No matter what alignment you choose, Dungeons & Dragons is almost always going to be a chaotic game. When you sit too many like-minded individuals at a table for a few hours at a time, there’s bound to be some sort of mayhem that wasn’t in the session notes. Baldur’s Gate 3 is nearing its official release on PC and PS5, but as the date nears, I find myself wondering if the digital rendition of D&D is going to hold up to my personal level of chaos, or if I’m gonna have to begrudgingly adapt to Larian’s house rules.
As excited as I am, there’s a couple of reasons that I’m somewhat skeptical of the way the game’s gonna play. When it comes to D&D, there’s a certain amount of flexibility that comes to be expected among players, regarding not only their actions during their turn, but their interactions with the world around them. After all, players are solely using their imagination to create this world. On top of that, interacting with NPCs can go any direction imaginable depending on the DM for your real campaign, so how will that be reflected with pre-recorded voice lines in Baldur’s Gate?
Now, maybe my experiences in my campaigns are a bit extreme. The groups that I’ve played D&D with are certainly eccentric bunches, but never has that been clearer during our friendships than when playing a tabletop RPG surrounded by loosely scribbled notes and dice of all sizes. Regardless of how bizarre or far-fetched those experiences are, they’re some of the most fun as they get further and further off the rails, especially for someone like me whose alignment is always as chaotic as possible.
For example, my party and I were once trying to find answers to why people were regarding us as “legendary figures” despite the fact we were all thieves or outcasts. Our journey took us upon a peaceful library, which we hoped would at least have a language book for my Goliath who couldn’t even speak Common. Somehow by the time we left, every table inside the building had been overturned, fires were raging outside the building and our party was split because of a few spells gone wrong causing us to hallucinate and sprint terrified into the forest. Not to mention that this took place without officially entering combat.
While I know that there will be destructible environments in Baldur’s Gate, I’m worried that it won’t quite live up to the expectation that I’m used to. Clearly there’s going to be a good deal of freedom in how you can interact with various locations and the characters that occupy them, and I know that choices will make a real difference in the overall outcome of the game, but I’m curious as to whether those choices will matter like in a real campaign or like they did in Mass Effect 3.
Some of my most clever moments have occurred during those late-night sessions, as have some of my most foolish. In another campaign with a completely different party, we found ourselves racing through the tunnels of a sporting arena trying to find the store room and recover some magical chain mail before the main antagonist got there. To throw him off our tail, every time we would pass a sign that told us where to go, I would flip the signs so they’d point the wrong direction and lead him astray. The party at the time all agreed that it was the last thing they would’ve expected if they were him, even though I overlooked that he could teleport right to us.
Along with environmental interaction, my parties and I have always managed to take character interactions completely off the rails from what our DM intended. When that DM is a bunch of ones and zeros, it makes me wonder how much room there will be for my assorted antics. In one campaign, my party’s barbarian started flirting up this shopkeeper who was integral to the quest, even though she already hated him for breaking a different character’s knees just moments prior. As it turned out, said barbarian proved not only persistent, but shockingly lucky as he rolled three natural 20s on persuasion in a row and found himself in a one-night-stand with the woman who at first couldn’t stand the sight of him. Not only that, but he rolled very well for his… performance.
Luckily, the nature of the 5E ruleset allows for a great deal of flexibility regarding what you do with your own character, how you can interact with other characters — both players and NPCs — and how you interact with the world around you. Characters all have their base stats and alignments, meaning that you can interact with them in ways that make sense to your particular game. The way that they react to you based on your previous actions means you’ll need to pay extra attention so you don’t find yourself surprised when an entire town hates you for something you did and already forgot about. Remember, where your old DM might’ve forgotten something you did in the past, the game certainly won’t.
Overall, I really am excited to get lost in the world of Baldur’s Gate 3. Having the extra structure of the game guiding me in the direction of the story is definitely going to make me play the game a little differently than I would on a tabletop, but that isn’t such a bad thing. It’s going to keep me focused on the tasks at hand rather than what mess I can cause for the townsfolk. I will however miss being able to dive into some of my more chaotic antics, like paying off my party’s bounty to the queen with a bag of gold that turns out to be a bag of poisonous snakes.
Even if I can’t accidentally feed my party members some necrotic noodles from a sketchy shop owner, I can’t wait to see what mayhem the Forgotten Realms have to offer. While it won’t be as easy to completely surpass a combat encounter because my party chose to not even interact with a particular NPC, it’ll be nice to experience the world of Dungeons and Dragons from a more serious, grounded perspective. Still, it won’t be long before I find myself seeing what creative, chaotic things I can do to break the game.