Baldur’s Gate 3 is based heavily on the 5e ruleset, and is largely a faithful adaptation. However, some changes have been made to familiar options which affect how your existing knowledge of the game will transfer. Knowing what has changed will help you succeed.
The information below is based on the list available on the Baldur’s Gate 3 Wiki, but has been expanded to address implications and impact.
The information below is organized to roughly resemble the organization of the 2014 Player’s Handbook, which hopefully feels familiar.
Table of Contents
- The Basics
- Character Creation
- Character Advancement
There is a weighted dice setting in the game called “Karmic Dice”. The system works to prevent streaks of low rolls, which is intended both to make things less frustrating and to speed up combat. This appears to apply to both players and enemies, and the exact algorithm is a secret.
Rolling a natural 1 on an ability check always results in failure, even if modifiers would put you over the DC. Rolling a natural 20 on a skill check always results in success, even if modifiers would not put you over the DC. There are no additional fumble or critical success features besides an automatic failure or pass of the ability check.
The way you gain inspiration is based on the backgrounds of every character in your party.
For example: My wizard with the Sage background found a book of forbidden lore, broke open the lock, and gained Inspiration for successfully doing so. Shadowheart, the companion cleric, also gained Inspiration from the same event, so it appears that multiple characters can gain Inspiration at once.
As a party you can have up to 4 inspiration dice which can be applied to a failed skill check. Additional Inspiration gained is wasted, so use it or lose it.
The order of character creation steps has been changed, but you’re free to jump around just like in the TTRPG.
Racial ability scores are gone (sort of; see Ability Scores, below).
Racial traits have changed significantly. We’ll have more as we add optimization handbooks, but here are some highlights:
- Dragonborn: Dragonborn have tails. Otherwise they match the 2014 PHB.
- Gold (AKA Hill Dwarves): No changes. +1 hp per level.
- Shield (AKA Mountain Dwarves): The ability score changes mean no second +2 increase. You do still get medium armor proficiency.
- Duergar: Advantage on saves vs. illusions, charm, and paralysis. Innate spellcasting and Superior Darkvision are unchanged.
- High: No changes. You get a wizard cantrip.
- Wood: Mask of the Wild (which is terrible) is replaced by proficiency in Stealth.
- Drow are a full race with two subraces.
- Lolth-sworn: Red eyes by default, get some additonal evil dialog choices, and get locked out of some other dialog choices.
- Seldarine: Nothing extra.
- Githyanki: Martial Prodigy (proficiency light armor, medium armor, short swords, long swords, greatswords) and Mage Hand remain, but Jump is gone (Jump is renamed, but that’s not relevant here), and Decadent Mastery is replaced with Astral Knowledge, which is stunningly good. Pick an ability score and get proficiency with all skills for that ability until your next long rest. Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma each have 4 skills; Dexterity has three. Also, you can pick it in the middle of a conversation before you attempt a roll, giving yourself an edge should you need to unexpectedly diplomacize or pass a knowledge check.
- Half-elves: Half-elves don’t get three ability score increases as they do in the 2014 PHB, and the standard half-elf is gone. You get Darkvision and a subrace.
- Drow: No changes. You get the Drow’s innate spellcasting.
- High: You get a wizard cantrip; no choice of weapon proficiencies.
- Wild: You get fleet of foot (speed bonus) and proficiency in stealth. Honestly, this is better than what they get in the official rules.
- Half-Orcs: Savage attacks now triples all damage dice on a crit rather than adding a single extra weapon damage die. This makes it much more impactful and also doesn’t punish you for using a greatsword over a greataxe. Consider a crit fishing build (champion fighter+barbarian), but remember that the level cap is only 12.
- Halflings: Halfling nimbleness doesn’t exist, but otherwise no changes from the PHB, including to the subraces.
- Humans: Standard humans in the PHB get +1 to all scores, but that’s gone. Instead, you get proficiency in light armor, shields, some simple weapons like spears, one skill, and a boost to carrying capacity. Variant humans aren’t a thing, so no feats at first level. If you want armor, pick mountain dwarf. If you want skills, pick Githyanki. If you want more carrying capacity, remember that you can click “send to camp” on items in your inventory.
- Gnomes: Gnome Cunning now applies to ALL int/wis/cha saving throws rather than only against spells, which is a massive buff.
- Forest: No free Minor Illusion, but you get Speak With Animals for free, which means that you can always talk to animals even if you’re not a druid or a ranger (or a wild barbarian, or a warlock with a certain invocation, etc.). This may not seem mechanically impactful, but this spell gates many of the most hilarious dialogue available in the game.
- Rock: Tinker is gone, and Artificer’s Lore is changed to expertise on History checks.
- Deep (Svirfneblin): Stone Camouflage is now Advantage on stealth checks at all times, which is a huge benefit for characters like rangers and rogues (until and unless you get The Graceful Cloth or some other item which provides the same benefit).
- Tieflings: No changes to the core traits, but you get to choose one of three subraces, which work like the variants introduced in Mordenkainen’s Tome of foes. With the ability score increase changes, this effectively means that you get to choose your innate spellcasting.
- Asmodeus: Thaumaturgy (which has changed to Advantage on Intimidation/Perform for one minute), Hellish Rebuke, Darkness.
- Mephistopheles: Mage Hand, Burning Hands, Flame Blade (which now works like a normal weapon and lasts until you take a long rest).
- Zariel: Thaumaturgy, searing smite (works with ranged attacks), branding smite. Smite spells have been changed to not consume your spell slot (the daily casting in this case) or your Bonus Action if you miss with the attack.
Being small is even less of an issue in BG3 than in 5e. There is no longer a penalty for using Heavy weapons. Time for some gnome barbarians!
Numerous changes have been made to classes and subclasses, so it’s best to look at them fresh rather than assuming that they’re the same as 5e. We’ll have class handbooks at some point.
Characters are built using the Point Buy method.
Every race uses the same +2/+1 on top of point buy. Three +1’s is not an option.
Skills and Tools
Skill proficiencies work how they do in 5e, but individual skills and their impacts on the game are much different.
- Athletics: Grappling isn’t a thing. You can Shove a creature away and Jump as Bonus Actions. The distance of both are affected by your Athletics modifier.
- Sleight of Hand: Now covers disarming traps and picking locks.
Tool proficiencies simply don’t exist. Everything you would do with Thieve’s Tools is now done via Sleight of Hand. You do still need Thieve’s Tools to pick locks, and there are now trap disarm kits to disarm traps. Both types of kit are lost if you fail a skill check using them, but if you’re doing well on skill checks you can survive on one of each kit for a long time.
Weapon proficiencies now also grant a special action that you can use with each weapon once per short rest. See Equipment, below.
The level cap is 12.
Hit points use the fixed values listed in the 2014 PHB; rolling is not an option.
Feats have received significant changes. It’s best to look at them fresh rather than trying to draw direct comparisons to 5e. See our Practical Guide to Feat Selection.
Multiclassing ignores ability score requirements. This makes crazy multiclass combos not only possible, but easy.
Short rests are nearly instantaneous, and you can take them basically wherever, so it’s easy to have everyone go into stealth mode following a fight, grab a short rest to recharge your warlock, then get right back to adventuring.
The party is limited to two short rests per long rest. Short rests restore each ally’s hit points by half their maximum HP (rounded down). Hit dice don’t exist.
Coffeelocks aren’t a thing.
Long rests require “camp supplies,” which you’ll need to collect or purchase. It takes 40 camp supplies (80 on Tactical Difficulty) to perform a long rest.
In towns you will be able to rest at an inn.
Stealth and Perception
Stealth and Perception are entirely visual. When an enemy has not detected you, it will display a cone of red on the ground to indicate its field of vision. When you enter the creature’s field of vision, you will roll a Stealth check against the creature’s Passive Perception. If you fail, you are detected.
Hiding in combat also follows cone of vision rules, but by default you don’t see the cones until you attempt to hide, and you automatically fail if anyone can see you. Pressing the Shift key reveals cones of vision. You must be out of line of sight before you hide.
Some creatures with different senses such as blindsight may follow different rules.
Maximum carrying capacity is determined by your strength, just as in 5e. You can be encumbered and eventually heavily encumbered.
1000gp weighs one pound. The weights of various pieces of equipment have changed.
If you need to drop weight, you can send items to camp from your inventory by right-clicking on an item. You can go to and from your campground any time outside of combat to retrieve this items when you need them.
In addition to your actual armor, some equipment like helms may require proficiency to wear effectively. These items typically won’t boost your AC, but they often have other beneficial effects.
For example: I found a leather helm early in the game which required proficiency in light armor and provided a +1 bonus to Dexterity saves.
Heavy armor does not have a Strength requirement to avoid a speed penalty. Enjoy your full plate, every 8-Strength character who started with a level in Fighter for the proficiencies.
Weapons have new special attacks specific to each type of weapon, each of which can be used once per short rest.
Each character can have one melee weapon set and one ranged weapon set equipped. You can switch between these freely at no cost. Your melee weapon set can include a second melee weapon for two-weapon fighting or it can include a shield. You can only make opportunity attacks with melee weapons, so be sure to switch to your melee weapon set before ending your turn.
If you have a shield equipped, the AC bonus applies even while using a ranged weapon.
Equipping two weapons which qualify for two-weapon fighting will turn on two-weapon fighting mode. By default, if you attack you will use your Bonus Action to attack with your off-hand weapon. You can disable this by turning off the two-weapon fighting toggle. While adventuring, look for the weapon icons on the left edge of your hotbar. Below the melee weapons are two buttons. The second is the two-weapon fighting toggle.
If you disable the two-weapon fighting mode toggle, you can still choose to make the off-hand attack as a Bonus Action. In fact, you don’t even need to take the Attack action first! Grab two hand crossbows, cast a spell as your Action, then use your Bonus Action to shoot someone! You can also use your bonus action to attack with the other type of weapon (i.e. shoot a hand crossbow from your ranged set after attacking with a short sword), which can be a very useful way to deal damage if you don’t want to or can’t move after killing your first target.
Crossbows currently have the loading property, but it does not restrict the usage of crossbows in any way. Heavy crossbows are suddenly better than longbows, and you can dual wield hand crossbows.
Weapons with the Heavy property can be used by small characters without penalty.
The “Reach” property is now called “Extra Reach”.
Slings, darts, and whips are not in the game.
Potions can now be consumed as a Bonus Action, making them much more readily available, and you’ll find healing potions in abundance throughout the game.
In addition, you can throw some potions as an Action. Doing so will apply their effects to all creatures in a very small radius around where the potion lands. This notably includes potions of healing, allowing you to throw a healing potion to heal unconscious allies.
Attunement is not a thing.
Spell scrolls do not have a fixed save DC or attack bonus; instead, they are based on the stats of the character using the scroll.
Initiative is d4+Dex instead of d20+dex, so high-Dexterity characters can be mathematically unbeatable. Alert nearly guarantees that you will go first.
Cover from D&D has not been implemented, but a line of sight to the target is still required. While targeting an enemy, you may see a message saying “path interrupted”, which means that your line of sight is blocked. Attacks can’t be made without line of sight, so breaking line of sight by moving can force enemies to move or prevent attacks altogether.
There is no grid.
Jumping is a bonus action which consumes 3 meters/10 feet of movement speed, and can typically allow you to jump further even with 8 Strength than you could move with that same 3 meters/10 feet of movement. If you are not planning to use your Bonus Action, it’s free movement.
With a Strength score of 10 or below, a creature can jump 4.5 meters/15 ft, and this increases by 1.5 meters/5 ft for every two points in strength above 10.
Facing exists. Creatures can only see within their cone of vision, which means that if you exit that creature’s cone you’ll be able to Hide. You may also be able to forcibly change other creatures’ facing by using effects like Minor Illusion.
When a creature is at least 3 meters/10 feet above their target and makes a ranged attack, they receive a +2 bonus to attack rolls. Conversely, when a creature is at least 3 meters/10 feet below their target and makes a ranged attack, they receive a -2 penalty to attack rolls. Combat environments frequently include elevation changes, so look for ways to gain elevation with your ranged attackers. Jumping will frequently allow you to move up and down considerable distances.
Remember: a +2/-2 changes your DPR by roughly 10%, so the modifier is significant.
You can now throw other creatures as an Action. The thrown creature must be at least one size smaller than you, there is a Strength requirement based on the target’s weight, and you need to win a contested Athletics check.
All characters may use the Help Action. This action raises dying allies to 1 hit point, and also covers any action that a creature could take to help another creature recover from a status condition, such as a creature affected by the Sleep spell.
Stuff You Can’t Do
- Dodge (Monks can do this via Patient Defense)
- Shove creatures prone
Prepared spell casters may change their prepared spells at any time outside of combat. This is especially helpful for swapping in ritual spells like Find Familiar and for spells like Charm Person which are useful in social situations.
Verbal, Somatic, and non-costly Material components are ignored.
Being silenced prevents all spellcasting. I encountered this early in a game when some undead wizards silenced my party, then chased me into the area of silence. It did not go well for them.
You may cast leveled spells with both your Bonus Action and your Action.
Cantrips receive their third damage improvement at level 10 rather than at level 11. With the level cap of just 12, that means that you get to enjoy that damage boost a little longer.
For characters with the ability to cast rituals (wizards, etc.), ritual spells can be cast without expending a spell slot outside of combat, but only once per Short Rest (this may vary based on difficulty). Ritual spells must be prepared/known to be cast.
For example: find familiar can be cast as a ritual. Because you can change prepared spells at any time outside of combat, you can prepare the ritual, cast it, then change your prepared spells to be combat-ready.
The Ritual Caster feat allows you to learn and cast two Ritual Spells.
Changes to individual spells are numerous and significant. It’s best to look at them fresh rather than compare them to the 2014 PHB rules.
- Blinded: In addition to the other effects (Advantage to be hit, Disadvantage to attack), ranged attacks are limited to 15 ft range. Blinded creatures can still make opportunity attacks.
- Frightened: Creatures which are frightened are unable to move at all (rather than being unable to move toward the source of their fear), unless the effect instead makes them “fearful” which gives them the frightened effect as well as making them flee.
- Prone: Being prone gives disadvantage on Strength and Dexterity saving throws, attacks against a prone creature have advantage out to a range of 3 meters/10 feet rather than 5 feet (great for Extra Rach weapons), and ranged attacks against a prone creature do not have disadvantage. Your character cannot do anything while prone. Starting the turn while prone will cause you to automatically use half your movement to stand up. Becoming prone during your turn automatically ends your turn.
- Turned: Turned creatures will not dodge, as it is not implemented as an action.
- Wet: New condition. Prevents the character from burning (e.g. from Searing Smite) and grants resistance to fire damage, but also makes the creature vulnerable to lightning and cold damage.