Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Curse of the Azure Bonds: Won!



The endgame began when we returned to the Standing Stone from Dracandros's tower. The hooded figure who had been helpfully pointing us to the bond-holders took off his hood and--without even an exclamation point--revealed himself as Tyranthraxus. He invited us to attend him in Myth Drannor--the ruins of an ancient elven city to which we will regrettably return in 2001--and disappeared.

I just think there should have been an exclamation point after "Tyranthraxus."

Myth Drannor consisted of three 16 x 16 areas:

  • A large cemetery with numerous graves and crypts, populated by rakshashas, giant spiders, phase spiders, thri-keen, and various ghosts of the old inhabitants.
  • An area with ruins of buildings, including more rakshashas, hell hounds, and margoyles.
  • A temple containing the minions of Tyranthraxus and, ultimately, the Flamed One himself.

Zapping thri-keen and phase spiders.

The foes were a notch above the ones I'd encountered through most of the game--which of course you'd expect in the final areas. The spiders were capable of poisoning and thus immediately "killing" my characters in melee combat, so we needed to take them out quickly with "Fireball" spells and have a couple of "Neutralize Poison" spells memorized, just in case. The thri-keen (an insectoid race whose presence in Myth Drannor was a bit of a mystery) were capable of causing paralysis in melee combat. Hell hounds could breath fire, though were curiously also vulnerable to "Fireball" spells.

The rakshasa are all depicted wearing robes and smoking pipes.

I had always thought that "margoyle" was short for "marine gargoyle," so I was surprised to see them here, but a check of the Forgotten Realms wiki says that I'm wrong: they're just stronger gargoyles. They didn't have any special attacks, but they were tough, and they attacked in packs of dozens--often protecting a couple rakshasa, and in the end, Tyranthraxus himself.

The random encounters in the first two areas weren't so bad; once I'd cleared 10 or 12 of them, they stopped coming. What made these areas interesting was the wide variety of special encounters. The rakshashas, masters of trickery, kept luring my party members into ambushes. The first encounter we had upon entering the graveyard was with an "elven spirit" who tricked us into walking into a spider's web, then revealed herself as a rakshasa (the web made it so we could only move 1 move per round, but it didn't stop us from killing the beast).

In retrospect, believing that we could walk into a spider web, say an incantation, and gain strength was a bit stupid.
 
A short while later, I encountered another elven spirit who offered her "blessing." We nearly refused and prepared for combat, but we decided to see what happened, and this one turned out to be legitimate. 

This was a nice reference to my encounter in Dracandros's.

Because I had no way to tell illusions from reality, I just assumed that everyone was telling the truth. With this policy, I was tricked a few times (although always to the trickster's demise) but also had some positive encounters, including a parlay with the rakshasa leader that led to him withdrawing his support from Tyranthraxus.

This "Red Plume" was a rakshasa in disguise, and he led me into an ambush.

But this fallen warrior was legitimate, and he gave me directions to a treasure cache.

There were some cool role-playing options in the graveyard section that led to a nice reward. At several junctures, we found crypts that had been overturned and looted by Tyranthraxus's minions, and we were given the option to continue looting them or to replace the bones.


In all cases, I role-played as a good party and replaced the bones without looting. In reward, the spirits of Myth Drannor give us a fantastic treasure cache that included a long sword+5, a light crossbow +5, and "blessed quarrels" capable of killing rakshasas in one hit. Since rakshasas are immune to magic, have low armor classes, and tend to hang out behind melee cannon fodder, these came in handy when we faced a large group of them.

 
There were some other unexpected allies. At one point, some Knights of Myth Drannor approached and said that they'd cause a diversion to draw off some of Tyranthraxus's troops during the final battle. I'm not sure what we would have faced if we hadn't received their help.

More mysterious was a stranger called "Nameless" who approached us in the ruins and claimed to have a hand in creating the first bonds. He warned us that with the other four masters dead, nothing was stopping Tyranthraxus from "invoking the full power" of our bonds, and he suggested we try to catch him off-guard. I know from my post-game readings that "Nameless" is actually Finder Wyvernspur, a major figure in the "Finder's Stone" trilogy, of which Azure Bonds is the first novel. (Also, Alias told us a little about him in her journal entry.) Seeking to make his music immortal, Wyvernspur created a magic clone of himself, but ended up abusing the clone and turning him evil. In punishment for his offenses, the Harpers exiled him to a plane and wiped all traces of his music and poems from history.

He's lucky I didn't assume he was a rakshasa and kill him.

Centuries later, a sorceress named Cassana found him and offered to help him continue his work, and the result was Alias, the heroine of Azure Bonds. Through the events of the books, Finder ends up redeeming himself, nobly sacrificing his chance at immortality to prevent the return of Moander, and freeing the Saurials (Dragonbait's race) from Moander's slavery. But in doing so, he somehow absorbs some of Moander's divinity and becomes a demi-god. Anyway, all of that (I think) is in the future for Nameless. Right now, he's just an anonymous friend of the adventurers I've been encountering throughout the game: Alias, Dragonbait, Olive Ruskettle, Akabar, and so on.


Things got hairy when we took a sewer passage to the temple and discovered that a) there was no way to get out of the temple once we entered, and b) there was no way to rest in the temple, which meant no healing or spell-memorization. I stopped mapping and concentrated on finding and killing Tyranthraxus as quickly as I could. Fortunately, the Helm of Dragons we had received from Dracandros kept telling us his location.


Not all was right in Tyranthraxus's domain. Aside from the rakshasa deserting him for no better reason than we parlayed "haughtily," his own priest allies were seeking to undermine him...


...and his own high priest turned out to be Nameless in disguise. I determined this in a poorly-written sequence in which we encountered Tyranthraxus, now suddenly a Zeus-looking dude with lightning shooting from his hands:

What happened to your horns? What happened to being called "The Flamed One"?

I guess he possessed the body of a storm giant at some point. Anyway, he invoked our bonds and compelled us to turn over the three artifacts that we'd been assured would help destroy him--the Helm of Dragons, the Amulet of Lathander, and the Gauntlet of Moander--to his high priest. The priest made a show of destroying them in the Pool of Radiance--oh, yeah, that somehow showed up here--but turned out to have stealthily palmed them. Even more stealthily, he hid his beard:

He could have saved time by just not taking them in the first place.

Then, Big T made a mistake worth of a James Bond villain:


Just before Tyranthraxus killed Nameless, Nameless read the phrase on the parchment and partially, but not completely, released our bonds. Either Nameless faked his death here or the authors of the "Finders Stone Trilogy" did some serious retconning to get him in the next two books. Then again, Fzoul, the Zhent high priest of Bane, also died in this game, and he survives for another 20 years in the books.

For no reason I fully understand, Tyranthraxus went charging off...


...the Knights of Myth Drannor did their thing...


...and we chased Tyranthraxus upstairs, and after cutting our way through a few small parties of minions, finally encountered him in a large room at the end of a hall. He tried to invoke the bonds again, but the party threw off the compulsion with sheer will.

Oh, Tyranthraxus...you don't tell people this kind of thing.

Tyranthraxus attacked with a couple dozen margoyles and about 10 high priests. Naturally, we had buffed with "Haste," "Bless," "Prayer," "Enlarge," "Protection from Evil," and other spells before entering the chamber. The big things we had to watch out for were 1) T's lightning attacks, which were capable of 50-60 points of damage and could easily kill one of my characters if it bounced off a wall; and 2) the priests' "Hold Person" spells. My basic strategy was to take out as many priests and margoyles as quickly as possible with "Fireball"; both Cesario and Viola had it memorized, and I gave a wand to Octavianus.

Tyranthraxus and his minions. There are a bunch more margoyles above and to the left of him.

I delayed my fighters until the end of the first round, when a path through the margoyles had been cleared, and sent them after Tyrnathraxus's storm giant form. With "Haste" and "Enlarge" both active, he went down in just a few hits. It was my ranger, Goldeneye, who had recently been gifted with both a long sword +5 and a Girdle of Giant Strength, who struck the killing blow.

I defeated him three times in a row, but the first two times, one or two of my characters were killed, and I wanted to end the game with everyone alive. I recorded my final victorious fight below.



Tyranthraxus already hadn't been batting 1000, but at this point he completely lost all common sense. First, he told us exactly what he was going to do:

"Oh? This pool over here?"

Then, he told a lie so obvious that the game doesn't even bother to give me the option not to destroy the Pool of Radiance:

I'm not entirely sure how I "shattered" a pool. Or was the gauntlet shattered?

Finally, he have the worst end-game villain speech since Malcolm Trandle's "You beat me?! I am destroyed." in Sentinel Worlds

In his last moments, he became a poet--admittedly, one who needs to work on his meter.

The bonds faded...

Thank god almighty.

...and the Knights of Myth Drannor showed up--nice timing, guys--to take us to a feast in Shadowdale.


I've pondered the endgame for a while, and I'm still not sure what Tyranthraxus was trying to accomplish. The Fire Knives wanted to use me to kill the King of Cormyr. The Cultists of Moander used my bonds to somehow open a portal to bring Moander back into the realms. Dracandros wanted to compel me to attack some dragons and trick them into killing Elminster and ravaging the Dalelands. The Zhentarim bond had something to do with a factional war among the priests of Bane. But Tyranthraxus never seemed to have a plan. The best I could figure is that he was going to use my party members' bodies as backups in case his storm giant form was slain. (He said something in a speech about being able to possess me through the bonds.) But if that was the case, why invite me to his secret lair? Why not just let me go on adventuring until he needs one of us?

Overall, though, it was a fun, action-packed ending. The final battle felt a tad on the easy side (I think Tyranthraxus should have had a lot more hit points), but I liked the ruins of Myth Drannor, and...huh. Something just occurred to me. The reviled 2001 game I referenced previously is called Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor. I just assumed it was a tawdry attempt to capitalize on the name of the famous 1988 game. But did this title and subtitle come together because Myth Drannor is where the Pool of Radiance was last transported, thanks to Tyranthraxus? I never got far enough in the game to find out.

I don't expect the GIMLET to look a lot different from Pool of Radiance, but let's see.

72 comments:

  1. Perhaps Tyranthraxus's ultimate plan was simply to have you destroy the other groups?

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    1. I think thats the best you can say about the big T's plans

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  2. If I recall correctly, and I'm not saying I do, there's a few different Pools and one of them is located deep under Myth Drannor. I think they may be somehow linked to each other.

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  3. I'm one of the few people that liked Ruins of Myth Drannor. I guess I was lucky to have not encountered any serious bugs.

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    1. When PoR2 came out, you needed the first patch _before installation_. That's not even hyperbole. It couldn't be installed properly out-of-the-box, and you risked hard drive failure that required reformatting if you tried.

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    2. I never downloaded any patch, and actually didn't know until much later that there was one. It installed just fine. The only bug I found was my team getting stuck in narrow passages and not being able to move any of them. Luckily, I saved often.

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    3. I think the bug only affected rebels who installed the game in some place other than the default folder.

      I seem to recall a bug where something you're standing on is supposed to collapse, except that it only works in the UNPATCHED version.

      Anyway, I didn't quit it because of bugs, and I think it was a reasonably fun game at the beginning. I quit (three or four times) because of the insufferable tedium of endless combats with slow-moving zombies.

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  4. I am just guessing, but based on what I've read here I think he tried to use you to destroy the three artifacts that can help destroying him.

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  5. You won't have to wait until 2001 to revisit Myth Drannor... In 1993 you will be taking a stroll around there as well.

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    1. God, Eye of Beholder 3 is such a horrible game.

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    2. I personally prefered EoB3 over EoB2 and its death traps.

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    3. You're kidding I hope. EoB2 is a masterful game that challenges the player fiercely throughout. EoB3 is an abominable pile of feces that could be beaten by a blind person wandering randomly and mashing the "All Attack" button since all the enemies up to and including the final boss are incredibly weak.

      The first EoB had the same problem with too-weak enemies as 3 (as well as the problem of too large maps), but at least that game had proper puzzles in it that could take some time and effort to solve. EoB3's idea of a puzzle is "put the statue arm in the broken statue".

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  6. I remember the story as "He was using you as a tool to gather the artifacts so he could destroy them".

    2001 POR is often called POR2. It's a different story which just happens to take place in the same location.

    *IF* you do play it again. Patch it with the unofficial patches. It fixes MANY bugs, without messing around with game balance (too much). Further it includes a speed tweak so the zombies don't shuffle along at 0.01km/h.

    The big reason (in my opinion) that POR2 failed is that it started as being D&D 2nd edition, but changed to 3rd ed half way through game development. Unfortunately, some of the hard coding for 2nd ed was already done, so you got a broken implentation of a 2nd/3rd "Red-headed-stepchild" edition.

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    1. Yes, that does seem to be his thing. He says something like that in a journal entry. They problem is that a) without his meddling, I wouldn't have even known of the existence of those artifacts; and b) instead of just invoking the bonds and stealing the when he could (at the Standing Stone), he pointlessly lured me to his lair for some villain's exposition.

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    2. We can all agree that Big T's plans aren't well expounded.

      While it's true that your party (probably) wouldn't have known about the artifacts without his meddling, I think he just wanted them destroyed in case anyone (or perhaps even specific someones--Harpers?) who did know about the artifacts would never be able to use them on him.

      Building on the character transfer idea, Tyranthraxus has your typical villains' desire for a sort of "poetic anti-justice." Since you were (ostensibly) the party that ousted him at Phlan, he revels in the irony of using the very same adventurers to ensure his invincibility.

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    3. Icewind Dale 2 is another D&D game that suffers from developers feeling the need to shoehorn 3E rules into a fundamentally 2nd Edition engine (the Baldur's Gate engine in IWD2's case).

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  7. Congratulations!

    But the video is broken. It stops after about 1.20

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    1. The video plays just fine for me. It's a YouTube glitch. Try playing it on YouTube, and reloading the page if it pauses again.

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    2. Thanks, Amy. That worked.

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  8. Congratulations! What a humorous and strange ending. It would seem that part of Tyranthraxus's plans was to destroy himself in the process.

    If I recall correctly, one of the Journal entries from Pool of Radiance talked about a single pool, but that it appeared in different places at different times.

    I played CotAB a year ago, and remember the rakshasa. I don't remember there being any way to tell whether someone was a disguised rakshasa -- it would have been cool to have been able to glean their identity through clues or through foreknowledge. Otherwise, it gets reduced to a pure gamble.

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    1. The whole pool-of-radiance thing--what it is, what it does, where it came from, etc.--is poorly explained in both games. Do "pools of radiance" exist in D&D lore outside these games and the modules associated with them?

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    2. To answer xyzzysqrl and this at the same time, the books make clear there are several pools around; they're not all pools of radiance. There was one called the Pool of Darkness (also the name of the fourth game in the series.) I don't remember if those are something that were invented for the book or not--they may have been something invented for the original Forgotten Realms campaign setting.

      Says Wikipedia, PoR: Myth Drannor is not related to the first four games except by name & location.

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    3. I've not heard of them outside of the associated games/novels.

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  9. It's amazing how fast you go through these, It'd probably take me weeks, maybe even months to finish this game

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    1. Self-employment isn't working out so well for me. I don't have enough discipline to put things that actually pay me ahead of game-playing. Whenever you see me finish a game quickly like this, I'm probably screwing two or three clients.

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    2. We love ya, but please... don't do this. Ya gotta eat or you can't play.

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    3. Thanks, but I don't need a blog and readers to be lazy. I'm sure I'd be spending time on whatever gets the ol' dopamine flowing whether I was blogging about it or not.

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  10. From the clue book:

    "Tyranthraxus hopes to gather and destroy the
    dangerous artifacts and then possess the
    character's bodies."

    Too bad about the Nameless Ex Machina eh?

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  11. AD&D breaks down a bit once you hit about level 10. The monsters aren't really a sufficient challenge.

    For instance, one of the big bads, "Yeenoghu, Demon Lord of Gnolls" has AC -5 and 100 hp, with a worse THAC0 than your lead fighter's. But wait, he is always accompanied by 66 gnolls of the strongest sort! They have 14-16 hp each. That's what, a couple fireballs?

    Furthermore, as monsters give out a set amount of xp, getting characters to level at an interesting pace requires throwing extra experience at them. This is almost entirely done in the form of gold. At this juncture any hope of a reasonable economy is thrown out the window.


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    1. Side note: Part of the problem boils down to the fact that the AD&D Monster Manual was actually written before the Player's Handbook was. I imagine it's quite hard to balance challenges for heroes that have yet to be created!

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    2. I never played tabletop D&D long enough to get a sense of how leveling works, but my impression is that getting to Level 8 or so might take hundreds of hours of game playing, while this can happen in only a few hours in CRPGs.

      The real problem, then, is the developers using a very literal interpretation of D&D rules. There probably wasn't any good reason that they HAD to do that. If I remember correctly, Baldur's Gate and its sequel, on the other hand, modified AD&D2 rules liberally to improve the quality of the game.

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    3. I'll admit I am not an expert in AD&D rules, but I don't know of many places the AD&D rules were changed in Baldure's Gate, aside from a couple simplifications. One thing is that BG is based on AD&D 2nd edition, while the Gold Box games used 1st Edition.

      Well, there is one in both games: In those editions you get most of your xp for collecting treasure, whereas most DMs ignored this, slowing levelling greatly. This could be part of the wonkey levelling. Also you normally wouldn't fight hundreds of identical monsters in a D&D game. There is a far larger diversity of monsters in D&D then they can fit in a game.

      For example: http://www.dotd.com/mm/MM00000.htm#b265837e is a sample of the one from 2nd edition. In 3rd edition they had five or six 300+ page Monster Manuals, and a Find Folio, and adventures and rulebooks would often add another 10 or so. Each has its own abilities, weaknesses, etc, which makes them more challenging.

      A good DM also doesn't normally throw hordes of identical monsters at you like that. They'd normally use tactics and strategies not possible in a computer game: For example: http://www.tuckerskobolds.com/

      Also in most table top campaigns it doesn't take

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    4. 100s of hours to level up. In my Dad's current pathfinder game we are about 6th level after 2 adventures, about a year of playing at 1 session a month or so, playing from dinner time to midnight, plus an occasional all day session around the holidays.

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    5. @Canageek
      Gold Box Games used 2nd Edition.
      BG a Mix of 2nd and 3rd.

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    6. Baldur's Gate came out in 1998, 3rd edition came out in 2000. I'm afraid what you are saying is impossible. BG2 used some Skills & Powers expansion book rules, but those aren't similar to 3rd edition at all.

      Pool of Radiance came out in 1988. 2nd Edition AD&D came out in 1989. So Curse of the Azure Bonds MAY have used it, but PoR did not.

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    7. I enjoy playing fairly low level characters more than high level ones for this reason. Once the characters get high level, it is very hard to challenge them without throwing in what seem like unfair situations.

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    8. I believe the closest the Baldur's Gate series comes to third edition rules is that BG2 incorporated the new (I believe) base classes - sorcerer, monk, and barbarian.

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    9. Throne of Bhaal made at least one big reference to third edition, so overt it can hardly be called winking. Mazzy Fentan and either Aerie or Nalia (can't remember) will chatter about the rules of the universe getting a 'third' revision in which halflings like Mazzy will be eligible to become paladins.

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    10. I had forgotten about that. The dialogue makes references to the first edition, too:

      ****

      Aerie: Mazzy? Do you think you’ll ever become a true Paladin for Arvoreen?
      Mazzy: I am a true sword for my God, Aerie. That is as close as I can expect to come. To hope for otherwise would be foolish and naive of me.
      Aerie: Yes, but I was told of a time when halflings were rogues only ... that you would never find one that was a cleric or even a warrior such as yourself anywhere.
      Mazzy: That’s true, if unfortunate. But that was a long time ago, Aerie ... things have changed since then.
      Aerie: But maybe things could change again? Maybe your people could become paladins and rangers and even mages one day, without limitation. Wouldn’t that be exciting?
      Mazzy: Yes, yes, and maybe my people will become skinny, wear shoes, and have big, long skulls. Really, Aerie, you needn’t keep your head in the clouds ALL the time.
      Aerie: Well, it was just a thought.
      Mazzy: And it wasn’t a bad one. But it’s not likely that the gods are going to revamp the halflings and come out with a ‘third edition’, as it were, now is it?
      Aerie: Oh, you never know. The gods do strange things, sometimes.

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    11. Hehehehehe. BGII came out in 2000, the same year as 3rd edition, thus how the reference was made. The Halfling references a very different take on halflings in 3rd edition. See, they used to be Hobbits, right? However, why on EARTH are Hobbit's adventuring? Bilbo, Frodo and Bullroarer Took were supposed to be the super, super rare exceptions to the rule that only happen once every hundred years or so. So why are they leaving the comforts of hearth and home to adventure? So they remade them to be more adventurous, including giving them elf-ears, elongated skulls and giving them boots.

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    12. Also the change helped avoid legal trouble by showing them to be "distinct enough" from Tolkiens work.

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  12. Dear CRPG addict,

    Congratulations! you played this game verywell.I really cannot add much more. I look forward to your take on Secret of the Silver Blades. I hope you take the same party through it.

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  13. The 2001 Pools of Radiance was a mixed bag for me- I tracked down a trainer/hack that let you speed up gameplay to 10x normal speed. Without that I would have probably gone crazy fighting undead.

    But the setting was pretty large, and it included a lot of little side quests and treasure hunts to leave you many things to do.

    ---------
    As to your questions about canon vs. retconning- most of the early D&D novels were based off existing adventure modules; checking wikipedia claims the PC games started that way as well:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruins_of_Adventure

    It is much more pronounced in the Dragonlance-based games and novels- Heroes of the Lance/Dragon's of Flame are roughly the first and second halves of the novel "Dragons of Autumn Twilight". The authors of that book (which was the core work for all later fiction in Dragonlance) have said in interviews that they started off of their own adventuring party for the main characters:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raistlin_Majere#Character_profile

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    1. Sorry that didn't come out as clear as I intended.

      Since they were based off of adventure modules, canon tends to be very vague. Every party that played through the module could have ended up with a slightly different experience. Optional parts could be overlooked or skipped or even circumvented. Depending on the GM, groups could flee from combat rather than fighting to the death.

      For connected adventure modules, they would either tend to focus on big events to tie things back to previous modules (Tyranthraxus out for revenge) and skip the smaller bits of continuity between games. Its kind of interesting comparing this against the Mass Effect games- there they had the foresight to save off information about pretty much every single decision point to use later.

      It also gets to the flexibility of a good DM over a computer- if one guy from an introductory battle survives and escapes, he can be fleshed out into a nemesis out for revenge against the players. Or if a character is supposed to come up at a big final battle but was killed early, just replace them with a renamed duplicate.

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    2. It is a bit odd trying to achieve any kind of campaign-setting "canon" in a realm in which thousands of adventuring parties are gaming and presumably amassing power and reputation, and making changes to the world. You can easily see an adventuring party killing someone like Fzoul or the king of Cormyr, and then experiencing a cognitive disconnect upon reading of that character's continued adventures in the novels.

      Games that allow multiple paths and endings have to make a choice about how to resolve them as part of the world's canon, and none of those choices are good. If there's only one potential outcome to the main quest, they can just say that happened, but the events of the game are lamely credited to "the Avatar" or "the Hero of Kvatch" rather than to a named hero.

      If there are multiple endings, then the game either has to do what Mass Effect does, or choose one of the potential paths as canon, or carefully side-step the issue. A good example of the latter is what The Elder Scrolls did with the events of Daggerfall (cf. "The Warp in the West"). Such tortuous storytelling wasn't necessary for Oblivion since the main quest had only one ending and none of the sidequests were particularly monumental. I'm curious to see what the next TES game does with Skyrim's history, though, especially as concerns the emperor.

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    3. Actually, most of the problems in the Forgotten Realms come from authours each adding their own regions to it without regard to a constant feel or sanity. So you have Halruaa where everyone has magic, and there are flying ships and such. However, oddly, this NEVER escapes there boarders. You have the mercantile houses of Sembia (I like that setting a lot, there were some great books set there) then you have horror books like The Night Parade that don't match any of the realms again. I'd love to see Ed Greenwood's original notes and find out how much things have diverged from them.

      Actually, in one of the boxed sets they laid aside a region that was to only be for player and DM use, not the setting of any novels, adventures, etc. They abandoned that, but it was an interesting idea.

      Basically, a DM is expected to adapt the adventures to his group ahead of time, if not writing his one. For example, my Dad ran the first Freeport adventure for his group, and they liked it enough to stay in the city. Then a married couple of gamers we know found out that my Dad was running those adventures and gave my Dad the entire Freeport product line (they were done with it, and had no further use for it) and as we talk my Dad flips through the next adventure, and comments it will need some rewriting as his players killed the big bad guy of the rest of the series. It wasn't hard, just change some names (I think the 2nd in command had gotten away or something) but it shows one of the advantages of a tabletop game over a computer one: You can do *anything*, there aren't limits on what you can think up.

      Anyway, this is one of the advantages of newer settings such as Eberron; they tend to be more coherent at they were all planned out by a small group of people talking to one another, rather then a mishmash of writers over decades.

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    4. A further note about Realms canon: In general, pretty much anything with the Forgotten Realms logo is supposed to be canonical. Supposed to be, as there's a couple horrible things explicitly struck out, and other things cause no end of problems.

      The computer and video games, sadly, are the most common problem children, often because developers very much go off and do their own thing (and the video games are very popular, so many people are familiar with them.)

      Kellandros above is pretty wrong, actually. Not many novels come from adventures; adventures come from (or with) novels. Ruins of Adventure is actually specifically written as an adventure (or module, they mean the same thing in D&D terms) to allow you to play through Pools of Radiance with your friends at the table.

      So, everything with a Realms logo on it is *supposed* to be canonical. The easiest way this works from a canon perspective is that the games themselves are frequently not canonical - the books and adventures that accompany them are. Curse of Azure Blades has the novel you've read, and a module that follows the computer game. That module is the canonical version of events.

      Pools of Radiance has a novel and Pools of Adventure; only the novel is canon (and its sequel is the canonical version of Pools of Darkness.)

      In general, this stuff is done on a case-by-case basis, because some games can fit right in, only some have supporting material, and some really, really don't fit the printed Realms at all.

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    5. The order of publication was:
      Module, computer game, novel.

      Pool of Radiance (game) was based off the D&D module Ruins of Adventure. Pools of Radiance (novel) was based off the game. Similarly, Pools of Darkness (novel) was also based off the game. Both novels were published a year after the computer games.

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  14. I like the idea of "Marine gargoyles," but I think if I use them I'm going to flip it so they're Gargoyle Marines, hence the increased strength.

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  15. He doesn't need serious retconning to get slain characters into later books, just Raise Dead. :)

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    1. Yes, that's true. I was surprised reading the first third of Azure Bonds that raising spells are part of the official canon of the Forgotten Realms universe rather than a simple lampshade used by players to avoid permanent character death. The ability to raise dead introduces a host of logical and theological problems, and I wonder if any of the D&D books have effectively dealt with them.

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    2. They have been, badly. Basically, the clerics powerful enough to do that are supposed to be incredibly rare, and refuse to do it for money (it requires ground up diamonds) unless the person is on a quest for their god or something. This is of course ignored by Ed Greenwood and a number of other realms authours who have gotten addicted to a super-high magic feel.

      But yes, authours have wirtten some horrible books about the afterlife, particularly the ones involving Mystra and Cyric: Prince of Lies and Crucible: The Trial of Cyric The Mad. This is one of the reasons I vastly prefer Eberron to The Forgotten Realms. Gods there are still mysterious (the game world has several conflicting religions that all get spells and can summon angels that say the others are wrong) not just whiny children, and most people CAN'T come back from the dead. Only those with some special fate can, such as, conveniently, the player characters.

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    3. There was a funny encounter in Baldur's Gate 1 where a girl asks you to find her kitten.
      When you retrieve its drown body from waterfall, she sighs: "I guess my daddy the necromancer will need to raise Kitty again".
      Anyway, I remember one book where the assassin chopped the head of his victim in order to prevent raising (the body needs to be whole for spell to work).

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  16. A couple of points: Rakshasa are really intelligent, and I mean geniuses. Quite likely they noticed you slaughtering them hand over fist and figured out which way the wind was blowing and decided to high-tail it out of there.

    I have all the Finder's Bane trilogy. It was....lets go with interesting. A bit disjointed between books.

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  17. Here's an answer to one of your questions:

    Tyranthraxus' Goals
    From: http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/wiki/Tyranthraxus

    "While in the body of Srossar, Tyranthraxus' goal was to control the mind of every living creature on the Material Plane, a goal he believed he could achieve with the Pool of Radiance, six ioun stones and blood to fuel his own life energy. He had managed to collect four ioun stones when he encountered the adventurers that would kill his body...

    After he found himself in Myth Drannor, he felt vulnerable, being forced into the body of a human after so long in the mighty body of a dragon. He put his plans of mass-control on hold and instead sought the destruction of the three magic items that could destroy his true form...

    Tyranthraxus intercepted some members of the Fire Knives guild along with a small group of Moander-worshipers fleeing north from Westgate who told the tale of a woman named Alias, branded by their masters and a few others with magical blue tattoos called Azure Bonds which forced her to do their will. Although Alias managed to break free, Tyranthraxus saw an opportunity to further his own goals by placing these brands on a group of adventurers similar to those that managed to defeat him in Phlan. He gathered the cultists, Fire Knives, a renegade Red Wizard of Thay and a group of Zhentarim mages then captured a party of sellswords to inscribe the Azure Bonds onto. Each faction gave the party a compulsion but none realised that it was possible for the group to resist them."

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    1. Thanks! Someone's really gone and updated that entry since I referenced it in POR, where the entry had been confused by one of the fake journal entries.

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  18. Ref leveling speed in tabletop D&D and AD&D - It pretty much depended on the group. Characters typically gain a level in 1-4 sessions. The deadliness of the game also varied. In my first campaign, some of our characters might die every session. Later I joined a group where permanent death was practically non-existent. Obviously, you'll gain more levels in the latter campaign. :-)

    I'd been playing for about six months when I attended my first science fiction convention (I went because I'd heard they had gaming). While waiting in line, a kid asked me what was my highest level character - I proudly told him I had a 4th level priest. He said, "Oh, MY highest is a 27th level Paladin." I was suitably impressed, and only later learned how ridiculous that was - You could not hit 27th level in a lifetime of play the way most games were run.

    I'd say hitting 8th or 9th level in a year of playing every week was probably typical, but some "power games" went faster.

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    1. Yeah, that sound about right. My Dad's 1st and 2nd edition game gave out so little XP that players usually only got to 6th or 7th level before they got bored and made a new character.

      Whereas we are now running a Pathfinder adventure path as written, and levelling much, much faster. I believe they deliberately shove you past the first few levels, to get you into the 'sweet spot' this edition has created, of 4th-12th level.

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    2. One little quibble- in 1st edition D&D, levels did go up to 30 and progression was faster (each gold piece of treasure was worth 1XP). At 30th level a character could choose to try to ascend to demi-godhood.

      2nd edition(with the switch in name to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons) capped at 20 normally, with a few special cases of going to 30 for epic level(near god-like abilities and spells to wipe out most of a continent).

      Level 1 characters have to be pretty lucky or helped in order to survive in earlier editions. The poor mage can cast magic missle once per day, then is stuck in no armor with a dagger. A ordinary housecat has decent odds of killing a non-fighter in a few rounds.

      If you want fun tales of lethality, look up Tucker's Kobolds- stories of entire parties just running as fast as they can to the 2nd floor of the dungeon to get to the safer, higher level monsters.

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    3. The best AD&D campaigns are run by GMs who do take some liberties with the rules in order to make the game better. Losing a character permanently in whom a player has invested a year is a big deal. But if you make dying too easily recoverable then it has no danger. My campaigns have evolved house rules over time which are designed to make it nearly impossible to die FOREVER. But losing a Constitution point should become increasingly likely the more times you've died. And yet there should also be a way of getting that Con point restored if the party/player is willing to invest a massive amount of resources.

      Recovering a dead body is not always easy if the rest of the party was forced to leave a corpse behind. I had a party spend weeks on reconnoitering and then planning an infiltration mission that was a combined assassination and corpse recovery on a Drow city. That is the kind of shit that people remember forever. As nerdy as it is, that is some epic adventuring...and since it's unlikely that most of will ever be in a real-life Black Ops mission, this is a way of living it in a fantasy world.

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    4. I already linked that above: Here it is again: Tucker's Kobolds: http://www.tuckerskobolds.com/

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    5. Canageek-

      My apologies, you hit about all my points before I did. Sometimes the threaded conversations make it hard to keep track of later added comments, though it makes things easier to follow in one go.

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    6. No worries; it isn't bad to see the same thing twice, as it shows I'm not just a crazy loon with an opinion no one else shares.

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    7. This has been an excellent discussion that's given me a window on tabletop D&D. I think I missed a lot by playing too young, with other players too young to be mature about their approached to the game. Playing it now, with adults, would be a much different experience--not that I have that kind of time.

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    8. Ready the diethyl ether and secure gaming room!

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    9. Just a small note to Kellandros and those who are interested. AD&D and D&D were two different loosely games (until AD&D 3rd was renamed D&D). Short version is the Original version of D&D (OD&D) was split into two different editions that ended up drifting further and further apart. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%26D#Two-pronged_strategy)

      This became painfully obvious at the end of the BECMI D&D (or just D&D) line when AD&D designers were reassigned and didn't grasp the differences

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  19. One of the few gold-box AD&D games I could be bothered to complete. Memorable moments include the early shambling mound monstrosity (I think that was in this one). And of course the satisfaction of completing it (this was on an Atari ST), cue fireworks celebrations over shadowdale...

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  20. Oh, are there ancestors of the Khajiit? Also, Alias reminds of the construct Dolora in Planescape: Torment....
    It's quite fascinating to read about the D&D rules in such detail. It has never been my world and I played through Neverwinter Nights without ever realizing that it was THE D&D system. Only since I realized that the weapons of Baldur's Gate obey the same rules as the ones in Planescape Torment, did I begin to understand the deeper game mechanics.
    Also, it seems as if the updates from Pool of Radiance that made it into this game, slightly upended the golden balance of that game.

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  21. There's the TSR Villains' Lorebook, which gives some more information about Tyranthraxus and other baddies encountered in the game (no killing of Fzoul by a beholder mentioned there).
    The book also contains some stats for the villains, although they're from the 2nd edition, i.e. from later day and later rules.

    In case someone wants to take a look into it, mirrored it momentarily here: http://eonwe.vapaajollo.fi/add/TSR%209552%20-%20Villains'%20Lorebook.pdf

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    1. It's amusing that they've shown a woman for "his" portrait, but of course he can possess anyone.

      It doesn't add much to his history, but it does clarify that his ability to jump bodies is his defining characteristic and what makes him truly dangerous. Thanks for the link!

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  22. So, I just beat this last night, and I wondered if I did something wrong.

    The Knights of Myth Drannor had pledged to create a diversion. And then a Rakshasa said he'd help me out too. But when I went to actually go fight Tyranthraxus through a sewer entrance, nothing of the sort happened. I was warned by Nameless I think that I was taking too long. I also left and came back to ID some items. Did this somehow ruin the help I was pledged? Or was it purely fluff?

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    1. most likely fluff. the implication would be if you *hadn't* received their help, you'd be facing even MORE resistance. its a pretty standard trick (but usually it gets pulled off with at least a text prompt nod)

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