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Totemic Druids (or Shamans)

So, I've been having a lot of fun recently playing druids with panther animal companions in NWN one and two.

I wanted to play a similar character in BG. (I just *love* pretending that the cat lying on my stomach while I play is in the game with me.)

I thought the totemic druid would be the best way to do that in BG. But, to my dismay, when I play tested it, I found that it took *forever* and then some to summon a cat spirit once in combat mode - at least a full round, but it seemed longer. And the duration of the spirit animals once summoned is so darned short. They last at first level long enough for one combat, two or three if you use metaknowledge to rush around maps from one combat to the next.

Plus, druids don't get Remove Fear, and the cat spirit is not panic-protected innately like the bear, at least not until much higher levels. Making my main character a druid almost necessitates taking Branwen just for Remove Fear, unless I want to be vulnerable to Horror the whole game. And, we all know just about every mage in the vanilla game is scripted to open with a defense contingency, then Horror.

I wonder if a shaman would do any better for the character concept. I know I can't control what kind of animal I get if I play that, plus, I can't take any other actions while maintaining animal spirits in combat, as a shaman.

@bengoshi , What was the actual gameplay procedure like when you almost beat the trilogy as a totemic druid? Did you use metaknowledge to summon spirits at just the right times, and then rest over and over throughout the trilogy? Or is there something I'm missing about the appeal of this.

I wish BG had straight up permanent animal companions like in NWN.

JuliusBorisov

Comments

  • BelgarathMTHBelgarathMTH Member Posts: 5,605
    Forgot the name change - I meant to tag @JuliusBorisov

  • EnuhalEnuhal Member Posts: 537
    The spirit animals summoned by totemic druids get much more powerful once you level up a bit - and they're certainly quite useful for the entire duration of BG1 and early BG2. Once you get two spirit animals (at level 6), the two of them can take out most opponents in BG1 by themselves (though their claws don't count as magical weapons right now, despite what the official stats keep saying).

    You can find their different stats on different levels here. Note the many useful immunities:
    https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/31754/totemic-druid-summon-stats

    Also, summoning spirit animals should not take very long - the casting time is much shorter then other summoning spells, so I'm not quite sure what occured to make you think that it takes forever.

    Permidion_StarkJuliusBorisovStummvonBordwehr
  • semiticgodsemiticgod Member Posts: 14,510
    In fact, the summoning time is supposed to be 1, nearly instantaneous. And they should last for 60 rounds, enough to trawl all across the map.

    Shamans normally take forever to summon critters, though, since they only have a certain chance of summoning a spirit for every round they dance.

    ThacoBellJuliusBorisovStummvonBordwehr
  • ZaghoulZaghoul Member, Moderator Posts: 4,134
    edited September 2017

    So, I've been having a lot of fun recently playing druids with panther animal companions in NWN one and two.

    I wanted to play a similar character in BG. (I just *love* pretending that the cat lying on my stomach while I play is in the game with me.)

    I thought the totemic druid would be the best way to do that in BG. But, to my dismay, when I play tested it, I found that it took *forever* and then some to summon a cat spirit once in combat mode - at least a full round, but it seemed longer. And the duration of the spirit animals once summoned is so darned short. They last at first level long enough for one combat, two or three if you use metaknowledge to rush around maps from one combat to the next.

    Plus, druids don't get Remove Fear, and the cat spirit is not panic-protected innately like the bear, at least not until much higher levels. Making my main character a druid almost necessitates taking Branwen just for Remove Fear, unless I want to be vulnerable to Horror the whole game. And, we all know just about every mage in the vanilla game is scripted to open with a defense contingency, then Horror.

    I wonder if a shaman would do any better for the character concept. I know I can't control what kind of animal I get if I play that, plus, I can't take any other actions while maintaining animal spirits in combat, as a shaman.

    @bengoshi , What was the actual gameplay procedure like when you almost beat the trilogy as a totemic druid? Did you use metaknowledge to summon spirits at just the right times, and then rest over and over throughout the trilogy? Or is there something I'm missing about the appeal of this.

    I wish BG had straight up permanent animal companions like in NWN.

    @BelgarathMTH Try @ulb s Animal Companions Mod, it's really good. AND you get to chose the animal that travels and lvls up with you. Not a spirit but it has got all kinds of good critters to help you along the way. Pretty much a standard mod for me with druids and shamans. :)
    https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/50975/mod-animal-companions-for-rangers-and-druids-for-bg1ee-sod-bg2ee-eet/p1

    I always think it fits a shaman nicely as it makes sense their spirit animals would give an in for have one of the same for a real animal companion as well.

    JuliusBorisovStummvonBordwehr
  • BelgarathMTHBelgarathMTH Member Posts: 5,605

    In fact, the summoning time is supposed to be 1, nearly instantaneous. And they should last for 60 rounds, enough to trawl all across the map.

    Shamans normally take forever to summon critters, though, since they only have a certain chance of summoning a spirit for every round they dance.

    The spell-like ability may cast in 1 segment, but once cast, there's a spell animation that involves a gate opening and the spirit animal stepping out of the gate. It then takes it another second to start moving or attacking anything.

    My test case was Tarnesh. I started the battle by summoning a spirit panther. Tarnesh was able to cast both Mirror Image and Horror before the spirit panther even stepped out of its gate. It immediately was panicked by Tarnesh's Horror and ran off. Imoen was also panicked, and I fled the battle before the Horror landed, leaving only the guards, Montaron, and Xzar fighting Tarnesh. Imoen and Montaron were killed by Magic Missiles, and the spirit panther was Near Death.

    A very bad outcome to a fight that would be easy with either a cleric with Remove Fear, or even if I had attacked Tarnesh instead of wasting time trying to get the spirit animal out. The only way the spirit animal would have been useful in the fight would have been if I had used metaknowledge to summon it before triggering Tarnesh.

  • BelgarathMTHBelgarathMTH Member Posts: 5,605
    @Zaghoul , the mod looks interesting, but I can't mod my game any more, since Beamdog made it to where you have to install a mod to install other mods, and alter a file, and burn incense under a full moon while reciting three "Hail Mary"s backwards. When I first looked at the instructions for doing it, I immediately said, "No way, life's too short, I'll just play without any mods."

  • semiticgodsemiticgod Member Posts: 14,510
    @BelgarathMTH: I don't think installing mods is too complicated, but I don't think mods are your thing anyhoo. I'm not sure ModMerge or whatever would be worth it.

    Last I checked, in another install, all spirit critters were immune to fear. But looking at my EET install (and the real culprit may be an EE update instead of a mod), it appears that spirit critters only become immune to fear at level 3, and their many other immunities only accumulate over time.

    If spirit animals don't come out fast enough, maybe summons aren't your thing. They come out slower than most summons after the spell finishes casting due to the gate animation they use, but since Summon Spirit Animal has the fastest casting time of any summoning spell (most such spells take at least 3 seconds just to cast), they should be the fastest summons to come out overall.

    BelgarathMTHJuliusBorisov
  • JuliusBorisovJuliusBorisov Member, Administrator, Moderator, Developer Posts: 21,132


    A very bad outcome to a fight that would be easy with either a cleric with Remove Fear, or even if I had attacked Tarnesh instead of wasting time trying to get the spirit animal out. The only way the spirit animal would have been useful in the fight would have been if I had used metaknowledge to summon it before triggering Tarnesh.

    I can understand your desire to use only a panther because of the NWN similarity, but I don't agree with the fact you could only win the fight with metaknowledge.

    If you used the bear, it would be immune to horror (even at the 1st level). You are a totemic druid, and you should use everything at your disposal, choosing wisely which particular spirit you should use for this or that opponent. It's the main aspect of using this kit. The bear could then fear Tarnesh itself.

    Or you could summon a snake and let her poison the mage.

    Yes, druids don't have Remove Fear, and the only way for them in the whole saga to find a workaround is to either invite a cleric to the party, or to invite a mage and wait till the mage gets the second level of spells (Resist Fear), or wait till the first HLA (the Deva can cast Remove Fear).

    But a druid is not a cleric, and will never substitute him fully. Fear is not the only effect a druid can't oppose himself. A druid will have many problems against undead, for example.

    But it's not because the class is weak, but because it's different.

    You could find ways to counter Tarnesh. For example, the moment he went hostile, your level 1 party could immediately retreat, because at the 1st level they need to first understand their opponent. Then you could either relocate party members to different destinations, making Tarnesh following only one of them, or let him lose your sight altogether, so that invisible Imoen could then look at the inn's guards fighting Tarnesh. In the first case, you could 100% find time to summon the spirit.

    Or you could use Larloch's and the Wand of Missile to prevent his casting.

    Also, it is not correct to evaluate the whole role of the spirits, the druid and the party because of the encounter with Tarnesh. The more you play with the druid, the more experienced you will become. A mage is quite a special opponent at the start of the game.

    As for your question about the whole trilogy, if you use the party, you should use everyone's abilities. You first observe the situation, then act. You use thieves to scout. You retreat. You pause often. If you are soloing, then you always come with a spirit, not waiting for a fight. You know, the world is dangerous, you should not lose the first round of the fight for summoning the spirit - instead, retreat and see how your already summoned spirit does in the fight, then support it. The spirits last for quite a long time.

    EnuhalThacoBellBelgarathMTH
  • BelgarathMTHBelgarathMTH Member Posts: 5,605
    @JuliusBorisov , Thanks for the helpful replies. I had a feeling I would have to learn more about the different spirit animal abilities to be able to play the class successfully.

    My trouble with relating it to my desired character concept is that I can't really see any special use for the panther at all. All the others get special attacks - fear for the bear (as well as panic immunity at first level), cold damage for the wolf, poison for the snake. In Neverwinter Nights, the panther gets rogue sneak attacks as its specialty. I wish it could backstab in BG.

    It's almost like whoever designed the class didn't like cats or something. :)

    So I take it that when you soloed your totemic druid, you kept a spirit out at all times and rested every time it faded?

    JuliusBorisov
  • EnuhalEnuhal Member Posts: 537
    @BelgarathMTH The spirit lion is basically my default spirit animal for most situations, as it has high APR, high damage output (19 strength for the level 10 version!), decent ac/hp and a very fast speed. Unless you need a specific special ability for a fight, it's often the best choice. Also, it gets charm immunity right away, which is great against enemies like sirens, dryads etc.

    Spirit snakes have low APR and are mostly good against spellcasters, but any spirit animal will do well against those later on. Spirit wolves don't do a lot of damage, but against certain powerful enemies, their hold ability combined with doom and greater malison can be very useful if you summon multiple ones (they also get early protection from petrification, so starting with level 3, they can deal with basilisks). The bears are good all-purpose fighters, but honestly, their fear ability can get quite annoying, as you have to chase scared enemies around the map, often leading to unwanted new encounters.

    The level lvl 5 version of the spirit lion is especially great: It's the first one to go to 3 APR and it gets the extremely useful web-immunity, allowing you to throw webs at your opponents that your summons can easily ignore (though to be fair, at this point, only spirit wolves still get affected by webs). On level 6, you get 2 spirit animals, and those will, at least for me, often times be two spirit lions.

    JuliusBorisovStummvonBordwehrBelgarathMTHArdul
  • JuliusBorisovJuliusBorisov Member, Administrator, Moderator, Developer Posts: 21,132
    edited September 2017
    I agree with what @Enuhal says, - after the 10th level, Spirit lions become universal summons, and I preferred them in almost all situations. They're awesome fighters and the 10th level gives them all the immunities you want on your summon.

    Switching between different spirit animals is useful for BG1:EE, mostly.

    I soloed my totemic druid with an aim not to die, - of course I had one spirit out all time and rested every time it faded, yes. But if you're with a party, it may be not needed as soon as you get some levels for your characters. Also, have in mind that I play with the SCS, which is less forgiving in 50/50 situations. Also, you get more spirit animals as you get levels, so rests become rarer as you continue to play (I also had to rest to have all the spells ready), - this is soloing, basically.

    EnuhalGrond0BelgarathMTHStummvonBordwehr
  • BelgarathMTHBelgarathMTH Member Posts: 5,605
    Hmm, now that I have all this advice on how to do it, maybe I'll try again eventually.

    JuliusBorisovsemiticgod
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