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A comparison of Ranged Attackers in BG2

Warning: Incoming Wall of Text. Turn back now.

The Archer discussion recently, as well as my most recent Archer charname bringing his quest to a close, inspired me to crunch some numbers to create a base damage comparison between the various ranged classes one might be interested in trying. And since end-game comparisons ignore the entire journey to get there, I made comparisons at three different points: 300k experience, (i.e. fresh out of Chateau Irenicus with maybe one quest under your belt), 2.95m experience, (i.e. the old SoA level cap), and 6.5m experience, (i.e. late-game ToB). I've given each character appropriate gear for their level, and have excluded all ToB items from the first two comparisons, (including things like Firetooth that you could technically grab right away).

I've assumed all characters were imported from BG1 (so stats include tome boosts), and that they choose the good path in Hell, (so -1 dex there, and no +2 strength bonus). And obviously I'm withholding the Lum the Mad boosts until the final comparison. I'm also not writing up any Dart specialists because they're strictly inferior to the Shortbow-users, and I'm not writing up any Axe/Hammer throwers, because they get handily outperformed by the Dagger-tossers, (outside of Azuredge against undead, of course). I did include a Longbow and a non-LCoS crossbow at the 2.95m mark so you could see how much they suck compared to their shortbow/LCoS peers.

Also: yes, these are just damage numbers. No, a character's worth is not solely, or even perhaps primarily, determined by how much damage he can put out. Yes, I'm okay with that.

To avoid too much clutter (lol), I'll put the details of each character in spoiler tags and just list the raw damage per round (DPR) numbers in the post body.

300k Experience

Level 9 Elven Archer with 20 dex, Tuigan Shortbow, and Arrows +1
Level 9 Elven Archer with 20 dex, Light Crossbow of Speed, and Bolts +1
Level 9 Half-Orc Kensai with 20 str, 19 dex, and the Boomerang Dagger
Level 9 Halfling Fighter with 20 dex, the Girdle of Hill Giant Strength, Arla's Dragonbane, and +2 bullets

All characters with appropriate Grandmastery

80.5 DPR - Kensai w/ Boomerang Dagger (1 THACO)
56.25 DPR - Archer w/ Tuigan Shortbow (0 THACO)
51.25 DPR - Fighter w/ Arla's Dragonbane (0 THACO)
47.25 DPR - Archer w/ Light Crossbow of Speed (1 THACO)

2.95m Experience

All Archers are level 17 Elves with 19 dex and the Gauntlets of Weapon Skill. Bow-wielders have equipped Acid Arrows. Crossbow-wielders are using Bolts of Lightning.
The Kensai is level 19 with 18 dex, the Girdle of Frost Giant Strength, and no gloves, because Kensai.
The Fighter is a level 19 Halfling with 19 dex, gauntlets of Weapon Skill, Sling of Arvoreen, and +2 Bullets
The Fighter>Cleric is a level 13>15 dual with gauntlets of Weapon Skill, Sling of Arvoreen, and +2 Bullets
The Cleric>Fighter is a level 11>17 dual from the Priest of Lathander kit with the same gear
Both cleric duals pre-buff with Righteous Magic and DUHM. Additionally, the Priest of Lathander dual uses Boon of Lathander.

Again, all classes have the relevant grandmastery.

The DPR ranges with the Crossbows correspond to enemies making every save vs. spell and missing every save vs. spell. Actual damage will be somewhere in the middle.

132 DPR - Cleric>Fighter w/ Sling of Arvoreen (-11 THACO)
118 DPR - Kensai w/ Fire Tooth (-12 THACO) (+12 DPR with Kai)
100 DPR - Archer w/ Gesen Shortbow (-13 THACO) (+8 DPR with Called Shot)
97.5 DPR - Archer w/ Tuigan Shortbow (-10 THACO) (+10 DPR with Called Shot)
96 DPR - Fighter>Cleric w/ Sling of Arvoreen (-6 THACO)
90-110 DPR - Archer w/ Light Crossbow of Speed (-9 THACO) (+8 DPR with Called Shot)
86.0 DPR - Archer w/ Strong Arm Longbow (-12 THACO) (+8 DPR with Called Shot)
79.5-94.5 DPR - Archer w/ Giant Hair Crossbow (-11 THACO) (+6 DPR with Called Shot)
76.5 DPR - Fighter w/ Sling of Arvoreen (-12 THACO)

If under the effects of Haste:
165 DPR - Cleric>Fighter w/ Sling of Arvoreen
147.5 DPR - Kensai w/ Fire Tooth (+15 DPR w/ Kai)
128 DPR - Fighter>Cleric w/ Sling of Arvoreen
125 DPR - Archer w/ Gesen Shortbow (+10 DPR w/ Called Shot)
112.5-137.5 - Archer w/ Light Crossbow of Speed (+10)
106-126 - Archer w/ Giant Hair Crossbow (+8)
107.5 - Archer w/ Strong Arm Longbow (+10)
102 DPR - Fighter w/ Sling of Arvoreen
97.5 DPR - Archer w/ Tuigan Shortbow (+10)

6.5m Experience

All Archers are level 29 with 20 dex and Gauntlets of Extraordinary Specialization, *except* for the Tuigan user, who can do just as well with the regular Gauntlets of Weapon Specialization. All bow-users have Arrows of Acid, all crossbow-users have Bolts of Lightning.
The Kensai is level 34 with the Girdle of Fire Giant Strength, 19 dex, and Fire Tooth dagger. Still no gloves.
The Fighter is a level 34 halfling with Girdle of Fire Giant Strength, 20 dex, Erinne Sling +5, +4 bullets, and the Gauntlets of Extraordinary Specialization.
The Fighter>Cleric dual is level 13>31 with the same gear as the Halfling fighter, +DUHM and Righteous Magic to reach 25 str and 25 dex.
The Cleric>Fighter dual is level 15>27 with the same gear and buffs, 25 str and 24 dex, plus Boon of Lathander

For consideration with Whirlwind, I've also included an Elven Archer with Erinne Sling +5 and bullets +4, because GWW mitigates the biggest drawback of slings, being the loss of 0.5 APR due to no grandmastery. This is the highest damage output an Archer can get against enemies that require +4 weapons to hit.

I'm assuming all saves are made against Bolts of Lightning at this point, but expect Crossbow users to get a few extra points here and there when a save is failed, (+5 damage per failed save).

162 DPR - Cleric>Fighter w/ Erinne Sling +5 (-19 THACO)
142 DPR - Kensai w/ Fire Tooth (-20 THACO)
126 DPR - Archer w/ Gesen Shortbow (-20 THACO)
122.5 DPR - Fighter>Cleric w/ Erinne Sling +5 (-12 THACO)
114.75 DPR - Archer w/ Light Crossbow of Speed (-16 THACO)
112.5 DPR - Archer w/ Tuigan Shortbow (-17 THACO)
110.25 DPR - Archer w/ Firetooth +5 (-22 THACO)
103.25 DPR - Fighter w/ Erinne Sling +5 (-17 THACO)
If under the effects of Improved Haste, just double all those values.

For spike damage, here's the results with Whirlwind / Greater Whirlwind

360 DPR - Cleric>Fighter w/ Erinne Sling +5
355 DPR - Kensai w/ Fire Tooth +3
335 DPR - Archer w/ Erinne Sling +5
315 DPR - Archer w/ Firetooth +5
295 DPR - Fighter w/ Erinne Sling +5
280 DPR - Archer w/ Gesen Shortbow
255 DPR - Archer w/ Light Crossbow of Speed
225 DPR - Archer w/ Tuigan Shortbow, (though realistically, there's no reason to ever use WW over IH)
N/A - Figher>Cleric dual, (no warrior HLAs)

Key Takeaways for me:
* THACO is a joke. IIRC, Demogorgon has -12 AC. You're pretty much going to hit everything always, sans critical misses.
* Long Bows are clearly the worst, but if you want one for RP purposes, you're really only sacrificing 15-20% damage potential compared to Short Bows. Not necessarily the end of the world. If you want to get one, go with Strong Arm for the sweet +3 damage bonus.
* Slings start out competitive, but they quickly fall way behind. But really, they're about on par with Long Bows, (especially if you're willing to start as a Half Orc and go evil in Hell to hit 24 strength). Plus, a Halfling slinger gets armor, shield, *and* shorty saves, making him the best defensive ranged character. Why you'd need that much defense on a ranged character is another question entirely.
* Kensai deal the best sustained low-maintenance damage, (no or minimal pre-buffing). News at 11. Vhailor's Helm alone is able to put any other ranged character over the top for single encounters. On the other hand, your teammates will appreciate not having to fight for quality gloves.
* I don't know if they've changed the way that ammo stacking works in EE, but I've been overrating Firetooth. It's actually the worst of the four primary Archer weapons, (Tuigan, Gesen, LCoS), though it becomes the best when Whirlwinding. At the same time, I've been underrating Gesen's a lot. That 1-8 lightning damage is huge.
* Tuigan's is such a beautiful little bow. It can easily be the first item you grab out of Chateau Irenicus and the last weapon you ever use. It can't match the others in spike damage, but it doesn't care about the Gauntlets of Extraordinary Specialization, it doesn't care about Whirlwind, it's great with Smite, Critical Strike, Greater Deathblow. Great bow.
* Boon of Lathander is amazing. I really only included the Priest of Lathander on a lark, and he wound up running away with it. Prebuffing is a hassle and you really only get a turn before it all wears off again, but who would have thought that an oddball Cleric>Fighter dual would be the most damaging ranged attacker in the game? Someone other than me, that's who. I generally hate late duals, but the dual from Lathander to Fighter at level 15 strikes me as a fun solo. Upgraded Skeleton Warriors to tank for you, seventh level spells, and not too long of a slog to get your levels back if solo.
* The common theme here is anything that gives you extra APR will cause you to dominate damage comparisons. Again, it's not like this is exactly news or anything.
* The best argument for making a ranged specialist as your charname, IMO, is just how terrible all of the NPCs are at it. At 6.5m XP, Mazzy is only dealing 90 DPR with Gesen's, about 30% less than you do. Actually, at that point, Anomen + Erinne Sling is the best ranged NPC, provided you don't mind pre-buffing.
* I dismissed darts at the beginning of the post, but I actually think the Crimson Dart is really useful for Rasaad in the early levels to keep him from getting his fool self killed. And K'logarath (+4 throwing axe) can be a useful fallback for a ranged Kensai against enemies immune to +3 weapons; when Whirlwinding, it's virtually identical to Fire Tooth.
* Having just played an Elven Archer from start to finish through the saga, I can confirm they're totally viable. They trivialize BG1 and the first half of SoA, and they're a great class choice for anyone who's not a fan of excessive micromanagement.


  • NuinNuin Member Posts: 389
    No Haer'Dalis with Melf Minute Meteors/Offensive Spin? Blasphemy.
  • SomeSortSomeSort Member Posts: 639
    Nuin said:

    No Haer'Dalis with Melf Minute Meteors/Offensive Spin? Blasphemy.

    With the gauntlets of weapon skill, that's 70 or 84 DPR, (I forget if Offensive Spin can get you to 6 APR with MMM; My sorceress can attest that Haste will push you past the 5-attack cap with them, at least in BG1). I forget exactly how they work THACO-wise, but you're looking at a base 10, (reached before the end of SoA), -5 from Melf's, -2 from offensive spin, -1 from the gloves, -2 from dex, for ~0 THACO. It's good enough, but it's a far cry from the virtual auto-hit the other ranged attackers will get.

    If you bard-song stack, those numbers shoots up in a hurry. But if you bard-song stack, every other ranged attacker's number shoots up in a hurry, too. In fact, stacking bard songs puts the other ranged attackers even further ahead, because however many Haer'Dalis can stack on himself, the other ranged attackers can stack that many +1.

    A level 18/30 Archer>Cleric (or a level 18 Kensai dual) using Energy Blades could deal 171 DPR with auto-hit THACO levels, which is better than any of the listed ranged character straight up, but worse than any of the listed ranged characters under the effects of improved haste. Righteous Magic only bumps that to 184.5.

    Or you could just barely squeeze a level 24/25 Kensai>Cleric under the cap for 189 DPR / 202.5 DPR with Righteous Magic (or Kai). Which, again... not really worth it given that it's outclassed even by the Halfling Slinger with Improved Haste. Really, the biggest draw of Energy Blades would be the ability to stack Called Shot to strength drain and destroy enemy saves. But if that's what you want, just use Tuigan and Improved Haste.

    I never use Fire Seeds, but I believe they carry the Archer's damage boost over the whole area of effect, (presumably the Kensai's, too, if he/she can use them). If so, that would bring their average damage per hit to... 17. Huzzah. Really, the only reason to ever use Fire Seeds is if you want to abuse Poison or Greater Deathblow.
  • NuinNuin Member Posts: 389
    edited March 10
    Still, it's a combo readily available as early as BG1 and it really doesn't matter that other people's ranged attacks are getting buffed too - Haer'Dalis made that happen, that extra damage wouldn't exist if he wasn't around and for all intents and purposes that damage might as well count towards his contribution.
    As for stacking improved bard songs, that's more the bard's version of the wizard's Project Image/Timestop spammage or the wild mage's power of word:reload spammage - it's there as an option but people generally avoid these methods unless they're feeling sadistic.

    You could bring that THAC0 further down with potions of heroism/power, gear like like the Pale Green Ioun Stone/Bracers of Archery, among other things like spells.

    Anyway the bottomline is that while the blade may definitely not be the best ranged attacker by itself, it holds its own well and it's definitely the more appealing option if you're going after increased ranged damage in general. That has to account for something, doesn't it?

    LOL, and yeah for some reason most of us really do seem to keep forgetting about the Big Metal Unit in these kinds of discussions.
  • SomeSortSomeSort Member Posts: 639

    If you're playing a trilogy run, the highest of all would be an Archer with Firetooth and the Scorcher Ammunition, which grants 5 APR and strikes twice due to using the Agannazar's Scorcher projectile. With Improved Haste, it effectively grants 20 attacks per round.

    This is true, but that's extremely late-game and not sustainable damage. Plus, more relevantly, I don't know the numbers in question and can't calculate a comparison. ;)

    I've been playing since release but am pretty new to the EE environment, so I'm not sure which of the more egregious cheese effects still work. I believe Firetooth has been nerfed, (I think it used to deal 2d8 when you had actual bolts equipped, making it the no-brainer end-game archer weapon), but there used to be all sorts of ways to cheese your way to extra APR, (the easiest of which involved MMM and would happen pretty frequently just through routine usage of the spell), any one of which could be combined with one of the high-damage, low-APR builds to juice the results a bit.
  • bob_vengbob_veng Member Posts: 1,627
    cleric>fighter ftw
    i've always advocated for that dual
  • NuinNuin Member Posts: 389
    edited March 10
    At one point it seemed the EE devs were dead set on removing all things cheese, until they ultimately ended up changing the meta which itself led to people simply coming up with new meta-relevant cheesy tactics.

    I think it was at that point that they finally realized that it's really all just a neverending cycle and the point is to simply make sure such tactics don't get out of hand. And then they let things be.
  • Lord_TansheronLord_Tansheron Member Posts: 3,898
    Self-policing is the only feasible way to address cheese - and perhaps the only sensible one, too. I for one trust myself to not use what I consider too much, and don't really need anyone else to direct me in determining what that is.
  • Mantis37Mantis37 Member Posts: 282
    What other ways of comparing characters are there other than damage? To be honest since I play no-reload survivability and disruption of enemy attacks also tend to be important (not to mention the rpg element).
  • Lord_TansheronLord_Tansheron Member Posts: 3,898
    I find damage output potential a useful metric, but I agree that there are other factors to consider. A Fighter/Cleric hybrid versus a pure Fighter (Kensai), for example, may be preferable despite lower damage potential simply for the added buff utility, Turn Undead, etc. However, many of these extra factors are difficult to quantify and often subjective in their "value" - damage at least can be reduced to numbers relatively easily.

    As always, apply intellect to data. Don't just take things at face value without critical scrutiny.
  • CloutierCloutier Member Posts: 188
    An added benefit of slings is the ability to wield a shield. Which makes slings stand out, according to the opening post, as the powergaming champions.
  • Lord_TansheronLord_Tansheron Member Posts: 3,898
    Cloutier said:

    An added benefit of slings is the ability to wield a shield. Which makes slings stand out, according to the opening post, as the powergaming champions.

    They're definitely on my hot list for testing in my setup, particularly because I really love the 100-damage energy sling from IR. Verdict's still out on how good exactly they are in my game.
  • SomeSortSomeSort Member Posts: 639
    Mantis37 said:

    What other ways of comparing characters are there other than damage? To be honest since I play no-reload survivability and disruption of enemy attacks also tend to be important (not to mention the rpg element).

    Yeah, survivability and disruption are the two biggest that come to mind. Disruption is pretty obvious. Even beyond that, given two options that both deal 100 DPR, I'd prefer the one that does it with five attacks of 20 damage each over the one that does it with two attacks of 50 damage each, because less damage will be lost to overkill; a 51hp enemy can be killed by the first character in three attacks, leaving potentially another 40 damage to distribute to a second target that round. The second character would have to waste his entire second 50-damage attack just to eliminate that last pesky hit point, "wasting" 49 damage compared to just 19.

    A related concept would be defense-stripping. The 5 attack / 20 damage archer will rip through Stoneskins and Mirror Images substantially faster than the 2 attack / 50 damage archer. (2.5 times faster, to be precise. Math!) And as was mentioned earlier, when using on-attack effects like Called Shot, Greater Deathblow, or Smite, more attacks = more awesome. Absent a Critical Miss, an Improved Haste Tuigan archer can stack up to -16 or -17 strength malus with Called Shot. A comparable Firetooth user would only get -11 or -12. (I believe the THACO and save penalties last longer than the strength penalty, so those could get stacked even higher, but the ratio should be similar.)

    Firetooth (crossbow) and Slings top out at 3.5 APR (outside of Boon of Lathander), Fire Tooth (dagger) on a Kensai tops out at 4 APR, and Gesen / Light Crossbow of Speed top out at 4.5 APR. Tuigan is hitting 5 APR without even requiring the Gauntlets of Extraordinary Specialization from the moment you hit level 13 to the end of the trilogy, which makes up for the slightly lower DPR numbers and is a big reason why it's perhaps my favorite weapon in the entire game. Even when I'm not rolling an archer, that bow is so money on Mazzy, Nalia, Imoen, Jan, Yoshimo... hell, sometimes even Minsc or Valygar early in the game if I'm already rocking another 1-2 front-liners. I'm pretty much never not using Tuigan somewhere.

    Survivability goes big-time to the Sling user. Full armor / gloves / shield, plus shorty saves, (I assumed a halfling for the +1 THACO bonus, not that it really matters). Though as I mentioned, other than the saves, that much survivability is ludicrous overkill on a back-row character. And if you really want the saves, you can make your Kensai a Dwarf or Gnome, too.

    A Kensai's inability to use helmets or gloves can actually be viewed as a positive. The fact that they can get comparable damage numbers without needing the Gauntlets of Extraordinary Specialization or Vhailor's Helm means those items are free to be used by a party-member, essentially giving you a passive party-wide damage boost. (Especially if you have Minsc, Valygar, Jahiera, Dorn, or Sarevok. Personally, I find Korgan, Keldorn, and Anomen are already married to the Gauntlets of Dexterity, and Rasaad would get more benefit from the Gauntlets of Crushing.)

    Extra class abilities are also important. The Fighter>Cleric and Cleric>Fighter both get divine spellcasting. The former also gets Cleric HLAs, although other than Deva I find the Fighter HLAs to be across-the-board better. The pure-class Fighter Slinger doesn't get any benefit past level 13 other than THACO, which is already more than sufficient, so you could make it Human instead of Halfling and dual-class it over to Mage or Thief, too. You lose the Warrior HLAs and lock yourself in as the "worst" ranged damager on that chart, but thief skills, thief HLAs, and Arcane spells easily trump that. And even the "worst" ranged damager is still pretty good. (There are many worse ranged attackers that never merited consideration in the first place, like a pure Swashbuckler using Tuigan's.)

    Ease-of-use is another consideration, especially if you aren't a fan of excessive micromanagement. (This is one of the biggest reasons to roll a ranged charname in the first place, IMO.) The Cleric duals deal impressive damage, but take 3+ rounds of setup to do so, and only have about a turn before they fall off again.

    The bow / crossbow / sling users are reliant on ammunition, which can be a pain to manage. Of the three, sling users are the worst, as you can't get their unlimited ammo device until ToB. Crossbow users are the second-worst, as they lose the most damage by switching to the Case of Plenty. (Dropping the Bolts of Lightning with the Light Crossbow of Speed costs you at least 22.5 damage per round. Dropping the Acid Arrows with Gesen's Shortbow costs you exactly half of that, or 11.25 damage per round. And you still keep a bit of elemental damage to disrupt through stoneskins.)

    Melee ability would be another consideration, with the Kensai obviously owning that, the Slingers coming in second, and the Archer bringing up the rear. Although I think it's a bit overrated, as my Archer rarely needed to transition, and on the rare occasions that he did GWW + Staff of Ram or Ravager, (SoA: Staff of Striking or Dragon's Breath), for a round or two was more than sufficient.

    A very minor consideration would be the Stronghold. Ranger stronghold is bugged as heck, but the Moon Dog Figurine makes it, in my opinion, the only stronghold other than Mage to actually produce worthwhile rewards, (beyond the XP and the fun of the quests themselves). The Moon Dog is the best summoning item in the game, in my opinion, (with an obligatory shout-out to the Clay Golem manual), and is especially useful for a ranged attacker.

    All told, there's a pretty strong argument for any of those ranged attackers to be considered "best", regardless of the damage discrepancies. Although I'd say since they removed the damage-stacking on Firetooth, (or maybe I was misremembering it in the first place, but I could have sworn it used to do 2d8 when equipped with actual bolts), Crossbow Archers are pretty lackluster compared to their Shortbow peers. But even then, Kuo-Toa bolts are fun as all heck and you get like 800 of the suckers. (Maybe you can even farm them in the Kuo-Toa dungeon? I've never tried, TBH.)
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