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I want to go through the Gold Box games, but after reading quite a bit of material, I have a few questions before I start.

First, Pool of Radiance, or Gateway to the Secret Treasure? I know Pool of Radiance is the first one, but I've also been told that Gateway is a better point of entry in this series. Which one would you recommend?

Second, are humans the only worthwhile race? All of the other races (except maybe half-elf) look less appealing due to their level cap (which, I've heard, is easily reachable if you're importing your party).

Third, I've heard that you pretty much (at least in Pool of Radiance) have to fill your party with Fighter/Magic Users/Thief and have your entire party being multi-class in order to have a chance. How true is that? Are specialized party members useless?

And fourth, I also heard that you need all your stats cranked up to 18 in order to have a chance (again, in Pool of Radiance). This looks a bit overkill to me and kind of cheating. Again, mainly because I prefer my party members to be specialized, but maybe that's just me.

And yes, I do intend to use the Gold Box Companion.

Any other tips to give me?

Thanks in advance.
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POLE7645: Second, are humans the only worthwhile race? All of the other races (except maybe half-elf) look less appealing due to their level cap (which, I've heard, is easily reachable if you're importing your party).

Third, I've heard that you pretty much (at least in Pool of Radiance) have to fill your party with Fighter/Magic Users/Thief and have your entire party being multi-class in order to have a chance. How true is that? Are specialized party members useless?
These two things are at odds with each other.

In Pool of Radiance, it is to your advantage to use non-human characters and multi-class them, as you won't be hitting most of the level caps. (The one notable exception is Clerics, as half-elf clerics can't reach level 6, which is when a cleric gains the ability to destroy the weakest types of undead.)

Later in the series, the level caps make non-humans useless, and humans can't multi-class, though they can dual-class. (Note: Do not dual class at the beginning of Curse of the Azure Bonds or Pools of Darkness, as the game won't let you level up for a while after the start of the game, and when you do, you will lose most of the XP you got (since the game won't let you keep enough XP to gain more than one level). Yes, this is bad game design (and not player-friendly at all), but it's the way the game works.)

I wouldn't recommend trying to take the same party through the entire series because of this difference, and because the first game doesn't implement the Paladin and Ranger classes. Also, you don't get to keep equipment, except when transferring between the 3rd and 4th games (which is the one transfer that would be a good idea).

It's also worth noting that the game mechanics strictly favor male characters over female ones, as female characters aren't allowed as much Strength, and there is no mechanic to counter-balance that. (In this case, I would justify hex editing or using the Gold Box Companion to get around the sexest game; in the tabletop game, I would refuse to play if that rule is enforced, and would get rid of that rule as a DM.)
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POLE7645: I want to go through the Gold Box games, but after reading quite a bit of material, I have a few questions before I start.

First, Pool of Radiance, or Gateway to the Secret Treasure? I know Pool of Radiance is the first one, but I've also been told that Gateway is a better point of entry in this series. Which one would you recommend?

Second, are humans the only worthwhile race? All of the other races (except maybe half-elf) look less appealing due to their level cap (which, I've heard, is easily reachable if you're importing your party).

Third, I've heard that you pretty much (at least in Pool of Radiance) have to fill your party with Fighter/Magic Users/Thief and have your entire party being multi-class in order to have a chance. How true is that? Are specialized party members useless?

And fourth, I also heard that you need all your stats cranked up to 18 in order to have a chance (again, in Pool of Radiance). This looks a bit overkill to me and kind of cheating. Again, mainly because I prefer my party members to be specialized, but maybe that's just me.

And yes, I do intend to use the Gold Box Companion.

Any other tips to give me?

Thanks in advance.
Pool of Radiance is, in my opinion, the best Gold Box game by far. However, the UI is very clunky and can be a real challenge to those unfamiliar with it. The UI was greatly improved in later games. I would still recommend Pool of Radiance as a starting point, but be prepared that the UI will take some getting used to.

You don't need all multiclass characters with 18 stats to complete POR, it can be done with a more "normal" party. In fact (at least with the C64 version) the random encounters will be tougher (more opponents) if your characters have higher stats.

Also, regarding character transfer, note that all of the games are not one series. Gateway to the Savage Frontier and Treasures of the Savage Frontier are separate from the Pool of Radiance/Curse of the Azure Bonds/Secret of the Silver Blades/Pools of Darkness series. I believe you can only transfer characters within each series and not between the different series.
One other tip for Pool of Radiance specifically:
Try to find a place where you can rest with no risk of encounters. The fastest (real-time) way to heal in PoR is to rest for an extended period of time. Magical healing does not heal enough (Cure Light Wounds only heals 1-8 HP, with 1 being reasonably likely (12.5% chance if the RNG is good), and there are no other healing spells), and is therefore only useful for healing your most injured character before you rest for weeks at a time.

Later games in the series give you better healing spells (though it's not until the third game that you get one that I'd consider good, and there's still no multi-target healing), and the games introduced the Fix option to quickly (again, in real-time) bring your party back to full heath, but in PoR, you don't have those luxuries and end up having to rest weeks to heal.

Also, after you cast a spell, you need to go back into the menu to re-memorize the spell you just cast if you want to be able to cast it again after resting.

(Note that the default time you can rest is enough to recover your spells; it is not, however, enough to recover your HP.)
You don't have to have all your character multiclassed or have their stats all the way up. Most of the challenges comes from instant death abilities or level drainage, though I don't remember which of the FR series had a lot of undead. It's always a good idea to have at least one magic-user and one cleric. The other slots can be mixed/matched to whatever your liking. You can always replace any character in your party if you want to try someone new, but they will be at level 1. Generally random encounters reset in most of the games, so you can leave and come back to level up your porters-turned-heroes.
Start with Pool of Radiance. Any somewhat balanced party will work, even a party with only single class humans does work. My party consisted of two human fighters, two human clerics, a dwarf fighter/thief and an half-elf cleric/mage.
Well, time to make my party (I'll probably go for an all-human party with specialized party members (with one or two multi-class characters).

Sounds like the Gold Box games could use a Bard's Tale-style remaster.
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POLE7645: Sounds like the Gold Box games could use a Bard's Tale-style remaster.
Someone did do a remaster of Pool of Radiance as a module for Neverwinter Nights. If you're curious, you might want to check it out after going through the original game.
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POLE7645: I want to go through the Gold Box games, but after reading quite a bit of material, I have a few questions before I start.

First, Pool of Radiance, or Gateway to the Secret Treasure? I know Pool of Radiance is the first one, but I've also been told that Gateway is a better point of entry in this series. Which one would you recommend?

Second, are humans the only worthwhile race? All of the other races (except maybe half-elf) look less appealing due to their level cap (which, I've heard, is easily reachable if you're importing your party).

Third, I've heard that you pretty much (at least in Pool of Radiance) have to fill your party with Fighter/Magic Users/Thief and have your entire party being multi-class in order to have a chance. How true is that? Are specialized party members useless?

And fourth, I also heard that you need all your stats cranked up to 18 in order to have a chance (again, in Pool of Radiance). This looks a bit overkill to me and kind of cheating. Again, mainly because I prefer my party members to be specialized, but maybe that's just me.

And yes, I do intend to use the Gold Box Companion.

Any other tips to give me?

Thanks in advance.
I use to play all the gold box games when they came out decades ago but man this is a rough go getting started.

My first party I was only greedy with a few characters with stats rerolling for god stats. I bought chainmail and items so they could have what I thought was a fighting chance in thee "clear out the monster areas". Orcs, Goblins and Kobolds shouldnt be much problems right? Down goes half the party again. And again. And...again. To an eventual TPK.

So I rerolled my party and was greedy with all the party members as I could be for dmg, to hit, spell max. But again my 18(99) str fighter is MISSING a lot in combat. And these low level monsters are not missing. Suddenly these games I use to love are just tedious. I have to try and memorize cure wounds after every battle - most often twice. Hours have gone by and not even level 2 yet. Too busy going back to town when the cleric goes down or 5 of 6 are unconscience again.

Think I wasted my money. Use to love these but the RNG is whacked.
Hire a Hero. He can Sweep four goblins in one round and is an excellent meat shield.
Your own guys should use missile weapons, and when facing large groups, the Sleep spell.
AD&D was brutal at the low levels. Additionally, the Gold Box games were made by a tactical wargame company (SSI). You're expected to use tactics to win the combat. If you just rush in and blindly start swinging your sword, you'll probably die. Use bows to soften up your enemies, flank the survivors (big bonus to your chance to hit), and use choke points to limit how many monsters can attack you.

A single-classed mage who casts all his spells is useless. A multiclass fighter/mage can pelt enemies with spells, then continue pelting them with arrows. Elves get an accuracy bonus with bows and long swords. They can also cast spells in armor. An elf fighter/mage is very powerful.

The first level mage spell "sleep" will instantly incapacitate several enemies without a saving throw. This is the only reason why you have low level mages in your party. Low level clerics should memorize at least one bless spell. Casting this will help you hit in combat. You can cast it before or during combat.
Alright. I have now a simple and probably stupid question. How do you multiclass your characters?

Seriously, I couldn't find the option anywhere. I have my party with single class and I'm already running into some absurd problems (like thieves not being able to use bows) and I'm thinking about multiclassing some of my characters.

Is it possible with current characters? Or do I have to re-create them all over again?
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POLE7645: Alright. I have now a simple and probably stupid question. How do you multiclass your characters?

Seriously, I couldn't find the option anywhere. I have my party with single class and I'm already running into some absurd problems (like thieves not being able to use bows) and I'm thinking about multiclassing some of my characters.

Is it possible with current characters? Or do I have to re-create them all over again?
No, it is not possible with current characters. Multi-classing is only possible when creating new (non-human) characters, and is not possible for existing characters.

Dual-classing *is* possible for existing human characters, but not in Pool of Radiance. In Curse of the Azure Bonds, it is possible, but it is not recommended to do so right away, due to the fact that the game quickly traps you in a dungeon with no place to train, and also doesn't let you keep enough experience to gain mutiple levels. (I consider this bad game design.)

Edit: Also, the Eye of the Beholder series and Dungeon Hack don't implement dual-classing; I am not sure about Menzoberenzen (sp?) or the Ravenloft games. The Dark Sun games do, as do Baldur's Gate 1 & 2 and Icewind Dale.
Post edited December 23, 2018 by dtgreene
There is no dualclassing in Menzoberranzan and the Ravenloft games. You pick a class at character generation and cannot change it later, even if you play as a human.