Pool of Radiance

aka: Pool of Radiance: A Forgotten Realms Fantasy Role-Playing Epic, Vol. I
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Description official descriptions

Located on the northern shore of the Moonsea in Forgotten Realms, Phlan was once a flourishing trade city. However, lately monsters began settling in it, gradually turning whole districts into ruins. Only New Phlan remained under human control, but its inhabitants are afraid to venture into the monster-infested areas. In order to clean the nearby Barren River and rebuild Phlan, local authorities spread rumors about alleged riches hidden somewhere in the city. A party of adventurers, attracted by these news, sails towards Phlan and accepts the quest.

Pool of Radiance is the first adaptation of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons role-playing system in a computer game format. In the beginning of the game the player can use a pre-made party of six characters or create each of them from scratch. Six races (human, elf, dwarf, gnome, halfling, and half-elf) and four classes (fighter, cleric, wizard, and thief) are available. The player can tweak the attributes of the characters and assign a moral alignment to each one.

Exploration of the town and hostile areas (dungeons) is viewed from a first-person perspective in a pseudo-3D world. Enemy encounters are random and take place on separate isometric combat screens, where player-controlled party and enemies take turns fighting each other. Experience points are awarded for defeating enemies, and characters level up after having accumulated set amounts. Fighters gain more attacks, thieves become proficient in backstabbing, while clerics and wizards can memorize more spells to cast before they need to rest. Non-human characters can also "multi-class" (learn the abilities of another class) when leveling up.

The NES version was substantially different from other versions. It removed references to the Adventure's Journal and some of the more complex features of the computer versions, like different currency units. Battles were significantly reduced in size, the graphics were overhauled and redesigned so that the game could be controlled with a control pad, and music was written for it. A randomly generated dungeon feature was also removed.


  • プール・γ‚ͺブ・レむディをンス - Japanese spelling
  • ε…‰θŠ’δΉ‹ζ±  - Chinese spelling (simplified)

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Credits (DOS version)

42 People · View all

Scenario created by TSR, Inc.
Game Created by
  • SSI Special Projects Group
Additional Programming
Additional Art by
Sound Effects
[ full credits ]



Average score: 78% (based on 24 ratings)


Average score: 3.6 out of 5 (based on 99 ratings with 9 reviews)

The proud progenitor of the infamous AD&D Gold Box series

The Good
Pool of Radiance was the first game in the long-running 'gold box' series by SSI, the first successful attempt to truly bring the rules and worlds of AD&D to the PC. It was close enough to the rules system to be familar to those who played the AD&D paper and pencil role-playing games and did most of the number crunching behind the scenes, like any good conversion should.

Pool of Radiance allowed players to create most of the basic AD&D race/class combinations, which, once you start talking split classes for demi-humans, does add to a considerable amount of variety in the party. Because SSI wanted people to be able to import their paper and pencil characters, there are options to modify a recently created character, altering the stats. While this can be used for its intended purpose (or to cheat and make every stat an 18), it also allowed one to create a character exactly like you wish, saving the time re-rolling one's character over and over. As a finishing touch, you could even design how your character looks in combat by playing with various color settings and body/weapon types. These levels of personalization not only made it easier to pick what character was which in combat, but made the characters much more personal and the player's 'property' than simply pixels on the screen.

The game engine established in this game was done so well that it survived years with only minor tweaking. Similar to games like Might and Magic and Bard's Tale, you have a small first-person view in the upper left corner of the screen, a party status along the bottom, and a menu/descriptive box on the right. The design of the walls and other physical structure in the first person view are often well done, despite the necessary 'flat' appearance of the time and this window would switch to show you the creatures you encounter/people you are talking with. The fact that you only switched out of this particular setup for combat kept the pace smooth and even.

The combat mode was very innovative for its time. Instead of the standard text messages sweeping by as character abstractly move and attack, you are presented with a full tactical engine which included missile weapons, magic, facing, and morale. Your chosen-designed characters could flank, setup a defensive line behind a choke-point, and generally do whatever you'd want your characters to do in a paper and pencil game. The freedom, detail, and creativity put into this part of the engine is part of what made the Gold Box games what they are.

The story was rich enough to keep one entertained and the meat of the game was non-linear, as you were presented with 'bounties' for doing certain deeds in and around Phlan. You could choose the missions as you saw fit and return to incomplete quests at your leisure. While there was a basic structure to follow if you wanted to progress from easy to difficult missions, there was no stopping you from risking life and limb on something too difficult.

The Bad
Being a game of the period of infamous copy protection schemes, everytime you played the game you had to enter a code word from a code wheel. Though not the most annoying of set schemes, it became a tedious excercise none-the-less.

To conserve disk space (remember the days when text was a major consideration in disk space?) and further increase the copy protection, this game, like Wasteland and others, incorporated a hardcopy journal from which one read most of the major scenes and conversations. This occassionally upsets the pace a bit (you're talking to an elven lady, suddenly it tells you that 'you record the rest of the conversation as journal entry #43', sending you flipping through a book rather than being immersed in the game), and also makes re-playing the game a little difficult if you can't find the journal. On the plus side, instead of a whole notebook of jotted notes, you can simply write down the journal entries you've read and refer to them if you ever need a password, etc.

The engine couldn't always do what the AD&D universe wanted. A perfect example is a fairly early encounter with Trolls. As most AD&D players know, trolls regenerate if not burned. Unfortunately, there's no way to burn the trolls' corpses, so one finds themselves in a frustrating battle with constantly resurrecting trolls until one realizes that one needs to stand on their corpes to prevent resurrection. A little goofy and not entirely logical. Such things happen few times in the game, but one can easily chalk it up to the limitations of the engine and the computers they ran on.

The Bottom Line
A true classic CRPG that set the standard for many years. It's wonderful customization, adherence to AD&D rules, and story make it a game worth playing by serious RPG fans. Lead a party of six adventurers on a quest to restore the glory of the fallen town.

DOS · by Ray Soderlund (3501) · 2000

Probably the best AD&D game of the classic era of any platform.

The Good
In the 80s, TSR's Dungeons & Dragons game hit its high point in pop culture. The RPG was riding high on its popular Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance settings which were spun into popular book settings. Plus with a cartoon series, toy line and even a mention in the begining of the movie E.T., D&D had never been so mainstream.

Pool of Radiance was the first serious AD&D computer adaption, several video games had been made on early systems like the Intellivison but none were really faithful to the rules or had much in the way of RPG aspects to the games. It also was set in the most popular AD&D setting, the Forgotten Realms, so the game flew of the shelves in the late 80s and for good reason, this is an excellent game.

In it you start off with a 6 player party (up to 8 with NPCs) of your standard D&D classes who are out to seek their fortune in the rebuilding of the city of Phlan. Which was once a great city state before being sacked by the army of Tyranthaxus decades earlier.

The game revolves around a series of 'commisions' given to you by the council of New Phlan to do various deeds for them, usually the clearing of blocks of the monster infested city. You have the choice of following up on these commisions or setting out on your own to do your own thing. This non-linear aspect of the game is one of its strongest appeals for me.

The game takes place mainly in city blocks using the standard 1st person perspective of the time popular in other RPGs like Bards Tale or Might & Magic. There is a small wilderness area to explore too, which is traveled in a top down view of the map. Combat was an attempt to simulate the use of metal minatures that could be used with the paper and dice game. It was quite an improvment over other combat systems of the time with many tactical aspects. You'd move your characters around the combat area, performing flanking manouvers and defending bottlenecks or setting up an safe area for your archers to attack. Combat was the usual way to solve problems but there was the occasional option to complete objects non-violently or at least use stealth before you butchered your enemies.

The game also has a good plot as you unravel the mystery of who is "The Boss"? As you explore the city you will find scraps of information on him and the history of the city and the strength of his realm. That mystery aspect really enhanced what was your standard "kill Foozle" RPG plot.

The Bad
As much as I love this game, it is not without its flaws. The biggest one was how some battles involved your party fighting a virtual army of bad guys. Often dozens and dozens of orcs and goblins came at you. This made for many very long battles. I recently played the NES version of this game and they appeared to have cut down the numbers in it to make the battles less time consuming. The NES version also eliminated the multiple units of coins making it all gold, with the computer versions dealing with piles of coppers, silvers, gold and platinums is a bit unneccessary.

Being faithful to the D&D rules meant that spell casters were useless for a long time as they could only memorize a few spells and had a limited selection to use, most people got around this by making them multi-classed fighter-magic users.

Another beef with the faithful rules is how in order to determine which items are magic you have to cast a detect magic spell, if you didn't have the spell ready then you had to haul around a lot of gear or risk losing a precious magic item.

There is also a rather deadly battle with Trolls and Ogres in the early part of the game which is very challenging for new party. Be sure to stand on the squares of the fallen trolls or they will regenerate.

Do the limitations of the time, much of the plot in the game is propelled by text read in a seperate manual. While I don't have a problem with those old paragraph books, a cut scene or two would really have enhanced the movement of the story.

The Bottom Line
While not the best old school RPG, it is definatly the best of the batch AD&D games by SSI, and definatly worth playing after all these years. Despite its flaws, some of my favorite CRPG moments come from this game.

DOS · by woods01 (129) · 2001

A good adaptation of the computer game

The Good
Pool Of Radiance is based on the game made by SSI for personal computers. Although the graphics for the NES version are not as stunning and colorful, the gameplay is much the same as the computer game. The adventure unfolds as you complete the various quests, though not all of them are essential to your success, but you do gain treasure and experience as you complete these quests, which is vital to your success. Also, the battles are turn-based, giving you time to plan your strategy.

The Bad
One problem with the game is advancing in level. Unlike most RPGs, you can only advance in level at the Training Hall, and doing so costs a not insignificant amount of money (1,000 gold, to be precise), which can be a problem early on in the game when your party may be short on cash. Also, the game doesn't tell you when you can level up--if you don't have the game manual (which I didn't), you just have to ask to train and hope for the best.

Although the turn-based battle style is nice, the larger battles later in the game can be somewhat tedious, especially when your party gets confused/charmed/drained or what-have-you, and can only stand around and look cute while getting pummeled by monsters.

As mentioned before, the graphics are somewhat poor, seeming mostly to be in shades of olive green. We know even an 8-bit system can do better than that, but apparently the designers of this cart didn't. More color would have been helpful.

The Bottom Line
If you are interested in an epic RPG that is less battle-oriented than Final Fantasy, then this is a good choice. This game is more or less adventure/puzzle, with quite a few interesting plot twists. Not the highest-ranked game on the list, but better than most people give it credit for.

NES · by Christopher Sutler (6) · 2004

[ View all 9 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
Are you sure there's a PC-88 version of this game? RetroArchives.fr (708) Jan 26th, 2022
CCS64 loading Ossie1972 Jul 20th, 2010
Manual? SharkD (424) Feb 23rd, 2010



This was the first Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D) game ever created by the software developer Strategic Simulations, Inc. (SSI). AD&D was originally a popular fantasy role playing game system developed by a company called TSR, Inc.. SSI adapted this role playing system to the PC in 1988. Pool of Radiance was also first of the many AD&D games to follow that are set within the Forgotten Realms. The game was so successful that it caused TSR to write a novel based on the story in the book.

In the same year, SSI released two more of these newly developed AD&D PC games: Heroes of the Lance and Dungeon Masters Assistant Volume 1: Encounters.

Copy protection

This game used 2 forms of copy protection: Code Wheel lookup at start-up and a Journal to read important text passages.

Cover art

The game box's cover features a painting by artist Clyde Caldwell, also used as the front cover to the 1989 novel of the same name as well as to the 1988 RPG module "Ruins of Adventure" inspiring both.

Monster portraits

Many of the monster illustrations of the Macintosh version can be found in one of the AD&D 2nd edition accessories, the Monstrous Compendium Volume One.

Other ports

An Atari ST conversion was advertised, but is generally considered vaporware, the strongest indication probably being the lack of an import option of Pool of Radiance characters in the sequel (Curse of the Azure Bonds) which the other versions offer.

A port for the Apple IIGS was also advertised, solid evidence that it was released has yet to emerge.


  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 12/1999 - #49 in the "100 Most Important PC Games of the Nineties" ranking

Information also contributed by Indra was here, Pseudo_Intellectual, William Muir and Yakumo .

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Tony Van.

PC-88 added by Trypticon. Amiga, Commodore 64 added by Rebound Boy. Macintosh added by Andy Voss. Apple II, PC-98 added by Terok Nor. NES, Sharp X1 added by Unicorn Lynx.

Additional contributors: Unicorn Lynx, Indra was here, Jeanne, Trypticon, Patrick Bregger, Rik Hideto, ZeTomes.

Game added December 1st, 1999. Last modified September 19th, 2023.