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The party that finished half the game in chapter 2...

To say that I have enjoyed playing BG2 more with Imoen4Ever would be putting it mildly. I have been playing BG2 the way I played BG2 - with a focus on exploration and adventure. (I also added tweaks to enable any non-plot related lands, such as the North Forest). I've also roamed all of the places Lava has added. It's been a wonderful romp through BG2 unlike any other.

However, I now see the pacing problems by doing things this way more clearly. My party just wrapped up Watcher's Keep in Chapter 3. They opted not to fight the imprisoned one, but that whole area is done. They did leave Saladrex, because while he is a jerk, he wasn't actively hostile.

Which means that the party was very high level when they left for Brynnlaw. Isra and Sirene were both level 19 paladins, Jaheira was 14/14, Imoen was a level 19 mage, Aerie was 14/14, and Eilrie was just shy of level 20 right before getting on the boat. Which meant everyone except Aerie had HLAs. While on the island, everyone leveled, and got even more HLAs.

Now, in the Suhagin city, Isra and Sirene are both level 20, have greater whirlwind and summon deva, and are loaded out with +4 and +5 weapons. Jaheira is now 14/15, and can summon earth elementals, Imoen is level 20 and has both alacrity and summon planetar, Eilrie, the sorcereress, is just nuts - especially with the robe of vecna and some other items that improve her casting speed. She can time stop on a dime and drop all manner of nasties on a crowd.

All of this has made chapter 4 and (so far) chapter 5 feel a LOT different. It also apparently short circuited a few things. Eilrie never transformed into the slayer in the basement, and I'm still not sure why. When they confronted Irenicus, Isra, Sirene, and Jaheira (now all three equipped with boots of speed) had him down to near death before he got his casting finger up. Eilrie hammered him so hard that he gave up before he had a chance to cast a single spell. (I was still saddened to see that there is no way to save the other prisoners...) It's like playing on easy mode, but I haven't "cheated" at all.

Other than using the console to fix things like NPCs not showing up, I haven't used the console to boost stats, give powerful items, etc. The party just did everything they could before getting on the boat. They were at day 328 when they left, and were actually just sleeping a lot to get through one of the stronghold quests.

The silver lining is that the party can now RP the way they would like. That "fest hall" in Brynnlaw? Yeah, Isra and Sirene weren't amused, so the party nuked that place six ways to Sunday. Tearing slavers new backsides has become their hobby.

I may up the difficulty to tactical from core rules to see if that returns the challenge.

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Comments

  • jsavingjsaving Member Posts: 893
    edited July 6
    How are you able to use HLAs in SoA if you haven't cheated? The game isn't designed for them and is a cakewalk with them, no matter how far to the right you move the difficulty slider.

  • monicomonico Member Posts: 564
    edited July 6
    jsaving wrote: »
    How are you able to use HLAs in SoA if you haven't cheated?
    Maurvir wrote: »
    My party just wrapped up Watcher's Keep in Chapter 3.

    Watcher's Keep plus the fact that Maurvir specifically stated in the very thread name that he completed almost all quests/stuff available (and also new stuff available from mods) explains why he easily got his first HLA's before Spellhold.

    @Maurvir what's Imoen4Ever ? Given your description, I'd say it's a mod that it makes Imoen the protagonist (hence why she wasn't abducted to Spellhold ?)

  • Grond0Grond0 Member Posts: 6,308
    jsaving wrote: »
    How are you able to use HLAs in SoA if you haven't cheated? The game isn't designed for them and is a cakewalk with them, no matter how far to the right you move the difficulty slider.

    I assume you're referring to the old 2.8m XP cap in SoA. That cap disappeared when ToB was added (in the same way that the BG1 cap disappeared when TotSC was added). You can make the argument that the cap should not have been removed in order to maintain more of a challenge in SoA, but that was the decision made by the original developers.

    JuliusBorisovThacoBell
  • jsavingjsaving Member Posts: 893
    Ha, that's what happens when you play these games for such a long time. Yes of course you guys are right! :)

    @monico Imoen4Ever makes her a joinable NPC throughout SoA (and is definitely not to be confused with other more morally dubious Imoen mods).

  • ilduderinoilduderino Member Posts: 591
    edited July 6
    You can get HLAs on Yoshimo if you do Watcher’s Keep early

  • MaurvirMaurvir Member Posts: 684
    Yup, there were no console hijinks to boost any party member's XP/level. I have the game tweaked to allow any, and multiple, strongholds, all of Lava's mods, and I rotated through several good aligned NPC's for the sixth slot. That, with Watcher's Keep, put most of the party way up - enough to get HLAs.

    I will agree, the pacing is a lot different when you can whip out a Planetar or used GWW against enemies intended for MUCH lower level parties. There is some scaling, and the party is seeing that already, but they literally breezed through Spellhold like it was an afternoon day trip on "core rules". (It's actually "Improved" for SCS - I need to boost it to Tactical")

  • MaurvirMaurvir Member Posts: 684
    jsaving wrote: »
    Ha, that's what happens when you play these games for such a long time. Yes of course you guys are right! :)

    @monico Imoen4Ever makes her a joinable NPC throughout SoA (and is definitely not to be confused with other more morally dubious Imoen mods).

    https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/76098/mod-imoen-4-ever-experience-the-bg-saga-with-imoen-and-the-beginning-of-soa-without-pressure#latest

    The mod gives you Imoen back shortly after she is taken in Waukeen's Promenade as you enter the Slum District. The version you get back is "post" Imoen, so any gains she makes are permanent, and she becomes a regular NPC companion instead of being gimped by not being available until Chapter 4.

    My party just played through Brynnlaw/Spellhold, so I know how it plays out now, and it's well done. It really does make BG2 feel a lot more like BG2 in the sense that you aren't worried about busting your hump to get to Spellhold. I have thoroughly enjoyed that aspect of it, but my party, ah, sort of overdid it.

    Ironically, much like they always do in BG1, where they finish half the game and ToSC before ever getting to the end of the Cloakwood forest.

    monico
  • ThacoBellThacoBell Member Posts: 11,077
    jsaving wrote: »
    How are you able to use HLAs in SoA if you haven't cheated? The game isn't designed for them and is a cakewalk with them, no matter how far to the right you move the difficulty slider.

    Its incredibly easy to get HLAs by the Underdark, even without going to Watcher's Keep.

    sarevok57
  • MaurvirMaurvir Member Posts: 684
    I bumped the slider up to Tactical, and it definitely made a difference. The Suhagin priests were definitely less stupid and bad guys in general followed the party rather than let them simply walk away from the fight.

    Still, the party rolled through there like it was a souvenir shop at Disneyland. The sea zombies, for instance. Eilrie sent in a Mordekainan's sword to get their attention while Isra went in with turn undead. It was kind of hilarious to see every last one of them explode and drop trinkets on the ground. The sword just wandered back to Eilrie, but it was unsummoned before the party ran into anything else.

    I suppose I will if this power imbalance holds for the Underdark. If it does, I may adjust the difficulty again. I'm really not a fan of this power gaming.

  • monicomonico Member Posts: 564
    Maurvir wrote: »
    I bumped the slider up to Tactical

    what's the tactical difficulty ? I only know the Novice / Normal / Core / Hard / Insane difficulty sliders (plus off course the "story mode" and "LoB mode").

  • ThacoBellThacoBell Member Posts: 11,077
    monico wrote: »
    Maurvir wrote: »
    I bumped the slider up to Tactical

    what's the tactical difficulty ? I only know the Novice / Normal / Core / Hard / Insane difficulty sliders (plus off course the "story mode" and "LoB mode").

    The latest version of SCS changes the names of the difficulty levels. Tactical is basically hard, but harder. "Basic" would be the equivalent of core rules.

    monico
  • Candy_clown2Candy_clown2 Member Posts: 10
    I think it's hard difficulty. I'm going to do legacy of bhaal difficulty because I really want to, although I know I will kind of regret this at some point. It shouldn't be impossible though, so I probably manage to survive.

  • MaurvirMaurvir Member Posts: 684
    I am definitely enjoying the game a lot more with Tactical difficulty. My party is still way too high a level, but it isn't a cakewalk anymore. I now have to actually manage buffs and watch out for party members getting beaten up a bit too much. The improvement for arcane and divine casters is definitely an improvement - they are much, much less stupid than vanilla. The improvements for beholders and gauths made that area a lot more challenging as well. I'm honestly not sure how I would have handled the beholder stronghold without my party having access to up to 9 Mordenkainen swords at a time and a half dozen skeleton warriors to soak up the damage. Mind flayers were also more difficult and behave more intelligently.

    At this point, I don't think I will ever run a BG/BG2 party without SCS. The improvements are subtle, but effective. It has become my favorite "tweak pack" by far.

    On the other hand, I had forgotten how much XP is doled out in chapters 4 and 5. Isra and Sirene are now level 23 (!), Eilrie is a level 22 sorceress*, with Imoen ever so lightly behind her at level 21 mage. Hilariously, I had forgotten I had installed Eilistraee's Song until I saw Solaufein at the exit from the Underdark and marked it on the map. So, I guess the party WILL have something else to do.

  • monicomonico Member Posts: 564
    I think it's hard difficulty. I'm going to do legacy of bhaal difficulty because I really want to, although I know I will kind of regret this at some point. It shouldn't be impossible though, so I probably manage to survive.

    Well, LoB is a very different playstyle: enemies have huge HP, crazy thac0, more ApR and way better AC. But, the IA is unchanged, their behaviour is the same, so mostly the strategies against them remain the same, you just need to hit them more.

    The crowd control spells become much more potent than direct damage spells (replace those fireballs with slows & hold spells :p ).

    One of my most effective LoB run was a very minmaxed run with a custom party:
    - a tank (dwarven defender would be probably the best)
    - a skald
    - 4 long range damage dealers (IIRC, there was one Priest of Lathander dualed to fighter using a sling ; an archer using bows, a kensai using throwing daggers/axes ; and a thief dualed to fighter using crossbows)

    Not much spellcasting, but enough to debilitate/buff and then your damage per round is so high that you barely notice the difference with normal gameplay.

    EDIT : found an old spreadsheet. In fact it was just the skald and 4 ranged damage dealers, the Cleric>Fighter being able to tank if need be.
    Theoretical highest damage with buffs/gear was:
    - 400 damage/round at BG1 cap ;
    - about the same with SoD because of duals not having gained their levels back ;
    - 550 damage/round by "early" BG2 (750k XP)
    - 850 damage/round at 1,5 million XP milestone
    - 1.767 damage/round once HLA's are hit

    Grond0
  • MaurvirMaurvir Member Posts: 684
    edited July 9
    If you use the SCS equivalent, you will be using magic a lot more. The trick with vanilla is that the AI is incredibly nerfed. You don't notice until you install an AI patch, but many of the powerful characters are, despite their stats, stupid.

    Kangaxx, for instance. In vanilla, you can defeat him by having a single character stand in front of him with spell protection and death ward and he will repeatedly try to imprison them. He doesn't move around, go past them, etc. No, he just stands there like a fool.

    With SCS? He quickly figures out what is up and starts going after the rest of the party. Because he is a lich, the trick of putting an invisible wall of party members doesn't cut it either. That fight gets a LOT harder as a result. Oh, and it was epic watching him cast wish in the middle of a battle. Seriously, that was awesome.

    LoB is fine and all, but it really just makes battles last longer. SCS makes them ruthless.

    monico
  • monicomonico Member Posts: 564
    I definitely agree that since LoB doesn't make enemies smarter, it is not as much a challenge as mods such as SCS.

    Still, I have found that it was an interesting change of playstyle, especially in BG1. But that was probably because before trying this mode I just had very basic strategies (FIREBALLS EVERYWHEEERE ! GO FOR THE EYES BOO !). It definitely forced me to pay more attention to other spells/strategies available.

  • VanDerBergVanDerBerg Member Posts: 125
    edited July 9
    I mean, BG2 simply wasn't designed to be played with HLAs. As noted above, the original game's XP cap was 2.95m and Watcher's Keep wasn't there. And that influenced the design of the game and the enemies.

    Now, I am not an expert in BG2, but some of the HLAs look simply ridiculously overpowered for the original game. For one, there simply wasn't anything similar to GWW in the original game. You could get close to 10 attacks per round with tugan's bow and improved haste, but I don't think you could get more than 5 attacks per round in any way with 2 handed weapons that hit the hardest (I may stand corrected in this). So, with GWW you are basically getting one round of free damage compared to the best buff spell in BG2 every time you use it. Not to even mention critical hits, improved alacrity and ridiculously OP summons that mages and clerics/druids can use. And Use Any Item on a thief. And that's also not taking into account end-of-game gear you get in Watcher's Keep.

    So, if you want a proper challenge in BG2, I suggest you don't use HLAs and Watcher's Keep gear. That would be in spirit of the original game. There is even a mod in SCS that makes Watcher's Keep inaccessible until Throne of Bhaal, for these very reasons. Or you can beef up enemy mages and priests that allow them to use HLAs too. That should be fun, but I was never brave enough to try that.

  • MaurvirMaurvir Member Posts: 684
    I opted for the latter option. I installed the tweaks that let enemy mages and clerics use HLAs and items. It has definitely changed my approach to certain battles, but yes, most HLAs are way to OP for SoA itself. When Umber Hulks become the equivalent of Kobolds, you know something has gone wrong.

    Which is why, for the most part, the party doesn't use them unless it will save a reload. For instance, I don't think my paladins have used GWW at all yet.

  • jsavingjsaving Member Posts: 893
    edited July 9
    I'd suggest just not using HLAs in core SoA areas. That doesn't entirely solve the problem but it at least gets rid of you hitting bosses 10 times a round or surrounding them with spike traps before you attack.

  • OrlonKronsteenOrlonKronsteen Member Posts: 790
    edited July 9
    ThacoBell wrote: »
    Its incredibly easy to get HLAs by the Underdark, even without going to Watcher's Keep.

    It's funny, I always thought that, too. I have memories of going to the Underdark with HLAs. Yet in my current game, I've completed all the major Chapter 2 quests (with the exception of the Planar Prison) and two levels of Watcher's Keep but I'm only at 1,700,000 exp. points. Edit: and I've also finished Chapter 3. Setting sail to Spellhold.

  • OlvynChuruOlvynChuru Member Posts: 2,578
    @Maurvir Did you fight the SCS drow city? That battle should be a challenge even for an extremely high-level party.

  • jsavingjsaving Member Posts: 893
    edited July 9
    I have memories of going to the Underdark with HLAs. Yet in my current game, I've completed all the major Chapter 2 quests (with the exception of the Planar Prison) and two levels of Watcher's Keep but I'm only at 1,700,000 exp. points. Edit: and I've also finished Chapter 3. Setting sail to Spellhold.
    It really depends on how you play the game and whether you game the system. If you give yourself 500K XP at the start to theoretically match what you'd have by completing SoD, and then strategically use spell-scroll-stealing and random-encounter-farming in the early game, it isn't that tough to hit 3 million XP by Spellhold even if you're postponing Watcher's Keep until ToB. Or if you start at 89K XP and do a speed-run along the critical path, you can hit Spellhold with only a couple hundred thousand XP and never come close to 3 million XP until mid-ToB.

    I'd also point out that a lot of quality-of-life mods, such as the one that lets you play through every stronghold, also serve as XP/item cheats that make you stronger faster than the devs intended. If you use mods of that type, I'd suggest manually resetting your XP to what it was before you started the extra strongholds (unless of course you are using the mods precisely because you like having more XP than the devs intended).

    OrlonKronsteen
  • MaurvirMaurvir Member Posts: 684
    OlvynChuru wrote: »
    @Maurvir Did you fight the SCS drow city? That battle should be a challenge even for an extremely high-level party.

    No, but I plan to. That places needs some serious redemption.

    The party's escape was actually kind of tense, so I expect they will be hostile on their return. They had forgotten to free the slaves on the far platform, so on the way out of the city, Isra ran up, bought them all, had them equipped, then talked to the slave leader. She was wearing boots of speed, but the alarm went off right as the party walked through the gate. Now THAT was invigorating!

  • VanDerBergVanDerBerg Member Posts: 125
    I'd suggest manually resetting your XP to what it was before you started the extra strongholds

    This is similar to what I did in the last run. I finished SoD at around 500k XP, but in BG2 I imported the last saved game from BG1. Even starting BG2 with 500k seriously breaks the balance. Let alone basically lifting the XP cap + doing Watcher's Keep + getting the gear you were supposed to use just in ToB + using custom NPC mods, with a NPC from the second most broken kit in the game (cavalier on the NPC which was never there in the original game), another NPC from an excellent kit (paladin) + rolling a character from the most OP class yourself (sorcerer).

    Which is all fine and good if you want to play the game that way. But the game is bound to be less than challenging that way. If you can cast Time Stop in Chapter 3, you are bound to have an easy ride, no matter what mods you are using.

  • sarevok57sarevok57 Member Posts: 5,262
    ThacoBell wrote: »
    Its incredibly easy to get HLAs by the Underdark, even without going to Watcher's Keep.

    It's funny, I always thought that, too. I have memories of going to the Underdark with HLAs. Yet in my current game, I've completed all the major Chapter 2 quests (with the exception of the Planar Prison) and two levels of Watcher's Keep but I'm only at 1,700,000 exp. points. Edit: and I've also finished Chapter 3. Setting sail to Spellhold.

    really? one play through ago i hit 2.1 million XP per character before setting sail for brynlaw and i never touch watcher's keep in SoA ( although i do rewrite spells when i find them - but never buy them just for the sake to rewrite for extra XP cause that is too much effort ) and im pretty sure i didn't use any XP exploits either, although i did start the game with 161 000 and grabbed my team mates when i was at 250 000 XP

    this play through i started a game fresh in SoA with a measly 89 000 and im going to guess that i'm only going to hit the 2 million XP mark per character before spell hold, and thats again not even touching watcher's keep

    i always find that when im in the drow city that is when i start getting my HLAs, although i never use them ( except for the extra spell slots ) until i hit ToB

  • OrlonKronsteenOrlonKronsteen Member Posts: 790
    @sarevok57 It seems strange to me, too, since I remember having HLAs in the Underdark on numerous occasions. Though some of my memories could have been from my pre-SCS days when I could complete the entirety of Watcher's Keep before heading to Spellhold. With SCS, Level 2 is as far as I can get.

    As for my opinion on being able to hit 3 million points early on: I actually like how the devs handled it. You can load up on experience if you want - but you don't have to. I think it's good that players have the choice. If you want a challenge, you can avoid Watcher's Keep and other power leveling tactics. On the other hand, sometimes it's fun to build a really powerful team and kick ass. There was a time when I used the game as a stress relief, and the last thing I wanted was a frustrating challenge. It was really cathartic to lay waste to my enemies with dragon breath spells and 3x horrid wiltings. And I do miss the fun of getting Ir'revrykal for my blackguard.

    How I ended up going down the SCS rabbit hole is kind of funny. As strange as it may sound, I never started using it because I wanted a challenge. I simply felt that a more intelligent A.I. would make the game feel more realistic and immersive. It was more of a role-playing decision. In any case, it's harder, too, and it doesn't look like I could get to 3 million points before the Underdark now, even if I wanted to.

    sarevok57
  • jmerryjmerry Member Posts: 863
    Unmodded, if you recruit your party early and don't erase spells to relearn them, around 2 million each is about what you can expect after clearing all the major non-WK quests. My current run, with SCS on insane difficulty, recruiting most of the party at 1.25 million XP after abusing scribing XP with stolen scrolls, has the protagonist with his first HLA but no other party members at that threshold. I could easily have gone farther, but I wanted to leave a few major quests for chapter 6.

    Oh, and launching multiple Incendiary Clouds with a fire-immune party is great stress relief. Party-friendly spells? Bah.

    OrlonKronsteen
  • MaurvirMaurvir Member Posts: 684
    So far, I have been using the HLA's as fire insurance. I avoid using them unless the party is at real risk. Like last night, when Sirene's "small encounter" cropped up. That definitely called for superior firepower. I also used them to clear out Ust Natha. Nothing quite like having a bunch of Devas cleanse the city of filth. Just for good measure, I sent about a half dozen swords roaming around too, mopping up stragglers and spiders. I went full OP just because it was fun.

    (As an aside, I left the gnomes alone. They may be of evil alignment, but the party got along well enough with them and they were actually helpful)

    Otherwise, though, the party sticks to swords and regular spells 1-9. I have the difficulty set to Tactical, but I may bump it up one more. This party can definitely take more of a challenge.

  • MaurvirMaurvir Member Posts: 684
    As an aside, the party had their first civilian casualty in Athkatla. Kruin showed up while they were on their way to Cromwell, and while they tried to maneuver the battle to a less populated part of the bridge district, a Cornugon got off a lightning bolt that fried Rose Bouquet. I only realized when I saw a pile of char with a bunch of berries and a piece of bark. Presumably because it was the enemy party that killed her and my party didn't lose any rep over it.

    A shame, really. I'll miss her sales pitch every time the party heads to the Five Flagons.

    Blackraven
  • VanDerBergVanDerBerg Member Posts: 125
    I also found one of the two houses you get to loot after killing that lich in Underdark quite tough. Not lich's house, but the other one. There is like 20 drows of all kinds that attack you and they are all highly magic resistant, so crowd control doesn't work. It took me 4-5 reloads to kill them.

    sarevok57
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