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

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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.














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
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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...

You're a cheery wee bugger, Nep. Have I ever said that?


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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.





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.




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.




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




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




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,

lux samosud shestni

. 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?




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.





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!





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:






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





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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The Seven Blunders/Roots of Violence: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Worship without sacrifice. Politics without principle. (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)


Let's Play the Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box Classics)

Pillows of Enamored Warfare -- The Zen of Nodding



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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

"It has just been discovered that research causes cancer in rats."

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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

The Seven Blunders/Roots of Violence: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Worship without sacrifice. Politics without principle. (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)


Let's Play the Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box Classics)

Pillows of Enamored Warfare -- The Zen of Nodding



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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.
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:
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....
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.
Oh yes, the cleric dude! Let's talk to him:
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.

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.




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:




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.





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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The Seven Blunders/Roots of Violence: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Worship without sacrifice. Politics without principle. (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)


Let's Play the Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box Classics)

Pillows of Enamored Warfare -- The Zen of Nodding



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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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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.

The Phlan city clerk's evil version was a great joke, for example



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:





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

Edited by Endrosz
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The Seven Blunders/Roots of Violence: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Worship without sacrifice. Politics without principle. (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)


Let's Play the Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box Classics)

Pillows of Enamored Warfare -- The Zen of Nodding



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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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Swedes, go to: Spel2, for the latest game reviews in swedish!

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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!





The Councilman doesn't waste words on pleasantries.




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!




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?





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.




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.




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.





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.




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!




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.





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.





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




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...




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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The Seven Blunders/Roots of Violence: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Worship without sacrifice. Politics without principle. (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)


Let's Play the Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box Classics)

Pillows of Enamored Warfare -- The Zen of Nodding



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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:


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.




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


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

The four sections we find are: history, philosophy, mathematics, rhetorics.
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.
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!


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.



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.


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




Well, we're actually greeted by this, but it's about the same:
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
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The Seven Blunders/Roots of Violence: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Worship without sacrifice. Politics without principle. (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)


Let's Play the Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box Classics)

Pillows of Enamored Warfare -- The Zen of Nodding



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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.



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.




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?


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:



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.


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:


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.


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


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!


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:


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



... 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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The Seven Blunders/Roots of Violence: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Worship without sacrifice. Politics without principle. (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)


Let's Play the Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box Classics)

Pillows of Enamored Warfare -- The Zen of Nodding



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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:

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” -  George Bernard Shaw


"What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead" - Nelson Mandela



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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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The Seven Blunders/Roots of Violence: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Worship without sacrifice. Politics without principle. (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)


Let's Play the Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box Classics)

Pillows of Enamored Warfare -- The Zen of Nodding



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Chapter 7: Maniac Mansions


North of New Phlan, across the Bay of Phlan, lies the wealthy district. What's left of it, anyway. But they're still waterfront property! We have two reasons to go there. One, another guild of thieves is operating out of Kovel Mansion, which is a walled estate of a powerful family of days past. The Council is paying for their removal. Two, we heard in the Baneite shrine at Podol Plaza that they converted another large mansion in this area into a Temple of Bane, and that is where High Priest Mace resides.


Kovel Mansion is in the north. It is a very large estate, with double (locked) doors at the single entrance. There are no guards posted in the entry hall. Entering a side room...


This is repeated in about half of the rooms until the mansion is cleared of the guild's presence. The other half of the rooms has a different surprise:



In one of the room, after an annoying amount of backstabs and traps, we find a pile of treasure.


...Or is it?



Cloaks and daggers are inadequate against us. (2nd edition backstabbing is much more limited than 3rd edition sneak attacks).


In one room, we find a number of caskets. All trapped and locked. Is this a test course for our thief? He gets an A+, and they elect him as the new leader?



Around the mansion, we find maps of a large castle. There is only one castle around here, Valjevo Castle, which is a kind of headquarters for the monster army. These maps will be handy later.


We stumble upon a torture scene.




We save the old thief, and he gives us a piece of paper with neatly organized information on it, with lines like:



Strong Rumor: The Boss is a dragon or is a human who can take the form of a dragon.

Fact: Maze inside castle walls. Passwords needed to get past castle gates.


And many more, each item lists the credibility as well. Actually, this information is more valuable than a lot of loot we found. These thieves wanted to rob the castle, and they were doing a great job of collecting intel. We almost -- almost! -- want to thank them for the efforts.


Entering a storage room, we find our biggest haul so far. TAPESTRIES!!!!!


Barack: -- I'm going to hang that one in my room! Oh, those pea****s are so beatifully woven!

Szilva: -- Are how will you carry it home? In case you hadn't noticed, we're being assaulted constantly by these scoundrels. Can you fight with a rolled-up tapestry swung over your shoulder?

Barack: -- I was thinking that maybe... One the strong men in our group would carry it for me.

Szilva: -- That doesn't change the problem, only shifts it to someone else. Besides, you're no less strong than me, and stronger than Eper or Narancs. Remember the arm wrestling we did on our first day in Phlan?

Barack: -- I... must... have... that... tapestry. I know! I'll be using it as a weapon to knock them off their feet, by swinging around!

Everyone: -- *silence*




This is the final battle, no more hit-and-runs, a large group of the guild, led by 6th level thieves. They're human, susceptible to Sleep and Stinking Cloud, say no more.


After the battle, we find even more organized information. We learn a lot about the lords of New Phlan, but no real dirt. It seems that Councilman Cadorna indeed has a secret agenda, but it's not clear what it is.


Szilva: -- Told you so.

Alma: -- Rumor is rumor, fact is fact.


We venture south, into the middle of the once-wealthy district. We find the odd piece of jewelry here and there, and destory a group of ogres and other inhumans lording over the area.


Those black hands reminds us that's we're near the Temple of Bane. We encounter a patrol of Baneite orcs, and take their symbols. Might be useful to pass as believers.




Is this the good touch or the bad touch?


(in whispered voices)

Barack: -- I'm not letting an orc feel me up! Why are we not killing them already?

Citrom: -- Ssh, sister, you haven't tried any kinky stuff yet? We have an Orcs and Medusas party every Thursday night. Want an invite?


We enter the temple, our symbols make the old blind orc think we're believers. Luckily, there was no quiz.



Um, loot? Why is there no loot here? It took so much effort to get here! That makes us... angry. Altar is destroyed.


High Priest Mace himself appears, along with a host of orc. Lots of archers.


Mace carried a Mace +3, which is now in Szilva's hands. After the battle, we search around the temple, and find the missing loot, mostly scrolls and +1 weapons, some potions, and a wand of paralyzation. We caught the scent of this loot back at Podol Plaza, and our perseverance paid off. To boldly go where no adventurer ever looted before!



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The Seven Blunders/Roots of Violence: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Worship without sacrifice. Politics without principle. (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)


Let's Play the Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box Classics)

Pillows of Enamored Warfare -- The Zen of Nodding



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Awesome job so far.


Otoh, both Alias the Sellsword and Vala the Amazonian had a profound impact on preteen Nep, which probably goes to explain my particular liking for those games :D

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You're a cheery wee bugger, Nep. Have I ever said that?


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Chapter 8: It's Raining Kobolds &
Interview With the Vampire-Killer

The mages finally hit level 5. We already have 2 copies of Fireball on scrolls, and one Blink. I chose Haste for both of them, but it was wasteful. There is Haste on scrolls later, for one. But the real bummer is that Haste ages the recipient by 1 year in ADnD. IE games replaced aging with fatigue (that's a non-permanent effect), but the GB engine has it. And as your characters age, first age modifiers kick in, then your characters die of old age. Since there are a lot of battles ahead us in the saga, Haste will be actually a very limited-use spell.
Now that we have Fireball, the game has changed again.  Our game, that is. In the eternal words of Deekin Scalesinger, kobold bard extraordinaire:
Fireball, fireball.
Nice and warm.
Then it burns
And kills you all.
5th level also gives access to Invisibility 10' Radius, Lightning Bolt, Protection From Evil 10' Radius, Slow, all good stuff. Lightning Bolt deserves special mention: they 'rebound' on walls, and travel backwards until their 'length' runs out. Against some strong mobs and bosses this comes in really handy, to hit them twice with the same LB. Also, a good damage spell against fire-resistant mobs like salamanders. Slow is great because it's AoE, foe-only, and no mobs are resistant against it (except for general spell resistance). We don't have all of this yet, but our goal is to have at least one mage have each of these in their spellbooks. There is no magic shop in the game, we can only learn what we find on scrolls and select on level-ups.
Our latest missions from the Council are to deny allies to the Boss. One is a tribe of nomads on the plains, the other a tribe of kobolds inhabiting a cavern system. We leave the city to the east this time, going across the Stojanow River, and then head north, towards the mountains.


To our surprise, the nomads are not hostile. The chieftain greets us.

Barack: -- I only eat healthy foods, a special paleo-vegan-glutenfree diet. Do you have shade-grown spinach?
Alma: -- Don't mind her. We're honored to be your guests.

Narancs: -- Am I supposed to be amused by half-naked primitives hitting each other?
Citrom: -- Mmmm, I like what I see. It doesn't matter what they do, as long as it showcases their shapely, muscular, sweaty body...

Szilva: -- I will not partake in filthy debaucheries. Instead, I will use my rhetorical skill to guide these heathens towards an enlightened lifestyle. I'm sure that I'll find at least some who will listen to my words of wisdom.
Eper: --  *slaps Szilva* SHUT UP! DRINK!
Szilva: -- That is... that is...
Szilva: -- *casts Hold Person, Eper is frozen in motion, falls over* Enjoy the party...

We learn that the kobold tribe's lair is to the east. We also learn that there is a pyramid to the west, on an island in the Stojanow river. A pyramid? Like, a dead pharaoh's monument, on an island? We file it away as drunken rambling, but still note down the directions. And apparently, there is a dragon lair to the northwest, up in the Dragonspine Mountains.
Narancs: -- What kind of dragon? Metallic or colored?
Chieftain: -- I've only seen it flying overhead. It was white, I think, but it was snowing heavily, and kind of hard to tell. Might have been silvery.
Eper: -- What does it matter? Loot is loot, and dragon hoards always have the best loot.
Narancs: -- Your ignorance is only heightened by drinks. Metallic dragons are honorable and only attack when provoked, while colored dragons are violent, cruel and insidious, not to be trusted even if they don't attack on sight.
Eper: -- So? The only difference I see is that Alma will feel bad about looting a metallic one's hoard.
Alma: -- Dragons eat bragging drunkards like you for breakfast, as an appetizer.
Alma: -- *bashes Eper in the back of his head, who collapses on the table* That's enough for today.
Another surprise comes when the chieftain asks us a favor.

It's kind of flattering that they threw a feast to buy our help...
Szilva: -- Our mission was to ensure that the nomad's don't join forces with the Boss. That's already taken care of.
Alma: -- Nomads change their minds easily. But if we help in a big way, their loremasters will remember it, and a bond with the city-folk will be formed, turning them into long-term allies. That's worth some effort -- and since that effort is kicking kobold asses, which we have already mastered...
The next day we fight three groups of kobolds, back to back, each of them number around 40-50. One of the most grating part of the game, since the kobolds are all equipped with shortbows, and I have to watch the slow pew-pew animation and hear the 'pew-pew' sound effect constantly. They're spread out in a 2-3 deep line, so we can only fireball about 1/3 of a wave at once. We have (unneeded) nomad allies on our side, also equipped with bows, which makes the battle an even bigger pain in the ass.


As the last wave of kobolds approaches, the chieftain apparently loses his mind

Flee? As in, run away? From kobolds? Dude, how did you become chieftain of this tribe?
After the battle, we go straight east.


Bigger is better, we suspect the larger entrance leads to a monster's lair. We are right!

A single wyvern is no challenge at this point. A six-pack, maybe.

As we enter the kobold cave from the wyvern's lair, we walk into an ambush, where they hit us with nets. These nets are bugged, the movement reduction (to 2 tiles!) remains until I remove the characters from the party in the Training Hall, and then re-add them. Extremely annoying, thankfully, this is the only place in the game with this mechanic.
We find a prison, but unlike other prisons, the prisoner here already freed herself.

Princess Fatima: -- Are you here to kill the kobold king? That was my mission, too, but I got captured. Sneaky bastards, with their pits, nets, and poisoned darts.
Alma: -- They have a king? We're on a mission from Phlan. We might negotiate a deal with this king.
Princes Fatima: -- Fat chance, there are envoys here from Valjevo Castle. They've already bought him.
Eper: -- More enemies, more loot. Let's go and kill them all.
Princess Fatima: -- Wait, will you allow me to join you? I'm quite capable, as you can see.
Alma: -- You're welcome to join. You can help me keep these morons in check.
We burst into the "throne room". The envoys recognize us, which is kind of cool:

This is the first multi-part battle in the Pools saga. The designer who thought of having multi-part battles was later asked to do an optional extra tough challenge in Pools of Darkness, as I learned over at the TSI forums. That challenge, Dave's Challenge... there are no words for it. But I'm skipping ahead.
This one is not difficult, if you conserve a few spells for the last part. 4 trolls plus kobolds in the first part. Then some unavoidable damage:

Narancs: -- I want to learn the Summon Ballista spell, too!
6 wild boars plus kobolds in the second part, and in the final battle:

The envoys are 8th level fighters with plate mail +1, two-handed sword +2, wand of magic missile. But there only two of them, and we have sooo many Hold Persons (there was no reason to use them in the previous parts). And we still have a Fireball and a Stinking Cloud left for the rest. This multi-part battle could've been challenging, it was almost there.
The cowardly king escapes from the battle, but as we chase him into his personal quarters...

Barack: -- Hahaha! Poetic justice, nyanyanya! *almost falls into the pit as she waves her arms*
Eper: -- Robbed me of the deed. Bastard.
Citrom: -- Maybe this was his secret pleasure pit, only forgot the safety protocols?
We find the a big pile of treasure, the result of years of pillaging.

Eper: -- WHAT IS THIS?!?
Alma: -- The treasure of the kobold king.
Eper: -- Oh, I don't know which one to get excited about! Look at these bone chains! And these rotting rugs, so valuable! And this plain silver brooch, almost worth an entire platinum piece!
Narancs: -- *silently tucks away the scrolls he found* Edited by Endrosz
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The Seven Blunders/Roots of Violence: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Worship without sacrifice. Politics without principle. (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)


Let's Play the Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box Classics)

Pillows of Enamored Warfare -- The Zen of Nodding



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As we look around, mostly at the insistence of Eper, who can't believe this is the entirety of the loot, we do find something else. An ornate brass bottle, stuck into a hole in the wall.

Szilva: -- We shouldn't...
Eper: -- We should! *opens the bottle*


Alma: -- No, we're not vampires.
Samir Ahwahl: -- You don't mind me testing this with the usual methods?
Barack: -- I... I faint when I smell garlic, it's such a terrible smell...
Szilva: -- There is a silver mirror over there, feel free to test our mirror images.
Samir Ahwahl: -- I can sense you're telling the truth. Then I must return to my resting place. Only call me if there's a vampire present, otherwise, I might get angry. You really shouldn't make me angry.

There is nothing left to do loot here. We decide that the rumor about the dragon lair is worth checking out. The pyramid is surely nonsense.

As we travel towards the Dragonspine Mountains, we are attacked by tiny creatures.


This is honestly the first quickling encounter of my life. I've never seen these mobs before! I checked the Journal, and they're listed there. Random encounter only, because no scripted battle in the game has them. The quicklings are worth a lot of XP because they carry gems as loot... LOL.

Eper: -- I changed my mind. We should look for the lair of these talking flies instead of the dragon's. Good loot, lot less trouble.
Barack: -- But they're soooo cuuuuuuuuuute. How could you all hurt them!
Alma: -- Because they were killing us? They were really hard to hit, fluttering around so fast. And packed a decent punch, too, I didn't expect those little swords to hurt so badly!
Citrom: -- Ma-ma-magic missile, I love you so much.

We reach the lower range of the mountains.


We expected a long search, but just following the river upwards...


Narancs: -- It's definitely a silver dragon. We should approach with cautious optimism.

Eper: -- Silver or proudly pink, I don't care, I'm here for the shinies.

Citrom: -- Unless it used an illusion to disguise itself as a silver dragon. I would do that if I were a smart evil dragon...

Narancs: -- Ha-ha, very funny.

Citrom: -- You think I'm kidding? Your thinking is all textbook. One day, you're going to die whispering "but this is not supposed to happen" with your last breath...

Alma: -- Am I the only one worried about entering? Hello, we're not little kids, our parents telling us a nice fairy-tale about how the poor farmer's boy defeated the mighty dragon! This is for real!


After a hot debate, the lure of adventure wins out.


We're greeted by a magic mouth, which bellows out a greeting by Diogenes. It's friendly this far. We are asked to stare our intent.


Eper: -- We should ask for a bit of monetary help. We're killing hordes of monsters left and right, which is surely appreciated by an honorable silver dragon, and there are certain expenses, et cetera.

Alma: -- We'll ask for advice. Whomever this Boss is, who runs the show from Valjevo Castle, he must be powerful. Dragons know everything that's happening around the lair.


Been there, done that. Here's the bottle, o wise Diogenes. It's a brass bottle, by the way, although we understand why you remember it as silver. Silver is really cool, obviously, no doubt.


We already know the business of that efreet, but the info about the graveyard is welcome. We'll be packing a Deluxe Vampire Killer Kit (complete with stakes, garlic, holy water) when we go there.

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The Seven Blunders/Roots of Violence: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Worship without sacrifice. Politics without principle. (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)


Let's Play the Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box Classics)

Pillows of Enamored Warfare -- The Zen of Nodding



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Another weird detail that I thought I remembered from this game:  Didn't those kobold caves include a to-hit penalty on certain weapons due to the low ceilings? 

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The game wasn't anywhere near as interesting as back when it first came out

BS.  Played it recently and it was awesome.


Well good for you then. Have a cookie.

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"It has just been discovered that research causes cancer in rats."

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Chapter 9: Wizard's Lizards

We have three missions from the Council.


1. Find the source of the river pollution and deal with it.

2. Another ally mission, this time it's lizardmen camping out in the ruins of an old castle to the northeast.

3. A little boy, the heir to the House of Bivant was captured by buccaneers while traveling by boat on the Moonsea. Intel says their hidden camp is to the west, along the coast.


I haven't mentioned this so far, but the Stojanow River, which runs east of the city to the Moonsea, is heavily polluted. On the earliest game messages you read after you start playing is about "the barren river" that flows around New Phlan.


Since we've been around a lot of places, we've heard a lot of rumors concerning the river pollution and whomever causes it. We've heard about a pyramid on an island in the middle of the river, but we've dismissed it as ludicrous. We keep hearing rumors about it, though, and the sorcerer than runs the place... They say he's paying for certain creatures which he uses is experiments.


A thorough search along the riverbank it is, then, starting from the north reaches of Phlan.

We discover ruined lizardman huts, still inhabited, though. And inside... kobolds?


We release them, four kobolds won't be doing much harm to anyone.  They warn us to watch out for "changed" lizard men, who are bred for killing. Ha-ha, these wimpy kobolds always tell good stories to cover up their cowardice. Then, in the next hut...



I haven't shown the random encounters on the world map, but there's a good variety of low-mid-level mobs out there, along with repeats of familiar faces like ogres and gnolls. Phase spiders and displacer beasts are the most difficult, I reckon, those do require to expend some spells.


As we stroll along the riverbank, we find this unbelievable sight.



Narancs: -- I told you that the pyramid rumor has more than a 22,5% probability of being true.

Citrom: -- You also told us that Mendor's Library is most likely empty. Plus-minus a petrifying basilisk and a life-draining specter, you were so right!


We also see that indeed, this pyramid is the source of river pollution, a black oily substance is released from pipes protruding from it. The burning question is: how do we get in? Swimming in the polluted river doesn't look like a good idea, not to mention the heavy armor half of the party wears. We don't have a fly spell, a flying mount, a walk-on-water spell, a flying carpet, neither of those.


As we circle around this 'swelling' of the river where the island is, we find a rowboat hidden in the reed. How convenient. A few minutes of rowing later:


Inside, there are no guards, no wizardly protections, no traps, just a long corridor. About halfways into the corridor, two small alcoves sit to the right. The alcoves have a number of rocks scattered around the entrance, with no apparent purpose. We enter the first.




Barack: -- This is the first time I've been teleported away! What a wonderful experience, it's better than pony riding!

Alma: -- Where are we? Are we trapped somewhere?

Narancs: -- I could use Wizard Eye to scout ahead... If I had known that spell, that is.

Eper: -- *sniffs the air, knocks on the walls, looks on the floor* We are on a higher level. The draft is different, more vigorous. The footprints tell me this passage is used regularly. I don't think we're trapped.

Alma: -- But I still don't see a way back. How are we going to leave?

Citrom: -- The same way the residents leave.


The next stop is a T-intersection. Past that, Eper finds a secret door. There are a of bunch lizardmen inside, who think we came to kill them. Szilva tries to comfort them, but fails. 'Foul servants of Yarash!" is all we get, and then they attack. We feel a bit sad, it seems they were enslaved here, could've been a good source of information. Dear Yarash, we don't know how you are, but rest assured, a marinated asskicking with pearl rice and pickled plum side dishes is coming up for you!

Yet another secret door leads to a laboratory.



Oh come on, every wild rumor we heard about this guy is true? The pyramid on the island is already unreal, and now it turns out he did mutate the lizardmen? Next stop, world domination plans, to be foiled in the last minute by unlikely heroes!

A third secret door on the back wall of the lab opens on another long corridor, this one twisting. At the end of the corridor, another unexpected teleport happens, and... We're back in the lizard slave room. This place is confusing.


At the T-intersection, we go the other way. Another secret door -- we think Yarash ordered these in bulk, at discount prices -- reveals a place of terror.


No living prisoner, no hidden treasure, just green lizardman bloodstains everywhere.


At the end of this other corridor, we find a place that looks like the first teleporter: rocks scattered about in an alcove.


Narancs: -- We need to study this teleporter in detail. It could take some time.

Szilva: -- I'll tell you the end result of your study: We either throw a rock or two into the teleporter, or we don't. I'm a genius!

Eper: -- Can't stop... the rock. *throws rock*

Everyone: -- HEY!

Eper: -- It wasn't my fault, the rock made me do it!


Another twisting corridor, another teleporter. We don't throw a rock this time, and we're back to a place we've been before. Corridor, teleporter, rock, corridor, teleporter, corridor, for longer than we care to remember... And finally!


Oh yes, another code wheel task! The password is 'noknok'. Ha-ha. Humor level: dwarf. The password is correct, and we finally see something other than corridors, rocks and lizardmen.



This picture is animated, the liquid flows,  it looks great for its age. There were a few animated pictures before, but this one stands out.


Alma: -- At last, we found the source of the river pollution. I'm itching to leave this place. I was never good at riddles, and it's like it was created by a devious riddler.

Narancs: -- This isn't the source, to be precise. This is just the machinery that pumps it out of the pyramid.

Alma: -- Will someone punch him for me? I don't want to hurt a scrawny wizard too much.


We start destroying the machinery, and our final reward is an explosion which hurts everyone. We're going to charge the Council extra for all this **** we needed to endure. Curiously, no one responds to the sounds of destruction. Maybe we can get this one solved without combat?


The true source is not far from here, in a room to the south. In the pumping room, another group of enslaved lizarmen are at work. They are chained, and gladly accept our help.



Bonus reward: We've found the means to turn the lizardmen in the ruined castle into allies! They're not worth a lot of XP, so we might as well help them.


We learn that Yarash has a half-dozen successfully mutated lizardman bodyguards. No problem for the usual fireworks.


Aha, did you hear that? "Subdue them!", he said. Not "Kill them!", as usual. What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a Genuine World-Dominating Moustache-Twirling Evil Mastermind Villain. He's got class. The battle screen looks the same, though.



This wizened old fellow wields a Wand of Lightning, so he has a means to dish our Real Damage even after being hit during a turn. And after the battle, so do our mages. His magical AC 4 bracers is now the property of Eper, and with that, every character has no worse than 0 AC (that's 20 AC, for post 3ed youngsters). Looking good.


On his desk, we find a mess of papers, including letters. One is a conversation with the Boss, he rejected the Boss, like Norris. And died like Norris. Another interesting letter is about sahuagin, Yarash set a substantial reward for live ones.


Szilva: -- This Yarash was really into lizardmen. What a pervert.

Citrom: -- Everyone has her secret fantasies. I mean, who doesn't dream now and then about being seduced by strangely handsome, well-built aquatic men with forked, sensitive tongues?


The room offers more riddles. Next to another teleporter, we find this device.


Barack: -- Blue is perfect. We set out to the wild blue beyond! I love teleporters!

Eper: -- Gold. The only bet worth making.

Citrom: -- I liked that silver dragon's scales, so magnificent, royal.

Szilva: -- I'm partial to copper. My holy symbol of Lathander is made out of copper, to remind us of the warmth the Morninglord gives us.

Citrom: -- He hugs you regularly or something?


...10 minutes later...


As it turns out, the three "metallic" settings each took us to a treasure room. Magic scrolls, a long sword +2 plus a ring of fire resistance are the noteworthy loot.


The blue setting, which we tried last, dropped us back in the long entrance corridor, right at the first alcoves we saw.


Barack: -- We should try the other one...

Alma: -- No, we're going back. Our mission is complete.

Barack: -- Oh pleeeeease! This is the best fun I've had since I came to Phlan! I wish I could take a teleporter home! I always just follow your orders Alma, you're so self-absorbed, you never listen to me!

Eper: -- I never thought I'd agree even once with happyfuntimegirl here, but we haven't mapped out this entire place. More treasure awaits, and we're not in a hurry...

Alma: -- All right, all right, I feel we're safe enough with Yarash removed to look around.


...1 hour later...


The second alcove drops us into a maze on the lower level, with no teleporters leading out. Only monsters and clean skeletons of other 'visitors' of the place...


.. 2 hours later...


Eper finally finds the secret door which leads to a teleporter which deposits us yet again in the entrance corridor. No treasure at all, just wounds and bruises.


Alma: -- Szilva, remind me the next time I'm softening to Barack's whining: don't.

Barack: -- It wasn't my fault! And it was good fun, anyway!


When we leave the pyramid, an animated sequence plays out, showing how the pollution starts to clean up from the river. It changes the river tiles permanently. It's pretty cool, being able to change the world map!

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The Seven Blunders/Roots of Violence: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Worship without sacrifice. Politics without principle. (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)


Let's Play the Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box Classics)

Pillows of Enamored Warfare -- The Zen of Nodding



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Our other mission leads to the northeast, past the kobold caves.



As we enter the keep, our spellcasters detect an anti-magic aura enveloping them, suppressing their ability. This was the seat of someone powerful a long, long time ago. Luckily, already enchanted items, our magical gear, still works.


The walls of the castle are no more. Rubble is everywhere, along with overgrowth. And old, but still mighty lizard approaches us as we walk near the center of the keep.


We tell him the word we learned in the pumping room of the pyramid from the lizardman slaves. The alliance talks proceed smoothly thereafter, until a younger lizardman shows up, and challenges the old one for leadership of the tribe. He's not friendly towards us, so we're inclined to help the other one. This doesn't involve the wholesale slaughter of dozens of lizardmen, to our surprise, only a single combat with the challenger.


Narancs: -- Considering your expertise as a warrior, your magical plate armor, shield, weapons, and the Gauntlets of Ogre Power we acquired from Cadorna's box... No need to worry.





After the combat, the alliance is sealed. We are told that there is a lower level of the keep, mostly flooded, but we can find some items in the pools. If we fight off the creatures who make their home there.



It takes a lot of time search all the pools, this place is full of dangerous holes and such. And all the while the inhabitants hurt us, and we can't use magical healing because of the anti-magic shell.



Barack:  -- For a fistful of gems, this wasn't worth it.
Eper: -- For a few gems more, I'd sell my mother.

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The Seven Blunders/Roots of Violence: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Worship without sacrifice. Politics without principle. (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)


Let's Play the Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box Classics)

Pillows of Enamored Warfare -- The Zen of Nodding



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Chapter 10: We Are Terrible Guests

The mission to rescue House Bivant's heir is pending. And a new one is required of us, taking us even further west.
Cadorna calls for us again, this time he wants us to deliver an important diplomatic message to Zhentil Keep.

Ummm.... THE Zhentil Keep? Headquarters of the power-hungry and oftentimes evil-acting organization, the Zhentarim? We have a bad feeling about this one. On the surface, this looks like a solid attempt to gain favors with Zhentil Keep. Phlan is still very much in the process of recovery, the neutrality of Zhentarim would be a great reassurance to the Lords of the City to deal with the enemies at hand. But we wouldn't trust a Zhentarim agent with a ball of pocket filth...
After we leave the City Hall, an argument breaks out.
Narancs: -- That letter. It bugs me.
Eper: -- You do recall that we have friends who can deal with a seal? I don't want to walk into hostile territory without knowing what's inside that letter.
Alma: -- We would have to pay them this time. A lot.
Eper: -- You make a good point. Still, it's our single lives we're putting at stake, while Cadorna just sits on his fat ass here.
Alma: -- I'm calling a vote on this one.
It is decided that we re-visit our 'friends' in the Textile House area. But all we find is a few corpses... Szilva determines that undead assaulted the hideout from within the tunnels. There were no survivors, and the amount of corpses indicate that a number of them entered the ranks of the undead. There goes the safety plan.
We're heading to Zhentil Keep first, because after springing the boy from the slavers' camp, we have to take him home immediately.
On the road, we encounter a pack from the Moo-moo Farm.

The road has few random encounters, it's more peaceful here than in the east.


The commander himself greets us.


The guard who gives us the tour sure likes to brag: the walls  survived a dragon attack, the ballistas in the large guard towers, six hundred soldiers are stationed here. You idiot, that's classified information. We could have you court martialed for telling us. But we're chill folks, don't worry, we only kill for loot, not stupidity, and your equipment is crap compared to ours. After the tour, we're escorted to our quarters.
Szilva: -- In the evening, we'll have to converse with the commander. We have to be careful not to reveal anything important about Phlan, like that foolish tour guide did about this fortress. Let me carry the conversation, engaging in innocent small talk. Talking elegantly is my forte.
Eper: -- Talking people out of their money to 'support your church', you mean? It's hard to admit, but you're better at it than me.
Alma: -- Enough of that. What Szilva suggests is truly important, and I expect every one of you comply.
Eper: -- Bah, if you want the commander distracted during the evening, just sic our secret weapon on him.
Alma: -- Secret weapon?
Eper: -- *imitates Barack, talking fast and in falsetto* ... during the morning, I always check on the lilies first, because they're so amazing, but then the roses are also magical with the morning dew's little drops sitting on their petals, and while I'm smelling the roses, literally, I'm smelling the roses, haha, that's so funny, right, so then Pixie, my cat walks up to me and rubs his body on my leg, and that is so wonderful, it makes my day start fully energized...
Barack: -- You're so mean! So what if I like to chat, all girls like to chat, it's not a sin!
Eper: -- See? Secret weapon, honed to perfection.

At the dinner, delicious meat and red wine is served. Table talk is initiated.


Talking about magic, the commander surprises us by telling the origin story of the Pool of Radiance. Which is rumored to give the Boss the power he wields. A barbarian champion and an evil fire spirit inhabiting the pool have merged together to create a new nemesis, after neither could defeat the other one. Interesting lore.

Managing to steer the conversation towards politics (he's a good one, swept aside Barack's inane chatter), he tells us that Lord Eberhard is involved in corruption. You muckraker, we have solid information gathered in the Kovel Mansion that Eberhard is anything but corrupt: he's one of the veteran commanders who fought hard to retake that small part of the city what is now called New Phlan. He would never act against the city he paid for in blood, sweat and gold. Nice try, though.
After the feast, we're escorted to our quarters again, and the game gives me two choices:
-- Sleep the night.
-- Keep a watch.
Which is the equivalent of asking: Are you stupid?
-- Yes
-- No.

After midnight, a number of solders sneak into the room. No, we weren't stupid, therefore a battle ensues.
And as we start to walk towards the exit, another, then another, then... A total of 6 battles. The seventh one is different:

He's got another Gauntlets of Ogre Power on him! It was worth all the trouble, this trip, in retrospect. Now both of our fighters have ogre-power. In this battle, we used exactly half of our Fireball-Stinking Cloud reserves. The previous battles had low-level soldiers, this one had level 2 corporals and level 3 aides with bows, about 40 of them.


The final battle is similar, 40-some soldiers, but there is a mage here and a strong fighter. Eper wins initative, and uses a wand of magic missile on the mage. Good start. Then comes Barack... Whomever designed this battle, he did it with closed eyes. Putting the mage on the front line? A strong hit from Barack boosted by the freshly looted Gauntlet (the irony!), and the mage goes down. Next up some enemes, only the corporals, no worries. Then Citrom finishes a Fireball, clears out  about 10 enemies and damages another 10. Szilva casts a Hold Person on the Commander, single-target only, to apply a -2 penalty to the saving throw. The commander saves anyway, enjoy your luck while it lasts.
The commander comes next, instead of swinging a weapon, he blasts Alma and Eper with a Wand of Lightning. Eper has taken a lot of damage in previous battles, all those crossbow bolts chipped away at his meager health, so he collapses (but doesn't die). Alma feels the pain, too. Narancs begins his own Fireball. The remaining aides fire their bows, doing some damage, but thankfully not hitting Narancs. This fireball has a higher damage roll, enough to kill corporals with even a successful save, it clears out about 15 foes. Only about a dozen foes standing after one turn, I had good initiative rolls. Those level 3 archers in such large numbers, they can easily prevent spellcasting if they win init (and we don't have Protection from Normal Missiles yet, no scrolls had it; should've learned that instead of Haste). The next turn the commander fails the save on the fresh Stinking Cloud, and the resistance is broken. Zhentil Keep, you're all our bitches. But we're generous, we'll just leave you alone.
Szilva: -- And now we have proof that Cadorna is a traitor, like I told you before. I've found the letter we brought in the commander's office. That wasn't a diplomatic message, he sent us here to die by the Zhentarim's hand. He's working for the Boss, and getting rid of us was his proof of loyalty.
Alma: -- What? This can't be true! He's a Councilman! I could believe that all kinds of wrongs about him, these politicians are no saints, I know, but betraying the city to monsters? What does he hope to gain?
Szilva: -- I don't know, but we should be really careful from now on until this is resolved. He might have other plans to get us killed.
Citrom: -- A pity, he always threw great parties...

The party's morale is boosted by this victory. Surely, dealing with the buccaneers will be a piece a of cake.


We are escorted to the merchant's area, where we can rest as long as we want. We walk around the slave pen in the middle, and it doesn't take long...

He notices that we're eyeing the boy, and says that he'll sell for a nice price. Alma, in a sudden outburst of anger, punches the merchant, a short fight breaks out. A large, well-armed man comes along, comments that the fighting was amusing , but we shouldn't cause any more trouble. The merchant begs for our apology, we're amused, too.

Eper: -- This one's easy. Kill guards, enter pen, grab boy, run outside, escape on the horses. We'll be out of here before they know what hit them.
Alma: -- If we cause a large riot, the slaves will try to break free, and the boy could get crushed underfoot. No, we need a more subtle plan.
Narancs: -- Umm, my plan is not very subtle, but it'll draw the guards away from the slave pen for a while. There is an animal pen here with a large number of pack animals. We could cause a stampede, use that interlude to grab the boy with no one paying attention.
Alma: -- I don't like that either. Still too much risk for the boy. We should get to know this camp very well before we try anything. Walk around, chat, try to act like slave merchants.

Behind one of the buildings...


That pass might be the ticket we need to find a better plan. We buy it, and enter the captain's house, showing the pass to the guards outside.

Alma: -- Excuse us, captain. We need to discuss this among ourselves.
Captain: -- Take your time. That boy's not going anywhere soon. *leaves to his room*
(in hushed voices)
Eper: -- Alma, you're a terrible bargainer. You're too honest, your eyes tell too much. He knows that we want the boy, he knows that he's highborn. The price he set is insane! 40000 gold? You can buy an estate with that! I'm not even sure our gem pouch's content is enough! And we have no guarantee that House Bivant will pay us back... If they really-really wanted their heir back, they would've sent house retainers, not mercenaries like us.
Alma: -- Well, there is the other way... I have no objections to killing a slaver. We could grab his key to the slave pen and free the boy without a lot of hassle or paying a single copper.
Szilva: -- You are suggesting murdering someone who invited us to be his guests?I hope this is not the start of a trend, I hope you're not changing into someone else, Alma. I supported you as leader of our group because you're not a greedy, bloodthirsty savage, like most adventurers. I'm watching you.
Alma: -- ...
The captain is a seasoned veteran, who is able to engage us evenly, and call on his cadre of guards. The strange thing, though, that this is all happening inside his big house, and no one comes in from the outside. The captain is very high level (12+), has 110 hit points, and an AC of -6. Hold Persons and Stinking Clouds mow down the fighter pack. OP **** is OP. On his body we find his exceptional gear, plate mail +3, long sword +4, shield +2, 3 potions of extra healing, a ring of protection, wand of magic missile. That armor is the best in the game, BTW.


We quickly leave the camp, no one chases us.
Back in New Phlan, we carefully approach the City Hall, expecting trouble, and then report our findings. It turns out he fled the city when he heard that we didn't die in Zhentil Keep. This proclamation is music to our ears:


Edited by Endrosz

The Seven Blunders/Roots of Violence: Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Worship without sacrifice. Politics without principle. (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)


Let's Play the Pools Saga (SSI Gold Box Classics)

Pillows of Enamored Warfare -- The Zen of Nodding



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