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


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#21
IndiraLightfoot

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A big thx for this playthrough, Endrosz! A wonderful trip down Memory Lane. :)

 

As for the monster graphics: The pics are actually drawing on various images in the PnP D&D and AD&D books that were available at the time, so when I played this, I actually had my brain filling all the gaps using its own imagination (like when you read a book), so in my mind, this game looked like DA:I, Skyrim or even like a movie, if you will. Bizarre, but true. When I watch these screenies I see and feel depth and atmosphere, where there seems to be none of those things present.


Edited by IndiraLightfoot, 01 December 2014 - 08:07 AM.

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#22
rjshae

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I did try a replay of PoR a few years back--what I found was that my characters maxed out their levels well before the game ending. I'll be curious to see if you have the same experience. The game wasn't anywhere near as interesting as back when it first came out, which suggests I've been heavily spoiled by the gorgeous graphical developments since that time period.



#23
Enoch

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I did try a replay of PoR a few years back--what I found was that my characters maxed out their levels well before the game ending. I'll be curious to see if you have the same experience. The game wasn't anywhere near as interesting as back when it first came out, which suggests I've been heavily spoiled by the gorgeous graphical developments since that time period.

 

Well, yeah, graphics have improved, but I'd argue that the combat has aged even more poorly.  PoR was the first implementation of AD&D rules with a combat engine that roughly resembles a tabletop session with a tactically focused DM, and that was freakin' awesome to see at the time.  But, looking back on it, the encounter design and AI were both uninteresting, and the AD&D ruleset's flaws loom large.  



#24
rjshae

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Yes, the tactical combat system was definitely the highlight of this series. The closest we've come to it since then was ToEE.



#25
IndiraLightfoot

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rjshae & Enoch: Yeah. I'd better stay away from any replays soon. In that way, I'll get to keep my "mind filled in the gaps"-version intact. :)



#26
Gizmo

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

That was my first thought as well.

~it's a little late now, but they could have used 'normal2x' or 'advinterp2x' scalers instead.

Spoiler


It's actually difficult to include just the right amount of detail under the limited pixel restrictions they had... and aggressive scalars can lose that original detail while inventing their own.


Edited by Gizmo, 02 December 2014 - 06:00 AM.

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#27
Nepenthe

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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.

heh, i was 8 or 9 when I got por. It, along with curse, blades and pools were THE games I really played over the next 10 or so years, along with the dark queen of krynn. Awesome games, I always found the basic story of secret of the silver blades to he hugely enjoyable, but lacking a bit in execution. Overall on a fairly high level, I found all of them to have at least pretty good narratives...

#28
Endrosz

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Chapter 3: Nobody Told Me About the Smell

 

After we got back to New Phlan, the mages still didn't qualify for level 2, some 50 XP was missing. Which made me use one of the unique features of Pool of Radiance, which was removed from later GB games: dueling. We could go back to the Slums, but I wanted to duel, it's part of this game's charm.

 

hhOKbfF.png

 

 

Dueling works like the "mirrored" battles we've seen in other RPGs: the game creates an exact copy of the character, including current hit points, memorized spells, inventory with gear and consumables, and then the clone and the original face off. With low level mages, the duels are a one-roll affair: whoever wins initiative casts Sleep on the other (no saving throw in ADnD, that's 3ed correction), next turn coup-de-grace, WIN. Winning nets current level x 100 XP and no loot. (No, you can't duplicate a character's inventory by winning a duel. But that's what you immediately thought you could do, right? Cheesy bastard, you're just like me. :) )

 

Level 2 gives us enough confidence to pay a visit to the other starter area, Sokal Keep. Time to show you maps from the Journal. The right-side map shows the blocks of Old Phlan, those are mostly monster infested places, with some exceptions like Kovel Mansion and Mendor's Library.

 

JTeb7eS.png

 

Sokal Keep on Thorn Island controls the Stojanow River traffic. We need to clear it out so that boat travel can resume on the river, which will allow us access to new places, and also provide a big relief to the city.

 

We visit another tavern to wash down the bad aftertaste of the Slums, but we become a cutpurse's mark after entering. We were given the options for either 'Grab' or 'Ignore'. We chose the one that resulted in another tavern brawl.

 

FaP0J22.png

 

The boat trip is uneventful, the Keep's current occupiers are bad at playing military.

 

OTvhaKC.png

 

In the front yard, we find a long dead elven soldier's skeleton with a scroll clutched in his bony hand.

 

U6gMzJK.png

 

Now this is a special moment. The above runes can be decoded by an old-school implement -- the game's copy protection code wheel, which contains elven and dwarven runes and their English  equivalents. Here's an online version of this ancient artifact, which you can use to decode the above three lines yourself, if you wish. To my knowledge, no other Gold Box game used the code wheel for an in-game quest.

 

We get three enigmatic words from the scroll,

Spoiler
. We have no idea what they're for, at this point.

 

We start exploring the keep, which is strangely empty for the most part. What's the big deal? Why was this place not taken back yet?

 

Ktno99e.png

 

Entering a rotten-apart smithy, we discover some giant frogs who have taken residence there. They're poisonous, by the way, but our universal hazard prevention measure called 'Sleep' takes care of that. Active defenses, and all that.

 

NWLwwFJ.png

 

 

But shortly thereafter, the young and intrepid members of our party experience their first encounter with the living dead. Skeletons and zombies! Our squad support weapon, the Sleep spell, is of no use against them! WE'RE DOOMED!

 

2PT5RSp.png

 

 

Our always blabbering cleric now offers some non-selfish use of his mouth: Turn Undead! The skeletons are... fleeing? No, please, no, it'll take forever to chase them down! The scenery reminds me of why I didn't use Turn Undead and the Fear spell in my old playthroughs. We get free disengagement attacks on them, sure, but we're still 2nd level missers, not high level hitters, if you know what I mean, so it doesn't help. That'll teach me to ignore Turn Undead yet again (except when you can get "Destroy" as a result against lower level undead, but that'll only come later).

 

Barack: -- This was... I don't have any words for this. The smell of those shambling corpses! When I was eight, Billy put a piece of dung in my boots, because he was in love with me. But this is even worse than that! I didn't sign up for... ugh!

Alma: -- That skeleton with the halberd could have chopped off one of your arms, or even your head, for that matter. And all you're concerned about is the smell? Are you sure you're in the right place, dear? This is an adventuring party. We deal with all kinds of ****, including actual ****.

 

 

We have a map of Sokal Keep with is, courtesy of the Council clerk who handles the missions. The armory we find in the northeastern corner had been picked clean long ago, but something seems off. The map shows another room here... We start to look for secret doors, illusionary walls, anything that's hidden, another sacred tradition of adventurers everywhere. Lo and behold:

 

 

SSQ2Xcb.png

 

 

That glint in the corner... Yes, it's treasure time again! Our favorite part!

 

FnSF7em.png

 

 

Later, back in town, a Detect Magic spell reveals that all of the items we found in that hidden backup armory is magical. Upgrades all over the place. Except for the chain mail, which somehow doesn't seem to protect better from harm than our current banded mails. Strange, innit? Oh well, at least we have something to sell to cover training costs.

 

 


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#29
rjshae

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The base AC for chain mail is 5, while banded mail is 4--hence the reason the AC is the same for the magic chain.


Edited by rjshae, 05 December 2014 - 02:41 PM.


#30
Endrosz

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Dude, I KNOW. It was irony: the party members find a piece of magical armor, which is supposed to awe them, but instead they sell it. Role-playing vs. metagaming, as always.


Edited by Endrosz, 05 December 2014 - 03:57 PM.


#31
Endrosz

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The second time we encounter undead, Narancs notices that they seem to follow a predetermined path. Like they're on patrol or something... It stands to reason that they're the original defenders of the keep, still doing what they did in life. Maybe they respond to one of words on the scroll we found? Nothing to lose by trying, worst case is they attack us anyway. The first word has no effect, as we find out.
 
Entering the main building of the keep, we find the ruins of the former barracks. Also, some ghostly shapes rise before us as we poke around.
 
np5QTmv.png
 
Okay, maybe the words will work here? Yes, the first word is accepted as the password of the.... of some day long ago. After another round of mandatory howling and moaning, can't have proper ghost talk without that, we get this tip:
 
hww921s.png
 
 
The diary finally gives insight to what the pluck has happened here. When Sokal Keep was about to fall, their cleric enacted some nasty ritual which bound their spirits in place. The monsters took over, but their hold is tenuous, because always-rising undead patrols still control most of the keep. There is one place, though, where they camp out, much to the chagrin of the cleric's spirit, who's responsible for the transformation. Our task is obvious: kick greenskin ass with the usual ferocity, so that the spirits can finally rest. Good, we mounted twice as much Mk82 Sleep clusterbombs on our mages' mental hardpoints as before, which were totally useless against the undead, but now, targets in sight! Bwahahhaha....
 
57GOhd8.png
 
 
As is usual with the mass battles, there are more mobs outside this view. About three dozen various greenskins total, plus the bow-wielding leaders hiding behind their ranks. But this time, we have space to move around, and by taking some risk, we can advance a mage+fighter combo on one side, and cast one of the Sleeps on the archer bunch. It's a flawless victory in the end, nobody falls. Level 2, best levelup. We enter the room behind them.
 
874XRSz.png
 
Oh yes, the cleric dude! Let's talk to him:
 
jKPgAyJ.png
 
Dude, seriously. Stop asking stupid questions. What do you mean, "freed"?
 
Freed in the political sense, not being oppressed? In the economical sense, able to have private property and enterprises? In the spiritual sense, free from the chains of the material world? In a psychological sense, not being haunted by traumas of the past?
 
If you ask whether we slaughtered the greenskins, then yes, Sokal Keep is "free". Sheesh, I expected more conciseness from a learned man. He also tells us the codeword for the undead patrols -- it's the last word on the scroll, but we didn't have enough encounters with them to get that far in trial and error.

 

We learn some interesting lore about Phlan's Fall in return.
 
9KaSuf6.png
 
J253Vax.png

We planned to visit Mendor's Library anyway, since that seems to be the best place to find info that the Council's looking for. By the way, I had no idea that spirits can be bald. Can't change your looks if you're damned into spirithood, another reason not to be eternally cursed.

 

All these adventures allow us to be accepted for another training session. Which allows the mages to learn a powerful new magical tool: Stinking Cloud. I have another metagaming flashback -- it's incredible how much I still recall, I'm surprised by myself constantly -- that there are no scrolls in the game which carry this spell (scrolls are fixed loot in PoR), there's no magic shop either, so it's a no-brainer choice.

 

Barack: -- Are you kidding me? Wasn't that enough that the menaces we faced had horrible smell -- the unkempt orcs, the manure-reeking goblins, the piss-scented kobolds, and the rotten flesh of the... no, just remembering it makes me sick! And now you're telling me you learned Stinking Cloud, which is a magical smellbomb? Like the world doesn't already have way too much smelly things in it! I've always had this notion that mages are totally out of the freaky minds, but this just proves it! If you ever cast it so that I end up inside, Citrom, I'll strangle you with your own guts.

 

Citrom: -- About that... Ummm... The thing with Stinking Cloud is that it has a really small range. Much smaller than Sleep and... uh... yeah, there might be issues with targeting. But I'll take special care just for you, Barack. Girl, I know you're sensitive. I'm goth, you know, so I deal with disgusting stuff for fun. It's easy for me.

 

People who only know about RPGs by playing computer games have no idea how radically different is the way something gets decided in tabletop. On the computer, you're in total control of your party, there are no arguments about goals and tactics, no bickering over loot, no finger pointing when something goes bad, no deadly betrayals by sinister, selfish players in the group. Yeah, a REAL role-playing party has all kinds of fun conflicts, which is part of the 'magic'. A cRPG party is just a pack of dolls under your control, so you can have your own special power fantasy. Some 'serious' RPGs try to emulate the conflicts, mind you, Baldur's Gate 2 did, Neverwinter Nights 2 did.

 

Where was I? Oh yes, we're going back to the city to receive our first Council reward.

 

Gi3N1lu.png

 

That and the magical chain mail we sell covers the cost of advancement. Time to go back and finish clearing out the Slums. This means a total of 3 boss battles, but I'm only showing the last one, which is a big jump in difficulty. 4 trolls, 2 ogres, who live in the south part of the Slums, a place once called the Rope Guild.

 

Before we go there, though, we visit a general store to buy a special throwing weapon.

 

 

These jars deal fire damage, which the trolls can't regenerate back. Very important. The thief will fling these all the time, the mages too, when they're out of spells.

 

Memorized spells are changed. 2x Stinking Cloud, we don't even have anything else yet for 2nd level. :) 3x Enlarge puts the frontliners at 18/percentage Strength, +1/+3 bonus, up from +1/+1. The last 1st level slot is Magic Missile, that is the last resort if we're close to victory, but keep missing the attacks; trolls have 4 AC, that's pretty great against our not-so-great THAC0. Cleric brings his Bless as usual, to help with that. Unlike many other screenshots that are post-win, this one is the original, the frontliners had around 30 HP:

 

7Klrm45.png

 

So you wanna play with us? We're game! Round 1, applause!

 

The first try is a disaster. I'm not yet used (again) to the extremely small range of Stinking Cloud (3 tiles), and have to abort one of the two castings. Then I put the thief in range of the front troll, another mistake, and it all goes downhill from there. Yeah, it's a tough battle for a level 3 party.

 

 

A8QbYDQ.png

 

Second try is flawless, though. The first SC takes care of two troll and one ogre (very lucky with the failed saving throws there), half of the enemy, AND blocks the passage for several turns. Only the other ogre can attack us, we're free to throw jars. Speed is important in this battle, because the trolls' regeneration is implemented, and they can get up if you down them with normal weapon attacks. The other SC takes down one more troll, so in the end we only need to kill one troll with melee engagement.

 

A very satisfying victory. As others commented in the thread, when I was young and unfamiliar with DnD rules, this battle seemed impossible to me. And now I came fully prepared, using everything that's available, and it's very manageable. Oh, and at 15, my English was nowhere near as it is today, and I often struggled to understand the forsooth-filled archaic vocabulary of a fantasy RPG.

 

Back in New Phlan our blood-soaked hands are once more filled with rewards from the Council. There's a faint hope now that the Old City blocks can really be reclaimed, and new missions are posted on the Council's board.


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#32
Enoch

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I have very little memory of Sokol Keep, apart from the runes looking familiar, but I vividly remember that Troll/Ogre battle in the Slums.  I recall the key being holding off on coup-de-grace'ing one or both of the Ogres in front (both of which were gagging on my Cloud) so that the Trolls in back would only come at me one at a time. 

 

Am I mis-remembering, or weren't there hire-able NPCs available in the game?  I imagine you're skipping them due to the XP and loot drain, but I seem to recall buying the services of a 4th-level fighter at one point or another. 


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#33
Endrosz

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Answerman here!

 

Gizmo & Majek: I'm very, very thankful that DosBox gives me the tools to smooth the jagged edges of the originals, so that my eyes don't bleed when reading text for hours. (Wasteland 2 was atrocious in this regard, too. It didn't matter that I set text size to very large, it still made my eyes bleed, especially the character/inventory screens with the weak contrast. And that's a new game. The old ones have old tech as their excuse...)

 

Enoch: Oh yeah, in my original run, I did hire a mercenary for the troll battle, and used him as cannon fodder. Now, I'm not really concerned about the XP, there's enough to be had in the campaign, but mercs take magical loot arbitrarily (no negotiation or something), which is gone forever, and that's a capital offense. :)

 

rjshae: PoR has wildly different XP/level limits for different classes. The caster classes are capped at level 6, I suspect because they didn't want to implement 4th level spells (balance concern? not enough time?). Fighter cap is level 9  (125k XP), thief cap is level 10 (110k XP). But you can still collect XP for the next level, XP is not capped, and I finished the game with around 200k. So it's both: I hit the cleric cap about halfway into the game, but didn't hit the "extra level" cap with the fighters (250k) and the thief (220k). It's great that I could start the next game with ready levelups for the entire party, 2 levels for the casters.

 

Nepenthe: Oh man, I knew I would be treading on someone's precious memories when I trash-talked some of the GB games.  :devil: I suspect there is someone out there, in the mystical realm of Oldschoolia, where fey energies drive arcane mechanisms, who enjoyed the Gold Box Spelljammer, one of the worst games I ever played. :facepalm:  I don't want to argue with you, you like what you like, I'll just list the reasons why I disliked Secret of the Silver Blades so much.

 

1. Totally linear. In PoR, the game opens up after clearing out Sokal Keep and the Slums, and you can go anywhere except the endgame zone, Valjevo Castle. You're free to get killed -- or possibly, not! --  in places you're not supposed to go yet, a design missed by lots of old-school gamers. In Curse, after you remove the first bond, you're free to visit many places, and decide which of the three "middle" bonds you want to tackle. In Pools of Darkness, the same freedom with visiting the different dimensions and non-quest places. SotSB has nothing of this: it's Advanced Fighting in Tunnels, you go into the single zone that's available, then to the next, and do this until you're either bored to death or bore death into the final boss.

 

2. No world map, the only GB game without a world map. Closely related to the linearity.

 

3. Almost zero lore connection. You're teleported away to some other place in the Realms, then teleported back to the Moonsea region at the beginning of Pools of Darkness. By contrast, PoD builds upon a lot of things in the first two games, making it much more interesting.

Spoiler

 

4. Except for remorhaz,  no interesting monsters/fights. The remorhazes are cool, they made a lasting impression on me, I used them in tabletop later. :geek:

 

Steve-Ellis-Giant-Remorhaz.jpg

 

 

Again, I didn't write this to change your attitude, just to give reasons why mine is what it is.


Edited by Endrosz, 06 December 2014 - 04:12 AM.

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#34
mkreku

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Weird. I, too, can barely remember Sokol Keep, but those trolls were horrible. I remember it took me like.. 20 or something tries before the rolls went my way and I could finally defeat them. Yeah, they were a huge step up in difficulty and almost seemed misplaced in that low level area.

 

Also, the first time I played the game I had no idea what the "Detect magic" spell did. It seemed useless to me. It wasn't until years later that I realized they make it possible to find magic equipment! I actually played through the game without ever finding magic stuff (except the already identified magic stuff, of course). No wonder I thought the game was so difficult..


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#35
Endrosz

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Chapter 4: MonsterCon Cosplay

 

The new mission is to go to Podol Plaza, past the Slums and Kuto's Well, which is kind of Monster Town. They have a market there, taverns, houses and such. We are quite surprised to learn that we don't to need to massacre every single creature there (please?.... pretty please?), just quietly listen in on an auction. A magic item of high power is auctioned off soon in the marketplace, and the Council wants to know whether it's a threat to the city. Infiltration is the name of the game.

 

But that is not all, we are receiving special attention from the one of the Councilmen. Our fame grows!

 

 

gziqE7F.png

 

The Councilman doesn't waste words on pleasantries.

 

YOWOiPJ.png

 

He sent his most trusted servant, a skilled fighter to retrieve it, but he hasn't come back for several weeks now. We will investigate this later, as the Textile House has a nasty reputation.

 

Past the Slums we're entering the area of Kuto's Well. The well itself is one of the very few buildings from Old Phlan which is still intact and does what it did before. Lizardman tribes inhabit the area.

 

As we look around, we're ambushed by a lizardman leading a pack of lizards, and beyond them is a door which has been nailed shut. We smell treasure!

 

WtEWSq1.png

 

After the troll fight, the game is simply out of challenges for a while. Lizardmen and hobgoblins are only slightly dangerous than the greenskins in the Slums, and we're much stronger, the cleric and the thief are already on level 4. This fight is a joke. What's behind that nailed door?

 

 

gaqvmSn.png

 

After the woman leaves, we search her room, and under a rug, we find a trapdoor and yes, treasure! We find the first magical bracers, which is a godsend to the mages. Those pew-pewing greenskin leaders often caused trouble for them -- just one hit, and no spellcasting for that turn.

 

As we approach the well, waves of kobolds rush out to attack us. Another joke.

 

u7UO5nS.png

 

Interesting... We heard rumors in the Slums that Norris the Gray, a bandit leader, is using the well as a hideout. There's supporting evidence now, let's climb down and find more evidence, possibly Norris himself.

 

XAF9yKA.png

 

As we stumble around in the dark, kobolds pepper us with arrows from hidden holes. This place is full of secret doors, we find several that the monsters also use to move around and harass us. Then after passing through one of these doors, we find the criminal mastermind.

 

 

3LbXdSD.png

 

At this point the game asks us: surrender or fight? Ummm... loot? My choice is loot? Oh, we need to fight for the loot. Okay then!

 

Norris's merry band of kobolds and lizardmen falls faster than he can say "take my treasure, just leave me alone!". We find his diary (the bandit leader who knew how to read and write! belated respect, dude!), and in his diary we find the first mention of a certain "Boss" who is behind all the monster hordes around Phlan. Norris turned down the Boss's offer to join his forces, because reasons. He wanted to be a lieutenant and have a share of the spoils. Oh dear late Norris, you should have managed your expectations better, including when you engaged with us.

 

eist66o.png

 

The honest settlers can do us a big favor: offer their most handsome daughters and boys -- depending on preferences -- to our glorious party for... serving drinks and engaging in meaningful conversation.

 

We also realize that this place, now devoid of bandits, is safe for resting. A kind of forward outpost, beyond the Slums.

 

Onward to Podol Plaza!

 

7bzqNtE.png

 

Szilva: -- NO. Just... no. I'm not donning a monster disguise!

Eper: -- You look like a monster with or without a costume. Every soulsucking preacher is a monster. Deal with it.

Szilva: -- If I do look like a monster, then I don't need a disguise, right?

Alma: -- Look, it boils down to this. Do we want to fight an entire town of monsters, or do we want to complete our mission? Overconfidence kills, literally in our case.

Eper: -- I want an entire town's worth of loot.

Alma: -- Go ahead, be my guest. I'll be waiting here, then proceed with the mission after your death screams have subsided.

Narancs: -- I know a spell that can be used to make friends easily! Maybe I could make friends with the goblins and the ogres?

Alma: -- Maybe you could. Why don't you try it?

...

Alma: -- No more moronic objections? Good, let's start with the face painting.

 

It's very strange to walk around in a crowd of monsters without weapons drawn and spells readied. Sometimes, they look at us, but street perception is easy to fool: everyone's after his or her own business

 

We approach the center of the marketplace, where the auction is going to start soon.

 

 

JFjLmSt.png

 

We learn that the item is a magical staff with no truly extraordinary capabilities, just mundane magic effects. :) Our work here is done... But let's take a look around, shall we?

 

We enter a tavern, where a human pirate insults us. His buddies don't live long thereafter.

 

In one desolate corner of Podol Plaza, we find magically locked doors. Neither raw strength, nor Eper's lockpicks can open them, and the mages don't know the Knock spell yet. We'll come back later. The place looks like a church of Ilmater, the god's symbol is still on the doors, which is very odd. A "good" temple near a crowd of monsters?

 

As we're leaving the Plaza, we discover another temple.

 

 

IqghhYc.png

 

inside, we find an orc with an offer to turn us into believers of Bane. Moaaar infiltration!

 

X1ZUjRt.png

 

He says that we should come back in two hours, and even have a chance of meeting Mace, resident high priest of Bane, in person! In addition, we learned about another, bigger temple, in another city block. Ohh, we smell loot again...

 

a4EjUi5.png

 

Well, our disguise was really nice and helpful until it lasted. And now, something completely different: several dozen greenskins to kill! Routine job.

 

After this, monster assaults are taking place basically with every step we make. We're out of spells by now, and they're wearing us down, one flesh wound at a time. Thankfully this Baneite temple is close to the exit, and soon we're heading back to New Phlan to report on the death of Norris and the auctioned staff. Another round of monetary rewards, another training session coming up!


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#36
mkreku

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Great write-up so far, btw.



#37
Endrosz

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Chapter 5: Silence of the Tomes

 

One of the new commissions is to do something about the undead problem in Valhingen Graveyard. And they're even offering equipment, neat:

0SE4usz.png
 

We get a two-handed sword with special enchantment against undead. It's definitely useful, but no shield is dangerous against some types of undead.

 

We head south of Kuto's Well. Mendor's Library is an imposing, huge building, mostly preserved from the ravages of war.

 

DelgE82.png

 

 The doors are magically locked, but Knock is now on the mages' spell menu, entry is possible.

JEP83Iz.png
 

The library's content is mostly intact -- we hit the motherlode!

sDjlJIC.png
 
The four sections we find are: history, philosophy, mathematics, rhetorics.
 
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There are all kinds of interesting books, scriptures, parchments which store lore about Old Phlan and the Fall. The Council will pay well for this treasure trove of information. One starts to wonder how is it that nobody took anything from the library? Is there some unseen protection here?

 

As we enter the Rhetorics section, we stumble upon a lizard-like monster.
 G7WmTMg.png
 
It's just a big lizard, nothing to be afraid of, right? We rush to attack it. As it turns to face us, its gaze transforms Szilva into a stone statue! It's a basilisk, straight from the terrifying tales of our childhood!

 

Alone, with no friends or family supporting it, the basilisk falls quickly after that.

 

Barack: -- I'm so glad it wasn't me! *claps*

Eper: -- Now he's shut up forever, no more preaching!

Citrom: -- This is... horrible and cool at the same time. Wish I could turn people to stone! Think of the artistry!

Narancs: -- Don't worry, In the temple of Tyr, they have the means to turn him back to a living man.

Eper: -- Ahaha, what are you talking about? My job description doesn't include carrying heavy and worthless objects over long distances. I say we leave him... it here.

Alma: -- And even after we get back to Phlan, there is the matter of cost. The priests of Tyr are not running a charity, it'll cost several thousand gold to reverse his condition.

Eper: -- WHAT? We need to carry it back, AND pay for a cure? No way. Instead, we should look for a replacement in the Training Halls, there are plenty of adventurers there. Our fame allows us to pick whomever we like.

Alma: -- *sighs* Remember our first major battle, where were you unconscious and bleeding out of arrow wounds? We took care of you, instead of just leaving you to die. That's called loyalty. I know it's a difficult concept to grasp for you, since you've been wandering on your own for a long time before you joined us. But a group of loyal comrades are capable of much more than a group of selfish bastards. Think of it this way: if we revive him, he'll help you have more loot. Much more loot. Mountains of loot! He's been very useful, saved us many times, even you can't deny that.

 

In most party-based cRPGs, if one your characters is dead, unconscious, turned to stone, or otherwise incapacitated, he or she is still "walking" with you, carrying his/her part of the inventory. Isn't that weird, if you think about it, which you shouldn't, really, because it'll break your immarrr-shone. :) I remember playing a solo challenge in Wizardry 7 with a fairy ninja, who has an abysmally low carrying capacity. And the solution to that was 5 dead party members in a mule capacity, whom I allowed to die in the first battle. Dead adventurers are the best carriers: no payment needed, no gear of their own!

 

The basilisk guarded one of the best items in the game, a Cloak of Displacement. It's great because its 2 AC bonus stacks with a magical armor and shield, unlike Rings of Protection.

 

Having finished with collecting written reminders of the past, we look around in other parts of the library. Look, there's a garden!
 
qmF2aX8.png

 

We look around, hoping to find treasure hidden somewhere, but can't find any. Instead, the insidious green slime inhabiting the garden damages us several times. Worst field trip ever.

 

ucsIXUE.png
 

Hello, person who tried to loot the library, but wasn't as badass as us. I think we'll just ignore you, there are enough loonies on our roster already, thank you very much.

 

In one of the scribes' rooms, we find a group of kobolds. They have no will to fight left in them, blabbering about some terrible monster which guards the entrance. There was no terrible monster guarding the entrance, dear kobolds, you're just wusses.

 

In exchange for sparing their lives, they promise to describe the lair of a group humanoid monsters who are living in the ruins of the Textile House. That's great, we're heading there next.

 

JF0AoDN.png
 
We start to heave the statue of Szilva out of the library. But back at the entrance hall, we're greeted by this:

 

http://www.youtube.c...YgwGrv_AY#t=101

 

Well, we're actually greeted by this, but it's about the same:
 
evYcahY.png
 
Oh, so that's why the library wasn't looted. In the back of my mind, I always knew that librarian ladies are actually monsters in disguise, but now I've seen it with my own eyes! Next time I'm visiting the local library, I'll be prebuffing with Negative Energy Protection, and carrying a Wand of Fireballs. Safety first.

 

The spectre costs me one reload. It drains 2 levels in one hit, but that's not the real problem. The real problem is that even if I use a Restoration scroll (you can find several in the game), the character still loses XP, because Restoration only puts you back on the minimum of your previous level. Depending on where the character was when hit by a level-draining attack, you can potentially lose almost an entire level's worth of XP. This is the game mechanic in ADnD that I consider the worst, and hated it with a burning passion. 3rd edition solved many issues, among them this one: you still lose levels, I'm not against that, but it doesn't affect your XP total.


Edited by Endrosz, 07 December 2014 - 03:03 AM.

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#38
Endrosz

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Chapter 6: To Cheat or Not to Cheat

 

It costs 2000 gold to get Szilva back in shape. The wondrous gifts of the gods, delivered by their faithful servants! For a large fee, of course.

 

Now that we have intel on the Textile House, time to tackle that special mission for Councilman Cadorna, finding his family's hidden strongbox and possibly the servant sent to retrieve it.

 

The Textile House is on the other side old Old Phlan, south of Podol Plaza. Taking a boat to the western reach of the old city will be faster.

mQ0uYJk.png


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Ah, the great outdoors! Higher levels monsters, more XP, better loot! This is the first time we leave the city since we got off that boat a few weeks ago.

 

dPtLNk9.png

 

As soon as we enter the Textile House area, we find another well that seems to be used by people for living. Is this a regional custom around the Moonsea?

ZuZi4aR.png
 

Everyone looks at Eper.

Eper: -- What? It says "Thieves only". I'm not a thief. And even if I were a thief, I wouldn't want to mingle with others whom I don't know. No honor among thieves, you must've heard that one before.

Barack: -- Oh Eper, I've seen how agile you are, when you climbed down Kuto's Well to show us how it's done. Surely this climb isn't a big challenge for a capable man like you!

Eper: --  When you put it that way... Okay, just this one time. But it better be worth the risk.

 

We find a man named Restal, claims to be the leader of a guild of thieves. He's well informed, too:

89k22Ac.png

 

Alma: -- Taking anything from that box is stealing.

Eper: -- We didn't give back what Norris stole from other people. We've taken everything from Sokal Keep, that was city property, strictly speaking. We get it, we keep it, simple.

Alma: -- This is different. We're working for that man, it's his family's property.

Szilva: -- I've heard a lot of rumors about this Cadorna. They say he's got a secret agenda, wants to replace Lord Eberhard as Head of the Council.

Alma: -- And you always believe rumors? And it would still be stealing, even if Cadorna has certain ambitions.

Citrom: -- I met a girl who works in one of the taverns who's also a goth. We became really good friends, sharing everything. Just two days ago, after hearing that we were summoned by Cadorna, she told me a horrible story, with more tears and sobbing than words. Cadorna... took advantage of her when she was a young girl. I didn't want to share this with you. But it happened, I believe her. To tell you the truth, I already set my mind on taking stuff from that box, even before we met with this Restal. I was... uh... talking with Eper about it.

Alma: -- Behind my back? This is getting richer by the minute.

Alma: -- ...

Alma: -- ...

Alma: -- We will deliver an empty box. With our deepest regrets that someone, somehow stole its content. Still, this offer from Restal, it's suspicious. I don't trust them.

Eper: -- Well, they have a means to deal with the seal on the box, leaving no sign of tampering. They know more about that box than we do, admit it, and shared their knowledge.

Alma: -- Not ten minutes ago, you were all 'no honor among thieves'. And now you're advocating for them?

Eper: -- There is an old buddy of mine among them, we chatted a bit while you were talking with Restal. It's just business, nothing more, nothing less. They want half of what's inside, it's not free. I wouldn't believe their offer if it came cheap or free.

Alma: -- My head hurts. I like it better when we're surrounded by greenskins or undead. It's much more simple.

Szilva: -- You wanted to be the leader. You got exactly that.

 

We're blindfolded and led through a maze of tunnels below the Textile House, emerging from another well inside the compund. We avoided the guards at the gate, and no alarm is ringing. We see a building converted to a temple of Bane to the west. These monsters, they're really feeling at home here, don't they? We shall change that very soon.

RLCNm4p.png
 

It's the who-wins-initiative dance. Grishnak is faster, and holds 3 persons of our party, half of them. One of them is Narancs, who was casting Stinking Cloud, but couldn't finish it. The remaining members still manage to beat everyone into a bloody pulp -- one cleric is not enough stop us, and the greenskins are only good as meat shields at this point.

 

The loot is sweet: 

-- A necklace of missiles, to be used by Eper in tough battles.

-- Magic user scrolls with various spells, including Fireball. We're not level 5 yet, but it's still nice to have it on parchment. Comforting. :)

-- Another bracers, both mages now have a measure of protection.

-- And a brass key.

 

Goind deeper into the temple, we find a muscular man in chains. The key opens his chains, and we learn that he's the servant of Cadorna we were told about. We let him join our party:

2k7l1hF.png
 

Great chest and abs, Skullcrusher. Since you look so great naked, you don't mind that we don't have an armor for you in our backpacks?

 

Following the advice of Skullcrusher, we find the hidden room with the ogre chief.

sKfIzOe.png

The battle is another joke. A single ogre plus a bunch of greenskins? We fought entire patrols of ogres outside the city.

O6ADHfw.png

We take the box, untouched.

 

On the way back to the thieves's hideout, we're assaulted by various deadly creatures. Poisonus frogs and  scorpions, and finally... ghouls, led by a wight!

umwb2cD.png

This battle costs another reload. The ghouls can paralyze, the wight drains levels, they have some decent THAC0, and both Sleep and Stinking Cloud are useless against them. I find great irony in that the random encounters of the Textile House are much more dangerous than the boss battle. Not the only place with this setup in the Gold Box games, mind you.

 

Back in the hideout, a guilty pleasure:

pvMk1vL.png

Some gems and jewelry and art pieces, and...

g82wKj8.png

 

... Gauntlets of Ogre Power! We couldn't let the evil, nasty Councilman Cadorna have this, could we? Yes, this precious belongs to us, and no one else.

 

Going back by boat, as soon as we leave the docks, we're asked to present the box. Restal's experts have done a fabulous job with the seal, nobody suspects a thing. Oh, we would pay to see the looks on Cadorna's face when he opens the box... Skullcrusher leaves the party, and thanks for saving his life.

 

Citrom: -- Skullcrusher, I spend the evenings in the Headless Goblin. I wouldn't mind if you dropped by. You've got such a presence! *can't stop staring at his chest ever since she's seen him*

Skullcrusher: -- Just like you, my lady, with your fine black displacer beast-skin boots.


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#39
BruceVC

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This thread is an absolute winner, its like reading some fantasy novel. Good stuff..and all your effort is really appreciated Endrosz :thumbsup:



#40
Endrosz

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A large chunk of the credit goes to Jim Ward, who wrote the game as a tabletop adventure first. I'm just walking around in his fantasy, and enjoying myself. I accept the rest of the praise. original.gif
 
He was a member of the original Dungeons and Dragons group, a friend of Gary Gygax. Became creator of the first sci-fi role-playing game, Metamorphosis Alpha.
 

He was one of the four people to speak at Gary Gygax's funeral, saying that he met Gary Gygax in a bookstore when the two of them ended up picking up the same exact seven historical books. After a game of Dungeons & Dragons, Ward told Gygax that there should be a science fiction version whereupon Gary said, "Well, why don't you write it, Jim?" This is how the game Metamorphosis Alpha was created.

 


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