I'm getting close to wrapping up my Baldur's Gate 3 honour mode playthrough—all I've got to do is not beef it on the last couple of deadly fights and I'm there. In the interest of survival, I've been skipping a couple of key story beats.
I have a cosy setup that works, and I can't be bothered to wrangle Larian's fiddly inventory system to make carbon copies of my party members on other companion NPCs. But rounding out Act 3's final few fights, I hesitated—I really wanted to see Astarion's quest line through a second time. Spoilers for Act 3 and Astarion's story quests to follow.
Cazador is a bastard. And I don't just mean that in terms of how awful of a presence he is in Astarion's life—his boss fight is also a massive pain. There's a skeleton mage who will hobble your party with spells, a bunch of ghouls who can paralyse people, and you need to flatten the vampire in a few turns or he'll become even deadlier.
What's more, bringing Astarion along for his story quest makes things a hell of a lot harder. The moment the fight starts, he's yoinked to the other side of the arena and restrained. In a fight where you need as much help as you can get it's a major pain.
Narratively, in a story where you can reload a save, this is great. But if you're desperate not to wipe and forfeit your golden dice, it's a nightmare. Also if you do the fight without Astarion he can get (justifiably) angry at you for stealing his final blow. You're also robbing yourself of one of the game's most cathartic scenes—one that puts a capstone on Astarion's beautiful tale of escaping the abusive grip of his former master.
Having your blood, and drinking it too
So what's a grimy power gamer to do? Turns out you can have your cake and eat it too, mostly. Here's a quick step-by-step list of what I did, though I'm certain I'm not the first to discover this:
Kill Cazador. This is the hard part.
Don't touch anything. Bring yourself and a second party member to the underground exit into the Baldur's Gate sewers, down a floor and to the left of the waypoint. This requires a DC30 lockpicking check, but you should have a bard or rogue for this sort of thing.
Once you're out of the "no fast travel" zone, return to camp. Dismiss the party member you brought with you.
Get Astarion into your party. Warp back to Cazador's lair. Interact with his coffin.
The game shrugs its shoulders at this point and assumes that—since Astarion's there and you're clicking the coffin—he must've been there for the fight. He appears shirtless and begins one of Neil Newbon's award-winning performances.
The only downside is that by doing this, you're also missing out on a couple key pieces of dialogue: firstly, Astarion has plenty to say as you make your way through Cazador's lair. Secondly, there's an excellent conversation with Cazador that he has before the fight starts. It's not an ideal way to experience his plotline for the first time, but it's miles better than skipping it entirely.
But if everyone's favourite beautiful vampire man is a member of your honour mode playthrough, and you'd like to finish his storyline with the smallest risk possible, this strategy could be a genuine lifesaver.