FRC1: Ruins of Adventure (1988)

Once upon a time, SSI made a series of Dungeons & Dragons videogames collectively referred to as “Gold Box” games because their boxes were, well, gold. They were a mix of 3D exploration and top-down tactical combat with good graphics for the era (and they generally hold up pretty good today). The first, Pool of Radiance (1988), set in Forgotten Realms, was a big hit. Lots of people explored the pixelated ruins of Sokol Keep and the curiously named city of Phlan, and get warm, nostalgic memories at the mention of the name.

This is FRC1: Ruins of Adventure (1988), a squarebound D&D adventure boasting the same cover painting by Clyde Caldwell as the Pool of Radiance computer game. It sort of bills itself as a companion to the videogame, a way to translate its action to the tabletop, but apparently SSI actually fashioned the videogame out of the tabletop adventure framework (which does adhere in curious regular ways to the computing constraints of the videogame, with maps on 16×16 grids—they feel fine in the game but weirdly claustrophobic in the book). There’s a bit more in the book, too: a Zhent outpost, several lairs of monstrous humanoids I don’t remember from the game and a thri-keen settlement that definitely wasn’t there. There’s lots of background material and lore, too, of course, it being a Forgotten Realms product. And because it is such a loyal reconstruction (or progenitor), it functions as a pretty thorough tip book for the videogame too. Is it good though? I dunno! It’s weird, for sure. It is kind of nice to see a D&D product that isn’t obviously panicking about how videogames are going to destroy the tabletop industry, at least? And it is a nice way to revisit the game without having to figure out how to make it run on a modern machine. Ruins of Adventure is a terrible name, though.

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