Someone must have told the developers that there were too many characters in the first game. Or maybe they realised it by themselves, because they’ve taken a paring knife to the cast. There are now only (!) 18 party members to choose from (even though one of them is only available in Throne of Bhaal and is therefore not on the above list), five of which make a comeback from Baldur’s Gate, with updated, generally more lore-friendly portraits (although Minsc is still bald despite having hair on his in-game model). 11 other former BG party members also reappear as non-recruitable NPCs. Fair warning: the paring knife is frequently applied literally in their case – by your protagonist, in two instances, no less –, as only two of them will still be alive by the end of the game. Did I mention that the story was darker than its predecessor? However, despite the decrease in character numbers, they now have distinctly more interactions with each other than in BG. This is a genuine improvement, with the result that you get more insight into each character’s personality and get to ‘know’ them better.

As in all other games based on the D&D system, each character has their own alignment, which combines their relationship to the law (Lawful, Neutral or Chaotic) and their overall disposition (Good, Neutral or Evil), for a gamut of nine possible combinations. Alignment restrictions still apply as they did in BG, in that Evil protagonists will have trouble recruiting and/or keeping Good NPCs and vice-versa. Additionally, some characters won’t get along and may eventually come to blows. That being said, there are far fewer Evil companions this time around (three in Shadows of Amn and a fourth one in ToB), possibly because the developers realised that playing an Evil protagonist wasn’t a very popular choice and therefore didn’t bother keeping numbers balanced. By comparison, there are eight Good companions and five Neutral ones.

One new element is the fact that three companions are now susceptible to alignment changes, depending on how your protagonist deals with them. Another welcome novelty is that there are no longer any character pairs, meaning that you’re free to recruit whomever you choose without being forced to take along an extra character you may not need or like. Class numbers have also been rebalanced: there are far fewer Thieves, and most of them are dual-/multiclassed. The same goes for Mages, although their numbers haven’t shrunk quite as much.

Just like in the first game, the A.I. takes care of levelling characters that aren’t in your party and usually makes a mess of it. This means that you need to recruit whomever you want to use ASAP. Most characters have a personal quest, and you will need to take care of it if you want to keep them. In some cases, their recruitment process is the quest. They usually won’t leave permanently if you replace them with another character, though: they can either go wait at a favourite spot of theirs (usually an inn, but not always) or be told to stay put right where they are. The exception is Jaheira, who will leave permanently if replaced after completing her personal quest.

Bhaalspawn: The act of creationThis is your protagonist, one of the offspring of the dead God of Murder, Bhaal, who foresaw his own demise during the Time of Troubles and travelled the world on what was basically a pre-emptive humping spree, targeting pretty much any female creature, humanoid or not (there’s a Bhaalspawn chicken in ToB…). You’ll probably have imported your Bhaalspawn from BG, in which case they’ll begin the game at whichever level they finished BG at and with whichever spells they knew, if they were a Mage or a Mage dual-/multiclass. Moreover, single-class characters will be able to pick one of several “kits”, which are basically specialisations, not unlike what was already available to single-class Mages in BG. It’s also possible to create a brand new level 1 character, but that kind of defeats the point of a direct sequel that allows imports. Still, I guess if, for some reason, you’ve decided to start with the sequel without playing the first game, you can create a character from scratch, in which case you’d have to pick their race, gender, alignment, class and attributes (which can take a LONG time). There’s even an extra race and three brand new classes that have been added specifically for that purpose. After the events of the first game, the Bhaalspawn tried to get on with her/his life, but to no avail, as s/he got captured by Irenicus and tortured with the hopes of “unlocking her/his potential”, as he puts it. Why he wants to do this is something the Bhaalspawn will eventually discover the hard way (yes, harder than torture).

Imoen: Worst best friendUgh, not again. Imoen was the first character you were saddled with in BG, and she’s the first character you’re saddled with in BGII. Your Bhaalspawn’s red-haired (more like pink-haired now) and blue-eyed human childhood friend gets kidnapped alongside her/him and also suffers torture at Irenicus’ hands. Fortunately, she’s whisked away once the party escapes Irenicus’ secret lair, and you can take however long you want to go rescue her afterwards, and, if you don’t like her, you’re not actually forced to use her at any point in the game. The problem is that she’s tied into the plot, as a result of fan demand (!); the developers were originally planning to kill her off, but people apparently wanted her back. Regardless, I still ditch her as soon as I get the chance, because, if there’s one thing that really annoys me, it’s having characters I dislike foisted on me in a WRPG. Anyway, Imoen is now a Neutral Good Mage/Thief, regardless of whether you dual-classed her in BG or not, and gains levels as a Mage, so her thieving skills are as good as they get. Her stats are identical to what they were in BG, so her main advantages are still Dexterity and Intelligence, meaning that she’ll be right at home sniping at things with a bow or flinging spells from the sidelines. Other than that, her personality has taken a hit, due to the torture and…other subsequent revelations. She’s distinctly less bubbly than she used to be, as her portrait shows, and displays a morbid fascination for death at times. None of this makes me like her any better, though.

Minsc: CuckooConsidering his popularity, I would’ve been surprised if Minsc hadn’t made a comeback. This crazy bald and black-eyed human Ranger (although his Wisdom is actually too low for him to be one) hails from Rashemen, a country far to the northeast of Faerûn, and has a fascination with his pet hamster, Boo, whom he believes to be a Miniature Giant Space Hamster. He was also supposedly with the Bhaalspawn when they got captured, and thus finds himself in a cage right behind hers/his. Unfortunately, he informs you that his bonded witch, Dynaheir, whom he accompanied in BG, has been killed by Irenicus. This has affected him deeply, unhinging him even further, which is reflected in his alignment change from Neutral Good to Chaotic Good. If you recruit Aerie or Nalia, however, he may come to adopt one of them as his new witch, as a form of atonement. This means that, should they die, he will go berserk, and Keldorn is the only one who’ll be able to talk him down. Conversely, Minsc won’t get along with Edwin, due to the latter’s murderous designs on Dynaheir in the first game, potentially coming to blows. Minsc’s stats are largely identical to BG, with a slight boost to his Dexterity and Constitution, making him even better suited for the front lines. His Strength is still phenomenal, but his weapon selection and lack of Mastery/Grandmastery mean that other characters will be more proficient in melee. Still, he’s a very good choice for a Good party, at least until you pick up Keldorn. His portrait has also been updated, giving more prominence to Boo, who was also initially the focus of his personal quest. That got cut during development, but you can restore it with a mod. Other than that, Minsc is still one of the funniest characters in the game, what with his dedication to buttkicking evil and being a hero.

Jaheira: Mama BearAnother returning character, this blonde and blue-eyed half-elven Fighter/Druid, originally from Tethyr, the country to the south of Amn, is a Harper – a member of a secret group focused on maintaining balance in all things – and used to be one of the closest friends of the Bhaalspawn’s adoptive father, Gorion. The game assumes that both she and her husband Khalid were with the protagonist when they got captured, and she can be found in a cage in the same room as her/him when the game begins. Khalid’s whereabouts, however, are a different matter…And I think you can make an educated guess about his fate, considering the fact that Jaheira is a romance option for a male Bhaalspawn in this game. Jaheira’s stats have been upgraded from BG, with a boost to Dexterity and a slight improvement to Wisdom, thus making her hardier in combat and a better healer, and therefore a solid addition to the group. She can wear better equipment than a single-class Druid and contribute in melee when she’s not healing. Her Harper status even grants her a resurrection spell (Harper’s Call), thus giving her an edge over regular Druids. What’s more, once you complete her personal quest, trying to replace her will result in her leaving permanently, so you need to keep her in the party until Throne of Bhaal if you don’t want to lose her. Fortunately, due to being True Neutral (although, really, she could just as well be Neutral Good), she’ll work with both Good and Evil parties. Personality-wise, Jaheira’s just as tough and bossy as she was in the first game, with an added layer of bitterness due to personal issues, just like Imoen. Her portrait has also been updated, and although it does make her look more elven…the artist seems to have had a slight issue with eye-alignment.

Yoshimo: Hidden depthsYou’ll encounter this black-haired and black-eyed human Bounty Hunter (i.e. Thief) wandering around the second floor of Irenicus’ secret base in Athkatla as the party is escaping. He says that he has no idea how he ended up there are offers to join forces. This is a good idea, as he is the only single-class Thief in the game and, thus, the only one besides Jan whose thieving abilities will actually improve. Moreover, as he is True Neutral, he will fit into any party. It helps that he has good stats as well, with high Strength and top-notch Dexterity, making him suited both for melee and ranged attacks. His Constitution is good, too. The real problem is that Bounty Hunter isn’t a very good kit, and that he would be more potent if he could dual-class as a Fighter. Yoshimo hails from Kozakura, which is the in-game equivalent of Japan and is located in the region of Kara-Tur, far to the east of Faerûn. This is reflected by his name and his looks, but he also speaks with a Japanese accent and wields a katana. He says he’s quite famous in the thieving world, but a lot of it sounds like bluster, and it’s not always easy to tell whether he’s joking or not. Overall, while he seems good-natured enough, he never reveals much about his past or how he came to Athkatla. If you think this means that he’s hiding something, you’d be right. Fair warning: Yoshimo will leave the party for good once you rescue Imoen, which is why dual-classing him is not a good idea; you’d just be wasting levels. He doesn’t really have a personal quest – his plot involvement takes care of that –, but he does suggest you pay a visit to the Thieves’ Guild when you enter the docks in Athkatla, which sets the storyline in motion and gives your Bhaalspawn access to their first potential Stronghold.

Korgan: KILL ALL THE THINGSThis grey-haired and grey-eyed Chaotic Evil dwarven Berserker (i.e. Fighter) is the game’s answer to BG’s Kagain, with an extra helping of bloodlust. Fancy an axe-wielding, foul-mouthed, money-grubbing killing machine? Korgan’s your guy. He’s a mercenary, found hanging out at the Copper Coronet in the Athkatla Slums. He needs the party’s help to retrieve an ancient tome from a tomb, so oblige him, and he’s yours to keep. Don’t tarry too much, though, or he’s likely to leave. Another thing worth noting: if you ever replace Korgan, then want to take him back, he’ll ask a (reasonable) fee for his services. Korgan’s stats are self-explanatory: excellent Strength and Constitution, with decent Dexterity to boot, meaning that he can hit hard and survive on the front lines. Steering him towards warhammers is a good idea, as he will be able to use the mighty Crom Faeyr later on, which will boost his Strength to 25 (!). The only problem is that, as a Berserker, he can’t wear the heaviest armour sets, but there are other options available if you’re willing to wait. Personality-wise, Korgan is violent and uncouth, and will actively persecute Aerie, to the point of attacking her. It’s not a fight to the death, but Aerie will eventually force you to choose between the two of them. Conversely – and surprisingly –, Korgan will try to woo Mazzy, despite her obvious disgust. Another surprising fact is that Keldorn will express admiration for his combat prowess. Finally, a nitpick: as a humanoid race, dwarves aren’t supposed to have pointy ears, so what’s the deal with his portrait?

Nalia: SnobThis copper-haired and brown-eyed Chaotic Good human Mage/Thief is the daughter of a local nobleman, but she believes that it is her duty to help the poor and the needy. All the while considering them as inferior and being incredibly condescending to them. Charming. Nalia will automatically accost your party whenever they enter the Copper Coronet in the Athkatla Slums – very annoying if you intend to save her quest for later or not to do it at all –, begging for help, as her family’s keep is being attacked by trolls. This is a fairly involved quest (although it does eventually net you a Stronghold), and her personal questline will kick in shortly afterwards, so be warned that it will take a while to secure her, if you want her in the party. Nalia was clearly written as a stop-gap for Imoen, since she fills the exact same role, albeit with better Strength and Constitution, which makes her a slightly more desirable addition to a Good party. Moreover, she comes equipped with a ring that improves her Armour Class and Saving Throws. However, she’s also dual-classed as a Mage, so her Thief skills won’t be getting any better. Personality-wise, she’s rather bland, with no sense of humour, and the only things that stand out about her are her naivete and her hypocrisy. So while what happens to her family is rough, other characters have it much worse, and she’s not interesting or sympathetic enough for me to care much about it. That being said, she does become a lot more cynical in ToB. Oh, and if she spends enough time in the same party with Minsc, he may come to adopt her as his new witch, to atone for losing Dynaheir.

Anomen: UGHThere are annoying characters. And then there’s Anomen. This brown-haired and brown-eyed Lawful Neutral human Fighter/Cleric hangs out in the Copper Coronet in the Athkatla Slums, looking for people who want to fight Evil. As you do. Anomen is the son of a ruined, alcoholic Athkatlan merchant, but his dream is to join the knightly Order of the Radiant Heart. He can’t become a Paladin, due to a lack of funds, but he can join as a Cleric of Helm. When you meet him, his final examination is just around the corner, so he’s very nervous. His family situation is also crappy and becomes even crappier in his personal quest. But none of this excuses his INSUFFERABLE personality. He’s an arrogant, whiny, petulant, insecure man-child. So is Edwin, you say? At least, he’s funny. Anomen’s personal quest directly influences his test, alignment, Wisdom and relationships with other NPCs. If he fails the test, he becomes Chaotic Neutral and may come to blows with both Aerie and Keldorn. If he succeeds, he becomes Lawful Good, gains a “Sir” in front of his name (why doesn’t Keldorn have this?) and gains four points of Wisdom, graduating from a mediocre healer to a good one. Incidentally, his original Wisdom score is actually too low for him to be a Fighter/Cleric…Otherwise, he has excellent Strength and good Constitution, so he’s a fine pick for a Good party once he passes his test. His only problem is his low Dexterity, which he mitigates with his family shield. But even 18s across the board wouldn’t make this idiot palatable to me. To add insult to injury, he’s the ONLY romance option for a female protagonist in the vanilla game. The fact that he shares his voice actor with Kivan, my favourite BG character, is the last straw for me. If in the same party as Jan, he will be copiously trolled by the gnome. On the other hand, if in the same party as Mazzy, he will ridicule her for being a halfling and not a ‘real’ Paladin. Lovely.

Viconia: UnapologeticThe bitchy Neutral Evil white-haired and black-eyed drow Cleric of Shar from Menzoberranzan, a city located underground far to the north of Faêrun, also makes a return from the first game. Her character portrait now looks more like a drow (although it’s based on a Czech adult model), but her prospects haven’t improved. You’ll find her about to be burned at the stake in the Government District of Athkatla by a crazed mob which is convinced that, being drow, she must mean trouble. Rescue her, and she will offer her services once again, out of gratitude. Viconia’s time between the two games hasn’t been easy, filled with more undeserved abuse, as she simply tried to find a place to settle down, so she’s happy to find someone who doesn’t automatically dismiss her. While her biography states that her drow skills have faded, her magic resistance is actually even higher than in the first game (65% instead of 50). What’s more, her Wisdom has improved by three points compared to BG, making her officially the best healer in the game. Her high Dexterity also helps in terms of survivability, as her puny Constitution makes her rather fragile and unable to wear heavy armour. Just be aware that your Bhaalspawn’s Reputation will drop by two points whenever you accept her into the party. Viconia is a complex character, which has ensured her enduring popularity. She is Evil, but hasn’t actually done anything to deserve persecution, and the story of her exile from the Underdark is fraught with ambiguity that sets her apart from the typical drow. Unfortunately, only a male protagonist who romances her will hear about it, with the possibility to change her alignment to True Neutral. Viconia may eventually come to blows with Keldorn, if they are in the same party, but also with Valygar, if you talk to a certain NPC with both of them in the party.

Jan: STAAAAAREPronounced “Yan”. This black-haired and black-eyed Chaotic Neutral gnomish Mage/Thief can be found peddling illegal wares in the Government District of Athkatla. When he tries to accost the party, a suspicious guard comes over to investigate. If you don’t rat Jan out, he will offer his services after the guard leaves. Jan is the only other Thief in the game besides Yoshimo who will actually gain Thief levels and thus improve his abilities, and, unlike Yoshimo, he’s available until the end of the game. What’s more, being Neutral, he’ll fit into any party. While his Strength is poor, his Dexterity and Intelligence are both good and his Constitution decent. Being a gnome, he’s automatically an Illusionist, one of the better Mage specialisations, which grants him an extra spell per level. He also comes with his own equipment, which includes item-identifying goggles and custom crossbow ammo that has the same effect as a Skull Trap spell. He can make more of it, too. The real question is whether you can stand his personality. I find him hilarious, but this might not be everyone’s case. You see, Jan is a bit…loopy and prone to rambling on about griffins, turnips and the fictional misadventures of his endless family members. He also has a healthy sense of sarcasm and likes to troll other characters (e.g. Anomen or Keldorn). Moreover, he has an inordinate fondness for Boo, whom he will repeatedly try to steal from Minsc. The only instance of him taking things seriously is during his personal quest, which involves his ex, her sick child and her abusive husband. This adds a layer of depth to the crazy gnome and makes me like him even more, despite the fact that the questline feels unfinished. One nitpick, though: as a fey race, gnomes are supposed to have pointy ears, which is clearly not the case on Jan’s portrait.

Edwin: Talking to oneself is the first sign of madnessThat’s right, everybody’s favourite obnoxious tit of a Red Wizard also makes a comeback. For those who haven’t played BG, Edwin is a brown-eyed and brown-haired Lawful Evil human Conjurer (i.e. Mage). As a Red Wizard of Thay, a nation located south of Rashemen and actively hostile to it, he was trying to curry favour with his superiors by attempting to kill Dynaheir, Minsc’s bonded witch. That didn’t work (either because he never managed to kill her or because it wasn’t enough to improve his status), so he somehow insinuated himself into the Thieves’ Guild in the Athkatla Docks as part of another scheme, and you can recruit him by pursuing the Guild’s questline. This isn’t the end of the story, though, as he will later ask for help in retrieving what he believes to be a Nether Scroll (i.e. a very powerful magical item) with some hilarious results that will take him down a notch or two. The Scroll is located in the same tomb as Korgan’s book, so you could do a double whammy and cover both quests at the same time. Edwin is, quite simply, the best Mage in the game and the only single-classed one. His stats are mostly identical to BG, with slightly more Strength and Wisdom, which is largely irrelevant. His Intelligence is still top-notch, and his Constitution is surprisingly good, meaning that he should be able to weather a couple of hits. Conjurer is the best Mage specialisation, giving him an extra spell slot per level with minimal drawbacks, and his amulet grants him another extra spell per level. Personality-wise, Edwin is still a pompous, disdainful, scheming, power-hungry know-it-all with a penchant for talking to himself in a sexy accent. He won’t get along with Minsc, due to having attempted to kill Dynaheir in BG. And do keep him away from Keldorn and Valygar, who dislike Evil and mages, respectively.

Keldorn: Human after allI usually find Paladins boring, but Keldorn is an exception. You can find this Lawful Good grey-haired and grey-eyed human Inquisitor in the sewers beneath the Temple District of Athkatla after undertaking the quest to eradicate the Cult of the Unseeing Eye. He has been sent on the same mission by the Order of the Radiant Heart and will offer to join forces, remaining with the party once the problem has been resolved. Keldorn is one of the best NPCs a Good party can recruit, and you may remember that Ajantis mentioned him as his mentor in BG. Although his Strength is slightly lower than Anomen’s or Minsc’s and his Dexterity is rather poor, he has very good Constitution and ideal Charisma for a party leader. What’s more, he has the best Paladin kit and amazing equipment options later in the game (Carsomyr…). He even joins with his own armour and greatsword, both of which are great starting gear. Despite being a Paladin, Keldorn is a pretty chill guy, calm, kindly and reasonable, which makes it pleasant to have him in the party. He’ll even express admiration for Korgan’s fighting skills. What’s more, he has a personal quest that highlights the heartache he endures by trying to reconcile duty with family life and adds welcome fragility to his stoicism. In fact, some may feel guilty for keeping him after experiencing it and find themselves inclined to let him go, but that would be depriving the party of an extremely valuable asset (Carsomyr…). However, do be warned that he may, in the purest Paladin tradition, come to blows with Viconia, Edwin, Anomen (if he fails his test) and even the protagonist themselves, should they stray too far from the path of Good. On the other hand, Keldorn is the only character who will be able to talk Minsc down if he flies into a rage due to Aerie or Nalia kicking the bucket after becoming his witch. Oh, and have I mentioned Carsomyr?

Aerie: WHIIIIIINEBleh. Blonde and blue-eyed Aerie is an avariel, a member of a rare subrace of winged elves. She hails from Faenya-Dail, an avariel city located far to the north of Faerûn (although she later says that it’s far to the south…). She got captured by slavers while trying to rescue a child. They sold her to a circus, and imprisonment in a cage eventually caused her wings to atrophy, to the point that the circus owner had to cut them off to keep her alive. This was obviously very traumatising, but she got help from Quayle, who also happened to be travelling with the circus. Yes, Quayle, the obnoxious gnome from BG, who mysteriously underwent a complete personality overhaul and is now a kindly mentor figure to poor Aerie, who has even taken to worshipping a gnomish deity, Baervan Wildwanderer, out of gratitude. Aerie can be rescued from the circus, which is located in Waukeen’s Promenade in Athkatla, during a mishap involving one of the other performers and a magic lamp. She’s a Lawful Good Mage/Cleric (a combination that elves are normally barred from, but maybe it’s because she worships a non-elven god) with good Wisdom and Intelligence, even though there are both better Mages and better healers on offer. She also has good Dexterity, which will help her stay alive. Aerie’s real problem is her personality. Yes, she has suffered a lot, but then, so has Viconia, and you don’t see her complaining. By contrast, Aerie keeps whining and wailing about her wings, and how ugly and useless she feels. Her voice actress also strikes this incredibly irritating hesitant and teary note. A male protagonist can romance her, but I don’t know why anybody would want to inflict this on themselves. Should you recruit Haer’Dalis, he will woo her as well, potentially causing a full-blown love triangle. Aerie can also get attacked by Korgan and Anomen, should he fail his test. Conversely, much like Nalia, Minsc may come to adopt her as his official new witch if they spend enough time in the party together.

Haer’Dalis: OverdramaticThis black-eyed Chaotic Neutral Blade (i.e. Bard) is a tiefling, meaning that he has fiendish blood in his ancestry. In his case, this has resulted in blue hair, super-pointy ears and stripes on his skin. He is the star actor of a tiefling theatre troupe that has been forced to flee through the planes after performing a controversial play in Sigil (c.f. Planescape: Torment). The party may find them performing at the Five Flagons Inn in the Bridge District of Athkatla. Unfortunately, it seems that Haer’Dalis has been imprisoned by a wizard while trying to retrieve a trinket that would allow the troupe to continue their planar travels. Rescuing him is just the beginning of the quest, but you’ll eventually be able to keep him while the rest of the troupe moves on. There was an additional cut quest involving him in a murder investigation, which you can use a mod to restore. Haer’Dalis comes with his own two swords, and his tiefling heritage grants him a 50% resistance to cold, 25% to fire and 15% to physical damage. He also has pretty good stats, with good Strength, Dexterity and Charisma, even though his Intelligence is only decent for a caster class. The problem is that the Blade specialisation tries to turn Bards into frontline characters, and Haer’Dalis is really not frontline material, due to his poor Constitution. His personality is also an…acquired taste. He’s a Doomguard, a member of a Sigil faction that believes that entropy and death are both inevitable and desirable, and therefore has a very nonchalant attitude. As an actor, he also has a propensity for flowery metaphor (notably giving bird nicknames to various characters, including the Bhaalspawn), which quickly becomes irritating. If in the same party as Aerie, he will woo her, potentially causing a love triangle for male protagonists.

Valygar: SulkyYou’ll have to venture outside of Athkatla to find this guy, but you first need to initiate the quest to find him in the Government district. Valygar is a brown-haired and brown-eyed Neutral Good human Stalker (i.e. a Ranger, and not a creep) and can be found hiding in his cabin in the Umar Hills. The Cowled Wizards have been trying their darnedest to get their hands on him in order to be able to access a Planar Sphere that has mysteriously appeared in the Slums. Apparently, the Sphere was built by one of Valygar’s ancestors who decided to become a lich and can only be opened by someone of his bloodline. Add to that the fact that Valygar’s parents both succumbed to magic, and you’ve got someone who hates magic with a passion (like a less violent ancestor to Dragon Age II‘s Fenris). You can, however, convince him to confront his past once and for all – especially since the Sphere is a potential Stronghold –, and he will join the party once the issue has been dealt with. Valygar is designed as an alternative to Minsc, being a Ranger built for stealthy, speedy fighting, as opposed to Minsc’s brute force. He has good Strength, excellent Dexterity and good Constitution, and comes with his own katana and armour. Give him a second katana, and he will serve you well, especially if you capitalise on backstabbing. What Valygar can’t replace, however, is Minsc’s entertainment value. He’s a grim, dour, taciturn guy, so having him in the party a pretty cheerless experience, especially if your protagonist is a Mage. He may also come to blows with Edwin and Viconia. Should you have Mazzy in the party, she will try to train him as her squire, something he’s initially not too enthusiastic about.

Mazzy: Pint-sized virtueThis red-haired and brown-eyed Lawful Good halfling Fighter is the closest thing to a non-human Paladin you’re going to encounter. Her dedication to the halfling god of war, Arvoreen, grants her abilities very similar to those of a Paladin, namely Lay on Hands, Protection from Evil and Remove Fear. Her Strength is only average, which is a letdown for a Fighter, but her Dexterity is excellent, so you could give her a bow, and her good Constitution will further ensure her survival in combat. She even comes with her own bow and sword. Her biggest problem is how much work is needed to acquire her. First of all, you need to travel to Umar Hills to pick up the quest for finding her. To actually find her, you need to go to the ruined temple of Amaunator north of there. To keep her, you need to finish that quest…which involves fighting a dragon and a Shade Lord. And if that weren’t enough, she’ll also eventually get a personal quest that will require you to travel to her home in Trademeet. So you really need to like her or be a completionist to go through all of this, when other perfectly serviceable front-liners are readily available. Mazzy is a straight arrow: virtuous, dedicated and good-humoured, but not particularly interesting. Her sweetheart has been murdered by the Shade Lord, but it doesn’t seem to affect her overmuch. However, if she finds herself in the same party as Korgan, the latter will try to woo her, despite her obvious disgust. She’ll also try to train Valygar as her squire, much to his initial non-amusement. And Anomen will mock her for not being a ‘real’ Paladin.

Cernd: HypocriteThis sorry excuse for a fictional human being can be found in Trademeet, where he has been thrown in prison on suspicion of causing the animal attacks on the city. Cernd is a grey-haired and brown-eyed True Neutral Shapeshifter (i.e. Druid) and was actually trying to discover the cause of the attacks when he was caught. The party can free him and help him investigate the Druid Grove near the city, where they will meet a familiar face. After that, Cernd will join the party, until his personal quest rolls around, whereupon you may decide that you don’t want to have anything else to do with him. I’ll be blunt: Cernd…sucks. Sure, he has excellent Wisdom, which is essential for a healer, but everything else about him is subpar. As a Druid, he can’t wear armour or use metallic weapons, which both Viconia and Jaheira can do, and Aerie can compensate for with arcane magic. On top of that, both his Strength and Constitution are mediocre, meaning that he’s not viable on the front lines, and his Dexterity is terrible, which rules out ranged weapons as well. As a Shapeshifter, he can transform into a werewolf, which boosts his combat skills, but the kit is bugged, meaning that, even transformed, he can’t pull his weight in melee. What’s more, Clerics just have better spells than Druids. Cernd comes with his own cloak and staff, but they don’t offset his problems. Add that to the fact that he’s a world-class hypocrite who hides his inadequacies behind trite nature-themed metaphors, and you get a character I despise. Jaheira, on the other hand, will show him respect, as he is a higher-ranking Druid than she is.

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