In this Baldur’s Gate 3 Combat Mechanics Guide – How to Succeed in Combat, we’ll be covering all the details that go into combat. Things like Initiative, Advantage and Disadvantage, Spell Slots, Attacks, Armour and more! If you’ve been having a tough time in combat, then this video is for you!
Baldur’s Gate 3 Combat Guide
Baldur’s Gate 3’s combat can be quite complex to new players, and those who are unfamiliar with 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, which is what the game is modeled after. You might be wondering why your hit chance is so low, or why your spells never seem to deal damage. In this Baldur’s Gate 3 Combat Guide, we’ll show you what to do, and give you some tips on things you probably shouldn’t do. Let’s start with Initiative as this is the first thing that happens every combat.
Baldur’s Gate 3 Combat Guide – Initiative
The first thing that happens in Baldur’s Gate 3 combat, is that each character makes what is called an Initiative Roll, which determines the turn order of each character. Once this has been completed, and the order established, this order will not change for the rest of combat, except when a character is incapacitated, downed or killed.
The Dexterity Modifier of each character is added to their Initiative Roll, so generally speaking characters that have higher Dexterity will go first, like Rogues and Rangers, but this is not always the case since there is still a roll made, and they may roll poorly, while other characters roll highly.
Going first in Baldur’s Gate 3 combat is very important, just like in Divinity Original Sin 2, because you can often eliminate or incapacitate an enemy or two before they attack you preventing a lot of damage to your party. One great way to do this is by Surprising enemies, because Surprised enemies won’t gain an Action on their turn. You can Surprise enemies quite often by Hiding and attacking them before they see you.
Baldur’s Gate 3 Combat Guide – Actions, Bonus Actions and Movements
Each character gains one Action, one Bonus Action and a certain amount of Movement per turn in Baldur’s Gate 3 Combat, except of course if they were Surprised. If you’ve played Pillars of Eternity 2‘s turn-based mode then you’ll notice similarities almost immediately. Each character can Move up to a certain amount based on their Movement Speed, and they can Move at any time on their turn, regardless of what Actions or Bonus Actions they’ve already used.
Actions are usually Attacks, Weapon Actions (found on Weapons), or Spells, but can also include Throwing an object or an enemy, Hiding, Dashing (which extends your movement), Disengaging from an enemy, or specific Class Features.
Bonus Actions are usually specific Weapon Actions that deal less damage but have some other effect, Shoving, or Dipping your weapon in a substance. However, they can also be Spells and Class Features as well. Good players will find a way to make use of both their Action and Bonus action each turn in order to maximize the impact their character has.
There are ways to gain more Actions and Bonus Actions, such as the Fighter’s Action Surge, the Thief’s Fast Hands, or the Haste Spell. Pay attention when given a choice to select Spells or Class Features, and note whether or not something is an Action or Bonus Action. This can help you plan better what you can do in a given turn.
How Hit Chance is Calculated
Alright, so you’ve figured out Actions, Bonus Actions, and Movement, but you keep Missing your Attacks in combat. In this section of our Baldur’s Gate 3 Combat Guide we’ll discuss why you might be Missing a lot, and how you can improve your chances of landing Attacks in combat.
When making an attack you will roll a 20-sided die called the D20 and it will be rolled against the Armour Class (AC) of the enemy. Enemies won’t have lower than 10 Armour Class, which means that you will at least need to roll a 10 in order to hit even the weakest enemies in the game. This means by default, factoring in no bonuses or Modifiers you would have roughly a 55% chance to hit an enemy with 10 AC since rolling a 10 or higher will all be hits. This is not a very high chance in general, but there are ways to improve this.
Melee weapons use your Strength Modifier when making Attack Rolls, and Ranged Weapons use Dexterity. These are added to the D20 that is rolled in when an Attack is made and help improve your chances of landing your Attacks. For instance, if you have 16 Strength and make a melee attack, or 16 Dexterity when making a Ranged Attack, you will now add +3 to your roll, so now you only need to roll a 7 or higher, giving you a 70% chance to hit an enemy with 10 AC. You can see this is already much higher.
Note that 17 Strength or 17 Dexterity gives you the same Modifier as 16 Strength and 16 Dexterity (+3), because you only improve your Modifiers at every even number. Pay attention to your Ability Scores during Character Creation, when selecting Feats and choosing equipment, and aim for an even number on your Strength or Dexterity, whichever you use for attacking.
Finesse Weapons can use either your Strength or Dexterity Modifier, so if you wish to Melee & Range Attack effectively on a martial character you will want high Dexterity. If you are a Strength character, you should try to avoid making ranged attacks if you can melee instead, and if you are a Dexterity character you should avoid melee attacks with anything other than Finesse Weapons. The one exception is Monks, who can use Dexterity regardless of the Weapon they are using as long (as it’s not two-handed).
Improving Attack Rolls
There are more things that help to improve your Attack Rolls though, and the next one is Proficiency. Each character in the game will have Proficiency with different Weapons and Armour based off Race and Class choices, and using a Weapon you have Proficiency with will grant you +2 to your Attack Rolls on Balanced and Tactician, and +4 on Explorer. As your character gains levels this will increase to +3 at level 5, or +5 on Explorer, and +4 at level 9 (+6) on Explorer. Note this is the same for all characters in the game, regardless of Race, Class, or Multiclassing.
This means at the beginning of the game if you make a melee Attack Roll with 16 Strength, or a Ranged Attack Roll with 16 Dexterity AND you are Proficient with the weapon, you will add +5 to your Attack Roll making it so you only need to roll a 5 or higher to land your attacks. That is an 80% to hit against an enemy with 10 Armour Class. You can see how this is already better.
As your character gains levels and improves their Ability Modifiers their chance to hit will naturally improve, but so will enemy Armour Class, so you will need to find more ways to improve your chances of success. So let’s get into those.
How to Improve your Hit Chance
Besides having a good Ability Modifier with the type of weapon you are using, and making sure you have Proficiency in the Weapon Type you are using, there are other things you should and shouldn’t do in combat to improve your chances of hitting an enemy. We’ll go over this next in our Baldur’s Gate 3 Combat Guide.
Make sure you’re not wearing Armour you are NOT Proficient with, because this penalizes your Attack Rolls severely by giving you Disadvantage on your Attack Rolls. Disadvantage means that you roll your D20 twice, and you take the lower of the two values. Rolling 2 dice makes you much more likely to roll a lower number with one Die, and then you will Miss when you are forced to use it.
Make sure to upgrade your equipment. As you gain more equipment in the game, you will find +1 and +2 versions of Weapons which will add +1 or +2 to not only your Damage Rolls, but also to your Attack Rolls. This lowers the number you need to reach when attacking an enemy in melee or at range with said weapon, in order to trigger a hit.
Bless is also a fantastic way to boost your hit chance early on in the game. This spell improves the Attack Roll of each character effected by +1-+4 on each attack as long as the spellcaster of this spell maintains Concentration on it. It’s best used at the beginning of combat to affect as many turns as possible.
If you are a ranged character, make sure you are not standing next to an enemy when making a Ranged Attack, as this will also give you Disadvantage on your Attack Roll, even if it is against a different enemy who is not near you. Either move away first, risking an Attack of Opportunity, or Disengage and reposition your ranged character instead if possible. Note that Disengage will consume your Action, so you won’t be able to attack, but the enemy can’t make an Attack of Opportunity against you.
Rogues gain Cunning Action: Disengage at level 2, allowing them to Disengage as a Bonus Action, so they can safely move away from melee units and make a Ranged Attack, OR make a Melee Attack and then Disengage and safely move away.
The High Ground
Another thing that Ranged characters should try to do every chance they get, is to try to get above the target they are attacking. Being at a slightly higher elevation than your target will provide you with +2 to your Attack Roll, which will change that 80% into a 90% if the target has 10 AC. Note that attacking targets that are higher than you will apply a -2 penalty instead, so try to avoid this if you can.
Also remember to move up if you’re out of the range of your weapon. Ranged Attack made outside a weapon’s range will also have Disadvantage.
Another great way to improve the chances of Attack Rolls on ranged characters is by being Hidden when you attack. Characters that attack enemies that cannot see them gain Advantage on their attacks, allowing them to roll 2 dice, taking the higher of the two values for their roll. And that’s on top of all the other bonuses like Ability Modifier, Proficiency, and if you’re above your target, they all still get added.
Hiding is an Action which means you cannot do this in Baldur’s Gate 3 Combat and attack in the same turn, but you can begin combat Hidden easily enough, giving you Advantage on your first Attack. It’s much harder for melee units to do this, and generally it’s easier to pull this off from range. Pay attention to the Armor your ranged characters are wearing though, some gives you Disadvantage on Stealth Checks, and that can hamper this tactic tremendously.
Rogues gain Cunning Action: Hide at level 2 also, allowing them to Hide as a Bonus Action, so they can actually Hide in combat easily and then attack with Advantage every turn if handled properly. This is the easiest way to gain Sneak Attack with them, and boosts the likelihood they’ll connect with their attacks at the same time.
Melee Characters operate very differently, and they want to get as close to the enemy as possible when they can so they can get their attacks off. Movement and positioning are a huge part of playing a Melee character, and knowing where to be and when to be there is not always easily understood.
Enemies follow the same rules as the player for the most part, so when positioned next to a ranged enemy for example, these enemies have a Disadvantage on their Attack Rolls, making your party less likely to be hit. You will also have the option to do an Attack of Opportunity if they try to move away, unless they Disengage, but then they won’t be able to attack if they do, which is great.
Moving up to Melee enemies also prevents them from getting to your ranged characters, because of the Attack of Opportunity mechanic, so sometimes your melee characters will intercept enemies instead. Both are valid strategies that you will need to employ depending on what is happening on the battlefield.
And the best way to increase your hit chance against enemies with melee characters, besides the things I’ve already mentioned, is by using Weapon Actions or Class Features against them. For instance, some weapons allow you to set the Off Balance Status Effect by using their Weapon Action, and this makes it so attacks (from anyone) against the target have Advantage.
Attacking Prone enemies grants Advantage to your melee attacks, and some Weapon Actions, Spells and Class Features trigger this effect. Dazing enemies, removes the AC bonus they gain from Dexterity, making them easier to Hit. Sometimes these can be used as Bonus Actions, and you should use them before your Attack Action to improve your chances of landing a Hit.
- Ranger – Ensnaring Strike
- Battle Master (Fighter) – Distracting Strike, Feinting Attack, Trip Attack
- Way of the Open Hand (Monk) – Flurry of Blows: Topple
- Paladin – Thunderous Smite & Bless
- Barbarian – Reckless Attack
- Rogue – Cunning Action: Hide
- Cleric – Bless
Spellcasters work very similarly to ranged characters with some of their spells like: Fire Bolt, Eldritch Blast, and Guiding Bolt. These spells all target the AC of the enemy, and so you will make an Attack Roll when casting them, trying to overcome the Armour of the enemy. However in this case you use your Spellcasting Ability Modifier, which is different for each spellcasting class, instead of your or Dexterity Modifier when adding to your roll. Inflict Wounds also works like this, but is very short ranged spell, so must be cast in melee range. Keep this in mind in Baldur’s Gate 3 Combat.
For instance, if you were a Wizard casting Fire Bolt and you had 16 Intelligence you would add +3 to your Attack Roll, and then your Proficiency Bonus is added, and if you are elevated then you gain +2 to your roll as well.
But not all Spells work this way, and some of them target a specific Ability of an enemy. Like Sacred Flame for instance, which is a Cleric Cantrip that targets the Dexterity ability of a character. In this case the enemy has to make what is called a Saving Throw against your spell, and they must roll 8 + your Spellcasting Ability Modifier + your proficiency bonus, and if they fail then you will deal 1-8 damage. You don’t gain +2 from elevation with these spells, because you are not the one rolling, the enemy is.
There are many Spells in the game that target different Abilities, and you can read what Abilities they target in the description of each spell. You can also hit T on enemies to see what their Ability Scores are, to help you better determine what types of spells you should use. For instance, an enemy is likely to Save against Sacred Flame if they have high Dexterity, since they add their Dexterity Modifier to their Saving Throw making it more likely they will succeed in their Saving Throw.
On the defensive side that remember many of the inverse of these things are true as well. The higher your AC, the less likely it is for you to take damage. The higher your Ability Scores are, the less likely a spell can affect you. If you’re above the enemy, they are more likely to miss. If you are standing near ranged enemies, they will have Disadvantage, and if you’re Prone, they will have Advantage on their melee attacks, etc.
We hope this has given you a better idea of how to tackle Baldur’s Gate 3 Combat. If you want more BG3 guides be sure to check out our Baldur’s Gate 3 Beginners Guide.