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The Shortest Distance Between Two Points Is Drizzt

Subjects on the menu: The nature of intelligence versus insanity, and why the shortest distance between two points in Neverwinter Nights 2 is Drizzt.

Today, I've decided all my entires on "alt-a-holicism" are largely evidence of insanity... but I'm no mental invalid. The trouble is that, when you get right down to it, excessively overthinking things always leads to insanity. Ideas are just that, ideas - they exist only in the mind - and the more complicated they get the more insane (distanced from reality) the idea is.

This "insanity" is occasionally useful, it's what gives Humankind its incredible edge. For example: "People can fly. No, listen, I've been thinking it over and perhaps air will actually resist an oddly shaped plane moving through it, causing an upward suction that we can use to fashion a vehicle that allows people to fly." Thanks, Wright Brothers, that one turned out handy.

Though it's sort of a sign of ongoing insanity that we don't particularly mind how this places us in mortal peril during the occasional plane crash (the higher odds of car crashes just being another kind of insanity) I think we can nevertheless be thankful that our minds are capable of creating such powerful working insanity as antibiotics.

The most worthwhile insanity saves lives more than it imperils, and we should label things "good" and "bad" appropriately. Much like the dead end mutants in evolution, unproductive insanity is just a waste of time best abandoned. I, for one, love to over-think things and this causes me no end of delightful misery.

For example, I start with a perfectly sane first impression: "There's different ways to play this game and everybody's going to play it differently depending on the kind of person they are." Yes, I've actually been there before. Then, I started questioning what that meant. "Okay, but what kind of person am I and how does this influence what I should play to get the most out of the game?"

This proved to be wasteful overthinking. I should have stuck with my first impression: Play whatever you want to play, there's no difference to it, it's just a flavor.

However, if you're playing to win, overzealous intelligence has a way of finding the path of least resistance...

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points Is Drizzt

Today, I looked down upon the mighty D20 Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition rules laid out in Neverwinter Nights 2 and realized the fundamental point in the above title. Drizzt Do'Urden, that idol of much nerd worship or scorn, is the path of least resistance - the "easy mode" to win the game quickly.

It began with noticing that my previous favorite, the Monk, actually has "Medium" base attack bonus table, the same as Clerics and Druids. Flurry of Blows makes up for it a little, but the bottom line is that this poor schmuck never gets the high base-to-hit that Fighters do, maxing out at +15 Base to Hit and 5 attacks.

Meanwhile, Fighters and other high BTH characters are getting +20 BTH and 4 attacks. You can match Flurry of Blows number of attacks with Two Weapon Fighting or exceed it with the Improved and Greater versions. Other feats such as Manyshot, and Cleave (which can also be taken by Monks) allow even more attacks.

Base to Hit is fairly major in that every point represents a 5% better chance to hit a target. In a tough fights, it's the difference between hitting your aggressor 30% of the time (6 in 20) instead of 5% of the time (1 in 20). There's a few other classes that get as high of BTH as Fighters, but I suspect that the Fighter's got the upper hand due to the awesome power of feats. Everybody gets 7 naturally, some classes have specific bonus feats, but fighters get an extra 11 (for a total of 18).

My second favorite classes are the arcane casters - Sorcerors, Warlocks, ect. Fighters seem less uber when you consider that one cast from a level 20 Wizard can kill them. However, while this has traditionally been the Dungeons and Dragons balance, I now realize that Third Edition rules are different. Now, a Wizard has as much a chance as one-shotting that Fighter as he does rolling a nasty critical hit that one-shot the Wizard.

A lot has to happen for a spell to be effective. If the caster is under attack, they need to make a concentration roll for each attack endured while casting. If a spell affects a target, they usually get a saving throw that halves or completely negates the spell's effect. Even if the cast is successful and the saving throw is failed, there's always a chance you could flub the damage roll, turning that 5d6 fireball to a mere 5 damage.

Now, this is where Drizzt comes in: the third Edition introduces yet another hurdle to successful spellcasting that he happens to be an expert in. He's a Dark Elf, and Dark Elves get massive Spell Resistance - a completely new check that spells must pass before all of what occurs in the previous paragraph even has a chance to apply. You don't have to be a Dark Elf to have spell resistance, however, as it can also be granted from spells and protective magical items.

The rules have changed. Wizards casting Fireball are at a severe disadvantage. Their spells are best saved for indirect applications (such as summoning spells) or healing and buffing the people doing the real work. The other "medium BTH" characters - Rogues and Bards - are generally providing a support role too.

In summary, high BTH characters equipped with some means of spell resistance and the right feats seem to have the upper hand over all the other classes in third edition AD&D. This seems to be fairly well verified in the Neverwinter Nights 2 application, where I discovered a party lead by my new Fighter blazed through content with nary a rest stop that would have my Monk or Sorcerer resting after reach battle.

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