Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wizardry: Making Progress

Yay! After 20 hours of playing, I can start my quest!

I can't fully decide why I'm still playing Wizardry (although perhaps the title of my blog is a bit of a hint). It's a great example of an early CRPG, sure, and as I've mentioned before, I like mapping on a grid. But it's been a while since I've had what you might call "fun." Am I really going to insist on playing this all the way to the end?

When I last blogged, I was struggling with Level 3 of the dungeon and in particular the ninjas that kept decapitating my characters with one blow. I spent all my money raising these characters and was short on funds, so I decided to spend a while on earlier levels building experience so that my priest would finally get the DI (restore life) spell and be able to raise characters himself. Fortunately, there's this little nook on Level 1 where you can repeatedly search and encounter one or two "Murphy's Ghosts" (I wonder if there's a story behind the name). They're hard to hit, but do very little damage themselves, and they reward you with a reasonable amount of experience. After I finally slaughtered an entire legion of them, I had not only the DI spell but, at last, the LATUMOFIS spell, which cures poison.

Well, anyway, joke's on me. While the DI spell does occasionally raise your dead characters, equally as often it fails and turns them to ash! You then have to spend absurd amounts of money fully resurrecting them from the ash state. I nearly deleted the game at this point.

Fortunately, I persevered, and finished mapping Levels 3 and 4. A few important things happen on Level 4:

  • You have an inescapable encounter with a party consisting of two high-level fighters, two high-level mages, two high-level priests, and one high-level ninja.

Although things seem to be going ominously for me at this point, I actually won this encounter.

  • If you can get by this encounter, your money woes are over, because one of your slain foes carries a "Ring of DEATH!" (yes, the exclamation point is part of its name) which sells for 250,000 gold.

God knows why a cursed ring that kills you is worth so much.

  • On the other side of this encounter, you reach the end of the "proving grounds" and receive your quest from Lord Trebor, the screen shot of which I posted at the beginning of this entry.

Not having to worry any more about how to pay for resurrection is a bit of a relief, as is not having to climb all the way up to the town every time one of my characters gets poisoned. I've been able to map the rest of Level 4 and most of Level 5. It's probably a bad idea, but I've stopped rotating my characters, too, since I no longer encounter battles in which my entire party is wiped out (and is unable to flee).

On the bad side, there's a certain paucity of valuable equipment in this game. Almost halfway through the levels, the best weapon my party has is a sword+1. And my worthless thief still trips practically every trap.

On the latest level, I started encountering shades, which drain your levels. Until now, I thought poison was the most annoying effect. Unlike with, say, Dungeons & Dragons games, there's no spell to restore your lost levels. God, I hate that.

Finally, I'll mention that a little late in the game, I figured out why I'd bother to carry around scrolls of HALITO (flame) and KATINO (strength) when my mages can cast these spells about 20 times. It turns out that when you stumble upon an encounter and you surprise the monsters, your spellcasters can't cast any spells for the first round, in which the monsters can't act. However, they can use magical items. I wish I'd realized this ages ago.

Having typed all of this, I have a feeling I'm getting way too much into the minutiae of the game to be of any interest to anyone reading this blog. If I'm wrong, let me know. I'm going to try to make a push to win it over the next few days. If all goes according to plan, I'll be back on Saturday with the good news.


  1. Definitely not bored by the minutiae. Thanks for playing all of these old games so that I don't have to!

  2. Absolutely interesting to me. I don't have the patience for these games anymore, but I love reading about them and remeniscing. Also, the small discoveries that lead to victory are more fun than actually beating the game in my opinion. Keep them coming.

  3. Yup, not bored. It's interesting to see how the creators are pulling all kinds of tricks that wouldn't be acceptable in today's games, but that they also seem to have an overall purpose (make sure you have a good grasp on the game before you can leave the proving grounds).

    It also reminds me that when I played this game, I ended up reverse engineering the save files (the game was written in Pascal UCSD, which was the first of its kind on Apple ][ if memory serves) so that I could give myself huge amounts of gold...

  4. I'm not bored either. Keep up the good work! :)

  5. Yup - I'm enjoy the hell out of your blog. I'm in no rush to see the next game; take your time and blog it all....

  6. In the original versions of the game (both IBM-PC, and Apple II on emulator that I have played), spellcasters could cast spells in a surprise encounter. That upped the chance of a party slaughter quite a bit. Oh, and the game was simply slow on original hardware! As slow and dull as you think it is, you are zipping along pretty quickly in real time. That "ghostbusting" you did on level 1 can pretty much be used as long as you want if you think it is a legitimate tactic (it doesn't get you any equipment, but that's the only drawback for leveling up to as high as you can stand), but imagine doing that with floppy disk reads every time though the encounter.

  7. "Well, anyway, joke's on me. While the DI spell does occasionally raise your dead characters, equally as often it fails and turns them to ash!"

    Unbelievable. Both the game and your tenacity. Geez.

    Also, over a year later and I'm reading all of this for the first time. I'm totally not bored. I read it word for word and would have read as much about the minutiae.

  8. this brings back memories.. i don't know anyone who did levels 3~8 (properly)
    really cool to see another unit enjoying (being tormented) by this RPG.

  9. I just discovered your blog and have been reading it every chance i get on a business trip, even trying to sneak peeks in meetings on my cruddy tiny-screen blackberry. Your writing style is good and makes the minutiae even better! remember your audience is full of CPRG geeks like me I'm sure.

  10. Yeah, I made that note when I was very new to blogging. I've since learned that there's no amount of detail my readers don't appreciate! I'm glad you joined us.

  11. I think its very cool you are still at it and are still reading comments from old posts! awesome!

  12. In preparation for my own Wizardry gameplay, I have been looking for hint pages and fan sites and nearly everyone agrees with you - the thief is a useless character to have! Makes me wonder if you can just not bring one at all...

    1. I just replayed Wizardry and decided to 86 the thief and add another mage in his place. Worked out great.

  13. I'm playing this game right now, having kinda been inspired by your blog to go through my own series of games: Wizardry 1, Ultima 3, Might & Magic 1, Ultima 4, Might & Magic 2, Ultima 5, Dragon Wars...

    I'm playing this on an Apple II Emulator, and I'm noticing some differences in gameplay:

    * I don't remember my members getting decapitated once, and I'm currently on the 5th level of the dungeon.
    * My thief has been getting things right about 90-95% of the time.
    * The encounter you mention above didn't have the Level 7 Fighters
    * I didn't get a Ring of Death after the encounter. :(

    Just adding to the list of minutiae here. :)

    1. I'll second your experience. I remember my thief being right very often, and even when he became a Ninja by invoking the thief's dagger, he was still pretty good at disarming traps.

      On the other hand, I remember that alarm traps would prevent you from looting the chest *and* attract monsters. Very annoying.

      I also do not remember the ring of death! in the Apple ][ version. It would have been very helpful to not have to worry about gold for 2/3 of the game. On the other hand, the bishop's ID item 9, S and J cheat fixes the gold problem in an alternate way... ;)

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. The Ring of Death wasn't in the original Apple II release, it was added later to the DOS and later ports. (It may have been added into the "Window Wizardry" Apple II versions.

  14. Duskfire, as useless as he was, he did at least open SOME traps. I'd hate to waste a spell slot on traps.

    Ronald, I appreciate hearing about other versions. It sounds like the Apple II version is a mite easier, with the exception of the nice, valuable reward. Let me know if it gets harder on later levels.

    1. The Apple II version gets insane at around character level 13, right around the time I got to the last level (9) of the dungeon. At this point it takes 300k XP to levelup and a typical battle is dropping 2-4k XP. XP required double at each levelup at this point.

  15. I just discovered your blog and amazed by the it.

    I am a man of details so your minutiae is great. About this sentence:

    "God knows why a cursed ring that kills you is worth so much."

    I want to add some kind of a role playing approach:

    It is worth so much because you can send it to your enemy as a gift and make him wear it ... =) It is a fancy and worthy ring made from the most expensive material only to hide its insidious purpose.

  16. I wanted to know what the ring actually does, so I put it on a throwaway character and ran him through level one for a while only to see it have no noticeable effect. I drop him off at the tavern and bam he's deleted, brutal ring!

  17. I guess this makes the first 4 dungeon level (with repeated repeated deaths) one of the most gruelling tutorials in RPG history :)

  18. I used to ghost mine, too, on the NES version.

    And IIRC, there was a similar fixed encounter on Level 2 where you'd fight against 'Creeping Coins'. They had a small chance of poisoning you but otherwise weren't very strong. That encounter would provide a lot of money.

    This was a very, very good game, wasn't it? I love the way it handled character death - probably the best way of handling death in a CRPG that I've ever seen. I might get back into it.

  19. I found my first level stealing monsters on Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei on SNES, where a skull-like devil sucked it off your hard deserved level.

    Also, if memory serves right, I think the vampires on Dragon Slayer (MSX/GameBoy) also drains your experience points. Man, I hate those things!

    1. Tetraja protects from the level drain attack in KMT.

      (Also, I think the level drain targets a random stat above 5, which is an interesting way to change your build.)

  20. I've never played a Wizardry so don't have any nostalgia for it, but I love the detail. It makes for fascinating reading.

  21. A Malazan fan who plays Wizardry. Why does this not surprise me? Your blog is brilliant. Can't wait for you to get to Baldur's Gate (which is a long way off still)

  22. I've been doing some looking into how the Wizardry mechanics actually work, using the Apple II version. Seems that the Level 7 Fighters are a special kind of monster - kill them once, and they are removed from the disk, never to be fought again. They're also the only monster that drops the Ring of Death, and there's a 100% chance that they will.

    At least that's how it's supposed to work, but on all of the Apple II disks from Asimov, the Level 7 Fighters are already gone. What's more is that Boltac's got one Ring of Death in his inventory. Data extraction is the only way you can know this, because Boltac will never sell you cursed items, but it's there.

    Wild speculation - perhaps all of the copies on Asimov came from the same cracked pirate copy, where the user had already beaten the Level 7 Fighters and sold the ring to Boltac. Or maybe Andrew Greenberg himself did it, and absentmindedly mastered the game from a copy of his scenario disk and forgot to reset the monster and inventory item values to their defaults. All of the Asmov copies display "version 2.1," so perhaps there are older versions out there?


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