I've played Baldur's Gate 3 a lot now. And, let me tell you, I've played through Act 1 more times than a lot. I just can't help creating new characters! This restart-itus has become even worse recently, too, thanks to me delving into the world of Baldur's Gate 3 cosmetic mods, which are letting me take character aesthetics to a whole new level.
And, while I'm now overly familiar with Act 1 of Baldur's Gate 3, I'm still astonished that after playing through the game so many times, with so many different characters, I'm still being surprised by in-game content that I've never seen before, such as my recent discovery of a swag-laden shortcut into the Underdark that I'd totally missed on every other run to date. Naturally, spoilers now follow.
Hidden in plain sight
I'm referring to the Zhentarim (Faerûn's black market trading organisation) hideout, which while I'm sure some PC gamers have found during their playthroughs of Baldur's Gate 3, I managed to miss entirely, on repeat. Well, entirely until I ran through Waukeen's Rest with my most recent character, the wood elf druid Flidais, and noticed I'd never been in that particular locked door in the inn's stable area.
The door in question can be bypassed in a number of ways, be that picking its lock (Astarion FTW!), breaking it down or, if you get a bit stack happy with crates, having one or more of your adventurers jump onto the roof of the building and then sneak in to it around the back through a whole in the rear wall. Equally, if you have any characters with Enhanced Leap or Misty Step, or a Potion of Flying on hand, then you can also get up on the roof tiles that way.
Regardless of the option you choose, proceed past the door and then avoid being ambushed by a crouched, ambushing Zhentarim scout. Once you are past the scout you will find, nestled at the back of a very ordinary looking barn, a hidden trap door. Proceed through the trap door and you'll find yourself in a hidden storage area loaded with containers. Many of these contain useful items or camp supplies, so it's worth raiding them all, but what you want to do next is check out the large wardrobe that's tucked up the far left corner of the room.
Successfully interact with this wardrobe and you'll discover that it is actually a secret door that once opened leads down to the Zhentarim hideout proper. And, aside from featuring characters and content you've never seen before if, like me, you'd missed this area in your previous Baldur's Gate 3 runs, this hideout also boasts some really juicy treasures that will help you in your adventure, as well as a direct shortcut into the Underdark.
Here be treasures
I won't go into a detailed list of what's on offer down here, but rest assured for a low-level party it is a smorgasbord of usefulness. There's consumables, such as potions and camp supplies, weapons, wearables and coin, as well as maybe the most useful thing of all in Baldur's Gate 3—explosive smokepowder barrels. Getting the barrels isn't a walk in the park (I won't spoil the surprise), but if you manage it, then you can fill your party's inventory with enough smokepowder barrels to blow even The Absolute into Avernus.
Filled your pockets with loads of loot from the Zhentarim's Black Market operations? Well then, why not then make straight for the Underdark, making use of the Zhentarim's own personal lift directly down into the Deepearth. This lift, the base station of which I had discovered previously but had been unable to activate from below, means you can enter the Underdark without having to make your way through the ruined Selûnite temple.
There's no massive advantage to doing so, and indeed I was disappointed to discover I couldn't enter the goblin camp in reverse (there's no lever to trigger the hidden door, meaning you're stuck facing a brick wall), but it does mean you can easily bag a clutch items and weapons (such as the simply superb Phalar Aluve longsword) from the Underdark early.
You'll also have your breeches absolutely stuffed with sausages and cheese wheels, meaning that you'll be able to bag a few more long rests before tackling some of the tougher Act 1 foes. Neat! And chapeaux to Larian for continuing to surprise me even after putting literally hundreds of hours into Baldur's Gate 3.