Thursday, October 28, 2021

Revisiting Pool of Radiance (1988), Part 3

Neither are any of us, you bigot.
      
As we closed last time, the party had finished clearing the slums district Sokol Keep, and Kuto's Well, including the bandit hideout beneath the well. As we started this session, the Council had given us several missions, and by the end I had a couple more:
    
  • Councilor Cadorna, whose motivations I covered last time, wanted us to retrieve a treasure from his family's old estate in the textile complex. 
  • "The Council is offering a reward for books, maps, tomes, etc., which provide useful information about Phlan before the fall." The module indicates that this mission is coming from Cadorna, too, although in the game you get it from Sasha. Cadorna is obsessed with figuring out who the ruler of the evil monsters is.
    
How do you put a value on information?
         
  • Infiltrate an auction at Podol Plaza and figure out what "weapon of great power" is being sold. In the module, you're not supposed to get this mission until you've cleared the textile complex.
  • Clear out a large group of thieves at Kovel Mansion.
  • Braccio, bishop of Tyr, asked me to clean out an evil temple to Bane on the other side of the river. He offered an acolyte named Dirten to accompany us.
  • Stop a tribe of nomads from allying with the evil forces.
       
I decided to proceed in roughly this order. Our adventure starts at Mendor's Library's ridiculously difficult front door. Multiple rounds of bashing and picking failed to open it, but Galadreish had learned "Knock" from a scroll, and that got me through.
   
As with Sokol Keep, the map for the area in Ruins of Adventure is entirely different, although it has many of the same encounters, and it doesn't even mention that the front door is locked. In fact, where in the RPG, the library is a 13 x 12 structure within the 16 x 16 map, in the module, the library takes up the entire map. Its north doors open directly into Kuto's Well and its west doors open directly into the textile complex. It has southern and eastern doors, too, but don't ask me where they go, as even in the module, there's supposed to be ocean in those directions.
      
Mantor's Library in the module (left) and Mendor's Library in the game (right).
       
The bigger change is that the area is called Mantor's library in the module and Mendor's library in the game. However, an encounter in Sokol keep in the module confusingly refers to "the sage Mendor," so I'm guessing the name was changed for the module but they forgot to change it in all places. It was a dumb change; "Mantor" was the villain in Questron (1984).
   
Both libraries feature a few rooms of "library stacks" in which the players can search for useful books. In both the module and the game, the "Mathematics" section never has anything useful; the module has an additional "Rhetoric" section with useless items. The "History" section has three items and the "Philosophy" section two. Some comments on these items and other findings from the library:
    
  • In both products, the characters can find an atlas of Phlan and areas to the north. These maps are actually shown in the game's adventurers' journal, while the module doesn't actually depict them.
  • Both products have a book called The History of the North in which the characters find a "passage of particular interest." It appears in the journal as entry 8. It describes a "barren and dead country called Lee-wai" located "ten days' ride north of the Varm." As far as I can tell, this country is never mentioned again, let alone "the Varm." I have no idea why it's supposed to be of "particular interest."
  • The module says that the characters have to search about an hour to find all the useful material. My team in the game had to search for well over a day, passing round after round. I bet a lot of players give up well before they find all the texts. 
  • There are miscellaneous texts that you only find by title, but which have no passages in the journal. These include Meditations, The Harmony of the Rock, and The Chronicles of Arram. They are again identical between both products, and I think they just improve your city council reward.
  • There's a "scholar's garden" in both products. It serves as the home to several green slime colonies that the party might encounter. In the module, you can fight them in regular combat, but in the game, you just either avoid them or take damage from them without actually being able to kill them.
  • One of the most confusing findings in the game are several sheets of gold foil that you find in the librarian's chambers. There are three per location, and they seem to do nothing and sell for nothing. The module makes it clear that the foil was used to illuminate manuscripts, and each piece is supposed to be worth 3 gold pieces. Something got screwed up in the programming.
    
Not to mention the grammar.
       
  • The game has you find three potions of healing in the master librarian's chambers where the module has you find Keoghtium's Ointment.
  • Both products have a collapsed area in which a basilisk has made his home. Whether you kill it without getting any of your characters stoned is a matter of luck or foresight (if you bought mirrors back in town). The module says that he has a Potion of Strength, a Potion of Healing, and a Bag of Holding. In the game, I found two potions and a Cloak of Displacement. However, there are online discussions that insist there's a Bag of Holding in Pool of Radiance, so I'm not sure what the real story is.
  • Both have an encounter with kobolds who will surrender and "describe the surrounding area." In the case of the game, that means sketching a rough map of the textile complex that you can see in a journal entry.
    
Both products offer a Grand Historian's Records of the Arts of War with identical passages on Tyranthraxus. They describe him as a "powerful general" who "strode before his armies cloaked in flame." He conquered the kingdoms of Barze, Horreb, and Vane, razing and murdering as he went. "But the flame that surrounded him consumed him, destroying his body." This allowed him to fly around and possess his men. Somehow, a baron named Schodt imprisoned him in a vial of water and tossed him into the "watery depths" of Lake Longreach.
    
This is a cool story, but I have no idea when it was supposed to have happened. The module makes it clear that Tyranthraxus first appeared in the Forgotten Realms a century ago, when he tricked a bronze dragon named Srossar into bathing in the Pool of Radiance. The Pool--more ancient than Tyranthraxus--was always "a portal to one of the darker planes," and all the legends of its supposed benefits had been fabricated to deceive powerful creatures into entering it, allowing entities from that plane to possess them. The module indicates that Tyranthraxus then headed down to Phlan from the north, conquering along the way, until he sacked the city and made his headquarters in Valjevo Castle. There he remains. When did this business with Baron Schodt supposedly happen, then? 
  
Elsewhere, we find Urgund's Description of Darkness, "an account of [Urgund's] imprisonment in the lower realms." This is the one that lists the "lesser  powers" found in the "Hall of Minor Courtiers": Maram of the Great Spear; Haask, Voice of Hargut; Tyranthraxus the Flamed One; Borem of the Lake of Boiling Mud; and Camnod the Unseen. These were the people that Tyranthraxus left behind when he jumped through the pool. And calling him "the Flamed One" makes sense in relation to the story in the Records of the Arts of War, but not in the backstory given by the module, where he immediately possesses the same bronze dragon that he's currently possessing, and nothing about him is "flamed."
    
You can encounter a Mad Man in both products. He rants some clues about Tyranthraxus and will accompany you back to Phlan if you insist. I don't believe I ever took him back in previous games. I didn't even mention him when I covered the game in 2011. If you take him with you, he stays with you indefinitely. He's a Level 1 true neutral fighter. In the module, if you take him back to town, "doctors, surgeons, and clerics who examine him" conclude that he can only be treated by having his mind wiped; otherwise, "he becomes a problem for the community, unable to control his actions or stay out of violent trouble." In the game, he does occasionally attack people at random as you walk around town, forcing you to fight or run away from the guards. 
     
This is a new role-playing challenge.
          
If you bring him to the Temple of Tyr, the priest recommends that you drop him from the party and they'll take care of him, but there's nothing scripted after this. You have to camp and drop the Mad Man through the usual interface. I decided to keep him just to see how long I could. He surrenders in almost every combat, which for some reason causes his hit points to drop to 0, and I have to spend a spell healing him. However, he seems to stick around if I cast "Bless" before the battle.
       
Forgive me if I don't necessarily trust psychiatric care in this pseudo-medieval society.
        
While I was wandering around looking to heal the Mad Man, I accidentally stumbled into the rear offices of the Temple of Tyr, where Braccio gave us Dirten. Dirten, spelled "Dirtan," is in Ruins of Adventure, and he's a Level 5 cleric just like in Pools, but he's a gnome in the module. (That goes better with his age of 67 years, frankly.) In the module, he approaches the party independently and asks their help in retrieving some relics from the old temple.
   
The textile house in the game bears little relation to the one in the module. The maps are entirely different and virtually none of the encounters line up. In the module, the entire place has been taken over by gnolls, led by a large gnoll chieftain, while the game map is full of hobgoblins led by an ogre. No undead escaped from Valhingen Graveyard prowl the streets of the module's textile house, and the party doesn't get the journal entry in which "the Boss" is said to be angry about the evil force gaining power in the cemetery. More crucially, the module map lacks the hidden Thieves' Guild beneath the streets of the textile house.
       
The textile house in the module (left) and game (right).
      
A thieves' guild appears in the module, but it is not given a physical location. It is only mentioned in the context of a couple of NPCs who do not show up in Pools. Phanal is a 12th-level dwarven thief, "high in the ranks of the guild," who will give the party information about the town in exchange for gold. Galarrian is a 15th-level human thief, second-in-command of the guild, "and in love with the prince who has become the head of the guild." Nothing else is said about this prince. Galarrian will help smuggle the party into Valjevo Castle. A guild agent also tries to extort the party for protection money in a random encounter.
    
Restal does not appear in Ruins of Adventure.
      
Both products feature an agent of Cadorna's, a fighter, who meets the party in the map. In the module, this happens as soon as the party enters the map, and the man is called Tarask. In the game, he is a prisoner of the hobgoblins and his name is Skullcrusher. (I couldn't take him because I already had the Mad Man and Dirten.) Both situations end similarly: the party finds Cadorna's treasure chest. In the module, it contains only treasures (statuettes and such) and the party cannot keep it. They get shook down by guards when they return to Phlan. In the game, the party not only can open the box and keep the treasures, which include Gauntlets of Ogre Power, they get far more experience for doing so than for finishing the quest honestly--around 1,900 experience points vs. 600. The only negative is a tongue-lashing from Cadorna when they return to the council chambers. Moreover, there's a way that the party can visit the thieves' guild and have them re-forge the broken seal on the chest so Cadorna doesn't know they've opened it.
     
Oh, no. The evil man doesn't like me.
     
Podol Plaza swings the other way and is virtually identical between the module and game, including the maps. The council sends you there on a rumor that a "powerful magic item is to be auctioned." The party is just supposed to collect intelligence. As you enter the area in the game, you're given three options: stride boldly forward, sneak, or disguise the party as monsters. The module offers that the party's "best chance for success is to disguise themselves as evil denizens of the city." It has various rules for which races have the best chance of success and what the odds are. I don't know if the game implemented those probabilities. We weren't discovered in any event.
   
As you wander the streets of the plaza, the rumors you hear are the same between the two products: wondering what's going to be sold, wondering if "the Boss" will show up in person, and so forth. When you approach the auction block, the action begins. I don't know if I played this section optimally in any previous attempt at Pools, but I tried several routes here, reloading frequently. The best route seems to be to move closer to the action, at which point the party realizes that the "item of great power" is a simple Wand of Fear. Tyranthraxus's agent, accompanied by an ogre bodyguard, bids on the wand, and you can piss him off by upping the bid. At that point, he casts a darkness spell and escapes with the wand while the ogre serves as a distraction. If you get close enough, you hear the auctioneer say, "Garwin, I'll get you!" At that point, the event is over, and you can return to the clerk with your account of it as a reward.
     
I don't think I got this far in any previous game.
      
The module has the same facts, including Garwin (Tyranthraxus's agent) and Buldwar, the ogre bodyguard. It goes into more detail about Garwin and Buldwar's capabilities and attributes (including the fact that Garwin can cast "Darkness 15' Radius"). The module outlines a path by which the party can obtain the wand and return it to the council, but I couldn't find one in the game.
   
Beyond the auction, the game has three special areas in Podol Plaza that the module doesn't have: a secret Temple of Ilmater, a Minor Temple of Bane, and a monster bar called the Pitt where the party gets into a one-on-one fight with a buccaneer (and loots some magic items) and a huge brawl with some monsters.
   
I'm trying to get more use out of "Stinking Cloud" this time.
    
When I got back from the Podol Plaza mission, the clerk gave me the mission to clear out Valhingen Graveyard, which is way ahead of our current level. But the mission came with a two-handed sword +1, +3 versus undead, and several scrolls with "Restoration" on them. This got me thinking and I chanced one of the "Restoration" spells on the Mad Man. Sure enough, his level rose to Level 4. I'm guessing he entered Mendor's Library a hale mid-level fighter and got busted down by the specter who guards the entrance. Unfortunately, increasing his level didn't cause him to stop his erratic behavior, and he still surrenders in every battle unless I cast "Bless" first.
    
It's been useful to play the Gold Box combat at the same time as the newer system introduced in Dark Sun. Despite my initial enthusiasm for Sun, I must conclude now that I still favor the Gold Box system. I like the clarity of the tiled tactical map. In Sun, I'm finding it too hard to gauge distances--is my fighter in melee range of the enemy? Will the "Grease" spell affect my party if I cast it here? Can my gladiator maneuver between these two other characters, or does she have to go around? There's never any such confusion when every character and enemy occupy discrete squares. I also don't like that Sun requires you to interpret visual feedback to determine whether a spell was effective, while the Gold Box system tells you quite clearly in the message window. But I also recognize that part of my preference is based on spell familiarity, not just with the Gold Box but with the Forgotten Realms in general, and I may change my opinion after more experience with Sun. Both combat systems are better than 90% of games on the market, in any event.
   
That's three entries comparing Pool of Radiance to Ruins of Adventure. What do you think? Is it worth continuing with these, or should I just do a final wrap-up entry comparing the major story developments?

102 comments:

  1. "and nothing about him is "flamed.""

    Both characters he possesses (the dragon in Pool of Radiance and the storm giant in Curse of the Azure Bonds) gain an aura that causes them to inflict additional fire damage whenever they attack in melee. I believe, though I am not certain, that both are also immune to fire (not standard for a bronze dragon or for a storm giant).

    Why that makes him the Flamed One instead of the Flaming One, well, only the author who came up with him knows that.

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    1. Presumably "The Flaming One" made him sound a little... light in the loafers. ;)

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  2. For me, any wonky pathfinding issues of the Dark Sun engine are outweighed by the fact you don't have to memorize spells, giving the edge to that for a superior combat experience.

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    1. Wait what? The Dark Sun games don't have Vancian casting?

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    2. Oh yeah that's an odd quirk of them. The use a 5E style slot system (with I am assuming the same spells/day progression table as 2E) instead of requiring you to memorize specific spells. That's not a Dark Sun setting modification or anything, the CRPG designers/coders just didn't want to bother with memorization I guess.

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    3. It's pretty great for a CRPG tbh. Knights of the Chalice took this from Dark Sun, as well as many other defining elements (such as the resting campfires). Pierre really loves Dark Sun!

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    4. I'm afraid "5E style slot system" means very little to me. I take it clerics, druids, and wizards in 5E cast essentially like 3.5E sorcerers.

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    5. @Kish, that's what they do in Dark Sun. 5E is more interesting: you still need to memorize spells but they're untangled from spell slots. So your wizard can memorize any, say, 6 spells and then cast them like a sorcerer would. Almost - because another important addition is that after 40 years and 4 editions, you can finally use up a higher-level slot to cast a lower-level spell. It has always annoyed me to no end in previous DnD edition that your super powerful wizard can memorize 1 fireball and 3 magic missiles, but memorizing 4 magic missiles at the expense of fireball is somehow beyond his capabilities.

      Honestly, 5E is the best thing that happened to DnD magic ever. It's best of both worlds - you still have to prepare and plan ahead, but you also get a lot of situational flexibility.

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    6. I don't have a 2E or 1E rulebook available, but the 3.5e Player's Handbook allows you to do precisely that.

      "The various character class tables in Chapter 3: Classes shows how many spells of each level a character can cast per day. These openings for daily spells are called spell slots. A character always has an option to fill a higher-level spell slot with a lower level spell.".

      This isn't buried in the DMG, or in an appendix, or in a bunch of optional rules. Right there in the section that tells you what spell slots are in the first place.

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    7. 4th edition also allows you to do precisely that, and the "best of both worlds" hybrid between prepared and spontaneous casting is originally from 3E spinoff Pathfinder.

      Because let's face it, 5E is a well-designed game but VERY little in it is actually original.

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    8. @Gnoman, well, I stand corrected - but apparently nobody told that to video game designers because the first CRPG to implement those rules seems to be Solasta, which is 5E SRD.

      @Anonymous, do you have a reference for PF? Because the PFSRD document only describes regular Vancian casting process.

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    9. @VK this class does it: https://www.d20pfsrd.com/classes/hybrid-classes/arcanist/

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  3. I believe the Tyranthraxus was around for a lot longer in the Realms, but known by different names in different times and areas. The dragon was just his latest body.

    I think one of journal entries (if it wasn't in the game itself) was an old book where the author was thinking some other historical people were probably also Tyranthraxus. If it wasn't a later game.

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  4. Well since you asked, I'm not really interested in a room-by-room or combat-by-combat comparison between the CRPG and the tabletop module. There's bound to be a ton more of little changes. I'd rather have a wrap-up about the major story points.

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  5. I am strangely fascinated by the subtle (and not so subtle) differences between two products which are "supposed to be" identical except for their medium.

    I vote for the details, please.

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  6. Well, tbh a wrapup would be alright for me since I'm not that interested the details of the module vs. the game.

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  7. "I must conclude now that I still favor the Gold Box system. I like the clarity of the tiled tactical map. In Sun, I'm finding it too hard to gauge distances--is my fighter in melee range of the enemy? Will the "Grease" spell affect my party if I cast it here? Can my gladiator maneuver between these two other characters, or does she have to go around?"

    This.

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    1. I appreciate the advantages of a tiled map with clear movement. On the other hand, I preferred radius spells in Dark Sun as the area of effect is clearly shown before you cast it. In PoR, I always forgot which four squares Stinking Cloud appears in, and regularly miscounted Fireball tiles.

      Another advantage of Dark Sun is that encounters are visible on the map and can be avoided. Intimidating kobolds got really tedious in PoR.

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    2. Dark Sun seems like a significant loss of rigor in the combat system — probably an attempt to broaden the appeal. At least it's still turn based!

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    3. While playing some Baldur's Gate 1 and Temple of Elemental Evil recently, I formed the same opinion about non-tiled d&d PC games.

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    4. I prefer Dark Sun just for its visual AoE indicators. Manually counting tiles before casting was annoying.

      I really don't like how the Infinity Engine games didn't have any such indicators, despite being both gridless and real time. You really want me to guesstimate the placement of my AoE spells while my enemies are constantly moving, and I can't even use a grid to count the AoE? Come on Bioware!

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    5. My Unpopular Opinion(?) is that the Infinity Engine is the worst possible style a game can be made in, and Baldur's Gate is an outright terrible game with unplayable electric football combat that the player can only kind of hope to control. Real time with pause is the worst of both worlds and any Infinity Engine game (including modern clones) would be a million times better if they just used turn-based combat on a tile grid. Bioware are a bunch of hacks who never produced a decent game and I don't understand the love people used to have for them. They suck.

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    6. Okay, I made this comment this morning before I had my coffee and I was a little mean. Bioware made some okay games in their middle period, and weren't always hacks. I still don't think Baldur's Gate is any good though, and the Infinity Engine nostalgia revival is baffling to me.

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    7. Well I have just had my coffee and it is safe for me to say that I have no love for infinity engine.

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    8. When I first played BG I thought combat was a mess. The stupid ai would send my unarmored sorcerer into melee with a toothpick. And yet, hundreds of hours later, I've come to love these games like a warm blanket. I embrace the dark chaos! Just never, ever turn on the ai.

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    9. Count me in as another who detests the Infinity-engine type of real-time with pause combat. My experience with it goes something like this . . .

      1. Fight starts, okay, pause
      2. Send melee to intercept, backstabber to flank, begin casting spells
      3. Unpause
      4. Pause, redirect melee, unpause
      5. Pause, did that spell fire yet? no? okay, change spell, unpause
      6. Pause, dang, did that melee unit make contact yet, if I move it, will it trigger an attack of opportunity? Dang it . . . fine, leave as is, unpause
      7. Pause, new spell, area of effect, target, unpause
      8. Pause, can I change to a different spell? Or did it fire off already? Unsure . . how long until? Dang it dang it unpause
      9. Damn, backstabber is engaged, did not see that coming . . . taking big hits, dang it dang it dang it, can I heal in time? Dunno, initial heal . . . how can I tell if it will happen in time? Freaking dammit! Unpause
      10. Did that ****ing heal fire yet? Is that melee still engaged? Am I going to hit my own guys with that area of effect now? Can I retarget?
      11. FFFFFF******** this!Ragequit

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    10. I found the infinity engine games pretty comprehensible, but find Pillars of Eternity a confusing mess of abilities, (de)buffs and resistances.

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    11. Played Solasta - Crown of the Magister recently and while be just a "good" RPG, it has a fantastic strategic combat system. It is upon entering combat tile- and turn based and is based on D&D5e. IMHO it is the first time a game outmatches the Goldbox in this respect.

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  8. Details please... I like to see the differences and also hear how you feel about replaying the whole thing.

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    1. Team Details, here. I think it's a good framework for the re-analysis, as well. This is one of the best CRPGs ever, so it's well worth the time and effort.

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    2. Another vote for detail! Especially when the module has more background or story than the game.

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  9. I don't mind either way. I think you've demonstrated what you set out to, but if you're having fun and the readers are then ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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  10. I'm all for reading about details of this game. This is a very interesting insight into the grand ancestor of the D&D games.

    By the way, there is a ten-volume book titled "History of the North" in Baldur's Gate. Likely, a direct reference to the book here. Or such a book is mentioned somewhere in the source material for Forgotten Realms.

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  11. I like the detailed descriptions of changes, as long as you continue having fun with it.

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  12. Please, Chet, go on. This is very interesting.

    Something I would really like is if some company would make a modern version of this game, with essentially the same story, but with improved graphics. One can dream, I suppose.

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    1. Someone should remake it in the Knights of the Chalice 2 toolset. It's a perfect fit (except that KotC2 uses 3E rules but you can't have everything).

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    2. KotC2 port: You can forget about the improved graphics then, which sort of defeats the point.

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    3. I like the tabletop style look with the tokens and all.

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    4. Hmm, let's not pretend the top-down & tokens aesthetics wasn't born out of pure technical necessity - KotC1 did better in that department.

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    5. For a modern remake, I have played PoR as a module for Neverwinter Nights 2. Did not finish it though as I did not grind nearly enough to beat Tyranthraxus in the final fight.

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  13. I'm interested in detailed comparisons as some of the more interesting/complex quests are coming up. In particular, I'm keen to see how the module handles what could be the more roleplaying-focused quests of the nomad camp and the lizard man keep; the game's difficulty spike of the multi-phase kobold cave finale battles; and the complex dungeon of the pyramid run by the wizard polluting the river.

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  14. I like it - did the initial play-through have a section where you compared it with the book? It's not that well written, but I think it's one of the decent sources on Tyranthraxus, the actual Pool of Radiance and Ioun Stones.

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  15. I'd prefer a wrapup, I don't find the module that interesting and would rather read about some of the upcoming obscure games. But if you have fun doing it and feel that it is important, keep it going.

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    1. I am with Buck on this one. The first entry was the most interesting as an example ; now I would prefer obscure games :). But as you prefer, really.

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    2. At this point we don't really need any more PoR. There are too many great games ahead to continue to revisit things already covered. That being said this is your blog do what you nees to do to continue to entertain me; if writing another half dozen posts on PoR is what it takes to motivate you, have at it

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  16. I've seen the bag of holding as a random magic treasure at the end of the Pyramid quest.

    IIRC the gold foil in the library can be readied. I assumed it was an alternative to fighting the basilisk with mirrors or silver armor.

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  17. I lean towards the wrap up, but the entries have been interesting. I was not aware of the Mad man which I found your encounters with him intriguing to say the least.

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  18. “ This got me thinking and I chanced one of the "Restoration" spells on the Mad Man. Sure enough, his level rose to Level 4. I'm guessing he entered Mendor's Library a hale mid-level fighter and got busted down by the specter who guards the entrance.”

    Think I first played this game about 30 years ago.

    I was today years old when I learned this.

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    1. Oh and yes. Continue these. It’s honestly more enjoyable than post after post about low quality “copper” era RPGs.

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    2. Same here. Gives one a better appreciation for how much thought was put into this first entry of the Gold Box series to make it close to a true RPG in computer format for the time.

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    3. I've played PoR a lot of times and I also never thought to bring the Mad Man to either the temple or to Restore him. I didn't think there was anything left to discover in this game.

      Another vote for continuing this replay. I'm excited to see if there's other things to discover.

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    4. Yeah that restoration revelation elicited impressed surprise!

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    5. I agree. I was delighted for the same reason.

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    6. I just wanted to say much the same thing that the rest of the posters have - I've been playing Pool of Radiance for decades, and I've pulled apart its internals and ECL game logic...and I'm still learning things from these posts. By all means please continue.

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  19. re: "he's not human!" I have been struggling with coming up with a good concise way to refer to collective sentient, sapient friendlies in fantasy worlds, that the characters would use in-universe. Something essentially as usable as "human" or "man."

    Specifically in terms of what non-friendlies might call dwarves/elves/humans etc. I've settled on goblins calling them "man-things," since to them everything bigger than them might as well be...man-adjacent.

    What do you guys think?

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    1. 'Humanoid' is used in some games. It's probably a nasty slur in Goblinese.

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    2. Pink Think-Thing

      Because humanoids are pink and can think.

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    3. 'Cept for most of them, who are brown...

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    4. What I don't like about humanoid is in applying it to the subject of the top image in the post here -- "He's not humanoid!" is very likely false, because humanoid is anything with legs and arms in a vaguely human shape, and says nothing to imply friendship/kinship/civility.

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    5. "The word is elfoid, thank you very much."
      "Oh no it's not, you pointear! We're dwarfoids!"
      "Shut up, orcoids!"

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    6. Non-monstrous two-legger, then?

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    7. The Death Gate series uses the German loanword Mensch for elfdwarfhumans, which I found OK.

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    8. This is an interesting issue that still doesn't have a good conclusion. "Humanoid" is still human-centric and describes a shape more than a way of thinking or a moral system. In a horror movie, when someone says, "It's not human!" they're referring more to its values, motives, and thought processes than to its literal shape and biology. That's clearly what the Mad Man is trying to convey here.

      A fantasy text could get around this by using "human" for all sentient races. The Elder Scrolls kind-of does that. I'm not sure any one race is ever called "human," but I could be wrong. But that ship sailed on D&D a long time ago.

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    9. "Humanoid" also has a somewhat technical definition in AD&D 1st Edition (which Pool of Radiance is) -- it specificallly excludes any PC race.

      The term used in AD&D 1E for this is "demi-human". (It's rarely used these days; I think more because it sounds like "oh, you mean a half-elf or half-orc!" than out of any criticism of Gygax's morality.)

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    10. Some science fiction works use the term "Sophont", though I don't know the origin.

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    11. @Gnoman - per Wikipedia:
      Source : From Ancient Greek σοφός (sophós, “wise”) + ὤν (ṓn, “on”), present participle of εἰμί (eimí, “being, existing, essence”). First used in the 1966 works by Poul Anderson, coined by his wife Karen Anderson.

      Meaning : An intelligent being; a being with a base reasoning capacity roughly equivalent to or greater than that of a human being.

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    12. As a single word to describe "all races that are meaningfully thinking and feeling", I would just use "people". I've seen it used in a few different SF series, though I can't place them offhand at the second.

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    13. I would use 'sentients' to describe things which feel and 'sapients' for things which reason.

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    14. I think the intent of the original quote of the game is he's talking about Tyranthraxus, right? Or did I flub the context? It's not Mendor, is it? So he's not really trying to say anything about this person's properties of thinking or feeling. I guess he is saying he presents as Human, but isn't really. Or maybe it's about his evilness is inhumane...

      I would sidestep the issue by saying, "He's an abomination!" And, then, my term for normal people is pithy: Not-Abominations

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  20. First: Absolutely, please continue these!

    Second: regarding the "passage of interest" that was recorded as Journal Entry 8, looking at that entry, it mentions the people in that land going annually to "praise the spirit of a glowing spring".

    I can't recall whether this was merely my interpretation or if it's explicitly stated somewhere, but I had the impression that Tyranthraxus had been deliberately seeding misinformation about the Pool in various places—which could extend to misinformation about his own history on this plane, thus explaining the discrepancy between the module's omniscient-narrator description of the possession of Srossar and the in-universe tales of Tyranthraxus the Flamèd One.

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    1. I want to say this is buried in the module somewhere. But it’s been a while since I read it cover to cover.

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  21. As *the* vocal advocate of tabletop rpg's in the comments section, you can enlist me in Team Detail as well. These are altogether fascinating posts...

    (...despite me bickering a lot about déja-vus lately.)

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  22. I'm biased being the original requester of the module side-by-side approach, but I say more please!

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  23. I'm loving these posts, and am hoping they continue in as much detail as possible.

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    1. Same here... brings back some good table top AD&D memories from the early 80s!

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  24. I'd like to see more details too. I love both computer and tabletop rpgs, so it is great any time I see them both together.

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  25. Just signed up to comment - Please continue the exploration in the differences between CRPG and module. POR was essentially my first CRPG. Found your site about 6 months ago and love not only the nostalgia - but the detailed analysis of the technology development. It's also prompted me to revisit these games now on GOG.

    As a suggestion, when you get to 1993 [later this decade :)], perhaps try out the Pool of Radiance port when you review Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures. It might give a good point of comparison to the other gold box entries.

    Keep up the great work!

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  26. Yes please continue with these post!

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  27. I'm enjoying these comparisons. I doubt I'd ever have the wherewithal to read the book while playing through like this, so it's very interesting to me to see them side by side.

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  28. This is one of my favorite games, and I enjoy your discussion of it. I hope you continue the comparison.

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  29. As for The History of the North, Lee-wai and Tyranthraxus:

    https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Tortured_Land

    "A legend of the northern tribes told that a being of fire called Tirantikus—Tyranthraxus the Flamed One—emerged from the Tortured Land. Tyranthraxus, together with Edranka and Torath, were generals of the Twisted Ones, unholy creatures employed by the glowing pool. In the Year of Stale Ale, −356 DR, they raised armies and conquered, destroyed, and reigned over the northern lands. From out of the Waste, Tyranthraxus led the Riders to conquer Barze, Horreb, and the Vane before being defeated, for a time. In the Year of Craven Words, −350 DR, Edranka led a horde of goblinoids, 100,000 in number, out of the Tortured Land and attacked the minotaur kingdom of Grong-Haap, based at Ironfang Keep. They were annihilated when the priest-king Haask summoned the elder evil Hargut of the Gray Pestilence."

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    1. That just confuses things even more. I guess the bottom line is that Ruins of Adventure is dead wrong about when Tyranthraxus "first emerged" in the Realms.

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  30. For everyone's reference, a PDF of Ruins of Adventure can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/dyf3wn7h

    Now you can read along with Chet as he gives commentary.

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  31. The Bless spell on the Madman probably means they implemented morale rules behind the scenes. I think the Krynn Gold Box games had a leadership ability for the Solamniac Knights to take command of NPCs and let the player direct their combat actions.

    Usually its about people/monsters trying to flee a battle when things are going bad for their side (morale checks with penalties for casualty levels and deaths of leaders). Later D&D editions skip this and have the DM handle it as they wish, or tie it into skill checks like Intimidate.

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    1. There's definitely a morale system going on. Enemies often surrender, and hirelings will sometimes surrender in tough combats. The Mad Man must just have his morale set to practically 0.

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    2. The MAD MAN's morale is indeed is defined as 0 (25 is his monster ID):

      $A9F4 36 ADD NPC 25 0

      The only way to positively modify Morale in the Gold Box games is to cast Bless, which gives a +5 bonus.

      Morale is on a 100-point scale in the Gold Box games; in the tabletop game, it's on a 20-point scale. The manual says +1, which is correct for the tabletop, but it's actually more finely-grained on the computer versions.

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  32. I'm enjoying it; your writing is compelling.

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  33. Oh, to address the Bag of Holding comment - there are a few areas in the code which provide for random magic items (look-up table from a list). I believe that room in Mendor's Library is one of them, also Ohlo's reward and some of the rooms in the pyramid. Bag of Holding is on the treasure table. If I remember, all it does is change your encumbrance, but I don't remember for sure.

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    1. I was curious how a Bag of Holding would even work in this game.

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    2. The Bag of Holding, if equipped, lets you carry 500 extra pounds of equipment.

      It won't let you carry more kinds of items, however, mostly for technical reasons.

      (Pool of Radiance uses fixed-sized arrays to represent inventory. Dynamically allocated heap memory was an unusual phenomenon back then, since it was resource-intensive.)

      Most people never find the Bag of Holding. You have to get very lucky when rolling for random treasure; there are only nine places in all of Pool of Radiance where that happens. Random magical items are far more common in any of the three sequels, but I don't think the Bag of Holding is possible in any.

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  34. I would prefer more editorializing and speculating as to why the changes are how they are, then a comprehensive inventory, personally.

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  35. I would indeed like to continue the detailed comparison! I actually ran the Ruins of Adventure module a few years back (in the 2nd edition AD&D system) - though not entirely by the book - I used the Slums from the game, including Ohlo and the Trolls with the sack. I never actually noticed that the maps were different - though I really should've noticed it in Sokol keep!

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  36. I would also like to read more of the comparisons between the game and the module. PoR is such a seminal RPG, not just to the genre in general, but also to you, that it would seem a waste not to fully explore all aspects of it.

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  37. Well, we don't seem to have a "consensus," so I'll just see where whim takes me in the next few weeks.

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    1. I'd prefer you continue. The way I think of it, it's like thinking of birdwatching as more than just generating a checklist; it also pays to get to know even the common pigeon in depth.

      Also, in the spirit of scientific inquiry, you'll discover meaningful things as long the games have sufficient depth ... which is already true for some games even from the early 1980s.

      Chess has a narrow ruleset but tremendous depth, with new discoveries still being made, even though the ruleset has been largely set in stone for more than half a millennium.

      You're not going to get much out of, say, Hunt the Wumpus, but the original Zork or Wizardry are plenty sophisticated enough to reward further digging even today.

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  38. I'm enjoying the comparison and would like it to continue!

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  39. I hope you continue these they're really interesting

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  40. Adding my voice to the chorus of people that finds these posts extremely interesting (and, hey, you found a new revelation in the process!) That right there justifies it all if nothing else.

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  41. Details please! I first started playing computer RPGs as a substitute for tabletop gaming when I couldn't find anyone else to play with and am always interested in the way tabletop rules and settings can be adapted for a CRPG.

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  42. Pool of Radiance in-depth guide just updated to v1.50:
    https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/pc/564785-pool-of-radiance/faqs/73869

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