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Let's Play: The Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box classics)
I love the character icons in these games. Like you, I tried to match them as closely as possible to my character portrait and projected gear as possible. For such an early game, the amount of customization available was really impressive.
Rest assured, these write ups are entertaining and appreciated.
Pool of Radiance was always intended to be part of a longer narrative (Vol. 1 was in the title), so even without foreseeing the runaway success of PoR, sequels were planned.
I'm not sure why (Jim Ward wasn't available? timetable was too tight?), but they took an independent story that was taking place near the Moonsea, and adapted it to be Vol. 2 of the saga. That story is a book by Jeff Grubb and his wife, Kate Novak: Azure Bonds. The book is first in the Finder's Stone trilogy, more or less about a bard with strange powers called Finder Wyvernspur -- an enigmatic, eccentric, powerful figure fitting for a Planescape adventure. I loved the book trilogy, it was great for my teenage self, but the adaptation felt and still feels forced. It gave the game a great band of antagonists, I have to admit that. Curse also ended up being noticeably shorter than PoR, which is big letdown compared to other RPG serieses.
Below is the book cover, and it became the box art and the title screen art as well. Center is Alias, the amnesiac fighter with azure bonds on her right arm.
Reverent chanting: Boob chain! Boob chain! Boob chain! Boob chain! Boob chain! -- And a face that reminds adult me of a half-drunken hoe waiting for a pickup at a bar. Sorry, artist.
The lizardman (saurial) in the background is from another plane, and he communicates with smells. In the books this was an excellent narrative gimmick -- you read the vivid description of a smell Alias is smelling, and try to guess what it means. A minigame of sorts. The smells are consistent, they can be considered a language, and over the course of the full trilogy, you learn the basics of his smell-language. Alias calls him Dragonbait -- 24 years later, I still find this funny. His name is not Dragonbait, obviously, but no one understands saurial, so... Oh, and in AD&D terms Dragonbait is a paladin. He's got Lay on Hands, always accompanied the smell of freshly baked bread. If you take a look at his sword, the blade has a weird, unbalancing shape at the sharp end. There is a story about that, explained in the books, it's not the artist's invention.
We'll meet both of them during our adventures. Alias is the "original" bonded person, we receive the same bonds she had.
Heal up your party in PoR: Cast Cure Light Wounds a few times, the only healing spell available. Then go into the Magic/Memorize menu, input Cure Light Wounds x5, then Rest. If the rest is interrupted by monsters, fight them or flee them and then input spells to memorize again. If not, cast spells, repeat until healed. To reduce this chore, a Fix command was added to the encamp menu, which executes this exact same sequence with a single keypress. Since Fix still takes time, you can be attacked by monsters by using it just the same as resting. See, this is how you enhance a game without dumbing it down.
The two-part constructed portraits are gone. This is bad, right? Well, since most of your playtime is spent on the tactical screen with icons, it's not really a big deal. In the IE games you see the portaits in exploration/combat view and on the character screen, they're important there. Here, not so much. In place of the old constructed portraits we got much more custom portraits for NPCs and monsters. All in all, it was a good change.
Another graphical upgrade is the half-screen cutscene images: these offer more creative freedom than the upper left square. The Dragonlance game trilogy featured a lot more of these cutscene images, but it's nice to have them here, even if just a few.
The game has magic shops, which are a very welcome addition. You couldn't even buy +1 arrows or darts in PoR to hit +1 protected mobs, or any spell for scribing, now you can buy some basic magic stuff like Wand of Magic Missile and a few spell scrolls.
As I've explained in one of the PoR posts, casters have a level cap of 6 in PoR, while fighters go to 8 and rogues to 9.
Literally the first thing one does in Curse after importing the characters and starting the game is visiting the training hall. Leveling up cuts the current XP at (next level threshold)-1, which causes the casters to lose about 100 kXP and only able to gain 2 levels instead of 3. It's something you just have to live with. Since the saga is going into epic levels with Pools of Darkness, 100 kXP is not that much. Also fresh, non-imported Curse characters are created with 25 kXP, and we're way, way above that even with the loss.
This gives instant access to level 4 spells. That means Cure Serious Wounds (finally!) and Neutralize Poison (finally!) on the cleric side. The mage side isn't as exciting: Fear is meh (I don't want to chase down mobs in the tactical view, it's bad enough when their morale breaks and they run away on their own...), Confusion is extremely dangerous for friendly fire (unlike with Fireball, the risk is not just damage that can be reduced with fire protection), Fumble is okay sometimes against strong mobs; Fire Shield, Minor Globe of Invulnerability, Dimension Door, Ice Storm are okay, but not great; Charm Monster is strong, but many mobs are resistant or immune to it (like the drow, one of the common enemies in Curse). No Stoneskin. Yes, the spell list is pretty abysmal compared to Baldur's Gate 2 or even Temple of Elemental Evil. It does have some good stuff, but don't count on Contingencies and Time Stops. On the plus side, enemy mages won't be Stoneskinned, there is that. This is one area, spell variety, where Baldur's Gate 2 just wins the entire universe.
Here's how the party looks like after getting rid of one bond (this is where I started writing the Let's Play, and will be catching up to very soon). The levelups in PoR were pretty disheartening; except for Szilva, everyone was rolling really bad. Citrom rolled 1s for two consecutive levelups, for example. But the Con bonus is still there, always, which helps with reducing the effect of spread. The Curse levelups, on the other hand, were just as amazing as the PoR ones were sucky. Eper looks like he's got amazing rolls on a D6 hit die, catching up to Szilva's D8 rolls, but actually he's already level 11, while the others are only level 8, so it's not that good. I won't complain, probability is what it is, it could've been worse, that's for certain.
There is one strange thing about Szilva. When I started re-playing PoR to capture the screens, I noticed that he had Cha 14 instead of 16 as rolled iniitally. Now I checked him in Curse, and he has a Cha of 15. I have no idea what's going on with his Charisma... Everyone else has the same stats, I checked them against the level 1 sceenshots.
Location:Office of Special Tactics and Reconnaissance
Actually, they did Curse of the Azure Bonds also as a PNP module (I happen to own a physical copy of it from back in the day). I think it was an attempt to tie in the three different mediums (pnp rpg, crpg and novels) more efficiently - while the pool of radiance novel is (iirc) pretty good, the module, ruins of adventure, blows. Curse was certainly an improved attempt on that front, IMO.
I checked the manual before resuming play, and forgot to mention a few upgrades. Paladins and rangers were added to the class roster. For rangers, they implemented level 1-2 Druid spells, including classics like Entangle, Faerie Fire and Barkskin. No druid class, though, which is kind of strange.
The new level caps are: fighters 12, cleric 10 (11 would give level 6 spells), thieves 12, mages 11.
Clerics can now use staff slings, thieves can use shortbows.
The video contains the demo I talked about, which was missing from the PC version of PoR. The fun aspect here is that the demo fight is not scripted, it plays out as a regular fight, AI vs. AI, and it's possible that the 2 black dragons will destroy the demo party of 3. In this instance, the mage survived, but barely.
How did we get here?
The bonds are animated, flickering. We wonder who they belong to, these symbols?
Narancs: -- I daresay these blue imprints are malicious in nature.
Szilva: -- Fantastic observation. Look, here's my clenched fist, lean close to tell me all about it. Oh, it tried to punch you, I wonder what's gotten into it? By the way, one of the symbols is a variant of Bane's. It's probably the personal sigil of a high ranking priest of Bane.
Citrom: -- I liked the part where we got overpowered by unseen men and sedated and carried away. Except the similar themed parties I've been in don't leave you perma-tattooed and stripped of all possessions in a dump like this. There are... rules, you know.
Eper: -- *cuts deep, removes a little piece of skin* Aaaargh... it doesn't help! This isn't just a tattoo, it stayed the same! It's a magical bond! Someone's got to pay for this. Dearly.
Barack: -- This is like the body paintings we did for fun when I was a young girl. But it looks better, so professional! And it doesn't hurt at all! I just don't like the shapes, they're so last millennium.
Alma: -- Look on the bright side, friends, we've still got our lives. And for some reason, our captors left us a large sum of money.
Eper: -- *spits* A fraction of what we had. Wish I've put my wealth into a bank deposit, back in Phlan.
Alma: -- And this from someone who's always telling us that banks are legalized robbers. Get a move on, everyone.
The innkeeper greets us, she's very uncomfortable.
She says we were being carried here by men in red robes, who claimed they found us in a near-death state along the road. We already had the blue tattoos. They paid for lodging, then left without leaving contact info.
We hear pitiful moaning from the next room, and we can't resist taking a glance. Anything to get a grip on our situation.
Plants that walk, that's a good one. We'll leave you to your nightmares.
As we leave the Windlord's Inn (the sign said so), we overhear someone claiming to have heard a woman's scream, coming from the sewers below. We sense that the people of Tilverton are tense, the air is vibrating with stress. What's the story, mates?
Nothing better to calm an adventurer's soul than to get geared. It's appalling, carrying mundane plate mails and morning stars, no magical defenses for the mages, no rings of various wonders, no wands of wanton destruction. But it's still gear, and gear is the cure for all kinds of adventurers' ailments. The mood brightens after we leave the shop.
We collect some other rumors as we're walking up on the main street of Tilverton. The Temple of Gond the Wonderbringer fills the western half of the town's center, and we enter on a whim. Priests know a lot about many, right?
We explain our plight, and ask for an audience with the high priest. The audience is granted.
The abbot's ritual causes our bonds to flare up, and streaks of blue light arc across the room. Everyone writhes in pain, cries of anguish are heard. When the ritual is done, the bonds are unharmed.
Eper: -- What have you done? Are you trying to kill us? I swear...
Alma: -- *grabs Eper by the shoulder, and hisses into his ear* Calm down, you idiot. Throw a tantrum to amuse the street kids, not here.
Szilva: -- Abbot Brannan, we thank you most sincerely for your gracefully offered intervention, unsuccessful though it might have been.
Abbot: -- I'm sorry, my children, but these are beyond my means and comprehension. Ask the sage Filani, who lives across the town square, about the symbols. She might give you clues about how to deal with the bonds. Go with Gond, may he put the right gears in motion in your life.
What better way to wash away the memory of pain than getting pissed? A big tavern is right across the road, the sign says... "The Curse". That's a cruel joke right now, but we can take it, just let the tankards be filled.
Eper: -- *punches the barkeep*
Alma: -- What is wrong with you today? Need a puss_y or something?
Eper: -- *draws his sword with a wry smile* Fresh blades need testing, no?
Yep, we still got it. Although the casters have no spells memorized, our veteran fighters make mincemeat out of the brawlers. Sorry for all the blood, barkeep, next time just take the insult, mkay?
In this fight, the darts from the mages and the arrows from the thief are used to 'mop up' enemies with just a few HP left after the frontline attacks. I'll be using them this way throughout the game. Curse has amped up the HP of enemies, obviously, and just a single Fireball won't instantly win battles.
We hear a commotion from the side street where the woman went. When we get there, takes less than a minute, no one is in sight, which is strange. But there is a curiously shaped knife planted in the wall.
Narancs: -- This looks eerily similar to the fourth bond... A flaming knife.
Citrom: -- I suppose... it does. You might not be useless, after all!
Narancs: -- As if my fireballs are somehow less scorching than yours. Keep talking, sister, that's the only thing you're better at than me.
Besides the knife, the place is empty. Eper is embarrassed, he suspects there is some secret entrance or portal nearby, but can't find it.
The sage Filani is our next stop. She's not your typical reclusive researcher...
Eper: -- Ahahaha! We lost all our wealth to mysterious highway robbers, and now we're being robbed gently of what little was left to us! This is the worst day of my life.
Alma: -- I... We... That's a lot you're asking for. We're in a most unfortunate situation, can't you be more sympathetic to our cause?
Filani: -- Take it or leave it, I won't change my offer.
Alma: -- We have...
Eper: -- We have, after spending most of our funds on weapons, armor, food, proper clothing, horses, et cetera, a total of 84 gold pieces. Half of that is, erhm, 42.
Filani: -- You're lying. Get ouf of here.
Eper: -- How do you...
Filani: -- *smiles like a mother explaining something her child* People think evocation magic, with its flashy fireballs and lightining bolts, is the most powerful of magicks. They are wrong, but I'm content to leave them in their wrong minds. Divination magic, which includes the power to detect lies, is a harmless hobby of old sorceresses, right? Now, are willing to give me half your funds? I promise, the knowledge you get in return is worth it.
(I'm seizing this opportunity to tell about how the magic schools' balance is so vastly different in tabletop. Divination magic, which can tell you where an object is hidden, reveal illusions and shapeshifting, detect lies, alignments, traps, invisibility, show you the way to somewhere, scry a place safely from afar, and tons of other utility, is one of the best "adventuring" school of magic. What good is a fireball when you're lost in a maze? You can kill yourself with it, haha.)
That was worth it, this Filani is not a con artist.
Szilva: -- I was wrong about the hand symbol, it isn't of Bane. Moander, the dead god of creeping green doom? Now I wish it was a Baneite sigil.
Alma: -- I should've recognized the Z. We've even visited Zhentil Keep.
Narancs: -- It's not like that Z is on display anywhere. We know the Zhentarim runs the Keep, but they play it innocent.
Citrom: -- *yawns* I'm tired. This was a long day. Let's get back to the inn.
The next day, spells at the ready, we awaken to the sounds of a large crowd.We hurriedly pack our belongings and leave the inn. The crowd is divided by the road, and we quickly learn that the royal carriage will pass soon through Tilverton, carrying his majesty the King of Cormyr, Azoun the 4th. Some people rise to infamy by becoming Kingslayers, we're okay with being Kingwatchers.
Royal guards are coming in first. "Make way for the King!" And then something very, very wrong happens...
"Not really the King?" "Not again?" What's going on here? But there's no time ask questions, as the royal guards are upon us, while we are compelled to attack by the azure bonds.
Honestly? King Azoun the 4th, your guards are kind of lacking. No magical backup either, that's a must for a shadowrunner party royal entourage.
A Stinking Cloud and a Hold Person is enough to ensure a swift victory. We catch sight of two red robed men, who haul out the poor body double fellow out of the carriage, and drag him away. Damn these bonds, we couldn't not fight!
Alma: -- I can't believe this is happening... I'm a murderer.
More guards approach, and ask for surrender. The bonds fade, and we gladly accept defeat. This day isn't shaping up to be nice... We're thrown into jail.
As we are led through dark, twisted passages, we wonder: branded as criminals after losing most of our wealth, can this get any worse?
Location:Here, There, or Somewhere in between. If I can't be reached at any of those places, then I'll probably be Elsewhere.
Also, <3 Alias
Yes. Markie Post Alias was a favourite of mine, too. Alas for my young and impressionable hormones in the middle 80's.
I'd just like to chime in as well, though. I've been reading (and enjoying) this little blast from the past immensely. I played these games to death growing up, and then raised them necromantically so that I could play them to dust. After that it was just a simple matter to sweep them up and glue them back together again for a few more playthroughs. At the time, the graphics were great, the adventures better than almost anything else I'd seen, AND they were ADnD, a system which, had my older brother not been the douche that he was, a system I might have had much fun with, tabletop-wise. Alas, douche he was, and so to play tabletop with him was to be relegated to being mugged, beaten, left for dead in a stable, eating grubs for food, and then inevitably dying due to some foul illness I'd contracted from sleeping in amongst the pigs, after it having been determined that the stable was too good for my now-crippled-for-life adventurer. These games actually offered SUCCESS! GLORY! RICHES! So cool. And they were coded simply enough that, even if it didn't really mean anything in the grand scheme of things, I could import my previous party's equipment with just a little basic hex editing. I loved my Longsword +2 "Flame Tongue" from PoR, as well as the Silver Plate Mail. Sure, there was better around, but... SILVER ARMOR!
Thanks for doing this, Endrosz. Looking forward to the next installment(s).
Ah, Alias. The thing I most remember about her from when I played this back in the day, besides CLEAVAGE (I has in my early teens at the time, what do you expect?), was that she had 17s across the board for stats, which is obviously hella good. Also, besides the ridiculous cleavage chain, at least she had sensible pauldrons (spaulders?), rather than the RIDICULOUSLY ENORMOUS SPIKEY PAULDRONS that are all the rage these days.
Alas, douche he was, and so to play tabletop with him was to be relegated to being mugged, beaten, left for dead in a stable, eating grubs for food, and then inevitably dying due to some foul illness I'd contracted from sleeping in amongst the pigs, after it having been determined that the stable was too good for my now-crippled-for-life adventurer.
Ouch, that sounds painful. The hex editing, clap-clap, sir. I high school, I knew how to program in Basic, but didn't know squat about machine code or how integers are stored.
Thanks for the kind words, I'm having fun writing it.
Keyrock: I've said it in some other thread about PoE art, but Elmore's art direction for AD&D was a great mix of artistic license and realism. Touches of fantastic with lines of believable and colors of inspiring, but not outlandish. And Baldur's Gate art was still built with those directions in mind, the guy left a lasting legacy.
The room we are escorted to is a large hall. A burly man with a number of bodyguards welcomes us, and offers us to rest here. We take the chance to heal up and memorize again.
Szilva: -- You mean Princess Nacacia is here, in the sewers? That was the original reason we set out to Cormyr, to find her and claim the king's reward. It feels like it happened in a previous life... Barack: -- We might meet the princess here? I can ask her about dressing elegantly for combat, she's known for being tomboyish! Alma: -- Our first concern is to get out of Tilverton. Princess Nacacia is a known troublemaker. I expect our situation to get worse if we try to find her. Guild Leader: -- Well, the way out of here and the way to the Princess is kind of the same. The Fire Knives have inflitrated our guild and kidnapped her. They're on the other end of the sewer tunnels. Here's a map to find your way.
A group of red robed men burst into the room. Probably from the same group that brought us here after the bonding. "Seize them", says the leader, looking at us.
In this battle, a number of thieves fight on our side. But except for the two robed Fire Knives, they look exactly the same as the enemy...
Narancs: -- *chanting the words of a spell* Alma: -- Wait, don't! Narancs: -- *casts Fireball into the middle of the crowd* Thieves are good at evasion, right?
In this battle, we really feel the loss of magic armor we acquired in Phlan. Vanilla Plate Mail, as all heavy armor, allows 6 Movement Points, +1 and +2 allows for 9, and starting from +3, you get back your full 12 MP, assuming you're not overloaded. In Curse, the fights are more spacious than in PoR, and 6 MP is often limiting. We can switch to bow and fire arrows, but it's less damage and we lose the shield's protection for counterattacks. (And it's a pain in the ass to switch weapons in the Gold Box.)
The guildmaster receives a fatal wound from an arrow, and urges us to go after Nacacia and rescue her before dying. These thieves are surely British in origin (maybe planeswalkers?) to have such a peculiar loyalty to the Crown.
In the next room:
Eper: -- My kind of girl. Szilva: -- What kind of thieves' guild has a guestbook? Citrom: -- Maybe they were running a tourist attraction as a side business. "You can be a thief hiding in the shadows for a weekend, safety guaranteed! Grand adventure in the sewers, or your money back!".
Moving forward, we spot a halfling woman sliding out of a room, carrying a harp.
Eper: -- My girl! We must follow her! Barack: -- She was so cute! Halfling women are like living dolls! Alma: -- Meanwhile, in Saneland, the group presses on to get out of the trouble they're in.
Alma doesn't even finish, when we hear dog growls coming from a side room. The pack is released by a Fire Knife.
The next corridor has a door that is exceptionally sturdy. Eper's locksmithing skill doesn't help either, but Citrom has a Knock spell as a last resort, as always.
This is our favorite event. We treasure it so much:
The first hoard we loot in our new adventures has a deep red ioun stone (increases Dex), a long sword +1, banded mail +1, potions, 2 mage scrolls. The + items are easy to find even without Detect Magic or identifying in a shop, because you can check the THAC0 or AC. Szilva gets the ioun stone, him and Barack have "only" 17 Dex. Citrom has a Read Magic in the standard loadout, and the scroll-haul is pretty good:
This allows Narancs to finally learn Magic Missile. Feeblemind requires another level.
We move south, the map shows that's where the sewer entrance is. There are sounds of fighting coming from here and there, the Fire Knives are clashing with the loyal thieves. The exit is not far, but it's hidden, it requires Eper's eyes to be noticed.
This translates to 3 MP for every character. It's a big handicap for the frontliners, but spells fly just as well over the muck as anywhere else.
Looking around in a battle's aftermath, we find a piece of paper.
Narancs: -- Now hang on a second. This is clearly about the alliance who's responsible for our bonds. We already have solid leads on four out of five.There is this T, and the symbol Filani was unfamiliar with looks like a burning something. Could it be?... Szilva: -- It could. I don't want it to be, but it could.
As we cautiously slog through the sewers, Barack notices a purple cloth hanging overhead from a closed trapdoor. We hear a tavern's murmur from above. It doesn't take much brains to figure out -- this is where the princess was captured, she was the purple-dressed woman we saw. We're below the Curse, where Eper punched the barkeep.
The game tells me that only a thief has a chance of retrieving it. WHAT IS THIS CLASS DISCRIMINATION? FIGHTERS ARE PEOPLE, TOO! Everyone is capable of everything, to say anything to the contrary is prejudice!
Some other minor events happen along the path we take.
Narancs: -- *uses his dagger to sever the arm* It's for research. Barack: -- Stay away from me! The stench in this place is making me sick even without your disgusting hobbies. Why does it always have to be sewers? Why can't we have an adventure in a beautiful garden, with trimmed bushes and flower beds? Alma: -- Make sure you file a complaint with the authorities.
Rats the size of large dogs scurry past us. They don't attack, just exit quickly.
Barack: -- In my mind, I'm imagining that we're in the princess's garden, and I've just seen her favorite dogs rush by.
We're pretty far into the sewers when we find never before seen foes.
Barack: -- *gags, drops her morningstar* I... can't... Narancs: -- *casts Ice Storm with Barack inside it* Chill out, sister! I'll freeze your nostrils, that'll help!
This is the first actually challenging fight in the game. Otyughs have multiple attacks, good to-hit, 40 HP, AC 2, and they have decent saves too. Two out of three otyughs saves against Stinking Cloud (I think they should be immune to it, honestly, given their ecology). In such a close fight, Fireballs are not really useful. As you can see, Barack is down to 14 HP with 4 enemies still standing. Szilva casts Cure Serious on her, then the mages fling Magic Missiles, and just when the situation is getting dire, the remaining two otyughs surrender.
Barack: -- No, we don't want your filth as compensation! LEAVE US ALONE!
The otyughs' room looks like a safe place to rest. We need it, but the smell is as offensive as ever... Adventurers can't be choosers.
Further south, another otyugh-filled room. But this time, we get to "talk" to them.
Note: If you choose to "Attack", there are exactly a dozen neo-otyughs here, which can easily destroy the party. The gear we have, basic shop equipment for the most part, is not enough to survive them.
The place we are sent to offers a much easier battle.
Just a single neo-otyugh, still deals a lot of damage before going down. The stuff we need to take back is, well...
Barack: -- No shiny is worth this. Eper: -- I've done worse things to get valuables than carrying a pile of ****. Barack: -- It's all yours, then. I'll be walking upwind. If anyone tells this story in a tavern, I'll deny I ever knew you.
Eper: -- Gems, rings, brooches, necklaces, armbands, earrings. My lifeforce is returning, so happy...
There is a series of empty rooms. As we walk south on a long corridor...
Some conflict between the Bonding Alliance? That could only benefit us.
Sounds are heard from a room next to the symbols. Inside, trolls are tossing meat to a pack of crocodiles they apparently keep as pets.
Who you gonna call? No, no the Ghostbusters, that was for the library in Phlan.
The next room has sneaky trolls, who surprise us.
This battle is easy, just 4 trolls. The loot is great here: bracers AC 4 (Eper's leather armor is like a bracers AC 8, for comparison), pink and green ioun stone (Cha +1), girdle of dwarves (Con+, Cha-), flail +1, staff sling +1.
(Pool of Radiance had a Manual of Bodily Health, in the library. But it doesn't work, at least in the versions I played. It does nothing. This girdle, however, is even worse: it seems to work, but it causes HP to be recalculated, and that lowered Alma's HP by about 40.)
The troll lair is another safe place. As we progress south on the long corridor, we overhear sounds coming behind a wall. A search reveals a secret door, and behind it...
This secret training facility was added mostly for new parties which start out with 25 kXp and received enough XP by now for a level-up. We're not there yet, level 9/12 needs more, but it's still nice to find allies.
Location:Here, There, or Somewhere in between. If I can't be reached at any of those places, then I'll probably be Elsewhere.
Haha. That's one thing that I really missed about playing the old Gold Box games: Sometimes they give you the opportunity to really screw yourself over. Room full of Otyugh -- the ones that want to bargain -- is a good example, though there's an even better fight later on in this game (Hint: Throw caution to the wind. Go for the gold!). With enough rules-lawyering they are do-able, even the later one, but... haha. Good luck with them.
FWIW, though, the Manual of Bodily Health in PoR DID work, in my version of the game at least, but there were a few oddities associated with it. When I used it on a character, it said that so-and-so "started reading", and that it took a few days of in-game time for the effect of the book to actually kick in. Also, it didn't yield the now-expected +1 con and the associated retroactively allocated hitpoints.... not exactly, anyway. I think I only got 1 HP out of it for my level 8 fighter, and I honestly can't recall with certainty what effect it had on the character's CON. I -think- it had the +1 effect (ie. 18 went to 19), but I'm no longer sure of that. All I really remember is my reaction of "was that IT?!" after seeing what it did. Maybe the CON bonus never appeared... that seems more likely to me now.
Anyway... back to our regularly scheduled programming....
Chapter 15: The Priest and the Princess and the Assassin and the Mimic and the King and the Wizard and the Four Masters
Eper: -- My allegiance is to His Majesty the Loot. Szilva: -- That's the sign of the Knights of Myth Drannor. What are they doing here? Citrom: -- I've heard a rumor that the princess is involved with them. We should probably stick with her as patron. We do have an interest in rescuing her, no? Alma: -- We're here to free captured princess of Cormyr, Nacacia. We're following the trail of the captors, and already killed many of the them.
The exit from the sewers is ahead, a door leads into an underground compound with proper walls, benches, tables, and so on.
Barack: -- *throws away the cloth she put in front of her nose* Where is the bathroom?
The first room contains another Fire Knives checkpont, all of them are dead, third degree burns. Someone's doing a hell of a job of exterminating them...
Alma: -- No, no, this is where you don't get to be stupid and get yourself killed! This is where we wait here safely until it expires. Barack: -- But what if doesn't expire? Maybe it's a spectacle for children? Citrom: -- For children like you.
Citrom: -- Ah, magic as an art form. Sometimes, I pay drunks at the worst dock taverns to be my subjects. I like this cleric lover of Nacacia, he's got style. Alma: -- *putting a sword point to the throat of one of the released men* Speak! What happened here? Fire Knife: -- We got him here... terrible... terrible... Szilva: -- We must hurry, our incidental ally is captured!
The battle is an annoying missfest for the frontline. To conserve spells (we're in enemy territory, with no safe resting), a single Stinking Cloud is used, but they're lucky with the saves. It tells a lot that the most damage is dealt by Eper with his shortbow.
They're engrossed in their "work", and we get the drop on them.
Citrom: -- We must free him! That well-toned body, mmmmh....
During the battle, which starts at a distance, we use a Fireball and we catch most of them inside. This one goes smooth.
Citrom: -- You're Gharri of Gond, aren't you? I've heard so many great things about you, you're a legend! Gharri: -- Thanks... I need... water. Citrom: -- Here, I'll help you drink it, you're still weak. Gharri: -- Thank you, yours was a very timely rescue. Citrom: -- So it's a date?
Gharri is too weak to come with us, we give him his hammer and move on. We're entering office space, the furniture gets more civilized.
In an ornate office, in a rosewood desk's drawer, we find interesting notes.
Szilva: -- Oh no, please no. We just banished him, two months ago! It's not fair! Narancs: -- Villains cheat on their rolls.
The local library (quite the operation they had here, these Fire Knives) is burned to ashes. A dead body's hand escaped the flames, gripping a piece of paper...
Szilva: -- Yes, yes, I get it. He said he will be back, and now he is. alma: -- We kicked his ass once, we can do it one more time. Szilva: -- I must remind you, without Bane's intervention, we would all be dead by now, one of us possessed by T. We were essentially saved by an evil god. That's the best joke of my life as a cleric of Lathander. Eper: -- Does that make Bane our buddy? Should we brofist his clerics when we find them? Szilva: -- Best joke, I said. It's a killer joke, it suits Bane's tastes.
Alma: -- No mercy killings. But we should ask them a few question.
There is a lot of moaning about a hammer-wielding fanatic calling down torrents of fire, conjuring swarms of blades, and other dreadful spells. Citrom is even more impressed with Gharri, however slim her chances of snatching him from Nacacia's grip are (but she's the kind of woman who's thrilled by a challenge like this). We learn that the leader has two captives. Princess Nacacia, here we come!
Narancs: -- At least it's not a voodoo doll.
The armory is unguarded. Clearly, the Fire Knives are in disorder. We get our hands on a necklace of missiles (Eper's favorite), elfin chain mail (this one's also his), long sword +1 flame-tongue (pretty good stuff, +4 against undead), long sword +3 frost brand (oh yeah), mace +2, flail +2, and a bracers which turns out to be cursed.
Narancs: -- You're lucky the elves made that chain mail form-fitting. Otherwise, we'd have to carve you up a bit to make it fit... Barack: -- Why does he get the nice and fashionable armor? I'm walking here all day in an uncomfortable plate mail, made to fit a burly man, hiding the nice curves of my body that I'm taking care of with callanetics and yoga! I've always dreamed about wearing elven fashion armor, it's such a classic! Alma: -- I like to be alive at the end of the day. And heavy armor is the best bet for that. Maybe we'll find an elven plate mail in the ruins of Myth Drannor... Citrom: -- Sure, with a gift card saying "For Barack, by the long-dead elven smiths of M.D.".
The last checkpoint before the leader's room has living guards. No, we don't surrender them. An ice storm and a hold person is used in the battle.
Before we step into the final challenge, we buff up with everything: shield and mirror image for the mages, bless and prayer, and heal up a bit.
Citrom: -- This Nacacia is a total badass. I have strong competition, yipee!
The battle is on. So much red! The back ranks contain a mage.
For a start, Eper hits the mage with his shortbow, and then we go all-out, friendly-frying Barack as usual. Now that we're not conserving, Fire Knives fall pretty fast.
The leader is forced to remove our bonds. There is animation showing the bond's fade. It's a welcome sight.
Narancs: -- What a show-off, this Vangerdahast. Blowing off the roof to make an entry? We could've been killed by the debris! Citrom: -- You're just jealous he can do Big Boom, but you can't. Size matters, you know.
Later, outside of town: Citrom: -- Oooh, there goes my prince! I can do so much more for you, Gharri, just give me the chance! Alma: -- This is an outrage. Instead of a reward for destroying the Fire Knives and saving two important people, we are banned from the country. We are innocent, and the king knew that. Szilva: -- *shrugs* The king is the law. You're a country girl, you were raised by honest, hard-working folks sticking to the rules, you have no idea how the law is bent in more "civilized" places. Be thankful for the banishment, it could've been worse. Alma: -- ...
We make camp to rest after this exhausting gauntlet. Barack is on watch.
(Thanks to all of this happening as an uninterruptible sequence, and me saving over the wrong saves, I had to scoop the nightmare shots from a YouTube video. If anyone's still missing the jagged edges on the text, now you've got it! )
Everyone: -- Well, thanks Barack! We all lost our sleep because of you!
The world map is ours! Northeast corner: Phlan, the seat of our previous adventures. Southwestern corner: Tilverton, where we are right now. The powers that bonded us can be found somewhere in the region.
This will be a faily short and uninteresting chapter. But it had be done, I remembered that there are "road" encounters all over the place, and I wanted to visit all the towns, since there are some minor events.
However, the wilderness battles are the most annoying part of the game. I swear I'm more freaked out by these than fighting a dozen of dragons (it's not a hyperbole, we're getting there very soon!).
1. There are many more trees in Curse than in PoR. The upper tile of trees block line of sight and movement. Since there is no minimap, it becomes a guessing game to position characters for ranged attacks and spells.
2. Dead tree trunks are a new type of tile, and they block movement.
3. Rock, pond, undergrowth tiles require +1 MP, and they're everywhere.
4. AoE spells vs. line of sight is bugged. If a mob is out of sight for the caster, then the AoE won't hurt it. Srs ltdwn.
Sometimes it takes 3-4 turns to finally engage the opponents. Thank all the gods of the Planes, 95% of battles take place on non-wilderness maps.
Unlike in PoR, we can't walk around the map freely, instead, we travel from town to town (or point of interest). For each trip, there are usually two choices: by road/by boat, or wilderness. If the former is selected, then whomever controls that road/river will check on us. If we're considered an ally, they'll let us pass, if not, they attack immediately. If we take the wilderness route, then there is a random chance for a monster attack, typical for that region. Road controllers include the Red Plume mercenaries of Hillsfar, the troops of Zhentil Keep, cultists, and buccaneers for the boat routes.
Most towns are "menu towns". Inn -- rest; store -- buy/sell; hall -- levelup; tavern/bar -- listen to rumors, meet NPCs, pick fights; temple -- heal. Depending on the bonds we have remaining and deeds you have done, some inns will refuse to let us rest, or the opposite, to rest for free. The non-menu towns always have a dungeon map connected to the town.
We first set out for Ashabenford, and attacked by hippogriffs midway, at Tilver's Gap.
Hippogriffs are fast and have multiple attacks, but otherwise harmless.
In Ashabenford, we idenfity the loot, remove the cursed bracers from Narancs, and realize that fighters and mages qualify for another level of training! This is the final hit die roll for the fighters, Alma rolls a 6 and Barack an 8, the mages have two left, until level 11. I select Hold Monster for Citrom, Cone of Cold for Narancs. Here's the current HP/AC roster:
We have nice magical weapons, but no magical armor. Not even a single shield +1. It shows in the damage we take, ettins weren't dangerous at Stojanow Gate in PoR, now they are.
Further east of Ashabenford is a place called the "The Standing Stone". A robed figure is here, and greets us by spouting cryptic exposition.
Okay, will do that, but only after we wandered the Dalelands enough. Going even further east, into Hillsfar territory, we're refused a room at the local inn.
Szilva: -- See, this shows how hasty in our judgments we all are. Just because we carry the sign of the Zhentarim on our arms, doesn't mean we're in league with them. We could have tattooed it there as part of an oath to exterminate them! Why are people's minds are so easily clouded? Bask in Lathander's light and gain supreme understanding, my child.
Innkeeper: -- Here's two coppers, that was a nice speech. Now, get out of here.
I've taken this screenshot to show certain tiles: pond on the left, trunk below, undergrowth in several places, and river tiles which cost 4 MP to cross, except for the plank bridge that is somewhere on the map. And trees, trees everywhere.
North of Hillsfar, in the Moonsea area, our Z-bonds work like a passport.
On the road between Yulash and Voonlar, green robed cultists greet us and call us the "the chosen ones". We've heard that one before, and it's never a good sign...
Between Dagger Falls and Teshwave, we find a hidden cave, where monsters are trained for an attack on Dagger Falls by Zhentrarim troops. We can't have that, can't we? They have no means of controlling us through the bonds, luckily, that's for a higher up.
This is a big battle, a dozen Z fighters plus a dozen worgs plus a dozen bugbears. And no easy Fireballing them, as I explained at the beginning of the chapter, since it's a wilderness battle. Narancs is almost killed by 3 worgs, but Citrom rescues him with a Stinking Cloud at the last second.
Another road, another farm in need of a rescue.
The giants turn out to be ettins, who decimate the party's hit points heavily. But this is not a dungeon, all we need is to survive one battle.
The most suprising encounter happens in Shadowdale's bar. A grey robed figure explains to us that the brace sigil looks almost like that of the legendary Elminster. He tells us that Elminster is mightily pissed that someone is usurping his sigil, and we get tip that the usurper can be found to the south, in Hap. That's consistent with what the other robed figure said, is he your brother, sir? He's gone in instant, and we don't deduce that we just talked to the most powerful man in the Forgotten Realms. Nah, it must've been someone else who likes grey robes, has a long beard and stuff.
As we are making the last legs of the round-trip, from Shadowdale to Tilverton, we find another hidden cave, where a dark elf fighter trains some monsters. Is this a profession in the Dalelands, training monsters in caves? Can you get an instructor's certificate somewhere? We could make good money with this, we're adept at handling monsters! There's info in the cave.
We're really tired by now of all the road battles, and decide to follow the leads we were told. Going south from the Standing Stone, Essembra is just a stop, but as we move forward to Hap, a trio of black dragons swoop down from the sky and attack us. It's an anticlimactic introduction to multi-dragon battles, to shove them in our face like this, but at least it's an interesting fight, because the trees block sight for dragon breath, too! (Don't think about the "reality" of that.) I like my acid stream with a bit of creme fraiche
In this fight, Narancs almost dies again, saved by a good initative roll and a Cone of Cold left in the spell list.
This is a good moment to talk about the improved monster graphics. Both the blobber-view square portraits and the battle sprites were improved after Pool of Radiance, and these black dragons look more impressive than Tyranthraxus's bronze dragon form. It might be that black is more rad than bronze, tho.
Hap! Hap! Hap!
Finally, a non-menu town! We want some real XP and loot, and this place smells of that.
Ooh, now *this* is a nostalgia dump. While I had forgotten a lot of the details to PoR, for some reason I played through the first couple stages of CotAB enough times to carve a lot of those scenes into my long-term memory.
And, yeah, those wilderness encounters sucked. Except the ones with Displacer Beasts, because those things are totally rad.
Finishing this chapter took longer than the previous two combined. A jump in difficulty, that's still an understatement, explanation below. I'm following the game's and basically every walkthrough's order by dealing with "red" first. I know it for a fact that Yulash and the "green" enemies are much simpler, there are no magic-resistant, magic item-hoarding, heavily armored spellcasters by the dozen there, and you get a special wand to take care of the heavy hitters... But I decided to run through here anyway.
Just a few steps down the road, we bump into a dark elf patrol. They don't attack on sight, instead they're strolling our way leisurely, like they own the world.
Barack: -- Look at that mesmerizing silvery hair! I will ask for a lock from that woman who leads the patrol! And that jet black skin, you can't get that by suntanning! I'm so envious! Alma: -- Are those... what I think? Narancs: -- Yes, they are. Although I don't understand why they're walking in sunlight, that's supposed to be hurting their eyes and skin or something. Alma: -- What should we do? They don't act hostile. Yet. Narancs: -- If we act like subjects, they should leave us alone, they're a slaver race. We need information about what is going on here before we pick a fight.
(Parlay/Meek is selected from the encounter menu)
We enter the inn, where...
Talking is useless, they beg us not to resist the drow masters.
Alma: -- All right, this can't go on. I don't understand why they're here, but the entire village, including the Temple of Sune, has ****ted their pants. We can't get any service or any question answered. I'm sick of their groveling, and therefore I suggest that we start eliminating the patrols. The occupying force doesn't look big. Barack: -- I'd rather be friends with them. They look so magnificent. Citrom: -- *laughs* They don't have a word for 'friend'. Do you want details on what they do with their slaves? Barack: -- No, no thanks!... At least, it'll be easy to get that lock I want as memento.
The first battle, with 4 drow fighters plus 2 clerics and 2 mages is a stark demo of things to come.
Cleric: AC 0, 42 HP, drow mace +3, hold person, bestow curse, magic resistance.
Mage: AC 1 (!), 28 HP, drow long sword +3, lightning bolt x2, stinking cloud x2, magic missiles, magic resistance.
Hurting them with spells is not reliable, neither with weapons attacks, while they're full of disabling spells, plus strong damage spells on the mages. If they run out of spells, or get silenced, they can still put a lot of hurt on the party thanks to the +3 weapons.
In this first encounter, we manage to disable 3 fighters and 1 cleric and 1 mage with Stinking Clouds (lucky) and hurt the other mage, but the other cleric gets off a hold person, aaaaaaand everyone saves. The battle goes smooth thereafter.
After the battle, we loot the drow equipment: their chain mails are like a plate mail +1, an upgrade for the frontline, plus the base item is chain mail, so they get 9 Move Points in battle instead of 6! Trust me, that matters a lot. Their weapons are all +3, that's an upgrade for Barack, Szilva and Eper. Supposedly this equipment is drained in sunlight, but in the village it works flawlessly, both for them and for us. I'm not complaining.
The next two patrols have only 1 spellcasters each, so they don't pose a lot of problem.
Alma: -- You don't look like you've seen a lot of battle. Akabar: -- I've seen plenty of battle. The trick is to kill them before they get to you. I'm expert at employing active magic defenses. Citrom: -- But can you color your fireballs like me? *casts a lavender-colored fireball into the sky* Narancs: -- Or shape them into various geometric shapes like me? *casts a 12-tip star-shaped fireball into the sky* Alma: -- What is this, m-peen competition?
I forgot to mention that at the inn, this brave soul volunteered to join us. I was hesitant because of the AI friendly fire ignorance, but decided to be an optimist in the end. Akabar Bel Akash the 6th level magic-user, with your vigorous 15 Hit Points and majestic Armor Class of 10, welcome.
His spell list is perfect, though, I didn't need to touch his memorized list. My mages take care of all the specials anyway (Knock, Detect Magic, Slow/Haste, etc.).
According to the townsfolk, the invaders' leadership camps out in a barn. Time to butcher some animals...
The leader is an efreet. We've seen one as an ally from the bottle, this one mocks us. His retinue consists of 4 drow clerics and 4 drow mages. Ouch.
We manage to get one hit each into two clerics on the front row. A third one finishes a Hold Person, Alma and Narancs are held. The latter was casting a Fireball... Next up, Szilva casts Silence 15' radius, and silences the last cleric and three mages. That's a big relief. Citrom follows up with a fireball, killing two mages outright, and hurting the fourth one. Akabar casts another Fireball, but with little effect, and hurts some frontliners. Only one enemy spell cast on the first turn, that's a nice result.
Next turn, first is another enemy Hold Person, Akabar and Eper are held. Szilva casts Dispel Magic on Alma, since she's on the frontline, it succeeds, Alma is battle-ready again. Narancs, Akabar and Eper are all out reach for melee, thanks to Barack advancing before Eper. Citrom's Hold Monster fails to do anything, we manage a few hits to prevent spellcasting. Silence is still 'on'.
This is how it looks like at the start of the third turn, when Szilva casts a Hold Person, which turns out to be another total failure. We didn't even scratch the efreet yet, because really, who cares about a regular melee attack when two squads of drow casters are breathing down your neck?
The hero of the battle is Szilva by a large margin. His Silence was the key to not dying on the first turn, and dispelling the Hold from Alma before a coup-de-grace took her down was another big win.
After the battle, the village comes alive. The general store opens, we identify and sell loot we found on the road, and get a map to some hidden caves beneath a sleeping volcano. Fire creatures love the place. I still keep Akabar on the roster. He was useful as an additional target!
This is the first time we fight salamanders, who are immune to fire damage.
This narrow tunnel-fight shows me something that I missed about having a 7th member in the party. The battle setup is automatic in the Gold Box games, I have no control over it, and thus, Eper is now considered frontline, and the outermost one, to make it even worse. I decide to drop Akabar after this battle. Eper is very vulnerable with is 1 AC and low HP, he belongs to the backline.
Akabar, sensing that he's going to be fired, casts Stinking Cloud on the front drow fighter plus Alma and Szilva. Szilva fails the save and is disabled. Yes, THIS is why I don't allow NPC casters in the party.
Akabar: -- Oops... These is inadequate lighting in these tunnels, I can't see clearly. Alma: -- *coughing and crying from the irritation* Run, you miscreant, run while we're still fighting! After that, my sword will be talking to you! Akabar: -- These adventurer types are so finicky... I'm leaving, no thanks necessary! Alma: -- Waaaaaaaaaaagh!
Now that order is restored, we start exploring the caves carefully. Eper notices that small arrows, blending to the environment almost perfectly, point first west, then south.
Szilva: -- It could be a trap. Eper: -- Can't be a bigger trap than your mouth. Narancs: -- It follows that if the tunnels are ruled by the drow, then whomever is hiding from them is a potential ally. Alma: -- Agreed. We will follow the arrows. Barack: -- Oh, it's a game! Maybe there is a reward for following the clues?
Szilva: -- No, no, no, no, no. And I can repeat that a few hundred times if necessary. We won't walk into a trap set by seductive females. That's like Adventuring 101. Citrom: -- That's a sexist statement. Szilva: -- And that makes it untrue? We are not in danger, because what I said is sexist? Citrom: -- Of course. Szilva: -- I rest my case. You're not worth saving.
Szilva's fears are unfounded. We are led to a woman who introduces herself as Silk.
She begins to explain the situation. What's an "elfin" woman, by the by, and how does it compare to an "elven" woman, anyone knows?
Silk asks our esteemed leader, Alma to join the Swanmays.
Alma: -- We didn't have any secret clubs where I grew up. Hello, black sisters!
Barack: -- Oh, is that so easy and painless? I was afraid to have tattoos, but now I'm confident! I wish they asked meeeeeee! Eper: -- I thought we were trying to remove our bonds, not add to them. Alma: -- This is different, it's a secret alliance that I entered as an equal. Eper: -- Are you sure of that? I wouldn't accept some magical schmizmo that comes from a dark elven woman, no matter how friendly she acts... It could be a geas, compelling you to betray us later! They're all schemers, you know the stories! Alma: -- I trust them no less than I trust you. Eper: -- What's that supposed to mean?
The mark of the Swanmays works here like the Zhentarim bond in the Moonsea region, as a passport. Not all patrols respond it, though! However, the patrols here are not eager to fight, and if we choose to get out of sight (Flee), they don't pursue.
We spot a barracks. Let's kick dark elf ass until it turns red! This is the first barrack, a dozen fighters are here. Does that mean that there will be cleric and mage barracks, too? Hmm...
The battle goes pretty well by and large, Citrom is able to throw a Confuse before they break up and engage us. It's rare that she gets to cast Confuse, because it's a large AoE and affects allies. Unlike with damage spells, I'm not risking a buffed-up frontliner turning on us. In this battle, I witness the first Fireball that does 0 damage, because all of the dark elves (about 6-7) inside resist it. You're munchkins, drow, and you know it.
Before this battle, I tried to buff up with Enlarge. And it said "... is unaffected". What-what-what? Enlarge is pretty important, it can boost Strength into giant levels with high level mages, which is awesome. This is a very annoying bug, and I have not seen it happen before.
15 salamanders, a full platoon of spear-wielding heat-bathers. I empty my entire spell arsenal into them (minus the fireballs and hold persons), but they're pretty resistant to Stinking Cloud and Ice Storm doesn't deal a lot of damage. They did a lot of damage, Szilva had to heal himself with Cure Serious.
The lair of the salamanders is hot. There are 6 caskets here, and the characters trying to open them constantly take damage. But nothing a "Fix" can't fix. The loot is good:
-- Scroll of protection from dragon breath. I have a weeeee bit of suspicion this'll be handy soon.
-- Scroll of protection from paralysis. Another important hard counter, but for later.
-- Long Sword +2 Dragon Slaying. Woo-hoo.
-- Mace +3, non-drow. Will be useful after we leave Haptooth.
-- Mage spells: Hold Monster (now both mages have it), Cloudkill (yes!), Minor Globe of Invulnerability (for Narancs, and not a moment too soon...)
And an Ioun stone that raises Strength. But if I equip it, this happens:
Look at the THAC0 and the damage bonus. So Enlarge is bugged and doesn't work, the Ioun Stone is bugged and gives godlike Strength, which I consider an exploit and won't use. Sheeeet...
On a whim, I check my last option, the 2nd level Strength spell, both mages have it. It sets Strength to 100, and does nothing. The derived stats stay the same. COME ON! At least leave me one option to raise Strength, out of three...
The say: "Move on sister, we have no quarrel with you." We would, but this a challenge we cannot pass on.
A full dozen drow clerics. A whirlwind of Hold Persons, resistant to both might and magic. Is this doable? I will bend myself trying, that's for sure! They start out far, so several key spells won't reach them on the first turn (both Clouds, Silence), and Fireballing is still no guarantee.
I won't detail the first two tries. Normal methods just don't work. The bastards are walking through the clouds like they're a refreshing sauna... (blue is Cloudkill, green is Stinking Cloud). And only the two mages are left standing, they don't have any chance.
We need stealth, which means Invisibility 10' radius, for the frontline and Eper. When they're invisible, no spells or ranged abilities can target them, and only melee attacks are possible after the enemy bumps into them.
The mages use Minor Globe of Invulnerability, which makes them immune to everything these casters can do. However, they're still targeted, which means the drow will waste spells on then. But I can't put them out front, they would get creamed by melee attacks. The solution is simple: the invisible members will wall off the mages, not doing anything on their turn (Done/Quit) to stay invisible. The enemy casters will bump into them, and start whacking them, but since they have good AC and are fully buffed, I don't expect any problems.
The "Invisible Wall" tactic works beyond my expectations. I finish the battle without taking any damage! After the clerics wasted their Hold Persons on my immune mages, the other party members break invisibility and finish them off. They are targeted by a few Bestow Curses, but none of them even work (and even if they would, it wouldn't be a big deal).
Here's a shot mid-battle, Barack is standing in the Cloudkill (she's immune at level 9). During the battle, Cloudkill claimed one cleric, the Stinking Clouds zero. They waltzed around in them... Out of the many Hold spells (I switched the Fireballs to Holds), I managed to paralyze a total 4 of clerics. There is no visual effect for invisibility, which is a bit confusing, but not that hard to keep track of.
Yes, Citrom is unaffected. Come at me, bitches!
In a side room, a few fighters are training ankhegs. Their spit is like a dragon breath, but only manages to spit, Stinking Cloud does its job. It feels so good to fight non-drow mobs, no magic resistance.
Upcoming: the Mage Barracks! A total of 24 Lightning Bolts, plus plentiful Stinking Clouds and Magic Missiles. They can kill our party with Magic Missiles alone, given enough time... And they still have +3 warrior gear when can't cast for whatever reason. For comparison: so far, the most magic user enemies we faced was two, and they had no magic resistance, low AC, low HP, bad THAC0 and pitiful weapon attacks.
The Invisible Wall tactics nets another win. But this one isn't as smooth. On turn 3, instead of D-Q for Done-Quit, I hit Q with Alma, which is for Quick fight. She attacks and breaks invi. Noes! On turn 2, I cast Confusion in the midst of the mages. The only one that failed to save is next my frontline, and he flees on turn 3. This draws disengagement attacks from Barack and Szilva, and reveals them as well. I learned something there.
However, by this time, the Lightning Bolts are all spent and we're working our way through the mages with Fireballs (with their less HP, I went back to FBs from Hold Persons). Their Stinking Clouds disable three party members, and two of them are finished off, but that's the most they can achieve.
In this battle, of the enemy mages becomes a Darwin Prize nominee. He casts a Stinking Cloud on my frontliners next to him, which means he is inside the AoE -- and then fails both the resistance and the save.
All the barracks are cleared out, the battles that remain are cakewalks compared to them. 4 efreeti and 2 fighters guard a gate to the dark elf city below the tunnels, but the gate is collapsed when we get near. "None shall reach the divine city!". Who cares about your mushroom-lit cave city? It's worthless as a real estate. We care about the loot.
In a large room, after dispose of the pathetic guards (2 casters, pfeh), a voice in our head says. "Beware! Great danger lies ahead!". Better buff up then! Haste is used. We peek into the next room, and notice an ominous huge shape move in the darkness...