Friday, 25 August 2017

Best Classes Character Builds Baldur's Gate BG and Baldur's Gate 2 BG2

Best Classes Character Builds Baldur's Gate BG and Baldur's Gate 2 BG2

Baldur's Gate Index

The Bhaalspawn Saga is built on the AD&D 2nd Edition ruleset which doesn't offer anywhere near the flexibility of 3rd Edition as employed by Icewind Dale 2, Temple of Elemental Evil and Swordflight. People talk of "builds" but there are none really to speak of. That said, the classes, prestige classes and multi- and dual-class combos of the Bhaalspawn Saga are interesting enough, especially when coupled with its almost peerlessly varied itemization. 

In this post I have listed what I consider to be the best classes in the order of my preference, separated into sections. To summarize, I consider the Gnome Fighter/Illusionist multi-class to be the god-class of the Bhaalspawn Saga, followed by the Wild Mage. Berserker or Kensai / Mage dual-classes come in third. For an in-depth comparison please refer to Gnome Fighter/Illusionist multi-class vs. Berserker and Kensai / Mage dual-classes.

This post does not take into account extreme modes of play that rely on foreknowledge such as soloing, Ironman and speed-running. Instead, classes are ranked based on their contributions as Charnames to balanced parties, played by the average gamer who just wants to enjoy themselves.

Best Classes in Baldur's Gate

Mages, Fighters, Thieves, Clerics and Druids are best multi- and dual-classed, but this section is about single-classes.

Mage: Easily takes the number one ranking. Combat role is direct damage, immobilization, summons, buffing and debuffing. Utility role is valuable due to Invisibility (scouting), Knock (Open Locks), Friends (bartering) and Identify (I.D magical items). Conjurer is the go-to Specialization due to the repertoire of its Opposition School being somewhat underwhelming (Divination) [*]. Mages are squishy but that's why we have Mirror Image, Blur, Improved Invisibility and the armor line of spells culminating in Spirit Armor. If our Mage gets hit then we are playing her wrong, pure and simple. Sleep and the godly AoE immobilizer, Web, will give us the desired encounter outcomes against 90% of the mobs. Blindness will give it to us against tough singular foes in many cases. Higher circles unlock Emotion and Cloudkill, among others. The ability to cast Fireball from wands frees up slots for the underrated Slow which should be cast in conjunction with Haste. The Monster Summoning line of spells, and Animate Dead, are easily abused thanks to the lack of a summon cap. Have Mages wield darts for 3 ApR when they're not casting. The assertion that Mages are weak in the early going is a myth parroted about by newbies who don't know what Sleep and Web do, and think the HP pool of a combat units dictates its defense (they haven't heard of Mirror Image). Please refer to the arcane section in Part II of my retrospective for more commentary on Mages, their spells, and wands. For deeper commentary on key spells, please refer to Best Arcane Spells.

Recommended starting stats (Elf Conjurer): Str 14, Dex 19, Con 16, Int 18, Wis dump, Cha 18 (stack Friends). Note that INT does not dictate the maximum spell circle we can cast, how many spells we can cast per day, or how powerful our spells are. That is governed by our character level. INT only dictates how easy it is to scribe the spell to our spellbook and how many unique spells can be scribed per circle. Thus, we can start with INT 9 and just quaff Potion of Genius before attempting to scribe.
[*] Identify, Infravision, Know Alignment, Detect Evil, Detect Invisibility, Clairvoyance.

A note on Specialist Mages: Not only do Specialists gain +1 spell slot per circle (at the expense of being banned from Opposition School spells), but their enemies incur a 2 point saving throw penalty when attempting to resist a spell cast by Specialists, if the spell is of the school of which the Specialist belongs. Thus, for example, Domination's 2 point penalty becomes a 4 point penalty when cast by an Enchanter, such as Xan. Conversely, Specialists receive a 2 point saving throw bonus when attempting to resist a spell of their school.
Enchantment Spells ST (Single-Target) and AoE (Area of Effect) spells:
ST: Charm Person, Dire Charm, Domination, Feeblemind
AoE: Sleep, Hold Person, Confusion, Emotion, Chaos, Hold Monster
Not a bad line-up, is it? Scrolls and wands aside, we will be banned from casting spells from the Evocation/Invocation school; however:

The "workhorse" spells referred to by Rogueknight 333 are Evocations/Invocations such as Magic Missile, Chromatic Orb, Web, Stinking Cloud, Fireball, Lightning Bolt and Cloudkill. Thus, the Enchanter focuses on immobilization and divide & conquer rather than direct damage. More info on Specialists.

Fighter: Combat role is melee or ranged physical-based damage dealer and conventional tank. It's their percentile Strength along with full proficiency, THAC0 and ApR progression that grants them solid offense [1]. In addition, their 1d10 Hit Die + Con bonus and access to Full Plate and Large Shield grants them solid conventional tanking ability. It isn't uncommon to have two or three Fighters hovering around -13 AC and 100 HPs by end-game [2]. Throw in their percentile 18/91+ Strength, High Mastery, 3 ApR and negative THAC0 and we can see why they're second on this list. The Fighter's role in a party is to draw the aggro and hold it back so that Mages and archers can fire away freely. Of course, far from just standing there the Fighter is pulverizing the enemies one after the other with a +2 weapon such as Ashideena, Varscona or Mauletar. I think BioWare suck for capping XP progression before Fighter attains Grandmastery, and subsequently nerfing GM in BG2 (because, outside of certain mods and Icewind Dale, players never got to experience True GM), but Fighters are still strong enough without it. Please refer to the archery section of Part II and the melee and tanking section in Part III of my retrospective for deeper commentary on each.
[1] Offense.
Physical-based damage: How much damage the character inflicts with each successful melee or ranged hit. This is modified by Strength [*], proficiencies, weapon roll (e.g, 1d8) and weapon/ammo enchantment. We have a 10% chance to roll 18/91-99 Strength in chargen for +2 to-hit/+5 damage. 18/[1]00 grants +3/+6 but we only have a 1% chance to roll it. Thus, most people don't keep rerolling for 18/00. Moreover, not only are the Gauntlets of Ogre Power itemized (18/00) [**], not only are there arcane and divine spells that raise Strength to respectable levels (18/50 and 18/70), but the Manual of Gainful Exercise (a Tome) raises Strength to 19 regardless of our percentile score (18 + MoGE = 19 and 18/00 + MoGE also = 19). To get >19 Strength, warriors or part-warriors can quaff Strength potions to increase their score up to the maximum of 25 (Violet Potion: +7 to-hit/+14 damage). Hill, Frost, Fire, Cloud, Storm and Titan Strength potions are excellent buffs for BG warriors. Note that the Titan potion gimps Dex and Con to 3. Not good. Lastly, note that DUHM will stack with potions. Thus, we can get 25 Str without the Violet Potion.
[*] Some ranged weapons have their damage modified by Strength; e.g, throwing axes and the Sling of Seeking (BG2 only). By virtue of that fact, these weapons can compete with conventional archery in effectiveness.
[**] That said, we really should be wearing the Gauntlets of Weapon Expertise for to-hit +1/dmg +2 (with 19 Strength from the Tome).
See alsoMaximum Ranged Weapon Damage.
To Hit Armor Class Zero (THAC0) progression: Accuracy in landing a hit in melee or from range.
Warriors receive one point of THAC0 reduction for each level of warrior attained. Strength modifies THAC0 for melee and Dexterity modifies THAC0 for ranged weapons such as bows. Potions, spells, gauntlets and weapon enchantment level (e.g, +2) also modify THAC0. Natural THAC0 caps out at zero but modified THAC0 can reach negative numbers in both BG and BG2.
Calculating THAC0: Charname THAC0 - enemy AC = what Charname needs to roll on a d20 in order to hit (the to-hit number). In order to hit, the number rolled must be equal to or greater than the THAC0 minus the AC. Natural 20s always hit; natural 1s always miss regardless of THAC0/AC.
Best/Lowest THAC0 in Baldur's Gate; Breakdown of THAC0 Sources:
◦ 8 warrior levels (+13) (13)
◦ High Mastery (+3) (10)
◦ Dexterity 24 (+5) (5)
◦ Longbow of Marksmanship +3: The Dead Shot (+3) (2)
◦ Arrows of Piercing (+4) (-2)
◦ Bracers of Archery (+2) (-3)
◦ Helm of Balduran (+1) (-4)
◦ Potion of Power (+3) (-7)
◦ Bless (+1) (-8)
◦ Elf racial bonus wielding longbows (+1) (-9)
See also: Best THAC0.
Breakdown of Attacks per Round (ApR) sources: The number of attacks a character can perform in a single round of combat (6 secs real-time).
◦ Base ApR: 1 (1 ApR)
◦ Specialization (available at Warrior 1st lvl): +½ (1 ½ ApR)
Grandmastery (available at Fighter 9th lvl): +1 (2 ½ ApR)
◦ Warrior class 7th lvl bonus: +½ (3 ApR)
Warrior class 13th lvl bonus: +½ (3 ½ ApR)
◦ +ApR item/spell (e.g, bow/Haste): +1 (4 ½ ApR)
Strikethrough = not reachable in BG. Thus, the max ApR in melee is 3 and the max ApR with bows is 4.
[2] Defense.
Breakdown of Armor Class (AC) sources (BG human warrior): The ability to dodge incoming melee and ranged attacks, thereby avoiding damage.
Best/Lowest AC in Baldur's Gate; Breakdown of AC Sources:
◦ Base AC 10 (AC 10)
◦ 18 natural Dexterity / Gauntlets of Dexterity (+4) (AC 6(BRAC07)
Full Plate Mail (+9) (AC -3) (bonus AC vs. slashing/piercing/missile: 4/3/3) (PLAT04)
Large Shield +2 (+3) (AC -6(SHLD19)
Helm of Balduran (+1) (AC -7) (HELM07)
Cloak of Balduran (+1) (AC -8) (CLCK05)
Ring of Protection +2 (+2) (AC -10) (RING07)
Drizzt's Scimitar +5, Defender: Twinkle (+2) (AC -12) (SW1H16)
Golden Girdle (bonus AC vs. slashing: 3) (AC vs. slashing: -19) (BELT02)
Large Shield +1 (SHLD07), Boots of Avoidance (BOOT04), Cloak of Displacement (CLCK03) and Girdle of Piercing (BELT04) grant a 17 point bonus AC vs. Missile.
See also: Best Armor Class.
Maximum Hit Points (HPs): The ability to take damage from incoming melee and ranged attacks, or direct damage spells, without being killed.
◦ 1d10 + Constitution 19 (+5) * 8 Fighter levels = 120 HPs. Con 19 Charname Dwarf and Con 20 Kagain only. On top of that, such a Charname can use the Manual of Bodily Health (Con +1) to reach the point of natural regeneration. The low regen rate of 1 HP per round is not enough to enhance tanking ability, but it will allow Charname (and Kagain) to fully regenerate their HP pools while resting/area-transitioning. Thus, regen is still a great, great perk.
Cute but ultimately unimportant fact: Fighter 6/Druid 10 dual-classes can get 124 HPs, which is the max possible in BG (not including items).
Proficiencies (BG vs. BG2):
BG Proficiency | THAC0 adj. | Damage adj. | ApR
Proficient | 0 | 0 | 0
Specialization | +1 | +2 | +½
Mastery | +3 | +3 | +½
High Mastery | +3 | +4 | +½
Grandmastery | +3 | +5 | +1
Nerfed BG2 Proficiency | THAC0 adj. | Damage adj. | ApR
Proficient | 0 | 0 | 0
Specialization | +1 | +2 | +½
Mastery | +2 | +2 | +½
High Mastery | +2 | +3 | +½
Grandmastery | +2 | +4 | +½
Recommended starting stats (Dwarf): Strength, Dexterity and Consitution are everything: max them.
Str 18/91-99, Dex 17, Con 19, Int dump, Wis dump, Cha dump. Wear Full Plate Mail and wield Ashideena, Varscona or the Dagger of Venom. Wield a Large Shield in the off-hand. Wear a helm!

Thief: Combat role is backstab and token ranged attacks. Utility role is extensive: Open Locks, Find/Remove Traps, Pick Pocket and conventional Stealth. The quadruple backstab enables Thieves to take out the biggest threat heading up a given mob before a combat encounter even begins. One should not underestimate such an opener to an encounter because it can notably reduce the difficulty and duration of a battle (think Mages). Dex 19 Halflings boast of Open Locks (135), Find/Remove Traps (120), Pick Pocket (135), Stealth (140), which is amazing (not that we need such maximums). Please refer to the stealth and theft section of Part II of my retrospective for deeper commentary on the class we don't want to go into Durlag's Tower without.
Recommended starting stats (Gnome): Str 18, Dex 18, Con 16, Int dump, Wis dump, Cha dump. Prioritize Open Locks and Find/Remove Traps. Wield the Eagle Bow or the Dagger of Venom.

Cleric & Druid: Combat role is healbotting, summons, direct damage, buffing and debuffing. Utility is limited for Druids but Clerics get Sanctuary (stealth), Find Traps (does not disarm them) and Glyph of Warding (Set Traps). Expert players may turn their nose up at divine spellcasters but mere mortal players will find their healing ability indispensable at the low to mid levels, since inns and temples aren't always close-by and resting triggers ambushes with a high percentage chance. The lack of a summon cap means Animate Dead and Animal Summoning are easily abused (skellies + bears = I WIN). Druids are, somewhat surprisingly, better healers than Clerics due to Cure Critical Wounds [3], but the latter have the superior buffing and debuffing repertoire. While it's occasionally tempting to have them wade into the fray both are limited in melee due to their non-progressing 1 APR and slower THAC0 progression, though Clerics are superior to Druids (even wildshaped Druids) due to their self-buffs - such as DUHM - and their ability to wield Ashideena and wear Full Plate (Druid limit is Ankheg Armor). Thus, I rate Clerics above Druids. Please refer to the divine section in Part IV of my retrospective for deeper commentary.
[3] Example of Druidic healing power: 
10th level Faldorn w/ natural 16 Wisdom | Tome of Understanding x3 | Ring of Holiness
Cure Light Wounds x6 (+1-8 HPs per casting) | x7 | x8
Cure Serious Wounds x3 (+17 HPs per casting) | x5 | x6
Cure Critical Wounds x2 (+27 HPs per casting) | x2 | x2

Bard: Combat role is limited arcane spellcasting, Bardsong and token ranged attacks. Utility roll is Pick Pocket and Identifying magical items (Lore). Bardsong is garbage but the unequaled loremastery shouldn't be snubbed because it allows us to easily I.D magical items anytime and anywhere. We don't always have a vendor handy and we won't have access to the Identify spell if we're a Conjurer, which Specialist is popular due to its underwhelming Opposition School, Divination (Edwin is the best Mage but he can't cast Identify). Bards can't cast fifth circle spells and offer fewer spell slots per level than Mages, but they sport faster level progression and can reach one level higher than Mages, meaning that spells with level-based variables are more effective when cast by Bards. I love Bards, but they are most fun to play in Neverwinter Nights.

Rangers and Paladins are unattractive in BG due to slower experience point progression and not offering enough over Fighters to warrant their selection, but they were much improved in BG2, IWD, IWD2 and NWN.

Best Multi & Dual-Classes in Baldur's Gate

(Don't know what dual-classing is? Please refer to my dual-classing write-up.)

Fighter/Mage dual or multi: Fighter (7) / Specialist (8) dual-classes are superior to Fighter (7) / Mage (7) multi-classes by virtue of the following: a notable increase in spell slots: 5-4-4-3 vs. 4-3-2-1; a deeper HP pool; and +2 to-hit and +2 dmg over Specialization thanks to High Mastery. The argument against duals is of course their downtime which in this case is 90,000 XP, but this is the most powerful set-up possible for a Charname in BG. We will devastate everything and barely take a scratch thanks to Mirror Image. It's almost completely the best of both of the most powerful single-classes combined. The dual-class can optionally forego the +½ ApR, +1 dmg and two Fighter HD to gain access to two fifth circle slots loaded with the likes of Cloudkill, MSIII or Chaos. Go with the multi if we don't like the dual downtime; it's the second most powerful setup. Either way, we enjoy our -21 AC (-25 AC vs. Slashing) in BG.

Ranger/Cleric multi: Yay, a use for the Ranger! But it relies on an oversight by BioWare, albeit one that a lot of people have grown accustomed to; that is, we erroneously gain access to Druid circle spells above third in addition to the Cleric ones:

(Class:  Spell range per circle)
Cleric: 10-12-10-8-0
Druid: 6-8-5-5-2
Ranger/Cleric (Cleric+Druid): 10-14-12-8-0 (Dark Side of the Sword Coast15-17-17-12-13-9)

Thus, the Ranger/Cleric boasts of the broadest repertoire of divine spells available in the campaign. The inability to gain access to the nerfed fifth circle Druid repertoire is hardly worth complaining about because we don't need Animal Summoning II and Cure Critical Wounds (though they are decent). We have access to Stealth, Racial Enemy, Ashideena and Full Plate. The only problem is we can't fire from Bows due to the Cleric restriction (archery is awesome in BG1). For more info see here.

•  Fighter/Cleric multi: This one is popular and well-known. It's ApR progression is slower than a single-classed Fighter but it hits quite a bit harder thanks to self-buffs, and obviously adds more versatility in addition to the perks of being a Dwarf (+CON, +Saves). A great setup that will enable newbies to crash through the game without too much trouble.

Fighter (6) /Thief (9) dual: Again, the dual is superior to the multi but we will have to contend with downtime, which, however, is less severe than the Mage variant due to faster Thief XP progression and eschewing Fighter 7th lvl ½ ApR in favor of the +1 modifier for quadruple backstab (it's our choice, ofc). Fighter duals and multis are stronger backstabbers than single-classed Thieves by virtue of percentile STR, their ability to quaff potions of STR (up to and including Storm 24) and the notable to-hit +3 and dmg +4 thanks to High Mastery.

Fighter/Mage/Thief multi: Triple multi-classes suffer from slower power progression but the FMT represents the most versatile character possible in BG. We could quite easily roll with a reduced party size, or even solo a few early and easy quests, in order to compensate for that. For more info see here.

Fighter/Mage/Cleric multi: Even slower power progression; this multi comes into its own in BG2. For more info see here.

I prefer brute-force double multis but there is no denying the fun and experimentation potential of triples.

Best Classes & Prestige Classes in Baldur's Gate 2

There are not many base classes from BG in this list. Arcane spellcasters crown the list because they are extremely versatile, powerful - and cheesable - at the mid-high levels. Their spellcasting repertoire is simply insane, even pre-HLA. Spell sequencers, triggers and contingencies are absurdly useful. See: Best Spells. Plus, they gain access to the most godly items in the Bhaalspawn Saga, such as the encounter-breaking Robe of Vecna and Staff of the Magi.

Wild Mage: As with Specialist Mages, Wild Mages receive +1 spell slot per circle but they have no Opposition School to concern themselves with. However, that's not what makes the Wild Mage special. What makes them stand out is their unpredictable Wild Magic, the random surges of which can be increasingly tamed with the exclusive spells and level of the Wild Mage to enable them to cast spells normally, cast them at double strength, and cast them with additional beneficial effects that go far, far beyond what a normal Mage or Sorcerer is able to unleash. Such beneficial effects can break BG2's summon cap! Now that's POWAH. Thus, the Wild Mage is god-tier even before factoring in the pure cheese of Improved Chaos Shield erroneously stacking with itself through sequencers for up to +75 to the Wild Surge roll.

Sorcerer: We will need extensive knowledge of the arcane repertoire in order to know which spells to choose as we level-up, and that only comes with experience and experimentation, but once we know what's what, it's all over. Just cast them over and over again, obliterating everything in our path. It's not so much the extra spells we get to cast per day but rather getting natural access to KEY spells not all the scrolls for which are readily itemized for Mages until later in the campaign. This is the real advantage of the Sorcerer. Especially the solo Sorcerer: over-leveled as we are, the campaign is not balanced relative to the spell circles/ranges at our disposal.

Mage: When was the last time our Sorcerer emptied their spellbook, even when soloing? So really, the Mage is just as good as the Sorcerer (outside of cheesy solos). We can't cast as many spells per day but we have the ability to tailor our spell slots to different encounter scenarios, allowing us to optimize on the fly. In addition, one shouldn't underestimate the bonus experience point yield for scribing spell scrolls; it really adds up and can be abused with the erase feature of the spellbook. 

Bounty Hunter: While their utility value is reduced by BG2's campaign design, and also by Mages, Thieves are still god-tier due to two HLAs alone: Use Any Item and Spike Traps. But even the Bounty Hunter's pre-HLA traps are cheesy as hell and will trivialize many combat encounters. No-Save Maze Trap is a good example of Bounty Hunter cheese: Maze enemy, set Spike Trap, enemy returns and dies. Thieves also have no problems getting 100% MR through UAI, and Assassination is a key HLA.
Barbarian & Berserker: These two are basically equal. The barb is a better tank due to 1d12 HD, Rage +CON and the innate DR that stacks with DoE and Hardiness for 80% DR total, but the zerk is going to be more damaging in the long-run. (The barb will be more impressive in the early stages when stacking DUHM with Rage for 25 STR; in fact, for Half-orc, that's straight out of the blocks). In respect to the blanket immunities granted by Rage/Enrage, they are very similar. From memory, in addition to the basic immunities conferred, Rage grants immunity to psionic Stun whereas Enrage grants immunity to Maze and Imprisonment. Personally, I roll with barbs unless I'm dual-classing. I just feel like they offer more power when it's in demand. Lastly, it is worth noting that berserkers can dual-class but barbs cannot.

Kensai: See also: THAC0 Lords: The Armor Piercers. Despite my undying love for the Kensai (it's my fave), I can't in good conscience place it higher than barb or berserker because it can't wear a helm, shield, gauntlets or armor. Thus, not only is flexibility limited but survivability is questionable without expert use of flanking (Full Plate AC from Spirit Armor is not enough). The Kensai is the hardest and most accurate hitter in the Bhaalspawn Saga; in the Prologue alone it will inflict 50 dmg kai-charged crits with a generic katana. It even matches Archers in ranged damage, wielding throwing axes. At epic levels the kensai blew me away with its killspeed, maxing to +13 dmg and flaunting a -30 THAC0 that makes other warriors green with envy. Just keep them well away from arrow hails and mob aggro.

Blade: Such dual-wielding dervishes are capable of 9 ApR thanks to UAI Scarlet Ninja-To off-hand, and Offensive Spin that stacks with Improved Haste. Blades also sport lordly AC through Defensive Stance which is mobilized by Free Action status. The ability to wear the Robe of Vecna, access to HLA Spike and Time Traps plus six circles of arcane spellcasting that grant access to Mirror Image, Spirit Armor, Minor Sequencer, Stoneskin, Improved Haste, Improved Invisibility, Mislead, PfMW, Spell Immunity and Tenser's Transformation seals the deal for this self-sufficient, versatile and underrated PRC.

Remember what I said earlier about Bards: they sport faster level progression meaning that spells with level-based variables are more effective when cast by Bards. What does this mean in BG2? Well, to give one example that I think is notable, it means they get 5 ApR Sword Spiders and tanky Skeleton Warriors before the Mages. In fact, Mages have to earn 310,000 more XP than Bards to get those spiders, and 775,000 more XP than Bards to get those undead. But not only that. You see, Bards can also reach caster level 40 whereas Mages can only reach caster level 31. That means Bards cast the most powerful Dispel Magic and Remove Magic of all arcane casters, too. 

Archer: These guys are like ranged Kensai, just not quite as powerful but they are more versatile in their weapons and ammo. The Tuigan shortbow is itemized early for 5 ApR (10 under Improved Haste) and that's enough to give the Archer a place alongside the best of the best. The epic Gesen shortbow and Firetooth crossbow sport auto-ammo that sort of makes up for BG2's arrow nerfs (especially since conventional ammo erroneously stacks with auto-ammo), but there are attractive options besides bows and crossbows, such as the Sling of Seeking which is actually the best ranged weapon for strong-arm archers (despite the restriction to Specialization with non-bows/xbows) since its dmg is modified by Strength. For more info see here.

Best Multi & Dual-Classes in Baldur's Gate 2

There are many powerful and interesting options in this sphere so I'm only going to list my "Top Several" for now. Yes, there are some truly magnificent dual-classes (see end of this post) but the downtime is daunting and so I'm not going to favor them as "bests", overall. I may add other duals and expand on what's already here in the future but at this point I've run out of steam, having written this in one sitting and run out of coffee...

Fighter/Mage(Illusionist) multi: In the right hands, the F/M is immortal from the Chateau to the god-throne. This is the most powerful class in BG and the most powerful class in BG2 in terms of just crashing through stuff with spells and FoA/Belm. The F/M is OP from start to stop and that makes it the god-class of the Bhaalspawn Saga (especially if we roll with Gnome Illusionist). For more info see here.

• Cleric/Mage(Illusionist) multi: Can cast Animate Dead and Finger of Death as an Illusionist (divine sphere). Gets Energy Blades in both divine and arcane spheres. Can combine arcane and divine spells into sequencers and contingencies. Ends up with the following arcane and divine spell slots: 6-6-6-6-6-6-5-5-3 and 12-12-11-12-11-7-3. Ends up with the following saving throws: 2-0-5-8-1. Gets Turn Undead 25 and 18 HLAs from the Cleric and Mage pools. Godly.

Berserker (7, 9, 13)/Mage dual: About equal to the Kensai variant when we consider absolutely everything, but I prefer the convenience of the blanket immunity bestowed by Enrage coupled with the ability to wear helms and GoES. Wrecks everything and the dual downtime for 9s is a non-issue thanks to the quest-dense urban hub of Athkatla that rewards heaps of non-combat XP. Again, wield FoA/Belm. For more info see here.

Ranger/Cleric multi: As per the BG version mentioned above, only epic. A solid newbie multi. Half-elf and FoA/DoE. For more info see here.

Kensai (7, 9, 13)/Thief dual: UAI overcomes the Kensai's strict item restrictions and that's one prime reason why it's top-tier. The other is its kai-charged backstabs resulting in chunks galore. Pre-UAI we will want to take advantage of the Spirit Armor buff from one of our spellcasters; post-UAI we're an AC lord. On stylepoints this is numero uno without question! KAAAAIII!!! *chunk* Wield Celestial Fury on-hand and Belm off-hand in SoA, followed by the Ram two-hander in ToB. In-depth look.

Fighter/Mage/Thief multi: I love triples in BG2! As per the BG version mentioned above, only more versatile due to being higher level. Gets Fighter and Thief HLAs, and is capable of epic assassinations. Ranks high on stylepoints, too. A tactician's class that can fill in for almost any glaring weakness the party may have; it's not a mere augmenter. For more info see here.

Fighter/Mage/Cleric multi: Difficult to roll for but the most complete set-up possible. It's unstoppable once it gains access to Fighter and Cleric HLAs. The only problem is that they need lots of pre-combat buffing in order to be effective in melee. The limitation in weapon slots can also be a lil' annoying when weapon-switching. For more info see here.

Fighter/Cleric multi: A great newbie multi. Roll with Dwarf wielding FoA/DoE.

Mage(Illusionist)/Thief multi: Shapeshift backstabs for mega-damage and a whole lot of laughs. One of my fave multis thanks to all the tricks it's got up its sleeve. Underrated, though note there is already a M/T companion (Jan).

Other good multis that I forgot to add:
Fighter (or Berserker)/Druid (Ironskins and Insect Plage + Gnasher/Belm or Impaler followed by Ixil's)
• Fighter/Thief multi. But I prefer the Kensai/Thief dual due to its backstabs charged with Kai.
Cleric/Thief multi. The ability to stealth while under the effect of Globe of Blades is cool. We can also couple the Assassinate HLA with Righteous Magic for mega-damage. Gnome is better than Half-orc due to the shortie saves/easy access to Str boosts).

From Rogueknight 333: Cleric/Mage is not necessarily an especially strong class, but it can be quite fun to play. Note that this class can include Cleric as well as Mage spells in Contingencies and Sequencers, making for some interesting possibilities.

A simple Fighter/Thief multi is a solid if not necessarily outstanding class in either game. Excellent Backstabber, excellent point man who can either tank mobs or deal with traps, and fairly easy to play so a reasonable choice as a Newbie class.

Best Class in Baldur's Gate for Beginners

Fighter: Yep, plain ol' Fighter for the 1d10 Hit Dice and 18 Con that grants 14 HPs at first level, which is going to increase survivability in the early going when RNG can be touch and go. Rolling with Dwarf we can get 120 HPs by end-game and regeneration. Newbie Charnames need to be able to take hits and auto-recover their depleted HP pools while resting/area-transitioning, and so this is my recommendation.
Note: If we don't mind a steep learning curve and want to begin understanding the most complicated part of combat as early as possible (arcane magic), go with Mage. This will pay off in the end.

Best Classes in Baldur's Gate 2 for Beginners

Undead Hunter: Immunity to hold and level drain - two of the scariest negative status effects for newbies - and to-hit and dmg bonuses versus undead, which are everywhere and not easy to kill.

Cavalier: Immunity to the dreaded Fearmorale-failure and poison, solid elemental resistances and to-hit and dmg bonuses versus demons and dragons, which are non-trivial adversaries.

From Rogueknight 333A Cavalier can use Throwing Axes like Azuredge to get around their ranged weapon restriction. I cannot recall ever checking, but I expect they can use Throwing Daggers too. Of course, it is open to question whether taking advantage of such an exploit is consistent with a Paladin's honor. [Ed.: Confirmed. They just can't wield darts.]

Both get Armor of Faith, DUHM (Bhaalspawn DUHM is lost post-Spellhold), and Deva summon in addition to Fighter HLAs. Good saving throws, too. Lastly, newbies are going to treasure their holy avenger, Carsomyr. Thus, these two Paladins constitute the best newbie classes.

• Barbarian: The Rage special ability grants blanket immunity to some key negative status effects and a solid STR and CON boost that newbies will like. DR is also helpful because newbies are going to take hits no matter what. Why not Berserker? Enrage inflicts fatigue when it wears off and Berserkers can't Specialize in bows (which is not crucial but it's nice to be able to fire from Tuigan).

Why not Inquisitor and Monk? They are cheesy mage-killers and a large part of the fun in BG2 is learning how to deal with Mages and monsters with spell-like abilities - tactically. I think the "playstyles" of these two classes cheapen the game too much. Speaking of which...

Overrated Classes

Inquisitor: EZ warrior class to solo due to the anti-mage Mega-Dispel that scales grotesquely and is always over-leveled in comparison to the enemy. Plus, True Sight. Big deal, a two-trick pony that can barely be called a Paladin because it lacks Lay on Hands, Turn Undead and, most importantly, the ability to even cast spells so it doesn't even have access to bread and butter like AoF and DUHM (the latter of which, as I said above, is also a Bhaalspawn power lost post-Spellhold).

lolTrue Sight

But then the Inquisitor can't take on physical enemies as well as the two other Paladin PRCs because it's a lot weaker without AoF, DUHM and innate combat bonuses.

Moreover, in party runs True Sight is easily handled by Mages or Clerics; as is Dispel, which can be annoying in that it doesn't distinguish between friend and foe buffs. So now our whole party is debuffed, which is why it's better for a lazy solo. I'd much rather rely on on-hit Dispel from Carsomyr, SotM, Breach or any other protection stripper/illusion piercer. IOW, Inquisitor really adds nothing to a balanced party. So yeah, overrated.

From Rogueknight 333Inquisitor has yet another issue beyond those you mention. You have access to an Inquisitor companion making a Charname Inquisitor rather redundant.

Monk: The Monk is nowhere near the calibre of any well-specced warrior, whose weapons and other items allow it to do everything the Monk can do, but better. There is an important item for Monks that is easily missable: the Gauntlets of Crushing in the Sahuagin city. We will definitely want them for their raw +4 to-hit/+4 dmg fist upgrade.

Underrated Classes

• Wild Mage
• Gnome Illusionist multis (see here for full write-up)
• Triple class multis (see here for full write-up)


As with my Best Weapons write-up (posted just yesterday), this one does not take into account the +difficulty associated with tactical mods such as SCS, Tactics or Ascension; it does not take into account changes and additions made by the Enhanced Edition or mods like Tutu and BGT; it only pertains to the vanilla campaigns, as released and patched by BioWare. And again, a lot of this is written from memory and by referencing my own In-depth Retrospective; it was also typed up in one sitting, so please excuse any inaccuracies and don't hesitate to pull me up on any of them!

Thanks for reading and I hope you got something out of this - especially a few long-lost memories! It's been great fun reflecting on so many classes, and I enjoyed writing this.



  1. I'd say the cleric/mage multi is worth mentioning, especially since the f/m/c is on the list. It's one of the more interesting spellcaster combinations in the game.

  2. Cleric/Mage is not necessarily an especially strong class, but it can be quite fun to play. Note that this class can include Cleric as well as Mage spells in Contingencies and Sequencers, making for some interesting possibilities.

    Ranged combatants of various classes tend to be very good in BG1. A TLDR version of recommended classes would be: play a warrior focusing on archery to dominate BG1, play a Fighter/Mage to dominate BG2.

    A simple Fighter/Thief multi is a solid if not necessarily outstanding class in either game. Excellent Backstabber, excellent point man who can either tank mobs or deal with traps, and fairly easy to play so a reasonable choice as a Newbie class.

    A Cavalier can use Throwing Axes like Azuredge to get around their ranged weapon restriction. I cannot recall ever checking, but I expect they can use Throwing Daggers too. Of course, it is open to question whether taking advantage of such an exploit is consistent with a Paladin's honor.

    Inquisitor has yet another issue beyond those you mention. You have access to an Inquisitor companion making a Charname Inquisitor rather redundant.

    1. Good points. Didn't know about Cavalier ability to wield Azuredge; that is quite a cool exploit. Early disruption capability renders Undead Hunter bonuses even less significant.

      But that reminds me, Kensai are just as dmging if not moreso in regard to ranged attacks than Archers themselves are, with access to throwing axes, daggers and hammers, though archers certainly get more options through weapons and ammo, albeit nerfed elemental ammo (from 2d6 to 1d3 in the case of Acid). I don't think there are detonation arrows in BG2, and Dispel arrows are extremely rare finds.

      Glad you share my view on Fighter/Mage and Inquisitor (a lot of people don't).

    2. Say no to Paladins exploiting throwing axes!

      Ahem. I ROLE PLAY my cavaliers, thank you. Easily my favorite class to play. Even as I admit the overlordly power of kensai/mage.

  3. Just discovered your blog. I am a great fan of Baldur's gate and I like your blog a lot.
    Thanks for this.

    1. You're welcome. It's always fun rambling on about 19 year old RPGs. :P

  4. Ah, the Monk... I do like the class myself and it has some fun abilities, but I wouldn't think for a moment that it's anywhere as good as a lot of the other available options.

  5. I have expanded the Fighter section of this post. Basically, to help newbies better understand the factors that contribute to Fighter offense and defense.


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