If Tanova cheats, it's not intentional. Let me know what you have in mind.
DMWW - you do SCS development? I am fully in awe of that! But let me respectfully make a few points.
Most SCS opponents 'cheat' (well, mage-types at least). They do it by insta-casting multiple buffs just after you engage with them. Some might argue that the enemy mages have spies etc to give them forewarning of parties approaching and prepare appropriately. This argument seems a bit thin to me when you play commando-style (thieves, stalkers, invisibility) with the aim of catching your opponents unawares. However, I grudgingly accept this because it makes the encounters a greater challenge for experienced players.
Of course, this allows your enemies to replicate what an experienced player with near-perfect fore-knowledge will do, So in this sense it is perfectly fair for enemies to insta-auto-buff. However, this assumes that the player takes advantage of any fore-knowledge - which many don't (mainly for RP reasons).
Before playing with SCS installed, I used to try to pretend that my characters had no prior knowledge about encounters. This meant that my parties would usually only have standard, long-term buffs in place (e.g. spells or perhaps potions with durations of several turns or more, like Stoneskins or Prot from Evil 10' Radius, the kind a party might automatically cast before going into any new or unknown dungeon or adventure) unless our own scouts (e.g. stealthy thieves, wizard eyes etc) had been able to get extra info about enemy numbers and strengths. I wouldn't analyse walkthroughs before encounters. I played "quick-draw" style against mages (e.g. try to hit them with magic missiles before they could get defences up).
Some exceptions to my party non-buffing might include: party has just
completed one encounter and is still under the influence of a Haste
spell, which lasts 3 rounds + 1 round/level.
In SoA this could mean around 2 turns duration, easily anough time for 2-3 quick encounters. They might then
blindly charge on ahead so that the Haste doesn't run out and get
wasted. Another thing to keep in mind here is that 2 Haste spells =
fatigue, which then demands a rest. For RP reasons,
resting when only half-way through clearing out a lair is something I
don't like to do . Resting early makes it unrealistic, as the monsters
should then be able to call reinforcements, set traps, block entrances
etc to make it harder for the party to come back for a second try.
After I started using SCS, many times I'd foolishly go unbuffed into an encounter with an unbuffed SCS spell caster,
gotten my mage to immediately start casting MM (magic missile) or MAA
(Acid Arrows) at an enemy mage, to just find that the enemy mage then insta-buffs
with Shield/ GoI etc etc which then means your spells are wasted. To top it
off, your mage then can't cast anything for another round, meaning that
they are at even further disadvantage.
But with SCS installed you can assume that the enemies will cast every defensive spell that they can, short or long duration, and even a few offensive ones. So you had better get ready.
For example Chant is a spell that my parties rarely use in combat because it takes a full round to cast yet only lasts one turn! It is a short duration spell, dangerous to cast, but provides relatively small benefits. Same applies to Bless (lasts only 6 rounds!). Because these spells have such short durations, you couldn't legitimately pre-buff with them and then waste any time with other pre-buffs, or wait for opponents to come to you. You would have to cast the spells and then charge into the fray, otherwise they would be useless.
However, enemy SCS priests pre-buff Chant & Bless all the time. Casting time is immaterial to them as they are cast 'instantly' as the battle begins. To rub in some salt, Chant is actually offensive as it also causes a -1 to opponents (ie, your party), a feat I am rarely able to duplicate through party pre-buffing (as your party is not near the enemies at time of casting). However, enemies come into a battle with these spells at full duration and THEN immediately cast some horrible offensive spell at you.
Enemies will not hold back either. They won't, say, not cast GoI or SI because they want to save it for the next group of adventurers or other dangers. They will cast everything that they can at you because the modder *knows* that they have no other opponents. In contrast, most players/parties will hold back a bit on casting every single spell they have because they don't want to have to rest immediately.
When going up against some later-stage SoA and ToB opponents, the list of their pre-buffs is so long it scrolls off the screen.
The 'fairest' way to effectively 'level the playing field' is to use all your fore-knowledge and fully pre-buff your parties as well. Even if this means you need to rest after every encounter. For some reason this makes me think of the cold war and arms races.
Alternatively, some players counter this by simply leaving the room and waiting for enemy
buffs to expire before returning (I don't). This tactic is criticised by
some as being cheesy, and perhaps it is slightly, but in fact this is a
legitimate strategic weakness that SCS opponents leave
themselves open to. It rarely makes little sense
for an enemy to cast all their defensive spells in one go and then
expect players to hang around and get beaten/fried/frozen/melted to death. After all,
opponents can easily run or hide and you never know what might happen a
little later, after your spells expire.
Another option is what USSnorway described - lay a bunch of traps or time-delay spells (e.g. Delayed Blast Fireball, Skull Trap, Glyph of Warding) around opponents before they turn red. This definitely smells somewhat of cheesiness but what else can you do against impossibly pre-buffed opponents? (also, otherwise it can be hard to properly take advantage of thieves, but that is another issue).
Sooooooo, IMHO, I reckon that SCS should give an option to limit mages/priests pre-buffing to:
- only pre-buff spells with turns/level or greater durations (e.g. Stone/Ironskins, Spirit Armor, Protection from Magic/Fire/Cold/Lightning/Acid, Chaotic Commands, Death Ward, Shield etc), or at the very least greater than (say) 3 turns in total. This covers a *LOT* of defensive spells. This might arguably include spells like Spell Shield/Deflection/Turning, Fire Shield etc, all of which have durations of 3 rounds/level (ie could be 6 turns in SoA), but *not* Spell Immunity (which is only 1 round/level, or up to 2 turns in SoA).
- Beyond this, allow pre-buffing of NO MORE THAN 1 or maybe 2 shorter-duration spells per mage/priest. So this means that they might (for example) get up a Mirror Image and GoI, but then not Haste, SI, Chant, Bless and PfMW etc as well. An advantage of this for enemies is that they won't be defenceless if the party runs or hides.
None of the above prevents the use of short-duration spells in contingencies. But it does mean that if they want to use these short-duration spells then they should be required to cast them in combat, just like everyone else (within reason).
One might also consider changing mage/priest spell lists to include multiple memorisations of key defensive spells, in order to counter the 'party leaves the room' tactic.
Just my humble opinion.
Edited by Wierdo, 18 January 2012 - 05:39 AM.