I have been back to this game for a week or two now and I'm reminded of what impressed me so much back when I discovered it a year or two ago: the dynamics of the tactical combat are exquisite, and the subtleties of character design and party orchestration fascinating. So I've been "relearning" the game. Rolled up a cheaty-seven PC party (using the Advanced buy point glitch) and got bored when I was cutting through the lower levels of the Moathouse at level 3. I feel like I've played enough that I have a reasonably high level of understanding of the game and can consider doing something more challenging. Specifically what I had in mind was to try to do a complete playthrough using only a 5 PC party (the max in the vanilla game) all of which were rolled legit, i.e., no exploits in assigning points, etc. Its not so much that I feel guilty about "cheating," but it will feel more rewarding to learn the game deeply enough that I can make it through with a smaller and less artificially buffed party. So I have already tried this once, and the entire party met with a horrid ending! It is really quite remarkable how small things can make such a big difference. The party I was using: 1. Molly Sevant, NG Human Female Bard S 15; D 17; C 12; I 14; W 13; Ch 17. Rerolls: 12 Feats: Magical Affinity, Negotiator Skills buffed: Appraise, Bluff, Gather Info, Move Silently, Perform, Tumble, Use Magical Device At 2nd level she took Cure Light and Tasha's. The plan was to build what I understand is a pretty standard bard: expert at using scrolls, wands and crafting magical items, acts as a party buff (music and healing) and reasonably competent at melee and ranged combat though a bit squishy. If she had survived I probably would have taken Weapon Finesse for her next Feat 2. Anders Blokker, NG Human Male Fighter S 17; D 16; C 16; I 14; W 12; Ch 15. Rerolls: 64 Feats: Power Attack, Cleave, Combat Reflexes Skills buffed: Appraise, Bluff, Heal, Intimidate, Tumble (only reason I added points to appraise on this toon is . . . I have been spending some time building up a "pool" of "legal" rolled toons. He wasn't specifically rolled to work with any particular party and he had a few extra points after I allocated to the ones I felt he really could use . . . Pretty much your standard fighter, either charge in swinging or move out front and set to Ready or Total Defense, and let the hacking and slashing begin. I made sure he had at least 13 in Int (to be able to get some of those melee feats that require it, and also that he had reasonable dexterity and charisma (for dodging, tumbling, AC and Feints. I found him to be pretty effective, though when the rest of the party had been either wounded or stricken down by skeletons at Emridy Meadow and the party was retreating back to Hommlet, he couldn't seem to hold his own against two Owl bears who surprised us on the road (note to self: include a toon with higher survival in party!) 3. Bragul Singhtox Half-Orc Male Barbarian S 19; D 17; C 15; I 16; W 13; Ch 12. Rerolls: 16 Feats: Combat Reflexes Skills buffed: Bluff, Heal, Intimidate, Listen, Move Silently, Sleight of Hand, Survival (4), Tumble. I'm pretty sure this guy had my groups highest survival skill (5 at level 1 and 6 at level 2) and that didn't really seem to be adequate as I was getting quite a few random encounters where I had no choice to avoid and then it started in a tactically rather bad situation. 4. Jorgen Atten S 15; D 12; C 14; I 13; W 18; Ch 14. Rerolls: 6 Feats: Alertness and Skill focus (Listen) Skills buffed: Concentration, Heal, Listen, Spot, Survival (1+4 =5). Obviously what I was doing with this guy was trying to make him the parties "AWACS" early warning person. However, I'm not sure if I was doing it right, cause I found the party to be flat-footed more often than not. I'll finish describing my toons and their history and then compile all my questions below . . . 5. Vizrine, Human male Wizard S 16; D 16; C 13; I 18; W 13; Ch 9. Rerolls: 1 Feats: Point blank shot, Precise Shot Skills buffed: Concentration, Heal, Move Silently, Search, Spellcraft, Tumble, Use Magic Device The tactic with this toon was: keep one Mage Armor scroll scribed up for those pinch situations, but otherwise stay behind the others and lob Magic Missiles and bolts. So, overall a pretty solid though not OP party. Certainly not as gimped as if you use the point buyer or whatever your first random rolls are, but not artificially overpowered either. Compared to play with eight artificially overpowered toons, I found the game to be quite a bit more challenging with this group! In particular I found that having only two dedicated melee toons (plus the cleric) made encounters more challenging. Once they arrived in Hommlet, they did a few of the community service and Fedex quests, enough to get up around 800 skill points. Next they went and took on the toads, and this is where I noticed that things were a bit more "tight" in encounters. Nobody was knocked out, but I found myself retreating to Hommlet to spend gold to stay at the Inn another night (still didn't have enough currency to gamble with Furnok). Next I figured I'd take on the spiders at the Deklo grove and here is where I committed my first reload. I had initially set everyone to sneak before leaving for Deklo, but got into a random encounter with four skeletons (which was pretty close tbh) and then went back to Hommlet to sell that junk. When I left next time I forgot to set each toon to sneak and when we arrived we were just totally mauled by the spiders. I called it a "human error" and reloaced and re-approached with all toons in sneak mode and was able to win the battle. Next thing I did was take on the guards in the Moathouse courtyard and this was a VERY close call. By the time it was over, the barbarian and cleric were both out cold, the fighter had like 2 hp left and the mage and bard were killing off the last couple brigands with crossbows! Good times though as it was fun to have to try and use the party in the most tactically optimal way. At this point they levelled up to 2 and had accumulated enough gear/gold that it was time to gamble with Furnok and get my free housing voucher at the Welcome Wench. That was when I noticed Zert was in town and decided: ah what the heck, and just went ahead and recruited him and Furnok. It was then that I realized the Lamellar armor I bought for my fighter and cleric in the Shop Map might not have been optimum? My fighter had a Dex of 16 = +3. In the armor screen it said: +10 Initial +3 Dex (bonus reduced by Item or Tool: Lamellar Armor) +5 Armor +1 Shield -- AC: 19 The numbers seemed to add up but I was a bit puzzled by that "bonus reduced" part in the line for Dexterity. After recruiting Furnok and Zert and selling off gear, I headed up to Emridy, just to scout the perimeter, and kill a few of the skeletons in preparation for the battle with the skeleton priest on a followup trip. I was shocked when a group of about 6 or 7 skeletons just nearly owned my party: Zert was killed in virtually one blow by a lucky critical from a long spear, Furnok was down to -4 but stabilized, the Magic User was unconscious, and the rest of my part was pretty badly beaten up. Even after expending all my healing spells (though not the scrolls, which I guess was foolish to hoard instead of using them) the remaining party of Bard, Fighter, Babarian Cleric were not all fully healed. And that is when the Owlbears ambushed me on the road back to Hommlet and very quickly dispatched the whole group. Wow! What a fantastic game engine! When a tactical AI opponent can take down a reasonably competent player (who made some poor operational decisions) with a pretty solid group THAT is what I call GOOD GAMING! So here I am, back in the new game window and wondering "What should I do differently?" Any suggestions? This is a wall of text, so in the interest of getting a few helpful responses let me summarize a few basic questions in reference to all the above detail: 1. Any suggestions on how to tweak my toon builds to be more effective? 2. How to avoid surprise encounters? I had a toon with a high Listen and Spot (the cleric with 18 Wis, the skill focus Listen and total scores of: Listen 11 and Spot 7, but it didn't seem to make much difference. He was wearing Lamellar armor; maybe that is it? Does an "antenna" toon needs to also be silent and stealthy? Or maybe he needs to be out in front? 3. What do you consider to be a decent Survival skill to be able to navigate around the map during the first few levels? 5 or 6 didn't seem to be adequate as I repeatedly had encounters that I had no chance to avoid, and more than once started with very bad tactical situations. Also, does the random engine refer to party level, or party number or what when determining what you face? I was surprised to see Owl Bears at Level 2. 4. Referring to the Fighter (Str 17 Dex 16), Cleric (Str 15 Dex 12) and Babarian (Str 19 Dex 17) and with the feats I described above, what armor would you suggest for each? Brabarian leather seemed to be pretty good for the Half-Orc barb, but I don't think Lamellar was necessarily the best choice for the other two? 5. Maces for everyone? One thing I noticed in that last encounter with the Emridy skeletons, bladed weapons are MUCH less effective against them. In past plays I had gone to the effort of stocking up on light maces and slings for everyone in the party who could use such items. But in this case, I overlooked that little detail. Do you guys make a habit of insuring that all party members who can use crushing damage weapons are duly equipped when going into areas where you know there will be skeletons? 6. Is there a way to flee when you find your party caught in a nearly unwinnable encounter? 7. Is there a way to share toons with others, like a place to upload the character files or something?