What this guide IS:
I will try and explain you the most important principles of building your own strategies when facing powerful spellcasters and using your own mages effectively.
What this guide is NOT:
You will not find a recipe on how to deal with each and every foe using some cheap strategy. All possible tactic spoilers are under hidden blocks, so that you will not spoil fun of exploring the game by yourself.
Why bother with spellcasters? I like swinging axes/hiding in shadows/roleplaying!
Spellcasters are probably the most complex characters both to use as NPC's and to face as enemies. And if one can figure out how to swing an axe more or less easily by.. you know.. swinging it, determining how all those "absolute immunities" and "khelben's warding whips" work may prove a little more challenging.
Who is this guide for?
This guide is for everyone who has some experience in BG series but feels like they do not understand something about all those "Lich: Spell Ineffective" and "Lich: Weapon Ineffective" thingies. Or for someone who is thinking about playing a mage and does not even know how interesting and complex it is.
How powerful can a spellcaster be?
I have soloplayed vanilla ToB and BWP:Standard using pure-wizard and a pure-sorcerer protagonist on insane difficulty without using any *unfair* strategies. It is not too easy and not too difficult, the difficulty is just fine to keep things interesting throughout the whole game.
Let's get started. Basic strategies
Only in that order. You hear me? When you have 50 hp and Fikraag hits ~150 with his fireball, you will definitely want to protect yourself against that somehow. Even a goblin can kill 20-level sorcerer in two hits if you forget your everyday stoneskin.
Always watch for enemy mages' strategies
If you think that Lich is powerful and invincible, try mimicing his actions and see how he can counter it! Feedback window is your friend! After a little practice you will know how to breach each and every kind of protection and how to protect yourself against each and every enemy. Remember, your mages(Imoen, Edwin, Nalia, ...) are no different from Irenicus or Kangaax. Ok, Irenicus has a little higher lvl and Kangaax has a few more resistances but other than that they are no different! They have the same spells which act and can be blocked exactly the same way.
Spell level =/= spell usefullness
Do not think that if you don't have "time stop" or "absolute immunity" you cannot counter those who do. Bleh, I barely use any spells of level >7. Even more, there are extremely useful spell on every spell level.
A little more in-depth explanation of strategies
Stage 1: self-defence
Being a mage, you can protect yourself against any foe. Different foes require different types of protection though. If you are protected properly, you can stand still for a few rounds in front of your enemy without fear of being harmed in any way at all. Yeah, you can do that with *any* foe. If an enemy can harm you in any way, you are doing something wrong. Most brute-like foes can be countered quite easily by simple spells such as invisibility/stoneskin but enemies capable of dispelling protections or using other magical means are usually far more challenging.
Stage 2: attack!
Stage 2.1: breach
If you are facing a brute-like foe, this substep should be skipped. But you have probably noticed that no matter how hard you try, you cannot kill a mage just sending all your party members head-on via attack button. And after you have mastered self-defence, you probably already know how enemies breach your defences. So you should know how to make the mage vulnerable to some kind of damage. Once his defences are breached, the easiest stage takes place.
Stage 2.1: kill
I do not want to discuss this stage at all. Swinging axes, 10 attacks per round, hundreds of backstab damage, a whole pack of destructive spells - once the enemy is vulnerable and you are not, it's just a matter of seconds to kill him. You can probably figure that out by yourself.
Notice, however, that some enemies like using Contingency and Trigger spells which activate under certain conditions. You should know which contingencies to expect of an enemy and have your own contingencies ready in case of.. well.. unforseen circumstances.
It is important to remember that the enemy(and you too, if you don't have "Improved alacrity") cannot cast more than one spell each round(6 seconds). So you can breach their defences faster than they build new ones.
Some tips on specific strategies to start with
Tips on defending the mage
There are two kinds of buffs: spell protections and combat protection. And they can be breached by completely different means. For example, "dispel magic" breaches all combat protections but leaves all spell protections. "Spellstrike", on the other hand, breaches all spell protections, but leaves all combat protections intact. Spell protections tend to defend the caster against direct spells attacks and specific magic schools. Combat protections tend to give the caster immunity to certain types of damage and attacks.
If you just buff your wizard by combat protections, he may become invulnerable to everything: weapons, fire, cold, arrows, magical damage. Everything, except for simple level3 spell "dispel magic"/"remove magic", which if followed by by an arrow will kill your wizard in one round.
That's why you will probably want to protect yourself against dispelling your protections. For example, you can cast Spell Immunity:Abjuration(level 5 spell) and make yourself completely invulnerable to any dispel-like spells, because all of them belong to abjuration school. Note, however, that even though spell-protection breaching spells are all abjuration, they cannot be countered by Spell Immunity : Abjuration. And remember that spell protections like "Spell turning"/.../"Spell trap" only protect against direct spells. AoE spells such as fireball and dispell magic will bypass those.
Protecting your spell protections
That may sound somewhat weird and a little more advanced but you will feel the necessity of doing so after catching a "Spellstrike" or "Khelben's warding whip" from a demilich. Think about "Spell shield" level 5 spell which absorbs first breaching spell cast on you. Or about making yourself invisible, because most foes cannot cast direct spells on invisible creatures, and most breaching spells are direct. So you will force your enemy either to breach your spell protections with area-of-effect spells such as "Ruby Ray Of Reversal" or to dispel your invisibility".
Note that there are lots of lots different ways to protect a mage, those tips above are the very basics. At first it all may seem somewhat overwhelming and complicated, but stick to that advice "Always watch for enemy mages' strategies" - try to learn strategies from your enemies. You can mimic them and invent your own.
Tips on defeating non-spellcasting foes
Even though a mage can be easily protected against such foes by a simple "Stoneskin"/"Protection from magical weapons" or "Mislead", some enemies have unique offensive or defensive capabilities. For example golems and drows have magic resistance which you will probably want to lower by "Lower Resistance" prior to using damaging magic against them. Note that magic resistance cannot resist "Lower resistance" spell. "Malison"/"Greater Malison" can reduce enemy's saving throws so that they can be killed quite easily by certain instant-death spells. You should also consider using your cleric to protect yourself against specific monster attacks. For example "Mind shield" protects again Mind Flayers and such.
A little bit more in-depth explanation
A few words on specific combat protections
This section contains spoilers that some players may want to figure out by themselves. So I will put it under spoiler.
Tips on spell protections
Same as above. Under spoiler:
Tips on breaching spellcaster defences
Tips on being solo-mage/making your mage more self-sufficient
When you are all alone, you dont have a tank to take a few hits, no cleric to heal yourself and only a limited amount of spells to deal with all those damned foes. Sometimes you may find yourself simply to run out of damaging spells and that's really confusing: you have properly protected yourself, breached enemy defences but they just have far too much hp. There are a few tips on how to avoid this, with possible spoilers:
Tips on being a sorcerer
I strongly advice against choosing a sorcerer as a first experience in playing a spellcaster. Sorcerers have extremely limited amount of spells, so if you do not want to tear you hair later, you will have to choose which spell to pick at each level prior even creating your character. Otherwise you will 100% find yourself with a character who has unnecessary dubbed spells(such as "Secret word" and "Spell thrust") and you will notice that you use some spell levels far more than others. If you are creating a solo-powergaming sorcerer, you must play a wizard prior to that and choose exactly 5 spells for each spell level.
Which spells to choose?:
I hope this guide can help those who find it difficult to play Baldur's Gate or encourage someone to develop their own unique strategies in the battle system I have tried to view from another perspective.
Questions and suggestions are always welcome.
Edited by Suslik, 09 April 2012 - 08:25 PM.