Friday, June 3, 2011

Pool of Radiance: Heroes!

The first in-game mention of the Pool of Radiance and the big bad.
As we prepared to return to the ruins the next morning, Karnov took me aside and asked what I thought about supplementing our party of six with a hireling. "You mean a mercenary?" I said. "Call it what you will," he said. "There's a whole bunch of them--wizards, clerics, fighters--over at the guild, just waiting for a party to take them along. Imagine what we could do with a few more healing spells, or another sword in the front ranks." "And another share of the treasure," I pointed out. "Which we have plenty of!" he retorted. "If I suggest it to Octavianus, will you back me up?" I reluctantly agreed, but fortunately it didn't take a lot of persuasion on our part. Octavianus was cautious but open-minded. "Let's check them out." We returned to the arena and met with the Arena Master, who could have been Octavianus's cousin. At first, he tried to interest one of us in a one-on-one duel, but we declined. After that, he was willing to talk about the mercenaries. Mercenaries turned out to be relatively expensive. A competent swordsman wanted a share of the treasure equivalent to three of us, and a decent cleric wanted four shares! Some of the potential hirelings wanted their pick of any magic items we found, which Octavianus called a "dealbreaker." Ultimately, we decided to hire a fighter to sit in the rear ranks with a bow. The swordsman made no secret that he was only with us for the money, and he declined even to tell us his name!
And he's evil!
Party NPCs have been available since The Bard's Tale, where you could summon monsters but not control what they did in combat. Ultima IV, of course, had NPCs that would join you, but once they did they were under your full control. Might & Magic II was the first game in which the hirelings demanded payment, but you could still control them. Pool of Radiance is the first game that has hirelings that a) take a share of the treasure, and b) perform their own actions in combat.
The city council thinks of Old Phlan as an orc-infested ruin that needs to be reclaimed. Orcs just think of it as their home.
Hell, no, that's not acceptable. Has anyone ever chosen a hireling who gets to take the magic loot?
At first, I thought to hire a mage so I wouldn't have to dump one of my multi-classed mages for a "pure" one, but I realized that without the ability to control when and where offensive spells were cast, the usefulness of the NPC was in question (I might still try it later). A cleric would be a good idea because you can control hirelings outside of combat, when most of the cleric's spells are needed, but I already have two of those. So, for now, I just went with a fighter.
Returning to the ruins, we cleared out a houseful of orcs before finding another strange encounter: an old fortune-teller living in a small hut in the middle of monster-infested ruins. We paid her small asking price. In a trance, she informed us: "Blood and violence are writ boldly in your future. Look for friends where you expect enemies and enemies where you expect allies." We agreed that it was worthless but also harmless.
Just as an aside, you can choose to attack the old woman, in which case this is what you get: I reloaded, of course, although I was mildly curious to see if anything developed out of the gods noting my actions.
After a few more hours, it seemed we had explored every inch of the slums except the southwest corner, where we had heard ominous noises inside a section of the Old Rope Guild. I suggested to Karnov, our thief, that he might "sneak" into that area to see what kinds of monsters awaited us, but he gave me a strange look and responded cryptically that he wouldn't be able to use his ability to hide in shadows for "a few more years at least." When we rounded the corner, we found a group of trolls and ogres tossing a sack of grain around. Startled, they dropped the sack and then looked greedily to our heads as substitutes. The battle was joined. After a long fight in which both Duskfire and Lame Brain nearly died, we were victorious!
I recorded this battle below. I'm still not going to go into a lot about tactical combat just yet, but the recording should give you a sense of how it works.
If you know you're about to fight, the first thing you want to do is cast any buffing spells (making sure to turn off "search" first, since having searching on causes 10 minutes to pass every time you take a step), so at 00:30, I cast my one buffing spell: "Bless." We wander in to combat, which starts at 00:53. Note how the narrowness of the corridor prevents my three rear characters from attacking in melee. It starts with one of them, Koren, whose turn I decide to delay in case someone needs healing at the end of the round. Duskfire attempts a "sleep" spell--sometimes you get lucky--and it does put one ogre to sleep. I immediately have Octavianus slay him (01:04), because the more monsters you kill, the greater chance that the remainder will suddenly decide to flee. Lame Brain, as usual, goes down almost instantly (01:07), and I have to waste Zink's turn bandaging him so he won't die. The rest of the combat shows me slowly picking away at the trolls and ogre, and even watching it now, I'm not sure how I survived. I got some lucky hits. I lose Duskfire at 03:40, which means neither she nor Lame Brain will get experience from this combat (more below). Trolls regenerate and pop back up if you don't finish the battle quickly, so I was in danger of losing until the last moment. Note how the NPC fighter insisted on using his ranged weapon, effectively blocking my two rear PCs from fighting until late in the combat (Koren somewhat ineffectually flings hammers at the trolls). You can see the somewhat annoying process of switching from melee to ranged weapons here. The tide turns at 4:47, when the remaining trolls decide to flee for the hills. This is good news for a couple reasons. First, fleeing enemies expose their backs to automatic attack, and you can see Zink take down one at 04:53 without any extra effort on my part. Then, because the corridor is blocked, I can calmly finish off the second one with missile weapons. The potion I loot at 05:40 turns out to be a potion of speed. I kept the video going for a while, showing the process of healing the downed characters (05:50), memorizing spells again (06:13), walking back through the slums and returning to town (07:40), walking about town, checking into an inn to rest (08:33), and returning to City Hall for my reward (09:06) and a new quest (09:25).
After which she proceeded to unlace...the strings on a fat purse of gold.
Of three outstanding quests--clear Sokol Keep, find books and tomes relating to Phlan, and figure out what's being auctioned a Podol Plaza--I decided to go to Sokol Keep next, mostly because I know where it is. (Podol Plaza might be the map adjacent to the old city, but I'm not sure. Maddeningly, there is a map of all the areas in the Adventurer's Journal, but I'm forcing myself not to look at it until I get that entry.) I took a boat from the Phlan docks to the island fortress, a former Temple of Tyr that had been overrun by monsters about 50 years prior. In the courtyard outside the main keep, shortly after stepping off the boat, I found the remains of a dead adventurer and a note: I remember encountering this screen the first time I played Pool of Radiance, back when I was 14. I had played Questron, Ultima IV, Might & Magic, The Bard's Tale, and perhaps a few others, so I wasn't a CRPG infant, but thinking of this screen always gave me a bit of a tingle for years. When I thought of CRPGs, and how much fun I had playing them, I thought of this skeleton outside Sokol Keep. With more experience under my belt, I think I understand why: this is one of the few times in a CRPG (up to this point) in which you encounter something that 1) does not involve combat; 2) gives a sense of what it's like to play real RPGs; 3) tells you something about the game world; and 4) makes thematic sense. It offers a tantalizing sense of history and lore to the game that you don't get from just reading the manual. It would be overstating the case, probably, to suggest that the transition from the Silver Age to the Golden Age of CRPGs hinges on a skeleton in a courtyard...but it at least does for me.
I just want to say that I think that's a nice picture of a skeleton.
Anyway, the note turned out to have three words, which I had to translate from Elvish laboriously with the codewheel: "Lux," "Samosud," and "Shestni." The keep inside was crawling with undead, but after a few battles, I realized I could parlay with them and use the word "Shestni" to make them back off. "Lux" turned out to pacify a few fixed encounters with undead, and "Samosud" got me out of the keep after the last encounter. Fighting undead is a pain right now because my clerics aren't high enough that "turn undead" destroys them--it just causes them to flee. Likely as not, they encounter an obstacle in their flight and I have to go chasing after them to end the battle. In one of the rooms, I found some ghosts who, pacified with "Lux," gave me some gems and a leather-bound journal that told me of the fall of Sokol keep. This was the first time I had to look up something other than a "tavern tale" or a City Hall proclamation in the Adventurer's Journal. I'll reproduce it below to give you a sense of the quality of the writing and how the journal integrates into the gameplay:
An old leather-bound book, written with a small, firm hand. "The hordes came again last night. Their coordination was frightening. Under the cover of darkness, goblins and kobolds pushed bundles of sticks to within bow range. These bundles formed a wall that protected the small ones from our archers. Once the wall was erected orc archers took up safe positions there and begin pelting the castle walls with arrows. "We tried shooting flaming arrows at the wall of sticks to set it afire. Monsters are normally afraid of fire. But these monsters showed no fear. They simply scooped dirt on the flames to put them out. Before all the fires were out they had resumed firing at us. Surely, some unnatural force must have been at work to weld these quarrelsome beasts into an organized fighting force. "I do not know if we can combat the monsters onslaught much longer. We lost 12 more men last night. The monsters seem to have an unlimited number of reinforcements. The Last Priest of Tyr, Ferran Martinez, says he has a way to protect the keep, but he says that it's so terrible that it may only be used as a last resort. Unless we receive reinforcements shortly, Ferran Martinez is our only hope."
Any chance that means that they're trying to join my fraternity?
Inside the main keep was a large battle with orcs and hobgoblins that I won only through perseverance and effective use of "sleep" spells. Half my characters were unconscious at the end of it. On the hobgoblin leader's body was a piece of parchment with his orders (delivered in another journal entry). The orders refer to a "party of invaders" (us!) against whom he was to assemble "a force of no less than three squads" (not enough!) and to "kill them before they can return to the city council with information about the true situation at the keep" (they failed!). It is signed "The Boss," which is the first clue (aside from what the orcs say during parlay) that there's an organization behind all these monsters.
This battle took almost 30 minutes.
Finally, the Sokol Keep temple, I met the spirit of Brother Martinez, who credits a "magical pool" (clearly the Pool of Radiance) with the force behind the successful monster invasion of Phlan. He also names three "chiefs" of the monsters: Torath, Edranka, and Tyranthraxus. I can't pretend not to remember that Tyranthraxus is the "big bad" of this game, but I don't remember if we learn anything more about Torath and Edranka.
Again, note the role-playing options here.
I returned to the City Council for more rewards for clearing the keep. Ironically, the proclamation announcing the quest to clear the keep was posted outside (the proclamations and the City Clerk's quests don't seem to be in sync). I was told to visit a city councilor for another quest. The councilor, Poryphyrys Cadorna, asked me to recover a family heirloom from the Textile Complex, which I assume is another area to the west of the old city.
Is it just me, or does he look like Commander Riker?
At the end of this entry, as you may have noticed in the screenshots (check the hit points above), I'm facing a serious experience imbalance. Characters who are unconscious or dead at the end of a battle (the latter hasn't happened yet) do not gain experience, which means they do not gain levels, which means that they're all the more likely to go unconscious in the next battle. Lame Brain and Duskfire, who aside from always getting conked on the head are splitting their experience between two classes, only finally hit Level 2 when I got back from Sokol Keep, while Octavianus and Koren--my two "pure" characters--are on Level 4. Clerics only get six levels, so I have to remember to dual Octavianus after he hits level 5 (more on that later). A few final stray thoughts:
  • The game has a fair number of unused squares. There was an entire section in the northwest corner of Sokol Keep (below) that drove me crazy. I figured there must be something back there, but no amount of beating at the walls would let me through. Unlike Might & Magic and The Bard's Tale, there is no teleport or etherealize spell in D&D, so these squares will remain forever unexplored.
  • I think of this every time I play a game based on AD&D's first or second editions (which includes everything from here all the way through Baldur's Gate II): second-level cleric spells suck. Every other spellcasting level for both mages and clerics has spells that you use throughout the game, no matter how powerful you get. The first-level cleric spells "Bless" and "Cure Light Wounds" never stop being relevant. Mages have the workhorse "Magic Missile" at Level 1, and some useful spells like "Stinking Cloud" and "Acid Arrow" at Level 2. What do clerics get at Level 2? In this game, it's "Find Traps" (useless here), "Hold Person" (hardly ever works, and only on humanoids), "Resist Fire" (useful only in certain situations), "Silence" (usually fails, doesn't last), "Slow Poison" (useless), "Snake Charm" (I'll let you know if I see any snakes), and "Spiritual Hammer" (which does the same damage as a normal hammer, which I have).
When you think about it, second-level cleric spells are everything a married man needs.
  • The one disappointing thing about the game, as you see in the video above, is the graphical spareness of the game. Corridors and rooms are completely featureless unless you trigger a special encounter. You have to envision tables, chairs, beds, wall hangings, and other physical features.
As graphics improve in CRPGs, they show, rather than tell, these things. Oh, there was a battle with giant frogs at one point. I never found a good place to bring it up.
So I still have three open quests: find books and journals about Old Phlan (Martinez told me that Mendor had collected these things in his library), figure out what's being auctioned at Podol Plaza, and recover the heirloom from the Textile Complex. I don't know precisely where any of these are, so I'm going to head west out of the slums and see what I encounter first.


  1. Dear CRPG Addict,

    Congratulations on the victory at Sokal Keep. This battle takes a lot of time as the computer has to move around all those little hobgolbins and orcs, even if they cannot do anything. My tactics usually were to retreat to an ajoining room and put up stinking cloud and hit the enemy with arrows. When enough went down, the rest usually surrendered.

    The undead fighting is a pain as skeletons take less damage from swords and bows. I am glad you figured out the use of the code words from the elf corpse.

    On the subject of the fortune teller, someone told me that killing her makes all the monsters in the slums really angry and so all the random encounters become harder.

    The Cadorna mission is good since you will get to roleplay a bit with it. I won't say anymore.

    I hope your fun playing this matches mine watching it. I still say this game is in the top 5 of all CRPGs. If I could just figure out the other 4.

  2. There is a hidden weapons room somewhere in the keep, in the general vicinity of where you encounter frogs "boiling up from the ground".

    I wonder if that room in the NW corner is accessible if you do a "search" while walking around the walls, or if not, then via a "detect invisibility spell". Can't remember that one.

  3. If I am not getting any experience anyway, maybe it is time to lay down my sword. If I remember correctly (and I may not, it has been decades...) you can remake a character right? Maybe you should make LameBrain a pure wizard and stick him in the back. (grab his items first!)

  4. As someone who has played these games a lot, I can tell you that 2nd level Cleric spells aren't useless.

    Hold Person works well against human combatants. You can hit up to three targets, but you don't have to. If you choose less targets, the saving throw needed to avoid the spell increases. So, if you really want to hold someone, only target one thing.

    Additionally, Silence is great versus enemy mages and clerics (especially clerics, since they are effective with Hold Person). One trick I learned is to hit one of my own warriors with Silence and have them go stand next to the spell-casters (since the spell has a 15' radius). Works great most of the time.

  5. I agree with the ProphetSword that Hold Person is useful. In fact its critical in a couple of fights for me.

    Also, my compliments to your clerics. They were quite resilient in the battle with the Trolls.

  6. Heh, I'm glad that I didn't bet on the battle between The Ropers and The People's Liberation Front of New Phlan, as I would have lost.
    I'm impressed that you pulled it off even without a lvl 4 hired goon or a Stinking Cloud.
    As for you hireling not meeleeing, that is due to him having his arrows equipped. Unequip him of you want to use him as a meat shield. IMO only the fighters are really worth hiring, as the clerics and mages will usually waste their spells, and pure thieves are mostly useless.

    You had luck with the rolls in the battle, but bad luck with the random loot, I think. I found +2 and +3 melee weapons on my latest playthrough.

    Interesting to see you spend days on R&R, when you could have spent a few thousand gold being insta-healed at a temple.
    When I play my characters are too eager for adventure to sleep more than 8 hours a day.

    I don't agree with you that 2nd level Cleric Spells are useless.

    Hold Person is great and in PoR and CoAB they work more often than not. Even at high levels it's nice to have in the aresenal.

    Silence can be very effective against spell caster. You can even target one of your own, and move him next to a group of magic resistant enemies (like Drows in later games) to prevent them from casting, since the AoE is centered areound the one target of the spell.

    Slow Poison can be very useful if one of your guys have been poisoned and you haven't got Neutralize Poison. If you get back to a temple in time the "dead" character can be brought back with a Neutralize Poison instead of Raise Dead.

    Spiritual Hammer may be nice before you find any magical hammers.

  7. remind me...
    Does this game include the rule that Skeletons take signifigantly less damage from piercing and slashing weapons, but double damage from crushing weapons?

  8. Skeletons take half damage from piercing and slashing weapons, but normal damages from crushing weapons.
    I was so annoyed by the fact that Baldur's Gate treated sling stones as piercing, that I made a mini mod that changed them all to crushing. :-)

  9. Interesting video! I did the graphics for a homemade CRPG a few years ago, and despite having never played a single CRPG in my life (at the time), I seem to have drawn the doors exactly as they are in Pool of Radiance :P

  10. I might have overstated the case on Level 2 cleric spells--hold person works more often than I give it credit for, and I appreciate the tip on using it on the same creature multiple times--but I still don't think the level offers anything useful after you and your enemies are past Level 7 or 8. Think of a high-level enemy like an illithid. Every spell level, cleric or mage, from Levels 1-3, offer something that might help against it:

    Mage Level 1: Magic missile (remains awesome no matter how high you get)
    Mage Level 2: Acid Arrow, Strength
    Mage Level 3: Fireball, Lightning Bolt, Haste
    Cleric Level 1: Bless, Cure Light Wounds
    Cleric Level 2: ........
    Cleric Level 3: Prayer, Dispel Magic

    On the other hand, I never thought about casting silence at my own people, so I'll try that.

    JJ, if I had to anticipate the games I've played that will get the highest scores on my blog, they would be: Ultima VII, Baldur's Gate, Baldur's Gate II, Might & Magic VI, and Morrowind. Keep in mind that I haven't played hundreds, though.

    buckrogers, I did find the hidden weapons, in the northeast corner of the map. I'm reasonably sure there wasn't anything else, but if you're right that "detect invisibility" finds secret doors, I'm going to have to do a lot of re-exploring.

    Lame Brain, I will NOT leave a man behind! Anyway, you're starting to level a bit now.

    1. I haven't played a lot of AD&D, so I'm not sure, but "spiritual hammer" and it's successor "spiritual weapon" in later revisions persisted for more than one round, and was independently mobile. So you cast it and then your enemies get hit by the magic hammer *and* the cleric's physical hammer.

  11. Addicted One, from my own experience, there is only one time in the game where "detect invisibility" is essential in finding a hidden door and it is not in the early parts of the game, so no concerns there. As a general rule of thumb, where a map or area view shows a room I have not accessed, I will search the perimeter from all sides, and if convinced I should be able to access the area, cast a "detect invisibility" spell.

    As for classes/races, I tended towards pure class humans for the reasons you are experiencing, namely tough initial going with low hit points and slow spell development. I would not be concerned about topping out your characters levels.

    As for number of characters in the party, I found not using the maximum (plus NPCs) means less enemies during battles, which means of course quicker battles (i.e., the number foes in a battle scales to the number of characters (whether PC or NPC) in the party.) Five PCs was a number I liked. Two fighters, one MU, one Cleric, and the fifth being whatever you like. A thief/MU is my preference, as a thief comes in handy in one section of the game and on one or two other occasions, and extra spell power versus hordes of monsters (sleep, fireball) is always good thing and speeds up what can be laboriously long ones.

    Other tips for speeding things up is changing the game speed in the encamp menu (movement in the third person view is faster) and in the combat alter menu (combat movement is faster).

    On and off over 30 odd years, across the Apple IIc, Amiga, Dos, and PC Unlimited Adventures) I have started and played through the game to about 1/2 way more times than I care to admit, so my need for speed may be due to repeating familiar battles several times too many.

    With apologies for going off the topic of the blog entry, for those wondering about which platform is best to play the game on, the Amiga version is fast, and the speed can be increased via emulation settings. It is also graphically far less dreary looking than the PC version, and the sound samples are improved, although you have to put up with guru meditations occurring mid way through battle on too many occasions, whether using the real hardware or via winuae emulator.

    For those looking to get into PoR for the first time, or relive it again after many years, or if you were put off by the 1st ed rules, the Unlimited Adventures fan made module of the game has the following improvements: 2nd ed. rules, allowing for dual-class humans, all 2nd ed. classes, no silly race restrictions (hoooooray!), no level cap or an extremely high one, higher level spells, a bank (I am pretty sure) and graphics and sound taken from the last games made in the gold box series (apparently the Unlimited Adventures software WAS exclusively used to make the later games). Speed of battles is fast too.

    The downsides are that literally couple of exceedingly minor details are left out (otherwise it is a carbon copy in every single way) that only a hardcore fan would notice and are not missed, and of course you are not playing the original in all its simplistic 1st ed. rules glory.

    You can transfer your characters to the fan made module of the sequel, Curse of the Azure Bonds, and to the many original fan made modules (if you intend to do this, save your games in PoR such that you can grab your characters at various levels and insert them into the modules, as some are designed for low levels), but modules of subsequent gold box games have not been made, and the character files are not transferable to the retail versions.

  12. CRPG Addict, I'm wondering if part of the utility/nonutility spell issue has to do with play style. In one of your previous posts you mentioned your Baldur's Gate spell list, which didn't match mine at all because I tended to focus on immobilizing/silencing my enemies. I'm guessing you aren't into that as much in CRPGS in general, which is why Hold Person doesn't seem quite so valuable a spell.

    Petrus, good run down. I never knew that about Slow Poison!

  13. I caved in and played through the slums earlier. I tried the Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures method, it was surprisingly painless (I'm still dosboxing the end result). The remade game doesn't seem to have Area maps, but that's nothing an internet guide can't fix. However, I do not think I'll carry on with it because the combats just take too long, even with the UA betterments. I think this one I'll enjoy vicariously through CrpgAddict's efforts instead. I enjoy these posts very much :)

  14. To me multi-classing just isn't worth it for so much of your party. I never multi-class personally.

  15. Congrats on beating those trolls! I remember that encounter well, and when I watched the video I couldn't believe you actually survived.

    Add me to the list of Hold Person fans. That was always one of my favorite cleric spells, both in the Gold Box game and "real" D&D. All the more so because it is one of those spells that grows with your character.

    A couple assorted questions (mostly because it's been a long time since I've played and I can't remember):
    - did your alignment change after you killed the old woman?
    - shouldn't you have dismissed your swordsman before collecting your reward?
    - can you send low-level characters on their own to level up like in M&M for example)?
    - who is narrating this anyway?

  16. I noticed the "duels" can be used to rebalance xp gains in the party. As you are facing a carbon copy of yourself, odds ofsuccess should technically be 50% (average of attack rolls for fighters, who starts first and casts hold person/sleep for CL/MU). If you lose, to the slums, heal, and back. It's a bit tedious and at some point I left the imbalance go when it started to matter less at higher levels, but it's a way. BTW I also went with a "pure" party, FFTCMM.

    Joke of the day - I just read in the PoR manual : "Troll (VI) : These are large, strong, ugly humanoids. They know no fear and can regenerate wounds."

    Seems Lamebrain and Octavinius managed to scare the fearless!!!

    Joke of the day 2 : Is it me or the ghost of Ferran looks like a bartender with two martinis? Served "chilled", I guess...

  17. Killing the fortune teller is supposed to enrage the monsters in the slums and make the combats harder.

    And one trick with the trolls: if you kill one and move a character to the spot where the troll was standing, it can't "stand" back up again.

    If I remember correctly, there is a secret treasure room in the slums, I think in the NW corner. Unless that was only in the C64 version.

  18. Whoops, NE corner, as noted above.

    And I'm enjoying your rundown immensely. Both in paper and computer D&D, I think the lowest levels are the most fun.

  19. buckrogers, if you want to play the whole series of four games the DOS versions is in my opinion superior. The Amiga versions have better graphics and sound, thought the difference are smaller with each game. But the Amiga version (at least the version I played) og Secret of the Silver Blades had a (for me, at least) serious bug: the Cloaks of Displacements made you totally immune to physical attacks.

  20. Octavinius, that indeed is a serious bug, and I agree that if you want to use the same party right through, the PC versions make sense. Although if there was a game to skip, I have read that SotSB would be the one. I tried it once but did not persevere long enough to draw a valid conclusion. Its a shame the first game (PoR) was unmatched by the others until the final game which is of course Pools of Darkness.

    Having completed PoR via UA, I am inclined to complete some of the modules (I have tried the TOEE module which seemed very high quality indeed) and I may try CotAB again, as it seemed good, however, the charm of PoR is missing, and then move to the Amiga for Pools of Darkness. Not sure if the two frontiers games are worth playing. Have tried them in the past but could not help but end up comparing them unfavorably to PoR.

    I have found PoR makes it difficult to enjoy "most other" RPGs. Its spoiled things for me.

  21. Secret of the Silver Blades is indeed the weakest of the seven games in the FR and Krynn series. Lots and lots of grinding, few memorable battles and hardly any role playing. But playing Secret first makes Pools of Darkness less brutal, since your characters will start with higher levels and all the items they found in Secret.

    The Savage Frontier games were a mixed bag. They had a nice story, many cities to explore, NPCs to interact with, and enemies and allies could call for reinforcements. But alas, the random encounter system was incredibly tedious: there was only one or two possible parties you could meet within any single area. For example in one map all encounter were 2 Hill Giants, in another it would either be 1 Ankheg or 2 Trolls. But that was not all, in all outdoors areas there was a 1/6 chance of random encounters, and there was no end to them. And camping outdoors was nearly always interrupted since it followed the same rules as if you were sleeping in a goblin infested cave.
    The best part was the ending battle of the first Savage Frontier games.

  22. Forgot to mention it, but IIRC there was no Parlay option in the Savage Frontier games, only Fight or Flee. So despite all its many small innovations, there were some huge steps backwards in encounter design.

  23. I was going to mention stepping on Trolls' corpses to stop them respawning but was beaten to it...

    On the subject of Unlimited Adventures, the module The Sect is possibly the best of all 500 or so of them.
    It has actually been revamped and re-released as recently as a few weeks ago by the author.

    About the Savage Frontier games: they have their own charm. I enjoyed playing them, they do have a distinct "flavour".

    I played them twice each although the first time with "Gateway" I was employing a "method" that Crpgaddict would certainly NOT have approved of :-)
    The developers left a cheat in the game: if you pressed a certain key combination at any time during battle, ALL monsters would be killed instantly...and your party still got the XP and treasure...

    Still not as bad as a "cracked" copy of Buck Rogers 1 that I still have (I do own all the originals too) which AUTOMATICALLY kills all monsters at the beginning of each battle!!!
    Not bad as copy protection I suppose?

  24. The NES version of Pool of Radiance is pretty good. Most NES emulators also have a turbo button to cut down on wait times. The battle icons are also cuter (but not anime). I think it's a bit prettier than the DOS version, but certainly no match for the Amiga one.

    Note that you can turn off the music and speed up the game in the first menu, too, so you don't have to put up with the mess of sound when you use the turbo button. I'd recommend FCEUX, as it's the one I use, though there I've heard good things about NEStopia, as well.

    I'm really enjoying this series so far (probably because you're really enjoying the game)!

  25. Actually, "Samosud" is a "Lynch law" in Russian and "Shestni" is "honest". No idea what's "Lux" supposed to mean, but Sokol translates as "Falcon".

  26. Lux is latin for light.
    IIRC it was also used as a spell to petrify the Stone Trolls in the text adventure game The Hobbit.

  27. Buck, I AM concerned about topping out the character levels, because I remember it happening before. It's one of the few things still embedded in my 17-year-old memory of this game. The experience tables top out at 250,000 for fighters but only 55,000 for mages and only 60,000 for clerics. I assume this was because they didn't want to have to program Level 4 spells.

    Thus, if my mage and cleric characters are going to get cheated out of that much experience, I'm glad they're at least getting fighter levels at the same time.

    I general, I agree with Elijah that multi-classing isn't worth it, but only when your characters won't hit their level caps with straight classes.

    I didn't realize the number of enemies scaled with your party, so I'll avoid taking on the extra NPC. But I'm too attached to all my PCs to lose one now. Thanks for the UA information, too, for those who might want to try it that way.

    Jason, you're probably right about the play style thing. I get very frustrated with spells that fail a lot, so I tend to err towards those that work consistently. I guess I also tend to favor direct-damage spells over spells that just weaken or temporarily immobilize enemies. I could probably stand to broaden my tactics here.

    Keir, good questions. Quickly: 1) I forgot to check (but I accept Sin's explanation); 2) Maybe, but I wanted him to get experience, too, as I intended to hold onto him for a while; 3) Yes, but you gain so little experience from fighting vs. quest rewards that I wouldn't do it that way. 4) You got me. I realized partway through my storytelling that I was referring to all of the characters in the 3rd person, leaving open the question as to who the narrator was. I think I'm going to drop this aspect anyway (it was taking too long), so it'll have to remain a mystery.

    Georges: thanks. You got me killed! The arena master says that duels are "not normally to the death," ad the first one I fought, I died. Thankfully, it wasn't my elf. On You're right. What ARE those things supposed to be? Grails?

    Anon, whoever you are, thanks for the translations. It never occurred to me that they were more than random words.

  28. @Addict : I'm really sorry! All the duels I tried I never died... (?) maybe a version thing, or maybe you received more than -10 damage and died instead of going inconcious?

  29. I did try it with my fighter who, at Level 5, did some pretty heavy damage. So his "evenly matched" opponent probably did, too. I suppose it's possible that my PC was down to 2 HP and the opponent did 12 or something.

  30. Hello CRPGAddict. I am a bit of a late comer to your blog, but so far I am enjoying it immensely.

    May I ask, which program to you use in order to do all the mapping?

    Also, are any of these games still available for purchase? Are you using the gog site?

  31. @PlutoNick, he's using Excel, as I do too. It's the best thing for square-tile based games. You use borders for walls, and can use little graphics if you wish (like a box for doors that you copy/paste around).

    I personnaly created a custom "CRPG mapping" tab in the ribbon with all border buttons readily available rather than from a drop-down menu : top/left/right/bottom/all/none/line-style, and so on. Once you get the habit, you're mapping quite fast.

  32. PlutoNick, I'm glad you like the blog. Georges answered the mapping question quite adeptly, although I never thought to make my own ribbon--thanks, Georges!

    As for where I get the games, I try to avoid talking about that so I don't draw the attention of copyright holders. Suffice to say that the only games I've paid for so far have been shareware games--mostly because I like to imagine the look on the developer's face when he gets a $20 bill in the mail for a game he wrote in 1986. This will have to change, of course, once I hit the "must-have-a-CD-in-the-drive" era, at which point I envision using GOG a lot.

  33. Thanks for your reply. I wasn't asking where you got them (for the same reasons you wrote about). I was merely curious if you found them available commercially (I think of GoG as commercial too).

    There is a way to overcome the 'must-have-a-cd-in-the-drive' though. I am not sure if you are aware of 'image files' or simply want to be ethical, but let me know if you need more information.

    Lastly, I made my own blog, part as a homage to yours (with proper references. will have to add a link-banner to you later), part as a challenge for me. My goals are far lower than yours. Simply to play all those CRPGS I never managed to finish as a kid. A fraction of those you are attempting to finish. I even doubt I will be able to keep this up past this months :)

    Thanks for the inspiration. My wife will hate you.

  34. Never used an image file, but thanks for the tip. I might look for advice when the time comes.

    I'm following your blog! I look forward to reading your parallel experience.

  35. Just want to say that I'm really enjoying your write-ups of POR. I beat this game last summer for the first time and found it a great experience, and it's great to relive the game. I might just try this again soon.

  36. Just stumbled along here. Played through this game like 100 times over the years. ^_^

    Hold Person rocks the casbah against really tough individual humanoid enemies. Think spellcasters, and the occasional high-level fighter you run into.


  37. I remember this game fondly - I beat the game which was a big accomplishment for me as a kid, given the scope of this game.

    One dirty trick I would use early on - I would hire the strongest mercenaries possible, who were level 6 or so (?) and carried powerful equipment such as enchanted armors, weapons, and rings of protection. Then in combat, after you've nearly mopped up the enemies, cast "Hold Person" on your mercenary. You can then slay them in one blow, avoiding the retaliation of your high-level stooge. Then you get all of their high-quality gear - at no penalty as far as I was able to tell! Then you can go back to the Arena and fetch another mercenary, rinse and repeat. In this way you can load up on powerful equipment early on in the game.

    1. Yeah. Thanks for your comment and readership and everything, but I'm sorry, I have to characterize this as "playing like a jackass" in the scale I introduced here:

      I mean, I don't know why someone plays a multi-hour game and then deliberately reduces the challenge so dramatically.

    2. I definitely did that the first few times I played PoR. When I was a kid, figuring out those sorts of exploits felt triumphant. Even back then it felt a bit lame that it made loot so irrelevant.

      The hirelings are 4th level and I think you end up with plate, shield and long sword (all +1) and ring of prot +1 for all your chars who want them.

  38. The childhood accomplishment I got from these in my jr high years was figuring out how to hex edit things and searching through the files for numbers that look to match up with the numbers I wanted to change. At the time I didn't realize that I killed some of the game enjoyment, but I did enjoy figuring out how to do it.

  39. More differences from the NES port:

    1) There's only one guild, so no need to search for the proper trainer.
    2) The full party is 5 members, and filling all 5 slots makes it impossible to hire an NPC hirling as the sixth slot is specifically set aside for story NPCs.
    3) I never actually saw a troll stand back up, or a mention of regernation, so I don't know if that happens. Wild boars do automatically stand back up if dropped to negative HP though.
    4) This is a big one... there are no attacks from behind, and no backstabbing for a thief (my own or the enemies). This essentially makes the thief a worse fighter except for the one time in the textile house.
    5) Due to how annoying it is, I want to point out that memorizing spells is exactly the same with slower menus.
    6) No code wheel, so no translation needed for the code words off the elf's scroll. Just read it and you have all the passwords.

  40. A few notes (many years after the fact, but I am myself replaying this one currently)

    Killing the fortune teller, according to the clue book will make encounters harder. I don't like playing evil parties so I usually don't do it.

    2nd level cleric spells DO kinda suck. Hold Person was invaluable in the Krynn series but in Pool of Radiance it doesn't work on many enemies unfortunately.
    When visiting Sokal, a few Slow Poison can come in handy though.

  41. You wrote: "Porphyris Cadorna looks like Commander Riker?"

    It turns out, Luigi Cadorna (I hoped he was "Porfirio Cadorna") was THE Italian commander (i.e. the army chief of staff) during World War One.

  42. I have played Pool of Radiance many times, but rarely use the resource offered by the Hirelings in the training hall. Sometimes, I have recruited a mercenary fighter as an extra help against Trolls or on Sokal Keep. I decided that there help was superfluous and they betrayed you to Tyranthraxus anyway, so why bother.

    In my most recent playing, I decided to play against type in a number of ways, and using Hirelings was one.
    I had used fighters before. They are reliable and do make unreasonable demands. I never used the magic user. Didn't trust the AI and they asked for a "pick of the special items". Robbers seemed even more ridiculous, given the weakness of pure thieves and the demand for special items.

    So, in playing against type, I recruited our robber for the game. The AI was not too good. Our valiant robber, with 10 in all stats except an 18 in dexterity, bravely charged enemies. I will admit some satisfaction with some back stabs. Even so, he is still rather useless in battles.

    What I wanted to see, was what items would he "pick". Our first dungeon together was not promising. The Graveyard has mostly cash and jewels. He took his three shares, and I graciously healed him and restored his lost levels. He was knocked out at the nomad camp, so he couldn't take anything. Finally at the Buccaneer base, we killed the captain and his guard. After his take, my cleric cast detect magic, and behold the Captain's gear was still there. So far, our robber does not pick the most valuable stuff.

    I will retire him soon, but it was an interesting experiment. It seems the Fighter and Cleric hirelings are the best investment. The Robber is just a weak fighter.

    1. You made me realize that I have never once seen the "pick of the special items" in action. I was so horrified at the thought of giving magic items to NPC hirelings that I just never chose the hirelings who demanded it. Now I'm curious to see how it actually works, and now I wonder if it was ever really programmed into the game.

    2. My test was not sure. I need to consult a cheat guide to see all the magic treasure for each encounter, then I could measure it. Given the copious amounts of money and stuff, the robber was but a small dent in my bank account. Maybe he picks the least valuable gear. One day I will try again and see what happens. Interesting: Hireling fighters are lawful evil; clerics are neutral good; robbers are chaotic neutral. Don't know about the magic users.


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