This run through is the first time I've had Imoen for the entire game (using the Imoen 4 Ever mod), so it's played out a lot more like BG1. The party is still in chapter 2, but are all level 16 or 17 (or equivalent for XP).
Right now, the party is comprised of five core characters - Eilrie, the sorceress (17); Sirene, her love interest and very, very good inquisitor (17); Imoen, the more versatile general mage with the massive spell book and party thief (7/17); Isra, the party's other tank and official spokesperson with a CHA of 23 (17); and Jaheira, who wields the FoA +4 righteously (16/16).
The party has cycled through several potential partners for their planned revenge on Mr. I - Nalia, Anomen, Mazzy, Tashia, and presently, Aerie.
Nalia is, as always, a nope. Once the party cleared the keep and took command of it, they left her in it. Sorry, not a fan.
Anomen was a contender. The party got him through his troubles, helped him achieve is knighthood, but in the end, it's an all-girl crew, and he didn't really fit in. He did get a lot of XP while in the party, though, and was getting pretty good with turn undead. He helped the party clear the first level of Watcher's Keep.
Mazzy lasted a fair bit as well, but in the end, the party felt they needed more arcane/divine horsepower, especially after she helped the party clear the second and third levels of WK. Mazzy is a great little tank, but Isra, Sirene, and Jaheira were already tanking before that. Sadly, Mazzy was sent back to Trademeet - though on good terms.
The party next met Tashia while in the Trademeet tavern discussing the Mazzy situation. They decided to give her a try, and she stayed with the party through a goodly section of WK as well - this time the fourth and part of the fifth level of WK. She has a green dragon kill to her name, and that death spell she learned after leveling up was impressive. The party just had to keep her safe long enough to cast it, which was fun. Things were looking good until the party realized that they were getting level drained a lot and spending bank on restoration services.
So, Tashia was sent back to Trademeet after dealing with some clowns her ex sent after her. (I kind of regret not finishing her story line, but the party is quickly running out of things to do in chapter 2)
While back in Waukeen's promenade, the party remembered the tent they had forgotten about. In they went, dealing with Kalah and his illusions. Turns out, Sirene and Carsomyr are a perfect match. Isra dealt with the shadows using her turn undead ability and Sirene carved up everything else. No one lost a single HP in the whole encounter, which lasted all of about 5 minutes.
Aerie became the newest 6th party member, but she was well behind at this point. She only got enough of a boost to get her to 10/10 - while the rest of the party was level 16 or 17. (I thought the game would match her a bit more closely)
The trouble is, the party has practically cleared the land of evil already. The few remaining challenges were going to be tough. The party, with Aerie, visited the Twisted Rune and nearly got cleared out themselves. Fortunately, Isra and a clay golem got Vexall early on, and the party was able to use the rune's own teleport machine against them. It took a few rounds to get them all in the larger room so that they could use the smaller room to prep, but the party prevailed. Isra got credit for Shangalar, while Arie got her first (and only) kill with the TR's thief falling to a barrage of MM.
Given her stats, the party also let her use half of the combos at Lum's machine, boosting her INT, WIS, and CON. (Imoen got the STR and DEX, while Isra got the CHA) They also bought every scroll she could learn.
So, here is the quandary. Tashia is definitely a much more powerful sorceress, even with the handicap of being level 12, having joined up so late in the game. Aerie is potentially more powerful, as C/M, but she has a lot of catching up to do, and the party is awfully darn close to having to push into chapter 3. It's almost ironic, as she is in the same spot Imoen is traditionally in.
So, I'm torn. The 5-character core could probably do the next chapters on their own, so it probably doesn't matter, but I figured I would elicit a few opinions on the matter.
I have also contemplated dropping Jaheira, but she has been with the party since day 1, and is now fairly high-level fighter/druid. She is a beast with the FoA, and at her level, insect swarm is still insanely useful. Even without buffs, she has an AC of -11. With buffs, she could probably take on a dragon by herself.