Jukka's Ultimate Powergaming Party (JUPP) ========================================= created by Jukka Mikkonen email@example.com For best viewing, use fixed-width font and 79 character rows. You should be able to view the row below in full length without it wrapping onto the next line. 1234567890123456789012345678901234567890123456789012345678901234567890123456789 Game..........................Icewind Dale 2 Guide...........................In-depth FAQ Platform..................................PC Version.................................1.00 First Published................May 9th, 2003 Last Updated..................Jan 13th, 2004 =============================================================================== Table of Contents =============================================================================== 1. Introduction 1.1 - Glossary, terms and abbreviations 1.2 - About This FAQ 1.3 - Credits/Thanks 1.4 - Updates and Revisions 2. The Party's Development 2.1 - Two different parties? What the heck? 2.2 - Balancing things out 2.3 - Various party roles 2.4 - Armor Class: Useless or not? 2.5 - Spell Resistance: Useless or not? 2.6 - The power of four 2.7 - Cheap tactics - why not? 2.8 - How lucky can you get? 2.9 - Thou shall be saved 2.10 - Notes on various spells 2.11 - Spell combinations 2.12 - Things that might be nice but were left out 2.13 - Statistics and formulae -Power Attack -Quest EXP -Ultimate AC -Ultimate Damage 3. The Melee Party 3.1 - Tank & healer & debuffer 3.2 - Decoy & utility infielder & buffer 3.3 - Berserker & buffer & bombardier 3.4 - Diplomat & bombardier & buffer & debuffer 3.5 - Optional: First extra bombardier 3.6 - Optional: Second extra bombardier 4. The Arcane Party 4.1 - Decoy & utility infielder & bombardier 4.2 - Healer & buffer & bombardier 4.3 - Buffer & debuffer & bombardier & diplomat 4.4 - Utility infielder & bombardier & buffer & debuffer 4.5 - Optional: First extra bombardier 4.6 - Optional: Second extra bombardier 5. Do-it-yourself UPP 5.1 - Set goals for the party 5.2 - Start with the protector 5.3 - Add Druid 5.4 - Check available buffs 5.5 - Fill the remaining character positions 5.6 - Assign party roles 5.7 - Stick to the plan 6. Last Words 6.1 - Contact Info 6.2 - Copyright Info 6.3 - Coming Soon =============================================================================== 1. Introduction =============================================================================== Welcome to the world of powergaming! First, and foremost, thank you for downloading this guide. It is designed to take a deeper look into the game know as Icewind Dale II, and hopefully giving out some tips for everyone while we're at it. Second, a word of warning for role-players. The characters outlined in this guide will, for the most part, have very little to do in terms of being actually imaginable PnP characters, so please don't email me about it. If a thing A just works better than a thing B, this guide takes all the freedom in the world in choosing A, even if it sounds "wrong", "unimaginable" or even "outrageous" in terms of fitting into the fantasy world known as Faerun. Most notably this concerns min-maxing statistics. Yes, no one says that a character with CHA 1 or INT 3 sounds realistic. But think it this way: If the character isn't going to talk to anyone, having a higher CHA wouldn't really matter. And for the case of low INT, if you'll get exactly the same benefits from having an INT of 11 or 3, it's easy to see that those 8 extra stat points could be used to boost something more important. The game doesn't penalize characters with low INT in any way except for not being able to take the Expertise feat, which would require INT 13 already. That's quite a sacrifice for just one feat unless the feat is critical for the character's success. However, as most of the statistics really don't make much of a difference if they're a couple of points higher or lower, I've also included a non-optimized option for starting statistics. Feel free to select it if extreme min-maxing just isn't your kind of thing. Third, a word about myself. I'm a fan of fantasy strategy games such as Heroes of Might and Magic series and role-playing games such as Might and Magic 6 & 7 and, of course, Icewind Dale II. I enjoy devising clever plans to be better at these games with a scientific approach and quite often succeed in such goals. This FAQ is one of such projects. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.1 - Glossary, terms and abbreviations ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Don't worry, you don't have to memorize these in order to read this document. These are just for quick reference. 3E - Third Edition rule set of Dungeons & Dragons. IWD2 uses this. AC - Armor Class BAB - Base Attack Bonus CRPG - Computer Role-Playing Game. DBFB - Delayed Blast Fireball, an arcane 7th level spell. Especially useful spell to blast decoys with, as the spell is completely resistible by high enough spell resistance and it deals huge damage. DC - Difficulty Class DG - Deep Gnome. One of the races. Also known as Svirfneblin. DM - Dungeon Master. The "narrator" of a game. DUHM - Draw Upon Holy Might, a divine 2nd level spell. Best used with a high level Cleric of any kind, this spell gives huge bonuses to all three physical stats, that is STR, DEX and CON for a whole 10 rounds. On top of the obvious benefits, this spell can give a theoretical +150 hit points for a 30th level Cleric due to increased CON! ECL - Effective Character Level. Some races in IWD2 have an ECL penalty, which means that in order to get to, say, 5th level would require as much experience points as a non-ECL race would require to reach level 5+ECL. For example, a Deep Gnome requires 28,000 EXP to reach 5th level (ECL=+3), whereas a human (no ECL) requires only 10,000! EXP - Experience HOF - Heart of Fury mode. An insanely difficult play mode, available via the configuration program. Monsters have triple hit points PLUS they get an extra 80 hit points as a flat bonus on top of it. They also hit between doubly or triply as hard, and have totally insane BABs. They also receive a hefty bonus into their saving throws & stats. IWD2 - Icewind Dale 2. JUPP - Jukka's Ultimate Powergaming Party, this document as a whole. NPC - Non-player character. A character controlled by the DM. PC - Player Character PnP - Pen and Paper. As opposed to CRPG, this means the ordinary, in real life version of Dungeons & Dragons, with a real life Dungeon Master, actual physical dice rolling, character sheets on a sheet of paper and a group of people gathered together to play. SR - Spell Resistance Stat - Any of the six statistics describing player characters. These include STR - Strength DEX - Dexterity CON - Constitution INT - Intelligence WIS - Wisdom CHA - Charisma UPP - Original Ultimate Powergaming Party FAQ by Ken J. Egervari ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.2 - About This FAQ ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The purpose of this FAQ is to give two propositions as the most powerful party that is possible to create in IWD2 - well, apart from cheating, of course. Why only propositions, you ask? Because the term most powerful is closely related to personal preferences. For example, many people would consider a rifle being a better weapon to take along when the purpose is to go hunting deer instead of a hunting crossbow. However, it's hard to value the feeling of using such a traditional weapon to hunt, as it is most certainly more of a feat to pull to kill a deer with a crossbow than it is to snipe one from half a kilometer away with a hunting rifle. It's a matter of taste, really, as both get the job done. Similarly, someone might consider a four-man party being better suited to tackle the hordes of monsters in IWD2, while another player prefers to go hiding, sneaking & backstabbing everyone with a solo character, acquiring level-ups faster. However, the focus of this FAQ is not on the two parties themselves, but at the process through which they were created. Now, this document would be rather pointless if we didn't say that yes, the four man party IS actually better suited for the job. For the purposes of this document, most powerful relates to things like getting the job done with the least amount of time, minimizing the amount of micromanagement needed to play, doing highest damage, receiving lowest damage in return, working the numbers to our advantage, not needing any cheap tactics to be able to survive, beating the enemies as mercilessly as possible and reducing the chances of losing the game as much as possible. Extra attention should be paid to the last one. If this is your first time through the game, please stop reading NOW and go play the game through once with whatever party you think should be workable. After reading this FAQ, you will be so spoiled that playing through the game seems rather redundant, as there won't be much of a chance of actually losing anymore, and how much fun is that? This guide drops things like aesthetics, suspension, realism and believability in the role-playing sense in favor of more efficient monster killing ability, as deep down inside IWD2 is just a hack'n'slash game disguised as a RPG. Don't call me a spoilsport for spoiling your fun. It's totally up to you if you do it. This guide isn't supposed to be about having fun in the game, this is serious number-crunching business. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. I won't warn you again. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.3 - Credits/Thanks ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Many thanks to Ken J. Egervari for creating the original Ultimate Powergaming Party FAQ (UPP). This work probably wouldn't have seen daylight if that FAQ didn't exist. All the person mentioned in UPP credits list deserve to be mentioned here as well, so here you go. These are the individuals who contributed in some way and are in no particular order: Krysalyn - A note on dual-class spell casters with same casting stat High Cleric - Spearheaded Initial Idea and Main Contributor OddHat Ariana Manscatha Gimble UnDyMaKinG Dark Meadows Nevryndar - Consistent sound advice throughout the entire process Mystiquee koz-ivan - Consistent sound advice throughout the entire process Kwyn - Insight into Dwarves being better than Half-Orcs and Proofing Mithrandir - Suggestions to remove Blind-Fight, Dash and other feats in exchange for others. Other ideas also implemented in version 1.1 (UPP) Dorlan - Shades actual spell stats Bloggyelf - Ultimate Powergaming Party project wouldn't be complete without nay-sayers, and Bloggyelf is the best of the best. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.4 - Updates and Revisions ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.00 - First Release (non-draft) version Tweaked the Berserker in Melee party for better ranged capability Redesigned the Arcane party to avoid EXP penalties Added advanced level squatting info Added spell combinations section Added statistics section Added more character development examples Added guide for creating own UPPs for special needs (Chap. 5) Lots of miscellaneous bugs & spelling errors fixed 0.03 - Reduced line length to 79 chars instead of 80 Added clarifications for selection between the two parties Added role description for Decoy Added option to choose builds without min-maxing Replaced the second tank in Melee party with something more useful Redistributed roles in the Melee party Added option for Duo Melee party Tweaked the Arcane Party Added some notes for various spells Updated the contributors list 0.02 - Added a second party option for a spell-heavy party 0.01 - Initial draft =============================================================================== 2. The Party's Development =============================================================================== This section concentrates on many of the key issues that the reader needs to familiarize with before the deeper and more subtle points that will be tossed around describing the parties in JUPP can be understood correctly. Of course this guide could just list step-by-step instructions as to how to develop those characters, but that would be both boring and very uneducational. The chapter five has a rather detailed guide on creating own UPPs. The author of this document is well aware that improvements on the party's overall design become successively smaller and smaller at each new iteration, to the point that personal preferences start to take over number-crunching facts. Theoretically optimal party can be a total pain to play due to the massive micromanagement needs, and opting for less micromanagement can, in fact, speed up & lighten the total gaming experience. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.1 - Two different parties? What the heck? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes, you saw right. The JUPP consists of two totally separate parties that can be selected. Whereas the first party is a melee-heavy party designed to be able to melee through the whole game from Prologue normal mode all the way to the final battle in HOF mode, it can and does use spells to make the life easier in HOF mode, most notably after the Sorcerer learns Wail of the Banshee. In a strict sense, the spells that become available later aren't meleeing, but I figured I'd save the frustration of having to beat on the enemies endlessly, as it becomes slow towards the end. The second party, however, takes the opposite approach - avoiding melee as much as possible. It has only one character capable of doing high melee damage in order to deal with magic-immune monsters such as Golems and to help the party out in the difficult early parts of the game, when melee power is superior to spell casting in all ways, but otherwise it's just pure blasting away. Please keep in mind that neither one of these parties is "better" than the other, they're just designed to cater for two different playing styles, one with lots of melee combat and the other with lots of mass-destruction mayhem. Reading the chapter 5 should enable you, my dear reader, to design your very own UPPs, without the need for this FAQ taking into account the gazillions of different play styles and tastes. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.2 - Balancing things out ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- At a first glance, it seems like the question as to what would be the most powerful party in IWD2 should be rather easy to answer, no? As has been noted in various IWD2 forums on the Internet, the question is actually much trickier than that. However, there are many things that can be compared side by side, and by choosing always the best of the two does in fact lead to better groups eventually. This document is the end result of gathering all sorts of little tidbits of information from the boards, throwing it all into a blender and checking what comes out at the other end. The standard party with a rogue, fighter, mage and a cleric is a tried and true standard answer, but alas, it only denotes a party that is NOT TOTALLY AWFUL instead of being REALLY GOOD. Mix'n'matching a whole group is an art form in itself, while as optimizing single characters is quite a bit easier. Here's some examples as how to make different base classes better via various multiclasses thrown in. Rogue: ------ A rogue all by itself is rather weak in combat, although it gets a lot of skill points. I think we agree that playing a character is rather boring if we're only going to use him like 5% of the actual gaming time, that is when searching for traps and such. Adding a couple of levels of fighter gives a hefty boost in hit points, better attack bonuses and the possibility to specialize in the rogue's weapon of choice. Even better, adding many levels in wizard (or any of the specialist classes) makes the rogue a potent spell caster as well. Adding points to the INT stat enhances both Rogue and Wizard abilities, so its a win-win situation. So, how would a character that has only ONE level of rogue and everything else as a wizard fare at its main role, being a rogue, then? Don't be worried about many of the crucial thieving skills being cross-class skills for the wizard class - with a very high INT score, there's plenty of points to spare, and even if we can't keep up with a pure-class rogue, there's one thing that we need to remember - we don't even need to. Early locks can be bashed easily, and by the time the locks start to become harder, there will be plenty of Knock spells to spare. Also, with the exception of two traps (the one at the bridge to Black Raven Monastery and the one beside the Dragon's Eye level 3 entrance), the traps in IWD2 aren't much of a threat and can be just set off. By the time the party starts in HOF mode, there will be enough skill levels to do anything. Gaining all the benefits from being almost pure-class wizard certainly is an improvement over the spell count of ZERO for the pure Rogue, isn't it? By taking a look at the game manuals, it is noted that spell casters stop gaining new spells right after level 20. Okay, they do get a few, but not nearly as much as between levels 1-20. Especially noteworthy is that wizards do not gain ANY new spells between levels 21-25, leaving a large dead zone in the middle. So in fact, why not stop leveling the Rogue(1)/Wizard(x) after 20 wizard levels has been taken, and continue taking Rogue levels again? Because, we just noted that we don't need any more rogue skills to be effective, so those extra levels would be wasted. Why not take levels as a Fighter instead? That'll give our rather fragile character a lot of hit points, lots of extra feats and increased chances of being at least some use in combat when all the spells have been depleted. (Please note that having a lower caster level reduces the damage of some spells but this may not be such a high obstacle in some cases, especially if we're concentrating on melee combat instead of blasting with spells.) The JUPP Melee party's Rogue build has opted to take this idea even further, stopping the wizard levels already at 17 as this gives an access to 9th level spells with two castings if a specialist class is chosen. Together with the one level in Rogue, this leaves 12 levels to be taken as some other class. Quite conveniently, by taking those levels as a Druid, the character gains one of the very important buff spells needed for the highest possible AC, the Barkskin, without anyone else in the party having to worry about taking those Druid levels. This gives also access to quite wide selection of the Druid-specific spells for this character to use. Furthermore, by taking a number of levels as a Druid gives access to the Wilderness Lore skill, which may or may not be useful in the game, depending on if you already know your way through the Fell Wood maze or not. The late acquisition of high-level arcane spells isn't really a minus either, as the party has a main arcane caster to take care of all the buffing early on. Monk: ----- Quite frankly, monks suck. Big time. There's only two real reasons why I'd ever play a full-time monk, and those are the spell resistance ability at 13th level and to even lesser extent, the 20/+1 damage resistance at level 20. The extra AC from higher levels is a joke, as replacing those levels with 11+ levels in either Cleric or Wizard/Sorcerer allows for Divine Shell and Tenser's Transformation, respectively. Not to mention a whole bunch of more or less useful spells that far surpass the character's abilities as a pure monk. Unarmed damage has a lots of catching up to do with actual weapons, since fists can't carry magical damage enchantments plus they don't get the 1.5*STR bonus like two-handed weapons do. However, the monk's AC bonus from high WIS stat is a sweet one to combine with any divine caster's naturally high WIS. Just one level of monk is more than enough, as it also provides the best the monk class has to offer - the Evasion special ability and a solid +2 bonus to all saving throws. Added levels as a Cleric or Druid give this character lots more options in combat, being not limited to just beating enemies in melee. Alas, as Monk is not a favored class for any of the playable races, one has to be careful with multiclassing - any other non-favored class with more than 2 levels will result in EXP penalties. As a general rule of thumb, taking the monk level isn't worth it unless shooting for extreme AC values. Remember that reaching the critical AC of 72 is also possible via high DEX and various pieces of armor and a shield, albeit not as easy in terms of equipment needed, the monk class can be viewed as the "last straw solution". Bard: ----- A sorcerer with really pathetic amount of spells from a rather inferior selection? A rogue with less skill points and fewer class skills? A fighter without extra feats, poor BAB development and very low hit points per level? A cleric with next to non-existent selection of spells and even worse, tying up the already limited number of castings from the arcane spell pool? A jack of all trades and a master of none. With a very strong emphasis on the latter part of the equation. This character class CAN do a lot of stuff, but I'd rather take the real counterparts as the performance of this class leaves a mile-long list of things that would still need to be covered by the classes the bard class tries to replace. The various bonuses from singing aren't cumulative (unless using the instant activation and unlimited stacking bug provided by the Lingering Song feat) and singing occupies character's all functions except for moving around. Sounds even worse than monks, eh? Except that singing is actually a pretty solid ability! Granted, it requires the liberal use of the Lingering Song feat, but getting instant bonuses to many different areas while still having all the time in the world to take part into actual fighting is nothing to sneeze at. Just the 5th level song (Tymora's Melody) alone corresponds to an unlimited pool of Luck spells with instant casting time and mass effect on the whole party at once. Finally, the last song at 11th level (War Chant of Sith) gives very good overall bonuses, of which the +2 AC is most important to both of the high-AC characters in the JUPP's Melee party. Refreshing the duration every 3 combat rounds is a certain nuisance, but can be lived with. In fact, one should make a habit of refreshing the various combat songs before selecting a next spell to cast or next enemy to beat on. One nice aspect of bard's spell casting is the fact that it uses the CHA stat bonus for bonus spells, same as for Sorcerers. Combined with the fact that Sorcerers get only low-level spell castings beyond level 20 and a rather limited selection of extra spells, one can get more bang for the buck by taking levels as a bard. This way, the bonus spells from high CHA will be counted twice! However, due to the level cap of 30, it's not possible to get both 20 levels as a sorc and 11 levels as a bard, so one sorc level (and thus two castings at 9th level) needs to be sacrificed. Note also that the damage and duration of many spells is tied to the caster's level, so this kind of split build is NOT recommended if the goal is to get as much damage out of the spells as possible. For those that like to play strictly by the rules (and thus disliking the abuse of the Lingering song feat) there's a rather unknown treat to take advantage of: A multiclassed bard/druid can sing even when shape shifted! By keeping in mind that shape shifting usually OVERRIDES character's own STR, DEX and CON scores, those three stats can be minimized with little risk. One very cool character I used in one of my test teams was a Tiefling Rogue(2)/Druid(14)/Bard(14) with base stats of STR 7, DEX 5, CON 12, INT 20, WIS 18 and CHA 16. Plenty of thieving skills, the crucial druid and bard levels all in one character freeing the other chars to mix'n'match as they like, plenty of spells to toss around and an actually useful use for shape shifting. DEX 5 doesn't mix too well with the various thieving skills, whereas DEX 19+ after a shape shift into some nimble animal form does. As a matter of fact, this character ended up being the three-man party's diplomat as well. Now that's some versatility and utility in fielding for you! Fighter/Barbarian/Ranger: ------------------------- Three fighting classes, all with similar BAB development (ranger has slight edge with favored enemies), similar hit points (barb has slight edge) and an overabundance of feats to pick (especially the Fighter). IMHO these three are a bit too similar in the way they play, and as such rather redundant. While the 'as is' combat prowess of any of these classes is unquestioned, the situation becomes much more complicated with the inclusion of spells. Most notably, the Cleric class has several self-boost spells, not to mention the ones that affect a whole party. In a nutshell - while a fighter might get +2 damage to melee weapons via the weapon specialization feat, a decent level battle Cleric can cast DUHM and Holy Power (on top of Aid, Prayer and Recitation plus some other buffs from party's main cleric) for +4 damage and theoretically up to +150 temporary hit points! Similarly, the fighter classes have nothing in comparison to stuff like Mirror Image, Blink and Fire shields that every mage and their cousins throw around. All this becomes available with a few points invested into INT (or CHA) and a few levels into the arcane classes. In a nutshell, any level beyond the first (which gives the various weapon, armor and shield feats as a freebie) for any non-warrior class is a level that was sacrificed from spell casting abilities. However, once the required levels of spell caster levels for buffing are reached, opting for warrior levels doesn't really hurt that much either, especially if the point is to go bashing enemies with some melee weapon. Spell casting just doesn't go too well while swinging a weapon, you know. =) Cleric/Mage (Wizard/Sorcerer): ------------------------------ Three classes, of which two are basically the same thing. Ever since the beginning of the RPG history, a party without one strong divine caster plus one strong arcane caster has been a party that is severely limited in its abilities to tackle the various problems that arise during the journey. IWD2 is no exception to this rule. Leave either one of these home and prepare for considerably tougher adventure. By this very reason, these three classes also make for the most powerful choices for sinking new character levels in. In fact, the JUPP Melee party has only 29% of its total levels in other classes, and only 10% if druid/bard levels are considered to be a part of this category. Even more strikingly, the Arcane party has only 3% of its total levels devoted to other classes! Biggest woe with these three classes is that one needs a LOT of levels in them before they start to pay off. Therefore, if a character wishes to become a formidable spell slinger, there's not much room for sidestepping. Pick a class and stick to it, unless you have a VERY good reason for doing otherwise. Druid: ------ The final remaining class is one that tries to be a Cleric and a Mage at the same time. Too bad it fails rather miserably at it. No Raise Dead or Resurrection means that one needs to bring in a Cleric anyway, and missing Mirror Image, Mass Haste, Delayed Blast Fireball and Wail of the Banshee makes everyone wish they had picked a real mage class instead. A pity, really, as Druids have so many possibilities and they have a truly original set of spells to choose from. There's one redeeming thing to Druids, however. It's called the Barkskin spell, which neither the Cleric nor the mage classes have. In search for the ultimate Armor Class levels, this spell alone provides +5 generic AC at caster level 12. It's a bonus that is very hard to come by via any other means and would most likely necessitate the use of rather extreme methods for keeping the high-AC characters protected from harm. Take a look at the descriptions of other characters in the JUPP for similar ideas as to how one can make the base classes better. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.3 - Various party roles ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In order to be successful in life, an adventuring party is well advised to have specialized characters that handle one role well instead of having everyone being relatively bad at everything. Here's a list of roles that a party is well advised to have in their ranks. Note that some roles can be combined, while some are mutually exclusive. TANK : This character protects other members of the party, working as a meat shield to allow other, more fragile characters to have the time they need in order to pull their trick. A tank has respectable melee capability as well. Fighters, Barbarians and Rangers make good tanks, but Clerics, Monks and even Rogues are workable. Quite surprisingly, any arcane caster with lots of Mirror Images works as a tank as well, but only for a very limited time. High AC or magical protections are very useful for a tank. BERSERKER : An optional role that concentrates more on the offense, especially in melee. A very high damage with hand-held weapons guarantees a steady damage output even after the spell casters have depleted their spell reserves. Most tanks are also good berserkers, but the tradeoff between high damage and high AC might sometimes have to be done. DECOY : In contrast to a tank, a decoy is a meat shield without much of melee capability, which means that it is a much more specialized build. However, instead of relying on melee, this character relies on other team members to deliver the actual damage. A decoy usually has strong offensive spells or other, more indirect methods of making the life of the enemies miserable. Opting to leave melee combat out of the equation makes it considerably easier to reach necessary levels of AC and other types of protection. ASSASSIN : Even more optional role than the berserker, this is the fantasy realm's equivalent of a stealth bomber. Taking out key members of the enemy by surprise is the trademark of an assassin. High-level rogues with their sneak attack ability make excellent assassins, but Monks with their stunning attacks might be even better. Any character under Invisibility effect works as well. HEALER : No matter what you do, you WILL get hit by the monsters in IWD2. Therefore, unless you intend to carry around hundreds and hundreds of healing potions and make regular visits to the town to raise party members that have met an untimely death, a healer is a must. Clerics make by far the best healers, but Bards, Druids, and even high-level Paladins have some utility here. However, only Cleric can bring back the dead. DIPLOMAT : Anyone with high Charisma and corresponding skill levels can work just fine as a Diplomat. However, as they need both high CHA and INT, those kind of characters tend to be physically weaker. A party can surely play through IWD2 without one, but would miss out on a lot of quest EXP. Sorcerers and bards with their naturally high CHA make excellent diplomats, if they can spare the stat points to INT. Plus, they don't refuse quest rewards as Paladins and Monks do. UTILITY INFIELDER : Anyone with the required INT to have lots of skill points to spare on miscellaneous skills not covered by other team members. Rogues, Bards and Wizards make good utility infielders since they have quite a few skills as class skills. BUFFER : Any character with lots of spells to buff up the party. Usually any spell caster can work as a buffer when needed, but sometimes a certain spell level just has too many good spells to choose from, and having two (or even three) casters with slots at this particular spell level eases up on the shortage. DEBUFFER : Just as a buffer, but instead of casting party-enhancing buffs, the role is to make the life of enemies miserable. One important difference between these two roles is that while buffing doesn't require saving throws, many debuffing spells have saving throws. Thus the debuffer needs to have much higher spell DC modifier from their casting stat to be effective. THIEF : Not just the ordinary pick-pocket stereotype, this role covers all the miscellaneous skills that make adventuring less dangerous or easier, such as picking locks and disarming traps. Rogues are the obvious choice number one, but Bards and Rogue/Wizard multiclasses aren't bad either. BOMBARDIER : The heavy artillery. While tanks and decoys keep the enemies concentrated on other things, bombardiers toss around mass destruction spells. Arcane spell casters make by far the best bombardiers with their offensive spells, but high-level Clerics (especially of Lathander type) are nothing to sneeze at. Just make sure that you don't kill your own. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.4 - Armor Class: Useless or not? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Armor Class, amongst other things in IWD2 is a take it or leave it decision. Either you boost AC to insane levels or just neglect it pretty much completely, increasing AC only when you don't have to sacrifice anything for it, such as wearing the newly found armor if it is better than the one that you're wearing currently. Normal mode can be fairly safely played through without thinking about AC that much - just wear whatever happens to be the best armor available at the moment and use various buff spells such as Defensive Harmony in tight spots. Getting the combined effect from just a couple of the more mundane buff spells is more than enough to make it almost impossible for the enemy to hit. However, as the party is transferred to HOF, the term "high AC" has to be completely redefined. Whereas something like 30 would be a rather impressive AC in normal mode play, in HOF you might as well have AC of zero as even those lousy Targos goblins have a BAB of +26, meaning that they only need to roll a natural four (on a d20, which gives numbers between 1-20) to hit AC 30. In other words, they'd hit 85% of the time, and they do hit HARD. In order to be protected from damage, one could of course devise alternate plans such as using spells like Mirror Image, Blur and Blink to avoid being hit completely, but this is both cumbersome and very unreliable, as there is just too many monsters coming at you. Various damage resistance spells such as Stoneskin do help a bit, but later on monsters do such high damage per hit that even those take only mere fractions of the damage away - and they also would need to be recast all the time. It has been noted that apart from a mere few more or less unique monsters such as the Guardian and Chimeras, monster BABs in HOF mode seem to be capped at +52. In other words, we'll need at least AC of 72 (!!!) in order to get hit only when monsters roll natural 20's, which would hit even if we had an AC of 2,000. This seems to be hopelessly far away from those 30's you see normally. To reach AC 72, one has to rely a bit on the game mechanics and a few select key spells and items that are within IWD2. Most notably, as the only AC bonus that is stackable is 'generic', one needs to search for spells and items that give generic AC bonuses. For your convenience, here's a list of such spells and items. Almost all of them are used in JUPP's two parties. - Brazen Bands (normal)/Indomitable Bands (HOF) give +5 - Fire Dance Talisman (normal)/Sunfire Talisman (HOF) give +1/+3 - Swing From the Masts (normal)/Crow's Nest (HOF) give +1/+3 - Deep Gnome racial ability gives +4 - Dodge feat gives +1 - Expertise feat gives +5 max when activated - Every 5th Monk level gives +1 (not used in these parties) - Barkskin druid spell gives +3 to +5, max bonus at druid level 12 - Haste spell (or Mass Haste) gives +4 - Tenser's Transformation spell gives +4 (on top of higher DEX bonuses) - Bard song War Chant of Sith gives +2 - Cleric of Helm's "Helm's Shield" special ability gives +2 (not used here) - Some weapons give +1 (none of those used here) Note that while Monks add their WIS score into their AC, this ability only works when they don't wear ANY kind of armor or shield. This includes robes as well, not to be confused with cloaks that don't use the body armor slot. Those are OK to wear. However, no one denies a Monk from having someone cast a magical armor on him - best of such armors being the Spirit armor which gives +6 armor bonus on top of all the other bonuses for a monk. Similarly, Ghost armor (+5 deflection) works in tandem with armors & shields, adding up with other Monk bonuses as well. What this means in practice is that if high AC is desired, it places severe limitations on what other things that character can and cannot do. Going the high-DEX route and using body armors and shields relieves the pressure on WIS, but the maximum attainable AC takes a hit plus might create problems with poor Will saving throws, and arcane casters need also take the Armored Arcana feats or suffer spell casting penalties. Going with high WIS & DEX and utilizing the monk's innate AC bonuses makes the character more dependant on various buff spells and creates a problem with multiclassing EXP penalties because Monk is not a favored class for any of the playable races. It also makes the stat point shortage dire with two maxed stats. For an example as to how to make these kinds of characters workable characters, take a look at the tanks and decoys on these parties. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.5 - Spell Resistance: Useless or not? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Two races in IWD2 have spell resistance - Drows and Deep Gnomes. This ability is one of the very best ones in the game - we can cast spells to hurt others but they can't cast spells on us, more or less. However, even if we have spell resistance, it's not at all certain that it is high enough to repel the spells thrown at us. The way it works, a d20 is rolled and enemy caster level added to the roll. If the figure is lower than your spell resistance, the spell is resisted, otherwise not. Noting that both DG and Drow start at SR 12, a first-level caster would have to roll at least twelve on a d20, giving us 55% chance to resist. Quite conveniently, enemy spell caster levels will be mostly similar to ours, meaning that during the course of the game, about 50% of the spells thrown at us will be resisted completely. Finally, when party's Cleric reaches a high enough level to cast the spell "Holy Aura", it gives a flat +25 increase on to everyone's SR - raising the effective SR to well beyond what could be needed to resist almost any spell. There's one catch to SR, though. It won't work against some area effect spells. (I still don't know why.) Most notably, Horrid Wilting is not resistible, nor is Meteor Shower or Cone of Cold. However, all the fire-based spells I've tried seemed to be resistible. This is especially important to know if we're ever going to consider the possibility of blasting our own group as a last ditch attempt to kill monsters that have surrounded us - use a fireball or some such. Even more so when considering the use of a dedicated decoy that will be bombarded by everyone else. So, even if we could technically get "better" characters by choosing some other race besides these two, the benefits of having spell resistance on ALL characters are by far larger than having spell resistance on only some of them. Of course we could use the Clerical spell Spell Resistance, but since the 5th level already contains Champion's Strength, Flame Strike AND Greater Command, it's unlikely that we could memorize more than just one or maybe two copies of the Spell Resistance spell. Noting that enemies have either no spell resistance at all (a vast majority of them) or they have a very high resistance (Chahopek, monks in the monk chambers, Slayer Knights of Xvim etc), the Spell Penetration feat is actually a minus rather than a bonus, as it'll only make our own party hurt more. For those rare occurrences where it becomes important to drop someone's spell resistance, it's just plain easier to use the Lower Resist spell repeatedly while keeping the own party better protected from own spells. Or just bombard the enemy with spells that don't allow for spell resistance, such as Skull Trap or Horrid Wilting. Even HOF Slayer Knight of Xvim squeals in pain after having popped a dozen Skull Traps, believe me. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.6 - The power of four ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Since IWD2 allows a maximum of six persons per party, surely six characters should be more powerful than having just four? Well, in theory maybe, but in practice, no. Not only does the game become tedious with the poor path finding AI with a group of six, but a group of four is actually stronger as well. Here's the proof. One thing that has to be kept in mind is that many of the abilities that make these parties shine aren't available until the characters have leveled up enough to achieve higher level spells in sufficiently large amounts. If we took six (or even five) characters, the little EXP rewards that we receive during the early chapters would be divided between just too many characters, making it impossible to reach high enough levels until "too late" into the game. I used quotes here because it is most certainly relative what too late means, but at least I'd like to see the real action starting as soon as possible and not right before the final battle. Getting the fireball spell before entering the Goblin Fortress area makes the whole area a cakewalk, whereas a pure melee group will have lots of trouble. Similarly, getting Mass Haste before going to battle with Iron Golems in the Black Raven Monastery is something that I couldn't personally live without. It is also worth noting that while six 1st level characters in fact are more powerful than four, the situation is soon turned totally upside down when those four characters reach level 5 at 10,000 EXP each. Having six persons in the party would bring the EXP value down to 6,666, meaning that the very important 5th level that brings goodies like Fireball (for a wizard) and Animate Dead (for a Cleric) would still be 3,334 EXP away. A four-person party should ideally reach this point before the famous Shaengarne Bridge battle, making it gazillion times easier all of a sudden. And the difference gets just bigger later on, for example when 4-person party gets Mass Haste (level 12 for a Sorcerer) at 66,000 EXP each, a six-person party would still be struggling at 44,000 EXP, which means level 9. Adding the effect of ECL races makes this disparity even larger. One nice thing about races with high ECL penalties is that when calculating party's average levels, the actual character level is used instead of ECL. This means that while a party without any ECL penalties would level up faster initially, they'd also reach the point where their level is "too high" as compared to the monsters they're fighting and they'd start receiving reduced EXP for monsters, and pretty soon no EXP at all! On the other hand, a party with higher ECL would keep receiving full EXP a couple of levels further, and quite possibly receiving extra EXP for some time, as they'll reach some areas like the Horde Fortress as "too low" level characters. If you still insist, after reading all the warnings and no-no's, that you MUST have the 5th and even 6th characters, I would still urge you to wait until you re-emerge to the surface from the Underdark, or if you want to have those extras earlier, add them at the Wandering Village. That way your main characters will have received the necessary levels to be effective enough on their own, and adding new characters at this point will bring the average party level down quite a bit. Even if the first couple of battles will be tough to manage with new 1st level characters, just have them flee the battle and gather EXP as cowards for a couple of levels. You shouldn't worry about the EXP being divided amongst 5-6 characters now, as you'll receive plenty of extra EXP due to your party's average level being way below what it "should" be in such late stages of the game. It is also possible to play with only two characters, gaining the initial levels doubly as fast as the party of four. This is possible by taking only the first two of the characters in the Melee Party. However, even if the leveling will be super-fast in the beginning, the difference between having two characters instead of four does hurt quite a bit, as killing enemies becomes slower. Therefore, while this isn't really recommended, it is possible to try such an approach to make the party micromanagement even less of an issue. Another thing worth mentioning is multiclassing EXP penalties. Some of the characters in JUPP can't avoid receiving those, especially the high-AC ones. While this does bring the immediate EXP gain down a bit, this is compensated by not advancing in levels that fast and thus keeping the average party level down a bit further. This also allows the other team members to gain levels faster. Level squatting: ---------------- I probably should mention level squatting as well. What it means is that even if you receive enough XP to reach the next level, you just don't use the level-up, but decide to stay at your current level. In contrast to PnP rules, it is possible to get multiple level-ups at the same time in IWD2, and this can be used to our advantage. Remember that the game gives more and more EXP the lower the party average level is when killing monsters? By not leveling up at all, the monsters will eventually become "too hard" so we start gaining extra EXP. Why reduce the EXP gains from monsters if one can beat them at their current level? As a suggestion, I would level up only to character level 7-8 with JUPP, as that gives access to 4th level spells, and squat all the way through the Ice Temple as there are a few of monsters that give humongous EXP, most notably the golems, and besides, things do not get any tougher for quite some time anyway. By the time things actually DO get too tough, we'll have acquired enough EXP to jump several levels at once! Please note that if you do squat, you can't divide the level-ups between classes, and in some cases this might lead to multiclassing EXP penalties. An alternate and even more advanced squatting strategy would be to advance only one or two of the characters, gaining their high-level abilities while still keeping the party average level down. Most notably, the high-AC characters are mostly covered from greater harm already at very low levels, as their low hit points are counterbalanced by the fact that monsters hit them almost never. For example, I managed the whole Battle at the Shaengarne Bridge having my high-AC tank at level three and did just fine. Furthermore, the Melee party doesn't gain anything exceptionally useful after the Sorcerer learns Mass Haste, so leaving that character at level 12 or so won't slow down questing at all. The Arcane party needs a high-level priest (character #2) and sorcerer (character #3), other two characters can easily wait with their level-ups. Further tweaks for fast EXP gain: --------------------------------- Since IWD2 calculates party average levels as an integer value, you can also find dead zones in level advancement. Say that you have levels 5, 5, 9 and 9, the average becomes 7. However, the average stays at seven even if you up the level of the third (or fourth) character to 12 due to round-down. Upping to level 13 might not be worth it immediately, as that would take the average level up one notch - it might be better to wait until a couple more levels can be taken. Other noteworthy breakpoint for melee-heavy chars is the acquisition of an extra attack, which is more important than getting a small bonus to BAB at levels in between. Stopping at 2 or 3 attacks per round to squat a couple of levels doesn't really change much, but gives good payback via increased total EXP gain. Yet another trick to reach extremely high levels fast is to use "mule" characters. This works ONLY with parties with less than six characters. The idea is to add brand-new, 1st level characters before some encounter that is supposed to give good EXP. Examples of such encounters are the Ice Temple area with many golems & Sherincal, Cold Marsh, Black Raven Tomb (golems again) and Ice Temple revisit. By adding 1st level characters, the average level goes down a LOT. For example, a party with 4 12th level chars would become level 9 average - three whole average levels! This effect becomes even stronger when the main characters have reached higher levels - for example, a 4-person 22nd level party would end up at level 17 average after adding just one mule. With two, the average would drop to 15. Of course the mule character(s) will be very vulnerable to just about anything, and won't do much good as melee or ranged attackers either. But no worry, it's not their point either. Their purpose is just to EXIST in the same area as the main characters, safely tucked into some far-away corner, preferably under some sort of Invisibility effect. Do NOT advance their levels, and remember to ditch them from your party when you don't need them anymore to return to "normal" mode of play. Now, a party that has lower average level gets a quite significant boost into their EXP gain, right? As a matter of fact, the EXP difference can be huge. Totally absurd. Outright unbelievable. Or how does 28,800 EXP by killing just Sherincal sound? (In HOF mode, that is.) Even if one counts in the fact that the mule(s) take a share of the gained EXP, the net gain can easily reach +100% and above. For example, re-entering the Ice Temple with a high-level party in HOF spawns the area with at least a dozen Gelugons, and after killing the first one, adding two mules brings the average level down by zounds. After that, it's pure EXP fest - tens of thousands of EXP per one killed Gelugon isn't unheard of. One nice thing about muling is that it works best when the other characters are at high levels - which basically means that one can start with intense level-squatting and change to muling when all those level-ups have been actually taken. So.. don't worry about reaching those high levels that much, especially in HOF mode. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.7 - Cheap tactics - why not? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Due to various bugs or anomalies, there are some strategies in IWD2 that make the game rather easy to play.. many would say way too easy. I've listed such strategies here. Using the Animate Dead spell extensively: The 3rd level cleric (and 5th level wizard) spell Animate Dead summons various skeletons and zombies. Why would this be a problem, as there are many summoning spells that summon other types of monsters? The catch is that the "skeletons" and "zombies" just happen to be Apocalyptic Boneguards and Festering Drowned Dead at 17th caster level! If you've never seen those before, just believe me that they're quite easily amongst the strongest, most durable and most dangerous creatures in the whole game - and you get to control them as you please, and they won't even vanish before a whopping 8 HOURS have passed! A group of adventurers could just summon a group of these and stand back as these beasts brutally slaughter anything and anyone that comes too close, without even breaking a sweat themselves. However, after installing the 2.01 patch, this spell doesn't summon those anymore but caps at lesser monsters. Even then, the long duration of these summons makes the game rather easy.. and cheap. Using Improved Invisibility: If you're using the patched (2.01) version of the game, this spell isn't quite as evil as it used to be, but it is still very good. It basically makes you totally invincible, as the monsters won't even TARGET you, no matter what you do. So, you could just walk beside the monsters, cast every spell from your inventory or just hack'n'slash them to death without fearing of getting ANY damage in return. Way cheap. Utilizing Otiluke's Resilient Sphere to create invincible tanks: The spell Otiluke's Resilient Sphere (ORS) can also be cast on your own characters. So, if you take one of your characters, run in the middle of enemy camp so that everyone targets him, and you cast ORS, the monsters will just keep on pounding the ORS even if they're not doing any damage! This leaves your other characters free to toss massive destruction spells with area effects with impunity, as the character within the sphere is totally immune to everything. Way cheap. Although it is fun to try these tactics just for laughs, using them exclusively is both monotonous and boring. Imagine how boring it would be to watch a Formula One race where only one driver had a Formula car, whereas the other drivers would have to walk around the track. Or a game of soccer between any of the world-class soccer teams and a team that consists of kindergarten kids. Therefore, the JUPP has been designed in a way that these tactics become either obsolete (ORS trick) or just plain strictly banned in favor of something that works just as well. This doesn't mean that you CAN'T use any of those tricks, I'm just pointing that you really don't HAVE to in order to be successful. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.8 - How lucky can you get? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- IWD2 has basically three ways of obtaining Luck, by using the spell Luck, wearing Tymora's Loop or Ned's Lucky Knucky or letting a bard sing its 5th level song that gives +1 luck bonus. Note that while the Luck potion gives a luck bonus, its bonus is of the non-stackable type. As the items are either random drops (TL) or found in the HOF mode (NLK), most parties shouldn't be too concerned about these in the normal mode of play. However, once these have been obtained, the results are nothing but earth-shattering. A luck bonus is not just a simple bonus to hit, damage or saving throws - it affects the dice rolls themselves! Most notably, to hit rolls will be shifted towards the 20, all damage rolls will be shifted towards the highest damage possible and so forth. Some have also reported that luck modifier reduces damage taken from spells by shifting the damage rolls towards 1, ultimately making a 10th level fireball do only 10 pts of fire damage instead of 10-60! So, if you have both Luck enhancing items plus the spell active, you'll have an effective luck of +6, and with the luck-enhancing Bard song thrown into the mix, the luck may reach +7. With a luck of +7, any roll with a d8 (or smaller) will always give an 8, and even a d12 (say, the damage of a greataxe) will only give numbers between 8-12, with more than 50% chance of receiving 12. The effect on damage rolls is very close to having Maximized Attacks on all the time without the steep prerequisites for the feat or the lousy one-and-a-half round duration. Even better, as the luck affects to hit rolls, the relative amount of rolls that reach the critical threat range skyrockets, and it is possible to have long streaks of nothing but critical hits, doubling or tripling the damage of each hit. Throw in Improved Critical, a Keen weapon and have someone cast Executioner's Eyes, and it suddenly becomes almost impossible to NOT score a critical on every hit! The impact of damage rates can be summarized as "insane". In one of the tests, we managed to create a character that did a whopping 2,000 damage in just two and a half combat rounds!! However, as all tanks and decoys in the JUPP need their ultra-high ACs to be relatively safe from harm, some sacrifices on damage had to be done. Most notably, none of the tanks have godly STR scores, decoys even less, which does bring the damage down quite a bit. Neither can they use those lovely Gauntlets of Weapon Specialization, as they need this slot for Indomitable (or Brazen) Bands. Lower STR makes it also much less likely that the lovely Power Attack feat can be used on max setting until very late into the game. (Refer to section 2.13 for further details.) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.9 - Thou shall be saved ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- No, this chapter is not about religious pathos, but about saving throws. The way these work in 3E rules, and hence in IWD2, is that a d20 is rolled and your personal saving throw bonus is added to the roll or deducted from it in case it is negative. The resulting number is then compared with the DC of the spell or whatever we're saving against. But what is this DC? It's short for Difficulty Class. All spells have a DC of 10 (base) + spell's level (1-9) + caster's stat modifier (either WIS, INT or CHA bonus, depending on class). Since most casters that expect to shine as being spell casters max out their primary casting stat, we're looking at a flat bonus of between +4 (low-level without racial bonuses) and +8 (high-level with racial bonus). Let's use +6 as example. So, spell DC's vary between 17 and 25, depending on spell's level. Now, in order to succeed in a saving throw against a DC of over 20, the character MUST have a saving throw bonuses. As a general rule of thumb, base saving throw bonuses are either one third or half of character's level, so even a level 30 character is going to have difficulties at saving vs. a DC of 25 unless he happens to have this saving throw type as class special, i.e. Fortitude save for being a Fighter. Even then, a roll of 8 or greater is required to make the save. (8+17=25) So, in order to be even remotely sure that our saving throws will succeed, we need to have rather hefty bonuses from statistics that modify these and use all the help we can get by various buff spells & items. Alas, this also means that if we for a reason or another need to do sacrifices in any of the stats that modify saves (DEX for reflex, CON for fortitude and WIS for will), especially if we need to have a penalty due to those, we might as well ignore that specific saving throw type completely since we won't be making that kind of saves with any reliability no matter what. This all might sound obvious, but this has certain ramifications we need to take into account when creating the JUPP. These are: - Don't bother trying to make your fortitude saves with pure spell casters, as the spells that check against fortitude are usually of high levels such as Finger of Death, Horrid Wilting and Wail of the Banshee. Surely, taking Great Fortitude might boost your chances for saving vs. those spells from a mere 35% (DC 21-25, 15th level spell caster with +5 base save and +4 CON bonus has to roll between 12+ and 16+ to succeed, 14+ average) to 45%, but still, more than half of those spells kill you anyway. I'd use Heal or Resurrection instead of using the important feat on something that could be used to eliminate that enemy mage casting those spells just that bit sooner. In case of the Finger of Death, I'd suggest using the Power Word: Reload spell, as the character can't be Resurrected. Or alternatively, protect your group with Death Wards. - Don't bother trying to make your reflex saves with any character that doesn't have maxed DEX. Specifically, while the Rogue/Monk/Cleric does have the invaluable Evasion ability, the DEX isn't sky-high.. And with your party bombardiers having maxed spell casting statistics, the DC of a spell like the DBFB is going to be quite high. So, instead of wasting a feat on Lightning reflexes that still wouldn't insure much of anything, use either Spell Resistance (via Holy Aura spell) or just bite the bullet with a prior casting of DUHM to have extra HPs to take the hit. Now, the Rogue/Fighter/Wizard has maxed DEX (and also gets nice base saves since he's a Rogue), and the added Lightning Reflexes does in fact help quite a bit in making the saves. 20% fail chance vs. 10% fail chance is what I'd call considerable difference. - Don't bother trying to make Will saves with any warrior character with low WIS. However, as losing a tank or just about any party member for a simple Charm is just unacceptable, the WIS scores are either very high or the character has other means of reaching good Will saving throw bonuses. Add a casting of Protection from Evil or Mind Blank and get rid of the final chance of bad luck. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.10 - Some notes on various spells ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Icewind Dale II has a whopping 305 different spells to choose from, so it might be a good idea to point out the ones that seem to perform noticeably well. Arcane spells: -------------- Chromatic Orb - This spell might not do as much damage as, say, Burning Hands or even Magic Missile, but once the caster reaches 7th level, things start to get interesting. Namely, this spell stuns opponents for 13 rounds on a failed reflex save. A stunned opponent doesn't do ANYTHING during that time, just waits to be killed. Now, since most warrior types have poor reflex saves, this works quite well. And especially, since Clerics have very good Will saves due to their high WIS, they aren't nearly as easy to Charm or Dominate, but this spell does incapacitate them quite easily. Ray of Enfeeblement - While not so especially useful in Normal mode, where the easiest way to deal with hordes of enemies is some mass destruction spell, this spell works wonders in HOF. Enemies have lots of hit points and they hit hard, so it's nice to remove at least the "hit hard" part from the equation. Of course we'll have other, more powerful spells by then, but one shouldn't neglect this 1st level spell when there's nothing better to do. Mirror Image - This spell creates 2-8 "copies" of the caster. Any attack that causes damage depletes only one image, and all images must be depleted before the character starts taking damage. This is just amazing, as the source of damage can be ANYTHING - including spells cast by your own party, and even those that couldn't be resisted by spell resistance. So, just blast away with Horrid Wiltings and Meteor Showers, it isn't going to hurt for as long as there are mirror images left! Luck - Read the chapter "How lucky can you get?" for more information. Fireball - Basic tool of mass destruction during early chapters. While the damage isn't sky-high, it is applied to anyone in the area of effect - thus a single casting can easily do a total of 200+ damage on the enemies at once, evening the odds in our favor rapidly. Skulltrap - Compared to the Fireball, this has two drawbacks - lower effect radius and the need to have someone trigger the trap at the receiving end. But - this spell has no damage cap, which means that a 30th level caster could do a whopping 30-180 damage with a single skulltrap! This spell doesn't seem to care about enemy's spell resistance either, for some reason.. Haste - Not very useful during early game as the duration is so short, but later on this is just golden. An extra attack per round would be quite a bit already, but adding a major AC bonus and pluses to Reflex saves makes it just too good to believe for anyone. Becomes obsolete with Mass Haste, naturally. Stoneskin - By noting that most monsters in Normal mode don't do noticeably more than 10 points per hit, this spell effectively gives almost total protection for as long as the spell lasts. It doesn't have infinite "hit points", though - once it has protected a max of 150 damage, the spell wears off and needs to be recast. Emotion: Hope - Very solid bonuses to just about anything with a rather long duration. Malison & Emotion: Despair - Excellent spells in HOF mode where enemies have ridiculously high saving throw bonuses. Note that Emotion: Despair affects party members as well and has a saving throw, so it's not as reliable as Malison. It also has a much smaller area of effect. However, I've never seen anyone make that Will save against Emotion: Despair, so it might be bugged in favor of the player party. Chaos - The power of divide & conquer is just amazing. With a substantial penalty to saving throws, it will affect most enemies, turning them into a disorganized mess. Some will start to fight their earlier comrades, some will flee and some just stand still doing nothing. Especially great in HOF mode where outright killing enemies is considerably slower than in Normal mode, buying the party lots of extra time to handle tricky situations. Cone of Cold - While probably one of the trickiest mass destruction spells to use, the cone-shaped area of effect allows for a joint attack into an advancing group of enemies. Just spread your spell casters so that they stand side by side (not right next to each other, though) and just blast away. It also does cold damage, very useful in situations where the enemies happen to resist fire. Please note that undead summons are immune to this spell, so feel free to blast away at enemies gathered around them. Sunfire - So, you have a decoy that's surrounded by a horde of enemies? And he doesn't really shine on melee combat with that puny dagger he has? Well, time to pick up the ace from the sleeve and give 'em a really HOT surprise! Mass Haste - Haste that affects everyone simultaneously. Great! Disintegrate - While a spell like Acid Storm certainly does more total damage against a group of monsters, sometimes it's much more important to kill one specific target from that group. Also, as the spell has a Fortitude save, this works especially great against enemy mages -- which would most often be the most dangerous enemy in the group anyway! However, due to the high saving throw bonuses in HOF mode, this spell is much more likely to fail than to work, so I wouldn't waste too much time on it. Shades - Just like Giant Vermin, the early summons aren't mostly worth it, but after level 27 it brings forth some very potent monsters - including Gelugons - under your control. How does a Gate spell with shorter casting time, controllable demons and all this with a 6th level spell sound? Delayed Blast Fireball - A skulltrap on heavy steroids. Great bombardment spell as it can be both Evaded and resisted by a high enough spell resistance. Has a potential of doing 288 maximum damage (with the Spirit of Flame feat) for everyone in the area of effect, so even HOF monsters will crumble quite fast. Expect to be scoring several thousands of total damage against the huge hordes of enemies in HOF mode with just about every casting. Finger of Death - Just as Disintegrate, but utilizes the much more useful Greater Spell Focus: Necromancy feat for extra tough DC value. I'd be using the DBFB more than this, though, as DBFB disrupts enemy spell casting even on a successful saving throw unless they're immune to fire. However, a Druid doesn't get access to DBFB, so this is probably the next best choice. Mordenkainen's Sword - Turns a wizard into a melee unit, without the need of being in melee physically. Damage is also rather respectable. You have to remember that you're most likely to do several attacks per round, so the actual damage is more like 16d6+12 or 20d6+15 each round! Use this especially against tiny groups or especially single monsters instead of area-effect spells, because it lasts much longer and can thus keep on doing damage for a very long time. Horrid Wilting - Not as good maximum damage as with DBFB, but not resistible by enemy's possible spell resistance. Watch your own though, for the same reason. This is THE area damage spell vs. Monks and Assassins that would just Evade normal fireballs. In case you use undead summons, note that they don't receive any damage from this spell, making them perfect decoys for massive area bombardment. Symbol of Hopelessness - This spell is equal to casting a Chromatic Orb at everyone in the area of effect excluding allies but with an additional -7 penalty for saving throws against it. This stuns pretty much everyone even in HOF mode. Follow with the next one for extra punch. Too bad this spell doesn't benefit from the Spell Focus feats.. Executioner's Eyes - While having a +4 to hits and an increased critical hit range sounds lame for a 9th level spell, especially since the duration is so short, the effect on a high-damage melee character with a weapon that does triple damage on critical hits is just amazing. With some luck enhancements plus a Massive Greataxe of Flame +5 (if found), it's quite possible to have a "plain" melee character do well above 500 damage per round on the average and up to 200 damage per hit. Even a 30th level mage would have a tough time at beating such a figure, and would most certainly require a large group of enemies to bombard to achieve it - divided amongst the whole group, mind you. Wail of the Banshee - A Finger of Death spell with an even tougher spell DC that is cast on everyone in the area of effect simultaneously, allies excluded, is just too good to be true. This is the ONLY spell that allows a party to get rid of a large group of enemies in any reasonable time in HOF mode. Some monsters (most notably undead) are immune to this, though, so I wouldn't count my life on it alone! Divine Spells: -------------- Bless - While not a shining spell on its own, having it easier at hitting enemies is surely a thing appreciated by most adventurers. Besides, there's no need to carry gazillions of Sanctuaries either, and the other first-level spells aren't too good, so why not? Bane - The namesake spell of the Dreadmasters, this spell can be seen as a universal, stackable +1 AC bonus for the whole party. Together with the freakishly high spell DCs available for Dreadmasters, it's not very likely that many monsters make their saving throws. Draw Upon Holy Might - Commonly abbreviated as DUHM, this spell is very weak at low levels, but becomes a major booster once the Cleric casting it hits the level 12 or so. Mostly useful because it gives a hefty boost in hit points, although only temporarily. Remember to cast Heal before this wears out if you're below your normal hit point minimum - otherwise your character dies. Bull's Strength - Gaining possibly +3 to attack and damage for several hours is certainly a respectable boost for anyone that does melee. It also allows weak characters to carry surprisingly large amounts of loot when needed. Animate Dead - While the JUPP is designed so that this spell should not be necessary to get through the game, having extra melee units most certainly has many benefits, especially since they also protect other, more fragile characters. Undead summons are also immune to Horrid Wilting, making them de facto decoys when that spell is used for massive bombardment. Prayer - A +1 or -1 to everything doesn't seem like much, but since it has no save and the area of effect is huge, the effect on combat is guaranteed. Besides, it stacks with everything else, so why not? Protection from Evil - While the other bonuses aren't too shiny and can, in most cases, be replicated by other means, the fact that the whole group becomes immune to charm & domination and that demons & elementals won't attack such characters is something that just shouldn't be forgotten about. Recitation - A Prayer but with double effects. Holy Power - While having a rather short duration and the spell being a caster only type has certain limitations, the damage bonus is almost equal to having Power Attack feat on full, but without suffering the minuses to hitting things. This is also THE reason why any warrior class (yes, including fighters) pales in comparison when seeking for extreme damage output rates. Giant Vermin - Summons rather worthless insects early on, but those insects keep on getting better and better as the caster increases in level. The final "insect" happens to be Rhinoceros Beetle, a 10 meter huge beast with tough shell and huge tusks to bite enemies with. Plenty of hit points for tanking, that is. Champion's Strength - Up to +4 to attack and damage for a very long time is nice for anyone that does melee. Greater Command - Power Word: Sleep on steroids and only a 5th level spell! Especially in HOF mode where Power Word: XYZ spells have very little effect due to monster's increased Hit Points, this still works like a charm. (Pun intended.) Heal - Once you get this, forget about all the other healing spells. With almost instant casting time this spell is a lifesaver for any tank.. not to mention other, more fragile characters! Remember, though, that it only has touch range, so you need to GET to the injured person first. Resurrection - The fear of losing a character goes away with this spell. I still wouldn't let characters die in every battle, as they don't receive EXP when dead and picking up the equipment takes a while if you have to do it once a minute. This spell works also as a Heal substitute if you've run out of those, albeit much slower. Greater Shield of Lathander - Even with the pathetic duration and rather extreme casting time, this spell gives a total immunity against almost all attacks. Make sure to utilize those three rounds to pull your other tricks from your sleeve - they might be your last. Holy Aura - While the other bonuses aren't too noticeable, the +25 spell resistance bonus for everyone is. After this spell has been cast, all the characters in your party with natural spell resistance become totally immune to all spells that can be resisted in the first place. This makes it possible to bombard even own party members with area effect spells! Symbol of Hopelessness - Same as for arcane casters, but divine casters have the advantage of being able to find items that boost Wisdom (and thus spell DC), making this even more useful. Fire Storm - The one and only divine spell that has the required area of effect and damage improvement with sufficiently large damage cap to contend with the showstopper arcane blasting spells. Too bad that acquiring several 8th level spells isn't all that easy. I won't touch on the 9th level spells as they're both crappy. Yes, you read right. There's only TWO spells for Clerics to choose from in 9th level! If you really have to pick, the Summon Monsters IX does give weaker monsters, but the ability to control them makes them surprisingly good. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.11 - Spell combinations ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- While it's useful to know what the various spells do on their own, some spells have certain undocumented aspects that make them work better in tandem with some other spell. Here are a few of such combinations. Grease & Web & Entangle: ------------------------ Three low-level spells with one thing in common - they hamper enemy movement. Tossing all three on top of each others creates a sticky mess of stuff that is pretty much impossible to wade through within any reasonable time - without the Freedom of Movement spell effect active, that is. Enemies do not seem to like to use this spell, whereas player characters can find Rings of Freedom of Movement in quite large numbers. Immobilizing enemy troops has humongous tactical advantages, of which getting the possibility of fighting them one at a time and utilizing area of effect spells without the need of having someone stand in the middle of it to attract enemies are two most obvious ones. Since the spells are of so low level, there's really not much to lose either - low level artillery spells aren't too flashy, IMHO. A rather severe drawback of this approach is that it doesn't really work too well in HOF mode, where enemies have so high saving throw bonuses. But don't worry, these can of course be augmented with.. Acid Fog & Spike Growth & Spike Stones: --------------------------------------- Exactly same idea as above, just utilizing higher level spells. However, now the affected area isn't exactly safe to walk in, even with the Freedom of Movement ring, as the spells cause (minor) damage every round. Combine with the first for even greater effect. Acid Fog & Grease: ------------------ Still the same idea as above two examples, but with much less spells to cast. The idea is that both Acid Fog and Grease halve enemy speed even on a successful save, bringing the actual movement speed to one quarter. Not quite a stand-still, but much less hassle as well. Insect Plague & Cloudkill & Acid Fog & Suffocate & Incendiary Cloud: -------------------------------------------------------------------- Setting all of these spells on top of each others into one area creates a quite dangerous kill zone, inflicting good damage each combat round. There is one problem, however - how to ensure that the enemies won't leave this hell hole? Well, you guessed right - utilizing the above mentioned combos to tie up the enemies in place once they enter the area. Getting enemies to ENTER the kill zone isn't really that hard as they walk directly towards their locked target. Or, one can utilize an expendable summon with enough hit points to stand the punishment while setting up. (Decoy character won't work as the decoy will also take damage when inside the kill zone.) It should be noted that setting up such a kill zone takes a LOT of time - one has to cast both the kill zone itself and the spells that make the unlucky victims to stick to the area once they enter it. Thus, it's not a good idea to try this tactic on an enemy group that has already spotted the player group and is charging in. However, it's possible to set up the kill zone and have one decoy character run forward, taunting the enemies into charging and running back to the party. The enemy AI isn't smart enough to note the goo pile on the way and they'll (try) to run right through it. A Hasted character with the Ring of Freedom of Movement and good spell resistance can expect to run right through this kill zone without taking any significant damage, luring enemies into the trap. As one can imagine, this approach is quite spell-intensive. Setting up the sticky area can take 5-10 castings alone, and the kill zone takes yet another 5-10. The kill zone should also have wider area than the sticky zone so that the enemies don't get stuck outside it. Considering the efficiency alone, casting a couple expendable summons (or placing a decoy with good Spell Resistance) followed with various area damage spells is much more effective and faster, too. However, it's nowhere near as satisfying as seeing the enemies roast themselves slowly and painfully. Monsters in HOF tend to have enough HPs so that the duration of the various cloud spells start to expire around the time the enemies are dead. One can, of course, hasten their demise with a couple area-damage spells if the damage rate of the cloud spells seems lacking. Using the kill zone tactic gives some use for the otherwise mostly unused low-level spell slots. Mirror Image & both Fire Shields & Death Armor: ----------------------------------------------- Fire shields are nice spells, but they have one rather severe drawback - arcane casters don't usually have the hit points to take continuous beating, and mixing in warrior classes to gain hit points makes the shields considerably weaker. However, arcane casters have the Mirror Image spell to protect them. One rather unknown feature of this spell is that even if the enemies hit just one of the images, it is still counted as a hit when the fire shields are concerned. Thus, when the fire shields (plus Death Armor that has similar effect) are active, the enemy that needs to pound through max 8 images will get max 8 times the damage from all of the shields. At caster level 30, this can net up to 24d6 + 520 points of damage. (Fire Shields are 1d6+caster level each and Death Armor is 1d6+5 max.) Even the toughest of the monsters in HOF mode will feel this sting - all at the cost of having to recast the expended Mirror Image spell if one wishes to continue dealing damage. The caster is also protected from harm during this process, as long as the monsters can't penetrate all the images before the caster can produce new ones. Getting swarmed in HOF mode is a sure-fire way of doing this, resulting in a dead character in a split second. So beware! Call Lightning & Static Charge & Invisibility: ---------------------------------------------- Also known as the "invisible bug zapper", this is a specialty of the Druids. Casting all the Call Lightning & Static Charge spells and following up with Invisibility from the party's mage (or just hiding) makes the character spew out strong lightning bolts with frightening frequency, while at the same time being undetectable by the monsters. This works because the lightning bolts aren't considered as attacks by the character, they're effects that just happen passively. After that, one just needs to take a stroll amidst the enemies and see them getting zapped. Maybe not the fastest way of killing enemies, especially in HOF mode, but surely a lot of fun. Any summon spell & Invisibility Sphere: --------------------------------------- The problem with using the summoning spells against a charging enemy is that the enemies lock on the party characters before the summons become ready, and they won't change targets just because a new summon appears beside them. So, making the party disappear from the enemy's sight forces them to concentrate their attacks on the fresh summons. In case a summoned creature happens to be within the area of effect, just attacking with it makes it visible again, so that the enemies may target it. This tactic is especially useful when there's a forced encounter right after an area change, especially if there's a long travel time associated, making pre-buffing impossible. Prayer & Recitation & Malison & Emotion: Despair: ------------------------------------------------- The monsters in HOF mode have ridiculously high saving throw bonuses, and thus scoring big effects with spells becomes a lot tougher. However, there's no need to just settle for having over half of the spell potential taken away. Casting these four spells prior to starting the actual bombardment imposes an impressive -7 penalty to all saving throws. (Note that the Emotion Despair spell displays that it has a Will save, but I've never seen anyone resist this spell.) In ideal case, having two Clerics and two mages allows one to toss all four spells at once, delaying the actual bombardment by only one combat round. In case a decoy character is used, this first round would usually be wasted anyway, waiting for the enemies to gather in a clump around the decoy, so there's no real effectivity drop - quite the opposite. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.12 - Things that might be nice but were left out ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Since the JUPP tries to take a rather different approach to things than the original UPP by Ken J. Egervari, some things were left out, even if they were "better" in some way. However, as this is also an UPP, none of those choices were made without giving a thought on the consequences of doing so. Usage of ECL heavy party instead of no ECL: As pointed out in "The power of four" chapter, the ECL will be an actual penalty only in the very first stages of the game, and the high-AC tanks that avoid being hit pretty much completely will most certainly carry the party over the tough initial stages of the game. This was a conscious choice between a bit easier time at the very beginning vs. much higher profits in the long run. Dropping the pure melee Fighter(4)/Barbarian(x) build : As the whole point of JUPP is to have a party that does not need to worry about getting hit that often, either by insanely high AC or staying out of combat and tossing spells from a safe distance, there simply is no place for such a build. Besides, with the amount of various possible damage enhancing buffs, such a character would actually do LESS damage than someone else that utilizes various combat buffs to their fullest potential. Having other party members cast the buffs isn't an option either, since some of the better buffs are caster only. Multiclassing penalties: Even if some of the builds can't really avoid EXP penalties, those need not be suffered until very late into the game. The sorcerer/bard does not need to be a Bard until very late into the HOF mode, and Rogue/Monk/Cleric doesn't need the level of Rogue until the Crow's Nest has been bought, which is chapter 4 in HOF. Also, a level of Monk could be avoided all the way until the beginning of HOF mode. So it's not nearly that bad. Besides, with only 4 team members, there will be plenty of XP to obtain anyway, and the EXP penalties will keep the party average level down a while longer as well. Complex multiclassing schemes: Original UPP tried to keep multiclassing to minimum just because it's "so hard" to have to resort to some scheme when adding level-ups. I'd call this saving in the wrong place, as the amount of time it takes to take a quick peek into pre-laid level-up scheme is somewhere between non-existent and very minimal in comparison to other things that take time when playing. Usage of non-humans: While humans get one extra skill point per level and an extra feat at start, it was noted that those aren't really needed either. In most cases the characters ran out of useful feats to take and skills are really unnecessary for the most part. For example, if a party has a high-STR character, lock picking is useless as those locks can be bashed open just as easily. The other features of the races, most notably the extra AC from being a Deep Gnome or spell resistances are worth much more. Drow instead of Wild Elf as Sorcerer(x)/Bard(x): As pointed in the "Spell Resistance: Useless or not?" chapter, the convenience of having spell resistance on all of the characters is far greater than having it only on three of the four characters. Blasting surrounding monsters with two simultaneous DBFBs (chars #2 and #4) would all of a sudden become much more dangerous if one of your own characters would suffer the full damage. However, choosing Wild Elf would remove the multiclassing EXP penalty and the ECL penalty, allowing this character to reach higher levels faster, so they're in fact quite even. JUPP has opted for the Drow mainly because the Drow has better overall bonuses, especially stat bonuses on both CHA and INT that are very important for this character. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.13 - Statistics and formulae ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This section contains various statistics and formulae plus other such miscellaneous tidbits of information. Most of the stuff is really not needed to play the game, but it's still nice to know. Some of the stuff might get a bit involved in mathematics, but I wanted to cater for the geek community as well. =) Power Attack feat: ------------------ One of the many feats in IWD2 which increases attack damage at the cost of accuracy. However, choosing the optimal level of Power Attack (PA) is not as simple as it sounds. Set it too high and the overall damage will take a hit when a large fraction of your attacks miss. Set it too low and miss out on the opportunity to cause more damage, not to mention having used a valuable feat point on something that doesn't even get used. Let's start with some definitions. D = Damage, as stated on the character info screen. Includes all effective damage bonuses from STR, spells, enchanted weapons etc. In case of damage range, just use the average value. DR = Damage Reduction. Some monsters have DR against some types of weapons or some level of enchantment. For the sake of simplicity, this refers to the specific weapon/enemy combination. CM = Critical damage multiplier of the weapon in use. Either 2 or 3 in IWD2. CA = Critical hit area width. For example, greataxes = 1 and greatswords = 2. Modified by Improved critical feat, keen weaponry and the Executioner's Eyes spell. Luck has also an indirect effect, check chapter 2.8 for further details. BAB= Base Attack Bonus. Check tables in the manual for exact values. AB = Total Attack Bonus. Note that this value is usually different for each of the multiple attacks that happen during one combat round due to the way BAB bonuses function. This term also includes all effective attack bonuses. AC = Enemy's Armor Class. PA = Power Attack level, between 0 and 5. P = Chance to hit. Calculated as (AB - AC - PA + 21) x 0.05. Note that in most of the calculations, this value is capped at 5% min and 95% max. One exception is when a luck bonus is present - critical misses can't no longer occur and chance to hit may reach 100%. diff = Attack chance difference, corresponds to the first two terms in chance to hit calculation, i.e. AB-AC. PC = Chance for a critical hit. Calculated as CA x P x 0.05 (normal case) or P x P (in case the chance to hit area is narrower than CA). DT = Expected damage value with power attack and critical strikes. DT is calculated by the following formula: DT = P x (D-DR+PA) x (1+[CM-1]xPC) Due to the multiplicative nature of this equation, adding to any one of these terms separately doesn't affect the total very much, but one needs to boost all three terms for maximal effect. Conveniently, having a luck bonus adds to all three, upping the damage output very fast. More luck is always a good thing. Calculating the optimal level for Power Attack requires optimizing a sum of 1-5 damage terms, for each one of the attacks during a combat round. However, as enemy AC isn't known exactly in most cases, there's no simplified formula to calculate it directly. Here are some tabled results. Diff means the combined term AB-AC, and AC value of 20 has been used throughout the tables. When fighting enemies with higher/lower AC, remember to use lower/higher diff value, respectively. CASE 1 : No Luck bonuses Optimal levels, One attack/round, BAB=1 D (After damage reduction) diff 5 10 15 20 30 40 50 -20 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -15 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 -10 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 -5 5 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 5 3 3 3 3 3 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 10 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 15 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 20 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 Optimal levels, Three attacks/round, BAB=11 or 10 w/haste D (After damage reduction) diff 5 10 15 20 30 40 50 -20 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 -15 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 -10 5 3 3 2 0 0 0 -5 5 5 5 4 3 3 1 0 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 10 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 15 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 20 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 Optimal levels, Five attacks/round, BAB=16 w/haste D (After damage reduction) diff 5 10 15 20 30 40 50 -20 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 -15 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 -10 5 5 3 2 0 0 0 -5 5 5 5 5 3 1 0 0 5 5 5 5 5 3 3 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 10 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 15 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 20 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 Optimal levels, Five attacks/round, BAB=30 w/haste D (After damage reduction) diff 5 10 15 20 30 40 50 -20 5 5 5 5 3 2 2 -15 5 5 5 5 5 2 2 -10 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 -5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 0 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 10 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 15 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 20 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 CASE 2 : Maximal luck bonuses (Luck = +7) Optimal levels, One attack/round, BAB=1 D (After damage reduction) diff 5 10 15 20 30 40 50 -20 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 -15 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 -10 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 -5 5 4 4 4 4 4 4 0 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 10 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 15 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 20 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 Optimal levels, Three attacks/round, BAB=11 or 10 w/haste D (After damage reduction) diff 5 10 15 20 30 40 50 -20 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 -15 5 4 4 0 0 0 0 -10 5 5 5 4 4 3 0 -5 5 5 5 5 5 4 4 0 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 10 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 15 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 20 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 Optimal levels, Five attacks/round, BAB=16 w/haste D (After damage reduction) diff 5 10 15 20 30 40 50 -20 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 -15 5 4 4 2 0 0 0 -10 5 5 5 4 4 0 0 -5 5 5 5 5 5 4 4 0 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 10 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 15 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 20 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 Optimal levels, Five attacks/round, BAB=30 w/haste D (After damage reduction) diff 5 10 15 20 30 40 50 -20 5 5 5 5 5 3 3 -15 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 -10 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 -5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 0 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 10 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 15 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 20 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 As seen from the tables, Power Attack gives best benefits to characters with low damage. Note that even high-damage character's damage may be brought down due to enemy damage resistance. Later on, the relatively minimal increase to overall damage from Power Attack may cause entire attacks to miss, which brings the damage output down drastically. The other important breakpoint is reached when attack bonuses from other sources than BAB reach the enemy's AC value (diff=0). This corresponds to hitting enemies even with an attack roll of 2. Increasing PA level has no effect on hitting enemies so it becomes free extra damage. Note also the effect of luck - with maxed luck (+7), even a roll of 1 becomes 8, increasing chances to hit drastically. As a summary, Power Attack should only be activated when the character's damage is very low OR when the non-BAB based attack bonus (STR bonus, weapon enchantment bonus, bonuses from spells & feats) reaches enemy's AC value. Luck bonus shifts this requirement down, as seen in CASE 2 tables. Here's a table on non-BAB based attack bonuses for your convenience. STR bonus = variable, up to +15 in extreme cases, +7 easy to reach Weapon bonus = variable, up to +5 in melee weapons, Holy Avenger (HOF) = +10. Weapon specialization feat (2 stars) = +1 Gauntlets of weapon Expertise/Specialization = +1 Bless = +1 Aid = +1 Chant = +1 (but renders caster unable to cast spells for duration) Prayer = +1 Recitation = +2 Slow = +2 (actually -2 enemy AC) Emotion: Hope = +2 Tenser's Transformation = +half of char's level, wizards/sorcs only Suffocate = +7 (actually -4 enemy AC and -6 enemy DEX) Executioner's Eyes = +4 1st level Bard song = +1 Ranger's favored enemy = variable, up to +6 Racial favored enemies = +1 in most cases Day blindness = -1/-2 (Drow/Duergar in daylight) Dual-wielding = -2 to -10 (see table in manual) Quest EXP: ---------- While experience from battling monsters should be the major source of EXP for most parties, the exact amount of this combat EXP is almost impossible to calculate due to level adjustments and possible level squatting. However, Quest EXP isn't adjusted by character levels so it can be considered as a flat boost to total EXP gained regardless of the amount of combat done. As an extreme example, a two-person party could theoretically reach level 30 without killing a single monster! (This doesn't quite work in practice, as there are a few monsters that need to be killed in order to advance in the game, such as Sherincal, Remorhaz Queen and Beastlord Harshom's group.) However, a group of six would only reach level 15 at 109,016 EXP each, if counting quest experience alone. This table assumes that all the quests are completed, and in case of multiple solutions to a quest, the one with highest EXP gain is selected. A party without strong diplomacy skills and/or high intelligence scores will get less experience. Note that the party gets to complete the quests a second time in HOF mode, so double the EXP gain for end-game calculations. Prologue: 17450 Cumulative: 17450 Chapter One: 33350 Cumulative: 50800 Chapter Two: 77250 Cumulative: 128050 Chapter Three: 32375 Cumulative: 160425 Chapter Four: 47425 Cumulative: 207850 Chapter Five: 51950 Cumulative: 259800 Chapter Six: 67250 Cumulative: 327050 Based on this table and the knowledge that a six-person party should end the game at level 16 (120,000 EXP) or 17 (136,000 EXP), the combat EXP during the normal mode can be estimated to be between 65,500 and 81,500 per character. Extensive level-squatting can make this figure considerably larger, while smaller parties that get level-ups earlier will get considerably less. Similarly, six-person parties should ideally reach level 30 (465,000 EXP) by the end of the HOF mode, making the total combat EXP in HOF mode around 342,400 per character. With even minimal level squatting, reaching levels in those upper 20's shouldn't be a problem at all in HOF mode. Ultimate AC: ------------ Actually, the whole idea for JUPP started from a couple of discussion threads where very creative people teamed up on finding the ultimate AC and some uses for such a freak character. The ultimate AC character was deemed quite unplayable (40+% EXP penalty, no thanks), but it was noted that the top ACs wouldn't even be needed for the most part, making it possible to remove at least a portion of the hassle of obtaining it. Not so surprisingly, a Deep Gnome was a natural choice for the character, as this race has the unique +4 generic AC bonus. Here are the stats for this (rather freakish) character, with equipment & buffing details. Deep Gnome Monk(5)/Rogue(1)/Dreadmaster of Bane(12)/Conjurer(12) STR 9 DEX 20 (may reach 31 with Tenser's bonus active for +10 DEX AC bonus) CON 10 INT 16 (for Tenser's) WIS 20 (reaches 40 with all bonuses for +15 WIS AC bonus) CHA 1 Conjurer levels are needed for the Shield spell, and to enable this character to use Tenser's Transformation. Note that Illusionist can't use the Shield spell! Dreadmaster levels enable this character to benefit from the Banite Quest (+2 WIS) in Kuldahar Graveyard and to use Divine Shell. A level in Rogue enables the Crow's Nest headband and remaining levels can be put into the Monk class for WIS AC bonus and a level/5 (round down) generic AC bonus. Other team members: Bard with at least 11 levels, Druid with at least 12 levels and a Cleric of Helm (any level) for War Chant of Sith, Barkskin and Helm's Shield respectively. These bonuses together give +9 generic AC. Equipment: Indomitable Bands (+5 generic AC) Crow's Nest (+3 generic AC) Sunfire Talisman (+3 generic AC) Every God's Ring (+5 WIS bonus) Chimandrae's Slippers (+5 DEX bonus) Potion of Holy Transference x 2 (+2 WIS, -1 DEX each) Feats & other bonuses: Dodge (+1 generic AC) Expertise (+5 generic AC) Deep Gnome racial bonus (+4 generic AC) Monk bonus (+1 generic AC at level 5) Spells: Shield (+7 armor, can't be used by Illusionist class, self-cast only) Divine Shell (+6 deflection, self-cast only) Haste (+4 generic AC) Tenser's Transformation (+4 generic AC, +2d4 DEX, self-cast only) Total AC: 10 (base) +10 (DEX bonus) +15 (WIS bonus) +9 (Team member abilities bonus) +11 (Equipment bonus; stat bonuses from equipment already accounted for) +11 (Feats & other bonuses) +21 (Spell bonuses) === 87, 79 without the Tenser's Transformation spell By playing the game through several times and thus acquiring several quest bonuses from being a Dreadmaster would make it possible to reach WIS 40 without level-up bonuses and potions of Holy Transference, making it possible to reach DEX 40 as well. This would bring the total AC up to 92. Furthermore, the team could have up to 5 other characters with 11+ levels as Bard. Due to a bug (?), the bard songs stack, and thus it could be possible to have 5 copies of War Chant of Sith going on at the same time. (Due to a more obvious bug, even a single Bard can stack songs infinitely by utilizing the Lingering Song feat, but I would consider this cheating.) Together with multiple replays, the total AC would jump to 100. So.. Should anyone brag about reaching AC's of over 100, they can be labeled as cheaters pretty much right off the bat! Ultimate Damage: ---------------- No, the pure fighter class isn't the best choice when seeking a character that can deal maximal damage. In fact, the optimal character looks like this: Half-Orc Paladin(1)/Fighter(4)/Cleric(7)/Sorcerer(12)/Rogue(6) STR 20 (could reach 45 together with maxed buffs, but capped at 40) DEX 3 CON 18 INT 1 WIS 16 (Cleric spells plus Will saves) CHA 16 (for Sorc spells and Divine Grace) Paladin level enables the +1 STR/+1 WIS quest award by completing the Holy Avenger quest. Four fighter levels gives the Specialization feat. Seven levels as Cleric (any kind, really, but has to be Lawful Good) gives access to Holy Power. Twelve levels as Sorc gives access to Tenser's Transformation. And finally, remaining levels as Rogue provide some sneak attack damage. This character has an "impressive" 80% multiclassing penalty, so don't expect to see characters like this in many parties... but it's optimal in the sense of doing most damage. =) Other team members: Bard with any number of levels (for the Ballad of Three Heroes), Stormlord of Talos with 9+ levels (for Champion's Strength spell and Talos's Destructive Blow special ability) and any arcane caster with up to 9th level spells (for Executioner's Eyes). Preferably a second bard for the Tymora's Melody as well. These effects give a total of +3 to damage amongst other bonuses. Adding up to 5 bards would enable stacking song bonuses, but I'd consider this a bit questionable method of boosting the numbers. Equipment: Massive Greataxe of Flame +5 (the mother of all weapons) Gauntlets of Weapon Specialization (+2 damage, +1 to hit) Ned's Lucky Knucky (+2 luck amulet) Two Tymora's Loop rings (+3 luck each) Feats & other bonuses: Power Attack (hitting stuff should not be a problem with this guy, +5 damage) Weapon Specialization: Greataxes (+2 damage) Improved Critical (+1 to critical area width) Greater Cleave (doesn't boost dmg directly, but via increased # of attacks) Spells: Aid (+1 damage, undocumented feature) Chant (+1 damage) Prayer (+1 damage) Recitation (+2 damage) Holy Power (+4 damage, self-cast) Champion's Strength (required for the STR boost) Luck (+1 luck boost) Emotion: Hope (+2 damage) Tenser's Transformation (required for the STR boost, self-cast) Executioner's Eyes (+4 bonus to critical range) Total damages: Weapon - 2d12+5+1d6(fire)+1d10(fire,10% chance) = 7-29 + 1-16 (fire) Other equipment - +18 to min dmg (2d12 counts luck twice) and +2 max dmg Team member bonuses - +5 to min damage, +3 to max damage Strength bonus - +22 damage (with good casting of Tenser's and Ch. Strength) Feats - +7 damage Spells - +13 to min damage and +11 max damage Total without criticals = 72-74 + 1-16 (fire) Critical area width = 1 (Greataxe) + 1 (Improved Critical) + 4 (Executioner's Eyes) + 10 (effect of Luck) = 16 (80% of 1d20 range) Damage with criticals = (72-74) + [(72-74) x 80% x (3-1)] = (72-74) x 260% = 187.2 - 192.4 + 1-16 (fire) Note that the damage value is a long-term average value, already counting in the fact that not all of the swings will be criticals. With a lucky streak of critical hits, a total damage of [(72-74)x3+(1-16)]x5 = 1,085 - 1,190 damage within just ONE combat round is possible - the chance for this happening is fairly good 33%. In case the character succeeds in scoring a sneak attack, an extra 4d6 damage will be added, but just once per enemy. Finally, when one enemy dies, the Greater Cleave feat adds an extra swing to further increase the destruction. Just to be nitpicking, the Paladin level isn't even required to reach the maximal STR bonus, as Tenser's Transformation and Champion's Strength can give a total STR bonus of +16 with a bit of luck. Using Half-Orc isn't really a requirement either, even without the Paladin level - this would still make it possible to reach STR 40 - so, technically, it could be possible to use, say, a Shield Dwarf to minimize EXP penalties. Furthermore, dropping the Rogue levels has a very minimal impact on damage (4d6 once vs. one thousand average damage in a combat round), so those levels could be used to raise Cleric levels so that they match Sorc levels... hey, wait a minute... Whoopsie! All of a sudden we have a character that doesn't have any EXP penalties, while still technically having all the necessary goodies for maximized damage output! The JUPP doesn't utilize this ultimate damage character mainly because having a dual caster class (sorc/cleric) would leave this char waiting for all the necessary goodies for a VERY long time, and besides, some other character types work better with the other characters in the JUPP parties with minimal sacrifices to the total damage output. Also, the most notable weakness of this kind of a maximal damage output character is the reliance on items that are random drops. I, for one, have never found even ONE Tymora's Loop, not to mention that lovely Massive Greataxe of Flame +5, so the ultimate damage should be considered as a rather hypothetical case. =============================================================================== 3. The Melee Party =============================================================================== Before jumping into the actual end results of many sleepless nights, extensive play testing, countless intense discussions and gazillions of clock cycles from the built-in math processor in the author's head, let's take a look at how the parties were formed. The Melee party is the definite answer to a common misconception that the HOF mode would be unplayable with a melee party. The whole party is built around the first character - an almost invulnerable meat grinder. With the various buffs from chars #2 and #4 and the assistance from char #3, this character can and will keep on chopping enemies until they drop. In fact, chars #3 and #4 are not even necessary, but they're included to make things go faster with extra firepower, and to lessen the woes of keeping the various buff spells up at all times. However, it was quickly noted that just hacking away at the monsters would take a very patient person to play the game through. It just takes too long time IRL, with all the micromanagement aimed to keep the char #1 buffed up while at the same time keeping chars #3 and #4 alive and kicking. Also, while the char #1 technically reaches the critical AC of 72, there's no breathing room for errors and keeping up with the ever-increasing monster BABs is a task in itself. Thus the Arcane party was born. The arcane party is also built around a similar character to the melee party's char #1. However, now the emphasis is not on the Clerical side, but on the arcane, making this character a very good bombardier when his melee side isn't needed anymore. The rest of the party is mainly bombardiers, with just the bare minimum of levels devoted to stuff that's needed to make them shine in their roles. Finally it's time to take a look at the characters that make up the JUPP. In these sections we'll cover the various aspects of these characters, including but by no means limited to the following: - Race - Alignment - Class or classes - Level-up strategy - Ability scores with explanations - Skills and feats with explanations - Weapon preferences - Spell selections - Play strategies concerning this particular character - Analysis on alternate character choices For a short summary, the JUPP consists two parties of four characters each, with the option for adding one or two extra characters later on. The Melee Party can be played as a duo as well by only taking the first two characters. However, before adding any optional characters, I would read the chapter "the power of four" once more. Here's the layout. Melee party: (This chapter) Deep Gnome Rogue(1)/Monk(1)/Dreadmaster of Bane(28) Deep Gnome Rogue(1)/Druid(12)/Illusionist(17) Drow Stormlord of Talos(18)/Barbarian(3)/Fighter(4)/Sorceress(5) Drow Bard(11)/Sorcerer(19) Optional : Drow Paladin(1)/Sorcerer(29) Second Optional : Drow Paladin(1)/Sorcerer(29) Arcane Party: (Chapter 4) Deep Gnome Rogue(2)/Monk(1)/Paladin(1)/Fighter(2)/ Sorcerer(1)/cleric(1)/Ranger(2)/Illusionist(20) Drow Morninglord of Lathander(13)/Druid(17) Aasimar Paladin(1)/Sorcerer(29) Drow Rogue(1)/Diviner(29) Here we go... ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3.1 - Tank & healer & debuffer Deep Gnome Rogue(1)/ Monk of the Old Order(1)/ Dreadmaster of Bane(28) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- NOTE: This character must be Lawful Neutral or Lawful Evil in alignment. I'll leave the choice up to you - picking LN gives the very useful Spontaneous casting ability that transforms spells into healing spells, while LE makes the character immune to Blasphemy spell. This fact alone makes the final battle a whole lot easier. This character is the party's main tank. With the extremely high armor classes available to this character it is unlikely that most monsters would even be able to hurt him. Even if the STR of 16 seems a bit low for a tank build, I can assure you that with the proper boosts (especially the Champion's Strength spell) this character becomes a killing machine. Please note, however, that the main emphasis of this character is and should be kept in the defense - if we neglect to use the very high AC available to this character, we'd be much better served by taking a character with higher damage output rate, such as an Half-orc with maxed STR. The point with this character is NOT to deal damage as fast as possible, but to NOT receive damage in return. Keep that in mind before getting tempted to boost his STR stat, for example. Every bit of AC counts. Remember that even if you DO get hit at times, the almost instant-cast spell called Heal is your best friend, and by all means don't forget to use the Blur and Mirror Image abilities that the Deep Gnome has! That being said, this character is also a VERY potent spell caster, with such insane spell DCs that one wouldn't be able to get more even by cheating! So, in practice, spells that allow for a saving throw are more or less transformed into spells without a saving throw! The spell selections should reflect this, i.e. don't waste your spells in various buffs more than absolutely necessary, as the other cleric is there to do that. Spells like Hold Person, Greater Command and Symbol of Hopelessness, not to mention the various control spells from being a Dreadmaster, reduce enemy's ability to fight back so much that it just has to be seen to be believed. For level-ups, I would start this character as Dreadmaster, and keep on adding Dreadmaster levels at least until level 9, giving access to Champion's strength spell. However, if you find that no matter what you do in terms of equipment or buffing enemies keep on hitting you, take the single level in Monk to gain an instant +5 (at least) to your AC. Alas, this will cost us somewhat - as neither Monk or Dreadmaster is the favored class, we'll most likely suffer a 20% multiclassing penalty and we really have no way of getting rid of it during the whole game. However, unless we dropped both CON and STR to raise the INT to 13 (minimum required to access the Expertise feat), having the monk level is the only possible way of reaching high enough armor class at the end of HOF mode, since we don't have Tenser's Transformation either. Besides, we really need to use Power Attack instead of Expertise (they can't be used simultaneously) to make the most out of the damage rate. The single level in Rogue should be taken no sooner than Chapter four in HOF mode, where you finally buy the Crow's Nest headband that this character uses. Starting statistics: -------------------- STR 16 DEX 20 CON 14 INT 3 WIS 20 CHA 1 I think having maxed STR for a tank is self-explanatory, and maxed DEX and WIS because this is a high AC character, aimed to take a level as Monk to make best use of the insanely high WIS AC bonus later on. This doesn't leave many points to play with, so INT and CHA had to be minimized in order to raise CON to at least acceptable levels. Low INT does cost us the use of the valuable Expertise feat, but this has been taken into account in the character's planning, and it also allows the use of the Power Attack feat to boost damage instead. If you don't want to min-max, use 10/20/10/8/20/6 instead. As you level up, keep adding points to the Wisdom, as this will make the monk's AC bonus better and also boost the spell DC's. During the course of your journey you should find two Potions of Holy Transference (one in normal and one in HOF) from the Battle Squares, be sure to use them on this character. Also, at the first parts of Chapter 5, you'll get to fight with a Cleric and his minions - this quest gives you +2 WIS, and was the only reason why this character is a Dreadmaster. And when you reach Kuldahar, make sure you buy that Every God's Ring - it gives +5 WIS! Here are the skills and Feats you should take for this character: Skills : Concentration. Save up your level-up point when adding the Monk and Rogue levels and add them on the next level-up as Cleric to be able to avoid loss in this crucial skill. Feats : 1 - Weapon Proficiency : Axe (number denotes char level) 3 - Combat Casting 6 - Power Attack 9 - Cleave 12 - Improved Critical 15 - Dodge 18 - Spell Focus : Enchantment 21 - Greater Spell Focus : Enchantment 24 - Dirty Fighting 27 - Discipline 30 - Subvocal casting or Lightning Reflexes Taking Combat Casting at 3rd level means that we shouldn't probably concern ourselves with trying to cast in combat at 1st and 2nd levels. After that follows the basic stuff for any melee character, and Dodge is just icing on the cake against Slayer Knights of Xvim. Level 18 is around the time for HOF mode where monsters have much better saving throws, so just to be on the safe side, let's add GSF: Enchantment into the mix to make it even more impossible for monsters to resist spells thrown by this character. Dirty fighting is nice since we're going to concentrate on getting as many critical hits as possible, and Discipline gives a bit extra insurance against spell disruption. The last feat is a toss-up - I personally prefer to eliminate even the slightest possibility of being silenced, but a Reflex save bonus with the monk's evasion ability is sweet as well. I wouldn't count on it helping overly much against friendly fire, as our other bombardiers have rather high spell DCs as well, but this is a feat that we can take for almost no sacrifices in other, more crucial areas. One feat that might ease up the playing experience could be Dash, as then we'd be sure that this character is always the first one to reach the thick of the battle. Comments, strategies & notes: ----------------------------- I chose Axes as the weapon of choice for this character as that way we get the best of many worlds - best maximal damage, best critical hit multiplier, widest selection of weapons to use and the use of two-handed STR bonuses with Greataxes. Don't concern yourself with bows - by the time you would get an extra attack with them as compared to x-bows, your melee capability far surpasses the lousy damage of a bow. Besides, you have the AC to avoid being hit - just charge into the combat. Activate the DUHM and follow with Prayer if the enemies are extremely tough. Forget the Prayer against monsters that are immune to it, though. =) One especially great weapon for this character in Normal mode is the Widow-Through - a weapon with improved critical ability. A 5% increase in critical chance yields 10% extra damage on average, which can easily mean 3-4 extra damage on average. Any chance to increase criticals is, well, critical for damage, and might even surpass the higher base damages sported by other greataxes in average damage throughput. Use other greataxes with higher enchantments (such as Greataxe +4) only when the enemy you're fighting has damage resistances that can't be penetrated with a +1 enchantment. Also, be sure to carry a mace or a club at all times, as some monsters can only be hurt by bludgeoning damage. The role of this character is to beat on the enemies using greataxes, so don't be overly distracted by the fact that he has also a ton of spells. Use spells that incapacitate enemies such as Hold Person when needed, but don't get carried away - this character needs to help to kill those stunned or sleeping enemies. Use lots of buff & healing spells outside of combat instead and only devote slots for offensive spells that are good enough, such as Greater Command and Symbol of Hopelessness. This character needs four items for the ultimate AC boost - Brazen Bands (normal mode, from the Averine Decanter sold by Nym in the Wandering Village and setting the genie free at once), Crow's Nest (HOF, bought from the Underdark merchants), Every God's Ring (normal mode, bought from Kuldahar) and Sunfire Talisman (HOF, bought from Kuldahar). Other boosts include Cat's Grace (Sorc) or the use of Chimandrae's Slippers (normal mode, found in Severed Hand), Barkskin (Druid), Haste (Sorc), Spirit Armor (Sorc) or Mage Armor at lower levels, Divine Shell (self) or Ghost Armor (sorc), War Chant of Sith (bard song) and finally Draw Upon Holy Might (self) at very high levels. The character has been created so that it should be able to reach an AC of 73 by the end of the HOF mode, giving us one extra AC to play with. For example, the Ghost Armor with its longer duration could be used instead of the Divine shell, or accepting AC71 and not having to have the Bard tied up in singing. Note also that both Prayer and Recitation make it harder for enemies to hit, so they bring an AC bonus in an indirect way. Spell selection: ---------------- Number in parentheses denotes take only up to this many, otherwise you can mix'n'match as much as you like. 1: Sanctuary(1), Remove Fear(1), Bane 2: Draw Upon Holy Might, Delay Poison(0-1), Hold Person (0-3), Bull's Strength(0-2), Aid(0-4) 3: Magic Circle Against Evil(0-2), Prayer, Remove Disease (1) 4: Holy Power, Recitation(0-2), Neutralize Poison(1) 5: Champion's Strength(1-2), Greater Command, Raise Dead(0-1) 6: Divine Shell, Heal 7: Resurrection, Greater Shield of Lathander(1-2) 8: Mass Heal(1), Holy Aura(0-2), Symbol of Hopelessness 9: Gate, Summon Monster IX At lower levels use Delay Poison and Raise Dead, but once Neutralize Poison and Resurrection become available, they become obsolete. The same applies for Bull's Strength, use it only until we get Champ's Strength. Sanctuary and Remove Fear are good backup spells. Remember to use Remove fear when fighting Sherincal or the Guardian. Aid is an OK damage booster. The amount of Hold Person spells depends on if you're fighting humanoids or not. Magic Circle Against Evil is needed if you use Gate, but it's rather OK to use as general buff as well as it boosts saving throws. Recitation might be useful spell to cast in the middle of a large group of enemies as it reduces enemy saves amongst other things. Follow with mass-destruction spells as needed. Holy Power is one of the most important damage boosters for this char, be sure to utilize it liberally. Divine Shell is needed for the ultimate AC boost but otherwise it is not THAT great of a spell. Use it if you feel like you have more Heal spells than you need. Use the 7th level divine spell Greater Shield of Lathander in boss fights for extra protection. Holy Aura boosts spell resistances through the roof, use prior to whenever you're going to do some serious area bombardment. Symbol of Hopelessness will stun almost everyone in sight, so follow up with brute force & steel with ALL your characters. The decision between Gate and Summon Monster IX is whether you want more potent killers (Gate) or the ability to control your summons (IX). I'd choose Summon Monster IX as the Gelugons start fighting each other (if you summoned more than one) and create a huge danger area around them by blasting away with Cone of Colds and Ice Storms once the enemies have been killed. If you get bored at just whacking enemies to death, feel free to switch 8th level spells in favor of Fire Storm. Alternate Character Choices: ---------------------------- None, really. That is, unless we're ready to do sacrifices into this character's Armor Class, which would make the selection of a high-AC build as the main tank rather pointless and enemies would hit us easily in HOF mode. In that case I would scrap the AC completely and concentrate on maximizing damage output with a build that has maxed STR instead. That kind of a character just can't function as a tank. Okay, to be nitpicking, an AC of, say, 69 would still force those Slayer Knights to roll 17+ in order to hit, but since the emphasis on these characters is not to get hit in the first place, this would equal to being four times worse protected than before. A natural 20 happens only with 5% frequency, whereas a roll of 17-20 is already a whopping 20% chance to get hit. Of course we could drop a bit from DEX & STR to raise INT to 13 in order to get the Expertise Feat and maybe even up to 3rd level arcane spells by trading Dreadmaster levels for levels as a Wizard, preferably Illusionist since it is Svirf's favored class. With 11-12 levels as Illusionist, we could also raise the INT all the way to 16, allowing us to cast Tenser's Transformation and access the hefty +4 generic AC bonus from it, while at the same time gaining the loss in STR and DEX back from the Tenser's bonus. Even after we consider the fact that DUHM spell will lose some of it's power when we trade off Dreadmaster levels and thus lower the maximal DEX a bit, we could gain maybe a point or two of AC in the trade. BUT : We'd also lose the VERY important ability to cast various spells mid-combat, since Tenser's doesn't allow spell casting when active! Why would we have those spells at all, then, and even more importantly, isn't it much more convenient to have high damage and high AC for more than just a few rounds at a time? One thing we CAN do, however, is to trade four levels of Dreadmaster for a Fighter, gaining access to Weapon Specialization plus one extra feat on top of the ones we've selected. This doesn't even hurt AC as the DUHM spell gives an useless odd number (+9) at level 28, and we'd get the same amount of extra HPs with +8 as well. However, since we already have so many classes, and Fighter isn't DG's favored class either, we'd make the situation with multiclassing penalties even worse. We could, however, level squat for four levels once we've received 24 Dreadmaster levels (plus the one in Monk and one in Rogue), and take all the 4 fighter levels in one go. Who cares if we have a 60% EXP penalty when we're not going to gain any more levels anyway? This build was NOT selected, as such a lousy boost to the melee damage doesn't really matter much at the very end of the game with this character, as we should concentrate a bit more on spell casting anyway. Besides, squatting for four levels between 26-30 would take an eternity with the 40% EXP penalty. Since this character doesn't use the Expertise feat, it might also be possible to utilize a (female) Drow instead. This would remove the rather agonizing multiclass EXP penalty. However, the problem with needing the INT for the Expertise feat still remains. With the requirement for maxed DEX and WIS plus decent STR and CON doesn't leave much room for INT and CHA. A drow would have starting stats like this: STR 10 DEX 19 (22 after buffs & two potions of Holy Transference) CON 12 INT 14 WIS 18 (38 after all items, level-ups, quests and potions) CHA 5 This doesn't look like much of a melee warrior to me, in my not so humble opinion. This character would also have to trade the Power Attack feat for Expertise, further decreasing damage output and reducing chances to hit. This character would pretty much have to take the role of a decoy, removing the most important aspect of this party - having a strong melee warrior that is also almost invulnerable. No thank you. Once we note that we're already using the best possible equipment found in the game, it must be noted that we've already found the balance that gives us both very good melee capability AND the possibility of reaching the critical AC level of 72. Case closed. Duo option: ----------- By tossing out the third and fourth character from the party, it would be possible to play the "Untouchable Duo". Having only two characters in the party would net so much experience that taking the Monk level early, together with the 20% EXP penalty, would hardly be noticed. This would give the Monk AC bonus very early and making it almost impossible for Normal mode monsters to hit this character. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3.2 - Decoy & utility infielder & buffer Deep Gnome Rogue(1)/ Druid(12)/ Illusionist(17) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This character is the team's Decoy with high AC and should therefore be played as such, otherwise the whole point of this character is lost. This character utilizes ultra-high DEX to achieve high AC, so this character makes an excellent archer, but even more importantly, the high AC allows this character to toss spells right in the middle of enemies without too much fear of being hit. So, don't be scared to charge into the battle with the tank to use spells like Sunfire, and you might even consider playing a decoy for the tank and especially the berserker, drawing the attention of the enemies onto yourself and letting them do the beating. Now, having a character that just stands in the middle of enemies wouldn't be much fun, would it? That's why this character has various spells at his disposal, to sow destruction amidst enemies. A single casting of Mordenkainen's Sword would turn this char into a killing machine, if other spells seem lacking, and this character also makes sure that the various crucial buffing skills stay up. So, even if this character all by itself isn't the enemy's worst nightmare, the effect this character has on the others most certainly is. An army without the commanding general would seem rather pointless, and the Melee party without this character would have quite a bit harder time as well. Later on, especially when the player (that is, YOU) gets bored at picking monsters to death for eternities in melee, this character can work as a forward scout, drawing the attention of enemies unto himself and "calling air strikes" from the party's bombardier as they're gathered around him. Once the monsters have been softened enough it's time to call in the melee groups for mop-up job. This character has plenty of Mirror Image spells to be safe from such bombardment anyway. As this party is a melee-oriented one, the missing Evasion skill isn't such a big minus, but make sure to add a second Rogue level if you're adapting this character to more blaster-happy teams. On top of the functions above, this character is also the party's thief and utility infielder, taking care of all the various miscellaneous skills that would be cumbersome to take with one of the other characters. As for leveling strategy, I would take the level in Rogue first to get the starting skill point bonus. Then take a single level in Druid to gain access to Wilderness Lore. If you know the way through Fell Wood already or just map it, take Druid later. After that I would go for Illusionist levels, as this makes the various buffs come up as fast as possible. Finally, after all the 17 levels have been acquired, start leveling up as Druid, gaining the Barkskin spell as the final buff. Alternatively, taking 3-4 Druid levels after Rogue would allow the Barkskin spell to be cast sooner into the game, but this would also bring the 20% EXP penalty fairly much right from the start. Starting statistics: -------------------- STR 7 DEX 20 CON 16 INT 18 WIS 12 CHA 1 Maxed DEX is a given as this is going to be a high-AC character, and high INT is needed since this character is a wizard. Fairly high CON insures that a lucky strike by any enemy doesn't require a Resurrection spell right away. WIS 12 is enough to cast Barkskin but it will be boosted to 17 when the second Every God's Ring has been bought to access the rest of the Druid's spells. This leaves only 7 points for STR but no need to despair - the Dreadmaster learns Bull's Strength already at 3rd level and it lasts for very long. Besides, we're not interested in meleeing with this character anyway - others can do that. If you don't want to min-max, use 7/20/12/18/11/6 instead. All level-up points should go to DEX to boost AC. Together with the Chimandrae's Slippers and a lucky draw from Tenser's Transformation, it's possible to reach DEX 40 with this character! Here are the skills and Feats you should take for this character. Please note that Open Locks can be handled by Berserker forcing those locks open, so it's not really required. If you already know the route through Fell Wood Maze, you can ignore the Wilderness Lore skill, though. As you don't have quite enough points to keep up with all of your skills, you have to alternate between thieving skills. I'd suggest focusing a bit on Search as the DEX bonus makes Disarming rather easy. Use Knock to replace Open Locks if the berserker doesn't manage to open the most stubborn chests. Skills : Concentration Alchemy (only up to 16) Spellcraft Disable Device Search Wilderness Lore (use points for previous two if you know the way) Hide & Move silently (initial points only!) Feats : 1 - Weapon Proficiency: Bow 3 - Rapid Shot 3 - Combat Casting (Wiz extra feat) 6 - Subvocal Casting 7 - Shield Proficiency (Wiz extra feat) 9 - Spirit of Flame 12 - Expertise (keep maximized) 12 - Armored Arcana (Wiz extra feat) 15 - Armored Arcana (2) 17 - Armored Arcana (3) (Wiz extra feat) 18 - Dodge 21 - Discipline 24 - Lightning Reflexes 27 - Great Fortitude 30 - Iron Will As the early levels don't have many good blasting spells, taking the feats for Bow and Rapid Shot makes this character a great archer. Combat casting and Subvocal casting are good feats to pick early as we're going to be in the middle of the enemies quite a bit. Shield is needed against tougher monsters. Spirit of Flame boosts the damage from our blasting spells quite a bit. Expertise greatly helps to keep the AC up. Armored Arcana is needed since we're going to be using a shield - three stars is enough for large shields. Dodge is needed in HOF mode anyway. The remaining feats are more or less fillers - feel free to take GSF: Evocation if you feel like it instead. Comments, strategies & notes: ----------------------------- The introduction for this character already has many of the key strategies this character is built around. Just keep in mind that even if the character is a capable archer, sometimes getting an extra decoy to distract the enemies might be more useful than plucking away with arrows. To reach the ultimate levels of AC, this character requires five items: Chain of Drakka's Fury (HOF mode, but the Chain of Drakkas is found in normal mode for 1 less AC, and before that Mage Armor can be used), Chimandrae's Warded Slippers (HOF mode, until then we'll have to use Cat's Grace), Swing from the Masts (bought from Underdark Merchants in Normal mode), Fire Dance Talisman (bought from Kuldahar, normal mode) and a shield with a good AC value (of which there are plenty of different ones). If you find that the AC on the main tank isn't quite enough to avoid being hit, borrow the Fire Dance Talisman for his use until later. Other needed boosts include Cat's Grace (self), Barkskin (self), Haste (Sorc), Spirit Armor (Sorc) or Mage Armor (self) at lower levels, Ghost Armor (Sorc) and War Chant of Sith (bard song). For the final step, cast Tenser's Transformation - this will make you unable to cast spells, but will give substantial AC boost and make you a workable killing machine on top of it. Just note that you can't recast your Mirror Images in case situation gets hairy! Spell selection: ---------------- Number in parentheses denotes take only up to this many, otherwise you can mix'n'match as much as you like. Wizard Spells: 1: Mage Armor(2-4), Chromatic Orb(0+), Identify(0-3) 2: Cat's Grace(0-2), Mirror Image, Luck(0-2) 3: Haste(0-2), Blink(0-2), Fireball(0-2), Knock(0-1), Ghost Armor 4: Spirit Armor(1-4), Emotion: Hope, Malison(0-2) 5: Sunfire 6: Tenser's Transformation(1-2), Acid Storm, Chain Lightning 7: Delayed Blast Fireball, Mordenkainen's Sword(1-2) 8: Power Word: Blind, Symbol of Hopelessness 9: Executioner's Eyes Various armor spells (Mage, Ghost, Spirit) are needed for buffing up so that the Sorcerer doesn't have to use up his spells for those. Identify is a good spell during the early game when the Sorcerer hasn't yet mastered Knowledge: Arcana, but use Chromatic Orb to stun enemies later on. Cat's Grace and Luck might be good spells to have on this character as well to speed up the buffing up process, otherwise use Mirror Image. Haste might be useful during some extremely tough fights, but its usefulness is rather limited due to the short duration, and it becomes obsolete after the Sorc learns Mass Haste. Blink might be useful if you really can't afford being hit for a while, but remember that it hurts your casting ability as well. Fireball is a good blasting spell in Normal but the damage isn't very useful in HOF mode. Knock is a good spell to keep "just in case", if the Berserker fails to open some lock. Emotion: Hope is a good buff spell and also frees slots from the sorcerer, and Malison is a great spell to toss in the middle of enemies to reduce saves. Sunfire is a great spell for a decoy. Tenser's Transformation gives the final AC boost when necessary and also makes this character a workable tank. Otherwise use Acid Storm and Chain Lightning, depending on if single-target or area effect spell is more needed. Delayed Blast Fireball greatly enhances the blasting potential of this character, and Mord's Sword enhances melee capability when melee is more preferable. Power Word: Blind enhances the survivability of everyone as blinded creatures have a flat 50% chance to miss with their blows. Symbol of Hopelessness does allow for a Will saving throw, but some specific monster types aren't too good at it. And finally, Executioner's Eyes is *THE* buffing spell to make the melee power of this group shine, and it also reduces the need for the Sorc to keep on casting it. Druid Spells: 1: Sunscorch, Entangle(0-2) 2: Barkskin 3: Call Lightning, Storm Shell(0-1), Spike Growth 4: Flame Strike, Thorn Spray, Freedom of Movement(0-1) 5: Static Charge, Smashing Wave 6: Sol's Searing Orb, Fire Seeds Sunscorch is a respectable 1st level blaster spell. Entangle can make some encounters easier by reducing the amount of monsters that needs to be fought at one time. Barkskin is the ONLY reason why a Druid was included into the party, so don't even consider using the 2nd level slots for anything else. Call Lightning works wonders OUTDOORS, Storm Shell is a bonus against Will'o'Wisps in Fellwood and Spike Growth is OK spell to use when the party is adventuring indoors. Flame Strike and Thorn Spray are both good spells, and Flame Strike benefits from the Spirit of Flame feat for extra damage. Freedom of Movement is an important ability for a decoy, so keep this spell memorized until the ring of Freedom of Movement is found. Static Charge is very good but you don't need to cast it repeatedly for it to work, and thus Smashing Wave can be cast while the SC is zapping enemies. Sol's Searing Orb and Fire Seeds provide single-target or area effect destruction, choose whichever is needed more. Alternate Character Choices: ---------------------------- By having someone else in this group take those Druid levels (the Berserker, for example) it could be possible to add a second level of Rogue for the Evasion ability, and it would also make it possible to drop the WIS stat in favor of more STR, creating another tank for this team. However, as taking 12+ Druid levels makes it tough to reach high-level spells for primary spell caster classes, the hurt would just be felt somewhere else. Also, as Druid isn't a favored class for any of the races, it would make the problems with multiclassing EXP penalties even worse than it is. Furthermore, having a low WIS score would make Will saving throws poor, and we most certainly don't want to have our decoy to become charmed easily, do we? If you feel like you don't need any of the thieving skills (traps in this game aren't very strong and could just be set off and locks can be bashed open by brute force or the Knock spell), you might consider replacing this character with the decoy character from the Arcane party. Using a high WIS instead of DEX to boost AC makes the Druid side of this character a much stronger one and would also remove the need to wear body armor & shield. However, this option was NOT selected because that would set rather exorbitant needs for the Sorcerer - having to keep *two* high-AC characters buffed up at all times, leaving almost no spells to use for anything else! While this character does learn those buff-up spells later on, they wouldn't become available until very late into the HOF mode - unless, of course, one wishes to take the Illusionist levels first with a poor spell DC to go with all of the spells! Also, with only one buff character, the buffing process would become very long, leaving some of the buffs with very little remaining duration time once they're all cast and in place. The choice between having Monk/Druid/Wizard or Rogue/Druid/Wizard is a tradeoff between rather hellish micromanagement and no thieving skills vs. a little less AC and no evasion - I'll let you decide which one of these two is the smaller evil. The JUPP has opted to go for less micromanagement. Duo option: ----------- By tossing out the third and fourth character from the party, it would be possible to play the "Untouchable Duo". Having only two characters in the party would net so much experience that taking, say, three druid levels to gain an early access to the Barkskin spell would be OK even though it gives the 20% EXP penalty. However, having just one arcane caster doing all the buffing up is going to be rather slow, and the Illusionist class wouldn't be able to access spells like Shield, Stoneskin, Mind Blank, Horrid Wilting or most notably Wail of the Banshee at all. Therefore, selecting either Enchanter or Conjurer as the specialist class would be preferable, even though this gives an extra 20% multiclassing EXP penalty on top of the ones we already have. But hey, that'd also ensure that the party keeps on getting EXP quite a bit longer as well! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3.3 - Berserker & healer & buffer & bombardier Drow Stormlord of Talos(18)/ Fighter(4)/ Barbarian(3)/ Sorcerer(5) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- NOTE: This character must be a female to avoid multiclassing EXP penalties. This character is the party's most powerful meat grinder. With maximized STR, specialization and Stormlord's special damage boosters and Barbarian's Rage it's unlikely that anything or anyone could do more damage. (Okay, Half- Orcs get +2 STR, but they'd also suffer from heavy EXP penalties through most of the game and would be strapped for stat points.) But, instead of being just dumb meat grinder with muscles, this is a dumb meat grinder with rather respectable selection of spells, some of which rival the destructive power of the party's sorcerer. Even more importantly, this character serves as an extra pool of various clerical buff spells, freeing the Dreadmaster to use his more offensive spells instead of concentrating too much on buffing up. As a nice side bonus, a rather respectable amount of healing power is most certainly appreciated during the early chapters. This character is also a decent archer, and due to the high STR figure, perfect candidate for using the Flying Death two-handed throwing axe. This allows the character to keep on chopping enemies even when being in melee becomes too dangerous. Of course the ranged damage can't quite compare to melee damage, but better that than a dead berserker, right? As for leveling strategy, I would start the career as a Stormlord to maximize the amount of skill levels that can be put into Concentration. As a second level-up, a level in Barbarian gives both Rage and the ability to use all weapons which is crucial for this character. Levels after that should be put into Stormlord so that the important clerical buffs come into play as soon as possible. However, once the level 18 has been reached, the next important level-up would be 24, where DUHM would give an extra +2 in STR for +1 extra damage but we don't care about that since we already have Champion's Strength to boost STR by up to 8 points. Therefore, from there on, adding levels in Sorcerer, Barbarian and Fighter so that they remain even ultimately gives a great melee character with some defensive ability from Sorcerer levels thrown in. Here's a suggested order of leveling up: 20 : Fighter 1 21 : Sorcerer 1 (+2 concentration) 22 : Fighter 2 23 : Sorcerer 2 (+2 concentration) 24 : Barbarian 2 25 : Sorcerer 3 (+2 concentration) 26 : Fighter 3 27 : Barbarian 3 (+1 conc., can't take Sorc due to EXP penalty) 28 : Fighter 4 29 : Sorcerer 4 (+2 concentration) 30 : Sorcerer 5 (+1 concentration and EXP penalty but we don't care anymore) Starting statistics: -------------------- STR 18 (we're maxing it so better start at max) DEX 12 (Allows for some ranged capability) CON 16 (Low AC means we'll get hurt a lot) INT 5 (what? stupid? me? you must be kidding) WIS 18 (Use Ring of Wisdom or similar to take this up to 19 or over) CHA 11 (Required for Sorcerer spells later on, use wolf hat to boost it) If you don't want to min-max, use 16/10/14/10/18/12 instead. Use your level-up points to boost STR. You might also consider putting three points into WIS so that when you finally buy the second Every God's Ring in HOF, you'd get an extra casting at the very important 8th level. Here are the skills and Feats you should take for this character. When adding levels as Fighter or Barbarian, save your skill point for later use and remember to level up as a spell caster next if at all possible. Skills : Concentration Feats : 1 - Combat Casting 3 - Power Attack 6 - Cleave 9 - Subvocal Casting 12 - Improved Critical 15 - Weapon Focus: Axe 18 - Discipline 20 - Iron Will (Fighter extra) 21 - Great Fortitude 22 - Lightning Reflexes (Fighter extra) 24 - Heroic Inspiration 27 - Greater Cleave 28 - Weapon Specialization : Axe (Fighter extra) 30 - Dash Combat casting is a good pick since this is a melee-oriented Cleric. Power Attack and Cleave are a must and Subvocal Casting makes sure that our casting ability won't be compromised. Improved Critical is picked as soon as it comes up, followed by a focus in our weapon of choice, Axes. Discipline helps with concentration checks as they start to matter soon. Three saving throw boosters are natural filler feats, but after that the feats become more or less useless for this character - except for the Weapon Specialization which finally gives this character all the damage that could be had. If you wish to utilize the Massive Halberd of Hate that can be bought in Kuldahar to maximum, feel free to take focus & specialization for it as well instead of picking these rather useless feats. Comments, strategies & notes: ----------------------------- During normal mode, use this as you would use any normal melee tank, just keep her protected with a Stoneskin when it comes available. Later on as the monsters start hitting the low AC no matter what you do, it's time to change tactics into a more cautious one. Have the tank/decoy charge into combat while this character casts a spell or two in order to have the enemy concentrate on the others first. THEN charge into combat, filled to gills with various buffs. Remember also that when you cast the Greater Shield of Lathander, you'll become totally protected from almost any harm for a short while - be sure to chunk your enemies into pieces while it lasts! Finding the Massive Greataxe of Flame +5 sure isn't easy as it is a random drop, but if you DO find it, congratulations. Furthermore, if you find those +Luck items, this is the character that benefits the most from them. The Massive Halberd of Hate isn't quite as good weapon, but since it can always be bought in the same place, getting & using it is a guaranteed success. As the character was already trying hard to find useful feats to pick, it was decided that the few extra hit points and early Rage ability from being a Barbarian would be more beneficial than a few extra levels as a Fighter and a Sorc. This also gave a few extra hit points for this character. Once we start to take levels as Sorc, it could be worth the while to wear the Chain of Drakkas as soon as our utility infielder doesn't need it anymore. Remember that heavy armor doesn't mix too well with arcane spell casting. Should you get lucky and find the Tymoran Loop ring, this is the character that benefits the most from it, and once you get into HOF mode, you can (try) to pickpocket the Ned's Lucky Knucky from one of Deirdre's assistants in her Targos shop. Frankly, it's quite a bit easier to just kill that assistant just prior to leaving Targos for good. You can't kill her yourself, though, that'd make everyone in Targos hate you, meaning that you wouldn't be able to advance in the game. But a Gated Gelugon kills that assistant with no sweat, and no one should notice that it was YOU that gated in that beast. *grin* Finally, as this character learns the Mirror Image spell as a sorcerer, the low AC of this character isn't such a big minus anymore. Being protected from the first 8 hits gives quite a bit of extra time to beat on enemies. Just don't forget that these Mirror Images won't be available until very high levels. (Of course taking a detour for Sorc levels is a possibility, but I wouldn't really recommend it.) Spell selection: ---------------- Number in parentheses denotes take only up to this many, otherwise you can mix'n'match as much as you like. Cleric: 1: Sanctuary(1), Remove Fear(1), Bless 2: Draw Upon Holy Might, Delay Poison(0-1), Bull's Strength(0-2), Aid(2-4) 3: Magic Circle Against Evil(1-3), Prayer, Remove Disease (0-1), Exaltation(0-1) 4: Defensive Harmony(0-1), Death Ward(0-4), Recitation(2-3), Neutralize Poison(0-1), Holy Power 5: Champion's Strength(2-4), Raise Dead(0-1), Flame Strike, Undead Ward(0-1), Iron Skins(0-2) 6: Heal 7: Resurrection(1-2), Greater Shield of Lathander, Elemental Barrier(0-1) 8: Mass Heal(1-2), Holy Aura 9: Gate, Summon Monster IX Sanctuary and Remove fear are great backup spells, and Bless is the only good one after them. Draw Upon Holy Might becomes useful at level 12, before that the bonus is negligible. Delay Poison and Bull Strength become obsolete as better versions are learned, but Aid is required for maximal damage, so keep a few copies memorized. Magic Circle Against Evil is a good boost for its saving throws and a must if Gate is used, otherwise Prayer is more preferable as it also boosts damage. Remove Disease and Exaltation might be good to have as backups, but there are other ways of acquiring the same effect. Defensive Harmony might save the day during early chapters, but it becomes obsolete rather fast. Death Ward is a must against strong spell casters but otherwise useless. Neutralize Poison is needed only if you haven't bough potions for it yet. Holy Power is one of the important damage boosters, be sure to have it on as much as possible when doing battle. Recitation is a nice generic boost/debuff, but Holy Power is more important. Champion's Strength is a great help for the weak tank/decoy and also boosts our damage for a long time. Raise Dead becomes obsolete when you learn Resurrection. Undead Ward is only useful in the Holy Avenger Battle. Iron Skins reduces the threat from Slayer Knights when Stoneskin fails. If there are extra castings left, put them into Flame Strike.. but I wouldn't bother. Heal is a must for almost any Cleric in the party, and Sol's Orb isn't any better than beating the enemy with your axe. Resurrection is a staple and Elemental Barrier allows our tank to tank Will'O'Wisps, too. Use Greater Shield of Lathander when getting hit just hurts too much, but don't expect to get it cast mid-combat too often. Surprisingly enough, Mass Heal isn't (or at least shouldn't) be needed too often, so we can use the remaining slots for the very important Holy Aura spell. Finally, the choice between Gate and Summon Monster IX is between having more potent killers (Gate) or the ability to control your summons (IX). I'd vote for the latter. NOTE: Don't forget that the Stormlord of Talos can use Wail of the Banshee as her 9th level domain spell! Sorcerer: 1: Minor Mirror Image, Shield 2: Mirror Image, Blur As the whole point of taking sorcerer levels for this character was to gain access to some protective spells, it would be rather stupid to not use them, right? Note that Shield is not used for its AC boost, but because it absorbs both Magic Missiles and Force Missiles. Alternate Character Choices: ---------------------------- One could drop the Barbarian levels off and reduce Stormlord levels even further to gain enough Sorc levels for the ultimate combat boost, Tenser's Transformation, but that would both reduce hit points and make our main healer & divine buffer a considerably weaker one. Also, having Sorc and fighter levels more than 1 apart would incur EXP penalties, so we'd have to increase Fighter levels as well or drop the Specialization feat altogether. Depending on the wished amount of protection available at level 30, it might be worth considering to drop the Sorceress levels altogether, along with dropping CHA all the way down to boost DEX. This would net a +3 toHit bonus with ranged weapons and a somewhat better AC. This would also raise total Hit points, as the weakling Sorceress levels could be replaced with Fighter/Barbarian levels. More Clerical levels are hardly needed, as the 9th level spells aren't that great. I personally like protecting my characters against lucky strikes, so the JUPP has chosen the version with Sorc levels, but do as you please. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3.4 - Diplomat & bombardier & buffer & debuffer Drow Bard(11)/ Sorcerer(19) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- NOTE: This character needs to be of any non-lawful alignment in order to be able to later take levels as a Bard. With three brutes in the group already, one has to be the brains. Ergo, say hello to our diplomat! With lots of INT and CHA, every imaginable dialogue option should be at our disposal, and high INT makes sure that we have good skill levels across the board. However, having such mentally supreme character means that we're going to be physically weak. This character is just totally worthless as a melee warrior and couldn't dodge a turtle. However, a high CON makes sure that a single lucky hit (or two) from the enemy doesn't require a Resurrection afterwards. Plus, we're not concerned about this character's capabilities with conventional warfare, as we have a much more important role to play: being the heavy artillery of this group. If you find yourself using this character plucking away with a crossbow or trying to beat on enemies using any sort of melee weapon, you have to slap yourself and go back to blasting things. (With the notable exception of golems, as they're immune to magic.) Rest if you're out of spells - the game doesn't require you to complete it within any set number of days. As a level-up strategy, I would take only sorcerer levels all the way until level 19. This gives the fastest possible access to those necessary buffs and also avoids the multiclassing penalty which hits us as soon as we take a level as a Bard. While selecting a Wild Elf would avoid this penalty completely (Sorcerer is the favored class), we'd lose both CHA and INT, and we'd lose the "all have spell resistance" advantage that this group has. If you're hell-bent at avoiding multiclass penalties, go ahead and play a Wild Elf, but it's going to hurt you in the long run. The option of keeping the Bard and Sorc levels even should be trashed instantly, as this would make reaching even Stoneskin spell a distant sigh. Multiclassing with spell casting classes is risky business, unless using spell classing classes as mix-ins. Starting statistics: -------------------- STR 8 DEX 6 CON 16 INT 20 WIS 10 CHA 20 STR and DEX do not really matter on this character as it doesn't matter if we do -1 or -100 points of damage per attack when we simply are not going to beat on anything. (Maybe except helping others in Targos with that Quarterstaff if surprised by a lucky goblin.) A reasonable STR figure is nice to have, however, so that we don't have to worry ourselves with stuff like what we're going to do with all the equipment. Maxed CON is an insurance policy against lucky strikes, but remember to run away from harm at the first possible opportunity as this character is dead within seconds in HOF mode. High INT and CHA give maximal access to dialogue & other skills, and WIS, while neither good or bad, is acceptable to avoid being charmed that easily. If you don't want to min-max, use 8/10/12/18/14/18 instead. Level-up strategy is straightforward - put EVERYTHING you've got into CHA. This will both give a hefty amount of extra spells and higher spell DCs (especially important since this is our only bombardier), we'll receive another set of extra spells as we start leveling up as a Bard. This will ultimately give us 15 castings of those very important 2nd level spells and 11 castings at 4th level. This is important since we need to keep on casting Ghost and Spirit armors at regular intervals as their duration isn't way up there and there are other spells in those levels that we would like to use as well! Here are the skills and Feats you should take for this character. Please note that when you start to take levels as a Bard, some of the dialogue skills become class skills and you can boost them up considerably. Skills : Concentration Spellcraft (only up to 5 to access elemental feats) Knowledge: Arcana (only up to 20) Bluff Diplomacy Intimidate Feats : 1 - Subvocal casting 3 - Spell Focus : Evocation 6 - Greater Spell Focus : Evocation 9 - Spirit of Flame 12 - Aegis of Rime 15 - Spell Focus : Necromancy 18 - Greater Spell Focus: Necromancy 21 - Lingering Song 24 - Spell Focus: Enchantment 27 - Greater Spell Focus: Enchantment 30 - Aqua Mortis Nothing seriously surprising here, maybe except for the first feat, Subvocal casting. While the other characters aren't hurt much by being Silenced, this character relies 100% on spells, and thus even the remote possibility that the spell penetrates our spell resistance AND we miss the Will save, it has to be eliminated as then we'd be sitting ducks. Evocation spells rule during normal mode, with a single Fireball removing a substantial portion of the enemy hit points in one go and even more with higher-level variants. Followed by damage-enhancing feats, these just make the spells cast by this character that one important bit stronger. Further down the list, Necromancy spells contain the ultimate killer, also known as Wail of the Banshee, so it's only natural that we don't want enemies to make their saves against it. Lingering song is a must for any Bard (remember that our 20th level-up is as a Bard) and it also removes the need to keep this character tied up while singing. It does, however, leave something for this character to do when the rest of the team is doing mopping up or something similar. Finally, Enchantment spells contain another showstopper spell called Chaos, greatly reducing the danger of large enemy groups as they concentrate pretty much on themselves afterwards. Another great spell is Emotion: Despair, especially when we want to be absolutely sure that no enemy makes their saves. Finally, Aqua of Mortis rounds up the elemental damage boosters, as the Acid Storm spell does respectable damage with it. Comments, strategies & notes: ----------------------------- This character needs to play coward during the early portions of the game, as taking it into combat not only is useless, but also ties up the other characters as they need to come to his rescue. Keep the tank trio buffed to gills and watch the enemies getting brutally slaughtered, helping with the occasional Chromatic Orb or Aganazzar's Scorcher whenever needed. Spell selection: ---------------- As sorcerers don't have to memorize spells, this list has all the spells this character picks, with commentary as to where that particular spell might be useful. Please note that the order is important here - you only get to pick a couple few new spells at every level-up, so don't miss an important buff or killer spell by choosing the spell that is going to be useful a while later, not right now. Sorcerer spells: 1st level: Chromatic Orb (after level 7, stuns opponents for a long time) Sleep (becomes useless fast, but helps the party through beginning) Mage Armor (better than any armor found in the game for quite some time) Burning Hands (to finish up trolls) Ray of Enfeeblement (major STR penalty on tough monsters) 2nd level: Aganazzar's Scorcher (best damage in early game) Cat's Grace (necessary buff for a long time to come) Protection from Arrows (significant help as there are lots of archers) Mirror Image (old faithful - run away during early game) Luck (go read chapter "How lucky can you get?" if you really need to ask) 3rd level: Fireball (can you say ouch?) Ghost Armor (VERY much necessary buff for tanks all through the game) Slow (a great help against any monster group) Skulltrap (unbelievable damage for a 3rd level spell and resistible) 4th level: Stoneskin (almost total protection for everyone for a VERY long time) Spirit Armor (in times when Mage Armor just isn't enough) Emotion: Hope (great bonuses for a long time) Emotion: Despair (makes the life miserable for enemies) 5th level: Chaos (this spell is just SWEET with melee-heavy party) Sunfire (Fire! Fire! FIRE!) Dominate Person (work against your enemies by using your enemies) Cone of Cold (against those stupid fire-immune monsters) 6th level: Mass Haste (probably the best buff spell in the whole game) Disintegrate (big bad monster says POOF - mages especially) Acid Storm (sure as hell beats bugged Chain Lightning) 7th level: Delayed Blast Fireball (ultimate mass-bombardment spell) Mordenkainen's Sword (okay, this guy DOES know how to fight at times) Finger of Death (mage? what mage? oh you mean that corpse?) 8th level: Symbol of Hopelessness (hold it right there, folks) Horrid Wilting (evasion you say? taste this!) Mind Blank (forget about Will saves) 9th level: Wail of the Banshee (tactical nuke that doesn't kill own - sweet) Executioner's Eyes (keep 'em criticals coming) Bard spells: 1st level: Minor Mirror Image (follow up with a one-shot nuke such as Horrid Wilting) Charm Person (doesn't hurt to try if otherwise empty on spells) Chromatic Orb (once again, not before level 7) Grease (slippin' and slidin', divides monsters into smaller groups) 2nd level: Blur (to have that extra bit of protection at times) Eagle's Splendor (to keep CHA up) Luck (more of these doesn't hurt) Mirror Image (can't have too many) 3rd level: Emotion: Hope (allows for more Spirit armors/Stoneskins) Blink (if we REALLY can't afford to be hit) Dispel Magic (a reset button for desperate situations) Ghost armor (we might run out of these as a Sorcerer) 4th level: Spirit Armor (old faithful buff might run out) Hold Monster (it might just work with GSF: Enchantment) Improved Invisibility (if we get bored at trying to hide) Alternate Character Choices: ---------------------------- None really. Since we need to have spell resistance for everybody for it to really work to its fullest potential, we can't really change the race, as the Deep Gnome's -4 CHA would just ruin this character, and we don't need the extra AC when we're not going to maximize it anyway. Also, 11 levels as Bard are required to get the final song, leaving us only 19 sorc levels so adding even one level of anything would not allow us to select between two different 9th level spells, and we need the Executioner's Eyes for the melee tanks to make them truly work the way they're supposed to. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3.5 - Optional: First extra Bombardier Drow Paladin(1)/Sorcerer(29) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- NOTE: This character must be Lawful Good so that the level of Paladin may be taken later on. This is an optional character, and once again I would urge you to read the chapter "Power of four" before considering adding this character to the party. Read on ONLY if you're still 150% sure that you'll want to take extra characters. You're going to need those extra 50% to convince yourself later not to hang yourself for being so stupid or something like that. No, I'm not kidding you. This character is all about blasting things with mass destruction spells. Having spell focus on everything even remotely important and all the different elemental feats ensures that no matter what you do, there's always some sort of a bonus working in the background. Also, with a high STR, this character does quite well with the Holy Avenger sword (or Cera Sumat in HOF mode) in times when casting a spell would be pointless, such as having all the monsters stunned. For level-ups, start as a Sorcerer and keep on adding Sorcerer levels all the way until you either feel like the extra saving throws could be needed or you acquire the Holy Avenger sword. Starting statistics: -------------------- STR 18 (not bad for a sorcerer) DEX 5 (we're going to get hit anyway, so what the heck) CON 16 (obviously) INT 12 (for Spellcraft to acquire elemental feats) WIS 9 (Charisma bonus negates penalty) CHA 20 (obviously) All level-up points should go into CHA. Skills : Concentration Spellcraft Feats : 1 - Subvocal casting 3 - Spell Focus : Evocation 6 - Greater Spell Focus : Evocation 9 - Spirit of Flame 12 - Aegis of Rime 15 - Spell Focus : Necromancy 18 - Greater Spell Focus: Necromancy 21 - Scion of Storms 24 - Spell Focus: Enchantment 27 - Greater Spell Focus: Enchantment 30 - Aqua Mortis The feats follow the Sorcerer/Bard build rather closely, maximizing the various aspects of this character in the order they're most likely needed. Spells selections: ------------------ The spell selection follows the spell list of the original UPP's first Sorcerer. I find its selection rather workable for a pure bombardier as well. 1st level: Magic Missile Chromatic Orb Burning Hands (Spirit of Flame) Grease Ice Dagger Charm Person Ray of Enfeeblement 2nd level: Mirror Image Aganazzar's Scorcher (Spirit of Flame) Horror Protection from Arrows Melf's Acid Arrow Cat's Grace Blindness 3rd level: Flame Arrow (Spirit of Flame) Lightning Bolt (Scion of Storms) Fireball (Spirit of Flame) Invisibility Sphere Skull Trap Lance of Disruption Dispel Magic 4th level: Stoneskin Improved Invisibility Mordenkainen's Force Missiles Emotion: Hope Fireshield (Red) (Spirit of Flame) Malison 5th level: Sunfire (Spirit of Flame) Chaos Animate Dead Cone of Cold Ball Lightning (Scion of Storms) Lower Resistance 6th level: Disintegrate Chain Lightning (Scion of Storms) Mass Haste Globe of Invulnerability Shades 7th level: Mordenkainen's Sword Finger of Death Delayed Blast Fireball (Spirit of Flame) Mass Invisibility Seven Eyes 8th level: Horrid Wilting Symbol of Hopelessness Summon Fiend Power Word: Blind 9th level: Wail of the Banshee Mass Dominate Aegis Meteor Swarm (Spirit of Flame) Alternate Character Choices: ---------------------------- None, maybe except for choosing not to take the single level of Paladin. However, with the high CHA bonus to saving throws, life will most certainly be much more dangerous and much greater care would have to be put into keeping this party member alive. Also, while a Wild Elf would avoid suffering EXP penalties, the all-important "all must have spell resistance" property of this team would be broken. One ridiculous choice would be doing carbon copies of the Bard/Sorc, but this would be both redundant and stupid, as then we'd lose the damage from uncapped spells (Skull Trap and DBFB, specifically) and we most certainly could use many of those low-level buff spells with as high duration as possible. Having three separate bards singing songs just isn't worth it. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3.6 - Optional: Second extra Bombardier Drow Paladin(1)/Sorcerer(29) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This character is an identical carbon copy of the previous character, so there's nothing to write here that wouldn't have been said already. =============================================================================== 4. The Arcane Party =============================================================================== Now, after reading all this, it can be noted that the first party does concentrate rather heavily on melee, whereas the monsters in later chapters and especially in HOF mode could much easier be dispatched by massive spell bombardment. Just to cater to both extremes, the JUPP has an option for selecting this spell-casting heavy party. Now, the only character capable of at least some melee isn't protectable by high AC, so charging into melee will get this party killed rather fast. One nice thing about this party is that it doesn't have to worry about EXP penalties either, making it reach those lovely level 30's a bit faster. As the need for the party's characters varies quite a bit, it is advisable to start the game as a duo, having only the decoy and the Cleric/Druid at the beginning, and add the remaining two characters when the advancement speed has slowed down too much. As they're both ECL races, the difference in EXP compared to two remaining characters will ensure that everyone should reach the higher levels at around the same time. Even more than the Melee party , this party WILL have hard time during the early chapters as that's where melee is the strongest and pretty much the only way of dispatching monsters. The choice of having spell caster-heavy party starts to pay off gradually, and by HOF mode, the poor melee capability is hardly noticed anymore. The same applies for healing - during early game, no realistic amount of healing seems to be enough, while later on it's just a Heal here and there, no sweat. As the basic strategy at designing parties doesn't really change that much, I won't repeat the things that have already been said about the Melee party unless there's a significant difference. So, let me introduce: JUPP party choice number two. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 4.1 - Decoy & utility infielder & bombardier Deep Gnome Rogue( 2 )/ Monk of the Old Order( 1 )/ Sorcerer( 1 )/ Fighter( 2 )/ Paladin( 1 )/ Ranger( 2 )/ Cleric of Helm( 1 )/ Illusionist( 20 ) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- NOTE: This character must be Lawful Good in alignment. This character is the party's decoy and meat shield. He's designed as a spell caster that is designed to blast away at enemies while not being hurt in return, and also serving as a decoy, drawing the attention of large enemy groups into himself while the rest of the party bombards the living daylights out of the enemy. As a result, the melee capability of this character is just about equal to zero, but he's pretty much invulnerable. As the spell tables don't really favor caster classes after the first 20 levels have been acquired, the remaining 10 levels can be used to make the character have as wide selection of abilities as possible via various mix-in classes. This character takes this approach to the extremes, having a total of 8 different classes by level 30. This allows the character to become a full-fledged rogue, backup healer and resurrecter (using scrolls) and a generic wizard without specialist limitations but with specialist bonuses. Gaining the base saving throw bonus from multiple classes makes the saving throws excellent for this character as well. For leveling up, I'd start this character as a Rogue to get the most benefit from the initial skill points. One level as a Paladin gives all the various weapon, armor and shield feats that this character uses in the early game plus a good amount of hit points to play with. This also enables the Holy Avenger Quest awards so that we don't have to worry about it later. From there on it's almost exclusively Illusionist levels until a desired level (most likely 11 to access Tenser's when needed) is reached. Adding a level as a Sorcerer removes the spell restrictions, allowing stuff like Shield, Mind Blank and Wail of the Banshee being cast by this character. Monk and second Rogue levels may be added whenever the need arises to gain the very valuable Evasion ability or to boost thieving skills. A level as Cleric enables this character to use all clerical scrolls (most notably Resurrection), levels as Ranger brings dual-wielding feats and a favored enemy and finally, fighter levels are there just to get a couple extra feats. Specific order of getting the level-ups isn't really that important, but keep in mind that this character should concentrate on being a wizard and not a not-much-of-anything. For example, being able to toss Sunfires in the middle of enemies makes this character quite a bit more valuable than gaining some of the above mentioned bonuses. Going overboard with wizard levels isn't too wise either, as the party has three other bombardiers to take care of the enemy hordes and they'll get the various buff spells earlier in any case. Starting statistics: -------------------- STR 6 DEX 20 CON 11 INT 16 WIS 20 CHA 1 If you don't want to min-max, use 6/20/12/16/14/6 instead. Maxed DEX and WIS guarantee an excellent Armor Class, and high INT allows the use of the wizard spells. Alas, this leaves no room for STR, CON or CHA, so they had to be intensively harvested for points. If you wish to trade the extreme AC values available to this character for more safety through higher hit point count, feel free to take points from WIS and apply them to boost CON. However, please note that being almost unhittable greatly reduces the need for high hit points, and sacrificing AC can backfire by bringing the need of hit points up really fast. This character is protected from (most) spells by having naturally high Spell Resistance combined with the bonus resistance gained by equipping the Holy Avenger. As you level up, keep adding points to DEX as this will make the various rogue skills better, improve AC and reflex saves. Remember to buy the Ring of Hearty Strength for this character, it'll take the CON stat to its next breakpoint value, bringing more hit points. Late in the HOF mode, the Death Shroud of Bankao can be used to bring this stat to 14, giving some extra breathing room to survive the last few areas in HOF mode that little bit easier. STR and WIS (plus some hit points) will be increased by the Holy Avenger quests, and WIS can be boosted further with the Every God's Ring. Adding one point into WIS in HOF mode takes the WIS AC bonus to the next breakpoint together with the second Holy Avenger Quest, and one extra point in INT makes it possible to reach 9th level Arcane spells without having to wait for the Xvimian Fang of Despair in late HOF mode. (The Xvimian Fang can be found in Normal mode, but it gives only +2 INT bonus.) Here are the skills and Feats you should take for this character. Note that since this guide doesn't set a fixed order of level-ups, some of the feats may not be available at the point of being mentioned in this list. In that case, take the feat at the first available opportunity. There's not enough skill points for Search/Disable Device, so the Rogue/Wizard has them. Skills : Concentration (keep maxed) Spellcraft (to access elemental feats, lower priority from there on) Pick Lock Pick Pocket Hide (initial points only) Move Silently (initial points only) Feats : 1 - Dodge 3 - Expertise (keep always maxed) 3 - Subvocal Casting (Wiz extra) 6 - Spell Focus: Evocation 7 - Greater Spell Focus: Evocation (Wiz extra) 9 - Spirit of Flame 12 - Spell Focus: Transmutation 12 - Greater Spell Focus: Transmutation (Wiz extra) 15 - Combat Casting 17 - Spell Focus: Necromancy (Wiz extra) 18 - Greater Spell Focus: Necromancy 21 - Aegis of Rime 22 - Aqua Mortis (Wiz extra) 24 - Discipline 27 - Dash 28 - Lightning Reflexes (Fighter Extra) 29 - Iron Will (Fighter Extra) 30 - Great Fortitude Comments, strategies & notes: ----------------------------- This character is a decoy. Use him as such and don't try to get smart by using him as an archer apart from some rather obvious scenarios. Besides, for the Expertise feat to work, this char needs to have a melee weapon in hand - a dagger or a short sword are the natural choices as they weigh almost nothing. Later on this character will use the Xvimian Fang dagger as a secondary weapon while holding the Holy Avenger on the primary hand. Remember that since this character is a monk, holding a shield will actually make the armor class worse, so dual-wielding costs us nothing but allows to gain bonuses from two different weapons. For the ultimate AC boost, wear Chimandrae's Slippers (or cast Cat's Grace), the Every God's Ring, Crow's Nest, Sunfire Talisman and Brazen Bands. Cast Shield, Ghost Armor, Haste, Barkskin and finally Tenser's Transformation if needed. Keep Expertise maxed at all times as you aren't going to hit anything in melee anyway. With all this, your AC may rise up to 71 without even casting Tenser's Transformation, and 76-79 with it. Extra point of AC can be obtained by quaffing two potions of Holy Transference (otherwise used by the party's Cleric/Druid) and using the Cleric of Helm's special ability can further boost AC by two points, but only for a very short time once per day. It's up to you if you want to reach that magical AC of 72 without Tenser's, but I think it's better to use the WIS boost for the Cleric/Druid to make those spells rock with higher DC values. Spell selection: ---------------- Number in parentheses denotes take only up to this many, otherwise you can mix'n'match as much as you like. Spells within parentheses are needed for the "kill zone" tactic, but if you don't wish to use that, ignore these spells. Wizard spells: 1: Mage Armor(1-2), Shield, Burning Hands, Magic Arrow (Grease) 2: Mirror Image, Blur(0-1), Aganazzar's Scorcher(0-2) (Web) 3: Ghost Armor, Magic Circle Against Evil(0-3), Fireball/Skulltrap 4: Spirit Armor, Emotion: Hope, Malison 5: Stone Skin(1-4), Sunfire, Cone of Cold 6: Mass Haste(1-3), Tenser's Transformation, Acid Storm (Acid Fog) 7: Delayed Blast Fireball, Mordenkainen's Sword 8: Mind Blank(4), Horrid Wilting (Suffocate, Incendiary Cloud) 9: Wail of the Banshee, Meteor Shower Most of the spells are various buffs (even Mord's Sword is a buff in a way) because this character doesn't really have the INT to make the spell DCs up to par with enemies' saving throws. But on the other hand, having this character concentrate on the necessary buffs, the remaining characters in the party can concentrate on offensive magic. Once the desired level of buff spells has been acquired, the rest can be filled with offensive magic. During the HOF mode, this character can be made a dedicated Malison caster, helping the other characters to score big damage with their spells. Note that some of the spells belong to Abjuration or Necromancy schools, and thus are unavailable to this character until the one level as Sorcerer has been taken. Alternate Character Choices: ---------------------------- None, really, unless some changes to the remaining party were done as well. It is possible to take better advantage of the Cleric of Helm's special ability by dropping both Ranger and Fighter levels and the second Rogue level and adding all the levels into Cleric instead. This would require level-squatting for 4 levels, as otherwise the EXP penalty would pretty much stop advancement altogether. However, this is hardly a good idea, as the extra feats from Fighter, not to mention extra HPs from warrior classes are a bit too much of a sacrifice for making a once-per-day minor AC boost last a couple extra combat rounds. By noting that the AC reaches 77 with an average casting of Tenser's, it might be worth it to drop the Monk's AC bonus from high WIS (+9 AC) in favor of a good shield (+4 AC) and Chain of Drakka's Fury (+1 AC over the Shield spell) for a net -5 AC loss. This would also allow removing points from WIS to boost STR and CON. Boosting INT to 18 would also remove the need for having the Xvimian Fang equipped. Doing this would make this character a rather impressive melee tank - STR16, DEX20, CON14, INT18, WIS5 and CHA1. This would also remove quite a bit of the hassle of having some other party member having to do melee, and increased hit points is certainly a plus. However, this approach was NOT selected, mainly because using the Tenser's Transformation spell makes also spell casting impossible. What would be the use of having massive amounts of spells if one doesn't even get to cast them? Another and maybe even more important issue is that there's a lot of encounters that do not allow for pre-buffing, and protecting this character until all the buffs are up is by no means an easy task if the base AC lies heaps and bounds below what is needed to get at least decent protection. One needs to start with a Mirror Image to avoid spell casting interruptions anyway, and there's no guarantees that there's time for one extra casting before all of the images have been chopped up. Another reason for tossing the non-monk option was the poor Will saves. Due to the way the AI is programmed, getting the decoy character charmed or controlled makes the enemies switch targets - which is not a good thing for characters that rely on having the decoy protect them. Also, as some stunning spells have Will saves (especially the Symbol spells), and a failed save means a dead decoy as the protection of high AC is suddenly gone. The prior version of JUPP (0.03) had this character take the Druid levels and concentrate on the Druidic side. However, this approach caused a rather severe 40% EXP penalty, not to mention the WIS score wouldn't get the bonuses from being a Dreadmaster unless one took yet another non-favored class into the mix. Also, the full AC benefits wouldn't come into play until very high levels (20+) had been reached, thus making the time prior to it very risky. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 4.2 - Healer & buffer & bombardier Drow Morninglord of Lathander(13)/ Druid(17) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- NOTE: This character must be a female to avoid multiclassing EXP penalties. Note also that Lawful Good can't be selected to access Druid levels. Picking Neutral Good allows the use of Holy Word instead of Blasphemy. The second character of this party is the "dumb muscles" stereotype. By assigning the tank role for the party's divine caster makes it possible to tank both INT and CHA stats, allowing impressive stats elsewhere. This also makes this character an optimal choice for hauling heavy treasure items around, as the other characters don't really shine with their carrying capacities. Use this character as you would use any tank in normal mode, but switch to ranged attacks and spell bombardment in HOF mode. This character doesn't have good AC, so avoid melee as much as possible. However, the spell resistance allows this character to enter the blast zones in case the decoy needs healing. Other than that, just blast away and watch your enemies take the punishment. As for level-up strategy, going straight Morninglord for the first 13 levels brings Resurrection spell into play as soon as possible, to recover from fights where monster happen to score a stream of lucky hits on the decoy and killing him. The final boost to Barkskin spell comes into play at character level 25, just in time to match the later HOF monsters. In case the life seems too tough to handle in normal mode, take a detour for 3 or 4 Druid levels to get an early access to the Barkskin spell and some minor blasting spells. I would still wait at least until the Heal spell is acquired. Starting statistics: -------------------- STR 18 DEX 18 CON 16 INT 5 WIS 18 CHA 5 If you don't want to min-max, use 16/16/14/8/18/8 instead. Use the level-up points to boost WIS, and boost it further by quaffing two potions of Holy Transference (in case you don't use them to boost the decoy) and wear the second Every God's Ring once you buy it in HOF mode. An alternate strategy is to boost CON to gain up to +120 hit points by level 30 (together with Ring of Hearty Strength), making this character able to stand and fight considerably longer under constant beating from HOF monsters. I'd take the WIS boost, to boost spell DCs and to gain plenty of extra spells (remember that bonus spells will be counted twice since both Cleric and Druid use the WIS stat for them) since this is an ARCANE party after all, concentrating on blasting as much as possible. Here are the skills and Feats you should take for this character. Skills : Concentration Feats : 1 - Combat Casting 3 - Power Attack 6 - Cleave 9 - Subvocal Casting 12 - Improved Critical 15 - Spell Focus: Evocation 18 - Greater Spell Focus: Evocation 21 - Discipline 24 - Iron Will 27 - Great Fortitude 30 - Lightning Reflexes As this character starts out as a melee-oriented character, taking various combat-enhancing feats is a must. As golems and such are the only kind of enemy that we need this character's melee capability for, taking other types of weapon besides maces wouldn't help much. Combat Casting and Subvocal casting make sure that the casting ability, even mid-combat, isn't compromised. GSF: Evocation starts to pay off as this character concentrates more on blasting. The rest is just plain-vanilla filler feats. Comments, strategies & notes: ----------------------------- During normal mode, use this as you would use any normal melee tank, just keep her protected with a Stoneskin when it comes available. Later on as the monsters start hitting the low AC no matter what you do, it's time to change tactics into a more cautious one. Have the decoy charge into combat while this character casts a spell or two in order to have the enemy concentrate on the decoy. THEN charge into combat, filled to gills with various buffs. After the party finds the Flying Death throwing axe, "charge" into combat by throwing the axe instead. Remember that this character isn't protected by high AC, going melee is too risky in most situations. Spell selection: ---------------- Number in parentheses denotes take only up to this many, otherwise you can mix'n'match as much as you like. Cleric: 1: Sanctuary(1), Remove Fear(1), Bless 2: Draw Upon Holy Might, Delay Poison(0-1), Bull's Strength(0-2), Aid(2-4) 3: Magic Circle Against Evil(1-3), Prayer, Remove Disease (0-1), Exaltation(0-1) 4: Defensive Harmony(0-1), Death Ward(0-4), Recitation(2-3), Neutralize Poison(0-1), Holy Power 5: Champion's Strength(2-4), Raise Dead(0-1), Flame Strike, Undead Ward(0-1), Iron Skins(0-2) 6: Heal 7: Resurrection(1-2), Greater Shield of Lathander, Holy Word Sanctuary and Remove fear are great backup spells, and Bless is the only good one after them. Draw Upon Holy Might becomes useful at level 12, before that the bonus is negligible. Delay Poison and Bull Strength become obsolete as better versions are learned, but Aid is required for maximal damage, so keep a few copies memorized. Magic Circle Against Evil is a good boost for its saving throws and a must if Gate is used, otherwise Prayer is more preferable as it also boosts damage. Remove Disease and Exaltation might be good to have as backups, but there are other ways of acquiring the same effect. Defensive Harmony might save the day during early chapters, but it becomes obsolete rather fast. Death Ward is must against strong spell casters but otherwise useless. Neutralize Poison is needed only if you haven't bough potions for it yet. Holy Power is one of the important damage boosters, be sure to have it on as much as possible when doing battle. Recitation is nice generic boost/debuff, while Holy Power boosts damage. Champion's Strength is a great help for the weak tank/decoy and also boosts our damage for a long time. Raise Dead becomes obsolete when this character finally learns Resurrection. Undead Ward is only useful in the Holy Avenger Battle. Iron Skins reduces the threat from Slayer Knights when Stoneskin fails. If there are extra castings left, put them into Flame Strike for blasting away. Heal is a must for the only Cleric in the party, and Sol's Orb isn't any better than beating the enemy with your mace. Resurrection is a staple and Greater Shield of Lathander allows for kamikaze attacks. Holy Word is an excellent attack spell as it neutralizes any enemy group for a while, allowing for regroup. Druid: 1: Sunscorch, Entangle(0-2) 2: Barkskin 3: Call Lightning, Storm Shell(0-1), Spike Growth 4: Flame Strike, Thorn Spray, Freedom of Movement(0-1), Spike Stones 5: Static Charge 6: Sol's Searing Orb, Fire Seeds 7: Heal(0-1), Fire Storm 8: Finger of Death, Aura of Vitality(1-3) 9: Tremor, Mass Heal(1-2) Sunscorch is a respectable 1st level blaster spell. Entangle can make some encounters easier by reducing the amount of monsters that needs to be fought at one time. Barkskin is the ONLY reason why a Druid was included into the party, so don't even consider using the 2nd level slots for anything else. Call Lightning works wonders OUTDOORS, Storm Shell is a bonus against Will'o'Wisps in Fellwood and Spike Growth is OK spell to use when the party is adventuring indoors. Flame Strike and Thorn Spray are both good spells. Freedom of Movement is an important ability for the decoy, so keep this spell memorized until the ring of Freedom of Movement is found. Spike Stones combined with Spike Growth makes it tough for enemies to cross some choke point. Static Charge is an excellent fire-and-forget spell, making it a very useful pre-combat buff - no need to waste castings on other spells on this level, unless enemies happen to be lightning immunes. Sol's Searing Orb and Fire Seeds provide single-target or area effect destruction, choose whichever is needed more. 7th level finally brings the heavy artillery into play with the Firestorm spell - use Heal only if the Heals from being a Cleric just aren't enough. Finger of Death and Tremor round up the blasting capabilities nicely. Aura of Vitality is nice, mainly because of the CON bonus that lasts for quite a while, and Mass Heal is the ultimate reset button when the party has several wounded characters. Alternate Character Choices: ---------------------------- It could be possible to change Morninglord levels for Dreadmaster levels, bringing those lovely +2 WIS quest awards into play. Even if Dreadmaster doesn't get much in terms of blasting spells, the extra +2 DC for spells surely makes a difference with the Druid repertoire. However, this would make it impossible to utilize the very useful Holy Word spell - it depends a bit on one's play style if this is a major drawback or not. One could, of course, utilize a human instead of a Drow, making leveling up a couple notches easier. However, as this character is very much necessary to keep the rather fragile decoy character alive, entering the danger zone of various area-damage spells would pretty much mean death for this character - not a good thing. Having a good spell resistance makes it possible to walk right through such zones. Choosing the Deep Gnome wouldn't be too wise, as it'd bring the -20% EXP penalty unless the levels were kept equal, and -2 STR penalty on the party's only melee character seems a bit counterproductive. Furthermore, the Resurrection spell could be replaced by Raise Dead and Heal, allowing one to make the level split Cleric 11/Druid 19. This would allow for a bit more high-level Druid spells. Also, since the Druid learns the Heal spell, this could be pushed all the way to Cleric 10/Druid 20, making Raise Dead the only available method apart from scrolls & NPC healers to bring back dead characters. On the other hand, making the level split exactly half and half would allow for 8th level spells from both classes, making Firestorm available on both sides. Overall, the exact layout of this character doesn't really matter that much, as long as it has at least decent melee capability, some method of raising the dead (scrolls & NPCs alone are a cumbersome choice) and at least 12 levels as a Druid. No divine caster can match the destructive power of an arcane caster anyway, as the number of Firestorms is rather limited when one compares how many Wail of the Banshees, Horrid Wiltings, DBFBs and Skull Traps any high-level arcane caster can churn out without needing to rest. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 4.3 - Buffer & debuffer & bombardier & diplomat Aasimar Paladin(1)/Sorcerer(29) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- NOTE: This character must be Lawful Good in alignment. The third character in this party is a bombardier that also carries the necessary low-level buffing spells to keep both the tank/decoy and the berserker happy. A race without spell resistance was chosen because it's unlikely that we're going to be bombarding ourselves, having the decoy working as a relay satellite for our air strikes. This character is also the party's diplomat and "public face". Even if being a Paladin means that we have to refuse rewards, who says that the Paladin character would have to be the one that goes get the reward? Any other char can do that, and we'll get the best of both worlds. Start as a Paladin and take only sorcerer levels from there on. Starting statistics: -------------------- STR 8 DEX 8 CON 18 INT 18 WIS 8 CHA 20 Low STR and DEX is acceptable since we're not going to do melee and our AC will suck anyway, so it doesn't matter if it sucks just a bit more. This allows for maxed CON, INT and CHA. Low WIS is compensated by the Paladin's Divine Grace bonus. If you don't want to min-max, use 8/10/12/18/12/20 instead. Use all level-up points to boost CHA and remember to use Eagle's Splendor to boost it even further. Here are the skills and Feats you should take for this character. As both Intimidate and Bluff are cross-class skills, the 5 points per level-up aren't quite enough to keep up. I'd keep the first two maxed and add points to Intimidate as much as possible, and with extra points keep Diplomacy & Bluff about even. Once Spellcraft has reached six, it's enough to acquire the elemental feats so we'll have an extra skill point per level to add to the other skills from there on. Skills : Concentration Spellcraft (only up to 6) Diplomacy Intimidate Bluff Feats : 1 - Subvocal casting 3 - Spell Focus : Evocation 6 - Greater Spell Focus : Evocation 9 - Spirit of Flame 12 - Aegis of Rime 15 - Spell Focus : Necromancy 18 - Greater Spell Focus: Necromancy 21 - Scion of Storms 24 - Spell Focus: Enchantment 27 - Greater Spell Focus: Enchantment 30 - Aqua Mortis This is fairly identical to the list for the Diplomat character in the Melee party, so I wont' comment in it again. Comments, strategies & notes: ----------------------------- During the early chapters this character is going to have to use a crossbow quite a bit, even if he's not going to hit much of anything with it. However, it's a property of being a spell caster that you start out extremely weak, but become a killing machine later on. Spell selection: ---------------- Here's a list of spells to take for this character during the course of the game, in order of which you should pick them. 1st level: Chromatic Orb (after level 7, stuns opponents for a long time) Sleep (becomes useless fast, but helps the party through beginning) Mage Armor (better than any armor found in the game for quite some time) Burning Hands (to finish up trolls) Ray of Enfeeblement (major STR penalty on tough monsters) Magic Missile (to take down enemy's Mirror Images fast) Grease (not very useful but we have to pick 7th) 2nd level: Aganazzar's Scorcher (best damage in early game) Cat's Grace (necessary buff for a long time to come) Protection from Arrows (significant help as there are lots of archers) Mirror Image (old faithful - run away during early game) Luck (go read chapter "How lucky can you get?" if you really need to ask) Gedlee's Electric Loop (if surrounded by monsters in HOF mode) Eagle's Splendor (to free the slot from the wizard) 3rd level: Fireball (can you say ouch?) Ghost Armor (VERY much necessary buff for the decoy all through the game) Slow (a great help against any monster group) Skulltrap (unbelievable damage for a 3rd level spell and resistible) Flame Arrow (like skulltrap but without splash damage) Dire Charm (not very useful but we have to pick 6th) Dispel Magic (same here) 4th level: Stoneskin (almost total protection for everyone for a VERY long time) Spirit Armor (in times when Mage Armor just isn't enough) Emotion: Hope (great bonuses for a long time) Emotion: Despair (makes the life miserable for enemies) Fire Shield: Blue (protects from stray fireballs) Malison (if needs to prepare for some other spell) 5th level: Dominate Person (work against your enemies by using your enemies) Sunfire (our tanks are mostly immune, so blast away) Chaos (this spell helps the melee char) Cone of Cold (against those stupid fire-immune monsters) Lower Resistance (to beat super-tough monsters) Hold Monster (not very useful but others are even worse) 6th level: Mass Haste (probably the best buff spell in the whole game) Disintegrate (big bad monster says POOF) Acid Storm (sure as hell beats bugged Chain Lightning) Shades (it finally starts giving good monsters by now) Chain Lightning (bugged, but still better than the rest) 7th level: Delayed Blast Fireball (ultimate mass-bombardment spell) Mordenkainen's Sword (Guardian, anyone?) Finger of Death (mage? what mage? oh you mean that corpse?) Prismatic Spray (if surrounded by enemies, not very good) Seven Eyes (any protection is good protection, I guess) 8th level: Symbol of Hopelessness (hold it right there, folks) Horrid Wilting (evasion you say? taste this!) Mind Blank (makes Chaotic Commands obsolete for Clerics) Power Word: Blind (if surrounded by enemies) 9th level: Wail of the Banshee (tactical nuke that doesn't kill own - sweet) Meteor Shower (Blasting with lots of points for style) Aegis (quick emergency protection) Mass Dominate (I'd prefer the Wail any time, but since we need a 4th..) Alternate Character Choices: ---------------------------- Choosing a human would allow for a better coverage for the various talking skills, as one could add one (or two) level as a rogue to make both Intimidate and Bluff class skills. Considering that Aasimar has +1 ECL penalty, the level-up speed wouldn't even be compromised. However, as the focus of the Arcane party is on blasting, the Aasimar's +2 CHA bonus brings a very nice +1 overall bonus to spell DCs - plus a few extra spells. IMHO, the various talking skills are nice, but not to the point that I'd like to make sacrifices in other areas to acquire them. A bit more daring approach would be to rely on the destructive power of Wail of the Banshee, allowing one to stop advancing as a Sorcerer already at level 20, after which one wouldn't get any new castings anyway. Extra levels could be taken as Fighter (for extra feats & plenty of Hit Points), Monk (Evasion ability plus excellent base saves), Ranger (free dual-wielding) or even Barbarian (more hit points than Fighter, but would require dropping the Paladin level). However, I personally like to broaden the Sorcerers spell selection as much as possible, and extra duration on many of the buffs is nicer than some oddball bonus here and there, so JUPP doesn't promote this choice. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 4.4 - Utility infielder & buffer & debuffer & bombardier Drow Rogue(1)/Diviner(29) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- NOTE: This character must be a male in order to avoid EXP penalties. Also, I'd suggest neutral or evil alignment for one of the items. As the fourth character in the JUPP's Arcane party, a utility infielder rounds up the party's roles that need to be filled. However, this character is by no means a filler character but a full-blown wizard as well, bringing the bombardier count to about three-and-a-half in a four-man party. (The Cleric/Druid doesn't quite compare to arcane casters in power, but it's still positive contribution.) Take the single rogue level to gain a boost in initial skill points and to transform many of the skills to use class skill caps instead of cross-class. Starting statistics: -------------------- STR 11 DEX 20 CON 16 INT 20 WIS 8 CHA 5 If you don't want to min-max, use 9/18/12/20/12/9 instead. Put all the level-up points into INT and wear the best +INT equipment you can find, the Xvimian Fang of Despair being the best of them. This gives a hefty boost into our spell casting abilities as well as rogue skills. Here are the skills and Feats you should take for this character: Skills : Concentration (keep maxed) Spellcraft Alchemy Knowledge: Arcana Search Disable Device Hide (initial points only) Move Silently (initial points only) Wilderness Lore (lowest priority) Feats : 1 - Subvocal Casting 2 - Spell Focus : Enchantment (Wiz extra) 3 - Greater Spell Focus : Enchantment 6 - Expertise 6 - Spell Focus: Transmutation (Wiz extra) 9 - Greater Spell Focus: Transmutation 11 - Combat Casting (Wiz extra) 12 - Spell Focus: Evocation 15 - Greater Spell Focus: Evocation 16 - Spirit of Flame (Wiz extra) 18 - Spell Focus: Necromancy 21 - Greater Spell Focus: Necromancy 21 - Aqua Mortis (Wiz extra) 24 - Lightning Reflexes 26 - Iron Will (Wiz extra) 27 - Aegis of Rime 30 - Dash I suppose there's nothing special here. Subvocal casting is needed to keep this character churning out spells at all times, and Enchantment magic helps during the early chapters, especially when the Sorc is concentrating more on the directly damaging magic. A charm here and there works wonders. Transmutation has two important spells - slow and disintegrate. Next, by taking Evocation and elemental feats, this character turns into a full- blooded blaster dropping fire and other elemental magics left and right. And finally, taking GSF: Necromancy is going to make the high-level Necromancy spells (Wail of the Banshee especially) almost impossible to resist. The rest is just filler feats, as there just aren't that many good ones. Taking Expertise early on is not really necessary as this is not a high-AC character, but it certainly makes it much tougher for the enemies to hit him during the normal mode. Taking it later on would be rather pointless as it doesn't make a difference against HOF monsters. Comments, strategies & notes: ----------------------------- This character is the ideal person to wield the Chain of Drakkas and Chain of Drakka's Fury once they're found. Fairly impressive armor classes can be obtained by keeping the buffs up - a perfect thing for a mage. Also, a shield could be worn by trading some of the less important feats for Armored Arcana to enhance AC even further. Don't worry about having two wizards in the group - there are plenty of low-level scrolls and the decoy doesn't need many scrolls for his Illusionist levels until HOF mode or so. Both are also ECL races with mix-in classes, so the problem with having too high caster levels before the scrolls are found shouldn't exist for this group. A Diviner specialist class was chosen as the Sorcerer already has very good access to Conjuration spells (all the various Armor spells) and the decoy learns them as well towards the end. Besides, this party is all about blasting, not summoning helpers and staying behind. Spell selection: ---------------- Number in parentheses denotes take only up to this many, otherwise you can mix'n'match as much as you like. 1: Identify(0-3), Shield, Charm Person(0-3), Ray of Enfeeblement 2: Eagle's Splendor(0-2), Cat's Grace(0-2), Luck(0-2), Mirror Image 3: Dire Charm(0-3), Haste(0-2), Slow, Fireball(0-3) 4: Emotion: Hope(2-3), Emotion: Despair 5: Dominate Person(0-3), Chaos, Lower Resistance(0-2), Cone of Cold(0-3) 6: Disintegrate(1-2), Acid Storm 7: Delayed Blast Fireball 8: Mind Blank(1-2), Symbol of Hopelessness, Horrid Wilting 9: Executioner's Eyes, Aegis(0-1), Wail of the Banshee, Meteor Shower Fairly basic stuff.. Charm Person, Dire Charm and Dominate are great spells at the time you receive them, allowing the party to tackle early melee battles much easier. Eagle's Splendor is needed to boost Sorc's CHA until he gets the spell. Cat's Grace and Luck might be good buffs to have in order to speed the buffing-up. Haste becomes obsolete once Sorc learns Mass Haste. Fireball replaces Dire Charm if the monsters you're fighting against are immune to various charm spells. Acid Storm most certainly beats the bugged Chain Lightning spell in damage and Disintegrate is sweet with GSF: Transmutation. Delayed Blast Fireball is the basic blasting spell, end of debate. Sorc might need to cast so many Horrid Wiltings that an extra Mind Blank could be transferred here, otherwise use Symbol of Hopelessness and Horrid Wilting as necessary. Aegis is a last-ditch protection spell, but I wouldn't keep more than one memorized. Finally, choose between Executioner's Eyes and Wail of the Banshee depending if a boost to melee power or mass-nuking enemies is better.. Usually, I'd take Wail of the Banshee almost any time. Don't forget about Meteor Shower when fighting in areas with monster that are highly resistant or immune to the Wail. Alternate Character Choices: ---------------------------- None. As described in the original UPP, choosing Drow for this profession is the best choice, bar none. Only change has been the choice of Diviner instead of Conjurer to access evocation spells in those levels that don't have many good enchantment or transmutation spells. Also, we're not that much interested in summoning - and we have the Cleric and Sorcerer to animate undead if need be. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 4.5 - Optional: First extra Bombardier Aasimar Paladin(1)/Sorcerer(29) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Fairly similar to the diplomat/bombardier, but with different starting statistics. This character only needs to put points into Concentration and spellcraft, so extra INT isn't really necessary. Feel free to transfer points between DEX and WIS just as you please - DEX gives an edge in the early game with crossbows, while high WIS is useful for Will saving throws. However, both saving throw types benefit greatly from the Paladin's Divine Grace ability, so it doesn't really make that much of a difference. STR 8 DEX 12 CON 18 INT 12 WIS 10 CHA 20 Spell selections should follow the diplomat's selections, but in cases where some buff was needed for the decoy, that can be skipped initially and take later to later speed up buffing. Except for level two spells, the selection of the Diplomat/Bombardier already contains pretty much all the spells that one could expect to ever need. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 4.6 - Optional: Second extra Bombardier Aasimar Paladin(1)/Sorcerer(29) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- A carbon copy of the previous character for extra firepower. =============================================================================== 5. Do-it-yourself UPP =============================================================================== This chapter deals mostly with the process through which both the parties in JUPP were created. Use it as a guideline to create a party of your own, should you find that you want something else that suits your personal needs better. As this document is about powergaming, this chapter won't go into details on stuff like aesthetics and doesn't even try to be an idiot's guide to powergaming either. This guide assumes that the reader is familiar with the various bonuses and penalties different races have, knows what makes good or bad spell casting, has at least somewhat decent grip on combat tactics and acknowledges the fact that the very reason this document exists is to make stuff in optimal way, not doing stuff that "just works". Of course, reading the previous chapters of JUPP is assumed, don't expect to find too much reasoning behind the various choices here. Having the ability to "see reality behind the numbers" is also a huge plus - it's not always so clear if it really pays off to boost feature A at the cost of B. For example, it really helps to notice that if one needs to drop INT to 11, one might as well drop it all the way to 3 as the amount of available skill points will be exactly the same. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 5.1 - Set goals for the party ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The first step is to consider what the party is all about. Is there a specific tactic that suits your play style? Do you want lots of magic for blasting & buffing (my personal preference) or carefree play without too much micromanaging via using melee characters? Do you want to avoid EXP penalties at all costs? Do you want to include a diplomat? Or someone to disable traps? Or do you want to go with a bare minimum of skills? Or with everything the game has to offer? Is there some specific race you just absolutely MUST or MUST NOT have in your party? Do you base your party's strategy around one character as in "The Leader and The Rest of the Group" or do your characters have more generalized abilities so that losing any single character doesn't cripple the whole group? List just goes on and on. In broad terms, the warrior classes have a slight advantage at the very early stages of the game, that will say before the spell casting classes get their breakthrough spells into play. However, as the monsters become tougher towards the end, they start requiring more and more assistance from the other members of the party, most noticeably the healers and buffers. Even the high hit points, good offensive abilities and other similar bonuses from being a warrior won't help much when the enemies outnumber you like three to one. Any plain-vanilla Cleric that has the Heal spell memorized has effectively a lot larger hit point pool to draw from, not to mention those divine spells can be used to make the odds favor the cleric by heaps and bounds. In other words, whereas warriors advance only about linearly in power (as a function of their character level, that is), the spell casting classes advance in squares, if not even faster. When done, jot down a list of skills, spells and other stuff that needs to be present for your group to work. Take a peek at WeiDu Item List if you're not familiar with what kind of equipment there is to be found, and refer to various walkthroughs to get a general idea what is really needed, what could be nice and what can just as easily be lived without. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 5.2 - Start with the protector ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Through theory, practice via playing tests and experience, the one thing that a strong party needs the most is someone to take the heat off from others. Thus far the absolute best known method for protecting a character from harm is getting a very high AC value. This removes the largest source of incoming damage, namely beating from melee monsters and monsters with physical ranged attacks. Combine with spell resistance, good saving throws and preferably the Evasion special ability to make hurting this character even with spells a remote sigh for the enemy. Adding stuff like Mirror Image, Blur, Blink and Stone Skin into the mix makes it pretty much impossible to get such a character killed even if one plays poorly in the tactical sense, making the high-AC character stereotype at least reasonably easily playable to even the worst of the newbies out there. Not too surprisingly, the Deep Gnome race is rather invaluable choice here. Bonus to both DEX and WIS, a natural +4 generic racial AC bonus that also has spell resistance just screams for high-defense character builds. The next best choice, Drow, has to deal with -5 AC penalty compared to a Deep Gnome, making reaching those 70's in AC rating quite a bit more difficult, most likely requiring bringing in a Bard and taking the high-WIS route together with Dreadmaster level(s) to reach high ACs. Choosing any other race will also take the spell resistance away, which would have to be "rebuilt" via the Spell Resistance spell (cumbersome), via using the Holy Avenger and Holy Aura spell in tandem (also cumbersome) or utilizing the Monk's 13th level spell resistance bonus (making complex multiclassing schemes impossible and taking away from the character's spell casting potential). Most likely classes for a character with high DEX are Rogue and DEX-based archer warrior types. However, as noted in chapter 2.2, advancing as pure Rogue doesn't give any real benefits over being a Rogue/Wizard multiclass, so in a way this build is tailor-made for Wizards as well. Taking the high WIS route together with the level(s) as Monk makes the divine caster classes (Cleric, Druid and even Paladin to some extent) shine in their role, with between very good to outstanding spell DCs from high WIS score. However, taking the high WIS route to reach higher ACs brings one rather severe problem - neither Monk nor any of the divine classes is Deep Gnome's favored class, so unless the levels are kept equal, there's nothing that can be done to avoid the 20% EXP penalty. Together with the fact that Monk class doesn't allow for free multiclassing, going high WIS route means an almost automatic hit to EXP gain. Also, having to max both WIS and DEX doesn't allow for much stat points elsewhere, making at least melee builds with high STR and CON quite unlikely. (The tank in Melee party barely makes it to the critical AC of 72, but not without quite a bit of help from other team members.) Even further, as one of the items granting generic AC boosts requires level(s) as Rogue, the EXP penalty can worsen to 40% faster than one says "hey wait a minute!" There's two exceptions, however. One is to utilize (female) Drow's favored class as Cleric and boosting the missing AC via bringing in all the other bells and whistles. Playing such a character may prove to be quite tough, as many of those extreme AC buffing measures are either once per day (Cleric of Helm's bonus), require the presence of Bard (doesn't mix too well with any other caster class due to level cap of 30) or place tough limitations on stats (Expertise with INT requirement), freedom of class choice (Dreadmaster quest bonuses) or equipment (Every God's Ring might be needed elsewhere, just as Potions of Holy Transference). The other exception is to make sure that a vast majority of the level-ups is put into the Illusionist class, treating any other class as mix-in class. Arcane party's Decoy character uses this rule exception. This allows for a very good AC, even without extensive party support, but one has to live with the fact that the high WIS score just sits there for no apparent good other than boosting AC. A matter of taste, really, but a veteran powergamer like me dislikes any stat that doesn't get at least some sort of synergy bonus. =) However, there's no one that saying that one HAS to use a race with natural spell resistance for the protector character. As a matter of fact, there's a whole bunch of spells that don't care piddly squat about spell resistances, take Blasphemy, Horrid Wilting, Meteor Shower or Cone of Cold as example. So, in fact, if your play strategy doesn't include bombarding your own decoy character with mass destruction spells, it might be worth the while to concentrate on finding high-AC builds that do not get any EXP penalties. Here are some examples. Refer to chapters 2.4 and 2.13 for extended info on the various tricks & tips on the list. 1) The defensive, spell casting Paladin Aasimar Paladin(27)/Monk(1)/Rogue(1)/Wizard(1) (Wiz for scrolls & wands) Start statistics: STR9 DEX18 CON14 INT14 WIS20 CHA5 Stats with buffs: STR20 DEX25 CON21 INT14 WIS38 CHA8 AC: 10 (base) +7 (Shield spell) +6 (Divine shell) +7 (DEX bonus with DUHM active) +14 (WIS bonus) +11 (Equipment) +6 (Feats) +9 (Haste, Barkskin) === 70 Adding a Bard with 11+ levels into the party would bring AC up to 72. It's probably easiest to take the three mix-in classes first before committing to the path of the Paladin. Note: It's not possible to reach high enough AC if armor & shield is used. 2) The untouchable decoy Monk Human Monk(28)/Dreadmaster(1)/Rogue(1) Start statistics: STR7 DEX18 CON16 INT14 WIS18 CHA3 Stats with buffs: STR15 DEX21 CON16 INT14 WIS38 CHA6 AC: 10 (base) +6 (Spirit Armor) +5 (Ghost Armor) +5 (DEX bonus) +14 (WIS bonus) +11 (Equipment) +6 (Feats) +5 (Monk levels) +9 (Haste, Barkskin) === 71 Adding a Bard with 11+ levels into the party would bring AC up to 73, but it's unlikely that it'd be safe for the Bard to come close enough to this character. It's also possible to take Tiefling if one drops the Dreadmaster level. The racial DEX bonus compensates the lost quest bonuses for a net -1 AC loss. Note also that using a Deep Gnome as a pure Monk would sacrifice -3 AC for the headband and -2 AC for the quest bonuses, but would in turn gain +1 AC from both DEX and WIS, +1 from the final Monk level bonus and +4 from the racial bonus for a net +2 AC gain. (Note how much trouble it is to try to compensate for the deep gnome's racial bonuses...) 3) The unconventional Sorcerer Wild Elf Sorcerer(27)/Monk(1)/Rogue(1)/Dreadmaster of Bane(1) Start statistics: STR3 DEX20 CON11 INT13 WIS13 CHA16 Stats with buffs: STR11 DEX30 CON14 INT13 WIS26 CHA19 AC: 10 (base) +7 (Shield spell) +5 (Ghost armor) +10 (DEX bonus) +8 (WIS bonus) +11 (Equipment) +6 (Feats) +9 (Haste, Barkskin) === 66, 71-74 with Tenser's Transformation active Frankly, sorcerers don't make very good protector characters, just because the stat point shortage becomes unmanageable when CHA needs to be upped together with DEX & WIS. But yes, it's possible to get a party with nothing but sorcerers in it protected by at least one bodyguard. =) 4) The HOF-certified melee warrior Deep Gnome Rogue(4)/Fighter(4)/Paladin(3)/Ranger(4)/Monk(3)/Illusionist(12) Start statistics: STR16 DEX20 CON16 INT16 WIS5 CHA1 Stats with buffs: STR26/34 DEX32/40 CON16 INT16 WIS12 CHA1 AC: 10 (base) +8 (Chain of Drakka's Fury) +5 (Ghost Armor) +11 (DEX bonus without Tenser's) +4 (Shield bonus) +11 (Equipment) +10 (Feats & race) +9 (Haste, Barkskin) === 68, 73-76 with Tenser's Transformation active The idea here is to utilize the ultimate combat buff Tenser's Transformation on a unit that is already designed for melee instead of spell casting. As one of the items needs Rogue levels, it's easier to add multiple warrior classes to make the amount of levels that needs to be "wasted" as Rogue as little as possible. Starting as Illusionist (just one level), getting all Paladin and Fighter levels next, adding the remaining 11 Illusionist levels and finally adding the remaining classes via level-squatting 3 or 4 level-ups at once makes the advancement as trouble-free as possible. Note also that this character doesn't quite compare to a full-blown all-offensive berserker, but IMHO the ability to stay in combat without the need of constant healing and fear of death is more than worth the sacrifice. Even if there's some breathing room in the AC stat, upping STR instead of DEX is risky business - a melee unit needs all the protection there is. 5) All-in-one multi-use protector character (just add party) Deep Gnome Rogue(4)/Druid(4)/Bard(5)/Dreadmaster of Bane(5)/Illusionist(12) Start statistics: STR10 DEX20 CON18 INT18 WIS7 CHA1 (NOTE: No Bard spells.) Stats with buffs: STR18 DEX28 CON18 INT22 WIS16 CHA4 AC: 10 (base) +8 (Chain of Drakka's Fury) +5 (Ghost Armor) +9 (DEX bonus) +4 (Shield bonus) +11 (Equipment) +10 (Feats & race) +7 (Haste, Barkskin at 4th level) === 64, 69-72 with Tenser's Transformation active On the outset, this character seems quite worthless. However, this is a self-sufficient package that reaches the required AC levels, has plenty of hit points & evasion & spell resistance & excellent saving throws, provides pretty much all the skills that are needed during the game and finally, acts as an extra source of buffing with Chant spell and Tymora's Melody. This is especially handy since both of those buffs would otherwise just tie up an otherwise valuable character. Having this character cast Prayer would also free the party's other cleric (if present) to cast Recitation when preparing for a major battle. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 5.3 - Add Druid ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- One unfortunate aspect of high AC builds is that one is pretty much forced to bring a Druid along, preferably with at least 12 levels to reap the maximal effect via the Barkskin spell. Even if the Druid has some pretty formidable spells to choose from, it lacks some very good abilities that mages and clerics have. A Druid can't do anything to bring dead comrades to life, even if they can make dying a whole lot more unlikely by using the Mass Heal spell in tight spots. (Of course it's possible to drag the party to a local NPC healer, but this is a gross violation of the rule of "minimize the amount of micromanagement needed".) They don't have any really useful combat buffs (except for Barkskin, of course) whereas every Cleric and their cousin have plenty. Neither can they Haste anyone nor do they have area damage spells in league with hallmark performers like Fireball, Skulltrap, DBFB, Horrid Wilting or Wail of the Banshee. And finally, most of the stuff that's borrowed from Cleric or Mage classes doesn't become available until one whole casting level higher, making Druid drag 2 levels behind in power. However, it can be noted that the 9th level Cleric spells are plain crap compared to Arcane counterparts, so reaching 9th level Clerical spells is not really a top priority for anyone. (Except for some domain spells, maybe.) This makes a half-and-a-half split Cleric(15)/Druid(15) fulfill the "at least 12 Druid levels" requirement without taking away from the most important aspects of being a Cleric. Also, it's a matter of taste whether 8th or even 7th level Clerical spells are something that absolutely MUST be obtained, as Resurrection is basically just Raise Dead + Heal combined and Holy Aura isn't really that great unless the whole party has natural spell resistance. However, reaching a high enough level as both a Cleric and a Druid takes a LOT of time - delaying the full potential to at least half-way into the HOF mode. Lots of level-squatting & muling is recommended to bring those level-ups into play as soon as possible. It's also possible to have the high-AC character carry the Druid levels. However, as Druid isn't favored class to any of the potential protector races (humans & half-elves miss out on the very important spell resistance and saving throw bonuses), the problems with EXP penalties becomes just worse. OK, technically one could trade the level(s) in Rogue for levels as Druid for a net +2 AC increase while keeping the EXP penalties unchanged, but this is hardly worth it. A Deep Gnome with 12+ druid levels, one Monk level and 11+ Illusionist levels would technically reach 72-75 AC with the Tenser's Transformation active without party support, but I personally try to stay away from the TT because it makes self-healing and self-buffing impossible under its duration. Most notably, one can't recast Mirror Images in case situation gets hairy. Such a character would also be quite weak physically, as can be seen in the Melee party's Decoy character. But to each their own. One interesting combo with Druid is to make the character a thief/diplomat that also carries one of the "troublesome" classes, the Bard, in one package. The shortage on stat points can be circumvented via utilizing the Druid's shape shift ability that REPLACES the character's own stats in STR, DEX and CON. Thus, a Tiefling Rogue(7)/Druid(12)/Bard(11) with maxed INT, WIS and CHA but low STR, DEX and CON works as a diplomat in human form, but after a shape change into, say, a winter wolf, the high DEX makes thieving skills much better. Animal form is also a great way of increasing hit points during combat, and one can choose between raking opponents with paws, claws or whatever the animal form uses for attacking and singing. Yes, a shape changed Druid/Bard can still sing! Shape changing takes away the ability to cast spells, but there's plenty of various buff spells that can be memorized and used via a quick appearance in human form. Also, adding level-up points into the INT stat will make sure there's always plenty of skill points available for diplomacy & thieving skills. It might be nice to make the party's Druid have a very respectable AC by making it a Human, and introducing both Monk and Dreadmaster levels as mix-in classes. (Choosing other races would bring EXP penalties, and half-elves are inferior to humans due to their missing skill/feat point extras.) Adding also Fighter, Rogue and even Ranger and Wizard into the mix-in list would greatly broaden the abilities of this character pretty much in the same way as the Arcane party's Decoy character. Having starting statistics of STR7 DEX18 CON16 INT14 WIS18 CHA3 would allow for an AC of 66, but since the protector character already uses the better versions of the headband and the amulet, only 62 could be reached realistically. Adding the required levels to cast Tenser's Transformation and bringing in a Bard could still, in theory, be enough to bring the AC up to 73 (assuming Shield spell can be used now instead of Spirit Armor), but I think it's better to have one REALLY well protected character for tanking than two "almost good" as the trouble of keeping up all the buffs is also doubled. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 5.4 - Check available buffs ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Depending on the protector and Druid characters, there might be a need for various buffing spells that are not covered by those two. For example, a melee unit profits very much from the Executioner's Eyes spell, but it's hardly a good idea to have the melee unit self have 17+ wizard (or 18+ sorc) levels just to get this spell. It's much easier to add one primary arcane caster that can cast the spell for the melee character instead. As most parties built around the idea of powergaming tend to have at least one pure or at least almost pure arcane caster and one Cleric, living up to the requirements of having all the necessary buff spells may actually be easier than it sounds. One note, though - if using specialist wizard in your party, make sure (s)he can cast Conjuration spells to access both Ghost Armor and Spirit Armor. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 5.5 - Fill the remaining character positions ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Once you've outlined the protector character, the Druid and the buff-up characters, the remaining slots can be filled with just about anything you think works best with your strategy. Keep in mind, though, that melee in HOF is very risky business unless the character has those high ACs or other means of protecting themselves. Alas, as the whole high AC idea is based on several key equipment, of which there's no duplicates in most cases, it's not possible to have more than two high-AC characters in a party legitimately. Therefore, the role of the remaining characters should in most cases become either archer or nuker of some sort. Frankly, archers don't seem too impressive when compared to someone that can toss fireballs and stuff like that. The only exception to this rule would have to be a dedicated character built around the Flying Death two-handed throwing axe. Huge STR score turns into good damage bonuses and even more so with two-handed bonus - the only real drawbacks are the reliance on the DEX stat for hitting stuff and rather poor enchantment levels on the weapon itself. HOF version provides a +3 enchantment, but it isn't available until quite late into the game. The piercing damage type that the axe provides happens also to be the most resisted damage type by the monsters. Before filling the roster to full six persons, keep in mind that there's quite a bit of road to travel before those six persons have acquired the necessary EXP to really start shining in their roles. Parties with more than five characters can't mule either. Refer to chapter 2.6 for more details. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 5.6 - Assign party roles ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Once the party members have been selected, it's time to think about the stuff the party as a whole is supposed to be doing. Lots of buffing, lots of blasting, lots of skills - but who's going to do what? It helps to group the various skills into logical niches. One person should be the diplomat (if the party has one, that is), one person should do the rogue-like stuff, and one can take care of the other miscellaneous skills. Mixing these three groups together is bound to give more confusion than advantages - besides, some skills just plain work better with the corresponding maxed stats. As a general guideline, the protector character is probably the best candidate for the various dexterity-intensive skills, provided he has the INT for them. (Melee party's tank doesn't.) If the party includes a wizard, that person is a number one candidate to fill in the various misc skills. Finally, any sorc (or bard) makes a natural diplomat, since that character class isn't nearly as strapped for stat points as many others, making raising INT quite easy. Sometimes it may seem a bit counter-productive to let the party's wizard take alchemy, especially if the party has a deep gnome that gets bonuses to that skill. However, I for one hate to memorize what my characters can and can't do, so I try to go with the stereotypes as long as possible to avoid too much hassle. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 5.7 - Stick to the plan ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Bravo! Now you have a brand new party to take into actual play. However, don't just lay back and play such party "against design", that will say forgetting to keep the AC buffs up on the protector character, attacking in melee with characters that are designed for spell casting and stuff like that. Doing stuff that you're not supposed to is about the easiest way to get that masterpiece design of yours to suck royally. If you REALLY think that keeping the design decisions you made during the party creation process in mind is just too much to bear, I would suggest you take a look at the original UPP instead. There's hardly any multiclasses, not much of tailor-made or counter-intuitive design decisions and the party plays pretty well together even when the guiding force behind it (that would be YOU, the player) suffers from severe case of insomnia. There's no need to know several dozens of buffs just to keep playing. It's a very good party that has very little trouble in getting through the game. Except for one thing. There's not a single character in there that can make it to the very important AC of 72. (Close, but no cigar.) And, alas, this means that the party misses the opportunity to relax and take it easy behind one pretty much invulnerable meat shield. One has to live with the fact that death lurks behind every corner, especially in HOF mode. One has to get used to using the Resurrection spell at pretty regular intervals, very likely once or twice per combat towards the end. And finally - there are some spots where it becomes pretty much mandatory to summon a horde of monsters just to protect the party. The two parties in JUPP do not have to do that. It just comes with a price tag, and it's called lots and lots of buffing. However, if you're a player that considers buffing to be one of the nice aspects of the game - "hey, let's go beat that horde of monsters and see if we can do it with nary a scratch on us" - you're going to feel like home. Also, it's not like the game has 305 different spells for nothing - a very large portion of them were added to serve some purpose. Having just the stereotypical evocation spells would strip the mages of their versatility and their true power. =============================================================================== 6. Last Words =============================================================================== I hope this FAQ has been of help to you. You might find something in this document that doesn't suit your own, personal playing style, so feel free to take the advice and words of wisdom with a grain of salt. It's not like this would be the undeniable end-all-be-all winner party in all the possible scenarios, and most certainly unthinkable as a role-playing party. (At least not without a bit of stretching of one's imagination.) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 6.1 - Contact info ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- If you have any suggestions, comments or thoughts on how to make this party more workable, better, more fun to play, less reliant on some key spells and stuff or in any way would like to thank (or flame =) please do so at the Interplay forum "Icewind Dale 2 Adventuring companies" at address http://forums.interplay.com/viewforum.php?f=54 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have lots of money you want to donate to me. =) You can always access the latest version of this guide by visiting my web page at http://koti.mbnet.fi/~jmikkone/jupp.txt ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 6.2 - Copyright ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (c) Jukka Mikkonen, also known as Sir Rechet, 2003. You may freely distribute and publish this FAQ as long as I am clearly stated as the author. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 6.3 - Coming soon ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I hope this is the final version of this guide. Only if I discover some gaping holes in my reasoning shall I update this guide - small misoptimisations are just too numerous and also a matter of taste to an extent that I see no point in cluttering the Internet with several different versions of the same guide.