Curse of the Azure Bonds

So, going straight from the first game in the Pool of Radiance series to the second, what’s changed?

Well, first and most obviously, it’s higher-level. PoR started you out with freshly-minted level 1 heroes and guided them to level 6, 8, or 9 (depending on character class), at which point additional experience points simply pile up, any additional leveling deferred until you import the characters into CotAB, which takes you as far as level 10, 11, or 12 (again depending on class). CotAB doesn’t even support low-level player characters; newly-created ones start at level 5.

Higher levels means more complexity: more new spells, more new special-case rules that kick in at high levels. A level 10 Thief, for example, has a chance of successfully casting spells from a scroll — another of the less-imitated D&Disms. And apparently the developers felt that if they were throwing in new complications, they might as well let us have dual-classed characters (a concept distinct from multi-classed characters, although as a child I found this all too arcane to follow), as well as a couple of subclasses.

Back in first-edition D&D, it was apparently considered important that every player character be essentially one of the four classic base classes (Fighter, Magic User, Cleric, and Thief), but subclasses provided some variation. Thus, they’re the forerunner of what later editions would call Prestige Classes and Paragon Paths, although most of the specific first-edition subclasses are simply base classes today. 1The exception is the Illusionist, which isn’t even a class any more. Illusionist spells simply got folded into the regular Magic-User spell list. Ranger and Paladin, the subclasses of Fighter, are the only ones available here: there’s no Illusionist, Assassin, or Druid, although the manual lists a few basic Druid spells because Rangers can learn them. This means there are six classes available, exactly the right number to have one of each in your party (much like in Might and Magic). This is what I’m trying first, even though the result seems kind of lopsided to me: three fighter-types and only one mage. I suppose it’ll smooth out a little once two of the three fighters start learning spells. If not, I can always swap out the vanilla Fighter.

In presentation, the game isn’t much changed from PoR. The window borders are different now, PoR‘s twisted-cord motif replaced with fractured stone. The ludicrously crude customizable character portraits are gone (so no more putting the bearded dwarf head on the chainmail-bikini chyk body), but the customizable character icons are still around. The horrible UI has some small improvements: for example, multiple spell-memorizations are now displayed stacked. (That is, if you memorize Magic Missile three times, it’s listed in the spell-selection menu as “Magic Missile (3)” instead of occupying three rows.) Probably the biggest improvement is the Fix command, which you can activate in camp to make your Cleric(s) cast Cure Light Wounds as many times as possible, then rest up to memorize it again, and repeat the process as many times as necessary to get the entire party to full health. This is a process I went through countless times manually in PoR. So it’s good to see that the developers were actually paying enough attention to how people played to see a pattern worth streamlining. It sure isn’t the improvement I would have asked for first, though.

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1. The exception is the Illusionist, which isn’t even a class any more. Illusionist spells simply got folded into the regular Magic-User spell list.

4 Comments so far

  1. Jason Dyer on 17 Feb 2010

    dual-classed characters (a concept distinct from multi-classed characters, although as a child I found this all too arcane to follow)

    As an adult I still find it too arcane to follow. Could you explain?

  2. paul on 17 Feb 2010

    Well, it’s pretty intuitive: demihumans can have two jobs simultaneously, while full humans have to give up one job to take on another. And you can’t wear any of the clothes you wore at your last job or you will get in trouble; at least until your pay grade is higher than it was when you quit. Just like in real life!!!

  3. Carl Muckenhoupt on 17 Feb 2010

    Multi-classed characters advance in two or three classes simultaneously, sharing experience points between them. Dual-classed characters start as one class, then, when they’ve advance in it as far as they care to, switch to a different class, starting over from level 1. (It’s a little like changing classes in Wizardry.) There are rules governing what attributes and limitations of the original class still apply; apparently you lose level-dependent abilities (such as spells) of your original class until you reach an appropriate level in your new one.

    Rather arbitrarily, only humans can dual-class, whereas only nonhumans can multiclass.

  4. Jason Dyer on 17 Feb 2010

    I suppose it is best just not to fight the madness.

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