|The world at last! A find in Mendor's Library allowed me to look at a general map of the city and game world.|
A few days ago, it took me one and a half postings to cover a single map area (the slums), and now I'm going to cover seven in one. I'm afraid my playing has been outpacing my blogging. These are the seven map areas that I've explored and cleared, based on their names on the map above.
The main part of Kuto's Well offered combats with hobgoblins, orcs, goblins, and kobolds, no different from the Slums. There were only a couple of fixed encounters. In the southern part of the map, I found a door guarded by some lizardmen with giant lizards. Defeating them allowed me to bust open the door and release a mysterious female prisoner, who warned me that "an evil spirit from an unholy pool" is behind my enemies (clearly Tyranthraxus and the Pool of Radiance). After she fled, I found a nice cache of arms and armor beneath a rug.
There was a eponymous well in the area, though, and descending it led me to the secret caverns of the bandit Norris the Grey. This was a another maddening area to map, because most of the 16 x 16 grid wasn't used, and I was sure I was missing secret doors somewhere. The one secret door that I did find led to an area with nothing in it.
Norris had a letter on his body (recorded in my journal) in which someone called "The Boss" demanded he assemble his men and follow a hobgoblin on an unspecified mission in exchange for "food, treasure, and many slaves." Norris had drafted a reply in which he told the Boss that: "I will never follow the orders of a hobgoblin. I don't go on missions until I know exactly what we're supposed to do. And I don't go on missions for an unknown amount of 'food, treasure, and slaves.'" I like this Norris fellow; I'm sorry I killed him.
In general, this journal entry does a good job illustrating how the game fleshes out its NPCs, even if you can't interact with the NPC or use this information to any real degree.
|These role-playing choices aren't outstanding for the modern era, but no other game of this age offers such a variety.|
Podol Plaza is where I was sent to find out what high-level item "the enemy" was selling at an auction. The area was crawling with monsters, and when I entered, the game gave me a nice roleplaying choice about whether I wanted to "stride boldly forward," disguise my party as monsters, or sneak around. I chose the disguse, and it held through much of the area.
The auctioneer was in the middle of the area, and there were a couple of ways to play the encounter, including trying to listen to rumors in the crowd, bid on the object, push your way forward to get closer, and so on. The auction ended with one of the bidders (called "Garwin" by the auctioneer) creating a distraction, snatching the item (some kind of wand), and running off. I don't know if there was any way to play it so that I would have gotten the object, or fought the auctioneer, or whatever, but the Clerk did reward me for the limited intelligence I returned with.
On the eastern side of the same area was a building that had been converted to a temple to the god Bane, who is tied in some of the literature I found with Tyranthraxus. I pretended that I wanted to join, but the orcs in charge saw through it and I fought a protracted battle. On the west side of the Plaza was a monster bar called the Pitt. The moment I walked through the door, a mercenary challenged me to one-on-one combat, which I won, but then the whole place erupted into a brawl. Oddly, I had a pack of hobgoblins fighting on my side, which is another nice combat feature that I forgot to mention yesterday. It occasionally happens that NPC squads join you in battle. Since your characters are in the front ranks, they often end up dithering around ineffectively in the back, but it's still a first, I think, for a CRPG.
The Textile Complex was the most maddening of the areas in the game so far, featuring enemies that caused poison (frogs, lizards) and level drains (wights). The presence of huge packs of undead in the area is never really explained. The lower half of the map featured a sort-of hobgoblin town, complete with kitchens, dining rooms, and a nursery. A lot of these rooms had basic descriptions when I walked in (e.g., "a dilapidated former mansion; the tapestries on the walls are rotted and tattered") that gave a nice pen-and-paper-style RPG feel. Such depictions are scattered throughout Pool of Radiance, but they seem more densely concentrated in this area.
I kept finding slaughtered hobgoblins with blood graffiti on the walls indicating that "Skullcrusher was here." Skullcrusher happened to be in the literal last square I searched on the map, imprisoned in chains. Apparently, he was a servant of Councilmember Cadorna, sent to the complex to retrieve the same heirloom box that was the object of my quest. I guess I could have taken him as an NPC if I'd had a slot free, but I didn't, so he happily went back to his master.
I originally attempted Mendor's Library after Kuto's Well, but no picking or bashing in the world would get me through the locked main door, so I had to wait until one of my mages had the "knock" spell before I could return.
In the library, I found four rooms containing stacks of books. One of them was guarded by a basilisk, which seems like a slightly unfair fight for my level, except fortunately I was able to overwhelm him and kill him before he could gaze (that must be what the mirrors in one of the shops are for). "Searching" the rooms seemed to have a random chance of producing a useful book. A couple times, I was about ready to give up when I suddenly found another book. This uncertainty led me to search each room about 100 times before I was sure I'd found everything.
There were five useful journal entries here. One was the map that starts this blog entry. Others gave me insight into the Pool of Radiance and Tyranthraxus. Apparently, the Pool of Radiance is one of many such pools throughout the realms. By immersing oneself in the pool and performing a certain ritual, one can gain great powers, including immortality. The book notes that the pool is not necessarily tied to a single physical location.
Presumably, Tyranthraxus the Flamed One did use, or is using, the Pool to achieve his powers. One of the book listed him as a "lesser power" among the god Bane's "hall of Minor Courtiers." Others in his group are given as Maram of the Great Spear, Haask, Borem of the Lake of Boiling Mud, and Camnod the Unseen. I looked these folks up the Forgotten Realms Wiki (links on each of their names), and I can't claim to understand all the history that goes along with their stories, but the upshot is they all seem to be quasi-deities defeated by the "Dead Three"--Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul--in their quest for godhood. It's neat to see a tie-in with Bhaal at this point in the D&D CRPG oeuvre.
Another book suggested that Tyranthraxus was once a powerful mortal general who waged a scorched earth campaign across kingdoms called Barze, Horreb, and Vane. He was wreathed in some kind of magical flame, which eventually destroyed his body, setting his spirit free to possess other mortals. Someone named Baron Schodt was able to imprison him in a vial of water and toss it into the depths of a lake. Presumably, after that, he got free and somehow ran into Bane and . . . hell if I know. He's back, anyway, and probably the "Boss" that everyone's going on about.
I like games that feature this kind of in-game lore. Morrowind probably does it best: through various books, notes, and recollections of characters, you try to piece together what really happened to Nerevar all those years ago, and you never really get a final "answer."
Mendor's spectre attacked me on the way out. He was capable of draining two levels in one hit, but fortunately he went for an NPC first.
I was directed to the Kovel Mansion area by the Clerk, saying it had been infested with thieves and she wanted me to rout them. The mansion was full of traps, locked chests, locked doors, and so on, and I seem to remember from my last playthrough (admitted, a long time ago) that it was the only part of the game in which a thief was really needed. Well, boy did my thief fall down on the job. I guess by multi-classing him, I ensured that he wasn't a high enough level to do any of the necessary tasks. We tripped every trap, and every lock required bashing it or using a "knock" spell (I think I encountered a game bug here, because I was able to use "knock" multiple times even though I had only memorized it once).
There was quite a lot of treasure to find, though, including some relatively high-level magic items (leather armor +4 is the highest plus I've received so far). Lone thieves kept attacking me, and I'm not sure of the purpose of that. There was only one big battle, with a group of thieves, some high level, but it wasn't too tough.
The neat thing is that the bandit leader seems to have been collecting intelligence on Phlan, Tyranthraxus, and the surrounding area. There were several notes full of bulleted items meticulously organized as "facts," "strong rumors," "rumors," and "vague rumors." A whole set concerned Councilmember Porphyrys Cadorna, who lately sent me on a quest for a family heirloom. He is a "rising star" in council politics, rumored to be charming but vindictive, and apparently he contacted the thieves to get information about the Pool of Radiance, and is hiring mercenaries. Something tugs at my memory here, but I can't quite place it.
Another set of facts and rumors concerned Ulrich Eberhard, the leader of the expedition to retake Phlan. I haven't run into him yet. There's a vague rumor that he's actually bought by "The Boss." There were several maps whose labels indicated they were part of a maze in Valjevo Castle, which I'll have to storm eventually. One of the thief's notes indicated it was a "fact" that "The Boss" holds auidences in Valjevo Castle. He is apparently trying to recruit tribes of monsters in the surrounding area to re-take Phlan, and he is rumored to be a "dragon or a human who can take the form of a dragon," perhaps even a metallic dragon (which would be abnormal because they are usually "good").
This map, lying in between Kovel Mansion and the Temple of Bane, essentially served no purpose. There were endless random battles with orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, and ogres here. In all other maps, after I've fought enough battles, I've "cleared" the area and they've stopped. But I never cleared this one.
There wasn't much to find: some orc living quarters, a cryptic message on a wall (see below), and a single journal entry that listed some numbers of creatures ("Ogres--1, Hobgoblins--40," etc.), but I don't know where. I've certainly killed more than those numbers here. The primary purpose of the area seems to be to ensure that you meet groups of orcs carrying leather holy symbols of Bane, so you can use them in the Temple of Bane area. If this wasn't clear, letting some goblin slaves go free gets you a warning to the effect that "to enter the Temple, you need a holy symbol of Bane."
Although the random encounters never stopped, I did find that my higher-level party was much more intimidating. Parlaying with the creatures in an "abusive" tone generally caused them to flee or to give me an anemic warning about "nonbelievers" needing to "hit the road, ya bums."
Temple of Bane
I had picked up Dirten a long time ago after the Clerk told me to go see Bishop Braccio at the Temple of Tyr. Dirten had a mission to clear out the profane temple and restore it to its rightful god.
The Temple of Bane had an interesting geography. The 16 x 16 map was dominated by the large temple, surrounded by a series of outbuildings. It had more random encounters than even the Wealthy District, and even though I tried to parlay my way out of most of them, I kept getting surprised by unbelievable hordes of goblins.
At the entrance, the orcs, seeing my holy symbols, stood aside to let me in. I looted the temple of a couple of treasure caches before facing a major choice:
My Level 4 characters, undoubtedly egged on by the NPC Dirten, decided they had no fear of inciting the wrath of a god. I destroyed the temple and was attacked by a horde of orc fighters and bowmen led by an orc cleric named "Mace."
It was a long battle, but it's been a long time since orcs were a serious challenge. Between "Sleep" and "Hold Person," I took care of a bunch of them--including Mace--in the first round. The rest of it was just mop-up, and I have to hand it to the orcs: they held on, not one surrendering, until the last one fell. On the leader's body was a set of orders from Tyranthraxus telling him to investigate the source of the undead menace in Valhingen Graveyard, so apparently Big T isn't behind it.
Dirten left me at this point to take care of re-sanctifying the temple, and I returned to Phlan for my "reward"--nudge, nudge--from the Clerk.
Having completed these areas, Octavianus is a Level 5 fighter, Karnov is a Level 4 fighter and a Level 5 thief, Zink and Duskfire are at Level 4 in both fighter and mage classes, Lame Brain is Level 4 in both fighter and cleric, and Koren is a Level 5 cleric. My swordsman NPC is also a Level 5 fighter. He's risen twice, and I've had to front him the gold both times.
My outstanding quests from the Clerk are:
- A number of interrelated quests having to do with Valhingen Graveyard. I'm dreading this. I'm sure it'll be full of level-drainers. The Clerk gave a Two Handed Sword +1, +3 vs. Undead to help me out, along with a bunch of restore scrolls.
- Find a tribe of kobolds and stop them from joining with the enemy.
- Find a tribe of nomads and stop them from joining with the enemy.
- Figure out the source of the pollution of the Barren River, which runs alongside Phlan.
You might note that some of these quests seem to require me to leave Phlan proper. I haven't mentioned this yet--mostly because I forgot this from my previous times playing the game--but Pool of Radiance boasts an extensive outdoor map!
More on that next time, but for now, see if you can help me solve some outstanding mysteries. No outright spoilers please, but I'd appreciate some hints (use ROT-13 if you're unsure).
1. In Mendor's Library, I came across three caches of gold foil. They don't seem to do anything (although they are equippable), and they sell for 0 gold. What are they for?
2. Also in Mendor's Library, I found a Manual of Bodily Health, which in other D&D games raises constitution. When I equip and read it, nothing happens. Just a programming mistake, or am I missing something?
3. Scrawled on a wall in the Wealthy District was this message: "NORTH WALL. RI__T FRONT GLAS_. __SE." There's nothing on the north wall of this district, and I can't think of anything it would apply to. Any ideas?
4. One of the items I found in the Temple of Bane was a ring of feather falling. Does this help anywhere in this game?