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Pillars of Eternity: Basic Combat Guide
By Caelinus
Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pause Button.
Basic Stuff
1: Forget that Pillars of Eternity is a real time game. Do not play it in real time.

Seriously, this game is all about positioning and the appropriate use of abilities. Slowing down and taking time to think will change a difficult fight into a total victory.

2: Look over the options menu, there are numerous options across multiple menus. Read their tooltips. Tailoring certain aspects of how the game plays will increases your enjoyment of it.

3: The Stats in PoE are not DnD standard. Feel free to experiment and create fun builds.

Might: Affects all Damage (Magical/Physical) and Healing Amounts. Provides Fortitude Defense.
Constitution: Increases Endurance and Health. Provides Fortitude Defense.
Dexterity: Increases Action Speed. Provides Reflex Defense.
Perception: Increases Interrupt amount. Provides Deflection and Reflex Defenses.
Intelligence: Increases Area of Effect and Ability Duration. Provides Will Defense.
Resolve: Increases Concentration (Interrupt resistance.) Provides Deflection and Will Defenses.

What this means is that Intelligence based Fighters, Dexterity Paladins and Might Wizards are all viable builds. Every class can use every stat. Choose the effects that you want for your character, and build around them. While some combinations may be better than others, there are no "trap" builds waiting to gimp your character.

1: Endurance is shown by a bar of Green Diamonds. If these deplete, your character will be knocked unconscious.

2: The Yellow Bar shows the amount of time you are in recovery. When this bar hits zero the character will be able to act again.

3 The Red and Green Lines are Engagement indicators. Red shows who the enemy is engaged with, while green shows who the PC is engaged with.
Combat Stats

1 Health: This is the total amount of Health the character has. When a character takes damage, it is done to both their Health and their Endurance. When Health reaches zero, the character falls and is "Maimed." (On higher difficulties this results in permanent death.) Maimed characters are stuck at 1 health, and if they are dropped to zero again, they die.

Effects that restore health are rare, and health does not regen. However, resting will always restore the character to maximum life.

2 Endurance: Endurance is how much damage a character can take in a single encounter. When endurance drops to zero, the character will be knocked unconscious, but will wake at the end of combat.

Endurance regenerates extremely rapidly outside of combat. Healing magic restores endurance rather than health.

3 Damage: This lists primary and secondary weapon damage ranges.

4 Damage Types: These icons show the kinds of damage being done by the weapon you are using. In this case the Great Sword does Slashing and Piercing Damage. You can mouse over the icons to see the damage types.

Some weapons are listed as being X or X damage. In cases where it stats or, the weapon will do whatever damage type the enemy has the least resistance to.

5 Accuracy: Accuracy is your characters general chance to hit. This is influenced by your class and level, or by talents or temporary magical effects.

Accuracy is compared against the appropriate defense for a particular attack. The result of that comparison then modifies the roll.

For example, in an attack against the above wolf I received this roll:

Accuracy 25 (Me) - Deflection 27 (Wolf Defense) = -2
A d100 roll of 52 + -2 (The result of the comparison) = 50 (Total)
50 (total) resulted in a Grazing Hit.

The Thresholds for hits are as follows:
15 or Less = Miss
16 to 50 = Grazing Hit (50% Damage and Duration)
51 to 100 = Hit (100% Damage and Duration)
Over 100 = Critical (150% Damage and Duration)

Abilities that attack without the use of a weapon receive an accuracy bonus based on the level of the character.

6 Damage Reduction: If a hit has been made of a certain type of damage, DR is a flat reduction of that damage.

For example, if a monster hits the character for 30, but their armor provides a flat 15 DR, then the final damage subtracted from Health and Endurance would be 15.

Certain types of armor and enemies have varied DR, where a specific damage type has a different DR value then their normal.

And example of this would be a fire monster with 15 DR, but 30 DR vs Fire, but only 5 DR against Cold. Attacking the monster with cold would bypass a significant portion of its DR.

Damage reduction will never reduce a hit to less than 20% of its initial damage. As such dodging the blow entirely is the only way to avoid damage.

7 Deflection: The stat used to defend against direct melee and ranged attacks that are not Area of Effect.

8 Fortitude: The stat used to defend against attacks against the internal systems of character. (Poison, Disease, ect.)

9 Reflex: The stat used to defend against Area of Effect attacks. (Explosions and the like.)

10 Will: The stat used to defend against all mind effecting attacks.
Engagment and Tanking

Pillars of Eternity uses an Engagement System in managing movement and aggro within the game.

When two actors move close to one another in combat, they become engaged.

In the above image with MINDCRUSH and the Wolf, the two have engaged with each other.

The red line indicates that the Wolf has engaged with MINDCRUSH, while the green shows the reverse.


If either of the actors attempts to withdraw while engaged, they will be hit by a disengagement attack.

These attacks have an accuracy bonus, and result in significantly higher damage than normal attacks. Furthermore, they also momentarily stop the movement of the actor who is disengaging, which may result in them getting caught in engagement again.

Handled badly, disengagement will result in near instantaneous KOs or deaths.


Using this system intelligently allows for characters to tank. When enemies attempt to attack the party, they will move in a generally straight line toward whomever they want to attack. Positioning a high defense character in their path will cause them to become engaged with that character.

As the NPC does not want to take the high damage hits from disengaging, it will switch its focus to the character who blocked it.

This is especially effective when using a fighter with the Defender ability, as it allows them to engage with up to 3 enemies at a time, keeping a large portion of the attacking enemies at bay.
Positioning and the AoE
Mock Battle

I present to you a mock battle. The Part of the glorious PCs will be played by the green team, while the vicious and cruel NPCs will be played by the red team.

In this scenario, our team of three was just assaulted by the reds in the direction of the black arrow. Luckily due to a cleverly timed pause, the Green tank and Wolf were able to move forward past the Green wizard.

The tank managed to get into position, engaging both the rogue and the enemy priest, while the wolf managed to cut off the Chanter.

At this point, all three enemies are now unable to move past the Green Melee, leaving the wizard free to do what wizards do best.


Area of effect spells work a little different in PoE than in other CRPGs. If you notice, there are two distinct rings in the indicator for the fireball that the wizard is about to cast.

The inner red circle is danger close. Anything inside the red zone will be hit, regardless of whether it is a friend or a foe. The outer yellow circle on the other hand will only hit enemies.

In this example, the location being targeted by the wizard will hit all three of the Red Scoundrels, but will leave the Green Saviors entirely untouched.


Now, as the fighter and the wolf are controlling the field, the Wizard is free to move around at will. Allowing for this kind of motion.

After a quick reposition, avoiding getting in range of the Red Rogue, the Green Wizard can find an angle to throw down a line based attack, all while not drawing any disengagement attacks. This angle will hit all three of the red foes, but as with the fireball, will not harm any of her allies.

Effective use of positioning in a party will keep the squishy damage dealers safe, while at the same time allowing them to find the perfect angles of attack.
Miscellaneous Stuff
1: Watch your cool downs. In difficult fights it is often a good idea to keep a clinch hitter or healer in reserve. If you temporarily give up a small amount of damage from their auto attacks, you can leave them ready to react at a moments notice, casting a spell or using an ability the instant you need it.

2: Bring Crowd Control. Certain enemies have the ability to break out of engagement. Notably the ghosts in the first segment of the game. If they use this ability they will often go straight for one of your weaker characters. A knockdown, stun, ect. will be able to prevent your back row from being caught.

3: On a similar note, make sure to have breaking abilities. Knockdowns, knock-backs, dominations, confusions and the like are able to temporarily break engagement lines. Allowing a character to safely withdraw and get to safety.

4: Prioritize your targets. As much as you can, focus your fire on the most dangerous enemies. This is often enemy spell casters and archers, as they are capable of sniping out your back row. Get in their face with a high perception character (for the interrupts) or kill them as quickly as possible.

If anyone has any suggestions for stuff to add to this guide, or if there are any glaring errors, please comment below. The game has only been out a short while, and there is plenty more to learn about it. In the future I may add an advanced combat section, but I will need to do some more testing and research before that it possible.
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chall1 May 22, 2018 @ 6:34am 
Thank you, perfect guide !

realy better than DOS 2 ! exepted 2D graphics :l
D'amarr from Darshiva Jul 2, 2017 @ 3:24am 
Guide is out-of-date and doesn't cover the changed game rules since the v2 and v3 releases in 2016 yet. Description of the attributes is wrong!
Alex Chief Feb 24, 2017 @ 11:30pm 
I'm still downloading the game,but now i feel much more confident)) ty)
halosldr Apr 8, 2016 @ 10:53am 
Amazing guide, thank for the info!
ARmann Mar 4, 2016 @ 3:05pm 
Thanks for your guide.