The classic Gold Box D&D games are on Steam, but what’s special about them?

The Stinking Cloud spell sees a lot more use in the Gold Box games than it ever does in a typical Dungeons & Dragons session. When you’re sitting around a table pretending to be an impressive wizard, summoning a sphere of what is basically toxic fart gas isn’t your usual go-to. In 1988’s Pool of Radiance, the first game SSI published in an iconic golden package, enemies wouldn’t walk into a Stinking Cloud, making it a powerful tool for area-denial available to your otherwise kind of useless level 2 magic-user—so long as you didn’t accidentally catch the front-row fighters in it.

Though the monsters were a little smarter in Pool’s 1989 sequel Curse of the Azure Bonds, and would risk charging through a Stinking Cloud rather than let your party stand on the other side shooting arrows +1 all day long, the spell was still likely to leave them nauseated and helpless, able to be slain “with one cruel blow” as the memorable description put it, by anyone who walked over to stab them. Even a level 2 magic-user.

(Image credit: SNEG)

There were two reasons Stinking Cloud—and the other low-level area-of-effect spell, Sleep—were mainstays of the classic Gold Box games. The first was that these games had turn-based tactical combat with enough depth that penning in enemies was a naturally occurring tactic. With a party of six player-characters, plus one or two NPCs, it was easy to block corridors and force kobolds to come to you. Bunched up, they became perfect targets for big spells, as well as the fighter’s sweep attacks, and maybe a cheeky backstab from your multiclassed fighter-thief.

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