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Mechanics/Dynamics of the Kensai/Thief?

grlndbrggsgrlndbrggs Member Posts: 13
@ Chapter5/lvl7 with a 2-weapon-Style Katana/Hammer Kensai (w/ intention of Thief-ing @ 9 or 13).

I'd greatly appreciate some pointers re initial proficiency-based decisions, their saga-long potential, and the ideal allocation of *s when it comes to the 3 proficiency aspects/traits I've decided on: Main-Weapon, Off-Hand, and 2W Style.

I might've preferred maining Bastards or Scimitars et al. in retrospect... But aside from the not unimportant issue of a weapon of choice's potential power, I guess my topical concern w main/off-hand/2W interaction isn't necessarily altered.

(1) I split the 4 initial *s evenly between Katanas and Two Weapon Style (IIRC you can only put 2 *s in each prof during char creation).

After putting the next available * in Katanas/Main, the most recent * went into Hammers. I mainly wanted to knock off that off-hand penalty.

Would I have been better-off putting that * into Katanas/Main as well? Should I put the off-hand on the back-burner at this stage and get the GM in the Main next?

(2) Digging the practical/aesthetic impact of the hammer as an off-hand weapon actually, and the prospect of some good options in BGII might help solidify this decision despite the noteworthy alternatives.

[Maybe this stems from my poor handle on THAC0... ? I may think that I've figured out THAC0/DMG in theory, but am, for instance, still incapable of definitively gauging whether giving Longsword-and-Shield Khalid the Gauntlets of Ogre Power > Gauntlets of Weapon Expertise. Eventually went w the former there.]

(3) Bearing in mind the potential redundancies/overlaps, the one-slot limit, and the fact that I'd need to have a puncher's chance etc., am wondering what the more appropriate (or optimal?) approach is once I'm a Thief...

Entertaining Scimitars et al. and/or Shortswords since this could potentially allow for some eventual weapon versatility (i.e. Belm/Kundane/Scarlet Ninja-to).

But am also mindful of the fact that , in taking a temporary backseat as a combatant, I'd perhaps have to "burn" (or more accurately "sink") a * in at least one ranged option &/or go w the backstab/range marriage w daggers.

Thanks (and apologies in advance... realize this build's been brought up/unpacked a lot)

Post edited by grlndbrggs on


  • TressetTresset Member, Moderator Posts: 7,826
    @grlndbrggs Your thread here was caught by the forum's automated spam filter. I have restored it and verified you so that this should not happen again.

  • OlvynChuruOlvynChuru Member Posts: 2,493
    Use whatever proficiencies you want. Katanas are fine; so are the other weapon types. There's not a huge difference in power level between different melee weapon types. Even weapon types that initially seem weak (e.g. daggers) have great magical weapons eventually.

    Also, it might be easier for us to understand what you're asking if you made a simple list of the questions you have. That would also mean less work for you. :)

  • ilduderinoilduderino Member Posts: 466
    Across the trilogy, axes, hammers, flails and long swords are solid weapons to dual wield

  • jmerryjmerry Member Posts: 613
    One caveat on that "whatever weapons you like" - a Kensai/Thief is meant to be a backstabber. Your primary attack weapon should be a Thief-legal weapon, so you can backstab with it for results like one-hit kills on illithids.

    The off-hand weapon will never backstab unless you use the Assassination HLA, so feel free to make that whatever you feel like.

  • grlndbrggsgrlndbrggs Member Posts: 13
    Oh yeah. Thanks for mentioning that actually. Was weighing bastards as a possible alternative to katanas w/o actually bothering to check if they were backstab-legal (had misconstrued them as somehow "smaller" than longs).

    Never really considered using longswords as my main. Might have to take a look the scimitar et al. and shortsword options once I've figured out the ideal main/off/2w proficiency options.

    Glad to hear that off-handing hammers has some decent trilogy-long mileage to it.

  • jmerryjmerry Member Posts: 613
    All right, an overview of the primary weapon options for a Kensai-Thief or similar backstab-capable melee fighter:

    - Staves. The only two-handed backstabbing weapon, and they come with the highest possible damage potential once you get the right weapons. Highly-enchanted staves are common throughout; you can buy a +3 staff in BG1 and a +4 staff in BG2 without having to unlock anything in the main plot. You'll want a Staff of Striking for important backstabs, but it doesn't carry enough charges to be useful for general fighting. The endgame choice here is the Staff of the Ram, which simply does far more physical damage than any other weapon in the game - and all of that damage gets multiplied in a backstab. Tactically, you've got long reach to keep you away from melee attackers a bit, but you'll have lower APR than a dual-wielder.
    - Clubs. There aren't many magical clubs, but the ones you do find are excellent. Blunt damage is rarely resisted and few armor types have a bonus against it, so it's reliable throughout. The endgame option here is the Club of Detonation, which deals simply enormous damage (mostly fire) but has no other useful abilities. The fireball chance on hit is generally unimportant in battle, but be sure to unequip it if fighting near innocents.
    - Daggers. Expect low damage but useful on-hit effects here. You can also use throwing daggers, which attack twice per round and have some magical options later on. The endgame option here is the Dagger of the Star, which has as its main draw the chance to go invisible each hit. That lets you get off mid-battle backstabs if you pay attention to positioning.
    - Short Swords. You can get a +3 short sword as early as chapter 7 of BG1, but most of the options aren't too exciting. You're a lot more likely to want a short sword in your off-hand (Arbane's or Kundane) than in your main hand. The end-game option here is the Short Sword of Mask, which has a chance to entangle and/or level drain the target.
    - Long Swords. Probably the first +2 weapon you'll find, and enchanted long swords are plentiful throughout the saga, many with powerful unique abilities. The end-game options here are Daystar, Angurvadal, and the Answerer - more choice than any other proficiency. Daystar does physical damage as a +2 long sword, and then adds magic damage bonuses against undead or evil enemies. In the original game, it only hit as a +2, but that's fixed so it now hits as +4 vs. evil. It's your best bet against undead, especially demiliches, and not that special the rest of the time. Angurvadal is a +4 flaming sword that later upgrades to add negative plane protection and a strength boost - a fine balance of defense and offense. The Answerer is an odd one; it's a +4 sword that tears down your enemies' defenses, but it has the drawback of slow initiative. Fortunately, a Kensai gets lots of initiative bonuses to mostly neutralize that.
    - Scimitars and others. If you're the sort of jerk who kills Drizzt, you can pick up the strongest weapons in BG1 this way. This proficiency also comes with +APR weapons for your off-hand. The end-game options are Yamato (+1 AC), Usuno's Blade (a chance of bonus lightning damage), and Spectral Brand (bonus cold damage, lots of goodies once you upgrade it).
    - Katanas. Enchanted katanas are rare; there's only a single +1 in BG1. Then, in BG2, you can get Celstial Fury, with its utterly amazing save or stun effect on every hit. After Celestial Fury? Not much. There's Hindo's Doom, but that isn't anything special until you upgrade it, and even then its special abilities are all defensive. Katanas do keep up in damage despite the lower enchantment values, because of the 1d10 base.

  • Very_BigSwordVery_BigSword Member Posts: 189
    edited June 2019
    From the point you are at and taking dual wielding into account, put all fighter profs to katana from now on. At thief level 1 I would go with + dagger to cover melee and missile attacks easily and + single weapon style for the increased critical chance on backstabs. At lvl 4 scimitars look like a good choice, for Belm. After that whatever you like really from thief list based on what a weapon offers as an off hand choice.*

    When fighter level is exceeded complete katana grand mastery and whatever you like after that. Others have made good suggestions. +++ in 2W style is advisable if dualling at lvl 9 as your Thac0 will not be outstanding in the latter stages of the game. Off hand hits are not the be all end all but every little bit helps esp with damage bonuses for Kensai kit, specialisation and Str. Getting to ++ specialisation in your offhand choices also helps with hitting and damage, esp with hammers which you will in certain situations want to dual with instead of main hand katana.

    Or + quarterstaff and + two handed weapon style if you want to backstab with staff of ram and also doing the lvl 13 dual since these would be your lvl 8 and lvl 12 thief proficiencies. Longer term think use any item, staff of magi, dispel on first melee hit vs magic user, then switch to dual wielding celestial fury and scarlet ninjato >:) . Oh no, a contingency fired? Rinse, repeat.

  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,859
    edited June 2019
    In medieval europe, iirc, a bastard sword was smaller than a longsword, which was more or less a 2 handed sword, though not as big as a great sword or claymore.

    As far as choices go, take GM in your main weapon asap. Sounds like you're going to use Crom OH, and will probably use a backstabbing weapon MH, I'd mostly watch out for short swords, katanas, and daggers maybe, since they end up disappointing very late, but not 'I can't win' level bad. Imho, Katanas are awful in BG1 + ToB, but they are great in SoD and BG2. Short swords are disapointing in ToB (but great the rest of the time), daggers the same really, but daggers are a top tier ranged weapon in BG2 onwards, so really a reasonable choice.

    Longswords are great the entire series, and scimitars are a good choice, having even theoretically the best BG1 weapon, but its, uh, murder to get it... ;)

    Edit: oh yeah, quarterstaves are great throughout, being top damage dealers for pretty much the entire series, with many versatile and powerful staffs to choose from, esp with UAI. Note, the Staff of the Magi can't backstab.

    Clubs are so-so until BG2, but really shine then, but go down hill from BG2 in ToB. I would prefer staves unless you really like clubs!

  • grlndbrggsgrlndbrggs Member Posts: 13
    edited June 2019
    Really appreciate all the good stuff here folks, thanks a lot. Some intriguing pts re quarterstaves as the only 2-handed backstabbing weapons.

    Got me wondering how (un)feasible/unorthodox/merely ill-advised (esp. from an APR standpoint?) an alternative approach would be:

    8(?) *s prior to Thief-ing @13...
    - Two-handed Swords: **** or *****
    - Two-handed Weapon Style: ** or ***
    - Quarter-Staves: N/A (most likely) or * or **

    If I've understood re-activation correctly, I would end up being able to add *s to the original Kensai profs (thus achieving GM, adding to Quarterstaves etc.)...?

    Could make for some pretty slim pickings re Thief *s even if I were to hold off on quarterstaves until dualing, put the other 1/5 in daggers, pick up Single Weapon Style and wing the other 2.

    Maybe the opportunity costs are a bit absurd, and undermine the spirit/purpose of the build. I'd admittedly be forgoing some power, and not be optimizing the grandmastery damage bonuses that factor into the BS multiplier this way... But I suppose I'm willing to accept certain drawbacks/deviations in the interest of some potentially sub-optimal/obscure aesthetic/rp "reasons" while still gunning for the some of the practical benefits of UAI and Ram/Striking-enabled backstabs.

  • jmerryjmerry Member Posts: 613
    The way dual-class fighter/any proficiencies work:

    During your fighter levels, you can put up to five dots in any weapon, two in any weapon style, or three in two-weapon style. The other three weapon styles don't have a third dot. A Kensai can't take missile weapon proficiencies or sword/shield style.
    After dual-classing, while your fighter class is listed as "Inactive", you can place proficiencies as your new class allows - one dot in each legal weapon and style. Your old proficiencies can't be used during this time; even if you're wielding a weapon you were a grandmaster of as a fighter, you're no more than proficient with it in your new class, and you aren't getting any bonuses.
    When you reach a high enough level in the new class, the old class becomes active. You get your old proficiencies back, so your proficiencies then become the better of the two you had before. For example, if you had two dots in long sword as a fighter and one as a thief, you will have two dots as a completed fighter/thief. From this point, new proficiencies may be chosen up to the fighter limit, including weapons that your new class couldn't use. The only exceptions here are priest restrictions; those take priority. For example, Anomen start with two dots in spears, but can't ever increase that proficiency or wield a spear.

    So, about your proficiencies there - I wouldn't use two-handed swords on this character, but if you really want to, it's your choice. Two-handed weapon style? You can't have three dots, and you really don't need the second. The second dot in two-handed style only improves weapon speed rating (iniitiative), and that can't go negative. With the Kensai speed bonus, you'll reach zero even with a two-handed sword, the slowest weapon type in the game.
    Two-handed swords start at 10. That improves by 1 for each point of enchantment; lets assume a +3 weapon such as Lilarcor, so it's at 7. The first point in two-handed style knocks that down by 2, to 5. Grand mastery drops that another 3, for a speed of 2. Finally, a Kensai 13 improves that by 3 to -1, which becomes zero.
    That second point in two-handed style is good for warriors that can't get grandmastery, such as paladins. It's not really worth it for a straight fighter, and it's especially useless for a Kensai.
    Oh, and quarterstaves? They start at speed 4. A point of two-handed style, and any of the staves you'll want to use will be at max speed even on a pure thief.

    So then, with a single point in two-handed style, you've got enough proficiencies left for five dots in one weapon and two in another. You'll get five dots as a thief with your fighter class inactive (two to start, one each at levels 4, 8, and 12) which have to be spread around. Then, finally, your proficiencies after that can be freely assigned. If you use them to improve the weaker of the two weapons you chose as a fighter, you'll reach grand mastery in that at level 24, 3.08 million thief XP. That's the same level you get your first high-level ability ... which will almost certainly be Use Any Item. OK, there's a reason to take two-handed swords - Carsomyr. Of course, keeping this in mind, you won't have much incentive to use them before then. You'd be better off switching the proficiencies around so you grand master quarterstaves first, and invest in two-handed swords later.

  • grlndbrggsgrlndbrggs Member Posts: 13
    Not sure how/why I missed this post... my apologies. Thanks for taking the time to put together this reply.

    Does look like the 2nd * in 2HWS will, FAIAP, only really serve much of a function in the early going(s). My lack of awareness re the... lack... of a 3rd * in 2HWS is as clear an indication as there is that I've not played things out enough vs (attempted to) supplement in-game experience via reading. For instance... mechanically speaking, the quarterstaff is actually a very interesting weapon. An, I guess, conscious design choice seems to've been made to set it up as a sort of class-agnostic weapon. Not having picked up on this feels like an oversight on my part.

    P.S. I (more than) typically tend to lurk around forums (needless to say there's a v healthy amount of dialogue out there). I don't really contribute to discourse much so I suppose my "asking away" w min reciprocity ain't exactly always proper etiquette.

    That being said... really do appreciate the generosity/help here.

  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,859
    If you plan to use 2h swords in bg1 as a kensai, you probably need to take 2 in twohanded style, because you need to swing as early as possible. For that reason in part QS could be more playable in BG1, with 2 great staffs, 1 for cheap even. With QS, you only need 1 rank in twohanded, so you'd have a spare pip to invest in a good supporting weapon, ie ths maybe, so spec QS, 1 THS, 1 THS, so you can also use Spider Bane in emergencies. I think you'd race for GM in QS after, and bash in Sarevok's head with a staff of striking. You could alternatively take a pip in a throwing weapon, ie dagger, but you probably want to take dagger as a thief anyways. Axes kinda stink without at least spec due to RoF imho.

    In late game, Carsomyr is a gargantuan asset, even for a non-proficient user. I ran a Swashbuckler cleric that made use of it, sometimes with my 1 WW, to almost guarantee a dispel ASAP. I'd switch to dwing speed weapons to finish off my opponent.

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