Sunday, September 20, 2015

Baldur's Gate: Character Creation and Party Choices

Apparently I have been somehow pushed or co-opted into writing a series about Baldur's Gate.  Hopefully this will be the last part, which gives my approach to character creation for this game.

Character Creation :

My main PC has always been a Human Fighter.  I get a good roll and set my Str, Dex and Con to 18 and my Int, Wis and Cha to no less than 9.  (Preferably 10 for Charisma, because 9 gives a -1 reaction adjustment).  This requires a total roll of 84, which make take a few dozen clicks of the reroll button.  Judging by the Enhanced Edition, total rolling points range from 75-100, but are heavily weighted toward the low end of the scale.

When you choose a class, you are stuck with whatever exceptional strength roll you get when you increase your strength score to 18.  If you raise and lower the strength score, you will keep the first exceptional strength roll you make.  You have to reroll to get a different exceptional strength score.  However, you can raise your strength a point later in the game, and exceptional strength becomes irrelevant at that point.

With a Fighter, you have four weapon proficiency slots to use.  I set two slots for Swords and one for Blunt Weapons and one for Bows.  You will start out with 14 H.P.  I prefer Fighters to Rangers and Paladins because they can gain new levels faster than Rangers and Paladins can.  Also, Fighters have Weapon Specialization and the other two do not.  Put the points you can earn by leveling up to the Sword.  The best long sword in the game can be found at the Entrance to the Nahskel Mines in Chapter 2.

A dwarf or an elf make excellent fighters.  A dwarf has a +1 to Con for +5HP per level at Con 19.  If you raise your Con during the game, you can acquire regeneration.  However, a dwarf has a max Dex of 17, so his AC adjustment is only -3.  An elf has a max Dex of 19, making them superb archers.  But they also have a +1 to hit for Swords and Bows, sweetening the pot even more.  However, their Con maxes out at 17, giving them a benefit of only +3 HP per level.

Single Game Party Selection :

If you want to keep a harmonious party, you should pick NPCs close to your alignment.  By acting mercifully, honestly and selflessly, your reputation will increase, good party members will be happy and the shops will give you better prices.  Neutral party members will mutter but will not leave the party no matter how high your reputation becomes. Evil party members will leave if your reputation goes above 18.  Being cruel, dishonest and greedy will cause your reputation to not increase and evil characters will stay content.  Keep your reputation to no less than 10 to avoid higher prices, negative reaction adjustments and Flaming Fist posses and mercenary attacks.

I tend to favor characters you can acquire early over characters who are not obtainable until Chapter 4 or 5. You can pretty much clear out all the areas outside of Baldur's Gate (Chapter 5) before you have to go there to make progress with the plot.  If you want to stay strictly to the main plot, the Chapter 4 NPCs can be used as replacements without too much of a management headache.  None of the Chapter 5 NPCs are particularly impressive.

The Law-Neutrality-Chaos axis really has no importance in Baldur's Gate, only the Good-Neutral-Evil axis matters.  So if you want your reputation to start at the maximum, pick Lawful Good (12).  If you want take a path to the Dark Side, then pick Lawful or Neutral Evil (9) or Chaotic Evil (8).

Recommendations for a Good-Aligned Party :

Main Fighter PC
Imoen
Kivan
Minsc
Branwen
Dynaheir

Imoen has two purposes.  First, you acquire her at level 1, so you can shape her thief abilities as you wish.  Second, you can and should Dual Class her to a Mage when she becomes a Level 6 Thief.  By the end of the game, you can get her to a Level 9 Mage.  She should advance to a Level 6 Thief very rapidly if you explore the world, and then she will be developed as a Mage until she reaches Level 7, where she reacquires her Thief abilities.

The Thief skills that should be improved are Hide in the Shadows and Find Traps.  Hide in Shadows is the most important skill because it allows her to scout out areas for monsters and encounters, especially at night.  The 2nd Level Mage Spell Invisibility can also allow you to scout around undetected and without chance of failure for a long time, but it costs a spell slot and ends when you attack a target.  Find Traps is also useful to find and disarm traps, which appear quite frequently in the Expansion and in some of the underground and even wilderness areas.  Open locks is not as important because fighters with high strength can usually force locks and a Mage can use a Knock spell.  You never really need to use the pick pocket skill and you can save and reload if you fail.

Kivan makes a great archer and a pretty good front line warrior, and you can quickly pick him up at High Hedge east of Beregost.  Ajantis is also a defensible choice and can be found at the Fishing Village north of the Friendly Arm Inn.

Minsc makes a great tank and he is located right in Nashkel.  He will require you to rescue Dynaheir at the Gnoll's Stronghold, but she is worth it as is the trip to that area.

Dynaheir is an Invoker, so damage spells like Magic Missile, Melf's Acid Arrow, Lightning Bolt and Fireball are her specialty.  She cannot summon or enchant, but there are many wands that can summon monsters.  Weirdly there are no pure Mage NPCs in Baldur's Gate.  You can find Xan at the end of Chapter 2, but he is an Enchanter and cannot cast Invocation spells like the ones I just listed, essentially the opposite of Dynaheir.

Branwen will join the party for the price of a Stone to Flesh scroll and is located at the Naskel Carnival.  Buy it from the temple, not the huckster next to her.  She is the only good Cleric you will find early in the game, and you need a healer.  If you really want to wait until Chapter 4, you can pick up Faldorn who is a pure Druid or even Yeslick.

Recommendations for an Evil Party :

Main Fighter PC
Imoen
Viconia
Kagain
Shar-Teel
Edwin

Safana serves as Imoen's replacement for evil parties.  She is a quite a bit more closely aligned to the moral compass of this party, but she requires a bit of travel to obtain.  If you can raise her Int you can dual class her to a Mage.

Viconia can be found in Peldvale, to the east of the Friendly Arm Inn and requires killing a Flaming Fist soldier.  There is no reputation loss for killing the soldier, but you will incur a -2 reputation hit whenever you add Viconia to the party.  She is a painless way to lower your reputation if it gets too high.  Even evil parties need a healer.

Kagain is in Beregost and keeping him only requires going back to the Coast Way.  He is not the best fighter but he regenerates HP and does not need your healer's attention after resting.

Shar-Teel is located in Mutamin's Garden, which is east of the Beregost Temple.  You must best her with your best male fighter before she will join.  She makes for a great front line fighter.  If your fighter is female, you should have someone with a higher strength score than Kagain to fight her.  If your main PC is a female fighter, you can use the Girdle of Masculinity/Femininity (found in the area south of the Friendly Arm Inn) to change your sex temporarily so you can best her.  Of course you may have to wait or pay for a Remove Curse spell to unequip the stupid belt.

Edwin is probably the best mage in the game and his Amulet doubles the number of first and second level spells available to him.  Magic Missile is always useful and will damage just about anything in the game.  Unfortunately, you have to kill Dynaheir at the Gnoll's Stronghold or bring him to her to keep him.  He is a Conjurer, so he cannot use Divination spells like Identify or Clairvoyance, which is only slightly annoying.  You really won't need a Mage immediately, so you can bypass the Xzar and Montaron duo.  Xzar is a decent second choice, but as a Necromancer he does not have access to Illusion spells, most notably defensive spells like Blur and Mirror Image.   In that case, Montaron should take care of your Thiefly duties.

With a multi player game, my basic recommendations remain the same.  You need three characters who are good in melee combat.  A character with good Thief skills will make the game a lot less challenging.  At least one Cleric/Druid character is a must, and two is better.  Finally, a good Mage is a must.

Multi Classing and Dual Classing :

Dual Classing has its benefits, but it is quite the investment as you build up your second class to the level of your first class.  In Imoen's example, to get the maximum Mage level, you cannot progress past level 6 as a Thief, otherwise you will hit the XP limit.  (Canonically for sequel purposes, she changes classes after Thief level 7).

Multi Classing has its benefits, but experience is split between the classes, and therefore the characters will be weaker at the end of the game than the single class characters.  Let's consider the combinations presented by the various NPCs in the game :

Fighter/Thief
Fighter/Cleric
Fighter/Druid
Cleric/Illusionist
Cleric/Thief

The game will allow a maximum of 80,500 XP to be split into each class.  That give a Fighter/Thief a maximum level of 7/8, a Fighter/Cleric a maximum level of 7/7, a Fighter/Druid 7/8, a Cleric/Illusionist 7/7 and a Cleric/Thief 7/8.  Single classed can achieve Level 8 for Fighters, Paladins, and Rangers, Level 9 Mages and Level 10 for Thieves, Bards and Druids.  Level 9 Druids can cast Level 5 Priest Spells and Level 9 Wizards can cast Level 5 Wizard Spells.

Also, know that each class gets half the HP of a single class.  A single classed Fighter can have 1-10 HP per level.  A Fighter/Thief will have 1-5 or 1-3 HP per level.  So while a Level 8 Fighter can have up to 80 HP by the end of the game, a Fighter/Thief will only have up to 53 HP.  A Fighter/Druid would only have up to 63 HP.

The Elephant in the Room :

The above advice focuses on playing a character through Baldur's Gate and its Expansion Pack, but what about its Sequel and its Expansion Pack?  You can import your character as developed in Baldur's Gate into Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn..  Only the PC gets transferred, any NPCs common to both games like Imoen and Viconia will have their own stats, items and spells for Baldur's Gate II.

Should you transfer your PC?  The benefits are that you can start your character a level above the starting level of BGII generated PCs, assuming you maxed out your XP in BG.  You also can carry over a few items from the previous game, most notably the Golden Pantaloons (or just use Cheats or a Character Editor).  You will be able to reassign your Weapon Proficiency slots and Thief Abilities.  You can keep the HP and spells you earned in BG.  You can even select a Class Kit for your character.

There are a few drawbacks to importing.  First, a character that has already Dual Classed in BG cannot select a Class Kit for his inactive class.  A Kensai to Mage in BGII is a combination that many swear by, but if you already Dual Classed in BG, it won't be available to you.  Nor can you be a Half-Orc, Sorcerer, Monk or Barbarian, races and classes that did not exist in BG.  BG was based on the basic 2nd Edition of the AD&D rules and came out in 1998.  By the year 2000, the 3rd Edition of the D&D rules had been introduced and these contributions to the tabletop game were added to BGII.  Because the Kits are not available to the low level characters in BG, they have distinct similarities to the Prestige Classes introduced in 3rd Edition.  The designers were willing to bend the rules in a 3rd Edition fashion, witness the almost-Paladin Halfing Mazzy.

Ultimately, BGII has so many opportunities to earn huge amounts of experience that you start getting achieving near godlike levels of power in Thone of Bhall.  Unless you make really poor choices in BG, whatever you do is not likely to matter much once you get into BGII.

One thing you should do is to use all the Manuals and Tomes that raise your attribute points on yourself.  Why waste them on the NPCs?  They are not going to be transferred to BGII.  In fact, there will be some sacrifices to be made in BGII, so boosting the ability scores is a good idea.  You can't take these items with you, so use them to give yourself a permanent boost when you find them in BG.

Another thing you should do is to watch your HP increases.  Save before you level up, so if you only earn 1HP from a roll, not including Constitution bonuses, you should try again.  If you consistently get the upper end of the range of the die roll, you will be in good shape.  (Of course there is a mod that can always give you max HP on level up).  You won't have to be rolling many hit die in BGII, so you should make these early rolls count.

Avoid triple-multi classes like Fighter/Thief/Mage.  While I might not be the biggest fan of two class multi classes, a triple class multi classed character will spread out the XP too thinly.  Given a rough amount of XP available to an average party that has progressed through BG and BGII, say 4,000,000, your individual classes will still be hovering around level 12-13 by the end of Throne of Bhall.

Finally, I once brought a Fighter character through BG with an Int score of 3.  I paid for it with a great deal of frustration in BGII against a certain type of monster.  Try to keep every Ability Score in the double digits.

I do have a note of caution about the pure Fighter in BGII.  BGII notably decreased the value of Weapon Specialization.   Grand Master in BG gave you a bonus of +3 to Hit, +5 to Damage, and 3/2 extra attacks attacks per round.  Grand Master in BGII gives you a bonus of +2 to Hit, +4 to Damage, and 1/2 extra attacks attacks per round.  BGII encourages you to spread around the Weapon Proficiency points and there are so many great weapons you wish you could achieve Mastery in.

1 comment:

bleuge* said...

Thanks, thanks and thanks!!! :D