Right now, I’m deciding on giving a purely evil party a try. There’s a LOT of ramifications by choosing this path since the vast majority of this game is based around being a relatively good party. What I want to discuss here is the implications of choosing an evil party and how that can affect the class combinations.
One thing that Baldur’s Gate 2 Enhanced Edition provided was more opportunities to shine as an evil aligned party. Two of the NPCs in particular are geared for an evil party. Dorn practically is the answer to Keldorn and a half-orc to boot. Unfortunately, beyond Dorn most of the NPCs from Baldur’s Gate 2 remain crappy. Hexxat, while being OP once she becomes a vampire, still is just a boring thief. I feel that a slot like that can be better filled with a dual or multiclassed character to add more flavor to a party.
That still leaves Edwin, Korgan, Sarevok and Viconia for your pure evil side while you probably could get away with having Haer Dalis’ and Jan Jansen as well. And from what I’ve read, Imoen, despite being Neutral Good, will not leave your side. I don’t know what this means for NPCs like Jaheira nor Cernd but I did read that having a very low reputation will cause Jaheira to leave. In the case of Cernd, he just sucks unless you decide to utilize him for the Trademeet quest.
Based on these limitations, I feel that you will not need (nor really want) more than 3 NPCs in your party. I’m currently evaluating how one can optimize a 2 NPC/4 customized PC style evil party based on the NPC options above and it seems as though the first time through, using only 2 NPCs might be the way to go. More than likely you won’t be able to do that many NPC quests and you’ll also have to figure out how to manage a low reputation.
A few other key elements is you will not be able to have a ranger of any type. So for those who love the half-elf ranger/cleric multiclass will have to find something to substitute for that combination. You can still be a paladin by going with a Blackguard (or by choosing Dorn which is my suggestion here) and you can eventually wield the Holy Avenger (by having a thief with the “Use Any Item” ability) as well as an Unholy Avenger via the Blackguard (and/or with a thief with the “Use Any Item” ability).
More than likely, you won’t be able to use Jaheira so you’ll be out for one druid most of the expansion. Some people don’t really care for Jaheira nor druids in general because of the slow leveling process. But I think Jaheira is one of the more interesting and useful NPCs. At the moment, I doubt that I’ll take another fighter/druid type but I will have to find a replacement as a tank/fighter type.
One consequence of being evil is that your romance plot pretty much boils down to Viconia. A shame that they didn’t make her into a mage/cleric to counterbalance what you lose from not having Aerie in your party or at least a fighter/cleric to offset the loss of Jaheira (or Anomen). But she IS a very interesting character so that alone might be worth keeping her around permanently. There is Hexxat for females but I just don’t care for having a pure thief taking up a full slot, even if she does become a vampire.
Another aspect is that Nalia more than likely will not be a long term member of your party. Although Imoen won’t leave you once you get her back, Nalia’s good tendencies make her a liability for an evil party. Truthfully, I never really cared about Nalia and Imoen hasn’t added much to the RP level as I had hoped in my latest play through, which is why I’m gravitating towards having a 2 NPC party as opposed to a 3 NPC party.
Beyond that, something else to look at is that the introductory NPCs for the most part are good or neutral aligned. Edwin comes at a later time while Yoshimo is worthless in terms of investing any time into. You could go for Chaotic Neutral NPCs like Jan Jansen or Haer Dalis’. With Haer Dalis’ though, you will be forced to undertake a slightly challenging task.
What you should keep in mind is that the NPCs you pick up ought to be ones you want to keep long term. I really dislike the idea of grabbing NPCs then kicking them out. And you certainly will not want to give equipment to NPCs that permanently leave your party due to alignment and reputation problems. You can make exceptions for NPC quests but you should limit their duration just for those quests. Overall, you want to continue for your main party to get as much experience as possible, which can make some NPCs like Imoen a hard choice if you’re trying to bypass the main storyline for a while.
From what I describe I feel that 2 NPCs maximum for an evil aligned party are all you really need. Imoen doesn’t add anything in the long run for an evil aligned party and the vast majority of the NPCs are useless. The only two worth keeping are Viconia for the romance plot and Dorn because he’s a badass like Keldorn. Even Sarevok isn’t worth taking because he occurs far too late in the game to be worth much. To me Sarevok’s value would have been far higher if he was already dual classed and being part kit (like a berserker) in combination with a mage. Since Throne of Bhaal is so short, it makes putting the effort of dual classing him a real hassle.
So what should the remaining party look like? Having Dorn and Viconia mean you have an antipaladin/paladin/blackguard spot and tank taken care of. Viconia probably should wield a weapon like the Mace of Disruption while bearing a shield and the heaviest armor in the game. You still will need to contend with her low hit points though. From here, you will want to have two mages, a thief, another cleric and some fighter combinations along with a ranged fighter class. I felt that the easiest thing to do is to kill three birds with one pebble by going with the elven fighter/mage/thief. Pure thieves and thief kits take too long to become worth much. And you really just need a single thief at any given time. So a triple class can handle all the roles at once, emphasizing defensive magic and wearing heavier armor for the most part while dealing with annoying traps here and there.
Since you no longer can have a ranger (especially a half-elven ranger/cleric type), you need to think about how you can replace this role. In my case, I tend to dual wield Flail of the Ages along with Crom Faeyr as a ranger/cleric while wearing plate armor. Viconia makes a very poor substitute for this role. So my solution is to go for a Berserker/Cleric. In one of my custom teams, I used a Berserker/Cleric but acted as one of my tanks. Here, I figured that I could switch him into a substitute for my ranger/cleric. Now, you could also go multiclass for this class but the real advantage in going with a Berserker/Cleric is the number of proficiencies you can put into weapons along with the rage ability. You might lose a little on the druidic spells but you gain more along the combat area.
Here’s where things can get both complicated and interesting because you’re left with two empty slots. The two roles I would fill here are a ranged fighter type and some form of a mage. One bizarre idea I am playing around with is using a Wizard Slayer/Mage. It’s a really misleading class and should not exist. But the idea is to provide a highly specialized bow wielder firing shots to disrupt enemy spell casters from afar. Unfortunately, you lose out on too many critical magical items and must decide before each battle which side you want to focus on by donning armor or finding another means of defense.
Neither the berserker nor kensai are effective or even able at missile weapons, so those classes are out of the question in this case. Another possibility is to revisit the Wizard Slayer/Thief but focusing more on the ranged side as you will be weak in not being able to use most magic items until gaining the “Use Any Item” ability. Without the “Use Any Item”, your armor class will suffer so you could just stay in the back and lob arrows at enemies for the rest of the time and hope that no vampires hit you. Going this route though implies losing your backstab ability down the road as you would be permanently going ranged for most of combat.
Rather than doing that, you could just create an elven fighter/mage. I did give this character a try with my good aligned party. I think the only thing that feels weird is that you also have the elven fighter/mage/thief. So there’s a bit of redundancy. In truth, you will have more levels than your fighter/mage/thief and slightly more focus because of not dealing with swapping armor as much just for traps. You will eventually be forced to compete for gear to a degree with your fighter/mage/thief if you want to maximize spellcasting in the group. Also, you will get slightly penalized compared to a pure fighter or archer that can put more points into bows.
Another idea to reduce some redundancy here is to just go with the elven fighter/mage rather than the fighter/mage/thief, make the fighter/mage a ranged class while your wizard slayer/thief does melee with a long term bet on the “Use Any Item” ability. This configuration starts to feel like one of my previous ones, except that I no longer have Jaheira, play as an evil party and use a Blackguard as opposed to an Undead Hunter or Keldorn.
At this juncture, I still would need to determine a solid mage since I’m still missing that class from my configuration. One thing I can do is go with a Dragon Disciple. The main advantage of taking a Dragon Disciple is being able to have a sorcerer for once who possesses higher hit points and defense than a raw mage type. You still will be limited to armor and weapons but you get a few unique resistances like Fire as well as Dragon Breath. You will lose out on some weaponry in the game since you will have a dedicated mage slot rather than a hybrid. Also, the Dragon Breath is limited to being used once a day. So this class seems more for novelty than something practical.
We could just go back to reroll another kensai/mage. If that happens, then we’re back with my classic configuration. Another thing we could try is switching from kensai to a berserker/mage type. The advantage here is increasing the armor types available. So rather than running around with the slight disadvantage of being unable to use certain items, you will eventually have a wider range of equipment once you recover your berserker class. The other advantage of going this direction is the sheer number of weapon possibilities you gain and ability to put more points into weapon specialization. You can also use missile weapons unlike a kensai in this situation so there’s another small benefit.
So what’s the verdict in the point in this exercise anyway? My thing is just to figure out an interesting party composition that I haven’t tried so far. I feel that in truth the AD&D rules and NPC limitations in the game impose an In-n-Out type of permutation idiom that make it interesting to toy with various ideas. At the same time, there’s not a whole lot of choice outside of giving different ideas a shot to see what you can come up with. My only reason for going this route is to eventually experience an evil party. Given the available options you can only go so far in creating something interesting without re-doing your previous work just with evil aligned characters.
As to the verdict, I’m leaning towards this idea this time around:
- Human Berserker/Mage (dual wielding katana/battle axe/hammer)
- Elven Fighter/Mage/Thief (ranged)
- Human Berserker/Cleric (dual wielding hammer/flail)
- Half-Orc Blackguard (Dorn) (unholy avenger/vorpal sword)
- Drow Cleric (Viconia) (mace)
- Human Wizard Slayer/Thief (long sword/scimitar/range as thief)
The main ideas in this line up is to do the romance with Viconia without drama from other characters, using Dorn as a heavy hitter and possible rotational character for some NPC related quest (which probably aren’t necessary for the most part), maximizing your weapon usage, having good magic support, fair amount of defensive capabilities, good trap management and great long term power. A few things that you can do is import your dual class characters from Throne of Bhaal to maximize their hit points and weapon proficiencies. Your Wizard Slayer/Thief, for instance, will remain weak most of the expansion just because he won’t be able to obtain “Use Any Item” for a while. Also, you’ll have less proficiencies if you dual class early on. Lastly, you’ll get an interesting challenge trying to play catch up for most of Shadows of Amn.
At any rate, I do think this party line up is pretty interesting. I would have liked to incorporate a Dragon Disciple, but I tend to be more defensive in my spell casting rather than offensive so pure mage types just never work out for me. Most of the NPCs in this expansion do little to interest me beyond one or two. Outside of the NPCs that I’ve named above, I really have no inclination to play with NPCs unless I go for a full NPC based party for RP purposes. At least until I play the game with an evil party of customized characters through, I really have no inclination to take more NPCs than necessary, which is my driving reason for doing this route.