It's an odd thing, starting a new rpg. They always present you with a variety of choices for your character, some of which can have a dramatic effect on how you experience the game. This leads, inevitably, to a certain amount of choice paralysis. What's the best way to play? Will choosing a particular class close off a significant portion of the game's content? What will I most enjoy?
So, it's practically a law of nature that I will play the opening hours of any rpg at least twice, and potentially as many as a dozen times. And that's more or less what I've been doing for the past three hours. I started a new character, Margaritte the Kensai, and went through the opening of the game a second time.
Margaritte is a much stronger character than Trent, primarily because fighters are better at low level than mages and also because I spent an hour or so rerolling her stats so as to get an optimum character (this is not quite as ridiculous as it sounds, because I was watching tv at the time). Though the difference in strength was noticeable, it hasn't made a huge difference yet. Trent stayed at the back of the group, and thus in both cases, it's been my NPC companions who have been getting repeatedly killed.
Keeping everyone alive is mostly a matter of luck and reloading whenever my luck fails. The really deadly fights didn't start until the town of Beregost, which had at least two major brawls. A young woman named Neera was being attacked by "magic bandits" who turned out to be the notorious red wizards of Thay. They wanted to study her anomalous and reckless magic powers (i.e. wild magic, the specialty I toyed with before choosing to be an illusionist).
In the fray, Xzar got killed, leaving me the choice of reloading and trying again or simply accepting the loss and recruiting Neera in his place. It's tricky, because I don't like losing a character, but I wouldn't have been able to keep both, due to the party cap, and the trade was a mage for a mage. And seeing as how Xzar was evil and Neera was neutral, it was really a better fit anyway.
The other big brawl was with Silke, actress extraordinaire. She wanted some bodyguards because she was being threatened, but the it turns out she was lying in order to assassinate her business partners. Being "good," I wanted no part of this, so I took her out. This took me about a half dozen reloads to beat, and when I got through it, I got the opportunity to recruit a new character - Garrik, the bard. I decided that he would be a good replacement for Montaron. It kind of bugs me that I won't be able to finish Montaron's quest, but he was evil, so I'm fairly sure it wasn't something I'd have wanted to do anyway.
I think I will stick with Trent. I rolled his stats honestly, and I really like magic. However, I will keep Margaritte as a backup character, just in case I get too frustrated to continue.