I prefer multi-player play more than the single player option just because of being able to have the ability to customize my party, even if i merely choose to create a single character. However, after writing a few lengthy articles on customized party combinations, I decided to put some thoughts down on using a single character with 5 NPC party combination.
When you go with an NPC heavy party, the things you must keep in mind are your alignment and the class (or class for dual/multi-) of your main character. The way your party will breakdown is critical in this regard since you want to have a fairly balanced party with at least one of each type of core class type (fighter, mage, thief, cleric). The NPCs are designed to help cater to any type of class and alignment you bring. I think at the end of the day, you should be able to cover at least one of each core type so the issue ends up becoming how you handle the RP/alignment aspect.
As far as picking out your main, it’s really up to you. I tend to go with the kensai/mage as you have an incredible amount of versatility and can possess a powerful mage guaranteed within your party at all times. otherwise, you can pull other classes like a ranger/cleric, cleric/swashbuckler, elven fighter/mage, berserker/mage, berserker/cleric, fighter/thief (perhaps going the half-orc multi-class route or choosing a wizard slayer/thief route), maybe even an elven fighter/mage/thief. At any rate, you want to make sure that your main compliments the NPCs you choose and vice versa. I tend to prefer choosing a dual/multi class with a combat oriented class as you’ll face numerous melee fights. The other class can be anything of your choosing, but I would suggest as a possibility something that can use the Amulet of Power so that you can avoid the annoying energy drains from undead.
For the sake of this argument, I’m going to assume that you’ll have a fighter + mage variant as your main. With that as your main (or mine), you can divide select your party based on three alignment types: good, neutral and evil. Here’s how I would handle each case:
Good Aligned Party
- Minsc (Human Ranger) -> Sarveok (Human Fighter)
- Yoshimo (Human Bounty Hunter) -> Keldorn (Human Inquisitor)
- Jaehira (Half-Elf Fighter/Druid)
- Imoen -> Nalia -> Imoen (Human Thief/Mage)
- Aerie (Elf Mage/Cleric)
This party is more magic heavy with less armor than parties which might favor fighter dual/multi-classes. Yet, this group offers no conflicts potentially and has the possibility for two romances if you go those routes. You do have some range capabilities and can rotate Minsc or Aerie depending on the demand for the NPC side quest (for instance, choosing Edwin, Amomen or one of the other fighters). The only issue potentially in this party is if you decide to switch out Aerie and that you’re in the middle of the romance quest. If you decide that you’re aiming for Sarevok in the expansion, then you can sacrifice Minsc in the short term for the minor experience resulting from the NPC quests.
If you decide to be more on the armor and fighter heavy side, you can replace Aerie with Amomen. As a result, you’ll lose out on one of the romance quest line possibilities (if you’re a male) but you’ll have more armor, weapons and survivability potential in the long term.
If you end up replacing Minsc with Sarevok, the key thing is that you can dual class Sarevok as either a thief or mage. Unfortunately, because Sarevok enters so late in the game, you won’t be able to see his true potential until the very end. So take into consideration where you see your party at the end of Throne of Bhaal before going that route.
Neutral Aligned Party
- Minsc (Human Ranger)
- Jaehira (Half-Elf Fighter/Druid)
- Imoen (Human Thief/Mage) -> Nalia (Human Thief/Mage) -> Imoen
- Yoshimo (Human Bounty Hunter) -> Amomen (Human Fighter/Cleric) or Viconia (Drow Elf/Cleric)
- Korgan (Dwarf Berserker) -> Sarevok (Human Fighter)
This party removes Keldorn to allow for evil NPCs to partake with your party. If you decide to romance Viconia rather than Jaehira, then you definitely need to remove Keldorn from your party. The only real downside in not having Keldorn is lacking someone to wield the holy avenger in the game. Considering how many other hard hitting, high level weapons you will accumulate towards the end of the game, that issue becomes of small consequence. However, this party is a pretty safe bet. Your rotational NPC slot will be either Minsc or Korgan up until Throne of Bhaal.
Probably, the only major potential issue with this party composition is the slight weakness with melee as Viconia compared to Amomen does not have the same strength and fighting prowess. On the other hand, Amomen’s lower wisdom makes him a lesser effective cleric until he finishes his NPC quest. To compensate for Viconia, you merely need to provide her with a strength girdle and later Crom Faer so she deal out effective melee damage.
Evil Aligned Party
- Korgan (Dwarf Berseker) -> Sarevok (Human Fighter)
- Viconia (Drow Elf Cleric)
- Imoen -> Nalia -> Edwin
- Yoshimo -> Jan Jansen (Gnome Illusionist/Thief)
- Jaehira (Half-Elf Fighter/Druid)
Quite honestly, I don’t know if this party would be able work out in the end. The real issue is Imoen/Nalia and Jaehira. Jaehira will want to strive for balance while Imoen/Nalia remain on the good side. Hence, why you will probably want to replace the two thief/mages with Edwin for the long haul. The downside with this party composition is that you’ll feel a little on the weak side with no one besides Jaehira really standing out.
I tossed out Imoen/Nalia for Jan Jansen since he can (slowly) level up both his magic wielding side and thieving side. In turn, you can bring Edwin in for higher powered magic spells. If you prefer more a melee heavy group without dealing with Jaehira’s balance drama, you could eventually toss her out in favor of Sarevok and keep Korgan in the party. Sarevok can then be dual classed into a mage. If you do that, your healing side might feel weak. So you probably will want to take a berserker/cleric or cleric/swashbuckler as your main to counter balance the lack of melee.
How About the Other NPCs?
Quite frankly, I felt that the remaining NPCs would not make good editions to the party as permanent fixtures. Valygar, Haer Dalis’, Cernd and Mazzy just lack anything special to motivate me into bringing them into an NPC driven party beyond their special NPC quests. You can easily find someone to handle their roles far better without too much effort. Also, getting them to join your party can be slightly annoying as their locations are not immediate compared to other NPCs which are closer towards the starting point. The only guy I did not mention was Yoshimo, but he’s worthless from the start and probably should be booted once you have the opportunity. His only real value is his personal quest with his heart. So only take him if you plan to eventually get Imoen back as a permanent spot in your party and want to complete his quest.
If you do plan to handle Yoshimo’s heart quest, you should probably do the vast majority of other quests first and leave him out until you’re ready to visit the island. At that point, you can use him to pivot another character that you really don’t care about to get back Imoen. Obviously, in doing this method, you’ll probably avoid the evil aligned party path since I tend to discount Imoen.
Which Direction to Go?
I think the richer experience is to go along the lines of a good or neutral aligned party. Evil parties are better for the RP experience but there’s not a lot of solid classes to really wow me over. The enhanced edition reportedly will provide a few more NPCs but my only issue with that is how the previous system loses some balancing.
The neutral party system for me will probably end up becoming the best overall RP experience since you have the option of romancing either Viconia or Jaehira. But from a power point of view, you might end up giving some aspects up. One thing to figure out as a next possible step is the gear progression and management of these parties. I think that part might be good for another post though.