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High level dualing, when is it worth it?

Topic was observed in passing in another thread, but I thought it worth discussing in its own right.

Traditionally, the best time to dual is around level 9/10 when the first class has picked up most of its perks, but the xp/level has not yet flattened out. The 'obvious' alternatives are something like dualing from fighter, where delaying till 13th gets you an extra 1/2 attack/round an another weapon pip, or from druid who benefit from low xp/level up until 12 (and then the xp curve takes a nose-dive).

However, occasionally we hear about folks taking the original class up to a HLA or two before dualing, so I am curious to hear about good reasons for doing so. At this point, we are no worried about the downtime, but more that we see a real benefit /after/ the downtime, compared to the equivalent multiclass. If there is little difference, then the multiclass would seem the more playable way to reach your goals, and may actually be superior as it will have another 6-12 HLAs picked up during that downtime. So any comparison must allow for the multi having more HLAs, and the ability to choose from both class HLAs at each subsequent level. The latter may be less of an issue for a highly-planned character, who is in the 'correct' final class for preferred HLAs (e.g., cleric -> thief dual is more useful than thief -> cleric).

So what does a dual class buy us? It buys us a character kit from the class we dual out of. That can be a significant boost, but varies from kit to kit on how much additional benefit you get from more levels. Which kits are most compelling for a high-level dual? Swashbuckler -> Fighter is one example that comes to mind. Full fighter THAC0 and HLAs, with a further +5 from swash kit.

Also consider that while you cannot dual /into/ a kit (without mods) you can get an illusionist kit into a multi class, thanks to gnomes. Given it is unusual to dual /out/ of mage, especially once the 9th level spells are flowing, I would be very interested to hear of benefits from late specialist mage dualing that justify not being a gnome.

Finally (of the points I am aware of) there is the question of a fighter's weapon pips. Being able to take grand mastery is privilege of the dual class, not available to the multi - but this can be achieved at 9th level, and a popular bug in the game engine allowed the dualed class to continue taking weapon proficient past 2 pips, even with their non-fighter level. So while the pips are nice, I'm not sure I see much benefit past the traditional 9th/13th level switches, unless there is some 'grand master of many weapons' role that has so far eluded me. Maybe you need a specific fighter HLA (in addition to 5 pips) before dualing? But why not dual /into/ fighter if that is the case?

So for the creative character builders out there - what are the high level duals that really shine, or offer something unique?


  • GoturalGotural Member Posts: 1,229
    High level Assassin (level 21 minimum for backstab x7) dual to Mage is a fun character to play. Very good damage from range thanks to Minute Melf Meteor + Poison Weapon or Energy Blades + Poison Weapon, epic backstabs with Mislead and Staff of the Ram and enough skill points to get everything important.
  • Lord_TansheronLord_Tansheron Member Posts: 4,208
    edited April 2015
    High-level duals are mostly a novelty thing. They can be very fun to play, although (or perhaps: because?) they can be a challenge.

    Your approach is the right one: ask WHY you would want to do it in the first place. What do you gain from higher levels in your first class?

    Naturally, the most obvious answer is kit bonuses, as kits are one of the big reasons to be dualing in the first place. Another reason could be spell/caster levels, if you dual from a caster class. And, lastly, HLAs are there for the TRULY adventurous who actually dual past 3m XP.

    As for "how good" all these options are, well, that is difficult to answer simply. BG2 has so many various factors that play into an individual game that it is quite hard to make an objective assertion that holds true for everyone; magnitudes harder even once mods come into play.

    Personally I do not believe that high-level duals are worth it. The higher up you go, the more downtime you have in your old class, and the more time you spend before dualing at all. That quickly approaches a point where you are basically just running with two mediocre characters for the majority of the game, and only get to actually play the cool combo you want for a very small amount of time. This is especially true for HLA duals, which can easily spend over 50% of the game in one class, and THEN most of the rest of the game as another, before regaining the old class only at the very end.

    I have tried various variations, in XP ranges anywhere from 1m to 3.5m, and no combinations I tried was anywhere near as efficient overall as a lower dual alternative. There's some fun to be had if you're feeling frisky for sure, but nothing I would characterize as objectively "good" or particularly impressive in performance.

    Most of the time you are simply better off either dualing at conventional levels, or running a multi-class to begin with. The latter especially is a better option if you're in it for the HLAs in particular.

    All that being said, there are some combinations I found CLOSE to being "viable" (to use another popular but vague term).

    One is the aforementioned Assassin->Mage, which can be dualed at the BS multiplier breakpoints (12/17/21) but also works alright at lower dual levels because of Poison Weapon (it is arguably the best Thief kit to dual into Mage from).

    The other is a Cleric of Lathander->Fighter, which results in sort of a combat-oriented buff fighter. You can dual it at various levels, adjusted around spell availability and the breakpoints for Boon of Lathander resp. DuHM (lvl 12 for +4 to stats for example).

    There are no clear "winners" in breakpoints as there are at lower levels (9 is the best by a fair margin for most combinations, due to various factors tied into that level range), leaving room for flexibility and the possibility to adjust around various game/party setups. But still, in the end, I think that more conventional combos are a better choice overall.
  • GreenWarlockGreenWarlock Member Posts: 1,354
    On the cleric-kits, I am having some success with a priest of helm -> mage dual at 11, which gets me two uses of the funky sword spell - which is the only way I know for a non-fighter to get 3 APR /before/ haste, easily boosted to 6 APR by the mage, after extensive cleric buffering for 25 str/fighter thac0 etc. Even so, this combination is beginning to feel at the end of its useful life on the front lines by the end of SoA, and 11 is hardly a high-level dual, especially with the mage XP break also going to 11.

    As I said above though, I am less interested in the downtime, and more in the reward at the end of it before deciding to invest such a project in the first place - seeing what combinations produce interesting effects that are measurably superior (along some line to be defined by the proponent) than a straight multi class. I am particularly thinking of dualing around early HLA levels - e.g., the thief kit that grabs use-any-item and then duals, the cleric that snags the funky ring and then duals, etc.
  • Lord_TansheronLord_Tansheron Member Posts: 4,208
    You cannot discount downtime, because it's such a significant part of the process. The game is far more than merely the last chapters; in fact, in many respects the early/mid game is HARDER than the late game because of lack of tools.

    What difficulty setup are you running? Is it high enough for extreme min/max to actually have a measurable effect?
  • MusignyMusigny Member Posts: 1,027
    Dual classing at very high levels is ok if you are certain to still benefit from secondary class HLAs. or alternatively the new class is not too dependent on its HLAs.
    It may require to remove the XP cap and play with less party members to consolidate the XP.
    Your example with a mage is nice because there are only 8 HLAs meaning that after the lvl25 a pure mage can no longer add HLAs to her arsenal (but that's already 5.625M XP invested in the class)
    In any case I think it is worth comparing the envisioned build with a standard multi-class as a baseline.

    You also need to be sure your build will be nice to play all game long. And with a dual class there is a danger to get bored or too weak for a while.
    Just planning for an ultra powerful PC at the end of the game is probably a big factor of restartisis (whatever the name for it).

    On the contrary, dualling at lvl 9 or so (beginning of BG2) put you just one level behind a mono class build. That quickly becomes neglectable and you benefit from your first class.

    All in all I prefer the multiclasses :smile:
  • WowoWowo Member Posts: 2,058
    @GreenWarlock Polymorph to Sword Spider and then Shocking Grasp from a sequencer gets the APR that you're looking for.
  • semiticgoddesssemiticgoddess Member Posts: 14,829
    Planning for overpowered late game builds is an excellent recipe for restartitis. I don't recommend ever dualing after HLAs, to be honest, even in a solo run.

    I've planned out late-game oriented characters and was very excited about getting them to the higher levels. Then I hit the breaking point, I get an overpowered character... and abruptly lose interest. Why bother going on? The rest of the game is going to be terribly easy anyway. I already know my Charname is going to trounce the opposition, and do so with less effort than ever before.

    Fighting an uphill battle for 90% of the game is no fun. But what's even less fun is the last 10% of the game, when the challenge is suddenly and completely destroyed.

    Dual-class early. Don't wait to play the character you want.
  • joluvjoluv Member Posts: 2,136
    I kind of like overpowered late game builds. The logic is that I'd rather steamroll through Throne of Bhaal, which seems consistent with that plot, than through Shadows of Amn, which feels like it ought to be a struggle. I enjoy both the challenge of being low-level again through part of SoA and the anticipation of how powerful my character will be later. ToB (at least the last part) is basically just a victory lap, which I'm fine with. It's not as good as SoA anyway, and it doesn't take very long.

    None of that really applies in a large party, though. Then the challenge goes away and you just have your party babysitting your protagonist for a long time, which is even longer because of splitting experience. I usually either run solo or do "all Bhaalspawn" with just Imoen and Sarevok.

    Still, @semiticgod is right about restartitis. I've got it bad.
  • Lord_TansheronLord_Tansheron Member Posts: 4,208
    If you're doing a solo run, it's MUCH easier to do high-level duals. They are probably at their best in these runs.

    If you really are focused mainly on ToB, then you're probably looking at what, 4-5m XP from SoA? It's hard to estimate with all the mods around...

    That means it's probably realistic to dual with a HLA, if that is what you want. However, that actually is appealing mostly for Thieves, due to UAI - a single powerful HLA so you don't need to pick a whole lot more. Due to scaling for casters it's generally better to dual INTO a caster than the other way round, so the starting class is more likely going to be Fighter or Thief.

    That leaves various options. For a Fighter, you'll probably want to pick several HLAs, Whirlwinds and Hardiness and whatever you need for them. That's a bit of an XP strain. For a Thief, you can either just go with UAI, or pick up Spike Trap/Assassination as well (depending on kit).

    Thief Kits to dual from are basically Assassin and Swashbuckler, as they're probably the most powerful. Thieves get their HLA at lvl 24, though I suppose as a Swashbuckler you'd want to go with 25 for the extra round of kit bonuses. They don't really improve much afterwards.

    You can dual into Mage of course, or with a Swashbuckler it's also fun to dual into a Fighter (especially if you have UAI). A high lvl Swash->Fighter dual has LUDICROUS damage output, and can do pretty much anything thanks to UAI (don't think a pure Fighter could finish a SCS/Ascension game solo).

    A character like that would undoubtedly be very powerful. Can you imagine Mislead + x7 Backstabs? x5 Swashbuckler bonuses + Grandmastery/GWW, all the while wearing the best armor and weapons known to man?
  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,857
    The obvious answer you don't want is that high level duals are worth it when you don't care or don't mind the downtime. Anything dualed to mage has a negligible downtime, as mage levels quickly become extremely powerful. A mage starts having Web at lvl 3, and gets goodies like Slow at lvl 5, and since you can probably win most fights in the game with just a 9th lvl mage (5th lvl spells are pretty useful, though admitedly 6th for Contingency would be a huge buff). So, anything to mage is not truly going to have a downtime, it'll have a time when it's not a fighter or thief or cleric. *shrug* If you plan to do a dualed out fighter, Kensai is the one to dual late, and otherwise Berserker should be used. Kitless or WS are roleplay choices imho, and fine for that, but not powerful. Kensai should never dual before level 13 in BG2, as before that Berserker is straight up better. And frankly, neither is going to be best used in melee vs ToB bosses, so you get to save up some spell slots you'd waste vs mooks... mind you, Animate Dead can probably take care of any mooks, so this is kinda a moot point. I don't think fighter mages duals are ACTUALLY as good as they seem in BG2, but ymmv. Mage can be challenging in BG1 if you aren't used to playing them, but I don't think a dual fm gets enough buff to be worth the hassle. F/I is much better, MUCH better especially at ToB levels. Once you have 9th lvl spells, your as good a caster as the dual, and you're almost certainly a better fighter with access to HLAs.

    Thief and its kits are a very GOOD choice for dualing IMHO, both for interesting play and relative improvement. Of course, a multi-thief in most cases has the edge anyways, especially at high level play. The 'exception' would be if you're crazy enough to do a Thief to Cleric high level dual, likely Assassin or Swashbuckler. The idea would be get UAI before dualing, and for the Assassin you'd also get x7 backstab. Swashy would be a much better combatant, and some of the cleric buffs would have good synergy, but the big cool factor is the ability to use speed weapons after you dual. The Assassin would end up being the biggest backstabber you can build, while the Swashie would be a really easy solo I suspect once you get your thief abilities back. Mind you, losing out on HLA traps is very hard to accept, technically a cleric brings little to the table that extra Spike and Time Traps can't top, but this is definitely more of a fun build than overpowered.

    Thief to mage is great too, and has lots of synergy. Shadowdancer getting HiPS is really a big buff for a mage, at least until you get the Staff of the Magi. Overall though, as noted, hard to prove that any dual would actually be STRONGER than a T/I later on.

    Ranger duals can be interesting, and improve a Cleric's utility. Even Beastmaster's meatshields are nice for a cleric, though again, Animate Dead is clearly better with a Skeleton Warrior. Then again, I haven't ACTUALLY put a SW head to head with the summons from Summon Animals or whatever lvl 3 edition, the best one. I'd be surprised if they could match the SW though. Stalker always seemed an interesting dual choice, though you have those weapon restrictions to look forward to.

    Druid duals are nifty, but rarely very powerful. Kensai to Druid might not be terrible, assuming you are patient... Elemental Forms would get a nice buff. Could it top a Multi though in melee? Doubt it, though Kai would be scary with high damage fists I suppose. Low APR stinks though, and the multi can use GWW. Druid to Fighter is totally doable, the neat part is you get your Druid stuff back RELATIVELY quickly for a high level dual, but still pretty late. Getting a Druid kit can be fun though, a Shapeshifter to Fighter at high level could be an interesting playthrough, and Avenger would be making liberal use of his Sword Spider form I wager dualed to fighter, but this would start sucking before ToB I suspect, and you'd need to rely on weapons. Which is not forgiving for an Avenger, and plain Avenger might be better.

    So anyways, most of the very high level duals tend to be better than a multi right when they get their first class back, and usually for a few more levels. The exceptions tend to be Kensai/Thief or Swashbuckler/Fighter builds, which are probably not too much fun.
  • semiticgoddesssemiticgoddess Member Posts: 14,829
    The biggest problem with an Avenger dual is that you need a permanent STR bonus to dual-class to fighter, since Avengers have 16 max STR at character creation. You have to complete more than half of Watcher's Keep to do so, and that's no small feat. By the time you can dual your Avenger, you've already taken down some of the hardest challenges in the game.

    I've had great success with a Druid dual-classed to Fighter, though, in an SCS2+Tactics game. I dualed them at the beginning of the game and had them steal Cernd's Greater Werewolf Tokens for crazy resistances and regeneration.
  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,857
    @semiticgod Many people play BG1, which has a +1 str tome available late. Few would dual before that is available anyways I think.
  • GreenWarlockGreenWarlock Member Posts: 1,354

    You cannot discount downtime, because it's such a significant part of the process. The game is far more than merely the last chapters; in fact, in many respects the early/mid game is HARDER than the late game because of lack of tools.

    What difficulty setup are you running? Is it high enough for extreme min/max to actually have a measurable effect?

    I deliberately want to discount downtime as I am trying to work out what the prize at the end of the line is, not the cost for getting there. What does a late dual offer that is competitive with a plain multi-class of equivalently high level? Given the loss of HLAs, is the multi so far ahead that the dual can never catch up? Or are there interesting cases that merit further investigation?

    Once I know the end goal, THEN I am in a position to decide if it is worth the cost - but that cost has little bearing on comparing the out-and-out late game effectiveness of the dual vs. multi.

    That said, thanks all for some interesting observations. One straight-up abuse I am planning to experiment with (in due course) is a 'free' high-level dual by starting a PC in ToB for an immediate boost to 2.5M xp, dual to second class, then export/import into BG1. These characters preserve their high level dual xp, but are permanently stuck at first through the whole of BG1 (which I consider a reasonable down-payment on the downtime ;)) They will enter SoA with essentially no xp in the second class, but are carrying the hefty 2.5M xp bonus which I think will mean all NPCs join at max level. This plays nicely to the plot if I can time everything just right. Irenicus's original experiment untaps sufficient power that my lvl 1 character finally starts gaining xp and progressing. The trick is to reach my second goal and unlock the original class as I face down my nightmares in spell hold, unlocking the demons within...

    Still a cheesy overpowered run, and a high level dual without the HLAs, but might be a fun one-off. Thinking of dualing out of Swashbuckler, although there are some persuasive suggestions above to consider assassin.
  • GrumGrum Member, Mobile Tester Posts: 2,100

    Use any items. Caramosyr. Grandmastery in great swords.

    You'd have Thaco and AC at godlike levels. You'd be hitting with insane speed and skill with an amazing weapon that gives massive amounts of magic resistance. Sure, no backstab...but with that sword you don't need it.

    It also let's you use scrolls that only clerics/mages can use. Imagine time stopping with him? Add in improved haste and critical hit...I doubt that many foes could stand up to that.
  • Lord_TansheronLord_Tansheron Member Posts: 4,208
    Would be my choice as well. I just love Swash->Fighter, even at low levels; I do hate thieves in general, but this one I hate the least.
  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,857
    Interesting side-thought, if you solo BG1, and are not terribly concerned about BG2, dualing gets very interesting, since HLAs aren't an issue. HLAs really beat the bejeesus out of almost any dual I've noticed, but if you aren't playing ToB, or aren't accessing HLAs, duals get MUCH better. IWD is kinda the opposite, but it has a small buff for multis that they have a higher cap I suppose to offset the sheer greatness of dualing.

    So, if we take out ToB from the discussion, how does this change things I wonder? Obviously duals get better, but which duals are among the best? Assassin to Fighter or Bounty Hunter to Fighter are both incredibly good in BG1 I know, though regaining your thief abilities is beyond tedious. Dartssassin is amazing in BG1, especially if you have removed the cap to let you take an extra fighter level after dualing for GM (mind you, if you let yourself level up freely as a solo in BG1, you'd get some insane XP without the cap, so its very easy to just unbalance things. Thieves at least are LESS prone to standard Godmode shenanigans that Mages or even Clerics in BG1 can get up to). Thieves are great, and dualed to Fighter is a very interesting challenge. A Dartssassin with only 4 pips in darts is still a beast.

    Obviously Berserker to Anything Ever is great in BG1, but Druid is I suppose the standout.
  • MalacPokMalacPok Member Posts: 96

    Then I hit the breaking point, I get an overpowered character... and abruptly lose interest. Why bother going on? The rest of the game is going to be terribly easy anyway.

    If you are truly powerful then it takes much less time to finish the game. On the other hand, ToB has some challenging fights. The last battle is never too easy. The point where I lose interest is where no serious power advancement is to be expected anymore, but the rest of the game still could be a struggle. "Sure, I could kill all those fire giants, but why bother with it? Just haste + invis and finish the level quickly."
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