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Kensai Solo -- Strategy Help please

I've done a lot of reading about kensai-mages and kensai-thieves (dualing at 9 or 13), in solo mode. How do most people survive the traps, and the lack of XP you suffer when you have no one to disarm them with? Would it not simply make more sense to have Jan around to unlock those things at least, or is the experience drain with a second party member too severe for someone who plans to dual at 13?

Also, when dualing, is the correct way to do it to level up to 13, and then get the benefits for leveling up to 13 (weapon pips, etc), and THEN press "Dual Class"?

What other strategies should I use? I plan to visit Watcher's Keep to buy potions cases, scroll cases, etc at some point.

Also, what weapon proficiencies are best? Currently I have two pips in two-weapon, three in long swords, and one in scimitars. I might put some pips in flails for Flail of the Ages +4 later, or in axes (unsure which). Ideally I'd want weapon proficiencies useful in both BGII and TOB (katanas, for example, cease to be useful in TOB given how several key enemies require at least +4 and there are no +4 katanas)...

gorgonzola
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Comments

  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,836
    Kensai is a harsh solo, so I recommend getting a hold of the Shielding amulet thingy in the Keep, which would also be your stronghold. You can actually do decent work as a dual wielding kensai using the cloak of the sewers to provide some solid defences, enough to hopefully tank through the keep and kill the trolls. You should do the thief quest for Renal before this, if only to gain easy XP and load up on gear from the easy money. The Copper Coronet set of quests is pretty doable for a Kensai, but actually getting the Cloak of the Sewers is hard, so try to get the fireball amulet asap, so that would mean doing the Trademeet quests too asap. This part would be rough, but getting a good offhand weapon for a kensai is sweet, and if you have a fire weapon you can take on trolls okay.

    You will likely have to reload the amulets, and switch between them as needed. Getting a speed weapon would be very good, but the short sword's quest is hard enough that you should do that after dualing is finished, so Belm will serve you well I'd think. The lack of defenses will suck, but the Shield spell from the amulet will help a great deal in tougher fights, but ambushes will always stink. An invisibility item might be a good bet actually, so consider the ring from the Adventurer's Mart.

    Naturally those potions that set defence to 0 are a huge boon, as will be potions of strength, and the girdle will be nice if you didn't do BG1, and have 19 str, unless you've got 18/00.

    The toughest call is what to take as your first GM choice, which will have to be very good in SoA, though perhaps could be replaced in ToB with another GM choice. So, Flails are good the whole game, offering the FotA, which just gets better and better. Not as good if you can't use GWW though, then I'd say stick with +4 and suffer a bit.

    Axes are nice, since their are some great elemental dealing axes, but technically, you could use them without proficiency to finish off trolls anyways, it'd just be a tad slower. Still, 2 cheap +3 axes with +2 elemental damage is hard to say no to early on I find. Longswords are actually quite good, having Daystar, Namarra and other picks, though they suffer a bit in ToB I'd argue. Bastard Swords start slowish, but pick up nicely, and offer a great ToB weapon in Foebane.

    So, if you are going to dual and can only get 1 GM, maybe consider Maces, and use the Mace of Disrption to make Vampire fights that would normally suck majorly quite doable? Maces aren't terrible later either.

    The old standby was Katana, using CF, which kicked but in SoA, but is much weaker in ToB, becoming functionally useless, so I wouldn't take Katana. Daggers are a nice pick overall, since you can throw them, and they deal strength damage with good APR, and can be used with Imp Haste for serious firepower. This can be a great choice for a kensai/mage, who won't want to be in melee, but would like to hurt things when done casting, especially if he's wearing the Robe of Vecna and using the Amulet of Power. ;)

  • MythdraconMythdracon Member Posts: 187
    edited August 4
    Thanks for the detailed response and thanks for tips re: amulets and potions!

    For the stronghold, if I dual to mage, and do the Planar Sphere, would I be able to take the sphere as my stronghold instead? I would prefer that since I am quite familiar with the keep quests (I found the playhouse quite fun, and my bard is in a party of 5 nearing the end of SOA also).

    If kensai is quite tough to solo, would you recommend berserker instead (maybe a berserker-mage?), or even a gnomish fighter/illusionist? How do clerics fare in solo compared to kensai? I picked Kensai on the basis of some videos which showed kensai tearing down bosses and killing them quite quickly (albeit taking quite a bit of damage in the process). I imagine a monk solo is somewhat easier but I already have a playthrough with my monk in TOB, so I won't be revisiting a monk solo idea for a while.

    Belm as a scimitar seems decent for the offhand bonuses--would you recommend putting more than 1 pip in it? If flails are good throughout SOA and TOB I might get pips in flails too....at what point would you recommend placing the final pip in two-weapon? And are axes decent in TOB too? I also was relucant to pick them since they are slow (even if there are nice early +3 axes around).

    Do maces do decent damage against bosses in TOB as well? I don't doubt that Mace of Disruption (with the upgrade) would be great against vampires, but doesn't the runehammer also provide negative plane protection, and come with a +4 bonus in TOB to boot (of course the Mace would be better in SOA since the runehammer isn't available in SOA). While we're on the topic of warhammers, what about Crom Faeyr? I think its biggest downside is how long it takes to acquire....but is it a solid weapon in TOB too?

    I wasn't impressed with daggers....but if there is a decent throwing dagger that can tear down bosses you would recommend, I'm all ears. :)

    gorgonzolaDreadKhan
  • ElysianEchoesElysianEchoes Member Posts: 416
    Concerning dual class, you'd want to level up to 13, spend pips, etc before pressing dual class button.

    Concerning stronghold, if you're not using mods, as you surmise, you would want to avoid getting the fighter stronghold altogether, and get the mage stronghold after pressing dual class.

    DreadKhan
  • Grond0Grond0 Member Posts: 5,219
    Mythdracon wrote: »
    I also was relucant to pick them since they are slow (even if there are nice early +3 axes around).

    Kensais get a bonus to weapon speed and you also get bonuses for high mastery and grand mastery of weapons. As a result it's easy to get axes to weapon speed 0.

    DreadKhan
  • MythdraconMythdracon Member Posts: 187
    Thanks guys--I guess I shouldn't finish De'Arnise before the Planar Sphere then....that might be awkward given how tough the Planar Sphere quest is. I remember golems in that level being especially nightmarish...

    As far as axes, would the +3 axes work against the golems in the Planar Sphere? If so, I guess I'll work on axes when I next get proficiencies....or would going for the flail be better? I put one pip in flails following a recent level-up.

  • Grond0Grond0 Member Posts: 5,219
    Mythdracon wrote: »
    As far as axes, would the +3 axes work against the golems in the Planar Sphere? If so, I guess I'll work on axes when I next get proficiencies....or would going for the flail be better? I put one pip in flails following a recent level-up.

    Iron/adamantium golems need +3 weapons and stone +2 weapons, so axes are fine against them. Clay golems though need blunt weapons - the FoA is a good choice for those (even non-proficient a kensai will have no trouble at all hitting golems with that).

    gorgonzolaDreadKhan
  • _Nightfall__Nightfall_ Member Posts: 186
    Kensai are very doable solo. I would pick axe or dagger, solo single class probably axe. Axe with flail is more than likely all you will ever need. The thaco bonus allows the kensai to dabble in any weapon if needed so maces can be used against the undead. Make sure to grab every defense potion and ration them only as needed until ToB. Defender of Easthaven and Axe of the Unyielding +5 really work well with the Kensai. Bala’s Axe is okay against mages and it is not a bad idea to keep a plain old axe or flail for the PfMW though it is not needed, you can straight up punch them. Use your weapons that you are not proficient in, it won’t matter much except for attacks per round. Ilbratha is good, Arbane’s Sword, Daystar, Dragon Slayer if you don’t want to waste a potion of clarity, Adjatha the Drinker, yadda, yadda, yadda. You get the point. Everything that summons something is awesome, Ras +2 is 4 rounds of, “Can’t touch this”. Literally until the end of the game it is useful. Staffs of Fire/Air/Earth are good companions. I honestly have no idea why no one ever talks about the staff of Fire. Fire Elemental and fireshield red, come on! That is pretty good! Fire Shield Red with Defender of Easthaven + Hardiness is a fairly potent combo when combined with the damage per round a kensai can put out.

    Really, don’t worry about single purpose weapons like Mace of Disruption, their primary function is served just as well off hand. Even if you have to use it main, like against Kangaxx, no worries. That is how good their thaco is, it seriously doesn’t matter if you are proficient. It doesn’t matter how much damage any weapon does, kensai bonuses make up for it. Mace kills don’t usually rely on damage though, hit them until they they go poof!

    Do the Keep early for the Shield Amulet. You can sneak it pretty easy almost straight out of Jon Irenicus’ play house with the ring of air, something that does fire damage and an invisible potion or two. Shield Amulet is your bestest friend.

    It is a fun and challenging character to solo with.

    gorgonzola
  • gorgonzolagorgonzola Member Posts: 2,666
    Mythdracon wrote: »
    I picked Kensai on the basis of some videos which showed kensai tearing down bosses and killing them quite quickly (albeit taking quite a bit of damage in the process).
    a pure kensai is not a dual, lacks of the other class, but reaches natural 0 thac0 at lev 20 (the dual13 reaches 8 at best) and continue to get the kensai bonuses while the dual get them only before dualing, so gets only +3 speed factor and thac0 and gets less kai.

    for the first solo i would suggest a multi FM, better fighter in the long run, the dual thac0 becomes sub optimal in tob, with access to both the hla pools, while in tob the dual is a much better mage that retains some fighting capabilities, so a completely different build then a pure kensai that is a glass cannon super fighter end game.

    but if you want to take the dual road:

    Mythdracon wrote: »
    Would it not simply make more sense to have Jan around to unlock those things at least, or is the experience drain with a second party member too severe for someone who plans to dual at 13?
    is no more a solo, but it is easily doable. and as a F->M can temporarely drop jan and learn/erase scrolls, that jan has stealed for him ;) , and delay quest rewards the down time is absolutely not a problem.
    jan will help with traps and locks, scout, stab and assist as secondary mage, in tob will have also some spike and time stop traps (the latter last enough to let him cast his own TS).

    about weapons i think that for a solo or near solo (with jan) it is very important to have a ranged option, and dagger is the best. str damage bonus, +1 apr, bastard sword like damage and jan can steal 1 for you right in the early game.
    it can also be used as MH mlee weapon, and in underdark you find the other one.

    i think that for a F->M the best strategy is to go for GM, as it give +1/2apr and a good thac0 and dmg boost, the thac0 one is the important one as helps to compensate the lev 13 fighter thac0.
    you get 8 pips from fighter class and up to 5 from the mage one, so 13, enough to 2GM and 3 pips in dw, but no more left.
    i would probably go for flails and daggers. FoA slows the enemies, very important when soloing or going with little parties, disrupts on hit and is high damaging, as long as the weapon is unequipped as a haste buff is applied it can be equipped again retaining the haste, so to stick to the +4 version is not needed.
    i probably would go for dagger and flail, reaching 2 pips in both (+3 pips in dw) and then working my way to GM in both. as OH weapon belm at the begining and as soon as possible crom, the +7 thac0 (and +14dmg) from 25 str help a lot to keep the dual competitive late game.

    there are many other good weapon options, but this is mine because a ranged option and a slow without save on hit effect give a tactical advantage, and soloing or going with a 2 people party is all about tactics, is not a raw power thing.
    with a K->M and jan you have plenty of possible tactics and options and imho you will have super fun.
    the tough part is to survive chateau irenicus, as you have to do it as glass cannon (the berseker->M is as good trough the game and easier there), but in an unmodded game is surely not impossible.
    try to don't use the wands you find there as recharged will be super useful in SoA.

    if you go solo you have to know where the traps are and you can tank them with mirror images, spell immunity or elemental immunity depending on each trap. you will loose some loot behind doors/chests you can not break with good str, but who cares? for the few important ones you have the knock spell. this is how a solo FM does.
    soloing is possible, but i think that a duo with jan is more interesting as gives much more options (scouting, traps, stabs and 2 casters on the field) while jan progresses at 1.5X each class compared to a single class in a party of 6 and charname progresses at 3X in the active class.
    you can even add aerie, not romancing her so you can drop her as many times you like, and have all every time you trigger a quest reward, but doing some fights alone to maximize the initial charname progression.
    K13->M + gnome MT and a MC is a super fun mini complete party, with almost all the functions well covered, that late game has an incredible potential as high level cleric buffs, arcane protection, high level thief tricks and the clones give an immense potential.
    but it is no more soloing...

  • gorgonzolagorgonzola Member Posts: 2,666
    Kensai are very doable solo.....................
    i agree with anything you tell, but it seems that the intended route is to dual the kensai into mage at 13, not to go sigle class until the end.
    so the potions will be less important late game for a charname that at that point is also a powerful mage that can protect himself with magic and can even win many battles with magic only, and his kensai bonuses and thac0 will not be the same of the ones of a single class one.

  • jmerryjmerry Member Posts: 187
    Mythdracon wrote: »
    ... or is the experience drain with a second party member too severe for someone who plans to dual at 13?
    Not at all. It takes preparation, but I've done versions of the Fighter 13/Thief dual more than once in full parties with no downtime as a plain thief at all.

    The trick to it is to shoplift all of the scrolls in Athkatla, temporarily remove all but your protagonist and one mage/bard from the party, and scribe/erase scrolls repeatedly. If you have multiple arcane casters, you'll want to swap them out to approximately balance the experience. The scrolls that you can steal this way are good for 1,627,000 experience, or 813,500 each for your protagonist and the mage. You need 880,000 to reach Thief 14 and complete the dual, and you can easily make up the balance with other scrolls you've found and quest completion bonuses.

    If dual-classing to mage, you would obviously scribe everything yourself, with a party temporarily reduced to 1. Mage 14 requires 1.5 million experience, which is covered by the stolen scrolls alone.

    Now, carrying all those scrolls? Five scroll cases isn't enough to hold them all. You're going to need to have stacks in the inventory of various party members, to then be dropped on the ground when you get around to the scribing session. It does take a while real-time to get through everything.

    One of the side benefits of doing it this way is that by leveling up all at once, you don't have to deal with the proficiency restrictions of your second class and can concentrate the points as if you were a Fighter.

    gorgonzola
  • gorgonzolagorgonzola Member Posts: 2,666
    @jmerry the proficiency thing you tell about is really important.
    to carry the scrolls is not needed, 1 or 2 scroll bags are more then enough as you have to carry only the scrolls you find/buy/steal in each mission. then you can put them in some container and forget about them until is the moment to dual. then your toon can pick them from the container and learn/erase them.
    as also the quest rewards can be delayed and are an other source of xp a F can dual into mage or thief without fighting a single battle, he has only to go to dual, hire jan, give him some good thieving potions and collect scrolls, then trigger some quest final dialogues and as he reaches the needed xp level up.

  • jmerryjmerry Member Posts: 187
    gorgonzola wrote: »
    then you can put them in some container and forget about them until is the moment to dual.
    It depends on what that moment is. The first time I ran this, the moment I chose was Imoen rejoining the party in Spellhold. You can't exactly backtrack to a container from there.

    gorgonzola
  • gorgonzolagorgonzola Member Posts: 2,666
    @jmerry true, but as here it is a solo or at worst a 2 people party with jan there is more then enough xp in chap 1, 2 and 3 to reach F13 and be ready to dual, even if some of the quest xp is left to cut the down time.

    with larger parties it is possible that you don't reach the needed level before leaving for spellhood, but with larger parties there is much more inventory space so as long as enough scroll bags are used the party can carry all the needed scrolls needed for a no downtime dual.

  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,836
    Maces aren't the optimal choice, but in ToB their is a very strong upgradeable mace that can serve as a primary weapon, but I think if you dual to mage you can use the Amulet of Power, making Vampires a bit of a joke in SoA.

    Regarding daggers, Firetooth is a +3, which deals extra fire damage, and is very reliable in game for the bulk of it, allowing you to both damage most enemies and sneak injuries onto Stoneskinned mages, which abound, and sometimes you'd prefer to not bother wasting a Breach on a non-threat. Their is a decent dagger I hear in ToB, but I almost never bother using it, and as a dualed K/M, by ToB you should be mostly a caster, using combat only sparingly, as you will be a much, much better caster than fighter once you hit about 8th lvl spells, which is pretty fast for a solo. So, you can get a +5 dagger, I think it's a bit lackluster otherwise though. Still, Firetooth is an amazing weapon in SoA, and the Boomerang Dagger is a beast in early SoA for sure, dealing 2d4+2 base damage, with 2 base apr, and added strength bonus. It's hard to top for a kensai actually, maybe impossible until you're using a speed weapon, and fwiw, you can use a speed weapon offhand still. Note, later game you should be using a good number of sturdy summons, and they are usually melee critters, so you doing ranged support is very helpful, and can help a team of Skeleton Warriors take down even powerful opponents, and later you can summon Planetar's or Mordy's Swords instead, for even better support. Imp Haste or even plain ol' haste help summons a bunch.

    Regarding PiP for TWF and offhand, I would go with 1 pip for Scimitar (Spectral Brand is really so-so IMHO), and if you don't go daggers, I would take 2 pip in TWF, to remove the penalty for your primary hand, but you'll be short enough of PiPs that you shouldn't worry about your off-hand.

    A nice thing about daggers is that you don't need to use an offhand weapon even, meaning you could take SWS, since IIRC, throwing daggers get +1 apr in melee too, so you'll be doing fine, with 2 + 1 + 1 apr, you could even use something like Crom offhand with daggers I guess, for 5 apr with 25 str. Not sure it's strictly worth it, and you would be a bit limited by Firetooth being +3 only.

    Axes are very nice in ToB, with Axe of the Unyielding and a really nifty throwing axe that can knock stuff back. Very good choice for the whole playthrough actually, axes won't disapoint IMHO, and you can rush to GM in axes, since their are 2 good ones available very early, and you can potentially use the anti-Undead axe that is for sale on the cheap at the Coronet. Very solid choice actually.

    gorgonzola
  • MythdraconMythdracon Member Posts: 187
    edited August 4
    Thanks guys, a lot to consider--happy to use axes against the golems in the Planar Sphere, but I guess I should ensure that I dual class to mage right before triggering the quest end, so I can have that stronghold.

    Then I can scribe tons of scrolls using Jan/Yoshimo for stealing I suppose....does seem like that process would be tedious, but probably beats wandering the wilderness as a level 1 mage after dual-classing (O_O).

    Two other questions:

    Is it ok to gain XP in excess of what I need for Level 14, *not* level up as kensai, then dual to mage--would that allow me to retain all the XP, or would any excess be lost?

    Also, would finishing the Keep, turning down the stronghold, doing Planar Sphere, dualling to mage, and then taking the mage stronghold work? Or would the mage stronghold opportunity be lost as soon as I turn down the Keep stronghold offer?

    gorgonzola
  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,836
    Save often I think if you plan to pick pocket, isn't it slightly random, or am I thinking of shoplifting? Anyways, their is a handy pair of gloves out their for a thief that give a big boost to pick pocket, along with a potion of master thievery you can get a ton of scrolls.

    Also note, if you have very good pick pocket, and have some high dollar items, you can buy and steal from a fence, allowing you to sell their goods back to them IIRC, for potentially an infinite amount of money, but I'm almost 100% certain you can always fail on shoplifting attempts, so save often. Might require multiple potions of master thievery. Could make a big difference to be able to buy up the stocks of scrolls from the various vendors around the game, which will give a crapton of XP with 0 risk.

    I made a half-orc Kensai once in BG2, when I didn't own a copy of BG1, so he was just taking advantage of his good stats. He used axes actually, and he hit extremely hard, and I loved having access to DUHM to take his stats into the stratosphere until I do the Asylum, where I gain a very, very strong Ravager form, with kensai bonus' taking him from dangerous to insanely lethal. You will still be a very strong Ravager I'd say, so maybe start out very good to be able to 'afford' the rep loss of using it a few times, as it'll make clearing the illithids a breeze, but Beholders will be a ***** to clear IMHO, since you can't use the shield. I guess the Cloak will help, and you can be rocking decent saves by now, and things like Mordy's Swords are useful I think, as would Horrid Wilting I'd guess, but I haven't fought a beholder with a solo mage ever, as I mostly have soloed BG1, where soloing is much, much easier.

    gorgonzola
  • jmerryjmerry Member Posts: 187
    Mythdracon wrote: »
    Is it ok to gain XP in excess of what I need for Level 14, *not* level up as kensai, then dual to mage--would that allow me to retain all the XP, or would any excess be lost?
    Any excess experience is lost. You always start from zero in the new class, and the experience creditied to the old class is the minimum needed to reach its level.
    Mythdracon wrote: »
    Also, would finishing the Keep, turning down the stronghold, doing Planar Sphere, dualling to mage, and then taking the mage stronghold work? Or would the mage stronghold opportunity be lost as soon as I turn down the Keep stronghold offer?
    In order to take the mage stronghold, you need to (a) be a mage when you do the planar sphere, and (b) not already have another stronghold. Turning down the fighter stronghold won't be a problem, but you need to dual before you go through the planar sphere, or that opportunity will be forever lost.
    DreadKhan wrote: »
    ...but I'm almost 100% certain you can always fail on shoplifting attempts...
    There are no critical failures for shoplifting. If you have enough points, you can be 100% certain of success. Pickpocketing outside the shop interface does have critical failures, so bring bard song (for the luck bonus) or save often.

    Kensai versus Illithids? The key defense that makes them a snap is your Save vs. Spell, so wear a protection item (you should be already; most fighters would have to swap out their armor for something unenchanted) and pop a Potion of Invulnerability. Any other items that boost that save, such as archmage robes or the amulet of spell warding, are also welcome. Since illithids have lousy THAC0, the improved AC from the potion will also make it very hard for them to hit you in melee.
    Beholders? Yeah, that's trouble - their anti-magic rays will dispel any buffs you try to put up, and the cloak won't block everything. Being a mage helps a lot here, as you can call up a magic resistant summon (Animate Dead) and use it to tank while you blast them with spells.

    gorgonzolaGrond0DreadKhan
  • jsavingjsaving Member Posts: 568
    edited August 4
    Mythdracon wrote: »
    Is it ok to gain XP in excess of what I need for Level 14, *not* level up as kensai, then dual to mage--would that allow me to retain all the XP, or would any excess be lost?
    The entire point of the dual-classing system is to make you use only "class 2" abilities when leveling up your second class. It'd be a huge exploit if you could rack up 250K extra xp as a level 13 kensai, keep that "unused" xp when you dual, and then instantly become a 10th level mage.

    On the other hand it probably isn't any more of an exploit than accumulating scrolls as a kensai and them using them as a level-up-quick tool once you dual, or completing quests as a kensai but waiting to "turn them in" until after you dual, both of which are allowed under core rules.

    gorgonzolaGrond0
  • gorgonzolagorgonzola Member Posts: 2,666
    to sell and steal valuable items and with the money buy scrolls instead of stealing directly the scrolls is good, some wands and some valuable items are perfect. by the way abusing the concept every valuable item you have to buy, like the robe of vecna that for a kensage is a must have, can be purchased and then sold to a regular merchant and then to a fence, that way it comes almost for free even if the shop don't let you steal. but a soloer has plenty of money, it is not really needed.

    an other super useful weapon for a solo kensage is the staff of the magi, but probably can be used without even a single pip as its purpose is to dispell and casters lack of good ac.

    the maces ar pretty good, but the flails are better as FoA is better, nothing a mace can do compares to its slowing effect (enemy's movement speed, attacks and casting speed, stacks with itself, no save and almost no enemy is immune) and a kensage has plenty of ways to deal with vampires. pfmw is an example, what can not hit you can not level drain you (but stoneskin does not work, saves from the mlee damage, but not to the other effects like the level drain), and as the amulet is in your possession there is no more risk at all.

    as i told gm in dagger and flail, 3 pips in dw, and you are set to go. the 3rd pip is needed as a lev 13 dual has not the best thac0, and it is like to be proficient in every OH weapon you may want to use.
    by the way with a crushing weapon and dagger you have weapons to deal with every enemy, as there are few ones like the clay golems that are immune to crushing and have high magic resistence.

    i agree that late game the kensage is mainly a super strong caster, but it is still a very good physical damage dealer, even a lev 9 dual, usualy my choice, is so.


  • DreadKhanDreadKhan Member Posts: 3,836
    I suppose if you are going to hoard scrolls perhaps, you are gaining lots of levels at once as a mage I think, so you can use the pips the best ways possible? As in, take 1 level in mage to dual, then sit and scribe until you reach level 14's XP thresh hold and then level up. I might have missed someone already saying this, pardon me if I did!

    I'd like the FotA if you could use the +5, but that will preclude the use of IH, unless a mod/hack is used to make the FotA stack with IH, which is very easy to do I suppose. Then, yes, the FotA is the king, and use it for sure, but you'll still suffer from being a bit low on THAC0 unless you use Tenser's, but that will also give you mega HP, enough to churn through almost any group of enemies using only brute force.

    I'd rather take proficiency in my off hand weapon than take a 3rd pip in TWF, but thats just me. What is the non-proficiency penalty for a fighter, -3? I know it isn't super low.

    A level 9 kensage you might as well have gone Berserker, and you can use the Gauntlets of Extraordinary Specialization, which are amazing, and Rage is useful even to a high level mage as an instant buff. Immunity to very annoying Imprison and other effects that are hard to protect, along with bonus' from rage that are very nice to have in melee. Eh, to each their own, you like your kensage, and that works for you, so that's fine. I found even a lvl 13 kensage was an abysmal warrior even in Watcher's Keep, as it was the first character I brought through from BG2 when I got ToB... I was not as good as I am now for sure, but I wasn't terrible, and I had to accept that I was going to be a caster, as Sarevok was a million times the fighter I was.

  • gorgonzolagorgonzola Member Posts: 2,666
    edited August 4
    DreadKhan wrote: »
    I suppose if you are going to hoard scrolls perhaps, you are gaining lots of levels at once as a mage I think, so you can use the pips the best ways possible?
    yep, this is the idea.
    DreadKhan wrote: »
    I'd like the FotA if you could use the +5, but that will preclude the use of IH, unless a mod/hack is used to make the FotA stack with IH, which is very easy to do I suppose. Then, yes, the FotA is the king, and use it for sure
    equipping an other weapon, applying the haste and then equipping back FoA+5 you are hasted, immune from slowing effects and no mod or hack is needed, if the latest patches of the game have not changed it.
    but i would also gladly use the +4 version with the poison head, you miss 6 elemental damage points and 1 thac0, but is still one fantastic weapon. in some runs i upgrade it to +5, in other ones i leave it +4.
    DreadKhan wrote: »
    I'd rather take proficiency in my off hand weapon than take a 3rd pip in TWF, but thats just me. What is the non-proficiency penalty for a fighter, -3? I know it isn't super low.
    one pip in the OH weapon grants a -1 thac0 OH compared to 3 pips in DW and no proficiency, so apparently is superior.
    but i would go for the 3rd pip for its versatility, as so you are not bind to a certain OH weapon type, but can freely switch to belm, mace of destruption, crom or whatever is more useful in a given situation.
    i don't like my soloers to be 1 trick ponyes :)
    DreadKhan wrote: »
    A level 9 kensage you might as well have gone Berserker
    agreed, the berseker9->M is better then the kensai9->M.
    but it happens that i sometimes like to play the old fashoned kensage, that i never learn/erase for a playstyle choice and i don't like long down times, so sometimes i use kensages dualed at 9.
    i brought it to the topic not because it is a super strong build, lev 13 or lev 9 from berseker are better, i did it to tell that even dualing at 9, so with some thac0 and 1/2 apr less the K->M can still do some serious physical damage in late tob, so the lev 13 dual with more fighter levels and kit bonus has nothing to worry from that side.
    EDIT: to be effective in mlee with a lev 9 or 13 dual late tob crom in the OH is really helping as the +7 thac0 and +14 damage really help. and a belt like the one of the inertial bareer or one that gives better ac against a certain damage type can be equipped.
    in that phase of the game my kensage uses the dagger only as ranged weapon and as he does it he equips the best str belt that is available.
    firetooth and boomerang are good mlee weapons in soa, as they are speed weapons that allow to reach easily 5apr if coupled with belm/kundane, but in tob the upgraded FoA and crom are the way to go, and still the GM in dagger is not wasted as it is used for ranged attacks.

    DreadKhan
  • jmerryjmerry Member Posts: 187
    The non-proficiency penalty for a fighter is 2 points of THAC0 - not really a big deal at all. But then, you're going to keep investing. The second dot is one point of THAC0 and two damage. The third dot is two points of THAC0 and one damage; those look stronger than the third dot in two-weapon style, if you know what your off-hand weapon is. The fourth and fifth dots in a weapon are only one point of damage each and some speed, so for those you should probably take the weapon style first.

    The primary weapon is different, of course - there you want GM as fast as possible, because of the extra attacks.

    gorgonzolaleeux
  • gorgonzolagorgonzola Member Posts: 2,666
    edited August 4
    if the non-proficiency penalty for a fighter is 2 points of THAC0 then to have 3 pips in dw or 2 pips in dw and 1 in the OH weapon give the same result, but the 3 pips in DW give much more versatility as every weapon can work as OH one.

    sure to have 3 pips in DW and at least 1 pip in the OH weapon is better, but for a kensage dualed at 13 that want GM in 2 weapons only 3 pips are left so it is not an option.
    or better is an option that cost GM in a weapon type, so is viable only if the main hand weapon is axe, choice that imo is inferior to have GM in dagger and flail as ranged the dagger has 1 more apr and mlee FoA comes way before the upgraded super axe with vorpal effect, that kills minor foe but is not effective against many bosses that are slowed by the flail.

  • MythdraconMythdracon Member Posts: 187
    This is fascinating (and alarming) stuff to read-- I guess I should reload to back when I got right up to 13 so I'm not wasting XP. At this rate I might go with a (smaller) party, though doing so might have its own problems--I got Jan on as a visitor early so his XP is still at level 8, for example.

    How come Improved Haste doesn't work with Flail of the Ages? Did Beamdog nerf the +5 flail?

    Re: daggers, I've been resisting them mostly because I like the visuals of a kensai-mage speedily chopping up enemies with long blades (fits the samurai type, even if actual samurai had splint armor, notably). Same with maces and flails, though I guess FoA being that good means I have to go with it eventually. I note there are +4/+5 long swords in TOB though.

    I was also tempted to put a third pip in two-weapon style for flexibility. Some times I've had to use Arbane +2 (short sword, which I have no pips in) to avoid the Hold spells mages cast against me (my monk main has no such problems, as he has 92% magic immunity and immense XP even though he's in a five-man party, hehehehe).

    I understand berserkers are better strength wise against liches, etc, but I prefer kensais because I like the theme more, and also because one of the male CHARNAME voices sort of fits for a stereotypical stern Japanese samurai male. Also, dwarves can't be berserker-mages, which is a shame, otherwise I would totally have made one named "Odin" and tried to solo the game that way (humans as berserker-mages doesn't work for me visually since human male sprites don't have beards--they are all swimmer-build type tall males typically).

    Do berserkers tear down enemies as quickly as kensai do? I must say I like the thrill of a kensai coming close to death but chopping down an enemy at the last second, even if it's frustrating to occasionally have to reload from the lack of armor (shield amulet can only get you so far sometimes).

    Let's discuss specifics on pips--what builds did you guys have for your kensai-mages/kensai-thieves/kensai at the start of the game, and which pips did you use early? Long Sword pips (3) made sense for me since Varscona +2 is in Irenicus' dungeon early, and the rest I put in two-weapon except for one pip in scimitars. On the other hand, if by TOB there will be enough pips to go around, maybe I could have afforded to put some in katanas to use the Celestial Fury early, as long as there were enough pips to put in at least one other key weapon for boss fights where katanas can't be used (Hindo's Doom +4 comes too late IMO).

    gorgonzola
  • jmerryjmerry Member Posts: 187
    Mythdracon wrote: »
    How come Improved Haste doesn't work with Flail of the Ages? Did Beamdog nerf the +5 flail?
    The Free Action effect in the games blocks Slow and Haste effects, of which Improved Haste is one. There are mods that change this, so that Free Action becomes an unambiguous buff.
    It is possible to get your haste effects with a little more work; just switch weapons before casting. Free Action doesn't remove existing effects.
    Mythdracon wrote: »
    Do berserkers tear down enemies as quickly as kensai do? I must say I like the thrill of a kensai coming close to death but chopping down an enemy at the last second, even if it's frustrating to occasionally have to reload from the lack of armor (shield amulet can only get you so far sometimes).
    No. The advantages of a berserker over a kensai are basically all defensive. Rage boosts your damage enough to approximately match the kensai's normal level some of the time - and then the kensai gets Kai to boost damage even farther for brief periods. The exception is in low level play; in BG1, the Gauntlets of Weapon Expertise (Legacy of the Masters) match essentially all of the Kensai's passive boost, and then the berserker gets Rage on top of that. Then again, if you're dual-classing to mage, the spells you get out of that are going to dominate your offense later on and take time away from attacking with weapons. There's not much synergy between the kensai bonuses and mage abilities.
    Mythdracon wrote: »
    Let's discuss specifics on pips--what builds did you guys have for your kensai-mages/kensai-thieves/kensai at the start of the game, and which pips did you use early?
    My kensai-thief:
    Start with two dots each in long swords and katanas. Raise long swords at level 3 and 6, use a single long sword (mostly Varscona) throughout BG1. Fifth dot in LS at level 9, third dot in katana at level 12. At this point, switch to using Celestial Fury instead of a long sword, except while I've got Valygar in the party. Dual class at 13, taking points in single-weapon and two-weapon styles. Level up to Thief 14 in a single burst, taking the fourth and fifth dots in katana along with the second in two-weapon style. Switch to using Celestial Fury main-hand and a speed weapon off-hand (most likely Kundane, since Jaheira gets Belm). From there, it's the third dot in two-weapon style and pumping Scimitar/Wakizashi/Ninja-To in preparation for using the Scarlet Ninja-To once I get Use Any Item. The character is currently stopped at level 13/30 in early ToB, although I have a fighter-assassin relative on essentially the same build that has reached the experience cap. Later in ToB, you'll switch back to long swords (Angurvadal) as the primary weapon.
    In play, the kensai-thief is all about backstabbing; the passive bonus damage gets multiplied in a backstab, so that build I described deals 65-110 damage (plus strength) on a backstab as soon as you complete the dual. You don't even bother with the Shield Amulet a lot of the time once you're a thief, since hiding in the shadows is a much better defense than some AC. Eventually, you get Use Any Item, completely eliminating the kensai disadvantage and allowing all sorts of interesting items with class or alignment restrictions.

    gorgonzola
  • MythdraconMythdracon Member Posts: 187
    jmerry wrote: »
    Mythdracon wrote: »
    How come Improved Haste doesn't work with Flail of the Ages? Did Beamdog nerf the +5 flail?
    The Free Action effect in the games blocks Slow and Haste effects, of which Improved Haste is one. There are mods that change this, so that Free Action becomes an unambiguous buff.
    It is possible to get your haste effects with a little more work; just switch weapons before casting. Free Action doesn't remove existing effects.
    Mythdracon wrote: »
    Do berserkers tear down enemies as quickly as kensai do? I must say I like the thrill of a kensai coming close to death but chopping down an enemy at the last second, even if it's frustrating to occasionally have to reload from the lack of armor (shield amulet can only get you so far sometimes).
    No. The advantages of a berserker over a kensai are basically all defensive. Rage boosts your damage enough to approximately match the kensai's normal level some of the time - and then the kensai gets Kai to boost damage even farther for brief periods. The exception is in low level play; in BG1, the Gauntlets of Weapon Expertise (Legacy of the Masters) match essentially all of the Kensai's passive boost, and then the berserker gets Rage on top of that. Then again, if you're dual-classing to mage, the spells you get out of that are going to dominate your offense later on and take time away from attacking with weapons. There's not much synergy between the kensai bonuses and mage abilities.
    Mythdracon wrote: »
    Let's discuss specifics on pips--what builds did you guys have for your kensai-mages/kensai-thieves/kensai at the start of the game, and which pips did you use early?
    My kensai-thief:
    Start with two dots each in long swords and katanas. Raise long swords at level 3 and 6, use a single long sword (mostly Varscona) throughout BG1. Fifth dot in LS at level 9, third dot in katana at level 12. At this point, switch to using Celestial Fury instead of a long sword, except while I've got Valygar in the party. Dual class at 13, taking points in single-weapon and two-weapon styles. Level up to Thief 14 in a single burst, taking the fourth and fifth dots in katana along with the second in two-weapon style. Switch to using Celestial Fury main-hand and a speed weapon off-hand (most likely Kundane, since Jaheira gets Belm). From there, it's the third dot in two-weapon style and pumping Scimitar/Wakizashi/Ninja-To in preparation for using the Scarlet Ninja-To once I get Use Any Item. The character is currently stopped at level 13/30 in early ToB, although I have a fighter-assassin relative on essentially the same build that has reached the experience cap. Later in ToB, you'll switch back to long swords (Angurvadal) as the primary weapon.
    In play, the kensai-thief is all about backstabbing; the passive bonus damage gets multiplied in a backstab, so that build I described deals 65-110 damage (plus strength) on a backstab as soon as you complete the dual. You don't even bother with the Shield Amulet a lot of the time once you're a thief, since hiding in the shadows is a much better defense than some AC. Eventually, you get Use Any Item, completely eliminating the kensai disadvantage and allowing all sorts of interesting items with class or alignment restrictions.
    Hm, berserker doesn't quite sound like my play style. I do like fights to end early. Monks have a nice mix of defensive and high damage stuff at high levels, which I enjoy. (I think my monk is the most powerful character I've played so far, albeit without the powerful Planetar spells my first mage had.) I thought kensai-mage had nice synergy due to the no-armor restriction (just wear Robe of Vecna instead), and the weapon bonuses (slash with swords while putting up high defenses as mage; I guess against beholders that strategy will have to change).

    Are kensai-thieves more synergistic ability-wise, you think? And is Use Any Item going to work to allow a kensai-thief to wear armor, bracers, etc?

  • Balrog99Balrog99 Member Posts: 4,718
    edited August 5
    Use Any Item will allow you to use any item except unique NPC weapons (Jan's gear, Corthala Family Armour, etc...). I believe before the EE's it even allowed use of those unique NPC items but, for whatever reason, that was deemed unrealistic...

    Edit: By the way, UAI even allows use of magic wands and scrolls. This includes the ability to use a scroll of Find Familiar to summon an adorable little buddy and some bonus hit-points!

  • jmerryjmerry Member Posts: 187
    I find kensai-thief much more synergistic, yes.
    For one thing, flat damage bonuses such as weapon mastery and the kit's passive, get multiplied in backstabs. Don't underestimate this - fighter-thief duals are already the best option for backstabbing, so you'll be doing it a lot. One-hit kills on illithids, anyone?
    For another, Use Any item does allow for all the things that kensai's can't usually wear, completely eliminating the kit's drawbacks. In the save for that K13/T30 I loaded up to check, her current equipment includes the White Dragon Scale armor, the Legacy of the Masters gauntlets, Vhailor's helm, the Heart of the Mountain amulet, the Staff of the Magi, the Ninjato of the Scarlet Brotherhood, a Wand of Lightning, and the Golem Manual. That's eight different items that she couldn't use beforehand, three of which are specifically not allowed for a kensai.
    Even before you get UAI, hiding all the time and using hit-and-run backstabs covers the weakness of lacking armor pretty well. If they can't see you, they can't target you and they can't attack you.

    The only things Use Any Item won't help with are attribute requirements and character-specific items. A cleric-thief with Str 10 and Use Any Item can wield an axe, but not a flail. A thief who isn't Jan is never going to be able to wear Jan's gloves.
    Dual-classing from Wizard Slayer to thief and taking UAI also wipes out that kit's item restrictions, by the way.

    By comparison, the synergy of being able to wear mage robes as a kensai dual is pretty weak. You still can't wear gauntlets, helmets, or shields - and fighter-mages can get a lot out of those slots.

    Of course, personal preference is a big deal here. I like the backstab-focused fighter-thief playstyle, hardly ever using daily limited abilities. I've never been attracted to a melee fighter-mage playstyle. I'm not interesting in going fully solo - my playthrough ideas are themed parties rather than single characters. These are all clearly very different from your preferences, so you're probably not going to build a character the same way I did.

    leeuxGrond0gorgonzola
  • MythdraconMythdracon Member Posts: 187
    Good to know. It's a bit odd that UAI can override that many things. Ah well. I already went kensai-mage. I may try kensai-thief or some other thief dual or multi class in the future. Which thief combos are the strongest? Anything as strong as gnome illusionist/fighter?

    I'm honestly not familiar with backstabbing. Whenever I use Valygar, his stealth doesn't pay off since I am unsure what weapons he is meant to actually backstab with (I tried daggers once, but all that did was have him break stealth to do a regular attack, not backstab for extra damage).

  • jmerryjmerry Member Posts: 187
    A brief explanation of backstabbing:
    In order to backstab, the following conditions must be satisfied:
    - You're currently invisible. Both skill-based stealth and spell-based invisibility work here.
    - You're behind the enemy. This can be a bit fuzzy.
    - You're wielding a melee weapon that a single-class thief can use in your main hand. Weapons enabled by UAI such as the Staff of the Magi or the Ninjato of the Scarlet Brotherhood don't qualify, but weapons of the right type restricted to a single character (i.e., the Corthala Family Blade) do. Natural weapons of shapeshifted forms also work; a mage/thief can Polymorph Self or Shapechange into a hard-hitting form such as an ogre or golem and backstab that way.
    - You have a class with a backstab multiplier.
    - You hit with a melee attack. Since this attack gets a +4 bonus to hit for you being invisible, it has a pretty good chance to hit. The attack breaks invisibility, so you'll have to reestablish it somehow before you can backstab again.

    There are also a number of enemies that are immune to backstabs; if you try to backstab them, you get a message "Backstab failed" in the combat log and your attack merely deals normal non-multiplied damage. These enemies include dragons, liches, and golems.
    If you have cosmetic attacks enabled in the graphical options, it's possible to swing and whiff with a purely graphical attack before the real attack lands. These fake attacks don't break invisibility, so stay in there. It helps to have the combat log show attack rolls, so that you know when the real attack comes.

    What does the backstab multiplier apply to? It applies to all physical damage except strength bonuses. Increasing Valygar's strength to 18/00 with the Gauntlets of Ogre Strength will show bigger damage numbers than giving him the Gauntlets of Weapon Expertise, but the latter will result in stronger backstabs, because the +2 damage from the gauntlets gets multiplied and the +5 from increasing strength doesn't.

    When using a backstabber, I find it useful to set that character's AI to not auto-attack. That way, they won't go off after someone while you're maneuvering them into position to hit the exact right target. It makes for more micromanagement in party fights, but it's worth it for the improved backstab targeting.

    Valygar starts with a katana, a dagger, a spear, and a longbow. The katana and dagger are legal backstabbing weapons, while the spear and bow aren't. Since he starts specialized in katanas and non-proficient in daggers, and the katana he starts with is nicely enchanted, katanas are the obvious choice for him to backstab with early on. He's the entry-level choice for learning backstabbing, as he's reasonably sturdy and you don't have to make any particular choices building the character to make it work; ranger stealth skills are automatic, and he's already got the proficiencies in a good backstabbing weapon.

    The single most important piece of equipment for a backstabber, in my opinion, is the Boots of Speed. You don't want to be alone with that group of enemies after you've just stabbed one, so you need to be able to retreat quickly.

    gorgonzolaPermidion_Stark
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