* already included in the Extended Edition
** not compatible with the Extended Edition

As I have already mentioned, mods are an integral part of any PC RPG, and Baldur’s Gate is no exception, especially due to the diversity and the quality of some of the available material. From ease-of-use, to bug fixing, to extra dialogue, quests or characters, these mods all significantly enhance the experience and reduce a large part of the tedium inevitably linked to such an old game.

There are several websites where mods can be found, and the most significant ones are usually group efforts by modders who frequent these sites. The most prominent sites would be Spellhold Studios (or SHS), The Gibberlings Three (or G3), the Pocket Plane Group (or PPG) and the Chosen of Mystra (or CoM). I’ll only be listing the mods I’ve tried out, but feel free to browse these websites and see if anything else catches your fancy. They also feature forums where you can ask for advice or help, should you run into any baffling bugs.

Before doing anything to your game, you need to apply the latest official patch from BioWare (if you have Tales of the Sword Coast, take the TotSC patch, no need for both). Once that’s done, you have two choices: 1) you can install a megamod like the BiG World Project, which is a jumbo pack containing a plethora of mods (around 400). This is handy if you want a lot of mods and will (theoretically) make them play nice together, but the downside is that the installation procedure can be very lengthy and complex, and if something goes wrong, you may very well need to reinstall everything. Or, 2) you can be somewhat less ambitious and simply install the mods you want directly, which is what I did, since I don’t use that many. If you choose to do that, there is, nevertheless, an order of installation to follow. Usually, the more extensive mods, which affect either characters or storyline (or both) go first, and the ones that are purely technical come later. I’ll list the ones I use by order of installation.

One more thing worth mentioning: I have a policy concerning NPCs whereby I only use mods that expand on characters that already existed in the vanilla game (e.g. Xan, Coran, etc.). So you won’t find original characters created from scratch (e.g. Gavin, Kelsey) in any of my lists, simply because I’ve never tested them.

WeiDU by Weimer: Short for “Weimer’s Dialogue Utility”, named after its creator. This isn’t actually a mod, but a compiler program that will take care of installing all your BG mods. It largely automates the process and generates a handy log that lets you keep track of everything you’ve installed and the order you’ve installed it in, which is very important, especially if you run into bugs or incompatibilities. Every mod on this list is installed via WeiDU (except EasyTutu).

EasyTutu by Macready + Tutufix by PPG: One of the best-known and most used mods, this is a streamlined, easier-to-use version of the “BG1 Tutu” (shorthand for “Baldur’s Gate 1 to 2”) mod from PPG. It will convert the game to play with the Baldur’s Gate II engine, which is superior to its predecessor in just about every way (e.g. higher resolution, faster movement, etc.). It also introduces the new classes (Sorcerer, Monk, Wild Mage) and class kits (various specialisations of each class) from BGII, thus giving your protagonist more starting options. It also introduces new spells and extra Thief skills from BGII, although the drawback with the latter addition is that the characters’ skill points don’t actually increase, so your Thieves will have the same amount of points to distribute among more categories. Still, it’s a minor handicap at best.

You need both BG and BGII installed to use this (as it needs resources from BGII to transfer its game engine to BG). However, the mod will leave their installation folders intact, should you ever want to play the vanilla version of BG again. Once you’ve got EasyTutu installed, you’ll need two things: the EasyTutu Degreenifier (found on the EasyTutu page), so that you can play with 3D acceleration enabled without the water in the game appearing green; and Tutufix, which solves minor issues with EasyTutu itself.

If you have the Extended Edition, you won’t need this mod.

BG1 Unfinished Business by PPG: This is a mod that restores some sidequests that were cut from the game, but also fixes a significant amount of dialogue, encounters, items, soundsets and creature files. The sidequests aren’t exactly stellar, and you won’t be missing out on much if you don’t do them, but fixes and consistency improvement are always good.

BG1 NPC Project by G3: After EasyTutu, the other absolutely must-have mod. This is an impressive, extensive effort to improve character interaction in the game, to match the kind of interaction found in BGII. Because vanilla BG has almost none. This isn’t to say that it’s 100% perfect: there were many different authors involved, not all of them native English speakers, so you may find the odd language quirk here and there. Nevertheless, I’m a staunch proponent of character development, and this mod definitely delivers in that department; I couldn’t imagine playing without it. On top of all the additional dialogue, the protagonist can now investigate each companion’s past by talking to them directly, and nine of them get additional personal quests. Moreover, in keeping with the tradition BioWare established with its later games, six of the companions become romanceable by the protagonist, three for each gender. Male protagonists can pick between Branwen, Dynaheir and Shar-Teel, while female protagonists have a choice between Ajantis, Coran and Xan. Having tried out the latter two, I can heartily recommend both.

Coran’s romance is somewhat more complex than you’d first expect and involves a good understanding of his personality to navigate, as well as an element of luck. It may even entail changing his alignment. However, if successfully completed, it’s clever, cheeky and fun, with some surprising moments and several possible outcomes. My only complaint? It doesn’t carry over to the sequel, so you have to make up your own reasons for why it doesn’t ultimately work out.

Xan’s romance is more serious and poignant, as befits the character. This one does carry over to the sequel, and not only does that make it one of the most extensive character mods out there, but also one of the most thought-out, best-written romances available to a female protagonist, with several different progression paths and outcomes. It’s very good stuff, barring a couple of overwrought bits and some awkward phrasing (the author isn’t a native English speaker). Just one warning: you have to like drama. That’s the one real criticism I have: depending on your choices, the woe can get rather unrelenting (especially in BGII), as the author seems to like her romances with an extra helping of tragedy. That doesn’t mean there are no happy, moving or even humorous moments.

Coran’s BG Extended Friendship Talks by Domi: Written by the author of the Coran romance from the BG1 NPC Project, this is a set of additional, purely friendly dialogues with the witty elf. So if you enjoy his character, but your protagonist is male or simply not interested in romancing him (or doesn’t meet the requirements to do so), you can chat to him some more instead.

Xan’s Friendship Path for BG1 by Kulyok: Similar to the above. This was written by the author of the Xan romance from the BG1 NPC Project and provides additional friendly dialogues with the depressive elf, if your protagonist is not interested in a romance (or not eligible for it) or male. Typical ‘xanisms’ are to be expected, so if it drives you up a wall, stay away. If, however, you’re fond of our Marvin-esque friend, this is for you.

One Pixel Productions by Erephine: Normally, this is a BGII mod, but if you’ve installed EasyTutu, you’ll be using the BGII engine, so it amounts to the same thing. This mod introduces a lot of graphical tweaks. Its most significant component is replacing BGII paperdolls with BG ones, since they mostly look neater (although it does retain paperdolls for female gnomes and dwarves, which didn’t exist in vanilla BG). It also modifies inventory icons, item graphics and spell animations, which, for some reason, all looked sloppier in BGII. The end results are crisp, cleaner graphics, which, while it doesn’t amount to much considering the size of the items affected, is still more pleasing to the eye. There’s also a different menu font, which may make things easier to read. This is entirely up to personal taste, though, so if you were happy with BGII graphics and have no desire to revert to BG ones, then give this a miss.

If you have the Extended Edition, you won’t need this mod.

BG2 Tweaks by G3: Despite the name, this actually contains components for both games. Another godsend of a mod, which includes a plethora of fixes, additions, cosmetic changes and tweaks to abolish or work around some of the more annoying aspects of the game. You’re free to choose the ones you want, but they include, in no particular order:

  • Bags of holding, ammo belts and the like (from BGII), which make inventory management a lot easier.
  • Making the entirety of Cloakwood accessible earlier, thus enabling you to pick up Coran, Faldorn and Eldoth more quickly.
  • Moving some companions to less out-of-the-way locations, so that they become available earlier (e.g. Alora can be moved to the halfling village of Gullykin instead of the Hall of Wonders in Baldur’s Gate).
  • Identifying all items, thus saving you the annoyance of having to do it yourself.
  • Removing the experience cap.
  • Being able to wear multiple protection items at the same time (e.g. two Rings of Protection).
  • Weapon grandmastery for multiclasses.
  • Preventing character conflicts and/or characters spontaneously leaving the party because of reputation. This is known as the ‘Happy Patch’, and allows a Good party to experience some of the better Evil companions, such as Viconia or Edwin, and vice-versa.
  • Telling companions to wait for you at an inn if you remove them from the party (thus enabling you to pick them up again later, should you so desire).

And many more. A highly recommended install.

Parting Ways by berelinde: This is a small convenience mod to cover an oversight created by the ‘Happy Patch’ from BG2 Tweaks. While companions won’t spontaneously leave despite being unhappy with the party’s reputation when the ‘Happy Patch’ is installed, they will bugger off permanently should you remove them from the party after reaching critical reputation levels. E.g. you’ve recruited Viconia, hit a reputation of 19-20, but would like to temporarily replace her for whatever reason. Without this mod, you wouldn’t be able to without lowering your reputation again.

Warning: this mod is not compatible with the Extended Edition yet.

Sword Coast Stratagems by DavidW: A very comprehensive collection of tactical mods designed to improve the game’s A.I., companion and inventory management. The short version? This is aimed at making the game more difficult. However, you can pick and choose what to install, and some of the available options do make sense, from a purely logical standpoint, without automatically resulting in a difficulty spike. I have this installed for a completely tangential reason, however: it allows you to separate character pairs. Like Minsc but couldn’t care less about Dynaheir? It’s finally possible to bring him along on his own without having to kill her or sequester her inside a building.

Level 1 NPCs by Nythrun: Another must-have. This mod does several things. First of all, it sets all newly-recruited characters’ level to 1 and leaves their accumulated EXP and skill points unassigned for you to distribute as you see fit. This nullifies the previously existing issue of the game’s A.I. bungling up characters that were available in the later stages of the game. Additionally, you can make their accumulated EXP match your party’s EXP levels more closely, either when they first join or whenever you remove them from the party and then recruit them again. This removes the level gaps that also plagued late-comer companions and thus makes them genuinely viable to recruit. Last but not least, this mod also allows you direct control over each companion’s stats, classes (including kits from BGII), skills and proficiencies. Want your very own Keldorn-wannabe (N.B.: the Paladin companion from BGII)? You can turn Ajantis (who is, incidentally, his pupil) into an Inquisitor. Unhappy with Shar-Teel’s appalling Constitution? You can raise it. Don’t see why Coran should be able to use Two-Handed Swords? You can put his proficiency points elsewhere. All in all, a fantastic mod.

Sword Coast Map Labels by Miloch: BGII has labels to identify each area on its world map. BG, however, doesn’t, and this despite having a lot more outdoor areas that are difficult to differentiate. This mod makes your life a good deal easier by applying map labels to all these areas. This is mostly helpful for people who have played before and therefore have an idea of which quests start in a given area, but don’t necessarily remember where exactly that area is on the map. However, they can also be useful to new players. The labels usually refer to the main geographic highlight of each area (e.g. Caves of Kozah or Shipwreck Coast), so if you need to go back to a certain area, it will help you to distinguish which one was which.

Warning: this mod is not compatible with the Extended Edition yet.

Generalized Biffing by the bigg: This is a purely technical mod that aims to improve your game’s performance by converting game files to a different format (.bif, hence the name). This will be most useful for people with megamods, but it can also be used on non-megamod installations, if you feel that you’re starting to accumulate a lot of mods. Considering there are significantly fewer BG mods in existence than BGII ones, this is probably not necessary here, but I may as well mention it.

Widescreen Mod by the bigg: This mod allows you to run the game at any resolution you wish, whether fullscreen or windowed. Simple, but effective and highly recommended. What’s more, you can also use it for BGII, Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale and Icewind Dale II.

If you have the Extended Edition, you won’t need this mod.

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