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The Core Four runs a blind Stratagem

Alright, I just finished my Mage/Thief solo run and had such a blast that I wanted to do another one, and after some searching and thinking I've come up with one that I think will be very entertaining both to play and read about. There will be two themes to this run;

1 - I'm running a blind SCS, which means I've never run the mod before, I'll be installing everything and I won't be reading up on it before. I've played some challenging mods in vanilla and I'm not sure exactly what to expect from SCS, some people say it's nothing like Tactics and those mods, some people say it's as challenging. We'll see. I do enjoy what people have mentioned about the improved AI and more challenging and suiting abilities to enemies, and it's a wildly popular mod so I'm excited to try it out.

2 - I'll be doing a Core Four playthrough, which will work as a self-imposed restriction and further increase the challenge level of the run. The Core Four means that I'll be playing only pure classes, and only the four most basic ones, the fantasy archetypes if you will; a Fighter, a Thief, a Cleric and a Mage. No dual or multiclasses, no Inquisitors, no Sorcerers, no Archers, no Berzerkers... you get the idea. I don't think I have ever played a Thief or Cleric that wasn't a dual- or multiclass of any sort before, so it'll be very interesting to be forced to use them in a challenging environment.

Oh, and they can only be humans, so no shorty saving throws, no Orc fighter stats, no charm resistance or anything of the sort.

I'll be starting shortly with an introduction to the characters, this time with a neat little backstory about speech impediments and map collections.



  • TenreccTenrecc Member Posts: 265
    edited August 2016
    Well, I seem to be having installation issues and can't continue from my current location. We'll get that sorted in a bit - in the meanwhile, meet the gang!

    Claws, Cleric, NE

    Biography: The boy named Claus by his warder Gorion learned early on in his life that he had a special connection to the divine. He later learned that it stemmed from his relationship with the dead god Bhaal and proudly took on the moniker "Of Bhaal." However, due to him trying to sound brutal and growly while saying it most people heard it as "Claws of Bhaal" and that's what he became known as.

    Info: The Cleric will be the Bhaalspawn mainly because that's the only stronghold quest achivement I havn't gotten yet. Also, it's the class I'm mostly interested about trying out after learning about their surprisingly good THAC0 progression. Between Crom Faeyr - maybe dualwielding - and buffs it really should be possible to make a decent fighter out of him. Also going for the 25 WIS cap of course.

    R'in Earsy, Fighter, TN

    Biography: R'in hails from a barbaric land in the north, where last names are given for characteristics instead of blood lines. Hers became Earsy, due to her always wanting to listen to stories about dragons and warriors in the vast south. When older, she left to forge stories of her own. Nobody really knows where in the north she comes from however, because every time she is given a map to point it out she misconstrues it as a gift and now keeps a very impressive map collection she considers gifts offered to her due to her greatness.

    Oh, and she's of course unfettered by the weakness of the civilized world.

    Info: Basic warrior type here. I've pondered a long while what her proficiencies should be, and I would enjoy someone wielding a mighty 2-hander because I havn't played a 2-handed fighter (that isn't Carsomyr) in a very, very long time. But dual-wielding is simply better. It's a fight between efficiency and enjoyment, and I'm still not quite sure what is winning. Either way, there's nothing out of the ordinary about her.

    Shyanfuu, Thief, CN

    Biography: Little is known about the rogue with the unpronounceable name, she keeps mostly to herself and speaks sparsely and quietly. Her skills are quite useful though, and Claws considers her an invaluable asset. Whispers speaks of her hunt for another Bhaalspawn, Rien the Shadow, but they disagree whether she is on a bounty mission, looking for her long lost lover or something else. It would make sense for someone looking for a Bhaalspawn to follow another Bhaalspawn however, since they seems destined to eventually meet.

    Info: During my Mage/Thief run I got up my eyes even more for thieves, and this will be another take on the class which I'm looking forward to. While appearing way weaker than a thief/mage or fighter/thief at first glance, their huge amount of thief skills will mean I can cap 200 in pickpocket very quick and start stacking up on scrolls for the big fights. She will mainly focus on ranged attacks with shortbows but will be used for backstabbing when there's an opportunity and quite possibly as an hidden ace later on.

    Evjren, Mage, NE

    Biography: Don't let the ears fool you, he's no real elf. A trickster since youth, Evjren has no qualms about taking advantage of his magical prowess, despite the fact he quite often seemed to get into trouble over it. He eventually learned that if he enchanted himself to appear as a young, innocent elvish boy and spouted some nonsense sob story, people were a lot more forgiving, and eventually he became so accustomed to it that he got stuck that way. In truth, he's a human, and much older. It's a little creepy.

    Info: Your bread and butter mage, which I believe will become instrumental to the run since it seems to focus a lot on the arcane casting system. Will toss daggers and darts around while not casting, and hopefully hit something eventually. But he'll mostly be casting. Because he's a mage.

  • TenreccTenrecc Member Posts: 265

    Finally, after some issues with installing the mod it finally seems to work. Tarnesh got Mirror Imaged without any casting and continued to wreck my party. Never been so happy to get wrecked by anything before.

    Also I've finally settled on the weapon proficiencies for R'in. It's kind of important since you want to have those 5 points in the weapons you're using and you can't mix up it in the middle. With 17 proficiencies max and 3 going into Dual-wielding, we can only max out two proffs at the most anyway.

    She'll go with Longswords since she'll get Varscona for BG1, a lot of useful variations in BG2 (Daystar, Dragonslayer, Equalizer, Answerer), so it's a very useful weapon type overall. Secondly we'll go Axes for Stonefire/Frostreaver in early BG2, Unyielding for endgame, Azuredge against undeads and the ability to turn into a ranged fighter if it turns out there are some enemies we can't melee. I've heard bad things about the new mind flayers for example.

    But yeah, the two things holding me back has been sorted now. Let's get stratagemming!

  • FinnTheHumanFinnTheHuman Member Posts: 404
    Good to see you're at it again so soon. You might consider saving a pip for 2 handed weapon, a pip for halberd and a pip for 2h sword. Increased criticals, no malus, whirlwinds will eventually let you have 10 hits of some of the most powerful weapons.

  • TenreccTenrecc Member Posts: 265

    Well, the Ankhegs surely aren't made more difficult in the mod. In fact, I think they're easier. Not once did they save against my Command: Sleep, which meant that killing them were even easier than usual. Something in the spell thing in the mod? Doesn't matter really, but good to know in the future.

    I've always loved killing Ankhegs, because I still remember when my friend told me about it. Up to that point I was under the impression the game had it's linear path and Ankhegs were too high level for most early parties, but nope, 1 level 1 cleric spell and it's an easy kill. Made me realize that this isn't one of those games where you fight level 5 mobs at level 5 and level 10 mobs at level 10.

    It's a game where you can kill Dragons at level 5. And Ankhegs at 1.

    Killed around 30 of 'em in total to get my level to 4 and started to head west to pawn some of their heads off.

    Aaaand I've already started to use spells I've never ever cast before and already consider extremely good and will be using for the forseeable future. Silence '15 radius. the level 2 cleric spell.

    I mean, what? It's a spell that unless you save at a -5 penalty (!) you get silenced for 2 (!) rounds per level, so with my level 4 cleric, that's 8 rounds or 48 seconds (!) of being hit and pelted by my entire group. You can prebuff with all the stoneskins and mirror images in the world, if you don't make your save at -5 you're toast.

    Downside appears to be that it's not party friendly, so I'll have to be careful while aiming that thing.

    But what? -5 penalty? I'm not sure what I'm most stunned about - how strong this spell is, of the fact I've never even considered using it.

  • TenreccTenrecc Member Posts: 265

    Good to see you're at it again so soon. You might consider saving a pip for 2 handed weapon, a pip for halberd and a pip for 2h sword. Increased criticals, no malus, whirlwinds will eventually let you have 10 hits of some of the most powerful weapons.

    I did consider it thanks to the new Grand Mastery that gives you another .5 APR, but in the end I decided against it for two reasons; Onehanded weapons are a lot more versatile and useful in certain situations, and especially Longswords such as Daystar, Dragonslayer and Answerer, and I've always found Whirlwind too high-maintenance. You have to recast it every 6 seconds which is just a drag, compared to IH that you cast once per fight and that's it.

    Personally I think Whirlwind should be redesigned. Like, give you one round with 10 APR, then one with 9, then one with 8 and so on untill you're back to normal, but maybe lower THAC0 a bit. Or just keep re-applying the buff automatically for as long as you have HLAs left.

    Either way, I'm sticking with 1-handers for this run. Although speaking of it, I'm considering going Warhammers and Longswords now, because I just realized that why the hell should I wield Crom Fayer on a pure cleric who should have 25 in STR/DEX/CON all the time due to DUHM?

  • TenreccTenrecc Member Posts: 265

    Alright, so now we're done with out usual setup; Farm some Ankhegs for levels and Fireball staff, kill some Flaming Fists (they were asking for it) to deck outselves in Plate Mails and stylish helmets, and pick up the easy +2 weapons - Aishdeena, Varscona and Whistling - for Claws, R'in and Shyanfuu respectively.

    Speaking of which, I think I read something about an improved Bassilus but I wasn't noticing it. Maybe it was because he was silenced the whole fight. And had no zombies. Oh well.

    Aside from that, I've started to get a feel for SCS and it's both good and bad so far. The good part is that it feels well-designed and realistic and makes me have to work a bit more for things - poor Evjren has no defensive spells at all so far so he gets arrows up his bum constantly, for example. The bad thing is that it's not a high enough challence increase that I think it will be challenging enough.

    But who knows. Maybe that's just because I'm running around doing level 1-2 content at level 4-5. It's just a first impression after all.

    Oh, and I've noticed something... uh... well...

    A bunch of strings seems a bit messed up, but so far it's only the name of two types of Kobolds and one line in the Script section. While those things doesn't bother me, I'm hoping it won't be too common or affect something important, like actual dialogues or so. I might have to do a clean reinstall since this one was a bit butchered.

  • TenreccTenrecc Member Posts: 265
    Alright, a bit more challenging overall so far, hordes of kobolds everywhere, if I wasn't so high levelled that would probably have been a bit tricky.

    So we've finished the cave and are out in the open again, farming up on useful things such as tomes and good equipment. I've also found a good example of where this patch makes things noticably more challenging.

    Sirenes are now a lot more difficult, they don't care much for skeletons and will charm any character that comes into their vision. The solution I came up with (since I don't have any Elf this time around) was to toss 2 Silence 15' radius from range to silence them all and then walk in to kill them off. Worked like a charm (pun not intended).

    I guess it's a bit "toss things from outside range" which I'm generally not a fan of, but I will allow myself to use slightly questionable methods in BG1, where the options in general is way more limited.

    Aside from that I'm heading towards Watcher's Keep right now, and the group on the basilisk map right before them is proving a little troublesome. I'll leave them for now since I'm getting tired, but they feel like a nice amount of challenging.

    Yep, think I can end up liking this mod. I absolutely love the party setup so far too, feels very different and refreshing yet solid and entertaining.

  • TenreccTenrecc Member Posts: 265

    Alright, really starting to like this mod now.

    I was a bit bummed that the adventurer group north of the cave where you exit the Nashkel Mines wasn't there, since there's usually where I pick up my +1 offhand longsword, but it turns out they had just been turned into an ambush instead. And what an ambush it was!

    I start off by Webbing a bit (since it's the only 2nd level mage spell I know lol) to try to catch them in it. Works fairly well but also disables my own frontline. I decide to range them down a bit with my thief and mage then suddenly - CHUNK - my Thief gets backstabbed for 80% of her health!

    Quick invis pot saves her life, while my Cleric comes alive and Commands the thief to the ground and she's an easy kill. Continue on to kill the rest while trying to kite around the outskirts of the web and bombardment them from safety with mage+thief.

    Phew. Exciting fight, especially since I had no time to prepare anything, and a big plus to the new thieves who actually feels like thieves instead of just extremely subpar fighters.

    Oh baby. More of this please.

  • TenreccTenrecc Member Posts: 265
    I wanted more, and more I got.

    I don't seem to recall the bandit camp being quite this... crowded...

    So, it seems like the bandit camp has been remade to actually be realistic, as in "hey there's guys ambushing us, lets GET EVERYONE HERE AND FCKING MURDER THEM!" meaning that all the bandits, the plate wearing guy and the final tent dude bosses all come charging as soon as you punch one of their friends in the nuts.

    Oh well, SCS. If that's how you're gonna play it, well I can play too. And I won't feel the slightest bad about using my Fire Wands, especially since I bought a brand new one while visiting Durlag's Tower! So have some FIRE, SUCKAHS!

    Seems like they just keep on coming though, and I'm getting pushed all the way back to the roads. It's a nice fighting space though, since they keep clogging up in the forest and thanks to my webs.

    I get the hammer dude with a hold person to bring him down, and things seem to be going well, untill Claws gets a little to eager to smash the mages head in so he gets webbed and dies. Game over.

    Well then. We can do better!

    Since this run is all for trying out things I usually never does and try to use my Cleric and Thief to their fullest advantage so this run doesn't just become Fighter and Mage kills everything while Cleric throws them a heal or two and Thief is a disarm trap tool, I put some points into Setting Traps now. After all, 2d8+5 (14 average) is actually a lot of damage at this stage in the game.

    So, boom, we try again. Webs to clog them up, Fireballs to thin their numbers, Hold Person on the hammerdude and Silence '15 on the caster. It's not the smoothest run, but it works. Shyanfuu had to pop her last invis potion to avoid gettign arrowed to death though, and Evjren bit the dust so I'll have to head to a temple next. I usually never do that and reload if only one character dies, but since these fights are so extremely long I'm not too fond of replaying them too many times.

    But yeah, the dust settles upon a pretty satisfying victory. I remember doing this things in LoB mode, and while it was a lot harder, it was nowhere near as satisfying. Finally I start to understand why so many people quit LoB mode pretty quickly, stating that they'd much rather play SCS instead. These fights so far has been fun and challenging in the best way possible.

    Ugh... I'm getting some bad vibes about some fights that's about to come. Wonder if the Four Core restriction will prove too much for me in the long run. We'll see...

  • FinneousPJFinneousPJ Member Posts: 6,456
    Cool thread, nice party. Don't waste Crom on your Cleric since he will get draw upon holy might anyway. Instead consider main handing it on your fighter.

  • TenreccTenrecc Member Posts: 265
    edited August 2016

    Cool thread, nice party. Don't waste Crom on your Cleric since he will get draw upon holy might anyway. Instead consider main handing it on your fighter.

    Yep, that's what I was considering. Not sure what to use instead now when FoA+5 can't be hasted. FoA+4? Stormstar? I guess it's best though, Crom is pretty sweet on fighters. And thanks for reading! :)

  • TenreccTenrecc Member Posts: 265
    So, Evjren has been bitching about dying, appearently he didn't enjoy that at all. He even insinuated that if we went into more battles unprepared, there is a fair to good chance he might misdirect his fire wands a bit.

    Fine, we decided to be a little better prepared. After some ankheg and basilisk hunting and visits to the Beregost Smithy and High Hedge, we've now got the Shadow thief armor and Shortbow+1 for Shyanfuu and a far better spell selection for Evjren, including Mirror Image to prevent him from dying, and... well...

    If you've read my other playthrough you'll know what this means. ;) I'll try to keep it at a minimum though.

    We also stacked up on some arrows and stuff, and felt pretty well-prepared, so into the Cloakwood we go.

    The first maps are fairly easy and pretty much as usual. I've managed to stack my cleric's AC to -6 which can be buffed all the way to -11 or something, so not much of the forest creatures can touch him. I got ambushed too, but they didn't pose a challenge.

    So, eventually we're all the way to the mines. First up is Drasus and gang.

    Oh... hi guys... what I'm doing? Nothing? What about you? Ok cool, I'll just... keep doing nothing... don't mind me...

    It's a tad cheesy maybe, but at least it isn't infinite skull traps. Since the "prebuff" the mages get isn't really prebuffs but triggered instacast defensive spells with a 1 second delay or so, they're dead to traps.

    And yeah, I know it's a bit cheesy, but at this point I don't care too much. Enemy mages getting mirror image, minor globes, stoneskins and invis? And they're high enough level that remove magic is very unlikely to dispel? I don't really feel like I've any tools to deal with that at this level. I guess I could've returned to town and pick up some other scrolls so, but meh. Thief gotta have some fun.

    So, now we're at Davey and since the game seem to like pumping mages and end-game fights up a lot, this looks like a pain.

    He sees me through invis and prebuffs, so no sneaky sneaky allowed. He seems to have Doom Guards which aren't traps this time around (Holy hell the flashbacks to my first couple of playthroughs before I knew they were traps and had to fight them... aaaah the memories), and there's hordes of mercs coming down the stairs.

    Oh, and he teleports to me now instead of to random rooms and my plan B, cheesing him with a PfM scroll doesn't work since it's only self-cast now (which it always should've been and Beamdog should've fixed in the original game by now).

    Well, let's see if we can figure out a way to trap him anyway, or maybe at least his doomguards. I'm a level 7 cleric so I can cast 4th level spells which should penetrate the minor globe (I hope it's a minor anyway...). The only offensive spells I have that might work are glyph or warding or poison. Hmm. Wonder if glyph is another infinitely lasting spell...

    Oh well, I need a smoke. This looks pretty rough.

  • TenreccTenrecc Member Posts: 265
    Alright, I'll be the first to admit it - this mod was a bit harder than I imagined. I sort of regret running a Core Four party into it, because it means I'm having to use a lot of cheesier tactics since I feel unable to hit encounters head on. Against these mages I really would've needed either an Inquisitor or Priest of Helm for the True Sight, or a thief specced in Detect Illusion (a bit late for me since Shyanfuu only will level 1 more time), and a few more APR to hack through stoneskins.

    I'll still keep doing the playthrough though, for 2 reasons - first of all I think things will get better in BG2, where you get a whole lot more option for the fights, and secondly I'm really enjoying it in terms of setup, the quick levelling, the distinct roles, the need to use classes I never before have, and so on.

    But yeah. For the rest of BG1 at least, there will be semi-cheese. Not full on disengage, rest in fight, skull trap spam (hopefully) kind of cheese, but... well, go ahead and read this post and you'll see.

    Well first off, I came back from my food break and decided to try out some more things. Turns out that with some clever kiting, you can aggro the Doom Guards through the north hallway all the way back the entrance and kill them without Davaeorn ever noticing.

    What I did was, inspired by the blind-yourself-to-trap trick, simply to blind Shyanfuu which seemed to allow her to sneak through. It wasn't failsafe, but seemed to work a majority of the times as opposed to none of the times without it.

    Second, Davaeorn himself, well...

    I spammed some Silence '15 Radius outside of range, and he failed his third save attempt.

    I know, super cheesy. Don't hate me.

    I'll be back and redo this in a fair fight some other time. Right now, I'll be heading to Baldur's Gate.

  • TenreccTenrecc Member Posts: 265
    So, after Cloakwood I've sort of given up on my idea to brave all of the more complex fights in the game with this group - Cloudwulfe, Undermountain, maybe Durlag - and started to set my sights towards BG2 instead. I'm still hoping it will work out better, and if it doesn't well, what can you do.

    This mod is pretty fantastic though. I gave Cloudwulfe a fair chance but it was just too much to me. But in that defeat there was a sense of joy, because I know I will be back with a less restrictive group, and I can already envision how epic that fight will be.

    But yeah. For now it's 4 invis and 1 haste spell all the way to chapter 7 and hopefully soon into BG2.

  • TenreccTenrecc Member Posts: 265
    edited August 2016
    Alright, I give up. This is just stupid.

    So Slythe died to a Silence 15' radius, the doppelgangers were the same as always (although with one of them being a mage now? Still very easy though), and so we head to Sarevok.

    To my surprise his merry gang of friends goes down to fireballs and it's only him left, so I do the usual setup, wand of summoning, haste and go all out on potions and arrows and whatnot.

    Still, he doesn't die. I even got him with wand of paralysis while my 24 STR 4 APR Fighter goes all out on him, must've poured hundreds of damage into him, but for some reason he's a half troll now and regenerates faster than my entire buffed group can deal damage. Despite being paralysed.


    Okay, now I've done this 5 times, I'm starting to think that something is seriously bugged out. Maybe because I cheese his party beforehand, but 5 times in a row now I've engaged him, hit him with malison and dooms and then paralysis and he goes from Barely Hurt to Near Death in one or two rounds almost... but then he doesn't die, even with one 24 STR 4 APR fighter, one 21 STR cleric, 5 summons, a Thief with Acid Arrows and a Mage who spams Scorchers into him and he takes it all since he can't defend while paralysed... he's tougher than the goddamn Ravager at this point...

    Well, that's a disappointing end. It was just starting to get slightly fun again having to debuff his saving throws to get a paralysis and then pop all damage CDs combined.

    Either way, I think this is the end for the Core Four. I've just lost all my energy to play them now. Having to cheese and avoid fights that looked really funny if done "for real" just made me feel like I was playing a demo version of something... like, watching it but not being able to play it. I was definitely wrong that SCS wouldn't be a challenge for a stacked party, even though there's a huge difference between "normal" fights in the game which are pretty much the same and end-chapter bosses.

    I'm not sure what I'll do now, I'm pretty burnt out on BG1 but I'm not really enjoying the Core Four party anymore. I mean, I really do love the setup but SCS really wasn't the environment to play it in. And neither is vanilla, since that'd be too easy.

    Oh well. It was worth a shot. The first ambush and the bandit camp fights were quite spectacular.

    EDIT: Screw that, I was just a little tilted and tired. Let's head into BG2.

    Post edited by Tenrecc on
  • KuronaKurona Member Posts: 881
    SCS Sarevok is unkillable until all his allies are dead. Either you missed someone (Diarmid maybe?) or this is a bug. Wouldn't be surprising, Sendai had the same bug at one point in ToB.

    Still, that was a good show.

  • TenreccTenrecc Member Posts: 265
    edited August 2016
    Kurona said:

    SCS Sarevok is unkillable until all his allies are dead. Either you missed someone (Diarmid maybe?) or this is a bug. Wouldn't be surprising, Sendai had the same bug at one point in ToB.

    Still, that was a good show.

    Yeah that must've been it. I havn't killed Angelo yet. Diarmid I've no idea who that even is. Thanks for clearing that up!

    Also, I've changed my mind on quitting. Who cares if I didn't do all fights full frontal, that was never really my intention. And with a party consisting of 25% thief that'd be a weird decision anyway. It makes sense from a RPish perspective that Shyanfuu would've been able to infiltrate Cloakwood mines from the shadows and figure out that their leader was a powerful mage anyway, so ambushing him with silence sort of makes sense.

    I'll just have to do a full frontal playthrough the next time around. But I will take it a bit more chill since I've been getting a little burned out.

    EDIT: Well, reloaded and neither Diarmid nor Angelo are anywhere to be seen. I've scouted the entire temple and "killed" Sarevok on his throne. Guess I'll just have to count that as a win. Bleh.

    Post edited by Tenrecc on
  • KuronaKurona Member Posts: 881
    Diarmid is the guy you meet at the exit of the caves after the Candlekeep catacombs. Normally he just flees if you talk to him but SCS made him re-appear for the final battle, where he's a Fighter/Mage like Angelo.

    Tbh I don't like the improved final battle much. Not only the concept of "boss being immortal until you kill his minions" always irked me but even with that, the battle is arguably easier than the vanilla version and definitely easier than Zhalimar Cloudwulfe.

  • TenreccTenrecc Member Posts: 265
    Kurona said:

    Tbh I don't like the improved final battle much. Not only the concept of "boss being immortal until you kill his minions" always irked me but even with that, the battle is arguably easier than the vanilla version and definitely easier than Zhalimar Cloudwulfe.

    Not sure I agree. The original battle can be soloed easily by anything thief with the sandthief ring. Although maybe it is in a full frontal attack...

    What makes you say it's easier? I'm a bit curious - it didn't appear that way to me, although yeah I didn't really give it a fair try. The only thing I noticed was easier was that all the annoying traps were gone.

  • KuronaKurona Member Posts: 881
    Yeah, I'm talking about the traps. In a solo, the original is easier but in a party the traps always caused me more problems than the actual opponents. Other reason is enemy targeting: SCS enemies never use AoE attacks unless they're themselves immune to it (or if it's party-friendly). It can make things easier in this case because you're fighting enemies significantly higher level than you and they have more HP so friendly fire wouldn't be a big problem for them.

    At least that's my experience with it. Different tactics and party composition can lead to different conclusion.

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