Combat is a core mechanic in Baldur’s Gate 3 and is based on D&D5e. Those who are familiar with the classic TTRPG will feel right at home. For those who are new to this, the playstyle can seem confusing at first. There is no reason to be alarmed though as D&D5e rules are pretty straightforward and easy to master.
Furthermore, since the game AI does most of the work for you, eventually the combat system can seem underwhelming. The system is not as robust as that of Pathfinder 1e and does not offer options and versatility. So, in essence, Baldur’s Gate 3 works more like the Divinity Series with the 5e dice mechanics added to spice up the gameplay.
Here is a detailed look at all the aspects of the Baldur’s Gate 3 combat system and how understanding them can help you win more battles.
This is a new mechanic added to Baldur’s Gate 3 that features a unique Karmic system to ensure there aren’t too many successive throws of the same result. In combat, this system can determine the outcome of each turn and works quite similar to the 5e system. Since every outcome in this game is determined by the throw of a dice, it will help to know what your odds are at each turn of a fight.
During combat, the abilities/proficiency checks are against the enemy’s difficulty class, which is usually the Armour class. You can learn more about the system in our extensive Baldur’s Gate 3 Karmic Dice guide that covers a lot of terms and features we will be discussing here.
Abilities scores are among the most fundamental aspects of combat in Baldur’s Gate 3. The abilities score for each character is split into 6 major attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. The effectiveness of each of these attributes in combat is based on your build and your choice of weapon.
- Strength: Used primarily for a melee build. Melee class weapons become more effective when your character has a high strength stat.
- Dexterity: Dexterity affects both the use of melee weapons that require more articulation and, of course, ranged weapons.
- Constitution: This is basically your character’s health and determines the number of hit points based on whichever race and class you choose. This stat also has a role to play in combat mechanics mostly based on checks (such as spellcasting).
- Intelligence: In combat, this ability score influences spellcasting and improves both the effectiveness of spells and their chances of landing on an opponent. This is most effective for wizards.
- Wisdom: This attribute affects various aspects of combat such as perception, intuition etc., which will influence several passive throws in the game. Wisdom is also the ability that influences spellcasting for Druid, Rangers and Clerics.
- Charisma: This ability does not have much impact on combat other than the fact that it influences the spellcasting abilities of Paladins, Bards, Warlocks and Sorcerers.
This is an aspect that is easy to overlook, but plays an important role in both real-time and combat gameplay. Ability modifiers modify the ability scores based on how high or low they are. In BG3, an abililty score of 10 is considered a base modifier. For every 2 points above 10 you gain +1 modifier score, and for every 2 points below 10 you have a -1 modifier. So, if your strength score is 15, then you gain a +2 modifier.
In combat, these modifiers are of utmost importance as they can substantially improve or hinder your chances of landing a hit. The modifiers also affect the skills associated with each of the abilities, which can help during real-time events.
These are roles that your characters are most proficient in. In combat, such proficiencies will help determine which weapon or spells to go for. These also come with bonuses, which can improve both the effectiveness of your attack and your chances of success. Based on your level, your proficiency bonuses can range from +2 to +6.
This is a unique proficiency in Baldur’s Gate 3 that affects both combat and real-time exploration. Saving throws are passive throws which in combat which determine your characters’ chance of dodging an attack. These throws are activated at the onset of every enemy attack.
Each saving throw in the game corresponds with any of the six abilities scores. In total, there are six possible saving throws that you’ll encounter. The odds of success are determined by how high the ability score in question is against the enemy attack’s difficulty class.
Just like all other proficiencies, saving throws also have bonuses which will impact the outcome of the throw. Abilities modifiers also play a major role in determining how each saving throw turns out.
As simple as the 5e dice mechanic is, it still requires understanding some features that affect combat in particular. Since everything in the game involves rolling the dice, combat has three different types of rolls that you can control or at least influence the outcome of by understanding the principles involved. The combat log at the far left of your screen is a useful tool to view and verify these numbers.
This is the most important aspect of combat. The attack roll directly determines your chances of success in a round of attack. The game makes it simple enough by displaying a percentage on each enemy as you hover over them. This percentage is your chance of landing a hit.
As straightforward as this mechanic is, you also need to take several factors into consideration. The first is of course the difficulty class (DC) of the enemy. You need to roll a higher number than your opponent’s DC to land a successful attack.
During an attack roll if your character manages to roll a 20, it will directly translate to landing a critical hit. It is possible to land critical hits often by understanding other aspects that determine your attack roll.
While an attack roll determines the chances of landing a hit, damage rolls determine how much damage you can do using a particular attack. Each attack, i.e., a weapon or a spell has a dice associated with it (usually denoted as 1d5, 1d10, etc.). Apart from the predefined damage stat of your weapon/spell, the actual damage you can deal is determined by the throw of that dice.
So if your weapon can deal 3~20 damage and you have a 1d15 dice, you’ll need to roll a 15 to land 20 damage. Anything less than that will deal a lesser amount of damage.
This is yet another crucial mechanic in the game that, if overlooked, has major repercussions. The initiative roll influences the move order of all participants in combat. Initiative is determined by two aspects — the first is the dexterity ability and its modifier, and the second is the roll of the dice.
All parties get the initiative rolls, but who goes first are determined by the aforementioned two aspects. Higher dexterity is usually the predominant factor. So, having a team full of character with at least +1 modifiers will help out quite a bit.
Furthermore, initiative also influences a status known as ‘Surprised’. This status, as the name suggests, spooks an enemy party especially ones with fewer members or lower-level characters and gives your party an unfair advantage. Using surprise will allow you to deal an additional round of damage to your enemies.
Advantage is a special bonus that comes with any situational advantage your character(s) might have. The determining factors can range from race, class, and Illithid powers to pretty much any attribute that the game has to offer.
With an advantage bonus, your character gets to roll twice and take the higher number of the two rolls. Conversely, a disadvantage is a penalty roll where you still get to roll twice but take the lowest number. We haven’t yet found any way of manipulating the disadvantage rolls.
Actions and Bonus Actions
In combat, everything you do is considered an action and there are certain rules associated with them. There are plenty of actions you can perform in a fight in Baldur’s Gate 3 with just one available action point per turn. Attacks are primary actions that can be performed during combat and are associated with movement. There are other actions such as dodge and help that each consume your only action point, making other actions impossible in the active turn.
Bonus Actions have a separate action point and involve activities such as hide, dash, and disengage. There are some melee/ranged attacks and spells that are classified as bonus actions which will allow you to strike again after you’ve exhausted your primary actions.
Spells work quite differently compared to melee and ranged attacks. To begin with, spellcasting is not uniform for all classes. Certain classes like Bards and Warlock are only allowed to cast spells up to level 5. On the other hand, a sorcerer has access to all the spells in the game. Multiclassing can also impact the spells available to you.
Spellcasting is impacted by a lot of factors which can affect the combat substantially. In Baldur’s Gate 3, there are two aspects to spellcasting: cantrips and spells. Cantrips use regular action points and can be used as many times as you want during battle. Spells, on the other hand, use special spell slots. A full spellcaster build can have access to the greatest number of spell slots available, while others will be limited to fewer spell slots.
Spell levels also have a major impact in combat. Casting lower-level spells from higher level spell slots will make them more effective.
Movement and Placement
Movement is an essential aspect of combat in Baldur’s Gate 3. Although limited to a certain number of feet in the game, using the available movement tactically will make all the difference in the outcome of your battle. Before heading into battle, understanding what each of your characters can do can make a world of difference.
For ranged combatants, placing them away from direct line of fire is crucial as they are bound to take a lot of damage fast. Flanking is a good option when approaching tougher opponents. This can also provide a surprised advantage if you strategize your movement well enough.
High ground is a particularly effective combat strategy that can offer an incredible advantage in combat. Placing your characters on higher ground than the opponents allows them to gain a +2 bonus to rolls, which in turn improve chances of success and even landing critical hits. Conversely, being on lower ground becomes a penalty. So, strategizing your movement is crucial to control the field of battle.
Chuck Stuff Around
Baldur’s Gate 3 offers an almost free-world style of gameplay where you can interact with pretty much everything in sight and use things in many different ways. This allows the unconventional use of various objects in battle. You can throw pretty much anything in your inventory. So certain objects like a barrel of oil can be useful combat projectiles in battles, unleashing various effects that may help you out. You can also throw potions at your allies, which can be an effective way of healing without sacrificing too many action points or movement.
Baldur’s Gate 3 has all sorts of environmental effects in real time and in combat. You can use the environment to your advantage by placing your characters in the right spot. Staying behind an area covered with fire, ice, or electrified water can sway the battle in your way if you have the right party. You can create your own lethal surface and deal some environmental damage mid-battle.
Lighting inflammable fluids or passing a charge onto water is also a great way of creating a dangerous field of battle. You need to be careful with whom the environment affect though. Hostile or difficult terrain can affect your characters as well as enemy characters. Furthermore traversing through terrain such as the greasetrap featured in the image above can reduce the effectiveness of various attacks and even cause characters to fall.
Develop Your Own Battle Strategy
What you need to remember is that Baldur’s Gate 3 emphasizes on the RPG side of things more than combat. You should experiment with various aspects of the tactical combat strategy depending on your party configuration. There are multiple approaches you can take for any situation for a unique, enjoyable experience. In essence, once you understand the game’s combat system, it becomes easier for you to get creative in battles and win them your way.