Every class levels at its own rate, which fluctuates depending on the level. Some classes can be combined by dual- and multiclassing. Mages can also choose a spell school to specialise in. The available combinations and specialsations depend on a character’s race and sometimes on their alignment. Humans can only dual-class, while every other race can only multiclass. Simply put, a dual- or multiclassed character will almost always be better than a single-classed one, or, at least, more versatile, although all combinations involving a Cleric or a Druid will be subject to their weapon restrictions. Any alignment restrictions that apply to a single class also apply to any of its combinations (e.g. a Fighter/Druid must be True Neutral). In terms of THAC0 and Saving Throws, the best score will always be taken into account, whether you’re dual- or multiclassing (so, in the case of a Fighter/Thief, for instance, it’ll be the Fighter’s).
You have almost complete control over your protagonist’s attributes during character creation, so patience is pretty much your only limit. An 18 in Dexterity and a 16 in Constitution are desirable for all classes, as they improve your character’s survivability. Unless, of course, you want a challenge and purposefully make a character with poor attributes. Another detail worth mentioning about attributes is the fact that you will periodically find tomes that permanently raise one attribute by one point. There’s one for each attribute, except Wisdom, for which there are four. These should always go to your protagonist, as they’re the only character who will be able to keep these bonuses for the sequel. Knowing this beforehand allows you to be a little more lenient on some of your starting attributes.
Fighter: This is the easy choice. As it’s a pure melee class, there’s very little strategy or planning required: grab a weapon, slap on some heavy armour and go whack stuff. What’s more, it’s available to every race and, as there aren’t many dedicated front-liner companions, making your own may be helpful. Fighters can wear the heaviest armour and use any kind of weapon. They have a d10 HP progression base, gain one point of THAC0 per level and end up with the second-best Saving Throws, with an edge against Paralysis/Poison/Death attacks, but a weakness to Spells.They start with four weapon proficiency points, gain an extra one at level 3, and then one every three levels. What’s more, single- and dual-classed Fighters are the only ones that can attain Grand Mastery in a weapon type (five proficiency points). This makes them the best in terms of straight-up melee damage. Strength and Constitution are the attributes to prioritise. Especially since a Fighter gets additional HP bonuses for every Constitution point above 16. In short, aim for an 18 in both. There are three recruitable Fighters: Khalid (Good), Kagain (Evil) and Shar-Teel (Evil).
Thief: A Thief is a must-have, as traps and locked chests abound, and there are some nifty things to steal. However, everyone and their grandmother is a Thief or a Thief multiclass in this game, so there’s no pressing need to make your own. Thieves can be any race, but they can’t be Lawful (duh). They can only wear light armour and can’t use two-handed weapons, scimitars, maces, axes or heavy projectile weapons. They have a d6 HP progression base and gain one point of THAC0 every two levels. Unfortunately, they share the worst Saving Throws with Bards, particularly against Breath attacks (i.e. Dragons), their best score (Wands) being just average compared to other classes. Thieves start with two weapon proficiency points, get another one at level 4, and then one every four levels, but they can only put one point in a weapon type. A Thief’s bread-and-butter are its abilities: Pick Pockets, Open Locks, Detect (and disarm) Traps and Stealth. The latter plays a role in backstabbing, which is another unique feature of the Thief. If a Thief is hidden and lands a strike, not only is there a four-point THAC0 bonus for that hit, but the enemy also takes a hefty chunk of damage. This is determined by a multiplier that increases with levelling, but, realistically, the most you’ll be able to achieve in this game is a x4. The problem is that backstabbing requires micromanagement, and that most of the Thieves in the game are better off as archers anyway (barring Montaron). Dexterity is THE ability to get an 18 in, but that’s advisable for any class anyway. Thieves also gain three points of Lore per level, which can be helpful for identifying items. There are four Thief companions: Imoen (Good), Safana (Neutral), Alora (Good) and Skie (Neutral).
Fighter/Thief: All the Fighter dual- or multiclasses are good, since the Fighter enhances its counterpart by granting them more HP and better THAC0. In this case, you get a hardier, more combat-worthy Thief. A Fighter/Thief is similar to a Ranger, minus the handful of Druidic spells, but plus the ability to backstab and use other Thief abilities than Stealth. There are no racial restrictions, but your character can’t be Lawful. In terms of dual- or multiclassing, it depends on whether you want more weapon proficiency points or more High Level Abilities in the sequel. A dual-classed Fighter/Thief will be able to put five points in a weapon type, while a multiclassed one will only have two (still better than a single-class Thief). However, dual-classed Fighter/Thieves will only be able to use Thief weapons. Not so for multiclassed ones. Just like a single-class Fighter, you want 18 Strength and Constitution. There are two Fighter/Thief companions: Montaron (Evil) and Coran (Good).
Cleric: The healer class par excellence. There are several single- or multiclassed Cleric companions, but fewer than Thieves. Clerics are priests of a given deity, who grants them abilities and spells in exchange for their service. Most of these are either curative or beneficial, but there are some offensive and debilitating ones as well. These spells are learned automatically (no need to buy or scribe scrolls) and aren’t affected by armour, so a Cleric can turtle up without any drawbacks. However, they are restricted to blunt weapons, and their only ranged option is, therefore, slings. Clerics have a d8 HP progression base and gain two points of THAC0 every three levels, which actually makes them melee-capable. Their Saving Throws give them an edge against Paralysis/Poison/Death, but a weakness to Breath attacks. In terms of weapon proficiency, they gain two points at level 1, one more at level 4, then one every four levels, and they can only spend one point per weapon type. Clerics also share the Paladin’s ability to Turn Undead (i.e. make them flee), but this is only marginally useful. Their most important attribute is Wisdom: a 17 grants access to tier 6 spells, and an 18 to tier 7 ones. There are two Cleric companions: Branwen (Neutral) and Viconia (Evil).
Fighter/Cleric: Elves and halflings are barred from this combination, but there are no alignment restrictions. However, it requires more planning than the Fighter/Thief, since, if you’re dual-classing, you don’t want to lose out on Cleric levels, and, therefore, spells. As a multiclass, you’ll always be a few levels behind a single-class Cleric, and so will always have fewer spells. Up to you to determine whether that’s handicapping or not. Either way, you’ll end up with a beefier, more weapon-savvy Cleric. Both dual- and multiclassed Clerics are restricted to Cleric weapons, but where a dual-classed Fighter/Cleric can put five points into them, a multiclassed one can only put two. However, either way is better than a single-class Cleric, much as for a Fighter/Thief. Any Fighter combination will want 18 Strength and Constitution, but 18 Wisdom would also be great here. Yeslick (Good) is the only recruitable Fighter/Cleric.
Cleric/Thief: One question springs to mind: why? It doesn’t work for Tiax, and it won’t work much better for your own character, even if you’ll at least be able to have better stats. Only non-Lawful gnomes and humans can cook up this bizarre combination, which basically amounts to yoking two horses to opposite ends of a carriage and asking them to pull simultaneously. A Cleric is a heavily armoured spellcaster who can participate in melee, while a Thief is a stealthy backstabber who needs to stay out of the way and wear light armour to actually use its innate skills. Clerical weapon restrictions apply, although you can still backstab, somehow. But who needs logic, right? Whichever way you slice it, dual-classing will be problematic, as you’ll need to quit Thief late enough to get decently-levelled skills, but early enough to get all your Clerical spells. Multiclassing will be less problematic, but you’ll have fewer spells than a single-class Cleric. However, you won’t get any weapon-related perks over single-class Clerics or Thieves, as you’ll still be limited to one proficiency point per weapon. Possibly the worst class combination of the lot; the only good thing is that you’ll inherit a Cleric’s Saving Throws. If you really want to try, you’ll need 18 Wisdom to at least make a worthwhile healer. Tiax (Evil) is the only recruitable Cleric/Thief.
Mage: Being a Mage in an oldschool RPG is an exercise in frustration, due to their limited spellcasting abilities, which force them to rely on ranged attacks outside of difficult fights. However, when they do get to cast, they have some very interesting options. Spellcasting is hampered by armour, so Mages can only wear robes. Considering they also have the worst HP progression (d4 base), this makes them particularly vulnerable. In terms of weapons, they can only use daggers, quarterstaves, darts, throwing daggers or slings. They also have the worst proficiency and THAC0 progression: one proficiency point to start, then one every six levels, and one point of THAC0 every three levels. However, they have good Saving Throws, with an edge against Wands, but a weakness to Paralysis/Poison/Death attacks. Only dwarves and halflings can’t be Mages. Every other race can specialise in one of the eight schools of magic, although only humans face no restrictions. Gnomes are automatically Illusionists, elves can only be Diviners or Enchanters, while half-elves can also be Conjurers or Transmuters. Specialising grants one extra spell per tier, whether it pertains to the specialist school or not, but prohibits spells of the opposing school (or two schools, for Invokers). The results vary a lot: where a Conjurer will barely feel the restriction, an Abjurer will be distinctly more handicapped. A Mage’s most important attribute is Intelligence, although you may also want high Wisdom if you’re planning for the sequel (for the Wish spell). Some specialisations also require a minimum score in one other attribute. Mages also gain three points of Lore per level, with an additional bonus from high Intelligence and, potentially, Wisdom, making them a legitimate source of item identification. Your protagonist is also the only Mage who will be able to learn the Find Familiar spell, and the creature summoned will depend on your alignment. There are four recruitable Mages: Xzar (Evil), Edwin (Evil), Dynaheir (Good) and Xan (Neutral).
Abjurer: The Abjuration school focuses on protective magic, i.e. creating and negating barriers. The (major) downside is that Abjurers are barred from the Alteration/Transmutation school, which includes status enhancing spells like Haste. As it’s one of the best spells in the game, it’s pretty damn crippling. Only humans can be Abjurers and have an additional requirement of at least 15 Wisdom.
Conjurer: The best Mage specialisation, as witnessed by the fact that Edwin is one. The Conjuration school focuses on summoning spells, but cannot use any Divination spells. Those are mostly useless and/or can be covered by other characters, so it’s really not a big deal. Both humans and half-elves can be Conjurers, and have an additional requirement of at least 15 Constitution.
Diviner: The Divination school focuses on detecting hidden things, but has to give up Conjuration spells in return, which is more handicapping than the reverse. Still, if you’re not into summoning monsters or use items to do so, and rely on a Cleric for protective spells, this isn’t a bad specialisation. Humans, elves and half-elves can be Diviners, and have an additional requirement of at least 16 Wisdom.
Enchanter: The Enchanting school focuses on manipulating enemies’ perceptions, but has to give up Invocation/Evocation spells in return. As this covers the great majority of offensive spells, including Magic Missile, you’re left with a Mage whose role is more support than attack. Xan has already got that covered, if you need it, so you might as well pick a less handicapping specialisation instead. Humans, elves and half-elves can be Enchanters, and have an additional requirement of at least 16 Charisma.
Illusionist: The Illusion school focuses on deceiving the senses, without directly manipulating minds, but cannot use Necromantic spells. They’re largely useless in this game, but do include some handy spells in BGII, making Illusionists not quite as good as Conjurers overall. Still, it’s a good choice and the only one gnomes can make. Humans can also pick this. The additional requirement is at least 16 Dexterity.
Invoker: Another very crippling specialisation, which happens to be Dynaheir’s choice. The Invocation school focuses on damaging spells, but is the only one of the lot to be barred from two other schools: Enchantment and Conjuration. This includes some highly useful spells such as Slow, Chaos or Greater Malison, so it’s not recommended. Only humans can be Invokers and have an additional requirement of at least 16 Constitution.
Necromancer: The Necromancy school focuses on spells that deal with life and death, but cannot use Illusion spells. This includes important protective spells, such as Blur or Mirror Image, so it’s also a rather crippling choice. Only humans can be Necromancers and have an additional requirement of at least 16 Wisdom. This is Xzar’s chosen specialisation.
Transmuter: The Transmutation/Alteration school focuses on spells that modify the physical properties of things, and therefore helps with status enhancement and enfeebling. It’s barred from Abjuration spells, which focus on protection and the removal thereof. While this isn’t a big deal in this game, it covers some very important spells in BGII, such as Breach or Mantle, so it ends up being very handicapping in the long run. Humans and half-elves can be Transmuters, and have an additional requirement of at least 15 Dexterity.
Fighter/Mage: Arguably the most powerful combination in the game, with no competition, as there are no Fighter/Mage companions, either here or in BGII. A dual-classed Fighter/Mage is more magic-oriented: if transitioned correctly, it will be a fearsomely durable spellslinger, with the full arsenal of a high-level Mage, but the HP, THAC0 and Saving Throws of a Fighter. A multiclassed Fighter/Mage is more melee-capable, despite only being able to spend two proficiency points per weapon: it can make judicious use of buffing spells to transform into a tank. It goes like this: take off armour, apply buffs, slap armour back on, antagonise some enemies, laugh as they try to harm your character. Then there is the case of the high-Constitution gnomish Fighter/Illusionist, who not only gets the luxury of extra spells, but also an Intelligence bonus and downright silly Saving Throws, due to being short. Sadly, dwarves and halflings can’t join in on the fun. As with all Fighter combos, 18 Strength is required, as is 18 Intelligence, but try to get a minimum of 14 Wisdom as well, if planning ahead for the sequel.
Mage/Thief: It’s an odd choice, outclassed both by the Fighter/Thief and the Fighter/Mage, but at least it makes more sense than a Cleric/Thief. Both classes here need light armour to perform and work better on the sidelines. Moreover, this combination allows the Mage to use a bow instead of a sling for all those easy encounters that don’t warrant wasting spells. Still, the Mage/Thief has no other weapon-related perks, as it will be limited to one proficiency point per weapon, just as its single-class counterparts. Since one of the components is Mage, dwarves and halflings are out, and since the other component is Thief, Lawful characters are out too. Dual-classing is made trickier by the need to raise your thieving skills enough to be useful, but not enough to hamper spell learning. If you want an example, look at Imoen. Or just use her instead. As a multiclass, you’ll always lag behind single-class Mages, unless your character is a gnome, which will grant you extra spells, better Intelligence and some thieving bonuses. 18 Intelligence is needed, but you may want at least 14 Wisdom as well, if planning ahead for the sequel. Imoen (Good) is primed to become a Mage/Thief, and the game strongly hints that you should make her one.
Cleric/Mage: For spell-a-holics, or people who want to pack a divine and arcane caster into one to leave room for an extra companion. This is the most magic you can have on a single character, although the roles themselves are at odds. A Cleric is designed as a front-liner, while a Mage can’t cast in heavy armour. As a dual-class option, you’ll be left with either a subpar Cleric or a subpar Mage (as it’s impossible to learn all spells for both classes), while, as a multiclass, you character will have fewer spell slots, but more spells. On top of that, they will always be lagging behind their single-class counterparts, but also the sturdier Fighter/Cleric and Fighter/Mage combinations, which compensate their spell handicap with melee abilities. Clerical weapon restrictions apply, although they don’t hamper a Mage’s available selection. Still, that means there are no weapon-related perks to this combination, as it will only have one proficiency point per weapon type, just as both its single-class counterparts. Only humans, half-elves and gnomes can partake. 18 Wisdom and Intelligence are required here. Quayle (Neutral) is the only recruitable Mage/Cleric, but he’s terrible.
Fighter/Mage/Thief: Also known as F/M/T. The triple-classes are for long-term planners, since they only really come into their own in the sequel. This particular combination is available only to non-Lawful elves and half-elves, and can actually function rather well once it does hit cruising speed. It’ll lag behind its single-classed and even dual- and multiclassed counterparts something fierce, notably gaining only a third of each class’ HP (and a third of the Fighter’s Constitution bonus), and your character won’t really be much of a Mage. Still, the end result is a versatile, jack-of-all-trades character, mixing three classes that actually cohabit rather well. A bit like a Bard, but with a full set of Thief skills, the ability to backstab and better melee skills, since an F/M/T will be able to allocate two proficiency points per weapon, compared to a Bard’s one. The Fighter/Mage wins out in terms of potency, but the comparison is less clear-cut with a Fighter/Thief. Still, it’s a bit too much variety for my tastes. Like the Fighter/Mage, you will need 18 Strength and Intelligence. Try to get at least 16 Constitution as well (there won’t be a difference between 17 and 18). There are no triple-classed companions in either game.
Fighter/Mage/Cleric: Also known as F/M/C. Only a half-elf can get into this mess, which suffers from the same problems as a Mage/Cleric does, with the added handicap that your character will gain even fewer spells. They will be a tad hardier, although they’ll only obtain a third of each class’ HP and a third of the Fighter Constitution bonus, but I’m not sure it’s a worthwhile compensation. They won’t be able to wear heavy armour, which hampers meleeing, and they won’t be any better than a Mage in terms of ranged attacks, since Clerical weapon restrictions leave them with only slings (where a Fighter/Mage would be able to use a bow). This is definitely the worse of the two triple-classes, as its versatility doesn’t add up to its shortcomings. It doesn’t help that this combination relies on so many attributes. 18 Strength, Intelligence and Wisdom are a must, and you could forget about Dexterity and rely on the Gauntlets of Dexterity instead, so that you can get at least 16 Constitution (again, no difference between 17 and 18). There are no triple-classed companions in either game.
Ranger: An interesting class, particularly for an elf, as it lends itself particularly well to ranged weapons (c.f. Kivan). Rangers are stealthy fighters and protectors of nature. They have a d10 base HP progression and can only be Good humans, elves or half-elves. They can use any type of weapon or armour, but heavy armour will impede their Stealth skill, which is similar to a Thief’s, except that it levels automatically. Rangers can’t backstab, but they can serve as scouts to spot enemies in advance. They can also charm animals, but this is useless past the first few levels. More interestingly, they can pick a favoured enemy type (e.g. gnolls for Minsc), against which they’ll get a four-point THAC0 and damage bonus. They gain one point of THAC0 per level, four starting proficiency points, one more at level 3, then one every three levels, with the proviso that they can only spend two points per weapon type. In terms of Saving Throws, they have an edge against Paralysis/Poison/Death, but a weakness to Spells. Rangers start gaining Druidic spells (up to tier 3) at level 8. But since 8 is the maximum level they can reach in this game, it means they won’t realise their full potential until the sequel. In terms of attributes, depending on whether you want to use melee weapons or not, you may or may not want an 18 in Strength. 18 Constitution is a must, however, since a Ranger will get a Constitution bonus for every point above 16. You also need a minimum of 14 Wisdom. There are two recruitable Rangers: Minsc (although his Wisdom is actually too low to be one…) and Kivan.
Cleric/Ranger: Only Good half-elves and humans have access to this combination. And while it may not trump a dual-classed Fighter/Cleric, it’s better than a multiclassed one for the simple reason that the Ranger will grant the exact same bonuses as a Fighter, but also access to all Druidic spells (even those past tier 3, which a Ranger can’t learn) in addition to the Clerical ones. This makes for a more versatile divine magic user than a Fighter/Cleric, with no additional drawbacks. Your character will still face the same weapon restrictions as a Cleric, but they will be able to spend two proficiency points in them, unlike a single-class Cleric. You’ll also retain the ability to pick a favoured enemy type and even scout at a pinch, provided you remove your character’s armour beforehand. Unlike a single-class Ranger, a Cleric/Ranger can only use slings as ranged weapons, so 18 Strength will be helpful for meleeing. 18 Wisdom is also a must. A Ranger also requires a minimum of 15 Constitution. There are no recruitable Cleric/Rangers in either this game or its sequel.
Druid: They are similar to Clerics, in that they serve mainly as healers, although they derive their powers directly from nature, rather than from a deity, and usually level faster (except for the unaccountably huge gap between level 14 and 15). Due to their commitment to natural balance, Druids can only be True Neutral. Moreover, they can only be human or half-elven. They have a d8 HP progression base, gain two points of THAC0 every three levels, and have good Saving Throws against Paralysis/Poison/Death, with a weakness to Breath attacks. Druids share many spells with Clerics, but they have more of an offensive focus and lack some important beneficial spells, like Protection from Evil 10’ Radius. Moreover, they have an aversion to metal, which restricts them to light armour and, in the weapon department, clubs, quarterstaves, spears, slings and darts. Oddly, however, they can also use daggers and scimitars. Druids start out with two proficiency points, gain another one at level 4, then one more every four levels, although they can only spend one point per weapon type. Druids can also shapeshift into bears or wolves, although this is, frankly, useless. In short, Clerics have the upper hand. However, if you really want to make a Druid, Wisdom is the attribute to prioritise, with a 17 for tier 6 spells, and an 18 for tier 7. You also need a minimum of 15 Charisma. Faldorn is the only recruitable Druid.
Fighter/Druid: This is to a Fighter/Cleric what a single-class Druid is to a single-class Cleric: same perks, same drawbacks. First of all, only True Neutral human or half-elven characters need apply. Secondly, the spell selection is inferior to a Cleric’s. The Fighter/Druid also faces the same weapon restrictions as a single-class Druid, but that allows scimitars, which are a decent choice. Moreover, a multiclassed Fighter/Druid will have two proficiency points per weapon to a single-class Druid’s one, while a dual-classed Fighter/Druid will have five. A Fighter/Druid will also benefit from the better armour selection of its Fighter component. Dual-classed Fighter/Druids need to judiciously plan when to switch, while multiclassed ones will lag behind their single-class counterparts. This is further exacerbated by the inexplicably large experience gap between a level 14 and a level 15 Druid, although you won’t have to deal with it in this game. In addition to 18 Strength and Wisdom, a dual-classed Fighter/Druid will need 17 Charisma, due to how dual-classing works (this isn’t an issue for multiclassers). This is problematic, because you’ll ideally want a high Constitution as well, without forgetting about Dexterity. However, considering you won’t actually be making the switch until the sequel, you could skimp on Wisdom (14) and rely on the tomes found in this game to bring you up to snuff. Jaheira is the only recruitable Fighter/Druid.
Bard: The jack-of-all-trades class. A Bard can do many things, but won’t be great in any of them, especially in the sequel. It’s a support class, only available to Neutral humans or half-elves, and they can’t dual- or multiclass. Their special ability, Bard Song, ties them up for its duration, but maintains morale and removes fear for the entire party. On top of that, they can cast arcane spells up to tier 6, which, if paired with a full-time Mage, could be helpful for outsourcing situationally useful spells. Bards have a base d6 HP progression, can only wear light armour and are restricted from two-handed weapons, scimitars, maces, axes and heavy projectile weapons. They start with two weapon proficiency points, get another one at level 4, and then one every four levels, but they can only put one point in a weapon type. They gain one point of THAC0 every two levels, but have the worst Saving Throws alongside Thieves, particularly against Breath attacks, their best score (Wands) being just average compared to other classes. Finally, Bards can Pick Pockets, although this score will level automatically. It doesn’t replace a Thief, but it may allow a Thief to put more points in a different skill. A Bard’s attribute requirements are a minimum of 15 Charisma, 12 Dexterity (might as well get 18) and 13 Intelligence (ditto). Bards also get a whopping 10 points of Lore per level, with an extra bonus from high Intelligence, making them the go-to class for identifying items. There are two recruitable Bards: Garrick (Neutral) and Eldoth (Evil).
Paladin: The most restrictive class: only Lawful Good humans need apply, and there are no dual- or multiclass options. They can only spend two proficiency points per weapon, so they won’t be as proficient in melee as Fighters, but they have everything else that makes a Fighter good, plus some bonuses. Paladins have a base d10 HP progression, gain one point of THAC0 per level, start out with four proficiency points, gain an extra one at level 3 and then one every three levels. They also have the best Saving Throws in the game, since they have the same base as Fighters and Rangers (an edge against Paralysis/Poison/Death, but a weakness to Spells) plus a two-point bonus in every category. They also have Detect Evil, Protection from Evil, Turn Undead and Lay on Hands as special abilities, the latter being a form of minor healing. Paladins are also a long-term investment since, starting from level 9, they gain Clerical spells (up to tier 4). The problem is that you’ll only be able to see these in the sequel, as the highest level a Paladin can reach in this game is 8. They do make perfect party leaders, though, due to their minimum requirement of 17 Charisma. They also need a minimum of 13 Wisdom. Other than that, 18 Strength and Constitution, especially since they also gain bonus HP for every Constitution point above 16. Ajantis is the only recruitable Paladin.