I did a quick first pass in zbrush on the head, after I was done sculpting the pain began. Firstly I made the critical mistake of missing a few stray polys when I was unwrapping the head which zbrush doesn't like. So when it came to rendering the normals in zbrush (which I usually do to save having to export silly poly counts in and out of 3ds Max) zmapper popped that infuriating screen that doesn't actually tell you what you've done wrong nor lets you know that anything is indeed wrong...I'll post the most annoying error screen in the world later. SO i investigated in Max, found the offending polys and then tried to use zbrushes import function so it would use the new UV's...but of course zbrush wasn't happy. Seems I messed something up with the import/export settings. I didn't want to lose the work I had done on the head so I started looking at other solutions (baking the normals in max not only took forever but the results were bloody crap) and then I remembered xNormal, which I first found on the polycount boards
Jogshy has produced an incredible program, it managed to load my +1million poly object so fast I wondered whether it worked at all. It had, and it then calculated my normal and AO maps in a flash. I had some small problems with banding in the AO maps but it does it job fine for now, I'll need to tweak and play with it some more. xNormal is also a model viewer that allows you to preview your work with normal maps, lights and stencil shadows. A truly excellent little program.
Here are some quick shots of the AO from the high poly sculpt and a couple of zbrush renders. The metal tassels on the bottom of the beard are going to be made in max using sub-d techniques, so ignore those blank areas on the sculpt for now, and teeth will be added in later also.