Icewind Dale II
CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT GUIDE
Written by: Mike Malone
This document copyright (c) 2002 by Mike Malone. All rights reserved.
This guide provides an overview of the Icewind Dale II (IWD2) races and
character classes, with extensive tips about how to build interesting and
successful heroes. IWD2 represents an evolution in the Infinity Engine (IE)
game series (Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment) in that it uses
the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition game rules (D&D), which offer distinctly more
options for customizing your characters. However, this increased flexibility
also means that there are more ways to construct a character who will, perhaps,
not turn out to be as satisfactory a hero as had been hoped. Thus, a primary
goal of this document is to offer a framework in which you can approach the task
of building a set of characters who are both powerful and fun.
The target audience of this guide is both new players and those who have already
played IWD2 some (perhaps completing it) and who want to play again with a more
carefully constructed, diverse, or whimsical set of characters. In fact,
because of the rich possibilities for character design, the author considers
IWD2 to be well worth playing through more than once, and in some ways the
advice in this guide may be more useful the second time through the game than
the first. However, note that this guide emphasizes normal play, and some of
the advice herein may not carry over to Heart of Fury (HoF) mode. (A future
version of the guide may have a special section on character design
considerations for playing Heart of Fury.)
The material in this guide can't replace a careful perusal of the IWD2
Instruction Manual and the information that appears in game during the character
design process (the latter information does not appear in the printed manual but
is crucial to know when planning your characters' careers). This in-game
information on classes and race can also be accessed by pushing the
"Information" button that appears near the middle of the character display
screens. If you are new to IWD2, before building a custom party of your own it
may be useful to start the game with one of the pre-built parties in order to
look at the character displays and review the information screens on races,
classes, orders, feats, and skills.
Although in a guide of this sort some generic D&D party design lore is
unavoidable as background, this document tries to focus on issues that are
specific to optimizing IWD2 characters. Moreover, the emphasis of this document
is on the practical rather than on the kinds of aesthetic concerns that might be
associated with roleplaying in the strictest sense. Thus, the classes, races,
and abilities that seem less useful than others are ruthlessly critiqued.
However, this should not deter people from using those classes, races, or
abilities if that is what they want to do. The point of playing IWD2 is to have
fun, after all, and the author is a solid proponent of enjoying the roleplaying
aspects of the game, which include playing quirky or "theme" characters and
parties. Furthermore, none of the races or classes is so seriously
disadvantaged that it would be a horrible mistake to use them. Still, this
guide would not be worth reading if it did not try to make clear what are the
best practices for character and party design, and that requires saying which
types of hero are strongest and which are not.
This guide is best viewed using a 12 pt fixed-width font (e.g., Courier).
Note also that this document contains a few spoilers, which are always marked as
This is a sample spoiler.
II) Revision History
11/08/02 Added section on sample characters; numerous corrections; expanded and
tuned some material
10/07/02 Minor additions and corrections
10/02/02 Initial version
III) Legal Stuff & Contact Information
This document is copyrighted by Mike Malone. The guide is made available to
selected web sites who are given permission to post it by the author. Visitors
to these sites are welcome to download and print out the document, but are not
permitted to reprint, post, or plagiarize its contents for their own documents
or web sites. Please e-mail me if you want permission to use all or some of
this guide elsewhere.
If you have a question, comment or correction, please e-mail me
(firstname.lastname@example.org), and be sure to put something in the subject line
that makes it clear that it is IWD2-related.
This document uses some jargon that the author has adopted as well as
terminology from the domain of D&D and roleplaying games, both computer-based
ones and traditional pen-and-paper ones. Although many people will be familiar
with most of these terms, they are defined here for clarity and reference.
Str, Int, Wis, Dex, Con, Cha -- these are the short forms of the six main
attributes: Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and
Charisma, respectively. This document uses the short and long versions
Build -- A "build" is a way of referring to a particular selection of race,
classes, abilities, feats, etc. that together comprise an IWD2 character. Two
pure fighters might have very different builds (e.g., one might have massive
Strength and rely on feats like Power Attack and Cleave in order to excel in
hand-to-hand combat, whereas another might have high Dexterity and use Rapid
Shot, Precise Shot, and Weapon Specialization in bows in order to serve as a
Role -- A job or related set of tasks performed by a party member. For example,
"tank" or "healer." See "Party Composition and Character Roles."
Favored class -- Every race has a favored class that affects their ability to
multiclass. This is described in detail under "Multiclassing Basics."
Order -- This is an IWD2 term that refers to a variant of some class, usually
because of a religious or quasi-religious affiliation (for example, Stormlord of
Talos). Clerics, paladins, and monks all have different orders to choose from,
and their choice of order provides additional special abilities (for clerics) or
affects their ability to multiclass (for monks or paladins).
Mix In -- This is not a standard RPG term, but one adopted by the author to
denote the addition of a few levels of some support class to augment a build's
main class. E.g., an elf rogue/wizard might have only three levels of rogue as
a "mix in" and the rest of her levels in wizard.
Pure -- When used as in the phrase "pure fighter," refers to a single-class
character (i.e., a hero who puts all his levels into a single class for his
entire IWD2 career).
Effective Character Level -- Races with more powerful starting attributes and
abilities (aasimar, tiefling, drow, gray dwarf, and deep gnome) are penalized by
having an "effective character level" (or ECL), the effect of which is to
increase the amount of experience they need to go up levels.
V) Party Composition and Character Roles
A great deal has been written about creating well-balanced parties for D&D, and
I'm not going to rehash a lot of tired lore in this section. Instead, I will
briefly summarize the various necessary roles for a party so that I can refer to
them later on. By focusing on roles (such as "tank") rather than classes (such
as fighter), a player can decide for herself how she wants to fill those roles,
and this encourages creativity and diversity. Although a party need not have
characters that fill every role, having at least one hero with good coverage for
each of the major roles is a surefire way to ensure that you will have the
flexibility to deal with a wide variety of encounters.
The job of the tank is to engage monsters in toe-to-toe melee combat in order to
dispatch them and also to keep them occupied so that they don't harm the other,
more fragile characters. Fighters, barbarians, and paladins are good tanks.
Rangers, druids, clerics, and high-level monks can be almost as good, given the
right equipment and stat selection.
Tank is one of the roles that rewards having coverage from multiple characters.
A party with only one tank will often find itself flanked, with the result that
the frail spellcasters are now engaged in melee (and the IWD2 monster AI can be
rather persistent about pursuing your heroes when they try to flee). A party
with no tanks is very challenging to play.
With a few rare, plot-driven exceptions, it is easy to heal damage in IWD2
between major battles by simply resting, going back to town, or visiting one of
the many NPC healers and "rest stops" who appear at various convenient locations
throughout the game. So, the role of a healer in the party is mostly to provide
medical services during the heat of battle or between skirmishes in a major
ongoing engagement during which resting is not possible or would be
inconvenient. In terms of what a healer does, the ability to remove nasty
effects like paralysis is at least as important as the ability to simply restore
lost hit points. Moreoever, a top-notch healer build will also incorporate
features aimed at keeping the healer herself alive and well, since an
incapacitated healer is of little use to other party members.
In any case, and as is well known, clerics make the best healers, as they have a
wide range of curative magic and are themselves quite sturdy. Druids and
(surprisingly) bards can also be successful in this role. Paladins and rangers
can also serve as adjunct healers once they are higher in level.
The game is much easier if you have a character whose Hide and Move Silently
skill ranks are high enough that they can reliably sneak around the area and
check out the lay of the land. Rogues, rangers, and monks all have excellent
potential here. Note that whereas it is possible to have your scout and your
thief (see below) be the same hero, that may not be the best use of your
A thief is a character that specializes in the Open Locks, Disable Device,
Search, and (if you so desire) Pick Pocket skills. If a hero puts lots of
levels into the rogue class, it is easy for her to cover all these skills, since
rogues receive a hefty allotment of skill points. However, sometimes it is
desirable to split these skills across multiple characters. Furthermore,
although rogues are the canonical base class for a thief, any character can
serve adequately in this role if they have sufficient Dex (for Open Locks and
Pick Pocket) or Int (for Search and Disable Device) and will have enough skill
points to keep investing in those skills regularly as the game progresses.
There's nothing quite like a Fireball for starting out a big fight on the right
footing. The job of lobbing Fireballs and other spells of mass destruction
belongs to the bombardier. Sorcerers make the best bombardiers, followed by
wizards, druids, and clerics, in roughly that order.
An optional, but useful, role. The sniper specializes in ranged combat.
Fighters make the best snipers, by virtue of their superior base attack bonuses
and the fact that only a fighter of level four or higher can obtain the Weapon
Specialization feat (+2 damage) for their missile weapon of choice (usually bows
or slings). However, any character with good Dexterity and the right weapon
proficiency can be enlisted for sniper-style tactics.
G) Mage Killer
The mage killer is a character designed specifically to go after and
incapacitate enemy mages and magic-using bosses. Usually the mage killer will
also serve as a scout, since one of the best ways to terminate opposing spell
casters is to sneak up on them and attack them unawares. Having one or more
solid mage killers is not a requirement for success in IWD2, but is useful if
you prefer stealth and skirmish-oriented tactics.
A good choice for a mage killer is a build with innate Spell Resistance, which
means either a drow, deep gnome, or high-level monk. Gray dwarves are also a
good choice, with solid saving throw bonuses and immunity to paralysis
(specifically, the dreaded Hold Person). To a lesser extent, aasimar and
tiefling characters can also serve in this role because of their built-in
resistance to most elements. Finally, paladins with high Charisma receive
enormous bonuses to their saving throws, which also makes them suitable for mage
If you are building a mage killer based on their racial qualities, you will want
to choose at least one warrior-style class and build up enough levels to get a
high number of attacks per round. This gives you additional opportunities to
disrupt the enemy's spellcasting. Also, getting the Evasion special ability can
be very useful for a mage killer; this can be achieved automatically if you are
a monk or by having at least two levels of rogue.
An optional but useful role. A diplomat is a character who can do your party's
"face" work, including talking to strangers and buying and selling items. Bards
make good diplomats, but other classes that need Charisma (paladins and
sorcerers) can also serve well (however, keep in mind that paladins can turn
down opportunities to receive gold for quest rewards). Also, rogues have all
three diplomat skills (Diplomacy, Bluff, Intimidation) as class skills, so
although rogues usually don't need Charisma you might find an opportunity to use
a rogue-based build for the diplomat role.
The loremaster is a character who has sufficient ranks in Alchemy and Knowledge
(Arcane) to be able to identify objects and potions and to handle the various
alchemical subquests that appear in IWD2. Wizards and bards make the best
loremasters, and note also that rock gnomes of whatever class gain a bonus to
the Alchemy skill, making them well-suited for the loremaster role.
********* Spoiler *********
There are a couple places in the game where having a character with high Alchemy
can be helpful, and there is one plot element for which having an Alchemy skill
in excess of 15 is one of only few ways to satisfy that quest.
The summoner is a spellcaster who has an ample supply of summoning spells. At
best, summoned creatures are a battle winning strategy (elementals, demons, and
high-level undead are quite mighty) and, at worst, they at least provide meat
shields for your main characters. Almost all of the spellcasting classes can
serve as summoners, so this role is mostly a matter of spell selection and
K) Spell Sword
"Spell sword" is a catch-all term for a warrior-type character who also uses
magic both offensively and defensively. Clerics generally act as spell swords
by default, as do rangers and paladins at higher levels. (Bards could be also
but usually they are playing songs so they are less likely to melee.) However,
the most interesting possibilities for spell swords come from judicious
multiclassing, as discussed in later sections.
VI) Race Basics
This section describes the various races and provides some advice about what
races to use for what builds. But first, a few general comments.
A) When Not To Play a Human
In terms of taking best advantage of the game system, plain, boring humans (not
tieflings or aasimar) should be your default race unless you have some good
reason to pick another race. For one thing, a human with only two classes never
has to worry about experience penalties for multiclassing, as a human's favored
class is always considered to be their highest level class (more on this below).
Humans also receive an extra feat and extra skill points, and for many builds
these are worth more, over time, than the built-in capabilities of the exotic
races. Moreover, the extra two skill points that a human receives at level one
and the additional extra skill point for each subsequent level are not affected
by any penalties because of low Intelligence. Thus, at levels two and above a
human with an Int of three will still receive two skill points per level instead
of just one. This can be a very significant optimization for certain builds.
Pragmatically speaking, there are only a small number of reasons why you should
choose to play a race other than human:
o Ability Bonuses. Most non-human races have bonuses to one or more abilities
(and usually penalties to other abilities). For example, a moon elf receives +2
to Dexterity but -2 to Constitution. Not only can these bonuses make the race a
better choice for certain classes and roles, but a +2 bonus in an ability means
that you can raise that stat to 20 when creating the character. You should
strongly consider taking advantage of that fact when building your initial
party; specific opportunities to make the most of these bonuses are mentioned
below in the discussions of the individual races.
o Spell Resistance. Two of the races--drow and deep gnome (Svirfneblin)--have
built in Spell Resistance. This is a very powerful defensive capability (and
those races are penalized accordingly in terms of their effective character
level for gaining experience). However, if you want a character to excel in the
mage killer role, it might be well worth coping with those penalties and
building your mage killer from one of these races.
o Weapon Proficiencies. All three types of elves gain automatic proficiency in
Martial Weapon, Bow and Martial Weapon, Large Sword. This is effectively two
free feats, and for the right build that--plus the other advantages of elves--
can make an elf a better choice than a human. More will be said of this in the
sections on elves.
o Role-Related Bonuses. Some races receive bonuses to skills that make them
better suited for certain roles (e.g., halflings receive a Move Silently bonus
and thus make superior scouts). However, keep in mind that the extra feat and
skill points of a human may equal or even exceed these benefits; planning ahead
as to how you are going to allocate your skill points and feats can help you
decide whether going with a non-human or human character is a better choice.
B) Discussion of the Non-human Races
This section provides more detailed information about the races other than plain
human and the reasons why you might or might not want to use them for certain
Aasimar get +2 to both Wisdom and Charisma, with no offsetting penalties to
other abilities. This provides a large pool of extra ability points that can
applied in a variety of ways to make a strong, single-class build. Paladins,
druids, clerics, sorcerers, and bards can all benefit significantly from those
bonuses by starting with their primary casting characteristic (Wisdom or
Charisma) at 20.
Unfortunately, because the favored class of aasimars is the paladin, and because
paladins are severely limited in their multiclassing potential, those four extra
ability points can't be used arbitrarily to create the wide array of multiclass
builds that might otherwise be possible. However, for paladin multiclassing or
for builds like cleric/sorcerer where you intend to keep the two classes at
about the same level, the aasimar race is well worth considering despite the one
level experience acquisition penalty.
The tiefling subrace receives a +2 bonus to both Int and Dex (and -2 to Cha).
In fact, tiefling is one of only two races in IWD2 that gets a bonus to
Intelligence (the other is drow), thus making them a clear contender for
dedicated wizard builds. These ability bonuses also make a tiefling a good
choice for a multiclass build based on the rogue class (rogue is the favored
class for a tiefling). In fact, it is always worth considering a mix in of at
least two levels of rogue for a tiefling, as this gives them the Evasion special
ability, which, when combined with their elemental resistances, makes them very
sturdy in the face of elemental assaults.
3) Shield Dwarf
In general, dwarves are best considered for fighters or multiclass
fighter/rogues, fighter/clerics, or even fighter/monks, with an emphasis on the
tank role. Raise Constitution to 20 right away to have a truly formidable tank.
However, apart from their excellent tanking potential (and as fond as the author
is of dwarves as a staple of swords and sorcery), for non-tank purposes the
dwarves' racial bonuses aren't really useful enough to make them worth choosing
over humans or certain other races.
4) Gold Dwarf
See above. Shield dwarves and gold dwarves are almost identical except for the
stat for which they receive a penalty.
5) Gray Dwarf
A solid choice for a tank-oriented fighter/rogue build. Their built-in special
ability to cast Invisibility and their immunity to paralysis are both very
useful for situations when you fail your stealth roll or break cover on purpose
in order to make a sneak attack. A gray dwarf also makes a surprisingly good
paladin or paladin/fighter (using the Helm order for the latter). In this
build, the racial and class-based saving throw bonuses and immunities combine
very nicely and result in a mage killer who is impervious to fear or paralysis
(e.g., Hold Person) and highly resistant to everything else. However, apart
from these specialized builds, the steep experience penalty (effective level is
two levels higher) means there is not a lot of point in using a gray dwarf.
6) Lightfoot Halfing
A lightfoot halfling is a great choice if you want to have a build with a rogue
mix in. Take advantage of the +2 Dex bonus to bring Dexterity to 20 right away;
this is extremely beneficial for a variety of applications and is a clear reason
to prefer a halfling over a human. A lightfoot halfling also gets a +1 to all
saving throws (i.e., the equivalent of a built-in Luck of Heroes feat, which is
normally available to humans only).
7) Stoutheart Halfing
This sub-race is almost identical to the lightfoot halfling in terms of build
strategy, although instead of the saving throw bonus, they receive a free feat
of your choice at level one.
8) Ghostwise Halfing
With barbarian as their favored class, ghostwise halflings lend themselves to a
variety of unique builds. Just one level of barbarian will provide the halfling
character with a full range of martial weapon proficiencies, medium armor and
shield proficiencies, and the Rage special ability. This can be a valuable mix
in. Ghostwise halflings also have the unique racial ability Set Natural Snares,
which allows them to set Entangle-like traps. These traps aren't all that
powerful, having a very small radius and what seems to be a low DC for saving to
avoid them, but they can still be of modest usefulness when planning an ambush.
9) Moon Elf
There are only two practical reason to choose a moon elf over a human, and those
are either that you want to raise Dexterity to 20 right away, or you want the
Martial Weapon, Large Sword and Martial Weapon, Bow proficiencies. Elves have a
few racial benefits apart from these, but the author is of the opinion that over
time a human's free feat and extra skill points will usually outweigh those
benefits. Still, if you want a wizard-based build and want that character to
use a large sword and/or bow, then be a moon elf. Pure wizards as well as
wizard/clerics or (to a lesser extent) wizard/druids or wizard/rogues will all
benefit from these free proficiencies for the very useful large sword and bow
On the other hand, if you are building a spell sword, and will be getting either
or both of these weapon proficiencies from another class, it's not clear that
moon elf is preferable to human (although it is still worth considering if you
are going to take advantage of the +2 Dexterity to start the character with 20
10) Wild Elf
Mostly as per moon elf, swapping sorcerer for wizard as the favored class.
However, having sorcerer as the favored class also raises the interesting
possibility of playing a wild elf monk/sorcerer (if you are willing to concoct a
creative background for why your carefree and reclusive wild elf has turned out
to be a tautly disciplined, Lawful Evil monk). This build gives you a monk with
even more than the usual resistance to Enchantment magics and the ability to use
large swords and bows.
Substantial stat bonuses and Spell Resistance make this race an interesting
choice for a variety of builds, and the fact that drow have two options for
favored class adds additional flexibility (drow males have wizard as their
favored class, and drow females have cleric). However, the drows' penalty in
terms of leveling (plus two effective levels) is fairly severe. This makes
heavy multiclassing of a drow an iffy proposition at best, as with the penalty
you might not gain enough levels to be effective in multiple classes,
particularly if you want to obtain the higher level spells. This suggests the
use of mix in classes only. Interesting drow multiclass options include a female
drow cleric/bard (with just a few levels in bard; perhaps even just one), or a
male drow paladin of Mystra/wizard (about three or four levels of paladin will
give you the benefit of the paladin special abilities and a solid foundation of
hit points and attack bonuses, while still allowing you enough levels to cast
wizard spells of fifth or even sixth level).
12) Rock Gnome
This race makes for a good quasi-tank spell sword (e.g., illusionist/rogue,
illusionist/ranger, or illusionist/fighter). They are also a natural fit for
the loremaster role.
13) Deep Gnome
With nice ability bonuses, three innate defensive spells (including
Invisibility), and Spell Resistance, a deep gnome can be a superb scout, spell
sword, and/or mage killer. They also have excellent built-in bonuses to AC and
saving throws. However, they have the steepest ECL penalty in the game (plus
three effective levels), so manage any multiclassed builds with care. One
obvious build is a rogue/illusionist with just two or three levels in rogue;
such a character makes a peerless scout and "stealth" bombardier.
14) Half Elf
A plain human is almost always preferable to a half elf for almost any build.
The sole exception is for scout or scout/mage killer builds where, because of
the character's Intelligence, she is getting exactly the number of skill points
she needs each level to increase the skills she is pursuing, and so doesn't the
need skill point bonus for being a human. Under those conditions, the anti-
sleep capability, saving throw bonuses, and +1 Search bonus might make a half-
elf a good idea, as taken together these bonuses are worth ever so slightly more
than a feat.
Because the clearly favorable circumstances for using half elves are limited,
this guide does mention them very often. But, keep in mind that half elves do
have the same flexible favored class as pure humans, so in cases where favored
classes are being discussed and I refer to humans that is understood to include
15) Half Orc
The only reason to select half orc is for the Strength bonus, which lets you
start a character with a Strength as high as 20. For tank-type builds this can
be a great boon: the +5 to hit and damage bonus, when combined with the Cleave
feat, allows such a character single-handedly to mow through encounters with
weaker foes during the early stages of the game. In addition to warrior-based
careers, a half orc can also make a great pure cleric (of Tempus or Helm, say):
bring Cha and Int down to one (yes, one), and put everything else in the other
abilities. Such a character makes a stellar tank/spell sword (the
"MALE_FIGHTER_3" voice that never speaks but only grunts is ideal for this
VII) Class Basics
This section gives advice on each of the classes in turn, including strategies
for building strong representatives of that class and a discussion of the pros
and cons of that class as compared to other classes.
With the addition of feats, the fighter class really comes into its own in 3rd
Edition D&D, and IWD2 goes a long way to capturing the variety that is now
available when building a fighter. Even with pure fighters there are many
choices and trade-offs that are possible. Three obvious roles for fighters--
tank, sniper, and mage killer--have already been mentioned above, and if you
decide to mix in a few levels of some supporting class you have a wide range of
options. What follows are some hints about building specific variants of
1) The Strength-Based Fighter
The most straightforward way to build a fighter is to maximize their Strength
when they are created and continue to add to it as they level. Strength
increases their chances to hit in melee, improves their damage, and allows them
to wear heavier armor and wield heavier weapons without being heavily
encumbered, so this a pretty obvious character design strategy.
In general, the Strength-based fighter doesn't need much Dexterity, because the
heavier armors tend to reduce the benefits of high Dex. Constitution, on the
other hand, is key, particularly for a tank-style fighter. Unless you are
multiclassing, Intelligence and Charisma can also be reduced to as low as you
like without fear of repercussion. Wisdom, however, is best left at 10 or even
increased, because fighters already have trouble with Will saving throws.
Feats like Power Attack and Cleave are particularly well-suited to the Strength-
2) The Dex-Based fighter
With an appropriate choice of feats, equipment, and mix in classes, it is
possible to build perfectly lethal warrior-type characters with relatively low
Strength. This is done by maximizing Dexterity to improve your AC and using
feats like Weapon Finesse (so you use your Dex bonus instead of your Str bonus
to hit when using a small blade), Expertise (swap to hit bonus for extra AC),
and Power Attack (swap to hit bonus for extra damage). Ambidexterity and Two
Weapon Fighting are also good choices, particularly if you use Weapon Finesse,
since that feat does not combine well with shields and so you might as well use
a small blade in your off hand.
Most Dex-based fighters will want to multiclass to either a rogue or a
spellcaster. This is partly for flexibility and partly to take advantage of
their high Dex and--if they want to use Expertise which has an Int requirement
of 13+--high Intelligence.
As might be expected, a fighter build intended to excel in the role of sniper
will also be a Dex-based build, but will use feats like Rapid Shot, Precise
Shot, and multiple ranks of Martial Weapon, Bow proficiency.
In general, most spell sword builds that use the fighter class will be a Dex-
based build, because spell swords won't be able to wear much armor (if any).
Most of what has been stated for fighter applies to paladins as well. However,
it must be said that if you are just looking for a tank, for most parties a
carefully built fighter is likely to be more useful than a paladin. Still, that
is not to say that paladins don't have their place. In particular, they make
good mage killers or quasi- mage killers because of their generally high saving
throws and immunities.
********* Spoiler *********
About three fourths of the way into the game there is a subquest that gives you
a Holy Avenger sword, which can only be used by paladins.
Rangers are solid spell swords and scouts. However, as an exercise in exploring
the trade-offs involved in choosing a single class build as opposed to
multiclassing, it is worth comparing a level 10 fighter/level 5 wizard with a
level 15 ranger. At level 15, the pure ranger will have better hit points and
base attack bonuses and can use up to level four spells in small numbers. She
will also have three favored enemies (although those tend to be useful only
during limited sections of the game). The fighter/wizard, however, will have
five additional feats above and beyond the six feats that the ranger will
receive (and this is even assuming the fighter/wizard allocates a feat each to
Ambidexterity and Two Weapon Fighting). Moreover, the fighter/wizard has access
to Weapon Specialization (and thus Maximize Attacks). And, as a wizard, the
character will have a far superior set of spells to choose from and can cast
them more often (true, only level three spells are available, although a
wizard's level three spells are in many cases equal or superior to a ranger's
level four spells). In short, it is easily called into question as to whether
the capabilities of the pure ranger surpass those of the fighter/wizard (similar
arguments can be made about paladins as compared to multiclass spell sword
All that being said, as a mix-in for rogues, wizards, or sorcerers the ranger
class has much to recommend it; this is discussed in the section on
Because of their extra high hit points, barbarians make good tanks, and, in
general, most of what is written above for fighters applies to barbarians.
However, it is worth noting that the barbarian's better special abilities
(Greater Rage, damage resistance) are not available until the character is
fairly high level. This means that if you are multiclassing a barbarian-based
build, it is best to either invest significant numbers of levels in the
barbarian class or very few and treat it as a mix in.
Rogues are fun, especially during the early parts of the game when their sneak
attacks can be quite effective. But, if you want to have a character pursue a
career that consists mostly or entirely of rogue levels, keep in mind that
during the later parts of the game you will need to manage your rogue carefully
in combat in order to take best advantage of their abilities. So, if you don't
like to "micromanage" your characters, building high-level rogues may not be a
Moreover, it is more than possible to finish IWD2 without a rogue. Characters
of other classes with high Int or Dex can take on the key thief skills well
enough to get by, and there are even spells that duplicate or augment the Open
Locks and Search skills (the Knock and Find Traps spells, respectively). Nor do
the special benefits of high-level rogues (Improved Evasion, Crippling Strike,
Slippery Mind) necessarily seem worth the investment of ten levels when
comparable or even superior effects can be achieved through judicious
multiclassing and using magical alternatives.
That being said, even if you don't plan to have dedicated rogues, the rogue
class makes an excellent mix in, both to give a character a boost to the thief
skills and to garner highly useful abilities like Evasion. (It really can't be
emphasized enough how wonderful Evasion is for a character with high Reflex
saving throws.) If you are going to mix rogue in to a build that emphasizes some
other class, you may still want to start the character as a level one rogue so
that they get the rogue's large number of starting character skill points and
can thus get a good head start on all the thief and/or scout skills.
Bards provide useful and powerful "play-and-forget" benefits to the party, are
competent spellcasters, and can serve quite well as diplomats and loremasters
and tolerably well as healers, thieves, or scouts. This makes them a solid
choice for either a dedicated slot in your party or as a mix in class for a
Let's not mince words: low-level monks are weak and need a fair amount of
coddling. However, once they have reached level six or so, they begin to come
into their own, and at very high levels they are quite solid and their abilities
as scouts, mage killers and general pummeling machines truly begin to shine.
This implies that you will get the most out of your monk if you don't multiclass
her, so you can devote all the character's levels to the monk class. On the
other hand, there are some interesting possibilities for multiclassing monks,
which are discussed below. In short, the monk class offers lots of trade offs
and design decisions to ponder.
Of the two magic-user classes (wizard and sorcerer), wizards are the more
flexible of the two and also tend to be a bit more accomplished, both because
they tend to have more skill points (from high Int) and because they gain extra
feats. The fact that wizards can learn a wide variety of spells can be key,
because for difficult battles you can pick and choose your spell selection to
meet specific tactical goals. Thus, although it is perfectly possible to
survive IWD2 without a wizard, having a wizard of at least mid-level (7-9) can
be very helpful for the more difficult battles during the final chapters, fights
for which a tailored spell selection may prove the key to success.
Also, wizards are probably better suited for the summoner role than sorcerers.
The reason is that a wizard can use (for example) Summon Monster III quite
effectively during Chapter 2, and then discard it for a superior summoning spell
later on, whereas a sorcerer is stuck with that spell forever, even when the
monsters conjured by that spell have become vastly outclassed and barely serve
as a speed bump.
It cannot be denied that sorcerers make the best bombardiers and are a blast to
play (pun intended). Even a level six sorcerer with high Charisma can single-
handedly win many encounters with only a modicum of support from scouts, tanks,
healers, and snipers. Sorcerers also makes a great mix in class for spell
swords, giving your character a plentiful supply of useful combat-related spells
like Shield, Mirror Image, Haste, or Stoneskin. However, as a mix in class,
sorcerer does suffer from the fact that you get the higher level spells more
slowly than does a wizard (e.g., level two spells become available at level four
for sorcerers and level three for wizards), so that is a trade-off to keep in
mind if you are working with races like drow who are already penalized in terms
of their level acquisition.
A staple for any band of adventurers. Pure clerics become quite powerful at
higher levels and in addition to their healer responsibilities can serve as
capable tanks, summoners, mage killers, and even bombardiers, depending on their
spell selection and other attributes. The cleric class also provides some
interesting multiclassing options.
Also, take a good look at the different clerical orders (e.g., Stormlord of
Talos) and the special spells and benefits they provide. Different orders are
better at different things, particularly when you are considering multiclassing
your cleric. Lathander and Talos clerics make decent bombardiers, and the
followers of Selune are superior summoners at higher levels. These three orders
are well-suited for pure or near-pure cleric builds in order to take advantage
of their powerful high-level spells. Follows of Ilmater are more healer
oriented and also have the most flexible multiclassing capabilities, being able
to multiclass freely with the appropriate paladin or monk orders. Oghma clerics
are natural loremasters, whereas being a Demarch of Mask can provide useful
scout and thief enhancements. Finally, Tempus and Helm clerics make good
tank/spell swords, and Banites can serve as skilled (if grim) diplomats.
A solid class, much like the cleric, with more emphasis on offensive capability
and less on healing. A spell sword build using druid as the spellcasting class
can be quite strong, as spells like Beast Claw and Star Metal Cudgel can be very
effective for certain kinds of combat situations (even the lowly level one spell
Shillelagh can be devastating during the game's early encounters when wielded by
a tank-oriented druid).
If you are planning on taking advantage of shapeshifting, you will want to get
your druid high enough level to at least get shapes like Polar Bear etc. For
offensive tanking, shapeshifting works best during the middle chapters; at those
times the druid can deliver some serious damage in creature form and expect to
dish out substantially more than they receive. However, during the endgame, the
creature forms (even the high level ones) tend not to have enough AC and get
pummeled, although they are still useful for rapid healing effects, getaways
(the wolf and panther are fast), and special tactics.
One of the most interesting changes to the D&D rules that came with the 3rd
edition was the extensive revamping of the multiclassing system. IWD2 does an
excellent job of capturing a lot of the interesting possibilities that this new
system provides. This guide encourages players to take advantage of
multiclassing in order to build characters that are entertaining and unique (as
well as deadly).
A) Multiclassing Basics
Depending on how dedicated you are about doing the subquests and completely
cleaning out each area, you can expect the characters in a party of six to reach
about level 16 before completing IWD2 (see "Developing Your Party" for a few
tips on how you might have at least some of your characters reach higher levels
during normal play).
Since 16 levels is just enough to get 8th level spells, you need to think ahead.
For one thing, except for the most carefully orchestrated builds, the author
recommends that you have at most two classes per character. Three-class builds
tend to be too diluted unless you are using mix in classes with care. An
example of an effective three-class build might be 4th level fighter/3rd level
rogue/9 level druid, resulting in a spell sword with elements of tank, scout,
and mage killer, with Evasion, Uncanny Dodge, +2d6 Sneak Attack, Weapon
Specialization, and a wide array of weaponry and offensive magics.
In short, the first rule of thumb for multiclassing is to know exactly what you
are going to do from the moment you create the character. This in turn requires
some understanding of the D&D rules. The sections below provide some crucial
information, but as mentioned in the introduction it is strongly advised that
you read the character-design portions of the manual and review the in-game
information on classes, races, orders and feats.
B) Favored Class
The most important requirement for mastering the multiclassing system is
understanding what a "favored class" is. This is described in the manual, but
is summarized here. Basically, in D&D, a multiclassed character will receive a
-20% penalty to experience gained for every class that is more than one level
away from their highest level class. For example (ignoring favored classes), a
3rd level fighter/1st level wizard will be penalized because the wizard and
fighter levels are more than one away from each other, but a 3rd level
fighter/2nd level wizard won't be penalized. In the latter case, the
fighter/wizard will want to put their next level into the wizard class in order
to continue to avoid receiving an experience penalty.
The function of a race's favored class is simply that this class is totally
ignored when determining if a penalty applies. That means that if a character
has only two classes and one of those is the favored class, then no penalty will
ever be levied, regardless of the difference in class levels.
The bottom line is this: if you are going to multiclass, be sure one of the
classes is the favored class for that character's race. That way, you never
have to worry about being penalized for a two-class build. This is part of why
humans are so flexible, because whereas most races have a specific favored class
(e.g., fighter for dwarves), for humans their highest level class is considered
to be their favored class. Therefore, a two-class human character never has to
worry about experience penalties regardless of what classes they have chosen.
If you are going to have heroes with three or more classes, you will need to
think carefully about the ramifications of the favored class rules; this is one
of the reasons why this guide generally recommends that your characters have at
most two classes. Note also that for certain three-class builds, the flexible
favored class of humans may no longer be an advantage. Consider a level 3
rogue/level 5 wizard/level 6 fighter. A human will receive an experience
penalty for this build, because their favored class will be fighter, and the
rogue and wizard levels are more than one away from each other. However, a
halfling or tiefling, whose favored class is rogue, can be given this build
without penalty, as the rogue class is ignored and the wizard and fighter levels
are within one of each other.
C) To Multiclass or Not to Multiclass
The point of multiclassing a character is to make them stronger or more
flexible. This must be determined carefully because excessive multiclassing can
result in characters that are too "shallow" to handle the final chapters.
Spellcasters, in particular, should be multiclassed with care because
multiclassing them can delay or even prevent their ability to get the more
powerful, high-level spells. A party that has no pure or near-pure spellcasters
is likely to have a tough time in the final battles of IWD2 for lack of high-
level magical power.
That being said, there are some excellent reasons to multiclass. Most of these
have to do with adding in some useful support capabilities to your hero's
primary class. To that end, the next section has a list of valuable "mix in"
As for the more "traditional" multiclass combinations that were the norm in 2nd
Edition AD&D, in which the two classes are kept at roughly the same level (e.g.,
8th level cleric/8th level wizard), the author does not in general recommend
these types of builds. The reason is that most classes get their best spells or
abilities at higher levels, and the aforementioned cleric/wizard is almost
certainly going to be less powerful than a 16th level cleric or a 16th level
However, there are a few exceptions. Builds like fighter/rogue can succeed with
roughly equal numbers of levels in both classes, since you don't need to worry
about getting high-level spells. And if you already have one or more pure
spellcasters who will be practicing high levels of magic, an auxiliary
spellcaster with mid-level coverage in multiple classes (like a cleric/wizard),
can provide a solid foundation of supporting magic and thus free up your higher
level spellcasters to focus on memorizing and casting their primary offensive or
D) Multiclass Mix Ins
As has been mentioned, a "mix in" is the addition of a few levels of a support
class to a build that will be emphasizing some other class. Common examples of
mix ins include adding a few levels of fighter to a spellcaster to gain the
extra hit points, weapon proficiencies, and feats, adding a few levels of rogue
to a ranger or druid to get better scout and thief skills, etc.
Characters with mix in builds are fun to play and can prove a welcome change
from the traditional single-class heroes. Moreover, clever use of mix ins will
still allow you to build characters that can cast the higher level spells. A
lot of the information in this guide is oriented towards the use of mix ins,
both because they are entertaining and because they make economical use of the
limited number of levels you can expect your characters to receive in IWD2.
E) Detailed Multiclassing Possibilities
This section contains a discussion of the multiclassing possibilities for all
classes, with an emphasis on what classes make good mix ins and what levels to
consider achieving in those classes.
The fighter class is an excellent class for multiclassing. Mixing in some
levels of fighter can provide several useful qualities: good hit points; extra
feats; automatic proficiency in all martial weapons, shields, and all three
levels of armor. The extra feats are particularly important, because whereas in
pen-and-paper D&D you are constrained as to which feats are available when
selecting a fighter's bonus feats, in IWD2 you are under no such constraints.
This means that you can use your extra feats from the fighter class to boost
your spellcasting capabilities, if you so desire.
Fighters are the only class that can get the Weapon Specialization feat (which
is only available to a character with at least four levels in fighter). This in
itself can be a good reason to mix in four levels of fighter. See the section
on feats below for more on Weapon Specialization.
The paladin class has strict limitations on multiclassing, so care is needed
when planning a multiclass paladin build. This is doubly true if you are hoping
to take advantage of a paladin's spellcasting, as they can't cast even second
level spells until level 10!
If you are considering a multiclass build with paladin as one of the classes,
pay special attention to the possibilities presented by the three orders of
paladin in IWD2 (Mystra, Helm, and Ilmater, which allow for flexible
multiclassing with wizard, fighter, and cleric, respectively). In particular,
although a fighter/paladin build might seem redundant, it actually works well:
the fighter class offers additional feats and the ability to attain Weapon
Specialization (at level four), and the paladin class offers the potential for
superior saving throws (due to the Cha bonus) and a modest but useful array of
other special abilities.
Another paladin mix in option is to start with just a small number of paladin
levels (perhaps just one, but levels two through four also add additional
benefits you may want). Then switch to some other class. Although you will no
longer be able to level as a paladin, you will retain the paladin's special
abilities, the most important probably being the saving throw bonuses. Because
the saving throw bonuses are based on Charisma, this build strategy is
particularly well-suited for creating spell sword sorcerers.
For a character who will only ever wear light or no armor, mixing in just one
level of ranger is the same as buying the Ambidexterity and Two Weapon Fighting
feats. This is true even if the character doesn't have the usual 15 Dex
required to buy Ambidexterity! You also get most of the benefits of the
fighter, including good hit points and the full gamut of martial weapon
proficiencies etc. (You also get a favored enemy, although this is only
marginally useful.) In short, a small number of levels in ranger (maybe just
one) can be an excellent mix in for a rogue or for a spellcaster who wants to
act as a spell sword.
In order to succeed in IWD2, you don't really need a "full time" rogue.
Instead, it can be a wise party design strategy to get coverage for the scout
and thief roles by adding a few levels of rogue to one or more other characters.
If you are going to do this, it is recommended that you create such characters
as rogues, even if rogue won't be their primary class. This gives you the full
benefit of the rogue's massive number of starting skill points. Also, keep in
mind that two levels of rogue gives you the extremely useful Evasion special
ability, and three levels gives you the Uncanny Dodge ability and adds an
additional +1d6 of Sneak Attack damage. This makes those good target levels to
shoot for when mixing in the rogue class.
Monks are very limited in terms of their multiclassing capabilities. You should
read the discussion on monks in the character creation screens in the game, but,
to summarize, if you want to multiclass freely between monk and one other class
then that other class has to be either rogue, cleric (Lawful Good characters,
Painbearer of Ilmater cleric only), or sorcerer (Lawful Evil characters only).
Nevertheless, these combinations can be very powerful. Monks in general have
good saving throws for all three categories, so every monk level helps the
weaker saving throws for your other class. The monk/rogue can cover all your
scout/thief needs and makes a great mage killer. A monk/cleric makes a valuable
"field medic" because of the monk's accelerated movement speed, and the Wisdom
AC bonus for monks meshes nicely with the high Wisdom you will want for a
cleric. And a monk/sorcerer can serve in a variety of hit and run scout and
bombardier applications, making them highly suitable for "special ops."
When multiclassing a monk, if you are only using monk as a mix in, the target
levels to keep in mind are level three (which gives you some additional saving
throw bonuses and an increase in movement speed), level four (an increase in
hand-to-hand damage), and level six (an extra hand-to-hand attack). Each level
of monk also gives you another charge for your Stunning Attack ability. (Don't
forget to use it! Stunning a key enemy spellcaster can be a battle-winning
maneuver.) Finally, note that the Monk's bonus to AC for high Wisdom carries
over to a Druid's alternate forms when shapeshifting. This makes starting a
character with one to three levels of monk and then shifting to druid an
interesting and viable build.
Another option to keep in mind is to start with one to four levels in one of the
warrior classes and then switch over to monk exclusively. This gets around the
monk's multiclassing limitations since once you switch you won't be leveling any
class except monk. This build enhances the basic monk with additional
capabilities, hit points, and proficiencies in all the martial weapons (so if
for whatever reason you aren't using the monk's unarmed attack you can use the
best weapon available; this is particularly useful early in the game when the
monk's unarmed attack is weak).
Even one level in bard can be useful for a spellcaster or support character for
two main reasons: you can use the level one bard song (which provides non-
negligible combat bonuses for when you have nothing better to do) and you can
use any of the several bard-only magic items scattered throughout the game (a
couple of which are quite powerful). Additional levels of bard can provide some
helpful spellcasting capabilities and more songs.
Keep in mind, however, that as a bard's main contribution to the party is
potentially their singing, which in turn requires that they do nothing else but
move. Thus, you don't want to build multiclass characters that need to switch
too often between singing bard songs and doing something else. This means that
if you are multiclassing a bard-based character, try to add in capabilities such
as those of the thief, healer or summoner, which don't require constant activity
during a battle.
As a mix in class, adding sorcerer levels can make a warrior-based build into a
more capable and flexible hero. This is particularly true for a scout or a
sniper-style fighter. You will want to shoot for at least level four or level
six for your sorcerer mix in; this gives you access to level two or level three
spells, respectively. In addition to the obvious direct damage spells, support
and defensive spells like Mirror Image, Invisibility, Power Word: Sleep, Death
Armor, Ghost Armor, Haste, and Slow can give a warrior mage a substantial edge
in melee combat. Also, spell swords can take better advantage of certain
offensive spells that pure spellcasters may be too fragile to use safely (e.g.,
Fire Shield). Remember that you will need to wear little or no armor if you
want to use your spells freely.
The reason to mix-in sorcerer over wizard is that you gain spells automatically
and can cast them more often. So, if there is a small selection of spells that
you know you want to use, sorcerer is probably a better choice. However, you do
have to wait a little longer to get the higher level spells.
Most of what is described above for sorcerer also applies to wizard. The reason
to prefer a wizard mix in is if you want to gain the higher level spells earlier
or if you want the wider variety of spells that wizards have available (once
they find the right scrolls). Wizards also gain extra feats (one at first
level, one at fifth level, and one every five levels thereafter). Like those of
fighters, these bonus feats can be used for any purpose. The availability of
third level spells (which include some time-honored workhorses like Fireball and
Haste) and the granting of a bonus feat make level five an excellent target
level for mixing the wizard class in to a warrior-oriented spell sword build.
If you are going to mix in some wizard levels, you might want to consider
starting the character as a wizard even if that won't be their primary class.
That gives you an extra feat right off and, more importantly, lets you select
four level one spells that they will have in their spellbooks. If you add a
wizard level to a character once the game is in progress, they must learn all
their spells from scrolls.
Elves have wizard as their favored class; look for opportunities to take
advantage of their racial abilities (particularly the potential for 20 starting
Dexterity) for interesting multiclass builds that include wizard. A couple that
come to mind are a ranger/wizard who uses dual-equipped small blades, Weapon
Finesse, and close-combat spells, or a fighter/wizard sniper with extra magical
A cleric mix-in can allow a character to provide low-level healer support. Even
a level three or level five cleric mix in will provide spells that remain useful
throughout the game (Command, Doom, Remove Fear, Hold Person, Remove Paralysis,
Silence, Dispel Magic, and Prayer, just to name a few). When mixing in cleric,
be sure to choose an order with special abilities that augment those of the
character's other class(es) (e.g., Mask for a cleric/thief, or Tempus or Helm
for a cleric/fighter).
As mentioned under the initial discussion of druids, there are interesting spell
sword opportunities afforded by mixing in the druid class. One interesting
thing to note is that although druids can't cast spells while shapeshifted, they
can use special abilities. This means that a barbarian/druid (for example), can
use the Rage ability while in creature form.
IX) Abilities, Skills, and Feats
This section provides a bit of advice about allocating points to your abilities
(Strength, Dexterity, etc.), skills (Hide, Diplomacy, etc.), and feats (Power
Attack, Dodge, etc.).
Unlike earlier games in the Baldur's Gate/Icewind Dale series, IWD2 has a fixed
set of points that you can allocate to a starting character's abilities (no more
staying up until 3 a.m trying to roll the perfect characters!). On the other
hand, the 3rd Edition D&D rules allow for characters to increase their abilities
every four levels (whereas previously they were fixed in stone barring powerful
magic). Taken as a whole, this framework for ability point allocation rewards
careful decision-making ("min-maxing" as it is sometimes referred to).
For any melee-oriented build, the more Strength the better. Even Dex-based
warrior builds gain extra damage and carrying capacity from Strength. For non-
warriors, it is rare that you will want to reduce Strength below eight, and
anything below six can be very frustrating, since even basic robes and potions
will bog a character down when their carrying capacity is so small.
Since Dexterity helps both Reflex saving throws and AC, it is useful for almost
every possible build, with the possible exception of a heavy armor wearing tank.
For that build, a Dex of 12 is optimal (you get a +1 modifier, which is the
maximum modifier when wearing Full Plate Armor).
It is very rare that you will want to reduce Dexterity below 10. One exception
might be a paladin-based tank build where you want to invest lots in Strength,
Constitution, Wisdom, and Charisma. For that kind of build, reducing Dexterity
might work, since you can rely on the paladin's other saving throw bonuses to
help offset the penalty.
********* SPOILER *********
Assuming you have a few thousand gold, there is an excellent source of
lightweight full plate armor that becomes available at the beginning of Chapter
2, so you can rely on getting some at that time for all your tanks and tank
How much points you need in Constitution depends on whether you play with the
"Max HP/Level" option turned on or off. If you play with it on, then you have
more leeway and can get by with a lower Constitution, although a Con of at least
12 is still recommended for low hit die types (wizard, sorcerer, rogue, bard),
and by no means should you reduce Con below 10.
If you play with random hit point rolls, then you are well served by making
every character's Constitution as high as possible.
Great min-maxing opportunities here. Basically, pure tank fighters and clerics
don't need any Intelligence to speak of, as the only thing Int provides is skill
points, and you can get by with the modest trickle of skill points that having
an abysmally low Int will afford you. Humans are especially well-suited for
this optimization because they will still get their extra skill point per level.
(But, see "Elemental Feats" in the section on feats.)
However, classes and builds that rely on their skills (like rogues, thieves,
loremasters, and diplomats) may want to bump Int a bit even if they aren't using
wizard spells. Also, note that the extremely useful Expertise feat requires an
Intelligence of at least 13.
Wisdom is the attribute that governs Will saving throws, and a failed Will
saving throw can be rather inconvenient if the result is that your best tank
becomes confused and starts whaling on your wizard. For that reason, you should
generally avoid the temptation to reduce Wisdom below 10. In cases where you
are getting some saving throw bonuses for spells due to racial benefits (like
gray dwarves or deep gnomes), you might skim off two points of Wisdom to
allocate elsewhere, but any lower than that is just asking for trouble.
Charisma is the safest ability to pillage in order to garner points to put
elsewhere, as the only builds that really need Charisma at all are diplomats,
sorcerers, bards, and paladins. (Clerics also use Charisma for turning undead,
and rogues use it for the Use Magic Device skill, but it is perfectly reasonable
to decide that you don't care about those applications of Charisma and would
rather have a Charisma of three so that you can have higher Strength or
whatever.) If almost all of your characters are ugly and socially inept, you
will need to pay more attention to whom talks to NPC's, and may wish to
reinitiate certain key conversations to ensure that your diplomat is doing the
talking. However, since IWD2 is relatively low on roleplaying and high on
combat, that is a small price to pay for having strong, agile, and healthy
This section provides some brief tips about the various IWD2 skills.
1) Skills By Role
Here, without additional discussion, is a list of all the roles and the skills
that those roles will rely on to be successful (roles that aren't listed don't
have any particular skills associated with them).
Healer - Concentration
Scout -- Hide, Move Silently, and possibly Concentration (if they use magic)
Thief -- Disable Device, Open Lock, Search, and possibly Pick Pocket
Bombardier -- Concentration, Spellcraft (to get elemental damage-enhancing feats
like Aegis of Rime, a Spellcraft of 10 or higher is needed)
Diplomat -- Diplomacy, Bluff, Intimidation
Loremaster -- Alchemy, Knowledge (Arcane)
Summoner -- Concentration
Spell Sword -- Concentration
2) Useless Skills
There are a few skills that don't appear in the list above. Those skills aren't
really needed to succeed in IWD2, and the author recommends that you not worry
about putting points into them unless you have ample points to spend. Here they
Animal Empathy -- Why use this skill when you could be using that round of
combat to inflict some damage or cast a "real" spell? You are usually better
off putting these points in skills like Concentration, Spellcraft, Hide and Move
Silently. (O.K.: to be perfectly fair, if, for whatever reason, your druid or
ranger has high Charisma and a few skill points to spare, then this skill might
prove useful and be worth investing in, provided that you actually remember to
use it, which isn't always as easy as it sounds.)
Use Magic Device -- In a well-balanced party there is almost never a need for
this skill. (If you are playing in a very strict manner and become unhappy
about having to reload a botched battle, then Use Magic Device may be more
useful because it can let your rogues and bards use clerical scrolls to raise
the dead and what not should your cleric meet an untimely end.)
Wilderness Lore -- There is exactly one point in the game where this skill is
anything more than useless; the rest of the time it is mostly just for color
("Gee, here are some footprints of large humanoids--I wonder if we'll run into
********* SPOILER *********
In Chapter Three, Wilderness Lore can make is somewhat easier to navigate your
way through the Fell Wood. However, there are other means, such as a brute
force search of the maze using dropped items as markers, or looking up a set of
directions on the internet. The author's opinion is that there is not much
point in having Wilderness Lore for one portion of one chapter when those skill
points could be used for skills that are valuable for the entire game.
This section provides some brief tips about the various IWD2 feats. An average
build will get one feat upon character creation and one additional feat every
third level. So, a typical level 15 character will have only six feats. This
implies that you should pick and choose your feats carefully.
Humans (and Strongheart Halflings) get an additional feat at level one, which is
a substantial boon. Fighters get an additional feat at first level and every
even-numbered level; wizards at first level and every level divisible by five.
These extra feats add substantial value to those classes, particularly when
using the fighter and wizard classes as mix ins.
1) Weapon Proficiency, Focus, and Specialization
Because they are so fundamental to character design and game play, the feats for
weapon proficiency etc. deserve special attention and are treated separately
In general your weapon selection is determined by your class (or race, for an
elf). Adding another proficient weapon requires spending a feat on that weapon,
and it is rare that you should want to invest in another weapon feat. There
are, of course, exceptions. For example, a pure Watcher of Helm cleric with an
eye towards serving on the front line might want to invest in Exotic Weapon,
Bastard Sword, as this gives them access to what is arguably the best one-handed
weapon. Usually, however, you will want to stick to the weapons that you get
for your class (or classes), and use your feats for other purposes.
That being said, it can definitely be a sound character design strategy to mix
in one of the warrior classes (fighter, barbarian, paladin, or ranger) in order
to give a hero access to a wide range of weaponry. Dwarves, ghostwise
halflings, half orcs, and (of course) humans can take good advantage of this
tactic by adding a few levels (even just one) of whatever warrior class.
Furthermore, if you achieve at least level four in fighter (only) you can buy
the third rank of a weapon proficiency feat (a.k.a., Weapon Specialization)
which gives you a valuable +2 damage bonus with that weapon. However, taking
best advantage of Weapon Specialization presupposes that you know what weapons
that hero is going to use for most of their fighting. One prime example of that
is you want to build a sniper (get specialization in bows or possibly missile
weapons, but not crossbows because they aren't helped by Rapid Shot).
Similarly, if you want to use small blades and Weapon Finesse (preferably dual-
wielded using Ambidexterity and Two Weapon Fighting), then having Weapon
Specialization in Simple Weapons, Small Blades is a great idea.
That covers Weapon Proficiency and Weapon Specialization; what about Weapon
Focus (which is two ranks in a weapon feat)? Well, the author's opinion is that
it is usually not worth taking Weapon Focus except en route to Weapon
Specialization. Again, however, there are exceptions. The main exception is if
the character in question is using the feats that swap to hit bonus for AC
(Expertise) or damage (Power Attack). In that case, selecting Weapon Focus
might allow you to increase the amount of attack bonus you are using for those
feats while still keeping your attack roll bonus high enough to be effective.
2) Elemental Feats
There are four feats that increase a spellcaster's damage for a particular
element and which also add five resistance to that element. These are Aegis of
Rime (for cold), Aqua Mortis (for acid), Scion of Storms (for lightning), and
Spirit of Flame (for fire). These feats are well worth getting, but in order to
be eligible for these feats your character has to be able to cast level four
spells and have an adjusted Spellcraft of 10 or higher.
The fact that it is adjusted Spellcraft means that your Int bonus, and the +2
bonus from Courteous Magocracy (if present), are counted for reaching the
threshold of 10. Similarly, if your Int is below 10, and penalty will need to
be compensated for by adding additional ranks to Spellcraft so that your
adjusted total is 10. Note that this is different from how rank prerequisites
function in pen-and-paper D&D.
3) Feats By Role
This section lists some of the feats that are best-suited for certain roles
(only roles that rely on particular feats are listed). Any self-respecting hero
that intends to excel in a given role should almost certainly have most or all
of these feats by the time they are high level.
Tank -- Power Attack, Cleave, Weapon Specialization
Scout -- Dash
Bombardier -- Spell Focus, Spell Penetration, and one or more of the elemental
feats matching the characters' spell selection (Aegis of Rime, Aqua Mortis,
Scion of Storms, Spirit of Flame)
Sniper -- Rapid Shot, Improved Critical, Weapon Specialization (bow or missile
Mage Killer -- Dash, Improved Critical
4) The Best Feats
In addition to the main feats for a given role, there are variety of feats that
are useful for almost any role. The following list contains what the author
believes to be the most useful general-purpose feats in this game. Some (like
Dodge or--for humans--Luck of Heroes) are well worth considering for almost any
Dodge -- Almost all the author's many characters have had this feat. It does
require a Dex of 13+ however.
Expertise -- Any pencil-necked klutz of a wizard can get up to a +5 generic
bonus to their AC by using this feat; a great investment for anyone with an Int
Luck of Heroes -- Humans only.
5) Useful Feats
Not every build will want or need these feats, but they are highly useful and
can add additional flare to a hero's fighting style or help bolster some
particular weakness of a character. (In addition, all the feats under "Feats By
Role" are in this category for use in building characters that aren't
specializing in a certain role but will still be providing some basic cross-
coverage for that role.)
Ambidexterity (and Two Weapon Fighting) -- Except for very high-level warriors,
who might use just Two Weapon Fighting and can afford the "to hit" penalties,
most builds will want to get either both of these feats or neither of them.
Consider a ranger mix-in as an alternative to buying these feats directly.
Armored Arcana -- Whether or not this is a good investment depends a great deal
on other aspects of a character's build and role, such as their Strength and
Dex, how often they get on or near the front line of combat, etc. For some
builds, however, it can be a great way to improve the character's defense
without jeopardizing arcane spellcasting capabilities. All three gradations of
this feat are potentially useful: one rank lets you use bucklers and small
shields; two lets you wear leather armor; and three lets you wear studded
leather, regular leather and a small shield, or a large shield.
Dirty Fighting -- Doesn't kick in all that often, but in long fights every
little bit helps, and works particularly well for characters with multiple
attacks (like dual weapon users) or who use weapons with high critical strike
ranges (like scimitars). Combines well with Improved Critical for obvious
Great Fortitude -- For spellcasters who are having Fortitude saving throw
Improved Evasion -- If you get a rogue to level 10 and they are at all active as
a scout or mage killer then be sure to select this feat.
Iron Will -- For fighters and rogues who are having Will saving throw issues.
Lightning Reflexes -- For low-Dex tanks or clerics and others having Reflex
saving throw issues.
Lingering Song -- Pretty much obligatory for bards.
Maximize Attacks -- A great feat for tanks, mage killers, and snipers, but the
prerequisites are steep and since you have to have Weapon Specialization in two
weapons this feat is only available to builds with at least four levels of
fighter. Be sure to plan ahead well in advance if you are thinking of getting
Two Weapon Fighting -- see Ambidexterity.
Weapon Finesse -- Great for Dex-based spell swords and mage killers wielding two
small blades who want to improve their chances of hitting.
4) Not Quite As Useful Feats
This feats are more specialized or less helpful, and should probably be chosen
only if you have very specific reasons for wanting that feat or you are in the
rare position of having to select a feat and don't have anything else you want.
(The author freely admits that the classification as to whether a feat is useful
or not quite as useful is in some cases rather arbitrary.)
Bullheaded -- If you have a character that actually uses Intimidate, this can be
an o.k. investment if they will also benefit from the +1 bonus to Will saving
throws (which they well might, as Intimidate is usually used by fighter types).
Combat Casting -- Whether this feat is desirable depends on how often a
character casts spells in tight spots and how many skill points that character
will have to spend on Concentration. For example: a stupid (in the sense of low
Intelligence ability) non-human sorcerer who only gets one skill point per level
will want to put most of those points into Spellcraft so he can get the
elemental damage enhancing feats, so choosing this feat (or Discipline) can help
his Concentration rolls without having to spend skill points on Concentration.
Courteous Magocracy -- This is a great feat for a sorcerer diplomat, providing
+2 to two of their primary skills (and the Spellcraft bonus is applied to the
prerequisite of 10 ranks for being eligible for elemental feats. Similar builds
(like a Lathander cleric or even a wizard who is acting as a diplomat) might
Deflect Arrows -- Good for snipers and spell casters who are having trouble
surviving enemy fire. Monks get this for free at 2nd level, so don't choose it
for one of their starting feats.
Discipline -- Great for healers and spell swords who need to cast reliably in
dangerous conditions and who don't want to be missing Will saving throws.
Envenom -- Useful for mage killers and other special tactics; best used when you
expect the battle to go on for some time.
Extra Rage -- Probably only worth choosing for a high-level barbarian, for whom
the Rage benefits are substantial enough that reusing the ability becomes more
Extra Smiting -- For a high-level paladin, the smite bonuses are considerable,
and so this feat might be worth taking as long as you remember to use it.
Hamstring -- If you like hit-and-run tactics using a rogue, this can be a great
feat, and there are some situations where it can be a godsend. However, like
many rogue abilities it rewards micromanagement, so don't take it unless that is
your cup of tea.
Heroic Inspiration -- For a tank character that can expect to be alive for a
considerable time even after they've reached less than half their hit points,
this can be a great feat.
Heretic's Bane -- There are enough enemy clerics and druids in IWD2 that this is
a reasonable investment for a divine-magic using spell sword or mage killer.
Mercantile Background - Although money is scarce in the early chapters of IWD2,
later on you are unlikely to have a shortage of funds. That makes this feat
less desirable as a long term investment. Still, if you like to have every
economic advantage, select this feat for your diplomat if they have the
necessary racial background (which usually means they are human as gray dwarf
and deep gnome diplomats are understandably rare given their -4 penalty to
Improved Turning -- A high-level cleric with decent Charisma and this feat can
slice through undead encounters like a hot knife through butter. Of course,
even without this feat such a cleric is fairly capable against undead, so you
will need to decide for yourself whether there are other more useful feats you
would rather have.
Precise Shot -- A useful support feat for a dedicated sniper.
Slippery Mind -- Another level 10 rogue feat; not as useful as Improved Evasion
but worth considering.
Snake Blood -- Almost but not quite useless, as it is possibly worth considering
for tanks, thieves and scouts, if only because it also adds to Reflex saving
Strong Back -- Because of the "all or nothing" nature of IWD2 encumbrance, with
reasonable equipment choices your stronger characters will rarely if ever be
encumbered. However, characters with low Strength (such as six) can sometimes
benefit substantially from this feat, as even bracers, cloaks, and potions can
encumber a weak character, and if you throw in a heavy cross then balancing
their equipment may be difficult. Similarly, a cleric with low Strength and
Dexterity (perhaps one who is focusing on the healer, diplomat, and/or summoner
roles), can use this feat to allow them to wear heavier armor.
Stunning Attack -- This is the feat that monks get for free; if you don't have a
monk, this is possibly worth choosing for a high-level tank or mage killer for
use in special offensive or defensive maneuvers.
Sub-Vocal Casting -- Any of your major spellcasters can benefit from this, and
if at least your main healer has this that can prove particularly helpful, as
she can then use Dispel Magic on any other silenced characters.
******** SPOILER *******
Once you reach Chapter Three you can buy Vocalize Potions at which point this
feat doesn't really help you all that much, although it is still not really
useless since there are finite numbers of those potions available and using
potions does consume a round of combat that might be used casting an offensive
4) Useless Feats
The author has not found these to be worth using a valuable feat slot on.
Arterial Strike -- Against foes who are strong enough that you would want to
bother with this skill, the damage usually isn't significant to make it worth
it. (Envenom is a bit better because it directly affects Constitution which can
result in a significant reduction in hit points.)
Blind-Fight -- Fighting invisibile and hidden opponents happens very rarely, and
when it does happen there is usually a lot more on your mind than worrying about
whether someone is still getting their Dex benefit to AC.
Crippling Strike -- Level 10+ rogues only. This feat appears to only reduce
Strength by one rather than one per sneak attack damage die, and -1 Strength is
not going to make a big impact on an ogre, trolls, or giant.
Extra Turning -- There really aren't enough undead encounters to make this worth
selecting; if your cleric has normal or above average charisma they will
probably have enough turning attempts by default (and if they have low charisma
their turning capabilities will be weak anyway so there is no point in getting
Extra Wild Shape -- Even if your druid shapeshifts fairly frequently you almost
never run out of shapeshifting charges, and if you do, that probably means it's
time to rest, as your spellcasters are probably depleted as well.
Fiendslayer - It's not worth spending a whole feat on this just to get +1 damage
for these relatively rare creature types.
Forestry -- The most useless feat in the game, bar none.
Improved Initiative--Rumor has it that this feat is "bugged," and the author has
done experiments that definitely suggest that it isn't having any positive
effect whatsover, which is unfortunate, as on paper it would seem to be very
Resist Poison - Gray dwarf and half orc only. There isn't all that much poison
in IWD2 and what poison there is isn't all that perilous; you are better off
just taking Great Fortitude.
Toughness -- O.K., extra hit points are nice, but if you want them that bad, use
the "Max HP/Level" option (take a course on guilt management if necessary), and
use those valuable feat slots for something else.
Wild Shape, Boring Beetle, Panther, or Shambling Mound -- When all is said and
done, these shapes aren't that much more superior to the regular ones, and are
pretty much useless by the endgame, so it's not worth using a feat slot on them.
X) Sample Characters and Parties
A) Sample Characters
This section goes provides detailed designs for a few "optimized" builds. The
ability numbers are for a level one character. Suggested feats and skills are
also listed in approprimate order of their priority; gaining access to all the
suggested feats will require a character of higher level.
Abilities: Str 18 Dex 18 Con 16 Int 3 Wis 18 Cha 3
Skills: Hide and Move Silently
Feats: Power Attack, Rapid Shot, Cleave, Dodge, Dirty Fighting
This build relies on the fact that humans get an extra skill point each level to
create a monk that is fully optimized for tanking, sniping, mage killing, and
2) Courtly Wizard
Abilities: Str 6 Dex 10 Con 14 Int 18 Wis 10 Cha 18
Skills: Concentration, Spellcraft, Alchemy, Knowledge: Arcane, Diplomacy, Bluff,
Feats: Courteous Magocracy, Luck of Heroes, Expertise, various Spell Focus and
This build takes advantage of a Wizard's large number of skill points to create
a wizard diplomat/loremaster. With low-Strength and Dex this character has
almost no combat capability, but a decent Con of 14 will help keep them alive
(use spells like Mirror Image liberally to protect this build).
3) Mystic Druid Pariah
Race: Half Elf
Class: Monk 3/Druid X
Abilities: Str 12 Dex 18 Con 12 Int 13 Wis 18 Cha 3
Skills: Concentration, Spellcraft, Hide, Move Silently
Feats: Expertise, Rapid Shot, Spell Focus: Transmutation, elemental feats
This is a shapeshifting-oriented build that uses a monk mix-in to provide
additional AC benefits while shifted (the Wisdom bonus for monks carries over to
the alternate forms). Three levels of monk also provides Evasion, Deflect
Arrows, and additional speed and saving throw bonuses, and the latter combined
with the half elf bonuses results in a character who is extremely resistant to
Enchantment magics. This very flexible build can be deployed in a variety of
roles: tank, sniper, scout, bombardier, mage killer, summoner, spell sword, and
Class: Paladin 2/Cleric of Lathander X
Abilities: Str 8 Dex 8 Con 10 Int 14 Wis 20 Cha 20
Skills: Concentration, Diplomacy, Spellcraft
Feats: Expertise, Spell Focus: Evocation, Spirit of Flame, Sub-Vocal Casting,
Another non-combatant build, this character will serve as a healer, diplomat,
and, at higher-levels, bombardier (using the clerical fire spells like Flame
Strike as well as the Lathander domain spells). Two levels of Paladin provides
the Aura of Courage, insanely high saving throws, and a little bit of Laying on
Hands capability for emergency first aid (and with the Lathander's Renewal
special ability this character will have two sources for quick healing). If you
don't care about Aura of Courage then just using one level of Paladin is a
reaonsable alternative. With the extremely high Charisma and the built-in
Improved Turning feat from the Lathander order, against undead encounters this
character can wreak havoc.
5) Trickster Gnome
Race: Deep Gnome
Class: Bard X/Illusionist Y
Abilities: Str 6 Dex 14 Con 12 Int 18 Wis 10 Cha 14
Skills: Concentration, Diplomacy, Bluff, Spellcraft, Alchemy, Knowledge: Arcana
Feats: Dodge, Dash, Expertise, Lingering Song, Spell Focus: Enchantment
Yet another non-combatant build. For this character, you can adjust the bard
and illusionist levels to suit your personal preferences (even one level of bard
is useful for the first song and the access to bard-only items). In addition to
covering the diplomat and loremaster roles, this character provides support in
combat with bard songs while distracting the enemy. Since bard songs can be
played while fleeing, if this trickster can get a powerful monster to chase them
then they can lead it in circles while singing merrily, giving the other chances
and opportunity to heal, cast spells, or apply missile fire.
6) Big Brute
Race: Half Orc
Class: Fighter 4/Barbarian X
Abilities: Str 20 Dex 16 Con 18 Int 1 Wis 18 Cha 1
Feats: Power Attack, Cleave, Weapon Specialization, Improved Critical, Dodge,
As ugly and stupid as it gets, but shockingly effective in hand-to-hand combat.
Use a two-handed weapon for maximum damage. With a Wisdom of 18 this character
actually gets decent Will saving throws, but with an ample supply of feats you
can add in Iron Will for additional safety.
7) Archer Mage
Race: Moon elf
Class: Fighter 4/Wizard X
Abilities: Str 8 Dex 20 Con 16 Int 18 Wis 10 Cha 4
Skills: Concentration, Spellcraft, Alchemy, Knowledge: Arcana, Search
Feats: Rapid Shot, Weapon Specialization: Bows, Greater Spell Focus: Evocation,
elemental feats, Dodge
Delivering damage from a safe distance is this character's specialty. With bonus
feats from both the fighter and wizard classes, such a build has ample feats and
can afford to invest heavily in both bow-related feats and direct damage
spellcasting feats. Because the four levels of fighter will prevent this
character from achieving the highest level spells, you will usually not want
such a build as your primary arcane spellcaster. However, as a support
sniper/bombardier/loremaster, this build is almost peerless. You can do a
variant of this build with a wild elf fighter/sorcerer, but that build will have
fewer feats and skill points.
B) Sample Parties
This section contains a few examples of parties. All of these are similar to
parties that the author successfully ran himself. The descriptions show the
heroes at or near the end of the game, so you know what to work towards.
1) Mystic Goons from the Outback
The key to this party is that, except for the sorcerer, who is the de facto
diplomat, everyone is plug ugly. But, they're scrappy and have a flexible,
magic-intensive offensive. In combat, deploy this party in three ranks, with
the monk and fighter/rogue in front, the cleric and druid in the middle, and the
sorcerer and wizard in the rear.
Shield dwarf--level 2 fighter/level 14 monk (tank and mage killer; level up
twice in fighter for the proficiencies, hit points and feats and then switch
exclusively to monk)
Wild elf--level 2 rogue/level 14 sorcerer (scout, bombardier, spell sword)
Ghostwise halfling--level 1 barbarian/level 15 druid (offensive spell sword; the
barbarian mix in adds better weaponry and the Rage ability for use in tough one-
on-one fights or in mop up situations)
Human--level 16 Transmuter (basic spellcaster; primary loremaster and auxiliary
Drow--level 14 Stormlord of Talos (healer and spell sword with some bombardier
and mage killer aspects)
Tiefling--level 10 fighter/level 5 rogue (tank, scout, thief)
2) Law of the Land
A mixed bag of mostly lawful characters. Three of the characters are fairly
traditional; the other three builds are a bit more experimental. The paladin,
sorcerer, and bard all have acceptable "presence" and so diplomat functions are
flexibly and thoroughly covered. This party works best in a "pentagon"
formation, with the human fighter tank in front, the three multiclass spell
swords in the middle supporting with melee, missile, or spellcasting, as needed,
and the Morninglord and bard in the rear helping with songs, archery, and
Aasimar--level 4 Paladin of Mystra/level 11 wizard (serves as a sniper, spell
sword, and healer)
Human--level 16 fighter (heavy duty tank)
Human-level 3 Monk of the Dark Moon/level 13 sorcerer (the bombardier, with
Evasion, a little extra speed, and other minor niceties from the monk class
giving her more flexibility for SWAT operations)
Human--level 5 Painbearer of Ilmater/level 11 Monk of the Broken Ones (general
purpose scout, healer and spell sword)
Stoutheart Halfling--level 13 bard/level 3 rogue (primary thief, loremaster, and
Moon elf--level 16 Morninglord of Lathander (primary healer and summoner; can
use a bow as well as supporting the front lines as a tank if needed)
3) Gang of Four
Playing with a smaller party can be a challenge, but during the first few
chapters your characters level that much more rapidly. If you find that in the
later chapters you aren't getting any experience because your characters are
such high level, you can add a new low-level "squire" character using the Party
Formation screen, which will bring your party's average level down. This party
works best if the monk scouts and perhaps stuns a key foe, then retreats while
the sorcerer applies heavy-hitting direct damage. At this point, the foe will
be weakened and the party is flexible enough to execute either a direct
offensive or to retreat and regroup for more skirmish tactics.
Human--level 18 monk (scout and mage killer with some tank capability)
Human--level 18 sorcerer (primary bombardier and summoner)
Aasimar--level 8 fighter/level 9 Battleguard of Tempus (spell sword with tank,
sniper, healer, and summoner capabilities)
Stoutheart Halfling--level 7 rogue/level 11 fighter (primary tank and thief and
can second for scout and mage killer blitzes)