We wrote this walkthrough using version 1.10 of the game (the version in the Forgotten Realms Archives).
We used the "veteran" (default) difficulty setting, unless indicated otherwise. If you want to change the difficulty setting, then you can do so in the encamp menu under alter->level. From what we can tell, the difficulty setting will change the hit points and damage of enemies, but it won't affect savings throws. So if you're having problems with Beholders disintegrating your characters, the difficulty setting won't help you very much.
Major areas in the game are covered on their own pages. Some of the smaller areas are covered on overview pages.
If you import your party from Secret of the Silver Blades, then your characters will start out 1 xp shy of level 16, and they'll have all of their equipment. If you create new characters, then they'll start out around level 14 with +2/+3 equipment. For some reason, while you could find a lot of +5 gear in Secret of the Silver Blades, Pools of Darkness is mostly limited to +4, so importing a party will put you in much better shape than creating a new one.
In Pools of Darkness, characters can reach level 40, but the racial limitations from the earlier games still stand (where dwarves, for example, can only reach level 9 as a fighter). That means you don't want to have any non-humans. If you used non-humans in Secret of the Silver Blades, then we'd still recommend that you import your party -- for the equipment -- and then create new characters where necessary. The only exception to this is the thief class, where non-humans can reach level 40. We used a dwarf fighter/thief in our playthrough, and while a character like that won't kill you, you'd still be better off with a human.
Outside of Dave's Challenge, where you apparently need a thief, a fighter, a cleric, and a magic-user, there aren't any checks in the game for the gender, race or class of your characters, so you can use whatever mix you like best.
Here's the party we'd recommend:
- Human Paladin
- Human Ranger
- Human dual-class Fighter / Thief
- Human Magic-User
- Human Cleric
- Human dual-class Fighter (or Ranger) / Magic-User
The more dual-classing you do, the more difficult the game will be at the start, but the more powerful you'll be at the end. Since the ending is tough, we'd recommend a few small headaches early rather than a big headache late.
If you avoid as many random battles as possible, then your party will probably reach around level 35 (25 for the dual classes) by the end of the game. If you seek out random battles, then you can take all of your characters to level 40.
Running the Game
Pools of Darkness is an old DOS game, and it won't run without help on a modern computer. We used DOSBox (http://www.dosbox.com) when writing the walkthrough. It emulates an x86 computer, and it allows old games to not only run, but run at the right speed.
We installed Pools of Darkness to c:\oldgames\pools.
Then we added the lines
mount c c:\
to the DOSBox configuration file (which means they're executed each time you run DOSBox).
Finally, we created a batchfile called pools.bat in the c:\oldgames directory, which included the lines
If you follow our example, then you'll just need to start DOSBox and then type "pools" to start the game.
Magic-users can use slings now, giving them an easy ranged attack.
Helms were added, and all characters except for magic-users can wear them.
You won't find a vault in any of the towns, but eventually you'll meet Elminster in Limbo, and he'll store things for you. Still, you'll probably have to leave behind almost all of the money that you find.