Pool of Radiance: Talking Things Out Of Hitting You

Completist that I am, I’ve taken care to complete all my dangling quests before proceeding into the city’s climactic castle. This meant spending a considerable amount of time scouring the wilderness for the last few places of significance. The explorable part of the wilderness is only about 40×30 map tiles, which wouldn’t take that long to go through systematically if it weren’t for the fact that I keep getting interrupted by random encounters. Fortunately, I have one thing that helps speed them along: a character with a natural 18 charisma.

This was not deliberate on my part. Charisma is traditionally the least useful stat in D&D, and I probably would have treated it accordingly if the character generation system let me. But generation here is done the traditional way: randomly. The game makes it easy to repeatedly re-roll your stats until you get something you like, and one of my fighters just happened to get lucky in charisma at the same time as in the stats I cared about. The effect is that I can talk my way out of fighting a lot of the time, assuming that the fight is with something able and willing to talk. (A lot of the wilderness encounters are with wild animals. While I can imagine someone with a really high charisma dissuading a wild boar from charging by means of body language, it’s never worked for me.)

When you choose to “parlay” (sic) instead of attack, you get a choice of conversational tone: Haughty, Sly, Nice, Meek, or Abusive. You might think that choosing anything other than Nice would tend to give offense, but in fact different types of monster tend to respond well to different tones, which is a neat little way of adding a touch of personality to the different monster types. For example, gnolls, if my observations are at all accurate, only respect the Haughty, while minotaurs are grandstanding bullies who see anything but Meekness as a challenge to their dominance. Kobolds respond well to the Abusive approach — as the least powerful of the humanoid monsters, they’re probably so used to being pushed around that they see anything else as a sign of weakness.

The Sly tone is a special case: it’s an attempt not just to persuade the monster to not attack you, but also to subtly pump it for information. This is really only useful in specific puzzle-like situations, though; wandering monsters in the wilderness generally don’t know anything.

Anyway, it’s good to have alternatives to combat, especially at this late stage in the game, when combat basically doesn’t benefit me. Most of my characters are at their maximum experience level (a by-product of completing all the quests), and I have about as much money as I can carry (and nothing to spend it on). A lot of the pleasure in RPGs comes from improving your characters, and I’m running out of room for improvement. Good thing it’s ending soon.

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