@seldar That is going to be a very informative piece for me whenever I next visit Watcher's Keep. At this scale, I can imagine the dungeon containing all that it does even better than how it is detailed in the game. The holy symbol of Helm and particularly the autumnal framework of the area is magnificent. That shall have to be my headcanon for Watcher's Keep now.
Do you have other artworks online? Either here on the forum or elsewhere? You have wonderful talent!
I'm just enjoying the layout of the NPCs, personally. Jaheira & Khalid together checks out. Edwin & Minsc? Hilarious. Xan, Dynaheir and Neera are likely having a forensic dialogue to try and understand Neera's stoopid powers (yeah, I said it). Viconia & Branwen are probably being strong, divinely-empowered women in the corner, commending each other's successful independence, with Viconia being perhaps a little derogatory towards the symbolism implied by Branwen's servitude under a male deity. The fact that all the shorties are in one corner (with the exception of Montaron) is something I'm going to call you out for re: racism, just for fun. And then there's Kivan and Ajantis rivalling one another for Safana's false affections. A fallen Ranger or fallen Paladin, I wonder which one it shall be?
Grease - Recently I was using this spell even by the time I was battling the intermission enemies against the final boss in Throne of Bhaal. Fallen Solars were never so fallen from grace than when they failed to overcome a level 1 spell cast by a Bard, let me tell you that.
Burning Hands - This goes up to a +20 damage bonus, can kill any Trolls you forget you were about to encounter, and is generally just too stylish as an iconic Mage spell to be discarded in the later game. Sure it doesn't take up many of my spell slots, but I don't like to altogether discard it.
Shocking Grasp, Ghoul Touch, Phantom Blade - Alright, no, I never memorise these spells. However they remain some of my favourite spells. Some day I will have to create a Fighter/Mage that deals in these kinds of spells because they are worth so many style points, and Mages are all about killing things with a bit of pageantry, no?
I try to mix it up, but in the long-term I'm guessing that Arcane classes take priority. I have done plenty of Sorcerers, specialist Mages, generalist Mages dualed to and from the Thief class, as well as a multi-class Thief/Mage, and a Fighter dualed to a Mage once as well.
I have played several melee characters as well, although not of every class. Still, given the number of playthroughs I have done, the most noticeable omission is probably Cleric. I know I once completed the game with a Cleric/Ranger, but that was well over 10 years ago and I don't remember playing one since..!
Aye. 'Twas a simpler time and I don't believe means (or perhaps budget) existed for the developers to interpret the character you import from BG1 and adjust the start of the game accordingly. Therefore you will end up with a preset party. That said, familiar faces are likely to crop up during your storyline and there are plenty of implications (and outright assertions) that you have had them in your party too, so it's fine to use your imagination.
If it's your first time playing through this legendary game, I do recommend you skip SoD. I am glad you have. I never played it, personally, and don't mean to criticise it. But the legacy of these games that I expect brought you to purchase them decades after their first release has nothing to do with SoD so it would distract you from the RPG experience that the rest of us have spent years glorifying! @UnderstandMouseMagic has it absolutely right when she says that the rhythm of the experiences are quite different. I expect you will be able to tell the parts of BG1 & BG2 that were included in the EE even if you have no prior knowledge of which they're meant to be.