Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Game 163: Secret of the Silver Blades (1990)

When the Gold Box engine was created for Pool of Radiance in 1988, it was perhaps the best RPG engine that could exist at the time, in particular for the specific adaptation of Dungeons & Dragons rules. Its primary rival in my mind is Ultima V, which is better for world-exploration and NPC interaction, but nothing through 1990 exceeds the Gold Box for combat. Little in the 26 years since has exceeded the Gold Box for combat, and I honestly wouldn't mind if the greatest hits of 2000s and 2010s regaled us with their graphics and sound during the exploration phase but tripped over to the familiar oblique angle and customizable icons of Pool of Radiance for the combat engine.

I've said several times--and I probably sound like an old man--that my primary problem with modern games is that I don't understand what's happening half the time in combat. My wife was just recently joking that my final words will probably be, "What?! Why did I just die?!" because she hears me shout it so often from both my couch and my office chair. I never shout that in a Gold Box game. The system so perfectly incorporates physical attacks, ranged attacks, spellcasting, item use, and skill use in a top-down, carefully-controlled environment that not only do I know why I died, I can usually see it coming and identify what steps I could have taken to prevent it.

More than any other RPG engine of the era, and more than only a few since, the Gold Box encourages complex tactics and strategy in combat. You rarely just reload, try again, and hope for better dice this time. Instead, you learn about your foes' strengths and weaknesses and respond accordingly. It's like chess in an RPG.

The Gold Box games are also the only ones in which I have strong memories of individual combats.

Other fans have reacted similarly, which is why the Gold Box ended up being such a long-lived engine. This is the fifth Gold Box game in my chronology, after Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds, Champions of Krynn, and Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday, and within the next three years, we're going to have eight or nine more.

The other day, a commenter asked me if I'd gotten tired of it yet. The answer is no, not yet, partly because I love the engine, and partly because I'm playing so many other games in between Gold Box titles. But while I'm not "tired" yet, it does irk me how few improvements we saw to the engine over the years. Adding a "Fix" command and improving targeting in combat were nice upgrades, but for the most part, the weaknesses of the engine in Pool of Radiance remain weaknesses throughout the series; among them are bland, featureless hallways; encounters that spring up suddenly when you walk into their squares; poor options for NPC interaction and dialogue; and the continued use of a paper "adventurer's journal" long past the point at which it was necessary. In some ways, the engine actually degraded between titles: neither Curse nor Secrets offer the same overworld exploration as Pool. And while it works for the adaptation of Dungeons & Dragons rules, I don't think it worked well at all in the Buck Rogers setting, where the lack of magic removes half the point of the combat engine.

In any event, it's been nine months since I've played a Gold Box game, a year since I played a D&D Gold Box game, and damn near two years since we heard from this little party from Phlan, so I'm certainly going into Secret of the Silver Blades in a good mood. I say this despite knowing that many people consider Secret the low point of the Gold Box titles, or at least the four-game Forgotten Realms series. I don't  know what their specific objections are, and I don't yet want to know. When I start a new game, I usually do a search of the comments in all previous games to get a preview, but I'm going to avoid doing that here so as not to poison my perspective. (I should mention that I have played Secret before, maybe 15-17 years ago, but all I remember is a little bit of the back story.)

In Pool of Radiance, the Level 1 party started out, grew in power, and restored the ancient Moonsea-side city of Phlan through a series of quests culminating in the defeat of Tyranthraxus, an ancient evil lately stirring up trouble. In Curse of the Azure Bonds, the moderately-powerful party headed to the Dalelands, south of the Moonsea, to investigate rumors about a princess of Cormyr. They got caught up in some factional strife when they were captured and branded by five evil organizations. One by one, they defeated the holders of their bonds, the last of whom once again turned out to be Tyranthraxus.

Secret of the Silver Blades starts with the party having "grown bored with peace and yearn[ing] for adventure." They need yearn only a short time. To the northeast of the Moonsea, somewhere in the Dragonspine Mountains (you could visit part of them in Pool), the residents of the mining town of New Verdigris are facing a threat. Dumping chests of gems into their Well of Knowledge, they wish for "champions to defeat the evil that infests our mine." The party is suddenly yanked from wherever they are, flown through the air--catching a glimpse of New Verdigris's glacier and a castle embedded in the middle on the way--and deposited, naked and unconscious, on the streets of the city. This part of the back story is manifestly intended to explain why the party has none of their equipment from Curse; otherwise, the game could have just started with them responding to a request for assistance and riding into town like normal people.

When the party finally wakes up, the mayor of New Verdigris explains what's happening: three months ago, the miners delved too greedily and too deep, and "monsters boiled forth" from a new shaft. The monsters first infested the mines, then the ruins near the mines, and may soon take over the city itself. "You must save us," the mayor concludes, "before we are overwhelmed."

From the demo screen. What horrible character names.
So far, the back story isn't too bad. I always prefer these modest "save a city" quests to those where I have to stop someone from world domination. Of course, the former can easily turn into the latter, as we saw with Neverwinter Nights. Still, for now the main quest has something of the feeling of Pool of Radiance.

I imported my winning team from Curse of the Azure Bonds. It consists of:

  • Bolingbroke, a lawful good male human paladin of Level 10.
  • Karnov, a true neutral male dwarf fighter (Level 9)/thief (Level 11). He won't be able to progress any more in fighter levels.
  • Goldeneye, a chaotic good female human ranger of Level 11.
  • Brutus, a chaotic neutral male human who started as a fighter, reached Level 8, then dualed to a cleric and reached Level 10.
  • Cesario, a lawful good male human who started out as a cleric, reached Level 9, then dualed to a magic-user and reached Level 11.
  • Viola, a chaotic good female human magic-user of Level 11.

As I discussed in my first Curse posting, with the sole exception of thieves, non-human characters are unfeasible in the Forgotten Realms Gold Box series because of level caps.

The imported characters prepare to set forth.

Characters created in Secret start at Level 8 with 200,000 experience points, and all my characters are Level 10-11, starting with around 800,000 experience points, a huge difference. This means that the early game might be a bit easy, but it also means that I won't experience much advancement in Secret, since the characters cap in this game at Level 15. I also realized late in this session that my ranger, who had been wearing a Girdle of Giant Strength at the end of Curse, imported here with 24 strength even though the Girdle didn't come with her.

As the game begins, the mayor gives the party 20 gems to sell plus a decent selection of magic items, including Gauntlets of Ogre Power, a halberd +2, a shield +1, and several +1 weapons and armor. The mayor says I can use his house to rest, and he has a teleporter that will take the party directly to the Well of Knowledge in the ruins. After that, the exposition ends and the party is free to explore the city.

You can jump right to the heart of the ruins or find your way there through corridor exploration.

I was thinking about ways I could increase the challenge and variety of my fifth Gold Box outing. Usually, I'd do this with limits in the party selection (e.g., all mages, no mages) but I didn't want to do that here for legacy purposes. Instead, I came up with this: I won't allow my party to memorize more than one of each spell unless they've already memorized one of every other spell of that level. By increasing the variety of spells, it will ensure that I actually try neglected spells like "Slow," "Feeblemind," and "Dimension Door." It will also keep me from abusing mass-damage spells like "Fireball" and thus will increase the tactical nature of combat. We'll see how it goes.

Probably only the third time I've ever cast "Confusion" in a Gold Box game.
New Verdigris was nothing special--a standard Gold Box 16 x 16 map containing the mayor's house, a pub, a training hall, a bank, a temple, and an armory. There's really no reason it couldn't have been a menu town. Eight buildings are labeled "private residence" and have nothing in them. One building has an old man who spins tales; another houses "Marcus the Wizard" who has no interest in seeing me but is willing to sell some trinkets through a servant. There's a probable 12-to-7 that Marcus will be the subject of some special encounter later.

In contrast to the Phlan armory, where you could buy every obscure variety of polearm, New Verdigris has a paltry selection. Incidentally, if an RPG armory is selling something weird like a "cute yellow canary," you pretty much have to buy it just in case.

The Mayor had a few journal entries to convey, starting with the revelation that he used to be a Red Plume--a soldier of Hillsfar--who was probably in Yulash when my Curse party came traipsing through. The entry refers to "a band of blue tattooed adventurers" but he doesn't seem to be aware that that was us. He also talks about a "magic brotherhood known as the Black Circle" and that "it was based on their divination that we extended our lower tunnels." Marcus turns out to be a member. The Mayor assures that the organization is "studying ways to stop the monsters" but given that their name is, you know, "the Black Circle," I think perhaps they're up to something more sinister.

Having finished exploring the city in less than an hour, I turned my attention to the ruins outside the city's gates. Apparently, the teleporter in the Mayor's house will take me deep inside those ruins, to the Well of Knowledge, but I'd rather find it through exploration first. Only a few steps into the ruins, I found myself in the first battle of the game, a random encounter with a group of bugbears and griffons. Later combats--all random, so far--served up ogres, hill giants, hell hounds, and crocodiles. One wonders how these diverse creatures have all been surviving in the depths of the earth.

It's still fun when they line up for "Lightning Bolt." Too bad I only have one of these at a time.

One change from previous games soon became clear: the ruins are not confined to a 16 x 16 grid, or even a series of them, as with all previous D&D Gold Box titles. (Curse had some areas smaller than 16 x 16, but they always fit with other such areas to make up a map that was 16 x 16. Buck Rogers had larger, more irregular areas, but that wasn't a D&D game.) So far, I've explored to an X coordinate of 28. There are also large "unused" areas (unless access is through some later teleporter); this isn't technically "new," although it's rare in previous games and the areas were small.

The corridors are long and winding, with a lot of switchbacks and few alternate paths, so that two squares only a coordinate apart might take dozens of moves to traverse. More than any other Gold Box game so far, it feels like you're really in a maze. I haven't decided if this is good or bad.

Was drawing the arrow too hard?

I've been a bit disappointed in the graphics and sound, which haven't advanced at all since Curse. The game still only supports EGA graphics, and the corridors are still uniformly bland and featureless. While I like the turn-based gameplay better than Captive, I confess I miss actually being able to see and hear enemies in the game world instead of suddenly stumbling into their squares with no warning.

I'm just saying, maybe I would have seen these things from more than 10 feet away.

Aspects of the interface also haven't changed since Curse, with both good and bad results. On the good side, I love that the mouse/keyboard/joystick options are all redundant, so you can use them in whatever combination you want. If you want to use the keyboard, you just type the first menu option. If you want to use the mouse, you click on the option. If you want to use a joystick, you scroll through the options and "fire" on the one you want. Every game ought to be like this until we get to continuously-moving 3D interfaces in which you absolutely need the mouse to navigate.

On the bad side, the developers still haven't fixed some of the annoyances from Pool and Curse. In combat, pressing "Target" still scrolls through your own characters instead of jumping right to the enemies. There's still no "Center" option for fireballs and other area-effect spells (although the spacebar works as an undocumented feature), and after killing all the creatures, you still have to perform an action for every remaining character in that round. The game doesn't remember what magic spells you memorized last time, so you have to manually select them again. They're minor things, but I know they get fixed eventually and I wish the series would hurry up.

And of course they haven't done anything about the awful economy. Within about six fights in the dungeon, I had more platinum pieces than I could even carry. The vault in town will store it all and even trade platinum for gems, and there's a magic shop that sells wands of "Magic Missile" (but nothing really cool like wands of "Fireball" or Girdles of Giant Strength).

Overall, it's nice to be back in a familiar setting and interface that I know I like, but I wish the game had "wowed" me a bit more at the beginning. Pool, Curse, Champions, and even Buck Rogers all had introductory sequences that made you feel you were entering some grand new adventure, not just walking into a standard dungeon next to a standard menu town. Here's hoping Secret gets a little better, but even if it doesn't, it won't be so bad.


  1. "Here's hoping Secret gets a little better, but even if it doesn't, it won't be so bad."

    That's exactly the right sentiment for this game. It is a weak point in the Gold Box series of games, but it still ends up being an enjoyable enough experience despite the many flaws.

    Will you play one of the sets of fan-made campaigns when you get to Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures?

    1. He could spend forever playing FRUA games. I suggest he just go with *The Sect*.

      If he doesn't want to deal with hacks...what's the best vanilla mod?

  2. Great summary of what makes the combat in Gold Box games so enjoyable! I'm still hoping we'll see a Skyrim-type game that switches into some form of tactical combat mode. I loved the VATS system from Fallout 3 or even Mass Effect 3 Adrenaline Rush that slows down time while you micro-manage but doesn't pause it entirely.
    It's been a while since I commented, but I'm still a regular reader. Keep up the great work!

  3. I have never understood why people are so negative toward "Secret of the Silver Blades." I suppose coming off of "Curse of the Azure Bonds," it seems weak. But, it stands on its own pretty well, and I've enjoyed it the few times I've played it.

    It seems that "Secret of the Silver Blades" was an attempt to return to the exploration-type adventure that was in the first game of the series rather than the high-story concept of "Curse" (which would return in the fourth game). As far as that goes, it succeeds. I think "Curse" did things too well, though...and maybe that spoiled everyone.

    1. Two words: Ice caves. I know he's avoiding spoilers, but the Addict really ought to just play those at Novice level.

    2. I see Secret of the Silver Blades as being a lot like Icewind Dale. They're both really about dungeon crawling and combat.

    3. Enraged Geek, IMO Secret had neither the exploration-type adventure that was in the first game of the series, nor the high-story concept of "Curse". It's just a mindless slog through an endless array of unremarkable encounters. The interesting encounters in Secret is less than 1% of the encounters, which is way lower than in any of the other fantasy GB games.

      Daniel, it has some superficial similarity to IWD, but IWD had far superior encounter design and much more diverse and interesting locations to explore.

    4. @Brutus,

      I totally agree, but I was referring more to IWD's relationship to the other Infinity Engine games being similar to the relationship between SotSB and the other three games in the Pools series. IWD was supposed to be a more combat oriented series of dungeon crawls, rather than a heavy story based game like Torment. SotSB is the same - lots of dungeon crawling, lots of combat, not much else.

    5. Nice unmarked spoilers there, Brutus and Daniel. We wouldn't want this game to be any kind of surprise to our host.

    6. @Anonymous

      I wouldn't consider saying the game is combat heavy to be a spoiler. If Chet would then I apologize, but he *has* played the game before.

  4. I had this on mah Amiga, didnt like it, even though 2 years earlier I liked the Buck Rogers game in the same engine.

  5. You obviously want to remain unspoiled, but your last paragraph makes me want to comment. I'll encode it with ROT13 just in case, but it's a pretty vague spoiler.

    Lbhe pubvpr gb rkcyber gur znmr engure guna hfvat gur gryrcbegre znl or jul lbh srry yvxr gur ortvaavat vf n yvggyr fybj pbzcnerq gb gur bguref.

  6. Hey Addict: keep visiting the old guy. If you talk to him enough, he will eventually show his appreciation. ;)

  7. Regretfully, I think you are missing one of my favorite parts of this game. The opening couple of hours with my under-equipped party, fighting in the ruins, scavenging every magical item and dreading combat with enemies that can still wipe the floor with my party. That was a pretty fun period, however brief.

    I am fairly sure that Silver Blades is the third Gold Box game. Crusaders was later in the year and, while I cannot find a release date, I believe Buck Rogers was as well.

    Looking forward to seeing how well you do in the next couple of days. The game has some great moments, but also a few frustrating points. I am looking forward to seeing how it ends.

    1. Btw, what is the spacebar trick? I cannot see it.

    2. I always liked the low-level struggle part of RPGs. That's why I'm not a fan of the third Gold Box game in every series - too easy when you start at high level. Sure, the game can throw harder enemies at you, but it's just not the same.

    3. Totally agree with Harland here. For fun, a couple of months back I replayed Pools of Radiance to see what it's like.

      Somehow the freedom involved there (clear the areas around Phlan in whatever order you like) as well as just leveling up the party from 1 was joy.

      I was so excited the first time my fighters could sweep and hit at least two enemies in one blow (excitement grew even bigger when they leveled up enough to hit 3-4 in one go).

      When my mages finally got fireball, I was just rubbing my hands with glee.

      By the time I finished PoR, I was thoroughly satisfied with the experience and ventured on to Curse of the Azure Bonds.

      Imported my party but by then, the experience just wasn't the same. Sure as was said, enemies get tougher, but the whole thing was so much more linear in comparison and by the time I was halfway through I just lost interest to finish it.

      Tried SotSB after that with a brand new party but found it to be tedious with the amount of combat involved. Didn't play more than a couple of hours and switched to PoD.

      Surprisingly I lasted quite a fair bit more there until I got to the area just before Gothemenes's palace (pretty close to the end) and again lost interest.

      PoR was my first gold box game and till today none of the others (played all of them) come even close.

      Still going to read Chet's experience with SotSB with interest but in all honesty, I'm glad I'm not reliving it myself.

    4. Yeah, that feeling when you have limited supplies and every wand, potion or +1 sword you get is a BIG DEAL. Hell, that is the main reason I play RPGs. I hate that feeling when I start leaving treasure behind as it isn't worth it to drag it back. Fallout is doubly bad for this, as my favourite time in it is when I'm wearing a leather biker jacket and carrying a pistol.

    5. For me, the opening of this game is one of the most compelling. When Priam gives you a motley collection of weapons and gear, trying to divide it between party members is roleplaying gold to me. For example, who gets the 30 +1 arrows, with no bow being provided. I know you can later buy one at the armory, but that opening division of gear is special. This is the last of the treasure that the town has. Its a cool moment.

    6. Do I give this Mace +1 to my fighter, even though I've always seen him as more of a blade man? Or do I give it to the cleric, where it will most likely end up anyway, and buy my fighter a non-magic sword? I agree, it's a fun part of the game and I don't know why I didn't emphasize it in the post.

  8. I promise to shut up after this:

    The ruins are, actually, a 16x16 map. If you map it out carefully you'll notice the rooms repeat. It actually teleports you from place to place and changes the 'coordinates'. A couple of the guys at the FRUA reonis forums figured it out.

    1. Very Interesting! I just thought it was a lazily designed copy/paste of a dungeon.That also explains something. I think they messed up the script at one point because I went through one door and didn't end up where I thought I was going to. I managed to get lost despite having been carefully mapping. It happened several times in the same place.

    2. I have mapped it out carefully and I do not see the rooms repeating. Individual rooms DO repeat-- it seems that they have only a handful of room configurations which they connect together, but the ruins themselves do not obviously repeat. Is there something I do not see?

      And I also observed that the coordinates can get screwed up. This happened to me in one of the red dragon rooms where instead of being at coordinate 0, I was at 255 and then all the rest were wrong too. I restored, just in case.

    3. I agree with Joe. I started playing the Amiga version a week or so ago and have just finished mapping the ruins. While some rooms and sections do repeat (and some are turned through 90 degrees) I can't see how they fit in 16x16 areas.

      I never used the co-ordinates so didn't notice any discrepencies with them.

    4. As far as I know, the Gold Box game engine does not support maps that are bigger than 16x16. Still these 16x16 maps are used to create bigger areas.

      For example, in Secret the long ice tunnels are created by "teleporting" the player around one 16x16 map. The player does not see this, of course. The area-command is not usable in areas like these and coordinates do not correspond those of the 16x16 map.

      Clue book map vs 16x16 map:

      Here's an example from Curse, the whole Dracandros' tower is fit to a single 16x16 map:

      Gold Box Explorer can be used to view the areas:

    5. @Anonymous, I recall FRUA maps being scale-able past 16x16, but I may be remembering incorrectly. Am I wrong?

    6. FRUA maps indeed are scalable up to 24x24 (or any combo with up to 50 in one direction or a max of 576 squares, so you can make a 50x11 map), but most Gold Box games are 16x16. I think DQK may be the exception.

    7. When I heard how the maps fit onto a 16x16 grid in Chet's post I was betting there was some behind the scenes magic going on, as that sounded like an engine limitation if I ever heard one. You see some really cool things due to those sometimes, like in Duke Nukem 3D they created a level that can't exist in reality. It involves cylinders rotating more then 360 degrees to get back to their starting point. See, they can't actually rotate cyilanders in the engine, and it is 2D and sprite based anyway, so they just fiddled with the teleportres to create a really unique maps.

  9. I found the early game quite challenging because I immediately dual-classed three of my characters. I nearly experienced a party wipe twice, and had to cop two negative CON points from raising people.

    Waltzing in with 3 already dualled characters, one of whom is perma buffed to 24 strength, would make it a doddle. In fact, presuming this works, I'd have him wear the gauntlets to bring his strength back down.

  10. I missed out on Pool of Radiance growing up, focusing on the Ultima, Bards Tale and Might and Magic games. After reading your comments on the Gold Box series and its combat system, it seems like I missed out (an understatement) on a major part of CRPG history.

  11. Chet,

    I'm not sure if this is quite a spoiler or not but I played this game a LOT when I was younger and I would strongly advise against attempting to scour and map the ruins.

    I'll do the rest of this in rot-13 to avoid any actual spoilers, but I'm almost positive the manual (which includes a partial map of the ruins) discouraged that.

    Gurer ner nobhg 5 ybpngvbaf va gur ehvaf gung ner npghnyyl abgrjbegul; bs gubfr lbh trg wbheany ragevrf jvgu zncf gb 4 bs gurz. Gur 5gu vf gur jryy, juvpu lbh ner rkcrpgrq gb gryrcbeg gb sebz gur Znlbe'f ubzr. Orfvqrf gubfr gurer ner znlor bar be gjb fgngvp rapbhagref jvgu zvabe zbafgref jvgu enaqbz gernfher. Cyhf n gba bs cbvagyrff enaqbz rapbhagref jvgu gevivny rarzvrf.

    Lbh jvyy ernyyl qvzvavfu lbhe rawblzrag bs gur tnzr vs lbh nibvq gur gryrcbegref. Gurer'f nyfb qrsvavgryl n cnegvny znc bs gur ehvaf va gur ortvaavat bs gur wbheany, juvpu ernyyl xvaq bs ryvzvangrf gur arrq gb znc rkprffviryl gb orvat jvgu.

    Nqq va gur wbheany ragevrf gung cbvag lbh gbjneqf gur srj erdhverq fgngvp ybpngvbaf naq gurer vf yvgrenyyl ab arrq gb rkcyber.

    Ernyyl gur tnzr gnxrf cynpr zbfgyl haqretebhaq naq va gur vpr pnirf; gur ehvaf ner yvgrenyyl cbvagyrff rkprcg sbe gur srj gvzrf lbh unir gb hfr gurz, r.t. gb trg gb gur Oynpx Pvepyr urnqdhnegref, gur zvar naq gur qentba jvgu gur nzhyrg. Nyy guerr ner znccrq va wbheany ragevrf.

    1. Forgot to add this, but:

      Birenyy gur cnpvat bs gur tnzr vf ernyyl onfrq nebhaq gubfr gryrcbegref. Gurer vf yvggyr gb tnva, va grezf bs rawblzrag, sebz nibvqvat gurz.

    2. In an attempt to be accurate I decided to download a copy of the game's manual and just reviewed it. On page 1 and 2 there is a map that shows you the route from the town to the well. It also shows the location of the mines.

      There are two locations that actually matter in the ruins, outside of the mine and the well, and you get a map to both in journal entries.

      Just wanted to let you know, as I do know that you occasionally neglect to review the manuals for each game. In this case it definitely has lead you astray as the pacing of the game is really built around you spending a minimal amount of time in the ruins.

    3. Having just played (and mapped) this section, there were things I found that I was not given a hint towards... and asking someone in a grid game like this (with no automap) NOT to map is a bit weird so strange if that was authorial intent.

      I also noticed that the maps in the manual were not exact (off by a square or two, especially on the edges) so the OCD in me had to map to make sure.

      The only area of the game where even I gave up mapping is the multi-layer section coming up. Then there are simpler traversal strategies that ensure you see all of it without having to notate every square.

      My big complaint about the ruins is that they simply do not LOOK or FEEL like ruins. Just collections of rooms does not feel like a ruin to me, we should have been finding blocked off street segments and some areas should have felt like houses and buildings. Very under-developed ruins, poor "dungeon design" as we might say today.

    4. "asking someone in a grid game like this (with no automap) NOT to map is a bit weird so strange if that was authorial intent."

      To be perfectly honest, it really does seem like they designed this game with the intent that the player to map only minimally if they bought the game legitimately and therefore had a copy of the included Adventurer's Journal.

      A map to every important location in the ruins is provided in the manual, or via journal entries. There are literally no plot important locations there, that are not mapped for you in this manner. I knew this as I've played the game 20+ times since it came out, but I also reviewed the Hint Book to confirm.

      Overall this entry in the series, and many subsequent entries, tends to minimize mapping requirements.

      In Secrets, each zone does it differently but it's a consistent theme.


      In the mines you have general hints (on floor x go south) that really narrow things down. Additionally the mines, while large, aren't very complex. I know when I was younger I had them pretty much committed to memory.

      In the Dungeons maps are provided quite often in journal entries. Pretty sure Area works a lot as well.

      The ice caves are almost linear and generally have strong hints at every crossroads, plus you're essentially led through a section by an NPC.

      Pretty sure the Area command works in BCHQ and Giant caves. IIRC you also get a map of BCHQ.

      ---- END SPOILER-Y STUFF -------

      Between all of that I honestly think you only NEED to map in the final castle in the few sections that don't allow the AREA command.

      Or if you choose to explore the ruins, step by step.

      So, yes this does appear to be completely by design.

      It may be helpful for me to bring up the crossover appeal of these games as it is pertinent to this discussion.

      M&M2 players would start this game up, and begin mapping immediately...but many folks that played this game were new to CRPGs. Many Gold Box players were P&P D&D players, and honestly by 1988 and later P&P D&D had HEAVILY de-emphasized mapping and was instead very heavily slanted towards plot driven storylines/dungeons/conflict.

      Due to that many of these crossover P&P players had never mapped in a game of D&D.

      Since so many of their players were unused to mapping I think they intentionally de-emphasized mapping starting with Champions/Secrets/Buck Rodgers, and honestly never quite went back. Many future entries in this series supply the user with either the option of using Area, OR a journal based map, if not both, in too many situations.

      BTW I do want to mention; I am sorry if I’m coming off as aggressive or insistent about the whole exploring the ruins thing. For whatever reason I always knew it was a bit of a dead end in terms of pertinent content, outside of the few spots you are sent to.

      Just want to make sure there isn’t any aggravation caused by exploring that location, as really, it seems like the designers didn’t really want you to waste time there..if they did I’m pretty sure they would have populated it a bit better.

    5. Just to disagree on one point: I do not believe ALL of the locations in the ruins are findable without exploring. I certainly couldn't, and I look forward to hearing what Addict has to say about it if he comments in his next post.


      In specific, the instructions for one of the dragons is just "in the north" which will require you to explore. I also never found a clue how to get to the admin building. There are 2-3 fixed encounters in the ruins which I only discovered by exploring which had treasure that my under-equipped party needed.

      It may be that I missed some clues someplace, but it seem clear to me that they added some value if you did want to explore and map every square. Just, IMHO, not quite enough of it. The first zone is sparse compared to the size (the largest map in the Gold Box to date with less interesting areas than a normal 16x16 map!)

    6. This comment has been removed by the author.


      You get a map to the Black Circle HQ/Admin Building if you don't attack it by a certain point. It is Journal Entry #38.

      For the Red Dragon, there are two in the ruins. One, with the amulet iirc, you get a map to (Entry 1); the second is only there for loot/xp and the loot/xp he provides is not required and is not really that good.

      Again, EVERY objective that you need to find to complete the game, in the ruins. is mapped in that Journal.

      It's possible you missed one or more of these if you don't constantly go back to the Well every time you finish an objective.

      That's one aspect of this game that I find a bit unconventional;
      the well is, for better or worse, your primary quest giver.

    8. I'll make you a wager of $20 in Monopoly money:

      The Addict will map the ruins completely. I suspect he has the same OCD as I do on this one.

    9. I'd take that wager, but I'm pretty sure you've won it already ;-).

    10. Horrible spoilers in this thread, owb, including plenty that you didn't mark as such.

      I appreciate the advice, but I'm mapping everything, of course, regardless of the inefficiency.

    11. To start with, I would like to honestly apologize for those spoilers. I did not catch that until a while after posting and felt it would be a bad call to remove the post entirely as it would loudly disrupt the conversation.

      This game has gotten a very mixed response from the community. As someone that owned and played it when it was new, I was never quite clear on why. Yes this game is drastically different than a lot of the other Gold Box games, but I always felt the differences were positive and contributed to it’s greatness.

      After reading your synopsis of the start of the game, I believe I can see why.

      When this game was new, there was a significant “analog” overhead involved in acquiring it and playing it. You’d purchase a copy from a local game store, then drive home, then slowly install it via 5.25” or 3.5” floppies.

      Generally I’d complete the Adventurer’s Journal, minus the Journal Entries, in the time it would take to install the game. In the case of Secrets that meant I’d read the intro where they mention the Well was attacked immediately after you arrive.

      Not sure if it translates now, but there was a observable sense of urgency communicated in the Journal, that the game itself didn’t communicate. I’d reviewed the map to the Well at that point, and personally thought “why waste my time walking when I can teleport, they clearly need me at that well ASAP.

      (ROT13’d to avoid more spoilers)

      Guvf jnf n tbbq pnyy, nf gurer vf yvgrenyyl na rapbhagre gevttre ba gur fdhnerf bhgfvqr bs gur rkvg gb gur svefg gryrcbegre ng gur jryy gung fgnegf n znwbe rapbhagre. Gurer ner gjb rkvgf gb guvf gryrcbegre, obgu bs gurz ner synttrq sbe guvf rapbhagre.

      Vs lbh jnyx gb gur jryy ivn gur ehvaf lbh znl abg gevttre gung fdhner, hayrff lbh znahnyyl znc rirel fdhner va gur jryy nern.

      Vg'f abg ybpngrq va n ybpngvba gung jbhyq sbepr lbh gb gevttre vg, vs lbh jnyx gb gur jryy sebz gur ehvaf. Gurl ernyyl gevrq gb qvffhnqr lbh bs gung.

      As a result, my first few hours in the game were significantly different than yours. Within a few minutes I was wrapped up in the plot, knew where to go next, and had a constant need for cash.

      Both the pacing and economy issues should be behind you, if you were following the plot the journal laid out. Instead, unfortunately, you are taking a Might and Magic approach, instead of a plot oriented approach, say like Skyrim.

      I am terribly sorry for using spoilers to attempt to communicate that, but I’m pretty sure your overall impression of the game will be, for lack of a better term, incorrect, due to your disregard for the plot they’re trying to get you to follow.

      This game, like Champions, is really more story oriented than Pool was; it is substantially more story driven than the “lawnmower” type RPGs, imho, so approaching it like a lawnmower game will likely actually diminish it’s impact and lead to a reduced GIMLET. That kinda makes me sad because this game did resonate with me a lot, and I personally feel it's a misunderstood gem in the series. YMMV as always ;-).

    12. I agree. It is a rough Gem, ironic given the subject matter. Others may see it as a lump of coal of course. It really gives me the chance to run a party as a long term expedition.

  12. I would hazard that you need those birds because they're used in mines to warn about a gas or they might just be an inside joke since those are mines after all.

  13. Would it be possible for you to do a sort of 'holiday special' where you play some of the better jrpgs? It'll be nice to hear your commentary on them and how you percieve the differences.

    1. JRPG = No

      I like some early Japanese RPGs, but it has been stated on this blog several times that they will never be covered.

    2. Too bad. Shin Megami Tensei 1 has a good CRPG feel. Somewhat like Wizardy, except more linear.

      - VladimIr V Y

    3. Even if the Addict covered some of the better JRPGs, I don't think they would score very well on the GIMLET. They really are a different beast. It's not comparing apples to apples.

    4. It's like comparing little girls in very short school uniforms to mature women in chain mail bikinis.

    5. I'll just assume that 'little' means 'barely legal' which is to say; I love 'em both!

    6. I have never stated that I won't cover JRPGs. I'll cover any game that has a PC release in a western language. There are plenty of JRPGs that fit this description, and we'll start seeing some in the next few years.

  14. In case you haven't heard, some of the SSI guys are back now as Tactical Simulations Interactive and are making a new game in the Goldbox vein.

    1. That's one of the best news of the decade!

    2. That was my reaction when I heard that we're finally going to get a proper Shadowrun PC RPG designed by Weisman himself - and we all know how it ended*. So I'd be more cautiously optimistic about TSI's project. Let's see how it turns out.

      *while they hugely improved with Dragonfall, and the upcoming Director's Cut seems to be even better, I'm still hugely disappointed that it's so unfaithful to the PnP rules.

    3. Which tabletop rules set would that be? There have been two or three since the original came out- I think 5th edition is the current one.

  15. Chet,

    There are some games that you won't play, but the "Tactics" series comes the closest to the gold-box style combat in more recent games. They are some of my favorites, though they lack the gold-box style exploration. You will never play because these are all console RPGs, but for those that care:

    Tactics Ogre (1995)
    Final Fantasy Tactics (1997)
    Tactics Ogre 2 (2001)
    Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (2003)
    Final Fantasy Tactics A2 (2007)

    I very much enjoyed this series as a kid, shame they seem to have stopped making them.

    1. Past year was pretty rich in turn-based RPGs, some of them very much tactical. The one closest to Goldbox experience is probably Blackguards, which has little to no exploration but does wonders with its encounter design and interactive battlefields.
      Shadowrun Returns would probably qualify too, if it weren't so easy.
      Coincidentally both those games are also adaptations of PnP rulesets.

    2. Final Fantasy Tactics is indeed an excellent game(and available for the iPad apparently). I recommend staying away from the "advance" games though. The games added a lot of random combats and a judging mechanic that could amount to "press X to fail the entire mission"

    3. The judging system in those games could be a lot of fun, though. Essentially you would go into combat with a handicap like no using swords, or no magic, etc. And if you broke the rules, you could get "carded" and there would be a penalty. I do not recall the penalties.

      Later in the game, you could start to manipulate and add rules to the combats which could play to the enemy's weaknesses. There were also "lawless" areas where the judge system was not in effect. If I remember right, those were the only places where you could suffer real player death.

      It may not have been everyone's cup of tea, but I found FFTA to be quite fun, but I got bored by the sequel. I do not remember why.

      And I have never managed to beat the first FFT game. The job system is tough to master and I kept finding I had under-powered characters by the midgame and there was a boss battle that I just could not win and very little way to grind to improve. The details are a bit fuzzy now.

    4. IIRC, there was a way to grind in FFT. I remember using skills on enemies that did not do direct hit point damage (power break or mana break perhaps?) but did give experience.

      You could then use that experience to level up whichever class you preferred. I think the mechanism was that you could equip one of your non-main class skills when ever you switched classes.

      The story in FFT was excellent, at least up until the near the end, when I think there were some major translation issues. I heard that the PSP version made the ending much more understandable, which I assume would carry over to the iPad version.

      The job class system allowed for some really interesting combos... the calculator class was seriously overpowered though.

    5. There are a few places in FFT you can get locked into a series of fights without the ability to grind in between, so if you don't have a backup save, you could be in trouble.

      It's possible to overgrind your characters and end up with a ridiculously overpowered party. Most challenges people post for the game include strict level caps for each chapter, ban the "level down/level up" trick, etc. Even with those restrictions, some people have even finished the single-class challenge for Calculators (who are usually monsters...but are the worst class in the game if you're prevented by the challenge rules from using the hilariously strong Calculation ability)!

    6. One of the penalties for the judging system was "red card". That jailed your character. If your character was the main character that ended your game.
      I put the game down in disgust when I was on the 3rd battle of a battle chain and the current rule was "do not use AoE attacks". I accidentally (I forget why) did an attack with an AoE effect with my main character. That instantly lost me the game.

      I felt it was bad design because:
      1) The rule was public information.
      2) The fact that the attack was AoE was public information.
      3) There was absolutely zero reason to do this attack. A red card on a lesser character might be worth it if the effect of the action was worth having the character go to jail for. For the main character, that was never worth it since it was game over.
      4) So this was a 100% guaranteed game over using all public information that the game offered no "are you sure" prompt for.

      I was already experiencing battle fatigue (the original Final Fantasy Tactics had on the order of 50 battles you had to do - FFTA seemed on pace to have WAY more), and losing something for such a stupid reason was enough to get me to put it down.

      I think red/yellow cards with a "are you sure you want to break the law" check could add some interesting game decisions - this was not one of them.

    7. Blackgaurds! I have that game. Got it in early access, was really liking it, then got into the fight with the Dwarves that you have to do without your gear. The final battle took a ton of tries, and wound up with me kiting one dwarf around the whole arena for dozens of turns slowly whittling HP down. After that I lost interest and swore not to play Early Access games ever again. Did they fix that in the final version?

      I should try playing that game again.

      --Canageek, currently in Krakow. Wasn't planning on reading the blog while here, but I'm jetlagged, have thin curtains, and dawn is at 4 am. So yes, 6 am local times = blog reading time.

  16. Our gracious host's endless love for the Gold Box combat engine confounds me. I only played POR out of the Gold Box games, but I found it to be a fussy and fiddly little mess of a system, that simultaneously felt too slow and too fast - going through an individual fight (even against very weak enemies) took way too many button presses for my liking, too much scrolling around the viewport that never was large enough to show the whole combat arena, but whenever something happened, it happened so fast that I missed it if I blinked. I was never comfortable with it, it never felt good to me.

    (Insert mandatory disclaimer about different tastes and such here.)

    A large part of the problem was a complete lack of mouse support - there was a constant nagging at the back of my brain that the whole thing would have been over in ten seconds if I could just click on my character, then click on the enemy, and the character would waddle over on his own and hack at the enemy. Dark Sun games later did exactly this, and it worked out much better in my opinion. Even later Betrayal at Krondor perfected the formula.

    1. TBH I think that problem is something folks see as a benefit.

      In a Gold Box game I can control exactly where, how, why and when my character does something. I can a spell exactly when and where I want it to drop, on the exact enemies I want it to land on.

      In a mouse driven "click on that guy to attack, then watch your character wander over" system, like Baldur's Gate, et al you lose that fidelity.

      D&D is descended from tabletop war games, which really follow the former model in terms of system design. As a result I agree that the Gold Box method of presenting AD&D combat is optimal in terms of the spirit of the original system.

    2. @MOZA Everything you said is true, with two caveats: A) the duration of fights sharply declines as your characters gain more options in combat, and B) the combat engine did improve quite a bit from PoR to FRUA, even if the changes between any two sequential games seem minor.

      It's also important to realize that the fundamental challenge in DnD games is rarely surviving the fight you're in, but rather managing the fight so that your characters take as little damage as possible while using up as few resources as possible. Goldbox fights are about tactics and resource management, not about action. When you start thinking of fights this way, you begin to see the micromanagement as essential, rather than tedious.

      One of my complaints with the infinity engine games is that they make resting too easy and consequence free. Players can rest and heal up after nearly every fight. This is not the way 2nd Ed. DnD was meant to be played.

    3. Excellent post! You are right on about the resource management and tactical nature of Goldbox. Finding a place to rest was always top priority when entering a specific area.

    4. I love both the dark sun(well the first, second was too buggy) and gold box games and find the differences preferable at different times. With the square by square movement of gold box games, you wouldn't walk into a stinking cloud or next to a waiting enemy by accident, but sure if you were not in the mood it can get tedious after many battles. There are a lot of rpgs over the years that have a very similar combat system (wizards crown, nahlakh, exile, helherron to name a few), Nahlakh for one I find doesn't have the same problem resting but each fight tends to be pretty hard to survive in itself, waltzing in without micro-management and you won't last ten minutes.

    5. I'm curious to know under what conditions you played the game (was it in DOS, on the C64, in an emulator, etc). Because things shouldn't happen so fast that you can blink and miss them. There are speed settings to prevent that. Though if you played it in DOSBox or on a DOS machine that was too fast, you might have had this problem. (The DOSBox issue can be remedied by reducing the cycles to around 2000-3000).

      One of the things I love about the Gold-Box games is that, like D&D, I can take my time and see everything that's going on (which is why I detested the Infinity Engine games). I wonder if you wouldn't have a better experience under the right conditions.

    6. "I'm curious to know under what conditions you played the game"

      I was stationed at a remote location in 2000 (universal conscription yay \o/) and bored out of my mind. Desperate for entertainment, I smuggled old pirated games to the ancient PC I found in a storage closet on floppy disks. The PC was a museum piece, probably not even a 386, running DOS. On that PC, the slowest speed setting offered by POR was so fast I couldn't see anything except as a blur.

      I never completed POR. I played until all my characters reached the level cap, which I believe is the halfway point of the game. It is my understanding that Gold Box games always had horrible issues with level caps that you'd run into long before the endgame. I also don't recall having to employ tactics beyond "don't cast Fireballs right into your own party" level; enemies were straightforward and easy to kill.

      Didn't hate the game, but to be fair, I played it under conditions where I'd be grateful for almost any piece of entertainment. I beat Omega around the same time.

    7. @Moza

      The difficulty in PoD is pretty inconsistent. There are a few very difficult fights that punctuate otherwise fairly easy areas. To a large extent, this is a problem with 2nd edition DnD, which is really optimized for characters up to about level 12 or 13. As such, the first two games in the series probably offer the most authentic experience.

    8. "On that PC, the slowest speed setting offered by POR was so fast I couldn't see anything except as a blur."

      That machine was too fast to run that piece of software, then. Things in the game run much, much slower than a blur.

      Check this video, for example, which shows a playthrough at the proper speed (a combat occurs a few minutes in, so feel free to skip ahead about 3 minutes).

  17. Sounds like the townsmen should have wished for "champions AND THEIR GEAR to defeat the evil that infests our mine." Heh.

    Just one tip (though I think you'll figure this out yourself): at certain points in the game it makes more sense to map nodes-and-lines, instead of an accurate grid map...

  18. Chet,

    I would be a little worried by your party. You are higher levels than a new import party, but you have uniformly less hitpoints than my similarly leveled characters. And at those levels, you will only get 2-3 more HP per level, I think. Not sure why that is, but it could turn into a problem as some of the combats are quite deadly.

    You may want to quickly check new characters and see how far behind your guys are and make a choice, before you get too far.

    1. HP system in AD&D gives you dice rolls for HP up until level 10 IIRC after that you get a fixed (class dependant) number of hit points per level.
      Can't remember if high con gives you more HP's like it does with IWD 2 (which uses 3.0 rule set).

    2. According to the Player's Handbook a Constitution of 16 gets every class +2 HP to the dice roll, with each additional point of Constitution past 16 giving an additional +1 HP to the roll, but only for Fighters. All the other classes are capped at +2.

    3. Hit Points are not that important in any individual fight. Just about the only thing you need to worry about is dragon breath, in which case having 255 instead of 110 will be nice.
      Maximum Dex, for maximum initiative is much more important, and is what eventually will make or break your day in the final encounters of the whole Pool series.

    4. IMO Brutus is right. Dex is much more important for initiative. Otherwise you end up with half your characters dead (in certain fights) before you get to do anything. Dragons in SotSB only have like 40-80 hit points. You can sometimes wipe out a group of white dragons with just a fireball. On the other hand, they can definitely do the same to you with their breath weapons if they get the first move.

    5. If my characters' hit points are low, it's either some consequence of dual-classing or just acceptance of low hit dice rolls when I leveled up. Either way, I'm not going to worry about it. Rolling with the punches and finding tactical alternatives is what RPGs are all about.

  19. Dear CRPG Addict,

    You asked us not to spoil you. I will respect that. I have played this title many times, to victory even. It is my least favorite version of the Gold Box product line and will remain so for many reasons. I will leave it to you to find your own reasons.

    I completely agree with you about turn based combat and it is the main reason I avoid any modern CRPGS. Secret of the Silver Blades is a joy by comparison.

  20. Chet, another question. Which game do you think is the best representation of D&D on the computer? I'm assuming you're going to say one of the gold box games. And which D&D game do you think is the best game? This one might be a gold box game as well. Ha.

    1. Best representation of D&D on the PC is probably ToEE If you want a modern goldbox game, that's it. It's basically goldbox with 3.5 rules and top-down exploration.

    2. @Tristan Gall

      Were any CRPGs made off the 4th edition rules? I always felt they were a rule set designed to be easily implemented both at a table and in computer games. To the best of my knowledge though, no games were ever released using the 4th ed. rules.

    3. It's a shame. While I didn't like 4th ed. as a tabletop system I thought it would be fun to play a computer game using those rules.

    4. Unfortunately not. It was an excellent ruleset for tactical battles. I think it would have made for a good pvp game as well. D&D minis (a tabletop collectible game based on the 3.5 ruleset) would also have translated well to PC.

      Divinity: Original Sin is kind of like what I imagine a 4th Ed game would have felt like.

    5. I'm seconding Temple of Elemental Evil. With the available mods that fix the many issues with the original release, it is a solid game.

      I see that someone released Keep on the Borderlands for the ToEE engine. How will I ever find time to play it???

    6. Steve, listen to everyone else, I guess. I never played more than a few hours of tabletop D&D, so I can't say what computer version best replicates the experience. I do like all of the Infinity Engine titles.

    7. Man, 4e would be great for a Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem type game.

    8. I think that'd be just about perfect - it's pretty much how RL sessions tend to play out anyway, and it'd be way faster with the mechanics automated. Maybe some kind of toolset that lets GMs put their own sessions together in a TRPG engine but insert their own flavour and interaction...

  21. Why not rename this blog into GoldBoxCRPGAddict and skip all the other RPGs altogether? Since you are so often predispositioned about other RPGs (you often just abandon them because you lose the interest in them, e.g. Tunnels & Trolls, or you don't like the graphics or the theme) and Gold Box RPGs are your favourite you would have it a lot easier to enjoy them without bothering about other RPGs.

    1. Yeah right, because he's played NOTHING but Gold box games...

    2. Has the Addict ever given up a game for not liking the graphics? Your criticism seems unfounded to me.

    3. He abandon Tunnels & Trolls because he didn't have time to finish it because of his real life job. He stick it to the end of 1990.

      @ Daniel well Addict give up on some games at the beginning of his blogging carrier, but now he complete all games...


    4. The initial comment seems overly harsh.

      Please remember that there's no personal slight if the Addict skipped one of your favorite games. Personally, I remember
      the Gold Box games as being some of my very favorite CRPGs of my youth, but obviously everyone has their own preferences.

      It seems like the OP was offended that the Addict skipped one of his

    5. If you look at the top rated, then the ultima series seems to be doing better to me. Chet has abandoned very few games, many I thought he would give up on from the midpoint reviews he has soldiered on through. If someone only liked gold box and ultima rpgs that would be a little odd, but it can't really be argued that they don't have some all time classics in there. Maybe he wasn't feeling tunnels and trolls as much as you, that is just life. Chet wasn't that big a fan of lords of chaos (and I have a feeling eye of the beholder won't be as fun for him as it was for me) while I just don't feel it for hero's quest, life goes on, I still enjoy reading this blog :)

    6. As Chet himself mentioned above this is the first GoldBox game he's played since Buck Rogers ~9 months ago. This is his first AD&D GoldBox game since CotAB in 2012.

      As-is he has completed more Wizardry games than GoldBox games. More Ultima games than GoldBox games.

      I personally was ecstatic when he abandoned T&T; it seemed like a poorly thought out, poorly executed, uneven attempt at a "cash in" CRPG by a lesser "budget/ghetto" P&P RPG IP.

      It was not well received, not well reviewed at the time (when folks actually had lower expectations of games) and has essentially been forgotten, as illustrated by the lack of FAQs, fansites, etc on the internet.

      Popularity does not equal quality, but in this case I think the lack of quality of that particular CRPG has absolutely hindered it's popularity. This is in stark opposition to the GoldBox games quality, which was amazing for its time.

    7. Some data points for the guy that things the Addict is a quitter:

      Of the 162 games that he played so far, 22 did not have an ending and 110 of them have been beaten for a win rate of 81%, which isn't bad.

      That leaves 28 games that he did not win and 2 that are currently in progress. The most recent failure was "Legend of Faerghail" back in November of 2013, so just about a year ago, and that was because the game was too buggy to complete. The last real quit was July 2012 with "Bloodwynch". So though he has a 20% abandonment rate, he's gotten awfully stubborn in the past two years.

      This won't convince you. Trolls are hard to convince and come back unless treated with fire, if I remember my Pool of Radiance correctly. But I had fun looking it up.

    8. I'm fairly sure Chet hasn't "abandoned" T&T, just postponed it.

    9. Joe: in Gold Box games, you can also stand on their heads.

    10. My other readers have done a good job responding to this mystifying comment. My blog is mercifully free of such trolls, usually.

      Tunnels & Trolls will return. I didn't abandon it because I didn't like it. I postponed it because work circumstances left me unable to play it for a month. I was in a situation where I'd been away too long to continue with my current party and remember what was happening, but too short to start over from scratch.



  22. I just started Secret of the Silver Blades two or three weeks ago. With work/family/life I've yet to complete it but I'm getting there.

    So far, I find an enjoyable time waster. I view it as a training ground for my party, preparing for Pools of Darkness.

    I have definite plans for dual classing some characters, so the high experience point random encounters do much to get through the lower levels quickly.

    Thanks Chet for all the good reading and nostalgia.

  23. Hey, guess what? I found a game not on your list yet! But don't worry, it's not an obscure spectrum game from the 80s. It's a fairly recent windows game (released in 2009) with AD&D rules, turn-based combat and all that good stuff: Knights of the Chalice.
    Mobygames link:

    1. My list only goes through 2003 by design. At the end of 2014, I'll update it for 2004.

    2. I would recommend Knights of the Chalice to you as a game to play outside the scope of the blog whenever the yearning for GoldBox-like combat gets too overpowering and the list of upcoming games doesn't offer any hope.

      KotC is a party-based combat focused somewhat linear CRPG with a turn based combat system very similar to the GoldBox games. The rules system isn't actually AD&D, but it's own, which is very similar to D&D 3.5 (due to using OGL 3.5 as its basis).

      As a whole it is perhaps a bit too flimsy to be a true classic: it's too combat focused, the overall plot/quests are mostly an excuse and the balance is off. But it is pretty darn great at what it does: map and encounter design and combat, which means that the actual moment to moment playing of the game is tons of fun. I'd be rather surprised if you didn't enjoy it despite its slight weaknesses, and I suspect KotC might work as a perfect distraction. Of course from the perspective of the progress on blog it's probably that to a fault.

      Also the interface is good, and the in-game help system is quite possibly the best ever: a hyperlinked rulebook and a reference guide for the game's rule system.

  24. "imported here with 24 strength even though the Girdle didn't come with her"

    That's actually a character import bug in the game. The same kind of bug is present in Curse of the Azure Bonds, too, if I remember right. You should take off all such equipment and make sure no character is under an attribute changing magic effect before you save. Curse... was so buggy in this aspect that it was possible to permanently lose some stats by many points during the game. I am not sure about Silver Blades, but if you see something wrong, you may need to use a character editor to restore the stats back.

  25. One observation I have so far:

    Unlike PoR and CotAB (which are the two I have played, but also I believe the two released before this game-- at least CoK was later), they did a good job about having multiple map types. The areas do NOT just feel like 16x16 grids.

    There are 16x16 areas to explore, and those are still some of my favorite areas, but the ruins, the (rot13) zvarf, and the tynpvre are quite different in style from anything I've seen in a Gold Box game before and quite different from each other. And the xvqanc fhocybg was pretty well done, with a good sense of tension.

    I miss the densely built special 16x16 levels of previous games, but I appreciate that they have provided several different kinds of exploration experiences in this game.

  26. Methinks the poor Addict got stuck in the Ice Caves and is trying to explain to his fans how he hates a goldbox game ;)

    1. At a business conference all week. Tough to find time to play. Still managed to knock out the end of Captive.

  27. Come to think of it, the Infinity Engine in some ways (combat in particular) seems like there is as lot in common with the Gold Box series...granted it isn't necessarily turn based (unless you enable the auto-pause), but it is a 2-D isometric view where you move into position and take actions. So, think you are on to something with the popularity of that style of combat!

    Oh, and.. Darklands :) Think Elder Scrolls predecessor with Gold Box style combat and a unique setting, with its own game universe.

  28. I know I am three years late but...

    Capet was a medieval king of France, a good name for a party leader.

    Sieglinda is a mix between the name of a mythical German hero and a medieval queen of Lombardy; a good name for female melee fighter.

    Averoes was a medieval philosopher and medical doctor in Arab Spain; a good name for a mage/cleric.

    And "Verdigris" is sort-of-Latin for "GreenGrey"; then, this is a lame name... :)

  29. Sorry for this thread necro but...

    As I'm reading through your blog (which is awesome!!!) I wanted to relive this game from my childhood memories. I've never played it before, only watched a good friend play it.

    I have almost no experience with old CRPG games, so it's a pretty high learning curve so far. And I'm stuck, not far from the beginning; I'm in the Well of Knowledge, did a few fights against bandits and red dragon hatchlings, without too many problems. But now to advance I have to defeat a group of Sub-Adult Red Dragons, and I have a TPK within 2 rounds.

    So my question is: is it normal I have to grind some levels first, before trying this fight? Or am I doing something completely wrong?

    My party consists of:
    1. FRED human fighter (8) AC 2
    2. FELIX dwarf fighter (8) AC -1
    3. RANGER human ranger (8) AC 0
    4. RONGAR human ranger (8) AC 3
    5. MINDALF elf mage (9) AC 5
    6. CLEO human cleric (8) AC 8

    My fighters are equipped with Halberd +2 and Long Sword +1
    My mage is using fireball and magic missile spells (for some reason in some fights he can't cast (there's no CAST option), in some fights it works).

    The Dragons 1 or 2-hit kill half of my party.
    A single melee attack brings one dragon down from 44 to 40 HP.

    I just want to know if it's a good idea to spend some time grinding bandits :)

    Thanks alot!

    1. There's no such thing as "necro" on my blog. All threads are permanently active indefinitely.

      It's been a while, but I feel like your party should be able to handle the battle. It has to do with the right buffing, probably. Have your mage memorize as many "Enlarge" spells as possible (forget "Magic Missile") and cast them on your fighters and rangers. Your cleric should reserve her 3 Level 2 spell slots for "Resist Fire" and hit the same three fighters with it that you "Enlarged." She should also cast "Bless" and "Prayer."

      Your mage is going to do most of the damage. "Fireball" is a bad choice against red dragons. Go for "Lightning Bolt," "Ice Storm," and "Cone of Cold." You might also have luck with "Hold Monster" and "Slow." If all else fails, have the mage spend one Level 3 slot on "Haste," which will double everyone's movement and attacks.

      I'm sorry if the rest of this is obvious, but it sounds like you might be relatively new to the Gold Box:

      1. Cast your buffing spells BEFORE you enter combat, ideally from one square away. Make sure you have "Search" turned off so that it only takes 1 minute to move into combat and not 10.

      2. The mage can't cast if he's been hit earlier in the same round.

      3. Your cleric's AC is way too high. Clerics can wear the same armor that fighters can, remember, and have no penalty for casting while doing so.

    2. Thanks for the great advice! I'm trying this tonight :)

      Another thing I'm not really sure about, is the money: I have currently 3 types of currency (gold, gems, platinum). Which of those should I collect? Should I take my money with me, or deposit all of it in the bank?

    3. You should probably just take platinum. If you go to the bank or a store, they should automatically convert it to all platinum.

      I had another thought based on the extremely low damage you said your characters are doing: are you sure that their weapons and armor are properly equipped? If you go into their inventory menus, the equipped items ought to have a * next to them.


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