Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate 2 Best Armor Class

Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate 2 Best Armor Class

Note: General coverage of physical-based Offense (THAC0, dmg, ApR) and Defense (AC, HPs) can be found in my Best Classes write-up. I will likely post dedicated write-ups for THAC0, dmg, ApR and HPs in the future, too.

Armor Class (AC): To put it simply, AC represents the ability of the character to dodge incoming melee and ranged attacks, thereby avoiding damage. But no matter how low our AC drops (lower ACs are better) there is still a 5% chance that we will be hit on any given physical-based attack: a critical hit (rolling a natural 20 on the 1d20 attack) always hits (and the damage is doubled if the target is unhelmed); conversely, natural 1s always miss.

• Breakdown of Armor Class (AC) sources (BG human Warrior)
◦ Base AC 10 (AC 10)
◦ 18 natural Dexterity / Gauntlets of Dexterity (+4) (AC 6) (BRAC07)
◦ Full Plate Mail (+9) (AC -3) (bonus AC vs. slashing/piercing/missile: 4/3/3) (PLAT04)
◦ Large Shield +2 (+3) (AC -6) (SHLD19)
◦ Helm of Balduran (+1) (AC -7) (HELM07)
◦ Cloak of Balduran (+1) (AC -8) (CLCK05)
◦ Ring of Protection +2 (+2) (AC -10) (RING07)
◦ Drizzt's Scimitar +5, Defender: Twinkle (+2) (AC -12(SW1H16)
Potion of Mind Focusing x2 (24 Dex, +2) (AC -14) (POTN37)
◦ Golden Girdle (bonus AC vs. slashing: 3) (AC vs. slashing: -21) (BELT02)
 Large Shield +1 (SHLD07), Boots of Avoidance (BOOT04), Cloak of Displacement (CLCK03) and Girdle of Piercing (BELT04) grant a 17 point bonus AC vs. Missile.
◦ Yes, Full Plate Mail +1: Plate of the Dark (AC 0, PLAT05) and Plate Mail +3: The Practical Defense (AC 0, PLAT01) are the best armors, however, the Ring of Protection +2 cannot be warn with magical armors whereas it can be worn with unenchanted Full Plate Mail. Thus, we net one point of AC over the magical armors.

The above shows us that armor contributes more to our AC than anything else. It also shows us that we can reach very decent ACs in BG.

Breakdown of Armor Class (AC) sources (BG human Fighter/Mage dual-/multi-class):
◦ Base AC 10 (AC 10)
◦ 18 natural Dexterity / Gauntlets of Dexterity (+4) (AC 6(BRAC07)
◦ Spirit Armor (+9) (AC -3) (SCRL5K)
Blur (+3)  (AC -6) (SCRL85)
Improved Invisibility (+4) (AC -10(SCRL1Y)
◦ Large Shield +2 (+3) (AC -13(SHLD19)
◦ Helm of Balduran (+1) (AC -14(HELM07)
◦ Cloak of Balduran (+1) (AC -15(CLCK05)
◦ Ring of Protection +2 (+2) (AC -17(RING07)
◦ Drizzt's Scimitar +5, Defender: Twinkle (+2) (AC -19(SW1H16)
Potion of Mind Focusing x2 (24 Dex, +2) (AC -21) (POTN37)
◦ Golden Girdle (bonus AC vs. slashing: 3) (AC vs. slashing: -24) (BELT02)
Knave's Robe (bonus AC vs. slashing: 1) (AC vs. slashing: -25(CLCK12)
 Again, Large Shield +1 (SHLD07), Boots of Avoidance (BOOT04), Cloak of Displacement (CLCK03) and Girdle of Piercing (BELT04) grant a 17 point bonus AC vs. Missile.
Certain potions will boost AC further, as will the divine Chant (an effective +1 AC) and Defensive Harmony (+2 AC).
Note that Improved Invisibility debuffs opponent AC and does not show up in the stat panels; it's an effective AC bonus.

The above shows us that Spirit Armor (a fourth circle Necromancy spell) is effectively Full Plate Mail (for 3 turns). We can also see that Blur and Improved Invisibility (second and fourth circle Illusions) stack with other AC sources (the former for 4 rounds + 2 rounds/lvl and the latter for 10 rounds). 

Thus, we have established that arcane-augmented AC is superior to just having conventional AC (providing that we are buffed.)

On top of that, arcane-augmented combat units have access to the powerful second circle Illusion, Mirror Image. This is one of the best spells in the game and the best defensive spell, overall. Basically, several images must first be dispersed (hit) before any damage can be inflicted on the caster [*]. Fighter (7) / Specialist (8) dual-classes can refresh five images four times per day. So yeah, while Mirror Image does not contribute to AC, I feel compelled to digress because it increases our ability to tank immensely, and I want to make it clear that the best tanks in BG, BG2 and IWD are not warriors, but rather arcane casters.
[*] BG2 nerfed Mirror Image in that there is a chance to hit Mages even when they are protected by images. To spell it out, with one image remaining there is a 50% chance you will be hit whereas in BG you cannot be hit at all until each and every image has been dispersed.

Ok, let's do the same for BG2 now. AC remains very important in SoA and ToB. However, there is a problem: AC is capped at just -20 (+ Dexterity Adjustment for a max AC of -25 with 21 Dex or -26 with 24 Dex from DUHM [*]). Thus, ToB epics like Abazigal are going to land hits on us no matter what. Thankfully, we can employ other tanking modes such as damage reduction (Hardiness), regeneration and non-trivial healing in order to stay alive against him and other such THAC0/dmg lords. 
[*] We can actually reach 23 Dex: 19 Dex + Dex Tome + Deck of Many Things + Machine of Lum the Mad + Shuruppak's; just shy of the next Dex adjustment bonus (24). Self-buffed with Draw Upon Holy Might aka DUHM (a cleric/non-Inquisitor paladin spell or Bhaalspawn ability that is lost in Spellhold), we can max Dex to 25. We can also quaff potions of Mind Focusing.

• Breakdown of Armor Class (AC) sources (BG2 human Warrior)
◦ Base AC 10 (AC 10)
◦ 18 natural Dexterity / Gauntlets of Dexterity (+4) (AC 6(BRAC07)
◦ Drow Full Plate +5 (+14) (AC -8) (bonus AC vs. slashing/piercing/missile: 4/3/3(DWPLAT01)
Darksteel Shield +4 or Shield of the Order +4 or Sentinel +4 (+5) (-13) (SHLD31, SHLD32, SHLD22)
◦ Helm of Balduran or Wong Fei's Ioun Stone or Lavender Ioun Stone (+1) (AC -14(HELM07)
Cloak of the Sewers (+1) (AC -15(CLCK27)
Ring of Gaxx (+2) (AC -17(RING39)
Ring of Earth Control (+1) (AC -18(RING29)
◦ Potion of Mind Focusing x2 (24 Dex, +2) (AC -20) (POTN37)
◦ Golden Girdle (bonus AC vs. slashing: 3) (AC vs. slashing: -27(BELT02)
Fortress Shield (SHLD23), Boots of Avoidance (BOOT04), Cloak of Displacement (CLCK03), Girdle of Piercing (BELT04) and Shield Style grant a 23 point bonus AC vs. Missile.
Ridiculous exploit aside, Drow Full Plate (AC -5, DWPLAT01) will disintegrate upon leaving the Underdark. I only include it because it IS the best armor in the game in terms of AC; well, other than the silly Big Metal Unit (AC -10, SECRET05). Red Dragon Scale (AC -1, PLAT18) is the best armor in SoA while Shuruppak's Plate (AC -2, +1 Dex, PLAT22) and White Dragon Scale (AC -2, CHAN20) are otherwise the best in ToB.
Rings of Protection up to +3 (RING41) will not stack with magical armors, but Ring of Gaxx and Ring of Earth Control do (and also stack with each other).
Shield of Harmony +2 (SHLD25) is easily the best shield in the game due to the mindshield status bestowed. (Mindshield is more important than a couple more points of AC).

The above shows us that, for mundane Warriors, BG2 only allows for +6 AC over BG. However, we bear in mind that we have other great sources of defense in BG2, such as damage reduction and clerical regeneration and full healing (not to mention examples of powerful itemization; see endnote).

Of course, to a far greater degree in BG2 than in BG, Blades and x/Mage duals and multis will have more staying power thanks to Stoneskin and PfMW in addition to Mirror Image; they are practically invulnerable when played by veterans.

So let's take a look at what we can get out of Blades, shall we? — a Prestige Class notable for its Defensive Spin special ability (which scales to AC +10 and is erroneously mobilized by Free Action status). The Blade also gets access to the powerful Use Any Item (UAI) High Level Ability (HLA) as well as arcane spellcasting circles one-though-six, which grants access to key tanking spells such as Mirror Image, Stoneskin and PfMW (see Best Spells).

• Breakdown of Armor Class (AC) sources (BG2 half-elf Blade PrC):
◦ Base AC 10 (AC 10)
◦ 18 natural Dexterity / Gauntlets of Dexterity (+4) (AC 6(BRAC07)
◦ Spirit Armor (followed by Aslyferund Elven Chain +5) (+9, +10) (AC -4) (SCRL5K, CHAN19)
◦ Blur (+3)  (AC -7(SCRL85)
◦ Improved Invisibility (+4) (AC -11) (SCRL1Y)
Amulet of the Master Harper (+3) (AC -14) (AMUL28)
Defensive Spin or Enhanced Bard Song (+10) (AC -24) (HLA)
Part-Mages and Bards can wear elven chains (such as the Trademeet, Drow, Sylvan, Bladesinger and Aslyferund) because they don't disable spellcasting. AC-wise, Aslyferund is superior to the Robe of Vecna + Bracers of AC 3 combo (and we would want a dedicated caster wearing those, anyway.)
By rights, if we took into account rings (Gaxx RoEC), gloves (Wondrous Gloves or Tzu-Zan's BracersBRAC25, BRAC26), shield, helms/ioun stone (HELM07, HELM34, HELM19, HELM26), Montolio's Cloak or Cloak of the Sewers (CLCK32, CLCK27) Yamato +4 (SW1H66) and the Evil Selfish Bhaaltear (+2 AC bonus), we would have an AC in excess of -40. But again, the AC is capped at -20 (+ Dex adj).

The above shows us that Blades are less reliant on itemization by virtue of spells and Defensive Spin.

Thanks to its innate, scaling AC bonuses (+9) and UAI, Swashbucklers can also easily hit the AC cap, but they are more reliant on items and spell scrolls to see them through (and to-Mage duals can't max Swashbuckler AC bonuses).

Remember: AC is important, but arcane spells such as Mirror Image, Stoneskin and PfMW represent a superior option in the mid-high levels (not to mention other spells). In fact, PfMW (which can be recast before its expiration) renders AC utterly redundant. Also remember: AC is capped at too high a value for us to feel completely safe in ToB. For pure power-gaming, we want an arcane-augmented tank. Especially in ToB, we will have to pull out all stops when defending tanks that don't have access to arcane or divine self-buffs. As mentioned before, these include the likes of damage reduction aka DR (Defender of Easthaven, Barb DR, Hardiness, Armor of Faith [*]), Regeneration (preferably hasted regen), Potions of Superior Healing, and mid-combat, quick-cast divine healing culminating in Greater Restoration.
[*] Note that AoF (a first circle Cleric/non-Inquisitor Paladin self-buff) erroneously stacks with itself beyond 100% DR, meaning that Magic Fire, Magic Cold, slashing, crushing, piercing, missile and Magic Damage will actually heal us. BROKEN.

In order to stay alive with mundane ACs, pro-players may also get creative by wielding the likes of Foebane (on-hit Larloch), Blackrazor (on-hit self-heal 20 HPs) and the THAC0-draining Soul Reaver (on-hit no-save cumulative THAC0 -2 for 20 rounds) — naturally, with high ApR. 


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