Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pool of Radiance: First Expedition

Because of your level when you stumble into it, I think this is one of the toughest encounters in any CRPG. I died. Almost instantly.

We stepped cautiously past the suspicious guards, through the archway, and into the old city, kicking our way past debris and rats. Some kind of alarm blared in the distance. The hallway ended after about 30 feet with a closed wooden door on the left. Opening it, we entered a large chamber, likely the ruins of a barracks or inn.

I have no idea what the alarm is about.

We had taken no more than a few steps when an orc patrol entered from a doorway to the south. Filthy, snarling creatures, they spotted us immediately and began muttering excitedly to each other. Most party members prepared to draw swords, but Octavianus held out a cautioning hand.

"No matter what breed of monster we encounter," he said firmly. "We do not attack unless we are attacked. Every creature deserves a chance to leave voluntarily." I could see Karnov struggle with this. Orcs had massacred his clan, but his strongly individualistic nature made him loath to put the blame for the actions of some creatures on an entire race. Ultimately, he bowed to Octavianus's leadership, but his hand never left his axe.

We approached the orcs cautiously and with as much friendliness as one can muster with orcs. To their credit, they did not immediately attack. The largest--the leader--stepped forward but said nothing.

"Ho, orcs!" Octavianus greeted. "We come from the city of Phlan. It is the intention of the City Council to clear these ruins and make them safe for human habitation. We invite you and your fellows to withdraw and return to your lairs in the mountains."

The game introduces some role-playing possibilities, first with the options to flee, fight, or parlay when confronting an enemy, and the with various options associated with speaking: haughty, sly, nice, meek, and abusive. I like to envision specific words associated with these selections as I play, as I did for "nice" above. Other options:

  • Haughty: "Oh, look. It's some filthy little orcs. I'm so scared. Comrades, if these mangy beasts don't flee within 10 seconds, we'll teach them a lesson about messing with the citizens of Phlan."
  • Sly: "Ah...orcs. I'm guessing you're not here by your own will any more than we are. What do you say we forget we saw each other and let our masters fight each other if they want to fight so badly?"
  • Meek: "Hey, orc friends! I hope we haven't stumbled into the wrong place. We'll just turn around and head out that door there, if that's okay with you."
  • Abusive: "What the hell is this?! Orcs?! Get the %$^&@ out of our way!"

The monsters also have different dispositions. For instance, "angry-looking" monsters attack immediately, while "seedy-looking" ones are generally more willing to talk.

Isn't this redundant?

At my current level, none of the options do much to avoid battle. A couple of times, the monsters have offered to let us go for a bribe, but once you do that the first time, you never regain your self-respect. Thus, although the encounter almost always ends in battle, it's still an interesting set of options, and a definite step towards the more nuanced dialog and role-playing options available in later games. Plus, once the party levels up a few times, I think monsters become more willing to listen.

The orcs exchanged glances. Probably they had only understood a few words, I thought, but then the leader turned out to be surprisingly articulate.

"The boss doesn't like your kind around here," the leader finally said in that strange, mucusy Orcish accent. "But we'll forget we saw you--for a price."

I heard Duskfire whisper to Lame Brain behind me: "Who is the 'boss'? Some orc chieftain, or is there a greater power behind the Phlan infestation?"

"We will pay nothing," Octavianus said. "But we--"

It was all he got out. At his initial words, the leader gave a signal, the orcs unsheathed short swords, and before I knew what was happening, I was between Duskfire and Zink, stabbing at the furry monstrosities with my long sword. Ahead, I saw Karnov swinging his axe with a particular glee.

I would like to say that we covered ourselves in glory, but both Duskfire and Zink took wounds that left them unconscious. Still, we slew them all--our first real battle against a monstrous foe--with none of our lives lost. We resisted the urge to retreat to the safety of the town. As Koren healed the fallen party members, I scavenged a handful of copper pieces and a couple of usable short swords from the corpses of our enemies. The swords would't sell for much back in Phlan, but every copper piece counts.

The next ruins held similar encounters with patrols of kobolds and goblins. In each case, we offered the opportunity to flee, and in each case they attacked or tried to extort money from us. Lame Brain's and Duskfire's sleep spells proved invaluable against these base creatures, sending them into a magical slumber long enough for us to administer coups-de-grace. We took wounds but nothing serious.

Unlike most D&D games I can remember, the "sleep" spell is quite valuable here, usually affecting all enemies in its 9-square radius.

I owe you all a full posting on the tactical combat system, but I'm waiting until I level up a few times and have more options to write about. For now, suffice to say that my Level 1 party misses a lot, but so do the monsters. However, when they hit, it's usually enough to obliterate my five or six hit points and send the character unconscious immediately. I would also note that the random encounters tend to offer between 8 and 20 experience points each. With the next level requiring between 1,250 and 2,000 experience, and with most of my characters multi-classes, leveling up is going to take a while!

Yay! 1/375th of the way to Level 2!

The game has two options to search a room: "look" and "search." "Look" does a one-time only scan that takes 10 minutes, while the "search" option stays on and causes you to run a "look" every time you take a step. I have just been leaving it on. There doesn't seem to be any penalty for the passage of time (your characters have ages but do not age in the game), and it doesn't seem to greatly increase the odds of random encounters.

A bag of gems found in a stable.

We moved through the ruins slowly, taking time to search for secret doors, traps, and hidden objects. Although we rarely found anything, the few times we did, we were grateful for having taken the extra time. One thing was certain: the City Clerk had greatly understated the extent of the monster infestation. Almost every room held a patrol, and a few rooms were clearly serving as temporary monster headquarters. In one room, for instance, we found a group of orcs sitting around a desk, arguing over some documents. They attacked us immediately and fell to our blades.

The "papers" turned out to be a clerical scroll with cure light wounds spells.

The game has a nice balance of random encounters and fixed encounters in the various game maps. The fixed encounters are usually more difficult and offer a greater experience reward, as well as a greater chance of finding magic items. I suspect that solving the quest to "clear" the slums involves finding and winning all of the fixed encounters.

I should mention that unlike Might & Magic, The Bard's Tale, and even Ultima IV, Pool of Radiance remembers all of the outcomes of your fixed encounters even after you leave the map and return. Fixed monsters do not reappear, and you cannot find the same treasure more than once. This was true in previous games for some specific encounters, but this is the first game to implement this kind of permanence on a game-wide scale.

Eventually, so loaded with copper and salvaged weapons that we could barely move, and bereft of spells, we decided to return to the city. A chance encounter with kobolds on the way left Lame Brain unconscious, but we managed to improvise a litter and drag him to the city. There, we checked into the inn and healed our wounded party members. [More on magic and memorizing spells in a later posting.] Unfortunately, all of the equipment we had brought back sold for a pittance. We had not amassed enough money to buy even a single armor or weapon upgrade. We grimly returned through the archway and retraced our steps.

Carrying all this extra stuff got me about 5 gold pieces.

We battled past several more patrols as our exploration took us to the southeast quadrant of the old city. By this time, each of us had several kills to our names, and Octavianus remarked with a combination of wonder and disgust how quickly we become used to the feeling of our swords and axes plunging into living flesh. As we uncomfortably pondered the implications of this, we came to a locked door. Karnov tried to pick it and failed, so Octavianus bashed it down.

Against all probabilities, we found ourselves in the tidy home and laboratory of an old wizard who introduced himself as Ohlo. Without indulging in many pleasantries, he asked me to fetch a potion from the Old Rope Guild somewhere south of our location. Partly stunned by the encounter, we stammered out agreement and he sent us along, refusing our offers to fix his door.

This was the first "side quest" in the game, and again we must note certain roleplaying opportunities, even if they are light ones. I had the option to attack Ohlo, for instance, although it would have certainly ended badly, and I had the option to reject the quest. Later, when I did return with the potion, I had the option to refuse to give it to him. The fact that an impossible battle happens if you do that...

A high-level magic user and a horde of hobgoblins.

...doesn't change the fact that this is a real role-playing option, something we hardly ever see in quests in CRPGs of this era.

The Rope Guild, occupying the southern part of the ruins, was a twisted maze that ultimately led us to an unlikely shop on the far eastern end. There, a friendly young alchemist--without explaining anything about what he was doing there or how he survived the monster infestation--gave us Ohlo's potion. Returning to him with it, we were rewarded with gold, several gems, and an enchanted long sword. Not bad for a simple fetch-and-carry job!

This was a little unfair given that the game offers you no ability to avoid it.

On the far western end of the Rope Guild area is the encounter whose screen shot starts this posting--a battle with three trolls and two ogres that is impossible to win with Level 1 characters. It would be hard even with Level 3 characters. I remembered it immediately when it commenced, even though the last time I played the game was about 17 years ago. My entire party was wiped out in the first round of attacks. This is the "you all died" screen, by the way:

I hadn't saved since entering the ruins for the second time, so I had to reload and do Ohlo's quest again. Later, I encountered some battles with large groups of goblins and orcs that also left me dead. There are certain parts of the old slums that are very unsafe to enter.

As we left the wizard's house for the second time, we noted that the ruins had gotten quieter, and that we were encountering fewer wandering parties of monsters. Were our efforts already making a difference in the old slums? Just as we started to think that we might be on the verge of clearing the area, we opened a door and blundered into a large, outdoor town square, and our illusions were disabused immediately. The square was swarming with orcs, hobgoblins, kobolds, goblins, and even some human mercenaries--which we must have looked like, since the monsters did not attack us.

Wandering through the old Hemp Market, as the square was known, we overheard a hobgoblin taking about the "hot-shot orc" in charge of the enemy forces at "the temple over the river." This was good intelligence to discover. From the Hemp Market, we could see a gate into other sections of Old Phlan, but after a quick conference, we decided to save the exploration of those ruins until after we cleared the immediate slums.

Growing bolder in our explorations, we cleared out an ad-hoc goblin training school and slew a group of hobgoblins arguing over a pile of gold. A little battered, we longed to return to the comfort and safety of a Phlan inn, but in the interests of time, we decided to hole up and heal in an old storage room we found towards the northwest corner of the ruins. The next morning, nearby, we found walls completely surrounding a section of the city. Figuring there must be something inside, we tested the exterior walls and found a concealed door! Within the room, under the floorboards, was a fortune in gold and jewelry.

The game gives experience rewards for just finding treasure. This is far more than I've received from any battle in the game.

After this discovery, we were so laden with treasure that, although we had not finished our task of clearing the slums, we thought it would be prudent to return to the city. Octavianus suggested that, based on the experience we had gained battling monsters, we might stand to learn a few tricks from the trainers at the guild. The trek back was mercifully free of encounters.

Guild training, it turns out, requires an absurd fee of 1,000 gold pieces per person! At first, we balked at this figure--far more than we had ever seen since joining together as a party. But then we visited a shop to sell our collected jewelry and gems and found, upon leaving the establishment with our jaws open, that we had more than 15,000 gold pieces together. One expedition has made us wealthier than we had ever imagined. If the city of Phlan did not need us, we might actually retire! At the very least, we no longer have to collect short swords from slain kobolds.

My riches before pawning and consolidation.

We went back to the guild and paid their usurious fee, but our visit seemed a bit premature. Octavianus learned a few fighting strategies from a trainer, and Koren, studying with a cleric, advanced her ability to cast spells. No one else was quite ready for new techniques.

Yeah, so I had forgotten that with multi-classed characters, they were splitting their experience. I needed about 500 more experience points before everyone could advance. Leveling up, I should mention, requires visiting the guild and finding the right "room" for the class. It's interesting that Pool of Radiance implemented the pay-a-trainer method of leveling (much like Might & Magic) which I don't think is required by D&D rules.

Returning to the shop, we had the shopkeeper appraise and identify all of the magical items we had discovered during the expedition, and we converted some of our gold to better equipment from the armory and the silver shop. When all was done, Octavianus the fighter was clad in plate mail and wielding a silver two-handed sword. Karnov the fighter/thief had leather armor +1, a silver long sword, and a ring of protection +1. Lame Brain was wielding a long sword +1, Zink and Koren had silver maces, and all of our party members with archery skills had short bows +1. [The magic items were all found in the ruins; the shops don't sell any magic items, which is a bit of an annoyance.]

Karnov's inventory.

We rested that evening content with our success, and eagerly plotting strategy to finish clearing the slums the next day.

The game is still enormous fun--even better than I remember. I like the way it rewards you incrementally for clearing out small sections of an area, and that the fixed encounters are distinguishable (though subtly) from the random ones. I don't like leaving one area for another before fully exploring the first, though, so now that I have a couple extra levels, I'm going to take on a hireling and try the trolls again. More on that tomorrow.

Before I go, I want to refer you to an amusing comic I've been reading online since one of the authors e-mailed me: "Hi-Res Heroes." The opening strips poke fun at the Pool of Radiance codewheel, and the characters in the strip are drawn based on the "Gold Box" character combat icons. This one is my favorite so far, although I wish he'd used a "wyvern" instead.


  1. Dear CRPG Addict

    I could never take the trolls without a couple of hires from the training hall. I put them in front and use missle weapons and stinking cloud to take them out. Obviously my magic users are at 3rd level at this point. Missle weapons are essential here, since melee with Trolls is usually fatal.

    On another note, I seem to remember that you need to defeat either 10 or 15 random encounters, aside from the fixed ones, to clear the slums. After that, you should go to Kuto's well and kill off Norris the Grey. Its another side quest, but the council will pay for his head!

    On the dialog options, I found that sometimes, the monsters response might depend on the charisma of the person who is speaking. It is something you can try.

    Also, remember that you can trade money for gems at the temples, it saves on encumberance.

    Take care

  2. PetrusOctavianusJune 2, 2011 at 3:40 PM

    Ah, the Rope Guild - the scourge of many a pimpled faced young nerd (and some not so young and pimple faced).
    There is fortunately a role playing way of avoiding it, by heeding the warning about most who enter never returns, and save it for last after exploring the rest of the block.
    Last time I played my mage was lvl 3 when facing the trolls and ogres, and with one Sleep spell (sometimes works on Ogres from my multiclass mage, one Stinking Cloud from my pure mage and one lvl 4 hired Hero with a big, ugly two handed sword, it was quite easy since I got lucky with the Stinking Cloud rolls.

    If the alarm rings when entering the first block of the slums it means it hasn't been cleared yet. Once you no longer get that message it's safe to sleep there.

    I don't know if you know, or even if you want to know, this about the random encounters, so maybe this last paragraph may contains *SPOILERS*:

    There is a fixed amount of random encounters in each block, but I'm not sure if their composition is random. For example, is the attitude (angry, seedy, avoiding) of each encounter random, or are the random encounters also fixed with only their sequence and place being random?
    I don't think they are random, but if not it is best to attack all random encounters that you susprise, to get an extra round of missile fire.

  3. PetrusOctavianusJune 2, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    Quoth the Addict:
    Abusive: "What the hell is this?! Orcs?! Get the %$^&@ out of our way!"

    I was going to ask you what you'd say to hobgoblins. Thanks to that I now know what knobgoblin _really_ means. ;-)

  4. I am going to have to break this one out and play again. Does anyone know if it is possible to buy these still? Without speneind a fortune on a collector's edition?

  5. [quote]It's interesting that Pool of Radiance implemented the pay-a-trainer method of leveling (much like Might & Magic) which I don't think is required by D&D rules.[/quote]

    The Might and Magic implementation comes from old D&D, yes. After second edition of Advanced D&D money needed fo training became an optional rule. As did XP for treasure.

    The limited amount of random encounters is another old D&D thing, where in locations that are enclosed (as are the slums) in a real module there might be a table of random encounters the DM rolls against ever x amount of rounds, and after that encounter has been employed and hopefully defeated, they would cross it off the random encounter table list and in the case they roll it again, reroll.

    D&D has a very strong theme of 'domestication of wilderness'. Don't forget the original alignment system was Good versus Chaos. Chaos is unpredictability, lack of civilization, rules, consequence. Adventurers, were they high-minded or simple rogues, would by their systematic and logical nature push their surrounding world towards order and consequence.

    It's interesting to contrast this with other vintage crpgs with important story encounters which would be replayed indefinitely as could be key battles. Might and Magic is a strong offender in this sense, and I believe that stems from lack of proper game balance and/or allowance for power-gaming granted by the game designer to overcome this lack of balance.

  6. Dear LameBrain,

    You can still buy DOS copies of the game on Amazon; otherwise I would try abondonware and sites like that.

  7. It took me many attempts to beat those trolls. I'm now exploring Mantor's library and my characters are up to levels 4 and 5.

    Defeating Ohlo and his hobgoblins I believe leads to a useful magical item. These role playing choices can lead to very different levels of experience and treasure rewards.

    I think they could have made the random encounters more interesting though - I just try to avoid them as I don't think I ever get any useful treasure. I don't want to meet any more groups of kobolds either - they take ages to get rid of.

  8. Great read so far. I have to say that going into this entry, I didn't have the greatest memories of POR due to the long combats and tedious healing/memorization commands that would be refined in later Gold Box games. But this blog is certainly making me want to play this series again, at least through Azure Bonds which was my favorite Gold Box game. I love a good revenge-type story and the character levels were such that combat was balanced and low-level spells were still useful, plus I found SOTSB to be dull and hated how POD handled equipment.

    Does anyone know if there were any versions of POR that included some of the engine enhancements introduced later in the series (e.g. "Fix" command for healing, game remembering which spells needed to be re-memorized, character names showing purple when they had enough XP to level up)? I am guessing not, but I thought maybe there might be a late conversion of POR that had these features.

    CPRG Addict, thanks again for a most entertaining blog!

  9. Whoops... Thanks to CRPG ADDICT as well!

  10. I always wondered about games made with this engine. Seems they made many and they were popular, but it was just before my time and I never played any of them back in the day.

    ...Ha, come to think of it I think I have an old collection CD with these on it. I should dig it out.

  11. I may be breakin' the rules here, if so I imagine this post will vanish soon, but you can find the game at this link ( and it includes the c64, amiga, apple, ibm pc clone, and nintendo versions. You can also find the game at,,,,,,, and many many more. Anyone can google for the game, all I did was google it for you. Am I breakin' the rules? Am I in trouble? I hope not.

  12. Just killed the trolls! I think it was mostly a spot of luck. I videoed the event and will post tomorrow.

    Thanks, everyone, for clearing up the random encounter thing. I did notice that encounters disappear once I fight enough of them. Your clarifications on the adaptations of D&D rules are much appreciated. I find I can't look up stuff like this once I start playing, for fear of too many spoilers.

    Lame Brain, you clearly are Lawful something.

    I don't find the fights tedious yet, although I wish kobolds would just go away.

  13. PetrusOctavianusJune 3, 2011 at 2:37 AM

    Anon wrote:
    "Does anyone know if there were any versions of POR that included some of the engine enhancements introduced later in the series (e.g. "Fix" command for healing, game remembering which spells needed to be re-memorized, character names showing purple when they had enough XP to level up)? I am guessing not, but I thought maybe there might be a late conversion of POR that had these features."

    Check out
    There are conversions of PoR and Curse of the Azure bonds for Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures. You need FRUA and a program called UAShell also. FRUA uses the last version of the Gold Box engine, and UAShell makes it possible to use custom art.
    Using the FRUA version you will also be able to use Paladins and Rangers in PoR.

  14. You are bringing back some memories here. That troll battle was tough, and kind of unfair. Especially if you didn't know the trick to keeping the trolls down. I remember a few times getting close to winning, and after a long battle, one of the trolls standing up at full hit points! That was crushing for a heavily wounded party on the brink of victory. Once I figured it out though, it was just a matter of strategy and some luck.

    Anyway, looking forward to Sokol Keep. If ya think about it, video that one, though it might be kinda long.

    Keep up the good work.

  15. Oh, and a note on the random encounters. If I remember right, they seemed to scale. So if you didn't clear them all, or the area could not be cleared, and you go through with a high level party, you end up facing like 50 orcs or so. So you are going to win, just takes a while. I played the c64 version, and might be remembering wrong.

  16. It appears that PoR uses the oldschool D&D XP rules: killing monsters nets you a meaningless pittance, taking their money gets you the levels.

  17. I'm a little worried about Lame brain. I'm not 100% sure but I recall something about elves being perma death (raise dead or resurrect will not work on them.

  18. The only way I could take on those trolls was with a few hires from the guild and by keeping the ogres in front while we peppered them with arrows.

    Died at least a dozen times because they kept coming back to life if I didn't have someone standing on the spot the first troll died or an ogre standing on the spot.

    What really could have helped was a dead body to stand on. I kept forgetting where the dang things died at :P

  19. Forgot to mention that this is a great post. I like the role-playing dialogue you threw in.

  20. Congratulations!! Defeating the Trolls is great. I remember the hint manual saying that if you can defeat them you can take on what the rest of the game has to offer.

    By the way, all the other areas past the slums I think are the same with random encounters (i.e. there are a fixed amount and then no more)

    Also about Sokal Keep, one thing, you will need the rune wheel thingy. I forget if you have that.

    Take Care

  21. I seem to remember that there is a sword that is something like +1/+3 vs Undead. Get that!

    @CRPGAddict: "Lame Brain, you clearly are Lawful something.": Oh no! I am not playing to my alignment! Don't switch it, I can't take the XP penalties!

    @Atom: "I'm a little worried about Lame brain. I'm not 100% sure but I recall something about elves being perma death (raise dead or resurrect will not work on them.": Do not worry about me sir! I have lived for 180 years, and this piddling goblins will not be the end of me now!

  22. Atom: bloody hell, you're right. Elves can't be raised. I'll have to be extra careful of him, then.

    On getting "levels" by killing monsters: whether it's based on old rules or not, in some ways it's this game's proxy for quest-based experience points. When I return to Phlan and report to the City Clerk that I've cleared out the slums, I don't get any experience for that. I DO subsequently get experience for the bag of gold she tosses at me, though.

    Lame: Just got the sword from the City Clerk. Too late to help me in Sokal Keep, but I'm sure it will come in handy in the graveyard.

  23. I got the game late, in the Forgotten Realms Archive 4 cd set, i think at 95.. Anyway, even though it clearly had a lot in it but the "chores" of the already mentioned spell memorizing and castin healing spells, didn't let me go through to the end.. A shame since I always wanted to finish this and then all the others in this series and in Dragonlance.. So never played those..

    So thanx Octavianus for that link, bookmarked, might give it a try again someday.. :)

  24. Oh, I remember those trolls to this day! I actually found it a very interesting dilemma. As I recall, there is a scroll of Fireball nearby (in a cache in that very same first block, I think) - and a casting of Fireball is enough to massively turn the tide in your favour. This is good, because the Trolls are really the thing stopping you clear the block (and I think there was a significant reward, either for killing the trolls, or for clearing the block?).

    But of course, you desperately want to keep the scroll for your mage to scribe into his spellbook...

  25. I don't remember a Fireball scroll, but I remember the Stinking Cloud spell could be very effective against the trolls, which is why you need one single class magic user (getting Fireball ASAP is also very useful).
    The reward for defeating the troll were two random items. If you were lucky you got +3 weapons; if you were unlucly you got 10 Arrows+1 and a magic scroll.

  26. I know I'm way behind on this, but I've just started reading your blog over the last week or two, and this is my first post!
    I remember loving this game because of it's faithful adaptation of the first edition AD&D rules. I'm a big fan of the pencil and paper game, and we still play weekly - and I'm currently running first editon so this game bears some good memories!

    Some of the things that may seem odd are actually right on par for AD&D. In particular:

    XP for treasure - in AD&D first edition (and optionally in second) the majority of your experience points were culled from gold. It was based on a 1gp = 1xp scale. Monsters killed still gave you experience, but it was a much lower value than what you could get for finding a way to avoid the encounter and still walk away with the treasure.

    Training - Cost for training is exorbitantly high in first edition. Essentially, there needed to be something to suck all the cash out of the campaign when 2/3 of your experience came from gp's, and training costs were it. It's actuall a little bit higher by the book, but can vary based on how well you stuck to your characters paradigm. For example, a magic-user (yes, we still called them that back then - some of us still do!) who was constantly on the front lines trying to help fight would be 'punished' for not roleplaying him as a magic-user, ie, staying in the back and casting spells, by having his training costs raised to two or three times the norm!

    Spellcasting - I'm sure you get to this in later entries, but AD&D uses the old Vancian casting method (based on Jack Vance's Dying Earth novels) where a magic user needs to first rest, then memorized a certain number of spells based on his level. Once those spells are cast, they are gone from his mind until he rests again.

    Loving the blog so far - can't wait to get caught up! I'm sure its WAAAY in the future, but I'm currently enjoying replaying Might and Magic VI, I'm excited to see your take on it.

    1. Until I corresponded with one of the SSI developers, I didn't realize how strict TSR was about the AD&D rules. I guess that does explain the ridiculous financial rewards.

      Anyway, welcome to the blog, and thanks for your feedback!

  27. Yeah, I remembered that hideous troll/ogre battle, too, from the time I played the game. Guess it's just one of those things that sticks in the mind.

    I never got around to finishing, the game, though... which I do plan to rectify someday. So now to skip the rest of the posts on Pool of Radiance for now so I don't spoil it for when I do finally replay it...

  28. That beginning is very tough (even if you avoid the ogre/troll), especially if you do not modify your characters (or re-roll forever) to get some with good DEX, CON and HP. I just started the game (after more than 20 years, I guess) with an improved/modified party (basically I gave them close to max in the essential attributes and HP) and it is somewhat easier if all but the mage have 8-13 instead of 6-9 HP.

    In later games they must have changed the way the "dice roll" during character generation because one gets much better ones. I guess they figured that most gamers would be modifying anyway. (For me that randomness which would lead to unplayably low HP if one gets unlucky is one of the worst things about the Gold Box games. One basically needs several trials/reloads when training, especially for mages and multi-class characters, otherwise half the party would be as frail as Raistlin.

    1. No, one doesn't.
      Hit Points are only critical in the beginning, but in the long run high Dex is much more important. Str is relatively irrelevant since it can be increased with items.
      If the Gold Box games used a system where you allocate s set number of points for your stats I'd max out Dex and put the rest in Con for the fighter and thief types, while I'd try to max Dex and Int for Mages, and Dex and Wis for Clerics.

    2. A dex bonus is only more important than a con bonus in fights against large numbers of weak enemies.

      A con of 16 almost doubles a MU's HP, to get an equivalent benefit from dex 16 you need to be fighting things that only hit a no-dex-bonus MU on a 17 or better.

    3. You obviously haven't played the final battles in Pools of Darkness, have you?
      A mage's HP are of minor importance compared to Int and Dex, 'cause a good player makes sure they don't get hit by physical attacks. And against spells like Hold, Poison, Stinking Cloud and Disintegrate HP is irrelevant. And mages have spells to protect against AOE spells.
      Dex is always important to get initiative, especially against powerful enemies that breath or cast spells. A Dex of less than 18 against Dark Wizards in Dark Queen or the final battles in PoD means powerful enemies having a good chance of acting first.
      But I can agree that the benefits for a mage from 16 Con may be better than from 16 Dex, since 16 Dex is not enough to get iniative in the really difficult battles.

    4. These are all valid points that apply to different parts of the games. I certainly agree with Johannes's points about the difficulty of the early game in PoR. While I didn't reload after low hit point gains, certainly in this early game, before multiple level-ups have had a chance to even things out, a sequence of low HP gains could be crippling.

      Petrus, try not to be so confrontational. Johannes was clearly talking about the short run, so your comments aren't even in conflict.

  29. More differences from the NES port:

    1) This will probably be a recurring theme, but the number of monsters in an encounter are incredibly reduced. My first random battle had maybe 3 orcs.
    2) Treasure is always magical; there are no normal pieces equipment to take back to town to slowly build up funds.
    3) The main reason for 2 I'm guessing is the severely reduced inventory per character at a maximum of 8 items.
    4) To further offset this, ammo for ranged weapons is unlimited. (i.e. Darts take up one slot, and bows fire non-existent arrows.)
    5) Weight and encumberance are removed completely.
    6) The battle with the trolls is much easier. It's four kobolds and two trolls. It's easy enough to sleep the kobolds and take the trolls out with ranged weapons.
    7) The party death screen is much less enthusiastic.
    8) Rings of protection don't provide their bonus to AC in combination with magical armor.


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