Long-time players may recognize this is a well talked about topic from years ago. With the coming of Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition, though, there has been a wave of new players to enjoy the series. Inevitably they will at some ask the question all RPGers ask themselves: what class should I play?
Anyone who has done a little poking around has surely come across the Ranger/Cleric, but the allure of the class takes some explanation.
What’s the difference between the Ranger/Cleric and Fighter/Cleric?
The popularity of the Ranger/Cleric comes from both an exploit in the game’s engine and also some legitimate rule limitations of multiclass fighters that make the difference between that and a Ranger/Cleric less signficant (in favor of the Ranger).
In an un-modded game, multiclass Fighters can’t achieve grandmastery with weaponry (5 pips in a proficiency). The explanation for this is that it requires exclusive focus to achieve that, and anyone splitting their time between being a Fighter and something else can’t specialize to that degree. Even if you use a mod to allow that, unless you also use mods to un-nerf grandmastery, it’s not that much of a loss.
(In the original game grandmastery was far less powerful than it should be in PnP, and I definitely recommend using the FixPack to restore that.)
Both the Fighter/Cleric and Ranger/Cleric are limited to cleric weapons, can wear any armor, get the same HP/level, and gain warrior high level abilities in TOB. Fighters will level slightly faster, but Rangers get two free pips in two-weapon fighting, can use stealth, and get Druid spells.
The biggest difference between the two is the spells. Ranger/Clerics are only supposed to gain access to level 3 Druid spells like a Ranger (plus Cleric spells), but up until a patch instead gained access to all Druid spells as well as all Cleric spells in their Cleric spellbook.
UPDATE: verified from a comment below. As of patch 1.3, Ranger/Clerics no longer get the entire Druid spellbook and now correctly only get Druid spell levels 1-3 as a Ranger should. This can be reset by editing the game config file to restore the previous functionality outlined in this article. (Changing the line Ranger Cleric Spells line from 1 to 0. See below in comments.)
There are a couple very potent Druid spells that, particularly in a Ranger/Cleric’s arsenal, are very powerful. Here are a few:
- Ironskins – This spell functions very similarly to the Mage’s Stoneskin spell, meaning physical attacks do no damage for a given number of hits when this spell is active. This is useful but less impressive on a pure Druid since it’s a less offensive build. For a Ranger/Cleric, this allows you to become one of the best tanks in the game since you’re already heavily-armored and have high HP.
- Insect Plague – The ultimate mage-stopper spell. They’ll continuously take damage and be utterly unable to cast spells.
- Call Woodland Beings – This summons a nymph who can cast a few powerful healing spells, including Heal and Mass Cure. Great for between battles to restore your party without using valuable spell slots.
- Summon Fire Elemental – Good for tanking, solid damage, and better than the Mage spell of the same name because there’s no chance of it turning hostile against you.
So in summary you’re a powerful warrior with far better tanking skills than a single class Cleric or Druid, and you have access to the entire divine spell collection. Between combat, stealth, and your wide array of spells you’re equipped for almost any situation, which makes the class great for soloing and large parties alike.
Even with the patch that removes the Ranger/Cleric’s ability to get all Druid spells in addition to the Cleric spells, it’s still a powerful class. See comparisons of builds below.
The Dual Class Ranger/Cleric
You can also gain the complete mix of Druid and Cleric spellbooks through dual classing if you’d rather progress through the Cleric levels faster. Originally it was thought that you need to be a high enough level Ranger (8) to get spells before dualing for this to work, but I’ve dualed at level 7 before and still got Druid spells as a Cleric thereafter. (Prior to the patch or in the original BG trilogy.)
Dual classing a Ranger to Cleric at level 9 is efficient because it’s the last level that a warrior class receives 10HP/level; after that it’s a reduced amount. At level 13 warriors receive another 0.5 attacks per round — it’s always nice to have more attacks. The problem with level 13 is that it will take a lot of the game to regain the Ranger powers from the dual class, so you’ll be a single-classed priest for much of Shadows of Amn.
The only advantage of dualing at level 7 Ranger is that you start Baldur’s Gate 2 at that level Ranger, so if you dual immediately at the start of the game you’ll have your Ranger powers back by the end of the first dungeon (or very shortly thereafter).
What you gain with the dual class:
The dual class is advantageous because you’ll grow your spell power much quicker by not having to split experience two ways for the rest of the game, and Clerics get the second best THAC0 progression so your combat abilities won’t fall too far behind. Higher cleric levels mean access to high level spells sooner as well as more potent turning undead.
What you lose with the dual class:
What you’ll lose with the dual class is access to having both warrior and priest high level ability pools, and you’ll end up with slightly worse THAC0 (6 versus 0).
It’s essentially a choice of whether you want to be primarily a priest with extra combat powers, or a dedicated fighter with divine spells. Having access to the Fighter’s whirlwind high level abilities, hardiness, and others can increase battle power. However, if you prefer having more potent spells for buffing yourself and your party and would rather have higher level spells (and more of them) sooner, the dual is ideal.