Friday, 14 August 2015

Baldur's Gate Retrospective Walkthrough Guide Part III

Baldur's Gate Retrospective Walkthrough Guide Part III

Tanking & Melee Combat
Full plate, and packing steal! - Minsc

The purpose of tanks is to attract the aggro and then absorb or mitigate damage so that squishy party members are free to cast spells and fire projectiles from the back row. Attracting the aggro is usually a fairly simple matter: just ensure the tank is the first party member of which the enemy catches sight; blinded by hatred, they will then charge forth and futilely wail on the tank, foolishly ignoring the mages and archers who are picking them apart from safe distance. Of course, protecting your tank against the elements before you start bombarding the aggro with AoEs is a prudent measure, too!

Absorbing and mitigating damage isn't so simple; as a rule, tanks require a deep HP pool, negative AC [1] and perhaps even buffs from the Illusion school [2] to feel somewhat safe from the cruelty of the to-hit roll. In the early stages, fledgling tanks feel the RNG more acutely than other combat roles who don't often "get amongst it". Thankfully, first level hit dice are maximized for both the PC and companions; after which only a solid Constitution bonus can offset unlucky HD rolls and ensure a reliable HP pool [3] for those noble players who don't save-scum [4]. A high Dexterity score is also paramount; the bonus to natural AC stacking with a shiny set of Plate Mail (AC 3) and sturdy shield (AC bonus +1) for much-improved early survivability. Outfitted as such, the naturally-gifted Khalid sports an AC of 0 [5] for respectable defense at first level and against bottom-feeder mobs with which many a map is populated. Last, but certainly not least, helmets are essential for negating the devastating double damage inflicted by critical hits. Yes, they look ugly! - make sure everyone who can wear one does so.

Tanking, with consummate ease (AC -20)
The most effective tanks - who can also melee with the best of 'em - are quite clearly Fighter/Mages; their extremely low ACs (-20s) and access to Mirror Image allowing them to mitigate damage against the most formidable fighters known to Realmslore such a Sarevok and Drizzt Do'Urden. Fighter (7) / Specialist (8) dual-classes are superior to Fighter (7) / Mage (7) multi-classes by virtue of a notable increase in spell slots [6], a deeper HP pool and the to-hit and damage bonuses granted by High Mastery [7]; the only argument against them being dual downtime [8]. Both multi-class and dual-class variants share the same attack rate [9] and inability to reach fifth circle spells. Players seeking the fifth circle should dual from fighter at fifth level; in so doing they forego +1/2 ApR, +1 dmg and two fighter HD but instead gain two fifth circle slots to load with Cloudkill, Monster Summoning III and Chaos etc. So, the player just needs to decide if they want a "melee" or "spell-casting" tank. The screenshot depicts a  Fighter / Conjurer dual-class effortlessly tanking two Battle Horrors by virtue of protective illusions (Mirror Image, Blur, Improved Invisibility) and Spirit Armor. (Yes, all dual-class variants rock if planned right.) Despite being unable to cast illusions, conventional tanks (i.e, Khalid, Minsc, Kagain etc.) can still maintain solid defense over the course of the campaign (reaching AC -13 or so); they're just more reliant on equipment and assistance from buffers and healbots if they're to survive against the swarming mobs and aggro. Dwarven tanks are particularly resilient: their high Constitution scores ensuring a deep HP pool and also granting a +1 bonus to Death, Wand and Spell saving throws for every 3.5 points in the score. Kagain's illegal Constitution score of 20 grants him Regeneration status (1 HPs per 6 turns), and a Dwarf PC with a score of 19 can then read the Manual of Bodily Health (Con +1) to be granted regen, too! Their deep HP pools will be healed during overworld travel and when resting (41 HPs over 8 hours), making regen a powerful perk for conventional tanks who take damage no matter what. In addition, that 20 in Constitution means the saving throw bonus reaches a stubborn +5 (20 / 3.5 = 5.71, which BioWare rounds down), a remarkable boost against spell effects - especially in the early stages when everyone's likely to succumb to them!

Rumor of taint
The initial "one swing per round" of melee combat can sort of feel underwhelming at first (at least compared to archery's RoF), but specialized warriors finally gain two melee attacks by seventh level, which is 64,000 Exp for fighters and 75,000 Exp for slower-learning rangers and paladins. By that time, warrior archers are showing off with 3 ApR! Still, by brandishing +2 or +3 melee weapons with percentile Strength, your grunts won't embarrass themselves alongside ranged specialists, and in cramped quarters they shine [11]. Besides, a variety of Giant Strength potions are generously handed out campaign-wide, and even more reliably along the plot-critical path, to make up for the restricted quantities offered by Halbazzer at Sorcerous Sundries. [12]

Melee units are forced to contend with an early plot-based mechanic which may seem cruel: that of non-magical iron weapons breaking in their hands as a result of the ore being tainted by Mulahey's minions in the Nashkel mines. Binge-drinkers may have caught wind of the taint as early as the Prologue by asking Winthrop about rumors; and other hints are thrown out here and there to foreshadow the problem. Being an inattentive player, my first evidence of the taint was when my character started punching out gibberlings bare-fisted because my weapon had broken! (shown as mere shards in my inventory.) [13] From that point on, I carried back-up blades or instead wielded wooden or ranged weapons, at least until the matter of Mulahey and the taint was resolved. Another option is just to seek out basic enchanted weapons (i.e, +1) from Thunder Hammer Smithy in Beregost; presumably, they were forged before the tainting mischief began.

Greywolf's Varscona & Bassilus'Ashideena
Speaking of which, Taerom Thunder Hammer offers the first fabled weapon a budding meleer is likely to set eyes on: the awesome Dagger of Venom +2 (to-hit +2, 1d4 +2 and six poison damage per round up to a total of 15 damage); but it's prohibitively expensive at that point [14] and you can't steal from Taerom for game balance reasons. Therefore, I see only three opportunities to acquire fabled wields in the early stages, two of which are rewards to rather involved and dangerous quests found in and around Beregost and Nashkel, and the third of which is looted from a beefed-up encounter south of High Hedge. Respectively, these quests may yield - depending on how you solve them - the Warhammer +2: Ashideena (to-hit +2, 1d4 +3, +1 electrical), the Longsword +2: Varscona (to-hit +2, 1d8 +2, +1 cold), and the Short Sword +2: Whistling Sword (to-hit +2, 1d6 +2) - wicked wields indeed! The Warhammer +2 is effectively an end-game wield by virtue of the bludgeoning damage it inflicts to overcome monsters resistant or immune to slashing & piercing. The Cursed Two-handed Sword of Berserking +3 (to-hit +3, 1d10 +3, cursed: Berserk) is the only +3 melee weapon up for grabs early, but it's curse renders it all but useless. Another two-handed sword, Spider's Bane (to-hit +2, 1d10 +2, Free Action), deserves special mention for bestowing Free Action status on the wielder, thereby allowing your grunt to shrug off Hold Person and wade through Web with impunity! It isn't the end of the world if meleers don't find such weapons: even Aec'Letic (a Tanar'ri) - the fiercest foe in the campaign - sports just non-magical weapon immunity, and +1 enchantment is common. Anyway, as is the case with many item types, the best offerings are handed out more generously and are less likely to be overlooked come Chapter Five and TotSC. Overall, melee combat certainly seems more balanced than archery and arcane spell-casting, but all three modes of combat complement each other and can be highly effective when used in conjunction.

[1] Entry-level Regeneration doesn't factor, the rate being too slow (1 HP per 6 turns); and Damage Reduction is unattainable until BG2.
[2] E.g, Mirror Image, Blur & Improved Invisibility. For Fighter/Mage tanks, Mirror Image is awesome because each of the several images must first be "hit" before any damage can be inflicted on the caster. OP, even in BG2.
[3] (1d10 +5) * 8: warrior hit dice is 1d10 for an average of five HPs per level. A Constitution score of 19 grants a bonus of +5 per level. So, that's about 80 HPs by eighth level, instilling at least some confidence when things heat up.
[4] You can't just "turn down the difficulty to easy" for max hit dice rolls as per BG2, and there is no Max Hit points=1 setting as in nwnplayer.ini.
[5] Base AC 10 - 2 (Dexterity 16 bonus to AC) - 7 (Plate Mail) - 1 (Medium Shield) = AC 0.
[6] +1 first circle, +1 second circle, +2 third circle, +2 forth circle (5/4/4/3 vs. 4/3/2/1) by virtue of eight mage levels and being a Specialist. Gnome multi-classes receive the Specialist bonus (Illusionist). Dumbly, you can't dual from or to Specialists in BG2 (or, by extension, Tutu, BGT or EE).
[7] High Mastery dual-classes receive +2 to-hit and +2 dmg over multi-classes (who may only Specialize).
[8] "Dual downtime" means your seven fighter levels are put on hold as you work from mage first level to eighth (90,000 Exp).
[9] Both receive +1/2 ApR from seven warrior levels and +1/2 ApR from Specialization. 
[10] Despite having four proficiency points to spend in chargen, warriors may only spend a maximum of two points (i.e, Specialize) per weapon group (i.e, Large Swords). In melee attack terms, that's one base attack in the first round and then another "every other" round (1.5 ApR). Unable to Specialize, and receiving no bonus ApR at seventh level, non-warriors who wield melee weapons are stuck with one base attack for their entire career - one reason why thieves prefer to fire bows and mages prefer to throw darts (for setting ApR to 2 & 3, respectively).
[11] Ranged attackers receive -4 to-hit in close quarters. Even the swings of two-handed weapons have no spatial restrictions; incidentally, they also benefit from the "reach" perk that lets them attack an enemy from behind the tank.
[12] Players should find a couple dozen Potions of Hill, Stone, Frost, Fire, Cloud and Storm Giant Strength to set their strength score to 19-24 for ten delicious turns (24 Str = +6 to-hit & +12 dmg!) Merchant-wise, Halbazzer offers three of each, Erdane five of Hill only.
[13] Fists are treated as non-lethal weapons, so the monster is just knocked unconscious and no experience is awarded. One upside is that, before robbing someone, you can punch them out so they can't report you to the authorities for theft, thereby incurring no reputation loss.
[14] Assuming decent Charisma & Reputation, it still costs about 10,000 GP...

Party Composition & Companions
Great peril yields great beauty! - Coran

The Baldur's Gate party system lets you recruit five companions from a diverse pool of twenty-five for a traditional party of six adventurers, though nothing's stopping you recruiting fewer companions for faster power-progression and fewer micro-management hassles or even venturing into the extremes of soloing (recruiting no companions and "going it alone"). In addition, and perhaps against the spirit of the campaign, creating all six party members is also an option. So yes, the party system is very flexible indeed.

By no means a hard and fast rule, basic party composition seems to consist of two warriors up front and one each of thief, cleric and wizard behind them; perhaps with a bard or druid thrown in for good measure. I personally prefer to think in terms of descriptive role rather than class when composing a party so as to cover the crucial bases of adventuring; for example: healer, scout, tank, archer, haggler, rogue, loremaster, disabler and bombardier. Single classes are quite capable of covering more than one base; Ajantis, for example, can double as haggler by virtue of the paladin's Charisma pre-requisite, and what's stopping him firing a bow? Kivan is mean with a bow and handy with a spear, but can also scout like a wolf, and so on. Here's one for experienced players: by virtue of meeting the Necromancer Wisdom pre-requisite (16), Xzar can be dual-classed to Cleric at Necromancer second level if you first acquire the Tome of Understanding (in Durlag's Tower) and let him read it. Now you have a dedicated healer who can cast Identify, Sleep and Blindness, thereby doubling as both back-up disabler and loremaster; Xzar is now scarier than ever! Of course, triple multi-classes are the Swiss army knives of the party, capable of covering multiple bases. [15]

Click to enlarge
The vast majority of companions are recruited as individuals, but there are also four pairs (Jaheira & Khalid, Dynaheir & Minsc, Xzar & Montaron and Eldoth & Skie) who won't adventure without their other half, unless that other half falls in combat or is intentionally killed off by the player and has their corpse kicked out of the party. Moreover, companions may be mutually exclusive or loathe each other and eventually break out of the party and duke it out to the death (e.g, Kivan & Viconia, the Harper & Zhentarim pairs). Depending on how you look at it, this can be massively inconvenient or just part of the fun and laughter. Companions may also genuinely enjoy each others' company, resulting in pleasant adventuring and lil' banters here and there which I never found intrusive or tiresome as in the sequel. Despite their one-dimensionality and not being fleshed out in detail, adventuring with a motley crew can be quite amusing with their various compliments, quips, insinuations, insult-hurling and death threats. To my dismay, banters became such a fan favorite that they evolved into full-blown relationships in subsequent RPGs by BioWare, culminating in the putrid "romance sims" of the current gen. Anyway, the characterizations are concise and stereotypical by design: if you want deep & meaningful banters then Black Isle Studio's Planescape: Torment is where it's at.

Some companions will gladly join your ranks with no strings attached (e.g, Imoen joins because she's a childhood friend and Kivan and Ajantis want to fight the evil plaguing the region), others join because they feel indebted to you for randomly saving their asses (e.g, Branwen joins when you cast Stone to Flesh on her and Viconia joins if you save her from execution by the Flaming Fist), and yet others request you undertake a timed quest before they permanently sign up. For example, the quests of the Rashemi berserker, Minsc, and the Thayan Red Wizard, Edwin, clash. Minsc enlists your aid in storming the Gnoll Fortress to rescue his Wychlaran charge, Dynaheir, whereas Edwin wishes her head on a pike. Oddly, Minsc won't protest Edwin's recruitment or vice versa. Having hacked through packs of gnolls en route to the fortress summit to find Dynaheir imprisoned in a pit, you can choose who to ultimately side with or simply watch them duke it out on their own. [18]

Minsc & Dynaheir engage in bare knuckle boxing with Edwin. (Edwin loses.)

The polite parting words of Xzar, having been dumped
Companions regularly remind you of their quest, slowly losing patience as time wears on. Ignoring their not-so-subtle hints to the point of failing to meet the deadline may result in them leaving the party in a huff, never to be seen or heard from again, unless the companion dies and is raised from the dead, in which case they're questless - an oversight by BioWare.

Your reputation score is an important consideration in forming a reliable party, the score ranging from 1-20 ("Despised" to "Heroic"). Good-aligned companions may leave if your reputation plummets, Evil-aligned ones if it soars, though the ever-faithful Imoen will protest evil actions but won't leave based on reputation score. Mixed-alignment parties may therefore be a hassle to hold together, though the score can be increased or decreased at-will through temple donation and the calculated murder of peasants. Reputation dropping a lil' low for Ajantis' liking? Donate to a temple! Reputation climbing a lil' high for Xzar's? Murder a peasant! Anyway, the point at which companions "break" is the extreme end of the reputation scales, so if you're a do-gooder who can suffer the incessant complaints of the likes of Xzar & Edwin, then a score of 18 is fine; just don't go higher if you want them to stick around. [20]

With these considerations in mind, it's no wonder BioWare included a pool of twenty-five companions for you to cycle through. It also helps to save often and in several different slots, so you can return to states of play in which you have recruitment options, if you need to. Beware of temporarily removing them if your reputation is remotely positive, as they won't be waiting at the dumpspot when you return to re-enlist their services (the same goes for the good guys if they're dumped by a PC of ill-repute).

[15] Half-elf only. A Fighter (6) / Mage (6) / Thief (7) can specialize in three weapons (six proficiency points), can master two thief skills and reach a triple backstab multiplier; and receives four first, two second and two third circle arcane spell slots per day. A Fighter (6) / Mage (6) / Cleric (6) can also specialize in three weapons, can turn undead, receives four first circle, two second and two third circle arcane spells plus five first, five second and three third circle priest spell slots per day. They both miss out on 1/2 ApR, forth and fifth circle spells and have fewer spells slots, but still - not too shabby!
[16] Imoen joins because she's a childhood friend, Kivan and Ajantis  want to fight the evil plaguing the region; the former for personal reasons and the latter because he's a Paladin of Helm, and that's what they do!
[17] Branwen (cast Stone to Flesh on her), Viconia (save her from execution by Flaming Fist soldier), Xan (save him from Mulahey).
[18] Siding against Edwin could have resulted in a vengeful encounter with the Thayan Wizards at AR 3000; but that just doesn't happen - a lost opportunity.
[19] The ever-faithful Imoen will protest evil actions but won't leave based on reputation score. "Mutton mongerin' riff-raff!"
[20] And beware of temporarily removing them if your reputation is remotely positive, as they won't be waiting at the dumpspot when you return to re-enlist their services (the same goes for the good guys if they're dumped by a PC of ill-repute). 

Note: There are lots of nice touches regarding the companions; for example, I like how the pessimistic Xan comes with the Luck spell scribed to his spellbook. Garrick, Eldoth and Skie also engage in some amusing three-way banter.

Side Quests
Greetings, mercenaries! I am Silke - thespian extraordinaire!

Taking time out from the plot-critical path to nose around the hubs and their immediate surrounds can occasionally result in amusing - but dangerous! - side quests; three of my favorites I'll now treat.

Melicamp the Chicken
Why do I live in such a pissant town? - Thalanytr

This quest may only be found by exploration of the wilderness area south of High Hedge, there being no mention of it prior to bumping into Kissiq - a farmer who seems flustered by his encounter with a talking chicken! Having slain a wolf to save Melicamp the Chicken from certain death - but having no means to reverse the spell [21] - the polymorphed apprentice reluctantly requests the party transport him back to his master, Thalantyr, a wizard who resides at the tower of High Hedge.

A long, amusing and well-written discussion ensues between the PC, wizard and apprentice, but the short of it is: the PC must find and bring Thalantyr a skull, a vital spell component for the reversal spell that will hopefully restore Melicamp to his human state. Luckily, the forests around High Hedge are teeming with skellies, each of which drop a skull upon being vanquished.

With a skull delivered to Thalantyr, the wizard proceeds to cast the esoteric "Anti-chickenator" spell, with the two possible outcomes shown below.

Melicamp survives? +2000 Exp & +1 Rep. He doesn't? A popping chicken!
A wonderful quest, though difficult to find let alone choose the right dialogue options for [22]; and even the ending is subject to a coin-flip!

The Mad Cleric, Bassilus
heh heh hah hah.. Oh brother Thurm, why not grace our ears with a ripping tale of the old days, always a delight...

East of Beregost stands the Song of the Morning, a temple of Lathander overseen by Keldath Ormlyr, a priest who off-handedly mentions the bounty on the head of the mad cleric, Bassilus. No information is given on his whereabouts, but the madman can be tracked down south of High Hedge (the same area in which Melicamp is found), standing in the center of a mini-Stonehenge, surrounded by his murmuring legion of undead.

The key to dialogue with Bassilus is to play along with his delusion and then suddenly hit him with reality, causing him to lose control of his zombies & skellies which are thereby destroyed; otherwise you have to fight them, too! - and this priest of Cyric is already quite a handful, what with his castings of Rigid Thinking and Hold Person, followed up by mighty blows from his Warhammer +2: Ashideena. Truly a deadly encounter that, for low level parties, could easily go either way. Upon returning Bassilus' Holy Symbol to Keldath in the temple, the player is rewarded with +500 Exp & +5,000 GP - the cash being hugely helpful at that stage of the campaign (and, as mentioned previously, the warhammer is an end-game wield).

The Sculptor of the Elf-queen
Ahhh, beauteous creature! You are my masterpiece! - Prism.
From the self-important Oublek, the player hears of a local artist - Prism - wanted by the authorities for stealing two emeralds from Nashkel. The foppish, kind-hearted fellow is caught up with just outside the town's mines, rejoicing at being on the verge of completing his masterpiece, chiseled out of rock and highlighted in the eyes by the emeralds he stole. You can either act as bounty hunter and cut him down then and there [23], or promise to protect him from Greywolf while he puts the finishing touches to his sculpture. I'm doing the latter:

Greywolf now stomps in, ready to summarily lop off Prism's head! The party tries to reason with the brutish bounty hunter, but to no avail. Again, this encounter is deadly. Greywolf is a seventh level fighter wielding one of the finest swords in the campaign, the Longsword +2: Varscona; it's therefore best to just cast Blindness on him and pepper him with projectiles from outside his vision radius until he's dead. The party having valiantly fought off Greywolf, Prism announces the completion of his work before falling to the ground, lifelessly. It seems he caught a glimpse of Ellesime, the emerald-eyed elf-queen of Suldanessellar (with whom the PC has major dealings in the sequel), and desired to capture her beauty in stone. Well, in this case he succeeded, though it cost him his life.

A sad tale, with a sort-of happy result.
These are just a few of the charming quests available in the campaign; there are many more of similar quality.

In closing this post, an interesting NPC can be found wandering the wilderness north of Nashkel: Lord Foreshadow; so-named because he foreshadows BioWare's subsequent RPG series, Neverwinter Nights. He also mentions Athkatla (the main hub of Baldur's Gate 2) and Waterdeep (the starting-point of Hordes of the Underdark). Here are the three responses:

Note also the Realms-flavored writing (sort of Middle English, or "Shakespearean"), reflective of the FRCS body of literature; this was lost in the sequel and Neverwinter Nights.

Thou dost amuseth moi with thine "thees n thous"!
[21] Even with Dispel Magic memorized and the correct dialogue option chosen, you cannot dispel the polymorph.
[22] Players may not even realize Thalantyr can be dealt with, having been dismissed the first time they meet and the convo just ending abruptly. Moreover, two Flesh Golems hostilely patrol the halls of High Hedge until the player has successfully flattered Thalantyr to access his store... Flesh Golems are some of the toughest muthas in the campaign!
[23] The reward for returning the emeralds to Oublek is +200 Exp & +300 GP, whether you kill him or not.

Divine aka Priest Spells: Cleric & Druid, "Level Scaling", Boss Encounters.


  1. "you recruit five companions from a diverse pool of twenty-five for a "traditional" party of six adventurers"

    This is one of the best features of Bg1: you have a lot of choice when choosing heroes to form your party. I could never decide... while in Bg2 I was struggling to find a decent thief. Anyway they are quite annoying when they have a personal quest (I can't remember if it's the same in Bg2... I guess not except for Nalia & the stronghold quest, that was really annoying!)

    "Anyway, the characterizations are concise and stereotypical by design: if you want deep & meaningful banters that won't make you throw up, Black Isle Studio's Planescape: Torment is where it's at."

    Yessss, this is the problem of having so many characters, but sometimes even other games with less companions had a worse characterization. Or no characterization at all (Silverfall, for example).

  2. BG2 hosts fewer companions (17, including Sarevok in ToB), but they're more fleshed out with "personalities" and their own fairly involved quests. Almost all of them have quests that go through a few stages and are timed each time. Minsc doesn't have a quest, though he has many quest-related interjections and basically never shuts up! (Throw in romance commitments, stronghold duties, scripted events and force-talking NPCs - sigh - and it just feels a little annoying to be bothered all the time, or at least that's how I felt. I prefer the simplicity of the original, with exploration and adventuring at your own pace).

    I think BG2 has like four companions who are thief or part-thief, all recruitable in Athkatla before Chapter Three: Imoen (leaves after the Prologue), Yoshimo (the only pure thief, leaves in Spellhold), Jan Jansen and Nalia. So yeah, Yoshimo is in there to cover for Imoen's kidnapping, and once you save her she covers for his betrayal. I agree there aren't many thieves, the design not really calling for them all that much, whereas in the original they're mandatory. BG1 offers seven thief or part-thief companions, four of whom are pure. I would imagine that without the "reload spell", even seven would not be enough for Durlag's Tower. :P

    "Yessss, this is the problem of having so many characters, but sometimes even other games with less companions had a worse characterization. Or no characterization at all (Silverfall, for example)."

    Yeah, I think BG1 hit the sweet spot between not feeling so lonely as in Icewind Dale and not feeling so "suffocated" as in BG2.

  3. On Tanking:

    1) You might want to talk a little more about the value of giving tanks immunity to one's favorite AOE spells (given the potential for friendly fire) by means of spells, items, potions or a combination thereof.

    2) I agree that Fighter/Mages ultimately make the best tanks (mainly due to mirror image - with most other relevant spells you can just have some other party member cast it on the tank) though dwarves of various classes make a good runner-up (and might actually be better in the early game before anyone can cast many spells) due to being able to start with 19 Constitution. Dwarves have more HP, saving throw bonuses, and ultimately can get inherent regeneration (once they find the "Manual of Bodily Health" to raise their CON to 20, 19 being the max for any other race), all of which are nice for tanks (there is also an item - forget its name - to raise their dexterity to 18 so they are not penalized 1 AC). Personally I found that a dwarven Fighter/Thief made an excellent "point man" for the party, being able to scout and deal with traps as well as tank. Having the guy at the front of the party be able to handle traps was particularly useful in Durlag's Tower! Unfortunately under 2E rules dwarves cannot be Fighter/Mages (or any kind of arcane caster for that matter).

    3) Though they certainly have their advantages, I never entirely trusted dual-classes. They can be quite powerful in the long run, but in the short run you will have to spend a long period as a rather weak character. The main trouble is that they tend to be at their weakest in the mid-game when one is potentially confronting some of the most difficult fights, and gain their full power only in the late game when one typically has tons of resources and thus does not actually need to be at full power.

    On Companions, there is a lot that could be said. More than I have time for in fact so I will just remark that a major incentive to replay BG was to try out different party compositions. Different combinations of companions could significantly alter the tactical capabilities of the party and how one ought to play to get the most out of them.

    On sidequests, yes, there were some very fun ones. I think BG was better than a lot of RPGs at providing quests with a lot of story behind them.

    1. 1), 2) Thanks, Rogueknight 333: post edited to address both points, which were only partially mentioned in footnotes and comments.

      Oh yes, the Gauntlets of Dexterity (sets Dex to 18). You have a point there; also Kagain receives a 4 AC adjustment from them, having just 12 Dex. My dwarven tank usually prefers the Gauntlets of Weapon Expertise in that slot (to-hit +1, dmg +2), using the Manual of Quickness of Action later for 18 Dex. It's possible for conventional tanks to reach about -13 AC, or if you have two they can both hit about -9 (this all assumes the best stats & gear, but no buffs).

      3) I guess it depends what you're dualing from and to, how far you're taking the first class and how large your party is during the downtime stage (as you know, experience is shared evenly between party members).

      Dual-classing can be expensive or cheap in the downtime. You can just take two levels of fighter if you're dualing to mage, thief, cleric or druid - nothing is really lost there and the gains are decent. For the fighter/mage dual mentioned above, 7 levels of fighter costs 64,000 Exp; then your fighter levels are on hold for 90,000 Exp as you climb to 8th level mage. I always keep in mind other party members can cover for my gimp who isn't totally useless except in those early mage levels, but you climb out of them quickly enough: 3 levels of mage to gain Web requires only 5,000 Exp. I love dual-classing, but I guess it doesn't suit everyone's playstyle.

      4) I had three more paragraphs written up for my companion section, but omitted them for now.

      5) The Brage sidequest was also great. I loved Ulcaster and the Doomsayer at the archeological dig. ;)

    2. So the gauntlets increasing Dexterity were called the "Gauntlets of Dexterity"? How did I ever forget that name? Obviously long-term one could render them redundant with the Manual of Quickness of Action, but it would normally take awhile to find that. Even short-term it might be a worthwhile trade-off to lose 1 AC for more offense - but the option of maxing out AC for dwarves with it does exist.

      On dual classes I was obviously speaking in broad generalities. I was also choosing my words with care when I said that I did not "entirely trust" them, rather than that they were no good or something (which latter clearly would not have been justified).

    3. "Obviously long-term one could render them redundant with the Manual of Quickness of Action, but it would normally take awhile to find that."

      I agree; arguably, one mightn't find either at all without a guide or wiki to point out their locations...

      But yeah, my preference with 17 Dex is to eschew the GoDs in favor of the GoWE because normally a companion can make more use of the former, either for AC or ranged THAC0 boosts. A quick breakdown of early AC sources:

      Base AC 10 (AC 10)
      17 Dex +3 (AC 7)
      Plate Mail Armor +7 (AC 0)
      Large Shield +1 (AC -2)
      Ring of Protection +1 (AC -3)

      Plate Mail Armor and Golden Girdle both grant 3 AC armor bonus against slashing, so that's effectively -9 AC for the most common form of damage. There's also a Girdle of Bluntness and Girdle of Piercing, granting +3 AC against those dmg types (you can swap them in and out). The Boots of Avoidance/Cloak of Displacement grant a +5/+4 against missile (also +1 from Large Shield) for an early -13 AC to tank kobold and bandit arrows. Potion of Absorbtion also grants +10 AC against bludgeoning (good for Flesh Golems).

      So yeah, since I'm unlikely to be hit I prefer to roll with the offensive gauntlets.


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