I’ve just finished my first solo run of BG2 and ToB on normal difficulty with a Beastmaster (unmodded). And I had an absolute blast! The class seems to get a fair amount of criticism and I can see why as it isn’t as powerful as some of the others...but as I prepare to try the run again at a higher difficulty and with fewer reloads, I thought I’d share some thoughts about why I like it.
Better HP than a fighter (unless half-orc) thanks to Find Familiar. I noticed that if you summon in BG2, you get 12 HP not 24 HP from if you summoned for the first time in ToB. Probably best to wait till ToB but then it can be useful in some battles to use a familiar’s abilities like stun/invisibility depending on your alignment. Also, Hardiness HLA and Armour of Faith give you some decent staying power, not the best but better than a lot of other classes.
Better stealth - it isn’t great, but you start BG2 with pretty consistent hiding ability and generally I find it to be a really useful skill for hit and run tactics and running away. Sure there are plenty of fights where it doesn’t work, but those are when you focus on limited use abilities like HLAs and potions.
Useful summoning ability - especially animal summoning level 3 which gives you some great fighters so you can focus on using ranged attacks to rip down defenses, cause poison/stun, etc.
Fighter HLAs - so tracking is rubbish, I wish I could select additional favoured enemies but oh well. Hardiness and Whirlwinds are just great. I get 4 Hardiness for each part of the final battle and load on Whirlwinds for the rest. It is efficient. I tend to opt for Demons as my favoured enemy.
Potions - I often go through the game never using potions as I’m worried I’ll need them later. As the Beastmaster doesn’t have loads of tools, I find I’m much more ready to use potions. I pop a Potion of Invulnerability whenever I’m in an important fight which usually makes my saving throws unassailable. Potions of Clarity are also good for avoiding Fear effects.
The really big revelation for me on armours though was when I discovered a Beastmaster can use the White Dragon Armour! You don’t get much better AC and it has a useful, albeit quite niche effect with cold resistance and cone of cold.
Cons (and why I don’t think they are that bad):
Limited weapons - there are some brilliant weapons in the game that have really interesting and useful effects (dispel, slow, etc.) and it can be a bit dull being limited to the same equipment throughout. However, I found the available weapons did get the job done. I stuck with Arla’s Dragonbane and Gnasher/Blackblood with the Shield of Harmony for much of the early/mid-game. And the Firetooth +4/Gessen’s Bow when I didn’t need to worry about hold/charm effects. Later I upgraded to Club of Detonation/Erinne’s Sling with the Shield of Harmony.
Limited armours - same point, it is nice to have diversity (or item, effect and AC) but I found I got through just fine with studded leathers and Shield of Harmony/Reflection. I actually cannot overemphasize how important the Shield of Harmony was in reducing reloads. I love it and will be prioritising getting it asap in my next run.
In summary, the Beastmaster isn’t really the best at anything, but you do get some useful skills which add to your power in certain fights over others. I love trying to roleplay it a bit more by charming animals in the slavers pit, druid grove, Trademeet...any chance I can get.
At the end of the game, I was using White Dragon Armour, Shield of Harmony/Reflection/Balduran, Helm of Balduran/Vhailor’s/Roranach’s, Cloak of the Sewers, Club of Detonation/Erinne’s Sling/Firetooth/Gesen’s Bow, Amulet of Power, Ring of Gaxx & Earth Control, Belts of Strength, Gauntlets of Extraordinary Specialisation. It did the job.
An additional note is my discovery of how to beat the final boss.
I used Erinne’s Sling, protection from magic, hardiness, reflection shield, oil of speed, potion of storm giant strength, and the rod of resurrection.
On the right hand point of the area is a ridged section which you can’t walk across, which creates a corner to reduce the number of foes engaging you. Get in there and sling away. Likely 2-3 Slayer Shadows/Bone Golems will be slashing you, but you shouldn’t be taking too much damage if it is only a couple. Then I kept hitting the boss with +4 bullets, reflecting her bone daggers back until her stoneskins disappear, then I used greater whirlwind attack to do 27-30 damage a hit to move to the next stage. Rinsed and repeated.
Onto my next attempt for a runthrough to see if I can no reload it. My approach was to focus on equipment and doing easy experience quests like solving the skinner murders without doing the fight. I’ll pull out some of the highlights so far.
Getting the Ring of Human Influence for my shopping list (no particular order) of Firetooth, Belt of Hill Giant Strength, Potions, Protection Scrolls, Rod of Resurrection, Bracers of AC3 (as I prefer to have the Ring of Protection +2 for better saving throws rather than better magical armour), Blackblood, Vhailor’s Helm, Shield of Balduran, Reflection Shield, Arrows of Dispelling (so good). And leaving more money to get 15,000 for Galen as quick as possible for the Amulet of Power and Ring of Protection +2.
Montaron quest (using the ring of air control to avoid the spells from xzar's apprentices, Irenicus' dryads (avoiding the fight with the paladins by immediately going into stealth)
At level 10 I stealthed my way through the Druid Grove to find Dalok for Gnasher. I charmed the summoned animals by the shadow druid for fun and improving my offensive output. Once I had Gnasher I could attack Adratha. I summoned animals to keep the other two rakshasa busy and activated the Ring of Air Control, ultimately netting me the Shield of Harmony.
I picked up the Cloak of the Sewers for the really useful mustard jelly ability to resist all magic.
At level 11/12 I went for the Ring of Gaax. I started with buying the Firetooth Crossbow. Next I got Gaal’s key, activated a Protection from Undead scroll and Oil of Speed and started killing the lichs, starting in the sewer (making sure to pick up a Potion of Magic Shielding to avoid the trapped door in the Bridge District). I also popped a Potion of Frost Giant Strength to get to the City Gates lich and it helped me force the lock on Kangaax’s home. Stealthed past the Minotaurs for speed and blocked off the runway to Kangaax’s tomb to make sure he couldn’t flee if he panics. I noticed the fire damage from the Firetooth really helped kill him quick.