BGII: Shadows of Amn BGII: Throne of Bhaal Arcanum Wizardry 8 Syberia

Low-Spoiler Guide to Baldurs Gate 2: Shadows of Amn

Welcome to my Baldur's Gate II hints page. (-: If you're new to this series of low-spoiler computer game walkthroughs, the idea behind them is to point gamers towards things they might not have tried in each game rather than giving step-by-step instructions or divulging puzzle solutions. There's not much point in playing a computer game if you know the puzzle solutions and plot twists in advance, after all, and Baldurs Gate 2 has such rich and detailed layers of interaction that even having certain subplots spoiled would detract from the wonder.

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So these pages are as close to spoiler-free as possible while still providing some valuable Shadows of Amn hints and tips. If you are looking for the solution to a particular puzzle, I recommend the UHS Baldur's Gate 2 site--due to the way their pages are set up you can only see one hint at a time, so you can get the answer to one pesky puzzle without ruining all the others for yourself. Here's the UHS link if you're interested. My site, meanwhile, focuses on exactly the things UHS and other traditional walkthroughs don't: the non-critical parts of Baldurs Gate II, little detours you can take, extra details you might miss if you did only what was strictly necessary to complete the game. If you want even fewer spoilers--you're considering whether or not to buy the game, for example--please try my Shadows of Amn Review page to find all the pertinant information in one convenient spoiler-free package.

Now, on with the game!

General Baldur's Gate Hints and Tips
Shadows of Amn NPC Guide
Shadows of Amn Quest List
Shadows of Amn Walkthrough: Chapter 1
Shadows of Amn Walkthrough: Chapters 2-3
Shadows of Amn Walkthrough: Chapter 4
Shadows of Amn Walkthrough: Chapter 5
Shadows of Amn Walkthrough: Chapters 6-7
Watcher's Keep Walkthrough and Hints
Throne of Bhaal Walkthrough and Hints
'Is This All There Is, Or Did I Do Something Wrong?' Solutions and Spoilers
Baldur's Gate Help for Frequent Headache Points
Baldur's Gate 2 Cheats (SoA and ToB)
Baldur's Gate 2 Critique
Baldur's Gate 2 Links (Patches, Trainers, Software, Forums, Etc.)

Baldur's Gate 2 Hints and Tips

Gender: Play Baldur's Gate 2 with a male character. At least the first time. I started Shadows of Amn with a female character and quickly restarted because the only character who talked to me was Imoen, who soon disappeared. If you play as a guy, everyone suddenly starts confiding in you. There's only one NPC in Shadows of Amn who has more to say to a woman protagonist than a man, and even he has plenty to say to a man.

Race: If you play Baldur's Gate 2 with a human, half-elf, or halfling character, all the possible romances will be available to you. Some of the ladies are a little choosy about sleeping with gnomes or half-orcs. I haven't found any other effects of race on Shadows of Amn, and the Baldur's Gate crew have removed the artificial AD+D limit on nonhuman experience levels, so your choice won't hurt you strategically, either.

Class: Each major character class has a unique stronghold in Balder's Gate 2, with occasional related subplots. (The fighter, cleric, and bard strongholds provide the most Shadows of Amn subplots.) You will only be able to get one stronghold even if you're multi-classed (unless you cheat), so just choose a class you enjoy strategically.

Alignment: It doesn't matter what alignment you choose in Baldur's Gate 2, unless you are playing a cleric. Whether you dedicate your cleric to a specific god or not, good clerics will still get the Lathander church for their Shadows of Amn stronghold, neutral clerics the Helm church, and evil clerics the Talos church. This can cause problems during the stronghold quests. The Lathander subplots work for any good-aligned cleric, but the Helm stronghold is strictly lawful, and the Talos stronghold is strictly chaotic. This means that you should not play a chaotic neutral or lawful evil cleric in Baldur`s Gate 2, as role-playing that alignment will make you lose your stronghold.

Reputation: Basically, the more good deeds you do, the better your reputation. More people will talk to you, and you will get better deals at the store. Evil NPC's, however, do not understand these benefits, even the financial one. If your reputation gets too high they will threaten to leave. They won't actually desert unless your rep is 19 or 20 and your charisma is low, but they will start bitching incessantly as soon as your rep reaches 13, and it is REALLY DAMN ANNOYING. Even the neutral characters will start complaining once your reputation hits 19. So if you want to lower your rep a little to eliminate this irritant, you can either use the Slayer (you'll get this about halfway through the game; each use lowers your reputation two points), or pickpocket a merchant until he catches you (don't do this when there are witnesses or they may attack you, and don't choose a merchant whose services you may need again). If your reputation gets too low you can donate money to an Amn temple, but since there are many more reputation-increasing quests than reputation-decreasing ones, you are more likely to find yourself hovering near the high end.

Stats: The conversational options open to you in Baldur's Gate 2 vary based on your intelligence, charisma, and in some cases wisdom. Playing Shadows of Amn with a character that has high scores for these attributes really changes your options and gives the game an entirely different feel. If you're playing a second time, I recommend playing with higher or lower stats for variety's sake.

Etiquette: Baldur's Gate 2, like its predecessor, goes out of its way to provide rude and evil conversational options. Many of them are hilariously funny. However, using them will often lose you information. Party NPCs will stop talking to you, refuse to join, or leave. Non-party NPCs will stop talking to you, withhold quests, or attack you. If you really enjoy mouthing off, this may be worth it to you, but choosing the rude comments can lock off 30-50% of the game from you. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Conversation: Most ordinary, unnamed people ("commoner," "nobleman," "girl," etc.) who you encounter in Baldur's Gate 2 have 3-6 different comments in their repertoire. For instance, one of the noblemen in the Mithrest has three lines about goings-on in the city, plus he'll hit on Jaheira if she's there. You get one of these responses at random each time you initiate conversation. Therefore, you will get the most out of Shadows of Amn if you talk to the anonymous townsfolk a few times in a row as you pass them. There aren't that many of them anyway, and it can give you insights into your traveling companions and make the Baldur's Gate world seem surprisingly more populated. Your party NPCs will only participate in these conversations if they're close enough to witness them, so wait for the whole party to catch up before initiating conversations, particularly if one character is wearing the boots of speed and constantly running ahead of all the others. (You could just forego the boots of speed, but they make moving across maps so much more convenient that you may prefer using a cheat to give everyone speed boots, solving both problems with one stone.)

Playing Style: This is going to sound weird to say about a computer game, but you will have a lot more fun if you role-play Shadows of Amn. There will be many points in quests where the path forks. Sometimes subplots will later arise from one or the other choice, so it won't work to try one and then just reload to try the other. You won't be able to see the whole game in one playthrough. You WILL be able to see pretty much all of it (except for the Stronghold quests of other character classes) in two, if you use this guide and reload a couple of times. But trying to see everything in one playthrough will just be frustrating. So think about your character a bit--is he wise? immature? purposeful and driven? distractible? frugal? profligate? Does he tend to punish evildoers, or give them another chance? Does he like to seek out authority figures, or strike off on his own? Does he prefer finesse or frontal assaults? If you get a basic personality in mind, it will make your choices easier and more fun--and if you're the kind of person who doesn't like missing things, you can always play Baldur's Gate 2 a second time making all the opposite choices.

Romances: Baldur's Gate 2 romance plotlines include an Anomen romance for women and a Jaheira, Aerie, or Viconia romance for men. These romances are startlingly complex and interesting, involving multiple subplots apiece. It all felt very organic, though Baldur's Gate's attitude about sex is minorly annoying (the evil girl puts out, the good one doesn't, and the neutral one will but it takes her a long time... the guy, of course, will have sex regardless of his alignment!) You are only allowed to have one full-blown romance, so if you're getting close to two or three of them, you'll eventually be forced to choose. (This decision point will be blindingly obvious, so don't worry that you'll accidentally ruin your relationship with your NPC of choice just by talking nicely to another.) There is no "best" romantic partner--each one can be attractive or annoying, depending on your point of view. If your character is a ranger or a druid, he may be much more sympathetic to Jaheira's complaints about the city. If your character is half-elven, he may have less patience for Viconia's sniping about half-breeds. An evil character may get fed up more quickly with Aerie's martyred whimpering. Just go with the one who appeals to you or the character you've chosen the most. The romance plotlines are very extensive, and if you want to see more than one you're pretty much going to have to play Shadows of Amn again (unless you cheat).

NPCs: Keep your party full for maximum character interactions and subplots. If you accept a seventh NPC, Baldur's Gate 2 will simply ask you to remove one of the current ones to make room. Don't remove people you're romancing, as it kills the romance and you won't be able to restart it. (The Jaheira romance is occasionally an exception.) Haerdalis, oddly, will demand a sniveling apology to rejoin with you after you've dumped him once, and Korgan will demand you pay him 500 gold, but other than that the NPCs will all accept being switched in and out, and doing this lets you get to know the most people and do the most plots. One of the few flaws in Baldur's Gate 2 is that the characters act hurt and upset if you remove them from the party. (Nalia actually started crying once!) Given that the six-character limit is such an artificial constraint (in real life, you don't need one friend to leave if you want to talk to a new person), I really wish the Baldur's Gate people would stop using that constraint as an excuse to taunt us. It's hard to suspend your disbelief when your NPCs are all whining "Don't you like me anymore?" whenever you rearrange the party. The guilt trips given by Anomen and Minsc are relatively mild and they both wait in the Copper Coronet for you, so they are probably the easiest to switch in and out without it being called too strongly to your attention. See my Shadows of Amn NPC Guide for more NPC pointers.

Spell Limits: The number of spells you can have per level in Baldur's Gate 2 is limited by intelligence. Therefore, if you give Aerie the first ten 4th-level spells you find, those will be the only ten 4th-level spells she'll ever get. Frustrating if, say, Fireball isn't among them. However, don't despair or reload a game from a long time ago. There are items called "potions of genius" which serve no other purpose but boosting your int long enough to learn scrolls. Go buy one and have your character learn as many scrolls as you want. You'll need to do this again any time you want him or her to learn more scrolls, of course.

Lawnmowing: Don't even think about finishing one section of the Baldur's Gate map, then moving on to another. Most of the Shadows of Amn quests will require you to go to multiple areas of finish them, and you will wind up getting information on completely different topics enroute. Don't let that frustrate you; kick back and do whichever of your quests interests you most, then go back for the next. And don't be shy of crossing district borders--there is no travel time within the city.

Interactions: Leave Baldur's Gate 2 on paused sometimes. I did this, not through any conscious choice, but because I have a two-year-old. However, as it turns out, Shadows of Amn has a real-time clock and spaces character conversations (especially romance plotlines) based on that. There are also patches that can speed up the real-time clock if you're in a hurry, but by just leaving the game paused periodically I was able to get tons of interactions. A lot of the Baldur's Gate 2 character interactions also happen during rest periods, so be sure to give your characters some.

Time Management: Though many Baldur's Gate 2 questgivers claim that time is of the essence, very few Athkatla quests have an actual time limit. The exceptions are the Ranger Stronghold ogrons quest, which you need to do within a day or two of receiving the quest; Anomen's knighthood test, which you have to report for within two days; and Jan's side quest about the sick gnome girl, who you have ten days to cure. There are some Shadows of Amn NPC's who will get antsy and leave the party if you don't attend to their personal subquests soon after receiving them, but they will all give you at least one warning before doing this. Conversely, most of the Underdark quests are timed, but because there are so few side quests down there you have to deliberately dally to miss your deadline. During my first attempt at playing Shadows of Amn I was charging everywhere, thinking that slowing down would have dire effects for the plot. It doesn't. It has no effect at all. Take your time and enjoy the scenery--the interactions and side plots are the best part of Baldur's Gate 2, and Imoen will still be there when you finally arrive.

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