Baldur's Gate: Classes and Kits
There are 8 standard classes in Baldur's Gate 1. Baldur's Gate 2 added 3 new classes as well as adding 3 different "kits" to 7 of the original 8 classes. Each kits takes the standard class and confers some extra bonuses at the cost of some penalties (in most cases). Dual-classing and Multi-classing allow you to take advantage of more than one class at the cost of some specialization. Multi- and Dual-classing are discussed at length here.
Progression Charts can be found here.
The 4 warrior classes are your go-to classes for melee damage and tanking abilities. All roll d10 HP (except Barbarians who get even more with d12), all but Barbarians can wear heavier armors (though note exceptions below), and can equip any weapon in the game. Rangers and Paladins progress levels slower than do Fighters and Barbarians, but have the added benefit of eventually getting minor divine spellcasting, as well as other class-specific abilities. The only downside is they basically no longer gain bonuses upon leveling up beyond level 21 save it be for epic level feats.
Fighters are able to put more proficiency points into weapons than any other class. With the exception of the Ranger kit "Archer" in regards to bows, they are the only ones able to get into the Mastery levels of weapons. Because of this, they tend to have a better chance to hit, increased damage and attack sooner in a round compared to the other warrior classes while using their preferred weapons. However, to gain the full benefits of mastery, you'll have to sacrifice being specialized in a wider variety of weapons. Fighters also make exceptional ranged characters should you choose to master a ranged weapon.
Advantages: May use "Enrage" ability once per day per 4 levels. The enraged state lasts 60 seconds and grants a +2 bonus to hit and damage, a 15 HP boost and a -2 bonus to AC. Enraging also grants immunity to charm, hold, fear, maze, imprisonment, stun, confusion, feeblemind, level drain and sleep. (Note: The bonus HP is lost at the end of the enraged state, potentially killing the berserker).
Disadvantages: Becomes winded after berserking, reciving a -2 to hit and damage penalties, and a +2 AC penalty. Can only become proficient in ranged weapons (no more than 1 proficiency point).
Comments: Berserker is the most versatile fighter kit. While you give up the ability to even specialize in ranged weapons, you can still master axes, daggers, and hammers for the ranged versions of those found in BG2. Enraging helps in many situations. Obviously, the bonus to hit and damage and armor class helps tank, but the immunities to many of the game's instant death scenarios cannot be overlooked. Berserkers make excellent dual-classing subjects because of that. Berserkers cannot be a lawful alignment.
- Wizard Slayer:
Advantages: For each successful hit on an opponent, 10% cumulative spell failure is applied. (No save vs. this effect.) Innate magic resistance of 14%. Gains +2% magic resistance until level 20, and then alternates between 5% and 1% every level thereafter.
Disadvantages: May not use ANY magic items outside of healing potions, armor, and weapons.
Comments: Wizard Slayers are the ultimate caster destroyer. The cumulative spell failure turns most caster-centric battles into a piece of cake. Their downside is rather steep, however. Bioware had to code every item individually to negate use by Wizard Slayers, though, and therefore there are some instances where they are still able to use items you would not think they should be allowed to (such as the tomes that raise stats). A good wizard slayer build would be to make an elven ranged wizard slayer, but only the G3 BG2 Fixpack installed, or else Wizard Slayer spell failure chances are not applied to ranged attacks. In this case, arrows of dispelling are obviously very effective. Generally speaking, Wizard Slayer should be avoided for your Bhaalspawn simply because the inability to equip the most important defensive items is more of a hindrance than the extra magic resist is a help.
Advantages: Bonus +1 to hit and damage for every 3 levels. Bonus -2 AC. Bonus -1 to speed factor for every 4 levels. May use "Kai" ability once per day for every 4 levels (staring with 1 use at level 1). This ability lasts 10 seconds and causes all attacks made in that time to inflict max damage.
Disadvantages: May not use missile weapons unless they also have a melee component (i.e. throwing axes and daggers). May not wear any armor. May not wear gauntlets or Bracers.
Comments: Kensai is the singularly most damaging melee class in the entire game. Their bonus to hit and damage is significant especially at later levels. Kai deals a fantastical amount of damage in a quick period of time. Used in conjunction with the epic level feat that causes every attack for 2 rounds to inflict a critical hit, a kensai can be utterly devastating to enemies not protected from critical hits. They cannot wear any forms of armor, however, including robes should you dual-class to mage. Combined with the inability to equip bracers, they have no effective way on their own to lower their armor class to an acceptable level on their own. You'll want a mage or bard in the party who can cast Ghost/Spirit Armor on you. Kensai are an excellent choice for dual-classing into either a wizard or a thief. Wizards cannot wear armor anyway, so the -2 AC bonus stacks up rather well with buff spells like the level 1 spell "Armor". Thief is an excellent companion to Kensai because eventually you'll get Use All Items anyway, negating the disadvantage of taking Kensai entirely. A x5 backstab multiplier combined with Kai is incredibly powerful as well. A level 12 Kensai dualed to thief is still able to get to level 39 as a thief, but it is probably worthwhile to continue to level 13 to gain an extra half attack per round. Kensai cannot be of a Chaotic alignment.
Rangers are different from fighters in that they cannot master weapons, but gain a few special abilities and eventually get up to 3rd level Druid spells. They can choose a favored enemy which grants an extra +4 to hit and damage bonus to all attacks made against that type of enemy. In Baldur's Gate 1, there are only a handful of useful enemy types to take (Spiders is probably the best) but if you import from BG1 proper into Shadows of Amn, it lets you choose from an extended list that includes some of the more difficult enemies in Baldur's Gate 2 such as vampires, liches, mind flayers, and dragons.
Note: Users using BGtutu will not be able to change their favored enemy upon importing their character into Baldur's Gate 2. It is considered legitimate to change your favored enemy should you feel inclined to do so using a save/character editor as this option should have been included. Or, just choose a favored enemy that will become useful in Baldur's Gate 2 right from the get go to save yourself the headache. Also worth noting that because Baldur's Gate 1 was not designed with kits in mind, most of them are utterly useless while traversing the Sword Coast due to lack of viable equipment and from not gaining any bonuses at all until imported into the sequel.
Rangers are able to cast Charm Animal once per day for every 3 levels of Ranger they have. It is not terribly useful overall but can come in handy should you find a bear or wolf too challenging. Charming an animal and then using it to scout around and take hits is a commonly used tactic. Rangers also have a Stealth skill similar to thieves. It automatically goes up every level and encompasses both Hide in Shadow and Move Silently. They must be using studded leather or lighter armor in order to stealth. Once they get to 8th level, they gain divine druid spells. Their spellcasting is not very noteworthy but having spells like Armor of Faith, Bless, and other various minor buff spells handy frees up spell slots of your clerics and druids.
It's worth noting that the only viable multi- and dual-classing option for rangers, Cleric, will be able to use both cleric and druid spells for all 7 divine spell circles, making them perhaps the most versatile divine spellcaster possible. (Note: Only vanilla rangers and beast masters can dual-class into Clerics. This is not as much a detriment as it sounds as stalker and archer abilities would be useless combined with a cleric.) Rangers are also relatively easy to roll good stats for as all of their abilities barring intelligence and charisma have high minimums. As a last note, all rangers begin with 2 ranks into Two-Weapon Fighting.
Rangers must be of Good alignment and will lose their class abilities if they drop below 8 reputation.
Advantages: Can achieve grand mastery in any bow or crossbow weapon. +1 to hit and damage with any missle weapon (including darts, slings, etc.) for every 3 levels of experience. Archers can use the "Called Shot" ability once per day for every 4 levels of experience. At 4th level, target suffers a -1 Thac0 penalty. At 8th level, target suffers a -1 save vs. magic penalty. At 12th level, target suffers a -1 strength penalty. At 16th level, target suffers an additional 2 points of damage from the shot. (Note: All penalties are cumulative.)
Disadvantages: Can only become proficient in any melee weapon. Cannot wear metal armor. No Charm Animal ability.
Comments: Archers deal more damage with ranged weapons than any other character can muster. Elven archers are the best as they have the additional Thac0 for having 19 dexterity and a +1 bonus to hit with all bow weapons. Combined with grand mastery in the bow type of your choice, an Archer will have ridiculous Thac0, most monsters only avoiding damage on a critical miss. Because you cannot use metal armors, you'll be better able to make use of the ranger's natural stealth feature. Losing charm animal is not a big deal because you eventually get it as a spell in your divine spell pool should you feel so inclined to need the ability.
Advantages: +20% stealth ability. Access to 3 mage spells as 3rd level divine spells. These are Haste, Protection from Normal Missiles, and Minor Spell Deflection. May backstab at a reduced progression rate than thieves (level 1-8 = x2, 9-16 = x3, 17+ = x4)
Disadvantages: May not wear armor greater than studded leather.
Comments: Stalkers are in essence the combat aspect of fighter/thieves but with buff spells. They are better than thieves or even multi-classed fighter/thieves when it comes to raw fighting ability because there is no split to XP between the levels for multi-classing and your Thac0 and HP will end up much higher. The spellcasting capabilities of Stalkers cannot be overlooked, either, as the minor 1st and 2nd level buffs combined with Haste, Protection from Missiles, and Spell Deflection give the Stalker plenty of tools to increase survivability and damage. Elves make great stalkers due to their natural thieving bonuses to stealth. Long swords, katanas, scimitars and short swords are good optiona for stalkers, as well, because they can backstab and elves gain a +1 bonus to hit with them. The Stalker's Haste spell does not fatigue you after its effects wear off.
- Beast Master:
Advantages: +15% Stealth ability. May cast Animal Summoning I as a 1st level spell, Animal Summoning II as a second level spell, and Animal Summoning III as a third level spell. May cast Find Familiar.
Disadvantages: Cannot use any metal weapons. Cannot wear armor heavier than studded leather.
Comments: Beast Masters give up the ability to be an effective tank for the ability to summon monsters as meatshields for himself. Because he cannot use any decent armors and is limited to clubs and quarterstaves for melee weapons, he cannot inflict a terribly good amount of damage in melee. It's best to stick with bows or slings and summon your animals to stay between you and the target. Compared to the other ranger kits, it is rather weak. However, a level 12 Beastmaster dual-classed into a cleric will be able to use a summoning spell for literally every spell circle, making it a viable dual-classing kit. Should you choose to do that, keep in mind there are only 3 weapon types you will be able to equip from: clubs, quarterstaves, and slings.
What paladins lose vs. fighters in weapon mastery, they gain in the form of buffs. Firstly, and possibly most importantly, all Paladins get a +2 bonus on all of their saving throws. They can whip out Detect Evil once per level at a whim, which can be useful for first time players. It more or less helps you determine what NPCs are likely to turn on you and try to kill you, as well as letting you know what another paladin ability, Protection from Evil, will help against. They can "Lay on Hands" to recover decent HP dependent on your level, instantly. Paladins eventually gain divine spells much like rangers, but instead they draw from the Cleric pool (vs. the druid pool) and can get up to level 4 compared to simply getting to level 3. They can also Turn Undead as though they were a cleric of two levels lower than the paladin's actual level. Lastly, they have access to two of the best weapons in Baldur's Gate 2 as well as a special pair of bracers. One is a two-handed sword, Carsomyr the Holy Avenger, that obliterates evil monsters and can cast dispel magics. The other is a bastard sword called the Purifier which is basically a one-handed version of Carsomyr. The Blessed Bracers introduced in Watcher's Keep and upgradeable in Throne of Bhaal are one of the best hand-slot items in the game.
Rolling stats for Paladins is fairly difficult because they have no viable dump stat other than intelligence as both Wisdom and Charisma have high minimum stats. Often Paladins have to make due with sub-par strength and dexterity, relying on items to boost those stats.
There is little reason to be a vanilla paladin when the kits for the class are as powerful as they are. Paladins must be a lawful good human. If your reputation drops below 8, your paladins will become fallen and lose their class abilities.
Advantages: Bonus +3 to hit and damage against all demonic and draconic creatures. May cast "Remove Fear" once per day per level. Immunities to fear, morale failure, poison, and charm spells. 20% resistance to fire and acid.
Disadvantages: May not use missile weapons, unless it also has a melee component (such as returning axes and daggers).
Comments: Cavaliers make rather useful tanks, especailly in some of the more difficult battles the game has to offer. Because of their big damage bonus to many of the most difficult enemies in the series (and the ones most likely to end your hardcore run), they are comfortable toe-to-toe with a dragon. Their immunities make them reliable even while under fire as you are less likely to lose control over your character from a status effect. The fire and acid resistances help in many situations outside of combating dragons, as well. The only downside is that they cannot use bows, slings, arrows, or crossbows. That is a drawback in BGtutu because throwing axes and daggers are cumbersome and expensive, but there are many options for magical returning throwing weapons in BG2. The Azuredge from the Copper Coronet seems custom made for Cavaliers and makes axes an attractive option for them.
Advantages: May use "Dispel Magic" once per day per every 4 levels (starts at 1st level with one use.) This Dispel Magic acts at twice the Inquisitor's actual level and is used at a speed factor of 1 (just like Magic Missile). May cast "True Sight" once per day per 4 levels (starts at 1st level with one use). Immunities to Hold and Charm spells.
Disadvantages: May not use Lay on Hands ability. May not cast Priest spells. May not turn undead.
Comments: Inquisitors are odd in that they lose all vanilla paladin abilities except for detect evil. Instead, they get an extremely powerful Dispel Magic and True Sight and immunities to some of the more crippling status effects in the game via Hold and Charm. The downside to Inquisitors is that they do not gain divine spells nor can they turn undead. They also cannot Lay on Hands. This basically means they have no way to directly heal themselves outside of using potions. Many argue Inquisitor is the best paladin kit because the powerful Dispel Magic and True Sight spells eliminate the need for another caster to memorize them and you sacrifice abilities redundant in a full party.
- Undead Hunter:
Advantages: +3 to hit and damage vs. Undead. Immunities to Hold and Level Drain.
Disadvantages: May not use "Lay on Hands" ability.
Comments: Undead Hunter is still better than the basic paladin class because of the immunity to hold, but is largely unnecessary. The +3 to hit and damage against undead is nice, as is the immunities to hold and level drain. The problem is that you can simply use a Scroll of Protection from Undead to make it so undead cannot even target or cast against you. The game gives you plenty of valuable tools to use in fights vs. the undead, making Undead Hunter less than ideal compared to Inquisitor or Cavalier. Still, they make better tanks than Inquisitors because they can still cast spells, and are better ranged characters than Cavaliers because they can use bows. If those matter to you, Undead Hunter is still a better pick up than a basic paladin.
For the purposes of the game's code, Barbarians are technically a fighter kit. They cannot dual-class, however. Barbarians use d12 as opposed to d10 (resulting in a net 18 HP advantage when everything is said and done). They are also immune to backstab, which is an absolute godsend during encounters with rogue enemies. Barbarians can enrage, similar to Berserkers, but instead of a flat bonus to hit and damage, it increases strength and constitution by 4. It also incurs a +2 penalty to armor class and saves vs. magic. It grants immunity to charm, hold, fear, maze, confusion, sleep, stun and level drain. Barbarian enrage lasts for 5 rounds, and unlike Berserker enrage, you are not winded afterwards. At 11th level, Barbarians gain resistance to physical damage (slashing, piercing, crushing, and missile). This increases by 5% at levels 15 and 19. Lastly, Barbarians move 2 points faster than anyone else. The downside is that they cannot wear plate armors, meaning the heaviest armors you can equip are Splint Mails, and they can only put 2 points into proficiencies.
Barbarians start slightly weaker than typical fighters simply because they can only specialize in weapons and cannot wear plate. However, the extra hitpoints are a godspend (especially if you're a dwarf of half-orc) and the most significant proficiency point is simply the second one anyway. The extra speed allows you to kite monsters better. The resistance to damage makes you even more durable because eventually you're going to be hit by monsters with ridiculously high Thac0 so the only thing you can do to mitigate the damage is to take less of it. Barbarian Enrage is useful for a number of reasons. Firstly, the immunities can save you from a lot of instant death scenarios. Secondly, you do a truckload of damage and have copious amounts of life. The bonus constitution will put you high enough that you'll start to regenerate HP, so popping it before resting will likely restore all your lost HP. Once you get into Throne of Bhaal, there are some lighter armors that, while they do not have as much AC as plate, grant ridiculous bonuses making them comparable if not better to many of the later plate armors.
Because you cannot multi- or dual-class a Barbarian, there is no reason to be anything other than a dwarf or half-orc.
Clerics and Druids are fantastic for hardcore runs. The ability to heal and more importantly the ability to buff turn many of the most difficult encounters into a breeze.
Clerics are the anti-instant death class. With spells like Death Ward, Protection from Fire, Protection from Lightning, and other various buff spells, they can negate otherwise lethal damage. They also make excellent tanks due to the ability to equip heavy armors. The only real downside is the limited weapon selection facing clerics. Warhammers and Flails are probably their best bets. Slings are the only ranged weapon they can use (outside of returning Warhammers) so you'll want to become proficient in them.
In terms of single-class clerics, elves are probably the best. The bonus thac0 from 19 dexterity helps them hit things with slings and they don't have to skimp out on wisdom or strength like halflings do. Constitution beyond 16 does not help clerics gain additional hit points, either.
If you are going single-class cleric, there is absolutely no reason, whatsoever, to not kit. There are no downsides to any of the cleric kits. They simply force you to be good, neutral, or evil.
- Priest of Talos:
Advantages: May cast "Lightning Bolt" once per day for every 5 levels of the caster (starts at 1st level with one use.) May cast "Storm Shield" once per day per 10 levels of the caster (starts at 1st level with one use).
Comments: The Evil alignment cleric, a Priest of Talos has the most significant bonuses. The Lightning Bolt they can cast adds a decent offensive spell to the cleric's usually very defense-oriented spell selection and is cast as an ability (so it does not take up memorized spell slots). They can also cast "Storm Shield". Storm Shield lasts for 6 seconds every level and protects you from Lightning, Fire, Cold, and Normal Missiles. The sheer amount of immunities granted by Storm Shield allows you to walk into many situations throughout the game without a scratch.
- Priest of Helm:
Advantages: May cast "True Sight" once per day per 5 levels of the caster (starts at 1st level with one use). May cast "Seeking Sword" once per day per 10 levels of the caster (starts at 1st level with one use).
Comments: The Neutral alignment cleric, priests of Helm are probably the least useful when compared to a priest of Talos or Lathander. While their True Sight can be very useful, Seeking Sword is more of a hindrance than a boon. Seeking Sword creates a sword in the player's hand that can't be unequipped (similar to a Harm spell, Black Blade of Disaster, or other summoned weapon spells) for 1 round per level of the caster. It counts as a +4 weapon in terms of what it can damage and deals damage as per a bastard sword (2d4). It sets the Cleric's attacks per round to 3. While equipped, the cleric CANNOT cast further spells. It is handy in a pinch early on in the game, or especially useful in BGtutu. However, you'll have better than +4 weapons eventually, and losing the ability to cast spells while it's equipped makes it significantly less useful. Neutral priests have a larger spell selection than either good or evil clerics, so that would be a motivation to choose this over the other two.
- Priest of Lathander:
Advantages: May cast "Hold Undead" once per day for every 5 levels of the caster (starts at 1st level with 1 use). May cast "Boon of Lathander" for every 10 levels of the caster (starts at 1st level with 1 use).
Comments: The good alignment cleric, priests of Lathander have the best offensive tanking abilities of any priest. Boon of Lathander lasts 6 seconds per level of the caster and grants +1 to hit, damage and saving throws as well as an extra attack per round. It also protects the caster from Level Drain. Boon of Lathander is extremely effective for Cleric tanks as it ups their chance to hit and damage, and it helps free up at least one Negative Plane Protection for when you encounter level-draining monsters. Furthermore, it may be stacked with itself for incredible bonuses. With the sheer amount of undead creatures in the game, Hold Undead can be rather handy as well.
Druids are similar to clerics. They have more debuff and summon spells than clerics, but sacrifice many of the cleric's most powerful buff spells. Their one buff spell advantage to clerics, however, is the 5th level spell "Iron Skins" which is essentially a divine version of the mage spell Stoneskin, allowing a druid to tank in a pinch. While they can equip with a wider variety of weapons, they cannot wear heavier than studded leather armor unless multi- or dual-classed with a fighter (with some notable exceptions.) Druids can also shapeshift once you get to level 6, which can be helpful in situations where they are forced into melee.
One of the downsides to some of the offensive spells druids have over clerics is that they can only be used outdoors, above ground. This isn't a big hindrance in Baldur's Gate 1 as many difficult encounters are above ground, but limits their usefulness significantly in Shadows of Amn where many of the hardest encounters are below ground and/or indoors. Also, Druids got the shaft in Baldur's Gate 2 because Bioware decided that instead of figuring out a way to implement high level druid abilities, they'd simply go the "purist route" (so they claim) and not let them progress past a certain level. They remedied their ways once Throne of Bhaal was released, but it's still a significant climb from level 14 to 15 for a druid. (You gain a significant increase in spells castable per day, however.)
Druids must be True Neutral alignment. Only humans and half-elves can be druids.
Normally I try not to talk extremely specific gear in the class sections but druids can equip some very notable armors despite them being class types normally restricted to single-class druids. In both BG1 and BG2, they can use Ankheg armor which for all intents and purposes is a very lightweight regular Plate Armor at 1 AC, and is by far the best armor usable by the class. (The next closest thing in BG2 is Studded Leather +2 or regular Leather +3, both at 5 AC.) In BG2, they can also equip the Red Dragon Scale. Despite being full plate +2, single-class druids can use it. Even avengers, who can't even use Studded Leather, can use both these armors.
- Totemic Druid:
Advantages: May summon a special "spirit" animal once per day per every 5 levels of experience. Spirit animal is randomly selected from "Spirit Bear," "Spirit Wolf," "Spirit Lion," and "Spirit Snake."
Disadvantages: Cannot shapeshift.
Comments: Totemic Druids are incredibly useful for a long time and are probably the best choice for druid should you want a druid protagonist. The spirit animals you can summon are amazing. They are immune to normal and +1 weapons. They single-handedly win a large number of early encounters without putting anyone or anything in harm's way. Considering you can't talk to anyone while shapeshifted, it's a good fit.
Advantages: May shapeshift into the werewolf form once per day for every 2 levels (starts at 1st level with one use). At 13th level, gains the ability to change into a greater werewolf once per day.
Disadvantages: May not shapeshift into any other form. Cannot wear ANY armor.
Comments: Shapeshifters got the shaft even harder than typical druids. Firstly, the werewolf forms you can change into are not equivalent of other werewolves in the game. Regular werewolves are supposed to have +20% magic resistance (not magic resistance locked at 20%), immunity to normal weapons (as opposed to gaining no benefits at all) and werewolf pays are supposed to 1d12 damage as opposed to 1d6. Greater werewolves should recieve a Thac0 of 6 (you recieve no benefit), saves of 1/1/1/2/1 (again, you recieve nothing), base elemental resistance set to 50% (instead of base elemental resistance locked at 50%), base magic resistance of +40% (instead of locked at 40%), immunity to normal weapons (you get nothing), the paw should do 2d8 slashing damage as a +3 weapon (instead of 1d6 piercing damage as a +2 weapon), and regeneration of 3 HP per second. Half the reasons you'd want to be a werewolf are removed. While the downside of not having other forms to shapeshift into is not significant, completely being without armor is a huge detractor. You can still equip with bracers, however. As a general rule, avoid shapeshifter unless you download a mod to fix the nerfs to your werewolf form.
Advantages: In addition to normal forms, may shapeshift into a sword spider, baby wyvern, or fire salamander. May cast 6 mage spells (one for every spell circle but 7th) in addition to normal druid casting spells. These spells are Chromatic Orb for 1st, Web for 2nd, Lightning Bolt for 3rd, Improved Invisibility for 4th, Chaos for 5th, and Chain Lightning for 6th level spells.
Disadvantages: May not wear armor better than plain Leather Armor. On character creation, character recieves -2 penalty to strength and constitution.
Comments: Avenger is sort of like a druid/mage. The penalties sound harsher than they are in reality, for two reasons. Firstly, strength is not important for an Avenger as you should be using the character more as a mage than a fighter. Besides, shapeshifting sets your stats to that of the monster you morphed into anyway, eliminating the need for strength outside of carrying capacity. Secondly, you gain no bonuses for having over 16 constitution anyway. It simply makes getting a great roll more difficult. The mage spells added greatly enchance your repertoire of spells, both by giving you more damage spell options while underground and also by freeing up some of your mage's spell slots. The Avenger is probably the most versatile Druid class.
Arcane spellcasters are the single most damage-dealing class, capable of destroying most enemies very quickly and vital for taking out the most powerful monsters. They also have a large number of defensive spells such as Stoneskin which greatly increase survivability. Mages can use wands and scrolls of spells in order to last longer once their spells are depleted.
Mages are a necessity for Baldur's Gate 2 if for no other reason than to serve as a counteroffensive against the numerous powerful enemy mages you will face. Though other classes do have roundabout ways of dealing with mages, it is an unfortunate fact that MOST defenses an enemy caster will muster can only be dealt with when using another mage. The impact is less important at first. As you get into the later stages of Shadows of Amn and all throughout Throne of Bhaal, you begin dealing with a lot of high-circle defenses like Absolute Immunity, Spell Trap, et cetera, which can cause an otherwise capable character to be rendered worthless if you don't have a proper counter.
Note there is very little reason to be a straight mage other than to pick a specialist and therefore get an extra spell per level to cast. Half-elves do not offer significant enough bonuses over a regular Human to warrant being one, and the only thing Elves have on Humans is the extra +1 thac0 they get on ranged weapons for having extra dexterity. At least gnomes get the extra intelligence and ridiculous saving throws. Humans can dual-class to mage even if it's only a few levels in to fighter, thief, or even cleric if only for the better HP alone, without sacrificing reaching their max level with the experience cap in either BG1 vanilla or Throne of Bhaal.
A list of every arcane spell available in BG2 and BGtutu is available by clicking the link.
The only major downside to studying the arcane is very low hit dice. You only roll d4 for the first 9 levels and gain a single hit point every level beyond that. You can, however, become next to unkillable should you use the right buffing spells, and most wizards carry enough firepower to end worlds.
Mages do not kit in the same way other classes do. Instead of physically altering the way the class works, they simply give up the ability to cast from a certain school of spells in order to have access to an additional spell per level per day. The school you choose to specialize in is only important in so much that it determines what your opposed spell school is. Curiously, there is a minimum stat involved, which can be helpful in order to force high numbers in a certain area.
Only humans, elves, half-elves, and gnomes can become mages. Each has access to a different set of specialized schools.
|Mage Type||Opposed School(s)||Available Races||Minimum Stat|
Conjuration and Illusion are the two best schools to choose from should you make a single-class mage as they give up a relatively weak spell school in order for an extra slot every day. They also help save time rolling statistics as they cover one of the two main stats you need as a mage other than Intelligence. Note that gnomes are FORCED into being an illusionist, meaning all multi-classing options for them involving mage are instead Illusionist instead. (For example, Cleric/Illusionist.) The minimum Dexterity requirement for illusionists is not enforced on Gnome multiclass illusionists, however.
Invoker, Abjurer, and Transmuter are NOT recommended. Invokers are worthless because they are forced to give up two schools for no bonus over giving up a single school, therefore making Diviner a better choice if you're comfortable giving up Conjuration in the first place. Both Abjurers and Transmuters give up the other respectively, which includes most of the significant buff spells in the game.
Wild Mage is unique in that it counts as a specialized mage for purposes of determining out many spells per level it can cast but does not have any barred schools. Instead, Wild Mages get 3 unique spells, accept a random caster level modification every time they cast a spell, and a 1% chance per spell cast that the spell will undergo a Wild Surge. The three Wild Mage-only spells are Reckless Dweomor (Level 1), Chaos Shield (Level 2), and Improved Chaos Shield (Level 7). Reckless Dweomor is extremely useful in that it lets you cast any spell you know as a level 1 spell. The trouble is that you will ALWAYS trigger a Wild Surge when using it. So, basically, it's probably not going to happen, but the chance IS there. A Wild Surge is a very unpredictable and dangerous magical spike that has dozens and dozens of possible affects. Almost all of them are bad. It could be a relatively harmless affect like making you 'drunk' (giving a strange affect around your character and forcing you to forfeit your spell), to something potentially lethal (holding you, forcing your spell to become a Fireball, making 80% of your gold disappear, petrifying you, etc.). The random caster level modifications happen on otherwise successful casts. They are usually somewhere between a -2 penalty or a +2 bonus to caster level, but higher fluctuations are possible. This will be a huge factor during early levels, but after level 7 or 8, you likely won't notice them anymore. Wild Mages are absolutely not recommended for hardcore play, as a single unlucky Wild Surge can end your run. However, if you need a break from hardcore play and want a lighter, more comedic run, Wild Mages are hands down the funniest class in the game and come highly recommended. When a spell is fantastically ruined by a Wild Surge and does something off the wall like changing the caster's gender, it's hysterical... unless it was a very critical spell that ends up ruining a hardcore run.
Sorcerers give up a greater variety of known spells, but in return they are not required to prepare any of the spells they do know and can cast more spells per day. Should you make a sorcerer, make sure to pick spells that scale well such as magic missile, fireball, haste, stoneskin, etc. Avoid things that do NOT scale well like sleep, blind, etc. You may want to skip out on any spell you can cast from a wand (horror, sleep, fireball, etc.) as wands are plentiful and it will make you more versatile. Remember that you CAN still cast spells from scrolls. This comes in handy for Baldur's Gate 2 as you can simply use a find familiar scroll instead of wasting a known spell on a one-time use spell. On a side-note, sorcerers do NOT work as they do in 3rd edition (where they rely on Charisma). In fact, they do not really rely on any stat (other than the obvious Dexterity and Constitution). Intelligence does not give them more spells per day, nor does it make their spellcasting more powerful. Because of this, Sorcerers are good charisma monkeys should you make one, and you can afford to spread points between strength, intelligence, and wisdom in order to keep all of them decently high instead of the usual min-maxing involved with most other character classes. While Charisma and Intelligence do not bolster your abilities to cast spells, they still have high minimums of 9 so you couldn't make them true dump stats even if you wanted to.
Because of their limited library of spells, it's not a good idea to make a Sorcerer your primary spellcaster. Especially later in Baldur's Gate 2, the distinctive mage fencing duels where 3 spells are needed to remove specific protections put up by each mage or creature will leave Sorcerers at a distinct disadvantage to their more well-read brethren. Sorcerers carve out a very comfortable niche as the party's second caster, though. A Mage and a Sorcerer can typically out-cast two Mages of equal skill. Sorcerers are also better support casters, able to quickly renew a critical spell like Haste if it gets unexpectedly dispelled.
Humans, elves, and half-elves can be sorcerers. However, there is no multi- or dual-class option so there no reasons not to be an elf as they have superior racial advantages.
Recommended Spells to know per level
Level 1: Magic Missile and Shield are musts. Spook scales well toward the end of the game and offers you a way to CC a single target at your leisure. Pick your final two spells between protection from evil, identification, and charm person depending on your needs.
Level 2: Mirror Image is one of the best defensive spells in the game let alone for this level. Blur is also useful for the bonus saving throw if not the extra AC. Melf's Acid Arrow is the best damage spell at this level should you feel you need it. A more support oriented sorcerer might want Vocalize and Remove Fear. They are situational spells but having the multiple casts in case the effects are dispelled or enemies re-debuff your characters is handy. A sorcerer more focused on debuffing enemies should go for Web and Horror.
Level 3: Dispel Magic is an important spell to pick up at this level for both offensive and defensive purposes. Haste is a must-get spell at this level as it is such a universally helpful skill to whip out in every combat situation. Skull Trap is preferred to Fireball because it does not have an elemental association with it and does not hardcap at 10d6 (meaning it will eventually do more damage.) Slow is a great debuff spell at this level and is a good choice.
Level 4: Stoneskin is easily the most important spell at 4th level because it basically makes you immune to attacks for a certain number of hits. Emotion is a handy spell as it essentially serves as Remove Fear and Horror in one spell. Otiluke's Resilient Sphere can be used for some significantly cheesy effects, making the target immune to everything for a turn (good to drop on a character who will almost guaranteed die and you don't have time to heal him). A sorcerer focused on debuffing may want to pick up greater malision to help the rest of your casters land spells on enemies with high saving throws. Secret Word is a good final spell to learn because you can use it to strip enemy spellcasters of their anti-magic protections, one round at a time.
Level 5: Lower Resistance is a must especially on a sorcerer because when you do need it, casting it multiple times is essential. Breach is a great anti-defense spell severely inhibiting enemy mages and clerics from magically defending themselves. If you want to choose a summoning spell, Summon Monster 3 is preferred out of the list. Cone of Cold is probably the best overall damage spell at this level.
Level 6: If you didn't pick up either Lower Resistance or Secret Word, get Pierce Magic as it is a combination of both of them. Pick either Chain Lightning OR Death Fog as a damage spell. True Sight is a must because disabling enemy spellcaster illusions is key to many encounters in BG2.
Levels 7 and up: I will leave this in your hands. Basically don't take spells that are redundant with your earlier level spells.
Thieves are almost necessary for their abilities to disarm traps and Bards are useful in a group as they allow other characters to be more specialized by freeing up mages from having to cast some group buff spells, being able to off-tank in a pinch, and being able to free up points for a thief by having the ability to pick pockets.
The race you choose for your thief is important as each race gains bonuses to certain thieving abilities. Keep in mind that dexterity also plays a roll into how well you do many thieving abilities, therefore giving elves and halflings a +5% advantage in most areas over the average 18 and dwarves a -5% disadvantage compared to the average 18.
Thieving Bonuses and Penalties by Race:
|Race||Pick Pocket||Open Locks||Find Traps||Move Silently||Hide in Shadows||Detect Illusion||Set Traps|
As you can see, halflings make the best thieves in terms of raw thieving abilities as they have a net +40% distrubted throughout skills and also have natural 19 dexterity. Also keep in mind these bonuses apply to other classes that share thief abilities. (+Hide in Shadows for Rangers and +Pick-Pocket for bards.)
Thieves are extremely important for two reasons. First and more importantly, they can find and disarm traps. This is critical, because most traps in Baldur's Gate are nasty as hell. Scads of them spit out fireballs and lightning bolts that can turn you into ash, others infect you with deadly poisons that do up to 5 damage every half second, and still others will hit you with Petrification, Imprisonment, Finger of Death, or other outright deadly spells. Disarming traps with your thief also gives you a nice XP boost in Baldur's Gate 2. Secondly, thieves can open locks. Without a thief, the only way to open many locked chests is with the wizard spell "Knock." Opening chests with a thief also has a nice XP boost. As an added bonus, thieves are able to pick pockets, which can nab you some powerful items early on. However, if you fail a pickpocket, your target will go hostile, along with quite possibly the rest of the city you happen to be in. There is a cheat to avoid this, but it outright defeats an intended mechanic and shouldn't be used in hardcore runs. Still, if you choose to use it, here it is: If you fail stealing an item, immediately pause the game and have your character speak to the target you failed stealing from. This will cause the game to initiate dialogue, which will make them forget you were trying to steal something from them. This is still quite risky as the timing is very tricky and failing can potentially get you killed or can stop you from progressing.
Thieves are useful in combat, as well. High dexterity will keep them viable from range for the first few levels while their Thac0 is low, and once hide in shadows/move silently is high enough, you can stealth them in to a room for a backstab against a target. Backstab causes you to inflict multipliers of damage from your attack assuming you are using a melee weapon a single-class thief can use. You can even backstab with staves, and many people have had great success with Jan Jansen backstabbing with a staff in Baldur's Gate 2. The backstab multiplier maxes out at x5 (Quintuple damage). If you get a critical hit while doing a backstab (damage is doubled), the chances of your target surviving are slim to none. Keep in mind, however, there are enemy types in Baldur's Gate 2 that are immune to backstab damage. Thieves can also set traps with Baldur's Gate 2 and BGtutu, which can be a fantastic way of killing stronger monsters. Attack them and kite them towards your traps to watch it unload upon the creature for heavy damage.
Thieves arguably have the best high-level abilities, to boot. Spike Trap inflicts ungodly amounts of damage, and Use Any Item allows the thief to ignore any restrictions on items, period, allowing them to use class, race, and even personnel-restricted armor. If you plan to use a thief purely so you can disarm traps and open locks, there is not much reason to go beyond level 8 or 9 for dual-classing purposes. For single-class thieves, halflings have the best thieving skills while half-orcs make the most damaging thieves.
Advantages: May coat weapon in poison once per day for every 4 levels of experience. This poison inflicts 3 damage over the first 6 seconds and then an additional 1 damage per second until the total damage inflicted equals 24 (a successful save vs. poison decreases the total damage to 12). Multiple uses do not stack. Backstab multiplier caps at x7 instead of x5 (although it does not increase the rate you gain backstab multipliers). Flat +1 to hit and damage bonus.
Disadvantages: Only gain +15% thieving points to distribute per level.
Comments:Assassins are very powerful single-class rogues. Their poison is very powerful, especially at the start of the game. Assassin poison helps cripple enemy casters as the poison tick will often cause them to lose concentration on their spells. The extra hit, damage, and enormous backstab multiplier allow you to inflict more damage per single hit than just about anything else in the entire game. However, the backstab multiplier bonus takes a long time to achieve and starting assassins will not have many points to distribute into your thieving abilities. Assassins will have to rely on thief-stat boosting equipment and potions (such as the Shadow Armor and Potions of Perception) for quite awhile. Because of the added levels it takes to fully utilize the assassin kit, they do not dual-class very well.
- Bounty Hunter:
Advantages:+15% to Lay Trap skill. In addition to regular traps, may lay a special trap. At 1st level, the victim is slowed (successful save negates effects). At 11th level, the trap holds the target (successful save negates effects). At 16th level, the trap erects an Otiluke's Resilent Sphere around the target (successful save negates effects). At 21st level, the trap mazes the target (no save is possible).
Disadvantages: Only gain +20% thieving points to distribute per level.
Comments: Bounty Hunters are the kings of traps. They still get regular thief traps, as well as their unique kit traps. There are two major unlisted bonuses for Bounty Hunter traps. First, they can be thrown. Secondly, it chains similar to chain lightning although it doesn't have quite as much splash damage range. This allows you to toss your tap effectively like a Fireball with status effects. Anyone that is affected by the trap's effects is out of the fight, allowing you to set up other traps should you need them, as well as thinning the herd. Mazing enemies without a save is extremely awesome as you can then run up and drop a regular traps (or spike traps once you get into epic levels) so as soon as the maze drops, the enemies are treated to instant death. Bounty Hunter is easily the most viable solo thief build. The downside of only 20% thief skills to distribute per level is not that significant as you can simply use thieving potions to bolster anything that is not at 100% yet. Note of course that throwing traps means you dont have to run to the spot you want to place them, you still cannot place them with enemies in sight.
Advantages: Bonus +1 AC. Bonus increases by 1 for every 5 levels. +1 to hit and damage for ever 5 levels of experience. Can specialize in any melee thief weapon. Can place 3 proficiency points into two weapon fighting style.
Disadvantages: No Backstab multiplier.
Comments: Swashbucklers are almost fighters due to their bonuses. The only disadvantage is that they have absolutely no backstab multiplier. Swashbucklers are a viable damage class as opposed to a fighter because while they don't have the Thac0 or weapon mastery of a fighter, their bonus to hit and damage will eventually have them doing more damage per hit than a fighter. Their bonus armor eventually gives them better armor class (while using the best leather armors) as compared to a fighter using the best plate armors. They lose out on the HP of a fighter, however. Still, they suffer no penalties to thief skill distribution, allowing you to stealth, set traps, disarm traps, open locks, etc. at a better rate than the other thief kits. The armor bonus makes Swashbucklers an excellent choice to dual-class into mages and even fighters or clerics. You'll want to dual- around level 10 or 11 to capitalize on the AC bonus. Considering you cannot stealth while wearing heavy fighter armors and cannot backstab with any cleric weapon, the downside is negligible. Mages tend to stay in the background, fighting from a distance anyway.
Bards are great in that they have a great number of basic skills in one nice package. They're part thief, part mage, and part fighter. They can pick pockets, have access to all the spells that mages do (though they have very few spells per day and can only cast up to 6th level spells), and can become proficient in almost any weapon they please. The trouble with Bards is that their "jack of all trades" advantages are quickly outstripped by the "master of none" penalties in the late game. However, they shine in large parties. Their ability to pick pockets negates the need for the party thief to spend a single point in it. Their limited casting skill allows the party mage to memorize more big damage spells while the bard memorizes utilities like Resist Fear, Remove Magic, Oracle, Breach, Haste, and so on. They also gain Lore at a rate of 10 points per level (over 3 times the rate of the next fastest classes, Mages and Thieves). By level 5, a Bard will be able to identify pretty much anything if they have high Wisdom and Intelligence, obliterating the need for Identify spells. They can also use mage wands, making them a viable alternative to a mage for the entirety of Baldur's Gate 1. Their ability to use longbows competently gives you a good backup archer to support the front line fighters. Lastly, and most importantly, they can sing, which prevents the bard from taking further actions but buffs party members around them. The standard Bard Song increases morale and luck of affected party members. Luck hurts enemy attack rolls and makes it less likely that they will hit for a lot of damage. This is a small thing when taken individually, but in a large party it makes a significant difference, especially when the party is afflicted by Fatigue. Also keep in mind there are a fair number of good armors and equipment only usable by bards in Baldur's Gate 2 (such as the Melodic Chain.) One last thing, Bards choose epic feats from the Rogue pool, meaning they can take Use Any Item, Spike Trap, Evasion, etc., vastly increasing their effectiveness.
Only Humans and Half-Elves can be Bards. However, since Bards can't dual class, there's no reason whatsoever to make a Human Bard. Half-Elves get some minor saves to Charm and Sleep spells, +10% Pickpocket, and Infravision. Bards must be of a "Neutral Alignment". As long as Neutral is in the name somewhere, it can be chosen. There is also very, very little reason to be a default bard. Skald is incredibly effective as a group buffer pre-epic levels and Blades are one if not the most effective whirling dervishes of destruction in the game.
It's worth noting that Bards have a minimum Charisma of 15. Combined with the level 1 mage spell "Friends", this is enough to jump you up to 20 Charisma, the highest charisma that actually affects buying price of items.
Advantages: May use Offensive Spin and Defensive Spin once per day 4 levels. May put 3 proficiency points into Two-Weapon Fighting Style.
Disadvantages: Bard song does not improve with levels. 50% normal Pick Pockets. 50% normal Lore.
Comments: Offensive spin gives +2 to hit and to damage, +1 attacks per round, movement speed as though under the effects of Haste and guarantees maximum damage on every hit for 24 seconds. It cannot be used in conjunction with Haste or Improved Haste, but CAN be used in conjunction with Oils of Speed or the Boots of Speed. Defensive Spin roots the Blade in place for 24 second but gives -1 to AC per Blade level (up to a maximum of -10 AC) and grants the Blade "Improved Invisibility" in that they cannot be directly targetted by spells.
Blades are terminally lethal. Their raw damage output easily outclasses most fighters, and they can tank effectively by using a combination of spell buffs and Defensive Spin. In fact, a Blade can outclass a fighter in raw tanking capacity as long as he has Defensive Spin. For example, a Bard with 18 dexterity equipped with the Bracers of Defense AC3 and a Ring of Protection +1, under the effects of the Mage spell Stoneskin and Defensive Spin at level 10 would give a whopping -12 AC with damage immunity from the people that COULD manage to hit him. Blades also get a significant number of uses of spins as they level up at the same rate as thieves (10 uses total by the level cap at the end of Throne of Bhaal). However, it does only last 24 seconds and keeps you in stuck in place, so a blade cannot REPLACE a fighter or cleric tank... UNLESS they are under the effect of Free Action, which removes that restrictrion. Their downsides are not very significant because while their lore value is halved, it is still better than any non-bard class, and their pick-pocket ability will still get to ridiculously high levels midway through the game. The epic ability Improved Bard Song fully replaces whatever Bard Song the Bard used to have and it does not improve from there, effectively eliminating their only legitimate weakness. Also keep in mind that Blades still draw epic feats from the Thief pool. Rigging Time Stop traps and then going berserk on an enemy with offensive spin is one of the most damaging tactics in the game.
Advantages: Bard Song does not help allies. Instead, enemies must routinely save vs spell with a +4 bonus on the throw or become confused.
Comments: The Jester is unique bard kit in that its song is offensive rather than defensive. Its song is also quite powerful - unlike normal confusion, the Jester's song is not considered a magical effect. This means it will actually bypass magical protections, and since the singing is not considered an attack a Jester can literally sing his enemies to death while remaining invisible. The only way to defend against the Jester's bard song is to actually be immune to confusion. The Jester's song has been improved in patched BG2 to become more powerful with levels, gaining additional effects like sleep and losing the +4 to enemy saving throws bonus.
Advantages: +1 attack rolls and +1 damage with all weapons. Modified Bard Song. At level 1, it provides +2 to hit and damage rolls, and -2 AC. At level 15, this improves to +4 to hit and damage rolls, -4 AC, and immunity to Fear. At level 20, it also lends immunity to Stun and Fear.
Disadvantages: 25% normal Pick Pockets.
Comments: Skalds are the ultimate support bard and the drug of choice for fighter-heavy parties. They provide a great boost to Thac0, damage, and armor, and provide some mage support. Their Bard Song is many times better than the comparatively mediocre Luck song, at the paltry cost of your Pick Pockets skill. They lose out long-term compared to Blades, however, as the epic level feat "Improved Bard Song" effectively eliminates the need for Skald song. It still comes highly recommended as epic levels mean nothing if you can't survive long enough to get to them, and skalds are a very great early party buff.
Monks are martial artists who primarily fight unarmed, who use a subtle force called Ki. They are very weak at low levels, but can become very powerful at the higher levels.
Monks must be human, and must be lawfully aligned (Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral or Lawful Evil).
Monks can use all one-handed weapons that thieves can use, but they are best off attacking with their fists. They gain an extra unarmed attack per round for every three levels, and their unarmed attacks increase in damage as they go up in levels. They cannot wear armor, but gain natural bonuses to their AC as they go up in levels, and special bonuses versus missile attacks. They move faster than a normal character as well, eventually becoming even faster than a character wearing the Boots of Speed. Monks also gain a natural magic resistance up to 78% and a bonus to saving throws versus spells. For more on all these abilities, see the Monk progression tables.
Monks share the Hide in Shadows, Move Silently and Find Traps skills of thieves. (Unlike thieves, however, they cannot remove traps; they can only detect them.) Monks only gain 10 points per level to dedicate to these skills.
Monks may make a Stunning Blow attack once per day for every four levels, which makes all their attacks in a given round force their enemy to save or be stunned. At fifth level, Monks become immune to disease, and cannot be slowed or hasted. At 7th level, they gain a lay on hands ability. At 9th level, they gain an immunity to being charmed, and at 11th level they become immune to poison. At 13th level they gain a quivering palm ability, which allows them to make an attack that forces an enemy to save or die.
Monks have so many special abilities that it may seem too easy to play a Hardcore game in Baldur's Gate II. However, they are very weak at early levels, and it is an accomplishment keeping a Monk alive through the early parts of the first game. Moreover, especially when playing solo, Monks have weak spots. They have no way to take down enemy spell protections, and cannot hit enemies that require +5 weapons to hit with their fists. Unlike other warriors, they do not gain 18/## strengths, which can hurt until you find a strength-enhancing equipment piece, especially in BG1, and do not gain the other benefits that often come with magical weapons. Monks cannot be hasted, which gives them a huge disadvantage compared to those warriors who can gain 9-10 attacks per round using Improved Haste. They also have far fewer hit points than other warriors. Nevertheless, their amazing magic resistance and set of immunities make them a very competent class.
It's important to point out Monks can still equip Keldorn's armor if they meet the minimum requirement stats! It's the only armor they can equip and doesn't interfere with any of their other abilties. Those stats are 15 strength, 17 constitution, 12 intelligence and 18 charisma. Due to monk's minimum required 9 Wisdom, it means you won't have a single dump stat and therefore need a monster roll to pull this off. Without utilizing the Machine of Lum the Mad, you need to roll an 89 total to hit the minimum and still max dexterity.
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