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Default Is Pool of Radiance just unfair, or am I doing something wrong?

September 12th, 2016, 13:19
I decided that it's high time for me to actually try one of the gold box games. And what better place to start than with Pool of Radiance? (Actually, I looked it up to see if any other game in the series was considered better for beginners, but Pool was consistently getting recommended, and not just because it was first).

So after creating my starting party, consisting of 1 fighter, 1 thief, 2 clerics & 2 mages, I ventured out into the slums (after getting told by a clerk that that was where they wanted me to go). First encounter was a bunch of kobolds. Easy enough, the kobolds died and only one of my party members got wounded. Then I ran into a group of 6 goblins. They slaughtered my party. Fair enough, low level D&D can be really random, and 2 hits is often enough to down a character (even when you've set their stats to max…). Re-loaded, ventured a bit further in and instead of goblins, I ran into a boatload (I think like 15 or so) orcs, with no option to run. It was a massacre.
Next attempt… 15 goblins, of which 4 are "goblin leaders". Another massacre.
And another… 18 goblins, 4 leaders. Massacre.

So, am I doing something wrong here, or are there supposed to be orc/goblin death squads in the "beginner area"? Truth to be told, I'm really not enjoying myself once bit here.
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September 12th, 2016, 14:21
It's been way too long for me to comment substantively, other than the following:

1. it's a hard game - it was the first game i ever finished, and it took me 18 months of on and off playing.

2. there are easier areas and harder ones - can't remember if the slums is the first area. Crpgaddict did a detailed write up on his blog - you might want to check there.

3. you can hire mercenaries in Phlan to help you.

those are my off the cuff thoughts.
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September 12th, 2016, 14:33
According to the hint-book (that comes with the GOG release), the slums is the first area.
I might decide to try one of the mid-level Gold box titles instead. That's where I usually find AD&D to work best.
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September 12th, 2016, 14:44
Good to hear you're giving it a shot, Fnord, it's utterly worth it, a real classic, but it will take some time and investment to get a decent group going.

I'd recommend like Jaguar mentions, pick up a Hero mercenary for some extra assistance early and try save regularly after each gruelling fight. Be wary of the alignments of mercs however, as I vividly recall evil characters turning on the party and nicking the loot!

Try various locations to gauge your comfort zones (bits and pieces of Sokol Keep are possible early for example) and don't travel too far from the early quest safe zones.

I'd also be inclined to swap one of your mages for a fighter in the early phases as the higher THACO and more hp will help your party stay alive for longer. Your fighters will also get the sweep ability which I promise you, will win you fights faster if you position them correctly and you'll be mashing those gobbies in no time.
You can always swap in an extra mage later on, when your party has levelled a few times.

For me, I played Curse of the Azure Bonds first, which is much easier to start. PoR was a real awakening in terms of the early low level challenge. I've finished it twice on C64 and once on PC. Great game, enjoy!
Edit:
Don't give up too soon! You'll lose the potential powerful feeling of going Pool-Curse-Silver Blades-Pools of Darkness!
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Last edited by Pessimeister; September 12th, 2016 at 17:39.
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September 12th, 2016, 16:14
I thought Curse was super tough when I played but I beat it much faster in real life time. I strongly agree with Pessimeister that you should stick with POR - transferring your characters to the next game is lots of fun. I even played the standalone Hillsfar game (http://www.mobygames.com/game/hillsfar) back in the day, and got my cleric an extra level to transfer. i seem to remember Hillsfar was super tough for thieves and fighters.
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September 12th, 2016, 16:30
I did as you suggested and got myself a mercenary and replaced a fighter. Won my first fight, and then an orc death squad of more orcs than could be displayed on screen came and killed me It all feels so arbitrary and unfair.

There's a lot to like in PoR, but the balance of the combat encounters is not one of them.
Last edited by Fnord; September 12th, 2016 at 16:43.
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September 12th, 2016, 16:52
PoR is nice, but the interface is awful (there is no rest to heal, and you need to manually re-memorise spells after each cast). Mages will struggle throughout the game due to limited number of spells and low HP, I usually go with four fighters, one cleric, and one mage. Then I dual the fighters to mages and clerics in one of the sequels and roll fighters/rangers/paladins to replace the fighters.
Last edited by Zaleukos; September 12th, 2016 at 18:37.
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September 12th, 2016, 17:07
I think I'll officially drop the game. While I see a lot of potential, the unfair encounter design just frustrates me. And when I went to a tavern to rest, I ended up in a fight I could not avoid with some drunks, won the fight, and then the guards came and killed me for fighting.
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September 12th, 2016, 17:38
Hmm. Sorry to hear of the struggle not being to your liking. I remember the bar-fight theme being an "avoid at all costs" issue as well in the early phases.

However, they certainly don't make 'em quite like PoR anymore and these kinds of challenges are somewhat inevitable given the game's vintage.

Perhaps return to it after gaining a few more Goldbox yards in your cap? You might find you'll warm to it better after a time.
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September 12th, 2016, 17:58
I don't mind a challenge, but I don't feel that constantly being attacked by creatures that I really stand no chance against is "challenging", as it's not down to personal skill, it's just unfair.
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September 12th, 2016, 17:58
You need more Fighter power - dual classing is the key:
From Gamebanshee:
General Notes

There is little in the way of role-playing in the game, so the gender and race of your characters don't make any difference, other than the bonuses and restrictions listed in the manual.

Pool of Radiance uses a level cap rather than an experience cap. That means you should multi-class as much as possible, especially with spellcasters.


Party Composition

Thieves have little to do in the game (any door that can be picked can also be bashed or knocked), but there is one sequence where a thief is useful. So you should have one thief in your party, but no more.

Mages start out pretty weak (they can only learn one spell), and even at later levels they'll blow through their spells pretty quickly. That means you should definitely multi-class your mages, preferably with the fighter class, so the mage can use all equipment and wield a good ranged weapon.

A potential party is listed below. Races and genders are almost immaterial, so pick whatever you want (as long as the race allows for the class combo you're aiming for).

1 x F: Fighters can go all the way to level 8, and they probably won't hit the cap until near the end of the game, so it's useful to have one pure fighter in your party.

1 x F/T: Thieves don't do a lot in the game, and a pure thief is a waste of time.

2 x F/C: You're only going to get one healing spell in the game, and that's the wimpy "cure light wounds" spell, so it's useful to have a couple of clerics in your party. Clerics can only reach level 6, so there isn't any reason not to multi-class them.

2 x F/M: Mages only get one spell at level 1, and they'll only get eight spells at level 6 (their maximum), so you'll need to multi-class them so they can help you out in battle after they've expended their spells. Since fighters get to use the best ranged weapons, and since you probably won't want your mages to get into melee range, the fighter class is the best way to go.
Games out of this era are more challenging and are NOT balanced - you need to find a party that works. Re-roll often until the stats are good.
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September 12th, 2016, 18:03
Thats a very squishy group. Remember Mages always suck in the beginning of any game.

I played all the Gold Box games in a tank heavy group.

2 Plate Mail melee classes, 1 bow person, 1 Cleric (in plate) and 1 Mage.

I don't remember them being overly difficult for me.
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September 12th, 2016, 18:12
Games like this one made my hate for mage-types really pay off, I think I played this game with four melee, one ranger, and a cleric, if I remember right. Mages are just too wimpy for me.
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September 12th, 2016, 18:50
I think your party is alright.

The trick I vaguely remember involves your mages gaining an infinite supply of magic missile wands, looted off the corpses in the town guards fights.
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September 12th, 2016, 19:42
Because I was young and foolish at the time, I think I had 2 fighters, a fighter/thief, a thief, a mage and a cleric. Realizing that I was an idiot to include the F/T, I think I jettisoned him and had put in a paladin or ranger in the later games. I think you just have to save after every battle. (also, multiclass characters do run into level caps later per AD&D 2nd edition rules, so I never liked multiclassing.)

Also, I never did this, but I heard one key is to hire a mercenary, let them do all the fighting until they are close to death, then kill them and take their stuff. Seems kind of evil, but…
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September 12th, 2016, 19:55
I dont think you need a thief in any Goldbox game. I finished all the Krynn games and the FR (save the final battle of Pools of Darkness, but that wasnt due to a lack of thieves). And thieves are shafted in second edition, no extra attacks, limited armour and weapon options… The only one I used was the product of dual classing a level 14 fighter (one extra attack) in Secret of the Silver blades, and that was for novelty value.

Dual classing is sadly not available in PoR.

Originally Posted by Fnord View Post
I think I'll officially drop the game. While I see a lot of potential, the unfair encounter design just frustrates me. And when I went to a tavern to rest, I ended up in a fight I could not avoid with some drunks, won the fight, and then the guards came and killed me for fighting.
PoR is not hard per se, the issue is that the ruleset makes survival at level 1 random. Your characters can pretty much only take one hit. Once your characters hit level 2 things will be much easier. IIRC there is an easy boss fight in the beginning of the slums that will give you XP and magical items that you can sell to fund your training. Lvl 1 mages might want to prioritise the sleep spell (you can instakill disabled enemies). And buy the best armour you can for your fighter, it is very helpful against early enemies.

You should rent a room in the "hotel" (don't know what it's called). Avoid the taverns.

I like PoR, it has an open map and some choices and consequences (mostly of the exterminate or ally variety, but still). The game feels more like PnP than the other Goldbox games which are a lot more linear.

The most ridiculous part of the game is mid game, when you encounter huge groups of 50+ weak enemies (orcs and kobolds) in places like Podol Plaza.

And the (low, you will hit it in the second game of the series) level caps for non-humans is ridiculous, I was happy that Krynn didn't have that.

EDIT: You could hire level 4 mercenaries (heroes?), kill them and take their gear, but that is a tad cheesy.
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September 12th, 2016, 21:07
Originally Posted by Zaleukos View Post
PoR is not hard per se, the issue is that the ruleset makes survival at level 1 random. Your characters can pretty much only take one hit. Once your characters hit level 2 things will be much easier. IIRC there is an easy boss fight in the beginning of the slums that will give you XP and magical items that you can sell to fund your training. Lvl 1 mages might want to prioritise the sleep spell (you can instakill disabled enemies). And buy the best armour you can for your fighter, it is very helpful against early enemies.
Found a save-game editor for all the goldbox games. Might well just bump my party up to level 2 and try it from there. It might be cheating, but at this point, it's the only way I'll actually be willing to muscle myself through the early game.
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September 12th, 2016, 22:18
I was all excited at the title but then the comments were not making sense.

One of my favorite games was Pool of Radiance, Ruins of Myth Draenor.
So close, yet so far
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September 12th, 2016, 23:32
I love this game. I remember playing it when it came out as a wee lad and I just did a play through of it a while back for those nostalgia-inducing sound effects, graphics, and interface. (SSI Gold Box games in general were a huge part of my gaming introduction…)

As I recall having basic knowledge of D&D rules helped me a lot. Can dual and multiclass as people mentioned, a full-thief might not be the best bet. The slums are the "beginner" area - oh; crowd control is very useful in the beginning. As in "charm person" and "sleep" spells.

For leveling at those low levels you basically want mostly fighters and fighter-multis, maybe just one pure cleric and mage. You want that mage to know charm person & sleep.

You want to USE sleep every time you encounter a large group of low-level opponents, and afterwards you want to save and re-memorize the spell after every battle.

Things get easier at level 2 and much easier at level 3. Remember that hit points are random (at least I recall them being rolled randomly) - don't feel bad about save-scumming to get more hit points if you end up with, say, a mage with 10hp at level 4; they won't last long.

Good luck and enjoy the river pyramid.
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September 12th, 2016, 23:35
@Wisdom - I never knew that game even existed; that was a busy time in my life. (I got married in 2000; 2001 was busy!)

Looks like there is a wishlist to get it up on GoG. I want to play it now…

What made it a favorite? I think the best turn-based D&D combat ever got was the amazing (and still being modded!) Temple of Elemental Evil.
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