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In Baldur’s Gate 3, like so many RPGs, the mod to remove the party size limit is essential

Dragon Age: Origins gave you a dog—a rumple-faced mabari war hound who could dig up items, mark territory to earn buffs, and fight alongside you. He was great, and I loved him. But he took up one of the same slots as party members who were actual people, who could talk and be romanced and slowly drip-feed their entire backstory into my brain across the course of our adventure.

That’s why, as soon as I’d recruited a full party of four companions who could do all those things, the dog got left back at camp. Which sucks. It sucks so much that the Extra Dog Slot mod, which lets you add the dog to your party for free, has been downloaded more than a million times. That’s a million dogs happily pissing on trees all over Ferelden instead of being benched because people would rather hang out with Morrigan.

The Fellowship of the Ring blew out to nine members before the DM started killing them off just to keep things manageable, but videogames tend to be a lot stingier. In the old days six was usually your lot, but RPGs with moveable, over-the-shoulder, or first-person cameras are more likely to cut you off at four, if that. Bethesda’s RPGs only let you take one follower, though at least they have a bonus slot for Dogmeat or local equivalent. Unsurprisingly, mods that let you remove that restriction like Nether’s Follower Framework for Skyrim Special Edition are hugely popular. (1.5 million downloads, which is a heck of a lot of Lydias not getting dropped in favor of that one cute vampire.)

There are plenty of people out there who want the option to roll deep in RPGs, instead of having to leave half their friends at home because the developers were worried it would clutter the interface and throw the balance out of whack. But the game that’s most made me wish for an unlimited party size is Baldur’s Gate 3.

Its predecessor Baldur’s Gate 2 invented the modern paradigm of NPC companions with loyalty quests and romances and banter (building on the excellent groundwork of Planescape: Torment and other RPGs of course), and Baldur’s Gate 3 remains true to that. If you thoroughly explore the starting area you can recruit four new best friends right at the start of act one. Two more follow if you don’t walk past Wyll like a shocking number of people do. Assuming you made your own custom character rather than choosing an origin, that means you’ve got six characters vying for the three open slots before you even meet Halsin or Minthara, to say nothing of Jaheira and Minsc.

My first time playing Baldur’s Gate 3 I juggled those three party slots as frantically as a ren faire street performer. In a dungeon with a lot of traps and locks? In goes Astarion, the master of lockpicking. Meeting Gortash? In goes Karlach, his former employee, for maximum drama. Rescuing Wyll’s dad? In goes Wyll, naturally. But I was constantly surprised which characters would meaningfully contribute to which scenes. Obviously you need to bring Shadowheart to confront the Mother Superior who raised her, but that Mother Superior turns out to be someone Jaheira and Minsc have history with too. If they don’t happen to be in your party you miss out on some juicy conflict.

If you’re party’s limited, there are good reasons not to have them with you. Maybe you’ve got a balanced crew already, and D&D is certainly a ruleset that encourages a balanced party. Ideally you need a divine caster for healing, an arcane caster for area-of-effect spells and magical counters, a skill monkey for opening chests and disarming traps, and a martial meat shield for dealing damage and going toe-to-toe with big threats. There’s not a lot of room for doubling up, and yet Baldur’s Gate 3 gives you two druids.

Of course, the main reason players don’t swap in new companions is a combination of inertia and loyalty. The besties who’ve been with you since act one are obviously going to get preference over latecomers. They’ve got seniority, and this nightclub has a strict one out/one in door policy. As a consequence, act three can seem oddly quiet. The act one homies have a lot of travel banter with each other, but you’ll have triggered all of it by the time you reach Baldur’s Gate.

It’s one of the reasons Redditors are convinced act three is “unfinished” and there’s a “real act three” hidden somewhere Larian has maliciously withheld, when the truth is there’s heaps of companion banter in act three, you just have to swap in the new companions to hear it. Halsin does a lot of grumping about the big city, and Minthara has plenty of big ideas about putting the refugees to work. This triggers more lines from the origin companions too—having Jaheira and Astarion in your party will lead to a delightful conversation about the vampire she staked out in the street, while Minsc plans to wear his hamster as a wig to look just like the fashion-forward vampire, which makes Astarion desperately wish he could check his reflection in a mirror to make sure that’s not true.

I wouldn’t know about half of this if I wasn’t replaying Baldur’s Gate 3 with the Party Limit Begone mod. Though I sided with Minthara in this playthrough and didn’t do any of the tricks that let you recruit Wyll, Karlach, and Halsin at the same time, I’m nearing the end with a party of seven. I’ve bumped the difficulty up to Tactician to compensate, and the combat handles this increased party size surprisingly well. (Inventory management is less of a nightmare too.)

Though the mod’s main benefit is that conversations feel more lively with a bigger party, eroding that feeling of everyone standing silently in the middle-distance while you make most of the decisions alone, it’s made fights better too. The nature of turn-based combat is that when you’re outnumbered it takes a while before you get a turn, but when Baldur’s Gate 3 throws a horde of goblins, cultists, or skeletons at you, it can feel like an absolute age before it’s your go. The hardest battles have still been hard—racing across a stone bridge toward a Bhaal worshiper who is casting Power Word: Kill while ambushers rain down arrows on us, for instance—but the feeling of wanting to check the clock because some evil shrubs are really dragging out their turns is no more.

I haven’t bothered with the wider world of Baldur’s Gate 3 mods beyond this (though I would like some more hairstyle options for my next playthrough), but Party Limit Begone is essential. Like the Bag of Tricks and ToyBox mods for the Pathfinder games, it feels like the right way to play, like a toggle that should be there in the options menu for us sickos who care more about experiencing every line of our imaginary friends’ dialogue than we care about difficulty balance. Given the original Baldur’s Gate games had a party size of six—still too small, don’t make me choose between Imoen and Dynaheir—it seems particularly cheap for Baldur’s Gate 3 to arbitrarily restrict us to four.

Though at least Scratch the dog appears as a summon instead of taking up a full slot. I don’t know if I could stand having to choose between a dog and a druid.

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