Creating the Perfect Party in Shadows of Amn
Perfect Party #10

This is my "Perfect Party" for Shadows of Amn. Keep in mind that this is intended for an unaltered version (no cheats, still has XP cap, and so on).

My priority in party creation is simplicity. I want a party that is simply put together, without excesses of dual or multi-classed characters. I want a party that I don't have to baby sit, that doesn't have large weaknesses and roundabout strategies when direct ones will do. I want to progress through an area without having to use lots of items and without having to reload all the time. I also wanted to include some of my favorite classes from Dungeons and Dragons to create a fun party. This isn't intended to be the absolutely most powerful party; it's intended to let me explore the game (which is how I have fun!) with ease and flexibility.

So, with this in mind, I created the following: (multiplayer)

1 Paladin / Undead Hunter; 2 slots each Two-Handed Style, Two-Handed Sword, Long Bow (rest split up according to your preference)

1 Fighter / Kensai; max in 2 Weapon Style, split rest between Flail, Warhammer, and Katana

1 Bard / Skald. Bards can get a proficiency in ANYTHING, so this is a matter of pure preference. The only thing you want to avoid here is Long Bow, because they can't use composite long bows (which any of the good long bows, such as Heartseeker, are; best non- composite long bow is +2). I chose Halberd, Long Sword, Axe, Single Weapon Style, Crossbow, and a few others I didn't end up using. The idea is just to cover the powerful weapons that the other characters weren't going to use, particularly weapons good only in or especially in certain situations (such as Dragonslayer, or the Mace of Disruption +1/+2 for those pesky undead). Mostly, he was using Crossbow/Long Sword (Blade of Roses is easy to get, as is Giant Hair +3).

1 Druid / Totemic Druid; proficiencies in Staff, Scimitar, Sling, and styles. (I probably should have gone for Spear here, but I really liked having the druid as a high-AC spellcaster, so I opted for the melee-weaker but AC-higher Scimitar/Buckler +1 / sword- and-shield-style/Sling +4 combination.)

1 Thief (Swashbuckler)/Mage (Dual classed, I dualled at level 8 and never regretted it. I focused abilities in Traps and Lockpicking, some stealth-type things, no pickpocketing -- the Skald could do that with items), proficiencies in Short Bow, Staff, Dart, and Short Sword, plus styles. This character used Tuigan Bow for virtually the entire game, with Gesen Bow occasionally, but you just can't beat a natural 3 shots per round. I tended towards using Short Sword (Backstabbing) +3 until I got the Staff of Magi, which I used thereafter. Can't beat free, unlimited invisibles -- you can detect traps while using them. She was my scout. I picked up the Dart proficiency to use up those Darts of Wounding and such, which are handy at times.

I chose 5 characters in order to be able to do the NPC-related quests (like the Planar Sphere and Korgan's little quest). I maxed out the XP somewhere in the Underdark, so thereafter I picked up whoever suited my fancy.)

Now, the reasoning:

I hate clerics. I think they're boring, and I hate how every party seems to have them. They're annoying and preachy in game terms, have only marginal use in the vast majority of battles, and generally just get my goat. It's a waste of a slot in the party that could be used up by a more colorful and more flexible character, so I found a way around it that caused no problems. First, the druid had enough healing power anyway, and additionally has great summoning power. (More on that later.) The only things were undead-specific powers. Hence, the Undead Hunter; early in the game, he tanked the level-draining vampires, and later in the game, gained cleric spells including Lesser Restoration. The only drawback was if someone else got drained (this happened rarely, mostly when the random vampire encounters happened, and since they happened in town, I ran to a temple; for emergencies, I carried 2 scrolls of restoration, never used them), or if I had needed heavy-duty healing, but I never did. Between the rings of regeneration and 3 mass cures (2 memorized by the druid, plus one Summon Woodland Beings for a nymph to cast one), I never hurt for healing before my characters were fatigued or I needed spells back for a specific encounter.

I learned early that my favorite strategy was similar to Baldur's Gate. In that game, ranged weapons were the best. In BG II, a combination of ranged weapons and summoning with one or two powerful characters in front is most powerful. I *love* summoning, and in particular, I *love* summoning druidic elementals. There's just no comparison for elementals! You get them very early in the game, they are hardy and can take a lot of punishment, are immune to many spells, and their fire attacks work on practically everything. (Yes, I mean that. One fire elemental was doing more damage against Kangaxx as demi-lich than the rest of my party. One. And you get two very early in the game.) Plus, they last much longer than pretty much any other summoned creature. When I was lazy, I'd have an invisible character clear a dungeon with one or two fire elementals in tow. This worked extremely well in Firkraag's area; fire-spouting guardians couldn't hurt them, beholders can barely touch them, and trolls and undead don't much bother them either. They are NOT comparable to mage summoning, particularly mage elementals.

As the game progresses, you'll need more summoning spells (if you're like me, and dislike your party members getting hurt, or using healing potions or spells). Slowly, the other party members get memorable summoning spells. First, the thief/mage with Invisible Stalker (another favorite); the bard will get this in turn also. The paladin will get Animate Dead, which is quite nice over level 15 (Skeleton Warrior instead of skeletons). Plus, there are summoning items, like the Horn of Valhalla, the spider figurine, wands of monster summoning, the efreeti bottle, and so on. And, if that's not enough, you have your Totemic Druid. I personally dislike shapeshifting because it takes the druid out of action (and I like having Summon Insects, Insect Plague, and other spells easily accessible). Totemic druids can summon a spirit animal three times a day from day one. This is a colossal help at the beginning (snakes poison, and all of them are immune to certain spells, and hit as magical weapons); furthermore, this summoning is nearly instantaneous! (If I ran into an encounter accidentally, I'd summon one to occupy the enemy while I escaped, or summon one to block off enemies coming toward spellcasters, or any number of other uses.) By maxing out (and they max out quick), a totemic druid can summon 6 battle-hardy creatures; 3 spirit animals, 2 fire elementals, and an earth elemental. Plus, the nymph is actually worthwhile in big battles should you run low (the mind-affecting spells even work on drow).

The tanks would be, of course, the Undead Hunter and Kensai. Kensai are often dual-classed to mage, as they can't use armour anyway and provide a lot of fighting power to a mage. It was a pain in some places that the AC was so high (best I could do, without spells or potions, was AC -2). On the bright side, my Bard wasn't usually busy and could use his song, and the -4 to AC really helped the Kensai. (Actually, my Skald does -8 to AC. Probably a bug, but oh well.) If needed, I'd simply drop the song for a few rounds to fire some poison or paralytic bolts or to cast some spells. Then, back to song. Easy. Kensais hit amazingly well and even my paladin with Carsomyr +5 could not come close to Kensai with Flail of Ages +3 / Celestial Fury (let alone when I replaced the Flail with Crom Faeyr). To demonstrate: Kensai, paladin, and one summoned creature dropped Kangaxx to demi-lich before he had a chance for his spell trigger protections to go off at all. Now that's power!

Bringing up the rear, naturally, are the bard, druid, and thief/mage. Tuigan Bow is just insanely good, and the way the game is set up, you'll never run out of magical arrows. The druid is usually just hanging about using up the bullets I find along the way and summoning, and the bard, as above, using song, crossbow, or spells.

With this party, I barely touched damage-related spells. I think I used fireball once or twice; I used Melf's Minute Meteors for awhile at the start before I had the cash to pick up a good crossbow for the bard. Generally, I dislike using up lots and lots of spells and having to rest all the time. I rested, in general, because of fatigue after a few levels.

This party easily took down every area in the game. The only NPC that gave them even a marginal problem (having to reload more than once) was Kangaxx, and that's because I was getting a bug with Spell Immunity (the menu for choosing the spell school wasn't coming up in mid-battle; exiting the game worked to fix it). Because you effectively have two mages (the Bard doesn't get 7th and 8th level, but you don't need two characters casting those), spellcasters are never a problem; space them apart casting Breach and other such spells, then send in Paladin and Kensai. End of mage. Other powerful creatures? Beholders are easy (fire elementals); vampires not a problem (fire elementals, plus Undead Hunter); dragons drop easy (summon lots of creatures, bard song and haste, maybe Insect Plague if it's really a problem, end of dragon); even liches are simple to kill. (Here's a trick for liches: poison. Yes, poison, like fire elementals, works on practically everything, including Irenicus, liches, and various other things that should probably be immune to it. The great thing with poison is that it prevents spellcasting also. An unexpected Dart of Wounding / Bolt of Biting (and there are TONS of them lying about for free) will take out a lich easily; even an expected one, combined with Breach, and bye-bye undead mage. There's pretty much no enemy that can't be taken out by force of sheer numbers of powerful summoned creatures. (The only hitch is the Death Spell, used by Shangalar and other powerful spellcasters. The problem is that while they're casting that, you're casting Breach, and you're positioning your fighters next to said spellcaster. There's still at least one or two characters left to summon MORE stuff to distract the enemy.)

Some things to consider:

- You can't backstab. I personally think that backstabbing is worthless and is easily tradable for the combat bonuses of the Swashbuckler.

- You don't use a lot of the powerful armours of the game, particularly, you don't use shields beyond bucklers. However, you really don't need to. The Undead Hunter gets by easily with a Full Plate +1 until Armour of the Hart. The druid uses Red Dragon Scale (I told you about wanting a high-AC spellcaster!). Thief/mage uses bracers exclusively, plus a mage robe, occasionally using stealth-bonus leather armours to sneak around until Staff of the Magi. The bard uses Melodic Chain +3, one of the singular surprises of the game - +3 chainmail, and you can use it while casting! (The Jester's Chain +4 is useless; it disables casting.) Kensai, natch, takes the AC-rings (Ring of Gaxx, Ring of Protection +2), AC-bonused Ioun Stone, and Cloak of the Sewers (yep, more AC bonus). You just don't need those shields and more platemails.

- You can't turn undead worth half a damn. However, this is worthless anyway; anything powerful enough to bother will only run if it works, and you have to hunt and kill it anyway.

- You can't learn Raise Dead. However, there are these things called Rods of Resurrection -- there are tons of them (I have 3), they resurrect 10 people each, and this party never lost even close to that number of people.

Your big weaknesses:

- Imprisonment. This spell sucks not so much because of its effect but because it's buggy; on multiplayer games, freedom spells don't cause the lost player to be able to return to the party. Even on single-player, it messes up romances and NPC interactions.
Solution: Well, every party is weak to this spell. However, you have 2 people who can cast Spell Immunity. The bard is good enough in combat to rush in with Halberd +4 : Wave or The Equalizer if need be. However, most spellcasters (read: all except Kangaxx) drop too fast to even use this spell.

- Level drain, especially for random undead encounters.
Solution: Use your Undead Hunter effectively, as well as the Amulet of Power.

- The Kensai and their poor AC.
Solution: a creative combination of Skald-song, Barkskin, Potion of Defense, Shield Amulet, and, if all else fails, Boots of Speed to get out of the way seldom let me down. Just make sure the Kensai isn't in the middle of a huge group and you're fine; Kensais are best on the flanks of large enemy groups, hacking at archers and spellcasters.

- Lack of Chaotic Commands. This is, in my mind, the party's largest weakness.
Solution: Mind-shield items don't work in all circumstances, and you don't want your whole party near mind flayers. However, the only time I had real problems with this was while doing the illithid area in the sewers. The Underdark illithids, convieniently, give you potions that nullify their nastiest abilities. Since Hammer of Thunderbolts really isn't that great compared to other weapons (until you can make Crom Faeyr), you can leave this area until after the Underdark (you'll have potions to spare). I didn't, so I made do with spirit animals, invisible stalkers, and so on. Mind flayers are stupid about invisibility, so I had an invisible character in the room while summoned creatures lured each flayer away to another room, where invisible fire elementals, invisible stalkers, and spirit animals would hack them to pieces; the rest of the party was safely away. On the other hand, you could just pick up Viconia for this area, since the slot should be free.

Important tips:

- Focus on protective spells, spell-removal spells, and summoning. Magical damage is relatively unimportant for this party (though an occasional Horrid Wilting for the big groups toward the end is nice, as it leaves your party alone). Particularly, you'll want lots of Hastes, Dispel Magics, and invisibility-removal spells (everyone seems to use Mislead); fire shields, Spell Immunities, and so on for rare circumstances. I never needed anti-weapon spells (my spellcasters had high AC and were not in harm's way), spell triggers, contingencies, and the like. Mass Invisibility is fun, but not great, as everyone and their brother uses True Seeing.

- Everyone, save the Kensai, ALWAYS has a ranged weapon equipped. Even the Paladin with Carsomyr is incomplete without a ranged weapon, just in case. There are some enemies unreachable by melee weapons, and it helps to hit spellcasters early and often. Plus, you use up all those enchanted missiles that way, and leaving stuff behind always makes me feel somehow "dirty".

- Favor the thief/mage in terms of priority for acquiring spells, as they'll have more spells, and will get spells faster.

- I prefer to have 18 (or max) in Str, Dex, Con for all characters. Nobody needs Cha except the protagonist, and that's easily remedied with Ring of Human Influence. Druids (because of their requirements) suffer here, so expect for the druid to use either a strength- or dexterity-boosting item (mine used the gauntlets of dexterity, leaving the Girdle of Hill Giant Strength for the strength-hungry bard). Max in Wis for druids, Int for bards and mages.

- Race is often a matter of personal preference. I actually used all humans, as I am accustomed to the old Gold Box games, where humans are better (other races max out on their levels around 10-15, humans unlimited). Certainly, elf thief/mage or other race for the Kensai would be fine.

- After maxing out -- and you will during the Underdark if you do most of the quests (I had all of them done that were possible, except Kangaxx), pick up a 6th character. For a lark, I added a beginning dwarven cleric (better to do Viconia, naturally).

- To pick up needed items, do certain areas first: Firkraag's dungeon, the Beastmaster / Copper Coronet quest, the Haer'Dalis quest, and the de'Arnise keep.

Final Thoughts:

In hindsight, I missed my trademark Archer awfully, but I really didn't need him this time around. If you're having problems, you could switch the Kensai out for a berserker (or a cleric, if you're dying for one). I thought this was easily the most powerful party I've ever come up with, and without resorting to the "dual-class EVERYTHING" strategy. Plus, it's a li'l different! (Bards and druids in the same party... I can hear you laughing...) Other than the paladin, my characters were all Lawful or True Neutral... hey, call me a druid at heart.

Happy hunting!

Submitted by: Roz