Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate Characters: A Closer Inspection
Back in 2004, a new kind of game was unleashed onto the world. It promised a different kind of gameplay – part RPG and part traditional board game. The concept was simple, for half the game players would explore a haunted old house, and for the other half of the game one of the players would turn traitor. The latter half of the game was where it really became a clever, as depending on how the house was explored, and depending on the outcome of that exploration, tit would change to unravel a different story each time.
That game was, of course, dear reader – Betrayal at House on the Hill.
Betrayal at House on the Hill is an all time classic of the modern gaming era. It has become a cult classic, designed by Rob Daviau (the name behind Pandemic Legacy and Seafall to name a few) amongst others, and has found its way onto the shelves of many a player.
What is lesser known however, is that in 2017 Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate was released. With two new designers (Chris Dupuis and Mike Mearls), it was the same concept, only set within the well known Dungeons and Dragons universe.
At the end of last year, around Halloween, we took a closer look at the characters in Betrayal at House on the Hill in more detail to determine if one was better than the others. Today, we are going to do the same kind of thing with the Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate characters to try and understand them at a slightly deeper level.
Looking closer at the Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate Characters
The characters in Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate are slightly different to those in Betrayal at House on the Hill for a few reasons, but most notably because they have abilities. There are 12 official classes within the Dungeons and Dragons (5E) base books, and there are 12 characters in Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate. You can see how those merge together, with there being one of each class.
These are doubled up, as one character is printed on the back of another, allowing for only one of each pairing to be played during a game. The options are:
- Monk/Bard (Humans)
- Barbarian/Fighter (Dwarves)
- Cleric/Paladin (Half-Orcs)
- Druid/Rogue (Halflings)
- Wizard/Sorcerer (Humans)
- Warlock/Ranger (Drows)
Each of those characters comes with their own special ability, something we are going to need to look at in some detail in a little bit. For now, however, we need to lay out the raw data for us to analyse. Here is a breakdown of each character in some detail. Unlike with Betrayal at House on the Hill, I haven’t added the “story fluff” to these. Instead, we are just going to look at name, race, class, and special ability before breaking down the core stats.
For the special abilities the exact wording is important, so these have been quoted directly from the character pentagons.
What can the Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate Characters Do?
So, let’s take a look. The characters are:
- Name: Azadeh Rashka
- Race: Human
- Class: Monk
- Special Ability: “Flurry of Blows – After resolving your attack during your turn, you may roll one die. If you roll a 0, take 1 point of physical damage. Otherwise deal that much physical damage to the same defender. They do not roll defence for this additional damage.”
- Name: Miska Silversong
- Race: Human
- Class: Bard
- Special Ability: “Bardic Inspiration – Start the game with the square Bardic Inspiration token. During your turn, you may give the token to another adventurer within 3 tiles of you. They can return the token to add 1 to the result of a non-haunt roll during their turn. Return the token automatically when they are killed.”
- Name: Torskar Stonecleaver
- Race: Dwarf
- Class: Barbarian
- Special Ability: “Reckless Attack – When you attack you may roll 2 additional dice (maximum 8 dice). If you do, after resolving the attack, take 1 physical damage.”
- Name: Aldan Pyrite
- Race: Dwarf
- Class: Fighter
- Special Ability: “Protection – When an adventurer, monster, or NPC on your space would take any damage, you may choose to take the damage instead.”
- Name: Vort Dormal
- Race: Half-Orc
- Class: Cleric
- Special Ability: “Healing Word – Start the game with 2 square Healing Word tokens. Once during your turn, you may discard a Healing Word token to choose an adventurer on your tile (yourself included). They gain 1 in a trait that is below its starting value.”
- Name: “Grim” Grusk Mugtug
- Race: Half-Orc
- Class: Paladin
- Special Ability: “Devotion – Once during your turn, you may treat an event tile as if it didn’t have an event symbol, allowing you to skip drawing the card and continue moving after you discover that tile.”
- Name: Gretchen Titchwillow
- Race: Halfling
- Class: Druid
- Special Ability: “Wild Shape – Once per game, during your turn you can choose one Wild Shape –
- Badger: Gain 2 Might, lose 1 Sanity
- Mouse: Gain 2 Speed, lose 1 Knowledge
- Owl: Gain 2 Knowledge, lose 1 Might
- Tortoise: Gain 2 Sanity, lose 1 Speed.”
- Name: Tasha Brightbottle
- Race: Halfling
- Class: Rogue
- Special Ability: “Cunning Action – Opponents don’t slow your movement.”
- Name: Ralvio Escanor
- Race: Human
- Class: Sorcerer
- Special Ability: “Wild Magic – When you attack, you may use Knowledge or Sanity instead of Might (your opponent rolls that same trait for defence). If you do, roll 1 die. If you roll a blank, subtract 1 from your attack result.”
- Name: Dhadius the Scarlet
- Race: Human
- Class: Wizard
- Special Ability: “Magic Missile – When you attack, you may use Knowledge instead of Might (your opponent rolls Knowledge for defence). If you do, you may attack any character within 1 tile. If you lose against a character, not on your tile, you take no damage.”
- Name: Lia Faen Tlabbar
- Race: Drow
- Class: Warlock
- Special Ability: “Eldritch Blast – When you attack, you may use Sanity instead of Might (your opponent uses Sanity for defence). If you win, in addition to inflicting damage, you may move the defender 1 tile away.”
- Name: Avrixis Mizzrym
- Race: Drow
- Class: Ranger
- Special Ability “Hunter’s Mark – Start the game with the square Hunter’s Mark token. Once, during your turn, you may place that token under an opponent within line of sight to add 1 to the result of attack rolls against that opponent. The token is returned when the opponent is killed.”
Wow, there is a lot of variety in there. Different races, different classes, different abilities – it feels D&D, right? Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate, set in the Elfsong Tavern of Baldur’s Gate, seems to ooze this thematic feel at a quick glance.
Of course, as well as special abilities, all characters in both Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate and the original game have four stats. Those are Speed, Might, Sanity, and Knowledge. Throughout the game, characters can improve or take damage from physical attributes (Speed and Might) or from mental attributes (Sanity and Knowledge). This isn’t hugely important yet, but we will get onto it.
Now, I really hope this copies across alright from Excel (you get a brief behind the scenes look here at how these articles are put together – aren’t you lucky?)
|“Grim” Grusk Mugtug||Paladin||Half-Orc||3||4||4||4|
|Dhadius the Scarlet||Wizard||Human||4||2||4||5|
|Lia Faen Tlabbar||Warlock||Drow||3||2||6||4|
I mean…that kind of worked, right? You know what…I’m going with it.
Okay, now taking those Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate characters, and just looking at the stats before we look at the special abilities in more detail, we can break those down in a few specific ways.
Firstly, we can add them all up together to create a graph like the below –
As you can see, from a pure numbers perspective, the characters all have the same number of stats. All have 15 stat points in total.
On a side note, is it just me who thinks they should have renamed the stats – Dexterity, Strength, Wisdom and Intelligence?
So, the characters are all fairly balanced when we look at them from a surface level; however, we can dig deeper. For instance, what happens when we look at all the characters side by side?
Interesting right? This is definitely how the analysis should have been done with the Betrayal at House on the Hill article.
Now, do me a favour, dear readers and look closely at that graph. I’m curious to see if you notice anything specific.
Most notably, look at Aldan Pyrite, the Dwarf Fighter, and Gretchen Titchwillow, the Halfling Druid.
Yep – they have the same stats.
What this means is that, for those two characters, they will play almost identically bar their special ability – of which Gretchen has a really cool ability and Aldan is just kinda useful.
Now, finally, we can take all those results, and condense them a bit into physical or mental statistics. To do so, results in a graph, a little bit like this…
Now, this results in a few interesting points, and this is where the symmetry of the character stats massively breaks down. In Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate for instance, there are 7/12 characters who are more mentally based then physically. This includes, interestingly enough, both Half-Orcs.
Next, we can see that most characters have closely balanced stats, with the exception of four. Those are the Barbarian, the Warlock, the Wizard, and the Ranger. Two of those are on the same character tile (Warlock and Ranger), and are thus played with the same mini. This means it is impossible for them to be in play at the same time.
Okay, so what does this mean? Well, you may remember our Betrayal at House on the Hill character analysis, in which we had a similar analysis (just without the graph). Firstly, the characters stats add up to either 14 or 15 in the original game. Secondly, even the characters with the biggest swing in their stats wasn’t as much as with the Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate characters. Father Rhinehardt had the biggest different in physical and mental attributes in House on the Hill, with 3 between them. In Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate, that goes up to 5 difference with Warlock – Lia Faen Tiabbar. The latter is a more extreme game when it comes to characters.
Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate Characters and their Abilities
Of course, stats aren’t everything in Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate. Characters also have sweet special abilities that make them totally rad in the face of danger. Okay, maybe not rad, but they make them slight more unique.
So, what can we say about those abilities?
Well, first thing first, we can classify them into four basic characteristics. They can be offensive, a buff for the character themselves, a buff for the other players, or a movement enabler/aid.
|Azadeh Rashka||Flurry of Blows||Offensive|
|Miska Silversong||Bardic Inspiration||Buff for Team|
|Torskar Stonecleaver||Reckless Attack||Offensive|
|Aldan Pyrite||Protection||Buff for Team|
|Vort Dormal||Healing Word||Buff for Self/
Buff for Team
|“Grim” Grusk Mugtug||Devotion||Movement Aid|
|Gretchen Titchwillow||Wild Shape||Buff for Self|
|Tasha Brightbottle||Cunning Action||Movement Aid|
|Ralvio Escanor||Wild Magic||Offensive|
|Dhadius the Scarlet||Magic Missile||Offensive|
|Lia Faen Tlabbar||Eldritch Blast||Offensive|
|Avrixis Mizzrym||Hunter’s Mark||Buff for Self/Offensive|
This actually means that, since a few can be classified as two things, we end up looking at a power or ability distribution like this:
What you can see is that the powers are mainly offensive, and this is obvious when we read about what they can do. Since monsters can’t be killed in Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate, unless specified by the scenario, they may not be as useful as first thought. In fact, in this one blogger’s opinion, there are probably only a few abilities where you can guarantee their use.
Those abilities include the Paladin’s ability of Devotion allowing him to avoid events. Where this may not sound hugely useful – it really is. It can be used to help expand upon the exploration aspect of the game (which is approximately half of it). The Paladin can have a few rounds where he doesn’t have to trigger an event – something which is usually a toss up between being good or bad.
Now, this is actually a bit of an OP ability when you think about it. Firstly, the Paladin can do it every single turn, which is amazing in its own right. Secondly, when the Paladin uses that ability he can use it to move safely to a pre-existing and, until that moment, unconnected area or he can use it to explore further. If he explores further then he is drawing more tiles on his turn and thus more likely to draw an Omen. In a way, it is up to the Paladin whether they want to speed the game up or not.
I sense a Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate room analysis is in order.
The Cleric also has one of the most helpful abilities in the game – the ability to heal two characters (or one character twice) by one stat. This can keep them alive at a crucial moment.
Finally, one character I do really want to talk about is our good friend Gretchen Titchwillow – Gretchen is the Druid and she gets the ability to reduce one stat and increase another by two. This can only be done once per game, but it is insanely useful. Not only does it allow for a character to heal by one point, but it also allows for a switch around in stats. Struggling to get Might? No worries, transform into a Badger. Struggling to get Knowledge? Turn into the Owl.
They’re not all as useful as they seem…
Next we have the three offensive spells – Wild Magic, Magic Missile, and Eldritch Blast. These all change the ability that you can use for your attack, whilst also changing the defence of the opponent and…you know what? I think these are actually red herrings. Those three abilities are circumstantial based on your own character stats. If, for instance, you have taken Sanity damage then something like Eldritch Blast may cause you more damage than good. It may not be effective at all if you have low Sanity to begin with. The same is the case for Magic Missile and Wild Magic.
What this highlights is that the abilities aren’t all as good as each other. Some can be used at any time, some are circumstantial based on the board (for instance Cunning Action, which requires you to be moving through enemies), and some, as explored above, can vary in usefulness depending on the character stats.
What does all this mean? Who is the best Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate character?
So now we come to the difficult bit – is there one character that outshines the others or are they all equal?
Well, the answer, dear reader, is a resounding “no” to both. All characters are certainly not created equal, but likewise, no one really stands out as being better, and it comes down to preference.
When choosing a character however, there are a few things that should be taken into account. The majority of the characters have pretty much balanced overall mental and physical stats, for example, however, a couple of characters do specialise in one over the over. Take Lia as an example, who is such a mental powerhouse it’s not even funny.
Where these will be more distinctive to play, in a game with a lot of randomness, they may fall foul of stat alterations more so than more balanced characters. Lose a physical hit point from a character who has 8 and you lose 12.5% of your fighting capability. Lose a physical hit point and you only have 5 to begin with and you’ve lost 20%.
Abilities in Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate change the game dramatically and can essentially be split into two categories – limited and persistent. The Rogue has a persistent ability with Cunning Action, whereas the abilities of say the Cleric are limited by how many times you can cast his Healing Word. With all credit to the game, persistent abilities are more common than limited actions, but even then they aren’t created equal.
My personal opinion, and this is just through spending a few days looking at the analysis, is that the Devotion ability of the Paladin isn’t like the others. The others have generally strong abilities, but the Paladin can do something they can’t do. The Paladin can kind of affect the meta of the game – although only one character, he can alter the pace of the game. This won’t be so pronounced in a large game with 6 players, but it stands the chance of being more pronounced with fewer.
That is just my opinion though.
Ultimately, the characters are flavour in a game like Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate, and where it is possible to analyse each one and choose based on that – it is also possible just to pick one at random and still have a good time.
So, there we have it – a fairly long breakdown, and some analysis, of the characters in Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate. Do you have a favourite character? How do you like to choose? Let me know in the comments below.