Wilkommen!



Friday, March 5, 2010

Wizardry: Won! (Seriously!)

Wow. Sit down for this one. I just won Wizardry. Trust me, I'm as surprised as you are. I thought it would take all night. My characters were only Level 11--I didn't even have the top level of spells yet.

I know it's a little hard to believe, but there it is.

The first thing you have to understand about how this happened is that for all the mapping you do, it's frightfully simple to get to the end game. Once you have something called a blue ribbon, which which lets you use the elevators, you can go all the way down to Level 9 in about 15 moves. And once one party has the ability to get the blue ribbon, it can get multiple copies of it, holding some in reserve with dummy characters for new parties. Fortunately, that's what I did.

After you get to Level 9, it's exactly five moves and one battle to get to the chute that dumps you down to Level 10. From there, in theory, you make your way through the level to the evil wizard Werdna.

How did I win the game so fast? It was all thanks to my useless, stupid thief. You see, the monsters on Level 9 aren't all that hard, and some of them are giants, which give absurd amounts of experience points for little effort. After I achieved level 11 with my characters (which took almost all day), I figured I'd just hang out on Level 9 slaying giants until I reached level 15.

Well, I accidentally wandered onto the invisible chute to Level 10. I was going to head for the nearest teleporter (Level 10 is full of them) to return myself to the town, but I was attacked immediately by a party consisting of one priest. I dealt with him with no problem.

The priest left a chest, and my idiotic thief identified the trap on the chest as a poison needle, so I tried to disarm it. As usual, my thief was wrong--the trap on the chest was a teleporter. Teleporter traps, as you might expect, teleport you to a random place on the same level. In my case, it teleported me directly into the lair of Werdna!

Werdna came at me with a vampire lord and three vampires. I started attacking him with everything I had. By the time I realized I might win, and thought to record it, I was halfway through the battle, but the video below shows the rest.


video


At 00:25, I kill the remaining vampires with some high-level spells, leaving only Werdna. I assailed him with fighters and powerful area effect spells. There are a lot of pauses in here as I try to figure out the best spells to use. Werdna whacks me with a MADALTO at 01:30, killing two of my characters, but at that time he's pretty weak, and my bishop kills him with a very weak MOLITO. I get the Amulet of Werdna.

At 02:25, you see me try to raise one of my dead characters--it never feels right to win the game when some of your characters are dead--but as usual it goes wrong and he turns to ash. Then I spend about a minute trying to figure out how to get off the level before I realize that I have to use the Amulet of Werdna to teleport myself. I haven't used teleport yet--it's one of the last spells you get, and I never got it--so it took me some time to figure it out. But ultimately I return to the castle and get the coveted "you won" screen at 03:50.

For reasons I don't understand, only two of my characters are around at this point, and I spent a few seconds trying to heal the others before saying screw it, I won the game. And I never had to map Level 10. As much as I'd like to do that and get those last spell levels--I really wanted to have the experience of clearing out multiple groups of monsters at one time with a TILTOWAIT spell--I know that upon my first death, I'd get frustrated and move on--so I think I'll do that preemptively.


Closing Thoughts

It helps that there's only one dungeon in Wizardry and the dungeon is relatively simple to navigate. If Wizardry had been the size of, say, Might and Magic VII or Neverwinter Nights and insisted on permanent death with no reloading, I wouldn't have lasted very long.

As I said in my introductory post, I like games that are a little difficult. And when they aren't difficult enough, I make them more difficult by forcing myself to save only once per screen/level or something like that. But Wizardry goes a bit too far. I'm glad that its attitudes towards death and saving did not propagate to later CRPGs.

But let's give Wizardry the credit that it deserves. It is, as far as I can tell, the first CRPG to feature:

  • Multiple characters in a party
  • Experience points and levels the way we think of them in CRPGs today
  • Multiple foes at the same time
  • A complex magic system (on both the sending and the receiving ends!)
  • Separate spells for mages and priests
  • Tactical combat
  • Multiple types of items--weapons, armor, helms, accessories--that you can find and wield.
  • Items that must be identified
  • Cursed items
  • A full list of D&D-style races and classes
  • Classes restricted based on ability scores
  • Alignments (I could be wrong about this)
  • The ability to change classes (which I didn't do)
 
Many of these features, of course, are derived from the pen-and-paper role-playing games (primarily Dungeons & Dragons) that existed in the era, but that's the point: Wizardry proved that complex D&D style role-playing could be adapted to a computer environment.

As a landmark in the history of CRPGs, it was fun and interesting to play. I'm not sorry I did. But neither am I sorry I played it only once.

On to Telengard.


One Last Edit

I was closing out my map file, and I suddenly realized why the architecture of Level 9 struck me as so weird: the creator of the game put his initials in the map: RJW. I think I remember something like this in Might and Magic I.


47 comments:

  1. Woohoo! Congratulations on your win and for sticking with it through all the difficult times.

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    1. Yes... we all know who you are, Werdna...

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  2. Winning at level 11 is no small feat. Werdna can load up with far worse enemies than Vamps (like Flacks!). It also helps if you get easy encounters on the way there on level 10 (or, getting there via teleport trap; that's how I did it the first time ;P). I once fought a Maelific on level 10 (no problem, we had a 20something ninja in that party) and found a lord's garb (and stupid me, who had been playing lots of Wiz 2, forgot Wiz did teleporting a little different and I Sent us into rock, and we lost it :( ).

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    1. Actually, the monsters Werdna summons up are proportionate in level as your party. My main party encountered Flacks (and was slaughtered) but my secondary party only encountered Vampires (and was victorious).

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  3. Level 9 has the other creator's initials in the map: ACG: Andrew C Greenberg

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  4. Once a friend and I were playing Wizardry and made it to the Werdna encounter -- and it was a *friendly* Werdna! After we stopped laughing we decided to leave in peace, only to discover that without the amulet we were trapped on the 10th level of the dungeon. D'oh!

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  5. Awesome story. That's a good idea for a "special topic" entry: when the game mechanics cause things to happen that the developer didn't intend. I'm glad you found my blog today; I hope you didn't spend ALL day reading it.

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  6. Nah. I'm doing a reverse archive trawl, though, so I'll probably be dropping comments on posts in anti-chronological order for a little while. I've been playing CRPGs since the mid-1980's, so this blog is a high-octane walk down memory lane.

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  7. BTW, what was the minimum number of bonus points that you would accept for a character? I once glanced at a guide that recommended no less than 20. How long did it take you to generate a party?

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  8. Elzair - seriously? This is like half a year ago now. I have no idea. I do recall another reader saying that the DOS version had a glitch by which some of your stats would decrease upon leveling up. This happened to me all the time, but I thought it was intentional. Maybe that's why I had such lousy stats at the end.

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    1. laugh, thats a bug? No wonder, I was wondering how I was ever goign to get a ninja, guess the answer is, I'm not because of this bug. When I rolled my chars I just took however many stat points they gave me (usually 8 or 9) except for my attempt to get 2 ninjas. I added up all the base stats and found that gnomes actually have the best stats in the game, go figure, since theyre genrally the whipping boys in every other game, so for them I tok a few minutes and waited until I got 15 stat points. I can't imagine waiting for 20 on all my chars. Anyways, the chars are at like level 8 and are nowhere near becoming ninjas because I lose as many stats as I gain each level. I need 102 total stat points to be a ninja (17*6), gnomes start out with 48 (dwarves 47, elves 46), and I got +15 to put me at 63 so I need +39 while each level I probably average +.05. Yeah, not gonna happen, sadness.

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  9. There isn't a huge difference in power between levels 11 and 13 for grinding it out, but that's still a pretty amazing achievement because the level 7 spells are so dramatic for the big battles. And that's the typical Werdna encounter group I remember, but hacking away at him with a Bishop and a Thief in the party while he casts a useless Zilwan is quite a gift because Werdna has boatloads of hit points and is quite capable of knocking all but your strongest fighters out with a Tiltowait. Back in the day, I was generally happy going at him with a level 13 group if that group had the right mix of quickness and spells. I would rely on ZILWAN to take down the Vampire Lord, throw a MABADI at Werdna with the quickest Mage and hope a fighter got in a hit at the right time afterwards, and blanket the Vampires with whatever I had left. Not getting hopelessly blasted by either Werdna or the Vampire Lord, not to mention the Vampires, was a simple matter of luck. FWIW, I believe the stats generally go up until your character gets OLD, then it's bad news because there's no way to reverse your AGE (at least in Wiz 1). And playing with a full stable of 20 characters is what makes the game great over the long haul, though obviously tedious after you have the maps worked out. I regarded rerolling characters as against the spirit of the game, so starting with low stats was always fine by me (and getting a ninja was exceedingly rare).

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  10. Congratulations! When I started getting into CRPGs in the late 80s I heard a lot of praise for this series. I decided I should start by trying the first game and found it far to difficult to play for very long. I commend you for sticking with it to the end.

    Also, I like how you use Excel for mapping. I was always a map junkie, exploring every square of a dungeon just so I could make sure my maps were complete even if it wasn't necessary for the game. However, while I am also a big fan of using Excel for everything (the 2000 version, I still don't like the new one) I think I will stick with good old graph paper and a pencil. :)

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  11. Epic! Hurrah for the stupid worthless thief! What a meta-fantastic way to the end the game. He's totally your 'fool of a took!'

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  12. Nice one! Congrats for the win.
    I'm convinced to never try this myself, though :D
    Imagining your incompetent thief messing things up all the time gave me the laughs.
    I can also hear your party arguing whether they should try to resurrect the thief or not.

    Fighter: "The thief has cost us enough already. I say we bury him and forget about him. He hasn't even identified a trap ONCE!"
    Priest: "But he is our comrade. I tell you, this time my spell IS going to work. I have practiced it a lot. Trust me."
    ~casts resurrect~
    ~thief corpse horribly decaying into ash~
    Priest: "Oops! I think i used the wrong ingredient again. I guess it's time to visit the town. Oh well."
    Fighter: "mumble mumble goodbye cash..."

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  13. Ultimately, they decided they need a thief if they're ever going to have a chance to recover their treasure. And the cycle begins anew.

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  14. i guess you are thinking about the MY NAME IS SHELTEM hint in the last dungeon of MM1.

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  15. Yes. Even though I vaguely remembered it while playing "Wizardry," it took me embarrassingly long to figure it out in MM1.

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  16. This is my first post to this gem of a blog which I stumbled upon while perusing RPGWatch.
    I just had to say how hard I laughed at the thief comments! I played Wizardy on my Apple II (I was probably about 12 years old around that time) and had a great time. I was also very much into mapping although the double-back thing led me off-track a couple of times and led to a panicky party running around and bumping into walls and monster encounters :-) . Although I recognize everything in your blog, I have trouble remembering my own experiences, I haven't replayed this game in almost 30 years. I do remember playing with a wizard called Mondain and using teleport a lot (figuring out how to do it safely). The game mechanics did lead to multiple parties also in my case but I do vaguely remember that powering of the Apple in the heat of battle (seeing that things were going rapidly southwards) helped in some way although I'm not really sure. Anyway, big kudos to this fantastic project and to your endurance, I can't fathom how you make time for this! I'm now skipping to the M&M threads and will surely post some comments there because they were my first really formative cRPG experiences!

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  17. I'm glad to hear about your memories, Slam. I think shutting down the computer prevents the game from overwriting the saved game and allows you to effectively "reload" when you return to the game. There's some complexity about it that I forget, and I didn't even realize it until late in the game (at which point it would have been useless to cheat even if my rules allowed it).

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  18. Thanks for your blog, a great read and an inspiration to those of us without the spare time to play every game!

    I've started blogging my game playing (mostly retro rpg's + console RPG's) and am currently playing through Wizardry, currently my characters are level 13 (with one 14) and finding level 10 quite challenging, with quite a few deaths.

    I hope you can continue to find enjoyment out of your project, as lots of these older games are just terrible (with the occasional gem). I don't have the patience for that, so am just going to select ones I want to play!

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  19. I sometimes enjoy the terrible ones--they give me interesting things to write about.

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  20. Couple of thoughts:

    If somebody wants to play Wizardry 1-5 today, they should try playing the SNES version. It has much better graphics and an enjoyable soundtrack. Also, with an emulator like ZNES you can use save states to save the game, which helps you prevent a lot of misery.

    I'm currently playing Wizardry for the first time and I have to say I'm not having problems with my thief at all. I think I maxed out or almost maxed out his thief stats after rerolling a couple of times, and when your luck and agility is high enough you barely ever fail in disarming a trap.

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  21. I finally beat this today! Woot!

    My thief has been pretty useful: his agility and luck have been at 18 for several levels now. (My party was Level 12.)

    I did not have your luck though, CRPG Addict. I am "cheating" by using the save-state feature in AppleWin, and I ended up fighting Werdna about a dozen times before I won the game. (I actually beat him on the 2nd try, but didn't know what to do after. I think my party's inventory was already full so I think my party was stuck.)

    I have to say that Wizardry goes beyond "challenging" into the "unfair and no fun" category. Even when you have flawless tactics, you can be TPK'd if a bunch of high-level mages or dragons or vampires surprise your party. And the final battle with Werdna seems to boil down to who can cast TILTOWAIT first.

    While I likes me some randomness, the randomness of Wizardry can completely cancel 20+ hours of hard work, no matter what you do.

    But given all that, I still had quite a lot of fun -- but I imagine that if I didn't use my save feature I would've had to start with a new party from Level 1 maybe two or three times before beating Werdna. (And only after a whole lot of power-leveling, which I loathe -- to me that is the definition of anti-fun.)

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  22. Perhaps you were lucky you didn't have to deal with mapping Level 10.

    While I love mapping with my trusty pencil and paper, and while I've tackled with some of the hardest that Bard's Tale 2 threw at me (including a massive area with magical darkness, anti-magic, and spinners!), Level 10 of Wizardry was probably the toughest mapping challenge for me yet.

    I was really thrown by the fact that the screen doesn't flash when you magically teleport. Sometimes I would be teleported without knowing it, and sometimes I would guess that I teleported when I actually didn't!

    That's because there were some walls that "suddenly appeared or disappeared" simply when you look at them from a different angle. Ugh! I almost had a mapping hernia!

    And no, I do not intend to try Wizardry 4. This was enough Wizardry for me! :)

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  23. Glad I spared myself that. I'd hate to have to cast a DUMAPIC literally every move. Congratulations on winning. I wouldn't feel bad about using save states, given that you're probably exploring the game from more of a "historical curiosity" standpoint than really trying to immerse yourself in it. DOSBox doesn't support save states, so I couldn't do it even if I wanted to.

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  24. I've kinda given up on the not cheating thing. After the fifth time I had someone turned to ashes and then permanently deleted I got tired of rerolling and grinding Murphy's Ghosts. Now whenever someone dies I just close out dosbox and restart an out party to save myself the 30 minutes of grind. I can't imagine how many more characters I'd have to relevel now that I'm constantly geting one-shot by priests casting badi before i can silence/sleep/kill them. On a positive note, after my 3rd bishop died the one true death I finally realized theyre completely useless in a dungeon and you just need one sitting in the tavern staying just sober enough to ID all your stuff before going back to his cups. I've replaced him with another mage and have werdna in my sights.

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    1. I don't blame you. I had to keep multiple sets of characters and grind them all. I can't imagine having that kind of dedication today.

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  25. Hardcore Gaming 101 just released an interview with RJW. Interesting stuff especially about Wizardry IV. No spoilers (for CRPGA), since Trebor left after IV:

    http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/wizardry/wizardry-interview.htm

    --Eino

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    1. It's interesting that one of the screenshots mentions the influence of Oubliette, but not the text of the interview.

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  26. Woot! Werdna goes down on the first attempt, I 'surprised' them and only one enemy got one attack off before they all died, heh, ended up being pretty easy actually. On to the next one!

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    1. There's probably a "special topics" posting in here somewhere: disappointingly easy final battles.

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  27. ...and once again it's obvious you really are more patient than I'd ever be with a game :)

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    1. I was more patient back then than I am now.

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  28. Your so lucky that you don't teleport into stones in level 10. I fact, half of level 10 is made up of stone and if you teleport to them, the entire party is instantly killed, along with their equipment, and can't be bring back by other parties :)

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  29. Great write up! I'm currently working my way through the game myself. I'm about half done mapping dungeon level 3. After I lost my party and had to restart (I had 3 7th level characters beheaded in a surprise attack on dungeon level 2) I decided to overcompensate by keeping a large roster of characters. It's slow-going, but less nerve-wracking.

    I don't think the attribute fluctuations in the DOS version are a bug. I think it's supposed to be hard to raise your attributes. After my first party got wiped out, I started tracking how often my attributes went up and how often they went down whenever I went up a level. There's about a 50% chance of an attribute being modified each level. For each one that's modified, there's about a 55% chance it will go up, and a 45% chance it will go down. This has been pretty consistent over the 360+ changes I've recorded. It's too consistent to be a glitch, imo. Your stats do go up, but very, very slowly. If you don't spam stats during character creation, getting an elite class other than a Bishop and the occasional Samurai is going to be a pretty rare feat. My characters frequently have their attributes driven below starting minimums for their class; most of my fighters still have a strength around 11 by the 5th or 6th level.

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    1. I appreciate your analysis, but it just seems odd to me that they'd create prestige classes like the ninja that would be almost impossible to achieve through normal gameplay. Then again, they were certainly willing to make everything else extremely challenging.

      Good luck with your game!

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    2. I'm working my way through the game again as well. The NES version definitely has better chances of stats going up. I haven't read through Chet's postings yet, but my understanding is the DOS version has about an equal chance for a stat to go up or down. In the NES version, it seems more like 70-30 up or down, and 80-20 for primary stats based on class. That's just the feeling I get; all of my characters had 18s by level 13 in their primary and it rarely got marked down.

      Even with better stats, the game seems entirely random. I came upon him recently, level 13 - 14 with some decent equipment, and got completely obliterated the first turn. I only hope the next attempt will go smoother. Grinding for levels doesn't seem to add much of a safety net.

      Honestly, the Ninja class seems a little overrated. The idea of using no armor suggests it's a benefit, but even at level 14 he's still better off wearing the basic gear. Decapitation is a pipe dream and superfluous with mass damage spells like Tiltowait. I still got one because well, you know... Ninja.

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    3. I think it's in keeping with the rest of the game's design philosophy. It seems a little weird to have your stats randomly fluctuate a little every level, but *everything* in this game depends heavily on randomness. My very first party was slaughtered on dungeon level one by a group of zombies + bushwackers. (For those who haven't played it, Zombies, normally encountered on level 2, paralyze when they hit, and bushwackers are the toughest enemy on level 1.) Having now had hundreds of encounters on level 1, I know how small the chance of getting this kind of encounter is, but that's what happened. 99% of the time you get a routine first level encounter, but every once in a while something tougher shows up. Wildly changing attribute scores aren't out of place in a game where it's possible to have your entire party decimated in your very first encounter through no fault of your own.

      Also, I imagine that when it first came out they expected people to play it a few times. There wasn't nearly as much competition for these kinds of games back then and at the time it was state of the art. If you go through several dozen characters you're bound to get one or two elite class characters eventually.

      Anyway, thanks for writing these. I'll try not to make myself too much of a nuisance. :)

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    4. Maybe calling it a bug is inaccurate, but the developers seemed to change the algorithm in ports. It's hard to see value in replaying these difficult for difficult's sake games, with fate hinging on the luck of a single roll of the dice. Dice rolls the RPG isn't that fun there's a semblance that player actions matter. Beating a game like this only shows a stubbornness to achieve a lucky outcome. I'm bullheaded in this way and will finish Wizardry for the NES at some point. I actually think the DOS version was easier, I remember beating it as a teenager.

      Even Chet here admits winning the game at the point he did by pure luck. I still can't get over Werdna not leveling his party with Tiltowait, but that's how the dice roll.

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  30. I just finished the NES port. I did the same thing, teleported back to the castle by going up 10 floors, and I got a message that I landed in the moat and some of my party drowned. Seems that happened to you too, but the game probably skipped over the message to give you the congratulatory screen.

    Tiltowait is nice for clearing out enemies. If my ninja were better at disarming traps, then I would have spent more time clearing out level 10.

    As far as I can tell, the NES port is very close to the PC version. The main difference is a menu based interface for spells, combat, and inventory. It also seems, as noted above, that stat gains are more consistent. DI never worked for me either. Someone mentioned the NES was dumbed down, but I don't think there was much of a difference. I had more trouble with this version compared to playing through on DOS about 14 years ago. I did not like the randomness of this game, and how a single combat can wipe out your entire party.

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    1. Reading through others' account of the game, I realized running was a lot easier on the NES. I do remember a few times I couldn't run, so I'd probably place it at 90 - 95% success rate. It saved me quite a bit of trouble on the last floor since I could run from virtually any bad fights on the other side of the door. I was still wary of surprise monsters.

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  31. I just discovered your blog and had to laugh for two reasons. First, I thought I was the only one crazy enough to play all the old RPGs in rough chronological order, but obviously you beat me to it by a couple of years. I'm also playing text based adventures such the Infocom games.

    Second, I beat Werdna the same exact way - due to my thief's incompetence and the teleport trap! Level ten is exceedingly difficult. You have to face six "fixed" random encounters on the way to Werdna. They are fixed encounters in the sense that you will always encounter monsters on those spaces (and you cannot run from them), but just what monsters you face is random. You might face 1 troll, or you might face 6 Master Ninjas, 4 Greater Demons, 6 Archmages, and 3 Dragons. Most of the monster combinations were absurdly difficult. I made it to Werdna the hard way twice, and was wiped out twice (I cheated by backing up my game file, so I did not have to start over). I failed to even reach Werdna what seemed like 100 times.

    In the end, my two fighters and my idiot thief (who I still call an idiot, even though his blunder saved the day) were level 13, and my two mages and priest were level 12. No 7th level spells for me, either!

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story. I got awfully luck on my first expedition to the level, then.

      Not having the ability to cast Level 7 spells bites you in the butt on the first map of Wizardry II, I found.

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  32. Fun reading your blog. I remember playing Wizardry to death when I was 13 or so, 30 years ago. A lot of the challenge disappeared when I figured out how to manipulate the system to keep doubling your equipment and your gold (you would give all your gold to one person, have them leave your party, go into the maze, then shut it off - when you recovered your party, both the guy who left early and your recovered party would still have the gold). I also vaguely remember a cheat where your bishop could identify item "9" and get a million or so EP - your attributes do, eventually, max out. Finally, I remember that the best random equipment in the maze was a sword called "Cuisinart" - I had no idea what a Cuisinart was at 13. But the thing would dole out 40-50 points of damage.

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    1. Interesting. I thought Might & Magic II was the first game to employ a Cuisinart in a fantasy setting. I guess the promising of slicing and dicing was too much for anyone to resist.

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  33. Winning sort of by accident completely counts, when it's a game as random and unforgiving as this one. Good work sir!

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