Whew, it's been a while since my last post...because I haven't been doing much besides building up my gold and then quickly spending it. On the plus side, my paladin is pretty well stocked. I'm starting to reach the territory where the next tier of upgrades are the big, big purchases (350 million to several billion). So for now, I think I'm fairly satisfied with where she's at, which means my next project has been preparing for my barbarian. Levelling up a barbarian has been...interesting.
Barbarians cannot use magical equipment. For levelling, this sucks. I've realized a whole lot of my standard levelling gear is magical. So it's definitely been an exercise in patience and perseverance, because trust me, I've tried to find ways to weasel out of having to keep at this character. But barbarians seem to have become pretty essential...plus, after hitting the level 30-35 range, it seems to have gotten a bit more tolerable.
But this all got me to thinking about the necessity of barbarians: why have they become part of the standard? From what I understand, in addition to being extremely strong melee hitters and serviceable tanks due to their unrivalled base hitpoints/constitution scores, their standard skill attacks, chokehold and rend, are based on their constitution, not on their damroll. So if you can just stack your constitution as high as it can go, along with piling on HP, you can begin to take things on that normal things might have a bit more trouble with by taking advantage of a simple tactic: choke, flee, heal up, repeat. In other words, "chokeflee".
Chokeflee has given barbarians a mechanical niche. It's what makes them different, and what makes them desired. If the imms made a game-wide change to cripple or otherwise remove chokeflee, I would imagine barbarian usage would drop. They'd still probably be used due to their superior melee combat, but they settle into a more toolbox sort of role, pulled out only when needed.
So with this in mind, I started to think about other classes and how things have changed since 2004, starting with my paladin because hey, I love my paladin. Yet in 2004, I had no taste for paladins. Why? Because they didn't really seem to do anything special. Maybe I'm wrong and I was simply misinformed back then, but I felt like anything a paladin could do, another class could do better. Need a meatshield? Why not a warrior? Need a healer? Got clerics for that. Need a hitter? Thieves could circle around nearly any problem back then, with vampires as backups. Need a meaty hitter for stuff like Bahamut? .....Why not a warrior?
Again, paladins might have always been like this, so I may be wrong, but I feel like in my time away, paladins gained both a thematic and a mechanical role - they went from being "warrior's little brother" to slapping on their helmets and shields and becoming proper "knights". Techs like shieldbash and shieldblock, along with equipment like Pauldrons of Mortality and mastery over polearm weaponry really gives them that flavour of being nitty-gritty, all up in your grill, I'm going to cram my shield down your throat, knight. And I like that motif! It gives them a different feel rather than just being "subpar warriors playing dress-up as look-at-me-I'm-a-holy-knight-angel-fighter". It's turned paladins from being my least favourite class to now my most favourite!
I don't want this post to get too long, so I'll just cover one more well-transitioned class and cover some others in the future. Today's second class is the nephandi. Back in '04, nephandi were pretty much just thematic. They were "evil mages". Like I stated with paladins, I may have been way off about this, but this was just my perspective from back then, but basically as I saw it, nephandi were really only used to a) skinmask corpses and claim the skins as trophies of stuff you'd killed, and b) look/feel cool as a mage from hell. Unfortunately, they were all show and no substance.
Now, however, nephandi have found their place. Granted, they're in a toolbox state, only pulled out in certain situations...but that's still more than before! Nephandi seem to be more about debuffs/spelldowns - which, thematically works. Mages are usually used as either magical hitters, or as support units for spellups. Nephandi turn into "reverse"-supports; instead of making your party stronger, they make the enemy weaker, more susceptible to things like immobing. Now, regular mages/clerics can still debuff with things like razorbait and ill fortune, but it gives Nephandi a mechanical space to exist. A tiny space, but a space nonetheless. For example, Zeus. Zeus usually can't be immobilized easily, but if you introduce a Nephandi and throw on some debuffs, Zeus can then be immob'd and thus easily defeated.
I think one of the problems Realms used to have with their classes was the fact that you really only needed a few. Thieves could be used for almost every run, vampires and warriors filled in the blanks, and mages/clerics existed as supports. Paladin? Use a warrior. Ranger? Use a warrior. Nephandi? Use a mage/cleric. Druid? Use a mage/cleric. Augurer? Use a mage/cleric. Fathomer? I don't even know what fathomers were designed to do, to be honest. And I still don't know. But that's for a later post. Most of classes were superfluous/unnecessary to have because you could do the work with one of the more popular classes, at either an equal rate or a better one.
I'm generalizing a fair bit, but unless things were used for very, very specific cases, you could casually get by with whatever class you wanted to main, then have a thief and warrior alt. And you could probably skate by on a lot of runs using just a thief and contributing with circles. It's nice to see the Realms have changed in this aspect.
Besides some reflection on the class differences between the past and the present, I'm hopeful that I'll have some run-related posts in the near future. I want to try and solo Justice on my shiny paladin at some point. Maall has recommended Justice and Zeus as good solo practice, to learn the nuances of tanking, how much damage I can absorb at certain rates, when I can risk actively throwing out damage, and when to flee out to recuperate/re-engage. So there'll definitely be a note on that because I am expecting to die at LEAST once. Along with that, Maall and I are planning to smash some stuff in Lamech's Mansion, an area that I don't believe existed in 2004. There is some neat paladin equipment in Lamech's, like the pauldrons (which we probably won't pop...Maall has done 83 kills and still hasn't gotten a single pauldrons to pop) and the bishop's staff.
And ha, my post went on way too long again. Brevity is something I'll need to work on :P
Until next time!