As Edders Sheeran the bard in Baldur’s Gate 3, I’ve come to realise I’m a jack of all trades. I do a bit of bow, a bit of sword, a bit of plucking the lute and buffing my pals with a nice song. My greatest strength, though, lies outside of combat in the arena known as “conversation”. Seriously, I’ve played for around 30 hours now and haven’t lost a single chat skillcheck. At first I loved being a master of chats, but ever since I played some co-op with my pals using a less charismatic dude, I’ve found Edders Sheeran’s unbeatable gob a bit… deflating?
I won’t pretend to fully understand why I seemingly can’t lose conversation skillchecks as a bard, but it definitely has something to do with the way my points were allocated by the machine. My charisma is off the charts and, I think, my origin story mixed with my proficiency points seem to add even greater ammunition to my dice rolls. It’s got to the point where it’s actually a bit silly. I could have a skill check with someone and the difficulty level be like, five, and I’ll just casually roll a 20 and feel nothing but a bit of a prick.
It’s been interesting playing an entirely different character with my co-op pals Dan and Dan (yes, they both have the same name and it can be problematic, although not as problematic as my other mate who’s also called Ed). With them, I’m playing an orc monk and/or barbarian depending on whether I opt for a bit of a shift. In short, I’m playing as a big doofus who likes to smash things with either his fists or an axe and doesn’t take too well to a meaningful conversation. Deception to my orc is to do a big war cry and coat the person opposite with spittle.
Even if I’m not the one initiating the chats, both of the Dans also have characters who aren’t perfect in conversation. Our elves and drows and orcs occasionally slip up. One of the Dans doesn’t care for the story at all, really. So, there’s no stopping him from picking the bottom dialogue option 99.9% of the time (the last 0.01% is when we literally scream at him not to do so), which – as everyone knows – is the equivalent of “Attack this person” or “Proceed to coat their ankles in warm piss”.
Not that I don’t enjoy my Dark Urge times with Edders Sheeran the bard, but I just find my co-op sessions more of a thrill. They make conversations feel more natural, where there’s an actual sense of risk as you try to dupe someone, where the flick of a dice roll represents your character barfing out something awful or the flash of inspiration that comes with fabricating a convincing fib.
I do understand there’s satisfaction to be had in roleplaying the charismatic bard who can talk himself out of any situation. And I’d be lying if I said it’s not been nice to secure a playthrough – despite the urge to slaughter – where each of my successful chat rolls ensures that I’ve successfully picked the lock of every major character’s secure feelings vault. So much so, it feels like each conversation is an easy ride towards each character’s true ending. I get security clearance. A horn I can blow to call in backup, free of charge. The keys to the manor. I am Adrian Chiles’ Guardian column, I simply don’t miss. I am DJ Khaled reclining on a matte black Ford Mustang, all I do is win.
Whenever I play with my pals, though, I relish the chaos of Dan’s unhinged dialogue choices and the terrible conversational skills of our respective characters. It’s nice to lose and know for a fact that there’s going to be a dreadful ripple effect waiting for us down the line. And what’s even better is not learning from each loss. My orc will probably remain a doofus, Dan will remain unhinged, and the D&D machine calculating our odds in the background is a merciless hunk of code, not a pliable human. Losing makes for funnier stories and more dramatic retellings down the pub with your mates. Who wants a bard who only sings of success, eh?