Friday, September 26, 2014

Secret of the Silver Blades: Won!

What if I stay a month? That's a lot of celebrating.

New Verdigris is free and the Dreadlord is dead. It took me about six hours after my last post. Good thing I didn't have any major work to do this week.

The dungeons had felt too easy, what with all the teleporters back to town every couple of levels. Boy, did this change towards the endgame. The second glacial crevice was an extremely long, linear path from the frost giant village to the Dreadlord's castle. It was chock full of random encounters and had only one teleporter--itself so far off the beaten path that it was hardly worth using, since I had to waste all kinds of hit points and spells on random encounters on the way.

Those are supposed to be monsters frozen in the walls.
(The entire game is basically feast or famine with random battles. The ruins, mines, and crevices had them ad nauseum, but most of the buildings--including the castle dungeons and the castle itself--didn't have them at all, unless I tried to rest. I frankly think they could have toned them down. They just prolonged the game and offered a bunch of experience points I didn't need.)

In the middle of the crevice, my tendency to use only one saved game started to haunt me. The random battles with pyrohydras, white dragons, remorhazes, Black Circle fighters and mages, and cloud giants so sapped my hit points and spells that I began to despair that I'd ever exit. With random encounters in all directions, there's no way to "escape"; you have to reach one end or the other. Resting almost always produces an attack. About halfway through, I begrudgingly lowered the difficulty level back to the default, but that only helped a little. After exhausting all the healing potions, cleric scrolls, mage scrolls, and wands that I'd been hoarding, I had to resort to something that we might call "fix-scumming": making camp, saving, attempting the "fix" command, and reloading if I got attacked. Using such dubious methods twice, I finally made it to the other side.

Ancient white dragons were among the enemies that eroded my health as I tried to make it to the castle.
There, I found the forces of the Black Circle fighting the spirit of Oswulf, who was guarding the front door. I had to fight two large-scale battles, one with cloud giants and white dragons, one with Black Circle fighters and wizards, both with hardly any spells and resources to my name. Although difficult and frustrating, it was also the first time since the kobold battles in Pool of Radiance that I felt authentically challenged by a Gold Box fight. (There have been a couple where I got completely curb-stomped, but that's not "challenging"; that's just difficult.) I don't know about you, but I tend to sleepwalk through combats at higher levels, relying on the same bevy of spells over and over, and having some characters just sit on the sidelines while my fighters duke it out. Not here. Everyone participated, and everyone used every resource available, whether it was the last shot from a Necklace of Missiles, a stray scroll with "Hold Monster" on it, or a handful of darts. I spent time maneuvering for positions--particularly taking advantage of Karnov's backstabs--in ways I hadn't bothered with since the first game. Winning was mildly exhilarating.

My kingdom for a "Fireball."
When I'd polished them off, the spirit of Oswulf greeted me and gave me a Silver Long Sword +5 and a Silver Shield + 5. Both went to my paladin. Oswulf charged me not only with defeating the lich but freeing his brother's soul "from the lich's taint."

That's a horrible place for his brother's soul to be stuck.
The Dreadlord's castle was three levels of massive fixed battles (medusas, basilisks, cloud giants, storm giants, driders, pyrohydras) and various encounters. There were no teleporters until the very end, but fortunately I could take the stairs down to the dungeons (I guess they thawed in the meantime) and use the teleporters there. The levels were the only ones in the game (that I could find) to feature a lot of secret doors, traps, and places where I needed to have "Search" active to find treasures.

This game has numerous mechanisms for providing hints about things for which only the stupidest players would need hints.
Early in the castle, I encountered a mad cleric of Bane who indicated that he'd just been released from the ice after 300 years. Apparently, Bane had kept his mind from freezing as a punishment for the cleric questioning Bane's interest in the Dreadlord. I remain a little confused about Bane's association with the Dreadlord. During the endgame, the lich makes a point of saying that we're standing in "ground consecrated to Bane." But if the Dreadlord is a servant of Bane, or allied with him, why are the Black Circle mages fighting the Banites for control of the Well at the beginning of the game?

In my haste to get though the description of the castle dungeons, I probably didn't give enough credit to the variety of fixed encounters the creators offered. Some of them were challenging and clever. In the castle proper, these included:

  • An entire level in which all the key areas were accessed by a series of rotating alcoves. After using them, I had to find a switch to activate them from the other side and return to the main hall.
  • A room with a group of storm giants who claimed to have no quarrel with me and sold me a map through a small maze to the Dreadlord. They took a lot of money and gave me a worthless map.

Hey! That guy looks like Tyranthraxus from the last game!

  • A room full of basilisks and cockatrices, providing endless battles with both unless my party entered with an amulet found in a different location. Getting past them rewarded me with a nice cache of magic items.

  • An encounter with a patrol of driders and medusas. Killing them produced a message indicating the password was "Steeleye," helpful to get past a series of iron golems on the way to the third level.
  • An illusion of the Dreadlord who invited me to attack him, but attacking him just randomly teleported me to other locations with traps and tough battles. Letting him attack me dispelled the illusion.

This was a little counter-intuitive.
Throughout the levels, I kept running into Sargatha, a medusa who claimed to be the Dreadlord's lieutenant. She kept throwing monsters at me and escaping. In one memorable encounter, she beckoned from the end of a hallway. When I charged her, I blundered into a teleport trap that took me all the way back to the first level of the dungeons. I had to make my way back (via teleporters, so it wasn't too hard) from there.

We get it. You hiss when you talk.
The third and final level featured a series of doors in which I had to use keys found in the dungeons (the Well had told me the correct order). There were a bunch of fixed battles with cloud giants and two major combats leading up to the final fight: one with Sargatha, "dread guards," and Banite priests; one with a very tough fighter, guards, medusas, and priests; and one with six 16-headed pyrohydras.

He paid for his run-on sentence.
I got cocky at one point and neglected to save after five or six battles. Usually when this happens, I die, and then I curse myself for not saving more often. What happened this time is that I accidentally attacked Vala, my NPC, in the middle of a combat. This turned her hostile and forced me to kill her to get out of combat (none of my "Charm" spells worked), at which point she was no longer with my party. I didn't want to lose her, so I had to reload and replay about an hour of game time. Reminder: save more often.

Confronting the Dreadlord.
Like always, I blundered into the final battle without any warning. If I have any gripe against the Gold Box games, it's this: you get no advance warning about huge armies amassing on the other side of a door, or even in a square 10 feet in front of you. This means that if you want to buff up before a major battle, you either have to know it's coming or get very lucky on a guess. In my case, I allowed myself the luxury of quitting the game the first time, reloading, and casting my buffing spells. I hate having to do that, but the engine really doesn't leave you any choice other than to never buff.

Going into the final battles, I may have overdone it.
Thus, after a round of potions of "Giant Strength" and "Speed" and spells like "Haste," "Bless," "Prayer," "Protection from Evil 10' Radius," "Mass Invisibility," "Resist Fire," "Resist Cold" (why is there no "Resist Shock"?), "Fire Shield," and "Globe of Invulnerability," I engaged the Dreadlord and his forces. He attacked with 10 storm giants (recall that the final fight in Curse of the Azure Bonds was with one of these) and six priests of Bane.

This one is a mite tougher than the typical final Gold Box battle. All the storm giants are capable of casting "Lightning Bolt," and the priests are capable of "Holding" even my high-level characters. Fortunately, I got the jump on them.

The Dreadlord had a Globe of Invulnerability active but his minions didn't, and the giants and priests that survived my two "Delayed Blast Fireballs" went down easily to my fighters, who had like four attacks per round. The Dreadlord fired off "Fear" and "Lightning Bolt" but didn't do significant damage to my party before everyone surrounded him and slowly beat him to death.

I wanted to let Vala strike the killing blow for role-playing reasons, but she kept missing.
This wasn't the final fight, however. In a secret room beyond the Dreadlord's chambers was the gem containing his soul--protected by 12 iron golems and 6 medusas.

I'm afraid we're going to have to disagree about that.

Fortunately, my haste, giant strength, and other buffs were still active. I had my mages "Fireball" the medusas and then "Lightning Bolt" the golems to slow them down. After that, my fighters concentrated on them one by one until they were all dead.

At that point, I got the endgame sequences showing the Dreadlord's soul, free from its lich form, rising into the heavens and embracing his brother, Oswulf, before they both departed for, in Oswulf's words, "a better place."

In Forgotten Realms theology, where would that be?
A teleporter appeared in the corner and I returned to New Verdigris, where in a lame, single-paragraph denouement, the mayor thanked me and said that the city would be partying for a while. Outside, citizens rushed up to shake my hand.
That's nice, but I was really hoping to have a celebratory drink in the tavern.

All the stores were closed for the party, which irked me a bit, as I had some final bits of equipment that I wanted to identify, but it turned out that when I left the city and returned, everything was open for business again. I got my equipment straightened out and then "Removed" each member of the party for later import into Pools of Darkness.

The Well had this final message. This is the second time Elminster has been mentioned in a Gold Box game, but I'm not sure we ever actually see him.
Karnov only made it to Level 17 out of 18. His multiclass status means that half the experience points he earns are wasted on the fighter side, where he can't advance. Everyone else was way over their caps and should be able to level-up immediately in Pools of Darkness.

Financially, I have enough money to basically buy the Forgotten Realms--and that's without picking up any platinum for the last 2/3 of the game. I don't think I'll take any of it with me to the next game. The economy is already too easy in Gold Box titles.

On the equipment side, I have some great stuff:

  • 2 Girdles of Giant Strength
  • Gauntlets of Ogre Power
  • Boots of Speed
  • Banded Mail +5
  • Leather Armor +5
  • Plate Mail +5
  • Silver Shield +5
  • Shield +5
  • 2 Shields +4
  • Bracers AC2 and AC3
  • Silver Long Sword +5
  • Long Sword +5 
  • Scimitar +5
  • Mace +4
  • Flail +4
  • Long Sword vs. Giants
  • Ring of Fire Resistance
  • 2 Rings of Protection +3
  • 2 Rings of Invisibility
  • Ring of Wizardry
  • 4 Cloaks of Displacement
  • 5 Potions of Giant Strength
  • 4 Elixirs of Youth

I have this idea that Pools of Darkness lets me keep it rather than finding some lame excuse to render me naked at the beginning. I look forward to seeing how Pools of Darkness begins, and I'm a bit sorry that I have to wait another year even though I've mostly had enough of the Gold Box for now.

It's time for both an update of the "Gold Box: Spells and Their Uses" posting as well as the GIMLET!


  1. Ah! That battle with iron golems and medusae... I had blocked that battle from my memory it was so traumatic. It doesn't seem like you had much trouble with it though.

    1. If you didn't realize iron golems were basically immune to magic, you could waste a lot of time throwing spells at them. A lot of people had the original D&D books and knew all the monsters' weaknesses.

    2. One thing that really helps is that "lightning" spells act on the Iron Golem as "slow". So there was a use for those spells and wands after all because the fighting characters needed as many rounds as possible to take out all the baddies.

      That said, I only discovered this by accident while I pretty much tried to use every spell on them to find one that worked.

    3. I did find it relatively easy, but as NN points out, I already knew that golems were immune to magic (and already knew about the "lightning bolt" trick) from previous experience. Also, my party was still buffed from the previous battle; I think "Haste" is probably a necessity for the golem/medusa battle.

  2. I look forward to the GIMLET!

    Now that you are at the end, I can say that I appreciated that each section FELT different. The 16x16 building maps were undoubtedly the best (and the final section of the castle was perhaps my favorite endgame of the three Curse trilogy), but they did a good job giving the ruins, the crevasse, and the mines a very individual feel. Shame they didn't do more with the latter. Even the town was redeemed a bit by the subquest with Marcus and the gradual worsening of the situation there until you solved that quest-- a worsening you did not see because you caught on faster than I did. I ended the game not fully sated and wanting to pop in "Champions of Krynn" for the first time, but having too much work to do so.

    When you GIMLET, if you haven't already, please remember that this is Gold Box #3, not #5. CoK and the Buck Rogers game were both released after Silver Blades. So this is the first game chronologically with a "vault", for example. I haven't played the other two yet, but you might want to poke back through them and see what "firsts" you found there and see if they are in this game earlier. Just want to give this one a fair shake. :)

    1. I *swear* this came out after CoK, but before the BR game.

      Pretty sure the BR game had the whole "combat ends when the last hostile target dies" mechanic in place, along with a few other refinements SotSB lacked.

      Chronologically, I know it came out after Champions because Champions was my first Gold Box game; I bought it new when it had just been released. From what I remember, SotSB came out like...6 months later.

    2. Time for some archeology!

      Wikipedia says:

      Secret of the Silver Blades - May 18, 1990
      Champions of Krynn - June 1, 1990
      Countdown to Doomsday - 1990

      But every contemporary review I can find says that Champions came out first:

      This one:

      And this one:

      And this one:

      Only this retro-review places it earlier than Champions, but it may be based on the same faulty Wikipedia data.

      "The History of Dungeons and Dragons in Video Games" has Secret before Champions, but it was written much later and possibly based on the bad Wikipedia dates

      So this is Gold Box #4: Pool -> Curse -> Champions -> Secret -> Countdown

      Thanks for correcting me!

    3. And because I am that way, I have removed the erroneous date from Wikipedia.

    4. It seems strange that a game released June 1st 1990 should be reviewed in the April issue of CWG, which was probably written three months earlier.
      On my own chronological play list I placed COK at the very beginning of 1990.

      I'm always wary of releases dates like January 1, June 1 and December 1. They are usually pulled out of the hole of a Gluteus maximus.

    5. Just read through the reviews in Dragon Magazine to try and pinpoint something resembling a workable timeline here.

      Reviews for these games were published in the following order:

      Champions of Krynn - April 1990, Issue 156
      Secrets of the Silver Blades - November 1990, Issue 163
      Countdown to Doomsday - July 1991, Issue 171

      I was a Dragon subscriber for years; from what I remember they published about a month ahead of schedule like most magazines. So the April 1990 issue was likely mailed to subscribers in March 1990. Which means the review of CoK was written in Feb of 1990.

      That lines up, more or less, with my memories of when Champions came out.

      It would make sense to date Secrets similarly, e.g. November review = September release. However, there is an advertisement for Secrets in the August 1990 issue of Dragon (160, pdf p114.)

      That ad doesn't have any sort of "coming soon" banner or anything so I'd have to assume the game was released by the time that issue hit subscribers in July of 1990.

      I'm not quite sure why Countdown wasn't reviewed until the July 1991 issue. There's a review in CGW from January of 1991, so I guess they just held this one back a few months.

      That CGW review in January of 1991 would indicate a release date of December 1990 for Countdown at the latest.

  3. "But if the Dreadlord is a servant of Bane, or allied with him, why are the Black Circle mages fighting the Banites for control of the Well at the beginning of the game?"

    That's typical behavior for the followers of Evil gods in most D&D settings. The core tenets of Evil in the D&D cosmology are selfishness and ambition combined with a lack of empathy or compassion. Meanwhile, the various groups following any given deity are going to be extremely jealous of said god's favour, and will view any ascension of a rival group to be a reduction in their own status. Thus, they spend more time fighting their rival followers then they do fighting others. Meanwhile, the Evil gods saction and encourage this, because they're Evil, and it amuses them even in cases where it doesn't directly empower them. This dynamic is most obvious among FR's Drow or the followers of Takhiss in the War Of The Lance in the Dragonlance setting, but it's a general feature (and the main reason Good survives.)

    1. Huh, that's the usual comportment of Evil everywhere, even on that fantastic planet called Earth.

    2. A while ago, I was reading one of these online discussions where someone tried to assign an alignment to the US Government. People were all over the place from Lawful Good to Chaotic Evil. These concepts of good nations full of good people fighting evil nations full of evil people don't really hold up in the real world.

      Of course, in D&D there are spells that can tell you what someone's morals are, so evil and good can be objectively determined.

    3. Addendum: You have an earlier bit of infighting with Dexam and Fzoul in Curse of the Azure Bonds.

    4. If you translate D&D alignment to political ideology you get roughly this:

      X axis (law) = Big Gov't <--------> Small Gov't

      Y axis (ethics) = Collectivism <--------> Individualism

      'Lawful Good' is Euro Socialism, 'Chaotic Good' is Jose Mujica (Pres of .uy), 'Lawful Evil' is Bush Era Republican Party, 'Chaotic Evil' is Anarchy.

      Note that this is not indicative of my views of any particular ideology. One man's evil is another's etc.

    5. Furthermore, the concept/philosophy of evil is the same in Faerun as it is on Earth. Still just as subjective.

      Where Faerun differs is that there's also Team Evil. Team Evil may not be 'evil' to any given individual though. Team Evil believes in the complete primacy of the individual (might makes right/survival of the fittest). Anything goes as long as it specifically furthers the cause of the actor. Lawful Evil believes that an individual is more likely to achieve its goals within an structured society, Chaotic Evil believes an individual is more likely to achieve its goals when everyone has absolute freedom.

    6. ...and heeere comes the politics! Thanks for bringing this up, people! I love how "good" is assigned to "collectivism" and "evil" is "individualism", seeing that collectivists murdered 100 million people in the 20th century in pursuit of their utopia.

    7. Anonymous, you just perfectly illustrated, the difference between Team Evil/Good and a person's own notions of philosophical evil/good.

    8. "Note that this is not indicative of my views of any particular ideology"

      Yeah. Suuuuure it isn't.

    9. Besides which, people who claim Stalin et al were pursuing some sort of collectivist utopia are being a bit disingenuous. Megalomaniacs are by definition, Individualists, and the complete individualist will use whatever means he can to achieve his goals. One popular ploy is to tell everybody you're working for the common good. See history for details.

    10. If it is indicative of anyone's political views, it's those of Gygax and Arneson, not mine. You can see for yourself by reading the books :)

    11. I agree with the Anon that introducing politics and trying to map it onto D&D orthopraxy was a bad idea on many levels. Here are a few:

      1) Even if you accept the validity of D&D alignments, there is no way to ascribe one to a government like the United States', which rotates its chief executive between highly opposed ideologies every several years. But let it pass.

      2) There is a massive difference between a government's own behavior abroad versus at home. The Soviet Union, being a big-government collectivist regime /par excellence/, was "lawful good" according to @Tristan's schema; but toward other nations they were a small-government (I mean vis-à-vis the United Nations) exceptionalist regime, that did whatever selfish thing they wanted -- which makes them "chaotic evil". How can they be both?

      3) Likewise, a bad government will behave one way with respect to their subjects while expecting their subjects to behave in a different but complementary way. According to your framework, North Korea's oligarchs are chaotic evil in terms of their thinking and actual mode of governance, but lawful good in their propaganda, and they compel their subjects to be lawful stupid, er, lawful good. @Tristan, you touched on this issue, but it poses a serious obstacle to putting something as complex as a government into D&D's laughably reductivist matrix.

      4) Bold claims that evaluate specific governments' ethics in debatable cases make people unnecessarily and fruitlessly angry. Why bother?

      5) My hazy understanding of Moorcock on Law vs. Chaos (which is where D&D cribbed it from) is that Law is generally bad, and that governments that impose much of any of it are detestable. It was a mystical (and somewhat mystifying) version of libertarianism.

    12. @ Gaguum
      I haven't read Moorcock in a while, but as I recall, Law and Chaos are both pretty malignant, from the point of view of humanity. Elric's soul-eating sword and demonic patron were both on the side of Chaos, while the Eternal Champion, I think, was supposed to be a force of balance.

      I think. It's been a while.

      The problem with law/order in D&D is that they often seem to be used as intensifiers. Paladins are lawful good, which makes them the goodest of all the character classes. Likewise, I often get the impression that chaotic evil is viewed as the evilist evil.

    13. @bd

      Yeah, in Moorcock, Chaos tends to be pretty bad too. Someplace in the books, they visit a plane that was once "pure chaos", and now it's a trackless waste of sterile sand (representing maximum entropy), which is claimed to be worse than pure Law.

      Another D&D problem is that the game often enforces acting lawful stupid or chaotic stupid. If you have a mind of your own, your alignment slips and you eventually need Atonement. The whole thing is ridden with behaviorist claptrap of the crudest form, and it would've been a rare playgroup that rigorously enforced every official rule on the subject.

      It's a shame, because the law/chaos vs. good/evil scheme is a pretty good one in its general outline (even if "lawful" is a terrible word for "law-abiding"). It just shouldn't be a matter of compulsion. Everyone's a casuist.

    14. Noman's explanation makes sense. I just wish it had been a little more explicit in-game.

      Tristan, I fear I must agree that you attempt to apply the axes to government doesn't make a lot of sense. First of all, it's hard for me to see collectivism/individualism and big government/small government as two different axes.

      It seems simple enough to me that the good/evil axis is a measure of how willing you are to harm others for your own benefit (evil) versus how willing you are to sacrifice your own benfit for others (good).

      I could be wrong about the creators' original intentions, but I always saw the choice of lawful and chaotic as less a political philosophy and more a personal preference. That is, "chaotic" characters don't necessarily believe in anarchy; they just prefer not to be part of a system themselves. They don't want to pull down civilization; they just want to live off the grid.

    15. @Gaguum

      1. I proposed an alignment for the gov't under GWB and friends (every administration is different).

      2a) USSR would have been LE for most of its history as it only purported to work towards the common weal. In reality, party members sought to improve their own lot at the expense of an enormous underclass.

      2b) International relations has been almost entirely anarchic for the sum of history. You'd have nations with complex internal legislature to protect individuals doing whatever they wanted to civilians of other nations. It's a dichotomy that still exists.

      3) NK would be a LE purporting itself to be LG, as any good LE regime should do! It's a common theme :)

      4) If people get angry, that's their issue. I'm not judging things as right and wrong. I'm applying my interpretation of the book to public policy.

      5) Interesting!

    16. @BD

      The D&D stance on the 'evilest evil' is that it's NE, because it neither rules out structure nor enforces structure, and thus has more flexibility in its pursuit of 'evil'. They changed it up in 4e though.

    17. @Gaguum 2

      The rigidity of the rules regarding alignment were pretty bizarre. That same rigidity is still seen in a lot of CRPGs.

      eg You see 100 men beating a beggar. Will you:

      A) Leap into the fray, against insurmountable odds, for goodness?!


      B) Will you laugh and try to get a boot in?

    18. To be fair, most individualists in today's world place value on human life. It's a pretty extreme form of individualism that doesn't. Anarchists and Republicans may be more individualist than Socialists and Welfare Capitalists, but they're definitely not far enough along the axis to be 'D&D evil' :)

    19. @Chet

      Yeah, you could probably think of it thus:

      Good: 'I am obligated to help others'
      Neutral: 'I am not obligated to help others but I feel bad about harming them'
      Evil: 'I don't feel particularly bad about harming others'

      Often, in CRPGs, it feels as though 'evil' quest lines feature harming others just for kicks as a purpose in itself. I'd much rather evil written as sheer opportunism.

    20. 2a) USSR would have been LE for most of its history as it only purported to work towards the common weal. In reality, party members sought to improve their own lot at the expense of an enormous underclass. - well, you don't really know much about USSR's reality, do you? Fact 1: "party members" constituted roughly 90% of the population, you just didn't have a lot of career opportunities if you weren't a member. Fact 2: part officials did have better lifes than everyone else - roughly at the level of low-middle class of capitalist countries. In this sense there was a sort of de facto equality in place, at least compared to the more 'evil' parts of the world (or modern Russia). Finally, while the government was indeed comprised mostly (though not exclusively) of selfish careerists, common cultural values were radically collectivist. What that implies however isn't 'working towards a common weal' but rather that no one is allowed to be (or at least feel) better (or even just different) than the others. I have a really hard time calling that 'good'.
      Not to mention that USSR isn't the only collectivist utopia gone sour. Every single one of them did: Cambodia, North Korea, China, Cuba.

    21. All you need to do to generate some excitement is say something that could be considered an endorsement of collectivism (It wsan't, anyway). Maybe it's less of a sensationalised topic here in Australia.

    22. Man, D&D and ethics. In a world where gods exist, absolute virtue-based morality would make (more) sense than in our own world, therefore it's very difficult to examine the utilitarian quality of good (as in, harming as few people for the benefit of the most). From a utilitarian point of view this is just and good, but from an absolute virtue point of view the loss of one human life for any purpose at all is absolutely evil, therefore it would make sense for a believer of a lawful good god to indeed throw themselves in a 100 versus 1 fray and die for goodness, as they would absolutely be rewarded with a place in 'heaven'(Lawful Good Plane, or somesuch).

      In-context ethics discussions of the D&D alignment matrix suffer from these problems. What's far more revealing is a social evaluation of what was going on when Gygax, Arneson and co. came up with the system and what values they were trying to communicate to players (consciously or not).

    23. Yeah, LG wouldn't be very utilitarian. They'd have a more prescriptive set of morals. They'd be all about literal interpretations of the holy writ.

    24. Yes. A world where religious fundamentalism checks out. The Gods are here and they are watching you. This is how D&D gets over pcs systematically killing evil races like orcs , because they're 100% proven to be evil, it says so right there on the tin. This is also the foundation on which most of D&D 'roleplaying' between player characters in my experience is fantasy melodrama with a racist undercurrent. Oh oh my dwarf doesn't like your elf and our races will never get along because 100% we know where we come from and are proven to be different, but but but I might get to like the particular elf that is you, elf! A teleologically conservative milieux! Every ontological construct helping the next towards the end of: killing lots of things, taking their stuff, civilizing the savages.

      The only bit I like is that you could theoretically become a young god and kill the established pantheon through luck and wit and willpower, fulfill the fantasy of the lightbringer, turn the world upside down. But not many pcs get the chance to shake things up in such a way.

      Gods have power over the material plane as long as worshippers worship them, otherwise they don't exactly die, but they go to sleep for a while until some mad cult wakes them up. You'd think the Forgotten Realms would be better of with mandatory atheism, much less problems for them, seeing how most evil things are created by evil wizards and priests in that setting, and evil wizards and priests are associated with their respective Gods.

      However, there'd be no healing spells. I wonder if that trade-off is to our favour.

    25. Helm, you should definitely play Heretic Kingdoms: The Inquisition (aka Kult: Heretic Kingdoms) - it's set in a world where god is dead (killed by a hero, no less) and any kind of worship is forbidden and prosecuted. What's more (spoilerish, thus rot13) lbh trg na bccbeghavgl gb xvyy ure n frpbaq gvzr! It has a misfortune of being an ARPG, but setting and some innovative mechanics make up for it.

    26. Cheers for the heads up, never heard of this game.

    27. Atheism isn't necessarily only about disbelieving that a god or gods exist; it's about rejecting the very idea that any being is worthy of "worship" and unquestioning obedience simply because it is older/smarter/more powerful/etc. Many atheists reject the concept of "god" and not simply the reality.

    28. As a note: Both Chaos and Law were promoted in Moorcock at various times. Corum was explicitly the champion of Law, and we see the bad sides of Chaos in his first book: Humans working for Chaos arrive, murder his family (and the rest of his race), torture him and cut his hand off, as a means of overthrowing Corum's stagnate, lawful society. Corum then becomes the Eternal Champion, and fights on the side of law and implies most of the ECs are on that side, except for the one traitor he has to fight at least once.
      We also see some things near the end of his series saying that extreme law is also bad.

      At the same time, Elric is on the side of Chaos as I recall, and implies law is bad, but I've read less Elric. Moorcock goes into this all a LOT in his Runestaff books, but they made no damn sense as the author was on a LOT of acid at the time. As in, I read it and can't actually understand a lot of the book, since it it just pages reconning earlier books and claiming reality is a metaphor.

      What is really interesting is how much more of an influence Elric et al. were on D&D then Tolkien, yet everyone claims Gygax ripped off Tolkien. Also, how huge an influence Moorcock was on one of the other early settings, Warhammer (More evident in Warhammer Fantasy then 40K, but it is there.)

  4. "In Forgotten Realms theology, where would that be?"

    There are 17 different afterlife locations (planes), one for each alignment and one for each pair of neighbouring alignments excluding True Neutral. ie There are three planes associated with Lawful Good: LG, LG/LN and LG/NG.

    Every deity resides on a plane associated with their alignment. When a person dies, their soul goes to the plane of the deity they worship, or, if they did not worship a deity or their deity doesn't want them, a plane associated with their alignment.

    You visit a few of these planes in Torment and one at the end of BG 2 (I don't remember which, one of the evil planes).

    1. While the majority of that is correct, in Forgotten Realms, if you do not worship a diety you become one of the Faithless and your afterlife is to spend eternity as part of the Wall of the Faithless on the Fugue Plane. All of eternity stuck as the mortar in a wall of souls never to be set free seems like a good reason to worship a god.

      The thing about going to a plane associated with their alignment is true in Greyhawk and most of the other D&D settings though.

    2. For more details:

    3. Yeah, I don't think the fugue plane was a thing at the time of SSB. Prior to 3rd Ed, FR used vanilla AD&Ds 'Great Wheel'

    4. As an atheist, I clearly wouldn't do well in the FR.

    5. If any random priest could open a can of holy whoop-ass at will, not to mention turning undead and making auguries and curing whatever ailed you, then you probably wouldn't be an atheist.

    6. Well, most people in FR believe in immensely powerful extra-planar soul shepherds. But would those beings fulfill the requirements of religion for everyone? You still might want something more from theology than those beings had to offer.

    7. From an existentialist point of view, even if Gods exist, it would be necessary to not believe in them, to spit in their face. Therefore I can see a small minority of atheists in the FR material plane, who know exactly what's waiting for them after death and yet do not believe. We must imagine syssiphus with a smile.

    8. @Chet

      You should play NWN2: Mask of the Betrayer. It has a really interesting plot involving the Wall of the Faithless.

    9. Interestingly, the Planescape setting is kinda designed for philosophical gaming. The city of Sigil is a battleground of various ideologies, many with pretty evident parallels in the real world. Sigil resides on the 'True Neutral' plane, and contains all sorts.

    10. Does Sigel really count as a better place? You can wind up there after you die.

  5. Many years since playing this, but before deleting from HD, you should go to visit locations like the dwarf at temple. Your leaving and revisiting town reminded that IIRC this being first gold box showing how the world changed after your victory.

    1. Thanks for the snipe hunt. I went back to the dwarf and he had no new dialogue.

    2. My sincerest apologies. Somehow had vivid memory about changes on descriptions, like finding the Derf Strongarm dead with peaceful look on his face and Dreadlord's palace in ruins etc.

    3. Memory reconstruction is a thing; it is amazing how many of our memories never actually happened.

  6. That's the canonical example of a roleplaying encounter: SPEAK | KILL | IGNORE. Option 1 results in a paragraph from the book and continues the encounter, likely yielding important or interesting information. Option 2 results in a fight of your entire party against a single cleric. Great treasure and challenge from that battle. Option 3 doesn't do anything. The answer is so obvious it makes you wonder why they bothered putting it in.

    The second one has ATTACK | FLEE | LET LICH ATTACK FIRST. The last option, being so different from the others and unique to the current situation, must be the right one. EXPLORE ROOM | LEAVE yeah right like we're not going to choose the first one.

    1. This is what I've been talking about all game. Pool of Radiance had options that really made a difference and allowed you to role-play. Such options have slowly degraded throughout the series.

  7. Congratulations once more! Sounds like they wanted to emulate the feeling of a dungeon crawler there at the end.

  8. Congratulations on finishing! You inspired me to play it again, although with a party made up in the game. I no longer have Curse of the Azure Bonds. One thing I have been trying is not using the teleporter so often. It really is a long trek between town and the mine entrance, let alone further down into the dungeons and the crevase. I had forgotten that the Castle does connect with the Dungeon, but only after you traverse the crevase.

    I really do like the effort made in the setting of the game and the different locations and the graphics to represent them. I do agree on the inanity of multiple wandering monster fights which serve little purpose. Then I thought again and it seems this game is all about attrition. It becomes a vicious circle. The game throws lots of items and treasure, so it has to throw a lot of monsters too. I am still in the ruins and I find myself rationing spells and buying multiple wands of magic missile from the shop in town.

    The monsters were creative. I liked the pyrohydras, and different kinds of giants. Fighting armies of Medusas was weird though.

    When I originally played I hoped that the first encounter in the well opened up the possiblity of allying either with the Black Circle or the Banites. It would seem since the Black Circle were putting so much effort into concealing their true plans they might have tried bribing the party. I guess it could not be managed on the this engine.

    Still I have come to like this title more and more.

    1. I agree--I still can't get over the idea that "medusa" isn't a unique creature who needs to be capitalized.

    2. Don't forget all the pegasi, hydrae, sphinges, etc.!

    3. The numbers of pegasi etc makes sense to me. Classic mythology is set in our world so it would make more sense that only one minotaur/hydra whatever existed else people would ask why they had never seen any. In D+D, it makes no claim to be real so if there was only one of a creature (tarrasque excluded) adventurers would very likely never see it. "Medusa? oh yeah she was around twenty years back, bob the fighter chopped her head off, you will have to get that experience with more orcs instead"

    4. The problem with "Medusa" is that there was already a name for the type of creature she was: gorgon. Medusa was her personal name. If you want to make more in your game-world, you make more gorgons and give them other names. Minotaur, Pegasus, and Hydra were the names of unique creatures, so if you wanted to make more, there was no readily available name for the generic type.

    5. 'Gorgons' isn't exactly a species name either (no more than 'Furies' or 'Fates' are at least) as there were exactly three of them.

    6. On one hand I agree with most of the above, on the other, if we suddenly encountered humanoids that looked somewhat bovine, we'd call em Minotaurs. But that's because we have a precedent. Such precedent doesn't exist in most fantasy worlds. 'The Bull of Minos? What?' Funnily enough, in AD&D, the Greek pantheon actually exists (On the plane of Olympus, no less), so maybe they provide the nomenclature for various Greekish beasts

    7. Also, oddly, in D&D Gorgons are armour plated bulls that breath gas that turns you to stone.

    8. @VK Yeah. But if there were 8 of them, they'd still be called gorgons. If there was only 1 of us humans left, he/she would still be called a human (or whatever that person wish to call him/herself).

  9. Glittery-armored ponce (with non-matching picture): "You have no summons prepare for death."

    Barely a notch above "You have no chance to survive make your time", but without the defense of being written by non-native speakers.

    1. I totally missed that the description didn't go with the image. Really, how hard is this?

    2. Zero Wing was released in 1989. Could this be the first intentional All Your Base Are Belong to Us parody? Seems more of a stretch than bad copy editing, but I'd still prefer to imagine that's what this is.

    3. Evidence that they coded the game in order and someone's energy was flagging in the crunch at the end.

    4. Can't be: That intro was only in the 1991 Mega Drive version: the 1989 arcade version used a different intro.

  10. It's "ad nauseAM", actually. Cfr. eng. Nausea. Dunno why English speakers make this mistake.

    1. I'm an English speaker and a Latinist, and I don't make that mistake; not all Anglophones are ignoramuses.

      But the reason why the Latinless do get it wrong is that they are used to Latin words ending in -um.

      Of course, I assume that Chet does know, but made an unaccountable typo. It happens.

    2. And once again, we see evidence of Bolingbroke's Hypothesis #16: Any comment that contains the word "actually" is the work of a pedantic, insulting jackass.

    3. Actually, I use that word a lot -- probably more than I should. Hmm.

    4. I'm just a non-Latin speaking dumbo myself (Like, I can Deutsch sprechen aber nur ein kleine bischen (where is that 'sharfes s' key when you need it??), I used to be able to converse semi-fluently in Esperanto (Esperanto estas mia lingvo!), and I used to converse with a deaf friend in ASL, so as you can see- just an average dumbo) and I thank you for filling us all in on this. I like to learn things :) I have debated making an honest attempt to learn Latin, have skimmed books on pronunciations and grammar... Learning is fun :)

  11. Congratulations on finishing! I remember the end of SotSB being a real slog to get through, which is why it was my least favorite of all the Gold Box games. I think I replayed all of the Pools and Krynn series multiple times except for this one.

    I'm interested in seeing how your GIMLET score for this one compares to the other Gold Box games.

  12. I had been looking forward especially to this game because I know I played it a couple of times (I distinctly remember on the second time through using the map in the hint book because I didn't want to find my way again) and I can honestly say I remember almost nothing about the game. I must have finished it, but other than the starting scenario, the well, and one picture of the castle in the glacier, I've got nothing. It's been 20 years, but in comparison I found large portions of Pool of Radiance and Azure Bonds familiar, after even more time. Weird, and probably a testament to the weaker story.

  13. I remember hearing mention, although possibly in false journal entries about a vorpal blade being in the ice caverns. I presume this was just a red herring, since I spent a fair while looking and never found it, did anyone else have a good hunt around for it?

  14. What I like about Gold box is the amount of role play you can put into it, if you want, or not. While battle and exploration make up the meat of the game, there is are some fine tuning you can do to sweeten the game, at least in your own mind.

    For example, in my current game, my leader, Theodora, is a Elven fighter/magic-user. She will never rise above 11 level, but she can cast spells while in scale mail armor. I made the character pledge to only use the equipment given by the mayor. Scale mail is the best protection while casting spells. Thats not in the rules, that is my rule. She is a good front line fighter, but she is a bit scarred, so she casts fire shield on herself before moving.

    Zoe is Theodora's sister and is the opposite. She is evil, and uses any equipment she can find. Although a back bencher, she has the highest strength and armor class. She is a magic-user and likes to experiment with different spells, while Theodora stays with tried and true. She used to like missiles, but she prefers backstab and with dimension door, this tendency has increased.

    I know this sounds weird, but I like putting these details into the game. It makes it more fun when I make decisions in the game based on what I perceived the characters would do.

    Never found a vorpal blade, though I think it appears in Pools of Darkness.

    Thanks Chet. It is nice to find someone else who likes Gold Box.

    1. Weird though it may seem to gamers of this generation, I wouldn't be surprised if that was exactly how the developers hoped people would interact with their game.

    2. I wouldn't be surprised either. I played most of the Gold-Box games back during their release with a friend of mine. He created three characters and I created three characters. When it came time for battle, we controlled only our characters and made decisions for them, just like a real game of D&D.

      In between battles, we often roleplayed decisions (so even as something as Attack or Leave could cause some long discussions about how we wanted to proceed). We developed personalities for our characters and came to know how they might react to given situations.

      So, for us, the Gold-Box games were kind of a game of AD&D with the computer acting as the DM. Worked out really well, honestly. I suggest trying it that way with a friend or two. You'll be surprised how much fun it can be.

    3. I've written stuff in my head for characters in various games, mostly RPGs: Dragon Warrior I and Fire Emblem II a lot, but also a few others. I think I wrote in explanations for Oblivion and Mass Effect as to why I wasn't rushing to do the main quest right away.

    4. I did that too. The one that came into mind were Soul Edge and Soul Calibur in Edge Master Mode. It was like an Action RPG in that mode with XP and collectible weapons.

      I don't know why I did that though.

  15. And that's the second old-timey game where an asshole sibling is totally forgiven after being totally trounced.

    1. I meant to comment about that. The ending makes it seem like the guy didn't choose to become a lich in the first place.

    2. It could be he thought he was going to be able to keep his personality, and keep his good nature? Pride goeth before a fall and all that. Probably not what the developers were thinking though.

      That said, I really wish there were more games based around the literary idea of a heroic flaw. I'm trying to think of a video game character who actually is the villain due to a trait that would be heroic or good if possessed to a lesser degree and failing. Oh wait, The Illusive Man from Mass Effect 2/3 did with their desire to protect humanity. Possibly also Seren from the first game with his desire to preserve peace and stability in the galaxy.

      Are there other good examples I'm not thinking of?

    3. Not really: Cerberus is established as bad people in the first game, Saren is established as a bad guy by the end of the tutorial of the first game. But you are right, I probably should have ROT13ed some of that.

    4. But in Mass Effect 2, Cerberus is... er... yeah. Spoilery.

  16. "I have this idea that Pools of Darkness lets me keep it rather than finding some lame excuse to render me naked at the beginning."

    Funny you should mention that, because it does let you keep all your shiny stuff...

    ...then it finds a lame excuse to force you to put most of it in vault storage for like half the game because traveling to and from certain places destroys magical items, with a few exceptions. I'm sure the developers had a lot of fun with that idea.

  17. Sorry if this posts twice. My first post seems to have gone into the void.

    I just finished replaying the Gold Box series (having first played them when they were released) and generally enjoyed the effort, although I was regularly annoyed with the economy as well (and a few other things). I admit to having used the Gold Box Companion (and occasionally cluebooks) which greatly assisted in some things - I just don't have the time to go down a path only to find out I made a truly bad decision 2 hours ago in turning left instead of right. I read your posts, Addict, after finishing each game to see how our experiences and opinions line up.

    One thing of humorous note for the final battle against the Dreadlord: My thief, Thast, had been utterly blowing his backstabs throughout the entire series - either not being set up to get a backstab attempt or whiffing it when he did manage to get a swing in. However, in that last big battle, he ran up behind the Dreadlord and, hasted, double-backstabbed him for over 100 damage per hit. Way to close out the quest, Thast!

    1. It's always thieves who produce the best stories. I think it's because most CRPGs aren't well designed to use their unique talents, so when they're (rarely) successful, it really stands out.

  18. "it was also the first time since the kobold battles in Pool of Radiance that I felt authentically challenged by a Gold Box fight. (There have been a couple where I got completely curb-stomped, but that's not "challenging"; that's just difficult.) I don't know about you, but I tend to sleepwalk through combats at higher levels"

    I'm curious as to how this statement relates to your high praise for the tactical combat system in the gold box games. Is it that the few interesting challenges are so remarkable that they stick in the mind more than the curb-stomps and cake-walks, or is it praiseworthy that the engine even has the potential to produce interesting challenges in the first place (even if it doesn't always fulfill this potential), or is the variety of options available sufficiently interesting that even unchallenging combats are still compelling? Or some other explanation? I'd just be interested in more detail on what makes a combat engine that's almost never challenging so worthwhile.

    Personally I'm okay with easy combat because tactical combat isn't really my thing and I'm happy enough to move past it to the exploration and story, but then I don't have a comprehensive cRPG rating system that includes the importance of tactical combat.

    1. It's a combination of both. There are a few things going on. The fights I rated as "authentically challenging" were rare, but almost all the fixed battles were at least mildly challenging. After so many Gold Box games--which I had been playing since they were new--I had learned so many patterns that worked that I was able to win most of them most of the time, but I still praise an engine that supported so many combat options.


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.