Combat in Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire is covered on this page.
Engagement can be acquired from Spells, Abilities, Talents, or by wearing a Shield.
Engagement occurs any time a character attacks an enemy with a melee weapon at close range. As soon as the attacker gets close enough, he or she will Engage. When a character is first Engaged, he or she will stop moving. The character is free to move around their engager, but moving away will provoke a Disengagement Attack. If characters break Engagement, there is a limited amount of time before that enemy may re-Engage them.
Some afflictions make it impossible for a character to Engage an enemy. All Might Afflictions prevent the target from Engaging anyone, as well as Paralyze, Petrified, or Prone effects. Each of these effects will automatically drop Engagement and can be used to get out of trouble.
Some creatures, especially large ones, may be able to Engage more than one creature at a time.
Many spells and abilities that cover an area of the battlefield can harm both enemies and allies.
If an ability lists an AoE radius, it affects everyone in the area. AoEs differentiated by Friendly or Foe descriptors affect those groups only.
However, even an ordinarily hostile AoE will not affect allies in the outer margin of the area provided by a high Intellect. You can use this outer margin to safely hit enemies while leaving your allies unharmed.
Flanking occurs any time two attackers Engage an opponent in melee from opposite directions. When this situation exists, defenders are Flanked, inflicting various penalties and allowing them to be Sneak Attacked. Any condition on an attacker that would break his or her Engagement will also remove the Flanked condition on the defender if it cannot be sustained without him or her.
Note that there are a small number of Abilities that grant exceptions to the standard flanking rules, such as the barbarian's One Stands Alone, the ranger's Stalker's Link, and the cipher's Phantom Foes.
Stacking rules control how bonuses and penalties are added together. For simplicity, the game distinguishes four source categories of bonuses: passive, weapons, active/modal, and equipment.
All bonuses and penalties from passive sources and weapons stack.
Active and modal bonuses (e.g. from Abilities or consumable items) use the highest bonus and the lowest penalty to any given statistic. E.g. if a wizard spell grants +3 to Deflection and a paladin's aura grants +5, the active/modal bonus is +5, with the +3 being suppressed. If the same wizard spell also granted a bonus to Might, it would apply unless it was also trumped by a superior Might bonus from another active/modal source.
Equipment also uses the highest bonus and lowest penalty to any given statistic. It includes all items equipped directly on the character except for weapons. Equipment is a separate category from active/modal, so the highest bonuses and lowest penalties from each category are added together.
Afflictions (e.g. Stunned, Prone) are generally considered active effects. If an affliction is applied to a character while the same affliction is already active, it will replace the existing affliction's duration if the new duration is longer.
All attacks in Pillars of Eternity compare the attacker's Accuracy value to one of four defenses: Deflection (direct melee and ranged attacks), Fortitude (body system attacks like poison and disease), Reflex (area of effect damage attacks), and Will (mental attacks).
A number between 1 and 100 is generated and added to the difference between Accuracy and defense to determine the attack results. Less than or equal to 30 = Miss, 31-50 = Graze, 51-100 = Hit, greater than 100 = Crit.
In a balanced Attack and defense scenario, the majority of attacks wind up being Hits or Misses. When Accuracy is superior to defense, more Crits are likely. When defense is superior to Accuracy, more Misses are likely.
By default, only some attacks are capable of Grazing, unless an ability or effect would otherwise grant it. If an attack lands in the Graze range, but cannot Graze, it will become a Miss.
Many Abilities will state that they use either a Full or Primary Attack. When such Abilities are used, the character applies the effect through an attack with either all currently equipped weapons (Full Attack) or with their primary equipped weapon (Primary Attack).
This means that all of the statistics of the weapons still apply, including the damage and other effects that they provide.
Accuracy is part of almost every attack. It influences how likely the attack is to affect the target. Accuracy is defined primarily by a character's class and level but it is also influenced by Perception, Talents, and other active effects, such as spells or items.
When an attack is made, the Accuracy is compared to a corresponding defense (Deflection, Fortitude, Reflex, or Will) on a target to determine how the attack roll will be modified. If Accuracy is above the target's defense, it will be more likely to result in a Hit or Crit, less likely to result in a Graze or Miss.
When a damaging attack hits a target, the attack's Penetration is compared to the target's Armor Rating to determine how much damage gets through.
Penetration comes from the weapon or spell that is being used, but can be raised through the use of magic, Abilities, Talents, or weapon enchantments. Penetration is compared to the Armor Rating of the attack's damage type. E.g. A Fireball will always check Penetration against Burn Armor Rating. Raw Damage bypasses all armor and does not need to penetrate.
Full Penetration (+30% Damage) - Penetration is twice the target's Armor Rating or more.
Penetration (Listed Damage) - Penetration meets or exceeds the target's Armor Rating.
No Penetration (-70% Damage) - Penetration is less than the target's Armor Rating.
A Crit is any attack roll that is above 100. A Crit that does damage increases the total damage done by 25% and the Penetration of the attack by 50%. A Crit on effects with a duration (typically afflictions like Sickened or Paralyzed) will increase the duration by 25%.
A Graze is any attack roll that is between 31 and 50. A Graze reduces damage and duration by 50%.
By default, only some attacks are capable of Grazing, unless an ability or effect would otherwise grant it.
A Hit is any attack roll that is between 51 and 100. When an attack scores a Hit, it does standard damage and has a standard duration.
A Miss is any attack roll that is 50 or less. A Miss does no damage and inflicts no status effects or afflictions. If an attack is capable of Grazing, the Miss range will be 30 or less, while 31-50 will become a Graze.
Some attacks are capable of Interrupting their target. An Interrupt causes the target's current action to fail and will add additional time to their Recovery.
Interrupts may be prevented if the target has Concentration, but will still remove a point of Concentration from the target.
Certain Spells, Abilities, Talents, or Items can allow a character to Interrupt with attacks that normally would not be capable of Interrupting.
There are four defenses in Pillars of Eternity: Deflection, Fortitude, Reflex, and Will. Each defense is used to resist a different category of attacks through the Attack Roll. Deflection is used to resist most direct weapon attacks or attacks that are similar to weapons. Fortitude opposes physical attempts to overpower a character or attack their body internally (e.g. via a poison). Physical area effect attacks like fireballs and lightning bolts are resisted by Reflex. Almost all mental attacks are opposed by Will.
Fortitude, Reflex, and Will are all based on pairs of attributes. Might and Constitution define Fortitude, Dexterity and Perception define Reflex, and Intellect and Resolve define Will. Base Deflection is defined by the character's class and Resolve. All characters gain flat bonuses to their defenses every level. Additionally, spells, abilities, afflictions, and items can all modify a character's defenses.
Deflection is the defense used to resist direct melee and ranged attacks against the character that are not area of effect (AoE). It is defined by the character's class, level, and Resolve but may also be influenced by shields, certain weapons, Talents, and other effects from spells or items.
Fortitude resists attacks on the internal physical systems of the character (e.g. poison, disease, etc.).
It is defined by the character's class, level, Might, and Constitution, but can also be influenced by other effects.
The Reflex defense allows characters to dodge out of the way of physically harmful AoE attacks (e.g. explosions, bolts of lightning). It is defined by a character's class, level, Dexterity, and Perception, but may also be influenced by other effects.
The Will defense opposes attacks that are mentally-based (e.g. a spell that mentally paralyzes the target). It is defined by a character's class, level, Intellect, and Resolve, but may also be influenced by other effects.
Secondary Defenses are used for second stage attacks, e.g. the poison on a dagger. In this example, the first attack (the dagger swing) targets one defense (Deflection) and the poison's attack will only be checked if the first attack hits. If the attack hits, then the Secondary Defense (in this case, Fortitude against Poison) is checked to determine the effects. If the initial attack misses, then the Secondary Defense will not be checked.
There are eight damage types in Pillars of Eternity: Slash, Pierce, Crush, Burn, Shock, Corrode, Freeze, and Raw. Damage types are used to determine how easily a target resists damage of that type based on their Armor Ratings. A creature or suit of armor may be very resistant to one type of damage but quite vulnerable to another.
Some weapons or attacks may do multiple damage types or list an "or" between their damage types. When an "or" is listed, the attack will always do the damage type that the target is most vulnerable to. Raw damage is the only damage type that ignores all Armor Ratings and is generally associated with poisons and similar effects.
Pause often. The battle plays out in real time, but a lot is happening in any given second so you should pause and quickly assess the situation before you give any character an order. If you don’t, you will often find the character you intended to help or enemy you wanted to target is dead or unsafe to target by the time the character actually does what you told them too. As you get more experienced and understand what’s going on more readily this becomes less necessary but is still a good idea.
Formations are probably the most important single aspect of combat in Pillars of Eternity. You’ll almost never stay in formation for very long once you enter combat (though you should usually try) but don’t let the ease of the tutorial dungeon fool you, if you start combat in a bad formation you will be overwhelmed and you will die, often, even on easier difficulties and in easier fights, and even if you survive you’ll blow your healing spells and supplies much faster than you’d like and make dungeons much harder.
The simplest (effective) way to think about your formation in Pillars is in a 3 row system. You have a front row for your most durable characters, a second row that’s for the squishier melee dps you don’t want being targets as much, tankier casters, and anybody who focuses on flanking, and the back row is for ranged characters who won’t survive any real enemy attention.
What formation you use and where specifically in the formation you put each character depends on what class they are, how they’re built and what they’re wearing, As example, here is one of my typical formations and why each character is where they are. Note: The front line is facing you.
On the front left (the one with the silver shield) and front right We have the tanks in their heavy armor. One is a Paladin, the other a Fighter. The reason for the space between them is because I want that front line to catch as many enemies as possible, and that A shape allows 2 or 3 extra (melee) enemies to be targeting my front line, while only allowing 1 to attack the second row. Unless an enemy spell forces them apart (at the risk of significant damage,) they almost always stay in a position just like that, facing the enemy group.
On the left side of the second row is a cypher, which is a magic using class. It’s worth mentioning, many of her spells require her to target an ally and then impact the space between her and the ally or immediately around the ally. She is extremely squishy and almost never stays in that spot once the battle starts, but the reason she’s there is because she’s dual purpose. If it’s possible and relatively safe she’ll go around the back of the enemies and pick off enemy casters using twin daggers and casting spells at one of the tanks to damage everything between her and said tank, but such opportunities tend to disappear quickly so it’s important that she be close enough to take advantage of the opportunity at the start of the battle. If that’s not possible or if it’s unsafe she drops back to the 3rd row and uses a bow while casting crowd control spells (mainly paralysis) and waits for an enemy to get between her and a tank, or for one of my casters to summon something behind enemy lines so she can target that. In the middle of the second row (with the fancy hat) is my chanter, who is a chanter and the parties damage caster. She is where she is because of the yellow circle. That’s the range of her primary damage ability, so she needs to be close to the tanks if she wants to hit anything. She is also well armored and while she doesn’t have a lot of hp, she is fairly unlikely to get hit, so she serves as a way to stop enemies simply running through the hole in the front line without any real risk of her having to fight more than one enemy at a time. She also stays in roughly that position unless enemy area of effect attacks (usually spells) force her to move.
Finally there is the 3rd row. On the back left is the wizard, and on the back right is the cleric. Really where these 2 are doesn’t really matter much as long as their target is in range and they aren’t in harms way. In battle they usually end up standing somewhat farther back so they don’t get caught in spells targeting the front 2 lines, the reason the start so close is so they’re in range of the group buffs the cleric can cast at the start of the battle, though if push comes to shove and enemies get past the first 2 lines the cleric (the tankier of the 2) has a sword and shield to hold off enemies while the wizard and/or the cypher kill it.
I’m not saying “use this specific formation,” I’m giving you an idea of the types of considerations you should use to determine your formation. You could just as easily give the wizard a whole lot of self buffing spells and have them up in the 2nd row doing melee attacks with a long reach weapon like a pike or a staff or have the chanter use a pair of self buffs to be really good with bows and put her towards the back. You could only have one tank but have 2 somewhat durable melee DPS and have a V shaped formation with the tank at the tip. You could have mostly/entirely melee characters and have an “n” shaped formation so you can flank and team up on as many enemies as possible (and maybe create a big obvious pack of enemies for a wizard to hurl spells into without fear of enemies moving or hitting allies.)
Stealth mode is used sneaking. Sneaking may allow you to avoid or gain a tactical advantage against difficult foes.
Targeting priority is huge in Pillars of Eternity. You can have all the DPS in the world, nothing is going to save you if apply it in the wrong places at the wrong time. In general, enemy wizards, druids and cyphers need to be crowd controlled or killed first, along with any monsters that can cast especially nasty stuns like mind control, paralysis or petrification. If you don’t stop the casting fairly quickly they’ll cripple, disable or outright kill your front and secondary lines very quickly, which is basically the end of the fight. Next, you want to deal with clerics, archers, and any other ranged attackers. The reason for dealing with clerics should be obvious (they heal and buff their allies which makes the recipients much harder to deal with) but the reason to go for ranged attackers is because they have high DPS, they can (and do) target your second and third lines without having to deal with the front line first, and (like mages) they die quickly so a little effort on your part results in a big DPS loss for the enemies. You go for enemy melee DPS and tanks last, because they’re most easily dealt with by your own tanks.
So, the general kill order for enemies is Wizards/Druids/Cyphers/monsters with powerful disables > Healers/Clerics> Archers/other ranged attackers> melee attackers. This applies even if the melee attacker is crazy strong (as happens with a couple bosses) because it’s still going to take them longer to kill your tanks than it will take a wizard to petrify your tanks. It’s not a hard fast rule, if leaving a melee attacker alone for a few seconds while you kill a cleric means your own cleric dies then deal with the melee attacker first, it’s just what you do in an ideal situation.
Disabling or crippling opponents is more valuable than outright killing them in Pillars of Eternity. Why? It’s faster. It can take 20 seconds and several spells to kill an enemy, it only takes one to blind or paralyze them and make them more or less incapable or hurting you for between 5 and 20 seconds, and it also makes them easier to kill. Because of this, it’s better to CC dangerous enemies and then kill them, rather than trying to kill them while leaving them able to fight back.
Enemies sometimes will flee lingering AOE spell effects (like a cloud of ice that blinds them) sometimes even breaking engagement with one of your party to do it. This means you can do things like cast spells at the side of your front line to damage/disable enemies there while also discourage attempts to move past the front line and go for more fragile party members.
HP & Endurance
HP and Endurance are different. HP is how long until the character dies and it can only be recovered by resting at an inn or using camping supplies (which you should have on you at all times and use sparingly,) Endurance is how long until the character is knocked out and it is what spells heal. This is especially relevant for tanks, because tanks tend to both have self healing and be the target of most of your clerics healing spells, so it’s entirely possible to go through all of your tanks HP and have them die in a single fight if it’s long and difficult enough, which would be very bad news because death is permanent.
I Need A Healer
Always bring a priest, either the one they give you or one you hire from a tavern. The game is technically beatable without one, even at the higher difficulty levels, but I strongly advise against trying until at least your 3rd or 4th play-through.
Know the difference between per battle and per rest abilities, and balance your class and ability choices accordingly. If you have your cleric use all their spells in 3 short fights casting CCs they won’t be able to heal when a difficult fight happens, but while a paladin can heal twice each battle they can only heal 1 person at a time and only twice where a cleric could heal multiple people 7 or 8 times in one fight if they really needed to.
A Passive talent or ability is one that can be added to a character where the bonus is gained automatically. For example, a character with Snake's Reflexes gains their bonus to Reflex saves automatically.
An Active talent or ability is one which the player must choose to use. For example, a fighter who has Knock Down must select the Knock Down icon from the action bar and select a target for the ability.
A Modal Ability is one that causes a effects to occur continuously while it is active. For example, a paladin's zealous auras grant bonuses to everyone near them for as long as they are active. Modal Abilities are often grouped so that only one modal ability in a category can be active at any given time. These groupings are reflected by how the Abilities are organized on the action bar.
A Per Encounter Ability can only be used for a set number of times per combat. For example, an Ability that has 3 uses Per Encounter may only be used 3 times during a single fight. At the end of combat, the uses will be refilled for the next Encounter.
A Per Rest Ability can only be used for a set number of times before running out of uses. For example, an Ability that has 3 uses Per Rest may only be used 3 times. To regain these uses, the character must Rest and consume Food.
If a character has 3 Injuries and would receive another, they are Killed outright and cannot be brought back.