Plan: ToEE Hireling Overhaul

Discussion in 'General Modification' started by Endarire, Aug 24, 2021.

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  1. Endarire

    Endarire Ronald Rynnwrathi

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    Greetings, all!

    As I already shared with some members of this community, I thought the hirelings (recruitable NPCs) in the ToEE/Co8 module were generally boring and underwhelming. Thus, over the past 2 months or so, I made this document as a plan to fix that. (Read the initial section because it explains my design philosophy and answers many potential questions!)

    I post this here now because this plan involves:

    -Editing ToEE/Co8/Temple+ which I've barely done and never yet to this degree.

    -Using T+-specific resources like prestige classes.

    -Using classes and feats that either haven't been made in the ToEE/T+ engine yet or that haven't been released to the public yet.

    I also wanted the entire Co8 community to have long-term access to this document should it matter.

    Thus, specifically, how best to realize this plan?

    Thankee!
     
  2. Pygmy

    Pygmy Established Member Supporter

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    I believe that the standard ToEE Elmo would require something like a 57 point buy to generate him which illustrates how underwhelming recruitable pcs are
     
  3. Shiningted

    Shiningted I want my goat back Administrator

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    Perhaps you should start with Roland? Remove the ranks in Appraise and Perform, dial back the attributes, and can the longbow proficiency - turn him into a proper cleric. (The problematic attitude to orcs could go, too).

    Of course, some might argue these quirks are the whole point of having him...
     
  4. hammyh

    hammyh Established Member

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    If your aim is to give the new player better helpers without knowing much about the game, then I'd suggest your easiest approach would be to add a bunch of new pre-generated characters that new player can pick from the start menu. These could demonstrate what you consider to be good character builds.

    ________________________________________________________________________

    Otherwise, this seems to be specifically demanding game-optimization more than general npc interactions.

    Second most powerful hireling is probably Otis and he's easy to get. The Prince joins for nothing and is even more power than Otis. Burne is probably 3rd and you only need be good and know where the temple is.

    Generally(imho):
    • Elmo is not perfect. In fact, he has 2 wasted feats on WF/WS BattleAxe if you keep him for the long game. There are much better weapons to be had. If he was perfect starter, he'd probably have wf/ws longsword.
    • Meleny's stats are good for a shape-shifter. The feats are actually ok for that but not perfect. However, she takes about 4 levels to get to decent shapeshifting.
    • Roland is a decent cleric mostly customizable from lvl1 with decent domains. Longbow has some advantages over crossbows, so is not a total waste.
    • Fruella has fun feats except mobility and is highly customizable.
    • Furnok is weak simply because that's how weak pure 3.5 rogues with daggers are. He can be customized. They even gave him a ring of invis.
    • Spugnoir is an ok wizard and he has 2 feats that are useful throughout the game. Since he starts lvl2, he is very customizable.
    I've also played through with Rianna, Serena, Turuko (gotta watch your back for a while), Tuelk, Pintark, and many others.

    Pishella is in a weird spot as she can be useful and somewhat flexible as an early temp hire (lot of sorc spells with good charm DC), but her split becomes more and more detrimental as she gains levels. Yet, her limited backstory sort of explains why this is so.

    The guard you can hire (Raimol) does his job and dies instead of you. Do his stats matter?

    Every NPC has a quirk and some take a long time to get. 3.5 gives attributes every 4 levels and feats every 3 levels to further customize mediocre npcs. Every caster can eventually have crafting. How much more can you ask?

    I dunno, if perfection is desired... then you can always make your own extras. It's not like these npcs have a lot of dialogue. And you can get 2 more party members that way over a npc-only posse.

    Even in the BG series, it took forever to get some npcs. And some were not great - just the dialog was there.

    This is a game issue. I look at it as simply adding some flavor even if it is useless. If you keep them for the long-haul you can spend earned points any way you like.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2021
  5. Endarire

    Endarire Ronald Rynnwrathi

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    As mentioned in my design methodology for this overhaul, each of these NPCs takes a portion of party EXP. Stats absolutely matter because characters in ToEE are pretty much only their graphics, soundsets, and stats. This isn't Baldur's Gate where NPC personalities and stories can reliably make up for bad stats. (Also in BG, because it was 2E, stats mattered differently.)
     
  6. hammyh

    hammyh Established Member

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    You are 100% entitled to play the game any way you like.

    But for your approach to be honest, you should state right at the start that the fundamental principle of your npcs is crafting and in many cases, beginning with a number of magic items.

    I briefly read your document and these game, erm, features seem to be emphasized:
    • reach weapons
    • very specific domains (Kord is repeated)
    • crafting damage and boosts overshadowing and removal any of the AB or damage feats.
    • extreme stats for npcs, and in some cases where it doesn't make sense. For example, Cavanaugh is a charisma-master and likely superior to anything that you would have...yet he needs you to talk his boss into the religion change quest?

    And just as an example of how players (me in this example) think differently:
    • I personally think Barbarian is a terrible waste of a class except specifically for a Half-Orc. (For me, it has crippled a number of your npcs and removed a feat . Imho, it really adds nothing - you can simply get the extra move with a scroll or wand of Longstrider or Expeditious retreat, and if you even temporarily wanted to wear heavier armor for fun - that's now basically not an option if you want the barb benefits. Rage is limited and it offers almost no dedicated class skills that are particularly useful for an npc. The only exception would be Half-orc, where it's the favored class. .... If you have to give a couple levels of something, 2 levels of rogue gives better skills, evasion, needed reflex save boosts and only 1 less BAB. Or better yet, just leave them at 1 or 2 fighter and not waste the extra levels; because before level 9, it is usually better to not dilute the build too much.
    • Your Meleny npc now has a 98 point total (which is actually pretty common in your suggested npcs). But if you use her vanilla form as a shape-shifter, she doesn't need any str, dex, con. Just looking through an old save, a lvl7 Meleny (6 druid, 1 monk) has a legendary rat AC of 29 and 10+ to all saves with no extra equipment. Natural spell allows her to cast in shape. Her AC just gets better with spells: barkskin(3+), mage armor(4), maybe craft a shield amulet and use before shift (4), Owls wisdom (2), Cat's grace(2), Reduce(1). So that could be AC 45 at level 7. Add in UMD Stoneskin, Mirror image, etc. before shift and nothing can hit her and the odd 20 won't do anything. When she gets evasion, you can throw AOE damage spells right through her as she tanks for you. Also, at this point her tumble is infallible with just a few points invested. Add weapon finesse and her AB gets insane.
    • I personally only see improved initiative as needed before maybe lvl 5+ = only if a caster's dex is really bad. It's probably the first thing I'd give Spugnoir at level 3. But I think it is initially wasted on Elmo as there are other feats that I'd rather him have, if I had the choice.
    • Even with the crazy stat buys, many of the npcs are railroaded into certain classes, whereas they were rather flexible before. Turuko is now a cleric/monk mix. Monks either go heavy monk or a few levels - So here you pretty much restrict him to cleric, as he's lost 3 monk levels to cleric and monk 6 will be bad (for a 9th level character). Imho you are better off just reducing them to level 1 and they will gain xp crazy fast anyways, and be customizable.
    • Oohlgrist is changed to NE in order for him to wield an axiomatic weapon I assume, or perhaps limit his temp level loss to 1 when holy+axiomatic? It's an different topic altogether, but it's rather absurd to me that a weapon that does damage to evil every contact can actually be held indefinitely by an evil character...
    And so on. And I'll bet that many players don`t agree with either of us on how they play.

    TLDR. I think that your changes are too personal, even for a mod. The general idea of improving npcs is interesting, but the diversification suffers greatly.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2021
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  7. ConjurerDragon

    ConjurerDragon Established Member Supporter

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    No, quite the opposite actually. They appear as living people, each with their own story and flaws and not just as tools for a power creep to make the game easier.

    Well, yes - Elmo should not be a fighter. He ought to be a ranger:
    "Elmo is a 4th level ranger <S 18/43,115,W16,D16,C17,Ch
    11); 5HD, 41 hit points. He has the following Items hidden in
    a lead-lined oaken chest buried in the dirt floor of the bam:
    +1 chain mail, +2 shield, +1 baltleaxe, 6100 g.p. gems, 10
    p.p., 50 g.p. and 100 s.p. He carries a +2 dagger at all times.
    ("My brudderOHs gave it to me!" he will proclaim proudly if
    asked.) Elmo's speech is slow and halting. He often
    appears tipsy and Jovial, but he is not. Elmo is an agent of
    the Viscount of Verbobonc, and he frequents the Welcome
    Wench Inn in orderto observe all newcomers and insinuate
    himself in their expeditions; thus Elmo will be interested in
    getting MONEY!? (to be used for later ale purchases
    obviously) for being a man-at-arms, and he will gladly go
    with any who ask providing they will furnish him with armor
    and a "BIG axe". If so employed, he will wear his own mail in
    place of, or under, that purchased and use his magic axe
    as well. If anything untoward befalls Elmo, his brother OHs
    will eventually hear of II and seek redress. Otis Is a 10th level
    ranger away on a ablest with • doy, the Canonoss of the
    local church, and an etven accomplice named Murfles, a
    fighter/thief of 1st/2nd level. (For further Information see
    THE TEMPLE OF ELEMENTAL EVIL)"

    No NPC should be optimized for the specific way one player plays and none should have optimal stats - after all that is why they are the NPC´s and the player is the PC hero and not vice versa.

    Of course all of that would not be a problem if - as originally intended - the player would have no idea about all that. Stats and health bars or hitpoints should be hidden from players view for NPC´s.

    I haven´t played ToEE for a longer time. If reach weapons still can be used in close combat then they should be considered cheating and not be used at all. The one disadvantage to having reach and gaining more Attacks of opportunity is that you would have to change weapons for close combat when the enemy closes in. As long as that is not necessary reach weapons are unbalanced.
     
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  8. Endarire

    Endarire Ronald Rynnwrathi

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    @hammyh
    I suspect we'll continue to agree about having different design philosophies for these NPCs.

    I specifically addressed in my design philosophy section that the point of this overhaul is to make NPCs mechanically viable from the time they're obtained. For me, it's very important that all characters be viable from the moment they've recruited into the party. They're equipped as ready-to-go NPCs with the knowledge and experience of many years of 3.x and ToEE-specific optimization. If using reach weapons in standard melee reach is a bug or "cheat" as you claimed, it's added by Troika's devs and has been allowed to remain as it was - despite the modding community - for going on 2 decades now.

    Regarding deities, Kord has a buncha followers in this list, but so does Hextor. There's a far greater variety of deities worshiped by characters in this overhaul than in vanilla. (There are no atheists/agnostics now!)

    In terms of character concepts, each revised character generally focuses on being one thing. Ronald is a Cleric Archer. Meleny is a Druid. Ashrem is a Cleric/Wizard/Mystic Theurge. And so on. This is intentional, but also in part due to the mechanical limis of the engine and its ruleset: Casters simply have more options than non-casters, and the game system very much encourages characters to determine which direction to build their character and stick to it. Characters can still diversify from there, but I was building characters according to what the game's mechanics encouraged for success.

    Since you mentioned Cavanaugh ("Cav") specifically, consider his revamp versus his original. His vanilla self is a TN Male Human Fighter with 10 in all stats and 6 HP. He has Improved Unarmed Strike, Weapon Focus (Unarmed Strike), and Acrobatic. He starts with no notable gear. He's a beggar, made so by the party's actions. Your group is likely level 2 or higher by the time you find him. You could have taken Elmo and Furnok (and others too if you really wanted) for melee if you wanted by now. How much do you want vanilla Cavanaugh as a party member in this state? I can't fully and honestly answer this for you, but I simply don't. He's too mechanically weak. I could level him, but if I wanted a Fighter, I would have chosen another hireling or made a different character. By revamping him to be a ready-to-go Sorcerer, he can still act weak and beggarly because that's his coding, but if you pick him, you get a hireling Sorcerer you can develop to your liking by leveling him.

    So many other vanilla hirelings are like Cavanaugh. Story-wise, they can be weak and ordinary, but they simply aren't worth the effort to obtain and use as-is for their mechanics, which is where they matter more. They don't have the memorable personalities of Minsc or Edwin or Imoen or Baeloth or <some other character you like> from Baldur's Gate. They're mechanical first possibly with some personalities and stories too. I made Ronald to be an exception to this because I came from Baldur's Gate and liked how their hirelings had personalities. Thus, I made a hireling for ToEE in the style of Baldur's Gate. Troika generally didn't.

    Finally, I don't intend for this to sound harsh, but I am passionate about raising characters to greater heights than bringing them down. For me, having so many hirelings that are ready-to-go mechanically means more options for me and players with a similar mindset. Maybe I want to play with a hireling Bard this time instead of going with the usual solo or duo team, but it must be worth my while; otherwise, the hirelings may as well not exist.

    Thankee!
     
  9. FDR4PREZ

    FDR4PREZ Established Member

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    If it is a bug, then by definition it is not something added by Troika's developers. But is it really possible to determine if it was purposefully added this way, or an oversight, or them not knowing the *proper* rules, or an unknown bug by the original developers?

    If it is a bug that was previously noted from 20 years ago, but wasn't worth fixing by the modding community within the last 2 decades, then it is still a bug that can be fixed by current modders.

    If it is a bug that wasn't known about 20 years ago, but was more recently noted, then it is still a bug that can be fixed by the current modders.

    Or maybe the mechanics behind the bug wasn't so easy to fix by the previous modders so they left it alone, but maybe now it is more easy to fix with using T+ modding

    If it was added this way by the original developers, then the T+ modders can have a house-rule "Stricter Rules Enforcement" setting that can be activated for people that don't like this bug/cheat. Just like the grease spell 5' AoE rule.
     
  10. hammyh

    hammyh Established Member

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    Fair enough. I get that you just want to share your love of the game and playstyle.

    Some changes in your list, I found a bit odd, though. Cannoness has the Chaos hammer domain spell but still worships St. Cuthbert. Ashrem used to be the only potential crafter that could craft chaos weapons for use in the St. Cuthbert god fight (if you don't want to use the answering swords as a crutch for every battle and/or wanted some extra dedicated damage help). An evil party is not for everyone, however.

    I actually didn't say that reach weapons were a cheat, I simply commented that you emphasized it for most (all?) npcs. That's not a lot of variety. For Gruumsh orcs, a longspear is the favored weapon - so that could be a given.

    In my current test game (evil party) it was fun to take on the giant with 6 x 2nd level characters (3 cleric protagonists +5 npc - meleny, Kobort, Spugnoir -for ray of enfeeblement) + Fruella + Mathel (controlled undead from Welkwood Bog) and Elmo as an intentional sacrificial lamb. Other npcs could have been the sacrifice, but Elmo has valuable gear to sell. The 4 npcs did ok; Korbort died, but he cost a pittance to reincarnate. The npcs certainly did not bring this battle down.

    This run, Fruella will test the Fochlucan lyrist and Kobort will test an absolute minimal Abjurant Champion (charisma focus). I'll probably also pick up Tuelk to test an int-based Abjurant Champion. Meleny will be a Druid/monk/Sorc/AbChamp with higher levels of spellcasting in wildshape.

    We can agree that we both like ToEE and have our own styles. Plus, I can only see your motivation to mod as a good thing for ToEE. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2021
  11. Pygmy

    Pygmy Established Member Supporter

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    Your solution Endarire is to have a beguiler in every party and then from Level 6 with a bit of Dominate Monster(Suggestion) on 0 level human or monster abuse followed by "murder by enemy" and reincarnation you can tailor as many super-powered hirelings as you want!
     
  12. Endarire

    Endarire Ronald Rynnwrathi

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    @Pygmy
    If you're referencing this, I already considered that months ago.

    Dominated creatures require 1 NPC slot each. At present, there are 5 NPC slots maximum. Charm allows parties to exceed their party count, but only lasts 1 hour per caster level, or 2 hours per CL if extended.
     
  13. Sitra Achara

    Sitra Achara Senior Member

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    What are you talking about?

    DonutReach.jpg

    ;)
     
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  14. Endarire

    Endarire Ronald Rynnwrathi

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    @Sitra Achara
    What map is that? What spell IDs should I use when having NPCs know spells? Do NPCs with class levels automatically gain all class features from these levels?
     
  15. Sitra Achara

    Sitra Achara Senior Member

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    1. IWD cave
    2. Eh?
    3. Only the automatic ones, if that's what you mean (but I'm not 100% sure).
     
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