Monday, May 30, 2011

Neverwinter Nights 2 - Original Campaign - Character Creation and Game Quirks



Neverwinter Nights 2 - Original Campaign - Character Creation and Game Quirks

This is one of a series of walkthroughs/hints for Neverwinter Nights 2 (Original Campaign). Click here for a listing of all our guides for Neverwinter Nights 2.

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Character Creation
The maximum XP you can earn in the Original Campaign is 253,000, or level 23. Your level cap is still 20, but this allows all races up to ECL +3 to reach level 20.

If you have the Storm of Zehir expansion, you can manually enable the two Companion races in that campaign: the HagSpawn (ECL +2) and the Half-Celestial (ECL +4). Here's how:
  • Start the NWN2 Editor.
  • Examine 2da files and look for racialsubtypes.2da
  • Find the race entries for the Hagspawn (row 45) and Half-Celestial (row 46).
  • Change the "0" to a "1" under the column "PlayerRace".
  • If you want to play the Hagspawn, you will also need to temporarily change the "BaseRace" entry for the Hagspawn.
    • It is initially set to "13" (Monstrous Humanoid) and therefore won't show up during character creation because there is no racial group for Monstrous Humanoid. Instead, change it to "32" (Gray Orc).
    • After you have created a character and saved the game and exported the character, you will probably want to change the Hagspawn BaseRace back to its original value of 13 (Monstrous Humanoid) because it probably affects how some effects will interact with all Hagspawn in the game.
Note that the Half-Celestial isn't really meant for low-level play since they start with Word of Faith and Summon Planetar once per day. Either of these can wipe out a lot of encounters very quickly. Try not to use any of these powers until the late game in the Original Campaign.

Character Types
Melee-strong characters will have a fairly easy and straightforward time due to the short ranges involved in the game and the AI knowing to rush spellcasters and archers. If you don't feel experienced with the game or just aren't keen on micromanaging, keep the difficulty setting on Normal and choose a melee type character as your main character. It's generally pretty mindless as a melee character, and you might even be able to let the AI handle everything. Even a vanilla Fighter class with no fancy multiclassing will mostly do fine -- although you need to be fairly intelligent about the feats and watch for the AI doing silly things like having your character chase their target, even if they end up running past enemies and giving them several Attacks of Opportunity; or running off to fight far-off battles before you are ready for them; or standing still after a kill instead of immediately heading for the next target.

In the mid- to late game (around level 15+) you will start to encounter a wider variety of spells cast at you, and at that point a party will be more important than the limited options available to a straight warrior. Also, Attack Bonus climbs very quickly and even Armor Classes in the 30's will be hit 50% - 75% or more of the time when you face fighter classes. Having some sort of backup, such as a Stoneskin spell or Concealment from Displacement is absolutely vital to going solo. Arcane casters really shine by then as they can put out literally 100+ points of damage (on a failed saving throw by the target) on several if not all targets with a single spell, assuming they can get the spell off.
Strength-based fighters can output similar damage on a single target, pushing 100 on a critical.
Two-Weapon finesse fighters do less per hit because their lower Strength won't get as much of an advantage from critical damage multiplication and additional magical damage (e.g., 2 Magical Damage from Adamantine weapons, or +2d6 Divine damage from Holy Weapons) are not multiplied on a critical hit. However, they get more chances to trigger effects from weapons, such as Vampiric Regeneration.
An interesting option is to go with a Ranger Two-Weapon Fighting character based on Strength and try to make up the Armor Class shortfall with Dexterity-boosting items.

Character Planning
Probably the best resource for deciding on or planning a character is the NWN2 Character Builder -- It has an interactive online character planner that includes checks for character and feat prerequisites, plus an online database on characters and feats.
If you make your character build public, take criticism with a grain of salt. There are a lot of end-result analysis commentators (i.e., about the level 30 version of the build instead of playability along the way) and character builds which aren't really geared for the campaigns, unless you want to blunder through with poor skills and little or no interaction skills.
You can also use it to plan your Companion progressions. Companions do not normally Multiclass, but you can bypass this with the Feather of Multiclassing mod.

If you don't like going online to do it, you can try the Character Build Calculator (requires Microsoft Excel).

For our play-through of the Neverwinter Nights 2 Original Campaign, we spent quite a bit of time fooling around with the Character Builder, but finally settled on a challenging build with features that interested us -- the Shredding Scythe of the Wind (click here to you can download a summary of the build in Microsoft Excel format).
It has a racial ECL +2 adjustment, so it can be challenging in the early part of the game because of its vulnerability to Critical Hits and just plain chancy rolls in combat. The ECL +2 adjustment slows down level advance a lot as well but this was irrelevant around level 15+.

Our recommendation is to play whatever race, alignment, and class combination you feel will be fun to play. If there aren't exactly enough feats to get the character you want, or if you're the wrong alignment, use the Console to tweak things. If the XP penalties are too harsh, use the Console to bump up your XP or try a ECL Remover mod or Multiclass Penalty Remover mod; or stop after a few levels, Export your character, and restart the campaign at a slightly higher level.
Life is too short to obsess over getting exactly the right build. And it's certainly too time-consuming to re-play a good chunk of the campaign simply because you didn't optimize your schedule of feats.

Game Quirks - Gaining XP
Whatever character you play, you should know that there are a number of quirks around gaining XP:
  • The game checks your XP total (before factoring in a multiclassing penalty) to determine how much XP you get. So, if you are level 4 and have enough XP to advance to level 5, you immediately start earning less XP per kill -- as if you were already level 5. If advancing a level does not increase your character's Challenge Rating (some characters advance more slowly, especially in the early levels), you will suddenly gain more XP per kill again when you take the level, as if you were still level 4.
  • Your ECL adjustment only affects the XP you need to gain a level. The level used to determine XP is the level you would have gained at ECL +0 according to the XP you have earned, before taking into account multiclassing penalties.
  • If you have a multiclassing penalty and your character falls behind the rest of your party in effective character level (ECL), you do not continue to earn a higher amount of XP. For example, if you are level 4 and due to a multiclassing penalty your party of companions has advanced to level 5 but you are still at level 4, you earn XP as if you were level 5.
  • If you have at least one Companion, you get the regular XP. If you have more than one -- no matter how many -- you do NOT get less XP.
  • If your player character is solo or far enough away from the other party members that they are not involved in combat, the game treats your character level as being 1 level less for determining XP -- i.e., You get more XP per kill.
    • You can access the Party Roster from the menu to move party members in and out if you have the Mask of the Betrayer expansion, although some party members (like Bevil and Shandra) are sometimes key to plot points and cannot be removed.
    • Going solo for more XP does NOT work with Companions. When a Companion is far enough away from everyone else, they earn ZERO XP for kills. You cannot therefore put Neeshka on Greater Invisibility and have her wander around for easy kills, even though that is actually a great tactic.
  • In the Original Campaign, most of the time (not all), killing your way through an encounter is worth a little to a lot more in XP than talking your way out of it in the early game.
    • This works up to around the time you get to Neverwinter's Blacklake District. After that, XP per kill tends to drop a lot because of the enemies involved, and the quest XP makes up for the difference.
    • There is generally no long-term consequence to that choice, plus you get more treasure -- a very limited resource in the game until you get to manage Crossroad Keep. A good example is choosing to kill the lizardfolk threatening HighCliff instead of negotiating a peaceful coexistance -- if you fight your way out, not only is there more kill XP but lots of decent treasure along the way.
    • Over time, XP theoretically should catch up as you get more per kill when you are of a lower level.
  • The XP table seems to follow very little rhyme or reason and there are odd entries here and there.

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