I'm posting this at another forum to answer someone's questions. I thought it might be useful to some visitors here.
Before starting, I'd like to mention how much I enjoyed POWS. In fact, I enjoyed it even more that Natuk for whatever reason. Maybe it's the cool ship-to-ship combat; maybe it's the many varied and interesting characters you can recruit for your party. Also, the story and dialog are quite well written.
1. Do the trade percentages, as seen in the starting town, ever change?
The nation-to-nation percentages (top half of the trade report) never seem to change, even when one nation goes to war with another. However, the "types of goods" section (the bottom half of each report) definitely changes monthly if not daily, but usually not by huge amounts.
Also, is it worth it to trade ever? It seems like it might be a bit pointless if you don't have thousands of gold to buy the expensive stuff! Also, you only get maybe 2/3 of the value listed when selling. It also seems complicated to figure out the exact figures.
Trading definitely can be profitable; in some cases extremely profitable. For example, if the trade report indicates nation X values goods from nation Y at 130% and nation X also values pure gold (not to be confused with gold ore) at 120%, theoretically you'd be able to ferry and sell pure gold for 156% of what you paid for it (assuming you could find gold for sale).
2. Are the quests I get in other towns worth it?
There aren't that many side quests that I have found. I'd say they're all worth doing. By contrast, the various caves along the coast might not be worth doing, at least early in the game, because they can be deathtraps (maybe it's hit or miss). So unless you're specifically guided to a particular cave via a tavern rumor or some other advice, it might be best to avoid them until your party is pretty strong.
3. Do the seamanship and navigation skills work, and if so, what is their exact function? ...How do I determine the exact coordinates of where my ship is?
The navigation skill, if high enough, continuously displays your current coordinates (latitude and longitude) on the right side of the screen. On the other hand, I don't know what the seamanship skill does. Perhaps it allows you to maneuver your ship more easily during combat.
5. Is it hard on your rep. to attack other ships, even if they are pirates? I can't view my faction rating.
If pirates attack you, defeating them seems to improve your "pirate fame" (as seen when pressing the F key). I'm not sure what attacking a non-hostile pirate ship would do. I suspect that attacking non-hostile naval/merchant ships of a given nation would lower your reputation in that country. However, I don't know the exact repercussions of fame and reputation.
6. What is the way to "win" the game?
Rather than give any spoilers, it seems best to say that the tavern rumors will guide you quite well. I think all taverns of a given nation have exactly the same rumors; so there might not be any point in gathering rumors in more than one town of a given nation.
7. What are platinum coins for?
Platinum coins seem to be the highest value coins. They are something of a rarity because I've not found any way to exchange gold for platinum (though you can exchange silver coins for gold coins in just about any town). Therefore, it might be best to spend your platinum coins last because their high value-per-pound makes them easier to carry around. (You can of course keep heavy items like coins in your ship's hold. But don't go overboard with storing stuff on your ship because things got weird on me once, possibly resulting in lost/deleted items, when I had more than say 50 line-items listed).
It said something on the right of my inventory about "#8".
That is part of the fast-weapon-switching feature, which is invoked via the 'x' key during combat. It works by having previously pressed one of the 9 digits on the keypad/numpad while hovering the mouse cursor over a weapon or shield in your inventory. It's probably best to have only 2 configurations per character rather than 3+ to keep things from getting too complicated.
8. Is putting up intelligence worth it, and how high should my intelligence be?
Although I've not verified it, intelligence probably works the same as in Natuk. If so, it affects how much experience each character receives. Specifically:
experience received = (((IN + 50) / 2) * base experience) / 50
But since intelligence (and other stats except HT) are so much harder to raise in POWS compared to Natuk -- and since POWS is a somewhat shorter game than Natuk -- it might be best not to go overboard on increasing intelligence. I'd recommend stopping at 55-70 for most characters depending on how much intelligence each started with and how urgently you need a particular character's other skills early in the game.
9. Is ancient tongues worth it?
There's at least one side quest that requires a modest amount of ancient tongues skill. Also, there are some items you might find whose full details and true nature might be revealed only with fairly high ancient tongues (perhaps 100+). However, you can usually find out the nature of such items just from their names and/or by experimenting with them for a while.
10. Is it better to use 2 weapons or a shield and a weapon?
That might come down more to play style. Personally I prefer to use a shield, at least when the character has decent shield skill, unless I find two really good weapons for that character (but this hardly ever happens in my experience). However, if your character has a high skill with a particular type of weapon, the ability to parry more often via dual-wielding might be superior to the blocking/defense/armor afforded by a shield. Of course you can also opt to attack with both weapons, though this requires very high skill.
11. Can enchanters only go to lvl. 5 bonus?
Although +5 is the maximum an enchanter can improve a weapon/armor, you can get one plus higher via certain items you might find or buy.
A few other tips that might help:
- While sailing, spacebar starts and stops movement. Pressing the c key to display the automap also pauses the movement. Pausing is especially helpful to control a speedy ship during gale-force winds.
- While fighting aboard ship, click on the progress-bar to change the ship's speed, and click on the box-like compass to change ship's heading.
- If you enter a cave or dungeon and immediately see a really hard battle coming, you might be able to exit immediately by doing a [L]ook at the stairs/entrance.
- You can press Shift-s to sell more than one of an item, which is quite handy if there are ~1000 iron ingots in a batch of cargo. It's also necessary to use Shift-s to avoid damage to your merchant fame score as seen via the 'f' key.
- It seems you don't have to have rations/food in your backpack as long as your ship has some.
- If it's like previous games, I seem to remember that wands hold 10 charges, staves 15(?) charges, and rods 20. Gems like pearls might hold only 5 charges, and unlike in Natuk, they can't be recharged. When first found or purchased, a charged item can have anywhere between 1 charge and the maximum number. Since an item is often destroyed if you consume its final charge, it's probably a good idea to recharge (at least once) any really valuable/useful items.
- Lighter-colored letters on the (S)tatus screen indicate that enchantments like Haste are stronger and longer-lasting. Darker-colored letters indicate that the spell will soon expire or that it was weak to begin with.
- Unlike Natuk (and probably Nahlakh), temporary spells (but not permanent enchantments) like fire-weapon and death-weapon do NOT provide extra bonuses for each magical plus. This makes fire/icy weapon pretty weak (only 1-6 extra damage). Only death-weapon is still decent, providing 3-18 death damage. However, items with permanent death/fire/icy/shock enchantments still get the per-plus bonus, which makes a certain type of scroll you might find or buy during the game extremely valuable.
- Unlike most elemental-damage spells, the jet spells don't require line of sight. This makes them quite useful even against only a single victim who's around a corner. In fact the jet spells often seem more powerful than the "ball" spells, perhaps because jet spells are easier to cast and thus tend to get a bigger skill-based damage boost.
- Backstabbing delivers a to-hit bonus and a damage bonus, but requires the attacker to be hidden and/or invisible. A larger damage bonus might be given to impaling weapons vs. cutting/bashing.
- By the way, for anyone who's considering Natuk or POWS, I also recommend Nahlakh. It works very well in Dosbox emulator and doesn't suffer the CPU speed issues of Natuk and POWS. Although Nahlakh's combat and character development systems are more primitive, the game seems to offer greater combat variety (such as types of enemies/groups) and perhaps greater depth of gameplay and story. I enjoyed Nahlakh even more than Natuk/POWS.