Friday, January 27, 2012


When we last left our party, they had just discovered that the commandant at the outpost was really a draconian in disguise and that things were much worse off than they had believed.  Sir Karl Gaardsen asked them to travel north to the ruined city of Throtl to find Caramon Majere and return him to the outpost.

The party didn't waste a second.  Within a few minutes of being told, they raced out of the outpost and headed north to the ruins of Throtl.  As they entered through the main gates, however, they discovered a force of Hobgoblins awaiting them.

How about if you leave first?

The Hobgoblins seemed quite anxious to get the party to leave.  It smelled a lot like they were up to no good here, and they didn't want the party to find out about it.  So, given no other choice, the party stood their ground and battled the Hobgoblins.

Wil has a way of irritating the opposition.

Behind the rows of Hobgoblins, a couple of human soldiers were also thrown into the mix.  Something was definitely fishy in Throtl.  The sooner the party figured out what it was, the better.  While the fight wasn't easy, it definitely became a lot easier once the mages in the party started to throw around a few well placed "sleep" spells.

After the Hobgoblins and warriors at the gates had been dealt with, the party headed into the ruins.  The place was a complete shambles.  There was nothing left of the civilization that once thrived there, just a lot of mossy stone and tons of hungry rats.

Not knowing which way to go, the party decided to head east.  They hadn't gone too far when they heard a noise up ahead and readied their weapons.  Instead of angry Hobgoblins, though, they encountered a clearly distraught man who was babbling and carrying on as though he had lost his mind.

Where is Caramon?  That's a good question.
He shouted at them about Caramon and said something about some traps.  Then, he got really weird and started to talk about some treasure he knew about deep in the ruins and offered to split it with the party if they helped him find it.  Before anyone could answer though, he started screaming and ran into the ruins, never to be seen again.

The party tried to follow him, but somehow he eluded them completely.

But their pursuit did not amount to nothing.  While trying to figure out where the crazy man went, they stumbled across a few Baaz Draconians talking to Hobgoblins and some more the human warriors.  The draconians said something about a temple and some dragon eggs.  The party tried to hear more about it, but the draconians must have heard them.

The enemies prepare to attack.
The draconians turned and assaulted the party.  Irritated by the presence of draconians, the party quickly dealt with the threat and searched for some clue of what they were talking about.  Unfortunately, there was nothing to find.  What kind of temple were they talking about?  Are the dragon eggs there?

As the party continued to search the ruins, they found indications of battle.  It looked as though Caramon had led his group through the area.  Someone had dropped a shield with the symbol of the Solamnic Knights on it.  There was blood on the ground.  Clearly, Caramon had found trouble in Throtl.

The party decided to search the area around where the battle occurred.  Maybe Caramon was still nearby.  Unfortunately, what they found was not something friendly.

Oh goody!  Undead minions!
An evil cleric, dragging some skeletons in tow, was cleaning out a chest.  He was not happy that the party happened upon him and sent his skeletons into battle.  The party knew they would have to deal with the cleric pretty quickly, as spellcasting foes can be quite dangerous.  Luckily, the party prevailed with minor scrapes and bruises and collected what was in the chest.

There was a heap of steel pieces (the currency of Krynn) and two scrolls with the "Neutralize Poison" spell inscribed on them.  Tamera, the party's main cleric, took those for safe keeping...hoping that they wouldn't be useful anytime soon.

After completely searching the area around where the battle occurred, the party realized that Caramon must no longer be in the area and headed off in another direction.  Unfortunately, their searching brought them into the midst of a few Hobgoblins and a Hobgoblin leader.

What do you mean, "More of them?"
The Hobgoblin leader's words betrayed that the party wasn't the only intruders he had recently seen.  Given the choice to talk to him, the party thought perhaps they could convince him to tell them where Caramon was located.  So, they raised their hands peacefully in the hopes of opening a dialogue.  Instead, the Hobgoblin leader laughed at them and decided to outright attack them.

The party had no choice but to defend itself against such foul creatures.  It would be the last time they would attempt to speak to them.  It was clear that the Hobgoblins had completely thrown themselves into the plot with the draconians now.  They would pay the ultimate price.

After the battle was over, the party headed off into the west area of the ruins.  Unfortunately, a trap of some kind had been laid, and several members of the party were hit by arrows.  The trap appeared to be recently set.  Did someone know they were coming?

Before they could think much about it, a human soldier came out of nowhere and wanted to speak to the party.  The party decided to hear him out.  Here's what he had to say:

"I was with the party of knights and others under Caramon that came in here to explore.  We haven't really found anything.  Caramon's already left to report.  I guess you must have missed him."

"Oh, one thing we did find out was that there is a treasure left over from the previous occupants of Throtl.  We got word of it from a Hobgoblin who was sneaking in to claim it.  Before he died, he told us that it was located in the south-central area of the city.  Tell you what, if you help me find this treasure, I'll split it with you.  All right?"
Something about the guy just didn't seem right.  Besides, the party had better things to do than go off in search of treasure right now.  Evil was afoot, and the sooner the party found Caramon and got him back to Sir Karl, the better.

The party refused the soldier's offer.  Instead of taking it like a man, though, he shouted out for some Hobgoblins and attacked the party, thereby justifying the party's feeling that there was something off about this fellow.

The party wiped out the Hobgoblins as quickly as they could.  The soldier turned out to be a little tougher than some of his other friends, though.  Still, he was no match for the party's determination.

Once he was dealt with, the party took a minute to collect their thoughts.  The enemy seemed to always be one step ahead of them.  In fact, the enemy knew just what to tell them.  Had the search for Caramon not been paramount, they might have easily fallen into the trap that the soldier had attempted to lay.

Eventually, the party continued on their way.  They had a feeling that the soldier had been lying and that Caramon was still within Throtl somewhere.  He had to be.  

A noise caught their attention...

A kender?
The party had stumbled across a kender who was busy setting traps.  He introduced himself as Kildirf and claimed to know Caramon and that he was attempting to find him.  He thought Caramon was somewhere south of where they currently were.

He said he had been setting traps to keep the Hobgoblins off his trail and he hoped that the party hadn't stumbled into any of them.  There were a few grumbles from the back of the party where Janessa was still hurting over an arrow wound, but the party pretty much let it slide.

Kildirf offered to join the party and help them locate Caramon.  He said he had another friend as well, a Solamnic Knight, who as also searching for Caramon.

As luck would have it, his friend appeared not a moment later.  He claimed to be Larcent Strangbourn, a Solamnic Knight who had come with Caramon, but had become separated from him in the ruins of Throtl.
Apparently all Solamnic Knights like big mustaches.

Unlike the soldier who tried to trick the party, these two seemed to legitimately be concerned for Caramon.  Not to mention that Strangbourn was dressed in the full plate armor of a Solamnic Knight, which lent a lot of credibility to his story.  If he was lying, he was convincing.

With new friends in tow, the party continued their search for Caramon.  As they walked, Strangbourn mentioned something odd about Sir Karl.  He said:

"Listen, Sir Karl is the most honorable of men.  I would follow him anywhere.  But there is something very dark and strange going on around him.  He seems obsessed with a young girl named Maya.  The fact that he's about 40 years older than she is isn't really the problem, if they'd just settle down and declare themselves."

"Maya is extremely valuable to us.  She has sources of information that are astounding, especially for one so young."
After that, he said no more about it.  But, he seemed troubled by the whole thing.

Unfortunately, his troubles would need to wait.  As the party rounded a corner, they were ambushed by combined forces of the enemy.  They had been waiting for the party!
Evil forces!  Oh no!
A long battle ensued.  With the help of Kildirf and Strangbourn, though, the party managed to defeat the horde of Baaz Draconians, Hobgoblins, soldiers, mages and clerics that had waited to ambush them.  Why were they so eager to stop the party?  Were they getting close to something?

The party quickly had their answer.  Through a locked door near where they were ambushed, they found Caramon Majere, hanging in chains.  He had been taken prisoner by the enemy.


The party quickly released him from his chains.  He said that he had been taken to a temple somewhere in Throtl and had seen draconians and dragon eggs.  He also said that an evil priest somewhere in Throtl had a magical key that would make the secret doors to the temple appear.

He asked if the party would go in search of the key while he went back to check in with Sir Karl.  

Suddenly, there was a lot of clamor outside the door!  A loud whooshing noise followed by what sounded like tinkling glass echoed into the chamber, followed by the tormented screaming of Hobgoblins as they shrieked in fear.

Then...only silence...until a female voice called out...

She's not a Hobgoblin.
A woman rushed into the room.  Caramon and Strangbourn seem to recognize her.  She introduces herself as Maya.  

So, this is the woman that Strangbourn had mentioned earlier?  She speaks to Caramon:

"I've been sent by Sir Karl to get you back to the outpost.  There are rumors that large forces of Draconians, Hobgoblins, Minotaurs and others are gathering.  We need you to direct scouting and raiding operations.  I see now that things are worse than we thought.  Throtl was supposed to be abandoned."

Caramon tells her that he has seen Brass Dragon Eggs in the possession of the draconians.  Maya gasps at this news.

He urges the party once again to find the key and locate the temple.  The party, being good at heart, agrees to continue the fight. 

Then, Caramon leaves, taking Maya, Strangbourn and Kildirf with him. 

The party waits for them to leave, and then heads back out into the ruins.  As they do, they notice that there is an odd amount of ice on the walls and that a few Hobgoblins have been frozen to death.

Next time:  The party searches for the temple in Throtl!


The title screen.
It's been a long time since I've journeyed to the land of Krynn.  My mainstay of Dungeons and Dragons is the Forgotten Realms.  I have nothing against Krynn.  It's a well thought out world, and I would go so far as to say that the original trilogy and the second trilogy of novels by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman are good enough that they should be lauded alongside the likes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Some will find that to be some kind of heresy in their minds, but those were the books I grew up loving. If you've never read those books, you should take the time to do so.

Now, on to the party.  The names are the same as in Pool of Radiance.  This is done on purpose.  I have an attachment to these characters, and using them over and over again allows me to know at a glance what class or classes they have training in.  It used to be that I used a new party every time, and it was hard to remember who was the cleric and who was the mage.  This just makes things simple and easy for me.

Krynn is a different world than Faerun, so there are some adjustments to race and class.  If you've never experienced these games before, you might be surprised to find out how different things are.

The roster of heroes who will guide us through the adventure.

Lord Benjamin - Solamnic Knight of the Crown - Human - Male - Lawful Good
Kavina Do'Arden - Ranger - Human - Female - Neutral Good
Thaddeus Durin - Cleric of Mishakal/Fighter/White Robe Mage - Half-Elf - Chaotic Good
Wil Dhargon - Fighter/Thief - Kender  - Male - Neutral Good
Tamera Beldon - Cleric of Mishakal - Human - Female - Lawful Good
Janessa Waylan - Red Robe Mage - Human - True Neutral

First, let's talk about the different choices of race and class.  If you've only ever played the Forgotten Realms Gold-Box games, you probably know the standard choices (Human, Elf, Dwarf, Half-Elf, Gnome, Halfling).  The Krynn games, however, have a completely different set of races, including:

  • Hill Dwarf
  • Mountain Dwarf
  • Silvanesti Elf
  • Qualinesti Elf
  • Half-Elf
  • Kender
  • Human

Of the races presented above, the most interesting one is the Kender.  They're like halflings, only a lot more fun.  Kender have a love for adventure, are natural thieves and can taunt their enemies (as you'll see later).  They also have a specialized weapon that only they can use, called a Hoopak, that can be used as both a melee and a ranged weapon.

As for classes, you have the following options, which are also slightly different than the Forgotten Realms fare:
  • Cleric
  • Ranger
  • Knight
  • Fighter
  • Thief
  • Mage
Clerics can pick from different gods of the Krynn mythos (only those of good or neutral alignments, since PCs are not allowed to be evil).  Which god they pick will determine what special abilities they get.  There's a whole list of them (Paladine, Majere, Kiri-Jolith, Mishakal, Sirrion, Reorx, and Shinare).  I'm not going to discuss what powers each one gives, but I will mention that my clerics are followers of Mishakal.  She awards my clerics with three bonus spells (Charm Person, Remove Curse and Bless).  Additionally, my clerics gain an additional +1 die on their healing rolls, making them really good healers.  Those bonus spells really help starting out in the game.  For example, my Cleric/Fighter/Mage has a ton of things to choose from before the adventure even begins (see picture below).

Thaddeus is ready to get the party started.

Part of that is because he is a follower of Mishakal.  Part of it is because he is a White Robe Mage, and the White Moon was full when he memorized his spells, giving him bonus spells.  If you notice the three circles at the top of the screen, they represent the three moons of Krynn, each colored White, Red and Black (though SSI went with dark blue since their background was already black).  As the moons change phase, so does a magic-user's spell allowance.  When their moon is full, they gain 2 bonus spells of any level.  When it is a half moon, they receive one bonus spell.  A new moon grants them no bonus spells.

Obviously, camping at the right time is essential if you want bonus spells.  So, it becomes part of the strategy of the game.

Now that we've covered the mechanics of the game, let's get the adventure started...

The story begins a few years after a major war on Krynn, called the War of the Lance, during which an evil goddess (called Takhisis) sent her draconians to conquer the lands of Krynn.  Her forces were eventually defeated by a group of heroes with the aid of dragons.  The draconians, who are the evil offspring of mutated dragon eggs, were driven away and killed.

Outposts have been set up in various places within Krynn by the Solamnic Knights, who are sworn to protect the lands from evil.  It is at one of these outposts that something is amiss.  The commandant of the outpost near the ruined city of Throtl has been acting strangely, and a Solamnic Knight named Sir Karl Gaardsen is sent to investigate.

The party meets him in Solace at The Inn of the Last Home and offers to accompany him to the outpost in the hopes of finding adventure.  When they arrive at the outpost, Sir Karl goes to discuss matters with the commandant, but issues the party orders to scout the area near Throtl.

Sir Karl Gaardsen.

According to Sir Karl, the area has long since been cleared of most evil creatures.  Dragons and draconians hadn't been seen in the area for quite some time, so the party would probably not have any issues.  Still, he warned that they should head to the inn to memorize spells and probably buy some adventuring equipment.

This being a good idea, the party checked into the local outpost inn and rested for the day.

Are Inns usually outside?

Once they had rested and outfitted themselves, the party headed out the gate of the outpost, leaving Sir Karl to deal with the politics of the place.  With no idea what they'd find, the party headed north toward the ruined city of Throtl to scout, fully confident in the knowledge that the area has been properly patrolled by the knights in the outpost.  If the commandant has been keeping up on his job, then--

Son of a bitch!
Not far from the outpost, the party encounters a caravan being attacked by Baaz Draconians(there are several different types of draconians, depending on which type of dragon egg was used to create them). These creatures that were no longer supposed to be in this area, and were rumored to be completely wiped out.  Almost immediately, the party knows something strange is definitely going on around this outpost.  The draconians rushed to attack, but Wil Dhargon acted first.

That Baaz Draconian looks angry.

Kender have the ability to taunt their opponents by shouting insults.  This will anger an opponent who fails a saving throw, forcing them to rush toward the target and ignore all others, gaining a negative modifier to their armor class and making them easier to hit.  The Baaz were whipped into a blind frenzy over what he said (I can only imagine that he insulted their heritage) and rushed straight at him.

When it comes to tactical combat, rushing straight at an opponent and passing others is not a smart move.  It allows your enemies to get extra attacks on you.  But, these draconians didn't seem to care.

However, the Baaz Draconians aren't without some special tricks of their own.  Upon death, their bodies turn to stone.  If you use a melee weapon against them, there is a chance that your weapon will get stuck in their bodies.  While you can retrieve it after combat, you essentially will not have a weapon in hand (unless you ready another one) for the rest of the battle.  This really hurts later when it happens to your favorite magical weapon.

The party had little trouble wiping out this small band of draconians.  But, somehow, one of them managed to survive.

Where the heck was he hiding?
A lone surviving draconian, who also appears different than the others (which means he is a different kind of this case an Aurak Draconian) managed to grab a book and then pull a quick disappearing act before the party could respond.  What was in the book?  Why were these draconians even interested in this caravan in the first place?

Before the party can even consider these questions, the survivors from the caravan ask them for an escort back to the outpost. Being mostly good aligned, the party agrees, and returns to the outpost to tell Sir Karl of what has happened.

But, when they enter the commandant's office to give their report, they walk in on a fierce battle.

Sir Karl is handy with a sword, apparently.

The party arrives just in time to see Sir Karl kill the commandant.  As the commandant dies, he changes shape to a Sivak Draconian.  These foul draconians have the ability to shape change into whatever they that means that a draconian has been in charge of the outpost for quite some time.  The original commandant was probably killed.

It is then revealed that the commandant had been slowly replacing the Solamnic Knights in the outpost with his own men, all of whom are suspect and possibly draconians themselves.  Sir Karl feels he cannot trust anyone within the outpost, and asks the party to work with him in rooting out the evil.

He mentions that Caramon Majere led a group of men into the ruins of Throtl, and that our first mission should be to go and find him and return him to the outpost.

I will say this for Champions of Krynn, it sure does pack a lot of story into a small space.  The Krynn series was always heavy on the story...and that's a good thing.

Next time, the party heads into the ruins of Throtl...


As I prepare to embark upon my adventure in the land of Krynn, I just wanted to point out that the versions of the Gold-Box games that I'm playing are not in any way pirated.  Here's a picture showing that I own all the Instruction/Journal Manuals and at least two of the original boxes.

SSI released the Gold-Box games on a single CD back in the early 1990s.  I bought it. I didn't put it in the picture above only because I didn't think about it. Since many of my previously purchased disk copies would no longer load by the early 1990s (floppy disk technology was terrible), I thought it was a good purchase.  Inside the box was an offer to buy all the manuals. They came on the CD in text format, which was awful...but this was before the days of PDF files.  I bought them all and I've kept them in good shape.

The Gold-Box series of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons games are still my favorite CRPGs.  I've had other games I've loved (Wasteland, Fallout, etc), but none will ever touch the magic of these.  I just wanted to show you how much they meant to me by letting you know that I still own everything original required to play them, even the stupid code wheels.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Since my last posting, I've been pretty busy.  I've tried to play Pool of Radiance a few times, but I'm honestly not feeling the game at all.  I think it's because I just beat the game a few months ago (like back in October), and the thought of trudging through familiar territory again so soon fills me with serious dread.

I think what I'd rather do is play the Krynn series instead, starting with Champions of Krynn, working through Death Knights of Krynn, and then heading into Dark Queen of Krynn.  I want to do that because blogs about Pool of Radiance have been done to death anyway, but I rarely see blogs about those games.

Also, the only Gold-Box game I have never solved is Dark Queen of Krynn.  My version had a bug in it that made it impossible to win, so I only ever got about halfway through the game on my initial play through.  Additionally, I have never tried to make the run with the same party (since I always played the games when they were released, and years passed between I always lost my disks that had my save games in the meantime...not really an issue with hard drives).

So, if any of you are out there reading this blog, I hope you'll stick around as I shift gears.  The blog is still in its baby steps age, and I'm still trying to figure out exactly how I want to approach things.  I'll be glad to hear any suggestions.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


When we last left off, Sasha the council clerk offered us a job to clean out the local slums.  My characters were probably debating whether or not this was morally right as they left the town hall.  After all, according to the lore of the Forgotten Realms, the humans had abandoned New Phlan over a hundred years before when dragons attacked.  The monsters swept in afterward and claimed the abandoned city as their own.  Is it fair for my characters to go in and "remove them," when they have been the rightful owners of those ruins for several generations?

Well, the characters weren't going to get the answers they wanted by hanging out in town.  They would need to explore the slums and decide what should be done.  But, they realized that it could be a dangerous situation, so maybe doing some outfitting first would be smart.

If we didn't want to see your wares, we probably wouldn't have entered your shop.
I'm not sure where the party got gold to begin with, but I assume they weren't broke when they arrived in New Phlan.  They had to pay for their boat ride, after all.  But, it begs the question as to why they didn't already have some equipment in the first place.  I mean...they were planning to be adventurers...right?

It's lucky that there's a shop or two in town that deals in arms and armor, too.  And so many guards...that might easily deal with the slums themselves.  Wait...why did they need these heroes again?  Something is mighty fishy in New Phlan.

Fully outfitted, my characters decided to head out into the slums to get some answers.  Maybe the creatures living the slums were getting a bad reputation for no reason.  My characters hadn't seen any indication of them attacking folks or anything.  Maybe they were nice monsters that were just misunderstood.  Maybe it was all a misunderstanding that--

Son of a bitch!
So much for defending the idea that they shouldn't be eliminated.  Without so much as a courtesy greeting, a bunch of orcs ambushed the party a couple of steps into the slums.  The orcs could have at least had the decency to warn them away first and give them a chance to flee.  But,'s not the orc way, I guess.

So, given no choice...and now royally irritated, my characters brandished their newly bought weapons and went toe-to-toe with the foul creatures to teach them a lesson.

Thaddeus prepares to lay down some hurt.  I think he actually missed, though.

It's a good thing that the game didn't come from an era of sound where voice overs were allowed, otherwise there would be a good deal of swearing from the party as they missed frequently.  One thing I can say about Pool of Radiance is that it doesn't pull any punches.  It's one of the things I like most about it.  There's no hand-holding going on face hordes of monsters...and if you're not careful, you will die a lot.  This is something that needs to return to modern CRPGs, I think.  Dungeons and Dragons used to be a deadly game that sent unprepared characters to their demise.  Now, you're lucky if you die at all in a CRPG.

I call this the "Care Bear" effect, where the designers try to take it too easy on you for fear you will give up and not play their game anymore.  In reality, a game that's too easy can get boring.  I've quit games just because I wasn't being challenged.  So, it's a real balancing act sometimes, I guess.

Victory!  Just 300 more fights like this, and we'll get slightly better!

My characters missed a lot, but they managed to wipe out the orcs without sustaining too much damage.  During the battle, I realized that a spell like Sleep (which is used to put the enemies to sleep and make them easier to kill) would be really handy.

Sadly, even though I had purchased equipment, I forgot to stop off at the inn and actually memorize any spells.  So, I have Magic-Users without Sleep spells and Clerics without Cure spells.  This will not work out well for the party, I think.

So, cheering in victory, my party returned to the civilized area of New Phlan.  The guards at the gate gave them suspicious looks, but they didn't care.  They had taken their first step toward being hardcore adventurers.

But, for now, they needed precious rest so that they could utilize spells...

A platinum piece?!  Wow, that's expensive.

After trying to talk the woman down on the price for a room at the local inn (she wasn't having any of it, by the way), they settled in for the day and memorized their important spells, so that next time they could show those orcs a thing or two.

If only they had thought of this before leaving town.

And so, I leave you now.  Come back next time to see how the party fares in the Slums of New Phlan...

Monday, January 23, 2012


SSI wants to make sure you know this is an official product.

Ah, the memories that rush over me just seeing the opening screen again.  Even though my first run through of the game was on the Commodore 64, the other times I solved it were on the PC (including a run through that I did just this last Summer).  It's hard not to get nostalgic just looking at it.

Just in case you forgot what game I'm talking about here.

So, obviously the first thing you have to do in Pool of Radiance is roll up your characters (actually, that's probably the first thing you do for all old-school CRPGs, isn't it?).  The interesting thing about the Gold-Box games is that they made it too easy to cheat a little bit.  A player is allowed to alter the stats of his characters.  The original intent was that it would allow a tabletop player to match the scores their character had in a real Dungeons and Dragons game and import it into the game...but the result is that almost everyone cheats by bumping their stats all the way to 18 and beyond, when allowed.  Even I do it.  The game is still challenging that way, believe it or not.

My first character, before his stats are "magically" enhanced by unseen spirits.

I've played the Gold-Box games so much that I have a standard party that I use that seems to work for me.  I even use them when I play user-created designs in Unlimited Adventures, a game that any fan of the Gold-Box games should definitely check will have a Gold-Box orgasm for months just playing the better modules that are out there.

My party will generally consist of the following characters -- all of which are based on real PCs I played at one time or another in real Dungeons and Dragons campaigns when I was younger:

Lord Benjamin - Paladin - Human - Lawful Good - Male
Kavina Do'Arden - Ranger - Human -  Neutral Good - Female
Thaddeus Durin - Fighter/Cleric/Mage - Half-Elf - Chaotic Good - Male
Wil Dhargon - Fighter/Thief - Half-Elf - True Neutral - Male
Tamera Beldon - Cleric - Human - Lawful Good - Female
Janessa Waylan - Magic-User - Human - Chaotic Good - Female

Let me just start by saying that I have nothing against dwarves, gnomes or elves.  I just don't ever play them in these games...I have played them in Dungeons and Dragons.  These were just the characters I ended up with over the years, and I liked the balance and the fact that it was a ratio of three males and three females.  

Unfortunately, Pool of Radiance is the only game of the series that doesn't allow me to play Paladins or Rangers, so the first two characters have been changed to the class of Fighter for this game.  It's the only time that ever happens.

So, after the party is assembled, the game starts...

Oh, Rolf...don't ever loser.
We are greeted on the docks by Rolf.  He's a familiar face by now.  Despite having beaten this game about six or seven times in my life, I have probably started and attempted to beat it like thirty times or more.  Since you cannot skip the tour of the city given to you by Rolf, it gets pretty old after a while.

Once Rolf finally sets us free, we're off to see the council clerk about some jobs.  We don't find out much about her in this game, but in Pools of Darkness, we discover that she is named Sasha...and will eventually become a member of the council in New Phlan.  I'm glad to see that she works her way up from menial jobs.  I would hate to return a decade later and still find her stuck behind a desk.

C'mon Sasha, give us a smile.
She immediately offers us some work, even though she doesn't know us at all.  We just showed up on a boat about fifteen minutes ago.  For all she knows, we could be wanted murderers from Shadowdale or a bandit clan from somewhere near Hillsfar.  But, I shouldn't be surprised...CRPGs have a history of putting their fates in the hands of complete strangers.  This has never changed.  Even in the recently released Skyrim, whole organizations will follow you and make you their leader because you did a couple of simple jobs for them.  So, Sasha's certainly not alone in her lack of ability to ask for a decent reference.

She gives us a couple of jobs...clearing out some slums...investigating a keep across the bay...and mentions something about something going on in a nearby graveyard.  I've heard it all before, sister.

And this is how the adventure begins.  It doesn't begin with some big event like modern day CRPGs.  The characters just saw a notice somewhere about New Phlan needing people to help them out, and they hopped on a boat and headed there.  It's easy and simple, and I kind of like it.  It's not heavy-handed in any way.  Modern games, I feel, sometimes try too hard to get a player roped into an adventure, when the adventure itself is really the reward, isn't it?

Oh well.  My generation was the MTV generation, and this is what we have wrought upon the world.

Until next time, when the adventure continues...


I first discovered roleplaying games in 1983, when a friend introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons.  I fell in love with it immediately, and even though I couldn't play the game right away (I had to settle for playing Star Frontiers, which was also a decent RPG), I knew it would be something I would do for the rest of my life.  That's still true...because I run a semi-weekly Dungeons and Dragons tabletop campaign in my free time.

The best CRPG ever made (guarantee not guaranteed, void where prohibited)
Naturally, with Dungeons and Dragons being such a hit with strategy gamers of the day (we were called "nerds" back then, and not in a loving way), developers of computer software saw an opportunity to bring a similar experience to home computers (because everyone knows that only nerds had home computers back in the 1980s, right?)  Out of all the CRPGs I've played in my lifetime, the one that had the most impact was SSI's first Advanced Dungeons and Dragons release, Pool of Radiance.

Look away!  This is not the "Pool of Radiance" I'm talking about!

I'm not going to go into deep detail of the game in this posting because my time is short.  But, I remember going to the mall with a friend of mine in 1988 and deciding that we needed to get the game just because it had the "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" logo across the top.  Up to that point, no computer game had been an official product.

Adventure awaits some unknown heroes!

We played the game a little differently than other people did.  We didn't make it a solo player experience, we actually turned it into a real Dungeons and Dragons session.  A group of us created the characters.  We would only make decisions for the characters we created in, for example, if there was a combat and my character's turn came up, someone handed me the joystick (we played on a Commodore 64), and I did what I wanted.

Turn-based combat can really be "turn based" with friends.

In terms of roleplaying, we actually gave personalities to our characters and decided what they would do based on their alignments and personalities.  When decisions had to be made in the game, like whether or not to fight a group of creatures, whether or not to accept a quest, or what area we wanted to explore, we actually voted as a party.  Sometimes we would let one person take charge in exploring an area and deciding what hallways or doors we would go through, and sometimes we planned everything out.

Pool of Radiance on the Nintendo.  I didn't play this version.

It took us 9 months to beat the game this way, playing about two or three hours a night.  That sounds terrible, I know.  But, it wasn't.  It took us so long because we made a real tabletop experience out of the game, and it was completely different than when a solo player goes through it.  There were actual negotiations for who got a magical item and discussions about strategy on beating a boss.  Sometimes, we kept crude maps.

In fact, I recommend that no one plays this version.

Since those days, I have played Pool of Radiance a number of times (I think I have beaten the game at least six times at this point...and each time it only took about three days).  But there was something special about playing a Gold-Box game in this manner.  It's an experience that everyone should try.

I'm going to discuss Pool of Radiance a little more in depth in the next post.  So, stay tuned.

(The screenshots in this blog post were taken from other websites.  When I start talking about the game in depth, I will be providing my own.  Just don't sue me in the meantime).

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Heroes and their allies gather in dark places, apparently.
Before I delve into the world of older CRPGs, I want to take a minute to address the game that has been making waves the last couple of months...The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.  Like many others, I spent a good portion of about two months lost in this game.

Skyrim had a lot of beautiful locales.

For a good long while, I got sucked into the world and the story lines.  There was a lot to see and do at first.  The excitement of having a new world to explore seemed thrilling, as did the combats with dragons and other fell beasts.  The graphics were stunning and certainly didn't hurt to help the immersion.

Looks like something straight out of a Dungeons & Dragons game session.

But, this honeymoon period wouldn't last.  Because under the surface of the game grew a sense of sameness.  After a while, the missions started to become tedious repeats of what had become before.  As you completed each epic story, you were left with a ton of mini stories that did nothing to truly enhance your experience.  How many times can you take out contracts with the Dark Brotherhood or run numbers for the Riften Thieves Guild?

Some of the visuals were astounding.

As it turns out, you could do it forever.  The game had been programmed to supply an infinite number of these types of missions at random.  It sounds like it should be fun...but after you do it for a few months, you begin to realize how tedious the whole affair is becoming.

A long hallway...of doom...

Like all things posted on this blog, this is just my opinion.  Someone else might still be engaged in the game and completely enjoying it.  To them, I say...great!  Enjoy it for as long as you can...I kind of wish I could have enjoyed it longer.  But, ultimately, after I'd completed all the major quests, it just became a chore.

Yes, I don't mind playing female characters from time to time.
So, what started out as an ultimate addiction fell short.  I don't say that as a negative thing...because it was a really good addiction for a while...but I was sad when I realized that the adventure was over.  So, I washed my hands of the game and moved on to something else.  Eventually, I'm sure everyone will.


I suppose the introduction I gave to this blog leaves something to be desired. The point of this blog is not to pick up where the Crpg Addict left off. I have real reasons for doing it, and it's probably time to share what those reasons are.

At the age of 41, I decided that a career as a retail supervisor wasn't for me. It was what I had done for 15 long years, and I had no passion for it. In fact, I only got into the role because I needed a job when I was young and sort of got stuck there. It wasn't what I wanted to do...not by a long shot. In reality, I've always wanted to be a computer programmer. I had past experience as a programmer for a short time, and I have always been able to pick up computer languages pretty quickly. So, my wife and I made the decision that I should stop what I was doing (which was making me very unhappy anyway) and go to school to get a degree in computer programming.

Code in Visual Basic
At this point in my life, I know a couple of languages: Visual Basic (shown above), C++, Visual C# and Java. I'm still working toward the degree (with a year to go). This doesn't give me a lot of free time, but I still manage to find time to enjoy what I love. One of the things I love is CRPGs.

As a programmer, it seemed only natural that I write one of my own. It wouldn't be the first time...I've written CRPGs using engines created by other people (I have a couple of well-liked designs in SSI's Gold-Box Toolset called Unlimited Adventures, and a Hall of Fame persistent world that's still up and running in the original Neverwinter Nights by Bioware). In my youth, I wrote a couple of throw-away CRPGs in BASIC on my old Commodore 64, which are now (thankfully) lost in time.

So, I've been working on an "old-school" style CRPG for the past couple of months. It is purposely old-school in it's approach and graphics style. Called Lands of Adventure, this CRPG is one that I intend to release upon completion as freeware for the world to enjoy. The screenshots that follow are from the project at this early stage.

The amazing title screen

So, the purpose of this blog is not necessarily to play CRPGs (though, I will be doing that), but to simply talk about them and get feedback. Completing a game isn't as important as learning something from it.

Rolling character stats

Putting what I learn into words will make it stick better, and it might just entertain some of you. My schedule is pretty hectic these days, but I know I can manage a post or two a week, at least (probably on the weekends or in the evenings). I hope you will all join me for the ride.

An early version of the main interface. Very similar to SSI games of the 80s.

On occasion I will update the blog with my progress on the program as I finish it up. I might even ask some important questions of those who are reading it about what you look for in a CRPG. Who knows, maybe you'll even get a mention in the credits. Won't that be fun?

Early prototype of the psuedo-3D engine.  It's working, but hasn't been fully fleshed out.