Greetings fellow GoGers, picked up BG1 on advice from a friend, have played bits of BG2 so I am somewhat familiar with 2nd edition rules, however I could use some tips on character generation, party building in regards to background chatter versus combat efficacy. Thanks in advance guys. Looking forward to setting foot in Fauerun once again.
First off: I hope you enjoy this kickass game. You've played bits of BG2 but I hope it wasn't enough to spoil the charm of BG1 for you; it's noticeable more primitive.
As far as your character, the build really depends on what you want to do. In general, among the NPCs there are decent choices of every archetype, so there's nothing that you NEED to do. However, in general being a Mage is probably hardest because of how squishy they are at low levels, while being a Fighter is easiest because of how important HP is at these levels.
At these low levels, everything mathematically is "on the margins" so a little difference in any stat can be a big boon or bane.
No matter WHO you are, Dex is always useful because it improves your AC directly, regardless of your armor. As a CLERIC, you want high Wisdom because of bonus spells, HOWEVER, as a MAGE Intelligence is not as important as you'd think. Just as long as it's high enough to actually cast the spell (and give a good chance to scribe it), there's no bonus spells for higher Int.
Con is VERY important and should be 16, 18 if you're a Fighter/Ranger/Paladin.
Charisma is surprisingly less important too. It shouldn't be too low, but Baldur's Gate has surprisingly few dialogue skill checks and stat-based roleplaying compared to, say, Fallout.
As for NPCs and banter, BG is mroe anemic on the banter compared to BG2. In general, the only NPCs who will banter are the "natural pairs": pairs of NPCs who either come together or tell you they need to find the other.
As for efficacy, few of the NPCs are so bad that it will make much of a difference. Some are noticeably BETTER than others (like Minsc is a better fighter than Khalid, and Edwin is a better mage than Xan), but there's no accounting for taste, pick who you take a liking to! The aforementioned Xan and Tiax are quite the characters, I assure you.
Check out the mods if you want, they can add more banter and romances, but just between you and me I've actually never been impressed of the quality of fan-writing overall. There are a few exceptions, but the banter pack, last I checked, is not one of them.
I'd just play without mods, honestly. It's excellent on it's own and very raw and fresh. Tutu/Trilogy can improve the graphics by updating BG1 to BG2's engine, but I prefer playing the game with the original constraints.
Speaking of constraints, Bows and archers are OP. Seriously, make sure everyone has a missile weapon of some sort, it will save your ass.