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Old December 12, 2020, 22:26   #1
archolewa
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Join Date: Feb 2019
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Early Game Blackguard Without a Town

I mentioned in passing in the annoying Angband thread that the early game is much more tense and engaging when you don't have access to the town, especially for the Blackguard due to their reliance on Maim Foe (http://angband.oook.cz/forum/showpos...0&postcount=39).

DavidMedley asked me to elaborate on that, so here we go.

First off, I don't consider this a bad thing. The Blackguard is my favorite class in this game, and that doesn't change with Word of Recall turned off. Indeed, in many ways Blackguard's foibles make them much more fun to play for me than Warrior and Paladin (both of which I also enjoy). For one thing, without WoR I'm much more likely to bail a big fight and slaughter some kobolds to get back some HP, so that I don't use my healing potions unless I have to. I find myself working every little advantage I have to survive, in a way I don't really need to with the town and easy access to Phase Door and Cure Light Wounds potions.

Blackguards tend to have a pretty tense earlygame because Maim Foe is incredibly important to ensuring their survival before they get Werewolf Form (after I get Werewolf Form, I tend to find the Blackguard turns into an offensive, nigh unkillable powerhouse). However, it's impossible to buy the Maim Foe book before you leave town, so you're dependent on finding it in the dungeon if you don't have Word of Recall. Since it's not just "save up until I buy the book" it adds a lot of tension to the game.

Now, the reason I think Maim Foe is so important is largely because earlygame Blackguards have highly variable damage output, and Maim Foe is effectively a hedge against unfriendly RNG. It's not a big deal if you have a rough turn if your enemy skips a turn because of stunning, or whiffs most or all of their attacks because of it. On the other hand, without stunning, a rough turn could put you so far back in the damage race that you have to burn not-easily-renewable phase door and/or healing potions that you wouldn't have had to otherwise. Maim Foe is also important because it means that the Blackguard's in-combat healing can mostly keep up with enemy damage output.

Early game Blackguards have highly variable damage output for two reasons I think:

1. They have low blows, so they tend to favor heavier weapons.
2. Because their spells grant them some healing, and as many (or often more!) blows than regular attacks, they tend to rely heavily on their spells (especially Leap into Battle) in combat, and thus have to deal with spell failures.

In the first case, if you're only swinging 1.3 times a turn for 60 damage a pop (had that with a Maul of Lightning), then you could either send an enemy fleeing with one swing, or whiff and they effectively get free attacks. Meanwhile, if your warrior is swinging their dagger three times for sixty damage, they might do sixty, they might do forty, they might do twenty. They have to miss all three attacks to do zero damage. So they're much more likely to do some damage even if the RNG is being less than friendly.

However, when the RNG gives the Blackguard a run of bad luck, the Blackguard finds himself taking hits and not really making any progress on killing the enemies. Maim Foe helps hedge against this by reducing the damage done by enemies.

In the second case, everything that applied to the first case still applies (since you're effectively swinging your weapon), but it also has the minimum 5% failure built on top of it. So you have an additional 5% chance of just whiffing on your turn. Again, Maim Foe helps hedge against this by reducing enemy offense.

The Blackguard's spellcasting healing is I think a built-in hedge against unfriendly RNG by taking the edge off of enemy attacks. However, Maim Foe massively increases the value of this healing because stunning decreases enemy offense so much that the spellcasting healing doesn't just take the edge off, it can almost keep up with enemy attacks. There's nothing as satisfying as taking down a third of your enemy's hitpoints, and ending with *more* hitpoints than you started. Oh, and then getting a free turn. Maim Foe makes this much more likely.
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