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Hoverdawg

Hoverdog's Playthrough - comments and feedback

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Recently I've installed Baldur's Gate yet again with the ambition to finally finish the trilogy all the way, with SCS installed (I'd always run out of steam in ToB before). I will use this thread to 
I would call myself a decent enough player, although I'm no pro that can no-reload solo the game or anything.

Technical stuff: I'm using EE for ease of use, even though I'm not a big fan of how "enhanced" this version is. Mods-wise, I prefer a lean install, so I'm using Ascension, Item and Spell Revisions Revised (thank you @Bartimaeus for your great work!), Tweak Pack, Unfinished Business and a couple of NPC expansion mods. No quests, no overhauls. Tactical difficulty (so far at least). Bhaalspawn is a Half-Elf Fighter/Mage.

I have finished BG1 and currently am about halfway through BG2


Baldur's Gate 1
I used multiple NPCs throughout the game - thanks to the new addition to SCS, I was no longer required to keep the same group for XP's sake. Imoen, Monty, Xzar, Khalid & Jaheira, Xan (switched to Sorcerer), Safana, Tiax (switched to Fighter/Cleric), Viconia and Minsc were all part of the team at some point. The final party included Imoen (dual-classed to Mage at Thief level 5, I believe), Tiax, Viconia, Shar-Teel and Xan.

The very early game is, of course, a crapshoot. Tranzig fight especially, you either manage to hit him and interrupt his spells or you're in for a hard time. But he's still a wizard of not-so-high a level, so there's not that much he can do and goes down fast when the wand of magic missiles is used on him. I wonder if giving him such a wand (with 1 or 2 charges) would make his damage output a bit better.

The Karlat fight in Beregost is surprisingly hard, he's tough and his AC is low enough for lvl1 characters to miss all the time. Marl is a pushover though. I do some stuff here, kill the spiders, grab the ring of protection and move to Nashkel

Neira in the Nashkel inn isn't much of a problem, she can hold one or two characters, but it's hard for her to inflict any real damage - but that is a common cleric problem. Now it's wilderness time. None of the encounters there are deadly (Sendai demo version is probably the toughest), but I feel they're fine as they are. I get some levels along the way (~4000XP) and try to tackle Bassilus now, but, even without his skeletons, he still has too many spells. I give up after a few defeats. That's fine, I can wait.

Improved Nashkel mine is easy for level 3 (or multiclass 2) characters, and Mulahey is a pushover. However, I get that this dungeon is hard to balance as many players will enter it while still being at level 1. Would it be possible to add some level-dependent guards to Mulahey himself? Like a couple of skeletons, or kobold guards and a kobold shaman, that would only appear ~4000XP+?

After Nashkel I'm doing a bigger sweep of the wilderness areas. Ogre Berserkers are nothing to trifle with, as their crits can easily one-shot anyone. Mutamin is a tough bastard if you're using spell protection, but with IRR's undispellable Potions of Mirrored Eyes, he's back to being a minor annoyance. Assassin parties are always a treat - challenging (no time for prebuffing!) but doable. I wish there were one or two more. Sirines are ugh - poison and charm is not a fun combo; you have to prepare well or get lucky. I also try to kill Bassilus again - and this time, he goes down. Firewine Bridge is just a pain, the less we talk about it the better (but that's just the dungeon design, ogre mage fight is ok). Ulcaster Wolf is a fine set piece, even though Resist Fear makes it much easier, all the wolves running around still make it dangerous for less armored characters. Icharyd is mean. He packs a punch, resists magic, and when you accidently trigger some kobolds that are standing nearby it's even worse.

I tackle Bandit Camp at level 5 (~20000 XP). God, I love this fight. It won't ever be as mind-blowing as the first time, when you're casually trying to kill a lone bandit and suddenly have the whole fucking army zeroing in at you, but it's still epic. It's not that difficult if you've done your homework: Webs and Fireballs clean up the place nicely.

Cloakwood. The fight against Centeol is nasty - there are enough webbing spiders that every time at least one character got isolated, paralyzed, and killed. Good times. I was nice around druids and skipped fighting with them. The party fight outside the mines was fine. A quick Fireball made the mages less of a threat, and the warriors were susceptible to Horror, but they did deal some damage. None of the enemies inside, however, including the mages and the ogre, posed any sort of challenge. 

Davaeorn was the first really difficult boss fight. At first, I wanted to lure the horrors out, make him spend some energy on summons, bunker down and fight off the reinfocements. However, this tactic proved to be less than ideal, as I couldn't outpace the guard spawn rate. So, after a few tries, I decided to just YOLO bumrush, spread out, and focus fire on the big D. And it worked, someone did get killed, but Davaeorn ultimately fell. He was no longer teleporting around, as he had been doing the last few times I'd played, I suppose that's intentional. Overall, a very satisfying fight.

Baldur's Gate has surprisingly few difficult challenges. The Maulers of Undermountain are a party fight, which is always welcome, even though it's a cakewalk when the third party engages. Degrodel's guardians require . I think I did Red Wizards at this point too. Theywere tougher than they should be, and that's because I had a long-lasting (essentially until the end game) brain fart that made me forget that I can dispel enemy buffs with something other than Breach. Thus, I just brute-forced the encounter. Finally, the Iron Throne fight was great, easier than I expected - I think I had more trouble in my earlier playthroughs - but challenging enough.

Candlekeep is a bit disappointing. I like the Ogre magi surprise attack. No time for prebuffing always makes things much more hectic and dangerous (that's why I kinda like Knights of the Chalice's no-casting-outside-combat system). The rest is... not that great. Rieltar & co are pushovers. Crypts are more of a mood-setter, so I don't mind just slashing through the doppelgangers. The Prat fight does need a major boost, I believe. Right now I had more trouble with the spiders nearby than with these folks. Maybe there should be another goon, or two, to help?

Back to Baldur's Gate. You really shouldn't use AoE during the Slythe & Krystin fight, but other than that, they went down easily. The Coronation is a funny example of unforeseen consequences of mages being smart. Liia Janath could probably wipe the floor herself (note: it might be an exaggeration. I haven't actually tried to make her fight on her own). Now, to the Undercity... wait, there's still some stuff to do!

So, Durlag's Tower. What a magnificent dungeon. There are only three fights of note here, which is fine: the mobs and traps will drain you of resources just enough. So, the Warder fight first. Very tough, but not impossible. Love & Pride are the biggest offenders here. Love got protections up, charmed Shar-Teel easily, while Pride is just a stone wall. I dealt with the other two, somehow managed to not get everyone dead, then took down Love's spells, killed her, and finally (with everyone still going) whittled Pride down. Awesome.

Chessboard can be the most difficult battle in the game, and, honestly, I'm not a big fan of it. There's only one good strategy here: prebuff beforehand (before. or while defeating the last guardian - slime is the best target here), and, after teleportation, immediately unload all the fireball wands you have saved so far (I had like four). If you don't, you just get swarmed, and the knights are quick and hit hard, so even a tough PC (like my F/M) can go down fast. I'm not sure what changes should be applied here, because the whole chessboard theme is not the best fit for a real-time game. At least, without some heavy scripting, which I don't think would be worth spending time on. Perhaps tone down the knights a bit, but make everyone resistant to fire? Napalm strike won't be so necessary then, but at the same time, it won't be as efficient.

Finally, the demon. I prebuffed, charged... it was a very swift battle, one of my mages died, but so did the enemy, easily. It was a bit underwhelming, but, at the same, time, rewarding. Back to Ulgoth's Beard... the ambush is, as all ambushes, a good, challenging fight - mages will die if you won't stoneskin or at least mirror image them asap. I think I got two deaths here. The other cultist fight inside the warehouse is just as interesting, thanks to those fucking enforcers. On the other hand, Aec'Latec was a major disappointment. Maybe it was the Mirror Eyes issue again, maybe something went wrong with the scripts (all the cultists, sans Tracea, did nothing), but it went oh so smoothly. No deaths, no problems, no close calls even.

Back to the Undercity. The Iron Throne investigators - well, they're more of an aperitif, and they might just as well not be there, honestly. But, the Sarevok fight. My god. This fight is just amazing. Epic. One of a kind experience. It has everything. An immortal (for a time) magic-proof killing machine you have to tank (with summons of course, no character can stand up to him). Henchmen fighters for that additional punch. Two mages who just love to dispel your buffs and make your life miserable. Oh, and their skeleton reincarnations. I managed to win this fight on the first try this time, but it took a while and featured lots of kiting, chunks of hobgoblin meat flying around, emergency raise dead, arrows of dispelling and detonation used indiscriminately, potions, wands, and fireballs. Sarevok himself was not that powerful when finally he was the only one enemy standing. This fight is a true piece of art.

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Great, thanks for this. A few specific comments:

- I probably don't want to start down the rabbit-hole of level-dependent scaling. I'm not a great fan of it in a game like BG2, even if I can see the point of it in the situation you're describing. 

- Davaeorn should still be teleporting. Did he not do it in any of your tries? If so, something may be wrong.

- The end-of-chapter-6 battle has been waiting for an upgrade for ages, after I deprecated my first stab at it. To be honest I couldn't think of anything very interesting... but that was years ago. I should come back to it sometime.

- I'm not sure what to do about the chessboard; I'll consider your suggestion. 

- I'm a little torn about the Coronation battle. Liia is a 16th level invoker (and Belt is a 19th level fighter), so of course with sensible spell choices and AI, they way outshine the party. The obvious thing to do would be to lower their levels, particularly, Liia's... but the designers didn't choose those levels (and Liia's specialisation) randomly. They're taken from the AD&D 2nd edition 'Forgotten Realms Adventures' sourcebook entry on Baldur's Gate. It feels like vandalism to erase that!

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Bassilus is absolutely impossible early game - I always try to face him and his skellies too early, and I always get smashed over and over until I either get very lucky or I leave. That dude just keeps going.

I remember the sirines always being the worst with atweaks + SCS.

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DavidW, have you thought about making Sarevok haste movement undispellable?

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I don't think I knew it was dispellable. It's an innate power, isn't it, and from the vanilla game? That sounds like a bug - but maybe I'm missing something.

(That said, it's a hard enough fight as it is, I'm not in much of a hurry to make it harder!)

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Posted (edited)

I honestly don’t think there’s anything wrong with Belt and Liia mopping the floor with Doppelgangers. They are epic heroes in their own right. Should everything in the realms depend entirely on the actions of this one kid from Candlekeep? Agency is good but if the whole rest of the world is feeble and passive, the story becomes kind of dumb. 

If I was writing that scene, the agency and effectiveness of the player would be realized by spoiling the surprise - by giving Liia and Belt notice of the attack, and thereby enabling them to fight and use their full power. Can probably be demonstrated with half a line of dialogue - less is more with thus sort of thing.

Alternatively, add a line of dialogue  about how the doppelgangers have weaved some kind of group magic that weakens Liia & Belt as long as the dops are alive. Then you can justify reducing their abilities, and the players can meaningfully participate by destroying the dops. Etc. 

Regardless, I think it’s fine for this to be more cinematic/story-focused than challenging. 

Edited by subtledoctor

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10 minutes ago, subtledoctor said:

Regardless, I think it’s fine for this to be more cinematic/story-focused than challenging. 

That's more or less where I've come down too. It's not as if SCS-enhanced BG1 is short on combat.

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, DavidW said:

Great, thanks for this. A few specific comments:

- I probably don't want to start down the rabbit-hole of level-dependent scaling. I'm not a great fan of it in a game like BG2, even if I can see the point of it in the situation you're describing. 

- Davaeorn should still be teleporting. Did he not do it in any of your tries? If so, something may be wrong.

- The end-of-chapter-6 battle has been waiting for an upgrade for ages, after I deprecated my first stab at it. To be honest I couldn't think of anything very interesting... but that was years ago. I should come back to it sometime.

- I'm not sure what to do about the chessboard; I'll consider your suggestion. 

- I'm a little torn about the Coronation battle. Liia is a 16th level invoker (and Belt is a 19th level fighter), so of course with sensible spell choices and AI, they way outshine the party. The obvious thing to do would be to lower their levels, particularly, Liia's... but the designers didn't choose those levels (and Liia's specialisation) randomly. They're taken from the AD&D 2nd edition 'Forgotten Realms Adventures' sourcebook entry on Baldur's Gate. It feels like vandalism to erase that!

- Yeah, I'm not a fan of level scaling either. This would be probably the single place where I would use it, just because the level 1->2->3 power jump is so high.

- I don't think he jumped around, but I can't be 100% certain, I did BG1 maybe a month ago, so some small details may have eluded me. 

- Yup, Ch6 battle is by far the least SCS-y encounter.

- Honestly I have no complaints about the coronation. It's nice to be able to sit down and watch others do the dirty work for once.

Quote

I don't think I knew it was dispellable. It's an innate power, isn't it, and from the vanilla game? That sounds like a bug - but maybe I'm missing something.

I don't think it is. At least none of the dispels that did hit him made any effect.

 

 

 

Edited by Hoverdawg

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I am currently playing SCS with SR (not revised) on insane (full mage prebuffs), and observe that battles against mages seem to be easier in general compared to vanilla SCS. I alao have the feeling that several mages have quite stupid spell choices. Rayic Gethras in BG2 in the Docks, for instance, had only MGoI as a spell protection despite his high level. So he is very easily killed. Mekrath was also a joke. Tolgerias also was much easier somehow. He did not have significant protection contingencies once his main protections were dispelled. 

Enemy mages also tend to favour some spells more than others though. They really like summoning or gating. They like to cast single target spells such as vitriolic sphere and disintigrate often, and very rare AoE. I don't remember seeing them use web, fireball or skull trap ever, which could easily destroy an unprotected low to mid-level party. Nevertheless, many of the adjustments of SR and how SCS works with it is very nice and fun! 

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I would imagine the reluctance to use/memorize AoE spells like Fireball and Skull Trap is because of those spells blowing in their own/their allies' faces, especially because if the player sees them targeting a character, they can simply move that character forward towards the caster and get them to blow themselves up. I recall that SCS is a bit more cavalier about using more target-friendly AoE spells like Horrid Wilting later.

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That makes sense, thanks for clarifying! And yes, they really love to use Horrid Wilting, which is nice :) I have seen several instances though where the enemy mage uses fireburst (the SR version of sunfire) even when surrounded by allies. They ended up damaging their own allies more than my char.

Demons and Death Knights summoned by enemy mages are of course notorious for hurling AoE spells indiscrimienately, but it is in their spell description, so I guess it is ok.

 

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Some of this may reflect my lack of familiarity with SR. But some of it is the randomness inherent in spell choices. Gethras, for instance, is 14th level. Here's what he ought to get for defenses:

Combat protections: Mantle, Stoneskin, Mirror Image x2

Spell protections: Minor Globe, 2/3 chance of Spell Deflection or Spell Turning, Shadow Door

Triggers: 50% chance of a defensive Minor Sequencer (MI + blur or similar), 2/3 chance of a defensive Spell Sequencer (many possibilities)

Contingency: Stoneskin, or Minor Globe, or Improved Invisibility, or Minor Spell Deflection

If that random list breaks all one way, it could end up having relatively little antimagic protection.

It is in general a balancing act to work out how much and what defensive magic wizards should have: too little and they're killed easily, too much and they sit around endlessly defending themselves without doing any real damage.

As for area effect spells: Bartimaeus is right that the problem is mostly self-immolation. SCS is a bit more gung-ho about this in v32 and later, but still quite cautious - for me, nothing violates believability more than a wizard using area effect to kill their own forces and themselves (something that happens quite a lot in the vanilla-game AI). I'm surprised you're seeing quite so little of it, though - solo invokers, in particular, ought to be using minor globe and then fireball/lightning bolt quite a bit.

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2 hours ago, crackwise said:

I have seen several instances though where the enemy mage uses fireburst (the SR version of sunfire) even when surrounded by allies.

Quick plug for my new little mod, which should be completely SCS-friendly.  In particular, when scripted to cast Sunfire, instead of a fireball that kills the mage's allies it will cast Missile Storm and your party will get 10 Magic Missiles to the face.  :punch:

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Gethras or Mekrath weren't ever a problem in my recollection (even before SR was a thing) - they're not high enough level to have those really punishing spells and can be safely defeated quite early into the game.

Tolgerias (spoilers for my BG2 recap, which is on hold due to getting burnt by twisted rune) was a bit easier than when I fought him the last time (a few years ago), although I believe I am playing better now too. He did Imprison one of my characters and gated something, I believe. BTW - one SR/SCS compatibility thing - SCS by default is supposed to prohibit using Imprison on Charname, right? It does not work this way with SR, possibly because Imprison works like a 5 turn Maze that ends in death.

As for AoE spells - true, mages are reluctant to use them (although I have seen Vitriolic Sphere a couple times), but rakshas and efreeties are not.

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