So far, this has not been as bad as I'd feared. Following some advice I got on the rpg.net forums, I've been taking it slow and using ranged weapons, so I haven't died yet, but I still don't feel like I'm out of the woods yet. I'm still level 1, and thus incredibly vulnerable.
I started off playing the tutorial, which was somewhat helpful, but I couldn't finish it because it glitched out while teaching me to pick locks. This does not fill me with a great deal of confidence, but of course, crpgs are notorious for being bug-ridden, so I'm not too worried yet.
The game itself opens with a Nietzsche quote, which, I don't know, maybe it wasn't a cliche back then. I'm not sure it really adds anything or is particularly genre appropriate, but it's not that big a deal. After that, a big armored dude with glowy eyes shows up, murders some other dude, and the game, proper, begins.
Because I love magic users, and am also a masochist, I make my character a human Illusionist, named Trent. The interesting thing about the character creation in this game is that it digs deep into D&D 2e's system, allowing you to customize your class with kits (kits are a thing from D&D 2e - they usually give you a bonus to some subset of a class's abilities and a penalty to some other subset, so that you can, say, take a thief and turn it into an assassin). I also think they may have splashed a little 3e into the Enhanced Edition, because sorcerer and monk are also options. They looked kind of tempting, but a specialist wizard's extra spell per day was simply too good to pass up.
The story of the game, thus far, is that Trent was a mysterious orphan who was raised in the citadel of Candlekeep (which is something of a monastic library) by a wizard named Gorion. Lately, Gorion has been growing distant, and the night before the game begins, he came to Trent in an agitated state, shoved some gold into his hands, and told him to pack his bags.
So, of course, I use that as an excuse to wander around Candlekeep, doing sidequests, and getting in some shopping. None of the sidequests are particularly interesting, though I do deliver an identify scroll to a guy named Firebead Elvenhair, so, you know, that was weird.
While I'm searching the town, I'm ambushed by a guy named Cabros. Even though he says I have a pretty face, he nonetheless decides that I'd be better off dead. He seems to know me, somehow, but the reason for his enmity is not yet clear.
Still, it's enough of a wake up call to get me to meet up with Gorion, who insists we immediately flee Candlekeep. He won't explain why we're going, or even where, and I never get a chance to find out, because we're almost instantly ambushed by the asshole from the opening movie, who survives a barrage of Gorion's magic and then murders the hell out of him.
After that, my "childhood friend" Imoen shows up out of nowhere. Candlekeep won't let us back in (the jerks), so our only lead is the Friendly Arm Inn, where a couple of Gorion's cronies are waiting for us. Along the way, we meet up with Montaron and Xzar, a couple of totally not evil travelers who, apparently, have no problem recruiting random strangers into their mercenary schemes. They need help shaking down the Nashkel iron mines. I tell them I've got people to meet. They decide that this delay is not a problem and promptly join my party. So I guess they're the helpful and reasonable sort of evil mercenaries.
The Friendly Arm Inn itself is actually more of a fortress than an inn. According to local gossip, it used to belong to an undead priest of the god of murder, but after some adventurers cleared it out, they thought, "you know, this cursed temple devoted to dark and bloody powers would make an absolutely charming hotel."
On my way into the inn, I'm attacked by another assassin. This is as far as I got last time I played, because my entire party was already dead and this guy cut through me like I was nothing. This time, thanks to saving every five minutes and then camping for days whenever anyone in my party so much as stubbed their toe, I arrived with a full complement, and my meatshields were able to make short work of him. The annoying thing was that he was able to get off some kind of confusion spell just before he died, and so even though there was no enemy to take advantage of it, 3/4 of my party spent the better part of two minutes just wandering around randomly, not responding my commands, because annoying mechanics like that are just how AD&D 2e says "hello."
The assassin had a letter addressed to "all those of evil intent" (another huge D&Dism - not only to people willingly self-identify as "evil," they have a freaking mailing list). Apparently, the big bad is gunning for Trent hard, and is willing to pay a bounty to whoever can bring in his head. Exciting.
Inside the inn, I learn a bit of history, catch up with the local gossip (the big news is that the local mine is producing really shitty iron), and learn another ridiculous name. One of the patrons complains about their short-tempered guardian, called (seriously) Ragefast.
After talking to about a dozen random people, I finally stumble blindly into my contacts Khalid and Jaheira. As luck would have it, they too want to check out the situation in Nashkel (which, at least, delays the inevitable awkward conversation with half my party). They are mostly unremarkable thus far. Khalid has a stutter, and Jaheira is a multiclass Druid/Fighter (as I recall, this is not a legal combination in AD&D 2e, so hopefully that means she is hugely overpowered).
So far, I've got good reason to feel optimistic. All of my fights have been fairly easy, and I have a large and (potentially) powerful party. However, low-level AD&D is so governed by luck that it would be a mistake to settle into a false sense of security. The RNG has been in my favor, granting me a couple of clean wins, but a good series of rolls is no more likely than a bad one, and it's probably only a matter of time before I face a total party wipe. I'll just have to remember to save often, rest compulsively, and be comfortable with the inevitable reloads.