Pool of Radiance: Outdoors

Pool of Radiance has an explorable wilderness outside the city of Phlan. It takes a strangely long time to get to the point of seeing it, though: to reach it from your starting point in the “civilized” areas, you have to either find a way through the dangerous, monster-infested parts of the city, or take a boat — but boats won’t go past the keep on the river until you’ve cleared it. I probably took longer than intended to chase the ghosts out of that keep: to do it properly, you need to transliterate some nonsense words written in elvish runes, and I was unable to find an appropriate rosetta stone anywhere in the game. (You’d think that my elvish party members would be some help here, but no.) I eventually solved this puzzle only by noticing a certain pattern to the runes on the code wheel you use to produce the key word to start the game, and I suspect that the original game had a slightly different code wheel design that emphasized this pattern more.

You can think of Phlan as organized more or less like New York City: built at the mouth of a river, with the city hall and all the best shopping crammed into a Lower-Manhattan-like protrusion. Sokal Keep is more or less in the Staten Island position, and other boroughs lie across various branches of the river. As long as you’re in the bounds of the city, all you can see is the buildings around you. But PoR‘s wilderness (its upstate, so to speak) is different: it’s presented in an Ultima-style tile map view, with no obstructions to visibility or to travel (except for parts of that river). And, perhaps appropriately for someone who started out downtown, I don’t find it all that interesting.

I suppose it’s the sheer openness. With nothing to block your way, there’s no reason to draw maps, nothing to occupy your attention as you explore. You might as well sweep the width of the world in straight lines, exhaustively finding all the relevant features with minimal effort. I haven’t even been bothering to map the few caves and the like that I’ve found in the process of doing this, so out of mapping-mode am I. Also, the quests out here are extremely open-ended. I’ve been told to find a kobold tribe and prevent them from joining with the Enemy, and to do the same with a bunch of nomads. These could be anywhere, and I won’t know where until I bump into them. By contrast, most of the in-town quests have been quite directed. If you’re told to cleanse the Temple of Bane, there’s no real problem finding the Temple. It’s the single biggest structure in its sector. But nothing’s big compared to the outdoors.

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