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-   -   Revisiting the Gold Box games (https://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=18639)

Lurking Grue November 14th, 2012 18:58

Revisiting the Gold Box games
(Well, despite my best efforts this became a semi-rant, I guess, so I'm giving you fair warning: Old geezer semi-rant follows.)

I got a crazy idea a couple of days back to go revisit the Gold Box games after long last. The idea is to go through them all, although I'm quite sure I will run out of steam well before I make it through all of them, but at least so far, after three evenings of playing, I'm really enjoying myself and going onwards with vigour.

I know I should have started with Pools of Radiance, I know, but I thought I'd perhaps last longer if I started with one of the later games with their refinements to the engine (albeit small, but hey, every little bit counts). I also wanted to try a game I had not played before, so POR was out because of that too. So, with these requirements, I chose to go with the Dragonlance Trilogy (I never had any of the games in the trilogy back in the day), starting with Champions of Krynn.

After the expected steep learning curve (it's been ages since I last touched any of the Gold Box games, so I'm practically starting anew) and the stiff early game experience with the clucky interface and all, plus the technical hurdles (took me some head-scratching to get saves working, for example), I've really surprised myself how much I'm liking the game. Granted, one must approach these games with patience and a willingness to do handwritten notes and mapping, and be ready for a lot of page-flipping through the journal and/or manual, which all require a whole different attitude than modern games, but regardless I'm really, truly and honestly, having a lot of fun. In order to not just chalk it down to old grognard's nostalgia for the yesterdays, I wrote down some observations of the game so far.

It is interesting how much the game conveys with so little narrative text (due to memory constraints back then). I'm convinced that this is partly because the terse text is in fact a spark for your imagination and you (sort of) fill in the rest. Had there been more text in larger chunks, it would have felt more of a literary thing than it is now and I would have expected more from it, writing-wise etc. Now, they act like small spoonfulls of the story that give you enough to envision what the whole soup is like. Now, if that's not a limping parable, I don't know what is. Heh. Anyway, it's a good reminder, that CRPGs don't have to be PST-like digital books to get their point across and story told.

Turn- and party-based combat goodness! Oh, how I've missed true turn-based combat with a large party (6 members) against a large amount of enemies (10+) in RPGs. This is bliss! I'd have thought I'd get bored by the quite limited range of enemies (and gear) or become frustrated by the, erm, quirky AD&D 1st (2nd?) edition rules, but no. Despite these limitations and the quite primitive interface and graphics, I'm having a blast. It just goes to show, IMO, that with all their modern bells and whistles, most CRPGs nowdays are quite hollow and soulless. They've been streamlined to offer little to no challenge and to practically play themselves with the player just watching the pretty show, that their essence, the very core of their being, has been lost. That's how I see it, anyways. I can't otherwise explain how a c. 20 years old game which requires a lot of effort to play is so much more fun for me, than any multimillion dollar AAA title of the last 5 years or so. (OK, I might exaggerate a bit here…)

Also I find it sooo great, that this game has no influence of MMOs in it (e.g. there's no mention of DPS with weapons, there's a god-honest dice roll instead). I find it so refreshing that this game doesn't feel like it was designed by a committee, that it wasn't designed to have RPG elements, that it wasn't designed to have cool achievements and whatnot to collect, that it wasn't designed to be played by exactly everyone (even those who don't actually like rpgs), and that it's not holding your hand every step of the way (your character can actually die in this game, you know).

Oh well, despite my rant, it still is quite a lot of effort these games require to play them. I hope I last long enough to at least finish one Gold Box game before running out of steam. ;)

DArtagnan November 14th, 2012 19:46

I absolutely adore the Gold Box games :)

Pool of Radiance is in my top 5 of overall favorite games!

Thrasher November 14th, 2012 20:55

Yeah, they are right up there in my top ten. Playing through the whole Pool series was a blast.

azraelck November 14th, 2012 23:42

Interestingly enough, Champions of Krynn was my first Gold Box game, the second game I ever beat, and the first RPG I ever beat. Yet I still have not gotten around to playing PoR or CotAB, even though I have both now via the Gold Box collection that came out in the waning days of DOS. I've tried, but I've yet to get a working save folder up on either.

I attempted to start up Gateway to the Savage Frontier on my phone (gogo Android DOSBox!) but this is a genre that, at that time, required much more investment than a simple cell phone can provide. And with 10 min breaks and a 25 min lunch, it's not like I can play through it quickly like I can Phantasie III or King's Bounty (the original).

Myrkrel November 15th, 2012 01:10

Champions of Krynn was my first gold box game way back in the day too. I remember having a blast with it. Not sure why I never got around to the other gold box games. I guess back then I had little money and Ultimas, EoB or other games were distracting me. I really should play PoR and the other gold box games sometime.

DArtagnan November 15th, 2012 09:27

PoR represents the classic RPG experience for me. Though I played Bard's Tale and a few other RPGs before that, there's no doubt that PoR was the definitive one.

It created the foundation for my favorite kind of RPG - which is a good combination of free-roaming non-linearity, as well as a strong overarching story with a lot of interesting and unique locations. Also, it has just the kind of settings I love in my fantasy RPGs - like Sokol Keep, Temple of Bane, the Thieves Guild and that Library place I can't remember exactly.

The Journal Entry system was a great concept - and it made the game feel even more like a PnP game than had been seen before. The Journal had these nice drawings of dungeons and the usual stuff you find in PnP material.

Oh, how I love PoR ;)

Myrkrel November 15th, 2012 11:01

Sounds great DArtagnan - like something I really should play. I'm especially interested in games that evoke the feeling of PnP D&D.

Apparently some actual AD&D designers from TSR worked on the PoR scenario design, so that would explain why it feels a lot like a PnP game. James M. Ward, David Cook, Steve Winter, Michael Breault.

Lurking Grue November 15th, 2012 14:00

I had my first total party kill in Champions of Krynn. Well, actually I had two guys still standing, but the battle was utterly lost at that point so I quit and started over. Three times. These weren't all TPKs, mind you, but having even one guy dead was enough for a restart (I can't resurrect at this level and I don't think it is possible at the temple either). I really am rusty in my AD&D skills it seems. Come the fourth try, I managed to finally win the fight and the feeling of great accomplishment was great. I know I ain't seen nothing yet as far as fight difficulty goes, so this was a good reminder to get my act together, pronto.

If any are interested, this fight was the "Cleansing of the Evil Temple" in Throtl. The boss fight of that level, so to speak. Not too hard for AD&D veterans, I guess, but to me a group of (if memory serves) 3 evil clerics, 2 black mages, and a "shield wall" of Draconians was challenge enough. Unless my mages got the initiative, I was pretty much hosed. My fighters can't get to the casters on the first turn and if even one of them gets to cast Hold Person (or gods forbid Charm) on my front line, and they fail their saves, I am royally screwed. Fun times! Really, I mean it, it was loads of fun. I might have shaken my fist at my monitor and used quite harsh language at my pixel heroes, but in the end, I was having a ball.

I seriously recommend all of you, if you can, to get these old classics from the end of the lowest drawer, where they've been gathering dust for decades now, dust them off and give them a try. It's a blast.


Originally Posted by azraelck (Post 1061171043)
I've tried, but I've yet to get a working save folder up on either.

Don't know if this helps you, but to get saves working, I had to open the config file and manually change the file path (it was pointing to the wrong folder). If you're using DOSBox, like I am, remember to omit all the "extra stuff" from the file path and include only the "virtual" file path. E.g. I have all my old DOS games in E:\Old Games and the Champions of Krynn in E:\Old Games\cok. I have DOSBox configured to automatically mount E:\Old Games as C. So, the save file path in the config file for me is C:\cok. (IIRC)

blatantninja November 15th, 2012 15:21


Originally Posted by Lurking Grue (Post 1061170977)
It is interesting how much the game conveys with so little narrative text (due to memory constraints back then). I'm convinced that this is partly because the terse text is in fact a spark for your imagination and you (sort of) fill in the rest.

I have never played any of the GoldBox games (they are on the list though), but this is something I observed a long time ago when replaying the early Ultimas. I had assigned whole personalities to NPC's that have barely a few lines of text for instance. I think in many ways, the advancements in technology have really made it hard on developers to convey the same type of depth that was possible in the past through small bits of text and user imagination.

Each user had their own unique experience when playing these games. We would basically tailor it to our personalities and interests. New games have to either try to do that (and mostly fail as it is basically impossible to give enough options to satisfy everyone) or try to do a blank slate, and people complain that its not deep enough.

A good example in my opinion is Baldur's Gate. People often refer to your party members as meat puppets because there is basically no party banter or npc specific quests (not of any depth at least). I, on the other hand, fell back into old ways and really had built up personalities for each of the NPC's I gathered. I find it hard to choose different NPC's when replaying because even though its 99% a creation of my own making, I'll 'miss' those NPC's if I don't pick them up.

Its quite the conundrum for modern day game makers.

Carnifex November 15th, 2012 16:44

Yeah, I'm waiting for the day that the gold boxes are put out in a format that allows us to play them on current systems without having to jump through hoops to do so. Nothing quite touches just how good they were back in the day.


rune_74 November 15th, 2012 16:56

They are out in a format. Well at least some of them.


there is also this to get some cool adventures and stuff:


Carnifex November 15th, 2012 17:08

Yeah, I don't do editors or emulators, I'm just hoping with all the current hype about old school games that the gold box and similiar games would get some kind of treatment that would make them viable on, say, Steam or GoG. I'm an idiot as far as using a computer go, but my credit card works just fine! =p


Toff November 15th, 2012 18:54

I have such good memories of those games.

I tried to play them a few years ago again and sadly just couldn't do it. For whatever reason I could not get into them. I'm guessing its the getting old factor as I'm very picky on what games I play nowadays.

Thrasher November 15th, 2012 21:05


Getting PoR running under DOsBox was far easier than Mass Effect 2 activation using GamersGate. :)

Fnord November 16th, 2012 02:26


Originally Posted by Carnifex (Post 1061171122)
Yeah, I don't do editors or emulators, I'm just hoping with all the current hype about old school games that the gold box and similiar games would get some kind of treatment that would make them viable on, say, Steam or GoG. I'm an idiot as far as using a computer go, but my credit card works just fine! =p


Well, GOG uses Dosbox for their DOS games. If you want some help setting it up on your own, then I'm sure people here would be able to give you a helping hand. It is really not that hard, once you know the very basics.

Sadly it is unlikely that GOG (or steam) will sell the Goldbox games, as Ubisoft has the rights to the old SSI stuff, but Hasbro currently has the rights to all D&D games.

figment November 16th, 2012 03:22

I'm another that tried this not so long ago and failed. My missing game was Menzoberranzan which is much easier to deal with than PoR or CoAB as it was a much newer game. I totally couldn't do it and I decided to stop rather than soil my very fond memories of these games. I think I'd rather try the NWN port again because at least any faults I can blame on NWN or the port than on the source material.

I'll say I'm envious of anyone that can play these again as though it were the first time.

Thrasher November 16th, 2012 05:23

For what it's worth, below is my DOsBox config file for DosBox 0.73 on XP. I start the game with a shortcut with this in the target field

"C:\Program Files\DOSBox-0.73\dosbox.exe" "C:\OLDGAMES\POOLRAD\START.EXE"

and this in the start in field

"C:\Program Files\DOSBox-0.73"


# This is the configurationfile for DOSBox 0.73.
# Lines starting with a # are commentlines.
# They are used to (briefly) document the effect of each option.

#      fullscreen: Start dosbox directly in fullscreen.
#      fulldouble: Use double buffering in fullscreen.
#  fullresolution: What resolution to use for fullscreen: original or fixed size (e.g. 1024x768).
# windowresolution: Scale the window to this size IF the output device supports hardware scaling.
#          output: What video system to use for output.
#                  Possible values: surface, overlay, opengl, openglnb, ddraw.
#        autolock: Mouse will automatically lock, if you click on the screen.
#      sensitivity: Mouse sensitivity.
#      waitonerror: Wait before closing the console if dosbox has an error.
#        priority: Priority levels for dosbox. Second entry behind the comma is for when dosbox is not focused/minimized. (pause is only valid for the second entry)
#                  Possible values: lowest, lower, normal, higher, highest, pause.
#      mapperfile: File used to load/save the key/event mappings from.
#    usescancodes: Avoid usage of symkeys, might not work on all operating systems.


# language: Select another language file.
#  machine: The type of machine tries to emulate.
#          Possible values: hercules, cga, tandy, pcjr, ega, vgaonly, svga_s3, svga_et3000, svga_et4000, svga_paradise, vesa_nolfb, vesa_oldvbe.
# captures: Directory where things like wave, midi, screenshot get captured.
#  memsize: Amount of memory DOSBox has in megabytes.
#            This value is best left at its default to avoid problems with some games,
#            though few games might require a higher value.
#            There is generally no speed advantage when raising this value.


# frameskip: How many frames DOSBox skips before drawing one.
#    aspect: Do aspect correction, if your output method doesn't support scaling this can slow things down!.
#    scaler: Scaler used to enlarge/enhance low resolution modes. If 'forced' is appended,the scaler will be used even if the result might not be desired.
#            Possible values: none, normal2x, normal3x, advmame2x, advmame3x, advinterp2x, advinterp3x, hq2x, hq3x, 2xsai, super2xsai, supereagle, tv2x, tv3x, rgb2x, rgb3x, scan2x, scan3x.


#      core: CPU Core used in emulation. auto will switch to dynamic if available and appropriate.
#            Possible values: auto, dynamic, normal, simple.
#  cputype: CPU Type used in emulation. auto is the fastest choice.
#            Possible values: auto, 386, 386_slow, 486_slow, pentium_slow, 386_prefetch.
#    cycles: Amount of instructions DOSBox tries to emulate each millisecond. Setting this value too high results in sound dropouts and lags. Cycles can be set in 3 ways:
#              'auto'          tries to guess what a game needs.
#                              It usually works, but can fail for certain games.
#              'fixed #number' will set a fixed amount of cycles. This is what you usually need if 'auto' fails.
#                              (Example: fixed 4000)
#              'max'          will allocate as much cycles as your computer is able to handle
#            Possible values: auto, fixed, max.
#  cycleup: Amount of cycles to increase/decrease with keycombo.
# cycledown: Setting it lower than 100 will be a percentage.


#  nosound: Enable silent mode, sound is still emulated though.
#      rate: Mixer sample rate, setting any device's rate higher than this will probably lower their sound quality.
#            Possible values: 22050, 44100, 48000, 32000, 16000, 11025, 8000, 49716.
# blocksize: Mixer block size, larger blocks might help sound stuttering but sound will also be more lagged.
#            Possible values: 2048, 4096, 8192, 1024, 512, 256.
# prebuffer: How many milliseconds of data to keep on top of the blocksize.


#    mpu401: Type of MPU-401 to emulate.
#            Possible values: intelligent, uart, none.
# mididevice: Device that will receive the MIDI data from MPU-401.
#            Possible values: default, win32, alsa, oss, coreaudio, coremidi, none.
# midiconfig: Special configuration options for the device driver. This is usually the id of the device you want to use. See README for details.


#  sbtype: Type of sblaster to emulate.
#          Possible values: sb1, sb2, sbpro1, sbpro2, sb16, none.
#  sbbase: The IO address of the soundblaster.
#          Possible values: 220, 240, 260, 280, 2a0, 2c0, 2e0, 300.
#    irq: The IRQ number of the soundblaster.
#          Possible values: 7, 5, 3, 9, 10, 11, 12.
#    dma: The DMA number of the soundblaster.
#          Possible values: 1, 5, 0, 3, 6, 7.
#    hdma: The High DMA number of the soundblaster.
#          Possible values: 1, 5, 0, 3, 6, 7.
# sbmixer: Allow the soundblaster mixer to modify the DOSBox mixer.
# oplmode: Type of OPL emulation. On 'auto' the mode is determined by sblaster type. All OPL modes are Adlib-compatible, except for 'cms'.
#          Possible values: auto, cms, opl2, dualopl2, opl3, none.
#  oplemu: Provider for the OPL emulation. compat or old might provide better quality (see oplrate as well).
#          Possible values: default, compat, fast, old.
# oplrate: Sample rate of OPL music emulation. Use 49716 for highest quality (set the mixer rate accordingly).
#          Possible values: 22050, 49716, 44100, 48000, 32000, 16000, 11025, 8000.


#      gus: Enable the Gravis Ultrasound emulation.
#  gusrate: Sample rate of Ultrasound emulation.
#          Possible values: 22050, 44100, 48000, 32000, 16000, 11025, 8000, 49716.
#  gusbase: The IO base address of the Gravis Ultrasound.
#          Possible values: 240, 220, 260, 280, 2a0, 2c0, 2e0, 300.
#  gusirq: The IRQ number of the Gravis Ultrasound.
#          Possible values: 5, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12.
#  gusdma: The DMA channel of the Gravis Ultrasound.
#          Possible values: 3, 0, 1, 5, 6, 7.
# ultradir: Path to Ultrasound directory. In this directory
#          there should be a MIDI directory that contains
#          the patch files for GUS playback. Patch sets used
#          with Timidity should work fine.


# pcspeaker: Enable PC-Speaker emulation.
#    pcrate: Sample rate of the PC-Speaker sound generation.
#            Possible values: 22050, 44100, 48000, 32000, 16000, 11025, 8000, 49716.
#    tandy: Enable Tandy Sound System emulation. For 'auto', emulation is present only if machine is set to 'tandy'.
#            Possible values: auto, on, off.
# tandyrate: Sample rate of the Tandy 3-Voice generation.
#            Possible values: 22050, 44100, 48000, 32000, 16000, 11025, 8000, 49716.
#    disney: Enable Disney Sound Source emulation. (Covox Voice Master and Speech Thing compatible).


# joysticktype: Type of joystick to emulate: auto (default), none,
#              2axis (supports two joysticks),
#              4axis (supports one joystick, first joystick used),
#              4axis_2 (supports one joystick, second joystick used),
#              fcs (Thrustmaster), ch (CH Flightstick).
#              none disables joystick emulation.
#              auto chooses emulation depending on real joystick(s).
#              Possible values: auto, 2axis, 4axis, 4axis_2, fcs, ch, none.
#        timed: enable timed intervals for axis. (false is old style behaviour).
#    autofire: continuously fires as long as you keep the button pressed.
#      swap34: swap the 3rd and the 4th axis. can be useful for certain joysticks.
#  buttonwrap: enable button wrapping at the number of emulated buttons.


# serial1: set type of device connected to com port.
#          Can be disabled, dummy, modem, nullmodem, directserial.
#          Additional parameters must be in the same line in the form of
#          parameter:value. Parameter for all types is irq.
#          for directserial: realport (required), rxdelay (optional).
#                          (realport:COM1 realport:ttyS0).
#          for modem: listenport (optional).
#          for nullmodem: server, rxdelay, txdelay, telnet, usedtr,
#                        transparent, port, inhsocket (all optional).
#          Example: serial1=modem listenport:5000
#          Possible values: dummy, disabled, modem, nullmodem, directserial.
# serial2: see serial1
#          Possible values: dummy, disabled, modem, nullmodem, directserial.
# serial3: see serial1
#          Possible values: dummy, disabled, modem, nullmodem, directserial.
# serial4: see serial1
#          Possible values: dummy, disabled, modem, nullmodem, directserial.


#            xms: Enable XMS support.
#            ems: Enable EMS support.
#            umb: Enable UMB support.
# keyboardlayout: Language code of the keyboard layout (or none).


# ipx: Enable ipx over UDP/IP emulation.


# Lines in this section will be run at startup.

Lurking Grue November 16th, 2012 09:58


Originally Posted by Fnord
Sadly it is unlikely that GOG (or steam) will sell the Goldbox games, as Ubisoft has the rights to the old SSI stuff, but Hasbro currently has the rights to all D&D games.

Yes, this is what I remember reading as well. Very unfortunate and sad. There might still be old game collection discs (named DOS classics or something like that) still available from Amazon (etc.). That's where I got my copies, but it was years ago.


Originally Posted by Thrasher
For what it's worth, below is my DOsBox config file for DosBox 0.73 on XP.

I rarely make direct shortcuts to DOS games and instead boot up basic DOSBox and operate from there (with few DOS commands, like cd and dir). It's a bit slower, but allows me to keep my already cluttered screen free of extra icons. Thus, I have added to the end of the DOSBox config file, under [autoexec], the following lines.

mount c c:\foldername

This will automatically put me in the correct folder with the virtual drive C mounted under DOSBox when I start it. NB: Replace "foldername" in the code with the actual folder name, like "oldgames" or whatever.

Thrasher November 16th, 2012 10:58

I put all my shortcuts in my start menu. I prefer one click to play. My start menu almost fills the entire screen. :)

Pessimeister November 16th, 2012 11:05

Ahh, it's great to read a long rambling thread on these old favourites. :)

I'm also a huge fan and have completed them all - some several times. (PoR and Curse of the Azure Bonds…)

One of my mates is currently playing his way through all of the GoldBox games.
He's playing them in order for the purposes of party transfers and has only just recently finished Secret of the Silver Blades, a game that he once got bogged down in during the long linear snow tunnels segment.

I'm very much looking forward to his tantrums and wildly amusing antics when it comes to party building and survival within Pools of Darkness. :D

I also started a C64 game of Champions of Krynn a couple of summers ago. My idea was to finish it on Veteran with a party of standard characters (with no stat modifications). I'd played it back in the 90s but had my E side disk go bung and had to opt out for the PC version. But when I stumbled upon another copy of it at a Op shop sale (as you do…) I decided to have another crack at it. I made it as far as Neraka or Jelek I think, before getting distracted and running out of holiday time.
Well there you have it, now this thread has made me think about it getting it out again. ;)

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