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Luck: What it is and how it works

AlonsoAlonso Member Posts: 388
This mini article discusses luck in the games. Most of the information here has been provided by @semiticgod.

The confusion

The concept of luck is never explained in the game or the manuals, and most of the information they provide about luck is either wrong or misleading. This mini article tries to clarify the confusion.
The source of confusion is a number of inconsistencies in the manuals and the games:
  • Luck is the name of a spell, but it’s also the name of an effect, like the blinded effect or the confused effect. So far, so good. Intuitively, you would expect that the Luck spell would simply improve somebody’s luck. However, that’s not the case. The Luck spell does improve luck, but it also gives several other bonuses (to saving throws and thieving skills) which are unrelated to luck (the luck state, that is).
  • Both the luck effect and the Luck spell work differently in IWD2 and the rest of the games.
  • There are two kinds of luck effects, one which stacks and one which doesn’t. The luck obtained from the Luck spell, Chant, and the Lucky Scimitar in IWD does not stack. However, the luck obtained from other sources does. So…

What is luck?

Luck is an effect that affects a character's performance in combat. Positive luck means better performance, negative luck means worse performance.

What does it do?

As stated above, it does different things in different games:

All games bar IWD2

Luck affects to-hit rolls, spell damage taken and physical damage dealt.

A lucky character hits more often, deals more damage with weapons, and takes less magical damage. By magical damage I mean all effects outside a weapon's base damage. That includes damage from spells, wands, abilities, weapon elemental damage, etc.

Luck bonuses are added to each to-hit roll and physical damage roll, and substracted from each magical damage roll. Luck penalties work the other way around. But remember, this is AD&D, it’s always more complicated. Just adding a bonus to your roll would be too “simple”. And who wants something simple when you can have exactly the same thing, but twice as complicated? Well, you, me, the rest of the world… but not the AD&D creators, for sure. So this is the whole story:

Each time a die is rolled and a luck modification applies, the modification is added or substracted from the roll, but without exceeding the roll natural limits. What? You didn’t understand that? Don’t worry, neither did I the first 200 times. Let's see: The "natural limits" of a roll are its maximum and minimum values. For instance, the natural limits of a d20 roll are 1 and 20. An example might help:

Flint the warrior has a +2 luck bonus. He attacks twice with his long sword (1d6 damage). The first time he attacks he rolls a 15. Adding the luck bonus, his effective attack roll is 17 (hit). He rolls a 3 in his damage roll. The luck bonus means he actually inflicts 5 damage (we assume there aren’t other bonuses/penalties).

The second time he rolls a 19 in his attack roll. The luck bonus would make that a 21, but since 21 is outside the natural limits of a d20 roll (1-20), it actually makes it a 20 (hit). By the way, he does NOT get a critical hit (unless he already had a critical with 19, of course). Then he rolls a 6 in his damage roll. Again, the luck bonus would make that an 8, but since 8 is outside the natural limits of a d6 (1-6), the result stays at 6, i.e., he only inflicts 6 points of damage.

Now a 5th level mage casts a Fire Ball on our poor Flint. That’s 5d6 points of damage. The rolls of those 5 dice are: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Without his luck bonus, Flint would take 1+2+3+4+5 = 15 points of damage. However, the luck bonus reduces the damage he takes. The 5 becomes a 3, the 4 becomes a 2, the 3 becomes a 1. But again, the luck effect cannot modify a roll beyond its natural limits (1-6 in this case), so the the 2 just becomes a 1 and the 1 remains unchanged. The result is that he takes 1+1+1+2+3 = 8 points of damage.

IWD2

Apart from the effects listed for the other games, in IWD2 luck also affects critical hit and critical miss chances (so in our previous example our warrior does make a critical when he rolls 19). That's especially useful because (1) nothing is immune to critical hits in IWD2, and (2) hammers, halberds, spears, arrows, and axes deal triple damage rather than double damage on critical hits.

How do you get lucky (or unlucky)?

This is a list of the sources of luck (positive or negative) in all the games (except Planescape:Torment, I don't have information about that one). Some of these sources only affect luck itself, others create other effects as well.

All games

Fatigue: -1 luck when the character becomes fatigued. An extra -1 for every extra four hours without resting.
Intoxication: Penalty to luck and bonus to morale. The penalty goes from -2 to -12 and the bonus from +2 to +12, both depending on the amount of drink taken and the constitution of the character. The negative effects of the penalty always outweigh the benefits of the bonus. Slow Poison and Heal cure it.

All games bar IWD2 (i.e.: BG1, BG2, SoD and IWD)

Luck spell: +1 luck, +1 to saves, +5% thief skills.
Chant: +1 luck, +1 to saves, +1 to healing rolls (Staff of Curing, Mass Cure spell, etc.)

BG series: BG1, BG2 and SoD

Bard Song (unkitted): +1 luck at level 1, +2 at level 15, +3 at level 20.
Blade song: +1 luck (doesn't scale with level).

Baldur's Gate

Rabbit's Foot (Alora): +2 luck, +2 AC, +10% thief skills.

Baldur's Gate II

Wish spell: Two of its effects affect luck: One intoxicates enemies, giving them a -12 luck penalty for 200 rounds. It bypasses magic resistance and offers no saving throw. It is dispellable and can be blocked by Spell Immunity: Enchantment and possibly Minor Globe of Invulnerability, as it is a level 3 Enchantment spell. Slow Poison and Heal cure it.
The other effect gives -5 luck for 60 seconds party-wide.

Icewind Dale

Lucky Scimitar: +1 luck.
Tymora's Melody: +1 luck, +3 to saving throws, +5% thief skills.

Icewind Dale 2

Luck spell: +1 luck.
Tymora's Melody: +1 luck, +3 to saving throws, +2 to thief skills, Alchemy, and Knowledge (Arcana).
Tymora's Loop (extremely rare random drop): +3 luck.
Breaking the mirror in the Ice Temple: -20 luck.
Chant: Unknown.

Note: Originally this post was a set of questions about luck. I include the original post in the spoiler for reference:

I’m trying to understand the concept of luck in the game, but most of the information I’ve found is confusing or contradictory. I’ve compiled information from the manuals and the forums trying to clarify it:

Manuals

Survival Guide:
  • While the [bard] song is playing, the party’s morale and luck are higher.
  • A character can continue to operate at peak efficiency for 24 hours in game-time (2 hours realtime). After that, the characters will start to complain and their attributes begin to suffer. For every four hours beyond this 24-hour mark, the player will receive a –1 luck penalty (–1 to all rolls).
  • Intoxicated characters gain a morale bonus, but receive a luck penalty.
MM&M:
  • Luck spell: The recipient of this spell is lucky in everything they do for the next 3 rounds, receiving a 5% bonus to any actions. This includes Saving Throws, to-hit rolls, thieving skills, etc.
Adventurer’s guide:
  • Fatigued characters suffer a –1 penalty to luck; every four hours after becoming fatigued, this penalty increases by one. […] Luck affects every d20 roll your character makes.
  • THAC0 and Armor Class: The d20 roll can also be modified by circumstances such as spells, special abilities, and luck.
  • Luck spell: This spell’s recipient is lucky in everything they do for 3 rounds. They receive a +1 bonus to all actions, including Saving Throws, to-hit rolls, thieving skills, and anything else requiring a d20 roll. Contradictory: Thieving skills don't use d20 rolls.
Summary:
  • Stuff that affects luck:
    • Bard song: Unspecified bonus.
    • Intoxication: Unspecified penalty.
    • Fatigue: -1 penalty for every four hours fatigued.
    • Luck spell: 5% bonus to all actions (?). Alternatively, +1 bonus to all actions.
  • Effects of luck:
    • -1 to all rolls for each -1 penalty.
    • Affects Saving Throws, to-hit rolls, thieving skills, etc.
    • Affects d20 rolls.

Forum

These are summaries of the most interesting posts I've read. They're not quotes, so I hope I got them right:
  • @lunar: Luck adjusts damage rolls. When casting offensive spells which involve dice rolling your luck bonus is added to each die roll, up to the maximum die roll result.
  • @JuliusBorisov: A luck bonus reduces the damage taken from magic and elemental damage by one point per die, down to a minimum of 1.
  • @Semiticgod: There are two different effects called luck, and they work in more or less different ways.
  • @Ark_Tolei: Luck doesn’t affect damage (dealt or taken).

Conclusion

My completely uneducated guess is that the key to understanding this is this post by semiticgod. If I get that right (and I probably don’t) the source of the confusion is the fact that the word “luck” is used in the game to describe two different effects rather than one. These two effects work similarly in some aspects and differently in others, hence the contradictions and the confusion.

What do you think?

Post edited by Alonso on
semiticgodJuliusBorisovgorgonzolalolienGrond0mashedtatersjustfeelinathomeAbelCrevsDaakAndreaColomboBlackravenBorcometaentityProontSon_of_ImoenFenghoangbooinyoureyesRik_Kirtaniya
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Comments

  • RaduzielRaduziel Member Posts: 2,664
    edited September 2016
    +5% to all rolls = +1 to all rolls

    I'm failing to see the contradiction.

  • AlonsoAlonso Member Posts: 388
    As I say above, thieving skills don't use d20 rolls, they use "d100" rolls. In those rolls +5% is +5. Apart from that, depending on who you ask, luck also affects d4 rolls, d6 rolls, etc.

  • WowoWowo Member Posts: 2,058
    The best thing about luck is that it affects attack rolls before its determined if you have a critical hit - hence a normal character with +1 luck doubles the amount of criticals.

    Add in single weapon style and that katana from dragons eye and 20% of all hits are criticals!

    RaduzielAerakar
  • RaduzielRaduziel Member Posts: 2,664
    Alonso said:

    As I say above, thieving skills don't use d20 rolls, they use "d100" rolls. In those rolls +5% is +5. Apart from that, depending on who you ask, luck also affects d4 rolls, d6 rolls, etc.

    When rolling a d100, add 5%.

    When rolling a d20, add 5% (+1).

    I'm not trying to troll you, I really can't understand what the problem is despite your text. Maybe it's some language barrier that I'm unable to get through.

  • lroumenlroumen Member Posts: 1,495
    I would be interested to know how luck affects the wild mage table if at all.

  • FlashburnFlashburn Member Posts: 1,486
    From the Rogue Rebalancing readme (since it adds a couple of items that give a luck bonus via opcode 22):

    "For every point of Luck, the character receives a +1 bonus to the minimum damage caused by his weapons (up to the normal maximum damage of the weapons) and a +1 bonus to hit. Furthermore, each point of Luck also reduces the damage from offensive spells by 1 dice roll (i.e. a character with 1 Luck would receive 10d5 damage from a Fireball instead of 10d6). Multiple Luck bonuses are cumulative and stack with each other. These bonuses are not visible on the character record screen but they do show up in the combat log."

    subtledoctorgorgonzolalolienPteran
  • lunarlunar Member Posts: 3,340
    So technically I was wrong when and if I said luck boosts spell damage dealt. Huh.

    Fatigue incurs bad luck, right? When fatigued my characters miss a lot more and when a spell hits them they take more damage than I expect them to. Is this the luck effect?

    Alonso
  • SharGuidesMyHandSharGuidesMyHand Member Posts: 2,367

    Does luck affect your HP rolls when leveling up?

    gorgonzola
  • JuliusBorisovJuliusBorisov Member, Administrator, Moderator, Developer Posts: 15,441


    Does luck affect your HP rolls when leveling up?

    Unfortunately, no.

    gorgonzolaloliensemiticgod
  • gorgonzolagorgonzola Member Posts: 1,516



    In BG1, BG2, and SOD, luck DOES affect:

    .........................

    Luck does NOT affect:

    .........................

    5. Thieving skills

    So a lucky warrior will hit more often,.............. A lucky thief isn't better at stealing or hiding.

    Casting luck on my thief in BG2 on the character record screen, in the tab of the abilities, is shown a 5 points increment, if his pickpocket is let's say 100, after he receives the spell 105 is shown.
    I don't know if you are right, and what is reported in the character record screen reports something wrongly, without the increment being really implemented, or if you are wrong about this point.

    Alonso
  • subtledoctorsubtledoctor Member Posts: 9,081
    @gorgonzola that's because the Luck spell has extra effects to boost thief skills by 5. But as @semiticgod stated, those are not part of the luck effect

    gorgonzolasemiticgodJuliusBorisovlolien
  • gorgonzolagorgonzola Member Posts: 1,516
    I understand now, thanks.
    It seems to me quite complicated, if someone wants to play the game and not use near infinity and deal with opcodes, spell mechanics and similar stuff.
    Maybe we can work out together a list for each game that shows the possible sources of luck and indicate also what it does, avoiding technicalities like the opcode does not do it but also an other opcode is applied so the effect is present, and with what it stacks.
    Something that can help who doesn't like to look in the engine mechanics, but wants to use the spells/items that in the in game description state that they increase luck in an informed way. then maybe the OP can edit the opening post and add those list.

    Alonso
  • gorgonzolagorgonzola Member Posts: 1,516
    edited September 2016
    @semiticgod fantastic!

    Can you please edit your list and add also what stacks with itself and the others? Ie in BG2 if luck spell (+1) compensate a -1 from fatigue or is possible to have +5 luck staking lev20 bard song, chant and luck spell?
    Then it would be perfect. EDIT thanks, now is perfect.

    I am gonna put this topic in my bookmarks.

    Post edited by gorgonzola on
    semiticgod
  • subtledoctorsubtledoctor Member Posts: 9,081
    edited September 2016


    It seems to me quite complicated, if someone wants to play the game and not use near infinity and deal with opcodes, spell mechanics and similar stuff.

    I think the easiest way to think about it is, when you have Luck in these games everything is a bit more survivable. You are slightly more likely to be the guy who escapes a Fireball with just a few scratches while the guy next to you is horribly maimed. Not for nothing, one of the components of Story Mode is a +6 luck bonus for the whole party...

    The spell does a bit more (skills, saves, etc.), but that's the essence of the effect.

    gorgonzola
  • gorgonzolagorgonzola Member Posts: 1,516
    You are true, is the easiest way, and it suffice for most of the players.
    But the tread is helping me a lot to understand how much it helps and when it helps.
    Because is easy to overrate or underrate something that you don't know.
    Now I know that if I want to help my thief to steal or hide the luck spell is useful but there is no point to have a bard singing or waste a chant spell for it. and knowing if I can get a massive +5 bonus, maybe in order to backstab some nasty enemy, staking the song of a lev 20 bard and the 2 spells or if is not useful because they don't stack is also important to know when is worth to try to increase luck instead of having the party members doing something more useful in that moment.
    And the fact that in BG2 only the luck spell improves saving throws is a very important thing to know when you are trying to survive some encounters where you know that the party members or charname risk a pietrification or an istant killing spell.

    Alonso
  • AlonsoAlonso Member Posts: 388
    edited September 2016

    maybe the OP can edit the opening post and add those list.

    Yeah, I'd like to do that, but first I'd like to clarify the parts that I don't understand:


    In BG1, BG2, and SOD, luck DOES affect:

    1. To-hit rolls
    2. Spell damage taken
    3. Physical damage dealt

    Luck does NOT affect:

    1. Critical hit and critical miss chances (unconfirmed)
    2. Physical damage taken
    3. Spell damage dealt
    4. Saving throws
    5. Thieving skills

    [...]

    Chant technically isn't luck, but it has the exact same effects.

    While checking this I realized that the description of Chant in the manuals and in the game are contradictory. Taking the description from the manual (just because I can copy and paste): "all attack and damage rolls and Saving Throws made by the caster’s allies gain +1 bonuses, while those of the priest’s enemies suffer –1 penalties".

    If your list is correct (specifically 2 in the first list and 2 and 4 in the second) then the description in the manuals is incorrect (and the description in the game even more so).

    Apart from that, what is an opcode?

    semiticgod
  • RaduzielRaduziel Member Posts: 2,664
    Is there an opcode list?

  • Grond0Grond0 Member Posts: 3,324
    Flashburn said:

    From the Rogue Rebalancing readme (since it adds a couple of items that give a luck bonus via opcode 22):

    "For every point of Luck, the character receives a +1 bonus to the minimum damage caused by his weapons (up to the normal maximum damage of the weapons) and a +1 bonus to hit. Furthermore, each point of Luck also reduces the damage from offensive spells by 1 dice roll (i.e. a character with 1 Luck would receive 10d5 damage from a Fireball instead of 10d6). Multiple Luck bonuses are cumulative and stack with each other. These bonuses are not visible on the character record screen but they do show up in the combat log."

    Anyone able to confirm this is how it works? I always thought the effect of luck was to reduce the actual die roll, i.e. a d6 would be rolled, but then reduced by 1 (with a minimum of 1). That's more advantageous than rolling a d5 as you would have 1/3 chance of a result of 1 damage instead of 1/5. I did test this behaviour quite a few years ago on a heavily modded installation and am pretty sure that worked by reducing the die roll, but I suppose that could have been the effect of mods.

    Flashburn
  • AlonsoAlonso Member Posts: 388
    @semiticgod: What about the other differences?

    Note: The difference between the description of Chant in the game and in the manual is that the game says that it also affects magical damage (both dealt and taken).

  • gorgonzolagorgonzola Member Posts: 1,516
    he told:
    In BG1, BG2, and SOD, luck DOES affect:
    2. Spell damage taken
    Luck does NOT affect:
    3. Spell damage dealt

    and also:
    Chant works like luck, but it also improves all saving throws by 1.

    So I would say only magical damage dealt, and magical damage is a very improper term that should be not used in manuals and descriptions as is easy to confuse it with magic damage (the one of MM and ADHW), spell damage is the correct definition.

  • semiticgodsemiticgod Member, Moderator Posts: 9,574
    Alonso said:

    @semiticgod: What about the other differences?

    Note: The difference between the description of Chant in the game and in the manual is that the game says that it also affects magical damage (both dealt and taken).

    The positive version of Chant, cast on the party, does not improve the spell damage you deal, but the negative version of Chant, cast on the enemy, does increase the spell damage the enemy takes. Chant actually casts two spells, one with a projectile that only affects the party and bypasses magic resistance, and another with a projectile that only affects the enemy and does not bypass magic resistance.

    If the enemy isn't in range when Chant is cast, or if they resist the effect using magic resistance or MGOI, they will not receive any penalties. If Chant does hit them, though, they will take more damage from your spells.

    JuliusBorisovmf2112
  • AlonsoAlonso Member Posts: 388
    edited September 2016
    I meant the other differences between the descriptions of Chant and your description of the luck effect.

    Anyway, since you mention it...


    The positive version of Chant, cast on the party, does not improve the spell damage you deal, but the negative version of Chant, cast on the enemy, does increase the spell damage the enemy takes.

    What's the difference between the spell damage you deal and the spell damage the enemy takes? They sound like the same thing to me (in this context).

  • GrimLefourbeGrimLefourbe Member Posts: 634
    The chant debuff is affected by magic resist and the buff isn't so they only take more damage if their magic resist check fails.

    Also, if someone enters the fight after the chant spell has been cast, they will not take increased damage from your spells where as they would if the chant spell buffed your characters.

    Other stuff like that.

    semiticgod
  • semiticgodsemiticgod Member, Moderator Posts: 9,574
    Alonso said:


    What's the difference between the spell damage you deal and the spell damage the enemy takes? They sound like the same thing to me (in this context).

    Friendly fire. Not all of your spell damage hurt the enemy, and not all of their spell damage hurts you. Also, since Chant will not bypass magic resistance or MGOI, not all enemies will get affected in the first place. So it's misleading to say that Chant increases your spell damage, because some enemies will resist Chant.

  • AlonsoAlonso Member Posts: 388
    This is getting quite complicated. Let's try to clarify one thing at a time: What description of Chant is correct, the one in the manuals or the one in the games?

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