Saturday, June 4, 2011

Pool of Radiance: Combat

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate level draining?

The combat system developed for Pool of Radiance--and consequently used in all of the Gold Box games--is one of its greatest features. I've been waiting for a properly epic battle in which I can describe all of these features in detail, but since the troll fight, none of the combats have been particularly difficult. I'll do the best I can with what I have.

The system is the culmination of many years of experience at SSI. They first introduced ultra-tactical combat in Wizard's Crown. I blogged about it almost a year ago. If you look at the screen shot from that game, you find that it's strikingly similar to the shots you've seen in Pool of Radiance:

This was before I knew how to use the DOSBox screen capture command. God, I was so young.

At the time, I noted that "there are no less than 20 actions that each of your characters can perform" and that the sheer number of statistics would "give a migraine to Sun Tzu." Apparently, I wasn't the only one to feel this way, because they greatly simplified the combat system for Shard of Spring and Demon's Winter--where you had the same sort of screen, but only the abilities to move, attack, cast, and use an item.

Pool of Radiance errs more towards Wizard's Crown tactical complexity, while removing many of its annoyances. Chief among them is having to be concerned about which way the character is facing. In Wizard's Crown, you had to be facing your enemy's specific position to attack him, and turning was an annoying process that took a weird key combination. In Pool of Radiance, the facing direction does matter, but the game just automatically adjusts it when you choose to target a particular enemy.

The second thing I like about the Gold Box games is the use of movement points. In previous SSI games, the character's movement points (dependent on speed and encumbrance) dictated both how far he could traverse the battlefield and the number of attacks. In adapting this for POR, SSI realized they had to follow D&D rules about number of attacks, so movement only determines how far you can go in charging your enemies or fleeing them. Once you actually stand face-to-face with a foe, even if you exhaust all your movement to get there, you get all the attacks your character class and level warrant. This perhaps makes a little less logical sense, but I confess I like it better.

A high strength and dexterity, and a low encumbrance, gives Duskfire a lot of movement.

Combat tactics start before the battle. If you are lucky enough to "surprise" the enemy, then you get a free round of attacks before they can react. If neither party is surprised, you have the option to flee or parlay, which I talked about a few postings ago. If you know you're going to fight, the more important pre-combat consideration is the distance from the enemy when the combat begins. Consider the screen shot below:


The enemy is about 30 feet from me. If I choose to enter combat at this point, we will face each other across an expanse of empty room. This can be a good thing if the enemy consists primarily of melee fighters (as ghouls are) I can line up my characters and either "guard" or try to pick them off with arrows and spells before they get in combat range. If the enemy consists of fighters with bows and spells of their own, I probably want to close the distance (with the "advance" command) before entering combat. This level was invested with poisonous lizards and frogs--many of which necessitated in hasty trip to a temple--so any time I could start combat at a distance was a good time.

Once you enter combat, there is a certain terrain based on the surrounding walls (which are based on the map are you're in when you enter combat). You can't quite use the environment to funnel your enemies the way you can in Ultima IV, but you can try to use it to your advantage. If you face multiple spellcasters, for instance, you might try to get all your characters out a door and around a corner so they can't see you and have to come to you one-by-one. This is very hard, though, and it's very frustrating when you have half your characters around the corner and two of them get hit by "Hold Person" spells while they're out there on their own. If I'm facing a lot of melee enemies, I prefer a narrow corridor. I can draw clear battle lines, face only four enemies at once, and protect my spellcasters.

Narrow corridors make it easier to line up and wait for your opponents, perhaps while "guarding."

The order in which the PCs and enemies attack is based on "initiative." I guess this is based partly on the character's dexterity score, but there must be some randomness to it because it's not the same order every time (unlike in, say, Might & Magic). Going first is usually best, but there are times in which you want a character to move later; for instance, you might want the cleric to hang back in case someone gets injured during the round, or a fighter might be blocked by someone else who should move first. The game allows you to "delay" the movement of any character to the end of the round, and I find I use this a lot.

If you want to wait for the enemies to come to you, you have the option to guard. Guarding means that as soon as the enemy gets within melee range, you get a free swipe at him, with an attack bonus. I use it a lot when facing melee fighters from a distance--it has a better chance of connecting, and does more damage, than missile weapons.

Once combat is joined, the first consideration is who to target. Spellcasters are naturally a priority. Under this game's rules, spellcasters cannot cast if they take damage before or during the casting. So if there's an enemy mage and you can hit him with an arrow, you don't need to worry about him until the next round. There are also enemies that drain levels, poison, and paralyze, and I often target them even ahead of spellcasters. I particularly hate level-drainers. I met a lot of wights in the Textile Complex, and they got me a few times. You can restore drained levels with the "restore" spell (on scrolls or at temples), but it doesn't restore all the experience points that you had gained towards the next level.

The way this game implements poison is particularly galling. In later D&D rules, poison causes attribute drains or continual health loss, which is bad enough, but in this game, a poisoned character "dies" instantly. You have to drag him back to a temple for healing, or you have to take a chance with the second-level "slow poison" spell, which brings the character back to life for a few hours, but if you can't get to a temple fast enough, the character dies for real. In my opinion, "slow poison" isn't worth it.

Anyway, back to melee combat. Barring spellcasters and enemies that drain levels, paralyze, or poison, I vacillate on whether it's best to target the toughest or weakest enemies first. To the best of my ability, I concentrate my attacks on a single enemy until he's down, since a wounded enemy hits as hard as a hale one. Better to face three gnolls at full health and three dead than six at half-health. I generally slaughter the low-level enemies first, but I'm not sure it's the best way.

As in all D&D games of the era, whether you connect with an enemy depends on your THAC0 ("to hit armor class 0") score, which in turn depends on dexterity, strength, the weapon wielded, and the way the enemy is facing. This is a bit of a neat implementation of the rules. The first character to attack an enemy attacks head-on (if the enemy was facing away when the attack starts, he turns to face the attacker). All subsequent characters strike at the enemy's side or rear, with consequent THAC0 bonuses. If a thief attacks from the rear, he has a chance of backstabbing the opponent, but I've yet to get this to work in this game.

As fighters advance in levels, they get a couple of useful abilities. One is naturally a lower THAC0 (like armor class, lower is better). Another is the ability to make multiple attacks per round. A third is the ability to sweep low-level enemies. This third skill is so much fun it makes it worth it to attack parties of kobolds. With "sweep," the fighter can attack every adjacent enemy in the same round. Nothing like wading into a mass of goblins and clearing out seven of them with a single attack.

I only got two this time, but if Zink goes next, he has the opportunity to get four!

Spells add a whole new dimension to combat, and fortunately you learn it slowly, because at these levels you don't have that many spells. "Sleep," which saved my tail numerous times in the slums, is starting to lose its potency against higher-level foes. "Hold Person" works okay, but only for humanoid creatures. I don't have any cleric spells past Level 2 yet, nor any mage spells past Level 1, so I'll cover spellcasting in a later posting. Mostly, I find, you have to get a feel for what works and what doesn't. "Charm Person" seems like an awesome spell--it instantly converts an enemy to your team--but I find that it fails so often I hate to waste a round casting it.

You can flee combat by moving to the edge of the map and making a getaway. If you're facing a melee enemy when you try to flee, you can say sayonara, because they get a couple of free sweeps at your exposed backside, and I find that they almost always connect. I hardly ever flee, but enemies often do, and I find it's a good tactic to get as many characters as possible within melee range before they turn tail. This is especially true with undead. I try not to turn undead until the end of the round, when all of my fighters are next to them and will have a chance to hack at them as they flee. Sometimes enemies feel so overpowered that they just surrender. Whether enemies flee or surrender, you don't get experience points for them, and I'm not sure you get their items, either, so I prefer to just kill them.

That sweep took all the fight out of him.

Now, if a character's hit points go to 0, he doesn't die immediately. Instead, he gets knocked unconscious and loses one point per round until he reaches -10, at which point he dies. I guess he can die immediately if he gets walloped by someone and immediately goes to -10, but I haven't faced enemies that tough yet. Stopping the bleeding requires taking a round to bandage the fallen comrade.

The aftermath of a battle with ghouls.

Finally, if you're sick of fighting manually against low-level enemies, the game offers a quick combat option for each character in which the computer controls him. The AI is fairly simplistic: characters use missile weapons until they run out of ammunition or until an enemy comes into melee range, and then they use melee weapons. Even this isn't consistent, though, because my dwarf fighter never uses his crossbow in quick combat. Sometimes a spellcaster under computer control casts, but I can't figure out the specific rules on this. Computer-controlled characters never guard, use items, or backstab, and the enemies that they target seem completely random. You only want to use it when facing low-level melee creatures. I did use it a bit in the Podol Plaza area, which featured battle after battle with orcs and hobgoblins. I let my characters swing away while I wrote my blog.

He doesn't quite look 10 feet tall, does he?

Again, I don't have a great model battle, but below you can see one between me, a bunch of hobgoblins, and an ogre. This was the boss battle in the Textile Complex area, and I needed to win to recover councilmenber Cadorna's family heirloom. At some point prior to the battle, I picked up another NPC, a cleric named "Dirten" who wants my help clearing out the Temple of Bane.



Knowing I'm about to fight a battle, I cast "Bless" and "Prayer" (Dirten has Level 3 cleric spells), which give combat bonuses. Battle begins at 00:57, and note how the 3D corridor--door to the right, narrow corridor ahead opening up to big room--is reflected in the walls on the combat screen.

I forgot I had the characters in quick mode, so Zink immediately goes charging at the lines of hobgoblins. This is fine, though. There a lot of hobgoblin leaders, which means they have bows. I couldn't have hung back and let them come to me. I stop quick mode before Zink reaches them, and I use him to cast "Hold Person" on three of the front-rank hobgoblins. This means that not only will they stay put for a few rounds, but their fellows behind them won't be able to move either.

Lame rain heads down at 01:45 and casts "Sleep" on a batch of the little buggers. Now take a look at Karnov, who only has 3 movement points as he begins his round. I have him loaded up with found equipment, and he can barely stumble a few steps towards the battle. I have him take out a hobgoblin with his crossbow, just to damage the enemy's morale.

Koren comes down and holds another trio, and Duskfire puts another group into the land of Nod. Computer-controlled Dirten also casts "Hold." By the time the round is over, over half the enemy is held or sleeping. (Notice in later rounds, like at 04:18, the computer has him try to cast "Hold" again, before checking whether he can see any un-held enemies.) After that, it's a total mop-up operation. Normally, I'd take out the ogre last, but I'm a little worried he'll surrender, so I get him early in the combat. At 07:55, I get my reward, and have the option to open Cadorna's secret heirloom, or take the box to him intact. I opt for the latter.

I hope this wasn't too much detail. I really love this level of strategy in combat, and it's especially exciting when you adopt a "limited save rule" like I do. I'll lose a lot of gameplaying time if I die, so I carefully plot most battles. I love it when a single character saves the day--and then somehow has to get his party back to safety. You can even do some role-playing in combat. When I was a kid, I'd pretend that my lead character was shouting orders to the others ("Lame Brain, cast 'Fireball' on that rank! Quickly!"). Then, maybe a character would go down, and my mage, enraged, would charge a rank of enemies with his quarterstaff as his companions shouted "No!" and looked on in horror. Now that I'm an adult...well, of course I don't do that any more.

I have to catch you up on a lot of plot-related stuff, as I've cleared four more maps since yesterday. This is the kind of game that I like to play so much, it annoys me to have to take time out for blogging.

41 comments:

  1. [quote]I guess this is based partly on the character's dexterity score, but there must be some randomness to it because it's not the same order every time[/quote]

    I'm hazy on AD&D 1st ed rules but I think it's d10 -/+ x according to exceptionally high or low Dexterity.

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  2. PetrusOctavianusJune 4, 2011 at 7:11 PM

    This battle exemplies the greatest (only?) flaw the Gold Box games had: stupid AI.
    Which is why I rarely let hirelings memorize battle spells, instead loading them up on buffing and healing spells.
    IMO, the Infinity Engine games took computerized AD&D to an even higher level than the Gold Box games did. You don't have the same level of control with the IE games, but the AI is much better (and it's moddable, yay!) and there are more combat options and spells to choose from.

    Regarding backstabbing, remember that in order to backstab an enemy you must attack the enemy *twice* before backstabbing him, without the victim having its turn in the meantime.

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  3. No griping about how stupid downward going AC but upward going attack is? Really, I need a function to map the one to the other? I have never figured out why that was put into the game.

    Bah, I love detail! Detail detail detail!

    Also I think you'll enjoy having a look at http://www.metafilter.com/104221/On-Fallout-We-had-a-time-travel-setting-with-dinosaurs-for-a-while it has interviews with a number of famous RPG designers.

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  4. The ads I see: D&D Daggerdale Video Game: Makes sense that you'd want to sell a CRPG on a CRPG blog.

    and... "How To Get a Pardon: We will tell you how to get a pardon and get you started. www.CanadianPardons.ca" o.0 Um, errrr... Not sure what that has to do with either my browsing history (As of late: LaTeX, RPGs and a bit of WWII history)

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  5. As I had never played (or heard) of the Gold Box engine before reading this blog, I never understood why the Realms of Arkania series changed from 1st person 3d exploring to a party isometric combat view, comparing them to games like Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder or later Might & Magic which stayed in the 3d window.

    I had always found it weird, now I see clearly where it has its roots, including movement points/encumbrance, directions people face, etc. I think that something that made it bizarre in the Arkania series is the graphical style mismatch between game views. In PoR it has more unity and the passage from exploring to combat feels more natural.

    BTW, between my party composition (only two fighters - needed in the front) and the laborious change of weapons, I ended up only using melee weapons for like 99% of my combat in this game (I'm done with all of Phlan including the graveyard, not the gate/castle, and I just finished the Pyramid in the wild). My 2 pure mages have now a load of sleep/stinking cloud/fireball spells and provide ample long-range support for the fighters.

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  6. One irk with PoR of which I suspect plagues all it on all platforms, with the exception of the UA module, is Thieves and non-fighter multi-class Thieves cannot use short-bows in combat, despite the games documentation stating that they can. I hope my memory is right on this but please someone correct me if I am wrong.

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  7. buckrogers - I think you're right about thieves not using short bows which surprised me. My thief has a sling so I use him to pick off the sleeping opponents.

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  8. On my long trip, I've seen many others say this and I'm glad to say it myself: I just read your entire archives and -loved- them.
    Recently a new Wizardry game for the PS3 came out, and I was idly googling around for any talk about the series. Stumbled on your blog that way and just started reading from the beginning. Finally, I'm caught up to the present day.
    Looks like once I beat this Wizardry I may have to go back and play Might and Magic. That looks like a quality dungeon delve.
    (IMO, the Wizardry series doesn't intersect between "Old School Appeal" and "An Actual Fricking Playable Game" until around 5 or 6. That's a long way off! I wish you luck.)

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  9. Target selection: I think in the simplest case (no spells or special attacks) it might be good to concentrate on the enemy who has the highest ratio of his attack power to time he's expected to last under attack.

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  10. PetrusOctavianusJune 5, 2011 at 6:39 AM

    For those who can't get enough of Pool of Radiance, there is a current Let's Play over at the RPGCodex:
    http://rpgcodex.net/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=60064

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  11. If the Sleep spell works anything like the AD&D rules say it should, there should be no random chance involved whatsoever. Creatures with 4 hit dice (levels) are always affected*, creatures with 5 or more are never affected. It's a borderline broken murder machine on lower levels but loses all its utility later.

    *) Unless they have specific immunity to sleep, like undead or elves.

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  12. There seems to be a lot of battle in these rpgs, I havn't played rpgs much, mostly action adventure which in which you don't have xp, but isn't the battle both boring and addictive at the same time? That's what I usually find, I watched a let's play of Tecmo Secret of the Stars, and the guy who played had to do a lot of leveling before he was able to beat the dungeons, but leveling just consisted of beating thousands of enemies and it wasn't really fun. In fact the game took a lot of time even considering that he cut out the leveling stuff from the let's play and he used frame skip and still it took like 20-40 hours and I just feel like the leveling doesn't contribute to the game that much. I would prefer a game where relations to other characters were more important and you only had to kill every now and then to make your strength attributes stay relevant.

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  13. PetrusOctavianusJune 5, 2011 at 11:44 AM

    Dude, tactical turn based combat is really the heart and soul of the Gold Box games. To me the combat only gets boring when you have to fight endless numbers of the same random encounters, which is really only a problem with Secrets of the Silver Blades and the two Savage Frontier games.

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  14. This has to be the best description I've ever seen of the kick-ass tactics available in these SSI games. What a detailed and comprehensive write-up. I only entered the series with Dark Queen of Krynn, but that and X-COM sucked up so much of my time because of the sheer number of options and interesting choices you can make.

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  15. Yea, I would like to see our faithful addict play xcom. Its really not a crpg but it is close enough to fit according to his rules. Items, economy, experience and all that.

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  16. "Now that I'm an adult...well, of course I don't do that any more."

    Sure, sure.

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  17. Thanks, Helm. That's consistent with what I'm observing.

    Petrus, I understand that about backstabbing, but I still can't get it to work. Perhaps my thief wasn't high enough. So far, I've been fighting mostly enemies who go down in one hit anyway, so I'll try harder when I face tougher foes.

    Another annoying thing about the AI is that if the game can't figure out the best path, your character just ends up running back and forth in the background. They also have a way of equipping the dumbest weapon.

    Canageek, I got so used to negative ACs and THACOs that I hardly think about it any more. Everyone's THACO is pretty high--both PCs and enemies--which means that we all miss about 50-60% of the time. That makes it all the more satsifying when a blow finally connects.

    Georges, you're ahead of me, and your pure mages are much more advanced than mine will be at the same juncture, but I still think I'm avoiding a lot of frustration by not hitting level caps well before the game ends.

    Buck, my thief is a fighter/thief, which oddly gives him no weapon or armor restrictions (I have him equipped with leather just in case it screws up his searching/disarming otherwise), so I don't have any trouble with bows. What you say seems familiar from past games, though.

    Xyzzysgirl: glad you like the blog and got caught up. Actually, Wizardry V is coming up pretty fast.

    Anon, I don't know about the rules, but I've used it against orcs sometimes and I'll have four go down and four stay awake. Don't they get saving throws just like me?

    Dude & Petrus, my exploration of the Wealthy District and Temple of Bane today did get a little tiresome with the battles. I was encountering them about every third step. I eventually put the computer on quickplay and let it fight while I wrote the blog.

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  18. That's the most interesting variation of my name I've ever encountered!

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  19. Ha! Sorry about that. The underlining here makes it tough to tell whether it's a "g" or a "q," and naturally I interpolated the "i." I thought you might actually be the girlfriend of my frequent commenter Xyzzy.

    I just visited your blog. Disabused of that notion.

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  20. "Anon, I don't know about the rules, but I've used it against orcs sometimes and I'll have four go down and four stay awake. Don't they get saving throws just like me?"

    Sleep allows no saving throw: that's what makes it so powerful. However, the number of creatures affected is rolled randomly with 2d4.

    That's the pen-and-paper version anyway. It's possible that the gold box engine has a different implementation.

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  21. PetrusOctavianusJune 6, 2011 at 5:52 AM

    "Dude & Petrus, my exploration of the Wealthy District and Temple of Bane today did get a little tiresome with the battles. I was encountering them about every third step. I eventually put the computer on quickplay and let it fight while I wrote the blog. "

    Is your party wandering about in search mode?
    Anyway, when you mention it, the Wealthy District was one of the more annoying areas of the game, but not using Search and using diplomacy (read: bullying) the random encounters weren't that bad.

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  22. Correction to the last post: Sleep affects 2d4 _hit dice_ of creatures. This means that depending on your roll, it could affect eight kobolds, or fail to affect even one 3 HD ogre. So yeah, there actually is random chance involved - my mistake (though it still doesn't allow a save and there should be an overwhelming probability of catching at least one enemy if they're not flat out immune to Sleep).

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  23. Dear CRPG,

    Good post. I like your presentation of tactics. I too use Guard a lot for advancing enemies who have no missiles of spells. I also like to put up Stinking cloud in front of the melee line just before the enemy arrives to really trip them up. Meanwhile, I am also hitting them with spells.

    If the enemy has magic and missile users, I go on the attack and target the above as quickly as possible.

    One fun thing you sometimes can do is use the terrain, like you said, I will hide characters behind walls and try to flank enemies. In the Sokal Keep fight, I moved my party to room to the south and blocked the exits with clouds and used missle weapons until they started to surrender.

    I too hate the level drain and find it a pain. I forget, do silver weapons help against the wights? Or could normal weapons work?

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  24. I loved your screenshot of the Hobgoblin boss so much, that I had to do my own version...

    http://thelamebrain.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/dramticchipmunk_por.jpg

    if you are interested.

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  25. Yeah, I know about level-cap frustration... and I'm into it right now in this game. But I planned my party to go through a bunch of gold-box games, I didn't want to be limited by the non-human level-caps (I only put a mage elf, it seemed high enough).

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  26. Ah! That makes sense on the sleep thing. Thanks, anon. I had forgotten about "hit dice."

    Petrus, I was in search mode through most of it, but when I turned it off it didn't seem to make any difference. I eventually did resort to just buffaloing my way past fights, but earlier I'd been hoping that if I fought enough of them, I'd clear the area. I guess that doesn't happen until you take down the Temple of Bane.

    JJ, I've used the wall/stinking cloud trick but the only way I can be sure it's going to work is if I surprise the enemy so all my characters can go first. Otherwise, I get half of them around the wall, and then the enemy rushes up to the other half and I can't move them unless I want to get hacked while fleeing.

    Silver weapons do work against wights, but by the time you're there, you generally have everyone equipped with magic stuff.

    Georges, do the level caps go away in subsequent Gold Box games? I should have checked the CotAB manual before making my PoR decisions.

    Lame Brain, that was awesome--and terrifying.D&D has giant bears, giant badgers, and so on. Why not giant ground hogs?

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  27. I did check the CotAB manual before making my party, and while caps don't go away, they go a bit higher. Humans always have the top level-caps though, only a mage elf with 18 int can be on par in other races.
    A screenshot of the relevant table :
    http://www.georgesdimitrov.com/files/CotAB-levelcaps.jpg

    As for "evil" groundhogs and such : http://static.starcitygames.com/sales/cardscans/MAG6X9/MAG6X9035.jpg

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  28. Okay, so I guess the next step is to check the SotSB manual. Do they keep raising the level caps throughout the series, or do you suddenly find that your elven mage can't rise any more once you get to PoD?

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  29. PetrusOctavianusJune 7, 2011 at 4:44 AM

    Chet, if you want to keep the same characters throughout the whole series, the only viable choice is humans for all classes except maybe thief. Humans can reach max level (40), while the maximum for the other races is lvl 12 for an Elf with 18 INT. Non-humans can only reach lvl 40 as thieves. But single class thieves are not very useful, so you may also consider a dual class fighter/thief if you like backstabbing (I do) or mage/thief for extra magick support. Personally I think a dual class fighter/mage is more useful than a mage/thief.

    Another *very* important thing to consider is that mages must have an INT of 18 and clerices must have a WIS of 18 to be able to cast lvl 9 spells.

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  30. PetrusOctavianusJune 7, 2011 at 4:49 AM

    That should be "the maximum for the other races is lvl *11* for an Elf *Mage* with 18 INT".

    Here is the full table:

    Maximum Level Limits by Race, Class and Prime Requisite

    CLASS ABILITY DWARF ELF GNOME HALF-ELF HALFLING HUMAN
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Cleric Any No No No 5 No max
    Fighter STR 16- 7 5 5 6 4 max
    STR 17 8 6 5 7 5 max
    STR 18+ 9 7 6 8 6 max
    Paladin Any No No No No No max
    Ranger STR 16- No No No 6 No max
    STR 17 No No No 7 No max
    STR 18+ No No No 8 No max
    Magic-User INT 16- No 9 No 6 No max
    INT 17 No 10 No 7 No max
    INT 18 No 11 No 8 No max
    Thief Any max max max max max max

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  31. I remember that in PoD, you could get to some truly epic levels--like 40-50--so I guess it's all humans place one non-human thief for me, once I get to CotAB.

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  32. Reading this recently, I wanted to share my thoughts on the Flee/Surrender behaivour of Gold Box games.

    From my experience and what i've read, monsters (and NPC's) have group morale and individual morale which is based on total group HP and individual HP which must both be met before morale breaks.

    The decision to flee or surrender is based solely on the movement speed of the fastest enemy. Monsters faster than the party will always flee and have 100% chance of escape at map border, monsters at the same speed as the party will flee too, but only have 50% chance to flee at map border. Slower monsters will always surrender, which I always hated
    "NO, I don't accept your surrender! You must die and spill your precious XP's and goods.

    It was one thing I disliked about the Boots of Speed, no one ever tried to flee and get hacked down by my fighters. Maybe I'm too bloodthirsty in these games.

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    1. Thanks for this post, Staf. It answers some lingering questions I've had about the surrender/flee decision.

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  33. Gygax was, primarily, and foremost, a miniatures wargamer, prior to "creating" D&D.

    Any of the rule sets he wrote, or that were primarily derived from his works, definitely reflect this orientation.

    As a result, it makes a ton of sense that the systems he devised would translate so well to a "virtual miniature combat" environment, like the one provided in the Gold Box Games.

    SSI made a few modifications to the Gygax ruleset, but a lot of the really good stuff is pure Gygax "man it'd be awesome if I could do this in a wargame" kinda stuff.

    He loved tabletop, he knew what worked with that and what didn't. He knew dropping a 30' radius fireball into a group of baddies felt awesome. As a result it is not surprising that 40+ years later we can still enjoy his rules, this much, when they're presented in the proper context like this.

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  34. Posting here because who the heck else am I going to ask? I've been plaing PoR. Got into a fight with some anhkegs, and now one of my characters can't move. He can target nearby creatures, but can't take any steps. His character status says he's Okay, and he's not encumbered, so he should be able to take 12 steps. Anyone got any ideas why he's stuck in place, many fights later?

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    Replies
    1. That's awesome. I really hope you get an answer.

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    2. My friends and I ran into, literally, dozens of odd bugs when we played this game. I have a feeling you've been hit by one.

      In one specific case a buddy had a cleric that was level drained, and regained the level through training instead of via a restoration scroll. That cleric bugged fairly heavily after that.

      Not sure exactly what happened, but the character basically had infinite open hand attacks, that did enough damage to one-shot almost any enemy.

      Definitely one of the more colorful bugs we encountered.

      Delete
    3. I have some vague recollection of the Ankheg bug, but not how I solved the problem.
      Have you tried spells like Dispel Magic or Cure Disease, or trying to just "sleep it off"?

      Delete
    4. I *was* level drained and did restore, probably even about that same time. I've finished the game and will try porting into Azure Bonds. If that doesn't fix it, I'll probably just end up ditching the character. I wanted a paladin when I named him Sir Gideon, anyway.

      Delete
  35. More differences and musings from the NES port:

    1) There's a guard option when delaying, but no attack of opportunity once an enemy comes into melee range.
    2) I used slow poison a few times, but it strangely didn't work as a preventative measure.
    3) Again because I'm really annoyed and disappointed by it, there's no backstabbing. I tried with a long sword. I tried with a dagger. I tried while invisible. No backstabbing. (At least it made Kovel Mansion a bit of a joke.)
    4) The game allows fighters to sweep buccaneers and 1st level thieves as well as goblins and kobolds
    5) Attacks per round are broken. Sometimes I get three attacks per round with darts, sometimes not. 7th level figher did not get 3/2 attacks. Haste did not double the number of attacks, but my fighter did start to get 3/2 attacks. This makes haste mostly useless.
    6) Small quirk, if you aim a figher's attack, they don't sweep. Auto-combat AI always uses the aim command.
    7) Dirten, and really all NPCs are mostly useless with their spells. He'd often cure light wounds himself while at full health surrounded by half-HP companions, or hold already held monsters.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Another post years after the fact :-)

    Backstabbing works something like this:
    Let the monster attack you (so its "busy")
    Attack with one character (to "pin" it in place)
    Attack with the thief from the opposite direction.

    In PoR its rarely worth the trouble compared to just having another fighter, but in later games, the damage gets insanely big.

    ReplyDelete

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