Part 1: Gathering a Party
Some time ago, I noticed that the dukes of Baldur's Gate were all very high-level. This raised the question for me - why don't they go out and deal with the crisis themselves? If a party of low-level adventurers can solve the iron crisis, eliminate the bandit threat, and bring down Sarevok's madness - why can't the dukes deal with it themselves? They've got twice as many levels, after all.
So, to answer that question, I built this playthrough.
Entar is a level 21 fighter, with five dots in long sword and two dots in sword/shield style. His starting equipment is full plate armor, a +1 long sword, and a medium shield. He also gets a potion of strength 24 and a diamond - in a quick slot, for some reason.
SCS gives him three more random potions, while vanilla gives him four dots in short sword that he'll never use. I put those four dots in longbow proficiency instead, on the principle that all BGEE warriors should know how to use a ranged weapon.
Entar Silvershield, duke of Baldur's Gate, worried. His son was due to arrive a tenday ago, and he still wasn't here? What happened to him out beyond the city walls?
No - he wasn't going to get answers just sitting here, waiting for someone to stumble in with the truth. He needed to get out there and investigate for himself. First, the Flaming Fist headquarters - Eltan would know more about what was going on outside the walls."Entar, old friend. What brings you here today - and in your armor, no less?""My son is missing. He was traveling here from a visit to Athkatla, and his caravan should have arrived a tenday ago.""That is worrisome. There has been an upswing in bandit activity of late. Perhaps he was waylaid?""And what is the Flaming Fist doing about this, Eltan? Suppressing banditry is your duty.""Not nearly enough. There's something wrong with the iron lately; our weapons break as fast as we can forge them. I can't properly equip my troops, and that means I can't send most of them out. In fact, I've just issued the order to close the Wyrm's Crossing bridge; there are rumors of an organized camp of bandits and mercenaries somewhere nearby. As understrength as we are, they could raid the city itself.""Then - what, you're looking for adventurers to solve your problems for you? Bah. I'll go out there myself. These old bones aren't as strong as they used to be, but I still have my skills."
With that, Entar left for the palace. Even with his skills, this wasn't a job for a lone man. He would need a party - and his fellow dukes would be the best options."Liia, Belt. Thank you for meeting me so quickly. How much do you know about the current threats to the city?""I've heard that the Flaming Fist is mostly stuck in their barracks - something about equipment problems? And, of course, Wyrm's Crossing is being closed to protect the city.""Yes, there's something wrong with the iron. Weapons are breaking far too easily, and that's stopping the Fist from going out. Bandit activity is up too, taking advantage of their weakness.""What are you planning, then? You have some idea of what to do about it, or you wouldn't be here talking to us.""I spoke to Eltan already - he doesn't have a plan except to wait for adventurers to show up. If adventurers are what it takes, let's go out there ourselves. We've all got tons of experience. Anything a bunch of rookie adventurers can do, we can do better!""It does get boring, sitting around here managing the city all day. All right, I'm in. When do we leave?""Make it tomorrow. I'd like to prepare a couple of simulacra to cover for us here."
"All right then, we leave tomorrow at midday."
Belt is a level 19 fighter, with five dots in bastard sword and two in sword/shield style. He starts out with +1 chain mail, a +1 medium shield, a +1 bastard sword, and a ruby ring.
SCS gives him three more random potions, while vanilla gives him two dots in short sword and one in axe. I moved those three proficiency dots to longbow, just like with Entar.
Liia is a level 16 mage; generalist in vanilla, invoker in my SCS installation. She has spells known and memorized all the way up to 8th level - Symbol:Stun in vanilla, Improved Mantle and Incendiary Cloud in my SCS install. Her starting equipment is an Adventurer's Robe, a nonmagical dagger, and a ruby ring. She has proficiency in dagger and nothing else.
SCS gives her some random potions, and I added proficiency in staff and dart.
SCS also adds immunity to panic and charm effects to both Belt and Liia, presumably because those would really screw up the ducal palace battle.
As the party left the gates, Belt turned to Entar."We've got potions, but no other source of healing. Our party needs a cleric, or we'll have to stop constantly to return somewhere safe and recover.""You're right. Kelddath Ormlyr ought to be up for it. He runs the temple of Lathander in Beregost, but his acolytes should be able to fill in.""All right then, Beregost is our first stop, to pick him up."
A full day's march brought the party to Beregost, and the temple."You want me to join your party as they travel around trying to solve this iron crisis?""That, and clear out the bandits that have been taking advantage of it""Hmm. I suppose it has been too long since I went out to smite some evil. Old Feldepost said the other day that bandits have been seen just north of town, so there's an obvious place to start. Shall we go?""Don't you have some equipment to pick up? Armor, an enchanted weapon, anything?""Why would I need that here? I sold some of it, and gave the rest to my acolytes. If this adventure is anything like the ones I had in my youth, a lack of equipment won't be a problem for long.""All right, then. Let's go."
Kelddath is a level 16 priest of Lathander. He has an embarrassingly small spellbook in vanilla - only Hold Person, Glyph of Warding, and Animate Dead. SCS at least gives him spells he can cast at every level, but not access to the full cleric spellbook; the only spells in his spellbook are the ones for which he starts out with at least one instance memorized. He can't cast Slow Poison, Dispel Magic, Remove Curse, Raise Dead, Resurrection, or Greater Restoration - all spells his temple store offers. I filled out that list to everything a good cleric gets... eventually.
Proficiency-wise, his vanilla version has nothing. SCS adds mace and single-weapon style. I added club, sling, hammer, and weapon/shield style to that.
The party saw no sign of bandits. Indeed, they didn't see a single human until reaching the Lion's Way road to Candlekeep."Please, can you help me?""What's the problem, girl?""I snuck out of Candlekeep to meet my friend Abdel and his father Gorion. But... I think something bad happened to them. They should have come by here already.""Gorion, eh? I think I've met him before - he's a mage, right?""Yes, he's a mage. Now, can we go look for him?""A bit of divination should help... there's a clearing northwest of here. That's where we need to go."
Not long after, the party reached the clearing, to find a dreadful sight:
"No! Abdel! Gorion! You had so much ahead of you... wait, you're a cleric. Raise them, please?""I'm sorry, dear. There's just too much damage to Gorion's body. Whoever did this didn't want anyone raising him.""And Abdel? What about him?""That's something else - I can't reach his essence at all. It's as if some god has claimed him, and no force in this realm can gainsay that.""That's ... huh, that probably has something to do with why there were killers after Abdel and Gorion hustled him off.""Killers? Just what has been going on inside that fortress of learning?""Just yesterday, Gorion told Abdel that he needed to equip himself for a journey. He wouldn't even say where they were going. Before he could leave, he ran into two people who tried to kill him; they weren't at all skilled, but that means whoever is behind this knows a way into Candlekeep.""He must have stayed quiet to protect against spies, then. Did he have something in writing?""There's a letter here ... the Friendly Arm. He said to meet two of his friends there, named Khalid and Jaheira.""Would you like to travel with us, then? To the Friendly Arm, and then to wherever our quest takes us?""Travel with you? But ... you're all so strong, and experienced. How would I be any use in your party?""None of us follow the way of the thief, as you do. We can fight well, but none of us has the nimble fingers needed to disarm traps and pick locks. There are always dungeons on quests like this, and we could use someone with your skills.""I... I'm honored. Still - why me? I'm sure you could find plenty of thieves in the city. Why not one of them?""I see potential in you. When you're done with this adventure, I might keep you around as my apprentice.""Apprentice? You mean ... I could be a mage? When do I start?""Not until we're done with this adventure. And even then, only if you can demonstrate the necessary qualities. A mage must be patient - our arts are dangerous, and far too many students get themselves killed attempting magic beyond their abilities.""Patience, right. I'll be the most patient thief ever for you!"
Imoen is ... well, exactly what Imoen always is at level 1, in terms of stats.
And that's the party. Guests may join briefly, but this party of five will be powering through the game and crushing all opposition before them.
Behind the scenes:
In BG2EE, it's pretty easy to have an NPC protagonist; you can remove your original player 1 from the party with Control-K, and then have someone join into slot 1. As long as there's at least one other player in the party when you remove the protagonist, you're good.
In BGEE, it's considerably harder.
Removing player 1 from the party with Control-K is an instant game over.
All right then, plan B - edit a save to change which character is in the first slot. Nope; trying it corrupts the save. It might be possible, but not with what I know.
Plan C, then - export Imoen and import her as the protagonist ... nope. I got a stutter AI out of that, constantly canceling anything I ordered her to do.
Finally, plan D. I make a fake Imoen. Give her the right stats, edit her to have the right portrait, sounds and colors. Leave her script and dialogue alone, so she's a normal player 1 with respect to that.
This game is played with my usual mod setup, of which SCS (tactical difficulty) and Portraits Portraits Everywhere (faces for my added party members) are most relevant to this run. It's hard to get much out of the NPC project when you don't actually have any of the normally recruitable companions in the party.
Incidentally, I rolled a 96 on my "Imoen". I could have given her 18 strength without compromising any of her other stats... but I didn't. I just threw away the other 9 points in character generation.
My Imoen, with secondary PC Abdel (the premade fighter), did the Candlekeep chores and headed out. Other Imoen joined long enough for me to see and copy her details, then left. Dump Abdel and kill him off, then cheat moving around to pick up the high-level party members with Control-Q. Entar is in his estate. Belt and Liia aren't in the palace; we have to spawn them in (codes "BELT" and "LIIA"). Kelddath is in his temple.
Then, pop back to that initial area and take a picture. Next time, the real adventure starts.
Tags by request: @Elrandir