Monday, October 3, 2016

Pools of Darkness: Dis of the Spider Woman

A typical combat in this session with dozens of Drow. I have to try to make sure that every one of them takes damage every round.
   
In an effort to end my last playing session at an obvious stopping point, I played much more than I should have, meaning that I'm either going to have to summarize a lot of the adventures or this post is going to be very, very long. I'll try to strike a balance.

The game's structure became clearer in the process of defeating Thorne and the next lieutenant, Kalistes. The opening screens show Bane plotting to take over the Realms with four lieutenants. Each of the lieutenants is plotting an invasion from his or her own plane, with transitions between their planes and the Realms possible through the Pools of Darkness. I'm clearly going to have to travel to all four planes--stopping at Elminster's Limbo on the way--and kill all four lieutenants. The areas of the game that do not directly lead to a Pool of Darkness are, I imagine, optional.

As I wrap around the Moonsea, the paths to the lieutenants are getting longer. To defeat Thorne, I had to cross through three precursor maps before reaching his realm, which was just a standard 16 x 16 map. But to defeat Kalistes, I had to cross an 8 x 16 Zhentil Keep map, several small tower maps, a full-sized basement map, two more 16 x 16 maps of Drow, a large overland area with at least half a dozen small 10 x 10 maps, and finally three more full 16 x 16 maps. It took almost as long as the entire game up to this point.

In the process, I fought approximately one billion combats with Drow, driders (including a special type called "Pets of Kalistes"), and spiders. The Drow appeared immediately in Zhentil Keep and didn't stop until I was back in the Realms after killing Kalistes. Drow are a tough bunch, moreso in this game than I recall from past ones. They're all capable of spellcasting, and they have a decent chance of shrugging off your magic, depending on your level (Null Null laid it all out in an informative comment recently). If you don't stop them before they cast spells, they'll hit you with "Fireball," "Ice Storm," "Hold Person," and "Hold Monster." The Pets of Kalistes are capable of "Disintegrate" as well.
   
A typical combat of the region: driders, Drow champions, spiders.
   
Thus, when battle begins, the goal is to make sure every Drow takes damage every round, before they can cast. With other creatures, a single "Fireball" will handle that, but with Drow, a good 30-50% of them will avoid the damage. Even multiple castings doesn't guarantee anything. You have to pay close attention to who's been hit and try to get the others with the melee characters--characters who, once you cross the planes, are working with substandard equipment. I still don't think I reloaded as much as I did against the dragons, at least on a per-fight basis, but it became tiresome to have to micromanage every combat.

Spiders, Pets of Kalistes, and more Drow. There were dozens and dozens of such combats.
    
In contrast, the spiders--a typical combat might have some combination of electric spiders, enormous spiders, gaze spiders, and stone spiders--were mostly just annoying. Occasionally, one would poison a character and I'd have to cast "Neutralize Poison" to get him back on his feet and "Heal" to restore his hit points.
   
Those "enormous spiders" are really ugly.
   
The adventure began at the gates of Zhentil Keep. Drow accosted me as I tried to enter and demanded a 50 platinum tax. I had options to "Pay," "Bluff," "Attack," "Grovel," and "Leave." I decided to record each of the results just to see how it plays out and get a sense if this is a true role-playing option or just a "Morton's fork."
     
     
"Leave" simply returned me to the Moonsea map. "Pay" got me regular access to the Keep, where a store had a bunch of +1 weapons and armor, a magic shop sold scrolls, potions, and a couple of rings, and a training hall gave me admittance for 10 gems. "Bluff" got me the same access to the city, minus the 50 platinum pieces. So did "grovel," though it was a bit of a blow to my self-esteem.

"Attack" put me in battle with 8 Drow priests. The weren't very hard, but as I entered the city, an alarm was going off. I was still able to visit and use all the shops and locations, but successions of larger and larger parties of Zhentil warriors kept attacking me until I left the map. Also, a couple of NPCs referenced that I had set off the alarms.
    
This was kind of neat.
    
I rescued a man from being kidnapped by some Drow, and his daughter indicated that the Drow have been kidnapping a lot of citizens while the Zhent leaders turn a blind eye. In a house, a man named Mabril confirmed the story and offered me a partial map to the underground area where people are being taken. A message from a halfling woman named Traned "told of hideous rituals performed on good folk and sacrifices to Kalistes." Another NPC chastised me for attacking the guards but said I should be safe once I enter Manshoon's tower because the guards don't generally report their failures. He finished his intelligence by telling me of a secret entrance to Manshoon's tower. No word on who Manshoon is.

A magic shop in the Keep sells Elixirs of Youth. Although buying these elixirs won't take up even a small fraction of my wealth, knowing that they're there means I'm not as reluctant to use "Haste" (which ages everyone a year) liberally.
    
Some potential money sinks here.
    
I entered the tower through the secret entrance. It consisted of three small levels going up and one larger level going down. I did the up levels first. There were dozens of fights with Zhentil forces, including clerics, mages, and warriors. At one point, there was a journal entry that said Manshoon released a "Gelt" in the corridors; a search of the Forgotten Realms wiki turns up nothing, but in any event I never encountered it so I don't know what that was about.

At the top of the tower, Manshoon trapped us in a force field and said that he intended to summon a creature that would help him "subjugate" the Drow--"and the dreary fool Marcus, and that imbecile Arcam, too!" Marcus was mentioned later in Kalistes's realm, though I never met him. I assume he's the same Marcus who ran the Black Circle in Secret of the Silver Blades. No idea who Arcam is. Anyway, I never actually ran into Marcus; I just heard about him.

Anyway, Manshoon summoned his creature inside the force field with us. It turned out to be an old woman. When Manshoon got confused and asked who she was, she called him an "insolent wretch" and started tearing down his tower as he fled. The party had to flee collapsing stones, and I never saw Manshoon or the old woman again. I never really had a solid idea who he was.
    
Either this demon crushed herself, or my party just walked off leaving a dangerous planar creature roaming Zhentil Keep behind us.
    
In Manshoon's basement, Drow were loading captured villagers into wagons. A halfling fighter named Traned joined me for a while but left towards of the end of the map to escort freed villagers to safety. Not much else to say about the map. Lots of battles with Drow, carrion crawlers, and umber hulks. It culminated in an exit to another Drow map.
    
Frankly, fights like this, in which all enemies are vulnerable to "Fireball," are mostly just a waste of time these days.
    
Early on the next map, I ran into Silk, the Drow rebel and leader of the Swanmays adventuring group. I had previously encountered her in Curse of the Azure Bonds. In that game, she made Goldeneye an honorary member, but she didn't seem to remember that here. She gave me some advice on getting through the traps later in the map. She joined me for a while but took off once we'd rescued the other Swanmays from prison.

Silk has updated her look since last time. Comparison.
    
Other encounters on the map had me freeing innocent people from being turned into ichor used to create Kalistes' Pets. I had to find some Essence of Pure Light and pour it into something called the Fire of Night to stop the process. Traned showed up again as I transitioned to the final map before switching planes--some kind of temple to Kalistes.
     
Nothing to do with the discussion above--I just happened to capture this shot at the perfect moment.
     
The temple adventures included finding an antidote to a poison that was keeping the slaves docile. It became clear that a lot of the slaves were going to be used for food. Various messages indicated that portals would soon be opened in three locations in the Realms, and Kalistes' minions would go pouring through. At one point, I stumbled into a room where an oracle bade the Drow to "Guard our Lady and her hands that open doors." This became an important clue soon afterwards, when I entered the room containing the Pool of Darkness. Within the room was a statue of Kalistes and three portals to various places in the Moonsea area. It was clear that the minions were supposed to come out of the Pool of Darkness and then enter the other portals.

After a huge battle with Drow and spiders, the game gave me an option that I don't remember ever happening in a Gold Box game before: I had to type an answer. [Later: Commenters corrected me: typed answers are quite common in Gold Box games, going all the way back to the first. I don't know why I didn't remember those occasions.] The question was what to destroy to stop the ritual from proceeding. Remembering that the oracle had referred to "hands that open doors," I typed HANDS. My party smashed the statue's hands, the portals disappeared, and everything was quiet on this side of the Pool of Darkness.
    
    
I stepped through. Elminster greeted me and congratulated me on stopping the invasion. He said I'd have to go to Kalistes' realm and stop whatever she's doing to cause perpetual night in the Moonsea area, something I didn't even realize was happening until this moment.
    
"Don't let the portal hit ye in the ass on the way through."
    
We went through the usual process of dumping our items for safekeeping and entered the Pool of Darkenss naked. On the other side, we were immediately greeted by a woman calling herself the Eyes of Kalistes. She asked if I had "help at the temple" and demanded that I name who had helped me--another fill-in-the-blank. I decided to play along and see what became of it. She didn't care for TRANED but reacted immediately to SILK. Apparently, she used to be a Swanmay named Cynthia and now had to serve Kalistes, who can see through her eyes.
    
I assumed that the "right" way to play this encounter was not to give up our allies, but I took the time to see what would happen. This turned out to be a good thing.
    
I had to solve a quick quest were I assembled some items for Cynthia and she mocked up replicas of my party members, making it look like they were dead, so Kalistes wouldn't be constantly hunting for us as we explored her realm. She then demanded that we kill her to preserve the secret, and we reluctantly complied. I'm curious what would have happened if we'd bypassed or fumbled this series of encounters.
       
      
Cynthia's 10 x 10 area exited into a large overland map bisected by rivers of lava. I wasn't expecting this at all. And it soon became clear that, much like the Moonsea map, there were hidden sub-areas all over the place. I think I discovered  6 of them. They all used the same 10 x 10 map and had a variety of combats, treasures, and special encounters.
   
This is the first Gold Box game to feature more than one overland map. You arrive in the far southwest and end up at Kalistes' fortress in the far northeast.
      
At least 6 maps in this area used the same layout, although the encounters were in different places.

   
In the first one that I explored, I found a "disgruntled slave" of Kalistes who promised to show me a hidden way into her fortress. When we left the sub-map, the game took us immediately to the fortress and the hidden entrance. I decided to leave and keep exploring the overland map first, which turned out to be a good thing because I ended up finding some artifacts that made Kalistes' fortress much easier.
   
That doesn't seem like a great reason for treason, but I guess we'll take it.
   
In another sub-area, I met a Drow woman named Dennia who wanted me to help rescue her son, Hern, from Kalistes' testing grounds. (Those who pass the test apparently become Drow mages; those that fail become driders.) Her daughter had previously failed the test, and Dennia's brother, Daris, was apparently intending to kill Hern to avoid the possible shame of two family members failing.
   
Her portrait is shot from kind-of a weird perspective. Are we all on the ground for some reason?
   
The testing grounds were in the middle of the outdoor map, the only full 16 x 16 map aside from Kalistes' palace itself. In the edges of the map, we (for some reason) freed a bunch of driders, who in turn gave us hints as to passing the testing ground.
   
A hint for what already would have been the easiest riddle of all time.
    
The testing ground itself was pretty easy. The first test was just to be strong enough to push over a wall. The second, I had to opt to press forward despite the game telling me I was scared. The third was a fight against driders, the fourth a fight against Drow mages. The fifth had me answer a riddle whose answer was obviously BANE. The sixth was to keep walking through an obviously-illusory wall of flame. After that, we met up with Hern, and I forgot to take screenshots so I can't remember exactly what happen, but in the end, Daris was transformed into a drider because his plot had failed. This was related through a bizarre journal entry that, unlike all the others, was told as if written from the point of view of one of the party members.
    
Another keyword puzzle.
    
There was a final battle with a Pet of Kalistes named Shest, and after that I was able to pick up a "ward" that allowed safe passage to Kalistes parlor, as well as a bunch of amulets that theoretically kept spiders at bay. (I still got attacked by lots of spiders, but a few of the random encounters ended without combat.) There were some previous messages about the ward that I forgot to write down, but  I guess it belonged to a lieutenant of Kalistes named Locaste, and Daris had it temporarily for some reason.
  
The few times this actually worked, it was welcome.
  
In a final area before assaulting Kalistes' fortress, I picked up a dwarf NPC fighter named Storm Harngrim. He said he was part of a shipment intended to be food; his sister was still missing. He stayed with me for the rest of the adventure.
   
At least, I hope "has a taste for" means food.
   
When we got to the entrance to Kalistes' fortress, we were treated by the sight of her lieutenant, Locaste, getting devoured by spiders because he didn't have his ward.
   
I'm not sure "horror" is the right word.
    
Kalistes' fortress was two levels, but with very big rooms, so it didn't take long to explore. In an early encounter, we rescued Storm's sister, Arta, from the cooking pot. There were several other areas in which we freed slaves.
   
   
Amidst multiple fights with Drow (the random encounters in this area never ended), I found a book that offered some intelligence on Marilith demons, which I guess is what Kalistes is. Anyway, it suggested that to lure her to battle, I had to threaten her children. When I ultimately found her egg room on the bottom level, I didn't just threaten them; I destroyed them. Kalistes indignantly appeared.
  
What? Like squashing your young is worse than unleashing spider hordes on the Realms?
  
She attacked with about 18 allies: Drow mages, priests, champions, and Pets of Kalistes organized into three groups. As usual, they tore me apart on the first try, when I was unprepared, and I had to reload, buff, and try again.
   
Properly ready for combat this time.
   
I defeated her on the second try by letting loose liberally with "Delayed Blast Fireball" (three of my characters have it) and having my hastened fighters destroy Kalistes herself in the first round. There aren't many enemies, no matter how powerful, that will stand up to consecutive attacks by two hastened, high-level fighters. That's how Thorne went down, too.
    
Can you believe I forgot to get a shot of Kalistes in combat? This is one of the small scattered groups she attacked me with.
   
With Kalistes dead, I recovered a magic ring from her corpse. Little did I know, the battles weren't over. The previous "disgruntled slave" revealed himself as an agent for one of Bane's other lieutenants and attacked me with several snakes, earth elementals, and a bunch of "bits o' Moander." I'd hoped I'd seen the last of them in Curse of the Azure Bonds.
    
    
Since my characters were still buffed, it wasn't too hard, particularly once I remembered that the Moander pieces were vulnerable to cold, not fire. Oddly, the agent himself wasn't part of the battle, and he wasn't mentioned in the aftermath. I assumed he slipped away.
   
The real final battle of the area.
   
Storm departed to lead the slaves to Freedom. I had to slog all the way out of Kalistes' fortress and across the map again, fighting about a dozen more random combats on the way. Elminster was excited that I recovered the ring, saying that the sun would shine again and "no longer will vampires fly at noon." Before long, I was back in the Realms, my good equipment in-hand again, and ready to start exploring the southern regions of the Moonsea.
   
Elminster fails to keep his cool.
   
Miscellaneous notes:


  • My paladin and ranger are apparently no longer gaining any spell levels. My paladin stopped at 2 Level 4 spells and my ranger stopped at 2 Level 3 druid spells.
  • I killed a beholder at one point. I honestly forgot where this happened, but I have a screen shot. He died quickly.
   
They look cooler in this game than in Azure Bonds.
    
  • In a couple of the sub-areas, a drider galloped up and spouted some nonsense, then galloped off. I was never able to make any sense of this. Seriously, if anyone has any idea what this was about, let me know.
    
Not that I would have any idea what kind of a response to make.
    
  • Similarly, in one of the areas, when the party encountered "fresh dirt at a wall," the game gave me the options to leave, dig, or--absurdly--"sing." Choosing the later produced this result, followed by a battle with spiders:
   
Some programmer was bored, I think.

  • All the doors in Kalistes' realm have that little spider on them. Aside from looking kind of goofy, it's funny to imagine some bureaucrat having to take time out from conquering the Realms to ensure that someone's doing all the appropriate carving.
  • As we've covered before, you stop earning experience when you're about to earn enough for your second new level (above your current one). You know that's happened when you finally get back to civilization, train, fight a single battle, and are able to train again. This happened with most of my characters during this adventure. It's a little infuriating, because I must have wasted thousands of experience points.
  • I don't think I mentioned before that the overland maps are slightly animated, with rivers and lava flowing.
  • I probably waste more time and hit points trying to engineer backstabs than I save by executing them. What I particularly love is when my thief can execute two backstabs in the same round. Whenever that happens, I shout "double-play!" I suppose when she's hastened, I could go for triple-plays and quadruple-plays. I'll try to record it if it looks like it's going to happen.
  
This never stops being satisfying.
   
I suspect I won't be able to cover the next lieutenant in a single post, but we'll see. Now that I have the top-level mage spells, I want to offer an update on the various Gold Box spells and their uses; that might be up next or the one after.

Time so far: 26 hours
Reload count: 29


60 comments:

  1. "a bunch of "bits o' Moander." I'd hoped I'd seen the last of them in Curse of the Azure Bonds."

    That's funny.

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    1. Having dealt with a lot more of them recently, I'd like some explanation from the developers why they're immune to fire damage. There is no logical reason why hunks of flesh would be.

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    2. I'm not a developer, but:

      From a simulationist point of view, in their original incarnation in Curse, they were super-size Shambling Mounds. Shambling Mounds, being wet plantlife, are difficult to burn and hence immune to fire. Arguably they're still green and slimy.

      From a gamist point of view, the game's too easy if you can just drop Delayed Blast Fireball on everything (as you discovered). So they have to make a few monsters that are immune to it.

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    3. I thought they were huge piles of rotting vegetation. That's how the are described in the books. Also Moander having a portfolio of rot and decay before losing it to Finder.

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    4. In Curse I used to beat them using Hold Monster and Charm Monster - any chance those still work in this game?

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    5. You can Hold them, but it will only work on 1 or 2 out of 4 each time. Charm isn't worth your while.

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    6. Yeah, Hold Monsters is definitely worth trying against those bloody HP sponges.

      Moander's Body is probably my least favourite GB area, though I acknowledge its originality.

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    7. "Hold" is great when it works, but I have maybe 8 of them max, and you encounter about 6 trillion of them on the Moander plane, without a lot of rest opportunities.

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    8. Ice Storm, Cone of Cold, Power Word Kill, Slow, Confusion, work. Also, I used mirror image and haste.

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    9. Also blade barrier IIRC, which allows you to shape the battlefield since they normally won't enter so you can protect your squishies and let the fighters handle them. And wand of defoliation of course, I think PoD had at least one.

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  2. I usually do the Moandar bit first, that removes the slave narrative from Kalistes land. Also, if my party levelled while in Kalistes' land. I would hike back to the portal and have Eliminster train me. Of course, he would scold us for failing, but I was determined to max out my experience reward for dealing with drow and spiders non-stop.

    Speaking of Drow: Yes, I hate them too and like you would try to target all to reduce their spell casting. I also liberally used "prayer" and "Globe of Invulnerability". One thing this game did was get me to try all elf parties in the Krynn games. It was fun to have all my fighters pulling up fire shields and casting mirror image or haste. Even in the FR games I keep a high percentage of elven fighter/Magic-user/Thief combinations. Thanks again for blogging. It's the only blog I follow.

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    1. Running back to Elminster to train would have caused my NPCs to abandon the party, I assume. I always hate to lose them before their story is up.

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    2. You might want to rethink that--picking up levels is paramount. I will say it is likely to be less of an issue from here on out. The NPC in the Tower of Marcus can actually be picked up again, and the rest of them are limited to a few areas.

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    3. Obviously going back to limbo is a sacrifice. I prefer not to be bound by NPCs. They are loose cannons and do not work well with my ordered way of fighting. Other players will not doubt see things differently. That is what makes it all so fun!

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    4. I share Chet's feelings on this - when the game is already limited, story wise, I don't want to risk turfing out bits of story for a slight gain in combat advancement.

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    5. I hope that I do not seem like a power gamer. All my party decisions are role play decisions. The arrangement of the party; how it fights; and other sundry details are all roleplaying.

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  3. The password check technology goes all the way back to Pool of Radiance -- OHLO, in the slums.

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    1. Ah, right. Well, it's rare, in any event.

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    2. Didn't Secret of the Silver Blades have all those annoying riddles?

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  4. It's a pity they could not have had Lloth as the Drow leader, but guess killing a god would have been too much, hence the Marilith.

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    1. Killing gods in Forgotten Realms results in horrific devastation (akin to a nuclear explosion) that the party likely wouldn't survive anyway. Or at least that's the case during the later Times of Troubles storyline when the gods are cast out of the heavens.

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    2. Yup. On the TSI website they had a thing where you could ask the developers questions, and I actually asked Dave of Dave's challenge fame why you didn't get to fight Lolth or Manshoon. Unsurprisingly, it was an IP issue.

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    3. Not that Lolth would be much of a challenge anyway,

      -10AC but I'm sure Chet's guys have negative THAC0s. Plus she's large-sized and only has 66 hp. Chet would drop her in one round.

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    4. Absolutely, we used to play the whole module series ages ago and she was quite a letdown in the end compared to the earlier challenges.

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  5. Manshoon is one of the big name bad guys in FR. He's a powerful wizard who founded the Zhentarim but he's often having to vye for leadership of them. At one point a whole bunch of Manshoons were running about thanks to cloning.

    Pretty sure bits of Moander had 140hp in Curse.

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    1. They did. They lost HP and the engulf ability but gained touch attacks.

      Manshoon was the leader of the Zhentarim in 1st and the beginning of 2nd edition. You can't fight him within the game, but there are hacks available if you really want the chance to take him down--the creator of the Gold Box Companion has a hack that lets you fight him instead of Kalistes, and the playtester mode you can access by hacking saved games lets you set up a fight with any combination of enemies, including him.

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  6. From what I remember, the "Gelt" in the Zhentil Keep tower is supposed to be a non-combat encounter in one key hallway on the way to the top. It has a gaze that causes instant death and is unavoidable, or something like that. I actually got stuck on it for probably weeks because I couldn't figure out the solution.

    Lbh'er npghnyyl fhccbfrq gb pnfg vaivfvovyvgl ba lbhe jubyr cnegl orsber gelvat gb jnyx guebhtu gung unyyjnl. Gura "gur tnmr bs gur Tryg cnffrf lbh ol" naq lbh pna pbagvahr.

    And then I got further frustrated because finally getting to the top of the tower just led to that weird encounter with Manshoon that didn't actually advance the plot.

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    1. There are three ways to deal with the gelt

      1) Pnfgvat vaivfvovyvgl ba rirelbar, nf lbh fnvq.
      2) Vs fbzrbar unf cbjre jbeq: oyvaq zrzbevmrq gurl trg n cebzcg sbe pnfgvat vg naq gur tryg jvyy or qrsrngrq
      3) Vs genarq vf va gur cnegl fur hfrf ure fvyire fuvryq gb ersyrpg gur tnmr onpx ba gur tryg.(univat n fvyire fuvryq bs lbhe bja jba'g qb gur gevpx)

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    2. So, I don't remember any of those things happening, and looking at a map online, it looks like you don't actually have to visit that south corridor. Maybe I just went around the other way.

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    3. Being married into a Jewish family I initially thought the party threw cheap chocolate down the hallway and ran the other way.

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  7. For future reference, as JJ mentions above you can return to Elminster for both training and (I think) item identification when you are in one of the minions' lands beyond the Pool; as long as you don't travel back to the Realms this doesn't cost you anything but travel time.

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    1. Frustratingly, despite being probably the most qualified person in the Realms to identify gear, Eliminster will not.

      Also, one potential downside of going back into the pools mid-adventure is that any NPCs (like Storm) will bail on your party and you won't get them back, often this means missing out on the pile of binus XP that comes when you complete their task.

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    2. "Any NPCs (like Storm) will bail on your party and you won't get them back." This is why I didn't do it. I should have been clear.

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    3. "often this means missing out on the pile of binus XP that comes when you complete their task."

      So, you can go back for training and lose the XP bonus from the NPC, or you can play through without training and ... lose the XP bonus because you're maxed out already? That's a poor choice.

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    4. NPCs cost you XP; it gets divided among all members of the party. It's story versus powergaming.

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  8. Both Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds had typey answer bits.

    1. On Sokil(?) Island you can use passphrases to talk to or bypass undead

    2. In Myth Drannor convince enemy patrols you serve Tyranthraxus

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  9. You can ignore the Eyes of Kalistes. Every time you cross into Limbo, you will have to fight lots of spiders. Encounter rates also go up (I think).

    You can also get into the Parlor without the Ward, but they'll take lots of your stuff and you won't get it back.

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  10. Unless I've misunderstood a Morton's Fork, it's where two contradictory sets of observations are made to justify the same conclusion through specious reasoning. E.g. "A man who appears rich must have money, and therefore can pay takes; a man who lives frugally must therefore have savings, and can afford to pay taxes."

    I think you meant that your worry was that the drow choice was an equivocation, being a trick of stage magic where an apparent choice offered to the audience leads to the same result regardless of the choice made. E.g. the audience is asked to choose from two cards. If they choose the correct card, they are told to keep the card. If they choose the other card the magician says, "Excellent, I'll keep that one then, and I'll need you to take the other."

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    1. Morton's Fork can also be used to describe having several equally undesirable options.

      As far as I'm aware, there isn't a phrase for a more general illusion of choice.

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    2. I don't believe the two options have to be contradictory, but I was misusing the term a bit, as Morton's forks have the connotation of an unpleasant or unwelcome outcome. I was exposed to the term through my CRPG playing, so I tend to over-use it on this blog. Something more generic like "illusory choice" would have been more appropriate.

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  11. can't you dump all of the items you find in the other planes in elminster's vault, and just reequip those on your ventures to the other realms.
    i don't recall having to go into each realm naked. (could be mistaken though)

    there are certain items, (and most non magical) that will survive the portals.

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    1. No. There's only one vault, and it connects to the Realms; anything you pick up in another dimension gets destroyed when you finally leave. (This also provides a strong incentive to beat it in one go, though you can go back to Elminster to train.)

      One alternative to nudity (don't tell our FKK friends in Germany) is to buy nonmagical items, which aren't destroyed. AC -2 ain't great, but it's better than AC 6.

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  12. Were they using some standard image to draw the spiders? They look so much like those in Eye of the Beholder: https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Lq_5rspKjHA/VWJS8SYySGI/AAAAAAAAcgU/MSBgPzl2eSY/s400/start1_060.png

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    1. Oh gosh, they would reuse art assets all the time (and FRUA fans would rip the EOB sprites to use in FRUA games). Curse's Royal Guard became Secret's generic evil fighter, Pools's Zhentil Warrior, and FRUA's Road Guard. You'll find some amusing ones in Matrix Cubed.

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  13. I'm not sure what the 'Dis' reference is. The only Dis I know is the God of the Underworld (who, funnily enough is also a Prince of Hell in AD&D).

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    1. 'Dis' as in 'disrespect' (80s rap slang) mixed with 'Kiss of the Spider Woman'.

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    2. I think it is a reference to "Kiss of the Spider Woman". "Dis" here means, I think, a putdown.

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    3. Oh. I've only ever seen it spelled "Diss".

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    4. "Dis" is also a city in hell in Dante's Inferno.

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  14. This game just blithely assumes that the player is acquainted with D&D and the Forgotten Realms in general. Hence your confusion over Elminister and Manshoon.

    There's an enemy type you are about to face (or maybe you've done it already?) that seems to rely on the player knowing its weaknesses ahead of time from being knowledgeable of the various monster books. This can be an easy adventure or a nearly impossible one, depenign on what you know.

    The monster: Enxfunf

    The details of that monster the game kinda assume you already know

    1) Oyrffrq obygf xvyy gurz bhgevtug jvgu ab fnir

    2) Gurl ner vzzhar gb nyy fcryyf orybj 8gu yriry, ohg ner pbzcyrgryl ihyarenoyr gb nyy 8gu naq 9gu yriry fcryyf. Zrgrbe Fjnez naq Cbjre Jbeq: Xvyy ner lbhe sevraqf.

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    1. Funny thing is that all the _new_ monsters original to Pools of Darkness, like Pets of Kalistes and the Minions, were fully detailed in the manual. Obviously SSI expected every player to be familiar with the Monster Manual (or whatever it was called) of AD&D.

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    2. I had experience with them from CotAB, so it wasn't a huge surprise.

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  15. Fun fact about Elixir of Youth that I discovered: if you make a human fighter in Pool of Radiance, avoid haste, and eventually import him into Pools of Darkness, he'll be 16 years old, because that's the starting age and nothing in Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds, or Secret of the Silver Blades ages besides haste. That character then quaffing Elixir of Youth causes him to AGE two years to 18.

    (It's not impossible I'm misremembering some detail of this, because I'm not about to go do it again, but in broad strokes it's totally a thing.)

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  16. Go to Mulmaster and refuse to go to Arcam. You get some amusing bugs.

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  17. I'm the only one whom this game gives a little Thron of Bhaal vibe?

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    1. Well sure, it's the same RPG system, same setting and many of the same enemies (drow, dragons, demons) after all.

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  18. I like how the Gaze Spiders have that permanently surprised look on them.

    Also, I believe the different perspective on the drow portraits (eye level for male drows and belly level for female drows) are due to the fact that the male drow artist are required to paint female drows on his knees due to it being a matriarchal society.

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    1. The matriarchal, dark-skinned society is also the super-evil one. What's R.A. Salvatore trying to say? :p

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    2. His initials R. A. S. spells it out nicely. If you know what I mean.

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  19. Has anybody rescued the prisoners before meeting Silk? I missed Silk entirely, released the prisoners, and then couldn't get help from the Eye of Kalistes. The Eye kept telling me to go back to the temple, but Silk was no lo ger there. I had to restore aprevious save.

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