When I sat down to play Baldur’s Gate 3 for the first time, I expected it to feel the way so many other RPGs have felt for me over the years. That nice, comforting list of dialogue options ready-made for me, a socially anxious woman who loves a good set of guidelines when it comes to social interactions. Baldur’s Gate 3 does give you those options, but it also comes with in-depth social mechanics that took me and my anxiety by surprise.
Growing up, video games were my entry into the world of Dungeons & Dragons. They gave me a comforting set of rules to follow and clear options for what to say and how to engage. As I started to play Dungeons & Dragons with friends, the roleplay elements stretched and pressed all my social anxiety buttons, making it quite an adjustment. I thought those sorts of feelings about D&D would stay at the roleplaying table until I made the first choice that earned me a “Lae’zel Disapproves” on the side of my screen.
I Just Want Everyone to Like Me
Everything Changed when I realized I’d see my party react in real-time to all of my choices. As a people pleaser, I want everyone to like me. And yes, that includes imaginary people in video games. I’ve always been an almost comically helpful adventurer, accepting every quest to help anyone who asks. I assumed I’d be the same way in Baldur’s Gate 3, but the game’s extra complexity has made that difficult.
Now, I’m torn between my own instincts and those of my party, between making the non-companion NPCs like me and courting the favor of my fellow adventurers. This game’s layered approach to social interactions and party relationships means that I can’t make everyone like me, and that stresses me out way more than I expected.
Those Approve / Disapprove Reactions Give Me Anxiety
It turns out that most of the companions I’ve got on my team in Baldur’s Gate don’t appreciate my personal approach to adventuring, and it’s stressing me out. Whenever I see my dialogue options, I’m torn between my own instincts and what I’ve learned about how my new friends will react.
I’ve never been great with any D&D alignment other than good. My DM once threatened to change my chaotic neutral character’s alignment if I stopped making her so helpful. Apparently, Astarion, Shadowheart, and Lae’zel would agree with him. Nearly every time I respond with my first instinct, at least one of them disapproves. And even if someone does approve, nine times out of ten, someone else doesn’t.
How on earth am I supposed to make all of them happy when they disagree like this? Even if I carefully filter a response through how I think Astarion will feel about it, Shadowheart is bound to disapprove. Honestly, it’s a social anxiety nightmare, always knowing how the people around you feel about your choices and what you say.
Dice Rolls Force Me Out of My Comfort Zone
I wasn’t prepared for how failing checks in Baldur’s Gate 3 would make me feel. While in many other RPGs, you pick a reaction from the list, and that’s that. The dice rolls in Baldur’s Gate 3 add complexity to how you can interact with people. If I try my usual nice guy route to try and talk down a hostile party but fail my diplomacy check, that option is no longer on the table. I’m forced to try something else, and that something isn’t always the friendliest one.
In one memorable instance, I tried to convince Lae’zel’s captors to let her go, but failed my role because my character’s charisma score was garbage. As a result, I wasn’t able to get out of that interaction without choosing someone to fight–either Lae’zel, who I knew was a companion option or the random tieflings who had her in a cage. Alas, my dice role forced me to kill some innocents, something I generally try to avoid whenever possible.
The story in Baldur’s Gate 3 is only yours to tell in the way a game of Dungeons & Dragons is–you’re at the mercy of the dice and the rest of your party in a way that captures the in-person experience of TTRPGs much better than any prior iteration I’ve played. Even, it seems, right down to the fact that playing it gives me a good dose of social anxiety that I’m nevertheless more than willing to work through in order to enjoy the best parts of the game.
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