This isn’t the largest cast I’ve ever encountered in a game, but it’s certainly up there. There are a whopping 26 characters (29 in the Extended Edition…), but in the vanilla (or unmodded) game, your choice of companions is circumscribed by various restrictions. Which is unfortunate, as characterisation is BioWare’s strongest suit. Fortunately, mods all but nullify this problem, and that’s one of the reasons why I advocate them.

The game uses the D&D morality grid, which combines a character’s relationship to the law (Lawful, Neutral or Chaotic) and their overall disposition (Good, Neutral or Evil), for a gamut of nine possible alignments. The developers have clearly tried to keep numbers balanced, so there are eight Evil companions, eight Neutral and nine Good. Good and Evil characters will not cohabit well, and may even come to blows. Neutral characters won’t mind their companions’ alignment, but that doesn’t necessarily prevent individual feuds (e.g. Quayle and Tiax). While this may seem realistic, I find it too strict: after all, an Evil character could manipulate a Good group to attain their own ends. Later BioWare games are much freer in this respect, but here, you just have to grin and bear it.

Another annoying feature specific to this game is character pairs: some characters need to be recruited together and will leave together if one is kicked out. This doesn’t apply if said counterpart dies, however, so you can kill one off to keep the other. You could also send them into a building and reform the party while they’re not in range, but you have to avoid entering that building afterwards. The pairs in question are Xzar-Montaron, Jaheira-Khalid, Minsc-Dynaheir and Eldoth-Skie.

Some more restrictions: first of all, the A.I. will take care of levelling characters which aren’t in your party and will frequently make a mess of it, not to mention that they’ll get less EXP overall, so the earlier you recruit someone, the better. This means that you either need to rush through the game or forget about late-comers altogether. Secondly, characters that you kick out from the party may leave permanently. Realistic, perhaps, but not very practical. Especially if you happen to leave some gear on them, so make sure to strip them beforehand. Finally, Baldur’s Gate II assumes your party consisted of Imoen, Jaheira, Khalid, Dynaheir and Minsc, even if it didn’t.

One more comment: some of the character portraits don’t correspond to established Forgotten Realms lore or to their in-game models (e.g. Viconia looks nothing like a drow, all the elves look too human and Minsc’s in-game model has hair, while his portrait is bald, etc.). Some of these issues are fixed in the sequel, however.

Gorion’s Ward: Take your pickThis is the game’s protagonist. The only thing known about her/his past is that they were adopted by Gorion, a Harper (a member of a secret order sworn to maintain balance in the world), and raised in the safety of Candlekeep. The first thing you do in the game is ‘roll’ your character (a term inherited from the dice used in pen-and-paper RPGs). Pick a race, gender and class, decide on her/his attributes–which can be a VERY long process–, then pick a portrait (which you can make yourself and put into the appropriate folder) and an in-game sprite, even though customization of the latter is limited to choosing its clothing, hair and skin colour (it is an old game). Very little of the game’s dialogue is voiced, but you can pick a voice for battle cries and short interjections. There are six races to choose from and 18 classes, although your character will also gradually gain special abilities regardless of class, depending on her/his alignment. There is, however, a rather significant problem: the game assumes that a human male protagonist will be the most popular choice (as it was in the game’s–admittedly crappy–novelisation) and bases quite a few of its storyline decisions on this, thus creating some uncomfortable inconsistencies if you decide to pick a different race. For instance, the protagonist is supposed to be young (early 20s), and Imoen, who is human, mentions several times that they are of comparable ages. But 20 for a human and 20 for an elf, dwarf, gnome or even half-elf (that’s 2/3rds of the playable races), who are significantly longer-lived, are very different things. So if you pick anything other than a human, you might want to think of this as a relative age (i.e. if the protagonist was human, s/he would be the equivalent of 20), even though you won’t be able to solve the problem of several human residents of Candlekeep seemingly remembering your protagonist as a baby. Other than that, her/his real lineage is crucial to the plot of the game, but you can probably guess what it is fairly early on.

Imoen: Tag-alongOh man. Pink-haired (although it looks brown on her menu portrait) and blue-eyed, Imoen is the protagonist’s childhood friend. You can choose conversation options that refute this, but it won’t change her involvement in the story. They grew up together in Candlekeep, both orphans in Gorion’s care, although the protagonist received precedence. Imoen is aware that Gorion wants them to flee Candlekeep, and it makes her curious. So she secretly follows the pair and witnesses Gorion’s murder. She then joins the protagonist, and they set off to try to make sense of the situation. Imoen starts out as a Thief. Her Strength is low, but her Dexterity is very good, which means she’ll be great with a bow. Her other notable feature is her high Intelligence (could’ve fooled me…). This means that you can dual-class her as a Mage to increase her versatility, something that the game encourages you to do and which is actually a good idea. The real problem is her personality. She’s girly, clingy, naïve and goddamn annoying. Unfortunately, she reappears in the sequel and is integral to the plot there. She’s also the earliest available Thief and, despite being Neutral Good, the only character who will never leave the party no matter what, regardless of your protagonist’s alignment. It’s as if the game was trying to force her down your throat. But since I don’t like her and don’t take kindly to being forced, she invariably gets the boot ASAP. Sheesh.

Xzar: This Chaotic Evil human Mage with messy brown hair, green eyes and tattoos on his face iBonkerss a pair with Montaron. You meet these two odd birds in the forest, not far from where Gorion was murdered, looking for an escort to Nashkel, although they don’t specify why. You don’t find out right away, but they’re members of the Zhentarim (a nefarious mercenary company), sent to investigate the iron crisis in the region, as rumours wrongly blame them for it. Xzar also obviously has some deep-seated psychological problems. Read: he’s batshit insane. How that fits in with his high Intelligence and Wisdom is anybody’s guess. That being said, he’s a competent Mage, although, as a Necromancer, he’s barred from Illusion spells. This means fewer protective options, which can be problematic in the long run. Still, he’ll fit right into an Evil party, as a stop-gap until you can pick up Edwin, and has some entertaining lines. However, if you don’t promptly go to Nashkel, both Xzar and Montaron will end up leaving. They may also come to blows with Khalid and Jaheira (just Xzar for Jaheira, but both for Khalid), if you have them in the same party. Same issue if Ajantis is around.

Montaron: He’s the coherent half of the Xzar-Montaron pair, but that’s not saying much. This sullen, taciturn halfling with brown hair and brown eyes is a Zhentarim, just like Xzar, and has been tasked with accompanying him to figure out what’s causing the iron crisis on the Sword Coast. He’s not exactly fond of the crazed wizard or vice-versa, but they stick together nonetheless. Montaron is Neutral Evil and thinks that the best solution to any problem is to kill something or someone. He’s a Fighter/Thief, but although his Constitution is decent, his Strength could do better. Still, he’s the most suited to backstabbing out of all the Thieves in the game, and his good Dexterity means he’ll also do well with a bow. Being obtainable early is just another perk. The only real problem is that, if you want Edwin, you’ll have to kick Montaron out alongside Xzar (unless you simply get Xzar killed). As has already been mentioned, Xzar and Montaron have a beef with Khalid and Jaheira, but if you ever find yourself with just one half of each pair, Jaheira won’t mind Montaron specifically, while Khalid will take exception to both. If you have Ajantis, smiting time.

Jaheira: AuthoritativeJaheira is a blonde and blue-eyed half-elf from Tethyr, which is located far to the south of the Sword Coast. She grew up in a Druid enclave after her parents were killed in a war, becoming a Druid herself and joining the Harpers. This is how she met both Gorion and Khalid, whom she eventually married. As such, they are a package deal. The pair was sent by the Harpers to investigate the iron crisis, and Gorion told them to wait for him and his protégé(e) at the Friendly Arm Inn after he decided to flee Candlekeep. As a Fighter/Druid, Jaheira is a versatile companion, but suffers from lacklustre stats. Her Wisdom is notably mediocre for a healer, but she’s the first one available, and her Fighter multiclass grants her better equipment than a pure Druid. As a Harper, she also has a resurrection spell (Harper’s Call), which other Druids don’t get, although chances are you won’t see this until the sequel. Her Constitution is good enough for the front lines, and she can even be a decent leader, due to her Charisma, but otherwise, nothing to write home about. Personality-wise, Jaheira is blunt, bossy, very protective of Khalid and determined to set a good example for the protagonist. She means well, but she may come across as a tad abrasive. Being a Druid requires her to be True Neutral, but she could just as well have been Neutral Good. She reappears in the sequel, where she becomes a romance option for a male protagonist. As mentioned previously, Jaheira and Khalid may start a beef with Xzar and Montaron, but the individual enmity is between Jaheira and Xzar. Jaheira also strongly dislikes Faldorn, due to their conflicting druidic practices, although they’ll never come to blows.

Khalid: JumpyJaheira’s husband is a brown-eyed and brown-haired half-elf with a stutter. He hails from Calimshan, which is located just south of Tethyr, and has had a difficult childhood, as his father preferred his half-brothers. This led him to join the local militia and later the Harpers to try to prove himself. This is how he met Gorion and Jaheira, whom he eventually married. He then accompanied her to figure out the cause of the iron crisis on the Sword Coast. Khalid is Neutral Good, which makes him the only Good single-class Fighter in the game. Fortunately, he’s a pleasant character who can pull his weight. His strength requires the Gauntlets of Ogre Power, but otherwise, he has good Constitution and Dexterity, which means resilience in combat. His only real problem is that he’s a little jumpy (try clicking on him a couple of times for a chuckle), with a very low morale rating, meaning that he has a tendency to panic if he loses a large amount of HP or if other members of the party die. Personality-wise, Khalid is quite a contrast to Jaheira. He’s unassuming, gentle, soft-spoken and much more diplomatic. She’s clearly the one who wears the trousers in the relationship, but he often acts as a mitigating influence, and the two are clearly very fond of each other. Still, despite his mild nature, Khalid may take exception to both Xzar and Montaron if they’re in the same party for too long.

Ajantis: RighteousYou can recruit this sandy-haired and brown-eyed Paladin-in-training as soon as you set out from the Friendly Arm Inn, but you may want to save exploring the area he’s in for later (ankhegs are not nice). The son of a noble human family of Waterdeep, a city located at the northernmost end of the Sword Coast, Ajantis is looking for a good cause to champion as part of his progress to full-fledged Paladinhood. It also means that Evil parties may cause him to attack by simply speaking with him. He has good Strength and Constitution, which makes him a choice front-liner, and high Charisma, which makes him a great leader. He’s also the only Paladin companion, should you need extra healing from Lay on Hands or Protection from Evil. He just needs the Gauntlets of Dexterity to round him off. Ajantis’ problem is his goddamn personality. Helm this, Helm that, black to the left, white to the right, smite to the front, smite to the side…Lawful Good to the max, no sense of humour. And he’s a bit of a snob too. Frankly, I’d pass him up if there wasn’t such a dearth of decent front-liners in this game. Oh, it probably goes without saying, but Ajantis won’t cohabit with ANY Evil character: Xzar, Montaron, Kagain, Edwin, Shar-Teel, Viconia, Eldoth; he has a bone to pick with all of them. Unless you’ve got Xan in the party, in which case, he’ll put a damper on Ajantis’ enthusiasm should he start getting riled up about smiting Evil, thereby preventing him from actually going through with it. Good ol’ Xan.

Kagain: Money-grubberThis brown-haired and brown-eyed dwarf is a merchant and the head of a mercenary company in Beregost. When you first meet him, he’ll ask for help locating a caravan of his, which was accompanying the son of one of the dukes of Baldur’s Gate. You’ll find the young man’s corpse and the wrecked caravan in the nearby forest, having run afoul of some bandits. Either bring Kagain to the site of the ambush or bring him the youngster’s brooch. At that point, he’ll decide that the entire business is more trouble than it’s worth and will team up, in the hopes that the party’s ventures will prove more lucrative than his. Kagain is a strong asset for an Evil team. He’s a Neutral Evil Fighter, and his most notable feature is his illegally high Constitution, which grants him natural regeneration. This makes him a resilient front-liner, but also makes a healer’s job easier. Other than that, though, his Strength could do better, and he begs for the Gauntlets of Dexterity, but you can’t have everything, right? Personality-wise, Kagain’s a greedy bastard, so as long as you’re making money, he’s happy to tag along. If he’s in the same party as Yeslick, the latter will wholeheartedly disapprove and may even pick a fight. Same with Ajantis.

Garrick: What rhymes with 'airhead'...?This brown-eyed human Bard with light brown hair will probably be a temporary stop-gap for most parties. You’ll find him in Beregost, half-heartedly involved in a scam run by a certain Silke. He was originally part of a troubadour troupe, but decided to leave them when he discovered that they were involved in thievery. It’s not actually clear whether Silke was involved in this, or whether it’s a separate incident, but it doesn’t really matter. Garrick will gladly tag along once you get rid of her. Being Chaotic Neutral, he can fit into any party, but it’s difficult to find room for him, because he fills a support role in a game where frontline characters are a rarity. You could use him as an archer, as his Dexterity is good, but there are better ones available, especially for a Good party. His Charisma is also decent, which is necessary for his bardic arts, but don’t expect him to survive for very long if an enemy decides to rough him up, because his Constitution sucks. His Intelligence is mediocre too, so he won’t be much of a caster. As a Bard, he could be useful to identify items, but do you really want to waste a party slot just for that? Personality-wise, Garrick is cheerful, poetic, naïve and an airhead. If you somehow have him in the same team as Skie and Eldoth (why would you do that?), get ready for a love triangle. Garrick digs Skie (like attracts like, apparently), but she’s all over Eldoth, who is a scumbag and therefore earns Garrick’s cordial disapproval. Can’t say I blame him either.

Kivan: Man of few wordsNow we’re talking. My favourite character in the game, Kivan is a black-eyed and black-haired Chaotic Good elven Ranger from Shilmista, a forest located southeast of the Sword Coast. You’ll find him hanging around High Hedge, looking for bandits to slay. He has a personal vendetta against Tazok, a half-ogre bandit who tortured and murdered his wife, Deheriana. Luckily, dealing with Tazok is on the party’s ‘to do’ list, as he happens to be involved in the iron crisis, so if you have a Good protagonist, you’ve just struck gold. Kivan’s attributes are wonderful, by companion standards: he has excellent Strength and very good Dexterity, a combination that very few others sport. This makes him a great archer in a game where archers are already overpowered, but he can also defend himself in melee at a pinch, even though his Constitution could be better. In short, give him the best bow you have and a spear, so that he keeps some distance if melee is required, and go to work. Personality-wise, Kivan is gruff, taciturn and abrupt, but also kind, loyal and dependable. He loved his wife very much and is obviously devastated by her death, which makes him reclusive and driven. And although he originally intended to follow her to Arvandor (an alternate plane which is essentially the elven paradise) after Tazok’s death, he accepts to help the protagonist see her/his task through to the end, out of gratitude. Kivan has a bone to pick with Viconia, as he doesn’t like drow, and his chosen deity, the god of revenge Shevarash, doesn’t either. However, coding mishaps prevent this conflict from escalating into a fight.

Branwen: StalwartThis blonde and blue-eyed Cleric of Tempus comes from the Moonshae Isles, which are located just off the Sword Coast. She left her home because, in her village, it was improper for a woman to become a Cleric. She perceived it as a test of her faith and persevered, adventuring on her own and offering her services to various groups. One such group in the Nashkel area revealed themselves to be bandits, and when she realised this, Branwen refused to attack a caravan of unarmed merchants. A Mage named Tranzig turned her to stone for her insubordination, and that’s how the party finds her, at the Nashkel carnival, where an opportunistic halfling is showing her off as an attraction. A scroll of Stone to Flesh (bought or stolen from said halfling) fixes her right up, and she’s then ready to join and get her revenge. Confronting Tranzig is also on the party’s ‘to do’ list, so feel free to let her tag along. Branwen is a fine, solid Cleric and, being True Neutral, will fit into any party, although Evil ones may prefer Viconia. Her Wisdom and Dexterity are both good, and her Constitution isn’t too shabby either. On top of that, her Spiritual Hammer special ability may come in handy until you find some +1 weapons. Personality-wise, Branwen is a tough, good-humoured gal who enjoys a good fight, and values strength and courage. She’ll even compliment Shar-Teel’s combat prowess. She should have a conflict with Tiax, but, as with Kivan and Viconia, scripting kinks prevent it from happening.

Minsc: Faithful companionProbably the most iconic character of the BG series and one of BioWare’s most famous, Minsc is a large, bald, black-eyed Neutral Good human Ranger (although his Wisdom is actually too low to be one) with a tattoo on his head. He hails from Rashemen, a nation far to the northeast of Faerûn. And not only does he share his name with the capital of Belarus, he’s also a couple knives short of a set, due to a head injury, which, however, gives him the ability to go berserk in combat for a damage spike (just keep clear of him lest he attack the party). You’ll find this nutcase hanging around Nashkel. He has come to the Sword Coast on his dajemma, a rite of passage, alongside Dynaheir, his bonded witch (nothing romantic, in case you’re wondering), whom he is sworn to protect. Unfortunately, a band of gnolls has kidnapped her, and he needs assistance to rescue her. Only Good parties need apply, and don’t talk to him unless you intend to agree, as he will attack otherwise. Minsc has the best Strength in the game, so slap some heavy armour on him and send him to the front lines. He could also be a decent archer, but that’s just wasted potential. Minsc’s only real problem is that he’s a package deal with Dynaheir, whom you want to go rescue ASAP if you want to keep them. Dynaheir is the only Good single-class Mage in the game, but that’s her only real perk, which makes this an annoying condition. Personality-wise, Minsc is enthusiasm and comic relief incarnate. His main goals in life are to buttkick evil and to guard Dynaheir. Most notably, however, he has a pet hamster called Boo, and is convinced that 1) Boo is a miniature giant space hamster, and 2) he can communicate with it. Yeah.

Edwin: SchemingIf you are an Evil party in need of a Mage, you’ve just hit the jackpot. Another highlight of the BG series, Edwin is a Neutral Evil Red Wizard of Thay with brown eyes and a brown beard (as a Red Wizard, he’s supposed to be shaved bald). He has been dispatched to the Sword Coast on some mission, and you’ll find him in Nashkel, hanging out by a bridge not far from Minsc. Thay lies south of Rashemen and is actively hostile to it, so Edwin intends to kill Dynaheir to curry favour with his superiors and requires help to do so. Obviously, having them both in the same party is asking for trouble (it is possible if you rescue her before talking to him, but he will kill her eventually), but if your protagonist is Evil, that’s not a concern. Although, surprisingly, he’ll get along fine with just Minsc. Anyway, agree to his terms, dispatch his prey, and you’re free to enjoy his services. Edwin is the best Mage companion in the game. He has the best Intelligence and good Constitution, due to being a Conjurer. This also means that he gets one extra spell per level, but his amulet grants him a second extra one as well. He’s barred from Divination spells, but you won’t miss them. Personality-wise, Edwin is extremely arrogant, petty and short-tempered, with a habit of talking to himself and copiously insulting everyone (in a rather sexy accent…), with the notable, baffling exception of Alora. But can you really blame him, given his skills? Besides, if your protagonist is Evil, do you really care?

Dynaheir: CommandingThis dark-skinned human Mage with brown hair and black eyes is Minsc’s bonded witch (nothing romantic): he is sworn to protect her, which hasn’t worked out too well, since she got abducted by gnolls. She has travelled to the Sword Coast from Rashemen to investigate the existence of Bhaalspawn, but the only way to find this out in the vanilla game is to cast a Charm spell on her while she’s not in the party. If you have a Good protagonist, s/he can rescue her for Minsc, assuming you’ve got room in the party for both of them. Alternatively, if your protagonist is Evil, s/he can squish her for Edwin. Dynaheir has a decent Constitution, just like him, due to being an Invoker, but her Intelligence is lower. She’s also barred from two magic schools: Conjuration and Enchantment. This covers several useful spells, such as Sleep or Chaos, and is one of the most crippling Mage specialisations. She does have Slow Poison as a special ability, which will make a healer’s job easier, but it’s a meagre compensation. Still, if you want Minsc, you must have her as well (unless she’s dead…). Personality-wise, Dynaheir is calm, polite, agreeable, but mysterious, and speaks in a bizarrely old-fashioned way. No other character spouts ‘thous’ and ‘thees’ like she does…and often incorrectly; hearing her say “thy called?” (sic) when clicked on aggravates me something fierce. Apart from that, she’s also grateful for Minsc’s protection, even though his fascination with Boo worries her.

Xan: Marvin's spiritual brotherYou’ll find this brown-haired and brown-eyed elven Mage deep in the Nashkel mines, in the custody of a half-orc called Mulahey, whom the party needs to dispatch as part of their quest. They can then rescue the poor sod. He’s a Greycloak (read: law enforcer) from the elven stronghold of Evereska, which is located northeast of Baldur’s Gate. Like so many others, he has been sent to investigate the iron crisis. He also owns a Moonblade, a magical sword which grants him an armour bonus and fire resistance, and designates him as a protector of Elvendom. Of course, as a Mage, he won’t be getting much use out of it, because his Strength is bad and, although his Dexterity is decent, his Constitution is abysmal. His Intelligence is the same as Dynaheir (i.e. second to Edwin), but his main problem is that he’s an Enchanter. This means no Invocation spells. Unfortunately, that covers almost every single attack spell, including the ever-so-useful Magic Missile. Xan’s other problem is his personality. You know Marvin from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Yeah. “We’re all doomed” is Xan’s catchphrase. There’s nothing menacing about him (despite his character portrait), but he’s one of the most depressing videogame characters I know. He is Lawful Neutral though, so he’ll fit into any party, and he’ll do a good job with support and debilitating spells, but you’ll need someone to back him up for damage (e.g. Imoen or a Fighter/Mage protagonist). You could also have him around to temper Ajantis’ smiting tendencies, although…why bother? We’re all doomed anyway.

Safana: Hot stuffThis sultry, seductive brown-haired and brown-eyed human Thief hangs out near the coast, in the hopes of finding someone to help her raid a cave full of treasure and golems. You can pick her up pretty quickly, but exploring the cave might pose more of a problem, because golems hit hard, and there are also sirines about (which are adept at charming people). Once you’re done though, Safana is yours to keep. She’s Chaotic Neutral, so she’ll get along with anyone, and her Dexterity is good, but that’s about it. She’s a single-class Thief, so there’s nothing she can do that someone else can’t do just as well, if not better, although Evil parties that have recruited Edwin may need her to replace Montaron. In a Good party, you could bring her along with Coran to witness some heavy-handed flirting, but why would you need two Thieves? Safana’s personality doesn’t do much to recommend her either. She thinks she’s hot stuff and invents improbable stories to butter herself up. She’s originally a nobleman’s daughter from Calimshan, but found her life too boring and decided to run away to seek thrills, cheap or otherwise. Good for her, but her spiel gets old very quickly. I also really don’t want to know why she has Charm Animal as a special ability…

Shar-Teel: Man-haterThis blonde and brown-eyed Chaotic Evil human Fighter is tucked away in a remote and dangerous area infested with basilisks. Still, she’s very near the entrance, so you can obtain her early on without encountering any. She’ll challenge your best male warrior to a fight, and if he wins (you may need a mod to avoid accidentally killing her…), she’ll grudgingly team up. Why she was hanging out in the wilderness picking fights is anybody’s guess, but that’s neither here nor there. She also has an…interesting relative, who will be revealed in the later stages of the game, if you recruit her. Shar-Teel is (almost) the Kivan of the Evil party: her Strength is great, second only to Minsc, and her Dexterity is very good as well. The problem is that, where Kivan has enough Constitution for his role as a mainly ranged unit, Shar-Teel has one of the lowest Constitution scores in the game (only Viconia and Xan trump her)…and she’s supposed to be a front-liner. Her Dexterity somewhat mitigates the problem, but it won’t hurt to keep an extra eye on her and stick the best armour you can find on her for extra protection. Personality-wise, Shar-Teel is rough, very aggressive and bloodthirsty (although Branwen compliments her for her valour), and has deep-seated issues with male authority which she won’t hesitate to voice, although it’s never really explained why she feels that way. She’ll also come to blows with Eldoth, should you recruit them both, as she’s disgusted by his sexism. Can’t blame her there.

Viconia: StabAnother popular character. Viconia is a drow: a member of a race of mostly Evil elves who live underground in a matriarchal society based on clans (or houses). She has violet eyes, and the dark skin and white hair of her kind, but she’s not quite as nefarious as most of them. She hails from Menzoberranzan, a city located (underground) northeast of Waterdeep, but was exiled after earning the wrath of her house by failing to sacrifice a baby to the spider goddess Lolth. The punishment was death, but one of her brothers tried to intercede and was turned into a monster, at which point she had to flee to the surface. She also changed her allegiance to Shar, the goddess of the night. However, drow are almost universally hated, and the party may find her in Peldvale, being pursued by a Flaming Fist mercenary who wants to execute her on some very flimsy evidence. Even Ajantis will object to this, and the party can defend her, whereupon she’ll offer her services. Just be aware that recruiting her entails a two-point reputation hit. Viconia is Neutral Evil and thus, a choice Cleric for an Evil party. Her Wisdom is decent (although Branwen’s is better), but her Strength is poor and her Constitution is puny (which actually impacts her armour choices). However, she has the second-best Dexterity in the game, decent Charisma, which, paradoxically, makes her leader material, and 50% magic resistance as a racial trait (although this also affects curative magic cast on her). Personality-wise, despite the circumstances of her exile, Viconia is still a drow: she’s imperious, ambitious, respects strength and sees males as inferior beings. That being said, she returns in the sequel as a romance option, whose alignment a Good protagonist may actually change. In the meantime, if Ajantis is in the party, he’ll want to smite her. An additional conflict with Kivan, whose patron deity hates drow, is prevented by scripting mishaps.

Coran: GRIN!Picking Coran up is worth it, if only for the entertainment value. You’ll find this brown-haired and brown-eyed elf in the first area of Cloakwood, looking for help in clearing out a wyvern nest, which he got hired to do by a priest of Lathander. Wyvern skulls sell very well, so if you have a Good party, take him up on his offer. Coran is a Chaotic Good Fighter/Thief, and his most noteworthy characteristics are his illegal Dexterity–the highest in the game–and his illegal amount of proficiency points with a bow. Not only does that make him a fantastic archer, it also mitigates his less-than-stellar Constitution. You can give him a spear or halberd to cover all bases, but archery is his domain of predilection. His only real problem (well, besides his hideous portrait) is that, without mods, you can’t recruit him early, meaning that the A.I. can mess him up. Coran is originally from the forest of Tethir (located in Tethyr; bit confusing, I know), and although he doesn’t deny his heritage, the elven lifestyle was a tad too contemplative for him. He ran away from home during a war against humans and has lived as a vagabond ever since. He’s an easygoing, rakish, witty fellow, who enjoys adventure, excitement, wine and women. Lots of ‘em. He’ll notably find Safana to his taste, should you have both of them in the party, but why would you need her when he can do everything she can and more? He also has a sidequest involving one of his disgruntled exes once the party reaches Baldur’s Gate.

Eldoth: SlimyThis black-haired and black-eyed Neutral Evil human Bard hangs around the third area of Cloakwood (same as Faldorn), looking for someone to assist him with a dirty scheme. He’s originally from Ruathym, an island located north of the Moonshae Isles, but studied the bardic arts in Waterdeep, before being driven out of the city for attempting to seduce its ruler’s daughter. Obviously, this hasn’t cooled him off, as he has instead seduced Skie, the daughter of Entar Silvershield, one of the dukes of Baldur’s Gate, and wants the party’s help to ‘free’ her from her father (i.e. elope with her then blackmail her father for ransom money). Eldoth suffers from a number of problems: 1) he’s a Bard, 2) he’s a package deal with Skie, and 3) he has decent Strength and Constitution, but his Dexterity and Intelligence are both mediocre, which is rather handicapping. He makes a poor spellcaster or archer, and if you need him for melee, then your party is really in dire straits. Ironically, his special ability allows him to create poison arrows, but you’d need another archer to put them to good use. Personality-wise, Eldoth is a slimy, manipulative, selfish scumbag, and his treatment of Skie will earn him the cordial hatred of both Garrick and Shar-Teel, should they find themselves in the same party, although only the latter may come to blows. And you know you’ve reached a whole new level when one Evil character finds another despicable. Ajantis will also want to kick his butt, but that one’s a no-brainer.

Faldorn: ExtremistYou’ll find this brown-haired and brown-eyed human Druid in the third area of Cloakwood (same as Eldoth). The child of a Black Raven Uthgardt (a member of a barbarian human tribe that resides far to the north of Faerûn), Faldorn was given to a Shadow Druid enclave in her youth. As their name implies, Shadow Druids aren’t exactly a nice bunch. They believe that civilisation is a plague on nature, and should be eradicated by violent means. The ones in the Cloakwood forest are preoccupied with the Iron Throne’s presence in the local mine, which they perceive as an abomination. The party can pick up Faldorn as their representative to help clear the mine. If Jaheira’s already in the party, get ready for some verbal spats, because the two are vehemently at odds about their druidic practices. As any Druid, Faldorn is True Neutral (despite her attitude and scary portrait), and will therefore fit into any party. However, being single-classed, she just doesn’t pull her weight. She has good Wisdom and acceptable Dexterity, but her Constitution is poor, and she can’t wear any worthwhile armour. Jaheira, Branwen and Viconia are all more versatile and hardier than she is. She has a couple of different spells and can summon a dread wolf as a special ability, but it’s not enough of an incentive to use her. Personality-wise, Faldorn is very militant and aggressive, feels more kinship with animals than humans and would gladly kill anybody whom she perceives as defiling nature. Neutral, you say? Riiiight.

Yeslick: SteadfastThis sandy-haired and blue-eyed Lawful Good Fighter/Cleric of Clangeddin with a rather unfortunate name is one of the few survivors of the dwarven clan Orothiar, which resided in the Cloakwood mines and accidentally breached an underground river during an excavation, resulting in their flooding. One of the few survivors, Yeslick moved to Sembia, east of Evereska, and tried to get on with his life. Unfortunately, he became friends with Rieltar, one of the Iron Throne leaders (the group responsible for the trouble on the Sword Coast), who used the information about his past to take over the mines. Yeslick was enslaved and forced to work there himself. Outraged at this betrayal and vandalism of his former home, he asks the party for help when they find him during their foray into the mines. Yeslick is actually a great pick for a Good party. He has the same Strength and Constitution as Jaheira, but better Wisdom and better spells. His Dexterity isn’t great, but his Constitution offsets the issue, and you could give him the Gauntlets of Dexterity if you can spare them. His Intelligence is too low to use scrolls (which can be a problem if you need to raise someone), but he has Dispel Magic as a special ability, which is definitely an asset. His main problem is that, unless you rush through the story, the A.I. will have time to mess him up before you reach him. Which is a pity. Personality-wise, Yeslick is understandably irate when you first meet him, but overall, he’s calm, reasonable and honourable, if somewhat bitter. He also despises Kagain’s money-grubbing nature and may have a go at him if they are in the same party.

Quayle: Obnoxiousness incarnateThis elderly, white-haired and black-eyed gnomish Cleric/Mage of Baravar Cloakshadow can be found just outside the walls of Baldur’s Gate and, should the party talk to him, will attempt to weasel his way in. His family and teachers apparently all urged him to go adventuring as soon as he came of age, and while he thinks it’s because he’s so gifted and intelligent, and generally the best thing since sliced bread, the truth is that he’s simply incredibly annoying. While Quayle’s Chaotic Neutral alignment and his ability to cast both offensive and healing magic theoretically make him suited for any party, he’s just not worth it. His Intelligence is fine (on par with Dynaheir, Xan or Xzar, but worse than Edwin), but his Wisdom is an abysmal 10, making him officially the worst healer in the game. On top of that, he has terrible Strength and poor Constitution, which all but nullifies his decent Dexterity. And, of course, he’s available too late in the story to be of any use. He has Invisibility as a special ability, but it doesn’t counterbalance his flaws. His insufferable personality is just the last nail in his coffin. He may have a go at Tiax, should you somehow have both of them in the same party, although why you’d want to is beyond me.

Alora: Indomitably happyThis pink-haired and brown-eyed Chaotic Good halfling Thief might as well be a secret character, considering that, if you don’t know where–and especially when–to look, you’ll never even encounter her. She can be found burglarising the Hall of Wonders in Baldur’s Gate (the local equivalent of the British Museum) at night, and if the protagonist lends her a hand, she’ll offer to team up. She’s a cute, cheerful lass, originally from Iriaebor, a town located east of Baldur’s Gate. She ran away from home because she was too curious and adventurous to stay put, something which her relatives never approved of. In fact, curiosity is why she became a Thief: other people’s stuff fascinates her, valuable or not. Alora is actually a choice Thief for a Good party, with a Dexterity score second only to Coran. Her Strength is terrible, but she’ll be great with a bow. She has a rabbit’s foot charm, which is supposed to give her a +2 Luck bonus, and thus better Saving Throws, but it’s bugged. The bigger problem is how late you can obtain her. She’s among the last three recruitable characters in the game, and you should already have your thieving needs covered by then. Which is a shame. I’d normally get a sugar high simply from looking at her, but somehow…I don’t hate her as I do most bubbly types. She’s just so earnestly happy about her lot in life. She also tries vehemently to cheer up the various sourpusses in the party, namely Xan, Kivan and Edwin. Amazingly enough, it works on the latter, and they actually become friends. Kivan, however, can barely stand her.

Tiax: Bundle of crazyI have a sneaking suspicion that someone at BioWare really hates gnomes. If you thought Quayle was bad, get a load of this guy. You’ll find this brown-haired and black-eyed bundle of crazy loitering around the Flaming Fist compound in Baldur’s Gate, enthusiastically proclaiming to any who will (or won’t) listen that he is a superior being who will rule the world in the name of Cyric, the mad god. How fitting. Tiax is a Chaotic Evil Cleric/Thief, which is an odd combination that doesn’t quite gel together, and, apart from his Constitution, he has terrible attributes, making him a strong contender for worst character in the game. His Wisdom is a bit better than Quayle’s, but it’s still worse than that of any other healer available. On top of that, he has the worst Dexterity of any Thief. His special ability allows him to summon ghasts, which could be used as cannon-fodder, I guess. He’d fit into an Evil party, but he’s either the last or second-to-last recruitable character in the game, so the A.I. will invariably make him even worse than he already is. Oh, and he may get into a tussle with Quayle, should you somehow end up with both of them. He’s also supposed to have a conflict with Branwen, but this is prevented by scripting kinks.

Skie:Bubblehead If you simply look at her attributes, Skie (pronounced “skee”, not “sky”, which makes it sound rather silly) is a decent Thief with a natural penchant for archery. But there’s a whole case to be made against her. First of all, she’s pretty much the last recruitable character in the game. Secondly, she’s a package deal with Eldoth, who’s a crappy Bard. This effectively limits her to Evil parties. She’s True Neutral, so it’s no biggie, but dragging Eldoth around for the entire game just to get her is a waste of space. Safana and Montaron are both perfectly valid options, and they’re available much earlier. Skie is the brown-haired and brown-eyed daughter of Entar Silvershield, one of the dukes of Baldur’s Gate, and, unfortunately for her, Eldoth has her wrapped around his finger, having orchestrated a blackmailing scam whereby he pretends to kidnap her to obtain ransom money from her father. Considering that’s she’s a naïve bubblehead who complains about broken nails and tangled hair, it’s difficult to feel sorry for her, but he does treat her like crap. This will upset Garrick, if you somehow have him in the party, as he takes a fancy to her, but may also provoke Shar-Teel’s ire.

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