===============================================================================
                        AVERNUM: ESCAPE FROM THE PIT

                        Party Build FAQ

                        by Slartifer
                        (GameFAQs handle: Slartifer)

                        v 1.1
                        April 22, 2012
===============================================================================

This FAQ contains a rigorous analysis of the tactical options, skills, traits,
and spells in Avernum, and suggests two possible parties to min-max your
options.

This FAQ is not a walkthrough or a mechanics guide.  As such it assumes some
familiarity with the game world as well as the game mechanics used in Avernum:
EFTP and other modern Spiderweb Software games.

===============================================================================
                              TABLE OF CONTENTS
===============================================================================

[1] Basic Principles
[2] PC Toolkits
        [2.1] Survivability
        [2.2] Damage Output (Weapons)
        [2.3] Damage Output (Spells)
        [2.4] Combat Utilities
[3] Access Skills (Locks & Lore)
[4] Efficient Use of Money: Training
        [4.0] Version Discrepancy!
        [4.1] Money
        [4.2] Skills
        [4.3] Spells
        [4.4] Items
[5] Skills
[6] Traits
[7] Sample Parties
        [7.1] Fighter/Mage/Mage/Priest
        [7.2] Fighter/Fighter/Mage/Priest
[8] Acknowledgements & History

===============================================================================
                                      [1]

                               BASIC PRINCIPLES
===============================================================================

1) Front-Load Your Assault.

Being able to do a lot in the first round of battle is much more useful than in
later rounds. Taking out lots of enemies quickly will reduce your incoming
damage by a lot. You can also use the first round to cast buffs and debuffs
before your actions are taken up with healing and curing. Thus, abilities that
are efficient in terms of resource use (physical attacks, Bolt of Fire, Minor
Heal), or that provide a big bonus over time (Battle Frenzy, Quick Action), are
actually LESS useful than abilities that allow you to do a lot at once
(Adrenaline Rush, AoE spells, Mass Healing).

2) Shields Up in Front.

Everyone needs survivability, but the PCs in front need it most. There are some
battles where a single PC will take the most or all of the attack; this is
often true in crowded spaces or when there are very few enemies. There are some
battles where two PCs can position themselves to take most of the physical
attacks, although in these cases one can often collect the brunt of the
attacks. And there are some battles where enemies are all over the place, walls
are few, or breath attacks are common, and everyone is going to be getting hit.
As a result, strong defense is important for everyone, but Parry (and high
armor) is most useful for the PCs in front. You need at least one tough guy in
front. A second one can be useful, but is sometimes irrelevant.

3) Choose the Best Attacks.

Everyone needs a good attack to contribute to the slaughter of the enemy.
However, what's important is the damage done by the team as a whole. This means
a few things. One, it may be more effective to focus on boosting one or several
PC's attacks, give them the items that best boost damage output, and let your
other PCs pick up the slack in party skills and the like. Two, due to the Cloak
spells, it is helpful to have most of your attackers use the same type of
attack. Cloak of the Arcane is the most powerful due to AoE spell strength, so
having at least two and maybe even three spellcasters is a good thing. Three,
while you can make 4 mages and not run out of spells, you run out of the best
weapons very quickly. Specifically, there are 2 hand weapons that are in a
league of their own compared to the other options, so even having 2 warriors
means that 1 will eventually be seriously outdamaging the other.

4) Don't Choose the Worst Attacks.

Archery is usable, but it's just not as good as melee combat or magic in this
game. Without Divinely Touched, and with the 4-stat system, it's not something
mages and warriors can be good at "on the side," so it will be summarily
ignored by this entire guide. Likewise, pole weapons and shields are usable,
but they do dramatically less damage than dual-wielded swords -- double swords
will do about 60% more damage initially, and that number actually goes UP as
your level rises.

5) No Minors in Attacking.

As stated above, the 4-stat system means you can't have secondary attacks; they
will be useless. Everyone has to pick melee or magic and stick with it.
However, a few abilities do not benefit from the 4 stats: this includes
Adrenaline Rush and healing spells, so these are possible minors.

6) You Can't Always Get What You Want.

Money is limited and you can't train everything. First priority goes to the
most important spells. (Training higher level spells is EXPENSIVE, so this may
be one argument for having 2 spellcasters instead of 3.) Second priority goes
to skills. The most important skills to train are those that are either the
cheapest (since a skill point is a skill point), or those that you want to
raise above their cap and thus must be trained. Third priority goes to more
expensive and less critical skills. The less important spells are just not ever
worth spending money on. Finally, there are a tiny, tiny handful of items that
are worth spending money on.

7) Pick Traits Economically.

Some traits are a huge boon, others are equivalent to stat or skill points, and
others are not as good. Pick the traits that have the largest overall benefit
for the party. This might seem obvious, but some of the choices are not what
you'd expect.

8) Pick Equipment Economically.

Weigh the pros and the cons: sometimes that piece of armor is just not worth
the -5% penalty to hit. Other times, an item that saves you a necessary skill
point might be better than something offering a bit more protection.

To sum up, here's what we definitely want in each character:

- Survivability (more, for the first 1 or 2 PCs)
- Damage Output (either dual-melee, mage spells, or priest spells)
- Adrenaline Rush (Bladeshield for front PCs)

And for the party overall:

- 1 or 2 dual-melee fighters
- 2 or 3 spellcasters (at least 1 mage, at least 1 priest)
- Adequate lore skills (Arcane Lore, Cave Lore, Tool Use), at least eventually

===============================================================================
                                      [2]

                                  PC TOOLKITS
===============================================================================

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[2.1] PC TOOLKITS -- SURVIVABILITY
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There are a few factors to consider here:

1) HP. You get 20 HP, +5 HP per level and per point of Endurance. This means
that at the start of the game, adding Endurance will increase your ability to
survive quite a bit, but at the end of the game the impact is smaller. If you
put none of the assignable stat points into Endurance and take no HP traits,
you'll have 220 HP at level 30. If you put, say, 6 points into Endurance and
take all 3 HP traits, you'll have 280 HP at level 30. This means that Endurance
increases your endgame survivability against all damage types by about 2 to
2.5% per point. That's actually not bad; it's almost as good as Hardiness.
There's a point beyond which healing becomes hard and then Endurance is less
productive, but a handful of increases are not a bad idea.

2) Hardiness. +3% to all damage resistances (including armor) per point.
Awesome!

3) Resistance. +3% to all non-armor resistances, plus mental and curse
resistance, per point. Also awesome!

4) Luck. +1% to ALL resistances per point. OK.

5) Parry. +3% chance to parry physical attacks per point. Great for someone
expecting to be hit a lot. Note that unlike in previous games, Riposte does not
block damage.

6) Evasion. Evasion is not effective against bosses even on regular difficulty,
and it is bad in general on higher difficulties. Not recommended.

7) Traits. There are various traits here, including the HP bonus traits and
Parry Mastery.

8) Armor. Luckily, there is plenty of great armor to be found, and there is
enough great armor without penalties to hit that your mages don't need to worry
either.

9) Mental Resistance deserves a word of its own. Spellcasters will max it out
just by raising their Intelligence. For fighters, this is worth increasing.
You'll mostly need to do this through items.

10) Most buffs are obvious, but Bladeshield blocks 30% of everything and
deserves special mention for those in the line of fire.  The Ward spells are
also very useful; another good reason to have a priest.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[2.2] PC TOOLKITS -- DAMAGE OUTPUT (WEAPONS)
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Useful sources:

1) Strength. +1 damage die and +5% to hit per point. Critical!

2) Melee Weapons. +1 damage die and +1% to hit. Good, but pumping this to
insane heights is not necessary.

3) Blademaster. +3% damage and +1% to hit. Very, very good!

4) Dual Wielding. +2% damage and +2% to hit. Also good, but requires Quick
Action, which is a waste.

5) Lethal Blow. +5% chance of a critical hit; the in-game tooltip inaccurately
lists this as 3%, but it is 5%.  Given percentage bonuses from Blademaster and
the like, this is the equivalent of +3% to +4% to damage. Good, but also
requires Quick Action.

6) Equipment. Of note are two weapons that dramatically increase the amount of
damage you can deal. Second best is the Spectral Falchion, which gives you +8
Blademaster. That's an extra 24% damage to BOTH weapon strikes! Best is the
Flaming Sword. We are back to Exile style flaming weapons. The Flaming Sword
gives you bonus fire damage for every damage die you attack with. What is
spectacular about it is that it gives you bonus damage from BOTH swords, not
just the one. Although the damage is low, most enemies have more armor than
fire resistance, so the bonus is pretty spectacular. And the bonus damage is
also affected by critical hits, by Blademaster, etc.

7) Traits. At +3% each these are mostly good deals.

8) Buffs.  War Chant is a 10% damage boost.  Use it.  Haste is even better.
Typically, it gives you a 1 in 3 chance of getting an extra attack each turn. 
That's huge.  Once you get level 3 in Haste, you can get Battle Fury, which
simply doubles your attack output.  Finally, Cloak of Blades adds a whopping
18% to 38% in damage -- too bad Cloak of the Arcane is better.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[2.3] PC TOOLKITS -- DAMAGE OUTPUT (SPELLS)
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Useful sources:

1) Intelligence. +1 damage die and +5% to hit. Critical!

2) Mage/Priest Spells. +1 damage die (and +1% to hit?). Necessary, but again,
pumping this beyond 17 is not necessary. Priests might stop at 16 if they find
the Vengeful Shade to be as disappointing as I did.

3) Spellcraft. +2% damage. Good. Also leads to Resistance.

4) Lethal Blow. +3% chance of a critical hit; given percentage bonuses from
Spellcraft and the like, this is the equivalent of +2% damage. Good, but
requires multiple other skills spellcasters don't care about.

5) Equipment. There are a decent chunk of items that give a bonus to magical
damage, but they can almost all fit on one person.

6) Elemental Mastery Traits. +3% each, pretty good deal.

7) Buffs.  War Chant is a 10% damage boost.  Use it.  Haste is even better.
Typically, it gives you a 1 in 3 chance of getting an extra attack each turn. 
That's huge.  Once you get level 3 in Haste, you can get Battle Fury, which
simply doubles your attack output.  Finally, Cloak of the Arcane adds 20% to
40% to your magical damage output.  With a party of 2 or 3 spellcasters, this
is an amazing buff.

Finally, note that mage spells are a bit better than priest spells for damage.
Although you often have to move to target cone spells optimally, they can get
the most enemies in their AoE. There are definitely times the round area spells
are superior, but mages still get Icy Rain for that. Priests only have one
cheap AoE spell, Call Storm, and while its knockback effect can be really
useful, it can also be really annoying, especially if the person casting it is
not acting last. For these reasons, I recommend 2 mages and 1 priest over 2
priests and 1 mage, if you go with 3 spellcasters.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[2.4] PC TOOLKITS -- COMBAT UTILITIES
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

* MINOR SPELL USE

Priest Spells offers a few casts that are good without any investment in
Intelligence or Spellcraft, or heavy investment in Priest Spells. Minor Healing
(at 1), Unshackle Mind (at 6), and Mass Healing (at 8) are most relevant.


* ADRENALINE RUSH

Everybody wants this.  It's just too powerful.  So, how to get to 15 in weapons
skills?

1) Items. A spellcaster can use the Discipline Blade for +5. Someone can use
the Warrior's Cloak for +2. And someone can use the First Expedition Bow for
+3. These are all readily available in the early midgame. There is another item
that gives +1, but it is not likely to be available until very late.) With
these items, you only need natural weapon skill totals of 10, 12, 13, and 15.

2) Trainers. Some of the skills are among the cheaper things to train.

3) Use skill points. This is obvious for fighters. For spellcasters it's also a
reasonable option since Hardiness is an excellent skill for all PCs.


===============================================================================
                                      [3]

                          ACCESS SKILLS (LOCKS & LORE)
===============================================================================

* TOOL USE

You get +1 from an item. Getting Tool Use all the way up to 11 is absolutely
worth it -- there's a huge trove of item bonuses, level 3 spells, and sellable
loot at each step, and you actually need 8 to complete one of the game-winning
quests properly. Beyond that is only an escape from Athron at 13 and some loot
in Hawthorne's quarters at 14. So we need 10 points between skills and traits.

* CAVE LORE

Ignore completely. You get +2 free from in-game bonuses. However, there is
nothing really great in caches, unless you really want the Ten Blessings Band
or First Expedition Ring. I don't. Cave Lore is one of the cheapest skills to
train, but you won't even make back the money you spent on training. You can
get a few wisdom crystals and invulnerability potions, but they really aren't
worth all the money that could go into trainers or spell purchases. The bonus
to poison and acid resistance is not even good, since those effects are
dramatically less dangerous in this game than in previous SW games.

If you intend to grind out alchemy components to create infinite wisdom
crystals (at an incredibly slow pace), you'll want 10 Cave Lore. For a
singleton, this is *almost* a credible strategy. For a full party, it's a
colossal waste of time.

* ARCANE LORE

The level 3 spells are worth it, as well as the savings from spells you only
need at level 1 or 2 and therefore can avoid buying. But there are a few
considerations.

12 lore will get you everything. However, 11 lore is only needed for the
Grah-Hoth and Surface Exit quest rewards, and 12 lore is only needed for the
Hawthorne quest reward. This means that whatever order you choose, you can only
have those bonuses for 2, 1, and 0 of the three big quests, which are generally
attempted AFTER everything else. Not very useful. 10 lore, on the other hand,
gets you Fireblast, Ward of Elements, and Domination, which all have terrific
upgrades. There are a few ways to approach this one:

* 3 Sage Lore + Drath's Knowledge
* 3 Sage Lore + 1 Arcane Lore
* 8 Arcane Lore + 1 Sage Lore
* 9 Arcane Lore + Drath's Knowledge
* 10 Arcane Lore

This is basically a question of efficiency.  As there aren't really 16
essential traits for any PC, whereas there are always good places to put more
skill points, Sage Lore is the obvious way to go.  The catch is that you get a
few freebies for having 8 Arcane Lore:

* The special tomes in the Stagnant Tunnels will teach everyone the first 2
  levels of the first 7 spells of each type.
* A tough special encounter west of Fort Remote can teach you the first level
  of Dispel Barrier for free.

The value of these freebies depends on your version of the game (see ch. 4).
Many of these spells are not worth training, but some are. I estimate the
value of the spellbooks as follows:
* In the Double Price version, I estimate the total value of spells you'd want
  to buy otherwise at around 7000 gold.
* In the Single Price version, I estimate the total value of spells you'd want
  to buy otherwise at around 4500 gold.

Between the first two options, the second one uses up 800 gold or a skill
point, but can get you one of several good rewards.  It's probably better.

4 Arcane Lore can be trained for 3200 gold.  In the Single Price version, you
can instead train 8 Arcane Lore for 6400 gold.  However, in the Single Price
version, you really don't get an adequate value in return, especially
considering that you have to delay learning some very useful spells.
In the Double Price version, the 4 AL is a better option, as you basically
trade 4 skill points for around 4000 gold plus 3 open trait slots.

Both Sage Lore and training Arcane Lore involve a slight delay in getting
higher level spells: with Sage Lore you have to wait until level 12 to read any
spellbooks, whereas if you are training Arcane Lore, you have to wait until you
reach Erika to read some of the better spellbooks. Level 12 usually happens
much sooner, so I prefer the Sage Lore method. However, if you have lots of
spellcasters, the Arcane Lore method might also work well.


===============================================================================
                                      [4]

                       EFFICIENT USE OF MONEY: TRAINING
===============================================================================

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[4.0] EFFICIENT USE OF MONEY -- VERSION DISCREPANCY!
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In the original Mac versions of the game (v1.0 and 1.1), buying the second
level of a skill or spell cost twice as much as buying the first level.

The PC, iPad, and Android versions were released several months after the Mac
version, and had their own round of beta testing.  During this time,
Spiderweb decided to change the payment scheme.  In these versions, buying
the second level of a skill or spell costs the same as the first level.
Additionally, the cost of the critical Dispel Barrier spell was halved.

Spiderweb has said they are incorporating this change in a forthcoming update
for Mac.  As of 4/22/12, that update has not been released.  This guide was
written with the original system (Double Price) in mind.  The majority of the
advice applies to either system; however, under the Single Price system, you
will be able to buy basically 50% more skills and spells than you would
otherwise.  It doesn't change which skills and spells are the best options,
but it means you'll be able to buy more than what is listed here.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[4.1] EFFICIENT USE OF MONEY -- MONEY
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

How much money do you get to play with?  I did some grep fu with Randomizer's
game atlas, followed by some excel fu, and came up with the following
approximations.

60,000 cash available directly
  * a lot of this is quest rewards, some are late, some is the castle treasury,
    etc.  So let's reduce this to 50,000 to be safe

480,000 gold worth of saleable goods (likely an underestimate)

96,000 gold
  * for selling these items individually at the regular 20% rate... OR

134,000 gold
  * for selling these items individually at the 28% rate with 4 Negotiator

A decent chunk of these, cashwise, are the "most powerful items" which you are
unlikely to sell. on the other hand, this does not include ANY random drops,
some of which are significant -- you can get a lot of valuable spears from the
hundreds of sliths you fight, for example. But we'll play conservative, so
let's say you get 2/3 of this number. That's

64,000 gold for selling items regularly, or

89,000 gold for selling them with 4 Negotiator

That means each Negotiator trait should be worth in the realm of 6000-7000
gold, AT LEAST, over the course of the game.

This also gives us a ballpark budget of around 115,000 gold regularly, or
140,000 with Negotiator.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[4.2] EFFICIENT USE OF MONEY -- SKILLS
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Here's a list of all the skills at their lowest trainable price:

 800 Arcane Lore (Erika)
 900 Cave Lore (Vermeers)
 960 Bows (Hrror) *
 960 Thrown Weapons (Skatha / Hrror) *
 960 Sharpshooter (Hrror)
 960 Gymnastics (Eleanor / Hrror)
 960 Magical Efficiency (Erika)
1100 First Aid (Etheridge)
1120 Hardiness (Hrror) **
1120 Resistance (Skatha) **
1200 Parry (Hrror) **
1200 Quick Action (Eleanor / Hrror)
1280 Melee Weapons (Hrror) *
1280 Pole Weapons (Skatha / Hrror) *
1280 Mage Spells (X) *
1320 Riposte (Etheridge)
1440 Blademaster (Hrror) *
1600 Spellcraft (X / Erika) *
1600 Lethal Blow (X) *
1980 Dual Wielding (Etheridge)
1980 Sniper (Etheridge)
2200 Tool Use (Etheridge)

Not trainable: Priest Spells, Luck

I've put a single asterisk by the skills that are a good value for the first
point. These are skills that we don't care about maxing out, but we can use a
cheap point in. The weapon skills all help reach Adrenaline Rush. Mage Spells
we are happy to have a point in, but don't have a cap to get past so don't need
to pay double for a second point. Blademaster, Spellcraft, and Lethal Blow are
all worth second points if there is money for them -- and there may be
eventually. But they can start out with one. Hardiness and Resistance are
probably worth the second point for everyone and Parry is definitely worth the
second point for folks up front. Dual Wielding and Tool Use are just too
expensive to be practical, although you could make them work if you wanted to.

REMINDER: In the Single Price game versions, most of the asterisked skills
will be good values to train in twice.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[4.3] EFFICIENT USE OF MONEY -- SPELLS
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now let's look at spells:

 240 2nd level of Bolt of Fire (Mairwen) (level up: bonus damage, 30% cleave)
 360 2nd level of Call Beast (Mairwen) (level up: buffs)
 360 Slow (Mairwen) (level up: ???)
 360 Icy Rain (Mairwen) (level up: bonus damage, 40% immobilization) **
 480 2nd level of Cloak of Curses (Mairwen) (level up: ???)
 480 2nd level of Daze (Mairwen) (level up: ensnare, stun)
 480 Haste (Mairwen) (level up: bonus duration, 30% battle frenzy!!) **
 640 Spray Acid (Evysss / Ambrin / Miles) (level up: 30% cleave, lightning fx)
 720 Cloak of Bolts (Evysss / Ambrin) (level up: bonus damage)
 800 Minor Summon (Evysss / Ambrin) (level up: buffs)
 800 Lightning Spray (Evysss / Ambrin) (level up: bonus dmg, 40% weak. curse)
 960 Blink (Evysss / Ambrin) (level up: war curse, daze)
1120 Cloak of Blades (Evysss) (level up: bonus damage) **
1120 Summon Aid (Evysss / Erika) (level up: buffs)
1400 Arcane Summon (Solberg) (level up: buffs)
1500 Cloak of the Arcane (Solberg) (level up: bonus damage) **
1600 Arcane Blow (Solberg) (level up: 100% war curse, bonus damage?) *
1600 Howl of Terror (Evysss / Erika) (level up: war curse, ?)
1920 Fireblast (Evysss / Erika) (level up: bonus damage, bonus damage!!) **
4000 2nd level of Dispel Barrier (Mairwen) *

 240 2nd level of Minor Heal (Toddric) (level up: bonus healing, 100% regen) *
 360 2nd level of Curing (Toddric) (level up: cure multiple afflictions)
 360 War Blessing (Toddric) (level up: bonus duration, 50% spine shield) *
 360 Call Storm (Toddric) (level up: nothing, bonus damage) **
 360 Summon Shade (Toddric) (level up: buffs)
 480 2nd level of Smite (Toddric) (level up: bonus damage, 30% war curse)
 480 2nd level of Protection (Toddric) (level up: bonus duration, 50% regen) *
 720 Unshackle Mind (Evysss / Throndell) (level up: cure mult. afflictions) *
 720 Ward of Thoughts (Claudette) (level up: stronger) *
 800 Heal (Evysss / Throndell) (level up: bonus healing, 100% regeneration)
 800 Mass Healing (Evysss / Throndell) (level up: bonus healing, 50% regen) **
 960 Mass Curing (Evysss / Throndell) (level up: cure multiple afflictions)
1120 Ward of Steel (Evysss) (level up: stronger) **
1120 Domination (Evysss / Erika) (level up: more consistently effective)
1600 Divine Fire (Evysss) (level up: bonus damage, bonus damage!!) **
1600 Ward of Elements (Evysss / Erika) (level up: stronger) **
1920 Return Life (Evysss / Erika / Healing Monastery) (level up: ???)
2240 Divine Retribution (Erika) (level up: slow, ?) **
2400 Divine Restoration (Erika) (level up: bonus healing, ?) *
2560 Divine Host (Erika) (level up: buffs)

Again, asterisks indicate the number of levels that are worth buying. No
asterisks doesn't mean a spell is useless, just that 1 level from a spellbook
should be sufficient. Most spells that you need, but you only need at level 1,
have easily accessible spellbooks. The exception is Unshackle Mind, which is
important, relatively cheap to buy, and relatively hard to access in spellbook
format -- you need to reach Khoth.

Dispel Barrier is expensive. You need it, but it is definitely worth visiting
the Aranea web for that first point, even if you need to wait to do it --
that's 2000 gold you save.

Cost of spells I suggested:

23120 for spells you only need cast by 1 person
 8440 per career mage
17640 per career priest
 3360 per minor priest

So, that's about 50,000 gold for a relatively picky selection of spell
purchases, or possibly more with 3+ casters. That leaves about 65,000 gold in
our imaginary purse, or 90,000 with 4 Negotiator. To simplify things for skill
purchases, that's about 16,000 per PC, or 22,000 with 4 Negotiator.

A singleton can probably get by without Negotiator -- she'll still have more to
sell, since only the top pick for each equipment slot need be kept. Overall, a
singleton should have plenty of money to train every skill twice and purchase
whatever spells she desires.

REMINDER: In the Single Price game versions, you have more money to work with
and can afford to be a bit more generous when it comes to picking up spells.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[4.4] EFFICIENT USE OF MONEY -- ITEMS
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pretty much all the best equipment is found, not bought. In fact, it's hard to
buy equipment upgrades that will last very long at all before being superseded
by something you didn't have to pay for. I have only been able to identify
one exception:

Reflective Pants (+10% Curse resistance) from 2 different merchants
  * near Formello and in the Tower of Magi

It's not crystal clear, as there are various greaves that provide better armor
and other bonuses. However, they all come with to-hit penalties, their other
bonuses are mostly not useful, and curse resistance is both useful and rare.
You can buy 1 or 2 pairs of reflective pants early, stick 'em on your rear
spellcasters, and they can last for all or almost all of the game.

DON'T buy Wisdom Crystals (or ingredients like Mandrake to make more). A few
hundred gold for under 200 XP might sound like a bargain, but remember, it's
under 200 XP for a single character. If that were actually a fifth of a skill
point, that might work out. It's not. Since skill points and even stat points
become scarce after level 30, it's really less than 1/25 of a skill point, plus
1 HP and 1 SP, for a single character. You're better off spending your money on
trainers.


===============================================================================
                                      [5]

                                    SKILLS
===============================================================================

Skills that we identified as useful in sections 2 and 3:

* Melee Weapons (10+1)
Boosts melee damage (+1 die) and to-hit (+1%) somewhat, counts towards
Adrenaline Rush and Bladeshield, and unlocks a plethora of great skills. Swords
are head and shoulders above all other weapons, so this is the basic weapon
skill to specialize in -- and since everyone wants Adrenaline Rush, everyone
wants this.

* Pole Weapons (+1), Bows (+1), Thrown Weapons (+1)
These skills are really only useful for getting to Adrenaline Rush. But the
first level makes a pretty cheap skill point buy at a trainer.

* Hardiness (10+2)
Acts like a single extra piece of armor that gives 3% protection, per point,
against all damage types. That means it reduces ALL DAMAGE by 36% at level 12.
It doesn't get better than that! Recommended for everyone.

* Parry (10+2 for warriors)
3% chance per point of blocking a melee attack outright. Not as good as
Hardiness, but still good for anyone who will be taking lots of melee hits.

* Blademaster (10+1 or +2 for warriors)
Each point adds 3% to your melee damage multiplier and 1% to-hit. This is the
best skill for increasing your damage dealt. It does NOT increase fatigue
recovery, despite what the tooltip says.

* Lethal Blow (OK for warriors)
The tooltip lies: Each point adds 5% to your critical hit chance. A critical
hit multiplies your damage by 150%, but this is AFTER the regular damage
multiplier is applied. This means that each point of Lethal Blow ALWAYS
increases your average damage by 2.5%, whereas the actual impact of Blademaster
and Dual Wielding eventually drops: if your damage bonus is already 150%,
adding another 5% is effectively adding 3.3%; and adding 2% for Dual Wielding
skill is effectively adding less than 1.5%. With the right items, skills, and
buffs, it is easier than you think to reach 150% even for dual-wielders with
their -20% penalty. For this reason, Lethal Blow is actually better than Dual
Wielding.

* Dual Wielding (OK for warriors)
If you are dual wielding (which you should be) each point adds 2% to your
multiplier and 2% to-hit. Not as good as Blademaster or Lethal Blow.

* Mage Spells (17), Priest Spells (6-16)
Necessary skills for spellcasters; possible place to put "extra" skill points.

* Spellcraft (10+2)
Boosts magic damage (+2%). Not as good as Blademaster, but when you consider
how many targets an AoE spell can hit at once, this is very, very good.

* Resistance (10+2)
Acts like a single extra piece of armor that gives 3% protection, per point,
against all magical damage and effects. That means it reduces a lot of damage
by 36% at level 12. Almost as good as Hardiness! Recommended for everyone you
has easy access to it.

* Tool Use (up to 9 total), Arcane Lore (maybe)
Necessary party skills -- maybe -- see previous section.

REMINDER: In the Single Price game versions, you may be able to afford more
gold-based training in some of these skills.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The skills listed above should be enough to keep everyone busy for most or all
of the game. If you really end up with more skill points to spend somehow, Luck
is the next best skill to invest in. Extra Priest Spells users never hurts,
either.

The following skills are pretty much never worth investing in:

* Riposte (doesn't block any damage, and the extra damage dealt is
unpredictable, untargettable, and not that large)
* Sharpshooter, Sniper (archery is inferior, and sniper is terrible)
* Gymnastics (a huge investment is required for a bonus that is inconsistent,
better achievable in other ways, and not actually as important as it looks
anyway)
* Magical Efficiency, First Aid (SP is plentiful in this game, you can almost
always use towns to restore SP, and the few times you can't, you'll find an
adequate supply of energy potions for; SP converts to HP very cheaply)
* Cave Lore (unless you plan to do the wisdom crystal grind -- ugh)

Relevant points for "need at least this much" type skills from realistically
usable items:
- Discipline Blade: 5 weapons skills
- First Expedition Bow: 3 weapons skills
- Warrior Cloak: 2 weapons skills
- Tribal Symbol: 1 Mage Spells


===============================================================================
                                      [6]

                                    TRAITS
===============================================================================

BEST VALUES

* Negotiator (needs level 8)
Although the actual bonus to your income will a bit under 10%, this still
should provide you with enough money, over the course of the game, to purchase
numerous extra levels of skills and spells. Don't sell anything until level 8
if you can help it, then take 4 of this trait at once.

* Sage Lore (needs level 12)
Counts as 3 points of Arcane Lore for most purposes. Another incredible value,
unless you are shooting for the Stagnant Tunnels spellbooks.

* Elemental Focus (x5)
Like Blademaster for spellcasters. Better than Spellcraft as far as damage
spells are concerned!

* Improved Intelligence (x5)
Boosts your to-hit and your damage. Hooray, AoE spells!

* Good Health
* Robust Health (needs level 10)
* Perfect Health (needs level 20)
Increases the amount of damage you can take by 5%, 4%, and 3% respectively. A
terrific defensive investment.

* Parry Mastery (x2) (needs level 8)
Like extra Parry. Good for lead characters.

*Ambidextrous (needs level 5)
*Dual Blade Mastery (needs level 15)
The first one has slightly better bonuses than either Blademaster or Dual
Wielding give you, and is available early, when the to-hit bonus is very
welcome. The second one is not as good, but still a reasonable trait.

* Mighty Blows (x3)
Almost like extra Blademaster.

* Improved Strength (x5)
Boosts your to-hit and your damage. Especially good early, when both are low.

* Improved Endurance (x5)
Boosts your HP by 5. The increase in how much damage you can take can range,
realistically, from 14% (at level 1) to 2% or lower (at level 30). So this is
useful, but you may have better trait choices.

* Nimble Fingers (x2)
Increases your Tool Use. Effectively frees up a skill point to put in something
else, so quite useful.


COULD BE USEFUL, AT LEAST IN THEORY

* Backstab (x3)
If there were more levels available this might be interesting; as it is, I find
that the work of positioning myself for a backstab usually isn't worth the
potential 15% damage bonus. Still, this will be useful against
high-survivability bosses if you have 2 warriors. I'd say it's a judgement call
whether to take this trait or something more generally useful.

* Good Fortune (needs level 8)
* Great Fortune (needs level 16)
Increases your Luck, providing 1% resistance to all forms of attacks. Not bad,
but worse than the other protective skills.

* Recovery (needs level 5)
This is like 2 points of Quick Action, except that it doesn't boost your
initiative. A nice bonus for protracted battles, but not a priority at all.

* Blessing Focus (x5)
This will increase the duration of your positive status effects. I'm not sure
if it affects negative status effects. Enough of this will essentially give you
a free turn later in long battles since you won't have to reapply buffs as
often. So, this is similar to Recovery. Too bad it takes so many trait slots.
Better for priests.


JUST PLAIN INFERIOR

* Energy Blessing
* Energy Boon (needs level 15)
* Unending Mana (needs level 22)
Increases your total SP by 5%, 4%, and 3% respectively. The latter two are less
effective than a point of Magical Efficiency. Running out of SP is not really a
problem, so these skills are not useful.

* Swordmage (x4) (needs level 6)
Needed if you want to use heavily encumbering armor on your mage. Too bad there
isn't really a good reason to do that in the first place. You can wear -5%
without this skill, and special hit chance bonuses from equipment counteracts
the penalty, so a +5% bow (of which there are many) will allow you to wear a
base of -10%. The negative hit chance greaves, gauntlets, boots, and helmets
aren't terribly useful for a rear position mage anyway, and there is even one
chest armor that provides 34% protection without encumberance (Runed Plate).
There are some terrific shields without any hit penalty. -10% is enough for the
Mercuric Leather + Quicksilver Bulwark, or the Mercuric Chain + Quicksilver
Sandals. So you can even outfit 2 mages in AP+ gear without this. The other
encumbering armors are a trade-off anyway since you miss out of the bonuses
from the Robe of the Magi. Unless you are a singleton, this trait is
unnecessary (and maybe even then).

* Summoning Focus (x3)
Possibly useful if you rely a lot on summoning. However, in my experience, a
few levels on a summon doesn't make much difference in a fight.

* Healing Focus (x5)
If your healing spells aren't healing for enough HP, this can help, but it
isn't particularly necessary. Also, increasing Priest Spells will boost your
healing power by almost as much.

* Riposte Mastery (x2) (needs level 18)
Like extra Riposte. Riposte isn't very good, though.

* Fast Recovery (needs level 6)
Like extra First Aid. First Aid isn't useful, though.

* Quick Learning (needs level 3)
* Great Wisdom (needs level 6)
The experience bonus rounds down to nothing on most monsters so you don't get
much out of these skills. Furthermore, if you go up levels a little while
earlier then you have a steeper experience penalty than you would have for that
little while. Also, experience is less useful after you reach level 30. Avoid
these!

* Improved Dexterity (x5)
* Sure Aim (x3)
Too bad archery is inferior in this game.

* Sure Hand, Deadeye
Strictly worse than the Strength and Dexterity traits.

* Strong Back (x2) (needs level 12)
Increases your weight capacity by 20 pounds. That's all. That's completely
useless!

* Challenger (x3)
Seems to do absolutely nothing.


===============================================================================
                                      [7]

                                SAMPLE PARTIES
===============================================================================

REMINDER: In the Single Price game versions, you can buy more training than
is listed in these parties, which opens up some additional options.  These
parties were designed for the original, Double Price version.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[7.1] SAMPLE PARTIES -- FIGHTER/MAGE/MAGE/PRIEST
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This has a tank with high offensive and defensive skills, two mages with high
defense and healing ability, and a priest who doubles as a thief. Multiple
Nimble Fingers mean you don't have to wait to unlock stuff early on. The priest
will lag slightly due to being the main Tool User, but this allows the mages to
boost healing and, importantly, cast Unshackle Mind. The third healer is
probably unnecessary, but you actually end up with surplus skill points when
you run mostly mages -- they are a bit slimmer than fighters in terms of skill
points.

FIGHTER
9+2 Melee Weapons
+1 Pole Weapons
+1 Bows
+1 Thrown Weapons (Warrior Cloak for the last 2 points to AR & BS)
10+2 Hardiness
10+2 Parry
10+2 Blademaster
7+2 Quick Action
9+1 Lethal Blow
8+1 Dual Wielding
+1 Resistance

Negotiator, Health Traits x3, Parry Mastery x2, Mighty Blows x3, DW Traits x2,
Strength or Endurance x5

MAGE 1
16+1 Mage Spells
8 Priest Spells
10+2 Spellcraft
10+2 Resistance
9+1 Melee Weapons (Discipline Blade for the last 5 points to AR)
10+2 Hardiness
+1 Lethal Blow

Negotiator, Sage Lore, Intelligence x5, Elemental Focus x5, Health Traits x3,
Nimble Fingers

MAGE 2
16+1 Mage Spells
8 Priest Spells
10+2 Spellcraft
10+2 Resistance
9+1 Melee Weapons
+1 Bows
+1 Thrown Weapons (First Expedition Bow for the last 3 points to AR)
10+2 Hardiness
+1 Lethal Blow

Negotiator, Sage Lore, Intelligence x5, Elemental Focus x5, Health Traits x3,
Nimble Fingers

PRIEST
16 Priest Spells
10+2 Spellcraft
10+2 Resistance
10+1 Melee Weapons
+1 Pole Weapons
1+1 Bows
+1 Thrown Weapons
10+2 Hardiness
+1 Lethal Blow
6 Tool Use

Negotiator, Sage Lore (Drath's Knowledge for 10th point of lore), Intelligence
x5, Elemental Focus x5, Health Traits x3, Nimble Fingers

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[7.2] SAMPLE PARTIES -- FIGHTER/FIGHTER/MAGE/PRIEST
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Build 2: 2 Fighters, 1 Mage, 1 Priest. 

This build has a tank, an offensive fighter, a mage, and a priest. The first
fighter emphasizes defense, combining Hardiness, Resistance, Parry, and
Endurance traits to be able to withstand anything. The second fighter maxes out
offensive skills as much as can reasonably be done, while still having a strong
defense from Parry. Otherwise this is similar to the previous build: multiple
healers, Nimble Fingers, and the like.

FIGHTER 1
8+2 Melee Weapons
+1 Pole Weapons
+1 Bows
+1 Thrown Weapons (First Expedition Bow for the last 3 points to AR & BS)
10+2 Hardiness
10+2 Parry
10+2 Blademaster
+1 Lethal Blow
+1 Dual Wielding
8 Priest Spells
8+1 Spellcraft
9+1 Resistance

Negotiator, Health Traits x3, Endurance x5, Parry Mastery x2, Mighty Blows x3,
DW Traits x2

FIGHTER 2
9+2 Melee Weapons
+1 Pole Weapons
+1 Bows
+1 Thrown Weapons (Warrior Cloak for the last 2 points to AR & BS)
10+2 Hardiness
10+2 Parry
10+2 Blademaster
7+2 Quick Action
9+1 Lethal Blow
8+1 Dual Wielding
+1 Resistance

Negotiator, Health Traits x2, Mighty Blows x3, DW Traits x2, Strength x5,
Backstabber x3

MAGE
16+1 Mage Spells
8 Priest Spells
10+2 Spellcraft
10+2 Resistance
9+1 Melee Weapons (Discipline Blade for the last 5 points to AR)
10+2 Hardiness
+1 Lethal Blow

Negotiator, Sage Lore, Intelligence x5, Elemental Focus x5, Health Traits x3,
Nimble Fingers

PRIEST
16 Priest Spells
10+2 Spellcraft
10+2 Resistance
10+1 Melee Weapons
+1 Pole Weapons
+2 Bows
+1 Thrown Weapons
10+2 Hardiness
+1 Lethal Blow
7 Tool Use

Negotiator, Sage Lore (Drath's Knowledge for 10th point of lore), Intelligence
x5, Elemental Focus x5, Health Traits x3, Nimble Fingers


===============================================================================
                                     [8]

                          ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS & HISTORY
===============================================================================
Acknowledgements:
Thanks to Randomizer and Synergy for their item list
Thanks to Lilith, ShieTar, luthien and others for discussion of tactics

History:
1.0 - April 2012 - Initial release
1.1 - April 2012 - Several updates and corrections