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From a power gaming point of view, the best classes for a beginner are:

- multi ranger/cleric (all druid + cleric spells, weapon specialisation + more attacs per round)
- multi mage/fighter (I play a gnome right now, useful but not extremely overpowered in BG1, but in BG2 you can protect yourself from almost everything and cut your enemies to pieces)
-multi fighter/thief (backstabbing with weapon specialisation and lots of strengh is fun)

If you want to dual class, play a single class through bg1. When you import your char to BG2, you can select a class kit for your char. wait until level 9 before you dual a fighter.
-swashbuckler10 -> mage (you cannot backstab with the best mage weapons and extra AC and Thac0 are always welcome)
- kensai 9 -> mage (mages cannot use armor anyway)
- berserker 9 (or 13 if you can wait that long) -> thief (thiefs and bards level up faster than others)

- kensai 13 -> thief (not good for beginners, but you get insane backstab damage later)
- mages are very powerful in the end, but it is very hard to survive until you find a group and gain some levels.

You will get special abilities at each level up once you have more than 2.8mio exp. This was the limit of the original BG2 without throne of bhaal, but when you explore and seek side quests, you will get there long before ToB. Thiefs can use every item (overwrites kensai restrictions) and set tons of spike traps, fighters use a whirwind attac and mages can become a magic machine gun.

But you don´t need a power gaming char to beat the game since you have a full group. Though having a powerful char with good stats can make the game much easier.
Determine whether you want your character to be a front liner or a support caster or archer.

My front liner of choice is a paladin. Only Humans can be paladins. Healers are good to have in any group and I like having my paladin's heal spells/abilities and protection from evil. They are no substitutes for clerics though but you can get by with just a paladin. Also, characters benefit from a high charisma when dealing with NPCs under certain conditions (better quest rewards) and charisma is the paladin's preferred ability score so it might as well be your character.

Some drawbacks:
- Paladin's can only be of Lawful Good alignment. Good for reputation but obviously not suited for roleplaying an evil character.
- Paladin's take *forever* to level. Their experience threshold is astronomically high. Paladin's and rangers have the highest experience thresholds for level up. Therefore they level slower.

If you wanna be squishy and hang back, a multi-class mage/thief is the way to go. Elf is the obvious choice. Taking position at the rear means you needn't don armor or worry much about bruises unless an enemy formation hitches your flank. Thieves take a hit to their skills when wearing armor so you might as well not wear any. I find mages to be almost useless except in specific situations but arm one with a bow and you're a force to be reckoned with. In general, archers rule BG. Never hurts to have another set of thief skills either. Another advantage is you can do without Imoen or another thief if you want. IDK why anyone would *want* to do that since the best characters in BG are thieves.

- You're squishy which means it doesn't take much to kill you, and since the death of your character is an instant Game Over you're at greater risk than a character who can take lumps and shrug em off.
- It's really hard to solo when you're so squishy which means you're better off investing in some front line fighters to take lumps so you don't have to.

On the converse, mage/thief solos are a serious challenge for anyone who's up for one. A thief is mandatory and you can really get creative with the myriad of spells at your disposal which makes for a good challenge.

Another good combination I like is a multi-class Fighter/Cleric. You can be a front line fighter with more support spells at your disposal than a Paladin. Clerics have no armor restrictions so you can be as solid as any fighter but you are limited to blunt and spiked weapons. Not a bad thing since those are some of the best weapons to have. Dwarf is a good choice for this.
Want a Paladin with spells and can eventually use two weapons... Human Ranger 2 | Cleric X is in the top 5 for powerhouse builds.

The up side;
1. Can cast any devine spell i.e. Druid and Cleric.
2. Loves mixing it up in melee.
3. Turn un-dead... very handy skill to have.
4. Fast to level because of only needing two Ranger levels.
5. Wisdom is the most common stat-book in the game and thats what a Cleric loves to have.
6. Can have a kit if you use the bg2 rules.

The down side;
1. Kits are not in the basic bg1 rules.
2. Blunt weapons only... this is not that big a problem but some people don't understand it and waste their Ranger points on swords etc.
3. Must be a good character but does not need to be lawful-good unless you want to.
4. Very high stat rolls are needed at the start to get the best from this combo.
I prefer a multi ranger/cleric over a dual one. You get extra attacs at ranger 7 and 13 and you have both sets of ToB abilities (whirlwind in melee and enegy blades as ranged). The disadvantage is that you learn new spells much slower.

@ eVinceW21
- If you want a paladin, take the inquisitor kit. You are immun to mind affecting spells and you have a super powerful dispell and true seing. You cannot cast spells but you want a cleric in your party anyway. Or you take Keldorn into your group in BG2.

- I think a dual thief 10 -> mage is better than a multi. You have enough thief skills and you want to learn mage spells as fast as possible. The "use everything" skill is less useful here because mages cannot cast in armor (but it is still useful, just not as useful as for a kensai -> thief) and you will have more thieving skills than you will ever need. But spike traps are great.

- Mages level up faster than paladins in early levels. But at high levels mages need most points for each level.

- ranger/cleric is much better than fighter/cleric. You get all druid and cleric spells and multi class chars can only spend 2 profiency points per weapon (dual class fighter -> mage, thief, cleric can spend up to 5)

Don´t get me wrong. A multi thief/mage can be very powerful. But there are easier choices for beginners.

Edit: almost forgot. mage/cleric multi are also not good for beginners because they start as poor fighters and casters. But at high levels you have all the spells in this game (except a few druid only) and you can put cleric spells into spell triggers/ contingencies.
I think it depends on personal preference, and how you want to play the game. I tend to favor fighter based characters the most, so I play as a Half Orc fighter since they can have not only 19 Strength but also 19 Constitution. Pair him up with a 2 handed sword and he can become a heavy hitter that can take alot of punishment. I also like to play as a Half-Orc to avoid the romances that for some reason Bioware wants to shoehorn in this game and on the character. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind them but I wish it was an *option* rather than a choice. So a good way for me to just avoid them is to play as a Half-Orc. My second favored character class is a Half-Orc Cleric. I know, a strange choice for a Half-Orc race, but in this way I have a powerful fighter based Cleric on hand. And this way I won't also have to rely on Anomen and Jaheria (two of my least favorite characters in the game).

I also enjoy playing as a Paladin or Monk sometimes, too.