Baldur’s Gate 3 guide: Understanding the interface, HUD, icons, and minimap

In Baldur’s Gate 3, your screen is crowded with buttons. All of your options, all of the information, and all of the controls are available right from the start. A screen full of icons is intimidating.

In this Baldur’s Gate 3 guide, we’ll introduce you to the game’s interface, and give you some tips on what the game is telling — or trying to tell — you.

A quick note: We’re torn on what to call this guide, so we’ll be using words like interface, UI, buttons, HUD, screen, and display mostly interchangeably.

Table of contents

  • Current Character
  • HP and Movement
  • Attack Actions
  • Other Actions and Bonus Actions
  • Hotbar
  • Reactions

Five regions

We’ve split your screen into five regions, and we’ll discuss them at a high level in this section.

Graphic: Jeffrey Parkin/Polygon | Source image: Larian Studios

  1. Turn Order. If you’re in turn-based mode (or initiative order if you’re familiar with D&D), the order appears in the upper left corner of your screen. If you’re not in turn-based mode, this area is blank.
  2. Map and Menus. The upper right corner is pretty straightforward. You have a map, and you have buttons to access menus. There are just a lot of buttons here, and it’s a lot to take in.
  3. Log. This is just a running log of things that have happened in your game — both things you’ve actively done (like picking up an item) and things in the background (like a building burning down off screen). You can hide it.
  4. Party and Companions. The portraits in the lower left corner represent your party (and their familiars, if applicable). It’s also where you’ll control who’s leading and where you’ll split the party.
  5. Actions. The bottom of the screen is the most intimidating, information-dense, and confusing. It’s where you’ll control what your character does, and how they interact with the environment.

We’ll go into more detail on most of these below. (We’re skipping the Log because, well, it’s just a log.)

Turn Order

Graphic: Jeffrey Parkin/Polygon | Source image: Larian Studios

In Baldur’s Gate 3, combat is the most common reason to be in Turn Order. The Turn Order will populate in the upper left corner, and it’ll tell you which character or creature acts in what order.

There’s still a lot of information presented here”

  • The currently active character(s) are slightly larger, and their portraits are outlined in gold.
  • If two creatures or characters act at the same time, their portrait’s outlines are interlinked.
  • Any conditions — like burning or sleep — are shown on the portraits as icons.

Map and menus

Graphic: Jeffrey Parkin/Polygon | Source image: Larian Studios

The minimap in the upper right corner of your screen works a lot like you’d expect — it’s a small version of your map. It shows where your currently active character is, where the rest of your party is, NPCs and hostile creatures, landmarks, and fast travel destinations.

There are also five buttons along the right side.

  • Zoom in/Zoom out. These work as you’d expect.
  • Camp/Long Rest. This sends your party to your camp where you can swap out party members, manage your excess inventory, and take a Long Rest. A full night’s sleep will restore all of your party’s hit points, abilities, and spell slots.
  • Short Rest. Think of a Short Rest as a quick nap. It’ll restore some hit points, and reset certain abilities and spell slots (depending on your Class).
  • Fast Travel. As you travel Faerun, you’ll find Waypoints that look like purple, glowing sigils on rocks. These are fast travel destinations. Use this button to travel to a Waypoint you’ve encountered.

Graphic: Jeffrey Parkin/Polygon | Source image: Larian Studios

Along the bottom of your minimap, there are nine buttons for various menus and sub-menus. Think of this row as your paperwork section.

  • Character Sheet. This displays, as you’d expect, your Character Sheet. which shows Equipment and Inventory for each party member, as well as all of your stats and abilities. Clicking on the party member portraits in the lower left corner switches between members.
  • Equipment. This pulls up an interface to outfit all of your party members at once. Clicking on any slot will pull up appropriate equipment from any party member’s inventory. You’ll also see warnings on each item’s information card if a character is not Proficient.
  • Inventory. This is inventory for each party member. You can move items between members (if they’re physically close enough, and you’re not in combat). Right-click on items to split stacks or add them to your Hotbar (which we’ll discuss in the next section).
  • Character Panels. These are a quick way to compare the Character Sheets (specifically, the stats and abilities) of your party members.
  • Spells. Like the Character Panels, this is a quick way to compare all of your party’s spells.
  • ???. We haven’t unlocked the sixth button yet. We’ll update this guide when we do.
  • Journal. The Journal is where you’ll track Quest progress, review conversations, and view Tutorials. As Tutorials get added to your Journal, you’ll see a notification below this bar of buttons.
  • Map. The Map button switches from your minimap to a world map.
  • Menu. This opens the menu for things like saving or loading games, or adjusting options.

Party and Companions

The lower left corner of your screen has portraits of your (current) party members.

  • The leader of the party — the person everyone else will follow around — is outlined in white.
  • Conditions like burning or sleep are shown with icons. There’s also a crossed swords icon if they’re in battle.
  • If you drag a portrait, you’ll see chains linking them to the other members of the party. Drag it far enough, and the chains will break. This means you’ve split the party, and there will be a gap between the portraits. Drag that portrait back to make them a follower again.

These portraits are the way to switch between the character you’re controlling — the one who’s doing the interacting with the world. Double-clicking on a portrait will center the camera on them.


Graphic: Jeffrey Parkin/Polygon | Source image: Larian Studios

The bar across the bottom of your screen has the most buttons, mostly because it’s where you’ll control things your character does. It’s got information on all four parts of a turn — Movement, Actions, Bonus Actions, and Reactions — whether you’re in combat or out. It’s also where you’ll manage turns, or even switch in and out of turn-based mode.

Let’s look at each section.

Current Character

Right in the middle, you’ll see a portrait of the currently selected character with an overlay of their current hit points.

When you’re not in combat (or not in turn-based mode), there’s a stopwatch-like button. That will switch you into turn-based mode if you want finer control. In turn-based mode, there will be an hourglass button. This ends the current character’s turn and moves to the next character in the Turn Order (which we talked about above).

Below the portrait are two icons: a green square and an orange triangle. These represent your Action and Bonus Action for each turn. The icons gray out as you use them.

HP and Movement

To the left of the character portrait is a meter that visually represents their health.

To the right, there’s a meter of the Movement they have available in this turn. As you move around the world during a turn, the meter will deplete. Outside of combat, the meter is visible, but it won’t deplete.

Attack Actions

To the far left, you have buttons for attacks. The gray ones are for normal melee or ranged attacks. The orange ones are special attack actions you might have from your class, like Cleave or Pin Down.

Below the attack options, there’s a toggle for melee versus ranged weapons. This switches the weapon you have in your hand at the moment, and it determines how you’ll attack the next time you click on an enemy. (You’ll also see this when your cursor changes to a sword or a bow as you hover over an enemy.)

Other Actions and Bonus Actions

The next section of buttons covers both non-attack Actions and Bonus Actions.

Non-attack Actions are things like Dash (trading your action for extra movement) and Help (getting a downed ally back on their feet).

Bonus Actions are extra physical actions you can take during a turn. Jumping, Shoving, and Dipping your weapon in a pool of acid are all Bonus Actions. (Side note: Always Shove if you have the bonus action. Sometimes it’ll knock an enemy off a cliff for extra damage. Sometimes it just feels good to knock down a bad guy.)


To the right of the character portrait is your hotbar. This includes usable items like potions and Spell Scrolls, Spells, and Class-based abilities. When you hover over items in your hotbar, you’ll see how much of a turn they require (using those icons from below your character’s portrait) to use.


We mentioned reactions in our Baldur’s Gate 3 beginner’s guide. The most common Reaction you’ll deal with is Opportunity Attack, which gives you a free swing on an enemy who moves away from you.

If and when you gain other Reaction options (as you level up in your Class), you’ll control which Reaction is your default here.

Spells: Cantrips and slots

If your character can use spells — if you’re a wizard or a warlock, for example — you’ll have two different types of spells to be mindful of.

Graphic: Jeffrey Parkin/Polygon | Source image: Larian Studios

Cantrips are smaller spells that can be cast freely when not in combat and as an action while in combat. Think of cantrips like basic attacks for spell casters.

While not as strong as other spells, cantrips are great utility spells for those who use magic. As you level up, you may even be able to bolster your cantrips, making them stronger and more useful in combat.

Graphic: Jeffrey Parkin/Polygon | Source image: Larian Studios

More powerful spells require the use of your limited spell slots. These stronger abilities not only take up an action, but also one of the purple spell slots that you can see above your movement meter.

Since their utility is quite powerful, your ability to use them is restricted. If you don’t have any spell slots, you can’t use these spells. Think of these slots like magical ammo. To replenish spells slots, you’ll need to rest. You’ll gain more spell slots as you level up, but you should always save these bigger attacks for when you really need them. You don’t want to end up in a boss fight without your most helpful spells.

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