Some serious number crunching (charachter builds in Dragon Age Origins)

So, unlike Fallout 3 which was pretty clear and allowed you to min/max with ease, or Borderlands which offered up some fairly simplistic power gaming potential, DAO seems a good bit more complicated. Especially with no hard level cap.

I’ve tried several starting builds, and I’m honestly not sure how I like them. My dwarven noble warrior, for example, comes with a shield bash skill but I figured that two handed weapons would be a better long term choice… which wastes the damn shield skill. And I have no idea how I’ll keep him healed up after battles in the field (I’m still in the dwarven palace with him) I started an elven rogue, but I chose dual weapons and now I wonder if I shouldn’t have gone with archery. And my human mage, who I like the most, seems to offer a billion different possible paths and I have no idea which, if any, are the optimal.

Don’t even get me started on issues of specialization. I don’t even know what a blood mage can actually do, but they sound nifty. A good choice, though???

So what have you folks found? Are there easy areas to grind experience in? Can a mage put a few points into healing spells and then just become a typhoon of carnage Is it worth it to spec in two handed weapons? Etc, etc, etc.

Gimme the straight dope please.

P.S. Ignore the typo in the title, nothing to see here, move along.

I don’t have hard numbers but from what I’ve read (and from my experience) if you’re managing the character it breaks down like:

Mage > dagger/dagger rogue > any other rogue > dual wield warrior >>>>>>>>>>>>> two handed warrior. Another thing to consider if you make your main character a warrior - you get several two-handed warriors in your party over the course of the game, but no dual-wielders.

Mage is just overpowered, they can do everything except pick locks and take hits… unless you pick arcane warrior and then they can do everything but pick locks. It’s hard to make a bad mage build as most of the skills are good to great, and if you know what you’re doing with bloodmage + arcane warrior you can probably solo the whole game on nightmare.

As for the rest, damage enhancement in the game (runes, weapon enchants, poisons) are per-hit, and two handed swings so much slower it just can’t compare. Daggers are faster then any other weapon, so even though they have lower damage the boost from damage adds is enough to compensate.

Dual wield wins on warrior for the same reason. The majority of the fights tend to be groups of enemies and dual-wield has most of the AoE attacks so it wins there too. The only thing two-handed has going for it is a knockdown on a short cooldown (pommel strike), the skill that makes you almost impossible to knock down, and better armor penetration (which does not matter for the vast majority of the game)

Archery is… meh. I was never impressed but I never built any of my characters around it. I suspect if you pump dex and use a shortbow it’s better then two-handed warrior but not as good as dual wield warrior.

As far as healing goes, a single mage with heal/regenerate (or whatever the Heal over time is called) will do for most of the game. Either manage them yourself, or load them up with lesser lyrium potions and set them to auto-drink when they get low on mana. Spirit healer gives you access to mass heal which is excellent, but is otherwise rather meh. If you don’t mind chugging down healing potions like crazy you don’t really need a healing mage at all though - you heal really fast after battles are over potions are pretty powerful and quick to refresh.

If you decide to go with your mage, some tips on spell lines: the mind blast line is excellent, sleep/waking nightmare line is nice, cone of cold is overpowered. Shock from the electric line is pretty nice but the rest of it sucks (stay away from chain lightning). The line ending with mana clash mostly sucks but mana clash is worth 4 points alone - huge aoe, instant cast, moderate cost and it will one-shot any non-boss mage in the game (who are, by far, the most dangerous enemies) and leave anything that survives with 0 mana.

I’ll put this final mage tip in spoiler tags because it’s really powerful and will make the game way too easy. Seriously, don’t read it unless you don’t care about losing most of the challenge from the game:

spell power + blizzard + lightning storm is a combo spell called storm of the century. It has a huge AoE and does MASSIVE electrical damage. You don’t need line of sight to cast it, so you can for example cast it on enemies behind a wall that can’t even see you yet. Just turn spellpower on, cast blizzard, then cast lightning storm right on top of it - it should turn into a gigantic electric spewing tornado that destroys everything if you did it right.

I haven’t messed with all the specializations, but stay away from reaver and shapeshifter. Spirit healer on mages is worth taking for mass heal alone if you don’t know what else to pick. Blood mage is great if you build the character around it specifically and obtain the blood mage boosting items but that’s probably best for a second playthrough after you’ve already unlocked it. Berzerker is decent for dual wield, meh for two-handed. Captain seems pretty nice, but I’ve not messed with it much.

As for stats, well. Warriors want STR all the way, if you go dual-wield get the min dex required to max out those skills (32 I think) and drop the rest in str. Mages want enough willpower to run whatever constant spells (maybe 30 at the most, prolly can get away with 20 - 25) you want on and still have some MP left, and the rest in magic. Rogues want the lethality trait, enough dex for the dual wield tree and enough str to use whatever armor you want, then pump cunning.

constitution only gives 5 HP per point so it’s mostly useless for everyone. Willpower also only gives 5 per point so skimp that as much as you can get away with. Cunning is mostly useless for everyone except lethality rogues. You need 30 cunning + all lock pick talents to open every lock in the game (not that chests ever have anything good in them), and if you want to take the speech talents on your main character whatever the minimum cunning required to get the last one is enough.

But really, don’t worry about it too much. Even a bad build with a poor choice of characters can finish the game on normal with enough health poultices (hint, some vendors sell infinite of the ingredients, so keep an eye out).

Anyway, sorry for the mountain of text, I hope it helps. Feel free to ask if you have more questions

Thanks very much. I have to put in some work today but I’ll read it more thoroughly and respond more in detail later on today or tomorrow hopefully. I really appreciate the time and attention you took to help me out.

I’m fairly certain 25 is the hard level cap. On my mage i put every single point into magic, there simply was no reason to get anything else (magic even improves the effect of potions so you don’t need more mana).

When making a mage, you put about 40 points into magic. After that, throw some into dexterity, to get you to a competent fighting strength. Obviously, take the Arcane Watrior specialization. After that? If you want to be a jerk, take the healer and don’t bring Wynne along with you. Blood Mage is nice once you get deep into it.

I think I prefer having my main character as a thief. You never lose your fully loaded pickpocket and lock-picker. Also, you dual-wield long enough, you get two full-sized weapons. With runes, that’s hard to pass up.

Next time I go through, it’s my thief, Zevran, Morrigan, and Wynne 4 life with dual-wielding for the first two.

The next “problem” is what 5 weapons are the best ones to have? Starfang, the Topsider’s Blade, and Bloodline are up there. Asturian’s Might?

On my first playthrough, I did a mage with cold-spec. As others have said, cone of cold is stupid good. Most battles my mage started with a blizzard if at all possible, to keep the mooks from reaching the front-lines (it’s very little damage, but freeze procs pretty often), then cone-of-cold and the spot-freeze one alternating for the rest of the battle. The magic shop in Denerim sells a cold-specced staff, which was awesome.

Against toughies, my mage used force field and crushing prison, both great ways to keep the tough guys occupied while everyone focuses on killing the mooks. I deliberately didn’t install the patch, because it reduced freeze times; with the four abilities mentioned, I was able to keep most bosses constantly incapacitated.

In retrospect, I had Wynne in the party, and I wish I’d given her Tempest, so we could’ve tag-teamed storm of the century. Instead she went full-on earth-route in addition to maxing out healing; the earth stuff is pretty lame, IMO.

Well, from the bottom of page 13 of my manual (Xbox):

That being said, a quick google shows that lots of folks have indeed maxed out at lvl 25, but all those who identified their platform implied that they were on a PC rather than console. Ah well…

I’m going to fire up my Xbox and restart my mage bit and maybe make a thief. I’ll be back to the thread later to post a bit more. Thanks everybody for giving advice.

It is very possibly a bug. What happens at level 25 is the experience to next level gets set to NaN, which implies an arithmetic error. Alternatively, It’s possible that the exp to next level exceeds the wraparound value and their fail-safe was to set it to NaN in case of a negative exp requirement to prevent an infinite leveling loop.

Those are just educated guesses, of course, but if the manual says there’s no level cap then it could be an error. Of course, they could have just forgot to update the manual, not the first time that would have happened.

And what combination of runes? Topsider’s Honor, for instance, have a number of weak enchantments, but have a godly number of runes.

Not that it matters, the only realistic way to hit 25 in a normal playthrough is to

abuse feeding the elves cheap crafting ingredients once you get them in your camp

I did most of the sidequests and such my first playthough and I think I was level 22 or 23.

As for runes, just go grandmaster lightning/fire/frost (lightning is probably the best because I think it’s the least resisted). Spell resistance runes are an option too. I think the grandmaster ones are 10%, so if you’re dual-wielding that’s 60% right there, combine with the 30% necklace from a vendor somewhere for 90%, and I think there is a ring with ~10% so you can hit total spell immunity, or damn near. Of course it’s not realistic to expect to get that many grandmaster runes, I suppose, but even the lower ones add up pretty quick and you could hit 70% fairly easily.