In this Baldur’s Gate 3 Beginners Guide, we’re going to show you the best tips and tricks for adventuring through the Forgotten Realms. We’ll cover everything you need to know about the game’s mechanics, skills, proficiency, feats and more so you can get a better understanding of this CRPG.
This is a sponsored post. Please note that sponsored posts are only sponsoring coverage, our opinions on the game are our own and not affected by any business relationships with developers or publishers.
Baldur’s Gate 3 Beginner Guide – Game Mechanics
Baldur’s Gate 3 is based off of the 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Ruleset, which uses a system that involves the rolling of a twenty-sided die called a D20 to resolve encounters and scenarios in the game world. In combat, this will be done behind the scenes by the game’s software, but players will be able to see the results of their “dice rolls” in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. Ability Checks outside of combat, including dialogue, however, are handled differently and you can much more easily see the dice rolls. What’s really great about tabletop gaming on PC or Console, is that the game does all the mathematics for you, eliminating the need to remember every single thing that affects your encounter. However if you do not understand how Abilities work, you may find yourself having a tough time, so let’s begin there.
Ability Score & Ability Modifier
In Baldur’s Gate 3 Attributes are called “Abilities“. This means that Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma are all referred to as Abilities within Baldur’s Gate 3’s mechanics and context. This can be quite confusing at first, because just about every other Role Playing Game out there uses the term “Abilities” to delineate the “Skills” of a character, or some other Active or Passive function they possess. Attributes or Stats is usually what we’d refer to these as, but in BG3 they are called Abilities.
Ability Score is the number that represents each Ability (Stat) of your character, and Ability Modifier is the bonus (or penalty) you gain from your Ability Score of each Ability. To determine an Ability Modifier subtract 10 from the Ability Score and then divide the result by 2 (rounded down). For instance, if you have 17 Strength then your Ability Score for Strength is 17, and your Ability Modifier for Strength is +3. If you have 8 Dexterity then your Ability Score is 8 and your Ability Modifier is -1. Both your Ability Scores and Ability Modifiers will dictate how successful your character is at various things throughout the game.
Ability Score & Ability Modifier
- 1 = -5
- 2-3 = -4
- 4-5 = -3
- 6-7 = -2
- 8-9 = -1
- 10-11 = +0
- 12-13 = +1
- 14-15 = +2
- 16-17 = +3
- 18-19 = +4
- 20 = +5
What Does Your Ability Modifier Affect?
The reason we begin with Ability Scores and Ability Modifiers in this Baldur’s Gate 3 Beginner Guide, is that the D20 is rolled in three different instances: Ability Checks, Attack Rolls and Saving Throws. All three of these will use your Ability Modifiers when determining their outcomes, so it’s wise to know how they are calculated.
Ability Checks are rolled when performing interactions within the game world, testing a character’s “Abilities”, and often appear in dialogue, when lockpicking or disarming traps, and often when “checking” for hidden doors, items or buried loot.
These Ability Checks are accompanied by something called a Difficulty Class (DC), and that is the number you must roll with the D20 in order to “pass” the Ability Check. Baldur’s Gate 3 will determine the Difficulty Class of everything in the game, and you will need to have characters that have decent Ability Modifiers in order to pass them. The crux is that you sometimes you cannot see the DC of a hidden object, door or loot until you’ve passed or failed the check, so it’s wise to be prepared and save often in case you want to reload and try again. The following is a list of the DC of each of these general categories:
Task Difficulty DC
- Very Easy = 5
- Easy = 10
- Medium = 15
- Hard = 20
- Very Hard = 25
- Nearly Impossible = 30
You can see you only need to roll a 5 on the D20 to succeed in a Very Easy DC, while Nearly Impossible is 30. In order to even hit 30 you would need to have a very high Ability Modifier, other bonuses like Proficiency or even Expertise or Guidance, and almost a perfect 20 roll on the die. To further illustrate how this works, let’s do an example:
You and your party come to a door you cannot open, and it has a DC of 15. Astarion has 16 Dexterity, giving him an Ability Modifier of +3, so you decide to use him to try to pick the lock. Astarion would then roll the D20 and add +3 to his roll, and if the total was 15 or higher he would open the door (this means he would need to roll a 12 on the D20). However, if he should fail his roll the door will remain locked.
The second thing Ability Modifier is used for is Attack Rolls, which is when a character is attacking another character. When attacking with Weapons or Unarmed, players will roll the D20 and if their roll is equal to or higher than the target’s Armor Class (AC), they will connect with their attack. Melee Weapons and Unarmed attacks use the character’s Strength Modifier to add to their Attack Roll, and Ranged Weapons use the Dexterity Modifier. However, there are some exceptions, such as Melee Weapons that have the Finesse property, allowing the use of Dexterity instead of Strength. And the Monk’s Martial Arts Class Feature which allows them to use Dexterity instead of Strength as well.
Additionally, your Ability Modifier is then added to your Damage Roll if you successfully connected with your attack (Damage Rolls are calculated by rolling the die or dice of the Weapon used, and then adding Ability Modifier). This means not only are you more likely to hit with a Weapon if you have high Strength or Dexterity, but you will do more Damage if you do. This makes Strength and Dexterity particularly important to characters that rely on Weapons for damage, though they usually focus on one or the other.
Lae’Zel is attacking an enemy Orc that has an AC of 15. She is using a Longbow and has a Dexterity Modifier of +2. She rolls the D20 and gets an 11, and then adds +2, plus her Proficiency Bonus of +2 giving her a total of 15. This means she was successful in hitting the Orc with her arrow because she had at least 15 on her Attack Roll. She then rolls a D8 (which is the die that the Longbow uses for Damage) and gets a 4. She adds the +3 DEX Modifier, for a total of 7 Damage. Note: Proficiency is not added to the Damage Roll.
Saving Throws are used to calculate the defense of a character vs. many effects or spells in the game. Each of these has its own DC, which the character must make a “saving throw” of the die against in order to protect themself. These spells and effects will target one of the 6 Abilities of the character, and they will use that specific Ability Modifier when rolling. Just like Ability Checks and Attack Rolls, you must hit the target number or higher in order to succeed at a Saving Throw.
If you are making a spell casting character such as a Wizard or Sorcerer, you want to have the highest DC you can on your spells, as this helps prevent enemies from successfully rolling a “Saving Throw”, and increases your effectiveness. Each Class has its own Ability that is used to calculate this, and this is called its Spellcasting Ability Modifier. For instance, Clerics use Wisdom to determine their Spell DC, and Wizards use Intelligence for theirs. The DC to resist one of your Spells is equal to 8 + Spellcasting Ability Modifier + Proficiency.
Your Level 5 Wizard uses the Fireball spell around a bunch of Goblins. His Intelligence is 19, so he has a Spellcasting Ability Modifier of +4. This means the DC of this Spell is 15 (8+4+3), and any Goblin who doesn’t roll at least 15 (after all their Modifiers) will take 8D6 damage (the sum of 8 rolls of a 6 sided die), and any who does will take half that amount.
So you can see how that works, but let’s talk a bit about Proficiency in this Baldur’s Gate 3 Beginner Guide, since you might be wondering what that is!
Baldur’s Gate 3 Beginner Guide: Proficiency
All characters in Baldur’s Gate 3 have what is called a Proficiency Bonus. This is a positive modifier that increases as that character gain levels, and works somewhat similarly to Ability Modifier because it is added to D20 rolls.
Each player character begins the game with a Proficiency Bonus of +2 by default, increasing by +1 every 4 levels to a maximum of +4, since the level cap for Baldur’s Gate 3 is 12. This is the game’s way of making your character more powerful as its level raises, increasing its likelihood of succeeding in rolls. Note that the Proficiency Bonus is the same for all characters who are the same level, and that Class, Multiclass, and Race have no impact on this bonus.
Proficiency Bonus is only added to the D20 rolls of things that you have Proficiency in, and these are determined by a combination of your Race, Background, Class, Feats and potentially even equipment you find. This means that you will not gain this Bonus on all of your rolls, but instead only on the things your character is “proficient” at. The following is list of things Proficiency applies to:
- Attack Rolls using Weapons you’re Proficient with
- Ability Checks using Skills you’re Proficient in
- Saving Throws you’re Proficient in
- Attack Rolls with spells you cast
- Saving Throw DCs for spells you cast
Attacking with Weapons Without a Proficiency
In Baldur’s Gate 3 players do not receive a Penalty for attacking with Weapons they are not Proficient with, but instead do not use their Proficiency Bonus in their Attack Rolls. Additionally, they will not be able to use the Weapon Actions of that Weapon type.
However, when using Armor or Shields they are NOT Proficient with, they have Disadvantage on any Attack Roll they make, and they cannot cast Spells. This is really really bad, and means players should definitely avoid using Armor or Shields they do not have Proficiency in at all costs. We’ll get into Advantage and Disadvantage shortly, but for now let’s take a look at Skills.
Skills in Baldur’s Gate 3
Throughout the course of the game of BG3, Skills are used to help characters overcome obstacles and challenges. What Skills you are Proficient with will be determined during Character Creation, and are usually tied to your Class, Race and Background.
Each Skill in the game falls within an Ability, and Skills are essentially a specific aspect of that Ability. For instance, Sleight of Hand falls under Dexterity, because having faster reflexes and being more agile would help you steal things. Or for instance, Persuasion falls under Charisma, because being charismatic would help Persuade someone. Below is a list of Skills in the game and what Ability they fall under:
- Sleight of Hand
- Animal Handling
When players make an Ability Check that also uses a Skill, they will add their Proficiency Bonus to their D20 roll if they have Proficiency in that Skill, otherwise they roll as normal (including only their Ability Modifier). Let’s take the example of Astarion trying to open the door from earlier.
You and your party come to a door you cannot open, and it has a DC of 15. Astarion has 16 Dexterity, giving him an Ability Modifier of +3, +2 for his Proficiency Bonus in Sleight of hand, so you decide to use him to try to pick the lock. Astarion would then roll the D20 and add +3 to his roll, and if the total was 15 or higher he would open the door (this means he would need to roll a 10 on the D20). However, if he should fail his roll the door will remain locked.
Dialogue, Lockpicking and Disarming are all handed with very visible D20 rolls, so you can see your Proficiency at work or not if you don’t have any. However, there are some instances when things are calculated behind the scenes, like for example when trying to spot a hidden door or buried loot. You can see the calculation on the bottom right-hand side when this occurs, but you won’t have a D20 roll screen pop up for you, so you’ll have to pay attention to what is happening on screen while you explore. If you succeed, something will become visible that wasn’t previously, but if you fail you won’t know what you missed out on.
Expertise is an even higher form of Proficiency where the player takes their Proficiency bonus with a said Skill and doubles it. You will most often find this with Rogues and Bards
Tools are items in B3 that can help a player to do something they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do, but unlike Skills they are not tied to a specific Ability. For instance, Thieves Tools allow you to try to lockpick, but if you don’t have any then you cannot even attempt this. And likewise, a Trap Disarm Toolkit is needed to attempt disarming Traps, otherwise, you cannot even try.
Advantage & Disadvantage in BG3
There are many scenarios in the game where players will have either Advantage or Disadvantage, and these make things easier or harder for the character depending on which they have. Like many things in Baldur’s Gate 3, Advantage and Disadvantage are applied to the role of the D20. Let’s talk about this next in our Baldur’s Gate 3 Beginner Guide.
Advantage means that you roll the D20 two times when making an Attack Roll, Ability Check or Saving Throw, and use the higher of the two values. Conversely, Disadvantage means that you roll the D20 two times, using the lower of the two values. Advantage roughly doubles your chances for success, while Disadvantage roughly halves it. If we take the scenario we used earlier of the party coming to a door, and add Disadvantage, let’s see what happens:
You and your party come to a door you cannot open, and it has a DC of 15. Astarion has 16 Dexterity, giving him an Ability Modifier of +3, so you decide to use him to try to pick the lock. However, Astarion is Slightly Drunk, giving him Disadvantage. Astarion rolls the the D20 twice, getting a 6 and an 18. He’s forced to use the 6 roll, and add +3 to his roll, which adds up to 9 so he fails to open the door. Note that this scenario does not take into account Astarion’s Proficiency for the sake of simplicity.
Disadvantage is one of the worst situations you can be in while rolling in Baldur’s Gate 3, and should be avoided at all costs. While Advantage drastically improves your chances of success, and so should be sought out. Keep this in mind when deciding how to proceed with situations in Baldur’s Gate 3.
Weapons in BG3
Weapons are a huge part of BG3 and make up a big chunk of combat, since not every character can cast Spells, They can however all use Weapons. In this section we’ll take a look at how Proficiency is handled when it comes to weapons. Also how damage is calculated, and what Weapon Properties do as well as what they mean. First let’s cover Weapon Proficiency in this Baldur’s Gate 3 Beginner Guide.
Weapon Proficiency in Baldur’s Gate 3
Whenever you attack an enemy in BG3 you make what is called an “Attack Roll”, which I’ve already covered. This Attack Roll is affected by your Weapon Proficiency, so let’s take a look at how this plays out in BG 3.
You won’t be penalized for using a Weapon you aren’t Proficient in. But the likelihood of you hitting the enemy is reduced because you don’t get the added benefit of Proficiency. If you remember your Proficiency Bonus begins at +2 and increases every 4 character levels to a maximum of +4. Proficiency is particularly important at lower levels where you have less ways of increasing your chances of landing attacks.
Each character’s Weapon Proficiency is determined by their Race and Class. For example, Elves gain Proficiency with Longswords, Shortswords, Shortbows, and Longbows. And, Wizards gain Proficiency with Daggers, Quarterstaffs, and Light Crossbows. This means if you made an Elven Wizard you would have Proficiency with all 7 of these Weapon types.
Simple Weapons, Martial Weapons and Proficiency Feats
Each Weapon in BG3 falls under Simple Weapons or Martial Weapons. Simple Weapons are things like Clubs, Quarterstaffs, Shortbows, and Maces, while Martial Weapons are Weapons like Longswords, Rapiers, Longbows and Morningstars. Some Classes, have very specific Weapon Proficiency (like the Wizard), most Classes have Proficiency in Simple Weapons, and only a handful have Proficiency in Martial Weapons. It’s important to note that it is possible to have a general Proficiency (like Martial), and also have a specific Weapon Proficiency (like Longsword), which falls under Martial Proficiency. In this case, you don’t gain any extra bonuses, you are simply considered to have Proficiency in that Weapon type.
Damage Type, Damage Dice, and Weapon Properties
Every Weapon in BG3 has a damage die that is rolled when you successfully make an Attack Roll, and this damage is then applied to the target along with your Ability Modifier. For example, if you attack with a Greatclub you will roll an 8-sided die (D8), take that result and add your Strength Ability Modifier to that to get your total damage for your attack. Not every weapon uses the same die, and some are much better than others, so pay attention to what these are, and use the highest damage one you can.
Weapon Damage Type
Additionally, each weapon has a damage type, which is either: bludgeoning, piercing or slashing. This is important to note because some enemies have damage resistance against certain types of damage, and it’s possible to gain Damage Resistance yourself, such as by taking the Heavy Armor Master Feat. This means it’s a good idea to have a variety of different damage types in your group, so you don’t have a rough time against a few specific enemy groupings.
Nearly every Weapon has a Weapon Property in BG3, and those that don’t are few and far between. The following is a list of Weapon Properties with a description of what they do:
- Finesse – The weapon scales with Dexterity instead of Strength if your Dexterity is higher.
- Light – Can be dual-wielded with another Light weapon
- Range – The Range of a Weapon is listed here in meters.
- Extra Reach – Has increased range and can attack from further away.
- Thrown – Thrown weapons can be thrown for the same damage as if they were used to attack normally.
- Two-Handed – Weapons with this property must be wielded in both hands.
- Versatile – Weapons with this property can be used with one or two hands. A damage value in parentheses appears with the property, and indicates the damage the weapon does when wielded two-handed.
Armor in 5th Baldur’s Gate 3
Armor Class (AC) in BG3 is what protects you from any attack that uses an Attack Roll, this includes some Spells that use Attack Rolls like Scorching Ray. The amount of protection you gain depends on the armor you are wearing. For example, Padded Armor gives you 11 AC, and Chain Mail gives you 16, which means that enemies must reach a total of 11 in the case of Padded Armor or 16 in the case of Chain Mail on their Attack Rolls in order to Hit you. Note that if you are using no Armor, or are “Unarmored” you are considered to have 10 AC, and you cannot have lower than that unless by some in-game spell or effect.
The Role of Dexterity
In addition, players gain a benefit to their AC from their Dexterity, and how much benefit you gain is different depending on what classification of armor you are wearing. When wearing Light Armor you gain the full value of your Dexterity Modifier added to your AC. When wearing Medium Armor you gain up to +2 AC from your Dexterity Modifier. And when wearing Heavy Armor you gain no benefit from your Dexterity Modifier to your Armor Class (including negative Dexterity modifier). Note that Medium and Heavy Armor limits to your Dexterity Modifier only apply to your Armor Class, it doesn’t apply to your Attack Rolls, Ability Checks or Saving Throws, so you can still use Medium and Heavy Armor on Dexterity-focused Characters.
Here’s and example: let’s say Astarion has 18 Dexterity, which gives him a Dexterity Modifier of +4. He wears Studded Leather Armor which has a base AC of 12. His AC would be 12+4, giving him a total AC of 16. If he then swaps this out for Hide Armor, which is Medium Armor, he will have a base AC of 12, but will only gain +2 from his Dexterity Modifier, giving him a total AC of 14. This is a bad move for him, and he should look for at least Half Plate before using Medium Armor, because its base value is 15 and 15 +2 = 17.
Unlike Weapons, Proficiency in an Armor type you are wearing is a must-have or you’ll be facing some staunch penalties. Characters who wear Armor they aren’t Proficient in will have a Disadvantage on any Attack Roll that they make, and they can’t cast spells. However, the upside here is that characters CAN cast spells while wearing Armor they are Proficient in (even Heavy Armor) with no penalty to Attack Rolls or arcane spell failure.
Stealth and Movement in Armor
One thing you need to pay attention to when wearing Armor is whether or not it gives you Disadvantage on Stealth checks. Generally speaking, you want to use lighter armor on characters with high Dexterity, because lighter armors don’t typically penalize Stealth.
Feats in Baldur’s Gate 3
Feats, for all intents and purposes work like “Talents” in DOS2 or “Perks” Fallout, and they give the character a very specific bonus. In Baldur’s Gate 3, characters will gain a Feat every 4th level they take in a given Class. This means if you don’t Multiclass you will gain Feats at Levels 4, 8, and 12. However, if you do, it’ll be whenever you hit 4 levels in a given Class.
Ability Improvement allows you to spend 2 Ability Points to improve your Abilities in whatever combination you wish, whether it’s both points in one Ability, or split between two. This is the most commonly selected Feat in Baldur’s Gate 3, and it is the safe option if you are unsure what to choose.
Benefits of Feats
Many Feats will give you some benefit and increase a specific Ability Score by 1, like Heavily Armoured. This Feat increases your Strength by 1, and also gives you Proficiency with Heavy Armor. This can be good or bad depending on how you are setup.
If you have an even number of Strength like 16 for example, you will not see any benefit from the Strength increase, since your Strength Modifier will not improve at 17. If you really want a Feat, but its Ability Score increase will not benefit you because of this, I strongly suggest that you respec your character at Withers in your camp, and set up your Abilities in such a way that you can make use of it. Like setting your Strength to 17, so it becomes 18 with the Feat, increasing your Modifier by 1.
We hope you found this Baldur’s Gate 3 Beginner Guide helpful. We’ll be putting out more guides and content. You can drop by our wiki for all the latest info on classes, weapons, skills, interactive map and more.