Baldur's Gate 3 fans are debating the game's most important characters - and there seems to be something of a gulf between their popularity and how central they are to the story.
This article contains spoilers for Baldur's Gate 3.
In a post on the game's subreddit, one player made their pitch for Lae'zel as "the unofficial main character of the game," arguing that "her story has by far the largest ties to the main plot of the game and the consequence of her plotline on the lore of the Forgotten Realms are huge." They go on to argue that since Baldur's Gate 3 is canon, Lae'zel's story - which concerns the history and origin myth of her entire race - has significant ramifications on D&D's entire plotline.
Unfortunately for Lae'zel, she's the least popular of Baldur's Gate 3's Origin characters. She might be a slightly more popular companion, but she's also rude and antagonistic, which is likely to turn some players off using her. Compare her to the always-friendly Karlach, who as a Barbarian fulfills a pretty similar role to our unfortunate Githyanki Fighter, and it might not be too surprising that Lae'zel doesn't get too much time in the spotlight, despite her importance.
However, plenty disagree with the idea that the grumpy Gith is most important, and the main counter appears to be Shadowheart. One user points out that while you can completely avoid several substantial parts of Lae'zel's story, there's no dodging the Gauntlet of Shar, around which the entire second act hinges. That puts Shadowheart - who also carries the Prism that accelerates the story's first act - as a strong contender. She comes in 4th out of 6 in Larian's Origin character popularity poll but does seem to be a dramatically more popular companion (and romance option) than Lae'zel.
Gale's proximity to the game's potential finale seems to put him in third place among the 'traditional' Origin characters, but there's a dark horse alternative to all of those characters in the form of the Dark Urge. A unique Origin in the sense that you can craft their race and class, Durge's story ties so closely to the game's overall narrative that you could easily argue that none of it would have happened without their influence. It's also clear as the game progresses that they're quite intricately linked to some of the core quests, in much the same way as Shadowheart is to the Gauntlet.
It's hard to establish exactly how popular Durge is, as Larian's official infographic lumps them in with the custom characters. That said, there are some clues - the Dark Urge-specific Steam achievement available at the end of Act 2 has only been unlocked by 2.1% of players. That's less than the number of people who have taken on Baldur's Gate 3's hardest boss or killed one of its big bads. If fewer people are beating Act 2 as Durge than are beating Act 3 bosses in specific ways, I'd be inclined to imagine that they're not as popular as those major characters (and Larian said you shouldn't play Durge for your first playthrough anyway).
While Lae'zel, Shadowheart, and Durge sit at the top of the list, it's pretty clear that Astarion, Karlach, and Wyll are seen more as side characters. While they all have their own stories and even their own larger quests, none of them are knitted quite as inextricably into the overall narrative. The community response is to leave this firmly as side content, promoting a final party as Durge, Shadowheart, Gale, and Lae'zel. To be fair, I think that's a pretty strong selection, and while I'd be inclined to take that Dark Urge main character forward as a Rogue to really round things out, most of the bases are covered.
Regardless, it's an interesting conversation. Having not played as Durge yet, I'm inclined to lean towards Shadowheart - if I hadn't had her in my party, several chunks of the game would have seemed a bit hollow. By contrast, I would have felt fine strolling into the Githyanki creche that denotes Lae'zel's biggest piece of unique content, and which is entirely missable if you arrive in Act 2 via the Underdark rather than the Mountain Pass. At the end of the day, there's no wrong answer - journey with the characters you like the most - but be aware that some have a little more story strength than others.
Lae'zel was key to my success in Baldur's Gate 3's final gauntlet.