I’ve developed this damage calculator application for my own use with the Baldur’s Gate videogame saga in mind, but it’s probably useful of other games that have the same AD&D second edition rules (or close enough), or, in case that anyone is still playing with that rule set, the pen an paper tabletop games.
I’m not an obsessed powergamer that tries to just find the best of the best, and use only that (as some of the examples below are going to show you), but I’ve been specially motivated to create this application by some discussions online where one person said to another something along the lines of "I’m right, just do the math", while the other answered pretty much the same (and none of the two really was doing the math). Well, this is going to do the math for you, at least, for damage, which is not difficult, but it is boring to do manually, and it’s a task better suited to, at least, a spreadsheet.
The reason is that by just looking at the description of the damage of a weapon, you can not realistically make an assumption of how good is going to be. You can’t naively pretend that the average damage on a successful hit is going to be enough, because the THAC0 and attacks per round matter the same if not more. And just by looking at some numbers, is difficult to make an educated guess of which weapon choice (or specially, choices, when dual wielding) is going to be the most optimal one.
That is, of course, assuming that you want to be a perfectionist powergamer (which this application mostly about), and not just one that decides that his character is going to be a dwarf wielding an axe and a shield no matter what, because that’s what goes with the personality, culture and style of the character, which suits the role-playing nature of the game.
Please, use this application for having fun with a game, or challenge your prejudices and become a wiser person. I’ve found some results that were against my own intuition, proving me wrong in the assumptions I made, and has made me happier than confirming what I initially guessed, so be amazed by testing your ideas with experimentation.
Last but not least, I’m a software developer, so I enjoy building things. This application has been useful to use for the first time two interesting technologies related to the area I’m a specialist in.
The application is useful for several kinds of comparisons:
Deciding when it’s better to use an off-hand weapon (even when you don’t have proficiency with two-weapon style), for the extra attack, instead of one weapon alone (because the comparisons below will show that for classes that can’t use shields, dual wielding is useful even without proficiency).
Deciding when it might be worth it using a weapon different to your main one, even if it deals less average damage per hit (for example, because many armors have bonuses against slashing damage, or because you have less proficiency with crushing weapons, but the target has some resistance to all damages except crushing).
Deciding which weapon combinations available to you are more damaging (for example using a "speed weapon" to increase your number of attacks, or one that increases strength chance to hit and average damage per hit).
Comparing the average damage per round for a given AC of different character configurations entirely, like Monk versus Swashbuckler. This is to finally have a tool for those heated debates on whether one class is powerful or not.
Modders who want to introduce kits or weapons, and might want to keep them balanced compared with the existing ones.
The UI doesn’t allow to choose any class or weapon or proficiency from the game data to automatically calculate the bonuses or penalties, unfortunately. All has to be added manually. This has not been a big deal in my use of the application, since it has a menu to save and load "configurations" (a build of a character, with a certain base THAC0, bonuses from weapon, proficiency, strength, etc.). You can also duplicate a configuration to compare one character with a variation of itself. Maybe this is also because I’m very familiar with the AD&D second edition rules, because I’ve known them for almost 25 years.
This comparisons were done with the only capability of the application in mind: calculating how effective is a class/weapon combination of damaging an enemy. It’s obvious that Kensai will always deal more damage than a pure Fighter, or a Swashbuckler than a Thief. Whether that compensates the loss of other features it’s still subjective. This is not the app for this, because it’s probably impossible to make a tool that gives you an answer to this.
|I’m not a Baldur’s Gate guru. I really welcome the input from players with deep experience with the game. I’ve only reached Throne of Bhaal once, when the game came out (so about a decade ago). I’m saying this, because I can’t really tell how likely is having to hit an enemy with, for example, -15 AC. I’ve found that late ToB enemies have an starting effective AC of -8 because is easy to see that in the game files, but I can’t tell if they are going to have that number improved by items or spells often. I think that it’s still important to take into account a range of AC for the enemy, because spells on both party sides are going to make that number go effectively up or down.|
Some Kensai’s choices vs Skeletons and versus Full Plate Mail
In a playthrough, I did this somewhat odd choice of proficiencies during BG1 for a Kensai protagonist:
Specialized: Bastard Sword
Proficient: War Hammer
Daggers were for throwing daggers and the Dagger of Venom, and Bastard Sword for the very early available +1 version, and later on have an upgrade when gaining Albruin (as you can see, a choice a bit off the beaten path, not intended to be min/max at all). The last point on War Hammer was because of the impressive penalties that you suffer when using slashing weapons against Full Plate armors, and a bit for the fights against Skeletons or creatures which can only be hurt by blunt weapons. For role-playing purposes, you could say that the character (by the time level 6 was reached) was also tired of seeing a plethora of War Hammers dropped by enemies, and total absence of Bastard Swords, so he decided to start progressing in something new.
Let’s see how good that idea for proficiencies was.
First see how good is the performance against an enemy with 50% resistance to Slashing and Piercing and 0% in Crushing (typical Skeleton):
At the starting strength of the character (18/82) the damage done by a War Hammer +1, and having that stated set of proficiencies, is almost the same as the other weapons (e.g. from AC 4 to AC 2, the ones of a Skeleton Warrior), even a bit less. Ashideena, with the extra enchantment level is a bit above. Upgrading Strength to 19, the result changes a little bit:
Since the strength increase will give 4 extra damage points to any weapon, no matter the proficiency, the difference in base damage of a War Hammer (somewhat low) compared to the higher damage of a Bastard Sword, is not that important. As you can see, only Ashideena stands out from the rest, due to the extra damage and THAC0 bonus. Unfortunately for me, in the same playthrough I leaned to give Ashideena to Yeslick.
Now let’s check how well the arsenal of this Kensai is against an enemy in Full Plate Mail. That armor has a very good base AC, but sometimes it escapes to people that the armor has an even better AC against the most common damage type: slashing.
Note that the modifiers due to damage type are applied already, so assuming the enemy is wearing non-magical Full Plate and has no other benefit from Dexterity, etc., the AC to look at is 1 for all weapons, so you don’t have to consider that slashing have to attack against an enemy at -3 AC (the application allows to apply those modifiers to make it visually easy to compare, and the screenshot already reflects this).
The best weapon in terms of damage, Albruin starts as the best one at AC 10, but goes down immediately, and gets surpassed by the Dagger of Venom, so still the best weapon is the one with the best proficiency in this case. Add to it the potential damage from the poison, and the Dagger of Venom wins even more easily.
Dual or single wielding daggers
Continuing with the previous example of a Kensai build with mastery in daggers and no proficiency at all in dual wielding, how practical is to add a second weapon? Are the penalties steep enough to make the extra attack worth it? Let’s see how that looks when considering using one or two daggers +2 (Dagger of Venom and Heart of the Golem). The comparison is done both at level 6 and level 7.
At level 6, even if the target is at AC -1, the extra attack fully compensates the penalties. At level 7, the breaking point is higher because the main hand has 2 attacks per round instead of 3/2.
As you can see, even with the penalties, attacking a creature with modest AC is still quite profitable! This should be intuitive enough: when an enemy is held or unconscious, all attacks happen automatically, so more attacks means guaranteed extra damage. At bad AC this is similar: you only fail on critical failures. When the enemy is well defended, incurring in a penalty makes you much more reliant on rolls of 20 to achieve a hit, so the incurred penalty of using an off-hand weapon makes you closer to where you don’t want to be at.
This is one of the uses of the app that I’m more happy about, because you can see exactly at which AC value the two configurations intersect, so dual wielding stops being better, and you should switch. Make those spell casters suffer with more chances to interrupt them and the extra attack of the off-hand.
Late Shadows of Amn: Monk vs Fighter
According to popular opinion, Monks are supposed to be very powerful by the late game. The following comparison proofs that, without buffs, just permanent undispellable equipment, they are excellent damage dealers, perfectly on par with well equipped Fighters, a bit above in some case, a bit below in another.
The comparison is done with the best gauntlets available by that game stage (Gauntlets of Crushing for Monk, Legacy of the Masters for Fighter). The Monk is charted with only his fist, and "dual" wielding the fist and the Ninjato of the Scarlet Brotherhood, a Monk-only weapon (other, maybe more powerful weapons exist for a Monk, but don’t change much), but note that given that the Monk already has 4 attacks per round with the main hand, any off-hand weapon will give only 1 extra attack from that hand, so the bonus attack per round of the Scarlet Ninjato is lost.
The Fighter is shown using only Crom Faeyr, or with other popular combinations with Belm as "speed weapon". The strength for the configurations not using Crom Faeyr is set to 19 (+3 to THAC0, +7 to damage), and the proficiency points are spread out to have full Grand Mastery on the main hand, and only being proficient in the off-hand, and with specialization in the Two Weapon Style (-4 penalty for the off-hand, and maximum attacks per round without penalty in the main hand).
A Paladin at level 17 is also compared, to show how relevant the lack of Grand Mastery could be (also, a Paladin levels up even slower than a Monk, so the THAC0 is worse).
In this case, I’ve allowed the Paladin to have maximum proficiency (Mastery) in Two Weapon Style, and become Specialized in the two weapons used. As you can see, only with the best of the best equipment available, and with good planning on the weapon choice, the Paladin is able to surpass the Monk in terms of damage. A more traditional choice of equipment, maybe with a shield instead of two weapons, would leave the Paladin with better defense, but substantially less offensive power. Even with Crom Faeyr, the Paladin is below a Monk without the Gauntlets of Crushing.
The subtle detail to notice is that Monks, in exchange to being immune to Slow, are also immune to Haste. This means that they miss out on the cheapest way to increase the party performance in melee. A hasted version of the Fighter using only Crom Faeyr surpasses all the previous Monk configurations across the whole AC range, when without Haste it was worse in almost all of it (the Paladin is highly crippled by the fact that, with 2.5 attacks per round, Haste only increases attacks to 3, while Fighters get boosted to 4).
Monks have excellent innate defenses that Fighters lack, but they suffer from a clear upper bound in the maximum damage that can deal.
Monks are decently on par, even a tad better, than Fighters using a single weapon, and when only boosted by permanent effects. Contrary to popular belief, they probably peak midgame, given that they can get the Gauntlets of Crushing very early, and those give +4 to THAC0 and damage. They also level up a bit faster than Fighters, so they reach the best base THAC0 of 0 at the end of the (classic) Shadows of Amn experience cap (3 million points).
In terms of damage, considering that Monks gain the same High Level Abilities than Fighters, that Monks' fists will only improve by +1 to THAC0 and damage, they will not improve much after that point compared with Fighters, who will get better gauntlets in Watcher’s Keep, weapon upgrades in Throne of Bhaal, and a tiny upgrade to THAC0.
The most lethal combination of weapons, though, remain the same: a "speed weapon" (Kundane, Belm… anything that gives one extra attack per round) and Crom Faeyr, for the huge boost to damage with the increase in Strength. Since there are nice upgrades to weapons in Throne of Bhaal, a decent alternative is using a potion to increase Strength as much as possible, and use Haste or Improved Haste.
Since they lose access to Crom Faeyr and any spell that increases attacks per round, Monks lose a lot in offensive capabilities. The Monk-only weapon, Ninjato of the Scarlet Brotherhood, which gives one extra APR, can give no advantage once you have 4 APR in the main hand. The engine doesn’t allow
Perhaps surprisingly, Monks get a great boost by using an off-hand weapon, even if they can’t have proficiency in the two-weapon style. The -4 penalty is compensated by the other bonuses. Of course the result is different when the to hit chance is really low.
Late Throne of Bhaal: Monk vs Swashbuckler vs Paladin
As mentioned previously, Monks pretty much have peaked by the mid game. Later on they hardly improve their fist (+4 instead of +3), and they have already reached their maximum THAC0, and best gauntlets. As a comparison, here is a setup with a Swashbuckler at the Throne of Bhaal cap, wielding the Ninjato of the Scarlet Brotherhood for the extra attack per round (ironically a Monk-only weapon available to them via Use Any Item), and Crom Faeyr (another great weapon that Use Any Item unlocks, and that Monks miss out).
The Swashbuckler is displayed doing 2 and 2.5 attacks per round on the main hand, which is holding Belm, plus the extra attack of the second hand, which is Crom Faeyr (given the lack of proficiency in War Hammers, I’ve preferred to arrange the weapons like this, but the reverse would probably be more effective). The first case will be when equipping "only" the Legacy of the Masters, and second when using the more powerful Gauntlets of Extraordinary Specialization (both permanent effects). I’ve omitted one with 3 attacks per round, although that would be quite a common state for a Swashbuckler that can produce a Haste scroll or an Oil of Speed via High Level Abilities (and yes, of course, those can be looted or bought). That bumps the damage to 126 points per round in the low AC range, so in the middle of the two higher configurations, but it’s a temporary state that can be dispelled also.
The Paladin, this time is using the Gauntlets of Extraordinary Specialization for 0.5 extra attacks, giving the character the maximum number of 5 attacks per round without any kind of haste in place. The THAC0 also has reached the best value of 0. Still is using the probably best weapon combination of the previous comparison: Crom Faeyr and Belm. This time the Paladin is on par with the Fighter in terms of attacks per round, but is still not as good as a Fighter or a Monk, given that the lack of Grand Mastery is a loss of almost 12 points of damage per round.
Late Throne of Bhaal: Monk vs Sarevok
Some people that have tried a Monk protagonist, compare him/her with the performance of Sarevok, a pure Fighter with excellent stats (many consider him the best NPC of the game), and they argue that even Sarevok is inferior to Monk, so Fighters are inferior. We’ve seen Monks being very powerful, a bit more than a Paladin with the best equipment. But are really better than a Fighter like Sarevok?
If you follow the weapon choices that you are given or hinted that is very possibly true. Sarevok starts with Grand Mastery in Two Handed Sword and two points in Two Handed Weapon Style, and has one point in Halberd. The problem with this choice, is that any use of one single weapon will give you at best, 3.5 attacks per round: the starting one, one extra from the Fighter levels, one extra from the proficiencies, and half more from the Gauntlets of Extraordinary Specialization. But any character using two weapons is going to have (at worse) 4 attacks if having Grand Mastery on the weapon of the main hand, more if using the mentioned gauntlets or a weapon that gives one extra attack. So yes, if the enemy that you attack is immune to any special effect (like the vorpal hit of the Ravager halberd), the Monk will do more damage than Sarevok, and will be more dangerous.
So the simple lesson to learn here, is that if you want to follow Sarevok’s weapon choices (Two Handed Sword and Halberd), you should invest in hasting him as much as possible to remain competitive with other damage dealer that is using two weapons. But you should consider giving him proficiency in some other weapon that he can dual wield eventually.