Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pools of Darkness: A Series of Amateur Mistakes

No, Elminster, we are absolutely not prepared.
Mulmaster: nothing special. A half-map, the city had some shops and services, including training, but the only point of the entire map was to fight some battles in the arena so I could get the attention of Arcam and get invited to his lair. A beholder, Arcam is the Realms-based minion of Bane's final lieutenant, the demon Gothmenes.
Most of the special encounters in Mulmaster were just to channel you to the arena.
The arena combat consisted of three rounds. The first had two black dragons; the second was three purple worms and three displacer beasts; and the third was half a dozen pyro snakes and salamanders. Easy stuff. Reading some spoiler sites post-game, I see that the battles are harder if you've been antagonizing the guards in Mulmaster.
For the rest of my life, whenever I see the word "arena," I will hear a voice in my head saying, "Good people of the Imperial City: WELCOME TO THE ARENA!"
We soon found ourselves in Arcam's antechamber, where he was giving orders to various mercenary companies. I thought he'd give us some orders and we'd go undercover, but he told us we were too dangerous and our orders were to die. Cue battle with a bunch of fighters, clerics, and whatnot.
It's like they don't know that "Delayed Blast Fireball" is a thing.
Once we won the battle, Arcam escaped into some tunnels. We had to chase him all around a series of small maps, fighting a bunch of undead (banshees, specters, vampires) along the way. There were some puzzles, like a maze that depended on having heard an earlier journal entry to know what ways to turn. You don't care about this stuff.
This happened about half a dozen times.
The difficult part of this level is that most of the fights were ambushes, meaning that the enemies got a free round. And since many of those enemies were level-drainers, I had to cast "Restoration" a lot. Oh, you know what turns out to be the case? Casting "Restoration" twice restores all your experience. It's good that they introduced that for Pools of Darkness. No, don't tell me that was the case in previous games. I will kill myself.
There's no way someone's not getting drained.
Arcam finally ran out of places to run and faced me with a couple other beholder types. They died quickly.
Arcam and a friend. That beholder in the upper-left grosses me out for reasons I can't explain.
Towards the end of Arcam's caves, I had to engage in a series of battles that recapped the game up to this point. There was one with a bunch of dragons, one with a bunch of spiders, and one with a bunch of Minions of Bane. None gave me much difficulty. Each was triggered by one of the artifacts I'd claimed from the previous lieutenants--horn, ring, talisman--so I suppose if I hadn't defeated those earlier maps, I wouldn't have been able to progress at this point.
Oh, no! Blue and white dragons arranged in a cluster! Whatever shall I use for a spell?!
At the end of the map was a final Pool of Darkness, one more trip to Limbo, one more greeting from Elminster, one more place to stash my gear, etc., before moving on to the final plane, which Elminster referred to as the "Dark Dimension."

Here I made Mistake #1, the full force of which won't be apparent until after the next posting. What I should have done--what would have been the moronically obvious thing to do--was try to take all my equipment through the pool, note what did and did not survive, re-load, and deposit everything that didn't survive. I think I would have ended up with my two Scrolls of Protection from Dragon's Breath, maybe my Ring of Protection Against Electricity. I don't know. As it was, commenters had already spoiled that the two Rings of Blinking and the Vorpal Blade would survive the trip, so I had those.

A related mistake--let's call it Mistake #1A--was not loading up on non-magical armor, weapons, and above all, missile weapons before entering the portal.
You know, I used to be in love with Sasha, but these days I'm getting sick of saving her all the time.
Having unknowingly made these mistakes, I pressed on. Immediately on arrival, I encountered a group of Drow torturing Sasha. I had to fight them with almost no weapons, but my spellcasters were up to the task. A few minutes later, and my party had some Drow equipment. That was the last we saw of Drow in the game.

Entering a doorway from the Drow encounter, we found ourselves in the middle of a horde of monsters, being swept along the streets. It soon became clear that we were in an evil version of Phlan--the map was exactly the same. The "ruler" of this mirror city was the undead Porphyrys Cadorna, who announced that he was planning to marry Sasha. I attacked him at some speech and ended up facing a host of Minions of Bane and undead.
I wish the game hadn't elided "honeymoon plans." Where is he planning to take her?
The map was, in fact, full of undead, all of the level-draining kind--wights, wraiths, specters, vampires--and of course in "Dark Phlan," the cleric's "Turn Undead" ability doesn't work. With the pathetic armor classes occasioned by the loss of my good gear, these creatures hit me plenty, and I had to cast "Restoration" multiple times after every battle, then often re-memorize a bunch of lost spells.
A typical random battle in Dark Phlan.
Dark Phlan had an inn, at least, but no shop or training facility (though I could go back to Elminster for that). As I explored the buildings, I had several encounters with Cadorna, who promised I wouldn't ruin his wedding, and fled every time.

"...and there must be a tiered vanilla cake with chocolate sauce ON THE SIDE!!!"
In the town hall, I met Gragnak Ulfim, the Phlan councilor who had kidnapped Sasha and brought her here in the first place. Sasha had previously spurned Ulfim's advances, so he conspired with Cadorna to stage a situation in which Ulfim would "rescue" Sasha from Cadorna's clutches, thus winning her love. After the kidnapping, Cadorna of course betrayed Ulfim, leaving him to wait in misery for Gothmenes to kill him.
Your name was "Ulfrim" in previous games.
Let's cover Mistake #2: At the ends of several battles, I had the opportunity to pick up missile weapons, arrows, and javelins. I eschewed almost all of these. It's annoying to switch between melee weapons and missile weapons in the game, and I never had much use for the latter. Sure, they helped in Myth Drannor, but they weren't vital to those battles. And I never took the time to figure out who can use javelins and how they work. So I left a couple of javelins +4 and Javelins of Lightning (not knowing, of course, that that's what they were) behind.

The map culminated in a temple, where Gothmenes was about to officiate the marriage between the tearful Sasha and the vile Cadorna. I intervened, of course. (I guess if you don't, Cadorna bears away Sasha for good.)
I'm not sure that a player who says "No" at this point shouldn't go to actual Hell.
There was a large battle between us and Cadorna, several Minions of Bane, several Banite clerics, and several warriors. Again, not much trouble.

Oh, my! How will I stop all those spellcasters, just leaving the red Minions of Bane for my fighters to clean up?
At the end, a grateful Sasha gave us two Rings of Protection and went to hide. Dark Phlan still spawned plenty of random encounters after that.
You're going to want to remember this screen later.
Outside the gates of Dark Phlan was a huge iron wall. I had to blow the Horn of Doom to bring it down. Gothmenes appeared and objected. There was another battle with Minions of Bane, which were getting kind-of old at this point.
Will you bear me away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where my flesh shall be devoured, and my shriveled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye? No?
Blue and Black Minions of Bane are theoretically quite deadly, as they breathe the same types of acid and lightning (respectively) as blue and black dragons. Blue Minions of Bane are also surrounded by an electricity shield that works much like "Fire Shield" for mages: when you attack them in melee combat, you take double the damage that you do to them. But both Blue and Black Minions are vulnerable to "Fireball" and thus generally die in the first round. Remember this later. Red Minions of Bane, which breathe fire, are immune to "Fireball" but have no special melee protection and thus don't last long against melee attacks.
A battle with all three types of Minions, preparing to kill 2/3 of them.
When the battle was over, I blew the horn, brought the gate down, and stepped forward into what I didn't know then, but know now, was the final area: Gothmenes' Palace. The game made me decide how to divide the horn, ring, and talisman among my characters.

I"m not sure if we actually hear "shrieks of a thousand tortured souls" or if that isn't just a metaphor to describe really loud shrieking of iron.
There were several tough battles early in the palace, mitigated by the fact that we could rest anywhere. First, "Sasha" appeared and asked where Elminster was. I declined to tell her, and she turned into a rakshasa and attacked with several colleagues. This was a difficult battle because the 12 or so rakshasas were spread out in groups of three, all far from the party's starting location, and I only had a few missile weapons. They were able to get off a lot of spells while I tried to close the distance and engage them in melee combat. Oh, and I fought the battle before a helpful commenter alerted me that raskshasa are not immune to Level 9 spells. So it took me a couple of reloads.

Good try, but Sasha isn't that pro-active.
There was another huge battle with dragons, but I had long passed the point where dragons were scary. Everything that wasn't red or skeletal died in one casting of "Delayed Blast Fireball."

Before long--and before I'd mapped the entirety of the rest of the dungeon--I blundered through an arch and into the final area. "Elminster" showed up and asked to accompany me. I wisely refused. He turned into another rakshasa and attacked, but he was alone and didn't last long.
This was satisfying, even though I didn't really need it.
After the battle, I overheard a dialogue between Gothmenes and one of his minions. It indicated that Gothmenes was "winding the Tantalus clock" and expected to be back, with Elminster in his captivity, in about an hour. That gave me that long--every couple of minutes punctuated with a "Bongg!"--to explore Gothmenes' chambers.
Clever...what now?
Given what was about to happen, I feel like the game is unforgivably opaque about what's going on in the final area. Having finished it and looked at walkthroughs afterwards, I get it, but I didn't at the time. Basically, the party has as long as Gothmenes is searching for Elminster (it's shorter if you betray his location to the Sasha-rakshasa) to explore his chambers, find as much magic loot as you can, and get an artifact called the Crystal of Bane from a well. This latter feat can only be accomplished by a cleric wearing the ring obtained from Kalistes. In my case, that character was my cleric, Navarre, which turned out to be a good thing.
It would be easy for a party trying to explore in a systematic way to miss the crystal entirely, so I was lucky there. But in general, I wasted time by having "search" active and not covering every corner of Gothmenes' palace, where I would have found some more weapons and armor for the final battle. I did discover a cache of missile weapons and arrows, but I left them alone because (MISTAKE #3) who the hell wants arrows?

When the clock struck like 30, Gothmenes returned and ushered in the final battle, which I'll cover in detail next time. But before I go, let's cover the granddaddy of mistakes--Mistake #4--which I make so often it's practically a disease.

You see, I didn't understand that at the point that all the "bongs" start, you can no longer return to Phlan, the inn, Limbo, training, your equipment cache back in the Realms, etc. Once Gothmenes winds his clock, you're stuck in his palace until the final battle. Yes, I should have realized something was going on. I put "amateur" right in the frigging title, okay?!?!

So what was my mistake? I saved.

In my usual save slot.

In, in fact, the only save slot that I had been using since after the battle with Thorne about 40 hours ago.

Why is it so hard for me to use multiple save slots? The game gives you 10 of them. My inability to use separate slots before key moments is particularly unforgivable because I'm supposed to be thoroughly documenting this game on this blog. After finally winning the final battle (yes, I did win, although I allowed myself to cheat a little to make up for one of these mistakes), I even saved over the same slot again, so I couldn't re-fight the final battle for the purposes of analyzing it for the next entry. This is one bad habit that I really need to shake.

Next time, we'll see how these mistakes came together to doom me in the final battles. And we'll see why I seriously contemplated exporting all my characters, starting a new game with them, and doing the entire game again.

Time so far: 51 hours
Reload count: 54


  1. I find this part of the adventure only slightly less bad than the drow part. You would think that after fighting all around the Moonsea and picking up three artefacts, crucial to Bane's power in the area, that Eliminster would then return all to right. Or here is something, why can you not use the Talisman of Bane against his own minions? In the end, every battle seems nothing more than attrition to wear you down before the final gig.

    Missile weapons are crucial but you would not know that if were not already familiar with the final battle. I usually had one or two characters have missiles as their go to weapon, but that battle needed more. Sad to say, I never made it.

    I want to say I hate the removal and retrieval of gear that goes on in this game. Maybe if they did not overload you with junk they would not need this mechanism to weaken the party. I admit this frustrated me so much I could never play it again.

  2. Yeah, I think I mentioned missile weapons stashed with Elminster way back in the first or second post but they are so important in the final battle that I really should have just said "KEEP MISSILE WEAPONS always. You will thank me later."

    Also, ouch on the save-slot thing. :(

  3. I didn't remember the actual combats in the last battle so I just read up on the details. Not having missile weapons will have definitely made for a bad day of adventuring!

    I always had everyone cart around a bow probably due to playing tabletop D&D where it was always a good idea to have a missile weapon, so the end battle was not too bad for me. Of course, I also exploited my way around the item restrictions in Pools so I also had all of my stuff with me too. I should really try again relying on scrounged gear to get a good sense as to the actual intended challenge level.

    Regarding the saving of games, I've been burned enough times (either corrupted saves or bad game design) using a single save slot that I always use multiple (at least 3) slots that I rotate through each time I save.

    1. I never remember where I am when I do that. The reason I stopped using Slot B after Thorne is that when I DID use it, then next time I reloaded, I reloaded A and adventured for about 20 minutes before I realized I was missing a bunch of stuff.

    2. Open the folder containing the game and click the "Date modified" column. This should tell you which slot was used last.

      I've been burned enough times too that I've adopted a sort of obsessive-compulsive approach to backups. I always use every single slot a game offers and make a backup of the whole folder when I run out of free slots before overwriting them. I also do daily cloud backups of the whole thing.

      Then I keep all of them when I'm finished with the game. I have 560 MB of compressed saves from close to a hundred games. They might come in handy some day, right? Sigh.

    3. I go with dead tree technology (plain piece of paper) where I write A B C and so on to note the latest save game slot.

    4. I also use date-time stamps on the saved game files as my method of keeping track, although I'm playing only for fun. I imagine Chet has to frequently go back to previous states when doing blog write-ups, which complicates things. For that a piece of paper / plain ASCII text file might be better tool to keep track of things, although the more manual steps required the more likely it is to be skipped / forgotten due to human nature. I'm not sure what the best solution would be for his case.

      I also keep my save files from completed games. In fact, I'm sure I have my save files for Pools on a 3.5 floppy somewhere. Of course I don't have a drive to read it anymore!

    5. I always use one save, or else I will get confused or lose the paper I wrote the saves on. It means that I save only in specific spots: A safe area where I can rest unmolested or at the beginning of a map. I am glad Chet beat the game, but I understand the frustration with the endgame. By the way, who brought back Cadorna as a lich? What if you did not kill him in pool of radiance?

    6. When you're done with a session, save in slot A and then save again in slot B (or C or whatever)?

      So "Slot A" is always your latest, and then other slots are backups?

      Not as good as iterating through multiple slots within a play session, but provides you a more recent backup and keeps you from forgetting which one you're on.

    7. I mean, there are a million systems I could be using. It wouldn't be hard to come up with something that works. I just didn't.

    8. It's especially annoying when multiple save slots are allowed and you can't name them, but in other cases, I usually either use a sequential number to indicate the save (and use at least 2-3 separate slots if not more) or I add the number as a prefix/suffix on the description I use for the save.

      That's gotten me out of more than a few walking death situations over the years.

    9. Have you done a post on the various save game mechanisms in CRPGs? Nethack, wizardry, might and magic 1-2, gold box - they all have fundamentally different mechanisms that materially affect the gameplay.

    10. I use tea leaves to divine if I need to use another slot after consulting with the Oracle Of Broken Dreams About Electric Sheep.

    11. I use rotating saves when there are slots. I have had trouble with games with only three slots and overwriting all of them. When playing BGI it was so buggy and there was such a risk of crashing that I learned to save agree every fight, and to make a new slot each time in case I got into an impossible situation. I also pretty much never use Quicksave, due to stories about Bethesda games and save corruption. I need to go delete a few hundred save files every so often though.

  4. Oh man. I feel ya.

    But I'd also be throwing serious side eye at the designers. Anyone can make those errors, even you, and you're like Dr RPG by this point.

  5. This is a subthread to wildly speculate on how Chet "cheated" to beat the final battle.

    #1 guess: He created new characters and ferried their missile weapons over to the party.

    #2 guess: Hid behind the N wall and waited out the turn limit while enemies twiddled their thumbs.

    1. In some battles, I have noticed, that if the enemy monsters are unable to see the party and fail to attack or be attacked, they just surrender after so many turns of inactivity. It is one of the ways I endured Monadar's heart.

    2. After a set amount of turns (64? 128? something different?) the combat will arbitrarily end with the player being given the victory. In the last battle there is a place where your characters hide in the north and wait out the timer.

    3. Think this was instituted as a safeguard against the party being Quick vs the enemy, or maybe in the offchance that the enemy spawned behind an impassible wall.

    4. "cheated" possibly meant he lowered the difficulty :)

  6. I'll never understand why "Save Slot X - Timestamp" or sorting the saves from newest to oldest hasn't been a thing for decades.

    1. But naming your saves 001, 002,003 etc. certainly is!

    2. PoR/Curse/SSB etc. (but not Pools of Darkness) work on platforms that (by default) do not have clock hardware! (C64, Apple 2). So maybe it is an artifact of the earliest days of the engine.

  7. When I did the Gold Box games, I always had a window open to the saved games folder to check the timestamps for just this reason. (But I also had a system where I would alternate save slots I and J with the
    "beginning" of the current quest or whatever so I had a fall back point.)

    If you have backup software installed, you could check that. I have pulled save game files that I overwrite out of Apple Time Machine, for example, because I'm not immune to that sort of error...

    1. I tried "restore previous versions" in Windows to no avail. I got through it anyway.

  8. Adventure games are the reason I got into a habit of making multiple saves in different slots. There are plenty of adventure games which require you to do or pick up something early on, and by the point at which it's important you can't just go back.

    Of course I can still make this sort of error, but usually these days it's because of a single quick-save slot, especially on those occasions when I quick-save the instant before something game ending or game breaking occurs. (I still have multiple saves in that case, but sometimes it means that I have to repeat a long section of a game, depending on how often I've been making proper saves).

  9. "Always have a bow" becomes such an important rule for Might & Magic VI-IX and Baldur's Gate/Icewind Dale, especially early on, but I think you can be forgiven for going 95% the way through this game without needing them and being caught short (or short-ranged?) for the final encounter.

    Look forward to hearing more about that fight. Sounds like you had a bad time, which usually makes for a fun indignant recounting.

  10. It was almost painful to read this blog entry.

    That was indeed two big mistakes you made.

    Fine Longbows (being nonmagical they survive interdimensional travel) + Magic Arrows + Enlarge + the spell that adds fire damage, is extremely effective in the final battles.

  11. I would have made the same mistake with tbe missile weapons, as I never, ever find a need for them in Gold Box.

    1. As long as you have some room to manouvre missile weapons make Beholders totoally harmless and you don't even need to cast a single spell.

      They are also very useful in the beginning due to the 2 APR.

      But unless you find Fine Longbows the damage output is too small at higher levels for missile weapons to be the primary weapon.

      Just like Mirrors they are nice to have just in case.

    2. It would have been cute if the seer in Phlan, way back at the beginning, had given some hint.

  12. How about you let us all coach you for Dave's Challenge?

    1. Already took care of that, too. Since I still had most of the wands, scrolls, etc. that I should have used in the final battle, I didn't find Dave's Challenge all that hard.

  13. I really liked Pool of Radiance, but all the spell micromanaging/saving/reloading and endless random combats you keep alluding to really make this one sound like a chore.

    You still seem to be enjoying yourself though, for the most part, so I guess there must be something to it.

    Is the character progression still good in this game? Or has it basically slowed to a crawl?

    1. No, character progression is pretty lame here. Once you get a few Level 7 spell slots, you're not getting much extra per level. This is especially true of non-mages. I suspect a Level 16 party would only have a slightly more difficult time with the endgame than a Level 35 party.

    2. Older versions of D&D level off after name level. You get less HPa level (only one or two, not a full HD), and only get new spell slots, not new spells. I think this was the point you were supposed to focus on building castles and wargaming. I wish I could find the post again to show you, but I'm on my tablet at work writing a sentence or two at a time while waiting for spectra to collect. I thought it was on The Alexandrian blog but no dice.

  14. This was a scary post! It was like watching a horror flick where the protagonists are always blithely making clearly bad decisions, and all you can do is watch. "No Bolingbroke, how can you possibly leave that javelin behind--it's a +4!" And it concludes with the ultimate terror--overwriting your only saved game after the Tantalus clock has been wound!

    If you really wanted to scare your readers, though, you should have concealed that you had already won the game. Think of the angst that would have caused!

    1. That could have been fun, but I didn't want people to waste a lot of time giving me advice I didn't need.

  15. It looks like the fact that you had to write "Sasha" so often caused you to write "raksasha" a few times instead of "rakshasa" :)

    1. Nah, I do that literally every time. That's how I heard the word in my head: "Rak-SA-sha."

      For all I know, the accent is supposed to be on the first syllable. I should do a whole post on RPG words that I've never been entirely sure how to pronounce. Wyvern. Lich. Reagent. Anhkheg. There's got to be a bunch more. Otyugh.

    2. I'd love that! Because I have no idea as well.

      Wyvern - I call them "WHY-vern" but I've heard "WAY-vern".

      Lich is more like "itch" but I've heard it pronounced "like"

      Reagent is "RE-agent". It's just to agent again, right?

      And the other two for me are "ankh-HEG" and "OH-toog"

    3. Interesting, as a non-native English speaker I would have pronounced some of them differently. Maybe WotC should add the IPA version of monster names to their manuals ...

    4. So, I looked some of these up:

      Rakshasa is like "rock-sha-sa"
      Wyvern is "why-vern".
      Lich is "litch", essentially the work itch with the L sound in front
      Reagent is "re-agent"
      Anhkheg is "ANG-keg"
      Otyugh is a mystery to everyone...

    5. Huh, wyvern has always been "wi-vern" with a short "i" sound like "in" for me. No idea why. The rest are pretty phonetic except for Otyugh which I have no idea about.

    6. You say whi-vern, and I say WHY-vern
      You say rak-SA-sha, and I say rak-SHA-sa...

    7. I believe in Dragon Age: Inquisition, they use "WI-Vern" with a short "i", like Reiko suggests.

      I was about to make the argument that Ultima IV pronounces it REE-gents, but of course there's no spoken dialogue in that game, so I don't know where I got that idea.

    8. I have been searching Ultima IX let's play videos to find someone use the word "reagent" in there which is probably the only time it would be voiced in Ultima.

      But I can't find it. Maybe someone with a better stomach for awfulness can see how it's pronounced in that game.

    9. For some reason I always thought wyvern was pronounced WI-vern (short i) and otyugh was pronounced OT(rhymes with dot)-yug(rhymes with mug), although I don't recall any specific source for that.

    10. I always assumed "Oh-tee-yug", but on reflection I wonder if it's "Oh-tchyoo" (-ugh as in Hugh), or basically "Achoo" with a slight "oh" sound at the start.

    11. I read from some official source that it was Awt-ee-ug (I can't find it) but then another officialish sounding source claims Aht-yugh (yeah, real helpful).

      As a kid they were Ot-Yoo to me.

    12. I called it the "WTF monster" because, seriously, WTF?

  16. Ah, the final fight. The horror, the horror. I feel your pain, made similar mistakes. The game has a very polite way of telling you what you need. So my party arrived there with: 1 Paladin, 1 Ranger, 1 Fighter, 2 Mages, 1 Cleric - between level 31 and 37. No rings of blinking (discarded long time ago), nothing against lightning, equipment largely looted from the Drow, quite confident that nothing could withstand a volley of Delayed Blast Fireballs with some Power Words: Kill and three enlarged, hastened close combat Fighters, one of them swinging the vorpal sword in full and righteous wrath. Oh, boy...

    1. "Quite confident that nothing could withstand a volley of Delayed Blast Fireballs with some Power Words: Kill and three enlarged, hastened close combat Fighters, one of them swinging the vorpal sword in full and righteous wrath."

      That describes it perfectly. I was heading towards the final battle thinking, "what kind of loser couldn't win with all this hardware?"

    2. Let's just say that long experience playing pen & paper AD&D would have been the best preparation for running into a battle like that one.

      My front line typically carried missile weapons and a bludgeoning weapon in addition to the magic long swords. Because you have to be ready for every contingency.

    3. This would be the point in tabletop D&D where everyone flips over their character sheet to have a look at the stuff they've been carrying since first level and have forgotten about. "I've got a dagger, I can throw that." "Will holy water work?" "I've got this haunt siphon we picked up in our first adventure and never used" and of course the wizard "I have these darts I used from first to third level..." If before third edition, or "I have this crossbow that I haven't fired since third level..." If after that.

  17. "That beholder in the upper-left grosses me out for reasons I can't explain."

    That's so mean, he's obviously just having a really bad day. The saddest of Beholders.

    1. The stalks do resemble penises, maybe that's why. And that huge grin... it looks like some sort of pedo-beholder.

    2. Most beholders are floating eyes. That guy's a floating black eye.

    3. The half-lidded smirk doesn't help matters. It's sort of 50% sick E.T., 50% strip club patron.

  18. Where in the Realms (or outside the Realms) can you find the Ring of Protection Against Electricity? That sounds like it would be very helpful for the final battles but I've not come across it.

    1. It's in the Realms, in Taydome's Keep (castle north of the sea.)

    2. It was never really helpful on the FR side of things, and of course I didn't have it on the planes side. I'm still not sure if it survives the crossing or not.

    3. It has, multiple times with me.

    4. I'd have to restart the game and get to a pool to be sure, but it sounds like the game's criteria for checking whether something is a magic item is to see if there's a "+" in the name.

    5. Actually, based on my experience with FRUA item editing, I think there's a specific byte it checks in the item records that is set differently for rings. There's a 'plus' associated with magic items (including ones without pluses in the name such as the Boots of Speed) that isn't set for rings, which have another 'is a magic ring' byte. That's in FRUA.

      If you look at the POD item records (in the formats.zip file on the Gold Box Companion website), most magic items have a nonzero value for byte 4, whereas rings producing effects have a zero value for byte 4; however, byte 5 is set to 1, probably allowing the ring to register as magical under a detect magic spell. The Scroll of Protection vs Dragon Breath also has byte 4 set to 0, so if you wanted to test this theory you could try to bring it through a pool. The Vorpal Long Sword has this byte set to 3, so my guess would be they made an exception for it.

    6. Items that can be brought over:
      Every ring that isn't a ring of protection
      Scroll of protection vs dragon breath
      Vorpal long sword
      Drow items can go to Kalistes realm.

      and I believe that's it, can confirm that boots of speed don't survive the trip.

  19. Regarding saving more than 10 games.
    Just create new SAVE folder, like SAVE2, SAVE3, etc.
    Then copy all files from previous SAVE folder to new SAVE2, SAVE3, ...
    This gives you 10 new slots for each folder.
    Just rename the folder to SAVE which you want to use.
    This works for all Gold Box games, as far as I know.

    Even on the Amiga version I played.
    Hope this helps!

    1. You could write a *.bat file that would do this very easily even. Heck, let me know and I'll do it for you.

      Another option would be to get a git or mercurial set up and have it back up your files. Then you could roll back any files you wanted.

      The downside of these is you could still lose a full session if you don't stop playing to do this. I could write a batch file that would do this every thirty minutes (or such) if you wanted (either copying them to a new folder with a timestamp or a more advanced backup system)

    2. Actually, thinking of git and mercurial got me thinking about windows shadow copies, but that's not optimal for this. What actually might work really well would be just setting up the folder that all the dosbox/emulator images is in with dropbox, and rely on dropbox's large file binary diffs and previous versions to handle that all for you, with a nice GUI and without the need to manually choose when to back up (since it should detect file changes).

      If you already use google drive, you can do the same with that using your existing google account if you don't want to use dropbox.

  20. For the record:

    I actually loaded a game and tried to make it out of the castle after the clock is wound. There's a fight with bane minions and dracoliches each step. If you make it all the way back to the entrance there's a larger fight with dracoliches but you still can't leave.

    If you let Cadorna take Sasha, they place a ring of powerlessness on her finger and she is taken to the bridal suite...the crowd disperses, and there's a smaller fight but you still wind up fighting him (he sees you). You don't get the bonus XP, of course.

    1. Thanks! I like hearing about the roads not traveled.

  21. A cold voice answered: 'Come not between the Nazg├╗l and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shriveled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.'

    I always considered this one of the most terrifying threats ever made by an enemy. He's like, "mess with me and I won't kill you." Yeesh. Extra creepy points for his archaic thee and thy language, showing just how old he is. Tolkien never used thee and thy as you might expect despite all his ancient modes of speech.

    Not using multiple save slots? Tut, tut. I use A for the beginning of a quest (or a session starting from town) and then B for the beginning of a map. C for inside a map, and D and the rest as needed inside the map as temp saves. It's always satisfying to work your way back up the list and make an "A" save. Aaah.

    I use missile weapons. Especially if my characters have been disarmed. I detect more than a touch of "I'm impatient to finish this, screw everything." The sad thing is, this is often a winning strategy.

    1. In the Nazgul's defence it must be said that Eowyn did call him a Dwimmerlaik.

  22. "I thought he'd give us some orders and we'd go undercover, but he told us we were too dangerous and our orders were to die."

    If you had gone there first, he would have been happy to send you against Ungleow, Manshoon, Marcus, etc., etc., etc., but as it is, he went, "Hm, most of the names on my list of targets have already been crossed out. There are only these six at the bottom left: Bolingbroke, Goldeneye, Festia..."

  23. Just tested the restoration spell in pool of radiance, casting it twice there does not restore your experience so you were right there.

  24. I went early to Mulmaster. The arena for me had only one round, against two black dragons. Maybe the number of combats is determined by party level? Arcam's chancellor sent us to handle Manshoon, Thorne, and Silk in turn. I don't know if I actually messed up the Silk task by helping her instead of killing her, or if that's the last mission. Anyway, coming back after cleaning up the drow area triggered the chancellor combat.

    I'm not sure if this was a bug or not, but when I first left Arcam's caves, I came out of the other entrance that is near the labyrinth. I used that to first ambush the undead that were preparing for the ambushes and then went and killed Arcam before the chancellor. The game was prepared for this in the sense that I was able to come from behind the undead but on the other hand, when I had killed the chancellor, the game told me that Arcam escaped from the hall, even though I had already killed him.

    Only the Talisman of Bane is needed to access the pool of darkness here that takes you to Bane's land. Elminster will warn you if you're missing either of the other two artifacts but will let you go to Bane's land. I didn't try what happens if you do that. Without the Horn of Doom, it's not possible to get into Gothmenes's palace, but the Crystal Ring is only needed in the endgame. It seems to me that if you have the Talisman and the Horn but not the Ring, you would be able to get to the pool but not get Bane's Crystal from it. Without which Gothmenes will just kill you from what I've read, so the game is unwinnable. At least it warns you.

    If you get the crystal from the pool, the clock doesn't matter unless it's already close to the end. Getting the crystal triggers Gothmenes's return in a set number of turns. So if you go straight to the pool, there seems little point in not betraying Elminster to the rakshasas, apart from roleplaying reasons. Also, in this case there is no warning before Gothmenes appears. It was not much fun trying to win the final battle with a completely unbuffed party.

    1. I'm glad to hear your account, particularly of going to Mulmaster early. It seems so unintuitive--so clearly the END of the game map--that I was surprised to find that the content varied depending on when you chose to visit. If you could have looped around the east side of the Moonsea, it would have been less obvious that you weren't supposed to go there first.


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