Canon is a tricky thing, man, and it’s something RPG makers always struggle to deal with. When a story could have featured thousands of permutations of the same hero and had maybe four or five distinct endings (not including side quest results), what do you think of using as the “official story” for the basis of a sequel?
Baldur’s Gate 3 is set over 100 years in the future from the events of the first two games, and I’m just crossing my fingers that Larian, as much as possible, gets over the “canon” version of the story of Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2, as well as what happens to their hero after.
RPG protagonists always end up with some sort of title to address them, you know: the Courier, the Hero of Kvatch, a handy shorthand. For Baldur’s Gate, fans usually opt for “Bhaalspawn”, referring to the character’s divine father, Bhaal, the Lord of Murder, and his effect on the story. In official Dungeons & Dragons lore, however, there is apparently a Bhaalspawn canon: Abdel Adrian, Neutral Good Human Fighter. Oh my god, they picked the most boring guy imaginable.
To paraphrase my colleague, Fraser Brown: “The Bhaalspawn is supposed to be a horny elf!” I just have to agree: while I’ve tried all sorts of character builds, in my heart the Bhaalspawn is a dual Chaotic Good elf Fighter/Mage wielding the Flail of Ages and Belm. I wish I was cool enough to name him something funny like “Turbo Assman”, but I still have a horrible, “lore-abiding” name like “Valerderthion Nightfire” or whatever.
He continued a relationship with fellow entropy-worshipping dark elf goddess Viconia DeVir (AD&D-style racial romance restrictions removed with a mod), and they had a happy ending together (also thanks to a mod).
Abdel Adrian doesn’t even have the slightest spice of being a paladin or anything like that, he’s just an asshole! Adrian’s paradigm appears to originate from the novelizations of Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 by Philip Athans and former BioWare scribe Drew Karpyshyn respectively, although Adrian appears in the games as a pre-generated character starting with Baldur’s expansion Gate 1, Tales of the Sword Coast. I have to admit, I love Adrian’s 90s pocket card art in his Magic the Gathering link, but otherwise? This man is the hashtag Not My Bhaalspawn.
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I didn’t even get to the worst: he dies in the most horrific and horrible way imaginable, and also the events of the games didn’t even matter! In Module 5E Murder In Baldur’s Gate, it is revealed that Adrian was not actually able to fully defeat the Lord of Murder, and a piece of Bhaal still lived on in his offspring. The only other surviving Bhaalspawn ends up coming and bugging now – Archduke of Baldur’s Gate Abdel Adrian at a city festival. They fight and Adrian either dies or turns into The murderera superpowered Bhaal-powered beast mode from the games, but this time it can’t get out.
The tabletop module players then battle the Slayer, and upon defeating him, it is revealed that, oops! With the last children of Bhaal dead, he is reborn, suckers! One of the best RPGs ever made, a touchstone of video gaming to this day, effectively doesn’t matter: everything you did was in vain, and the character you grew attached to is replaced by a lummox that then dies a horrible death. I don’t mean to castigate Murder In Baldur’s Gate too harshly – sounds like a really cool mod otherwise – but man, it sucks how he reinterpreted the events of the series.
Murder In Baldur’s Gate is set just ten years before the events of Baldur’s Gate 3, and I’m already feeling some real Bhaal-y vibes from the murder-obsessed supernatural original character The Dark Urge, as well as all the Bhaal logos appearing in the latest trailers. Likewise, the presence of party members OG Minsc and Jaheira is a pretty direct connection to the events of the original series. I hope Larian finds a way to juggle these things without setting an explicit version of these events, but what if they do? Hey, we’ll find a way to survive.
I’ll always applaud BioWare for their savegame transfers and the always-awesome Dragon Age Keep world state tool, both of which let you hone your own stories in their multi-game sagas, but the great thing about fiction is that it’s all wrong. You can sort of pretend that things happened or didn’t happen.
Bethesda had the right idea with its “Warp in the West” explanation for Daggerfall’s myriad possible endings: Due to wizarding shenanigans, all of Daggerfall’s potential endings have happened, and none of them have happened. is produced. You guess it!
Until some Pinkerton bullies me into accepting the party line on Abdel Adrian, the Bhaalspawn will always be some kind of horny elf fighter/mage in my save files and mental palace. I encourage you all to equally cherish anything that is not Abdel Adrian Bhaal that you can believe in.