Baldur’s Gate 2 – Hints and Tips (Part I)
Rather than going into a full blown walkthrough, this guide attempts to give some common sense tips for an easy sliding into Baldur’s Gate II. This guide is aimed at players who are unfamiliar with the first Baldur’s Gate, as well as players who do not have extensive knowledge of the AD&D rulebook.
Building a Basic Fighter
If you’re unfamiliar with the Baldur’s Gate II/Infinity Engine AD&D system, you may want to create a fighter as your first character. Fighters are the party’s backbone, handling most of the combat without assistance from the mages.
Keep your fighter healed and you won’t run have any trouble from most fights. There are a few important stats to take when creating a fighter: STR, DEX and CON. Don’t worry about the other three stats, but make sure to max out the three combat stats.
Half-Orcs can have a 19 STR and CON, so you can save a lot of time re-rolling if you choose Half-Orc as your race. Other races should try to roll an 18/00 STR, but remember that you can wear STR items to save time rolling.
Humans make good main characters, because then you can dual-class to gain some abilities you would not otherwise have. This is particularly true for thief skills (good thieves are hard to come by). Starting as a thief will cost hit points in the long run, but it will help round out your team. You could also start as a fighter to gain the early level hit points and then switch to a thief, but then you lose some power.
Instead of assigning five proficiency points to one weapon, you may want to divide the points between two proficiencies. This allows for more combinations with two-weapon style. Longswords, katanas, warhammers, and two-weapon style make for a good skill combination. Weapons like the Dragonslayer and Equalizer will be available to round out your character for various situations, while you have the power of the Celestial Fury and Crom Faeyr for most fights. Since the Crom Faeyr gives you 25 STR, you can wield it in your offhand and gain a significant damage boost for your primary weapon.
If you dual-class a fighter to gain thieving abilities, you might want to take a thief kit (such as the swashbuckler or assassin) that will increase your natural abilities. Taking the swashbuckler kit will give you a natural AC bonus, while the assassin has a powerful “poison weapon” skill. These abilities can help make up for the loss of hit points. “Find traps” is probably the most important ability to give your main character. You can detect traps while wearing platemail, so it doesn’t hurt your defensive capabilities. The “disarm traps” skill cannot be used while wearing armor, however, so you’re faced with the annoyance of having to change your equipment every time you come across a trap. “Open lock” is always handy to have, but you can use the second-level mage spell “Knock” instead. Focus your points on the “find traps” skill and no trap in the game will be too difficult to disarm.
You can also opt for fighter-like classes such as the ranger and paladin. Both make excellent frontline characters, and rangers can take the archer kit (good for ranged attacks). Monks are exceptionally powerful at high levels, but it is difficult to recommend them as a primary frontline character. They will not start out as strong as a fighter that gets his hands on a good weapon and a suit of platemail. By the time a monk gains his true strength your party will already be strong enough to handle everything in the game.
Paladins should always take two handed sword proficiency because they are the only ones that can use the Holy Avenger: Carsomyr +5. Don’t try rolling for an 18/00 unless you have a lot of time on your hands-paladins require too many points to get an 18/00 and good stats. Get the Girdle of Hill Giant Strength from the Adventurer’s Mart instead.
If you take an archer you will want short bow proficiency. The first thing you should do is go on the quest for the Tuigan Bow +1, a weapon you can use for the rest of the game. It’s a good idea to put some points into melee weapon skills for when you enter close combat. Longsword is also a good choice.
A Guide to NPCs
Whilst rambling about Amn and environs, you’ll come across a fair number of interesting beings, some of whom might actually want to join your band of adventurers. Some of these would-be companions are quite useful; others, less so. Here’s a brief guide to some of the more significant. It’s by no means exhaustive.
NPC Profile: Imoen
Definitely one of the most surprising return characters from the original Baldur’s Gate, this time around Imoen is actually useful. She’s a dual-classed mage/thief with 95 Open locks and 85 find traps, so she can handle most of your thieving needs. Since there’s no way to give her more thieving skill points, it will be necessary to have another thief that can attain higher skill levels, as she won’t have enough skill late in the game. Imoen’s usefulness is rooted in her magical abilities (the levels she gains as a thief actually help by giving her more hit points). Only Edwin makes a better mage (he has an 18 INT), but he’s a conjurer (and a certified jerk). With her 9 STR, Imoen can’t carry much loot at all… even scrolls can encumber her.
Nevertheless, Imoen is one of the most all-around useful characters you can get to join, as she doesn’t have any of the serious disadvantages that tend to haunt many other NPCs. Keep Imoen in your party whenever you can and she will develop into an important and strong character, forming the magical backbone of your team. There’s no other mage that can match Imoen’s defensive strength—she gains the AC bonus from 18 DEX and maximum hit points at 16 CON, along with many levels of thief hit point increases. As an added plus, Imoen is not nearly as annoying as she was in the last game.
Getting her to join: Imoen automatically joins you at the start of the game, and although she leaves for a time she will rejoin you later in the game. Don’t worry about her experience too much—she receives an experience boost when she comes back.
NPC Profile: Minsc
Ah, Minsc—everybody’s favorite character from the original game, and for good reasons. Aside from being genuinely useful as a frontline fighter, Minsc has a most appealing personality (largely due to a head injury). Boo, the Miniature Giant Space Hamster, is Minsc’s companion and mentor. Minsc himself is a ranger with well-rounded stats, and he performs well in combat situations (in addition to making things just a little more fun when he’s around). One of Minsc’s primary advantages is his 18/93 STR, which is a rarity in NPC characters. With an 18/93 STR, Minsc does not need to wear STR-boosting equipment like the other fighters do. Unlike Keldorn Firecam, Minsc has a lot more freedom in choosing his equipment, as he is not locked into wearing stat-boosting items.
So what’s wrong with Minsc? Well, nothing significant… he has no major disadvantages, but he could definitely use a boost to his DEX and CON. Actually, one of his strengths is that he does not have a serious weak point… but this can also make him weaker in the long run. You will probably end up giving the best equipment to characters that need it more (such as Keldorn).
Getting him to join: Minsc is caged in the same room as you at the start of the game. Get him mad and he will break free and join your party.
NPC Profile: Aerie
No other character can compete with the spell selection Aerie offers. If you want a character that always has a spell that you need ready and waiting, this multi-class cleric/mage is the best choice. With her knowledge of cleric and mage spells, it is tough to run her dry before you go to rest again. Versatility is Aerie’s primary asset, and it will often make up for her lack of high-level spells. While you may not want to make Aerie your only spellcaster, she works great with a pure cleric and mage in the group, as you get the high level spells but you can cast with much greater frequency.
Her weakness stems from having only 16 INT and 16 WIS, thereby lessening the number of spells she gets. It also takes her longer to get to high level spells, since she must level both classes at the same time. By the time you reach the end of the game she will be quite powerful, but for some parties it’s better to have spellcasters that gain power earlier in the game.
Overall Aerie’s stats are quite poor, as she doesn’t have anything that is particularly high and she could benefit from a couple more points in most of her stats. Don’t worry about this disadvantage crippling her, however, as she is still one of the best characters available.
Getting her to join: Immediately after escaping the first dungeon, enter the circus tent just southwest of your position. Aerie is the ogre that you meet inside the tent. Do as she asks to dispel the illusion and get her to join the party.
NPC Profile: Viconia
There is no better cleric NPC available in the game. In fact, Viconia is the only pure cleric NPC in the game. With a WIS score of 18, she makes an excellent healer. All NPC-based teams should get Viconia because she will provide the high-level cleric spells much earlier than the multi-class clerics. Resurrection and Heal can save a lot of pain, frustration and reloads. You will want to have Viconia join your party at the start of chapter two to begin building up her experience. As soon as you get to the high-level priest spells you will not need to reload nearly as often.
The primary reason to avoid taking Viconia is that she is a drow. As such, her presence lowers the reputation of your party by two points, effectively increasing the prices in shops (not that gold is ever much of an issue). This isn’t a permanent reduction—you regain the lost reputation whenever she is not in the party. Secondly, she has a horrible CON. A cleric with low hit points is a bad thing, because they need to stay on the front line to cast healing spells (and if they die, it’s reload time).
Getting her to join: Check the left side of the Government District and you won’t be able to miss Viconia. An angry mob has discovered her identity and they’re about to burn her at the stake—unless you do something to save her. Walk right past the crowd, untie her and then take care of the fanatics. If you want Viconia to join, you must free her before you leave the area, or the next time you arrive she will be burned to death.
NPC Profile: Keldorn Firecam
If you are not a paladin, you need to recruit Keldorn Firecam. It’s as simple as that. He is the only paladin NPC, and thus the only character capable of wielding the Holy Avenger: Carsomyr +5 (unless your main character is a paladin). Firecam has two unique items in his possession—Hallowed Redeemer is his Two Handed Sword +2 that has the special ability to deal five points of magical damage to anyone that hurts him, but that weapon will ultimately be replaced. His armor cannot be removed, but that doesn’t matter. Firecam’s Full-Plate Armor gives an armor class of 0 (Full-Plate +1), +1 to saving throws, and it grants permanent free action as the spell. That means that, unlike wearing a Ring of Free Action, you can still make use of haste spells.
On the downside, Keldorn doesn’t even have an 18 STR, let alone a high 18/xx, and his DEX is a pitiful 9. You’ll want to fix these problems as soon as you get the chance, by purchasing a Girdle of Hill Giant Strength (Adventurer’s Mart) and finding the Gauntlets of Dexterity (see “Miscellaneous Items”). Get these two items equipped and Keldorn’s combat prowess will double.
Getting him to join: Travel to the Temple District and witness the upstart of a new cult. One of the priests will approach you, do as he asks and meet with him. Head down into the sewers once you accept his quest, and explore the first underground area. You’ll find Keldorn Firecam standing by the tunnels that lead to the Cult of the Unseeing Eye. Let him know that you seek to cleanse the evil and he will offer to join your party.