Chapter 3: If this is Your First Game

          If you truly are new to the game of either BG1 or BG2 (or perhaps even both), then you are in a rare and very enviable position: Almost all experienced players wish that they could erase all their memories of the game, solely to play it through all over again and experience each new major battle and plot twist as if it were for the first time. This is pretty much your ONLY chance to play the game for yourself: All future runs will be colored, for better or for worse, by your metagaming knowledge of your first game, and very likely from people online telling you things that you actually don't need (and likely don't even want) to know. Therefore, treat your first game as something special, because it is—you cannot recreate your own inexperience. My advice to you is this: Stay away from all other websites about the Baldur's Gate series, especially forums and MOST especially walkthroughs, until you have beaten the game under your own steam at least once. If you truly, absolutely, need help with some part of the game, ask on an online forum—search for threads related to your problem, and if you don't find any, start a new thread asking for help. But if you just start reading random threads, you WILL spoil the game for yourself.

          Here are some general pointers that should be invaluable in helping to make your first game enjoyable:

This is a Newbie Note.

You will find them sprinkled throughout this Guide; they contain information that is very fundamental, and therefore critical for you to know. At the very least, read this whole chapter, and the Newbie Notes of Chapters 5, 6, and 7. They'll give you some important warnings and clue you in as to what the hell you're doing . . . and if you don't, your experience with this game is less likely to be fun.

Ideally, you should also at least skim through the portions of Chapters 8 and 9 that are relevant to the (section of) the game you're currently in, or alternatively keep them open in another window, so you can refer to them while you're playing. Chapter 2 is worth a look, as well.
Do NOT read Chapter 4 of this guide—yet. Character Creation is a very important process that requires a huge amount of explanation, and trying to digest it all in one sitting, especially when you're impatient to start playing, is practically guaranteed to eat your brain. So instead of poring over all of Chapter 4 until your eyes fall out, and then intensely weighing the pros and cons of each of your myriad options against one another, I'll make it easy for you: Build a Paladin (any type) or a Fighter (Trueclass or Berserker). If you choose to be a Fighter, I would strongly suggest going with Dwarf or Halfling as your race. Be sure to max out your Dexterity and Constitution (those are the stats that keep you alive), and give yourself at least 15 Strength (you need to be able to carry heavy armor). For weapon proficiencies, in BG1 Bow, Blunt, and Large Sword are all pretty good bets. In BG2, I would discourage putting points into Club, Spear, Halberd, Bastard Sword, Katana, or Scimitar until after you've located some weapons worth investing in.

The game is heavily weighted towards people roleplaying Good characters . . . the Reputation discount is an excellent indicator of this. Make your main character of any Good alignment, choose party members who are Good (or at least Neutral), and run around being kind & polite to everyone. While it's quite possible to run a game as the most Evil sadist imaginable, it takes a lot of familiarity with the game to do so without screwing yourself out of some quests, items, and EXP.

Don't try to rob law-abiding folk unless you're sure you can make a clean getaway. Getting caught stealing, and maybe having to kill a city guard or two, is a sure way to destroy your Reputation—and maybe your party—remarkably quickly.

Travel with a full party of 6, as much as possible. If this means taking on Evil party members, so be it—just remember that they're only temporary placeholders until you find somebody more to your liking. You want a full party not only because of the sheer numerical advantage it gives in battle, but it also allows you to have a more well-rounded party, and gives the bad guys more targets other than you to shoot at.

Be good to your Thief, and be sure your Thief is damned good. Grizzled old campaigners like me know where the Traps are—you, on the other hand, should keep your eyes glued to the ground at all times, at least when you're in areas known to harbor intelligent opponents. Also, use Stealth to scout ahead whenever possible: We know where the dangerous enemies are, too—but you certainly don't want to go charging around a corner without knowing whether you're going to come face-to-face with a Gibberling or a Beholder. Yes, Reloading is a wonderful feature, but do you really want to do it every 2 minutes?

Don't try to argue with a railroad plot. There are certain points in both games where BioWare took steps to ensure that the Main Plot could never get stuck—these "steps" usually take the form of killing the PC if he has managed to royally screw up. By and large, I agree with their reasons, it's just their methods that are a little heavyhanded.

Of great importance is your Install Order: If you don't patch your game, or install the fixes in the wrong order, you're going to encounter bugs in your game. First off, if your computer is running Windows Vista or Windows 7 as its operating system, you shouldn't install the Baldur's Gate games in their default root directory (C:\Program Files\Black Isle\) because the computer will automatically try to resist any changes made in the Program Files directory: You can play the games just fine from the default directory, but it'll be more more difficult to cheat or mod the game (more on that later). So just make a new directory, C:\Baldur's Gate or something, and install there. If you're running an earlier operating system, though, you're already good to go.

Install items strictly in the following order:

Baldur's Gate 1 / TotSC:
Keep reading! Your Inner Newbie will die very quickly!
          1) Baldur's Gate
          2) Tales of the Sword Coast (if you have it)
          3) Official BioWare Patch: If you have the 5-disc BG1 but no TotSC, it's here, if you have the 5-disc BG1 as well as TotSC, download this, and if you
                    have the 3-disc BG1 + TotSC ("The Original Saga"), no patch is needed.
          4) Appropriate BaldurDash bugfix & Text Corrections: The top three links (they look like floppy disks) are what you're interested in. The 1st one is the
                    text update for BG1+TotSC, the 2nd is the text update for BG1 without TotSC, and the 3rd is the actual bugfixes. Don't read any further down the
                    page, if you want to avoid spoilers.

If you're playing BG1 through Tutu, follow the directions in the Tutu README. You will need a Full install of your entire BG1 game, plus at least a Recommended install of BG2:SoA.

Baldur's Gate 2 / ToB:
          1) Baldur's Gate 2 : Shadows of Amn
          2) Throne of Bhaal (if you have it)
          3) Official BioWare Patch: If you only have SoA, install this patch, and if you also have ToB, use this.
          4) The appropriate G3 Fixpack. (Even after the patch, BG2 still has a significant number of bugs, most of which are corrected with the Fixpack.)

This install order reflects the installation of a game of Baldur's Gate without any mods (except Tutu). If you're going to be running any mods on your first trip through the game (which I don't actually recommend), the full Install Order is described in Chapter 11.

Keep that mouse pointer moving, and pay close attention to what it looks like. Some of the more important pointer-icons are as follows:
The "Stairs here" pointer, which appears when the mouse is hovering over the head or foot of a stairway that serves as an exit from your current area.
"Door here," appears over doorways. You may need to click to open the door before you can pass through. This is important because some buildings have their entrances facing North, and therefore invisible from your overhead viewpoint, so the only way to see the doorways is by mousing-over them.
"Travel", appears near the very edges of outdoor maps. Clicking here (when your whole party is gathered near the spot) takes you to the World Map, where you can travel to other map areas.
"Cast Spell Here." Spells are targeted at the creature or patch of ground at the very top-left corner of the icon.
"Thieving", your mouse-pointer icon after clicking the Thieving bottom-row button. It will change into a Lockpick, Trap, or Cutpurse icon when hovering over (respectively) a locked door or container, a Detected Trap, or a creature.
The "You can't walk here" pointer, appears over all impassable areas (like walls, deep water, off the edge of cliffs, etc).
The "Use This Device" pointer, which is rarely used. It appears over miscellaneous stationary objects that you can either use or perform some action upon. Note that it can be mistaken for "You can't walk here" if you aren't paying close attention.

          The "Travel" pointer is particularly important in BG1, because it's how you "explore" and find new map areas to visit. Suppose you're traveling westward, and the country ahead is completely unknown to you. When you reach the western edge of your current map area, move your mouse to the edge (it should turn into the Travel pointer) and click. You will be taken to the World Map, where the map area(s) directly west of you are now visible, even if they weren't before: You have looked "over the horizon" of the map that you're still on, and have seen these other lands. If they are map areas that you've already been to, they are colored black, but if you haven't visited there yet, they are colored blue. From the World Map screen, you can travel to ANY blue or black map area on the map, or alternatively click the map that you're on (or press Esc) to stay where you are.
          Traveling is somewhat different in BG2: Instead of exploring the wilderness, you travel directly to your destination, and new map areas are revealed not by "discovering" them, but by having a reason to go there: If you talk to Flydian and learn that he wants you to go to Trademeet, *BAM!* Trademeet is now marked on your World Map. If a map is marked in gray, though, you can't go there yet: In most cases, this is because traveling to country areas would requite you to pass through the gates of the city, so you must first visit the City Gates map, and exit through the gates. Realistic, but awkward. The screenshot at right shows the gates, and the area marked in red shows where your mouse becomes the "Travel" pointer to leave the city. No, nobody knows what that scrawled sign over the gates is supposed to mean.

If You have Played one Game, But Not the Other

          Perhaps you're an old hand at BG1, but this will be your first game of BG2, or vice versa. There are some important fundamental differences between the games, as follows:
1) Walking Speeds. Although the "Movement Rate" variable is the same in both games (6 is normal), all of the actual walking speeds are about 25% faster in BG2 than they are in BG1. This can be disconcerting at first, but you soon get used to it.
2) Bumping into People. In BG1, all creatures are immovable objects: They can walk around and all, but if they're in your path, you have to go around them—they only way to get them out of your way is to kill them. This can be quite annoying in cramped spaces, where you find that you can't move because there's some stupid Commoner just standing in the hallway scratching his ass. In BG2, however, as long as you're not actually in combat you can push people aside: You just walk normally, and any creatures that are standing still automatically get bumped out of the way as you pass.
3) Combat AI. In BG1, most enemies try to attack whichever party member they see first, and keep attacking him as long until something else deliberately attracts their attention. In BG2, however, more varied creatures have more varied AI behavior, such as preferring to attack any visible target of Class[Mage] over any other target that is not a Mage, or randomly switching targets without any obvious reason, just to make the combat as a whole less predictable. Some (flaky) AI scripts don't take the creature's sight range into account, and assume that "If Character X is in your party, Enemy Y must be in sight range of Character X," which can lead to things like an enemy suddenly breaking off combat with your Tank to go attack your Cleric, even if the Cleric is halfway across the map and the enemy has no reason to suspect that you even have a Cleric. There are several mods that improve the computer's AI, making them less likely to do stupid/unrealistic stuff like this.
Art by Mike Sass 4) In BG2, you gain EXP for scribing Wizard spells to your spellbook (the amount varies with the level of the spell successfully scribed), as well as for Disarming Traps and Picking Locks (the amounts for which vary with the EXP level of the Thief). These actions do not grant EXP in BG1. Also, if you are playing BG2 with ToB installed, you can erase Wizard spells from your book if you wish to—this can come in very handy when you find a new scroll that you want to scribe, but you've already reached the maximum number of spells (of that level) that your Intelligence stat will allow you to have.
5) In BG1, killing creatures while they are Neutral to you means you earn only 10% of that creature's listed EXP value. This dynamic appears to have been dropped in BG2.
6) Party members get Fatigued differently. In BG1, all characters seem to get worn out when they've been awake for 24 hours (give or take any modifiers from their Constitution). In BG2, though, it's apparently more like 48 hours, and there seems to be a modifier for their Class as well: The recruitable Thieves and Mages in the game, at least, seem to get tired long before their Warrior counterparts do.
7) Dispel Magic goes through a major change. In BG1, any casting of Dispel Magic removes all active magical enchantments in the area of effect, no matter what. In BG2, however, the chance of a successful Dispel depends on the difference in EXP levels between the person who cast the original spell, and the person trying to Dispel it. If the two casters are the same level, the odds are 50/50. If the caster trying to Dispel is of a higher level than the original caster, the Dispel is more likely to bring down the existing magic. If the person casting Dispel is lower-level, however, the odds of the Dispel working are close to 0 (this is a bug).
8) BG2 allows you to take a quick glance at your foes during combat, to see how wounded they are. Mouse-over any Hostile creature to check out how much they're bleeding—along with their name, you'll also see one of the following: Uninjured, Barely Injured, Injured, Badly Injured, or Near Death.
9) In BG1, going to your Inventory screen automatically un-Pauses the game, making switching weapons in the middle of a fight potentially a very hazardous process. In BG2, opening up your Inventory automatically Pauses the game.

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Character Creation