[ CORE RULES Difficulty ]
So, I finally decided to try my hands at soloing the Baldur's Gate series. Because I wanted to try something different and challenging, I made the PC a generalist mage instead of a conjurer or sorcerer. Here are my thoughts about the playthrough.
: Casters - mages and sorcerers - are indeed the most powerful characters in the game. Blunt force works too, but casters rarely ever get touched and most fights were easy. As a generalist mage, I had the opportunity to try out a bunch of different approaches (and in fact, I did try to vary it as much as possible just to make it more interesting and fun), and there are many effective tactics to work with. Sorcerers might have more firepower, but their ability to adapt and try many different things is very limited. Also, as a generalist, I didn't miss the extra spell slots. It's really not so bad. You're given enough spells to deal with anything the game can throw at you starting at level 3-4.
: The beginning is hard for a generalist mage. I had Sleep, a wand of magic missiles and not much else. It's doable, but kind of hard and requires a lot of sleep in the early parts of the game. Until you have enough gold for spells (and a few levels to boot), the generalist mage is extremely fragile. From levels 5-6 onwards, the power curve makes a drastic change for better and you start to feel like you're dominating the field of battle (most of the time).
: I reached the level cap VERY EARLY. I don't remember when exactly, but some time after Nashkel or maybe during the raid on the Bandit Camp. It was super easy to get insane amounts of XP as a soloist. The Basilisks are an easy spot for XP farming once you have Protection From Petrification.
: Once the generalist mage reached the level cap, I was done chasing sidequests (for the most part). Yes, I did a few, but I completely ignored ToSC content and a bunch of other stuff. I didn't feel like it, as PC was already powerful enough for Sarevok (more on that later).
: Unfortunately, I had a few. Especially in the beginning. Not a lot tho, and from what I can remember, maybe a dozen reloads total. My reputation was very low (1) throughout most of the playthrough, so the Flaming Fist enforcers and mage were a problem a couple of times (as I wasn't ready for the ambush / was looking for a place to rest).
: There are so many wands, scrolls, potions and gold to spare! Playing solo, the economy is broken. The PC was despised by the people, but it didn't really matter at all as I had heaps of gold to purchase anything my heart desired. As for the gear itself, most of it came from adventuring, so it was all free, to begin with: Robes of the Evil Archmagi, Evermemory, a +2 AC ring, the Amplifier necklace, the +2 CHA cloak, a +3 quarterstaff, +2 dagger (the long one, doing 2d6+2 dmg).
: Lots of variation as a generalist. Sometimes I would disable them, sometimes I'd bombard them from afar, sometimes I'd do my own version of a "Mini-Tenser" by throwing in Strength, Haste, a Fireshield, Stoneskin, and Mirror-image. Heaps of fun. Honest. Also, it's easier to unleash a mage's full power as a soloist, as you don't have to worry about friendly fire (unless you're doing summons).
: Unfortunately, this is the cost of playing a mage of any kind solo. As you can see from the image above, it took me over 200 in-game days to reach Sarevok. It's not too bad, but if you're roleplaying, it can sort of ruin the experience as you'll need to rest a lot, especially in the early game. As you progress in power, most fights can be solved by one or two spells (or simply avoided), and the rest spamming diminishes considerably.
: Surprisingly, not a lot of cheese on my part. I did take the Paws of the Cheetah, but there were only a couple of fights in which I had to "circle" the enemies or do some sort of hit-and-run tactic. Hitting enemies off-screen is a necessary evil in some encounters. The toughest fight I had was Sarevok's, but more on that later.
: It's liberating not having to detect traps. I "borked" through traps like it's nothing and it worked out just fine. You'll need the eventual Knock spell for some of the goodies, but traps are easily dealt with by casting Stoneskin, Mirror-image, and maybe a potion or two (fire resistance, insulation etc). In fact, the experience of playing a solo mage might've spoiled thieves for me as I can't imagine ever going back to that God-awful process of looking (SLOWLY) for traps just to have them disarmed. It's easier and fun to just waltz right through it. The game flows much better this way. Honest.
: Tough fight. I was forced to cheese by hitting them off-screen with 3 scrolls of Dispel and a Malison. Before that, I failed every time. Once dispelled, the fight went on as usual: I moved the PC within reach, Sarevok made his little speech, and I ran off to the other side (leaving a couple of Phase Spiders - hasted - in place). Took that one potion that guarantees successful Saves Throws, hit them with Webs and whatnot, bombarded Sarevok with everything I had 'till he was dead. The end.
: A generalist Mage is fun and sufficiently powerful to take over the world by storm. I'd do it again, and in fact, I'm planning to continue his adventures into Baldur's Gate 2. Either Bioware or Beamdog should have anticipated the soloist runs, making the appropriate Dialog for it (I had my Pet Familiar on me, so I'd pretend NPCs meant the PC and his Pet whenever they mentioned my "party"), but it's a minor issue that can easily be ignored.