Something of an epilogue to the classic "Gold Box" series of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons computer games, which includes titles like the original Pool of Radiance, The Curse of the Azure Bonds, and Secret of the Silver Blades, Strategic Simulations' Unlimited Adventures allows users to create their own scenarios and campaigns in a style similar to earlier professionally developed releases. An attempt to involve the game mastering aspect of pen-and-paper role-playing in a computerized version, this tool is designed to offer Dungeon Masters a high degree of freedom in drawing maps, placing creatures, and scripting NPC encounters. Though it still requires creativity, patience, and some tedious work, even novice computer users are able to build professional-quality, Pool of Radiance-style games with this tool.
For those who enjoyed the role-playing games from SSI's AD&D Gold Box series, Unlimited Adventures allows players to create their own similar games. (It is also required to play games created with it.) It was designed to create fantasy games, especially those set in the Forgotten Realms world.
For those uninitiated: in Gold Box games, the player typically controls a party of adventurers, leading them through cities and dungeons (presented in first person view), talking to people, finding treasure, buying things in shops, etc. and fighting combats. When combat begins, the screen switches to a top-down perspective where the player can control each of his party members while they fight the opponent. This is also how games created with UA look.
The basic elements of each UA-created game (called "design") are its "modules", that is, the "levels" that the player will be travelling through. The designer builds the modules by arranging walls and choosing floors & ceilings, and then comes the most important part - setting up the events. The events control everything interesting that happens in the game: combats, text messages, NPC joining the party/leaving it, the party visiting a temple/shop/tavern etc.
Art is an important aspect of any game. UA comes with a lot of art, depicting various monsters, characters, items etc. but it is possible to import your own art.
The designer can also edit the monsters. There are a lot of monsters (such as goblins, dragons or zombies) and humanoid enemies (brigands, bandits, evil mages etc.) and characters provided by default, but the designer can change their name, appearance and attributes.
Forgotten Realms: Unlimited Adventures (aka FRUA or UA) is a fantasy RPG editor based on the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D or D&D2) rules and set in the Forgotten Realms universe. FRUA comes with a built-in scenario, Heirs to Skull Crag, but was really created to allow you to construct your own adventures similar to the "Gold Box" games released by SSI in the past. With the integrated toolset, you can build your own adventures, create worlds and stories for other players to explore, or even edit the built-in module to your liking.
Heirs to Skull Crag is the built-in scenario and offers a small taste of what FRUA can offer in terms of level design and storytelling. You begin as a small group of adventurers in the town of Skull Crag (so named for the ominous cliffs that surround the keep above the town) that has just safely delivered a caravan. You'll find a plot unfolding with a fallen Roadwarden, power-hungry nobles, and a missing heir along with relentless monsters at every turn.
Despite Heirs to Skull Crag, the main pull of FRUA is in the editor. It does indeed offer "unlimited adventures", but there are some inherent restrictions. The modules (adventures) you create can contain up to 4 big overland maps and 36 dungeon maps. Each is customizable with random encounter zones and random resting events. This may seem like a lot. It is, but in huge campaigns, you may reach your limit, especially since the dungeon maps must be split between dungeons and towns. Not all towns must be on a dungeon map, however. To save resources, there is an option to make a town out to be just a rest/shop/information center instead of an integral plot device (this also eases the burden on the player that just needs to rest, heal, and save). Also, each map is restricted to about 8500 text characters (letters) in a maximum of 100 events. If these limitations hold you back from creating your unlimited adventure, there's still hope! Utilities exist that can grow the allotted space for certain game elements.
The beauty of the editor lies in the power you have. In essence, you are the Dungeon Master and you control where the party goes, what they must do, and what rewards they get. You can share your scenarios online and pick up ones that others have made as well. A basic knowledge of the AD&D rules will help immensely due to the overwhelming amount of resources you have to construct your story. This knowledge is not a requirement, since either way it's fun to tinker with the editor. It is very helpful, though. Certain characteristics of the combat system and skill usage are hidden and are only known by either a good feeling for the AD&D rules or a long read through the rather large manual...
Some quick hints: THAC0 means "To Hit Armor Class Zero", in essence representing, among other things, the fact that a low armor class is better, warrior classes (fighter, ranger, paladin) can get 18(xx) strength where 18(00) is the highest, strength determines melee hit ratio and damage, dexterity determines ranged hit ratio, only human characters can get to the max character level, heavy armor is bad for magic-users, bastard swords are great against giants, hold person only holds 'people', zero hitpoints is unconscious, negative hitpoints is dying (will lose 1 hp per round), and -10 hitpoints is dead (bandage in combat before this happens).
In terms of graphics, FRUA does well for its time. The combat sprites really show their age and the 3D view is simplistic, though where artwork is used, you can tell that it's professional. Just browse through the art choices in the editor and you'll see that this game brings in AD&D's strong background in detailed portraits. If these don't fit your custom scenario, then you can make or import your own pictures in the editor or with utilities found online. The user interface is always a plain, boring gray.
The music in FRUA is practically nonexistant. The intro music is among my favorites of all games, but other than that, there is no music (though you can play a theme sound effect as an event). Most sound effects are sudden, loud, and often annoying. Every enemy dies with the same loud groan and every footstep in a dungeon comes with a resounding and quite annoying thunk.
Most of the gameplay is stiff. Moving through towns and dungeons is easiest with the arrow keys and downright terrible with the mouse. Finding your way around a town can be just as tough as in a dungeon since there's no map coloring or labeling. Overland travel is a little better with the mouse, but is pretty bland (you just move a little circle around the pretty map). For some reason, encumbrance is almost a hidden attribute (no telling the max you can carry), yet is very important. A low encumbrance will let you move further in a round and is hard to maintain since even money is heavy (thankfully they use platinum!). One nice touch is the visual cue of your name turning purple if you have enough experience to train up to the next level, but organizing your party's equipment and some other actions mean constant clicking to sort back and forth through various status, equipment, and spell screens. I was reminded in the forums that the command 'Fix' in the encampment menu saves you this trouble when resting and casting healing spells.
In all, Forgotten Realms: Unlimited Adventures is a detailed campaign creator that will let you express your design creativity. The flaws it does have do not hold back the enjoyment that you can have when playing a very well made scenario. Turn the sound off if you have to, but give it a try if you think you have what it takes to be the Dungeon Master.
Part of the Dungeons & Dragons games Series
People who downloaded Unlimited Adventures have also downloaded:
Treasures of the Savage Frontier, Secret of the Silver Blades, Pool of Radiance, War of the Lance, Thunderscape, Pools of Darkness, Spelljammer, Ultima 7: The Black Gate
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