I've been playing Baldur's Gate 2 quite a bit recently. Outside of sheer boredom at times, one of the reasons why I really like this game is the permutations of characters you can create or have join (NPCs) for your party. I've already beat Shadows of Amn and haven't played through Throne of Bhaal yet twice now, but have gone through the intro numerous times just to try out different combinations of classes. But I'd like to offer some thoughts on different parties.
At the moment, I'm using the multiplayer mode and have filled out all six spots. My current roster is:
Human Undead Hunter
The idea with this party is that I intend to dual class the kensai to a Mage either at level 13 or 16 (I think this will allow me to maximize his weapon proficiencies out to a degree if I hit 16) and dual class the Berserker to a cleric at level 13 or 16 (again, focusing on maximizing his weapon proficiencies). The kensai specializes in the Katana and has two slots allocated towards two weapons and one slot with long swords. Previously, I had another kensai use hammers rather than long swords so he could dual wield the Celestial Fury and Crom Faeyr. This time through I wanted my Berserker to use Crom Faeyr (and the Flail of Ages), so I need to have my kensai utilize another weapon. I chose long swords so that in the future he could use Angurvadal and gain immunity to level drain down the line without relying on the Amulet of Power (if possible).
I tried using a Berserker/Cleric on ToB and found the combination to be a lot of fun. But I had kinda cheated my way through in terms of giving her items from SoA. So I wanted to play SoA straight through and level up these guys from scratch to see if I can avoid spawning items when moving into ToB. Unfortunately, as in the case of my Berserker and Kensai, it will still take a fair amount of time until I can dual class them. Last time, I dual leveled my kensai at level 9, which I heard was the recommended level for SoA. However, for ToB, I think he loses proficiency slots, THACO and some hit points.
I already beat SoA partly with a half-elf cleric/ranger and Undead Hunter. The half-elf cleric/ranger previous was the one dual wielding Crom Faeyr and the Flail of Ages. However, since I'm intending to take another cleric/fighter type, that prevents my cleric/ranger from using that weapon set. Instead, she's going to use a mace and hammer. I won't initially dual wield her because the next best hammer is in ToB (Runehammer), but giving her the Mace of Disruption will allow me to have two fighter types wielding blunt weapons and maximize the three major blunt weapons in SoA. Another reason for taking the cleric/ranger here is that she needs to provide the cleric buffs and healing until my Berserker reaches a sufficient level to dual class.
Of course, the Undead Hunter wields the two handed sword in preparation for the Holy Avenger that comes after defeating the red dragon. Some people prefer Inquisitors over Undead Hunters, but I tend to stay away from Inquisitors for two reasons: 1) Undead Hunters have a natural protection against level drain; 2) Undead Hunters can cast spells. That would seemingly make the Undead Hunter the third half cleric type, but I had issue with Keldorn previously where he nearly was level drained to death. Using an Undead Hunter, I don't have to worry about casting a spell nor finding an item to protect him against level drain.
My last two characters are new ones for me in the game. My half-orc fighter/thief is my first non-elf/non-human type being used in my party. Originally, I wanted another dual class Wizard Slayer/Thief, but then I would be missing out on thieving abilities for a while. Naturally, I could take the Wizard Slayer still by creating a mage/thief or using someone like Imoen, Jan or Nalia, but I wanted an all custom party this time around. My fighter/thief is dual wields battle axes and scimitars. Unfortunately, I learned that multi-classes can only gain one specialization per weapon so I'm kinda feeling that the fighter/thief becomes more bland than the Wizard Slayer/Thief. With the Wizard Slayer/thief, I thought that I could down the line give him specialization in either crossbows or the long bow and use him to take out magic users with his spell cast failure ability. However, that's all theoretical so using a half-orc multi-class is just a way for me to get to the finish line of the game faster this time through.
The elf fighter/mage was something I battled over in my mind for a while. Obviously, I needed a mage. But I didn't want a pure class mage because they're too low on hit points. Another thought was to abandon the six character party and just go with five and pick up Imoen and Nalia to handle the thieving and magic side of things until my Wizard Slayer and Kensai dual classed. But I got tired of taking NPCs and wanted a purely customized party. So one idea was to just get rid of the mage and try using a Swashbuckler to add more flavor to the group and later dual class him to a mage. Unfortunately, the best thief ability is "Use Any Item", which apparently can be gained at level 25. For a mage to get to level 26 after dual classing would take forever. Not to mention, having more than two thieves in a party is practically a waste. Another possibility was using a bard. Nonetheless, bards don't really have great fighting skills, don't receive powerful mage spells and can't do any useful thieving (namely, find traps and pick locks). Lastly, I considered having another kensai whose purpose would be to later dual class. Again, I still would not have a mage from the start.
By having an elf fighter/mage, I think the combination would work out fairly well. First, as an elf, I automatically gain hit bonuses with bows and long/short swords. Add weapons specialization and I get my extra rounds of attack. From an armor point of view, fighter/magi still are fairly weak because they can't cast spells while in armor. Usually, people give them bracers of defense (which I have done). Right now, my fighter/mage works as my main archer. I'm thinking down the line, I can switch her to become a melee type and use a shield. The main way she'll build up her AC though is through getting the Bladesinger Chain. Elven chain is the only armor that a multi or dual classed mage can wear while being able to cast spells. So that combined with a good shield and she'll be able to defend herself. However, I did give her two weapon specialization as well, so she could use a long sword and short sword simultaneously.
So that's my current party. Previously, instead of the berserker I had a monk and rather than using the fighter/thief and fighter/mage I had a mage/thief multi class and used Jaheira. The thing I heavily dislike about Jaheira is that her weapons suck. Not to mention leveling a druid past 13 and multi classed on top of that is a real pain. Normally, I give Jaheira a scimitar and shield, but I like the idea that all my party members can dual wield.
Looking at this party, I think I have a very good balance. I think once my kensai and berserker dual class, the party will gain significant power, especially my kensai since he'll be able to wear the Robe of Vecna that will give him an AC bonus, while my berserker would be able to use the amulet of power and protect himself from level drain.
Weapon-wise, here's how I see this group in SoA:
Kensai/Mage: Celestial Fury/Dakkon's Zerth Blade
Berserker/Cleric: Crom Faeyr/Flail of Ages
Undead Hunter: Carsomyr
Cleric/Ranger: Mace of Disruption/Sling +3 Dragonbane + Shield
Fighter/Mage: Daystar/The Equalizer
Some goals in this design of the party were as follows:
- Protect from level drain
- Maximize the (best) types of armor/weapons available in the game
- Have healing and basic buffs
- Have the ability to remove spell protections from mages, liches and dragons
- Be able to open locks and disarm traps
- Maximizing certain classes abilities in terms of long term level progression
- Providing enough variety of classes for pure interest :)
Ideally, I would've liked to have instead something like this:
Cleric/Archer (dual class)
Bard (Skald) or Kensai/Mage
The problems with this situation in SoA are:
- Archers can't dual class
- You'll be trapped with virtually all fighters at the beginning and be unable to handle traps, mage spell protections, level drain, healing and no buffs
- A long wait until dual class is possible
- Some redundancy (that is, if you do take the kensai/mage)
- VERY powerful abilities
- The cleric/archer would be a nasty ranged sling wielder
- The ability to disrupt mages via the Wizard Slayer
- Use some interesting items as in the Skald
- Very diverse party
- More opportunities to specialize with weapons
That all said, I think this new party I'm working with can still work well with ToB. The one true weakness in all of this is that some characters will miss out on experience. Namely, two major quests (Valygar's quest and the Druid quest). So my only options in those cases are to remove one character temporarily and slide the NPC in or skip the quest entirely. I think skipping those two particular quests will end up hurting big time, considering that some major magic items are gained in those areas. The other NPC quests item and experience-wise are too insignificant by comparison.
I could always just go back and say screw the half orc and elf and take the wizard slayer and allow for one NPC to join my party. That will allow me to complete more of the NPC quests. In theory, then I could create a sixth character and run him in a parallel campaign until he's able to dual class then have him re-join my main party (or join us in ToB). But I'd like to try this current party combination for a while and see how it goes. If it goes nowhere, I'll re-create the party and take the wizard slayer and use Imoen/Nalia.
In the end, the idea is to see how a party can carry over to ToB. In playing ToB, my biggest complaint at the moment is that NPCs are pretty much useless. There are no real new side NPC quests outside of the Sarevok storyline. But so far, he just complains and hasn't added a lot to my party. I want to see if I can create a diverse, interesting party that can go to ToB with their items from SoA and be effective in both situations and level nicely.
At the moment, my ToB party is:
- Undead Hunter
- Wizard Slayer/Thief
- Jaheira (Fighter/Druid)
- Sarevok (Fighter/Mage; yes, I dual classed him)
If my current SoA party doesn't really work out and I can dual class easily and manage to recover my former classes, I might just re-start and take five customized characters and leave a single slot open for Imoen/Nalia. Otherwise, I'm not sure what to take for the 6th slot once I reach ToB. I figure either I'll try for a bard or a berserker/mage. It would've been even nicer for an archer/mage. That would've been ideal.
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