Sunday, 19 July 2015

Baldur's Gate: In-Depth Retrospective on the Original Incarnation - Part II


Stealth & Theft

Thieves play a pivotal role in most adventuring parties, having a unique set of utility skills without which the party may struggle or even fail. The most important thief skills are Stealth, Open Locks and Find/Remove Traps; Pick Pockets is secondary. Oddly, the skills can be raised beyond 100%, with only pick pockets and stealth mode taking advantage of points greater than 100 [1] [2]. Highly dexterous Halflings may manage to max out three of the four skills by tenth level; clumsier races will need to be more inventive, as detailed below. 

Backstab, showing the "chunking" effect
Stealth is the art of moving unseen and unheard, a mode of play that blends AD&D's Hide In Shadows & Move Silently skills. Scouting ahead of the party, or lining up a juicy target for a devastating "backstab", are the two most effective uses of stealth.

Scouting is crucial for new players who would rather not bumble into a pack of ogre berserkers unprepared; however, the round-by-round checks can be a lil' touch and go until you increase the skill to "about 75", buff by quaffing one or more Potions of Perception (+20 % bonus to all thief skills for 6 hours), or perma-buff with items like the Boots of Stealth (+35 Stealth) and Shadow Armor (+15% Stealth).

The safest scouting is conducted by means of a Potion of Invisibility (lasts for 12 hours) or the arcane second circle spell, Invisibility (lasts 24 hours) [3]; long enough to learn the lay of the land and find a suitable position from which to mount an attack.

Backstab is a surprisingly damaging mechanic if used correctly, the quadruple multiplier, coming at 110,000 Exp, capable of "chunking" [4] tough-ass foes with a single poke. Against a rival crew, opening with a backstab on the mage can notably reduce the duration and difficulty of a battle.

The meanest backstabbers are not pure thieves, but rather multi-class and dual-class Fighter/Thieves who take advantage of THAC0 and damage bonuses granted by percentile Strength and weapon specialization [5].

The Boots of Speed (doubles movement rate, stacks with the Haste spell!) are an invaluable aid for repeatedly backstabbing members of a mob: simply stab the first victim, run out of the mob's vision radius and hide again, then return to stab the next; rinse n repeat. 

Weapon-wise, a playful wield is the Dagger of Venom (6 poison damage per round up to a total of 15 damage) because the poison damage works over time and also slows the victim's movement rate. Drizzt's Twinkle scimitar is of course a wicked wield (1d8 +3, to-hit +3, AC bonus 2) along with the Staff of Striking (to-hit +3, dmg +9), a magical quarterstaff found deep inside Durlag's Tower and subject to limited charges, so enjoy it while it lasts!

Open Locks & Find/Remove Traps are indispensable skills for new and prudent players, particularly in such perilous dungeons as the Candlekeep Catacombs and Durlag's Tower. Knock, a second circle arcane spell, can largely replace Open Locks, providing the player doesn't mind filling spell slots for utility actions which thieves can perform without limit and at no cost. As it's name makes clear, the second circle divine spell, Find Traps, only reveals the trap's location; it does not remove them (I say that because in NWN it does). Since many traps cannot be walked around or otherwise avoided, the spell is no substitute for the skill. 

Pick Pocketing is the art of stealing from NPCs and certain merchant inventories [6]; the danger being that, if you fail, the target goes hostile and you can't deal with them again [7]. The pockets of a few NPCs can yield decent gear (e.g, Algernon, Drizzt, Dushai), with Shandalar in Ulgoth's Beard being a prime target for several powerful scrolls such as Spirit Armor.

Thief skills can be buffed by quaffing the Potion of Master Thievery (+40 Open Lock & Pick Pocket for 3 hours) and Potion of Perception (+20 % bonus to all thief skills for 6 hours), conveniently purchasable in sufficient quantities from Halbazzer and Erdane before you meet with the more crafty locks and deadly traps of the catacombs and Durlag's Tower.

[1] The values are actually just "points", not percentages.
[2] Maximums (19 Dex Halfling): Open Locks (135), Find/Remove Traps (120), Pick Pockets (135), Stealth (140).  
[3] The fourth circle Improved Invisibility spell only lasts 10 rounds, but bestows combat benefits.
[4] Targets reduced to -10 HPs or lower will explode into "chunks" of meat (see pic). Party members who are chunked by monsters will have their portrait disappear and thus cannot be raised. Nasty!
[5] Backstab damage = weapon roll + weapon enchantment + weapon specialization * backstab level (+ Strength bonus). That's right, the Strength bonus isn't multiplied, but every bit helps. Fighter/thieves can also quaff Strength potions, basic thieves can't. By "specialization", I mean the table - which includes Proficient, Specialized, Master, High Master and Grand Master. Fighter/thief multi-classes can only Specialize (to-hit +1, dmg +2, ApR +1/2); fighter/thief duals can High Master (to-hit +3, dmg +4, ApR +1/2). Thus, the dual-class's backstab is better.
[6] For game balance reasons, you can't steal from merchants who actually have decent wares, like Thalantyr of High Hedge or Halbazzer of Sorcerous Sundries. 
[7] You can use the Charm trick to deal with them again. 

Archery

Detonation Arrows
Multiple reasons can be given for why archers just devastate. Early in the campaign, your average enemy is made from such lowly stock as 1-2 Hit Dice [8], so only one or two projectiles are required to drop them. Against such squishy foes, percentile Strength warriors (e.g, 18/93) wielding two-handed swords is just overkill; moreover, by the time Minsc has shouted "Go for the eyes, Boo!" and charged in, Kivan has sniped two or three from under his nose, anyway!

Low level archers, who by wielding a bow (preferably a composite longbow) gain +1 ApR, also don't necessarily need a tank to hold back certain stronger, 4-8 HD foes [9]; they can simply mow them down as they close in.

To increase killspeed and deal with truly formidable foes later in the campaign, archers can swap to enchanted quivers of Acid Arrows (1d6 +1, +2d6 acid, to-hit +1), Fire Arrows (1d6, +1d6 Fire, save vs. spells for none), Ice Arrows (1d6, +1d6 Cold, no save), Piercing Arrows (1d6, +6 piercing on failed save vs. death, to-hit +4), Biting Arrows (1d6, poison: 30% of HPs in 20 secs, save vs. death for none), Dispelling Arrows (on-hit Dispel Magic) and the insane Detonation Arrows (1d6, +6d6 Fireball, save vs. spells for half).

Upon reaching Sorcerous Sundries in Chapter Five, in addition to stacks and stacks of other ammo, the player can purchase twenty-one quivers (420) of Acid Arrow, two-and-a-half quivers (50) of Dispelling Arrow and three quivers (60) of Detonation Arrows. Imagine a few archers unleashing what amount to Fireballs at a max rate of four per round - that's some serious DpR!

Each item is sketched, an artistic touch
I guess the quivers are "sort of" balanced in that you won't find a great variety in large quantities until you haggle with Halbazzer at the start of Chapter Five, but the fact BioWare nerfed quantity and quality in the sequel point to them being OP. [10]

Decent bows are also quite easy to find: while only one composite longbow  (THAC0 +1, dmg +2) can be bought from Winthrop in the Prologue, they're commonly sold by merchants and easily looted from that point on. The Composite Long Bow +1 (THAC0 +2, dmg +3) - the "best" bow - can be bought from Feldepost's Inn as early as Chapter One; the finale of Chapter Three also yields the Longbow of Marksmanship (THAC0 +3, dmg +2); and the Eagle Bow (THAC0 +2, dmg +2) is obtainable when the player reaches Baldur's Gate city.

Being wooden, bows also have the early-game perk of being exempt from the plot-based "taint" which can cause non-magical iron weapons to break in your hands.

Companion-wise, Kivan and Coran are already lordly archers at the time of recruitment; Khalid can be specced into a sniper and out-shoot Kivan. Coran is the undisputed king of archery, having an illegal High Mastery in bows and potentially reaching Dexterity 21 if given the Manual of Quickness of Action (Dex +1, permanent); not that he needs it. Nor does he need the Bracers of Archery (THAC0 +2) or Gauntlets of Dexterity (sets Dexterity to 18), which should be gifted to second-rate archers like Ajantis and Minsc.

One "limitation" of archery is that you can only hold twenty arrows in a quiver, of which you have three. Sixty shots might sound like more than enough, but you'll burn through them fast with a high RoF and have to backtrack to town to restock. Well, just fill your backpack slots with quivers as well, and you shouldn't run out in a hurry.

My focus here on bows n arrows doesn't mean crossbows aren't also viable, but while the Light Crossbow of Speed (THAC0 +1, dmg +1, ApR +1) is readily available in Beregost, the Heavy Crossbow of Accuracy (THAC0 +5, dmg +2) may not be found by many players, as it's acquisition depends on how you solved a previous Chapter's quest (I like cross-chapter consequences like that, incidentally. That quest is quite involved.) Bolt variety is very limited compared to arrows, with the Bolt of Biting (1d8, poison: 30% of HPs in 20 secs, save vs. death for none) and Bolt of Lightning (1d8, +4d4 electrical, save vs. breath for half) being the most sought-after. I personally love to see Shar-teel or bards like Garrick and Eldoth firing from crossbows; Montaron is a crack shot, too. :)

By virtue of darts setting attack rate to 3 ApR, even "useless" mages can contribute a lil' to the party's combined projectile hail (1d3), especially if they let loose the Dart of Wounding (poison: 20 dmg in 20 secs, save vs. death for none) or Dart of Stunning (1d3, save vs spells or Stun for 7 rounds). Along with druids and clerics they can also fire slings, a cheeky "halfling weapon" that receives a strength bonus to damage and allows a shield in the off-hand. With such weapons at your disposal, there's really no excuse to have your back-row casters standing around doing nothing just because they're out of spells.

From what I've written above on ranged weapons, one might wonder if tanking and melee combat is redundant? No, they're most certainly not. Tanking is advisable to hold back non-trivial aggro, and certain monsters are simply immune (Mustard Jelly) or sport 50% resistance to piercing damage (skeletal undead); so yeah, sometimes it's just better to break out a blunt weapon and get down n dirty. (See the Tanking & Melee Combat section in Blathering Part III). 

[8] Wolves, kobolds, gibberlings, xvarts, tasloi, hobgoblins, gnolls, ghouls, half-ogres, ogrillons etc.
[9] Sword spiders, ghasts, polar bears etc.
[10] Acid Arrows inflict only 1d3 acid, Dispelling Arrows are extremely rare, and there are no Detonation Arrows in the sequel, BG2.

Resting & Healing

Resting and healing can be a pain for new players, since they will take damage as they learn the ropes. Assuming the party wasn't ambushed in the wilds, they rest for eight hours of game-time and gain one itty-bitty hit point, unless they travel back to town and pay for a lodging, in which case they gain 1-4 HPs depending on quality of accommodation (peasant, noble etc.)

Since the act itself heals so pitifully little either way, players might need to rest once or twice to memorize and re-memorize healing spells to cast, such as Cure Light Wounds (+1-8 HPs), Cure Serious Wounds (+17 HPs) and Cure Critical Wounds (+27 HPs), which entails the recruitment of a cleric (Branwen, Viconia) or druid (Jaheira, Faldorn) party member. Somewhat oddly, the latter are superior as healers as their progression is faster in TotSC's experience range, allowing them to reach fifth circle spells and gain access to Cure Critical Wounds, something clerics won't have access to until the sequel.  [11]

Healing can be tedious for those who take frequent damage, but the safe and sure bet is to travel back to an inn, rest to refresh healing spells, cast healing spells, rest again, cast more healing spells, rinse n repeat until party healed. [12]

Make sure you DO rest at the inn and not in some other building, else your ears will be bashed by this mighty trumpeting:

YOU MAY NOT REST HERE, EITHER FIND AN INN OR REST OUTSIDE

And no, just "outside" isn't good enough: Rise and shine citizens! No sleeping within town limits. Get a room at an inn if you must rest. It's either that or camp out of sight of the city! - Amnish Soldier.

Rest restrictions are very welcome, of course; it's just the way the player is told about them that I find amusing.


To a degree, Potions of Healing (+9 HPs) can keep a party fighting longer, though a scavenging and merchant-visiting mindset is required to keep the stocks up. Merchant stocks are plentiful, if a lil' GP-draining for parties just scraping by.

Temple healing is another option, curing wounds and other ailments more efficiently; the catch being that temples are few and far between.

For the experts who don't take damage in the first place, or, perhaps, even have entry-level Regeneration (+1 HP per 6 turns) for one or two party members [13], healbots, temples and healing potions aren't all that necessary.

Resting is also required to cure fatigue that builds up from days of overworld travel, "urgent" to cure not so much because of the cumulative Luck penalty associated with it (I can live with that for a while), but more because of the incessant complaints made by each and every party member, in turn; for example:

I'll not keep this pace without rest soon! - Edwin
If I'm not allowed to sleep, our next assailants may just live. - Montaron (hilarious!)
I tire!  I'll be much more agreeable with rest! - Xzar
etc.

They quickly become annoying , though I do like Garrick's gentle hint: A yawn is a silent shout.

Setting up camp
[11] Of course, druid level progression then slows down in BG2.
[12] To make life easier, you can employ an AI script to automate the castings, though you may have to write your own because the default ones suck.
[13] Kagain's illegal Constitution score of 20 grants him regeneration, and a Dwarf PC with a score of 19 can then read the Manual of Bodily Health to be granted regen, too! Their deep HP pools will be healed during overworld travel, making regen a powerful perk. 

Arcane Spells

The general consensus seems to be that "mages are weak" when starting off, but that doesn't mean they can't be dictating encounter outcomes from first level onwards with spells like Sleep and Blindness; at third level with Web; at fifth with Slow; at seventh with Emotion; at ninth with Cloudkill - and that's just a select few!

Imoen haggles Halbazzer for spells at Sorcerous Sundries
Of course, mages are limited in how many spells they can cast per day;  therefore, the idea is to cast appropriate spells at key moments for maximum debuffing, disabling or destructive effect; but the "what and when" isn't always obvious: moreso than other aspects of game-play, it requires experimentation and practice.

Afterall, we're talking about a campaign that hosts an arcane pool of seventeen first circle spells, eighteen second circle, sixteen third, twelve forth and nine fifth; a few of which are utterly useless (Infravision, Know Alignment), a few of which are clunky or highly annoying to aim (e.g, cone-shaped spells like Color Spray), some of which have questionable utility (Shield - Armor is better), some of which are very specific in their utility (Protection From Petrification), and others of which dominate the arcane repertoire of players who appreciate elegant and efficient solutions to combat encounters. For the sake of brevity, I'll just cover Sleep, Blindness and Web, three basic spells that are occasionally under-utilized by new or unimaginative players, many of whom suppose Magic Missile, Fireball and the various summon line of spells to be the backbone of the arcane arsenal. Well, they can be; by no means am I writing those spells off or saying they can't be used in conjunction (e.g, Web 'em, then fry 'em with Fireball!), I'm just saying they've been talked about so much over the years, and there's more to spell-casting than "direct damage and summons". 

Sleep (save vs. death at -3 penalty or fall asleep for 5 rounds per caster level [4 HD +3 and over unaffected]) is an unbelievably effective first circle spell to liberally unleash in the early stages, capable of immobilizing any number of bottom-feeder mobs - including ogre berserkers - long enough to poke them to death with the pointy ends of swords, or pin-cushion them with projectiles.

Note the above-quoted "save vs. death at -3 penalty"; it might help to briefly explain saving throws and then give an example. There are five distinct saving throws in AD&D 2nd Edition: Paralyze/Poison/Death, Rod/Staff/Wand, Petrify/Polymorph, Breath Weapon and Spells. The value of the saving throw is derived from level, class, race/monster etc; it can be +20, it can be -5 (lower is better). In attempting to resist Sleep's effect, the target rolls a d20 and compares the result to their death saving throw. If the result of the d20, with the -3 penalty, equals or exceeds the saving throw, then the enemy "saves vs. death" and rejoices, having resisted falling asleep; but, since low level creatures have such awfully high saving throws, usually in the high teens, the chances of saving are slim to non-existent. That's why when you cast Sleep on one of the countless mobs they almost always enter a comatose slumber. Oh, and Sleep's lightning-fast casting time (1) is just icing on the cake!

Our next entry is Blindness (save vs. spells or be blinded for 10 turns, -4 to-hit, 4 AC penalty), another first circle spell to liberally let loose in the early stages, this time against a single tough enemy. Disabled by the spell, and providing you're outside his vastly reduced vision radius, a deadly early adversary like Greywolf, for example, will simply stand still, looking completely lost, as you wear him down with arrows, bolts, bullets, darts, throwing-knives and throwing-axes (variety is the spice of life). His cries of pain will echo back to Oublek in Nashkel! Now, look at that duration: ten minutes; enough time to kill him twenty times over! Long spell durations are certainly an issue for opponents who, unlike the PC, lack allies with access to Dispel Magic!

Web at work
The good times just keep on comin' when your mage hits third level, at which point they gain access to the legendary Web (save vs. spells at -2 penalty or be immobilized for 2 turns per caster level, AoE 5 yards per caster level, save allowed each round), a second circle spell that's so good it's far from useless even in SCS2/Ascension Throne of Bhaal (in fact, it's still OP by itself, let alone fired by sequencers)! Web is sort of like a majorly upgraded Sleep, reliably ensnaring any poor blighter not magic-resistant (and not a spider or ettercap, both of which have innate immunity). Just have your party fire volleys of projectiles and fire-wands into the sticky mess; or have one or two companions under Free Action status wade into the (stackable) AoE to auto-hit the hapless mobs, whose AC is null and void.

These spells can also be unleashed by bards, except that under the TotSC experience cap they can never cast fifth circle spells (Cloudkill etc.) and have notably fewer spell slots than mages, who can also Specialize in a school of magic for bonus slots. The specialist Conjurer Edwin receives yet another bonus slot per circle thanks to his birthright amulet. Moreover, equipped with the late-game [14] Ring of Wizardry (doubles first circle spells slots), the ninth level Edwin receives a maximum of twelve castings of first circle spells per day! Back to bards, they can reach one character level higher than mages under the cap, so spells with level-based variables are more effective cast by bards (Magic Missile, Fireball, Skull Trap, Flame Arrow, Emotion etc.) A cute, but ultimately unimportant fact. :P

As mentioned at the start of this section, the campaign hosts a library of arcane spells, others of which I may detail in subsequent blatherings, or mention in relation to other subjects.

[14] An early RoW can be found outside the Friendly Arm Inn, but let's not pretend your average player pixel-hunted it without spoilers.

Summoning Spells: Arcane & Divine

The arcane and divine summoning spells are clearly broken, not being subject to a summon cap. This includes the Monster Summoning line of spells (mage/bard), the Animal Summoning line of spells (druid) and Animate Dead (cleric only) [15].

Summoning spells allow lazy and cheesy players to conjure dozens upon dozens of meatshields for a ridiculous length of time (1 min for MS, 24 mins for AS and 8 hours for AD), thereby defeating many combat encounters by sitting back and twiddling their thumbs in mild amusement. For good reason, the sequel limited summons to five in total.

"Hey, look everyone! I'm about to beat Sarevok with both hands tied behind my back! I'm so awesome!" - a scrub.
[15] The arcane version of Animate Dead does exist (SCRL2D), BioWare just forgot to put it into the campaign. Or maybe they thought leaving it out would balance summoning, har-har. :D

Wands

Dozens of wands are sprinkled throughout the campaign as loot, though perhaps only several can reasonably be found before you reach the city of Baldur's Gate.

Being pre-loaded, wands have no casting time: they can be fired in the blink of an eye, a huge advantage over conventional spell-casting.

Wands not only have a limited number of charges: how many charges remain is also unknown to the player - a nice touch. If you expend a wand, it's simply removed from your inventory and forever lost, but cashed-up and cheesy players can sell wands on the verge of depletion to a vendor, then buy them back fully recharged. More outrageous than that, players who haggle with Halbazzer may discover wands are sold in an unlimited quantity at Sorcerous Sundries, so only your cash flow limits the use of these powerful consumables. [16]

Bzzt! (TPK)
Of the several types of wand, I've found the most useful to be the Wand of Fire (Fireball: 6d6 save vs. wands for half, "switchable" to Agannazar's Scorcher: 6d6 +6 save vs. wands for half), Wand of Paralyzation (Stuns a single target for 10 rounds at a -4 save vs. wands penalty) and Wand of Monster Summoning (summons 12 HD of monsters for 2 turns). The "ricocheting" Wand of Lightning (6d6 electrical, save vs. wands for half) is perhaps the most striking and fun to fire, though it can easily backfire and electrocute the entire party, leaving them as nothing more than scorched corpses on the cobble-stone pavement.

The area field of the item description is amusing: "Area: Path of Bolt" - but the "path" is so unpredictable after the bolt ricochets, so exercise caution! The Wand of Fire, of which several can be found independent of Halbazzer's infinite stock, is an attractive replacement to memorizing the popular Fireball spell itself, freeing up third circle spell slots for the effective and underrated AoE debuffer, Slow.

Those who survive the cave at Black Alaric's treasure cove will emerge waving a Wand of Paralyzation in the air, smiling from ear to ear, because the -4 save vs. wands coupled with Greater Malison (-2 saves) [17] means not much in the campaign won't stand still while you cut its rigid body to pieces. The Wand of Monster Summoning is mainly effective for laying down decoys in a pinch, or spamming it to create a swarm to overwhelm a stronger foe (again, there's no summon cap), a fave "tactic" for new or lazy players.

To cap off this section and finally end this post, wands are fun to use and powerful overall, but just how so depends on the number you find and how many mages and bards you have to readily wave them.

[16] This is one of my biggest criticisms of the campaign: you spend the first few chapters exploring and struggling to survive, but when you reach the city, start doing a few quests and find Sorcerous Sundries (you can't miss it), BioWare's restraint with items just goes out the window; but my bitch about that need its own section, so I lay it to the side for the time being.
[17] I can't remember if Blindness also penalizes the target's saving throws, it does in BG2.

Tanking & Melee Combat, Party Composition & Companions, Side Quests!

Back to: Baldur's Gate Blathering Part I

89 comments:

  1. Well a Rogue and a Mage in the party were absolutely essentials. Open Locks, Find/Remove Trap and Backstab were always useful, even if it's not easy for a new player controlling a rogue, as it is using another class like a Cleric or a Fighter: you have to be especially careful with positioning and moving.
    I admit I never used traps against enemies while I've read that can be really useful also in the final confrontation at the end of BG.

    Mages.. I used them as glass cannons, and I never exploited the powers of summoning... too bad, I'd had an easier time! ^^' Wands were good but I always tried to use them only in desperate occasions...

    Hmm about Blindness I didn't know of a Saving throw penalty... just -4 to hit on attack rolls and a 4 point Armor Class penalty.

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    1. For new players, I think healers are also indispensable. So, something really basic like two warriors with one each of thief, cleric, wizard, then throw in a bard or druid, too. They can be more creative with multi and dual-classes, but that's pretty much a standard party that will work for a new, clueless player.

      I've played around lots with summons, they can be fun but players tend to rely on them too much at the expense of learning new ways. This is also true in BG2 because to make up for the five summon limit you have epic stuff like Skeleton Warriors, Mordenkainen Swords, Invisible Stalkers, Elemental Princes, Divas and Planetars. Icewind Dale 2 had the strongest summons outside Diablo 2, like Festering Drowned Dead and Apocalyptic Boneguards, they can can solo 80% of the game.

      I just checked, Blindness doesn't seem to penalize saves. So yeah, BG2 only.

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    2. True! I forgot healers.. clerics especially are really useful in any combat...speaking about bards and druids in Bg1 and Bg2 I never found good ones (except maybe Jaheira, that is quite versatile), but surely having one as a main character would be bette (I really like the bard class)

      Resting in the beginning was really a pain! Well that's why I liked Arcanum more for some mechanics. But the tavern-rest was a typical rpg solution I found in a lot of other games (usually just to replenish mana, not to re-memorize spells, like in Bg and Bg2) along with the rest-at-your-risk in the wilderness.
      Speaking about fatigue...there was no indication/visual stat of it, isn't it?

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    3. Prestige Class "kits" and better spell selections make bards and druids way better in BG2. Haer'Dalis (tiefling Blade) and Jaheira are strong, obscenely so for tanking because he gets Defensive spin and she gets Ironskin (there's other reasons, too).

      By comparison, BG1 bards and druids are very basic and limited in what they can do. Bard Song is a joke, but Bardic lore is more useful in BG1 because IDing saves lots of hassle. PC druids can get three Tomes of Understanding for like 21 Wis total (that's 3 castings of fifth circle spells per day and there's only two but they're very useful late-game or in Durlag's Tower: Cure Critical Wounds and Animal Summoning II (conjures up to six bears per casting). Being multi-class, Jaheira doesn't reach fifth circle in BG1 (Faldorn does), but she can still summon & heal a lil'. And fight.

      I'm trying to think how Arcanum's resting system works, can't recall! :P

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    4. Fatigue icon is shown in portraits, no stat or THAC0 penalty shown.

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    5. Yes Haer'Dalis is good but you have to be an expert player in order to use him effectively. With right equipment is really strong, and Jaheira too in Bg2 had a permanent place in my party... but hey she's only part druid and part fighter. Cernd from Bg2 and Garrick from Bg1 weren't my favoured characters. I tried using them but... nah!

      Arcanum had a fatigue stat that you could recharge with potions or by simply resting...can't remember much too! Anyway I am sure that you hadn't to visit tavern a lot :)

      Yes I remember the fatigue icon but there's no indication or warning of when it will appear..for example a bar that shows the level of fatigue (I never understood if character stats affect this).

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    6. The manual says fatigue comes after 24 hours (2 hours game-time) and the overworld map shows the time it takes to travel, so you can sort of measure things. Some trips take a few days, so you can expect to have to rest on arrival if you there's no inn on the way.

      Low Constitution party members will get tired before dwarves and such. My PC always seemed to get tired last, I always roll with decent Con.

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    7. I didn't know even if I noticed that weaker characters were tired before stronger ones (also in Bg2, where Aerie [Con:9] was always the first to complain!).

      I admit I still prefer how Fallout and Arcanum handle trips: you can travel anywhere on the map (not only to fixed locations like in Nwn2) with secret location to discover, random encounters etc...

      Now that I resumed playing Prince of Qin (hoping to finish sooner or later), that has the same travelling system of Bg, I find travelling quite annoying... luckily no fatigue system and no tavern stops needed (there are even some caravan stops to enable fast travel among few locations but I do not like spending gold for that!).

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    8. Ah, good points. The interesting thing about Fallout 2's overland travel is that the speed of movement is tied to CPU cycles, so on PCs these days you just FLY over the map (even without the car) and miss out on lots of random encounters. overworld travel was supposed to be quite slow, as per Fallout 1.

      I think Arcanum had an overworld exploration limit in that you couldn't go west of the mountain range or to the islands before you hit specific plot points, so it wasn't truly open as Fallout 1 was. Fallout 2 was 99.9% open, except for the Enclave oil rig which required certain conditions to be satisfied first before you could go there. Great, great games. Better than BG series, imo.

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    9. "The interesting thing about Fallout 2's overland travel is that the speed of movement is tied to CPU cycles, so on PCs these days you just FLY over the map"

      I didn't know! I didn't played it recently and that's unexpected... I remember how slow was travelling by foot... the car was a welcomed addition.

      "I think Arcanum had an overworld exploration limit in that you couldn't go west of the mountain range or to the islands before you hit specific plot points"

      Yes, but that's ok for me, every game for gampleay reasons (avoid hardest zones until you level up) has a different system to restrict travelling: Superhero League of Hoboken (silly post-apocalyptic adventure/rpg) used unlockable train tickets, Wasteland 2 (another post-apocalyptic rpg!) used high radiation zones so you have to find a better protection to pass through them...
      All these games made exploring interesting since often there were places that opened secondary quests (Wasteland 2 Level L'upe mine) or just hidden easter eggs (Arcanum smurfs village).

      Other games instead make me rush to the end...(entering the same locations again and again just to pass through them is boring)

      Delete
    10. "high radiation zones so you have to find a better protection to pass through them..."

      I love this sorta stuff... high radiation zones were scary as hell in STALKER and Fallout 1 (the Glow). Nothing stopping you going there unprepared, but will you survive?

      Environmental limitations are rare in open RPGs!

      ---

      Some guy wrote a walk-through on Fallout 2's short-cut: the Navarro Run.
      http://db.gamefaqs.com/computer/doswin/file/fallout_2_navarro_run.txt
      So much easier to do these days because you don't get many random encounters with high speed CPUs. That problem is sort of worked around in Killaps unofficial patch, btw.

      Delete
    11. STALKER! I almost forgot that game... Call of Pripyat was my favourite for the larger maps, improved free-roam and hidden anomalies (never played the second). But the first was good, and had a better storyline (travelling was too restricted, and there was less exploration but it was a good game).
      The Glow was really scary... there was a similar situation in Fallout:NV (can't remember the name of the place).

      "Some guy wrote a walk-through on Fallout 2's short-cut: the Navarro Run."
      impressive!
      I remember that some later parts were really difficult...so skipping a good part of the quests/exp would make that even harder... hm I should replay ad finish F2 once for all (hoping that Golgotha won't be bugged this time!)

      Delete
    12. Have you read my OGSE review for STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl?

      I liked the emphasis on survival in OGSE: never really felt comfortable in The Zone even when I obtained the ultimate weapons, armors and transmuted artifacts. More info and how to set it up:
      http://lilura1.blogspot.com/2014/10/old-good-stalker-evolution-2.html

      Out of CoP and SHoC, which one I prefer just depends on mood or what mod I feel like playing. I found SHoC to have overall more polish and less bugs, plus I liked the underground locations; but both are great - and you're right, CoP is clearly more free-roam and open (and the Russian accents are even funnier in CoP).

      "I remember that some later parts were really difficult...so skipping a good part of the quests/exp would make that even harder..."

      It's all about obtaining the Advanced Power Armor and loads of other stuff from Navarro, after which quest experience in San Francisco is huge, and so your character is no slouch. The short-cut doesn't make sense from a story point of view, though: it's sequence breaking and some dialogues come out of thin air. Strictly for meta-gaming enthusiasts, I guess.

      Delete
    13. "Have you read my OGSE review for STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl?"

      I've read it so loooong ago. Looks good and really better that the vanilla (I remember feeling weak in the Zone too... but probably I wasn't so well equipped..I can't remember, but I surely had Ghost's suit. Sometimes I like challeges, I ran New Vegas and dlcs wearing only lightweight leather armor).

      "Strictly for meta-gaming enthusiasts, I guess."

      I might be tempted since Navarro is exactly where I stopped playing...because my hard-disk died, and I wasn't in the mood for reinstalling and restarting from the beginning.
      But I've too much to play right now!

      Delete
    14. What are you playing right now, a NWN module?

      I'm sort of playing BG1, here and there, from old save files. But atm I can't really sit down in peace and play anything for long periods like I did with Aielund Saga...

      Delete
    15. Yes, I've finished Penultima (it was ok), Penultima Rerolled (it was great), now I'm playing the Citadel of Blood trilogy (lvl 5-20,hack 'n slash heavy,"Actions will affect your alignment -- be careful"), and Against the Giants trilogy...and something else I can't remember!
      I played some Shadowrun Returns excellent modules after the base campaigns (Antumbra trilogy, A stitch in time, From the shadows run) but I stopped until I find another good mod.

      Besides Nwn I play some offline single player fps like CoJ:Gunslinger... I like having a "side-game" for mindless relaxing play. Provided it has a good story (Nolf was one of my favourites).

      Delete
    16. update! : finished CoJ:Gunslinger so out of curiosity I reinstalled Fallout 2. Totally forgot Killaps patch and restoration... seem awesome anyway I'll have to restart since savegames aren't compatible... no problem, I was just arrived in Klamath (with supersonic speed!)

      Delete
    17. Haven't played Penultima, Citadel or Giants... or Shadowrun or CoJ: Gunslinger! So many modules, so many games.

      I don't recommend Killaps patch, anyway. He makes unnecessary "balance" changes that I don't agree with, and have no business being in a bug fix pack. Same thing for ToEE Co8 and to a lesser extent the BG1 and BG2 fixpacks.

      Delete
    18. Well these games are quite short compared to others of the same kind (Shadowrun is waaay linear and shorter compared to Fallout2.. or to PoE and D:OS, games that I never finished, and CoJ isn't as long as any of the Far Cry games)
      I also started Demon, a Nwn module that is the sequel of Shadowlords (ok module, gets better in the end) and Dreamcatcher (a very good module with some interesting parts: in a quest you ride a dragon, in another you lead a team of elven soldiers giving commands...) but so far it did not impress me, maybe I'll pick it up again later.

      "I don't recommend Killaps patch"

      I know but the travelling speed was excessive for my tastes.. and after installing the patch to fix that the game refused to run until I installed the restoration patch too.
      By the way now I'm having fun since I like how the writing is excellent and despite the age it runs like a real rpg, while Wasteland 2 was more tactically developed but unfortunately was less interesting for the roleplaying part.

      Delete
    19. Ah, Far Cry that was a hard FPS that reduced me to tears... I played the 64 bit patch a long time ago for better textures. I enjoyed FEAR more, it just felt more agile and responsive.

      I'm pretty sure Restoration is intended to only work with Killaps, though I haven't tried the former. I'm a bit of a purist with my fave old RPGs, I haven't even tried Unfinished Business for BG1 or some others. I tried Dark Side of the Sword Coast when it first came out, grrr that was a hard mod and had lots of bugs, too. Also toyed with Baldurdash, Dudley fixes and aVENGER's Racial Traits fix, they all came out long before Tutu and the trend of playing the original in the BG2 engine (BGT, tutu, EE).

      Delete
    20. "Far Cry that was a hard FPS that reduced me to tears"

      I played it a loooong time ago... pretty hard especially towards the ending but I was able to finish it, unlike the sequel... that was really unfair.
      Never played the FEAR series or Bioshock even if Infinite looks so good.

      "I'm a bit of a purist with my fave old RPG"

      Me too, I always play vanilla (even Morrowind, despite the ugly graphics) if the pc can run them without fixes. Mods are useful if it's the second time I play the game.
      Speaking of old Rpgs, a friend of mine told me about Ultima 7 as a great rpg not focused on combat. I only played Pagan so when I'll stop playing Nwn modules I'm ing to try that.

      Delete
    21. I didn't play Far Cry 2 or Far Cry 3, I had enough Trigen nightmare from playing the original. I liked the exploration in the first Crysis game, too.

      The perspective in Ultima VII makes me physically ill, I tried it once or twice - didn't get far. I'm not blind to the charm and revolutionary nature of that RPG, though. It's just too old for my tastes, I think.

      I never modded Morrowind either, well except with MGE and better heads and bodies. :)

      Delete
    22. "I didn't play Far Cry 2 or Far Cry 3"

      Never played the 3rd ... they told me you become soon a uber-fighter so it should be easy but I've never tried. The 2nd is a real nightmare due to patrols that respawn as soon as you blink, and if you try to flee...well it's useless.

      "The perspective in Ultima VII makes me physically ill"

      Yes... that's a problem...that's ugly... Pagan had a better perspective but no party mechanics. I usually have fun with old games, for example Dark Sun: Shattered Lands was and still is a good rpg in my opinion (released one year after Ultima 7) with choices and customization. Too bad that it was quite easy until the nearly impossible final combat.

      When I modded Morrowind ...it was just to take weird and funny pics to post on the PlanetElderscrolls site! ^^

      Delete
    23. I read somewhere that DS:SL is great for quest choices, freedom and lots of secrets - I had it running in Dosbox and just couldn't work out a single thing. But then, I also couldn't get into the Krynn Goldbox RPGs, something about waiting for spells to memorize and exploring forests in first-person... I guess it's a bit pathetic of me, but I can't really handle truly antique RPGs - though Betrayal at Krondor seemed to be an exception, such amazing writing, characters and beautiful 3d visuals (inventory icons like potion bottles - wow). That RPG is something special, pity about the combat and 3d exploration graphics - they turned me off.

      Delete
    24. " I had it running in Dosbox and just couldn't work out a single thing."

      Noooo I feel so old now! :(
      I found the game really intuitive and it was like a simpler version of Bg: less things (magic items, spells) but still good. Graphics wasn't terrible either. Turn based combat was also well implemented and easy.

      Never tried Krynn Goldbox RPGs, but I had bad experiences with old first-person rpgs.
      Betrayal at Krondor was good, even if I'm not fond of character art based on photographs..I prefer the pixelated drawings. I never finished it probably I played only the demo... can't remember.

      Delete
    25. I also have major issues with how such low resolutions appear so small in a tiny window on modern screens, and how when you enlarge them they're all so pixelated with a "too-clean-look". Those old graphics need CRT scanlines to give them character lol :D

      "I had bad experiences with old first-person rpgs"

      Wizardry 8 is such a good game, but the first-person ruins it for me. That game was made by the same guys who made Jagged Alliance 2, I wish they made W8 isometric too! I don't really like "blobbers", or whatever they call them.

      I agree about the art that's too-closely based on real-life photos, it's a turn-off and breaks immersion because you imagine these fools dressing up and joking around.

      In my other comment, "beautiful 3d visuals" should read "beautiful 2d visuals". the 2d looks great even today, the 3d looks utterly awful - I can't really play anything 3d that's older than either Deus Ex and System Shock 2; again, quite pathetic of me but there you have it!

      Delete
    26. "Wizardry 8 is such a good game, but the first-person ruins it for me"

      Never played that game... from the pics it looks very dark but the graphics dosn't seem too bad. I assume travelling is different from Eye of the Beholder, so you can move freely in a 3d world, isn't it?
      What about Might & Magic? I played M&M 6 and it looked good at the time. I still have the cd somewhere but I wasn't able to run it last time! :(

      " also have major issues with how such low resolutions appear so small in a tiny window on modern screens, and how when you enlarge them they're all so pixelated with a "too-clean-look".

      Yes, this is a problem. I usually try to run the game setting a low resolution, but I admit that after playing recent games going back is really hard... sometime the problem is the gameplay, sometimes it's the graphics.

      Delete
    27. "I assume travelling is different from Eye of the Beholder, so you can move freely in a 3d world, isn't it?"

      Yes, you move your party around as one unit in first-person perspective and even the fights are in FP. The 3d engine is archaic, too - terrain looks like triangles.

      Like Jagged Alliance 2, it has a distinctive charm, the UI is 10/10 easy, what 2d art assets it incorporates are A1 and the party system is very versatile.

      "What about Might & Magic?"

      Have never played any M&M games... not sure why. I've toyed with King's Bounty which is similar, it just didn't grip me so I stopped.

      "sometime the problem is the gameplay, sometimes it's the graphics."

      Sometimes it's both for me, like the Goldbox RPGs. Apart from not being turn-based the Infinity Engine RPGs are superior (they even include more AD&D rules). And if I want a turn-based fix, then I've got Fallout, Fallout: Tactics, Temple of Elemental Evil and Jagged Alliance 2, the last of which has untold replay value with the 1.13 mod, let alone all the other mods available for it!

      Delete
    28. "Yes, you move your party around as one unit in first-person perspective and even the fights are in FP. The 3d engine is archaic, too - terrain looks like triangles."

      Oh not that good but better than EotB system... I'm always lost in that games!

      "Have never played any M&M games... not sure why. I've toyed with King's Bounty which is similar"

      Well Heroes of Might & Magic is a (spin-off?) serie of games that looks like King's Bounty, but Might & Magic are more like Wizardry: 1st person 3d rpg with a party (4 characters + 2 hirelings).

      "Sometimes it's both for me, like the Goldbox RPGs"

      Yes, that too! And (last question I promise!) have you ever played Geneforge (or one of the sequels)? It's a pity it has an awful and dated graphics (even for the time, 2001 the first game, 2008 the last episode) because the story and old-school gameplay are very good. Comes with an original setting and it's my favourite Spiderweb game.

      Delete
    29. Never played Geneforge, though I have heard good things about it. Spiderweb's visuals (or lack thereof) really turn me off their titles. They need to hire an actual graphic designer to do their UI, and a real artist and animator for everything else!

      Delete
    30. "Spiderweb's visuals (or lack thereof) really turn me off their titles"

      Yes they're pretty bad, I didn't play every Spiderweb game (only Exile/Avernum but it was looong ago) and I must say that Geneforge is the best, at least characters are animated (it's worse than Fallout but better than DS:SL ). It's a pity since writing is good, luckily I trusted the reviews and I wasn't disappointed. I admit I loved some old rpgs like The Faery Tale Adventure 2 (that game looks good) and Aethra chronicles.

      Delete
    31. Ok, well I've added Geneforge to my ever-lengthening to-play list. :P

      Fallout has amazing animations... some of the death sequencers are hundreds of frames in length, making the IE "chunking" animations look totally amateur.

      I've heard of Faery Tale Adventure from an Amiga friend... wasn't aware there was a sequel.

      And never even heard of Aethra Chronicles (yes, there are HUGE gaps in my RPG experience) ;)

      To my credit, I have played around with Hired Guns, Dungeon Master, Black Crypt and Bloodwych using Toni Wilen's WinUAE emulator. But they were just too oldskool for me, though I loved the music, portraits and visuals in the Amiga version of Hired Guns.

      Delete
    32. "Ok, well I've added Geneforge to my ever-lengthening to-play list. :P"

      Great! Hm I've a problem with my list instead.. because I've to look for old games. Finished with Shadowrun (played all the official campaigns and the best mods) I'll probably have to finish my Nwn adventures... I've tried Pillars of Eternity but.. wasn not how I expected.

      "I've heard of Faery Tale Adventure from an Amiga friend... wasn't aware there was a sequel"

      Yes I played the first one but I was younger and I didn't understand a single thing! :)
      Faery Tale Adventure II: Halls of the Dead is for Pc and was made in 1997 (ten years after the first!), has pretty colorful graphics, a huge game world that you can explore freely, only problem is bit clunky but I think you can find it for free on some abandonware sites like Abandonia.

      "And never even heard of Aethra Chronicles"

      Aethra Chronicles: Volume One - Celystra's Bane is a nice 1994 rpg, quite good despite the poor interface, graphics and sound (tactical combat, exploration and puzzle were nice). It was freeware so I didn't expect much.

      "there are HUGE gaps in my RPG experience"

      I admit I've never played some good rpgs like Gorky 17, Septerra Core, and especially Weird War- The Unknown Episode of World War II.

      "I have played around with Hired Guns, Dungeon Master, Black Crypt and Bloodwych using Toni Wilen's WinUAE emulator."

      Old school game with 1st person view? Nooo thanks! The only one I liked was Albion.
      But Dungeon Master was a classic... instead I've some terrible memories of Hired Guns :P

      Delete
    33. "I've tried Pillars of Eternity but.. wasn not how I expected."

      I am SO not interested in that game, but maybe Numenera will be worth checking out. From what I've seen, aesthetically is looks great and I like the dialogue panels and UI (similar to Torment).

      "Old school game with 1st person view? Nooo thanks!"

      You said it!

      Thanks for mentioning many more RPGs that I haven't played :P

      Meynaf (a gifted coder) is modding Dungeon Master, a 28 year old RPG.
      http://meynaf.free.fr/pr/index_en.html

      Have you read my comment to you at the bottom of the page? You might like that mod!

      Delete
    34. "I am SO not interested in that game"

      I tried it, graphic is good, story is decent but I did not like the gameplay, I prefer Nwn, Geneforge and other games (for example the healing system is something I didn't like)

      "maybe Numenera will be worth checking out."

      I didn't know there is a gaming based on the Numenera universe! I had mixed feelings on the setting and tabletop rpg, while it was clearly interesting for the sci-fi atmosphere, it had no memorable qualites or interesting storyline attached, but it was simple dungeon delving and looting. I see that the game has an interesting plot, I hope that also the system used will be good.

      "Thanks for mentioning many more RPGs that I haven't played :P"

      My mistake, Gorky 17 was released as Odium in some countries. Everyone tolds me it's good.
      By the way these games are hard to impossible to find... too bad especially for the last one.

      "Have you read my comment to you at the bottom of the page? You might like that mod!"

      Yes, I'll try that when I'll have more time since I'm a bit busy these days and I rarely play Nwn but I'm going to play it despite not being fond of D20 modern...

      "Meynaf (a gifted coder) is modding Dungeon Master"

      Nice I like old games... wait... 1st person? Ok no thanks! :)
      By the way I appreciate when someone makes playable (and sometime improves too) these old gems.

      Delete
    35. "I hope that also the system used will be good."

      I think it's gonna be turn-based, so that's at least encouraging!

      "Yes, I'll try that when I'll have more time since I'm a bit busy these days and I rarely play Nwn but I'm going to play it despite not being fond of D20 modern..."

      I toyed with it, the hand gun animations don't seem forced and overall it feels pretty stylish and cyberpunky. The fact not many single-player modules have been made based on this is surprising to me.

      There's also psionics hak for NWN which I infused it into Hordes of the Underdark and played around with a bit. Very, very cool to create a psionicist in chargen, though it's a lot to learn all the feats and stuff (45 page readme!)

      "By the way I appreciate when someone makes playable (and sometime improves too) these old gems."

      No toolset and vast knowledge code hacking required... Yeah, a lil' more involved than just making a NWN module.. ;)

      "Nice I like old games... wait... 1st person? Ok no thanks! :)"

      Just amazing people are still playing it (http://eab.abime.net/showthread.php?t=49830), Dungeon Master was one of the first "proper" computer RPGs, and definitely one of the most influential. More of a crown jewel than a gem! :P

      Delete
    36. Link for NWN psionics:
      http://neverwintervault.org/project/nwn1/hakpak/psionics-cep22-psionics-tlk

      Even a NWN newbie like me managed to set this up and get running in no time. Again, surprised this isn't added into many user-made single-player modules, but I guess it could be hard to balance for.

      Delete
  2. This has nothing to do with your post but given you liked DA:O I thought you'd want to know: https://www.origin.com/en-us/store/buy/dragon-age-inq-f2p/pc-download/base-game/standard-edition

    Although it's a trial and you only get 6 hours of single player, you get infinite multiplayer as long as you "buy" the $0.00 trial version on Origin by noon CST on July 21st (which is 11 hours and 18 minutes from this post). Only been messing around with multiplayer with some friends for a few hours but, like I said, thought you'd like to know.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Balkoth, and thanks for the heads-up on the good MP deal, but I'm not really interested in post-Origins Dragon Age, so I think I'll pass on that offer.

      But one of these days we'll have to organize some Aielund Saga MP sessions, but I just can't commit to anything like that in the foreseeable future (bad connection, hectic real life: I'm not even playing Baldur's Gate because I can't sit down and play it in peace, so I thought I'd just tinker with old save files and blather some stuff about it :P).

      Have you ever tried to play the Baldur's Gate series? If not, what games were you into around 1998-2000? I was playing Diablo 2 and Fallout, also some N64 and PSN games. Those were the days :D

      Delete
    2. "I'm not really interested in post-Origins Dragon Age"

      That is a shame as I quite liked Dragon Age 2 and thought it was significantly better than Dragon Age: Origins in numerous ways. Don't get me wrong, it had some significant problems (mostly different ones than Origins) -- but I still consider it to be a much better game.

      I honestly think the biggest thing that bothered most people about Dragon Age 2 was the fact that it's *not* a generic "You are the chosen one who will save the world and you can convince anyone of anything" RPG. Then a smaller group beyond that just disliked the "feel" of combat -- even if in pretty much every way it was massively superior to DA:O (yes, the animations and speed were a bit over the top, I know).

      Haven't played DA:I single player at all and I'm not even sure I will play it long term (definitely less than thrilled about some things -- or perhaps just not used to them, we'll see if it grows on me), but hey, at a minimum it's free and a brief fresh/new experience. I'd suggest you reconsider even if all you do is simply register on Origin and "buy" the game without downloading it or installing Origin.

      "But one of these days we'll have to organize some Aielund Saga MP sessions"

      Absolutely, would love that, just drop me a line via email or the Bioware boards when/if you have some time.

      "Have you ever tried to play the Baldur's Gate series?"

      I have not, though I picked up BG and BG2 on sale a little bit ago from GOG. Haven't actually DLed/played them yet.

      https://www.gog.com/game/baldurs_gate_the_original_saga

      https://www.gog.com/game/baldurs_gate_2_complete

      "If not, what games were you into around 1998-2000? I was playing Diablo 2 and Fallout, also some N64 and PSN games."

      A *lot* of Lords of Magic (https://www.gog.com/game/lords_of_magic_special_eddition), Mechwarrior 4 series (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MechWarrior_4:_Vengeance), Command and Conquer Tiberian Sun/Red Alert 2, and some Star Wars racing/flying games (Episode 1 Racer and Rogue Squadron to be specific) on PC. Also N64 games, especially Perfect Dark, Donkey Kong, Starfox, LoZ Ocarina of Time/Majora's Mask, Mario Kart, and Mario Tennis. No PSN, though I did play some of the earlier Pokemon games (Red/Yellow/Crystal).

      "Those were the days :D"

      Fond memories for sure. It's funny looking back, though and realizing how blissfully unaware I was of a lot of things at the time...but I was having so much fun and didn't care. Now it's hard to look at a new game and not start analyzing/optimizing it...

      Delete
    3. Origins vs. DA2 vs. Inquisition

      I can't really debate on which is better, as I've only played the first. That said, I can't play Origins without modding it to have "fast combat like DA2" (according to mod author). All the links to the mods I use are here on this updated post:
      http://lilura1.blogspot.com/2014/10/modding-dragon-age-origins_26.html

      That's about as modern as I go with RPGs. I must try Underrail sometime, though. A new RPG in the oldskool visual and game-play style (ie, that of Fallout 1):
      http://www.underrail.com/
      Yeah, not really you're thing. Have you even played Fallout 1 or 2?

      "I have not, though I picked up BG and BG2 on sale a little bit ago from GOG. Haven't actually DLed/played them yet."

      I guess my blog posts haven't convinced you to give it a whirl, then? Actually, you don't really need to play it: Swordflight 2 is superior in the ways that count, and you've played that. By the way, the more I write on Baldur's Gate's virtues and flaws, the more I'm impressed by Rogueknight 333's efforts in his two modules: taking the virtues and refining them, omitting many of the flaws. Actually, I've learned lots from he, Savant and you about combat encounters and balance, so thanks! :D

      I've played a large portion of the N64 library (which isn't all that big), most notably the two Zelda games, SM64 and GoldenEye/Perfect Dark. I later replayed OoT using the Chinese version, because text goes by faster :P I'm sorry I missed gems like Ogre Battle 64 and Sin & Punishment, but ah well.

      Did you ever play SNES, or emulate it? I gave Zelda: ALttP a try the other day, amazing how well it's held up! I never really got heavy into the jRPG genre, but Lufia 2 I adored.

      "Now it's hard to look at a new game and not start analyzing/optimizing it..."

      Or criticizing it! So much garbage released since 2005, but the tide seems to be turning. Even if it didn't, still so many high quality NWN modules to play for years and years. Not gonna run out anytime soon.


      Delete
    4. "That's about as modern as I go with RPGs."

      Is that just for the same reason you weren't so keen on Siege of the Heavens? I mean, if anything I'd think that DA2 would appeal to you more than DA:O in that regard -- healing is more limited, can only use a potion every so often, aren't carrying around effectively infinite healing/mana potions and chain spamming them.

      Also, if you've never played the Mass Effect series then you are seriously missing out. ME1 was, excluding the combat, a very good game overall and ME2 is still my favorite game of all time. Except it doesn't have the ability to make your own content or multiplayer, so that's why I'm still playing NWN :P ME3 is like 60% pure awesome, 30% meh, and 10% this sucks so much they literally patched in an "improved" ending because the original was so bad (and even the "improved" version isn't so great).

      "Yeah, not really you're thing. Have you even played Fallout 1 or 2?"

      Why do you think it's not my thing? And no, haven't played Fallout Series at all. Just so many games out there.

      "I guess my blog posts haven't convinced you to give it a whirl, then?"

      You literally posted those like 2 weeks ago! Give me a break (and some time) :P

      "Actually, I've learned lots from he, Savant and you about combat encounters and balance, so thanks!"

      Quite welcome. And I also agree with Rogueknight on the other article -- you're still having major trouble separating your meta-knowledge and experience from what a new player would do :P

      "Did you ever play SNES, or emulate it?"

      I probably played a game or two when I was very young, but I don't have any major memories. Only in my mid-20s, sorry :P

      "Or criticizing it! So much garbage released since 2005, but the tide seems to be turning."

      So much everything released since 2005. Including amazing things, it's just that with it being easier to public it's easier to get terrible stuff out. Hell, someone did a calculation and determined that if even if you had a full-time job playing games and only spent 2 hours on average per game that you couldn't even keep up with releases on Steam these days. Don't quote me on the exact math, but that was the gist.

      "Even if it didn't, still so many high quality NWN modules to play for years and years. Not gonna run out anytime soon."

      Looking forward to hearing about it. You find the high quality modules so I can avoid the bad ones, I'll work on fixing the Aielund stuff and Siege/PS :P

      Also, I didn't mention this on the Bioware boards but I had a PC problem two months back that resulted in me losing over a month's of work on a lot of things (including Aielund/Siege stuff). Tried to back-up the data but the back-up itself got corrupted -- problem was a RAM stick failing but I wiped my whole hard drive because I was thinking it was a software problem. I managed to recover some stuff from the corrupted back-up but, well, still an awful situation.

      Delete
    5. "Is that just for the same reason you weren't so keen on Siege of the Heavens?"

      Pretty much. While I can respect your efforts therein, and SotH certainly deserves praise, I much prefer the traditional style of RPG.

      I share your view that ME2 is the best in the series, but in my opinion that's not really saying all that much. Haven't we had this discussion?

      About Fallout, it's oldskool. More oldskool than Baldur's Gate. If you can don't mind that, I'm all for you giving it a whirl! Amazing RPG, the best imo :D

      About the meta-gaming/new player thing, well ok. But it's not like I'm saying "dis gaem iz so EZ" (just because I've mastered it). I'm just blathering about certain aspects, hoping to illustrate a few things about the game and stimulate convo on maybe a higher level than "omg summons r so awesome" etc.

      Sorry to hear about your PC problem, always hurts to lose lots of hard work, it's disheartening. I hope you don't let that discourage you from your "obligation" to undying Aielund fans, but I can understand wanting to take a break after something like that!

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    6. "I share your view that ME2 is the best in the series, but in my opinion that's not really saying all that much. Haven't we had this discussion?"

      I don't think so? Maybe we did and I forgot, but I mainly recall talking about how you weren't so keen on more "actiony" RPGs which includes Siege of the Heavens. I checked the Siege of Shadowdale Part 1 post because I remember something there but not much on this subject. Perhaps it was another post? Been a while and then you flooded me with wanting me to do tons of other stuff :P

      "While I can respect your efforts therein, and SotH certainly deserves praise, I much prefer the traditional style of RPG."

      Just to clarify -- are you saying you think DA:O is NOT a traditional RPG? Slightly confused on the DA:O/DA2 thing -- I mean, if you also felt like combat in DA:O sucked for many reasons and tried to improve/speed it up then that's probably basically DA2 combat as was mentioned...

      "About Fallout, it's oldskool. More oldskool than Baldur's Gate. If you can don't mind that, I'm all for you giving it a whirl! Amazing RPG, the best imo :D"

      I still play Heroes of Might and Magic 3, Lords of Magic, and Mechwarrior 4 time to time at a minimum :P I don't mind old school at all...well, I do mind some stuff that's often viewed as "old school" (like not giving the player enough information and demanding they make a choice or just completely RNG deaths) but I've played plenty of "old school" games that don't feature those.

      "omg summons r so awesome"

      omg i no rite

      "I hope you don't let that discourage you from your "obligation" to undying Aielund fans, but I can understand wanting to take a break after something like that!"

      It did kill a bit (bunch) of the desire to be building in NWN for a bit. I'll see if I can whip together a "minor bug fix" release for Aielund within a week or two, though.

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    7. I think [URL="http://lilura1.blogspot.com.au/2014/12/the-aielund-saga-act-three-part-vii.html"] this [/URL] was the discussion on Mass Effect 2, I couldn't stand the mining mini-game, waiting for even "my own" dialogue to be acted out etc. I used ME2Coalesced editor for mining and perma storm speed for faster exploration of the boring hubs, else the game would put me to sleep just like most modern RPGs with their slow movement and not presenting the player with enough stimulus for human thought to keep them awake.

      I modded Origins movement rate too because I never got used to slo-mo jogging in NWN or DA:O after coming off Baldur's Gate where you could walk the length of the city in under one minute. Just watching the enemies close in put me to sleep, hence the mod.

      As for flooding you, well a preliminary bug fix would be welcome within the next decade. No pressure :P

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    8. Odd, what's wrong with my "code" that you didn't get a nice lil' blue link to click on?

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    9. These are blogspot comments, not phpBB forums :P And yes, it looks like that was the discussion.

      "I modded Origins movement rate too because I never got used to slo-mo jogging in NWN or DA:O after coming off Baldur's Gate where you could walk the length of the city in under one minute. Just watching the enemies close in put me to sleep, hence the mod."

      I mean, you do realize that faster in-combat movement makes ranged characters weaker, right? Because it's much easier for enemies to close with them.

      Hell, movement speed (and lack of moving at an insanely fast rate) is a major mechanic and a major part of balance in everything from FPSes to RTSes to TBSes to MOBAs to RPGs. Not really sure what to say here.

      I guess it also just seems weird to see a self identified "old school" person wanting everything to be faster -- usually it's the reverse.

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    10. "These are blogspot comments, not phpBB forums :P"

      Well, it can be done. I just don't know how to do it *shrug*

      "I mean, you do realize that faster in-combat movement makes ranged characters weaker, right? Because it's much easier for enemies to close with them."

      There's a mod put out by the same author that you use in conjunction, it strengthens ranged weapons accordingly. My Origins post mentions that, quite clearly:
      http://lilura1.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/modding-dragon-age-origins_26.html
      Also, I sort of know archery in RPGs pretty well, see here:
      http://lilura1.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/archery-in-rpgs.html
      and did you read my archery section above?
      So yeah, of course I know how increased movement speed can break things.

      "I guess it also just seems weird to see a self identified "old school" person wanting everything to be faster -- usually it's the reverse."

      Not from my experience. For example, Baldur's Gate plays faster than NWN in almost every respect (60 AI updates per sec or go home). I'd mention other "oldskool" RPGs that play faster than modern ones, but what's the point when you haven't even played them. When you have, then we may have something to discuss. :P

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    11. "There's a mod put out by the same author that you use in conjunction, it strengthens ranged weapons accordingly. My Origins post mentions that, quite clearly"

      Yes, I remember, but that had nothing to do with movement speed. It had to do with the fact that bows did pitiful damage in Origins -- to the point where my auto attacking mage far out DPSed my auto attacking archer rogue (and both were out DPSed by my auto attacking 1H + Shield warrior...which is fine for the mage because he still has spells but not for the rogue). Hence the "stronger ranged weapons (brings them inline with two-handed melee weapons)" bit. Also, my movement speed comment wasn't even directed at the DA:O part but rather the apparent longing for BG super movement speed.

      I also read the Archery in RPGs bit a while ago -- but the only things that seem to reference movement speed in it are...

      "Bow-wielders start off with two flat attacks per round, enemies are weak, enemies move slow, enemies get pin-cushioned."

      But I now wonder what you even meant by "slow" given our definitions seem very different! And then

      "Make them out of rare materials like duskwood and zalantar, deck your low level slobs out with them (yep, even wizards), and mow down rag-tag mobs before they even get to your meatshields."

      I mean, if you're mowing down rag-tag mobs before they even reach you then it definitely sounds like they aren't moving at BG blitz-like cross-a-city-in-a-minute speeds, aye?

      So yes, I did read your archery segment in this point but I'm just all sorts of confused now -- the best conclusion I can seem to draw is "In BG most enemies have like no HP so archers can pick them off even with enemies moving at super speeds, therefore everyone should move at super speeds even in something like NWN or DA or ME where enemies aren't paper dolls." I'm seriously not trying to be a dick here or anything, I just can't figure out what paradigm you want. Even with enemies moving like molasses by your definition I'm used to enemies being able to close with an archer (or other ranged character) before dying in most cases.

      "I'd mention other "oldskool" RPGs that play faster than modern ones, but what's the point when you haven't even played them"

      Well, dare I point out that it'd be easy to link to a YouTube video showing the fast combat? :P

      And yes, I guess my experience is very different from yours -- I'm both personally used to seeing older games on average moving more slowly in combat and doing less in combat...and I'm also used to "old school" gamers whining about how everything is so actiony and fast these days and they miss the good old days of attacking once every six seconds or whatever.

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    12. "I guess my experience is very different from yours"

      Indeed, and that's fine. :)

      Care to respond to this new comment, here (bottom of page)?
      http://lilura1.blogspot.com.au/2014/11/the-aielund-saga-act-i-nature-abhors_23.html

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    13. "Indeed, and that's fine. :)"

      I'm still confused about your archery ideal, though. Generally speaking, RPG games have a paradigm where ranged weapons have an advantage of attacking from long range before an enemy can reach you (or conversely without you having to travel to it) at the cost of being weaker in close range (which could mean that melee characters do more damage once they reach their target, melee characters are simply tougher in general, both of the above, or something similar). Which also means the faster the movement speed, the stronger the ranged weapons need to be. Which can then lead to a situation where ranged weapons are just flat out better if movement speed is high enough.

      Some games, of course, had the opposite problem (like Dragon Age: Origins) and vastly overestimated the benefit of being at range and thus had ranged weapons which were incredibly weak.

      In your mod example, ranged weapons were buffed by 20% simply to bring them more in line with 2H weapons. Then you also added 20% movement speed...which in theory should then deserve another buff to ranged weapons (perhaps not quite 20%, though). But a 20% improvement to a glacial movement pace is presumably *still* slower than you'd like movement speed to be in DA:O. How much more would you want to buff movement speed in DA:O? And how much more would you therefore buff ranged weapons to compensate?

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    14. "RPG games"

      "Role-playing game games". I always laugh when people type that; it's one of the top RPG searches in Google, too!

      I realize you're engaging in a debate with some others on the Bioware forum regarding the virtues and flaws of Origins combat...
      http://forum.bioware.com/topic/559789-difficulty-in-user-made-modules/page-2
      (hilarious, btw...)
      ... but I'm not really interested in partaking of one here, mainly because I don't even have the game installed and my mind is a world away from the modernities of Origins, being that atm I'm attempting in-depth coverage of the antiquated Baldur's Gate.

      All I said was that I dislike slo-mo jogs as in NWN/Origins, having been used to speedier movement rate in older RPGs I've played... so, I modded Origins to have faster combat and movement rate, then buffed ranged weapons in an attempt to compensate for that (as was recommended by the mod author!).

      From my playtesting, I enjoyed the added speed and felt the setup to be fairly balanced, at least for my skill level and playstyle.

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    15. "then buffed ranged weapons in an attempt to compensate for that (as was recommended by the mod author!)"

      ...but that's not what was recommended by the author: "- When there are archers sniping at you, you can not ignore them anymore because they shoot faster. - Archer's damage are brought in-line with melee countparts. An archer with Rapid Shot activated will wreck havoc like they should." Nothing in there about mattering whether the archers were 2 feet away or 200...they were just so weak in general, movement speed wasn't even a factor.

      I mean, reread your own original post about the mods. The ranged weapons were buffed because they were so weak compared to 2H weapons, *period.* It had nothing to do with movement speed: "and stronger ranged weapons (brings them inline with two-handed melee weapons)."

      "but I'm not really interested in partaking of one here"

      I don't care about Origins specifically (the entire combat system would need a massive overhaul to not suck...hey, I guess that's why people did that!), I used it as an example since you had mentioned that. The same question applies for BG2, NWN, or any other game with both melee and ranged weapons (or ranged weapons with different ranges).

      In NWN, for example, the advantage of ranged weapons goes down dramatically with Haste because the gaps can be closed faster. And ranged weapons are already very weak by default in NWN short of an Arcane Archer.

      "I always laugh when people type that; it's one of the top RPG searches in Google, too!"

      Quirk of the terminology.

      It's in the FPS genre. It's in the TBS genre. It's in the RTS genre. It's in the RPG genre.

      It's an FPS game. It's a TBS game. It's an RTS game. It's an RPG game.

      It's an FPS. It's a TBS. It's an RTS. It's an RPG.

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    16. You misunderstood the reason why I posted the archery link and reminded you of my archery section above, too. It was an slightly indignant response to you stating the obvious and in a question to me:
      "I mean, you do realize that faster in-combat movement makes ranged characters weaker, right? Because it's much easier for enemies to close with them."
      ... because if I've played all those RPGs as an archer, then of course I would know that! (repeating myself here grrr)
      You then over-analysed the content of that post (the criteria for which was simply "what I personally found fun, well-implemented, powerful or interesting"), and then ended up arguing with yourself, it seems. :P

      "In NWN, for example, the advantage of ranged weapons goes down dramatically with Haste because the gaps can be closed faster. And ranged weapons are already very weak by default in NWN short of an Arcane Archer."

      Again here you state the obvious, as if I wouldn't know.. >_> My HotU recounting was done with an AA and full archer party, and I commented on the virtues and flaws of archery, concluding that despite some clear advantages archers possess (didn't really need to heal, some area/encounter design suited archery) they do tend to receive the short end of the stick, overall (five fewer Rizolvir enchantments, no Black Pearl, poor active feats, uninspiring ammo etc).

      Basically, the "paradigm" I prefer for Origins and NWN is simply faster combat and movement speed across the board (those RPGs just feel too slow for me, remember my "can you globally haste everyone in Aielund" question to you?) providing that it's done with a lil' thought to the consequences, of course (i.e, ranged spell-casting and ranged combat).
      In the case of Faster Combat v3 (which buffs archery, see the Files tab), that seemed to work well for me:
      http://www.nexusmods.com/dragonage/mods/2577/?

      "Quirk of the terminology."

      So? It's still silly and superfluous: the other acronyms don't have the word "game" in them.

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    17. "So? It's still silly and superfluous: the other acronyms don't have the word "game" in them."

      True, but if you told someone you liked "RP games" most people would think you meant something very, very different.

      "those RPGs just feel too slow for me, remember my "can you globally haste everyone in Aielund" question to you?"

      Yes, I remember. I guess here's what's perplexing me: going from, say, the northwest corner of the Docks to the southeast corner of The Beggar's Nest (across the city and only three medium sized zones to boot) would take at least a minute per average on average I think, for 3+ minutes overall. You talked about covering the same distance (or more) in BG in one minute flat.

      Which makes me think you want to triple the movement speed of NWN (or even faster) in an ideal world. And since the NWN/Origins/DA2/etc movement speeds all feel about the same to me, it seems you'd want to triple movement speed in all of those as well. And I'm struggling how to have ranged weapons be relevant at all with such movement speeds.

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  3. "Actually, you don't really need to play it: Swordflight 2 is superior in the ways that count..."

    Thank you for this very high praise. However it might be worth noting there is at least one feature BG (and other IE games) had that even the best NWN modules do not: full party control, allowing one to use all the hopefully complementary talents of the PC and his companions cooperatively to their fullest extent (much better than relying on even an improved henchman AI). In effect, this makes the IE games something of a hybrid between an RPG and something more like an RTS. That might not be to everyone's taste - one could argue that role-playing specifically is improved by the concentrated focus on a single protagonist character typical of more recent RPGs - but it is certainly something different. To be sure NWN2 does allow for full party control but it has so many other flaws (and the party control itself is implemented in such a kludgy way) that I do not think it compares very favorably to either NWN1 or the IE games.

    Speaking of full party play one thing that might be worth emphasizing about general BG tactics is how most AOE spells (And AOE items like Detonation Arrows) can potentially hurt one's own party members too, which can sometimes make employing such spells a bit tricky for non-expert players. You do mention one of the worst examples of this: trying to use a lightning bolt in a confined space only to have it ricochet around blasting friend and foe alike. In general I think your summary of BG play & tactics is pretty good. BG combats can be quite difficult for the inexperienced but for a player who does not mind a little cheese focusing on archery in the early game and mass summons in the late game would be a simple system that can get one through most of them.

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    Replies
    1. "Thank you for this very high praise."

      This might sound like base flattery, but your two modules set the standard for NWN in the traditional style, and RPGs in general. I learned lots about resource management and overall dungeon strategy just by playing.

      On Full party control: I agree; it doesn't make much role-playing sense to control non-player characters, that's more for your squad-based games that don't have a protagonist. Full party control has been a feature of many RPGs since the original Dungeon Master, then Goldbox etc. I can deal with and enjoy the merits of both, have done for years now.

      "Kludgy" is a good word for NWN2, I agree. I tried re-playing MotB recently, and I just got burned out and longed to play something else. I'm glad you won't release future SF chapters in Electron.

      "In general I think your summary of BG play & tactics is pretty good."

      Thanks for the compliment, I'll have more to say on tactics in my "Tanking & Melee Combat" section, coming up in Blatherings Part III. I mentioned tanks can be protected from Web by obtaining Free Action status (spell, potion, sword, ring), and I plan to mention fire resistance being useful for them if your archers and back row are firing detonation arrows and arcane fireballs. But then, once your thief has scouted and you know where the enemy is, your mage can creep forward and launch the AoE in their general direction for off-screen kills, keeping your party back safely. You're right about aiming spells, it takes practice to know the AoE because the target area isn't shown before casting (like in Temple of Elemental Evil). Are you familiar with BG1's Guard mode? It would be cool if the AoE could be displayed like that, a simple circle on the playing field to show the extent of coverage. The spells that use "Cone" shapes are especially unwieldy, I never waste a slot on Color Spray..

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    2. Naturally I am familiar with Guard mode, it was one of a number of features that made party control so much smoother and easier in BG than in NWN2. I suppose it would have made sense to display the targeted area of AOE spells, since it is a bit unfair in an RPG game to make a player's real life skills at estimating distances and such matter so much, though since "friendly fire" incidents are very much a part of real warfare, I did somewhat appreciate the realism of a game system that sometimes resulted in them.

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    3. Not many people know of Guard mode because they play BG1 through Tutu, BGT or EE - the BG2 engine - where it doesn't exist. I can't remember why BioWare scrapped it, something about it not being used by many players... Something like that.

      Incidentally, was Baldur's Gate your inspiration for Swordflight's premise of restraint in resource management, or did you model that aspect on some other, more oldskool RPG? Because if it's the latter, I'd be interested to try out that game! I think BioWare sort of threw caution to the wind with the sheer load of items available, especially with Sorcerous Sundries and the last two Chapters in general. BG2 liberalized even more with Ribald's Adventurer's Mart. Your "version" (Gadarn's Garb & Gear) wasn't over the top but still felt very rewarding to gain the exclusive access and upgrade the gear somewhat. Fallout and Arcanum aren't exactly models of restraint either, not once you hit their respective hubs. Or did you just "idealize" BG1 and make it better?

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    4. IIRC, Guard mode did exist in BG2 but could only be used there by warrior classes (and thus typically not an option when the whole party was selected). I suppose it is possible some patch or commonly used mod eliminated it at some point. In any case it was used in Icewind Dale & Planescape: Torment as well.

      "Or did you just "idealize" BG1 and make it better?"

      There was certainly an element of this in Swordflight - if it could be said to be inspired by any one source it would be the Baldur's Gate series - but really the resource management restraints were not imitating any single game. They represent more a generic "old school" approach drawing inspiration from many games, as well as just general logic about what makes for a reasonable challenge and presents meaningful decisions to players.

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    5. "It would be cool if the AoE could be displayed like that, a simple circle on the playing field to show the extent of coverage"

      Whoa now, that sounds WAY too modern and not old school.

      Personally I think this comes down to consistency -- very few games have a system where an archer missing a shot kills/injures a party member in the melee. Hell, in most you can literally shoot THROUGH friendlies...

      Ditto for sword swings in melee too.

      The assumption seems to be that even if you miss your target you're competent enough to not hit your friends. Seems that should apply to casters too, especially when the targeting is clunky in the first place and we're dealing with stuff that goes "at 10.0 meters from impact you take 100 fire damage, at 10.1 meters from impact you take 0 damage." That's already "unrealistic" :P

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    6. "Whoa now, that sounds WAY too modern and not old school"

      Not really, it's just thoughtful tactical design: Temple of Elemental Evil did it best. You can see the exact extent of the spell, who it will hit, before you commit to casting it. Likewise, you see your exact movement measured out with all possible attacks of opportunity before you commit. Jagged Alliance 2, too.

      "very few games have a system where an archer missing a shot kills/injures a party member in the melee"

      In Fallout friendly fire is a big issue; you can also hurt yourself if you critically fail in attacking an opponent, happens to opponents too - that's funny. :D Jagged Alliance 2 also has stuff like this. But yeah, "very few games".

      "at 10.0 meters from impact you take 100 fire damage, at 10.1 meters from impact you take 0 damage." That's already "unrealistic"

      But it's teh margix! (I'm being silly now, too much red wine).

      You'll love aiming Baldur's Gate cone-shaped spells if you try it out, they often go in the opposite direction you aimed them, like back into your party. So retarded...

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    7. "IIRC, Guard mode did exist in BG2 but could only be used there by warrior classes (and thus typically not an option when the whole party was selected). I suppose it is possible some patch or commonly used mod eliminated it at some point."

      I seem to have some fuzzy memory of it being removed in Throne of Bhaal, but I concede it could just be a false memory stemming from the fact I never used it in SoA or ToB. I don't have it installed to check and a quick search yielded nothing for me, ah well.

      "general logic about what makes for a reasonable challenge and presents meaningful decisions to players"

      I think Baldur's Gate started off like this, but then lost it's way somewhat (Well, Durlag's Tower brings it back from the brink a bit). Perhaps the devs were concerned that players would be left in the lurch without abundant resources at key points so they don't get put off entirely if they're really struggling...

      I've faced tightened reins similar to Swordflight in other "hardcore" mods, like OGSE for STALKER (brutal) and 1.13 for Jagged Alliance 2, so I could adapt to that design fairly readily and roll with it. I can't really think of many commercial RPGs that imposed serious resource restraints, Gothic 2 Night of the Raven is an action RPG that makes you work for everything you get, though, and there must be dozens of evil oldskool RPGs that torment players in their dreams..

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    8. "Personally I think this comes down to consistency -- very few games have a system where an archer missing a shot kills/injures a party member in the melee..."

      I do not disagree with the general point that games are often quite inconsistent about where they choose to be realistic and where they decline, but I am not sure this is the most convincing example. Weapons intended for precision fire like rifles or bows are in the nature of things much less likely to accidentally hit the wrong person than those that are designed to blanket an entire area with destruction. Real "friendly fire" incidents involving the former are usually cases of mistaken identity (due to factors like most military uniforms looking much alike in poor lighting), i.e., the fire went where intended, it just should not have been intended to go at all. With something like air or artillery bombardment it is much more common for enemies and allies alike to be caught in it if specific precautions are not taken against that. Thus, as a general principle, it has never struck me as unrealistic that AOE spells & effects should operate under somewhat different rules than spells & attacks aimed at a single specific target, though of course this does not automatically mean that every system of implementing such differences leads to good gameplay, or that it would necessarily be a bad idea to display the affected target area as suggested. What struck me as the obvious inconsistency in the BG system was that an archer's accuracy depended solely on the CHARACTERS's skill with bows, where a mage being able to target an AOE spell correctly depended a lot more on the PLAYER's skill at quickly and precisely estimating distances.

      "I think Baldur's Gate started off like this, but then lost it's way somewhat..."

      This is true, and I have seen the same thing happen in similar RPGs too. I am not certain of the reasons for it (perhaps they were concerned about players being able to complete some of the late game boss battles without massive resource expenditure, perhaps they underestimated how much money most players would have by the time they reached the city), but since it is the nature of RPGs that one gets more loot the more quests one does, the natural tendency will be to accumulate massive and unbalancing wealth by the later stages of such games unless something is specifically done to counteract this trend. Again though, one should take note of how BG perhaps suffers unfairly in comparison to some other games from having been played so much. As far as I know, no one has played Swordflight dozens of times and taken advantage of this experience to publish a list somewhere of every powergaming trick that can be employed to maximize one's wealth. It is certainly theoretically possible in Swordflight to accumulate a lot more gold than I anticipate most players in fact will.

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    9. "This is true, and I have seen the same thing happen in similar RPGs too."

      Good point, it's not like BG1 is the only offender in this respect; it seems common to many RPGs of all subgenre (action, tactical, jRPG etc), and perhaps BG1 is a small-time offender compared to some out there (though I can't think of many, but definitely the sequel and Morrowind have major issues).

      Just to clarify, Sorcerous Sundries offers infinite quantities of wands of every kind for sale, stacks n stacks of OP ammo, three each of every potion (that's three each of each of the six Giant Strength potions that set the Str score from 19 Hill up to 24 Storm - huge bonuses, as I'll detail in the next post when I attempt to cover melee combat), infinite quantities of certain fifth circle spell scrolls etc. (Not to mention loot in the city and along the plot-critical path in the city is very generous, causing inventory clutter - with a party of six - if not sold off..)

      So, quite a contrast to the limits imposed in the first four chapters where you had just Thalantyr and Taerom Thunder Hammer for useful stuff in reasonably limited quantities (plus Erdane and the Ulgoth's Beard merchant, but that's expansion stuff and they're both in far flung regions: Ulgoth's Beard and Durlag's Tower approach - it's unlikely fledgling parties will reach them early without a walk-through or meta-gaming..).

      "the natural tendency will be to accumulate massive and unbalancing wealth by the later stages of such games unless something is specifically done to counteract this trend"

      I hear ya. As you may know, one of Aielund Saga's problems was items ever-increasing in power; Savant then executed the PC as part of the plot, leaving the player destitute and with almost nothing of what they had (which in my case was a packed inventory and several bags of holding filled with uber-gear and hundreds of thousands in gold) This made combat interesting again (trying to find even basic gear), but things escalated quickly and I went from rags too riches again in what seemed like no time at all. I can understand it's very hard to control this kinda thing without getting to the root of what causes it in the first place.

      "Again though, one should take note of how BG perhaps suffers unfairly in comparison to some other games from having been played so much."

      Point taken, though if you put your humility aside you might admit it's far less likely to abuse Swordflight to the degree one can abuse BG (summons mayhem, incredibly efficient farming etc.) or Fallout or Morrowind etc. :P The only thing I can recall sort of abusing in Swordflight was the Lich companion's "perma" fear aura, but I don't doubt there may be other tricks and short-cuts discovered after dozens of runs, so I'm with you there.

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    10. "...you might admit it's far less likely to abuse Swordflight to the degree one can abuse BG (summons mayhem, incredibly efficient farming etc.) or Fallout or Morrowind etc..."

      I will admit that I have learned much from playing classic RPGs, and that what I have learned does indeed include many things NOT to do.

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    11. "Not really, it's just thoughtful tactical design: Temple of Elemental Evil did it best. You can see the exact extent of the spell, who it will hit, before you commit to casting it."

      Yes, I'm aware, it's a feature usually found in "modern" games and rarely found in "old school" games. I was being facetious.

      "Weapons intended for precision fire like rifles or bows are in the nature of things much less likely to accidentally hit the wrong person than those that are designed to blanket an entire area with destruction."

      Again, we're talking about a situation where 5 melee enemies are engaged in a brawl with 3 melee friends and an archer shoots perfectly in the melee from 50+ feet away and never hits a friendly even on a shot that "misses" the target. Travel time alone on an arrow is a major issue and even all but the best marksmen would not want to fire into that crowd with a firearm.

      "Real "friendly fire" incidents involving the former are usually cases of mistaken identity (due to factors like most military uniforms looking much alike in poor lighting), i.e., the fire went where intended, it just should not have been intended to go at all."

      And you don't have a melee brawl going on in that case. With firearms you don't have several people mixing it up in melee each able to take dozens of gunshots before dying or whatever. There's a reason armies in older times had archers firing masses of arrows into enemy ranks *before* the swordsmen or whatever started clashing in the middle and then they changed their tactics.

      "What struck me as the obvious inconsistency in the BG system was that an archer's accuracy depended solely on the CHARACTERS's skill with bows, where a mage being able to target an AOE spell correctly depended a lot more on the PLAYER's skill at quickly and precisely estimating distances."

      Yes, this is also a major problem, especially in a situation where pausing is not allowed.

      "It is certainly theoretically possible in Swordflight to accumulate a lot more gold than I anticipate most players in fact will."

      >.>

      <.<

      No comment.

      "As you may know, one of Aielund Saga's problems was items ever-increasing in power; Savant then executed the PC as part of the plot"

      If you're curious, one of the main reasons for that was that it was originally just a trilogy. Savant wasn't planning for Act IV at all, that came much later after people really liked the first three. Hence he threw power to the winds at the end of Act III cause whatever, the game's almost over, let's go wild with cool items.

      ...and then it was so popular people wanted more and he thought "Well, shit."

      "I will admit that I have learned much from playing classic RPGs, and that what I have learned does indeed include many things NOT to do."

      Indeed. But even in that regard you still have a problem where things can cascade. A person doing better than expected starts spiraling up, a person doing worse runs out and struggles even more. I know you put in some stuff to try to compensate for that but it is difficult to do.

      I mean, even playing the worst possible character in Swordflight I generally only had any kind of trouble in a few specific fights (and by fights I mostly mean your custom trolls prior to getting a few specific items) while others claimed the whole thing was basically impossible.

      I'm not saying you should make Swordflight harder (unless you wanted to add an optional difficulty toggle for thrillseekers...) but that is a general problem for many games trying to do careful inventory/resource management.

      Delete
    12. "Yes, I'm aware, it's a feature usually found in "modern" games and rarely found in "old school" games. I was being facetious."

      It's not a new concept, in a more tactical battle tabletop gamers may also use visual aids, and DMs I've played under will normally tell you what your Fireball's gonna hit.

      Delete
    13. "It's not a new concept, in a more tactical battle tabletop gamers may also use visual aids, and DMs I've played under will normally tell you what your Fireball's gonna hit."

      I didn't say it was a new concept, I said most older games didn't actually display the targeting reticle for AoEs :) Part of which was probably the extra technology needed to do it.

      Delete
  4. "Actually, you don't really need to play it: Swordflight 2 is superior in the ways that count..."

    Agree, both Swordflight episodes were very good, and Snow Hunt was great too. Yes it is surely a small module but with a great atmosphere, evocative locations (considered how old are the graphics) and engaging combat.
    It would have been a great sidequest in a larger campaign. A professional work with lot of details.

    "one could argue that role-playing specifically is improved by the concentrated focus on a single protagonist character typical of more recent RPGs"

    This.That's exactly my (and some of my friends share this view too) experience, since I loved Nwn1, Fallout and Arcanum for the focus on the protagonist.On full party control I think it works really better in turn-based combat rpgs (like Shadowrun Returns, Avernum, Fallout Tactics.. or in Jrpgs) for tactical reasons.

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    Replies
    1. Glad you liked them!

      I agree there are advantages and disadvantages both ways in terms of full party control vs. (full) control of the PC only. The former lends itself to a more tactically sophisticated game, while the latter can improve role-playing. The biggest hassle of the latter is trying to keep the henchmen/companions from getting themselves killed with their idiotic AI-controlled behavior - this is a well known problem NWN obviously, and I remember it being an issue in Fallout and Arcanum too.

      Delete
    2. "Snow Hunt was great too. Yes it is surely a small module but with a great atmosphere, evocative locations (considered how old are the graphics) and engaging combat.
      It would have been a great sidequest in a larger campaign. A professional work with lot of details."

      I've been meaning to try this for a while now, will have to make it the next module I play. Thanks for reminding me ;)

      Delete
    3. "The biggest hassle of the latter is trying to keep the henchmen/companions from getting themselves killed with their idiotic AI-controlled behavior - this is a well known problem NWN obviously, and I remember it being an issue in Fallout and Arcanum too."

      Fallout Npcs were also terribly dangerous to the main character when armed with automatic weapons!
      But I like the full party control and the choice of turn-based combat of some new rpgs such as Divinity:Os, Shadowrun Returns and Wasteland 2 (that is exactly what I'd like to see for a "modern" version of Fallout). I think that these games are tactically sophisticated but are good for roleplay too (sadly Shadowrun Returns has a mediocre campaign, but the Dlc and some of the user created modules are awesome)

      "I've been meaning to try this for a while now, will have to make it the next module I play."

      You have to! It's short so you surely can do that.
      Random fact: I played it with my character from Tyrants of the Moonsea and strangely it fitted perfectly with the storyline as a real ending.

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    4. "Fallout Npcs were also terribly dangerous to the main character when armed with automatic weapons!"

      So true. Never, ever give Ian a burst weapon in Fallout; and give Marcus a wide, wide berth in Fallout 2.

      Have you played Temple of Elemental Evil and Jagged Alliance 2? They may be the finest examples of tactical turn-based combat. I remember some people kicked up a stink when Baldur's Gate was "real-time with pause"; it's no wonder: turn-based is more precise for tactics and BG combat would have been better for it rather than all this spacebar tapping and pathfinding issues (in combat, ToEE, Fallout and JA2 has zero pathfinding issues).

      Delete
    5. "Have you played Temple of Elemental Evil and Jagged Alliance 2?"

      Played them both but never finished any of them (while I finished Jagged Alliance 1).

      ToEE has a great combat system, but what I did not like was the story and setting. I played it a lot anyway but I stopped every time... maybe it's exactly because it's not focused on a character (like JA2, Prince of Qin, Arcanum and many others that give a memorable setting and purpose) that made the story uninteresting for me (sort of dull/generic). But yes the combat system is very good, close to the tabletop rules.

      JA2 is great, it's a pity I had a hard time finding a copy since here it was unavaiable unlike the first one. I found it some years ago and I still have it on my hard disk (with the saves of course...that game is hard!)

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    6. I mastered ToEE, bugs n all, masochist that I am! :P Loved that game, though I share your view that the setting feels bland thanks to Troika's thoughtless presentation of Greyhawk and their awful writing and voice acting. Combat, crafting, UI, lovely graphics and huge sea of rules are the prime virtues, I agree. I have played through ToEE many times with all sorts of party configs and had lots of fun over the years.

      Delete
    7. also.. the npcs were not so good! No memorable character like Misc (hm Turuko was..interesting... and Lareth too!), half of them were useless (Rainol, Cavanaugh, Meleny, Bertram, Fruella, Pitak, Tuelk, Morgan) because of their lousy stats or being low level.
      BG had better ones.
      BG had a better storyline too... but I appreciated the multiple opening vignettes.

      But I should replay it someday!

      Delete
    8. I sometimes recruit Fruella and then slay her outside of Hommlet for her masterwork/keen great cleaver (masterwork weapons are rare in ToEE unless you abuse a glitch, and only mw can be further enchanted).

      Elmo is forth level when you recruit him so that's good for new players who may struggle to reach third level Fedexing in Hommlet before making their way to the Moathouse. I didn't like going to the Moathouse with a first level party because the cruelty of the d20 was too apparent, but it is possible to get through it.

      Lareth was memorable, the others were mostly forgettable but I just rolled with my own party, anyway.

      Forgot about the opening vignettes! It would have been nicer if they made an impression later in the campaign as the Origins stories in Dragon Age did, they don't affect much after Hommlet...

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    9. Hommlet is weird... Elmo is strong indeed, but he's also the silliest companion... at first I never recruited him, I feared a waste of money... I remember Fruella's cleaver, also Meleny came with a +1 longsword as a gift so she was somewhat useful too.
      There was even a Lareth "the beautiful" miniature in the Giants of Legend D&D Miniatures serie... so yes he was popular! ^^

      About the opening vignettes... some quest can be completed immediatly in Hommlet, but others affected some situations in the Temple.. anyway Dragon Age did it better. And before DA:O Drakensang:the River of Time did the same: you start travelling to the capital, if you are a warrior you want to join the city guards, rogues are looking for the guild, mages for a master... and so on. The first quests after the tutorial are different depending on your class.

      Also it's a pity that alignment in ToEE don't play a great part. Some Nwn mods had interesting situations, Swordflight for example: my rogue went from neutral to chaotic-evil in no time, with some amusing effect when finding altars of evil deities.

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    10. "Lareth the beautiful"

      Wasn't he supposed to deceive you and fight with the enemies inside that tower outside the Temple? I can't remember if that was added in Co8 or was in the original release by Troika. I guess I'll have to run through ToEE again, it's been ages since I gave it a whirl. Just no time atm...

      "but others affected some situations in the Temple.."

      Good point, I basically just kill everything in the temple; I fell asleep trying to do quests and such. :P I remember having Alremm's key, and not finding a use for it. And apparently, there isn't any use for it. This put a bad taste in my mouth, so I never bothered to quest down there after that. Now the temple is treated as just one big combat zone. :D The original module by Gygax may be more interesting in the temple, quest-wise.

      "Also it's a pity that alignment in ToEE don't play a great part."

      I agree. Alignment doesn't play a great part in Baldur's Gate either, it seems reputation and charisma affect more things than alignment (but still, nothing to write home about). Alignment has a slight affect on starting rep, but not sure what else. I recall the Harper mage in Chapter 5 is friendly or hostile based on reputation, not alignment. The Bhaalspawn abilities are also based on rep (but based on alignment in BG2).

      Kivan won't join if you have low CHA, but then you just have some other in your party talk to him (Imoen has 16 cha, and he joins). Maybe Ajanitis casts Detect Evil? I'm not sure, but he should!

      BG2 wasn't much better. There was only a handful of alignment checks. If the PC was evil they could poison the druid grove, things like that.

      Delete
    11. "Wasn't he supposed to deceive you and fight with the enemies inside that tower outside the Temple? I can't remember if that was added in Co8 or was in the original release by Troika"

      Yes he's a betrayer and that's obvious I think, unlike some asian rogue from Bg2 and the skilled ranger in Nwn2... don't know why I would trust him! :)
      I'm sure it was in the original release by Troika, that's the one I played, he's also present in the 1985 tabletop module.

      "I remember having Alremm's key, and not finding a use for it"

      Seems that they forgot to place the chest, that's what I've read on a topic on the Co8 forums.
      Pity.

      "it seems reputation and charisma affect more things than alignment"

      That's good since Charisma is a stat and I invested point on it... usually it becomes a dump stat. I like the games in which it matters, like in Aielund (persuading Dante in chapter 4).
      Alignment is often irrilevant (except for selecting specific classes), most rpgs are built for a good character/party. (except maybe Fallout...)

      Delete
    12. Thanks for the info about Lareth and Alremm's chest, it's pretty funny they didn't add the chest but there's so many worse oversights and bugs in ToEE...

      Charisma is pretty much a dumpstat in both BG1 and BG2, you're right.

      As you said, just have a charismatic party member talk to whoever (like merchants, and my Kivan example)

      BG1 and BG2 have quite poor role-playing compared to the likes of Fallout and Arcanum.

      Sorry to say, but the BG series receives too much praise and its legend has grown disproportionately by being idealized in developer memories as some objective measure of how RPGs should be. Also, rose-tinted nostalgia goggles. Devs would make better RPGs if they used Fallout and Arcanum as their model (for role-playing games), imo.

      Incidentally, what are your top 5 RPGs for "role-playing" (loose definition, not counting mods/modules)? Mine would be:

      Arcanum
      Fallout/Fallout 2
      Planescape: Torment
      Mask of the Betrayer
      Deus Ex

      I couldn't convince Dante in my game, so we had to fight. What happens if you do convince him?

      Delete
    13. Unfortunately I have a lot of friends that love Bg1 and Bg2 but don't even know what Arcanum is and believe that Fallout has always been a first person shooter/rpg. Pity. Unfortunately I think that "role play" is less interesting for the current audience. Being uber-characters is better.

      Hmm it depende what you define as rpgs.

      Arcanum
      Fallout 2
      Fallout:NV
      DA:O
      Morrowind

      I'm not sure it can be called Rpg (First person rts with rpg elements?) but, the top one would be probably Mount & Blade. Totally sandbox with politics, choices, and no real main quest.

      "I couldn't convince Dante in my game, so we had to fight. What happens if you do convince him?"

      He winks to you and retreats claiming that there's an army attacking town from another direction. It's amusing hearing Robert Black irritated because he couldn't fight him! :D

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    14. "Hmm it depende what you define as rpgs".

      It's a little hard to define something that is completely arbitrary, so I don't bother. I know how I like RPGs to be (Arcanum, Fallout), and usually leave it at that. ;)

      "Warband"

      Love it, played it lots. There are some good role-playing mods for it, but I mostly played it for the fun combat and it's very pick up n play whenever I like.

      This is a good mod that improves visuals:
      http://delzarosmodding.robhost.nl/polishedlandscapes.html

      And these two editors are fun to play around with:

      Morgh's:
      http://mountandblade.mircon.de/wp/morghs-mb-wbwfas-editor/
      TweakMB:
      http://www.mbrepository.com/file.php?id=1751

      Prophecy of Pendor is my fave mod (with Battle Size changer: http://www.mbrepository.com/file.php?id=1761)

      "He winks to you and retreats claiming that there's an army attacking town from another direction. It's amusing hearing Robert Black irritated because he couldn't fight him!"

      Next Aielund Saga run (when Balkoth fixes bugs) with be with bard and high Cha, also will romance RB.

      Delete
    15. "Prophecy of Pendor"

      The best mod for Warband, hands down. I like it a lot but you have to be an experienced player to have fun! Before Warband and PoP I liked a lot 1866 and some other mods for M&B.

      It's one of the two games I played that lets you (role)play without limits. The other one was Way of the Samurai 2, and I liked how you could be an "evil" character without being penalized. Basically there's this town where magistrates fight the yakuza: you can work for either, or help the population, or be a mercenary, or work for the Shogun that opposes both factions. Even after making a choice, there are other possibilities: you can help the old yakuza boss' daughter to reclaim his place, or fight to become the new boss.. or stay as the second in command.
      It's a fighting adventure game with rpg elements: the game ends after seven days and your choices will define the fate of most characters.
      The downside is that, like M&B, this is a sort of sandbox game with repetitive random generated quests, but I liked the idea of freedom.

      "will romance RB."

      I didn't know it was possibile. I always had RB (and his cigars!) in my party when available...

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    16. "I like it a lot but you have to be an experienced player to have fun!"

      True, it can take a while to get your head above water and I didn't really ever feel comfortable in PoP even after "conquering" the elves and some massive roaming armies, but it was heaps of fun regardless. Amazing music, too.

      I enjoyed what I played of Gekokujo (Sengoku period), the arts assets were impressive and there were no shields so combat felt lethal.

      Delete
    17. "I enjoyed what I played of Gekokujo (Sengoku period)"

      Never heard of that mod, but I played Sengoku Jidai that was pretty good.
      But PoP is still the best, it's like a big improvement over the vanilla game... the beginning is hard, but rewarding once you attain a decent power level.
      I also like the realism: a horde of peasants is less threatening than a couple of knights.

      Delete
    18. I think you would like Brytenwalda, too, though I heard it's even harder than PoP! I have a love-hate relationship with the Floris mod (a sort of overhaul with all sorts of stuff added in), so now I just don't bother with it.

      Those mods you mentioned I'll keep in mind, if I ever get the time to absorb myself in Warband again!

      Delete
    19. Unfortunately the first M&B had lots of great mods that it's a shame Warband hasn't. Solid & Shade (adds necromancy, a storyline, new companions, items and quests), Civil war in Russia and especially 1866 were my favourites since they changed the gameplay too. And it was a professional work despite being incompleted (for example firearms are many, different and useful and you have fun using them, compared to Fire & Sword where I found guns to be imprecise, deadly but effective only if you are lucky).

      I've heard good things of Brytenwalda but I like the PoP setting more. Anyway since it's free I may try it when I've some more free time!

      Delete

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