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Baldur's Gate 2 and P:E, round 3


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Third time's the charm, they say, and this is true at least for me and Baldur's Gate 2. I've finally found a way to play it in a way I dig, and boy am I digging it. This one won't be a Let's Play, though, but I thought I'd revisit the subject one more time:

 

Dead threads detailing my trials and tribulations with it here:

 

Round 1

Round 2

 

Status at this writing: I abandoned the playthrough in Round 2 because I just wasn't enjoying it, and set the game aside for a while (also took a break from these forums). During the latter phases of that Round I had, following some advice I got here, experimented with pure powergaming, and had built a kensai/thief. I picked up from there and started playing again. Now I'm through Chapter 2 and starting Chapter 3. Hardest fights were the Shadow Dragon and Firkraag, both of which took me several tries but not so much it tipped into frustration.

 

 

 

Shadow dragon: kept it distracted with Keldorn and PC while Aerie and Cernd were lobbing damaging spells at it. Cernd's Insect Swarms, Aerie's Melf's Acid Arrows and plain ol' Magic Missiles did most of the job, while Keldorn's Dispel Magics took down its defenses. Was ultimately not all that hard although had to slug a few potions on the way.

 

Firkraag: this was tougher. I tried a few things, and eventually ended up with having Aerie and Cernd cast Lower Resistance and Doom at it a couple of times, then hammer it with Feebleminds and Rigid Thinkings. One of those bit, and the rest was easy. 

 

 

 

Kangaxx was... a little anticlimactic actually, although it did take me a few tries as well to get the timing and positioning right and, of course, die-rest-and-rememorize to counter the demilich's special attack.

 

 

Backstab with Staff of Krynn followed by Sunray, then Aerie protected with Spell Immunity: Abjuration soaking the Imprisonments while PC and Keldorn beat him up. I was dreading that Kangaxx the Demilich would have other tricks up its eye sockets but no.

 

 

At this point I have accumulated enough metagame knowledge to know what most of the big quests in Chapter 2 are and which order I ought (not) to tackle them, where some of the best items are, and what companions are available, where, and what they can do. I've also reverse-engineered some of the things that most annoyed me and found ways around them. And... this completely changed the experience. It totally pulled me in and I've been playing it every moment of free time I have. And I'm really digging the combat encounters now -- they're supremely varied in every way; the hard ones manage to be hard in different ways, and I have to keep thinking of new things to try to get through them. However, there are also "routine" tactics for the easier fights that aren't too tedious or resource-consuming to execute.

 

The specific things that I changed to make this enjoyable:

  • Backstab. I had been neglecting this mechanic in previous attempts. It makes all the difference in the tougher fights. When I got the speed boots it became ridiculously effective. Yet the fights remain interesting because they're very active -- PC is extremely fragile and I have to get her out of trouble really fast after the the backstab. The key, though, is that unlike, say, similarly powerful spells, backstabbing is resource-free: I get a lot less attrition and have to rest a lot less frequently, which means...
  • ...I'm not swamped by "game time" events. I usually only rest when someone gets fatigued. The "content density" in Athkatla was driving me bonkers, and it was that way largely because I was resting so frequently that the events fired all the freakin' time. IMO the time/rest mechanics in BG2 are rather badly broken actually as they only really "feel" right at a particular rhythm; rest too frequently and it turns into a madhouse.
  • Small party. I have PC, Keldorn, and Aerie, with Cernd tagging along for a while mostly hauling stuff and occasionally casting Insect Swarm which makes all the difference in those really tough fights. I complement this with a temp companion when the spirit moves me; did Korgan's, Nelia's, and Valygar's quests this way and had Mazzy tagging along for a while, for example. I level up faster, I find 3-4 characters get in each other's way a lot less, and having more actually wouldn't make that much of a difference in most fights (although I suspect the dragon fights would've been easier with another spellcaster).

 

I am also utterly gobsmacked by the sheer amount of stuff there is to discover, especially in Athkatla. It's really, really detailed, and there's constantly new stuff there.

 

But man did it take long to get to this point.

 

Now, relevance to P:E. 

 

I don't think P:E is going to be "another BG2." I also kiiiinda hope it won't, I don't know if I'd be able to put up with the kind of frustration it took to get to this point. But:

 

Some things I hope P:E will do similarly as BG2:

  • Breadth and quantity of content. Athkatla felt "alive" simply due to the sheer amount of stuff in it. There were little encounters, mini-quests, and big quests to get into. If Eora is at all similar (and the BB seems pretty promising in this respect), that's awesome.
  • Diversity of combat challenges. There's a huge palette of combat toys to play with, both in your party and with enemies. I loved Firkraag's dungeon. There were single tough enemies, groups of tough enemies, gauntlest to run, and a badass end boss. Golems were quite different to fight than a mix of vamps and mummies. And Firkraag's dungeon was just one among many. Going by the BB P:E seems moderately promising in this respect too. I only dipped a toe into BB480 so I don't know how they've evolved since I last played it, but in the last-before-one build the fights weren't quite as good IMO. But they're in the ballpark.
  • Lived-in feel to the world. Athkatla again: it looks and feels like a lived-in city, with new and old, run-down and well-maintained, someone selling apples for a copper, and so on. 
  • Degree of openness. BG2 isn't an open-world game, but it feels almost like one, in Chapter 2 at least. While not everything is accessible to start with – and arguably rather too much is accessible at the very start – for a very, very long time there's an embarrassment of choice with things to do, and opening up new areas is really cool. I think BG2 got this part almost right: I would have liked it better if it had made me hunt a bit more for some of the "big" quests – especially the harder ones – rather than springing (almost) everything on me in the Copper Coronet at the start. The model itself is good though, even if it doesn't quite hit the mark in the execution.

Some things I hope/think P:E will do differently/better than BG2:

  • More choice and consequence and more variety in quest resolutions. Most of BG2's quests are entirely linear: you perform a series of steps to arrive at a conclusion. Very few of them involve choosing a path, determining the outcome, or have the possibility of failure (other than having a timer run out). Going by the BB, I have high hopes P:E will do better than BG2 here. This will also make a big difference to replayability!
  • Better writing. I never was a fan of BG2 writing. I'm still not. I find it cheesy in the extreme. Some of Irenicus's monologues rise slightly above the rest, but other than that... yeah, I'm pretty sure P:E will give BG2 a sound thrashing in the writing department.
  • Better mechanics for time. Many of my biggest frustrations with BG2 came from the way it tied events to in-game time. Companion quest timers would run down, quest timers would run down, and scripted events would pop up. At the same time, the healing/resting mechanics made it incredibly easy to spend a week doing nothing, with no "feel" of time passing for me, the player. The pace of the game only started to feel right when I really, really restricted my resting -- only rested when fatigued, and tried to minimize getting fatigued by traveling between areas as little as possible. A better "time mechanic" would have saved me a huge amount of frustration, and I'm quite sure it would not have detracted from the enjoyment of the hardcore grogs a whit. Yet time passing is a fairly important element in any game with story. I hope P:E will find a better, less broken way of handling this than BG2.
  • More interesting character mechanics. AD&D character mechanics are rigid and IMO not all that interesting. There are lots of classes and kits, but once you've picked yours, advancement is more or less entirely on rails; even where there is a measure of choice (e.g. which thief skills to build), you end up in the same place (once you're at high-enough level to have all of them). I have a strong preference for P:E's more flexible builds you can shape with talents and class abilities. Many AD&D class features -- especially weapon proficiencies and armor restrictions -- are also kind of pointlessly restricting: rogues can't learn longbows just because.
  • Better balance. BG2 is hard. It only becomes enjoyable with a quite a lot of practice. In my opinion, it would be better to have a set of difficulty levels, where Easy is, well, fairly easy but still requires you to work with the mechanics, and the really hard levels providing the challenge for those who want it. I've experimented a bit with BG2's difficulty levels, and Hard isn't actually all that much harder than Normal: once you've figured out Normal, the same tactics, more or less, work on Hard. I'm all for scaling up difficulty at harder levels, but it is IMO a bad idea to make Normal frustratingly hard for a first play-through -- and despite your inevitable howls of "filthy casual," I contend that BG2 is damn hard at Normal. 

Some areas in which I think P:E won't live up to BG2:

  • The magic system. Despite its flaws BG2's magic system has incredibly enjoyable breadth and depth. In my opinion, P:E's should have attempted to create a magic system which reproduces BG2 magic's strengths while avoiding some of the ways in which it's broken, instead of just throwing out entire mechanics wholesale. This is in fact one area in which my thinking has changed: I still think there are many things wrong with the hard counters in the BG2 magic system, but I no longer think the problem is with hard counters qua hard counters, but rather the specifics about how they're set up.
  • Size. In a game like BG2, more is more. A big part of Chapter 2's appeal comes from its sheer size. P:E will be big, but not this big. Perhaps... P:E2, though?
  • Replayability. BG2 really comes into its own when replayed. Now that I've cracked it I'm pretty sure I'll be coming back to it with different classes and kits. Again: the sheer amount of stuff in it gives unprecedented room for different "strategic" approaches now that I know where everything is. P:E's replayability will probably come from the difficulty levels and different quest resolutions; I'll be surprised however if it will have BG2's appeal in replaying the same content.

Also, yes I'm stoked. I mean, less than two weeks??? Go Obsidz!

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Glad you're enjoying it.

 

I wasn't turned off from BG2's difficulty the first time I played it (though I did die a lot), but I'm kinda a weirdo when it comes to losing in games. I still remember about two years ago I lost to Gary in Pokemon Puzzle League on Super Hard mode so many times that the game's counter of your number of losses reached it's max at 999. I'll never know just how many times I lost, but it was at least 1200+ times over the course of two days. It didn't bothered me losing over-and-over-and-over. So to lose a few times in BG2 didn't discourage me at all, in fact, I kinda like a game that kicks my ass. 

 

I appreciated that BG2 wasn't a cake walk the first time through, but again; I'm kinda weird.

"Good thing I don't heal my characters or they'd be really hurt." Is not something I should ever be thinking.

 

I use blue text when I'm being sarcastic.

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-  I think the problems with hard counters are somewhat inevitable.  Hard counters seem pretty difficult to scale as you increase in levels.  Either you constantly add new mechanics, which is difficult to conceive and implement, or you just layer on needless obfuscating complexity.  You don't need minor / improved / greater / even more powerful with a new name version of spells, and the dispelling system is really just a pain in the ass.

 

- Size.  PE won't be BG2.  That's okay.

 

-  Replayability.  You may be right, but I think you're underestimating the appeal of numbercrunching different types of parties.  BG2 seems like it has more options for individual characters, but less for entire parties.  On the BB forums there's already a huge amount of theorycrafting different characters that do X.  

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Even though I recently finished the whole saga... again...

Even though I remember every cranny of the game so well...

Even though I get frustrated just by thinking about some parts of it...

Still...

Just reading your threads makes me wanna start yet another playthrough, from Candlekeep to Throne of Bhaal!

 

Hurry up, March 26th.

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It would be of small avail to talk of magic in the air...

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I might also offer that in terms of the "quality" of the writing, BG was aimed at a far younger and wider target audience than PoE is.

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Tell us more about these "specifics about how they're set up" that you would change.

 

I'll make it short, since I'm tempted to write a long rationale for each of these.

 

(1) Too many "pre-counters," too few "reactive counters."

 

Consider level drain, charm/domination/confusion, or insta-death effects like Imprisonment, Disintegrate, etc. The primary or often only way to counter these is to get the counter up before the spell goes off. This pushes you too much into pre-emptive strategies, including the dreaded pre-buffing. I would like it better if there were more and better ways to counter these effects once they're applied. For example, have a short time window during which the spell/attack takes effect, during which time you can counter it. (Note: I do not want to get rid of pre-counters; instead, I want to add possibilities to reactively counter effects.)

 

(2) Too many dedicated counters

 

Too many spells do nothing but counter things. I would prefer to have counter effects rolled into spells which also do something beneficial. For example, Haste could counter Paralysis, Slow (which it already does), and other movement-restricting spells; Negative Plane Protection could also Protect against Evil, and Emotion: Courage could also counter Fear and Charm. And so on. There are plenty of "natural" synergies like this to be found, and plenty of spells that could be designed this way, by asking "what beneficial effect could this counter have?" or "what negative effect could this beneficial effect counter?" And, again: I do not want to completely eliminate dedicated counters; just shift the balance.

 

Put another way, I would prefer more spells to work like Lower Resistance or Greater Malison, and fewer to work like Negative Plane Protection or Feeblemind.

 

(3) Too many complete immunities

 

Some effects are naturally all-or-nothing. Others, not so much. Some complete immunities should be scaled. E.g. instead of having complete immunity to spell level lower than 6 or weapon enchantment lower then 4, have, say, spells have damage or duration of (level/10), or weapons do damage with a multiplier of (enchantment/5). Again: don't get rid of all the immunities, just replace some of them with resistances.

 

(4) Too random utility in counters, with a few that just work best

 

When drilling down into the specifics of particular counters, there's a lot of stuff there that IMO doesn't really work. For example there's a big bunch of spells that strip defenses from enemy casters, which do slightly different things, but some are just way more useful than others regardless of level. I won't get into that here -- except to say that in practice I'm just using Dispel Magic almost all the time, and Breach in a pinch. Both are general and powerful. With the limited number of spell slots, I'm not going to keep an arsenal of tightly-targeted ones (Secret Word, Spell Thrust and what have you) when the general ones get the job done too.

 

This could be made more interesting if it was genuinely difficult to acquire those highly useful general-purpose counters. If, for example, you just couldn't get Dispel Magic or Breach without really working for them, and had to make do with the specific ones in the interim. But this isn't the case as you can easily get any of them at any time.

Edited by PrimeJunta
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Gotcha.

 

Keep in mind that some of these changes would make the hard counters not hard anymore. Resistances instead of immunities means soft counters, because you can overwhelm them with enough effort (50% resistance, so just cast twice as many spells).

 

And some of the things you're talking about were probably never hard counters to begin with. A slow spell that can be countered by a haste spell isn't usually a hard counter, because being inflicted with slowness in an RPG generally isn't a tactic that outright "defeats" you. You can keep on fighting and inflicting damage, and the duration is usually not incredibly long. Although that can depend on the implementation and circumstances, of course.

Edited by Infinitron
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True. What I'm sayin' is, it's not that "hard counters are bad and we should get rid of them" but more like "BG2 relies too heavily on hard counters and pre-counters." I'd like to add other options.

 

My favorite "counterspelling" moment in IE games is still in IWD when I got lobbed with Dominations and Charms and countered them with Dominations of my own or, failing that, Hold Persons. Back and forth rather than pre-emptive counters. I would like more of that sort of thing plz.

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You say that BG2 is too hard.

Then what do you say about BG1 where almost everything can kill you with a single hit in the beginning.

Sure, Bg2 has some hard battles, but in the beginning you can find some easier things to start with.

 

I think the main problem with BG combat is the following: When you do not know the system many fights are just frustrating. But if you know this counterspelling thing, then the whole game becomes a piece of cake. There is nothing in between.

 

I tried to play the game again some time ago, but I quit after some time. It was so easy because I knew where I find item X and enemy Y and what they do. Playing a different class did not change much. I always had a party of 6, so I always had a fighter, a thief, a cleric and a mage in my party. The only difference is that my char is stronger than my party members, but they do their job good enough.

 

I am not somebody who tries to solo a game, because party interaction is importand for me.

 

I am happy that you learned to enjoy the game.

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True. What I'm sayin' is, it's not that "hard counters are bad and we should get rid of them" but more like "BG2 relies too heavily on hard counters and pre-counters." I'd like to add other options.

 

My favorite "counterspelling" moment in IE games is still in IWD when I got lobbed with Dominations and Charms and countered them with Dominations of my own or, failing that, Hold Persons. Back and forth rather than pre-emptive counters. I would like more of that sort of thing plz.

 

Well, Domination/Charm IS a hard counter because it utterly "defeats" a character, removing it from play in one blow unless that character's allies have a proper counter. Although according to Josh this may be acceptable if the duration of the effect is short enough: http://forums.obsidian.net/topic/67946-josh-sawyer-on-immunities-and-hard-counters/

 

Here's an idea for implementing more powerful Domination/Charm effects in PoE: Give other characters in the party the option of telling the charmed character to "snap out of it". Like, go up to him and slap him or something. :) Not a specific counter-spell or set of counter-spells, but a universal ability available to everybody.

 

So Domination/Charm would be most helpful in situations where the rest of the party is too occupied by fighting other enemies to take the time to slap their ally out of it, but fairly weak if they're around to help each other.

Edited by Infinitron
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I like that idea.

 

Domination/Charm though is one of the less problematic ones as there are already a whole bunch of ways to counter it once applied: a similar spell of your own, a suitable Dispel, or in a pinch a Hold Person to get him to stay put.

 

I think there would be room for, say, a Death Spell that took one round to take hold, and could be countered with one of a range of suitable spells in the interim. It would make it more interesting that just requiring you to have the counter up before it's cast.

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You say that BG2 is too hard.

Then what do you say about BG1 where almost everything can kill you with a single hit in the beginning.

Sure, Bg2 has some hard battles, but in the beginning you can find some easier things to start with.

 

BG1 isn't hard as much as random (at levels 1-3 or so, and especially with fragile classes like mages). To get through that all you need is quicksave/quickload and a relatively moderate amount of patience. I think it's not a lot of fun and am glad most games since then do things to make early game less instantly lethal, but it's not such a big deal IMO. Since it's lower level, BG1 is much less complex and therefore easier. 

 

As to BG2, much of the difficulty comes from not knowing where the hard battles are, and where to find the easier things. Once you do know, it becomes immensely more enjoyable. One of my long-standing criticisms of it -- and this I haven't changed my mind about -- is that it's really terrible at communicating this to the player. If you're a paladin, it literally pushes the Firkraag quest on you even before you make it to the Copper Coronet; the first time you go to the Temple District it pushes the Blind Eye quest on you. Both of these are really tough nuts to crack for a low-level party, exponentially more so if you're not intimately familiar with the mechanics. And yes, I still contend that the game would have been objectively better if it had telegraphed the quest difficulty better and made you actively look for those harder quests rather than pushing them on you from the start.

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I like that idea.

 

Domination/Charm though is one of the less problematic ones as there are already a whole bunch of ways to counter it once applied: a similar spell of your own, a suitable Dispel, or in a pinch a Hold Person to get him to stay put.

 

I think there would be room for, say, a Death Spell that took one round to take hold, and could be countered with one of a range of suitable spells in the interim. It would make it more interesting that just requiring you to have the counter up before it's cast.

 

That would be a hard counter too unfortunately, because it requires the party to have access to that range of suitable spells in order to avoid being "defeated" by the Death spell.

 

I've been trying to think of ways to implement BG2-like "hard countery" abilities that aren't actually hard counters, by virtue of being counterable through standard means that are always available to all characters (though those means may be sub-optimal).

 

See for instance: http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/index.php?threads/mage-duels-without-hard-counters.97027/

 

Maybe I should start a thread on that topic over here as well.

Edited by Infinitron
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Yeah, started playing BG/BG2 Enhanced a few months ago just to see what was different, tho my memory of my origional play-thru may be a bit fuzzy (been a few years after all).  Playing when I have the time/inclination since I have played it once before.

BG had it's difficult moments, so far BG2 has been pretty much of a cake walk partially because I remember which parts were tough and have delayed dealing with them till later.

But still fun to run across something the Enhanced Edition adds to the game!

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I agree with you about the diversity of combat. I think this is one of the things that BG2 got right that very few subsequent games managed to emulate. There is a lot of different enemy types (golems, beholders, vampires, mindflayers, werewolves and many more) which don't just look different, but play differently. Also, it does not overuse any particular type to the point where I tired of them as I do in many other games. For example, Wasteland 2 and Dragon Age: Origins had decent combat, but both give me the feeling of "Can we just get on with it already? I've killed enough of these things" at multiple points in the game.

 

I disagree about the difficulty. Yes, it's hard the way you play it, but it's not necessary to play like that. BG2 was the first D&D-based game that I ever played. I didn't know the rules at all and so played a Mage that only discovered the usefulness of Stoneskin circa Chapter 4. I also neglected to play through the tutorial and thus did not realize that the game can be paused until the d'Arnise keep (at which point it got too hard so I realized I was missing something and finally played the tutorial). I believe I played on Normal difficult and the game was not easy, but nor was it unreasonably hard, though there were some places where I had to reload and come back later so I partly agree with you about the need to telegraph difficult quests.

 

The reason your way is hard is that you're taking on all of the optional enemies which are naturally more difficult. I took one look at Firkraag and decided, yeah, I'm just going to fight your pet mage, grab the prisoner and walk away. I also avoided the Shadow Dragon (do you have to fight any dragons at all in the original game? I think not) as well as most of the liches. I didn't even find the mindflayer base in the sewers until a later playthrough. In retrospect, it is not satisfying to play like that because you miss out on a lot of the best items, but it's certainly possible.

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I've been trying to think of ways to implement BG2-like "hard countery" abilities that aren't actually hard counters, by virtue of being counterable through standard means that are always available to all characters (though those means may be sub-optimal).

 

See for instance: http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/index.php?threads/mage-duels-without-hard-counters.97027/

 

Maybe I should start a thread on that topic over here as well.

 

Will check that out.

 

My initial reaction is that it sounds like it would be hard to do without making things too easy. I don't think counters should necessarily be abilities or actions everybody can do. There just have to be enough different ones sufficiently available that you're unlikely to paint yourself into a corner.

 

BG2 does rather well in this respect actually -- while you do need hard counters, there are many ways to get them. Arcane or divine spells, items, class abilities, scrolls, or, sometimes, ways to just avoid them. Sometimes it falls flat -- beholders, for example, are just stupid monsters, as monster designs go, and the <item> of Balduran used to counter their abilies are un-fun. 

 

(I didn't have that much trouble with them this time by the way. Sneaked ahead with PC to scout out their positions, then just used BVR spells to thin out the herds. Individual ones were easy to kill just by backstabbing. They're still really dumb though.)

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Well, casting a counter-spell isn't exactly "difficult". It's just something you need to have. That sort of thing has always seemed to me more like a "this feels cool" thing than a "difficulty" thing.

 

The universally available mundane counters would have to be less efficient, of course. Something that takes more of a time investment than casting a counterspell.

Edited by Infinitron
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The BG series is the metagamer's dream, a fact that made me enjoy a lot more my first playthroughs compared to the latest. That's the real issue with hard counters, they are fun until you find what the counter is. Then they become a chore (to me). 

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I agree with most of what's been posted about bg2. It was very easy once you realised how the spell system worked. Mages were also by far the best class although I actually don't mind a bit of a lack of balance. It would be better implemented where the Mage did rely on other classes as support however, in bg2 it was a case of three mages is better than two.

 

For me though the problems with the bg2 system were the AI, which was too easy to abuse when it came down to itm and I'm not a fan of self imposed handicaps. The vast majority of this was solved by the mod sword coast stratagems, andthe best example is the bandit camp in bg1, if you go in all guns blazing the whole camp is alerted and does its best to overwhelm you. Similarly, the random assassin groups come and find you and don't give you time to prepare and fireball into the fog. All enemies also target sensibly and don't just bash on your tank 24/7. spell casters pre buff in the same way you do to simulate the fact they generally can tell you are coming, why wouldn't you walk round with stone skin on anyway?! The mod gets a decent about of recognition but it's a great demonstration of how to build difficult encounters for games like this imo.

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I like that idea.

 

Domination/Charm though is one of the less problematic ones as there are already a whole bunch of ways to counter it once applied: a similar spell of your own, a suitable Dispel, or in a pinch a Hold Person to get him to stay put.

 

I think there would be room for, say, a Death Spell that took one round to take hold, and could be countered with one of a range of suitable spells in the interim. It would make it more interesting that just requiring you to have the counter up before it's cast.

 

That would be a hard counter too unfortunately, because it requires the party to have access to that range of suitable spells in order to avoid being "defeated" by the Death spell.

 

I've been trying to think of ways to implement BG2-like "hard countery" abilities that aren't actually hard counters, by virtue of being counterable through standard means that are always available to all characters (though those means may be sub-optimal).

 

See for instance: http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/index.php?threads/mage-duels-without-hard-counters.97027/

 

Maybe I should start a thread on that topic over here as well.

 

 

 

I still think the best answer to universal hard counters is to combine the crafting/consumable mechanics in POE to create counters.   Maybe the bestiary or in-game knowledge gathering can lead you to find the right ingredients/recipe for a counter.

 

In this case, the non-magic classes actually have added in game incentive for crafting, and a more complex (rewarding?) way to overcome hard counters, then the magical ones, which can just counter-spell. 

 

The tricky part about hard counters is alerting the player to it before you encounter it,  so it's not a gut punch, you die here unless meta-gamed moment... 

Edited by tdphys
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I'm afraid I don't follow.  There isn't anything mundanes can do with crafting that casters can't. 

They also seem to mostly be accuracy/damage upgrades, (or DT/deflection upgrades) so I don't think they really counter anything anyway.

 

 

Bestiary knowledge is an interesting approach, but it won't work with PoE, since such knowledge is gained by defeating said critters first.

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Keep in mind that some of these changes would make the hard counters not hard anymore. Resistances instead of immunities means soft counters, because you can overwhelm them with enough effort (50% resistance, so just cast twice as many spells).

That's kind of the point, though. Left-and-right, you see people talking about how great it is to have emergent gameplay, so I don't see why we sweep it under the rug for something as fundamental as countering. One could say that the very nature of a "tactical" combat system is the whole idea of countering.

 

That being said, I definitely don't think that anything even remotely "hard" should be removed as a counter. But, generally, the fewer options you have to handle a given thing, the less interesting "countering" that thing is. And, in the interest of, well... interestingness, it doesn't have to be as simple as just 50% effectiveness instead of 100%. Even if it were, you say "just cast twice as many spells," but it isn't that simple. You can only cast so many spells in a given amount of time. D&D rules already handle the changing of a spell's level ("cast at level X instead of level X"), so if something kept reducing level 5 spells down to level 1 spells, you'd have to cast 5 of them just to get it even close to ONE spell of the same magnitude as the original. Now, that might lead you to think "well, then what's the point? It might as well be a full immunity, since it's pointless to cast such piddly spells." But, that's not necessarily true, precisely because the system isn't that simple. You could have a spell that was going to stun a target for 15 seconds, for example. Maybe it only stuns them for 3 seconds, but the fact that it stuns them still interrupts the target's casting for long enough for you to do something else about it.

 

That's the heart of what countering should be all about, really. Not "do I have an ability that's designed specifically to 'counter' another one?", but instead "what can I effectively do about what the enemy's doing?"

I think there's definitely room for "hard counters," but they have to be intelligently designed. Just as a quick example, a shield that absorbs the next two spells cast on that target would be a "hard counter" to incoming spells. But it's more of a tactical/timing thing, than a "Haha, you have no way of getting through this unless you undo this effect! MUAHAHAHA!". You could just hit them with two wimpy spells, or maybe you have a character with a weapon that procs a spell effect when they attack, and you decide it's prudent to take the time to get that character to land two attacks on them because you don't want to waste your spells, etc. Or maybe you just have your casters resort to physical weapons for the time being?

 

And maybe that shield only lasts 20 seconds, instead of just being "check mate... waiting on your move" in terms of harming that target with spells. Stuff like that.

 

Not that everything has to be super generic in terms of immunity, but there are very clever factors to use for immunities to make things quite powerful, without making them a permanent lock blanketing a bunch of combat factors with only one (or just a couple) key(s) to open it. As with the example above, I feel like any immunity or powerful spell like that should require/provide for just as much cleverness in its use as the cleverness allowed towards countering it. Ideally.

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Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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You say that BG2 is too hard.

Then what do you say about BG1 where almost everything can kill you with a single hit in the beginning.

Sure, Bg2 has some hard battles, but in the beginning you can find some easier things to start with.

 

BG1 isn't hard as much as random (at levels 1-3 or so, and especially with fragile classes like mages). To get through that all you need is quicksave/quickload and a relatively moderate amount of patience. I think it's not a lot of fun and am glad most games since then do things to make early game less instantly lethal, but it's not such a big deal IMO. Since it's lower level, BG1 is much less complex and therefore easier. 

 

As to BG2, much of the difficulty comes from not knowing where the hard battles are, and where to find the easier things. Once you do know, it becomes immensely more enjoyable. One of my long-standing criticisms of it -- and this I haven't changed my mind about -- is that it's really terrible at communicating this to the player. If you're a paladin, it literally pushes the Firkraag quest on you even before you make it to the Copper Coronet; the first time you go to the Temple District it pushes the Blind Eye quest on you. Both of these are really tough nuts to crack for a low-level party, exponentially more so if you're not intimately familiar with the mechanics. And yes, I still contend that the game would have been objectively better if it had telegraphed the quest difficulty better and made you actively look for those harder quests rather than pushing them on you from the start.

 

I agree with the BG 1 part.

 

Flat out disagree with the second point.

One of the biggest attractions of bg 2 was the "random" quest difficulty. The world seemed more dangerous and exciting this way.

The fact that you actually had to explore and learn what to do, and when to do it,- really made this game a special experience.

 

Getting your **s handed to you, then come back stronger to wipe them out,- was very satisfying.

"The harder the world, the fiercer the honour."

Weapon master,- Flail of the dead horse +5.

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