Sorry it has taken me so long to respond, but I have been busy and the sheer volume of stuff to respond to was a bit daunting… So anyway, here goes:
Will this component do anything other than adding items to the game that will skew the game balance? Players will find ways to beat these characters and loot them.
No. Are you implying that every quest mod or mod that adds any
items or XP to the game should drastically overhaul all subsequent battles to make them proportionally harder? If so, then I'm not sure there is a single "balanced" quest or item mod out there, including UB... EDIT: My initial thought was no, but I can see where you could add characters' reactions to noticing you using their stolen equipment if you managed to get it without killing them, or Elminster taking a Harper's Pin away from you if you killed someone for one.
If not killed, it does not really matter whether they have these items or not.
On the contrary, the Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale games (including characters, items, storylines, timelines, significant events, locations, political powers, etc.) exist within a (mostly) consistent and contiguous universe that is Forgotten Realms. My belief is that the original game developers strove to fit the events and characters of their games into the greater Forgotten Realms universe in as synchronous and canon a way as was feasible to implement based on limited resources and time. It is my belief that the descriptions of these notable characters and the mention of their equipment (found in the BG1 Manual) is an indication of the original game developers' intent to adhere to the established "lore" and precedence already established in the Realms.
It's what one could call the Final Fantasy paradox: the most difficult enemies in the series have the best loot, but at the same time, they're not the final bosses. If one sticks to the traditional idea of collecting items, all that loot is supposed to help the player in the end-game. And that's the problem! If the player can beat enemies tougher than the final boss, why even bother? Or, "If I have beaten the most powerful monsters without the ultimate loot, should I even keep playing to the end? Isn't that basically it, strictly gameplay- and challenge-wise?"
If I were suggesting adding these items to main "boss-level" enemies that the plot forced you to encounter and defeat, then I would agree this would be a very valid concern. However, you are not forced into any such confrontation with Taerom, Thalantyr, Ulraunt, etc. Instead, these are "background" characters that the PC would NOT normally kill. In fact, killing them for their equipment comes at a cost (unlike any said "boss-level enemies/'bad guys'") of, for example, losing access to their stores AND any powerful or unique equipment you have not yet bought from them, AND a considerable amount of reputation, AND potentially making everyone in the area hostile toward you. Furthermore, giving these characters their equipment both adds a layer of depth to the game and to these characters, and helps them and the game in general fit more smoothly into the Forgotten Realms universe, as discussed above.
Sam., I hope I understand you correctly: all those suggested items would have collector's value, am I right? There would be a challenge factor, yes, but it doesn't matter how the player acquires these -- it's up to the player -- as the items themselves are there for immersion and attention to detail. There are certain aspects of the game which suggest that the designers really tried to provide those two core-elements, but lacked the time.
In other words, just because Taerom has the best staff in the game, doesn't mean I must gank him at his workshop and loot it. I honestly believe the sheer knowledge of him having the item is what matters to you, Sam., and a number of other BG1 players. Or maybe we're just obsessive-compulsive about these kinds of things.
Personally, I'm not likely to kill Taerom or Thalantyr for their equipment. What matters to me is that for the game to fit into the Forgotten Realms universe, these characters should
have their canon equipment. This gives players the option
to try to defeat them for their equipment. Just because you can doesn't mean you have to, but options are important and add depth and replay-ability to the game.
The paradox here is that as I like Sam's idea and share Echon's concerns at the same time. As a FR lore freak I'd love to see those items in game for the sole immersion value it could add to the game. There's a lot of canon stuff you could add to the game as for example Duke Eltan has a tons of serious magic items, like a sentient sword named Roan. If someone decide to add Sam's ideas to the mod I could search my FR books to find what magic items are in possession of NPC's that are in game. I'm pretty sure that most (if not all) of information pointed out by Sam from is taken from 2nd ed. Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast lorebook by whoever wrote BG manual.
Anyway let me know if you want me to dig it out.
If UBs authors decide not to include my suggestion in their mod, I think this would make a great mod all its own.
Also, if the manual was canon, we'd have to fuck up like half of the spells.
My guess would be that the game developers and writers wrote the Manual and then had to go back and tweak/update/improve the spells, but ran out of time or money to update the Manual accordingly. Conversely, I don't think they would have included the descriptions about these characters' equipment in the Manual if they didn't intent to incorporate it into the game, but obviously they never got around to it (for whatever reason, my guess being time and money).
Perhaps I'm just cynical, but I don't see the "immersion value" (for example) of Taerom just *having* his staff. He wouldn't be carrying it if he's working (he'd have a hammer or some other blacksmith tool), and a 12 foot staff is not something you just strap to your back and walk around with (talk about breaking immersion - Taerom carrying a 12 foot staff around inside his shop - he must have ceilings at least 15 feet tall!). So, the staff would be in a container in his shop. Where's the immersion? The "value" from such a mod would be in getting the items for CHARNAME & Co., i.e., killing Taerom, Thalantyr, etc.. for their items (or stealing them, but how do you pickpocket a 12 foot staff?)
Point taken about the size of his staff, but I could see him hanging it on the wall of his shop while he's working. There's something to be said for the intimidation factor (against potential thieves) of a nearly 7 foot tall, active, burly giant of a man wielding a famed 12 foot iron staff that he keeps within easy reach.
On the other hand, I still don't see the value of the NPCs just having these items. I think Echon is right. The items are OP for BG1, and adding them just encourages trying to kill these NPCs. If you don't loot the items, what difference do they make?
What's the point of the Demonknight on the 1st level of Durlag's Tower having a Helmet of Opposite Alignment or Winski Perorate in the Duchal Palace having a Ring of Wizardry or being able to acquire The Vampire's Revenge from Ulcaster? My opinion is that it adds a level of intricacy, depth, challenge, and replayability for players that have already found and seen and done and tried everything else. And because it's just plain cool!