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...

1 comment:

  1. Rolling characters is the same in the Eye of the Beholder games. They'll let you modify the stats to 18, or 18/00 for strength. On my playthrough of EotB1, I compromised by rolling somewhat decent scores for all, and then just upping the respective classes' primary stats to 16 or 17. ;)