Saturday, October 1, 2016

Pools of Darkness: Dragonslayers

The party finally finds a Pool of Darkness.
   
After my last post, combats increased enormously in difficulty. This is not a game in which you can switch to "quick combat" and watch your characters slowly destroy the enemies in effective, if less-than-optimal, ways. (Among other things, spellcasters under AI don't account for the "bounce" effect of "Lightning Bolt," nor do they seem to care who's in front of them when they cast "Cone of Cold.") For the first time in my Gold Box experience, I find myself regularly casting healing spells in the midst of combat. In no previous game would I have sacrificed a paladin's opportunity to attack so he could "lay hands" on an injured cleric. I'd have risked the cleric falling unconscious and not getting experience for the battle. In Pools of Darkness, however, my characters rarely fall unconcious: they die. Anything powerful enough to kill them is powerful enough to wallop them below -10 hit points.

The next quest in my east-west exploration served up an interesting plot that revealed itself only in pieces. In summary, two mages from Phlan, Quil and Kimarr, discovered in Thar a fortress that had belonged to a wizard named Taydome. Sasha's mission had been to visit the two mages and inspect the fortress.

At some point, either because of Bane's takeover of the Moonsea or just concurrent to it, Kimarr decided to keep Taydome's fortress for himself, making use of a magic spell that bends the minds of ogres and giants to the ruler's control. Quil went into hiding in the fortress to oppose Kimarr and managed to secrete Sasha in a safe place, but was unable to get her out of the fortress. And Kimarr made some deal with Bane that made him immune to Quil's magic. It was into this situation that the party blundered. An early battle with cloud giants leaves the front door locked and the party unable to leave.

I think every option here leads to combat.
   
As I explored, I found numerous scribbled notes from Quil (although I didn't know his name or anything about him) that slowly filled in the back story.
   
    
Confusing things, a warrior named Ruoln joined my party, claiming to have been one of Sasha's guards, and further claiming that both Kimarr and Quil had attacked the Phlan delegation. Ruoln later turned out to be Kimarr in disguise; he had only joined my party in hopes that we'd lead him to Quil and Sasha. Eventually, he got frustrated when we didn't do it fast enough, left the party, and ordered a bunch of hill giants to attack.
   
          
Letting NPCs join the party in any Gold Box game is always a 50/50 proposition. What bothers me is that even if you're suspicious from the outset, there's no way to role-play preparation for the eventual betrayal. To be fair, I can't think of any other game in which you can. I remember figuring out immediately the villain of Throne of Bhaal, but I still had to play the entire game according to the villain's plan instead of just killing him or her.

As we explored the fortress, we freed some of the captured Phlan warriors and killed a lot of giants. This was too bad, because it was clear that they didn't really want to fight:
   
    
Eventually, I came upon a scene in which Kimarr had discovered Quil and was about to kill him. Joined by some of the Phlan guards I'd freed, we fought a final battle against Kimarr--in black dragon form--and a bunch of giants. I forgot to screen-shot it, but he killed my cleric in the first attempt at battle. As usual, I reloaded and, knowing the final battle was coming, buffed in the appropriate location with "Bless," "Prayer," "Protection from Evil," "Mirror Image," "Enlarge," and so forth. I killed Kimarr on the second try. Quil led me to Sasha, who tersely offered her gratitude and magnanimously allowed me to rest anywhere in the fortress, as if a whole 16 x 16 map of safe resting spots is necessary.
    
    
Next map: a "small stockade," only 4 x 6 in dimensions. The weary captain in charge of the stockade told me that dragons keep attacking, and he asked for my help. One battle against dragons, in which I controlled a bunch of "Phlanarian Warriors," and the map was done.
   
     
Next up was a village at a crossroads. Some giants had invaded and were holding the villagers captive. I killed them and got some magic items, none better than what I already had, as a reward.
    
I prepare to "Fireball" a pack of giants. The various fire giants in the middle will be immune.
    
After that, I returned to the giant fortress where my party had begun its explorations--the only place so far to offer a training hall and shop. I had previously declined to continue my explorations out of the fortress and into a series of tunnels, but I did this now.

The tunnels were ruled by a fire giant mage, Ungelow, who thanked me for killing "that simpering fool of a hill giant"--she even gave me some magical treasure as a reward, warning me not to go further into her caves. Of course, I ignored her. For the first time (I think) in a Gold Box game, the cave offered some of the navigation obstacles that we see in other first-person titles in the Wizardry line, including spinners and a never-ending hallway. (They were presented as part of Ungelow's illusion magics.) Unlike Wizardry, though, Pools of Darkness made it clear what was happening and provided easy solutions.
    
It's not a navigation puzzle if you call attention to it!
    
At one point, I came across some hill giants who let me in on their plan to collapse a wall on top of Ungelow. But when I tried to go along with them, it turned out that the idiots had sapped the wall in the wrong direction, and it ended up collapsing on us instead.
    
Never trust the engineering of hill giants.
    
At another point, I ran across a group of Fire Knives. It was an interesting encounter. Ungelow had apparently contracted with them to kill the hill giant shaman, but we wiped out their assassination team (on the previous map) before they could accomplish it. As I came across the remaining Fire Knives in Ungelow's cave, they were debating whether to cut their losses and depart or attack my party to claim the treasures that Ungelow had given us.
    
One Fire Knife has a good point.
    
It all ended in battle, of course, but it's so much more fun when battles have some kind of context. Recall the post I wrote all those years ago about encounters; this would be somewhere between a Level 1 and a Level 2A encounter. It's nice to see the genre evolving.

Through more giants, iron golems, and medusas my party cleaved a path. Ungelow showed up with a final offer to make us part of her army, and give us 300 gems, if we'd just stop. Again, so much more fun than the norm. We denied her, blundered into one disastrous final battle in which the fire giant shamans wiped out half the party with "Hold Person"...
   
     
...re-engaged it properly buffed, and won. In the last squares of the map, someone shouted, "Warn the dragons! Have them prepare for battle. They must fly sooner than expected." A final battle of the map against a handful of dragons served as a taste for what was about to come.

The series of maps culminated in a map full of dragons, and it was perhaps the most difficult single map that I've faced in the Gold Box series so far. Fighting dragons is always a dicey proposition, as no buffing spell (outside of "Mirror Image," which only mages have) protects you from the lightning, poison, and acid attacks of blue, green, and black dragons. Blue dragons are the worst--they always seem to find a way to bank their lightning breath off walls, so the same character gets hit at least twice. And there's some bug that lets them make the attack across great distances, and even through walls.
    
This area had a lot of large battles with multiple dragons.
    
As we explored the map, two things became clear. First, it was meant for characters who already had "Delayed Blast Fireball," not those who were working back up to it. Second, my cleric was a huge liability. Because of low hit point rolls when leveling up, he had a max of 41 hit points, rarely enough to survive even a single breath attack from the dragons. I reloaded because of his death alone at least a dozen times. I eventually gave him one of the "Rings of Blinking" that I'd received earlier, but I still don't understand how it works, and it didn't protect him every time.

As commenters have pointed out, there's an easy way to avoid breath attacks from most dragons: force them to physically attack you first. For whatever reasons, dragons don't breathe if they've already made a physical attack in the same round, so if you have a character run up to them and then run away, you force the dragons to make physical attacks at the character's fleeing backside. A high hit-point character like my paladin, wearing Boots of Speed, can run around the battlefield and neutralize half a dozen dragons as long as he goes first in the round. I'm ashamed to say that I succumbed to this tactic more than once. It seems cheesy, but when something is part of the game and you know it works, it's hard not to do it--especially when the alternative is lots and lots of reloading.
   
Goldeneye prevents these dragons from using their breath attacks by making them attack her.
   
The dragons were ultimately ruled by Thorne, one of Bane's lieutenants, but in the local map they responded to Modthryth, leader of a "Cult of the Dragon" who has some process for turning dragons into dracoliches. The map was full of a bunch of vignettes in which Modthryth was moderating combats between dragons, dragons were fighting with each other over the right to the dracolich conversion, dragons were pleading their case to Modthryth, and so forth.
   

A couple of many special encounters in this area.
        
The map offered something fairly new to the Gold Box experience: a large 4 x 4 room in the center that, whenever I returned to it, offered up a different encounter. Usually, once you "clear" a room, that's the end of it, but this room had a different group of dragons and a different vignette every time I entered. There were a couple of combats, one encounter with a wounded red dragon who said that Modthryth is "abusing the power that Thorne gave him," and so forth.
   
A decent role-playing encounter.
I guess this was predictable.
    
The ostensible goal of the map was to defeat 4 large dragon battles and recover 4 keys that would let me into the final area. There, I fought a final combat (much easier than the random ones throughout the map) against Modthryth and two dracoliches.
    
     
Now, beyond that final battle was one of the titular Pools of Darkness, leading to other planes. I confess I don't really understand what's happening with these. In this case, the portal is clearly there to lead to Thorne, since he's responsible for the dragons. And I did get to him--but only after a stopover with Elminster in Limbo first.
    
     
So I guess Elminters magic is somehow...what?...intercepting my party in between the paths that the portals would normally take you to? I'm not sure. Either way, Elminster offers training and item storage. This is necessary because, apparently, magic items don't survive the transitions between planes. This is, of course, a blatant way to relieve the party of their most valuable stuff and make the planar areas more of a challenge. But I frankly didn't mind it. It was fun to try to assemble a new batch of equipment on the other side of Limbo, just in time for my final battle with Thorne. A lack of shops or item identification mechanisms on the "other side" makes this even more of a challenge.
    
Bolingbroke stores items in Elminsters vault so they won't be destroyed on their way to Thorne's realm.
    
I guess a lot of players circumvent this system. Since one of the create/add/remove party members screens exists on both sides of Limbo, it's possible to store your items with a couple of mules on one side, remove them from the party, and then add them back on the other side. I consider this an "exploit" on my "Cheats & Liars" scale, so I'm going to avoid it.

Naked and equipped only with spells, my party appeared in Thorne's cave. As we progressed, we kept hearing horn blasts in the distance--Thorne summoning the "Gathering" of dragons to attack the Realms. The horn, I later discovered, was created from the horn of a ki-rin--celestial, lawful-good, unicorn-lions. Later, I found a place where his spirit had created a safe room for resting.
    
Near the ki-rin's body, I found my first cache of weapons and armor.
    
A thief named Raizel was among a bunch of prisoners I freed from some cages. She agreed to join my party, then kept begging me to go off in search of Thorne's fabled treasures, cached around the dungeon. But I took the continual horn blasts as a sign that time was of the essence, and I pursued them. 
    
Raizel tries to distract us from the mission.
    
At the end of the map--with lots more dragon battles in between--we came face-to-face with Thorne. As usual, he taunted us as fools and said that the last blow of the horn would start the dragon war on the Realms. He attacked us with about 8 red dragons--who, by the way, are strangely not immune to "Delayed Blast Fireball."
   
  
Buffing with "Resist Fire" helped a lot against the red dragons, but my party really felt the loss of their equipment in this battle. Instead of missing most attacks, the dragons did heavy physical damage--especially Thorne, who was immune to magic. "Haste" and "Enlarge" were absolutely required to clean up the lesser red dragons before taking on Thorne. It took me 4 tries to win the battle with no party deaths.
   
Bolingbroke attacks Thorne while the other party members work on the other dragons.
    
When the battle was over, the spirit of the slain ki-rin appeared and explained that his horn was one of only three artifacts that I would need to turn against Bane's forces. Raizel stuffed her pockets with gems and jewels from Thorne's hoard and then took off.
    
      
I finished mapping the dungeon and found several additional treasure caches, each of which gave me tens of thousands of experience points and offered me gems, jewels, and platinum pieces that--per the subject of the last two postings--do me nothing at all. However, the experience contributed to party leveling, and when I was finally done with Thorne's dungeon, my characters had finally exceeded their original levels in their new ones. Dromio and Dromia can now cast their cleric spells again (and use their cleric weapons and shields), and Navarre can cast his mage spells again.
   
Re-memorizing Dromio's cleric spells.
      
Elminster was excited that I'd found the Horn of Doom and said that "with the Horn of Doom safely out of Bane's grasp, the storms will cease over the Moonsea," which will allow aid to come to the region. I'm not sure if that does anything for me materially, but we'll see. I returned to Limbo, destroying everything I'd picked up in Thorne's realm in the process, retrieved my equipment, and headed back to the Moonsea region. It looks like the next stop is going to be some scary-looking fortress on the western shore, assuming I don't run into some miscellaneous farmhouses first. Once I get there, I'll be half-done with the game in an overland mapping sense.
  
   
Now that I'm pretty far into Pools of Darkness, I'll say that I enjoy the richness of the plot, the large amount of detail and nuance the creators put into the dungeons, and the variety of special encounters. I don't think we've seen those factors at this level since Pool of Radiance. Thus, it's possible that Pools of Darkness will finally outscore it in the GIMLET.

Time so far: 16 hours
Reload count: 18


49 comments:

  1. "managed to secrete Sasha in a safe place, but was unable to get her out of the fortress."
    I get this mental image of Sasha being so fat after being put on a hamburger diet while captured, that the doorway is too small for her.

    The Dragon's Arie is IMO one of the absolue hardest areas in any GB game, and as you noted it's the random encounters that are the worst.
    There is another area like it, which is the one area I dread the most in the Pools series.

    Stinking Cloud and Hold Monsters work wonders against Dragons in my experience. Red Dragons are relatively harmless as long as you have fire resistance, but as you noted the Blue Meanies are the worst.
    Speaking of Fire Resistance, don't forget the Ranger version is different from the Cleric one. It lasts indefinitely, until the character is being exposed to fire, at which time it's reduced or expires. Another reason why Ranger/Mages are the most powerful characters.

    And that scary looking castle? Your party has been there before.

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    1. What you say about "Protection from Fire" only applies if it's cast on the ranger herself, though. If cast on other characters, it just acts like "Resist Fire."

      I agree that "Stinking Cloud" and "Hold Monsters" WORK against dragons, but they only affect a few at a time. When you have 15 dragons on the screen, and you know that two castings of "Fireball" will wipe them out, it's hard to justify casting anything else. I rarely end up reaching that far down in my bag, so-to-speak.

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  2. " I eventually gave him one of the "Rings of Blinking" that I'd received earlier, but I still don't understand how it works, and it didn't protect him every time."

    Combat in D&D is divided into rounds, where each character acts in an order determined by their dexterity score, slightly randomized. The ring as it is implemented in Pools makes its user physically disappear from the battlefield after he gets his turn and they reappear when the next round starts. Having 18 dexterity should protect him from most opponents, but it's not a 100% protection, especially from high level dragons that seem to be quite fast. Unfortunately it's difficult to tell in Gold Box when a round ends.

    It's equivalent to the 3rd level mage spell Blink. Now that you have delayed blast fireballs you might want to check this spell out, it significantly helps mages' survivability. It only lasts one round (6 seconds) per level though.

    "magic items don't survive the transitions between planes."

    There are exceptions to this rule, you might want to test after a save which items survive the trip. I believe most rings do, including rings of blinking, among others.

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    1. Problem with the Blink spell is that it has to be cast in combat; you can't use it as a buffing spell.
      But the Ring of Blinking is extremely useful for high Dex characters. Use it on a fast "tank" and meleeing enemies will waste their attacks on him.

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    2. I'm pretty sure the Ring of Blinking is bugged as well. So to be on the safe side, always do that unequip->equip dance in every battle.

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  3. I agree. The Dragon part of this adventure is for me the most unpleasant part of this game. You have Resist Cold and Resist fire for half the dragons. What about the other half? A dragon lance would have been useful.

    The Raizel subplot is amusing given all the discussion on the Gold Box broken economy. I wonder what she would spend all that treasure on if she got back?

    Ungelow's deal made me wonder if there were alternate solutions to exterminating everyone in the game. She sends you against other evil factions in the game.

    Stripping the party of gear and having them build up again in an alternate zone can pose challenges, but in the end, it reminds me that, at least for your fighters, equipment accounts for much of your combat power.

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    1. There are no nonviolent solutions, but one of the more amusing aspects of the game is all the evil groups plotting against each other, while a few of them send embassies (you'll run into them now and then and can even pretend to be one on occasion).
      Hatyrbj vf gelvat gb trg lbh gb nffnffvangr Znafubba naq gur uvyy tvnag funzna, Znafubba vf gelvat gb fhzzba n zbafgre gb rkgbeg zber gernfher sebz gur Qebj, n Qebj cevaprff jnagf lbh gb xvyy Znafubba naq Znephf, Gnargny fraqf n qvftehagyrq fynir gb uryc lbh xvyy Xnyvfgrf naq gura orgenl lbh, n pyrevp va Znephf' rzcybl vf fraqvat zbafgref ntnvafg Znafubba, qebj va Znephf' gbjre bccbfr uvz, Oynpx Pvepyr zntrf naq Erq Jvmneqf bs Gunl ner srhqvat va Znephf'f gbjre, naq Nepnz'f punapryybe gevrf gb trg lbh gb xvyy Znephf, Znafubba, naq Gubear.

      Gurer ner qebj rzonffvrf gb Xvznee naq gur Innfnaf, Znafubba naq gur Muragf ner nccneragyl gnxvat cnlbssf sebz gur qebj gb yrg gur qebj rafynir Muragf, naq Znephf unf na rzonffl gb gur qebj.

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  4. There is a limited source of complete protection from the dragons' breath attack. You should've come across it already. By the way: You may be surprised what attacks the game considers to be "dragon breath attacks"; it's certainly more than one might think.

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    1. You're talking about the scroll, I assume.I do have one, but when you face dozens of dragon battles per map, how do you really know when to use it? I figured I'd save it for that storied final battle in case there are dragons there.

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    2. Yes.
      Well, it's the known problem with battles in Gold Box games: You'll only know in hindsight.
      The scroll could be used as some sort of last resort. It has enough charges to immunize one character for quite a few battles.
      But you're right of course, I'd save such a powerful item for later use as well.

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    3. Funny thing about magical one-shot items like this, and I believe it was mentioned on this blog more than once, is that most people (at least people I know) keep them "for later" indefinitely, so usually after final fight you have quite a few "Scrolls of Annihilate Anything" or "Potions of Immune to Everything".

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    4. @Mag yeah, I think we've discussed potion anxiety at some point.

      I run out of inventory in games because I have 60 potions and 30 sets of magic arrows.

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    5. Given what I said about the scroll here, you're all going to have a laugh at my expense when you get to my entries on the final battle.

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  5. One thing to mention is that the game is substantially larger than all its predecessors--one of the FRUA folks did a printout of all the text in the games, and it's the largest by far except for Dark Queen of Krynn.

    A more subtle thing I haven't seen commented on is that if you look at the game files, it's the first to consolidate all the monster files in 1 file (largely because it was the first to explicitly require a hard drive). This allows you to do things like have all the enemy groups send embassies to each other (you couldn't fight Drow in the Pit of Moander because the monsters weren't actually in the computer's memory), and also have a much wider mix of monsters in any one encounter.

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  6. I won't spoil it here, but there's a way to carry a much-needed item into the limbo planes without cheating. If there's a certain item you want a character to have (a magical sword, a good set of armor, etc), there's a way for each character to carry one item of their choice into limbo without any chance that it will be destroyed.

    If you want to know, I'll tell you how to do it.

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    1. Is it really not cheating? Not using any kind of exploit that the developers didn't intend?

      Either way, go ahead and post it. I'll decide whether to use it.

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    2. I'm not sure what Enraged Geek is referring to, but I accidentally discovered in my first-ever playthrough (by failing to unequip and losing everything) that that are a few items that don't get destroyed in transit. I'm not sure if it's an intentional design decision or not, but a specific set of rings - most of them except Rings of Protection IIRC - survive the trip to Limbo and back.

      Also, I found it worthwhile to get a complete set of non-magic equipment for each character and keep that in Elminster's vault so you don't have to start the other planes completely unequipped. There's one type of non-magical equipment in particular that can have a large impact on survivabiltity and it's not one that pops up as readily on the other side in all cases: missile weapons.

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    3. If you've taken things through Limbo before, you might notice that if you take an entire inventory of stuff with you, only one item will survive. However, the item that survives is not random. It is always whatever is in a character's second inventory slot.

      Simply take one junk item in inventory slot 1 and one good item in slot 2. On the return trip, do the same. This allows you to bring one item of your choice with each character passing through Limbo.

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    4. Ha. Remember this discussion in a few posts when I talk about "Mistake #1."

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    5. Never had a chance to try it. I won the game a few days ago, before your follow-up comment. I wish I'd known that at the time!

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  7. This game seems to be using on-screen text more, and journal entries less. I want to see all the fake journal entries at the end of the game!

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    1. I'll cover them, but there can't be too many, because I've already covered about 3/4 of the entries, and I still have a lot of the game to go.

      Frankly, I don't think the journal entries are even necessary anymore. SSI must have continued to use it as a copy protection mechanism. Or I guess to assist with note-taking for the most important items.

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    2. If FRUA is any indication, they still had text limits within the game and the journal entries were a useful way to avoid hitting them. But with lots of maps available in a design, they could shunt you to a "new map" to run a lot of text by you and then teleport you back to where you were afterward.

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    3. According to the clue book there are 8 bogus entries, quite a lot considering there are 99 total entries.

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    4. I think the ratio was a bit higher in previous games (i.e., more fake entries).

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  8. First edition dragons were not immune to their own breath weapon. Along with the fixed damage of number of HPs made dragon-dragon fights quite boring. But be glad you're fighting first edition dragons and not second, because they got a major boost in power -> which we will revisit in BG II of course where singular dragons become really tough boss encounters.

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    1. Interestingly, Thorne has second edition stats for the highest-age-category red dragon, and the other dragons all have first edition stats for the highest-age-category dragons.

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    2. 2nd ed age 12 red dragon's breath does 24d10+12, save for half, that's a lot of damage.

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    3. As tough as the map was, it still feels like dragons are way under-powered in these games. As if I was fighting big snakes instead. It seems ridiculous that any party--even at my levels--should be able to win a battle against 30 dragons. I'm glad the IE series returned them to proper power.

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    4. That was, however, accurate to 1st edition rules (except maybe for the numbers). Given the stupid amount of dragons some of these encounters hand you, I think abusing the system is an absolute necessity. I rarely did so against any other foe except for beholders (who were otherwise reload-bait).

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    5. Beholders are completely harmless in the GB games as long as you manage to keep your distance. They only move 3 square a turn, and their longest reach is 9 squares IIRC with the Fear spell.
      Both Dragons and Beholders are underwhelming in the GB thanks to very limited AI and abilities compared with the Baldur's Gate games.

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    6. Hah, as long as you ban the reflection items (but where would the fun be in that)

      There is very little in all of RPG gaming that produces quite a much glee as the first time you run into a pile of gauth while equipped with the shield of balduran.

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    7. "There is very little in all of RPG gaming that produces quite a much glee as the first time you run into a pile of gauth while equipped with the shield of balduran." At least, assuming you've already had to face them without one. That shield really does break the entire quest--didn't it only come with some special download?

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    8. Yes, it was originally part of the deluxe / collector's edition content. However, it's been 'standard' content ever since GOG got a hold of it and probably before that... and of course now you can't even buy the originals any more, they just come packaged in to the Enhanced Edition as opposed to being available separately. Though I must say that once you've played the enhanced edition it would be tough to go back to the originals... The simple ability to have a melee weapon and shield or dual wield while still having a bow in a secondary weapon slot alone makes the thought of going back impossible to fathom (at least for me)... Way off topic there, but at least I answered your question first! :D

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    9. I haven't tried the enhanced edition yet. I look forward to it.

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    10. There's some good and some bad, but overall a solid improvement and worth the money. Though I suppose it'll be a while before you get there. :p

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  9. I love the blog, keep up the good work!

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  10. Chet, you last remark gave me the most pause for thought. From what you have said before, going from level 1 to say level 8 is more satisfying that level 15 to level 40. Given that, do you really think that Pools of Darkness will beat Pool of Radiance? I don't mind either way, but I kept thinking of that as I read your piece.

    By the way, thank you for incorporating OWB's research on D+D and what SSI did with it. Often I wonder if another CRPG would dethrone Gold Box. Then yesterday, I am playing Secret. My party is in the mines and I decide to restrict magic and use tactics more. The result was fun. Using lines, flanks, arrows for support and protective magics, I was able to clear a level with minimal damage and still have spells left. All my doubts were gone. This is still my favourite system, if only because logistics and tactics are interesting to me, if only a little more than plot and story.

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    1. It won't do as well on character creation/development for that reason I'd suggest. It might do better on encounters/foes and game world because it's a bit more fleshed out.

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    2. I'm interested to see how the GIMLET for Pools will play out. While I enjoyed all of the Gold Box games that I played, Pool of Radiance and Pools of Darkness definitely stood head & shoulders above the rest, primarily due to their level of world-building & immersiveness.

      Regarding the system, several SSI veterans have formed a new company TSI and are working on a spiritual successor to the Gold Box games, although I think it's still fairly early in the development process.

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    3. Yes, you're right. I wasn't thinking entirely clearly on that one. It'll be close, though.

      I had a few moments on Moander when my spells were low and I was literally down to "Cure Light Wounds" for healing spells again, and considerations of terrain became important again, and I remembered why I liked the combat system so much. It becomes less interesting at high levels when you can spam a few DBFs, mop up the rest with hastened warriors, and almost immediately rest again.

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    4. Chet, as I said above: it does not matter to me how you score it. I am glad you are finding tactical challenges. The Moandar plane is one of the best settings of any CRPG. It's my favourite part of Pools of Darkness. It would have been funny if the god woke up while your party was inside. I actually go to Moandar before attacking the Drow.

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    5. Funny to hear you say that. I wrote a pretty scathing entry about it after I'd played it. Maybe I'll feel better about it once it "ages" in my memory more.

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  11. Enemy variety is starting to seem lacking when taken across the entire series. Dragons, I suppose, are evergreen in the D&D context, but the fact that you were fighting maps full of giants two games ago and the designers can think of nothing better to do than just throw even more giants and dragons at you makes the world seem a bit more paper-thin than it otherwise would.

    It's cool they found a new method to challenge you tactically, though. Equipment loss is a classic and it's great they found a way to make you deal with it on only a temporary basis, even if the method comes across ham-fisted (permanent item loss is one of those mechanics that can result in brawls at the gaming table, after all)

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  12. Whether I'd use that exploit to carry magic items across would depend entirely on how I felt when I reached that point. I'm presumably playing the game either for fun or because I want to see the content, or both, and if the game's throwing something at me that blocks seeing the content AND it doesn't sound fun, I'm not going to stuff around with it if I don't have to. I've played enough games to be aware that sometimes fun comes from limitations and challenge, but that also sometimes developers have bad ideas and don't focus test their games quite as much as they should. And I've been around long enough to have a good sense of when I should trust the developers and when I should give them the middle finger...

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    Replies
    1. Having gone through the final battles, I'm on the verge of saying that any exploit you use to get equipment to the other side of Limbo is "fair."

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    2. We knew you'd come around. Come to the dark side brother, we have cookies!

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