Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Game 82: Curse of the Azure Bonds (1989)


Okay, The Curse of the Azure Bonds is awesome. All of the "Gold Box" games are awesome. So let's get out of the way, right at the beginning, the one way in which they completely suck: level maximums for non-human characters. Pool of Radiance had them, too, but the max levels for everyone were low enough that you weren't really sacrificing anything by playing a dwarf or elf.

It gets considerably worse in Curse of the Azure Bonds. The max level for a fighter for a human is 12, but the class that can achieve the next-highest level is the dwarf, who maxes at 9. Gnomes and halflings max at 5--that's lower than most Pool of Radiance levels--in everything except the thief class. Certain races simply can't choose certain classes: no elf clerics, dwarf rangers, gnome magic-users, or anything-but-human paladins.

Level limits for Pools of Darkness, the fourth game in the series--a game where playing with a dwarf fighter who maxes out at 9 would be absurd.

Even if you'd be willing to play with that kind of handicap for this game, you'd be screwing yourself for the sequels.  Max mage level for elves in Curse? 11. In Secret of the Silver Blades? 11. Pools of Darkness? 11. Even if you could live with the stifling lack of character development for three games, you couldn't...well, live. The same is true of every non-human race/class combination except one: any race can max out in thievery.

The result is that you'd have to be crazy to include any non-human characters in your party, except for the sole thief. Why would they include such a dumb rule? Well, because the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons included it. But the way I understand it, those level caps were gone in the second edition, which came out in 1989. Even if we allow Curse the excuse, we can't extend that to Secret of the Silver Blades or Pools of Darkness.

My tragically-fated Pool of Radiance party.

So, let's take a look at my imported Pool of Radiance party and see what we have. A dwarf, two half-elves, an elf, and two humans. Petrus, congratulations: your avatar (a human fighter) gets to continue on in Curse. Koren the cleric (the only one I didn't name after a reader) also stays. Everyone else is fired.

In a way, it's for the best. Curse introduced two classes that Pool of Radiance didn't have: the paladin and the ranger. That makes exactly six classes for six party slots. Except that with these new classes, the plain old fighter seems redundant. I can't see any advantage that he has that the paladin and ranger don't have (weapon specializations aren't a thing yet). Thus, I think I'll dual Octavianus to something more useful--maybe a cleric--later, but that command isn't available from the starting menu. Everyone else is new. My final party is:

  • Bolingbroke, a lawful good male human paladin
  • Goldeneye, a chaotic good female human ranger
  • Octavianus, a chaotic good male human fighter (to be dualed to a mage as soon as I can)
  • Koren, a neutral good female human cleric
  • Pimm, a chaotic neutral female gnome thief
  • Yorsh, a chaotic good male elf magic user (elves can achieve the max mage level in this game; I'll boot him for the next one)

Character creation is much the same as in Pool of Radiance: you specify a race, class, and alignment, roll a set of attributes, name the character, and customize the icon. Afterwards, you have a chance to "modify" your character's statistics to "match a favored AD&D character," which legions of 1980s gamers simply used to jack up every statistic to the maximum. I resisted that temptation but it wasn't much of a temptation; none of my rolls came under 10, and with just two or three re-rolls, I had this for my paladin:


New characters start at Level 5, which does offer a significant advantage for the Level 6-8 characters that arrive from Pool of Radiance, but nothing a little grinding can't make up.

I always spend a little too much time on the icons. Since I can't see a lot of color variance, the "primary color" and "secondary color" selections don't mean a lot to me, and I try to just go with something solid that will make each character stand out. Far more important is the weapon selection; by choosing a different weapon for each character, it's easy to remember who's who on the battlefield.

A character with the two-handed sword icon always feels like he does more damage, even if the icon has nothing to do with it.

With the party created, Octavianus and Koren simply pretended that the other four had been with them in Phlan, instead of treating them like the rank newcomers that they were.

The Story

Curse of the Azure Bonds takes place shortly after the events of Pool of Radiance, with the action shifting to the southwest side of the Moonsea, in an area called the Elven Court--a region formerly populated by elvish civilizations before the elves got sick of all the humans popping up in the area, and emigrated off to some place called Evermeet. The area is now home to a series of petty kingdoms and monsters, all of whom have flooded in to fill the vacuum the elves created.


Having saved the city of Phlan from the menace of Tyranthraxus, the party of mercenaries has embarked for the city of Tilverton (southwest in map above) to find the daughter of King Azoun of Cormyr, Princess Nacacia, who a year ago fled an arranged marriage and ran off with a cleric named Gharri of Gond. But on the way to Tilverton, the party is attacked by invisible brigands and knocked unconscious. Awaking in Tilverton, the party members find that their equipment is gone (convenient, that), and their arms are branded with a series of five azure symbols.

Waking up in a strange place, bereft of equipment, with strange markings on my arm. This is eerily similar to my 2007 trip to New Orleans.

Their main quest, in the beginning, is simply to figure out what the hell is happening.

A quick look at the Forgotten Realms Wiki's entry for 1357 DR, the year in which the game takes place, illustrates how I'll never become very fluent in the lore surrounding the game. There's simply too much of it. Various game guides, books, modules, and magazine articles have established the extraordinarily detailed history, setting, and personalities at work here. The wiki tells me that Azoun is a warrior king who has ruled for 20 years and will be killed in another 14 in the Goblin Wars. Nacacia is short for Alusair Nacacia Obarskyr, a hotheaded fighter/ranger and leader in Cormyr's armies, the Purple Dragon Knights. Tilverton, where I've just awakened, is due to be completely razed in 15 years by the armies of some place called Thultanthar.

More important, the entire setting is drawn from a book called Azure Bonds by Jeff Grubb and Kate Novak, published the year before the game. It concerns the adventures of the similarly-azure-bonded Alias, a female sell-sword and walking example of both the "1980s hair" and "cleavage window" tropes:

Wouldn't want that armor to protect the sternum, would you?

I've purchased the book on my Kindle, but I'm honestly not sure if it's better to read it now, wait until the end of the game, or wait until I encounter Alias in-game (yes, that one was spoiled for me).

It's possible that this will change throughout the game, but at the beginning, I'm not quite as compelled by the main quest as I was in Pool of Radiance. Solving your own problems seems less heroic than saving a city. But maybe we'll get to do both.

Gameplay

The gameplay is instantly familiar to anyone who's played Pool of Radiance or any other "Gold Box" series game. It mixes first-person exploration with isometric tactical combat in an adept adaptation of the AD&D rules. Both views are turn-based and tiled.

Exploration view. Sunrise is oddly at midnight, and the sun stays in one place throughout the day.

The tactical combat screen, which I maintain is one of the best ever created for CRPGs.

I encourage you to read my Pool of Radiance entries, but as I go through the game, I won't assume you have. So far, except for the addition of paladins and rangers, and the ability to dual-class, I've only seen a few differences in Curse. One is a particularly welcome change: in the encampment menu, there's a "Fix" command that automatically goes through the process of memorizing "Cure Light Wounds," casting it on the characters that need it, and re-memorizing it. Unless you're in a safe area, there is a chance of a random encounter during this process. I used the command immediately to heal Octavianus and Koren, who had been imported from Phlan with less-than-perfect health.

Beyond that, there are bits of furniture in the tactical combat screen, and you no longer have to specify "move" before moving in combat--you just start walking. I'm sure I'll encounter a few more differences as I go along.

Like its predecessor, this game comes with a paper "Adventurer's Journal" to which you are referred throughout the gameplay, starting from the moment you wake up in the inn in Tilverton. This process minimizes the amount of text on screen and allows for images that the developers didn't want to have to program into the game.



It comes with a codewheel, too, but the game doesn't include the same codewheel-based copy protection as Pool of Radiance, so I haven't had a reason to play with it yet.

From the moment I started the game, I was having fun, and everything I loved about Pool of Radiance came flooding back, from the little minor role-playing options you frequently get....

 I don't know if I want to start committing crimes so soon.
If I were role-playing honestly, my party is in a pretty lousy mood...

I'm glad I went shopping before I came here.

Oh, no. I learned that lesson in Spielburg.

...to the absurdly large selection of every AD&D weapon in the shop...

I'll bet that no starting player, not once, has bought a "jo stick."

...to the descriptors that you receive as you visit certain areas...

This refers to a big dragon attack in the area a couple years prior.


But the graphical paucity remains notable. Coming off of Drakkhen and Hero's Quest, which had lovingly-crafted screens, the relatively blank tiles of Curse of the Azure Bonds require the player to mentally supply most of the details. I don't recall that the Gold Box series ever gets any better at this, although I barely remember this game, let alone any of the others.

I haven't decided how much attention I'm going to give to mapping this game. I like the process of map creation, but it does tend to slow things down, and my Pool of Radiance map book was full of areas that I never revisited. The "area map" supplied by the game doesn't show doors or very much useful, but it does help you keep track of where you've been in simple areas, and I might rely on that for a lot of zones.

An area map of Tilverton.

Tilverton

My party isn't the only hard-luck cases in the inn: the room next door is occupied by a dissheveled man ranting in his sleep about a flaming giant, "plants that walk," and other assorted nightmares. An inn employee tells me he was found that way by a sewer entrance.


A note in the journal said that despite waking up with no equipment, "we have found a stash of coins." The stash was equivalent to 1,500 gold pieces per person, more than enough to buy all the weapons and armor I could possibly want, so I feel bad for whatever poor sap left it in the bedside table. There was an armor shop across the street from the inn. I went with some standard choices, keeping in mind the usual class restrictions (magic users can have no armor and no throwing weapons but darts; clerics can't used edged or pointed weapons; thieves can't wear anything metal).

After my purchases, I returned to the inn and had my cleric and magic-user memorize their spells (I'll revisit Vancian magic in a later posting). I was pleased to see that my magic user started with "Fireball" as his single third-level spell; I accompanied that with a couple "Stinking Clouds," "Magic Missiles," one "Charm Person," and one "Sleep." As usual, I deemed it a waste of time for the cleric to memorize any first-level spells other than "Cure Light Wounds" except one "Bless" spell. I took several "Hold Persons," "Prayer," "Dispel Magic," and one "Cure Disease."


Leaving the inn, I tried to check out the city's exit, but it was blocked by the equivalent of the Cormyr Secret Service. I'm guessing that's a "Purple Knight" on the guard's armor--a fact that would have been meaningless without that wiki.


At the inn, I was booted out after one drink because a "special customer" arrived--a woman in a purple dress who I'm guessing was Nacacia. I heard a scuffle in the alley on the side of the inn, but when I arrived, the only evidence was an ornate knife that happened to look a lot like one of my tattoos.


Returning to the bar, I noted that the bartender now had a black eye and his arm in a sling. He got very nervous when he saw my sigils and claimed that he just tripped over the bar. It appears to me that whoever wielded those ornate knives kidnapped the Princess from the bar and injured the bartender in the process. But I couldn't get anything else out of him.

I  nearly skipped the training hall--after all, I had just started--but I was delighted to find that Koren (who had been collecting experience in Pool of Radiance beyond her level cap) was able to ascend to Level 7. She only gets three more levels in the entire game, though. I was displeased to find that Octavianus could only dual to a cleric (his stats weren't high enough for thief or magic user), and I decided not to push that just yet.

During a service in the Temple of Gond (God of the Smiths), I overheard a snarky comment about Cormyr's presence in Tilverton. I visited the high priest, thinking that he might be able to remove the bonds, but when he tried, everyone ended up writhing in pain. Clearly, it's not going to be that easy.


That left a sage named Tilvani. For a couple thousand of my gold pieces, she told me what the five symbols on my arms represented:

1. The Fire Knives, a group of assassins whose base was recently destroyed in Westgate. She didn't know where they were operating from now.

2. The god Moander, who was recently banished from the world but "reappeared as a pile of filth" and laid waste to the city of Yulash.

3. The Zhentarim (incorrectly spelled "Zhentrim" in the book), an evil mercenary company out of Zhentil Keep. I tangled with them in Pool of Radiance when one of the councilors tried to get them to kill me.

4. A crescent moon symbol that "bears a disturbing similarity to a powerful sage in Shadowdale," but "for her own safety," she wouldn't say any more. I assume the "powerful sage" is Elminster, one of the most famous Forgotten Realms figures.

5. An unknown flaming symbol that she knew nothing about but that gives me a bad feeling.

I didn't have long to wait to determine what the azure bonds actually do. When I left the sage and headed for the city exit again, the royal carriage appeared. My bonds started glowing, and I was unable to resist the compulsion to attack it!

Maybe the book will explain what this means.

Within moments, I was in battle with the Purple Knights. My first combat in the game was thus with a group of good guards who were only doing their jobs. Ouch. I used the occasion to test the effectiveness of my magic user's "Fireball" spell, and they went down very easily.

After the combat, a group of red-robed men jumped into the carriage, hauled out the scared young man, and dragged him into an alleyway. Before I could pursue, some more guards appeared and I surrendered to them rather than slaughter more innocents.

I didn't have long to spend in jail (and, oddly, they didn't take my weapons). Some thief opened a secret door in my cell and let me into the headquarters of the thieves' guild in the sewers.


The guildmaster explained that the Fire Knives had kidnapped the Princess and were hiding her in their base in the sewers. While he was talking, however, Fire Knives infiltrated the guild...


...and killed the guildmaster. Within seconds, I was in battle again. The combat was long, and exhausted many of my spells. At the end, all of my characters were alive. I retrieved a map of the sewers from the body of the guildmaster. Now, I have to get out of here, rescue the Princess, and see if I can find some answers.

169 comments:

  1. Are you going to play with such low DEX for your paladin? His Armor Class will suck.

    It always bothered me in ADND - all characters need high physical attributes in order to have good attack, HP and AC, but if you're not a magic user or cleric, you can have 1 INT, WIS and CHA and be happy about that.

    3d Edition is much better - every stat matters and even if don't have a max score, you still got some bonuses.

    I'm playing Baldur's Gate on my iPad at the moment and remembering this bizzare system. The person who invented THAC0 was crazy))

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    1. >>It always bothered me in ADND - all characters need high physical attributes in order to have good attack, HP and AC, but if you're not a magic user or cleric, you can have 1 INT, WIS and CHA and be happy about that.

      What you say may be correct in (some?) AD&D crpgs (although I would have thought that some of the your saving throws would be affected). However, it's certainly not the case when the playing 1st or 2nd edition pen & paper. Quite apart from the mechanics, and decent gm will be making your roleplay your low INT, WIS and CHA :-)

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    2. Sorry, I forgot to also observe that in 1st edition AD&D you need to have a minimum INT score (6 I think) to be any class other than a Fighter so I think that all stats do matter.

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    3. I meant CRPGs only of course.

      High WIS affects saving throws indeed, but only in Infinity games AFAIR. As well as CHA affects prices in stores. But those bonuses are too small anyway.

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    4. Actually, later D&D-based CRPGs have gotten better about using things like intelligence, wisdom, and charisma even when they're not the prime requisites for the class. But I agree that most games, especially of this era, reward you for sacrificing non-prime-requisite scores.

      Anyway, to answer your original question, no--I kept re-rolling until I had a slightly higher dexterity. But 13 isn't exactly crippling, is it?

      Red_Cardinal, the thing about the "Gold Box" games is that you determine the class first, THEN get the attribute rolls. So you never worry about a character not qualifying for a class. This is in contrast to say, Wizardry, where you got the rolls first, and if you wanted certain classes, you had to roll and roll for a long time.

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    5. >>I meant CRPGs only of course.

      Ahh I see. fair enough. I agree in that case :-)

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  2. From what I can remember Magic-users can use slings too, not just darts. I may misremember though.

    Also, I think this introductory scene is awesome with you being compelled to fight without really wanting to.

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    1. They definitely can in the infinity engine games at least - playing through Baldur's Gate 1 at the moment, so pretty sure I remember correctly ;)

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    2. I don't know if it's a faithful adaptation of the AD&D rules of the time or not, but no one can use slings in this game except fighter classes and thieves. I just realized looking at the table that they'd be a better choice for the thief than the short bow I bought him as they have roughly the same damage advantage (1d6 for the bow, 2d5 for the sling), the sling doesn't require ammo, and the sling is one-handed, saving me from having to swap out the shield every time.

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    3. hmmm... I'm pretty sure slings were 1d3 or 1d4 at best. Are you maybe getting a strength bonus?

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    4. No, I'm going by the table in the back of the CotAB manual.

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    5. I expect it's 2-5 rather than 2d5, but let me know if you ever hit for 6 or more damage. Another consideration is the rate of fire - bows shoot twice per round.

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    6. Ah! 1d4+1 does sound right when using sling bullets.

      Note also, that composite bows add strength bonus if you have one.

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    7. Yes, I"m sorry. That was a typo. It's 2-5, not 2d5. The point is that the sling is as good as the bow (one less point maximum damage but one more minimum damage).

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    8. Tristan has a good point, at least in paper D&D, slings attack once per turn, and bows are two attacks per turn.

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    9. Ah, well it's moot, anyway. I was persuaded to go with a fighter/thief, so he has a composite long bow now.

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    10. My pet peeve about the Gold Box games is the inconsistent rules. In FRUA, which is the final version of the Gold Box games mages can use slings.

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  3. Good stuff... it's about time for me to replay this one!

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  4. "...which legions of 1980s gamers simply used to jack up every statistic to the maximum..."

    And in doing so, jacked the difficulty of the Gold Box games way up. The amount of creatures random encounters spawn is still dependent on your characters' attributes, so a party of walking demi-gods will (should?) have a difficult time of it.

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    1. Really? Interesting! Did this apply to all Goldbox games? Were there thresholds?

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    2. Not sure if it applied to the later games, but the games in the initial trilogy took the party's average of each statistic and used it to tabulate the encounters.

      Example: A party with an attribute average of, say, 10, totaling 60 attribute points, may face five Orcs. A party jacked up to the max would have a total value of 108, or more if there are racial bonuses.

      This party might face twelve Orcs and two Orc Shamans, under the idea that they will have an easier time carving through the monsters. This is, however, rarely the case, as attributes don't affect THAC0 and as a kid my god-like parties were routinely slaughtered.

      Best just to accept the randomized attributes, really.

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    3. This was interesting news. Thanks, Raifield. I'm glad I'll be rewarded for my honesty.

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    4. This I never knew. So really, increasing stats was like putting the game on hard instead of easy?

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    5. Well, I guess so. It was a trade off. I was wrong about THAC0, at 17-18 Strength you gain a +1 bonus and at 19-20 Strength a +2 bonus on your combat rolls, according to the Internet. Haven't tested it in-game yet.

      So you could have a party with +2 to hit, +2 to damage, -4 to AC and maximum HP for their level/class, but that was never enough for the younger me to survive Pool of Radiance or Curse of the Azure Bonds

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    6. I only noticed this during Pool of Radiance. I don't believe it is the case for the other games.

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    7. Yep, IIRC only PoR scaled difficulty of random encounters with starting stats.

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    8. Huh. After all these years, I now understand why when I tried to go back and play Pool of Radiance, after starting with Curse of the Azure Bonds, that it seemed like the hardest game ever, making me quit before winning a single fight. If only I had not been like 10 years old and assumed raising everything to the maximum was the best thing to do.

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  5. Hi, long term lurker here. I've never posted before on this blog, however Curse of the Azure Bonds was one of my favourite games as a child (I also got the accompanying book and D&D module).

    The level restrictions were part of the 2nd edition rules which is why they're in the game, they were only removed from 3rd ed onwards. To answer the question on one of your captions before, yes the book explains what the comment from the noble in the carriage means.

    I can't wait for you to unravel the plot and the mysteries behind it, it does have a wider scope then just solving your own problems and there's a twist in there I guarantee you won't see coming :o.....

    I think I'll start my own game up now - in the mood to revisit this one again.

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    1. I was glossing over things, but my understanding is that while demi-human races had level limits in AD&D2, they were much higher than AD&D1, and the restrictions in the Gold Box games are still based on the first edition. In any event, most D&D-based CRPGs seem to have ignored them. Baldur's Gate, it sequel, and Icewind Dale, all based on AD&D2, didn't have them.

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    2. Oh, and based on what you say, I guess I'll try to get through the book fairly soon. Thanks.

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    3. Azure Bonds is better than most of the FR books. It is referenced several times during the game, fleshes out the experience and doesn't spoil anything. I'd read it now if you're planning on reading it at all.

      Krynn games have higher level limits for some reason.

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    4. I was never much of a pen and paper player myself, but from what I understand level restrictions were a canonical part of the ruleset back then. Gold Box series opted for a full implementation of rules, hence the long weapon list in the shops among other things. Later games based on infinity engine implemented several extensions over the basic ruleset to make for a more interesting gaming experience as well as abolished some rules in the same spirit.

      Level restriction is one of the things that annoys me the most. But try to think about the rationale behind it. Dnd ruleset is most balanced at low levels, 1st, 2nd or 3rd edition alike. The overwhelming percentage of beings populating the world is lvl 1 peasants/traders/guards/etc. Characters that advance past 3, 5 or further level of experience are incresingly powerful and incresingly rare. It is only in cRPG that a need for party chalenge fills some remote hole in the ground of a dungeon with hordes of enemies at levels strikingly scaled to the party's. They just stand there for hundreds of years not eating, not sleeping waiting to be butchered one by one. The system was desingned with pen and paper *roleplaying* in mind, while most cRPG are heavily combat oriented. The system is elastic enough to handle it, even at higer levels but don't expect that a character ascending godhood applies to the same rules as any remaining meaningful percentage of population. If it is the humans that strive to become the dominating force in the world and older races already archived what was to archive for them you'll not find many high level specimens of let's say elven mages or dwarven clerics. It is still silly to impose restrictions artificially but the fault lies not in the ruleset but in the urge to make a game just as challenging at level 20 as at level 1. It cannot be done without leaving the remnants of reason behind as you level up.

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    5. I get what you're saying, though it would make more sense to me if the other races could achieve the same levels, just at a slower pace.

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    6. There is also a perception that Gary Gygax found non-human races silly, and thus made them less useful. I don't know how true that is; If you are interested a post named Old Geezer who played D&D with Gary Gygax and Dave Arenson has several threads on RPG.net where he talks about it, and Gary Gygax had a lot of threads on Enworld, Dragonsfoot, and a few others.

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    7. All the Gold Box games use the first edition rules.

      Note that multiclass characters can be somewhat viable. I usually played with a dwarf fighter/thief to get the better armor, hit points, and strength. Thief levels are so cheap that the xp loss for multiclassing rarely mattered.

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  6. "on the way to Tilverton, the party is attacked by invisible brigands and knocked unconscious."

    I wonder if they used Dust of Disappearance?


    Nice to see that Octavianus survived the purge. Too bad he's too dumb to become a magic-user, though. But as a Fighter/Mage he wouldn't be able to use armour and cast spells anyway, so your Ranger may (if he qualifies) make a better candidate, since for some reasons Rangers/Mages can cast spells in armour while Fighter/Mages can't. Gotta love all those arbitrary AD&D rules...
    In a setting where elves are nerfed, a human dualed Ranger/Mage is IMO the most powerful character you can have. When I played Pools of Darkness some months ago my dualed Ranger/Mage was last man standing in the final, brutal battle.

    I still think a Fighter/Thief would have been better than a pure Thief. A Fighter/Thief will have better HP, better THAC0 for most (or all?) of the game, will get an extra attack every second round from lvl 7, and be able to use a shield and a wider selection of bows. A pure thief will be better at thieving (the little there is) and get a better backstab modifier (I think it increases every 4th level), though.

    If you had picked a fight in the bar after your visit to the Training Hall you could probably have trained your two old characters another level.

    This was my very first AD&D game, and is still one of my absolute favourites, so I'm looking forward to many postings.

    I'd be interested in hearing your opinions on the book. I tried to read the Pools of Darkness novel, but after two chapters I concluded that it was so painfully poorly written that I can't believe such tripe ever got published. It makes the Dragonlance books look like Nobel prize material in comparison. The CoAB book is supposed to be one of the better Forgotten Realms books, though.

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    1. The book was a very good read, don't let your experiences with the Pool of Darkness novel put you off it.

      I think the difference between the CoAB book and the Pools Series is that the latter came across as a cash in to capitalize on the success of the games whereas the CoAB novel came out before the game was published.

      The co-authors of that series Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb were two of my favourite authors and the book was the first in a series featuring the Alias character.

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    2. Rangers cannot dual to Mage, only to Cleric. And a Ranger/Cleric can still use armor as they're both divine casters

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    3. That may be true in some versions of the AD&D games, but in the Forgotten Realms Gold Box games Rangers can definitely dual to Mage.

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    4. The problem with a fighter/thief is that multi-classes are only available for non-humans, and the highest any non-human can advance as a fighter is Level 9. That might be tolerable for this game, but not for another two games, in which half of that character's experience would be wasted.

      I suppose I could have created a human fighter and dualed him to a thief, or vice versa, but I think I'd rather just live with a little additional difficulty.

      Oddly, fighter/mages in Pool of Radiance could wear any armor and wield any weapon. I don't know if they changed that for Curse.

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    5. Your character's thief level won't make much difference during the series, beyond her backstab multiplier. That's why a fighter/thief who can reach fighter level 7 (for the extra half attack) is important. She'd be quite a useful combatant then: better armor, THAC0, HP; remember to set up the backstab every turn.

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    6. PetrusOctavianus I stand corrected: just went through the rules and indeed on AD&D (pre 2.0) Rangers had more multiclasses than the ones I remembered, including mage! :)

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    7. Right, I forgot about that; After name level there is less and less point to levelling for non-mages anyway, as you get less and less HP (single points instead of a hit die) and your saves only go up a little, same with your attack bonuses.

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  7. I don't know if the Gold Box games implement this, but in Second Edition (which these games may not be, I don't remember for sure), level caps for nonhumans were heavily dependent on their primary stat score. If you pushed your stats above 18, which could happen through various means (but was very difficult; stats were highly permanent in D&D, and you rarely gained or lost them, except from aging), then you could advance quite a lot further in many classes. I think a few races could even get to Unlimited with sufficiently good stats, but I don't remember which and what classes anymore.

    You're probably going to want a thief, and D&D's rapidly-increasing XP requirements mean that multiclassed characters are usually only 1 level behind everyone else. It can be pretty darn handy to have an elf thief/mage, or even a fighter/mage/thief. They're unlimited in thief, but in exchange for having (at max) level 10 or 11 skills in their other classes, they'll be behind 1 or 2 levels in overall progression. Combined with their sleep resistance, infravision, and skill at detecting concealed and secret doors, they can be pretty darn useful. Once you've maxed your Find Traps and Pick Locks skills, which you can usually do by, oh, probably 7th level or so, the extra thief levels aren't that important, while more magic missiles and fireballs are always, always handy. Or, if it's a fighter-thief, he/she will hit better and be much, much more dangerous when backstabbing.

    I'm not saying you want a party with a lot of nonhumans, but if you're going to have a thief, a multiclassed thief is usually better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, this series has the attribute-based level restrictions for fighters, rangers, and magic-users. An elf magic user with less than 16 intelligence can achieve Level 9, with 17 Level 10, and with 18+, level 11. But in all events, the maximum level is still too low to continue those characters in the later games in the series.

      That's the reason that I don't want to multi-class my thief. There's no secondary class that anyone could take that would make it worth it--they'd all end up wasting thousands and thousands of experience points during the latter stages of this game and the next two. By the end of Pools of Darkness, my dwarf fighter/thief would be Level 9 as a fighter and Level 21 (or something) as a thief.

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    2. I remember my brother playing Pools of Darkness, and swapping out party members for humans. He's raise them to level 39 in one class, dual class them, and get them to 40 in a second to have the best possible party. Pretty sure he cheated to do it.

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    3. A level 9/15 fighter/thief is much preferable to a level 21 thief. I forgot to mention the exceptional strength bonus fighters can receive.

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    4. By the end of Pools of Darkness, my dwarf fighter/thief would be Level 9 as a fighter and Level 21 (or something) as a thief.

      I hear you, but you're really not trading away very much by losing all those experience points. You think "half! omg!", but the experience points required double for just about every level up to, um, about 16, I think. So, for most of the game, your multiclassed character will be only 1 level behind everyone else. By the time, really late in the game, that XP goes linear per level, you're already so high level that it's not that important anymore. You've got all the skills you can have, and the few lousy hit points you'd gain from the extra 2 or 3 levels will be way more than offset by your fighter hit dice, not to mention the possible big Constitution bonus if you have a tough character.

      I also have the idea that giving yourself fighter levels will let you use items like Gauntlets of Ogre Power and a Girdle of Giant Strength, which, in the hands of a backstabber, are fearsome.

      So, yeah, whatever secondary class you choose won't be that strong compared to your other characters, but especially with a mage, you can load that character up with utility spells that you don't want your main firepower to have to bother with.

      A Level 11 mage in a Level 20 fight is a hell of a lot more useful than 3 extra levels of thievery.

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    5. I guess that explanation makes sense. I'll consider swapping him out (or maybe just importing Karnov from POR, who was a multi-classed fighter/thief) if he underperforms.

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    6. Also, in 1st edition thieves require far less XP per level when things go linear. The XP to max out a wizard at the end of PoD (40th level) is enough to make a thief character 53rd level, but all classes max at 40th.

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    7. I thought multi-class characters couldn't get any class more than 1 level ahead of the other(s)? I haven't played in a long time, though.

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    8. What David meant was that Thieves hit their cap earlier than other classes. And yes, Multi-Classing only allows 1 level difference between classes. It's how you disburse your XPs anyway.

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    9. That's not in the PC implementations AFAIK. I'm pretty sure Jaheria becomes a 7F/9D for instance.

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    10. Hmm... you're right. Probably it was a house rule and I remembered incorrectly. It might be that the XP gain would have to be divvied equally between all the classes (before bonus % XP gains for classes meeting prime requisites in attributes).

      So, a Fighter/Thief with 18 Str and 15 Dex getting 100 XP would net 55 XP for his Fighter level and 50 XP for his Thief level. I think. So, with equal XP gains but different XP requirement for leveling on each class, it is possible to have a larger level disparity at high levels (at 5 and beyond).

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  8. I love reading about these old D&D crpgs - they seem genuinely fun despite their age (some of the other games you have covered do as well, e.g. MM1 surprised me in how fun I found it, even though I didn't finish it).

    I think part of the reason I love reading about them is that 1) The infinity engine games were my first real introduction to D&D and computer roleplaying games (except Chronicles of Aethra) except for a very brief experience with D&D Basic (I think it was called, black/red beginnger box) and 2) The combat screen in these games remind me of Aethra, which I loved. Aethra didn't use the D&D rules, but it seems perfectly suited for it.

    I neeed to play these games. Before I rush off to get them on some abandonware (I realize this isn't a legal term): I am right in thinking there is no reasonable legal way of obtaining them, apart from paying crazy amounts over ebay for an old copy, right?

    It's a pity about those maximum levels for demihumans. Multiclassing might make a bit up for it in this game and the next perhaps?

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    1. There is to my knowledge no legit way to get unused versions of the Gold Box games, so I wouldn't feel bad about downloading them from abandonware sites.

      Delete
    2. It's not hard to find a copy of the Forgotten Realms Archives compilation, which contains the first four Gold Box games, among others, and supposedly works fine in Dosbox. I'm looking at a copy on eBay right now for $18, which I wouldn't consider a "crazy amount." But hey, I guess it's easier to just download them for free.

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    3. @Anon: That's not crazy at all no, I'll have to look at that when I have the time to play them (GOG holiday sale just made my backlog explode). Thanks for the tip, didn't know about that compilation.

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    4. Not sure if they're the same in America but here in the UK I managed to find a copy of the Forgotten Realms Archives for 99p in a second hand charity shop, might be worth a look?

      I didn't realise you could then run them using DOS box though, need to give that a try and then I can run the series through from start to finish.

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    5. Nice find, Eddster! I guess the same could happen here in DK, but I'm not going to check the second hand stores for that slim chance :)

      I guess even if the compilation doesn't work in dosbox for whatever reason it would definitely remove any problems there might be to just downloading the games. Which are fairly minor anyway. I rarely play old games in that way, but I tend to lose any qualms when (new) copies aren't available from the owner anymore.

      It's not like they couldn't sell it if they wanted to.

      Still, I'll think about that compilation.

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    6. I got a compilation of all the Forgotten Realm games from a publisher called Gamefest. My copy came with the paper codewheels.

      There is a copy of it on eBay right now for $20.

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    7. I remember searching for that Gamefest version in the pre-Google era and came up with nothing but porn sites. Alta Vista _must_ have been sponsored by the porn industry...

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  9. Ahh, the opening of CoAB was so thrilling when I played it, with events coming one after another. I had a different reaction to the opening, Addict, in finding this intro more compelling than the beginning of Pools of Radiance.

    As noted above, 2nd Edition did have level caps as well, but they were significantly higher than the caps in 1st Edition, which the Gold Box games followed.

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  10. Apparently, the level caps were brought in to account for why, in the game world, demihumans (who live much longer than humans) are not extraordinarily high level.

    Of course, that only creates another believability problem: why did they suddenly stop benefiting from their experience at an arbitrary cap? Meh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that races that live thousands of years are themselves a bit of a problem logistically. Imagine how world dynamics would differ if, say, Asians, could live to be 400 or 500 years old while Caucasians had a max life expectancy of around 100.

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    2. Well...

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Li_Ching-Yuen

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    3. Still a wee babe compared to Methuselah.

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    4. The problem is that both are subject to personal believe, so no point in arguing ;-)

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  11. CRPG Addict probably wants to play by the rules but if someone else wants to cheat a little you can ease the racial level restrictions with Gold Box Companion:
    http://personal.inet.fi/koti/jhirvonen/gbc/

    You can also do other stuff like adding the possibility for a magic-user to use slings so that you don't need to buy darts all the time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting. Not many of the games I've played to this point have had available "mods."

      Some of the features of this sound fantastic: Adds "Fix" to Pool of Radiance; disables "Quick" combat between battles; optional interface elements; and of course the level restriction bit.

      But you're right that I'll stick with the original game. I'll have to confront the "mod" scene eventually, though.

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    2. I used that program to jack up all my characters' DEX to 18 before the final battles in Pools of Darkness. Of all the Gold Box games battles, those were the only ones my non-maxed characters were not able to win, since initiative was so crucial in those battles. The editor worked flawlessly. What would the world be without those Finnish geeks?

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  12. That pick of the weird marks on your "sword arms" indicates at least one of your party is left handed. :) Don't know if I noticed that when I played through the gold box games in the 90s.

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  13. You can't order them at bars, but a Goldeneye is my favourite cocktail. I know that Pimm is a cocktail too (at least, Pimms Cup), and so is a Yorsh. I can't find any reference to a "Bolingbroke," tho.

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    1. Bolingbroke is my last name. But thanks for noticing the theme. I put a lot of thought into those, and hardly anyone ever comments.

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    2. I appreciate that. I use names from history myself.

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    3. Eh? You're the Anonymous from 2.5 years ago?

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  14. Re Alias's armor protecting her sternum: Apparently it does, by magical means. The in-world explanation is that the armor is designed to look like it has a big point of vulnerability where it actually has a force field, thus drawing attacks to its strongest point. Whether this explanation existed before the art or was concocted to justify it, I don't know.

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    1. Does this "explanation" honestly appear in some official D&D or other RPG book?

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    2. sounds like ret-coning to me.

      Doing this as a joke is fine but those who do it seriously are annoying

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    3. This type of thinking is endemic to fandoms. They want to disregard subtext as long as there's a textual explanation of an aesthetic or ethical discrepancy. It's the lowest function of mythos, "it's supposed to be that way because ______ are ______ on the planet of ______!!"

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    4. The weird thing is, it's utterly unnecessary. I'm not such a prude that I mind a bit of revealing clothing, but why put it on the ARMOR? Presumably, female PCs and NPCs (and males, for that matter) don't wear armor all the time. Why not depict them in those out-of-armor moments?

      Take Aribeth from Neverwinter Nights, who throughout the game looks like this:

      http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_med4j4Kisf1r94e9jo1_500.gif

      In 90% of the game, she's not fighting or anything; she's just standing around talking to you. Why is she wearing armor at all?

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    5. Well the answer - as I'm sure you know - is that he's a fantasy that fulfils very different needs than a well-rounded character would. And that were she to be a well-rounded character it would run counter to fulfilling these same desires for some of the target audience. Therefore, Tit-Window With Magic Dust of Explain Away on top.

      And I'm not calling for no fulfillment of fantasies in art. Much the opposite, I want all the desires to be fulfilled, even the most lurid. But I want the art to be aware of what it's doing and the people that experience it to be aware as well.

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    6. Ahem:
      Women Fighters In Reasonable Armor: ladies that actually dress for dealing damage: http://womenfighters.tumblr.com/

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  15. Based upon your recommendations, and also due to the fact that I am currently overseas and forgot to load my laptop up with games & could only download a small game, I decided to have a go at Pool of Radiance. I finished it 3 days ago, and I have to say that I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. As with all games, you forget about graphics if the gameplay is good enough. However, I did get fairly tired of the combat by the end, particularly with groups of 40+ monsters all taking their turn while you go and make a cup of tea. I always prefer fights against a couple of powerful enemies instead of hordes of low level grunts, what style does COTAB favour?

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    1. Too early to say. But I'll tell you: I didn't mind the fights against hordes of low-level grunts--I disturbingly enjoyed them, really--once my mages got "Fireball."

      Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed POR overall.

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    2. Maybe it was because my casters were dual class so didn't get fireball until fairly late. I had to come back to the Kobold Cave after I first attempted it and failed. I decided that it was, if not too hard, certainly too painful without any fireball spells (although in hindsight I should have used scrolls).
      Anyhow, I think I will read your blogs of COTAB before giving it a go, and I think I might go for a pure magic-user as well this time!

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    3. Yes, winning the kobold battles without "Fireball" would be a unique tactical challenge. I'm sure it's possible, but I nearly didn't make even with 4 of them.

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  16. the next goldbox game is secret of the silver blades....it is very badly designed, there is almost no story, just wandering down long corridors underground.

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    1. Yeah, Silver Blades is definitely the weakest of the Gold Box series. They took out everything that made the series good. Fortunately, if memory serves me right they made amends somewhat with Pools of Darkness.

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    2. "Somewhat"? Heh, that's an understatement! Pools is a brilliant game, with some of the most difficult battles in all the Gold Box games.
      As for the weakest GB game, IMO that is the second Buck Rogers game, followed by Gateway to the Savage Frontier (the second SF was an improvement, though).
      But even the weaker GB games are better than most other CRPGs of the same era, IMO.

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    3. Oh, I own that one! I tried it once on my Dad's 386, walked through a portal and got eaten by red dragons.

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  17. Didn't they do something different in the Dragonlance Gold Box games? I remember the 'optimal' groups to carry through all three ggames was a whack of multi-class characters with a single Knight of Solamnia, so clearly there isn't as much a penalty for multi-classing in those.

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    1. Which would be weird, since the canon "universe" of Dragonlance denies the existence of multi-class characters. They simply don't exist.

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    2. Someone else is going to have to answer that; I don't think I played them.

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    3. If you get Dragons of Flame running, that will be your first Dragonlance game.

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    4. Multi-class characters are indeed much better in the Krynn games, but it's the _dual_ classed characters that are missing. So Humans shine as Knights, but the most powerful character will be an elf lvl 14 Fighter/max lvl Mage.
      All in all there is a wider array of options in the Krynn games, with more classes and more races who can advance to useful levels, more magic schools, clerics actually worshipping named deities instead of the generic ones in the FR games, more monster types (like Draconians and Death Knights) and more items (like Hoopaks and Dragonlances).
      In addition the Krynn games have more hardcore rules, with disintigrated characters' and dead elves'
      only chance being Power Word: Load.
      For these reasons I prefer the Krynn games, Dark Queen of Krynn being nmy favourite GB game.

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  18. FYI the cleavage is lampshaded in the book; it makes sense in context.

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  19. Jo Sticks are monk weapons. Not that monks are an available class.

    The expansive and mostly useless selection of weapons and armor is quite disappointing. All that money and nothing to spend it on. Probably the series's biggest weakness.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. It does, however, reflect the often poor thought that went into the weapon/armor balancing in the D&D games, from AD&D 1/2, to D&D Basic->Companion (addressed to some extent in Master).

      Unless you were really roleplaying, there was no reason for anyone to use anything but the heaviest armor they could, and if you were a 1h (non-Cleric) weapon user, anything but the long sword (I think).

      It wasn't until 3rd edition, when they unified the two series, that they really started to make choosing your weapons and armor a bit more than an X>Y comparison.

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    2. Yes. At least in POR, I had to BUILD to having too much money. In this game, I start out that way!

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    3. JPublic, to clarify your statement, you mean by introducing factors like weapon speed and encumbrance levels and such, right?

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    4. Also advancements to weapon proficiencies, secondary effects (I may be misremembering on that one).

      One of the nifty bits of the Master expansion to 'Basic' D&D was the weapon proficiency levels, which added extra abilities the better you were with a weapon. A Grandmaster at the Quarterstaff was basically untouchable in melee.

      I don't think any CRPG ever did anything with it to that extent, but at least the Infinity Engine games' inclusion on proficiency levels gave you some reason to specialize.

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    5. 3rd editions max dex bonus shook things up for armour, made many lighter armours more viable. Half-plate seems a bit lackluster and more a stop-gap until you can afford full plate though. Weapons introduced different critical multipliers and threat ranges which also widened the actual choices there too. There's probably still a few duff weapons in the list but not like the old 50 types of guisarme-guisarme-glaive and glaive-voulge combinations that no-one bothered with

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    6. The funny thing is that after making fun of obscure pole-arms, my paladin just found a glaive-guisarme +1. It's the first magic two-handed weapon in the game.

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    7. Remember: D&D is the bastard offspring of Chainmail, which was based off of rules for tabletop army fighting. Glaive-Guisarmes make sense when you're operating with phalanxes of 150 men armed with them.

      With that in mind, the plethora of weapons makes sense, to make customizing large armies easier. For D&D though, it makes no sense, but they left it as-is for quite awhile.

      Hell, AD&D 2nd Edition had rules for firing an arquebus and a lot of the guides at the time spoke of adapting the game rules for Prehistoric game settings, Dark Ages, Ancient times, etc., more holdovers from the army fighting despite the fact that everyone was adventuring in fantasy lands at that point.

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    8. I'm sure that AD&D simplified the rules in games like Chainmail to make it easier on game masters. The funny thing is that computer-based versions of D&D could probably have easily accomodated more complex rules--for instance, perhaps the pole arm could have done some damage to the two enemies on either side of the main target, or smaller weapons could have been given more attacks per round. But because the tabletop D&D didn't have those calculations, the computer-based versions missed out, too.

      Delete
    9. At least they could have made polearms do additonal damage to "cavalry" like Driders and Hippogriffs.

      Delete
    10. Actually, Chainmail was a lot simpler then AD&D; rules got added over time.

      Anyway, here is Canageek's Guide to D&D weapon evolution:

      At the start every weapon was the same. They all did d6 damage, and all went at the same speed; A quarterstaff was just as good as a mace, which was identical to a longsword. Armour was the big thing that made fighters willing to go into melee, and was why clerics were almost as good as fighters. While there were usually only 6 players in the game, it was normal to hire a dozen or so hirelings and form actual phalanxes and such, as there was still a lot of wargame to it.

      Then they split it into three groups: Wizard type weapons did d4 damage. Cleric and thief type weapons did d6 damage, and fighter types did d8 damage.

      AD&D arrives and things then got split up more, with big tables of weapons. Weapons all move at the same speed, but split damage into medium sized and large sized creatures. Nethack uses these rules, or a obvious variation of them. I think this is also what PoR uses.

      Unearthed Arcana comes out, and if you think PoR/CoAB has a lot of pole arms, you haven't seen ANYTHING!

      2nd edition AD&D added weapon speed: If you used a heavy weapon like a warhammer it would slow your initiative count, thus making it longer before you could act (Or act again, I can't remember how it worked exactly). This matched up with spells, that delayed your initiative depending on how long they took to cast. I think these are both cool ideas, and it is kinda sad they were lost. I plan on reintroducing them in my roguelike.
      This is the version of the game Baldur's Gate is based on.
      This is also the version of D&D I learn on.

      Now, 13 years pass, and during this time no new core rules sets come out. However, a bunch of poorly balanced addon books come out, adding weapon specialization, new weapons, kits (mini-character classes), etc.
      A variation of these rules is used by Baldur's Gate 2.
      I never play this version of D&D.

      In 2000 3rd edition D&D comes out. It doesn't really merge the two lines; D&D was discontinued years before. They just drop the name, as everyone kept asking about a 'basic' D&D to learn on before trying the 'advanced' version.
      Anyway, it changes initiative (You reroll every round), makes armour class go UP (I can't believe this took them 30 years), and changed a bunch of other things. Basically, they rewrote it from scratch, and did a far better job, though spellcasters were way overpowered, particularly druids.
      Anyway, weapon speed was dropped, and weapons were balanced with a new system: Everyone (Except monks and possibly druids) could use Simple weapons: quarterstaves, clubs, crossbows, etc. So yes, Wizards can now use crossbows. Classes that know how to fight (Fighters, Paladins, Rangers, Barbarians) know how to use all Martial weapons: Other classes can spend a 'feat' (Special ability you get every 3 levels) to learn how to use ONE martial weapon. No one starts knowing how to use Exotic weapons, and must spend a feat to learn each one. Some of these are horribly overpowered (Spiked Chain) and some are pants (whip, hand crossbow). Weapons are also balanced by the damage they do on a critical hit and how often they do them (2x for simple weapons, 3x or 4x for the rest, except swords and daggers, that deal critical hits on 19 or 20, but only do 2x damage, and curved swords, that deal damage on 18-20, but only 2x) and by damage type (Piecing, slashing, bludgeoning): This was in 2e as well, but was more emphasized at low levels in 3e.
      I play a fair amount of this edition.

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    11. 3.5 fiddles with the balance, but makes no majour changes to weapons. I play a LOT of this edition.

      4e comes out, and I forget what it does with weapons. In general they mater less, as 'powers' (Class abilities) become more important, dealing a multiple of your weapon damage. It was very similar as I recall. I play a little bit of this edition, but as it was shoved out the door before it was ready, and I don't feel like buying a moving target for the 'finished product' I move on to other games. The rulebooks lie in a box in my basement along with my 3e and 3.5 ones.

      Pazio, a company I'm sure Wizard of the Coast regrets founding, uses its d20 license to create Pathfinder, an upgrade of the 3.5 rules with all the things they've learned watching people play it. This is often called 3.75. This is the edition I currently play with my Dad and at conventions. It uses weapons the same as in 3.5, but adds some new ones and fixes the special abilities, so spiked chains and reach weapons are no longer so overpowered.

      I haven't looked at the 5e (Sorry, D&DNext) playtest yet.

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    12. Weapon speed was in 1st ed, as was spell casting time. Also in 1st ed was a complete table of every weapon vs every armor type (adapted from chainmail), and weapons had different reach and space required to wield.

      Playing by the book was a logistical nightmare.

      D&D "Next" looks good, but I also liked 3rd and 4th ed.

      Delete
    13. Sorry about that; I should have known that. I glanced in my AD&D books and didn't see weapon speed listed and assumed it wasn't part of that edition.

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    14. Canageek and others, are any of you going to gencon this year?

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    15. I start a new job in May, so I decided against it, as taking vacation quite that early would be a bit awkward. Also, it just went from the expense of a car ride with Dad or a bus to flying across the entire continent. If there are any west coast cons you lot are going to, let me know.

      Delete
  20. Just a piece of advice. There is some dust in the Thieve's armory. Its valuble, especially for the main boss fight.

    As always - great analysis and fun from your head man. Stay cool!

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  21. Losing all your stuff does sound convenient. I wonder if that's how all the gold box games start. I've actually only played through Pool of Radiance to completion. I watched my brother play Secret of Silver Blades and Pools of Darkness. I started this one, but didn't get very far.

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    1. It's pretty much how all sequels start, not just the GB games. In the Ultima series, you lose not just your stuff but most of your attributes. You also can't take anything from Baldur's Gate to II without cheating, or between the Might and Magics.

      I guess this is normally to prevent having to program all of the items from the last game into the next one. But in the case of BG, that's clearly not the case because there's an easy cheat that allows you to keep everything, and it works fine.

      I have to say, though, that I don't particularly mind this trope. Finding and upgrading gear is one of the things I like most about CRPGs, and it's nowhere near as much fun going from a shield +4 to a shield +5 as it is going from no shield to the first shield, or from a regular mace to a mace +1. Sometimes, when playing long games like The Elder Scrolls titles, I'll purposely find a reason to ditch all my gear about mid-game and assemble a new set from scratch.

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    2. It's not true of -all- the gold box series, I think you keep your gear form secret of the silver blades to pools of darkness. I think you keep most of your gear from champions of krynn to death knights of krynn, the one thing you lose is explained quite well. Think the death knights of krynn stuff transfers to dark queen of krynn just fine. Can't honestly remember about gateway/treasures of the savage frontier, in fact can't remember which one of those was first now <_<

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    3. BG2 lets you bring over at least a few items; you start naked, but you're able to loot some stuff out of a container near your start area. There's one useless item in particular that you should always bring with you. If you don't already know what it is, I won't spoil it for you. :)

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    4. Oh dark sun: wake of the ravager lets you kepe what you had in darksun shattered lands but um it doesn't work very well. A lot of things can end up seriously weird, like wearing a chest on your head and a pile of coins on your feet. My current run of bg1 will probably be the first where I will actually use the same character from 1 to 2, so will see what it takes over. I already have my spoily thing so that I won't have to use a cheat code in bg2 to add it like I did before :)

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    5. I never considered it cheating if you only take stuff in BGII that you could conceivably hide on your person.

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    6. Most items from Gateway to the Savage Frontier transfers to Treasures.
      In Secret of the Silver Blades there's actually a very clever reason why your guys start with nothing. The villagers used a Wish spell, wishing for heroes to save them. And as everyone who's played AD&D knows there's always a catch when using a Wish spell, and in this case the catch is the the heroes appear naked (OK, for some of the villagers that may have been a bonus).

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    7. I've always thought it would be cool if at some point during one of the games you were dumped onto a high-level battlefield because a mage had cast monster summoning and rolled 'adventuring party" on the random encounter table.

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  22. Not sure where you got your copy of the game, but it sounds like it's been cracked to defeat the copy protection. The code-wheel was definitely used at the beginning of the game (same way it was used in Pool of Radiance), and it will be used occasionally when you attempt to save the game too. If you don't have the right answer, you won't be able to save the game (this might have been cracked in your version as well).

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    Replies
    1. I think there are legitmate copies of CotAB without the copy protection; most notably the Gold Box collection (I don't remember the exact name right now).

      Delete
    2. I have several copies of the game myself, including from the Gold-Box collection CD that SSI released long ago, and all of them have been copy protected. So, I'd be interested to know where a version of the game exists that does not include the copy protection, while others in the series maintain their protections.

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  23. I've always wanted to play the Gold Box series, but give up five minutes in whenever I give it a try. Too bad the user interface is a hate crime on the Windows generation.

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    1. When I was a kid, we didn't even have a serial mouse! And to turn on the computer we had to go into the basement and run on a giant hamster wheel to charge up the battery.

      Kids these days!

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    2. I'm too busy sputtering to come up with a proper response.

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  24. Lots of comments on here - but I have to say 'wow', this article brought back some memories. Curse was actually my first of the Gold Box games I played, and then I went back and grabbed Pools after. Great stuff.

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  25. Remember that both Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds have been "remade" under the newest Goldbox engine, and I think even more faithful to the original modules, and less grindy.

    They are also part of a MEGA CAMPAIGN made of a total of 46 modules. That's over 200 hours of reputedly great Goldbox gameplay. And the modules can be played separately by creating or importing characters.

    A few more details here: http://www.quartertothree.com/game-talk/showthread.php?t=69697

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    Replies
    1. I might check those out, along with other modules, when I get to FRUA in 1993. Thanks for the reminder!

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  26. I recommend you to read the book. I read it in 1999 and my rating then was 4.5 out of 5. I think you could start reading the book while playing the game. To be safe from any spoilers, just make sure you don´t start reading the book unless you are halfway through the game.

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    1. As a note, my collection of Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance books are for sale, including all (or almost all) of the game tie in books. Special price for readers of the CRPG Addicts blog: Make me a reasonable offer ($1 is reasonable for a lot of these) and pay shipping.

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    2. Canageek, what DL novels are you selling? Do you have a list somewhere? Or: Do you have Tales of Uncle Trapspringer, Lord Soth, Theros Ironfeld, or Murder in Tarsis? I think these are all I need from the "classic" novels.

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    3. I don't, it was just a spur of the moment comment. I don't have those. If you are generally interested in my collection I can go have a look.

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    4. Thanks, Canageek, but that's all I need at this time. I have a lot of novels after those that I need to read. :)

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    5. Canageek do you still have that lot of books you want to offload?

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    6. I do, I've been too lazy to get around to listing them. Keep in mind, that while I'll sell them cheap, you would still have to pay shipping from Amazon. I have a lot of FR, some Dragonlance, some Dark Sun, and some reallllllllly bad Greyhawk ones written by Gary Gygax.

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    7. Let me know how I can contact you and and I may purchase the lot.

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    8. My username @gmail.com. Keep in mind, I'd be shipping them from Canada, which will add quite a bit to the cost, even if I sell them to you for less then a dollar each.

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  27. As a note: Purple Dragons aren't really secrete police; Think more elite special forces.

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    Replies
    1. The Purple Dragons do plenty of spying, actually. So do the War Wizards, and then the personal servants of most nobles or important folk (Azoun IV, Filfaeril, and Vangerdahast being the most notable at this point.

      Strictly speaking, the Palace Guards met in this are a group under the Purple Dragons; but most everyone official in Cormyr will be wearing a purple dragon icon as that is the symbol of the kingdom.

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  28. "Various game guides, books, modules, and magazine articles have established the extraordinarily detailed history, setting, and personalities at work here."

    Ed Greenwood's a remarkable guy in some ways. His Forgotten Realms stuff certainly isn't the best-written or most original instance of fantasy world-building on a gargantuan scale, but I'm not sure it has any parallel in sheer voluminousness and density of detail. The man spent decades describing every village, notable personage, trading company and ruin across vast, continent-spanning swathes of territory. Campaign boxed sets, sourcebooks, travel guides, innumerable magazine articles, many of them delivered in his peculiar archwizard persona. Bit of a strange thing to choose as your life's work, I suppose, but I find the whole edifice undeniably impressive for all its obvious flaws.

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    Replies
    1. Oh, yes, this, a thousand times this. I think it is in 25 years of D&D that they recounted buying the setting from him: He sent them a very, very carefully packaged box, all the way from Canada. They went 'wow, we can put out a years worth of FR stuff from this'...then the second box arrived, and the third, and the forth....

      But no, his novels are not good. I'm embarrassed to say that it wasn't until Elminster's Daughter that I realized he only has 4 male characters and 2 female characters, and he just keeps reusing them.

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  29. This brings back a lot of memories for me. The Pool of Radiance was the first CRPG I ever played and I remember saving up for a long time when I was a kid to buy the Curse of the Azure Bonds.

    I recall this game being more difficult than Pool of Radiance, and the final battle was so difficult that I probably replayed it about 30 times before I ended up surviving with single character still alive who had about 3 hit points left.

    There were a lot of challenging battles in between as well, and I remember this sewer/thieves guild part as being annoying because there were lots of battles in quick succession with little time for rest.

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  30. It's "Bo Stick" not "Jo Stick".

    I like the combat-icon designer, I find it very helpful to use the same primary color for the partys combat-icons. (Mostly it'll be white, as it's easy to see on a crowded battlefield.) Unfortunatly SSI removed this feature in the latest goldbox games and in Unlimited Adventures.

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    Replies
    1. Even when he's correct, I don't understand what motivates someone to come onto a blog and post stupid minor corrections like this. Do you own the patent on bo sticks? Did your dad make that contribution to the D&D manual, and you were insulted that his creation wasn't getting proper credit?

      In your case, you're not even correct. Look at the last item in the list in the screen shot.

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  31. Is the item Ioun stone pale blue bugged for you too ? Im playing Curse of GoldBox, it's version 1.3, when i *unequip* it, it bugs character's strength bringing it to 100 which is a bogus value as it's not "recognized" by the game, you loose THAC0 bonus and damage bonus and even maximum weight is screwed up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did run into this bug in my play through. And that's with the newish GOG version of the game, too. Most of the stones happily increase up to 18, but do nothing for you if you're already 18. The strength one was different, and bugged out at 100, causing irreparable damage. Luckily I caught it quickly, and reloaded. Alternately the Gold Box Companion could patch that up, if you need it.

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  32. As a player, I didn't mind the level caps on races. I'm one of the few that liked the early D&D rules because they were simple and didn't slow down gameplay or encourage min/maxing and rule lawyers. Also IMO the world needs to revolve around humans, or the campaign starts to lose its grounding.

    Anyway, with the attribute bonuses, saving throw benefits, and infravision that the other races get, why would anyone play a human if all other things were equal?

    I had a DM once that removed most of the race restrictions and allowed a player to play as any humanoid. The other players liked it because they got to min/max more effectively, but I hated it. Everyone started playing weird crap like half-dragons and quicklings. It was no longer D&D as I perceived it - it was a Twilight movie.

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    Replies
    1. 1. Calculating THAC0 & AC in D&D was SIMPLE?
      2. You guys only tried out that special house-rule to remove racial/class restrictions in 2008?

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    2. I share your disdain for min/maxing, but the Gold Box games go too far in the other direction by making non-human races essentially useless after the second game.

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    3. Care to expand on your dislike of mix/maxing?

      I like having options during character creation, which invariably leads to planning how development plays out. Sometimes you need to pick feats in a specific order, make sure you have sufficient ability scores for perks etc.

      What bothers me is when I have 60 slots for equipment spread across my party, and every time I find a new item or crafting ingredient, I have to pore over all my items to determine whether or not I can come up with a slightly better build. In reality I don't do this, because it's fiddly and annoying.

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    4. Maybe I'll cover it in a post sometimes. I certainly do SOME work trying to get advantages for my characters, but to me role-playing always beats advantageous statistics. I'd never play The Bard's Tale without a bard, for instance, and if I have a choice of NPCs, I'd rather keep an interesting one around than always go with the most powerful. Sometimes it's more fun to play with a handicap than to charge through the game with the most powerful party you can assemble.

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    5. When I roll up characters in a "goldbox" game, I do not like to modify the statistics except maybe for hitpoints. I roll the attributes and try to find the most interesting set.

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    6. I'm ashamed and honest enough to admit that I just set every attribute to their maximum so that I never need to take a second look at those statistics and figure out if anybody will need a Bracelet of Ogre Strength or some sh!t like that.

      Which is probably why I might like playing on tabletop since I can't cheat like that.

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    7. I definitely experience a bit of character creation anxiety for games that roll stats. I try to make characters as the devs intended - I don't want to make the game easier, and I don't like stat blocks that look obviously artificial for reasons of immersion.

      I'll usually do one of two things:

      Work out what a median character roll looks like and then mod my character to match.

      Or

      Work out the median stat block for NPCs/pre-gens and mod my character to match.

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    8. On games where you roll and can adjust, I tend to roll for high overall points, and then feel free to exchange a point here for a point there to better suit the character I'm imagining. I never give the character more total points than the initial roll, but I don't feel like it's cheating to redistribute. (For D&D games with 18xx strength I'll use a random-number generator to decide what to set the xx to if I've increased from 17 to 18 strength. This is probably overly fussy, but it feels fair-ish to me.)

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    9. I find that random rolls can give me some interesting stats, maybe not the best, but interesting. In Secret of the Silver Blades I learned to at least ramp up the hit points, especially for multi-class characters, so that they could survive.

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  33. Has anyone more info about random encounters (except maybe in PoR) scaling with party attributes?
    I think the problem here is that compared to P&P RPG the CRPGs are so combat heavy that almost everyone in the party needs good to great hit points (and constitution) and dexterity. The fighters need also high strength and the mages and clerics high major attributes INT and WIS for more spells and higher (or no) lvl caps. Unfortunately the games are comparably low on uses for thieves (although with humanoids one can leverage the backstabbing with fighter/thieves even in PoD quite a bit) or e.g. Charisma for facilitating encounters.

    High HP and DEX are especially important for the games with the highest lvl characters and many magic or breath-weapon using opponents, PoD and DQoK

    ReplyDelete
  34. I wish I was around to comment when this was originally posted. While there are certainly some interesting parties you could win the game with, for most players 5 of the 6 characters are close to no-brainers.

    You need at least one human cleric. It would be a very difficult game without them.

    You want at least one pure magic-user, probably also a human though an elf can work too if you don't care about future level restrictions.

    As was mentioned, a dwarf fighter/thief if much better than any pure thief. Their backstab will be very effective and add an interesting dimension to combat.

    And you'll want at least two human melee warriors from some mix of fighter, paladin, and ranger. This kind of violates my thesis because that's 6 possible combinations, but they mostly play the same way so it doesn't make much difference.

    That leaves one spot to get creative with.

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    Replies
    1. Seriously, this game is more than 20 years old.

      You needn't worry that your post came in a mere couple of years after Chet plays it.

      Delete
    2. I'll give you a big tip if you are new to this game. Make your party with 5 Elves (Fighter/Magic User/Thief) and one Human (Cleric). Max the stats on your characters. Change the Cleric to a Magic User after he hits level 10. While difficult initially, you will have a much more powerful party after you grind their levels up. Go to Zhentil Keep right after Tilverton to level up around the magic shop. You will get armor and weapons too. The 3rd floor of Shadowdale is dangerous unless your guys are at a high level, but the points payout is really rewarding. Save often!

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    3. Well...I guess that's a "big tip" if your idea of having fun with a game is to make it as easy as possible while exploiting the game's mechanics. Personally, I'd rather roleplay a slightly more challenging party. Also, this suggestion wouldn't work for importing characters to later games, since elves have level caps on all classes.

      Delete
  35. You'll get your revenge on Thultanthar (more commonly known as Shade or the Empire of Shade) roughly 14 years from now in Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrendtide.

    ReplyDelete

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