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Pillars of Eternity Minimal and No Reload Thread (spoilers)
Gray Sidoh: No Per-Rest Abilities Run (three paladins, three ciphers)
Back to Od Nua! I think we're in pretty good shape to deal with the local elemental Blights. Everything here appears to explode on death, but our paladins have strong defenses that they can more or less shrug off multiple blasts while taking minimal damage.
This still means we need to be careful, however--our ciphers are not nearly as sturdy, and killing a Blight too close to our back line could pose a real threat to the party's functioning. The good news is that we get lots of new ingredients from the Blights, and use them to upgrade some weapons.
I died in my last run to a swarm of Blights in this very area, but since we do so well against the first batch of critters, I decide that we're ready to handle the big fight that killed me last time.
Then I see a new enemy I don't recognize, an Adragan, and I realize that I might have made a mistake.
In seconds, I realize that I've [i]definitely [/i]made a mistake. The Adragans can cast summoning and domination spells. Right off the bat, Gray Sidoh is under enemy control in spite of her 97 Will.
We've also got some Animats on the field, and I discover that they have 20 damage reduction against piercing and slashing weapons, which means both Mind Blades and Amplified Thrust, two of our best attack spells, are all but useless against them. Worse yet, the Blights have similar resistances. We're going to have trouble bringing any of these guys down.
Then a Greater Earth Blight teleports right on top of our ciphers, endangering our primary damage dealers mere seconds into combat.
Vivenne takes 37 damage right off the bat, and we receive yet another ominous sign: the Adragans can use Petrify!
I've never encountered this effect, but I've heard in this thread that it's absolutely deadly. Lothra prepares to use Liberating Exhortation, but even then, Gray Sidoh is in danger: she takes more than 50 damage from a Greater Flame Blight, and our other paladin, Zovai, gets stunned by a Returning Storm (!) from a Greater Wind Blight, meaning she can't use Lay on Hands to bail out Gray Sidoh. Worse yet, our ciphers are struggling to stay afloat; Vivenne is already forced to use an Infuse Vital Essence potion.
Then I see the worst sign yet. Right after Lothra uses Liberating Exhortation on Gray Sidoh, Gray Sidoh gets Petrified again. This is when I finally realize that Liberating Exhortation only cures active status effects; it doesn't prevent new ones from being re-applied.
When I check the dialog box, I discover that that Petrify spell has an Accuracy of 85, meaning it has about a 50% chance of working with every casting. This isn't something we can just shrug off.
Our paladins are struggling to stay afloat. Our ciphers are making little progress. And I see no indication that the tide is going to change.
My heart sinks. I'm not sure I'm going to win this one.
I consider just setting the party on a basic path and hoping we get lucky, but I decide to pause for a moment and study the situation. Since Mind Blades and Amplified Thrust are mostly useless, our ciphers have been steadily building up Focus--that's the only thing that's been trending in our favor since the fight began; I haven't wasted Focus on any low-impact spells.
We've got several Blights right on top of the party, but our ciphers can't disengage without putting themselves in danger. To the east, we've got more Blights and the two Adragans, who are in full condition and, due to being spellcasters, presumably have high Will defenses, which means burning our Focus on Puppet Master might waste our only decent resource if we get bad luck. If we fail to dominate anything due to a couple bad rolls, we are more or less out of luck.
But our paladins can disengage with relative safety. And there's one important spell that I haven't yet fully exploited.
The thing about Ectopsychic Echo is that it targets a friendly actor and deals damage over time to everything in between caster and target--a straight line damage over time spell. Thus, it's very similar to the Agannazar's Scorcher spell from Baldur's Gate.
I made dramatic use of Agannazar's Scorcher in my BG--I actually invented a trick called the "scorcher loop," which multiplies damage from the spell. On many occasions, I have carefully used beam-type spells to deal heavy damage to large groups by dragging the beam across the map. And while Ectopsychic Echo has no "loop" trick to be exploited that I know of, the base damage is nevertheless quite high.
And the damage type is [i]crushing[/i]. Everything in this area is vulnerable to crushing damage.
Our sturdiest character is Gray Sidoh, so I have Vivenne use Ectopsychic Echo on Gray Sidoh, who has just recovered from Petrify with a re-cast Liberating Exhortation, hoping to have Gray Sidoh scurry out to the east, dodging disengagement attacks, and then drag the beam over the Adragans to deal unblockable damage to them and the Blights. The first hit smashes the Greater Earth Blight that's been threatening our ciphers. Our other ciphers attack the same Blight with wands, hoping to kill it early and escape the pressure.
Immediately, we suffer a setback. Gray Sidoh gets dominated. We can no longer use her to drag the beam over the enemies. But the beam destroys the Greater Earth Blight, which means we can have Vivenne run to the east instead. She'll be much more vulnerable in the process than Gray Sidoh would be, but the beam only lasts for 10 seconds, and we can't afford to wait for Gray Sidoh to recover from domination; we need to make use of the beam now, before it runs out.
Rius is at 34 Focus, but has been forced to use a Scroll of Defense in lieu of Ectopsychic Echo to shore up our defenses. But once she can act again, I have her use Ectopsychic Echo on Vivenne instead of Gray Sidoh. Now, Vivenne is carrying two separate beams at once. And the damage from the twin beams is spectacular.
The party is still under heavy pressure, but we're finally making progress. Unfortunately, by hurrying to the east, Vivenne provokes both Adragans at once, who switch targets and run after her.
But this also puts both of them right in the middle of both beams. They can chase her and probably kill her very easily, but since they don't have the AI to edge out of the beams, they get caught by both.
Still, Vivenne can only get so far as a fragile cipher, and bad luck strikes. A Returning Storm spell stuns her, allowing the Adragans to close the distance.
But the beams continue even while Vivenne is stunned. One Adragan succumbs to the beam after just a few seconds of exposure, and the other is close to death!
The beams still have a few seconds left. It's enough to slay the second Adragan.
After two spells and a few feet of movement, the tide of battle has shifted decidedly in our favor. Even so, I burn another Scroll of Defense for safety's sake, and we build up a little more Focus while applying some healing effects to shield us from any nasty surprises.
Finally, we re-activate Ectopsychic Echo, and obliterate the last enemy with three simultaneous beams. It's a beautiful sight, and very welcome after such an incredibly close battle.
I leave the area immediately after the fight is over. We came out ahead, but it cost us lots of potions and scrolls, and I don't know if the other fights on this map are any harder than this one. If they are, I don't think we could handle them.
We need to restore our resources, so we burn nearly 4,000 coppers on ingredients and scrolls over at Defiance Bay. We craft some replacements for the potions and scrolls we lost, tack on a few more enchantments to our gear, and we are mostly back up to speed, though our supplies are still somewhat depleted.
I thought the run was going to end there. We were so overwhelmed at the start that it wasn't clear if we could make it out. But Ectopsychic Echo and some careful maneuvering killed the Adragans far more easily than I had thought possible. I knew Ectopsychic Echo would be strong, but I hadn't bothered using it until just now; I had been relying on Mind Blades and Amplified Thrust to do all the work.
I decide to turn my attention to simpler fights. We've proven that we can handle big threats, but those Adragans and Blight cost us some precious and finite resources, and I don't want to find myself low on key expendables right before a major fight. It's time to ease up on the danger and build up our strength before tackling any scary encounters.
Gray Sidoh: No Per-Rest Abilities Run (three paladins, three ciphers)
After having barely survived an encounter with a bunch of Blights and Adragans in Od Nua, we head to Copperlane and burn thousands of gold on ingredients for crafting--without the ability to use per-rest abilities, we need to rely on consumables for big battles. We brew some Infuse Vital Essence potions and tack on a few more enchantments to our gear. Back in my old run, I never did any enchanting at all: I checked it in the early game, found I couldn't do anything, and didn't know when it was possible.
We stop by Caed Nua and fight some Leaden Key Agents. They put up quite a fight, but compared to the [i]last [/i]one, it's a breeze. Mind Blades continue to thrash the opposition.
A few safe fights later, Gray Sidoh finally hits level 5 and gets Reviving Exhortation, which I didn't even know existed until now. Suddenly, we can revive a fallen character once per rest--and after some light questing in the main storyline, our other two paladins take the same Talent, while Rius, our first cipher, learns Silent Scream, which stuns the target for a short time and deals lots of raw damage.
Suddenly, we have a major boost in our offensive power (as if we needed it) and the ability to revive a fallen character [i]three times[/i] in every fight. We're much safer now--and ready to handle more serious challenges.
Some Leaden Key jerkbags give us some grief, but Puppet Master lets us turn the fighters on their friends. The thing about ciphers is that they start every fight with a big wad of Focus already loaded. This means we always get to start every fight with a powerful new option, which lets us establish an early advantage in a fight--which makes minor fights especially fast.
We're quickly reaching the point when Mind Blades can't really break the difficulty of every fight anymore, and Ectopsychic Echo requires careful positioning, but Puppet Master scales better with enemy strength. Mind Blades does static damage, which means less and less against tougher critters; Puppet Master grants a bigger advantage when the target is bigger.
We can even dominate Adragans; they have a surprisingly weak Will defense. And for critters with strong Will defenses, we still have strong damage options in the form of Silent Scream. Being able to ignore damage reduction is very lovely indeed.
And when Silent Scream doesn't deal enough damage, we have Ectopsychic Echo.
Our ciphers are still as vulnerable as ever, however, even if we can revive them, and apparently a charmed Ogre Druid's insect spell can break the domination effect of other charmed ogres. As fast as fights can go in our favor, the tide can turn against us just as fast if I'm not careful.
So, if party-unfriendly effects are on the map, domination can be easily broken. We switch to paralysis instead!
There are a lot of little fights in between these ones, but I don't have screenshots for them all, and not all of them feature any turning points or reveal new information.
I'm really having fun with Ectopsychic Echo. Partly it's because it feels so much like Agannazar's Scorcher shenanigans in BG, but mostly because it's shiny and effective. We just cast a couple Ectopsychic Echo spells on a single paladin, then send the paladin past the enemies. It lets the enemy land several disengagement attacks, but there's just something very lovely about stretching a bright blue death beam all the way across the map. The only limit is your movement speed!
We spend over 15,000 copper pieces on ingredients and craft some scrolls of Moonwell. Not everyone can use it, but I've been trying to max out Lore to make sure we can spam high-end scrolls when necessary, while still making sure everyone has 1 Athletics and some points in Survival. Gray Sidoh takes the Deep Pockets Talent (imagine that: having deep pockets is a talent) so she can use a couple more quick items per fight. I haven't been using many, but we're going to want a lot of scrolls and potions and stuff for the final battle.
We choose Accuracy: Beast before the fight with the dragon, and right before we reach it, we get another round of level ups for our second and third paladins and our first cipher (I got the party members at different times, so their level ups are staggered). Zovai takes Deep Pockets, Lothras takes Deep Faith, and Rius finally learns Greater Focus so she starts combat with another 10 Focus, which is very useful if you want to throw out a bunch of Ectopsychic Echo spells on the first round of combat.
The Accuracy bonuses against beasts should make it easier for us to bring down the Sky Dragon when we're throwing out psychic spells. We're really, [i]really[/i] going to need this if we pick the wrong dialog options with the dragon.
But we don't, so we make peace with the monster.
I already knew the right dialog options, but I don't like the idea of making the fate of the run depend on three correct button presses. I wanted to make sure we at least had a few tiny bonuses in case I pressed the wrong button. Play enough no-reload runs and you get accustomed to creating contingency plans and so forth.
Resolving the issue peacefully gets level ups for Vivenne and Viora, both of whom take Bull's Will for the +10 bonus to their Will defenses. Their low Intellect has always given me pause, since the penalties to Will make them especially vulnerable to disablers.
We spend thousands more copper pieces on ingredients and nab the bow, Borresaine, for its ability to stun on critical hits. In the hands of a high-Accuracy character like one of our ciphers, we should get a few stuns out of it. We enchant it to deal corrosive damage and bonus damage to Vessels, because I'm guessing that damage reduction against corrosive damage is rare (I remember not even seeing it on slimes, which ostensibly would be immune to acid and stuff) and we already have species-specific damage bonuses against other types of critters.
I really want to hit level 9 before tackling Thaos because I want to be able to craft and use Scrolls of Maelstrom to take advantage of the low Reflex defenses of Thaos' big friendly giants. Since I don't want to do fetch quests to gain experience (I don't know where to find easy quests, so it would involve a lot of aimless wandering around Defiance Bay), I head back to Caed Nua, where some of Raedric's undead goons are apparently waiting for me. Alesia_BH mentioned the possibility of beating Raedric a second time, so I'm guessing this is the start of a much bigger challenge.
One round into combat, and I see a problem. The enemy Fampyr, a creature I've never encountered before, can charm our party members--and can even break past Gray Sidoh's incredibly high Will defense.
More importantly, the undead are already encroaching on our ciphers. I pull them aside and activate Ectopsychic Echo, but I can't escape the reach of the Fampyr, and its damage output proves extremely fast--faster than our paladins can address the problem. We lose Vivenne early on.
Fortunately, we've made enough progress via Ectopsychic Echo that we can overpower the enemy. Even so, it's a worrisome sign. That one Fampyr was enough to really screw up our strategy once it flanked us, and it sounds like fighting Raedric is going to entail dealing with a lot more Fampyrs.
We didn't come anywhere close to dying in that fight, or even close to suffering a second knockout, but the enemy made [i]progress [/i]against us, and that's a real shift in the situation. If Raedric is a step above these guys, he might be too much for us.
I decide not to tackle Raedric for now. Instead, we're going back to Od Nua. It's been a while since we fought the Blights and Adragans, and now we should be able to handle the nearby fights without relying on finite resources.
I've noticed that italics and bold don't copy correctly, but whatever. The meaning is clear.
Gray Sidoh: No Per-Rest Abilities Run (three paladins, three ciphers)
We do a little more dungeon crawling, trying to put together enough experience for level 9, but we aren't getting very far, and when I see an ominously large room...
...I decide to beat it. I don't know what lies in that chamber, but big fights tend to take place in big rooms, and rushing into a major fight completely blind isn't worth it just to get a few steps closer to level 9.
Still, we really could benefit from level 9 against Thaos, so I decide to go ahead and try my hand at Raedric, figuring that I could at least deal with a few of the first fights just to gauge how strong Raedric himself would be. But when I meet a Fampyr outside his castle, I discover that there are no fights leading up to the big one; you go straight to Raedric.
I decide to take a gamble and fight Raedric in spite of my worries about Fampyrs. Sure enough, there are multiple Famyrs in the fight with Raedric, and they again prove incredibly accurate in their charm spells despite Gray Sidoh's spectacular defenses.
We fix it quickly and fire off a couple of Ectopsychic Echo spells, and while Gray Sidoh slips past the enemies in order to catch more of them in the twin beams, we've got a problem: the enemy is already encroaching on our ciphers. We pull our ciphers back, but the enemies give chase. We can't shake them.
We split up our ciphers, but all it does is free a single cipher from pressure; the other two are both under attack, and when I try to nail the enemy with a Scroll of Paralysis, we only pin down a single enemy. Raedric launches a fireball, and Viora, already under heavy pressure by two enemies, crumples in seconds.
And for the two enemies who were attacking Viora, their next closest target is Rius, another cipher. The enemy is about to target another vulnerable party member.
I can't finagle my way around this, so I decide on a reset: I send our two remaining ciphers to the northeast while our paladins move to block the stairway and slow down the enemies.
But the stairway isn't narrow enough for our paladins to completely block it off, and the enemies keep chasing our ciphers. We still can't safely use our best offensive characters.
But by luring the enemy north, we can revive Viora with Reviving Exhortation in complete safety. Viora got knocked out in the south, but with the enemies running around in the north, she is now free from enemy pressure!
With some careful micromanagement, we pull Vivenne, our other cipher twin, away from all the enemies but a single Fampyr, and we've made enough progress on that Fampr that we can finish it off. Now Vivenne has no enemies engaging her, which means we have two ciphers acting from a safe position. Only Rius is in danger.
Raedric himself is currently busy hassling Lothra to the south, and Lothra is holding her own thanks to her solid paladin defenses. Since Raedric has incredibly strong defenses and he doesn't seem to be causing any real problems, I decide to ignore him; his allies are the real threat right now.
This means we need to take Viora, currently in the south, and bring her up north to help defeat the enemies up north. There's a single Fampyr Guardsman on the stairway, though, which means we need to kill him before Viora can safely join the fight up north.
For some reason, that Fampyr Guardsman heads north on his own, but Viora has gotten charmed and cannot join the fight just yet. Rius, far to the north, is under heavy pressure right now, with three enemies all closing in on her.
We've having a lot of trouble killing these enemies; they're injured but not close to death. Even when Zovai deploys a Missile Barrage scroll against the presumably fragile Fampyr mage, he stays on his feet. Rius, however, is not remotely as sturdy, and we don't have enough healing options or enough time to keep her safe. Rius collapses.
Viora is no longer charmed, but we've still got Gray Sidoh charmed in the south and Vivenne charmed in the north, which means we still can't take action against the enemies in the north. We heal up Viora before we send her north, at which point I discover that Moonwell is enemy-friendly. Apparently Raedric gets some of the healing, too.
It's not a problem, because Raedric is currently neither a target nor a threat; he's too sturdy and is dealing too little damage to justify targeting him.
Up north, the enemies run ignore Zovai and run south towards the fight with Raedric, but the moment Vivenne recovers from the charm effect, they switch targets and run right back to the north to engage her. I didn't know they'd switch gears like this, which means Zovai is busy using a scroll and cannot intercept the enemies before they can reach Vivenne. They swarm Vivenne, and we lose another cipher to a knockout.
Still, Zovai's second Missile Barrage scroll brings a Fampyr to Near Death, which means we'll be in a better position to keep our ciphers safe once we have room to revive them.
Viora heads up north to help finish off that Fampyr with a Scroll of Paralysis, but to my frustration, the enemies gleefully disengage from Zovai to rush after our final cipher. No matter how I position our characters, [i]they always make a beeline straight for our ciphers. [/i]It seems that they always choose targets with the lowest defenses. Viora is nowhere near them, but they hurry southwest to target her.
Gray Sidoh leaves Lothra to distract Raedric and intercepts one of the Fampyrs chasing Viora as Viora flees to the south. For once, a Fampyr actually stays engaged with a paladin rather than chasing our vulnerable cipher. But even now, we still can't make use of our cipher: she gets charmed again.
I notice something interesting. That charm came from a Fampyr, Viora is all the way in the south, where there are only Fampyr [i]Guardsman[/i]; not the one enemy just named "Fampyr."
That Fampyr, currently fighting Zovai in the far north, cast that charm spell from [i]all the way across the map[/i]. That's just silly--none of my spells have every had such a ridiculously long range.
Finally, Zovai brings down the Fampyr that's been hovering at Near Death for what's felt like ages. That might not seem like a big deal, but it means that the north is completely clear of enemies--and since both of our fallen ciphers are in the north, that means we can revive both of them in a safe area.
Zovai only has a single use of Reviving Exhortation, of course, so we can only revive Rius and not Vivenne, unless I'm willing to bring another paladin up north (which would risk luring an enemy north to apply pressure to Vivenne and Rius). But that's fine with me; we've been spending so much time running around trying to secure an advantage in positioning that we've actually made a lot of progress against the enemy in the meantime. It doesn't take much more work to clear the field in the south.
After much work, Raedric is finally alone. Now that we have no Fampyrs to worry about and our ciphers are safe, we revive Vivenne and blast Raedric with Ectopsychic Echo.
Gray Sidoh finally hits level 9, and learns Reinforcing Exhortation, which might help us defend a threatened cipher--but will probably see no use, since scrolls and Lay on Hands will probably be more useful as rescue options. We can now craft some Scrolls of Maelstrom for fast, high-damage options during the final fight.
We still need our other characters to reach level 9, however, as we can't use those Scrolls of Maelstrom until our ciphers can break 10 Lore. But we're not far from level 9--it won't be much longer before we're ready for Thaos.
Gray Sidoh: No Per-Rest Abilities Run (three paladins, three ciphers)
We head to Burial Isle to see how much experience we can get before jumping through the hole, which I'm reasonably certain is the point of no return in the main questline. The local spirits seem considerably tougher than I remember, but none of them are tough enough to withstand three simultaneous beams from Ectopsychic Echo.
We're still not quite at level 9, and I'm not sure the experience at Sun in Shadow will be enough to get us there before Thaos, so I decide to do one last quest before jumping down the hole: the optional high-level mercenaries from the Caed Nua stronghold questline. I think we have the numbers to deal with them, but the Mercenary Gunslinger at the start surprises me with an 89-damage hit. If that was a critical hit, it could have been a one-shot kill!
I can't help but wonder how a solo character could handle that kind of risk. There's always a chance of a high enemy attack roll.
We take a lot of damage, but the Mercenary Gunslinger's incredibly slow rate of fire more or less dooms him. [i]Nearly[/i] killing a party member doesn't mean as much if you can't actually finish them off. We squash him with Ectopsychic Echo.
God, I love that spell. The next batch of enemies has excellent damage output, but not enough to kill anyone, and we only need a few seconds to clear the field with our ciphers.
But these guys are still really tough; they have big numbers and are pretty hard to kill even if they're mostly just brute force grunts. I hate to think what a similarly high-level enemy [i]spellcaster [/i]would be like in this area.
I decide I'd rather not find out. This area seems too dangerous to be worth an extra level for Thaos; I honestly think it might be harder than the final boss, just based on how strong the earliest enemies are.
There's nothing left to do without entering Whitemarch or whatever. I decide to finally jump down the hole. Before we go down, we rest at the Suite of Worldly Wonders at the Goose and Fox for the Lore bonuses, in case we can't get our Lore high enough to use Scrolls of Maelstrom.
The Animats down here are really sturdy against slashing and piercing damage, but their poor damage reduction against crushing damage makes them excellent candidates for--you guessed it--Ectopsychic Echo.
Then I see a [i]Shadow Drake[/i], and I realize this area's going to be much tougher than it was on Easy mode.
That is, until I realize that I can stun the beast with a Silent Scream spell.
Another Shadow Drake shows up in the next fight, and I choose a stronger option: Puppet Master, to turn the drake against the other enemies. Even drakes have pretty weak Will defenses, at least for a party with high-Perception ciphers.
The Shadow Drake blasts us when the domination effect wears off, but all we have to do is dominate it again and then paralyze it with Mental Binding when it's the only enemy left.
We have finally reached level 9, and while not everyone in the party has 10 [i]base [/i]Lore, two of our ciphers still have enough Lore to use Scrolls of Maelstrom thanks to the rest bonuses from the Suite of Worldly Wonders. The scrolls aren't a game-changer, but even a slight boost in strength could make the difference between victory and defeat.
Thaos is waiting.
Gray Sidoh: No Per-Rest Abilities Run (three paladins, three ciphers)
Time to deal with Thaos and finally learn the big secret truth thingy behind Pillars of Eternity. Here is our fully-buffed party at the end of the game, both record screens and inventory screens. The spoiler below has 12 screenshots, so if you want the key details: We have three paladins decked in full plate and fast weapons with shields, and three ciphers with cloth armor, two bows, and a wand. Basically, the paladins are designed to be tanky healers, and the ciphers are glass cannons using ranged weapons. Everyone has high Might and Scrolls of Defense, Potions of Infuse Vital Essence, and healing scrolls. The paladins have high Resolve to improve their defenses; the ciphers have high Dexterity and Perception but low Intellect to maximize damage output.
That's our strategy in a nutshell. The ciphers do big damage, and the paladins keep them alive.
Gray Sidoh: No Per-Rest Abilities Run (three paladins, three ciphers)
Before I decide on our opening spells for the final battle, I check the resistances of Woedica's Headsman and Woedica's Judge. I notice that the executioner has no bonuses to its defense against domination effects, so I start out with Puppet Master. We get a critical hit!
But... nothing happens.
I double-check the executioner and realize that while its list of resistances doesn't mention domination effects, its list of [i]immunities [/i]does.
So, we've wasted 30 Focus right off the bat, and Rius takes a bit of damage from a disengagement attack, since she had to get so close to cast Puppet Master. Fortunately, the judge and executioner don't like to run around very much, and Thaos himself prefers to stay in one place while he casts spells, which means our ciphers are relatively safe just by scurrying away a short distance. Zovai engages the judge, Gray Sidoh engages the executioner, and Lothra engages Thaos, ensuring that our ciphers don't have to worry about getting chased--and establishing our ideal positioning at the beginning of combat.
We proceed with a Scroll of Defense and Scrolls of Maelstrom on the executioner, whom I deem the more important target (though I don't really know). The damage is a little disappointing; the judge and executioner appear to have some pretty sturdy resistances against elemental damage.
The damage is still much better than anything we could do without burning Focus points, however, and slightly better lucky gets us a much bigger hit soon after (we have multiple scrolls for just this occasion).
Unfortunately, our positioning isn't as strong as I thought it was. Rius is well within range of Thaos' spells, and takes massive damage from a single crushing blow.
Our ciphers' strong Reflex defenses, courtesy of high Perception and Dexterity, are probably the only reason she didn't get killed in one shot. Rius immediately switches to drinking a Potion of Infuse Vital Essence, and Lothra begins casting Lay on Hands to bail her out; I don't know how much time we have before the enemy can land another hit on Rius while she's vulnerable.
Our paladins keep using defensive scrolls and such to ensure we stay safe while our ciphers steadily deal damage to the executioner. But despite consistently landing hits, the executioner is still in fairly good health even as we steadily run out of Scrolls of Maelstrom. Eager to bring it down, we try a Detonate spell, and while the damage is massive, it becomes clear that the executioner's base Endurance is [i]extremely [/i]high--even now, it's only at Injured! We have a long way to go still.
But our party is still in good condition, and as long as the party doesn't have to dedicate attention to its defenses, we can continue making progress. The executioner approaches death.
Thaos lands another heavy hit, this time on Lothra. For a moment, I think we can bounce back from it just like we did with Rius, using Infuse Vital Essence and Lay on Hands. Then we finally slay the executioner--and discover that it does area-effect damage on death, finishing off Lothra before she can recover.
Overall, it's a net gain, since we can always bring back Lothra (we have some Scrolls of Revival in addition to Reviving Exhortation). But then Thaos launches another big damage spell at us, and Viora is down to 19 Endurance.
Okay, we can't let Thaos keep blasting us with damage spells. We need to spread apart so he can't hit so many people at once; it's drawing too much attention away from our attacks and forcing us to spend precious seconds keeping the party afloat. Thaos is targeting Vivenne, so I have Vivenne run to the northeast.
But we move too late. Another damage spell comes from an unknown source and finishes off Viora. Two ciphers down.
But Vivenne's disengagement works out for us in the long run: by luring Thaos over to the northwest, we can safely revive both Rius and Viora, who are now a safe distance from both Thaos and the judge. Lothra and Gray Sidoh engage Thaos, and while Thaos can deal massive damage even on grazes, the two paladins can take a lot of punishment before they get in danger. They're sturdy enough to hold him off, at least for a little while.
We use a Scroll of Moonwell in case Thaos takes very long to subdue, then use our favorite damage spell, Ectopsychic Echo. He has surprisingly little Endurance; we've only applied modest pressure and he's already at Injured.
Realizing the danger, or perhaps just noticing that Vivenne is unusually close to him, Thaos disengages from Gray Sidoh and Lothra and chases our ciphers. However, this doesn't let him escape the beam, and when our paladins chase him down, Thaos re-engages our paladins instead of continuing to chase our ciphers. Thaos therefore remains inside the beam, and eventually the damage catches up to him. Thaos is forced to use Minor Intercession to stay alive, which shuts down his spellcasting.
I don't know how Thaos' "Soul Jump" thingy works, but since it appears to absorb damage, I'm guessing that you have to keep dealing damage to it in order to keep him hiding and therefore inactive. Our paladins keep attacking him in the hopes that it will prevent Thaos from leaving his shell to continue casting spells, while our ciphers switch gears and turn to the judge. I don't know if you need to kill the judge and executioner to beat Thaos, but getting rid of the distractions is definitely useful--I don't want two giants stomping all over us. The judge's physical attacks are mostly harmless against Zovai's extremely high Deflection, but its spells are very scary indeed.
Since I'm not sure our paladins are dealing enough damage to keep Thaos in his shell, we use another Ectopsychic Echo to deal constant damage to Thaos' "Soul Jump" thingy. The judge doesn't take much damage per hit due to its excellent defenses, but since we have multiple fully functional characters to gang up on it, the damage builds up over time.
Thaos stays inactive, and while the judge deals some damage, it's not fast enough to overcome our party's generous supply of healing options. We finally bring down the judge.
Thaos leaves his shield (I'm guessing all damage to his shield is dealt instead to the judge and executioner) and takes a few big hits from the tail end of Ectopsychic Echo. He throws out a Confusion spell, but we quickly cure it with Liberating Exhortation, and Thaos quickly finds himself caught between two Ectopsychic Echo beams.
Thaos casts Instill Doubt, but all that does is impose some light penalties; it doesn't actually disable anyone, much less kill anyone. All the while, Ectopsychic Echo continues to crush him.
Thaos simply doesn't have the defenses to weather that kind of pressure. Our ciphers bring him down.
Done! We return the souls to their intended bodies, ending the Hollowborn epidemic, and I accidentally skip the epilogue text about Raedric's second defeat.
One Normal mode run of PoE with no per-rest abilities, complete.
That would be my first run from the Obisidan thread. Next up is my first attempt at PotD. There's some theorycrafting and discussion in the Obsidian thread that I haven't bothered to copy over (some stuff is dependent on context from other posters).
Aur, Moon Godlike Paladin, Kind Wayfarer, Aristocrat of Aedyr
I've decided to test my theory about a party of Moon Godlike paladins and have bumped up the difficulty to Path of the Damned, skipping Hard mode at Alesia_BH's suggestion. Basically, the theory is that paladins have strong defenses and can neutralize disablers using Liberating Exhortation, and the area-effect healing of Silver Tide will keep all party members in good health. I think this will be enough to stomp over PotD; the party should be more or less invincible once I get all six paladins in order.
One of the first warning signs that this run might be more difficult than I thought comes from the Skuldr Whelps in the first dungeon, who stun the entire party with their screech effect.
Oddly enough, though, the enemies at the back just... stand there. They don't capitalize on the party's vulnerability; they wait until their friend is dead before rushing in to join the fight.
We get through the prologue with little trouble, and we kick out Aloth right after we get him in order to make room for Mwn, our next paladin, who is a virtual duplicate of Aur. We nearly get overwhelmed early on due to having only two party members, but sure enough, Silver Tide keeps us afloat when things get rough.
We collect enough money to purchase our third paladin, Godlyke, and recruit Durance because I'm starting to worry that we just don't have the numbers to deal with the larger groups of enemies in PotD. Durance offers us a few useful buffs, and while he's extremely fragile, he uses Halt to make his escape when a wolf threatens him. Once he's safe, he deals area-effect damage with Iconic Projection, which has a surprisingly wide area of effect.
Mwn still gets knocked out in the process, but the party survives. Back at Gilded Vale, we replace Durance with Eder and try our hand at the Will o' Wisps in the temple. They keep afflicting our party members with their confusion bolts, but our confused characters never seem to deal any damage to the others. It's a long grind, but Silver Tide helps us deal with the endless stream of lightning bolts.
Feeling emboldened by our success, I probe a little deeper into the temple and run into some spiders.
To my surprise, the spiders turn out to be very sturdy... and because I couldn't use the doorway as a chokepoint due to a web spell holding Aur in place, we get surrounded. Turns out the spiders can hit pretty hard.
Silver Tide triggers, but it's just not enough. Our other two Moon Godlikes aren't taking any damage, which means that only Aur herself is activating Silver Tide. That's not enough to keep us safe; both Aur and Eder crumple.
We're making progress on the enemy, but we can't quite bring the spiders down. As time drags on, the spiders keep tacking on damage...
...and ultimately, only one character is left.
I let her fight a little longer, hoping that she'll get some lucky rolls, but we don't get them. The spiders finish us off.
So, we've got our first entry for the Graveyard. But since I'm not done with this concept just yet, I decide to start over and try again.
, Congratulations. You are the master of unusual parties and finding unusual ways to win in game engines.
: As always, you're very kind and supportive. You're a positive influence on the community and we're glad to have you around.
By the way: in the Obsidian thread, we have
maintaining a list of entries for the Hall of Heroes (completed consecutive PoE and PoE2 saga runs), as well as a list of Honorable Mentions (completed PoE runs which either didn't continue to PoE2 or failed during PoE2) and the Graveyard (failed runs of PoE, or failed PoE2-only runs). As a moderator, I can edit the OP of this thread to add those entries as they come up, which would save you some trouble as the owner of this thread. That's how we handled things in
's "Maybe this time" thread for BG and IWD runs.
Aur, Moon Godlike Paladin, Kind Wayfarer, Aristocrat of Aedyr
In the previous run, I found that our Lay on Hands spells were largely redundant, since Silver Tide covered a fair amount of the necessary healing, and by the time we get 6 Moon Godlikes, those Silver Tides are going to be even stronger. Instead, we pick Flames of Devotion as our first ability and put some more points in Constitution so we'll have a bigger pool of Health. The logic behind the higher Constitution is that, by the time we have all 6 paladins, our ability to heal Endurance will be so strong that [i]Health[/i], not Endurance, will determine whether we survive a given encounter or not.
The lack of Lay on Hands proves costly early on. Flames of Devotion is important because of its +20 Accuracy and +50% fire damage, but unlike our future paladins, Heodan doesn't have Silver Tide to help him recover from enemy pressure.
We bring on Mwn and Godlyke, like in the previous run, but this time, I decide to keep both Aloth and Eder on hand, reasoning that it's more important for us to have a buffer to ensure our survival than it is to maximize experience in our paladins. Aloth in particular is surprisingly useful, as he has some nice burst damage potential with his spells. It actually makes a very noticeable difference in some high-pressure fights!
We do pretty well for a long time, with Silver Tide holding up our front line and Aloth providing key support, at first from his damage spells, but then, more importantly, his blindness spell, which does a lot to thwart the enemy's attacks (-25 Accuracy for all attacks is a pretty heavy burden).
Then we make our way to Caed Nua, and two Phantoms show up alongside the Shadows--a worrying sign, but not nearly as worrying as when I see the enemy two-shot Aur, knocking her out far faster than her Silver Tide could rescue her.
The enemy repeatedly stun-locks the party, and the Phantoms deal massive damage while we're disabled, their cold damage completely bypassing our physical damage reduction while Sneak Attack bonuses magnify their strikes.
We apply as much pressure as we can, but there's just not much you can do when a level 3 party is getting stun-locked. I keep hoping that Silver Tide will help us weather the storm, but the enemy just deals too much damage too quickly.
Aloth struggles to kill the Shadows at Near Death, hoping that it will give us a better chance of surviving the stun effects, but he can't quite bring them down; we just don't have strong enough rolls. Just as he exhausts his grimoire, a Phantom nails him with a critical hit.
It looks grim, but I hope that we can get some lucky rolls against those stun effects and take down the Phantoms one at a time. But luck does not go our way; neither of our surviving paladins can recover from the stun effects before new ones get re-applied. Finally, they pin down the final paladin.
I don't think I'll try again. I still think this strategy has great potential, and I'm sure we could make it past those Phantoms if we took the right precautions against stun effects and cold damage (I had the ingredients to craft that scroll that cuts disabler durations in half, as well as a Potion of Bulwark Against the Elements), but the main reason I was interested in this party is because I thought it would be [i]simple [/i]and low-maintenance.
I never got to create the sixth paladin, but I intended to name the six paladins Aur, Mwn, Godlyke, Palla Dins, Tw, and Overpawrd, a play on "Are Moon Godlike paladins too overpowered?" I think the answer is yes, but I don't plan on continuing with this group.
If I'm going to have to micromanage the party to get through Path of the Damned, I'd rather do it with a more interesting group than a band of paladin clones.
Hearth Orlan Rogue, Drifter from the White that Wends.
Difficulty: Path of the Damned
Settings: Maim on Zero Health; No Injuries on Zero Endurance (I think)
She has the same portrait as Gray Sidoh, simply because I think it's cute. She's going to be dual-wielding hatchets to stack the Deflection bonuses and is primarily a damage dealer. I like high-Accuracy characters because their attacks are reliable (I don't like relying on luck), and since Frost deals 50% extra damage whenever Calisca knocks an enemy down, Frost lands some respectable hits very early on.
Micromanagement gets us through the prologue, and at levels 2 and 3, Frost takes Two Weapon Style and Reckless Assault to further increase her offensive abilities. I pick our early game fights carefully, making sure we don't run into too many enemies at once, and recruit Aloth, Eder, and Durance. Eder is the only one I like, but I'm trying to avoid using a lot of custom characters in this run. Whenever we enter combat, I send Eder forward so all the enemies gang up on him, then wait a second to see whether the enemies are mostly circling around his left or right. If the enemy is approaching Eder's right, I send Frost to the left so she can hack away at a single enemy without too many enemies engaging her.
Whenever she's not under much pressure, she activates Reckless Assault. This allows her to quickly bring down single enemies and start clearing the field. Meanwhile, Aloth throws out Curse of Blackened Sight so Frost can land sneak attacks and axe the enemies one by one.
We can only carry two Camping Supplies at a time, but I've learned to be extremely generous with resting. It might seem like a hassle to travel all the way back to Gilded Vale for a free rest, but it actually doesn't take that much time, and being able to cast level 2 spells on every moderately difficult fight is a major boon.
Blindness is really, really good for our party. That -25 Accuracy is crushing to the enemy and helps keep Frost safe from all of her targets, and it lasts long enough for Frost to land lots of sneak attacks before it runs out. For enemies that don't get blinded, Frost just doesn't engage with them.
Aloth's ranged damage spells also give us more control over which enemies die first. The burst damage from Fan of Flames is really useful, and the range is remarkably high. All Aloth has to do to avoid hitting the party during the fight with Ludrana and the paladins is to walk a few steps to the side. A few spells later, he can polish off Ludrana with a simple Arcane Assault.
Burst damage appears very useful in Path of the Damned. Enemies are especially accurate, and it really helps to keep fights quick.
Durance begins all major fights the same way, casting Armor of Faith followed by Blessing. Sometimes I throw in Holy Power or Consecrated Ground depending on the situation. I try out Iconic Projection against some wolves and once again find that the area of effect is surprisingly wide--more so than the projectile's appearance.
Before we tackle the Xaurips on the beach, Eder gets the racial Accuracy bonus against Wilders from resting, but it proves largely meaningless, as we use him to soak him the Xaurip Skirmishers' paralysis attacks. Durance keeps him afloat with Consecrated Ground (it's nice to have a regeneration effect so we don't need to worry about the right timing when casting heals spells) and Aloth blasts the enemy with more Fans of Flames.
Aloth actually suffers some pressure because of his positioning in this process, but Frost quickly disposes of the enemies attacking him. She's a good lancer; she gives us great control over which enemies die first.
We sell off Durance's armor (at over 500 copper pieces, it's a major boon for the early game), stomp on the bandits to save that cook from the Gilded Vale inn, and have Aloth learn Chill Fog from Ludrana's Grimoire, giving us a cheaper blindness spell.
In the temple below the Gilded Vale, Durance buffs the party with Holy Meditation to block the confusion effects of the local Will o' Wisps. Turns out a +15 Will bonus just ain't gonna cut it--and we have no real defense against the shock damage. Right off the bat, our primary tank is nearly dead.
With Eder confused, we can't use Second Wind to heal him up, so our only hope of saving him is to use Withdraw, which has the unfortunate side effect of robbing us of our primary tank for the duration of the battle (a factor I hadn't considered). Thing is, Aloth can blind the Will o' Wisps with Chill Fog, and Frost quickly cuts down one of wisps.
The sheer speed of Frost's kills is really quite remarkable. It might be the only thing she's really good at, but she's [i]really[/i] good at it. I didn't know Will o' Wisps could be slain so quickly.
Dual-wielding hatchets offers a nice balance of offense and defense. With her extremely high Perception and rogue class, Frost doesn't really need the accuracy bonuses of dual-wielded daggers or the 30% graze-converted-to-hit chance from flails, so she can choose a more defensive weapon instead.
We butcher some trolls in the woods, I think in large part because we kept interrupting their attacks, and run into the bandits guarding the supplies for the Gilded Vale shop. Apparently one of the ranged attackers in this fight can deal 51 damage in one hit with a roll of just 63.
But like all slow-loading ranged weapons, he can't keep it up, and Eder's high Athletics lets him recover with Second Wind. Aloth wrecks the enemy fighters with Curse of Blackened Sight (man, PoE spell names are long) and Fan of Flames.
Aloth is proving much more useful than I thought he would. Those spells of his are having a very strong impact now that I've gotten accustomed to using them liberally, instead of saving them to minimize resting.
Frost, Orlan Rogue
While wandering around, we run into a pair of Forest Lurkers, and while I remember that they're very different from Forest Trolls, who look very similar, I don't really appreciate just how much tougher the Lurkers are. They nail Eder with three hits, and since the first one knocks him down, he can't heal himself--and Durance doesn't act fast enough to bail him out. Our primary tank goes down.
But then, by virtue of marvelous luck, Eder's special armor revives him! Second Wind brings him back up to speed. Frost gets hit pretty hard in the interim, but her own Second Wind keeps her in good condition. Aloth deploys Fan of Flames for burst damage.
Unfortunately, Aloth's Chill Fog spell repeatedly fails to blind the enemy, and without blindness to thwart the enemy's attacks, Eder can't stand up much longer. He's quickly going down.
Consecrated Ground keeps him afloat for a few seconds, but his luck only lasts so long. Frost makes slow progress on the Lurkers with her wand, but when Eder falls, our only remaining tanks are a wizard and a priest, both of which have exhausted their spells.
Aloth and Durance aren't tough enough to stand up long on their own, but they're all we've got. Aloth's Chill Fog spell is still lingering, which gives Frost some crucial sneak attacks with her wand.
In a desperate attempt to bail out at least one of her party members, Frost uses Crucible of the Soul to finish off one of the Lurkers. It's not enough to save Aloth, but it does buy Durance a little time.
Durance uses Second Wind, his very last ability, and he survives for a few moments longer before the Lurker's overwhelming power crushes him.
That's it. Frost is the only one left, and the remaining Lurker is still in pretty good health. A single knockdown effect could seal Frost's fate. With dual-wielding hatchets and a bit of luck, Frost has a chance at interrupting the Lurker before it puts her down. It's a long shot, but it's our only remaining option.
Well, that and kiting. Lurkers and trolls have always had lousy movement rates. When all other tactics fail, we just run away and pepper it with our wand. Not very epic, perhaps, but practical (I forget where that quote is from).
Dealing damage takes forever, but somehow, we end the fight by running away, and Eder, but not Aloth or Durance, climbs back to his feet to resume the fight! I don't know why only Eder got up, since we got an auto-pause suggesting that combat ended and immediately re-started when he regained consciousness, which ostensibly would revive everyone who got knocked out, but it doesn't matter. Eder helps Frost kite the Lurker to death with his bow.
Done! Not really how I wanted that fight to go, but whatever.
Eder is at 1 Health and 1 Endurance, and the whole party is out of spells, so we can't fight anything until we rest. First, though, I want to go grab Kana from Caed Nua, and on the way back to the Gilded Vale, I stop by the bridge area...
...forgetting that there's a single Xaurip Skirmisher who appears the moment you enter that map. It makes one bad attack roll against Eder and our only fighter dies instantly.
He's not just knocked out; he's dead--really dead this time. Completely gone. I thought you had to tick a special option to enable permanent deaths, but I guess this is just a normal feature in Path of the Damned.
Meh. The loss doesn't bother me very much. In fact, I'm honestly more bothered by the fact that the Xaurip Skirmisher fails to kill Durance before we put it down. At any rate, our fighter is gone, and we can't get any new party members without creating our own until after we beat the Phantoms at Caed Nua, kill Maerwald, and reach the next area. I'm going to have to create a custom party member to get past Caed Nua, I think.
I had hoped that we could create 5 level 1 Aumaua priests with 21 Might to spam Holy Radiance and deal 200 damage to the Phantoms, but it looks like that spell only deals fire damage to Vessels; not Spirits.
Frost, Hearth Orlan Rogue
Eder's permanent death isn't that big of a problem for me, since I didn't really want to stick with him for the whole game, anyway. We're low on levels, so I'm not keen on creating any new priests to replace Durance (I want to hit level 4 so we can create at least a level 3 custom character), but I think we're tough enough to handle the temple of Eothas, which I failed to complete out of fear of the Skuldrs.
Now, however, I think we have a better shot. We lure them away from their hiding place, using the extra seconds to help Kana build up chants, then have Durance cast Holy Meditation to improve our Will defenses and better resist the enemy's stunning attacks (which I [i]think[/i] target Will defenses). Once the Skuldrs are bunched up together, Aloth blinds them. Frost is much deadlier than she used to be, and now can easily dispatch the Skuldrs with her twin hatchets.
Entering the lower levels gets us enough experience to level up, finally, and get some new talents: Frost learns Shadowing Beyond, giving us an unbeatable escape option twice per rest, Aloth gets Arcane Veil to improve his lousy defenses and Combusting Wounds to improve our damage output, and Durance gets Inspiring Radiance because I'm not sure what else is worth choosing. Kana isn't quite there yet, so no Phantom summons for us.
Back upstairs, I flub things up against the second batch of Skuldrs, and Aloth ends up at the back of the line while we're running away. Putting aside the problem of disengagement attacks, interruptions prevent Aloth from quickly running away.
In BG, if you got hit while running away, you could cancel the damage animation by pausing and then re-issuing the command to run away. No such option exists in PoE; I've tried. Interruptions are a real stunning effect; not just an animation.
We get surrounded, but Aloth survives the pressure and Kana builds up enough chants to summon some skeletons. Durance has Consecrated Ground up and running, a fabulous pre-buff that lasts 25 seconds, and Frost begins chopping up the enemy.
The Skuldrs obliterate our skeletons in seconds, and under Arcane Veil, Aloth lasts long enough to cast Curse of Blackened Sight. That's our most crucial offensive spell; the -25 Accuracy is extremely important for our survival and it buys Frost, our primary damage dealer, an extra 50% damage per hit. Better still, it lasts for a very long time.
Aloth is in trouble, under attack from the Skuldr King, but then I realize we have a rather nice option for dealing with it: Durance can pin it down with a simple Halt spell. Notice Frost completely thrashing the other Skuldrs.
When the others are gone, we crowd around the Skuldr King, who somehow drops Frost to 1 Endurance with two hits in quick succession--it seems to have the attack speed of a dual-wielding character!
Frost uses Shadowing Beyond for a quick escape, and once she heals herself with Second Wind, she returns to finish off the Skuldr King.
Shadowing Beyond is a great way to compensate for her low Deflection.
We sell off a bunch of loose gear, bumping our copper supply from 2,000 to 3,000, and finally have Frost don the Saint's War Armor from Eder, since it brought him back to life once before (which is not counting him getting back up after combat ended; that was a separate event). Can someone tell me if a knockout on Frost means a game over, and if so, could the Saint's War Armor bring her back?
Finally, we create a couple of custom characters at a major cost to our copper supply: Runa, an Aumaua priest, and Sabine, a Hearth Orlan wizard.
Sabine has low Might because she's not intended to be a bomber; she's just there to cast Curse of Blackened Sight to improve [i]Frost's [/i]damage output. This lets us max out Intellect and Perception to improve her disablers. As for Runa, I've dropped her Perception because she's not there to use offensive spells or attack; she's strictly there to cast healing and buff spells, which requires high Might and Intellect.
Kana finally hits level 4 and learns to summon Phantoms. We don't plan on keeping him forever (he's a nice character, but I don't like his portrait or voice), but I do want a sturdy buffer for the time being.
Back to the beach, another area we failed to complete due to fears over its difficulty. Sabine tries out her Chill Fog and Slicken spells and finds them highly effective. With her high Intellect, she can knock down or blind large groups of enemies, easing the pressure on the party.
Outside, I decide to tackle to the Guls. I lure them out one at a time using stealth: I think you can pick off enemies one by one in certain situations by letting the yellow circle under the sneak character fill up (which causes the enemy to follow you) and then running away before the red circle fills up (when combat actually begins). With Holy Radiance and Blinding Strike, we can slay the Guls without using per-rest abilities.
It's time to take on Caed Nua. Following the example of other no-reloaders, I corner the party when dealing with the first group of Phantoms, making sure that our wizards are safely behind a wall. Everyone is wearing hide armor or scale (I think) armor for the extra bonuses to Freeze damage reduction (why wear heavy armor against enemies that don't deal physical damage?).
Aloth and Sabine open with Chill Fog, and due to their high Intellect, we can cover all the enemies without risking any party members straying into the area of effect. Before all the enemies even manage to reach the party, Frost is already almost done with the first Phantom! She's just that dangerous.
As hideously dangerous as the enemy's attacks are, their defenses are actually pretty weak. Aloth and Sabine can kill the Shadows just by using Arcane Assault.
By the time Kana brings out his own Phantom, Frost has already crushed the enemy. I can't overstate how effective she is at killing things. She attacks lightning fast with her twin hatchets.
Based on our success in the first fight, I assume that the other enemies scattered around the exterior are going to be pushovers. Then we encounter a pair of Will o' Wisps alongside the Shadows and Phantoms, and their high-damage shock attacks shake our confidence.
But they need a few seconds before they can strike again, and with two priests in the party, we can recover from the damage before any Phantoms can finish us off. Aloth somehow deals [i]30 damage[/i] against the Will o' Wisps with a Chill Fog spell, and Frost starts tearing apart the shadows.
We're low on spells, so we hike back to the Gilded Vale to rest up and buy some new food for the party. The food is worth the cost, but I'm not sure I agree that the costs are negligible; it costs us 192 copper pieces to buy everyone two pies and a dish of Pearlwood Chicken, even with a discount. That's actually a meaningful loss after we spent so much money getting new characters; we're down to less than 1,000 copper again.
The other fights outside Caed Nua prove uneventful. Frost stays out of the way of the Phantoms' stun attacks, and with two wizards using blindness spells, she has little trouble bringing down the enemy.
Next up, Maerwald! We open with Curse of Blackened Sight and a Scroll of Protection just in case a bad disabler comes our way, with Consecrated Ground to shield us from any big damage spells. Maerwald's high Will isn't enough to keep him safe from our blindness spells.
I'm hesitant to send Frost over to Maerwald since it seems dangerous, so I let her focus on killing the Blights until we can nail Maerwald with Combusting Wounds. When I realize that Aloth can deal lots of damage simply by using Minoletta's Minor Missiles on Maerwald, I let Frost stay with the Blights. By the time the Blights are down, which doesn't take long, Maerwald is already wounded and largely helpless.
With the path to the next areas now open, we replace Durance with Sagani. Eventually, I'll want to get the Grieving Mother and then Pallegina, whom I've never had in the party before.
Frost, Heart Orlan Rogue
The reason I mention that I'm behind in posting is that this post is about a session that happened [i]before[/i] I read about how deadly the lions guarding Hearth Harvest were.
I therefore did [i]not[/i] know at the time that, when I saw some lions while scouting, I should have taken extra precautions before proceeding to get my favorite hatchet. Without that information, I thought that lions would be simple enemy grunts that I could deal with using my normal tactics.
Until this happened.
Right off the bat, Sagani is in danger and Kana is almost dead. Consecrated Ground and Second Wind bail out Kana, but Sagani is suffering and Sabine is in trouble. She manages to get Chill Fog off the ground...
...and even Curse of Blackened Sight, but with no time to cast Arcane Veil, she's not tough enough to survive the lion attacks.
Aloth activates Arcane Veil and manages to stay afloat, but Kana can't take the pressure, and our chanter goes down. Runa casts Prayer Against Fear to block the effects of the lions' roars, and Frost is making strong progress against the blinded lions.
We've got Consecrated Ground active, and Frost is dealing lots of damage, but the party is taking a lot of damage. Sagani goes down, and Runa is quickly following her.
Soon, Frost is all alone. [i]Everyone else has been knocked out.[/i]
There's only one thing left to do: flee. And as it happens, Frost is the only one who can actually escape combat using Shadowing Beyond. She instantly goes invisible and hurries away from the lions.
The lions wander off, and the party climbs to its feet! Shadowing Beyond just saved this run.
But I'm not done here yet. I want to bring down those lions. It's time for Round 2. We rest up, have some snacks, and return, with Itumaak serving as our decoy. Itumaak, of course, does not last long without support.
But that bought us a moment's reprieve, and while Sagani is already getting thrashed, we've managed to blind the lions and even knock some of them down with Slicken! Runa has also given us some priest buffs, including Consecrated Ground.
We trade blows with the lions. With the party better protected and more healing spells on the way, we can recover from damage while the enemy cannot.
It takes a lot of work, but with both of our wizards well-protected and with Kana taking pressure off of our priest, we can keep throwing out healing spells and disablers while Frost does her dirty work. The lions fall!
Our reward is Hearth Harvest, which we immediately upgrade to Fine.
Frost, Heart Orlan Rogue
We keep wandering around aimlessly (I really don't know my way around the map) and eventually run into a batch of Forest Trolls. Like most enemies, they're not too much trouble after they've been blinded. Aloth resumes an old function of his: torching enemies from the side using Fan of Flames.
But we don't need Aloth anymore--Sabine already has the important blindness spells, and Hiravias makes a better bomber than Aloth does, so we replace Aloth with the Orlan druid. Over at Defiance Bay, we do the March Steel Dagger quest, and while we get our hands on the dagger and its brilliant +20% attack speed enchantment...
...we can't equip it.
It's a quest item, so we can't ever remove it from the stash. The dagger is completely useless to us. We reluctantly head back to the little kid who wanted it, and I don't see a dialog option that lets us keep the dagger, which ostensibly would make it stop being a quest item and let us actually [i]use[/i] it. We hand it over and get our reward: a little figurine that summons a trio of beetles once per day. It's really not what I wanted, since I had hoped to give Frost another boost to her damage output, but it's what we've got.
Some guards give us grief when we're looting a mansion, and for a moment I'm terrified, because they're hitting much harder than they did in my last run.
They don't keep up the pressure, however, and soon Kana summons a Phantom that helps even the odds.
We butcher some thugs down at the docks, then spend a little while wandering around Ondra's Gift, since I never bothered to check for side quests in my last run. Runa and Sabine hit level 4, learning Inspiring Radiance and Mirrored Image. Sabine takes Gallant's Focus--Kana already has Gallant's Focus, but I plan on replacing him, and anyway, Kana's Accuracy aura doesn't always reach the back of our group.
Then, while I'm wading around the water, I run into some [i]Animats[/i], and I make a run for it.
I had no idea there were Animats here, and I wouldn't have rushed into the water if I knew enemies that dangerous were lurking around. It seems like a really tough encounter at this stage in the game, but we can't really avoid it now. We use a bridge as a rather lousy chokepoint and summon a Phantom, who, to my surprise, actually manages to land a stun.
We bring the Animat down to Near Death and I think we have it pinned, but then, sure enough, it instantly heals itself to full Endurance.
Despite the setback, we keep up the pressure and eventually the Adra Animat lumbers into the fray. Fortunately, we have lots of blindness spells and soon enable sneak attacks on the Adra Animat as well.
When the battle is over, I wade back into the water to find out what the Animats were guarding.
Which turns out to be [i]more[/i] Animats. I immediately turn tail, but this time, the enemy zaps us as we're running away!
We can't run any further; we need to stop and use some healing spells. While we're taking our positions, I notice that the enemy bolts are actually party-unfriendly, and the Animats are hurting each other--pretty badly, in fact.
We cast Consecrated Ground and also Woodskin to give us some slight buffer against the shock damage, while Sabine blinds the enemy. Unfortunately, the enemies here have a massive 36 total damage reduction against slashing damage, which means Frost's hatchets only deal 20% their normal damage.
But we're at full strength--I rested before heading back into the water, just in case--and while Frost is crippled by the enemy's damage reduction, the rest of the party is not. We smash the Animats while Consecrated Ground keeps us healthy, and proceed to the Adra Animat, which Sabine knocks down with Slicken.
Things are getting rough, but we're learning stuff. There's a lot of content that I never actually explored, so much of this is very new to me.
Frost, Hearth Orlan Rogue
We deal with Waldr "Three Fingers" the normal way: Consecrated Ground, the level 1 wizard Accuracy spell combined with Curse of Blackened Sight, with Frost waiting a couple seconds before taking action so she can attack an enemy after it's already engaged one of our tanks.
Frost hits level 5! I'm tempted by Riposte, which sounds like a great option for the right thief build, but I choose Deep Wounds for the raw damage.
Now we can replace Sagani with a new level 4 character: Mora Tai, an Aumaua cipher.
Mora Tai will be testing out the Quick Switch strategy with firearms: fire a blunderbuss for raw damage, switch to a pistol for a followup, and then switch to a wand for a more reliable and faster weapon. Otherwise she's very similar to the ciphers from the "no per-rest abilities" run, with high Might, Dexterity, and Perception, and no armor to speed up ranged attacks. Unfortunately, buying a blunderbuss costs us 1,500 copper pieces, so this character build costs us 2,500 in total. Hopefully it's worth it.
We also recruit Pallegina, replacing Kana and giving us a more interesting tank. Back at the temple of Eothas, we fight more Skuldrs, who surprise us with a lot of stunning and raw damage.
We shrug it off with some healing options and after a Curse of Blackened Sight and Combusting Wounds, we tear them up with sneak attacks and cipher powers.
While I'm back finishing early game quests, we stop by the bear cave and combine Hiravias' animal charming powers with the beetle figurine.
We head to Raedric's hold in search of more profitable adventures and delve into the dungeon. Mora Tai's new blunderbuss (upgraded with the Fine and fire damage enchantments!) and the pistol, Forgiveness, are proving very effective. Switching weapons is much faster than reloading them, and the damage from firearms is very respectable.
After some heavy meals, we confront Osrya and blast her with the blunderbuss. The enemy wizards fire back hard.
Worried about getting overwhelmed with spell damage, we knock Osrya off her feet with a Slicken spell, which is almost as fun as it sounds.
Concelhaut's Corrosive Siphon keeps Osrya in good health, but then we nail her with Fetid Caress, which is also almost as fun as it sounds.
She doesn't last long after that.
Later, we get in trouble with some oozes who deal much more damage than I anticipated, albeit not so much to threaten the run. Here's Mora Tai using Antipathetic Field to tack on damage with Sabine's Combusting Wounds.
Up on the ramparts, Mora Tai blasts an archer and charms the captain of the guard. Ciphers are great fun.
Mora Tai gets knocked out by the end of the fight, though. Such is the cost of not wearing armor.
We decide not to finish the Raedric quest, since I don't want to trigger the Caed Nua invasion by Raedric's Fampyr friends. Even without clearing out the castle, the loot we sell nets us over 2,000 copper pieces, nearly doubling our supply.
We do have one Caed Nua invasion to deal with, though. The Leaden Key has some spellcasters with them, but Mora Tai can wipe out one of them in just two shots from her blunderbuss and Forgiveness.
Since the run is going well, I decide to head to Searing Falls to finish a quest. I've never visited Searing Falls before, but I dimly remember reading that the reward was a weapon that would be very nice for our party.
Here's our party so far. I'm particularly fond of Frost's look, with the closed helm and the dual hatchets. She looks pretty menacing for such a tiny character!
On to Searing Falls! Three seconds in, I realize that the area might be a little too challenging for us to complete.
I was not expecting a Drake. Fortunately, we have a pretty sturdy party, and we have some Scrolls of Revival on hand. One Drake shouldn't be too difficult if we're careful.
Then I see a whole [i]swarm [/i]of Drakes swooping in on us, and I realize that we might not make it out of this one.
Mora Tai switches to her blunderbuss and fires at the nearest Drake. To my horror, her blunderbuss only deals [i]4.6 damage[/i]. Four of the six hits completely missed, and the other two just grazed--and most of that damage was completely ignored by the Drake's massive damage reduction.
I was really counting on that to buy us Focus points to burn on Whisper of Treason. She switches to Forgiveness, and this time, [i]she misses completely[/i]. Her Accuracy is in the 30s thanks to the Frightened aura from the Drakes, and the Drake's Deflection is 81. Combine that with a bad attack roll and we get nothing.
Normally, Mora Tai would have Focus at least in the 30s or 40s. It's at 16 now, and the only way we can build it up is with a wand.
Luckily, Sabine has stronger Accuracy and manages to blind some of the enemies. Pallegina downs a Potion of Bulwark Against the Elements, Runa starts casting some defensive spells, Hivarius begins casting Returning Storm, and Frost waits for an opening. Even more Drakes have shown up than I anticipated, and we can't run to a corner without suffering disengagement attacks and sacrificing our Consecrated Ground spell.
Every single Drake has its own Fear Aura that triggers repeatedly, so avoiding it without a Prayer Against Fear spell is virtually impossible. That's a huge blow to our Accuracy, but Mora Tai manages to charm one of them with Whisper of Treason. We target a Young Drake since its Will defense is in the 30s, while the full-grown Drakes' Will defenses are in the 50s.
Unfortunately, out of all the Drakes that Sabine has blinded, none of them are within Frost's striking distance, so Frost has to use Blinding Strike on the nearest one in order to make progress on the enemy. Even now, against Drakes, Frost's damage output is impressive.
Our beetles get crushed, and now the party is under real pressure. Mora Tai lands another charm, but only with a graze, and so the duration is very disappointing.
Frost brings the Young Drake to Near Death, but it stubbornly clings to life, and I'm not sure how much longer it will last. Hiravias deploys Charm Beast and the party gains control of more of the enemies, but unfortunately, we mostly get critters who are already blinded.
Runa casts Prayer Against Fear to improve our Accuracy and we land a couple more charm effects, but our rolls appear very low; we keep getting nothing but grazes on all our attacks. Hiravius activates Woodskin as a preventive measure, but things are looking ugly. Frost has only brought down a single enemy so far.
The enemy is so scrambled and we have had so little control over positioning at the start of combat that our damage output has been really scattered; multiple enemies are wounded but few are in serious condition. We manage to pull another Drake down, and naturally, it's Frost's second target--though a dying Flame Blight actually scored the final blow.
Hiravias charms another couple of Drakes, and this time gets better luck with the duration, but we've got other problems. Charms are great, but to really finish off the enemy in a controlled, concentrated manner (so our damage isn't spread out over multiple targets and therefore wasted), we need to impose blindness and let Frost land some sneak attacks. But Sabine is getting pummeled, and her Arcane Veil and Wizard's Double spells just aren't enough to keep her safe. She's already deeply in the red.
Mora Tai, still struggling to build up Focus against the enemy's heavy damage reduction and sky-high Deflection, manages to land another Whisper of Treason spell on a Young Drake. It takes half the pressure off of Sabine, but the other Drake is getting high attack rolls to compensate.
One charmed critter is not enough to bail out Sabine. The Drake finishes her off, and now we are truly void of blindness options. Now our only sneak attacks can come from flanking enemies (which is virtually impossible; I can barely [i]see [/i]anything with all the Drakes in the way, and moving anywhere is extremely dangerous due to the risk of disengagement) or from a level 2 Power from Mora Tai, who needs that Focus to use on Whisper of Treason to keep the party alive. Hiravias paralyzes a couple enemies, giving us a slight reprieve and paving the way for some sneak attacks. But due to the Drakes' extraordinarily high damage reduction, it's extremely difficult for Frost to deal much damage. And she's not getting good rolls, either.
One Drake is at Near Death, but just like the first one, it hovers at Near Death for a remarkably long time without dying. All the while, Hiravias' charm spells are wearing off and the Drakes are using their breath weapons again. Mora Tai approaches death.
The Young Drakes' breath weapons appear to be single-target, but the adult Drakes' attacks are area-effect. Mora Tai avoids a blast due to being out of range, but Pallegina gets hit unusually hard, and goes down despite being at decent health shortly before.
Hiravias is out of charm spells and Mora Tai has been getting bad attack rolls, repeatedly failing to generate Focus. The net result is that now the Drakes are all hostile, and that one Drake at Near Death simply refuses to go down. The damage on the party builds up faster than we can heal it.
When Hiravias goes down, we finally deploy a Scroll of Revival. We're pretty much out of spells, but at least the extra Endurance could buy Frost more time to kill the Drakes.
Mora Tai collapses, another crushing blow to the party. If she had just clung to life a little longer, she might have landed a Whisper of Treason spell and slipped to safety to keep using her wand from afar. Hiravias paralyzes three Drakes due to lucky positioning and good rolls, and finally, [i]finally[/i] that one Drake that's been hovering at Near Death for so many seconds goes down.
We really only have two ways of surviving this encounter: finishing off the remaining four Drakes, which seems really dicey without Mora Tai to attempt some more Whispers of Treason spells (our party members alone aren't sturdy enough to last much longer), or having Frost use Shadowing Beyond to escape and somehow finagle our way out of the fight, like we did with the lions.
The first option doesn't seem likely. We'd need pretty good luck to come out on top, and the Drake gets [i]spectacular [/i]luck with its knockdown ability. Frost is tacking on damage to another Drake at Near Death, but with our party members on their backs, we can't exactly flank it and enable sneak attacks.
We land one more kill, but I don't think we can beat the Drakes. Only Runa and Frost remain, and Runa can't hold off three Drakes at once.
I abandon Runa for dead and have Frost escape under Shadowing Beyond. She only has one left, since a previous one somehow failed to stop a Drake that appeared to see through it. She hurries to the west...
...but there are no safe spots on this map. There are even more Drakes to the west.
And beyond that, there are Xaurips. With Frost's low Intellect, Shadowing Beyond doesn't last long enough for her to escape three separate encounters. The Xaurips spot her just as she reappears.
I was hoping that she could somehow scrape by and slip away from the Xaurips, but there is no such option. The Xaurips paralyze her and bring her down.
Divinegon, Hearth Orlan Cipher (party of ciphers)
I've decided to switch back to ciphers instead of rogues for my single-class party, as they're a little more versatile and have some cooler spells. Our Watcher this time is Divinegon, another Hearth Orlan with the only portrait I've ever used, or plan to use, as my Watcher.
Her name is Divinegon, the name of a type of monster in the old Pokemon-style game, Dragon Warrior Monsters. Divinegon is a combination of "divine" and "dragon," but I've always pronounced it "dih-[i]vin[/i]-ih-gahn," which I think sounds better. As always, our first Talent for our cipher is Biting Whip for the 20% physical damage bonus.
This time, I haven't decreased Intellect in order to maximize Dexterity, and so I've chosen Whisper of Treason as one of my first spell picks. Once we get to Gilded Vale by avoiding any fights after the prologue, we hire a new cipher, Mora Tai, named after the cipher of our previous run. She's designed to use crossbows, arbalests, and firearms for large boosts to Focus.
Since this is Hard mode instead of PotD, I feel confident enough to tackle some fights that I wouldn't dare approach in PotD at this stage of the game, like the wolves near the climbable wall in the area north of Gilded Vale. We do almost die, though. Whisper of Treason greatly decreases the pressure on the party, but we can't keep all enemies charm-locked, and Divinegon isn't really designed to take much damage.
We're doing pretty good for a two-person party at levels 2 and 1, but Divinegon can't stand up to a lone wolf.
Mora Tai just barely manages to bring down the wolf by virtue or her strong damage output.
Speaking to the dwarf woman gives us enough experience to get Divinegon to level 3, which means we can finally afford a new level 2 cipher, Lothra. You'll notice I re-use portraits and names a lot. I give Lothra some higher Intellect to improve her disablers.
I've underestimated cipher disablers in the past, but some of them are actually pretty wicked. Tenuous Grasp is a really excellent disabler: the confusion effect might not last as long as the charm effect of Whisper of Treason, but confusion, unlike charm, doesn't end when you attack the target. Both of them are great against the various low-Will enemies of early PoE.
Notice I'm now using Psychovampiric Shield, on the advice of I forget which forumite, for a temporary +25 Deflection for one of my two tanks. Unfortunately, it takes 20 Focus and right now I need to land some attacks before I can activate it, but it should be a solid defensive option later in the game.
We find a Fine Great Sword, which gets us enough money to hire another level 2 cipher, Rius, who is fairly similar to Divinegon herself, though I'll be using Rius more as an archer than a tank.
Fighting some wild boar gets Mora Tai to level 2, which I think is enough for us to handle Ludrana and the twin paladins. High-perception Whisper of Treason spells let us take control of both paladins right off the bat!
Ludrana does get Necrotic Lance off the ground, and it knocks out Lothra in a single hit, but she doesn't last long enough to do anything more than that.
I can't stress how big of a game-changer Whisper of Treason is. Being able to charm just about any enemy in any fight lets us completely screw with the enemy's functioning. Even those deadly Xaurip Skirmishers with their paralysis attacks can easily be charmed.
It really compensates for our party's poor defenses. You don't need sturdy defenses if the enemy is doing your tanking for you.
We find an arbalest for Mora Tai on the beach and head to the bandits to rescue the cook, where the game reminds me that Antipathetic Field is very party-unfriendly, and can easily knock out a party member.
We fight a few trolls and outdoor spiders, avoid a pair of Forest Lurkers out of well-founded fears, and add a Wood Elf cipher to the team as our new archer to help us deal with some fights in the temple of Eothas. Notice that we can use charmed spiders to fortify a choke point and completely negate enemy pressure in the fight with the temple spiders.
Visiting Caed Nua (but not fighting anything!) gets Lothra to level 3, granting her Psychovampiric Shield to improve her defenses. I really want to get Divinegon to level 4 so we can get a new level 3 cipher to help us against the Phantoms at Caed Nua, so I pick a fight with some Scavengers out in the wilderness. Mora Tai is absolutely lethal with her arbalest.
Within seconds, almost every circle on the map is green instead of red. It's a huge boon that we can secure very early in a fight.
We use the +2 Intellect hood (whatever it's called) to gain immunity to the Will o' Wisps' confusion attacks and start clearing the first level of the temple of Eothas. Mora Tai has hit level 3, and I am enjoying her new Amplified Thrust spell.
When we reach the second level (I skip the optional Skuldr fight in the far south), Divinegon finally hits level 4, allowing us to add another level 3 Wood Elf archer to the team, Viora.
We're ready to tackle the Phantoms at Caed Nua.
Note that these runs all took place a while ago, so I wasn't working with certain information when I started, which is why I lost runs during fights that I would not have as much trouble with now.
Divinegon, Hearth Orlan Cipher (party of ciphers)
Guess what? Phantoms have [i]no immunity to charm effects![/i]
By itself, that completely solves the problem of their deadly attacks. We can pin down one Phantom on the first round with three crossbow or arbalest bolts, then charm most of the survivors and turn them against each other. We stomp over everything with Whisper of Treason.
As for Maerwald, we charm his summoned Blight and then apply ranged pressure. He barely gets a single offensive spell off the ground.
With Caed Nua cleared, we proceed to the next area. Turns out our party is really not equipped to handle Pwgras. Our frontliners get blasted with Infestation of Maggots, which is even worse than it sounds.
Here we see a key weakness of an all-cipher party: we have no healing options besides scrolls (which I have yet to scribe, and would heal very little anyway) and Second Wind. That isn't enough, and [i]four ciphers get [/i]knocked out before the Pwgra even hits Near Death.
Finally, we bring down the Pwgra, but we're reduced to two unarmored archers, and there are too many trolls for us to kite them all.
Only one of our remaining party members knows Whispers of Treason; Viora has used Intellect as a dump stat and has therefore focused on damage spells. How do we deal with these trolls when we only have one source of Whispers of Treason?
Simple: we use Amplified Thrust to knock back any trolls who get too close! We can't do it often, but we don't need to; it does a lot to bring the trolls close to death.
With two archers dealing lots of ranged damage, one cipher charming the trolls to keep them distracted and the other knocking stray trolls back, we can finish off all the remaining enemies despite most of our party being knocked out.
Woodend Plains might be a valuable source of Awakened Wood ingredients, but those Pwgras are very nasty. Also, as I discover mere moments later, Forest Lurkers are even stronger than I realized: they're immune to charm spells and can even attack from a distance!
Honestly, I'm not even sure that's intentional. I don't see any projectiles, the attack involved no spells, and the Forest Lurker's arms aren't [i]that[/i] long.
Anyhoo, I decide to tackle the lions. I know it's a bad idea, but I'm finding this run less interesting than I thought and less viable than I thought. We can break almost every encounter with a blitzkrieg or charm offensive and neutralize threats on Round 1, but without healing spells, we have to do that for [i]every fight in the game[/i], or else, sooner or later, we're going to get battered on Round 2.
In this case, though, I'm pretty sure we have good odds. We have a snack and open with a Prayer Against Fear scroll, and our opening flurry from our archers and their crossbow and twin arbalests brings one lion to Near Death right off the bat.
Notice we're using Speaker to the Restless to impose some fear effects of our own. It's kind of important to apply Accuracy penalties when you have a party of glass cannons.
Divinegon suffers heavy damage, but once we land a few charm effects, the enemy is again under our control.
Divinegon is still under some pressure, however, and she's not equipped to handle even a single lion in one-on-one combat; charming all the others isn't enough to keep her truly safe. She scrapes by with Second Wind and a red potion, but when those run out, her only means of defending herself is Psychovampiric Shield to improve her Deflection.
Eventually she gets knocked out, but by the time it happens, the rest of the party has crushed the enemy with ranged attacks and Whisper of Treason.
Hearth Harvest is ours! We give it a little upgrade and keep wandering around, struggling against some wolves (to our surprise) and then wandering into a spider den, where we trigger a LOT more spiders than I thought we would when we first entered the area.
We can charm them, but... Whisper of Treason is a single-target spell. It's not as useful when the enemies are more numerous. Our charmed spiders get crushed early and the party gets swarmed. Our best tank, Lothra, can't handle more than a few seconds of enemy pressure.
Divinegon struggles to maintain consciousness as our only remaining tank. We charm more spiders, but there are just too many. Mora Tai gets targeted and doesn't last long after that. In desperation, Divinegon uses Antipathetic Field, hoping she'll survive long enough for the beam to kill a few spiders.
Unfortunately, there's one critical weakness behind Antipathetic Field: you can't control where the target goes after you first hit it. And when the spider we target moves too far south, Rius gets caught in the beam.
Divinegon gets knocked out, and the beam dissipates before it can clear the field. Our only hope is to deploy some scrolls of Fan of Flames and build up enough Focus and then charm the healthiest survivors.
But only one of our remaining ciphers has the scroll, and she's not in a good position to use it. Zovai goes down, and all is lost.
We probably could wipe out the enemies just by using the Fan of Flames scrolls at the start of combat, but I don't intend to do so.
When I first started out, I planned on continuing the run even if I got a death. The logic was that I would learn more if I played through the game, tolerating reloads, and gathered some new information. However, the reality is that this party is not very good for learning things: it's so strong offensively that it ends fights before the enemy has a chance to fight back, which means I don't get a chance to gauge enemy strength or figure out how the enemy operates. The party is strong and I'd say it's perfectly viable even in PotD mode (though very suboptimal; our 3-cipher, 3-paladin party was much better for no-reload gameplay), but it's probably the second-worst party I could pick, just behind a party of 6 rogues, if I wanted to learn more about the game.
But I still like ciphers. I think my next run will include a cipher as our Watcher, but I won't create a whole party of them. Put too many high-offense ciphers in a party and most fights aren't really fights anymore--and on the rare occasions when you don't establish an early advantage and break the difficulty, you're probably going to get crushed really fast.
Divinegon, Hearth Orlan Cipher
Explorer from the Living Lands
Difficulty: Path of the Damned
Settings: Maim before death; injuries on zero Endurance
Divinegon (dih-[i]vih[/i]-nih-gahn) is a lazy wanderer who slowly meanders wherever fate takes her, not minding where she ends up or how long it takes to get there. I've still got the same portrait for my Watcher.
Her lazy, sleepy approach to life is only there to justify her low Constitution and low Resolve, which I needed to drop to crank up her Might, Dexterity, and Perception (I [i]really [/i]want that reliability for PotD mode). It would actually be better if she was a Wood Elf, since that would give me another +5 to Accuracy when using ranged weapons, but I like Orlans more. There's something about this fuzzy blonde gnome critter that I like.
By the way, I was wrong about the price you get from selling Gaun's Pledge. Selling it to Heodan at the start of the game gets you [i]1,667 copper pieces[/i]. It's very much worth the trade, because the ring itself is largely worthless (the healing effect is pretty crummy).
Anyway, this time, I haven't dropped Intellect. While Divinegon is primarily going to be a damage dealer, there are some very, very important disablers we need for the early game, and I want normal durations for them. Whisper of Treason is a very cheap charm effect we can spam relentlessly as long as we fire an arrow every once in a while. The effect is a huge game-changer, few early-game enemies have strong Will saves, [i]and [/i]it only costs 10 Focus--very low-cost for such a reliable and effective spell.
One of the things I plan on doing differently in this run is using slow-firing weapons to generate gobs of Focus early on in fights. Right now, we don't have many such weapons, but even a simple crossbow is quite deadly in the hands of an offensive-oriented cipher. More importantly, it's [i]satisfying[/i] to land those higher-damage hits.
The prologue isn't too much trouble; I think you need a weak Watcher and some very bad luck for it to go poorly, assuming you're making full use of Calisca and Heodan's abilities (and assuming both are in the party). By the time Divinegon sneaks through the wilderness straight to the inn at the Gilded Vale, we've gathered enough stray loot to collect 2,500 copper in all.
But I won't be recruiting any custom characters yet, because this part of the run happened [i]before [/i]
pointed out that creating them early was more efficient. If it looks like I'm ignoring prior advice early in this run, it's because I hadn't gotten it at the time. So right now, I've only got Eder and Aloth on the team.
After dying [i]very[/i] early on a couple times in PotD mode during my Moon Godlike paladins run, I'm very cautious about early game fights, since a lot of them are deceptively dangerous. I dip into the temple of Eothas, but only long enough for the easiest fight in the entire dungeon. Divinegon, now at level 3, deploys her newfound spell, Amplified Thrust. As I've probably said before, I really like this spell--the burst damage is fantastic, and the knockback is great for safely breaking engagement for endangered allies.
To maximize her Focus gain and damage output, Divinegon is wearing simple clothing and switches from a crossbow to a scepter in combat. I used to prefer wands for ciphers, but scepters deal slashing/crushing damage, which I think is better than piercing/crushing damage, particularly since crossbows, arbalests, and firearms already deal piercing damage. As strong as she is, we're not remotely tough enough to handle wolves or bandits or the like, so I recruit Durance and we make our way to Caed Nua while studiously avoiding every fight along the way--except for a lone troll on the main road, which can be safely kited until Divinegon has enough Focus to paralyze it with Mental Binding.
Reaching Caed Nua gets us some level ups, and Eder chooses Confident Aim (I didn't know what else to pick, so I chose the safest option) while Aloth learns Combusting Wounds and Curse of Blackened Sight. The blindness spell is the most important, and from what I can tell, Blackened Sight is easily the best level 2 wizard spell. Imposing area-effect, party-friendly -25 Accuracy on a failed Will save is crippling for most enemy groups, even late in the game.
I've learned to fear wolves, and I've also learned to be extremely generous with per-rest abilities despite getting so accustomed to [i]not [/i]using them in my first no-reload run. When we tackle the wolf pack in Valewood, or whatever the area with the kidnapped cook is called, we lure them a short ways away so Durance, Aloth, and Divinegon can get Consecrated Ground (a great long-term investment in healing), Blackened Sight, and Whisper of Treason off the ground. I'll often lure enemies a short distance, just to buy us an extra second of buffing time.
The fight actually takes some time, but Consecrated Ground heals our scratches, and we come out in good condition. Once we're rested up, we go fight the Xaurips and duck into the bear cave just long enough to get the 50 XP from discovering the new map. We use the same strategy against the bandits, and Divinegon shows off her Amplified Thrust with her biggest hit yet.
After selling off some loose gear (Kana's estoc and Durance's robe are great sources of money), we wrestle with some small wolf packs before making our way to the boars. I fail to control the assault, unfortunately, and Divinegon comes under heavy pressure when I let the boars spill past our tanks. Durance hides her with Withdraw, one of the very, very few escape options available in PoE.
The duration is much longer than we need it to be, however. While Divinegon is safely locked up, the rest of the party struggles to make progress, and by the time Divinegon breaks free to save the day, Aloth has already gotten crushed in spite of his Wizard's Double spell, and Kana had to replace 3 skeletons.
Nearby, Ludrana almost kills Kana with Minor Missiles, who recovers with Second Wind, and Aloth survives a graze from Necrotic Lance, a spell that could easily have killed him in one hit if Ludrana had gotten a better roll (I've seen it happen before).
Luckily, Divinegon charmed one of the paladins early on and Eder knocked the other one down, which means that no one in the party takes enough damage to suffer a knock out--though Ghost Blades brings several of us awfully close!
In the end, Kana stuns Ludrana with a wave invocation and Divinegon paralyzes the surviving paladin.
Down at the beach, we tackle a bunch of Xaurips who would normally pose a substantial threat to a level 3 party. But Whisper of Treason really screws with them, and it lets us partially remove the threat of paralysis attacks from the Xaurip Skirmishers.
Notice that our charmed Xaurip Skirmisher is already blinded--Aloth's Blackened Sight spell appears to come out faster than Whisper of Treason, and I haven't been practicing good timing to make sure that we only charm critters that resisted the blindness spell. Divinegon discovers that even the paladins, the Xaurip Champions, are pretty easy to charm--I think their Will defense is a 51, which Divinegon can actually break.
Feeling confident about our successes against the weakest enemies in PoE, we stroll down to the Guls near the shore. Guls and other Vessels are immune to charm, but Mental Binding can still paralyze them just fine, albeit at a much higher Focus cost.
In BG, undead were immune to cold damage and paralysis, but Mental Binding and Chill Fog work just fine on undead critters in PoE. Once we grab the Fine Arbalest, greatly improving Divinegon's Round 1 shot, we stomp on some spiders in the temple of Eothas by using a choke point and applying Chill Fog. I go no further, however; I still want that +2 Intellect hood (I forget what it's called and where it's found) before dealing with the Will o' Wisps, and I have no plans for tackling the Skuldrs anytime soon. I'd rather stick with safer encounters.
But when we fight the bandits guarding the stolen merchandise from the shop at Gilded Vale, an encounter I thought we could handle safely, a long-range druid spell reminds me that Divinegon is a glass cannon that needs to be [i]kept [/i]far from the fray.
But Durance is fully capable of keeping Divinegon in good health, and a strong hit with her arbalest on the first round means that Divinegon can cast Whisper of Treason twice in a row. The crowd quickly turns majority green.
The tide of battle completely shiftsin our favor, and soon all that's left are the enemy archers, who are no more sturdy in close combat than Divinegon. And unlike our party during the fight with the boars, these bandits have no priests to bail out a fragile character.
Druids are scary. It's weird that druids haven't shown up much as party members in this challenge so far, considering how dangerous they've proven as enemies.
I don't have any wacky long-term plans or weird tricks planned for this run. I've decided that it's more important for me to better ground myself in basic PoE technical knowledge before I try any experimental strategies (my usual preference) in a higher difficulty setting like PotD.
Divinegon, Hearth Orlan Cipher
We fought some trolls in an area whose name I don't know (I still don't have a lot of names and places down), and Whisper of Treason proves capable of completely fending off enemy pressure. Trolls move slowly, and while you can't kite them as easily when they come in groups, a single charmed troll is enough to keep the others occupied. Notice Kana summoning skeletons--this method of fighting is very safe, but also very slow.
Divinegon's high Might, Perception, and Dexterity let her build up Focus quickly, which means she can deploy multiple charm and paralyze spells in every fight. Her Accuracy is sky-high; she can even break the Will defenses of enemy priests.
Finally, we hunt down the +2 Intellect hood, which temporarily goes to Eder so we can tank the Will o' Wisps back at the temple of Eothas without worrying about our tanks getting confused. Funny thing is, it doesn't appear necessary--Divinegon can break the difficulty just by charming the Will o' Wisps.
That's the nice thing about Poe: immunities are very scarce, which means disablers never become completely useless. In BG, critters had all sorts of immunities that made little sense and weren't even displayed (why would a dragon be immune to Slow?), and certain bosses were immune to basically everything besides damage.
I finally tackle the Skuldrs--not because I had any special tools to deal with them, but just because the party felt a little tougher overall. Both of our tanks got stunned on the first round, but Whisper of Treason takes the pressure off our tanks. Charm just doe so much to change the opening rounds of combat.
The other Skuldrs in the south are tougher, but blindness keeps our tanks safe and charm turns back the Skuldrs who reached our weaker characters. We failed to use a choke point to control enemy movements, but charm was enough to compensate.
We don't do anything downstairs, but merely entering the area gets us enough XP to bump Divinegon up to level 4!
Divinegon learns Mind Blades to help us with larger hordes of weaker enemies. It becomes relevant soon after, when we discover that the Sporelings in the seaside cave are immune to charm. Like with the Will o' Wisps, Eder stays at the front with the hood on to block confusion effects.
Durance is providing support with Consecrated Ground, and he pitches in an Iconic Projection to help clear the field early. When we finally reach the Dank Spores, Divinegon switches to Amplified Thrust to speed up the kills.
Finally, the rest of the party hits level 4. Aloth learns Arcane Veil, Eder takes Two Weapon Style to improve his dual-wielding with hatchets, and Kana takes Envenomed Strike just to try it out (I don't plan on keeping him around much longer). We add a single custom character, a Moon Godlike priest named Zovai, but I don't have a screenshot for her status at level 3.
Zovai has low Constitution so her Silver Tide will trigger earlier and keep our other party members safer, and she has low Perception because I don't plan on using a lot of offensive priest spells. She's designed to serve as a secondary tank and cast buffing spells; she's not there to take offensive action.
Time to take on Caed Nua! The Phantoms no longer seem as threatening; they have much less Endurance than I thought. Divinegon takes it down to Near Death with her opening shot from the Fine Arbalest and boosts her Focus to 41.
We can't stop the enemy from stunning Kana, but Whisper of Treason takes over the second, uninjured Phantom. The biggest threats, the Phantoms, are already mostly neutralized.
We put down the first Phantom, isolate the second, and bring it down with the help of Amplified Thrust.
One of the other fights adds a Will o' Wisp and an Earth Blight to the equation, which increases the pressure on the party but doesn't substantially alter the situation--we can still screw with the enemy's functioning using Whisper of Treason. Eder gets confused by the Will o' Wisp, since I've taken the hood off of him (I didn't know there were Will o' Wisps around here in PotD mode), and we discover that confused party members are treated as enemies for the purposes of our damage spells: Mind Blades, a party-friendly spell, hits our own fighter.
Zovai gets stun-locked due to her low Constitution, but by the time it happens, we've already broken the enemy's strength with Whisper of Treason and Divinegon's powerful strikes with her scepter.
But the next fight is much tougher: we have three Shadows and two Will o' Wisps along with twin Phantoms, and a low attack roll means that Divinegon only grazes with her opening arbalest attack. Since the fight happens in an open area (I didn't really know where all the enemies were; I only knew where the first group was), we haven't cornered our party to protect our spellcasters, and we quickly get surrounded. After a poorly-aimed Blackened Sight spell and [i]multiple[/i] bad rolls on Whisper of Treason that win us exactly zero charmed critters, the enemy strikes at our heart with full Accuracy, and Durance goes down in seconds.
The fact that Whisper of Treason can be cast multiple times at low cost means that we get multiple chances to charm enemies, but there's still a very small chance that several of them will fail in succession.
Kana, barely avoiding a stun attack, summons a Phantom of his own, while Divinegon switches from Whisper of Treason to her scepter in an attempt to bring down a Phantom more reliably. With Minor Missiles from Aloth, we slay an enemy Phantom, while Kana's summoned Phantom slays a Shadow, but the remaining enemy Phantom is still in good condition, and Kana's defenses aren't strong enough to resist getting stunned forever.
Zovai's healing spells just barely keep Kana alive, and while the Phantom keeps targeting Kana, we have time to grind it down.
It's an important lesson: Whisper of Treason can break certain encounters, but on the off chance that multiple charm attempts fail, the fight will end up much more deadly than previous fights, increasing the risk that the player underestimates the danger. If you discover an offensive strategy that establishes an early advantage in combat, bear in mind that attack rolls [i]are [/i]subject to chance. An offensive-oriented strategy might seem unbeatable 90% of the time, but in the other 10%, it will fail completely, and you need to plan for that [i]10%[/i]; not the 90%.
We upgrade Divinegon's scepter with the Fine and Corrosive Lash, an important boost to our primary attack when Whisper of Treason fails. But for the final tussle with Spirits, inside the castle, we have a better strategy: since we have a narrow corridor and a straight stream of enemies in this fight, we can establish an early advantage by blasting the enemy with two Fan of Flames scrolls by our two tanks, Eder and Kana. This comes in addition to a Chill Fog by Aloth and a crossbow bolt by Kana (learning from other no-reloaders, I've adopted crossbows and arbalests over firearms on the ground that they're more reliable). The Fans of Flames are devastating, and due to the enemy's positioning in this fight, the coverage is extensive as well.
Eder does get stunned, but the scrolls severely weaken the enemy, and another one is another to break them. Aloth finishes them off.
We get Whispers of Yenwood, which goes to Zovai simply to improve her low Constitution. I dropped her Constitution to make Silver Tide happen earlier, but that reasoning is more of a "low Constitution isn't [i]that [/i]bad, so it's worth the cost for a Moon Godlike" as opposed to a "low Constitution is actually [i]better[/i]." Besides, Whispers of Yenwood is a slower weapon, and I like my frontliners to be using faster weapons, since slower weapons involve fewer attack rolls and therefore a greater chance of multiple consecutive misses.
Back to the temple of Eothas! Now that we've established that we can handle Spirits at Caed Nua, we know it's safe (or at least not unwise) to tackle the ones at the temple. We get better luck with Whisper of Treason, so there are no close calls.
I was a little concerned about the Skuldrs, but they have worse Will defenses than the Spirits. Divinegon can easily charm even the strongest of them. They still last a little while, but that just means Kana has time to summon a Phantom to stun-lock them.
Then we get a wakeup call. The Spirits at the temple are much tougher than the ones at Caed Nua--there are [i]Shades[/i] here in addition to the Shadows, and apparently Shades have a powerful ranged cold attack. They target our weakest party member and bring Divinegon within inches of death.
We heal her quickly, which is just enough to save her from another cold attack from the second Shade. They don't cast it again, however, and with only three enemies on the map and no disabled party members, we crush the Shades before they can cause us any more trouble.
It isn't long before we run into another couple of Shades, however, and these ones come bolstered by more Shadows. Once again, they target Divinegon, and once again, Divinegon barely survives the two successive attacks by quickly healing in between them. But we're still in trouble: one of the Shades is heading straight for Divinegon, and I don't want to know what their melee attacks can do.
Mercifully, we just barely charm the Shade approaching Divinegon. It's just a graze, but it's long enough to dodge the threat of a sudden death, since our Consecrated Ground spell will keep healing our cipher.
The other Shade is still hostile, however, and easily lands an alarming hit on Divinegon.
But Kana's Phantom makes it to the Shade and lands a stun effect. Divinegon has a chance to escape without triggering a disengagement attack!
But she doesn't make it more than a few steps before the other Shade recovers from charm and immediately nails her with another ranged attack, and now her Health as well as her Endurance is dangerously low. Keeping Divinegon in the fight is no longer realistic; we have to hide her with Withdraw.
Without Divinegon's spells and scepter, the party is much weaker offensively, and actually killing the Shades is extremely difficult. Aloth burns his spells and our Phantom and fighters apply pressure, but they only kill a single Shade before Withdraw's lengthy duration finally expires. Divinegon is back in danger, and the odds of her surviving another ranged attack are slim.
Desperate to end the fight quickly but low on Focus, Divinegon resorts to a Minor Missiles scroll. The extra boost is just enough to bring down the Shade!
That was much uglier than I thought it would be. We really aren't great against ranged spells; Divinegon's low Constitution really puts her at risk and forces our other party members to look after her.
Before we face Maerwald, I finally replace Kana, Durance, and Aloth with some custom party members I like more. Eder is our only non-custom character, and he's only sticking with us until we get Pallegina.
We have a more balanced party this run. First, we have Mora Tai, an Aumaua paladin with high Perception (again, I want that reliability) and otherwise balanced stats, who is there for tanking, Liberating Exhortation, and the Zealous Endurance aura to pair with Pallegina's Zealous Focus. He's just there to keep the rest of us safe.
Next is Zovai, our high-Intellect Moon Godlike priest with low Constitution, boosted by Whispers of Yenwood. She's just there for support; she's not going to be doing a lot of fighting.
Third is Frost, a high-Perception Hearth Orlan rogue, who will be using ranged weapons and dual-yielding to deal quick and reliable damage. Her defenses are absolute crap, but I want to explore rogues more, and I've learned to wait a moment before deploying a rogue to make sure Frost can strike at an enemy's side without drawing attention to herself. Notice her ludicrously high Accuracy values.
Our last custom character is Rius, a high-Intellect, high-Perception Wood Elf wizard. She's there for reliable blindness spells that will penalize enemy Accuracy and enable sneak attacks from Frost, our rogue. As a Wood Elf, she'll get +5 Accuracy on any ranged attack or spell (testing has suggested that the bonus applies to even fairly close enemies; not just very distant ones).
Notice that everyone but Zovai has very high Perception. I've heard (I forget from who) that PotD mode gives bonuses to enemy defenses, and I want to make sure that I can count on our attacks to succeed. I don't want our success to be dependent on good attack rolls.
Divinegon, Hearth Orlan Cipher
Maerwald summons some Blights early on, which we quickly chop up in order to isolate the wizard. Maerwald actually helps bring them down with his Chill Fog spell. Notice Divinegon trying to charm a Blight right after it blew up, wasting the spell.
Maerwald himself is still very dangerous, and he blasts us with a Fan of Flames spell. Zovai's Silver Tide triggers, instantly recovering much of the damage. Moon Godlikes might not be utterly broken, but they are definitely quite strong.
Mora Tai, our paladin and primary tank, falls to Maerwald's Fireball, but Maerwald doesn't last long under sustained pressure from two highly offensive-oriented Hearth Orlans and a mage, Rius, with Concelhaut's Parasitic Quarterstaff. Our wizard whomps him.
I took an interest in Concelhaut's after hearing
praise it, but I didn't realize how effective it really was. It might be slow, but it deals [i]massive[/i] damage and grants +8 to Accuracy, which is enough to give a level 1 mage remarkable damage output.
I exit the game and come back to it later, at which point I discover that I failed to save after defeating Maerwald--our latest save is an autosave. We have to beat him all over again.
But this time, we get much, [i]much[/i] worse luck. Rius and Divinego, our mage and cipher, fall to Maerwald's second Fireball. Zovai, our Moon Godlike priest, never got hurt badly enough to hit 75% Endurance, which meant [i]Silver Tide never triggered[/i].
Silver Tide would have saved us. I guess the lesson is that the Moon Godlike should ideally take more damage, faster, than other party members in order for Silver Tide to be most effective for the party as a whole.
We still have our second-best damage dealer, Frost the Hearth Orlan rogue, who helps us dispatch the Blights. We take some damage from the Blights' explosive deaths, though, and Maerwald still isn't done casting Fireballs. Zovai nearly dies to the third Fireball--which actually means the rest of the party gets healed up right quick thanks to Silver Tide.
Zovai uses Withdraw on herself to avoid death, but it's not necessary--Maerwald made a lot of progress against us, but our surviving characters did likewise, and our party has a lot more Endurance than he does. Frost finishes him off with her flail.
Lesson learned. If somebody in the party has to die, make it the Moon Godlike.
We kill a few beetles for their shells, but head no further because we already ran out of Camping Supplies and I don't remember what else is on the first level. With the party in good shape, I decide to tackle the bears back at the cave near the start of the game. We probably could have handled this fight even earlier; the bears have terrible Will saves.
Charm decreases all defenses by 25, so that zero Will should actually be a 25. That's a guaranteed graze for Whisper of Treason even at level 1--not enough for a fight with [i]three[/i] bears in a no-reload context, but enough that we probably could have dealt with this fight right after getting Kana.
In town, I wander into a house with two occupants. You know how some characters don't talk to you, and instead just trigger Watcher visions?
Yeah, I always thought that meant those characters were [i]spirits[/i]. You know, dead people. And I assumed that, since they were dead, they wouldn't notice or care if I tried to steal something nearby.
Turns out that those people are all very much alive--it's just that you only [i]speak [/i]with them on the spirit level. Which means that stealing stuff starts a fight that we can't run away from due to Pillars of Eternity's combat rules. We only have two choices: fight to the death and win, or fight to the death and lose.
The occupants only have one choice: fight to the death and lose.
Once we're rested up, I decide to head back to Caed Nua and wrestle with some spiders. Most of them are easy to handle with Whisper of Treason, but the big one will take a little more effort. Fortunately, the queen is stuck behind the little due to how critter circles work, and by firing an Antipathetic Field beam (not to be confused with Ectopsychic Echo, the much stronger, party-friendly level 3 beam) from the side, Divinegon can deal a lot of damage to multiple spiders for just 10 Focus while we're waiting for the big spider to reach us.
We blind the queen before she can engage anyone, but it doesn't matter--by the time the other spiders are out of the way, Divinegon has built up enough focus to paralyze-lock the spider with Mental Binding.
Ciphers are just plan [i]fun[/i]. You can thrash herds of critters with Mind Blades or beam attacks, charm almost anything with Whisper of Treason, and paralyze even the toughest critters as long as your cipher has decent damage output. The spider queen dies without touching us (though Frost did suffer a lot of damage from the other spiders and had to be hidden with Withdraw).
We run into some bandits (where did they even come from?) who quickly converge around our tanks, allowing Rius, our Wood Elf wizard, to blind all of them except for the archers near the back. They're pretty sturdy, though, with excellent damage reduction, so only our stronger hits, usually by Frost the rogue and Divinegon herself, deal more than single digits.
They don't have any special tricks, fortunately, and we don't suffer any big hits from the crossbowmen.
Then I head downstairs, and a small horde of Xaurips rushes us. I don't remember this part, so this is very much a surprise. Divinegon kills one basic Xaurip with her arbalest (targeting the weakest enemies is usually the most reliable way to generate Focus) and charms a Skirmisher, but we've still got a lot of pressure bearing down on Eder. Notice the Wurm to the south--I don't remember fighting those guys here in my other runs.
Rius blinds a few of the Xaurips and Mora Tai's Lay on Hands spell keeps Eder safe. Rius splatters the enemy priest with Concelhauts, and the fight is won in moments.
But that fight still concerned me--that was a lot of enemies at once, despite being the first fight in the area, and the Wurm was new to me. I've never been this far in the game in PotD mode, and I don't know what's around the corner. The next batch of Xaurips might be much tougher than I remember them being in my other runs.
We're better off not finding out. It's not like I know of any important items on this level, or any important sources of XP. I've said that I plan on continuing this run even if I die, as a minimal-reload run, but I intend on playing this as though it were a no-reload run, which means anticipating dangers and [i]gauging unknowns[/i].
That Wurm and the priest indicated the presence of significant unknowns. Time to head out!
On the way to Defiance Bay, we run into a Forest Lurker (easily dispatched with cipher powers) and a Pwgra, which thankfully shows up on its own. Consecrated Ground keeps the Pwgra's Infestation of Maggots spell from causing anything more than scratch damage, and cipher powers pin it down.
We do the March Steel Dagger quest, but again fail to pick the right dialog option (I was hoping there was a way to keep the dagger without being mean to the kid) and we get the wood beetle figurine but not the dagger and the +20% attack speed enchantment I've been hoping for. As usual, we head for the balcony in Brackenbury and climb in to fight the guards. This time, I know not to underestimate them, and have Divinegon apply mental effects fast.
Divinegon finally hits level 5 and learns Puppet Master and Ectopsychic Echo. I actually don't see what's so great about Puppet Master when Whisper of Treason is so much cheaper, at 10 Focus instead of 30. Charm applies combat penalties while domination doesn't, but I use charm effects to screw with enemy functioning and distract other enemies, and three low-functioning enemies-turned-decoys are worth more than one high-functioning enemy-turned-ally.
So I just use Ectopsychic Echo instead. It already crushes most everything, and it's completely safe. Plus, with her arbalest, she can get the necessary Focus pretty fast.
I'm using Frost, our rogue, as our target. Why a rogue? Well, the other party members aren't really available:
1. Eder and Mora Tai, our primary tanks, could deal with the disengagement attacks that can come from running past enemies to stretch the beam over the crowd. However, we need them to stay in position to hold the enemies, and disrupting that arrangement costs us control of the battlefield.
2. Rius, our mage, needs Arcane Veil to stay safe in melee combat, and I don't like using Arcane Veil in every fight because we only get two per rest and I prefer to keep my mages in the back. Also, I want Rius casting Blackened Sight as soon as possible, and having her run around would delay that.
3. Zovai, our priest, has the defenses to handle disengagement attacks, but her Consecrated Ground spell follows her around, and if I send her far away to stretch Divinegon's beam across the map, then the rest of the party goes without healing.
Frost is therefore our best option. She's the only one I don't need to be in any particular place at any particular time during a fight.
We'll be relying heavily on Ectopsychic Echo to do the heavy lifting in future fights. The other party members fulfill some very crucial roles in enemy management and maintaining the party's defenses, but Divinegon is going to be the one landing kills.
Divinegon, Hearth Orlan Cipher
Frost, our rogue, finally hits level 4! Notice she's using a flail--I don't know why flails are fast weapons in PoE, but they are.
I'm not sure how strong Envenomed Weapon is, but the prospect of massive, unresistable Raw damage three times per day, on a character with extremely high Accuracy, two attacks per round, and sky-high Might sounds very lovely.
Time to deal with the thugs by the docks! I had some trouble with these guys in my Normal mode run, so I make a point of taking them seriously. We summon Wood Beetles to hold off the melee goons and apply blindness effects. Frost waits a moment for Divinegon to generate 30 Focus, at which point Divinegon hits her with Ectopsychic Echo so our rogue can stretch the beam over the enemies. Even in PotD mode, it's extremely effective.
I think this spell was balanced assuming you were using a [i]stationary [/i]party member as a target. Dragging the beam across the screen lets you deal far more damage than you otherwise could. Ectopsychic Echo deals damage over time, so it gives the enemy some time to apply pressure to the party, but Consecrated Ground is enough to keep us afloat.
Here are some shots of our party members' gear. They seem a little under-equipped compared to other players' parties, which I think is a factor of my ignorance of certain key items, but the basics are covered. My custom paladin and priest, Mora Tai and Zovai, are there to tank while our rogue is dual-wielding fast weapons to maximize damage output. The only reason Pallegina isn't using a shield is because she already has a Weapon Focus Talent that gives her +6 Accuracy with her existing sword. As for Divinegon herself, she uses an arbalest at the start of combat for burst damage and then a scepter for faster, more reliable damage.
Our rogue also has Eder's old mail since it will revive her if she loses consciousness, which I think is a decent tradeoff for the larger recovery penalty (normally I'd equip her with something very light). Notice that Rius has a +2 Intellect horn as well as a +2 Intellect hood--I know this doesn't stack; this setup was a mistake on my part.
Also note that we have Scrolls of Defense and Scrolls of Revival distributed throughout the party. I like to keep Lore high on all characters due to the flexibility it brings. Athletics always stays at 1, I don't invest in Stealth at all, Mechanics caps at 6 for a single character, and Survival stays at 1 or 4 until I can get someone to 7.
I keep working with Ectopsychic Echo with our rogue as a target. The convenient thing is that Frost seems to only gets the attention of a single enemy near the back, which she can handle for a few rounds safely by taking advantage of Blinding Strike, covering her poor defenses by blinding the only threat to her safety.
Dual-wielding also means she gets two chances at blinding, covering some of the risk of failure due to bad luck, and while she can't go toe-to-toe with a monster for very long, she doesn't have to, because by the time the blindness wears off, Ectopsychic Echo has already done its work. Even when Frost suffers pressure from two enemies, her weak defenses don't need to last that long when Divinegon is ending fights so quickly.
When enemies are spread out differently, however, and sending a party member past the front line will get them attacked by [i]multiple[/i] enemies instead of just one or two, I can't use Frost, lest she get knocked out by the sudden pressure. Instead, I use Zovai, which prevents us from using Consecrated Ground on our fighters but also doesn't require our primary tanks to disengage and break the wall, which could invite enemies to attack our fragile characters at the back.
Notice that Zovai is confused. I don't know how strong the enemy fungi's Accuracy values are, but apparently even a high-Intellect priest's Will isn't always strong enough to shrug off confusion effects... unless that confusion effect actually targets another type of defense.
The same thing happens with our next Ectopsychic Echo target, Frost. I switched to Frost because there were fewer enemies.
In both cases, Ectopsychic Echo [i]seem[/i][i]s[/i] to cancel early. Does confusion end the beam because the target's allegiance changes, and Ectopsychic Echo needs to target a friendly character?
Overall, it's a very effective, offensive-oriented strategy that makes a large impact very early on in combat. In the fight with the nearby skeletons, Divinegon is able to one-shot a low-Endurance mage with her upgraded arbalest, then use the Focus generated by that blow to crush the remaining enemies with a beam.
Whenever you can establish an early advantage, the enemy is unable to use its greatest strengths, which means you don't have to deal with certain dangers. But it also means you don't learn how to handle those dangers when the high-offense, blitzkrieg-style approach fails to end fights early. That's not currently a problem for us, since we have a priest and two paladins who will soon have important rescue options in the form of new exhortations, but it means that we're not learning quite as much as we could if we allowed the enemy to punch us around a little.
We find two copies of the Nature's Embrace belt, deal with the underground cult quest thingy peacefully (I've never fought them before and don't want to learn how), and get the Engwithan Scepter, which I promptly upgrade.
I pick the bonuses against Vessels because Thaos' allies at the end of the game are Vessels. I don't know of any other important options that are useful over a broader range of major fights.
I've never done the Parable of Wael quest before, but I decide to try it out. Turns out the enemies are just bandits. We fail to manage the flow of hostiles, and the bandit leader hurries past our tanks to threaten our back line, but Whisper of Treason is a great means of eliminating individual threats, and it's cheap enough that we still have lots of Focus for the big gun.
Mora Tai hits level 5, learning Liberating Exhortation, my old favorite, and Frost levels up as well, learning Finishing Blow in the hopes that it'll help us land some early kills in key situations.
We also get the Ring of Eternal Funding, but I don't know how it works. What exactly does it do?
Divinegon hits level 6 and takes Weapon Focus: Noble for the bonus to Accuracy with her scepter, while Pallegina takes Critical Focus, which doesn't seem interesting or important but seems like a safe bet. We use a rest bonus to gain Accuracy against Vessels before entering the sanitarium to tear up the flesh muppets. We huddle our casters near the door, fan out our tanks to intercept the enemies before they crowd around us, and then splatter goo all over the place.
Divinegon, Hearth Orlan Cipher
Time to take down Heritage Hill! We test out Finishing Blow against a Skeletal Wizard and get one of the biggest blows of the run.
We can stomp most of the Guls just by using Ectopsychic Echo, with Consecrated Ground to keep us healthy. We don't need many per-rest abilities to get through the Vessels here.
The last fight, right next to the tower, is a little tougher because we used the stairs as a chokepoint and therefore can't use Frost, our rogue, or Zovai, our priest, to drag Ectopsychic Echo over the enemies. Divinegon does find a nice opportunity to use Antipathetic Field, which requires a hostile target instead of a friendly one:
The beam is at just the right angle so we don't get any party members caught in the line of fire.
Inside the tower, Divinegon walks past the wall of enemies in order to reach the enemy wizard with Mental Binding, but this results in an enemy Dargul targeting her. Since a Dargul could paralyze her, we need to keep it away from Divinegon. We can do that with a simple Halt spell.
Frost gets into trouble again on the next level, at which point we have a more reliable but more costly way of keeping Divinegon safe: a Withdraw spell. Apparently Withdraw doesn't cancel Ectopsychic Echo, so Divinegon can deal damage for several seconds even while she's hidden away and disabled.
We've been strapped for cash for a long time now, but we finally get our copper count to just under 10,000 by selling off a lot of loose junk, including a bunch of excess ingredients I doubt I'll be able to use. Do any of you guys find yourself selling off large numbers of ingredients?
Outdoors, we run into a Pwgra along with a team of trolls. Fearful of getting nailed by some horrible druid spell, I send in a single tank while everyone else in the party runs away.
Sure enough, we don't have to deal with any wide-ranged damage spells, and by sending Pallegina over to the other side of the enemies, we can crush the Pwgra with a beam early on.
The trolls easily survive Ectopsychic Echo due to their high Endurance, but we still have Whisper of Treason and Mental Binding to exploit their poor Will defenses.
Since we have strong charm spells on hand, I decide to tackle the nearby lions and get Hearth Harvest for one of our tanks. Frost tests out Envenomed Strike and finds that her high Accuracy allows her to poison even high-Fortitude enemies like an Elder Lion.
Notice that I haven't done anything with our positioning. This means I completely fail to keep the lions focused on our sturdier characters, and one of the lions targets Divinegon. This time, Halt isn't so effective--the spell can hold a target in place for a long time, but it's perfectly capable of failing, especially since Zovai's Perception is pretty low.
The bad roll is very costly. Divinegon isn't remotely capable of handling an Elder Lion on her own, and even Frost's powerful poison attack can only get the lion down to Injured.
Another lion runs around our party to reach Divinegon at the back, but Divinegon manages to charm one of them, and Zovai uses Iconic Projection to heal our cipher from afar.
While Divinegon struggles to cling to life, Ectopsychic Echo does its work, bringing down one of the lions that was targeting someone else in the party, but Whisper of Treason wears off, and Divinegon has to resort to a red potion to survive.
Ultimately, our various healing options aren't enough to keep Divinegon on her feet, and she collapses right before she could attempt a last-ditch effort to bring down the lions via a Fan of Flames scroll. Meanwhile, Frost, our similarly fragile rogue character, is doing great. Unlike Divinegon, Frost has avoided getting targeted by any lions, and has therefore been free to dedicate all her attention to dealing damage.
The lion herd finally thins out, and the survivors suffer extra pressure. Rius is testing out Concelhaut's, and is finding it to be very effective. Like Frost, she chose Envenomed Weapon, mostly out of curiosity.
I enter the Skaen temple via the mill (I didn't actually know that was an option until now) and start wrestling with the local cultists. The enemies here have a lot of great spells and are pretty sturdy, but even they have trouble dealing with Ectopsychic Echo.
I try using Whisper of Treason instead, but that doesn't work so well; it takes longer to cast three Whisper of Treason spells than a single Ectopsychic Echo (both options take 30 Focus altogether). That gives the enemy more time to hurt us, and the Skaen priests can deal area-effect damage with Iconic Projection.
I only gradually realize that the enemy's classes are very diverse--the Skaen Mind Breakers are ciphers, apparently using firearms, and they can use Mental Binding on us. That's bad news, considering Divinegon herself has very weak Will saves.
Mora Tai's Liberating Exhortation fixes up Divinegon, but the Skaen Mind Breakers appear to have a lot of Focus; an enemy cipher confuses Divinegon shortly afterwards.
We trade disablers, and eventually we find room to cast Ectopsychic Echo on Zovai.
The next time around, I make a point of nailing the Mind Breaker early on, with Frost tacking on poison damage. Since we're running low on resources and need to rest soon, I summon some beetles, expecting to rest soon after the fight.
This paves the way for an early kill, sparing Divinegon the trouble of resisting mental attacks and ensuring that our own cipher can keep firing off spells. As long as Divinegon is functioning normally, we can make fast progress against the enemy.
Divinegon, Hearth Orlan Cipher
We're running low on resources, but I decide to tackle one more fight before resting, figuring that the small room nearby can't hold that big of a fight.
That assumption doesn't hold. We've got an enemy cipher with a pistol, a wizard who fires off Minor Missiles, and two Skaen priests who blast us with Iconic Projection. We go deep into the red, and it takes a lot of work to keep the party healthy.
Notice that Frost is using a Minor Missiles scroll to deal faster damage against the enemy Mind Breaker. He falls within seconds, but I soon realize that there are [i]two [/i]ciphers at hand, and our own paladin, Mora Tai, has just fallen. Hoping to finish him off quickly, Frost hurries forward into a now-vacant space and uses a Fan of Flames scroll.
PoE is weird in that fighters are just as effective with scrolls as spellcasters. Unfortunately, we've been neglecting another important threat, the enemy priests, who take down Frost with a Pillar of Faith. Enemy spellcasters are more offensive-oriented than Zovai.
These are just nameless goons, but they've taken down two of our party members. Just for safety's sake, we deploy a Scroll of Revival to bring back our paladin and rogue. Apparently status effects can linger after death; Frost has several effects still running.
Does anyone know if those effects continue to run out while the character is knocked out, or are they just put on hold until the character is back on their feet? If it's the former, that would mean there would be some scenarios where you might want before reviving someone, to make sure they got back up with no negative status effects active (namely, those that could get them knocked down again shortly after being revived).
The remaining cipher is actually in pretty decent health, so we try charming him. Divinegon succeeds, but gets stunned in the process--I hadn't expected Psychic Backlash.
But with Frost back on her feet, we can deal heavy damage with another poison attack and blast the enemy with more Fan of Flames scrolls.
Our paladins are both prone due to another pillar spell thingy from the priests, but Frost continues her dirty work uninterrupted, and the enemy finally collapses.
The cultists really surprised me in that last fight. I didn't realize how many tools they had at their disposal.
Divinegon, Hearth Orlan Cipher
We head back to town to rest and restock, and Zovai, our Moon Godlike priest, hits level 6 after visiting the local church, taking Aggrandizing Radiance because I thought the stat bonuses went to everyone instead of just the priest.
Despite our difficulties with the Skaen crazies, I decide to probe around the sacrificial chamber-looking room that I avoided in my previous run out of concern that there was a nasty boss fight past the doorway. I arrive just in time to save some poor girl from being sacrificed, and use Divinegon's cipher powers to wipe her mind.
But apparently that doesn't grant us a nonviolent resolution, and we enter the boss fight I've been dreading. We use a Scroll of Defense early on and use our opening shots from arbalests and such to wound the enemy leader, Wymund, and poison him. Notice Rius deploying a fast-casting Fireball, and the enemy rogue landing a nasty sneak attack on Divinegon herself.
Through no choice of our own, Divinegon starts this fight right out in front, exactly the opposite of where we always keep her, and I'm not even sure I'd have had room to move her to the back if I had noticed sooner. Divinegon suffers multiple attacks in sequence, and an enemy cipher even disables her.
We heal her a little, but we can only do so much on such short notice. Zovai casts Consecrated Ground, which in retrospect I don't think can even affect confused allies. A Pillar of Holy Fire puts even more of our weakest characters in danger.
Our only means of healing Divinegon quickly comes from Lay on Hands, but we can't use Liberating Exhortation at the same time, which means our best attacker remains confused. We trade blindness spells with the cipher, but we're not making much progress--with multiple characters in danger, we have to focus on defensive options until Divinegon is back under our control. We have another heavy hitter in Frost, our rogue, and she's hard at work, but Divinegon is the real source of power in this party.
Finally, Divinegon is on our side again. In the meantime, little has progressed on either side--Frost has been trying to deal fast damage to Wymund with Minor Missiles scrolls, but Wymund has the damage reduction to shrug off most of it.
We lose our beetles, but Divinegon generates enough Focus to start up an Ectopsychic Echo beam. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to move around Divinegon while she was confused, and we're short of Lay on Hands spells. Rather than risk Divinegon getting killed, I just cover her with Withdraw, knowing that Ectopsychic Echo will continue even while she's inactive.
But then I see the beam completely miss several enemies in a row. I check Divinegon's record screen and her Accuracy is [i]16[/i]. Apparently she's blinded and dazed, which imposes a -35 total penalty, making her beam all but useless.
Now we have to do all the heavy lifting without our star attacker, and the process is much slower than it normally would be. Frost and Rius *using Concelhaut's staff) appear to be doing most of the work, and while the enemy applies lots of damage to the party, that damage is pretty evenly distributed and therefore puts no one character in danger. Even when the enemy cipher confuses Frost, we still have a spare Liberating Exhortation spell to fix her up.
With multiple characters bearing down on him, Wymund struggles to stay afloat. Frost uses Finishing Blows and Fans of Flames to boost her damage, but Mora Tai lands the final blow due to a lucky roll.
Divinegon escapes from Withdraw only to find two enemies remaining. She charms a sentry and we all gang up on the enemy cipher that was responsible for Divinegon's confusion at the start of the fight.
We free the would-be sacrifice and tell her to seek safety at a temple (luckily she didn't die or turn hostile to Rius' Fireball at the start of combat), and the quest is complete. Our reward is a vast hoard of gear to sell for copper and an Exceptional robe--nothing game-changing, but it gives us bigger numbers.
Divinegon, Hearth Orlan Cipher
After clearing up some remaining mobs in the Skaen temple, we head out to nab a dragon egg. We pay off the adventurers guarding it (they looked well-equipped, so I saw no need to mess with them) and apply area-effect spells to the local Wurms. They don't do much besides pepper Pallegina with tiny fireballs.
Later, we pick a fight with some Pwgras and Lurkers, but flub up our positioning and end up with Divinegon at the front.
Rius prepares a blindness spell and Frost stakes out a position to use a Fan of Flames scroll, while Divinegon tries to keep her Endurance high enough to survive a disengagement attack when she tries to escape. Unfortunately, the Lurkers impose the Stuck effect on hit, so we have to use Liberating Exhortation first. But when Divinegon tries to make her escape...
...the disengagement attack itself [i]reapplies[/i] the Stuck effect. Ironically, trying to flee only got her stuck in place even longer.
Zovai throws out Iconic Projection to keep healing Divinegon while Frost keeps using Fan of Flames scrolls. Meanwhile, Divinegon activates Antipathetic Field since we don't have enough room to slip a party member past the enemy so we can use Ectopsychic Echo instead.
That's one of the disadvantages of using Ectopsychic Echo: you can't actually make it work if you're keeping everyone in the party safe behind a choke point; you need at least one party member out in the distance, in danger, in order to make effective use of the beam.
Surprisingly, Zovai's Iconic Projections do a lot to weaken the enemy (it's not just Frost that's making progress) despite her poor Perception, allowing us to thin the herd and eventually strike down the survivors with Amplified Thrust.
We sell off another 8,000 copper in spare gear and ingredients, increasing our copper supply by 50%, and run into a gang of assassins in Defiance Bay--it's a good thing we rested right beforehand. Divinegon is now using a blunderbuss as her introductory burst damage weapon, and nearly kills the enemy mage in one hit.
It only takes a single hit from Rius' Chill Fog to brush him off his feet. Unfortunately, that Chill Fog hits a nearby Justiciar who foolishly wandered into the fray, turning him hostile. Worried that killing him would cause a lot of problems later on, Divinegon charms him with Whisper of Treason, hoping that the assassins kill him so we don't have to.
Alternatively, maybe the Justiciar could survive the encounter and remain friendly afterwards. But in my experience with Infinity Engine games, turning someone hostile is a permanent change; charm only suspends that hostility.
Anyway, Frost kills the remaining mage with her scepter and Divinegon uses her large Focus pool to mess with the melee grunts. We could have used Ectopsychic Echo, but I didn't want to send any of our party members into Rius' Chill Fog spell.
Notice that one of the assassins has turned on the charmed Justiciar. By the time the fight ends, the Justiciar is dead--problem solved.
We travel to Cliaban Rilag, which gets us enough XP to bring three new characters to level 6. Rius picks Weapon Focus: Peasant in order to strengthen Concelhaut's staff, while our paladin takes an offensive Talent and our rogue takes a defensive one to compensate for their typical weaknesses.
Rius now has an unbuffed Accuracy of [i]63 [/i]with Concelhaut's staff.
In Cliaban Rilag, we make short work of many of the enemies using Divinegon's incredible ranged attacks. She has a new synergy with Frost: now Frost can use Shadowing Beyond to sneak right past enemies, allowing her free movement when stretching Divinegon's Ectopsychic Echo over the enemies. Combined with Divinegon's blunderbuss, we can kill the otherwise dangerous druids within seconds.
I don't remember running into a lot of traps here in my Normal mode run, so it's a very big surprise indeed when Pallegina gets knocked out by a ludicrous 200-damage hit.
It's not a big deal, though, since it happens outside of combat and Pallegina gets right back up. We go for one more major fight before we rest and recover her Health, and since we plan on resting anyway, we use our beetle figurine. Turns out that enemy druids are perfectly willing to use their best spells on weak summons while largely ignoring the party waiting just a few steps away.
We rest up and enter the next battle in good condition. But I severely underestimate the threat of the local Spores. Right at the start of combat, the enemy confuses both of our paladins.
This is a very bad sign. But I didn't appreciate just how bad it was until later.
Divinegon, Hearth Orlan Cipher
With both paladins confused, we cannot use Liberating Exhortation on either. We need to clear the field quickly before we get overwhelmed with disablers, but Rius' Fireball barely does anything; even the weakest enemies are still at Barely Injured. Divinegon opts for Ectopsychic Echo, and Frost uses Shadowing Beyond to make sure she doesn't get disabled when she runs into the horde.
But we've got more bad news. The Dank Spores can also cast [i]Domination [/i]spells, and their Accuracy is so strong that even Mora Tai's 75 Will save can't keep him safe.
Thanks to Shadowing Beyond, Frost is safe from disablers for the time being, allowing us to drag the beam over the nearest Dank Spore. But the Dank Spores are tough, and they seem to have very few limits on how often they can use their Domination spells. They nail both Pallegina and Rius, at the back of the line, and suddenly half our party is under enemy control.
Apparently charmed party members like to use ranged weapons, which means that Pallegina immediately switches to her arbalest. Divinegon's terrible Deflection allows Pallegina to land an easy critical hit, knocking down our strongest attacker. Meanwhile, Frost tries to finish off the Dank Spore, which managed to survive Ectopsychic Echo.
Pallegina recovers and uses Lay on Hands to undo some of the damage she did to our cipher. Frost manages to bring down the wounded Dank Spore, but the one right behind it lands another Domination effect, and our second-best damage dealer is under enemy control.
The rest of the party finally manages to defeat the Sporelings, and now only the Dank Spores are left. We hurry down to kill the one at the south, hoping that the eastern one won't be able to reach us so far away.
But right before we reach our target, we trigger a trap. Zovai, our priest, and Rius, our mage, go down in a single blow.
Worse yet, Zovai's lousy Health means that she's already in the red--even if we revive her, she's going to be really wobbly. Afraid that the cloud trap deals lingering damage, we retreat to the north and target the eastern Dank Spore instead. But when Soul Ignition completely fails against the spore, we have to hurry in and attack it directly in melee combat.
But that just makes things even worse. There are [i]two more[/i] Dank Spores right behind it, and attacking it exposes us to even more Domination effects. Mora Tai summons a trio of Wood Beetles, but he doesn't act fast enough, and the enemy takes control of him once again.
The spores to the east are too dangerous when put together; we need to switch focus to the southern one, which remains isolated. We make progress, but it just keeps throwing out more and more Domination effects, and no one in our party seems capable of resisting it.
Divinegon consumes a Potion of Deleterious Alacrity of Motion (cool it with the long names, Poe!) in the hopes of landing an earlier kill on a Dank Spore, but everyone else in the party is malfunctioning. Mora Tai is getting status effects stacked on top of each other.
Divinegon has built up 64 Focus and could spam powerful cipher spells to change the tide of combat, but the rest of the party keeps attacking her, and her Endurance is getting lower with every moment. Then the Dank Spores start targeting Divinegon, and we lose our cipher to the enemy as well.
What is Divinegon doing so close to the enemy? Well, I sent her out once we got control of Mora Tai, who still has a single Liberating Exhortation spell left. Divinegon is back under our control! But when Mora Tai gets charmed yet again, and I see that the rest of the party is completely broken, I realize that I can't afford to have Divinegon spend just one round blasting the three Dank Spores to the east before she gets charmed or confused again. That would wound the spores, but it wouldn't kill any of them.
Our best use of Divinegon's temporary sanity is a simple Scroll of Revival. I'm worried that Zovai is going to get killed right after she climbs to her feet, but I really need Zovai and Rius' help to survive this encounter. We get our priest and wizard back, but sure enough, Divinegon gets crushed and charmed right afterwards.
Divinegon attacks Zovai, nearly killing her, and Zovai tries to rescue her attacker using Suppress Affliction. But another Domination spell comes out right afterwards; we [i]simply don't have enough cures[/i][i] for charm effects[/i] to actually keep control of our party members.
Divinegon manages to cling to life, possibly because Rius lands a Chill Fog against the eastern Dank Spores and blinded at least one of them. Rius can't follow up, however; she gets charmed moments later. Meanwhile, Frost finally recovers from the southern Dank Spore's charm and poisons it again. Unfortunately, these things have massive Endurance pools, and even Envenomed Strike can only get them partway to death's door.
Divinegon's domination lasts [i]just [/i]long enough for her to fire a blunderbuss at Rius. It's an excruciating loss, because that long reload period could have been so useful to us. Notice that Zovai has just been sitting there for many seconds--I know a single hit could knock her out, so I've been waiting for an opportunity to make use of her spells.
When Divinegon does finally recover from charm, she quickly takes advantage of the deep Focus pool she's generated and uses it to set the nearest Dank Spore on fire. Finally, another Dank Spore is close to death--in all this time, we've only managed to take down a single one before.
Divinegon manages to hurry away before getting dominated--again, presumably because of the Chill Fog spell affecting the eastern spores--and activates Soul Ignition on the southern Dank Spore. Unfortunately, she gets charmed yet again, and turns our blunderbuss against our party once more, though our paladins are thankfully sturdier victims than Rius.
Finally, Rius finishes off the second Dank Spore! But its cousin to the south charms Divinegon, who punishes Rius for her heroism.
Even a single Dank Spore is capable of repeatedly charming our party members, and Rius takes another two blasts from Divinegon's blunderbuss before Frost finally lands the killing blow.
Soon after, Divinegon recovers from Domination, and we use an Ectopsychic Echo to put down the southern spore.
The other two spores are stuck in the east (and there's another southern one I haven't noticed), and I consider hurrying over to fight them, but it's simply too dangerous to do so without resting first, and since the spores [i]are[/i] completely immobile, it makes conceptual sense to run away and rest.
This time, we have a safer strategy for the spores: send in Pallegina, let her get disabled, and then cure her with Mora Tai's Liberating Exhortation while the rest of the party nails the spore with ranged weapons. It goes down in seconds.
We try the same thing against the last two spores, but when we send Rius to run behind the spores, she gets killed by a trap, canceling an Ectopsychic Echo that I thought would help us kill the spores.
Still, we manage to bring down one of the spores with the help of Amplified Thrust, and while Zovai gets hit a second Amplified Thrust spell due to being confused, the last spore is prone due to a crit from Pallegina's arbalest.
This was immensely frustrating and time-consuming, and it felt flat-out unfair the whole time because there was essentially nothing we could do to counter all those disablers once we were in combat. But it's finally over, and the spores are dead.