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Let's Play: The Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box classics)


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#1
Endrosz

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Pool of Radiance, the first of the SSI's licensed ADnD games, was the game which turned me into a RP-gamer in real life. I was 15 when I started playing it, in 1990, and it was my second foray into the world of big RPGs after Bard's Tale 3. Some months after getting into PoR, I spotted a hand-written poster while walking in the city which advertised a "game of fantasy", where "you're the hero" or somesuch, played in the library on weekends. I NEED TO BE THERE. My father, who was a rather hardheaded religious bigot, bless his soul, wouldn't hear about it, going on the "it has magic, that's from the devil!" drivel that needs no introduction to the US readers among you. But my paternal grandma, who was a serious authority in the family, supported my intent, which was enough to get me the permission to go. And thusly started my 20 year stint with tabletop roleplaying games: got into ADnD as many others of my generation, abandoned it in the early '90s for Shadowrun and Earthdawn, I came to love Mage: The Ascension from the World of Darkness, and later developed a taste for freeform roleplaying after trying out Amber. After spending more than a decade with rulebooks, I ditched them, and in my final RPG campaign, about 4 years ago, I used a very simple homegrown system to focus on the storytelling and cut down on time spent with combat. Tabletop roleplaying stopped because my close group of friends, we got too old and tired to submerge ourselves in it, but cRPGs are still a big part of my life.

 

b1byHee.png

I'm mostly an old-school gamer in my tastes, but not really a nostalgia gamer. Master of Orion 2 is the only old game that I regularly play, which I consider "good as it is", though still far from flawless. The reason I don't have rose-tinted glasses is because I have a strongly critical mind (math does that to you, and I was a regular at math competitions, best place was national 7th), and I found many faults with the old games back when I played them for the first time. A good example of this is Master of Magic: the premise of the game is fantastic, there are a lot of great ideas in there, but on the whole, the game is a huge mess which does little to reward strategic skill, yet still requires copious amounts of micromanagement. My memories of the oldies are far from spotless.

Pool or Radiance was the first of the many Gold Box games, and I played them all:
 

Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds, Secret of the Blades, Pools of Darkness -- The subjects of this Let's Play, tied to the Moonsea region of the Forgotten Realms. The first and the last one, the two Pools games are great, Curse has good encounter design and tough challenges but is weak on story and setting, Secret is horribad is every aspect (and it takes you away from the Moonsea setting, teleporting you to the far north, to a place which no one cares about).
 

Champions of Krynn, Death Knights of Krynn, Dark Queen of Krynn -- Dragonlance saga. The three moons' phases affecting mage spells was a cool addition to standard ADnD rules, plus some other stuff that set it apart like the Krynn-specific subraces. Decent efforts all-around.
 

Gateway to the Savage Frontier, Treasures of the Savage Frontier -- FR/Sword Coast saga. Outsourced, entirely bland and forgettable.

 

Countdown to Doomsday, Matrix Cubed -- The Buck Rogers saga. This is a future Earth sci-fi setting with ADnD-inspired rules, similar to D20 Star Wars. It has spaceship combat, gameplay is strongly skill-based (there are no spells), and the missions are mostly interesting and detailed. You get to visit the planets in the solar system, and each of those has its own lore, sci-fi fauna and in some cases, even harmful environmental effects. Also, space pirates! Everything is better with pirates. Very enjoyable packages, I replayed these once. :)

 

Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace -- Another outsourced and hastily scraped together game when the GB engine was getting obsolete. Borders on unplayable, lots of bugs, features missing.

Over the years, I sometimes considered replaying the Gold Box classics, or maybe just the best of them, but in the end, they were just not good enough. I would much rather replay Mask of the Betrayer, for example, or Fallout 2. When I stepped in the disengagement attacks debate with a post, I needed a Gold Box screenie to show disengagement attacks happening. I couldn't find a proper one with Google, so I installed Pool of Radiance and took the shot myself.

 

DlxqTwW.png?1

ijD051m.png

 

At that point, the temptation to replay came up again. Okay, so the games in themselves are not that appealing, but what if I poured on some additional challenge? After a while, I came up with a few self-imposed limitations and started that long forgotten, ancient ritual of (re-re-re-re-)rolling my characters.

 

4p8RrRI.png

 

So this is a continuous Let's Play of the 4 games in the Pools saga, listed above, with the following additional limitations:

1. No dual-classing. In a high-level campaign like Pools of Darkness, dual-classing makes the game too easy. No multi-classing either, but that's not a real limitation. Since PoD is an epic level game, going to level 40, and unlike the IE games, it implements non-human multi-class level limits, multi-classed characters are out. Under the standard ADnD rules, an elven fighter/mage cannot level beyond 7/11, and that's that.

2. I will keep the Hit Point rolls on level-ups, and never reload to get better rolls. This will have a huge impact in the long run. I know what awaits me at the end of the road, where I'll have to fight Minions of Bane, Pets of Kalistes, drow spellcasters, dragons, and the rest of the merry band of baddies, more than two dozen at a time. I'm a bit unsure at the moment whether I'll be able to finish with the backline having around 50 hit points, I reckon, and the tanks around 100? Unlike in DnD3+, hit die rolls and Con bonuses stop at level 9/10, you a get flat 3/2/1 increase... But I'll do my best, I need this additional pressure to get motivated to play Gold Box again. :banghead:

I will not limit myself on combat reloads. Mass battles are one of the iconic features of the Gold Box games, and very soon I'll be drowning in masses of level-draining wights and disintegrating beholders and Hold Person-casting clerics. No, thank you, just getting through Pools of Darkness with limited characters will be enough. :yes:

I have already finished Pool of Radiance and the first dungeon of Curse of the Azure Bonds, and got a bunch of screenies ready for write-up. The rest of the Let's Play won't feature long rants about me, just the games.  Is there interest in this? I'm going to play through them anyway, but I'll only write details if there are enough readers. 5 will suffice to stroke my ego.  :biggrin:  Please either throw a like on this post or write a post in the thread if you're interested. Thanks!

 

yIFvzHA.png
 


Edited by Endrosz, 29 November 2014 - 04:20 AM.

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#2
Drowsy Emperor

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Coming into cRPG's with Baldur's Gate I could never get past the interface barrier to try the gold box games, in addition to simply not believing the game had much in the way of narrative to keep me engaged.

 

So, it'll be fun to watch you play this. So that I don't have to  :biggrin:



#3
BruceVC

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@ Endrosz

 

That was a excellent post, thanks for sharing. I particularly enjoyed reading the beginning and the story about your gran that set the context in your journey into fantasy RPG

 

But very well written, engaging and interesting :thumbsup:


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#4
Keyrock

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I remember, way back in the day when I played these, Secret of the Silver Blades had a bug where all saving throws were always missed, by both players and enemies.  Needless to say, spells like Hold Person and Hold Monster were insanely powerful, especially given that any held creature could be 1-shot insta-killed (a mage with a dagger could kill an ancient dragon in 1 hit if it was held).  Battles against evil priests were some of the most brutal in the game because it was basically a case of who could get the Hold Person spell off first.  If the evil priests got the spell off first, you were done for.  I wonder if that bug still exists in that game?

 

Anyway, cheers, I look forward to reading this and it bringing back childhood memories.  I loved these games way back then.  I'm not sure I'd have the stomach for playing through them again myself, especially given the crazy amount of save scumming necessary to get past some parts.  


Edited by Keyrock, 29 November 2014 - 07:44 AM.

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#5
Guard Dog

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My favorite was Dungeon Hack. I loved that game. But if you were not playing a Cleric it was more than a little tough to beat.



#6
Guard Dog

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Ahhh, THAC0. That brings back memories.



#7
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This should be fun.

But, if you were really hardcore, you'd be playing the 2001 remake.

#8
Majek

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Booo , you're ruining everything with ugly image scaling. Booooooo.



#9
Endrosz

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Thanks, I got my 5 flowers likes, so I'm putting up Ch1 tonight.

 

Drowsy Emperor: I had a hunch that there will be a few people who didn't play these oldies because they started with other RPGs and can't stomach them, but have a faint interest to know them. :) For a quick comparison: These games have little in the way of 'quests' outside of the main path, and little choice and consequence, although there is some. They don't compare favorably to the Baldur's Gate saga that way. The encounters and the challenges, however, are surpassing BG1 (definitely), and are comparable to BG2, though not as varied (there is no stealth/trap setting, for example). I think the best parallel you can draw is with Icewind Dale: lots of big battles, sometimes a bit of story (maybe more than IWD), occasionally a choice.

 

Keyrock: I first played these games, up until Secret of the Silver Blades, on my C-64. But I finished the saga on PC, with nice VGA graphics. I don't remember this bug -- what platform?

 

BruceVC: I have a special surprise for you, Bruce! As I was reading bits here and there on these games, I discovered an interesting tidbit about Treasures of the Savage Frontier:

 

 

Designers Don Daglow, Mark Buchignani, Mark Manyen and David Bunnett recognized that the Gold Box engine was past its prime and needed some kind of story or character enhancements to feel like a new game and not a tired sequel.

Although they added many small enhancements to the game in addition to its all-new story, the largest feature was the first-ever option for either of two NPCs to fall in love with a player character. The sophisticated AI (for its time) tracked the player's actions in the game, much as the modern game Fable charts the player's actions as good or evil. If the player's actions matched the values of the NPC there was a chance they could fall in love.

 

You need to play this game, Bruce! It's where it all started, man! :D

 

... No, you don't need to play it. It was an uninspired game, and all the innovations (not just romance, but weather effects on the overland map, etc.) couldn't save it from being bad.

 

Leferd: It's a very different engine, it has a different story and encounters, it uses 3ed rules, it's buggy -- why should I play it as a replacement?  I can't import characters from there. BTW, there is an NWN module remake of Pool of Radiance. Now this is a faithful adaptation, and I might play this one day. But not now, the challenge is the old GB games.

 

1166801727fullres.jpg


Edited by Endrosz, 29 November 2014 - 09:38 AM.

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#10
Nonek

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If you wanted a superior narrative experience at that time you simply purchased one of the Ultima's, PoR and the Gold Box games offered a different experience. Regarding sexual relations, was Ultima 7 back in '92, the first to offer homosexual liaisons I wonder, or was there an even older example? It would be interesting to know from a purely informative viewpoint, we so often think that it is modern games that are breaking ground, when in fact the old classics trod them decades before.


Edited by Nonek, 29 November 2014 - 09:43 AM.


#11
Keyrock

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Keyrock: I first played these games, up until Secret of the Silver Blades, on my C-64. But I finished the saga on PC, with nice VGA graphics. I don't remember this bug -- what platform?

 

I'm pretty sure I played it on a Tandy 1000 running MS-DOS (6, I think), so, more or less, PC.



#12
mkreku

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Pool of Radiance was the first RPG I ever played. Also, to date, the only game with D&D rules I've enjoyed (all other D&D games I've played despite D&D). Will be fun to see how much of the hidden stuff you find.


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#13
Enoch

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I was a few years younger than Endrosz when I played Pool of Radiance (maybe 9 or 10?), and I wasn't very good at it.  (Although I did have some prior CRPG experience with Might & Magic I.)  With guidance from the Official Hint Book, I eventually managed to get to the encounter with the guards outside the lair of the end boss (helpfully referred to as "The Boss"), but I never managed to beat them. 

 

I played a lot of Curse, but eventually got lost and stuck in Zenthil Keep.  Didn't play Silver Blades or Pool of Darkness at all.  I did run through the Krynn series much later on, from some CD-ROM combo pack.  They were either much easier, or I was much better at AD&D party design, tactics, spell selection, etc., by that point in my life.   

 

Anyhow, I would be interested in watching this unfold. 


Edited by Enoch, 29 November 2014 - 11:49 AM.

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#14
Endrosz

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Chapter 1: Fresh off the bus boat

 

Party composition. I spent an evening thinking about it.

 

Must have: 1 fighter, 1 cleric, 1 thief (some good treasure and quest options are sealed off without a thief, the knock spell doesn't replace them entirely, also TRADITION!), 2 mages. That leaves one spot open. My first choice was another cleric, so they can heal each other in dire situations, and have more resilience in the no-rest and limited-rest areas, even started the game with 2 clerics. But as the memories started rolling back, I remembered that in high level play, a second cleric doesn't bring that much to the table besides Heal (they don't have access to Hold Monster). And there are a lot of good martial weapons in all of the games, which the cleric can't use, doesn't get multiple attacks, not eligible for +4 HP Con bonus, etc... I'll have to do with one cleric, two cleric is for multi/dual-classed parties. So I restarted with a second fighter.

 

Initially, I wanted a paladin as the second fighter. Then I realized that PoR only offers the 4 base classes. No paladin. The immunity to fear and brave aura is their main feature, immunity to disease is good sometimes, and lay on hands gives an option to revive a fallen, but not dead cleric. Same with the cleric spells later, not really powerful, but nice to have as a backup. Bummer.

 

As I started rolling, I thought I could assign the rolled numbers, as in other games, like ToEE recently. No-pe. You get fighters with high Int and Cha, and mages with 18/percentage Str. Hmm, I don't have the patience to get the rolls that way, look at all these failed creations...

 

sB4SsYh.gif

 

 

In tabletop, most GMs do allow you to assign rolls to attributes. Otherwise the player will beg and whine to re-roll anyway, because the result doesn't even resemble what he wanted to play. There is a Modify Character option in the character menu which allows one to set attributes and HP as long as the character is fresh, so I used that exchange attribute values. Hooray for in-game cheating features, they have uses for honest players, too! Without further ado, here's the party.

 

eFt3CPm.png

 

Alma, which means Apple in Hungarian is the leader of the group. She's grown up in a borderland village, and learned fighting from his soldier father.  Reliable and loyal, though a bit picky on morality issues, also the effect of her much-admired father. Wanted to be a paladin, but no order would take her. She has 18s where it matters, and a solid 17 for Str. I favored Con and Dex over Str because there are several options to raise Str drastically (both items and spells), but very few options to raise Dex or Con (Ioun stone). Her basic HP roll without the Con bonus is 6, not the best, but acceptable.

 

Q5hrdQo.png

 

Barack, meaning Peach* is looking all peachy. She's a cheerful, naive girl, who thinks that adventuring is like telling tales and dreaming, but a bit more real. Try nightmares, Peach, and you're closer to what's in store for you and your companions. She has only 17 in Dex, but 16 in Wisdom, which gives a +2 mental defense bonus against Hold Person, Fear, Confusion, and other nasty anti-fighter measures. Also, I thought it would be good to have some variety, and not just the same bonuses everywhere. Her first hit die is a perfect 10, good start.

 

* Yes, in Hungarian, Barack Obama literally means Peach Obama. The pronunciation is different, but the spelling is the same.

 

an1C9o4.png

 

Szilva, meaning Plum is the grim party-pooper cleric of the party. He has "Preaching Mode: On" all the time, even when he's treating people in their death throes. He's got the best set of rolls I could find, and only needs a 16 in Con, so I could afford a 16 Cha on him. There are so many suckers out there falling for sect-building preachers, that's what his Cha actually represents. :p

 

You might notice he has 577 XP, unlike the others, there's a story about that, coming soon.

 

4p8RrRI.png

 

Eper, which translates into Strawberry, is an honest man. It's all lies and accusations, don't believe a word they say about me! He has the honest profession of locksmith, only he's a... traveling locksmith. Yes, he wants to see the world. That's why he came to Phlan and carries a big sword; the world is a dangerous place, who can deny that?

 

 

HG1KrQs.png

 

Citrom, who might be known as Lemon in other places, is a laidback goth girl who's in love with spellcasting itself. Look at this, I can use Sleep to create living statues! For her, casting a spell is a chance to create True Art ™. Not concerned with having proper girly looks, she's been working out for years, mostly to protect herself from guys who think that a goth girl is all emo and vulnerable. Not Lemon, she can kick your ass even after she runs out of spells.

 

fDFZ51s.png

 

And finally, we have Narancs, or maybe he's Orange in a parallel universe? It's a mystery why his hair is all white at the tender age of 28. Maybe he has planar heritage, but with a lesser manifestation than tiefling horns and such? Poor luck all the same, the ladies think he's a freak and avoid him, the guys think he's cursed and do the same. That gave him a strong motivation to learn serious magicks, Friends being the first spell he learned. He's a good guy, really, wouldn't really hurt someone, but having a bit o' fun with magical help is no deadly sin, right?

 

 

Yeah, I wasn't very heavy on roleplaying. I need more than what a Gold Box game offers to immerse myself.


Edited by Endrosz, 29 November 2014 - 11:59 AM.

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#15
Guard Dog

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Well, as far as roleplaying goes these were the only games around back in the day, It wasn't like there was a lot to compare them to,



#16
Endrosz

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"Begin adventuring".

 

hKyh9sn.png

 

-- Our glorious party came to New Phlan to assist in the rebuilding of one of the great cities of the Moonsea. Get out of the way, little man, we're on our way to be heroes!

 

-- But Alma, we don't even have armor and weapons yet! I feel kind of naked.

 

-- Oh... that. Okay, let's follow this Rolf guy for now.

 

DiOYby4.png

 

-- Wow, they have schools for adventurers?

-- It says here that each training sessions costs a 1000 gold pieces. That's daylight robbery! A suit of well-made plate armor costs less than half as much!

-- Are you sure it's not a joke or a scam? It sounds like a scam.

-- We'll ask around later.

 

oeMY8ke.png

 

-- Fame and fortune... I like the sound of that!

-- I'll use this line as your epitaph, which you'll be needing soon enough, if you just foolishly rush into danger.

 

6ofJWdb.png

 

-- What kinds of monsters are we talking about here, Rolf?

-- You know, the tribal ones, who like to pile on you in big numbers. Goblins, kobolds, orcs, hobgoblins. There are rumors about ogres and trolls, too!

-- Oh, I'm sure those are just tall tales to scare the people of the city to work better on the reconstruction.

-- Ummm... yeah, sure. Whatever you want to believe.

 

yjh7FWO.png

 

Onward to shopping!

 

(the screens were taken with the first party, where Barack was a cleric with 7 HP)


Edited by Endrosz, 29 November 2014 - 01:35 PM.


#17
HoonDing

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At least nowadays you can download all dungeon maps.



#18
Endrosz

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(NOTE: I thought I have enough screens, but apparently, I don't. So some images are taken with the winning party entering the game again. Sorry about that. )
 
I took a nostalgia trip through the town. 24 years, man, I owe this game that much. Look, here's the city park!
 
C2qFY9W.png
 
Isn't this beautiful? Well... It kind of was, back in the day. Tile-based gfx left a lot to your imagination. That's the same reason Gilbert&Winnick's Maniac Mansion-inspired Kickstarter goes back to retro pixels: instead of the GPU, it's the player's brain that renders the vision of a certain place.
 
We need drinks! Let's hit a tavern!
 
We could gamble here, but we don't want to. A tavern tale is referenced, can be read in the game's Journal. As we turn to leave, a brawl breaks out, and we're caught in the middle!
 
I2DHPmN.png
 
Oh noes! In this battle, some fighters on your side, and some are enemies, and you start right in the middle of the two groups. The party was unequipped when my first party got into a brawl, and most of of them were knocked out pretty quickly. Thankfully, these enemies don't deal enough damage to kill outright (-10 HP). But Szilva the cleric managed to stay standing, gathering a whopping 577 XP! I didn't really expect to collect XP while exploring the city...

We need an inn to rest and heal up. Because if we just try to rest anywhere else, this happens:

oDR3UYv.png

And if you stay, you're attacked by a pretty heavy patrol, lead by 8th level fighters, and about two dozen lvl2-3 city guards.

... No, that was just a bad dream! It didn't happen! Now, where is the nearest inn?
 
uOa864R.png
 
I answer yes, expecting no trouble, but the game says we don't have 1 platinum. What? We still have all the starting money, 200 gold pieces on each party member! 1 plat = 5 gold, what's your problem, bitch?
 
I'm flabbergasted. Then it all comes back: this exact same scenario happened to me when I first played game. And I recall the solution: The game tracks currencies separately. 5 gold is not 1 platinum, it's 5 gold. When we visit a shop, and either buy or sell something, the carried money is converted into platinum (as much as possible), so that it weighs the least (because in the GB games, money has weight!). Back then I had no idea what was wrong for a while. I thought it was some form of copy protection, like the time travel access codes in Bard's Tale 3! happy0203.gif The problem was auto-solved after equipping the party,  which we should do right now.

Time to hit one of the arms&armor shops.

hOLNWPV.png

A grand total of 1200 gold is the pool to equip all six members. That's pretty generous. The only real cost are the armor pieces, weapons are really cheap, except for composite bows. A quick calc shows that I can afford banded mails for the frontliners. Since each level-up costs a 1000 gold, and the game does provide you with enough treasure to afford that, spending 1200 gold to buy 3 plate mails is a close reality. And after that, only magical loot will improve the AC.

As you can see, SSI implemented all the ADnD weapons meticulously. I have the metagaming knowledge that sword and board is the way to go, so all of those two-handed renaissance polearms that some military history buff put into ADnD are ignored.

I've checked the manual at this point, the weapons allowed list. You don't spend points on proficiencies in the GB games, it works like in 3ed, you're proficient with everything on a list. But this list was strangely prohibitive in PoR, with clerics having no access to ranged weapons at all, and thieves having access only to slings (no shortbows). Curse, the second game in the game saga, rectified this.

I bought morningstars for the fighters for two reasons: 2D4 (avg 5) is better than the 1D8 of a longsword (avg 4.5), and for a low-level party, every little bit counts. Also very soon, we'll be fighting skeletons in Sokal Keep, against them slashing or piercing damage is halved, rounded down. original.gif That's a pretty horrible penalty at this point in the campaign. The cleric uses a flail, the mages a quarterstaff, so they're covered for bashing damage.
 
And now that we have platinum pieces in the purses, we can rest at an inn and memorize the Low Level Nuke:
 
b1byHee.png
 
Oh yeah, we'll be putting 5+ greenskins into a helpless state with each casting. The game accounts for that, though, by sending hordes of them at you...
 
The final step is visiting the City Hall to hear about the current tasks. At this point it's simply to kill every monster we find in the surrounding areas, though there are some exceptions:
 
ZM7tPlj.png

And with that, we're off to the Slums, the first step in our blazing Reconquista.


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#19
Keyrock

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If I take nothing else away from this thread, the 44th President of the United States of America will now forever be known to me as Peach Obama.  I derive probably altogether way too much joy out of that.

:lol:


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#20
Endrosz

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Chapter 2: This Is The Beginning

of a Beautiful Massacre

 

 
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To clear out the slums area, we need to fight 15 encounters, each encounter has about a dozen greenskins. Plus there's the matter of the area bosses, but let's not even think about that. We're puny, we want to destroy even punier kobolds, so that we can feel powerful. The game has an encounter interface, which is used all the time when you're not surprised:
 
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Let us Parlay... That is so much classier than talking or chatting!
 
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The interesting thing here is that different monsters respond to different stances. If you play "meek" with ogres, they might laugh at you and leave you alone. They like to feel they're badass. On the other hand, you should be "abusive" to kobolds, because that's what they're used to, being bullied by bigger creatures. And there's the matter of skeletons and other undead -- talking won't accomplish anything. It doesn't always work, but talking is a nice option to have. 
 
Why would you want to avoid XP that comes in the form of random encounters? That's a good question, and I'll be answering it later.
 
The northern area of the Slums is beginner-friendly, there are no big ambushes, traps. We stumble into a fortuneteller's hut:
 
 
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She tells us that: blah, blood and violence, blah, expect the unexpected. Thanks for nothing, we came here explicitly for the blood and violence.
 
We find some scripted battles, nothing very interesting, some minor treasure like a clerical scroll with Cure Light Wounds, or a few gems.
 
As we enter a large plaza on the western side, we overhear some rumors. These are valuable bits of info, and one of the rumors tells about a treasure hidden in the northwestern corner.
 
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Who needs a hint book when the monsters themselves tell you where the treasure is? This is almost enough for level 2 for the cleric and the thief. But we'll wait for some more XP, that second level is more important for the fighters and the mages.
 
The Gold Box games implemented the ADnD rule where you got XP for the gold value of the loot you found. Even the Council mission rewards work that way: There's no separate XP reward for completing missions, you get money, gems and jewelry, and the XP value for those! For the low levels, this means that the party will get much more XP from finding loot and getting than killing monsters. For comparison with the above treasure XP, a standard encounter with greenskins yields about 60-80 XP per character. Later GB games contained separate XP rewards, because it was quite silly this way.
 
This is one of the reasons why we avoid random encounters via fleeing or talking. It's just not worth the time, each of those battles takes minutes to play out.
 
 
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Thieves? Well... It's true. Our goal is to loot everything, even what's nailed down. That's what self-respecting adventurers do. Like this:
 
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After this fight, we find our first magical weapon, a Flail +1. Yes, that's exactly why we're breaking into homes!
 
On the western side, we fight the first of many, many mass battles:
 
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There are even more orcs on both sides. original.gif  On the far side, there are a number of orc archers, just for fun. Remember, we entered here with a first level party. 2xSleep takes care of about half of the melee orcs -- the range of Sleep is not enough to reach the archers at the back. It's a long battle, and it could go either way, but the Gold Box games implement something important called morale:
 
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So the morale of the orcs breaks before our front line falls, although the archers knocked out the thief. Our first great victory! I could go on to the next room, which is one of the boss rooms, but nah, let's level up first. The random encounters, the treasure, and this battle puts everyone on 2nd level. We're leaving noob status!
 
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Sadly, the very first level-up of our party rolls a 1 for Alma. Drats, 15 HP for a 2nd level fighter with 18 Con! I hope this trend doesn't continue, and the Law of Large Numbers helps me out a later...


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