Pool of Radiance, released in 1988, was the first of a long series of tactical role-playing games that shared a common engine that came to be known as the "Gold Box Engine" after the gold boxes in which most games of the series were sold. It was well received with the accolade of being "the best RPG ever to grace the C64, or indeed any other computer." As the first game in the series, Pool of Radiance was to be surpassed in terms of features by later Gold Box games. Party characters could only be selected from among the classes of fighter, cleric, wizard, or thief, and the maximum class level was restricted to level 6 (9 for thieves, 8 for fighters).
After the success of the original game (which won the Origins Award for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Computer Game of 1988), a book and a D&D module, titled Ruins of Adventure, based on the Pool of Radiance plot were also published. It is the first in a four-part series of Forgotten Realms Dungeons & Dragons adventure computer games published by Strategic Simulations, Inc (SSI). In 1992, the game was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System under the name of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Pool of Radiance.
A version for the Atari ST was announced, but is believed to be vaporware.
The game takes place in the Forgotten Realms setting, in and around the Moonsea region and the City of Phlan, which has been overrun by forces of evil. The city had originally held off many attacks, but the forces were marshalled by a bronze dragon which was believed to be possessed by a powerful spirit named Tyranthraxus. The object of the game is to have the party clear the old city of its marauding inhabitants, so the people of Phlan can rebuild and repopulate the areas.
The party begins in the civilized section of "New Phlan" that is governed by a council. This portion of the city is a place for the party to buy equipment at the shops, rest up in the inns, listen to rumors in the pub, and contract with the clerk of the city council for various commissions. The party can also go to the hiring hall and hire an experienced adventurer to accompany the party.
Beyond this region the party enters the area of the slums, which have been overrun with low-level monsters such as goblins and orcs that the party must clear out (gaining experience in the process). Further into the slums, the going gets tougher, with ogres and trolls for opponents.
The next commission is to clear out Sokol Keep, a fortified area located on an island. This is filled with undead, among other opponents. Inside the keep is a specter who suffers under a curse. When you remove this curse, the keep is cleared and the shipping lanes to the city are finally opened.
There are a variety of other locations that are encountered as the party ventures further into the city, including Kuto's Well, catacombs filled with a bandit horde, a thieves' guild, Podol Plaza, and a buccaneer bar called the Pit. With the party making impressive progress, they are next contracted to go to the old Textile House, to recover the treasure of a council member. Pressing onward, the party can enter Mendor's Library, a temple of Bane in the wealthy section, Kovel Mansion, and the deadly Valhingen Graveyard.
Encounter with Tyranthraxus, before the final battle.
Eventually the party ventures outside the city by boat, where they encounter a silver dragon. Various side treks and adventures occur, including visiting an encampment of the Zhentarim, as the party continues to build up experience and aid the city by defeating the plans of the mysterious "Boss".
Now the more difficult endgame begins. The party reveals a traitor in the city council, and is commissioned to hunt him down. At some point the party will have to assault Stojanow Gate, a difficult task against bugbears and ettins. The party then enters Valjevo Castle and its inner sanctum, descends a stairwell to encounter some guards of the impostor Tyranthaxus (who assumes the form of a bronze dragon). After defeating his guards, the party refuses his offer to join his side and engages the dragon boss in a deadly battle, emerging victorious.