Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Planescape: Torment Pro-Tips — Tanking & Physical-Based Damage Dealing (AC, DR, HPs, Regen, THAC0, ApR, Strength, Itemization)

The following remarks are based on the meat & potatoes portion of Planescape: Torment; namely, once TNO has recruited a full party in the Lower Ward and gets access to the Mordron Maze and Under Sigil, both of which challenge tanking and DPS effectiveness (High Threat Constructs and Larval Worms). I'm not counting late-game Vhailor outside of the ApR section.

This post is divided into two sections: Tanking (AC, DR, HPs, Regen) and Damage (THAC0, ApR, Str bonus, itemization).


From my Part III of my Baldur's Gate retrospective: The purpose of tanks is to attract the aggro and then absorb or mitigate damage so that squishy party members are free to cast spells and fire projectiles from the back row. Attracting the aggro is usually a fairly simple matter: just ensure the tank is the first party member of which the enemy catches sight; blinded by hatred, they will then charge forth and futilely wail on the tank, foolishly ignoring the mages and archers who are picking them apart from safe distance. The most effective tanks - who can also melee with the best of 'em - are quite clearly Fighter/Mages; their extremely low ACs (-20s) and access to Mirror Image allowing them to mitigate damage against the most formidable fighters known to Realmslore such a Sarevok and Drizzt Do'Urden.

Planescape: Torment is exactly the same except that the party does not have access to as many absorption sources, and does not have access to mitigation on par with godly spells such as Mirror Image, Stoneskin or Protection From Magical Weapons. PS:T Cloak of Warding (soaks 3-12 dmg +1 per caster level) is just a joke in comparison.

• Armor Class (AC). Unlike in the other Infinity Engine games (in which — with the notable exception of Throne of Bhaal — nigh-unhittable ACs are possible), neither TNO nor companions can reach lordly ACs. Primarily, this is due to the lack of Full Plate and Shield itemization (which is HUGE), but there are also no powerful abilities that allow one to hit the AC cap, such as Bard SongDefensive Spin and Use Any Item

In fact, neither TNO nor his companions can even reach BG/IWD levels of AC. Take for example Dak'kon:

Base AC 10 (AC 10)
18 Dex +4 (AC 6)
Dak'kon's Zerth Armor +5 (AC 1)
Dak'kon's Chained Blade: 10th level bonus +6 (AC -5)
Tattoo of Warding +1 (AC -6)
Tattoo of Greater Warding +2 (AC -8)
Displacer Ring +2 (AC -10)
Mempa's Biting Ring +2 (AC -12)

And take for example Annah:

Base AC 10 (AC 10)
18 Dex +4 (AC 6)
Jerkin of the Brazen Rogue +6 (AC 0)
Punch Daggers of Zar'Anun +2 (AC- 2) (Spiked Gauntlets of Ogre Power are more damaging but give no AC bonus. However, they should definitely be wielded and therefore Annah won't have this bonus from the Lower Ward onwards.)
Tattoo of Warding +1 (AC -3)
Tattoo of Greater Warding +2 (AC -5)
Displacer Ring +2 (AC -7)
Mempa's Biting Ring +2 (AC -9)
Stinger Earring +2 (AC -11) (The effects of two don't stack.)
* I forgot to factor in armor modifiers to specific damage types from both armor and items. Well, that's maybe getting into a bit too much detail, anyway.
* Cockroach Charms bestow +4 AC but will not stack beyond -10 AC total for character.

Fighter TNO AC? Armorless and unable to wear the Magus Shield (AC 4), Fighter TNO needs to be buffed by Dak'kon with Armor (AC 6) or Shield (AC 3). It is highly unlikely that a player would crank TNO Dex to 24 just for an AC adjustment of -6 (and there is no other reason so to do), so I'm not going to go further with this. Suffice it to say that TNO isn't about AC; rather, his great tanking ability stems from HPs and regen (see below).

Taking into account buffing in addition, AC doesn't drop much lower. First of all, the effects of BlurSubmerge the Will and Shroud of Shadows don't stack (+2 AC each) but Blur will stack with Greater Embalming for +4 to AC. Problem is, only TNO and Morte can be buffed by undead-only GE. Luck probably adds +1, too. 

But that is still about 2 or 3 points shy of what three conventional warriors can reach in BG and IWD (and BG Fighter/Mage dual- or multi-classes can reach about -20). Plus, PS:T encounter design isn't always trivial: consider hard hitters such as Larval Worms, Baatezu/Tanar'ri (Abishai, Glabrezu, Cornugon), High Threat Constructs, Harmonium hard-heads and Curst Prison Guards. Moreover, some of the items for Dak'kon and Annah — not to mention TNO — overlap, and there are no notable duplicates to be found (though there are two Displacer Rings). Thus, it is impossible to have three AC lords: you will only have about one-and-a-half — and that only if you're thorough and know the itemization well. 

tl;dr: You are going to get hit, and often. You will need to rely on Morte damage resistance, TNO regen, Grace clerical healing, immobilization spells and sheer damage output if you're going to survive tough mobs in Under Sigil and full-blown hordes in Carceri and Baator. Relying on AC alone, the party will be ripped a new one in short order. AC just doesn't cut the mustard like it does in BG and IWD.

• Hit Points & Regeneration (HPs & Regen). Fighter TNO is the King of HPs and regen. Assuming max HPs on level up and Con 25, a 20th level TNO patched with Warrior/Supreme Warrior will sport a deep pool of 270 Hit Points (300 embalmed) along with regen that probably exceeds any creature on the Infinity Engine, including trolls and greater werewolves. Thus, TNO's regen will offset damage taken against a pack of Hive thugs, but one Black Abishai will eventually wear him down with its non-trivial dmg and attack rate. Also, single 8 hour rests or simple area transitions heal TNO completely (TNO has no need for Grace's clerical healing). Dak'kon and Morte are about equal second in HPs but only Dak'kon can reach Con 20 which grants humble Kagain-rate regen. This will require the Tattoo of Greater Health and the completion of the Zerthimon circles (for which TNO must be Mage/switch to Mage and requires Int 18 and Wis 19). However, its rate is useless in combat and only good for area transition-healing and rest-healing (which is still a very convenient perk).

So here we have Morte with a THAC0 of 4½ ApR (EED) and Teeth of the Fire Drake trying to take down a Greater Embalmed Mage TNO with 25 Con regen and AC -1.

• Damage Resistance (DR). By virtue of the Spider Bracelet purchasable in the Clerk's Ward, Annah and Thief TNO can get 25% resistance to all forms of non-enchanted physical-based damage, but that doesn't compare to Morte whose innate DR is 75% against unenchanted or enchanted. Morte is the King of DR and also the King Tanker. In this vid Morte far outlasts Dak'kon and Annah against a Str 25 TNO wielding the Hammer of Comminution at 3.5 ApR.

Clot Charms (easily farmable random drop) will bestow 5% resistance to slashing and 10% to piercing. The effects of multiple quaffings will also stack to 100% and above. Thus, if Morte quaffs enough of them then slashing and piercing attacks will not damage him no matter the enchantment level of the weapon. But, unlike BG2, he will not be healed with resistances greater than 100% (it is possible to be healed by bludgeoning dmg in ToB).


• THAC0. To Hit Armor Class Zero caps out at 1 for all Fighters and multi-classed Fighters. I mention that because to-hit factors into DpR since it determines whether or not you hit in the first place. That's all I'll say about THAC0 because it's a natural progression and you never feel like you have to buff it (mainly because no enemy is an AC lord and Fighter TNO and companions have decent Strength or Dex).

Attacks Per Round (ApR). From my IWD retrospectiveThis is the number of attacks a character can perform in a given round of combat (i.e, attack rate). It is an especially important stat in a campaign that reduces the viability of direct-damage spellcasting and features waves and waves of enemies susceptible to physical-based damage. In addition, many itemized weapons inflict chance-based on-hit negative status effects such as stun, fireball, disease — and even effects akin to vorpal — so, it stands to reason that the more often you can attack, the more often these devastating effects are going to trigger. Three melee units attacking at a rate of 5 ApR, and inflicting stun on a regular basis, is just TOO good.

Except for the max ApR and on-hit effects (there are a few in PS:T but not to the degree of IWD), the above is true for PS:T, too.

ApR Sources for BG, IWD and PS:T:

• Base ApR: 1 (1 ApR)
• Specialization (available at Warrior 1st lvl): +½ (1 ½ ApR)
• Grandmastery (available at Fighter 9th lvl): +1 (2 ½ ApR)
• Warrior class 7th lvl bonus: +½ (3 ApR)
• Warrior class 13th lvl bonus: +½ (3 ½ ApR)
• Items/Spells (+ApR weapons/Haste-Improved Haste-Enoll Eva's Duplication)

ApR is king in BG and IWD, and PS:T is no different. Well, not all that different:

Fighter TNO, Morte, Dak'kon, Annah, Nordom and Vhailor get 1 base attack and +½ attack at 7th and 13th Fighter levels. This is as per AD&D 2nd Edition rules and as per BG, BG2 and IWD.

Next, everyone can reach and everyone gets +½ ApR for Specialization (that is, two proficiency points in a weapon grouping). TNO must get this from Porphiron in the Hive.

Thus, everyone can attain 2½ ApR.

However, only Fighter TNO, Morte, Nordom and Vhailor can achieve Grandmastery for a full +1 ApR (that is, five proficiency points in a weapon grouping). 12th level TNO can get GM from Korur as soon as he enters the Lower Ward (or Marquez in Curst post-Ravel.)

Dak'kon and Annah only get High Mastery; thus, they max out at natural 2½ ApR. Note that multi-classed characters should only be able to Specialize, anyway.

Morte is favored in that he actually gets GM in "fists" at 11th level whereas TNO and Vhailor must wait until 12th, by the rules. Nordom must wait until 13th for GM (thus, he jumps 1½ ApR when he reaches 13th).

So yeah, at Fighter 13th, TNO, Morte, Nordom and Vhailor max out at 3½ ApR whereas Dak'kon and Annah are stuck at 2½ ApR. Note that Enoll Eva's Duplication with add +1 ApR for a maximum of 4½ ApR.

Nordom crossbow attacks at 4½ ApR:

Note the pathetic range of his crossbow, though; how he has to "step in" just to target TNO who is but a few paces away. Black Isle made a mistake by giving the only "archer" in the game such a myopic range. Disgusting! :P

• Strength. Now we must take into account the Strength stat which modifies dmg (and to-hit).

Of course, it's all about 25 Strength for that delicious +7 THAC0 and +14 dmg bonus. Fighter TNO can reach Str 25, (and Con 25 and Wis 25) by 12th level, when he also achieves grandmastery. He will then get his 13th level ApR bonus for 3½ ApR (4½ ApR buffed with EED). He also gets to wield the Hammer of Comminution at this point (which is the Lower Ward). This is... insane. Make no mistake, when it comes to pure killin' power, Fighter TNO is a force on the planes...

So yeah, Fighter TNO can easily reach 25 Strength thanks to 7th and 12th level Specialization along with Tattoo of the Supreme Warrior (get it from Fell after 12th Specialization). Morte, Dak'kon, Annah and Nordom, however, must be buffed with Improved Strength in order to get 25 Str (+14 dmg). Unlike Friends, Improved Strength does not stack with itself so you will need to recast it to get a good 1d8+4 roll. Engine reports Nordom gets +20 dmg for 25 str, but this is not reflected in testing. Strength buffs do nothing for Nordom. 

OTOH, Zerthimon's Focus notably increases crit-chance for everyone (I suspect +10%). You cannot get ZF unless TNO switches to Mage for the Zerthimon dialogue with Dak'kon (plus you need Int 18 and Wis 19).

• Itemization. Then, we must take into account itemization and weapons wieldable.

Fighter TNO wields whatever he likes. That includes hammers, edged, clubs, axes and punch daggers. Badass. If you go hammers then TNO can get the Brimstone sledge literally straight of the blocks. Just go to the Ruined Cathedral in the Alley of Dangerous Angles and become a disciple of Aoska through Aola. You will be mazed by the Lady of Pain. Now, in the northeast of the maze you will find that hammer (+1 enchantment, 2-9 dmg, +5 fire dmg). Upgrade to the Hammer of Comminution once you reach the Clerk's Ward, and it's all over. (With the exception that you will have to switch to Hatred's Gift or Heartgrinder axes to take on crushing-immunes in Baator.)

Usually Dak'kon wields the Chained Blade +3 to inflict 5-20 dmg assuming he's been conditioned for high morale. Epic. Here is Dak'kon with 3.5 ApR buffed with EED and Zerthimon's Focus. Total Crit Machine. 

Btw, his Strength is only 18 there. Best damage-dealer after Fighter TNO.

Annah gets a good variety of punch daggers. Notable progression is: Punch Daggers of Moorin (+2 enchantment, THAC0 +1, 2-8 piercing, +1 piercing, +2 AC, +1 Luck; Shattered Crypt, Catacombs), Punch Daggers of Zar'Anun (+2 enchantment, THAC0 +1, 2-12 piercing, +2 piercing, +2 AC, +35 Stealth; Lenny, Lower Ward), Spiked Gauntlets of Ogre Power (+1 enchantment, THAC0 +3, 4-6 crushing, 4-6 piercing; Coaxmetal, Siege Tower, Lower Ward), Umei Kaihen (+3 enchantment, THAC0 +3, 3-21 piercing, +3 Dex, +10% Thief Skills; Under Sigil Greater Glabrezu random drop)Assassin's Knuckles are TNO-only (+3 enchantment, THAC0 +3, 1-10 piercing, on-hit Stunning, Silence, Poison; Crumplepunch the Blacksmith, Curst).

Remember that Annah gains access to a five-point backstab multiplier. Short of abuse, it is underwhelming (about 70-80 dmg in this treatment range). Buff with Zerthimon's Focus to increase chance of crit.

Morte gets sets of teeth (fist proficiency)! Notable progression is: Ingress' Teeth (+1 enchantment, 1-6 crushing, +1 crushing [or piercing]; Candrian, Smouldering Corpse Bar, Hive Southeast)Teeth of the Viper (+1 enchantment, 2-7 piercing, inflicts poison, Immunity: poison; Marta the Seamstress, Buried Village), Teeth of the Fire Drake (+1 enchantment, 1-6 slashing, 3-8 fire, Immunity: fire; Vrischika's Curiosity Shoppe, Clerk's Ward).

Morte should keep his teeth collection ready for switching so that he can inflict the three main forms of physical-based damage.

Ingress' Teeth scale to Morte's level (you will need to "talk" with the teeth). At twelfth level: Enchantment +3, THAC0 +3, 1-6 crushing, +3 crushing, on-hit temporary paralysis). The on-hit paralysis triggers often and against almost any enemy, including baatezu. The effects of paralysis don't last long but that doesn't matter because it will likely retrigger on the next couple of hits, anyway (Morte gets 4.5 ApR with EED).

Nordom is all about Lenses and Bolts (targeting + ammo). He wields a Mechanus Crossbow. Most people will only find the Lens of Inherent Viciousness (+2 THAC0, +2 dmg; Clerk's Ward), but there are two notable random drops in the Modron Maze: Lens of Seeing Double (+8 dmg) and Optix (+2 dmg, +15% crit chance, +1 Luck).

Nordom gets his bolts from Coaxmetal in the Siege Tower of the Lower Ward: "Rule-of-Three" Bolts (6-15 piercing, splits into 3), Bolts of Acheron (2-5 crushing, on-hit stun), Acidic Sponge Bolts (1-2 dmg +6 acid), Zephyr Bolts (2-5 piercing), Jagged Bolts (3-6 piercing).

In addition, Crumplepunch the Blacksmith in Curst offers: Bolts of Whistling Doom (+2 enchantment, 4-16 crushing, THAC0 +2).

Once optimized, expect max dmg in the ballpark of 35 or 70 on a "maximally efficient strike" (a crit).

Lens of Double Seeing + Zerthimon's Focus + Rule-of-Three ammo:

Optix + Zerthimon's Focus + default ammo:

So basically, Morte is the best tank, Dak'kon is the second-best physical-based damage dealer despite failing in ApR (after Fighter TNO), and Morte, Nordom and Fighter TNO have the highest attack rate (3½ ApR or 4½ ApR EED'd). As TNO (Fighter, Thief or Mage), if I had to choose just one companion to bring along for combat purposes, it would be Dak'kon for his well-roundedness; he just offers so much.

I'll probably add late-game Vhailor in the future.


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