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Hard vs PotD doesn't matter, but high level scaling does (increases trap difficulties by ~25%)

 

Without level scaling, the hardest traps you'll find in Act 1 require 7 mechanics, Act 2 require 10 mechanics, and Act 3 / White March / Deep Endless Paths 12 mechanics.  With high level scaling you'll see a good number of traps requiring 14 mechanics and a few requiring 15.  There's one infamous trap (the door to Concelhaut's treasury) that you can't detect even with 17 mechanics, but you can dodge it by standing off to the side so don't bother.  A bunch of the traps in the prologue require 3 mechanics.

 

The hardest locks are 13 mechanics without scaling and 16 with, though those can be opened with 11 / 14 with lockpicks.

 

 

So I would shoot for either 8 (if you want to use the stronghold bonus all the time) or 10 mechanics base long term.  11 or higher are luxuries for parties where you have dedicated mechanics guys and the +2 mechanics bonus from Caed Nua is more costly to take (dead stats on everyone else).  With 10 base, you'll have 12 with just the gloves (which is enough to spot everything), 14 with rest bonus and 15/17 if you pop a rite - which is enough to handle all the locks in the game.  With 8 base you'll have to spend a lot more time adventuring with the stronghold bonus up (12 is about the minimum to go into a dungeon blind), and can selectively use rites to open the handful of harder locks and traps that you come across.

 

As for timing, my preference is to get to 3 immediately at level 2 to get the trap XP from the prologue, 4 base at level 3, get the rest bonus from the inn and hit up Raderic's Hold for the +2 gloves, which clears all the traps there.  You can hit 8 with the stronghold bonus, which handles most of Act 2.  Level up to 8 base before you finish act 2, then enter WM1 with 8+2+2, which disarms all the critical traps.  You can pop a rite for Galvino's and avoid the handful of difficult traps in the White Forge (12 is enough to spot).  Then in act 3, get the permanent +1 from the quest reward, level up an additional +1 to get to 10 base, and just grab the rest bonus for the areas with hard traps and pop a rite for the handful of 15 difficulty ones you hit that you really want to open.

 

You can of course always respec back down to 8, and take it out entirely before big fights, depending on your stomach for endless respecs.

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