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The Best School for Defensive Specialist Mage

Greetings to all of you Baldur's gate fans! Especially to those who recognise that BG and sequels are, indeed, the best games ever made in the history of mankind.

After almost 15 years of hiatus, I have come back to play BG recently, with EE editions and I am finding it every bit of a brilliant experience as it was back in the old days when the game just came out. Anyway, I am around midway through the SoA (I actually have never finished this game, but going well so hard...on 'core' difficulty, of course) and, as is my tradition, I am already planning for the next playthrough. I strictly refuse to play the game as anything other than a mage, cleric, druid, fighter/cleric or fighter/druid (no fighter/mage as I don't like how OP it is). Since I have always enjoyed arcane casters, it will definitely be a specialist mage.

So, I have this vision that mages as a class are good in doing 5 things:

a) debuff/crowd control enemies
b) buff their own party (haste, improved haste, protection from fire...)
c) face tank (via PfMW, PfME, spell immunities and turning etc)
d) deal lots of damage
e) participate in mage fencing

My current sorcerer is a little bit of everything, but I feel like he doesn't do any of these things perfectly. So I want to do a playthrough with a specialist mage who will focus on two or three of the above, and then have another mage that will do the rest. Supported by other party members, of course. So, I have two questions:

1. Which school specialisation is the best for two or three of the above? And which complements well with other (good-aligned) mages in the game?

My initial idea is to roll an Enchanter to do a), c) and e). Enchanter should be good in crowd control, as most of the spells in their school have saving throws, so, in theory, their specialisation should help them land more often. Also, since they can cast Abjuration spells, they still can do most of the self-buffs that will make them good tanks (I was so proud in my current playthrough when I single-handedly defeated all the beholder and elder orbs in the lair in Underdark with SI: Necromancy, SI: Enchantment, Spell Turning, skull trap and some crowd controllers). And also, from the RP perspective, I find my ideal spooky mage to be not someone who can deal tons of damage, but someone who can control minds of others and turn them one against the other.

However, there are some problems too. Firstly, it is quite hard to get a good roll, with needing 16 in that pointless charisma. Taking into account that I possibly want to use wish too, there is literally no proper dump stat (I think it is quite a bad idea to use strength as a dump), so I need a roll of around 95 or so to be competent. Also, I would miss some evocation spells - not damage ones, this wouldn't be a damage dealer, but things like fire shields (they look pretty and I am shallow, don't judge me), web, stinking cloud... Finally, and this is the biggest problem, I heard that when you reach ToB, every squirrel and their mother will have 150% immunity to magic and save vs. spell in the range of -50, so it becomes next to impossible to land any of the cool enchantment crowd controls such as feeblemind.

The alternative would be an Illusionist, which is also cool from the RP perspective (but not as much as Enchanters).

So, what are your experiences in the whole saga with Enchanters in this role? Does it make sense or is it better to go with the Illusionist (no clue what their stats look like).

2. With SCS (which I totally want to try) and their supposedly massive improved enemy targeting, does the concept of a 'face tank' become pointless? For example, if I turn all my buffs on and run in front of the group to meet beholder, will they just (after a few shots of their rays, which at the rate they are firing lasts for around 0.01 sec) realise they cannot hurt me and then ignore me and obliterate the rest of my (unprotected) party? Or, in general, does it make sense anymore to have a character whose main point is to be able to sustain a barrage of fire (and not being able to land any crowd controllers because of the saving throws) if the enemies will just ignore him and focus on the other party members?

Sorry for the long-winded post! Also, just to say - I play with reloads, as I am not into this solo-no-reload-SCS-on-insanity-level-from-BG-to-ToB-with-level-1-monk stuff...Not that I don't admire people who can do it, but I am just too old for that.

Comments

  • jsavingjsaving Member Posts: 850
    VanDerBerg wrote: »
    So, I have this vision that mages as a class are good in doing 5 things:
    a) debuff/crowd control enemies
    b) buff their own party (haste, improved haste, protection from fire...)
    c) face tank (via PfMW, PfME, spell immunities and turning etc)
    d) deal lots of damage
    e) participate in mage fencing
    Fighter/mages are much better face-tanks than singleclass mages because you can routinely dish out high melee DPS while absorbing a huge amount of damage. Unless you are looking to throw max-damage skull traps and the like, I'd say fighter/mage would best accomplish what you are looking to achieve (you can go gnome if you want to be a specialist).

  • SoidoSoido Member Posts: 172
    I cannot give much valuable advice because I am a noob regarding the arcane arts.

    I have not rolled a pure mage so far, dabbed a little bit in FMT but abandoned because his prowess comes very late due to a very powerful spell - mislead. Until then I will get bored by the FMT, or struggle with it.

    Pure mage, the issue to me is Edwin. I just can never be a better mage than him. And I don't want to be his shadow. Of course feel free not to pick him if you will be jealous of him.

    Edwin is not perfect though, so there might be room to excel over him. His weakness seems to be his stats. Very low dexterity making him unsuitable face tank. Maybe you can take that role with better dice rolls. And his strength is low too, but easily fixable by the spell - Strength which gives the party 18/50-18/00.

    As for the dump stat, I think Wisdom is unneeded for mages. Charisma can be lowered up to 14 because the spell Friend is your friend. Gives +6 to charisma for maximum discount in shops. Actually you are fine to lower to 13 even because there is a very early tome of Charisma at the Gnoll Fortress.

  • VanDerBergVanDerBerg Member Posts: 29
    I appreciate and absolutely agree that F/M is a better tank than a pure specialist mage. Admittedly, my problems with F/M and the reasons I don't want to play them are more philosophical. One of the reasons I love BG is that it is truly a role playing game (unlike, for example, Elder Scrolls series) - different classes fill different roles and there Is a clear distinction between what fighters are good in and what, for example, thieves and mages are good in. So, a fighter is good in dealing lots of damage and has access to all the fancy equipment, but they cannot do magic and are notoriously vulnerable to it, especially mind-control magic. Mages, on the other hand, are squishy in hand-to-hand combat, cannot deal much damage with weapons but can cast magic to compensate for that. Some encounters are really hard to beat with just fighters, while others are next to impossible with mages, so you need both of these in your party (again, I never play solo).

    Enter Fighter/Mage. What BG seems to be saying here is - you can be good in magic, good in fighting, or good in both. There is almost zero penalties in rolling F/M as opposed to pure fighter or pure mage. You cannot equip armour while casting magic? F/M with 5 mage levels can cast ghost armour and blur, effectively having a better AC than any pure fighter in BG1. Adding to that stoneskin and pfmw in BG2 and...who cares about armour, really? And, compared to a specialist mage, you can cast one spell less per level? In other words, towards the end of SoA and ToB, you will be able to cast 5 level 9 spells instead of 6? And that's it? In my current playthrough, the only difference between Aeire and Imoen (so, multiclass mage and pure mage) at the point where I am is that Imoen can cast one more level 6 spell and 1 more level 7 spell. To compensate for that, Aeire can cast all cleric spells up to level 6. And compared to a pure fighter, you are not able to achieve grandmastery in weapons? So, you get...what...-1/2 APR and -2 THACQ. To compensate, you can throw all arcane magic in reckless abandon. So, this pretty much destroys the RP aspect of the game for me and comes down to powergaming, which I personally don't like. And this is even worse than in Elder Scrolls games (where you can be a good fighter and good mage at the same point, but not excellent fighter and excellent mage at the same time, as in BG)

    I feel the proper way to implement F/M would be for them to be similar to bards - severely restrict the weapon and armour selection while still giving a possibility to specialise in weapons and give bonuses to APR and on the other side, make spell progression much much slower than for a pure mage. And don't allow casting the highest level magic. Or, alternatively, instead of slower progression of spells, restrict F/Ms to a magic from only a particular schools (so, have F/M who can, for example, cast just Abjuration spells).

    And gnomes are to me even worse. I cannot possibly picture a gnome fighter. Wearing full plate mail and waving with a two handed sword. A gnome? I think gnomes shouldn't be fighters at all.

    Sorry for long rant, it was mostly just me elaborating on why I don't like F/Ms, even though, as you say, they truly do make best tanks (and probably the most powerful chars overall)

  • SoidoSoido Member Posts: 172
    It looks perfectly fine to me having less spells as FM than specialized pure mage has. After all FM spends his time mostly fighting while a pure mage spends his time mostly casting spells. You don't need so many spells if you are going to fight. Just sequence the buffs, cast quickly at the beginning and go fight. A pure mage will be casting more often I guess so is good idea to specialize a pure mage.

  • VanDerBergVanDerBerg Member Posts: 29
    Pure mage, the issue to me is Edwin. I just can never be a better mage than him. And I don't want to be his shadow. Of course feel free not to pick him if you will be jealous of him.

    Absolutely true, but I personally -never- play with an evil party, so I never take Edwin in any of my playthroughs :)
    As for the dump stat, I think Wisdom is unneeded for mages. Charisma can be lowered up to 14 because the spell Friend is your friend.

    Well, wisdom is important for Limited Wish/Wish spells. I also absolutely don't care about Charisma, but the issue is that Enchanters (still my favorite school of magic) have requirements to have at least 16 Charisma. So, if you roll an Enchanter, you cannot lower Charisma below that. This totally makes sense from the RP perspective, it is just a pain in the back.

    It looks perfectly fine to me having less spells as FM than specialized pure mage has.

    It absolutely does, but as a F/M you have just 1 spell less per level than a specialist mage, which is barely noticeable even at lower levels. As I said, I would much prefer for F/M to have far fewer spell slots - around the same as a bard or, perhaps, half of what a specialist mage has.

  • SoidoSoido Member Posts: 172
    Since you mentioned wishes, I guess you like the gamble approach and the unknown. In such a case I strongly recommend you the Wild mage option. They get an extra spell per level, so you can bypass directly the Charisma requirement without specializing into Enchantment. Plus you have access to all spells, no opposition school.

    I have read in the forums that Wild Mage can be very fun due to its unpredictability and wild surges.

  • Grond0Grond0 Member Posts: 6,233
    You can use potions to boost wisdom for wishes - unless you are planning to use that spell very frequently those should suffice for your needs.

    I agree enchanters are a decent choice for a specialist mage. You do of course lose some nice spells, but that's the case with all of the options. Their spells still work well for crowd control even in ToB (the boss characters tend to be immune to those, but saving throws of most enemies are nothing special).

    SCS is certainly far more discriminating in its choice of targets than the unmodded game. There's no way you will be able to just have a single character act as the tank all the time - and the AI is pretty good as seeking out those less protected characters and targeting attacks onto them :p.

  • VanDerBergVanDerBerg Member Posts: 29
    SCS is certainly far more discriminating in its choice of targets than the unmodded game. There's no way you will be able to just have a single character act as the tank all the time - and the AI is pretty good as seeking out those less protected characters and targeting attacks onto them :p.

    I played a tiny bit with it just to see how it is and it certainly looked much more challenging. When Silke (who is a totally trivial to kill in the unmoded game even for level 1 party) threw a spider spawn at my level 1 party, I figured out - yep, that's gonna be a long road. And when...what's his face...the fastest dart in the world...started gulping potions of heroism and extra healing and one-shooting everyone in my party, I thought that my stance will have to change my mindset from 'this was badly fought, I had one of my chaps lose a thrid of his HP - reload' to 'this was excellent, just half of my party died - quicksave'. I guess that's why they reduced to price for Raise Dead in temples from 900 to 100 - you are expected to die a lot :disappointed:

  • Grond0Grond0 Member Posts: 6,233
    The temple raise dead price depends on your level - so it's much cheaper to die at level 1 than later on in the adventure ...

  • VanDerBergVanDerBerg Member Posts: 29
    Blimey. And there was me hoping that dying is not terribly expensive anymore in SCS.

  • SoidoSoido Member Posts: 172
    If you want to be rich, play solo and stay away from divorces

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