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The secret best Baldur's Gate 3 class is, of course, Barrelmancer

Divine art

A group of barrels in Baldur's Gate 3
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Larian Studios

Had you asked me yesterday about the best Baldur's Gate 3 class, I might have picked Bard - versatile, swish, a solid support both in and out of combat - but that was before I discovered the ancient and honourable Larian discipline of barrelmancy. As the name suggests, it's all about doing mildly game-breaking things with barrels, crates and other heavy containers, by taking advantage of high strength, the Throw command, and the fact that Larian RPG characters can somehow fit items as big as they are into their inventories, without bursting apart like rotten haggis.

A straightforward tactic: consider lugging a few oil barrels into a throne room, and dropping them all around the resident big cheese before you confront him. Given reasonably careful distribution, it's possible to finish a whole battle this way in a single turn. Fortunately, while Baldur's Gate NPCs can be eagle-eyed when it comes to sneaking rogues, they're perfectly indifferent to people surrounding them with heavy explosives.

The above might sound simplistic, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. Barrelmancy is a practice - dare I say, an artform - that goes back to Divinity: Original Sin. Another classic tactic: put a crate inside another crate, fill them both with heavy junk and lob the resulting crate-singularity at enemies, who are instantly liquefied by the concentrated weight.

In Divinity: Original Sin 2, you could do this using telekinesis without breaking stealth, much to the horror and derangement of enemies. Imagine, if you will, living in a world where barrel-shaped neutron stars appear out of thin air to smash all your mates to atoms. Barrelmancy does have non-violent applications: you can also stack crates to boost yourself over what are supposed to be impassable obstacles, like a Minecraft player who wandered through the wrong door while exploring the Backrooms.

A before and after screenshot demonstrating how to use a large number of exploding barrels in Baldur's Gate 3.
A fine demonstration of barrelmancy from reddit user Dusty_Chen. | Image credit: Dusty_Chen / Larian

Barrelmancy was such a hit with the Divinity community that there are actual mods dedicated to it, but it has many detractors, and barrelmancy in Baldur's Gate 3 1.0 is sadly not as potent as it was in the giddy days of early-early access. Still, there's plenty of chaos to be wrought with barrels even today, and Larian have given their tacit approval to the barrelmancy playstyle by (a) not patching out every last barrel-flavoured exploit, and (b) introducing items like the Chest of the Mundane - which temporarily transforms every item placed inside into a mug weighing half a kilogram - that are absolutely begging to be abused.

Some might object that chain-trapping an adversary's lair is "unrealistic" and "cheating" and "just looks really daft", but I think it cuts right to the heart of one of the most improvisation-driven D&D adaptations in years. Barrels! Go on, see what kinds of mischief you can wreak with them. Then report back here, so I can do the same.

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