As is the case with many Dungeons & Dragons groups, my band of outcasts fell apart. I’ve lamented the loss over the last few months, but now, I finally have a piece of that joy back thanks to Baldur’s Gate 3.
This comes as little surprise considering Larian Studios’ epic is based on the famed tabletop role-playing game’s fifth edition, referred to as 5e. As it’s been for many, D&D was my first role-playing experience, and I quickly fell in love. The game isn’t without its faults, garnering criticism for issues like using racist tropes and for parent company Wizards of the Coast being generally shitty. Still, every week I couldn’t help but look forward to Thursday when our group would get together to take down some bugbears, explore a cavern, or make a dangerous deal with a dragon. There’s a sense of community in having a standing date with friends and loved ones, something I was keen to get back following strict pandemic lockdowns.
But people have lives. With the coronavirus still lurking, fellow players would regularly need to bow out due to sickness or quarantine. And the parents in our squad had extra responsibilities to contend with. So some weeks we’d be missing a party member who was, um, off with that one character we met before, or, um, drank a bit too much ale at the tavern. Sometimes we wouldn’t meet at all. Finally, our Dungeon Master moved back to Australia and that was it, our death saving throw failed one too many times.
Baldur’s Gate 3 gives back some of what I missed in D&D
I was somewhat apprehensive to dive into Baldur’s Gate 3, worried my expectations were set too high or that it wouldn’t be the experience I hoped for. These are the same concerns that have kept me from looking into forming or joining an online tabletop campaign, worried that it wouldn’t match the energy of my last group and scared that, if it did, I would have my hopes dashed once again if it fell apart.
But Baldur’s Gate 3 is removed enough from the real thing that it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to replace a true TTRPG group. That’s almost certainly why I’ve been more satisfied with my Baldur’s Gate 3 experience as a TTRPG replacement than someone who is still in the middle of a campaign (or several).
Instead, it satisfies my desire to get lost in a fantasy world where I can speak to wolves and cast spells on anyone who wrongs me, without having to worry that the realities of life might get in the way of this new joy I’ve found. I love getting caught up in the fantasy worlds of D&D and Baldur’s Gate. I get lost in crafting Capital L Lore, as Kotaku Staff Writer Kenneth Shepard called it. Baldur’s Gate 3 lets me feel like I get to finish the story I started with friends in some ways, while letting me branch out and try new things in others. I can still live out my Druid fantasy, but this time I’ve chosen a different subclass, for example. On top of once again getting lost in the role-playing I’ve been missing, I’ve now made plans to get in some BG3 multiplayer with folks from my former tabletop posse, including a Human Sorcerer, a Half-Orc Barbarian, and a Half-Elf Archer.
It still isn’t the same, however, and I don’t think a largely solo video game could truly replace my D&D experience. Multiplayer in a video game doesn’t quite match having a day of the week always dedicated to meeting up with friends, and there’s no DM carefully crafting the perfect encounter for the group’s level or playstyle. Baldur’s Gate 3 doesn’t let me describe an intuitive way to get around an obstacle, nor can I so freely draw upon the ideas of my fellow players. And why is there no damn use for rope in this game? Rope is an essential item with infinite functions.
No, it isn’t the same. Then again, Baldur’s Gate 3 would never up and move to Melbourne on me.