Sunday, May 15, 2011

Neverwinter Nights and its expansions

Kaldor De'Andrel
Almost a decade after its release Neverwinter Nights (NWN) continues to be a game that has an active fanbase. The Original Campaign and the expansions Shadows of Undrentide (SoU) and Hordes of the Underdark (HotU) provide many hours of play and there are hundreds of additional modules created by the community that can be played. There are also free Persistent Worlds (PW) for those who enjoy gaming online together, and it includes a toolset that allows the creation of your modules.  Originally released only for Windows, eventually Macintosh versions were released although the toolset is only available on the Windows platform.

For my part, while I enjoyed Neverwinter Nights some of the fundamental design choices that were made conflicted with my own interests, and therefore I found the game somewhat lacking. I accept that many of the people who continue to favor NWN do so because of the PWs and multi-player play, and that because I do not participate in those I am probably selling the game short.

NWN is very much a game designed around the development of a single character rather than the development of a team of individuals. It lacks any real party capability unless you are playing online with other people.  Playing alone means that you have a single protagonist and a choice of one (in HotU two) developer-designed companions. The single protagonist develops throughout the game but there is no sense of building a team. This player-centric approach doesn't have a lot of appeal for me.

How did that mummy get up on that door???
Though NWN included a toolset I never really looked into using it.  I'm not really sure why. Possibly just irritation that they promised a Mac version and then didn't deliver. I did no modding for NWN at all though I had for BG and IWD2.

As I had done for BG, I also wrote a guide for NWN and its expansions.  This guide was intended to help in the creation of the main character, since he/she is central to the game and the same character can be used in the expansions.

Below is the last version of my NWN character building guide, dated December 13, 2005.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Welcome to the Forgotten Realm of Faerûn

Baldur's Gate was developed by BioWare and published by Black Isle Studios (a division of Interplay Entertainment) in 1998. Originally released only for the Microsoft Windows '95 platform, a Macintosh OS 9 version was subsequently developed by Graphsim Entertainment. This was my first introduction to Faerûn and the Forgotten Realms. I had no desire to play online with strangers and only had a single copy of the game and single machine to play on, so I explored Faerûn's Sword Coast on my own. By the time I started playing BG there were already guides freely available on the internet, and from them I learned that if you played the game in multi-player mode you could create a party rather than creating only a sole character and relying upon developer-built NPC's to join your group. That suited my taste and I usually traveled with a mixed party of 3 of my own PC's and 3 of the developer-built NPC's.

Baldur's Gate was the first game to use the Infinity Engine but several others were released over the next years and I gladly played them all, some on my G3 B&W Mac and some on a Windows laptop. They included  the BG expansion Tales of the Sword Coast, Icewind Dale and its expansions Trials of the Luremaster and Heart of Winter, Baldur's Gate 2 and its expansion Throne of Bhaal, and Icewind Dale 2. Inexplicably I even played the Playstation 2 game Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance which was a completely different game playing experience and not one that matched my interests. Of all of these games it is Baldur's Gate that remains my far-and-away favorite.

Playing all of these games within a relatively short period of time allowed me to compare and contrast them fairly well and I found that I was surprised when features in one game did not appear in a later game. This was particularly noticable when working with inventory because the types of containers available (scroll cases, ammunition belts, book bags, etc.) varied from game to game. It made me wonder about how difficult it would be to take items from one game and add them into the other to make up for these deficiencies.  Fortunately the games were old enough that tools were already being developed to allow modding the games, and I found WeiDU. This tool allowed me to quickly develop a number of items, including custom containers and weapons and I published those in the download section of my website and uploaded them to a few custom content sites and they have since shown up in other places as well. Other Infinity Engine modders have integrated my containers into their mods (Miloch's Unique Containers, the BiG World Project). I also developed a large number of custom items for Icewind Dale 2.

This was not the first type of customization I had developed and released. For the Apple IIGS I had developed custom icons for the Apple IIGS operating system (self-extracting ShrinkIt archive) and customized menus for HyperCard (self-extracting ShrinkIt archive) many years before (you can try these and my other IIGS software out using the excellent and free Mac OS X Sweet16 IIGS emulator by Eric Shepherd), but it was the first development I released that modified professionally developed games.

I had relatives who were also playing these games and I decided that the game manuals were just not informative enough for new players.  So I spent some time writing what I called a BG Addendum. This document was intended to compare and contrast the BioWare games enough so that someone playing through them would have some hint as to what to consider when creating characters and making game decisions. The document includes sections on all of the Infinity Engine D&D based games as well as brief sections on Dark Alliance and Neverwinter Nights.  In the event that it might prove helpful to someone in the future, I am going to include it in its entirety at the end of this post.

In 2002 Neverwinter Nights was released. Also set in Faerûn I had expected it to be a grand successor to Baldur's Gate and pre-ordered it. Unfortunately the promised Mac version was not released simultaneously with the Windows version and the aging Windows laptop I had was unable to run the game suitably. So while I waited for the Mac version to be released I continued replaying the older games.  More on Neverwinter Nights in my next post.

Below is the complete text of my BG Addendum document, last updated in June, 2004.

Baldur's Gate (BG): A manual addendum by Brendan Bellina

Last revised: June 2, 2004


1 About this document
2 Getting started
2.1 Single player games vs. multi-player games
2.2 Add-ons
2.2.1 Experience limit removal freeware
2.2.2 Game Editors
2.2.3 Baldur’s Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast expansion (ToSC)
2.2.4 Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn (also Baldur’s Gate II, BG2, SoA) Baldur’s Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal expansion (ToB)
2.2.5 Icewind Dale (IWD) Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter expansion (HoW) (Windows only) Icewind Dale: Trials of the Luremaster expansion (TotL) (Windows only)
2.2.6 Icewind Dale 2 (also Icewind Dale II, IWD2) (Windows only)
2.2.7 Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance (Sony Playstation 2 only)
2.2.8 Neverwinter Nights
2.3 Generating characters
2.3.1 Choosing alignment
2.3.2 Choosing gender
2.3.3 Choosing class About mages About thieves About bards About rangers About paladins Creating a cleric/mage
2.3.4 Distributing attributes
3 Pluses and minuses
3.1 Rolling the Dice
3.1.1 Saving Throws
3.1.2 Armor Class
3.1.3 Magic weapons
3.1.4 Magic armor
4 Playing the game
4.1 Saving a game in progress
4.1.1 Auto-save feature
4.1.2 Quick-save feature
4.2 Travel
4.3 Resting
4.4 Combat
4.4.1 Use of AI
4.4.2 Death and Recovering from it
4.4.3 Strategies for fighting spellcasters
4.4.4 Use of multi-ability devices (wands, bows, etc.)
4.5 NPC’s
4.5.1 Paired NPC’s
4.6 Journal updates
5 Miscellaneous
5.1 Unopenable items (Duchal palace, Splurging Surgeon)

1 About this document

This document is intended to provide information about playing the game Baldur's Gate and its sequels that is not provided in the BG manual.  This information is not intended to cheapen enjoyment of the game by giving away too much information, there are plenty of walkthroughs and cheats available on-line for that purpose (try <> or <> ).

2 Getting started

2.1 Single player games vs. multi-player games

Baldur's Gate is available for both the Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh computer platforms.  The Windows version supports multi-player games which allows multiple players to collectively play a game over a network, with each player controlling one or more of the characters in the party.  The Macintosh version as shipped supports only single-player games in which one player controls all characters in the party, with a download available from the GraphSim site at to allow multi-player games over AppleTalk and TCP/IP.  Once a game is started as either single-player or multi-player it remains in that mode so it is not possible to change a single-player game into a multi-player game or vice versa.

It is allowable in a multi-player game to have one player controlling all characters in the game, which is essentially the same as a single player game, but there are several advantages to playing this way rather than playing a single-player game.

First and foremost you can generate from one to six characters with attributes that you choose and watch them mature as you play the game, whereas in a single player game you can only generate at most one character and then have to add other game-defined characters that you encounter during your travels (termed Non-Player Characters, or NPC’s).  Only characters that you generate can be used in Baldur's Gate II and Icewind Dale.  After investing time in these characters you will probably want to continue using them in the sequels.  (Note however that Icewind Dale characters cannot be imported into BG2.)

Second, in single-player games going into a character's inventory will cause a paused game to become unpaused, which can have disastrous effect if a monster wanders along and attacks you, whereas multi-player games remain paused.  The amount of time spent in the player inventory screens is considerable, particularly after difficult battles (a very bad time to be unpaused).

Third, in multi-player games it is possible to remove or add characters at any time, and characters can be added by either generating a new character or importing them from disk, this alone provides advantages such as: the ability to remove a slain character and import a saved version of the character from disk (resurrecting at a temple is costly and not always available); and the ability to clone items by exporting (saving) a character to disk, giving his/her items away, removing him/her from the game and then importing him/her from disk along with all his items.

Fourth, when a character dies you can usually have them resurrected at a temple (in BG and BG2 if it is the primary character who dies the game ends, this is not the case in Icewind Dale or Icewind Dale II).  This can be inconvenient and costly, but it usually works.  However, there are times when a character that dies just disappears completely from your party, never to be seen again or is otherwise unrecoverable.  In this case there is no way to recover the character other than to reload from a saved game, because in single-player mode you cannot import a character from disk.  After investing many hours developing characters you are unlikely to be willing to abandon them.

There are interesting NPC (non-player characters) that you will encounter during the course of the game, and often an NPC will ask to join your group (Icewind Dale and Icewind Dale II do not have NPC’s that will join your group).  Sometimes due to their items and skills it is useful to add them to your group.  In BG2, for example, there is one character (Valygar) who is needed to open an entire area of the game, so he must be part of your party at least for a time (Valygar is also an exception to the general rule that NPC’s do not come with very good items; Valygar’s armor can be worn while casting spells by a dual-classed Fighter/Mage with certain restrictions, so you may want him to join your group temporarily so that you can take his armor from him).  In multi-player mode it is still possible to have an NPC join your group, just export to disk and remove one of your party regulars to make room for the NPC or use a party of fewer than 6 to begin with.  You can always remove the NPC and import your regular character from disk later in the game when you no longer need or want the NPC.  NPC’s have personalities of their own, and may take actions that are unexpected, such as developing romantic relationships, turning on each other, or turning on your main character.  (Jaheira is a standout in this respect as there are several quests having to do with the Harpers in BG2 that will not occur unless she is in your party.)

In conclusion, there really is no advantage to playing in single-player mode and several good reasons to play multi-player games, even if you are playing alone.

(IWD2 note: In Icewind Dale II playing in multi-player mode will increase the time needed to load the game into memory.)

(IWD/IWD2 note: In both IWD and IWD2 full elves cannot be reincarnated, they must be resurrected, which is more costly.  In IWD2 characters who are resurrected are reduced one level of experience.)

2.2 Add-ons

There are add-ons that can be downloaded from the web or purchased.  The web page <> has links to many useful free downloads, including patches, character portraits, walkthroughs, online maps, cheat codes, and more.  Some of the downloads are only for the Windows version, but the maps, cheat codes, and walkthroughs are relevant for both Mac and Windows versions of the game.

2.2.1 Experience limit removal freeware

Baldur’s Gate has an experience point cap of 89,000.  Since there are far more experience points to be gained, eventually your characters will hit the limit and they will be unable to gain further levels.  For multi-classed characters this is particularly limiting because it prevents them from becoming strong enough to survive the game.

There is a free patch that removes the experience point cap.  When importing characters into BG2 they will lose any experience points beyond the standard cap, but at least in Baldur’s Gate they will be able to grow without this arbitrary limitation.  BG2 also has an experience point cap but it is much higher.

2.2.2 Game Editors

The freeware Windows utility GateKeeper (available at <> can be used to edit Baldur’s Gate saved game files. 

The Windows utility DaleKeeper can be used to edit Icewind Dale saved game files.

The Windows utility ShadowKeeper can be used to edit BG2 saved game files.

There are (sigh) no Macintosh game editors, but the format of saved games and exported characters is platform independent, so a Macintosh saved game or exported character file can be edited using a Windows editor.

2.2.3 Tales of the Sword Coast (ToSC) expansion

The Tales of the Sword Coast expansion adds additional areas to Baldur’s Gate including Durlag’s Tower which is a very good dungeon-type area.  Installing ToSC will also increase the experience point cap from 89,000 to 161,000, which will allow the higher number of experience points to remain when importing the characters into Baldur’s Gate 2.

2.2.4 Baldur’s Gate 2 (BG2)

Baldur’s Gate 2 is the sequel to Baldur’s Gate.  Characters from BG and ToSC can be imported into BG2.  When importing they will lose all of their equipment and spells.  In addition you will need to reselect their weapon proficiencies and thieving skill percentages.

Significant differences between BG and BG2 are:
Movement: In BG you can usually move off of a map by simply walking to an edge, allowing for a significant amount of exploration and plenty of opportunities to rest.  In BG2 (and IWD/IWD2) you can only go to specific areas on a map that are unlocked by performing quests or talking with game characters.

Dual-weapons: In BG2 (and IWD2) characters can carry a second weapon in place of a shield.  This is not possible in BG or IWD.  This is an important feature as there are many weapons in BG2 which add additional protections and capabilities when equipped.  A character must be proficient with the two weapon fighting style (and in IWD2 also the ambidexterity feat) however to make best use of this feature.

Creating characters: When rolling new characters in BG2 they will automatically start out at a medium level of experience – often 5 or 6.  Also the characteristics seem to roll much higher than in BG, so it is possible to create characters with several 18’s.

Additional dual-classing capabilities: In BG2 you can have a fighter dual-class to druid, whereas in BG Fighter/Druid was only available as a multi-class combination.

Familiars: In BG2 if your main character is a mage then he/she can have a familiar.  The type of familiar is dependent on the alignment of the character.

Imoen: In BG2 you can and should start off with Imoen in your group, and she has both thief and mage skills.  However, she will be kidnapped fairly early in the game and so for much of the time you will not have her in your group.  For that reason you should make sure you have another thief and mage in your group.

Experience is earned when disabling traps and adding mage spells to your book.

Ability to remove spells from spellbook in BG2. Couple this with the fact that you gain experience when adding spells to the book and you have an easy way to gain experience (buy scrolls, memorize spells, remove spells, rememorize from the scrolls, repeat). 

Special weapons: In BG2 there are many special weapons, and because characters are higher level they will not gain weapon proficiencies as quickly, therefore you need to plan ahead.  The best sword in the game is a +3 Katana named Celestial Fury.  There is also a very good flail (Flail of the Ages) and a very good hammer (Hammer of Thunderbolts).  There is also a very good mage staff (Staff of the Magi).  There are several very good bows and crossbows.  There is a very good 2-handed sword (Holy Avenger) that can only be used by a Paladin, and in BG2-ToB there is a very good Bastard Sword that can only be used by a Paladin. 

Icewind Dale characters cannot be imported into BG2. Baldur’s Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal (ToB) expansion

Baldur’s Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal is the expansion to BG2.  Unlike ToSC once characters begin to access the special areas in ToB (with one exception – Watcher’s Keep) they cannot return to any of the SoA areas.

One significant difference in ToB is that at high levels characters gain more special capabilities.  A good example is the ability for a Thief to be able to use magic items and weapons that are normally restricted.

2.2.5 Icewind Dale (IWD)

Significant differences between BG and IWD:

Movement: In BG you can usually move off of a map by simply walking to an edge, allowing for a significant amount of exploration and plenty of opportunities to rest.  In IWD (and BG2 and IWD2) you can only go to specific areas on a map that are unlocked by performing quests or talking with game characters.

Less wealth: IWD has far fewer treasures to find than in BG and BG2, so even after accumulating significant experience your characters are unlikely to be able to afford the more expensive weapons that are available. And by the time they can afford them, they will be fighting monsters against whom those expensive weapons aren’t all that useful.

Fewer scrolls: IWD has a shortage of spell scrolls.  Scrolls for important spells like Fireball, Armor, Shield, Minor Globe of Invulnerability, Haste, and Improved Invisibility may only exist in a single scroll. Therefore you should have your mage try to memorize from the scrolls instead of using them up in battle, however be sure to quick save before attempting to write the spell into your spellbook so that if you fail you can reload and retry.

Fewer healing potions: Although IWD does have potions scattered about to find, very few are healing potions, and there are not many places to buy them.

Inability to mark maps: In BG and BG2 and IWD2 you can put notes on the maps and often descriptions of important places will be marked automatically once you have been near them.  In IWD maps are left unmarked, which makes finding exits a little more difficult.

More undead: Although there are a fair number of undead creatures in BG and BG2, there are far more in IWD.  Therefore having clerics or paladins who can turn undead is more important in IWD.

Fewer wands: There are very few wands in IWD, so it is more important that your mages be able to cast Fireball and Monster Summoning spells.

Greater need for fire-based weapons: In IWD and IWD2 you have a greater need for fire-based weapons in order to kill trolls.

Lesser need for cold-based spells:  Many more monsters are resistant to cold, making a lot of the cold-damage spells less useful.

Different effects from spells and wands: Many of the spells that in BG affected only enemies in IWD affect all creatures within range, making some quite dangerous to use. Occasionally you harm your own characters only to find that enemies are not affected at all.

Fewer ways to modify character attributes: Even with the very few scrolls or potions that modify attributes, there is usually a trade-off, e.g., gain two in constitution but lose one in dexterity. Who wants to lose dexterity???? Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter (HoW) expansion (available only for Windows)

The Heart of Winter expansion is available only for the Windows platform.  Once HoW is completed you cannot return to do the Trials of the Luremaster, so you should install Trials of the Luremaster as well as Heart of Winter and play the TotL quest before playing the HoW quest.

One nice thing about the HoW expansion is that there are a couple of places to buy spell scrolls, which are sorely needed by this point. Icewind Dale: Trials of the Luremaster (TotL) expansion (available only for Windows)

The Trials of the Luremaster expansion is available only for the Windows platform.  TotL should be played before HoW otherwise you will need to restore from a pre-HoW saved game in order to play TotL.

2.2.6 Icewind Dale II (available only for Windows)

Icewind Dale II is available only for the Windows platform. IWD2 character types are significantly different than IWD and BG2 character types, and so no characters from previous games can be imported.

In part because IWD2 is based on a newer version of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragon (AD&D) rules than BG, BG2, and IWD, there are many differences that effect all aspects of character creation and game play.  Just a few of the significant differences are:

As in BG and IWD, but not BG2, characters start at level 1.

Attribute Distribution: In IWD2 attributes are not randomly determined.  You begin with 76 points to distribute amongst the six attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma) and can distribute as you like within the minimum and maximum values allowed for the race you have selected.  Some races have bonuses which apply.  However, with each 4 levels of experience a character earns you gain an additional attribute point which can be distributed however you wish.

New race types: there are several new race types with special powers, capabilities, and limitations.

Dual class, Multi-class and favored class: The concepts of dual-classing and multi-classing have been merged.  A character can at any point of level gain choose to add the level in an existing class or add a new class, and the restrictions in previous games requiring that the character exceed the level in one class in order to gain the class benefits are completely gone, with all class capabilities being available all the time. In IWD2 there are almost no restrictions on multi-classing combinations. However each race except for humans and half-elves has a favored class which should be understood and considered carefully if you plan on multi-classing.  (Basically there is a penalty if a character has one class that is more than one level higher than another class, unless the higher class is the “favored class” for the race of the character in which case it is ignored.  If the character is human or half-elf then the highest class, whatever it may be, is ignored.)

Armor and weapon restrictions changed to penalties: In IWD2 almost anyone can wear or use almost anything, but penalties may apply.  So, for example, in BG a mage is not allowed to wear armor, but in IWD2 a mage can wear armor but will probably fail at casting spells when doing so due to a penalty which is applied.

Dual-weapons: In IWD2 characters can carry a second weapon in place of a shield.  This is not possible in BG or IWD.  While this adds an extra attack per round and the benefits of having multiple magic weapons equipped, there are severe melee penalties (up to –8 to hit and damage) which apply.  In order to minimize to –2 the to-hit and damage penalties a character must have both the two weapon fighting style feat and the ambidexterity feat and use a light weapon in the off-hand (shield hand).  In addition a Ranger will have additional penalties if wearing armor other than light armor.  According to the IWD2 Official Strategy Guide there is a benefit in having the ambidexterity and two weapon fighting style feat for Monks though they fight without weapons (the OSG also says that Monks must be Human and that is not correct).

Resurrection penalty: Resurrecting a character lowers the character one experience level.  If this penalty seems unfair, then consider turning on cheat mode in the game preferences, pressing Ctrl-Tab to bring up the game console and entering (sans quotes) “ctrlaltdelete:enablecheatkeys()”, press enter, and then you can simply put the mouse pointer on the portrait of a wounded or dead character and press Ctrl-R to restore him/her to perfect health.

Sorcerers: Sorcerers in IWD2 do not have to memorize spells in order to use them.  Wizards, Bards, Paladins, and Clerics do have to memorize spells before use.  Unlike Wizards whose primary attribute is intelligence, the primary attribute of Sorcerers is charisma.

Skills: In IWD2 characters can learns skills.  While some of the skills are dependent on training (in other words they are usable only by certain character classes), many are usable by any class, including the traditional rogue/thief skills of hide and move silently which allows greater possibilities for sneaking your party around.  The number of skills a character learns is dependent on their race and Intelligence.

Maximum Hit Points per Level preference setting: There is a preference setting in IWD2 so that each time a character goes up a level instead of randomly selecting the hit points the character receives the maximum number of hit points.  This saves a lot of time over the save and reload method of maximizing hit points.

Interface overhaul: The game interface in IWD2 differs significantly from BG, BG2, and IWD.  This particularly affects the screens for reviewing a character’s characteristics and spells.

Charisma: Charisma is more important in IWD2 than in BG, BG2, and IWD.  In the other games you could get by with one character with a high charisma to be your leader and sacrifice charisma in the other characters in order to get higher scores on other attributes.  In IWD2 charisma plays slightly greater role in that it is the primary attribute of Sorcerers and affects the ability of Clerics and Paladins to turn the undead.

Intelligence: Character race and Intelligence determine the number of skills that a character can learn.

Wisdom: Characters with a low wisdom are more susceptible to mind-affecting spells.  Monks with a high wisdom get an Armor Class benefit (if they do not wear armor or carry a shield).

Kegs: In IWD2 kegs (barrels) must be attacked and broken open in order to get their contents and you cannot store items in them as could be done in BG, BG2, and IWD.

Armor Class: In IWD2 Armor Class starts at 10 and goes up as it improves rather than going down as it improves.  Also, armor class bonuses (from magic items typically) are not cumulative.

Revised Alignment definitions: Alignment definitions have been altered somewhat so that “evil” characters are generally more self-centered than evil-doers.

2.2.7 Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance (Sony Playstation 2 only)

Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance is available for the Sony Playstation 2 platform only.

In Dark Alliance you control either one or two characters (in two-player mode) and have very limited race and class selection.

Other than taking place in the world of Faerun, there is very little similarity between Dark Alliance and the other Baldur’s Gate games.

2.2.8 Neverwinter Nights

Neverwinter Nights is designed for multiple-players over a Network, but does not allow a single person to control multiple players simultaneously.  The game interface is similar to those used in games designed for game consoles like Playstation 2.

Like Dark Alliance, Neverwinter Nights is very different than the Baldur’s Gate games.

2.3 Generating characters

2.3.1 Choosing alignment

A character has an alignment which describes their way of looking at the world and how they behave.  The alignment types are described in the BG manual and are derived from Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D) rules.  Generally it is wise to choose alignments that are good or neutral, rather than evil.  One reason is that since you probably aren't evil, it may be quite difficult to make your character behave that way.  Another reason is that evil characters are more likely to be hunted and attacked by assassins and city guards.  A third reason is that doing evil things will cause a decrease in "reputation" which will result in items in stores costing more and creatures you encounter treating you badly and most importantly a reduction in your reaction adjustment when approached by hostile creatures resulting in poorer performance in battle.  Lastly, since the game is based on performing quests for people, you are generally intended to be helpful, so behaving in an evil way is counter to the design of the game and will hamper the growth of your characters.  Choose good and be good and you will do better.  (See the section "About mages" regarding the alignments you select for mages).

(IWD2 note: Icewind Dale II doesn’t have a reputation factor and has character types like the Drow which must be Lawful Evil, so the alignment definitions have been altered somewhat.  Lawful Evil, for example, in IWD2 means someone who expects laws to be used to build power for the few not necessarily to help everyone.)

2.3.2 Choosing gender

The game authors decided to be politically correct and do not alter or limit attribute scores in any way based on gender.  However there is at least one situation in BG where a non-player character (NPC) will approach your party and interact with you only if there is a male in your group.  This isn't a critical thing, but it is one reason to either generate at least one male or allow a male NPC to join your group sometime during the course of the game.  There is also at least one situation in the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion where a male NPC will intentionally approach a female party member, so this may be a good reason to have a female member as well.

2.3.3 Choosing class

The class of a character determines his/her capabilities.  A mage is capable of casting magic spells (primarily offensive in nature, no healing spells), using wands that mimic magic spells (like wand of fire and wand of monster summoning), and using magic spell scrolls, a cleric is capable of casting priestly spells (primarily defensive and includes healing), using wands that cast priestly spells (like wand of the heavens), and using priestly spell scrolls (like stone to flesh and various protection scrolls), a fighter is capable of using all kinds of weapons, a thief can pick pockets (not a terribly important skill), find traps and hidden doors (very useful), open locks (critical really), and hide in shadows (not critical but sometimes useful), a bard can play songs that raise party morale, identify items without needing a spell, cast mage spells and pick pockets, a druid can cast some cleric spells and at high levels transform into different animals, a ranger is a fighter specially trained to fight against a specific kind of creature and can hide in shadows, and a paladin is a holy warrior who can fight and at high levels cast some clerical healing spells.

In your party you will need a thief to open locks, but Imoen will ask to join your group very early in the game and she makes a fairly good thief and because of her high intelligence she can be dual-classed to mage (wait until she is at least 4th level to dual-class her).  Healing spells are a necessity, so you should have at least one or two characters who can cast cleric spells (your main character will gain this ability to a small degree no matter what class he/she is).  Fairly early in the game you will encounter a cleric who is willing to join your party, though she is a little cold at first.  Also early in the game you will encounter a fighter (Khalid) and a fighter/druid (Jaheira) who are willing to join your group, as well as a paladin and a bard.  Later on you will encounter other types including a ranger and a couple of specialist mages.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some classes gain hit points faster than others.  Basically characters of classes that rely on Strength, such as fighter, ranger, and paladin, can gain far more hit points per level of experience than mages or thieves that rely on Intelligence and Dexterity.  Clerics gain hit points at a faster rate than a mage and thief but not as fast as a fighter.

It is also possible for some non-human races to simultaneously have multiple classes, such as fighter/mage, mage/cleric, fighter/thief, and others.  Multi-class characters will advance more slowly because any experience gained is divided equally among their classes.

Human characters can choose to "dual class" which means they start out as one class and later switch to another class.  There are several downsides to dual-classing, including (1) once a character switches to the second class they cannot use any of the skills of their first class and are limited by any armor/weapons restrictions of the second class until they exceed in the second class the level of experience attained in their first class, (2) once a character switches to a second class they will gain no additional hit points until they exceed in the second class the level of experience attained in their first class, (3) once a character switches to a second class they will never gain experience in their first class and cannot switch back or switch again.  Because of the importance of hit points the first class should probably be one that allows rapid growth in hit points, such as fighter or ranger.  The advantage of dual-classing is primarily that a character can have limited skill in one class while advancing quickly in another class.  Dual-classing requires at least a 15 in the primary attribute of the first class and a 17 in the primary attribute of the second class.  If you do choose to dual-class a character, in order to be able to have proficiencies in the widest range of weapons, do not reselect weapon proficiencies in the secondary class that you selected in the primary class.  Once you exceed the highest level of the primary class in the secondary class the character will be able to use all weapon proficiencies ever selected in both classes.

The choice of class will limit the weapons and armor that characters can use and perhaps most importantly limit the number of weapons that a character can have equipped.  If a character can only have one weapon equipped then you will need to decide whether they carry a melee weapon such as a sword or carry a missile weapon such as a bow, crossbow, or sling.  Switching weapons during combat may not be possible.  (There is only one weapon in BG that I know of that can be both melee and missile and that is a +2 throwing axe that is found very late in the game).  Classes that I know of that are limited to a single equipped weapon include mage, cleric, bard, fighter/mage/thief, cleric/ranger and mage/thief. I would not select class based solely on this though since this is partly interface based and follow-up games may handle equipped weapons differently. (If you install the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion more types including mage and cleric are able to have multiple weapons equipped, this is further improved in BG2). Some multi-class combinations that do allow more than one equipped weapon include: fighter/druid, fighter/cleric, fighter/mage.

Early in the game you will need people who can fight, but as the game continues spell-casters will become more and more useful.  Therefore strongly consider using multi-classed characters or plan to use dual-classed characters.  For multi-classed characters I recommend using half-elves, as they combine the best attributes of humans and elves and can multi-class. About mages

If you choose to have a mage you should probably go with a generalist mage rather than a specialist mage.  Specialist mages can memorize more spells, but they are limited to which spells they can memorize.  There are items in the game which can enhance the ability of a character to memorize spells, but nothing to address the limitations of a specialist.  On the other hand there are magic wands that can mimic some spells and a specialist mage could use a wand to compensate for a spell they cannot memorize.

One critical spell for a mage to have is "Identify" which allows you to determine what the powers of a magical item are.  Many magical items cannot be used until they have been identified.  Temples will identify items but only at cost and money is rarely plentiful.  (If you have a bard in your party then he/she will be able to identify most items without needing a spell, freeing up your mages to memorize other spells.)

Also, do not have a mage add to his/her spell book every spell you find on a scroll.  There is a limit, based on intelligence, as to how many spells of each level a mage can have in his/her spellbook and in BG there is no way to remove a spell from a spellbook once added, so read the descriptions of the spells in the manual and decide carefully whether to add it to your permanent arsenal by adding it to your spellbook. (BG2 does allow the removal of spells from a spellbook).

Mages are probably the most restrictive on armor since they cannot wear any at all or carry shields or wear helmets.  Multi-class mages may be able to wear armor, helmets, and use a shield, but will not be able to cast spells while wearing armor (although wearing armor will not prevent them from being able to use wands and scrolls). The best robes for a mage can be purchased at High Hedge, and they are a robe of the neutral arch-magi and the robe of the good arch-magi.  Since there is only one of each, if you have more than two mages you will have to settle for less than the best for someone (unless you clone the items by cheating).  Early in the game these robes seem extremely expensive, but money will eventually come in and at that point you will want to have one mage who is true neutral, chaotic neutral, or lawful neutral, and another who is neutral good, chaotic good, or lawful good that way you can purchase the best robe for each mage. (In BG2 there are types of armor that can be worn by mages without interfering with spell-casting, including Valygar’s armor which can be worn by a fighter/mage).

A mage’s (or bard’s) lore value determines their ability to identify a magic item without the need for the identify spell.  Lore seems to be tied to Wisdom rather than Intelligence, so if you want to be able to identify items without always requiring the identify spell make sure your mage has a decent Wisdom. About thieves

A thief is necessary in the game because thieves are able to detect and disarm traps and open locks. There is a mage spell called "Knock" which can open a lock and also a mage spell to detect traps, but the frequency of needing to do these things is so high that using spells isn't really feasible.  The pick pocket capability of a thief is necessary for at least one small quest, but bards are also able to pick pockets.  The Hide in Shadows (stealth) capability of a thief is useful for scouting an area or sneaking up on an opponent for a back stab attempt, but a ranger also has this ability and the mage spell “Invisibility” works the same way.  When a thief gains an experience level he/she is able to improve in their skills, but you can decide which skills improve more than others, so I would definitely recommend that open locks is the most important, with find traps almost as important, hide in shadows (stealth) less important, and pick pockets least important. (BG2 adds additional thief skills, such as set traps and detect illusions).

There is also 2 pairs of Boots of Stealth available in the game that increase the stealth percentage of the wearer by 35% as well as a suit of +3 studded leather armor (Shadow Armor) which also increases the wearer’s %, but nothing except temporary potions can increase the other thief capabilities.

Because of the ability to save a game in progress a low pick pocket percentage is only an inconvenience not a huge problem.  If a pick pocket attempt fails you may be attacked.  The solution is simply to save the game just before attempting the pocket picking.  Then if you fail you can reload from the saved game.  Since you can do this as many times as you like a low pick pocket percentage can be overcome by patiently following this save/reload procedure.

Imoen will want to join your party right away in the game and she has good attributes for a thief and is capable of dual-classing into a mage.

The only decent melee weapon a thief can use is a long sword.  They can only wear studded leather armor or Drizzt's +4 Mithril Chain Mail (more about Drizzt later) and still perform thievery.  They cannot wear helmets or carry large shields.  For all of these reasons outfit your thief with a short bow or sling and keep them out of close combat. (In BG2 there are types of armor than can be worn by a thief without interfering with thieving).  Once a thief becomes high level the abilities to Hide in Shadows and Backstab for 2x or 3x damage can make him/her very useful for taking out a single opponent.

Dual or multi-classed thieves, such as a Fighter/Thief can wear heavy armor, but the only thief skill they can use while doing so is Find Traps. About bards

A bard is a musical performer who can add some unique skills to your group, however, as a whole they are fairly weak additions.  A bard’s unique ability is the ability to make music during battle, which can raise the party’s morale or reduce the morale of enemies.  Unfortunately you cannot really tell how well this is working.  Because a bard is trained in history, they have a high lore value and are therefore able to identify most magical items without need for the identify spell.  Bards can cast magic spells like a mage and are able to pick pockets like a thief.  However, bards cannot wear helmets or armor, have limited weapon use, and cannot carry a shield larger than a buckler, therefore they will generally have a high armor class and perform poorly in combat.  Since the ability to pick pockets is hardly critical, I suggest that a Fighter/Mage or a fighter dual-classed to a mage is a better choice than a bard. About rangers

A ranger is a fighter that is specially trained for combat in natural settings.  A ranger’s choice of armor and weapons is limited, but a ranger can hide in shadows like a thief.  A Cleric/Ranger is a good combination because it allows the greater armor choices of a cleric and adds spell capabilities and the ability to turn undead. About paladins

A paladin is a holy fighter.  The holiness of the fighter results in the ability for the paladin at very high level to cast very low level cleric spells.  A paladin can also cast minor healing spells and turn undead like a cleric.  A paladin makes a good fighter but a poor cleric. A Fighter/Cleric or Cleric/Ranger is probably a better choice.  There is a +5 two-handed sword (Holy Avenger) in BG2 that only a paladin can wield.  In Baldur’s Gate only humans can be paladins. Creating a cleric/mage

Because clerics cast mostly defensive spells and mages cast mostly offensive spells it can be useful to have characters which can do both.  (For example, a character who can cast the cleric spell Sanctuary in addition to the mage spells Invisibility, Minor Globe of Invulnerability, and area effect spells such as Web, Grease, Fireball, and Stinking Cloud is essentially a walking stick of dynamite.) There are three ways to develop such characters, one by multi-classing, and two by dual-classing.

A multi-classed cleric/mage must be a non-human with very high intelligence and wisdom.  Because experience is split between the classes, growth will be slow.  Clerics can wear armor and helmets, carry shields, and use more weapons than mages, but a cleric/mage cannot wear armor while casting mage spells.  To get a decently low armor class without armor a cleric/mage needs to have a very high dexterity, and hopefully wear a magic helmet, shields, and bracers of defense.  Because multi-classing splits experience growth will be slow, hit points will be low for some time, so for a while the character is best kept out of melee.  Because the character can wear armor it should be possible to get a low armor class at the cost of casting low level mage spells, or the mage spell “Armor” can be used.  Later when the character is more advanced, armor can be discarded in favor of defensive magical items.

(In BG2 you can also multi-class a fighter/cleric/mage which gives a little advantage in hit points, but also slows further the pace of level growth.)

The alternative to multi-classing a non-human is to dual-class a human.  A human can start out as a cleric and later dual-class to mage, or start out as a mage and later dual class to cleric.  The advantage to starting out as a cleric is that a cleric can wear armor, have more hit points, and gain spells en masse rather than via scrolls, which means they can be fairly productive as a healer and a decent melee fighter even at a low level (probably not a great melee fighter though because strength will probably be only average).  Later when switching to a mage the character will no longer be allowed to wear armor, a helmet, or carry a shield (until their mage level of experience surpasses their cleric level of experience) which will significantly impact their armor class, but by that time they will probably have a decent number of hit points and you will be able to use magic items you’ve collected to minimize the armor class loss.  The temporary loss of their cleric spells can be offset by healing potions and occasional trips to a temple.  Also high level mage spells tend to be more useful than high level cleric spells (the best defense is a good offense), so if you have to limit growth, it makes more sense to limit it on the cleric side of things.  The negative of this approach is that hit point growth will be extremely slow once you dual class to mage, so make sure you have a high constitution and hold off on the switch until hit points are reasonably high, say at 6th level or so.

2.3.4 Distributing attributes

There are six attributes of varying importance with 18 being the theoretical maximum for humans.  Certain clases benefit from certain attributes, for example mages should have a very high intelligence, clerics should have a very high wisdom, paladins and bards should have a very high charisma, fighters should have high strength.

When a character is generated attributes will be randomly selected and then you can increase and decrease the amounts as you wish staying within the minimum and maximum values allowed by the race of the character.  You can reroll attributes as many times as you like, but what you want is a high total.  Having rolled attributes many times the highest total I've seen is 86, so if you are close to that you have done well.

The dexterity (quickness) and constitution (hardiness) attributes are especially important for several reasons regardless of class.  Dexterity is important for everyone because a high dexterity will reduce your character's armor class, meaning that faster characters are harder to hit.  Faster characters also get a bonus to hit monsters and can attack more often.  Mages particularly benefit from a high dexterity because since they cannot wear armor they rely almost entirely upon their dexterity to lower their armor class.  I recommend maximizing dexterity.  Constitution is important because a high constitution will positively affect the number of hit points a character gains when advancing an experience level.

Unlike the other attributes strength is treated in a special way if it is 18 and the character is a fighter.  A strength of 18 is further qualified by a percentile where the higher the percentile the better and 00 is the best, so a strength of 18/25 is not as good as 18/75, and 18/00 is the best.  Characters who will be wearing heavy armor (like plate armor) need at least a strength of about 13.  Mages, thieves, and bards cannot wear heavy armor, so for them strength isn't as important.  Strength is critical for fighters and paladins, and beneficial for clerics and rangers.

A high charisma for your party leader can result in lower prices in stores, so before approaching a storekeeper make the character you have with the highest charisma your party leader. Other than that though there is little reason to have a high charisma. (Charisma has a more important role in IWD2.)

There are magic items in the game that can affect attributes.  There are a small number of magic tomes that can permanently increase an attribute by 1.  There are two cloaks and a helmet that can increase charisma when worn by 1 or 2 points, one pair of gauntlets that can increase dexterity to 18, and one pair of gauntlets that can increase strength to 18/00.  There are belts which can increase strength, and in BG2 weapons and belts which can increase strength, boots which can increase dexterity, a helmet which can increase charisma, and a ring which increases charisma to 18.  There are also many potions that can temporarily increase attributes and a spell that can temporarily increase strength.

My recommendations for maximizing attributes depending on character class in order of decreasing importance:

fighter - dexterity, strength, constitution
paladin - dexterity, charisma, strength, wisdom, constitution
mage - dexterity, intelligence, constitution, wisdom (for high lore value)
cleric - dexterity, wisdom, strength, constitution
thief - dexterity, constitution
bard - dexterity, charisma, intelligence, constitution
ranger - dexterity, constitution, strength
druid - dexterity, wisdom, charisma, constitution, strength (not sure why charisma is important to druids (charming animals maybe?)), but the BG manual says so (not so in IWD2))

3 Pluses and minuses

For those not familiar with Dungeons and Dragons the use of adjustment factors such as +1, +2, +3, -1 may not make a lot of sense.  Dungeons and Dragons used the rolling of dice to determine whether desired events had occurred and the pluses and minuses are usually adjustments made to the die roll (the total value of a roll of one or more dice comprising a turn).  This is further explained in the section “Rolling the Dice”.

Another use of adjustment factors is for characteristics such as saving throws and armor class.  These are explained further below.

It is generally the case that positive adjustments have beneficial effect and negative adjustments have detrimental effect, so +1 armor is good,  +2 armor of the same type is even better, and -2 armor is probably cursed.

3.2 Rolling the Dice

Dungeons and Dragons works with the notion that certain factors can be summarized into a single value, and that random rolling of dice can be used to determine what events are most likely to occur based on the values involved.  For example, a character has several factors which reduce the chances that he/she will be hit by a weapon, he may have a high dexterity which allows him to dodge, he may be wearing armor which offers physical protection, he may be wearing an enchanted amulet which quickens his combat reflexes, all of which combine to give him a single score called armor class.  The attacker also has several factors which determine his chance of a successful attack: his level of experience fighting, his strength, his dexterity, and perhaps his weapon is enchanted.  There is a percentage chance that any attacker will successfully hit any defender, and that percentage is derived from factors like those listed above, and it is a roll of the dice which determines whether or not a particular attempt succeeds or fails.

In Baldur’s Gate it is assumed that players understand how to read the shorthand which describes die rolls.  Like D&D BG uses die rolls to determine whether attacks are successful and how much damage is inflicted.  When looking at the characteristics of a weapon the player needs to read the shorthand to determine whether one weapon is capable of inflicting more damage than another.  Without understanding the shorthand how would you know whether a sword that can do 2d4+1 damage is capable of inflicting more or less damage than an axe described as 1d6+3?

The shorthand that describes a die roll is in the format xdy with an optional plus or minus adjustment.  The x value indicates the number of times the die should be rolled and the y value indicates how many possible values the die can have. So 1d6 is a single roll of a six-sided die, which means a possible range of values from 1 to 6, whereas 2d4 is two rolls of a four sided die, which gives a total range of 2 to 8.  The optional adjustment, if present, is added or subtracted from the die roll total, so a 2d4+1 sword can inflict from 3 to 9 points of damage per attack, whereas a 1d6+3 axe can inflict 4 to 9 points of damage.  Based solely on damage the axe is the better weapon because although they have the same maximum damage, the axe has a higher minimum.

3.2.1 Saving Throws

In some situations a character may be affected by something that is not directly damage related.  For example, they may be stared at by a basilisk which has a truly petrifying gaze, or be poisoned by an arrow.  In these cases the character has the chance that they will be unaffected, that they will throw the dice and be saved.  The number they have to roll to be unaffected is called their saving throw. Saving throws are divided into categories (for example, save versus death is a different saving throw category than save versus petrification) and a character’s base values are based on race, attributes, and experience level.

You want your saving throws to be low, and there are items such as magic cloaks, rings, and amulets which can lower your saving throws.  A +1 cloak of protection, for example, lowers your saving throws (and armor class) by 1.  Saving throw values range from 1 (the best) to 20 (the worst), so every point represents a difference of 5%.

3.2.2 Armor Class

Armor class represents how difficult it is for a character to be hit by a weapon.  Armor class can be as high as 10, a slow person wearing no armor of any kind, and there is no limit to how low it can go, the lower the better.  Generally an armor class of close to 0 can be achieved by a character with decently high dexterity wearing decent non-magical armor and carrying a large shield.  With the use of magical aids such as cloaks and rings of protection, or wearing magical armor or shields, a character’s armor class can easily lower below zero to -4 or –5, which makes them unlikely to be hit except by very capable attackers with good weapons.

(IWD2 note: In IWD2 Armor Class goes up from 10 as it improves rather than going down.)

3.2.3 Magic weapons

Magic weapons include normal weapons such as swords, hammers, daggers, arrows, etc. that have special bonuses to hit or cause damage, and also magic wands, rods, staves, and sometimes magic rings and necklaces.  Another nice feature of magical weapons is that they cannot be broken, whereas a normal weapon may break in the midst of melee. With few exceptions, if a character due to his/her class is not allowed to use a particular weapon type, then they will not be able to use a magic weapon of that type either.  Magic wands (the most useful include the Wand of Fire and the Wand of Monster Summoning) have charges and each time they are used a charge is used.  Once drained completely the item vanishes.  A simple but costly way to recharge an item is to sell it to a store or vendor (before it is completely drained) and then repurchase it.  It is not possible to tell how many charges an item has, but generally its price in a store is directly related to the number of charges it has.  Fully charged items typically have 20 or fewer charges.  Magic items such as wands usually cast a mage or priest spell, and therefore they may be used only by a mage or priest.  A mage that is wearing armor cannot cast spells, but can still use a magic wand or cast spells from scrolls.

Worth special notice is that Drizzt’s +3 scimitar (it can be pickpocketed from Drizzt when you meet him) can be used by a druid like Jaheira because a scimitar is the only bladed weapon that can be used by a druid (druid’s cannot use maces or flails either).  The only place in BG to buy a scimitar for Jaheira is in Candlekeep at the start of the game, so if you didn’t get it (and even if you did) you should probably steal Drizzt’s. If you install the ToSC expansion and travel to Durlag’s tower you can buy a non-magical scimitar from a man outside the tower that a druid can also use (there is also a +2 scimitar in the tower itself guarded by a bunch of basilisks).

3.1.4 Magic armor

Magic armor is normal armor that has bonuses to reduce armor class or other magical benefits.  One benefit of magic armor is that it is usually much lighter than normal armor, and therefore a character with low strength will be less likely to become encumbered and be able to carry more and heavier items.  However a weakness of magic armor is that wearing it almost always prevents the ability to use other magical protection aids such as rings and amulets of protection which lower  saving throws in addition to armor class.  To illustrate, a character will achieve the same armor class wearing normal full plate mail and magical +1 plate mail, but if wearing the normal armor the character can also wear a +1 ring of protection which would lower his/her armor class by 1 and also reduce his/her saving throws by 1.  If the character is strong enough to wear heavier armor it may be wiser to stick with normal armor for this reason.  (As far as I know there are only two kinds of magical armor that do not prevent the simultaneous use of protection devices such as a cloak, ring, or amulet of protection. One is the Red Dragon Scale armor that can be forged from the scales of a red dragon in BG2, unfortunately it is a bug in BG2 which allows the armor to behave this way, and when the BG2 expansion Throne of Bhaal is installed the armor will no longer allow the simultaneous wearing of protective devices.  The second is the Winter King’s Plate armor in IWD:HoW).

Worth special notice is that Drizzt’s +4 chain mail is the only non-leather armor available in BG that can be worn by a thief or bard without interfering with the thief abilities.  Unfortunately you have to kill Drizzt to get it and that is nearly impossible.

4 Playing the game

4.1 Saving a game in progress

The unexpected will happen, often, and with devastating effect.  You cannot avoid it or prevent it, but you can recover from it if you save your game in progress often.  Games are saved in one common directory on the hard drive, so if multiple people are playing games on the same computer it makes sense to use a naming standard when you save that makes it clear whose game it is.  Saved games take up a small amount of space (perhaps 500K) and you can save as often as you like and at any time except during combat.  Sometimes the game will refuse to save, saying that you cannot save at this time for no apparent reason.  Often when this happens a second attempt will be successful.

4.1.1 Auto-save feature

Every time that the party leaves a major map section to enter another the game will automatically save under the name “Auto-save”.  This is handy for recovering if you are unexpectedly attacked upon arrival in the new location.

4.1.2 Quick-save feature

Pressing the letter “Q” during a game anytime except during combat  will cause it to be saved under the name “Quick-save”.  A quick save always overwrites the last quick save.  If an enemy is near the quick save will not work, but sometimes a second or third attempt will be successful, so try, try again.

4.2 Travel

In order to move from one major map section to another you must move your party to the edge of the current map section.  The atlas will then appear and you can select anyplace on the map to go that you have already been or know about.  New atlas locations will not appear unless you learn about them in some way (by talking to someone who knows about them) or move in their direction from an adjacent map section.

In BG2 and IWD and IWD2 travel works differently, and often the only way to move to an area is if a character has spoken with you about it or a quest has been completed, therefore it is wise to talk to people rather than killing them when possible.

4.3 Resting

Resting is the only means of rememorizing spells.  Although it is rarely possible to rest inside buildings, resting in dungeons, caves, mines, and sewers is allowed.  If the party’s rest of 8 hours is interrupted by a wandering monster then spells will not be rememorized.  Wandering monsters are more likely in some places than others, so if your rest is continually interrupted by monsters try resting elsewhere.  The best place to rest is an inn (talk to an innkeeper to find out what kinds of rooms are available), because rest in an inn is never interrupted.

It is often the case that when there is going to be a big fight there is somewhere nearby that is safe to rest.

In BG hit points are not regained if resting outdoors, so if you are sure that monsters will not interrupt your rest, cast your healing spells on your party prior to resting.  In IWD hit points are regained anytime that you rest as long as the rest is not interrupted.

4.4 Combat

The most important things about combat are: use the space-bar to pause and tell your people what to do, and save often so that you can recover if a battle goes poorly.  Note that you cannot save while enemies are nearby.

The most useful spells for combat in BG are probably Dispel Magic and Dire Charm, since wands like the wand of fire (for mages) and the wand of the heavens (for clerics) can do significant damage multiple times so the fireball spell isn’t needed.  Magic Missile is also good since it never misses and can disrupt spell-casters.

Avoid combat with innocents and guards/soldiers, even those who are hostile, as killing such people will dramatically lower your reputation score.  One way around this is to use the wand of sleep or a sleep spell to put such people to sleep rather than fighting them.  Note though that you cannot search or pick the pocket of someone who is asleep.

4.4.1 Use of AI

The AI button in the lower right corner of the screen controls whether or not your party will automatically attack and defend based on artificial intelligence routines.  Normally this should just be left on, but it is wise to turn AI off if you are in a city where innocents or guards/soldiers are hostile, so that your party members do not take matters into their own hands and kill someone.

4.4.2 Death and Recovering from it

Death will pay a visit to your group, and often.  The best defense is to save frequently so that if your main character dies (which ends the game) you can reload from a recently saved game.  If a party member other than your main character dies you have several choices:

Reload an old game.  The downside of this is your characters will lose the items and experience they had gained and you’ll have to do some things over.  If you had just successfully beaten a tough opponent you might not want to have to fight the battle all over again.

Pick up all of the dead person’s stuff, go to the nearest temple, and pay to have him/her resurrected.  Some temples are cheaper than others.  If you cannot carry all of the dead person’s items, then stash them in a container (like a barrel, bookcase, chest) until you can return to get them, since items left on the ground will disappear over time.

If you have a still-living high-level cleric you may be able to cast the “Raise Dead” or “Resurrection” spells yourself. (Note: Full elves are immune to “Raise Dead” and require the higher level “Resurrection” spell, which in IWD2 drains a level from the resurrected character.)

If you are playing a multiple-player game (which you should), and the character that dies was one that you generated yourself (not NPC’s that joined the party) you can remove the dead person from your party and then use the Modify Characters button on the Character Arbitration screen to import your character from your most recent export to disk.  This will also add the benefit of doubling the quantity of whatever your dead character may have had since his/her stuff is still on the ground plus when imported he/she will still have their items with them.

If you are playing multiple-player but haven’t recently exported the dead character, remove the dead person from your party, save the game under a new name, load the most recent saved game with your character living, export the character that died to disk, reload the game without the character and import him/her from disk.  Again, this only works for characters that you generated, not for characters that joined the party (NPC’s), since only generated characters can be exported.

One warning is that after a battle, if one of your characters has been killed, DO NOT IMMEDIATELY QUICKSAVE.  The reason for this is that it is possible (due to a software bug) that your dead person fell in a place in which you will not be able to pick up his/her stuff.  Also due to a bug sometimes a dead person disappears entirely after being killed, in which case your only option to bring them back is to import them, which doesn’t work for NPC’s.  Also, if you are using NPC’s that travel in a team, if one member of the team dies then the other may choose to leave and he/she will happily walk off taking all of their items with them.  Make sure you know what is going on before overwriting a previously saved (or quicksaved) game.

4.4.3 Strategies for fighting spellcasters

If you enter a room and are attacked by spell-casters, the best thing to do is simply leave.  The spell-casters will use up a spell or two each time you reenter the area and if you repeatedly enter and leave they will quickly use up all of their spells without harming you.  Once they have depleted their spells you can go in and easily finish them off.  Enemies will give chase only within an area, not across areas, so leaving an area is the safest thing to do.  This strategy doesn’t work in the final battle of BG because you aren’t allowed to leave the area one you enter it.

Another strategy that works well against spell-casters and others as well requires that you have a ring of free action and a web spell.  The web spell works very well at entangling foes (except spiders which are immune), preventing them from moving and casting spells.  It will entangle members of your own party as well, unless a character is wearing a ring of free action.  The character with the ring can freely walk amongst the attackers and pick them off easily while they are unable to move. Your other characters can use long-range weapons to assist.

Another technique that works well against spell-casters is to use a large number of Magic Missiles to continuously disrupt them so that your fighters can survive long enough to get in close and personal.

4.4.4 Use of multi-ability devices (wands, bows, etc.)

There are devices that have multiple abilities, such as wands and missile weapons.  To select among the abilities of a weapon or item right-click the item and make your selection.  You can get more information about an item’s abilities by going to your inventory screen and right-clicking the item there and clicking on the abilities button.

4.5 NPC’s

Non-Player Characters (NPC’s) are characters that exist in the game and interact with your party, often willing to join your party.  If a NPC joins then he/she takes up one of your six available party slots.  NPC’s are mostly under your control, but they also have their own agendas and will sometimes choose to leave your party without warning.  In some cases they may even turn on you and attack you.  In some cases it is beneficial to have an NPC or two with you, but they are not required.  Since NPC’s cannot be exported you cannot take them with you to BG2 or other forthcoming sequels (like Neverwinter Nights), so developing them is only a benefit for the game you are playing.

I generally play with a full group of my own generated characters and only let NPC’s join for short periods of time to achieve their quests and then kick them out of the party.

One exception worth considering is to allow Jaheira to join your group since there are quests that will not occur unless she is in your group.  If you do intend to let her join, then make sure that you buy a scimitar in Candlekeep at the start of the game, since as a Fighter/Druid she is unable to use any other kind of sword and the only place to buy one in BG is in Candlekeep, otherwise she will probably have to use a staff which means she will not be able to carry a shield, or a club which is a pretty poor weapon.  (You may also want to have your thief pickpocket Drizzt when you meet him later in the game since you can get one of his +3 magic scimitar’s this way.)

4.5.1 Paired NPC’s

Sometimes NPC’s travel in pairs.  This can be a problem since you may want one of the NPC’s but not the other.  Unfortunately if you kick out one of the pair the other will leave as well.  Also if one of the pair dies the other will often leave without warning taking all of their items with them nevermore to be seen.

There is a solution however to breaking up the paired NPC’s.  Since NPC’s cannot open doors simply instruct the NPC you do not want to enter a room or building by himself/herself and then shut the door behind them.  This will lock them inside. Then remove the NPC from your party freeing up the party slot.  The NPC will be unable the leave the room or building they are in to confront your party leader.  It is this confrontation that causes the other NPC to choose to abandon your party, so since it never happens the other NPC will happily remain with your group.

4.6 Journal updates

You will often see a message when playing that your journal has been updated.  The journal feature is intended to reduce the need for a player to take copious and tedious notes while playing the game.  However journal entries will often contain information that was not provided in the conversation that immediately preceded the entry being created.  So if you see a message that the journal has been updated, pause the game and read the journal, you may learn something you may otherwise not have.

5 Miscellaneous

5.1 Unopenable items (Duchal Palace, Splurging Surgeon)

There are items in the game that cannot be opened.  There is a chest in the Splurging Surgeon inn that I could not open and a safe in the Duchal Palace that could not be opened.  Generally items that cannot be opened may require that a quest be completed in order to open them, but in other cases things just cannot be opened.