First, I agree with using the conservative mod guide for your first game.
Second, I apologise for the length of this post, but I think I'm going into the right level of detail for a first-timer. There are no spoilers here, fear not.
For your starting character I suggest a Fighter, Paladin, Cleric or Fighter/Cleric, because those classes can wear all sorts of armour without penalty and can take a decent amount of damage (clerics a bit less than the others). Most classes in the game (and all the essential party roles) are represented by decent, and in some cases excellent, NPCs, so you can build a good party around any main character, but at the very beginning of the game, for an inexperienced player, the ability to survive is the most important thing.
I won't go into detail on the different abilities of the classes - you can easily look them up online - but briefly, fighters (but not multi-class fighters) can take the highest degree of weapon specialisation (which gives them strong bonuses with their preferred weapons), paladins are very nearly as good in combat and have some useful abilities like minor healing, and clerics get a decent variety of spells, most importantly healing, and can do a tolerable job in combat (though clerics and fighter/clerics can use only blunt weapons).
As to fighter/clerics and multi-class characters in general, note that if you are multi-class you will take longer to gain levels, because your experience points are divided between your classes. This isn't much of a hindrance in BG1 (unless you take three classes), but if you plan to import your character in BG2 it may significantly limit how far you can advance in that game. (But there's no reason why you shouldn't create an entirely new character if you decide to proceed to BG2; in fact you may well prefer to, given the great variety of new classes and class variants available.)
Note at this point the difference between mutli-classing and dual-classing. Multi-classing means starting with two (or three) classes and staying that way; every race except humans can do it (though not all can take all combinations of classes). Dual-classing means starting in one class, then changing to another and eventually getting back the abilities of the first as well, though you can't advance any further in the first; only humans can do this. As this is your first game and you're not familiar with AD&D 2nd Edition, I do not recommend dual-classing; it calls for long-term planning which takes some experience with the game.
That being the case, if you're playing a fighter, cleric or fighter/cleric I advise being either an elf or a dwarf, as each has some useful benefits; again, look up the details. If you want to be a paladin then you have to be human.
Now, stats. The game lets you re-roll as many times as you like, so you can keep going until you get a nice high total if you like. Some brief detail on each stat:
Strength: if you're a fighter, fighter/cleric or paladin this should be as high as possible, as it improves you chance to hit in melee combat and your damage. For a cleric it doesn't matter except that the best armour and shields are quite heavy and a decent strength will avoid encumbrance. 14 is plenty, and you can probably get away with 12.
Dexterity: as high as possible. It improves your armour class and chance to hit with ranged weapons.
Constitution: as high as possible, as it gives you extra hit points, except that classes other than fighters, paladins and rangers (and fighter/clerics etc.) get no benefit from a CON over 16.
Intelligence: for these classes, doesn't really matter.
Wisdom: for a cleric (or fighter/cleric), as high as possible, as you get extra spell slots. Otherwise, not important.
Charisma: as high as possible if you can spare the points; a high CHA gives you a slight discount in shops and affects some characters' reactions to you.
Pick whatever alignment you like best role-play wise. Note that certain classes have alignment restrictions, e.g. paladins must be lawful good.
That's all I have to say about character creation. As for the game proper, a few tips:
For a first-timer the tutorial-type things in your starting location of Candlekeep (the green-robed monks' advice and the combat practice offered to you by certain characters) will be quite useful.
In Candlekeep, and indeed elsewhere, talk to everyone (but save before doing so just in case). You may get useful information and minor quests whose completion may get you items, gold, reputation points and experience points. Such rewards will be small at first, but they add up.
When travelling in the early part of the game, your basic route for the core plot will be the Friendly Arm Inn, then Beregost, then Nashkel (with perhaps some backtracking between them). In the wilderness areas in between, stay on the road until your characters get a little stronger and better equipped and/or you recruit more NPCs. If you stray from the road, or into other map areas, you may encounter enemies that will be far too strong for you at the beginning. An exception is the immediate vicinity of the Friendly Arm; the enemies there aren't too strong. But once your party is a little stronger it's well worth exploring more widely.
Most importantly, save often!
Post edited October 27, 2013 by ydobemos