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Is there a recommended class to play in this game? Are items dropped or in chests random or the same each time the game is played? Is there much grinding involved?
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Technically, there are no classes. One important point in character building is not to try and mix too much magic and technology, since you will end up mediocre at both. For a first run to be somewhat easy and more enjoyable, try a smart and charismatic character, with persuasion skill.

You can go along the game with virtually zero grinding, but if you like to explore the map freely, be careful. The monsters in many areas will cut you to pieces if you go there before ready.
FWIW, for beginners magic is far easier than tech, for several reasons:

1) Spells require only fatigue, which regenerates naturally and can be helped along with fatigue potions (which are cheap and freely available). Many tech items require a consumable, such as bullets, fuel or charges.

2) Many of the more powerful items you'll find are magical, and therefore are more effective the more magical you are. Tech items, OTOH, require you to be as nonmagical as possible, otherwise they can fall apart or even explode in your face.

3) The game isn't as balanced as it should be, and therefore a number of spells are significantly OP, especially as your magical aptitude goes up. Whereas firearms are nowhere near as good as you'd expect, given real-world gun technology these days.

4) Tech colleges (to build your own stuff) require a heavy investment in Intelligence. Similarly, Firearms (along with Spot Traps and Disarm Traps) requires Perception. Investing heavily in either or both of these will delay and/or limit your investment in more traditional combat-related skills (Strength, Dexterity, Melee, etc.) which may affect your play style.

5) In fairness, to get the top-tier spells, you'll have to spend points on Willpower. But that at least has the side bonus of adding to both your hit points and maximum fatigue level. And Intelligence does affect how many spells you can have going at once.

Some of these advantages/drawbacks are on purpose, to highlight the differences between the setting's old-school magic and the far newer technology. But some of it is because the game was rushed to market right before Troika folded.

However you decide to play, remember that investing in Dexterity increases the number of attacks you have per round (in turn based) or how fast your attacks are (in real time). I consider it the most important stat of the game.

One other protip: If you decide that you want to use ranged weapons, I recommend investing in Throwing rather than Firearms or Bows. You won't have to worry about consumables, and the best throwing weapon in the game (available as part of a quest) is highly magical as well.
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Gavindale: Is there a recommended class to play in this game?
Good answers so far already, I will just add that a pure melee fighter is also very easy. So easy, in fact, that you can spare time for investing in either magick or technology as well, to make things more interesting.

Having said that, even the "hard" characters aren't too hard, i.e. it's definitely possible to play a sub-optimal character and still have a great time. Arcanum is really good at rewarding differetn play styles and different roleplaying decisions. So don't be afraid to try something crazy. For your very first character, however, you may want to avoid guns and instead focus on a magick user, a melee fighter, or a throwing specialist to have an easier time.
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Gavindale: Are items dropped or in chests random or the same each time the game is played? Is there much grinding involved?
I think it's a mix of both. There are definitely places with fixed loot, where you can always find certain items. But I think many other instances are randomized.
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Gavindale: Is there much grinding involved?
Not really. There's one location reasonably early in the game that's something of a difficulty spike if you don't know what to expect, but if you spend time exploring and doing side quests first, you should be able to tackle it without doing any true grinding. Having said that, it's certainly possible to grind by simply exploring the wilderness and fighting random battles.
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TwoHandedSword: Some of these advantages/drawbacks are on purpose, to highlight the differences between the setting's old-school magic and the far newer technology. But some of it is because the game was rushed to market right before Troika folded.
Arcanum was rushed to release, but it wasn't because Troika folded. Arcanum arrived in 2001, but Troika went on to release The Temple of Elemental Evil in 2003 and Vampire: The Masquerade -- Bloodlines in 2004 before folding.
Post edited July 29, 2017 by Waltorious
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TwoHandedSword: Some of these advantages/drawbacks are on purpose, to highlight the differences between the setting's old-school magic and the far newer technology. But some of it is because the game was rushed to market right before Troika folded.
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Waltorious: Arcanum was rushed to release, but it wasn't because Troika folded. Arcanum arrived in 2001, but Troika went on to release The Temple of Elemental Evil in 2003 and Vampire: The Masquerade -- Bloodlines in 2004 before folding.
Whoops; I stand corrected. I appreciate the clarification.
Here are some basic suggestions for a new player.

If you have played fallout 1-2 some of these things will sound familiar.

1. Do not attempt to play in "real time" mode, at least at first - Sierra demanded that it exist, and Troika more or less just shoe-horned the thing in there and said "welp there you go" so it's not meant to function in any real way. It's the first "beginner" hurdle usually when you realize you're getting womped purely for using their real-time mode.

2. Dex is EXTRAORDINARILY important for a number of reasons. Just as in fallout 1-2, your action points for lack of a better term, in combat, are directly tied to your DEX score. So if you've got a crappy dex you won't attack much, and if you've got a bunch, you'll attack more - no matter the weapon type - this also applies to spell casting in that a spell caster with higher dex can cast more spells in a single turn. Granted, there are tons of ways to increase one's dex other than at creation/level up, but keep in mind every now and again you should be on the lookout for ways to increase your dex.

Also, your DEX score directly influences how fast your character moves on screen. The higher dex score the faster you can walk around - so there's certainly an optimal amount that generally any character type would want just so you're not lumbering molasses man that takes 27 years to walk from shop to shop.

3. Loot - is *sort* of random - it's actually random in a not at all random way, but it's unpredictable. It's determined by the letters in your characters name, their sex, and background lol. So there is a "loot chart" in the game essentially which looks at the name (case matters as well), race, gender, and background of your character and assigns it a corresponding predetermined loot table for every random container in the game. There are also certain containers which are not random and will always have the same loot in them. So while the game is classless, there are some character types that will just get consistently better loot in the early game :D You can google around for them if you're really interested in that sort of thing lol.

4. Grinding is not necessary, but you can do it if you wish there are some areas with unlimited enemies. Depending on your character type you may discover that *some* grinding is required if you've just built a really crappy character (say putting points in lots of different things instead of focusing at being good at 3-4) that can't beat some of the harder areas - but in general there is an easy fix to these things.
Post edited July 31, 2017 by Marxiantj
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Marxiantj: <snip>
What you've posted is essentially correct, and good advice. Welcome to the nuthouse.

A couple of clarifications:

I've found thru experimentation that it's not certain builds which get better loot than others. It's a lot more like Akalabeth: World of Doom's "lucky number" system; varying your PC's name by even one letter essentially re-randomizes the selection. I'll often play around with names until I can give myself an unfair advant— ahem, I mean a starting selection of crash area loot that I feel will come in handy.

Also, there are no areas with unlimited enemies. The one you're most likely thinking of does eventually run out, although it takes some time (I usually manage to do it in a little under an hour). However, random encounters continue to exist as long as you choose to walk — as opposed to boarding a vehicle or teleporting — from town to town or between points of interest. And of course, there are the points of interest themselves, most of which can be found by looking at the spoilerific version of the Arcanum world map, easily found online. [Deliberately not posting a link here; IMO everyone should play through the first time without it.]
Post edited July 31, 2017 by TwoHandedSword
It just goes to show that I've never been patient enough to actually kill all those monsters in that particular spot that I just assumed they went on forever :D lol