When I concocted my latest idea of a party in including Keldorn, my assumption was that he could use the Amulet of Power, thus making him immune to level drain. It seems that my version of the game might not have the correct patch, despite picking it up from GOG.com (which I heard had a patched version of the game). Unfortunately, it appears that the Inquisitor, with my version of the game, still cannot employ the Amulet of Power. That made me reconsider quite a bit of things in terms of party combinations.
So far, I’ve been trying to compensate Keldorn’s lack of immunity to level drain with a very high armor class. It’s worked to a degree but I still feel insecure at times. Sure, the incidents where you meet creatures with level drain abilities in the game is infrequent but when it does happen, you want to be prepared for it. Either way, I was disappointed in this discovery and wanted to figure out a way to compensate. One idea is simply to find an item that provides energy drain protection beyond the Amulet of Power. The problem with that is those items only exist in Throne of Bhaal so you would have to cheat to obtain one.
Obviously, it’s probably bad to base your entire decision for how to play a game just one a single item. This made me think about how to restructure my party with regards to NPCs. I touched a little on the subject of custom vs single player mode. But a lot of my previous decisions for party structure tended to evolve around custom parties with a kensai/mage. Lately, I’ve been getting a little bored with the kensai/mage as being the permanent fixture in my parties and I wanted to see if I could change things around a little.
First, I want to just focus on a single player style (using the multi-player option to allow for import/export). With that as my basis, I wanted to figure out a good party. This time, I will remove the kensai/mage as I just find the leveling process on the mage side to be extremely tedious. You end up being weak for so long and usually you’ll probably focus on getting katanas as your main weapons. But in all honesty, as cool as those katanas are, they really aren’t mandatory weapons in the same way the Holy Avenger truly isn’t a mandatory weapon. There are plenty of options to go from and you don’t even have to be a kensai to employ one. It just seems more natural with the way the game is designed to move in that path.
However, I very much like having a mage/fighter of sorts at the forefront of my party. This does present its own share of issues, especially when traps and melee combat are concerned. But for the most part it’s a nice to have. As I level up my elven fighter/mage/thief, I’m seeing a nice potential party leader that would make a potentially decent substitute for the kensai/mage. One benefit is that I no longer have to worry about Nalia, Imoen nor Jan Jansen as my thieves in an NPC heavy party. Generally, I dislike having Jan Jansen in my party but he’s the only NPC with any long term potential who can level without any limits. Nalia and Imoen only provide a moderate level of thieving capability, with Nalia being at an incredibly low end.
Another thing in taking an elven fighter/mage/thief is that I no longer have to worry about the armor issue. Although there are ways you can reduce a kensai/mage’s armor, you still will be pretty vulnerable throughout the game with little to no options for a while. You can’t even use bracers of defense so leveling can be brutal, especially if that’s your party leader. A fighter/mage/thief will lose the combat bonuses of a kensai/mage but you have more well rounded abilities in being able to employ all armors and shields (especially if you don’t intend to backstab). If you require any thieving capabilities, you just need to remove your armor (which is a pain admittedly but it’s all about planning). Your only downfall is slow level advancement. So you won’t be a powerhouse compared to the rest of your companions; instead, you’ll compensate through items and spells/scrolls, which are fine in truth.
Having a fighter/mage/thief relaxes a great of requirements and provides a lot of flexibility in terms of flavor for a party. I think a good aligned party would have Keldorn, Amoen, Jaheira, Aerie and Nalia/Imoen. You might be slightly melee weak but your items will slowly compensate in the end. You could also replace Aerie with Minsc or Sarevok if you want a more combat heavy party but overall you will have a good sense of balance and an RP rich environment.
Another idea would be to eliminate the mage aspect and just take a fighter/thief multi-class, either using a half-orc or elf. You will face the issue with the Amulet of Power again (what a dumb idea in retrospect) but you will be able to level faster. If you tried dual classing instead, then it’s possible to go with a kensai/thief or berserker/thief. I’ve tried the Wizard Slayer/thief and it’s an interesting combo but you suffer a great deal while leveling as you are prohibited to use various magical items due to your Wizard Slayer kit. Kensai/Thief is something I haven’t tried but I suspect that the Kensai class will prevent most armor from being used. It’s such a huge hindrance that I wouldn’t go for it (I’d have to test it out myself just to see what’s allowed).
Now, a berserker/thief does have some interesting potential. You would be able to use armor while leveling and you probably could just switch over from Shadows of Amn after starting. There’s not a great deal of combat abilities that motivate me in taking a very high level berserker, so leveling would be easier than a multi-class. Later, you would be able to gain the berserker rage ability too so handling Demi-Liches and certain other situations would work out.
Still, this is one of those situations where it’s more of an interesting concept to try rather than a compelling case. I dislike waiting for the “Use Any Item” ability most of all, which tends to be my biggest frustration with thieves and one of my highly regarded aspects for them. But it’s just too much to trudge through that I don’t know if it’s worth it.
Another class that I’ve used in the past as a main/leader for the single party style game play is the Undead Hunter. My last play through included an Undead Hunter but not as my main. Since Keldorn has disappointed me in his lack of ability to use the Amulet of Power, I thought about simply not including him at all. You could get Keldorn in at your discretion but I don’t see any major advantages of bringing in two types of paladins.
In general, paladins simply make excellent tanks and front men. The Undead Hunter is no exception. Since your main in this case is good aligned, a good party combination would be Jaheira, Amoen, Minsc, Aerie and Nalia/Imoen. The real key here is that Minsc to me is the disposable character and would be replaced by Sarevok in the expansion. So again, you can get quite a bit of RP value in this group, probably more so.
Are there any other potential leads? One option is to go with a half-elf ranger/cleric. I really have enjoyed the ranger/cleric combo and it’s one that has become part of my core group. Amoen essentially is the same as a ranger/cleric while having two rangers might feel a little redundant (especially as I become more convinced that Minsc is somewhat useless). Having a ranger/cleric means that you could have Jaheira, Keldorn, Aerie, Nalia/Imoen and one other. Here, you do have a little flexibility for the last position. You could go with Amoen or Minsc. If you go with Amoen, you will end up having a redundant spot with more blunt weapons and healing than you probably need. Minsc can be considered another redundant spot but his purpose is to exchange for Sarevok in Throne of Bhaal. You could make the party more interesting by tossing in Haer Dalis or Jan Jansen. For myself, I don’t really find any of these combos appealing but the idea is here is to spice things up.
Lastly, I considered trying a bard, particularly the Blade Singer. Blade Singers are combat oriented thief/mages, except you’re lacking most useful thief skills and higher level mage spells. Your hit points will be mediocre too. Yet you will be able to do a little of everything. Taking a Blade Singer as your main will leave you slightly melee weak but you won’t suffer on the experience side compared to leveling a fighter/mage or fighter/mage/thief by comparison. This is just for having fun and again trying something different.
At any rate, these are just some ideas to mess around other class/party combos. Give them a try and see how they turn out.