Monday, January 23, 2012


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).


  1. I've never played the original, but I'm actually one of the few who enjoyed the PoR: RoMD game. *raises shield to deflect hurled stones* I think I'm just easy to please though, when it comes to RPGs. :)

  2. I agree, it is one of the great CRPGs, and I only hope the NES title doesn't completely ruin the experience for me. The NES game can't be that bad... okay, maybe it is bad in comparison, but I do plan to play it eventually.

    Someone else blogged about it while inspired to play through it when the CRPG Addict was playing it:

  3. I read that blog. The more the guy played it, the more convinced I became that it was every bit as terrible as I remembered. Seriously, it is probably the worst version of that game ever.

  4. Oh look, I already visited this blog. I don't know why I didn't recall. I noticed the NES version only has 5 characters. I wonder why the reduction... maybe it was due to the NES hardware, or small cart they used.

    I think the NES ports of the great PC games really are a step down, and it's easy to see why Japanese RPGs ruled the consoles. If only American developers took the time to build specifically for a console instead of emulating PC games.

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