[IWD] Interlude: Of Game Mechanics and Strategies

So, in a previous post I said I would try to explain some of the mechanics in Icewind Dale so folks who are unfamiliar with the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition (AD&D for short) rules which the game is based on. This is just so they can have an idea of why I have been having so much trouble with fights lately. Well, besides being a terrible strategist that is.

Now, before I begin, there are a couple caveats:

1. I never played AD&D in its tabletop, original form. The little I know of the rules has been by playing computer games that use the AD&D rules. So my explanation and analysis of the rules may be off. Also I am not going into any deep detail about them. Just a very superficilal explanation to understand my current situation in the game.

2. Like I said, I am a terrible strategist.

Oh, keep in mind these rules apply only to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition. For other editions of D&D things are different and anyone curious enough about it should just seek the books for those.

With all that said, let us begin!

My Mistake

Right now my party consits of a Paladin, a Warrior, a Ranger, a Thief, a Cleric and a Mage. Although there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with that party setup nor do I think I won’t be able to finish the game this way, it certainly would be easier if I had another cleric and mage on the party. Or maybe a druid too. In fact, I had plans for that but my plans fell through. I will get to that a bit late.

In the party of the game I am in now, large groups of monsters are pretty common. If am not careful they can easily surround my party and make short work of them. Heck, even if I am careful they can still be  quite problematic, specially with boss fights. A second mage and a second cleric would help immensily with this. The mage would provide crowd control, AoE spells and some others that could help the party. A cleric could help with healing, buffs and some situational spells. Now you may be asking, if a cleric and a mage can do that, why would I need one more of each? Why the cleric and mage I have now aren’t enough to deal with those situations? To answer that I will need to explain a bit of how the magic system in AD&D works.

A Kind of Magic

In most computer games spellcasters have some kind of magical resource, be it a mana pool, spell points, whatever. As long as that resource isn’t depleted they can cast whatever spell they want and as many times they want. AD&D however follows a completely different sytem.

In AD&D, there is no mana, spell points or any such type of resource. What spells and how often a mage in AD&D can cast them is dependent on which ones they memorized. Basically, they have a limited number of spells they can memorize based on their level. Once they use up a memorized spell they can’t use it again until they rest up to re-memorize said spell again. To make matters even more complicated spells are separated into spell levels which are independent of the mage’s level.

For example, right now Alladin is a level 8 mage. He can memorize up to 3 level 2 spells to cast later. Among the spells he knows, I chose him to memorize Web (an AoE spell that casts webs to immobilize targets), Melf’s Acid Arrow (a single target spell that does acid damage, handy against trolls), and Snilloc’s Snowball Swarm (an AoE ice damage spell, which should be handy soon).

Alladin's grimoire

If he casts Melf’s Acid Arrow in a fight he won’t be able to use it until he rests and re-memorize again. But he can still uses Web or Snilloc’s Snowball Swarm. If on the next fight he casts Web, he won’t be able to use it until he rested and re-memorized this spell. So in a third fight, without resting between them, the only level 2 spell he would have availiable would be Snilloc’s Snowball Swarm. Can you start to see what my predicament is?

Of course, I could just make my party rests after every fight. There are two problems however. Every time the party rests there is a chance for a random encounter, which means more monster for fighting while the party is wounded and without spells to fight. The other problem is that time in the game world pass by while the party rests. Granted, I don’t think there are any time sensitive quests in Icewind Dale but still it probably wouldn’t look good on the party’s resume if they took a year to defeat the big villain of the game. :p

Even if that wasn’t an issue (to me, at least) what if in a fight a second cast of Web or a second Fireball could help the fight? Sure, I could make Alladin memorize two (or more) Webs and Fireballs. But that would mean not memorizing another spell that could be also useful and thus diminishing his flexibility. A second wizard however would help to keep the party flexible.

Another few things about spells. Mage’s don’t automatically learn new spells once they get a new level. They have to find a scroll with the spell and scribe it to their grimoire. Alladin for example didn’t have Web until the party was in the middle of the Dragon’s Eye caves, things started to get too hard and I decided to make them go back to Kuldahar to resupply and buy new spells. Offensive spells also don’t make a distinction between friend or foe. If a party member is in the blast radius of a Fireball than they will be as hurt as any enemy that the spell was intended for.

Priest-type classes (clerics, druids) have similar rules for their spells. But they have to pray to their deity (well, clerics do. I have no idea what druis do) instead of memorizing. Also they automatically don’t need to scribe any spell, they just learn any new one as they level up.

That is the basic explanation on how a second wizard and a second cleric could add more flexibility to the party, thus helping with all those group fights. How I intended to add them requires the explanation of another part of the AD&D rules.

Dual Classing and Multi Classing

AD&D provides several classes to choose from, like the warrior, the thief, the cleric and many others. Some people might want something more flexible than what those classes provide however. To catter to that, D&D provide a couple options: multiclassing and dual classing.

The multi-class choices

Multiclassing, as the name implies, allow the character to be more than one class at the same time. It is only available to non-humans and the possible combinations of class depends on the race. The big disadvantage of a multiclass character though is that all the XP they get ends up being evenly distributed among all their classes. For instance, if a Figther/Thief killed Super Evil Rat of Doom that gives 1000 XP then the he would get 500 XP for his fighter class and 500 XP for his Thief class. That makes them lag behind a little in levels compared to pure classes. Hit Points are also handled similarly.

If you want a character to be a multiclass it has to be done during character creation.

Dual Classing is a bit more complicated. It is only available for humans and only certain classes can become dual. To become a dual class, the character starts with a normal class: warrior, cleric, thief, mage, etc. Then after level 2 they can choose to become a dual class as long as they meet the requirements of the new class: having the required stats and allowed alignment. A lawful fighter couldn’t dual into a thief for instance since thieves can’t be lawful. Additionaly the combinations of allowed dual classes is the same as for multiclassing. That means it isn’t possible to have a Fighter/Ranger for example.

The disadvange of dual classing is that the new class starts at level 1 and all the abilities of the previous class are unavailable until the new class’ level surpass the levels of the original class. In other words, if I had a Fighter that dual classed at level 3 to a Thief, he would only get all his Fighter abilities back once his Thief level was 4. The other disadvantage is that they stop leveling in their old class. All their XP goes to the new class.

My original plan was to multiclass Goldilocks at about level 8 or so to a mage and to dual class Red Hood to a cleric at around the same level. Except that I was dumb, didn’t know you could only multiclass at character creation. Red Hood I can still dual class into a cleric but I am not sure if it is worth after all these levels. I mean, she now has a pretty nice bow, arrows +1 are becoming pretty common and she is starting to get some druid spells. Granted, she won’t have as many spells as a real druid but they still might help a bit. I just feel that at this stage she might be more useful as a Ranger in the long run than if I went the dual classing route. If she was still around level 2 or 3 it would still be worth it.


I think I will keep my party just the way it is. It will certainly be harder than if I planned a better mix of classes and there will certainly be times when I will feel like throwing the computer out the window. So expect me to continue commenting on how many times it took to beat a particular fight or maybe even be a bit late on Icewind Dale posts depending on how bad things are going.

If anyone has any questions about the rules of the game or a tactics suggestions on how to win battles with this party setup feel free to write them in the comments below!

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