All throughout Act 3 of Baldur’s Gate 3, you are faced with an internal conflict between choosing to trust the Emperor. After all, this is a mind flayer that lied to you about its identity, in more ways than one. However, it’s also protecting you from the full powers of the tadpole and seemingly wants to destroy the Elder Brain for good. Further in Act 3, though, Orpheus is introduced, which only blurs the trust line with the Emperor even more.
Orpheus is a githyanki prince that has been trapped inside the Astral Prism all this time. His powers are responsible for stopping the tadpole from turning you into a mind flayer, and the Emperor says that we cannot trust him under any circumstances. Naturally, at one point in Act 3, you have to make a choice between siding with Orpheus or the Emperor, and this can be a doozy of a decision.
Luckily, I’m here to help you make the right choice for your character. Warning, there will be spoilers for Act 3 and the end of Baldur’s Gate 3 below.
Siding with the Emperor or Orpheus in BG3
It should be noted that you only get the chance to betray the Emperor and free Orpheus if you acquired the Orphic Hammer. This allows you to free Orpheus from his bonds in the Astral Prism. Without it, you will have to either rely on the Emperor or kill it and do things yourself.
First off, let’s start with what happens if you free Orpheus. Deciding to do this when you last enter the Astral Prism in Act 3 will result in the Emperor leaving and siding with the Elder Brain. You have to fight the Emperor during the final conflict in this scenario. However, despite what the Emperor said, Orpheus will not attack you when he’s freed. Instead, he will do his part in stopping the Elder Brain, and he even goes so far as to turn himself into a mind flayer if you ask him. Orpheus is a worthy ally and does everything he can to destroy the Elder Brain.
On the slip side, if you don’t free Orpheus and side with the Emperor, you are left with a couple of options. The first option the Emperor forces on you is to turn into a mind flayer if you haven’t already. A mind flayer is the only creature that can wield the Netherstones to take down the Elder Brain. If you don’t want to become a mind flayer, then you can hand the Netherstones over to the Emperor. The last option you have is to use Gale and his orb to blow up the Elder Brain, but this only works if you have Gale in your party.
In the end, both options yield similar results. If you free Orpheus, he takes the Netherstones and defeats the Elder Brain. The same happens if you team up with the Emperor or become a mind flayer yourself. I’m personally partial to siding with Orpheus due to the Emperor immediately choosing to side with the Elder Brain when you choose to free the prince.
I would also suggest freeing Orpheus if you are a githyanki or have Lae’zel in your party. This leads to a great ending with Lae’zel in particular. In the end, trust your gut, as both decisions play out similarly.