Part 2: Character creationRight, now that that messy business is behind us, we need some characters!
The game will happily give us a prefabricated party, but what fun is that? We need four new party members. Each should have a name, a graphic, a build, and a backstory. You can choose builds from the list of presets:
or you can do a custom build -- though customization is rather limited as you only have 5 skillpoints to assign. In fact, builds in general are somewhat limited, unfortunately. There's two skill trees: combat and magic.
The way this works is that you can't invest in a skill unless a linked skill from lower on the tree has more points in it than the skill you want to invest in. For example, if you have only 5 points in Melee Weapons (the bottom-left combat skill), then you can invest at most 5 points into Hardiness (the skill immediately above it). Functionally this serves to prevent you from getting to the better combat skills until you've put in your basic training.
Combat skills, left to right, bottom to top (these illustrations are by Phil Foglio, incidentally, artist for the comic-cum-webcomic Girl Genius):
Basic training with weapon types. Swords are your best DPS option as they're the only weapon type that can be dual-wielded; they're also your best option for tanks since spear users can't use shields and your ranged characters generally want to avoid melee. Spears have decent single-hit damage but pale in comparison to swords (and all the really cool weapons are swords, natch). Bows are handy, though a bit redundant with spellcasting. And throwing is pretty worthless, sadly -- it's ammo-based unlike all the other weapon types, and basically the best you can get is steel javelins, while all the other weapon types have cool enchanted gear with nifty bonuses.
Though, I've beaten this game with a party of 2, so if you can come up with a compelling reason to saddle me with a character who can't pull their weight, have at it.
Battle disciplines are a variety of "spells" that combat characters can use. Using any discipline renders the character fatigued for a few turns, during which time they can't use disciplines. There's one hilariously overpowered discipline that makes the mid/late game a lot easier, so investing in these basic skills is strongly recommended.
Incremental bonuses. Hardiness and Blademaster are both pretty decent; the other two are crippled by being behind ranged skills.
Parry's not great. The damage reduction is significant, but the proc rate is awful -- note that the skill cap on all non-basic skills is 10 points (and you get 2 points per level, and 5 at the start of the game), so at best you'll only ever have a 30% chance of parrying attacks.
Moving before enemies is frankly more helpful for mages than for warriors, but it's still good, and this skill is in front of two other great skills.
Awful awful awful. You still take damage from riposted attacks, and the damage you do to the guy that hit you is pathetic.
Avernum: Escape from the Pit follows the proud tradition of its predecessors in making dual-wielding awesome. Sadly you can't dual-wield polearms, but dual-wielding swords is quite viable and provides a significant damage upgrade...once you have the skill necessary to hit your targets, anyway. I don't know exactly what the damage penalty from dual-wielding is, but whatever it is it should probably be bigger.
Basically the "assassination" skill from previous games. I'm unsure whether this simply makes critical hits more likely, or if it's a separate thing.
"Harmful effects" are random debuffs, like poisoning or making the target less accurate. But this is a ranged skill, ergo it sucks. And yes, they re-used the graphic here.
Magic skills, left to right, bottom to top:
Skill with casting spells. Want to cast spells? Get more of these. The passive effectiveness bonuses are not very large, though, so there's little point in investing once you have the spells you want. Magic spells focus on debuffs and dealing damage, while priest spells focus on buffs and healing. They both have a decent amount of crossover though.
Giving everyone in the party a single point in Priest Spells is a pretty decent idea, as it gives them access to the Light Heal spell (everyone gets spellpoints based on their level and INT score). Letting your warriors top up their own HP a few times during a dungeon crawl can really stretch your priest's resources.
Traps in Avernum will rip your head off, set it on fire, and then summon a demon to eat the charred remains. You want tool use. Being able to pick locks also comes in handy pretty frequently. It's hard to know how much to get, though.
Aside from the damage resistance bonuses (just to poison and acid, sadly), this mostly just grants access to various hidden item caches and respawning alchemical ingredients. There's some nice stuff in those caches, but it's still kind of a boring skill.
Want better spells? Get Spellcraft.
Want to learn better spells? Get Mage Lore. There's almost zero uses for Mage Lore beyond deciphering ancient forbidden tomes found in undead-filled crypts and the like, but that's still pretty important. The mental effect resistance is also very nice, because charm spells suck ass.
Ehh, pretty marginal frankly. There are very few situations in which you can't just up and walk back to town for a free full heal, which costs nothing more than time and tedium.
Increases all of your resistances slightly, and (as with Cave Lore) has no predecessor skill, so everyone can invest in it. Not a bad idea for your warriors, who otherwise have trouble accumulating magical resistance.
Buried three deep in the magic tree, if you have access to this skill then you almost certainly don't need it, because you're a caster with high INT and thus great magical resistances already. Unfortunate. Warriors would love to have this one.
I believe this actually reduces the costs of your spells by a flat amount scaling with skill investment. As noted, you can always walk back to town if you need to. But later spells can get expensive, so I don't really mind having a few points of this in my casters.
There's also four basic stats: Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Endurance. You get 3 points at start, 1 point per level, and the game periodically also gives you a free point in one of the stats (so e.g. a level-50 warrior is going to have an INT of 6 or so whether he likes it or not). Investment in these is pretty simple. Are you a melee character? Put every single point in Strength. Are you a ranged character? Put every single point in Dexterity. Are you a caster? Put every single point in Intelligence. Endurance is pretty pointless as characters get plenty of HP as they level up anyway, and putting points outside of your core competencies just makes you worse at them.
I mean, you can make a hybrid character, but he'll just be mediocre at two things. Hybrids aren't nearly as awesome as they were in the older games. Don't let this stop you though; if y'all want a party of red mages I can make it work.
Finally, the character graphics:
Anyway, give me those character ideas! Remember: a name, a graphic, a build, and a backstory. No hard deadline; let's just see how this plays out. And to be clear, Lagran is not joining us. We have plans for him, but they do not include anything resembling happiness.