Join us in diving headfirst into a Baldur’s Gate romance with all my friends

A screenshot of Karlach the fiery tiefling from Baldur’s Gate 3, as she smiles grimly and says “Well met, soldier. Now that we’re old pals, how would you feel about helping me kill some evil bastards?”

Image: Larian Studios via Polygon

Susana Polo
is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

My friends have found it so difficult to date Karlach Cliffgate in Baldur’s Gate 3 that we’ve developed a workaround technique in which our characters leap off a sheer cliff face, sustaining nearly lethal damage, in order to meet her faster.

Is this is extremely stupid? Yes. Are we probably being overcautious? Yes. But you don’t know what I’ve been through. The hours I spent replaying the early areas of BG3, trying to get this absolutely charming tiefling Barbarian to like me, without success. You don’t know how I’ve suffered.

You see, unlike some of your other companions in Baldur’s Gate 3, if you don’t get Karlach to like your player character by the middle of Act 1, you will not have another chance to trigger her romance subplot. And, unique among your companions, she is also tucked in an out-of-the way corner of the map that’s gated by some really tough battles. I’m not the only person I know who reached the point of no return much earlier and less successfully than anticipated, and even after devoting weeks to immediately replaying the whole starting arc of the game came away with nothing to show for it.

I wish better for you, reader. And so I’m sharing the extremely stupid trick my friends developed for a Karlach romance playthrough: the Karlach Cliffstrat.

[Ed. note: This piece contains mild spoilers for the first act of Baldur’s Gate 3.]

Is this really necessary?

Before you leap to the comments (perhaps taking fall damage) to tell me this isn’t necessary: You’re probably right! Larian Studios has made many tweaks to the game since this summer, when me and my friends were pining over Karlach’s pixelated indifference and settling for our second-choice romance. Those tweaks have probably improved things in invisible ways.

But when I start my next Karlach-focused playthrough, I won’t be taking any chances. I will not slash, blast, and charisma-check my way through hours and hours of the beginning of Baldur’s Gate 3 only to face the choice of immediately replaying it. I can’t do that again.

“It’s difficult to summarize the hardship that is watching a loved one get locked out of a video game romance,” Becky Chambers, award-winning author and inventor of the Karlach Cliffstrat, told me via direct message. She developed the Cliffstrat after observing her wife’s difficulty in activating Karlach’s romance.

“I’m on my computer smooching Shadowheart every time I walk into camp,” Chambers said, “and she’s on her computer saying, ‘it’s okay, she’s just not into me, I understand.’ She played the entirety of BG3 without getting even one kiss. Unacceptable, even in this economy. It became my mission to remedy this situation, and achieving victory in this is perhaps the high point of my winter. I guess Christmas was also nice.”

In short, this strategy is for those who are truly determined.

So, let’s get started

Put simply, the Karlach Cliffstrat takes advantage of a quirk of Baldur’s Gate 3’s map, which allows you to jump from a high cliff in the back of the Druid Grove directly to the valley stream where Karlach is stationed. This bypasses a long walk with several encounters and at least one really tough fight. Just getting to the Grove is a cakewalk in comparison — the hard part is surviving the landing.

This makes the Cliffstrat a little easier for player characters who start with a higher hit point total, since, I cannot stress enough, the easiest way to get to Karlach ASAP involves taking a significant amount of fall damage. But if you want to play a tissue-paper-fleshed caster class, the Karlach Cliffstrat will still work — you’ll just have to take some safety precautions.

Step 1a: Start the game and assemble a party

A character in Baldur’s Gate 3 faces a purple, swirling portal on a cliffside.

Image: Larian Studios via Polygon

You can go ahead and play through the beginning of the game as you like, until you find yourself alone on a beach with a wrecked ship. From this point, you will soon encounter the majority of your companions, and you should go find them swiftly. The priority right now is to get access to the Druid Grove, and having a full party of four will make that easier.

Step 1b: Find Gale

If you’re playing a character with less than, ohhhh, 30 hit points, make a beeline to roughly 222,323 in the map coordinates and pick up Gale. You will easily get to level 2 before taking your leap of faith, and as a wizard, he can learn Feather Fall at level 2. This spell will keep you from taking any fall damage at all while yeeting yourself employing the Karlach Cliffstrat. Just remember to pick Feather Fall when you level him up, then open his spell book to make sure he memorizes Feather Fall on his next long rest, and then take a long rest.

There are other ways to get around this damage, of course — potions, class abilities, your own spells, potentially — but Gale’s Feather Fall is universal, replicable, and quick. You could potentially pick a higher hit point character in your party, like Lae’zel, to do the jump. But do you really want Lae’zel, not you, to get that pivotal moment of recruiting Karlach? You’re not getting Lae’zel to smooch Karlach, are you? Well, unless you’re playing as Lae’zel. But I digress.

Step 2: Get inside the Druid Grove

A screenshot of the area map for Act 1 of Baldur’s Gate 3, with red arrows added to indicate the gate to Emerald Grove (at the bottom of the map), the Bar/Forge area (at the top of the map), the Ruined Door (to the left of the Bar/Forge), and a vendor NPC (to the right of the Bar/Forge)

Graphic: Susana Polo/Polygon | Source image: Larian Studios via Polygon

Once you have a full party, you can march directly to the Druid Grove, located at roughly 207,423. Following a series of events, you will hopefully be allowed inside.

Ignore all those juicy NPC interactions for now and proceed due north, then take a left at the vendor, and just before you hit a makeshift bar/forge area you’ll see a big door covered in runes.

That’s the door to Karlach.

Step 3: Get to the cliff

A screenshot taken in side the “Secluded Chamber” in the Druid Grove in Baldur’s Gate 3.

Image: Larian Studios via Polygon

Proceed through the door and you’ll be in the “Secluded Chamber.” Again, you can ignore all the NPCs in here and go straight for the ladder in the back, which will bring you back outside again. Walk northwest to the back of that small area and climb the rock face there to a cliff.


Step 4: Screw your courage to the sticking place

From here, depending on your draw distance settings, you may even be able to see Karlach. Even if not, rest assured, the patch of blood on the other side of that fallen log is where she will be stationed. Your landing zone is just north of the log, and if you select the Jump ability, the game will helpfully display exactly how much damage you’ll take when you hit the ground — a range of about 25 to 35 damage depending on your starting point and jump distance.

At this point you may be feeling pretty silly about this whole thing. Chambers admits she felt so in the moment she noticed that she could see Karlach from this weird little bit of the map on the back of the Grove.

“I first discounted the idea as absurd. I stood there, on the edge of the cliff, and I thought, ‘no, this is ridiculous, there must be a better way.’ But that sort of narrow thinking is exactly the sort of kneejerk that impedes any sort of personal or societal progress. We didn’t put a man on the moon with that attitude. And so, in a moment of pure quixotic joy, I challenged myself to do the impossible. Quite literally, I took a leap of faith.”

Reader, take your own leap. Cast Feather Fall or take any other precautionary methods you have prepared, quicksave, and do the impossible.

Step 5: God save my little broken body

A zoomed-in screenshot of a Baldur’s Gate 3 character having completed a very long jump. Status text hovers above the character, indicating they have taken 26 points of damage and are now lying prone on the ground.

Image: Larian Studios via Polygon

You did it! Pop your Second Wind or a couple healing potions if you need to. From here you should be able to walk about 10 steps over the log bridge and trigger Karlach’s introductory conversation. Then you can simply fast travel out of the valley, go to camp, put her into your party, and start wooing her in earnest.

A screenshot of Baldur’s Gate 3, showing a player character standing in a blood splatter, approaching Karlach, with a stream running between them.

Image: Larian Studios via Polygon

Using the Cliffstrat, Chambers and her wife were able to successfully trigger Karlach’s romance subplot in their joint multiplayer playthrough.

“Marriage is all about overcoming obstacles together,” Chambers said, “and I’m proud of us for seeing this one through. In hindsight, though, I could have used Feather Fall.”

Ah, the things we do for love, virtual or otherwise.


Source: Polygon

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