Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pool of Radiance: Cleaning Up for the Show

That's quite a revelation! Or at least it would have been if we'd ever heard of "Tirantikus."
When last we met, I had three quests: stop the lizardmen from joining Tyranthraxus, rescue the "heir to House Bivant," and deliver Lord Cadorna's message to the Zhentil outpost.

The lizardman quest, which I did first, was the easiest. I had freed some poor lizardmen from the clutches of Yarash, and they had given me a password ("SAVIOR") to use with others of their kind. When I returned to the ruined castle that lizardmen call home, I was greeted by the old lizardman chief, who was having trouble with a young upstart.

I agreed to fight the challenger, who was pitiful and went down in a single string from my two-handed sword +2. I got what I wanted:

This is where I wonder what would have happened had I refused. I suspect I would have ended up fighting the entire castle of lizardmen and ensuring that they didn't follow Tyranthraxus via genocide.

At last, I can finally buy a sextant!

I had no idea where to find the "heir to House Bivant," so I decided to head off to the Zhentil Keep outpost to the west, but on the way I ran into a "buccaneer base." Inside, my blood boiled to find slave pens full of men, women, and children.

As I was exploring, a shady character who looked exactly like Norris the Gray sold me a pass so I could get in and see the captain of the base. I asked the captain about the boy--who I assumed to be the missing heir--and he offered to sell him.

The slavery had already tried the patience of my mostly-good party, but the captain's use of "alot" sent it over the edge. I attacked him. He was a tough character, with 110 hit points, but he went down eventually. They all do.

Killing the captain put the base on alert, and in a nearby barracks, I was confronted by five waves of dozens of soldiers each. I fought five battles that basically looked like this:

There's another entire screen of these guys off to the right.

But most of them were low-level buccaneers, and it was fun to wade through them, using "sweep" to cut down swaths of them in a single attack. In the end, I had the base to myself, and I was able to free the slaves.

After a little time resting and healing, I continued west to the Zhentarim outpost. You run into Zhentarim or "Zhents" in numerous Forgotten Realms games, but I had never been quite sure what they were. Thanks to the Forgotten Realms wiki, I now know that they're an evil mercenary company headquartered in Zhentil Keep, and more than once they've plotted to take over kingdoms.

They greeted me as "diplomatic envoys" and I had dinner with the commandant after delivering to him my letter from Cadorna. During the meal, he tried to pry me for information about Phlan, and one of his aides told a story about Dirg, a barbarian hero who did battle with a demon of fire who could possess bodies and lived in a magic pool. Dirg was able to trap the demon on a "triangle of power." This sounds like Tyranthraxus, but I otherwise don't know what to make of the story.

After dinner, I went to bed. To absolutely no one's surprise, a bunch of Zhents burst into my room and tried to kill me. They failed, and the entire keep went on alert. I kept encountering random patrols, so eventually I just set up in a narrow corridor and let them come to me. After six or seven battles with random fighters, the commandant attacked me personally.

He was pretty tough, and he had a high-level mage with him, but to my astonishment, "Hold Person" worked on both of them. I still had both my fireball spells, too, so I made quick work of this battle.

Returning to Phlan, I was rewarded for the three quests and I got a startlingly frank and cold directive from the Clerk:

I love it when she talks like that.

The Clerk had no new quests for me, but she asked me to meet with the head of the Council, Lord Urslingen, who gave me what amounts to the final quest: storm Stojanow Gate and take the castle!

Two quick items of note:

1. My swordsman hireling--whom I've brought all the way from Level 3 to Level 7--is starting to annoy me. I spent 25,000 gold pieces on a "fine long bow" for him, and he refuses to use it. Since you can't trade FROM NPCs, I had to have him drop it and equip him with a long bow +1. Then, in the last battle, when his hit points fell to 8, he actually surrendered! What kind of loyalty is that? After the battle, he just waltzes into my party again like nothing's happened--he even had the gall to take his share of the loot!

2. The only proclamation outside City Hall is the one that was there when the game started: reclaim the old sections of Phlan.

My two mages just hit their max levels and get a second fireball spell. Karnov got some gauntlets of ogre power and a long sword +4 at the Zhent outpost. I've got more magic items than I know what to do with, including two wands of magic missiles, a wand of lightning, a wand of paralyzation (yes, that's what the game calls it), a potion of giant strength, a javelin of lightning, and two potions of speed. I think I'm ready!


  1. Dear CRPG Addict,

    Great post. I seem to recall that you could have saved the Bivant boy and the other slaves by releasing the animals from their pen and causing a stampede. Still your way was more final.

    Later in the Castle I think you will have an opportunity to fufill the clerk's terse request regarding Cadorna.

    I am surprised by your level. I seem to recall that 6 was the roof in this game, but at any rate, I am impressed. You have played this game very well and in a unique manner.

  2. I like that you went out of your way to complete all the missions, even if you didn't have to. That's nice; because, in all my years of playing, I have never found those lizard men. So, it's the first time I'm seeing any of that area.

    To be fair, though, I never looked for them very hard. By the time I got to the point where I could deal with them, I was already storming the castle (without a commission to do so).

    Great work. Will the next post be the end game?

  3. Jason, I didn't think "paralyzation" was a word (either does Google, given the little squiggly I see above). I believed it should be "Wand of Paralysis." But I just found it in a few dictionaries, so I guess I'm wrong. I still think "paralysis" sounds better, but perhaps the distinction is "paralysis is the state" and "paralyzation" is the act of paralyzing someone.

    JJ, that's one of the things I like about the game. There were several ways to handle the buccaneer outpost (I looked it up later in walkthroughs). I could have picked the lock and sneaked out. I could have just started fighting without killing the commandant first. I could have released the animals. I could have bought the boy. Not many games feature all these role-playing options.

    Yes, the next posting is the "won!" posting. I actually wrote it last night. I'm traveling for the next few days, so I wanted to get ahead on the postings to make sure there wasn't a gap.

  4. "The slavery had already tried the patience of my mostly-good party, but the captain's use of "alot" sent it over the edge. I attacked him."

    The only thing worse than slavery is poor grammar! lol

  5. Heh, "ALOT" always reminds me of:

    You know what I love about your blogging of this game? You started out all prose and immersion, now you are just like: "F*$k it, I kill them all."
    I have had Tabletop AD&D games go like that.

  6. @thelamebrain: We had a bad GM once where at first we were kind of trying to RP but by the end of it, we were yelling: "DOOR! KILL! STUFF!" I think it nicely summarizes both what we thought of his game and the essence of the genre.

  7. That is truly the genius and downfall of tabletop roleplaying in general, and D&D specifically.

    It can be a truly, truly great game if you have the right person running it, the right people to play with, and enough time to play it in. Or it can suck.

    People have tried to fix this by implementing new rules, by creating who "Story-Telling" RPGs and "Diceless" RPGs, but in the end I think it all boils down to people.

    Also there is also the factor that sometimes kicking in the castle gate and slaughtering everything that your eye falls on can be a lot of fun.

  8. ...especially when it causes your GM to howl in frustration.

  9. Addicted One, I have been meaning to ask, what level of difficulty (from the encamp menu) you are playing at? I recall the battles described in this blog as having some pretty tough characters.

    I also recall having acquired a fair amount more potions by middle of game.

    One trick in discovering treasure (with apologies if this is plainly obvious - hard to know) is once an area is cleared, and therefore is void of random battles, select your thief/elf/highest dex scored character, go into 'search' mode, and canvas the area.

    In the first part of the slums, wherever a room has a distinct feature, like a bright ceiling, it may indicate the place was the home of a more affluent family in an era past, hence the presence of hidden loot.

    When you freed the lizard men in the pyramid, there should have been a sci-fi type wheel device that, with each turn, grants you access to a different set of loot.

    That being said, I like the approach you have taken in roleplaying the game, without getting obsessive over doing things in the "correct" order, etc.

    The artist formerly known as buckrogers

  10. Lame Brain, awesome blog link. Thanks. But now I don't know how to interpret the commandant's statement. Was he saying it would cost me an alot? Or was he calling me an alot (as in, "but it will cost you, alot!"). Either way, he deserved to die.

    It's important to note that my playing style didn't change, though. It was just taking bloody forever to write those little stories.

    Lazenby (awesome handle), unless it's staring me in the face and I'm just missing it, I don't think POR has the "difficulty" setting. They must have introduced that in a later game.

    I actually walked through most areas with "Search" turned on, and I think I found most of the treasure. I did determine that if the game described a room when you walked in, it was more likely to have treasure hidden somewhere. I found the stuff in the slums room you mention, for instance. I know what device you're talking about in the pyramid, but I don't think I messed with it enough. Probably missed some good treasure.

  11. I just wanted to remind you, and everyone else, that I am still blogging the NES Pool of Radiance cartridge at Although right now I am wallowing in despair at how futile my attempts to get anywhere have become.

    Awesome that you are almost done. Man! How do you do it? How many hours a day do you play? You are just plain GOOD at these!!

  12. Addicted One, good to know you did not mess any treasure in the slums. As for the difficulty, 'encamp' (as when you go to sleep, memorize spells, etc.) - does not matter where - and select 'alter' (as when change the color of your in-combat icons) and then I am pretty sure 'difficulty' or 'game difficulty'. It should by default be on "normal" (I hope it is).

    I think you can also access the same setting during combat (old goldbox charm).

    In my case I may have ramped the difficulty up when I completed the game (remake under Unlimited Adventures) to help compensate for the fact that I know the first 60% of the game back-to-front.

  13. The "Difficulty" setting came later, Lazenby. It doesn't exist in "Pool of Radiance." Just like "Fix," it was an enhancement to the original program.

    But, in a way, I kind of like that you have to play "Pool of Radiance" at the default difficulty.

    Also, when you change the difficulty, it doesn't change the combat size. It just alters the hit points of the monsters. So, a monster that normally has 8 hit points on normal will have half as many (4) on the easiest setting and twice as many (16) on the hardest setting.

  14. @William: Thanks! I was looking for that!

    @CRPGaddict: I prefer to think that he was calling you an alot, If he was suggesting that he wanted an alot in exchange for the boy, he has deeper grammer issues.

  15. I started playing Pool of Radiance. I havn't really played any rpgs before, the closest I've come to rpg is Zelda, which is pretty awesome there's some role playing opportunities I'd like to explore with her (*wink*), anyway I wanna be able to cast a fireball damn it so the show is starting, this is going to be fun. But I'm a total noob so I'll probably have problems just figuring out what the stuff means and how to move my guys around. I just started DOS box, so I don't know yet, we'll see.

  16. Chaotic evil female human fighter, or that's what it says but the picture shows a picture of some bloke.

  17. OK, I realized I might want to have more than one character of course of course, two fighters and one of each other class. It's an all chaotic evil female party, woohoo, this is gonna be fun! Sorry for three comments in a row.

  18. @DudeDawg:
    I don't want to be rude, but I am not entirely certain you are not trolling. In case you are not, here is a tip: When you create a character there is a prompt that says (H)ead and (B)ody. Press the H and B keys to cycle through the various choices to pick what your character looks like.

  19. This game is so addictive, I had plans on sleeping tonight!

  20. I'm not trolling, I'm just used to user interfaces to be a lot easier somehow. I did discover that shortly after I made the comment though. The game is hard but I finally realized that there is a shop that sells arms and without fighting barehanded it's a lot easier, I've collected a lot of treasure.

  21. I chickened out, I don't wanna keep playing because I've had so much luck and I don't want any unfortunate accident to detract from my lucky streak. There are two things I still havn't figured out, one is how to find information about weapons, the shopkeeper doesn't seem to tell you about them, and the other one is why my party sometimes ends up owning platinum coins after visiting a merchant.

  22. It's all in the manuals. Your specific questions are anwered in the appendices to the Journal.

  23. Yes, the Adventurer's Journal has a table with relative damage done by weapons in the back. My biggest problem throughout the game was actually HITTING anything, so I tended to favor higher +s rather than more damage (e.g., a short sword +2 instead of a long sword +1).

    Because coins have weight and weigh you down, reducing movement, merchants are kind enough to convert your coins to the highest-value coin (and thus lowest-volume coin) after every transaction.

  24. Wow, comments have really picked up since you started PoR.

    According to the only dictionary that matters, the Oxford English Dictionary;
    paralysation, n.
    Forms: 18– paralysation, 18– paralyzation.
    The action of paralysing something; the state of being paralysed, paralysis (lit. and fig.).

    With the quote: 1848 U.S. Democratic Rev. Feb. 179 Reviving that demand for produce which the absolute paralyzation of all enterprize had destroyed.

    Hope that settles things.

  25. Well, seriously, what does the "Oxford English Dictionary" really know about it?

  26. Too late now, but you could have had your hireling fire by readying his arrows. If they aren't readied he will always stick to melee. The option is there in case you want to turn battles over to computer but don't want it to waste all your precious magic arrows.

    Also, C-64 ending of the game is exactly like this version. If you had some of your characters answer yes and some no, those who said yes would fight beside the dragon and you'd have to kill them.

    1. No, I solved that problem early in the game with a regular bow. There was something about the "Fine Long Bow" that he just wouldn't equip it no matter what.

  27. "A large group of men led by the commandant rush foward [sic] and attack."

    I love that you had NO selected there. Did you get to wave your hand and change reality by selecting that? "No, these men did not attack." "Understood."

    1. That's funny. I'm pretty sure the "YES/NO" was part of the previous screen, and the commandant rushing forward was the result of my having selected one or the other, but you never know.

    2. Having just killed the commandant tonight, I came here to read about how other people played the keep, and find this amazing observation by my favourite nerd Quarex. Wow.

      Sadly I missed this typo in the Amiga version where it doesn't really pause the text for very long. But here it is to imagine it.


  28. I played PoR when it first came out on the old C64. Im a big D&D fan and have played almost every single player D&D game that was released. I found the Archives Silver Edition for sale on Amazon and bought it. Getting back into the games is fun. Granted the graphics blow compared to the stuff now, but for game play and replayability I will take this kind of game over most of the games that are sold nowadays. I found your blog to be helpful in terms of getting back into the swing of things and figuring out what I was missing when I got stuck due to not having played the game in more than 10 years.

  29. More differences and musing of the NES version:

    1) The lizardman keep has none of this story. No young upstart, and no old chief. Instead it's a couple set encounters in the keep with many encounters of lizardmen jumping out of pools throwing spears. Wiped them out and was rewarded.
    2) I never found the guy selling a pass in the buccaneer base.

  30. On my latest playthrough, I decided to play the nomad camp and lizardmen by fighting, and I think no one has posted how it turns out here.

    With the nomads, refusing the feast in our honor was such a grave insult that the chief attacked us. There was three waves of fighting nomads, which was easy though a bit more difficult than the kobolds you get when befriending the nomads, but killing the nomads also got the reward from the clerk.

    I went to the lizardman castle before cleaning out Yarash's pyramid and never encountered the old lizardman. There was one combat aboveground, and then a few combats in the caves, and that got us the reward. This seems the same as the NES version reported above.

    It must have been awkward for the party later on though. I can just imagine encountering the nomad princess in the kobold caves and freeing the lizardmen in Yarash's pyramid... "Your tribe? You mean the tribe we killed last week?" So I'm unlikely to take this approach in the future, just from the roleplaying perspective.

    1. I wish more of the Gold Box games had continued in the POR tradition and offered these types of broad options. POR still ranks highest among the Gold Box games on my list, and it's the existence of such choices that keeps it there.

  31. I don't know how or why, but when I killed the buccaneer captain it didn't put the base on alert. In fact, after leaving the base, taking a trip to Phlan and returning, he was alive and killable again. Every time he dropped another set of his excellent gear (long sword +4, plate mail +3, shield +2). My party got a big equipment boost out of exploiting this.

  32. There is a version of POR with fix command hack? I believe see It in a magazine


I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters. I will delete comments containing profanity on a case-by-case basis.

3. NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. If you don't want to log in to Google to comment, either a) choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank, or b) sign your anonymous comment with a preferred user name in the text of the comment itself.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

5. Comments on my blog are not a place for slurs against any race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability. I will delete these on a case-by-case basis depending on my interpretation of what constitutes a "slur."

Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.