In the rare times I’ve had, well, the time to actually play Dungeons & Dragons, I’ve never played a Warlock. I usually go for some form of Ranger, or a more traditional caster class. But in my many years adjacent to the biggest TTRPG around, I’ve heard the rumors about Eldritch Blast being the D&D equivalent of bringing a shotgun to a swordfight. But it’s taken Baldur’s Gate 3 to make me realise just how true that is.
Eldritch Blast, for those unfamiliar, is a cantrip D&D Warlocks start the game with. And for those unfamiliar with that terminology, a cantrip is a spell in D&D that can be cast an unlimited number of times between long rests—unlike traditional spells, which require spending one of your character’s limited number of spell slots, and those are only recovered during rest. The more powerful the spell, the smaller amount of spell slots you usually have to use them, so cantrips are, for the most part, usually pretty minor in the grand scheme of all things Dungeoning and/or Dragoning. Clerics have Sacred Flame—which feels more like a Sacred Tickle in my experience with it in Baldur’s Gate 3 so far—and Wizards have Fire Bolt, for example. And Warlocks have Eldritch Blast: 1d10 force damage in the form of a magical laser beam. Sounds basic enough!
It’s been handy to have as I’ve explored the worlds above, below, and beyond across the Sword Coast in Larian’s new sequel to the legendary CRPG series Baldur’s Gate. Although I’m playing a Paladin myself, their party in Baldur’s Gate 3 includes the Human Warlock Wyll, a dashing rogue who’s made himself into a hero through a pact with a demon named Mizora. He’s great! Funny, charming, but for as much as I love Wyll for his character and story, I also love him equally as much because he is my aforementioned shotgun in Baldur’s Gate 3's many, many sword fights. He has other spells—Hex is a great debuff, Hunger of Hadar is fun with a crowd—but my buddy Wyll? He is my walking, talking Eldritch Blast turret.
As a Warlock levels up in D&D—and in Baldur’s Gate 3, which is largely based on the 5th edition ruleset with a few tweaks—Eldritch Blast goes from solid cantrip to one of the funniest, most powerful tools in their kit. At 5th, 11th, and 17th level (Baldur’s Gate 3's progression caps at level 12), they gain the ability to fire two, three, and four beams at once respectively, which can all be aimed at one or split between multiple targets. They can also take several Eldritch Invocations to make it even better. Agonizing Blast adds extra damage in the form of the Warlock’s Charisma stat modifier to each beam, and that’s always good. Where the Eldritch Blast of D&D 5e and the Eldritch Blast of Baldur’s Gate 3 truly marry the systems of tabletop and video game is with Repelling Blast, which gives each beam in Eldritch Blast the chance to send the target flying backwards up to 10 feet. And if there’s anything that’s better at judicious murder in either Dungeons & Dragons or the physics-happy gameplay mechanics of Baldur’s Gate 3, it’s fall damage. In a game where shoving someone off a cliff is just as valid a combat maneuver as a sword strike or a mighty spell, Eldritch Blast becomes the go-to for trolling Warlocks across Faerun.
Right now in my playthrough of Baldur’s Gate 3, Wyll is level seven, so every turn of combat he can do, depending on rolls, about 25 damage across one or two targets, and have a chance at either pushing them further away from him and the other squishier members of my party or right off a cliff to their doom, for free in perpetuity, from up to 120 feet away. It has saved my ass more than any successful persuasion check or martial skill at arms from my Paladin ever could. And most of all, it’s fun. Eldritch Blast isn’t good because it’s a low-cost, high damage spell, although it is that. Eldritch Blast is good because it’s a marriage between the statistical crunch of Dungeons & Dragons combat and the storytelling fun of its roleplay.
I remember it for when Wyll has sniped zealous cultists about to down my Paladin as we hold the line to allow some prisoners to escape their base. I remember it for the times my party found itself surprised by the arrival of enemy reinforcements with most of our resources depleted, only for Wyll to nuke them before they could even move into range. I remember it for the time when, while infiltrating that aforementioned cultist base, I accidentally found myself facing the ire of its prison warden—who I had not realized was a full two levels higher than anyone in my party. Combat started, she took initiative, and nearly beat most of the group into an inch of their life in a single turn. Wyll was the first to go of our group, and he promptly blasted her through the window of her tower and careening to her death in the chasm outside it. Eighty hit points don’t mean anything to the power of gravity!
So congratulations, Warlocks: I finally recognize how right you all are. As I gather my party and venture forth into Baldur’s Gate 3, I’ll be keeping Wyll and his handy cantrip by my side. And I might just roll a Warlock the next time I actually have time to play physical D&D, to boot.
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