Game Pile: The Romances of Baldur’s Gate 2

This script is built on the original article Gettin’ Smoochy In Athkatla, expanded to include the four new romances from the Enhanced Edition, and made watchable/listenable. Script as follows!

Once upon a time, we had romances in videogames, and they were dreadful, and we liked them that way. But before we had the first introduction of videogames and romance in the form of Mass Effect 2 there were earlier, stranger, proto-texts, particularly this strange game built around ‘reading’ and ‘dungeons and dragons’ called Baldur’s Gate 2. This game had everything and by that I mean it had an engine that could do a lot of text prompts, and therefore, it wound up featuring almost everything you could imagine a non-typing text parser doing, attempted in its big wonky interface of the infinity engine.

And that included smoochin‘.

But you know what, nobody, nobody on the whole internet ever, has ever written down whether or not these romances were good. What’s more, when I wrote about Baldur’s Gate 2 many moons ago, I mentioned offhandedly some details about the romances but never really touched on what they were like, in the game itself, as game content. That’s a real oversight on my part! When a game like this, a classic has something like that in it, surely it’s prime to look at in Smooch Month. So let’s, shall we?

Content Warning: Sexual assault, abandonment, misogyny.

What? That content warning? Uh, well. Well. I uh.

See, Baldur’s Gate 2 came out in 2000, and it got an enhanced edition in 2013. It would be ridiculous of me to pretend that the first version, that I spent years and years playing and replaying did not deserve some kind of deliberate primacy in my mind, and with that comes the potential risk of being seen as The Way Things Were Done. There’s definitely a priority in my mind for the way the game was, and I know that prioritisation means that there’s a risk, viewing all the romances in the game now, that I treat the newer characters as less interesting inherently because I haven’t got embarrassing usenet posts fanficcing them with my protagonist. ‘I can wirelessly download and play Baldur’s Gate 2 on a tablet in my backyard’ was the dividing line between the past and the future that made Penny Arcade’s Tycho realise he was never getting a hover board. And that comic is nine years old now and it’s from people who could definitely be considered an example of Public Boomerfication (receiving).

There is content both new and old for discussion; both the Enhanced Edition’s new romances and the original’s written for fear that Lorraine Williams would appear out of nowhere and smack you for trying to steal Buck Rogers money out of her mouth by explaining what THAC0 was to a pre-php webforum. As it was, the content has not been contended and so I must be content to continue this content within that content as content despite ensuing contentious discontent for tender contention.

And now, ranking them in reverse order of Best to Anomen, here are the romance options that you have available to you if you were a Serious D&D Roleplayer looking for a Game with Meaningful Romances and weren’t going to mod in Solaufein or Kelsey.

Best Girl: Viconia

We start out strong with the voice of Grey Delisle behind a cruel, vindictive, petty and demeaning drow woman who will spend the entire game dunking on you until and even after you’re dead, and she is the best. Viconia is a very simple kind of romance, simple enough for my tiny teenaged monkey brain to manage, where she would call you an idiot for putting up with her, then if you put up with her, she’d come back again to call you an idiot again.

Fundamentally the structure of these romances were as rudimentary text puzzles: you’d get some dialogue from the game, which could be attributed to an NPC, and then you’d be given one or more responses you could make. These dialogue options could set flags or lead to other dialogue options – you know, classic dating sim stuff, like we’d see in Breakfast Cult: The Visual Novel or Runaway City don’t google that one.

This meant you could do anything you could do with a text prompt.

This unfortunately meant that for the most part, these conversations took the form of the partner bringing to you an extensive sequence of text, often voiced, and your response had to be a simple one-line shot back, often structured to communicate very clearly the type of response you were giving. You know, your simp/sneer/snore kind of communication. The direct result of this was that the character who had a story to tell you, who wanted to take charge of the conversation was going to have the most to say, the most to do in these exchanges.

Now, Viconia’s story is a super downer, but undeniably, she had a perspective. She usually thinks you’re an idiot, and she doesn’t know why you trust her, and she thinks you suck. She’ll tell you stories that include her personal trauma as a marginalised woman in a culture that does not extend to her the protection of the societal rules, and she’ll want to watch your reactions to that. Mostly, she stares you down and waits for you to recoil from her.

When you don’t, that surprises her.

You even get the option of steering her morality; it’s not a mind control thing, you have to genuinely convince her over time to reconsider whether her neutral evil perspective is the right way, and she’ll shift to a non-lawful non-evil position. Basically, she stays not believing In A Society, but she’ll start to consider other people as having value inherently, and that’s pretty cool.

So yeah, nine out of ten, minor notes, maybe do it without including sexual assault in the backstory, folks.

Best Girl’s Best Girl: Hexxat

The enhanced edition of the game introduces four new romances, and most of them get to live up here in the rarified air of Almost as good as Viconia. And you, you may be thinking that hey, Talen, you might be biased towards characters you’ve been playing with for twenty years as opposed to the ones you’ve only been playing with for a few years. And to that I would say: Yes, but also Grey Delisle’s voice is amazing, making Viconia ridiculously attractive as well as having an actually compelling story and personality.

And Hexxat agrees!

Hexxat is a vampire character introduced in Enhanced Edition, and she’s interesting to me because she’s an example of an evil character who isn’t just gibberingly vile and hostile.


And is capable of recognising the reasons for social graces


Which means that her overall affect is more cold and withdrawn with most characters. Of course, there are plenty of NPCs that don’t like her, such as goody two-shoes anti-undead characters like Aerie, Keldorn, Anomen and Mazzy. Jan Janssen also doesn’t like her. And you might think hey, you know, what’s the big deal here, well, she eats people. I know it’s easy to get past that as a player character in a big sense, but it is pretty notable that these characters hold onto the moral implications of the fact that she eats people.


If you can look past that, and uh

Yeah, okay, that’s a big if, but anyway, if you can get past that, Hexxat is a very pragmatic, hurt person who is trying, as much as she can, to live. This is obviously something that runs headlong into the problem of how she’s already dead. The romance you get with her starts out flirty and toying, and has its own sensitivities. Like, don’t joke around with her about her being a vampire while she’s trying to get into your underwear, which I will note, she is trying to do. It’s playful, it’s teasing, it’s got some give and take, rather than the necessarily one-sided power dynamics you see in a lot of these kinds of game characters.

What I like about it a lot is that Hexxat and Viconia flirt and yes, even bang, and then break up, as well, so you get to see that Hexxat’s behaviour is not just her trying to find the best way to talk to you, but it’s how she reacts with intimate partners period.

She is only interested in women partners, and you’d think that people could be normal about that, but it seems that at the time of her release there were some people with some real takes going on at that point, including the amazing phrase,

in my Faerûn there is no lesbian people (no offense to the lesbian people but this is just how I roleplay)

Welcome To Tumblr: Neera

Neera’s a wild mage, someone introduced to the Baldur’s Gate universe after a mere ten years of getting better at making this kind of game and writing this kind of character, and I see criticism of her that tends towards the ‘modernity’ of her. The notion is, you see, that this awkward girl who makes double entendres unintentionally, has anxiety about her powers that can randomly teleport her places, and has powerful moral stances like ‘torturing is bad’ is too much like a ‘modern’ girl, which is to say, I guess, sometime shortly after World War 2.

Neera’s charming. She puts a w in how she pronounces bunch.  She’s a bit scattered, her attention jumps around, and she’s not completely direct, but I have a hard time hating her.

This is a romance that’s also full of little moments? I guess its biggest problem to me, and the reason it doesn’t stand out as high as Viconia is that because Neera’s lack of confidence comes through in how she reacts to people. On the other hand it has touches of the things that exist in the world, things that ground you more in the reality of the world than a lot of the other romantic dialogues that try to keep you disconnected from your environment.

It’s also going to be coloured by the fact that when I double checked scripts and reactions for her, oh boy, there’s a whole category of players out there who hate her for being, well, ‘too tumblr.’

Have A Nice Summer: Jaheira

As far as the base game romances go, watch out for that first step down, it is a doozy.

Jaheira was a beloved (I guess) character from Baldur’s Gate, where she was part of a package deal with her husband, Khalid. They were put in Baldur’s Gate 2 along with a host of other characters and references, which is a great way to create that sensation of continuity between the two games. This is why we have characters like Minsc and Edwin (fairly low on the best girl list) and Viconia (oh hi Viconia). And I’m not saying I understand the mindset behind these choices, like causal reasons, but it seems that they wanted to bring in Jaheira, didn’t want to bring in Khalid, and made Jaheira a romance option, so they uhh

Killed Khalid.

And made seeing his corpse part of the starting dungeon.

I guess it’s a good pop, a great way to make that opening dungeon and new villain feel important, it’s not a bad idea, per se. It’s certainly a rough one for me, someone who hadn’t played Baldur’s Gate 1 to suddenly be told that this old friend was now traumatised and grieving the loss of her husband, also an old friend. Like, I didn’t know this character and now I had to try and help her navigate one of the hardest things ever.

Don’t worry though you kind of can’t screw it up and it doesn’t matter overmuch.

Now here’s the problem with Jaheira as a romance: Once you get past the death of her husband, she’s a character who already had her entire story arc back in the first game, meaning that as a romance option… uh… She just didn’t have much to do? She’s not a character the narrative can handle well anyway, because, uh…

It’s hard to say this kind of thing without saying I’m telling the videogame lady to smile more, but Jaheira’s character is a simplified archetype that starts with a whiteboard diagram of ‘your mom?’ She’s generically stern and dour, mostly speaking up to point out whatever it is you’re about to do to do advance your plans is a bad idea. What’s more, because she’s a Neutral aligned character, in true 2e fashion, this means she’ll whine about anything you do that’s too evil but also whine about you doing too much good. It’s not a great look.

Jaheira has a unique spell (Harper’s Call), that is to say, she’s a fighter/druid who can cast raise dead. This is the extent of how she is mechanically remarkable, as a character who can do a little bit of interesting stuff, but whose primary job is ‘hit things with the worst category of weapons,’ it means that doing the Jaheira relationship quest feels a lot more like doing your chores while you’re nagged about it.

Better Than Anomen: Rasaad

Another enhanced edition character, Rasaad is a Sun Soul Monk, which if you know your second edition game balance, might leave you cringing a little. As a character, Rasaad is a pretty morose, serious dude, a kind of mix of stoic and sadboy that works out pretty well for a particular type of aesthetic preference. He’s bald, tattooed, ripped to hell, and mad about his family situation, and I think you can recognise that even if you’re not into that, you can recognise that it’s a thing that oh boy some people can be into.

If you need an idea of the kind of guy Rasaad is, he’s capable of being nice to Edwin, which flummoxes him so much that it shuts down the conversation. Not only that, though, Rasaad’s story adds in another point that Anomen sucks.

As a romance, Rasaad is kind of a counterpart to Hexxat. While Hexxat invites you to play with her, to flirt with her, Rasaad kind of just stands there and lets you play with him. Flirting with Rasaad looks a lot like, well, messing with him. He’s very serious and easily flustered by you toying with him, which, again, if this is a thing you want he’s a really good version of the archetype.

He’s not higher, though, because his story, in its totality, kinda sucks? As a character, I like him, but as a story to play out, he’s used to tell a really mid narrative. It’s disappointing, I guess, in that the way it ends sounds like a story you should have been able to play out and explore rather than being bumped out of it at an awkward spot. I get it, when this character is essentially something added to another story, but the result is that this very important story, presented through this character, stands apart as a sort of footnote in another, greater story, and it makes you, his love interest into another, equally minor footnote.

Technically A Net Negative: Aerie

The first original-to-Baldur’s Gate 2 character you can do a smooch on, Aerie is a cleric-wizard you recruit from the circus after an evil illusionist took it over and made a dungeon out of a circus tent. When you meet her, you learn she was raised by Quayle, a companion from the first game, and that she is the Elf Equivalent of 18 years old, new to the world, naive, and also as fragile as an iphone screen made entirely out of wafer biscuits that ignites spontaneously when it’s looked at.

Oh and she’s also a member of a race of winged elves except she had her wings amputated while she lived in a cage at the circus.

SoooOOOooo that’s… not a no-impact story beat. And if you might think ‘oh that sounds heavy, I bet a lot of time is spent dealing with that emotional fallout,’ then yes. Yes you do and yes that’s right. And whew that’s not great fun, but don’t worry, she interrupts the trauma recovery talk with the utter naivete and neediness of reassurance! And there’s nothing wrong with being traumatised and needing reassurance but it’s kind of a thing that works at odds with a character who has the magic that lets her stop time and summon demons. It’s also just not a great game for expressing those ideas, especially since your character can only ever offer again, a small number of simple responses that read a little bit like ‘Do you mind my trauma, check yes, no, or maybe?’

Mechanically, Aerie is honestly fine, even if she is, like I said, fragile. She’s two of the slowest-levelling classes and she doesn’t get much support early on, plus her physical stats means ways to protect her tend to be expensive, but you’ll cross a money threshold in the game and suddenly you can spend the money without noticing it. Honestly, Aerie is probably a pretty decent spellcaster to add to your party if you’re playing for the first time because she can probably do anything you need, if you can protect her.

Mechanically she’s fine.

Unless you romance her.

If you follow the Aerie romance all the way through, uh… she has a kid. With you? And you might ask ‘how does that work?’ Well, you get a baby. It’s an item. It sits in your inventory. You can’t move it or get rid of it. Which, you know, that’s probably for the best, but also it does mean that you’re suddenly down an entire inventory slot. What do you get for this, in exchange for this?



Technically speaking, Aerie is a perfectly ordinary, extremely agreeable character who will go along with a lot of parties if your reputation doesn’t absolutely tank, but if you romance her, you’re committing to giving up one of the party’s inventory slots in exchange for nothing. Which is okay, I guess, it’s not like kids are things you get because of the advantages but it sure is a rude shock to discover it in a game that up to this point has largely treated challenges as things you overcome to get cool shit.

Oh, by the way, if you do bring along Aerie, and you don’t romance her, you can see her wind up in a relationship with Haer’Dalis, a character I still don’t feel I have a good read on. Either Haer’dalis fucks or he in fact is the most chaste fucker ever figuring ‘saying poetry at people’ is the same thing as getting to third base. Also, Aerie will sign up to be Minsc’s new witch, which is also very sweet and the whole trio can make a lovely g-rated found family group.

But, in the weird het world of Baldur’s Gate baseline, Aerie is still in third place for being an interesting romance.

Best Anomen: Anomen

This is a grim spot to be in the list.

Anomen is the only romance available to women in the base version of Baldur’s Gate 2. He is a lawful neutral fighter-cleric, who is aiming to become a member of the Order of the Radiant Heart, an order of Paladins-and-the-like, serving a polytheistic group of gods including Torm, Tyr, and Helm. That is to say, three different gods of justice and law that are all represented by armoured white guys who know what’s best for you. Don’t worry, I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with this cosmology. But don’t worry, because when your reputation is too low, and you advise him to be obedient to his father (like, you know, a lawful neutral character probably would be), he can’t become a member of this order of class dobbers and instead cracks up under the pressure and becomes Chaotic Neutral.

Anomen is an insufferable, self-righteous braggart, who has an illegal build, mechanically. That’s not an important thing per se but it kind of stands out to me that he’s a character they bent the rules to make happen in the game, and this is the kind of character they made with that kind of rules-bending.

This character you deal with is grindingly cruel and petty, constantly demeaning to strangers, and treats ‘I didn’t get into a particular religious club’ as world-endingly harmful to his self-esteem. Which for a guy who’s got nothing going on but ego, it makes sense it’s so damaging to his sense of reality. He will attack other members of your party, including a gentle older Paladin and Viconia, because both the good and the evil party members attack his sense of righteousness that he has had shown as meaningless. Basically the order bounces him back because he’s not a good judge of character or justice, and then he proves them right.

And you get to romance him through this!

Anomen’s story is very much about how he relates to women, and you might think that’s a rich field for interesting ideas but no, it’s the kind of thing where you could swap ‘women’ for ‘stamp collection.’ It’s two women. It’s his sister and it’s you. The wishes and opinions of the women in question are not high importance in this story — romancing Anomen is mostly a matter of agreeing with what he wants to do, and not making him feel stupid, which… I mean that’s hard, and he does have big, angry outbursts. These get worse over time, as he starts to see everything lawful or structured as an example of a failure of society. Anomen Became The Joker because he Lives In A Society well before we had those memes to express it.

Random tidbit: Anomen won’t date half-orcs or dwarves, but he will date halflings.

Worse Than An Anomen: Dorn

There is a chance that you are into horny, thirsty, one-note orc daddies. If that is the case: Congratulations, there’s a character for you. I, however, prefer at least two notes to romance characters, and that’s where Dorn winds up lacking. Dorn’s only way of interacting with people is a form of bullying people for what he can perceive as a weakness.  This list of things he considers weaknesses includes a lack of physical strength, a lack of size, an unwillingness to murder, a willingness to commit to an ideal, an obedience to an authority,  or having friends. Basically, everyone. This is a guy who can look at Sarevok and go ‘oh, you had someone you respected? What a wuss.’

He has something of a point if only because Sarevok’s mentor had the really stupid name ‘Winski Peroate.’

Dorn is written like someone with a personality and an opinion, and he’s having fun doing what he does, but he is very demanding of your party. I imagine he could look like the payoff for running an evil party, because he’s incompatible with a bunch of things and… I guess he’s mechanically strong?

I solo so much he doesn’t look very remarkable to me.

Thing is, all this bullying tends to come with a fair amount of paranoid whininess, the weakness shown by people who want to assert themselves as really strong. When he hits a wall of someone who he can’t push around, he winds up just… pouting. Like a great big weenus. When you hear him and Korgan have sex talk –

Which, uh, great, cool, didn’t need that

– you get to hear him explain that he sees sex not as a relationship between sex, bodies, or traits that are appealing but purely as a matter of power and pleasure. And first of all, this dude gets along with Korgan, who sucks, but also second, he sort of just underscores right there that nothing about you matters but that power element. Doesn’t care how you talk or present yourself, doesn’t care about what you do, except for keeping him around, which I guess is something because keeping him around involves giving up on a lot of cool things. I guess maybe if he murders almost everyone around him, putting up with him is a sign you want him around for that.

He’s also the only bi character I could find, so uh, great, thanks, game.

I’m kind of shocked that the game managed to introduce a character I find less appealing than An Anomen.

Worst Anomen: Unbelievably, Anomen Again

Can you believe he gets worse.

Inside you, there are two Anomens.

See what I described there is the Anomen you get if you fail to complete Anomen’s trial quest properly. What matters is whether you let him take personal vengeance for his sister’s death on his daddy’s say-so or if you instead maybe check to see if you’re about to kill someone who didn’t do the thing he’s being accused of. If you don’t kill his sister’s accused murderer, Anomen becomes a knight, then you find out his sister’s real murderers and then you get to do a proper murder of them, over there, because let’s face it, that’s the only way to satisfyingly end the story where his family’s property was taken from it.

Thing is, once he’s joined the Radiant Order, he will become more insufferable and self-righteous. He’s already a pompous dickhead but now he’s offering the most blindingly obvious, narrowminded ‘good’ counsel, meaning that he’s the voice of the 2e D&D’s vision of what ‘lawful good’ is like, which is kinda pro-genocide, anti-rudeness.

Like, if you don’t like the idea of being Webcomic Mom, following along the impetuous idiot who thinks of himself as the best boy ever, cleaning up his whoopsies and suggesting that maybe he shouldn’t murder someone for personal, petty reasons, you’re not going to enjoy this romance. The writers are aware that you can dunk on him a little but if you make him feel stupid he stalks off in a huff, and he will have random outbursts not just at you, but at other members of the party.

And look: I am not a person who thinks that a dude grappling with his temper and his sense of superiority should not deserve love. Anomen is probably very close to the me that my partner met, just that I was a lot more scared. But seeing how utterly awful Anomen was to hang around, and how seeing him blow up at random other people showed who he really was and how the ‘apologetic’ version of him worked, kinda convinced me that there were better ways to be. All of this is bound up in the fact that Anomen’s story is about whether he can maintain a relationship with you and how he responds to the death of his sister (don’t worry, we never get to know anything about her, really). You get to bring the opinions the game lets you to the table, and you never really get to blow him up and see him grow from things you say.

Anomen is a misogynist, because he’s the kind of guy who thinks he can’t be a misogynist if he just calls women ‘my lady.’ And this is what happens when you take him down the good path.


These games are old. The enhanced edition of this game is ten years old. We have watched the world change around these characters and what’s seen as good storytelling, what’s engaging in a romantic story.  Is it fair to judge a 2003 game by 2023 standards?


Because the standards haven’t moved that far. Lesbians existed in 2003. Anomen’s behaviour creeped out women then, and I know, I was there, I heard them say it. Ten years ago there were people ranting about Neera being a ‘tumblrina’. I found reddit commenters only two years ago angry that Hexxat was gay, though none so excitingly as in the quote I found.

We have gotten better at this but all of these characters are still being made with the same fundamental principles of communication through play as we have had for basically ever. And there’s still value to be learned from looking back on them and asking ourselves: Hey, what the hell.

Just like

What the hell.

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