Whether you’ve played a pen-and-paper role-playing game before, the allure of character creation is obvious: It represents infinite possibilities, the future of your imaginary avatar laid out in front of you like a never-ending tree of untrodden paths. Dice have yet to roll. Chance has yet to rear its ugly head. The Dungeon Master has yet to challenge your perception of the person that leapt from your imagination and onto the table. Yes, characters almost always become more compelling as campaigns progress — but there’s still nothing quite like the promise of the blank character sheet.
As the successor to one of the most beloved role-playing video games of all time, and a massive digital representation of Dungeons & Dragon’s 5th edition rule set, Baldur’s Gate 3 needed to get character creation right. I’ve been playing Larian Studios’ massive RPG for several days, and I’m here to tell you: It did. Oneida, my gnome Druid, is as pensive in his interactions with the denizens of the Sword Coast as he is a terrifying shape-shifter on the battlefield. He’s a strong leader, an attentive listener, and only slightly loses his temper when his Wizard companion misses wide with a Fire Bolt attack that had a fucking 85% chance to hit. He never actually says Fuck you, Gale. But he does think it.
Considering all of the shenanigans I’ve already gotten into in my solo campaign, I decided to poll the rest of Polygon’s Baldur’s Gate 3 players, the better to grasp how they envisioned their characters during the creation process, and how good the game is at challenging those perceptions afterward.
Here are the heroes, villains, babes, miscreants, and useless dwarf Monks Polygon has created so far. —Mike Mahardy
Cestelle, Fixer of Astarion
Cestelle is a wood elf Assassin, going from luxurious adventures and high-stakes heists to, uh... tadpole in the brain. She’s trying to keep her chin up throughout it all. She’s basically benevolent, but she would prefer to get paid whenever possible. Cestelle’s preferred order of operations when it comes to a conflict is to talk her way out of it, and if that won’t work, isolate the biggest guy and stab him in the kidneys. She’s dating Astarion, because I can fix him, and I will not accept any judgment on this. Also, Shadowheart is her best gal pal. —Cass Marshall
Nic, a cat who sometimes transforms into a Half-Elf
I’m playing as Nic (I realize this is not original), a wood half-elf Druid, specifically the circle of the moon build, which lets me use wild shape to my heart’s content. Nic spends most of her time exploring as a cat, which is great for sneaking between bars and through pipes, and making NPCs say things like, “Ooh, a cat!” In battle she meows at enemies and buys my team time to set up, or she shape-shifts into lupine form for some carnage. She’s a criminal who is very good at lying to people when she’s been caught. I also have her dual-wielding daggers. Here’s what she looks like in her alternate, far less important form:
In early access, I played as a different Nic (yes, I know) who was a high half-elf Ranger with the urchin background. (I highly recommend choosing the colossus slayer subclass — if you’re a ranger, it’s incredibly powerful.) I skilled her specifically in sleight of hand, stealth, and animal handling. As someone with street skills, she was my team’s scout, sniper, and last line of support, sneaking to high vantage points and supplying the team with vital information. In my next playthrough I’m making a Bard, because I love the idea of performing so aggressively that it deals psychic damage. —Nicole Clark
Aster, the Cosmic Extrovert
Aster is easily distracted. Both a social butterfly and a curious explorer, she’s prone to wandering the countryside for people and beasts with whom to spark conversation. She’s not particularly strong or strategic, but her charm and bullshittery get her out of most scrapes. When not mingling with fellow travelers, she pledges her allegiance to a beautiful Tiefling who provides her access to arcane powers with which she could either save or destroy the very fabric of the universe. —Chris Plante
Threga (the blood is not hers)
This is my character Threga, a name I invented wholesale because I think it suits her. She’s a half-orc Barbarian because I always play as ax-wielding heavies, and also because that’s the character type/class I created for myself the last time I played D&D (over a decade ago). My favorite part of her design is that I was able to put both auburn and golden streaks in her hair. (I wish my hair looked this cool. I also wish my entire self looked this cool.)
I’ve decided Threga was an abandoned kid who ended up with a pretty good foster clan of open-minded Orcs that didn’t “get” her human side but loved her regardless. She’s got a lot of compassion for differences as a result, and that shows in her patience with the crew of weirdos now living alongside her at her campsite. I’ve only played for three hours, so I’m still getting to know her — and I love how much variation that process can actually include.—Maddy Myers
Oneida, the forest pest
Oneida, my gnome Druid, never wastes a chance to transform into the animals that raised him in a distant forest. Local folktales tell of a shape-shifter who howls at the moon, meows incessantly, and shoots web at unsuspecting passersby. As the stories go, he’s really just sort of a nuisance. Despite seeing himself as the leader of his merry band, he actually hangs back in most fights, until he can shape-shift into an animal and let his teammates do most of the work. He is a good listener, though, especially back at camp. He even listens attentively to Gale, the human Wizard who can’t seem to land one goddam spell, even when enemies are literally 5 feet away from him, my god Gale you suck so much but you’re handsome so I’ll keep you in my party. —Mike Mahardy
Astarion. Yes, that Astarion
I didn’t make a guy in Baldur’s Gate 3. I probably will one day, but not today, because I just wanted to dig in, you know? Also, as a fan of Divinity: Original Sin 2, I love the additional story hooks that come with an Origins character, and I also love when D&D pulls from other genres to make its fantasy setting more interesting. Astarion is a vampire who wants revenge on his sire who enslaved him, and I think that rules. Also, there is no other way to just start the game as a vampire, so given the choice between playing as a vampire and not, I’m gonna choose vampire. —Joshua Rivera
This is my duergar Monk named Caine (they/them). Caine is, obviously, named after the David Carradine character from the ’90s show Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. Here’s the thing about Caine: I don’t really like them. They’re a bit of a mess, honestly. I didn’t put much thought into character creation or backstory or… anything, really, when I made them. Caine is just kind of there. They’re not too bright, not particularly strong, and fail every Charisma check they attempt.
But Caine gets to do Dope Monk Shit™ and, while the duergar ability to embiggen themselves doesn’t do anything for their Monk stats, it still looks cool while my party fumbles their way through another disastrous encounter. —Jeff Parkin