I’ve talked a bit in this series about encounter design. The Pit of Moander works well for it’s lack of encounter design. Or, rather, a designed lack of encounters – specifically random encounters.


After completing Yulash and reaching the entrance to the Pit of Moander (see next blog post), I got to thinking about how to deal with this game’s money problem – in terms of the whole encumbered by cash issue. Aside from not giving cash encumbrance values, that is. And I thought of this based on Yulash, the Pit, and where we’re going to be going to next – Zhentil Keep.


After clearing Podol Plaza, I tried to get into Mendor’s Library again, only to not be able to get in due to failing my open lock and break down door checks. So, to grind up further, I decided to go take care of clearing Podol Plaza, and dealing with some of the remaining fixed encounters there and in Kuto’s Well, to grind some additional XP. While I’m doing this, I thought I’d talk a little bit about how I’m playing this game.


Once Sokal Keep has been cleared, now you’ve gotten the attention of the government of New Phlan – as the room behind the counselor opens up, and Junior Counselor Cadorna asks to meet with you. Cadorna is one of the few NPCs in the game with a truly unique character portrait – one that wasn’t created with the portrait system that you would have used to create your party when you started the game.

Cadorna – with both some bling and a turtleneck

Cadorna’s family has roots to Phlan long before it fell – and he’s got a job for the PCs – retrieve some treasure the family stashed before they had to flee. However, the Textile House – where the goods were stashed – is in the corner of town between Podol Plaza and Mendor’s Library, so that quest will have to wait until after either of those two quests.

However, in order to get to either of those quest locations, you’ll have to go through the city hex of Kuto’s Well.

Map of Kuto's Well from the hintbook.
Map of Kuto’s Well from the Cluebook.

This is the first hex we’ve entered thus far that doesn’t actually have a story hex attached to it – but in order to clear the town, we have to clear this area, though the party only gets the normal “Hex Clear” reward for doing that. Still, that’s generally enough motivation for the player to clear this hex.

By taking on this hex, the player is introduced to a few new concepts.  For starters, this is the first multi-layer dungeon the player has faced in the game thus far. Every other hex has been a single part of town – so there’s that.

The catacombs underneath Kuto’s Well

Second is traps. Several squares in the catacombs (until you take out the bandit leader – Norris the Grey) will result on you getting shot at if you pass through them – and you’ll have to pass through at least one of them to reach Norris – who can show up at multiple places (and will appear t whichever of those places you get to first.

I have mixed thoughts on this. On the one hand, I wish that if you were actively searching and had a thief in your party, you could have a chance to completely evade the ambush. Alternatively, if you weren’t evading the ambush by random chance, I would like the idea of placing the ambushes in locations where the party could maneuver around them, with the thief having a chance to spot what squares contained the ambushes. That would provide a way, in the context of this video game, to emulate how in a tabletop session the Thief’s powers of observation can permit them to get the drop on an enemy or to evade an ambush or patrol.

Norris the Gray – I’m not entirely sure what race he’s supposed to be.

That said, the fight with Norris himself and his men isn’t too hard of an encounter – provided you’ve kitted your spellcasters out with area of effect spells that can take groups of people out of the fight. I took Norris’ minions out with sleep spells and took Norris himself out of the fight by catching him in a Stinking Cloud, at which point we were easily able to dispatch him.

Beating Norris also gets another journal entry – which in turn provides some story content. Specifically, that the forces holding Old Phlan are not a unified front. There is a note from “The Boss” calling for Norris and his troops to assist in holding Sokal Keep, and Norris basically telling “The Boss” to shove it up his ass. Now, he didn’t actually send the message – but the reasoning for his not sending it isn’t clear.

However, clearing out Norris basically clears out this city hex, and allows you to return to town and collect your reward for pacifying it.

Oriental Adventures was a sourcebook for AD&D 1st edition that sort of re-imagined and re-interpreted the game to fit a setting inspired by various stripes of Asian cinema, with varying degrees of success. However, two things that book did moderately well was to present a setting in microcosm that used the mechanics and the book’s non-weapon proficiency system. What it didn’t do well was to create classes and races that were conducive for adventuring, and it didn’t create a setting that a standard adventuring party could be inserted into.


AD&D 1st Edition received a smattering of different settings. The longest lasting of those were the Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, and Dragonlance settings. However, a little less memorable one is Kara-Tur, which was born out of the Oriental Adventures sourcebook. While it would later be folded into the Forgotten Realms, on the outset it was very much its own thing. (more…)