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Help inprove my RPG tactics
March 31, 2014 6:53 AM   Subscribe

Nethack, Baulders Gate, Never Winter Nights, Arcanum: I play hack/slash style (fighter, buff out the strength, biggest sword, best armor, run in and bash enemies). Help me to play other classes.

Brute force works, and in the combat oriented games is the easiest way to advance. Thus, that's the strategy I've taken.

I've ascended countless Valks in nethack (plus a very few barbarians, samurai, elf and ranger). I've gotten a wizard to the astral plane, but forgot finger-of-death does work on famine/pestilence (but not death), so died on the wrong altar.

For BG series, NWN, ID, Arcanum, I find it much easier to play a fighter and advance accordingly.

Planescape provided a nice change: yes there were fights, but you could also talk your way in/past/out of a lot of things (and use stealth easier/more effectively than in the other games). So I really enjoyed Planescape.

Otherwise, I've had bad luck with magic users and the other classes. They lack offense to hit enemies, have defensive restrictions (so no great AC), and if spell using, the power is so weak at the low levels, that I'll zap a bad guy, then run away to recover mana/spell points/etc to just lather-rinse-repeat.

So help me get some more mileage out of these games. How does one play other roles more effectively ?
posted by k5.user to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
In NWN, the trick to playing a wizard is to have at least one companion who's a fighter. You're vulnerable, but even in early levels you'll have defensive spells. One thing that's important is to rest between encounters so you'll get your spells back. As soon as you enter an area with monsters in it, cast defensive spells on yourself.

First, take the Spellcasting Prodigy feat. You can only take it at character creation - I know it's in NWN2 and I'm not sure about 1. For a wizard, you want to max out Intelligence as much as you can.

At the outset, you'll have level one spells. Level one defensive spells are Mage Armor and Shield. When fighting, let your companions do the actual combat while you hang back and cast spells. Playing as a wizard is frustrating in the early going, but eventually you become a complete beast.

Once you can cast level two spells, your defense will increase. In addition to the previous two spells, you will now want to have Cat's Grace and Endurance up. You can also do Summon Animal 1 now, so get that Dire Badger on your team - it's one more combatant between you and the enemies.

And go from there. Very quickly, your defense becomes comparable to an actual fighter, and you can also do comparable damage. The best advice I can give when playing a wizard is to play intelligently. Think about what your spells do and how they can be used situationally and/or combined. For example, choke points - if there are monsters on the other side of a door, you can cast Grease and Evard's Black Tentacles centered on the doorway, and then they will have to go through that in order to reach you, at which point they'll be slow-moving and taking damage and you can toss AoE spells at them.

For a monk, just max out dexterity. Pretty much nothing else matters.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:18 AM on March 31

Have you played Crawl at all? One of the main reasons it was the roguelike that made me abandon Nethack after many, many years was that it has a greater variety of distinctive class / race combos, yet at the same time many more of these felt like they fostered viable playstyles rather than just being stupidly hard or relying on tricks / lucky drops to get far into the game.

If you're not averse to wikis then these character guides give a good impression of just some of the playstyles that are possible. I've dabbled in many combos, and had extended fun over lots of sessions with Deep Elf elementalists / wizards, Deep Dwarf necromancers and Spriggan conjurers, to name just 3.
posted by protorp at 7:23 AM on March 31 [2 favorites]

Nethack, Baulders Gate, Never Winter Nights, Arcanum

Well, one of these is not like the others (in that the latter three are tuned for constant saving / reloading). If you've ascended nethack without savescumming then you're rather ahead of the game. But my basic advice in the roguelike domain would be to try playing dungeon crawl rather than nethack, as it distills much of the strategic gameplay away from spoiler memorization. Some particular roles of interest for your goals are deep elf conjurer (DECj) and kobold assassin (KoAs). If you're a mefightclub member there are biweekly challenges with changing race/class combos that mix it up quite a bit in terms of role types, and experienced players who can help with the details; there's even a tournament coming up which is (counterintuitively) a good time to start playing.

They lack offense to hit enemies, have defensive restrictions (so no great AC), and if spell using, the power is so weak at the low levels, that I'll zap a bad guy, then run away to recover mana/spell points/etc to just lather-rinse-repeat.

This seems about right for low levels, that's where the glass canon trope [warning: tvtropes] comes from. Non-bashing classes in these games get more varied gameplay a little bit later on.
posted by advil at 7:25 AM on March 31

Of the games you've listed, I've only played Baldur's Gate (1 & 2), so I'll limit my advice to that one.

1) BG rules are based on 2nd edition D&D and so spellcasters are rather weak at low levels. Make sure you have a party to hide behind and accept that you will have to do lots of resting in-between battles to get your spells back. At higher levels, spellcasters will more than come into their own. (If you don't like dealing with this period of relative weakness, you can just play BG2, where your character will start out around 8th level.)

2) Learn which spells are worthwhile. In unmodded BG the spells are poorly balanced, so that only about 20% of them are worth memorizing. Furthermore, not all of them scale well with levels, so the spell that was your mainstay at level 3 may be useless at level 13. (Alternately you can install the Spell Revisions mod, which rebalances the spells so that most of them are usable.)

3) Use buffs/debuffs. Instead of blasting an opponent directly, cast Speed on your party and Slow on the enemy mob (for example). Watch your melee-oriented characters go to town, moving and hitting 4 times faster than the enemy. Spells like Horror or Confusion can render an entire group of enemies helpless if they don't get lucky on their saving throws.

4) Keep your spellcasters behind the front line, at least until you level up enough to get access to the really good defensive spells.

5) Wands! Especially at the lower levels where your spellcaster doesn't have many spells available per day, a good wand can greatly increase your firepower.
posted by tdismukes at 7:48 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]

Ok, it has been some years since I've played Neverwinter Nights, but as I recall in the first game your familiar is actually a pretty decent brick so hide behind him. Then, if you have access to an NPC make sure you get a front-line fighter, and if you don't pick up the Summon Monster line of spells for additional insurance. There is also a first-level spell that summons an animated dagger and later on Mordenkainen's Sword. I don't remember it being worth memorizing attribute buffs in the first game if you are going straight wizard, because you get a lot of potions in NWN.
posted by furiousthought at 8:02 AM on March 31

First, Dungeon Crawl is the best roguelike ever, and if you liked Nethack you should really try Crawl.

However, I would say a beginner should play Crawl spellcasters for fun (try a SpEn!), not to win. First win is way easier with melee. I know this doesn't jibe well with your question but it is true.

In Arcanum, I remember the Harm spell being ridiculously strong for a starter spell. Spamming Harm plus a companion or two would take you a long way.

Generally, I think playing spellcasters well comes from seeing them as fun. Commonly spellcasters take a while to get rolling and then wreak havoc, you've got to be patient. Also, a bad build on a spellcaster tends to be more damaging/easier to blunder into than a bad melee build. Are you willing to read spoilers? That can make a huge difference in figuring out how to make a spellcaster work if you're getting stuck.
posted by mattu at 10:22 AM on March 31

Arcanum doesn't quite track onto the same expectations as D&D (and hence BG/ID/NWN), but there are some similarities. In Arcanum a pure-technologist gunslinger engineer is, essentially, a D&D wizard: a glass cannon with terrible damage and health at the beginning of the game, but unstoppable by the end.

Whereas wizardy starts with its strongest spell, Harm, at 1st-level. Spamming that is a more efficient damage-dealer than the larger, splashier spells you get later on; chalk that up to bad balancing, but it's effective. Between that and a decent willpower pool you're pretty much set for the game; I've avoided it, on purpose, to make the game more difficult, but it's also nice to use in order to take all the niche spells and skills you wouldn't otherwise -- taking it frees up a lot of room to 'waste' on other things.
posted by cjelli at 10:27 AM on March 31

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