Baldurs Gate for people who don't play dnd


Baldur’s Gate 3 is a wonderful RPG built using the rules for 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons. If you don’t play the tabletop RPG, there are few things that you may find confusing or opaque. A general understanding of these topics will make the game more accessible.

I’ll briefly summarize some of these concepts so that you’re better equipped to play the game and succeed. I won’t cover everything in great depth because the intent here is to quickly get you up to speed, and in many cases the mechanics fade into the background because there’s a computer handling things.

For more specifics on any given concept, see the Baldur’s Gate 3 Wiki.

If playing Baldur’s Gate 3 is getting you excited and you want to try real Dungeons and Dragons, we have guidance on How to Play D&D both as an article series and as 4-part podcast series.

Dice, Success, Failure

Dungeons and Dragons uses dice as a randomizer. Many other games have a hit/miss chance mechanism (XCOM, the early Fallout games, many tactical RPGs, Morrowind, etc.) which is calculated and handled by the computer. Dungeons and Dragons is traditionally played at a table and uses dice instead.

When attempting something difficult in the game, you’ll frequently see a pop-up window which shows a “d20”, a 20-sided die. You’ll click on this die to roll it, then the game will add your modifiers to calculate the result. Next, the game will compare your result to the target number (the “DC” or “Difficult Class”). If the result of your roll meets or exceeds the target number, you have succeeded!

Screenshot of a skill check

If you roll a 20 on the d20 (a “natural 20”) you automatically succeed. Conversely, if you roll a 1 on the d20 (a “natural 1”), you automatically fail. This doesn’t apply to the tabletop version of Dungeons and Dragons, but Baldur’s Gate 3’s are slightly different.

The d20 is also used to calculate hits and misses when attacking in combat, but this is obscured to speed things along. When you prepare to attack a creature or use an ability which would require it to roll a save, the game will instead show a percentage chance for your action to succeed.

In addition, dice with other numbers of sides are used to calculate things like damage from a weapon or spell. For example, the damage of a Fire Bolt for a 1st-level wizard is “1d10”, meaning “one 10-sided die”, and the damage range listed for the spell is 1-10. If you don’t care about the dice, look at the “1-10” part.

You usually won’t need to worry about the dice, but many damaging effects will deal damage using multiple dice, which naturally creates a bell curve, so damage from such sources will have a meaningful average damage. For example: Fireball deals 8-48 damage (8d6), which averages to 28. You can expect to deal somewhere around 28 damage, but it may be much higher or lower.


I hate the word “feat” because it’s not a word that people commonly use, so don’t feel silly if you don’t know what it means. A “feat” is a special talent that your character has. Feats can be very powerful if you select one that suits your character well, but you can always choose Ability Score Improvement every time you’re offered a feat if you’d prefer to avoid the complexity.



These are spellcasters’ at-will magic options. You can use them without limit. It’s a good idea to have at least one cantrip which deals damage if you’re a “full spellcaster” (cleric, druid, sorcerer, warlock, wizard).


Some spells require “Concentration”. Effectively, the caster needs to commit some mental space to maintaining the spell. You can only concentrate on a single spell at a time.

Think of it like having a song stuck in your head. You don’t actually have to do anything. It just kind of hangs out taking up mental space.

If you cast a second spell which requires Concentration, the previous spell immediately ends. Spells which require Concentration are often very powerful and have ongoing effects like Wall of Fire, so you need to be careful not to accidentally end a spell early.

Casters concentrating on a spell can lose Concentration if they’re damaged, with a higher chance to lose concentration as the amount of damage increases. This means that players concentrating on spells should be careful to defend themselves, and when you encounter enemy spellcasters you can often cause them trouble by damaging them even if the damage is minor because they may still lose Concentration.

Spell Slots

Dungeons and Dragons is a game where mortal beings have access to incredibly powerful magic. The way that the game keeps wizards from instantly dominating the world is by limiting how many spells spellcasters can cast before needing to rest.

You may be familiar with the concept of “mana” from many other games. D&D doesn’t use that. Instead, spellcasters get magical ammunition called “spell slots”.

Spell slots have a level ranging from 1 to 9, and you gain more spell slots as your spellcaster gains levels. Yes, it’s confusing that spells have a level, your character also has a level, and the spell levels don’t line up with your character’s level.

You can use a spell slot to cast any spell that you know or that you have prepared of the same spell level or lower. A higher-level spell slot will frequently make your spell more powerful, such as by dealing more damage or healing more hit points.


Initiative and The Turn Order

In combat, turn order is determined at random. Each participant rolls a d20 (see Dice, above) and adds their Dexterity Modifier. Participants then take their turn in descending order. If you have a high Dexterity Modifier, you’re more likely to go early in the turn order.

Everyone gets one turn in a “round”, then the turn order repeats.

Your Turn: Action, Bonus Action, Reaction

On your turn, you can move and take an Action and a Bonus Action.

Your Action is the biggest part of your turn. This is typically when you’ll attack, cast a spell, or do something else. You’ll use your Action on nearly every turn in combat.

Your Bonus Action (called “bonus” because you need something special that allows you to use it) won’t be used every turn by many characters. A Bonus Action allows you to do something small, such as casting certain spells or using Pommel Strike or Shove.

In addition, your character can take a Reaction when certain things happen. You get one Reaction which resets at the beginning of your character’s turn, and you generally won’t use your Reaction every round.


If your whole party can avoid being noticed until you initiate combat, your enemies may be “Surprised”. If they’re Surprised, they don’t act on the first round of combat. This effectively gives your entire party a free turn before enemies get to retaliate, which is a massive advantage.


Space and movement in Baldur’s Gate 3 are measured in meters. Creatures are free to take actions at any point in their movement, and you’re not obligated to use all of your movement in a given turn.

If you can’t get to where you want to go, you can take the “Dash” action to move your speed again.

In addition, everyone can Jump as a Bonus Action, which always costs three meters of your speed but will give you more distance than that with a total scaling based on your Athletics score which is modified both by your Strength score, can be something you’re proficient in, and can be further modified by items. At a base ability score of 10 which gives a +0 modifier (meaning this is roughly “average”) and with no other modifiers, Jump costs 3m and has a range of 5m. This deviates from the tabletop rules, but it works great in BG3.

Reach, Opportunity Attacks, and the “Safety Doughnut”

Almost every creature that can make a melee attack has a “reach” which measures how far away they can make a melee attack with whatever they’re using. Some creatures have naturally larger reach, and certain weapons (polearms, etc.) can also extend a creature’s reach.

If an enemy moves from inside a creature’s reach to outside of a creature’s reach, they provoke an “Opportunity Attack”, allowing that creature to attack the moving enemy as a Reaction.

Moving within a creature’s reach is totally safe. I lovingly refer to this zone of relative safety as the “Safety Doughnut”. This is not an official rules term.


That should give you enough information to get going. The in-game tutorial pop-ups will explain things as you go, giving you a better understanding of the game as you play.