Beginner's Guide to Baldur's Gate
I get a lot of e-mail asking questions about Baldur's Gate, because I'm constantly touting it as my favorite game of all time. Well, if you are trying to get into Baldur's Gate because of me, then that's awesome, and I've written this guide just for you...
I remember when I first bought Baldur's Gate II, in fact. I was just a kid, and the Electronics Boutique cashier that I was buying the game from said I might not like it since it was too long and complicated. He actually recommended that I read the novelizations instead, since I would probably finish those faster. I guess he was right in a way, since I've poured more hours into these games than any others, and I'm still playing them today. Clearly he never read the Baldur's Gate novelizations though. They are utter garbage and an insult to the game's good name.
Anyway, without further ado, here's the Beginner's Guide to Baldur's Gate! I think I'll call it the BGBG for short. This guide is mainly for Baldur's Gate II, but a lot of the tips can be applied to the original game as well, and other Infinity Engine games like Icewind Dale.
Step 1: Install the game. Make sure you do a Full Install. Otherwise you'll be switching CD's a lot and have really slow load times.
Step 2: Download and install the latest patch. Unfortunately, BioWare no longer hosts the patches on their official website, so the only place to get them is www.sorcerers.net. Just navigate to the game in question and look under Official Patches & Miscellaneous Downloads.
Step 3: While you're downloading and installing the patches, I highly recommend going to www.gamefaqs.com, running a search for "Baldur's Gate," clicking on the FAQ link next to Baldur's Gate II (or Baldur's Gate) in the list, and saving all of the FAQs by Dan Simpson. They are extremely helpful.
Step 4: The next step is to mess around with your configuration just a little. Go to Start - Programs - Black Isle and pick your Baldur's Gate game and then launch the Configuration or Config utility (BGConfig). It should look like this:
The current screen is the difficulty slider. I'd leave this on Core Rules for now. You can always change it later in the in-game options screen.
Next go to Hardware and max out every setting. The only thing you have to think about is the "Use 3D Acceleration" box. The game supposedly does look a little better with 3-D Acceleration, but the changes are not really very noticeable... and 3-D Accel seems to glitch on a lot of computers, including mine. So before you decide to use it, go to the Display tab under Graphics and click "Test." If your PC doesn't pass the test, don't turn it on. If it does pass the test but the game still looks funky, try turning it off. I usually just leave it off these days just in case.
WHEN YOU GET IN THE GAME, there's at least one more setting you need to change. Go to the in-game options menu and choose Sound. Now disable "Environmental Audio." If you leave this turned on, it makes the whole game echo in places that it really shouldn't. For example, in Waukeen's Promenade it sounds like your party is cramped up inside of an aluminum tunnel. So just turn that off. I don't know why, but it doesn't work well at all.
Environmental Audio: Turn it OFF
Okay, enough with the technical stuff. If you have any technical problems that the patch and the config can't fix, go ask about it at the BioWare support forum. It's a very helpful place. Now, onto the game!
A FEW NOTES FOR NEWFANGLED D&D PLAYERS:
Before you start playing the game, there's a few things you should note if you're used to newer versions of Dungeons & Dragons. In other words, if you're used to playing something like Neverwinter Nights or Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, or their sequels, then pay attention!
First of all, Armor Class (AC) is measured in the negative. That means, the more armor you wear, the LOWER your armor class (AC) gets. The worst armor ratings in the game are stuff like 6 and 8, or higher. The BEST armor ratings in the game are things like -11 or -15! So go for the negative numbers, the LOWER the better! This is the opposite of newer games.
Also about AC: Your armor in this game will never restrict your dexterity bonus to armor class. So you can make a fighter with 18 dexterity and still give him plate mail to wear, for the optimum AC bonus.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there are no "feats" in the game, and your ability scores (strength, dexterity, etc.) will NEVER increase during a level-up. They will always be whatever they start out at, except when changed by something found in the game itself (certain items will permanently increase them, and certain events in the story will either boost or drop them).
Once you launch the game, click Single Player and choose New Game. First you have to create your main character. The game runs on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition rule set, but you DO NOT have to be familiar with D&D to start playing the game. I certainly wasn't! You'll get a little more familiar with it as you go, but you still won't really need to learn it.
Here is your absolute basic kick-butt melee character: a male half-orc fighter.
[NOTE: f you've already played through Baldur's Gate 1, you can import your BG1 character here. You can find your BG1 character in the "characters" folder in the game's installation directory. It should have been auto-saved as "char1.chr" when you completed the game. Simply take this file and copy it into the BG2 "characters" folder. Now when you start a new game choose "Import" and select Char1.chr. Your items will not be imported with you in the beginning of a new BG2 game. You will, however, still have the increased stats you may have gotten by using the ability-increasing Tomes in the first game. Imported characters can be much more powerful than new ones.]
GENDER: Not important. The only difference this makes is the appearance of your character and what romances you can choose from. Males can have a romance with Jaheira, Viconia, or Aerie, and females can have a romance with Anomen. There a few other very slight changes in some conversations and such, but nothing really major. Your character's skills are not affected at all.
PORTRAIT: Also entirely superficial. If you
hate all of the game's automatic portraits or you
just don't want to look exactly like one of the NPC's that will later join
your party, then you can import a custom portrait. There are instructions on
how to import your own portraits (and sounds) in the readme.txt file in your
BG2 installation directory. But basically you just make a new sub-folder in
the installation folder called "Portraits" and then move in two BMP images:
one big one at 110x170 pixels with a filename ending in L, and a small one
at 38x60 with a filename ending in S. If you are having trouble making these
files, here are some of my own custom portrait files to go by. Once you have put them in the
folder, you can choose "Custom Portrait" in the game and select them.
chaotic good male human ranger
Original art by Justin Stebbins
chaotic evil male dwarf barbarian
Original art by Justin Stebbins
lawful neutral male dwarf cleric
Original art by Justin Stebbins
chaotic neutral female "tiefling" (I use half-elf) bard
Modified photo of model Laetitia Casta
RACE: This is a bit more important. The various races have advantages and disadvantages you can read by clicking on them. Humans, the "standard" race, have the advantage of being able to choose ANY class, and they have the option of dual-classing in the game. Dual-classing is somewhat complicated, however, and best left to expert players. Other races have access to the "multi-class" option, which is much less complicated than a human's dual-classing and is worth looking into. The other thing that race affects is which romances are available to you. All romances are available to humans and half-elves. Viconia will not romance elves, but will romance half-orcs. And I'm pretty sure that Aerie will actually romance gnomes. Dwarves and halflings are completely out of luck.
CLASS: The most important choice you have to make. The best class for a new player is probably Fighter (preferably a Berserker). Fighters are always useful, can use any weapon or armor they find, and are very easy to play. However, your class affects a lot of stuff... Different classes get different "strongholds" or bases in the storyline (more on that later). Your class also determines what items you can use or spells you can cast. For example, a Cleric/Ranger multi-class can cast both Cleric and Druid spells, but not Mage spells. A Thief can only wear leather armor and can't use really big weapons. Clerics can't use blades or bows, only blunt weapons. You get the idea. The last thing you need to consider is what type of party you want. If you already know which characters you want to recruit (see my BG1 and BG2 character guides for details), then you should play a class that completes a balanced party for you (a balanced party has at least one melee fighter, one thief, one mage, and one cleric or druid for healing).
ALIGNMENT: Not very important. Though sometimes your alignment will affect the way the game plays out, the main "good/evil" things are determined by your choices while playing, not your pre-chosen alignment (and no, your choices do not affect your alignment - they only affect your "reputation"). So just choose the type of character you think you will play. Depending on your class, some choices may be unavailable. For example, Paladins can only be Lawful Good and Druids can only be True Neutral. There are also some items in the game that can only be used by people of a certain alignment, like weapons that are innately good or evil.
ABILITIES: Very important. This one requires some thought...
The game randomly determines how many points you have to spend. You can see this by lowering all of your stats as low as they can go. If the number of points available seems too low for you, click REROLL. You may hit STORE to save a good number and RECALL to bring back the one you stored. Keep doing this until you have enough points available to max your key abilities.
STRENGTH: You should always have 10 or 12 strength just for the carrying capacity. Fighters, rangers, paladins, and anyone else planning to fight melee (or use composite longbows) should maximize this.
DEXTERITY: This is important to all classes. It determines your base Armor Class and your ability to hit with all weapons. If possible, you should always try to maximize this. It also governs your thieving skills if you are a thief class.
CONSTITUTION: Again, important to all classes, as it determines your toughness. Fighter-type classes should aim for 18, and all other classes (mage, thief, etc.) should have at least 16.
INTELLIGENCE: Mages and Bards should maximize this, as it determines the number of spells they have available. Sorcerers do not require it, although all spellcasters need at least 10 intelligence to cast spells from scrolls. I recommend having at least 10, regardless of class.
WISDOM: Clerics and Druids should maximize this, as it determines the number of spells they have available. It also determines this for Paladins and Rangers, although their spell selection is quite weak anyway. Mages and bards should consider getting a relatively high wisdom (12 or 14, at least) for the lore bonus. Also, a few conversation options are only open to high-wisdom characters. All in all, I recommend everyone have at least 10 or 12.
CHARISMA: The least important ability overall. Having a high charisma will get you better prices in shops, and other characters will respond to you better in conversation. If you are playing the game for the first time, you should have a decent Charisma of at least 14 or so. Bards should consider maximizing Charisma, but unlike later editions of D&D, it does not affect the spell selection for bards or sorcerers.
As you can see, you might need to reroll a few times until you get a good number of ability points. Okay, enough with the abilities! Now, moving along...
SKILLS: If you are a thief, you get to pick your thieving skills here. They are Pick Pockets, Pick Locks, Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, Detect Traps, Detect Illusions, and Set Traps.
The most useful skills are Detect Traps and Pick Locks. There are a lot of traps in dungeons, so you want to be able to detect them. And since Pick Locks helps you be able to do just that AND disable traps, you NEED to get that one. Pick Locks can also be used on tons of locked chests in the game.
Hide in Shadows and Move Silently are great for backstabbing if you're a thief who is good with melee weapons. Please note that "backstab" is different from the "sneak attack" ability in later D&D editions. Backstabbing can only be performed with a stabbing weapon like a dagger or short sword, and will only work if your character is hidden in the shadows when he/she attacks. It's a good way to open a fight, but will not be usefuld during one. Hiding is also good for scouting ahead without alerting enemies.
The rest of the thief skills are less useful. The traps you can create with Set Traps are very powerful and useful for skilled players, but can only be used when out of combat. Pick Pockets can sometimes get you a few good items, but is dangerous since your target can turn hostile if you fail. Detect Illusions is pretty much worthless.
The other thing you get to pick in the "Skills" screen is your weapon proficiencies. As I said, certain classes can only use certain weapons, and you can clearly see which ones you can and cannot use here. If you can use them, I highly recommend maxing out your skill in Long Swords (called "Large Swords" in BG1). There are a ton of great Long Swords in the game and very few of the party members you'll pick up are really great with them, so you might as well leave that to your main character. If you are a Paladin, be sure to max Two Handed Swords so you can use the best paladin-only sword in the game, Carsomyr.
Now, in BG2, if you scroll down to the very bottom of the weapon proficiency screen, you'll see this:
These are the Weapon Styles, unique to BG2. They're pretty straightforward. Just max out the one you plan to use. Two Weapon Style is essential if you hope to dual-wield; if your class cannot assign 3 points into Two Weapon Style, you should avoid dual-wielding. Single Weapon Style only applies to using a single one-handed weapon. Shields are great, but the bonus you get from Sword and Shield Style is negligable. And of course, if you plan on using anything that requires two hands, go with Two Handed Weapon Style.
And finally, you finish up your character creation by choosing your Appearance and Name. These are entirely up to you and make no difference in the game whatsoever.
There! We're finally done with character creation! Now we can move on to playing the game. We begin in the dungeon of Jon Irenicus, the main villain of Shadows of Amn...
EVERYONE HATES THIS PLACE. You know how every RPG game inevitably begins with a tutorial level you have to romp through? Well, Irenicus's Dungeon is like that, only longer, and with less tutorial. I mean, there are whole mods out there that simply remove this portion from the game. Of course, you have to drag through it the first time you play since it introduces some very important storyline elements and contains some good loot that you'll need later. So go through it, and make sure you explore every nook and cranny for loot, since you won't be coming back.
[HOT TIP: You can press the Tab key while playing to highlight all lootable containers in the area. This is VERY useful. Do it a LOT. Do it all the time! It's especially useful if, like me, you go into the Feedback settings and make them extremely low, to get rid of those circles that are always under everyone's feet.]
You'll also want to pick up all of the party characters here: Minsc, Jaheira, Imoen, and eventually Yoshimo.
If you can make it all the way through Irenicus's Dungeon without giving up, then you have just made it through the worst part of the entire game. The game only gets better from here, and believe me, you won't regret it. Once you are out of the dungeon, save your game in a new slot, and never save over that slot again. In fact, name it something special like "FREEDOM" so you can find it easily. I'll get back to how you can use that slot to skip the dungeon later, in the "For Advanced Players" section.
[HOT TIP: One of the game's loading screens says "Save Often and in Different Slots." This is very good advice!]
Now, as you can see, the game started you out with a balanced party: a fighter (Minsc), a healer (Jaheira), a mage (Imoen), and a thief (Yoshimo). Unfortunately, you lose your mage at the end of the dungeon and need to go pick up a new one. There are three you can get immediately. There's Aerie, who is in the circus tent just ahead of where you exit the dungeon... and there's also Nalia in the Copper Coronet in the Slums, and Jan in the Government District. You NEED a mage, so get one of them. Unfortunately the best mage in the game, Edwin, can only be gotten by doing a long quest. Keep Yoshimo around, because he's the best thief (second best is Jan). Minsc, Keldorn, and Korgan are the best fighters. And finally, you need to keep a healer at all times. Luckily, ALL of the romance interests in the game are also the best healers! Aerie, Viconia, and Anomen are all Clerics, and Jaheira is a Druid with a special resurrection spell, making her just as useful as a Cleric. So keep at least one of those four with you as a healer.
In short, make sure you always have a healer, a mage, a thief, and a tough fighter type. Everything else is up to you. You might want to go with more fighters, or throw in an archer to mix things up. For more information on party locations and such, see my BG2 character guide.
Okay, now here's a map of where you start off:
This is the area where you start out. That place the hand is pointing to is the Adventurer's Mart, the main shop in the game. He sometimes gets new items available, so check back every now and again.
Next, head out of this area and go to the Slums district. Gaelen Bayle will take you to his house (there's a really good shopkeeper on the upper floor, by the way) and demand a large sum of gold that you will need to gather to continue the main story. When you first exit the house, you will be approached by a boy named Brus. He will subtly point you in the direction of your class's Stronghold, which you should get as early as possible to gain the most benefits:
Fighter, Monk, or
Barbarian: Find Nalia in the Copper Coronet and complete the quest to save
the de'Arnise Hold. Accept Nalia's offer when she gives it to you, and you
gain control of the castle, your stronghold.
Ranger: Travel to the Government district and talk to the boy in the center of the area, who tells you about a place called the Umar Hills. Go save the Umar Hills from its shadow problem and you get the Ranger Cabin there, your stronghold.
Thief: Travel to the Docks district and talk to Renal Bloodscalp of the Thieves Guild. Complete his quests for him and you gain control of your own guild-house, your stronghold. Unfortunately this is one of the shortest and more boring strongholds in the game.
Cleric: Travel to the Temple District and walk south until you see a fanatic giving a speech to a bunch of followers. Listen to his speech and a priest will approach you. Meet the priest and complete the quests for him to gain control of a Temple, your stronghold. Good clerics get the Temple of Lathander, Neutral clerics get the Temple of Helm, and Evil clerics get the Temple of Talos.
Mage or Sorcerer: Travel to the Government District and talk to the Cowled Wizard representative in the main government building. Use his quest to find Valygar, located in his cabin in the Umar Hills. Complete Valygar's quest to gain access to the Planar Sphere in the Slums district, your stronghold.
Bard: Travel to the Bridge District and enter the tavern there. Go down the stairs to the lower floor of the tavern and listen to the play. Offer to help the actors in the play and you will eventually gain control of the playhouse, your stronghold. This is, in my opinion, the most fun stronghold in the game. Picking the actors and helping with the problems in making the play can be entertaining and rewarding.
Paladin: Enter the Copper Coronet and find Lord Jierdan Firkraag. Complete his quest, but do NOT slay the red dragon at the end. Now make your way to the Temple District and talk to the head Paladin in the building of the Most Noble Order of the Radiant Heart. He will let you join up and use the Order's building as your stronghold. Later you will get a quest from the Paladins there to finally slay the red dragon and get the sword inside his belly, which is the best weapon in the game, and only usable by paladins.
Druid: Travel to the City Gates and talk to the first commoner guy you see. He's standing in the middle of the street next to a cart. He'll direct you to the town of Trademeet. Follow this quest until you find the druid grove and get the chance to challenge Faldorn for leadership. Though you can complete the quest, you can't actually become archdruid until you reach level 14. When you hit level 14, a druid will find you and tell you to come back and challenge for leadership of the Grove. Do this, and you gain control of the Grove, your stronghold. Your class name also changes to Great Druid, for some reason.
No matter which Stronghold you get, try to check back there often!
[NOTE: To exit Athkatla, you first have to travel to the Gates district and exit through the main gates. After you do this once, you will never have to do it again, and you can just quick travel to and from any location on your map.]
Also note that while you can only gain "ownership" of the stronghold related to your class, ALL of the major quests related to GETTING the strongholds are open to EVERY class. And all of them get you access to great XP and loot (and even some companions). So before moving on, you might want to do a couple of these. For example, I recommend saving Nalia's keep no matter what class you are, because if you search the place thoroughly you will find three flail heads, each a different color. Take these flail heads to the forge on the first level of the castle (it's in the far back) BEFORE finishing the whole quest, and you will be able to forge them into one of the most powerful weapons in the game: the Flail of Ages. Do this before you finish the quest or you'll lose your chance forever. Here's the location of the Keep:
Another one of the best stronghold-getting quests is the one in Trademeet involving the Druid Grove. There's a lot of stuff to do in Trademeet, and finishing all of the quests there can either get you an amazingly famous reputation and a group of statues built of your party... or can make you the most infamous and hated scumbag on the planet... but a very rich one.
Anyway, most of these quests not only get you your stronghold, but they also get you enough money to pay off Gaelen Bayle. I'm sure you can figure out the rest of the game yourself, so you don't need me to hold your hand through all of it and ruin it for you. Have fun out there!
Just one more thing first: If you thoroughly explored Irenicus's Dungeon, you should have picked up a blue gem, which, if you identified it, says it's a pommel gem to a sword called the Equalizer. You will be finding many weapon pieces like this throughout the game. If you get all of the pieces to any particular weapon, there is a dwarf who can forge them into the full item. This is how you can get some of the most powerful weapons in the entire game! So here's the big secret: how to find the dwarf. Well, he's right here...
Yep, Cromwell. That's the guy. He's right where the hand cursor is pointing, in the Docks District of Athkatla.
One final location of note: The Watcher's Keep. If you have Throne of Bhaal installed, you may have noticed a strange keep near the very bottom of your map called the Watcher's Keep. This is a dungeon for high-level characters to enjoy. It's not a good idea to go there immediately, but it contains many powerful items and even a way to permanently increase your ability scores.
Well, hopefully now you know enough about the places you should go. Along the way, you may have run into some difficult fights. Now it's time for me to try to help you with those...
My party (an evil party under the leadership of Tiax the Grand, my remake of an NPC from the original game) is about to make its way to the Den of the Seven Vales (pictured) to fight a group of thugs on the upper floor of the inn who have some nice loot. You might want to try this too, if you think you're up to it.
Okay, so whenever you're about to begin a fight, first try to find a way around it using dialogue. In this game, there is often (but definitely not always) a way to avoid a fight, sometimes just by talking your opponent out of it. In my case, I told Mencar Pebblecrusher, the leader of the thugs, that I would go run off. Now he remains neutral and gives me a chance to prepare my party for the fight. This extra time really helps.
[NOTE: If you've decided to try this fight, don't let Korgan enter the room first, because he and Mencar have a history. Korgan will throw some insults at him and then the fight will begin immediately. It's entertaining, but it's not that safe unless you've already prepared yourself outside in the hallway.]
Now that everything's nice and peaceful, we're going to buff the party. "Buff" is the word RPG gamers use to refer to spells that protect them from damage or increase their combat power. Clerics, Druids, and Mages have many such spells in their repertoire. Also try using potions, since there are many great buffing potions in the game. A few buff spells and potions can make ALL the difference in a fight, so use them well! It's a good idea to use the spell before the fight and drink the potions during the fight, since you can put potions into your character's quickslot, and they are activated immediately.
[NOTE: Having trouble using spells? Well, here's how it works: Mages and Bards memorize spells from scrolls, by right-clicking on a scroll and clicking "copy to mage book." All other classes learn spells automatically as they level up. You can memorize these spells for use in a fight by clicking on the Mage Book or Priest Scroll icons on the right side of the screen and selecting the appropriate character. Mage, Sorcerer, and Bard spells are written in the Mage Book, and Cleric, Paladin, Druid, and Ranger spells are written in the Priest Scroll. Just select the spells you'd like your character to prepare. Once all your slots are full, REST. Resting allows your character to re-memorize their spells for use in the next battle.]
As far as buffing goes, a mage's best friends are Mirror Image, Blur, and Stoneskin. When combined, these spells will protect your wizards against most mundane weapons for quite a while. Globe of Invulnerability and Fire Shield are nice spells too. Clerics have a ton to choose from and they're all pretty useful, so just pick the ones you like the best. Clerics also get spells that will affect your whole party, like Bless, Chant, and Defensive Harmony.
Notice that as you buff your characters, the icons for each buff spell appear under their portrait to the left. When the spells wear off, the icons disappear. Icons will also appear for negative effects like daze or confusion. You can read more about them by looking at the Character screen (that little head button on the left), which explains what each icon stands for.
Now that everyone is buffed and situated in somewhat defensive positions (I put the mages in the middle to protect them), I talk to Mencar again while Korgan is in the room. Alternatively, you can just attack him with the sword button in the corner of your screen. You can use this to attack anyone you darn well please, even random civilians. Ain't old RPGs great?
The insults fly, and the fight begins! Watch as your enemies' circles turn red and they start to attack.
[NOTE: You may have noticed the circles are not visible on my screen. That's because I turned them off in the Feedback Options. I recommend doing that, since it makes the game more immersive. The circles will still appear when you scroll over a character or pause the game.]
PAUSE! Pausing the game is very important in Baldur's Gate. You can pause the game at any time by hitting the space bar or by clicking the little clock in the lower left-hand corner of the screen. What's the use of pausing the game, you ask? To issue orders to your party members, my friend. While the game is paused you can tell each of your party members to perform a different task. Tell this guy to cast a spell at that guy, tell this melee fighter to go there and fight that guy, tell this person to switch weapons, tell this person to drink a potion... and then when you unpause, all of your commands will be carried out.
This is how you will do most of the strategic combat control in the game. The only fights where you don't really need to pause are the really easy ones, like against groups of goblins. But in any fight where strategy is involved (sending fighters after wizards, telling your party to cast specific spells, etc.), PAUSE THE GAME FIRST. And over and over again.
In fact, you can actually set the game to auto-pause at certain times in the options menu. It might be a good idea, unless you find it annoying, to set your game to auto-pause when a hostile is spotted, when a character is critically injured, when a character dies, and when a weapon is ineffective. While you're in the options menu, another good thing to do is find the Feedback settings and check off the option to show attack rolls. They're good to see, if you ask me.
Speaking of ineffective weapons, do you see Pooky down there on that screenshot? You know, the imp with the big purple shield over him? Well, as it says in the chat menu at the bottom, he is now Protected from Normal Missiles by a buffing spell. He also has cast stoneskin on himself. This means normal arrows and weapons will be of no use against him. You can break through these spells with a counter-spell like Breach or Pierce Magic, or by using a different type of damage. In some cases monsters are completely immune to certain types of attacks like Normal Weapons or Magical Damage. In these cases you'll need to find a different way to fight them, such as with an elemental attack (frost, fire, or acid) or with pure magic (magic missile almost always works).
Anomen is getting a bit hurt! See the potion of healing I'm scrolling over? It's a good idea to use those. In BG2 the small potions of healing usually are almost useless, so you'll want to use the big ones. However, one mistake a lot of new players make is trying to use healing potions for every injury all the time. No! Save your healing potions for quick healing during battles, and only use spells and resting to heal your party between battles. Also, if you can possibly make it out of a battle without using a healing potion, try to do so. It's better to save them. Those things are expensive, and they aren't as common as they are in hack-n-slash action-RPGs.
A good strategy when in battle is to take down an enemy's spellcasters as quickly as possible, because they are usually weak in health points but can cause a lot of damage. You'll learn to spot spellcasters by their unique look (sorcerers usually wear robes, priests use blunts and wear slightly different looking armor than fighters, etc.), or else by their obvious names, such as "Orc Shaman" or in this case "Sorcerous Amon."
As I said, magic missile almost always works.
As you can see, Sorcerous Amon's circle has changed color. You can always tell a character's current situation by their circle color. Blue is neutral, green is ally, yellow is afraid or out of control, and red is hostile. Grey is... well, dead. There are a few spells such as Chaos and Terror that can cause your enemies' circles to turn yellow. They will either panic and run away or they'll start attacking their own allies. In this case, Sorcerous Amon simply took so much damage that he panicked is now running around out of control.
In fact, while I'm on the subject, I might as well talk about scouting. Big-damage spells like Fireball are no use when your whole team is fighting with the enemy and could be injured or killed by your own fireball. So a good idea is to use a scout (either hidden in the shadows or invisible with a spell) to look ahead and find the enemy's location. Then chuck a big, powerful area-of-attack spell into the room like Cloudkill before sending your guys in. Or else cast Web on the enemy to hold them in place and THEN chuck in a Cloudkill. Works GREAT, see?
But anyway, back to the battle at hand. It looks like Pooky has cast Confusion into the middle of our party!
See the little birds and stars above Edwin and Jan Jansen's heads? This means they are confused and out of our control. A new icon has been added to their portraits to reflect this as well. This is bad. You can remove this effect or protect against it with spells like Chaotic Commands. Also, if you make your berserker like Minsc or Korgan go into a berserk rage, they are immune to most confusion or fear spells like this.
Psst! Don't forget that if a fight gets TOO hard, you can crank down the difficulty slider at any time in the Gameplay options. You can crank it down for a fight and then crank it back up afterward.
[HOT TIP: It's a good idea to turn the difficulty all the way down before attempting to memorize a scroll and then turn it back up again afterwards. Otherwise, there is a chance you could fail, and the scroll would be totally wasted.]
It looks like Mencar's pet thief, Brennan Risling, is trying to run away in the middle of the fight. This is BG2 after all, so characters make their own decisions like this at times. But we we want the XP and loot for killing Brennan, so we've already trapped him between two of our characters. No one escapes the will of Tiax!
Well, we killed Brennan, but Korgan just died. When a character dies, their portrait will turn grey. It's okay, you can still resurrect them later at a Temple or resurrect them yourself if you have a Cleric in your party who can cast Raise Dead or Resurrect. As long as his portrait is still there, he's okay. If, however, his portrait disappears completely after death, then he's gone forever, and you'd better load your game. This only happens in a few situations. For example, if your character is hit by a critical blow and immediately drops WAY into the negative hitpoints, he will be blown into bloody chunks of meat. Also, if a character is frozen or petrified, he will be blown into ice or stone pieces, or if he is burned to a crisp and his corpse turns black. In all of these cases, he's gone forever.
Speaking of "bloody chunks of meat," so much for Sorcerous Amon...
In fact, let's just wrap this up. Okay, we've killed all of the enemies now.
Once the fight is over, NEVER forget to grab your enemy's loot by clicking on the piles of stuff they drop. Use the Tab key to make sure you don't miss any.
First I'll go back out into the Promenade and sell the loot I don't care about to Ribald in the good old Mart. Then I'll stop by the Temple of Ilmater.
And now we can go resurrect Korgan.
Here's the resurrection spell. Expensive, isn't it? That's a good reason not to let people die in battles.
When you first enter the Temple screen, you'll notice it takes you to a donation plate where you can donate money. Why bother with that, you ask? Well, for every good thing you do in Baldur's Gate, you gain good Reputation points (up to 20). Getting a high rep gives you better prices in all stores (which is why it's a good idea to install a mod that lets evil people get this discount as well), but getting over 18 reputation will cause any evil members in your party to get disgusted and leave. Likewise, when you do something evil, you lose reputation. Getting a reputation like 2 will cause any good members in your party to leave. It will also cause the forces of law and order to hound your every step. And they are TOUGH! So to counter this affect, you can donate money to a temple. Donate JUST enough to gain a reputation point. Any less and your money will be completely wasted. Any more and the money you spend over the required amount will also be wasted. You can only gain one point per donation. I can't ever remember the exact amount you have to donate so you'll just have to play around until you find it. Was it 600? 1200? Bah.
One last combat tip: SUMMON MONSTERS! Sending in summoned monsters before your real party members can be a great protection. And don't forget that you can buff your summons too. Sometimes you can summon creatures that have a particular immunity that is good against the attack of whatever you are facing. There are a lot of items out there that can summon good allies, such as a book that will summon a golem and a horn that will summon berserkers. Both of those items I just mentioned can even be improved later if you know where to go.
Creature-Specific Combat Tips & Tricks
Trolls: There's only one big secret to fighting trolls, and the loading screens throw this at you every now and then, so it's hard to miss: Once you "kill" a troll, they will fall on the ground unconscious. They look dead, but their red circle is still visible, and you have not been awarded the XP for your kill. They will eventually regenerate their health and get back up unless you finish them off. In order to finish them permanently, just use fire or acid damage on them to seal their wounds. ANY fire or acid will work... fire or acid arrows, spells, weapons, etc.
Mages and Liches: The toughest enemies you will encounter in Baldur's Gate are the wizards, mages, sorcerers, and Liches. Before every fight they will cast a variety of spell protections on themselves, including such things as Protection from Normal Weapons, Protection from Magical Weapons, Stoneskin, Globe of Invulnerability, Fire Shield (Red), Fire Shield (Blue), etc. Some of these spell protections can be removed by casting your own spells on them, including Dispel Magic, Pierce Magic, and Breach. Read the descriptions for such spells for more information. If you can't dispel their protections, the only way to fight such a mage is to find something that will hurt them. Often this is pure magic (Magic Missile) or some kind of elemental damage (fire, ice, acid, lightning). Mages also will chuck powerful spells at you like Magic Missile, Melf's Acid Arrow, Cloudkill, Fireball, Symbol of Stun, Symbol of Death, etc. and confusing spells like Confusion, Chaos, etc. Before fighting a powerful mage or lich, cast protections on yourself such as Chaotic Commands to protect from these spells. In short, if you have to face a wizard one on one, you're going to have to fight spells with spells, at least until he's unprotected. Then you hit him HARD with a fighter, because they are usually physically weak. If you can possibly sneak up and backstab them before they cast protective spells, do that. The game often makes this impossible though.
There's also a way to avoid their spells entirely, if you don't mind abusing the game system a bit. In some cases, you can enter a room where a wizard is and then leave while he is still casting his spell. When you come back, he will have stopped casting the spell, thus wasting it. Keep leaving and re-entering until he has used up all of his spells this way, and you will be able to attack him melee. Without any spells left, he's defenseless. This doesn't always work though, and it's a bit like cheating.
Monster hunting? You can find some of the toughest Liches in the game by doing the Kangaxx quest. Travel to the Docks District and enter the house between MaeVar's Guild and the Sea's Bounty tavern. Be sure to watch for traps! Eventually you'll find a tomb. Double-click the coffin and out pops Kangaxx the Lich. He will ask you to find the parts of his body for him. The first group of parts is in a tomb behind a secret door in the Temple District sewers. Look for it while you're doing the Cult of the Eyeless quests and you can't miss it. The other part of him is in a little house with a trapped door in the lower part of the Bridge District. Both parts are guarded by tough Liches. When you bring them back to Kangaxx, be ready for one HELL of a fight! And be sure to bring your best possible armaments: +4 weapons or better!
Assassins: Thieves and assassins that attack you in the game will often gulp a potion of invisibility before attacking. You can dispel this by casting Dispel Invisibility or True Seeing. Just don't let them hit you in the back, because their backstabs are deadly. Be sure to protect your mages with Stoneskin! Or else just keep them out of the room.
Monster Hunting? When you first go to the Bridge District you'll be approached by a guard asking about a murderer. If you continue with this quest you'll eventually find out that the murderer is the hide tanner. In the basement of his house are a couple of Rune Assassins, some of the toughest assassins out there, so be prepared. Each one gives a good deal of XP.
Vampires: To damage vampires, you'll have to hit them with magical weapons. Later, in Bodhi's tomb, you will need to use wooden stakes on their coffins to kill them, but this actually has nothing to do with *fighting* them. The only really good trick is to use the spell Sunray or False Dawn. If you have either of these, they are DEVASTATING to Vampires, just like any other undead. You should also note that vampires Level Drain your characters. You'll see a little orange icon on your character's portrait and their level will be lower than it should be. The only way to get rid of it is with a Restoration spell. Your cleric should be able to cast Lesser Restoration at this point in the game. If not, you can buy it at a temple. BE SURE to restore all drained levels as soon as possible! The more level-drained a character becomes, the weaker and less useful he is.
Golems: There are tricks to fighting each type of golem. Stone Golems are the easiest. The harder version of a Stone Golem is the Clay Golem. The most important thing to remember about Clay Golems is that only BLUDGEONING weapons can hurt them! So don't even try swords; they are no good. Unless they do elemental damage, since that's another thing Clay Golems are susceptible to.
The biggest golems are Iron Golems. They can only be hit by +3 weapons or higher, and they are tough and strong. Don't even try to fight them up close if you can help it. And you usually can prevent having to face them up close by getting them stuck in a small opening. Nearly every Iron Golem or Adamantite Golem in the game can be stuck in a small passageway for easy elimination by archers and/or summoned creatures (such as higher-level skeleton warriors). Heck, even a fighter with a long-range melee weapon like a two-handed sword or a halberd can hit them while they're stuck and still be out of range of their fist attacks (but watch out for their gas attack).
Mind Flayers: When I first met these guys they nearly drove me crazy. As soon as you SEE a Mind Flayer, they will cast spells at you that will hypnotize your party members, and then they will advance and suck out the brains of anyone who is left (temporarily lowering their Intelligence until they hit 0 and die). The best way to beat them is to open with some powerful mage spells while the flayers are off-screen, then send in a high-AC fighter who is protected from mental attacks somehow (Chaotic Commands spell, or a Berserking special ability).
Here are a few hints and tips and things to look for if you're already pretty experienced with the game or have played through it at least once. Even if you haven't, you still might want to read these...
Skipping Irenicus's Dungeon: If you saved a game right after completing Chateau Irenicus like I told you to, then you can copy this save game into the "mpsave" folder in your game's installation directory. Then start a multiplayer game (note: you may want to go into windowed mode by pressing Alt+Enter, since otherwise the game will sometimes crash on newer systems) and give all of your main character's weapons to someone else in the group. Go to the Edit Characters screen, delete your protagonist, and make a new one. Save the game again, and move your new save game back from the "mpsave" folder into the "save" folder. It will now be accessible from the single-player Load Game screen.
Creating Your Own Party: After you've played through the game a couple of times like me, you might want to have a little variety by creating everyone in your party yourself, like in the Icewind Dale games. This takes away considerably from the appeal of Baldur's Gate, since one of the best things about the game is the interesting characters and your interaction with them. But if you really want to try it, here's how:
Start a multiplayer game, create all of your characters, save the game in a new slot, and then move the save game from the "mpsave" folder back into the single player "save" folder. Any time you want to edit your characters, you can just move it back to mpsave and edit away, then cheat to get your old XP amount back. Take note, however, that in addition to making the game simpler and somewhat less fun, making your own party can also make the game considerably more easy, because your own characters will probably have better stats than the ones you pick up in the game. So you might want to try going with a harder difficulty mode when you play it this way... or try a few difficult mods, like Tactics.
My custom party playing fighting ogres the cowardly way (from afar) in BG1TuTu (see the Recommended Mods section below).
Fun with Dual-Classing: There are plenty of fun classes to try on your other plays through the game, especially with BG2's special subclasses. But if you want to try something a bit more complicated, there's something only Humans can do called Dual-Classing. With dual-classing, you level up to a certain point in your first class and then choose a second class by clicking the "dual-class" button in the character screen. The only classes that will appear are the ones you meet certain requirements for. For example, you can't dual-class a Fighter to a Fighter/Mage if you only have 3 Intelligence. Since this can be a bit tricky, you may have to try a few times to find out what each class needs. Once you have dual-classed, you will ONLY level up in the second class you picked - you can NEVER again level up in your original class! You also will be unable to use the special abilities of your original class until your new class is the same level as your old one. For this reason, you should never try to go "half and half" by dual-classing at something like level 20, or else your character will pretty much suck for a LONG time. Some characters in the game are already dual-classed when they join your party. Nalia and Imoen are both thieves that dual-classed to mages at a certain level.
So now you're probably thinking: This just sounds like a crappier version of the multi-classing that other races get! In a way that's true, since other races can continue leveling up in both classes. However, their choices are a lot more limited. For example, they can't combine a special BG2 sub-class (like the Thief sub-class "Assassin") with another class. This is the most important difference, and it leads to some of the best dual-classing options. Here are a few:
Kensai/Mage: One of the best options
available to the dual-classing human is the Kensai, the special sub-class of
Fighter. Kensai are amazing with swords, move really fast, and hit really
hard. The drawback to these "sword saints" is that they cannot wear armor of
any kind. But this can actually be a big advantage to a dual-classing mage!
After all, if you play as a fighter/mage, you can't wear armor (except Elven
Chain) and still be
able to cast spells anyway! So you might as well get the Kensai advantages.
To do this, start a game out as a Kensai and level up until you get full points on your favorite
sword type and fighting style. Make sure you have a lot of Intelligence.
Then just dual-class to a mage! If you're wondering, some of the best levels
to dual-class at are 9 and 13.
Kensai/Thief: Another great combination involving the Kensai is the Kensai/Thief. Again, since thieves can't use their thieving skills while wearing heavy armor anyway, you might as well get the Kensai advantages if you're going to be a fighter/thief. You can also get some AMAZING backstabs. In fact, according to one discussion board thread I read, Kensai/Thieves can get the MOST damage of ANY class in a single hit. Just use your Kensai's KAI ability while hidden in the shadows to get an astoundingly powerful backstab. You can kill many major enemies this way - even bosses. Again, the best level to dual-class at is either 9 or 13.
Assassin/Fighter: It seems to be commonly disputed whether or not the Assassin/Fighter is more powerful than the Kensai/Thief when it comes to dealing the most damage in a single hit. Assassins get a higher backstab multiplier, but kensai get more regular damage bonuses. Either one works pretty darn well though, and you'll easily get hundreds of damage on a backstab. Now if only you could be a Kensai/Assassin, I can only IMAGINE the astounding damages you could cause!
Ranger/Cleric: Even though this is better as a multi-class for half-elves and the like, I just had to mention it here because it rocks. A ranger/cleric gets all the benefits of a ranger (fighter hitpoints, fighter combat skill, three points on two-weapon fighting, hide in shadows ability, etc.) combined with the benefits of a cleric (wide array of extremely useful spells, turn undead ability, etc.)... and when combined, since both ranger and cleric spells are memorized in the SAME spell book (the "priest scroll"), you basically have access to almost all of the Druid AND Cleric spells in ONE character! It's hard to go wrong with a skilled fighter who is also such a diverse spellcaster. Give them good wisdom for all those spells, and good fighting stats for combat... and charisma might not be a bad idea either, for Turn Undead and maybe Charm Animal. Your only "dump stat" here is Intelligence. The biggest downside to this class, however, is that they can use only blunt weapons. Bummer.
Ahhh, mods. They can add replay value to a game, or they can completely ruin it. Some are awesome, some are stupid. Some are well-made, some are crappy. Some change way too much, others change... well, actually I don't think there's such a thing as "too little." Just "too much."
I recommend playing through Baldur's Gate II with NO MODS the first time you play it. That way you can enjoy the original experience that the game designers intended, without some weird mod messing things up. However, if you are playing back through the game and would like a little more variety than the game already offers, here are my favorite mods. Note that NPC mods that add new characters for your party will not be listed here. Why? Because I have never, ever seen a good, well-rounded, fleshed-out new NPC that was actually worth having in the party. Sure, they may be useful, but most of them have major drawbacks... such as no real voice set, poorly written dialogue, a goofy portrait, etc. In general I think most of them are cheap, cheesy, and not worth downloading. The same goes for "new romance" mods. Romancing Edwin? Scary.
The mod websites will be listed first in large italic font followed by my picks of the best mods available there below them.
First of all, here's one of the BEST websites out there for D&D video gaming... A lot of the mods there are outdated, but there are also some great utilities here that you can download.
WeiDu Infinity Engine Utilities and Mods
THESE ARE THE BEST MODS FOR THE INFINITY ENGINE GAMES! Yes, that's right, THE BEST. WeiDu is actually this weird installer thing that makes the mods really easy to install and uninstall. You just run a program to install, and you can run it again to uninstall. Simple as that. Due to their simplicity and the fact that they are all high-quality and not too intrusive, I recommend all of the WeiDu mods (except maybe the two NPC ones... Valen and Sola). Here's a quick list of the best of the best:
Ascension: I have actually not yet tried
this mod, but it was written by one of the original game designers, David
Gaider, and I have heard only positively raving comments about it, so it
must be pretty awesome. It extends the Throne of Bhaal storyline a bit, so
you must have this expansion pack to run it:
Ease-of-Use: Ever wished that you could
stack more arrows than just 20 or 40 at a time? Ever wished you could wear
magic armor AND those Rings of Protection? Ever wished your Bags of Holding
could hold infinite stuff? Well, if you've ever wished any of those things,
then this is the mod for you. It has a whole slew of components, and you can
choose which ones you want to install. Some of them make the game *very*
unbalanced, while others just make things easier. It's up to you which ones
Item Upgrade: Remember that dwarf in the
Docks District I told you about named Cromwell? Well, this mod adds a load
of new item upgrade options to both him and Cespenar, the imp in Throne of
Bhaal. That's right, just item customizations, and item customizations only.
Nothing too intrusive, just use it if you want to. I love that kind of mod.
Pocket Plane Group
BG1TuTu: If you're one of those weird
people who can't stand playing through Baldur's Gate 1 with its 640x480
resolution and outdated graphics, then this is the mod for you. It converts
everything in Baldur's Gate 1 to the Baldur's Gate II engine, thus allowing
for more fluid avatars and animations, and of course the 800x600
resolution... not to mention all the new classes and abilities, such as
dual-wielding. You must, of course, own both games (BG1 and BG2... and
preferably Tales of the Sword Coast and Throne of Bhaal as well) in order to
use this. I'd give you a link right to the Pocket Plane page, but this is
really the page where you download the mod (EasyTuTu):
TuTu Tweaks: This is a page with a bunch
of add-on mods for BG1Tutu. Most of them aren't that great, but the first
one in the list is INDISPENSABLE. GET IT NOW. It quite simply converts the
ugly BG2 graphic user interface for TuTu back to the good old BG1 interface.
Much better, much more like BG1. Heck, after you install this, you can
hardly tell that you're not just playing BG1 with a higher resolution! Which
in fact you are. Sort of.
Note: The link to the mod itself can be a bit hard to find. Just look on the far right and you'll see the "Mod List." The first one in the list is LadeJarl's Tutu GUI. Download that one. Here's a direct link if you can't find it:
1 Pixel Productions: Don't let the weird
name fool you; this is actually a cool mod. If you're like me, then you
thought the inventory images for your characters in Baldur's Gate II were
HIDEOUS compared to the nice sleek attractive ones in Baldur's Gate 1. Well,
if you thought so... then this is the mod for you. You can install this on
Baldur's Gate II or BG1TuTu (see above) to return the inventory "paper
dolls" to their old Baldur's Gate 1 look. Ahh, so much better. The only
downside is that it ALSO changes the appearance of some items. For example,
Carsomyr the Holy Avenger now looks like the Spider's Bane for some dumb
reason. So I recommend this mod more for BG1TuTu than for BG2 itself. Still
worth a try either way though:
I had to include this website if only because it has such an awesome name. Anyway, there's a lot of cool tweaks to be found here for Baldur's Gate, Baldur's Gate II, and even the Elder Scrolls games.
The Gibberlings Three
If you've done the Jan Jansen side-quest in BG2 then you know where these guys got their name. When you talk to his Uncle Gerdhart in the basement, he says "Be ye gibberlings?" and you can answer "We are the Gibberlings Three! As merry a band as you ever did see." Well, this is a modding community for the Infinity Engine. Here's the link: