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A browser roguelike with over 60 classes and endless adventure · By BrianIsCreative

Thoughts and Impressions

A topic by DeathMageThirteen created Apr 25, 2021 Views: 1,180 Replies: 9
Viewing posts 1 to 3
(11 edits) (+2)

I've been enjoying FARA recently and wanted to give a few comments on what I've found out so far:

- Hiring mercenaries is mandatory for an Insight/Finesse ranged build, to keep you out of melee range while you rain destruction from afar. Otherwise, without allies, you're pretty much dead as soon as something gets into melee range, and if you dash away your enemies simply follow suit. Sadly, bashing enemies with your staff is, of course, ineffective.

- Can't figure out how to complete the "missing child" quests? I can never find the child in the specified location, and usually abandon those quests. Are you meant to search (search command) the last known location of the child, or is the child simply not guaranteed to be in the targeted location, and may be in the surrounding area instead? Or a combination of the two?

- Escort quests seem very profitable, with a guaranteed artifact as reward, if a bit dangerous, as well as requiring you not to hire more than one mercenary, which is a significant hit to your overall power. It also appears to be a good idea to escort them directly to the desired location, without detours, as they're likely to die otherwise, particularly in dangerous quest locations. You could give them a weapon, of course, but then you'll lose it when you complete the quest.

- Certain pieces of equipment seem to be extremely fragile, especially anything made out of cloth- masks, kilts, etc. I've looted a full set of rune-infused cloth clothing in between towns and had them destroyed before I arrived. I've concluded that the best approach with such equipment is to immediately salvage them for the runes. 

- Blights are an interesting and flavorful part of the game, and I appreciate the wide array available, but it's quite punishing to not only receive a permanent negative condition but lose all of your equipped items, which are usually the best equipment you have available, and your party members, who usually also have the second-best equipment you have available. Invariably, I take a look at the blight I received, the equipment I have left in my inventory, and commit suicide anyway- there's a certain point where it's painful to continue, and I'd rather just start a new game. This also leads to a strange strategy of unequipping all of your items if you think you're going to die, although I can't tell if that's intended or not. The only thing I can say is that, perhaps, the owner of a character with nine key fragments might look at things differently...

- How do you tame animals? The only information I've found is that you need to give food to creatures to tame them- what counts as suitable food? I've found dishes in supply crates, but the Chef and Alchemist class flavor texts also seems to suggest that you can cook meals as well- how is this possible? Finally, I'm assuming that you can only tame certain animals- I've seen NPCs riding Moose and Horses, and Pug the Mage in their reply to my Spellthief Bug post mentioned Grizzlies as well. Are tamable animals found in the wild?

Well, I think that's it; I'll add some more comments if I think of them. All replies appreciated!

Edit: I see hunger and thirst were removed; I was wondering about that.

Edit #2: I upgraded my Crystal Wand to Refined quality, and the attribute bonuses didn't increase? What's up with that? Also, I see that different items require more or less material depending on their size which makes sense. However, for example in this hierarchy: Staves -> Sceptres -> Wands, are the heavy-attack effects of Staves actually objectively better than of Wands? I haven't played long enough to know how useful the different effects are objectively, though it seems like the elemental attunement reduction of Staves would be more useful than the elemental absorption effect of Wands, if you've already infused your weapon (for this reason I'm slightly regretting upgrading my wand, but I'll probably upgrade it to Artisan anyway since I've already used up a toolset). This, of course, applies to other equipment as well. Thanks!

Edit #3: My mercenary, Joniqua, keeps entering "droping" status right now, where they drop anything they're holding. I can't get them to wield anything. How do I fix this? I'm considering just firing them, given that they're only an amateur mercenary... 

Edit #4: Apparent bug, my water-infused Crystal Wand doesn't heal me at all when I heavy attack, even though I get the message. Haven't been able to test it with melee weapons.



/say follow me! or /shout come here  will get the attention of any freaked out and therefore stealthed child within earshot. You might need to move around and look into different corners of the map for them them to hear you. not too far when you shout or use a "!" when you say something. 

escorting people gets a whole lot easier when you /stealth travel from here to there. of course you'll likely wind up almost drowning in the middle of a lake when you're only halfway to your destination, and likely at night and in the middle of a desert where there's no wood to be found to build an overnight shelter. So take two wooden logs, one for planks for a shelter, and one for a door to install there. do /stealth again to unstealth the moment you wind up in that lake i mentioned or you might really drown and die.

the rewards vary a lot in quality and can be rather silly bad if you've not done other quests with that person before. so keep than in mind and take another quest or two from them so the rewards get better. sometimes you get someone who has to do a lot of travel
for spoilery reasons and you might get lucky with something really great that you can use for a while. but hey.. none of their goodies can take runes which makes them useful only within a few 100 km from home.

Fragile stuff? yes. totally. that will make sense -- and yes, /salvage and /drop things into your stash house with /ds when you get home
traveling in /stealth while /wearing your equally fragile at first bags!

Avoid Blights and deaths with "the strategy of running away" and hoping that the next map you drop into to heal won't have some imp nuking the last bit of life out of you. And simply .. never enter dungeons, dens or coliseums. simply don't.  Always upgrade to the best stuff you can find and consider holding a shield or two for their damage reduction ..

.. and getting at least a grizzly to accompany you. or a lake-monster, or an elk or something bigger than you!  /pet them until they are happy and /give them a treat. if they like you well enough you'll have their loyalty for life. that means you can leave them somewhere and they will rejoin you later when you remind them of your friendship with another treat!  Pets are FARA's better people. At least until you find a merc that's not simply a stuff-dropping idiot without any spells or buff-giving abilities that help instead of hinder you.

Once you have a few bags you can swap a grizzlies for a merc to help you carry things. In combat though, they might cost you more in equipment repair than you're willing to pay at first! So, /inspect and /salvage everything so you collect /recipes right from the start, make some big shields and troll the woods around the farthest away from home place you've ever been - in hopes for a bear that's not a young bear. mind you, a young grizzly will totally rock for a long time, but look for the strongest you can find and take them back into the easier zones around Relica to make it easy on yourself.

Once you used a tool you'll have its recipe available. Click on a runic shard from a salvaged rune for the details. And yes, the
upgrade do make the equipment stronger and more durable. Its hard to see sometimes. But you want that. Consider also a
workbench for all your repairs .. and repair that with a repair kit. keeps costs down.  -- don't upgrade too much stuff, look instead
to improve your relation with any npc in the next town you find by doing quests for them. This will give you better stuff without
you needing to upgrade things you'll only need until you for a transition to iron or steel or whatever the better cloths are for mages.  idk, i'm playing melee, not a mage. 

And hey, heavy attacks with your wand will heal you a little bit. normal attacks dont do that. the more water runes you have in your gear, the more that healing will be, but you want to find and treasure any rejuvenation rune you find and then upgrade to the hilt any spell you make with that. That's what you want to keep some of the shards you're making for!  

Two more things.. unlock the warehouse!  and read my notes. they have a pretty good index and a whole bunch of tables full of detailed info for my next run at the game. They should help you too.. and if something's missing, send me your notes via DM on the discord or a comment on the github or perhaps even here.

(6 edits) (+1)

Thanks for all the answers! Yeah, I actually discovered your notes shortly after I made my post- they're impressively detailed and quite helpful. I'm surprised you say the "artifacts" you get from escort quests can only be useful so long- I've seen some truly impressive stat boosts from them. Is rune infusion that important?

I was wondering about the wand; that does make sense. I've crafted a workbench already, which is quite nice, and looted a fur backpack from someone, which is great. I've managed to craft a Crystal Wand, and received a Crystal Helm and Crystal Heater Shield as rewards (too bad it's not a tower shield). When I don't need the backpack, I wear one of my weapon artifacts as an accessory for the stat boosts. In this way, I've managed to boost my Insight stat to Legendary, and with the Scholar Enlightenment ability (+8 Insight after conversing with someone or learning a recipe, which is quite easy when you have mercenaries) to GODLIKE, which, I must say, is quite nice. 

I had an amusing spellcrafting mishap recently- I tried to combine the Fire, Darkness, Elemental (stabilizer, summon Elemental), and Poison runes, giving me Brutal Elemental of Poison, thinking that the latter two runes would give me an elemental that poisoned on hit. What it actually did was poison everything in a targeted 3x3 square upon casting... including the elemental and my mercenaries. 


I don't suppose there's any way you can salvage a spell?

Judging from my recipes, Crystal (Uncommon), Starcloth (Rare), and Obsidian (Rare) gear are best for mages, although I've never even found the second and possess a single shard for the third, so I'll settle for Crystal for now. I'll have to see how my stats progress as the game goes on.

(I have a feeling that classes which start with low health, including Scholar, are sub-optimal because you can't actually increase your health total, unlike stats... We'll see.)

Anyways, hope you enjoy this!

Edit: Oh, how do I find ropes again? I was trying to construct the Warehouse and didn't have the recipe...

Edit #2: Well, I died in a Dungeon at 1,600 points, which was really my own fault... I killed a few enemies (Bright Scribe, Bright Horror, etc, it seemed to be a Light-based dungeon, which was nice because I was using Brutal (Dark Fire) spells) and decided to leave the dungeon and get party health back to full before continuing, rushed ahead of my mercenaries, didn't look where I was going, and promptly got Immobilized in melee range of a Shining Horror, which took me down from half health in two turns... I'd figured out that the best strategy for enemies here was to spam Brutal Elementals, poison or not, on top of them from range until they died, since they took increased damage and would get distracted fighting my elementals (I could summon an elemental each turn, which their damage output could in no way keep up with). Of course, that doesn't exactly help when you're already in melee range, since they generally continue attacking you. I didn't feel like taking a blight, given that I was wearing all of my Crystal gear, my backpack, and the artifacts that I hadn't already given to my mercenaries...

Well, I suppose that's a learning experience: (a.) ALWAYS be careful in Dungeons, (b.) Stay close to your mercenaries at all times in dangerous areas, so that this doesn't happen to me again, (c.) Elemental might be my new favorite rune, although I suspect I won't get it again any time soon, and (d.) do NOT combine Condition effector runes with the Elemental rune. Also, it turns out the longer you do quests for a certain person, the better your rewards get, which is neat (I was getting Refined chests from the Relica Elder.) I'm assuming this also has something to do with Charm.

Edit #3: I checked your notes and I see you recommend not entering Dungeons until late-game, but my stats were actually quite good (GODLIKE Insight, Excellent Resilience) and I think I could have taken that dungeon if I hadn't made that stupid mistake. I'm still glad I entered that dungeon, though; it was nice to actually have a challenging fight..


Wow, a truly impressive reply; I'm glad I took the time to write back to you earlier.

No, you can't salvage spells and in a while you won't want or need to because with a refined workbench and your insight/charisma gear you'll try your hand at fishing (ignoring/butchering all the fish into nothingness) and/or digging up a beach-map (you can only fall down a tripple dug hole once per map, so even if you get hurt, it wont happen again on that beach), crafting crystal from sand (and then crafting every last recipe you can in crystal just to level up your recipes so that you could do them with steel next), and getting a good number of runes from there. There are some numbers in the guide from my experiment -- good returns and i have multiples of everything from there.

You might want to look at the Jade faction traits and see if you can boost your luck while also aiming for attunement and diplomat as I have done. Rather than going into dungeons, and i might have worded that warning too strongly because they are very fun as you have experienced .. if you can get out that is, and that is tricky because you've not the half of how devious they are yet! ... I'd want you to farm points and key-fragments by killing as many Jade Nobles as you can. Seriously. become an attuned diplomat, hunt the castles, put up an airtight 5x5 shelter around you and the noble, kill them, get the fragment and move on.

... do this in the Relica area as soon as you can handle the normal quests from a little further out and have your never-any-repairs needed stout or deadly pets.  Invest the 9th fragment into your character and repeat that a few dozen times before you actually complete the key -- which will only give you temp weapons on demand that make some fights go faster but which have not been essential for me. you'll also start having to worry about sleeping with the door locked after that 'win' and farming the 9th fragment while still staying the hell out of champion fights for a while longer and picking up as many labyrinths as you can is easy and gives you the most points! you'll find plenty of castles within 20..80 miles from relica to up both your insight and stamina while loosing the least reputation with your faction since you'll make 1 instead of 10ish kills per fragment.

I do believe charm matters a lot with rewards, yes. Rearranging relica with a pick-axe and some paint so you can do multiple find-item quests right away is fun. I'd not keep my stash in relica but allow myself the extra time/encounters and stash at your 2nd or most distant other settlement, transfering items through the warehouse and looking around for next tier mines and npcs while you're out there.

Experiment with which waypoint connections/direction dump you into a lake and which don't. and keep fighting your own  faction's nobles, donating a medal here and there to make up for lost rep if you want to keep it; or just buy the remaining trait manuals and plan on which faction you want to do that with next. at least you'll no longer be worried about your health stat at this point!

you can /name npc you meet to encode what they are and what they can do for you.  /slw their positions in town, complete a den and pick as many good mercs as you want -- careful to not trash their items, they dont seem to like that -- and park at them at your base away from relica. ... as you do all this you will start collecting quite a few legendary items. and with these you can build different sets, and figure out how to get your elemental alignments up high.  boy, that was a long-winded way of saying, yep, attunement is that important, and that's why you want gear that lets you infuse runes.

ropes.. from plant-fibers. can't have enough of them ;)  ok.. you will have more than enough; of everything.  storages seem unlimited, but put no more items into them as fit on the screen and you'll have the mechanics down.  keep looking into the local maps as you travel, there are quite a few mysteries in there, some of them quite rare, others quite puzzling.

"(d.) do NOT combine Condition effector runes with the Elemental rune."  .. beautiful insight; I wish I understood how the elemental became an AOE rather than a Direct Damage Dealer..  If not at the beach, you'll be able to obtain runes from the staff when you complete your first obelisk. Its not the right spell for my Gatekeeper; if you learn more, lmk.

I'm looking for another gatekeeper to gear up in legendaries to take into dungeons with me and the magic DD's i'm hoping to hire in taverns from around the realm. 'our' stuff only takes half the damage and I don't mind shield-bashing mobs and playing 'a dummy' this time 'round ;)   See you at the rift!


Wait, how do you fish? I'm guessing you dig with a shovel- what do you mean by digging up a beach-map? The tip about crystal is neat, that will be  very useful.  I'm not quite sure what you meant by Elemental not being a direct damage spell? Perhaps I wasn't quite clear; the Elemental stabilizer rune summons an allied elemental in the targeted location, of the element type of the elemental rune(s)  you infused. This can be quite powerful, as it's possible to prevent enemies from ever reaching you as more and more elementals join the fight.  As far as I can tell, normally when you cast an Elemental spell you target a 3x3 square, centered on the elemental. The elemental will only attack targets affected by the area, and will dissipate after they are dead. The Poison rune apparently interpreted that as targeting the entire area... Might work well with a caster-effect rune instead, though.

It seems to be a good idea to hire amateur mercenaries in the beginning and work your way up the ranks, making them drop all their stuff before you fire them (you can give them a trash weapon to trade, since they'll refuse to drop their only weapon). Is there a way to craft an item if you haven't seen it before? I haven't actually managed to find a rope in any of my games so far...

Found out most of those commands already, but I appreciate it. What do you mean park mercenaries at your base? Is there actually a way to do that? What does completing a Den do, for that matter?

Not exactly sure where the faction castles spawn; are they guaranteed to be near Relica? I actually haven't done any quests for a faction yet, and only just realized it was possible to join one.

Well, I think that's it- see you in the Rift!


Fishing poles. I had one awesome run, then nothing afterwards the few times i tried to farm runes.

Digging up a map - exactly that. dig every square. plop down a 3x in the middle to sleep after traveling to/fro to drop off the crystal you make and collect runes while you do it.

Shovels, Fishing poles, pick-axes etc, will be in your /recipes, and if they aren't of the right material for you, then craft what you can to level them up. And if there's ever a recipe you don't know, then you need to find it by chance.. or obtain it with the help of staff from settlement buildings.

I understood what you said about the elementals. I'd just never cast one. But I like your new explanation of they work from the caster's perspective so much .. i just stuck it into the notes for the rune.

Again, aside from being able to help carry things, only ranged Mercs staying out of melee have been any help at all. I've gotten a lot more out of Moose and Grizzly since it takes just getting stuck in a font once or twice before you wind up with them nakedly running into melee.. i've had big equipment losses misjudging their staying power and only the beasts have anything close to the Gatekeeper's resilience. As one, it took just a few refined bits of iron before i could farm ruins without having to pay much attention , never loosing anyone.. until my young grizzly died while helping me conquer the first den.

Its not that i don't like them at all, I've hired every last one i've found and have them hanging out, parked at the tavern. My extra pets and domestic animals at the stables :)

Completing a Den gave me a title - which the next level merc wanted to see before joining up. At that time you're not worried about finding enough loot to hire or equip them with and might be a bit more conscious about how you spend your shards.

There's no 'where exactly' in the land. Things spawn, you find them, beat them and fewer things of that type spawn where that was. I can't explain it, but the map contents is always a surprise while you will also always find some landmark, like a castle or fortress just by wandering around. Some things are very rare, but not castles. They seem to start maybe 15..20km from settlements, e.g. 1.5 maps 'over' in any direction you'll run into one eventually. Sometimes even 2 or three no closer than perhaps 8 squares from another. 

A good exploration strategy might be to set your compass to the nearest settlement you know about and then to walk to there and back, this way you'll see the map as it really is. say you want to go NW to another settlement. "X" relica and start NW right away. the next time, walk W 3 steps, then go NW.. it never winds up working perfectly, because you'll get distracted by things you find, but you can cover/check the entire space for landmarks that way.

(3 edits) (+1)

Ah, right, that makes sense. My strategy is kind of the opposite, since I play squishy mage characters that need to stay out of melee at all costs, and therefore want allies to tank for me, while you're running a defensive melee character that prefers ranged support. Anyway, thanks; I'll keep you updated if I have any success!

Edit: Gah, I just realized that my description of the Elemental spell needs verification, as I never actually tried to cast it without targeting anything... If I get the rune again, I'll experiment and give you my results.

Update #1: I have Insight at GODLIKE again with three pieces of Crystal gear (It's quite easy, given that Scholars essentially have base Great insight with their Enlightenment ability, and am looking to up my Resilience and hopefully Charm as well. It seems that I cannot in fact craft all the recipes I know with all tiers of materials (the compatible recipes, of course)- you mentioned something about leveling up recipes?

Also, the Crystal Ingot crafting tip was much appreciated- I don't think I would have ever gotten this much Crystal otherwise, and it's a huge boost to a mage.

Anyway, DeathMage out!

Update #2: Ran into the Arcane Researcher, traded away all my shards. Got, among other things, a Rune of Elementals! Will post my trial results after I find a good spell combination. Also, is Slowness good on a long-ranged spell?


Hey, hope you don't mind me continuing to post my FARA experiences- don't feel obligated to respond immediately, it's just fun for me to share these things with someone. Anyway, dead again at 2,500 points- was battling a few enemies, including a Heroic Dark Servant, a few hundred miles from Relica with a Heroic Mortician mercenary that I was lucky enough to pick up in a nearby town. The fight was going pretty well until the Darkness Meteors hit (I was careless and didn't realize I was standing in the impact radius)...

I never did get to making my Elemental spell, because I had been waiting for a good self-buffing Effector rune. Sorry about that, looks like you'll have to wait a bit for my verification on how the Elemental spell works. (If you're confused about what I'm talking about, read my edit to my other post.)

So, a few new things I've discovered:

Morticians make amazing mercenaries, at least for a caster, with their Fervent Embalming ability, or, as I like to think of it, Raise Dead- you'll be shielded behind your ever-present undead army, and they decay slowly enough for your entourage to grow over time if you keep killing enemies- they don't count toward party limit, but I'm not sure if there's a maximum number of undead a Mortician can control. I was a bit dubious at first when I saw my new mercenary was an Insight-heavy class, since I was looking for someone to keep me out of melee, not another caster, but this was far more effective- instead of one new ally to tank for me, I got several! They do decent damage, too. (Honestly, I'd be in favor of Mortician just being renamed to Necromancer, because that's the impression it gives as of now, and it feels weird to call them a "mortician" (since when did undertakers get magical abilities? There's got to be some normal morticians... Also, Necromancer sounds more impressive to me.)

It seems extremely profitable to travel further from Relica once your equipment and allies are up to it- enemies were regularly dropping Obsidian and better equipment, which was a significant upgrade over my current gear. Also, I never actually completed it (I was on my way when I had that unfortunate encounter with a meteor) but I received a quest to retrieve a piece of equipment (an Arcanium Bracelet, to be precise) from a Dungeon, in exchange for a Grand Chest, which at least sounded quite impressive (I've never opened one before, what are the contents like?) I also did a few quests for the Jade Circle, although I never got into good enough standing to receive any traits. A bit strangely, I received two quests to jailbreak someone from another Jade Circle castle, upon which I had to escape before the rest of the castle started trying to kill me, but which overall improved my standing with the Jade Circle upon completion. (Internal disputes, perhaps? It would seem to fit with their description...) 

I had a bit of trouble with certain elementally-attuned enemies after I infused my staff, as it changes your attack type from "arcane" to "infused element". I'm considering making an elementally themed set of spells next game, to get full use out of the Curse rune- judging from this, I'm guessing an Arrow spell would be mandatory?

Also, any advice on spellcrafting? I'm having a hard time figuring out which effector runes would work best with which stabilizers. Certain runes seem obviously better than others (Silence versus Stupidity, anyone?) but others are a bit harder to figure out. I've shunned the attribute-decreasing runes so far, as they seem to be of rather narrow use (except possibly the Vulnerability rune, but I'm not sure how much that actually affects the stat in question) and am of nearly the same mind on the attribute-increasing runes (Enlightenment is the only one that might be of use while spellcasting, but I already get that as a Scholar- considering using Fortitude, perhaps? Again, depends on the extent of the improvement.) Anyway, any idea of what spells+effector runes I might want as a caster (3 spellslots)? I see you recommend a Rejuvenation rune on one of your spells ("your" in the generic sense) but I'm not sure if, for example, it would work better on a spell that's cast often (attack spells) or one that's cast more rarely (status-effect spells) given that I don't know how long Rejuvenation actually lasts.

I built the Tavern and the Warehouse this run, although the former was mostly useless due to the Shady Gambler promptly blocking the entrance (I was contemplating just murdering him, although it would be a bit awkward to do that in front of everyone) and the latter was mostly useless due to not having completed another Warehouse before my death. I definitely see how both could have been useful, though.

If you're robbed sleeping outside, it appears that you're not actually guaranteed to get back everything the thief stole when you kill them? My Obsidian Scepter was still missing, which hurt.

Anyway, up to 5,000 points now (I cheated with /unlockclasses earlier because I was interested in the Spellthief, but I'm strictly playing unlocked classes now)! Having fun and will post the next update when I have time!


Hey! a little bit late on the response, sorry haha

Yup, I agree with mortician being a good class to have as a mercenary:) you can also carry around corpses and drop them when you need them, as husks will decay after a few minutes.

About runes and spellcrafting... it all depends in what's your strategy for your run, in your case (3 spell-slot, caster class) I would go for:

  1. (X/Y) Shield of Rejuvenation:  X and Y being the elements you want to focus on. Self-castable spells will always trigger their effects, so they are good to buff yourself before a battle or to heal after one. Also, the shield spell boost all of your attunements, which is good if you are looking to make the most out of your elemental effects, attunement also (maybe?) boost your elemental damage but I haven't tested that yet. The Rejuvenation lasts for about 6 turns with Average charm, probably increased with spell quality too
  2. (X/Y) Curse/Field of Vulnerability: Curse if you prefer going for single target damage, Fields if you prefer AoE. The good thing about vulnerability is that apart from increasing physical damage taken, it also increases the duration of other debuffs.
  3.  (X/Y) Barrage of Poison/Blinding: Barrage spells won't trigger elemental effects, but they will benefit from the bonus damage from curse and fields, and at higher spell quality the AoE is huuuge. The effect will be longer due to the vulnerability, Poison is good if you don't have another way to inflict Poison to counter healing enemies (i.e an Earth Staff), but you could change it to Bleeding for enemies who dash a lot. If you want to go for a more defensive effector, Blinding is one of the best for that.

It's advisable o diversify your spells' elements, just in case you find a strong enemy resistant to the attunement you are trying to go for, the arrows spell are also good for that, as you said.

In my experience,stat-buffing effector runes are stronger early in the game, when the bonus stats are pretty noticeable (probably even better than a single masterwork piece of equipment) , and they are amazing if you are going for high reputation with the Radiant Hand to get the traits that makes buffs better, they fall off later into the game when you reach Godlike in your needed stats, though they could be good to suplement your weaknesses. You are correct about stat-debuffs being a little situational, my advice here is figuring what type of enemies you are struggling against the most and then deciding if you want some stat debuff to counter them, keep in mind that High Resilience enemies will make your debuffs almost useless, so it's good to have vulnerability just to decrease a little more their thoughness.

About your first point: I don't feel like it's always mandatory to play with mercs with frail builds, there's a few ways to counter enemies that want to close in on you. 
The bleeding effect makes it so that enemies take more damage if they move, so it's really good to cast on enemies that are about to dash, probably good to put it on a long range spell.
There's also the rune of forces, which pushes enemies away, the range is really small (like only 1 or 2 steps), but at higher spell quality the amount you push them is enough that they won't be able to reach you in a single dash action.
You could also try to play with traps, but I haven't experimented with those too much to give advice.

Oh, and a swiftshade with the shadowform trait is great at killing multiple enemies one by one. It's a huuuuge power trip, I really recommend you try it at some point!