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sdbutler80: Thank you all for the suggestions!

I created a spreadsheet (which anyone can modify for the 4 characters) to see how and when you get access to particular skills, posted in another thread, here is the link:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AoxYdn_z85dwdFA0emV1YTJvaF9HcEpQVXpWZVc4TXc#gid=0

This helped me visualize all of your suggestions and see quite quickly what skills I would miss out on. I tried to maximize most skills that matter (but I don't have any use for Dagger or Unarmed for my first playthrough...I get that the Monk probably rocks, but probably better for a 2nd playthrough when I do the Dark path).

I decided I am willing to take a hit to Disarm Traps in exchange for the Bow & Magic of an Archer...just simply that I think I'll have more fun with that class. I'll be sure to invest in Disarm, but it seems like I can do OK with an Archer, just not great...probably more of an issue mid-game and late game than early on, I would suppose; by mid-game I am hoping I can find someone else to pick up the slack on Disarm, or I just won't get every single chest, which is fine with me. I was sorely tempted to go with Paladin instead of Knight, but I decided for my first playthrough I do want a dedicated Tankersaurus, particularly since my other 3 are not tanks.
So, did you pick knight, archer, cleric, sorcerer?
I did; it was a tough debate, and I had it narrowed down to my chosen Knight/Archer/Cleric/Sorcerer -- or its close contenders: Paladin/Archer/Cleric/Sorcerer, Paladin/Thief/Cleric/Sorcerer, or the default Knight/Thief/Cleric/Sorcerer. I punched them all into the spreadsheet to see what I was missing, and weighed the suggestions provided here...and also decided how much I would be disappointed if I couldn't open every chest, and decided it wasn't that much...and I really like the idea of playing an Archer, it is one of my favorite classes in general, across most RPGs.
Post edited September 10, 2013 by sdbutler80
and now the fun can begin :)
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DF1871: M&M 7 can be played with any group depending at your style of play and how much time you are willing to invest.
Yeah, just choose what please you.
You will be a long time with your group, so make it in your playstyle.
You'll prefer having hard times and fun, than easier and boring.

I prefer
1) Ranger,
2) Archer,
3) Paladin (or Knight),
4) Thief (or Monk)
I don't like easy magic, like Sorcerer or Cleric, or alchemy (and I feel making potions is boring).
I like hybrid, range attack, and close fighting too.
Post edited February 11, 2015 by ERISS
As others have mentioned you can finish the game with any party, so pick one that you like the theme of. That said, the following lower the frustration level:

A cleric with grandmaster body magic can make you immune to death attacks with protection from magic. There are a lot of death attacks later in the game, and they really do insta-kill you without protection from magic cast at grandmaster level (druid can only manage master).

A sorcerer with grandmaster water magic can cast lloyds beacon, which allows you to set five (if I recall correctly) spots that you can teleport too. This is a huge quality of life improvement.

Grandmaster air gives flight and invisibility that have durations measured in hours rather than minutes. Much nicer than druid version.

The big advantage of druid is grandmaster alchemy, which allows you to brew black potions that permanently raise your attributes by 50 points. Throughout the world there are challenge pedastals that award you skill points if you have a high enough attribute. I think you need a druid in your party to have a shot at completing all of them. This isn't a big deal unless you are trying for a high score, which means you don't level up past 10 or 11 and you need all of the skill points that you can get.
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sdbutler80: I'm getting into MM7; have played 6 partway through (but lost it when hard drive died). I really wanted it just as a warm-up for 7 anyway, which sounds more interesting to me, as it is in HoMM3 timeframe which I also have and really enjoyed.

Anyway, I wonder how important tank v. spellcaster v. disarmer of traps is in MM7? I am considering a few different parties, which would be best for someone who knows some about MM series but hasn't played 7 before? (No spoilers!)

* Paladin, Archer, Cleric, Sorcerer -- probably my most highly desirable class, if I can get it to work and don't miss out on much this way...how bad would lack of expert traps and lack of a total melee-focused person hurt me?
-- As a slight variant, I would be willing to substitute Knight in for either Paladin or Archer, and that would be close to my most desired, if a tank is highly recommended for first play through.

* Knight, Thief, Cleric, Sorcerer -- the basic one recommended on the screen, seems to cover all areas. That said, the only reason I would be interested in the Thief class is for traps/perception...can I substitute something else in and still do fine with traps? What would be the best sub to still manage most of the traps in the game?

Also considering Monk, but probably not for my first playthrough. I have heard there is a big decision-point on light v. dark, and I would probably choose light my first time through, if that makes a difference in your first-time recommendations.

Thanks!
My absolute favorite build is all archers with a cleric.
Most fights are real time and you get really good at backing up in twisty caverns while firing in situations also using shooting at an angle and twisting and turning ,you can just feel it plays like an action rpg....sort of. Turn based is there when you feel the need.. (read super challenge fighting some)One of the things that I love about mm6-7,its turned based or real time,nothing else gives it.
Then when the spellcasters are thick or the minotaur lords are impossible to get through, archers get the first level of light magic so you have four casters .Of course the cleric gets all of the light magic spells for anything else you need.
It's the most challenging and fun build in my opinion.
It is what I started with because I play archer types whenever I can, rpgs or mmorpgs.
It's the hardest in many areas but not too hard to learn and the easiest in others.
One of the differences, is that as opposed to a heavy beef party there is a learning curve instead of a leveling curve.
There are a couple of real bottlenecks you need to learn to get through but they are learnable, below the frustration,I quit range,for myself at least.
With the extra speed and master level spells(not grandmaster except for the cleric),it's also tons of fun in turn based mode.
They also get flight and invis,put a bit extra into skill on these and invis will last long enough to quickly get the
job done.
Oh yah, the cleric and sorcerer get exactly the same light spells if you go light,again info right in the manual.
Btw, the solid info I put here is available in the info about each class in the creation mode,the rest is just my opinion.
Post edited October 05, 2013 by Tervvo
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djwinn: As others have mentioned you can finish the game with any party, so pick one that you like the theme of. That said, the following lower the frustration level:

A cleric with grandmaster body magic can make you immune to death attacks with protection from magic. There are a lot of death attacks later in the game, and they really do insta-kill you without protection from magic cast at grandmaster level (druid can only manage master).

A sorcerer with grandmaster water magic can cast lloyds beacon, which allows you to set five (if I recall correctly) spots that you can teleport too. This is a huge quality of life improvement.

Grandmaster air gives flight and invisibility that have durations measured in hours rather than minutes. Much nicer than druid version.

The big advantage of druid is grandmaster alchemy, which allows you to brew black potions that permanently raise your attributes by 50 points. Throughout the world there are challenge pedastals that award you skill points if you have a high enough attribute. I think you need a druid in your party to have a shot at completing all of them. This isn't a big deal unless you are trying for a high score, which means you don't level up past 10 or 11 and you need all of the skill points that you can get.
Master air gives you flight and invis.
As for black potions look for them throughout the land and visit certain magicians and alchemists once a week, by end game you will have high stats.
Post edited October 05, 2013 by Tervvo
That's what he said, though. He means that with GM Air you at least get to use the spell for a while without having to refresh it every 3 sec (Hours instead of minutes)
Sorcerer/Cleric and rest is really whatever, but with such parties... well for me the game loses challenge pretty quick, you basically have access to everything at the highest quality in terms of skills and what you can manage, makes me feel like I am cheating when mid-game you are face-mashing-keyboard to victory by holding your attack button.

That's why I play solo, one character, rest drowned at the start of the game and never used. If you want to have the ultimate experience and get most out of the game, I advise that at least for the second time you consider to play the game.
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so you use the other characters as packing mules or? :p
For a new player, you can't go wrong with Knight/Cleric/Sorcerer/Anything. Knight, Cleric, and Sorc are all the best at what they do, and with those three you are not lacking in any real ability or skill(you can't disarm well, but master earth takes care of that)

I prefer Knight/Ranger/Cleric/Sorc, the ranger adds a lot to the party, adding alot all around. Ranged ability seconded only by the archer, really useful backup magic, suprisingly good fighting(there are a lot of good 1h and 2h axes around, and chain and shield makes them pretty tough), and gm id monster saves some skill points from the point starved sorc.
I played Cleric and Sorcerer x 3.

It's kind of cheating. But I played this game before with standard party. I know that with MM games I get really tired of them sometime in the second half, and cleaning up areas/dungeons by manually slashing monster by monster really gets boring after 1000th time and I lose interest in the game, and kind of abandon it.

So CSSS combo makes finishing the game pretty interesting. Easy, yes. But the beginnning of the game is pretty tough. So it's all balanced in the right way in the end.
I see the good points in the many answers here, but I think all of them lacks one crucial point: you should always select a party that fits your goals and gaming style. If you are playing the game for the first time, your aim is to learn the game mechanics, the usage of skills, spells, items, and enemies the best choice is the default knight/thief/cleric/sorcerer. The knight is the best solo damage dealer, the thief -besides being the second best fighter - let's you collect all stuff easily. The cleric is the best healer and buffer, the sorcerer is the best magic damage dealer and supporter class. The fact that it's your fist game means always fighting your way in and out of dungeons, many reloads, constantly stopping for healing, training and doing quests mostly by the book. In your first game you'll never know what comes next, so this is the best team for you because in terms of fighting and magic, skills, collecting stuff this team has answers for the many situations ahead.

However, when you finish this game you'll realize, that there are many difficulties and quests in the game that can be solved alternatively - without using glitches. By this time, you also have a gaming style. And this is the time when it is worth to argue about which party to use. Until you haven't finished the game at least once, use the definite k/t/c/s party.
SPOILERS

I hate reloading, stopping for healing and resting on every corner, and doing quests by the book, so I prefer a smoother gameplay which lacks constant fighting. But I also like to be able to do quests, achieve arena victories, challanges, and have a decent gear for of the game. When I first finished the game I realized the pure power of invisibility, town portal, and fly spell. Since this I always use the knight/thief/cleric/druid party. After a slow start the game is fun, fast and I can do nearly any quests in any order. I start like this:
1. in the prologue I kill the dragon for a decent armor or artifact, get the 1000 gold from the well, do every quests, and level up everyone before leaving
2. I DON't SPEND my gold
3. in Harmondale I enter and leave the castle (this let's you townportaling into harmondale) and leave for T. forest. Here you can hire a Town Portal, and a Wind Walk helper. This let's you fly all over the place(s)and warp out of fights to a selected town - so go and collect gold and sellable loot by flying everywhere. You should have enough money for: disarm expert, air expert, and air master, invisibility spellbook. This means collecting around 40000 gold, which is a walk in the park with your fly spell ON.
4. collect all the horseshoes to achive your skill points for promotions.
5. From this point the game gets relatively easy and free, because most of the quests can be done by simply going into dungeons invisible, or flying around outdoors and - since it's not your 1st walkthrough - you know where to navigate to get quest items, like 3 promotion quests out of the 4. You can also navigate to Nighon under invisibility early in the game.
6. A druid is needed for the black potions. (GM alchemy) this class also gets Master air without the promotions. being able to produce black potions mean: more doable challenges, easy to accomplish skill rankings. Yes you can buy black potions in 3 magic and alchemy shops, but the restocking time is terrible if you do not get what you wanted. So having a druid disables the luck factor regarding black potions entirely.
7. After this my main target is: having many gold for items, skills, and training so I complete all of the main quest line quests, go for the Priest of the L/D quest and do this. (the L side is more easy, because the temple of the Dark is smaller - so your invisibility is not likely to expire)
8. Buy the protection from magic spell, and train your cleric to GM body magic.
9. Go through the Eofol tunnels. Move fast, your invisibility expires fast in the long tunnles. In the 2nd part of the tunnels, you can recast invisibility at the lonely water pool.
10. When exiting the tunnels, fly to the wishing well, cast prot. from magic, and click on the well. When the well dispells your spell, recast it. The well gives you: skill points, XP, money.

From this point you can complete the game in no time, but you can also go for any quests, any promotions, and there is really no hassling from now on.

Cheers!
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Sezamme: I think all of the points in the many answers lacks one crucial point: you should always select a party that fits your goals and gaming style.
You think bad: http://www.gog.com/forum/might_and_magic_series/mm7_which_party_is_best_to_start_with/post19

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Sezamme: If you are playing the game for the first time, your aim is to learn the game and the best choice is the default knight/thief/cleric/sorcerer. In your first game you'll never know what comes next, so this is the best team for you because in terms of fighting and magic, skills, collecting stuff this team has answers for the many situations ahead.
However, when you finish this game you'll realize, that there are many difficulties and quests in the game that can be solved alternatively - without using glitches. Until you haven't finished the game at least once, use the definite k/t/c/s party.
No, don't. Players better have not to lose time with a no-fitting-taste party and this game is long. Better read some spoilers if you find the game too though.

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Sezamme: By this time, you also have a gaming style. And this is the time when it is worth to argue about which party to use.
No, players have already a gaming style if they already read about the game, and it takes far less time than finishing the game once.
Post edited February 11, 2015 by ERISS
Thx for your replies, good to see, that we still have players playing this game. You are absoultely right in your 1st reply, and of course I didn't miss your answer. What I wanted to emphasize that the crucial point which the many replies missed was: what i wrote in my first and second paragraph entirely. But you are right, my editing and sentence orders made it misunderstandable.

However I really can't agree fully with your third and second answer. I just can't get it: how can you have a gaming style for a particular game without playing it at least for a few hours? For me it was like 2-3 playthroughs when I realized I could play this game in 2 alternate styles, this 3rd I mentioned was my 7th playthrough. Having gaming style by reading about the game, just how? You didn't even touched the keyboard while mm7.exe is running, yes you have read about the possibilities, so you can have ideas, but you haven't even experienced anything. Again I'll tell you my story: as you see my favourite style is to run through major areas in the game rushing and/or undetected - for questing reasons, or just for gathering valuables, or just for pure fun. I didn't even think about playing the game this way first -although I read about the game- because I was quite imba with the controls, haven't seen enemy behaviours and even finishing MM6 many times before didn't help this. (and honestly was a noob to edit the config files :) ) How can you play this game in my above mentioned style if you can't even anticipate enemy movements (crucial for invisible tresspasses)? Spoilers or walkthrough won't help here, just hard earned gaming experience. How can you play this game in a „grab blasters fast, and eradicate the land with them” style if you haven't read complete walkthoughs or major spoilers before? Yes, spoilers help. And reading spoilers before playing kills the game. Besides I think that the discussion topic was made here because sdbutler80 wasn't interested in walkthough's and spoilers. My summary on this matter: yes, you may have IDEAS about different available gaming styles for this game, while reading discussion topics, and walkthroughs, you can only have your own style by playing, therefore the party that'll fit you shows itself after you have beaten the game at least once. (and of course changes every time your playstyle changes as time passes)

Actually, I finished the game second and third time (I separated the game at the L and D side choice) with a „no-fitting-taste party”, the party you mentioned previously. I created it because in part IV-V I liked archers and rangers very much, but they were not good enough for my taste in VII. I didn't like the characters, but I liked experiencing the game with them though, this is the reason why it is my 2nd favourite party. MM7 has replay value waaaaay above standards, so I never felt that I am losing time with that party. You have a point here however, that a no-fitting-taste party can make people abandone the game too early, but there's a chance for this if starters follow our suggestions too- people can be very different. And that's why game developers bring default parties into games - to give a party to an unexperienced player which is balanced enough to play with. But in your first game, creating a party that fits your general taste like „Hey I like knights, let's make 4 of them” just because it feels good for your eternal soul or you liked black knights in HOMM3 can make you abandone the game too on your 1st playthrough. Not to mention how much time will be lost then. That's the reason while I suggested playing the game with the default party: you can have Ms and GMs in key areas, and overall you can rebalance at your 2nd walkthrough when you have a little insight.

And honestly when playing games like MM7 you waste time only if - and only if - you know it in advance that you will play it only once. You will miss the many different party playthroughs which will be created by your mind not by walkthroughs or spoilers.

I am quite happy to see that people still interested in this game, and I hope the many answers here will prove them that it is still worth buying and playing it, because it is.

Cheers!