Baldur’s Gate 3 is an attempt to bring the latest, and perhaps best, Dungeons & Dragons game to the video game world. At the same time, it’s a new chapter in the long legacy surrounding the interplay between the original tabletop RPG and the video gaming hobby. It’s a strange fact, even as a video game Baldur’s Gate 3 One of the strongest arguments over the years has emerged for trying an actual D&D game at the table.
When I was a kid growing up in the 80s, playing D&D wasn’t something you could easily admit to. Beyond the open ridicule you might face from your peers, it had a real chance of getting you banned from some of your friends’ houses. No kidding. Some parents actually believed that D&D was tantamount to actual demon worship, and they didn’t want their kids to have anything to do with you if you played. It was a hobby that came with some serious baggage.
But for those of us who have played, it’s worth the trouble. With several editions, different fantasy worlds, publisher changes, and different creative voices behind the game, D&D has always remained a hobby with enormous potential for creativity, deepening friendships, emergent storytelling, and fun.
Over the years, from SSI Gold Box games like Pool of Radiance, to deeply complex narratives like those in Planescape: Torment, we’ve seen some of the strongest video games rooted in licensing that have provided options for subsequent success. Create an adventure like Neverwinter Nights. It’s highly arguable that the D&D tabletop game helped spawn every fantasy RPG you’ve ever played on screen. It is an impressive game for both tabletop and video game hobbyists.
The core mechanics of D&D are baked deep into the Baldur’s Gate 3 adventure
With Baldur’s Gate 3, Larian Studios takes the torch from BioWare’s previous franchise establishment and launches it to a higher level of acclaim than ever before. Our review is one of many praising the game’s flexibility, narrative and immersion. The final game is a triumph by any definitive or commercial measure, bringing the fantasy and rules of D&D gameplay to a new audience and translating the tabletop experience into a rewarding and nuanced journey.
If you’ve discovered something you like about Baldur’s Gate 3, this is the part of Which Clicks for you D&D itself, or at least the vast flexibility of a true role-playing game.
Many video game RPGs borrow elements from real role-playing games, such as character progression or long-form storytelling. Yet, they stop short of embracing the magic of actually playing the role and shaping the outcome. This is part of the magic of a tabletop role-playing session, in which the gamemaster holds the bones of the story and the players control the story’s main characters; No one knows exactly how it will turn out.
In a video game it’s impossible to emulate perfectly, because there’s no gamemaster to react exuberantly and players are limited in their options. But Baldur’s Gate 3, perhaps more than any other game I’ve ever played, anticipates the weird and clever things a player might try to do. Talk to animals? Sure – every animal in the game has scripted dialogue. Try to steal that critical quest item before the villain uses it in a cutscene? We’ve got you covered. It’s a fascinating effort to give players the flexibility to play the way they want.
Praise for Baldur’s Gate 3 aside, things like this happen all the time in the actual game of D&D. Having played for over 30 years myself, I can’t count the number of times a player in my D&D group came up with a completely outlandish idea that changed the course of an entire story or adventure that I’ll remember for years to come. If the high level of creativity in Baldur’s Gate 3 excites you, a true D&D game is Baycade.
But it’s not just the flexibility of storytelling. Many have noted that Baldur’s Gate 3 has an amazing and enjoyable system that underpins the flow of combat, exploration, and interactions. Again, the Larian team has done a fantastic job of adapting the same systems from the tabletop game. With Baldur’s Gate 3 you won’t have a better tutorial for playing D&D at the table than several dozen hours. From the d20 dice-rolling resolution mechanic to character-leveling to the skills and abilities you use in the game – everything comes from the tabletop. RPG Many of those systems have been tweaked and refined over decades of play, and the current version of D&D is celebrated for its excellence in synthesizing what came before into a more playable form.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is also likely to give you your first look at the mythology of D&D – specifically the Forgotten Realms setting that weaves the game. Decades of growth and development have enriched that setting (considered the core and default setting for most groups), and now there’s a wealth of characters, stories, locations, and terrifying villains to discover. Furthermore, if more Western-centric fantasy isn’t your thing, there’s no shortage of other official (and unofficial) campaign settings to explore. You can take on magical adventures in space with the Spelljammer, a titanic clash of armies and gods in the Dragonlance setting, or skyships and mechanical creatures in the intriguing world of Eberron. There are a variety of D&D settings to explore, and it’s a lot of fun to learn about them, much less set the game in each one.
For players ready to take the leap, the Player’s Handbook offers a great place to start, or get a more comprehensive introduction with the D&D Starter Set.
On the other hand, if Baldur’s Gate 3 worked for you as a role-playing narrative, but you didn’t like the way the combat was handled or you weren’t a fan of the setting, it’s possible that what you’re looking for is. For is one of hundreds of other fantastic tabletop RPGs on the market, exploring all sorts of approaches to gameplay, narrative, and setting. In the last few years, games like Vaesen, Starfinder, The One Ring, Dragonbane, or the Marvel Multiverse RPG offer highly recommended paths to tabletop play, each with unique perspectives.
There’s a good reason Baldur’s Gate 3 has gotten the reception it’s received in recent weeks. It’s an amazing game that deserves to be played, and it’s finally available on both PC and PS5 (and coming soon to Xbox Series X/S). As we speak, or if you’re just playing it and you’re hungry for more, there are other great video game RPGs to explore. But I encourage the idea that this is the perfect time to gather a group of friends, sit down at the table, and create your own adventures. It is a learning process that takes time to fully grasp all the rules, but the best part is that there is no one to judge you. Make up for whatever mistakes you make and keep rolling those dice. I suspect even the talented developers at Larion will be the first to sit around that table and tell you that you really can create your own story.
For some of the best recent tabletop RPG releases, feel free to check out our picks for the best role-playing releases of 2022 and 2021, or explore a wide selection of tabletop recommendations via our Top of the Table hub.