I played vanilla BG when it came out 20 or so years ago and was familiar with D&D 2nd edition (I still have the books). Bought the EE versions a few years ago as well as IWD EE and eventually SoD when it came out. I just got back into playing these games recently (played IWD that I had for years and never played yet and just replayed BG2/ToB).
Overall, I've done maybe about 4-5 BG1 playthroughs, 1 IWD, 1 SoD, 2 BG2/ToB. All were done on Core Difficulty and with different party compositions (sometimes magic intensive, sometimes almost no magic and so on).
I'm about to do the whole series again (BG1/SoD/BG2/ToB) and for the first time, I'm looking into possibly using some mods (I only used one for the first time on my last BG2 run but it mostly only added some of the SoD items to merchants or locations).
For the most part, I find the game series a bit too easy. From what I can remember, in BG1, aside from unlucky saves vs a basilisk petrification and such, I can only recall the final fight and possibly the greater wolfwere as being challenging (the wolfwere is mostly because there are so few weapons that can damage him). In SoD, I only recall the final fight again. In BG2/ToB, maybe 2-3 lich fights (like Kangaxx) but part of it was because I killed them early/mid act 2 at low level (I had to cheese Kangaxx's 2nd form with a scroll of protection vs undead) and the final fight of ToB is more challenging.
During my last playthrough, my party was heavy on physical damage and about 95% of the fights I could just throw Dispell Magic from Keldorn followed by Truesight (enemy casters often go invis after setting their defenses up) and take out everything with regular attacks.
The regular difficulty slider only says that it increases enemy damage which I'm not excited about partly because it strays more from the original pnp rules and it reinforces the RNG where if you take a hit, you might die and if you don't, nothing is changed.
So I often read people talking about SCS over the last few years and am considering giving it a try, am about halfway through the Readme to see the changes at the moment.
Here are my main questions:
1- I would like enemy AI to be better and have more of a challenge, I would enjoy them to use all or at least more of their abilities. So I think in the improved AI, I should set it to "tactical" (it's the 3rd difficulty out of 5)? I would be interested in enemies to be at their higher potential BUT I don't really enjoy spending 10-15mins buffing up my party with spells/potions/scrolls/items (I do it on rare occasions against a major boss fight if I think it's worth it) so I don't really want to have to do this nonstop before every fight. Is Tactical difficulty the right choice in this case or must I go with something lower?
2- From what I've read, it seems like fighting enemy casters is a lot harder (especially liches) and it becomes complicated to strip their defenses. Does this mean that having at least 1 arcane spellcaster in the party is mandatory (in order to have the various protection breaking spells early on)? This would limit party composition options quite a bit but at the same time, I understand that the mod could be to try to force the user to build up a better rounded and more solid party.
3- Similar to the previous question, I read that thieves are very annoying by chaining backstabs and drinking potions. Does this mean that a character with something like Truesight is mandatory? Also, does this mean that the 2-3 items that give immunity to backstab in BG2 can be worth using now or will those thieves still just ignore those party members and go onto your squishier members that aren't immune?
4- An other mod I'm hesitating about (I'm not sure I fully understand what it does but maybe it would be spoiling myself if I did) is Ascension from the same person that made SCS. I was confused when I read the SCS changes about this and the Demogorgon, the Demogorgon is weaker if you have both mods installed than if you only have Ascension?
5- Finally, the other main mod I read about that I'm thinking of MAYBE using is the Spell Revision one (supposed to be compatible with SCS although I read a post from someone that had issues with both together). I like a lot of the changes on the list although some like the 8h lasting -10 THAC0 from a lvl 1 Blind spell could be very frustrating to deal with if an enemy casts this onto me as there isn't a lot to dispell this effect early game depending on your party composition. There are also a few changes to some good spells that I'm not too happy about. Overall, I'm wondering if it might not make spell casters way better than non-casters (since their kits are not revised) but my other big concern is its interaction with SCS. If SCS makes enemy spell casters a lot harder to deal with, does the Spell Revision mod which makes a lot of the spells much more potent end up pushing this difficulty too far (there are maybe 3-4 strong spells that are nerfed but for the most part, it's significant buffs)?