Much of the joy in writing about Baldur’s Gate 3 has been seeing its players’ absolutely hairbrained tactics play out. It’s a Dungeons & Dragons tradition old as time to mash rules together in unique and interesting ways, like one player sneaking 15,000 gold into a boss’s pockets then hitting them with an otherwise terrible magic mace, or another minmaxing a monk into a 240 damage-per-turn monster.
This is all very much intended, and something that Larian Studios’ founder and CEO Swen Vincke has been celebrating too. Vincke spoke on the topic during an interview with Dungeons & Dragons earlier this week. “We try to make our systems intuitive … if you look at our video games one after the other, we do more and more and more of that. Everybody knows about the Owlbear now—it’s heavy.”
Vincke’s referring to the ‘Owlbear off the top rope’ combo. Players were wildshaping into an Owlbear, casting (or drinking a potion of) Enlarge, and jumping from a high ledge onto an unsuspecting victim. Enlarge brought the Owlbear’s weight to 5005kg, which scaled absurdly with height, producing 800-damage blows that could oneshot most of the dragons from D&D 5e’s monster manual.
Vincke also shouted-out YouTuber Okoii’s great Four Halfling Barbarians video as another example. “We put those systems in there for you to abuse them in that sense—our thing really is: ‘bring that level of systemic freedom, and marry that with narrative, and make that work in all cases’ … that’s really the focus of how we approach [game design].”
I recently had a similar throwing-based buzz of excitement when, about a hundred hours into my playthrough, I realised that my Bear Heart Karlach was strong enough to yeet everyone in my party. I promptly used her to toss the entire group up onto a higher ledge, which I would have otherwise burned Misty Steps on.
Vincke also mentioned his own experience with the game’s interlocking systems, when he used the Gaseous Form spell to sneak through a pipe: “That was not pre-scripted at all, but the rule was that you had to be a tiny creature to get through a pipe. So I went to the system’s designer, and went ‘If I’m a cloud… surely?’ He looked at me, and said ‘I don’t know?’ But normally if [the system designers] did their job, I guess so. So I went through [the pipe] and went ‘Yay!’ like a child.”
Vincke also gives another anecdote about streamer Luality, who sent him a video of her sick execution of a boss in Act 1. “There’s a moment where there’s like a big hammer coming out of the sky, and you get crushed when you’re under it, and you get killed. You can control it with a lever … she put herself on the spot where the hammer was gonna come down, the boss was standing next to her. She dropped a healing potion on the floor, and then she shot the lever.
“The lever is triggered, the hammer comes down—killing her and the boss, but it also destroys the healing potion … the healing affects her, it doesn’t affect the boss because it’s mechanical … it’s beautiful, I love it.”
Absolutely galaxy-brained stuff. I’ve come nowhere close to the level of immersive sim nonsense other players have shown since the game’s release, instead focusing more on the sweaty, rules-based minmaxing side of things (great weapon master represent). But Vincke’s celebration of these stories is a sign of the thought put into Baldur’s Gate 3’s design—there’s room for both barrelmancer mavericks and multiclassing maestros to play in the space.
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