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Creating the Perfect Party in Shadows of Amn
Perfect Party #7

Okay first of all, this assumes that you are playing a SINGLE PLAYER game. I know that Multiplayer allows more freedom, but hey - I'm lazy and multi is a pain when you save and load as often as me (another side effect of laziness). Besides, there's other reasons, as described below.

Party Formation:-

Protagonist (PC): Monk. A lot of people are going to disagree with this, so here's my reasoning: Monks kick ass. :) It's that simple. Look at the bonuses they get. Their AC boost (plus rings of protection, ioun stones, etc) offsets their lack of armour. Their fist is as good or better than using a weapon most of the time, and they can have others in their quickslot for mid-combat switch if necessary. I recommend Daystar and that one which gives mirror image to the weilder (you only have to have it equipped, not used). Plus they gain an AC bonus vs Mirrors better than any shield would give, and they gain so many bonuses and special abilities it's not funny. If all that were not enough, at level 13 they gain the Quivering Hand attack which can kill any opponent in one hit. From Firkraag to Kangaxx. (NOTE: Don't use it on the Bhaal in the dream where you lose your soul - it causes a bug which makes him impossible to kill.) Plus Monks can Hide in Shadows, which along with their speed makes them ideal scouts.

2nd Slot (Tank): Jaheira. I don't know why she gets so maligned. Druids IMO are one of the most powerful classes (INSECT PLAGUE!!!!!), and the fact that she can wear armour and fight as well makes her my favourite NPC bar none. She can't even get to the lowly level 14 druid that is allowed in the game, and her fighter tops out fairly low as well, but considering she's the only one in this party who can use shields, she makes a great point-woman. For much of the game she was carrying no less than four shields, all with different bonuses, and switched between them at need. The boots of speed allow her to stay out front to draw out any surprises (harmlessly, with the reflecting cloak and shield). Also, she is an integral part of most of the strategies which make this party work because of her druid spells. Contrary to popular opinion, Druids are NOT the same as Clerics. They have different spells, many of which are invaluable.

3rd Slot (Tank): Keldorn. Carsomyr - need I say more? :) He's the only NPC who can wield the most powerful weapon in the game (bar Crom Fayr), and once you get him the Gauntlets of Brawling (18 DEX), he's incredibly powerful. At the higher levels he'll begin to take over from Jaheira and the Monk as the main fighter, so long as you can get his AC up high enough to take the hits (the main drawback of wielding two-handed swords). Plus his Dispel Magic and True Sight abilities are invaluable. They free up the necessary spell slots for these for your mages, and there's more of them anyway. :) If you don't care about Carsomyr, then you can replace Keldorn with Valygar - when dual-wielding katanas he rocks. Especially once he gets spells and the better weapons (Dak'kons Zerth Blade and Celestial Fury for those with the Collector's Edition. If you don't have it what sort of gamer are you if you haven't downloaded the bonus merchants file online? ;)

4th Slot (Thief): Jan. This one is no contest. Yoshimo, while good for the experience you get from his geas quest on getting out of the Underdark, leaves you as soon as you get to Spellhold, and he's only a single-class thief. You really don't need a high-level thief in this game, it's a waste of experience once you get their find traps and lock picking up high enough. Jan makes a good mage if you get him first-thing out of Irenicus' Dungeon. That way even as a multiclass character he stays a decent enough level to be a good mage. You really only need one Mage to be able to cast the highest level spells, and more of the mid-level ones is always welcome. You might consider replacing him with Imoen if you get her early enough, but since most people don't until she's way behind in experience, Jan is the best alternative. Besides, Imoen's thief skills, while usable, are below par. You can boost them with the right items (again, the CE is useful) if you want though.

5th Slot (Mage): Nalia. She's the best NPC mage, truly. Imoen would be better, but by the time you get up to her, she's far too low in level and never really catches up. Nalia is good simply because she can get higher in level than any other NPC, and that's important for a Mage to give her the powerful 7th and 8th level spells. Give her the Staff of the Magi and she'll be kickin' ass and takin' names.

6th Slot (Cleric): Anomen. I tossed this about for awhile, since Viconia can get to higher levels, but for a cleric this is unimportant, and Anomen's fighter abilities (7th level) make him better. More annoying of course, but if you can endure him, Keldorn AND Jan in the one party, you'll be the stronger for it. :) Plus his sling proficiency means you can use the +5 Sling and take out those fearsome Adamantine Golems from a distance without putting any of your party in danger. Give him the Mace of Disruption +2 and move him to the front line to deal with powerful undead, or leave him at the rear to stop surprises from running amok with your spellcasters (this is a bad thing - take my word for it).

Tactics:-

I only used two formations in the entire game with this party. The two-row 3x2 one to put all my tanks in the front row with ranged/spellcasters behind, and the three-row 2x3 one for standard dungon crawling (takes up less width and leaves the trap-detecting thief near the front but protected fully.) When moving along, Jaheira (with boots of speed and reflection abilities - this is important) will usually get slightly ahead of the rest of the party. This is a good thing because she will draw the fire of whatever she blunders into and reflect/avoid it harmlessly, allowing the two better warriors to close and get dirty while she casts Insect Plague before joining them. With the three back-rowers providing support fire and spells, there is almost nothing in the game which can stand up to this attack. Only the more powerful bad guys require a more careful preparation and approach.

For powerful NPCs (notably the dragons; Kangaxx; and Irenicus himself), just stand out of vision, use all your group boosting spells, summonings and potions at once and then attack using the usual plan, but changing your spells to whatever necessary. This will come down to your individual playing style and what spells you use most effectively. My personal favourite is the Jaheira-Nalia-Jan Triple Teamô which goes like this: Jaheira draws fire and begins to cast Insect Plague. Monk and Keldorn deal with whatever minions are protecting the spellcasters or just go straight for the baddie if there are none. Anomen distracts mage(s) with Smite. Nalia and Jan cast simultaneous Breach and Spell Thrust as soon as they come within range. If you time it right, the mage should be hit by the insect plague, and the two removal spells at the same time. The insect plague will quickly spread to minions, causing most of them to flee. This lets your three warriors change targets to the mage and beat the living hell out of him to the accompanying staccato of wave after wave of magic missiles launched by your mages. This tactic is fully customisable to whichever baddies you're up against, and indeed, needs to be. But the basic tactic is sound in most combats. Especially once the Monk gains Quivering Palm. All he'll need is a single hit, no matter how paltry, to kill even the most powerful opponent.

Disadvantages:-

No party is truly perfect. They all have disadvantages. Here I'll address the main ones with this party and why they don't matter if you play it right.

Too many characters. They won't level up as fast.
This is really a minor problem, and the extra power provided by a 6th character more than makes up for it. If you feel the extra power is the problem (hardasses), then the best character to dump is Keldorn/Valygar. Two tanks are enough in most situations, and summoned creatures can draw the fire well enough to make up the loss. I prefer the sheer speed and killing power of three warriors however. The balance between their damage-dealing capabilities, and the ranged/spellcasters' distractions and support fire is nigh on perfect.

What about stealth-and-backstab?
Bah. Try the tactics above and you'll see that you don't need it. This party is sheer brute force of course, but with a deadly elegance that is beatiful to watch. Just ask the corpses of everyone who attacked me. ;)

U suxx0rz! Jaheira blows!
If you can't learn to love her, then this party aint for you. You'll find even if trying different tactics that everything centres around her in this group. Sure she might end up behind in levels later on, but it doesn't really matter. With Belm, the Bone Club, all those shields she should be carrying around (try the pause-and-item-switching cheese tactic. It's unbelievably good), not to mention Vhailor's Helm for Simulacrum, she is the mainstay of the group. Plus I like her character-wise as well.

Multiplayer games give so much more economy and power (like a car ad...). Especially with dual-classing.
There's more to BG2 than hack-and-slash, and Bioware has done a truly masterful job of developing plot and characters. Play with only one PC character and try it with different NPC combinations. It's worth your while to see them interact with each other and develop. Plus different NPCs give different side-quests. Playing single player actually gives you a notably larger amount of experience for doing the various side-quests. That a concrete enough reason for you?

Monks are good, but there are better choices for a protagonist.
Perhaps. This is a personal preference of mine. It could be replaced by another warrior-class, or dual-classed even, but the Monk's abilities and bonuses complement the strategies above best I think. Plus many people underestimate the power of the Quivering Palm attack. It's slightly less cheesy after the patch, but still awesome. It's certainly something to see Firkraag fall in a single blow. I fought Orcs who died slower than him. :) The lack of armour does leave them a little behind in AC for much of the game, but that's the only real disadvantage they have. With intelligent use of items, you can keep it low enough to make them front-liners without worries. It really comes down to personal preference. If you think your main character would work better in the #1 slot, go right ahead and try it. My best experience has shown the Monk to be best for the role though.

Submitted by: Azhure