Baldur's Gate 3: How To Pick Your Starting Class
There are a lot of choices to make at the start of Baldur's Gate 3--here's what you should focus on to make an effective character of any class.
Baldur's Gate 3 is a pretty dense game--from the start, it asks you to make a whole lot of choices about your character, ranging from your look to your race, your class, the kinds of abilities you want to take with you, and more. It can all be a little overwhelming, especially if you're not familiar with Baldur's Gate's Dungeons & Dragons roots.
Though there are a lot of decisions to make right away, you can get by knowing the basics--Fighters are good at bashing, Rogues at sneaking, Rangers at sniping, Wizards at magic, Clerics at healing, and Warlocks at mixing magic with other fighting styles. From there, we've put together a guide that can help you make the right calls as to which races, cantrips, spells, and bonuses to pick to make a solid character build even early on.
Check out the rundown below for a few tips for each of your possible characters. These aren't full build rundowns, but they will give you some working information to help you make decisions and focus your character to fit your style of play and get the most out of each class.
For Fighters, Strength and Constitution are the stats that will matter most when sorting through your beginning attributes. When choosing a Fighter race, you can do worse than Githyanki, which gets a +2 Strength modifier, giving it increased damage. The Strength modifier is also going to get you into melee combat more effectively, as its Strength affects how far you can jump, which is a great tactic to get you in and out of combat.
You'll get even better benefits by going for the Shield Dwarf. The dwarf gets a modifier of +2 Constitution, the stat that dictates health, in addition to the Strength modifier. So in combining both boosts, you create an effective front-line melee character who can also soak up a lot of damage. Be sure to keep your weapon preference in mind as you make your choice, as well. Dwarves favor axes and hammers, while Githyanki are better using swords.
Once you earn your first level-up, you'll unlock the ability to start taking traits, allowing you to start to really build your Fighter around a role. Do you want to focus on protection, handling great weapons, or dual-wielding weapons? Knowing how to specialize your Fighter will help you make your decisions early. If you want to deal damage, dual-wielding can be useful, since it allows you to diversify your loadout between different weapon types and status effects. Fighters who need to tank a lot of damage to protect squishier allies should go down the protection route, while planning ahead to add some shield proficiencies. You'll also get an action surge on your first level-up, which provides you an extra action every use--so be ready to score some double hits.
When you hit Level 3, you'll get the choice between becoming either a Battle Master or an Eldritch Knight. Going the Eldritch Knight route basically makes you a battle mage, but with the current roster of characters, you're already likely to have some spellcasters in your party--so you might want to keep your Fighter's focus on melee.
On the melee side, the Battle Master option excels with some really good passive bonuses. A solid approach is to swap out the Punishing Attacks bonus and take Riposte instead. Riposte grants you the ability to counter-attack, which can be super effective with two-weapon fighting styles. Meanwhile, the downside to Punishing Attack is that it has a chance to push enemies away. If you're the tank for your team, you want the enemies near you, so the push isn't optimal--plus you lose out on the opportunity for a reactionary attack if the enemy chooses to flee from you.
When it comes to your Ranger racial choice, Wood Elf makes a strong option for their high Dexterity and fleet-of-foot abilities, but if you want to play a stealth sniper style, go with the lightfoot Halfling. They have high Dexterity, are inherently stealthy, and have the race ability of "Lucky," which allows them to re-roll all 1s, which means critical fails will be an extremely rare sight for you.
Your first two big customizations as a Ranger are choosing your Favored Enemy and Natural Explorer specializations. These depend on what you're expecting as a playstyle for your Ranger, but each comes with unique cantrips. The default Favored Enemy choice, Mage Breaker, is a recommended pick in most cases thanks to the True Strike cantrip and some experience in Arcana. Sanctified Stalker is also a good choice, because it allows the use of a fairly powerful Cleric cantrip, Sacred Flame.
As for Natural Explorer, choosing Beast Tamer gives you the most straightforward combat bonus in the ability to take on a familiar. These are pretty small and squishy allies, but can be a good distraction for enemies, as well as having some fairly decent status effects to inflict on enemies, such as poison or blindness.
As for your spells, the most useful is going to be Ensnaring Strike, which keeps enemies at a distance while you do damage. Another useful option is Speak With Animals--with all the story potential you get from that ability, it should be a no-brainer pick whenever you have the option.
Your first level-up should be focused on Archery, as the rest of the options are going to be handled much better by any party members you're taking with you. For the second level-up and your subclass choice, the best ability to pick is Beast Master. This will allow you to summon large animal companions like bears into combat. That provides you with another damage dealer with its own unique ability, plus another entity on the battlefield to soak up damage for free, helping ensure your main party members stay healthy.
For Warlocks, the primary stat to pay attention to is Charisma, as this is what they use to cast spells. Charisma is also super helpful when interacting with NPCs outside of combat--so if you're a player who wants to focus on conversation interactions, this is a great class choice.
Tieflings and Half-Elves both have a +2 charisma stat, which make them great Warlock picks. Between the two, however, Half-Elf is a stronger option, as they also get an extra point to put into two other stats of you choice, which lets you further diversify your Warlock.
Unlike other magic users, you get fewer spell slots as a Warlock, so it's worth thinking about how you want to engage on the battlefield so that you can utilize cantrips and basic weaponry to shore up your magical capabilities. Along that line of thinking, your Pact choice gives you two options. Opt for the Great Old One if you want battlefield control and disables; if you'd rather have more melee utility, then The Fiend will be a better choice.
As for cantrips, the only really essential one is Eldritch Blast. It's basically going to be your bread and butter, and the more you level up, the more options you have to upgrade it. Dissonant Whispers and Hideous Laughter are both great options for burst damage and disabling enemies for a few turns.
At your first level-up, you'll notice there are a lot of options that relate to things you already have. As mentioned, you're going to be using Eldritch Blast a lot, so Agonizing Blast is a good get to upgrade its damage. As with the Ranger, snagging Beast Speech is a good choice, because talking to animals has never not been great. If you stuck with the race choices outlined above, the only one that you should avoid is Devil's Sight, as you'll already have that Elven dark vision.
As for your spell choices, that'll depend on whether you're going to focus on melee, ranged damage, or controlling the battlefield. Charm Person will help out here and there in battles against humanoids, but for an option that's pretty much always usable, taking the Hex enchantment as a bonus action will make the rest of your attacks sting a little bit more.Level 3 grants access to the Pact of the Chain, a summoning ability that gets you either conjure imps or quasits. These are much more powerful, with much more potent poisons than your average familiars, while offering the benefits of adding more bodies to the battlefield to distract enemies and soak up damage that would otherwise fall on your core team.
For your final spell choice, go for either Misty Step, for keeping you on the high ground, or Shatter if you need a little area-of-effect damage. Again, when it comes to spells, it is really going to be down to how you've play your character, so try to make choices that will augment your current playstyle.
Rogues feel like one of the classes that isn't quite there yet when it comes to the abilities and options available to you, but if you're playing one, then choosing Drow as your race is going to give you the most benefits. Rogues rely on Dexterity and Drows get a +2 Dexterity bonus, as well as decent weapon proficiencies. They're also the absolute best at seeing in the dark, which is going to be great for all the skulking around in the shadows you're likely to do.
One thing you should bear in mind as a Rogue is that you need to be getting behind enemies as much as possible to take advantage of sneak attacks. Your first level-up is going to help you there, as it will allow you to dash as a bonus action, giving you the opportunity to rush behind an enemy and still have the ability to plunge your daggers into their back.
If you want to mix things up come Level 3, you can add some spellcasting to your build by taking the Arcane Trickster option since you're likely to have a spellcaster or two in the party already at this point. Though, you might be better off sticking with what you know and going for the Thief option, which will benefit your focus on stabbing spines. The Thief choice will also mean you take less fall damage if you're knocked from your high ground hiding spot, but Fast Hands is the biggest bonus, as it gives you an extra bonus action. That can work out to an extra extra dash, and more opportunities to attack with your off-hand weapon. Just remember to stay mobile and keep some melee backup or take buffs from your mages, as you're going to be a great damage dealer, but awfully squishy.
With all the spells Wizards have as options, it's tough to recommend too many specific choices, but there are a few decisions that can give you the best head start. You're good with any race here, as unlike with the other classes, there are no races that get a bonus to intelligence, the stat Wizards use most often.
Human is a decent choice for your Wizard class thanks to a few other stat boosts, but the extra cantrip you get from choosing High Elf can be much more appealing. Elves are also immune from being charmed or put to sleep, which can help ensure you can keep your spellcaster slinging in battle. The extra dexterity bonus High Elves get, which is useful for dodging attacks, also never hurt a spellcaster.
For your slate of spells, you're open to choosing those that might benefit the playstyle you're expecting to go for. Magic Missile, however, is an extremely reliable and consistent damage dealer for the early game. Thunderwave is also pretty useful, as it can push away any enemies rushing in to strike you with melee weapons.
Your first level-up provides you the opportunity to basically choose between either dealing damage or protecting yourself. Evocation spells focus elemental energy into powerful attacks and enchantments, while Abjuration spells summon wards, banish enemies, and nullify magic.
Evocation means you'll lose out on the Arcane Ward ability and have to be a bit more precious with your spell slots, but you do get the Sculpt Spells passive ability in the deal. That means your allies won't take damage from all your spell-flinging, so you can fire away Burning Hands with a bit more reckless abandon.
At Level 3, you'll get another 25 spells to choose from--so what you pick here is best based on the kinds of spells you've enjoyed so far, and which role you're trying to fulfill on your team. It's also worth noting that if there's a spell you decide you want but haven't chosen, you can always pay a handful of gold to learn it later, provided you find its respective scroll.
One of the most important stats for clerics is Wisdom, and you'll get your biggest racial bonus there as a Wood Elf. That'll be very helpful in the early game as you start out with a powerful spell and cantrip combo with Guiding Bolt and Sacred Flame. The extra stats you get from the choice are best served in Constitution and Dexterity, especially if you're going with the melee/shield build that is often common with clerics. If you're a member of your party's front line, these stats are going to serve in keeping you alive.
Your best bet as a Cleric in most cases is to focus on the Life Domain subclass, which will make you an extremely powerful healer and buff-dealer. It's also a good choice if you favor Shadowheart as a party member--she's a Cleric of the opposite school, so you'll be covered with both sets of abilities.
The Cleric's progression over both levels is pretty linear. Your focus should be on buffs, protection spells, and healing, as your other companions are going to be pretty lacking in those departments. By Level 3, you should be able to keep everyone topped up with health via Cure Wounds, Aid, Preserve Life, and Prayer of Healing. With the slots you have spare, take spells like Halt and Hold Person to keep foes at bay and give yourself a turn to dish out some heals.
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