THAC0 'Soft Cap'

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Revi
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THAC0 'Soft Cap'

Postby Revi » Fri Nov 28, 2008 6:54 am

Here's a little article I wrote while trying to expand my own understanding of the game. I decided to share it with you, because I thought some of the things I discovered might be useful to other people like me, people who are no D&D or modding veterans, but no complete newbies to Baldur's Gate II either.

I apologize in advance for any mistakes/typos/miscalculations included within this article (there's bound to be some), and will do my best to correct these flaws when they are pointed out to me.

Regards,

Revi



THAC0 'Soft Cap': Overview of Lowest AC's in SoA and ToB

The following formula determines to-hit rolls in Baldur's Gate II:

THAC0 - (roll on a d20) = AC hit

There is, to my knowledge, no hard-capped lowest THAC0, but if we know the AC's of the most powerful enemies in the game, we should be able to calculate at what point decreasing your THAC0 any further stops increasing your chance to hit enemies.

Using Near Infinity, I was able to figure out the AC's of most of the powerful enemies in SoA and ToB.

SoA

Greater Werewolf: -6
Lesser Dragons: -10
Greater Dragons: -12

Bodhi: -1
Irenicus: 0

ToB

Lesser Demons: -5
(Fallen) Solar: -5
(Fallen) Planetar: -7
Greater Demons: -8
Lesser Dragons: -10
Greater Dragons: -12

Abazigal: -12
Demogorgon: -12
Gromnir: -5
Melissan: -8
Sendai: -3
Yaga Shura: -8


This gives us some real data to plug into the formula. -12 AC appears to be a significant landmark, since it's used for some of the hardest in game enemies.

Now we have to define what we mean when we say we want to maximize a character's chance to hit his enemy.

For every attack a character makes, the system rolls a d20 and subtracts this number from the character's THAC0, as per the formula mentioned previously:

THAC0 - (roll on a d20) = AC hit

We now have a number to plug into this formula instead of 'AC hit':

THAC0 - (roll on a d20) = -12

Next, we need to determine the lowest possible roll on a d20. The lowest possible roll on a d20 is obviously 1, but 1 counts as a critical miss, no matter the circumstance. This means there's a hard-coded 5% chance to miss, regardless of how low your THAC0 goes. It also means 2 is the lowest possible roll that can still count as a hit.

Let's plug that number into the formula:

THAC0 - 2 = -12

With these numbers filled in, it becomes obvious what the THAC0 in this formula is:

-10 - 2 = -12

In other words, in order to be able to hit every enemy in the game 95% of the time, you need a THAC0 of -10. And a THAC0 that is any lower than -10 will not increase your chance to hit any further.

The implications of this at high levels could be far-reaching. A THAC0 of -10 is easily achieved by any fighter character above level 20, without ever specializing up to Grand Mastery in a weapon.

Knowing exactly where the soft hit cap lies will certainly influence me in the choices I make in the distribution of THAC0-boosting items and specialization points on my next run through.

This especially affects fighters, rangers, and paladins, whose natural THAC0 drops down to 0 at level 21. When you consider the fact most of your these characters will end up wielding +5 weapons or better during the final fights of ToB, you could consider half of that -10 THAC0 already taken care of. This leaves -5 THAC0 to come from gear and specialization.

To demonstrate how easily this can be achieved, let's take a character with a 2 point specialization in scimitars, wielding Gram +5, with a natural THAC0 of 0:

THAC0
Natural THAC0 0
2 point specialization -1
Belt of Hill Giant Strength -3
Gauntlets of Weapon skill -1
Gram -5

Total -10

So from a THAC0 point of view, placing more than 2 points in any weapon specialization is a waste, unless of course you do not intend to wear any THAC0 enhancing gear. Note that the example I've provided here is already quite extreme; it is unlikely a character that has access to +5 weapons would still be wearing a belt from the Adventure Mart or gloves from the Planar Prison. By the end of the game most melee characters would have access to better Strength and THAC0 enhancing gear.

This also puts the ranger and paladin classes in a new light. I used to consider both of these classes 'wannabe-fighters,' because I knew they could never specialize beyond 2 points in any weapon. I still played these classes because I enjoyed them from a role playing perspective, but was always irritated by their 'weakness' compared to the vanilla fighter.

As my example shows, this opinion was misinformed. With some gear, a decent weapon, and 2 points of weapon specialization, any melee character above level 21 can hit anything in the game just as well as a pure fighter in top-notch gear wielding sporting grand mastery in two-handed swords. The game is quite forgiving in that sense.
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Postby Revi » Fri Nov 28, 2008 7:10 am

THAC0 'Soft Cap' for Offhand Weapons

Single-Weapon-Style and Two-Handed-Weapon-Style have no effect on THAC0.

Two-Weapon-Style has the following effect:

0 points: +4 THAC0 main hand / +8 THAC0 offhand
1 point: +2 THAC0 main hand / +6 THAC0 offhand
2 points: +4 THAC0 offhand
3 points: +2 THAC0 offhand

Consequently, it is unwise to dual wield without specializing for it. To gain a bonus of +2 THAC0 by increasing your Strength, you would need about 4 points of Strength. This demonstrates how important it is to specialize fully in two-weapon style if you intend to dual wield.

Even with a 3 point specialization in two-weapon-style, achieving the hit cap with your offhand weapon is significantly more difficult than it is for a main hand weapon. Even fully specialized for two-weapon-style, a character still needs an additional -2 THAC0 to achieve a 95% hit rate with his offhand. Fortunately, the game provides a few simple solutions for this.

For a fighter, the solution is obvious: pick up an additional point of specialization in your weapon of choice, and equip one of the most powerful Strength or THAC0 boosting items. The following example demonstrates how this could work.

THAC0
Natural offhand THAC0 2
3 point specialization -2
Belt of Fire Giant Strength -4
Gauntlets of Weapon Skill -1
Axe of the Unyielding +5 -5

Total -10

For the ranger, getting the offhand hit capped is a little more difficult. Even with an exceptional Strength boosting item such as the Belt of Fire Giant Strength, you are still short one point. Fortunately, Bioware accommodated the ranger with an item that solves this problem: Montolio's Cloak. The only downside to this exceptional item is that it isn't available until late in the game.

THAC0
Natural offhand THAC0 2
2 point specialization -1
Belt of Hill Giant Strength -3
Gauntlets of Weapon Skill -1
Montolio's Cloak -2
Spectral Brand +5 -5

Total -10
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Postby Revi » Fri Nov 28, 2008 7:41 am

But What About Rogues?

Getting a rogue hit-capped is much harder, since they do not belong to the 'warrior' group of classes. For some reason their THAC0 progression table ends at a natural 10 (offhand 12), which means they need to compensate for an additional 10 THAC0 points through gear.

It's no surprise then that somebody wrote a mod to 'fix' rogues. Actually, lots of somebodies wrote lots of mods for this purpose, but aVENGER's Rogue Rebalancing is most to my liking, since it successfully implements the pen & paper version of the swashbuckler kit.

In AD&D 2nd edition, the swashbucklers THAC0 progression is based on the fighter's THAC0 progression table. Reason: the Swashbuckler was a thief kit, but also a fighter kit. It was always meant to function very much like a fighter-thief combo, sacrificing stealth and sneaky backstabbity parts of the thief class in exchange for excellent combat skills.

Bioware attempted to emulate this to some extent by giving the swashbuckler some attack bonuses, but they're still nothing compared to a fighter. If you look at the thief table, and lower the THAC0 value with 1 additional point every 5 levels, you can see you will still end up with a natural THAC0 value of 6 at level 22.

The Rogue Rebalancing mod corrects this, and thus allows you to have a dedicated thief in your party, who is still able to perform well in combat.

aVENGER's Rogue Rebalancing is available here:
[url="http://www.spellholdstudios.net/ie/rr"]Spellhold Studios[/url]
and here:
[url="http://rogue.rebalancing.googlepages.com/"]aVENGER's REALM[/url]

I have no affiliation with this mod's developers, so please direct any questions / comments on this mod to its forum on the SHS site.
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Postby Rav » Mon Dec 29, 2008 8:17 am

Good to keep in mind. Thanks!

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Postby GawainBS » Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:28 am

Speccing in a weapon also brings a (eventually marginal) benefit to damage, initiative (which can count against some enemies) and most noticably: extra attacks. Of course, that only matters if you use the fix that restores Grandmastery to its P&P equivalent.
Also, I suppose the enemies use buffs to lower their AC any further?

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Postby Bigby's Nose » Sat Mar 07, 2009 1:59 am

Nice work, Revi. But I believe many enemies have hidden AC bonuses that you may not be aware of. I'll use the shadow dragon as an example only because I can't remember a better one. When I fought it my party was around level 10. I discovered that Anomen needed a roll of 17 or so to hit it with his sling but only a 13 or so to hit it with his mace. Thus it probably has a bonus for defending against ranged weapons. (BTW, if I'm right, this makes no sense to me - I think it should have a bonus to defend against melee because of its size. You can hit its vital parts with a ranged weapon but you'll only hit its legs with a melee. Oh well :rolleyes: .) Now, it's possible that I was simply getting a penalty for being too far from it (a "range penalty") that you can incur with any enemy. But all throughout the game I was seeing evidence of hidden attack roll modifiers. Unfortunately I don't remember specifics, but I'm convinced that they are there. So I believe that Mastery, High Mastery, and Grand Mastery do count.

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Postby GawainBS » Sat Mar 07, 2009 3:06 am

Bigby's Nose wrote:Nice work, Revi. But I believe many enemies have hidden AC bonuses that you may not be aware of. I'll use the shadow dragon as an example only because I can't remember a better one. When I fought it my party was around level 10. I discovered that Anomen needed a roll of 17 or so to hit it with his sling but only a 13 or so to hit it with his mace. Thus it probably has a bonus for defending against ranged weapons. (BTW, if I'm right, this makes no sense to me - I think it should have a bonus to defend against melee because of its size. You can hit its vital parts with a ranged weapon but you'll only hit its legs with a melee. Oh well :rolleyes: .) Now, it's possible that I was simply getting a penalty for being too far from it (a "range penalty") that you can incur with any enemy. But all throughout the game I was seeing evidence of hidden attack roll modifiers. Unfortunately I don't remember specifics, but I'm convinced that they are there. So I believe that Mastery, High Mastery, and Grand Mastery do count.


Don't search for too much logic, it's AD&D 2nd Edition.
I do agree with the hidden modifiers.

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Postby Revi » Fri Nov 20, 2009 7:23 am

Thank you for your responses, and sorry for letting this thread gather some dust. I agree that many enemies have hidden armor modifiers. "Hidden" is perhaps not really the word, they come from somewhere, after all. In most cases this is some .itm they are wearing as armor, or some buff they have cast on themselves. Maybe I phrased it too strong when I said -12 AC is the mark.

On the subject of Attacks-per-Round, I've some info about that as well. Feel free to correct any errors.
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Postby Revi » Fri Nov 20, 2009 7:24 am

Attacks Per Round

All warrior characters (fighters, monks, rangers and paladins) share the same progression in their number of attacks per round.

Single weapon or two-handed weapon, proficient

Level ApR A/R
1-6 1 1
7-12 1.5 3/2
13+ 2 2

Dual-wielding, proficient

Level ApR A/R
1-6 2 2
7-12 2.5 5/2
13+ 3 3


2 Point specialization in a weapon yields an additional 1/2 Attack per Round. Further specialization (mastery, high mastery, grand mastery) does not yield any additional Attacks per Round. Non-hasted attacks are capped at 5 ApR.

Single weapon or two-handed weapon, specialized

Level ApR A/R
1-6 1.5 3/2
7-12 2 2
13+ 2.5 5/2

Dual-wielding, specialized

Level ApR A/R
1-6 2.5 5/2
7-12 3 3
13+ 3.5 7/2

Haste yields 1 additional Attack per Round, but is capped at 5 ApR.

Single weapon or two-handed weapon, specialized, hasted

Level ApR A/R
1-6 2.5 5/2
7-12 3 3
13+ 3.5 7/2

Dual-wielding, specialized, hasted

Level ApR A/R
1-6 2.5 7/2
7-12 3 4
13+ 3.5 9/2

Improved Haste doubles a character's Attacks per Round and disregards the 5 ApR cap.

Single weapon or two-handed weapon, specialized, improved hasted

Level ApR A/R
1-6 3 3
7-12 4 4
13+ 5 5

Dual-wielding, specialized, improved hasted

Level ApR A/R
1-6 5 5
7-12 6 6
13+ 7 7
Whirlwind and Greater Whirlwind set the number of Attacks per Round to 10. Characters under the effect of either spell are unaffected by Haste or Improved Haste.

Single weapon, two-handed weapon, proficient or specialized, (greater) whirlwind

Level ApR A/R
20+ 10 10

Dual-wielding, proficient or specialized, (greater) whirlwind

Level ApR A/R
20+ 10 10
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Postby Revi » Fri Nov 20, 2009 7:29 am

Whirlwind vs. Critical Strike

One thing you could pick up from these figures is that once a character gains access to enough greater whirlwind HLA's to sustain greater whirlwind during an entire boss fight, Attacks per Round become less important. You would buff up with greater whirlwind before combat, and refresh it whenever it runs out.

It should be noted, however, that the critical strike HLA and the (greater) whirlwind HLA cannot be combined, whereas critical strike and improved haste can be combined. This means that for a character who has steady access to the improved haste buff, Attacks per Round remain important throughout the entire game. In this case you would be buffing up with improved haste and critical strike before combat, and refresh critical strike whenever it runs out.

The critical strike HLA almost doubles the damage of each hit made within the next round. As a rule of thumb, you can say that when a character's Attacks per Round are raised to 6 or more when under the effects of improved haste, a combination of improved haste and the critical strike HLA will yield a higher damage per round total than a round of greater whirlwind.

There are a few ' ifs' to this. First of all, some weapons have 'on hit' effects that instantly slay a specific type of enemy, or that have a chance to deal an enormous extra burst of damage. When wielding such a weapon against an enemy that's vulnerable to the effect, from a it's more useful from the perspective of ending the fight as soon as possible the three or four extra attacks that greater whirlwind would provide over improved haste can be far more useful.

Second of all, some enemies, including most of the difficult bosses in the game, are immune to critical strikes. This renders the critical strike ability useless in situations where damage output matters most. It is still very useful against trash mobs and boss minions, but a well-equipped high-level group should not have any trouble disposing of such enemies without the critical strike HLA.

Third of all, improved haste is a single-target 6 th level mage spell. This means that to support a 6-man group your mage would have to reserve at least 6 level 6 spell slots for it.

In conclusion, we can say that both greater whirlwind and critical strike have their uses. If you do not have regular access to improved haste, or your character does not have a high natural ApR, stay away from critical strike. If your character has regular access to improved haste and a high natural ArP, it would be good for him to stack up a few of both.

Also note that the HLA Improved Alacrity allows a character to enable Greater Whirlwind and Critical Strike at the same time, effectively removing the need for this discussion on any mage multi or dualclass.
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Postby Revi » Fri Nov 20, 2009 7:30 am

Improved Haste Gear

As an alternative to having your mage cast improved haste, you could equip your group with some of the following items:

Improved haste / In-game location
Darkfire Bow +4 1/day / Amkethran
Darkfire Bow +5 1/day / Amkethran, Sendai's Enclave
Improved Cloak of Protection +2 1/day / Sahuagin City
Bracers of Blinding Strike 1/day / The Underdark
Amulet of Cheetah Speed 1/day / Sendai's Enclave
Ring of Gaxx 3/day / Tomb of Kangaxx

As you can see, the choice of improved haste gear is fairly limited, and some of these items are obtained late in the game. To make things worse, the Darkfire Bow and the Bracers of Blinding Strike both restrict you in some way. The Darkfire Bow cannot be used by a dual-wielding character, and the Bracers of Blinding Strike use the gloves slot which is usually reserved for one of the gauntlets of weapon skill.

This leaves you with the Ring of Gaxx and the Improved Cloak of Protection, both of which are not difficult to obtain before level 20, and the Amulet of Cheetah Speed, which requires a trip into Sendai's Enclave.

Equipment Affecting Natural Attacks Per Round

The following equipment increases a character's natural Attacks per Round up to a maximum of 5.

ApR - A/R
Belm +2 +1 - +1
Scarlet Ninja-To +5 +1 - +1
Gauntlets of Extraordinary Specialization +1/2 - +1/2
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Postby Revi » Fri Nov 20, 2009 7:33 am

The Use of Equipping an Offhand Weapon

With the introduction of Greater Whirlwind, offhand weapons have lost some of their luster. It is no longer necessary to dual wield just to gain an acceptable number of Attacks per Round. You could argue that it is now more useful to equip a shield in the offhand, for additional protection and resistances, or to pick up a two-handed weapon with a higher damage-per-hit output.

In spite of this, there are still some good arguments for dual-wielding. Let me list a few for you.

You gain additional Attacks per Round when under the effect of Improved Haste.

This is perhaps the most important and most overlooked one. Improved Haste combines with the Critical Strike HLA, and because it doubles your natural ApR, it benefits greatly from a higher natural ApR. Only dual-wielding characters can gain up to 7/2 natural ApR.


Your off-hand weapon can increase your main-hand weapon's performance.

This is another very important element to dual wielding. When picking up an offhand weapon, you should always try to go for one that passively increases the performance of your main-hand. Strength or ApR boosting weapons are excellent for offhand use. These can turn a main-hand weapon that is already excellent into the equivalent of a two-hander with a much higher natural ApR.

Off-hand weapons can provide additional protections most shields cannot.

A very counter-intuitive element of the game is that weapons often provide protections that shields cannot. Negative Plane protection, magical resistance, or immunity to charm are just a few examples of protections that can be much more useful to a high-level character than additional AC.

Dual-wielding can be used to create deadlier combinations of weapon effects.

A final argument in favor of dual wielding is that it allows you to combine 'on hit' effects. For example, if you wanted a weapon that deals fire, acid, electrical, poison and cold damage, and that also has a vorpal effect, no single weapon in the game could accommodate you, but combining the Flail of the Ages +5 and the Axe of the Unyielding +5 could. An offhand deals only 1 attack per round, but if your THAC0 is soft capped, this attack is 95% sure to land every round. For a powerful effect such as the vorpal deathblow, a single 95% chance to land per round can make a large difference.
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Postby Revi » Fri Nov 20, 2009 7:33 am

Typical Offhand Weapons

Belm +2 Location: Druid Grove
+1 attack per round
Scimitar

Scimitar +5, Defender Location: Drizzt encounter
+2 AC
Scimitar

Hindo's Doom +4 Location: Watcher's Keep, Abazigal's Lair
Greater restoration 1/day
+10% Magic resistance
Immunity to death magic
Katana

Spectral Brand +5 Location: Watcher's Keep, Sendai's Enclave
Lowers THAC0 by -10 1/day, 3 rounds
Summon Spectral Blade 1/day
Additional cold damage

Runehammer +5 Location: Siege Camp, Sendai's Enclave
1/day 22 Strength
1/day Mass Cure
Immune to level drain
Immune to fear
Additional damage vs. undead

Angurvadal +5 Location: Watcher's Keep, Sendai's Enclave
22 Strength
Immune to level drain
Additional fire damage
Long Sword

Crom Faeyr +5 Location: Temple Ruins, Sewers, Planar Sphere, Underdark
25 Strength
Slays stone golems, clay golems, ettins and trolls
War Hammer

Axe of the Unyielding +5 Location: Watcher's Keep, Yaga-Shura's Lair
-1 AC
+1 Constitution
Regeneration, 3 hp/round
10% chance of vorpal hit
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Postby Ode to a Grasshopper » Tue Nov 24, 2009 7:19 am

Don't forget that maybe the biggest advantage of Critical Strike is all attacks made are automatic hits regardless of enemy AC, making it great for spells or abilities that require a touch attack to be effective (provided you can cast the spell/effect and use Critical Strike before it wears off). Just watch those Protection from Magical/Normal Weapons spells.
Harm + Critical Strike = win.

Also note that elemental damage will still go through the mage spell Stoneskin, unlike vanilla melee damage. This makes Elemental arrows/bolts/bullets great for disrupting enemy spellcasters with Stoneskin up.

EDIT - another good thing to know is that the maximum number of attacks per round you can get with your offhand is 1. If you equip a weapon that give you extra attacks like Belm the extra attacks are made with your main hand weapon, and if you use Whirlwind/Greater Whirlwind attack 9 of the ten attacks will be with your main hand.

Another sweet Cleric/Ranger, Fighter/Druid, or Fighter/Cleric combo is Greater Deathblow and Fireseeds. GDB insta-kills anything under 12th level (i.e. almost all of SoA except high-level boss types - if you have a few Greater Deathblow for Mind Flayer/Umberhulk encounters it makes it much easier) and Fireseed creates 4 seeds that when thrown create a fireball upon impact. The really useful bit here is that the seeds last for 3 turns, and like all fighter HLAs Greater Deathblow has an instant cast time, and that the Greater Deathblow will effect every enemy hit by the fireball, not just the initial target - if you get one of these combos off early enough and against the right foe you can waste whole groups with a single attack. I'm not sure if this works with the projectiles of the mage spell Melf's Minute Meteors, or with the mage/cleric Energy Blades, but it's still a nice trick for Shadows of Amn.
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Postby Jordoo » Tue Nov 24, 2009 1:27 pm

Very intersting stuff! Good information

I still think Multiclassed Cleric/Rangers are the most versitle and powerfull class that you can get and this thaco thread makes me beleive that even more. Thay are able to take advantage of so many things and only being able to specialize isn't much of a disadvantage after all. They get all divine and druid spells plus fighter and cleric HLA's. As Grasshopper mentioned harm is a great spell. If your a cleric/ranger cast Sancuary then walk up to any boss and cast harm followed by critical strike touch them and then smack them with FOA and the elimental damage alone will take them out through almost all of their buffs and protections.
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