Retro Gaming: Pool of Radiance part 2

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(This is part of my journey going checking out Pool of Radiance. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Before heading out to the slums, our party decides to kick back at one of the many, many taverns that this mid-range town provides. More taverns here than Seattle has Starbucks, but this is D&D and to be expected.

The second I walk through the door, a pickpocket tries to grab my gold. I grab him instead and a fight breaks out. My first of the game!

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WHAT IS THIS MADNESS.

Geez, there’s like 30 people springing up for a fight, all heavily armed. This is the battle screen for Pool of Radiance, which is nice for positional attacks and moving around, but not really my favorite approach for a turn-based CRPG. At least there’s an option to set each of my characters to “quick,” which I guess is auto-attack. My whole party goes down but since this is just a brawl, I guess we didn’t die. We don’t get any XP, but we do (for some reason) get gold.

Two observations. The first is that Pool of Radiance is for the most part a completely silent game apart from occasional moving sounds and attack noises. It’s ugly and sparse in the audio department, is what I’m saying. Second, this interface is the same that was modified to use in Neverwinter Nights, one of the first graphical MMOs.

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My party, unconscious to a man, somehow runs away from the city watch and bangs on the door of the Temple of Tempus (the Redunancy of Redundants). The priests say they can heal us, but at a cost. Seriously, it’s a bill of over a thousand gold, well more than I looted, so at this point I just load a saved game and pretend that fight never happened. La la la.

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The “slums” look more or less the same as the town I just left, but I guess I should be afraid. Basically, the area is a massive outdoor dungeon segmented into rooms. Let’s clear this baby out!

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“Nobody expects the… Kobold Inquisition?”

Hey, at least the portraits are animated!

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This is the cheeriest “game over” screen I’ve ever seen. So obviously, the fight did not go well. Again. We got thrashed by a half-dozen kobolds, only taking one down in the process. I love how right after this screen appears, the game dumps you out completely as if you aren’t even welcome to try again.

Obviously, I need to learn how to play this better; I feel like I’m functioning with one arm tied behind my back. Maybe my party needs gear? Or I need to micromanage more? Navigating the menu screens is such a huge pain, though.

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12 thoughts on “Retro Gaming: Pool of Radiance part 2

  1. Particlebit October 4, 2015 / 10:52 am

    Love the game over screen

  2. DanVzare October 4, 2015 / 10:54 am

    The later games get more user-friendly in the interface, and somewhat easier to play. Unfortunately they never improved in the sound department (as far as I know). So I recommend playing some appropriate music in a different application while playing the game. Perhaps even manually changing the music you’re playing, depending on whether or not you’re in or out of fights. It really does improve the atmosphere, at least for me.

  3. Sandsnake October 4, 2015 / 1:21 pm

    Justin, thanks for another cool retro gaming article, I enjoy them a lot.

    It would be cool to have an article someday about how you select those older games and how you prepare for and approach them in general. Do you use playthroughs, hint books or the like to speed up things? Or even cheats? Maybe you could give some hints about how to find the right classic game depending on playstyle etc. Guess with those many classic games you have played over the past years you could give some great, helpful advice. I’d love to read such an article.

  4. pkudude99 October 4, 2015 / 2:13 pm

    As I recall it, the game actually allows you to modify your characters at creation and simply choose their stats, so it was “balanced” on the assumption that everybody would have an 18 in their primary stat, it not all 18’s. I recall that level 1 was very difficult even with all 18’s…..

    I also recall that a party of 6 single-classed humans was the way to 6 — 2 fighters, 2 clerics, 1 thief, and 1 mage. Multiclassed non-humans leveled too slowly and were capped out anyway, so they were just too hard to use effectively. And once you got to level 5 your mage became your most powerful character due to now having Fireball spell 😉 But even before that, Magic Missile and Stinking Cloud were also very useful, as are Hold spells from the clerics. Between 3 casters doing crowd control and 3 physical attackers (who hopefully have bows) you can take out a lot of mobs quickly. The fighters also gain the “sweep” ability as they level up which lets them attack more than 1 low-hp mob like kobolds per round to boot.

    But even with all that cool stuff later on, level 1 is still difficult. you just don’t have many skills or HP yet, so be prepared to save early and often.

    One can also easily duplicate items in this game. Not that I would encourage you to do so, but…. it’s VERY easy to do and can also be very helpful . . . . .

  5. Shandren October 4, 2015 / 3:10 pm

    If you hate the combat you hate it, but I would advice against using the quick-combat, it is NOT a good AI 🙂 besides the combat was awesome! 😉
    I cant recall where the easiest fights are, but I think certain of the kobold fights are ok at lvl 1. At least if you can avoid getting ambushed. Sleep spells and the like are very effective.

    Disclaimer: Going by memory, 50% chance im a bit off, 50% chance I am plain wrong

  6. Shintar October 4, 2015 / 3:12 pm

    I love that screenshot of the tavern brawl in progress. That would have made me go “WTF?” too.

  7. Gamera977 October 4, 2015 / 8:17 pm

    Wow, this was one of my first experiences with AD&D! And yes it was very hard at lower levels. Pkudude and Shandren are right- ‘Sleep’ for mages and ‘Hold Person’ for clerics are worth their weight in gold. The second game in the series, ‘Secret of the Silver Blades’, is much better with smaller numbers of bigger monsters instead of hordes of weak critters you have to wade though here.
    Not really understanding the system I created a whole party of multi-class demihumans which of course leveled very slowly. Not sure how I ever made it though the game now!

  8. Telwyn October 5, 2015 / 3:43 am

    Ah these games bring back memories, not all of them happy ;-). 1st level AD&D characters are pretty easy to kill as you’ve discovered and the Goldbox games do love their random encounters. I have vague memories of being plagued by encounters every few steps in some of the later games’ “outdoor dungeon” zones.

    You wrote “thieves” plural I think, that’s probably a bad idea as they’re weak melee combatants unless they can get behind a target to backstab but doing so often puts them in danger and there are no MMO-staple rogue abilities like “vanish” to get out of a tight spot in AD&D! Their high DEX score should make them ok with a bow or other missile weapon though so they could become your artillery.

    Learn the spells at your disposal. Stinking cloud was overpowered in some of these games as it immobilised opponents meaning you could kill them with a single point of damage (any damage!). Sleep is great too as others have already said. Be careful of “friendly fire”, D&D of all editions is harsh on this: a sleep spell can catch your frontline fighters, a fireball is just as likely to kill your party if misplaced!

    Have fun and don’t forget to rest whenever it is safe to do so 🙂

  9. Syp October 6, 2015 / 9:47 am

    Thanks for all of the tips and feedback! I might need to reroll at this point, then learn how to actually equip weapons.

  10. Syp October 6, 2015 / 9:50 am

    Sand – I’ll keep that in mind! Sometimes I use walkthroughs or character creation guides, especially when stuck, but rarely cheats.

  11. Ocho October 9, 2015 / 2:11 pm

    When I started playing Champions of Krynn again, built on the same engine, the first fight I encountered was like that. A wicked DPS check, it certainly didn’t hold any punches.

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