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A good melee character for HoF is a... shadowdancer?

Well, a shadowdancer13/fighter dual. What it loses in hp it gains in evasiveness. Hide in Plain Sight gives you a backstab every round, and means that if you get targeted, you have an easy and disruption-proof escape mechanism - which is what gives it a survivability edge over many other melee characters dependent on spell buffs (e.g. Ironskins, Stoneskin) that erode or run out. If not targeted, you get 3 Apr single-wielding (5 if dual wielding, 10 under IH, of course), with the first attack being a backstab, for as long as you want. It's not the ridiculous damage you get from a F/M/T with Misled backstabs, but you can backstab almost at will with limited risk all day.

Of course, this character has its disadvantages. A pureclass thief in HoF misses its backstab seemingly half the time, and is mostly useless at anything other than ranged combat and thief utility skills, so until it gets some levels in fighter it's not on the front line. It has ~30 HP less than a fighter to other dc. Using HIPS means other melee characters or your summons get targeted instead of this character. It is also very dependent on items to become a melee monster, in particular, items obtainable on Burial Isle and from the Luskanites. However, this character with 5 pips in short sword, Blood Iron, dual wield, Longsword of Action, Shadowed Studded Leather +4 (resistances, skills buffs, AC), and Gauntlets of Ogre Power is just nasty. If you want your party members to cast, it can flip to bows or just get an elemental ward and stay in the front.

Healing comes from Blood Iron (a favourite trick of mine is to dual wield and just go to town on an immobilized enemy if hurt) and over 100% elemental resistance combined with your party AoE. Major healing is rarely necessary, because this character doesn't take melee damage for more than a round at most, and is more than capable while wounded of withdrawing without stress and resurfacing on the edge to heal while hitting. I've found it provides more consistent damage and better survivability, after completing the dual, than a cavalier, at least in the portions of the game that I've used it in so far.
YigorJuliusBorisov

Comments

  • YigorYigor Member Posts: 223
    It sounds great! ? I didn't try Shadowdancer so far. ?

    However, it needs also mind protection vs Harpies in TotL, for example. ⬅️
    JuliusBorisov
  • AerichAerich Member Posts: 148
    If you’re interested, this was my original inquiry thread that has a lot of the collective wisdom about using shadowdancers, for which I can take no credit. https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/comment/1030428

    A couple further thoughts - you are absolutely right that the character needs mind protection (Wailing of Virgins cloak?) and I extend that need to elemental wards too, although potions could be used more also. This character shines in a small party. Too large, and the necessary micromanagement for best effect is too hard, too small, and some essential things are missing. I’d never use it for solo, because a solo pure thief, kitted or not, is not my idea of fun. Also, stealth isn’t true stealth, so a thief that has been seen before gets followed in stealth, which makes a solo thief practically impossible. A distracted enemy is easy prey for this character, but a bunch of enemies focused on it is bad news, especially if it’s escape potential is negated by being surrounded. Of course, in even a small party the shadowdancer can HIPS and the enemies will retarget.

    My advice is to focus skill points in stealth and traps. You can put a few points into pickpocket too. I put a few points into locks, and regretted it, because I realized I couldn’t get locks and stealth high enough - so I put all the rest of my points into stealth and just opened locks with other characters (Druid shapechange and Knock). Level 13 gives the max backstab multiplier of x4, which the character badly needs.

    Shadow step is also worth a mention. It’s one more escape mechanism, and can also be used for pulling. It doesn’t seem that AoE spells cause damage to the shadowdancer if it goes through them in shadow mode. I am also going to test whether shadow step allows trap spells (Skull Trap, DBFB) to be bypassed without triggering.
    JuliusBorisov
  • YigorYigor Member Posts: 223
    edited October 2021
    Aerich wrote: »

    My advice is to focus skill points in stealth and traps. You can put a few points into pickpocket too. I put a few points into locks, and regretted it, because I realized I couldn’t get locks and stealth high enough - so I put all the rest of my points into stealth and just opened locks with other characters (Druid shapechange and Knock). Level 13 gives the max backstab multiplier of x4, which the character badly needs.

    My Berserker(inactive)/Thief in Gloomfrost used mainly traps ?, 7 normal traps per area is actually the maximum! ? A level 30 Thief has enough proficiency points to put 120+ for all skills. ?
  • AerichAerich Member Posts: 148
    Shadowdancer cannot set traps and only gets 20 skill points per level up. At higher level, it wouldn't be a problem, but dualing at 13 once it hits max backstab doesn't leave enough points for everything. Hence why it's important to prioritize the must-haves, if it's the only thief in the party. Stealth is obviously the key for a melee shadowdancer, everything else is just a nice-to-have, although I hate traps, so I will always pump that skill if I have a choice.

    If doing a shadowdancer to mage dc, it would be possible to dc lower after maxing stealth only (and optionally find/remove traps), because the mage dc won't be able to make best use of the backstabs anyway. IMO, the mage benefits more from the extra survivability and ease of tactical placement one gets from the shadowdancer levels, although I suppose once can backstab with Mordy's Sword and BBD, so there would be some reason to get the max backstab with a mage dc too.
    YigorJuliusBorisov
  • YigorYigor Member Posts: 223
    @Aerich U 've given me a desire to try Shadowdancer asap, maybe within my "TotL from scratch" project. ?
  • AerichAerich Member Posts: 148
    Great! I don't know if you'll have access to Blood Iron - maybe you kept it from a previous playthrough? - but if not, I'd recommend not going right into TotL and at least getting Blood Iron from Burial Isle. It makes a significant difference for this character to be able to self-heal via melee attacks. The hp pool is not so good that you want this character at much less than full health most of the time.
    Yigor
  • YigorYigor Member Posts: 223
    edited October 2021
    Aerich wrote: »
    Great! I don't know if you'll have access to Blood Iron - maybe you kept it from a previous playthrough? - but if not, I'd recommend not going right into TotL and at least getting Blood Iron from Burial Isle. It makes a significant difference for this character to be able to self-heal via melee attacks. The hp pool is not so good that you want this character at much less than full health most of the time.

    All right, I'm going first to the Burial Island in the search of that Blood Iron! ? I maximized stats of my Shadowdancer: STR=DEX=CON=18, CHA=19 (using CHA+1 tome from TotL). ?

    Other members of the team: Berserker/Thief (lvl 29/30), Priest of Lathander (lvl 10). ?
    StummvonBordwehr
  • YigorYigor Member Posts: 223
    edited October 2021
    @Aerich I've got that Blood Iron. ?? Now fighting with undead in Watchknights Crypt (TotL, HoF). ☠️
  • AerichAerich Member Posts: 148
    Excellent. The character is mediocre until after the dual is complete, but feels extremely useful after.
    Yigor
  • YigorYigor Member Posts: 223
    Aerich wrote: »
    Excellent. The character is mediocre until after the dual is complete, but feels extremely useful after.

    LoL He will start to shine at lvl 29/30! ??
  • YigorYigor Member Posts: 223
    Aerich wrote: »
    Excellent. The character is mediocre until after the dual is complete, but feels extremely useful after.

    I'm planning to dual my shadowdancer at lvl 29, current level: 18. ?
  • AerichAerich Member Posts: 148
    I can understand to a degree why people do 29/30 duals, but it's really overkill and not necessary. I don't like doing it because I don't carry over high level characters to new playthroughs, and I don't enjoy long periods of downtime.

    In the case of this particular character, the only thing you get from higher levels is more thief skill points and more uses of shadowstep per day. It's really unnecessary, and the analysis clearly favours trying to get the completed dual online faster. Thief Thaco is irrelevant after a few fighter levels and backstab is maxed at level 13. I suppose one could use sneak attacks and continue to progress that upward, but sneak attack is inferior to backstab with this character and its ability to hide (thus backstab) at will. I would think all necessary skills - stealth, locks, pickpocket, remove traps - would have sufficient points by shadowdancer lvl 20 at the latest.
  • YigorYigor Member Posts: 223
    Aerich wrote: »
    I can understand to a degree why people do 29/30 duals, but it's really overkill and not necessary. I don't like doing it because I don't carry over high level characters to new playthroughs, and I don't enjoy long periods of downtime.

    I understand your point but prefer to see a maximal dual-classed character anyway. ?
  • alice_ashpoolalice_ashpool Member Posts: 261
    edited November 2021
    My last full (minimal reload) playthrough on regular (not HoF) had a shadowdancer-> fighter dual. I dualed at 6 for minimal down time (items can get HIPS up to reliable) but you might want to go at 7. Had a regular AC of around -12 (using shimmering sash). Ended the game Shadowdancer 6, Fighter 12. Didn't bother with the expansion content.

    The key though, is to use Darkened Glory katana 1 handed with a pip in one handed, that gives you a 18-20 crit range on a katana of all things. Throw in Bard song and Chant and you will be endlessly critting endless backstabs. Its great fun. HIPS is stupid powerful in HoF/LoB, but super time consuming at lowe level: done a bunch of Shadowdancer in LoB in BG1 and it is tedious to say the least.

    Overall a really cool concept but obviously it loses out to spamming Fire Elementals and Incendiary Clouds on HoF - also Bel has True Sight so your main "thing" is useless.
    AerakarJuliusBorisov
  • AerichAerich Member Posts: 148
    There's no question that a spellcaster has greater options, especially a sorceror. But in a party setting where someone else is handling the magic, this character is nails, and plays its role extremely well. Funnily enough, I did my playtest in a 4 person HoF party that included a sorceror, and it's this character and the sorceror that are doing the heavy lifting. What does a sorceror need for a sidekick? A melee thug. What is the shadowdancer dc fighter? A melee thug with survivability and thieving skill extras. A simple PFF and this character dances in the flames with the fire elementals.
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