, meaning that rounding makes the XP traits useless in most cases?

 

XP does work the same way, but the flow of the game is a little different, in particular how easy or hard it is to hit level 30 and how easy or hard it is to gain levels past that.  They aren't a high priority, but if you get them early they do generate a reasonable amount of experience.  There is a thread somewhere on A2:CS where I tested this.

 

3 hours ago, Nobear said:

11. I think it would make sense to have her minor either in archery or in priest spells. For archery, what's the priority of skills for damage? I'd have to get Bows 8+2, then what? Sharpshooter and... Lethal Blow? Or Sniper? Do the old complaints about Sniper still stand to the same degree? Personal prejudice aside, which two skills would most efficiently compliment Bows for damage? Or if she minored in priest spells, she could still hit with a bow like she does currently, get up to Mass Healing/Curing, and get Resistance O.o.

 

The old complaints about Sniper absolutely still stand.  If for some reason you are playing on Torment but not hasting your party all the time, then Sniper could have a use.  It makes a much weaker contribution if you are going to have haste up anyway.  Clintone did a good analysis arguing in favor of Sniper, but I think he would agree with me that it is not worth skipping Sharpshooter in favor of more Sniper.  I'd take Lethal Blow over Sniper as well.

 

Resistance is terrific and amazing and a good reason to minor in priest spells.  But I suppose it depends on whether you really want to use an archer as your primary damage dealer, or take the more traditional (and IMO much more effective) multi-spellcaster bombardment strategy.

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Thanks for the answers you gave. I still have an interest primarily in #6 (Luck) and #9* (whether assignable skill points keep coming at the same rate until level 30 or 35). Luck is hard to search for in forums, because it's a commonly-used word. #9 I suppose I could ask Randomizer to clarify on his post, just wanted to have this all in one place.

 

On 7/12/2018 at 7:46 AM, Meriecury said:

Resistance is terrific and amazing and a good reason to minor in priest spells.  But I suppose it depends on whether you really want to use an archer as your primary damage dealer, or take the more traditional (and IMO much more effective) multi-spellcaster bombardment strategy.

 

Aside from my dex-based tank, the rest of my party consists of a dual-wielding backstabber, and a standard mage and priest. I know it would probably be more optimal for late game (with Cloak of the Arcane) to replace the dual wielder with another mage, but I find my dual-wielder to be very satisfying as her hit chance, % damage, and weapons improve. It just makes me happy when she sneaks up behind three huge cockroaches around the tank and takes down all three in a flurry of blades with AR :P.

 

I'm thinking my tank will never be the ideal archer anyway, given that she can't shoot in melee range, which means there are turns where she'll do no damage with archery no matter what skills she has. I think having her minor in priest spells is probably the way I'll go, so she can do things like Unshackle the priest when needed, and eventually gain Resistance.

 

*Update: I did confirm #9 to my satisfaction on Randomizer's post. So with 73 skill points to work with at level 35, after Melee Weapons, Hardiness and Parry, I could potentially have my tank get 10+ in Bows, Sharpshooter, Lethal Blow, and 9 in Priest spells and still have 8 points left. I could put 2 in Tool Use, 1 in Nature Lore (I'm a completionist), and max out Luck. Or I could go the Resistance route, and I'll get her 8+2 Bows either way. Side benefit: no cost to getting AR.

 

But with the extra skill points I wasn't taking into account before, I could just have everyone minor in priest spells lol. I'll have to figure out what extra to get for my priest. Parry? First aid?

 

Edited by Nobear

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On 7/12/2018 at 1:38 AM, Nobear said:

7. Challenger still seems to do nothing, not from a short test, but from hours of gameplay where the tank had between 0 and 3 levels. With or without it, I find most enemies will go out of their way to hit and follow my dex-based archer tank when I start a fight sending her 5 spaces ahead, and have my backstabbing strength-based fighter move up only one space. I wait for my tank to be surrounded. I find this works for most enemies, but some won't nicely surround the tank, and some will specifically target other party members. I just haven't noticed Challenger play any role in how enemies behave, regardless of range.

 

I just finished an A2:CS playthrough and I have noticed no difference between how challenger works. That said, challenger DOES WORK in both A1 and A2. There are different AI's for different enemies and I think that plays a large factor in if it works or not. It would seem many late-game human enemies seem to be resistant to challenger. Challenger is very hard to test since it only has a chance of proc'ing and no one is quite sure what the success rate is.

Edited by GiantFriendlyTalkingSpiderman

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On 7/13/2018 at 3:19 PM, GiantFriendlyTalkingSpiderman said:

 

I just finished an A2:CS playthrough and I have noticed no difference between how challenger works. That said, challenger DOES WORK in both A1 and A2. There are different AI's for different enemies and I think that plays a large factor in if it works or not. It would seem many late-game human enemies seem to be resistant to challenger. Challenger is very hard to test since it only has a chance of proc'ing and no one is quite sure what the success rate is.

 

Thing is, I'm not personally convinced that this chance of proc'ing you speak of isn't just part of the AI. Some enemies, such as most archers, seem to have a preference for backrow characters, but will occasionally hit front row ones. If I had to make an educated guess, enemy AI may be based largely on party order. I'd have to test this by switching party order. It seems the majority of enemies — especially melee ones — will prefer the first party member. I've even seen bandits knock back the tank, and their allies will pursue her quite a distance, even getting slowed by other party members to obsessively pursue her. Then there are enemies like the Ice Worm (ridiculously OP for its location btw, easily accessible at level 1, deals over 100 Cold damage and acts first unless you go back at much higher level) which have never failed to target the second party member in my experience.

Edited by Nobear

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Challenger is definitely proximity based. It never seems to effect range enemies in my experience and the description explicitly states, "nearby foes".

If I had to guess why the Ice wyrm is immune, it's probably because it's too high level a creature. Try fighting one again with challenger at level 3.

I do have to wonder if late game enemies are totally above Challenger. Since I got to the final areas in A2:CS Challenger has completely stopped making any notable difference. As always however, it's hard to be certain how much a difference it ever made.

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According to this post

 

http://spiderwebforums.ipbhost.com/topic/24070-lets-all-play-avernum-3/?tab=comments#comment-300921

 

Challenger does work, and based on the description, it seems pretty hard to argue with.

 

17 hours ago, Nobear said:

If I had to make an educated guess, enemy AI may be based largely in party order. I'd have to test this...

 

And you'd have to rule out an awful lot of other explanations for the way the AI targets.  Character proximity, HP, armor/resistance... things which all correlate with party order, and which the game might well check for.  It wouldn't make any sense for targeting to be "based largely" on party order.  As a tiebreaker, maybe.

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5 hours ago, Meriecury said:

According to this post

 

http://spiderwebforums.ipbhost.com/topic/24070-lets-all-play-avernum-3/?tab=comments#comment-300921

 

Challenger does work, and based on the description, it seems pretty hard to argue with.

 

 

And you'd have to rule out an awful lot of other explanations for the way the AI targets.  Character proximity, HP, armor/resistance... things which all correlate with party order, and which the game might well check for.  It wouldn't make any sense for targeting to be "based largely" on party order.  As a tiebreaker, maybe.

 

I read that post. It seems like a good basic test design, except it's a small sample size and doesn't rule out other factors. Among them, party order and race. Those might seem like silly factors that couldn't possibly have an impact, but you've gotta rule them out nonetheless.

 

I am open to the possibility that Challenger does something. I suppose for me, in deciding whether to invest 3 trait points in it, my standard is whether I notice a difference in practice. So far I haven't. Without it, the majority of melee enemies I've found nicely surround my tank when I send her at least four spaces ahead of anyone else, and use the first round to buff. When I send in my dual-wielding backstabber to AR some of them in the second round, if any of the ones she hit are still alive, they will turn around to attack her. Also, if a caster hits enemies that are not nicely surrounding the tank, any surviving enemies among those will typically target the caster. I'm fine with those mechanics. They make sense to me. And I don't believe 3 Challenger prevented them from occurring, although to be 100% certain I'd have to double-check.

 

Conversely, when I had Challenger and I really wanted it to work, it didn't. So in my experience, whatever effect it may have has been a) unnecessary for the majority of melee enemies, and b) ineffective against ranged enemies or ones with atypical AI.

Edited by Nobear

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8 hours ago, Nobear said:

I read that post. It seems like a good basic test design, except it's a small sample size and doesn't rule out other factors. Among them, party order and race. Those might seem like silly factors that couldn't possibly have an impact, but you've gotta rule them out nonetheless.

 

Then I invite you to do so.  You're right that, technically, those factors were not ruled out given how that test was conducted.  But there is zero evidence suggesting they need to be ruled out.  In particular, I note that after eight and a half years of this series existing, you are the only person I am aware of who has claimed to observe enemy targeting based on party order.  Don't you think it's very unlikely that this would seem so obvious to you, yet nobody else would ever notice it happening?

 

Without rigorous empirical testing, the more plausible explanation for what you observed is this one.  You are talking about an outdoor encounter.  Party order correlates 100% with initial placement in outdoor encounters.  You also note that the ice worm acts first.  What seems likely to me is that, given the initial placement, the first two characters are the ones closest to it, and some other factor makes it prefer your second character over your first character as a target.  (Or maybe the second is actually always closest?  I don't remember the range of possible starting locations for the ice worm, but if it is just a square right of the middle, the second PC would indeed always be the closest character to it.)

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