Baldur's Gate: Meta-gaming, tactics and survival tips

From PlayItHardcore

General overview

This section of the guide is designed to give you some insight into core meta-gaming practices and survival techniques designed to let you handle any situation, including combat tactics, spell preparedness and "tricks" that, while not exploits, are certainly examples of extreme metagaming. If they feel too gamey or cheesy to you, feel free to skip them.

Common Instant Death Scenarios

One big part of playing Hardcore/Ironman is learning what sort of things have the capacity to render you helpless or instantly kill you. It gets tricky when you start patching the game, since the list changes. Here's a list of some of the more brutal or insidious methods in which your protagonist will meet an unfortunate end, and you having an unfortunate restart.


  • Ghouls/Ghasts/Vampiric Wolves: Ghasts/Ghouls' touch is extaordinarily deadly, with a high chance of paralyzing you. The paralysis has a long duration and requires a save vs death, which is a tough save for even a max level character in BG1. As they always attack in packs, don't let their slowness fool you. Vampiric Wolves have a chance of applying a Stun effect, which is just as deadly. It's a little easier to avoid, but is still horrible. Avoid instant death by:
    1. Always keep a Potion of Freedom on your Protagonist. If you must melee them or realize you're about to get hit, pop it.
    2. Once you get it, keep the Ring of Free Action handy, and toss it on anyone who has to melee them.
    3. Use your Clerics to turn them quickly
    4. Engage them with Skeletons summon with Animate Dead, which are immune to all death effects (paralysis and stun included).
    5. Always keep a Remove Paralysis or Free Action memorized
  • Greater Dopplegangers: This is only an issue with BG1TuTu + SCS. With SCS, Greater Dopplegangers gain an instant-casting Horror and a fast-casting Dire Charm. The former is an area effect and quite devastating, as it can easily render your entire party helpless. Avoid your entire party being gibbed by a single Greater Doppleganger by:
    1. Always keep Resist Fear memorized, on multiple characters. Clerics and Cavaliers receive this by default at level 1. Mages and Bards can cast it from scrolls immediately, and memorize it soon after.
    2. If you have a Cavalier, send them in first - they are completely immune to both Fear and Charm effects.
    3. The Helm of Charm Protection + a pre-buff of Resist Fear gives any fighter or cleric-type the same protections as a Cavalier
    4. Do not engage them with your entire party; only send in those needed
  • Confusion: A surprisingly deadly and insidious killer, particularly with BG1TuTu + SCS installed. Mages are very fond of this one with SCS installed, and with good reason. It has a huge AoE, a save penalty and it makes your party helpless. It's also unfortunate that there are very few protections from it. Clerics do not have access to mind-protecting spells in BG1, and Mages don't have access to any AoE spell protections for 4th circle and higher. The precious few aversions include:
    1. The limited-use charm available in Ulgoth's Beard, which provides temporary immunity to Confusion effects.
    2. When fighting enemy Mages, keep one of your mages or clerics far enough in the rear to avoid AoEs with Dispel Magic memorized
  • Mephits, specifically Steam variety. First appearing in Irenicus's dungeon, and in some areas in Athkatla. These little buggers may not seem like much of a threat, they in fact are, especially if playing solo. The reason is their overwhelming stun ability, which:
    • bypasses magic resistance
    • has duration of only 1 round, but is spammed every 2
    • allows a save vs Breath, which is usually the worst across all saves
    • only can be circumvented by Chaotic Commands, and this spell is not available at ToSC XP cap. (Free Action and Remove Paralysis will cure stun, but won't provide protection).
The best way to deal with this is
  1. not personally. Their damage output is low, so several summons or party members sent ahead will eventually dispatch them, even without Chaotic Commands (although you may need to perform 1-2 resurrections in that case).


  • Lightning Bolt/Fireball/Lightning Trap: Only a few Mages use these, but as they are both targeted spells with no miss chance, they are a very easy way to get instantly killed in the early stages of the game and often the later stages. Once a mage starts casting this at your protagonist, there's no way to avoid getting hit (unless you're using cheese tactics like mage denaturing). Luckily, the game provides you with a plethora of options to avoid instant death in these scenarios. Avoid death by:
    1. Always keep a Potion of Absorption on your Protagonist. If you have a lightning bolt coming your way, pop it. It provides 100% electrical resistance.
    2. Always keep a Potion of Fire Resistance on your Protagonist. It provides 50% fire resistance.
    3. Get the early-accessible Ring of Fire Resistance in the map east of Naskhell. You can easily snag it at level 1. It provides 40% fire resistance.
    4. For Fighter-classes, keep a Potion of Invulnerability on you, which provides a substantial bonus to saves
    5. For Mage-classes, keep robes of Fire/Electrical resistance on you
    6. For Fighter/Cleric classes, keep the Helm of Defense on you
  • Holy/Unholy Smite: Only really applies to BG1TuTu + SCS. With SCS installed, enemy Clerics are very fond of using these smite spells which are extremely damaging at even high levels. They also seem to ignore the restrictions you have: A Flaming Fist Enforcer, for instance, can cast Unholy Smite, despite it being only available to Evil-aligned characters. This spell makes clerics particularly devastating. Avoid death by:
    1. Prioritize disabling/silencing Clerics.
    2. If you see a cleric casting a long-duration spell that is obviously not Hold Person, consider dosing your Protagonist with a potion of Magic Blocking.
    3. Cheese: Roll a Neutral-aligned party
  • Cloudkill: Extremely rarely used, such as with the Ghost in Durlag's tower. Note that if you're at level 5 or lower, you will have a high chance of being instantly slain by it. Avoid death by:
    1. Don't fight the Ghost in Durlag's tower before level 6.

Scroll learning

One of the most aggravating parts of playing a Hardcore/Ironman run is having your mage fail to scribe a scroll to his or her spellbook - moreso when it's a critically important scroll, like one of the only 2 cloudkill scrolls in BG1. To get around this aggravation, there are 3 potions in the game that can help you:

  • Potions of Genius increase intelligence by 4 for 15 turns
  • Potions of Mind focusing increase intelligence by 3 for 12 hours
  • The Red potion will increase intelligence to 25 for 24 hours.

The Red Potion is available from the shady salesman at the Naskhel carnival. Some fruit loop on Gamespot calls the potion a joke - clearly someone who doesn't understand the mechanics of the game. The potion is a one-shot deal, but it will give you a 100% chance to scribe any scroll for ANY character. An excellent, excellent choice for scribing your super-important scrolls, or for letting a low-intelligence character (like a Bard) fill up his or her spellbook. Save it until you have a ton of scrolls for scribing and a little time to burn - let them pop it and scribe in safety.

The potions of Genius and Mind Focusing stack with each other - a total of +7 intelligence, which will bring an 17 intelligence person to a 100% chance to scribe and a 16 intelligence person to a 98% chance. Even at 98% you will probably fail a scroll or so, but it will certainly make the process less aggravating. You can find plenty of these throughout the game, certainly enough to fill up 2 or 3 mages worth of spellbooks.

Early XP Farming

In BG2, XP farming is rather superfluous. It is dished out heartily and the size of your party will have little impact on XP gain, since quests give a flat amount of XP to each party member. BG1 is much less forgiving. The mobs you face give paltry amounts of XP and quests give even less, which makes reaching the 161,000XP cap difficult in a full party without abusing fast travel. You can make a lot of the early game easier, though, by taking on some tough areas at a low level.

Ankheg Farm

Suggested party level: 2-3 Make no mistake. Ankhegs are extremely dangerous to a low-level party and anyone with less than 30HP+Helmet can be instantly killed by them. Their spit attack is debilitating and they have a fairly high to hit. That said, if you are clever enough, the Ankheg Farm is a great way to get about 25,000XP early on. You will need a few things in advance, though, and it's easier with a party than solo. It boils down to 2 things:

  • Ankhegs spawn in the same spots and are always in a pair of 2 or are alone.
  • They are vulnerable to Sleep and Command.

If you have a Mage in your party with Sleep and have grabbed the Ring of Wizardry, this will be much easier. If you at least have a bard, around 2000 gold will get you the Wand of Sleep from High Hedge. You'll want to prep your Mage solely with Sleep spells and your Clerics with Command (possibly some Cure Light Wounds as well), and bring a tank with plenty of healing potions, at least -4AC and at least 30HP. You will want around 14 uses of Sleep for each encounter, though having more prepared for a successful saving throw is good. A level 2 specialist Mage with the Ring of Wizardry will have 6 uses of Sleep, a level 2 Edwin with the same will have 8. The Commands are your contingency plan, for when Sleep fails and your tank is getting wailed on. You can easily clear the Ankheg farm by sending your tank forward to immediately engage the Ankhegs, which will prevent them from using spit attacks on the rest of your party, and having your Mage throw a Sleep at them. If you attacked a pair and they both made their saves, you will definitely want to use Command to put one down and focus your attacks on it. If only one made the save, you might be able to tank through it and kill that one, then focused on the sleeping one. If they both failed their save, you just got 1,950XP for the cost of 1 sleep spell. The important thing to note is the Ankheg attack can nearly instantly kill a 30HP character with a helmet, so there's no point in trying to tank through it if your tank has already taken damage - heal them immediately and rely on Command to get you out of sticky situations. Even better if you have multiple Mages with Sleep, or a bard with a Sleep wand, to cover your bases.

When it's all said and done, you can walk away from the Ankheg farm area (including the Baldur's Gate area) with around 25,000XP, some high quality loot, a Wand of Fire and Ankheg shells.


  • Do NOT have your tank approach an Ankheg without at least 30HP.
  • Do NOT let any distance remain between the Ankhegs and your tank, lest their spit attack insta-kill you.
  • Do NOT try to "ride through" your tank taking damage. Follow-up immediately with a healing potion, Commands and more Sleep if needed.

Mutamin's Garden

Suggested party level: 3-5 The only real lethal danger here are the Basillisks - and it so happens that a level 1 Mage spell renders them rather helpless vs a well-armed tank. You do have a mid-level hostile party here, which is why I suggest being level 3 before you attempt this, so that your Clerics have access to Silence. Protection from Petrification + Silence + A few heal potions and maybe an antitode and this map is all yours. Even easier if you make use of Korax.


  • Do NOT let anyone but your tank protected from petrification approach the basillisks
  • Do NOT let a basillisk ever SEE anyone not protected from petrification if you are using SCS, even if your tank has already engaged them (they will break attack and gaze your other characters)
  • Do NOT attack the hostile party without silencing them first unless you are of reasonably high level (5+).

This is a particularly cheesy tactic and it's discouraged to use in a Hardcore playthrough Legal Cheating

Let me be straightforward: these methods are massively cheesy, and are only "legal" insofar as it can be done within the confines of the game and have a relatively high success rate. Only use them if you really need to get ahead or if the goal is solely a quick export to BG2.

Watcher Murder

With this method, you can exit Candlekeep at level 3-5, depending on your patience. It might result in a few deaths(and thus restarts) if you are a solo character, depending on class, but that aside is highly effective at making the rest of the game a breeze. It relies on the fact Candlekeep has no Flaming Fist patrol, has a temple, has a merchant to buy armor and produces an endless stream of Watchers. If you murder a watcher while none of your characters have visibility of other characters on the map, you can do so without penalty - excluding reputation. The area between the Inn and the Barracks is ideal, with a large corridor that is vacant. You can murder watchers as they walk by, each of them dropping plate armor and some gold. You can save a little time by camping the barracks, waiting for them to exit. So long as you attack them when you can't see the nearby monks, everyone else will stay friendly. Each watcher is worth 175XP - you can kill enough to reach level 3 in a few minutes, depending on class.

Per-class tips for abusing this:

  • If you're a Cleric, rely on Command to knock them out for a round to give a swing in. Lead them to the wagon near the Inn and run in circles while pelting them with your sling.
  • If you're a Fighter, get all the health potions you can first and just wail away. with 14HP you can survive at least 1 hit from them, and they only have 1 attack per round.
  • If you're a Mage, memorize Sleep and KO them in this fashion
  • If you're a Thief, run and hide for backstab fun
  • If you're a Bard, be like a Cleric and run in circles.
  • If you're a Druid, use Entangle and a sling.

Note: I really don't condone this method. It's only useful if you are just playing BG1 for the purposes of future export.

Denature Mages

This only works in BG1. BG1TuTu and SCS both "fix" this, in a manner of speaking. In short, any mage you know you will fight at some point, but isn't immediately hostile, you can Charm endlessly until it succeeds without turning them hostile, then force them to burn their own spells. Works wonders on killing Silke at level 1, an easy 900XP. Kind of removes the challenge from the fight, but that's what this section is for.

Murdering Firebead at level 1

This is really only useful on a solo run, to grab an easy level or two before you fight real monsters.

Once you arrive in Beregost, you can find Firebead in his house. He has a short quest for you - book delivery, netting you a small amount of XP and +1 reputation. After that, he has no use. If you're of the evil inclination or don't mind a temporary low rep, you can easily murder him, even at level 1. The method is different based on whether you're using BG1, BG1TuTu or BG1TuTu+Sword Coast Stratagems. His death is worth 2700XP, plus the 350 you got from the quest, enough to push any solo character to level 2 and some (Bard, Cleric or Thief) to level 3.

BG1: He'll die nearly instantly to a lightning bolt. If you're a Bard or Mage, there's a lightning wand you can steal without penalty from the manor house in the NE of the city, and get it ID'ed at the nearby temple or High Hedge. Zap him with the lightning bolt wand and he'll keel over dead if it hits him more than once. Note to make sure you don't die yourself, you may want to first kill Silke by de-naturing her - she always drops a Potion of Absorbtion in BG1, which gives you 100% electricity immunity. You also have the option of Denaturing him with Charm Person to render him defenseless.

BG1TuTu: More or less the same as BG - but a Priest of Talos has the option of Storm Shield instead of killing Silke - which is good, because she won't always drop the potion anymore in Bg1TuTu.

Sword Coast Stratagems: He's a much tougher fight this time around, because he will trigger a contingency before he dies and will almost assurdely kill you. But, since you aren't afraid of using cheap tricks, which is what this section is for, you will know SCS gives you better NPC placement - and Tiax is just a bit north of his house. Recruit Tiax, send him into Firebead's house and have him summon his ghast. Then dismiss Tiax and make the Ghast attack Firebead. 9 times out of 10, the ghast will paralyze and then murder Firebead within seconds. On the very slim off-chance it doesn't, Firebead's initial attacks are mind-affecting, which the Ghast will ignore and continue to wail on him. About 1 time out of 30, the ghast won't manage to kill Firebead - but that's no matter to you, since you are waiting safely outside. Once Firebead's protections wear off, head on inside and finish him off.

Pet Basilisk Loop

This method will get you to BG1's level cap in just a few minutes if playing solo. By using Algernon's Cloak to charm a basilisk in Mutamin's Garden, you can make it petrify the non-hostile Greater Basilisk near Mutamin for 7000 XP, and then use the scrolls of Stone to Flesh to un-petrify it. The XP is awarded every time the Greater Basilisk is turned to stone and it will not fight back no matter how many times it is turned to stone. The hard part of this is charming your pet basilisk, but you have a few options regarding this part. You need the following:

  • Algernon's Cloak
  • At least 9 Intelligence to read scrolls
  • Enough money to buy the many scrolls of Stone to Flesh for sale at the temples outside of Baldur's Gate. There are more for sale inside the city, too, if you still want more XP.
  • Invisibility is optional but seriously helpful
  • Protection from Petrification
    • Use a green Protection from Petrification scroll, which lasts for 6 hours (30 minutes real time)
    • Cast Protection from Petrification, which lasts for 1 hour (5 minutes real time)
    • Drink a Potion of Mirrored Eyes, which lasts for 1 turn (1 minute real time)
    • Have a save vs. death of -3 or better somehow (Potions of Invulnerability, equipment, etc.)
    • Get Korax to help you instead

Charming a basilisk will not work every time, so you should have backup ways to protect yourself from their gaze. If the charm fails, run away or go invisible, rest, buff against petrification, and try again. Once it is under your control, you may wish to also protect your pet basilisk from petrification as well, so it can defeat any others on the way to Mutamin's Greater Basilisk. You should approach the Greater Basilisk from the north so that Mutamin doesn't see you, because that initiates his dialogue and turns his Greater Basilisk hostile. Once you have the loop properly initiated, every scroll of Stone to Flesh effectively becomes worth 7000 XP. When you run out of scrolls for the time being, park your basilisk near your farming spot and leave the area. Your pet will stay in the exact spot where you left it. If you were to use all the available Stone to Flesh scrolls in the game for this express purpose, it would result in 1,057,000 XP - which is enough to get a 6-person party slightly beyond the level cap.

When all else fails

Run. "No shame in running when your life is on the line". If you're losing the battle, there's no need to fight to the last drop of blood. Gulp an invisibility potion and sneak away. Come back stronger and better prepared.


Many mods increase difficulty one way or another. This section will not list them all, but provide a collection of notable cases in which power are drastic and to a degree, sudden. In other words, when shit goes from 0 to 100 very fast.


Atweaks includes multiple PnP components: fiends, undead, mephits, elementals, fey creatures. All of them, all are increasing corresponding creatures dangerousness by order of 5 or so compared to the vanilla game.

You actually have to read the readme. Each creature, each ability, each single entry.


Nereids will Beguile every round, then do a Drowning Kiss to one-shot your PC.

Solution - don't fight them with males, unless you have Charm Protection.


Steam mephit's ability's stun chance is changed to 50% flat (no save). On top of that, their melee attacks also get 50% chance to stun, no save. Add gating (30% chance to summon 1-2 more mephits), plus the tendency to gang up on a single target (vanilla mephits just attack the closest enemy, but aTweaks ones are more picky), and the result is that walking into a wrong house in Athkatla without proper protections up could be suicide, particularly if your PC is a spellcaster.

But overall, mephits got the least power upgrades between all creature types. Strategy is the same as vanilla - come in as a group, leave PC behind. Worst case, they will get 1-2 party members, but not the whole group.

Sword Coast Stratagems

The most feared enemies in SCS are generally liches, being high level mages with a bunch of immunities on top. However, that is not surprising at all, and fighting them is not fundamentally different from fighting other mages, so they are not in the scope of this section.


Improved vampires are stupidly powerful compared to vanilla version. New abilities, faster, stronger, smarter.

You may want to avoid fighting even those encountered solo in Athkatla. A pack of them, like the one found in Firkraag's lair, is extremely deadly. Be sure to have a retreat plan (probably involving invisibility potions). They can rip an unprepared party apart in a matter of seconds.

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