Here I am a few months later to try this challenge again with a fresh start. Meet Korg Croc. Another member of the honorable mages clan. Unlike the previous mage, Korg is surviving a lot better and made it safely to level 5 already.
A few more things I changed for this run:
- To deal with the damage issue I just played it a lot safer. In the beginning you'll need to go back to the inn after every few fights. Without companion or reliable damage you have to think about every challenge very carefully. Long dungeon runs are also out of the question. However, I liked this. It really made me feel like I was just an adventurer trying to survive and not an overpowered demi god blasting away everything in my path.
- I waited with upgrading to Lesser Summoning II until after I got Mana Surge I. For a mage with low intellect, mana is limited and having to pay 20 every summon + mage armors is just too much to afford. A level 2-3 sparkling is not that less helpful at the lower levels and 40% cheaper which allows you to keep up your much needed mage armor.
- To solve the money problem I didn't fully go for Agility first like last time, but invested some points in the dialog skills (Intellect, Awareness, Personality) This helped me maximising my early game profits and allowed me to buy the bluesteel dagger in the sewers very early (the thirth best weapon available in the entire game) With this weapon I was then able to finish up the harder start game areas. Even with this, the constant inn visits weight very heavily on my budget and I really feel like the adventurer just trying to get by and earn some coin to keep living, like it is said in the opening of the game. That is a feeling that I never got when playing through the game normally.
Also as a sidenote, I was forced to cheat the challenge a little bit. I severly underestimated the difficulty of the Unknown dungeon and almost died from the guards. In a last desperate attempt to survive while running away with only 2 health left I set Adaon free and he dispatched the guard easily. Technically this does mean that I used a companion for this part, but I'm not counting this since I just see him like one of those obligatory quest companions like Zilda and Breno. (However if/once I die I'm going to try and do the dungeon Adaon free next time)
Hopefully I can do a level 10 update post sometime in the future, but we'll see.