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Here are some tips that you may find useful when just starting out in the world of BG:

1) Statistics

The stats (AKA: Strength, Wisdom, etc.) your main PC has can have a strong effect on how deadly s/he is. A warrior with a 14 Strength for example, has no bonus modifiers for melee combat, while an 18/00 Str gives a whopping +3 to hit and +6 damage. Clerics with high Wisdom get a few bonus spell slots. Thieves with high Dex can use their thief skills even better. If you don't know anything about D&D, RTFM and learn what the stats do, and which stats have even greater importance for your class(es). Don't overlook the tables at the end of the manual.

I'm an old school gamer, so I play with total stats of 63 or so, but most gamers play with 80+, 90+, or even maxed stats (cheating). Depending on your playstyle and your views, you might want to spend a few minutes rerolling starting scores to get a high total for your main guy. You should also know that while your stats may alter a little through the game, for the most part, what you roll to start with is what you're going to have the entire series, so make sure you know what stats you want, and which are best for you.

2) Missile > Melee

It's a general rule for most games (hell, life!) that ranged attacks are preferable to close combat. If you get up close and personal, your enemies can hurt you and make you cry. Attack from afar, and they can't even bleed on you. In BG, bows give you two attacks a round versus one attack for anything else. SInce more attacks is a good thing, make sure all your guys have ranged weapons (don't forget classes have weapon restrictions!), and get bows for those who can use them. Make sure you have plenty of ammo too. Ammo is dirt cheap and weighs nothing, so stock up. RUN from anything that can shoot back.

3) Stay Standing

In BG, there are two things you need to stay up during combat. You need a good Armor Class, and you need good hit points. Good saves are also useful, but they come into play later. At the start of BG, it's all about AC and hp. Because warriors can wear the best armor and use the largest hit die for health, it's for this reason that Fighter is the most commonly recommended class for newbies. I'm not saying you need to play a Fighter, or a warrior at all, if that's not your style (I'm a caster myself). However, if you're tired of dying over and over and over and over and just want to play the damn game already before you chuck your computer out the window, then Fighter (or Paladin, Ranger, or Barbarian) might be for you.

Whatever class you choose, get the best AC you can, and hope for good rolls for hit points. Because PC death is game over, keep your guy away from the front line unless s/he's needed. One simple trick is to send other warriors in first so that monsters engage with them first, and THEN send your guy in to flank, or rear attack, or whatever. This will reduce you being targetted overly much. Remember, it doesn't matter if all your other NPCs die, so long as you live. There are puh-lenty of other NPCs to recruit in BG1.

4) Auto-pause

While in the game, go to Options ("o") and then Gameplay. From there, click auto-pause. This window gives you all the options for when the game will instantly pause when a certain event occurs. Clicking on any of the words will give you a description at the bottom of how each option works.

Play around with them all and see which work for you during the game. While you might want to click all of them, you may find that the game constantly freezing comes to be rather irritating. Pretty damn fast. For myself, I only have "center on member", "enemy sighted" and "trap found" selected. Figure out which you like.

The most important one is "enemy sighted". Rather than blundering into a pack of monsters cause you were looking at your phone, the game will handily freeze for you when you come across an enemy. This can give you a chance for your party to back away before you're seen, but this isn't always the case. HOWEVER, if your scout has stumbled across enemies, then she can easily retreat (or scout further) without risk of being immediately sighted. Scouting and auto-pause together will go a long way towards helping you avoid fights you don't want, and that's something that is VERY important for you while you're low level.

5) The Start

Candlekeep is there to make sure you know the basics of combat. Don't forget to try out the training party if you want more practice. Do you know where to look to see what your scores for combat are like AC and hit bonuses? Are they as good as you can make them? Try swapping out armor and weapons to see how the numbers change.

When you've left Candlekeep and Imoen's joined you, don't wander! You are a tender little rosebud, and anything can squash you. Head due east ("dinnae strayyyy frim the path, laddie!"), and then follow the path north. This is a perfect time to practice scouting. Thieves have the ability to Hide in Shadows (HS). Imoen's a thief, have her try. Don't worry that she won't succeed initially. She's only 1st level, and sunlight gives a HS penalty, and depending on what mods you have, her armor might give a HS penalty also. When she fails, you'll have to wait six seconds (one round), to try again. Keep trying until she's stealthed.

Have her poke around a little, scouting the path east of where she joins you. Keep an eye on the text and notice that the game keeps checking to see if she stays stealthed. Because her scores are low, she won't stay stealthed longl. After reappearing, Hide again. Get a sense of how long it takes before she can Hide, how long it usually lasts, and once her stealth ends, how long until she's solid again. Knowing this will give you a good sense of how far to explore areas, how close you can get to monsters, and how quickly you need to run away.

Have Imoen scout the path east and then north. Once you've established an area is safe, have your PC move up. Be aware that once Imoen spots monsters, even though they can't see her, they might start wandering around, so don't let your visible guys get too close to monster spawn points. Remember, you're a delicate spongecake... give monsters a WIDE berth for now.

Follow the path up with Imoen scouting until you find Xzar and Montaron. Have them join. Now you are four! Your chance of survival just doubled! Go east and change maps. Note where the FAI is.

After dealing with the pompous old kook, have Imoen or Monty scout. Look at their scores, who is better? What if you took off their armor? Do you want to risk scouting without armor? Scout the area until you can find a safe path to get you to the Friendly Arm Inn. There are tons of brutes here and your party can easily die, so be very careful. Remember, delicate truffle. Combat is NOT your goal right now, survival is. Avoid everything, and run away if you can at all.

Once at the FAI, there's only one last hurdle, but it's a doozy. Quite a few gamers consider this fight one of, if not THE, hardest in the game. It's not that your enemy is powerful, it's that you're so weak in comparison. MANY PC deaths have happened here. FYI, some mods (like SCS) change the spells and tactics here, which may in fact make it easier. No more 6-15 dmg Magic Missile attacks is a great thing.

Remember what we've learned so far: scout/ ranged weapons/ warriors up front. Imoen has a wand of magic missiles ("I dunno how it got there. It must have fallen into my pocket!" (shut up Tas!)).
Her wand can help interrupt spellcasting, as can missile fire from the group. All that really matters is that the PC survives. If you can't accept any party deaths, you can reload. Or, you can accept their deaths and move on. Again, depending on mods, the local guards might or might not help, but don't count on them. They come with Stormtrooper skills, so if you actually see them hit once, buy a lottery ticket since you're obviously swimming in luck.

The wand will help you interrupt spells. Missiles will help. Melee can help too. Further, you might want to give Xzar the wand and have Imoen and/ or Monty try a backstab. If you don't know (didn't you RTFM yet?!), backstabs cause extra damage but can only be done by thieves while stealthed. Maybe after scouting the area, having a stealthed thief around to Stab here might be helpful. It all depends on your tactics and style.

Once you're inside, pick up Khalid and Jaheira. Now you are six! Make sure J is always stocked with healing spells, make sure they have ranged attacks, and then scout your way down to Beregost then Nashkel. Explore the maps on your way down (you can explore the first map where you got Imoen now if you want), but keep heading south. Rest a lot. Be aware though that if you rest too much, your teammates will start grumbling about your delay. They all want to go to Nashkel. If you take too long (two weeks? don't remember) they'll leave. So rest a lot, but don't make a vacation of it. You don't actually have to do anything in Nashkel. Just entering the map should be enough to end their complaints. Work on killing things and getting xp to level up. Note which monsters "pay" more for xp, and try to kill a lot of those. ALWAYS be prepared to run away ("Brave SIr Robin...") and have your escape route planned.

You should be L2 or even L3 before entering the Nashkel mines. If you have mods like SCS, higher still. Beware of kobold archers, particularly Commandos!!! Be 'ware! Make sure your casters have area spells to disable enemy shooters.

Good luck !
Post edited April 07, 2013 by BlueMooner
Excellent advice! The bit about ranged weapons took me forever to realize (I used to have a couple of set 'archers' and pretty much everyone else went melee, but my fighters always got cut down pretty quickly). Even a kobold is pretty damn dangerous when they get ahold of a bow.

The one other thing that I'd be quick to add is to make sure to start keeping an eye out for traps the moment you enter a dungeon or other place (semi-)permanently inhabited by 'sentient evil' (A thief or cleric will be able to do the trick). Got good advice re. trapfinding? Being unable to do it while hidden kinda blows (unless you're a cleric that is), and my workarounds are always kind of awkward and unwieldy.
Post edited April 05, 2013 by Nerritti
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Nerritti: The one other thing that I'd be quick to add is to make sure to start keeping an eye out for traps the moment you enter a dungeon or other place (semi-)permanently inhabited by 'sentient evil' (A thief or cleric will be able to do the trick). Got good advice re. trapfinding? Being unable to do it while hidden kinda blows (unless you're a cleric that is), and my workarounds are always kind of awkward and unwieldy.
This is where Imoen -- and being able to manage her stats from the very beginning -- becomes your ace card. She really is probably THE best character, stat-wise, in the entire game series. Her ONLY failing is her Strength, so do NOT use her for backstabbing, unless you can boost her Strength first with, say, a Strength potion. She has max DEX, which gives her a boost to AC and Ranged THAC0; she has the ceiling CON for a thief, which means she gets the maximum possible HP at level up; she has very high INT, which means you can dual her to a Thf/Mage if you so wish (but don't do this in BG1); she has a more than adequate CHA, which means that she can be your 'front man' for buying/selling. Not only her stats are good, but she will never complain, no matter what alignment your party takes, and she will absolutely never leave of her own accord. A must have by anybody's standards.

Anyway, put all of her thief skills into Find Traps and Hide In Shadows early on. Find Traps should be raised as high as possible, and Hide In Shadows up to 50/60 percent. Don't waste early points on Open Locks -- there are no locks that cannot be either broken open by a stronger character, or go back to later. Leave any Open Locks points until she is fully proficient (>90%) in Find Traps. Also remember that in caves/dungeons she gets a bonus to Hide, which makes finding traps that much safer -- not many traps are outdoors, at least early game.

Just remember her Strength: do NOT use her for solo hit-and-run, unless you have Boots Of Speed and/or potions of invisiblity. She's a scout, not an assassin!
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Nerritti: Excellent advice! The bit about ranged weapons took me forever to realize (I used to have a couple of set 'archers' and pretty much everyone else went melee, but my fighters always got cut down pretty quickly). Even a kobold is pretty damn dangerous when they get ahold of a bow.

The one other thing that I'd be quick to add is to make sure to start keeping an eye out for traps the moment you enter a dungeon or other place (semi-)permanently inhabited by 'sentient evil' (A thief or cleric will be able to do the trick). Got good advice re. trapfinding? Being unable to do it while hidden kinda blows (unless you're a cleric that is), and my workarounds are always kind of awkward and unwieldy.
With another character in your party with stealth skills, you can send two characters out in a scouting and trap-finding team. The character moving with stealth leads the way, with the trap-finder following.

As long as your trap-finder follows the stealth character faithfully, your stealth character should spot enemies before enemies spot the trap-finder. The straight-line or follow formations are useful for this; auto-pause for spotting enemies and finding traps is extremely helpful.

There is enough range on finding traps that, as long as you move your pair in slow steps, any traps should be detected before your stealth character trips them.

Remember you don't necessarily need two thieves to do this; rangers have stealth capabilities. That does mean though you are not using your ranger for tanking. (Out of combat, you can change armor easily- when the enemy is spotted and you get the auto-pause, switch to heavy armor. That feels cheesy to me, but it is an available option.)

The other trap-finding/scouting option is invisibility on your trap-finder. The problem is that combat breaks invisibility- so your invisible character must either refrain from aiding in combat, or otherwise you have to blow through a lot of invisibility spells/potions.

With the low levels in BG1, you're not going to have a lot of second-level mage spell slots handy, and not lots of money to stock up on invisibility potions. If Imoen is your trap-finder, you don't want to her to be sitting out of combat to maintain the invisibility, because with her high DEX she can be deadly with the bow.
All good points. However, I think you should be more specific about stat assignment in the BG series. Above all else, maxing things out is important, since median values tend to suck horribly but eat up your valuable stat points. I'd say this is a concise plan to follow for stat assignment (should cover 99% of characters):

Top Priority
1) Start by assigning 8 points to strength, 18 points to dexterity (19 for elves), 7 points to constitution
2) If you're a mage, max out intelligence
3) If you're a cleric or druid, max out wisdom
4) If you will be using a melee weapon primarily, max out strength
5) If you have enough points to raise it to at least 15, raise constitution as high as you can. Otherwise leave it at 7.
6) Distribute remaining points as you see fit. Strength will give you carrying capacity, intelligence will let you identify items and survive illithid brain attack, wisdom will let you identify items, and charisma affect some conversation paths (but never in a meaningful way).

Eight strength is a practical minimum to be able to carry and use the equipment you want, and leaves you with no penalty to melee attack. Seven constitution avoids health penalties, so going lower is dangerous. However, you need to raise it to 15 to start accruing bonuses, so median values are just wasteful. Dexterity should be maxed out; period. If you're a caster, max out your casting stat, otherwise mental stats can mostly be ignored. The BG series rarely uses mental stats for anything of consequence, so don't be afraid to dump them to max out the more important physical stats.
Post edited April 05, 2013 by Darvin
@ Darwin - MIN/MAXing has its limitations. For fighters and thieves you can have low charisma, wisdom and intelligence without any real repercussions, but all classes need decent strength (to carry things), dexterity (improved armor class) and constitution (for hit point bonuses). But yes, I agree with maxing out your primary stat, especially for mages and clerics even though they won't see high level spells.
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Darvin: All good points. However, I think you should be more specific about stat assignment in the BG series. Above all else, maxing things out is important, since median values tend to suck horribly but eat up your valuable stat points. I'd say this is a concise plan to follow for stat assignment (should cover 99% of characters):

Top Priority
1) Start by assigning 6 points to strength, 18 points to dexterity (19 for elves), 7 points to constitution
2) If you're a mage, max out intelligence
3) If you're a cleric or druid, max out wisdom
4) If you will be using a melee weapon primarily, max out strength
5) If you have enough points to raise it to at least 15, raise constitution as high as you can. Otherwise leave it at 7.
6) Distribute remaining points as you see fit. Strength will give you carrying capacity, intelligence will let you identify items and survive illithid brain attack, wisdom will let you identify items, and charisma affect some conversation paths (but never in a meaningful way).

Six strength is a practical minimum to be able to carry and use the equipment you want. I personally wouldn't leave it that low (weak carrying capacity is annoying) but it's not mandatory to raise it any higher. Seven constitution avoids health penalties, so going lower is dangerous. However, you need to raise it to 15 to start accruing bonuses, so median values are just wasteful. Dexterity should be maxed out; period. If you're a caster, max out your casting stat, otherwise mental stats can mostly be ignored. The BG series rarely uses mental stats for anything of consequence, so don't be afraid to dump them to max out the more important physical stats.
Six points in Strength is very silly. You will immediately incur a -2 penalty to THAC0 and can only carry 30lbs. That is not good at all. The very minimum for incurring no penalties is 8 points, and you can carry 20lb more.

Constitution should always be (ideally):
Warrior classes - 18
Non Warrior classes - 16
This gives the maximum amount of Hit Points at level up. Remember, HP is extremely important in the early game. Leaving it at 7 will deprive warriors of 4 points per level, and other classes of 2 points per level.
Six points in Strength is very silly. You will immediately incur a -2 penalty to THAC0 and can only carry 30lbs
The THAC0 penalty is only for melee. If you're not going to use melee attacks, then it's not a huge deal. Yes 30 lbs carrying capacity is very restrictive, but it's enough to carry your basic equipment and a few potions.

As I said, I personally wouldn't go this low for the very reason of carrying capacity. Setting strength to 8 or 10 makes more sense. However, it's definitely something prioritized below maxing out constitution; those hit points are more valuable.


In the long run, this kind of character will use strength-boosting magic and/or items, so his actual strength score will be rendered irrelevant.

Six points in Strength is very silly. You will immediately incur a -2 penalty to THAC0 and can only carry 30lbs
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Darvin: The THAC0 penalty is only for melee. If you're not going to use melee attacks, then it's not a huge deal. Yes 30 lbs carrying capacity is very restrictive, but it's enough to carry your basic equipment and a few potions.

As I said, I personally wouldn't go this low for the very reason of carrying capacity. Setting strength to 8 or 10 makes more sense. However, it's definitely something prioritized below maxing out constitution; those hit points are more valuable.

In the long run, this kind of character will use strength-boosting magic and/or items, so his actual strength score will be rendered irrelevant.
Yes, but you stated:
"I'd say this is a concise plan to follow for stat assignment (should cover 99% of characters)".

Well, I would argue that 100% of characters are forced into some form of melee combat during the course of any game, even mages. But putting that aside, in BG1, with no holding bags, inventory space is at a premium, and no party wants a character who can only carry 30lbs of gear. I still say that 6 Strength is very silly.

Well, I would argue that 100% of characters are forced into some form of melee combat during the course of any game, even mages. But putting that aside, in BG1, with no holding bags, inventory space is at a premium, and no party wants a character who can only carry 30lbs of gear. I still say that 6 Strength is very silly.
Just have the guy hold the gemstones and scrolls. They take up the same amount of space as anything else, but have no weight.

Maybe I'm being a little too heavy on the min/max, but 6 strength technically works. Anyways, I'll change that previous post to advise a minimum of 8 strength since you are right that it's more practical. That said, I'm actually inclined to try a super-low strength character from start to finish now, just to see how punishing it really is (I've only done it in BG2).
Post edited April 05, 2013 by Darvin

Well, I would argue that 100% of characters are forced into some form of melee combat during the course of any game, even mages. But putting that aside, in BG1, with no holding bags, inventory space is at a premium, and no party wants a character who can only carry 30lbs of gear. I still say that 6 Strength is very silly.
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Darvin: Just have the guy hold the gemstones and scrolls. They take up the same amount of space as anything else, but have no weight.

Maybe I'm being a little too heavy on the min/max, but 6 strength technically works. Anyways, I'll change that previous post to advise a minimum of 8 strength since you are right that it's more practical. That said, I'm actually inclined to try a super-low strength character from start to finish now, just to see how punishing it really is (I've only done it in BG2).
Considering how easy it is to roll for stats until you get a stat total in the high 80s at least, there's no real need for such restrictive min/maxing on stats.
If you're a min-maxer and just hate the time it takes you to get a good roll, then just use Shadowkeeper to give yourself the stats you want.

That being said, there are almost always better dump stats than strength, and I haven't found any real need to dump strength even for the classes that are the most dependent on multiple stats like paladins or cleric/mage multiclasses.
Min-maxing is certainly one strategy a gamer can take, however my goal was to help gamers more with tactics than stats. You guys are assuming that they're going to play with 90+ or 100+, which IMHO is poor gameplay and sets a bad habit. Players need to learn HOW to deal with fights, both how to pick them and how to win. This plays a much bigger role in survival than stats. Even your all 18 character wlil die if she wanders all by herself into a pack of kobold archers/commandoes. Stats help, but tactics are more important, and not everybody does, or should, play with overpowered stats.

Scouting is crucial for survival. AC and hp less so, but also good. Keeping in mind the greater importance of the PC over the other members is helpful. Remembering to run away from too-strong fights. Taking one's time. Using ranged attacks. These I think are things players need to know, due to how these types of questions keep popping up over and over.

Bjbrown made a good point. I'll add a bit about the auto-pause.
You guys are assuming that they're going to play with 90+ or 100+, which IMHO is poor gameplay and sets a bad habit.
I made no such presumption; If you follow my suggestion for a mage, then a 63 point character will have:

8 strength
18 dexterity
7 constitution
18 intelligence
3 wisdom
3 charisma
+6 points to distribute as you please.
Players need to learn HOW to deal with fights
Agreed; I never intended for this to go off topic into a discussion of stat optimization. It was just intended to be a quick codification rather than broad guidelines.
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BlueMooner: Min-maxing is certainly one strategy a gamer can take, however my goal was to help gamers more with tactics than stats. You guys are assuming that they're going to play with 90+ or 100+, which IMHO is poor gameplay and sets a bad habit. Players need to learn HOW to deal with fights, both how to pick them and how to win. This plays a much bigger role in survival than stats. Even your all 18 character wlil die if she wanders all by herself into a pack of kobold archers/commandoes. Stats help, but tactics are more important, and not everybody does, or should, play with overpowered stats.

Scouting is crucial for survival. AC and hp less so, but also good. Keeping in mind the greater importance of the PC over the other members is helpful. Remembering to run away from too-strong fights. Taking one's time. Using ranged attacks. These I think are things players need to know, due to how these types of questions keep popping up over and over.

Bjbrown made a good point. I'll add a bit about the auto-pause.
We're assuming they're going to play with 80+ stats characters (getting 90+ is really tedious without SK and 80 or so is quite enough), because I'd bet over 90% of players keep rolling stats until they have a good total that lets them max the stats they're interested in.

I'm pretty sure nobody except those looking for a challenge or roleplayers who refuse to reroll are going to play with characters with a stat total in the 60s. And those people likely don't need your starting tips.


Frankly tactics in BG aren't that hard:
1. Equip bows on everyone who can use them, with other ranged weapons on the rest.
2. Make a tank character with negative AC and 25+ hp (more is better, of course). Until you have one, just kite.
3. ?
4. Profit.
Just wanted to say thanks for writing this guide. I gave up on BG, but if I ever get in the mood to give it another chance I will keep these tips in mind.