On 'Buffing': A Review of Book I's Melee-Related Spells

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On 'Buffing': A Review of Book I's Melee-Related Spells

Post by IJBall »

(Update: Section on Healer spells has now been added, down-thread.)

You know, when push comes to shove, I'm a recent CRPG enthusiast - outside of Ultima III & IV, I didn't really play any CRPGs much for years until I stumbled upon Eschalon: Book I.

As a result, it's interesting what happens when you play a CRPG like Avernum 6 (A6) after playing Eschalon: Book I - playing A6 really opened my eyes as to what spells were supposed to accomplish, esp. in regards to combat play, in Eschalon.

I have to admit: in my previous playthroughs in Book I, I either focused exclusively on offensive spellcasters(-only), or on non-magic-using melee fighters - in the latter cases, I generally just powered on through without the use of any "buffing" (either by spell, or potion).

It wasn't until I encountered difficulty in trying to play Book I with an offensive-spellcasting Healer, and then played A6, that I started to "get" the whole concept of melee-support spells and "buffing".

So my more recent Book I characters have focused on melee-fighting spellcasters (both Healer and Mage).

So, what I'd like to do here is look at, review, and appraise just those spells that work as melee-support or melee-buffing spells. I'm only really going to look at spells that augment offensive-melee skills, so I'm not planning on looking at things like Air Shield, Fire Dart or Fleshboil here.

I'll start by looking at melee-support spells for Mage in the follow-up post.

I'll have get back to melee-support spells for Healers later (update: now added) as it's going to require another playthrough.

But hopefully this will also help set the stage for the beta testers of Book II to take a closer look at spell-balancing.
Last edited by IJBall on May 9th, 2010, 5:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: On 'Buffing': A Review of Book I's Melee-Related Spells

Post by IJBall »

MAGE SPELLS:

Mages have far fewer 'melee-support' spells compared to Healers, probably because Mages are envisioned to be primarily offensive-spellcasting Class, whereas Healers are envisioned as mostly being melee-fighters and defensive-spellcasters.

Despite that, Mages have probably the best melee 'buffing' spell of them all IMHO (see below).

Anyway, let's look at the melee-buffing and melee-support spells for Mages.

Tier One spells (need minimum of ELEMENTAL=Lvl. 1 to cast):

Dancing Lights and Sonic Blast - I'd like to look at these two spells together, because they are most likely to be used for the same reason: when your Mage (or your melee-fighter with Elemental spell ability) gets surrounded by too many, and too tough, 'mobs', and you need to cast a spell to allow you to beat a hasty retreat. Of the two, Sonic Blast serves this purpose well, and Dancing Light mostly fails.

There's two reasons for this:
  • First, Sonic Blast is an Area-of-Effect (AOE) spell, but Dancing Lights can only be cast on one attacker at a time.
  • Second, attackers are much, much more likely to 'save' against Dancing Lights than they are against Sonic Blast. (At least, I think monsters 'save' against Dancing Lights - in fact, Dancing Lights is the only spell I've seen with NO accompanying text in the Narrative Textbox! I'm assuming that's a bug in Book I...)
As a result, I find Dancing Lights to be a really underpowered spell. In fact, of the two spells, I could make an argument that Dancing Lights should be the AOE spell, and Sonic Blast should be the one-attacker-at-a-time spell (because Sonic Blast is the more powerful spell of the two - both immobilizing, and potentially damaging, attackers; while Dancing Lights only causes attackers to flee in terror, and causes no damage).

If I have a complaint about Sonic Blast, it's that I'd like there to be a chance for a longer stun duration. Generally, the 'stun' from this spell lasts 1-3 rounds - it'd be great if on occasion, esp. at higher-level casting, there was a chance it might stun some targets for 4 or even 5 rounds (that would do a better job of facilitating a hasty retreat...). But, overall, this is a good spell, and I wish I'd used it in my earlier playthroughs.

Bottom line: I realize that it's probably too late to make Dancing Lights an AOE spell for Book II. But I hope the Book II Beta Testers look closely at these two spells, especially Dancing Lights, to make certain that they're both balanced properly. Because, right now, Dancing Lights is a nigh on useless spell - seriously underpowered - at least in Book I. Meanwhile, Sonic Blast is probably right where it should be, though I would like a minor chance of the stun to last for a longer duration of turns.

Predator Sight - Great spell for melee-fighting in the dark. Duh! Next!!

Tier Two spells (need minimum of ELEMENTAL=Lvl. 5 to cast):

Chameleon - A good, solid, though unspectacular, defensive melee 'buffing' spell: with it, attackers ToHit numbers go down substantially (attacker ToHit scores appear to decline by 40% with Chameleon in effect). In general, once you've got it, you lose nothing, and gain a fair amount, by casting a Level 1 Chameleon spell just before melee combat - yeah, it only lasts 19-20 rounds, but most melee fights don't last over 20 rounds anyway.

Bottom line: A good spell, as is. If you've got it, I advise using it any time you go into melee-combat, esp. when facing more than one attacker.

Enkindled Weapon - The single best melee-buffing spell there is IMO, because every increased 'level' it's cast at increases the damage any melee weapon (including Unarmed Combat, Bows, and presumably Thrown Weapons like spears!) by +2. IOW, casting Enkindled Weapon at 'Level 6' gives you +12 on your damage! - that allows you to one-hit or two-hit kill almost anything you come across, and we'll even make taking on Tauraxs a lot more manageable.

Bottom line: A great spell. Almost too great - compared to Enchanted Weapon (the Healer spell equivalent), it's way, way more powerful, and I almost think it might be too 'buffed' as it is right now.

Tier Three spell (need minimum of ELEMENTAL=Lvl. 11 to cast):

Invisibility - Like Chameleon, on steroids - in fact, monsters generally won't even attack you when it's in effect, but if they try their ToHit chance is reduced by 90%! Still, it takes a lot of MPs to cast this baby, even at 'Level 1', and at Level 1 casting Invisibility only lasts for 4-5 rounds. It's probably best used as a way to escape too tough monsters when you don't want to fight them. Otherwise, Chameleon does something similar (though, admittedly, not as well...), costs fewer MPs, and lasts 4x longer...

Bottom line: Great choice when you need to beat a hasty retreat. But it's an MP hog, and unless you're going up against Tauraxs or something, you can probably use Chameleon just as well (for fewer MPs, and longer duration) for defensive melee 'buffing'.

Bottom line on Mage 'Buffing' Spells: Some may have other ideas, but for my money Enkindled Weapon is the single best spell 'buff' there is - it's so powerful, in fact, that for balancing reasons it should maybe be cut down to +1 Damage per casting level instead of +2 Damage per casting level. And Predator Sight is an awesome melee 'buff' for night/darkness fighting.

Beyond those, Chameleon and Sonic Blast are quite decent 'buffs'; Invisibility has its uses; and Dancing Lights basically is ineffective.
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Re: On 'Buffing': A Review of Book I's Melee-Related Spells

Post by CrazyBernie »

Ahh, the "support class" of spells... the "buffs" and "debuffs." They don't directly deal damage, nor do they heal it... but in the traditional RPG sense, they can make or break your combat.

With Eschalon, I don't see buffs as incredibly useful spells, which is likely why you never messed around with them. Being support-type spells. they're usually something that's more geared towards party-type RPG's. I.E. Reason being is if you're planning on having a melee based character use support spells to buff his damage/defense, the amount of stat/skill points you pour into enabling the effect of use of the buffs may have been better spent on your Str/End/Dex/Weapon Skills.

In a party based RPG, you can have your straight Warrior class who's a lean, mean, chopping machine, and your Priest class can buff the crap out of him to turn him into a nasty tank/damage dealer. On top of that, the Priest is slinging spells at the Rogue, making him/her that much more effective at those heavy hitting backstabs. So I suppose specializing works just as well in a party RPG as it does in a solo RPG. :mrgreen:

**** After typing all the above (and more, actually) and clicking the "preview" button, I saw that you already had a response for your own post... >.< Rather than starting over, I'll leave it and remark on some of your points. ****

On Dancing Lights/Sonic Blast:

I think "crowd controll" spells can be the hardest to balance, since you're doing more than just damage or stat boosting. Since I generally avoid playing spellcasters, I can't directly comment on whether a spell is over/under-powered. But I can say Dancing Lights is similar to it's D&D counterpart, Prismatic Spray, as well as the Sleep spell. Both are spells that have far less useful effects @ higher levels and are generally abandoned early on. Perhaps Dancing Lights could be scaled up a little more, and Sonic Blast should be a higher Tier spell since it is much more effective... then one could allow for that "spell crit chance" that you're referring to. Or, Sonic Blast could be converted to a directional/conical spell, rather than a full-on aoe. Then "Sonic Boom" could be introduced as a Tier 3, full AOE replacement... :mrgreen:
IJBall wrote:Bottom line on Mage 'Buffing' Spells: Some may have other ideas, but for my money Enkindled Weapon is the single best spell 'buff' there is - it's so powerful, in fact, that for balancing reasons it should maybe be cut down to +1 Damage per casting level instead of +2 Damage per casting level.
I respectfully disagree... What good is extra damage if you miss? Unless you spent a lot of points on your melee skill and related stats, all that extra damage won't mean much. Chances are that if you're casting a Level 6 Enkindle Weapon, you skimped out somewhere on your melee abilities. I see Enkindled Weapon as either a last resort for a cornered spellcaster who's low on mana and has a halfway decent melee skill, or as a late-game buff for quickly dispatching a group of lower level enemies.

Enkindled Weapon is easily eclipsed by Haste. Not only are you potentially doing double the damage (and triple or quadruple in the rare event of a crit), but you are 100% increasing your chance to hit should you choose to strike twice in a round. OR, you can hit and then move (an absolutely deadly combination against other melee enemies, and a strategic boon against groups)... OR, you can hit and cast a spell... OR, cast two spells (Invisibility AND Enkindled Weapon! 0_o), OR, cast and move... OR, you can turn tail and run with virtually no chance of being caught. Haste is also effective at all levels, since only the duration is affected. Haste, IMHO, is the single most powerful spell in the game (nevermind just a buff), because it turns your one character into two. :twisted:
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Re: On 'Buffing': A Review of Book I's Melee-Related Spells

Post by BasiliskWrangler »

Basilisk Games Responds...
Having IJBall examine your game is like having your mother over to your house and worrying that your cleaning isn't up to her standards! :lol:

Honestly, I haven't played Book I in many, many months and so I forget most of the spell settings. In Book II, every spell has been re-examined and tweaked- many of these tweaks were made just recently in anticipation of the beta. And so, my response will be regarding the spell effects in Book II for now.

Dancing Lights and Sonic Blast. Dancing Lights has a new name in Book II, called "Sparkling Wonder". The system does perform a Save vs. Magick properly in Book II when casting Sparkling Wonder (it looks like a bug prevents that from displaying in Book I).

Sonic Blast only effects nearby creatures, while Sparkling Wonder can tag someone from a full screen away. Sonic Blast is designed to be a combative spell while Sparkling Wonder is a "utility spell", so your comparisons don't always equate evenly...

Sparkling Wonder can be an amazing spell in some circumstances. You can scare creatures and NPCs away from an area and not get charged with a crime so it's great for rogues or players looking to have a minimal kill ratio. It can be used to separate packs of creatures: Don't want to fight 3 rats at a time? Scare two away, then kill the third one-on-one. With Sonic Blast lasting only a couple rounds, it's not always a huge combat advantage in a crowd.

Enkindled vs. Enchanted Weapon These spells haven't changed much since Book I, but they have been tweaked. Enkindled weapons produce 2-12 points of fire damage to a target. This is applied after physical damage, and depending on the target's Saving Throw vs. Elements you may or may not inflict that additional damage- many Book II creatures have a sizable element resistance score. This fire damage also does not effect ethereal creatures unless your weapon produces plus damage as well, which brings us to...

Enchanted Weapon gives a GUARANTEED +2 damage to every hit that makes contact with your target, no saving throw made! In addition, it makes a normal weapon effective against ethereal creatures. In some dungeons, this one benefit can make all the difference in the world. Note that Enkindled and Enchanted boosts can be applied together for that extra, extra punch.

In summery: each spell has some level of benefit to specific character builds. I am always ready to tweak the existing spells to balance them better. And I'll repeat: my response generally reflects what I know of in Book II. IJBall has made his comparisons using Book I, of which he is probably more of an expert at than I am. :D
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Re: On 'Buffing': A Review of Book I's Melee-Related Spells

Post by IJBall »

CrazyBernie wrote:Ahh, the "support class" of spells... the "buffs" and "debuffs." They don't directly deal damage, nor do they heal it... but in the traditional RPG sense, they can make or break your combat.

With Eschalon, I don't see buffs as incredibly useful spells, which is likely why you never messed around with them.

Absolutely agreed. You can easily get through Book I without any 'buffing' (the one exception being if you're going for Destroyer - then you're gonna need buffs!!).

But I wanted to revisit this issue before going into Book II, as I suspect Book II is going to require more buffing.

(And, in this vein, there's one Mage "Protection" spell that I didn't even look at: and that's Element Armor - and that's because, unless I've missed something, there's really no 'mob' in Book I that it's even useful for, so there's no easy way to test it out!..)
CrazyBernie wrote:On Dancing Lights/Sonic Blast:

...Perhaps Dancing Lights could be scaled up a little more, and Sonic Blast should be a higher Tier spell since it is much more effective... then one could allow for that "spell crit chance" that you're referring to. Or, Sonic Blast could be converted to a directional/conical spell, rather than a full-on aoe. Then "Sonic Boom" could be introduced as a Tier 3, full AOE replacement... :mrgreen:

That's a really cool idea, actually. :)
CrazyBernie wrote:
IJBall wrote:Bottom line on Mage 'Buffing' Spells: Some may have other ideas, but for my money Enkindled Weapon is the single best spell 'buff' there is - it's so powerful, in fact, that for balancing reasons it should maybe be cut down to +1 Damage per casting level instead of +2 Damage per casting level.
I respectfully disagree... What good is extra damage if you miss? Unless you spent a lot of points on your melee skill and related stats, all that extra damage won't mean much. Chances are that if you're casting a Level 6 Enkindle Weapon, you skimped out somewhere on your melee abilities. I see Enkindled Weapon as either a last resort for a cornered spellcaster who's low on mana and has a halfway decent melee skill, or as a late-game buff for quickly dispatching a group of lower level enemies.

Enkindled Weapon is easily eclipsed by Haste. Not only are you potentially doing double the damage (and triple or quadruple in the rare event of a crit), but you are 100% increasing your chance to hit should you choose to strike twice in a round. OR, you can hit and then move (an absolutely deadly combination against other melee enemies, and a strategic boon against groups)... OR, you can hit and cast a spell... OR, cast two spells (Invisibility AND Enkindled Weapon! 0_o), OR, cast and move... OR, you can turn tail and run with virtually no chance of being caught. Haste is also effective at all levels, since only the duration is affected. Haste, IMHO, is the single most powerful spell in the game (nevermind just a buff), because it turns your one character into two. :twisted:
Oh, I knew someone would disagree with me on this one. :mrgreen:

And, I suspect if you asked BW directly, as well as many people on this board, they'd also list Haste as their #1 'buffing' choice.

From my personal standpoint, the ability to one-hit-kill something outweighs the ability to do two things in a melee turn.

Now you make a very good case for Haste's various benefits (and, I admit - I haven't looked too closely at Haste yet, as that's going to have to wait for my second melee-fighting Healer playthrough! ;) ).

But, if you gave me the choice - I'll generally prefer the one-hit-kill ability over almost anything else.

Also, something I left out of my Enkindled Weapon discussion is it's obvious use in concert with Bless (which I will also discuss when I get to Healer spells), which at least partly gets at your "what good is mega-damage if you can't hit anything!?!" point.

But Enkindled Weapon combined with Bless (and possibly Chameleon) is pretty much your ultimate Mage spell buff option, and it'll do you real good in most situations you'll come across, at least in Book I. :twisted:
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Re: On 'Buffing': A Review of Book I's Melee-Related Spells

Post by IJBall »

BasiliskWrangler wrote:Basilisk Games Responds...
Having IJBall examine your game is like having your mother over to your house and worrying that your cleaning isn't up to her standards! :lol:
Gosh, I hope it's not like that!! :shock:

Seriously - I think you're game is so good, that I like messing around with the mechanics of it.

And, besides - I'm thinking it'll be good practice for Book II! :D
BasiliskWrangler wrote:Honestly, I haven't played Book I in many, many months and so I forget most of the spell settings. In Book II, every spell has been re-examined and tweaked- many of these tweaks were made just recently in anticipation of the beta. And so, my response will be regarding the spell effects in Book II for now.

Dancing Lights and Sonic Blast. Dancing Lights has a new name in Book II, called "Sparkling Wonder". The system does perform a Save vs. Magick properly in Book II when casting Sparkling Wonder (it looks like a bug prevents that from displaying in Book I).

Cool. Hopefully that'll help.

I think my concern with Dancing Lights in Book I was maybe similar to the concern I had about upper-level offensive Healer spells - and that is, in Book I, everything from mid-level mobs on up are too good at Saving vs. Magic (as opposed to Elements), which means they save most of the time against these spells, and thus when you really needed to use something like Dancing Lights on a higher level attacker, it would inevitably fail, rendering it useless... :(

I mean, let's face it - you probably don't need Dancing Lights going up against the Fanged Salamanders! But even against Noximanders when I tested it, Dancing Lights was pretty much not working on them, and it's those kinds of beast-ies (or even something worse like a Taurax) where I really need a spell like this to come through.
BasiliskWrangler wrote:Sonic Blast only effects nearby creatures, while Sparkling Wonder can tag someone from a full screen away. Sonic Blast is designed to be a combative spell while Sparkling Wonder is a "utility spell", so your comparisons don't always equate evenly...

Sparkling Wonder can be an amazing spell in some circumstances. You can scare creatures and NPCs away from an area and not get charged with a crime so it's great for rogues or players looking to have a minimal kill ratio. It can be used to separate packs of creatures: Don't want to fight 3 rats at a time? Scare two away, then kill the third one-on-one. With Sonic Blast lasting only a couple rounds, it's not always a huge combat advantage in a crowd.

I hadn't considered the long-range vs. short-range differences between these two spells - that's an interesting point.

And your point about Rogues using Dancing Light/Sparkling Wonder on NPCs is an awesome point - that would potentially make it extremely useful as a Rogue 'buffing' spell. That's hecka cool! :twisted:
BasiliskWrangler wrote:Enkindled vs. Enchanted Weapon These spells haven't changed much since Book I, but they have been tweaked. Enkindled weapons produce 2-12 points of fire damage to a target. This is applied after physical damage, and depending on the target's Saving Throw vs. Elements you may or may not inflict that additional damage- many Book II creatures have a sizable element resistance score. This fire damage also does not effect ethereal creatures unless your weapon produces plus damage as well, which brings us to...

Enchanted Weapon gives a GUARANTEED +2 damage to every hit that makes contact with your target, no saving throw made! In addition, it makes a normal weapon effective against ethereal creatures. In some dungeons, this one benefit can make all the difference in the world. Note that Enkindled and Enchanted boosts can be applied together for that extra, extra punch.

In summery: each spell has some level of benefit to specific character builds. I am always ready to tweak the existing spells to balance them better. And I'll repeat: my response generally reflects what I know of in Book II. IJBall has made his comparisons using Book I, of which he is probably more of an expert at than I am. :D
Interesting...

On the first point, making Enkindled Weapon a Save vs. Fire(Elemental) roll would definitely go a long ways towards "balancing" that spell IMHO. In Book I, I don't think I ever saw any mob I used Enkindled Weapon on 'save versus' its damage (not even Tauraxs seem to 'save' against it), so it was a heck of a powerful spell. But if Book II, modifies the spell this way, I think it will go a long way of still making it useful, but maybe not too powerful.

I think I knew about some of what you say about Enchanted Weapon, though the point about it allowing you to attack Poltergeists and such without having an pre-Imbued Weapon is something I hadn't considered before.

And, actually, I had tested using both Enkindled and Enchanted Weapons together before. In fact, I was worried that combining them may make them too powerful (maybe only one's damage should count at any one time?...), though I'll probably explore that issue a little more later on.

Anyway, I'm just throwing this all out here, in hope that the Beta Testers will consider some of these issues when they test Book II... :mrgreen:
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Re: On 'Buffing': A Review of Book I's Melee-Related Spells

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Referring to element armor, the only enemies in book I it was directly helpful against were Gramuk and the mages in the tower, especially Erubor, but technically speaking each one is physically weak and fighting any of them is optional, some "more optional" than the other.

HOWEVER I found element armor combined with demon oil II or III (or incinerator fuel if your feeling frisky :mrgreen: ) to be VERY helpful in one of my playthroughs when going for destroyer. Basically cast element armor, throw demon oil stand in the center of the fire and rain mid to long range destruction upon your hapless and helpless foes!

Admittedly this is not better than hiding behind a demon oil flame wall in a hallway or other funnel like area but element armor is handy in a pinch. This is another situation where Haste would be very beneficial, Enkindled weapon too, though you'd think that would happen anyway what with standing in fire and all, at least for your arrows.

Essentially:
element armor + demon oil II or greater + mid to long range attack = WAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!
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Re: On 'Buffing': A Review of Book I's Melee-Related Spells

Post by erikrick »

Oh my, I am so glad I finnally signed up for the forum. I am only recently learning the joys of extensive use of Demon Oil. I hadn't even thought about using it as a wall to shoot from behind/in.


[quote="CrazyBernie"]
With Eschalon, I don't see buffs as incredibly useful spells, which is likely why you never messed around with them. Being support-type spells. they're usually something that's more geared towards party-type RPG's. I.E. Reason being is if you're planning on having a melee based character use support spells to buff his damage/defense, the amount of stat/skill points you pour into enabling the effect of use of the buffs may have been better spent on your Str/End/Dex/Weapon Skills.

[quote="IJBall"]

I respectfully disagree as far as the buyable level 5 goes. I am currently working through the game with a "dumb as a box of rocks" melee character who is only level 5 in divination because he paid for every level in gold. That allows me to have Cat's Eye or Predator Sight going in the dungeons for a while and having a level 3 Bless and a Level 3 Leather-skin in place can be the difference between a win and a loss. Now I only have 36 MP, so it isn't like using flesh-boil makes sense, but as a melee based character with only the gold gotten levels of divination I love my buffs. That means i didnt have to invest ANY points in my magic, just 1500GP for the levels and the gold for the spells themselves. You and I both know that isn't THAT much gold once you get rolling.

On a side note, this lets me ID most items with Lore too.
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Re: On 'Buffing': A Review of Book I's Melee-Related Spells

Post by IJBall »

I decided I needed to get this out, before the release of Book II, even though I'm not totally sure I feel like this is quite "done". Anyway...

HEALER SPELLS:

While Mages have plenty more "offensive" spells, you hit the 'Mother Lode' with Healers and 'melee-support' or 'buffing' spells. Healers have over half-a-dozen of these 'buffing' spells. Which means, even on their own, Healers become pretty darn good melee fighters, once you get to 'mid-level spell casting' (provided you collect enough gold or loot along the way to pay for/pick up the more expensive Tier Two Healer 'buffing' spells...).

Meanwhile, adding pretty high Divination skill to a pure Fighter-build character would make for a nearly unstoppable combination...

So, let's look at the melee-buffing and melee-support spells for Healers and Divination Magic.

Tier One spells (need minimum of DIVINATION=Lvl. 1 to cast):

Cat's Eyes - The Healer equivalent, though inferior version, of Mages' Predator Sight spell: this spell is decent, as it allows your character to see in the dark without aid of outside illumination, and allows you to melee-fight in the dark (though with a 'partial darkness' ToHit penalty). This is actually a good choice for 'Hide in Shadow'-loving Rogues, as well.

The two issues with this spell are:
  • First, the partial darkness penalty, and
  • Second, the spell's limited viewing range means it will not work (well) with ranged-weapon attacks like Bows (for ranged-fighting in the dark, you have to get Predator Sight instead...).
A Note, though: I think the 'partial darkness' penalty assessed to Cat's Eyes is buggy in Book I. When using it in the Whistling Cave, I noticed that sometimes the penalty was assessed, and sometimes it wasn't, even when standing in the same spot but fighting mobs coming at me from different directions. IOW, I think the penalty failed to be assessed sometimes, and I don't think it had a thing to do with 'background illumination' or or anything like that...

Bottom line: A good, easy, early "get" of a spell - there's no downside to getting it, really.

Bless - The A#1 'buffing' spell in the whole game, AFAIAC. Note: I'm not saying that it's the "best" 'buffing' spell, just that it's the #1 Go-To "utility" 'offensive buffing' spell in the game. In fact, I've lately taken to making nearly all of my melee-fighting characters Virtuous axiom at character creation, just so I can get the free Level 1 Bless spell (granting a +3% ToHit/+1 Damage bonus) at the game's start.

Why is Bless the A#1 utility 'buffing' spell? Because getting the +3% ToHit/+1 Damage bonus for every Level that Bless is cast in makes it pretty much the Go-To melee 'buff'. Even if I were to do no other buffing before going into melee-combat (e.g. say, when taking on a relatively low-level 'mob'), I'll still generally cast the Bless spell, because the increased ToHit & Damage bonuses will inevitably make melee-combat go more quickly (in some cases, just casting the Bless spell will allow you to One-Hit-Kill lower-level monsters).

Even better? - Bless "stacks" well with other 'buffing' spells (see below).

Bless is basically my favorite spell in the whole game! :)

Bottom line: My advice? If you're a melee-fighter, and you get no other spells, at least get the Bless spell. It's probably the most useful 'buff' in the whole game. (Also, consider choosing Virtuous axiom when creating a melee-fighting character, just for the free Level 1 Bless spell at game's start...)

Leatherskin - A decent 'defensive buffing' spell for melee combat: every Level cast in Leatherskin raises your Armor Rating by +1, which AFAICT, lowers attackers ToHit score by about 2%. (Leatherskin should also reduce attackers' Damage scores, but I haven't figured out the details on how that works...)

Bottom line: As a Tier One spell, it's pretty easy to get (and pretty "cheap" in terms of MPs), so I'd advise getting it, as it's a decent buff for defense...

Entangle - Another solid 'defensive buff', and Healers' Go-To choice when you need to beat a hasty retreat from any situation where you're in over your head. This spell prevents most monsters from moving for 4 turns (per casting Level), which is pretty good for either slicing away at an immobile target, or getting the heck out of there!!

I have noticed some issues with this spell, though.
  • Firstly, from a usefulness standpoint, it fails to work at all against very powerful monsters (e.g. Tauraxes, Giants), which limits its effectiveness...
  • Secondly, I have to say, this is pretty much one of only two graphical elements in the entire Eschalon: Book I game that I found to be somewhat disappointing (the other one being the effect for the Dancing Lights spell) - I'm not sure what I expected, but Entangle basically looks like nothing more than a 'graphic of a bush' over-layed on top of the monster graphic.
  • And, thirdly, I think the implementation of this spell is buggy in Book I - sometimes, monsters and thugs kept "walking"/moving when Entangled, while other times they seem frozen; also, sometimes Thugs were still able to attack adjacent grids when Entangled, while other times they seemed totally unable to attack: I'm guessing these different responses were not BW's intent with this spell.
Bottom line: A decent spell to use when you need to immobilize a monster and escape. But at close range (i.e. when in an adjacent square), it seems buggy, sometimes failing to prevent mobs from attacking my character, so I tended not to use it as a straight defensive melee 'buff'.

Poison Spray - OK, it's not really a "melee buffing spell", but I wanted to test it and talk about it here anyway. First off, it's Tier One spell that costs as much gold/$$$ as a Tier Two spell?! - Uh, why?!!

Also, Poison Spray confuses me a little. I cast it once (at Level 2) on an Acid Grubb, and the Grubb was successfully "poisoned"; I then cast it again on the Grubb (now cast at Level 6), and now I'm informed that the Grubb's "mortally poisoned". What's the difference? - Does just regular "poisoning" mean that the poisoning will eventually wear off, while being "mortally poisoned" means that it won't wear off until the affected is dead? (I think that's what I've seen with my own character...)

Anyway, I'm not sure how useful it is as a spell. It seems geared more towards Hide In Shadows (i.e. Roguish) characters - characters who don't want to engage in direct melee-fighting. But for higher level monsters, killing mobs via Poison Spray is going to involve 'passing' a lot of turns, and there doesn't seem to be any way to increase the HP 'decay rate' of poisoned mobs (i.e. casting Poison Spray on a target multiple times, or at a higher casting level, does not seem to increase the HP 'drain' rate, AFAICT...). Which might be fine - if it didn't cost as much as a Tier 2 spell, and was available before Blackwater!!

Bottom line: I'd use this spell if I was a Roguish character trying to avoid direct melee-combat. But I don't see too much use for this spell outside of that. And it's expensive (in terms of gold).

Tier Two spells (need minimum of DIVINATION=Lvl. 5 to cast):

Enchanted Weapon - There's already been some discussion about this spell in this thread, and its differences versus Mages' Enkindled Weapon spell.

Suffice it to say, against "regular" monsters, it's a decent enough 'buff', adding +2 to Damage rolls. Note: This spell also works on ranged-weapons like Bows, etc., and even on Unarmed Combat! (An added benefit of this spell is that it only needs to be cast at Level 1, costing just 6 MPs, because increasing spell casting-level only increases the spell's duration (not its capacity to damage), and 30 rounds at Level One is usually long enough for most melee-encounters - so it's a MP-"cheap" spell...)

As BW pointed out above, though, Enchanted Weapon's real selling point is that it allows you to attack "ethereal" creatures (e.g. Poltergeists) without needing to have an already magical or imbued weapon. This is of only limited appeal in Book I (as you don't come across Poltergeists all that often!), but I suspect it will be of increased importance in Book II...

And it 'stacks' with Enkindled Weapon (which, from a gameplay standpoint, I'm not sure is a "good" thing...).

Bottom line: A good, solid (relatively "cheap", in terms of MPs) offensive 'buffing' spell, but a spell whose utility massively increases when going up against "ethereal" creatures in combat.

Haste - What many consider to be the best 'buffing' spell in the whole game (e.g. see CrazyBernie in this very thread!). And, don't get me wrong - I can see why many people feel that way!: it's a great spell 'buff'.

Casting Haste just at Level 2 (MP cost=12) gives eight turns of two-(combat)-rounds-per-turn - that's pretty darn good, as you can settle up most combat situations pretty well in those eight turns.

And, in addition to giving you two attacks per turn, Haste also appears to raise your Armor Rating by +2.5 per casting level, because being 'Hasted' just makes you harder to hit in general, I guess.

Thus, it seems like mobs' ToHit rolls are reduced by 10% of their initial value for every Level cast in Haste - e.g. if a mob's initial Hit is 50%, casting Level 1 in Haste on your character will reduce the mob's ToHit score to 45% (which is a 10% reduction in the original 50% ToHit score). So casting Haste at Level 6 should reduce attackers' ToHit rolls by 60%! - that's darned impressive as a 'defensive' buff!

Bottom line: Haste is most people's "favorite" 'buffing' spell, I think. As Crazy Bernie points out above, having two moves or attacks "per turn" gives you a lot of options. It's also a great 'buff' in defensive terms as well. In short, Haste is a really, really good 'buffing' choice, and can really help you out when you're in a 'jam' - either allowing you to end a melee quicker, or to just plum run away! It's also, in my estimation, pretty "cheap" in MP terms. If you can get it, get it.

Nimbleness - Another decent 'buffing' spell that works for both offensive and defensive melee-combat 'buffing' purposes (and will also help slightly with Lock Picking & Skulduggery) - it raises your DEX +5 per casting level.

As with Leatherskin, every Level cast in Nimbleness raises your Armor Rating by +1, which AFAICT, lowers attackers ToHit score by about 2%. (And, Nimbleness and a spell like Leatherskin "stack" together to doubly increase Armor Ratings and reduce attackers' ToHit scores!!)

Meanwhile, Nimbleness increases your own ToHit score by +3% per casting level, boosting your offensive capabilities. (And Nimbleness and Bless will "stack" together to doubly improve your offensive ToHit scores as well!)

The one area where this spell disappointed me was on the Lock Picking & Skulduggery end - it is only mediocre at boosting Lock Picking & Skulduggery chances. Essentially, every level cast in Nimbleness only increases your Lock Picking & Skulduggery chances by a measly +1% - to me, that seems underpowered. (I think it's should be more like a +2% Lock Picking/Skulduggery boost per Level in Nimbleness (or per +5 in Dexterity)...)

Bottom line: For purely defensive 'buffing', you're better off with Leatherskin (as Leatherskin is "cheaper" in MP-terms). OTOH, you get more "bang for your buck" with Nimbleness, as it doesn't just improve your defensive stats but also improves your offensive ToHit score as well - this makes Nimbleness the better 'all around' choice. Bonus: Nimbleness improves Lock Picking & Skulduggery skills, but only slightly (which renders using this spell for these purpose mostly ineffective and rather "expensive" in MP-terms...).

Ogre Strength - An offensive buffing spell that raises your STR +5 per casting level. This really only achieves two goals: 1) It will boost your MaxDamage stat by +1 per casting level, and 2) it will allow your character to carry much more 'loot' at any one time, which can be useful if you want to avoid encumbrance issues sometimes.

Bottom line: An OK offensive 'buff', and sometime "utility" spell. But I suspect it's not a 'buff' that's needed too often - mostly only against mobs with unusually high HP-scores...

Stoneskin - A defensive 'buff' that's like Leatherskin on steroids; in fact, it's actually MP cheaper than Leatherskin (see below).

Here's how it works:
  • Casting Stoneskin at Level 1 boosts your Armor rating by +7! That's a huge boost in your armor rating, reducing mobs' ToHit scores by 14%! Even better - casting Stoneskin at Level 1 (MP cost=6, Armor Rating=+7) does a better job even than casting Leatherskin at Level 6 (MP cost=12, Armor Rating=+6), AND it's MP cheaper!
  • For all additional Levels cast in Stoneskin (i.e. Levels 2-6), the spell works just the same as Leatherskin - boosting Armor ratings by an additional +1, and reducing mobs' ToHit scores by 2% (e.g. Level 2 in Stoneskin achieves - Armor Rating=+8; enemy's ToHit=-16%). Thus, beyond Level 1, Stoneskin isn't as much of a good "deal" anymore.
Bottom Line: It's actually a better (e.g. MP cheaper) defensive 'buff' than Leatherskin. Though, of course, it's harder to get a hold of and/or more expensive than Leatherskin.

Charm - Charm is an interesting spell. It's all, by my reckoning, the hardest spell to get a hold of in the whole game! - no vendor permanently stocks the Charm spell scroll (or Mages' Chameleon spell scroll, for that matter), and the "random stocking" of the Charm spell with any vendor is quite, quite low. This frankly handicaps the usefulness of the Charm spell, as it is quite possible to play through Book I multiple times without ever setting eyes on a Charm spell scroll.

Anyway, the spell works like it sounds - if a mob fails to save against the spell, it is 'Charmed' and will now fight on your side against any mobs that are attacking you for the duration that the spell lasts.

An added (important) bonus of this spell is that you can cast it on NPCs who are "mad" at your character (e.g. NPCs who have witnessed you commit a crime, etc.), and they will permanently "forgive" you once they are successfully 'charmed'.

Casting Charm at different levels will determine the 'level' of mob you are able to 'Charm' - e.g. Thugs will only be 'charmed' by a Charm spell cast at Level 4 or above (though they can still 'Save' vs. Magick even for Charm spells cast at Level 4 or above); unfortunately, I haven't been able to extensively test this spell, so I'm not sure at what level Charm needs to be cast at to work on lower-level monsters.

Which brings up the other issue with Charmed: certain "powerful" monsters like Barrean Mercenaries and Tauraxes(?) cannot be Charmed no matter what the spell's casting level! This, too, seems to limit the spell's utility to me, because, if I'm going to use a spell like this, it's actually most important to me that it work on Barrean Mercenaries and Tauraxes, et al.!!

Bottom line: A potentially fun spell, that could get you out of a jam, though the scarcity of its scroll, and its failure to work on perhaps the most inviting (high-level) mobs, limits its appeal to me.

Tier Three spell (need minimum of DIVINATION=Lvl. 11 to cast):

(Actually, none of the Tier Three Healer spells can really be considered a "melee buff", though Dehex might qualify I suppose. Anyway, I discuss a couple of these spells in my previous post here...)

Bottom line on Healer 'Buffing' Spells: Healers have the Motherlode of 'buffing' spells.

Of all of them, the "Must Have" spells in this authors opinion Bless (the most important of all, IMHO), Nimbleness, Haste, Enchanted Weapon, and Stoneskin. The other Healer 'buffing' spells are OK to nice, but the 5 Healer spells listed here are the best, most useful, and most important of the lot. With these 5 spells, you can turn even your 10-pound weakling Healer, into a melee-fighting killing machine!
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Re: On 'Buffing': A Review of Book I's Melee-Related Spells

Post by Unclever title »

Nice work again, as usual, IJBall. :mrgreen:

Pretty much the only complaint I've had with Cat's Eyes (can't recall whether I actually posted this before or not) is that while it conveniently extends the range of the torch/lantern you are carrying or the Gravedigger's flame spell you had cast it does NOT extend the range of other sources of light such as ensconced torches on the walls or light filtering into a cave through a hole in a wall or a crack in the implied ceiling.

Considering the spell makes your character's eyes more sensitive to light it should extend to all sources of light and not just light that the player caused.

Granted I understand how that can be a programming challenge.
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