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Ranged Kensai is awesome

ArunsunArunsun Member Posts: 1,584
Being really bored a week or two ago, I decided to carry out a playthrough with classes I have never played before. My choice was Kensai (I had never played a non-dualed Kensai before). Quickly analyzing its pros and cons, I figured out he was going to be most squishy due to bad AC. Then I thought, let's play something else I have never played with, it is to say throwing daggers.
Kensai cannot wield standard ranged weapons (namely Bows, darts and slings) but nothing prevents him from wielding weapons meant to be melee with a couple of exception. I did a bit of research and found that there were quite a few interesting weapons that matched my criteria.
Here they are:
Boomerang dagger+2
Dwarven Thrower+3
Hangard's Axe+2

All of them are available as soon as chapter 2 after a small quest/fight and are very reliable through most of SoA, at least until you get the OP ranged dagger that is firetooth. I advice you to pick pip in daggers and go for Boomy dagger, because the extra attack per round from throwing daggers will best use your innate damage boost. Throwing daggers also benefit from STR whereas Hangard's axe does not (it should get it though if I am not mistaken). Overall Boomy Dagger is the one that will provide you the best damage, and it should be your main weapon. Its only downside is that it is only +2 which means some enemies will be immune to it. But you will encounter not so many of them before you get firetooth (Only some liches come to mind, but you have Azuredge for them).

The two other noticeable ranged weapons are Klogarath+4, mainly because it is +4 which makes it the weapon to hit the few enemies immune to +3 and less weapon, and firetooth of course, for its insane damage. These two are obtainable later in the game but both should be your choice weapon when lategame comes.

What else could I had ...
A warrior gets a total of 17 pips. I would advice picking 5 pips in dagger ASAP, as these are your main weapon, then two pips in axes, two pips in two-weapon style (just because sometimes you gotta go melee. You are still a melee beast as long as you do not get focused), then 3 last pips in axes.
Five are left to you but you will get these quite late. I haven't been that far so far with my ranged Kensai.
There are a couple of items you might want to get, most notably the ring of duplication (just because you will get hit every time due to bad AC, mirror image will come handy).
Do not forget to use barkskin if you bring a druid along, as it will get your AC to a decent, yet not so fabulous AC.

As for the question that WILL be asked:
Why would you do a ranged Kensai rather than an archer?
Archer and Kensai supposedly get the same damage and thac0 bonuses according to their class description. However, archers get less levels (rangers need more experience per level) and its bonus does not increase linearly at later levels. In the end, an archer has +10 to thac0 and damage, Kensai has +13.
Kensai has access to more interesting races, namely half orc (19 STR and CON) and dwarf (19 con+ Shorty bonus to Saving throws).
Kensai still is a beast in melee if need be.
STR bonuses are much bigger than DEX when you achieve 19 or more.
Kensai's Grandmastery also works for melee weapons.
The only saddening point is that Archer gets something Kensai would love: Armor of Faith. But this is not so much of a problem if you are playing ranged.

Post edited by Arunsun on


  • JuliusBorisovJuliusBorisov Member, Administrator, Moderator, Developer Posts: 21,917
    edited April 2015
    I'm currently thinking about trying a ranged wizard slayer solo through both games and the thing you've raised, @Arunsun , about using returning weapons instead of bows/crossbows , is absolutely legit for such a character as well.

    I have to mention that there're throwing axes in BGEE as well:

    Beruel's retort (Throwing axes +1) - Blacksmith in Beregost
    Throwing Axe +2 (returning) as a loot from Prat in the Candlekeep catacombs.

    Plus there're always throwing daggers for sale that can hit harder than arrows because of STR bonuses.

    Post edited by JuliusBorisov on
  • joluvjoluv Member Posts: 2,136
    bengoshi said:

    I have to mention that there're returning axes in BGEE as well:

    Beruel's retort (Throwing axes +1) - Blacksmith in Beregost

    I thought those weren't returning.

  • lunarlunar Member Posts: 3,430
    joluv said:

    bengoshi said:

    I have to mention that there're returning axes in BGEE as well:

    Beruel's retort (Throwing axes +1) - Blacksmith in Beregost

    I thought those weren't returning.
    They are not returning but they are cheap and many. The cheapest +1 melee weapon to buy is this axe, just put only one in a different weapon slot and set it to melee exclusively.

  • JuliusBorisovJuliusBorisov Member, Administrator, Moderator, Developer Posts: 21,917
    I thought "throwing" and not "returning", I swear!

  • reedmilfamreedmilfam Member Posts: 2,808
    The only problem I had with throwing axes is that they are heavy. Can't rack up ammo like I was used to with slings and arrows of misfortune... I mean bolts, bullets and arrows.

  • SkatanSkatan Member, Moderator Posts: 5,333
    edited April 2015
    Don't forget to buy some cheap poison throwing daggers, they are quite useful vs mages etc, don't weigh or cost much and with warrior APR, they will be very effective. Poison daggers are available from the minute you get out of the dungeon.

    Edit: Re-read and realized you are way too far into the game for this particular advice.

  • ArunsunArunsun Member Posts: 1,584
    @Skatan poison daggers are considered as non-magical AFAIK which makes them ever useful against mages as it gets through Stoneskin and PfMW

  • joluvjoluv Member Posts: 2,136
    Arunsun said:

    poison daggers are considered as non-magical AFAIK which makes them ever useful against mages as it gets through Stoneskin and PfMW

    I just confirmed that they get through PfMW in BG2EE 1.3.

  • JuliusBorisovJuliusBorisov Member, Administrator, Moderator, Developer Posts: 21,917
    Another returning axe available not very far from the start is the Rifthome Axe +3 (dropped by one of the Shadow Thieves guarding the shipment in the Docks District in Chapter 3 if you sided with Bodhi)

    Also, you have to remember that Azuredge, although it doesn't have a damage and a THAC0 bonuses, actually counts as a +3 weapon.

  • GoturalGotural Member Posts: 1,229
  • YupImMadBroYupImMadBro Member, Mobile Tester Posts: 347
    I've never heard of the Klogarath+4 before. Where is it located?

  • joluvjoluv Member Posts: 2,136
    @YupImMadBro: It's sold in the smugglers' cave in Amkethran.

  • Manveru123Manveru123 Member Posts: 52
    With that THAC0 you can probably hit a Mosquito in the eye.

    How's the actual damage output compared to a similar level Archer?

  • MalacPokMalacPok Member Posts: 96
    The kensai is usually used as a base ingredient for some clever dual class, but this kit simply cannot be made more awesome by mixing it with other stuff. It's already maximally full-on bad-ass. Low AC? Who cares? Enemies won't even have time hitting you. Killing dragons with a kensai does not require such lame activities as preparing yourself. You see dragon. Walk up to it. Hit it several times. The End (...of the dragon).

    The true advantage of the kensai is that he can turn any weapon into a tool of mass destruction. You don't have to search for that One Epic Sword of Killerness. Just use Neb's Nasty Cutter, if you happen to fancy its particular shape. If the weapon CAN hit that enemy, it WILL slaughter it.

  • joluvjoluv Member Posts: 2,136

    How's the actual damage output compared to a similar level Archer?

    Do you mean an Archer throwing K'logarath? They'll do less damage. They get the same +1 damage bonus per three levels, but an Archer can only take one pip in axes. Also, Archers can't be Half-Orcs, so that's one less point of strength. You said "similar level," but remember that a Kensai can get six levels higher than an Archer, which means 2 extra points of damage at the XP cap.

  • pixie359pixie359 Member Posts: 251
    Shirley the appropriate comparison is against an archer arching, not axing?

  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,859
    I think its a known known that throwing Kensai can do more damage than an Archer at high levels.

    They DO have a much, much harder time getting to those high levels though, and have less tools other than pure damage compared to an archer. The Archer will be vastly more durable at high levels though, AoF.

  • MalacPokMalacPok Member Posts: 96
    The main advantage the Archer has over the Kensai is his ability to use Vhailor's helm. Puff! Suddenly your damage output has doubled! Also, bows have a longer range than throwing axes.

  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,859
    Well, I'd have said spells and armour were pretty awesome boni, but I agree, helms are lovely. Especially at low levels when one crit can result in a 'bad time'.

  • semiticgoddesssemiticgoddess Member Posts: 14,831
    @MalacPok: That's an extremely important point. Vhailor's Helm is a tremendous boost to a fighter's damage output, and Kensais are totally locked out of that unless they dual to thief or use the potion swap glitch.

    I just did the math. With maxed-out everything, an Archer with a Simulacrum does more damage than a Kensai alone.

    Kensai level 40, Ranger level 34
    Maxed proficiencies
    Flail of Ages +5, Firetooth +5
    Greater Whirlwind Attack
    Kai (10 seconds), Called Shot (12 seconds)
    24 STR from Hell bonus and Girdle of Fire Giant Strength (Kensai only)
    Gauntlets of Extraordinary Specialization (Archer only)
    +13 kit bonus on the Kensai, +8 on the Archer, +6 on the clone

    With a pre-cast Kai and Called Shot, a Kensai does just under 490 damage per round. An Archer and its simulacrum together do 510 damage per round. If we use Ixil's Spike and assume a 1/3 chance of pinning the target (average save vs. death for big enemies in ToB is 6), then the Archer gains the advantage, but if the Archer uses Bolts of Lightning, it regains the advantage, even if the enemy always makes its saving throw.

    At lower levels, with SoA items, the damage is more even. The Archer can match a Flail of Ages+Belm dual-wield with Darts +5 from the Cloak of Stars (which unfortunately can no longer be made permanent in EE) or with Bolts of Lightning and either Firetooth or the Light Crossbow of Speed.

  • MalacPokMalacPok Member Posts: 96
    The problem with such comparisons is that efficiency of a class\weapon\skill\party-composition combination highly depends on specific situations. Even if something does +5% more damage during the standard adventuring phase, where every foe falls easily, there might be a few encounters, where a different thing could make victory much easier.

    Therefore the analysis needs to focus more on the hardest situations, such as the final battle. For example, there's the conventional wisdom, supported by sound math, that Critical Strike is better than Greater Whirlwind. This may hold true for 99% of the game, except for that one complicated battle, where the enemy is immune to criticals and likes to dispel your Improved Haste. That's the point where you prefer having a steady stock of no-questions-asked 10 APR giving skill to use it with your best weapon at hand.

    I think the kensai has a major advantage over the archer for its versatility. He has a much wider selection of weapons to pick from. The kit bonuses (and GM) can make ANY weapon lethal. How about a chance to insta-kill enemies? Give him GWW and a Silver Sword.

  • JarrakulJarrakul Member Posts: 2,029
    @semiticgod, shouldn't the archer's kit bonus be +11? Level cap for rangers is 34, not 24. Also, the hell trial bonus no longer applies after belts in BG2EE, so the highest strength you're gonna get as a kensai is 23 (19 base, +1 tome, +2 hell trial, +1 MoLtM). That swings things slightly farther in the archer's favor.

  • MalacPokMalacPok Member Posts: 96
    You can get another STR point by playing with the Deck of Many Things.

  • GoturalGotural Member Posts: 1,229
    @Jarrakul You forgot the Deck of Many Thing +1 to main stat (in this case, Str).

  • JarrakulJarrakul Member Posts: 2,029
    Ah, good point @MalacPok and @Gotural. I always forget about that one.

  • semiticgoddesssemiticgoddess Member Posts: 14,831
    Even with Critical Strike and Improved Haste, the Archer has a damage advantage, if it uses Bolts of Lightning. More so than its disadvantage using Firetooth's base ammunition. This requires an extra casting of Improved Haste for the clone, but then, I just performed this calculation to get an idea of the potential. There are similar costs associated with all of these decisions.

    I didn't want to address whether the Kensai or the Archer is more effective overall. That would become a much more complicated affair, bringing in a lot more factors:

    Kensai: Celestial Fury
    Archer: Arrows of Dispelling
    Kensai: Vorpal Sword
    Archer: STR drain
    Kensai: FoA slow effect
    Archer: Called Shot save penalties
    Kensai: Gnasher
    Archer: Darts +5
    Kensai: AC bonus
    Archer: Ranger stealth
    Kensai: Dual-classing options
    Archer: Range

    But the Kensai damage advantage can be overcome with Vhailor's Helm. Whether that makes the Archer better than the Kensai is a much longer question.

  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,859
    Well, it can be overcome for a limited window of opportunity remember, you'd have to rest again to cast another Simulacrum, meaning until then you're not dealing as much damage.

  • ArunsunArunsun Member Posts: 1,584
    I am not sure Simulacrum makes such a change considering that many enemies cast true sight which dispels it

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