Saturday, September 29, 2007

welcome extra life/final score listeners!

Hey, if you just listened to The Final Score Podcast, welcome welcome welcome!

That is, welcome if Scott Johnson actually did a Final Score the week I'm in Hawaii AND he put on my review capsule of Pool of Radiance. If he did, it should be October 6th or so right now and I won't have a chance to welcome you as it happens. There is a chance it will air on October 13th, in which case I'll probably write a similar welcome entry then. If you didn't hear about this blog from Final Score, then how in the world are you reading this right now? That's strange and mystical, man.

Anyway, I'm probably on vacation right now, so if you're just stumbling onto this, please check out the quest so far. Get engrossed, if possible. Most of all, let me know you've been here.

Friday, September 28, 2007

PoR: entry 9 (kobold sweat)

We decided to stick around with the nomads for a few days. Maybe our lives will turn out better for doing so. Maybe we'll all meet special nomads and turn away from a life of violence.

But whether or not kobolds are evil, there are a lot of them in the wilderness, or at least a lot of them hanging around the outskirts of the nomad camp. Will violence never cease? Alas.

Strange that I'd yearn for a stoppage of violence in a video game, but these battles are taking a lot out of me.

So anyway, the kobolds came and we and the nomadic villagers fought them off. Kobolds are easycakes, but the sheer volume still knocked out half the party. Eventually, we picked up on a really great strategy: simply hide behind the nomadic villagers. Use them as human shields. It's almost like a hostage situation.

The reward was pretty nice for getting rid of the kobold scourge. Maybe we'll have to go on a shopping spree. On our last adventure we had to stop picking things up because we were so strapped with money. Maybe a nice crossbow is in order.

So, being too rich for the nomad town, we went off into the wilderness once more. We may have actually found the kobold complex spoken of by the dragon in the form of a cave, or rather, a series of caves hidden in the hills directly east of the forbidden pyramid. The caves are guarded by what I think I remember is called a "kobold horde." The horde can be dispatched, but is voluminous enough to weaken the party extremely before entrance into the caves.

We decided to enter the "small cave."

That's pretty much how the story ends right now. Not much has happened, I know, but the flood of kobolds in the front gate tears us to shreds, disabling us from handling the horrors within. We've actually adventured deep into the cave and found some pretty sweet shiz, but because of certain losses, I might just play those parts over again, correctly. Specifically, there's a trap in the beginning of the cave that I step into every time. I know of no way around and I can't avoid it by searching for it, even though I "know" it's there (but I suppose nobody in the party would know unless they themselves possess the special "save" and "load" spells. I'll probably have to prepare myself with a stupid "detect trap" spell. Do I even have one of those? Blast!

Anyway, as a preview of what may be coming in the future, my extracurricular activities in the cave included a new hot NPC, bribery, twisted set-ups, winged creatures, giants, prisons and most of all, death (I'm hoping that next time it doesn't come to that). Here's what I mapped out of the cave:
I'm also messing with photoshop a little for this scan to make it look like I drew it right on the blog itself. I can't preview it properly before I publish, so we'll see how it goes.

I'm going to Hawaii to work a little on my zen next week, so it may be a little while before I post again. When I'm all relaxed and zenned out, we'll be just focused enough to kill a bunch more living beings that probably don't deserve it. Happy hunting all!

Friday, September 21, 2007

PoR: entry 8 (roll the bones)

So I'm in an interesting blogging situation now. It's been so long since I've written (and played for that matter), that I can't be certain about the facts from these screen grabs. We'll make do. Or maybe make up.

So in my Phlan travels I happened to walk into a buccaneer's den of some sort. It just had a bunch of bad guys chillin' and drinkin.' Great place to pick a fight, which I did when I opened the door into some guy's face. After I dueled him (and won, yay!) I had the curious option of actually hanging out with the "monsters." I'm still finding it weird that instead of going off to some other country to fight a war with a distinctive enemy, I'm actually beating up on my neighbors who are either a) another race b) of a poorer class or c) a and b. It just doesn't sit right. I seriously swear sometimes I think I was put on this earth just to make the people close to me miserable.

Okay, so I decided to hit the graveyard for some serious skeletal experience points. I decided it might be a good idea to bring along another cleric just for this purpose. Since I was going to be using this character in the short term I figured I may as well split his/her class to make him/her more rounded. He/she would probably never level up since it takes so much longer for split classes to earn the necessary experience for all the classes. Apparently you can't create more than six characters when you have a party of six organized. It automatically deletes the new character. Very frustrating. So after much tribulation in the character creating department I finally created a new temporary cleric/figher/magic-user. In these dark times, I needed him/her to be a guiding light to my party. For this reason I decided to name him "Pilgrim." Not only is he a religious trailblazer, but I also named him after Simeon Pilgrim, who has been a terrific guide to me thusfar through succinct, spoiler-free comments to this very blog. I guess Simeon celebrated a birthday this month. Happy birthday Simeon!

On to the graveyard. We encountered a couple of armies of skeletons and even though skeletons seem to be slightly tougher than standard orcs and goblins, they were easier to dispatch thanks to Chlorine and Pilgrim's one-two punch of turning the undead.

The really big battle came with the slaying of the giant skeleton. So far the giant skeleton is the coolest of all the iconed monsters. The giant icon looks like a malnourished stormtrooper from Star Wars. The first time we encountered this thing, it dispatched most of the party, but this time we really slugged it out. Pilgrim is really showing his stuff in battle. He may be stuck with lower experience, but he can already perform nearly any task any other member of the party performs. How cool is it to fight a giant skeleton? How come this is the first time in any medium that I've come across such a thing? So is it like Goliath's ancient re-animated corpse or something?

Although Dead Goliath was a pretty tough stale cookie, I'm amazed at how much experience we all received. I'm guessing this is a point in the game where the programmers' kind of decided to throw us a really huge bone. Quite literally. I swear as I typed that first sentence I didn't realize there would be such a perfect groan-inducing pun.

In the crypt we also found a unique marble chest. The prompt came up on the screen asking whether or not to open the box. It's like, hell yeah, like any box will ever hurt us! I'm sure I'll be eating those words when in the future some box eats one of the party members. Anyway, this sucker was packed with 10 gems and 12 pieces of jewelry. I sold much of it, but am keeping the rest close to me for emergencies and for when I better figure out how to get swell appraisals for my goods.

After getting back to town we also yielded incredible level-ups! Chlorine is now a level five! ("Take it to level five." "Level five?" "Level five!" Name that movie!) Silver the Enchantress and Rexbasior are level fours. Disposo raised up as well. Tragically, Disposa missed out on the fun in order to make room for Pilgrim. Even Derfindor finally upped both his fighter and thief class. Hey, even Pilgrim raised levels on two of his classes.

So really quickly, we hit the countryside again looking for the mysterious "kobolds far to the east." I've said it before: the east is pretty big. Presently we are holed up in a strange nomad camp in the middle of the countryside. The chief has been pretty darn friendly. They've already made us the guests of honor at the village feast! We may hold out for him to offer up his daughters as well. He's also been warning us of kobolds in the area. Ha! Kobolds! When have they ever bothered us (besides a month ago or so)? We've freaking killed Goliath again! Bring it.

Tomorrow, we wander aimlessly toward Koboldtown!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

a brief explanation

I know it's been a while since my last post, but rest assured, a new one is coming very quickly. I've had images from my latest Forgotten Realms foray ready to go for a good four or five days now, but haven't been able to get a free moment at the computer this entire time. Let me rephrase that. I haven't gotten a free moment at my computer at home (I'm at work now). Actually, more accurately, I haven't gotten a free moment at my computer at home where I wasn't just idly browsing youtube.

A new post is coming, but I probably should reveal that my girlfriend, with her infinite heart, bought me Metroid Prime 3 for the Wii yesterday. I fear that much of my video game-playing time will consist of that game. Don't worry. I will still update Blogging Forgotten Realms as regularly as possible. However, many of the posts may inexplicably reference Metroid.

So keep reading... both of you.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

PoR: entry 7 (at what cost, victory?)

So I didn't decide to do the dragon thing. So what? I thought I'd at least check out the textile district. Funny. Didn't see any textiles at all.

Derfindor finally came in pretty handy as a thief/fighter. Just in time, too. After beginning the game with so much promise, the guy has been pretty darn lax lately. He's been missing easy shots, going unconscious all the time and as a result, he still has yet to level up once. Anyway, he came in handy because we came across a thieves' guild under a well that was only accessible to thieves themselves. Some of the other members of the party tried climbing down, but they merely fell to their deaths. Derfindor wasn't even 100% successful every time he tried. I still don't know what thieves are really for, but this was at least one reason to have one around.

Anyway, the thieves guild led me to a pretty hellish battle with some kind of witchy hobgoblin thing. It took several tries to eliminate her(/it?) and I had to do it with absolutely no random monster encounters. At this point in the game, the random monster encounters are ridiculously difficult. Behind locked doors after the witch battle, was the servant of Cadorna that we were able to free from shackles. We had access to the guy before the big battle, but we needed to win the key to his shackles through the battle. His name is, get this, "Skullcrusher." Of course the dude's not jokin' around. He was able to become a great NPC in the party and his 39 hit points were extremely helpful. We weren't finished after freeing him, however. Skullcrusher was bloodthirsty to eradicate the hobgoblins and he led us to conquer another room populated by a giant ogre and dozens more underlings. It took a little while to reign in his enthusiasm. I gave him our silver two-handed sword and he just rushed into battle, taking six or seven hobgoblins with him. Of course that meant that ten or so had enough time to surround him and beat him senseless by the end of the fight. As a result we had try again by giving him a long bow so he could easily pick off the guys the magic squad put to sleep. All of us felt pretty cheated that we did the work while he got the easy kills, but his stamina was really invaluable.

We were able to secure Cadorna's box after this other big battle. I decided not to open the box, but I did restore the game and peek inside without saving. Quite impressive. About 1000 gold, 8 gems, 4 jewels and then some weird stuff. The weird stuff consisted of a jeweled dragon statuette, a jewel-studded bowl, a gold wand and gauntlets of ogre power. I readied Skullcrusher with the gauntlets and he became much stronger. What a find! Alas, I made the decision to go with the path where I don't open the box. Maybe it doesn't matter so much, but I'm going to try to have integrity in this universe. I know it makes a huge difference in Ultima. Of course the more and more I play Pool of Radiance, the bigger the gap in similarity between the two franchises gets. Maybe playing with integrity in this game will make up for whatever integrity I lack in real life. I guess I'll need a million more hits on this blog for that to make any difference.

So after all was conquered, I realized several horrible things. First, was that Rexbasior and Disposa were dead! They had fallen in battle and couldn't get up. To make matters worse, I noticed Derfindor's armour class had gone down about five notches. I guess he readied a cursed necklace I found amongst the hobgoblins or somewhere. Cursed items can't be taken off, as is the case in many other popular games from this era, like Rogue (I'm putting the link to the popular ASCII version of Rogue, but the version I remember playing at my friend Pete's house as a kid was the Mac version that had mouse-interface and 8-bit graphics (why is there so little info about this version on the web?)). To make matters worse, Skullcrusher just up and left to go "serve his master" or some crap like that. And he took our silver bastard sword, silver two-handed sword and our long bow! Boo! Ultimately the reward for bringing the box back was 16 measely gems that we got lousy appraisals for. We were able to resurrect Rexbasior and Disposa with the money, but Derfindor's necklace remained cursed because of lack of funds.

At this point in the game, not only was i annoyed by the hardship my party was experiencing, but I was seriously peeved at the lack of banks in the land. According to the exchange rates, 200 copper is worth one gold, 20 silver is one gold, 2 electrum is one gold and one platinum is worth 5 gold. That pretty much means that copper isn't worth picking up. It also means that you don't have access to how much money you have at-a-glance; instead you need to count several different types of coins. Also, you are actually encumbered by coins, so if you're carrying too many around, you can't pick up other things. Could we please get a checking or credit system of some sort in Phlan? Thank you. Apparently the templars were really awesome at a medieval system of credit. Saw it on The History Channel.

It was a good time to leave the city, so we took a stroll. Just north of Phlan we found a weird pyramid-type structure. We...isn't it weird how I'm using "we" so much? My characters are really becoming a part of me. Anyway, we decided to go in even though it had nothing to do with any quests we were on and had no idea what was inside. I gulped when I discovered that the overhead view was disabled inside the structure and I'd really have to do some serious mapping for this puppy. It's the works too: repeating coordinates, teleportations, tight corners, thin walls. Egad! A few entries ago I joked that I didn't want to bother mapping out the Old Rope Guild. No doubt that everyone familiar with the game who read my complaint, actually laughed out loud when they read it. Obviously this game will have a tonload of mapping "opportunities." Anyway, this is what I was able to get done of the pyramid:
Hopefully you can kind of tell what's going on here. The adventure begins in the long-running north-south hallway with two teleporters in the western doors. The circled symbols and letters designate where the teleportations are from while the normal letters and symbols designate where they teleport to. The single lines through walls are secret doors. I got really lost in the area south of the displacer beasts. Speaking of, those suckers are wicked hard. I didn't even knock one over. I can't really figure out what the purpose of the pyramid is, but my best guess is that it's the home of some crazy, reclusive mad wizard we're gonna have to take down. I totally expect the wizard, but what I don't understand are the random groups of high-level adventurers just wandering the hallways. Every so often, we meet up with a "group of level-5 fighters" or "level-7 thieves" or something like that. It gives me the impression that they're adventurers like us on some kind of quest, but despite the ability to parlay with them, it says they "smile at us" and begin attacking. Is there a reason for this or are they just competitive?

After getting lost, I nearly despaired myself to go way back to an earlier savegame, but I bumped into this old guy who was tunneling out. He gave me a heckuva lame conversation. I thought for sure I was supposed to kill him just like all the other weird people I met in there.

On the way home, I crossed the river and entered Phlan on the north side. There I was able to check the graveyard out as a sort of "exhibitionary tale" -- one that I'd check out, but wouldn't save. I was able to fight this really cool giant skeleton and I barely beat him with only Rexbasior remaining -- yeah, the guy who died first on our last big quest. Rex secured a wonderful treasure with thousands and thousands of XP. I was never able to make it out of there alive though. I restored the game. Hopefully I'll be able to pass the area again and it will be much easier with another cleric to take care of the undead.

Back in Phlan I finally scraped enough money (3500 gp) to remove that stupid cursed necklace of Derfindor's. It's not a total loss, though. I was able to make a little dinero selling it.
As you can see, a ton happened during this entry. Sorry if it was just an episodic re-capping. I'm hoping that future entries will have more room for commentary. It's starting to get really really good, and like I said, playing is funner than writing.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

PoR: entry 6

Ding dong the crazy drooling Norris the Gray is dead!

Since my posts have been getting so long, I'm going to try to post more frequently, so that I have less to update each time. Hopefully it will help. Last night's action was extremely fruitful though, so today's entry may not be as short as future posts. I'll be straight with you however... in the beginning the blog was the fun part. Now the game is the fun part.

Oh, and I'm also smallifying the images this time around. You may not be able to read them as well, but they screw with the text when they're that big and close together. Keep in mind that you can still click on the images and they should be brought up to full size.

Anyway, as mentioned, Norris the Gray is dead! He's that weirdo who lives under a well with a bunch of kobolds and lizard men and is wide-eyed and drooling in his picture (see entry 4 for his image). His defeat was all made possible by Chlorine's amazing "hold person" spell. It's pretty much a concentrated sleep spell. At one point everybody in Norris's gang was either asleep or in a magical hold, so we pretty much capped 'em all off execution style!

I sure hope I'm fighting for the right side.

The most significant thing about this sewer victory was the awarding of a journal entry! Just last entry I was wondering if they'll ever come into play, and just a few hours later I gleefully opened up The Adventurer's Journal to entry 50 (it was pretty dull, actually).

So, like, yeah, that's not all! I also went off to Podal Plaza and easily found the auctioning of the forbidden weapon mentioned in the last entry. I broke up the auction and had to fight... seven orcs. Yeah, I'm glad they didn't throw anything hard, but c'mon! If the weapon is really all that powerful, you'd think more than seven wussy orcs would be hanging around. I mean the next bid was to be 5000 gold pieces for cryin' out loud! After I dealt with the orcs I didn't collect anything close to that amount. Were these orcs just delinquents bidding for fun? It's a good thing I killed them, because if they had the winning bid, they wouldn't have been able to pay.

I need to get back there though. Somehow I need to save up my money and see if I can buy the weapon. I may have to forgo a few level ups. The weapon better compensate for that.

For now I've decided against cleaning up Sokol Keep. I built another cleric to help out and everything, but after one more sojourn there I figured that that's not where I'm supposed to be. I noticed that I can parlay with the undead there and the game actually allows me to speak a word to them. I have no idea what to say and I imagine I can avoid fighting altogether once I know what to talk about.

My next commission doesn't involve the town clerk. The clerk directed me to apparently an even higher-up bureaucrat by the name of Councilman Cadorna. He looks real smooth. I think he's got something up his sleeve. I think he's evil. The textile complex I think is overrun by some pretty vicious monsters -- scorpions and the like. I might want to avoid that place.

That leaves the dragon's quest mentioned in the last entry. I'm guessing that Diogenes is good, so I'll trust him for now. Dragons tend to be symbolic of that which must be overcome, but at the same time, most talking dragons are usually good. Examples include the dragon in Dragonheart, and the one in The NeverEnding Story.

Incidentally, has anybody actually read the book, The Neverending Story? Obsidian, from Commissioned Comic and Extralife Radio once claimed it to be just about the best book he has ever read. Could it be true? I do know the guy really LIVES his AD&D and as far as I know, he's the only person I've ever known to actually read the book.

Anyway, there's also Smaug from The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkien literally wrote the book on this stuff. That thing was a baddie. Maybe I will eventually eliminate Diogenes.

So yeah, in all the excitement, Disposo and Disposa both achieved enough XP to level up. Perhaps the names I gave them encouraged them to work extra hard. Now we might be committed despite their designations. I only upgraded Disposo just to be safe (and I'm poor).

Monday, September 3, 2007

PoR: entry 5 (new faces, new places)

Meet the newest members of the crazy Phlan-venturing hodge-podge party from Hell and Heaven: Disposa and Disposo. As you may assume from their names, I'm not planning on keeping them around for the long haul. They're really only traveling spellbooks. As for their statistics, I just had to make sure that their intelligence was up to snuff for proper casting. To be honest, I haven't figured out how important intelligence actually is. The instructions say that intelligence affects how much a character can memorize, but magic-users seem to always start with four spells anyway. A nice little table on page 36 of The Adventurer's Journal also explicitly spells out the acquisition of new spells as experience levels progress. Perhaps when I created these two I should have kept rolling in hopes of getting their hit points better than 3 and 4.

Not that it matters, because they served their purpose quite well. My final two rooms in the Phlan slums, the guard rooms to the hemp market, are now completely cleared! Having the ability to cast four sleep spells which could potentially affect up to nine monsters each is quite an arsenal. One was filled entirely with Gobins, while the other was filled with Orcs.

I was slightly disappointed in what lay beyond the "end commission" rooms. Beyond the Orc room was another room of "monster leaders" having a conference. Unfortunately (actually thankfully, since I was so weak from the previous battle) they were anti-climacticly easy to exterminate. They left behind some gems and jewelry which I'll hold onto for now and hope to get a better price for them when I need them to level up later at the stupid "Phlan University" that tells me to go kill monsters and then tells me I need to PAY them for the honor and experience. Read the previous two entries for my whining about paying for level ups.

Anyway, thankfully I finally got the clerk to tell me a new mission, which I haven't looked at since I captured the image of it. Hmm. Podal Plaza, eh? According to entry #37 of The Adventurer's Journal, Podal Plaza is three large city blocks to the west of the civilized area of Phlan. I wasn't planning on peeking at the journal entries before it actually tells me to, but I'm a sucker for looking at maps. I'm also pretty miffed that I haven't had to bust out The Adventurer's Journal at all so far. What's up with that? I assumed that during gameplay I'd be referring to it quite a bit.

Have you ever played Wasteland? That question is sort of rhetorical because there really aren't that many people reading this to respond right now and also if you're reading this, you've probably played it. Remember the paragraphs book in that game? I thought The Adventurer's Journal would be a lot like that. That game referenced a new paragraph with just about every progression. Perhaps Wasteland just put more emphasis on having some kind of outside medium to better broaden the gameplay. Perhaps Pool of Radiance is just way way bigger and I haven't even gotten to the first real plot-point. Today a friend of mine familiar to PoR talked to me about the Blogging Forgotten Realms project and asked me, "Does that game even have an end?" I don't actually know the answer to that question. If the game doesn't have an end, at least this blog will have plenty of staying power.

So anyway, we've got to hit up Podal Plaza, the sewer gang in Kuto's Well and our other upstanding commission is to clean up Sokol Keep. All these areas are places I'm frankly not good enough to conquer. I've experimented with Sokol Keep a couple of times. I can "warp" there by a boat directly from the civilized area. It's populated by the undead. As a cleric, Chlorine can turn away some of the undead during battle. I'm wondering if I need to pull out clerical versions of Disposa and Disposo for the conquering of the Keep.

Another curious commission I'm supposedly working on is to find books about the history of Phlan before the fall. I imagine such information is available at Mendor's library if I could figure out how to get in. Once again, why is the dirty work that the powers-that-be want me to accomplish simply library-card related? I shouldn't have started that sentence with "Once again..." since I've never really mentioned library work before. I guess it just goes with my paranoid suspicion that the government of "civilized" Phlan really isn't that legit and they need me to trespass into a legit book source. Ever read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Once again, rhetorical. It's the book the movie Blade Runner was based on. There's a weird scene in the book that isn't in the movie where our hero cop ran afoot of another police station that he didn't even know existed and they didn't know his existed. It's pretty surreal. It's like they both had their universes and they thought they knew what was going on, and they thought society revolved a certain way; but one or both were deceived.

So with all this existential stuff going through my head, it was nice to actually leave the city. Turns out the whole game doesn't take place in Phlan! Ever see Dark City? Ok, moving on...

Anyway, life outside of Phlan is... kinda hard. One giant snake can ruin lots of lives. Those snakes are life-ruiners. It'd be real nice if I had a bigger overhead map view of the countryside. Mapping out the countryside will probably be just as annoying as mapping out the Rope Guild.

So I met this weird dragon in the mountains named (I think) Diogenes. A talking dragon? Now I've seen everything. I assumed that dragons have a strict tendency to be creatures for the slaying. The dragon gave me a quest. I foolishly saved right after i got the quest instead of right before. I was hoping that I could see what would happen if I handled the situation differently instead of just going right for the quest. Could this beast be more vague about where I'm supposed to find this den of kobolds? "Far to the East?" If this world is anything like Earth, "The Far East" is, like, half of the freaking world. It's doubtful I'll get all the way through the wilderness at this stage in the game.

On my second sojourn outside the walls of Phlan I actually royally pounded on quite a few monsters. Unfortunately, I realized too late that Chlorine didn't just get knocked unconscious by a giant snake; she freaking got killed. for the first time I sought out the healers for a resurrection. It was a bit pricey. Not quite worth the experience points from my bushwhacking adventure. Going back to an old savegame was quite in order.

After all this, I was able to still level up Silver the Enchantress. Level 2 spells seem to be way lamer than level 1. What's up with that? We've got detect invisibility, invisibility, knock, mirror image, ray of enfeeblement, stinking cloud and strength. The invisibility spells seem like they might be cool, but apparently you only stay invisible until you attack someone and I haven't come across anybody remotely invisible enough to want to use "detect invisibility" on them. Stinking cloud sounds kind of nice, but the sleep spell seems to be more effective. Ultimately I went with learning mirror image which I guess makes decoy characters for monsters to attack. Hopefully it will be worth what I ultimately paid for it.

I'm leaving you with a series of random images of my misadventures in the wilderness. I'll have plenty of time to explore them more fully later, but I am slightly nervous. Right now, my party is so weak, I can't fight off any of these things I'm dealing with right now. I might have to wander around for a few weeks getting enough experience to actually do some damage. We'll see.