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Summary

  • Baldur’s Gate 3
    is based on
    Dungeons & Dragons
    5e but has a maximum level of 12, not the tabletop RPG’s maximum level of 20. Expansion of the level cap is unlikely.
  • Higher-level spells and stronger villains in late-game
    DnD
    make it challenging to continue
    Baldur’s Gate 3
    past level 12 in a video game format.
  • Increasing the level cap would lengthen the game and require extensive planning and development, making it difficult to create an expansion for
    Baldur’s Gate 3
    in the future.



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Baldur’s Gate 3 is based on Dungeons & Dragons 5e, but reaching the maximum level of 20 isn’t possible in this video game version of the beloved tabletop RPG. The Baldur’s Gate 3 level cap is significantly reduced to level 12, which is higher than it was in the early access version of the game but doesn’t hold up against DnD‘s standard. However, players shouldn’t hold onto hope that developer Larian Studios will be increasing the level cap further anytime soon through expansions or DLC.


As a video game version of DnD 5e, it’s impressive just how faithful Baldur’s Gate 3 is to most core concepts and mechanics, but some features from DnD don’t translate well or easily into a video game format. The gap between level caps is only one among the many differences between Baldur’s Gate 3 and DnD, and like most of them, there’s good reason for the decision that was made. If Larian Studios does ever decide to go for a higher maximum level, there will be a lot of challenges that the studio needs to overcome.

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A Higher Level Cap Would Completely Change BG3

Gale, a human wizard in purple robes with flowing hair, and his spectral, glowing counterpart. The human version bears a friendly smile, while the glowing one looks seriously concerned.


Those who’ve taken part in a DnD campaign might already know that the higher a character’s level gets, the stronger the spells that character can access. An interview with Larian’s founder Swen Vincke from PC Gamer details the challenges of making Baldur’s Gate 3 go beyond level 12. From new villains to an even bigger game, a higher level cap would mean that BG3 would essentially have to be made into an entirely new game, as the mechanics of DnD during the late game are quite different from the mechanics that players see implemented in BG3 from early game.

At a first glance, this might still seem like an appealing prospect, as more Baldur’s Gate 3 hardly sounds like a bad thing. In reality, though, the situation isn’t that simple. Higher-level play would be exceptionally difficult to develop and implement in Baldur’s Gate 3, and the quality of the game that was released is definitely in part due to Larian Studios knowing where to draw the lines and focusing on crafting an ambitious but manageable project.


High-Level D&D Spells Would Break Baldur’s Gate 3

Higher-level spells alone make continuing Baldur’s Gate 3 past level 12 difficult. As mentioned in the interview with Vincke, characters become more god-like as DnD progresses, so spells like wish, true resurrection, time stop, and power word kill are so strong that they have incredible effects on the world in which they’re used, a far cry from cantrips and low-level spells that tend to be much simpler in nature. To put that kind of power in a video game format would be incredibly time-consuming and require a lot of planning to implement the results of choosing to use such powerful spells.


Baldur’s Gate 3 already leaves out dispel magic for similar reasons, as considering how the game would change with the ability to widely dismiss magical effects became too troubling during development. Unlike tabletop DnD, there’s no DM to reflexively adapt to world-changing abilities, making including any of them a potential rabbit hole. Trying to replace some spells with simpler, but powerful alternatives could mitigate the damage, but it would make the game feel less like DnD 5e at high-level play than intended.

Stronger Spells Make Balance Hard In Baldur’s Gate 3

A mindflayer, a squidlike organism in Baldur's Gate 3 with tentacles extending from its mouth, reaches out toward the camera.

Encounter balance in Baldur’s Gate 3 has to consider the flexibility of different party compositions, as any fight should be doable with a variety of different characters or classes. At high levels, the tools that a wizard has to conquer a challenging obstacle are more radically different from a fighter’s techniques than ever, throwing a wrench into the works. Stopping short of the most powerful abilities keeps the nature of the playing field a little more even, resulting in a difficulty curve that is less likely to see random spikes depending on character choices for a campaign.


High-level gear also complicates game balance, as martial classes tend to require excellent late-game gear to remain competitive with experienced spellcasters.

In addition, higher-level spells add another layer of difficulty in that the antagonists in the game must remain threatening despite the powerful arsenal that characters have at their disposal. A foe who can’t hold their own against better skill sets is impossible to see as a problem because they’d be easy to defeat. Plus, designing an antagonist who’s that powerful brings even more challenges for the developer, since the plot will change with such a strong villain and increase the required complexity for both the players and the antagonists.

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Even at an actual DnD table, it’s not uncommon for campaigns to end closer to the Baldur’s Gate 3 level 12 mark than the actual cap of level 20. It takes significantly more skill and experience as a DM to juggle the powers of a level 20 party, and finding adequate challenges that remain compelling and fit within the story can be hard. Keeping a group together for that long can be a challenge of its own, and this fundamental issue of length is one that affects Baldur’s Gate 3 as well.

A Level 20 Cap Would Make Baldur’s Gate 3 Even Longer

A Baldur's Gate 3 party standing at the edge of a cliff.


Baldur’s Gate 3 is already massive, and players can invest hundreds of hours in the game. Increasing the level cap would affect both of these aspects, as players would need more opportunities to gain experience. Those who play DnD are likely already familiar with the amount of effort that goes into a campaign that reaches level 20, and that’s where imagination, figurines, reference images, and static maps are usually the extent of immersion in the world of the tabletop game. Transferring that experience into a video game format would be a monumental task for developers.

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Another issue that arises with a higher level cap is the lack of a human dungeon master orchestrating the game as it unfolds. Baldur’s Gate 3 gives plenty of options, but they’re pre-programmed so that the paths are already created to fit players’ possible choices. Aside from being longer, the choices players would have to make would grow, especially with spells like wish that can be applied in a terrifying variety of ways. As a result, the hours needed to beat Baldur’s Gate 3 would increase alongside the time it would take to create an expansion to the game.


Will Baldur’s Gate 3 Have A DLC Expansion?

A drow sorcerer in Baldur’s Gate 3 looks up in shock.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Vincke said in his interview that an expansion to Baldur’s Gate 3 is not currently being worked on, and it’s unlikely that will change moving forward. He left open the possibility that Larian Studios could return and add more content, but after laying out the reasons behind the decision, it makes sense as to why the logistics of creating such an expansion could be a deterrent, even if there’s interest from players and possibly even the development team. At this point, it would be better to assume that there won’t be a BG3 expansion in the future.


As Vincke said, he has other projects for the studio to work on, including a hope to return to the Divinity franchise. He wants the team to have the freedom to try projects but be able to drop them if the idea doesn’t work in practice. It’s possible that the team could craft more adventures in Faerûn, but it’s also possible that the content they create doesn’t end up going in that direction. Understandably, Vincke is hesitant to announce any new projects, although it can be a bit of a disappointment to players who anticipate the next journey from Larian.

For anyone desperate to experience high-level play in Baldur’s Gate 3, there’s always the world of modding. It’s possible to get up to level 30 in Baldur’s Gate 3 thanks to the work put in by dedicated members of the community, taking things significantly further than even the complete arc of tabletop play. Unfortunately, however, most higher-level changes are accomplished through adding extra feature slots rather than implementing complex spells or abilities that aren’t already in the game. It’s also not going to be as balanced as playing the game without mods, although that should obviously come with the territory.


Despite spending years in early access, Baldur’s Gate 3 had a successful launch with its full release, winning acclaim like TGA’s 2023 Game of the Year award. It truly captures the experience of a DnD campaign surprisingly well, but it has limitations that prevent developers from going beyond level 12, a reasonable decision given the mechanics of late-game DnD. Larian Studios does still plan to create more adventures for players to undertake after Baldur’s Gate 3 despite the lack of any current announcements regarding DLC, but it might be best not to count on more to do in Faerûn.

Source: PC Gamer

Baldur’s Gate 3

Developed and published by Larian Studios, Baldur’s Gate 3 is an upcoming role-playing game set to release in August of 2023. Players will create a character to embark on a large-scale journey and can do so solo or cooperatively with a friend. Combat is a turn-based style this time around.

Released
August 31, 2023

Developer(s)
Larian Studios

Publisher(s)
Larian Studios

ESRB
M



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