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Guide: Experience and you

Discussion in 'Icewind Dale 2' started by Sir Rechet, Dec 6, 2014.

  1. Sir Rechet

    Sir Rechet I speak maths and logic, not stupid Veteran

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    Reading through the Experience challenge thread, I noticed it contains a lot of contradictory information so I guess it's time to gather it all into one place.

    Disclaimer
    This guide is about maximizing your experience points total. While related to powergaming, it's not the same thing. Some of the stunts presented herein are directly opposed to doing things the "easy" way, and must be seen as methods of gaming the experience system rather than reaching for power. Refer to your favourite party building guide/walkthrough if getting through the game as easily as possible is your goal.

    The definitive guide to experience, and how to do it
    Such a simple question, such a complex answer. "How many experience points can you get in a normal playthrough?" Due to the dynamic exp system, it can only be summarized as "it depends". Things were so much easier back when every monster had a fixed kill exp value, you just needed a list of them plus whatever quest experience you might get and you were done. Not so much in Icewind Dale II, or any game based on the dynamic exp system in 3ed Dungeons and Dragons.

    However, it doesn't mean you can't game the system, even if we're ignoring downright exploits such as level squatting and killing infinite spawns.

    Related reading (for those interested in reasoning and research behind):
    Powergaming guide JUPP
    Monster spawns as a function of party's level
    Unified experience theory
    A proposal for standard rules

    General guidelines (the TLDR version)
    Whenever possible, you should see to that you...
    - Kill mobs first, cash in quests later rather than the other way around. Or, if you're at high party level, sneak past mobs to spawn maps with more monsters and come for them later.
    - Make sure to avoid having your party's ECL penalties total to a full integer on the average, even more so if you're starting with full six man party. Specifically, however tempting it sounds to avoid ECL penalties altogether, it actually HURTS your exp gain compared to having one character with ECL.
    - Start with less than six characters and add the remaining later on. This is the better option both in terms of powergaming AND experience gain, although starting solo or duo is a bit on the difficult side.

    Ok I'm still reading, hit me with the specifics.
    Based on the knowledge about the monster spawns available in the game, here's how you milk every ounce of exp available in it.

    Prologue
    - Start solo with a character that can sneak and/or go invisible. Any Deep Gnome variant works here.
    - Heal Reig yourself, if you can. (Quest is disabled once you give him the healing potion.)
    - Complete all the quests in the Palisade before the big assault. Inspiring the recruits requires CHA, blessing them requires a cleric.
    - Skip all of the following quests for later: Everything related to the Temple pavilion and the Inn, everything involving the Kerdos family, the game for Wolf charm.

    Chapter One
    - Complete ONLY the following quests in Shaengarne, leave rest for later: Free Dereth, Free Dereth's home, Unveil Vrek's plan, Destroy the dam (can't be skipped), Retake the bridge. Note: Do not speak with Kaitlin at all yet, you get quest credit for her anyway.
    - You should be at or close to level 8 by now. Sneak into the Horde Fortress courtyard by killing Trugnuk (and ONLY him) and getting his key, feeding Pondmuk with spiders and using the password. Push through the warded entrance into the courtyard once you've hit level 8 (average party level in this guide) and return to the warrens.
    - Add a new character and kill everything in the entire fortress, save for Yquog and the Dekanter goblins. The inside of the fortress should be tackled at level six or eight to match with the spawns there.
    - Complete Yquog's quest chain and kill the Dekanter goblins and their guardians, but NOT Yquog himself.
    - Backtrack and complete all the quests you've saved for later. Start with quests involving non-essential NPCs and kill them directly afterwards: Dereth, Sabrina and Emma, who can be found with some backup in the Highland Pass once you've angered her first. Remember that Kaitlin, Dereth and Sabrina need to be alive to complete Emma's quest with maximum award.
    - Expected experience point total: 157 k, give or take depending on how many Goblin Worg riders were spawned in the Fortress.
    - Be sure to bring a non-magical, metallic weapon with you into Chapter Two. Standard longsword works.

    Chapter Two
    - Make sure you are the one that wakes up Oswald, lest you miss 1900 quest exp.
    - Kill everything in the first map (except for Beodaewn) to unlock quest completion later but do NOT cash in quests yet. Do NOT intimidate your way through Andora, you want to get the kill exp for Odea yourself.
    - All of the quests that CAN be postponed from now on SHOULD be postponed. See here for details.
    - Kill everything outside the Ice Temple (including trolls and golems), except for one of the Remorhaz which you lead to the Queen.
    - Prepare for a no-rest slaughter. You need to clear the whole left side of the first level of Ice Temple in a wide radius around the Abishai so that freeing them won't result into missed kills later on. Lead Caithin to the cleared area (she follows an invisible character without support) and kill her. Leave Lysara last as the dialogue with her gives exp.
    - Free Nathaniel and the slaves. You should have reached level 12 by now.
    - Sneak into the lower level and complete a single Rank 1 level of Battlesquares for the key, clearing it of mobs if necessary. Lead Oria into the room (same invisibility pull as with Caithin) and kill her.
    - Sneak into the lower left storage room (via prism device) and get Nathaniel's bag. Sneak into the shadow room (via painting on top floor) and banish the tempest now that all three priests are dead. Sneak into the treasury (painting again) and get Nathaniel's ring.
    - Sneak out and return Oswald's components to him before returning to Nathaniel.
    - You should have reached level 13 by now.

    Chapter Three
    - Kill Thvara's pack but do NOT aggro the wolves.
    - Take the long scenic route in the Fell Woods as you complete the quests there. It's possible to only kill Limha herself, but the 4 hour travel before entering this map is a pain since you can't get here again with invisibility without re-parking every mob so I went for full slaughter.
    - There is a total of three areas within the Fell Wood maze that can be saved for later, one with winter wolves, one with frost spiders and one with trolls. The final area just prior to Cold Marsh also contains trolls initially, but you have to kill them now before they get replaced by Treants later.
    - Sneak into the Cold Marsh map, making sure to trigger the web traps in the beginning as it spawns more mobs. Pick up the Frostrose, haste, re-sneak, open the Gate-of-Stone, lead away the barbarians and run through. Right before exiting the map, make sure to shoot one of the wyverns with something so that all of them spawn.
    - Sneak into the dragon cave and kill everything once inside.
    - Sneak into the lower part of Hook horror cave for the key, get the quest for pest control and mining tools.
    - Make sure you're hasted AND invisible before entering the Umber Hulk cave. Dash past all four spawn points and into the Harshom battle. Kill him (and ONLY him), get the key, get out ASAP.

    Chapter Four
    - Sneak into the monastery and complete all quests there. You should reach level 15 easily.
    - Sneak through the Black Raven tomb, making sure NOT to alert the Duergar ambush past the last door.
    - Sneak through Underdark, stopping to get some quality +3 weapons for the soon-to-be-commenced Battlesquares challenge. For a dex-based tank build as mine, the Returning Throwing Hammer of Thunder +2 is the highest dps option due to its 1d6 lightning that almost none of the BS monsters resist.
    - Fetch the Ioun stone from the Drider cavern and give it to the mind flayer.

    Backtracking phase
    - Cash in all the saved quests along the way, minus duergar's pest control. Edit: This was wrong. You're actually better off leaving the quest exp at the very end of Chapter Four, but the net loss is small. Getting it now at least gives your first characters more levels.
    - Add the remaining four characters.
    - Do the complete Battlesquares, reloading so that you only get experience rewards for every rank. Or, if you wish to save boatloads of frustration and several hours of IRL time, deal out the rank rewards and EXACTLY 217,725 experience points divided amongst the six of your characters using the console. ;)
    - Resume business as usual and kill everything that moves (non-essential NPCs included).
    - You should land at around 759 k exp amongst your six party members, with the top two characters at levels 21 and 19 (DG and Drow in my party). Parties with less ECL penalty will likely see somewhat higher total levels but less total exp.

    Chapters five and six
    Since there is no more characters to be added, it's just business as usual. Make sure to kill stuff before cashing in quests and you'll be fine. (Read: I'll optimize this part later.. if ever. Not much to play with at this stage anyway.)

    FAQ
    Q: Have you considered <insert your strategy modification here>, maybe it gives more exp still?
    A: Quite likely. Most of the trial and error process is described in the Experience challenge thread.

    Q: But you missed using <insert your exploit here>.
    A: The most questionable part in my reasoning has been using reloads to get exp rewards only in the Battlesquares, but I consider it fair game since you get an actual gameplay penalty for it as you skip a literal metric ton of loot to do it. To put it in explicit terms: Infinite spawns, level-squatting, exporting/importing characters and such ARE exploits and thus invalidate any precision in the calculations. Better to go with a guaranteed baseline, no?

    Q: But I don't want to play Deep Gnomes/sneak around/make checklists on what I've done and not done previously!
    A: That's quite OK, none of this is strictly necessary. But then again, neither is min-maxing, or anything that can be considered powergaming by the most purist of roleplay standards. Only thing you're forfeiting is a few points of experience here and there.

    Q: Ok, but why post a long guide for an exceedingly minor benefit?
    A: There's quite a difference in doing things in a reasonable way or doing it optimally. For example: While it only takes a while for a trained person to solve the Rubik's Cube puzzle, the method used usually includes a whole lot of unnecessary and redundant turns. But if you actually want to calculate the MINIMUM amount of turns required to solve it.. well, there's a reason why it is a research branch of its own. Not something you'd expect out of a 3 x 3 x 3 cube puzzle, right?
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2016
  2. Taluntain

    Taluntain Resident Alpha and Omega Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    Nice, stickied. ;) There's no link for the Unified experience theory, btw.
     
  3. Sir Rechet

    Sir Rechet I speak maths and logic, not stupid Veteran

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    For the record, my party got a grand total of 1,127,747 experience points (starting exp deducted) right before the final battles with Isair and Madae in Normal mode, improving my previous record by almost 70,000 exp. :cool:

    Here's my party layout:
    DG Ranger(1)/Rogue(2)/Paladin(1)/Illusionist(19), level 23, 349,521 exp
    DG Monk(13), level 13, 134,388 exp
    Drow Paladin(1)/Monk(1)/Cleric of Ilmater(12), level 14, 134,141 exp
    Drow Paladin(1)/Monk(1)/Cleric of Lathander(12), level 14, 133,825 exp
    DG Druid(13), level 13, 133,501 exp
    Drow Bard(1)/Sorcerer(20), level 21, 272,371 exp

    I'm right at the edge of leveling to average party level 17, quite a feat for a party with 2.5 average ECL penalty.

    Both chapters five and six allow for almost all of the quests to be delayed right until the very last battle, with only the following exceptions:
    - Kill Hiepherus (reporting him dead can wait)
    - Bluffing your way into the Severed Hand (1500 exp, better than the 750 exp you get by failing the Bluff check)
    - The dialogue with Hatemaster Drothan (he disappears prematurely otherwise, maybe after clearing the Cleric tower?)
    - Any path-critical quest not explicitly mentioned, such as performing the Ilmater purification ritual and destroying the Globe of essence. Most of these come right before the final battle anyway.

    Also, it's possible to kill every single NPC in both chapters once you've completed their quests, including your allies in Kuldahar and everyone but Archon in the Time Loop during all days spent there. Only the people of Mage Tower must be left alive. Try it once for laughs and giggles.. but make a save before.
     
  4. JT Gems: 12/31
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    APL 16.33

    Suppose you built the same party, but played in the standard way: 6 man party from the start, do every quest and kill every mob, but in the order they appear, without any special tricks. What do you estimate APL would be right before the final battle?

    (Of course your party is much stronger than a evenly balanced APL 16 party would be)
     
  5. Sir Rechet

    Sir Rechet I speak maths and logic, not stupid Veteran

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    My current APL may be 16.33 but if you look at the individual exp figures you'll notice that all of them are within 1-2 k from next level. Hence "almost apl 17".

    For a straight six man party there's absolute zero calculation required: A party of six Deep Gnomes ended one of my games with 168k exp each, missing apl 16 by 3k each. Exchanging a few of them for Drows wouldn't change anything for the exp calculation since the APL remains the same all through the game. You just get a constant remainder for the division in the apl calculation.
    Edit: With the 10 k exp book included, that's a total of 988 k.
    Edit 2: Six DG party is the most relevant comparison in terms of exp total. Parties with lesser ECL penalty totals get to somewhat higher level but at a lower total exp.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2014
  6. Mr.Goodkat Gems: 1/31
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    My upcoming party consists of:

    Aasimar Fighter(4)/Paladin(X)
    Deep Gnome Monk(X)
    Tiefling Rogue(2)/Diviner(X)
    Human Monk(1)/Dreadmaster(X)

    => Average ECL +1.25

    => My party gains XP like an ECL +2 party while in fact my characters are only 1.25 levels behind on average compared to a no ECL penalty party.

    Pretty sweet, thanks for the tip.
     
  7. coineineagh

    coineineagh I wish for a horde to overrun my enemies Resourceful Adored

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    - Please explain this. Come for them LATER?? Wouldn't coming back (when you are higher level?) to old maps with previously spawned enemies, result in fighting less enemies than freshly spawned maps? And wouldn't the XP gain from delayed kills be further reduced by your party being higher level? Is this related to adding lvl 1 party members later on?
    ... or do you mean avoid entering maps, so you can spawn more enemies at higher level later on? That would make sense.

    I know you well enough to trust your XP gain advice. I'm still opposed to starting with less than 6 characters, but the rest of the advice will be helpful in my next run.
     
  8. Sir Rechet

    Sir Rechet I speak maths and logic, not stupid Veteran

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    Come after them later, when you've added more characters to bring the average level down.

    In a nutshell: You spawn maps at a high level, while you actually KILL them when you're at low level. Only possible by adding more characters.
     
  9. Sir Rechet

    Sir Rechet I speak maths and logic, not stupid Veteran

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    Well, as the saying goes, there's always room for improvement. :cool:

    It never occurred to me that it is, in fact, possible to use a Deep Gnome as a diplomat, making Drow strictly unnecessary if ONLY maximal exp total is considered. Not only that, but you can actually satisfy ALL the prerequisites for quest completion during Prologue and Chapter 1 with just one character. Here's what to do... and why.

    Deep Gnome, starts as a Dreadmaster of Bane. STR 8, DEX 14, CON 12, INT 14, WIS 12, CHA 14. Evil alignment is a must, and since Monks refuse quest rewards, non-lawful allows for both Bard and Barbarian mix-ins later on. There's no point in wasting feats or stats into tanking (such as DEX or Dodge), you have just enough AC to get through anything all the way to the Horde Fortress, solo, without them, and then you can get your real tank into play. Rather, put the CHA into use and make a somewhat unorthodox variant of Sorcerer instead!

    - Healing Reig: Trivial for a Cleric.
    - Bluffing Phaen to reveal the name of his master: Requires (modified) Diplomacy skill of 2.
    - Tricking Mooncalf to leave the shield unattended: 18 INT would be enough all by itself, but having an actual Bluff skill is just as good.
    - Inspiring the troops: Requires CHA 14+.
    - Blessing the troops: Requires a Cleric of any type.
    - Helping the troops with spear training: Requires any class that can use Spear (polearms) as default. Hence, we take Barbarian as the second level-up to satisfy this.
    - Helping Caulder with the Catapult: Being a Deep Gnome is enough to convince him.
    - Translating the ramblings of the dead goblin interrogated by Koluhm: Apparently the combination of INT 14 and being a Deep Gnome is enough for maximum reward.
    - Convincing the Iron Collar mercenaries into duty: Requires a modicum of Diplomacy. NOTE: After convincing them, you kill them yourself directly after. This gives you 150 more total exp than letting them live.. and they won't steal any kills in the upcoming battle from you. ;)
    - Seeing through the bluff of Xuki at the Shaengarne Bridge battle for maximum exp: Requires WIS 12+.
    - Asking Kruntur about the message to Yquog: Requires (modified) Diplomacy skill of 7.
    - Talking Vunarg into leaving with maximal exp: Requires (modified) Intimidate skill of 8.
    - Winning the contest for Guthewulfe's wolf charm: Requires CON 15+. NOTE: We obviously do NOT have enough.. but since we have that Barbarian mix-in, the Barbarian shout provides a temporary CON boost, just enough to win the charm. :cool:
    - Subjugating Veira for your selfish needs: This variant of Veira's removal requires a Cleric, with Evil alignment, that also has INT 14+. You get an extra 400 exp and a rather.. scary shortsword (Letto's Scar) as a reward on top of the usual rewards for solving her quest.

    Finally, I decided to test the same selective clearing approach for the areas in Chapter One as I used for the Ice Temple areas previously. I noticed I overshoot the required level targets during my previous playthrough. I left both the Highlands Pass and Shaengarne Dam maps untouched (via invisibility) enroute to the Shaengarne Bridge battle, and after killing Trugnuk, I opted to get both the Wardstones from the Upper Warrens to get all the way into the Fortress for maximum spawns there as well. That way I was able to add my second character (the Rogue/Wizard tank that I usually start solo with) and got to kill EVERYTHING in both inside and outside the Fortress with average party level ranging from 4 to 6.. rather than wasting all the high CR mobs at APL 8 as previously.

    All in all, the new quests that I thought were unavailable for a soloer brought me 2,100 extra exp in Prologue areas alone, and yet another few thousand from the optimized order of killing things, leaving my new Prologue + Chapter One record at an astounding 166,157 exp, almost 6000 better than my all-time record of ANY party composition. (Level-squatters and infinite-spawn exploiters need not apply, of course.)
     
    Cecily Griselda and Taluntain like this.
  10. Sir Rechet

    Sir Rechet I speak maths and logic, not stupid Veteran

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    I finally took the record to its logical conclusion: a party of six Deep Gnomes. Unsurprisingly, I got even more experience points than a mixed party above did.

    New record is thus 1,181,571 right before the final battle(s) with Isair and Madae.

    However, I did learn new things as well. Most importantly, it's NOT a good idea to "pile up exp" on the first few characters by cashing in the delayed quests before adding new members, especially if you have a possible pool of over half a million kill exp saved in the span of Chapters two to four. Rather, it's better to be able to start Battlesquares at average level five if at all possible.

    I also found yet new candidate NPCs for post-quest disposal. The prisoners sharing the area with Nheero (Dragon's Eye) can be killed any time, and even Nickademus (Ice Temple revisit) loses his mission critical flag once the demons have been disposed. ;)
     
  11. JT Gems: 12/31
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    Remind me... you aren't level squatting or xp muling?
     
  12. Sir Rechet

    Sir Rechet I speak maths and logic, not stupid Veteran

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    No squatting or muling, or any other exploit for that matter, used. Only creative use of Invisibility to be able to cherry-pick the order of doing things, and adding new characters along the way rather than having all six from the start.

    Would be no point in having a high score if it could be turned into a test of endurance, by for example infinite spawns.

    The REALLY short answer to the original question thus becomes:
    - Any full sized party can get 700k
    - High ECL penalty parties will land into the 800k ballpark
    - Reloading for experience rewards for the entire Battle Squares gives an extra 100k
    - Minding the order of doing things gives yet another 100k
    - Getting REALLY anal about squeezing all the possible extra kills is the final icing on the cake.
     
  13. JT Gems: 12/31
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    Thanks. I've read through many of your posts on this topic and I agree with your overall philosophy but I have some nitpicks:

    Why add the four new characters all at the same time? I have a hunch that you'd have the best long run results by adding them in steps along the way. Have you done calculations on this?

    Would you consider a 3/1/1/1/1/1 (classes don't matter) character cheating? It will never advance past level 8, but it will still gain xp. I think. Certainly it will help the rest of the party gain xp faster. If you don't allow that, how about a 1/1/1/1/X (80% xp penalty) character?
     
  14. Sir Rechet

    Sir Rechet I speak maths and logic, not stupid Veteran

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    Adding all characters at once was the really elusive one, but it really does pay off in the end. Not only do you restart the level climb at lowest possible level that way, but having so many empty exp pools to fill also makes sure the levels stay that way for as long as possible.

    I created a huge Excel sheet with all the kill exp sources in chapters 2 to 4 including BS, being able to test all kinds of configurations and adding all newbies at once wins every time in terms of total exp.

    Using characters with heavy MC penalties is a losing proposition in normal mode games - there's very little difference in the average party level if one character is stuck at level 8 instead of 13-14, but you're tossing away almost a full sixth of your grand total to achieve that. They might have a place in HOF games, though. You're still fighting an uphill battle for way too long for it to matter.
     
  15. JT Gems: 12/31
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    I haven't used your excel spreadsheet, and I haven't played the game in a long time, but here is my purely theorycraft view:

    The APL will always be about 16 or 17, maybe a little more for large parties, no matter what you do (short of muling/squatting). So if the goal is to maximize total party xp, one should:
    - use a six-man party
    - use DG
    - maximize the disparity in XL between the highest and lowest party members.

    You're already doing the first two things, so let's just focus on that last bit. The maximum XL is 30, assuming no mods. The minimum is 8 with a a 3/1/1/1/1/1 build (the only way to go lower than that would be to add a character at the very end, when it won't meaningfully impact the game). If we have 6*17=102 total levels to distribute, we want a 30,30,18,8,8,8 distribution. If we only have 6*16=96 total levels, we want a 30,30,12,8,8,8. However, let's go even below that and assume a 30,30,8,8,8,8 party. The total xp would be 528k*2+55k*4=1.276M exp, minus starting experience.
     
  16. SlickRCBD Gems: 23/31
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    I was under the impression that you could only have 3 classes maximum. The game wouldn't let you add a fourth.
    So, it would probably be cheating since you had to use DaleKeeper II to make it.
     
  17. JT Gems: 12/31
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    Not at all. Here's an example character I found from 2006, played legit, no dalekeeper involved. 60% xp penalty, would be 80% if the druid and monk levels weren't close.

     
  18. SlickRCBD Gems: 23/31
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    Maybe I was confusing IWD2 with Pool of Radiance 2:Ruins of Myth Dranor.
     
  19. Sir Rechet

    Sir Rechet I speak maths and logic, not stupid Veteran

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    JT, you're only partially correct in your theorycrafting. There's no way to get more than about 250k exp for a solo character before you HAVE to add more to avoid having to kill stuff at extremely high levels for very little exp. Even then, you need to forfeit around 40k exp in Chapter One just to get there (playing solo).

    Two characters at a combined total of about 350k is just about as much as you can get into the "free exp zone" before you start losing more than you gain, and since you must add the second in Chapter One, their exp difference is about 60-80k, tops.

    You are in no way guaranteed to land at APL 16, or even APL 15, if you trudge through large portions of the game at too high APL prior to filling up the party roster. Your proposed level spread of 30, 30, 8, 8, 8, 8 at 1.2M exp looks good on paper until you realize that the two characters that actually gain any exp whatsoever only receive one third of the exp awarded to the party. So you'd effectively need 3.6M worth of REAL experience points to get there. Ain't gonna happen.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2016
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    I think there's a middleground between adding the four cripples too early, where they'll be taking 2/3rd of the xp all game, and adding them too late, where I won't be gaining enough benefit from their muling function. Of course I wouldn't add them all at the same time, but bring each one in separately when the party level starts getting too high.

    If we say a "full share" of xp is about 522k, and the first two normal characters and the first cripple get about that, and the second cripple gets about 80% of that, and the third 60%, and the final 40%, we have 520k*4.8 = 2.5M xp real xp earned. Is that more do-able?


    Or, how about this example party: 26,25,21,8,8,8. Total char screen xp = 406+378+276+55*3= 1.225M xp. 1.195M if we subtract starting xp.


    EDIT: I see that in your example party you have two drow with -40% xp penalty. So you are taking advantage of this. Just not as hard as I would.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2016

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