Retro Gaming: Pool of Radiance part 3


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

One of the weird dynamics of doing these retro gaming playthroughs is that there’s an ongoing pressure to make progress for the sake of the series. If I get bogged down in a scene or can’t figure out a game or get too frustrated, then it can all implode quickly.

This thought is very much in my mind with Pool of Radiance, because even after two sessions, I’m still trying to figure out how to play the game — nevermind make progress in it. I do deeply appreciate all of your comments and tips so far, and due to them, I decided to reroll my team and see if I can’t actually figure out how to fight properly.

As  someone pointed out, you can go in during character creation and adjust the stats any way you like. I can’t see this being in the game for a reason other than to allow someone to max out ALL THE THINGS, which I of course do. Oh Michael, you are a magnificent beast.


Much better. You can also adjust hit points up as high as they can potentially go with that class/race/stat combo. I am a little confused how identical characters — same race/class — can have different stat caps, unless there is a difference between genders.

All of these are human except for George Michael, who is a halfling thief. Poor George Michael.


Next stop is the arms and armor shop, where I’m going to put some of this starter gold to good use by equipping… my characters… with…

Seriously. How many options do I need here? There are three pages of randomly ordered weapons and armor for sale, some of it sending me to Wikipedia to look up. I mean, do you know what a ranseur and spetum are? Apparently they’re both polearms that look more or less the same. I kind of wish I knew the stats on these, but all I have to go on are the prices, so I assume that more expensive = harder hitting. This FAQ fills in some of the gaps.

I’m a simple man. I pick up two flails and shields for my clerics, three broadswords and shields for my fighters, and a short bow and arrows for my thief. Tack on some armor, and we’re good to go!


The really good news — at least for me — is that I’ve cracked my menu navigation woes and have figured out how to trade and equip and view inventory. No wonder I was getting killed before — I was sending out naked characters to beat kobolds to death with their fists!

My only problem is that for some reason, the game isn’t letting me equip leather armor and a bow to George Michael, despite him being a thief. And I can’t sell the stuff back (I don’t think) and I’m out of money. Oh well, man, you’re on your own!


Save the game and double-save it, then I’m back to the slums for more Koboldian goodness! Right away, a pack of 11 rat-beasts attack. But this time… I am ready. Well, I think I am. Hope I am. Fairly sure I am.


I appreciate your dedication to realism and giving me choices, Pool of Radiance. I really do. But in what universe or campaign setting would I actually want to say yes to this? I don’t think the kobolds are going to take me in as a double-agent!


Woo! I won! I won! Only… this victory screen isn’t nearly as enthusiastic as the game over screen was for a kobold victory. Feels like the game has a bias, know what I’m saying?


8 thoughts on “Retro Gaming: Pool of Radiance part 3

  1. Shandren October 10, 2015 / 10:37 am

    Good to see you getting forward 🙂
    The weapon thing is silly, i cannot even remember if the stats were in the booklet, but they were lifted from D&D the old fashion one, and i think i recall using my players handbook(or at least knowledge therefrom from playing pen and paper) to find out which weapon does what. In generel, grab a sword of whatever variety fits the char (short, long, 2-handed) and you arent doing badly. Those have always been very close to the best weapons in D&D.

  2. pkudude99 October 10, 2015 / 11:27 am

    As I recall it, all those various weapon options appeared in the Player’s Handbook at the time, so into the game they went as well. However, due to the nature of pc games more or less requiring you to min/max…… heaviest armor you can wear plus a shield for best possible AC for the fighters, and a broad or long sword and you’re done. Plus a compound bow once you can afford it since that adds in your STR bonus for damage, so that’s a +6 damage if you’ve got your 18(00) STR score. Flails for clerics, short-sword for thief, and a staff for a mage. Fighters and and thieves carried bows for range, clerics and mages use slings early on, but eventually get enough spells that you won’t need the ranged weapons anymore for them.

    Very odd that your thief can’t equip the leather armor. No idea what to tell you there.

    And yes, the genders in AD&D at the time did have different stats with males being stronger, so it was almost never beneficial to have a female fighter. It didn’t matter to a mage or cleric, though…..

    If you intend to play the later games also, by the time you get to the 4th game you’ll be wanting a 100% human party and you’ll even be looking at dual-classing. The 1st 2 games are fine with demi-humans, but by the 3rd they’ll be a liability and you simply can’t use them in the 4th due to the level caps.

  3. Shandren October 10, 2015 / 2:40 pm

    Could the leather armor thing be “size” related? Halflings might require small armor specifically.

  4. Gamera977 October 10, 2015 / 8:20 pm

    Yeah, I’m not quite sure why they felt compelled to stick every single polearm in the game in there. Looking at the 2nd ed. manual they do have slightly different stats but I’m not sure they did in the game or not. Frankly I’d go with long swords for fighter types and maces for clerics but broad swords and flails should work fine.
    I think I remember silver weapons being offered too in the game. They’re more expensive and don’t do anymore damage except to lycanthropes which there are none in the game. Why they’re in there is anyone’s guess. On the other hand you will find weapons with a +1 suffix behind them before too long (like Long Sword +1 or Staff Sling +1). Hang on to them and don’t sell them like I did when I first played and didn’t understand the AD&D system!!! Magical weapons and armour are rated from +1 up to +5 and give that bonus to hit or defense.
    The ability to change your stats was to allow you to create your favorite pen & paper character in the game. Everyone I’ve known that played it used it to cheat though (including me!)
    All stats run from 3-18 except strength that has a modifier of 18(01) up to 18(00) (which is actually 18(100). Female characters are limited to 18(50) or something like that but otherwise stats are identical between the sexes. As I remember charisma has no effect on the game (merchants always charge the same price and NPCs act the same no matter how charming you may be). Intelligence is useless for anyone but mages and wisdom worthless for anyone but clerics.
    Looking at the 2nd ed manual a thief/rogue can equip a club,dagger, dart, hand crossbow, knife, lasso, short bow, sling, broad sword, short sword, long sword, short sword, or staff. They can wear leather, studded leather, padded leather, or elven chain (don’t thing this was in the game). Not sure why the game won’t allow you to equip your short bow and leather armour.

  5. kiantremayne October 11, 2015 / 1:19 pm

    As stated my others – the original AD&D rules had tons and tons of weapons, mostly polearms, a result of the game originally being designed by medieval wargaming grognards. Everybody quickly figured out that longsword and shield was king (or two-handed sword… but once you started getting magic shields worth more and more AC, the extra point or two of damage wasn’t worth it). In all my years playing the varoious incarnations of D&D, from age 11 to far too old to be doing that sort of thing, I don’t think I EVER saw a player pick and equip the glaive-glaive-voulge-guisarme-thingamabob.

  6. Telwyn October 12, 2015 / 3:44 am

    As mentioned it’s probably a size thing if he’s a Halfling. It’s been an age since I looked at AD&D version of the game but it’s certainly still the case by 3rd that Halflings get royally punished for having small hands. A bow is normally a two-handed weapon, Halflings couldn’t wield that unless they had a smaller version – so a sling may be your only option. For armour check a vendor in town to see if they actually sell ‘small’ armour versions.

  7. Sylow October 12, 2015 / 11:29 am

    On the weapon selection, now just ponder when the game came out and correspond this to the timeline of the internet. All we had at that time were those strange names, and fantasies of what weird weapons that could be. 😀

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